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Chapter 19 : Chapter Eighteen: Grimmauld Place
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This chapter is dedicated to the lovely folks over at HPFF who recommend my story this month. Thank you so much. I can't tell you how honored I am!
And once again, thank you to TheBird who worked tirelessly on this chapter!
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Chapter Eighteen: Grimmauld Place
The end of the school year passed in a blur and before she knew it, Lottie was casting the last spell in her final exam.
“Good job, Rowe,” Stainthorpe said with a nod. “Have a nice summer.”
It felt as though a ball of tension was released in Lottie’s chest. “Thanks so much,” she said with a wave.
Andrea was waiting outside for her. “Are you ready?” she asked seriously.
“Yeah, my exam was fine, thanks,” Lottie muttered dryly.
Andrea stared at her disapprovingly,
“Ready for what?” Lottie sighed.
“We need to study up before we try to go to this Grimmauld Place,” Andrea said, thrusting a pile of dusty books into Lottie’s arms.
Lottie groaned loudly. “Are you kidding me? I just finished exams!”
“Well if you want to take your chances with nothing in the entire headquarters being dangerous, then I guess we don’t have to study. Or I could just tell Palmyitor about the note…”
“Fine!” Lottie shouted. “Okay, you win. Let’s go study. But how are we going to make it look normal that we’re studying right after we finished exams?”
Andrea looked as though she was going to throw her pile of books in Lottie’s face. “Okay, we won’t study tonight, but tomorrow we’ll find a place to start studying. Okay?”
Lottie grinned. “Sounds good to me!”
Weeks later, Lottie and Andrea were buried under books in an empty classroom. Lottie again was scheduled to have advanced Potions tutoring, and also Occlumency and Legilimency tutoring. Stainthorpe never approached her for remedial Charms classes, which was a big step up from the previous year. Andrea was taking Transfiguration and Charms and had already been recruited to be Seeker on a newly formed Quidditch team.
Having made sure that Lottie spent nearly every waking moment studying, Andrea was finally pleased with Lottie’s progress the day before they left for the camp. Neither of them was sure how to escape the group and get to Grimmauld Place. Andrea had found a spell from an ancient book that, she said, could direct her to any place as long as she had her wand.
Finally, the day arrived for the students to visit their families. Lottie didn’t fit in her old clothes anymore, so the teachers had to give her somebody else’s to wear. Andrea brought along her duffle and hid the soap and clean clothes with food. Stainthorpe trusted her enough to believe that there was only food in the bag with only one glance; luckily for them, Stainthorpe wasn’t a talented Legilimens and wasn’t able to tell that they were lying. Lottie hid the phoenix charm that she had found with Longbottom’s note in her pocket, figuring it would probably useful since it was somehow connected to the Order.
The day outside was clear and slightly too cold; the light didn’t shed onto the camps. Everything inside the fence was grey or brown and layered with dirt. Lottie and Andrea walked briskly past the parents huddled around the crying children, too focused on their goal to notice the misery around them. Once out of view of Stainthorpe, they broke into a run. “Where are we going to change?” Lottie panted.
Andrea stopped suddenly, pointing to a sewer entrance.
“No way,” Lottie said flatly. “I’m sorry, I’ve been down there before and I don’t ever want to go back. Do you know how many bodies are down there?”
“Well what else do you want to do? Change in the middle of the road?”
Lottie frowned and grabbed the bag from her. “Fine, let’s go, but can we please make this fast?” She stared down at the gutter with disgust and slipped down through the gutter – or tried to. After getting stuck halfway down, she had to get Andrea to help push her through until she could feel the rungs of a ladder beneath her.
Lottie gagged at the smell as they reached the bottom of the sewer. Andrea took the bag from her, pulled out her own clothes and threw the rest at Lottie. “Just change quickly,” she said. “Try to breathe through your mouth.”
Lottie tried to focus on changing, but out of the corner of her eye she noticed a body floating by, face down, in a stream of murky water. “How are we going to wash off this dirt?” she asked, determinedly not staring at the dead body. “If you say we’re going to use that water—” she pointed at the stream of water “—you’re sadly mistaken.”
“Of course not,” Andrea said as she pulled on her robe. “We’d catch the plague if we tried that. There are a few flasks of water in there. But try not to use all of it; I want to give some clean water to my family.”
“Right.” Lottie poured some water onto her hands and washed her face with the bar of soap. “Here.” She tossed the flask and the bar of soap to Andrea. As Andrea was washing her face, she asked, “How are we going to get the dirt back on when we’re going to school?”
“Oh, I’ve got some jars in there, don’t worry about it,” Andrea said, sarcasm dripping from every syllable. “Dirt comes from the ground, Lottie.”
Lottie laughed and rolled her eyes. Something down the corridor made a splashing noise. “EW!” Lottie backed up as close to the wall as she could. “What was that? Andrea, let’s get out of here.”
“Shut up!” Andrea whispered. “Do you want to get caught? Okay, do you have your wand?” Lottie nodded. “Right, me too. Okay. We have to go all the way down until – hold on.” Andrea waved her wand and hissed, “Discessio! Number Twelve Grimmauld Place.” Her wand tip lit up red.
“Great,” Lottie said sarcastically. “What does that mean?”
“It means we’re going in the wrong direction,” she said. “Hold on.” She turned in a slow circle until her wand finally turned green once she was facing the other direction. “Okay, we’re going that way.” She started to walk and stopped. “Light up your wand, will you?”
“Right.” Lottie pulled out her own wand. “Lumos.”
What she saw made her want to vomit. Not only did bodies litter the entire system, but various limbs were randomly strewn about as well. Something crunched under her foot; a human finger broke off the flesh of a rotting hand.
“Just don’t look at it,” Andrea said. “Look straight ahead.”
“How does all of this stuff get here?” Lottie asked, staring determinately at the tip of her wand.
“Well, the bodies have to go somewhere, don’t they? I bet the Death Eaters just shove everything down here every once and a while because they don’t know what else to do with them.
“How lovely,” Lottie remarked, carefully stepping over a decapitated body.
“Hold on, I think we’re getting close.” Andrea waved her wand around in a circle. It flashed bright green. “Okay, let’s go up the nearest ladder.”
Andrea went up first and waited for Lottie so she could help pull her out of the gutter. “Not quite like how it was when I was seven, eh? What were they thinking in making those so small anyway?” Lottie asked, rubbing her rib cage as she stood up.
“That they don’t want people to fall down it.”
The world outside was different. It was clean and the houses fairly looked well taken care of. Lottie turned around to inspect the entire neighborhood. It was completely deserted. Not even in the windows were there people bustling about doing their daily business.
“Where is everybody?” Lottie asked.
“I’m not sure,” Andrea said, scratching her head. “Maybe they’re – OH!” Her wand was flashing. “Hold on, I think we’re getting really close.” Lottie could feel the phoenix pendent starting to grow warmer in her pocket.
They broke into a run, Andrea holding her wand out in front of her, and Lottie clutching the pendant, which was now beginning to burn, in her pocket.
“Where are you going?” shouted a voice from the side.
Andrea gasped and dropped her wand. She fell to her knees to pick it up. A masked Death Eater grabbed the scruff of her robes. “Get up.”
Andrea scrambled to her feet. “I—I’m sorry, sir but—”
“You know the rules about being out,” the large Death Eater snarled. He pulled out his wand. “And you know the consequences.”
“Yes, sir, we’re sorry,” Lottie piped up. She kept her face blank and impassive. She was no great Occlumens, but she knew she could at least hide her emotions better than Andrea. “We meant to be home a long time ago, but we passed by the camps on the way and well… we couldn’t help ourselves.”
The Death Eater didn’t let go of Andrea’s robes. “And who are you?”
“We’re Greyback’s granddaughters!” Andrea said quickly. “Fenrir Greyback is our grandfather.”
The Death Eater waited a moment and then let go of Andrea’s robes. Lottie thought she could see his arm quiver. “Well run along home then,” he grunted. “And—er—don’t tell your mother about this. Go.”
Andrea leading the way, they turned a sharp corner and started running. “Thanks!” Lottie shouted behind her as they went.
Once they were out of earshot, they stopped running. “Who’s Greyback?” Lottie asked.
Andrea shrugged. “A Death Eater. And a werewolf too, I think. He died in the last battle.”
“Oh.” Lottie tried to make a mental note of that for the future. “Are we really off course now?”
“Not at all!” Andrea said gleefully. “I had my wand in my hand and I could see where it was pointing! You know, this is actually really thrilling!”
“I’d say,” Lottie growled. “Are we close?”
Andrea halted and stared straight ahead of her. “Very close,” she said through a grin.
A house – a manor – that had definitely not been there before was suddenly in front of them. Overgrown vines covered most of the front of the building; the lawn was completely yellow. “Welcome to Number Twelve Grimmauld Place!” Andrea said triumphantly.
Lottie went first. She ran up the aging stairs and pulled the door. It was unlocked. The phoenix charm was no longer pleasantly warm, but radiating so much heat that tears formed in the corners of Lottie’s eyes. “Damn it!”
“WHO DARES DISTURB MY HOUSE?”
Lottie jumped. “Who’s there?” she shouted, wand out.
“MUGGLES! IN MY HOUSE! INSULTING THE HONORABLE NAME OF BLACK!”
Andrea pointed towards a portrait behind moth-eaten curtains. “Look!”
An old woman in a portrait screeched, “FILTHY, DIRTY BLOOD IN MY HOUSE, DISTURBING MY PEACE!” The paint was dim and the canvas was dusty, but the woman’s eyes still looked so alive that Lottie actually believed that an actual person was being tortured on the other side of the wall.
“What do we do?” Andrea whispered.
“Well, it’s a portrait; I don’t think she can do anything.” Lottie looked around nervously. “It looks pretty deserted to me. Let’s go.”
Goosebumps crept up Lottie’s arms and neck as they crept through the house. “This is not at all what I had in mind,” she said, eyeing a wall of elf heads. “You would think a headquarters for an Anti-Dark Lord group would be a little less… evil looking.”
“Agreed.” Andrea stopped before a door. “Here, let’s go in here.” They entered a large drawing room.
After about thirty minutes of inspecting, they had a considerable amount of curious objects, including an old set of Defense Against the Dark Arts books with indistinguishable titles, bottles filled with mysterious liquids and a music box that they found Spellotaped to the bottom of a sofa; delicate curls of smoke started rising out of Lottie’s pocket.
“We should move on,” Andrea said quietly as to not wait the portrait that had finally shut up after fifteen minutes of screaming. “We don’t have much more time before we have to go back.”
They tiptoed back to the front entrance and up the stairs.
“Okay, let’s split up the upper rooms,” Lottie whispered.
They crept up the stairs and each went into their own separate rooms. The room Lottie ended up in was a bedroom. It was mostly empty, save for a large bed in the middle and a heap of what looked like brown rags. Lottie crept over to the bed and gasped at what she saw. The pile was not rags, but a tiny body of a frail looking creature with huge ears. Lottie gagged at the smell and turned around quickly, only scanning the room once before leaving the rotting carcass to its peace.
She trotted to the next bedroom. There were two empty beds along the wall and a portrait with no subject pinned up. To Lottie’s relief, there were no bodies in this room. She opened every drawer and cupboard that would open, only to find cobwebs. Finally, she dropped to her knees and checked under the beds. Light from the tiny window filtered through the dust and illuminated a tiny book beneath the closest bed. Lottie fell to her stomach and pulled the book out.
Her fingers brushed the leather book covering and immediately, the phoenix pendent in her pocket felt as though it was on fire. Tears in her eyes, she reached for the charm, to try and pull it out when—
“Find anything?” Andrea whispered from the doorway.
Lottie wrapped her hand around the journal, covering it completely and stared at Andrea as she climbed to her feet. The pendent still burned in her pocket, but she couldn’t pull it out without Andrea noticing. Why should she lie and not tell Andrea about the diary? Lying never got her anywhere last time and Andrea just found out soon enough anyway. The book was made of leather and had strings wrapped tightly around it, keeping it shut. What was inside? Probably something really important. “Nothing,” she said quickly. “I didn’t find anything, except for a few spiders.” She would tell Andrea after she inspected it a few times and then they would take it to Palmyitor, telling her that they found it somewhere hidden in the castle.
“I only found this.” Andrea held up a moth-eaten sweater with a large G on it. “Hardly of any value.”
“I wouldn’t worry. We still found a lot,” said Lottie casually. “Will it all fit in your bag?”
“I can try. And if worst comes to worst, I can just shrink our clothes.”
Once Andrea turned her back, Lottie slipped the diary back into her pocket. Everything else fit in Andrea’s bag, as it turned out, but packing lost them precious time. They were running late by the time they left the manor. The farther away from Grimmauld Place they got, the less the pendent burned. Lottie was extremely relieved to feel the chilly metal against the burn in her leg.
“We should,” Lottie panted, “see if one of the Death Eaters will—”
They stopped dead in their tracks. It was a Death Eater, but a woman this time.
“Help us back home,” Andrea said matter-of-factly. “We got lost.”
The woman paused for a moment before saying, “You know the rules about being out at this time.”
“Yes,” Lottie said, finally starting to wonder what time people were allowed out. “We were coming from a friend’s house and—”
The woman tsk-tsked from behind her mask. “I smell a rat,” she hissed. “Come with me.”
There was little either of them could do. Before they could ever reach for their wands, the woman had grabbed hold of their wrists and Disapperated.
Once the feeling of being pushed through a far-too-small space subsided, Lottie found herself in a cold room of stone. There were no windows. Lottie glanced over at Andrea, whose face was screwed up with concentration.
The woman led them to another room. This one had similar, stone, windowless walls, but was crowded with people. Unmasked Death Eaters sat and stood, laughed and conversed like normal people. Lottie found the sight extremely strange.
“Hey everybody,” the woman Death Eater croaked. “Look what I found wandering down the street.”
It didn’t take long for the Death Eaters to put their masks back on and return to their intimidating selves. The Death Eaters circled them. Andrea glanced at Lottie with hopeful eyes. Lottie couldn’t return any comfort.
“So who are you?” asked a low, male voice.
“We’re granddaughters of Fenrir Greyback,” Lottie said, praying that their supposed parents weren’t in the room. Judging by the lack of cries of disbelief, they weren’t. “We were leaving the manor of a friend when we ran into her.” Lottie jabbed her thumb in the direction of the woman who had caught them, but could not find her. She was lost in a sea of masks.
“And whose house were you at? Who would be stupid enough to let you out even when they knew it was against the Dark Lord’s Laws?”
Lottie stared at Andrea. Andrea opened her mouth, apparently out of Death Eater names.
“I recognize these girls,” a smooth voice said from the entrance of the door. He was old, probably in his eighties, with shoulder length grey-speckled black hair. “I’d recognize them anywhere. They’re students at the school.” The phoenix charm flared in Lottie’s pocket.
Lottie had little idea what he was talking about, but nodded anyway, trying to ignore the burning sensation on her leg.
“We were letting them visit their homes. I bet these two went to somebody else’s house. They’re always the trouble makers.”
“I’m not sure,” said the other Death Eater carefully. “You know the Dark Lord will have to hear about this.”
“Oh he will be told, be assured, White.” The stranger raised his eyebrows. “It is much easier, I know, to punish these girls under the school code rather than trying to take matters into your own hands. I doubt the Dark Lord would be pleased.”
The Death Eater – White – waited and finally said, “Right. Take them.”
The greasy haired man took both of them by the wrists. The man led them out of the room, and as they left, Lottie was sure she saw a flash of scarlet from the shadows. They went down two narrow, steep staircases and outside to where the deserted skyscrapers in the city almost completely blocked the sun.
Lottie wondered where they could be going and which side this man was really on. Was he taking them to see the Dark Lord? If he was, why didn’t he just leave them with the Death Eaters?
“You two should know better than to leave the camps like this,” snarled the man.
His overly long fingers dug into Lottie’s arm. “You’re hurting me,” she growled.
“That’s the least of the punishment you’ll get for this,” the man said. “I would enjoy this quiet while you can before Palmyitor gets a hold of you two.”
Lottie stared at him. He knew Palmyitor? “You—you’re taking us to Alsemore?”
“Of course I am. Don’t be daft.”
“Who are you?” asked Andrea bluntly.
“I wouldn’t worry about me,” said the man. “You’ll find out soon enough.”
They spent the rest of the walk in silence. Lottie was grateful to the man for saving them from the Death Eaters, but maybe Palmyitor’s punishment would be worse than the Dark Lord’s wrath.
Once they reached the camp, the man put on a Death Eater mask and let the girls into a house so they could change back into their Muggle clothes before letting them through the fence and marching them through the streets.
“Who’ve you got there?” asked a masked Death Eater in a thick cockney accent.
“A couple of brats tried to get over the fence,” the man said, digging his fingernails into their arms.
“Ooh, we should take ‘em to the ‘eadquarters them.” The stranger pointed his wand in Lottie’s face. It took a great deal of self-control to not reach for her own wand.
“It’s quite fine, Derrick,” the spy said calmly. “I can handle these two myself.”
The Death Eater made a grunt of disappointment and walked away.
“You two should be grateful that I didn’t just leave you there.” The man picked up his pace. Lottie almost had to run to keep up with him. The leather journal and the phoenix charm bounced in her pocket.
Finally, they reached the crumbling building where the students met every year. The man led them through the door and immediately they were greeted by Stainthorpe.
“There you are!” she shouted. “Where were you two?”
“We were,” Lottie began, but was immediately cut off by the spy.
“They were in the Death Eater headquarters,” he said. He took off his mask.
Stainthorpe froze. “Snape?” she whispered.
Lottie froze as well. Snape? The one who had murdered Dumbledore?
The corner of Snape’s mouth twitched. “Indeed, Miss—?”
“Stainthorpe,” she said quickly.
Snape smiled. “Of course,” he sneered.
Lottie had to bite her lip to stop herself from screaming. The heat from the pendent had grown so intense since the arrival of Snape that it was about three minutes away from burning a hole in her pants.
There was a loud crack from upstairs. Footsteps ran down the staircase and stopped in the doorway.
“So you found them!” Palmyitor said indignantly. “Where have you two been?” she demanded, emphasizing every word.
“They had taken it upon themselves to explore London and got themselves caught,” said Snape. “I found them at the London Headquarters.”
“Severus?” Palmyitor dropped her anger for a quick moment before quickly reassuming it. “Well thank goodness you found them.” She turned and stared at Lottie like some sort of bird of prey. “Rowe, what were you thinking? And Woolbright, I—”
“Please, Professor,” Andrea said quietly. “We—we had found information about the Order of the Phoenix.” Silence followed. “It—”
“Surely this is not a conversation to be having here,” interrupted Snape.
“Quite right, Severus,” Palmyitor said. “Meet me in my office.”
Snape grabbed Lottie and Andrea by the wrists and Disappearated.
Palmyitor’s office was hardly big enough to fit all three heads, Stainthorpe, Snape, Lottie and Andrea. The two girls shrank into the corner when they saw that both Maelioric and Clynalmoy had come too. Maelioric’s usually cheery demeanor was noticeably absent.
The adults turned to Andrea. “Continue,” Palmyitor said.
“We—Lottie had found a—a note from Neville Longbottom.” The adults exchanged significant glances. “It said ‘The location of the Order of the Phoenix is Number Twelve Grimmauld Place.’ We figured that Longbottom must have been the Secret Keeper. So we went to Grimmauld Place and checked it out. Everything we found is in my bag.”
Palmyitor swept over to Andrea and snatched her bag. “That was extremely foolish of you,” she hissed. “We have people trained to handle possibly dangerous objects. Why didn’t you tell us when you found the note?”
Andrea fell silent. Lottie knew it was her turn to say something, but she knew what the consequences would be if she told. Palmyitor seemed to sense her nervousness and rounded on her. “Rowe?”
“I—I found it in the snuffbox that I found last year.”
“That snuffbox has been in my office—”
“I took it.” Lottie stared at the ground, the back of her neck burning red. “And I opened it. I found that note.”
Palmyitor crossed her arms. “Anything else?” she said, clearly restraining herself from yelling.
“And a little phoenix charm.” She pulled out the charm which was now tinged with red and so hot that it turned her palm pink. “I didn’t want to tell anyone because I was afraid I would get in trouble that I had stolen it.”
“You feared right.” Lottie cowered under Palmyitor’s glare. “We will keep all of this for your safety,” Palmyitor growled. She plucked the phoenix charm from Lottie’s hand, and stared down as she noticed the burning metal as well. “And then you decided to run back alone and you got caught.” Palmyitor turned to Snape. “You should thank Mr. Snape for saving you.”
Lottie and Andrea muttered quiet thank-yous.
“Woolbright,” Palmyitor said sharply. “You will resign from the Quidditch team for this summer.”
Andrea nodded glumly.
“Outside of your class work, I don’t expect either of you to have any obligations this summer, as you’ll be scrubbing the castle from basement to tower without magic.”
Lottie sighed. Fair punishment, a lot better than she was expecting. She looked up. Snape frowned, making the wrinkles on his forehead even clearer.
“Meet me here tomorrow at six in the morning and you can start on the dungeons.”
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