I had Apparated from the outer boundary of Hogwarts to the deserted back garden of the Cumberland safe house late last night. Upon entering the damp, lonely structure, the fires were lit to stave off the April chill, and the kettle was put on for tea. Proceeding to the bedroom to unpack my belongings, I enlarged them to normal size and placed them in the wardrobe beside Severus’ abandoned clothes. After leisurely changing into jeans and a t-shirt, one of Severus’ heavy jumpers over the top, I moved to the study, piling the research on the massive, oak desk. Returning to the kitchen and listlessly unrolled the map onto the ancient, wooden table; I sipped a good, hot, lemon tea and gazed at the sketched chart. I really didn’t expect anything to happen just yet. Albus’ portrait had assured that there was someone who could help the trio but couldn’t guarantee when or how. Absently holding the pendulum above the aged, cracked parchment, it swung, and I gaped at the results. The trio was no longer at Malfoy’s immaculate rural estate, but across the country near the ocean, in a place I had visited months ago. This was a surprise. Rapidly downing my drink, I gathered my rucksack and filled it with food and water. Re-rolling the map and tucking it across the top, I stuffed the pendulum into my jeans pocket. There was now a sense of urgency as I returned to the backyard and secured the house. Focusing on my last hiding place where the trio was now located, I quickly Disapparated to that site. The small wood shed behind the picturesque cottage became my temporary shelter as I crouched down near a stack of logs. Conventional wizard wards and Protective Shields were bypassed by strong Earth magic and a skilfully cast Disillusionment Charm. No one would detect my presence.
The early rays of dawn began to shimmer over the edge of the horizon casting pinkish gold hues across the rough waves of the English Channel. The front windows of the small cottage reflected the beauty of the rising colour. I remained cast in the shadow behind the quaint home, secretly watching as a small group emerged from the screened, back door. The Potter boy was at the rear of a garden between a stand of bushes, a spade in his hand, looking solemn as he patted the last bit of earth in place. I scanned the building and noted that not all were coming to join him. Two others remained in the house, an old man and a goblin, both injured. My guess was that the boy had gallantly rescued whoever was being held prisoner at Malfoy’s last night, just as he had done at the Ministry in the fall with those accused of questionable heritage. I remained silent, studying the proceedings from my spot behind the logs. The group circled around the little mound of earth, sombrely saying their “good byes” and expressing their gratitude for help received. They looked tired, beaten down. The Granger girl appeared to have suffered the most from the ordeal, walking carefully with Arthur’s youngest son’s assistance as they eventually headed back to the cottage.
While the others returned to the warmth of the kitchen, the Potter boy remained, staring down at the plot of dirt as if he didn’t know what to do next. His sorrow was great, and he slowly lowered himself to the gravesite. On his knees and with an unsteady hand, he carved words into a rock, a headstone, and placed it at one end of the pile. Straightening, he stood, gazing blankly beyond the plot to the waves. I could see the dirt mixed with blood on his clothes and hands, and my heart went out to him. What had Albus done? Why give this boy such an arduous task? He was so young. There were always options. The boy gave the impression of exhausted defeat.
Gringotts. The cup is in Lestrange’s vault at Gringotts. Talk to the goblin, I sent.
The boy looked up and turned his head to the right as if something had struck his subconscious. He had heard, but did he understand?
The goblin can help, but don’t trust him. Trust your instincts. You need to get into Gringotts, I sent again.
The boy’s jaw tighten, his face hardened as comprehension set in. Yes, he understood, I smiled. The message had been received. Striding purposefully, he marched back to the new hideout while I leaned against the logs with a sigh of relief. I’d wait a while until certain that the boy was on track.
After two days hiding near the wood shed, I was finally comfortable enough with the situation to leave. Potter had spoken to the goblin, and they had begun to make plans. At first, the goblin was hesitant to help. Gringotts had very high security, and it went against his moral code to do anything against other goblins in favour of a wizard. Nevertheless, with a little outside “suggestion”, the goblin finally relented. However, his mind didn’t work in the way I was accustomed, and although he agreed to help, there was a catch. He wanted the sword as payment. In a private conversation overheard between the trio as they excused themselves from the house, Arthur’s son come up with an idea that made me chuckle. I didn’t think he had that deceptiveness in him: Promise the sword to the goblin, but don’t tell him when he’d get it. It would work, but it could also backfire. Goblins don’t trust “wand holders”, and he would see it as a betrayal. Solutions were brought forth, and their plan was developing well.
The simple washroom facilities of the safe house were greatly appreciated after days in the rough. A toilet. An actual toilet, rather than Transfigured rocks and a complicated spell was my first stop. Then, the steam from a hot shower filled the tiny room as I stripped off my clothes and lathered up with soothing fragrances. Oh, this felt so good. Once my skin began to prune, the water was turned off, and I wrapped myself in a large bath sheet, padding barefoot to the bedroom. It was still reasonably early, but I was tired, and the bed looked so inviting. Crawling under the soft, down comforter, my mind began to formulate plans of my own. Gringotts. I had only been there a few times to access a seldom-used account that had been set up by the British Ministry when I worked with them. All funding for my present research had been directly deposited, and my basic needs were met at Hogwarts, so there was never a need for me to go. Now would be the time to visit the bank. I could go under the premise of needing to transfer my assets to an associated bank in Wizard Rome. At that time, I could check out the new security before Potter and the others arrived. As ideas drifted through my head, exhaustion took over, and I fell into a peaceful sleep.
The week passed slowly, and I kept a close watch on the trio, both through the map and through visits to the cottage. The time was approaching for their trip to Diagon Alley, and although nervous, the group seemed confident with their decision. As I was preparing to leave after checking on them one evening, the sudden arrival of an old friend urged me to stay. The trio had gone back to the house after a private “chat” by the wood shed, and Bill was preparing to bring the old wand-maker to his aunt’s when Remus arrived, looking haggard and flustered. Passwords were given, and he was admitted into the home. I snuck closer to hear the conversation and received a strong empathic impression from my former lover. Tonks, his wife, had given birth. He was a father. The elation that filled him was overpowering, and the wave of mixed emotions that filled me caught my breath. I was so happy for him. He deserved this, but at the same time, I was reminded of all I had lost, all I had given up to carry out Albus’ bidding. Tears prickled in my eyes and my chest constricted as I Disapparated back to the safe house for the evening. I was ashamed of my jealousy, of my selfishness. Remus was my friend, and goodness knows, he deserved to be happy.
Gringotts was still a busy place even amidst the political tension, and I mingled with the crowd as a path cleared for the image of Bellatrix Lestrange and her redheaded companion. I had already cast a Confundus Charm on the outer security guard when he thought he spied a white trainer resting on the sidewalk all by itself. I knew it was the Potter boy and the goblin under the boy’s infamous Invisibility Cloak. The cloak had accidentally slipped, and the boy’s foot was exposed. They would have to be more careful. As they made their way to the counter, I was impressed by how coolly they handled the questions and security. Their confidence and my clandestine coaching from the woodpile were proving successful. Miss Granger skilfully signed for the vault using Lestrange’s usurped wand, but once they began their journey to the vault area, there was nothing I could do but wait. Focusing my powers on “listening” to what was going on, the connection faded as they entered the depths of the caverns. The natural configuration and density of the rock blocked my senses.
“Is there something I can help you with?” a deep voice asked as I stood at a high counter in the middle of the bank, staring at the entrance to the vaults.
I startled, realizing my suspicious posture. “Was that Bellatrix Lestrange?” I let my voice sound frightened.
The burly, wizard security guard followed my gaze and nodded briefly as I showed a slight shudder. “Scares you, does she?” the guard smiled arrogantly.
I nodded in return. “It’s the eyes.” I lowered my voice as if she could hear, my accent tinged with fear. Pulling a slip of parchment from my pocket, I pointed to the name and asked, “Do you know where I can find this man?”
The guard let out a snort. “Not from around here, are you? That’s no man. That’s a goblin. Head of International Accounts. Up the stairs. Third door to the left,” he pointed as I tipped my head in thanks and proceeded toward the stairwell. I had taken care of this business last week but felt it prudent to retain any paperwork regarding the visit. You never know what might come in handy.
Within the hour, alarms sounded, and there was flurry of activity rushing toward the vaults. The trio had been discovered. Sitting against the wall in a small waiting area, I closed my eyes and focused on the structure of the building, trying to identify anything that could help me locate them. I sensed fear, adrenaline rushing, pain. They were on the move and had been injured by some of the security enchantments. The building shook, and there was a powerful rush as an unleashed creature from the depths of the bank came soaring up and through the rubble at one side of the crumbling cavern. One it’s back, three figures could barely be seen as the dragon rapidly ascended into the sky. Freedom, I sensed so clearly that that I had to force myself to control my response. In the midst of the pandemonium, I was able to sneak out. Their mission had been successful. They had the cup, and knew what had to be done next. For now, they would be on their own.
The chaos on the main street assisted my unobserved departure, and I quickly headed to the Leaky Cauldron to cross into Muggle London. There was a growing knot in the pit of my stomach, an uncomfortable feeling that inched its way up my spine and into the hairs at the back of my neck. Gut feeling? Intuition? I didn’t know, nor did I care, but I had to acknowledge it. Nodding to the toothless proprietor as I crossed through the dingy bar, I eased my way into the hustle and bustle of lunchtime London. The years spent blending in, being a ghost, paid off. No one noticed. Finding a quiet alley, I Disapparated to a park in a residential area across town. A Disillusionment Charm was cast as I half ran up the street to eventually observe my best friend near her car. She was unpacking groceries and heading up the concrete steps to the front door. I slowed and watched, closing the gap between us. Everything seemed calm. There was no one else on the street. I startled and stopped as the front door swung open and Colin reached to take the bags. I was confused. They were fine. Then, what was I feeling? A droopy-eyed Ardianne stood in the doorway in her pink flowery pyjamas violently sneezing and wiping her nose as her mother returned to the car for more bags. As the family innocently entered the house and closed the door, I stood across the street scanning for any hidden magical forces. I didn’t understand, there was nothing there, but the feeling of anxiety persisted. Reaching out for signals from within the house, there was nothing to indicate that they were in trouble. I sighed and slowing walked back to the park. Sitting on a wooden bench, I leaned back and inhaled deeply, arms hanging limply by my sides, calming the adrenaline and focusing on the energies around me. I still had that gnawing feeling. Something was wrong. Something was building. Someone close was going to be affected. I Apparated back to the safe house to gather my thoughts.
The pendulum swung over the map and rested on the bank near a lake, just as it had an hour ago, and the hour before that. From what I could gather, the trio was resting, planning their next move, not wanting to return to the eldest Weasley’s home, possibly putting everyone in danger. I felt helpless and impatient, that knot in my stomach still growing, making me feel ill. I tried the scrying dish but received nothing but fog. I wanted to call Pinky to ask what was happening at the school, but knew that it would only serve to worry her, and I wished that Stark was flying around where I could reach him. He was my only other contact to Severus, but I knew that too would serve no purpose. Pulling out Albus’ little cardboard box, I rifled through the contents and absently fingered the vial around my neck. When my receptive hand touched the old star chart, a slight shock rippled through my fingertips. Lifting it, I examined the dots that now appeared to be moving, realigning. Orion, the Hunter, was rising in the east to meet Scorpius, his mortal enemy, who was waiting in the west. They were on opposite polars and should never in the sky at the same time. It was celestially impossible. Besides, this was a star chart of my birth. Why was it showing a battle about to…? Oh… I sat back on the hard, wooden, kitchen chair, realization settling in. Tonight. It would all come to a peak tonight. My heart began to pound. But, how? Studying the chart again, I read the symbols and remembered the folklore. The heaviness in the pit of my stomach that had bothered me all day began to fade and was replaced with a shiver of nervousness, as I understood what needed to be done.
Packing my belongings and labelling them efficiently, I stacked them neatly against the wall of the bedroom. Pulling my rucksack onto my back, I exited into the yard, sealing the safe house securely. With a copy of my research tucked under my arm, I touched the glowing buds of Draconus Filiastus and Disapparated to St. Mungo’s. The study had gone as far as it could go, and Healer Puddiwell could handle the last bit of observation. I was confident in that. Hopefully, in time, the Ministry or the hospital or both combined would see the validity of the potion and administer it to those who needed it. For now, there were other things that demanded my attention.
My fist pounded on the front door of the red brick house. The black shutters were closed, but I knew the dwelling was not empty. I could “hear” them inside. The wards were not as easy to penetrate as I had thought which meant that there were many magical folk here. My fist pounded again.
“Who is it?” an elderly voice finally barked. “What do you want?”
I had relied on my senses to bring me here and was surprised with what I found. The trim, well-kept garden and wealthy grounds were not what I had expected. “I’m here to see Remus Lupin,” I called urgently.
“There’s no one here by that name. You have the wrong house. Go away!” the woman’s voice sharply ordered.
Puzzled, I focused on the inhabitants and knew I was right. “He’s here, and I understand your caution. But think, how is it that I could break through your protections?”
“I don’t know, but go away. You’re not welcome here.”
I sensed another familiar figure enter the room, and smiled. “Arthur is standing behind you, Molly behind him. The twins are at the table on the far side of the room,” I directed to a confused old woman. “Remus can verify that I’m not a threat. Please, I need to speak with him.”
“Tell me something that only Remus would know.”
I recognized his voice immediately and began to grin nervously. “Where to begin?” I thought out loud. “I still wear the goddess necklace that you gave me for Valentine’s years ago. I was concerned, because I thought it was silver, but you assured that it was pewter and perfectly safe.”
I could sense heads curiously turn in his direction. “Tell me something else that only we would know.”
I grinned widely. “Are you sure? I do have a few stories.” I paused. “How about the first night you took Wolfsbane? Belby was supposed to take the initial readings, but he had the flu. I know that’s public knowledge, but if you recall, you ordered me out, and I refused. I told you that I wasn’t afraid of you, that I knew you wouldn’t hurt me. You were already starting to react to the moon, and you pushed me into the wall…hard. You scraped my chin with yours and tore the zipper on my coat. The iron rungs made for good leverage. Are you sure you want me to continue, because I will you know. Still makes me smile.”
The door swung open, and my old friend stood before me looking sheepish. “I am married, you know.”
“You started it,” I chuckled lightly as I entered the main room. “Personally, I thought the necklace story was a good enough.”
“Hello Dani,” his face warmed my heart, “what brings you here?”
“Many things,” I began. “I hear congratulations are in order, Dad.”
Remus visibly straightened with pride, his grin beaming. “How did you hear?”
“That doesn’t matter. I needed to see you and focused on coming to you. I didn’t expect to come here. I do apologize,” I directed toward the older woman whose house this obviously was. “This is actually, better because there are more of you.” I swallowed hard and inhaled deeply, slowly. “Prepare yourselves. It appears that the battle will happen tonight.”
All heads shot in my direction. “How do you know?” Molly asked gripping Arthur’s elbow.
“She knows,” both Remus and Arthur replied in unison looking solemn and concerned.
“I trust Dani with my life. She’s never let me down,” Remus added.
I stepped forward and drew my old friend into a tight hug. “Know this Remus Lupin, you will always have a place in my heart. Your wife is a very lucky woman. Go to her. Kiss your son.”
Remus returned the hug and kissed my forehead. “You’re one special woman, Dani. Broke my heart, you did, but became one of the best friends a person can have. What are you going to do?”
“I’m heading to Hogwarts. Goodness knows Poppy is going to need help tonight. Maybe my other skills can come in handy, too.” I turned to Arthur. “Alert the others. Spread the word.” My instructions were interrupted by Ginny rushing into the room, her hand clutched tightly around something small. Fred and George had the same urgent look about them. “He’s there already, is he?” I asked to their puzzled expressions. “If I’ve read you properly, you’ve just received word that Harry has arrived at Hogwarts. You have to go.”
“She’s not going anywhere!” Molly announced forcibly. “She’s underage. Fred. George. What is this?” She turned to the boys.
“She’s right,” one of the twins nodded toward me, holding up a gold coin. “Dumbledore’s Army is being called. We have to go.” They rose and headed for the door, and Molly blocked Ginny’s path.
Let her go. This may be her last chance to see Harry. Give her that moment with him.
Molly stepped out of the way to the surprise of all in attendance, kissed her daughter’s cheek, and quietly stood by her husband.
Ginny and her brothers left. Molly wiped her eyes. Arthur began to pace, trying to decide whom to call first. Remus gathered his cloak, and we stood staring at each other for a moment. Then, our arms reached out, and we clashing into a tight embrace, my face burying into his chest, his into the crook of my neck.
“I love you, Remus. You’re a dear, sweet man. You’ll always be in my heart,” I choked.
“And you in mine,” he replied tenderly.
“Kiss that baby of yours for me. Tell your wife you love her.” I wiped away a tear with the back of my hand as Remus nodded.
Stepping apart, I reached to Arthur and drew him into a hug. “Watch your back tonight, my friend.” He nodded in reply as Remus and I backed toward the door. “It was a pleasure to finally meet you Molly.” I waved to the redheaded mother of seven who stood wringing her hands.
Remus opened the door, and we stepped out together. After a last quick embrace, he Disapparated home, and I Disapparate to the outer boundary of Hogwarts.
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