First there was silence, then disbelief and then worry. The staring seemed to be a constant, though, after Tonks’s announcement.
“One of the Lestranges?” Sirius asked, wide-eyed. “Just one of them? Wait, which one? Bellatrix?” Please let it be Bella, he thought hopefully. By far, his cousin was the one he most wanted to see locked up. And have the key tossed away afterwards, just in case.
The Metamorphagus shrugged. “Kingsley didn’t say – the message was pretty short. He just mentioned they caught one of the Lestranges and to meet him in the Shrieking Shack ASAP.”
“In the Shrieking Shack?” Mia asked a bit confused.
“I suppose they’ll want to question Lestrange before warning the ministry,” Tonks explained. “Merlin knows they’d order a Dementor’s kiss just to get this matter out of their way…”
Sirius got up immediately. “Well, I think I speak for all of us when I say ‘count us in’ – we’re going too,” he declared, continuing before his cousin could protest. “We’re members of the order, Tonks – you catch a Death Eater, especially one that may very well be Bellatrix, you have to assume at least I will want to be there for the questioning.”
“And it’s not safe for you to go out there when we have no idea if there are more around,” Remus added, standing up too.
Tonks narrowed her eyes at him. “Don’t you start dictating what is safe for me to do and what isn’t, Remus. I’m an auror. I can very well take care of myself and it would be really useful if you got that into your hard head!”
“Don’t call me Nymphadora!”
Sirius coughed. “Alright, I’m not sure if I should break the two of you apart before you strangle each other or have Rosmerta getting you a room upstairs before you give us a show.” The two of them glared and he grinned cheekily in return. “How about we just save it for later and get going to the Shack? We shouldn’t keep the Death Eater waiting. It’s just rude.”
“But what about Alex?” Mia asked suddenly, reminded of her son’s presence when she heard a loud squeal the little boy let out as Hagrid flew him up like a toy airplane, higher than anyone in the room ever could. “It wouldn’t be safe to take him there and, from what I’ve gathered, Lulu had some big date with Gabe today.”
“You could ask Hagrid to take him to Molly,” Tonks suggested hurriedly.
And so they did. Sirius and Mia wondered off for a few moments to talk to Hagrid about it and kiss their amused little boy goodbye. Then, all four of them made their way to the Shrieking Shack, with wands in hand just in case a Death Eater was to jump out of nowhere. That wasn’t the case, though, as the way there was rather calm.
Surprisingly, when they entered the Shack, Dumbledore, who was supposed to be on the run, was standing right there in the middle of the hall talking to Kingsley Shacklebolt. The two turned to face them as soon as they stepped in, both of their expressions tense.
“Dedalus could use a break from the watching duty downstairs, Tonks,” Kingsley told the young auror. “Would you mind…?”
She shook her head. “Not at all. I’ll go there relieve him,” Tonks agreed, reaching for the stairs and going down to the basement, but not before shooting a look at Remus that was somewhere between annoyed and infatuated.
“Sirius, Amelia, I wasn’t expecting you here in Hogsmeade today,” Dumbledore declared.
“We could tell you just the same,” Mia replied.
The older man let out a small smile. “My little secret is out, apparently. They may keep me out of Hogwarts, Amelia, but they can’t keep me too far away from it. I see it as my duty to keep an eye on my students, especially when they are out of the school’s boundaries and its protection wards.”
“So, you’ve been watching Hogsmeade yourself since they fired you?” Remus asked in surprise. “That’s awfully risky, Albus. If they send you to Azkaban, they won’t let you out anytime soon.”
Dumbledore smiled again. “I have my ways not to be caught, Remus. Thank you for your concern. But well, I assume you’re here about Rodolphus Lestrange and not me…”
“Rodolphus?” Sirius asked half disappointed it wasn’t Bellatrix instead. Not that Rodolphus wasn’t Dangerous either… “It was just him you caught?”
Kingsley nodded. “Yes, but there was at least one more bloke with him who escaped. They were dressed with regular clothes and covered with glamour charms so it’s hard to tell who the other one was – we only saw this one was Rodolphus after we removed the charms. My bet would be on Rabastan, though – they were always attached at the hip.”
“But how did you realize they were Death Eaters if they were so well-disguised?” Mia inquired.
“Oh, we didn’t,” Kingsley said. “It was they who attacked Dedalus and me. I suppose they just couldn’t resist it, considering I helped Mad-Eye lock Rodolphus, Rabastan and Bellatrix up back when I was a rookie. Their father, Roderich, ended up killed in the process, which is another reason for them to want me dead. Anyway, the bastards started attacking as soon as they saw us – one of them was about to use the killing curse when Albus appeared out of thin air and stunned Rodolphus. The other one managed to apparate away before we could register what had happened.”
“Merlin, that was close,” Sirius mumbled under his breath.
Kindgsley nodded. “You can say that again…”
“We can’t ignore that this incident happened during one of Hogwarts’s Hogsmeade weekends,” Dumbledore stated. “They were expecting to walk into a village full of students, for all we know. I suppose we’ll need to thank Dolores for their absence this time around.”
“You think they were going to attack a bunch of kids?” Mia asked, disgusted.
“Maybe not an attack, so to speak,” Kingsley stated. “But the date can’t be a coincidence. Whatever they were going to do, it had to involve the students.”
“That’s sick,” Sirius hissed. Just thinking that his daughter was one of them, one of the possible victims of whatever plan Lestrange had been sent to put in practice, made his insides freeze and want to go downstairs to beat the living hell out of him.
Dumbledore let out a sigh. “I suppose we’ll only know exactly what they meant to do after we question Mr. Lestrange – Severus should be arriving with the Veritaserum as soon as he manages to find an excuse to leave the castle.”
Six hours later
The Veritaserum administered by Snape, who’d taken an eternity to arrive, together with a little Cheering Essence had certainly loosened Rodolphus Lestrange’s tongue, Sirius thought as he stood outside the main room of the basement with Mia, listening as Kingsley and Dumbledore questioned the Death Eater.
In the first part of the so far three-hour-long interrogatory, they’d mainly asked general questions about Voldemort’s followers, their identities and plans. Rodolphus didn’t seem to be able to say much, though, likely because his master had protected the most important information with a Fidelius Charm.
But then, they finally reached the part when they were to talk about the plan that had led Rodolphus to Hogsmeade. And it was just as bad as they’d imagined: Rodolphus and the other guy he confirmed to be his brother, Rabastan, were sent to Hogsmeade in order to mingle with the crowd and, without being noticed, abduct one of the kids. “Could be any mudblood or blood-traitor,” the Death Eater had specified with a laugh.
Why? To send a message to the Order. To tell them nobody, not even kids, was safe now. To show them that, as much as they fought, they would never win. And that as much as the Death Eaters did, the ministry would never admit that Voldemort was back. “They’d just say it was that idiot Pettigrew again. Handy scapegoat that one is.” Sadly enough, they knew it was the ugly truth they had to live with these days.
But Lestrange didn’t stop there. When he proceeded to ramble about what their plans had been for the kid they were supposed to have abducted, whose ultimate fate was death, Sirius saw his wife’s face, that had already been nearly colourless before, turn even paler.
“Oh, Merlin,” Mia whispered, feeling nauseous as she listened to every gruesome word of it. She couldn’t believe such… twisted minds could exist. She didn’t even dare to think that it might have been her own daughter… Her hand covered her mouth. “Oh, dear Merlin.”
Sirius approached her, placing his hands on her shoulders just to make sure she held steady, even though he felt cold sweat rolling down his own back. “Mia, look at me,” he told her firmly. “It didn’t happen. They stopped them before anything could happen. He’s just talking out of his arse.”
Mia tried to listen but couldn’t. “I think I’m gonna be sick.” She took a step back and quickly reached for the stairs, making her way up them to a small loo there was on the ground floor.
“Will someone shut him up?!” Sirius shouted, bursting into the room where the questioning had been taking place just as Kingsley was pointing his wand at Lestrange – tied to a chair – and uttering a silencing charm. Like a switch had been pulled, all sound ceased to come out of the Death Eater’s throat.
“That should hold him for a few minutes,” the auror declared. “I suppose the cheering essence was a little too strong for him mixed with Veritaserum.”
Dumbledore nodded. “Yes, it must be related to his mental state after leaving Azkaban – my sources told me he was one of the most… altered in there.”
“That’s putting it lightly,” Sirius said under his breath, glancing at his cousin’s husband with disgust. He was bloody mad.
“Well, hopefully, with the small amount of essence Severus gave him, it will be all gone by the time the silencing charm wears off,” Dumbledore stated. “I believe we’re quite done here, then. Now, if you excuse me, I need to go contact Alastor – I suppose he’ll want to know about this even though he’s in eastern Europe recruiting allies for the Order. Unless you need me here…”
“We have it under control, Albus,” Kingsley remarked, to which the headmaster responded with a nod before making his way out.
Sirius let out a huff, then, and occupied a chair that rested against the wall. “So, what are you doing with him now? Handing him to the ministry?”
“Yes. But not before changing his memories. We wouldn’t want Fudge to find out about our little chat here,” the auror stated.
From his chair, Rodolphus tried to shout something but nothing came out, so he glared instead. Clearly, he wasn’t happy with the thought of ending up in Azkaban again. If it was anyone else, Sirius might have felt slightly sympathetic. Not this time. After hearing him say what he’d said, Sirius hoped he would get the Dementor’s kiss. And strangely enough, that thought put him in better mood – the bastard would probably get what he deserved, this time.
It wasn’t until around ten minutes later that the silencing charm wore off and Rodolphus’s first words were directed to Sirius, his lips curled into a sick smile. “Think you’re all big with me tied here, don’t you, Black?”
“Did I hint in any way that I was interested in anything you say?” Sirius asked, indifferently.
The Death Eater snarled. “They’re sending me to Azkaban but, who knows, maybe very soon I’ll be out again. There’s no coming back from the place where you’re going, though.”
Sirius rolled his eyes and turned to Kingsley. “Are Death Eaters always this depressive when you lock’em up?”
“I haven’t locked up any in a while but from what I remember, yeah, most of them are,” he replied casually.
“Joke while you can, Black,” Rodolphus warned him. “While you’re doing it, Bella’s crossing her fingers for her to be the one to kill you. A little cleaning in the family tree, she calls it.”
Kingsley was about to grab his wand to put a silencing charm back on Rodolphus but Sirius shook his head, saying he had it under control. “Good for her. Never expected her to grow out of her slob ways.”
“She’ll do it slowly if she can,” the Death Eater continued, sadistically as Sirius tried to ignore. “Like the Longbottoms – turned out better that we’d expected, didn’t they? Mad. Felt better than finishing them off. But don’t worry, she’ll finish the work with you. Or someone else will. Bella’s not the only one who wants you dead, you know? That idiot of a rat, Pettigrew, he wants you six feet under nearly as much as she does. Boy, did he hate you and your friend Potter…”
Sirius glared at his mention of James – the bastard knew just where to hit. “Believe me, I want him dead ten times more than he wants me,” he said, avoiding that last matter.
Bur Rodolphus continued pushing it. “Hard to believe you never saw it, how you offered him the place of secret-keeper right on a silver platter – ended up getting Potter killed, didn’t you? Wormtail never had the rocks to do the dirty job, though. No, the Dark Lord gave him favour for being a snitch… and he used it on hits. Why get his hands dirty when he could have someone else wiping for him those he wanted?”
Sirius felt himself chilling. “What the bloody hell are you talking about?”
“That’s it, I’m silencing him,” Kingsley said.
“No, no, let him finish,” he said urgently before looking at Rodolphus. “Finish what you were saying, Lestrange!”
“Hadn’t figured it out yet?” Rodolphus asked mockingly. “Pettigrew hates your guts and hated Potter’s too. He wanted you miserable, strike you where it hurt the most – family. So, he asked the Dark Lord to send us after Potter’s parents. To kill them.”
No, Sirius thought as he rose from the chair. It couldn’t be. All that time he’d been so blind… “You’re telling me Peter Pettigrew was the one to mark the Judy and Christopher Potter?” People who fed Wormtail, who treated him nearly as good as their son just like they’d treated all of them. He turned to Kingsley. “Is he still under Veritaserum?”
He shurgged. “It’s nearly impossible to tell right now – it depends on a lot of things right now: his metabolism, resistance to the potion…”
Rodolphus smiled, pleased he had caused a reaction. “Deep down you know, don’t you, Black? That, potion or no potion, I’m not making this up.” He was right, Sirius thought. It made sense – they’d left on vacation and Wormtail had decided to stay behind. And when they’d returned, the Potters were dead. “Wormtail had the Potters marked. And not just them. He might be a spineless moron but when it came to hating you and Potter he came up with the best. And what better way was there to give you hell than through your little lover?”
“Mia,” Sirius whispered, tensing even further.
“Oh yes. He really wanted her dead and buried. The Dark Lord thought it would have a better effect if we took the whole Davis family out like we’d done with the McKinnons.” Lestrange let out a dramatic breath and looked at Sirius again, that sick happy smile playing on his lips. “But she ran away, didn’t she? Knocked up with your brat, apparently. Too bad… But I guess the bloke was happy enough with her gone. Convinced himself he’d take care of her if she ever came ba…”
Sirius punched him across the face before Kingsley could even move to stop him. “Son of a bitch!”
Despite the stinging in his face, Rodolphus laughed like the damned and, just as Sirius started to reach for his wand, Mia came bursting through the door. “Sirius, don’t!” she shouted, still as pale as she’d been before. “He’s just trying to upset you.”
“He’s under veritaserum!” he shouted.
Kigsley approached them too. “You don’t know that! But even if he’s telling the truth, he’s just using it to mess with you.”
“I don’t give a damn what he’s playing at – you heard what he said!”
Mia shook her head. “It was a long time ago, Sirius! It doesn’t matter!”
“The hell it doesn’t! Wormtail wanted you dead!”
From the floor, Rodolphus laughed louder and spoke. “Don’t you just want to just want to kill him, Black? Go ahead. Bastard only gets in the way, anyway. He’s at the Riddle manor – it’s in a small village, Little Hangleton, down at Berkshire. Tell him ‘hi’ for me before you make him see gree…”
This time, Mia was the one who reached for her wand and silenced him, pulling her husband’s arm to get him out of the room. “Sirius, come on! Don’t listen to him,” she said. His eyes were fierce, she noticed. And angry… so angry. She needed to get him out of that room. “Let’s get out of here. Let’s talk.”
He let himself be taken away but his eyes never left Lestrange’s until the door was shut between them. The anger was building up by the second. He wouldn’t let another day pass – he should have killed Wormtail when he’d had the chance. But he’d fix the mistake soon enough. That day, even.
“Sirius,” he heard his wife calling him. “Sirius, look at me. Please, look at me.” He did and found her eyes scared, staring back at his. “You’ve got to calm down. What he said doesn’t matter, you can’t…”
“Doesn’t matter?” he asked though his teeth. “Did you listen to what he said? What that rat bastard did?! He put a hit on James’s parents – my parents in all ways that matter. He put a hit on you! And then he sold Lily and James and put the blame on me! I won’t let him get away with this!”
“He won’t!” Mia told him, confidently. “The aurors are after him, Sirius! They’ll catch him one day – give him to the Dementors!”
“The aurors are not the ones who owe him the punishment,” he spat back.
“Yes, they are, it’s their job!” she replied. “You can’t go after him on your own, Sirius. Maybe Lestrange isn’t lying about where Peter is but he sure as hell won’t be alone there! You’ll be walking into a trap!”
“Then why shouldn’t I oblige, Mia?” he asked back, boiling. “Why am I supposed to just stand down and do nothing? I don’t care if this is a trap. Wormtail won’t walk this time,” he told her, trying to walk away.
She stood in front of him, blocking his way from the stairs that led up to the ground floor. “You have to care!” Mia shouted, her eyes red but not tearing up. “If you die, I won’t survive. You’re just going to give up your life for that slimy traitor? Do we mean so little to you? Your family?”
“He wanted you dead just so he could hurt me!” Sirius shouted back. “Get out of the way, Mia. Please. I need to go out. I need some air.”
“No,” she said firmly. “Not until you promise me you’re not going after Peter!”
“Look, I’m not saying that I don’t care about what Peter did! It is unforgivable. Horrible, even. But it’s not worth risking your life over. So, promise me! Please!”
Sirius pursed his lips and, before he could stop himself, he did something he’d never done before. He looked the woman he loved in the eyes and made a promise he never intended to keep. “I promise won’t go after him.”
She didn’t doubt his word – she never would – and so she stepped out of the way for him to pass. Then, Mia just remained there, closed her eyes and sat on the steps, taking deep breaths to calm herself down.
There were voices rising upstairs that she recognized and Sirius and Remus’s. For some reason, they were fighting and, a couple of minutes later, Remus shouted at Sirius not to do something right before the door of the shack closed with a bang.
There was a pause when, deep down, Mia knew what had just happened, though her mind didn’t want to accept it. She remained in denial, her eyes looking at the floor, until steps came down the stairs, circling her at the bottom. When she raised her head and saw Remus standing opposite her, worry all over his eyes, she knew it was true. His look said it all.
“He went after Peter, didn’t he?” she asked in a whisper.
“Yes,” her friend confirmed.
Mia closed her eyes, covering her face with her hands. “He looked me in the eyes and promised me he wouldn’t,” she whispered brokenly. It would have hurt less if he’d just plunged a knife into her heart and twisted it. It wouldn’t have damaged it as much. “He lied to me,” she said, tears running freely down her cheeks. “Sirius lied to me.”
With all those bad feelings overwhelming him, Sirius had apparated three times towrong destinations before arriving at Little Hangleton. The village was about the same size as Hogsmeade and it didn’t take him long to identify the Riddle Manor, being the biggest house in the dusky horizon. It looked completely abandoned and, by his experience as a fugitive, a perfect hiding place.
He made his way there in a quick pace. All he could think of was reaching his destination and do what he’d come there for – killing Wormtail. This time I’ll end the rat’s miserable life once and for all, he thought as he walked through the gates that led to the Manor’s gardens.
All was silent. His wand was clutched in his hand and his eyes were set on the door like nothing else existed. But at some point, he stopped, realizing something wasn’t right. Where was the trap? Where was everyone? He was standing right there, in the clear, allegedly in a Death Eater’s hiding place and there was no sign of anyone? He’d been expecting a trap… but maybe that was the trap. The absence of one, or at least of a regular one.
He was right. Just as soon as he took another step, Sirius felt his foot touching a thin wire and all hell broke loose. Spells started flying from everywhere, clearly coming from the house’s wards instead of people. They were of all colours, green included, which made him believe the killing curse might be in the mix.
He quickly started running away but wasn't fast enough to avoid being hit on the shoulder by one of the spells, which hurt so much he could barely see straight. If it stings, it’s because it’s still there and I’m still alive, he told himself as he turned to his dog form, which was a lot faster running than a regular human, dodging the spells and not bothering to look at the throbbing wound.
Then, as soon as he saw himself out of the house’s boundaries, he turned to his human for again and apparated away, landing in a room he didn’t recognise at first. There was a bed on which he sat, trying to catch his breath before before he dared to look down at his shoulder. He saw it was a burn – a bad one but, all things considered, might have been a lot worse.
The bloody house wards hadn’t been set for defence, he concluded, but for attack instead. He’d never seen it before – whatever the way they’d made those, he was sure a whole lot of dark magic was involved. How else would they make bloody wards send curses all over the place?! That was as close as anything it could get to the perfect trap… no people to mess it up. Only curses programmed to decimate any enemy that came close. The burning spell couldn’t have fully hit him – he didn’t believe any of those curses weren’t set to make as much damage as possible. If it had fully hit him, he would likely be dead. If he hadn’t run in his dog form, a lot faster than normal, he would have been killed.
With his wand, he healed it as much as he could. The spell made it feel worse before making it better – sure, it didn’t look perfectly healed but the skin looked less damaged than before. It sure seemed a lot easier when Mia used it to cure burns she got while cooking. And that thought remind him of her. Mia.
All of sudden, the room around him, became familiar. He was in her old house – the Davis house, where Mia had grown up. He was currently sitting on her bed, where he they’d spent countless hours together. It was only then, in that place that had been hers for so long, that he realized what a stupid idea it had been to go after Wormtail. How deeply he’d betrayed Mia by doing it. And he regretted to the bone.
“Merlin, what have I done?” he whispered.
A/N: Well, the chapter is about half a day early but I intended to post it before - unfortunately, a classmate of mine failed the written part of her exam and I had to help her study for the oral one AND I had to install Windows 7 in my laptop, which was pretty much a pain to do (but really fun to use :D). Chronologically, the battle will happen exactly a week for the events of this chapter, so, it's really close (in two or three chapters). Well, I hope you liked the chapter, overall. Feedback is very welcome. Review!