Hello! Just a quick note to say thank you to everyone for reading! And for sticking with my stories in the face of my long absence. Also, I must apologise; the abstract lines at the end of the previous chapter were meant to be deleted! They had no significance - sorry! I hope you enjoy this chapter. Things are really starting to unfold now..:)
When Harry awoke at around 7 o’clock that evening, he felt a strange sense of euphoria. He blinked his eyes rapidly as he took stock of the crackled ceiling in the drawing room, unwrapping himself from the fold of the old sofa. He’d been having a dream that was filled with his parents; mixtures of the memories he’d watched the night before. He could still hear his father’s light hearted chuckle, his mother’s kind, soft voice before his hand brushed something soft as he reached for his glasses.
Wolfie was lying abandoned on the small coffee table, his one eyed, one eared face staring blankly at the floor. As he took in the weathered, half chewed stuffed toy, the disappointment from the morning flooded through him with a solid and violent thud.
Mary McDonald, the keeper of the mystery. He heaved a heavy sigh as he almost willed himself back into slumber. To think, for a few short hours he could have had one or even two of his Godmother’s back. Sirius could have had his son. Wolfie his rightful owner.
The let down was crippling.
He lay there for a few more minutes, eyes scrunched shut and debating disappearing up to his room before he heard a disruption in the hall. Sitting up and stretching his arms, he called to Ron who was whispering loudly to Hermione about not waking Harry.
“Alright?” asked Ron, lumbering into the room, Hermione following with a mug of tea, “Thought you might be awake.”
“Are you alright, Harry?” asked Hermione, sitting on the small table in front of him, staring into his face as though she were at the bedside of the terminally ill. “You’ve been asleep for hours. You look dreadfully tired.”
“Up all night, wasn’t I?” muttered Harry, sipping the tea. “Any news?”
Hermione shrugged, casting an anxious look at him as though he may combust before her eyes at any moment, “They’ve been trying to contact Mary. No one can find her though.”
“A bit harsh, this whole thing isn’t it?” asked Ron, chewing on a nail, “She could’ve just said it was her in the first place.”
“She must have had her reasons,” offered Hermione shrugging hopelessly before wincing at the accusatory looks from both boys, “Well she must of! I can’t imagine anyone being so cruel but we all do but we mustn’t judge before we know the circumstances.”
Harry’s thoughts were dark as he ground his jaw hard. He had decided, somewhere between asleep and awake, that should he ever meet Mary McDonald, he’d give her a good hexing. It was the least he could do, considering.
“Seen Sirius?” asked Ron conversationally, looking towards the door, “We all figured he’d gone to sleep but Fred heard him raging from somewhere upstairs. Sounded like half the West Country were trampling the third floor.”
“He needs some time alone,” said Hermione thoughtfully. “A day or so at least.”
“Wotcher Harry,” came Tonks’ voice as she slipped into the room, “Have a good nap?”
“I guess,” mumbled Harry, managing a weak smile, “What’s been happening?”
Tonks looked exhausted as she gave a careless shrug and fell into the armchair. “Not a lot…”
She ruffled her pink, cropped hair before looking thoughtfully at her hands. She raised her eyebrows as she shuffled uneasily, fidgeting her body as she glanced at the door. She nodded for Ron to duck his head as she magicked the door closed.
“What’s happened?” asked Harry immediately, sitting up straight on the sofa. “What’s gone on?”
“Nothing, nothing,” murmured Tonks, biting at her thumbnail before looking seriously at them all. “But I’ve been thinking there’s more to this than we care to consider.”
Harry shared a look with Ron before Hermione asked, “What are you saying?”
“Well,” and Tonks looked slightly abashed before bursting out, “It’s just, I can’t help but think – no, no feel – that we’re not giving our original assumptions more of a shot-”
“No,” said Harry, cutting her off and shaking his head violently. He simply couldn’t take anymore of this. “It’s Mary, Tonks. That makes logical sense-”
“Hear me out,” said Tonks quietly, putting her hands up. “I’ve been listening, hearing things. No one’s seen Mary for years. And I was just out helping Kingsley and Mad-Eye, and there’s been no trace of her for the last 18 months…”
“If she knew You Know Who was about,” shrugged Ron, “It’s fair to say she may have packed up her old kit bag and run off. If I’d been through half of what we saw…” and he blew out a long sigh, “I’d be moving to Australia.”
They all glanced up as Fred and George came tumbling into the room. Two gangly balls of pent up energy, they both looked like tightly packed fireworks.
“What’s all this, eh?” asked Fred glancing around the pensive looks, “I feel a cheeky plan in the works.”
“And we love a cheeky plan,” winked George, lounging into the sofa next to Harry, “Alright Potter? What’s the craic?”
“Tonks reckons there’s more to this than that McDonald bird,” shrugged Ron, answering for Harry, “But-”
“Us too,” hissed George, squeezing himself between Ron and Hermione, “No one’s seen hide nor hair of her for almost 2 years-”
“Though apparently it’s not unlike her,” chimed in Fred, “I heard that Lorna woman saying, to disappear for a few months; but she just up and left one day without so much as a seeya later”.
“Harry, I think you should call Rahjah again,” said Tonks seriously. “Without Sirius around, he may help you-”
They all jumped at Andromeda burst into the room, hissing at Tonks. “What are you saying?!”
“Sorry Mum,” she murmured but looking defiant, “But I think it’s worth a shot.”
Andromeda looked tired, her eyes red rimmed and her cheeks blotched. She shook her head as she came to sit on the arm of the sofa and rubbed her eyes, “Enough, now. There will be no calling of Rahjah, no more investigations, no more ‘what ifs’.
None of us can take anymore; I feel as though I’ve been drained dry and I’ve only been here 12 hours. It’s Mary-”
“Tonks said no one’s seen her for well over a year?” asked Harry, his voice accusing, “Is this true?”
Andromeda stared at Harry, full in the face before nodding, “That is true-”
“Could she could be helping them?”
Andromeda swallowed hard before clasping her hands firmly in her lap, saying decidedly, “It would be a long shot. Our earlier assumptions had several flaws; our guesses were full of holes and the result of emotions running high. When it came to believing those girls were alive, we could have justified every possible and impossible theory. Even I, who didn’t watch all those old memories could conjure countless conjecture; all of them were so easy to love. But taking a step back, knowing Mary as I did, to do this fits her character. Anonymous and detached. Clean and simple, without having to face us all.”
“But what of Kreacher?” asked Hermione, looking up as Lupin walked into the room. He nodded at them all, his face hard and worn. Hermione faultered before repeating, “What of Kreacher?”
“Residual magic,” threw in Lupin, his voice croaky. “From the Fedelius Charm. Dumbledore believes the magic affected him as it did because we asked what happened within the other realm of this house. The poor creature’s loyalties have been compartmentalised; by love and force. He can’t repeat what goes on in our sphere and through ties to his House, cannot reveal what unfolds. Mary wasn’t the most gifted of witches but she knew people. We think she rustled up some small time pick pocket from Knockturn Alley and paid him a bob to break in here.”
They all fell into silence, disappointment once again thickening the air and Harry fell back to wishing everyone would leave him alone.
“You lot had a snooze?” asked Tonks to the others, desperate for something to say. “I managed an hour on the landing.”
“A few,” said Ron as Hermione scoffed, “You’ve been out like a light since you disappeared to go to the loo. Just got up, you have.”
He pulled a face at her before he said brightly to Harry, “Mum made some sandwiches earlier – she left some for you on the table.”
“Not hungry,” muttered Harry leaning back into the sofa.
Hermione exchanged a look with Tonks before saying softly, “You should eat something Harry. Or try to go back to sleep; it’s after ten.”
He shook his head, willing them all to leave. When it became apparent no one had any intention of leaving him alone, he got up awkwardly and muttered, “Gonna find a sandwich.”
As he stumbled out of the room (followed by the others, much to his annoyance), he began to hear a mumbling of voices from the kitchen. His heart started to thump wildly as he recognised the sing-song laugh, the high pitched cackle, the motherly ‘stop that right now, Marlene’. He broke into a half run, ignoring Hermione’s desperate plea for silence as they passed the curtained portraits and Tonks’ calling for Lupin and Sirius, exploding into the kitchen to find Neville ashen faced, eyes glassy.
“It just came on,” whispered Neville, his body shaky. He was alone at the table, the Memory Box awake from its slumber at the centre, majestically projecting the grassy scene of Hogwarts complete with its four precious inhabitants.
“How did you-?” But before Harry could finish, Marlene was shrieking from the frame.
“It’s James POTTER!”
She was dancing about pointing accusingly, before hands flying to hips and glaring, “So it was YOU who have opened our memory box? Typical. Bloody typical. You see this girls? Can’t trust a Marauder. Oi Evans. Your boyfriend’s at it again.”
“He’s not my boyfriend,” hissed Lily, idly leaning against the rock quite red faced and refusing to look at Harry. “So shut up.”
“A fiver says he will be one day,” sniggered Isabella who was stretched out on the lawn, “And you can bet your knickers I’ll cash in on that one.”
“No, don’t think it is him,” offered Alice, wandering over and staring Harry in the face, “Could be a relation?”
Marlene gave an annoyed scoff that suggested she was clearly challenged before exhaling with an annoyed air. She inspected her nails before rolling her eyes at the gobsmacked group in standing in the kitchen. “Right laugh you lot are.”
“Don’t-” struggled Harry, his breath quickening and disbelief threatening to choke him, “Don’t you-? But we all met, earlier-”
“You showed us your stories,” cut in Hermione as Ginny looked upset, “You met us all-”
“I don’t remember having the pleasure,” snapped Marlene, “And you lot had better have a good explanation for getting us out here.”
“And for getting past our guard,” frowned Lily, hoisting Isabella up and walking to stand by the other two. “We’ve got serious charms working on this Memory Box.”
“What’s going on!” came Lupin’s voice as he skidded into the room, Sirius slamming into the back of him. Lupin went pale when he saw the girls; Sirius rubbed his red eyes, the stench of bourbon rippling off his clothes.
“How the bloody hell did you-” he began in a whisper before all four girls shrieked from the frame, causing everyone to wince.
“How DARE you-”
“I knew you’d be behind this-”
“Of all the nerve-”
“BLACK-” Isabella’s screech was the loudest.
“Neville,” began Lupin earnestly, his eyes never leaving the frame, “How did you open this?”
“Who is this Neville person?” demanded Marlene, arms waiving maniacally and pointing violently at everyone in the room. “And what makes him qualified to summon us?”
“Calm down, Marlene!” hushed Alice, “And what do you mean summon us? We’re not the bloody witches of Eastwick.”
“BLACK!” screeched Isabella again, before Alice added, “Izzy will you stop shrieking!”
“It’s a TRAVESTY!” declared Marlene, fanning herself. “Of all the BETRAYALS!”
“Let’s just everyone calm down,” said Lily, putting a hand on Marlene’s shoulder. The drama, emphasised by the screaming was about to send her off the edge completely.
“How did you open this box?” asked Alice calmly, “You shouldn’t have been able to bypass our guards.”
“They would have used hexes,” scowled Isabella, clearly off the end of a row with the young Sirius, “Or some similar dark magic. That’s the sort of little toe-rags they are-”
“My secrets,” whispered Marlene theatrically, turning to Isabella for support as she was clearly the only one of them determined to hold at least one Marauder responsible. “What if they have seen my deepest secrets?”
“For God’s sake Marls,” snorted Lily, “You’re not in the effing MI5. Pull yourself together.”
“What’s an M-eye-five?” asked Alice, before rolling her eyes at Marlene who was massaging her temples as though she’d just been witness to some great travesty.
“They probably tried to see them,” said Isabella darkly, casting glares at everyone in the room. She sent a particularly venomous glare at Sirius, “Arse.”
Sirius rolled his eyes before glancing at Harry, “Do they remember you?”
“No,” whispered Harry, devastated.
“There’s some residual though,” mumbled Tonks quietly, “They don’t seem so stunned at how you both look. And look at them closely; they all look drained. Isabella especially.”
It was true; each girl looked slightly worn and tired. Even Marlene, desperate for some drama wasn’t her usual witty self. Her pretend teary looked slightly too real, her emotional outbursts similar to an exhausted child.
“Neville?” asked Lupin, “Can you tell us how you opened this?”
“I-”, stumbled Neville, staring blankly at the figure of his young mother, “I just flicked the latch-”
“Impossible!” snorted Lily, “He couldn’t have done. No one but a trusted party can do that and none of us have met him in our lives.”
Alice glanced at each of her audience before saying softly, “Something’s wrong.”
Lily shared a look with her before pulling her by the hand and inching closer to the front of the frame. Isabella and Marlene remained where they were, leaning on one another, muttering darkly.
“Remus, what’s going on?”
Lupin nodded to Sirius before saying quietly, “The Memory Box was open some twelve hours ago. You got to know us all quite well.”
“You have no questions for us,” said Sirius, folding his arms, “You don’t seem surprised to see us.”
Lily looked at Alice before nodding, “This seems familiar. But not the comfortable kind.”
“As though it’s assumed,” agreed Alice, “Like we were expecting you.”
“What’s got her goat?” asked Sirius nodding to Isabella, “What have I done now?”
Lily shrugged, “I suppose you both had a row?”
They all looked up as Mad-Eye came thumping in, Andromeda, McGonagall and a few order members at his heels.
“Who opened it?” demanded Mad-Eye, pushing his way to the front, “What have they said?”
Neville went even paler, if it was possible, and put his hand up. “I-I just sort of flicked the latch. I never thought-”
“They came straight out, it seems,” said Lupin gravely, shaking his head at Sirius who was itching to talk, “No, Padfoot.”
“They’re here!” he exclaimed. “Why can’t we just ask them-”
“And risk them all having a tizz and running off?!”
“What’s wrong with them?” whispered Andromeda, her eyes welling up, “That’s not the Marls I knew. Or Izzy.”
They looked up at the frame and saw Marlene and Isabella slumped against the rock, looking on the edge of sleep. Lily was stifling a yawn as Alice rubbed her face.
“They’ve been up all night,” offered Tonks, “Going through all of those memories must have been exhausting…”
“But Ms Evans and Ms Chambers are somewhat alert,” said McGonagall sharply, before eying Marlene and Isabella as though she’d caught them playing truant, “The other two girls are almost comatose.”
“It’s p-p-probably because,” offered Alice, stifling a yawn, “They were both responsible for the guard of the box. A break-in would exhaust their imprints.”
Lily nodded, “Alice and I did the magic to capture the memories, those two were in charge of defence.”
Sirius managed a small grin as he shook his head, “Explains the naffy questions and ability for Mooney and I to get in so easily earlier.”
The memory frame suddenly blurred, echoes and cries crashing through like an avalanche, a wind suddenly whistling and shrieking through the box.
Everyone in the kitchen jumped and grabbed at one another, excitement and dread rippling through the air until Mad-Eye shouted for everyone to step back from the box.
“Something’s happening, here!” he said loudly, pushing past everyone to stand right by the box, “And we need to know now.”
He examined the box from a safe distance, watching it hum ominously before squinting and grunting at the grey, opaque frame that was now blank of its inhabitants. He nodded a few times before turning to the group in the kitchen, which had now grown to over 15. All the Order members had seemed to appear from the very walls of the room.
“Sirius, Remus, over here.”
He ushered the two men to touch the box. “You both had the strongest connection with the girls. I want you both to touch it on my count of three; Kingsley, Arthur, on my signal we will perform a conjuring spell to try to bring the imprints of the girls to the surface. Minerva, Molly, Lorna and Andromeda; I want you four to perform the most powerful trusting spell you can. We want them all out here, and comfortable enough to answer our questions. The rest of you stand as far back as you can. Ready?”
As Harry stepped back with the others, he felt his heart almost beating out of his chest.
As Mad-Eye shouted, “3 – 2 – 1 –” half the room raised their wands and Remus and Lupin both placed their hands on the box.
An almighty shriek burst threw the air, cutting at everyone’s eardrums. Harry thought his brain would explode before he heard Andromeda shout, “GET YOUR HANDS OFF THE BOX! QUICK-”
Sirius fell back into Mad-Eye, and Remus clutched his hand as though he’d been burnt. Everyone looked alarmed as they tried to catch breath; their ears were ringing violently. As the sound quietened, McGonagall shook her head, “Clearly, it’s not either of you with the power to coax them out.”
Lupin was blowing furiously on his hand, small welts bursting up over his skin, “What the hell-”
“I feel as though I’ve been beaten,” said Sirius in a gruff voice, nursing his hand in the crook of his other arm, “Like a shock was sent right through me.”
Andromeda rubbed her temples, “They clearly didn't like that. We must let them tell us their secrets in their own time. And for goodness sake you two don't touch that box again!”
“We may not have time,” said Kingsley, scratching his head thoughtfully, “We all know something is happening-”
He stopped suddenly, giving an apologetic look to Molly who gave him a scolding look. Harry stared at her as she tried to smile as though nothing was wrong.
“What’s going on?”
No one said anything before Sirius suddenly said, “He’s got a right to know-”
“He’s a child-”
“Molly,” and Sirius looked pained as he did his utmost to keep his frustration in check, “After everything he’s seen-”
“You have to tell me," demanded Harry, interrupting the exchange. "Now.”
Lupin nodded and put a gentle hand up to stop Molly’s impending protests, “He’s right. All the children should be informed. They are too much involved now.”
Harry felt a twinge of nerves as Lupin turned to him, “There have been strange whispers from the other side that after the arrival of this box, suddenly make sense. Our informants claim an unknown force has begun infiltrating them; not forcefully or obviously. More as though they are being stalked; strategic members are gone temporarily missing, surfacing with no recollection of where they have been. Small hurdles are being put in their way, petty battles are being lost-”
“And with Neville’s home being so obviously visited,” cut in Sirius, “Whoever it is, is playing with us as well. We haven’t thought much of it; it’s been so trivial. Little battles have not been as difficult these past weeks, a few part-time Death Eaters have been appearing in the Ministry court rooms as though they have captured and awaiting imprisonment.”
“And with the happenings of the last 72 hours,” finished Lupin, “There is a certain feeling that things are falling into place.”
“You think it’s these girls?” questioned McGonagall, looking to her peers, “Surely not-”
“Well we’ll never know,” said Sirius bitterly, shaking out his red raw hand, “They won’t let us near them.”
“There is another way,” said Mad-Eye suddenly, his face looking particularly knarled as he frowned thoughtfully. “I’m not keen, but it could be our only option.”
Everyone waited with baited breath as they watched him pace a few steps, the plonk plonk plonk of his wooden leg making everyone uneasy.
He looked at everyone before standing up straight and stamping his stick on the floor with finality. “It’s our only option.”
He looked at the large group before saying sharply, “Potter, Longbottom. Up here.”
There were few cries from Mrs Weasley and Andromeda, some sharp breaths from others but Mad-Eye shook his head. He ushered both Harry and Neville to come closer, “They are direct descendants. Longbottom had only flick the latch and they appeared. If they will allow anyone near them, it’s their descendants.”
Neville had a rather stoic expression as he took his place beside Harry; he managed a small smile before nodding slightly. Harry felt a grin touch his lips; it felt symbolic standing there with Neville. He had an odd awareness as he realised how much their mothers would have loved to see them standing together. It felt right. What needed to be done.
“No wands,” said Mad-Eye quietly, “If it's the way, they will need no encouragement from us to bring them out. Everyone back.”
As the group shuffled to the back wall, Sirius and Lupin hovering ever so slightly closer to the front, Mad-Eye turned to Harry and Neville, “You will know instantly if you are not wanted. Do not linger, do not struggle to keep your hand on the box. On the count of three-”
Harry stretched out his hand and took a deep breath. Neville closed his eyes.
“One. Two. Three-”
As Harry’s hand touched the box, he felt a sharp tug through his body; the room around him seemed to disappear into complete darkness as sounds and movements appeared around him.
Being thoroughly used to such strange happenings, though never completely scared, Harry was stunned to feel no trace of fear. If anything, he felt slightly euphoric.
And ever so very safe.
The darkness continued to whirl, the sound of Rahjah’s song echoing in the winds before he heard the voices:
“FINALLY! We’ve got contact…
Stay strong darling boys, just stay strong….
The connection is getting stronger…
Hold in there, you’re almost to them. You can sense where they are, just find them!
We are not strong enough, we can’t see – we can only feel but –
Hurt…injured…we cannot see…
They’ve got the Memory Box-
With a sharp tug, Harry was pulled back. He gasped for breath as the kitchen appeared. He felt dazed as he looked up at Neville who was pale and panting. Both shared a look of disbelief.
Sirius and Lupin were on them at once, demanding to know everything. Mrs Weasley was fretting loudly at the state of them, Ron and Hermione pleading to know they were alright.
“ENOUGH!” And Mad-Eye pulled everyone back. “You both went into a trance. What happened?”
“We heard voices,” whispered Harry, “Though it wasn’t anyone I recognised….”
He turned to Neville who looked visibly shaken; accepting chocolate from Lupin he shook his head, “Weird. But I wasn’t scared.”
“What did the voices say Harry?” pleaded Sirius, grabbing him by the shoulders, the pain in his eyes paramount. “Please..”
“They were looking for a connection,” said Harry at once. “Trying to find us, but-”, as a few people gasped at the potential of this, “It wasn’t Voldemort or any of his followers. It’s a friend. I could feel it. Someone safe. But I can’t identify who.”
“We’ll ask them to show everyone,” said Neville suddenly, his face brazen with an unknown courage, “I know we can ask them.”
Harry felt an odd wave of understanding beat between them; after a few seconds of silence he nodded. “Once more, and we ask them to show them all.”
He saw Ron look worriedly at Hermione but he ignored it. He felt the sudden urgency to share what he’d felt; he nodded to Neville and touched the box once more. He shut his eyes tight and said loudly in his head:
Show them all. They can help.
As the familiar tug grabbed him once more, he stayed where he was in the room. He felt a light flicker brightly on his eyelids; he opened them wide and looked up at the frame that flickered wildly.
Deep shadows and raging winds filled the scene; the voices coming once more…
They’re all there, the Order…they can help…just hold on...
They can’t…injured…no, I can't..
I’m going back…I can’t find ….
Please, we must stay together, no...
As the voices died away, Harry kept a firm hold on the box. He willed with all his heart to see who was talking; who was injured. As he asked again in his mind show them…show them…the shapes in the frame began to solidify, and two figures became apparent.
Both were two old women; very old Harry thought to be in such a dark and dismal place on their own. One had fallen to the ground, panting and moaning as blood poured down her face. The other was barely on her feet, gashes and blood down her frail arms and cheeks as she willed herself to keep moving forward.
As a fierce wind raged, the old woman on the floor looked up and mouthed a few words. The other, tears falling shook her roughly, No No No she wailed silently as the one on the floor nodded. With an energy willed from nowhere, she lifted her arm and shot a blinding light of red into the air before falling motionless in a heap.
And suddenly, the frame was blank.
No one said a word for a full minute; Harry kept his hand on the box, Neville almost shaking it, but nothing would appear.
“Wh-who were they?” he asked after a moment. He looked at Harry and repeated, “Who were they?”
Harry shrugged and looked to Sirius. He was pale and staring at the blank wall stunned. Lupin ruffled his hair and looked to the group, “I don’t recognise any of them.”
“They’re too old to have known Mary,” accused Andromeda, walking forward to stand by Sirius, “Too old to have known the girls.”
“They must have,” said McGonagall worriedly, “Perhaps later in life. Whoever they are though, we must find them. They are hurt-”
“Could it have been a disguise?” offered Kingsley as Mad-Eye shrugged, “A Polyjuice you mean? Possibly, but it’d have to be wielding a fairly decent strength behind it. They were hurt badly, and Polyjuice tends to fade when injury of that magnitude is faced.”
“We should set-up a search,” began Arthur at once, “We must find them-”
But no one had even a second to pull out a map, or send a Patronus. For at that moment, the sharp red light from the memory frame blasted into the room with the unknown voice:
We’re outside. Please help us.