Thank you everyone for reviewing and reading! It means so much :) I hope you enjoy this chapter. You know how I love a bit of suspense (did someone say cliffie queen?) well, I've revealed a LOT in this chapter...always makes me nervous to show so many cards! But plenty more mystery to come...and if anyone can/would like to make a story banner I'd be very grateful :) BEB x
It took Harry a few seconds to believe what he was seeing.
His body was operating on pure adrenaline, each breath coming in short noisy bursts to the staccato beat of his thumping heart. Everyone around him exploded in a flurry of movement and noise; shouting, embracing, laughing and crying. He could feel the same mixed-bag of emotion bursting through his veins, threatening to explode into tears and cries of exaltation as the dawning comprehension of just who it was that was taking shape on the sofa became apparent before his eyes.
He almost couldn’t breathe.
Despite the long hair that was forming in glossy folds, his mind remained blank with shock; he could barely hear Sirius’s half-laugh-half-cry at the woman bursting with unbridled happiness as he begged her to speak.
“Can you hear me? My God – I can’t believe-”
Andromeda went to Mary and drew her into a hug, looking over at the others as she cried freely. Hermione and Ginny welled up as their hands flew to their mouths to stifle girlish shrieks. Tonks was grinning maniacally as she grabbed the twins by their shoulders, pointing silently at the new arrival and dancing on the spot.
Ron gave Harry a pat on the back and managed a gruff, “I can’t believe it-” before Hermione rushed over and grabbed them both in an emotional embrace.
He could only manage a smile in reply as he nodded thanks to his two friends, before his eyes searched for the only other person who could truly understand.
Neville was standing a few feet back, cautiously watching the scene as though merely a spectator, not a character. His expression remained stoic through the cries and shouts of the others, though Harry was sure he could see him smile on the inside. He reached out to pat his shoulder in comfort before he jerked back, his happiness invaded rudely by a sharp call from Emmeline.
“She’s stopped breathing-”
“Sirius, get BACK!” shouted Mrs Weasley, pushing him aside as she and Lorna began to strip the pillows and blankets back from around the woman.
He began to panic, yelling for Emmeline to do something. Mary had broken away from Andromeda, her cries tumbling out in an unknown language, anguish radiating from her pleading eyes. She ran to the sofa, her body blocked by the other women who made up the crowded wall around the figure. Mrs Weasley was pushing Neville back with one arm as she and Emmeline took turns barking out resuscitation moves, calling for Ron and Hermione to grab Harry who was determined to get closer.
He saw the woman convulse, her features stretch across her face in a sickening twist of pain. He felt Mad-Eye yank him by the scruff of the neck and push him towards the fireplace.
“Stay back, Potter!” he shouted angrily, whilst throwing a patronus out the door, “It will do you no good-”
“Please! You must-”
“No-” Sirius fell back into Harry and Ron, his hands grabbing at his face and hair as he mouthed soundlessly at the chaos unfolding. “Someone help her-”
“DORA!” shouted Andromeda, breaking free of her team and gesturing sharply at Sirius, “Go and fetch Remus – we need him here – he can help!”
“It’ll be okay,” muttered Hermione as she blankly patted Sirius’ arm, her eyes following Tonks all but fly from the room and out into the night. She looked to Harry in desperation only he dare not say anything for fear his whole being would unravel.
Sirius was shaking, both hands reaching to cover his mouth in shock. He began to pace madly, a barely contained terror and helplessness building with each step.
Everyone seemed to be nudging Harry and Neville further away, almost shielding them from the tragedy unfolding in the other half of the room. The wild conjuring of potions and remedies combined with frantic sewing up of unravelling wounds; the violent magical and muggle resuscitation methods causing the onlookers to hold themselves in visual sympathy; the soundless cries as they watched a stranger – but still somehow a friend – slip away before their eyes. As Harry’s body began to give way to his internal horror in involuntary heaves and gulps for air, Mad-Eye called out to him and Neville, “You two – over here!”
Ignoring his lack of invitation, Sirius reached her a stride ahead of them both, his body almost retracting in shock as he took in the figure. Her face looked like melted wax, her hair all but disappeared. He looked up at Harry who almost dry wrenched in shock – he didn’t even recognise…
“Talk to her,” instructed Mad-Eye, as Sirius knelt beside her and took her hand, “Tell her you’re here-she may respond-”
Neville could only manage a stutter as he stood at the arm just by her head; he looked at her face and shook his head numbly. Harry could only reach out a recoiling hand, whispering, “Hello…?”
“She can’t hear,” spat Emmeline, trying to push Sirius back, “They shouldn’t be seeing this -”
“The vile!” hissed Hermione suddenly, “Remember, in the memory-hold it – she can hear-”
Neville beat him to it. In one quick snatch he grabbed the vile; he gasped as though all the wind had been knocked out of him. Harry turned to his friends in shock, desperately searching their faces for help.
He turned back and watched the vile smoking gold from Neville’s fist. Without thinking, he put his hand over his friend’s, his mind screaming, please please…
He felt it all at once. The loud shrieks of Rahjah, the voices echoing in panic:
Hold on! Help her – just don’t let go-
She will make it; you just have to hold on-
Please babies, just hold tight; she will make it, she just needs you near-
Amidst these cries, echoing and dreamlike, a newer voice entered. Deeper, almost familiar –
DO NOT LET GO
Neville turned to Harry with a questioning look, “Who-?”
I just need more time –
Harry just shrugged, his eyes flying over nothing, searching for the answer.
She’s been hurt badly but I had to go – the plan –
Who are you?
Just help her – please – I will be back soon – tell her I’m sorry but I had to go-
Harry took a deep breath and scrunched his eyes shut, shouting loudly in his head –
But the voice disappeared, swimming away into the depths of Rahjah’s cries.
As the seconds passed, his mind spinning wildly behind his scrunched eyelids, he became aware of the even gasping from the figure on the couch.
“Just keep it steady,” came Andromeda’s voice from far away, soothing and encouraging, “You’re doing it…”
“She’s coming round-”
“Sirius, move back-”
“She’s healing, easy does it lads-”
“Just keep breathing…”
As Harry forced open his eyes, a small choke of relief escaped his lips.
The bubbling had all but stopped and the body now rose and fell to a calm and rhythmic beat. The torn aside robes settled over a slender frame, the many cuts and bruises healing with a methodical elegance. Long waves of hair fell over the half blinking eyes, the lips slowly moving over some catty remark…
“Marls,” whispered Sirius, “Marls? It’s Sirius. Can you hear me?”
Her eyes fluttered, a groan escaping quietly.
“McKinnon?” He looked up at Emmeline as he reached over for her other hand, “Is she going to be alright? Her brain hasn’t been affected, has it? My God, she’s not addled is she?”
“Bugger off I’m addled,” croaked Marlene, blinking her eyes open, “And get the hell off me Black before I have you arrested for indecency.”
Sirius crowed with delight as he jumped up to let her move. He grabbed Harry in a half hug as the atmosphere in the room changed quickly and dramatically. Mary ran to Marlene, all but throwing herself on her, garbling wildly as Emmeline – wiping back a tear – ushered her to be gentle.
“I th-th-…I..th” struggled Mary, “I-”
“My wand,” Marlene croaked, trying to get up, “She needs the shield lifted-”
Mrs Weasley and Lorna carefully helped her to sit, her body wavering with exhaustion, wincing with pain at every movement.
“Here,” and Marlene lifted her wand slowly from beneath her robes, speaking an unknown spell sprinkled with mutterings of the unknown. “There you are.” She looked up at the others, her eyes struggling to fix their focus, “One of Izzy’s old shields; protected her from harm by making her look worse than she was.”
“I was so worried,” cried Mary, “I thought-”
“But we’re not.” She grinned before flinching again, “Good lord help me to stand; I need to move. Being a bloomin’ old woman for days has left its mark. And my kingdom for a cup of tea - be a lamb someone and add a healthy nip.”
Mad-Eye gave a snort as he retrieved a hipflask from his pocket, generously splashing an amber liquid into a teacup. He held it out as the women helped her to stand, allowing her to stretch her neck for a moment before taking a healthy gulp. “There now…”
As she steadied herself on wobbly legs, she looked eagerly around the room, spotting Neville and Harry with a cry of relief.
“Careful,” warned Andromeda as Emmeline grabbed her about the waist, “You almost died there Marlene, you need to lie down.”
“I am fine Andromeda,” insisted Marlene impatiently, trying to brush off Lorna and Emmeline who were determined she only move what was necessary. “Honestly hens-”
“Hold it.” Mad-Eye drew his wand sharply, pointing it directly at her nose as she moved to reach for Neville. “If you are who you say you are-”
Marlene did her signature eye roll and cut him off, replying in a testy voice, “I am Marlene McKinnon. My bloody patronus is a peacock, I hate jam, can’t stand peas and have always been of the general opinion these questions were utter waffle-”
“Alright,” growled Mad-Eye in response, gritting his teeth as she added snappishly, “-and I’m godmother to Neville Longbottom and Harry Potter, both of whom I’ve battled hell and high sodding water to get through so if you don’t mind?”
She gave him a derisive look before her eyes found Neville then Harry. The danced and glistened as she broke into a soft smile, “My darling godsons. I’ve only been able to see you in pictures and afar. How I have dreamt of this moment!”
She held out her arms and grabbed Neville first, her hands cradling his head. She choked for a moment, her hands grabbing around his back as she struggled on weak legs before taking a step back, her hands cupping his face. “My goodness you’re a good looking boy. Built like Franko but with the gentleness of my dearest Chambers.”
Neville smiled, giving a small shrug, “Er- nice to meet you…”
Marlene gave a heavy sigh, “Breaks my heart that it seems we’re only just meeting. I should have been here…are you alright? That nasty vulture of a woman not crushed your soul yet?”
Neville gave a small laugh before cautiously responding, “Nah…I’m okay. She’s not so bad really…”
Marlene raised an eyebrow, “She used to scare the cockles off me. Her and that mangy hat. Hideous woman – still got that shriek of a voice?”
Neville grinned, warming to her. “Yeah.”
Marlene nodded and gave a wry smile, “For having to live with that creature with no refuge, I will never forgive myself. But I’m here now…”
She gave him another hug, her eyes shining as she found Harry. She released him before saying tenderly, “And there is my other boy.”
She reached out grabbed him in a rip-cracking hug which he returned whole heartedly. She held him for a long moment before stepping back, “And you…didn’t you just grow into a mini James? And those eyes.” She welled up for a moment before whispering, “Proof that our beloved Evans lives on.”
They grinned at one another before she asked lightly, “How’s dear Petunia? Still looking like the boney arse-end of a horse?”
Mrs Weasley gave a disapproving tut as Marlene’s eyes flashed mischievously, “I bet she is, the stupid cow.” Harry burst out laughing as she continued, a smirk on her face, “Bet the husband is still a raging fitty as well. But you turned out just fine – quite the talent for spotting adventure I hear?”
“Trouble more like,” muttered Mad-Eye as Marlene waved a hand to shoosh him, “Nonsense. He’s still in one piece; old Potter’s son was never destined to be a swatty goody two-shoes. And anyway, I’m sure the internal beacon of truth and propriety that Evans compassed unwaveringly still swims residually through his veins!”
She grabbed both boys again, an arm around each murmuring, “I am so sorry I was not here to take care of you both. We’d have made such a fabulous little family; had a scream of a time. If I had known before – well. I’m here now and I won’t be leaving either of you ever again.”
She gave a small laugh through her happy tears as she glanced at Mary, “This moment has made it all worth it. The secrecy, the battles, everything.”
Mary nodded through the busy healing from Mrs Weasley and Emmeline on the collection of bruises and ailments on her body. Marlene gave another sigh – contented this time - before glancing up at Sirius who was looking nervous, though still somewhat staring flat out at her as though he’d just seen someone sprout three extra heads.
He gave a shrug as she released the boys and stood hands on hips. “This moment is one I’ve also dreamt of. The things you must answer for.”
They stared at one another a moment, the air charged with electricity. For the first time, Sirius looked uneasy. He seemed to be mentally bracing himself for the shame he would soon feel. For the accusations he must answer to. She gave a derisive snort before remarking, “But first things first. Black: you look bloody dreadful. The years have not been kind. Still living at home looking like a man of fifty; no wonder you’re still single. No woman in her right mind would have you – mind, I’ve always said this. How you managed to snag a girl like our Izzy I’ll never know.”
He burst into laughter as he grabbed her in a wild hug, “Jesus McKinnon, fourteen years and still that mouth!”
She cackled loudly as they danced on the spot, hugging and laughing. They took a step back and sized one another up.
“You look haggard, woman,” Sirius smirked, laughter dancing on his lips. “No wedding ring I see. Never managed to find someone who’d have you?”
“Bugger OFF Black! I’ve had several suitors I’ll have you know. But the life of the old ball-and-chain was never for me-”
“Never the girl to take home to mother!”
“Oh still charming as ever, you are-”
He was interrupted by a crash from the front door, voices shouting and screaming.
Everyone sprung to defend, grabbing the younger ones back and reaching for wands. Though weak and still quite pale, Marlene reached Harry and Neville in barely a stride and pulling them to the ground with an unknown strength, shielding and holding them with a fury of a lioness.
“Tonks-” shouted a voice, “She said-”
Sirius hurdled over the group and grabbed his friend in a ferocious hug. His voice was full of unbridled happiness and laughter, juxtaposed against the gasps of relief and hands flying to hearts. His eyes shined with a joy Harry had never seen in them before as he garbled, “You won’t – she’s here – she-”
Lupin stood blank, his face wiped of emotion as he simply stared at the woman unfolding herself from her protective hold. As she stood slowly, a look of apprehension on her face, nobody seemed to breathe.
“I don’t believe it.” His voice was flat. Toneless. “I – I saw you- that night – the battle -”
As he struggled, a small smile lingered on her lips as she carelessly pulled rogue strands of hair from her face. She seemed to pause as she drank in his features before the full-watt smile everyone had come to know spread without fear across her face.
She broke free of the group and ran to him, all cries and shrieks as she fell on him, grabbing at every inch in happiness.
“Oh you look dreadful but still just as – your smell, your clothes – just as I remember - oh how I have MISSED YOU-”
As she pulled back, his dumbfounded expression met her questioning look.
“For heavens sake Reems-”
He just stood.
“After fourteen sodding years I don’t even get a hello?”
He gaped soundlessly like a goldfish as she rolled her eyes and gave a bored sigh.
“Yes I’m well thank-you, if you don’t count the fact I almost just died. And you? No, never finished that novel. I return to it here and there, but I’ve never quite gotten that inspiration. That je nais se qua as one would say. How’s your career in academia treating you? No, never married – couldn’t find anyone to put up with me…”
She trailed off, giving him a pointed stare to which he returned by simply staring at her as though he were a statue, before blurting, “Where in – what has – where the bloody hell did you come from?”
She threw her head back and shrieked, “He still SPEAKS!” before dancing about, Sirius getting involved in her on-the-spot two step. She shook her head as she dabbed at an emotional tear, “I’m sure Cassion must have filled you in-”
There was a clanging silence. Hands rushed to open mouths, hands to hearts but nobody breathed before Sirius whispered, “What?”
Marlene looked momentarily puzzled before frowning and for the first time it seemed, looking around the room. As she slowly did a mental headcount a quiet fear seemed to grip her face. “But he was-”
Sirius all but collapsed on the spot, his breathing coming in sharp stings as he fell back towards the sofa, “You mean he’s – I had hoped, but to hear-”
“Marlene what the bloody effing hell is GOING ON?”
Lupin’s shouting took everyone by surprise; Marlene tensed and stuck a defensive pose, “Don’t you DARE shout at me Remus Lupin-”
“We find you and McDonald transfigured as the bloody ELDERLY, bloodied and bruised on the high road by a post box in the middle of King’s EFFING CROSS after being MI-sodding A for fourteen years, believed DEAD – this lot had to resuscitate you and merely minutes later you’re flouncing about giggling and dancing, casually calling for Padfoot’s similarly declared deceased SON-”
“Where is he?” demanded Sirius, his face pale, “You tell me where my son is-”
“You mean he-? He’s not here-?”
Mary gave a gasp as she swatted the healing wands away and jumped up to stand by Marlene. She looked to her friend who began to flap on the spot, a jumble of ‘Oh GOD’s’ and cursing falling out of her mouth.
“MARLENE!” shouted Lupin, “You need to EXPLAIN-”
“Everyone just calm down,” began Mad-Eye but Lupin continued to shout. He was full stride, breaking into a manic pace around the room, waving his hands and shouting wildly, his ability to position the last few minutes into some sort of logical framework completely escaping him.
Harry couldn’t help but think this was unprecedented as he watched his former professor grapple madly to regain some sort of reason and sense into what was happening.
“My son-” repeated Sirius, grabbing Marlene in a rigid hold, “Where is MY SON-”
Marlene seemed to back away, all eyes swivelling to watch as she mouthed soundlessly over words, her hands twisting around each other in a building tension.
“Marlene, now is not the time for theatric pauses-”
She looked up, her eyes terrified, “He was supposed to be here. He’s been installed here these past few days. He has to have been, to tell you how to lift the spell…”
“He was, sort of,” interrupted Harry, all eyes flinging to him like he was about to volley a tennis ball to his opponent. He shrugged, “The memory, from the charm…remember?”
“What charm?” demanded Marlene as Andromeda cut in, “The memory charm Izzy got for Sirius one Christmas long ago. He was a little boy.”
Marlene looked at Mary who appeared frightened. She bit down hard on her lip as she whispered, “I think he went-”
“Went WHERE?” begged Sirius, summoning his cloak and preparing to leave, “You tell me WHERE HE IS so I can go and get him-”
Marlene hesitated, looking to Harry and Neville with a sorrowful look.
“EXPLAIN!” shouted Lupin.
Marlene gave way to a mad panic as she flapped at her face, a look of physical sickness coming in waves across her expression. “Someone get the Memory Box – quick-”
As Tonks ran to fetch it, she began muttering madly, “That was the plan. He was to stay put here till we – he was safe. Mary and I were to guard and defend whilst-”
Tonks all but threw the Memory Box into Marlene’s waiting arms. She ran to the small table and set it up, the box whirring to life in the same position it had held with grandeur and a captive audience not even 72 hours earlier.
She commanded it with ease, her wand spinning wildly as it obeyed her shouts to open and project, her lips rushing over various commands to show her Cassion.
“Please-” Sirius had a look of pure desperation as he grabbed at her. She barely responded, preferring to bat him away with an impatient, “I am TRYING to find him Sirius!”
There was a building tension in the silence that followed the flickering projection taking shape on the loungeroom wall. Marlene tugged at the vile hanging loosely around her neck growling, “You get BACK HERE Cassion Black or so help me-”
The frame refused to budge, preferring to simply tease with a sea of dark shapes and echoes. Marlene turned to throw a terrified look at Mary, before a scene suddenly appeared as though someone had flicked the power button.
It was a grassy moor, much like those that cradled the great walls of Hogwarts. It was the dead of night, a shimmering moon shining through the veils of tall trees much like it did the curtains of the loungeroom where they stood, that bathed in its same light.
“Is this-” struggled Mad-Eye, clomping over to Marlene and leaning in to squint, as though trying to get a better look, “Is this thing real time?”
“Almost,” she whispered, her whole body seemingly joining the frenzied search of her eyes, desperate to see something in the scene. “Delayed by only moments.”
The silence seemed to stretch on forever before there was a quite snap of a twig.
Sirius grabbed at Marlene and Lupin, seemingly unable to breathe.
A figure stepped out of a light brush, crouched and stalking, slowly making its way towards an open area.
“Is that-?” whimpered Andromeda, coming to stand beside Marlene, “Is that-?”
She simply nodded.
His face was concealed by a makeshift scarf that was wrapped around his head and upper body, middle-eastern in fashion. He was tall but moved with a certain elegance, his frame gliding soundlessly through the night.
They watched him as he moved, Sirius’s panicked voice providing a foreboding soundtrack…
“If he’s gone after Wormtail, we need to go after him. He could be walking into a pit of death-eaters…he’s still a child…”
Marlene seemed to barely respond, her face pale and drawn as she gripped her vile anxiously.
“We have to stop him-how could you have let -”
“You don’t think we tried?” hissed Marlene, her voice dangerous. “You don’t think I’m as terrified as you? That’s by Godson-”
A flurry of movement interrupted them from far off into the frame causing the figure of Cassion to drop instantly to the ground. He stayed still for a beat before his head seemed to follow another figure in the distance scurry away in a scuttle.
Like a predatory lion he began to stalk once more, building up his speed into a run. As he gained stride on his prey, he drew a wand and fired a spell. With a terrified squeak the figure ahead tripped and fell to their knees, Cassion slowing to give them way to see him.
The portly figure squealed and scrambled into another run, heading flat out ahead into an open field. As he approached the centre, another spell was fired causing them to tumble into a heavy, panting heap. They pawed at the ground, stuttering, “Who-who-who are you? I d-d-don’t know anything – you’re wasting y-y-your time-”
Cassion said nothing, preferring to keep his distance a few yards back as he began to circle like a vulture, allowing the memory frame to bring the victim’s face into focus.
Peter Pettigrew looked terrified. Pure fear streamed from his dribbling nose he swiped blindly at, his beady eyes trying frenziedly to train themselves into recognition at his attacker. He warbled again, desperation trickling from his pleas, “Why h-h-have you been following me? Wha-at do you want with me? I-I-I can give you whatever you want.”
This drew a derisive snort from Cassion, his masked face all but throwing a sinister glare. He stopped his stalking and sized up the small man, both arms flexing out, his right hand flicking a wand dangerously.
“Who-wh-who are you?”
“Who am I?
His voice was deep and Harry suddenly recognised it from the vile. He shared a fleeting look with Neville before his eyes snapped back to Pettigrew who whimpered, “Wh-wh-whatever you want, I- I-I can get for you.”
“Oh no you can’t.”
Pettigrew looked bewildered; it was as though he couldn’t imagine being in a position unable to trade whatever was needed.
Cassion growled and aimed his wand to fire-
With a speed of a more agile man, Pettigrew reacted with a shrill, “Expelliamas!” and roughly caught Cassion’s wand in an awkward movement. He panted heavily before grinning maliciously, “W-w-well I guess I won’t have to try!”
As he clambered to his feet, he gave a relieved little laugh as Cassion seemed to brush off his foolish and hot-headed error with a shrug. An evil smile spread across Pettigrew’s face as he aimed both wands at him, “Show yourself!”
There was a second of silence before Cassion moved slowly to unravel the scarf from his face and body. As he revealed himself, gasps sounded from around the room.
He looked everything that Harry expected him to. An elegantly handsome face framed by thick black hair. Almost the spitting image of a young Sirius, though echoes of Isabella shone through his cheekbones and icy stare. He stood tall yet probably shorter than his father though every bit of his haughtiness and arrogance was apparent his demeanour.
Pettigrew swore loudly and stumbled back, his hands flying to his own face as he tried to understand the young man before him.
“S-S-Sirius? I don’t know what magic made you- b-but I’ve got your wand-”
Cassion chuckled as he casually ran a hand through his hair, “Come now; you don’t recognise me Uncle Wormtail?”
Pettigrew began to shake as he said, “C-C-Cassion?” He licked his lips, seemingly trying out the word out loud before giving a insincere laugh, “My dear boy you-”
“You asked me what I wanted.”
It was a statement, not a question.
There was silence as chuckled before saying dangerously, “How about we start with revenge-”
Pettigrew swallowed hard, “I’ve got your wand-”
“You do,” conceded Cassion nodding graciously, his hand gesturing with an arrogance eminent of his father. “However, I don’t believe that changes a damn thing.”
“I can help you-” began Pettigrew weakly before squeaking into silence as Cassion snarled, “Oh really. How altruistic of you Uncle Wormy. However you need do nothing but stand there.”
“I can help you!” shrilled Pettigrew, desperate for a truce, “I – I – I can take you to your father!”
Cassion threw his head back and laughed. A rich, throaty laugh, sprinkled with malice, the sound leaving the hairs on Harry’s arms standing on end. As his head resumed its upright position, there was another gasp – Marlene’s the loudest.
“You silly boy! Don’t you dare! You cannot control-”
Cassions eyes were flashing a deep violet. His face broke into a wicked smile as he whipped both arms up and roared.
“I am HERE because of my father – to seek his REVENGE-”
The ground rumbled from deep within as electric blue fire shot like bullets into the air around Pettigrew. A fierce wind howled, throwing the branches of the spectating trees wildly into their neighbours.
Pettigrew screamed, his voice drowned out by Cassion whose anger seemed to build with each second.
“You must answer for the betrayal against my parents-”
Pettigrew began to run like a rabbit from a fox hole. Terrified cries and pleas trailing him as Cassion took up pursuit, calling for justice for his parents, James and Lily, Alice and Frank, Lupin and Marlene-
“And most especially-” he whipped his arm up and threw an invisible ball that smashed through the air and hit his prey, causing him to tumble to the ground. As Cassion slowed to a walk, his face flushed and his eyes bright purple, he growled, “Most especially for Neville and Harry. At least I grew up with my-”
His head snapped up at a collection of shouts calling from the distance. He whipped his head around, jerkily like a squirrel before Pettigrew gave of a high pitched giggle, “N-not so brave now are you? They – they – they’re coming for me! And they’ll get you!”
In a quick movement, Cassion grabbed Pettigrew by the scruff of the neck and dragged him off in a run. Panting and sweating, he pulled the small man like a rag doll through the brush and back towards the open moor.
“Transfigure him and GET YOUR BROOM!” screamed Marlene, grabbing a little too roughly at Neville who stood beside her in her terror. “DO IT!”
“That sort of magic is quite advanced,” wailed Andromeda, “Human transfiguration is-”
“He knows it.” Mary had barely spoken and Harry was taken back by the calmness in her tone. He had expected her to sound much more shrill and wavering. “He’s bright. Was NEWTs level at fourteen.”
“But he’s irrational,” cried Marlene, “Cleverest boy, but never had a shred of genetic chance at holding his temper and thinking rationally!”
They watched as he continued to drag Pettigrew this way and that, his panic radiating from pure adrenaline. Pettigrew struggled; yanking and squirming out of the grip on his wrist. As Cassion paused to take in his surroundings and decide on direction, he almost missed the right hook his prisoner threw at his head.
They struggled for a moment before Cassion yanked back his wand and blew a spell at their joined hands, a shimmering rope weaving them together.
Pettigrew cursed and continued to try to break free. “Escape is useless,” growled Cassion. “Justice will be had-”
He was cut off as a blinding spell shot right at them, hitting a nearby tree and enveloping it into flames. Cassion swore and took off again at a run, foolishly into the open field and leaving himself unprotected.
As Marlene moaned and Sirius grabbed at his clothes hysterically, another spell was shot, this time hitting Cassion in the shoulder and sending him tumbling to the ground.
In seconds, they were surrounded; forming an ascending V shape in front of them, at least three dozen cloaked figures stood with wands raised.
Cassion was breathing hard, his jaw grinding as he counted off his opponents. He stayed still for a moment before snorting arrogantly, yanking purposely on Pettigrew’s chain.
The cloaked figure that stood at the head of the V took a step forward and raised his wand.
“Well, well,” A soft, menacing, posh voice – Malfoy. “Who do we have here?”
“Black’s son!” squealed Pettigrew at once, pulling frantically on his restraints, “His mother was-”
“Masahara,” breathed Malfoy, cocking his head as he took in Cassion who was slowly standing up, his face wincing with pain. “What a prize…”
There was a moment of silence before Malfoy spoke again:
“Ladies and gentleman. May I present Cassion Black. Son of the infamous Sirius Black and Empress of the East, Isabella Masahara. My, my, my. Aren’t you all grown up?”
Cassion spat at the ground and muttered what was clearly an insult in Eastern.
Malfoy chuckled, “Such manners. Your arrogance is clearly hereditary. Tell me young master Black, what are you doing out here all alone with this pleb tied to your wrist?”
“Justice,” growled Cassion. “And revenge.”
Malfoy tutted, “Such bitter words on one so young. And so like your parents – tell me; was that you who conjured those blue flames back there? Made the earth rumble and moan?”
Cassion raised an eyebrow obnoxiously.
Malfoy licked his lips before saying delicately, “So…so inherent of your lovely mother.”
“You let us go quietly, and I won’t burn you alive.”
Malfoy chuckled, “No, I don’t think we’ll be doing that. The Dark Lord would be so disappointed not to have met your acquaintance. He’s been ever so keen to meet with your grandfather dear boy and I believe you may be just the leverage he needs.”
A fleeting look of real panic washed over Cassion before he whipped his hand up and screamed, flames and wind firing from his very body.
The death eaters were momentarily stunned, allowing Cassion to take flight once more, a shrieking Pettigrew behind him.
He ran straight for the brush only to be met with another five cloaked figures conjuring spells and jinxes at him. Using Pettigrew as a shield he dodged them, before throwing more fire back and running the other way.
In the terrifying and sickening minutes that followed, Cassion was met by more death eaters whichever way he turned. He’d made two full circuits around the field, cursing and screaming as he ran blindly like a mouse in a maze. He had various cuts and wounds blossoming on his face and body, his hand chained to Pettigrew almost blue with bruising as the small man never broke stride in getting free. Like a fox in a hunt he began to tire, his movement getting slower, desperation and acceptance swallowing his demeanour.
Sirius had real tears falling down his face as he cried out to his son, begging someone to take him to help. Marlene was screaming as she tugged at the vile, Lupin running panicked hands over and over his face.
Harry felt sick as he watched Cassion, out of breath and exhausted from battle, slowly turn on the spot as at least forty death eaters formed a circle around him, though keeping their distance. This created a threatening omen, as each slowly raised a wand.
“I’m more value to you alive,” snarled Cassion, “And you know it.”
“Oh we won’t kill you, dear boy,” assured Malfoy to a few chuckles from his peers, “But we must do something to ensure you won’t be throwing any more fire around.”
“We need to find him,” pleaded Sirius to anyone who would listen. He looked to Mad-Eye who nodded, “We will use what intelligence we have and call every Order member we can to search-”
People around him started calling and shouting instructions, though Harry couldn’t rip his eyes from the scene. As he was elbowed and bustled around the movement, he watched as Cassion still tried to fight, throwing spells from his body and wand to the milling death eaters who just laughed and defended easily and lazily.
Various people continued to shout at the projected image, whilst Mary held a comforting arm around an openly crying Andromeda. Sirius was frantically running for the door, restrained only by Lupin who was begging him to wait till they could all go. Mad-Eye was instructing Kingsley and Tonks to take the varied collection of wizards and witches in the room to random locations, all the while barking to Sirius to stay put.
The twins and Ron were giving an exchanged and worried commentary on the scene, whilst Hermione was biting on her lip, her head swivelling back and forth from the frame to the people around the room.
Marlene had begun a quiet chant on her knees, holding the vile and calling for someone. Her words were mixed in Eastern and English, something Harry signalled everyone to listen to. As the room gradually quietened, Mary suddenly spoke:
“Will she hear?”
“Who?” demanded Lupin who held Sirius in a stronghold, “Who-?”
Mary ignored her, preferring to drop to her knees by Marlene and beg, “She was on the other side of the country – we agreed no contact and she may ignore us as she didn’t want him to know– I mean she left days ago-”
Marlene continued to chant, brushing away tears as she called, saying as an aside, “She may already know and she’s the only one who can get to him quicker-she’s never going to forgive me if he gets hurt-”
“She was so far,” cried Mary, shaking her head in helplessness, “So far-”
“I just need a sign-”
And in an instant, Harry felt it.
As though all the wind had been taken from him, a sudden rush of sickening fear penetrated through his very body.
Neville gasped, falling back into the sofa as his arms moved to hold himself. He looked frightened, “Who-who is that?”
Marlene snapped her head up, looking from him to Harry, “What do you feel?”
“Sick,” whispered Harry, a possessed feeling of terror and fear gripping him, “Really sick.”
Marlene looked straight at Mary, “She knows.”
As he felt a frantic internal pull yanking his insides as though a fishing hook had pierced his belly button, he whispered, “She’s already on her way.”
They all looked to the frame to see the circle returning to their V formation, backing a blindly fighting Cassion, into a big oak tree with shrieks and laughter.
“Surrender, dear boy,” soothed Malfoy, once again leading the pack, “Surrender and who knows? Perhaps a long and rewarding career with the dark lord may await you.”
Fear gripped every inch of Cassion’s features as he stumbled his last step backwards, his body roughly rebounding from the tree trunk. He shook his head, and shouted defiantly, “I’d rather DIE.”
This was met by peals of laughter from the death eaters before somewhere in the distance, screams erupted.
Unnerved, Malfoy snapped his head around, ordering a few of his accomplices to investigate.
“But come STRAIGHT BACK!” he ordered, calling for the others to quieten. He looked only momentarily on edge before turning his attention back to Cassion.
Fortunately, though exhausted, he saw his opportunity for escape. Blasting a stream of fire that took every effort from his adolescent body, he threw flames at the group before taking off in another run.
With a still struggling Pettigrew in tow, Cassion maintained a ten step lead from the masked pack who had become impatient with their cat and mouse game. They fired spell after spell at him, calling angrily for someone to stop him before suddenly the ground began to grumble and shift.
Mary held her heart as Marlene looked up and whispered, “She’s almost there. Just hold on Cass-”
The rumbled ground caused Cassion to lose his footing and miss dodging a rogue spell that hit him square on the back. He cried out in pain as he fell to the ground.
As everyone in the drawing room shouted, some shielding their faces, Cassion seemed to brace himself at the now fifty strong crowd of death eaters that were quickly descending on him.
They seemed to ignore the distant screams that were growing significantly louder and the wafts of smoke that rose over far off trees as though lingering from a mighty battle. They kept their focus on Cassion, merely manoeuvring their way around the shifting ground.
As they charged like a pack of wolves, Malfoy in the lead an almighty crack of thunder sounded followed by a bolt of white lightening that stuck straight into the ground in front of them.
The smoke barely cleared before a sea of billowing robes and limbs began to move like a hurricane, a roar like a lion coming from within hurtling a stream of violent and wandless spells with malice into the crowd.
There were screeches and yelps as the death eaters ran for cover, the figure in white fighting with a strength of forty men, and with a fury to kill.
As Cassion struggled to stand, preparing to fight the figure threw him back to the ground, shouting for him to stay put.
He obeyed begrudgingly, wincing as the small figure continued to fight, taking on 50 opponents all larger and equally ferocious. In a mere fifteen to twenty seconds, all but a few had fallen, writhing and moaning on the ground cradling wounds and cuts.
Cassion’s rescuer barely had time take breath before a stampede sounded from the far off trees where more cloaked figures came pouring out like bees from a hive, turning and twisting out into the open trying to find their comrades.
Though he was somewhat expecting it, Harry’s heart still leapt as the figure in white turned to grab Cassion, the robes and scarves falling to reveal a face.
Sirius ran to stand almost nose to nose with the wall, his hands flying over the projected image to his family whom he could not help. His cries fell on their deaf ears, his pleas for them to reveal their whereabouts, unheard.
As Lupin, whose eyes were full of tears pulled him back so they could all see, Harry’s first instinct was to think how much his other godmother hadn’t changed.
Like Marlene, she was definitely older. She also had the same fine lines from years of worry and grief framing eyes that permeated the experience of true sorrow. Though still small, she seemed to have filled out; no longer the attractive and pixie-like teenager flouncing about in short skirts, Isabella had grown into an elegant and beautiful woman.
With real fear in her eyes, she was shouting at Cassion to run only he wouldn’t leave her. She threw a fleeting yet sinister look at Pettigrew who looked as though he may wet himself before glancing back at the oncoming fleet. She seemed to mutter under her breath for a moment before flicking a brief spell at Pettigrew, instantly turning him into a rat.
“Put him into your pocket and MOVE!” she ordered, pushing him ahead of her.
“I’m sorry!” he pleaded as they ran, weaving in and out of the brush, “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry mum-”
“There’s no time for that now,” and she pushed him behind a nearby tree where they waited in silence for breath. As Isabella swiped a section of hair from her eyes she looked up at her son and breathed, “What were you thinking of Cassion? You could have been killed-”
“But I got him-” and he waved the squealing rat at her, “See? Now I just have to take-”
“You will leave him with me and go directly back to Grimmauld Place, do you hear me?”
His eyes hardened as he stowed the rat under his jacket, “No.”
She shook her head, taking a surreptitious look beyond the tree, “I’m not arguing with you about this-”
“We’ve been in England for WEEKS and you’ve done nothing-”
“Now is NOT the time Cassion-where is your wand?”
“I dropped it-”
She closed her eyes momentarily as she muttered painfully, “You must always look after your wand-”
“I don’t need it. Stop avoiding the subject. Harry and Neville are SAFE at Grimmauld Place so why can’t we-”
“You’d do well to follow their example-”
“How could I trust you to turn him in?”
Isabella snapped her head round and stared hard at her son, “What?”
Cassion narrowed his eyes, “You heard me. I bet you’d be happy to let Dad rot in a cave somewhere-”
“I’m not going through this again with you-”
“But I’m right!” Cassion’s voice was rising with his temper, resentment splashed over his features, “You would seek revenge for Lily and James but you’d be happy for the truth to stay hidden-”
“Keep your voice down!” Isabella was red with anger now, her eyes flashing dangerously, “Do you have any idea what you’ve just done? What sort of danger we’re in now? And you’re choosing this moment to pick a fight-”
He looked at her, his eyes full of angry tears, “You wouldn’t have done it had I not. You’d be happy if I never saw him again-”
“Cassion, I swear-”
“Just because you-”
“CASSION!” She hissed the last word and grabbed him by both shoulders, steadying him as sparks began to burst from his hands, “Calm down. You’ll-”
As he roughly brushed her off, more sparks flew and ignited a nearby tree in a loud phoomf.
They both stared at it before Cassion whispered, “I’m so sorry mum, I-”
She grabbed his hand and started to run, swearing under her breath as loud shouting from death eaters sounded from nearby. Isabella threw spell after spell behind her with one hand, whilst uttering protective spells that showered with gold dust over her son. They panted and heaved, Cassion blindly apologising before she pulled him roughly to a stop in a small clearing.
She snapped her round like a rabbit, looking this way and that before she whispered, “There’s no way out.”
“Mum,” Cassion had tears in his eyes, “I’m so sorry-”
He shook his head, his whole body shaking, “If I hadn’t lost the wand we could have apparated-”
As the far off shouting grew louder, she took him roughly by the shoulders again, “I’m going to send you -”
“No! I’ll stay – you need me-”
“You will go and finish what you started.”
He shook his head, swiping at hot tears, “No – you can’t expect me to leave you-”
“I love you baby.”
Spells started to fire at them, angry shouts and screams ordering to kill. Isabella pushed him down as she shielded and protected them both, breathing fire and wind at the oncoming curses. In a flash of light Rahjah appeared, circling and singing, his melody scared and worried. She turned and looked at Cassion, mouthing I love you before she flicked her wrist and he disappeared in a flash of light.
She fought bravely, screaming war cries as she defended and ran, jumping and ducking, weaving in and out of the brush. As she rounded again on the open moor, a sinister voice sounded which made the hairs on Harry’s neck stand on end.
Cease fire. I want her alive.
Isabella slammed to a stop, pure fear ravaging her features. As she glanced around, watching the few death eaters still standing, panting to a stop and lowering their heads to the voice in reverence, she swallowed hard.
Empress. We meet again.
Everyone in the sitting room shuddered, Marlene covering her face as she wept, “Izzy, no, no…”
Isabella took a deep breath before snarling loudly, “You will never break me.”
There was an amused sigh before Voldemort spoke again:
I have broken you once, Empress and I will do it again.
She shivered in fear, her hands instantly and subconsciously flying to her head as though she could protect her mind from his spells. She glanced around again, preparing to run –
Do not let her escape. I am coming.
The remaining death eaters drew wands and started to approach her. Isabella swallowed hard again before reaching into her pocket and drawing out a vile.
“Nooo!” cried Marlene from the sitting room, “No – you never told me how to lift-”
“What’s she doing?” begged Sirius, shaking Marlene, “What-”
Harry watched as Isabella uncorked a small vile of shimmering red potion. She closed her eyes as though saying a small prayer before gulping it down in one mouthful. She swayed on the spot for a brief moment before all expression and emotion was wiped from her face. An eerie noise sounded – almost a dreamlike phoenix song – as clouds of gold smoke erupted from nowhere and slowly beginning to cocoon her in a transparent nest. As the haunting melody mixed with the worried calls of death eaters, Marlene choked bag a sob as she whispered:
“She’s taken Nadanaram. And I wouldn’t know how to get her back.”