Chapter 43 : Marlene's Revenge
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“I don’t know,” Remus said, but he was fairly sure he did; he hadn’t been lying when he’d told Marlene and Dora that Grimmauld had been empty except for Kreacher. He also knew that Marlene wasn’t one to run out on a commitment - like looking after Dora – unless there was a very good reason. And, from what Remus knew of Marlene, that reason could only be Sirius.
He didn’t know where Sirius was, or if Harry was with him, and he didn’t know whether he’d managed to escape or if he’d been caught. Worse was that there was nothing Remus could do for him – or them, if Harry was with Sirius. As if their potential predicament wasn’t bad enough, there was also the fact that Greyback was after Dora. Unlike Sirius and Harry, Remus had been able to do something about that. She seemed comforted by having him around and Remus felt better because he knew where she was and that she was safe.
Or sort of safe; after hearing Greyback Apparate into the garden, they’d moved to the couch and stayed there all night, both too worried to sleep, but so far, Greyback hadn’t approached the house.
Greyback had spent the night in Remus’ garden and it hadn’t escaped Remus’ notice that he’d chosen to sit in the exact spot where he’d bitten Remus all those years ago. Dora had wanted to leave as soon as Greyback arrived, but Remus had talked her out of it; if they Flooed, one of them would be alone in the house for a few seconds, and that could be fatal. Greyback would also hear the address they were going to, and be able to follow them. If they Apparated, he’d just find them again – he’d found them so far, though Remus couldn’t work out how – and they really didn’t have anywhere else to go.
And Marlene said she’d come by to check on us, Remus added mentally. Hopefully she’d bring others with her and they could... catch Greyback? Take Dora – and Remus, because he was involved now too - to a safe house? He didn’t know.
There was a tap at the window and Dora yelped. It was only Strix though, bringing the Prophet. Remus flicked his wand at the window which opened long enough for Strix to get in and then slammed shut and locked. Strix dropped the paper in Remus’ lap and alighted on the arm of the couch beside Dora for a pat. She stroked his feathers absently, and then stood.
“Where are you going?” Remus asked.
“I’m going to get a book,” she said through a yawn. “Will you be okay?”
Remus nodded. She left and he unfolded the paper. His heart stopped. SIRIUS TROUBLE FOR BLACK, was the headline and took up most of the front page. Remus lurched to his feet with the paper scrunched up in his fist, and went to the sink to splash water on his face. He looked at the paper again but the headline still hadn’t changed.
Guess it’s true then, he thought and collapsed into a chair at the table. His hands were trembling as he spread the paper out to read.
Sirius Black was caught by Aurors in Diagon Alley last night, putting an end to his fourteen months on the run from Ministry officials. Black was taken into the Ministry’s custody and is being kept in a secure but unknown location. Harry Potter was also found and taken to a safe location that has not been named for his safety.
Black was spotted by one of the Ministry’s Aurors in Knockturn Alley, quite by chance. The evil magic radiating off him was enough to trigger a Dark Detector held by said Auror, and once Black was otherwise engaged, she called in her co-workers to secure the alley. When Black and Potter made their way back to the main street, his evil had been masked, but he was still, thankfully recognisable. Aurors are investigating the shop in question to determine whether concealment charms were used to hide Black’s evil-
Remus couldn’t read any more. He dropped the paper like it was some sort of slimy, poisonous bug and went to splash more water on his face.
He wiped his eyes and then swore, jumped and stumbled backward; standing on the other side of the kitchen window was Greyback. He was smiling in a way that showed all of his teeth and promised pain, and his eyes were so bright they were almost feverish.
Remus stood very still, gasping. Greyback just watched him.
“Remus?” Dora was back, holding Human Chameleon. “What are you looking at?”
“He was-” Greyback was gone, but obviously still around somewhere; Remus hadn’t heard him Apparate. “Greyback was there-” Remus said through numb lips. “Outside the window.” Dora whipped out her wand and looked around nervously as if she expected Greyback to jump out from behind a couch. It honestly wouldn’t have surprised Remus at this point.
This is getting ridiculous, he thought, shivering. They were safe inside the house for the moment, but Greyback was getting braver. He’d be happy to toy around with them for a bit but Remus knew he’d get bored. Once that happened, it was only a matter of time before he reversed one of the charms on the windows or doors, or Apparated inside. Or maybe he’d just blow a hole in the side of the cottage and come in that way.
And when that happened, things would get ugly. Greyback wasn’t going to want to negotiate. It would be a fight – magical or physical, depending on how he was feeling. Maybe it would even be a combination. Remus had saved Greyback several times over the years by refusing to hand him over to the Aurors or Dumbledore. He didn’t like it, and it wasn’t for any reason other than to protect the people living at the camps, but he’d done it.
Now though, with him and Dora being threatened, and Greyback’s presence preventing Remus from finding Sirius and Harry, Remus was sorely tempted to do whatever it took to get rid of him. And, with things in their current state, Remus could only imagine that would involve Greyback dying or being captured.
It’ll have to be captured, Remus thought grimly; Greyback’s death would create more problems than it would solve. Even his capture would threaten everyone at the camp. Though there could be a way around that...
The next hour was spent in silence broken only by the sound of Dora’s Sidekick semi-closing and opening – it was a nervous habit she seemed to have developed overnight, though it was a sensible one, since it kept it within reach – and of pages turning; both Dora and Remus were immersed in their respective books, though not as deeply immersed as they might have been. Remus was keeping an ear out for Greyback and regularly checked the doors, windows and corners of the room, just in case.
“Remus,” Dora said, as he turned a page.
“Is he still out there?” Remus stood and peeked out the window.
“Yes.” He’d returned to the place under the tree and was staring intently at the house.
“Just under the tree,” Remus said, giving her an odd look. Her eyes flicked down to her Sidekick, which was open in her lap. Remus quirked an eyebrow and she nodded. Remus could have cried with relief. “At the bottom of my garden, where he’s been all night,” Remus added, and could only just hear whispering through the Sidekick.
“Do you think he has his wand?” Dora asked. That’s good. Give them as much information as possible without tipping Greyback off.
“Probably,” Remus said. “He Apparated in, didn’t he?”
“Yeah, I s’pose. Do you think we’re safe in here?”
“For now. When he decides he wants to come in, that’s when we’ll have a problem, and frankly, I’m amazed he’s waited this long.”
“Do you think the Aurors are coming, Remus?” Dora asked in a very small, obviously distressed voice. She was putting it on; her scent was actually rather calm, but Remus was sure Greyback would be thrilled to think he was getting to her.
“I don’t know,” he said, trying to sound miserable. “Even if they do, his senses are so good they’d have no chance of catching him.” Remus didn’t think that was true; if they could catch Sirius, they could catch Greyback. It was more that he needed to convey the message about his senses, as a warning.
“Get him into the house.” Mad-Eye’s voice was so low that Remus could hardly hear it. Dora didn’t seem to have heard it at all. Mad-Eye added something else that was too quiet even for Remus, but he couldn’t very well ask Mad-Eye to repeat it or Greyback would overhear him asking. Remus mumbled a made-up word.
“What?” Dora asked. Remus smiled.
“Send a message once he’s inside and we’ll Apparate in and trap him,” Mad-Eye said.
“I said we’ll sort something out,” Remus said. He used his wand to write, Mad-Eye says to lure him inside, send a message with your Sidekick and then presumably keep him distracted long enough for them to trap him. Dora nodded, eyes wide and Remus flicked his wand. The letters dissolved into the air. “Hopefully,” he said, to keep their fake conversation going. They fell silent and then Remus thought of something. “Why don’t you have a shower or something?”
“A-” Dora lifted an eyebrow and he gave her a beseeching look. She nodded slowly. “That sounds wonderful, actually. Will you-”
“I’ll be fine,” he said. She stood, holding her Sidekick and crossed the room. Her hair grew up to expose the back of her neck and then, as if someone was standing behind her with a quill and James’ old invisibility cloak – Remus wondered absently what had happened to that – the words Be careful appeared. Then she lightened her skin again and vanished into the hall.
Remus waited until he heard water running and then he stood and waved his wand at the front door, which popped open. Greyback was waiting on the doorstep.
“About time,” he said, leering at Remus. Remus held his wand up; it was a warning, but not threatening. Greyback’s wand was in his fist as his side, but his knuckles were white. “I must say, I expected you to invite me in earlier.” Remus was disconcerted that Greyback had known what he would do before he himself had known, and it must have shown on his face or in his scent, because Greyback wheezed a laugh.
“I’m going to put my wand on the kitchen table,” Remus said. “Then you’re going to do the same.”
Greyback appeared to think about it, but it didn’t take long. Greyback was a competent wizard but they both knew he’d have to be lucky to beat Remus in any magical challenge. They also both knew that Greyback would easily win any physical confrontation, and that Remus was therefore giving up any advantage he might have. Greyback turned his wand around and then passed it to Remus, who took it.
“Is that smart?” Remus asked, stepping backward, just in case Greyback decided he wanted it back.
“You’re too honourable to attack me without provocation,” Greyback said.
“Am I?” Remus asked, though he knew it was true. Greyback made himself at home on the couch he and Dora had just vacated while Remus put their wands on the kitchen bench; best to keep them as far from Greyback as possible, even if it did mean they’d be far away from Remus too. He deliberately knocked the kettle off the bench; if Dora hadn’t realised Greyback was inside, hopefully she’d interpret the noise as a message.
“Take a seat,” Greyback said, patting the couch beside him. Remus put the kettle away and opted for the armchair instead. “Now. Do you remember what I said about suspicious behaviour?” Remus gave him a stony look. “I’m a patient man, Lupin-” Remus snorted and Greyback’s lip curled. “-but I’ve run out of patience. You’re running around with Aurors now. Do you honestly think they can protect you?” There was a thump from the bathroom. “Or maybe you’re protecting them.”
“Maybe,” Remus said.
“I’d say I’m sorry,” Greyback said. “Except I’m not.” Greyback pulled another wand out of his scruffy robes and Remus’ breath caught. “I’m not going to kill you,” Greyback cooed, getting up. He patted Remus’ head – Remus leaned away, but wasn’t about to make a run for it while Greyback had a wand in his face. “I’m just going to make sure you can’t interfere.” He leered at Remus again. “Pity you were too honourable to hold onto those wands, huh?”
“Go on, then,” Remus said. “Stun me.” He figured Mad-Eye couldn’t be far away. He trusted Greyback not to kill him – Greyback wouldn’t have bothered lying about that – and Dora had her wand and her Sidekick, so she’d be safe until Mad-Eye arrived. Even if Greyback Disarmed her – which Remus didn’t want to think about – he’d want to talk to her before he did any serious damage.
“Stun you?” Greyback laughed. “No, son. You’re going to listen. You’re going to hear her die and know it’s your fault. You’re-”
Several things happened at once: the water in the bathroom stopped, the Aurors Apparated around the house in perfect synchronisation – all Remus heard was one loud, almost echoing pop – and Remus snatched the wand out of Greyback’s hand. It never would have worked if Greyback wasn’t distracted by all the noises. Greyback let out a howl of fury and threw himself at Remus, who managed to get the wand up in time.
“Protego!” Greyback hit the Shield Charm and bounced off. He crashed into the coffee table, which broke and then launched himself back to his feet and stood, chest heaving, eyes wild, and teeth bared. Strix hooted uneasily.
If looks could kill, Remus thought, holding the wand steady. The bathroom door clicked and a floorboard creaked. Remus’ head snapped in that direction and out of the corner of his eye, he saw Greyback lunge. He turned back but he was too slow-
“Stupefy!” Dora cried, appearing in the doorway. Greyback dropped where he stood and a moment later, Remus’ front door burst off its hinges and Mad-Eye barged in, followed by six others.
“Incarcerous,” he barked, without breaking stride, and ropes twined themselves around Greyback’s still form. Remus flopped back into his armchair. Dora sat down where she was, in the hall doorway, with a sound that was a cross between a laugh and a sob. Mad-Eye ordered the other Aurors out again – one kindly fixed the door on the way, while two stopped to lift Greyback – and went over to Dora.
Remus glanced over to make sure he and Dora were distracted and then he lifted Greyback’s wand and whispered the incantation he’d found that afternoon. Greyback sagged even more, if that was possible, and Remus knew it had worked; Greyback would have no recollection of Remus’ role in his capture - he’d think that he’d been caught outside Marlene’s house in London (since Greyback must have made it there at some point, or he wouldn’t have known that Remus was involved and to visit the cottage) – and that Remus had been called by the Aurors because he knew Greyback.
Greyback would remember Remus offering to remove the pack’s location from his mind and would remember accepting the offer – Remus had actually removed that information so the Aurors wouldn’t be able to find the camp. Not only did that protect the camp – which had been Remus’ biggest qualm with having Greyback arrested – but it also left Remus on neutral terms with Greyback, which meant Remus would be able to return to the camp.
And, since Remus knew Voldemort would be back eventually – due to the Horcrux – it was crucial that Remus didn’t completely alienate himself from Greyback and the pack. He could make him mad, certainly - he did that regularly - but he didn’t want to damage his already unstable relationship with Greyback beyond repair. Having him arrested would certainly do so.
“Are you hurt, Lupin?” Mad-Eye asked, limping over with Dora behind him.
“No, I’m fine,” Remus said. Dora caught his eye. She didn’t smile or speak, but she didn’t need to. Remus understood, and he thought she understood him too. He went to retrieve his and Greyback’s wands from the kitchen bench and caught another glimpse of the paper.
Sirius and Harry. He was ashamed to admit he hadn’t spared them much thought in the last hour. He wondered if Mad-Eye would know what was going on, or if he’d have to go to Hogwarts to get the news from Dumbledore. Maybe I could even stop by at Marlene’s...
“Who does that belong to?” Dora asked, frowning at the third wand in Remus’ hand. Remus pocketed his own.
“These two were Greyback’s.”
“He had two?” Mad-Eye asked, looking troubled. He made a grabbing motion and Remus passed them over. Mad-Eye examined them and tucked them into his robes for safekeeping. “We should go; Scrimgeour will want to talk to the pair of you.”
“I really think I should-” Mad-Eye fixed both his real and his magical eye on Remus.
“The Ministry’s the place you want to be, lad,” he said, giving Remus a very pointed look. “Trust me.”
* * *
“My apologies, friends,” Albus said, waving his wand.
“The nerve of people these days!” Phineas Nigellus’ portrait exclaimed as a web of magic affixed itself to his portrait, and all of the others; they’d be able to talk to Albus, but they wouldn’t be able to hear his responses and they wouldn’t be able to see him either. A very old charm, cast long before Albus’ Headship ensured they didn’t discuss what they saw or heard in the office, but with the conversation he was about to have...
It’s better to be safe.
One of the silver trinkets on the table in the corner of Albus’ office flashed a bright white. Fawkes looked over, curious, but he’d been living in the office too long to be startled by it.
“Come in!” he called. The door flung open and Severus stalked in.
“You wanted to see me, Dumbledore?” he asked, dropping into the chair on the other side of Albus’ desk.
“I did,” Albus replied. “I have a task for you, Severus.”
“Wonderful,” Severus said, looking as if he thought it was anything but wonderful. Albus couldn’t really blame him; the last thing Albus had asked of him – aside from the usual requests like speaking politely to other staff members, and not terrorising students (particularly first years, Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs) – had been to give lessons to young Draco Malfoy. He didn’t think Severus had forgiven him for that yet, which was a pity, particularly because of what he was about to ask.
“Have you seen the Prophet today, Severus?” Albus asked, stalling.
“You know I rarely bother with that drivel,” Severus sneered.
“I admit the stories can be rather lucrative, but they do have an excellent crossword-”
“What was in the paper?” Severus bit out.
“Sirius and Harry were caught last night.” Severus paled. “The boy is safe,” Albus said.
“And Black?” Severus asked, looking nervous. “Has he been Kissed?”
“Are you concerned, Severus?” Albus asked. “I’d have thought you of all people would welcome the news that the man responsible for Lily Potter’s death has been apprehended.” Severus gave him a glare that fell short because he still looked anxious. Albus wondered at that – he himself didn’t much care about Sirius’ welfare and Albus knew he was more forgiving than Severus had ever been. “No,” he said finally. “Sirius is safe in Ministry custody.” Severus snorted at that, though Albus couldn’t be sure why.
“The task, Dumbledore?” Severus asked impatiently, after a pause.
“Ah,” Albus said. “Yes. I’ve had a letter from Dolores Umbridge. She wants Harry out of the Ministry and into a suitable home by tomorrow night-”
“Absolutely not!” Severus snarled, leaping to his feet. “I am not taking the boy! He can go back to his aunt-”
“Sit down, Severus,” Albus said, amused. “I would never ask you to adopt the boy – for your sake and for his.” Severus hesitated and then sat down. “I do intend to return Harry to Petunia and Vernon-”
“Then what am I here for?”
“I’ll be spending the majority of my time at the Ministry until this custody mess is sorted,” Albus sighed. “I wouldn’t put it past Dolores to give the boy to the first wizarding family that showed an interest.”
“Surely there are laws prohibiting-”
“There are if the child in question has parents or any other form of guardian. Currently, Harry Potter does not. Not legally,” Albus amended, when Severus’ mouth fell open. “Which means the Ministry is liable to do as they please, and Sirius is liable to point out that James and Lily’s wishes were to have Harry live with him. Were either the Ministry or Sirius to gain legal control over Harry...”
“So what are you going to do?” Severus asked, looking apprehensive. Albus produced a stack of documents from his desk drawer. “Forgery!? You’re going to forge-”
“Petunia is a better guardian for the boy than anyone the Ministry will find-” Ideally, Albus would have given the boy to Remus – he thought they’d both like that – but the Ministry would never allow it. “-even if she did only take him out of duty and not love. No one can argue that a blood relative has no claim to him, and legal documents from the muggle world are respected in our world. I should have had her sign them years ago, when she first took the boy in, but with everything else going on... I never imagined anything like this could come to pass...”
“Is that really the best place for the brat?”
“He will be safe,” Albus said grimly. Last year had been an eye opener for him about Harry’s childhood; the boy hadn’t seemed fond of his relatives, nor they of him. Albus had hoped to give Harry a happy childhood, and it seemed he’d failed, but he had succeeded in sheltering Harry from the wizarding world and his fame – until Sirius barged into their lives and ruined that – and in keeping him safe.
Now, Dumbledore knew better than to think that anything but safety awaited Harry at the Dursleys. He felt absolutely wretched that he would be forcing the boy back to a home where he had not been particularly happy and where familial love was buried so deeply that it rarely showed on the surface. It wasn’t fair to the boy who’d lost so much and been through so much, but other than a weekly respite, it was Albus could offer him until he started Hogwarts.
“Safer than he would with a magical family?” Severus asked doubtfully. “He’s been exposed-”
“He will stay with Remus on weekends – without the Ministry knowing, of course,” Albus said. “And yes; once Voldemort returns, Harry will find no safer place than with his aunt and uncle, behind the wards.”
“They were destroyed when Black-”
“They can be recast.” Albus fully intended to do that, and he’d also cast one to keep Sirius out, though that probably wouldn’t matter; now that the Ministry had him, Sirius was either going to be Kissed or locked away and so it was highly unlikely that he’d come after Harry ever again.
“I still fail to see where I come into this, Headmaster.”
“Petunia will need the situation explained to her. She will be reluctant to take the boy back and we cannot afford to let the Ministry see that. She must fill these out-” Albus slid the forms over to Severus. “-and then you will both travel to this address.” He passed Severus a business card belonging to a Squib solicitor who was a good friend of his. He’d be willing to help, Albus knew, and he’d keep quiet. “You will then join me at the Ministry to sort this mess out.”
“You want me to go?” Severus asked, flinging the card away. “You might be busy, but why me? Why not Minerva or your precious Lupin or even McKinnon-”
“Petunia knows you,” Albus said; he’d anticipated this response.
“I’m the boy who stole her sister,” Severus spat.
“She knows you,” Albus repeated. “Petunia will be far more willing to accept this from a familiar face, and if nothing else, she will believe that you have Lily’s son’s best wishes at heart.” Severus did not look happy about things, but Albus hadn’t expected him to. He was scowling fiercely, obviously thinking very hard. Albus popped a sweet into his mouth and sucked on it while he waited. One minute.
When Severus looked up, he looked so furious that Albus knew he’d agreed to do it. He gathered the papers into his arms without a word and made to leave.
“Thank you, my boy,” Albus said, smiling at his back.
“I hope you choke on that lemon drop,” Severus snarled, and left.
* * *
If you don’t want to read this now, please don’t throw it away yet. There are some things you need to know.
Harry and I have been captured by the Ministry. I don’t know what’s going to happen to me, but I can make guesses where Harry’s concerned. There’ll be a dispute over his custody, a dispute which Dumbledore’s almost certainly going to drag you into. I know you hate our world, and so I’m apologising in advance for all of this.
I know you don’t want Harry and I know you don’t think you owe either of us anything but I’m going to ask you to take him back anyway. Believe me when I say I wouldn’t ask if I could think of a better solution. I promise I’ll be back for him. If I get a trial, that’ll be soon. If things don’t go according to plan, it might be a bit longer.
The book has a chapter on how muggle laws and our world’s laws relate. If you’re going to take Harry back, reading it might not be a bad idea.
Petunia had read it so many times that the parchment had gone soft. She’d received the owl this morning – Vernon, thankfully, had been at work and Dudley had been at school – and hadn’t been able to make the awful creature leave without taking the parcel and note it had been carrying.
The note and the parcel – which, according to the note contained a book – had been taken straight to the cupboard under the stairs and hidden under the tiny bed that still lived there. She’d gone and cleaned the kitchen and then her curiosity had got the better of her and she’d gone back for the note.
Mostly, it troubled her. She knew Sirius Black had a bad reputation but since she knew he hadn’t actually kidnapped the boy, she suspected most of his crimes were exaggerated. It seemed, the rest of the world hadn’t worked that out, however – Petunia supposed they didn’t have her ability to distinguish between lies and the truth – and so Sirius had been arrested, and Harry with him, which was unfortunate. She didn’t care much for the boy, but she bore him no ill will, particularly since he was no longer hers to worry about.
Except maybe now he is again. Sirius’ mention of custody was ridiculous; the boy should be his, was his. He wanted him and Petunia didn’t. It wasn’t complicated and she was not at all looking forward to being dragged into the middle of their strange politics over something so ridiculous-
The doorbell rang and Petunia jumped. She placed the letter back in the cupboard under the stairs on her way to the door. She really didn’t want to answer it. She had a horrible suspicion it would be Dumbledore or some other freak, come to take her to court.
No manners, any of them, she thought angrily. She pulled open the door and froze.
“Petunia,” the Snape boy – man now – drawled. He’d traded his ugly, ill-fitting smock for a set of black robes, but his greasy hair, hooked nose and glittering black eyes were the same. He was holding a pile of paperwork.
“You,” she managed.
“May I come in?” he asked, looking past her into the house. “I doubt you’d want the neighbours to see me on your doorstep.” He gave her a nasty smile. “They might ask questions.” Yes. The neighbours. Petunia shook herself.
“Come in, then,” she snapped and Snape strode past her.
“Is there a place we might talk?”
“The sitting room,” she said unwillingly. She couldn’t be sure if she was glad Vernon wasn’t around to see this, or if she wanted him there for support. Snape sat down and Petunia closed the blinds before sitting down across from him. “What do you want?” she asked, when he didn’t say anything.
He smirked, as if she’d somehow proved him right, and said, “Sirius Black has been arrested.”
“I suppose that’s good news, is it?” she asked waspishly. “What are those?” Snape dropped the papers onto the coffee table and pushed them toward her. “Adoption papers,” she said, frowning at him.
“The Ministry of Magic-”
“Don’t say that word!”
“The Ministry,” Snape said, and paused long enough for her mind to fill in the other two words, “are working – as we speak – to have Potter sent to live with a wiz- non-muggle family. Dumbledore is opposed to that, for reasons I’m certain you don’t care much about.”
“These are dated for November nine years ago,” she said, looking at the forms.
“The Ministry wouldn’t dare take Potter from his legal guardians, even if they are muggles.”
“You’re assuming I want the boy.”
“I’m assuming you want the boy safe,” Snape snapped. “Though that might be giving you more credit than you deserve.” He let he comment hang and then said, “Fill those out, then we’ll be off to Dumbledore’s solicitor and off to the Ministry. You can have the br- boy home tonight.”
“No,” Petunia said, making a decision. It wasn’t a decision about what she was going to do, but it was a decision that she needed more time to think about what she was going to do.
“No?” he asked incredulously.
“You heard me,” she said crossly. “I happen to have made plans for today.”
“Un-make them,” he told her.
“No. I’m free tomorrow. You can come back then.”
“This is your nephew-”
“I know what’s at stake,” she said. Snape glared at her for a long time and then sighed.
“I’ll be back at nine o’clock tomorrow morning,” he said flatly. “By that time, you will have filled those out and you will be ready to see the solicitor. Am I clear?”
“I said nine-”
“I have to take Dudders-” Petunia cleared her throat. “-Dudley to school. Nine thirty.”
“Nine thirty,” he spat. “In the meantime, work on those.” He didn’t wait for her to offer to show him out; he just vanished with a pop, right before her eyes.
Petunia made herself a cup of tea and sipped at it while she re-read Sirius’ note and the chapter of the book that he’d recommended. Despite herself, she was interested, and she had an plan formed by the time she’d finished; she very much doubted it was what Sirius had intended when he sent the book, but Petunia didn’t much care what he’d intended, because neither he or Harry would be her problem ever again after this.
She’d found herself a way out, and one that didn’t involve taking Harry back. Sirius would have to find somewhere else to keep the boy while he waited for his trial or whatever it was he was after. Dumbledore and Snape would be angry when she refused to go along with their plans, but she didn’t care. They couldn’t force her to play along. All she needed was her own solicitor to set things in motion and then she’d be able to walk out. She’d be free.
She picked up the phone and dialled Richard Polkiss’ number. It rang a few times and then she heard him pick up.
“Richard,” she said, before he could say anything more, “it’s Petunia Dursley.”
“Mrs Dursley? Did you want to speak with Helen? Our home number’s-”
“No,” she said. “I want to speak with you.”
“About?” he asked. She knew from his tone that she had his attention.
“I was speaking to Elizabeth Hill – Gordon’s mother?” Petunia said idly. “She told me something very interesting about y-”
“I see,” Richard said, his voice climbing an octave. “I... er... thank you for calling me directly. Helen shouldn’t- can’t believe Liz told-” He seemed to compose himself. “Was there something you needed help with?”
“As a matter of fact there is.”
* * *
“McKinnon!” Marlene froze and tried to look calm. Her wand and Gawain’s badge seemed to be burning her through her pocket, however, and she felt hot, flushed with an odd mix of fear and fury.
“Tonks,” Marlene said, relaxing a little, when she spotted the source of the voice. She approached Tonks, who was waiting outside Scrimgeour’s office with Lupin. Both looked tired and a little the worse for wear and Marlene remembered Greyback; she hadn’t given him much thought except for telling Mad-Eye about Tonks’ predicament. “Did Greyback-”
“He’s caught,” Tonks said tiredly, and Lupin squeezed her shoulder. She smiled up at him and then turned her attention back to Marlene. “What about you? Why’d you rush out?”
“You haven’t seen the paper?” Marlene asked.
“No,” Tonks said, frowning. Lupin, Marlene noticed, had stiffened. She caught his eye and he inclined his head.
“And you didn’t wonder why everyone’s going mad?” Marlene asked, gesturing to the mayhem around them. There were reporters all over the place and Aurors running around like there were chimeras after them.
“I thought it was because of Greyback,” Tonks said, frowning. “What’s going on?”
“They’ve caught Sirius,” Marlene said, keeping her voice and expression neutral. Tonks gasped, but Lupin looked unsurprised, though his expression hardened a bit.
“You’re joking!” Tonks exclaimed. She turned and threw her arms around Lupin. “Remus, isn’t that wonderful! First Greyback, now Sirius-”
“Is Harry here too?” Lupin asked, looking troubled.
“We got them both,” Marlene said, after a moment’s hesitation; no one was supposed to say anything, but it was Lupin. She could trust Lupin. “He’s in with Amelia and Dumbledore.” Lupin’s head snapped up. Tonks was watching him with a pitying expression.
Scrimgeour’s door flew open and the man limped into the doorway. Another Auror slipped past, looking grim. “Trainee Tonks! And Mr Lupin, I believe?”
“Yes, sir,” Lupin said, and shook his hand. Scrimgeour eyed him for a moment, as if trying to work out whether they’d met before, but Lupin was too busy glancing in the direction of Amelia’s office to notice.
“Congratulations,” Scrimgeour said, directing the comment more at Tonks than Lupin. “This morning’s events are a promising start to your Auror career, if you ask me.” Tonks beamed, and something in Marlene’s chest twisted a bit; he’d said the same thing to her about her apprehension of Sirius in Diagon Alley and she was only minutes from throwing it all away. “Come in, both of you.” Tonks bounced past him, looking pleased.
“Auror Scrimgeour,” Marlene said, before Lupin could follow. Scrimgeour appeared to notice Marlene for the first time. She gave him a charming smile. “Sir, could I borrow Lupin for a few minutes?”
“Well...” Scrimgeour said, frowning. “A few minutes, McKinnon,” he said, sighing. Marlene suspected it was only last night’s success that made him agree. “Less, if you can manage it.” He closed the door and then Marlene couldn’t hear a word; the offices were generally warded to keep sound from escaping.
“Do you remember the conversation we had in St Mungo’s?” she said, before Lupin could ask what she wanted to talk about. He frowned for a moment, and then his eyebrows shot up.
“About Si- him?” Lupin sniffed once and then frowned again. “You mean you’re-”
“I’m going down there now,” she said quietly. “I’m going to finish this.”
“You’re going to kill-”
“Keep your voice down!” she hissed, though he hadn’t really said it that loudly.
“Here?” he breathed. “Now? Marlene-”
“Are you with me or not?” Lupin seemed frozen. He was obviously thinking very hard about his options.
“Yes, or no?”
“Are you done out here?” Scrimgeour asked, pulling his office door open again. Lupin seemed to have forgotten how to talk.
“Yes, sir,” Marlene said, smiling at the older Auror. “Thank you.”
She turned and left, headed straight for the elevators. She could hear Lupin stammering something to Scrimgeour, but since no one followed, she assumed he hadn’t given her away.
She took the elevator to level nine and took the doorway on the left of the door that led into the Department of Mysteries. She took the stairs down to the tenth level and walked calmly but quickly through a narrow corridor until she reached a wall that wasn’t really a wall. She walked right through it and shivered; two Dementors stood – well, floated – before a lift. One drifted forward, scabby hand outstretched and Marlene pulled Gawain’s Auror badge out of her robe pocket. This would never work if there were Aurors on guard, but Marlene had known there wouldn’t be. The Dementor paused and then moved aside.
Bad memories swirled in the back of her mind but they were dim, drowned out by other thoughts. She was about to become a murderer. That wasn’t a happy thought, but it wasn’t a bad one either – did Sirius even count as human? - and so the Dementors left it alone. She stepped into the lift and slid back the concealed panel that displayed ten colourful buttons. She pressed the white one, and the lift jerked and sped backwards before dropping suddenly. If she’d pressed any of the others, an alarm would have gone off.
Dark stone rushed past her face and it grew colder and colder and darker and darker until the lift stopped and she was blinded by white light. She stepped out and was immediately greeted by two Dementors, but she flashed the badge again and they backed off.
“Take me to Sirius Black,” she said, pleased that her voice barely shook.
* * *
Sirius was cold. He had a slightly higher than normal body temperature thanks to Padfoot, but this wasn’t the sort of cold that was fixed by body heat. No, this was Dementor cold. Azkaban cold, though thankfully without the wind.
His cell was seven paces by seven paces, with a single, heavy door and no windows or other openings. The door had a small, barred hole in it – so Aurors could make sure he was still inside without having to open the door – and the doorhandle was on the outside. Two Dementors stood on either side of the door, though on the outside. That was something at least, that he didn’t have to share his cell with them.
Everything in the cell was white – the walls, the floor, the bed, the chairs and the table (all the furniture was fixed to the floor with a Permanent Sticking Charm) – which made it the perfect backdrop for horrific, Dementor induced memories. Still, he’d take this stark white to Azkaban’s grey every time.
Sirius’ door opened and closed. He was staring at the wall - wondering whether Harry was safe and hoping someone had called Remus or Dumbledore in to comfort him – feeling absolutely miserable thanks to the Dementors and really wasn’t in the mood to talk to anyone. Maybe if he pretended he was asleep-
“I know you’re awake.” Sirius rolled over so quickly he tumbled off his pathetically narrow excuse of a bed. A smile ghosted over Marlene’s face, apparently before she could smother it. It was gone a moment later.
“You’ve woken up next to me enough times to tell the difference,” Sirius said, rubbing his shoulder. She looked like he’d slapped her. He climbed off the floor and sat down on the edge of the bed, watching her. She watched him back. “Why are you alone? You’re just a trainee-”
“Dementors are blind,” she said, and tossed something gold at Sirius. It landed on the bed next to him and he picked it up. It was round and quite heavy, with the D.M.L.E. motto and logo on the front of it. There was also a name: Auror Gawain Robards. Sirius felt his heart sink and he looked up at Marlene, but she was still standing by the door, looking calm.
“Stealing?” he asked, with a shaky laugh. “Aren’t Aurors supposed to be the good guys?”
“You’re one to talk,” she shot back and then added in a softer voice, “Besides, it won’t be the worst thing I do today.” She watched him with a horrible, detached sort of curiosity. “Are you going to beg?” Sirius shook his head. She didn’t look surprised. “You know you deserve it, don’t you?”
Yes, I deserve it. He knew she wouldn’t actually kill him – she’d probably just curse him, and he certainly deserved that. I made them swap to Peter, I-
“Shut up,” Sirius muttered, and then sighed; this was like the Dementor’s Draught all over again- He laughed; it could be dealt with – fixed, even – the same way!
“You really are mad, aren’t you?” Marlene asked, looking at him in a way that was almost pitying.
“Not at all,” he said, and the look was definitely pitying.
“Goodbye, Sirius,” she said, and pulled out her wand. Sirius stood up slowly – he didn’t want to startle her into attacking him – and moved across the cell until he was behind the table. That might give him a bit of protection. Maybe.
“This is a mistake,” he told her, keeping his eyes on her wand. It wasn’t pointed at him yet, but when it was, he’d need to be ready; he’d tackle her and tie her up. And then... escape? With a wand and Auror identification, he could go anywhere.
But I want a trial, he thought glumly. And I won’t get that if I keep running. He’d stay then. He’d pass Marlene over to the next Auror that came to visit him. She’d lose her job, but she’d lose if she went through with this anyway. And he could use the fact that he hadn’t tried to escape as a gesture of goodwill.
“Is it?” she asked in a hard voice.
“Yes,” he said. “And I can prove it.” He’d transform, and then, even if she was still doubtful, she’d listen. “I’m going to show you-”
“Show me?” she scoffed. Sirius took a step away from the table so he wouldn’t hit it when he changed. “Don’t move!” she said. He put his hands up to calm her down.
“I’m just going to-”
“I said don’t move.” Her wand was aimed directly at his chest and he knew that if he started to shift now, she’d panic and attack him. He let out a little helpless growl, and her hand twitched; her wand was aimed at his face now. He watched her warily, and – though her wand didn’t move at all – her expression softened. “I’m sorry it’s come to this.”
She’ll hex me, he thought grimly, and braced himself. Then her conscience’ll kick in and she’ll feel bad and we’ll have a chance to talk-
“Avada Kedavra,” she whispered and Sirius could only watch - fascinated, and too stunned to move - as green light blossomed out of the end of her wand.
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