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Chapter 52 : Tears And Trust
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Greyback wasn’t around – which was definitely a bonus – but the atmosphere was infinitely more volatile. He’d met with Mad-Eye before travelling to Gwydir Forest, and they’d both decided that blaming Smoky for the incident was the best idea. Smoky was a nameless, faceless being – so she’d be perfectly safe, wherever she was - but she was known by the camp’s residents and gave them someone other than the Aurors or Remus or Matt to blame.
And blame her they did; if they’d been obsessed with finding their errant ‘sister’ before, it was nothing to the way they felt now. The news of Greyback’s death had been taken pretty much as he’d expected; they’d been shocked for about a day, and then angry and miserable in equal amounts ever since.
He and Matt were bearing the brunt of both; anger was directed at them, because they both frequented the ‘outside’, for failing to somehow realise that Greyback had been in danger. It didn’t seem to matter that Matt had been heavily drugged in preparation for the full moon, and that Remus had been preparing for his own transformation, and that neither of them had any clue who Smoky was or where to find her. The misery had been directed at them as well. Remus wasn’t sure if it was because he and Matt didn’t care much that Greyback was gone and so weren’t crying too, or if it was for another reason, but he’d been cornered by several miserable people who wanted to reminisce about being bitten, or cry on him.
And Remus bore it, though he tried to leave most of the teary ones to Matt. Even after a bit of experience with Dora, nothing scared Remus more than a crying woman. He tried to treat them like people who’d lost a parent or brother, and not a group mourning their lunatic leader. He tried to be sympathetic and say the right things. And he tried desperately not to get frustrated at being there, when there was so much going on back in London.
He hadn’t seen Dora since he cried all over her after the last full moon, and frankly, he wasn’t sure he wanted to; how was he supposed to apologise for his behaviour without seeming like even more of an idiot?
She’d been sending him letters daily. The first had come six days ago and had been to ask whether he was okay, to thank him for the birthday present which he’d left on his kitchen table for her to find (it was a muggle mood ring, which she’d probably seen or heard of before but he thought she’d enjoy anyway, an Auror’s autobiography, and chocolate for when she had to go to Azkaban to investigate Greyback’s death) and to say she had to talk to him, so could he please arrange a time to meet her? He could have, easily – Matt was able to handle the pack just as easily as he was – but he was too embarrassed to go.
Too embarrassed to respond, even. Sirius would have given him a talking to, no doubt, but Sirius wasn’t here. He and Harry were stuck in a cell in the Ministry, while Remus ran around, cleaning up after Greyback. The letters had become even more agitated as the days went on.
Today, exactly a week after he’d arrived at the camp, he’d received another letter.
“Who’s that from?” Matt asked, glancing up from his breakfast.
“I’m not sure,” Remus replied, tucking the bulky envelope into his pocket for later; Greentooth and her pack had looked up when Strix flew in, and Debbie, who was sitting with Richard and Nancy, was glaring at them. He offered Strix a piece of toast but Strix just bit his knuckle and flew off again. Remus frowned. “I’d better make sure it’s not urgent.” He doubted it would be, but the envelope was heavier today.
He retreated into his room and closed the curtain he’d conjured upon his arrival. He would have preferred a door, but wasn’t quite bold enough – he could still imagine Greyback’s foul, wheezing voice asking what he had to hide from his ‘family’ – to have anything more than a curtain. Baby steps.
He sat down on the bed and tore the envelope open. Several sheets of paper fell out, but Remus picked up the letter first.
I know you’re getting these, because you were able to get post over Christmas. I also know you aren’t dead, or Strix would be bringing these back unopened, so I don’t know what’s keeping you from replying.
Mad-Eye and I haven’t made any progress on the case. Smoky’s as elusive as ever, but we’ve nearly finished with all of the paperwork and will be going back to Azkaban for another look at his cell sometime in the next few days.
Other things are happening here – things I’d hoped to talk to you about in person, but since you’re ignoring me, I guess I’m just going to have to put it in writing.
Sirius has got his trial. It’s four days from now. Harry’s with the Malfoys, but he’s got McKinnon guarding him. The articles should give you more detail, but if you want to know anything else, just write back.
I hope you’re all right, but I’m also furious with you.
Remus stared at her neat, round print and blinked a few times, trying to make sense of it all.
Sirius is going to get his trial. Remus couldn’t believe it, or wipe the grin off his face. He reached for the articles with shaking hands.
GOING BLACK TO AZKABAN?, THE NEWEST MALFOY? and TRIAL OF THE CENTURY ! He read them all quickly. The first was mostly propaganda about Sirius and whether it was smart to give a mass-murdering, child abducting, law breaking monster a trial. The second was solely dedicated to Harry’s whereabouts and the third was actually a fair summary of what had happened all those years ago, and Sirius’ alleged part in it. Peter got a mention, and so, Remus was surprised to find, did he; apparently, he’d been unavailable for comment. It also implied the Auror Department was corrupt and told him to turn to page six for details, but Dora hadn’t included that article.
Remus stared at the rather unflattering photograph of Sirius in Azkaban, snarling at the camera, and at the photograph of Harry, looking very young as he was escorted out of the Ministry by Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy. Remus didn’t care much about photographs, though. Sirius was going to get his trial! He’d get his chance to speak, and he’d be proven innocent and he’d be free. Sirius and Harry would be able to go home – Merlin knew they both needed it – and Remus could stop pretending to hate them both.
“Bloody hell,” he muttered, laughing. Then several other things sank in – like where he was, and what he was doing - and he flopped flopping back onto the mattress, with his hands on his face. Greyback had made things difficult while he was alive, and Remus was darkly amused by the fact that he’d even managed to inconvenience Remus with his death. “Damn you, you-”
“Lupin?” The curtain was pulled aside to reveal Debbie. Remus was rather surprised to see her; she hadn’t made any effort to speak with him or Matt since they’d arrived and she’d spent the whole time glaring at them. She was still glaring now.
“Debbie,” he said, sitting up. He scooped everything up and stuffed it back into the envelope, which went into his pocket again. “How are you?”
“You did it, didn’t you?” she said quietly. Her eyes were red-rimmed, which Remus didn’t understand – she’d hated Greyback as much as he had, or so he’d thought – and her voice was hoarse.
“You killed him,” she said, coming a step closer. Remus’ mouth fell open.
“No! No, of course-”
“You hated him!” she snarled. “I know you did- everyone knows.”
“If I’d wanted him dead, I’d have done it a long time ago,” Remus said tiredly. “I’m not going to pretend that I’m sad that he’s gone-”
“I never claimed to like him,” Remus said, rolling his eyes. “But I didn’t kill him.”
“Nancy says you did-”
“Oh,” Remus said irritably, “well if Nancy says so, then it must be true.”
“You’re not denying it,” she said.
“I already did!”
“I was friends with you long enough to know that you don’t have anyone else,” she said coldly. “You’re so lonely, and you just want everyone else to be lonely too, don’t you? You can’t stand that you never fit in here, so you thought you’d take away their father, didn’t you? Did you want to be our father, Lupin? Did you want to be the alpha?”
Remus stared at her for a long moment. He knew there wasn’t much he could say; if she was thinking clearly, she’d have smelled that he was telling the truth. Debbie was gone, for him at least. She was part of the pack now.
“I managed to escape you,” she continued, eyes bright, “and it looks like Matt’s not enough anymore. You want power – you had to be the leader of our little search team, didn’t you-”
“Obviously power was so important,” Remus said, rolling his eyes, “because I gave it up to be treated like rubbish for two months here.” She faltered for a moment, as if unable to realise why he was making sense.
“A ploy,” she said finally. “I was getting suspicious and you didn’t like that, so you made yourself look weak.”
“I really should congratulate Nancy and Richard,” he said quietly. “They’ve done so well with your training – you don’t even recognise sense when it’s right in front of you.”
“They have done well – they managed to overthrow every single-”
“Shred of logic?” Remus suggested.
“Ounce of reason?”
“Every single traitorous lesson you tried to force on me! You say Father was terrible for Gifting us, but you’re worse! You’re too afraid to bite people, but you’re just as happy as he is to take a new slate and to try to shape them into your little weapons. And then you include us in your little pack – make us feel wanted – and then we get here, and realise you’ve made us outcasts, even amongst our own kind! And I think you love that, I think you love the fact that you can give us all the answers, and pretend to protect us, and-”
“Shut up, Deb,” Matt said, yanking the curtain back. Debbie flinched. Matt’s voice was level and just as playful as usual, but his eyes were hard. “I don’t know what you mean by ‘us’, because I certainly don’t agree with any of the rubbish you were just spitting out, and unless you and Remus had a secret pack that I wasn’t a part of, I’m the only other person that it could be.” Debbie’s mouth opened and closed. “Get out,” Matt said, almost kindly.
“No,” she said shakily.
“I’m holding a pack meeting and since you’ve made it abundantly clear you don’t want anything to do with either of us, you’re not welcome to listen in,” Remus said sarcastically.
“Matthew,” Debbie said quietly, playing with her honey-coloured hair, “it’s not too late- you can still choose-”
“I chose ages ago,” Matt said, his tone getting very dark, very quickly. “If you want to believe that your ‘gifting’ was a gift to you, go for it.”
“Delude away,” Remus added sadly. Debbie’s face hardened, and Matt smirked.
“Because from what I’ve seen – and I’ve had this for a lot longer than you have,” Matt said, “Greyback calls it ‘gifting’ because he’s giving himself a present every time he hurts someone.”
“He does- did it for us- everything’s for us,” she insisted.
Matt snorted and said, “My ‘Gifting’ was a gift to someone else. I was bitten to punish my parents for loving each other. If you can possibly see how that was for me, I’d love to hear about it.” Debbie was silent. “That’s what I thought,” Matt said amicably. “Now, run along. We’ve got pack things to discuss.” The second she was gone, Matt cast a Sticking Charm on the curtain and also put up a Silencing Charm. “Honestly, you’d think crazy was contagious! Who’s the letter from?” Remus dug it out of his pocket and passed it over. Matt scanned it and his eyes widened.
“Wow,” he said finally.
“Pretty much,” Remus replied, massaging his temples.
“So- you’re leaving then?”
“I- I have to be there for Sirius’ trial-”
“You’re not going to testify, are you?” Matt asked, gaping at him.
“I don’t know,” Remus sighed. “I want to-”
“It’d be stupid,” Matt warned. “It might do him some good, but it’s just as likely to end with you in a cell next to his.”
“I know.” Remus rubbed his eyes. “I’ve still got to go, though, even if I’m not going to say anything, I can’t miss it. I have to be there- I have to know-”
“We’ll go home tomorrow,” Matt said, with a sad smile, passing the letter back. “We’ve done what we came for anyway.”
“You think I’m going to let you go home and mope?” Matt asked, looking at Remus as if he was mad.
“I don’t need a babysitter,” Remus grumbled. He tucked the letter back into its envelope and put it with the others in his pocket.
“No, but you need a friend right now, since your other one’s in prison,” Matt said flatly. Remus flinched, and Matt must have smelled the resignation because he grinned. “Glad that’s settled.” Remus grunted, not sure if he was grateful or exasperated. “So, who’s your lady-friend?”
“Excuse me?” Remus asked faintly, at to his complete horror, he felt his cheeks redden.
“This Tonks person. Do I know her? Because the letter smells- are you blushin-”
“You know her as Tock,” Remus said, hoping to distract Matt with a new piece of information. As he’d hoped, Matt forgot about the colour of Remus’ face at once, in favour of gaping. In for a knut, in for a galleon, Remus thought. “And also as the Auror who saved you from Greyback. And she’s not my lady-friend.”
“Theodora Tock?” Matt asked. “She’s an Aur- what?” Remus sighed and moved over so that Matt could sit down. Matt did – rather heavily – and Remus ran a hand through his hair. Remus could have lied, but he was sick of lying. And Matt knew about Sirius, which was the biggest secret anyway.
“It all starts with Sirius,” he said, crossing his legs, and began with that first morning where Mad-Eye and Dora had broken into his cottage and ended with the morning after the last full moon, where he’d found out about Greyback, though he left out the part about crying on Dora. It was good to have someone finally know everything – even Sirius didn’t, because he’d been locked up for nearly a month and quite a lot had happened since then. Matt was silent for almost a minute afterward.
“Huh,” he said finally. “Well, it certainly explains a lot.” Remus gave him a slightly sheepish smile. “So what’d you do?”
“Why’s she furious?” Matt asked, smirking. Remus rolled his eyes, not liking Matt’s tone or expression much at all.
“I’m sure it’s not what you think.”
“I think,” Matt said innocently, “that it sounds an awful lot like you’re ignoring her.”
“There might be a bit of that,” Remus admitted, and felt his face colour. “It’s complicated.”
“Is it?” Matt asked, probably well aware that the fact that Remus felt rather guilty and embarrassed had more to do with it than the complexity. Remus decided to pretend otherwise. “Do you want to talk about it? Talking helps.”
“Not really,” Remus said, grimacing. He knew he’d made a mess of a very good friendship without having someone else point it out further. Matt didn’t look surprised. He looked amused and altogether too calm, and it was putting Remus on edge. “What?” Remus asked warily.
“Nothing,” Matt said, hopping off the bed.
“Remus,” Matt retorted. Then he chuckled, patted Remus on the shoulder and – after removing the charms on the curtains – left.
“Bloody hell,” Remus muttered for the second time that day.
* * *
Two days had passed since the Kelpie incident and McKinnon – apparently under the impression that if she left Harry alone for even a minute he’d get himself into some sort of trouble – was rarely further than a few steps from him at all times. It was quite an adjustment to make; Harry’d gone from having only Dobby for the first few days, to having constant human company
It had started off – unsurprisingly, since Harry’d heard Mr Malfoy shouting at her from outside the Manor – with an apology for leaving him unsupervised. Harry brushed it off; no one had been hurt – even Bosworth had only been a little bit terrorised – and Dobby’d needed her more than Harry had. Besides, she might have hurt the Kelpie who’d proven itself a reasonable creature.
McKinnon hadn’t talked to him for the rest of that day – apparently her eight word apology had exhausted her speaking quota for the day – but the next afternoon they’d talked about Dobby, which was a nice, safe topic, and McKinnon had told him a little bit more about house elves. It was nothing new to Harry, but he appreciated the effort.
Draco’d avoided Harry for that first day after the incident – admittedly, he was out for most of it - but on the second day, he was back with a vengeance, apparently having decided he was drawing attention to himself and Harry by ignoring him. They’d gone flying, played chess – Harry had lost both games and Draco’d been smug since – and then Harry’d managed to talk him into a few games of Exploding Snap, which Draco’d seemed to enjoy more than Harry had expected him too.
Hydrus, predictably, had sulked in a corner with Bosworth and talked to the rat loudly about how dirty and barbaric it was. Draco’d sent his brother running to Mr Malfoy complaining about Draco insulting him, and then Draco’d promptly insulted Harry for his game choice, thanked him for playing, and gone to shower, leaving a confused and slightly offended Harry behind. True to his word, though, Draco hadn’t mentioned the Kelpie once.
On the third day since the Kelpie incident, Harry woke early – he’d had a dream about Voldemort and not been able to get back to sleep – and crept downstairs to the kitchen. Dobby was awake – apparently the night before had been his gardening night and the elf hadn’t slept – and preparing breakfast, and had been so distracted that he’d given Harry what he’d asked for without questioning it, and sent him on his way.
Harry made his way outside into the cool morning – it was May and starting to warm up, but the mornings were still cold – and sat down at the edge of the pond. He was probably getting mud on his silk pyjamas, but in two more days, they wouldn’t be his anymore, and nor could he imagine the Malfoys keeping them for any reason - so he didn’t think it mattered.
He set the plate down on the ground beside him, and then reached out to splash the water. He wasn’t entirely sure why he was doing this, but he put it down to curiosity. That and Moony had a fascination with magical creatures, and Harry was sure he’d want stories. A few minutes later, a large, dark head appeared and Harry’s mouth fell open.
“Padfoot?” he asked incredulously, but as soon as the words escaped him, he realised it wasn’t. It was a very large, shaggy looking dog, but each clump of dark fur was actually a bulrush. And the eyes were the same gleaming blue as the snake’s not Padfoot’s warm grey. “Er... hi,” Harry said uncertainly. The dog just stared at him, and then suddenly grew so that it was a horse, with bulrushes for its mane and tail. It stepped, dripping, out of the water and Harry tentatively reached for his wand, thinking that perhaps this had been a mistake.
It snorted at him and then waited expectantly but Harry, for some reason, had no clue what that was supposed to mean. It snorted again, sounding frustrated.
“Sorry, what?” Harry asked, inching back. There was a pop and the horse vanished and Harry jumped, startled, as something blue landed with a thump. It was the snake.
“How’ss thiss?” it said, slithering forward.
“I can understand you, if that’s what you mean,” Harry said, releasing his wand.
“Interessting.” Harry didn’t think the word was directed at him, so he didn’t say anything. It cocked its head. “Can I help you, little sspeaker?”
“I brought you something,” Harry said, offering it the plate of chicken. “I sort of ruined your last meal, so I thought-”
“Sstrange,” the snake remarked, coming forward again. It coiled around the plate and its tongue flicked out to taste the air. “And unecessssary. But thankss, I ssupposse.”
“You’re welcome,” Harry said, awkwardly. “Thanks again for not eating Bosworth.”
“The rat?” The tongue flicked out again. “It ssmelled funny. Probably wouldn’t have tassted very nice anyway.” Harry fought a smile and lost, under the distinct impression it was lying. “Bessidess, I like my home. And now you should run along, little sspeaker. Interessting as you are, I have other thingss to do thiss morning.”
“Er... sure,” Harry said.
The snake didn’t appear to hear him; it turned into a large, dark blue lion with a mane of bulrushes and snapped up the chicken in one mouthful. It growled at him and shrank until it was a bright blue mouse with a bulrush tail and stepped into the water. Then it was a snake again – and Harry got the impression it was showing off with its shape-shifting – and it slithered along the surface for a bit before going under where Harry couldn’t see it anymore.
He washed his muddy hands in the water and wiped them on his pyjama trousers. Then he picked up the plate and headed back inside. Dobby was still preparing breakfast, and was apparently too tired to notice Harry return to the kitchen, wash the plate and put it away. Harry left without saying anything, and bumped into a frantic McKinnon. She calmed as soon as she realised it was him she’d knocked into.
“You’re up early,” she said, watching his face. Harry tried not to look guilty.
“Couldn’t sleep,” he said.
“Why not?” she asked, after a pause, startling him; Harry hadn’t expected her to say anything. She smiled wryly at the look on his face.
“Dreams,” Harry said, when it became apparent that she genuinely wanted an answer. Her smile slipped.
“No, the good kind,” Harry said, sarcastically, but there was no real bite in his voice. Then he realised that, while he could get away with a comment like that to any of the Malfoys, or to Padfoot or Moony, it was breaking the awkward, silent neutrality he and McKinnon had had. She looked shocked. “Sorry, that was rud-” But before he could finish, an amused snort had escaped her. Harry stared, and decided then and there that Draco wasn’t the only one in this house he didn’t understand.
“Don’t apologise,” she said after a moment. “You’ve got every right to be as rude to me as you want.” Harry kept staring. “We’re not exactly friends, are we?” She was right – she’d tried to arrest Padfoot last September – but she’d also been the one that found Padfoot after their visit to the cave and she’d kept him alive, and she’d been quiet but civil while she was on guard duty down in the cells.
“We’re not enemies,” Harry said finally, and headed down the hallway toward the foyer.
“Not- He didn’t tell you?” she said quietly.
“Tell me what?” Harry asked, stopping. McKinnon’s face was pale, and she shook her head. Harry knew she wasn’t going to answer, but at least she hadn’t said it was nothing, or pretended not to know what he was talking about.
“You don’t hate me?” she whispered.
“No,” Harry said warily. “Should I?”
“Probably. I thought-” McKinnon hugged herself, apparently unable to say what she’d thought. She laughed once, without humour this time. “I will never understand him.” Then, looking both guilty and hopeful, McKinnon asked, “So you don’t mind if I talk to you?”
“Er... no?” Harry said, but it was almost a question. McKinnon’s face lit up.
“I don’t know where to start,” she admitted. “I have so much I’ve wanted to ask- so much I’ve wanted to say.” She was quiet for a bit – Harry continued through the house to the foyer, up the stairs, and into the library, where he found the book he’d been reading last night and sat down in one of the dark green armchairs. McKinnon sat down across from him, looking curious.
“What was your dream about?” she asked, and Harry groaned. She watched him expectantly.
“If you’re not going to tell me why I should hate you, I’m not telling you that,” he said stiffly.
She eyed him for a moment, and then, surprisingly, nodded and said, “Fair enough. Why- why did- why me? Why was I asked to guard you?”
“P- Sirius trusts you?” Harry suggested, shrugging.
“No,” McKinnon said, quietly, but with conviction. Harry gave her an odd look.
“He must,” Harry said slowly. “Otherwise he wouldn’t have picked you. He takes my safety... er... seriously.” He grimaced at the unintentional pun.
“But he can’t- he’s not allowed to trust me,” she said, looking angry and miserable. Harry was alarmed to see tears building up in her eyes and hoped she wouldn’t actually cry, because he didn’t know her well enough to offer any sort of comfort.
“He wanted Mad-Eye – his old mentor?” Harry said, and then cursed himself; of course she knew who Mad-Eye was. “-but Dora and Scrimgeour said no, so Padfoot asked for you.”
“I don’t understand,” she whispered, looking sad. She sniffed once. “Don’t- just stay here and safe, all right?” McKinnon said thickly, getting to her feet. She hurried out of the library and Harry distinctly heard her sob. Harry decided then and there that he much preferred the company of girls like Keira and Ginny who didn’t cry. Then he shook his head, and went back to reading his book, on spell creation; it was identical to the one he was supposed to have started reading at home – and Merlin that seemed like forever ago.
Harry flicked through to his page with a sigh, hoping for the thousandth time that week that Padfoot was okay.
* * *
“Everything’s going about as well as you’d expect,” Marlene said. She was sitting cross legged on her bed, cradling her Sidekick in her hands, talking to Gawain. “There haven’t been any incidents since-”
“The Kelpie?” Gawain asked dryly. Marlene flushed, well able to imagine the look on his face, even if she couldn’t see it.
“No. Harry’s not really friendly with either of the boys, but he and Draco tolerate each other and Hydrus is too much like his father to try anything when he might be caught.” McKinnon’s lip curled, though she as thankful the boys weren’t fighting; she didn’t want Harry hurt, but alternatively, who knew what Sirius had taught Harry? Sons of Death Eaters or not, the Malfoy boys didn’t even have wands yet.
“And what of Lucius?” Gawain asked.
“Still the same. Sickeningly friendly, asks a lot of questions for all the good it does him.”
“Have you learned anything that could help us at the trial?”
“Only that Sirius has obviously been teaching Harry things. I told you about the Finite on Dobby, but tonight he lit a fire in the library-”
“He what?!” Gawain shouted. “Was anyone hurt-”
“In the grate,” Marlene said, rolling her eyes. “He said he was cold, but he should have called Dobby, or asked me, not done it himself...”
“Find out what he knows,” Gawain said after a pause.
“How?” She and Harry had talked about Hogwarts and Quidditch a bit that afternoon, but if his deft avoidance of Lucius’ questions was any indication, then asking would be a waste of time.
“I don’t know,” Gawain said tersely. “Invite him to duel you, or offer to teach him something. You know Black, and so you know Potter. Use that. Appeal to his competitive nature, or his inquisitive side, or something else.”
“I’ll try,” Marlene said, a little doubtfully; Harry had his similarities to Sirius, of course, but there were just as many differences.
“Good girl.” Marlene yawned so widely that her jaw cracked, and while she was tired, she expected she’d sleep just as poorly tonight as every other night; Harry wasn’t the only one with bad dreams. Marlene’s usually featured Sirius; either he was innocent, which terrified Marlene, because then she’d tried to kill an innocent man and was no better than she’d ever thought he was – Sirius usually ignored her in those - or the Sirius that featured was guilty, a murderous lunatic that killed innocents and told Marlene it was her fault for not killing him properly when she’d had the chance.
Of course, she could only dream if she actually got to sleep, and often, Marlene couldn’t because she was so busy fretting over the Auror trainings she’d missed and what would happen if Sirius wasn’t convicted in his trial; could she live with herself if she let the traitor go free? Or would she have to try to kill him again, and throw away the second chance Gawain had given her? She didn’t know, and didn’t think she would know until the Wizengamot reached a decision.
And, even if Marlene hadn’t been struggling to sort through her opinions of Sirius, there was also the fact that she was trying to sleep in the house of the man who’d tried to kill her. She didn’t really think Lucius would try anything, but it still worried her; she’d very nearly hexed him when he came to wake her on the second morning – she thought he’d come himself, just to scare her.
“-almost there,” Gawain said, and Marlene’s attention snapped back to her Sidekick. “Just two days to go, and everything will be done.”
“I know,” she said.
“I’ve got to go – I’m taking a lecture in the morning.”
“Early?” Marlene asked.
“Early ceased to exist years ago,” he told her. “But I suspect you’d find it early, yes. Your friend Prewett will probably miss it.” Marlene laughed. There was a pause on Gawain’s end, as if he couldn’t believe she’d laughed – people seemed shocked to hear laughter from her these days – and then he cleared his throat. “Keep up to date with your reading, and we’ll arrange for you to catch up the past week and a bit when you’re done guarding Potter.”
“Goodnight,” she said.
“G’night, McKinnon.” Marlene snapped her Sidekick closed and tossed it down onto the covers. Then she reached for her homework, which was piled on the bedside table and started to sort through it.
She had a list of things that Gawain had owled her and told her to learn, and she also had a dictated list from the other trainees, about what they’d actually learned; she’d talked to them last night. Tonks had called her through the Sidekick and Wellington, Prewett and the now ever-present Yaxley had obviously been with her when she did so, because they’d all called greetings or jokes in the background; Prewett had apparently fallen asleep at home and missed the first half of their evening session.
Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of housing the accused in Ministry holding cells and not in Azkaban, pre-trial.
Marlene dipped her quill in ink and pulled her sheet of half finished answers toward her. Gawain had said they weren’t supposed to cover the legal side of things until October, but they’d swapped that part of the curriculum with healing spells because of everything that was going on with Sirius. Marlene thought it was quite a good idea; Sirius wasn’t good for much other than being a traitorous mass-murdering, lying lunatic, but at least he was able to – inadvertently – help train a new set of Aurors. She thought that would annoy him.
Briefly outline legal and illegal methods of questioning during a trial.
Marlene had to consult one of her books for that, and spent the next hour making a concerted effort to get as much work out of the way as possible. Finally, she couldn’t take anymore, and she snapped Wizarding Law shut and piled all of her work on the bedside table again.
Wizarding Law was dull enough that she thought she might actually get to sleep if she just lay down and closed her eyes, but she forced herself to stand up and leave the room. A sleepy glance at her Sidekick told her it was just past twelve. She stumbled down the plushly carpeted hallway past the Malfoy boys’ bedrooms and gently twisted the doorknob to Harry’s room.
He was curled up on the window sill, fast asleep, his breath fogging the glass. His wand lay on the floor, still lit, and his glasses were hanging from one ear. Marlene stepped into the room and picked up his wand, which quivered, apparently not liking that she wasn’t its true master.
“Nox,” she said quietly, and put it on the bedside table. Then she returned to Harry, picked him up gently and carried him over to the enormous bed.
“Padfoot?” he asked blearily, as she set him down and tucked him in. His eyes didn’t open, but he was smiling and he’d lifted an arm, as if to make room for a cat or a soft toy to be tucked under. Marlene looked around but couldn’t see anything – whatever it was was probably back where he and Sirius had been living. After a moment, Harry frowned and let his elbow fall back to the bed, and though he wasn’t really awake, Marlene got the impression he was disappointed.
Not in her, obviously – he probably didn’t even know she was there – but it seemed that way. She’d tried to kill Sirius, who Harry -Merlin knew why - seemed to adore. She’d expected Harry to hate her, or fear her, or at least be wary of her. She didn’t have any choice but to follow him around, but she’d tried to be as distant as possible, and give him an escape from her that way. And maybe she was a bit afraid that he’d reject her himself, and she didn’t think she could take that, even though she probably deserved it from his viewpoint.
Except Sirius hadn’t said a word. Harry didn’t know. She almost wished he did; now she could either keep avoiding him – which probably made Harry think she was an awfully cold, heartless cow – or she could talk to him, befriend him, and feel awful on the inside, because no matter how much Sirius deserved to die, Harry would see it as a betrayal when he found out. And, as much as she wanted to get to know Lily and James’ son, she didn’t think that she could set him up to get hurt. Not deliberately. That was Sirius’ job. Marlene was a worse person that Gawain liked to think, but she was better than Sirius.
Why was it, that every time she tried to do the right thing, things seemed to backfire on her? First Sirius survived, then Harry didn’t hate her and therefore didn’t know why she – who he’d probably seen as an ally in this snake pit until she actually arrived – was being so distant.
Maybe because it’s not the right thing, suggested a voice that sounded a lot like her own from before the war, before Sirius changed sides, before everything. Marlene ignored it. She’d been young then, and stupid. If her present self didn’t know what was right and what wasn’t, then her younger self certainly wouldn’t.
“Goodnight, Harry,” she said quietly, and suspected it would be him and how to treat him she thought about tonight while she was trying to sleep.
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