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Innocent by MarauderLover7
Chapter 63 : An Offer Of Assistance
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 7


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“So what exactly are you hoping to accomplish here?” Florence asked, lifting her chin. She’d been sitting down for almost an hour - her legs were beginning to cramp – and she had nothing to show for her time; she hadn’t been arrested, and she hadn’t been freed. All that had happened was that she’d had her morality questioned, been told off, and the three of them had grown steadily more frustrated. Tonks looked at Moody like she too wanted answers. Moody glowered at her, but it was a softer look than the one that had previously been directed at Florence.

“What you did was wrong-”

“No,” she snapped, “it wasn’t! I picked a side-”

“There are no sides-”

“Obviously there are; if you and that monster that called me ‘Daughter’ were on the same side, he wouldn’t have been arrested! It’s your job not to be on his side!”

And not to be on mine, she added silently, pleased that Tonks hadn’t spoken up to defend her, or challenged Moody on her behalf. She’d worried Tonks might not take her as a serious threat because of how friendly Tonks was with that other wolf, the one who’d been in the papers with Black.

“We can’t just let you go,” Moody said, his blue eye rolling toward her. His dark one stayed fixed on Tonks, whose shoulders had slumped. Florence felt sorry for the poor girl; with Melvin and McKinnon gone, and her own future starting its inevitable downwards spiral, Tonks would only have Ben and Salacia. An Auror wasn’t an easy occupation to choose, but Florence rather thought their group had had a harder first year than most.

“So it’s off to Azkaban with me, then?” Florence asked, frowning.

Moody was quiet for a long time, and Tonks’ breathing almost stopped. Florence could hear her heart racing, and gave her a small, sad smile. Tonks’ face crumpled, and she dropped her eyes. Moody sighed and looked between the two of them.

“It should be. That would be the fair thing to do. Murder’s murder.” Florence bit her tongue to keep from arguing. She’d made her arguments before – convincing ones, or at least she’d thought so – and didn’t see the sense in repeating them.

“Shall I pack a bag then?” Florence asked. She could smell his reluctance – whether it was because he knew arresting her wasn’t fair, or if it was purely because of Tonks, she didn’t know – but she wasn’t above playing to that. Moody seemed like the type of man that needed a push in one direction to make him choose the other. “And hand in my letter of resignation?” She watched him carefully, fairly sure that this approach was risk-free. Moody watched back, his expression unhappy.

“You should,” he said finally, and Florence’s heart skipped a beat. Her arguments had been far too well reasoned for this to be the outcome, and while she’d thought about what would happen if she was caught, she’d never believed that she’d actually be sent to Azkaban. Tonks had squeezed her eyes closed, and her hands were clamped so tightly around each other that they were white-knuckled and shaking slightly.

“Will you enforce that?” Florence asked quietly. Moody barely paused before he answered.

“No,” he said, and Florence couldn’t help but feel a little smug. She thought, perhaps, that he was hoping her conscience would force her to hand herself in.

Good luck with that, she thought sadly. She felt obliged to put herself in a position that best enabled her to serve the wizarding world but beyond that, she had no conscience. What little of it that had remained after Greyback first attacked her had died with him, though that was probably for the best. If she didn’t have a conscience, it couldn’t be corrupted. All she had to do was stick to the decisions she’d made when she did have one, and she’d be fine.

For a while, anyway. She didn’t feel like a monster – except on full moons – but she’d grown up hearing stories, and she’d read enough accounts in books to know that she’d turn one day, and hurt someone.

She didn’t have a choice in the matter. All werewolves were like Greyback – that’s what everyone said – and just because she wasn’t now, didn’t mean that she wouldn’t be tomorrow, or next week, or next month. All the books said she was a monster, and that many authors couldn’t be wrong. If they were, then why were people so prejudiced, so afraid? It was only a matter of time, and she’d already had two years.

She knew she didn’t have long left, but she was going to make her time count, and to do that, she needed her job. She needed to save good people, and lock the bad ones away, and with any luck, she’d be killed capturing a criminal. That way her colleagues wouldn’t have to deal with her when she went bad. Her eyes found Tonks, who was staring fixedly at the floor. Florence wondered if she might be better off in Azkaban.

Probably. But she wasn’t ready yet. Getting rid of Greyback was a good contribution, but there were still others out there. Others that had chosen to be monsters, rather than forced into it. And she wanted them behind bars, or dead so that by the time she joined them, she was the worst thing out there. She swallowed and looked up at Moody.

“So I can go?”

“You can go... until the end of August,” Moody said.

Three weeks. Florence’s jaw set, but she inclined her head and said nothing.

“You can sit your exams, and you can finish the year so you don’t draw attention to yourself. After that, compulsory lessons finish. You’ll still have to deal with Finch, but one Auror’s better than the Department. Turn yourself in, run for it... How you handle it is up to you, but if you come back on the first of September, I will have you arrested. Am I clear?”

“Perfectly,” Florence said. She knew her chances of getting her wand back were non-existent, so she didn’t bother asking for it. She stood and headed for the door, already searching for potential loopholes. Obliviation...? she wondered, twisting her mouth. She reached for the handle as Tonks flicked her wand to cancel whatever charms she’d put up, and Florence nodded her thanks and pulled the door open.

Dawlish and a squat woman in pink who’d been involved in the Black trial glanced in her direction as they walked past. Florence didn’t like the smell of either of them – conniving and hungry in Dawlish’s case, and sickly sweet like poison in the woman’s - and decided to walk the other way, but Moody cleared his throat loudly before she’d taken more than a few steps.

“Wait a moment,” he said from the doorway, looking thoughtful. She turned, arching an eyebrow, but Moody was silent for a while, as if weighing his options. Then he glanced over his shoulder. “Nymphadora, will you be our Bonder?” Florence stiffened, and caught Moody’s scent of grim satisfaction. “All you’re going to promise is not to hurt anyone,” he said, “or to erase our memories.” Florence pursed her lips. “I don’t think you’re the type, but-”

“-but I killed Greyback and can’t be trusted,” she said lightly. Moody glanced around, as if she was mad for speaking about it so casually, and Florence cursed herself. The corridor was empty – aside from Dawlish and his companion – but they’d vanished around the corner... they’d fallen silent, however. Florence frowned, and made a few mental estimations. Tentatively, she decided they hadn’t been close enough to have heard. Or so she hoped; she was a bit uncertain about normal human hearing after two years with wolf ears. She eyed the corner, but neither reappeared.

“Do I have to?” she asked Moody.

“Constant vigilance.” Tonks’ voice drifted out of the office and was steadier than Florence had expected.

“Indeed,” Florence murmured. She stepped back into the office and offered Moody her small hand.

*                      *                      *

“...have this back,” Auror Moody said gruffly. “Thank you for your participation, Prewett.” There was a pause, and Dolores strained her ears, even though magic was doing the eavesdropping for her. And sweet Salazar, she’d heard things she could make use of. “Sorry it’s come to this.”

“So am I,” the trainee – Prewett – said, though she didn’t sound sorry, just tired. “See you tonight.” Dolores glanced around the corner and saw the girl who’d admitted to killing Greyback exit Moody’s office. The girl set off toward the Misuse of Muggle Artefacts Office rather slowly, as if her mind was elsewhere. Dolores walked after her.

Prewett turned around almost as soon as she started to move, and her eyes narrowed. She brushed her hair out of her face as spun again, her hand jumping to her pocket. She walked away briskly, but she was shorter than Dolores and not at all difficult to keep pace with.

“Hem hem,” Dolores said, and Prewett’s shoulders stiffened. She jerked around.

“Are you lost, Madam?”

“No, I’m exactly where I need to be, thank you,” Dolores said, smiling. Prewett’s eyes flicked over the bow in her hair – Dolores adjusted it absently - and folded her arms. “Have you got a moment, dear?”

“What for?”

“My, the Aurors are raising their recruits to be suspicious these days!” Dolores said with a laugh that she hoped reassured the girl. “I won’t bite, dear, I just want to talk. My office is free.”

“Who are you?” Prewett asked, not looking impressed. Dolores’ smile withered; usually, people knew who she was.

“I am Dolores Umbridge, from the Department of Management and Control of Magical Children and Junior Undersecretary to the Minister.” Dolores patted Prewett’s arm and gestured toward the lift. “This way, dear.”

Dolores suspected Prewett would have refused if she’d been able to find a way to do so politely; she glanced at Moody’s office and then sighed and shuffled after Dolores, who was itching to tell the girl to pick up her feet when she walked. She refrained.

Shortly after, they’d settled in Dolores’ office and Dolores had set up several privacy wards, because no one could know about their meeting. Prewett eyed the kittens on the walls and curled her lip.

“I would have picked you as a cat person,” Dolores said, arching an eyebrow. She tapped her teapot to get the water inside to boil. “Tea?” Prewett shook her head, and Dolores barely managed not to roll her eyes; she’d expect someone with a name as prestigious as Prewett to display basic manners. She reached for the sugar pot. “So you don’t like cats?”

“I don’t hate them,” Prewett offered. She frowned. “Did you really bring me here to talk about cats?”

“Dogs, actually. One in particular.” Prewett pursed her lips. “Greyback. He’s an acquaintance of yours, I believe?”

“In a sense.”

“You killed him,” Dolores whispered, adding her fourth spoonful of sugar. The office was quiet, except for the sound of the teaspoon on the side of the teacup. Prewett seemed to be struggling for words. “I heard you confess to Moody, and I heard the Vow you made.” Prewett pinched her nose and made a soft, annoyed sound. “And I’d like to help you.” Prewett blinked and glanced up through her fringe.

“Help?” she asked, sounding confused and hopeful. Dolores smiled at her and patted her hand.

“Yes, dear. Help.” Dolores leaned back and took a sip of tea. “I can make your problems go away.”

“How?” Prewett asked, frowning.

“I have very good connections. The Minister would be moved by your plight, I’m sure.” And Cornelius had managed to follow her advice – as well as Mr Malfoy’s – these past few months, to resecure his position. It had been a delicate situation, but he’d come out well at the end of it. He had power again, though perhaps not quite as much as when he was first elected.

“Moved by my plight?” Prewett asked.

“You’ve done the wizarding world a service, by destroying that awful beast,” Dolores said kindly. “The Aurors aren’t allowed to think so, of course, but we in other Departments aren’t so blinded. You should be rewarded, not punished.”

“I shouldn’t be punished,” Prewett said. “But I don’t deserve a reward either. It should just stay neutral.” Dolores took a moment to process that, and then smiled, satisfied; the girl had simple needs, and was self-sacrificing, as was typical for most Aurors. She’d be easy to work with. Dawlish seemed to be the selfish exception.

“But it’s not neutral, is it?” Prewett didn’t say anything. “And that’s why I’d like to help you.”

“You can keep me in the Program?”

“Tricky business, that, but yes, I think I can.” Very tricky, considering she’d be acting alone in this particular situation; that way, Prewett would be entirely in her debt, and far more malleable than if they shared a lust for power, the way she did with Mr Malfoy and Dawlish. Prewett would be her little puppet, feeding her inside information from the D.M.L.E., which was difficult to penetrate, and having her own personal informant would reduce her need to rely on Dawlish at all; frankly, Dawlish was infuriating, and now, it seemed, he was replaceable. And, it would force Mr Malfoy to rely on her, instead of her relying on him. Dolores felt her smile widen.

“How?”

“I’ll need access to Moody’s suspect list,” Dolores said. “Easy enough to get, I think.” There were spells, there was plain old sneaking, there was always sending someone - an Imperius on Moody’s trainee, or going in under Polyjuice – or even interrogating the trainee were all possibilities. “Then, I simply pay someone to confess everything. You can give them the details they’d need, we think of a suitable motive, and they do some time in Azkaban.” Prewett looked ill.

“It won’t be long,” Dolores assured her. “They’ll get a trial, and the Wizengamot is forgiving in special cases like this one. And when they’re freed, they’ll have a large sum of money waiting for them. Moody might still know the truth, but he won’t argue, not when the evidence is so conclusive.” Dolores smiled encouragingly.

“You won’t force anyone to take the fall for me, will you?”

“Of course not, dear. I’ll make the offer, and they’ll be free to accept it or turn it down. I’m very diplomatic.”

“I want to meet the person before they agree to anything. I- I know one of the suspects, and she can’t be allowed to do it.”

“Of course,” Dolores said, taking another sip of tea. Prewett was silent, apparently thinking things over.

“Why are you helping me?” she asked finally.

“I need help too,” Dolores admitted, putting her teacup down. Prewett arched an eyebrow. “I work for the Minister, and the Minister serves the Ministry... and the Ministry’s been rather... segregated since Black’s trial. We’re trying to achieve inter-Departmental unity, but your Department – the Auror Department – is resisting that. Scrimgeour seems to be running things on his own.”

“Scrimgeour’s a good Department Head.”

“I never said he wasn’t, dear, only that he’s becoming too independent. We’re starting to worry that he’s trying to break free of the Ministry all together-” Prewett frowned thoughtfully. “-and that his judgement is becoming obscured by his newly elevated status. We -  that is, the Minister and I – want to repair things before they become a serious problem.”

“That doesn’t have anything to do with me,” Prewett pointed out.

“Not directly,” Dolores said. “But you’ve got an inside perspective that neither the Minister or I could hope to achieve. You know the dynamics of the Department, dear, and you know who really runs things, and what their political opinions are.”

“I’m just a trainee.”

“You’re in a position that’s easy to overlook, which makes you all the more valuable,” Dolores corrected. “We could use your opinions on the way certain events play out, and your warnings if Scrimgeour does ever attempt to separate himself from the Ministry, or worse; if he ever chooses to try to overthrow us.”

“You want me to keep you updated on happenings in the Department,” Prewett said, “in return for arranging for me to stay in the Program.”

“I think it’s quite a reasonable-”

“So do I,” Prewett said. Dolores hid her smile in her tea.

*                       *                      *

Florence left Umbridge’s office feeling like she needed a shower. The woman absolutely reeked of flowery perfume, and sugar and nastiness.

Umbridge’s offer to keep Florence in the Program was all she had to work with at the moment, and, while it wasn’t fool-proof, it secured more loose ends than anything else she’d managed to think of yet, which wasn’t much.

As for what Umbridge wanted in return... well, Florence wasn’t happy about that side of things. She couldn’t believe the woman’s gall; what sort of meddling cow tried to blackmail someone into spying on the Auror Department?!

Oh, Florence would accept her conditions - she’d do whatever she had to to keep her job – but Umbridge wasn’t going to get anything useful from her, that was for sure.

*                     *                       *

“You came,” Robards said, looking stunned. Sirius shoved his hands into his pockets and leaned against the side of the cubicle.

“Eventually,” Sirius murmured. It was mid-July – almost two weeks since he’d received Robards’ letter asking for his help – and he’d finally decided to come in and have a meeting with the man. He’d decided that he wanted to help almost straight away, but then he’d forced himself to think about things – properly – before he committed himself to it. He’d realised that agreeing to help Marlene would probably mean spending a lot of time with her, and he’d realised that that would mean forgiving her.

He’d thought he’d be able to manage that; there were a lot of unresolved issues between them, caused by faults (or perceived faults) on both sides, so it wouldn’t be easy, but Sirius thought or hoped it would be possible. He’d tried to visit her at Number Thirteen several times, but she’d always been out. Two days ago, he’d broken in in a fit of immaturity, and been disturbed to find the house seemingly abandoned inside. While he’d already decided to help, that had been the event that prompted his visit to Robards.

“You came,” Robards said again, shaking his head. “That’s good enough for me.” Sirius nodded, a little taken aback by his sincerity.

“So what’s wrong with her?” he asked warily. Robards sighed and gestured for him to sit down. Sirius did, taking a very simple, very uncomfortable wooden chair, while Robards pulled a piece of parchment and a wand out of his desk drawer. “Your letter was pretty vague... And her house is empty.” Robards looked up sharply, and then shook his head slightly and passed Sirius a piece of worn parchment.

Gawain, it said.

I’m sure by now, Sirius is a free man, and well on his way to settling back into the wizarding world. With any luck, it will be an easy transition... no thanks to me.

I’m sure, if you had the chance to speak to me, you’d try to talk me out of this, but while I’ve listened to you in the past, I refuse to even hear your opinion on this matter. What I’ve done is unforgivable – literally – and I need to atone for that.

The box contains my house key, and my vault key. Sell my house, and everything in it – I’ve taken my most prized possessions with me – and add the earnings from that to my vault. Contact Sirius and tell him that he and Harry are entitled to as much money as they need. It cannot begin to compensate for what I’ve done, but it’s a start. Give the rest to St Mungo’s.

Do what you want with my wand. I won’t be needing it any more.

I’m sorry.

Marlene.

Sirius leaned back in his chair and rubbed his chin. He read the letter again, and then dragged a breath in between his teeth and shook his head.

What have you done, Marls? he wondered. I’ll agree that you’ve made a few mistakes, but what sort of atonement could you possibly be hoping to achieve that couldn’t be managed with an apology? It occurred to him that she was now as scared of him as he’d once been of her; scared of judgement, of not being forgiven, of being attacked in retaliation. Sirius felt sick.

“When?” he said, and was embarrassed to hear that he was croaking. He cleared his throat, but Gawain didn’t seem to have judged him from it. “When was this written?”

“May,” Robards said, folding his hands, and setting them on his desk.

“May?” Sirius repeated, weakly. “So- so it’s been – what – two months? She just picked up and vanished two months ago – without her wand – and no one’s seen or heard from her since?!”

“Black, sit down,” Robards sighed. Sirius looked down and saw that he was indeed standing, and that the letter was crumpled in his fist. Embarrassed, he sat and passed it back. “Your summary of the situation is accurate. I’ve tried everything; I’ve tried to think of her and Apparate, I’ve been to seers and asked them to scry her for me, I’ve Apparated to all of the popular wizarding and muggle locations in London and searched on foot, and with spells, but I can’t find her.” Robards looked ill by the time he’d stopped speaking, and his eyes were shadowed. “I’ve run out of ideas, and it’s not helping that I’m so emotionally attached to the situation.”

“And I won’t be?”

“You’re a fresh pair of eyes,” Robards said helplessly. “You know her, and you’re no stranger to vanishing off the face of the earth yourself.” Sirius shrugged awkwardly. “I just- I need a lead, need something to work with.”

“And you think I can give you that?” Sirius asked carefully. Merlin, Marls, two months? He closed his eyes briefly.

“I’ll try anything at this point.” Sirius looked at Robards and was well able to believe that. Sirius was quiet for a moment, thinking things over. “And I can be flexible; I’ll work around your commitments, and I’ll pay you-”

“You don’t have to pay me,” Sirius said at once. Even after that ridiculous fine for not registering Padfoot, he probably had enough money to comfortably support himself, Harry and Remus for the rest of their lives.

“-and I’ll provide you with anything you might need. This, for starters.” Robards passed Sirius a heavy golden object that looked a bit like a pocket watch. Sirius returned Marlene’s letter to Robards, in exchange. “It’s McKinnon’s, but given the circumstances-”

“What is it?” Sirius asked, rattling it.

“A Secure Communication and Identification Device with Coordinate Clock... A Sidekick.” Robards smiled, and pulled out his own, which was a little more tarnished than the one Sirius held. “Courage, virtue, determination and intelligence,” he said, and both folded open. Inside was incredibly complex, but Robards gave him a quick lesson on how to use it – and changed the name on the front to read Sirius Black - and Sirius thought he’d manage.

“And that symbol-” Robards tapped small owl that was engraved on the inside of the device, alongside almost twenty other symbols – Sirius saw a lynx, an eye, two small birds – one was a robin, the other a finch - a bear, two runes he didn’t recognise and a mermaid amongst other things. “-is a direct link between this device and my own. Some Aurors have phrases, or passwords, all you have to do to reach me is say my name.”

“Your full name, or title, or-”

“Robards,” Robards said. “Nice and simple. That’s how they used to work – by names – and then Mad-Eye Moody thought it might be a security risk, so he campaigned to make passwords available.” Sirius smiled to himself.

“What inspired these?” he asked, shaking Marlene’s Sidekick.

“Mirrors,” Robards told him, pulling out a piece of parchment and a quill. Sirius grinned, a little sadly, and added that to his list of things to tell James tonight, before he went to bed. Sirius was sure that James, wherever he was, would appreciate the news, though it was possible he already knew. “So... when are you able to help?” Sirius frowned, counting days in his head. “I’ll take an hour a week if that’s all you can give me. A different hour every week if you’re not able to be consistent.” Robards, Sirius realised, was desperate.

“I can do a few hours on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons,” Sirius said; it had taken them the better part of two weeks, but he and Remus had finally talked Harry into attending muggle school, come September. Remus had done some research – Matt and Dora had both attended muggle primary schools – and was trying to catch Harry up on the year and a half of schooling he’d missed when he and Sirius were in hiding. Sirius generally found other things to do while Harry and Remus were working on that, the same way Remus usually went and occupied himself elsewhere when Sirius was helping Harry with his Animagus project.

Hopefully, come September, the gaps in Harry’s muggle education would only be small, and he could focus on the socialisation aspect of things, which was the point of the idea of sending him to school in the first place. Making friends was also the part that Harry was most scared about, thanks to his cousin, and Sirius was eternally grateful that Harry’d met the Weasleys and Draco Malfoy and had mostly positive experiences, or convincing him that yes, he was capable of making friends would have been downright impossible.

“Wednesday and Saturdays?” Robards wrote that down.

“Except for the thirty-first,” Sirius said. “I won’t be working on that day.”

“I can give you time off if you need it,” Robards said at once. Sirius smiled.

“Those two afternoons are all I can do for now.” Robards nodded, not seeming at all disappointed. “But come September, Harry’ll start school, and that’ll free up my week days.”

“I’ll take what I can get,” Robards said fervently, making a note of that. “You don’t understand how much this means- how much I need the help. I’ll get a second desk – it’ll only be small, but there’s not room for anything bigger, I’m afraid – and put it in the corner, there. Consider this cubicle yours whenever you need it. That Sidekick’ll get you access to the Ministry library, should you need anything from there, or anything in the Department of Magical Records. It gives you a lot of authority.”

For the first time, Robards looked a bit like his old, stern self, and Sirius felt the urge to fidget. The shape was wrong, but his eyes were green enough to remind him of Lily’s, and her stares had always been terrifying. “It should go without saying that if you abuse that authority, I’ll have to confiscate that Sidekick, and it’ll make finding McKinnon a lot harder.”

“I’ll behave,” Sirius assured him. Robards gave him a thoughtful, slightly wary look that made Sirius wonder what stories he’d heard about Sirius’ school days, or even about Sirius’ early days in the Program. Thankfully, though, he either hadn’t heard the worst of it, or whatever he was seeing when he looked at Sirius now was enough to override that. Sirius privately thought it was the latter.

“Thank you,” Robards said. “For behaving, and for agreeing to help.” Robards stood and held out his hand, which Sirius shook. “I know after everything that happened, agreeing to help me help her can’t have been easy.”

“It was a lot easier than you’d think,” Sirius said quietly. Robards gave him a long look and then smiled sadly and nodded. This time, Sirius did fidget. “So, tell me what you know.”

“She’s wandless,” Robards said, holding up a slender wand that Sirius knew almost as well as his own. “And the last spell she cast with this was a permanent transfiguration on her hair, to turn it blond.” Sirius wrinkled his nose. “She’s homeless – I’ve set up wards specific to her to let me know if she ever goes home – and I’ve been up to the Bureau of Wizarding Family History to get her family tree and gone to meet everyone that’s a third cousin or closer that’s still alive to see if they’ve seen or heard anything, but they’re as clueless as I am. I’ve talked to Mad-Eye and Dumbledore and the trainees to compile a list of her friends, or people she might go to for help, but-”

“But not me or Remus?”

“Remus is in league with you, and guilt over you is why she’s vanished in the first place-”

“Point taken,” Sirius said, feeling queasy.

“It isn’t your fault,” Robards said quietly. Sirius smiled wryly.

It sort of is, he thought, but didn’t say anything. Robards’ eyes flicked over his face.

“Last I saw her, McKinnon wasn’t stable, and I don’t think that any decisions she’s made are based on sound thought processes. It’s entirely emotional.”

“And that’s supposed to make me feel better?”

“It’s supposed to give you an idea of what we’re dealing with.” Sirius sighed and waved a hand to tell Robards to continue. “She’s also broke. She hasn’t touched her Gringotts account since the day she left to guard Potter at Malfoy Manor, and that was only a few galleons. I’ve also been through all of the alerts for use of magic around muggles – if she’d somehow got her hands on another wand, or used accidental or even wandless magic-”

“Wandless?”

“Trainees get special lessons in a chosen talent,” Robards said, a little impatiently. “All they really do in first year is submit an application, try to find a teacher and do some background reading, but it’s possible she’s managed to pick something up. Or even use accidental magic; she’s probably volatile enough at the moment.”

“And?”

“And nothing. Only a handful of users fitting her description out of the hundreds we’ve caught, but none of them had the right magical signature. She hasn’t used magic for months.”

“Or she’s behind strong wards,” Sirius said. “There are places that mask that sort of thing.”

“There aren’t many places with that kind of magic up, and McKinnon doesn’t have access to them, unless she’s sleeping under a rubbish bin in Diagon Alley.”

“St Mungo’s?” Sirius asked.

“Checked every ward.”

“So she’s alone, wandless-” Sirius wouldn’t say defenceless, because Marlene had a rather impressive punch; she’d broken a Death Eater’s nose in Sirius’ seventh year. “-homeless and has no money?” Robards nodded. “I’d say she’s in the muggle world. If she’s not using magic, there’s got to be a good reason for it and that’s the only one I can think of. And she’d need to be living with someone, because there’s no way she’d be able to fend for herself.”

When they’d shared his flat during the war, they’d relied on simple meals (which was all Sirius had been capable of making) and on other Order members (namely Lily and Bean), and on eating out, or in the kitchens at Hogwarts. Marlene must have learned to cook at least passably while she was living alone, but she’d have had magic the entire time. She’d fare no better in the muggle world than Sirius would.

And doesn’t that just fill me with confidence, he thought miserably. What have you done, Marly?

 




As you can see, I'm back, and I managed to finish this one a bit early. :) It's a thank you for your patience this week. :)


The next update will come next Sunday (back to weekly updates) and then each Sunday after that. :)

Also, I'd like to apologise for how slack I've been with responding to reviews. :( I really do appreciate the time you take to leave me a response - be it praise, or constructive criticism, or just a message to ask me to update ASAP. :) I will get around to responding to them eventually, I've just been incredibly busy, and all my fanfic time has gone into getting chapters finished. So sorry - I'll get to those when I have the time. :)

Thank you again for your support, and for reading!

MarauderLover7.


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