Chapter 5 : Midnight Inquisition
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I was surrounded by grass so tall it nearly reached my elbows. There was no sign of Harry or Professor Dumbledore and there was certainly no resemblance of Privet Drive in any direction. I was alone in the dark with no wand at my disposal. If I had thought I was scared an hour ago when the street lamps went out, it was nothing compared to the fear that held me now.
Why would the Headmaster leave me in the middle of an empty field? I asked myself. Clearly, I couldn't be in as much danger as I thought if he had saw fit to drop me here, I reasoned. There must be something or someone nearby that I was supposed to find.
Unless telling me what he had was some sort of security breech? What if he left me out here to fend for myself and possibly get caught by Death Eaters or eaten by werewolves or kissed by dementors or-?!
No. No, stop, I told myself firmly. This is Dumbledore we're talking about. If the things I heard tonight were dangerous for me to know in any way, he would never have told me. He would not put one of his own students in jeopardy like that. While that didn't stop my heart from hammering, it did clear my head enough to really take in my surroundings.
There was darkness going on forever in almost every direction until I finally saw the glimmer of lights to my right. I had to start somewhere and standing here alone without a wand was almost like asking for something to come and kill me. With a deep breath, I started in the direction of the lights.
After a few yards, the tall grass gave way to a large clearing which I soon recognized as a garden in someone's yard. The lights ahead were suddenly coming through windows of the lowest level of a strangely misshappen house silhouetted against the darkness. The contradictory feeling of apprehension filled relief swept over me. I did not know who was in that house, but I had to believe that Dumbledore had meant for me to go there.
Before I could take another step, an angry woman appeared before me. Her pale heart shaped face framed a scowl and dark, narrowed eyes. A wand pressed against the underside of my chin.
"Who are you?" she demanded. Startled, instinct said to back away, but her hand shot out to sieze my shoulder. "Answer the question!"
"Oh my God, please don't kill me!" I squeaked, tears already forming in my eyes. "I-I don't know what's going on..."
Her eyes flickered to my hair then back to my face, somehow looking extremely angry without her heart really being in it. "Come with me," she snarled. Still gripping my shoulder, she swung me around to be in front of her and steered me towards the house I had been heading for.
This was it. This was the end. Dumbledore had accidentally left me in the wrong place or maybe I chose the wrong direction or- I don't even know. But this was how my life would end. I tried to steel myself and dry my eyes. I would not be killed pleading for my life.
At the door of the house, she made me reach out and open it. Then, for the second time that night, I was propelled into a strange house. A nice, inviting looking kitchen was the last thing I expected to greet me on the other side. There was a long wooden table with more than a half dozen chairs pressed in around it. They were empty except for one. A plump, red-haired woman in a green house coat sat at the table, wringing her hands until she saw us in the doorway.
I recognized her from Platform 9 3/4. I didn't know her personally, but I knew who she was. My shoulders sagged with relief. "You're not Death Eaters," I breathed aloud and I almost started crying again.
The angry woman behind me did not drop her guard. "Turn out your pockets," she ordered, wand pressing into my back.
I didn't even try to protest. I flipped out every single lint filled pocket my jeans had. Seemingly satisfied, I was instructed to sit down and I did. The woman took a seat across the table from me next to the wary looking red-haired woman I now remembered was Mrs. Weasley.
In the light, the woman who brought me in didn't look so well, though no matter the state of her health, she didn't give an inch. Wand still pointed at me, she asked again, "Who are you?"
No longer scared as I knew where I must be now, I answered unhindered by panic. "Piper Stone. I'm a Hogwarts student."
"Your hair was changing when I found you. That's a sign of Polyjuice Potion," she said accusingly.
I quickly shook my head and changed my hair to a bright blue to help explain my next statement. "No, no, no! I'm a Metamorphmagus!" I changed my eye color as well and reshaped my nose into a pig snout before going back to normal. The woman almost looked hurt like my ability upset her. She didn't lose her authority, though.
"Who sent you here and why?" she demanded.
The following came out very quickly and I don't quite know that it was at all comprehensible to my audience:
"I... I really have no idea the why. I saw the light go outside of my house and someone Apparated onto my street and I panicked and I ran to Harry's house and banged on the door, but the person was just Dumbledore come to get him and I tried to go home and the Professor said to stay and then he told me things about my family that I didn't know and then he said he needed Harry to help him do something and Harry said 'of course, sir' and I was about to say goodnight and go home and hide under my bed until September first when Dumbledore puts his hand on my shoulder and his other on Harry's and the next thing I knew, I was out in the field and they were gone and I saw the lights and started over here and then you found me and now I think I'm as confused as ever and I'm just so glad you're not Death Eaters!"
Two pairs of eyes blinked at me for several moments. Finally Mrs. Weasley, being the first she'd spoken since I walked in, asked me darkly, "How do you know we aren't Death Eaters?"
This was my turn to blink. "You're Molly Weasley. Fred, George, Ron, and Ginny's mum. I play Quidditch for Ravenclaw, a beater, and that's how I know the twins. And I've known Ginny since I started because we're in the same year. I've never actually met you, but I see you every year on the Platform. If you're Death Eaters, then I'm a bloody werewolf."
Again, this made the other woman look hurt and angry. It seemed like I was pressing all of her buttons tonight and I didn't even mean to. I didn't even know her name! My shoulders slumped in defeat. If I said the wrong thing one more time, I feared she wouldn't believe me.
Mrs. Weasley, however, sat back and seemingly relaxed. "Well, I'm content with that for the moment. Dumbledore said he would be going to get Harry tonight, though he said he most likely wasn't going to be back until the morning. We shall see how that pans out. You're under probation until the Headmaster can get back and verify your story." She gave me a warm smile. "Who are your parents, dear? Did they go to Hogwarts?"
"'Course. You really think Muggles produced a Metamorphmagus?" the other woman muttered
I looked uncertainly between the two women. "Darren and Samantha Stone," I told her. It was fine, I told myself. As soon as Harry returned, this matter could be settled and hopefully I could go home! I could wake up in my bed and just pretend this had all been a dream.
She frowned. "Doesn't ring a bell. What year did they graduate?"
"1978 or '79. Hang on... Yes, '79. Mum was pregnant when she graduated because my brother was born October 30th of that year..."
"Oh, that's my birthday!" Mrs. Weasley said, her face lighting up and for an instant she looked much younger, more like the Weasley Matriarch I remembered from the train window. "'79 was after my time. Before Tonks'. And I don't think I've ever heard of a pregnant student at Hogwarts!" She looked scandalized.
"Who?" I asked, confused.
"Tonks," the other woman said gruffly. "It's my name."
What an odd name. "Pleased to meet you," I said quietly.
"Tonks, dear, you can't blame this poor child for a few ill spoken words. She doesn't know anything about you." The older woman reached out to pat Tonks' hand. She looked back at me then. "You'll have to forgive her. Tonks is a Metamorphmagus, too, but lately she hasn't been able to change anything. She's been going through a lot and it's put a strain on her ability."
"Molly!" Tonks cried.
"What?" I cried, suddenly feeling as if cold water had just been thrown in my face. "It... It's possible to... To lose the ability to change? I- I can't even imagine! I'm so sorry!"
Tonks scowled and sank further into her chair. "Well, you don't lose it," she said reluctantly. "I just can't- Because he won't-" Tears suddenly filled the angry woman's eyes and her face became soft and drawn. "And now he's gone- Oh, Molly, what am I going to do without him? He doesn't think- He doesn't understand!" Mrs. Weasley drew Tonks into her arms. "It hurts so much!"
I understood then. She was depressed and that's what was wrong with her morphing ability. What's more was that it wasn't something she could fix on her own- someone made her feel this way and that someone was going to have to fix it. I couldn't imagine being so distraught as to not be able to change.
"Come now, dear. I know it hurts. Someday... Someday, it will be better, I promise." She sighed and cradled the younger woman for a long moment as if she were one of her own children. When Tonks straightened in her chair and wiped her eyes, Mrs. Weasley stood. "I think tea is in order."
She set about the kitchen, making tea the Muggle way. Perhaps it was soothing. I sat in complete discomfort of what I had just witnessed. It was so personal, so emotional. Yet at the same time, I felt a kindredness with this woman, this other Metamorphmagus. She had shared this with me whether or not she had meant to and I would keep her secret.
We sat in silence while Mrs. Weasley bustled about until finally tea was done. She set the pot on the table with sugar, cream, and three mismatched cups. Filling each one, she said, "Now, then. Tuck in."
Tonks and I murmured a thanks, reaching for our cups at the same time. I measured out one teaspoon of sugar and added a splash of cream. The tea warmed me to my toes and it was only at that moment that I realized how cold I was. Tonks stared into her cup as if trying to read the tea leaves while they floated about. Mrs. Weasley kept glancing at a clock sitting atop a pile of laundry. I followed her gaze. It was a very strange clock as it didn't tell time. There were nine hands and they all pointed toward 'Mortal Peril.'
I don't know how long I sat examining the clock from my vantage point. Mrs. Weasley and Tonks had started up a conversation again. A knock at the door startled all of us- I very nearly spilled my tea.
Molly swept up from her chair and to the door so fast it looked like one movement.
"Who is it?" she demanded. "Who's there?"
"It is Dumbledore with a tired Mr. Potter!" came the familiar voice.
She opened the door to reveal an amused Headmaster looking over his half moon spectacles and donning spiderwebs on his hat. Harry stood in front of him.
"Oh, Harry, come in! Come in!" the little red-haired woman ushered Harry and Dumbledore through the door.
"Oh, hey Tonks," Harry said when he noticed her. "I almost didn't recognize you."
"Wotcher, Harry," Tonks replied wearily. "Dumbledore, can you explain this?" She pointed at me, not nearly as intimidating as when I had met her an hour or so earlier.
"She didn't explain herself?" he asked, bushy eyebrows raised. "I do not trust that I was not followed to Mr. Potter's house. Like a good Witch, Miss Stone ran for help when she thought there was danger. She bears such a striking resemblance to her mother and her house is under protective enchantments. I brought her here for her and her family's protection. I didn't want anyone who may have tracked me and seen her to poke around waiting for the rest of her family. I apologize, Molly, but she will be here for a spell until I believe it is safe for her to go home."
What information was I given to be able to explain that? Ravenclaws are smart, not psychic!
"I think it will be alright, Albus," Mrs. Weasley replied, waving him off.
"A... A spell? How long a spell?" I asked nervously. Did he really think I could be in that much danger?
"Spells sometimes take a rather long time, Miss Stone. I assure you, though, I think you will be home before the summer is over." He gave me one of those twinkling eyed looks. I just stared, my mouth hanging open and fighting the urge to scoff in disbelief. "I shall owl your parents in the morning."
"Well, then. If everything is straightened out... Molly, I should be leaving." Tonks stood from the table, her tea more or less untouched.
"Oh, Tonks, come over for dinner next week," Mrs. Weasley pleaded. "Remus will be here and-"
"I don't think I can," she replied shortly. "Thank you for the tea." She stalked passed Harry and Dumbledore. When she was a few feet away from the door, she turned on the spot and vanished with a crack.
"I should be leaving myself, Molly. I apologize for the late hour," Dumbledore said. Mrs. Weasley waved him off again. She was so nice and amiable. The Headmaster nodded toward me, gave a knowing look toward Harry and bowed to Mrs. Weasley before following Tonks' path out the door and disappearing in the same spot.
She closed the door before taking Harry by the shoulders and settling him next to me at the table. "Oh, you and Ron! Sprouting worse than weeds! He's already grown out of his robes. Are you hungry, dear?"
"Oh, yeah, thanks," he said as she began bustling about the kitchen again.
She paused only a moment to rest a hand on my shoulder. "I'm so sorry, dear, I didn't even think to ask you earlier." She resumed her trek. "Would you like something?"
"Uh... No thanks... I'm actually a bit nauseas..." My stomach just wouldn't stop squirming. Stuck in the Weasley house for an undefined amount of time? Was I even allowed to owl my parents? What about Terry?
"Oh, here, have a bit of bread. It'll settle your stomach," Mrs. Weasley said. She tapped a pot with her wand. It soared to the stove and began boiling. Another wave sent a knife across the room to slice a loaf of home made bread. A piece landed carefully in front of me and I could do little more than stare at the crumbs that scattered around it. I mumbled a thank you and fell silent.
A loud purring started up from Harry. I didn't know he purred.
"Oh, Hermione's here?" he asked. I glanced over. A large orange tuft of fur was curled up contently in his lap.
"Oh, yes. Two days now. They've all gone to bed, of course. You weren't supposed to be here so many hours before daybreak. Here we are." She tapped the pot again. The next thing I knew, she had appeared on the other side of Harry placing a bowl before him just in time to catch the hot stream of soup, the pot now hovering above the table. With another wave, the pot returned and a fresh slice of bread sat itself next to the dish.
"So, you got Slughorn to take the job?"
I tuned them out then. I couldn't pretend to be interested anymore. There was too much too fast and I felt like there wasn't enough time to process it all. Some Ravenclaw I am to not even be able to figure out that my family had more than just magic for a secret. Why did Dad lie? For what possible reason could Voldemort have to be after my family? I could only hope that there wasn't some prophecy about me hiding around out there. But what did all this mean? I was never really sure if I believed in God or not -Wizards don't exactly have their own religion- but I found myself praying right then. I prayed that my family was safe. I prayed that I would be home with them soon. I prayed that Dumbledore was mistaken. I could almost hear them calling my name, wondering where I was, searching the house.
I jerked back into the Weasley house. I tried to look at Harry and Mrs. Weasley, but all I could see were blurry shapes and colors. I blinked; the two figures came into focus, but my face was now warm and wet. Sniffing, I turned away and wiped the sleeve of my shirt over my face.
"I'm sorry," I said in as steady a voice as I could manage. "I wasn't, um, listening. What did you say?" I looked back. Harry seemed at a loss. Mrs. Weasley looked sympathetic. I shuddered, trying not to crack.
Sweeping around Harry, she settled both hands on my shoulders and gave a comforting squeeze like it was a special hug for strangers who broke down in her kitchen. It was odd because I didn't know her, but I appreciated it. She must be a good Mum.
"This must be a lot for you, dear," she said soothingly. "Would you like to go lay down?"
I nodded, not trusting my voice.
"I don't want to wake the girls. You don't mind sleeping in the same room as Harry, do you? There are two beds."
I shook my head, wiping my eyes again. They just wouldn't stop watering.
"Harry- show her to Fred and George's room, would you? I've got it made up for you since they stay in the flat above their shop."
She let go of me then so I could stand. Harry nodded and got to his feet and put a hand on my back, guiding me through the house and to the stairs. I can't say I remember much about what I passed by. Mostly I remember crawling into the bed furthest from the door and, after pulling something hard out from the pillow case, crying myself into a fitful sleep.
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