Chapter 39 : An Unexpected Development
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I hope this got to you. Mr Quentin said it would. If you write back, send it to him at Smeltings. Piers is cool but Anthony would freak out if there was a bird in our room and probably tell a teacher.
How's school? Probably more interesting than mine, all we seem to do it maths and science and more maths and homework. Except for boxing, that's good - I won a competition last weekend! I broke one guy's nose and knocked another guy out with one punch! He was pretty small though, so it was kind of easy. My coach thinks I'll be able to go up a weight class next term. Dad's really excited. How's your broomstick game?
Oh yeah, it's Piers' birthday in next week (April 15th) and he really liked all the sweets you got me for Christmas. Can you send me some so I can give them to him - that's what the five pounds is for.
Anyway, have a good Easter. If your godfather gets arrested between now and then and you don't want to stay at school you could probably come and stay with me and Mum and Dad because I'll be home from school for a week.
PS. Can you turn people into toads yet? I think I asked at Christmas and you said you couldn't, but if you can now, that would be so cool!
PPS. Don't forget Piers' sweets!
Finally, Severus looked up from the pensieve. He'd been standing over it, feeding it memories and thoughts for almost 20 minutes. Draco couldn't blame him for having things he didn't want Draco to accidentally see, but he hadn't realised there would be so many things Severus would feel the need to keep private.
Severus seated himself at his desk again, and set his wand down.
"Whenever you're ready," he said.
It was on the tip of Draco's tongue to worry aloud that he might hurt his godfather, but he changed his mind at the last moment; he didn't want to hurt Severus, but if he did… well, Severus had given him enough headaches this school year that he probably deserved one in return.
"Legillimens," Draco said, lifting his wand.
It was one of the strangest things he'd ever experienced; there was a rushing sensation, like he was suddenly moving very quickly, and then, all of a sudden, he was standing in the dungeon outside-
But the he wriggled a bit and could still feel the chair beneath him, and when he looked away from the dungeon, Severus' office was before him again, and Severus himself was staring at him from across the desk.
Draco listened for a moment - mentally - but could only hear himself.
"What happened?" he asked.
"Separating the mental from the physical takes some getting used to," Severus said. "Try again."
He was in the dungeon corridor again- but how? He hadn't moved, surely - he hadn't last time - so…
He pushed open the office door on his left, and stepped into the empty room; Draco wasn't surprised to see that he wasn't in the seat before the desk, but he was surprised that Severus wasn't sitting there.
But where could he have gone-
The pensieve wasn't on the desk, and nor was the usual neat stack of parchment.
Draco strained his ears and could still hear Severus' quiet breathing. It was almost like he had an invisibility cloak, but that couldn't be right- and then he could feel the seat beneath him again and the office blurred a bit and then Severus was there again, sitting before him.
"Was I in your head?" Draco asked, curious. Severus inclined his head. "It's- so it's the office? Your head has an office? Why didn't I see any feelings or memories?"
"You wouldn't see anything that I didn't allow you to," Severus said, and then smiled slightly. "You also didn't look in the right places."
"Can I try again?" Draco asked. Severus gestured for him to go ahead. "Legillimens!"
Draco was back in the hallway, and disconcerting as it was, he wasted no time in re-entering the office.
Once inside, he looked around, then walked to the nearest wall; perhaps Severus' Occlumency was the blank brick wall, and Draco just had to get through it. He knew he wouldn't be able to unless Severus let him, but Severus had let Draco in so he could learn, so he thought he probably would.
He pressed his palm against the wall, and it was as hard and cold as he expected it to be. He pushed, and it didn't move, not even when he put his whole weight against it. He kicked it as a final check, and in the air around him felt annoyed discomfort, and something akin to a warning.
Sorry, he said- or thought, and hastily stepped back. He looked around again. The desk was bare, and he wasn't generally allowed in Severus' quarters during the school term, so he crossed the room to the shelves instead.
Draco was very familiar with their contents; not only was he in here regularly, but Severus had used to make him organise them. These shelves were much emptier, though, than the ones in Severus' actual office.
Draco reached for a jar with what looked like mandrake root in it. As soon as his fingers touched it, though, a memory flashed before his eyes; suddenly he was in one of the potions classrooms, and he could smell something cloying, and Potter and Weasley were there asking if something was ready yet. The rest of the class was filing out, and Draco couldn't see himself or Granger, and - after a moment - realised this memory was from last year, when he's been lying petrified in the hospital wing.
He set the jar down and reached for an odd, twitching branch, and then he was stepping into an earthy tunnel at the base of a large tree and he was excited, and finally going to have proof, and he was so close, but then there were running footsteps behind him and-
Draco was evicted gently but firmly, and found himself sitting in his seat in Severus' office again.
"Sorry," Draco said. Severus shook his head.
"The only thing you have to apologise for is kicking me in the head," Severus said curtly.
"Sorry," Draco said again. Severus considered him, then nodded.
"So, you wanted to see Occlumency at work, and now you have... I do hope you've managed to learn something?"
"There weren't just thoughts and memories floating around like in my head," Draco said after a moment. "Everything had a place. Except I still don't know what you mean when you say I have to clear my mind. Even yours isn't clear, it's a dungeon-"
"It had to be clear to become a dungeon, though," Severus said. "When I was learning, I would envisage a blank wall - plain, grey stone, like the ones in here and outside-" He gestured with a hand. "-and over time I added to it."
"I thought you meant clear- like- like it would need to be empty."
"Unless you've been Kissed, that isn't possible," Severus said.
"You might have said so!" Draco said irritably. "Or just told me I had to think of a wall until I made a dungeon! I could have built it by now!"
"A wall may not be what comes to mind when your mind is clear," Severus said. "And if it is not, then yours is unlikely to be a dungeon. Black uses Azkaban - or did, the last time I attempted to look into his mind. You will use something that makes sense to you. It may not even be a structure, though structures are generally easier."
Draco nodded slowly.
"And thoughts and memories?" he asked. "Is it best to put them somewhere inside the building or- or room, or-"
"Mine are integrated, as you saw," Severus said. "Personally, I find it makes sense. I've seen minds where the mindscape was a mere distraction, however, and the person's thoughts and memories lay behind it. I've known it to be effective, but it's far too disorganised for my own use." There was a pause. "Now, questions, or do you have enough to be getting on with?"
"No and yes," Draco said, and Severus nodded and half-rose. "Is that it?" Draco asked, disappointed.
"For today," Severus said, looking faintly amused. Then his expression soured. "I have Hogsmeade duty, beginning at three."
"When can we have another lesson?" Draco pressed.
"Let me know when you think you've had some success clearing your mind," Severus said, tracing a gentle circle over the pensieve with his wand, "and we'll arrange something. Perhaps during the Easter holidays-" He paused and studied Draco. "Where will you be spending them?"
"With Potter or Weasley," Draco said. "They've both offered. I just- I'm worried Father will go after Black again, but I don't want him to go after Mr Weasley either-"
"You could tell him you're staying here."
"No," Draco said curtly. "No, I'll be making it quite clear that I'm not going to the Manor."
Yeah, the letter made it to me - hopefully this one gets back you.
My school's kind of the same, only it's not Maths it's Arithmancy, and it's not Science it's Potions (which is probably worse). I have loads of homework too, though not as much as one of my friends - she's taking every subject.
Well done with boxing. Quidditch (the broomstick game) is good. My team won a few weeks back, and if we win the game after Easter, we'll take home the Cup this year.
I've sent a box of sweets for Piers, but please don't show any of your other friends, or I'll get in trouble with the Ministry, and won't be able to send any more sweets.
Thanks for the offer, but Padfoot's fine and not going to prison any time soon. You have a good Easter too.
No, I can't do toads yet, but I've been getting good at shield charms at duelling club, so hopefully no one will be turning me into a toad any time soon.
Divination on a Monday was asking a bit much, Harry thought, squinting into the crystal ball he and Ron were sharing.
"... such a waste of time," Hermione was saying to Draco. "I can't see a thing." She leaned over toward Ron and Harry's table. "Can you see anything?"
"Nothing," Harry said. "Mist, maybe. Or whatever it is that's inside these things. Ron?"
"I can see something… Maybe a snitch-?" Ron pulled a funny face, clearly trying to concentrate. "Hey, maybe that means you'll win against Slytherin after the holidays."
Draco leaned over, clearly curious, but Hermione frowned. Ron grinned at her.
"You made that up," she said, sounding outraged.
"Did not," Ron said. "Look, it's right there." Hermione scowled but shuffled her stool closer to have a look. Ron winked at Harry when she wasn't looking, and Harry had to bite back a laugh. Draco glanced between them, mouth twitching.
"You've seen something!" Professor Trelawney said, swooping in. Hermione huffed and slid back. "What is it?"
"Shouldn't you already know?" Hermione asked. Parvati and Lavender made angry noises, and Professor Trelawney gave her an irritated look before turning back to the crystal ball.
"Oh, yes," she breathed, leaning forward until her nose was almost pressed against the glass. "Yes - a vision dwells within…" She gasped and stumbled away from the table, then spun and pointed a knobbly, ring-covered finger at Harry. "It's a broomstick - a broken one. Tragedy! I see tragedy in your future, and it will be related to Quidditch!"
"Maybe she means what's happened with you and Cho after the last game, Harry," Parvati said. Harry turned and scowled at her.
"A romance?" Professor Trelawney asked, and then shook her head before anyone could answer (Harry certainly wasn't about to offer her any information about him and Cho). "No. Not a tragic romance… family. A tragedy in the family. Does anyone in your family play Quidditch?"
"My dad did," Harry said, rather bitingly, thoroughly fed up with her predictions of doom - all of which seemed to involve him and those he cared about. Ron and Draco wore near-identical grimaces, and Hermione looked torn between wanting to laugh and being horrified.
"No, not your father…" She bent over the crystal ball again, and sighed. "It's gone now. Ah, but the Eye is fickle-"
"Convenient, more like," Hermione scoffed.
"Say what you will," Professor Trelawney said, with dignity. "Blind as you are, I wouldn't expect you to understand…"
"Blind?!" Hermione asked.
"You cannot See," Professor Trelawney said airily. "Never in all my years teaching, have I met someone with a mind as hopelessly mundane-"
The class - Harry among them - stared in stunned silence between Hermione and Trelawney for a few moments, and then Hermione sucked in an angry breath and shot to her feet, snatching up her bag as she went.
"Well," she said, red-faced, "I'll stop wasting both of our time then." And then she stalked over to the trapdoor, yanked it open, and disappeared down the ladder.
"Bloody hell," Ron muttered, looking slightly awed.
He'd heard the third year Divination class leave - all those footsteps on the ladder would have been impossible to miss, even if he didn't have such sensitive hearing - and he'd heard their voices; Harry's voice - while admittedly more serious - was so like James' at the same age, and Wormtail had spent years listening to Ron's voice while he belonged to Percy, and to Draco's while he belonged to Hydrus. The Granger girl's voice was less familiar to him, but he thought he'd heard her too.
Five minutes later, he was less certain; he'd been studying her timetable for weeks, and still wasn't entirely sure how it worked, but meticulous observation from behind banners and torch brackets, and from within suits of armour had taught him she always split from the other three after Divination on Thursday mornings, and walked alone down the corridor he was waiting in, to the girl's bathroom.
There was something decidedly odd about Granger and whatever it was she got up to in the bathroom; Wormtail hadn't forgotten how she'd splinched him last year, doing whatever it was that she did. Clearly whatever it was was working for her now, though, because she never came out of the bathroom after going in. It had taken him several weeks of Thursday mornings to work that out; last week, he'd even ventured - rather nervously, because not being supposed to go into girl's bathrooms was not a concept that wore off with age - into the bathroom, and found it empty.
This week, he'd been intending to follow her in and watch where she went...
Only after another five minutes, Granger still hadn't arrived, and Wormtail - who'd watched her enough to know that she was not usually one to run late or break routine - decided she probably wasn't going to.
Was it just a once-off, that she wasn't where she was supposed to be? Was she ill today, perhaps? He'd had trouble crossing the castle that morning - the Beast really was the bane of his existence, and seemed to have learned his movements - so he hadn't been there to watch the class arrive.
Had Granger skived off to finish a bit of homework, or meet up with a secret boyfriend? He didn't think either of those things were very Granger-ish, but he supposed it could be possible. Or perhaps she'd skipped Divination to go to one of the other two classes her timetable claimed she had on at the same time. But why today? If it was a once-off, she would surely be back next Thursday morning - or rather the Thursday after, since the Easter holidays were about to start - but he wouldn't know for sure until then.
And then, there was the other option; that it wasn't a once-off. What if she - or more likely Harry or the Beast - had somehow got wind of what he was up to, and changed her habits, to use a different bathroom?
He wouldn't know that until the Thursday after the Thursday after next.
Immensely frustrated, Wormtail climbed down from his hiding place and could be certain of only one thing; that the Dark Lord would not be pleased by this unexpected delay.
Dora stepped - or stumbled - out of the Floo and Sirius caught her with a laugh and hugged her. The flames flickered and went from green to orange, and he glanced askance at her.
"Moony not with you?"
"Ah, no," she said, in a rather strained voice. Her hair had gone an odd shade of green, and she was looking rather pale. "He'll get a Portkey tomorrow night." She sat down at Grimmauld's kitchen table and indicated that he should do the same. There was something strange in her scent that he couldn't quite place, and Dora was chewing her lip. "I need your help with something."
"Everything all right?" Sirius asked warily, and sat down opposite her.
"Fine. Better than, actually, everything's brilliant. Fine." She said this all very fast, and by the end of it, she looked like she might cry.
"I'm pregnant, Sirius," she said in a small voice.
"Oh," Sirius said, blinking. The first thing that popped into his head was delight, but it was gone and replaced by horror before he could even smile. "Oh no." He had a brief moment of panic, that he might have read the situation - or at least Dora's take on it - wrong, but she didn't look offended or upset, just offered him a weak smile that told him they were on the exact same page. "When did you-?"
"Yesterday," Dora said, chewing her lip. "I'm five weeks." Her hand moved, as if to hold her stomach - which was still innocently flat under her tshirt - but she caught herself and clutched at one side of her face instead. "What am I supposed to do?!"
"Well, how do you feel about-" Sirius nodded at her stomach. "-it?"
"I have no idea," she said, giving him a shaky smile. "I- I mean I'm only twenty two and- well, I love my job. I didn't put three - or four, if you count France - years of training in, just to work for a year and then retire and be a mum! And- well, obviously I wasn't expecting-" She gestured to herself. "-this- definitely not this soon, and maybe not ever, but-" This time she did press a hand to her stomach and her hair went a soft yellow, but the look she gave him was equal parts scared and helpless. "Remus isn't going to take it well, I know he isn't-"
"No," Sirius agreed grimly. Remus loved children, but was terrified of having his own. Always had been. He was mostly scared of passing on his lycanthropy, but there were other fears too; he was scared of injuring any kids he might have because of what he was, scared of what people might say to any kid that had him as a parent, and scared that any kid of his would be scared of him, or hate him for what he was. "Not at all." She didn't look at all surprised, just miserable. "I can tell him, if you think that'll-"
"No," Dora said, but looked grateful all the same. "No, I want to- I just need to find a way to do it where he doesn't panic, or get angry, or- or divorce me, or-"
"He's not going to divorce you," Sirius said, reaching across the table to take her hand. "He's mad about you."
"He's going to go mad when he hears-"
"I'll be there, then," Sirius said. "When you tell him. And when he storms off - which he probably will - I'll go with him and try to get him to-" The words see sense died on Sirius' tongue, because Remus wouldn't be wrong to have reservations. "-I'll talk him around."
Or try, he added silently.
"Hello!?" Remus called, stepping into Number Twelve. He set his case down inside the door, and tucked the bottle-cap that had been his Portkey into the pockets of his robes.
"Down here!" Sirius called from the kitchen.
He and Dora were sitting at the kitchen table when Remus got down there, and Kreacher was at the stove making dinner, but Harry - and Harry's friends, who were usually around whenever Harry was - were conspicuously absent.
He crossed to room to where Dora sat. She wasn't looking at him, but she reached for his hand, and when he kissed her she offered him a strange smile. Sirius was watching them both, troubled.
Feeling a bit disconcerted by that, and the fact that neither of them had made any real attempt at conversation, Remus spoke:
"He went straight to the Burrow," Sirius said. "He's staying there tonight."
"Oh," Remus said, a bit confused; it wasn't unusual for Harry to spend time there, but it was unusual for him to do so on the first night of the holidays. "Are things- he's not still upset with you about-"
"Nah," Sirius said. "I mean- he probably is, but that's not..." He shook his head, glanced at Dora, and then set about fiddling with a corner of The Evening Prophet.
Remus glanced between his wife and best mate and wondered what exactly was going on. Dora's hand tightened on his.
"This is going to ruin dinner, Kreacher," she said a little unsteadily, "but I'm going to go mad if I have to sit here and not say anything."
"Why are you ruining dinner?" Remus asked, not following.
"You're what?" Remus asked. A slow, disbelieving smile crept across his face. "Dora?" She gave him a nervous smile, and Sirius shifted but Remus was too busy beaming at his wife to care much about what he was doing.
She was going to have a baby. His baby. She was going to have his-
And then it sank in, and he didn't look at her, but at Sirius; distantly, it occurred to Remus that Sirius didn't seem surprised by the news, but that didn't really matter; the more important thing was that he understood. Remus knew he did, from the rather grim look on his face.
"I-" Remus heard himself say, and then he was tugging his hand free of Dora's and stumbling toward the stairs. "I- I'm sorry, I just need to-"
"Go," Dora said, and he thought she might understand more than he'd thought. "I'll be at Mum and Dad's tonight, if-"
He opened his mouth to tell her not to be silly, that there was no need to go to her parents' house, but then he reconsidered. He moved, woodenly back across the kitchen and pressed a kiss to her cheek.
"I'm sorry," he said, then glanced fleetingly at her belly, and fled.
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