Living with Danger
Chapter 12: Another Angle
By Anne B. Walsh
Chapter 12: Another Angle
Albus Dumbledore stood in the entrance hall of Hogwarts, feeling slightly nervous.
Why do I feel nervous? For that matter, why am I here?
From the Great Hall, he could hear light music and conversations, and as he looked down at himself, he saw that he was wearing his best set of light gray and blue dress robes.
Odd. This would seem to be some kind of social event.
A quiet laugh drew his attention. He turned to see a group of young people — eight of them, as he took a quick head count, four boys and four girls. Most of them appeared to be about the same age, sixteen or seventeen, though one of the girls was younger, fourteen or so. They were all dressed for a formal occasion and talking quietly amongst themselves, obviously waiting for something or someone.
The mix of looks in the group was rather interesting. He counted two redheads, one boy and one girl, and two blonds, though the boy was paler and the girl more brownish. A brown-haired boy held the hand of the youngest girl, who was dark-complexioned, and a girl with brown curls was talking with a black-haired young man.
A door opened behind him, and the young people’s heads all turned toward it. Four of them — the dark girl, the girl with brown curls, and the black-haired and blond boys — came forward and knelt on the stone floor. Dumbledore stepped out of their way.
Aletha Freeman, dressed regally in blue, stepped from the room, followed by a veiled woman in white. First Aletha, then the unknown, laid a hand on the head of each kneeling child in turn and said a few quiet words. The black-haired boy was last to receive their attention, and when they had finished, he rose quickly and went to the doors into the Great Hall, waving at someone.
The music within changed into a processional, and the young people organized themselves. The dark girl and the brown-haired boy, whose face was naggingly familiar — as indeed, Dumbledore realized, all the children’s faces were — proceeded through the door first, followed by the blond couple. The red-haired boy offered his arm to the brunette girl and the black-haired boy to the redheaded girl.
Aletha went next, by herself, her back straight and her face serene. Dumbledore realized what his part in this must be, and gave his arm to the bride as the wedding march began to play.
What a strange dream — for a dream it must be — giving away a woman in marriage, a woman I may not even know.
As he approached the dais, though, he discovered that although he might not know the bride, he knew the groom. And the best man.
I obviously have too much on my mind.
He reached the steps and gently lifted the veil from the bride’s face.
Gertrude Granger, prettier in person than she had been in her image in the spell, smiled impishly at him, then turned to face Remus Lupin.
Far too much.
The wedding scene blurred in front of him, and he found himself standing next to a table, where a good deal of the current staff of Hogwarts was sitting, laughing and talking together. There was still music, but it was no longer a march. Now it was a waltz, the waltz from Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty, if he wasn’t mistaken.
The bride and groom were dancing. Her veil was back so that they could look into each other’s eyes, which was almost all they were doing. It was obvious they adored one another.
They do make quite a good-looking couple.
The music seemed to fade, and with it most of the people in the room. The bride and groom came to a halt, eyes still locked. They kissed once, tenderly, then he stepped away from her and vanished. Her wedding gown replaced itself with a Muggle sweatshirt and jeans.
"Welcome, Professor," said Gertrude Granger as she turned to face him.
Dumbledore inclined his head, a little unsure of what to do next.
"Please, sit down." Her wave created a chair behind him.
I am not sure how comfortable I am, being in what seems to be her dream. She obviously has great power here, and I do not know her or her proclivities. She might do me serious harm...
"I only want to talk," Miss Granger said, as if she had read his mind.
Which she may well have done.
"I am amenable to that," Dumbledore said, seating himself. She sat as well, but without bothering to create the chair beforehand — it simply appeared behind her as she sat down.
I wonder, is this how I appear to others? All-powerful without effort?
"Let me introduce myself. Gertrude Granger, Danger to my friends, of whom I hope you will be one. I hear almost nothing but good about you, and little of the bad is believable."
Well-spoken, intelligent, neither submissive nor domineering. I may enjoy this after all. "Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry."
"Pleased to meet you. Tell me, you seemed unsurprised to hear my name. Had you heard of me somewhere before, as I had of you?"
"I had. Mrs. Petunia Dursley identified you for me."
"Oh, her." Danger sighed in annoyance. "Let me guess. She cast aspersions upon my character and implied, or outright said, that my younger sister is in fact my daughter."
"She is wrong. I am a married woman, Professor, and I love my husband dearly. I loved him even before I met him, to the extent that I was willing to wait for him. Which I did. My sister is my sister, nothing else, although I am responsible for her now, since our parents’ deaths last summer."
"To whom are you married, Ms. Granger?"
"Oh, please, please, call me Danger. If you really prefer last names, I suppose Mrs. Lupin would be most accurate. Or maybe Granger-Lupin — do you know, we haven’t decided about that yet?" She smiled. "But after all, there’s been so much going on."
"Yes. There has indeed been a great deal going on." And just how much of it have you been involved in, I wonder?
"You may ask me any questions you like, Professor," Danger said, leaning back in her chair, apparently perfectly at ease. "I might not answer some of them, or give you only partial answers, but I promise that if I can answer without endangering those I love, I will."
"Very well. Where is Harry Potter?"
"Safe with people who love him."
"I won’t answer that."
"I see. How did Sirius Black escape from Azkaban?"
Danger paused, as if silently conferring with someone. "He had help," she said finally. "Someone Apparated onto the island and opened his cell from the outside. The two of them returned to the mainland by swimming."
"Why did the dementors not sense this person?"
"He was not in human form at the time. Dementors sense only human emotions, if I understand correctly."
"What form was this person in, then, if not human?"
"Is he an Animagus, or a werewolf?"
"Werewolves are not reasoning creatures at the time of the full moon. No werewolf in wolf form could do what you suggest."
"This gentleman has recently met someone whose magic counteracts that — a werewolf tamer, if you will. Physical contact with her after his change restores his human mind, while physical contact beginning before the change and lasting through it, until he is in full wolf form, means that he never loses his humanity at all. The change with her present is exactly like an Animagus transformation, down to the detail that he is still clothed when he retransforms."
"Fascinating. Did the gentleman by any chance recently take this lady to be his wife?"
"He did, but not for her magic only. They are quite in love, I assure you."
"I believe it. Tell me, how did Black survive the ocean temperature at this season of the year? He should have died from hypothermia long before he ever reached shore."
"I can’t answer that."
"Can’t, or won’t?"
"My apologies. Won’t."
"Very well. Where is Sirius Black, then?"
Danger’s eyes sparked with mischief as she answered. "Asleep next to Harry Potter."
Dumbledore felt his eyebrows rising. "Really. You claimed a moment ago that Harry was safe and with people who loved him."
"Which he is. Sirius would rather die than harm Harry."
"Would he? I wish he had taken that attitude towards Harry’s parents."
"He did," Danger said crisply. "He was framed, Headmaster. Sirius Black is innocent. He never betrayed or murdered anyone. Would you like me to explain?"
Dumbledore nodded. His voice seemed unlikely to cooperate with him at the moment. Sirius, innocent? I would be overjoyed if it were true… but how is it possible?
As he listened to Danger’s story, he realized how. And that it was not only possible, but, in the light of the Animagus abilities of Pettigrew and the swap of Secret Keepers, even likely. I would have suspected Peter before Sirius, if I had thought such a choice existed.
But one great obstacle remained to his accepting the story.
"This is, as far as I know, only a dream. I have no proof of these things."
"If Sirius Black were guilty, would Remus Lupin ever have assisted his escape?" Danger asked politely. "But I can understand your wanting tangible proof. Watch your mail for the next few days, Professor. We will be in touch. Have a pleasant night." She rose.
"Wait," Dumbledore said, also rising. "One more question, if I may."
"Who were the members of your wedding party?"
"In this dream? I do not know. I have my suspicions about two of them, but about the other six, I know as little as you. Is that all?"
"It is. Thank you very much for a pleasant conversation, Mrs. Lupin."
Danger smiled warmly. "The pleasure was all mine, Professor."
They shook hands, and the dream dissolved.
Dumbledore came awake with a small start, got quickly out of bed, and hurried down to his office. He removed his Pensieve from the cupboard and began to add to its contents.
Aletha Freeman was present in the dream. Is she involved in this as well?
Where would they be likely to hide?
And if I find them, what will I do?
The thought stopped him. He sat back for a moment and gave it serious consideration.
What will I do?
If Sirius is innocent, I cannot condemn him to Azkaban, and Harry, it seems, would be better off almost anywhere than with his relatives, no matter the magical protections. Besides, if no one can find him, no one can harm him.
He smiled, slowly, realizing the possibilities of this situation.
I think that, if I do find them, I will take precautions to see that it does not happen again.
Danger slipped into another dream, falling or flying through whirls of color and sound again. Snatches of words in unfamiliar voices caught her ear.
"…co can hel…"
"…go to lu…"
"Run, my loves… run and don’t look back…"
Danger jerked. That was me!
But just as she tried to look at the color patch associated with the last sentence, a huge voice began to call something out to her, and she got only a vague impression of grey.
Great. More poetry. Why do I always have to dream in bad iambic tetrameter?
Shut up and listen, said a familiar dry voice. You can complain about the meter later.
Rolling her eyes, Danger did what her husband told her.
Hermione Granger came awake slowly, rubbing her eyes with the hand not otherwise occupied. She registered her first sensations of the morning, which were much the same as usual. Her stomach was empty, ready for breakfast, and her nappy was full, ready to get changed. She would wake up Danger to get that tended to in a moment.
She opened her eyes to look around and saw something new and interesting. A strange man was sleeping a little ways away, with Harry and Letha snuggled next to him. He had dark hair like Harry. Maybe he was Harry’s new daddy, like Moony was her new daddy.
She got up and went over to investigate.
Sirius awakened to the unusual feeling of a slight touch on his upper arm. It was as if someone had poked him there... someone with very small fingers...
He looked up into the earnest face of a bushy-haired little girl, sucking her thumb and gazing at him.
"Hello, there," he said quietly, sitting up carefully so as not to disturb the other sleepers around him. "You must be Neenie. I’m Padfoot. Nice to meet you."
He held out his hand, and the tiny girl solemnly shook it, removing her thumb from her mouth to do so. "I wet," she said, tugging at her nappy.
"Well, I think we can fix that," Sirius said, looking around the room — ah, there it was. He picked up Neenie and headed for the changing table.
I knew I couldn’t have forgotten how to do this. Easy enough, once you account for the different equipment. He made sure to get the fastenings in the proper places, threw away the old nappy, and returned to the bed area feeling rather confident.
"T’ank you," Neenie said with a little smile as he put her down.
"You’re welcome." She has good manners for eighteen months.
As Neenie cuddled back up against Danger, Aletha roused. "Hmmm?" she said sleepily.
"Everything’s fine," Sirius said. Then he heard a tapping sound, strangely familiar... "But I think you may have an owl."
"’S probably the paper," Aletha mumbled. "Knuts are on the mantelpiece, will you get it, love?"
"Of course." Sirius stood up again and found his way into Aletha’s music room, where he collected the correct amount for the paper, then into her kitchen, which had a wide window where, sure enough, the owl was waiting on the ledge, paper in its beak. He put the money in the sack tied to its leg, and it dropped the paper on the table and took off.
Good thing owls can’t talk.
Sirius sat down and opened the paper. Well, well, well, look who’s front page news today...
Daily Prophet, Thursday 15 April 1982
HARRY POTTER DISAPPEARS
Was living with his Muggle relatives in Surrey, one source says
By Rita Skeeter, Special Reporter
Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived, was the source of many speculations in the days and weeks following the downfall of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Where was he living? Who was taking care of him? Who could properly raise such a child-hero?
No two people had the same opinion. Some said he was living with a friend of his father’s, others with a friend of his mother, still others with a foster family. There were even some who claimed he had been taken to America or France.
But on one thing, everyone agreed. Harry Potter was being raised magical. After all, who could expect the most famous magical child of our times to be properly raised by Muggles?
Apparently, Albus Dumbledore. In his trademark meddling style, Dumbledore had one of his flunkies retrieve the child from the ruins of his family home and take the boy to a secret location, now revealed to be a town known as Little Whinging in Surrey, to live with his mother’s Muggle relatives.
"Harry Potter will be safest if no one else knows where he is," Dumbledore said at the time. "It is inevitable that some wizards and witches will catch sight of him over the years. I beg of them not to make him aware of anything unusual about him, and not to reveal to anyone where they saw him."
Unfortunately for Dumbledore, all his secrecy seems to have been for nothing. This reporter has learned that Harry Potter, as of this writing, has been missing for more than two days...
Aletha wandered into the kitchen, looking sleep-disheveled and charming. "Anything interesting?" she asked with a yawn.
"They’ve got word of Harry going missing," Sirius said, turning the paper around so that Aletha could see the headline.
She shrugged. "Was bound to happen sooner or later. You want tea?"
"Yes, please." Sirius checked the clock — twenty to nine. "Don’t you have to get ready for work?"
"Didn’t I tell you? I have today and tomorrow off." Filling the teakettle, Aletha chuckled. "Madam Bones decided I needed some rest, because I was under so much stress."
"What stress were you under?"
"I was afraid of you, of course, you dolt," Aletha said, lighting the stove with a poke of her wand. "And it was stressful, being afraid all day. I kept wanting to smile and having to remember, scared people don’t grin like Cheshire kneazles."
"What kinds of people do grin like Cheshire kneazles, then?" Sirius asked, standing up and crossing the distance between them, pulling Aletha back against him.
She giggled as he kissed her neck. "People in love, you stupid..."
He turned her around and made further name-calling impractical.
On the bed, Harry made a small discontented noise. Neenie crawled over and lay down next to him. He rolled over and put his arm over her without waking up.
Danger awakened with a gasp. I hate iambic tetrameter, she said, pressing her hand against her heart, feeling the frantic beat slow. She noticed Sirius and Aletha were gone. Probably off kissing somewhere. Good for them.
Why? Remus was taking slow, deep breaths, calming himself.
Don’t know. Probably because it’s now what I associate with extremely odd and sudden changes in my lifestyle?
That could be. Let’s write it down before it gets away.
Both of them hurried to the desk in the corner of the room and began scribbling.
Little things the world will change,
Your lives and futures rearrange.
There shall be children twice times two
Before the storied year is through.
The youngest comes before the last,
Before the swine her like is cast.
The truth shall bear her unto day,
The star will shine to light her way.
Uneven will she match to brown,
But never’ll she leave the town.
There shall be children twice times two
Before the storied year is through.
Eyes of ashes, hair of sun,
A heart with paces never run,
Salvation, justice, vengeance are
When flower gives the stars to star.
What warrior, earth, and pearl begin,
The moon’s grey beams will finally win.
Little things the world will change,
Your lives and futures rearrange.
You said it. Danger studied the scribbled lines in front of her. Do our versions match?
I think so. Let me see. Remus pulled her poem over to himself, checking it against his own. Yes, they do. Any ideas?
Well, it’s obviously a warning about more children to come. Danger smiled, a touch sadly. Not ours, I know.
No, not ours. Remus sighed. One of the side effects of lycanthropy was sterility. But Danger knew that when she married you. Stop fussing over what can’t be changed.
Not ours... but one for Padfoot and Letha, it seems, Danger chortled in his head. "The truth shall bear her unto day/ The star will shine to light her way." You think Sirius will like having a daughter?
I do. But we’re not telling them about this.
Oh, no, of course not. Knowledge of the future can change it — I remember that from my old sci-fi novels.
And I’d rather avoid any little disasters like us preventing the birth of the child who would, in twenty years, have saved the world.
Too late to prevent that now. Danger looked affectionately over her shoulder. Remus followed suit to see Harry and Neenie, again snuggled in the middle of the mattresses like puppies. But who this other stanza’s talking about, I haven’t got a clue, she continued. Sound like anyone you know?
Not off the top of my head. Let’s put it away and think more about it later.
"Breakfast!" Aletha called from the other side of the house.
That sounds like a better idea all the time. Grab a kid — last one to the kitchen’s a rotten dragon egg!
Evening Prophet, Wednesday 14 April 1982, Special Edition
SIRIUS BLACK ESCAPES FROM AZKABAN
Ministry urges caution: "No need for panic," says Minister Fudge
By Rita Skeeter, Special Reporter
Sirius Black, notorious mass murderer, was earlier today discovered to be missing from Azkaban prison, sending waves of fear through the magical world. Ministry personnel are still investigating the disappearance. Bartemius Crouch, Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement and the man responsible for Black’s incarceration, declined comment.
Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge made a brief statement. "We already have a fix on Black through basic scrying," Fudge said. "With the help of Muggle law enforcement, we hope to have him reapprehended soon. There is no need for panic; please do not overreact."
However, another source within the Ministry, speaking on condition of anonymity, claimed that the so-called "fix" on Black proved to be false and useless, and would have been no good even if true. "I mean, what do you expect?" the source said. "Muggle law enforcement, really — what are they going to do, say â€˜Stop’ to him? And if he doesn’t stop, say â€˜Stop’ again?"
Every wizard and witch on the street blanches at the thought of the fearsome Black suddenly appearing at their kitchen window, like a ravening wolf, ready to repeat his horrific crimes...
Danger looked across the table at the notorious mass murderer, currently getting a banana shampoo from his godson. She leaned over to Aletha, who was gazing adoringly at Sirius and Harry. "He’s so fearsome, how do you stand it?" she asked lightly.
"Oh, I blanch every time I see his face," Aletha returned. "And the banana highlights in his hair make him look utterly ravening, don’t you think?"
"Just horrific," Danger said, shaking her head.
"Now, now, ladies, there’s only so much complimenting one man can withstand in a day," Sirius said, wiping his hair with a napkin. "Besides, I’m a one-woman man, and I’m taken."
"Yes, by me," Aletha pointed out. "So I’m allowed."
"To do what?"
"Harass you to within an inch of your life," Aletha said triumphantly.
Sirius sighed. "I’m going to regret this," he said to no one in particular.
"Regret what?" Aletha pounced gleefully on the word. "Marrying me?"
"How could I ever regret marrying you?" Sirius asked, standing up. "Especially since it hasn’t even happened yet." He came around the table, leaned over Aletha, and kissed her.
Neenie and Harry blew raspberries.
Danger laughed. "I guess they’re not fans of kissing."
"Get used to it," Sirius growled teasingly at the children. "You’re going to be seeing a lot of it."
"Not today they’re not," Remus said, emerging from behind the morning paper. "Danger and I are taking them to the park all day. It’s a gorgeous day, and they’ve been in the car a lot lately. They need to get out and stretch their legs."
And it’s just coincidence that we’re leaving these two here alone?
Oh, of course it is. Sirius has a lot of readjusting to do, Danger my love, as well as he hides it. I think he’s still riding the high of the escape, and he’s going to crash very soon.
And he doesn’t need a strange woman and a pair of nosy children horning in when he does. Don’t worry, I understand.
I wasn’t worried. Remus winked at her. Besides, who’s to say that we can’t snag a little kissing time while the little ones are busy in the sandbox?
Danger rolled her eyes. Men! One-track minds!
Women! Everything hopelessly complicated!
Did we just delineate the battle of the sexes in eight words?
Yes, I believe we did.
Mentally, they both cracked up.
We’ve had nearly six months to mourn for Lily and James, Aletha thought, holding Sirius in her arms as he cried. He’s been trying to stay sane, and the best way for him to do that would be to try to stay off that subject. Besides, part of grieving is moving on, and he could never do that in Azkaban. So now he has to catch up on it.
"You are not allowed to blame yourself," she said quietly to him. "How could you, or anyone, have known Peter was the traitor?"
"I should have known," Sirius said between sobs. "I should have realized. He gave me the idea of switching us, Letha. He suggested it. How could I not have seen?"
"Should have, would have, could have, all add up to one thing, Sirius," Aletha said gently. "Didn’t. We didn’t see. None of us saw. And we all took the punishment for it. You just got the worst end of the deal. Which you did not deserve, and you are not even allowed to think that you deserved it."
"Tyrannical woman," Sirius muttered into his tissue. "Even regulates what I’m allowed to think."
"And don’t you forget it." Aletha hugged her beloved fiancÃ©. "We can’t change the past, my love. The only thing we can change is the future. And we are changing it. Harry Potter gets to grow up with parents, parents and a sister. That has to be worth something."
"Parents, he’s got," Sirius said, blowing his nose. "Four of them. Have we decided yet what they’re supposed to call us?"
"Padfoot, Letha, Moony, and Danger have been working so far. After all, we’re not really their mums or dads."
Sirius nodded. "I would feel kind of strange if Harry called me Dad. I mean, James was his father. It would feel... I don’t know, disrespectful, I guess. Besides, I’ve always been Padfoot to him, and it doesn’t make sense to have him call me one thing and Neenie call me another. What is her real name, by the way? Please tell me her parents didn’t actually name her Neenie..."
"No, it’s Hermione. And from what Danger tells me, she used to be just about the shyest little thing you could shake a wand at. But she warmed right up to Remus first, then to me, and now to you — didn’t I see you carrying her when I woke up?"
"She came over and woke me up to tell me she was wet," Sirius said with a slightly wobbly laugh. "I fixed the problem, and she thanked me very politely."
"Yes, she has very nice manners. Except when she wants something. Then she sounds like she’s part banshee."
Sirius smiled, shaking his head and wiping a last tear from his cheek. "I have a feeling life will never be dull around here."