Living with Danger
Chapter 21: Key to His Heart
By Anne B. Walsh
"The Rainbow Connection" is from "The Muppet Movie," and I didn't write it.
Chapter 21: Key to His Heart
Remus stepped out of the fireplace into the Den’s music room. He took a deep breath, feeling himself relax at the familiar surroundings.
Safe. Home, and safe.
Harry jerked awake as the fireplace howled. "We home!" he said happily.
"That’s right, Greeneyes, we’re home." Remus let Harry slide to the ground and turned back to the fire to catch Danger, who still wasn’t very good at Floo traveling. With his other hand, he drew his wand and flicked the lights on.
Multitasking, are we?
Is that even a word?
Does it matter? The fireplace howled again, this time waking Neenie, who gave a little whine as Danger put her down. And can you turn that off, please?
No, and yes. Remus removed the alarm spell from the fireplace as Aletha exited the green flames and made for the sofa. A moment later, Sirius emerged, setting Draco quickly on the floor and sinking into a chair.
Good. We’re all here.
"All" being a little more than it was this morning, of course.
"Why he here?" Neenie demanded, pointing to Draco, who looked understandably nervous.
"He’s going to stay with us," Danger said. "He’s a cub of the Pack now, like you two and Meghan. Why don’t you take Draco around and show him our Den, and tell him what some of the rules are."
"OK." Harry took Draco’s hand and tugged him toward the door of the music room, Neenie bringing up the rear.
You just want them out of sight when we all collapse.
That, and Draco knows them and not us. We’re going to have to introduce ourselves to the child we just adopted.
But that can wait. Remus shut the door behind the children. Right this instant, I don’t think we should do much except recover.
We can’t put it off too long. But I agree. That was an incredible… Danger checked her watch. Six hours.
"So, is everyone alive?" Aletha asked dryly.
"Ask me again in the morning." Sirius buried his hands in his hair. "Merlin, I haven’t practiced that kind of negotiating since I was fifteen. I wasn’t even sure I remembered how to do it."
"You were wonderful," Danger said admiringly. "You were so cool about it, even when she pulled out stuff you weren’t expecting at all."
"She did take me a little aback with the apology," Sirius admitted. "I’m sure she did it on purpose, to rattle me, but it backfired — after that, just about nothing could surprise me." He got up and went over to sit next to Aletha.
"Except, of course, what she wanted us to do," said Remus.
"Yes. Except that." Sirius reached over and stroked Meghan’s face gently. "Do you think we’ll be able to reach him?"
"I hope so," Danger said.
You hope, or you know?
Now why would you ask me that?
Because you have a certain tone you use when you know something that we don’t. I call it your "insufferably smug true-dream tone."
Hmph. Remus wasn’t sure exactly how Danger had transmitted that mentally, but she had. All right, if you must have it, I think the second half of my latest dream was about him.
The one about keys to the heart?
Yes. It mentioned you and Letha as holding them. What do both of you do that Sirius and I don’t?
Remus loaded his tone with smugness. Oh, good, an easy one.
One of these days, Remus Lupin, I am going to hit you so hard…
"What’s a cub’a the Pack?" Draco asked as the children climbed the stairs.
"Cub is a Pack word for a kid. It means you gonna live here, with us, an’ be our brother," Harry said.
"You don’t never have to go back to the other house," Neenie chimed in from behind them. "We show you our bedroom. You prob’ly sleep there too, so we gotta share the beds till we get another one."
Draco wasn’t listening to this. "I don’t ever have to go back to the manor?"
"What’s the manor?" Harry asked.
"It where I live. Where we were until we came here."
"No. You never gotta go back there. You live here now, at the Den."
Draco shook his head as Neenie reached up on tiptoe and flicked on the upstairs hallway lights. "Who those people?" he asked as Harry opened the door of the cubs’ room. "The ones who hugged you, who bringed us here?"
"They our Pack, silly," Neenie said with a giggle. "Danger my sister — she look like me — and Letha got dark skin. Padfoot gots black hair and Moony gots brown, only he makes it blond when he goes out. Harry and me haveta get our hair changed before we go out too."
"Me," said the owner of that name.
"You said your name was Jamie."
"Jamie my out-of-den name. It for pretend, because people looking for me. My real name’s Harry Potter."
Draco’s eyes went big. "You’re Harry Potter?"
"You got a scar on your forehead?" Draco demanded.
Harry lifted his bangs to show it.
"Wow," Draco breathed. "I heared about you. You famous."
Harry shrugged. "I know. I haveta be a warrior an’ fight evil. But first I gotta grow up."
Draco looked between Harry and Neenie. "C’n I be a warrior too?"
"Sure. Neenie is. Meghan will be, when she gets bigger."
"Right now all she does is cry an’ make a mess," Neenie said disgustedly.
Draco smiled a little. Then a funny look crossed his face. "I gotta go pee," he said very quietly.
"Toilet down the hall," Harry said, pointing. "Want me t’go with you?"
"Yeah," Draco said.
"Be back in a minute, Neenie," Harry said as he got up.
"I never been to someone else’s house before," said Draco as the boys walked down the hall. "Am I really gonna stay?"
Harry nodded. "Danger said."
Draco sniffed. "What that smell?"
Harry sniffed too, and smiled. "Hot choc’late. You like hot choc’late?"
"What is it?"
Harry stared. "You never had hot choc’late?"
Draco shook his head. "Is it good?"
Harry nodded hard. "You gotta try it, you’ll love it. I wait for you, then we go downstairs and get some."
"OK." Draco went into the bathroom and closed the door.
Danger whisked cocoa powder, sugar, and vanilla extract together in a saucepan, adding just enough water to turn it into a slurry.
Another thing Remus and I agree on — chocolate can cure just about anything.
She added the milk and stirred the mixture carefully, waiting for it to boil. From the music room, she could hear the plinks of Remus tuning up.
Sirius was content, for the moment, just to sit and contemplate his daughter’s sleeping face.
I remember laughing at James when he’d sit for hours watching Harry sleep. I was more interested in him awake and playing. But now I think I understand…
And I can’t even begin to imagine doing what Narcissa did. I underestimated her, all those years I thought she was just a self-absorbed shallow Dark b…er, witch.
He snorted at his own folly. Why am I censoring my own thoughts? It’s not like I’ve got a link with Letha like Remus and Danger have. No one else in my head. Just good old me, Sirius Black.
Meghan stirred, and Sirius rocked her. No one else in my head… but in my heart — Merlin, my heart’s full up. When I was little, I used to wish I had just one person to love me, and now I have six — seven, if we can salvage Draco. I hope we can. Narcissa was right, on both counts — Draco deserves a chance, and it’ll be one in the eye for Malfoy. If he ever finds out. Narcissa’s unlikely to go telling people she gave her son to me…
A herd of erumpents descended the stairs and charged the kitchen. "Hot choc’late!"
"In a minute," Danger answered, laughing. "Honestly, there’s only three of you, how in the world can you make so much noise?"
"Practice," Neenie said smugly.
The brown liquid in the saucepan came to the boil. Danger turned it off, arranged seven mugs on her favorite tray, and tapped her wand against the pan. The hot chocolate vanished. Danger slipped her wand into each mug and waved it in a circle, allowing the chocolate to flow from it and fill the mug.
"C’n we have marshmallows?" Neenie asked pleadingly.
"Go get them out." Danger watched her sister expertly drag one of the chairs over to the pantry, open the door, climb up on the chair and get the marshmallows out, and jump down again, all within one minute. We’re going to have to start putting things under magical lock and key if we don’t want them found… high shelves are not going to do it any more.
"Go on, then, you three." She herded the children in front of her to the music room, carrying the tray carefully. "And if any of you spill so much as a drop in here…" She stopped suddenly.
"What?" Harry asked.
"You have to help clean it up," Danger finished, keenly aware that her usual jesting threats would not be taken lightly by the newest member of the Pack.
A child who has actually been beaten, who has probably never heard a joke before… God, I hope we did right, I hope we’re not in over our heads…
But what else could we have done?
Aletha began to play a series of notes in the bass of the piano, a slow, predictable progression. As the pattern repeated itself, she added treble notes to compliment the bass. Danger and the children came into the room as the third repetition began and Remus added the melody line on his violin.
I do love this piece. There are so many different things you can do with it, so many ways to ornament the basic structure.
Movement beside her caught her eye. She looked down.
Draco was standing right beside her, watching her hands on the keys. When he saw she’d noticed him, he backed quickly away. She smiled at him, and took her right hand off the keys for a moment to motion him closer. Hesitantly, he returned to the place he’d been standing a moment before.
Is he afraid I’m going to hit him? For being curious? Surely not…
She lifted her left hand to turn the page of her music, and Draco flinched, just slightly, but perceptibly.
All right, maybe he is.
Damn you, Lucius Malfoy.
Very slowly, Draco lifted his own hand, to touch the piano keys. He didn’t press them down, only slid his fingers along them, and he was very careful not to get in Aletha’s way.
I don’t think he’s ever seen a piano before. Or at least he hasn’t been allowed to touch one. And he obviously likes music. I wonder what kind of singing voice he has?
Remus caught her eye and nodded, and they brought the piece to a close. Draco sighed a little and took his hand off the keys, turning away.
Aletha began the introduction to a favorite song of Harry and Neenie, who shushed each other noisily as they recognized it. Draco turned back around with an amazed expression as Aletha began to sing.
Why are there so many songs about rainbows
And what’s on the other side?
Out of the corner of her eye, Aletha saw Sirius lay the sleeping Meghan on the couch and come over to stand behind her.
Rainbows are visions, but only illusions,
And rainbows have nothing to hide
She could hear him kneeling down on the carpet behind the bench, putting himself at about Draco’s height.
So some have said and some choose to believe it
One of Sirius’ hands made its way into her line of vision.
I know they’re wrong, wait and see
Draco saw it too, and watched it mistrustfully as it traveled slowly toward him, but at least he didn’t flinch away.
Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection
Sirius rested his hand on Draco’s shoulder.
The lovers, the dreamers, and me
Draco’s breathing turned a little shaky, but he didn’t move. Aletha smiled and began the second verse.
Who said that every wish would be heard and answered
When wished on the morning star?
Very slowly, Sirius began to stroke Draco’s hair.
Somebody thought of that, and someone believed it
Look what it’s done so far
What’s so amazing that keeps us stargazing,
And what do we think we might see?
Aletha’s smile broadened as she noticed that Draco was, ever so little, leaning his head into the stroking.
Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection,
The lovers, the dreamers, and me
All of us under its spell
We know that it’s probably magic
Sirius brought his other hand up to rub Draco’s back as Aletha changed keys.
Have you been half-asleep, and have you heard voices?
I’ve heard them calling my name
The boy was trembling now, but he didn’t move. It was as if he both feared what was happening, and feared to lose it.
Is this the sweet sound that calls the young sailor?
The voice might be one and the same
I’ve heard it too many times to ignore it
It’s something that I’m supposed to be
Aletha felt a feather-light touch on her arm, hastily withdrawn.
Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection,
The lovers, the dreamers, and me…
She finished the song with a flourish on the piano, and felt the touch again — only this time it didn’t vanish instantly. She smiled at Draco encouragingly and put her hand gently over his.
"You can call me Letha, Draco," she said. "And this is Padfoot."
The boy nodded. "I know," he said. "Harry’n’Neenie telled me who you were." He turned away, looking at the other two adults. "That’s Moony, and Danger," he said, pointing them out. "Right?"
"That’s right," Remus said. Danger smiled and waved.
Draco turned back to Aletha with an expression that suggested he was nerving himself up for something. "Do I haveta go home?" he blurted out.
"No," Sirius said. "You don’t have to go back to that house ever again, Draco."
"Do you want to go back?" Aletha asked.
Draco hesitated, then shook his head.
"Then you won’t. This is your home now."
"Will my father come here?" Draco asked with a trace of fear in his voice.
"No," said at least three people simultaneously, and emphatically. Draco cringed a little.
"We’re not angry, Draco, not at you, anyway," Aletha hastened to reassure the boy. "We’re angry with your father, for hitting you. That was wrong of him."
Draco gave a little shiver as Sirius resumed rubbing his back. "They said you… don’t hit," he said slowly, looking at Harry and Neenie. "Not ever."
"They’re right," Aletha said with a fond smile in the direction of the indicated two, who were dunking marshmallows in one another’s hot chocolate. "We won’t hit you, Draco. You’re old enough to understand words now. We might scold you if you do something wrong, but we will never hit you. All right?"
Draco nodded, but his face indicated he’d believe it when he saw it. "What’s that called?" he asked, pointing at the piano.
"This is a piano, but what I do with it is called music. Did you like the music?"
"Yeah. It was pretty." Draco looked at Remus. "What’s yours?" he asked.
"That’s a violin." Remus got up, to Neenie’s annoyance since she was leaning on him, and handed Danger his mug. "Do you want to look at it?"
Draco’s eyes widened. "Can I?"
Remus took the violin off the top of the piano and held it where Draco could see it. "I make the music by bringing my bow across the strings," he said. "Do you want to hear something?"
Draco nodded, and Remus set the violin and began to play. The little boy’s eyes were fixed on Remus’ hands, Aletha noticed, so much so that he hadn’t noticed Sirius moving a little closer behind him.
Stalking the wild child. Just don’t frighten him, love, please…
I have to be careful. If I scare him now, he may never trust any of us.
But he likes the touch. He’s probably never been touched with love before this — I know I wasn’t. It took Prongs and Moony years to get me used to backslaps and the occasional hug.
Cautiously, Sirius scooted just a little closer to Draco. He was sitting cross-legged now, right behind the boy, whose attention was fixated on Remus.
So if I can just get him to sit on my lap…
Or maybe next to me. I’ll try that first.
He tapped the boy gently on the shoulder. Draco jumped and looked behind him guiltily. Sirius smiled and patted the spot beside him. Draco looked blank.
He doesn’t know what it means?
"Come sit down," Sirius said quietly. "So your legs don’t get tired."
Draco nodded and sat — a good foot away from Sirius.
Well, it’s a start.
Remus finished his piece and began another, this one quick and lively. Draco perked up a little and leaned forward, listening hard. Harry and Neenie, by contrast, yawned in unison.
It is awfully late. We’ll need to go to bed soon. Den tonight, I think. Everyone’s rattled, we need the reassurance. And Draco can sleep as close or as far away from everyone else as he wants.
Suddenly Sirius noticed that the distance between himself and Draco had been diminished by six inches — but he hadn’t moved.
Well, well. It seems someone is responding already.
He kept his eyes carefully front, flicking sidelong glances at Draco, and was rewarded by seeing the boy hitch himself marginally closer.
As I thought. He’s dying for someone to touch him, but he’s afraid that same someone will suddenly decide, for no reason at all, to hurt him. And from his life experience, that’s a perfectly reasonable thing to think.
He wanted to pull Draco into his arms, hold him tight, ruffle his hair and tell him it would never happen again, but he knew that would only scare the boy.
But it never will happen again, Sirius vowed silently as Draco took another cautious scoot towards him. You have my word, Draco. Never again.
Draco moved again — they were almost touching now. Sirius slowly extended his hand, making sure Draco could see it all the time, and placed it on the boy’s knee.
Draco placed his own hand hesitantly on top of Sirius’. Sirius turned his hand over and gently squeezed Draco’s, turning to meet the boy’s startled eyes.
"You belong to us now," he said. "You belong to the Pack."
For the first time since he’d met Draco, the small, pale face held something akin to hope.
Harry lent Draco some pajamas, since he didn’t have any of his own. "We’ll go shopping tomorrow," Danger told the children. "Or, rather, today. It’s after midnight."
"Which means it is high time for cubs to be in the den," Aletha said. "Come on, everyone, scoot."
They scooted, down the stairs, through the front room, down the hall, and into the den room, where Neenie stepped decorously onto the mattresses while Harry took a running leap onto them. Draco hung back a little. "I a’ways sleep alone at home," he said, with a trace of arrogance in his voice.
"Sleep wherever you like," Remus said, pulling a blanket free and tossing it toward Draco. "That’s what denning is about."
"Padfoot, tell a story?" Neenie asked sleepily.
"All right," Sirius said. "But a short one."
As he began to tell part of his story of Samuel and Alison, a tale of lords and ladies and great adventures which was one of the children’s favorites, Danger noticed Draco inching closer, clutching the blanket. Eventually he sat down in a space no one else was using, near what would have been the bottom of one of the beds, beneath Harry and Neenie’s feet.
I think we’re getting there. Or at least starting to get there. He wants this so much, and he’s afraid of it at the same time…
We are going to have to be royally careful not to scare him, not even to startle him if we can avoid it. We’ll just include him in all our usual activities, and let him do as much or as little as he wants, until he understands that he’s just as much our child as Neenie or Harry — no more, no less. And that we love him.
I hope he can understand love…
Draco came awake all at once. He looked around, and a little moan escaped him. He was back in his own room at the manor, in his own bed, with his father still lying crumpled on the floor.
It had all been a dream, he knew it. The music, and the story, and the strange but wonderful feeling of having a grown person touch him, caress him — a dream. Escaping his father — only a dream. He should have known — didn’t his father always say "You can’t get away from me," just before the blow fell?
He tried as hard as he could to hold in his tears, but he was only four. Soon he was crying, the thin, despairing wail of a child who has dreamed of a fairyland and awakened to his cold, cruel reality. Sobbing, he curled up on his side, hiding his face in the blankets.
I want to go back to the Den.
I want to go home.
"What are we doing back here?" Sirius said in annoyance.
Danger blinked. They were standing in the main hallway of the Malfoys’ manor. Experimentally, she stamped her foot, and felt the floor rebound ever so slightly. "It’s a dream," she said.
Should I be jealous that you’re sharing with both of us now?
"Don’t be ridiculous, please," Danger said without bothering to turn around.
"He can’t help it, it’s habit by now," Sirius said, grinning. Danger stepped neatly aside as Remus went for Sirius, who took off running.
"Boys will be boys," Aletha said with a sigh as she stepped from the shadows.
Remus skidded to a halt at the foot of the stairs. "Say that again."
"What, boys will be boys?"
"Yes. Everyone, quiet." Remus looked up the stairs for a moment. Very carefully, so as not to disturb him, Danger tapped their connection. As usual, everything was a little clearer to Remus’ senses than to her own — the sights, the scents —
And the sounds.
Someone’s crying up there. A child.
Remus took the stairs two at a time, Danger on his heels. Sirius and Aletha were only a step behind her. "What’s wrong?" Aletha asked as they ran.
"Draco’s here — must be his dream—" Danger got out.
Aletha swore and picked up her pace a little.
At the top of the stairs, Remus turned right without hesitating, running down a long hallway lined with doors. He turned left at the end of it, into a narrower hallway, and ran to a door about halfway down its length with entwined snakes painted on it. He yanked it open, and Danger ran past him, into the room.
She almost stepped on Lucius, who was lying across her path, head on the hearthstone. I’m not interested in you. She turned left just in time to see Draco sit bolt upright, staring at her.
"There you are!" Danger crossed the distance to the bed in three steps and snatched him up as she would have Harry or Neenie. "Are you all right?"
Draco held onto her as if afraid she might disappear. "You real?" he asked in a trembling voice as Remus, Sirius, and Aletha piled into the room.
"I’m as real as you are," Danger said comfortingly. There, reassuring without being a lie.
The rest of the Pack gathered around them, reaching out to touch Draco’s arms or shoulders or stroke his head.
"Draco, do you ever have scary dreams?" Remus asked. The boy nodded. "That’s what this is. Just a scary dream. The Den is real — we’re real — and when you wake up, that’s where you’ll be. Understand?"
Draco nodded again, then laid his head on Danger’s shoulder. Tears were still sliding out of his eyes, but Danger could feel him relaxing against her, accepting her touch.
Well, at least he’s not afraid of us any more. But did it have to happen this way?
Yes, said a voice in her head. And not one she was expecting. Until now, his father has been the greatest power in his life. You must show him that power broken and defeated. Only then will he trust you fully, and his new life begin.
Don’t be impudent.
But it’s what I do best…
There was no reply. Instead, Lucius Malfoy groaned. Draco whimpered.
"Don’t be afraid," Remus said. "He won’t touch you."
"Just let him try." Aletha grinned. "Sirius, do you remember that sandwich maneuver we worked out your sixth year?"
"You bet." Sirius returned her grin. "Plus, I have a few things I want to say to yucky Lucky here…"
Remus chuckled. "Yucky Lucky? How long have you been waiting to use that?"
"A long time," Sirius said, strolling forward as Malfoy groaned again and opened his eyes. "Well, well, Lucius Malfoy, look at you."
"Black," Malfoy said in disbelief, struggling to sit up. "How — how did you—" He looked beyond Sirius, to the rest of the Pack. To Danger, sitting on the edge of the bed with Draco in her arms.
Malfoy catapulted to his feet. "GET YOUR HANDS OFF MY SON!"
"Please don’t shout, you’ll frighten him," Aletha said.
"He needs to be frightened," Malfoy said, advancing.
Remus stepped in front of him. "Leave the boy alone, Lucius," he said mildly.
"Or what? You’ll bite me?" Malfoy sneered.
Remus smiled ferally. "Don’t tempt me. Stay away from my son."
"Your son? Your son? What are you talking about, werewolf?"
"He belongs to us now," Aletha said from Malfoy’s right. "Your lovely wife signed a contract with us, giving us full guardianship rights."
"She has no right to do that. Not without my consent."
"Well, as it happens, she does," Sirius drawled. "Criminals have no parental rights under magical law, if I remember my History of Magic classes correctly. And you’re a criminal. Or you will be, as soon as the Aurors get here."
"Aurors, what Aurors?"
"The Aurors I assume they’ll be sending to arrest you," Aletha said smugly. "Once Narcissa gets done with her testimony."
"She’s in London ratting you out as we speak," Sirius finished gleefully. "You’re toast, Lucky-boy."
Malfoy goggled at them.
"I suggest you enjoy the Ministry holding cells while you can," Sirius went on maliciously. "Azkaban isn’t nearly so comfortable."
Danger and Remus exchanged amused glances. Trust Sirius not only to remember what the bastard said to him, but to repeat it back.
Sounds like a good idea to me…
"The Malfoy line ends with you, Lucius," Remus said, seeming to gain height as he took on his full authority as leader of the Pack. "Malfoy will be remembered as the name of a criminal and a fool, brought down by his own wife."
"Draco Black," Danger said musingly, stroking that little boy’s back. "I rather like the sound of that, don’t you? Draco Black, devoted brother of Harry Potter…"
"And a Gryffindor, of course," Sirius added.
Malfoy let out a strangled cry of rage and charged at Danger. Sirius and Aletha moved in unison, swiftly pinning him between them and flinging him back.
"Honestly, Lucius, don’t you know anything about nature?" Sirius asked, chuckling slightly. "Never get between a cub and his Pack."
"Besides," Remus added, "even if you did get to him, it wouldn’t do you any good. We’re not really here."
"This is all a dream," Danger said with a flirtatious smile. "Look behind you. There’s your body."
Lucius’ body was indeed still lying where it had been. The dream-Lucius stared from it, to himself, back to it, and could not seem to say a word.
"But the part about Narcissa, and the Aurors, that’s true," Sirius said, grinning. "And they should be here any minute—"
The door crashed open, making Draco jump again. "And here they are," Remus said as two wizards burst into the room, wands out. "Sirius, look who it is."
"But he never goes out on raids any more!" Aletha said.
"I think it’s a personal thing," Sirius said, shooting a look at Lucius, who had backed into a corner at the entrance of the Aurors. "If I recall correctly, Malfoy, you tried to off him at least once over the course of the war, and Alastor Moody has a long memory."
"What I remember is you flipping him off at your trial, after you were acquitted," Aletha said with a short laugh. "That in itself would bring him here to see justice done."
The Aurors, working quickly, had already tied Malfoy’s hands behind him, gagged him, and ensured that he didn’t have his wand. Now, Moody pointed his wand at the still form and growled out, "Ennervate."
"Have a nice life," Danger said sweetly. "Draco, wave bye-bye to the nasty man."
Draco turned half around and gave a little wave. The Pack waved with him, all of them beaming.
The dream-Malfoy, still staring at the Pack, disappeared as the real one woke up. Looking furious, Malfoy tried to say something, but the gag thwarted him.
Sirius laughed. "Let’s go home," he said. "All of us."
26 July, 1984
Would you have had anything to do with the interesting news in the Daily Prophet this morning?
26 July, 1984
Why, of course not. What would ever make you think that?
Join us in celebration — our newest cub’s birthday is today. His picture is enclosed. And no, we did not do anything illegal. Much.
(in a different handwriting) P.S. We need to talk face-to-face. Would you be willing to come over for tea?