Living with Danger
Chapter 26: What's in a Name?
By Anne B. Walsh
Chapter 26: What’s in a Name?
"Letha, time to get up."
"Come on, you’re going to be late."
"You will if I have to use this."
"Use wha—" Aletha opened her eyes and froze in terror. Sirius had a bucket in his hand. And he was swinging it back — and there was something in it —
She vaulted out of bed as he threw the contents towards her.
Several old rags flew from it and landed on the bed.
"It was a trick? Why, you — you sneaky — you Marauder you!"
Sirius chuckled. "Thank you. Besides, it worked, didn’t it? You’re up. And about time, too. You’ve got less than half an hour."
Aletha snarled at her husband and slammed the bathroom door shut behind her.
"Ronald, time to get up."
"Come along, now, breakfast is ready."
"Huunnh?" Molly Weasley watched as the mention of food penetrated her youngest son’s stupor. "Breakfast?"
"That’s right. Breakfast. Everyone else is already downstairs, so if you don’t get up soon, there won’t be anything left."
"A’right." Covering a huge yawn with his hand, the five-year-old slid out of bed and gave his mother a good-morning hug before he started hunting for a clean pair of socks.
"Neville, time to get up."
The boy yawned. "Yes, Gran," he said on the tail end of it.
"We’re going to Diagon Alley today, so don’t dawdle. Breakfast is in ten minutes, and I expect you to be ready. Understand?"
"Unnerstand." Neville sat up, rubbing his eyes, and clambered out of his big old bed as his gran closed his bedroom door with a squeak and a firm thud.
"Dudley, time to get up."
The boy moaned. "I don’t wanna," he said petulantly.
"That doesn’t matter. Up you come." His foster mother turned on the light in his bedroom. "It’s 8:30. Quite time to be up. There’s a lot to do today — we’re going out shopping, for one — and I want to get an early start. Come along, breakfast will be ready in a few minutes."
Dudley grumbled, but several months’ worth of experience told him that if he didn’t get up, he would be physically removed from the bed, gently but firmly, and possibly be docked the one sweet he was allowed to have in a day. He sat up, slowly, and heaved himself out of bed.
It was less of an operation than it had been those months ago. A fairly strict diet, carefully enforced by his foster family, and quite a lot of exercise in the form of light chores and housework had done what even the privations of living with his mother in a series of hotel rooms and junky flats had never managed — slimmed him down considerably. Dudley had been surprised to discover that it was possible to see one’s shoes while standing up.
But it was awful, the way they treated him, Dudley decided as he got dressed. Every time he asked for something, his foster parents said no. If he asked for a snack, or a new toy, or to be let off his chores, the answer was always the same. "No." Whining, complaining, begging, pleading, and throwing temper tantrums, which had almost always worked with his mother, only got him the same answer, applied to even more things. "No, Dudley. No."
When I grow up, Dudley decided, I’m going to be important. Important and rich and powerful. Then no one can ever tell me no, ever again.
By 8:45, the three adults of the Pack with outside jobs had all left. Aletha, of course, Flooed or Apparated to work. Danger tended to walk, since the branch bookstore where she worked was less than a mile from the Den, and she enjoyed the exercise. Remus drove to the grocery store and parked, as usual, in the employee lot behind the store.
He walked in on what would usually have been termed an argument, except that the two people involved were best friends. Sue, Remus’ colleague in the bakery department, and Mica, from produce, were always amiably bickering about something. Today, it was books.
"—trying to tell you, they said they’d never heard of the woman," Mica was saying as Remus came through the door. "And they’re the biggest bookseller in London. If they’ve never heard of her, how good can she be?"
Sue sighed. "And I’ve been trying to tell you, you can’t find her work at just any old bookseller. It’s specialty stuff. I told you I’d lend you my copy when I finished—"
"And what if I don’t want to wait until you finish it?" Mica retorted. "What if I want to read it now? Especially because I know your reading speed. I lent you a book two years ago and you still haven’t returned it."
"I did so."
"You did not."
"Good morning," Remus said politely, tying on his store apron. Both women oriented on him.
"John, settle something for us," Sue said. "Have you ever heard of a writer named Valentina Jett?"
A childhood spent keeping a secret was immensely useful in training one not to reveal one’s true feelings, Remus reflected. He wanted to laugh, but all he did was say, "Yes, as a matter of fact, my wife’s a great fan of hers. Why?"
"Thank you!" Sue threw her hands into the air, as if celebrating a victory. "See, Mica, John’s heard of her. She’s bigger than you know. Your birthday’s coming — I’ll get you a copy of Happy Ending. You’ll be hooked."
"Whatever happened to not knowing birthday presents until the birthday?" Mica asked rhetorically, standing up and picking up a crate of apples. "You win. I believe you. Come on, we open in five minutes."
Ron Weasley kicked a small stone against the curb, trying to keep himself amused while his mother and two oldest brothers bought schoolbooks in one of the secondhand stores of Diagon Alley. Percy, nine years old and bossy as any girl, had been left in charge of him and his twin brothers. Ron thought that was a bit optimistic of his mother. No one except her was ever in charge of Fred and George, other than Fred and George.
Looking around for something to do, he saw another boy about his own age standing outside the Apothecary, looking a bit lost.
Maybe he’d want to play.
Ron went over to the boy. "Hi," he said, holding out his hand. "I’m Ron."
"Neville," the other boy said, shaking his hand. He had brown hair and a round face. "My gran’s in there." He pointed through the window, to an older witch in a hat with a bird on it, who was leaning over the counter to tell the man behind it something.
"My mum’s down there," Ron said, pointing back towards the store. "And all my brothers."
"I don’t have any brothers. Just me and Gran. And loads of aunts and uncles." Neville made a face. "They’re always trying to get me to show magic. They think I’m a Squib."
"RONALD WEASLEY!" shouted a voice.
"Oops," Ron said guiltily, and took off running. "Bye," he shouted over his shoulder.
"Bye," Neville called after him.
"Can I ask you something?" Remus said to Sue as they restocked the doughnut case.
"If you like."
"How did you find out about Valentina Jett? As far as I know, she writes for a fairly limited market."
Sue shrugged. "About how old do I look to you?"
Remus looked her up and down. "Forty?" he guessed tentatively.
"Flatterer. You’re off by ten. I’ve got a daughter who’s probably older than you. She…" Sue hesitated. "She went to a special school. Wore yellow and black a lot. She sent me the book."
"I know a few people who wore yellow and black," Remus said with a small smile, which Sue returned. "Good friends to have — they never let you down."
Hmm. A Muggleborn Hufflepuff, a few years older than us… Might be able to look her up someday, after this is all over.
A shopping cart turned the corner into the bakery section. A somewhat harried-looking woman was pushing it, with two boys behind her, both about five years old, shoving each other. "Matthew — Dudley — stop it," she said wearily.
Dudley? I wonder…
Remus glanced at the boys. They were still scuffling, having ignored the woman completely. The shorter one was rather pudgy, though the way his clothes hung on him suggested he had recently been larger. He had blond hair and a look about him that suggested his most natural expression was a pout.
Are you busy? he called silently.
Just a second. Faintly he heard Danger chirrup, "Have a nice day!" to her customer. Not anymore. What’s happening?
Do you know this boy? Remus opened his eyes to her.
I might. He looks familiar. Like someone I knew before I met you. He looks… good heavens, he looks like Harry’s cousin.
That’s what I thought. The woman he’s with called him Dudley. That’s not too common a name.
No, it’s not. So I guess he is Dudley Dursley. But that’s not Petunia he’s with, Danger said with certainty, still looking through Remus’ eyes. I wonder what could have happened…
The Curse again? Remus suggested. If her greatest desire was to raise her son, the Curse might have foiled that somehow. He frowned. I hope not by killing her.
No, that seems a bit improbable, not to mention extreme. Social Services is more likely. Neglect, or lack of proper environment, or some such. Interesting to know, but not vital — and I have another customer. I’ll see you around five. I love you.
Love you too.
With a mental caress, they parted.
After Mrs. Weasley was finished reaming Ron out for running off without permission, she softened and allowed each of the older boys a half hour to do as they liked, while she took the younger ones to the playground. Bill went back to the secondhand store, Percy tagging along, to have a look at some interesting books he’d noticed. Charlie drifted toward Quality Quidditch Supplies, hoping that for once Errol hadn’t got lost or blown off course…
"Charlie!" a voice called out, and Tonks came running toward him, grinning. "I got your letter — how are you?"
"Fine," Charlie said, grinning back. It felt surprisingly good to see her again. "You look nice. Did you go on vacation?"
Tonks blushed a little. "No, but don’t tell anyone. I just made my skin a little tan so it would look like I did. You know how I can do." Charlie was the only one of her friends who knew she was a Metamorphmagus. The others thought she was preternaturally good at Color-Changing Charms.
"Yeah, I know. Are you getting a broomstick?" Tonks was the only person who knew of Charlie’s dream to become a Seeker, a good Seeker. She, in turn, had confided in him her dream of being a killer Beater.
"Mum said maybe. But she had this funny little smile on. So I think so. You?"
Charlie sighed. "I want one, really bad. But…"
Tonks gave him a little smile. "I know. Hey, there’s always next year, right?"
"Right." Charlie smiled back, and for a moment even being too poor to afford a broomstick of his own didn’t seem so hard…
"Charlie!" said the voice he least wanted to hear at that moment.
"Mum wants you," said the voice he second-least wanted to hear.
"Who’re you?" they said in chorus to Tonks.
Charlie bit his lip, trying not to scream. "Tonks, these are my brothers. One of them is Fred — don’t ask me which one, I don’t know — but whichever one it is, the other one is George." He looked over at the twins. "This is Tonks. She’s a friend of mine. From school." He hoped they would notice the emphasis on friend, as in, not girlfriend, but he knew it was probably hopeless.
"Nice to meet you," the twins said in unison, each extending a hand. Tonks giggled and shook hands with both of them at the same time, using both her own hands.
"Well, I’ll see you on the train, then," Charlie said, starting off toward the playground.
"See you," Tonks said, sounding a bit disappointed as she turned to leave.
The twins bracketed him. "So," said one of them in a speculative voice, and Charlie winced.
"This Tonks you hang around with…"
"The one you’re always talking about…"
"The one you wanted to come and visit…"
"Is a girl?" they finished together.
This is exactly what I was afraid of.
"Who were you talking with outside, Neville?" his gran asked as she walked down Diagon Alley.
"His name was Ron. He was nice."
"Why did he run away so quickly?"
"His mum wanted him."
Neville gathered up his courage. "Maybe could he come over and play sometime?" he asked timidly.
Augusta Longbottom sighed. "Perhaps. When you learn to make your bed and clean your room without having to be reminded, and keep track of your own things."
Perhaps was better than no, Neville reminded himself as he followed his gran down the crowded street. Perhaps was better than no.
He’d work on his room as soon as they got home.
The twins didn’t even wait to get out of the fireplace before they started chanting. "Charlie has a girlfriend, Charlie has a girlfriend…"
"I do not," Charlie said, blushing. "Shut up."
"Charlie has a girlfriend, Charlie has a girlfriend…"
"Tonks is just my friend, that’s all."
"Charlie has a girlfriend, Charlie has a girlfriend…"
"Enough, you two," Mrs. Weasley said, unloading her packages onto the kitchen table. "Percy, go put these away for me, there’s a dear. Bill, here, take these up to your room. Charlie, these are yours."
As the oldest boys made their way out of the kitchen, the twins followed them, grinning at each other. They were no sooner out of the kitchen than…
"Charlie has a girlfriend, Charlie has a girlfriend…"
"I said stop!" Mrs. Weasley called after them irritably. There was a whoosh behind her, and the fire in the kitchen fireplace turned green. "Oh, hello, Anita," she said, turning around.
"Molly," Mrs. Lovegood greeted her. "I was just checking to see if you were home. Luna has asked if Ginny can stay for lunch — may she?"
"Oh, of course," Mrs. Weasley said happily. "It’s so nice that the girls have made friends. I’ll expect her home around one, then. Thank you so much…"
"Mum?" Ron said quietly. "Can I go out to the orchard?"
"All right, but be back in half an hour or you get no lunch, Ronald Weasley!" But he could tell from her tone that she didn’t really mean it.
As Ron left the house, he heard, echoing out of an open upstairs window, "Charlie has a girlfriend, Charlie has a girlfriend…"
A muffled explosion cut off the chanting. Ron turned to look. There was a wisp of smoke drifting from the window. He took off running, having no wish to be anywhere near his mother in the mood she was bound to be in for the next ten or fifteen minutes.
Once he got to the orchard, Ron sat down at the foot of a tree, looked down the hill, and sighed.
It’s not fair. Bill and Charlie have friends at school. Fred and George have each other. Even Ginny’s got Luna. Percy used to be my friend, but now he acts all grown-up and doesn’t have time for me any more. There aren’t any families around here with boys my age. And I can’t play with the Muggle kids from the village — they all think I’m weird.
He thought of Neville. Maybe I could play with him. I wish I knew where he lives.
His mind drifted back even further, to a spotty memory of a day two years ago, a day like today, when he had been at the Diagon Alley playground, playing in the sandbox, and another boy and a girl his age had come along… I liked those kids. I wish I knew their names.
He sighed. I guess I just wish I had friends.
Although Ron didn’t know it, every one of his three wishes would someday come true.
Remus’ shift ended at four-thirty, so that he could go pick up Danger — she was usually too tired to enjoy walking home after a day on her feet. He stayed a little longer today, so that he could finish slicing the last few loaves of Italian bread, but once he was done, he didn’t waste any time heading for the door.
"Hoy, John, hold on a second," Sue called after him. "I have something for you."
She fumbled in her apron pocket. "You’re always cracking jokes. Thought you might like this."
She tossed him a small plaque, the kind people bought at kiosks in the mall. Remus read the legend engraved on it and chuckled. "Thanks, Sue. I have a friend this’ll come in handy for."
Danger was waiting for him when he pulled up outside the booksellers. "Get held up?" she asked as she got in.
"Just a little. What’s that?" She was holding a bag emblazoned with the store name.
"Oh, a little something I picked up on employee discount." She pulled out a small, square book. "Latin for All Occasions, by Henry Beard. It’s fun." She read a few aloud. "Quomodo cogis comas tuas sic videri? Means â€˜How do you get your hair to do that?’ Or Ita erat quando hic adveni. â€˜It was that way when I got here.’ Oh, here’s one for Sirius. Cave canem."
"â€˜Beware of the dog.’ Did you know they found that carved in a pillar outside a home in Pompeii?"
"No, I didn’t." Danger flipped a few more pages, chuckling to herself. "License plates, bumper stickers — oh, the seven…" She stopped, staring at the page.
"What’s the name of that greasy-haired bloke again, the one who works at Hogwarts, that you and Sirius hate so much?"
"I don’t hate him. He hates me. Snape, Severus Snape."
"Are you sure it’s Severus?"
"Positive — we were at school together for seven years. Why, is there something about him in the book?"
"Yes — well, sort of."
"What is it?"
Danger hesitated. "We should wait until we’re home."
"Because if I tell you now, we’ll have an accident."
"I can take funny. Tell me."
I said no, and I mean it! Not until we’re home.
Remus maintained a prim silence until he turned into the driveway of the Den, turned off the truck, and faced Danger. "There," he said expansively. "Now we’re home. Tell me this funny thing that you couldn’t tell me while I was driving."
Danger licked her lips a little nervously. "Have you ever seen the cartoon of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves?"
"So you remember all the dwarves had names, like Sneezy and Dopey and Doc."
"Well, the names are translated into Latin here. And it just so happens that â€˜Severus’ is the Latin word…" Danger glanced at the page. "For â€˜Grumpy.’"
Remus blinked. "Grumpy."
"His name means â€˜Grumpy.’"
"Yes." Danger grinned. "You see why I couldn’t tell you when you were driving?"
Yes, Remus had to say mentally, because he was too busy laughing to respond out loud. And I have something to show you. He dug the plaque out of his pocket and handed it to Danger.
"Some mornings I wake up…" Oh, this is too perfect. This is priceless. Danger was laughing as hard as he was now. Their eyes met, and all at once the same idea occurred to both of them.
Are you thinking what I’m thinking?
I think I am. Let’s go run it by Sirius and Letha.
Sirius and Aletha were highly entertained, both by the revelation and the idea. It was put into action immediately.
The next day, someone knocked at the office door of Professor Severus Snape.
"Enter," he called in annoyance.
The door opened, and a house-elf wearing a horrendous assortment of clothing scuttled in. "Professor Snape, sir, a package is coming, with your name on it."
A package? I wasn’t expecting anything… "Where is it?"
"Dobby has it here, sir. Where should Dobby put it?"
"I’ll take it." Snape removed the small package from the house-elf’s hands. "Now get out."
The little thing disappeared with a loud crack. Snape was too busy examining the parcel to pay much attention. Addressed in a woman’s handwriting, but not one that I know. And with the look of something that has been much handled. Perhaps even sent through the 3M service.
He pulled out his wand and cast a standard threat-determination spell over the package. It blinked for a moment, then glowed blue. The contents were harmless, as far as the spell could establish.
But I have seen things most people would swear were harmless used as murder weapons…
Banishing that thought, he undid the brown paper wrapping. A small book, obviously from a Muggle publisher, met his eyes.
A humor book of Latin phrases. Is this someone’s idea of a joke?
A note, also on Muggle paper, was stuck into it, about halfway through the book. Snape pulled it out and opened it.
Just a token of our esteem, with warmest wishes for a good school year. Be sure to open the second package after you read page 48.
It was in the same handwriting as the package, and there was no signature.
Second package? Snape picked up the book. There was indeed a second package underneath it, also in brown paper.
Page 48. He opened the book to that page, which he suspected was the one where the note had been stuck. The binding seemed to be broken at that place, and a pair of words on the page had been highlighted in florescent yellow. Naturally, they drew his eyes.
Oh, sweet bloody Merlin on a polka-dotted magic carpet…
He savagely ripped the paper off the second package to find a cheap souvenir plaque, engraved with the words:
Some days I wake up grumpy. Other times I let him sleep.
With an oath, he hurled book and plaque into the fireplace and incinerated them with his wand.
I will find out who did this. If it takes me the rest of my life, I will find out.
"Warmest wishes for a good school year" indeed.
The only thing which comforted him was the knowledge that whoever had done this, it could not have been his old nemeses, the Marauders.
Pettigrew and Potter are dead. Lupin has been missing for years, more than likely dead — quite possibly at the hands of Black. And if Black is wise, he has probably fled the country by now.
Of course, the name Sirius Black and the word "wise" never did go together.
Professor Snape is being horrid to me — I’ve lost twenty points for Gryffindor and I have detention, all from my first class. Did I do something wrong that I don’t know about?
Severus Snape is horrid to everyone — it’s part of his personality. He may be a little more hostile to you than to most, because you have a connection with someone he truly hated.
Sirius Black was my first cousin, making you his first cousin once removed. He and Severus Snape were in the same year at Hogwarts, and at odds from their first day. I recommend caution.
P.S. I have recently heard from my nephew’s guardians that he is well. I thought you might care to know.
Thanks for the advice. And the news.
P.S. Does it mean anything if a boy blushes every time he sees me?
P.P.S. Can I have a broomstick for my birthday?
It might. Another one?
You can always claim you and Dad got your owls crossed and each got me one. I have a friend who needs one really bad. Please?
The word is "badly." Watch the post.
P.S. Is this friend a boy?
Thanks a million! And yes, he is, but he’s just a friend. Truly he is.
P.S. What might it mean?
What might what mean?
P.S. Expect it tomorrow.
P.S. It came. Charlie says thank you.
Tell him he’s welcome.
P.S. When are you bringing him home so we can meet him?
I told you, he’s not my boyfriend!
P.S. Can he come visit over Christmas?
P.S. Please use a different owl if you answer. This one seems to be worn out for some reason.