Living with Danger
Chapter 28: Two and Two Together
By Anne B. Walsh
Chapter 28: Two and Two Together
"Go on, Reggie, you run ahead. You too, Jamie," Aletha Freeman said, laughing as the two little boys sped off toward the doors, clumsy in their coats and boots, but each still trying to outrun the other.
If I wanted to see small children, I would work at a primary school. Must she haul those brats here every week?
Severus Snape was not in a good mood.
At least the girls seem able to control themselves. Freeman’s daughter and the older girl whose hand she was holding were walking beside the Muggle couple with Freeman in a civilized manner. And I will not personally have to deal with any of them until they are old enough to understand adult conversation.
The older girl looked at Snape curiously and said something to her father, something which made him laugh aloud.
So glad I could provide amusement for you, Snape grumbled mentally, while also registering the fact that the man’s laugh was familiar.
Yet another entry on my list of things that are not as they should be. I have never known a Muggle well enough to know what his laughter sounded like. So the man is not a Muggle. But neither is he anyone I recognize by sight…
The party was out of the entrance hall by now, headed across the great expanse of lawn, where some students were having a snowball fight. Even from this distance, Snape could see the blazing red hair of the Weasley brothers and the bright blue of the Tonks girl, to whom Freeman’s enormous dog was currently giving an enthusiastic greeting.
So it seems I am not the only one so favored by this animal.
The sight of his problem student floundering in the snow, pinned down by the huge black thing, raised his spirits immensely. Snape made his way to the kitchens feeling almost cheerful.
"Is that Professor Grumpy?" Neenie asked Remus curiously, looking at Snape.
Remus couldn’t keep himself from laughing, especially since Snape’s face, as it so often did, certainly warranted that name at this moment. He nodded to her rather than speak aloud, since Severus would almost without a doubt recognize his speaking voice.
Minerva claims she recognized my laughter, but she already suspected who I might be. Severus, as far as we know, has no idea.
And may he never.
Danger surprised Remus on his birthday with a truly enormous book entitled The Lives of the Hogwarts Founders, which he had been wanting ever since it had come out the previous year. He wasn’t so much surprised by the fact that she had bought it for him as by the fact that she had rigged it to fall out of the ceiling directly above his face as he woke up. Luckily for both of them, she had securely attached it to a bungee cord, so that it snapped back about six inches from him.
Just testing your reflexes, dear, was her last audible comment before he got a hold of her.
After they had both recovered, they came down to breakfast, and Remus read snippets aloud from the book throughout the meal.
"â€˜Each of the Founders of Hogwarts had a talent for an unusual sort of wandless magic. Best known, of course, is the ability of Salazar Slytherin to speak snake language, or Parseltongue, a talent which legend says will be passed down to his true heirs throughout time.’"
Harry looked apprehensive. He knew all about Slytherin House and its reputation. "Does that mean I have to be a Slytherin?" he asked tentatively.
"No," Sirius said emphatically. "Absolutely not, Harry. You may be a Parselmouth, but that doesn’t make you Slytherin’s heir. Slytherin was a mean b—"
"Bloke," Sirius concluded without missing a beat, winking at Aletha. "He wanted to keep magic in all-magic families. And he was willing to hurt people, even kill them, to enforce that. Doesn’t sound much like Harry, now does it?" he asked the other cubs, who shook their heads. "So you have nothing to worry about, Greeneyes. Even if you were descended from Salazar Slytherin, you’re nothing like him, and that’s what matters."
"Okay," Harry said cheerfully, accepting his godfather’s explanation and a hug at the same time.
"Go on and play, you four, I’ll clear the table," Danger said, and the cubs scurried from the room with alacrity, taking full advantage of the rare respite from their usual chore.
"â€˜Helga Hufflepuff was renowned for her talents with plants,’" Remus went on. "â€˜Hogwarts legend credits her with planting the snowdrops that still cover the school’s lawns every spring. Another story claims that she once made her enemy’s wand sprout flowers in his hand during a duel, incapacitating him. It was she who insisted that the grounds not be entirely cleared of forest, and she was respected and allowed safe passage by all the creatures of the forest, even the notoriously ethnocentric centaurs.’"
"Wish I was Hufflepuff’s heir," Sirius said, putting his feet up on the table for a brief moment before Aletha firmly removed them with one of her own. "Then I could have sprouted Snivelly’s wand in our sixth year, when he hexed that poor first year from behind. Remember that, Moony?"
Remus sighed. "Padfoot, you thought it was funny."
"At the time." Sirius waved his hand, dismissing such trifles.
"What I remember is how James looked," Remus said. "He probably could have set the castle on fire with his eyes."
Sirius nodded. "He was scary when he got mad. Him and Lily both. Harry’s going to be terrifying, if he got even a fraction of their tempers."
Remus continued. "â€˜Rowena Ravenclaw was a noted Healer, with her greatest asset being her ability to wandlessly diagnose and treat some ailments that were otherwise resistant or entirely unresponsive to treatment. However, use of this ability tired her greatly, so that she could only use it in times of great need, and then only a few times before she was exhausted. Her greatest achievement was healing an entire class of students who had been badly burned by a rogue dragon, but she needed two months to recover from this, and her hair remained white for the rest of her life.’"
"Small price to pay," Aletha said quietly, with the bleakness in her eyes she only got when she was thinking of her mother. Her parents had kept her mother’s illness from her, not wanting to interrupt her studies, until it was too late for Aletha to do anything but say goodbye.
"â€˜Godric Gryffindor could wandlessly control fire, and was never burned, not even when he was asleep or unconscious. Some accounts state that he juggled balls of fire at the opening ceremonies of Hogwarts. One tale (which is unsupported by any other source, scholars note, and may have been invented in later years) has him burning Slytherin’s wand to ash when Slytherin tried to expel a Muggleborn student by force, leading to the historic breach between the Founders.’"
Aletha’s face changed to considering. "Something wrong?" Danger asked.
"Just a random thought." Aletha sighed. "It’s gone. Never mind."
Remus flipped some pages. "Ah, Founders’ families. Slytherin had two sons — one of them went with him when he left, one stayed with the other Founders. Hufflepuff had one son, Ravenclaw had three daughters — one a Squib, oddly enough — and Gryffindor had a son and a daughter."
"Anything about present-day heirs?" Danger asked curiously.
"No. Apparently the records are sketchy for the next few centuries. So there’s no way to tell for sure if there are any heirs of the Founders left."
"Just have to watch the cubs for unusual abilities," Sirius said.
Aletha sighed. "Other unusual abilities."
A silence fell as the Pack thought about the fact that one of their cubs might indeed be an heir of a Founder — and not the Founder they would have liked.
"Maybe Harry’s descended from Slytherin’s good son," Danger said, trying to keep the conversation light and aware that she was failing dismally.
"It doesn’t matter," Remus said firmly. "Remember, Sirius? Not abilities, but choices."
Sirius groaned. "I got so sick of hearing that."
"Translation for the mundanes?" Aletha asked.
"Every time we would get in trouble and have to go to Dumbledore’s office," Remus recalled, "he would tell us that it was not our abilities that were getting us in trouble, but our choices about what to do with them."
"And he was right," Sirius said. "We were choosing to do things that had a high probability of getting us caught."
Aletha slapped him lightly on the top of the head, and the conversation turned to reminiscences.
April was ushered in by a truly remarkable April Fool’s Day, since the cubs were now old enough to think up and carry out pranks on their own, and took full advantage of the fact. The adults had been planning to initiate them into pranking over the course of the next year, and were somewhat surprised that the cubs had anticipated them.
"Surprised, but proud," as Sirius said. "So proud."
Harry’s snake friend Siss enjoyed the day wholeheartedly. Her friend Hesseh swore off humans entirely.
The full moon in April fell on the 6th, and after a rousing game of "chase the werewolf," during which Moony and Padfoot both managed to fall down the stairs and come up unhurt, the Pack went into den, sleeping in their usual untidy piles in front of the fireplace.
Danger had trouble getting to sleep, even with everyone else around her to encourage her. Something feels odd about tonight. And not in a good way.
When she finally did get to sleep, she realized what was going on.
Oh, fudge. Feetie fudge. I had kind of hoped I wouldn’t have any more of these. And this one feels big…
I have been waiting, said a mock-irritable voice, for an hour and a quarter. Did you drink too much tea before bed?
No, I was just nervous. And now I know why.
Well, since you’re here, "once more into the breach, dear friends, once more"?
I think that’s "unto."
We can look it up in the morning.
Hand in insubstantial hand, they plunged into the maelstrom of images and sounds, and waited for the words to come.
Once a friend, and once a foe,
Your dwelling place has come to know,
A third shall come, invade your Den,
And you shall see it ne’er again.
Th’invader is well-known to all,
Nor friend nor foe you would him call,
And though the wolf defeat him may,
Still cubs, adults, must all away.
Be answer to a lady’s prayer,
The new world seek, feel no despair,
For only half a year shall fly
Ere you this isle again draw nigh.
A new Den make, in village small,
New names and faces give you all,
Uphold the lonely one and find
A friend and helper, sharp of mind.
The odd one of that family, too,
And moon-called friend join unto you,
And thus the pack begins to meet
Which one day shall the dark defeat.
Danger grimaced. "I do not like the look of the fourth line. At all."
"Neither do I," Remus said grimly, passing a copy over to Aletha and Sirius. "Matter of fact, I don’t like the look of the first eight lines. An invader, whom I’m apparently supposed to face, and no matter if I win or lose, we have to leave. Leave and never come back."
Aletha closed her eyes and pressed her face against Sirius’ shoulder for a moment, then emerged with a look of determination. "Right. Was there any time sense on this? Are we going to have to get out tomorrow?"
"Sorry, nothing," Danger said, suddenly acutely aware of how much she loved her Den, how much she would hate to lose it. "This one’s open-ended. Could happen next week, or next year."
"I don’t think so," Sirius said. "You haven’t had one in a while, now suddenly you do. That argues it’s going to happen fairly soon."
"Good point." Remus studied the parchment in his hand. "So we’re supposed to go to a new world for six months, then come back here, find a new Den in a small village, establish new identities for everyone…"
"Wait, that’s not what it says," Aletha said. "It’s not â€˜a’ new world, it’s â€˜the’ new world. That has a specific meaning."
"The New World — America." Sirius snapped his fingers. "Got it. â€˜Be answer to a lady’s prayer’ — we’re supposed to go visit your aunt, Letha. That’s what that is." Amy Freeman had written three more times since her first letter the previous October, and always closed with an entreaty for Aletha and her daughter to come and visit, and bring her friends if she liked.
Danger nodded. "That makes sense. And if we go Muggle-style, by airplane, and don’t do any magic, the magical folks might not catch onto us until too late — and we haven’t done anything wrong in the Muggle world, so they won’t be looking for us."
"Best of both worlds," Remus said, smiling at his wife. "But I’m wondering who this invader is supposed to be. Someone we know, and someone we’re divided over in some way. Maybe someone with ambiguous loyalties…" He trailed off, with a look of mingled comprehension and distaste.
"You’re thinking what I’m thinking, aren’t you?" Sirius said.
"That’s the man."
"Well, if Severus Snape is going to find us, I’m all for leaving," Aletha said with a weak chuckle. "That man’s face could sour milk."
"The important thing is that now we know," Danger said. "Should we tell the cubs?"
Sirius glanced down the hallway to the den room, where Harry, Hermione, Draco, and Meghan still lay asleep and limp in a tangle of limbs. "No. Not yet. If we tell them now, they’ll have time to think about it, and they might get scared. If we wait and surprise them with it, it’s like an adventure."
"All right," Remus said, standing up. "We’ve probably done as much as we can with this right now, and it is a weekday. Come on, ladies, time to get ready for work." After all, dreams or not, life goes on.
However much you might want it to stand still. Climbing the stairs, Danger sighed deeply. Damn it, Remus, we’ve been happy here. We’ve had five really good years. Why can’t they just leave us alone?
If you wanted to be left alone, you should never have got into this in the first place.
True enough. But once I was in, I wasn’t about to get out.
I remember. "Don’t think you’re leaving me behind."
And you didn’t, and you never have.
And I never will.
The Lupins took a moment out of their preparations to reaffirm their love physically. Mental contact was nice, but it only went so far.
April, May, and June were unusually warm and sunny that year, as if to give the Pack as much enjoyment as possible in their last months in their Den. They went often to Hogsmeade, where Harry and Draco had broomstick races, which neither of them could consistently win, though Harry won a bit more often. Both boys also enjoyed doing tricks on their brooms and giving their Pack-mothers heart palpitations. Hermione was a decent flyer, but didn’t care to race or do tricks, for which Danger was decidedly thankful.
Meghan, under Hermione’s tutelage, learned to read, and learned all by herself how to climb the cabinets in the kitchen to get at the cookies. Harry taught her to fly without holding onto her broom, and Draco taught her to fib with a straight face — though his tricks very seldom fooled any of their Pack-parents, all the cubs knew that someday they would have to face the rest of the world.
Sirius showed all of the cubs how to throw a ball straight and hard, and the older three learned from Remus where to hit someone if they ever truly needed to defend themselves. Danger taught them all how to knit, as her mother had taught her. Harry and Hermione had joined Draco in piano lessons when Aletha felt they were ready, and she had added basic singing tutoring to that as time went by. Draco was hoping for a recorder for his birthday.
And so their lives went, pleasantly enough, except for the shadow the adults knew was creeping closer by the day — the shadow of upheaval in their lives, of leaving their Den for good…
At last. The end of the year. They all leave tomorrow.
Severus Snape was feeling so good, he had actually emerged from the dungeons to enjoy the evening.
But, of course, solitude is too much to hope for.
A pair of students was sitting along the edge of the lake. They were unaware of his presence, and they were probably under the impression that they were talking quietly. Unfortunately, no one had ever told them that sound carries well around water.
Snape was about to leave when a fragment of what the girl was saying caught his ear.
She cannot just have said what I thought she said. It was my imagination.
Still, he was intrigued enough to stand still for another moment…
"Draco Malfoy?" the boy repeated loudly, and the girl shushed him. "You’re telling me you know where he is?" he said a little more quietly, but still perfectly audibly.
"Yes, but you can’t tell anyone!" the girl said anxiously. "No one, not even your brothers, not even your mum, understand?"
"Of course — Tonks, how long have you known?"
Yes. I too would like to know how long you have known. Snape dropped into a crouch so he would be less noticeable and strained his ears, afraid to get closer for fear the children would hear him moving.
"Years, a couple of years, and my mum said never to tell anyone, but Charlie, I had to tell someone — please, please, I trust you, please don’t tell anyone, or my mum will know it was me!"
"Don’t worry," the boy said in a soothing tone. "Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone. I promise. Swear on my family name. So, where is he?"
The girl looked around fearfully, missing Snape since he was crouched beside a clump of bushes, then, to Snape’s annoyance, leaned over and whispered something into the boy’s ear. Whatever it was, it delighted him. He laughed aloud. "No, really? Under everyone’s noses! And no one else knows? That’s great!"
"Well, I’m pretty sure Professor Dumbledore knows," the girl said. "And Hagrid, too — they always go to visit him. And possibly Professor McGonagall — she’s got a new photograph on her desk, but the frame’s always empty when I’m in there. I think she’s got it charmed so only she can see it."
"Handy, that," the boy said, getting up. "Let’s go in, Tonks, it’s getting chilly."
"One thing I’ve always wondered, though," floated back to Snape on the evening breeze as the students wandered toward the castle, "is why they call him Reggie. I mean, you can’t get Reggie out of a name like — you know."
"Well, they couldn’t keep that name. It is kind of conspicuous."
"True, but you’d think they’d try to give him something a little more like what he’s used to — maybe call him Daniel or David, at least keep the same first letter…"
Very slowly, Snape straightened up, his mind buzzing.
A teenaged girl has accomplished a task that has baffled the best minds of magical Britain for nearly three years.
And given me a tantalizing half-answer. Reggie. Where have I heard the name Reggie?
He walked slowly back to his quarters, thinking, searching his memory. Finally, he gave up and decided to read instead. Perhaps while I am thinking of something else, it will return to me.
He pulled a book off his shelf that he had not read in several months and opened it. A slip of parchment fluttered to the floor.
What… ah, yes, the letters Hagrid dropped last Christmas. He picked it up and glanced at it, remembering. R, R, O, C, Y, A.
Tonks’ voice echoed in his head.
"And Hagrid, too — they always go to visit him…"
R, O, C, and A — all could be from the name Draco. And he would be the age to enjoy a puzzle in the shape of his name. But the extra R and the Y do not fit the pattern…
He racked his brain for details that he might have missed, and found two. Hagrid mentioned "kids," as in more than one child. And when I picked them up, the two R’s were together. So perhaps they are both part of another name. R, R, and Y…
As he had expected, his mind, confronted with this new problem, instead reminded him of where he had heard the name "Reggie" —
"Go on, Reggie, you run ahead. You too, Jamie," Aletha Freeman said, laughing as the two little boys sped off…
Two boys. She always has two boys with her. Two boys and a girl, all of the same age. The correct age for one of them to be Draco Malfoy, Draco Regulus Malfoy, which would account for "Reggie" —
And another boy of that age, called "Jamie," with a name including RRY —
No, that is a supposition. The name could be the girl’s…
But even as Snape thought that, the answer struck him, with almost the force of a physical blow, making him gasp aloud.
The name is Harry.
"Jamie," of course, after his father James. Even dead, the man haunts me.
But Sirius Black —
Snape swore bitterly. Was Aletha Freeman’s boyfriend, you fool! She would have done anything for him — she named her damn dog after him!
He swore again as he realized something else. She bore his child. That girl was never adopted, she looks exactly like her mother. So it’s no wonder she’s also raising the children he stole!
No, she’s not. I must not jump to conclusions. There are two other people involved. A woman and a man, supposedly the parents of the children, and supposedly Muggles. But I have established that I know the man from somewhere…
Yes, and Minerva told Freeman to give "everyone" her regards. But the children would be unlikely to know her, or care. And Black by himself, if Freeman is in fact hiding him, does not constitute an "everyone." So who…
Snape closed his eyes, called up his memory of the man who always accompanied Freeman, and took a good look at him, at the way he moved and held himself. He will have changed his face, but not the way he walks and stands…
His memory was not quite photographic, but it was excellent, the trained memory of a spy, who lives and dies by details. In this case, it sufficed.
Lupin. Snape snarled to himself. I should have realized long ago. Potter and Black could always talk Lupin into anything. Black probably convinced him he was innocent, they stole the Potter boy and subverted Freeman together, and they’ve been hiding together for the last — five years, is it now? And sending me insults by mail; that plaque was exactly the kind of thing they would, and could, do.
And somehow, they got their hands on Draco Malfoy. Possibly through a family connection with Black, that would explain how the Tonks girl knows — since she mentioned her mother also as knowing —
He took a deep breath, trying to calm himself. This is all supposition. I must have fact before I can do anything.
But I cannot go to the Headmaster with this. He is part of it. That parcel at Christmas two years ago, from the same people who sent me that infuriating package…
I must investigate this myself. I must see what I can find out.
And when I have my proof, I will bring them down.
He poured himself a shot of firewhiskey and lifted it ironically to the ceiling.
Here’s to you, James Potter. As I lay plans to save your son by getting your best friends arrested.
He drank the liquor off in one gulp, enjoying the burning sensation in his mouth and throat.
Poetic justice does exist after all.