Living with Danger
Chapter 29: Three Sides Around
By Anne B. Walsh
Chapter 29: Three Sides Around
Snape was up early the next morning, pacing and planning.
Where would they be likely to hide?
Their story — they being Lupin and whoever this woman is — consists of being Freeman’s neighbors, Muggles with magical children. Assume this is untrue. They would not broadcast their true location in such a blatant way. Particularly if, as I suspect may be the case, Black is hiding either in their house or nearby, so that he can visit the Potter boy.
Snape shook his head at his memories which flooded his mind from the final days of the war. If the Potter boy appeared anywhere in public, Sirius Black was sure to be there with him. Even his actual mother and father were less constant than his godfather — Black doted on the child sickeningly.
Black is certain to be with them, then, which means they are unlikely to live in a city — too much possibility of someone seeing him. Perhaps somewhere in the country. Somewhere with few and incurious neighbors. And they will certainly have had the sense to place anti-scrying protections on their home.
But they are Gryffindors — in other words, self-assured fools — so perhaps they have even neglected that…
But I cannot imagine that the Ministry has not tried to scry for them before this. The Fudge administration might have bungled so far as not to use basic methods like scrying, but since Vilias became Minister, things have run a bit more smoothly.
It is still worth a try.
But as he had expected, scrying for Sirius Black or the place where he lived brought him no results. Nor did scrying for Freeman or her home. He even tried for Lupin and got nothing.
Hunger was nagging at him by now, and with a mild shock he realized it was nine in the morning. He had arisen at six and eaten nothing, so it probably should not have surprised him as much as it did that he was hungry.
He made a Floo connection with the kitchen and ordered a light breakfast, with a large pot of coffee. When the food came, he ate quickly, thinking while he did.
There is some angle of this I have not yet explored. Some way in which I could reap results from these preliminary tests.
He was just pouring himself a second cup of coffee when it came to him.
The woman. The woman with Lupin. I could scry for her. I do not know her name, but her face is certainly familiar enough to me, after all these visits.
That is, if she is not wearing a glamour as well.
But it cannot hurt to try.
Carefully, he cast the scrying spell again on the bowl of water he’d used for all his previous attempts, thinking hard of the brown-haired woman, her face and voice and manner. And this time, he got something.
The woman stood behind a counter, wearing a nametag. He glanced at it. "Kelly." Unlikely to be her true name, but it will do. Enlarging the picture’s frame, he could see that she was ringing up something at a cash register, and shifting his perspective slightly to the right revealed what — books.
A Muggle bookseller. Perhaps her claim to be a Muggle is no lie.
If I could find out where that store is, I would have at least a vague idea of where to begin looking…
But the limited area he could shift the scry over before it would lose focus provided him no clues. It could have been any good-sized bookstore in any middling-to-large town in England.
There is no point in watching any further at this time. I have made a first step by ascertaining that one member of their group is sometimes, and I believe I can assume often, in a place where I can spy on her. I will check again later in the day — perhaps I can catch her going home and follow her, since the scry will remain on her no matter where she goes.
He lifted his coffee mug in a silent toast. To my success, and my enemies’ downfall. May it come sooner than I hope.
Due to unforeseen circumstances (the fact, unknown to Snape, that Danger worked only mornings on Wednesdays, and a potion that came to the critical point just at five o’clock on Thursday), it was not until his third day of watching that Snape found his quarry showing signs of packing up to leave. Just as she was closing her handbag, though, a slew of customers appeared from nowhere, and she was the only clerk left on duty, so of course she had to handle them.
Watching her work with mostly calm efficiency, Snape almost missed the opening of the big main doors which were beside the row of cash registers. The man who walked through those doors, however, got his attention — or, rather, the man’s walk got his attention first, and the face afterwards.
Lupin. There to pick up his paramour?
So it seemed, for as the woman finished with her last customer, Lupin slid behind the desk that housed the registers, slipped up behind her, and covered her eyes, obviously playing a game which had been so popular among his peers in their seventh year, and which Snape had never understood — the foolish and childish game of "Guess Who?"
The woman startled, then laughed and began to speak. Snape had trained himself to a partial understanding of lip-reading, but the picture in the scry was not of the best quality, so he could pick out only words here and there: "You… awful… John… sneaking up… like that…"
Nothing important. Lovers’ talk, nothing more.
The woman lifted the cash drawer from the register and quickly counted the money it contained. Snape admitted, if only to himself, that Muggles had something in their idea of paper money. It might be easier to counterfeit, but it was certainly easier to transport. The coins, she poured into a small machine which sorted and counted them for her. Snape watched it in odd fascination, marveling at the variety of shapes and sizes Muggle coins came in.
She did some quick sums on a piece of paper, compared the total to something she had already written down, and nodded with satisfaction. Placing the money in a zippered bag, she hurried off, probably to deposit it with whoever was in charge of such things. Lupin leaned against the counter, waiting, wearing the same smile Snape had known him to use as he kept watch outside a room where Potter and Black were concocting some nefarious scheme or other.
Did he really think he could get away with changing only superficial things about his appearance and no one would know who he was?
But Severus Snape was a realist, and he had to face reality on this. I knew his face well, if I may so flatter myself, and even I did not recognize him for years. He was always careful never to speak in front of me, since his voice I am certain I would have known. But without that, the small mannerisms of movement and gesture were never anything definite. I always ignored it as a passing resemblance.
In other words, I was just as taken in by his simple ruse as was everyone else.
The woman returned from wherever it was she had gone with a slip of paper in her hand. She gave it to Lupin with a "now-look-what-you’ve-done" expression. He read the few scribbled words on it and winced, speaking to her. "Honest mistake," Snape caught. "Twice… years… break…"
The woman shook her head at him, smiling ruefully. The two kissed, then strolled out the door together to —
Nothing. Or so it appeared to Snape.
They must have a Muggle vehicle with anti-scrying on it as well. And once she gets into it, I will lose my fix on her…
Quickly, he chose a new item to fix the scry on, while keeping his eyes on that disturbing patch of not-quite-blankness. And so began a nerve-wracking ten minutes, with the car (or so he assumed) traveling along blithely, and Snape working feverishly to keep up, jumping from tree to lamppost to traffic light in his quest to keep it in sight, more or less.
Finally, the thing pulled into another commercial parking lot, this one for what looked like a large grocery store. Snape set his fix on this and watched with relief as the blank patch traveled around it and stopped near a back entrance. Lupin emerged from the blankness (very odd to watch, as he appeared to be created while one looked) and knocked on a door marked "Employees Only."
An older woman opened the door and handed something to Lupin, wagging her finger at him. "Second time… gone… wallet… can’t… picking up after you… see you tomorrow morning."
This must be where he works!
Snape quickly added that to his list of facts. He had been too busy trying to keep the car in sight to notice any landmarks along the way, so he still had no idea where they were, other than an urban/suburban area. As Lupin disappeared again, Snape let him go. He was busy looking at all sides of the building, noting its features, its location, and the fact that it had a large parking lot.
She said she would see him tomorrow morning. So will I.
His house may be protected from scrying, but unless he has put it under a Fidelius Charm, which I highly doubt, it is not protected from simple spying.
And spying is one of the things I do best.
His wave of pardonable pride floated him upstairs to have dinner with the rest of the staff, and even to make two or three comments that might, in some way, have been taken as favorable to those they addressed.
It can be excused, considering the great thing I plan to accomplish tomorrow.
"This is the second time you’ve gone home without your wallet," Sue said, shaking her finger at Remus as she handed it to him. "I can’t always be picking up after you, John. I’ll see you tomorrow morning."
"See you," Remus said with a self-depreciating smile. He returned to the truck looking properly sheepish.
Which is quite a feat for a werewolf, eh?
You’re spying on my thoughts again.
When am I not, love? Remus put the truck into gear and stepped on the gas. We’re never apart, you know.
Not completely. Letha pointed something out to me a while back, I don’t know if she ever mentioned it to you…
About our eyes? She did. And she’s right — mine always have just a hint of brown in them now, even if I’ve shut your conscious thoughts completely out of mine —
And mine always a touch of blue. I suppose it simply means that we’re connected.
Which we always are.
And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Nor would I. Remus reached over to stroke his wife’s flyaway hair and got her shoulder by mistake, making them both smile.
And now I will shut up and let you deal with the traffic.
Thank you ever so.
After dinner, Aletha sat at the piano, her hands exploring melodic ideas, painting her day in music, Remus called it. They wandered into a familiar sequence of chords, something she had recently learned, the accompaniment for a duet piece, a love song for a man and a woman…
Sirius came in from the kitchen, drying his hands on a dish towel. Aletha smiled at him and modulated the chords back to the beginning of the song. Shall we, my love?
We shall, his answering smile said, and he came in on his cue beautifully.
No more talk of darkness, forget these wide-eyed fears
I’m here, nothing can harm you
My words will warm and calm you
Sirius had a wonderful baritone, rich and lovely, but he pigheadedly refused to learn to read music. Aletha had had to teach him the entire song by ear. But she was glad she had.
Let me be your freedom, let daylight dry your tears
I’m here, with you, beside you
To guard you and to guide you
Aletha’s hands ascended the keys as she took a deep breath for her high entrance.
All I ask is every waking moment
Turn my head with talk of summertime
Draco skidded through the archway and quietly sat down.
Say you need me with you now and always
Promise me that all you say is true
Meghan and Neenie tiptoed in through the doorway and joined Draco on the couch.
That’s all I ask of you
Over her last note, Sirius reentered the song.
Let me be your shelter, let me be your light
You’re safe, no one will find you
Your fears are far behind you
Aletha took over the theme.
All I want is freedom, a world with no more night
Remus was just visible in the hallway, leaning against the wall, listening.
And you, always beside me
To hold me and to hide me
Sirius’ voice soared to his version of the high note Aletha had previously hit.
Then say you’ll share with me one love, one lifetime
Let me lead you from your solitude
Danger came up behind Remus, resting her head on his shoulder, and Harry peered around her legs before scampering (quietly) into the room and joining the rest of the cubs on the couch.
Say you need me with you, here beside you
Anywhere you go, let me go too
Love me, that’s all I ask of you
Now it was Aletha’s turn to come in over Sirius’ last note, with a repetition of the high theme.
All I ask for is one love, one lifetime
Say the word and I will follow you
They sang in unison, voices joining as hearts so obviously already had.
Share each day with me, each night, each morning
Aletha’s voice turned pleading.
Say you love me
Sirius didn’t even wait for her to finish.
You know I do
They went into harmony.
That’s all I ask of you
Aletha put all the emotion she had been giving to her singing into the long piano interlude which preceded the end of the song. It helped, of course, that Sirius had his hand on her shoulder. Finally she reached the climactic chords, and they sang again, this time in octaves, Aletha’s soprano soaring gloriously.
Anywhere you go, let me go too
They went back into harmony for the final phrase, sung tenderly and slowly to one another’s eyes.
That’s all I ask of you
Aletha let the final chord die away.
The rest of the Pack broke into applause.
"Beautiful," Danger said. "Absolutely beautiful."
"Stick around, we’re here all night," Sirius said. "Any requests?"
"Yes, let us do one," Remus said, coming into the room. "If you’d be so kind as to play, Letha."
Aletha flipped to her music book’s table of contents. "What did you have in mind?"
"I was thinking…" Remus ran his finger down the page. "This one. If you want to, of course, Danger."
"Oh, why not, if you want to make me look bad in front of everyone, I guess I will," Danger said in a mock-grumpy voice. "You two are a hard act to follow," she added over her shoulder as she took her singing stance.
"We try, we try," Sirius said. "Want me to turn pages, Letha?"
"If you like."
Aletha began the slow, rhythmic accompaniment, making Neenie gasp with delight. It was one of her favorite songs, since she had developed a keen appreciation for romantic stories over the last year. Aletha sometimes suspected her of secretly wishing for a male friend who wasn’t her brother, so she could practice feminine wiles on him.
Remus turned to Danger and began, in his soft, warm tenor.
In a place that won’t let us feel
In a life where nothing seems real
I have found you
I have found you
Danger smiled at him and replied in a slightly husky alto.
In a world that’s moving too fast
In a world where nothing can last
I will hold you
I will hold you
Remus looked into the distance.
Our lives will change when tomorrow comes
Danger moved to him and put a hand on his shoulder.
Tonight our hearts drown the distant drums
Remus looked back at her and stroked her face.
And we have music all right
Tearing the night
Neenie sighed in contentment as the chorus began.
Played on a solo saxophone
A crazy sound
Danger took the melody.
A lonely sound
Remus joined her line, and they sang together.
A cry that tells us love goes on and on
Played on a solo saxophone
It’s telling me
To hold you tight
Remus pulled Danger close to him, face to face.
And dance like it’s the last night of the world…
And dance they did, while Aletha played, Sirius turned her pages, and the cubs watched it all enraptured.
We are eventually going to have to at least get them separate beds, you know, Remus pointed out after the cubs had been tucked in.
You can tell them that. We’ll take you to the hospital afterwards.
Oh, come on. They won’t take it that badly. Will they?
You never know until you try, and my motto is "Be Prepared."
I didn’t know you were a Boy Scout. Remus looked Danger up and down. You seem to be lacking a certain basic requirement…
Danger bared her teeth. If I didn’t love you so much, I would push you down the stairs here and now.
Tsk tsk, threats of violence toward your alpha male. I’d better teach you your place, female…
There was a squeal from the direction of the front room.
"What’s that?" Aletha asked, looking up.
"Probably just Danger getting herself kissed again," Sirius said, leafing through his fan mail and pulling out one particular letter. "One of these days, I swear I’m going to hand McGonagall all the letters she’s ever written â€˜Valentina Jett’, and just watch her have a stroke right there in front of me."
"You horrible man," Aletha said, insinuating herself onto her husband’s lap. "I ought to slap you."
And then it wasn’t just Danger getting herself kissed.
Snape awakened early the next morning. Perhaps too early.
But one can never be too early for one’s destiny. And it must be my destiny to find these treacherous fools, both the kidnappers and those who hide them. They are equally guilty and should be punished alike.
And they will be.
He spent about an hour going over his plan a few last times, just to make sure he knew exactly what he was doing. When he was satisfied, he went up to the kitchen to get a simple breakfast and a packed lunch, since he was planning to be away all day.
Then he left the castle, carrying with him a bag, containing his food, two or three books he was currently reading, and two flasks of what appeared to be a simple Four-Hour Invisibility Potion, but tweaked as only Snape could, to mask not only his visual appearance, but his scent as well. He had not forgotten the humiliating experience in his fourth year which had taught him that even in human form, a werewolf had a better sense of smell than a human.
Of course, he had not known, then, exactly why Lupin had been able to find his usual hiding place near the Gryffindor dormitory. He had only known that the other boy had found him, although he had taken pains to conceal himself from sight. His discovery of Lupin’s nature had shed new light on many such happenings.
But soon I will have my revenge for all. And in such a way that none can fault me — that all will thank me, in fact. I will be a public benefactor, a hero even.
He passed the gates of Hogwarts and stopped. From here, he could Apparate to the parking lot of Lupin’s workplace. Then, and only then, he would drink the potion and disappear. Drinking a potion too soon before Apparating could have bad effects, such as sickening the Apparater or causing the potion not to take effect properly, and he did not wish to become invisible and then have to wait half an hour of his precious four before arriving at his destination.
If any Muggles happened to be about, they would indeed see magic — a man appearing out of thin air, and disappearing again a moment later — but Muggles tended to see what they wanted to see. They would either come up with some twisted and tortured logical way that it could have happened, or they would simply forget and/or deny that they had ever seen it in the first place.
Snape smiled, visualized the parking lot he had seen in the scry, and vanished with a soft pop.
Sue was just getting out of her car when she heard the sound from behind her. It was faint but familiar. It was the sound Dorothy made when she came to visit by herself, when she didn’t bring little Terry with her — that popping-out-of-the-air thing, Apparating they called it…
Casually, she looked in her driver’s side mirror to see what — or, more likely, who — had made the sound.
It was a man, dressed in long robes like she usually saw Dorothy wearing these days unless they were going out together. He had long black hair which looked as if it needed a wash, pale skin, and a large, hooked nose. Altogether, a most unpleasant looking fellow. He was surveying the parking lot with a satisfied smirk.
As she watched, he took a small bottle of something from a bag at his side, opened it, drank the contents —
And vanished completely.
Well, that’s rather out of the ordinary. I wonder why he’s here?
A blue truck pulled into the employee lot, and Sue had her answer.
Quite possibly something to do with John. He either is a wizard or he knows one, I’m sure of that much, and I’m also sure that he and I are the only two here with that distinction. So, since from what Dorothy says wizards don’t truckle much with us ordinary folk unless we have some connection with them, this fellow is either after him or me.
Maybe John can tell me who he is. He was rather distinctive-looking, and I know I’ve never met him…
"Dark greasy hair, pale skin, and a big nose?" John repeated, sounding a bit startled. "I think I do know him — but I didn’t think he had any idea where to find me. This could be trouble." He smiled wryly. "Although not completely unforeseen."
He closed his eyes for a moment, as if praying, though Sue was sure he wasn’t a religious man. Then he opened them and sighed. "Well, there’s probably very little I can do about it. And I think that batch of doughnuts is done."
They worked together, quietly, until John’s shift ended at 12:30. He took off his apron, hung it carefully on his peg, and made a show of checking to see that he had his wallet with him. Sue smiled.
"Take care of yourself," he said, giving her a quick hug. "Goodbye."
"Goodbye," Sue echoed, feeling a little thrown off by something. As the door closed behind him, she figured it out.
John always says "See you" or "Have a good day." This may be the first time I’ve ever heard him say "Goodbye."
I wonder if it means anything.
The timer on the number five oven went off, recalling Sue to the present and the batch of muffins which was in danger of burning up.
I’m a sentimental fool. It doesn’t mean anything. It can’t. He’ll come in Monday afternoon and crack some quiet little joke that takes everyone a minute to get.
Just like always.
Even if Snape had not seen Lupin drive into the parking lot in the vehicle he was currently riding in, he would have had no trouble identifying it.
Only Remus Lupin would have put a bumper sticker on his truck reading "Werewolves Kick Arse."
To minimize the strain put on his potion — the adaptations for smell, after all, had not been fully tested — Snape was riding in the bed of the truck.
And why, if what I have heard is true, Muggle children would deem it a treat to be allowed to ride back here is beyond me. I will be black-and-blue by the time we get to wherever we’re going.
Finally, finally, the horrific ride was over. Lupin pulled into a driveway, and Snape used the last of the engine noise to cover the sound of his climbing out. No sooner had the truck gone silent than the right-hand door of the duplex flew open, and four children shot out and mobbed Lupin, shouting incoherently.
Snape looked at them, sorting out their faces. That is Potter. That one the Malfoy child. That is Freeman’s daughter, and Black’s too if my supposition is correct. And that one I do not know, but she resembles Lupin’s woman.
Said woman was now in a highly compromising position with Lupin, ignoring the noises of disgust emanating from the children. Snape found himself inclined to agree with them. Must you do that in public?
Freeman emerged from the house, her horrendous dog bouncing along beside her. "All aboard for the amusement park," she called out cheerily, and the boys and the younger girl scrambled into the back seat of the truck’s cab, while the dog made a somewhat ponderous jump into the bed of the truck. It wrinkled its nose and sneezed, but then settled down comfortably enough.
"Are you sure you don’t want to come?" the woman was asking Lupin.
"No, I could use some quiet time. Just me and Neenie. How about it, Kitten?"
The little girl nodded. "It sounds acceptable," she said, making the adults laugh. The woman took the keys of the truck from Lupin and got into the driver’s seat. Freeman had already settled herself on the passenger side.
Perfect. I can get in, overpower Lupin, and take him and the girl to the Ministry. With the combination of my testimony and his — willing or not — there will be Aurors here by the time the rest return.
Snape made for the door, being sure to walk softly. He could not afford a mistake now…
Remus opened the back door, allowing a breeze into the den room, and collapsed into one of the chairs. Ahhh.
Don’t talk to me for about ten minutes, Danger said.
Traffic. Worst I’ve seen in a while.
You usually don’t drive, either. Maybe I should have come after all…
No, I’ll manage. I just don’t need any distractions.
All right, I’ll keep my thoughts quiet. Much love.
Remus consciously dimmed their link, shielding his thoughts within his own mind. Maybe I should take the opportunity and think about what to get her for her birthday. And how to prank it, to pay her back for mine. I know it’s a ways away, but a little forethought never hurt…
His thoughts, inevitably, drifted into more unpleasant channels. Snape. We knew he was coming, but not when. If he’s tracked me to work, then it probably won’t be long before he finds out where we —
A scream of terror shattered the silence of the Den.
Remus was on his feet. Front room. Letha’s side. Oh God, let it be just a spider, or a mouse, or something like that…
But Neenie wouldn’t scream that way for something so little as that…
He was in the doorway of the front room, wand in hand.
"Drop it," said Severus Snape’s voice, "or you never see the girl again."