Living with Danger
Chapter 2: Interpretations
By Anne B. Walsh
Chapter 2: Interpretations
Remus read the lines slowly to himself, impressing them carefully on his memory.
Find the red and find the rat
Whose cunning plot did catch no cat.
Trust thy heart and try the grim,
And truth shall bring new life to him.
The teakettle whistled. Danger jumped up to tend to it. "Anything?" she asked as she lifted the kettle carefully off the heat and poured the steaming water into the pot.
"Trust thy heart and try the grim..." The grim what? That doesn't make any sense, grim’s not a noun, it’s an adjective... unless...
Unless it’s a proper noun.
"I think I have something."
"So tell." Danger handed him a mug. "Do you take sugar, or milk or anything?"
"Sugar if you have it. Have you ever heard of a Grim?"
"A Grim, as in a thing?" Danger had her head in the pantry. "Vaguely. Some kind of spirit, like a big black dog, I think. Isn’t it supposed to be bad luck?"
"Yes. Another name for it is a Padfoot."
"Padfoot?" Danger sat back down, placing the sugar bowl on the table. "That sounds familiar. From the dreams. It was one of your nicknames. For the boy who could turn into the dog. For Sirius." Comprehension dawned on her face, and she planted her finger on the word in the poem. "This means him, doesn't it?"
"It may well. The rest of the line is phrased as a command. Trust thy heart and try the Grim."
Danger blew on her tea. "â€˜Trust your feelings, Luke,’" she quoted. "Or rather, Moony. What does your heart tell you?"
"That Sirius would never have been a traitor," Remus said bitterly. "That I was a fool not to question, not to ask. They just threw him into Azkaban, he never even had a trial — ah!"
Danger jumped. "What?"
"Try the Grim. Try him, as in, give him a trial. The kind he never had."
"What kind of laws do you people have?" Danger asked, shaking her head.
Remus groaned. "The evidence was overwhelming against him. And we were still in the middle of a brutal war, with measures taken everywhere that shouldn’t have been. So the man in charge of the case decided he’d expedite things, and I was too wrapped up in my own grief to notice, or care..."
"You can’t blame yourself," Danger said quietly, putting her hand on top of his. "What matters now is righting the wrong, not assigning blame for it. There’s still hope, isn’t there? Look at the next line. And truth shall bring new life to him. If we can bring the truth out in the open, wouldn’t he be released?"
"The problem is, there’s no evidence that he didn’t kill all those people, and every indication that he did. And all the evidence points to him being the betrayer." How could I have forgotten? Dream or no dream, it can't have been anyone but him... "He was the only one who could have betrayed Lily and James."
"Why the only one? Isn’t everyone who knew where they were suspect?"
"Sirius was the only one who knew. Or rather, the only one who could tell other people. They were under a spell called the Fidelius Charm. Sirius was the key to that spell—"
"The Secret-Keeper," Danger interrupted.
"Yes. How do — of course, you dreamed it."
"Yes, I dreamed the Secret-Keeper," Danger said, her eyes half-lidding and her voice falling into a monotone. "I dreamed the Secret-Keeper and the Dark Lord. They were alone together. They spoke."
Her voice changed, and Remus bit back an exclamation. She sounded exactly like Peter, like Peter at his whiniest.
"My Lord, it has happened — the Potters have made me their Secret-Keeper..."
"Well done, Wormtail," said a strangely high, cold voice through Danger's mouth. "You had no trouble convincing the cur it was his own idea to switch you, then?"
"None, my Lord. He sees me as weak and foolish, he would never believe such a clever idea was mine..."
"You are weak and foolish, Wormtail," said the cold voice in tones of amusement. "But not as foolish as your former friends, who continue to hold out vain hopes of my defeat. You will be rewarded for this, I promise you..."
Danger’s eyes closed entirely, then shot open as she gasped for breath. "What was that?" she coughed.
"You looked as if you were in a trance," Remus said quietly as everything fell into place in his mind. "And you told me exactly what I needed to know."
"Are you all right?" Danger asked, getting her breathing under control.
"Just angry." His hand tightened around the mug, ignoring the heat of the liquid inside. "Very angry. And perhaps a little bitter."
"They changed Secret-Keepers. They used Peter instead of Sirius. And I didn’t know. They didn’t tell me. There’s only one reason they wouldn’t have told me."
"They thought it was you," Danger whispered. "Oh God, I’m so sorry."
"It’s not your fault..."
"I know, I’m just... damn, why did I ever have to get mixed up in this?" Danger buried her head in her arms. "I’m sorry I ever got involved," she said muffledly. "I’m sorry for everything."
"You have nothing to be sorry for." Remus felt an insane urge to pull her into his arms, but settled for resting his hand on her arm. "You’re telling me the truth. I need to hear it. An innocent man has been wronged, and there’s a rat somewhere out there who wants Harry dead. Now that I know, I can do something about it."
Danger sniffled. "We," she said.
"We can do something about it." She raised her head. Her face, though tear-splotched, was filled with determination. "I may never have met you before today, I may not have wanted to get involved, but now that I am involved, I’m staying that way, so don’t think you’re leaving me behind!"
"I would never leave you behind," Remus said, intending it to sound humorous. A mild feeling of shock spread over him as he realized the depth of feeling in the words, and the depth of his feelings for this woman he had only met a short time ago...
A two-part chorus of wails arose from the other room, and the attention of both adults was diverted.
Harry was hungry and Neenie was wet, as it turned out, so Danger attended to her sister’s problem while Remus slid Harry into one of the two battered high chairs that sat in the kitchen. "What should I give him?" he called.
"There’s dry cereal in the pantry, he can have some of that," Danger answered.
Remus poured some of the cereal onto the high chair tray, and Harry grabbed for it with a gleeful squeal. He stuffed a fistful in his mouth and gave one of his signature grins, and Remus felt his heart melt. Where do children learn how to do this? Is there some kind of secret Cuteness Correspondence Course they all take?
"I’d suggest setting up over here," Danger said, carrying Neenie into the kitchen and indicating a corner fairly far from the table. "You'll see why."
Remus pulled Harry’s high chair across the kitchen and parked it next to Neenie’s. As soon as Neenie got her serving of cereal, she scooped up a handful and pelted Harry with it. Harry responded in kind, both of them giggling madly, and soon there was more cereal on the floor than anywhere else. "I can always sweep later, and it keeps them happy," Danger said. "We just have to reload them every so often. Now where were we?"
"We have the last two lines of this stanza figured out. Sirius is innocent, which would have been shown if he’d ever had a trial, and if we can prove the truth somehow, we can free him." But something niggled at Remus. "...truth will bring new life to him." Truth, and Sirius...
"The truth and the star, what a combination," he murmured.
"Something Sirius’ girlfriend used to say about them. Because he was named after a star, and her name means â€˜truth.’"
"What’s her name?"
"Aletha. Aletha Freeman. I haven’t seen her since last July..." He stopped, realizing Danger had made a sound resembling a stifled squeal. He looked over at her. She had her hand pressed to her mouth as if she were about to be ill.
"You know Aletha Freeman?"
"We were in school together," Remus said. "She was a year below me. Why, do you know her?"
"She was my best friend when I was little," Danger said, looking shaken. "She was in my dream..." She blushed. "...about the wedding. But I haven’t seen her since we were kids. Are you telling me she’s a — a wizardess?"
"A witch," Remus corrected. "If it’s the same Aletha Freeman. Can you describe her?"
"I have a picture," Danger said. "Of the two of us, before she went away. I’ll get it." She hurried up the stairs. Remus took the opportunity to put more cereal on the children’s trays. Harry yelled happily and pounded one or two pieces to dust before throwing another handful at Neenie as Danger arrived breathlessly with a framed photograph in her hands.
"That’s her," Remus said, looking at the grinning, dark-skinned girl with the cap of black frizzy hair, arm around the waist of a younger version of Danger, both of them frozen in time in the Muggle picture. "That’s Letha."
Danger shook her head. "This is way too weird for me. My best friend when I was little dated your best friend from school, I baby-sit your other best friend’s kid, and now we just happen to meet in the park?"
"It is strange," Remus said, looking again at the picture. "But I’m unbelievably glad that it happened. If it hadn’t..." He stopped. No need to tell her everything. "I would have spent the day alone and depressed," he finished. "Like I’ve spent most of the past six months. And it’s my birthday, which doesn’t help matters any."
"Happy birthday, then," Danger said, smiling at him. "I’m glad I could help."
"So â€˜truth’ in the poem may mean Aletha," Remus said, pulling himself back to the original subject. "If it does, she may be important in whatever it is we’re supposed to do. We should get in touch with her. I can do that. Tomorrow — no, not tomorrow, or the day after. The day after that."
"Why not tomorrow?"
Remus flinched, inwardly. She already knows, he reminded himself, and she doesn’t care. But old habits died hard. And they really shouldn’t die at all, I need them for the rest of the world, the kind with normal attitudes about lycanthropy... "Tomorrow night is the full moon, and I’m not much good for a day before or after."
"Of course," Danger said, getting up to give Harry some more cereal. "I can understand that. So in three days, we’ll get a hold of Aletha and see how she reacts to this. What can we do in the meantime?"
"Keep working on the poem," Remus said. "If we can get all this from just two lines, what secrets does the rest of it hold?"
Working from the identification of Sirius as the Grim, they were able to identify the rat of the first line as Pettigrew fairly easily. "Find the rat/ whose cunning plot did catch no cat," Danger chanted. "It caught no cat because it caught a dog, a Grim. It must be Pettigrew."
Remus ran his finger along the first line of the quatrain. "This first part is some kind of clue about where to find him. Find the red and find the rat. Red again. Could this be the same red as in the couplet, the red that's really orange?"
"Could be. That line comes right after the couplet, so it makes sense. All right, thinking time. What’s black, brown, and red but really orange?"
"It sounds like a joke," Remus said. "A very bad joke."
Danger grinned. "Like, what’s black and white and red all over?"
Remus sighed. "That is so old."
"How old is it?" Danger asked in a sing-song tone.
"It’s so old that even wizards know it."
"Bravo!" She applauded him. "You know, I’ve never had anyone actually give me a comeback on that line before?"
"They were probably slain by your rapier wit," Remus said, smiling in spite of himself. He had never met anyone who intrigued him as Danger did.
I’ve never met anyone even remotely like Danger!
The doorbell rang.
"I’ll get it," said Danger, jumping up. "It is my house, after all."
Remus watched her go down the hall and open the door onto a wet but no longer raining day. "Hello, Mrs. Dursley, how was your trip?"
"Not too bad, thank you," said the woman at the door, who was blonde and rather thin. "I just wanted to let you know we were back, so you can send him along any time you get tired of him." Her tone suggested she expected this to happen sooner rather than later.
Does she mean Harry? She must be his aunt...
Good Lord, she doesn’t look a thing like Lily.
No, I take that back. There’s a slight resemblance. Very slight.
And she doesn’t seem to care for Harry much...
"Thank you, I’ll do that. He’s quite happy at the moment, though, so it may not be for a while."
"That’s just fine," the woman said in a more cheerful tone. "Thank you again for watching him, it’s such a nuisance for Vernon to have these all-day conferences, but they need his advice desperately..." Remus had the impression she was lingering on the doorstep to see if she could get a look inside the house, as if she was simply dying to know everything that went on inside.
Well, if I can see her, she can see me... And just as he realized that, she did see him, and her eyes widened quite a bit. "Well, I’ll be going, then, Dudders will want his tea," she said. "I’ll see you later, dear, thank you again..."
"Horrible woman," Danger hissed after the door was safely shut. "You disgusting old gossip-monger. May you fall down the stairs and bite your tongue out."
"The one and only. She saw you, didn’t she? I didn’t have time to warn you to stay out of sight... well, too late now... damn."
"By tonight, every woman on this block will know that I had a strange man in my house. They’ll have us dating by tomorrow and sleeping together the day after that."
Remus couldn’t resist. "Sounds like a good schedule to me."
Danger’s eyes went very wide. "Why... you... you..."
He grinned at her.
"You MAN!" she shouted, laughing, grabbing a handful of cereal out of the box on the counter and throwing it at him. He dodged it, but Neenie and Harry immediately decided he was a fair target for them as well, and before long there was cereal flying everywhere in the kitchen.
The battle ended when Neenie got hit in the eye by a bad throw of Remus’ and began to cry. Harry started crying in sympathy, so both children had to be cuddled and comforted, and since Neenie didn’t know Remus, he got to hold Harry again.
It was bliss.
After Harry had finished sniffling, he looked up at Remus. "Mooey, where Pa-foot?"
It was a natural question for the boy to ask — Remus and Sirius had seldom visited the Potters separately — but it caught Remus by surprise, and he had to sit down and get himself under control before he could answer. "Padfoot’s away on a trip, Harry. But I think he’ll come home soon. And then he can play with you."
"Yay, p’ay wif Pa-foot!" Harry said, wiggling. "Where Mama and Dada?"
He would have to ask the hard one. Remus looked over at Danger and mutely appealed for help.
"Oh, Harry," she said, sitting down next to them, with Neenie, on her lap, sucking her thumb again. "Your Mama and Dada had to go away."
"Go â€˜way like Pa-foot?"
"Well, yes and no. They did go away, but Padfoot is coming back. Your Mama and Dada aren't going to come back. They’re watching over you from far away, and they love you very much, but they have to stay where they are."
Harry considered this. "Mooey," he finally declared with true toddler logic, bumping his head against Remus’ chest. "Dayger." He pointed to Danger. "Neenie." He indicated the girl. "An’ Pa-foot come back soon."
"That's right," Remus said. "Harry, do you remember your Auntie Letha?"
Harry nodded, looking around expectantly.
"No, she’s not here," Remus said, smiling at the boy’s eagerness. "But she might come back soon too. Would you like that?"
"Yay!" Harry bounced up and down on Remus’ knees. Remus laughed aloud at Harry’s obvious delight in life.
"How he stays that happy I don’t know," Danger said quietly.
"What do you mean?"
"I have to show you something, and I don’t think you’re going to like it."