Living with Danger
Chapter 34: Make New Friends
By Anne B. Walsh
I did not write the song whose words make up the next four chapter titles.
Chapter 34: Make New Friends
"Does my hair look all right?"
"Yes, your hair looks fine."
"Are you sure?"
"Positive. Are my robes on crooked?"
"No, they’re perfect."
"They look like they’re too long on this side..."
"Letha, will you please settle down."
"You’re not helping any, Gertrude."
"That was mean. Why are we so nervous anyway?"
"Because Arthur Weasley has to have seen me at the Ministry at some point and might blow everything out of the water if my disguise isn’t good enough, because we never had to socialize with magical people at the old Den, and because we really want to be friendly with these people so our cubs can stay friends with their children?"
A pause. "That could be it."
"Your robe’s on inside out."
"No, it’s not."
"Yes, it is."
"No, it’s not. It’s the new fashion. It’s supposed to look inside out."
"Does that include having the tag on the outside?"
A pause. "No. Would you mind turning around for a second?"
"Are you blushing?"
"Just turn around."
Remus turned back around. "Yes. Much." Sirius’ hair was rumpled, but he looked best that way. Kind of nonchalant. Whereas I am what my mother used to call a nerd, and therefore look best when immaculately groomed.
You are not a nerd. You’re a gentleman.
Oh, and Sirius isn’t?
Do I have to answer that? Come on, it’s almost 3:50.
Patrick and Carina Black
And John and Gertrude Black
Request the favor of the company of
Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Weasley
And Mr. and Mrs. Gerald Lovegood
At their home, the Marauders’ Den
On the sixteenth day of January
At the hour of four in the afternoon
For tea and refreshments
"The Marauders’ Den," Arthur Weasley commented, reading over the invitation one final time. "I didn’t notice that before — what an interesting name for a house."
"No more so than the Burrow, my love," Molly said absently as she finished combing Ginny’s hair. "Ron, go wash your face, you’ve still got something on your nose."
"But I washed already, three times," Ron protested.
"Then make it four. Go."
Ron rolled his eyes when he thought his mother wasn’t looking and ducked out of the room. "And don’t even try just running water in the basin!" Molly called after him.
"Come along, Weasleys, it’s almost four and we’re expected for tea," Arthur said happily as Fred and George arrived in the doorway. He pulled his wife aside as the children went down the stairs to wait in the kitchen. "Molly, dear, are you sure it’s wise to bring all of them? The twins are a bit older than any of the Blacks’ children..."
"Do you want to leave them home alone, Arthur?" Molly asked tartly.
Arthur blanched. "Er, now that you bring that up, it’s a fine idea to take them along, just fine."
Ron returned from the bathroom, his face a bit pink from scrubbing. "Oh, that’s much better," Molly said approvingly, and kissed him on the forehead. "Go on down, Ronnie, we’ll be there in a minute..."
"Mum, please," Ron begged. "Don’t call me Ronnie in front of Harry and Drake."
"Should we call you our Ickle Ronniekins, then?" Arthur asked, teasingly. "I’m only joking, son," he added hastily to erase the look of horror on Ron’s face. "Don’t you worry. We’ll all be on our best behavior today. New friends deserve the best we have."
"When’re they gonna get here?" Meghan asked, squirming in her chair.
"Be patient, Pearl," Sirius said, stroking his daughter’s cheek. "They’ll be here soon enough."
"You always say that," Harry complained. "It’s always â€˜soon enough’ or â€˜in a little while’ or something. It’s never â€˜right now.’"
The fireplace chimed. "Yes it is," Draco said from across the room.
Harry made a face at him.
"You’re biting your lip again," Danger murmured to Remus.
"Thanks." Remus schooled his face to calm and welcome as a spinning form appeared in the green flames — a red-haired woman, small and plump, with a highly motherly air. This must be Mrs. Weasley, Molly, if Remus recalled Dumbledore’s letter correctly. The four children who followed her out of the fireplace Remus had no trouble placing as the twins Fred and George, the cubs’ friend Ronald, and their semi-friend Ginny. The tall, thin man who finished the procession was obviously Molly’s husband, and it was to him that Sirius addressed himself.
"Arthur Weasley. Welcome to England."
"Thank you. My wife, Carrie — my brother, John—" Remus extended his hand and found the other man’s dry and his grasp firm but polite. "And his wife, Gertrude, but only to strangers—"
"Everyone who knows me calls me Danger," that lady interrupted with a smile.
"Then we certainly shall," Arthur said. "My wife, Molly."
The Pack shook hands with Molly Weasley, just as their fireplace chimed again. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley jumped.
"It’s all right," Aletha said. "We’ve put a charm on the fire so it alerts us if someone’s connecting into it. This must be the Lovegoods."
"What a good idea," Arthur said in astonishment. "Why didn’t I ever think of that?"
The introductions were repeated with Gerald and Anita Lovegood and their daughter Luna, reminding the Weasleys that they hadn’t yet introduced their children. "Well, these are Fred and George, but heaven knows I can’t tell them apart," Arthur said frankly, making everyone laugh. "And this is Ron, and Ginny, our only girl. We have three older boys as well, but they’re off at Hogwarts — you do know about Hogwarts, I trust?"
"Oh, yes," Danger said. "Quite a lot. My teachers used to tell such stories about it—"
"Mum?" Hermione said respectfully. "Please, may we be excused?"
"Oh, of course, forgive me, love. Children, your tea is upstairs, in the large bedroom — Black children, show our guests around, make sure they have what they need, and I don’t expect to see any of you again for a good hour at least, unless someone’s bleeding or unconscious."
The adults laughed. Draco bowed to Remus and Danger, and Neenie curtsied. Harry and Meghan copied them with Sirius and Aletha. Then the cubs headed for the door, and the four Weasleys and Luna followed them.
"Your children are very polite," said Gerald Lovegood, watching them go. "I should do a piece on them, what do you think, sweet? â€˜Family in Existence with Obedient Children’ — how would that look on the cover of the March issue?"
"Gerald edits The Quibbler," said Anita with a smile. "I do independent magical research."
"Really?" Aletha asked with interest. "What’s your current project?"
"I’m working with a Healing Research team at St. Mungo’s on a new formulation for the Blood-Replenishing Potion — something to cleanse the new blood as it’s formed, to make sure poisoning or infection doesn’t come back..."
"Do you mind sharing?" Aletha said, coming across the room to sit near Anita.
"Oh, not at all..."
"And they’re off," Gerald said, casting an amused look at the two women, who had taken only a few sentences to get deep into the technicalities of potion-brewing. "I tell you, John, I love the woman dearly, but some of her interests... I mean, honestly, potions. It was my worst subject at Hogwarts..."
"I caused a few cauldron explosions myself," Remus said honestly. Some of his mishaps in the dungeons could still make Sirius roar with laughter when they were brought up. Such as the one that had turned the hair of everyone in the class a bright pink for three days.
Of course, he wouldn’t have thought it was nearly so funny if we hadn’t had Potions with the Slytherins.
"And yet, she dives right in. Give me something alive to work with any day."
"Are you interested in magical creatures?" Remus asked.
"Oh, very much so. It’s my dream," the other man confided, "to be the man who finally validates the existence of something everyone else says doesn’t exist. Crumple-Horned Snorkacks, for instance — did you know there have been eighteen separate plausible sightings of them since 1975?"
"No, I didn’t."
"Now could that many people all be lying, all together, about exactly the same thing?"
"I don’t know," Remus said politely. "I have an interest in the lesser Dark creatures myself. Redcaps, boggarts, that sort of thing."
"Oh, boggarts. Nasty things. I have some stories back in my office about some persistent cases of boggart haunting — there’s a new theory that it was actually a boggart in the Hogsmeade Shrieking Shack, which would explain why it’s been silent for the last several years."
"It seems as plausible a theory as any," Remus agreed.
Danger snickered in his head. Liar.
Shut up, woman.
"Excuse me," Remus said to Gerald, and got up, crossing the room to where Danger was exchanging what sounded like candy recipes with Molly. "Pardon me, madam," he said, sweeping a bow to Danger, "but your four o’clock medicine is overdue."
What are you doing?
Play along. Please?
Oh, all right. "I’m sorry, Healer, I must have forgot to take it," Danger said contritely.
"Well, we can fix that," Remus said. He lifted her out of her chair and bent her backwards in a passionate kiss. Consider yourself shut up. Payback for the other day.
Right in front of everyone, too, Danger fumed. I’ll get you for this!
But she was kissing him back. Remus chuckled mentally. You can try, my dear, you can always try...
"You live as Muggles?" Arthur Weasley said to Sirius a bit later, clearly fascinated by the idea. "How do you manage taxes and records and such? Do you have Muggle jobs?"
"I’m a writer, so I work from home, and John’s found a job at one of the stores in the village," Sirius said. "Carrie’s musical, so she was hoping to give piano and singing lessons. You wouldn’t happen to know if there’s anyone in the village who does that, would you?"
"I don’t think there is," Arthur said, frowning in thought. "I believe the children can take lessons at the local school, but there’s always room for a private teacher, I’d think. And there is one woman who teaches woodwinds — flute and clarinet and so forth. Our Bill studied with her for a year or so, until he could continue on his own..."
Sirius tagged the information about the flute teacher for future reference.
"But do you send your children to the Muggle school?" Arthur asked.
"No, we teach them here at home. Now that they’re old enough to read, they do a lot of it themselves — not Meghan yet, of course, but it won’t be long. All we have to do is make sure we have the books around, and Hermione will read them, and then bully the boys into reading them too."
Arthur laughed. "I wish my Ron had someone like your Hermione," he said. "Molly’s hard put to keep him to his lessons some days — his head’s always somewhere else, up in the clouds on his broomstick, or on the chess board — he’s quite a player for his age."
"How long has he been playing?"
"Four years, since he was old enough to tell the pieces where to go. He can beat me on occasion, and I don’t hold back, trust me — not since the time I decided I’d go easy on him and he checkmated me in ten moves." Arthur smiled slightly. "Now it takes him twenty."
Sirius chuckled. "The nightmare of every man — eclipsed by his own son." He leaned forward. Arthur had brought up something he’d been wanting to ask about. "About lessons — would you, or Molly rather, consider taking our older three in with Ron for a while? We’d be willing to pay, of course, but you know better than we do what would prepare them properly for Hogwarts, and we want them to be ready, of course..."
"Oh, by all means," Arthur said easily, waving his hand. "But we couldn’t possibly take your money. Your three are so good, Molly’ll never even know they’re there."
Harry, Draco, and Hermione had reported on Mrs. Weasley’s reaction to finding what she thought were Muggles in her house — Sirius could only imagine her reaction to finding her schooling workload quadrupled without any kind of recompense. "Perhaps a trade of services. Music lessons for any of your children who’re interested, in return for regular lessons for ours."
"That sounds agreeable," Arthur said with a nod.
The men shook on it.
Upstairs, the beds had been pushed against the walls to make room for the large round table with places set for nine. The cubs had their own tea set, which kept the tea hot enough to be pleasant to drink but cool enough that it wouldn’t burn them, as well as pouring for them, on request, so they didn’t have to handle the hot pot. And Danger, knowing her cubs and suspecting the nature of the Weasleys, had provided several plates of small enjoyable things to eat.
"How come you have four beds in here?" one of the twins asked. Harry thought it was George, but he wasn’t sure.
"It’s our bedroom," Hermione answered in her best "ask-a-stupid-question-get-a-stupid-answer" tone. She did it really well, Harry thought — and she should, from all the practice she gets using it on me and Draco.
The twins exchanged glances. "You all sleep in the same room?" the other twin asked.
"Why not?" Draco asked, taking another biscuit from the plate.
"Don’t you ever want to be alone?" Ron said in amazement.
Harry shrugged. "Sometimes. But there’s the guest room, and lots of rooms downstairs, and all outside to be alone in. Besides, we won’t have our own bedrooms at school — it’s all dorms, right?"
"Right," answered the first twin, whom Harry was almost sure was George now. "But boys and girls get separate ones. Why don’t you put the boys in one room and the girls in another?"
"Because the guest bedroom isn’t big enough for two beds," Hermione said. "Not with any floor space left over, anyway. And this room is big enough for four. And we like it this way."
"What’s this?" Luna asked from over by the bookshelf before the silence got too uncomfortable, poking at something.
"Don’t touch that—" Draco sprang up from the table. Harry rescued his cup of tea just in time. "It’s my recorder."
"What’s a recorder?" Ginny asked.
"This is a recorder," Draco said, holding it up. "You make music with it."
"Can you play it?" asked Fred.
"Play for us," Luna said. "Play something pretty."
"Please?" Meghan said. She always loved it when Draco played.
Draco smiled a little shyly. "All right." He put the pipe to his lips.
Do-re-mi-sol-mi-re-do, mi-sol-la, do-ti-sol-mi, fa-mi-re...
It was a sweet, wandering melody that Harry had never heard him play before. He wondered where Draco had heard it, or if he was making it up. Whichever, it had his audience enthralled. Luna had her eyes half-closed and her head tilted to the side. Ginny was leaning forward in her chair, her eyes following every move of Draco’s fingers on the pipe. Ron didn’t even seem to notice that he had crushed the piece of gingerbread he’d been holding and was now raining crumbs on his robes.
...re-do-ti-do, Draco ended.
"Where did you learn that?" Hermione whispered.
"I thought it up. From one of the books we read. The one about the thief and the dwarves and the dragon."
"Wicked," Fred said in tones of admiration. "Bill can play the clarinet, but it sounds kind of squawky a lot of the time."
"And he doesn’t make stuff up," George added. "That was brilliant."
"Thanks." Draco put his instrument back on the shelf, his cheeks now definitely pink.
He doesn’t take compliments well, Harry recalled Danger saying of Draco. "We can all play the piano," he said to take some of the attention off his brother. "And we sing. My mum taught us how."
"Your mum teaches people to sing?" Ginny said. "Would she teach me?"
George leaned around Ron and hissed something at Ginny. Whatever it was, it made her turn bright red. "Er, I mean, never mind. I’m sorry. I don’t want to learn." She stared down at the table.
The cubs looked at each other and exchanged puzzled shrugs. Their business, Harry thought. Not ours. "Do you want to see some of the pictures of us in America? We were there for a while before we came here."
"They’re Muggle pictures," Meghan added. "They don’t move."
"They don’t?" Ron said in tones of disbelief. "What do they do, just stand there?"
"We’ll show you," Hermione said, and went to get the cubs’ personal photo album.
"How come you have just Muggle pictures?" asked one of the twins a while later (Harry had lost track of which one was which when they moved).
"We were traveling as Muggles," Draco said. "To see what it was like. Have you ever ridden on a bus?"
"We rode the Knight Bus once," said the other twin.
"American Muggle buses are a lot like that, except not so bumpy. And the seats are really cramped, not nice chairs like on the Knight Bus."
"We rode on an airplane to get here," Meghan chimed in. "I had to sleep all the way because I’m little, but Harry and Drake and Hermione got to stay up, and then they got in trouble for poking and hitting, and Mum made them go to sleep anyway."
"No, that was on the way there," Harry said without thinking, then froze. His hand went to his breastbone, as if the rings hanging against his chest could help him take the words back before anyone asked...
"On the way where?" Ron asked.
"Um... to the United States," Harry said quickly. "We had to get there from Canada, where we used to live. And that was when we got in trouble for hitting. When we were going from Canada to the United States. That was when."
Everyone was staring at him. I’m so dumb, I forgot about our story, I forgot we’re hiding, I’m so stupid, please don’t let me have messed everything up, please let them believe me...
"What’s this?" Ginny asked the room at large, pointing at one of the pictures. "It looks like someone carved faces in a mountain..."
"Mount Rushmore," said Hermione quickly. "They’re American presidents. I forget which one is which, but they’re all really famous."
Harry slumped in relief as everyone else gathered around the photo album again.
That was close. I’m so stupid sometimes.
They can be our friends, but they can’t be our Pack-friends. Not yet.
Not until we don’t need Pack-friends any more.
The visit lasted all afternoon.
Danger showed off her kitchen to Molly, receiving an invitation to come and see Molly’s in return, and recipes were traded for all kinds of delicious-sounding things.
Anita and Aletha made a date to go over Anita’s notes on the new potion formulation, as Aletha’d had some suggestions simply from what Anita could recall off the top of her head.
Gerald invited Remus over to his house to see his small menagerie, including a brothel of doxies and a pinch of pixies.
And Arthur Weasley was transported into upper realms of delight by Sirius’ gift of a small, black-and-white television set, which had inhabited Sirius and Aletha’s bedroom at the old Den, but hadn’t found a home at the new one yet. "You must come over and see my car sometime," he told Sirius and Remus. "Do you know — don’t tell Molly, of course — but I’ve actually got it to fly?"
"A flying car?" Sirius repeated. "This I have to see. I knew someone with a flying motorcycle once..."
Remus looked at him sharply. Must you?
Sirius continued talking with Arthur, but where Remus could see it, he held up his right hand, ring and little fingers stuck out, the other two held down by the thumb.
Inwardly, Remus snorted. "Keep your hair on" indeed. I’m not the one endangering us all.
Would you please relax?
No, I will not — have you heard what Sirius is doing over here?
Yes, I have, and I still think you ought to relax.
Because the odds of Arthur Weasley knowing that Sirius Black owned a flying motorcycle, or of him connecting it with us even if he does, are pretty damn low. However, most people can see tension in others, and wonder about it...
As usual, you have a point.
And also as usual, so do you. You can yell at Sirius after our guests go home.
Thank you, beneficent lady. You are too kind.
"Weasleys, time to go!" Molly’s voice called up the stairs. "Come along, children, where are you? Fred, George? Ron? Ginny?"
"Luna, you too!" Anita called. "Come on, it’s dinner time!"
There were no answers.
"They’re probably so deep in playing they can’t hear you," Aletha said. "I’ll be back in a moment."
She went quickly up the stairs and opened the door to the cubs’ room, smiling for a moment at the tableaus that presented themselves.
Harry and Ron were sitting side by side, with a large book open on their knees — knowing Harry, Aletha was willing to bet it had something to do with Quidditch — and were pointing things out to one another in the picture on the page, with Ginny sitting nearby, not quite an acknowledged part of the group, but not being shunned either. Hermione, Meghan, and Luna were having a tea party at the table with Hermione and Meghan’s dolls. And Fred, George, and Draco were in quiet, earnest conversation in a corner.
Probably discussing prank theory.
"Time for everyone who doesn’t live here to go home," she said, and was gratified by the disappointed "Awww" that rose simultaneously from all four Weasley children. Luna looked considering for a moment, then rose matter-of-factly and folded the napkin which had been sitting on her lap.
"Thank you for a very nice time," she said to Hermione and Meghan. "We must do it again soon."
"See you tomorrow?" Harry said to Ron.
"We’re always up by nine. You can come right over..."
"After you get permission," Aletha put in firmly, "from us and from Mrs. Weasley, yes, you may go visiting tomorrow. And on Monday, you three," she said, including Hermione and Draco, "Mrs. Weasley is going to start teaching you lessons, to make sure you’ll know everything you need to when you go off to Hogwarts."
She had said the magic word. The faces which had fallen at the mention of lessons brightened again at the reference to Hogwarts, and the cubs cheerfully escorted their new friends downstairs.
"Now, you four, I have a surprise for you," Molly said. "How would you like to learn to play the piano?"
The twins quickly shook their heads, but Ron looked speculative, and Ginny blurted, "Mum, can I?"
"Yes. Mrs. Black — oh, dear, there are two of you, how are we going to handle this?"
"They can just call me Danger, like everyone else," Danger said. "I doubt I’d even answer to Mrs. Black or Gertrude at this point."
"All right, then. Mrs. Black," Molly indicated Aletha, "is willing to give you lessons. Now, if you start, I expect you to keep on, do your work, and not give her any trouble. Is that understood?"
Ron and Ginny nodded. Ginny was grinning widely.
"Luna, would you like piano lessons?" Gerald asked his daughter.
"I would like that," Luna said thoughtfully. "Drake plays nice music. Maybe we could learn to play together."
Draco’s cheeks went pink, and he turned away.
"Oooh, Drake’s got a girlfriend," Harry said, smirking.
"Harry," said Sirius warningly.
The Pack stood still for a moment after their fire had returned to its normal color. Then, as if someone had flipped a switch, everyone relaxed at once and started talking, and then laughing at the coincidence.
"I think that went very well," Remus said. "And now we have some friends in the neighborhood."
"And not only grown-up friends, but friends for you four," Sirius said to the cubs. "That’s more important."
"So please, don’t fight with them," said Aletha. "There’s nothing less fun than having to apologize to your friends."
"But what if they’re the ones who were wrong?" asked Hermione the ever-practical.
"Apologize anyway," Danger advised. "Saves time and makes them feel super guilty."
Should I try that on Sirius?
Allow me to clarify... "Of course, it only works if your friends have a sense of guilt in the first place."
"You’re talking about me," Sirius said. "I can tell by the way you’re not looking at me."
"Egocentric much, Padfoot?"
"Hey, it’s only the truth."
"Speaking of the truth..." Remus made eye contact with Sirius and held it for a long moment. "We need to talk."
"Don’t tell me," Sirius said when they were both sitting at the kitchen table. "The motorcycle story."
Remus gave a firm nod. "I would appreciate it if you didn’t tell interesting stories about yourself, even if you do credit it to someone you knew once. We are trying to hide here."
Sirius developed an interest in his shoes. "I know," he mumbled. "I just really wish it was over."
"So do we all," Remus said feelingly.
"I was thinking the other day, Moony. Meghan’s literally never known a day when we weren’t hidden. We’ve been hiding now for five and a half years. That’s longer than her entire life." Sirius tried a smile, but it didn’t work. "I’m just so sick of it all. Not the Pack," he added quickly. "That’s one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. But having to hide. I guess I’m trying to get it over with. By doing really stupid things." He chuckled without any real humor. "So, I’ll be more careful. I’m sorry."
"It’s all right. And you have a point too, Padfoot. Liars tense up. So we have to be as relaxed as we can, so no one will realize our whole lives are basically a lie. I tensed, you didn’t. I was the one making the mistake today. So I’m sorry too."
Sirius looked up from the table. "It’s fine." He smiled again, more successfully. "Let’s go annoy the ladies."
"It is what we do best."
"So that other day when I was thinking, I didn’t just have one thought," Sirius said as they returned to the living room.
"What, you had half of one?"
Sirius rolled his eyes. "Very funny. But I was thinking about the cubs. Meghan, of course, she’s never known anything but Pack life. And Harry and Neenie were so little, they probably don’t remember life before the Pack."
"I do too," Hermione protested. "There was a house before the Den. It had blue curtains and a couch where Moony slept with me on him."
"And the only reason you know that is because you’ve heard me tell it at den-night," Danger said in an affectionate scolding tone.
"Harry?" Aletha asked. "Do you remember your aunt and uncle’s house?"
Harry shook his head.
"Probably just as well," Remus said. "You weren’t happy there."
"I know," Harry said softly, his eyes on the carpet. Hermione hugged him, and Aletha went over and sat next to him. He climbed onto her lap and cuddled down, prompting the other three to go lap-hunting as well.
"Then there’s Draco..." Sirius looked down at the blond boy nestled against him. "How about it, little fox? You remember your other family?"
Draco shrugged. "A little bit, maybe," he said. "Some from dreams. More from den-night stories." He pressed his hand against his chest, where his mother’s ring hung on its chain. Harry, Neenie, and Meghan copied him. Remus had noticed the cubs doing this when they were frustrated or bothered by something — it seemed to have become a habit.
"There you have it," Sirius said. "Three no’s and a maybe. It’s official — this is all they know. Us. The Pack. We’re it." He looked over at Remus. "Meet my motivation for doing better."
"We’ve met," Remus said with a small smile.
After all, they’re mine too.