Living with Danger
Chapter 36: One Is Silver
By Anne B. Walsh
Chapter 36: One Is Silver
The fire in the great fireplace in the Hogwarts kitchens flared green. One Headmaster and one house-elf waited in front of it, patiently and impatiently respectively.
"Master Draco!" Dobby cried as that child emerged from the fire. Draco quickly stepped to one side and braced himself for an enthusiastic house-elf hug. The rest of the Pack had arrived before Dobby let go.
"Dobby, I told you, I’m not your master now," Draco said with a bit of embarrassment, since Harry and Neenie were obviously trying not to laugh at the sight of Dobby hugging Draco tightly around the waist.
"Dobby knows that, sir, but it makes Dobby feel good to call Master Draco his master. Dobby does not feel quite so..." Dobby glanced behind him at the other house-elves. "Out of place, then."
"If he likes to call you that, let him, Draco," Sirius advised with a chuckle, turning from greeting Dumbledore. "House-elves can be persistent little bu... er, things," he amended hastily at Aletha’s warning look.
A house-elf passing by stopped dead in its tracks and stared at Sirius. "Sirius Black, sir?" it said in its squeaky voice.
The kitchen went completely quiet.
"None of you are to speak of this," Dumbledore said into the silence. A chorus of voices assured him that they would not, oh, no sir, they would never speak of such a thing, not if Professor Dumbledore said not to, sir.
Sirius was still staring at the house-elf. Suddenly he snapped his fingers. "Got it. Kady."
"Sir remembers Kady?" the elf squealed happily. She — name and voice seemed both to indicate a female — was beaming at Sirius.
"How could I forget you? You always brought me a bucket of water when I needed it the most."
Kady beamed even more widely. Remus had a brief struggle to keep his face straight, which he lost. Within a few moments, he was howling with laughter.
"What in the world is so funny?" Danger asked.
When he says he needed it, he really means he needed it, Remus explained mentally, his voice being not overly useful at the moment. Him and James both. Haven’t I ever told you about seventh year?
Ah, the famous pre-N.E.W.T. drinking sprees?
Precisely. And Kady would occasionally have to apply the water herself, if they were too far gone to stick their heads in the bucket.
Now Danger was laughing too. Wonderful. Didn’t you have something to do with this?
No, I was their put-to-bed person, the nights they didn’t have to sober up quickly. The water was for the nights they did. Though I would occasionally come down here to watch them stagger around the kitchens singing off-key.
"If you’re quite finished..." Sirius said with dignity.
This, of course, only set Remus and Danger off again.
Some time later, the Pack was ensconced by the fire, sipping tea (for the adults) or butterbeer (for the children and Sirius) and simply chatting.
"We don’t see you as much any more, now that we don’t have a legitimate excuse to come and visit like we did when Letha was Ministry Liaison," Danger said. "Who have they put in, by the way?"
"Not that Umbridge woman, I hope," Aletha said.
"No, the Ministry has simply eliminated the position," Dumbledore said with a slight smile. "I am under the impression that Lars Vilias felt it a waste of time and money to have someone in that capacity, but was too kind to order you fired or demoted, Aletha, so that your disappearance actually saved him some trouble."
"Always happy to help," Aletha said with a smile. "So, are there any fun rumors about us?"
"Only the usual set — someone eventually did recall your romantic connection to Aletha, Sirius, but deemed it too unlikely that you would wait five years after escaping before kidnapping her."
"And no one’s ever realized that Harry disappeared before Sirius escaped?" Remus asked.
"Only a very few. Even Severus Snape was unaware of the fact before I told him of it."
Sirius sighed. "I’m still not happy with that," he said. "I know it isn’t safe to try to erase the same memories twice, so we can’t Obliviate him, but I can’t help feeling it’s a mistake for him to know."
"Severus Snape is trustworthy, Sirius, as much as I know you question the fact."
"Trustworthy, yes," Remus said. "Helpful, I doubt."
The door of the kitchens swung open.
"Speak of the devil," Danger murmured.
Snape, in all his black and billowing glory, strode into the kitchens, scattering house-elves left and right, making straight for Dumbledore.
"Yes, Severus?" Dumbledore said politely.
"Weasley and Tonks," Snape ground out, granting the Pack only a cursory glance. "They seem to have decided to celebrate Valentine’s Day a week early. By decorating my office with red and white sequins. And then by releasing a niffler within."
"And you are certain of the identity of the culprits?" Dumbledore asked as Sirius coughed and spluttered, his butterbeer having gone up his nose. Aletha handed him a napkin, her mouth twitching. Remus and Danger were studiously avoiding each other’s eyes, both sets of which were swirling with color. Hermione’s lips appeared to have disappeared in her struggle to keep from laughing, and the boys were both staring at the wall. Meghan had stuffed her sleeve in her mouth.
"Positive," Snape said venomously. "They signed their work." He handed Dumbledore a piece of parchment.
"From the red-haired dragon-mad twit and his color-changing sidekick," Dumbledore read aloud. "This does seem quite convincing, Severus. But why bring it to me? Surely you are capable of handling the situation yourself?"
Snape scowled. "Minerva swears they did not do it," he said pointedly, "and she has stated her intention of reversing any punishments I may give them."
"I see," Dumbledore said. "Well, Severus, I will look into it, and if these two students are guilty, you may punish them as you see fit. If, however, they are not, rest assured I will find out the true culprit and bring him — or her, or them — to you for proper chastisement."
"Thank you, Headmaster." Snape turned and stalked away. He was almost to the door when he stopped. Very slowly, he turned around and gave the group by the fire a hard, searching look.
The Pack waved to him, cheerily, nonchalantly, or cheekily, varying by temperament, age, and interest.
Snape’s face contorted, and without another word he swept out.
The Pack managed to wait until the door was closed behind him before bursting into laughter.
1 April, 1989, began quietly at the Den. Very quietly.
After all, if one was going to get in and out of Moony and Danger’s bedroom without waking them, one needed to be quiet, Harry reflected. And he had to do it twice.
Draco and Meghan met him and Neenie in the hallway with their bags full of stuff. They traded and returned to the places they had come from, replacing what they had taken.
Then they returned to their own bedroom.
That was their big mistake.
Hermione, who was in the lead, screamed as a cascade of water drenched her the moment she stepped through the door. Harry stepped hastily back from the doorway, but he was too late. The charm had already taken effect on him, and a bucket appeared directly above him, tipping over, dumping its contents on him, and vanishing a moment later.
Harry bit back a yell. That’s COLD!
Draco and Meghan stifled laughs. Harry glared at them, then grabbed Draco’s arm and propelled him through the door, triggering the charm on him. "See how you like it," he said, shivering. The water hadn’t got on the floor, he noticed, or on anything except them. It must be nice to be a grown-up.
Meghan smiled proudly. "I’m dry and you’re not, I’m dry and you’re not," she chanted, dancing out of Harry’s reach. "I’m dry and you’re not..."
Draco came back out of the room, dripping, and looked at Harry. They exchanged nods, and swiftly moved to box Meghan in. She shrieked as they cornered her and picked her up off the ground between them. Neenie darted ahead of them into the bathroom, where she turned on the shower, full strength, with cold water.
Meghan kicked and screeched and tried to pull their hair, but the boys managed to dump her into the bathtub and hold her under the shower for a few moments.
"There. Now we’re all wet," Neenie said, pushing her hair out of her face.
"And loud, too," Moony said from the doorway as a spluttering Meghan turned the water off. "Happy April Fools, cubs."
"Fool, fool, April fool, you learn naught by going to school," they chanted with him.
"Get changed and dry and come down to breakfast," Danger said from behind him. "It should be ready in about half an hour."
The cubs nodded solemnly, exactly as if they didn’t know there would be a slight delay.
Brushing her teeth, Danger sensed bemusement in the bedroom. What’s wrong?
These are not my pants.
No. They’re... well, you look.
Danger turned around. No, those aren’t yours, she agreed, observing the size of the garments Remus was holding up for her inspection. But they do look familiar. Do you think...
"’Scuse me, but do these belong to you?" Sirius’ voice said from the direction of the door. A ball of fabric landed in Remus’ arms. "They certainly don’t fit me. And I’ll take the ones you’re holding, if you don’t mind."
Danger sighed. I think I see.
I know I see. "You’d better check for everything else while you’re at it," Remus said dryly. "It’s probably all been exchanged."
"All of it?"
"So that’s what they were doing up so early," Aletha’s voice said. "Danger, may I look?"
"Go ahead, it’s nothing you haven’t seen before." Aletha usually did the family laundry, although everyone helped out from time to time, as eight people made a lot of dirty clothes.
"Yes, these are mine," Aletha said as she slid drawers open and shut. "They did a good job, kept everything all nicely folded — tell you what, why don’t we just switch bedrooms for the morning. Then we can replace everything after we eat."
That same day, the Weasley twins decided that, since it was their last spring at home, they should make it memorable, and declared open season on small people, prank-wise.
Unfortunately for them, they had no idea who they were dealing with. After two or three rounds of pranking back and forth, the cubs got Moony and Padfoot to help them plan a master prank, and the twins admitted defeat.
As George said, "Pink is not a good look for us."
The spring and summer, after that, were mostly peaceful.
The woman stood among the trees, cloaked in black although the day was warm. From the clearing ahead, she could hear music. Slowly, carefully, she moved closer, until she could see the people in the clearing, but they could not see her.
The musicians sat on one side of the clearing — a blond boy with a pipe and a red-haired one with a small hand drum. The melody and rhythm they played combined to give the scene an unreal feeling, as if she had been transported thousands of years into the past. The other children present, three or four of them, were all looking in one direction, and as she turned to look that way as well, her feeling of displacement intensified.
The child wore a white dress which left her arms entirely bare and showed her legs to the knee. She was slender and small, dark-skinned and dark-haired, barefoot and bareheaded, and she was dancing. She looked like the spirit of the summer come to life, light-footed and free, unconstrained by such rude things as gravity or time. Each movement seemed to tell a story, if only the watcher knew how to interpret them. Her leaps and twirls seemed to last forever.
She was beautiful.
The ethereal melody wound to a close. The girl sank to her knees, breathing hard, as her audience applauded her.
The woman slipped back into the trees and Disapparated carefully, making only the faintest of noises. No one would ever need to know that she had come. She had seen what she needed to.
He was happy and had friends. That was all she needed to know.
For Harry’s birthday, at his request, the entire Pack went up to London and spent the day at the Zoo. "Take you to the monkey house and let you have a family reunion, Padfoot," Moony teased.
"And then we can go by the wolf exhibit for yours," Padfoot retorted.
Harry, of course, wanted to spend some time by himself in the reptile house, and after giving him strict instructions on when and where to meet them, the Pack allowed it.
Harry leaned against the railing and looked in at the largest snake. It was a Brazilian boa constrictor, and it seemed to be fast asleep. He wasn’t surprised. After all, what else was there for it to do?
"What do you do for fun?" he asked softly, not expecting an answer.
"Look at the humans and see which of them appear toothsome," one came anyway. The snake raised its head. "That’s interesting. A human who speaks my language?"
Harry shrugged. "Does that bother you?"
"Of course not. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a decent conversation with anyone. My name is Hassisasseth. What’s yours?"
"Harry. Can I call you Seth?"
"Why not. So, Harry, what do you do for fun?"
"I play with my friends and siblings."
"You have nest-mates?" This was the literal translation of the Parseltongue word for siblings. "How lucky for you. All mine are gone. I ate some of them, and the rest are probably long dead."
Harry did not shiver at the snake’s casual mention of eating his own brothers and sisters. It had bothered him a lot when he first began to talk to snakes, but his Pack-parents had helped him understand. Snakes weren’t humans, so they did things humans wouldn’t do. Just like humans did things snakes wouldn’t do. No snake had ever beaten a child, or locked one up. "I’m sorry."
"It is the way of life. Ahhhhh..."
It was a long-drawn-out exhalation of pleasure. "What?"
"How I would love to get my coils around that..." Seth said with longing in his voice.
"Around what?" Harry asked.
"Behind you, silly human eggling."
Harry turned. A rather large boy about Harry’s own age had just come into the reptile house, following a woman with two or three other boys in tow. He had blond hair and a fat, pouty face, and he made Harry feel odd. As if he should know this boy, but didn’t...
"They do not feed me nearly enough," Seth said. "Would he not make a glorious meal? A bulge two months in digesting..."
Harry’s imagination provided a vivid picture of the boy inside Seth, and before he could stop himself, he laughed aloud.
The sound rang and echoed in the quiet cool of the reptile house. Everyone turned to see what it was.
The boy looked at Harry with distaste. "Are you laughing at me?" he demanded.
Harry shook his head.
"You are too," the boy said angrily, starting to advance on Harry. "I don’t like it when people laugh at me. What’s so funny about me, then? You want to share? You want to? Huh?"
Harry took a step back and found himself against the rail already.
"I’ll teach you to laugh at me," the boy snarled, and swung his fist back.
The boy’s fist passed over Harry’s head and into the glass of Seth’s exhibit.
Or it would have, if the glass had still been there.
Carried away by the force of his swing, the boy toppled over the railing and into Seth’s small pond with a splash.
"Did you do that?" Seth inquired, appearing beside Harry, wrapped around the bottom supports of the railing. "Thanks."
"Er, well, I didn’t mean to," Harry said unhappily. "And I really shouldn’t have. I’ll see you around, Seth, good luck..."
Quickly, he straightened up and raced out of the reptile house before anyone could connect him with the yelping, spluttering, soaked boy in the boa constrictor exhibit.
"I’m in trouble," he panted out to Padfoot, who was the first Pack-parent he found, holding Meghan up to look at the parrots. "There was a boy — and the glass — I didn’t mean to—"
"Hold on," Padfoot said, lowering Meghan to the ground. "Catch your breath. Is anyone hurt or dead?"
"Did you do anything visible?"
"I made the glass on one of the snake exhibits disappear."
Harry explained about the boy and Seth, and what had happened.
"Accidental magic," Padfoot said in a tone of certainty. "And the boy’s not hurt?"
"I don’t think so."
"Then our best bet is to change your appearance ever so slightly, so they can’t find you if anyone did see you. Hold still." Padfoot looked around him, then pulled out his wand and changed Harry’s red shirt to a blue one, and his black pants to tan. He also pointed the wand at Harry’s head, and Harry felt the soft-breeze-touch of a glamour charm pass by him.
"What was that?"
"Blond tips on your hair," Padfoot said, conjuring a mirror so Harry could see himself. "You like it?"
"Can I keep it?" Harry asked, admiring himself.
"If you want to. Consider it a birthday present. Come on, let’s go find everyone else. Birthday boys deserve ice cream."
Soon after Bill, Charlie, Percy, and the twins left for Hogwarts, a new subject was introduced into the cubs’ curriculum.
The response from everyone was the same:
"We have to dance with boys?" squealed the girls.
"We have to dance with girls?" yelped the boys.
"And, of course, it doesn’t matter that they play together every day anyway," Aletha said with a sigh one evening.
"Well, they often play with everyone," Danger said. "But then sometimes Harry and Ron go off together — well, all right, a lot of times Harry and Ron go off together, usually because Draco wants to stay home and do his music. And then he plays with Luna, since she’s the most musically interested of the others. And Ginny will sometimes play with Neenie and Meghan, but often they don’t want to play what she does, and she’d love to play with Harry and Ron, and sometimes they let her, but sometimes she’s the dreaded girl and they don’t..."
"In other words, it’s hopelessly mixed up and it changes every day," Sirius said.
"Right. They’re all friends, but who’s close with whom and who will play with whom changes sometimes every hour — sometimes every minute."
"Fine, then," Remus said. "Declare brother-sister dancing. Have Harry dance with Neenie and Ron with Ginny."
"What about Luna? She doesn’t have a brother."
"She also doesn’t have any qualms about holding hands with Draco. And I think he’ll be a good sport about partnering her for the sake of learning."
And so it was done. Sirius taught the cubs the steps of the set dances that all moneyed purebloods learned, with Danger as his partner and Aletha providing the music. There was little trouble with these, mostly because the only touching involved was holding hands or pressing palms together.
Remus had the really hard job, which was teaching the cubs basic ballroom steps. He managed surprisingly well — the hardest part was getting them to stay in the correct positions relative to each other.
But the real test came one day in October, when Remus took full advantage of an opportunity.
"Luna’s sick today and can’t come, so Draco has to dance with Meghan," Moony announced. "Now, this isn’t fair to him. She’s a good dancer, but they’ve never danced together before. So I want to make it fair to everyone. Switch partners."
"What?" Ron said in astonishment. "You want me to dance with her?" He pointed at Hermione.
"I guarantee she doesn’t have anything catching," Moony said dryly. "Go ahead, you can touch her."
"I don’t want to touch him," Hermione protested. "He’s gross."
"I am not gross!"
"Who came home all muddy the other day?"
"I fell in the mud!"
"Oh, right. You fell in the mud. And then you rolled around in it for a while."
Ginny looked over at Harry and shrugged as Ron and Hermione continued to snap back and forth. Harry made a decision. "My lady," he said loudly, bowing to Ginny and cutting off the incipient argument. "Will you favor me with this dance?"
Draco took his cue and bowed to Meghan, who curtsied at the same moment as Ginny. Aletha began to play, a slow waltz, and the two couples set themselves and began to move to the music. Harry was careful not to step on Ginny’s toes, and Ginny seemed to be taking the same care. At least, she was looking at the floor an awful lot.
Ron and Hermione glared at each other for one more moment, then grudgingly took the waltz position and began to dance. After a moment, Hermione gasped, and Ron blushed and muttered an apology.
"No, it’s my fault," Hermione said, blushing a bit herself. "My foot was in the wrong place. Try again?"
Ron smiled a little. "All right."
Unseen by the cubs, Remus and Danger exchanged smug looks.
My lady, will you favor me with this dance?
Stealing lines from your own Pack-son, man? Have you no shame?
No. None at all. You should know that.
Oh, and I do, I do...
And then there were four couples waltzing in the Blacks’ living room.
The Weasleys hosted that year’s Christmas party for all three families. Sirius was returning from a trip to the punch bowl when he saw something unusual. And familiar.
An old, tattered piece of parchment, which he had last seen in the hands of Argus Filch...
"Moony," he said quietly. "Look what the twins have."
"Sure looks like it."
Remus grinned. "Should we give them a hand with it?"
Casually, the two men moved to flank the twins, who were tapping the surface of the parchment with their wands and muttering things.
"What’ve you got there?" Remus asked.
George jumped. "Nothing," he said hastily, trying to hide the parchment under a pillow on the couch.
"Doesn’t look like nothing," Sirius said, pulling out his own wand. "Accio Parchment!"
The twins winced as the parchment soared into Sirius’ hand. "It’s just an old bit of parchment," Fred said too earnestly. "Nothing to get excited over."
"Oh, really now," Remus said. He drew his wand. "Reveal your secrets," he said, touching his wand to the parchment.
Make me, the Map printed. Sirius and Remus grinned at each other.
"That’s all it’ll do for us either," George said, sounding frustrated. "We know it must be something good — we nicked it off Filch — but we can’t figure out what."
"Why don’t you try asking?" Sirius suggested.
"Yes. Ask the — parchment — what it is."
The twins looked at each other. "Can’t hurt," Fred said, and touched his wand to the center of the square, which Sirius handed back to him. "What are you?"
I am the Marauders’ Map, an Aid to Magical Mischief-Makers.
"Wicked," the twins said together, grinning.
"Map of what?" George asked.
Hogwarts and its grounds, along with all the people therein.
"All the people?"
All the people. Where they are, who they are, all the time.
Fred took a deep breath, nerving himself up for the big question. "How can we work you?"
You must solemnly swear that you are up to no good.
"Erm, all right," George said in a bemused tone, his wand still touching the map. "I solemnly swear that I am up to no good."
Remus and Sirius decided this would be a good moment to withdraw, while the twins were distracted by the Map.
"Worthy successors to our tradition, Mr. Moony," Sirius said in tones of satisfaction.
"Worthy successors indeed, Mr. Padfoot. But we’re going to have to cut out the nicknames from now on. They might hear us."
Sirius winced. "Hadn’t thought of that. Damn Wormtail anyway."
Several stories up, if Sirius had only known it, the object of his curse slept soundly in his cage.