Living with Danger
Chapter 37: And the Other's Gold
By Anne B. Walsh
Warning: This chapter contains character death.
Chapter 37: And the Other’s Gold
Draco lay in the sun and hummed to himself.
Happy half-birthday to me,
Happy half-birthday to me...
"Sun worshiper," Letha said teasingly from behind him.
Draco rolled over lazily, since his back was warm enough and his stomach was cool, and smiled at his Pack-mother, upside down as everything was at the moment. "There isn’t much in January. I have to get it while I can."
"You be careful. Even if there isn’t much sun, you burn quicker than anyone I know."
Draco made a face. "It’s because I’m so pale. Why couldn’t I be darker, like Harry or Neenie, or really dark like you or Meghan?"
"No, it must be something other than just your being pale," Letha said thoughtfully, "because Moony’s almost as pale as you are, and I’ve never seen him with a sunburn."
"Is someone taking my name in vain?" Moony asked from somewhere nearby.
"Just commenting on how you don’t get sunburned."
Moony walked into Draco’s frame of vision. "That’s because, unlike some people, I’m intelligent enough to remember to wear sunblock. You really need not to coddle him this summer, Letha. Even if he does say that your massages make his back feel better."
"Oh, but I can’t stand to see my loving husband in pain," Letha said in a sappy-devoted tone. "And if something my poor skills can do will ease his anguish, who am I to withhold it?"
"What a proper wifely attitude," Padfoot’s voice said unexpectedly, and Letha squeaked.
Draco didn’t bother to look. He had no desire to watch people kissing.
Why do they do that anyway? It must be fun somehow. Maybe I’ll find out someday.
He thought about that for a moment, then shook his head. Nah. Not interested.
27 March, 1990
Enclosed find the money you requested and my new address. Yes, another one, and you needn’t make a fuss, because it’s the best I could do. I am as well as can be expected and looking forward to seeing you in June — it is still June? Please let me know.
30 March, 1990
Yes, it is still June, if nothing else goes wrong. I’ve never seen such a run of bad luck. Chin up, dearest, we’ll pull through somehow. When I get home, the first thing I want to do is —
(A few paragraphs of rather graphic endearments are omitted.)
Have you had any luck concerning our son?
4 April, 1990
No luck with our Duddikins yet. They say I still haven’t proved I can take care of him. Six months, they say. Six months in one place, with one job. Perhaps you can help me manage it once you’re back.
Imagine, Vernon, the three of us together again. Just a normal family, with nothing at all strange or odd about us. I can’t think of anything I want more.
And as for your homecoming, the first thing I want to do is —
(A page of extremely graphic endearments is omitted.)
All my love,
It was a marshy April day, and Ron, Harry, and Draco had been out jumping in puddles, a pastime in which they delighted. The girls had elected to stay home, much to their mothers’ relief.
Three rather damp boys sloshed up the path to the kitchen door of the Burrow and stepped inside before they noticed the argument in progress.
"—warning you, Weasley, if you come around my house again waving your Ministry writs and demanding to search, I’ll—" The speaker, a man who would have been puny if it weren’t for his air of self-importance, broke off, looking at the boys in their hooded raincoats and boots. "Well, what have we here?"
Beside Harry, Draco froze.
"My son and some of his friends," Mr. Weasley said coldly. "Go upstairs and play, boys, this doesn’t concern you."
"Yes, sir," Ron said, and began peeling off his rain gear even faster than before.
Harry turned back to Draco. "What’s wrong?"
"I know him," Draco said quietly, bending down to take his boots off. "I know his voice. He used to visit the manor. He might know me if I take my hood down."
"Everyone is under the law, Nott, no matter how much gold you have," Mr. Weasley was saying.
"Don’t say anything," Harry cautioned Draco as the boys finished shedding their outer clothes. He slapped Draco’s arm and shouted, "Tag!"
Ron caught on immediately and tore across the kitchen and up the stairs with Harry. "Hey, no fair!" Draco yelled, and ran after them.
"I told you not to talk," Harry said emphatically at the first landing.
"I didn’t talk. I yelled."
"You look like your dads when you do that," Ron noted. "Only reversed. I mean, you look like Mr. Pat," he pointed at Draco, "and you look like Mr. John, Harry. If that makes any sense."
Draco shrugged. "We grew up with them both, it makes sense. Come on, let’s go see what the girls are doing."
"What are their names?" Patroclus Nott asked.
"The boys? I don’t see why you’d be interested in them."
"Call it curiosity."
"Harry and Drake Black. Cousins. They live in the village with their parents."
"Wizards, I assume. Even you would hardly let your child run around with Muggles to that extent."
Arthur Weasley gave a small, tight nod.
Drake. An unusual name. But a coincidence, surely. He may be the right age, but his looks are all wrong. If he were the Malfoys’ son, he would be much paler, a silver-blond as I remember Lucius being, not this boy’s syrup color.
And I need not even begin to comment on his behavior.
Still, it does give me an idea for tonight’s story...
Patroclus Nott understood the value of his son and heir, Theodore. He personally oversaw the selection of the boy’s tutors, and he spent an hour with the child every day, usually before his bedtime. Often he would tell Theodore a bedtime story. The practice, although vulgar in and of itself, was invaluable for indoctrinating the child with the truths of his world.
And one of the most useful stories I have is the one of The Boy Who Disappeared. For I can make up hundreds, thousands, of fates for Draco Malfoy, each as improbable and each as possible as the next. And depending on what Theodore has done that day, the fate of the boy in the story will occur because of some crime or fault he committed himself.
Theodore always came when he was called, due to several renditions of a tale in which the Malfoys’ son had been eaten by a werewolf after not coming indoors when he should have. His table manners were exquisite, thanks to the story that Draco’s mother had murdered him and buried his body beneath the floorboards of the kitchen for slurping his soup. It helped, of course, that Theodore seldom saw his mother except at mealtimes.
So tonight, I think, the ultimate horror.
Tonight, I tell the tale of Draco Malfoy, stolen from his family and raised by Mudbloods.
"... he worked all day, like a house-elf, with never a word of thanks or a look of gratitude. All that he got in return were pitiful meals, outworn castoff clothing, and a pallet in a corner of the kitchen. The children of the household lorded it over him, ordering him around, and the adults gave him orders and blows in equal measure. And worst of all, he did not even know that he was a wizard, for it had been hidden from him by his â€˜masters.’ He knew that they were witches and wizards — though, being Mudbloods, their power was pathetically weak — but he did not know it of himself."
Ah, Aristotle. Pity and fear, the two emotions you said drama should evoke, and my darling Theodore feels them both. Pity for the boy in the story, and fear that such a thing could happen to him...
"You get back here, Draco Black, don’t you dare leave your brother and sisters with all the work!"
"But Danger, I have to practice tonight, so I’ll be ready for Luna’s lesson tomorrow!"
"You can practice after the table’s clear. Come on."
"Thank you, love," Danger said, dropping a kiss on Draco’s head as he passed.
"What’s for dessert?" Draco asked, starting to stack the plates.
"Harry and I made cupcakes this afternoon."
"You made cupcakes?" Draco stared at his brother. "I’m not eating them."
"They’re perfectly fine," Padfoot said, smacking Draco lightly in the back of the head with the clean end of the wooden spoon he was carrying. "I had three, and I’m not sick, am I?"
"No, but you should be," Moony said. "You have the most amazing appetite, Sirius. I’ve never met anyone who eats as much as you."
"Ron Weasley eats a lot," Hermione said, half-turning from the sink where she was rinsing the dishes that Letha was washing. "Almost as much as Padfoot."
"And he’s barely turned ten..." Danger said in tones of wonder.
"We’d better warn the house-elves next time we visit Hogwarts, then," Draco said, carrying his stack of dishes to the sink.
"All right," Meghan said, collecting the cutlery. "You can warn them about yourself when you do."
"I don’t eat that much!"
"Oh yeah?" Meghan stuck her tongue out. "You should watch yourself some time."
"How?" Draco demanded with some justice.
"Oh, bother," Neenie said unhappily.
"What?" asked two or three voices together.
"I’ve got a stain on my blouse."
"You’ve almost outgrown it anyway," Aletha said practically. "And there’s a hole in the sleeve."
"We need to go shopping sometime soon, everyone’s getting too big for their clothes again," Danger said, making a note on the to-do list that always sat on the desk in the corner of the kitchen. "You know," she said to Moony, "maybe if we didn’t feed them so much, they wouldn’t grow so fast..."
The cubs booed.
"What happened to him, Father?" Theodore asked, wide-eyed. "Did he ever escape? Did he ever find out he was a wizard, and get to Hogwarts?"
"You shall have to tell me, my son," Patroclus said seriously. "Draco Malfoy is your age, after all. Keep your eyes open on your first day of school. And if you happen to see a small and skinny boy with pale blond hair, in clothes too large for him, who looks as if he does not know what to do, do offer to be his friend."
"I will," Theodore promised solemnly.
But, of course, you will never meet such a child. Draco Malfoy is in all probability long dead.
On 14 June, 1990, many things happened, but only two of them were at all important to this narrative. Firstly, Luna Lovegood celebrated the ninth anniversary of her birth with a small party at her home, involving her parents, her three best female friends, and, more peripherally, their brothers.
Secondly, Vernon Dursley became something he had not been for more than eight years.
Petunia was waiting for him in the parking lot of the police station where he was released from. They drove to her small flat in silence.
The rest of the afternoon and evening were not so silent. In fact, the neighbors complained the next day. Vernon and Petunia were highly apologetic, "but you understand, he’s had to be away for so long, and we’ve missed each other terribly..."
Then the Dursleys began to make plans.
Find Vernon a job, of course, was high on the list.
In six months, reapply for custody of Dudley came only slightly below it.
But there was no doubt in the mind of either Mr. or Mrs. Dursley that if they had not taken their nephew in on that fateful November morning, this would never have happened to them.
And so number one on their list was, Never permit those abnormal freaks to come near us again.
It has been said that God has a sense of humor. Those who do not believe in God still admit that often the universe does seem skewed slightly towards the odd and humorous.
That which had struck down the Dursleys with the Threefold Curse of the Righteous — addressed in the invocation as "All that is right and good in the world" — might not be God, or a god, but it most certainly had a sense of humor.
"Gentlemen," Sirius said, addressing Fred and George Weasley politely if perhaps not accurately. The twins were sitting on identical Cleansweep-model brooms, belated twelfth birthday gifts from their parents. "We are here to teach you the noble art of Beating."
"The most important part of Beating is awareness," Aletha took over the talk. "Never lose track of where your partner is, where the Bludgers are, where the other Beaters are. You two have an edge, being twins — you’re used to sensing where the other one is. If you practice enough with your partner, you should be able to do things like this."
She waved to Harry, who released one of the Bludgers from its box. It swooped up, hovered for a moment as if getting its bearings, then went straight for Sirius and Aletha. They moved from a hover into fast, even flight, with the Bludger chasing them, and without even seeming to consult with each other, they swung their bats smoothly up and around, trapping the Bludger between them.
"The Black Sandwich," Sirius said, wheeling around in the air as Aletha pivoted. "Patent pending."
They released the Bludger, and Aletha struck it a hard blow, sending it flying down the clearing toward the twins. George brought his bat up and around, hitting the Bludger back up towards the adults, and the game was on. At first, it was simply a game of volleys, but then Sirius hit the Bludger to Aletha instead of to the twins, and it became a flying game of Keep-Away. That, in turn, mutated into "let-the-Bludger-chase-your-partner", which ended when Fred missed his swing and hit George in the head.
"We’ll keep training with you as long as you want," Aletha promised as they landed. "You’re pretty good already — by this fall, you should be spectacular."
"Pretty good, nothing," Sirius said. "You’re excellent. You fly like human Bludgers."
"Remember, though," Aletha cautioned, "hitting your opponents with your bats, although satisfying, is against the rules, and generally frowned upon."
"Depends on who you’re playing against, and who’s refereeing," Sirius pointed out. "But I wouldn’t want to encourage you to break the rules."
"You wouldn’t?" Aletha, Harry, and the twins said in chorus.
Sirius smiled his most charmingly. "Well — not in public."
Anita Lovegood had a new project that fall. One she had been hoping to do for quite a long time, but had never had the time for until now.
She was going to see if she couldn’t improve upon the basic scrying spell.
It was so limited, after all. One could only shift the view so far before one had to choose a new focus point, and then the view was curtailed by that. And often, depending on how powerful and skilled you were, you couldn’t even see the next town, much less another country.
Anita’s dream was to create a simple, workable scrying spell that would allow anyone to see as far as they wanted. She knew it was unlikely to come true, but wasn’t that the point of having a dream?
She heard the door behind her open and close. No voice announced its presence. Luna, then. Her daughter had permission to come and go from the workroom as she liked, unless specifically forbidden to enter or told to leave. And this should be just fine for her to see. In fact, it would be useful to have another set of eyes around. Sometimes scrys refused to be seen by anyone but their caster. Anita hoped to work around this limitation as well.
"Where are your friends?" she asked without turning around, uncorking the bottle where she kept the potion she scryed in.
"Outside playing Hogwarts," Luna said. "Neenie is the professor. She’s setting everyone lessons. I don’t want to do lessons. So I came in."
"Yes, Neenie is rather the professor type," Anita agreed, pouring the silvery potion into a bowl. "But you seem to like her a lot, Luna. Will you miss her when she goes away to school next year?"
"She’ll only be there for a year before I’ll be there too," Luna said philosophically. "And Ginny will still be here with me, and Meghan Black. And you and Dad will still be here."
"That’s right, moon girl," Anita said lovingly, lifting the filled bowl and turning to Luna, who was sitting in her usual chair at Anita’s worktable. "We’ll always be here with you." She carried the bowl carefully to the table and sat down in her own chair.
"Are you scrying?" Luna asked. "What for?"
"Well, I thought I’d start with the Weasleys and the Blacks. I doubt they’ll mind if I invade their privacy just a tad."
The scry displayed the interior of the Burrow perfectly well, revealing Molly Weasley happily listening to the wireless and knitting, but refused to show the inside, or even the outside, of the Marauders’ Den. "That’s odd," Anita said, frowning. "It’s as if they’ve put anti-scrying on their house. I wonder why they’d do that."
Luna gazed into the bowl. "Maybe they don’t want to be spied on," she said dreamily. "Can we look at something else?"
"All right," Anita said, smiling fondly at her most unusual but quite lovable daughter. "Let’s try for distance now."
She began the spell, setting it on the coast of the English Channel. Then across, to France. Farther and farther she went, through the continent of Europe, skipping from cities to villages, from fields to forests. It was crystal clear, every detail of the picture perfect. Anita felt a thrill of triumph.
Then she stopped, shivering.
Why am I cold?
She looked deeper into the bowl.
The scry showed a patch of forest, one where the shadows seemed to lie unusually thick and deep. Nothing moved among the trees — no animals, no birds, nothing. But no, wait, was that something behind that tree?
Anita moved to fix her scry on the flicker of movement she had seen —
And her bowl exploded into a million pointed fragments, all shooting outwards, outwards towards her —
Towards Luna —
Anita dove at her daughter, knocking her to the floor, sheltering her child with her own body —
Pain, everywhere, but mostly in her chest and her throat —
And then nothing.
Gerald Lovegood was in his study when he heard the muffled sound of shattering pottery.
He found his daughter staring at her mother’s bleeding body. "She protected me," Luna said, her eyes wide with astonishment and confusion. "The bowl exploded. She protected me."
Gerald stared at his wife’s body for one more moment, then gathered his child to his chest and began to sob. Luna wept with him, almost silently, as though she still did not understand.
Carrie Black found them still standing like that when she stepped through the fire nearly an hour later, to keep her lunch date with Anita.
It was 25 September, 1990, and Luna’s life had changed forever.
Luna cried for her mother for nearly a month, then gradually seemed to return to normal, as much as normal had ever applied to her. Gerald was still pale and thin, often working late hours and asking Molly Weasley or Carrie or Danger Black to watch Luna until he returned.
"I have her ring," Luna said to her wide-eyed, listening circle of friends one day in November. "Her wedding ring. Dad gave it to me." She pulled a chain out of her blouse with the ring hanging from it.
The Black children all pressed a hand to their chests simultaneously.
"She loved me very much," Luna said solemnly. "And I miss her a lot."
Drake looked like he wanted to say something. Luna turned to him, waiting.
"I know you do," he said finally, sounding a bit uncomfortable, but as if he had to say whatever it was. "And you always will. But I’m glad you’re better. It wasn’t the same without you."
Luna gave a small smile. "Thank you," she said. "Do you want to work on our duet piece now?"
"If you do." Drake stood up too, and headed for the stairs to get his flute from the bedroom. Luna went to the piano and began her warming-up exercises.
As Drake returned with his instrument, Luna modulated her scales into something else. It began with a low, steady beat in the left hand, then began a playful-sounding melody in the right, which returned again and again, always a little bit different but always recognizable. The piece ended abruptly, with a strange, dissonant chord which lingered in the air.
"I wrote that," Luna said quietly into the listening silence. "For my mother."
The silence lasted another moment. Then Harry began quietly to applaud. Hermione and Ron followed him. Ginny and Meghan joined in. Both were crying openly.
When the applause had stopped, Luna nodded to her audience, then glanced at Drake to make sure he was ready, and without further preamble began the opening measures of their piano/flute duet.
Danger’s birthday cake that December had thirty candles on it. Before blowing them out, she very pointedly closed her connection with Remus.
What was that for? he asked as soon as she reopened it, having blown out all thirty with one breath.
They say if you tell what you wish for, it won’t come true.
As long as you’re not wishing for something like me to wake up tomorrow covered in purple polka dots.
Not a bad idea, but no.
Remus groaned mentally. Damn it, I forgot the first rule of living with other pranksters.
Never, ever, ever say anything that could be construed as a suggestion?
Too bad for you, then.
The next morning...
You are going DOWN, woman.
Why? They’re not purple. They’re orange. It’s a better color for you anyway.
The month went on, and Christmas decorations began to pop up everywhere. Even the offices at the Ministry sported them.
The latest arrival at the Floo Network Authority did not appreciate them. She had not appreciated anything for a long time.
They will not escape my wrath forever, she had said once in righteous indignation. But that had been six years ago, and she was no closer to finding out who had so grievously injured her master and ruined his good name forever than she had been at the time.
And he was no closer to power. That rankled her the most. That he, who was so good, so capable, should be denied the office he so richly deserved.
Her own demotion was a minor, but also bothersome, point.
This office is such a mess. There are notices and files from two and three years ago simply lying about.
To take her mind off her troubles, she decided to organize the place.
For other reasons as well, of course.
Everything I do is done with an eye to advancement. The higher I go, the more power I gain, the more likely I am to find them, and the more able I will be to help him return to his rightful place.
Several long, dreary hours later, she began on yet another pile of fireplace name-change forms.
And stopped dead, staring at the one in her hand.
Date: 14 January, 1988
Fireplace Name Requested: The Marauders’ Den
Current Name of Fireplace: None (dwelling previously belonged to Muggles)
Reason for Denial: Name is already in use by house previously known as "Number 71 Crozer Street, London"
Reason for Appeal: House using the name is no longer occupied
Result of Investigation: Number 71 Crozer Street has been abandoned for several months. The name "The Marauders’ Den" is hereby granted to applicants Patrick and Carrie Black, of Ottery St. Catchpole, Devon.
The woman stared at the form, and very slowly, a smile began to spread across her wide face. Carefully, she slipped from the office, sliding the precious piece of parchment beneath her knitted pink cardigan.
I do believe that it would be my duty to bring this to my master’s attention, and explain what I know, and what I suspect.
This could be exactly what he needs to return to power.
Credit for the single-handed discovery of the most notorious criminal in England.