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Chapter 41: What Can We Do?

"Meghan?" Luna asked quietly. "Are these animals your family?"...

..."I have to tell you a story," Meghan said. "And it has to be secret." She looked at Luna and took a deep breath. "Because yes. They are."


Ron’s mouth fell open. "They are not."

"They are," Meghan said. "And we can prove it. Up in your room."

The cavalcade of four children and three animals clattered up the stairs and into the small, orange room. With Ginny and Luna sitting on the bed, Meghan on the windowsill between the tank full of frogspawn and the pile of comic books, and the wolf curled on the floor around the cat and fox, everyone fit.

Ron shut the door and turned to Meghan. "How?" he demanded.

"Ask Harry something," Meghan said, pointing to the wolf. "Ask him something only he would know the answer to."

"All right." Ron closed his eyes in thought. "Got one. The last time we played chess, who won, and how?" He looked confident, as if sure the next few seconds would prove that his best friend’s little sister had gone out of her mind, and his world was still just as boring as it had been the day before.

The wolf stood up and gently nudged Ginny’s feet out of the way, sticking its head under the bed. It emerged a moment later with the battered box containing Ron’s wizard chess pieces in its mouth. Carefully, it pawed the box open and looked in at the pieces, which all screamed and tried to hide. The cat and fox stood up to watch.

Exceedingly delicately, the wolf opened his mouth and picked up one of the chess pieces, pulling back quickly as the others attacked his face. He delivered the kicking, yelling piece to Ron, who looked it over.

It was a white knight.

The wolf nudged Ron on the knee and barked once, quietly.

Ron nodded. "I did win," he said shakily, still staring at the knight. "And I had white, and I checkmated Harry’s king with my knight." He looked at the wolf. "Harry?"

The wolf nodded firmly.

Ron leaned back against the door, his freckles standing out against his pale face. "This is way too weird for me," he said fervently.

The wolf — Harry — rubbed against him, in the manner of a friend patting another on the back after a shocking experience.

Ron looked at the wolf again. "Its — your — the eyes are the same," he said slowly. "Green. Bright green. And a darker ring of fur around the outside, like your glasses."

"Drake’s eyes are the same," Luna put in. "Grey, like mine. That’s what made me think to look."

"Hermione?" Ginny asked, holding out her hand for the cat, who came to her delicately and looked into her face. "They’re hazel for sure — and I don’t think cats have that color naturally."

"So it’s true, then," Ron said, exhaling a long breath and sitting down on the floor. "I’m sorry, Meghan. It just — it sounded..."

"Weird?" Meghan finished. "The rest of it’s even worse."

"How can it be weirder than it already is?" Ron asked.

Meghan looked at the floor. "We’ve been lying to you," she said very quietly. "We’ve been lying a lot."

"Lying? About what?"

"About who we are. And what we look like. Do you remember the first day we met? Well, I wasn’t there. But the first day you met Harry and Drake and Neenie?"

Ron nodded. "Never forget it."

"And Luna asked if Harry was Harry Potter."

Ginny was starting, for no reason she could explain, to get excited.

"And he said no."

Ron nodded suspiciously.

Meghan swallowed. "He lied. He is."

"I knew it!" Ginny exploded, jumping to her feet. "I knew it, I knew it, I knew it, I knew it, I knew it, I knew it, I knew it!"

Everyone was staring at her. She quickly sat back down on the bed.

"You did?" Ron asked, looking totally dumbfounded. "How?"

Ginny shook her head. "I don’t know. I just... I... I just did. I knew he had a secret. He would say things that didn’t quite fit with what you were telling everyone. I covered for him a couple times. He’s really Harry Potter?"

Meghan gave a little smile and a nod. "Has been all his life."

"No way," Ron said. "No freaking way. Come on, Meghan, there’s only so much you’re going to get me to believe. What’s next, your dad is Sirius Black?"

Meghan gasped. "How did you know?"

Ron gawked at her. "I was joking."

"She’s not," Luna observed.

Ron made an incoherent noise halfway between a squawk and a moan.

"Your dad is really Sirius Black?" Ginny asked incredulously, staring at Meghan.

Meghan nodded. "The Ministry found him," she said sadly. "They found all of us. That’s why I had to run away, so they wouldn’t take me and put me with another family. Unless all the grownups ran away too, they got arrested."

"Good!" Ron finally managed to articulate a word. "What he deserves! He’s a bloody murderer!"

"He is not!" Meghan shouted, then stopped, staring at the wolf. When she next spoke, it was with an obvious effort to keep herself under control. "My father never killed anyone. It was someone else, who made it look like it was him, but it wasn’t. He’s innocent. And he’s the reason we’ve always been hiding."

"Where did you really live before you lived here?" Ginny asked.

"London. My mum was Aletha Freeman. She still is, but now she’s Aletha Freeman-Black."

"My dad talks about her!" Ron said suddenly. "She worked for the Ministry, she’s a big mystery, ever since she disappeared a couple years ago — her and her... daughter..." He trailed off, looking at Meghan.

"We went to America," Meghan said. "And then we changed our faces and names and came here." She looked like she was going to cry. "I’m really sorry we had to lie to you. We never wanted to lie to anyone."

"Who was the other person?" Luna asked. "The one who made it look like your father killed people?"

"His name is Peter Pettigrew. He can turn into a rat — that’s how he got away from the crime, by running away as a rat. His friends called him Wormtail because of that."

Ginny frowned. Wormtail. Why does that sound familiar?

"So he could be hiding anywhere, as a rat," Luna said. "Rats are small. They’re hard to find."

"Percy’s got a rat for a pet," Ginny pointed out. "His name’s Scabbers."

"Mum says if Percy makes prefect, he can have an owl, and then I get Scabbers to take to Hogwarts," Ron said, a little mechanically, as if his brain was still trying to digest all the information it had been given.

Ginny finally decided which question, out of the million or so swarming her brain, she wanted to ask first. "Harry."

The wolf looked up at her.

"Do you really have a scar on your forehead?"

The wolf snorted as if laughing, got up, and came over to her. "He says to look and see," Meghan said.

Ginny looked, and to her mingled astonishment and satisfaction, the wolf did indeed have a thin streak of white fur — such as might grow over scar tissue — on the front of his head, above and between his eyes, in the shape of a lightning bolt.

"Who are Mr. John and Mrs. Danger, really?" Luna asked.

"Their last name is Lupin. We call him Moony, but Danger is still Danger. Moony was really good friends with my dad at school. At Hogwarts."

"Was he friends with — the rat — too?" Ginny asked.

Meghan nodded.

"Moony," Ginny said slowly. "Wormtail." She closed her eyes. "Padfoot." She heard Meghan’s gasp and the fox’s yip. "And Prongs." The wolf whined slightly.

She opened her eyes. "The twins have something made by four people named Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs. I don’t know what, but I know those names."

"A map," Meghan whispered. "A magic map of Hogwarts. They told us about it. Padfoot is my dad. Prongs was Harry’s. They were really good friends."

"Until Harry’s dad died," Luna said matter-of-factly.

The cat rubbed up against the wolf, purring.

"Hermione," Ron said, looking at her. "Is she really Hermione?"

The cat walked over to him deliberately, looked him in the face, and gave him a very definite nod, punctuating it with a swat to his knee from the backside of her paw.

"I suppose that’s a yes, then," Ron said weakly.

"Her real name is Hermione Granger," Meghan added. "And her hair’s bushier. And she’s Danger’s sister, not her daughter. That’s the only difference."

"What about Drake?" Ginny asked.

Luna stared at the fox. Ginny, looking sideways at her, saw her eyes do an odd sort of drifting thing, then come back into focus in a different way, as if she had been looking at her reflection in a window and was now looking through the glass. "His hair is a lighter color than it usually is," she said dreamily. "Silvery. It’s handsome." Her eyes returned to normal. "He looks familiar. Like somebody I saw a picture of."

The fox looked back at Meghan. "Luna, has your father’s magazine ever done an article on Draco Malfoy?" she asked.

Luna nodded. "Last year. Why—" She stopped and changed her focus again, staring hard at the fox, who stared hard back. She broke contact first. "You are Draco Malfoy," she said with certainty.

"He used to be," Meghan put in. "He changed his name when he came to live with us. He’s Draco Black now."

Ron stared from the fox, to the wolf, to Meghan, and couldn’t seem to speak at all.

"This is really, really weird," Ginny said feelingly.


You don’t know the half of it, Harry commented.

Someone pounded on the door. "Ron! Ron, open up!"

"Percy," Ron gasped, coming back to life. "Harry — Neenie — Drake, or whatever your name is — hide!"

The animals scattered. Harry secreted himself behind the door as Ron pulled it open. "What’s wrong?" he asked his brother.

"Have you heard the news?" Percy panted, one hand on his shoulder as if holding something there — Harry could see him through the hinges. "Sirius Black’s been arrested!"

Meghan made a little moaning noise. Ginny went over to her and hugged her.

"I heard," Ron said.

Percy frowned. "You did? How? Dad’s only just got home and told us."

"Er... I mean no, I didn’t hear. But now I did. What’s that?" Ron asked, pointing at the thing on Percy’s shoulder.

"Just Scabbers. Mum won’t let me have him out of his cage when your friends are here, so I thought I could let him have a little free time now, when they’re not." Percy took his hand away.

Harry’s breath caught in his throat.

The rat on Percy’s shoulder looked... wrong.

Harry couldn’t say what it was. It wasn’t anything about his shape, or his size, or his color exactly, though color was closest. It was as if he had some kind of faint blueness to him, or greenness perhaps, some color that animals of his sort were not supposed to be. Or perhaps it was a sparkle, or maybe it wasn’t anything like that. He didn’t care. He knew what it meant.

The same sort of aura surrounded Draco and Hermione when he looked at them.

Percy’s rat was not a rat.

Percy’s rat was a human being.

Stay where you are! he commanded his siblings as he sensed them getting ready to charge out and look for themselves. If we can see him, he can see us. Meghan. Ask Percy how long he’s had the rat.

"Percy?" Meghan sounded very young, very unsure of herself. "Can I pet your rat?"

"All right." Percy sounded pleased to be asked. Harry scrunched himself back as the door opened wider to allow Percy in, then watched as the tall boy crossed the room and handed the rat to Meghan, who stroked its fur with a trembling hand.

"How old is he?" she asked.

"I don’t know," Percy said, pressing a finger against his lips in thought. "He must be at least nine or ten, I’ve had him since I was five, and he was full grown when I found him."

Since he was five, Draco said. He’s four years older than us, right?

Ron said he was going to be a prefect. That makes him a fifth year next year, and we’ll be first years. Yes, four years older, Hermione calculated rapidly.

Which means, when he was five, we were one, Harry said slowly, watching Percy pick up the rat again. And when I was one...

"Seek the one whose cry you hear," Hermione recited. "For where she is, your prey is near."

He’s our prey, Draco said, his voice half a snarl. That’s what it means. She sent us rat-hunting.

Harry felt his lips lift away from his teeth in something that could have been a growl or a grin — he was feeling savage and jubilant in equal measure. And we did it. We found him.

But what do we do now? Hermione asked.

"What’s going to happen to Sirius Black?" Meghan asked Percy as he put Scabbers back on his shoulder.

"Well, Dad says his trial’s been scheduled for tomorrow morning," Percy said to the room at large. "I don’t know why they’re bothering to give him a trial, he should have been given the Dementor’s Kiss straight off, but apparently someone high up insisted on going through the formalities. Oh, and something odd — he wasn’t alone. There were other people arrested with him, three of them, a man and two women."

Meghan’s lip trembled. "Are they in trouble too?"

"I’d assume so," Percy said, a trifle patronizingly. "You don’t get arrested unless you’re guilty of something, after all. Well, I’ll go now, I just wanted to make sure you all knew, it’s important news, you know, history in the making..."

Ron closed the door behind him. "At least one thing hasn’t changed," he said with an air of relief. "Percy’s still annoying."

"That rat isn’t a rat," Luna said.

Meghan threw her arms around Luna. "You saw it too!"

"Saw what?" Ginny asked.

"Percy’s rat is a man," Luna said. "He’s not very tall, and kind of fat, and his hair is falling out. He looks nervous."

"Wormtail," Meghan said with a snarl in her own voice.

The other three cubs nodded.

Ron sat down hard on the floor.

Ginny was very pale. "We have to do something," she said intensely. "They’re going to try the wrong man."

"But what can we do?" Ron said blankly. "We’re just kids. Just a bunch of kids. Just seven kids."

Seven, Harry said. Neenie — the poem — there was something about seven —

"Pack of seven, Pack-friends two, bring him unto justice true." Pack of seven — but we’re the Pack now, and there’s only four of us —

I know, Harry said. And I think I know what that means. Meghan —

He explained what he needed her to say.

All right. I’ll try.

Meghan got up. "Ron," she said, getting his attention. "Ginny, Luna... this is from everybody." She indicated Harry, Draco, and Hermione, who closed in behind her. "You’ve been our friends. You’ve been really great friends. Now we want to know if you want to be something more."

"What?" Ron asked almost suspiciously.

"We want you to be Pack with us."

"What does that mean?" Ginny asked.

"A Pack is like a family. It’s people who swear to care for each other and watch out for each other always."

"Is your family a Pack?" asked Luna.

"Yes. We took an oath to each other. It joins us together. Will you take the oath with us, and be Pack with us?"

"What kind of oath?" asked Ron, who looked interested in spite of himself.

Meghan recited it.

"My hand in yours,

"My wand with yours,

"My life for yours,

"Now and always.

"You join hands and say it three times." Harry had instructed her to leave the part about the blood out, since they knew they weren’t supposed to use knives and things by themselves, and they didn’t have any adults here with them to help them. "Will you be Pack with us? Please?"

"Yes," Luna said without fanfare.

Ginny stared at the ceiling, obviously thinking hard, then brought her head down and gave a quick nod. "Yes. I will."

Ron looked unsure.

Meghan, repeat after me, Hermione said quickly. Ron, you wanted to know what we could do...

"Ron, you wanted to know what we could do," Meghan said, pausing after each sentence to let Hermione finish. "This is what. If we’re Pack, we can do anything together. We’ll be strong. Much stronger than we are alone. Please. We need you."

"You need me?" Ron repeated. He looked from Hermione, to Draco, to Meghan, and finally settled on Harry. "You need me?"

Harry nodded. We really do. Pearl, tell him.

"Harry says we really need you, Ron," Meghan said. "Please?"

Ron hesitated one more second, then nodded. "All right."

They took the Pack-oath together, there in Ron’s room, in a circle on the floor, holding hands and paws, and reciting the words together, aloud or silently, depending on their nature. There was no tingling this time, no feeling associated with the oath — they simply said it three times together, and after an awkward moment, released everyone’s hands.

"Did it work?" Ginny asked. "I don’t feel any different."

I don’t think it works like that, Draco said.

Ginny jumped. "Who said that?"

Er, I did, Draco said hesitantly. Can you hear me?

"You can talk!" Ron blurted.

You can hear us! Hermione said excitedly. It must be the Pack-oath — it made us all like brothers and sisters, and now you can hear us too!

Well, that makes everything easier, Harry said. Meg won’t have to translate so much. Let’s get going. We have a rat to catch.


Molly Weasley was in her bedroom, folding clothes, when there was a knock at the door. "Come in," she called.

Meghan Black opened the door just wide enough to admit herself. "Hi, Mrs. Weasley," she said shyly. "I just wanted to know where you were."

Molly felt her heart melt. "Oh, you darling." Impulsively, she walked over to Meghan and hugged her.

The girl hugged her back tightly. "Thank you," she said, smiling up at Molly. "You’re a nice mum. Ron and Ginny are really lucky."

"And you’re a flatterer," Molly said, smiling in spite of herself. "Go on, now, shoo."

Meghan slipped back out, closing the door behind her.


Got it, Meghan called.

"Got what?" Ginny asked.

"A wand," Luna said, with her tone implying "of course."

Meghan arrived in the room, breathless and triumphant. "Here it is," she said, holding it up.

Ron gawked. "That’s Mum’s!"

Meghan giggled. "I nicked it out of her pocket."

Ron stared at her.

She only looks sweet and innocent, Harry said. I speak from experience. Go on, Meg, activate it.

Meghan bent over the tattered piece of parchment Draco had "borrowed" from the twins’ room and touched the wand to its center. "I solemnly swear that I am up to no good," she said.


Hagrid sat alone in his house, staring at the fire.

He checked the clock on the mantel. It was almost three o’clock. Two hours since he’d heard.

He’d been up at the castle for a late lunch, when Professor Flitwick had come running into the Great Hall, utterly excited about something. "Sirius Black!" he’d squeaked out. "Sirius Black’s been arrested!"

Of course, everyone had wanted details. Flitwick had only known a few. But the few were enough to make Hagrid feel ill.

Sirius had been arrested at his home, along with another man and two women. No children had been found in the home. The four would be tried the next day, and if Sirius were convicted, he would surely be Kissed. Even if he could escape that, he would be back in Azkaban.

And he’d rather die than go back, Hagrid thought. Can’t say I blame him.

Someone pounded on his door.

"Comin’," he called, getting up and grabbing Fang’s collar. "Back, Fang. Back."

He opened the door to expose one person he’d never seen before — and one he had.

"Meghan!" He released Fang, who bounded at the tall boy accompanying her and began to lick him, and embraced the little girl, who was crying.

"I’m so happy to see you," she explained, smiling at him through her tears. "Please, may we come in?"

"Oh, o’ course, o’ course," Hagrid said, heartily embarrassed. He stepped aside, allowing them entrance.

"It’s my rat, sir," the boy explained, putting a cage containing said animal on the table and pulling down the hood of his cloak to expose flaming red hair — a Weasley, then. And about Harry and Draco’s age, unless Hagrid missed his guess. "He hasn’t been sleeping well. Do you have something that could help him?"

Meghan handed Hagrid a small note, done in her childish handwriting, and pressed a finger to her lips. He read it over.

Please, give the rat something that will make him sleep for a whole day. We’ll explain afterwards.

"Righ’, then," Hagrid said, going to his pantry. "I got just the thing." He quickly mixed some of the knock-out potion he used when he needed to doctor one of the wild animals of the forest with some honey, then scooped up a rat-size dose on a spoon. "Bring him right over here, young feller — what’s yer name, anyway?"

"Ron, sir. Ron Weasley."

"Ah, I’m no sir," Hagrid said, offering the rat the spoon. It sniffed at the honey, then began to lick it up. "Jus’ Hagrid, tha’s what ev’ryone calls me."

The rat finished the honey and began to clean its whiskers.

"Powerful stuff, that," Hagrid said, watching the rat. "Should start working any — ah, there we go."

The rat yawned. Ron quickly returned him to his cage. "There," he said, closing and latching it with an expression of grim satisfaction.

"Now?" Meghan asked, with an air of stifled excitement.

"Not yet," Ron said, staring at the rat. "Just another moment..."

The rat yawned again, then curled up in a heap and closed his eyes.

"Now," Ron said, nodding to Meghan.

Meghan turned to Hagrid. "He’s not a rat," she said, her grin seeming too big to be contained on her tiny face. "Not really. He’s Wormtail. We found him. We can save the Pack."

Hagrid gaped at her for a second. Then it sunk in.

Wormtail. Found. His friends were saved.

His yell of joy could probably have been heard all the way up at the castle.


Luna walked down the road toward the Den. Draco trotted beside her, almost invisible with the snow still thickly falling. The article about you was very interesting, she said.

What did it say?

It said your mother had sacrificed herself to convince a secret cult in the mountains of Wales to take you in.

Draco laughed. No secret cult. Just the Pack. But my mother did sacrifice herself. His voice lost all its humor. She died so no one could ever use her against me. So I would never have to wonder who I should be more loyal to, her or the Pack.

Luna pulled up her left sleeve and regarded her arm solemnly. I have a scar here, she said. Where the splinters of my mother’s bowl hit me.

Draco looked. A crescent-shaped pattern of seven dots marked the inside of Luna’s forearm. It’s pretty, he said. Like a moon. Like your name.

Luna smiled at him. Here we are, she said, turning in at the gate of the Den. How are we going to get in?

There’s a special latch on the ground. You step on it and the door opens. Draco began to dig where he knew the latch was covered by snow.

Why do you have that?

We just do, Draco said. Pack or no Pack, he wasn’t about to tell Luna about Padfoot and Moony without their permission. Here it is. He pressed his paw down on the latch, hard, and the front door swung open.

They went inside quickly and shut the door behind them. The study is back this way, Draco said, leading the way. Moony keeps all the important papers in his desk. The password is...

"Katherine," Luna said to the desk, which obediently unlocked. She opened it and began to sort through the papers within.

Draco jumped up to the chair and put his front paws on the ledge. He sniffed. In there, he said, pointing with a paw. I can smell the blood.

Luna reached into the indicated cubbyhole and pulled out a scroll. This?

Open it.

Luna did.

That’s it, Draco said, looking it over. I’m glad Neenie remembered about it.

She’s good at remembering things, Luna said. I hope she has good things to remember about tomorrow.

I hope so too.

Girl and fox left the house, locking the door behind them.


Minerva McGonagall was at her sister’s house when an excited neighbor firecalled to tell the family about Sirius Black’s arrest, and those of his friends. She had to pardon herself for a few minutes to regain her composure.

Dear God, is there no justice at all in the world? she raged, pacing the guest bedroom which was hers. Haven’t they suffered enough?

It was then that she realized how attached she’d grown to the Pack.

An owl tapped at her bedroom window. She quickly opened it and let the bird in.

The letter was from Dumbledore, and was in his characteristic style — brief and to the point.

Minerva —

Be on the lookout for a communication from Hagrid, and if one should come, do what he desires of you. Do not despair. Our friends may yet be saved.


She read it three times over, then dried her eyes and went downstairs to rejoin her family.

The second owl arrived about an hour and a half later. The grandfather clock in the corner was just chiming three-thirty as the bird rapped on the windowpane.

"It’s for you, Aunt Minerva," said her niece Julia, stroking the owl’s head feathers.

"Thank you," Minerva said, accepting the letter. Julia had finished Hogwarts three years previously, with Severus Snape her bitter adversary every step of the way. I considered it practice for Harry Potter’s years there.

She broke the seal and began to read.

Professor —

Can you meet me at ten tomorrow in the Atrium at the Ministry?


That was all. No explanation, no postscripts, nothing.

Minerva found quill and ink. Yes, I will, she scribbled quickly, refolded and readdressed the parchment, and handed it back to the owl.

Hagrid appears to have learned a few things from Albus after all these years.

Specifically, how to be maddeningly obscure while he thinks he is being blindingly obvious.

The hours until ten tomorrow are going to seem very long indeed.

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