Living with Danger
Chapter 6: Preparations
By Anne B. Walsh
Chapter 6: Preparations
The doorbell of Number Four Privet Drive rang. Petunia Dursley looked up, startled. "Oh, I have to go, someone’s at the door," she said into the phone. "I’ll call you later, dear, don’t worry."
She opened the door and put on her best smile. The Granger slut, how interesting. Maybe I can find out where she went last night, and why she never came back... "Why, Gertrude, how nice to see you, dear!"
"Hello, Mrs. Dursley. Neenie and I were wondering if Harry could come over to play."
"Yes, of course. Just a moment, I’ll get him ready." Petunia shut the door quickly. It wouldn’t do to have the nosy girl see where they kept the brat.
She opened the door of the cupboard under the stairs. Her nephew looked up, startled. "Come along, Harry," she said in a sweet voice, in case the slut was listening. "Time to go out and play."
The boy blinked at her in bemusement. She stifled a sigh. I don’t think he understands a word I say to him. Probably retarded. She lifted him out of the crib and set him on the bottom step, slid a pair of Dudley’s outgrown shoes onto his feet, and fetched his coat from the floor of the cupboard. "All ready to go, now," she said sweetly as she opened the door again.
"Dayger!" Harry jumped up and ran to the girl, who scooped him off his feet and landed him expertly on her hip.
"Hello, Greeneyes," she said, ruffling his hair. "When should I have him home?"
"Can you give him lunch today, dear, or do you have to work late again?"
"Yes, we saw you go out last night. What in heaven’s name had you running off like that at such an hour?"
"I had a phone call from a friend who needed some help unexpectedly, that’s all."
"No emergency, I hope?"
"No, everything’s quite all right now. Thank you for asking." The girl put a delicate emphasis on the last few words that Petunia was sure meant Mind your own business. She was intrigued. People seldom reacted so rudely unless they had something to hide.
"You’re welcome, dear. Now about luncheon..."
"I think I can manage lunch for him. Shall we say five o’clock then?"
"Five it is. Thank you so much, you’re such a good neighbor to watch him like this."
"Oh, you’re quite welcome," the girl said, possibly with a bit of sarcasm. Petunia couldn’t be sure.
She watched from behind the curtains as the girl walked down the front steps with her nephew, talking to him. Then she put him down and watched as he raced along the sidewalk to meet — well, well. How interesting. Two other people.
A dark-skinned woman went down on one knee to meet the little boy’s rush, and a brown-haired man — she couldn’t be sure at this distance, but he looked like the same one she had surprised in the slut’s kitchen two days before — stood beside them with the Granger child in his arms.
Hermione. Gertrude’s "sister". Petunia snorted. As if that’s not the oldest trick in the book. If that child’s her sister, I’m a toad. And that might very well be the father, right there. Finally decided to come back and pay a visit, has he?
It had a convincing sound. With Gertrude being twenty years older, and no intervening children, there had been speculation on the true parentage of Hermione Granger since the day she was born, conveniently while the family was vacationing in Scotland. And even as Petunia watched, Gertrude caught up with Harry and embraced the man in greeting, taking the little girl from him. The dark woman stood up with Harry in her arms, and the five of them walked off towards the Grangers’.
Petunia hurried back to the phone. She had so much more to tell dear Mrs. Harrison than she had planned...
"Second breakfast, anyone?" Danger said as she handed Neenie back to Remus and unlocked the door.
"Feeling a little hobbitish today?" Aletha teased.
"Well, I’m feeding Harry at any rate. I doubt he’s eaten yet today."
"Don’t be silly, it’s past 10. Why wouldn’t they have fed him?"
"Because," Danger led the way to the kitchen, "they hardly ever remember him unless he cries." She flicked the lights on. "And then they punish him for crying, with the most common punishment being, no meals."
"How can they punish a two-year-old for crying?" Aletha asked in bewilderment. "It doesn’t make any sense."
"Don’t look for sense out of the Dursleys," Danger said, rooting through the pantry. "The end result is, he only gets fed about once a day. Twice if he’s lucky. Why do you think he’s so skinny?"
"Lord, he is," Aletha said worriedly, poking Harry in the side, disguising it as a tickle and making him laugh. "I can feel his ribs. I think I could count them if he had his shirt off. What kind of people would do that?"
"They hate magic," Remus said, sitting down with Neenie on his lap. "They hate anything they see as abnormal, and they fear being labeled as abnormal themselves by being involved with it. They may be hoping to squash Harry’s magic somehow."
"Well, that’s not going to work," Aletha said, putting Harry in his high chair. "Kids do more accidental magic when they’re unhappy, not less. Do these Dursleys know anything about child-raising at all?"
"Judging by their son, I would say... no." Danger started spreading peanut butter on crackers. "Letha, would you get him some juice? It’s in the fridge, and sippy cups are in the second cabinet here... thanks."
Aletha did as she was asked, handing Harry the sippy cup with an octopus painted on the side.
"So what is Harry’s cousin like?" Remus asked, bouncing Neenie on his knees. "Other than mean."
"That sums him up pretty well, actually," Danger said loudly as Harry banged his sippy cup against the high chair tray, yelling in time with the noise. "Big, fat, spoiled, and mean."
She tipped the peanut butter crackers onto Harry’s tray, and the banging ceased abruptly as he grabbed for them.
"He eats like he’s starving," Remus noted quietly.
"There are a lot of times I wish I wasn’t right." Danger sat down at the table. "This is one of them." Neenie slid off Remus’ lap and pattered around to her sister, climbing onto her lap and cuddling up to her.
"So we’re agreed," Aletha said. "We have to get him away from those people."
Danger nodded. "Agreed."
"Yes, agreed," said Remus. "But we have to have a plan. We can’t just take him and run, as tempting as it is."
"Like we were saying earlier, someplace to go. Someplace they’d never think to look." Aletha sighed. "My place would be perfect, except it’d be the first place they’d go. After yours, Remus. Did you even know Harry was here?"
"No. Not until I met Danger in the park the other day. You?"
Aletha shook her head. "I don’t think anyone knew. Dumbledore kept it pretty close."
"And you know why," Remus said, looking at Harry, who had eaten five of the crackers and was smashing the sixth with his sippy cup. "He was afraid we’d do exactly what we’re doing. Take him ourselves."
"But if his aunt and uncle had only been decent," Aletha began, "we would never have interfered..." A horrible thought crossed her mind. "Do you think he knows?"
"He can’t," Remus said firmly. "He would never let Harry get hurt. He might well know they’re not happy about the idea of magic, but I can’t believe he would know about Harry being starved or locked up and not do something about it."
"He should have been a little more observant, then," Aletha said angrily. "At least have someone in the area, someone to watch over him and make sure he’s all right."
"These things take time to arrange," Danger noted. "You can’t buy a house overnight. Maybe his observer’s just not here yet."
"Well, that’s not good enough." Aletha was starting to get really angry. "What if they start abusing him? What if they start beating him up? We can’t wait. We have to do something now!"
"We are doing something," Remus said calmly. "Several things. First, we’re making plans about what to do next. Second, we’re making sure Harry gets at least semi-regular meals. Third, we’re giving him time to be a normal child, with people who love him. Besides, the person with the true authority on what should happen to Harry isn’t here."
"Who’s that?" Danger asked.
"Sirius. Sirius was — he is — Harry’s godfather, and the guardian James and Lily appointed. They wanted to make you his godmother, Letha, but you were out of touch on some secret mission or other. So if — when — we free Sirius and take Harry, we’ll be respecting Lily and James’ wishes about their son."
Aletha nodded, her anger dissipating in admiration. "Are you always this sneaky?" she asked.
"Only when I need to be," Remus said with a smile.
The phrase touched off a recent memory in Aletha’s brain. I need to be getting out of here... this city’s driving me bonkers...
A plan unfolded in front of her so suddenly that she yelled, startling both children. "Got it!"
"What?" Remus and Danger asked in unison.
"I live in a mostly Muggle part of London, in a semidetached. The owner has the other half, and he’s trying to sell it. Claims London is driving him mad. But it’s a big, kind of old and creaky house, so no one really wants it. If we all went in on it, maybe we could buy it. Then we’d have the entire house to ourselves, no one to bother us."
"If I sold this place..." Danger stared at the ceiling. "This is a desirable neighborhood. I could probably get a decent price. And I’ve been thinking about moving for a while."
"I’m in," Remus said. "My house isn’t in the best of shape, but some people like to renovate. With the money from two sales, I’d say we could probably do it."
"And there’s our place to go," Aletha said, grinning. "I’ll spend my savings to buy the building — consider it an investment — and rent the other half to a nice couple with two kids and a dog. Danger, how soon can you be ready to go?"
"Depends on how soon I can get the house sold," Danger said. For the first time since Aletha had seen her, the mischievous side she had showed as a child blossomed in her face. Then it was swamped by a wave of worry. "What about Harry? If I leave, he’s back with the Dursleys full time."
The boy in question carefully dropped his cup over the side of his high chair. Aletha picked it up for him.
"Only for a week or two," Remus said. "Only until we get settled in the house, and people get used to seeing us around. Then we come back for him."
"Why wait?" Danger asked as Harry tossed his cup to the floor again. "Don’t keep giving it back to him," she advised Aletha. "He can keep that up all night."
"So we have an alibi," said Remus. "When the Ministry goes looking for Harry Potter, they won’t look at the little boy who’s been living at Number 29 for two weeks now, because how could he be Harry Potter? Harry Potter was still with his aunt and uncle two weeks ago."
"But we won’t have him when we move in," Danger objected.
"They don’t need to know that," Remus pointed out. "If you say you have two children, no one’s going to doubt you. Stay inside a lot the first two weeks, let them see Neenie once in a while, and they’ll believe you. You can be the put-upon mother who has to go ahead to the new home and get it ready, with the children in tow. I’ll be the lazy father who comes afterwards with the dog."
Aletha sighed happily. "And then I get to adopt the dog. Or the dog adopts me."
"Or the dog marries you," Danger said with a wink.
Aletha laughed. "Now that, we’d better not tell the neighbors about!"
Danger twisted the ring on her finger with a smile. I almost don’t believe it. I’m married. And married to a man I only met two weeks ago.
But I know him as well as I know myself. And I’m certain that he loves me.
And besides, he’s cute.
They had filled out the necessary forms and produced the correct documents (some of them had to be forged in a hurry, but with magic, that was no trouble) and gone before a judge yesterday, with Aletha as their witness, and now "John and Kelly White" were legally married. It was nothing like the elaborate wedding they had dreamed of, but it would do.
And we have our place to go. Aletha’s landlord had been overjoyed to find a buyer for his admittedly old and rather drafty house. Aletha had put up all the money for the purchase herself so it could go through right away, with the understanding that Remus and Danger would pay her their shares as soon as they got the money. "And there’s no hurry," Aletha had said on the phone. "He was so happy to get rid of it that he sold it to me dirt cheap. He’s leaving on 26 March, so you can move in any time after that."
Danger had had no trouble selling her house. A family called the Polkisses, with one son and another child on the way, had snapped it up the second day it was on the market, and the closing was in a week.
Maybe their boy will make friends with Dudley, Danger thought idly. In fact, I hope he does. The Dursleys deserve a destructive little monster like him in their house. Piers Polkiss had managed to rip down one of the curtains in the living room, despite being in the house for only five minutes, and his mother had apologized in a way that made it quite clear she thought it was Danger’s fault for not putting them up better.
Oh well, in two weeks it’s their problem anyway.
Remus wasn’t having quite as much luck. A couple of people had come by to look at his house, but so far he hadn’t had any offers.
And if I don’t, I’ll just leave the door unlocked, and whoever finds it can have it, said his voice in her mind, making her jump. You think too loud, love.
You’re spying, she retorted.
You’re broadcasting, beautiful. How am I supposed to avoid hearing you?
Not a problem. His mental touch caressed hers, as loving as an embrace. I’m touched that you consider me cute.
Darn you, Remus, how long have you been listening?
Long enough. I’m coming over, I’ll be there soon.
Is that a promise or a threat?
He laughed. Neither. Both. I’ll see you in a few minutes.
Danger returned to her ruminations, being careful to think quietly.
So. Today is Tuesday, 30 March. On 1 April, Neenie and I leave for London. With everything we own, even the furniture — even my truck! — in one suitcase. Isn’t magic wonderful.
And we’re traveling by magic, too, so no one will see us go, or know which way we went. We could be going to America or just to the next block, and no one would know.
Remus and Harry would make the journey on the Knight Bus with them, so that their new neighbors would see the entire family together, including two children, and Danger would Floo back to Remus’ house that night to return Harry and say goodbye to the Dursleys. One more bit of confusion about when we left won’t do any harm.
And at least Harry won’t be entirely alone. The Dursleys had been less unhappy than Danger had thought they might when she told them she was moving. It seemed an older woman who lived in the area had recently contacted them about babysitting, and she charged less than Danger did. Oh, heavens, what’s her name? I can’t think of it. Plum, or something fruity. Figg, that’s it. Mrs. Figg. She filed it to tell Remus.
So let me see. After we get there, we just bide our time for about two more weeks. And then, we strike.
The magical world is going to be reeling on 14 April. Two disappearances in one night.
Well, strictly speaking, Harry’s going to disappear the night before. But if I know the Dursleys, word won’t get to the magical world until the next day at the earliest. Possibly even later. Heck, the Dursleys won’t even notice he’s gone until sometime the next day!
And just to make everyone really nervous, a burglary. That was Aletha’s part of the illegal work, and it would be accomplished at the Museum of Magical Curiosities in London. One of the curiosities they had on display was the "Wand of Sirius Black, with which he murdered..."
I can see it now. Mass confusion. Everyone will want to know — are the crimes connected? How were they done? And in the chaos, Remus Lupin quietly disappears, and John White comes home to his wife Kelly and their children James and Jane, bringing their faithful dog Padfoot with him...
The doorbell rang, and thoughts of future contentment were lost in present bliss as Danger greeted her husband.
When she told him about Harry’s new babysitter, he started laughing almost hysterically. It took him five minutes to calm down and explain that he knew Arabella Figg, that she was what the magical world called a Squib — from a magical family, but not magical herself — and that she was probably the observer they had postulated Dumbledore might send.
"And she’s too late by far," Remus said almost gleefully, settling down on the couch and smiling as Danger sat beside him, draping his arm over her shoulders. "Neenie asleep?"
"Fast asleep and dreaming. She asked where you were before bed, though. Stay the night? She’ll be happy to see you in the morning."
"And you won’t?" he teased gently. "Did you only marry me for my pretty face?"
"No, of course not. I married you because I love all of you. And that’s your mind," she kissed his temple, "your heart," she kissed his chest, "and your body..."
It was quite some time before either of the newlyweds slept.