Living with Danger
Chapter 7: Curse
By Anne B. Walsh
Chapter 7: Curse
Magic or no magic, moving is exhausting.
Danger lay draped across the couch, feeling as if she would like to stay there for, oh, about ten years or so.
Wake me in time for Neenie’s Hogwarts letter, she thought drowsily. Neenie had almost set the kitchen on fire when Remus had let her play with his wand one day. She was clearly a witch, and a powerful one. Aletha said she’d only seen comparable sparks from one baby, and that was Harry.
We’re going to be an interesting household, to be sure. A latent and untrained witch, a werewolf, an escaped convict, a Ministry witch with a double life, and two of the most powerful magical children in the country.
They had made sure to arrive at the time Aletha said her nosiest neighbors were always watching, driving up almost ostentatiously in Danger’s truck. The Knight Bus had dropped them off about a mile away, and Remus had restored the truck to full size, along with some of the furniture to put in the back. They would claim the rest had come with the house, if anyone asked.
Danger and Remus had got out of the truck, having a loud and pointless argument. Each had removed a child from a car seat — Remus had taken Neenie and Danger a light-haired Harry — and proceeded to the front door, where Danger couldn’t find the keys in her purse. She got Remus to hold Harry so she could look better. The children needed no prompting to squirm, so that he had to put them down, and once down, of course, they ran away, so that he had to chase them.
When it came time to move the furniture in, Harry and Neenie got underfoot as much as possible, until Aletha had pity and came outdoors to watch them. Thankfully, their story included that Aletha was an old friend of the family, or someone might have got suspicious about the way the children greeted her. Remus and Danger bickered about everything, then kissed a moment later, and then started bickering again.
In short, they had established themselves well, in the neighborhood eye, as a married couple with two rambunctious toddlers.
Remus and Aletha were in the process of unshrinking and arranging the upstairs furniture, while Danger kept an eye on the children. Aletha had also altered the house itself in some respects before they arrived. Disguised doors and archways had been strategically placed in the dividing wall between the two parts of the house, so that to an outsider, it would still look like a normal semidetached, but when the family was alone at home, they could use both parts as needed.
Six toilets in the house will make potty-training easier...
A screech from very nearby drew her attention.
"Hey! No pulling hair, you two."
Neenie released Harry and went over to her book basket, where she picked out a book and started "reading". Harry followed her, picked out his own book, and brought it over to Danger. "Dayger, read?"
"All right." She lifted him onto the couch. "Neenie, storytime."
The little girl raced over and climbed up onto the sofa, on the other side of Danger from Harry. Danger opened the book to the first page and began.
"In the great green room there was a telephone, and a red balloon, and a picture of the cow jumping over the moon..."
All too soon, everything was away where it belonged, and it was time for Danger to take Harry home. She held his hand as Remus drove them from his house to the Dursleys’, wishing she could explain, in words the little boy would understand, that she wasn’t abandoning him, that it wouldn’t be forever, just two weeks...
But when you’re not even two yet, two weeks seems like forever.
The least I can do is try.
"Harry, Danger has to go bye-bye for a while. It’s going to feel like a long, long time. But I’ll come back for you, OK? Danger’s coming back. I promise. I’m coming back."
Harry nodded solemnly and tugged at her hair, and she laughed weakly. "Oh, you’re too little, you can’t understand." And you pull my heartstrings the way you pull my hair, little one. God, I wish I didn’t have to do this...
He’ll be all right, Remus said from the front seat. What can happen to him in two weeks? But she could sense his fear, an acid taste to his mind’s touch. Let me say good night to him?
She handed Harry forward, and he giggled and grabbed for the glasses Remus was still wearing, as a part of his guise as John White. He had also charmed his hair rather blonder than its usual color, and he was considering growing a beard. Danger liked men with beards, but she had first loved her wolf without one... what a conundrum...
Oh, don’t forget to take the charm off him, she said as she remembered. I would have a hard time explaining how I took him out with black hair and brought him home with blond!
Remus laughed and removed the charm from Harry’s head. He fell into a puddle of peroxide, of course. These things happen.
Did you make up excuses that crazy at school?
No. Much crazier. The odd part is, some of them were true...
Danger rolled her eyes and held out her arms. I’ll want to hear this. But later. I’d better take him in now.
She walked up the front steps feeling rather like a tumbrel, delivering a victim to the guillotine.
Well, well, morbid tonight, aren’t we. He will be FINE. Now stop this nonsense and smile.
"Here he is, Mrs. Dursley, and I’ll just say goodbye now, because I probably won’t see you again. We’re leaving early tomorrow. Very early."
"Oh, just you and your sister? Who’s that handsome young man out in the car? Not the same gentleman who was here a few weeks ago, is he?"
"That’s my husband. And I really should be getting back, if you’ll excuse me..."
"Why, I didn’t know you were married!"
"Didn’t you?" Danger smiled politely. "Bye, Harry. Goodbye, Mrs. Dursley." And may you get exactly what you deserve. Sooner rather than later.
She turned around and walked away. Behind her she heard Harry begin to wail. "Dayger... Dayger... Dayger..."
The wails continued, getting louder and louder, as Danger unabashedly ran back to the car, unable to stay and listen one second longer than she had to.
It’s only two weeks, Remus said as she got in. Nothing too terrible can happen in two weeks. Besides, Arabella Figg is around here, and I’m sure she’s watching after him.
The words would have been cheering, except that Danger couldn’t be sure if Remus was trying to comfort her or himself.
As if to counteract the necessity of leaving Harry at the Dursleys’, the plan for freeing Sirius was going immensely well. Aletha had been working late for months, trying to drown her sorrows in work and exhaustion, so that no one even thought any more about the fact that she was in the office late at night, alone.
"A lot of files aren’t even locked at night," she told Remus and Danger over dinner. "And the ones that are, I have the passwords for."
"Won’t they be able to trace the passwords to you?" Danger asked.
"Yeah, me and about 50 others. Granted, they might look a little harder at me with my record with Sirius, but actually not too many people knew how close we were. And I was kind of vocal about him to a reporter shortly after... it happened." Aletha examined her dinner closely. "I think the operative phrase was, â€˜I hope he rots there.’"
"We were all angry," Remus said, pressing her shoulder. "Angry and in shock and disbelieving. And rightly so, as it turns out. But we have a chance now. We can’t waste it with regrets."
"True enough." Aletha straightened up. "Anyway, here’s what I found..."
The Ministry may rely on these dementor things a little more than they should, Danger thought. In Muggle terms, apart from its location, Azkaban wasn’t really all that secure. Most of the doors, even the ones on the cells themselves, were closed with simple bolts, which Remus would be able to open with his teeth and paws. Also, the building was surrounded by bars, but they weren’t very closely set. A human might not be able to get through, but wolves and dogs were more streamlined.
Best of all, there were only wards against Apparition or Disapparition on the building itself, not on the whole island. That meant that Remus could Apparate there, get Sirius out, and they would have most of the night to swim back.
Assuming Remus could Apparate in his wolf form. That was the one thing they weren’t going to be able to test. But no sense worrying about that. If he can’t, we’ll know it that night and not before.
"If Animagi can do it in animal form — and they can — I should be able to," was Remus’ reasoning. "We can’t Apparate back, Sirius won’t be up to it, and he won’t know where we’re going. But with the distance we’ll have to swim, that’s the only way we can do it in one night."
They had taken a road trip north and found a stretch of shoreline, close to the place the escapees would probably come ashore, with a gentle slope out of the water and tree cover nearby.
"I’ll get the scent of this place in wolf form," Remus told Danger, "so I have something to aim for once I’m on the island. That’s my one fear, that we might aim wrong. I’d never survive this water temperature as a human, if we’re still in the ocean at moonset."
"There’s still time to back out."
"Now that sounds like a challenge, and if there’s one thing I can’t resist, it’s a challenge."
"What about me? Can you resist me?" Danger smiled impishly.
"Hmmm." Remus appeared to give the question serious thought. "No."
Further conversation was irrelevant for a time.
Until a small voice said indignantly, "Moony, no kiss Dayger!"
Conversation was still irrelevant after that, but for a different reason. Namely, the would-be participants were laughing so hard they could barely breathe.
That sister of mine.
She is going to be quite something when she grows up.
If we let her live that long, Remus commented.
Remus and Danger spent some of their free time job-hunting. They made it clear that they could only do part-time work, and the employers made it clear that this meant low pay and, probably, little respect. Still, they eventually found work, Remus at a supermarket, Danger at a bookstore. Danger had a good laugh over the possibilities of a werewolf loose in the meat department, until Aletha pointed out that Danger’s propensities in a bookstore were alarmingly similar. The resulting pillow fight lasted for nearly an hour.
"I don’t know why you’re bothering," Aletha said after they finally called a truce. "My salary’s good, and Sirius has a pile of gold all his own. Why do you two need to work?"
"I hate freeloaders," Danger said promptly, on top of Remus’ firm "I won’t take charity."
"Besides, it’ll give us something to do," Danger went on. "We like each other a lot, but without something to get us out of the house, we’ll be at each other’s throats within weeks."
"And your position’s more than a little precarious, Letha," Remus added. "If, somehow, someone found out where we were, what do you think would happen to you? Harboring a kidnapped child and a dangerous criminal — marrying him? The criminal, not the child," he added quickly as the women laughed. "They’d be after us so fast we’d be lucky to get away with anything."
"It gives us more credibility with the neighbors, too," said Danger. "They’ll see us working and say to themselves, â€˜Oh, there’s John White, there’s Kelly White, I know them, they live on my street, next door to the nice Freeman girl. They’re not strange, no, not at all. Nothing unusual about them.’ That’s the image we need. Perfectly normal."
"Like the Dursleys?" Remus asked with a straight face.
"No, not like the Dursleys!" Danger whomped him over the head with a pillow. "The Dursleys work so hard on being normal that they’re abnormal. Normal like Letha." She waved at her friend, who inclined her head graciously. "She goes to work every day, she comes home, she minds her own business, so no one ever suspects she’s actually a witch."
"Yes, you too can pass as a Muggle for the amazingly low price of just fourteen-ninety-five," said Aletha in a bad announcer voice. "Call this toll-free number today..."
She was hit with two pillows at once.
The one other thing that Remus spent a good deal of time doing was finding documents, the official documents dealing with one Gertrude Granger and her sister Hermione, and altering them so that they now dealt with Kelly White and her daughter Jane. He also found the records for Harry Potter, what few there were, and changed them over to the name of James White, and put the name John White on his own Muggle-world records.
Muggles do love their paper trails. It’s my job to see that this trail goes only where I want it to.
So tax forms were carefully changed, doctors’ records were modified. Even their marriage license was altered, so that their actual wedding day appeared to be their third anniversary. Danger’s driver’s license was easily changed, as was his own, both in name and appearance. He had decided against the beard, since he had gone to Diagon Alley once with his hair blond and the glasses on and had seen several acquaintances, none of whom had shown any sign of recognition.
So, now we have new faces and names, jobs and backgrounds, a home and a daughter. All we need is a son and a dog, and we’re the perfect family.
And they knew where to get both of those.
But we have to wait. And God, how I hate waiting!
At last — at last — it was the night of 12 April. The moon would be full the next night. The day had been spent half in frantic, last-minute preparations, and half in nail-biting worry. As he climbed into the driver’s seat of the truck, Remus felt an odd calm wash over him.
This is it. We’re finally going to do it. No more waiting, no more worrying. Just action.
Just don’t run us into anything on the way there, Danger said from the passenger side. She checked the back seat to make sure they had everything. Car seat, nappies and changing kit, and food. We are good to go.
Aletha, since she couldn’t communicate silently the way they could, was staying home with Neenie. If I know her, she’s pacing right now. Either that or at the piano. She can’t see us off, that would cause too much comment, but I know her thoughts are with us.
Remus turned the key. The truck came to life.
You’re the navigator, love. Tell me where to go.
Go to jail, go directly to jail...
As much as I love your sense of humor, this may not be the time.
Sorry. Turn right at the end of the street.
His tummy hurt. His head hurt too, and his arms where Dudley had punched him, but his tummy more than anything. And his head felt funny. All kind of swirly, like he felt after Danger twirled him around and around.
He whimpered a little, thinking of Danger. He wanted her. He wanted her to come to the door and smile at him and pick him up and hold him close. Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon never held him like that.
Why didn’t Danger come? Why didn’t she love him any more? They took him to another lady now, an old lady who smelled funny, and she gave him good stuff to eat like Danger had, but she never cuddled him the way Danger did. And she never played scary wolf chase like Moony, or sang to him like Letha.
His nappy was all wet and messy. It hurt, but he couldn’t get it off. And it was dark.
It had been dark for a long time.
He had been alone for a long time.
Remus watched Danger go up the front walk of Number Four. And we don’t even need to break in. The Dursleys had given Danger a key, in case they ever needed her to house-sit as well as baby-sit. She had, of course, returned it when she moved.
Or, rather, a magically made copy of it.
This needs to be as free of magic as we can possibly make it. Any magic can be traced to its caster eventually. So it was Danger, not Remus, who would be breaking in, using the original key, and she was wearing gloves so as not to leave fingerprints — or magical traces. She is magical, after all, but she’s not used to thinking of herself that way, so she’s less likely to do magic casually. As long as she can avoid waking the family, we ought to be —
OH MY GOD! Danger shrieked inside his head. Oh God, oh God, I knew it —
What? Remus demanded, reeling mentally from the force of her shout and dimly noticing the darkening of the street. Get a hold of yourself, you just shattered three streetlights. He forced himself to help her damp down the raw emotional magic she was emanating before he asked the question filling his mind. Is he all right?
He’s alive, she answered grimly. They didn’t kill him. And that’s ALL I can say. Oh God, Harry, I’m so sorry... Her mind-voice went on, cooing to the boy, as Remus tried to control the wave of horror/nausea/anger she was now broadcasting.
The only problem was, she had opened her eyes to him, so that he could see what she saw, and the sight was not conducive to control.
Harry was lying on his side in a battered crib in the cupboard under the stairs. His face was filled with feverish excitement at the sight of Danger, but he seemed too weak even to lift his head. As Danger slipped her arms carefully under him, his shirt lifted up slightly, and Remus saw his ribs in stark relief underneath his skin.
He’s got me in a death grip, Danger reported a moment later as Remus struggled to keep himself calm. And he doesn’t weigh anything. Which is not a surprise, given how he looks. His nappy is probably half his weight right now — I’d guess it hasn’t been changed in at least a day. I’m getting rid of it now. Leave it in the crib for them to clean up. Leave all his clothes, for that matter. They’re filthy, and so is he.
A moment’s silence ensued, in which time Remus formulated a plan.
To hell with not using magic. This calls for something really drastic. Something to send a message. And I know exactly what to use.
Danger emerged from the house, holding Harry tightly in her arms, wrapped in a blanket. I’ll take it back in before we leave, she said. Help me get him cleaned up.
Together, they gave Harry a rough bath with the baby wipes from the changing bag. It would do until they got him home. After Harry was dressed, Remus coaxed him to drink some water and eat a little mashed banana — too much and his stomach would probably reject it, given that he looked as if he hadn’t eaten for a day or so, and probably not much then. Danger returned the blanket to the house and locked the door behind her.
I have an idea, Remus said to her, not bothering to hide his anger.
I like the sound of that. Her voice pulsed with answering fury.
Come, stand with me, and say what I tell you to say. Holding Harry cradled against his chest, Remus stood facing the house, and the people in it, the people who had broken a promise, the people who had ignored need, the people who had harmed a child.
Any of those would make this possible. But the last one is the one I think will bind it to them most closely.
Danger came to stand beside him, giving Harry her hand to hold.
"I, Remus Lupin..." he began. Now you state your name, the same way. Your real name.
"I, Gertrude Granger... Lupin..." she added quickly with a smile.
Thank you. Now we speak together. Remus supplied her the words, and they spoke in careful unison.
"...do speak this curse against the man Vernon Dursley and the woman Petunia Evans Dursley. For the crimes they have committed against their honor, against the needy, and against an innocent, I curse them with the Threefold Curse of the Righteous:
"The first curse: That they be punished all their lives for the transgressions of others.
"The second curse: That their greatest desires be always given to others less worthy than they.
"The third curse: That they live out their lives in misery without ever knowing why.
"All that is right and good in the world, I ask you to stand judge. If my cause is just in speaking this curse, let it be visited upon those I have named; but if my cause is unjust, then let the curse return to me in all its power.
"So I speak, so I intend, so let it be done!"
After the last quiet word was spoken, there was a moment of unnatural silence. Everything was waiting, waiting for something to happen...
One of the upstairs windows of Number Four, Privet Drive, flared for an instant with white light.
Remus leaned back against the truck, feeling shaky. I don’t believe that worked.
What was that? Danger asked, shivering. I feel tired, somehow.
We just worked magic. Wandless magic. A major curse, usually thought to be only an item of study, impossible to actually cast.
The impossible seems to be our specialty, oh handsome wolf of mine. Wait — you’re saying that was an actual curse? It’s going to take effect?
Spectacularly. And if we had tried it on someone who didn’t deserve it, someone who hadn’t done all of this, it would have rebounded on us.
Oh. Danger looked a little ill.
That’s why almost no one knows about it anymore. Only Dark wizards usually use curses, and the Dark’s not much for just causes.
That’s wonderful. Fascinating. We just cast an impossible curse to make the Dursleys’ lives a living hell, and we have a hungry and dirty and scared little boy to take care of. Can we go home before I get hysterical, please?
That sounds like a better idea all the time.
Danger got into the back seat of the truck’s cab, so she could sit next to Harry and hold his hand. It was the only way they could convince him to let go of Remus.
I have a feeling somebody’s going to be very clingy for a while, Danger commented, stroking Harry’s face and murmuring soothing nonsense to him.
With good reason. And we’re not going to get a babysitter for a long time.
Who needs babysitters? Kid’s going to have four parents!
Remus started the truck again. Definitely time to go home. And get some sleep. I’m going to need it.
Because tomorrow night... I do the impossible.
Or at least the improbable.
Tomorrow night, I try to break in to Azkaban.