Living with Danger
Chapter 8: If It Be Thus to Dream...
By Anne B. Walsh
No disclaimer is necessary - Aletha's lullaby for Harry is my original composition.
Chapter 8: If It Be Thus to Dream...
The friends of Aletha Freeman knew that her mood on any given day could be accurately judged by the music she chose to play when she went to the piano.
In her Hogwarts days, she had rarely played anything slower than a waltz, except on test days, when she played funeral dirges for her own and her classmates’ grades. After Hogwarts, as times grew darker, she added many slow and troubling songs to her repertoire, but the old, happy pieces came out sometimes, as her friends got married and began to have children. She had played at the Potters’ wedding and even composed a song for Harry’s birth, though she hadn’t been able to be there.
It was that song, her own composition, which she played tonight as she waited.
Oh my love, you are my child,
Though you bear another’s name.
Whatever you do, all throughout your life,
I’ll love you still the same,
And if you should cry, I’ll hear you,
And if you should call, I’ll come,
For although you were not born to me,
You are my little one.
After what felt like hours, she finally heard the truck pull up and turn off in the front. She controlled herself — she was only supposed to be a friend of the family and their landlady, she couldn’t be seen rushing out to greet them. They would come in through their own door, and once it was closed behind them, she could go over to see Harry...
Danger shot through the concealed archway and stopped short. "Do you have anything ugly you want destroyed?" she asked in a poisonously sweet voice.
"Vase on the mantel," Aletha said promptly, pointing to it. "Hold on a second."
She pulled out her wand and cast a Silencing Charm on the general area, then nodded to Danger, who stalked over to the mantel and violently smashed the vase on the floor, then very deliberately crushed the pieces under her feet. When the vase was mostly dust, she stepped delicately off it and sat down limply on the sofa.
Aletha lifted the charm. "That bad?" she asked with a sinking feeling in her stomach.
"That bad," Danger confirmed, staring at the ceiling. "It looks as if they’ve been neglecting him more and more, culminating in simply forgetting him for an entire day. Possibly longer."
Aletha recast the Silencer on the piano, then slammed her hand down on the keys. Without the noise, it was a touch less satisfying than usual, but it would do. "Curse — them — to — everlasting — darkness," she said between her teeth.
"Too late," Remus said with a feral smile, having come in just in time to hear this. "We already did."
Aletha would have wanted this explained, had Remus not been carrying Harry, who got her whole attention immediately. The little boy was in a fitful sleep, jerking half-awake every few moments. She called his name gently, and his eyes came all the way open. "Letha," he said sleepily with a smile, and held out his arms to her. Remus handed him over, and she sucked in her breath as she realized how little he weighed.
"We’re going to take very good care of you, Harry," she murmured to him as she held him close and rocked him. "We’ll never ever let this happen again."
Danger heaved a sigh. "He needs a bath," she said, standing up. "And then something to eat, and then bed."
"Should we put him to bed alone, though?" Remus asked. "I don’t think we should leave him alone for long. Or at all, if we can manage it."
"I suppose I could take him in my bed," Aletha said doubtfully. "But he might roll out."
"No, I was thinking of something else," Remus said. "Suppose we all sleep down here for a while. Bring the mattresses down and make a nest, a den maybe, on the floor. The children can sleep in the middle, and the adults on the outside."
Danger nodded. "It makes sense. We need to make as much of Harry’s life as possible the opposite of what he had with the Dursleys. So, any time they left him alone, we have to give him contact."
"I like it," Aletha said, still rocking Harry. "Do you want to bathe him, Danger, and Remus, you and I can get started on that?"
The mattresses were duly levitated down the stairs, with blankets, sheets, and pillows intact. Aletha dressed for bed, in her "sensible" pajamas, while Remus transferred Neenie from her crib to the newly built den, on the floor in front of the Whites’ fireplace. Danger and Remus changed into nightclothes while Aletha fed Harry, and then they were all ready for bed.
Aletha had never shared a bed before, except with Sirius, and that hadn’t been all that common an occurrence. And he’ll be here with us in two days, she thought with a quiet sigh of contentment, idly stroking Harry’s hair as the little boy snuggled against her. This is turning into my dream life.
Well, minus the whole "hiding from the world" bit, but you can’t have everything.
Sharing her sleeping space with people she considered as brother, sister, niece, and almost-son, instead of being the oddity she expected, was strangely soothing. Almost as if she was rediscovering something from her childhood, something she didn’t remember she’d done...
Quietly, she hummed.
Yes, if you should cry, I’ll hear you,
And if you should call, I’ll come,
For although you were not born to me,
You are my little one...
Her eyes drifted shut on the peaceful scene of Neenie cuddled against Danger, with Remus’ arm over them both. Harry’s breathing against her side was deep and even. She was breathing with him, breathing in time, in the same time as everyone else...
Danger blinked awake. Where am I?
Oh. That’s right. We’re denning. So Harry doesn’t feel abandoned.
She looked down and almost laughed. The children were entangled in the middle of the mattresses, Neenie’s non-thumb-sucking arm across Harry’s chest, Harry’s leg over Neenie’s. They’re darling. We should do this more often.
What time is it? She squirmed out from under Remus’ arm and checked the clock. Uh-oh.
"Letha, wake up," she said aloud.
"Whaa?" Aletha said sleepily.
"You only have 45 minutes. You’re going to be late."
"Fine, I’m up." Aletha sat up and looked around her in confusion for a moment, before memory kicked in. "Oh yeah. Sleeping on the floor, right. I need a shower." She stood up, stretched her back, and hurried apparently through the wall, where Danger knew the archway was.
"Do I have to be up too?" Remus asked from behind her.
"Yes. We should be on the road pretty soon. But you can sleep in the car. And that reminds me, we have to give Neenie that potion."
"Right." Remus yawned, then sat up. "I’ll get it."
Aletha had brewed a time-related sleeping potion that would make Neenie sleep for 48 hours without harming her. Danger hated to do that to her sister, but it was necessary, because she and Remus had to take her with them on two day-long car rides and one night in between.
And she doesn’t like being in her car seat all that much anyway. She’d be pitching a major fit by the end of it all, and we really don’t need that. But there’s no way to leave her here — there’s no one to watch her — and besides, she makes us that much more plausible.
After all, who would go to pick up a dangerous murderer with two toddlers in car seats?
Harry couldn’t take the potion — there was no telling what it would do to his weakened system — but he wouldn’t need it. As long as he got food into him at regular intervals, little and often, and had people around him at all times, he would probably sleep the next two days away with no trouble.
And now I need to get up and get going.
Because today is the day in between the two most illegal nights of my life.
It was always dark. There were just times when it was darker than other times.
There were only three things to do: pace, concentrate on the truth, and listen to everyone else scream.
Well, four things.
Wondering when I’m going to be screaming too. That’s taking up more of my time lately.
Sirius Black stared idly at the small patch of light he knew was the high, barred window on the door of his cell. Looks like moonlight. Maybe it’s full moon tonight.
Although he knew that once full moons had been his favorite times, he couldn’t recall with any clarity the things he and the other Marauders had done. Those were good memories, and the dementors had taken them first of all.
Well, not first. He knew which two memories he had lost first, but he couldn’t remember which had preceded the other. Theoretically, dementors stole the best memories from one’s mind first, followed by those which weren’t quite so good. So the first memory he’d lost should have been the best moment of his life.
It was either my first kiss with Aletha or the first time I held Harry. I’m not sure which.
He could remember that those things had occurred, but he couldn’t remember them occurring. It was maddening.
And that’s the point of Azkaban, isn’t it.
He turned to item one on his schedule: pace. The cell was four paces long by three and just over a half paces wide. He knew it far, far too well.
And I’ve only been here... Merlin, I’ve lost track. How could I lose track? But it hasn’t been long. The Crouch boy died not too long ago.
He growled. Crouch got only what he deserved. Bastard. I hope his life explodes in his face.
The phrase brought up the memories he did have left. Stumbling down a dust-choked street, seeing the odd green haze hovering over the ruined house, and knowing in that instant, knowing that his actions, his words had doomed his friends, knowing that by trying to save the Potters, he had killed them...
He tried to defend himself. I was not the traitor. I was never a Death Eater. It was Peter, Peter all the time...
But it’s still my fault, my fault they’re dead, my fault Harry’s an orphan... some godfather I am, can’t even care for him... he’ll never know me, except as the man who’s the reason he doesn’t have a family...
A grating sound intruded on his thoughts.
Someone’s pulling the bolt. Someone’s pulling the bolt on my door, to open it. It can’t be time to eat again already, it’s the middle of the night! What’s going on?
The only reason the dementors would come in here is if orders had come through about me. Orders to send me back to the mainland — not bloody likely — or...
His blood chilled. Orders to Kiss me...
The door swung open. Moonlight spilled onto the floor of the cell.
Sirius stayed where he was, in the opposite corner. I’m not making it any easier than it has to be. You’ll have to come and get me.
Then he saw what was standing in the doorway, and he forgot his fear in befuddlement.
Four legs. Fur. And unless I’m mistaken, awfully familiar-looking eyes...
It is official, I have lost it. I am now hallucinating.
Funny, though, I never thought I’d hallucinate about Moony first, before, say, James or Lily or Harry... and certainly not Moony in were-form...
Wait a second. He’s a werewolf, I’m a human. I’m defenseless here. He should be attacking me. Instead, he’s... Sirius squinted against the light, which, though not strong, was more than his eyes were used to. What is he doing?
The werewolf was drawing a paw across the top of its snout, rubbing against its eyes.
I have never seen him behave like this. Ever.
Chalk up another mark for hallucinations.
But hallucination or not, I should probably go canine here... I’d rather not even think I’m a werewolf, and he’s probably going to attack me any minute...
He transformed into Padfoot and moved cautiously forward, holding himself in the posture of friendly submission. Please don’t attack; I mean no harm, he was saying in the language of animals, which was crude and mostly gestural, but sufficed.
The werewolf came towards him. Packmate, it said in the same way. Follow me.
Packmate? Now I know I’m hallucinating. Moony hates me, he thinks I sold out Lily and James... he’d never call me packmate, it’s the closest thing wolves have to blood-brothers.
Still, he followed the werewolf out of the cell and watched as it carefully closed the door and slid the bolt back into place. He followed it down the halls, avoiding the dementors on their gliding rounds, and out between the bars on the outside of the building. Hallucination or not, this is interesting. First really interesting thing that’s happened in... six months. A little less.
Hey, I remembered. That’s strange. My mind ought to be getting more messed-up, not clearer...
The werewolf climbed carefully down the rocky slope to the ocean. Sirius followed.
We swim, the werewolf said/showed. Follow me. Our mates, our cubs, our den. Safer together. Come.
Sirius nodded hesitantly. That water’s going to be bloody cold... but in dog form, I might be able to handle it. And if we can make it to land...
What am I thinking? This isn’t real! There’s no way it can be real!
The werewolf growled. Come, it repeated in no uncertain tones.
On the other hand, if it’s not real, there’s no harm in giving it a shot.
I will come, he said.
The werewolf snorted. The words attached, had it been human at the moment, would have been, Well, finally!
Sirius waded in, the werewolf next to him, and began to swim. The North Star was behind them and to their right, he noticed. That was good, at least... he knew Azkaban was far to the north of the British Isles, but he had no idea how far. Or in what other directions.
I hope he knows where he’s going.
Remus Lupin swam steadily, his eyes fixed on the ocean ahead. There, for only him to see, glowed a silver stream of light, leading him towards his beloved.
Sirius swam a bit awkwardly at first, until he got used to it. Moony’s usually not all that coherent on his transformation nights. This is the most lucid I’ve ever seen him.
He sighed. And that would be because this is... right, Sirius. A hallucination. Or a dream.
In the back seat of a locked truck near the shore in Scotland, a woman slept between two car seats, holding the hand of one of the children. Her eyes moved behind her closed lids.
Sirius sneezed as a little water went up his nose. So what did he say? "Our mates, our cubs, our den"? What’s that supposed to mean? I don’t have any mate — well, maybe Aletha counts, but somehow I don’t think she’d still be interested in me.
Aletha Freeman closed the door wearily behind herself and turned on the light. She dropped her own slender rosewood wand onto the table beside the door, followed by a sleek mahogany wand, and sought the comfort of her music.
And cubs. I don’t have any kids, either, human or canine. At least, I shouldn’t. I suppose, if you stretch a point, you could call Harry mine... but it’s not as if I’m going to get my hands, or paws, or whatever, on him at any point in the near future.
The child holding the woman’s hand stirred, then relaxed again, settling into a new position. The moonlight turned his black hair silvery.
So, overall, this is totally impossible, crazy, and not really happening, Sirius concluded. But I like it. I wish it were really happening.
His legs registered a protest. He hadn’t been this active in a while, and he could feel it. This would be a really bad place to get a cramp.
He risked a look over his shoulder. They must have been swimming for longer than he thought. The island was completely out of sight.
You know, even the mad ones never sound happy, he thought idly, to keep his mind off his legs. Even the prisoners who go totally bonkers don’t get to go somewhere good in their minds. No one’s happy in Azkaban, not even the nutters.
But this makes me happy. The thought of having a friend come and find me, of having even the possibility of a way out... that makes me happy. Even if it’s not real, it makes me happy.
No one’s happy in Azkaban. And I’m happy.
He shrugged. I guess I’m just going mad a different route than most.
Neenie slept on, unable, at this time in her life, to articulate the sentiment, "Most wizards haven’t got an ounce of logic."
So, if I’m going mad, at least I can choose what I want to hallucinate. How about Aletha, playing the piano? Something pretty, like she always used to play.
Aletha looked at her hands in surprise as they began something of their own accord. It was a piece by Bach, part of his "Well-Tempered Clavier" series, a simple and repetitive song that almost all piano students learned. The gentle up and down rhythms of the music made her think of waves, of swimming...
This is for them, out there on the ocean. This is to bring them safely home.
She lost herself in the sweep and sway of the note patterns, living only in the moment, existing only to play the next phrase, and the next, and the next...
Lovely, lovely. Even has a rhythm I can swim to.
Listening to the music, Sirius didn’t notice the pain in his legs diminishing.
Remus sniffed. The scent of land was there, he could even see it faintly — but still too faint. And the moon was setting fast.
We’re not going to make it. Oh, Danger, my love, this is what I was afraid of...
In her sleep, Danger smiled. One hand rose and made a pulling motion.
The song wound to a close with a crashing chord.
Remus felt the water rush past him as a strange force pulled him forward.
His front paw touched bottom.
Sirius banged his paw and yelped.
Land? We’re on land?
When did that happen?
Well, now, I guess...
The werewolf was climbing slowly out, sodden and shivering. Sirius followed him, moved a little way down the shore, and shook. Hard.
He suddenly felt about ten pounds lighter, with all the water out of his coat. He also felt very tired.
He sat down, then lay down. The ground was rather rocky, but that didn’t matter so much.
Feels good. I could sleep for a week. Well, a couple days, anyway. I’d need to wake up to eat.
The werewolf bounded off into the trees. Sirius watched him go, mildly baffled. Where’s he off to in such a hurry? Not my problem, but I’m curious...
His eyes closed, and he let them. I can be curious when I wake up. Right now, I’m just tired.
Remus reemerged from the edge of the forested area, wand in hand. Sirius was still where he had been, but now he was sound asleep.
Probably better to leave him that way, at least until he’s a little more, ah, socially acceptable, Remus mused, and Stunned his friend. A gentle Cleaning Charm took care of a great deal of the problem, and once he’d transformed Sirius back to human, a Shaving Charm worked wonders. He managed to get most of the tangles in Sirius’ hair below ear level, then carefully cut off the tangled portion. Finally, he Vanished Sirius’ tattered robes and redressed him.
Good thing I’m used to this. Sirius had gone on a bender almost every two weeks during his seventh year at Hogwarts. Since James had been one of his usual drinking partners, Remus had been their designated "put-to-bed-person".
Well, time to wake him up. Remus pulled over the small picnic basket he’d brought with him. We’ll have breakfast, then go to meet Danger.
I’m going to have a lot of explaining to do...