The Sugar Quill
Author: Jedi Boadicea (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Secrets of Silence  Chapter: Secrets of Silence
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

“Did you hear

A/N: I have revised this story to make it compatible with canon post GoF. I’m leaving most of my stories written pre OotP untouched, because hey, that’s just how things were in that long summer of waiting, before OotP (and then HBP) changed so many things. But I’ve always been very fond of this story, and I felt that the main gist of it survived unchanged no matter the revelations of newer canon, so I couldn’t resist wanting to go back and make everything fit. The only real changes have been regarding Sirius’s family history, and a nod to our better understanding of the inner-workings of the Ministry. Originally posted: 12/06/02. Revised: 09/01/05. Wow, three years… sometimes it amazes me to realize just how long I’ve been in the HP fandom…

 

 

 

                                                                                                                        SECRETS OF SILENCE

 

“Did you hear? They put Sirius Black in Azkaban this morning!”

“This morning?”

“No more than the bastard deserves!”

“Was there even a trial?”

“Why bother with a trial? Let him rot.”

“I agree. All those poor people…”

“But we can’t disregard the proper-”

            “Crouch does what he has to. For godssake, Longbottom, don’t you want to see an end to all of this?”

            “Of course I do. Don’t put words in my mouth, O’Reilly.”

            A voice, closer than the rest, closer to the corner where she tried to ignore the unwelcome chaos: “Harker! Harker, did you hear-”

            “I heard,” she cut him off coolly, without looking up from the parchment on which she was writing her report on the previous night’s raid. “I’m not deaf.”

            Usually such a clipped rebuttal would have convinced anyone in the department to back off and leave her to her own devices, even someone as meddlesome as Nicholas Peasegood. But he was apparently quite worked up, for this time he did not seem inclined to leave her in peace.

Not yet, at least.

            With a studied nonchalance that did nothing to mask the excited tension in his pose or his expression, Peasegood eased himself into her cubicle and leaned against the edge of her desk, jostling the sheaves of parchment already finished.

            “Black! I mean, can you believe it?”

            “Yes.” Without looking up at him, Delilah Harker moved one hand to shift the parchment out of his way, and continued writing with the other. If he didn’t move on soon, he was going to regret it. She was not in the mood for his pestering today, not after last night’s stressful business. Voldemort might be gone - even though she had a hard time believing that - but their work was far from finished. In some ways, it was only just beginning.

            And besides, she had no desire to deal with this particular topic.

            “Weren’t you in Black’s year at Hogwarts?”

            But it seemed that Peasegood was determined to make her face it.

            She finished the last line on her report - “It is the recommendation of this Auror that we maintain a close watch on the activities of all members of the Rosier family” - then set down her quill and lifted her eyes to meet Peasegood’s over-bright gaze.

            “Yes, I was.”

            He ignored the coldness of her tone and continued speaking, though he did pull away from her desk a bit. “I’d’ve guessed that you wouldn’t have talked to him much, being Slytherin and all. But then, maybe he did spend some time talking to the Slytherins after all, eh? Maybe that whole Gryffindor thing was some sort of ruse, something he tricked himself into. I mean, just look at his family. Maybe you – ”  

            Delilah stood, gathering the sheaves of her report as she did so, the curtness of her movement finally startling Peasegood into silence. At full height she was able to look him directly in the eye.

            “It’s old, Peasegood. Very old.”

            But at least it only annoyed her now, when four years ago it had upset her more than she liked to admit. Many times, in those first months of Auror training especially, she had wished for even half of the ruthlessness others seemed to expect from her, for merely a fraction of the Slytherin under-handedness they so relished commenting on in her presence. If she hadn’t feared that it would have seen her removed from the D.M.L.E., she might very well have embraced some of those tactics just to get them to shut up about it.

But from her first moment in Auror training, Delilah Harker had lived up to her reputation in a way that most of her current ‘comrades’ would never understand, but which her Slytherin classmates would have both understood and recognized. She had endured the barbs and suspicions of her fellow Auror trainees with rigid silence and open disdain, as seven years in the Slytherin common room had taught her. But never once had she resorted to anything more than that silence, that disdain - and that too was something she had learned in the dungeon rooms of Hogwarts. That most of her old house mates would have understood the motivation behind her silence even as they disapproved of her passivity, while her new fellows could only reluctantly admire her control even though they did not understand her motivations at all, was an irony which had bitterly amused her in those early days. And sometimes still amused her now.

            It was just that it got so tiresome, after a while. Especially at times like these. Weren’t things hard enough, without idiots like Peasegood trying to stir up gossip and awkwardness? Wasn’t it bad enough that they didn’t know who to trust outside of the department, without creating tensions and suspicions within it?

            “I’m just saying,” he started.

            “You’re dithering. I have too much work to do for this. Did you have anything important to say, Peasegood?”

            He scowled, crossing his arms over his chest in a manner that emphasized the Auror symbol embroidered faintly into the weave of his robes, over the heart. She figured it had to be a subconscious movement, because he couldn’t really expect that she would be intimidated by a symbol she herself wore. She’d spent more time on raids this past week than Peasegood probably had in the whole month. He’d best watch his step.

            “I’m just saying that, since you were in Black’s year and all, maybe you could shed some light on the whole thing for the rest of us.”

            To her dismay, she realized that his display had indeed caught the attention of a few others currently bustling through Auror Headquarters. Peasegood was definitely not the only one caught up in the frenzy of gossip and shock.

            It was unfortunate that Frank Longbottom seemed to have left the vicinity already; he would have helped her put a stop to this waste of time.

            “I didn’t know him personally,” she said curtly, just wanting now to see this finished and get everyone’s attention elsewhere. “And it doesn’t matter. He was at the scene, he was caught, and now he’s in Azkaban. One less Death Eater to worry about. But there are plenty more still in hiding out there, Dark Lord or no Dark Lord, and we all have work to do - or at least you should, Peasegood - so let me get to it before I do something you’ll regret.”

            She was half tempted to remind him that he himself had attended Hogwarts in company with Black’s younger brother, Regulus, and that if the rumors about him having enjoyed a dalliance with the Death Eaters last year were true, then Peasegood should know just as much about Black family motivations as she did. But in the end she chose not to bother. Even though it would have been gratifying to remind Peasegood that he hadn’t been with the D.M.L.E. as long as she had, or for nearly long enough to justify his attitude within it, putting him in his place right now simply wouldn’t be worth continuing the discussion.

            And she didn’t want to talk about Sirius Black.

Because, while Delilah had never known him personally, she had known of him for as long as she could remember. What Slytherin sharing his year could not? She’d had no love for him. What Slytherin sharing his year would? But she had known what Sirius Black was in her world in those days, Sirius Black and James Potter and all their Gryffindor ilk. She had known what they were in her world, and there was a certain measure of comfort in that sort of familiarity. Amusement too, for she had always been more distantly amused by their pranks than most of her house mates, never having been the direct butt of them.

And somehow, thinking that Sirius Black, Gryffindor nemesis to all respectable Slytherins and traitor to all proud pureblood traditions, had become an agent for the Dark Lord and murdered thirteen innocent people was just too much. It felt wrong. It made something about those years at Hogwarts a lie, and it had been those years at Hogwarts that had led her here, to this room in the D.M.L.E., to this uniform.

            She didn’t want to talk about Sirius Black. She only wanted to get on with her job.

            “Harker!”

            Never before had Delilah felt actually happy to hear Alastor Moody’s growl, but it was with distinct relief that she turned toward the sound of it now.  It had the welcome effect of parting the group of people who had gathered around her, everyone eager to leave Moody clear access to the object of his attention. Much as she would have preferred ending this nonsense on her own, she doubted she would have been able to do so without breaking too many regulations, not to mention making enemies of supposed colleagues.

Though if Peasegood didn’t watch himself, regulations wouldn’t hold her back much longer. Ignoring antagonists was one thing. Letting them get the upper hand was quite another.

            Delilah stepped past Peasegood without sparing him another glance, moving toward Moody where he stood in one of the many doorways which opened onto the Aurors’ hall. The doorway, she noted, which led to the senior Aurors’ offices.

            “Yes?”

            “In here.”

            It wasn’t often that Alastor Moody spent time mingling at Headquarters in any capacity. From all she’d seen and heard, Moody spent every waking moment in the field. It was odd to see him prowling the offices at all. And what he might want with her, she had no idea. She knew, without having to think on it, that she’d broken no regulations in her work recently. She’d only had to call in the Obliviators once in the past three months to deal with Muggle witnesses, and that was the cleanest record in the department. And if this had anything to do with the failed capture attempt on Rosier, then the reprimands would have gone to Platt as the Auror coordinating the strike.

And he deserved any reprimand that might come his way, as far as Delilah was concerned. He’d let his anger get the better of him last night, and if McKay hadn’t helped her to rein him back in time to salvage even part of their plan, they would have lost more than just Rosier. As it was, Mills was still in the Curse Ward of St Mungo’s, and this morning’s word had been that his chances of surviving the day weren’t good.

If this was about last night’s raid, then she had every intention of making her opinion on Platt’s incompetencies known. They couldn’t afford any more disasters like last night’s, even if the Dark Lord was gone.

            “You’re looking ragged, Harker,” Moody growled as she approached, scrutinizing her with his dark eyes. “Are you meeting your sleep requirements?”

            “Yes.” She had a chest full of sleeping potions to ensure that.

            Moody grunted. “Exhaust yourself and you’ll be no good to anyone, don’t forget that. Come along then.”

            She kept her mouth shut. She had, in truth, a great deal of respect for Alastor Moody. But more than that, she had learned that when it came to potentially treacherous exchanges, silence was often her best weapon. Silence possessed many edges, and few people recognized the dangers or the defenses it presented. Too few knew how to guard against it. Silence, for her, had long since become instinct.

Delilah followed Moody into the corridor, glad when the door closed behind them and shut out the sound of the excited murmurs still echoing Black’s name.

             The senior Aurors’ hallway was short, and so crammed with closed doors that there was hardly any wall space at all. But when Moody opened the third door on the left without so much as a knock, she followed him through it into an office as large as the outside corridor’s length. She didn’t need to see the man seated behind the wide mahogany desk to know whose office it was; Delilah knew what lay behind every door in the Aurors’ Headquarters. At least, behind every visible door.

            Antony Gordon, an Auror for the last thirty years, and one of the most highly decorated in the department, looked up from a roll of parchment already covered in his brisk writing and set aside his quill. It had been at least a fortnight since she’d seen Gordon last, on the most violent raid of her career. If possible, he looked even grayer now than he had that dusk, facing down the Death Eaters who had just a week before murdered his only son.

            Even seated in a comfortable chair in the safety of Headquarters, Antony Gordon was clearly not a man at ease. It was a relief to note that she wasn’t the only one who had not succumbed to complacency, thinking that their troubles had ended with the Dark Lord’s supposed defeat.

Sirius Black proved the lie in that. 

            “Harker.” Despite his pallor and the shadows beneath his eyes, Gordon’s voice was clear and controlled. He gave her a slight nod and gestured vaguely at one of the chairs before his desk. “Have a seat.”

            She would have preferred standing, but because she respected him she chose to sit. There weren’t many for whom she would have done so.

Delilah had never been one to enjoy the games her housemates had loved to play; the manipulation of the subtleties of hierarchy, the constant testing of power. But she understood them, and because she understood them she knew the importance of preserving her own power. In her world, in this war, that often meant defying many conventions of authority. It meant maintaining the advantage of height in seemingly trivial situations, or reserving trust and respect until a person, no matter their stature, had proven themselves worthy and above suspicion. But she respected the conventions still, defied or no, while too many of her colleagues did not. The Aurors, she thought, had lost too much of their self-identity to desperation these last years. In learning to cope with the abuse of power shown them by Voldemort, they had forgotten that power had many facets, many uses. Many masks. They had forgotten how to possess their own power, and how to respect it with more than fear.

            “Mr. Gordon,” she greeted him coolly, trying to focus her thoughts on the moment. She had been feeling pensive all day; hearing about Black had put her in a bitterly analytical frame of mind, and she did not like being driven to questioning her own motivations. The here and now was what mattered. Just like on any raid. The here and now.

            Moody was standing to her left, between her chair and Gordon’s desk. He had his arms folded over his chest, and was staring at her quite intently. Her skin fairly tingled with the desire to heed defensive instinct and match his gaze, but she kept her eyes on Gordon.

            “You’re wondering why you’re here, of course,” Gordon said, mechanically grabbing a pinch of fast-dry powder from his desk canister and sprinkling it over his parchment before beginning to roll it tightly. “I apologize if we took you away from your reports. I know what a hassle they can be.” He smiled wryly, tapping the rolled parchment end against his desk once to even it.

            “Yes.” She allowed herself a faint smile in return, glad that it could be genuine.

            “I want to commend you on your quick thinking last night. I spoke to Platt this morning, and reading between the lines it would seem that you saved him from an early death.” There was no smile on Gordon’s face now.

            Moody grunted sourly. “More than he deserved.”

            “Alastor.” Gordon shot him a weary look.

            But Moody shook his head, frowning so that the scar lines in his face deepened. “There’s no point dancing prettily around the truth. The truth is hard. Platt lost control. He’s lucky that a few days in the recovery ward is all he’ll have to pay for it, and none of it thanks to him. I told you a month ago that he needed to be consigned to desk duty, and he’s not the only one. Especially now. We’ve got people parting ways with their wits all over the damn department these days and we can’t afford to leave them in the field.”

            Gordon sighed heavily. “We can’t tell them to stop feeling the relief of -”

            “Yes we can,” Moody growled.

            “I agree,” Delilah murmured.

            Moody fixed her with an approving look. “That’s because you’ve still got sense, Harker. We could use more of you right about now. Fight cunning with cunning when suspicion is all you have to go on, that’s what I say. We’ve got quite a mess to clean up.”

            “Yes we do,” Gordon said firmly. He snapped shut the seal on the scroll case containing his report, then vanished it into air with an efficient flick of his wand. “And that is why you’re here, Harker.”

            She raised her eyebrows, silent, and did her best to force down the stiff fingers of anxiety creeping up her back.

            “We’ve received instructions to carry out surveillance on a suspected conspirator. I’d like to assign the task to you.”

            “It isn’t my expertise.”

            “Bollocks,” Moody growled. “You’re one of the best scouts the department’s seen in years. We don’t have time for the tediums of modesty here.”

            “Modesty isn’t the issue,” she said calmly. “I’m not conversant with the most recent surveillance spell developments or equipment.”

            Gordon held up his hand to stop her, shaking his head. “We’ve reason to believe that any defenses will be minimal.”

            “Really?” The sardonic bite crept into her tone before she could stop it. How many times had they heard that load of dragon dung before? “Who is the suspect, if I may ask?”

            Fortunately, Gordon did not seem to be offended by her tone. If anything, he seemed deflated by it. And weary. She wondered if he would ever truly recover from the wounds this long struggle had inflicted on him.

            “His name,” Gordon said, “is Remus Lupin. He was known to be a school-time companion of -”

            “Sirius Black’s,” she said. Even her fingers were stiff now, curled against her thighs.

            “Yes. He is also -” he picked up a thick sheaf of parchment from his desk and held it out to her, “ - a known werewolf.”

            She froze in the act of reaching for the parchment, truly stunned. “A werewolf?”

            A werewolf.

            She remembered Lupin only vaguely, most notably for his skill at Ancient Runes, in which subject he had been her only competition in their year, as they seemed to be the only two students in their year particularly interested in the subject at all. But she had never given him much thought otherwise, except to keep her distance from him and his Gryffindor conspirators as a matter of general course. He’d been easier than his companions to ignore, mostly because he’d always struck her as a sickly thing.

            And now she knew why.

            “Yes,” Gordon affirmed, still holding the parchment out to her.

            She took it, needing only to glance at the header and seal to know what it was.

            Werewolf Registry -- File Number: 3061-Gioll -- Remus J. Lupin

            “Crouch wants him watched,” Gordon said.  

            Again, she was surprised. “Crouch?”

            Gordon pressed his lips together briefly in a grim line before answering. “The word came from him directly.”

            “I don’t understand. Why would Crouch be taking a personal interest?”

            “Why indeed?” Moody rasped, scowling. “That’s a good question. I’ll tell you why.”

            “Alastor,” Gordon began warningly. 

            But Moody growled on. “He’s afraid that this hogswash disappearance means that his climbing days are over, and he’s going to condemn every sod he can get his hands on to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

            Antony Gordon’s frown turned sharp, and his weary voice gained an edge. “I’ve never heard you complaining about filling up Azkaban cells before, Moody.”

            “We can’t fill ‘em up fast enough, as far as I’m concerned. But I’m not feeding the Dementors to suit another man’s agenda - and don’t play the righteous man, Gordon. I know you don’t like it any more than I do.”

            Gordon’s eyes shifted uncomfortably to Delilah, where she sat silently in her chair, listening, and then back to Moody. “Enough. The argument is moot. We’ve received our instructions from the head of the Department, and that’s where it ends. Harker. I want you to take care of this.”

            Delilah had never made a habit of questioning her responsibilities, but she questioned now; there was obviously more going on here beneath the surface of things, and she did not like being left uninformed. “Why me, in particular?”

            Moody grunted, regarding her once more with evident approval.

            “Because,” Gordon said slowly, sounding weary again, “this is a… somewhat delicate matter. Crouch wants the man watched - he’s convinced that he must have been in league with Black.”

            “But?”

            “But Lupin has a rather significant ally. Albus Dumbledore stepped in on his behalf almost as soon as Black was sentenced. It seems he anticipated what Crouch’s next move would be.”

            “Dumbledore vouches for him?” she asked, wondering what could have convinced no less a man than Albus Dumbledore to act so quickly in defense of a werewolf.

            “Nothing so extreme.” Gordon shook his head. “This hasn’t even been brought up on formal business. Crouch sent me word directly.”

            “Dumbledore knows how Crouch works,” Moody muttered.

            Delilah nodded her understanding. “So he put in a good word, just in case.”

            “So it would seem,” Gordon said. “But Crouch still wants this Lupin watched. Just in case. And I want you to take care of this because I can trust you to be discreet.” His stern expression suddenly collapsed, and he looked, for a moment, far older than his sixty years. He looked like a broken man. “Hearing about Black was bad enough,” he said quietly. “I don’t want to think that another friend…”

            Another friend. Ah. Everything, today, seemed to go back to old schooldays. Perhaps it was not solely for her discretion that she had been chosen.

            “I understand,” she said softly, finding herself reluctant to risk hurting the man before her with the edge of cool words. She respected what Antony Gordon had done in his career as an Auror,  even if he would never again be the same man. “How long am I to watch him?”

            It was Moody answered. “One night, that’s all. We can’t spare good people for any longer than that, Crouch be damned. Just watch for signs - use your judgment. If he’s working on the Dark side then chances are he’ll move as soon as possible, just like all the rest of the rats - running to ground, the lot of them.”

            “Tonight, then,” she said.

            Gordon ran an unsteady hand down his face, as though forcibly molding himself back together. “Yes. Tonight.” He flicked his wand again, conjuring up a form which he then signed and handed to her. “Report for your Gray Eye and any other equipment you might need. Lupin’s details are in the file.”

            She held both papers between steady fingers, and rose from her chair with a nod. “Am I to report directly to you?”

            “Yes. Tomorrow.”

            “Very well.”

            “Watch yourself, Harker.” Moody gave her a twisted smile. “We can’t afford to lose someone with your sense.”

            “That would be my preference as well.” 

            Her mind was clear as she made her way to the door; the first stage of absorption was always this way for her when she had new information to process. Clear and precise. Open. Later she would have time to twist the thoughts about to inspect the angles more carefully, searching for the subtleties.

            But when her hand touched the door knob, she found herself suddenly hesitating. Something cold settled in her stomach. A cold, familiar emptiness.

            Name it, she told herself. Name it. You have the right to name it.

            Delilah turned to face the haggard man behind the desk one final time.

            “Malachi was the best Auror I’ve ever worked with,” she said.

            Antony Gordon’s eyes went blank at the sound of his son’s name, but she knew that he was listening.

            “I trusted him at my back.” She only hoped he could understand what that meant, coming from her. “I would have stood at his, had I been there that night. And I know I’m not the only one who’d say so.” 

            She did not wait for a reply before leaving. She knew there wouldn’t be one.    

 

 

                                                                                                                                    *

 

            Delilah Harker made her first mistake half-way through the welcoming feast of her first year, and it was the biggest one she’d make in her time at Hogwarts.

            In the months that followed, she would bitterly regret the ignorance which had led to her lack of caution. She would wish that she had known better, known enough to have begged the Sorting Hat for a different sentence.

            But by her second year, she regretted only the bruised innocence of those first months. By then she had made her place. She had learned that she could build upon mistakes; every mistake suffered once was one she’d never have to suffer again.

            But even so, she would remember the Hat’s words always.

            “Most interesting,” the small voice hummed. “What to do with this compassion - and passion, yes. So focused this young, are we? Such a desire for excellence. And strength of will, I see. There are other possibilities, of course - a willingness to work is… ah, but I see your heart is set. Such a peculiar trait to be mixed up with ambition. But there’s certainly no question about the thirst. Watch the heart, and that thirst and strength will serve you well in SLYTHERIN.”

            Green and silver. She had always been fond of those colors. Green and silver at the table, and the cool smiles of housemates already prepared to judge her. She hadn’t known what to expect. The father whose memory she wished to honor had never had the chance to tell her.

            Delilah had pushed brown hair behind her ears with small fingers, and tucked into the feast with as much excitement as she had for the conversation with her new school mates. Talk of family, talk of history, talk of hopes and dreams.

And Evan Rosier had turned to her, a roll in each hand, and asked about her parents.

            “My father was a great wizard.” Said with all the pride of a daughter eager to prove herself worthy of his legacy. “My mum’s not a witch, but she’s very excited about my schooling.”

            “You’re a half-blood?”

            Even naiveté was not enough to miss the tone, no matter the unfamiliarity of the term.

“Umm… I suppose so.”

            Looking back with the wisdom of age and experience, she would think that, had she come to Hogwarts seven years earlier, the impurity of her blood would not have condemned her so completely - not even in Slytherin. But in her time the Dark Lord was rising, and those who sought his favor scoured clean their own lairs with the same zeal with which they faced their enemies. She would never be truly accepted in Slytherin, any more than she would be accepted by any of the other students.

            Still, it was not as bad as it could have been. Had she been Muggle-born, she thought it quite likely that she would not have survived the summer holidays to see her seventh year. As it was, her housemates with family influence in the Dark Lord’s cause did not see her as enough of a threat - or enough of a taint - to be given too much attention. And those with less power and more pettiness soon learned that harassing her was not worth their time; there was no pleasure in tormenting someone who refused to suffer at their jibes, and who refused to cower when pushed too far. Far better to focus on the Gryffindors, or the Hufflepuffs. Anyone but silent Harker. 

            She had only had to draw her wand in self-defense once in her seven years at Hogwarts; for all that the Slytherins liked to test each other it was rare to see curses actually flung amongst their own. And when it did happen, once was usually all it took to determine whether you were too weak to be taken seriously from then on, or competent enough that no one thought to test you again.     She’d only had to draw her wand once, but in the end the fact that her house mates left her to her own devices had less to do with her successful cursing of Vanessa Carmichael, and more with the power of her silence. Her disdain. Her refusal to show even the slightest interest in the companionship of her fellows, and even less in the politics of power and the world outside the castle walls.

            She studied. She lived for her lessons. What she lacked in natural gifts or intellect she made up for with determination. She never surpassed Moon in Charms, or Potter in Transfiguration, or Black in Arithmancy, or Evans or Snape in Potions. But she was there, just behind them. And even at the time she was able to see the good fortune in that; better to be behind them, and so be far from the attention of all her rivals, Gryffindor and Slytherin alike. 

            And every night she fell asleep hoping that her father would have been proud.

            Her father, who had entertained her with magical charms in her childhood, who had told her stories of wizards and dragons and castles, and promised that she would see them all in her own time. When her magic came.

            But he had not lived to see it.

            An accident, they said. An accident with a Chimera - the sadly common end of many who worked in the Department for the Disposal of Magical Creatures. So the men who came to speak with her mother said.

            And there had been no magic again for six years. Not until the owl came in the July after her eleventh birthday, and she’d known that she would finally have the chance to be what her father had wished for her -- to be a witch. And she promised herself that she would become the best witch it was possible to be. No matter the cost.

            That determination sustained her through years of silence, through years of cold glances and guarding her back, through years spent alone, watching the world around her spiral slowly down into fear. It sustained her through everything, isolated in a life where her observations remained only that - observations. Sustained and isolated all the way up until a week before the end of her schooling. The day her mother died. 

           

                                                           

                                                                                                                                    *

  

            There were a couple hours yet till dusk by the time she came to Remus Lupin’s house.

            It was a small place, on the edge of the equally small wizarding settlement outside Salisbury. Though someone clearly took pains to keep it in good repair, that the owner was hardly a wealthy man was obvious. What it lacked in opulence, however, it made up for in the brilliant efficiency of the many wards set down around the place. As she worked her way closer, carefully revealing and avoiding them, Delilah thought that if most of the Death Eaters they hunted had even half this skill with perimeter spells, Azkaban would stand a great deal emptier. And she wondered, creeping her way past a strange out-building as heavily warded as the house, how many of these wards might exist to keep the owner in, rather than keeping strangers out.

            Despite her experience, she thought it likely that she wouldn’t have made it undetected past all of the wards if it wasn’t clear they hadn’t been renewed in at least a few days. Probably not, she thought, since Halloween night. The night of the Potters’ murder. The night The Boy Who Lived was said to have worked a miracle she still didn’t fully believe. Two nights ago now.

If Lupin was indeed a conspirator of Black’s, it was likely he was reeling from the shock of his master’s disappearance, too shaken to maintain his defenses at strength - a thankfully common reaction among many of the Death Eaters they’d tracked down in the last several days.

And if he wasn’t in the Dark Lord’s service, then… well, if he had maintained his school day friendships, he had other things to be shocked about.

Delilah moved slowly, stopping for long minutes after passing each ward to allow the Chameleon Cloak she wore to adjust to her surroundings. As complex as these wards were, even long left untended, she didn’t want to risk any charm work to further hide her presence, for fear that it would set one of them off. A Chameleon Cloak’s masking affect was all she could rely on here. And silence. Always silence.

By the time she wormed her way between two large shrubberies against the back wall of the house, the sun had slipped below her line of sight. Her muscles already aching from holding awkward positions close to the ground for the last two hours, she tried to settle herself against the wall as quietly and comfortably as possible. She kept still for long minutes afterward, listening for sounds of movement nearby - within or without the house - that might indicate she had been heard, and tested the strain of her chosen position to be certain that she could hold it without cramping for the long hours to come.

Minutes crept by, and not a sound indicated that the occupant of the house had noted her presence. Indeed, not a sound indicated that Lupin was in the house at all. But she knew that he was; she’d verified his presence in the house by way of a pair of Ministry issue Omnioculars before beginning her approach. A glimpse of a man with sandy hair sitting at a kitchen table, very still, his back to the window. That was all, but it was enough. He was still here, she was sure of it. Even if all of the senses and instincts she’d acquired in her eventful career as an Auror told her that she had her back pressed to the wall of an empty house.

Moving with precise slowness, Delilah pulled at the drawstrings of the pouch at her belt. The slick twine slid loose without even a whisper, and she slipped her hand into the pouch to close steady fingers around a smooth, cold sphere no larger than a Sickle. She was careful to nestle the ball into the palm of her hand before pulling it out, so that there would be no chance for even the dwindling dusk light to reflect off the polished surface. The Gray Eye warmed almost instantly to the touch of her skin, but she kept it closed in her hand for several moments to be sure that the first stage of wakening was complete. When she uncurled her fingers, the surface which a moment ago would have been silver as a well-polished drinking goblet was now translucent as glass; only the faintest hint of silver mist seemed to wisp just beneath the surface. She touched her wand tip to the Eye four times in the keying pattern, and the hint of mist vanished completely, leaving a sphere of clear glass like a bubble resting in her hand. She raised it to her lips to breathe silently on it, and the warmth of her breath completed the process. The glass-like outline faded completely; the Eye rested, completely invisible, a warm, smooth weight on the palm of her hand.

She rolled it by feel into a grip between her fingertips, holding it steady, then turned her head to watch the movement of her hand as she very slowly, very carefully, pushed the invisible Eye into the wall over her shoulder. She could feel the Eye passing through the wood, and as soon as her fingertips met the wall she released the sphere to continue the passage through on its own, and almost sighed with relief. That she’d managed to send the Eye through at all meant that Lupin hadn’t put up safeguards to prevent this very specific sort of intrusion, which hopefully meant that he wouldn’t any time soon be casting the equally specific revealing charms which might betray the presence of a snooping Gray Eye. This would be the easiest way to keep a watch on him through the night, and she was glad that it seemed she wasn’t going to have to improvise other means. Right now, the Gray Eye should be making its invisible way toward the nearest person in the house to begin its vigil, and it would preserve everything it saw within the mists of its little globe, to be called up with the appropriate charm.

Delilah liked the Gray Eyes. She liked the ingenious Charm work which had gone into their construction, appreciated the delicate touch required to use them properly. Too many Aurors didn’t have the finesse with Charm work required to control the Eyes or, more importantly, call up the images after they had been preserved. Strong defense spells against the Dark Arts often required more strength of will than finesse, and that was where most Aurors excelled. But Delilah was good at Charm work; she always had been. She knew her own strengths, and the subtlety of the Gray Eyes suited her.

Still careful in her movements, she withdrew a pocket watch on its chain from another pouch, and in the rapidly dwindling light the abstract outline of three stooped figures was barely visible etched into the dull gold of the watch cover, framing the single word Pemphredo. She sprung the watch open, and within the casing faintly rippling silver covered both halves, like water trapped in the shallow dip of two tiny bowls. A deft flick of her wand, and the ripples cleared to reveal the interior of the house against which she now leaned her back, just as the Eye was seeing it.

It took a few minutes, and many careful guiding flicks of her wand, to position the Eye just where she wanted it - high in a corner of Lupin’s kitchen, from which point it could see him, and his face, quite clearly, where he still sat the barren table.

He didn’t seem to have moved at all in the hours since she’d spotted the back of his head through her Omnioculars. Even the grip of his fingers, still tangled into his hair on either side of his head where he rested his forehead into his hands, appeared unchanged. Interesting. With the new, more thorough view afforded her by the Eye in the room, she could now see his face clearly, and his eyes were definitely open, so he wasn’t asleep. Judging by the bruises of exhaustion beneath those eyes, he probably hadn’t slept in quite some time. Lupin held his head in his hands, and stared blankly at the tabletop.

Delilah scrutinized the miniature reflection of his face in the pocket watch for several minutes, searching for any sign that he had somehow been alerted to her watchful presence. But he did not move. He didn’t even blink. There was something so fixed and unseeing about his stare that she wondered if he would have even noticed if she’d walked through the doorway in the flesh. The man definitely seemed to be in shock over something. 

She realized suddenly, still focusing on the image of his face before her, that she was looking for some sign of the boy she remembered from Hogwarts. The pale cheeks, the bright eyes, the studious frown of concentration as he puzzled through a troublesome tablet in Ancient Runes. She recalled such things suddenly, more surprised that she’d noted them at all than that she’d since forgotten them. Remus Lupin had seemed so unimportant to her in school; nothing about him had impacted her life then, not even the Prefect’s badge she suddenly now recalled. It seemed strange that she should find herself here now, crouched in the cold outside his house. Strange that she could find no hint of the sickly Gryffindor boy in the man she now saw.

Well, he still looked sickly. He looked downright ill, in fact. Signs of physical ailment were not unexpected; she’d put in some research after leaving Gordon’s office, and knew that he would still be feeling the after-effects of the werewolf transformation three nights ago. But that didn’t explain his current behavior.

Finally satisfied that he wasn’t about to make any sudden, important movements, she guided the Eye in a more detailed search of the room. The kitchen looked tidy on cursory inspection, and more than a little bare. Half of the small lounge was visible through the open kitchen doorway, and it looked just as spartan. Inside, as without, the small house spoke of an owner more fastidious than wealthy. The only hint of untidiness, in fact, was on the kitchen table itself, where several parchments were scattered atop each other, just to the side of the spot on which Lupin’s eyes were fixed.

She guided the Eye to inspect at the parchments more closely, hoping that whatever shock had seemed to settle on Lupin was enough to keep his awareness dulled; she’d learned from her reading that a werewolf’s senses were heightened around the full moon. But Lupin remained frozen, unblinking and still, and she was able to position the Eye to make out the papers clearly.

Two were slightly crumpled copies of the Daily Prophet, and just a glance at the headlines told her the dates. November 1st - the Potters’ murder, and the disappearance of the Dark Lord. And atop that one, obscuring completely the image of a home in Godric’s Hollow in ruins - an image Delilah had permanently fixed in her memory, as she was one of the few Aurors who had seen the place in person and not just on paper - was today’s issue. Sirius Black - Mass Murderer and Agent of the Dark Lord - In Azkaban By Order of the D.M.L.E. - Huge Approval for the Sentence. The black and white image beneath the headline was one she knew almost as well, not because she’d been there, but because she had seen that picture at least a hundred times over the last two days.

For the first time in her career, Delilah was glad that she hadn’t been present at the arrest of a Dark wizard. There was something about the insane look on Black’s face as the Hit Wizards bound him in cords and spells that disturbed her. She could almost hear the mad laughter drifting up from the page even now, and she wondered, as she had when they’d first told her about the incident, how she would have reacted to it had she been there. She couldn’t decide if she would have cursed him on the spot, or turned away. The whole thing disgusted her. Disturbed her greatly.

And it seemed, obviously, to have disturbed Lupin.

She wondered if he’d been sitting here like this since the paper’s arrival in the morning.

She wondered, not entirely certain that it was a foolish thought, if he’d been sitting here like this since the arrival of the first paper, two days ago.

Pressing her lips together, filing away every detail, she focused on the final piece of parchment on the table.

It was clearly a letter, and after a moment she was able to make out the remains of the broken wax, and the unmistakable crest imprinted in the seal. It had come from Hogwarts, and only staff members used that crest. Given what she’d been told in Gordon’s office, she suspected it would be from Dumbledore even before she saw his signature at the bottom. Part of the letter was folded over, so she could only read the last few sentences, but she read them over several times to be sure she had them memorized.

 

            grieved that I was not able to deliver this latest word

            in person. Given the tidings I have been forced to bring

            you in the last two days, I fear you must dread my coming,

            but I shall pay a visit as soon as I may. There is much to be

            done.

           

            Keep in mind my advice, and be careful with the Ministry.

 

            Moody had been right; Dumbledore knew exactly how Crouch worked. And given such a blatant warning against Ministry action, she was a bit surprised that sneaking up on Lupin had been this easy.

            So what did she have?

            A man in shock.

            Whether or not he’d maintained friendships with Black and Potter and Pettigrew, the fact remained that he had been close to them for seven years at Hogwarts. If Lupin was not a servant of the Dark Lord, then he’d been watching friends drop all around him for the past three days. And if he was a servant of the Dark Lord, then… then he was mad to be sitting here in a stupor when the Aurors had spent every hour since the dawn of Voldemort’s disappearance hunting down careless Death Eaters with a fervor.

            And he was a werewolf. That alone would be enough to damn him in the eyes of many.

            It was possible, she mused, that such a state of shock might be inspired by the sudden disappearance of his master. Delilah had seen first hand the almost slavish devotion many of the men - and creatures - in Voldemort’s service offered to their Lord. His disappearance had certainly caused even the most pragmatic and ruthless among them to fumble these past days, as they scrambled to hide or excuse themselves now that they could no longer shelter behind their Lord’s power. 

            She had to admire the power Voldemort held over his followers. The ease with which he commanded, and inspired. Many of her fellows could not bring themselves to understand that the true measure of Voldemort’s power lay as much in influence as in magical ability. They followed him, his Death Eaters, because he was glorious in his power, his determination, his ruthlessness. Delilah understood why they followed him. And because she understood, she loathed them for it all the more. 

            For the first time in a long time, she suddenly saw again in her mind’s eye her mother’s pale, lifeless face.

            In the end, it didn’t matter how she had died. All that mattered was that for the last eleven years, there had been too many pale and lifeless faces. Other people’s mothers, fathers, daughters, sons. It had to stop. Someone had to stop it.

            Someone had.

            Not an Auror, sharing the duties she had embraced. Not even a wizard like Albus Dumbledore, great beyond his time. No. A child had done it. A baby.

            It couldn’t be true. It couldn’t possibly be true. Whatever the Potter boy had done, Delilah could not believe that Voldemort was truly gone.

            But now was not the time for this.

            Clenching her teeth, she forced such thoughts from her mind. She was here to observe, to analyze. To judge. Now was not the time for her own doubts. For such things, there was never a time. She had learned long ago that she couldn’t afford them.

            Pulling the Gray Eye away from the papers, and back to the far corner of the room, she settled in to continue her vigil.

            After at least an hour in which Lupin did nothing but close his eyes and hold his frozen pose, Delilah decided to risk moving the Eye on a search through the whole house for any suspicious articles. She found the other rooms as meticulously organized and arranged as the wards and grounds. A spelled long-burning fire crackled quietly in the living room hearth, the only source of illumination in the house, spilling wavering light into the kitchen and other neighboring rooms. There were several books stacked on reading tables or shelves, but none of them were of a dubious subject matter. There wasn’t even a decent amount of Floo powder on the mantle to allow for a hasty exit. A search of the other rooms yielded a similar lack of incriminating evidence. Gray Eyes were enchanted to spot the outlines of simple secret doors or passages, but there were none to be found here.

            She did, however, find a Scrying Globe in prominent display on the mantelpiece - glowing a very particular shade of green. Lupin was a cautious man; the wards had proved that, and the Globe only emphasized it. If he’d been paying more attention to his own defenses, the Globe’s green glow would have alerted him that he was being spied upon. Fortunately for her, he was in no condition to notice.

            By the time she returned the Eye to the kitchen, the night’s cold had seeped through her robes so that she felt completely chilled, and her knees ached with the desire to move. A rogue splinter was poking into the back of her shoulder where she had it pressed against the wall, but she didn’t want to risk moving until it was time to leave. She’d endured longer watches than this in the past few years, and she had no intention of bungling this one. Compared to other missions, this one was practically a cozy nap in a sun-bathed park.

            She shifted the pocket watch to her wand hand for a moment, to flex stiffened fingers before taking firm hold of the watch again. With another guiding flick of her wand, she fixed the image in the open watch to show Lupin from enough of a distance that she might see any move he made. Not that she was expecting one.

            She didn’t think he was a Death Eater. More than that, she was beginning to feel that this entire mission had been a dreadful waste of time. Dumbledore’s word should have been enough to vindicate the man, or at least to postpone an investigation until other known Dark Wizards were tracked down and caught. She was beginning to suspect that this had as much to do with trying to catch Dumbledore out on those so-called “Order of the Phoenix” rumors as it had with any suspicious werewolves. After seven years in the Slytherin common room, Delilah didn’t feel the same sort of adoration for Dumbledore that other wizards and witches in their cause seemed to feel, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t recognize power when she saw it. And she admired Dumbledore in her own way. He used his power and influence as well and as subtly as Voldemort himself did, though she doubted many of her colleagues would see it that way. That she suspected Dumbledore himself would acknowledge the similarities was part of what made her like the man. And as far as she was concerned, if Dumbledore said that a wizard - even a werewolf - was innocent, then that was justification enough to leave the man in peace for a time. If nothing else, Dumbledore would address his own mistakes.

            But Crouch, of course, didn’t see it that way.

            Delilah rarely said it, but she would be much happier if Crouch were to lose power at the Ministry. It wasn’t that she disapproved of some of his more ruthless choices; the freedom to use killing curses against their enemies was one she’d already taken advantage of. Sometimes there simply wasn’t any other choice, and she privately thought that some of these Death Eaters deserved no better. She’d known many of them through seven years of her childhood. She knew better than most what they deserved.

No, it wasn’t Crouch’s willingness to employ more desperate measures which bothered her - it was the fact that he did not punish those who abused them. The Aurors were getting out of hand, and Delilah found their lack of discipline abhorrent. It was Crouch’s duty to step in and see that his people were controlled, to put a stop to abuses which undermined not only their image but their effectiveness, and even the purity of their dedication. Too many Aurors no longer knew what they were fighting for.

Delilah knew what she was fighting for.

And it wasn’t to spy on catatonic werewolves, she thought with an inward sigh.

Her time sense told her it was well past midnight. Her gut told her there was nothing incriminating to see here, and the longer she stared at Lupin’s blank expression the more uncomfortable she became. Because that blankness spoke of a pain too deep for physical expression, and if she’d enjoyed sharing other people’s pain she would have sought a job at St Mungo’s Curse Ward. God knew there was a lot of pain to be dealt with there these days.

She heard it first.

It was clearest through the auditory connection allowed the holder of the pocket watch; the same sounds being preserved by the Gray Eye along with all images. But she heard it also as a muffled murmur through the wall behind her. A low rumble. Like a growl.

For the first time in hours she saw Lupin move. The fingers clutching the sides of his head tightened visibly, and his entire face contorted with the fury of the roar which suddenly exploded from him. His hands slammed against the table, clutched at the papers before him; the Prophet sporting Sirius Black’s manic image ripped with a sound almost drowned by the continuing roar of pain. The chair in which Lupin had sat all night tumbled back as he surged to his feet, and with a single effortless movement he flung the table away from him with such force that it slammed against the far wall and one of the legs broke off.

For a moment Delilah was too stunned to react. Then instinct and years of training took over, and she swiftly flicked her wand at the pocket watch to move the Eye high into the corner of the room, as far from Lupin as possible, to prevent it being shattered and its presence revealed. Though as the minutes went by, she doubted that Lupin would have noticed one more shattered object amidst all of the destruction.

After the table he kicked the chair, which spun across the floor and also broke against the wall. The simple tea set on the nearest counter followed, exploding in showers of white like edged rose petals. The herb jars. The small cauldron on its stand in the corner. With the rage of a caged animal, he demolished the sparse kitchen, lashing out at everything that came within reach, destroying all that was breakable as though in doing so he might purge the fury and the desolation which poured out of him in torn sounds.

Delilah gritted her teeth and forced herself not to move. In this state, there was no telling if he’d throw something out of the window onto her, no telling if he’d follow it through. The ways in which her presence might be revealed grew with every staggering step he took across the room - and if he carried the destruction through into the other rooms, the Scrying Globe would give everything away. If he didn’t destroy it first.

She couldn’t watch his face. She watched his hands, the movement of shoulders and feet, reading the language of his body because the emotions expressed in his face were simply too raw. He had lost himself somewhere, and she didn’t want to see it.

Control. Control was everything. Control meant survival for a girl surrounded by the cruelties of children too naïve to understand the true depth of the games played. Control meant survival for an Auror faced with an enemy too slippery to grasp, and too familiar by far. Control meant everything. And Lupin had lost his.

He was a werewolf. It showed now. How many people, watching him now, would see a beast enraged, a man - a creature - driven beyond reason? What did it matter if he’d conspired with Black? What did it matter whether or not he’d sworn fealty to Voldemort? He was damned already.

She knew why Antony Gordon and Alastor Moody had sent her here. Harker, the champion of cool logic and practicality. Ever the last to jump to conclusions, and always the first to strike when necessary. She understood why Gordon had chosen her, in a desperate attempt to preserve the last of the good memories surrounding his Gryffindor son, and the days of schoolboy friendships he’d had.

But she doubted they had truly understood what they’d be asking.

She watched Lupin lurch to a halt in the center of the kitchen, his hands in white knuckled fists, his shoulders shaking now with the strangled sounds fighting to emerge from his chest. She watched him stumble to the side, like a leaf suddenly dropped to earth after the passing fury of a storm, and collapse against the wall. She watched him slide down to the floor, his hands covering his face as the sobs finally tore free. She watched, and felt disgusted. For him, and the loss of the meticulous control written into every detail of the house in which she’d trespassed. For him, and for herself. He had no idea of the way he’d been violated.

“Why?

Delilah turned the Eye away, and began to drift it slowly back towards the wall against which she leaned.

“Why?”

It was little more than a broken whisper, but she could still hear it clearly.

“Why, Sirius, why? Why?

He was sitting too closely to her spot. She’d have to bring the Eye out elsewhere.

“James. Damn it, James, damn it, couldn’t you see? Why couldn’t we see? Why didn’t you tell me?”

She wondered how he was managing to speak at all through the ruins of a voice scraped raw from roaring.

“Lily.”

Up against the ceiling, and out through the wall…

“Peter. God, you stupid… why did you go…”

…and finally she couldn’t see Lupin’s huddled form any longer. But the walls were thin.

“Damn you, Sirius. You bastard. You bastard.” 

She’d have to risk moving, even with just this wall between them. If she judged by the passage of time before the explosion, then it was quite possible he wouldn’t move from this spot for hours, and she couldn’t be here when the sun began to rise.

She closed the pocket watch half way, and slipped it into its pouch without clicking it shut. She guided the Gray Eye back to her hand, letting it regain opacity, and slipped it away as well. Then, rocking forward slowly onto her toes, legs screaming in protest at the shift in her long held position, she began the laborious process of creeping forward. Away from the wall. Through the shrubs, over the lawn. Past all of the wards again, trying to find the holes she’d already made. All the while listening for any sound from behind her. Relieved that she didn’t hear any.

It wasn’t until she was well clear of the house, and on her way to a point on the outskirts of town from which she could safely Disapparate, that she allowed herself to think on what she’d seen. And on what she’d decided.

She’d been sent to judge a man. She knew her word alone could damn him. Men had been damned for less recently. But once she handed in the Gray Eye, they wouldn’t even need her word. She couldn’t predict what Antony Gordon would do, confronted with those images. But she knew what he would see.

Remus Lupin was a werewolf. He was a werewolf without friends to support or defend him. He was a broken man tonight. In the world in which they lived, Voldemort’s supposed disappearance be damned, Lupin was little more than a cripple.

She wished that she hadn’t been driven to this point of understanding him.

At the Apparition point, she stopped and checked the skyline. There were still a few hours left till dawn. She wasn’t due to report to Gordon until eight in the morning.

There was just enough time.

Delilah twisted her wand, and was gone.

 

                                               

                                                                                                                        *

 

Her mother was found dead in her home in Durham, and then Delilah could no longer simply observe.

It was never proven that she had been killed by magic. The Ministry disavowed a connection with the Dark Lord or his followers, but Delilah could not dismiss the possibility so easily. Who was to say that it was not a parting gift from one of her fellow Slytherins, for seven years of her arrogant disregard?

The Muggle authorities claimed that Susan Harker had died of a heart attack. By the time Delilah arrived for the funeral, the body had been moved, and prodded, and handled by Muggles long enough that any obvious traces of magical interference had been wiped away, and she could not do a more careful search.

She returned to Hogwarts just in time to be acknowledged as a fully-fledged witch, with good standing in her class, and many compliments from her professors.

Her last night in Hogwarts, she walked the halls for some time, listening to the sounds, memorizing all the portraits. Thinking of her father, who had been, she’d discovered, in Ravenclaw during his time here. She thought of her mother. She thought of Robert McKinnon, who had spent an afternoon in fifth year talking to her by the lake, where they’d stumbled across each other - the only lengthy conversation she’d ever had with a schoolmate. She thought of James Potter, and Sirius Black, who had both beat her effortlessly in almost every subject, but whom she had never truly been able to bring herself to despise. She thought of the way their faces went white with anger every time the Prophet blazed with news of another killing. Their confidence. Their faith.

And she thought of Severus Snape, the only housemate whom she had never feared to turn her back to. Not because he wasn’t dangerous - she thought him more dangerous, in his way, than Wilkes or Nott or any of their over-eager posse. But he wasn’t her enemy, and there were few of whom she thought so. She tried to always sit near him in the Great Hall, because she could trust him to treat her with empty silence instead of scorn. She usually sat near him in the darker corners of the common room to work, only because the emptier corners were where they both wanted to be. Oh, he’d never socialized with her, not Snape, who had his own image to maintain and his own survival to ensure. He was a half-blood himself, a bond they shared, though he had managed to keep that a secret from most. She kept it for him, not out of fear, despite the fact that he had a reputation for viciousness where his enemies were concerned; nor out of compassion, despite the fact that he had suffered enough at the hands of the Gryffindors, and some of his fellow Slytherins, to have earned some sympathy in the silence of her observations. She kept it for him, because she wished she could have kept it for herself. She thought she could understand, at least partially, what lay behind Snape’s own silences, and so she couldn’t even bring herself to resent what acceptance and respect he had managed to carve out for himself in Slytherin. As always, she was content to keep in his shadow.

In the years that would follow in her life, Delilah would always remember some moments from her Hogwarts days with perfect clarity. She thought of those moments on her last day at Hogwarts, walking the halls, listening to the squeaking suits of armor as they settled at their posts. And among those moments was Snape, and the night in sixth year, when she had stayed in the common room well past midnight working on Arithmancy formulas long since gone to gibberish in her tired sight. Quill in hand, shoulders slumped, she knew that she couldn’t go up to the dormitory yet. Not now. Not tonight. For no matter how she tried to deny her own weakness, she knew that she simply didn’t have the heart to go up and hear the other girls talking about the day they’d shared in Hogsmeade, while she had stayed behind. It wasn’t often that she let such things get to her, but there were moments. And she would have to fight it down again, lock it away, before risking a return to the dormitory. Between the painful complexities of the company her dormmates might offer, and the loneliness of an empty common room, she always chose the latter.

And then Snape was there, materializing out of the shadows at the base of the stairs as he seemed to have a gift for doing. He had a stack of books and parchment under his arm, and he stopped for a moment, looking at her. Then, with the rarity of an empty common room to take advantage of, he moved right toward her. She said nothing, only watched him, unable to completely mask her surprise, as he sat down at her table. The light from the green glass lamp just above them made him look even more sallow skinned than usual. He was really looking at her, for the first time she could remember.

“Sometimes it’s hard to tell which is better,” he said, sneering slightly. “Being up there or being down here.”  He indicated the stairs to the dormitories with a sharp nod, sending strands of lanky black hair into his eyes.

He looked no friendlier than he ever did. But Delilah found herself smiling. “Or which is worse.”

He smiled back. It was a sharp smile, to be certain, and still half a sneer. But there was undoubtedly dry amusement in his face. She couldn’t recall ever before having seen Severus Snape truly amused. Not, at least, when it didn’t involve the humiliation of choice Gryffindors.

Without another word, he opened his books and unrolled his parchment, and began to work. He sat across from her in silence and swiftly filled the paper with his neat, angular writing. For many long minutes she tried to do the same, to accept that unspoken agreed upon state between them in which they found privacy in numbers by ignoring each other, and being thus ignored by others.

But there was no one else in the common room that night, and she found that she wanted to talk. She needed the words. At least once.

“Is that the Sleeping Draughts essay?” she asked quietly, holding the nib of her quill so tightly she could feel the hollow bone begin to crack beneath her fingers.

He looked up at her with narrowed eyes, not quite angry, but definitely wary. And somewhat curious.

“Yes.”

“I… had trouble finding information on Somnius’ original research.”

“No you didn’t.”

He did not set down his quill, only held her gaze, challenging her to deny it.

Instead she said, “Are you planning to take up Potions study after leaving school?”

“Silent Harker speaks after all.”

“Yes, well.” She twisted her quill between her fingers, regretting having given in to her weakness. “It’s so rarely worth it.”

For a moment it looked like he would retort with something acidic, and that would be the end of her foolish attempt. But then he shrugged curtly.

“Possibly. And you? Planning to work developing new Muting Charms?”

“As long as I can pursue independent research, I don’t care what I’m researching.” It was a risk, a very foolish risk. But that night she felt foolish enough to make it. So she said, “I don’t want to serve anyone.”

She paid for it, of course. One always did.

The edge of parchment under Snape’s hand crumpled a bit as he curled his fingers tighter. His black eyes narrowed further, but he no longer seemed to be seeing her.

“We’re all slaves to something,” he said roughly. “It’s just a matter of accepting it.”

Eventually he resumed his work, as did she. It was at least an hour before he gathered his things and left, back to the boy’s dormitory, having said not another word. She went up soon after, but lay awake until morning thinking on his words, storing them in her too perfect memory. She would remember them long afterward, remember them on her last night in Hogwarts, and on many nights to follow. And many nights she would wonder, while filing reports on actions taken against Wilkes, Ambrose, Murdoch, familiar names all, what roles Snape might have accepted. Or whether he accepted them at all. Of all her year mates, his was the only name she dreaded finding on her alert list. 

Looking back, she would often surprise herself by missing the halls of Hogwarts, the Great Hall’s ceiling, the invigorating chill of a walk around the lake on a winter morning, even the ornate scrollwork on the lintels of the Slytherin common room and the pale green shadows the lamps had cast. She would often reflect that Slytherin might not have been such a treacherous place in another generation, at a time when the Dark Lord wasn’t coming to power.

She never doubted that the Sorting Hat had put her in the right place.

            If not for hard lessons learned, she would not have been one of the Ministry’s most decorated Aurors - even if no one liked to admit it. Would probably never have become an Auror in the first place, in a time when Aurors were killed more often than acclaimed.

            She would be slave to nothing save her own determination.

            Delilah liked to think that her father would have approved.

 

 

                                                                                                                                                *

 

            Alastor Moody was not in Gordon’s office when she came to report, and Delilah was glad for his absence. The keen instincts for which she respected him in the field might have proved inconvenient here, now that she had something to hide.

“Harker.” Gordon looked, if possible, wearier than he had the day before. The stack of papers on his desk seemed not to have shrunk at all. 

            “Gordon.” 

            “You look like you had a long night.”

            “It was easier than most.”

            “That’s good.” He nodded, his smile wan but clearly genuine. “That’s very good. Please, sit.”

            This time she did not take the offered chair. “If you don’t mind, I shouldn’t get comfortable. I have a great deal of work to see to before my shift ends.”

            “Yes, of course. Don’t forget to file for time if you’ve missed your off-duty scheduling because of this. Alastor’s been kicking up a fuss about exhausted operatives.”

            She just nodded, already detaching the pouch from her belt to hold it out to him. “The Eye’s images.”

            He rose from his seat and for a moment only stood there, the width of his desk between them, and stared at the proof she offered him, evidently unwilling to accept it. Then he sighed, took the pouch from her, and sat down to open it. Setting the pouch aside on an unfinished report, he held the silver sphere in one hand and with the other pulled a small golden stand to the side of his ink blotter toward him. He set the Eye on the stand with a soft click, and a cloud of mist began instantly to form above it, swirling and then parting like that in a crystal ball, to reveal a magnified view of all the Gray Eye had recorded.

            Suspended above Gordon’s desk an image of a small and bare kitchen formed, and at its table Remus Lupin sat with his head in his hands.

            Delilah allowed a few moments to pass, for Gordon to give the image a good inspection. It wouldn’t take long, after all; there was in the beginning so little to see.

            “So old,” Antony murmured, the tips of his fingers against his lips, his eyes on the image before him. “How many of our children look this old so young?”

             Delilah held her hands still behind her back, and said nothing. She thought that Malachi had not looked old before his time, but she couldn’t say it. She had never had much experience with soothing talk, nor an inclination for it, and besides, a youthful nature hadn’t stopped Malachi from dying before his time. As for herself, she rarely had enough time to bother with inspecting herself carefully in the mirror to see how the years might be wearing prematurely on her. And she’d long ago put a Muting Charm on the mirror besides, to put an end to its ceaseless comments about her too severe plait, the shadows beneath her eyes, the frown lines she would get about the eyebrows if she didn’t smile more often. The mirror had stood silent now for years.  

She always had been good at her charm work.

            Gordon continued to wear a lost, pained expression, and she was beginning to think that she would have to prompt the delivery of her own report when he finally pulled his hands away from his face and leaned back in his chair. He fixed her with a passable attempt at a level look over the image globe still showing Lupin at his table, and Delilah didn’t have to wonder if Gordon himself had been meeting sleep requirements lately; his shadowed eyes made it clear he wasn’t.

            “Your report?”

            She told him, in quick, clinical phrasing, about searching Lupin’s house and finding nothing to even remotely suggest association with Voldemort, or involvement in the Dark Arts in any way. He had defensive wards and detectors set up, many as effective or better than Auror standard, and all of them geared toward Dark Arts detection. As the images of the papers on his table would attest, he seemed to have maintained some sort of association with Sirius Black, but nothing at all in his behavior suggested a more intimate understanding of Black’s actions.

            “So you don’t think,” Gordon interjected, frowning now at the image of Lupin who was still sitting perfectly still at his table, “that he had any prior knowledge of Black’s intentions?”

            “It would be impossible to determine that through such a short period of observation,” she answered honestly. “But my instincts tell me that he did not. As you can see, he exhibited all the signs of someone in deep shock. Judging by the particular nature of the articles kept at hand, I think it’s rather clear that recent events came as quite a blow to him. Lupin was close to James Potter and Peter Pettigrew as well as to Sirius Black.”

            “Yes,” Gordon said softly. “I remember.”

            Delilah wondered how close Malachi Gordon had been to them as well; it hadn’t exactly been the sort of thing to come up in conversation between two Aurors in the field. She remembered that Malachi had played Beater for the Gryffindor Quidditch team, alongside Black and Potter. Given his effusive nature, she didn’t doubt that he had relayed plenty of school tales to his father.

            “I saw nothing in his home or in his behavior to lead me to believe that Lupin has any Death Eater ties.”  

            Gordon picked up his wand, and with a word and a flick set the images projected above the Eye to play out more rapidly. Not that it made much of a difference, as there were no immediate changes to the scene. Delilah continued to wait in silence, and watched as finally the images showed her thorough inspection of the house, flashing by in advanced time. Gordon did not slow it to view anything more carefully, not until it had returned once again to Lupin, clutching his head at the table.

He set down his wand and sighed. “Dumbledore’s word should have been enough.”

            Delilah merely gave a fractional lift of her eyebrows, opting for silence.

            Gordon shook his head, frowning at the image before him and speaking softly. “Is this all he did? Sit like this… like the dead...”

            And perhaps Gordon himself had sat so after burying his son.

            As she had sat after burying her mother.

            “Yes.”

            He lifted his hand to his forehead and rubbed wearily at his eyes.

“There was no change,” Delilah said. “The Eye will show that he remained in this position all night, up until I left.”

And it would. She had always been good at charm work.

“I think it quite possible that he’s still there now,” she went on. I don’t believe that he’s anything more than a man left bereft and confused. I see no reason to waste any more time watching him while men like Rosier remain uncaught.”

Gordon smiled thinly. “Ever to the point, Harker. I can see why Alastor likes you.” He straightened in his chair with another sigh. “And I also agree with you. Unfortunately, Lupin has past associations and the very large issue of werewolfism against him.” Looking grim, he reached out and took the Gray Eye from its stand; the misty image globe suspended above it vanished. “Fortunately,” he smiled again, rising to his feet, “he has your report in his favor, and your record speaks for you. With my backing, it should be enough to suspend further inquisitorial action. We definitely have better things to do, and the Wizengamot is already over-burdened with cases. Even Crouch should be able to see that.”

Delilah lifted her eyebrows again, and Gordon winced.

“You didn’t hear me say that.”

            “Of course.”

            “Good.” He turned the Gray Eye in his hand, the warmth of his fingers leaving ghostly prints of half-transparency on its silver surface. “Not many people would have been able to handle this matter so impartially, Harker,” he said quietly. “Thank you.”

            Delilah said nothing. Silence was a powerful tool - weapon and shield both - and she had always known when to use it. She merely nodded, and Gordon nodded in return, taking the gesture for acknowledgement, for understanding; taking the silence for whatever he wished to hear in it. As people so often did.

            “I’m sure you want to get back to your work. Just be certain to get some rest today. I’m afraid I can’t guarantee you any of it tomorrow.”

            “I never expect it.”

            “No,” he murmured. “There are some of us who can’t.”

            Another exchange of nods and she left Gordon’s office behind her, leaving the man to his own duties, to his own silence, to whatever ghosts might drive him through these days. Much as she had left Lupin to his.

She imagined that he’d be putting his shattered kitchen back together sometime soon, and no one would ever be the wiser. Broken tea cups could be mended, broken tables set aright, violent secrets hidden away by the work of charms and silence. Left to settle long enough, the silence might even hide the cracks so well that he’d no longer be able to trace the scars they left behind with regretful fingers. Perhaps.

Delilah entered the Aurors’ hall, pleased to find it mostly empty, most of the cubicles shadowed and silent. A glance toward Peasegood’s desk showed he was, unsurprisingly, not behind it; she only hoped he was out doing his duty on a raid for once. She passed Longbottom’s desk, where he sat, one of the few senior Aurors in the hall, deeply engrossed in reports. But he looked up as she passed, and gave her a nod.

“Harker.”

“Longbottom.”

            “I didn’t get a chance to tell you earlier, but good job pulling together that mess with Platt. Mills owes you his life. Word just came in a few minutes ago - he made it through.”

            “Good.”

            “He’s a good kid. He’ll have the chance to put in some fine work yet.”

            “We could use some.”

            Frank smiled wryly. “Yeah, we could at that.” Then he nodded again, and went back to his reports. Delilah was silently grateful that there were Aurors like Longbottom to balance out the Peasegoods.

            There were reports waiting for her on her own desk. Details of last night’s raids. The latest requests passed down from Bartemius Crouch and the Minister of Magic. An official report on Black’s delivery to Azkaban.

            She pulled out the last and glanced over the plain writing. No manic pictures, no bold headlines. Simple facts. Sirius Black had been delivered to Azkaban yesterday at half past nine in the morning, for the murder of thirteen Muggles and the wizard Peter Pettigrew. And reading between the lines, Delilah guessed that there might have been even more behind his too abrupt sentencing, something more, even, than the all-too obvious connections of his well-known family.

But it didn’t matter. He was in Azkaban. Times changed, and people with them. But her determination would not.

            She did not hesitate to set the report aside, to turn her attention to the files of parchment containing information on the family connections of men and women known to have served Voldemort, a list of names growing shorter by the day. A list which she had today managed to keep short by one more name.

            Delilah picked up her quill, dipped it, and began to copy over pertinent information on the Lestrange family. She was able to add many additional observations from personal memory. One could hardly share a dormitory or a common room for seven years without picking up some useful tidbits.

            She worked in silence, and let the strokes of her quill describe the scar lines she would in no other way acknowledge. Unbidden, the sudden image of a steady hand flicking a wand to heal the cracks in a shattered tea cup came to her mind, and she smiled faintly to herself.  It was work that would be done in silence, she was sure, for there had been silence before the storm, and there would most likely be silence after - for a long time. 

Silence was, after all, the final keeper of secrets and of scars.

And of strength.

//
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