Chapter 2: Reunions and Ridicules
Disclaimer: The universe of Harry Potter belongs to JK Rowling, and is used
here without her permission. I acknowledge that I have no rights to any cannon
characters, settings or events mentioned. I have no intention and no desire
to make profit from this piece, as the credit deserves to go to JK Rowling as
she invented them and thus owns all rights to them. Not me. Got it? Good. But
I own any original characters. I believe the BBC used to own One Man and
his Dog, wonderful programme that is was, but I don't know what's happened
to it now. (Televised sheepdog trials, in case you didn't know) I apologise
for inaccuracies with the medical bits, but hey, I'm a historian, not a biologist.
Harry felt incredibly small, sitting in the back of the cab as it sped down
toward Leicester Square, attempting a U-turn in order to do battle with the
on-coming traffic of Charing Cross road. The cab driver was blabbering away
in blissful ignorance, talking about the 'gas explosion' with the air of a war
'So yeah, all I heard was this huge bang and there was dust everywhere, like,
and my last fare was screaming herself silly, the stupid cow. I just thought
I'd drive up and have a bit of a gander, you know?' Harry didn't, but nodded
absently instead. 'Yeah, well, I think I was right caught up in the aftermath,
you know? Smoke everywhere, people screaming
I wonder if anybody kicked
Did you see any of it, mate?'
Harry frowned a little in the cab driver's rear-view mirror, wishing he'd just
leave him to his own thoughts. The cab driver stared right back and didn't push
the issue, dragging his eyes away from Harry's emerald stare and placing them
firmly back on the road. The London traffic was doing its worst, the road ahead
hideously blocked by black cabs and buses, the heaving commuters occasionally
dashing between the bumpers as the cab driver drummed his fingers impatiently.
It appeared that he was easily distracted.
'Blimey, that's a nasty scrape you've got yourself there, son!' he said, his
eyes flicking up in the mirror to indicate he was talking about Harry's scar.
'How'd on earth you get that?'
'If I told you,' Harry said slowly, raising his head and staring hard in the
mirror, his green eyes flashing, 'you'd never believe me.'
'Oh yeah?' chuckled the driver, arching an eyebrow. 'Why's that then?'
But Harry didn't give him a chance to hear the reply. He calmly opened the
door to the cab, seeing the sign for the hospital just a few hundred feet up
the road. The cab driver looked at him, flabbergasted. 'This'll do me good,
'Oi! What about my fare?'
Harry had one foot on the pavement when he scrambled in his pocket and pulled
out a galleon. He chucked it to the now rather bemused cab driver, who shook
his head in astonishment as Harry stared at him expectantly. He held the coin
up to the light, frowning.
'And what in the whole of Kensington and Chelsea is this supposed to be?'
Harry slammed the door and leaned back in through the window. 'Gold. Solid
gold. I think you'd better go via the Treasury on the way to the taxi rank
And with that, Harry dashed off into the hoards of crowds heading up toward
the hospital before the cab driver could put in a word of protest. As the driver
pulled away, Harry could see him simply shake his head and put him down as a
lost fare. The golden Galleon lay forgotten about on the cab floor.
The big, black, grim-like dog now pounded the pavement of Magnolia Crescent
at such a rate that a passer-by would have sworn he was in a hurry. The beast
allowed his tongue to hang out lazily, taking great, panting breaths as his
run slowed to a plod, finally halting at the gate of number 25. He sat there
for a moment, staring at the door with an inquisitive look on his face, while
footsteps behind him grew louder and louder.
' heaved the owner of the footsteps as he finally came
to a stop by the monster's side. 'Are you trying to kill me? We're not sixteen
anymore, thank Merlin
The dog made some form of gesture with its mouth that indicated a form of mischievous
grin. He jumped up, somehow with his great blundering paws managed to open the
little swing gate and padded softy up to the front door. The dog's companion
seemed a little more apprehensive, walking up the path in slow, measured steps,
as if the meeting that lay ahead of them was tinged with impending dread.
'If I remember right, doesn't the lovely Arabella have a thing for cats?'
Padfoot nodded slyly. His companion looked somewhere between mirth and annoyance.
'And I suppose its oh-so-convenient that you can't turn up on her door step
in your human form as you're playing the mass murderer on the run card? Hmm?'
The man shook his head, a sly marauding smile spreading over his paled features
as he finally rang the doorbell. 'Some things never change
'And by Merlin some things do
' interrupted the voice of the woman who
opened the door. 'Remus! How are you, old boy? And what are you doing turning
up on my door step at this ridiculous hour?'
Remus Lupin grinned hugely as he finally embraced his dear friend. 'Arabella
Figg - long time no see, eh?'
'You've got that right!' the old lady grinned a grin so wide that it would
cross international date lines. She glanced down at the dog. 'Got yourself a
friend there, Remus?'
Padfoot sat up at the gesture, a little on edge. Remus noticed. 'Calm, boy,'
he said, patting the dog's head and receiving an annoyed growl in return. 'This
dog is part of the reason I'm here. How's the Muggle research going? I see you've
got yourself a nice little disguise here
'Oh?' the old lady guffawed. 'You mean the Granny act? Yeah, fools them all
And at this point, she passed a hand across her face, omitting a shower of
pink sparks as she did so, revealing her true face from behind the Persona charm.
It was as if her hand ironed out the wrinkles in the old lady's face, revealing
in its wake an expression that was so much more familiar to Remus Lupin and
his hound-like friend. The hair colour altered like a stream of water, going
from white to brown in one seamless swoop, the face ageing in reverse as the
teeth straightened and the colour in the eyes became more vibrant than ever,
going from misty grey to a deepening blue. As she finished, she sighed heavily.
'That looks much better,' said Remus with a grin. 'I can give you a proper
'Whoa!' cried Arabella, stepping back into the hallway of her perfectly ordinary
semi-detached house and beckoning Remus and the dog to follow. They shut the
door behind them. 'Don't even try it, mister. I've got your number. Up for a
cuppa?' She called from the kitchen
'Yeah, a nice herbal tea would be great
'And what about your canine companion?'
Remus took a nervous intake of breath. 'He likes his Butterbeer a little on
the warm side, if you remember rightly.'
He heard a clatter of broken china as Arabella looked at him, mouth wide in
shock and surprise at the uttering on these words. It was then that Sirius chose
to step into the light.
'We've got a bit of explaining to do.'
Claudia was suffering from writer's block again. Sitting in her conservatory
with the Braille Writer on her lap, she screwed her face up in deep thought,
attempting to extract the memory that had long ago been buried along with all
the other nonsense she'd spouted along the years. In her stranger moments, Claudia
always attempted to get her feelings down on paper. The little dots punched
into the thick parchment like material would be fed into the colossal piece
of machinery and used to form words of a language she would never be able to
visualise. This was the biggest hurdle her injury had thrown at her - realising
how much her world depended on the power of the written word. Whether it was
just an article she doodled on a post it note at work, or the full-blown novel
she knew would never be published, words had been her form of escapism. She
could be an entirely different entity behind them and finally release herself
from the dream world she existed in before she opened her eyes in the morning,
ready to face the reality.
For now, that dream world became her real world. She would open her eyes in
the morning, but would still be greeted with the same mist of non-existent colours
she'd bid goodnight to the evening before. There had been only a few significant
changes made to her lifestyle - the adaptation of documents at the busy London
office, more home working, and so on - but they were all aimed at making reality
accessible. Nevertheless, the ability to give in to her dream world and sit
in front of the Braille Writer, day in day out, at times became too much to
And when the dream world interrupted her reality, she knew of only one form
of redemption. Get it out of her system and onto the script. She raised her
fingers like a sword in front of her, her gaze remaining steady, emotionless,
and began to type.
A little boy sat on the edge of the bed, unblinking at the sight of the
fallen woman beside him. She sighed heavily, sensing his presence and reached
out her hand
She paused again, trying to recall the conversation that followed. It was those
hazy hours after the 'gas explosion' that tended to inspire her most. It almost
felt like her senses were in overdrive that day, compensating for the sudden
disappearance of her sight by over emphasising everything else. She remembered
the siren mostly. Despite being classed as walking wounded, she was still carefully
removed from the crater quite early on in the proceedings, the police taking
little notice of her defeated frame as the noisy ambulance carted her off to
Accident and Emergency. She remembered the thumping in her head as the ambulance
pounded the busy London streets, the flash that cost her vision so dearly replaying
in her subconscious as she brought a hand to her brow and moaned piteously with
the pain. Then the black that came with the silence as she slid into unexpected
unconsciousness. Apparently it had all got too much.
And that was where this conversation she was currently trying to put to paper
came from. She wasn't sure if it was real at all, or whether her brain had simply
picked it out of thin air to explain the hours of darkness that came after the
explosion and the weirdness that preceded it. She remembered being stirred by
a voice, young in its tones but with an underlying air of someone who had a
wealth of experience in the dark. It was a voice tinged with a form of sympathy
she had never had bestowed on her before or since. It almost understood. She
felt like she'd heard it a million times after, in her dreams and most recently
manifesting itself in that heart-wrenching scream that had pierced her soul
all the way back in June. It was so hard to remember when she wasn't sure whether
it was real. She'd lacked a concept of real ever since. Seeing at that time,
for her, had been believing.
What did the voice say? Why had it been so reassuring in those dark hours?
Was it simply another dream or part of a bigger illustration? Claudia ripped
the paper out of the Braille Writer in frustration, screamed and threw it across
the room until she heard it rebound off the glass panel of the conservatory.
What did this all mean? Why couldn't she just be normal and not go through the
actions of the day like a victim of the Gulf War Syndrome? And would she find
out before she lost any grip she might have still had on reality? She let her
head sink into her hands, feeling the occasional unseen wrinkle on her face
with her familiar fingertips, tracing the lines they made with an ever deepening
sense of gloom. She had a sense that things were changing. And that was something
she'd never be able to capture in words.
The hospital was in the midst of chaos. Harry walked silently in, totally unchallenged
by the small collection of Policemen who were talking to various witnesses.
These people, he noted, along with their cuts and bruises had on their faces
a look of dazed tranquillity. Some poor police Sergeant was trying to get a
name out of one man, who was relaying with starling confidence that he was the
one and only Father Christmas. Harry then noticed one uncomfortable-looking
individual slipping what looked suspiciously like a wand into the pocket
of his jacket. The Ministry Obliviators were on the job. Harry instantly pushed
his hair further down across his scar, feeling a little nervous as an Obliviator
slinked past, not giving the teenager a second glance as he stepped through
the double doors and toward the wards. He may have technically only been 15
months old, but Harry didn't want to take any chances. He removed a handkerchief
from his pocket, tapped it once with his wand and quietly transfigured it into
a cap to cover his trademark hair. There. Easy. Shoving it over his unruly
mop and tucking what was left behind his ears, he quickly glanced around before
following in the Obliviators footsteps. He was through the double doors and
into the ward before the head matron even looked up.
Harry wasn't a stranger to hospitals. Far from. Even growing up with the Dursleys,
his accident-prone mannerisms - not to mention the roughness of Dudley's 'play-fighting'
- had awarded him a rather interesting set of doctor's notes. Broken arms, nosebleeds,
a badly twisted ankle form the notorious school kitchen roof incident... the
list was endless. His time at Hogwarts had so far proved no different. He couldn't
recall a time when he hadn't spent a significant part of the summer term locked
up in the infirmary with some form of malady or other. If it wasn't Dementors
or Basilisks, there was always something or someone vying for his blood. But
there was something about the scene that lay before him that made his stomach
churn. He'd obviously stepped into some form of waiting area, as he saw a man
sitting in a chair, head hanging low in astonishment and grief as he gripped
the pathetic excuse for hospital coffee in a shaking hand. Harry lurked by the
door for a minute, feeling incredibly intrusive as the stranger sipped his drink
slowly, appearing to savour what little flavour the brown coloured liquid contained.
The man looked a little uncomfortable in his elderly jeans, shifting in his
seat as he set down his drink and returned his hands deep into his pockets.
His face remained staring at the floor as Harry attempted to pass him. He was
just feet away when the stranger let out a small but audible sob from the dark
recess of his throat, a sound that twisted a knot in Harry's' chest so tight,
he couldn't help but stop.
'Sir?' he asked tentatively, pausing at the man's side. He got no reaction.
'Are you all right? Do you want me to get you anything?'
At this the man looked up, his eyes revealed as a little red and puffy, as
if only today he had allowed the outpour of grief he'd been feeling for an eternity
to empty itself upon the cold, white-tiled floor. He gazed up at Harry for an
instant, before looking back at his feet.
'No, son, I'm all right, I'm
' then he paused, shivered almost, and looked
back up at Harry. His eyes were wide and suddenly alert, blue and seemingly
watery at whatever loss he had to face. But what the stranger next said shook
Harry beyond belief.
'Merlin's ghost!' he muttered, rubbing his eyes absently as if he was truly
losing his grip on reality. 'James? Is that you?'
Harry suddenly found breathing a very necessary body function, but one that
was impossible to carry out. He stepped back as if electrified. 'Erm, no, er,
sorry.' He managed to stutter, suddenly realising who he was addressing. 'You've
got me mixed up with someone else
'Yes, I suppose I did,' said Remus Lupin, who went back to staring at the floor
despondently. 'Sorry, it's just you bare a startling resemblance to a friend
of mine who recently - ' he closed his eyes to stop a fresh flood of tears.
' - Passed on.'
'I'm sorry,' Harry found himself saying, pulling up a pew next to his future
Hogwarts professor. 'Do you want to talk about it?'
Remus looked up, a little surprised, showing on his face a similar sort of
turmoil that was currently taking place in the back of Harry's mind. He knew
he was wasting time. He knew that someone, somewhere, within the Victorian walls
that made up the formidable hospital held all the answers to exactly what he
want to know. But right now, right in front of him, was someone who could answer
Remus sighed as he ran a weathered hand through his honey brown hair, yet to
be flicked with the smattering of grey Harry was more acquainted with. 'He died
about a week ago. And his wife. Best people in the world, I'd known them all
' he trailed off and picked up his coffee cup again. 'I don't know
why I'm telling you this
'It helps to talk,' Harry said instantly, not wishing to lose out on the opportunity
of gaining first hand memory. 'I may just be some random teenager, but I'm a
Remus looked at him, a little suspicious. Harry glazed absently at the coffee
cup Remus was once again gripping, not making eye contact so to prevent any
further revelations. Silence gripped them both as they lost themselves in their
individual thoughts, one blissfully unaware of the other's close connection.
Remus sighed again.
'James and Lily. They died in a
' Remus paused, mistaking Harry
for a Muggle, and cleared his throat. 'In a car accident. Head on smash. They
didn't have a chance. Left a little baby behind too, little Harry. He's not
even 18 months, bless him. He's got his mother's eyes.'
Harry became suddenly enthralled by his shoelaces. 'I'm sorry
' he managed
to muffle before needing to stop to prevent the trickle of his own tears. Remus
patted him gently on the back, smiling fondly to himself.
'Are you positive you're not James re-incarnated?' he said with a chuckle.
'Just like him, that was. Always apologising even if he'd had nothing to do
with it. But that's ignoring the fact that most of the time he did
trickled off into his own memory again, an odd trait in a person so young, but
he soon pulled himself back to reality.
'And then there's all this
'All what?' Harry said inquisitively, although he knew perfectly well what
was to be spoken.
'You must have heard that gas explosion, down near Covent Garden.' Harry nodded
sullenly. 'Another friend of mine - Peter - he was caught up in it. Hardly anything
of him left. Literally. One finger, I think they said.' At this, Remus choked.
'This has been one hell of a week
James, Lily, Peter
I haven't got anything left.'
As Remus bit down hard on his lip, the youthful look upon his weary face dissolving
in tears that should never have graced it. Harry rose, more determined
than ever. He removed his cap, ran a hand through his untidy black hair and
stared at Remus, resolute. Remus glanced up.
'Don't give up yet. Things are never what they seem. There's always something
out to surprise us, catch us out, shake our belief system to the ground and
seem to squash our very existence into nothing. But never believe that things
won't change. There are people out there who care about you, Professor Lupin.
There always will be. Don't lose the faith.'
Then Harry made the fastest of exits, swooping out of the chair and through
the double doors at the other end of the corridor before Remus could react.
Remus sat there for a full minute before what the strange boy had said sunk
in. In that most hazy of moments, it seemed to make sense. Later, when Remus
would recall the meeting that at times became lost in the midst of chaos and
grief that forever marred the late autumn of that fateful year, he acknowledged
the boy as his voice of reason. The resemblance to James. The fact he somehow
knew his name - and why exactly did he call him Professor? Did he know something
he didn't? And then there were those piercing green eyes that had the
ability to expose a soul for all it was worth and wrap it back up in a golden
thread. If he hadn't already felt like insanity was settling in, he would have
sworn the boy was a Potter, some form of guardian angel sent down from above
to knock some sense into him. He downed the remnants of his God-awful coffee,
shook the encounter to the back of his mind and grabbed his coat to face the
brunt of London's on-coming chill.
Harry felt as if he'd been at the hospital for hours, absently searching the
wards for recent intake of casualties who may have been the one he was
looking for. He was amazed by how unfazed the nurses were by his presence, some
simply staring right though him as if he didn't exist. Harry figured there must
have been more to this little jaunt of time travel than he had first banked
on. Whoever had put the charm on that hourglass did a pretty fine job.
He'd lost count of how many people he had spoken to, but he was hedging his
bets that he'd examined every avenue contained in the corridors of Charing Cross
hospital. He'd be lucky to find another victim of the explosion that was functioning
effectively enough to tell the difference between a dog and a rat.
Harry wandered up to one last room, darker than the others, and peered through
the glass. He pressed his nose right up against the surface as he looked in,
cooling his scar on the frosted glass as he observed a young woman curled up
tightly in a ball with her back to the window. She wasn't moving - Harry could
only just make out her shoulders gently falling with each breath, each one slightly
out of sync with the previous. She was crying. Her hair, luxurious mahogany
curls, was crawling across the pillow like a sea of spiders and beginning to
tangle, like a well groomed beauty gone to seed overnight. Harry was captivated
for an instant by this wild form, like an animal kept in a zoo feeling restrained
by whatever injury had been bestowed upon her. Harry shook his head sadly.
He was about to back away when the ward sister caught up with him, gently tapping
him on the shoulder as he finally drew away his gaze. 'You can go talk to her,
if you like.' She smiled, obviously mistaking Harry for a friend or relative.
He looked at her, eyebrows raised in a figure of disbelief as she nodded reassuringly
and then stalked off toward the nurse's station. Harry turned to look through
the window again. The woman hadn't moved, but her breathing had become a little
more regular. Taking the deepest of breaths, he pushed against the door and
Harry could've sworn that the hideous smell of anti-septic that formed the
main scent of a hospital was more poignant in this room. Harry's stomach churned
for the umpteenth time that day as he finally released his breath, satisfied
that no one was going to stop him as he perched quietly at the woman's beside.
He leant back against the plastic covers and stared on, thinking, and allowed
the darkness to engulf and calm him after the chaos of the day.
After a while, he stood up, paced to the end of the bed, and began to flick
through the doctor's notes. Typically written in an untidy scrawl that was worse
that Ron's, he couldn't make out a word in the moonlight the room had descended
into. Apprehensively, he returned to his seat at the near side of the bed and
leaned over to flick on the light. The bulb glowed ominously, the light that
flooded from it illuminating the room immensely, but failing to stir its now
dozing occupant. Harry frowned a little at the lack of her reaction, but soon
turned his attention to her notes.
'Claudia Darlington,' he whispered out loud, quietly as if any unwelcome noise
would expel all peace and tranquillity that seemed to exist in this room alone.
'Age: 25. Accelerated macular degeneration caused by
' Then he paused,
frowning further at the notes but not because they scrawl had become illegible.
'Entities unknown. Patient complains of burning pain behind eyes due to light
over-exposure. Vision response zero. Recommended over-night supervision and
pain immobilisers. Admission date and time, 2/11/81, 11:30 am.' And in brackets,
quietly noted in the corner of the admission slip, were the words 'Covent Garden
Harry gulped. This was it. Victim number thirty-six. The one the Ministry failed
to account for. Yet despite the answers to his queries lying right there in
front if him, he could not compel himself to disturb her slumber. If she really
hadn't been memory charmed, then the pure bafflement that would be dominating
her mind must have been soul crushing. Magic for Muggles was an element of fiction,
used to manipulate the mind into wonderful tales of fantasy that enthralled
their imaginations into wishing it were real. And to only be introduced to the
darker end of the tale would be enough to disturb even the most steady of rocks.
Suddenly, the woman, Claudia, stirred a little and rolled over onto her back,
facing the ceiling with a blank expression on her face. Harry gasped. Her face
lacked any form of colour at all, cast in a shade of ghastly white compared
to what it may have held the previous morning. Bandages had been cruelly taped
across her eyes, its their holdings wrapped tightly around her head pushing
the skin back against her skull, leaving a little indentation where the dressing
had slipped. He couldn't tell whether she was asleep or awake, her restraints
unfairly destroying her right to show her level of consciousness.
'Hello?' she whispered suddenly into the darkened air, timidly as if she was
a stranger to the sound of her own voice. 'Is there someone there? I can feel
'Yes,' Harry found himself saying, pulling his chair closer to her bed. 'Hey
Claudia smiled, a little amused. 'I haven't got the faintest who you are.'
'That's not important right now,' said Harry, suddenly feeling compelled to
take hold of her hand and give it a reassuring squeeze. He could feel the magic
in her, and he was sure she could do the same. He paused for a moment. 'Can
He felt Claudia rub his hand between her fingers, each nail delicately painted
red but interspersed with dust and debris. He allowed her hand to move slowly
up the sleeve of his shirt, and didn't even wince as she began to feel the features
of his face. The expression on her own face was hard to read: Slightly dazed
but ever so intrigued by what Harry was offering her as her hand continued to
wander. She traced his chin line, beginning to square with his on-going maturity,
and he felt the natural progression as the finger arched past his ear and settled
over his scar. There she paused; her finger lingering for an instant before
she suddenly yanked it away as if it were burning.
you're one of them,' she spat out nervously. Harry sensed
her tightening up.
'What do you mean Claudia,' he said in reply. 'One of them?'
'One of them
like the men in the quad. I can feel it.'
'Can you tell me their names?'
Harry knew he was pushing it. But there was a sudden sense of desperation that
had attached itself to his heart, bullying him to ask the questions necessary
for the cause.
'Sirius,' she said, as confidently as she would state her own name. Harry felt
his heart sink. Did she believe he did it? Had she not seen anything? But then
'He didn't do it.'
'Do what?' Harry whispered, barely able to believe it.
'He didn't blow up the quad. There was another man there. Small. Round. Rat-like.'
She paused and shuddered involuntarily. 'He did it. Sirius is innocent.'
Harry breathed a huge sigh of relief, the nerves that had been building up
inside him flowing out with the tide. But he knew that wouldn't be enough to
convince the jury. He had to get the full picture in all its illustrated glory.
He gulped again.
'Claudia, could you tell me what happened?'
She paused herself, and turned to face him in the dark. In the half-light of
the lamp she looked like a formidable force, someone who, in full capacity of
their abilities, you would never dare to cross. The contrast of her hair with
her rapidly paling face made her look increasingly powerful. And with the information
she was holding, Harry thought she knew it.
'Why should I tell you?' she suddenly snapped, a flash of anger passing across
her frowned expression. 'You're just a little boy. You don't know anything.
You don't even know me.' She suddenly sat up, agitated, and started fumbling
around in the dark. 'I'm going to call one of the nurses and
But Harry was too quick for her. As she reached out for the call button, he
grabbed her arm in a vice-like grip and tightened his hold with cold fingers.
She turned and gave him an ice like stare as she used her other hand to trace
his scar again.
'You want to know why?' Harry said, his voice more bitter than he'd ever felt
it. He didn't know where the words were coming from, but he was so desperate
he needed to shock. 'You want to know why I want to catch my parent's killer?'
She froze at this statement, and lowered her arm from its position poised to
summon help. He instantly released her, the offending limb falling to the bed
as if robbed of all energy and emotion. Harry could feel her eyes upon him,
defeating that sensual boundary the spell had created and demanding answers
just as he was. He sat back in the chair again and sighed.
'The rounded man in the quad,' he said slowly, 'was responsible for the death
of my parents. He betrayed them. They were murdered on his information. His
name is Peter Pettigrew.'
The thoughts were going round and round in Claudia's head, as Harry was able
to make out a dawning of a possibility on her weary face. She then spoke hoarsely.
' she stuttered, 'Lily and James?'
Harry hung his head, letting the silence do the talking. She began to whisper
to herself, muttering ideas over and over out loud, but barely audible to Harry's
straining ears. She suddenly sat up defiantly, ready to talk. Harry gazed at
her expectantly as she spoke.
'I was sitting in the quad. There was a dog, a big, black, soppy beast.
He seemed to be watching for something. And then when I turned away the dog
wasn't there.' She breathed heavily, thinking hard, back past the blaze of blinding
light to retrieve the last of her visual memories. 'There was a man instead
- tall, dark, pale eyes - he knew what he was doing. He'd spotted the round-faced
man - Pettigrew, did you say? - on the other side of the quad. I saw them having
words. The dark haired man was angry, so, so angry
' Harry could sense
by the state of her voice that tears were screaming to escape her. But
they were shut away behind the bandages, restrained by the material she now
clawed at frantically with her curled up fingers. She moaned quietly in frustration.
'Here,' said Harry softly, leaning forward to undo the clasp at the side of
her head. He unwound the dressing slowly, agonisingly, until all that remained
were the pads concealing her eyes. He reached up to peel them off, but she batted
his hand away as she reached to do it herself. Harry could make out what looked
like burns across her eyelids and under her lower lashes, although she kept
them closed and screwed up in a kind of self imposed agony for the rest of the
tragic tale. She held the bandages in her hands.
'I can sense his emotions even now, like nothing I'd ever felt before. He felt
upset more than anything else. He had his own grief to deal with, and this was
his chosen method. He was vengeful. But he never got his wish. The round man
was unusually devious. He pushed Sirius away from him, stumbled into the middle
of the crossroads, and started accusing him. Screaming like a mad man. He hadn't
even been provoked. He wailed 'Lily and James, Sirius! How could you!' but then
behind his back, he had this stick, long, black, polished with white tips. He
muttered something in Latin - I didn't understand it. And all I can remember
after that is the light. The light, the burning, the
' she looked down
in her lap for a moment, and appeared to be concentrating deeply, her head almost
shaking with the effort. Harry could make out her eyelids flickering in the
darkened gloom of the room, as if each had their own stupendous weight to hold.
But then she looked up.
Harry wouldn't have been able to say anything, even if he wanted to. Claudia's
eyes were wide open now, and were the most mystical sight he'd ever encountered.
All colour was now absent from the irises, which had sunken into the snowy white
of the rest of the eye, ice-like but trapped within by her long, dark lashes.
They were piercing and emotionless, like never ending glaciers of ice winding
their way across her gaze, ever to block it with the fading of the colour. They
were tragically beautiful. However, she looked as if she would faint with the
effort of keeping them open, so Harry quietly picked up the pads from her open
hands and covered them up again. He began to wind the bandage back round her
head and was not met with a single protest. It was as if the effort of telling
the tale had drained Claudia of the power of speech. Finishing the length and
fastening it with a flourish, he gently lowered her back down into the bed and
stood back for a moment, just watching her silent form. Her breathing was steady
now, sleepy even. She'd played her role, for now.
' he whispered. He quietly slipped the front page of the doctor's
notes into the pocket of his jacket and was just about to open the door
when she spoke again.
'What were they?' she muttered through the darkness before unconsciousness
enveloped her again. 'What are you? Wands and spells and transformations
Harry wandered slowly over to the bed and took her hand again. 'You'll
find out in due course, Claudia,' he whispered. 'And then you'll be in the middle
of it. Magic has its way of coming through to you. I'm magic, they are magic.
You too are magic in your own way. Enjoy your ignorance - there's going to be
a real battle ahead, and you'll need all the energy you have to get through
And then he was gone.
Years afterwards, it was widely acknowledged that Claudia could recall very
little in the hours after the accident. She reported being vaguely aware of
having a visitor, a young boy with reassuring words, yet hinting at the fact
that more was still to come. And - she mentioned this to no one - she never
really understood how she came into the possession of a long black rod of wood.
It was there at her beside when she first came into the hospital, which for
now she rolled over and clutched unknowingly in her sleep. She was unaware of
the power it held within. It just became something that was always there.
Arabella calmed down tremendously once she had a large scotch in her hand.
Listening to Sirius' tale, she absently swirled the golden liquid around
in her glass, letting it glide gently across the ice melting it in the process,
which Remus secretly thought to himself as being a complete waste of a quality
tonic. Sirius had spoken at great length before silence engulfed him,
the legend spun, and she downed her drink in one inelegant gulp.
'You expect me to believe this little fantasy, do you?' she said quietly, raising
one eyebrow out of the suspicion that she had a convicted murderer now sprawled
across her flower patterned settee. She stood up and put her drink to rest on
the side table. 'After all these years, you come waltzing back in here without
a care in the world like One Man and his Dog and expect me to welcome
you with arms wide open? Do you?'
Sirius hung his head low like a naughty schoolboy, while Remus looked at her,
mouth slightly agape. 'What are you saying, Arabella? You don't believe us?'
'What I'm saying
' she said sharply, striding over to the cabinet, removing
a piece of parchment and pouring a few more drinks. 'Is that it's damn lucky
I received this notification from Dumbledore the other day, which confirms what
you've just recalled word for word.' She held the incriminating document aloft,
smirking. 'It was nice to see you squirm though.'
'Why you little
' flushed Remus, colour actually creeping into his face
as Sirius doubled over laughing. He couldn't help but join in. 'Always the wind
up merchant, aren't you?'
'Hey, it keeps me sane
' she replied, screwing the lid back on the Scotch
bottle and handing a glass to Remus. 'Here, looks like you're in more need of
it than me.'
Remus smiled and accepted the glass gratefully, finally sitting back and relaxing
a little. The three friends sat in silence, each indulging in their own thoughts
of the tale passed before them. It was obvious Arabella wasn't used to being
out of persona, and the toll the spell had taken was apparent. Wrinkles remained
in her hands, still a little shaky like a woman twice her age as she continued
to grip her glass and sigh heavily. Then the thought occurred that they had
all aged, in some way or other. Sirius looked ready to fall asleep right there
among the home-knitted settee throws. His face had regained much of the shape
lost in his years at Azkaban but the haunted look still remained. It chilled
Remus to look at him sometimes, especially in moments of rage or doubt, when
the emotionless existence he occupied in his prison took over his face like
a shadow of a darker past. This image wasn't helped by the fact that he continued
to wear his hair in its longer state, a little scrappy round the ears like some
sort of loveable rogue, which Remus supposed was the look that Sirius was after.
However, the reassuring twinkle of the marauder of his youth still lingered
in his sunken eyes, taking every opportunity to rear its ugly head. And it wasn't
as if the years hadn't beaten Remus down at all - quite the contrary. His light
brown locks had been edged with silver for a while now, the monthly insomnia
being non-negotiable and having even more impact in his middle age. He was fully
aware of the gaunt expression he wore and the reaction it received, often sympathetic,
as if he was in a constant state of mourning. That wasn't exactly the case.
He was merely holding on tight to all he had left.
'So, Dumbledore wants to get the Secret Seven back into action, does he?' said
Arabella, breaking the silence.
'You always had a way with words, didn't you Babs?' smirked Sirius, ducking
to avoid the cushion she now banished in his general direction.
'I wasn't good at charms for nothing!' she muttered before Remus could get
to the point.
'I think our dear old Headmaster has decided it's ripe to resurrect the Order,
considering current events...' he said officially, finishing his drink with
a professional air.
'Ah yes, dear Harry,' she said, looking down at her delicately clad feet.
'How's he holding up?' asked Remus.
'I'm honestly not sure,' said Arabella regretfully. 'You know how hard it was
for me to negotiate my way in there to begin with? It's just so lucky this post
with the Ministry came up at the same time.'
'Sorry Babs,' interrupted Sirius, curiosity plastered all over his face, 'please
remind this old dog exactly what you're doing dressed as a 1930's reject?'
She smiled in reply. 'Muggle observing. Examine the latest trends, what's hot
and what's not, you know, keeping tabs on things from a civilian point of view
As an old biddy?'
'I pulled the short straw. It's fascinating stuff. Beats any lecture from Professor
Stafford hands down. Anyway,' she returned to addressing the original inquiry,
'it meant I could keep an eye on Harry, but it was horrible, I'll tell you that.
I couldn't tell him anything because of his stupid guardians - they're the biggest
pair of Muggles this side of the Atlantic and would have burned me at the stake
if they really knew the deal. Since Harry started at Hogwarts, they've been
shutting him up like the family secret. He's lucky to see the light of day sometimes.
Occasionally he's over but I haven't wanted to blow my cover. Nearly came unstuck
the other day though
' she continued, going off on a tangent. 'Petunia
had left him with me when she was going up to the craft shop to get some material
to make Dudley's knickerbockers when I got that owl from Dumbledore. I had to
shut the poor beast up in the central heating cupboard until he went home. Just
told the boy that the boiler was on the brink.'
'You know,' said Remus slowly, 'he'll find out sooner or later.'
'But if I'm going back to help out Dumbledore, that simply won't be an issue,'
she said, a sly grin edging over her features. 'Old Mrs Figg can have a little
'Oh now Arabella, that's just plain nasty
She grinned as Remus and Sirius rolled their eyes. For a moment, they could
have been back in the Gryffindor common room, sipping at a stolen supply of
Butterbeer got with a little help from Prongs and the gang, the fire gently
lilting in the corner as they let the end of the day wash over them. However
with every action and word there were horrible reminders of those missing from
their number. Remus smiled grimly to himself just as the shrill ring of the
telephone brought them all back to reality.
'Excuse me a sec,' said Arabella over its scream, ignoring the fact that the
sound had made Remus jump right out of his skin and Sirius almost fall onto
the floor in mirth. She was back almost instantly.
'Well, that was short and sweet,' said Sirius, beginning to smile. But that
expression soon faded when he was met with the rare appearance of a serious
look from Arabella.
'What's wrong?' whispered Remus.
'That was Petunia on the phone,' she replied quietly. 'It's Harry. He's gone