Disclaimer: Not the Rowling, not the Kanzaka.
Apparently FFN no longer lets you put two exclamation marks in a row. I am getting really annoyed with their fascistic text screening.
So far the butterfly effects from Harry leaving home have been fairly minor — mainly Augusta Longbottom getting Neville to the station early — but they’re starting to get more obvious...
Previous chapters required a lot of thought and rewrites, but this one just rolled out in a oner. The next one probably won’t be as quick.
Loads more follows, favourites and reviews! Thanks everyone!
“Hello.” : voice.
“Hello.” : voice over phone, radio, TV...
‹Hello.› : thought.
Hello. : spellcasting, or other invocations of power.
GONE! Secrecy broken, an opportunity missed!
“Mistress Lina! Wake up, Mistress Lina!”
Lina mumbled to herself, then sat up. “Mandy? Is something wrong?” She checked the curtains to make sure they were completely closed.
“No, Mistress,” whispered Mandy, “but I’ve found out a couple of things that shouldn’t be written down just yet. Is Master Harry awake?”
“Um... yes. Better if he takes over...”
“Hi Mandy,” said Harry, giving the house elf a hug. “What’s up?”
“I got an early morning owl from Account Manager Bonehewer’s contact in the Ministry Records Office. He’s managed to put together all the paperwork to do with your godfather’s arrest and imprisonment. There is definitely no record of any formal questioning or trial, and no time between his arrest and his transfer to Azkaban for much questioning either.”
Harry’s face darkened. “Who sent him there?”
“Bartemius Crouch, Master. Head of the DMLE at the time.”
“All right,” said Harry. “There is definitely something fishy going on here. The entire story about his arrest sounds wrong, and now this... what should we do, Mandy?”
“I think this might be a good opportunity for Madam Umbridge to show her loyalty to Mistress Lina,” said Mandy with a smirk. “Such a stickler for pure-blood rights won’t be happy about a member of a Noble and Most Ancient House being imprisoned without trial.”
“But she’ll need to tell her in person... All right. Wait here for a moment please, Mandy.”
Harry hopped out of his bed, to see that Muon had decided to join them during the night. “Hey girl,” he said quietly, going over to her perch and giving her head a scratch. “How’s things?” Muon rubbed against his hand affectionately. “We decided to have an explore around the lake later today, do you want to come?” Muon bobbed her head a couple of times. Harry checked her water and treat bowls. “Looks like you’ll be all right for a bit; shall we meet up here after breakfast?” Bob, bob. “All right. I just need to nip out for a little while; don’t worry about me.” Harry scratched her head again, then went over to Neville’s bed. “Bro,” he said, quietly, “are you awake?”
“Mrph. Sort of,” mumbled Neville, then pulled the curtains open slightly. “Isn’t it a bit early?”
“Yeah, sorry,” said Harry. “Look, I need you to cover for me. Don’t let anyone try to wake me up. Tell Ron and Hermione I’m having a lie in or something. I shouldn’t be too long, and I promise I’ll explain when I get back.”
“All right,” said Neville, then vanished back into his bed again.
Harry started back to his own bed. “See you later girl,” he said, giving Muon a wave, then noticed Scabbers poking his nose out of Ron’s curtains. Mimicking Lina’s habit, he winked at the rat and put his finger over his lips in a ‘ssh’ gesture, then climbed through his own curtains.
“All right Mandy, let’s go see about getting Sirius a trial.”
Dolores Umbridge was not pleased to be knocked up so early on a Saturday morning, but she nevertheless led her Head of House in to a sitting room — ignoring her aide, but at least not complaining when she followed, nor commenting on the very fetching dark blue frock coat and breeches outfit she was sporting. Lina instantly hated the overly-cute kitten-themed decor, especially since there didn’t seem to be any living examples in the place.
“What can I do for you, my lady?” said Dolores. “Would you care for something to eat? Some tea perhaps?”
“No thank you, Dolores,” said Lina, in her best ‘airs and graces for self-important gits’ voice. “I am somewhat pressed for time today.” She leaned forward in her chair slightly. “I understand that you are a... passionate supporter of the rights of pure-blooded wizards and witches?”
“Of course,” said Dolores, simpering slightly. “It is only right that the best should have the best, after all.”
“So, I assume that if a pure-blooded wizard — the Lord of a Noble and Most Ancient house, no less — were to be imprisoned in Azkaban without trial or even proper questioning, you would agree that their rights had been most horribly violated?”
Dolores looked shocked. “That would be utterly dreadful,” she gasped. “Surely such a thing has not happened?”
“Unfortunately, it has,” said Lina, gesturing to Mandy, who came forward and presented a very slim bundle of parchment to Dolores.
“These are official Ministry documents!” started Dolores. “How—”
“Those are copies of official Ministry documents, Dolores,” said Lina sternly. “As for ‘how’... I have my sources. However...” and she gestured to the bundle.
Dolores glanced over them. “Sirius Black? But he—”
“—was the heir apparent to a Noble and Most Ancient house, and yet...?” Lina gave Dolores a stern glare.
“...indeed,” said Dolores, reading further. “It would appear that there was a definite miscarriage of justice.” She glanced up at Lina, a sly look on her face. “I’m not sure that it would be in the Ministry’s best interests to draw attention to such a thing...”
Lina’s face hardened further. “I’m sure that if the Minister were to be seen correcting the terrible mistake of the previous administration, any possible attention would be most favourable.” She gave Dolores a knowing look. “And if the investigation caused a high position in the Ministry to become vacant, I’m sure a politically astute person such as yourself would be able to make the most of it.”
Dolores looked closer at the document, and her eyes lit up when she spotted the names of those involved. “The current Minister was present at the arrest, but not in a position to affect the outcome. How regrettable, that only now does he feel secure enough to take action against his former superiors’ conspiracy...”
“Regrettable indeed,” said Lina. “I will leave this matter in your capable hands, Dolores. I look forward to reading all about Lord Black’s trial in the very near future.” She smiled, pushed her magic into her voice, and added, “See to it that no further ‘miscarriages of justice’ occur.”
Dolores gulped and said, “Of course, my lady.”
Lina smiled again. “I must be off now, Dolores. Thank you for your time.”
“No, thank you,” simpered Dolores, and ushered Lina and Mandy back out of her house, swapping sneers with the house elf on the way.
“Blech!” said Lina as they got to the road. “Do I have time for a bath? Dealing with that simpering toad makes my skin itch.”
“You did very well, Mistress Lina,” said Mandy with a grin. “But I believe Master Harry’s friends will be wondering where he’s got to.”
“I suppose so,” said Lina.
Back in control and in his bed, Harry congratulated Lina on a ‘wicked’ performance, gave Mandy a goodbye hug, then got up and dressed. Other than Muon and Scabbers, the dorm was empty, so after giving his owl a bit of attention, he headed out in the hope of catching the end of breakfast.
Half way down the main stairs he suddenly found himself bracketed by a matched pair of Weasleys.
“May we have”
“a quick word”
The twins steered him into the deserted fourth-floor corridor.
“What do you two want?” said Harry, exasperated. “I’m trying to get to breakfast here.”
“Oh? We thought”
“you may have”
“eaten out today.”
Harry affected confusion. “What? Seriously, I had a bit of a lie in, and unless I get down to the hall now, I’ll need to wait ‘til lunch. Do you mind?” He started to leave, but the twins caught his arms again.
“Now now young”
“Harry, you can’t”
“pull the wool”
“over our eyes.”
“you’ll be saying”
“that the name”
“to you either?”
Harry broke their grips and turned to glare at them. “Where did you hear that name?”
“We all have”
“our little secrets”
“tell us yours,”
“and we might”
Harry thought for a moment. “All right. I’m sure you have some awful threat to hold over me if I don’t tell; don’t bother with it. However, I promised Neville I’d tell him about this eventually. I’m not going to let you clowns in on the secret before my godbrother — or my friends for that matter — so let’s go get them, and then we can take a walk somewhere private.”
The twins mirrored each other gesturing to the stairs, then fell in behind Harry as he resumed his journey to the Great Hall.
By the time they got there, the food had been cleared away and most of the students had dispersed. Neville, Hermione, and Ron were sitting together at the end of the Gryffindor table, watching the door. When Harry appeared they got up and came over to him.
“You’re a bit late,” said Ron.
“Yeah, sorry about that. I... well, do you still want to go see the lake?” Hermione and Neville nodded; Ron grunted ambivalently. “All right, let’s go.”
“We saved you some breakfast,” said Neville, holding out a sausage sandwich. Hermione handed Harry one as well, this one bacon.
“Thanks guys,” said Harry, trying to ignore the way that Ron’s eyes tracked the food.
Ron recovered and turned to his brothers. “What are you pair doing?”
“to show us all.”
The other three looked at Harry, who just gestured to the doors.
Once outside, Harry stopped suddenly. “Drat. I promised Muon I’d get her from the dorm.” He looked at the twins. “I don’t suppose...?”
“Not a chance,”
“Don’t worry Harry,” said Hermione, pointing to the Gryffindor tower. “She’s on her way.”
Muon floated down from the dorm window and landed on Harry’s shoulder. “Clever girl,” he murmured as she rubbed her head against his. “All right, shall we?”
Harry ate his breakfast as they walked down to the lochside, then they went around the shore for a while, occasionally chatting about this and that but mostly just enjoying the view in silence (or trying to ignore Ron’s grumbles about the distance, at least). Once they were well out of sight of the castle, and had seen no-one for several minutes, Harry stopped turned to his friends.
“All right. Neville, when we first met I mentioned that I had found someone to look after me, and that I would tell you more about it later?” Neville nodded. “And all three of you know that I... discovered magic by myself, but not the magic you’re used to?” The three nodded. Harry stopped, thought for a moment, rubbed his eyes, then went on with a sigh, “It’s really difficult to work out the best order to tell this in. I’ll get back to that, but first... this morning I got some very important news, and I asked Neville to keep anyone from disturbing me.”
Ron nodded. “Yeah, he said you were having a lie-in.”
“Yes, well... because of that news, I had to... nip out and arrange something. Mandy — she’s the house elf I told you about, Neville.” Hermione started to speak, but Harry quickly added, “I’ll tell you all about house elves later, Hermione; this is more important.” Hermione gave him a ‘you’d better’ look; Harry went on, “Anyway, she’s basically my... assistant? She delivered the news to me this morning, then popped me away to deal with it. Somehow, Fred and George noticed that I had left the castle, and were very insistent that I tell them about it.”
“I’m sure that there’s no point in mentioning that it’s against the rules for us to leave Hogwarts without permission,” said Hermione, “but I thought that it was impossible to Apparate through the wards? I assume you didn’t just walk out.”
“House elves don’t travel the same way,” said Harry. “Anyway... how many of you have heard of Sirius Black?”
Hermione had to think for a moment, but the others reacted immediately with various exclamations of disgust. Harry nodded. “Yeah... did you know he’s my godfather? And that he was thrown into Azkaban without a trial, or even being questioned properly?”
Hermione and Neville looked shocked, but Ron just shrugged. “Serves him right. Traitorous Death Eater scum.”
“Well, that’s the thing,” said Harry. “There’s no evidence, no proper confession, no nothing...”
“Yeah, but everyone knows he did it—” started Ron.
“You don’t throw someone in jail just because ‘everyone knows’, Ron,” said Hermione, then turned to Harry. “I take it you were away arranging for him to get a trial?”
“Well... that’s the other thing I need to tell you all. I mentioned my guardian... it’s actually her that needed to deal with it.”
“So why did you have to go?” said Hermione.
“Because...” Flustered, Harry ran his fingers through his hair and looked around wildly for a moment. Regaining her balance, Muon batted him behind the head with a wing, then flapped over to perch on a nearby rock. “Sorry girl,” said Harry, then turned to the others again as Lina sent him wave after wave of comforting support. “All right, story time. I’m not going to go into details but... let’s just say that my home life wasn’t very nice. I found out about this different magic that I use when I was eight years old, and practised it in secret; that made my life a bit better, but... well, my aunt and uncle still...”
Hermione came over and put her hand on his shoulder. “It’s all right Harry, you don’t have to tell us.” Neville gave him a small supportive smile.
Harry nodded jerkily. “Anyway, one day my aunt was particularly angry, and I was really angry in return, and... something happened. I— I—”
Hermione jumped back in surprise as Lina took over. “So I popped out, and gave her what for.” She grinned at the twins. “Hello boys. I know I’m gorgeous and all, but I’ve never come across anyone quite so desperate to meet me as you two.”
Fred and George grinned back.
Ron’s mouth dropped open.
Hermione stared and said, “Harry?” in a small voice.
Neville stared for a moment as well, then went white and started shaking, tears brimming in his eyes. Lina moved over to him, putting her hands on his shoulders. “I’m not Lily Potter. Shit, I should have thought of this. You’ve seen pictures of her?” Neville nodded, not taking his eyes off her. “I know I look like her; it’s probably Harry’s influence, but I’m not Lily. I’m sorry.” She pulled Neville into a hug, holding him there as she explained, “Harry was reading a story about a beautiful red-haired sorceress. Of course he though she was absolutely brilliant; who wouldn’t? One night, when his aunt and uncle were being particularly awful, he tried one of the spells from the book, without really expecting anything, but it worked, so he started learning them. Then earlier this year, when they were again being particularly awful, something in his magic reacted, and created someone who would look out for him; someone who would love him and take care of him from then on. Me.”
She released Neville from the hug, but held him by the shoulders at arm’s length and looked him straight in the eye. “I’m Lina Inverse. I’m Harry’s big sister, which is why I look like your godmother. I could be your big sister too, if you want.”
Neville nodded and allowed Lina to pull him into a hug again. Hermione caught her eye over his shoulder, obviously needing more information. Lina grinned at her. “The goblins say it’s neither an animagus transformation nor a metamorphmagus one, but has elements of both. Their magic considers me to be a separate person from Harry — as does whatever the twins used to discover me, apparently. One of the goblins said something about ‘magically actualised stress-induced split personality disorder’, does that make sense to you?”
Hermione nodded. She was obviously about to explode in a shower of questions, but Lina went on, “Good, because I have no idea. Basically, I’m not Harry, he’s not me, we both have our own bodies but only one of us can actually be ‘here’ at a time. The other one is sometimes asleep, but is usually watching from the back of the mind — like Harry is now.”
“Hang on,” said Ron. “So you’ve been watching us when we’ve been getting changed and stuff?”
“Yes Ron,” smirked Lina, “avidly.” When Ron started to blush pillar-box red, Lina laughed. “Seriously, no. If I was watching you, it would mean Harry was, and trust me, he has no desire to ogle you.”
“That’s all right then,” said Ron.
“You’re okay with this?” said Hermione, surprised.
“Well, yeah. Look.” He turned to Muon. “Is she for real?” Bob, bob. “Is she Harry?” Strangled »prek«, rapid head-shake. “Is she a problem?” Muon looked at Lina, yawned mightily, and turned away. “See? The owl trusts her. Apparently not that fond of her, but if she was a danger, Muon would have been all over her. Are you okay with it though?”
“She gave me a perfectly logical explanation,” said Hermione faintly. “How about you, Neville?”
There was a loud sniff, then Neville’s tear-stained face turned to her. “Hugging my big sister here. Does that answer your question?”
“Remember how I said Harry was watching?” said Lina to Hermione. “He’s currently worried that one of his friends isn’t going to be able to handle this.”
“Oh!” said Hermione. “Harry, no. It’s... certainly different, and I have a lot of questions, but you’re still my friend, honestly.” She paused. “Is... is he all right now?”
“He’s fine, thanks,” said Lina with a smile. “Now, Neville... could you let go for a bit?” Blushing, Neville let go of Lina, sniffed again, and wiped his eyes with his robe sleeve. “Thanks. Big Sis is going to show you something fun.” She turned to the twins. “Gentlemen. You are going to keep this little revelation secret, aren’t you?”
The twins looked at each other, then back at Lina, grinning.
Lina smirked back at them. “See that rock over there?” She pointed at a boulder the size of a small car, about forty metres from them. The twins nodded. Lina made a show of loosening her shoulders, cleared her throat, raised her arms, and cast.
“Wind, crimson flame. Grant the power of thunder to my hand! DIGU VOLT!” A massive spear of lightning sprang from her hand and struck the rock, blasting chunks off it. Lina grinned at her audience over her shoulder, then turned back to her target. “Flare Arrow! Freeze Arrow! Fireball! Dug Wave! Dam Brass!” Flaming missiles shot at the rock, followed by darts of ice. A blast of fire bathed it, it was flung into the air by a massive explosion of the ground underneath it, then finally it shattered into tiny fragments under the intense vibrations of the final spell.
Lina turned back to the twins as rock fragments pelted the ground only metres away. “I mean, we’re all friends here, right?”
The twins looked at each other again, then back at Lina, and said in chorus, “Friends? Sure, no problem. Best buddies. Your secret’s safe with us!”
Lina gave a tinkling laugh. “You’re all right, boys. Now, I’ve shown you mine; are you going to show us yours?”
One of the twins looked at the other, who nodded. The first pulled out a large roll of parchment from within his robes, and spread it out. Everyone clustered round.
“we are proud”
“The Marauder’s Map!”
Both twins touched the map with their wands, and chorused, “I solemnly swear I am up to no good.”
The others made various noises of interest and awe as the formerly blank parchment filled in with a map of the entire castle and its grounds. A multitude of dots, each labelled with a name, moved around the corridors and rooms.
“Look,” said one of the twins. “There we are.”
They craned their necks to look at a spot on the lochside far out from the castle. The dots revealed that indeed it was Lina Inverse that was standing there, and that the twin that had spoken was George.
“Hang on,” said Lina, and let Harry take over. The dot changed its name immediately.
“Cor,” said Ron.
Hermione ignored the map and clamped her arms around Harry, burying her nose in his shoulder. “I’m sorry I worried you.”
“It’s all right,” said Harry, patting her back awkwardly.
She gave him a final squeeze, then released him and turned to the twins. “So how does it work? How did you make it? Can you zoom in or search for people? I think I saw Nearly Headless Nick there, what else can it show?”
“Um...” said George. “In order: we don’t know, exactly, it’s a bit too complicated for us.”
“Because we didn’t make it,” continued Fred, “we found it in Filch’s office one day”
“in a drawer marked ‘Confiscated and Highly Dangerous’”
“so obviously we had to have a look.”
“I’m not sure what you mean by ‘zoom’,”
“but you can’t say ‘show me so and so’ or anything like that.”
“It shows all the students, visitors, and staff”
“— it even shows McGonagall when she’s in her animagus form —”
“and it shows all the ghosts, even the invisible ones,”
“and even Peeves, though he’s not a real ghost.”
“Hold on,” said Hermione, “invisible ghosts?”
The twins shrugged. “Well,” said George, “we only know of the one,”
“we think he’s just shy or something.”
“Peter Pettigrew, you know...”
“The bloke that was murdered by Sirius Black,” said Ron, filling the uncomfortable silence that followed.
“Apparently murdered by him,” said Harry. “I’m still not convinced. What do you mean, he’s an invisible ghost?”
“Um...” said George, “we spotted him in first year”
“hanging about in the third year boys’ dorm.”
“Sometimes he’d go to class,”
“sometimes he’d just hang around in the dorm.”
“We wanted to talk to him,”
“but we could never see him,”
“so we thought he was reliving his school days”
“and was too shy to come out.”
“He spent last year in the fourth year dorm,”
“going to their classes sometimes too.”
“Funny thing though,”
“this year he’s acting like he’s in first year.”
“Have you seen any ghosts in your dorm?”
Harry suddenly felt Lina’s anger spike. He wondered why for a moment, then the penny dropped. Fighting to keep calm, he said, “Twins, you said the map labels animagi with their real name.” They nodded. “And Ron, you said that Scabbers used to belong to Percy.” Ron nodded, a puzzled look on his face. Harry’s anger started to boil over into his aura. “And Percy was in fourth year last year?” The Weasleys all nodded.
Harry’s friends stared in confusion and shock as, aura flaring red, he and Lina flipped back and forth for a few moments. Harry finally won out. “Find him,” he growled at the others. Neville and Hermione’s heads collided painfully as all five pored over the map.
“He’s not in the dorm,” said Ron immediately. Behind him, Muon started barking excitedly.
“Hang on...” said Neville. “There! He’s just outside the main doors!”
Harry looked up, and called, “Mandy!”
Mandy popped in right beside him. “Yes, Master Harry?”
Harry forced his anger down; no point in taking it out on Mandy. “Pop me to the main entrance, please.” Muon lunged over and grabbed onto Harry’s shoulder just as they popped out.
They appeared in the corner between the gate tower and the main wall, out of sight of other students. Muon immediately leapt into the air and started scanning the ground.
“We need him alive, Muon!” Harry called after her, then turned to Mandy. “Can you bring whoever has the map over, please? And the others, if you’re up to it?” Mandy nodded and popped out again.
Harry started after Muon, but had only got a few steps before Mandy was back with Ron and Neville, then away again. “Any sign?”
“He’s down the hill somewhere,” said Ron. “There’s no decent landmarks though.”
Mandy popped back again, with Hermione this time. “That’s all I can manage, Master Harry,” she said, slightly winded.
“That’s all right Mandy,” said Harry. “Do you want to go rest, or would you rather help us catch Pettigrew?” Mandy’s sudden determined expression was all the answer Harry got; she stepped behind Neville and vanished.
“Apparently the map doesn’t show house elves,” commented Hermione, looking over Ron’s shoulder.
Ron looked up from the map. “If the three of you spread out and start down the hill, I’ll be able to work out where he is.”
Harry gave him a fierce grin. “Come on then!” He headed to the right, across the main path, nearly colliding with Draco.
“Watch it Potter!” snarked the Slytherin. “You—”
“Not now, Draco!” replied Harry as he ran down the hill.
Once they were a good twenty metres from each other, Ron called out, “That’s far enough! Keep going down the path, Neville; Harry, Hermione, you keep pace with him! Merlin, he’s moving fast! He’s about a quarter of the way to the gate already!”
The three sped up on hearing that, losing their formation a bit. They had drawn quite a crowd by now, but they followed at a more leisurely pace.
By the time they reached the half-way mark, Hermione and Neville were getting quite winded. Suddenly Muon, who was a good thirty metres ahead of Hermione, started a fast dive. The epitome of her name, she caught the running rat completely by surprise, grasping him in her talons then pumping her wings to pull him aloft. She had only managed two metres from the ground when she was forced to drop him, as the rat’s body ballooned into that of a plump, balding man. Muon wasn’t giving up though; she dove again, talons reaching to slash the man’s face.
Pettigrew screamed and flailed his arms, driving Muon back, then drew his wand and yelled, “Incendio! Incendio!” The owl twisted in mid-air, narrowly avoiding both spells, but was forced to retreat. Pettigrew turned and ran for the gates.
Panting, Hermione shouted “Impedimentia!”, but her aim was off. Harry was luckier; with a call of “Laphas Seed!” he sent ropes spiralling after Pettigrew. They started to wrap around him, but he transformed back into the rat and ran out of their range, before resuming human form and running again. Harry’s follow-up cry of “Dug Wave!” made an impressive crater, but Pettigrew ignored the dirt spattering around him from the near miss. He managed a dozen more strides, then was suddenly blown off his feet and skidded across the ground. Mandy appeared from nowhere behind him, hands raised.
Pettigrew squeaked at the sight of the enraged house elf, then yelled, “Avada Kedavra!” Harry yelled “NO!” as the sickly green light sped towards Mandy, but she popped out just before it hit. Neville and Ron both had to dive out of the way before the spell finally buried itself in the hillside. Hermione glanced over at Harry, and yelled, “ALIVE, Harry!” Tears of rage starting in his eyes, Harry bit back the Blast Ash he had almost cast, then had to dodge as Pettigrew fired another Killing Curse, directly at him this time. Hermione cast another Tripping Jinx, but she was really running out of steam; the spell only caused Pettigrew to stumble slightly as he resumed his headlong dash for the gates.
Harry lost precious time as every lethal and high-damage spell he knew ran through his mind, begging to be cast. Finally in desperation he hissed “Flare Bit!,” pushing as much of his magic into the cast as he could.
The swarm of light balls crashed into Pettigrew just as he made it to the ward line. Pummelled to the ground by the impact, he nevertheless managed to twist in place and vanished with a deafening »CRACK«.
“FUCK!” yelled Harry at the uncaring sky.
“Mister Potter!” Harry spun around to see Professor McGonagall coasting down the path on a broomstick. “What is the meaning of this?” she demanded, alighting a few metres away.
Ignoring her for the moment, Harry looked around at his friends. Muon glided out of cover and landed on his raised wrist, hooting gently. Harry examined her carefully. “You’re all right. Thank goodness...” Muon looked away, her head down. Harry shook his head. “You did your best, girl. Look,” he added, wiping a smear of blood off her talons. “You got him a good one. I’m just glad you’re all right.” She launched herself into the air, and came down on his shoulder, rubbing her head against his.
His human friends looked badly worn out but were in one piece. He gave them all a wan smile, then called for Mandy. The house elf popped in, looking distraught. “I’m sorry Master Harry. I wasn’t fast enough to catch him.”
“It’s all right Mandy,” said Harry. “I’d rather lose him than you.” She gave him a wan smile then moved to stand in her usual ‘aide’ position beside him.
“Mister Potter,” said McGonagall, “I’m waiting for an explanation?”
“I’m sorry Professor,” said Harry wearily. “I was hoping to introduce you to Peter Pettigrew, but he had to leave in a hurry.”
“Peter Pettigrew?” she parroted in disbelief. “I suppose— it did look somewhat like him, but it can’t have been. He died ten years ago.”
“Apparently not Professor,” said Neville, finally catching his breath.
“Yeah, Harry found out that Sirius Black was thrown in Azkaban without a trial,” chimed in Ron. “That git Pettigrew was hiding out as my rat Scabbers — I can’t believe I actually slept with him in my bed! Anyway, as soon as he heard Harry mention that Black is getting a trial, he bolted.”
“I did see him transform into something small at one point,” said McGonagall pensively. “But how—”
She was interrupted by the sound of Hermione emptying her stomach into the bushes. Harry started over to her, but she straightened up and said, “I’m all right.” She coughed a couple of times, then went on, “I haven’t run that far in a while. Also, Mister Pettigrew left us a souvenir.” She gestured towards the gate, where rested Pettigrew’s still-clothed left leg (from the knee down).
“Peter never did get the hang of Apparating under stress,” murmured McGonagall. Shaking herself, she conjured a goblet, filled it with water, and passed it to Hermione, who thanked her and started cleaning her mouth out.
“All right then,” said Harry wearily. “Do you want to call the Aurors, or shall I?”
“I’m sure that’s not necessary, Mister Potter,” came the avuncular voice of Albus (etc.) Dumbledore. “I will send them all the pertinent information.”
The student body had finally caught up with them, accompanied by several staff members. The Weasley twins caught Harry’s eye and mouthed “Bad luck” in synchrony.
“I rather think it is necessary, Headmaster,” said McGonagall acidly. “The entire school just witnessed these four chase someone down here—”
“Six,” interjected Harry. At McGonagall’s questioning look he explained, “There’s six of us here,” and proceeded to count out each of his nakama in turn, starting with Ron. As the crowd were staring at Mandy and Muon, Ron surreptitiously passed the Map back to his brothers.
McGonagall nodded to him, then turned back to her superior. “I’m sorry, these six just chased someone down here, and whoever he was, he fired off several Killing Curses. That, regardless of anything else, demands that we call the Aurors.”
Dumbledore eyed his deputy, weighing his options, and decided to concede the point. “Then let us adjourn to my office; we can Floo them from there.” He looked around. “Hagrid, Professor Flitwick, would you please guard the fugitive’s limb until the Aurors can take charge of it?” The mismatched pair nodded and took up their position. “As for everyone else, I believe the excitement is over for the day. We should all return to our own business.” He waved in the direction of the castle.
Once the crowd started to disperse, Dumbledore turned to Mandy. “I do not believe I recognise the crest you bear. Whom do you serve?”
“I am proud to serve the house of Master Harry’s guardian,” said Mandy, giving Dumbledore a perfectly-executed curtsey. “Among other duties, I am tasked with ensuring Master Harry’s safety; when he came into danger today, I was required to provide assistance. I apologise for entering your demesne uninvited, but I am sure you understand that the circumstances required it.” She curtseyed again.
Dumbledore managed to stop himself from gaping at Mandy’s sheer eloquence; the others there who were familiar with house elves were not so restrained. “Indeed,” said the headmaster. “And what is the name of Mister Potter’s guardian? Gringotts are not being forthcoming, to either the Ministry or myself.”
“Ah,” said Mandy. “I have been given strict instructions as to my response to that question. »ahem« ‘Sore wa... himitsu desu’.”
Dumbledore gave her a puzzled look. “I beg your pardon? I didn’t quite catch that. Could you repeat it?”
“Certainly,” said Mandy. “’Sore wa... himitsu desu’. Please understand, that is all I am allowed to say on this matter.”
“Of course,” murmured Dumbledore. “Well, the crisis appears to be over, and unfortunately the good people from the DMLE will not accept any testimony from you, so you should probably return to your master now.”
Mandy turned to Harry and curtseyed to him. “I will see you later, Master Harry.”
“Thanks for your help today,” he replied. Mandy gave him a quick wink, hidden from Dumbledore, then popped out.
“So, to the castle!” declared Dumbledore, taking the lead. Harry and his nakama dropped back a little for privacy.
“Good thing McGonagall didn’t ask how we knew we knew Scabbers was Pettigrew,” murmured Ron.
“Good thing someone stuck her fingers down her throat at just the right moment to distract her,” whispered Hermione.
“You never,” gasped Ron, muffling his laughter.
The Aurors were initially highly sceptical of their claims, but fortunately Professor McGonagall suggested that they use the Headmaster’s penseive to view their memories (much to Dumbledore’s secret consternation). Unfortunately Harry’s memory was too fogged to be of any use (he didn’t want anyone spotting his unusual spells), but those of his three human friends and McGonagall were more than enough for a positive identification. Once the Aurors left, McGonagall deducted two points from each of them for putting themselves in danger, then gave them back five each for bravery, tenacity, and (in Harry’s case) reading ahead and mastering the Incarcerous and Bombarda spells — so she was led to believe, anyway. His final casting was explained away as ‘accidental magic brought on by frustration’. Muon had refused to be parted from Harry during the entire proceedings, so Dumbledore completed the awards by giving the Owlery five points for her “gallant participation”, which of course sent her into another bout of insufferable smugness.
Once they escaped from being the centre of attention of the entire school over lunch, they all (including Mandy, because the heck with what Dumbledore wants) regrouped with the twins in a secluded, empty classroom, and did their best to stop each other from beating themselves up over losing Pettigrew.
The nearby corridors were deserted, so fortunately no-one overheard Lina’s outraged shout as soon as she gained control: “I knew the little shit was ogling me while I changed!”
That night, Rubeus Hagrid, Keeper of Keys and Grounds, raised several glasses in memory of his friends Lily and James Potter at the Hog’s Head. As the evening wore on, he became involved in a card game with a hooded stranger. Luck was on both their sides: Hagrid won the game, and left with a large egg as his prize; and the stranger gained a vital piece of information.
To be continued...
Oh dear... Wormtail is in the wind, and Norbert approaches! Two events precipitated early, thanks to the butterfly effect.
Redripper666: I agree that certain MacGuffins in the series, particularly the Marauder’s Map, were not well thought out by the original author, and this makes it difficult for authors to make them work sensibly. To get around that problem, I’m interpreting the Weasley Twins’ use of the Map as “see all but misunderstand”, as opposed to “see nothing until the plot demands”. I hope that works for you?