Chapter 11: Immortal Losing Game
Thoughts of Pudding by Brian64.
Chapter 11: Immortal Losing Game.
Monday 24th June, 1996.
"Alastor! A word, if you please!" Minerva barked out, interrupting the argument that had been developing between Harry and the paranoid ex-Auror.
Starting the man moving with a slight push, she herded him out the back door of the Lovegoods' kitchen. Momentarily distracted at the sight of the garden, she shook her head and returned to the task at hand.
Casting a privacy spell to prevent any eavesdropping, she turned to Moody. "Last night you pointed out the mistakes I made in my conversation with Albus because I reacted instead of responded. Now I shall return the favour."
"I was responding to his idiocy!" Moody said, almost growling his response.
"What you were doing is treating him exactly the way Albus would; by telling him what to do instead of asking." Minerva replied sternly. "To make matters worse, you then justified your demands by telling him it was for 'his own good'. Of course he's going to fight against that attitude."
"You know what he has to do!" Moody snapped back. "Are we supposed to sit back and let him risk himself and everyone else without a damn good reason?"
Minerva pursed her lips, wondering how she could make him see reason. She could see Moody's point of view, but how could she get him to see hers?
"Let me try to put it another way, Alastor. Tell me, why was this trip set up in the first place?"
Moody grimaced. "I know where you are going with this, but–"
"Alastor, please?" She asked in a firm, but reasonable tone.
Moody huffed in annoyance. "The objective was to give him a chance to experience something 'fun', so that for a couple of hours he didn't have to worry about defeating dark lords or mourning dead Godfathers."
"Quite. So tell me, Alastor, when he failed to see the 'fun' in staying disillusioned after arriving in London and sneaking into the cinema without paying, why didn't you drop the suggestion?" Minerva asked reasonably.
Moody remained silent.
"Alastor, do you want Harry to trust you?" She asked softly.
"Of all the stupid bloody questions! What do you think? Of course I bloody well do. It'll be hard enough to train him as it is, without having to fight him all the way." Moody said, fuming.
"Well then, I suggest you spend a little more time thinking about how you might earn that trust, instead of working hard to lose it. I assure you, regaining his trust is one of my own priorities." Minerva replied.
Moody looked at her blankly, and Minerva wondered whether she was making any headway in changing his attitude. She reassured herself that at least he was still here listening instead of storming off.
She tried again. "I have already told you how I managed to destroy his trust in me by assuming I knew best and telling him what to do. I speak from experience when I tell you that you will lose him if you continue to dictate what and how he should do things. Albus has already lost him for precisely that reason."
She could see he was listening, so she tried a more logical argument to bring him around. "Do you truly believe he is in so much danger in Muggle London that he must stay hidden under a disillusionment charm? Or is it simply that to do so would make him safer? Because if we take that attitude to extremes, we would end up locking him up somewhere wrapped in cotton wool and denying him any kind of life."
She looked at Moody steadily as she finished her argument. "I, for one, take great exception to the line that says 'neither can live while the other survives.' I fully intend to help him live as much as he can, for as long as he can."
Moody scowled. "Alright, Minerva, you win… this time. Let's go tell Potter he has to pay for his tickets after all."
Minerva smiled, and followed the man back inside. She had to laugh out loud when she heard Moody's muttered comments as they walked along.
"'Son of a Marauder', my arse! James and Sirius would be rolling in their graves at the thought of their boy not jumping at the chance to sneak into a film!"
Unwilling to leave everything completely to chance, Moody insisted that everyone carry a portkey that would take them to Privet Drive, including Harry. They all agreed that whatever the emergency, that was still the safest place to use for a temporary escape. Whoever was closest to Dan or Emma would take responsibility for grabbing them when they portkeyed out of trouble.
Moody noticed that Harry seemed fixated over the portkeys and asked what the problem was.
Harry wasn't sure he really wanted to know the answer, but thought he'd better raise it anyway. "Well, it's just that if Professor McGonagall can make portkeys to Privet Drive, then what's stopping Voldemort or the Death Eaters from doing the same thing?"
Moody nodded approvingly. "Wondered when someone would ask that, Potter. Alright, I'll tell you lot, but I want you to keep this quiet. The only people that can make portkeys to Privet Drive are the people present when you were dropped off as a baby and Dumbledore set up the wards. The other requirement is that the maker needs to have seen the location, and as far as I know, only Minerva's been inside the house. Still, it would be best to assume Albus could as well, or his phoenix could probably take him I suppose."
Minerva looked a little startled. "I hadn't really considered that, Alastor. Can you truly not make one?"
Moody shook his head. "I can't get the necessary detail to stay in my head, Minerva. As soon as I start to think about casting Portus, the image blurs and fades. Theoretically Hagrid could make a portkey since he was there when Albus set the wards up, but I doubt he'd be able to learn the charm." Moody looked at Harry. "You should be able to make them as well, Potter, once you learn how."
Eventually everyone agreed on what they were going to do for the day. The cinema group would be disillusioned before portkeying to Charing Cross Road. Then, after finding a quiet place to cancel the charm, they would take the tube to Piccadilly Circus, where they would catch a matinee screening of the film. After the film, they would do a little shopping for a couple of hours before everyone met at the St James Tavern for a late lunch around 2pm. None of the teens knew that Remus would be taking Harry to the pub early for a quiet chat instead of shopping.
Meanwhile, Alastor would be keeping a disillusioned eye on Xenophilius while he went to Diagon Alley to upgrade his international portkey for the extra travellers. With Moody shadowing him, he would then purchase some needed supplies for the trip before heading to the lunch rendezvous with Moody.
Minerva decided to skip the film so that she could visit Severus and explain the changes required if he wished to continue teaching at Hogwarts. By having the conversation today, it would give Severus a chance to talk with Albus about it before Friday, and she'd then be able to discuss any complaints with the Headmaster during dinner, rather than have to make another meeting later. The less contact she had with him for the time being, the less chance there was that he would find Harry. Moody hated her plan to meet Snape of course, and wasn't shy about telling her so – at full volume – but it didn't change her mind.
Once Tonks removed the disillusionment charm, the three Grangers separated and ensured they stayed close to Luna, Tonks and Remus; who were the most likely to wander off gaping at something unfamiliar. As she had at Kings Cross, Luna took Emma's hand much as a young child might, and chattered away to her about everything they saw.
Harry was surprised to see the two of them seemingly so close, since as far as he knew, they'd barely met. But then he realised that Luna always seemed to be holding someone's hand lately. His fingers curled a little in line with his thoughts and he realised that it was usually his hand that Luna held.
Harry looked around and noticed that Tonks and Hermione were having a quiet conversation, their heads often together. They even started giggling over something at one point; much to Harry's surprise. Hermione hardly ever giggled, and by his count, this was only about the fourth time he'd heard the sound from her. It was… nice.
He looked over at Dan and Remus, and thought about joining them. Their conversation though, while similarly private, seemed to be a lot more serious, so he stayed back.
Having been focussed on the other two pairs, he didn't notice that that he'd come within reach of Luna. She grabbed his hand, drawing him into her conversation with Emma before he realised it. He joined in happily as they walked to the tube station.
Some time later, with tickets and snacks purchased, Remus found himself sitting in the cinema looking at the two yellow wafers and the wrapped block of vanilla ice cream in his hands. How was he supposed to assemble his ice cream wafer sandwich without making a mess? Somehow he must have got the wrong ice cream block, as the wafers were clearly the wrong size. He tried looking at the occupant of the seat beside him for clues, but Dan seemed to be the only one without one.
Dan must have noticed the look because he leaned over for a quiet word. "Just play along. Emma loves them, and there aren't too many places that still sell 'em now. Just open the packet all the way along the middle, and the rest is easy."
Remus assembled his ice cream wafer as instructed and took a bite. Maybe if he ate it quickly it wouldn't have a chance to drip all over his hands, but he doubted it.
"So, you think your mate Sirius would have had a talk with Harry then?" Dan asked, resuming the conversation they'd started on the walk over from the tube.
Remus nodded. "I'm sure he would have. He had time with Harry last summer, and I know he loved being Harry's Godfather. He would have taken his responsibilities seriously."
Dan gave him a look, wondering if he'd intended the pun, then moved on. "From what you've told me, he and Harry's dad were quite the lads at school. Assuming he did give Harry the talk, are you sure he'll have given him the right one?"
Remus froze. He'd been pinning his hopes on asking Harry whether Sirius had covered the topic with him, waiting for an embarrassed nod from the teen, and then moving on to discussing Quidditch or something. He hadn't considered that he'd need to review and quiz Harry on what he had learned. Damn it!
He felt something cool run down his wrist and under his sleeve. Oh, damn it!
Dan briefly watched Remus fighting with his ice cream with some amusement before turning back to the movie screen that had just started showing ads. He liked the man, and could tell that as long as he understood the problem, he'd try to resolve it.
On his other side, Emma and their daughter were eating their ice cream wafers like professionals. Harry on the other hand, had decided there was little chance he could manage to eat it cleanly. Forsaking his Gryffindor courage, he handed his wafers to Luna, and instead ate his ice cream safely from the end of the wrapper.
Luna, delighted at having four wafers, used one of them to slice her ice cream block in half, to make two thinner wafer sandwiches. Tonks, sitting at the end of the row next to Luna, watched in amusement as Luna completed her deft surgery and emerged with an ice cream wafer in both hands. As she started to lick the edges of each of them in turn, Tonks couldn't help but reach out and tuck a strand of her long blond hair out of the way.
Luna turned and smiled her thanks and returned to her ice creams. Once she had finished them, she licked away the ice cream that had dripped on her hands then rubbed them together until the friction had mostly dried them. Satisfied, she then attached herself to Harry's arm and hand as she had the day before, then settled her head on his shoulder as she watched the trailers for the coming attractions.
Walking out of the cinema some 2 hours later, Luna looked concerned and very thoughtful.
"Tonks, do you think the Muggles need any help to get another 'Dorothy' into a twister? Perhaps you could teach me to apparate so I could get close to one to drop one off before popping out? Do you think–"
"Whoa, whoa, whoa…" Tonks said, interrupting. "How about I have a quiet word with Kingsley and Arthur about it when I next see them, okay, Luna?"
Luna nodded. "Just don't forget to tell them I'll be happy to help if they need it."
"You got it." Tonks replied.
Observing the conversation, Harry suddenly realised he was possibly the only person that understood Luna's fervour, since it was his hand that was getting crushed during the movie's opening scene when young Jo watched her father sucked up into the twister.
"So, everyone have fun?" Emma asked the group, hoping to distract Luna from her new quest.
Everyone agreed they'd had a fantastic time, and couldn't wait until the next time. Harry couldn't stop talking about the preview trailer for Independence Day, and Dan assured him that even if they couldn't get the girls interested, he'd be happy to go along with him.
As they walked out of the theatre, Emma turned to the three males. "Alright, we womenfolk are going to go do some shopping for an hour or so. We'll still meet up with you at St James Tavern for a late lunch at 2 o'clock, as we arranged with the other three, alright?"
Hearing his cue, Dan piped up. "Maybe I should come along to carry the bags, I know how you ladies like to shop, and this way, none of you will have to worry about them," he said with a smirk at Remus.
"No, that's okay, dear," Emma replied, with a smirk of her own. "We'll be just fine. You go off with the boys and we'll see you later."
"Huh?" Dan said, somewhat startled at his wife's betrayal.
Shooting a wide smile at Emma and a cheerful farewell to the girls, Remus clapped a firm hand on Dan's shoulder and steered him off with them towards the pub.
After watching her dad stumble off with Harry and Remus, Hermione turned and saw Tonks laughing her head off, as well as a huge grin on her mother's face. She asked her the obvious question.
"Alright, what's going on?"
"Tell you later, love, okay? Let's just say that your dad was taking a little too much delight at Mr Lupin's expense, so I've decided to prank him for it to teach him not to gloat. Besides, did you really want him tagging along while we get you fitted for some new bras?"
Hermione gave her a horrified look, and then did her best to pretend she wasn't there, looking around at anything but the group of people she was standing next to.
Still smiling, Emma absently reached for Luna's hand as they all walked off in search of clothes.
After entering the pub, Dan sent Remus and Harry off to find a quiet table, and then walked up to the bar.
"Good afternoon, what can I get you?" the older lady behind the bar asked.
Since he was already thinking about being in London with a werewolf, Dan couldn't help but say; "A Campari soda would do very nice."
Dan's grin got even wider. "Oh, well then, uh, a small Guinness will suffice. Actually, better make that three."
The bartender took her time to double pour the three stouts, and then she handed them to Dan.
"A thousand thanks, madam." Dan said, paying for the drinks and taking them over to the table where it appeared Harry and Remus were about to start a game of chess.
"Knight takes Pawn?" Dan offered, handing them each a beer and taking his own seat.
Remus looked back at the board as if confirming all of the pieces were still in their starting positions, and then he chuckled as he realised what Dan was talking about. "Emma did warn me about you. Did you try to order a Campari soda as well?"
"I might have done." Dan admitted. "Well we are in London with you after all…"
Remus chuckled again. "I see your point." He took a sip of the stout, his eyes looking off in the distance for a moment, lost in his thoughts, before looking back at the people around him.
Remus noted the confused expression on Harry's face and smiled. "Dan and I were talking about a scene from a werewolf film, Harry. Sirius had heard about it, and talked us all into going to see it one night."
Remus paused as though deciding whether to continue. "I'll never forget it, because it was actually the last time all four of the Marauders were together on a night out. It was only a couple of months afterwards that we lost your parents."
Harry took a long swallow from his glass and grimaced at the taste.
Remus smiled. "Don't worry, you'll get used to it." Then, deciding the conversation had taken a depressing turn, decided to move on. Since he had the white pieces, he moved his pawn to d4. "Ok, who's playing? Harry? Dan?"
"I'm shite, Remus. I'd rather watch you and Mr Granger play." Harry said.
"Call me Dan, please, Harry." Dan said.
Harry nodded, and exchanged seats with Dan, who moved a pawn to f5.
Remus moved a pawn to g3, and Dan followed with a pawn to g6. The next two turns had Remus move his bishop to g2, and then his knight to c3, while Dan moved his bishop to g7 and knight to f6.
"Err, Remus…" Harry said hesitantly. "Do you think you could tell me some stories about my parents, or Sirius?"
Remus looked over at Harry. "I'd be glad to, Harry. Anytime, you should know that. Now let's see... Oh yes, I've got one for you," he said, giving Dan a sly smile when Harry wasn't looking.
"It was around our fourth or fifth year I think, and your dad was still trying to get your mother to date him. He'd just failed, again, which prompted Sirius to announce rather loudly…" The other two watched as Remus became quite animated in the retelling of the story. "… 'It was probably for the best, Prongs, you know you wouldn't know what to do with her even if she did say yes!'" Remus finished off, adopting Sirius' posture and mimicking his voice for the quote.
"But he didn't leave it there of course." Remus said, continuing his tale. "He then decided that James needed to hear 'The Talk', and proceeded to give it to him in detail. Poor James was mortified, especially since Lily was still sitting in the common room at the time, giggling along with her friends."
"I'd have run I think." Harry offered, trying not to laugh at his father's expense.
"So would James," Remus agreed, "But Sirius knew that as well and had already hit him with a pre-emptive Petrificus before he had a chance."
Now Harry couldn't help but laugh. "So where were you during all this?" Harry asked,
"Oh, I was sitting on the lounge next to your father listening to Sirius, like most of the other Gryffindors. It wasn't directed at us so we all found it very entertaining… and more than a little educational as well!" Remus said, a little smugly.
During this conversation, the next few moves had been made. Bishop to g5, knight to c6, queen to d2, pawn to d6, pawn to h4, and pawn to e6.
Remus kept his eyes on the chess board, though watched Harry with his peripheral vision. "So, Harry, did Sirius prank you with The Talk as well, or did he just keep it between the two of you?"
Harry, now concentrating again on the game in front of him, hadn't really been paying much attention to the conversation once the story about his father ended. "Huh? Oh, umm, no prank, we just had a chat over Christmas. Are you going to castle now?"
Remus cheered inside. "Excellent, Harry, yes, yes, very good indeed!" He castled on the queenside.
Dan cleared his throat and gave Remus a significant look, as he moved his pawn to h6.
Remus glared back at the man, and studied the board. "So… Harry, err… hmm, you know, it doesn't sound like Sirius to give up a prime prank like that. Are you sure he gave you the right talk?" He moved his bishop to f4.
Harry looked up at Remus with a confused expression. "Well, I suppose he did. How would I know?"
"Why don't you tell us what he said, and we can fill in any blanks?" Remus suggested.
Dan quickly moved his bishop to d7 then stood up. "And while you start that, I'm going to get us another round." He made sure to smirk at Remus as he made his escape.
"Make Harry's a coke, please, Dan." Remus said before Dan got away. He turned to Harry and shrugged apologetically. "Sorry, Harry, but you'll need to eat something before you drink anymore, and you are underage after all."
Harry shrugged. "That's okay. I wouldn't mind trying a coke anyway."
He didn't really know how to say '…and thanks for caring enough to look out for me, Moony.' So just gave him a smile instead, before looking back at the chessboard.
"You haven't had a coke before?" Remus asked, incredulous.
"Coke isn't on the menu in Hogsmeade, or Diagon Alley for that matter." Harry said, looking up at him.
"You've met the Dursleys; can you picture them buying me a coke when there's 'perfectly good water in the tap, boy'?" Harry asked, mimicking his Uncle's voice at the end.
Remus looked sorrowful. "I suppose not."
The man looked thoughtful for a minute. "Tell you what, Harry. Why don't you make a list of the things you've wanted to do or try; but couldn't, and we'll see how many of them we can get through this summer, alright?"
Harry looked startled. "Really? That'd be great! Thanks, Remus!"
"Not a problem, Harry" he replied, feeling a sudden urge to be in the vicinity of Little Whinging 6 days from now. He normally wasn't a fan of blue moons, but… He sighed a little, knowing that Harry wouldn't forgive him any more than he'd forgive himself if he took it any further than wishful thinking. It amused him to think about it though.
Dan interrupted his musings of mayhem by returning with the drinks. "So, what did I miss?" He asked, looking between the two.
"Not much." Remus replied. "Though come to think of it, Harry, you were going to tell us about the chat you had with Sirius?"
"Umm, well, I'm not too sure what all the fuss is about really. I mean, I don't think I'd want to have it in public like Sirius did with my Dad, but I don't think it's as bad as everyone seems to make out."
Remus frowned. Harry's reply didn't bode well at all in his view. "Go on…" he encouraged, then it hit him; wait a second, what did he just say – something about everyone making out?
Harry took a sip of his coke. "Hey, that's not bad at all. Why don't they have this at Hogwarts?"
Remus nearly groaned. "I honestly don't know, Harry. Why don't you continue?"
"Okay," Harry said cheerfully, and then drank some more of his coke. "This really is good – are you sure you wouldn't like some?" He asked, offering the glass to Remus.
Remus nearly glared at Dan. This was like pulling teeth, and wasn't that a job for a dentist? "It doesn't really go with the stout, but thank you. So what did Sirius say?"
"Well, he said he wanted to teach me a couple of spells, and wanted to know if I already knew them. So we went off into the tapestry room to get away from everyone."
Harry took another drink of his coke before continuing. "He showed me the Contraceptus charm, and when I told him I'd never seen it before he made me practice it until he was happy with my wand movements."
Remus nearly did himself an injury from preventing himself from laughing at Harry's double entendre about wands. Then his Marauder instincts kicked into high alert; this was his second double entendre! Something wasn't quite– no, he was just imagining things.
"Ok, so he taught you the spell, then what?"
"Hmm? Oh, well, then Hermione came in and we started talking about the names on the tapestry. I can't tell you how glad I am that we'd finished the chat beforehand. I'd have died blushing if she'd seen what Sirius was teaching me to do with my wand a few minutes earlier!" Harry concluded.
Remus stared at the chessboard. He dared not look at Dan, or Harry for that matter. He wasn't sure he could keep holding his laughter in at Harry's turn of phrase as it was. Pretty much any expression on Dan's face and it would be all over for the 'adult' discussion, while he rolled on the floor laughing.
Then the thought hit him, and his amusement fell. Oh bugger! It's up to me now.
"Well, you know, Harry, there's more to it than just the spell you know?" Remus said cautiously.
"There is? Like what?" Harry said, apparently curious.
Remus looked at Dan. "Isn't it your turn?"
Dan smiled. "Nope, I moved my bishop before going for the drinks."
Remus scowled as Dan skilfully dodged the buck-pass. He moved his pawn to e4, and Dan took it with his own pawn. "Back to you, Remus." Dan said with another smile, making it clear he had no intention of picking up the ball.
"Well, Harry, it's hard to know where to really begin. There's a lot you need to know about how men's and women's bodies work, the, err, basic biology of it all. Have you had any information on that at all yet?" Remus asked, before moving his knight to take the pawn on e4.
Harry shook his head. "Not yet."
Dan moved his knight to d5, and kept his mouth shut, avoiding any eye contact with Remus.
"I see. Okay, that's going to need to go on the list then. There's also what I suppose we might call a little, umm, advanced biology." Remus said, before moving his knight to e2.
"Advanced biology?" Harry asked. "What do you mean?"
Dan moved his queen to e7, eyes firmly on the board and lips twitching.
"Well, let's see… if basic biology covers the, umm, essentials of how babies are created and born, then advanced covers the rest… you know, techniques and the like?" Remus said, moving his pawn to c4.
Harry gave him a confused look. "I'm sorry, I don't really understand. Maybe you could explain in a little more detail, Remus?"
Dan, having trouble holding in his laughter, and paying a little too much attention to the conversation; moved his knight to b6, then winced. Damn, I should have taken the bishop on f4!
Remus wasn't sure he even knew how to continue. He delayed responding by moving his pawn to c5, then watched Dan take it with his own pawn. He then moved his bishop to c7, taking Dan's pawn, and then watched as Dan opted for a kingside castle.
Remus realised he couldn't put this off any longer, and made another attempt to talk about 'advanced biology'. "Well, Harry, there are certain areas of a woman's body that are particularly sensitive, and…" He looked over at Harry and saw him struggling to suppress a smirk, and he realised he'd been had.
"Oh, you rotten little bugger! I knew it!" Remus yelled as Harry dissolved into laughter along with Dan at seeing Remus well and truly pranked.
"Did you put him up to this?" Remus asked Dan, and watched as the other man shook his head, laughing.
"Harry?" Remus asked him, and had to wait until Harry stopped laughing long enough to respond.
"I heard you talking to Professor McGonagall last night. I couldn't make out everything, but I heard enough."
Remus thought about how to reply for a moment.
"Well, I'd have to say that was very well played, Harry, very well indeed. You'd have made a fine Marauder." Remus congratulated him, and then looked at him steadily without a smile. "I'm almost sorry for what is going to happen."
"What do you mean?" Harry asked, a look of confusion replacing the mirth on his face.
"Retribution, Harry. I'm afraid that the world is divided into Marauders, and non-Marauders. Marauders do the pranking, non-Marauders get pranked. That's just how the world is. Pranking a Marauder is unthinkable, so I'm afraid that retribution is the only way to avert the paradox you've created."
Harry started to look a little wary.
Remus smiled. "Really, Harry, timing is everything if you want to play with the professionals. I mean, just look at the opportunities I have available with the current topic of conversation."
He turned to Dan. "How long until the girls get here do you think, Dan? Maybe we should get their input as well?"
Harry's eyes widened until he thought they'd pop out of his head. "Oh, hell no!" Harry exclaimed. "That'd be inhuman!"
Remus grinned, and examined his fingernails. "Well, I am a werewolf, Harry, you have to expect us 'dark creatures' to do evil every now and again. You just volunteered to be the victim. It's, umm, 'for the Greater Good, I'm afraid, Harry.'" Remus concluded with his best Dumbledore impression.
"Okay, okay. What do I have to do to get out of this?" Harry pleaded.
"No, Harry, the correct response is; 'alright then, Moony, do your worst; if you want a prank war, you've got one!'"
"Err, no. This time I think I'll stick with whimpering like a little baby and begging for mercy."
"Are you sure? It could be a mistake giving up so soon you know? I might think you just got lucky earlier."
"Yes, that's it! I just got lucky, it was a spur of the moment thing and I wasn't thinking about what I was doing. You wouldn't really embarrass me in front of the girls for that, would you?"
"Hmm, I can't say I'm not disappointed, Harry. Alright then, let's continue our discussion and see how far we get before the girls get here. Now I think you were going to tell me what you already know about 'advanced biology' weren't you? Oh, and don't forget the details, Harry, lots of details! I want to know what you know, and what you don't know."
Groaning, Harry started to talk about what he knew while furiously blushing. He doubted Remus would let his skin cool down all afternoon.