Chapter 13: Something Wicked
Thoughts of Pudding by Brian64.
Chapter 13: Something Wicked.
Monday 24th June, 1996.
Harry's question regarding the whereabouts of Professor McGonagall started a series of exchanged looks amongst the people around the table before Moody growled.
"Damn it, I knew I should have gone with her!" he muttered more to himself than anyone else.
He stopped muttering and addressed the table. "Alright, people, we have a problem! Although I wiped Minerva's memory of the Lovegoods' place, she still remembers we were meeting here, so we are at risk. We need to leave, and we need to leave right now. We'll portkey from the loos. Tonks, you take the ladies, Remus, the men. I'll wait here until you're all away, and then apparate out myself."
Hermione hesitated. "But what about Professor McGonagall? If she's just a bit late, how will she know where to find us?"
Moody was impatient to be leaving. "We'll worry about that when we're not all exposed. Minerva said she'd be here at two. It's half-past and she's still not here. We're going now, so move it!" Moody said angrily.
As they started to head towards the toilets, there was the sound of an explosion from a long distance away.
"Change of plans!" Moody yelled, "Activate your portkeys to the safe house, now!"
Tonks immediately grabbed Emma and Dan and vanished. Then Xenophilius grabbed his daughter and disappeared as well.
Remus had pulled his wand and was scanning the surrounding area as Moody had already started to do, before he turned to the remaining teens. Harry had drawn his wand and Hermione was in the process of doing the same as well when Remus yelled. "Will you two please get out of here so that we can leave as well?"
Harry nodded, grabbed Hermione's hand and activated his portkey. They emerged into the living room at Privet Drive and chaos.
He barely had time to process what was going on before Remus, and then Moody appeared in the room. Dan and Emma rushed over to Hermione to check that she was okay, and then remained beside her.
Tonks was pointing her wand at Uncle Vernon, who was, as usual, yelling about freaks invading his home. Harry thought he actually had a legitimate point for a change. Petunia was clutching Dudley, and trying to be as inconspicuous as possible in a corner of the room. Luna and her father were both kneeling beside one of the sofas, where someone was lying down. "Professor McGonagall!" he exclaimed. His relieved yell attracted Hermione's attention, and she rushed over to the sofa.
Xenophilius drew his wand. "Rennervate," He intoned, and then watched as McGonagall's eyes opened and she sat up. A folded flannel fell from her forehead as she did so.
Elsewhere in the room, Tonks had finally lost her patience. "Alright, shut it, or I'll shut it for you!" Tonks snarled at Vernon. "We can't hear our bloody selves think with you carrying on like that."
Vernon, seeing most of the other 'freaks' in the room now glaring at him, closed his mouth and stomped loudly over to Petunia and Dudley.
Moody took charge of the situation. He walked over to the Dursleys, and was surprisingly polite. "Mrs Dursley, we apologise for invading your home, and we'll explain the emergency a bit later, but could we trouble you for some tea? Perhaps your family might be happier waiting in the kitchen while we sort this out?"
Emma walked over to help her, and Dan followed, presumably not trusting Mr Dursley as far as he could throw him. 'Which wouldn't be far,' Moody decided, given the man's girth.
Hermione was torn between wanting to go with her parents to look after them, and wanting to find out what happened to her Professor. The problem was resolved for her when Tonks took up station near the doorway to the kitchen so she could keep an eye on both rooms. She noticed that Remus had done the same thing at the other doorway to the entrance hall.
Moody stomped over to McGonagall. "What happened?" he asked bluntly.
Minerva looked at him. "I'm not entirely sure, Alastor. I'd spoken with Severus, and was about to leave when I saw a spell heading for me. I'm not sure why my portkey brought me here, since I don't remember activating it."
"That would be because I added a dead-man's trigger to it while we were in the Cauldron. Any spell hitting you would activate it automatically. Just be glad it was only a stunner."
"Indeed," she agreed.
Moody placed his wand tip to her temple and a few things became clear to her again. She looked up at Moody with a stern expression. "Now that I remember the discussion again, I will repeat my objection to having such a trigger placed on a portkey!"
Moody stared at her in disbelief. "You're bloody welcome!" he said shortly.
"Thank you, Alastor, but simply because you were right this time, does not make you right." Minerva said.
"Stubborn woman! I don't know why you didn't just owl him the letter like I suggested." Moody said.
"Because I have worked with the man for too long to treat him with such disrespect. I had no reason to believe that there would be any reason for him to attack me. That just isn't his way. He is Slytherin for a reason after all," she replied.
"So why would Snape stun you then?" Harry asked, unable to hold the question back any longer.
"Professor Snape," McGonagall responded automatically, before shaking her head, and then wincing at the ache the movement caused. "I'm not sure. There wasn't any reason for it. We barely even spoke, and if anything, he seemed in a hurry to get rid of me. It is most peculiar."
Moody frowned. "Was anyone else there?" He asked.
"Not that I could see. If there was anyone else, they must have been disillusioned, but I don't see how there could have been. There's barely any space for someone to hide with all the bookshelves."
Hermione's eyes widened at the thought of what books might be found on a potion master's bookshelves.
They were interrupted by Emma walking into the room quickly, heading for the television. "You need to see this! It was on the telly in the kitchen."
There was a news broadcast in progress, with a camera on a reporter, who was standing by the Thames. A collapsed bridge was visible in the scene behind him.
"…Police are asking everyone to please, please stay clear of the area so that we can get the emergency vehicles through. It is still too early to know what has caused the new Brockdale Bridge to collapse, but many people speculate that with the Manchester bombing only a week or so ago, that perhaps this is another attack by the IRA. Others say that it is unlikely that they will have planned another attack so soon, and point to the lack of any warnings beforehand as more than enough reason to look for another cause. For those viewers just tuning in, the Brockdale Bridge has collapsed at the cost of many lives, though we don't have a count yet. The police are asking everyone to keep clear of the area, and advise that they will be setting up a hotline number for people to ring. They ask everyone to please clear the emergency lines which are being jammed by callers, and–"
"That's enough." Moody said, interrupting the broadcast, and Emma turned the television off.
"Alright, if anyone can think of a good reason why we shouldn't portkey to Sweden right now, speak up quickly."
"How about 'because all my gear is still at the Lovegoods' house?" Tonks said dryly. "Honestly Mad-Eye, we'll portkey there, take ten minutes to finish packing, and then go."
"Alright, we'll do that then, since it'll be ten minutes of arguing otherwise." Moody said in resignation. Ok, everyone, gather round–"
"Just a minute please!" Harry said, before walking over to the Dursleys who had followed the others into the living room.
"Umm, I think you should all leave here, and I mean, as soon as you can! It's really not safe here. I don't know how long the wards– umm, the protection on the house will last, but that bridge collapsing? That was most likely the same evil wizard that killed my parents."
A spark of recognition appeared in Petunia's eyes as she remembered what happened to Dudley the year before, and the events leading up to it. "This is why you were trying to listen to the news last year wasn't it? You thought he'd be doing this back then?" She asked.
Harry nodded. "Yeah, though now we think he held back last year because he was trying to get hold of a prophecy, but there's no reason for him to hold back now."
"Potter! You're wasting your time. We have to obliviate them before we go anyway." Moody said.
"No! They won't be safe here, and if you obliviate them they won't remember why they have to leave." Harry said, before turning back to the Dursleys. "Look, why don't you go and stay with Aunt Marge for a bit. Maybe Dumbledore can find somewhere for you and put you under a Fidelius or something…"
"We're not going anywhere!" Vernon declared, doing his best not to shout since Moody was now standing behind Harry.
"Vernon, I think we should visit your sister. Dudley, go up and pack ONE suitcase." Petunia said to Vernon and Dudley in turn.
"Petunia, I don't think–" Vernon began.
"Vernon, I don't like it any more than you do, but if those freaks can blow up a bridge, then they can blow up a house, and I will not be here with Dudders when they do. Now go and pack!" Petunia said, screeching at him at the end.
Throwing up his hands in resignation, Vernon stormed off out of the room and up the stairs.
Petunia looked at Harry with what appeared to be a calculating look. "This is entirely your fault! If I hadn't taken you in when you were left on our doorstep, then we wouldn't be in this mess now," she said, clearly annoyed with him.
A new thought occurred to her and she frowned. "But, it isn't as though you had any choice in the matter is it?" she said, grudgingly, almost to herself.
Harry nodded at her surprised. This was about the nicest he could recall her being to him, if you didn't count her joy yesterday at being able to get rid of him for the summer.
"I never thanked you for saving Dudley last year, did I?" She mused, evidently still thinking about it. "Well, you better go – before that man behind you blows something up."
Harry watched, stunned, as his aunt walked off to presumably pack, and then looked around the room to find the others staring at him. "What?" he asked while walking back to the group.
"Don't ever change, Harry." Hermione said, grabbing him in a hug. He looked over her shoulder at Luna who smiled and nodded slightly to him, so he briefly hugged Hermione back.
"Potter, I have to take out some of their memories. They can't remember the Lovegoods, and there's no need for them to know about the Grangers either. Tonks, you portkey everyone over to the Lovegoods' house and get them packing. We'll be along as soon as we're done here." Moody ordered.
After the others had gone, Moody turned to Harry. "Is there anything else here you need, Potter? You probably won't ever be coming back to this house." Harry shook his head.
"I'm going to do a scan for any magic in the house, just to make sure there isn't anything left behind." Moody said. He waved his wand in a complicated sequence, and then moved to the kitchen and did the same thing. Not finding anything, he stomped off up the stairs with Harry following.
"Now what do you want?" Vernon demanded when he saw them walk past their bedroom door.
"There are still a couple of things you don't need to know about, Dursley. Potter's here to make sure I don't take more than I need to." Moody walked up to him and Vernon backed away.
"Bloody hell, Dursley, stand still so I can put my wand to your head. The alternative is I obliviate your memories willy-nilly. Maybe you'll remember yesterday, maybe you'll forget your own name! You choose!" Moody said, frustrated.
"What memories does he mean, Harry?" Petunia asked.
"My friends, Aunt Petunia. There are people like Professor Dumbledore than can read the thoughts out of your head. If they see your memories of my friends then that will put them in danger." Harry replied.
Petunia thought about that for a moment, and then nodded. "Alright, do what you musts" she said to Moody.
He touched his wand to her head and a short while later he was done.
Petunia frowned. "Was that it? It doesn't seem… I don't… hmm, how very odd? Vernon! Stand still and let him do… whatever it is he does to you so they can leave. It doesn't hurt."
Moody finished with Dursley, and then cast the scan for magic on the room. Something attracted his attention and he stomped over to the wardrobe.
"Here, now, what do you think you're doing?" Vernon blustered, while backing away from the man, clearly intimidated by him.
Moody extracted a box from a high shelf and Petunia gasped. "Oh, I'd forgotten all about that. Take it with you."
Petunia stared at the box with an odd expression before turning to Harry. "It was Lily's."
Moody handed it to Harry. "Don't open it now, we haven't got time," he warned him, before stomping off to Dudley's room.
Harry stood there just staring at the dust covered box. It appeared to be a large wooden jewellery box, but until he opened it, there could be anything inside.
Moody finished in Dudley's room and the spare bedroom that Aunt Marge used before he headed towards Harry's room. He scowled at the many locks on the outside before vanishing the lot of them with an angry wave of his wand.
He came out of Harry's room with a couple of books, which Harry recognised as first year textbooks that he thought he'd lost, and then they walked down the stairs to the front door. Moody took one last look around and then frowned as he looked at the stairs, confused. "There's something there, but…"
He walked up the first few steps, and then looked down at the stairs under his feet, eventually tapping them with his wand. Letting out a frustrated grunt, he went down the stairs again and walked around them to the cupboard door. Shaking his head slightly, he pulled back the bolt and cast a Lumos as he looked inside.
Pulling his head back out of the cupboard and standing up straight again he looked at Harry. "Are you going to tell me how this bloody cupboard has managed to absorb more magical energy than your bedroom?"
Harry looked at his feet, trying to think up an answer that wouldn't get his relatives killed. Alastor cut him off with a glower in the direction of the Dursleys. "Never mind, Harry, the mattress in there already told me. Come on, we're leaving. I need to speak to Minerva."
Harry stood frozen as Moody walked over to him. The discovery of his cupboard had stirred memories he did not particularly want to recall, and it wasn't until he felt the uncomfortable squeezing sensation begin in his stomach that he realised Moody wasn't using a portkey.
A moment later they appeared at the Lovegoods' front door with a pop. 'So that's what Apparition feels like' Harry thought.
Moody opened the door and walked in the house without bothering to knock. Harry followed him in. There was a pile of trunks and belongings in one section of the room, and it looked like Dan and Emma were doing some last minute tidying up in the kitchen.
Minerva was sitting at the kitchen table with Remus and the girls, and the many sounds coming down the stairs from above suggested that both Tonks and Xenophilius were in the house as well.
Moody sat down at the table facing McGonagall, and Harry followed him, taking the remaining seat at the end of the table.
"Have you recalled anything else about what happened at Snape's house?" Moody asked Minerva gruffly.
She shook her head. "No, Alastor, it still makes no sense. Severus had several opportunities to stun me earlier if that was what he wanted to do."
"I wouldn't put it past Albus to have told Snape to expect you, and given him instructions on what to do when you showed up. I'm going to want answers from him before Friday, or you won't be going." Moody said.
"How will you do that, Alastor?"
"How do you think? I'll send him an owl. Harry's got one." He frowned, and turned to Harry. "Just where is your owl, Harry?"
"She's out flying. Where else would she be?" Harry replied.
Hermione looked confused. "Hedwig wasn't on the train either, Harry. In fact, I haven't seen her since Hogwarts. Are you sure she's ok? She isn't flying to Surrey, is she?"
"Why would she be flying to Surrey?" Harry asked, wondering what all the fuss was about.
"Well, isn't that where you would normally be?" Hermione replied.
"Yeah, but I'm not there am I? I'm here, and we'll be in Sweden soon, so… Look, if you want to send a letter out just let me know and… you know what, never mind."
He walked over to the window and opened it. He walked back to the table, and as he sat down, Hedwig flew in and circled the room before landing on his shoulder.
"How did you do that?" Hermione demanded, shocked at the owl's appearance.
"How did I do what?" Harry replied, still confused.
"If I may…" Minerva said, joining the conversation. "Harry, we are all quite surprised that you seemed to know that Hedwig was about to fly in, yet she apparently hasn't been seen since Hogwarts. Now, if I understand your reactions correctly, Hedwig always comes to you when you are thinking of her, wherever you are?"
"Of course she does. She knows me now, and she knows I don't like trudging up to the owlery, so whenever I have a letter to send or I'm thinking of her then she comes to me." Harry said, absently reaching up and stroking his familiar as he spoke.
"Well, Mr Potter, that is quite a bond you have with Hedwig, and she's a magnificent owl." Minerva said, reaching over and giving Hedwig a stroke as well. Hedwig nipped her finger gently in appreciation of the compliment.
"Yeah, she is that." Harry agreed. "But I don't know why you're making such a fuss about it. How do you think owls take the post to where they are going anyway? You think they read the address on the envelope? It's just the way the magic works; if they know where they have to go, then why is it so surprising that they can know where they need to be as well?"
Minerva appeared shocked. "That's extremely insightful of you, Harry. I'm not sure that I've ever considered owl post in that way before." She thought for a moment. "If you can prepare a paper on your thoughts and observations about post owls in the next couple of days, I'll send it along to Madam Marchbanks. You should be able to get a few bonus points towards your Care of Magical Creatures OWL."
Harry's eyes widened and he nodded. "Err, sure. Thank you, Professor."
"Speaking of owl post. Do you happen to recall where Harry's Hogwarts letter was sent Minerva?" Moody asked.
"Don't…" Harry said to Moody.
Minerva looked between Harry and Moody. Something had obviously happened at Privet drive. Moody had always referred to him as 'Potter' until then, and what was in the box Harry was holding on his lap?
"The letters are sent out using a charmed quill, Alastor. Why?" she asked, alarm bells just starting to ring.
"Maybe you should check–"
"Don't do this!" Harry interrupted, glaring at Moody. "It's none of your business, or anyone else's!"
"Well, I want to know how the bloody deputy headmistress of Hogwarts could fail to notice that one of her students was living in a cupboard under the bloody stairs long enough for it to pick up more of a magical resonance than your bloody bedroom! Well, Minerva?"
Harry didn't look at the others for their reactions as he rounded on Moody. "Bugger what you want, what about my privacy? You had no bloody right to say anything!" Harry yelled, standing up and storming out the back door, still carrying his box.
Nearly everyone in the room started staring, their gazes moving between Moody and McGonagall, the latter looking quite miserable. She was not alone, as many people looked horrified at the thought of a child growing up in a cupboard.
Minerva composed herself after a couple of minutes and addressed the group that was still looking at her, though focussing mainly on Moody. "There are many ways I could respond, Alastor. The most obvious being what Harry just told you. It is his business, not yours. If he chooses to tell you – any of you – then that is his choice."
She paused a moment to give them a chance to digest her statement, before continuing. "Since you've asked me about my involvement though, I will answer you that much. I do not make a habit of personally reviewing the address of every letter going out to students from Hogwarts. Why would I? Therefore, I was not aware of his living conditions until I started looking into his situation yesterday, and learned more than I ever wanted to."
She paused again to let the others have a chance to comment, but nobody seemed prepared to break the silence that had fallen when she'd stopped talking, and they were instead thinking about what she'd said.
Minerva decided to try and head off any further discussion on the topic. "In any case, it is Harry's business, and I am almost certain that he would not want our pity for how he grew up, nor would he want us gossiping about him."
There was little movement to continue packing as those around the table continued to reflect on what they'd heard. As it turned out, Hermione's thoughts were much the same as everyone else; how on earth was she supposed to not pity him?
Luna had slipped out the back door during the conversation, and went looking for her boyfriend. She found him sitting on the grass with his back against a tree, facing the creek. The box he'd been carrying was beside him.
"You probably shouldn't sit there you know," she told him.
"Let me guess, there are Blibbering Humdingers in this tree, and they like attacking sulky boys?" he replied, demonstrating his eligibility for attack.
"Well, I'm not sure about that, but you are sitting on an ants' nest."
"What?" Harry said, leaping up and brushing at his clothes.
"Gotcha!" Luna said, smiling.
"Why you…" Harry began as he stalked towards his girlfriend, whose face took on a wicked grin as she started edging backwards, a little too slowly to get away.
Harry closed the distance and grabbed her by her upper arms near her shoulders. "You are, without a doubt…" he started saying.
"Yes, Harry?" Luna said, looking straight into his eyes, and when she did, there was something in that look and her expression that made him completely lose his train of thought.
"You're just…" Harry tried again, captivated by her gaze, but losing interest in whatever he was saying. It wasn't important anyway. Her eyes were much more interesting. "Gorgeous…" he murmured, barely aware that he'd spoken aloud.
He didn't notice it when his hands moved to her waist, drawing her closer to him before wrapping around her back. He didn't even realise at first that her own arms had enveloped him and were holding him just as warmly. Their shared gaze was only broken when they each closed their eyes just before their lips joined together.