A Sixth Year Story: Voldemort's Return brings in the International Confederation and a team from the North American Wizarding Confederation to take control. In this chapter, Yule, 1980, including ...
Monday, December 8, 1980
Peter Pettigrew was in many ways an average wizard at best. His family was undistinguished, his marks at Hogwarts had been average. Most average wizards were keeping their heads down in this time of trouble.
In that respect, Pettigrew was not average. Right out of school, he had been swept up into the fight against Voldemort. Within a few months, he had been accepted into the Order of the Phoenix. He still wasn't certain why he had gone along with his friends, other than it was a habit developed over seven years of school.
After all these years, he still wasn't certain why he had been placed in Gryffindor. He wasn't smart enough for Ravenclaw, hard-working or loyal enough for Hufflepuff, well-bred enough or ambitious enough for Slytherin, or brave enough for Gryffindor. The Sorting Hat had kept him there for some time, debating between Slytherin, the House of his mother, or Gryffindor, the House of his father, an auror who had been killed a few years before.
He had therefore asked for Gryffindor, and wound up meeting three of the most unusual boys to attend Hogwarts in many a year. James Potter and Sirius Black would have been princes in any House. They had the breeding and ambition for Slytherin and were more than brilliant enough for Ravenclaw. They even could work hard enough to have been decent Hufflepuffs, and they were loyal to each other and to their House. But they were Gryffindors, brave and boisterous.
Remus Lupin was different. Nearly as capable as the other two, he was much quieter and bookish. While James and Sirius seemed capable of absorbing knowledge. Remus worked a little harder, and understood things deeper. It had been shocking to learn that Remus hadn't been 'delicate' and 'sickly' but a werewolf.
Peter had been horrified. James and Sirius had been delighted, and Peter had learned to go along as well. It was to help Remus that the two had decided to become Animagi, with again Peter's going along for the ride.
To successfully become an Animagus was a major achievement. To become mammalian was an even greater achievement. Of course, his rat was overshadowed by Sirius' huge dog and even more by James' stag.
He was always overshadowed. It was still going on. Sirius and James were fighting this war, Peter was collating information. Even Remus did nearly as much fighting as he did research. Peter was left behind in many ways, but on the whole he preferred that.
It was safer.
Peter liked playing it safe.
There was only one slightly risky thing Peter indulged in. He loved the boiled sweets of his childhood, and the little shop in his hometown was one of the few small town sweet shops that not only was staying in business but still made many of their own sweets. Not a soft paste, not hard and crunchy, they had just the right texture and flavors as far as Peter was concerned. He had little comfort in his current existence, in fact the sweets were all he had. Even Sirius and James recognized this, and never stole them, like they had at Hogwarts.
He apparated into the alley as usual and scurried out to the side street. It was a nasty, dark day, with a hard, driving, nearly-freezing rain. Peter picked up an even larger order than usual, so that he could give some away for Christmas.
He hadn't noticed a slim figure follow him out of the alley and into the shop. Therefore, he didn't pay any attention to the young man, whom he should have recognized, as he asked when he should make a special order for Easter.
Told he could at any time, Peter made his large order early, and set a date to pick it up. Going back into the storm, Peter disapparated as soon as he entered the alley, since there was no one around, that he could see, much to the disappointment of another young wizard at the back of the alley.
While they were worried about their Master's reaction to their failure to grab Pettigrew, Regulus and Barty knew they could at least report a date where Pettigrew could be kidnaped, if attempts failed between now and then.
Wednesday, Christmas Eve, 1980
Harry and Neville were napping, and Alice and Lily were taking a break from the children and their paper work to have tea.
"You seem nervous," Alice said, teasing the younger woman.
"Neither Frank nor James have been able to spend the night since Halloween, and here we have two nights together. I haven't been to the Marauders' place in weeks. You're telling me you're not nervous and excited?"
"Excited, yes," she admitted, "nervous, no, but I've been married longer than you." She fished around for a different topic. "Our housemates are stranger than I had realized."
"You mean all that chanting every morning this week? Well, Tabby and Henry are priests of some kind, and some of the others are believers. . . ."
"I've read about them, but didn't realize the reality."
"I wish I had. I don't think Binns ever mentioned them."
"From Binns, a student would never realize that there's a world outside of western Europe or history before Merlin," Alice said with a sniff.
"True. I do like some of them."
"Well, Harry, Tabby, and Tom are alright, but Toby is an arrogant one, isn't he?"
"That's because he's in lust with Tabby, and she doesn't care for him."
"True," Alice agreed. "I just can't tell if she return's Henry's interest of not."
"Oh, she does -- she even told me they had been lovers but didn't want to go to far here when everyone else here has been forced to be more celibate -- but she has other interests," Lily said.
"She told me that she really liked Harry, but preferred . . . girls."
"Was she flirting with you?"
"I just wondered. You two would certainly be a striking pair of red-heads!"
"I thought so. At least Titus and Willie are quiet. I just wish we could get out more." She immediately raised her hand. "I know, I know. This is why we're safe here."
"But James and Frank aren't," Lily said softly, speaking what they both feared most.
Titus, Willie, and Toby were on duty all day Christmas. While Voldemort had been relatively quiet since Halloween, no one believed the threat was over.
Harry and Neville were, of course, far too young to have any understanding about Christmas. That didn't prevent the two infants from being the center of everyone's attention, and from their being showered with gifts. Even the somewhat stand-offish Toby Jones had bought the boys magically-flavored pacifiers.
Mid-morning, Alice and Lily were finally able to leave for a short time. Henry escorted Lily, Harry, and James to the Marauder's communal flat and Tabitha escorted the Longbottom's to Frank's secret headquarters.
Remus and Sirius almost totally ignored Lily, concentrating instead on entertaining Harry. They both adored the baby, and loved playing with him, even when that just meant making faces at him. Peter spent his time taking photos and taking care of dinner. James and Sirius couldn't cook, and usually wound up blowing up the Muggle tinned food Lloyd provided, since they refused to use a tin opener. Remus cared little for food. It was left to Peter, who was usually home when he wasn't going out for supplementary supplies, to do most of the cooking, while he and Remus split the cleaning.
James and Sirius had decorated the row house in the run-down council terrace Dumbledore had somehow arranged for them to lease. They had a Christmas tree, complete with magical and Muggle decorations. Remus had found and coaxed a small group of fairies to come and live inside it for the season.
Young Harry enjoyed watching the fairies that Remus had encouraged to come out and dance for him more than he did the presents. Peter managed to take a lot of photos.
When the day was over, Lily wrapped Harry up well, and Henry apparated back to the house at Whinging with Harry. He and Tabitha would be minding to two infants for the night.
James would have dragged his wife immediately to bed, but Lily first ordered Sirius into James' bedroom. "If there is one prank, one hoax, one hex, Sirius Black, I swear I'll shrink your willie to the point you'll have to sit to pee and no girl will never be able to find it."
It took Sirius over half an hour to de-hoax James' bedroom.
Friday, December 26, 1980
"Feeling better, Prongs?" Remus asked.
"Less . . . Prongy?" Peter teased.
James glowered at them. Peter hurried off to bring in the coffee.
Sirius made his way in. "Well, Prongs! Did the buck have a good f. . . ."
He did not finish the sentence, as Lily had sealed his mouth. "Really consider if you want to bait us this morning, Sirius, dear." She put his mouth back.
Sirius felt his mouth. It seemed to be back to normal. "Yes, well . . . sleep well, did we?"
"Very well, thank you," Lily said primly. "And you?"
"Very well. Thanks, Wormtail," Sirius added as Peter poured them coffee. "So," he went on, looking for some topic which wouldn't get him hexed, "who was your guardian?"
Lily rolled her eyes. "He's one of the American volunteers, as you know perfectly well. He's an auror on leave."
"So the Confederation isn't just condoning their presence, they're actually supporting the Order?" Remus asked. They didn't have many chances to ask questions.
"Exactly. They're paying the expenses, and arranged for some of their aurors and others to come over."
"I guess they couldn't send too many aurors and hit-wizards over," James mused. "They can't leave themselves even partially unprotected."
"A number of them are sersiants, Confederation guards and constables."
"Not as formidable as aurors, but well-trained nonetheless," Remus pointed out.
"Exactly. They're doing a lot of the basic guard work here, too. That frees up the Order and the other volunteers. They actually have a pretty good system set up."
"Do you know what happened Halloween night?" Remus asked. "The reports didn't seem to make sense."
"Oh that was . . . I guess we're not supposed to use full names, right? His name is Tom. He's one of the three who's not a sersiant, auror, or Dragon."
"Dragon?" Peter asked, finally sitting down to his own breakfast.
"The Old Believer security people," Lily told them. "Tabby is a really brill spell weaver and potions brewer. Really good dueler, too. They brought Lloyd over because he understands British Muggle culture. Tom is really good potion brewer if not as good as Tabby, but his real specialty is old ritual magic. I'm really learning a lot from all of them."
"So this Tom used ritual magic?" Remus asked. "That would explain a lot. I would never have thought about anchoring a warding spell with a living entity like that."
"He used six wards, on top of whatever he needed to do to create the enchanted pentagram," Lily explained. "I wish we knew what drew Voldemort's attention. He showed us what he had done, although I admit I didn't totally understand it. . . . "
"What? You? And you let him live without fully explaining? Shocked I am, girl, shocked!"
"I can remove your mouth again, Black, so watch it! He'll teach me more this spring, when we can get out a bit more, at least at night. Anyway, he set up the same set of spells and wards, and as far as any of us could see, he was invisible."
"Voldemort can probably sense actual magic, even at low levels," James pointed out. "Some people have a knack for it, and many people develop more sensitivity as they grow older." He paused and frowned. "I wonder how old he is."
"I wonder who he was," Remus added. "He's a British wizard, so he was probably trained at Hogwarts. He must be younger than Dumbledore."
"Dumbledore knows who he is, but he told me the knowledge isn't useful at this time," James said. "I wish he would explain more."
"I know," Sirius agreed. "I thought we'd be pushing more, now that we have these reenforcements, but we still seem more reactive than active."
"Dumbledore learned something in June or July," James answered. "I have no idea what, but it has made him more cautious, even though he's seemed more confident that we'll win. I wish I had some clue about what it was."
"The need to know," Peter reminded them. "It's nice to have all the answers, but we can never be certain one of us won't be captured. Even if we all stand up to torture like we hope we will, I'm sure there are other ways of . . . extracting information. Truth potions, if nothing else."
Sirius sneered, but James agreed. "You're right, Wormtail. I know I can withstand the Imperius and maybe even torture, but there are truth potions out there that would have anyone spilling everything they know. He must have a few master potion brewers, assuming there's anything that can't be bought on the black market."
"Snivellus probably works for him," Sirius growled. "Slimy, greasy git." Remus gave his friend a dirty look.
"I don't know if Severus would work directly for Voldemort or not," Lily stated primly. "Even if he doesn't, however, there are plenty of others."
"And Snape wouldn't have to work directly for him, anyway," James pointed out. "One of his Slytherin pals could just say, 'Sev, old boy, here's some gold. Make us this potion, no questions asked.' And if he wouldn't, there are probably two dozen or so potion masters and apothecaries just in England that I wouldn't want to answer for under oath."
"True," Sirius agreed.
"Let's talk about something better than Severus Snape," Lupin pleaded.
"Let's talk about Harry," Sirius said. "He needs to see his godfather and two favorite uncles more often."
"Considering the only other uncle he has is Vernon Dursley, you two aren't quite as honored as all that," James teased. The group went on to more pleasant things to discuss, like how fast Harry was growing, and when Sirius could teach him to ride a broom.
As Lily prepared to leave, she remarked to James. "By the way, you'll never guess who moved into the next village to us."
"Who? And how would you know?"
"Petunia and Vernon. I know because I get so bored I even read the estate sales in the local weekly."
"If we're still there at the end, I'll take the entire group over to meet them. That should give the pair of them a shock!"
"What? We won't hurt them, or prank them. That's something you and Sirius did far too often as it is! It's just that Tabby and Tom can't believe people like the Dursleys exist."
"We never hurt anything more than their pride!"
Lily gave him a dirty look. "All right," James agreed, "we ground their egos into the mud. Still, we never caused any physical pain."
"What about the day Vernon had to spend in the loo?"
"We warned him not to eat more than three of the candies in a four hour period! Is it our fault he ate all two dozen in an hour?"
"Considering his eating habits, the fact that you didn't tell him what would happen if he did eat too many, and the fact that Sirius or you put a 'Desire me' charm on them. . . ."
"Sirius. . . ."
"Which ever! I don't like Vernon any more than you do. I don't especially like Petunia all that much, to be honest, but she's still my sister. What will happen if something happens to us. . . ."
"Nothing will happen to us! And if it does, Padfoot, Moony, and Wormtail will raise Harry."
"If anything happened to you, Sirius would more likely go crazy to get revenge, not worry about Harry," Lily pointed out. "And Remus could never get custody. They would more likely turn Harry over to Petunia rather than to Peter. Remember that when I say I want some bridges left that you and Sirius haven't burnt or shit all over."
James winced at that. When Lily talked like that, you had best listen.
"I mean it, James."
"If we're killed during the war, maybe we should ask Frank and Alice. . . ."
"They have enough, looking out for Neville. Maybe I should ask Tabitha. . . ."
"No! I don't want my son raised in America! They'll make a tree worshiper out of him!"
"They don't worship trees!"
"Fine, bushes then!"
"All right, I won't argue about it now. Just remember, we have to think about Harry first, not what we want."
"I'll think about it. Why don't you come here for a minute? You don't have to leave this instant, you know."
"So, do you two feel more . . . relaxed?" Tabitha teased her friends.
"As a matter of fact, yes," Alice said calmly, while Lily blushed a bit. "The question is, how's the tension between you and your admirers?"
"Toby can wish all he wants. I'm no more available to him now than when he first saw me when he was eleven."
"Poor boy," Alice said.
"'Poor boy' my ass! He went through a dozen girl friends at school, persuaded one to break the Maiden's Charm and seduced one without it." The two women winced. "If they had Old Believers instead of Muggle-born, his father would have gone broke paying the bride prices! As it was, one girl got a Muggle abortion and the other girl had to leave during his Seventh year -- her Fifth. No, I'm staying well-away from Toby's arms, I assure you."
"What happened to the girl who left?" Lily asked.
"The school arranged for her to retake her Fifth year at one of the smaller schools. Toby is still paying child support. I think the other girl moved to California, but of course she might have moved on by now. I know he's paying child support. Watch out," she warned the two women, "he'll start in on you two now that you've regained your figures. He likes blondes and redheads."
"Don't laugh," Tabitha warned again. "You might be an auror, but so he is. And he has a certain slimy charm, when he leaves the cold-fish impression behind."
Alice laughed again. "I assure you, I can take care of myself. And while I wouldn't bet on Lily in a duel against an auror, I'd bet on her in a battle of wits against any three people."
"I've had practice battling against the pranks of four lunatics," Lily pointed out. She turned to Tabitha. "I hope you and Tom will continue to show us that old ritual and druidic magic. In return, I can teach you at least some hexes that only work against males -- and which can only be cast and removed by women at that."
The three women smiled smiles that would have either thrilled or terrified any male who saw them.