A tall, lanky red-haired man threw down his quill in disgust and scowled at the paperwork lining his desk. Paperwork was the bane of any job, but it seemed to be doubly so for those whose chosen professions kept them out in the field and away from their desks. Or perhaps it was just that those people tended to put it all off until the last minute.
With a sigh, the man spun his chair around to face a large, highly polished, obsidian sheet that was mounted on the wall. He tapped a rune below the shiny black expanse and a moment later, a goblin's face appeared within the frame.
"Goldfarb, is Manager Irongrip available?"
"One moment, Mr. Weasley, let me check for you."
The frame went dark again, only this time, randomly moving, multi-colorued lines wandered about the sheet. The effect was slightly hypnotic.
A few moments later, the face of another goblin appeared.
"Good afternoon, Weasley."
"'afternoon, Irongrip. How's jolly ol' England?"
"Damp, contentious and profitable. How's Cairo?"
"Hot, dry and just as profitable. You should be seeing the reports from the last site by the end of the week. We just have to kick Jep and Francois until they finish their forms."
The goblin barred her teeth in a grin. "Very good, very good. Now, what can I do for you?"
"I have a favour to ask of you, Irongrip —"
"Will it get me in legal, moral, social, ethical or spiritual trouble?"
The man laughed. "Not this time, my friend."
"I need to know who is this year's Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts."
The goblin tilted her head to the side. If she had been human (or any other race that sported hair) she would have raised an eyebrow. "Why do you care?"
"Hey, I've got five siblings there this year! Is it so wrong for me to want to know who will be teaching them, especially in such an important subject?"
"Dammit, Bill," the goblin growled, "don't try to lie to me. Humans are poor liars at best, and you Weasleys are worse than most."
Bill Weasley looked at his friend and mentor and rubbed the back of his neck. "It's about Ginny," he began quietly. "I found out that she spent all of the last school year fucking possessed by a bloody Dark object!" His voice steadily rose in intensity and volume. "The only reason she's still alive is because a fucking twelve-year-old managed to kill a Basilisk, destroy the cursed object and save her! I don't care if he is the goddamned Boy-Who-Lived! Where the fuck were the adults?" By the end he was shouting, but he didn't worry about being over-heard; all Gringotts offices were well warded for privacy.
"Excuse me?" Irongrip said in disbelief. "Bill, back up and explain this to me again."
Bill took a deep breath and sat back down in his chair — not that he remembered standing up — and tried to explain. "My family came for an extended visit — Dad won some sort of Galleon draw, so they decided to spend some of it to come visit me. Not exactly what I would have chosen to do with the money, but that's not the issue here. While they were here, Mum and Dad told me that Ginny — my eleven-year-old little sister — had somehow got her hands on a cursed diary. This diary apparently possessed and controlled her at various points throughout the school year. Amazingly, no one noticed. She was used to release a Basilisk from the so-called Chamber of Secrets in Hogwarts. The Basilisk Petrified several people, but fortunately did not kill anyone. At the end of the year, Ginny was possessed again and compelled to go down to this supposedly secret Chamber. I don't know exactly what happened down there. What I do know is that somehow Harry Potter found out what had happened to Ginny, found this Chamber that had eluded the entire staff of Hogwarts for the past fifty years, and went to rescue her, killing the Basilisk and destroying the diary in the process. I was told none of this at the time. Mum decided that she, quote, 'didn't want to worry me.'" Bill snorted and the anger in his voice was obvious. "Oh sure, just ignore your sister, she's fine. No, no, we don't need anyone who deals with cursed objects on a daily basis. No need for someone like that at all." He snorted again. "I think the only reason she told me anything was because I noticed that Ginny didn't quite seem herself and threatened to ask her directly if Mum and Dad wouldn't tell me what was going on."
Irongrip shook her head in amazement. Wizards seemed to be constitutionally incapable of noticing what was going on around them. Well, most wizards, anyway. The ones trained by Gringotts were broken of the habit quite quickly. "I sympathize with your anger, Bill, and you know that the resources of the division are open to you and your sister. But what has this to do with this year's Hogwarts teacher?"
"Ginny needs help. Mum and Dad refuse to admit it. They claim that Headmaster Dumbledore checked her over and proclaimed her 'fine' so they're not going to do any more about it. I think Mum would bundle her up in cotton batting and lock her in her room if she could get away with it. They wouldn't let me talk to Ginny about it, claiming it would only upset her again."
The goblin echoed the man's snort of disbelief.
"So I was hoping," continued Bill, "that this year's Defence professor was actually decent for once. If he was, I might write to him and ask him to see if there was anything he could do for Gin. She needs basic counselling, if nothing else."
"I think you're in luck, Bill," Irongrip said slowly. "Remus Lupin was hired just a few weeks ago."
"Lupin?" Bill's eyebrows rose. "The name is vaguely familiar. What's wrong with him?"
"What do you mean?"
"Oh, come off it, Irongrip. You know as well as I do that there hasn't been a Defence teacher who has lasted two years in a row at Hogwarts in at least fifty years. So what's wrong with this Lupin fellow?"
"He's a werewolf."
This time Bill's eyebrows nearly shot off his head. "And Dumbledore is letting him teach? How'd he get that by the Board?"
"I believe that Mr. Lupin attended Hogwarts about a decade before you did; so presumably the Headmaster already has a mechanism in place to cope with his monthly transformations. And according to our sources, the Potions Master at the school is quite capable of brewing Wolfsbane. I do hope that was written into Lupin's contract." The slight curl of her lip expressed the goblin's disbelief that any mere wizard would be sensible enough to have something like that written into a contract. "At any rate, he's a specialist in Dark creatures, but is well rounded in Defence overall. His biggest problem has been a lack of consistent employment. He's actually done some contract work for us at the Tintagel and Tintern Abbey sites. We keep trying to bring him on full time, but he keeps refusing. A good man, though."
Bill felt himself relaxing. That was high praise coming from the goblin who had first trained him. "Do you think if I wrote to him, he might help Ginny?"
Irongrip hmm-ed thoughtfully. "He might. He's reputed to be in Dumbledore's pocket, but I don't know how much of your sister's situation he would have been told. As long as you don't ask him to do anything that directly opposes the Headmaster, he should be willing to at least listen. He's an honourable man, and I suspect he will place the welfare of his students above all else."
Bill breathed out a sigh of relief. This crazy plan might just work after all. "Thank you, Irongrip. I really appreciate it."
"Not at all, Bill. Now, while I've got you here, let's hear the preliminary profit report from your last excavation..."
Mr. Bill Weasley
Dear Mr. Weasley,
I must admit, in all my experiences as a teacher, I have received numerous messages from parents, but yours was the first I have ever received from a sibling of one of my students. I apologize for the delay in writing back to you; as you no doubt remember, the first week of school is a little bit hectic, and only now am I finding myself with both the time and inclination to sit down with my neglected correspondence.
Surprise and over-burdened schedules aside, I am most grateful that you wrote me as you did. I had been told nothing of your sister's situation, a circumstance which disturbs me almost as greatly as your description of the events did. When I confronted the Headmaster about this oversight — I left your name out of it entirely, intimating instead that I had picked up my information from the ever-efficient Hogwarts Gossip Network — his reaction was much as you implied it might be. Or rather, his lack of reaction. He largely waved aside my concerns with platitudes and made noises about "not dwelling in the past." Hrmph. I have tremendous respect for the man, and will be forever grateful that he allowed me to attend Hogwarts (both as a student and now as a teacher), but sometimes I fear he has lost sight of the fact that we live in a world where we freely and willingly arm eleven-year-olds with deadly weapons.
I will gladly do what I can for Ginevra, although I am neither a qualified counsellor nor Mind Healer. I do agree with you that no outside help can be brought in without parental consent and we dare not go there without something concrete to point to.
Although I suspect Gringotts usual efficiency has already apprised you of my condition, honesty compels me to put it forth in plain terms for you: I am a werewolf. It was only by the grace of Albus Dumbledore that I was allowed a formal education at all. I shall completely understand if you wish to withdraw your request for my aid, not wanting your only sister to be too closely associated with one such as I. I would only ask that you keep this information to yourself and trust in Headmaster Dumbledore, if not in me.
I await your reply and, on the slim chance that you might wish me to continue with our project, shall begin some discrete research on the effects of magical possession.
Remus J. Lupin
Defence Against the Dark Arts
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
Gryffindor House, Hogwarts
I'm so glad you wrote to me! I always want to hear about what's going on in school. Like I told you when you came to visit, I'm so so soooooo sorry I didn't get to write you very much last year. I should have done better. But you know how we boys are — STUUUUUPIDD! But I promise to try better this time.
I'm glad to hear things are going a little better this year. I know last year was kind of hard for you but I want you to know — IT WAS NOT YOUR FAULT! Promise on my honour as your biggest brother. And don't forget, you can always ask your professors for extra help if you don't remember something. That's what they're there for, after all.
I do agree with you that Professor Lupin sounds like a MUCH better teacher than Lockhart. Actually, some of the goblins I work with know Professor Lupin and they really like him — and you remember what I've told you about goblins, right? So I think he'd be a really good person for you to talk to, if you wanted. The goblins say he's really smart, so he could probably help you with just about anything. I always want you to tell me everything that's going on with you, but sometimes it's nice to talk to a real person, instead of just writing a letter. You could always talk to Madam Pomfrey if you wanted, too. I know she seems like a bit of a dragon (maybe that's why Charlie was always getting hurt and going to see her!) but she's actually really nice. Kinda like Mum that way — only without the smothering.
Well, I need to get back to work now and do some more paperwork (boring!), so give Ronny a hug, shake Percy's hand and smack the twins upside the head for me, would you? And write back to me soon! I want to hear how you did on your first Charms quiz, and how much of a git Snape was, and what they served for pudding on Friday!
Love you bunches and bunches,
Mr. Bill Weasley
Dear Mr. Weasley,
I thank you for the kind words of your last letter. I should have guessed that someone who works with goblins would be free of the prejudices that are held by so much of the wizarding world. Alas, people like you are few and far between, so I tend to assume the worst — and am too often proven correct. I would be honoured to consider you a friend, so please, call me Remus.
Your sister has, in fact, come to see me several times in the past month. Thus far it has been merely to review some of the material that was covered in DADA and Charms last year, but I do have hope for getting her to open up. She has already mentioned in passing that there are nights when she is afraid to go to sleep. I presume this is because of dreams she has. I recommended that she seek out Madam Pomfrey for the occasional Dreamless Sleep Potion, although I did warn her of the addictive properties. I am strongly considering telling her of my own condition as a way of 1) establishing a connection with her experiences of last year and 2) showing her that I trust her, in the hopes that the trust will be returned. Do you think that would work?
I'm afraid I must cut this letter short and return to my preparations for the NEWTs level classes I have tomorrow. Given the track record of the previous few teachers in this subject, I despair of getting the seventh years prepared for their exams; the sixth years have some hope. How ever did we get through it?
I look forward to hearing the results of your research into cursed objects. I remain,
Hi, biggest brother! How're you? You won't believe what happened here last night! Sirius Black got into the castle and tried to get into the common room!
We were all coming back from the feast when we found the Fat Lady's portrait all slashed up. She wasn't hurt, but Peeves said it was done by Sirius Black. I'm not sure why the professors believed Peeves; he doesn't usually tell the truth about things. Maybe they have some other way of telling. We all got sent back to the Great Hall and Professor Dumbledore conjured everyone sleeping bags. It was like a great big sleepover! I could tell Harry was pretty scared, even though he tried not to show it. Everyone says Black is out to get him. Professor Lupin looked really unhappy too. Did he know Black or something? They never found Black and everything got back to normal the next day. Well, as normal as anything ever is around here.
I've been talking to Professor Lupin a lot. It's nice to talk to someone who doesn't freak out when I talk about what happened last year or tell me not to worry about it. He listens and helps me figure out what I'm still so scared of. He said it's okay to be scared but that I shouldn't let it control me. And then he told me a secret, but he said I could tell you since you already know: he's a werewolf. He said it scares him sometimes because he can feel the wolf in his mind and it wants to hurt people and he's not sure if he can always control it. So I guess he really does kind of understand. I know the diary was destroyed but sometimes I still feel like I can hear Tom in my head.
Well, I gotta go do my Transfiguration homework and then start studying for the Herbology quiz on Wednesday.
Percy (who started to yell at me for not doing work before he even found out what I was writing — git) says hello.
Love you bunches and bunches,
Gryffindor Tower, Hogwarts
Defence Against the Dark Arts
I am including a copy of the most comprehensive book that I could find on possession. I probably don't need to say this, but keep the book out of sight — the British Ministry, in their infinite wisdom, has banned it. Fortunately the booksellers in the markets here are more forward thinking! I have read it and come to my own conclusions, but I don't want to taint your thinking. Take a look through and see what you come up with and then we can compare notes. I will say this much — it's not good and Ginny is a remarkable girl.
Things are quiet here for the moment. My local site coordinator, Snagtooth, keeps putting off reassigning my team to another site. Francois has been sent off to a Healer's conference in Mumbai for a month, Jep suddenly decided to take some of the holiday he's owed and visit his family, and Jimmy and Ed have been temporarily reassigned to a local team working on a haunted theatre, of all things — something about needing their particular touch with the wards. And they have assigned me to look through a bunch of objects in house that all — get this — were involved with a case of some kind of possession. I get a distinct whiff of collusion here, and I bet I'd find Irongrip's long green fingers at the root of all of this. But I'm not going to complain — it is all work that needs to be done and has allowed me to be much more thorough in my research for Ginny than I originally thought.
I'm glad you could tell me about Black. You are keeping my sister's confidences, so it's somehow fitting that I should keep yours. I cannot imagine what hell you must have lived through. While the rest of us were celebrating freedom from a Dark Lord, you must have been dying inside. You are a good man, Remus, and that you survived having your whole world collapse around you shows just how strong you are — as much as your monthly battle with the wolf does. I only hope they catch the bastard Black soon, and let you put it behind you once again.
Let me know what you think of that book and I'll talk to you soon, my friend. Take care of yourself next week — I'm glad Snape's good for something!
Bill sighed as he picked up the letter from his desk and read it one more time, hoping that somehow the contents would mysteriously be different this time. They weren't. Remus had come to the same disturbing conclusion that he had. He should consider himself lucky to still have a sister at all, let alone one who was still completely sane and relatively unscathed.
True possession was relatively rare. What most wizards (and Muggles, for that matter) thought of as "being possessed" was really some form of Imperius-type control, brought about by any number of spells, potions or objects. Bill had run into at least a dozen variations in his work. But true possession, two souls inhabiting one body and the visiting soul wresting control from the host — that could only be achieved in a few ways, each one Darker and more disturbing than the previous. There were few recorded cases of it, largely because the host soul rarely survived and the hostile soul was not usually inclined to discuss his or her actions.
There were still things that didn't add up, though. How had Ginny managed to break free of the possession? That shouldn't have been possible. And what exactly was done to that diary? Bill growled at the piece of parchment in his hands. He needed to talk to Remus face to face. Quickly, he jotted off a note asking Remus to Floo him after supper. Maybe then they could find some answers.
"Dammit, Remus, we're missing something. Something vital, I just know it," Bill growled into the fireplace later that evening. Curse-Breakers always kept odd hours, and Gringotts was open continuously anyway, so no one would remark on the fact that Mr. Weasley was staying later than usual. If, indeed, anyone even noticed.
"I know, Bill," Remus said soothingly. "We'll find it. I just wish..."
Remus shook his head. "Something impossible. I just wish we could have seen what happened in the Chamber."
"A Pensieve of Ginny's memories wouldn't work?"
"No. We've tried that for some of the earlier episodes. She literally wasn't there until it was all over. It would be like... asking for a Pensieve of her sleeping. But even less so, because even her subconscious was cut off from her senses. She was literally shunted aside, rendered deaf, mute and blind."
Bill shuddered. He hated to think of that happening to his baby sister. "Fuck. How the hell did she survive?"
"I don't know. You've got a very strong sister, Bill. But all she remembers is waking up in the Chamber with Har—"
"Potter!" they exclaimed together.
"He might be able to tell us!" Bill cried happily. "Can you talk to him? Maybe even get a Pensieve memory?"
Remus hesitated. "I suppose I could try. I don't really know him all that well. Before Halloween, I started to try to get to know him again, but then there was that whole fiasco with Sir— Black and then Albus asked me to keep my distance from the boy."
"What? Why on earth—"
Remus's face bobbed slightly, as if he shrugged. "I don't know. Dammit, Bill," there was a dull thump, as if the werewolf had smacked something, "what is he playing at? I was there when the boy was born! His first word after 'mama' 'dada' and 'broom' was 'Moo-ey'! I know the Ministry never would have let me have custody of him, but I should have at least been able to help raise him!"
"So why couldn't you?"
"Because Albus Bloody Dumbledore wouldn't tell me where he was!" Remus growled into the fire. Suddenly, Bill was very much aware of the wolf that lurked beneath the surface of the normally calm man. "I was — in a bad state for a few months… after. But when I snapped myself out of it, I went to Hogwarts to find out where Harry was. Everyone knew the story by that point — how Hagrid had brought the child to Dumbledore. The Headmaster refused to tell me. Point blank, not even any of his usual dissembling. He just looked at me and said 'No, Remus, no one can know where Harry is. Not even you.' And that was that."
Bill shook his head in amazement. He didn't want to even try to follow the thought process of the normally brilliant Headmaster. "I — don't know what to say, Remus. That's…"
"I know." Remus sighed and the feral quality that had surrounded him faded, leaving only a world-weary man. "What's done is done. What were we talking about?"
"Getting a Pensieve memory from Harry."
"Right. My point is, I haven't had much contact with him outside of class, but I'll see what I can do. We should probably ask Ginny first, though. I don't think she'll object, since it's not like we'd be telling someone new about what happened. I think it might help her to see it too — intellectually, she knows that the diary was destroyed, but maybe it would help her to see it actually happen."
"I hope so. Remus, I —" Bill hesitated, unsure how to put into words the feelings that were building up inside him. "I'm sorry I laid all of this on you. You have enough crap in your own life to deal with and…" He trailed off, unable to vocalize the thoughts swimming through his head. I'm sorry to add more darkness to your life. I'm sorry to put you in more conflict with Dumbledore. I'm sorry I can't be there to share it all with you.
To his surprise, the creases around the other man's eyes softened and the werewolf gave his first true smile of the evening. "Bill, you don't have anything to apologize for. I'm glad I can help you and your sister. It makes me feel that I'm doing something worthwhile. Besides, it's been a long time since I've made a true friend, someone with whom I don't have to hide anything. That alone makes anything worth it."
Bill smiled back, but then cleared his throat before the silence could become uncomfortable. "Right then. So you have a week left before the term ends?"
"Oh yes. One long week of trying to get the children to think of something other than Christmas. Honestly, why do we bother?"
"That's a good question, my friend. Take care of yourself, and keep in touch, you hear?"
"Of course. Good night, Bill."
Fuck, Bill. I got the damned memory. FUCK. I [here the writing became so shaky that it was impossible to read]
I'm sorry, I had to put the quill down, my hand was shaking so badly. Enclosed is Harry's memory of the Chamber. Get yourself a Pensieve and watch it. But make sure you have a number of breakable objects on hand. You will likely want to destroy something. I know I did. [Here follow more ink splatters]
It is now some hours after I first started this letter and I believe I have regained some semblance of equilibrium. I would suggest that, if you have not already done so, you watch the memory and then give yourself some time to calm down. Then come back and let me tell you how this all came about.
Done? How many objects did you destroy? I went through most of my collection of mugs and glasses. I started out with my wand, but ultimately decided that throwing things by hand was a more satisfying release. James always said I'd make a spectacular Chaser if I wasn't such crap on a broom. Anyway…
After we talked, I spoke with Ginny and she agreed that I could talk to Harry about what happened — once we got past the part of her blushing bright red every time his name was mentioned. I'd say some good brotherly teasing is required on that score. I spent most of the holiday fretting about how to approach Harry, as I have not spoken with him outside of class since Halloween. However, once the students returned, Harry — surprising child that he is — solved the problem for me. He approached me after our first class back and asked that I teach him the Patronus Charm(!); I indicated my willingness to do so, but suggested that I would appreciate knowing what happened in the Chamber in exchange. He was surprised (perhaps at the idea of an adult actually taking interest — I get the feeling from both him and Ginny that they were brushed aside more than once when they tried to bring some issue to a teacher) but was more than willing to comply. We extracted the memory and began our lessons. (By the by, I am admittedly sceptical about successfully teaching a thirteen-year-old the Patronus Charm, but I suppose that if anyone can do the improbable, it would be Harry. That child is full of the most interesting surprises. I'll keep you posted.)
I am mortally glad I resisted temptation and did not view the memory until the weekend. It has been a very long time since I felt the wolf that close to escaping when it was not a full moon. I dare not even write down my conclusion, just in case the unthinkable should happen and Gringotts' legendary security be compromised. The word is too foul even to write.
It would be best if we could speak soon. I will be in my chambers after supper both tonight and tomorrow, so if you can, please Floo me. I believe we have much to discuss.
Take heart, my friend, I believe the worst is almost over. Now that we know what exactly happened, we can begin to heal your sister. And I do truly believe she will be healed — not unchanged, no, but at least no longer a shell of who she should be.
Hope to speak with you soon,
P.S. Thank you once again for my Christmas gift. I know precisely how rare those volumes are, and I am astonished at the condition you were able to find them in. Please do not feel it was too impersonal — I truly do love my books and am incredibly touched that you went out of your way to find such a perfect gift.
Several hours, a whole pile of smashed crockery and a tall, stiff glass of Firewhisky later, Bill once again felt calm enough to think rationally. He was glad Remus had warned him to have something breakable on hand. Viewing Harry's memory had elicited feelings of disgust, horror, shock and awe, with an underlying current of rage running through it all — rage that the situation had happened at all, at the behaviour of the people who were supposedly responsible for the students' safety, at the fact that it had taken a twelve-year-old boy to accomplish the impossible.
With a glance at his wrist, he checked the time. It would be a little on the late side in Scotland, but not so late that he was going to refrain from Flooing Remus. He was pretty sure that the professor would be waiting up for his call anyway.
"Remus? Remus, are you there? It's Bill," he called into the green flames, wishing not for the first time that the rest of the world had communication screens similar to the ones in Gringotts.
"Here, Bill." Remus peered through the flames critically. "So you've seen it then."
Bill swallowed hard. "I have. And I think we both know what that damned diary was."
"Horcrux." The word was barely a whisper and Bill nodded solemnly.
"I guess Dumbledore was right — You-Know-Who didn't really die after all."
"How do you mean?"
"Tom Riddle split his soul at age sixteen," Bill said slowly, giving voice to the thoughts that had been rattling around in his head since he emerged from the Pensieve. "That diary held part of it, anchoring him to this world, even if his body should be killed. He had to have survived in some form that night he went after the Potters. The only question is if he survived the destruction of the diary."
"Why wouldn't he?"
"Partially, it depends on what state he's in — if he managed to somehow regain a body, he probably could have survived. Or if he made more than one Horcrux, he could have survived the destruction of one of them."
Remus shuddered at the thought. "Well, that's neither here nor there, I suppose. What really matters is how this affects Ginny. She's your sister, Bill. What do you want to do? What possible repercussions could there be of nearly being possessed by a Horcrux? And do you think she should see that memory?"
"I think… we should give Ginny the option of seeing Harry's memory. It has to be her choice and, as much as I don't want her to see it, I think she has a right to know. I'm not going to pull a Mum and try to protect her from the big bad world. There are a few spells and rituals that we sometimes use in Gringotts," Bill continued, thinking furiously. "They're used when a team has had a particularly bad run-in with a site. They're mostly for cleansing and purging a build-up of the Darker magics, but I can think of at least one that also checks for any signs of possession. Maybe I should ask Irongrip if I can perform some of those on Ginny? I can't imagine she'd say no, but they were developed specifically for Gringotts, and you know how goblins get if they think someone is using what is theirs…"
There was a thoughtful silence on both ends of the Floo.
"Will we need to sneak Ginny out to one of the Gringotts locations, or are these rituals something you can do at Hogwarts?"
Bill had to smile slightly at the fact that a Hogwarts professor was calming asking if he needed to violate half a dozen school rules, not to mention a few laws. "I think we should be able to do them at Hogwarts, but I'll double check with Irongrip. I'm sure there's at least one ritual room in that castle somewhere." He paused. "But how do we get me in? I can't come in the usual way, not if we don't want Dumbledore to know. And I don't really want to sneak in if there are Dementors guarding the entrances. I'd not be much help to Ginny without my soul."
Remus frowned through the flames. "You're right. I'm afraid we're going to need a bit more help. It'll have to be someone with a certain amount of authority..."
"McGonagall," they said together.
"Do you really think she'll help us? I'd hate to put her in conflict with the Headmaster," Remus said worriedly.
"I think we need to at least ask her," Bill concluded thoughtfully. Then he grinned. "But hey, we were two of her favourites, right? How can she possibly say no to our combined efforts?" He fluttered his eyelashes winsomely, causing Remus to chuckle.
"Aren't we a little old for puppy-dog eyes?"
"Never! Find out if she can meet you at the Three Broomsticks tomorrow night for dinner; I'll get Rosmerta to let us use one of the back rooms."
"Sounds good. I'll leave word with Gringotts if it won't work. Be careful, Bill. I'm not sure how many people outside of Gringotts I trust at this point."
"You too, my friend. Lie through your teeth to McGonagall if it looks like she'll squawk to Dumbledore."
Remus laughed. "Don't worry, Bill. That's something I've had far too much practice doing. She rarely caught me then; she won't catch me now."
"Someday you're going to have to explain that, Mr. Former Prefect."
"Gladly. Good night."
"'night." Bill closed the Floo connection feeling oddly uplifted, despite the serious circumstances. Conspiring with Remus just seemed right somehow. But it was late, and a day at Gringotts began early, so Bill thought no more about it as he readied himself for bed.
"You wanted to see me, Professor?" Ginny asked quietly as she stuck her head through the open door.
Remus looked up from the papers he was marking and smiled. It had been nearly three weeks since he and Bill had watched Harry's memory of the Chamber, and their plan was coming along nicely. Now it was time to introduce the last — and most important — component. "Yes, please come in and shut the door if you would."
The girl did so and sat comfortably in one of the free chairs in front of the desk. From his position in the far corner of the room, Bill could see that his sister was comfortable but very cautious, even with this man she had been confiding in for nearly four months.
Remus slowly picked up his wand. "I'd like to cast the usual Privacy Charms. Is that all right?" Bill noted that Remus did not start casting anything until Ginny had nodded her consent. That was something the older man had warned him about — his sister was very skittish about unknown spells being cast in her presence. Bill supposed that he couldn't blame her. He knew some Curse-Breakers who were the same way.
Rather than return to his seat behind the desk, Remus knelt down in front of Ginny. "Ginny, I've brought someone I'd like you to see. Would you like me to tell you who it is, or do you want to trust me that it'll be a good surprise for you?"
Bill's heart nearly broke at the wary look his baby sister gave her professor. The Ginny he knew would have said "Surprise me!" without hesitation, and been bouncing in her chair in anticipation. But this Ginny did nothing of the sort.
"Promise it'll be good?"
"I promise," Remus replied solemnly, and Bill was somehow unsurprised to see him hold out a pinkie finger to the girl. Ginny regarded Remus for another moment and then hooked her own small pinkie with his, just the way Bill had taught her.
Without breaking the contact, Remus looked over his shoulder to the corner where Bill stood camouflaged. "Would you come out now, please?" Bill let the Chameleon Cloak he was wearing fall to the floor and took a step forward into the light.
"Bill!" Ginny shrieked and catapulted herself towards him. Bill swept her up into a hug and was not shocked to find her shaking.
"Shhh. Shhh. I've got you. It's okay," Bill murmured into her hair. "We're going to help you. You're such a strong girl, but you don't have to fight by yourself any more. We're going to help you."
Remus returned to his desk and busied himself shuffling papers for a few moments, to give the brother and sister as much privacy as he could. It soon became apparent that Ginny was not about to let go of her brother any time in the near future. With a rueful smile over her head at Remus, Bill solved the problem by sitting himself in the chair that she had abandoned and lifting her into his lap.
"As I think we've both told you, Bill and I have been working together to try to figure out what happened to you last year," Remus said to the girl buried in her brother's shirt. "And what we can do to help you. We think we have some ideas, but we're going to need you to keep being brave and help us as much as you can. Can you do that for us, Ginny?"
The red head nodded up and down and Remus heard a tiny "Yes" from her brother's chest.
"I know it's going to be scary," Bill continued, "but I promise we'll explain everything to you before we do anything and you'll be able to stop at any time. You'll be completely in control of whatever we do, alright?"
Ginny looked up into her brother's face searchingly for a moment and then nodded. Then her eyes narrowed. "What else, Bill?"
Remus shook his head ruefully. He'd warned Bill that Ginny had developed an uncanny sense for when someone was holding something back from her. He'd made that mistake early on, and it had taken nearly a month to regain the girl's trust.
"Well, there is one thing," Bill hedged, and then he sighed when he saw the scowl on his sister's face. "I know you don't like secrets, but we're going to need to ask you not to mention me being here to anyone. Can you do that for us?"
Ginny looked back and forth between her brother and her professor. "Because you don't want Mum'n'Dad'n'the Headmaster to know you're here, right?"
Bill and Remus exchanged startled glances. "Why do you say that?" the professor asked carefully.
Ginny rolled her eyes, as only a teenager can when confronted with the stupidity of adults. "Because Mum'n'Dad don't want to admit there's anything wrong with me. They spent all summer pretending everything was normal. And the Headmaster is the one who told them I was 'fine' so he'd probably not be too eager to admit he was wrong."
"That's right, Gin. Sometimes grownups don't want to admit when they're wrong — or that they couldn't do anything to help someone they love," Bill replied. "But we just want to help you be strong and make it so that you don't have to be afraid to go to sleep any more. So are you okay with not telling anyone?"
Ginny looked at her big brother and nodded, but there was a sparkle in her eyes that had been missing the last time Bill had seen her. Mentally, he braced himself. "You mean like how I never told anyone about you and Sasha in the orchard? Or you and Kate at the pond?" she asked sweetly.
Remus couldn't help but chuckle, as Bill turned bright red.
"I think that's my cue to leave," the blushing Weasley muttered. He stood up and deposited his sister back in the chair. "I'll see you in a couple days, imp," he said and ruffled the hair of his sister, who was giving her best innocent expression. He retrieved the Cloak from the corner and picked up some Floo Powder and vanished back to the Three Broomsticks.
"Caught your brother with some girls, did you?" Remus asked, still laughing at Bill's hasty retreat.
"Charlie was the worst," Ginny replied with a faint smile. "Bill at least tried to be discrete. I still caught him with a few girls, though. A couple boys, too," she added, almost as an afterthought.
Remus could only stare at her in shock. Ginny rolled her eyes again.
"I've got six older brothers, Professor. I know far more about boys than I ever wanted to. And having one living in my head last year didn't help."
"Ah, yes, well." Remus cleared his throat and hastily changed the subject. "As your brother mentioned, we'd like to keep his presence here as secret as possible. Professor McGonagall knows, as does Madam Pomfrey, and they may help us out from time to time. But you can't tell anyone else, not even your brothers, alright?"
"Of course, Professor. I've been keeping Bill's secrets for years. When he first got his ear pierced, I was the only one he told. Mum didn't find out until he came home."
"Very good. I'll get word to you on nights he'll be here. We're going to keep it pretty random so that we don't become predictable. Now, if it's okay with you, I'll take down these wards and let you get back to the common room. I know you have a Charms quiz tomorrow."
At Ginny's nod, Remus waved his wand a few times, deactivating the privacy wards and watched the girl hop down from the chair with more energy than he'd ever seen from her. The visit with her brother had obviously done her a lot of good.
"Ginny," he called out as she reached the door. Large brown eyes looked back at him questioningly. "Bill is right, you know. You are a very strong and brave girl. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise." A faint hint of colour touched her cheeks as she nodded and slipped out the door, as quietly as she had come in.
Nearly a week after his first clandestine trip to Hogwarts, Bill found himself sneaking into the castle again. As a former Head Boy, he had thought he knew the castle pretty thoroughly, but Remus had shown him half a dozen passages that were entirely new. Even with the heightened security following Black’s second attack on Gryffindor tower, Bill was still able to enter the castle unnoticed.
He silently made his way through the dusty corridor that seemed to run inside one of the great walls of the castle and tapped his wand on two unremarkable stones. The wall rearranged itself into an archway and Bill stepped out into one of the small, private rooms in the hospital wing.
There was a bed along one wall and a small table stood in the middle of the room, already bearing a Pensieve. The chairs in the room were occupied by two regal witches.
"Madame Pomfrey," Bill nodded to the Mediwitch. She would be monitoring the bodies of those entering the Pensieve.
"Good evening, Mr. Weasley." Bill turned to the second witch and shook the outstretched hand of Minerva McGonagall.
"Professor," he replied with a slight smile. "Thank you for helping us this evening."
A faint frown creased the Deputy Headmistress's forehead as she resumed her seat. "Are you sure this is necessary, Mr. Weasley? Remus has told me some of what occurred. Do you really wish to subject your sister to re-living that experience?"
Bill ran his hand through his hair in frustration. "Honestly? No. I wish I could protect Ginny from this. But the only way to do that would be to go back in time a year and a half and stop her from getting that damned diary in the first place. Simply by virtue of surviving, she's earned the right to make her own choices about this."
"And besides, Professor," a small voice said from the doorway. "I won't exactly be re-living it." Everyone turned to find Ginny standing at the entrance to the room, with Remus standing protectively behind her. "I don't remember any of what happened that day. I got up, went to breakfast and went back to my room to get my things for my first class. The next thing I remember after that was Harry shaking me awake in the Ch-Chamber."
McGonagall pursed her lips but nodded. “Very well. Madam Pomfrey will monitor your bodies. I shall guard the room. If I may?” She withdrew her wand and waited for Ginny’s nod. Obviously, she had been briefed on the girl’s skittishness as well.
The professor quickly cast a series of complicated, interconnected wards on the door that caused even Bill to raise his eyebrows. He wouldn’t want to try to get through those in less than half an hour. A smug smirk tugged at the corners of McGonagall’s mouth as she resumed her seat, wand casually in her lap.
Confident that they would not be interrupted, Bill, Remus and Ginny arranged themselves around the table, and the two men shared a glance as they each prepared themselves for a second trip into hell.
An hour later, the three emerged from the Pensieve, much shaken. A second viewing hadn’t improved the sequence of events to Bill’s mind, although he was less inclined to destroy everything on sight this time. However, he reflected, that might have more to do with the death grip his sister had on him than any change in feelings on his part.
Scooping Ginny up, Bill sat down carefully on the bed, cradling his shaking sister. He rocked her back and forth, waiting for her to speak. Madam Pomfrey quickly stood and ran several scans over the girl, while Remus collapsed bonelessly into the now-vacated chair.
“Most of me is really, really happy the diary was destroyed,” Ginny began in a voice that barely carried around the small room. “But part of me wants to cry because I feel like I just watched a friend get killed. Does that make me a bad person?” She looked up into her brother’s face, brown eyes brimming with tears.
“No, sweetie, no,” Bill assured her. “It doesn’t make you a bad person at all. In fact, it makes you a very, very good person.”
“Tom worked very, very hard to be your friend,” Remus reminded her. “You spent almost a year being friends with him. No one expects you to forget that, no matter what he did to you. It doesn’t change the fact that he listened to you and comforted you in his own way.”
“Miss Weasley, I knew Tom Riddle when he was at school here.” Ginny’s head snapped around to look at her Head of House with wide eyes. “He was two years younger than me. Everyone you asked would have said he was one of the nicest boys in the school, always ready to go out of his way to help the younger students. We know now that he probably never did anything without an ulterior motive, but at the time, no one suspected anything. He was one of the Slytherin prefects when I was Head Girl, and he was always the first one I thought of when the Head Boy and I needed help with a homesick first year, no matter what House they were in. You are not the only person he fooled.” McGonagall bore her student’s intense scrutiny with a sad smile. Finally, Ginny nodded once and Bill felt her relax in his arms.
Remus took a small vial from Madam Pomfrey and crouched beside the bed. “Ginny, will you take this? It’s a light sleeping drought. Just enough to help you calm down and fall asleep here. You can return to your room after breakfast tomorrow.”
Silently, Ginny began struggling out of her school robe and then stood with her arms outstretched. A few flicks of Bill’s wand later, her clothing had been Transfigured into a nightgown, and she lay down in the bed and readily accepted the vial from Remus.
The four adults in the room watched quietly as a small, brave girl fell into a restless sleep. None of them envied the dreams she would have that night.
Defence Against the Dark Arts
Thank you once again for arranging everything last night. I know that was not a pleasant experience for either of us, but I believe, in the long run, it will help Ginny more than hurt her.
You asked me last night how Ginny could be so calm watching all of that. The answer is — she wasn’t. Didn’t you feel the death grip she had on your hand? I swear, I needed to check mine for broken bones afterwards. You see, while many people are aware of the “infamous Weasley temper,” they actually have it wrong. It’s really the infamous Prewitt temper. Mum is the one who will scream and shout and otherwise throw a wobbly when she gets angry or upset. Ron has inherited that in full measure. Dad, on the other hand, gets very, very quiet when he’s upset. He might growl or snap when little things annoy him, but when it’s something really big, it takes a lot to make him lose it. We always knew that things were really bad when Dad made Mum stop screaming and let him do the talking.
I tend to be more like that, as does, it seems, Ginny. I think she also inherited some of Mum’s protective streak, and when she does finally get angry about this whole situation, it will be on behalf of Harry and Ron, and what they went through, rather than for herself and what she suffered. When that happens, I’d advise you to duck and cover. Or point her at something you want destroyed. She is one powerful witch.
I spoke with Irongrip again, and she has given me her permission and blessing to perform all the spells and rituals I want for Ginny. Most of the spells can be done anywhere, but there are a few with specific requirements. Could you nose around and see if there is a proper ritual room in Hogwarts already? I find it hard to imagine that there isn’t one, but as it is not a subject that has been taught (at least in my memory), who knows. The most important thing I’m looking for are the Power-Siphoning Wards — you know, the ones that take the excess magic and feed it back into the inscribed runes? We can set those up, if we need, but it would be a lot easier if there’s already a room configured.
Let me know what you find, and we can figure out what else we need to set up. I’ll be at the London office until further notice (read: until Irongrip is satisfied that we’ve helped Ginny as much as we can!).
Thanks again for all your help,
P.S. Let me say again just how impressed I am that Mr. Potter was able to produce a corporeal Patronus, even if it was not against a real Dementor. Clearly, he had a superior teacher!
Remind me never, ever to let you talk me into “a little bit of magic” again, my friend! Three days later, and I’m still exhausted. If that is an example of the spell-casting Gringotts Curse Breakers do on a regular basis, I am incredibly humbled and honoured that Irongrip keeps trying to recruit me. I could barely keep up with you, and I spend all day chasing after magical teenagers!
The spells you cast were impressive enough, but that purification ritual! I have never seen anything like it. I am very glad I was able to find the ritual room in the east tower. According to the book I found, the wards were cast by Ravenclaw herself and are tied into the larger ward-scheme of the whole school. While you and I might have been able to set up the wards ourselves, I would not have liked to test my abilities to handle that much power. I’m still convinced that the only reason they didn’t collapse is because they’ve been up for so long that the castle actually considers them part of its structure. But that is a discussion for another time.
Ritual work is not something I have had any practical experience with, but now that I have I find I want more. Perhaps I will give in the next time Gringotts offers to hire me…
I saw Ginny this morning at breakfast and she looked much improved. From what I could hear, she was telling people that she had caught a twenty-four hour flu bug that knocked her out for the weekend but that she was feeling much better now. That last part is definitely true — there is a lightness and a freedom about her that I have never seen before. We are scheduled to meet this evening, as usual, so I will know more then. I believe I will keep up our regular meetings for the rest of the year, if only to make sure that she is completely caught up on first and second year material. Not that I have any worries on that score.
So I suppose, my friend, this is where our adventure comes to a close. Did you ever think, six months ago when you first wrote me, that we would end up here? I know I certainly didn’t. But despite the hard work, the disturbing realizations and the actual terror, I don’t think I would change anything. To have made a new friend in you, and to see your sister so much happier, makes it all worth it.
Please do keep in touch, Bill. I would hate for this friendship to fade simply because there is no longer a pressing need for us to be in contact twice a week. Feel free to visit any time — I’m sure Ginny would love to see more of you as well.
All the best,
I hardly know how to start this letter. I should be in Hogwarts, marking the last of my exams and commiserating with the other teachers over the end of the year. I am not. Once again, the world has found out exactly what I am, and once again I am driven from a place I call home. I finished everything up Friday night and submitted my resignation along with my final marks to Albus. For all my frustration with him, I do not wish to put him in the awkward position of having to fire me. He will be under enough scrutiny for having hired me in the first place.
But oddly, that is not even the most unexpected thing I have to relate to you. Make sure you are sitting down, my friend, before you keep reading.
I write this while sitting in the Shrieking Shack and am accompanied by a mangy mutt who bears a striking resemblance to a Grim and answers to the name Padfoot. He also generally answers to the name Sirius Black (and other things, none of which are fit for polite company). Now, before you think I'm off my rocker, or under some kind of Imperius-type control, let me relate to you an astonishing series of events. All of which can be corroborated by Albus, if you feel the need.
We were all wrong. Or rather, my intellect was wrong but my gut was right nearly thirteen years ago. I knew that Sirius never would have betrayed James and Lily. Every one of my finely honed, wolf-enhanced instincts screamed at me that it wasn't Sirius. But I let my rational, logical — human — intelligence take precedence, and I believed the evidence just like everyone else. And yes, I know exactly what Manager Irongrip would say about that; she explained it to me at length when I spoke with her this morning.
I should have listened to myself. But I didn't, and as a result, one of my best friends, a man I love as a brother, an innocent man, spent twelve years in hell. Sirius is innocent. He was never the Secret Keeper. He and Peter convinced James and Lily to switch at the last minute — feeling that Sirius would be too obvious a choice. And why didn't I know this? Because it was clear that You-Know-Who was getting information from our side and, being a 'Dark creature', I was the most likely suspect. I suppose I should be more angry about that, and perhaps I will be when the shocks wear off. But at the moment I find it hard to be bitter when I have just regained one brother but lost (or, re-lost) another.
It was Peter all along. I don't know when he went over to the other side, nor why, but he is the one who lead his master to my best friends. After framing Sirius, Peter transformed into his Animagus form and went into hiding. He has been alive these past dozen years. There is more to the story, of course, but I believe the details are best told in person.
Which brings me (at last!) to the point of this letter. I am once again unemployed and with my werewolf status widely known, I see little hope for that changing. Sirius is on the run, since our dear Ministry has its collective head stuck up its collective arse, and without Peter (we found him but he got away — part of that longer story) there is little hope for clearing his name. Albus wishes us to stick around either London or Hogsmeade, but both Sirius and I feel that is too risky. It was suggested to me by a short green being whose fingers seem to be in every pie, that getting out of the country might be advisable. To that end, she has offered both of us provisional contracts at the Gringotts location of our choosing. I hear Cairo is nice this time of year…
So, my friend, would you be up for the company of a world-weary werewolf and his mangy mutt sidekick for a few months? I'm afraid we do not have a reliable Floo connection right now, but I can be reached through Gringotts' usual efficient communication.
Bill set aside the latest letter with a smile. In addition to Remus's usual signature, there had been a large inky paw print at the end of the message. Clearly Black — no, Sirius — was adding his opinion as well.
It had been nearly a year since his family had visited, an innocuous event that had set off a chain reaction the likes of which he still had a hard time comprehending. A victimized girl had re-found her joy, an ancient evil had been brought to light and an innocent man had escaped from hell on earth. Oh, and he'd found a new friend in an unlikely place. No, Bill never would have predicted any of that. But then, rolling with unexpected situations was what he did best.
With a grin, Bill turned his chair and tapped a rune below the shiny black expanse mounted on the wall. A moment later, a goblin's face appeared within the frame.
"Goldfarb, is Manager Irongrip available?"