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Chapter Forty-six: Reconstruction

 

Remus didn’t come back to Elodie’s hospital room for about three hours, but when he did, he told her he had arranged everything about her release later that day. She wondered if any of that time had to do with the fact that she’d told Remus who had attacked her. The look on his face when she told him had been less surprised and more concerned than she had expected, which probably meant that there was Order of the Phoenix related information she needed to be told.

 

Remus had given her a bit of an anxiety attack by telling her that her attack was being investigated by Nymphadora Tonks and her Auror partner, Andrew ‘Bellie’ Campbell. Elodie had immediately pictured long meetings at Phoenix House with a concerned-looking Remus demanding to know every detail of the case, and thus spending a lot of time with Tonks. In his next breath, though, Remus had allayed those fears by telling her she’d need to ask Sirius for specifics, because Remus himself had spent a lot of time at the offices of Orion’s Belt during her time at St. Mungo’s.

 

He’d told her, ‘You could say both of us kept as busy as we could in our own ways.’

 

There was a lot to be done, both in terms of rehabilitating her relationships with the people she cared about and in terms of catching up on everything the Order had been up to during her hospital stay. And if Elodie was honest with herself, she didn’t want to do any of it until she’d had a good long sleep in a regular, non-hospital bed!

 

She wasn’t cleared for Apparition or Side-Along, but Elodie was allowed to use the Floo, so after getting her release instructions from the witches and wizards who had treated her while in the hospital, she and Remus made their way to the Travel Room. It was busy, split between the receiving section where injured patients were showing up via the multiple Floos and the Apparition Designated Area. There was one group in the queue in front of them, so Elodie and Remus waited in silence as they watched the man with a glowing bandage around his hand sign his name to a paper with a flourish of his wand.

 

“You look nervous,” Remus observed in a quiet voice.

 

Elodie looked up at Remus. “I am,” she said, biting her lip. “For multiple reasons, one of which is probably silly. I don’t physically feel like anything happened to me at all! I mean, I am a bit weak, which is probably related to not using my muscles for a third of a year. But, besides that, I’m also scared I’ll need to sign some sort of a crazy agreement in order to leave somewhere I don’t actually remember coming to in the first place.” She sighed and looked down at the floor. “And there’s this weight of responsibility. I was gone, whether or not I remember that. So I have relationships to fix that I don’t even remember damaging.”

 

Remus’s hand came to rest on her shoulder comfortingly when she said the word ‘relationships.’ Elodie tipped her head sideways and shrugged her shoulder up but stopped short of resting her cheek on his hand. To her surprise, he didn’t move his hand when she started the gesture.

 

“Absolutely none of us are upset at you for what happened, Elodie,” Remus said in a tone that brooked no argument. “We’re just glad to have you back in one piece. I’ve already had messages from Albus and Slughorn, actually.” He cast a quick Tempus charm, then smiled thinly. “And, speaking of Albus, you should know I won’t be able to come along with you right away. I have a… meeting. At Hogwarts.” He squeezed her shoulder, but she didn’t get a chance to respond (or tease him for being bad at dissembling. The meeting was almost certainly with the Order, not just Albus Dumbledore) as it was finally their turn.

 

The release paperwork asked for her promise not to cast any medical magic on herself for a period of a week, and to come back if she needed further treatment instead of attempting it herself. That was a relief, given that Elodie had worried that there might be some sort of monitoring magic cast on her that would betray Sirius’s location. The officious man who had required her signature spent so much time ‘reassuring’ her that her ‘clear signs of mental disquiet would surely be minimal once resettled at home’ that she didn’t have a chance to look behind her to be sure Remus was still there. It was clear that Elodie wasn’t going to be able to shake the dismissal clerk, so she simply smiled brightly at him, promised she would take good care of herself, threw the pinch of Floo Powder into the designated fireplace, and said ‘Phoenix House’ as loudly as she could before stepping in.

 

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If the look on Arthur Weasley’s face after she woke up hadn’t been quite enough to make her believe that she really had been unconscious for a long time, the state of her house was pretty convincing.

 

Most of the furniture was still in the same place, with the exception of the huge bookcase that was missing. In its place was a high, square table with the Hogwarts Pensieve resting on it. On the wall behind the Pensieve was a curio cabinet that seemed to have quite a few memory vials stored on specially-designed shelves. One of the small doors to the cabinet was left open, and Elodie could see that the vials didn’t appear to be marked in any specific way. She saw no colored ribbons tied around them, nor was there any visible writing on the caps that she could see.

 

Elodie dragged her eyes away from the curious sight of that particular Pensieve in a semi-permanent installation in her house. The living room was cluttered. Remus’s chair was surrounded by books--at least three stacks, with five or more books in each. The table nearby had an empty inkpot tipped on its side, two half full ones waiting to be used, and a scattering of parchment rolls. A dirty quill was propped up on one of the inkpots, the ink it had been previously dipped in long-since dried in an extended stain up toward the feather. As she stepped further into the room, she saw that there were two different tea mugs hiding in amongst the mess on the table.

 

On their recycled Gryffindor couch was a haphazard pile of newspapers from various publishers, all folded in atrocious attempts at recreating their original condition. Sirius’s slippers were resting beside her usual spot, and Elodie could perfectly picture how they’d gotten there. For all that he loved to wear slippers, the temperature of Sirius Black’s feet varied wildly. He was always leaving them around the house, discarded once he’d sat for long enough that his incessant leg bouncing had gotten the blood flowing.

 

There were quite a few crumbs on the floor.

 

“Elodie! Merlin,” Sirius said from the hallway. She barely got a glimpse of the scrunched-up look of joy on his face before he barreled into her, his face buried in her shoulder, for all that he was taller than she was.

 

Elodie held on for all she was worth, and so did he.

 

After breathing each other in for a few minutes, Sirius lifted his head, and before he could say anything, Elodie leaned up to kiss him briefly. “Not a take back,” she said.

 

His long, relieved sigh blew the dull, unwashed strands of hair back from her face as Sirius rested his forehead against hers. “How did you know?” he whispered, his arms tightening around her for a few seconds before relaxing again. After a kiss to her temple, Sirius seemed to conclude that letting her continue to stand in front of the fireplace was a poor way to welcome her home, and led her to the couch.

 

There was a moment of confusion while both of them attempted to sit in the space they considered ‘theirs;’ Sirius had clearly taken her side of the couch over when it became clear that she wasn’t going to come home right away.

 

“How--” Sirius started to repeat himself, but Elodie stopped him with a gentle hand on his cheek, her thumb brushing over his lips.

 

“Because I’m your girlfriend, and I know you,” she said. The fire that lit in his eyes on hearing this made her feel very glad she was sitting down. “I might not know everything, but I do know some of what you like and some of the things that you worry about.”

 

Sirius made a hmph-ing noise that made her laugh out loud to hear it.

 

“I’m sorry, you know,” she said to him in a serious tone.

 

“What? No.” His face hardened into a forbidding look that she had never seen before. He took both of her hands in his and squeezed them just a touch too strongly. “You are not to blame, there’s no--”

 

“Wait,” she said in a whisper, wincing. Sirius was immediately contrite, smoothing over the places his thumbs had pressed into. “I’m not talking about blame. I’m talking about something entirely preventable. Ah ah!” It was Elodie’s turn to squeeze his hands, as he’d opened his mouth to object to her before he’d even heard her out. “We should have had something in place, is what I’m saying. A way for you to know what’s going on with me when I’m hurt--a notice that I live with my cantankerous, hermit father who only communicates by Owl post, for example. A way for you not to have to rely on everyone else to know how I am doing.”

 

A look of amazement crossed Sirius’s face. His grey eyes searched hers, his brows alternating between furrowed in confusion and lifted in surprise. “You never do what I expect you to, you know that?”

 

His words made her feel an odd sense of pride. After all, wasn’t that the ultimate goal in a cinematic universe? 

 

“You’re pretty unexpected yourself, Sirius Black,” Elodie told him. The tension she’d been feeling since she walked in started to dissipate, and she slumped onto the couch, resting her head on Sirius’s shoulder.

 

“Now, my instinct is to offer to take you to bed, but I feel like I should make clear that the goal is to help you rest, not shag you senseless,” Sirius said, his chin resting on her head.

 

Elodie started giggling as soon as he’d gotten halfway through the caveat.

 

“Couldn’t go twenty-four hours before you start laughing at me, pet?” he complained.

 

“It’s just that I know you, Sirius. You phrased that very carefully. ‘The goal is…’” Elodie pointed out, trailing off to hint at the implied innuendo.

 

Sirius swore colorfully under his breath. When Elodie’s eyes widened, he explained, “I promised Remus I wouldn’t pounce on you right after you got home.”

 

“This is something you discussed with Remus?!” Elodie asked, feeling her cheeks turning pink.

 

“No, no, I--” Sirius cut himself off after initially rushing to say no. 

 

Elodie drew her knees up, plopped her elbows on them, then plopped her chin onto her hands. “Go on?”

 

“If I carry you to bed and promise to keep my hands off of you all night so you can get sleep, will you drop this?” Sirius asked plaintively.

 

“All right, but don’t make a habit of it,” Elodie said. “I’ll need to run down to grab something to sleep in, though.”

 

“Actually, you won’t,” Sirius said. He reached down and lifted his brows in question, and she nodded. He picked her up like she was a maiden just untied from railroad tracks. As he walked towards the master bedroom, she couldn’t help but chuckle again. Sirius was really pouring on all the most amusing aspects of his personality for her--now they were going in the wrong direction!

 

“My clothes are that way?” Elodie said, pointing behind his back at the kitchen area.

 

“Remus told you I made some… adjustments? To the house?” Sirius said, avoiding her eyes.

 

Elodie didn’t want to acknowledge that she knew at least some of the ‘adjustments’ were a result of a spectacular temper tantrum on his part, so she just nodded. Sirius reached his bedroom door, adjusted his grip on her, and kicked it open gently, if one could ever describe kicking a door open as ‘gentle.’ He walked in and set her down on the bed.

 

The room looked quite different than it had when she’d seen it last.

 

The bed was in the same position, but the headboard had been improved by extending the wooden backing upward to include some intricate carving. The carvings started as subtle indentations and cross-hatching about a foot from the mattress, and ended as practically a work of art. Hogwarts Castle sat as almost a guardian for the bed, its various towers forming the irregular top edge of the headboard. In the center-right there was a tree that Elodie felt had to be the Whomping Willow. Six inches from the tree was the lake, with the Forbidden Forest sitting in the far distance and rising to create the rest of the top edge. It was beautiful craftsmanship, even without close examination. At each corner of the bed now rose a tall, carved bedpost, which met to make a frame from which curtains could be hung, though none were currently hanging. Elodie could see that each bedpost was also carved, and that they didn’t match, but the bed was the least of the changes to the room, so she sat up to look at the rest.

 

Gone were the carved wall decorations that had made it so difficult to imagine putting Remus’s bookshelves into that room. Now, the walls were painted a warm cream color, and a wide, tall Gryffindor tapestry hung across from the window. The original closets had been extended using the same wood as the bed. Their four doors were now wider and part of what looked like a wardrobe built into the whole wall, instead of a simple closet taking up most of it. The doors had light relief carvings, like the first six or so inches of the headboard, with a few more intricate details. The floor was covered by a thick crimson rug whose edges didn’t quite reach the wall. There were matching wood carved nightstands on either side of the bed, and beside Elodie’s was the missing bookcase from the living room, full of books. On Sirius’s side was a pair of comfy looking chairs in golden upholstery, right next to the window, with a tall lamp against the wall behind one of them.

 

It was a magnificent room, and Elodie had to shut her mouth after a few seconds of not realizing it was hanging open. Sirius looked immensely pleased.

 

Elodie slipped down off of the bed and walked over to give him a hug. “But, Sirius--this is an adult’s bedroom!” she said, looking up at him impishly, her cheek resting against him.

 

His rumbling laugh filled her with a sense of belonging and joy.

 

“Well, yes and no,” he said, gently disentangling himself from her and walking over to the wardrobe. “This one’s your side. Honestly, it’s big enough for two people, but I’m sure my mother would have shat herself imagining my Pureblood inheritance paying for an ex-Muggle dimensional traveler’s fancy furniture.” He waggled his eyebrows at Elodie, and she pictured the portrait at #12 Grimmauld Place, a location she would undoubtedly be visiting sometime in the next year.

 

Sirius’s hand appeared in front of her, waving up and down.

 

“Sorry, just having a Moment, realizing I’ll end up face to face with dear old Mum’s portrait at some point, most likely.”

 

“I set it on fire, once,” Sirius said, conversationally. “Didn’t take.” He shook his head and threw his hair back with both hands. “The doors are custom, like the bed. Yours were made with book outlines. The potions ones were all First Year Potions stuff, ugly nonsense, they were, so both doors are book related. One’s all ‘Restricted Section,’ see?”

 

Sirius crouched down and pointed from the bottom of the carved panel up to shoulder height. The left-hand door was carved to look like a jumble of stacked books, some edge-on, some with the titles showing. The titles weren’t any Elodie recognized, but as Sirius had called them a restricted section, she assumed they were either valuable or rare. The other side, she saw, had no titles, but were carved as though the door was the facade of a bookcase. Sirius was watching her face and bouncing on his heels, and she smiled at him fondly. She was getting tired, but his enthusiasm was fueling her ability to stay awake and engaged in what he was showing her.

 

“You can customize this one. With your favorite book titles. I have a special charm I got with the installation,” Sirius said, proudly.

 

“That’s amazing! Magic is really just…” Elodie hugged herself and smiled, feeling delighted. Then, she finally finished ‘hearing’ what Sirius had said earlier when she said the changes he’d made turned the room into an adult’s bedroom. Sirius had said ‘yes and no,’ and suddenly Elodie really wanted to know what his custom-made closet doors looked like. She grabbed her favorite nightgown off of a hanger where Sirius had apparently hung it with her other dresses, and changed her clothes as quickly as she could. There was a sturdy wicker laundry basket tucked into the closet, and Elodie put in the clothes she’d worn that day, slid it back into place, and moved over to where Sirius was standing in front of his side of the wardrobe.

 

One of the doors was an ode to Old Ogden’s Firewhiskey. The upper part was the crest that she’d seen before on the bottle, and the bottom part of the door showed a half-empty bottle and a mostly drained glass.

 

“The supplier didn’t like this one, but I wasn’t paying him to like it,” Sirius told her, shutting the opposite door.

 

It showed a Muggle motorcycle, complete with stylized logo. The intricately recreated motorcycle had odd sparks surrounding it, and when Elodie looked up at Sirius, she could tell by his face that this was a story unto itself. She lifted herself up on her tiptoes to kiss his cheek, and headed for the bed. Sirius had seen the look on her face, so she knew he’d tell her all about it.

 

“You’re waiting for a big long story about how I intimidated the guy into giving me a carved Muggle motorcycle door, but you’re forgetting something very important,” Sirius said, throwing himself onto the bed and immediately rolling over to grin at her, his grey eyes sparkling with mischief. “I’m a fugitive from justice.”

 

It took Elodie a full minute to realize what he was trying to tell her, and when she got it, her eyes went wide and she clapped a hand over her mouth.

 

“You made Remus demand to have a motorcycle carved onto your fancy-ass magical wardrobe?!” she squealed.

 

“I did,” Sirius said, with great satisfaction. “He was forced to be very persuasive. Showed them the shed, hinted at the wife stuck at St. Mungo’s--”

 

Elodie sat up. “Did you make him do that?” she asked, her voice urgent, worried. Sirius rolled over onto his back and made a face, but he shook his head.

 

“No, but I think he did it because he thought I would ask him. He’d have said no, of course, but if I didn’t ask, then it could be his idea…” Sirius looked over at her and he couldn’t have missed the anxious way she was twisting her fingers into her hair. “We can talk about this now, or I can cast a brilliant cleansing charm I learned from an old girlfriend of mine on your hair and we can sleep on it?”

 

“I didn’t feel like I needed to apologize to you for all of this,” Elodie said in a quiet, distressed voice. “But… I think I do need to apologize to Remus. From what little I know of what I missed, my being gone seems to have magnified everything that we were all already stressing out about.”

 

Sirius’s response was to use one hand to get her attention, his wand hand lifted, ready to cast. She narrowed her eyes at his clever use of something she did need and want as a distraction technique, but nodded.

 

It really was a great charm. As Elodie ran her fingers through her silky soft hair, she looked at Sirius, then beyond him at the way the room looked now, after his changes.

 

“Sirius?” she said. 

 

He looked at her and something about her happy tone of voice combined with the delighted smile she offered him made him visibly relax. His eyebrows shot up in a question and Elodie felt a little frisson of excitement at the reaction she knew he would have in reaction to her next words.

 

“You’ve turned our house into a home, crumbs and all,” Elodie said, snuggling into the blanket and kissing his shoulder. “Thank you.”

 

Sirius was silent for so long that she thought maybe he’d fallen asleep. Then, right before she drifted off, she felt the press of his lips on her forehead before he whispered his response.

 

“It wasn’t one until you came back, love.”

 

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The morning brought bright sunshine streaming in through the window, illuminating the bedpost at the foot of the bed on Sirius’s side. Elodie saw it when she woke up, and she tried to make out what the carving was as she blinked her sleepiness away. When she finally figured it out, a chill flowed through her as if she’d been injected with ice water that had been charmed to touch every cell of her body before it dissipated.

 

The carving was of a rat. A rat missing a toe.

 

“You’ve found them out of order,” Sirius said in a soft voice. She looked over at him, and he smiled more easily than she would have expected. “Look down at your side.”

 

Elodie reached her hand out to lay it on his chest, and Sirius obliged her by clasping her hand in his, weaving their fingers together. She looked down at the foot of the bed on her side and saw the figure of a shaggy dog carved into the wood, its toothy smile looking directly at the bedpost opposite. Even without the black coloring, it was clearly Padfoot.

 

“Before you freak out, I had Remus choose very specific memories of each animal to show to the craftsman. There’s no chance the man knew they’re of Animagi,” Sirius said, leaning over to kiss her cheek. “Or if he did, he didn’t bother to check with the registry. James is up beside me.”

 

The antlers of James’s stag were artfully woven around the bedpost on Sirius’s side, the animal’s head lifted high and proud.

 

“But is Remus’s side a werewolf, then?” Elodie asked in a hushed voice. She didn’t want to look, didn’t want to see what she knew he hated most about himself carved like a piece of fine art into wood as if it were a point of pride. Sirius just smiled enigmatically, and, huffing in annoyance at him, Elodie turned to look at the bedpost closest to her head.

 

It was much more simple than the other three, with the most prominent element being the night sky above an empty grassy space. The moon hung nearly full over that space, and a thought occurred to her. She’d figured out, in the time she’d spent at St. Mungo’s waiting to be released, that the full moon had been mere days ago. It would have looked about the same last night as it did on the bedpost, and Elodie lifted her hand to trace the cloud that was carved as though it was drifting between the far-away treeline and the moon.

 

“Does… does it change?” Elodie asked, haltingly. It seemed like a ridiculous question no matter which universe the context for the answer came from. Either it was a silly thing to ask because a bedpost doesn’t alter its appearance based on moon phases, or it was a silly question to ask because magic made changes like that somewhat mundane, if impressive. 

 

Elodie tried to think of what asking something like that would be like at a Malfoy garden party.

 

‘Well, of course it’s enchanted, Sapphira, dear. We’re not Mudbloods!’

 

Sirius’s voice focused her attention back on the here and now. “Mmm hmm. Remus hasn’t come in to see, though. He helped me get the materials, but I put it all together myself. He, well…”

 

Sirius hardly ever faltered in telling her about what he’d done, even--and perhaps especially--when it was something he perhaps shouldn’t have done. Elodie rolled back over again to look at him.

 

“I used your camera,” was all he said, though.

 

Elodie took in the slightly stubborn, somewhat sheepish look on Sirius’s face, the confession of using her camera, and the blank, unused space on the bedpost. There was grass beneath, the moon above, and just enough space for a carving there.

 

“You’ve almost got it,” Sirius whispered.

 

“It’s too much like a story in a book!” Elodie objected. When Sirius chuckled and held up a finger, she reached out and flattened his hand against his side. “No, it really is! You’re implying that you, what? Took a picture of Remus with or without his permission, then gave it to the wood carver, who then enchanted a bedpost to show his carving only one night a month?”

 

Sirius leaned over and said quietly into her ear, “I told the guy in an owl message that his favorite time of the month was the full moon.”

 

Elodie scrambled out of the bed, her eyes wide, hands on her hips. “Sirius Orion Black!”

 

Sirius was unrepentant, however. “Next you’ll be telling me the ends don’t justify the means,” he said with dark humor, scooting up to rest his shoulders on the headboard. When Elodie just raised her eyebrows (again trying to raise just the one, and failing. She was really going to have to look for a spell to teach her how to elegantly raise just one eyebrow, she decided) at him, he frowned, and added, “Don’t think I don’t get why you’re angry. The craftsman will probably never see Remus again, and someday when Moony sees this--” he rested a hand on the bedpost “--he’ll know that somewhere in the world is a version of Remus John Lupin as a human being on the full moon!”

 

This just brought up a horrible thought. “Do… do portraits change into images of werewolves on the full moon?” she whispered, a hand over her mouth.

 

“Shit. I don’t know,” Sirius said, rolling out of bed and walking over to his side of the wardrobe. “Wouldn’t that be mad--Patriarch of the house gets his portrait done, thing turns rabid in the middle of the night, and that’s how the family secret gets out?”

 

Elodie fought the urge to crack a smile. She could see both sides of the bedpost issue, and she knew Sirius was trying to distract her away from the negative, privacy-violating, secrecy is bad among friends aspect. Remus Lupin would likely be horrified to know that Sirius had secreted an image of him onto the Marauder Bed, as Elodie was now calling it in her head. Private, gentle person that he was, his first thought would probably not be ‘wow, there’s a human version of me out there in the world at all times, even during the full moon,’ which is what Elodie liked about the bed.

 

Well, two people could play the distraction game.

 

“Sirius?” Elodie asked, walking over to where he was dressing himself.

 

“Hmm?”

 

“Any particular reason why the Remus post is up by my head?”

 

To her complete surprise, Sirius turned around in the middle of putting on a black t-shirt and started tickling her, ultimately chasing her into the middle of the bed and continuing his attack until the two of them were collapsed into an exhausted pile of giggles. He then explained that the diagram had gotten mis-approved with the Sirius and Remus bedposts swapped, and it would have required confessing the changes to Remus to fix. Sirius hadn’t been thrilled to have the Remus bedpost right beside where Elodie usually slept, but had made his peace with it eventually.

 

“I can swap sides once a month, if it’s that important to you?” Elodie offered.

 

“Nah. When you’re on that side your back’s to the post when you snog me,” was Sirius’s completely outrageous (and clearly jealous) response.

 

Elodie totally won the resulting tickle fight. 

 

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Twenty minutes later, Elodie came barrelling out of the master bedroom, casting spells behind her to lock, ward, and hex the door behind her. She wasn’t actually upset at Sirius, but his behavior that morning was like a distillation of all of the hours she’d missed spending with him, and he deserved a good hour of extricating himself from the bedroom, in her humble opinion.

 

Remus was already awake, of course, and he came over to stand beside her as she looked at the door with her arms crossed, feeling an only vaguely guilty sense of satisfaction.

 

“I feel like a Muggle would come over and say something like, ‘Is the honeymoon over,’” Remus said, nudging her with an elbow.

 

“Hah!” Elodie shook her head. “One doesn’t get a honeymoon with Sirius Black. One gets a deceptive period of ordinariness followed by a whallop in the face of ‘what, you didn’t see this coming?’”

 

Remus laughed. “I definitely missed you. You two are good though, right?”

 

“Yep. I wasn’t able to put him in his place verbally while I was ‘out,’ so I had to pack it all in at once, I guess.”

 

“Albus gave me a letter for you, said you’re to read it before you look at any news or whatnot,” Remus said, handing her a scroll. Elodie hesitated a few seconds before taking it, and Remus added, “Nothing too terrible, just-- you should read it. You’ll understand better.”

 

After she saw some of the names listed in the letter, Elodie walked over while reading the first paragraph and sat on the couch.

 


Elodie,

 

Your attacker having been Bartemius Crouch, Sr. is worrisome. The man had been seen only sporadically, performing his duties via owl post messenger to his subordinates along with brief, confused personal visits which had all ceased by the time of the Second Task. 

 

Just a few weeks ago, Crouch Sr. stumbled onto Hogwarts’ grounds extremely dishevelled and confused, asking to speak to me. Harry and Viktor Krum came across him and brought him to my office where I was having staff meeting. As soon as the man saw Professor Moody, he gasped in horror and fell down dead of a heart spasm. Madame Pomfrey was unable to revive him, and his post-death examination revealed long-term Imperius damage. There was also a great many body tissue injuries that Professor Snape was able to review. He believes that the man may have been kept captive not only by the use of Imperius, but also under Polyjuice potion.

 

Moody, Snape, and I were obliged to feign confusion as to why the man had received such a shock, since Minister Fudge has decreed absolute secrecy on the matter of his son, as you know.

 

I consulted with the Auror assigned to the case and we agreed that it was most likely that the elder Crouch had been confined via Imperius. Unfortunately, whoever it was has expertly covered his tracks, using multiple birds and obscuring spells that have kept the investigators from discovering their identity or location. I believe that, at least initially, his captor was his own son, with some overlap during the young man’s time impersonating Alastor.

 

I fear that the Ministry has overlooked both the ease of Polyjuice usage for disguises and the mental deterioration that can result from long-term use. The physical affect of the man reminded Severus greatly of the behavior Bartemius Crouch, Jr. exhibited during his attack on yourself and Harry. With the above events in mind, I would like to meet with you as soon as you feel able.


 

Elodie saw that the rest of the letter was a short few lines about hoping she was settling back in nicely, a greeting for her housemates, and Albus’s signature at the bottom. She stared at the paragraph about Crouch’s death, feeling an odd sense of something being incomplete.

 

She could still hear the frantic tone in the man’s voice as he shouted at her about his son. His fear of Moody could be related to the man’s role as magical law enforcement, especially given his son’s crimes. That’s not how it had read to the others in the room, though, and the mention of Polyjuice damage made her wonder if there was something even more sinister about her attack.

 

Had it even been Crouch Senior at all?

 

Elodie leapt to her feet and went over to the low tray by the door where she kept her shoes. She started to put her slip-on sneakers without sitting down, and nearly fell over sideways with the effort of standing on one leg and jamming her foot into the thing. Luckily, Remus had seen the slow-rolling disaster happening, and had positioned himself to catch her elbow at the exact right moment.

 

“Shit, thanks Remus,” Elodie said, allowing him to guide her to a solo, uncomfortable-looking chair that now sat by the window. She really wanted to thank him for always seeming to be there when she needed him, but something Sirius had said the night before made her hold her tongue. He’d said that Remus had been quite upset about her attack, and had confessed to feeling in some way responsible for not noticing that she wasn’t visible at the shoreline for some time before she was discovered. Elodie thought that was ridiculous; she remembered what it was like that day (and not just because it felt like less than a week ago). Because of the terrain and plant life, it was difficult to see any of her fellow Order members once they were a good fifteen to twenty feet away.

 

She didn’t have time to worry about all of that, though. The sense of urgency that she’d started to feel on reading the letter surged back through her, and she popped up out of the chair suddenly enough that Remus leaned over and held his arms out to catch her again if need be.

 

“Don’t worry, the only place I’ll be throwing myself right now is into a Floo. I need to talk to Albus,” she said.

 

“Mind if I come with? I had to miss a lot of the event deconstruction thanks to work responsibilities,” he said, running a hand through his hair distractedly and shooting a longing look at his shoes.

 

“That’s fine,” Elodie said, hating the fact that there were stressors she had to avoid with him. If she didn’t have larger worries, she’d sit him down and go into exactly why he was still every bit the brilliant best friend she always saw him as.

 

Best friend! Elodie exclaimed to herself. It was at once the exact right and exact wrong title for Remus, depending on which part of her was asked. Was Sirius best friend material? 

 

“Nope, nope, nope, no time, go away thoughts, bite me, complex emotional bullshit!” Elodie chanted under her breath as she marched over to the fireplace.

 

Behind her, Remus cleared his throat meaningfully.

 

“It turns out being unknowingly unconscious for months on end and waking up to a renovated house and people that missed me is a bit stressy?” Elodie said, turning around to favor Remus with a brilliant (and deliberately ditzy) smile.

 

He narrowed his eyes at her for a second before smiling gently. “Rain check, as the Muggles say?”

 

“Rain check,” Elodie nodded.

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