Remus opened his eyes in the morning to find himself lying fully robed on his bed with his arm wrapped around Harry who had curled up to him during the night. He was also fully dressed in muggle attire and glancing behind him at the clock he saw that it was already almost nine in the morning. The pensieve was on the floor, surprisingly the right way up with no spilt memories (and Merlin knew it would not be good for his memories to soak into this bizarre house, it would end up telling the portraits all about it). Besides him Harry stirred slightly before opening his eyes and fixing them on his guardian. “Morning.” Harry said, stifling a yawn. “Morning.” Remus smiled as Harry curled up closer to him for warmth. “I’m getting up in a minute.” “No.” Harry protested and held onto him to stop him from leaving. It didn’t work and a moment later Remus had risen from the bed, quite reluctantly, and glanced back at Harry who was lying where Remus had been a moment earlier and now snuggled up underneath his cloak. Remus flicked his wand and a moment later another cloak lay on top of Harry, he then turned from him and walked into his bathroom.
An hour later everyone was sat downstairs in the kitchen eating breakfast, although it was rather more quiet than usual, despite Snape’s presence. Molly was trying to force more bacon and eggs onto people but they just weren’t interested. Harry supposed that either something had happened that no one had yet to tell him about or the idea of the prophecy had hit them rather hard during the night. He hoped it was the former and that something like one of Arabella’s cats had been injured playing tennis or something similarly non life threatening.
“No thank you, Molly.” Severus said to her as she tried in vain to put more scrambled eggs onto his plate. What on earth was wrong with him today? He was tired and depressed and had spent a long night tossing and turning in his bed with the prophecy running round and round his mind. He assumed it was clearly the fate of the world which rested on the shoulders of a sixteen year old moron that was worrying him but then when he glanced at the malnourished teen he felt a strange pang of unhappiness in him which he didn’t like, not one little bit. “Eat something, Potter. We can’t have the world’s saviour starving himself to death now, can we?” He said coolly to counteract the strange pitying feeling inside him.
“Shut it, Snape.” A few people around the table muttered and Snape glared at them all. Harry said nothing but carried on with not really eating the breakfast that had been placed before him. Glancing across the table his eyes met those of his ever concerned guardian, but he supposed he had reason to be concerned, he had just heard that his chances of survival had decreased dramatically and had seen some of his more frightful past in his first year the night before. That wasn’t likely to make him more easygoing.
Remus opened his mouth and tried not to gag as he swallowed the toast he ate. He didn’t want to eat but he knew that he had to if only to keep Molly’s suspicions from him and on Harry. His mind kept replaying parts of Harry’s past to him and all the way through breakfast he kept thinking of the way that Harry had been forced to live with his relatives: people who were supposed to love and care for him, and yet they had managed to be just the opposite of that. He forced the images of Harry being hit and punched by Dudley from his mind as he swallowed another mouthful of toast.
“You alright?” Harry asked him a few minutes later as he sat on the back doorstep of Grimmauld Place, his back to the kitchen and looking out over the overgrown garden.
“Yes.” Remus lied, as an image of Harry struggling in Devil’s Snare with Ron flooded into his mind.
“So light a fire!”
“But there’s no wood!”
“Are you sure?” Harry asked, concerned for Remus who seemed so much more distracted than usual.
“Certain.” Remus said and stood up. “I know what we should do.” He said suddenly and Harry glanced up at him, intrigued. He turned away from him and walked back into the kitchen; Harry rose to his feet and trotted after him through the house.
“Right.” Mad Eye said some ten minutes later as he stood outside on the small set of steps which led to the backdoor. “The rules are as follows: it is everyone for themselves. The last one standing is the victor. Anyone who is stunned must be sent back to the steps. Once on the steps you may not leave them but to go inside until the game is over. The Cruciatus curse and the Killing curse are obviously prohibited. The Imperious curse is not, as long as it is used in moderation. Any questions?”
Mad Eye looked around at those that were stood around him. This was one of the ways that they had trained aurors back when he had been a teacher at St. Arthur’s school of Aurors. The trainees were let loose around an area with enough places to hide and ambush their peers and the last one standing was the victor. Dumbledore greatly approved of this method of training Potter as it would allow him to become experienced in the stealth and tracking portion of the training but without it seeming as if he was training. Mad Eye hated to admit it but it was an excellent idea of Remus’. It would also give him and everyone else a chance to keep on their toes; after all, since it was everyone for themselves they would be facing each other as well as the children. Not that the children were something to be taken lightly in themselves, Potter was apparently becoming very adept at defence against the dark arts and learned quickly. It was going to be very interesting.
“Is the garden the limit?” Tonks asked him.
“Yes, you can’t enter the house without disqualifying yourself and you can’t climb over the wall.” Mad Eye said. He looked around at the people standing there. More people had volunteered for this than he had thought: there was himself, Tonks, Remus, Minerva, Filius, Severus, Bill, Charlie, Fred, George, Harry, Ron and Hermione. Ginny was sat inside the house watching out of the kitchen window. “Right, if that’s all then upon my whistle everyone enters the garden upon my second whistle then let the duelling begin. If you find anyone stunned on the ground then send them back to here. Oh, and on a final note: no summoning of items such as invisibility cloaks” He looked hard at Harry here before he put the whistle to his lips and blew hard, causing a shrill note to fill the air and everyone around him to flinch before running or walking into the garden.
Harry walked inside the maze-like garden behind Minerva, trying to conserve his energy as much as possible. He soon realised that by staying near a teacher he was likely to be cursed very quickly and sent back to the stairs so he quickly pushed through the thin, neglected hedge and onto the other side where there appeared to be no one. Almost a minute had passed and the garden was very quiet as another whistle filled the air from somewhere on Harry’s left. Knowing that the moment Mad Eye saw him he was likely to be stunned he moved slowly away from the sound and soon found that the garden appeared to have taken on some labyrinthine qualities, so as he walked through an area of hedge he was shocked to find the garden rotate suddenly and from the shocked cries from around him he wasn’t the only one. He heard Ron somewhere on his right and decided that he would walk closer to the centre and try and catch him; there was little point in staying on the defensive side until he was hexed.
Remus glanced around him as the garden rotated and saw a shock of black hair over the hedges. It was only for a moment but he knew that Harry was there. A smile touched his face as he silently walked after him, unaware that he too was being followed.
“Stupefy!” The shout filled the air, instantly giving away Fred’s position. He quickly vanished George and ran quickly away from the centre of the garden. He tripped over something and glanced up to see Filius standing over him, a smile on his face. “Ah cra—” He started as he was vanished onto the steps with his twin.
“Didn’t last very long, did we?” George said.
“Nope,” Fred agreed, “Oh look, McGonagall’s about to get Snape!”
Severus span round quickly to see his old professor behind him. She shot a stunner at him quickly but he blocked it. Not bothering to fight back he turned and sprinted through the garden as quickly as he could. He stopped to breathe and realised that he could hear someone walking ahead. He glanced quickly around the corner and saw that it was Weasley, the youngest boy. He leapt back around the corner as the redhead walked towards him. He raised his wand and…
“Stupefy!” Ron fell to the floor and was vanished a second later.
“Potter!” Snape barked and the yell sounded strange in the silent garden, “He was mine!”
“Be quicker next time then.” Harry grinned at him.
Insolent boy. He thought and shot a stunner at him.
“Protegium!” Harry said quickly, sending the blocking and reversing charm at him. The spell ricocheted off Harry’s shield and shot straight back at Snape who yelled out and leapt to the side and straight through the hedge.
“Severus! How nice to see you!” Mad Eye said on the other side of the hedge. There was a commotion on their side of the hedge as Mad Eye attempted to curse Snape who was attempting to escape and curse Mad Eye and Harry at the same time, the latter who was running as fast as he could through the garden.
“Impedimenta.” Someone said and the curse shot straight over Harry’s shoulder. He span round quickly to find himself face to face with Remus.
“Ah sh—” Harry started and raced away from him as fast as he could, spells flying past him as he went, leaving Remus laughing behind him.
“Remus.” Filius said from behind him and Remus cursed his bad luck. Apparently the rumours that circulated about Filius being a duelling champion in his youth were all true and he considered running away after Harry but decided against it.
“Stupefy!” Remus cried, trying to catch the man off his guard but he easily sidestepped it and sent the same curse flying back at him.
“Gelotrium.” Someone said from behind Remus and he leapt to one side, hoping that the spell wasn’t going that way. It wasn’t and a blue streak shot past him and hit Filius in the chest, causing the man to freeze momentarily until a shield he had evidently put around himself earlier on came into play and began to melt the ice around him very quickly. Remus raised an eyebrow turned and ran away from the centre of the garden, where he had been some seconds before. He wanted to try and catch Harry again in the hopes that he could pull him into a duel. He walked quickly and silently through the garden on his search for Harry and spotted him at a junction ahead. He watched as Harry disappeared down the middle path of three and followed him quickly.
Hermione walked quickly through the garden, not knowing when she was likely to be attacked but knowing that she would be. It was fun being out and about in the garden surrounded by everyone; it just wasn’t nice having the stunning hex shot at you every few minutes. So far she had managed to escape from Tonks and Minerva, both of whom chased her through the garden a good way before giving up. She heard a crack from nearby as someone stood on a twig and then cursed repeatedly. Snape. She realised. Oh how she would love to be the one to curse Snape, but she had little chance of succeeding, he was a previous Death Eater after all. Nevertheless she walked after him, hoping for the chance to catch him. She was originally going after Ron but after Harry cursed him away before Snape had the chance to then she laughed and ran away as Harry sprinted towards her, running straight into Tonks whilst she was at it.
Mad Eye walked slowly around the garden. He hadn’t seen anyone since he had entered it except for Snape some time back and Potter who was on the other side of the hedge. Of course he knew that if he altered his focus in his magical eye he could look through the hedges and hedge animals and see all of them but that wasn’t really fair on them. Especially the younger ones who tended just to run as far and as fast as they could the second they encountered someone with more than two years on their own age. He walked slowly down the side of the garden in the open and glanced up at the steps he could see the two Weasley twins and Ron sat there chatting and watching everyone.
Harry walked quickly down the middle fork in the hedging knowing that Remus was behind him. He hoped that he was fast enough to catch him, although he greatly doubted it; Remus was fast and very intelligent. He ran around the side of the bend and sprinted as fast as he could through the garden in an attempt to get behind Remus who was now stood cautiously at the edge of the fork in the path. He glanced behind him and Harry leapt behind the corner, his breathing coming a little faster before looking back around. Remus was walking slowly down the middle and he took his chance and walked carefully after him.
“Stupefy.” Harry murmured softly. Remus whipped around and blocked the spell that Harry sent at him. Harry cursed inwardly and wondered why he had ever dared to challenge Remus. The man smiled at him as he turned and walked back towards him. Harry fought the urge to turn and run but stood his ground, ready to lose spectacularly. A flash to the right of him alerted him that he was probably wrong to do so as he was thrown sideways straight through the hedge and out onto the other side. And I thought that this was a good idea, why?! He thought as he dragged himself to his feet. He walked quickly over to the hedge and looked through the hole that he had just made to see Remus now engaged in a swift duel with Snape, deciding it would be best not to intervene he turned away and walked along the path along side the garden towards the house where he saw the Weasley twins and Ron on the steps laughing and waving to him.
“Mad Eye’s round the corner!” Ron shouted at him suddenly just before Harry reached the corner. He decided that he would take a quick look just to check. He put his head quickly around the corner and his eyes met with one normal one and one which was electric blue.
“Potter.” Mad Eye growled at him. Harry pulled his head back around the corner and turned to run as fast as he could. He managed to get as far as halfway down the garden to the centre of the maze when Snape appeared infront of him.
“Stupefy!” Harry said catching him off his guard as he ran past. He turned and quickly vanished him to the steps where he sat scowling down at the rest of the garden after being awoken by George.
Remus laughed aloud when he saw Harry sprint past and knock Snape out. He contemplated following him for a moment and decided against it as he saw Hermione cautiously making her way around the garden, hoping not to be spotted. That’s not the way to stay alive. He thought as he walked along behind her.
Mad Eye had sent a quick succession of stunners after Potter as he sprinted away in the opposite direction but none of them hit the target who was irritatingly quick and nimble enough to dodge them all and then throw himself down a path to the side of him and re-enter the garden. Scowling darkly at the place that the boy had just been, Mad Eye turned and walked along the perimeter of the garden before he spotted Minerva walking along as a cat by the side of the hedging. She stopped as he walked past, his magical eye fixed on her as he did so. Only when she was certain he had gone did she emerge from the hedge and walk slowly along the side of the path, her eyes darting around her.
“Very sly, Minerva.” Mad Eye said from behind her as he stunned her and sent her up to the stairs.
“I cannot believe I was stunned by Potter, of all people.” Snape muttered to Minerva when she awoke a few seconds after being vanished onto the stairs.
“Mad Eye caught me,” She said as she looked over the garden and watched the people that were left inside it.
Charlie walked carefully through the garden and fell down as the hedging moved again. Glancing behind him, the path he had just been on had vanished, which was never a good sign. At the moment he was now at the very centre of the garden, next to the eerie water feature which had barely any water left in it. He looked around him and heard shouts of confusion from the movement of the garden and then he spotted Bill. Dying to get one over his elder brother he moved quickly and stealthily towards him. He leapt out from behind the hedge he was behind and sent a variety of curses his way in quick succession. To his utmost irritation they all shot straight through him and he heard Bill’s laughter from behind him as he was stunned and vanished to the stairs. Bill grinned and waved his wand through the hologram he had conjured of himself before it vanished and he turned and ran through the garden in an attempt to get hold of Harry who had ran past him some time earlier.
Harry raced through the middle of the garden and out at the other side. He glanced up at the trees infront of him and an idea came to him. He ran forwards to them and began to climb quickly until he was right at the top of one of them and well hidden by the thick leaves which obstructed anyone’s view. From there he could just make out the steps at the other side of the garden with quite a few people sitting on there now, three of them redheads. Below in the garden he could see Remus walking along cautiously after Hermione. There was a flash of red and a few seconds later Hermione appeared on the steps next to Ron. There weren’t many people left in the garden now, Harry knew that much and he would almost certainly give his position away if he attempted to stun Remus from here, he also didn’t know how much power it would lose between him and his target if he tried so he stayed silent as he scanned what portion of the garden he could see. He saw Charlie attempt to stun Bill and then in a strange turn of events Bill appeared behind him as well, stunning him quickly. Harry’s eyes were torn from the two brothers when he saw Tonks walking along the path below him. He knew it was her, with long green hair flowing over long green robes which trailed along behind her. She blended into the hedge well but anyone seeing her from the other side would only see a green woman walking along very obviously. He took his aim at her as she walked along underneath him.
Tonks walked along the path at the far end of the garden next to the wall. She had transfigured her robes to become green and had changed so that her face and hair was also green. Being so green was all fine and good when in the centre of the garden but when she was on the outside it served only to make her more conspicuous. She walked silently along the path underneath the trees which lined the wall of the garden and she spotted Remus at the edge of the hedging. She froze for a moment before making her way over to him.
“Stupefy!” Tonks fell to the ground and was vanished a moment later. At the edge of the garden Remus grinned and disappeared back inside.
Harry glanced around him as he slipped down the tree and saw an electric blue eye watching him from close by. Encountering Mad Eye again was not high on his list of things to do and he jumped quickly out of the tree and raced back inside the main section of the garden, hoping not to run straight back into Remus.
“So who’s still out there then?” Ron asked as he peered across the garden for any obvious signs of people he knew.
“You’re not going to see them,” Minerva said to him, “Anyone out there isn’t going to be ridiculously obvious.” She glanced out across the garden and saw Mad Eye marching through the middle of it.
“Except for Mad Eye.” Severus corrected her.
“He can afford to.” Minerva said, “He’s got a magical eye that can see through the hedges for Merlin’s sake.”
“Anyway, in answer to your previous question…” Charlie said, “Bill’s still out there,”
“So’s Harry.” Hermione said. “And Lupin.”
“Filius.” Severus said, glancing around him for people whose presence was lacking. “So Lupin, Filius, Bill, Mad Eye and Potter.” He said summing them up. “Although how Potter has not yet been caught I do not know.” He scowled darkly.
“Hello again, Harry.” Remus smiled at the boy in the centre of the garden who cursed himself inwardly for ending up at the middle and then not running the instant he spotted Remus.
“Bloody hell.” He muttered as he looked up to the laughing eyes of Remus, he watched his face for a moment which remained calm but then he glanced down at his godfather’s wand which hung at his side. He jumped back from the Devil’s Snare which was coming from his wand and winding it’s way towards him.
“Pity you noticed.” Remus said and with a flick of his wand the tendrils flew at him. Harry cried out and leapt to the side, the Devil’s Snare embedding itself in the hedge behind him. “Stupefy.”
“Protegium!” Harry sent at the same time and the bolt of red collided with Harry’s shielding charm pushing back against him. Harry wasn’t sure what kind of a stunner Remus had sent at him but it was pushing against his shield and he was being forced back to the Devil’s Snare, which he didn’t fancy getting any closer to. One of the tendrils reached out to him and he leapt to the side as his shield gave way. The red streak which was still connected to Remus’ wand flew from the end of it and through the Devil’s Snare, destroying it completely, as it flew through four separate hedges, finally setting one of the trees on fire at the end of the garden. Remus flashed an amused smile at Harry as he moved round closer to him and away from the hole in the hedge. Harry and Remus both raised their wands to curse the other but before either of them managed there was a cry to their right.
“Imperio!” Someone said and Harry staggered backwards as the spell hit him hard.
Curse yourself, it’s the easiest way out.
Come on, stun yourself
It’ll be fun
You know you want to
Remus scowled darkly at Mad Eye in the hedge before stunning Harry and sending him to the stairs with everyone else.
“That wasn’t very fair, you know.” Remus said to Mad Eye as he emerged, “I wanted to duel with him.”
“He should have fought off the spell then.” Mad Eye retorted. Remus opened his mouth to argue, “It’s not as if he can’t do it. That impostor made him do it all through his fourth year!”
“I know, but it’s not the easiest of things to throw off.” Remus argued.
“He threw it off from Voldemort,” Mad Eye said to him and Remus’ eyes widened, “Dumbledore told me.”
“Stupefy!” Someone yelled from the other side of the hedge and Bill flew through it and onto the floor where he lay unconscious. He was vanished a second later and Filius walked through the hedge.
“Looks like it’s just us three left.” Mad Eye said. “Stupefy.” He shot the spell at Remus who wasn’t expecting it and he dropped to the floor. Filius vanished him to the steps where he was revived by Minerva a moment later.
“So who do you reckon will win then?” George asked Fred, “Mad Eye or Flitwick?”
“Mad Eye, hands down.” Ron said despite the fact that his name wasn’t Fred.
“Filius was excellent in his youth though.” Minerva said.
“Yeah, but now he’s old.” Fred said.
“He’s not that old.” Minerva said.
“He taught us when we were at school.” Remus said nodding in Severus’ direction. “And he wasn’t particularly young then,”
“Well how old’s Mad Eye?” Hermione asked.
“Do we look stupid enough to ask him?” Ron asked her.
“Yeah, he’d probably hex you on the spot.” Charlie agreed.
“Well he was at the top of his career in the seventies.” Severus said. “And he was in his late twenties then.”
“Right, so if he was in his late twenties twenty years ago then he’s going on fifty.” Bill said, “He can’t be that old, can he?”
“Why not?” Minerva asked. Suddenly everyone on the stairs began to wonder how old she was.
“How old are you, Minerva?” Severus asked her in as gentle a voice as he could manage. She turned to him and gave him a very cold look before raising her wand to his neck. “Err… what I mean to say is do you want a cup of tea?”
“No, thank you.” She said coldly, “And I do not expect the subject of my age to be raised ever again.”
“Why not? You know how old we are.” Harry said to her and she cast him the same cool look which silenced him and caused Remus to muffle his laughter next to him. “Never mind…”
“Alright then, someone ask Mad Eye and Filius how old they are when they come back.” Charlie said to them.
“I’m not asking anyone how old they are.” Minerva said coolly when he looked to her.
“You ask one of them, Snape.” Bill said to him, “They’re less likely to curse you.”
“Potter’s stupid, he can ask one of them.” Severus said in reply.
“Will you, Harry?” Fred asked him, laughter in his eyes.
“Yeah, alright.” Harry said, wondering how many curses he’d have put on him.
“Well I’ll ask Filius, so you can ask Mad Eye.” Remus said quickly to the side of him and Harry opened his mouth to protest.
“Nope, it’s too late now.” Charlie said to him, “You never said which one of them you’d ask and if Remus is asking Filius then you’re asking Mad Eye.”
“I’m not asking him.” Harry said.
“You will ask him or I’m going to start sneaking Veritaserum into your food.” Snape said to him.
“I’ll stop eating then.” Harry responded.
“Yeah, it’s not like he eats anything anyway.” Ron said, “He’s skin and bone.” Everyone ran a critical eye over his skinny body which was hidden under his clothes but not particularly well. Remus’ eyes lingered on his frame unhappily and he resolved to try and make him eat more.
“Alright then, I’ll freeze you, knock you down and pour Veritaserum down your throat in the Great Hall at breakfast and allow Draco Malfoy to ask you a few questions.” Snape said to him and his lips curled in a cruel smile as Harry scowled darkly at him.
“Fine.” Harry muttered.
“And when do you plan on this suicide?” Charlie asked.
“You’ll do it at lunch.” Snape said to him and Harry shook his head.
“Not with everyone around I won’t.” Harry said.
Snape sighed, “Do I have to repeat everything I previously said? If you don’t I will freeze you, knock you down and—”
“Pour Veritaserum down my throat, I know.” Harry finished for him.
“In the Great Hall at breakfast.” Minerva said.
“So looks like we’re in for an interesting lunch today.” Bill grinned at them all and Harry groaned.
“And when are you asking Filius?” Tonks asked Remus.
“I’ll catch him later sometime.” Remus said lightly.
“Fair enough.” Snape said and smirked at Harry who didn’t have chance to say anything by means of a retort as Mad Eye suddenly appeared in their midst in an unconscious state. Filius appeared at the bottom of the stairs with a pop.
“Well done, Filius.” Minerva smiled at him.
“Ah, just like the old days.” Filius said as he woke Mad Eye. The latter sat up on the stairs and looked around at the people near him. “An excellent duel.”
“Yes, well done.” Mad Eye said but it didn’t take a genius to understand from his tone that he was not pleased with his loss. He got up from the steps and walked inside with a slight scowl on his face. This only widened Snape’s smile and most other peoples.
“Shame he’s not in a good mood.” Severus said to Harry, “And lunch in only an hour as well. He’ll not have cheered up by then. Pity.” He smirked at Harry who scowled back at him. Severus rose to his feet and walked back into the house, laughing at Harry on the way.
“Do you reckon that Snape’ll notice if I just don’t ask him his age?” Harry asked Remus as they sat on the steps outside whilst everyone else rose and re-entered the kitchen.
“I think he probably will…” Remus smiled. “Come on, let’s get inside. I don’t like that those hedge snakes have made it all the way to the path.” Harry looked over and sure enough the hedge snakes had made it all the way to the edge of the garden and were very carefully moving when they weren’t looking. Sometimes he could catch their movement out of the corner of his eye, sometimes they just got closer somehow. But it was always eerie and he felt a strong sense of unease whenever they did it. He allowed himself to be helped to his feet by Remus as they both turned their backs on the snakes which quickly moved forwards a few metres closer to the steps and walked back inside the kitchen.
A/N: Sorry it took me so long to get this chapter up but for a while my internet broke so in my spare time I've managed to write up to chapter fifteen. Anyway, input wanted: Harry, Ron and Hermione are going to eventually become animagi, what animals do you think they should become? Also a couple of people have asked me to email them when I update and I thought I'd ask if anyone else wanted emailing when I update as well. Next chapter coming soon :o)
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