Disclaimer: Still don't own a thing.
The doorknob clicked softly, cold bluish light slipping through the creek run on the floor and stopped, casting a eerie shadows on the walls. The room was empty. Every spare inch was covered with thin layer of dust that danced restlessly around when they shuffled in.
In the central part of the desk stood a handmade card. Plain white card-stock with a few words scribbled in the middle in Harry's familiar handwriting, Remus leaned to read them.
To my stalkers.
"So he knew we were there." Growled Moody after limping toward Lupin, who now opened the card. Tonks abandoned poking at the rickety lamp standing on the cluttered DIY nightstand to stand beside him. Painted inside the card was a cake with a large 'Congrats' stretching over the orange top layer. Candles were replaced with slips of paper, easily removable and colored like candy canes, their ends stuck out at the bottom. With a feeling of dread he pulled them down, exposing the text hidden behind. Then read the message out loud.
"'You've found I am gone! Congrats! Now look up.' What?"
It was Tonks who found it. Next to the window, pinned to the wall by what looked like a piece of play-dough and a pin was calendar. Made by hand, with little care for looks, half hidden by the picture of Hedwig. Few numbers were crossed over, all of them made at the very beginning of summer. Two dates were marked red, the first of September and the …
Remus gaped at the circled number with disbelieving eyes and then, very slowly, refocused on the page he was still holding, like it was a dangerous animal about to bit his hand off. He looked at the back. The words seemed to mock him.
Constant Vigilance', my ass.
The notebook on your right is for you. The letters are not. I will ask you to redistribute them once you find the recipients, but considering how little privacy means to you, I will not be surprised to find you ignored my wishes, however simple they may be.
"Ouch, harsh." Remus looked disbelievingly at exceedingly unconcerned Tonks, who was peering at the contents. Her shoulder brushing his while she stood on her tip toes, like she forgot how to morph, leaning closer, completely ignoring any social cues about comfort zones. He was grateful, that muted wand light had that fortunate upside of not exposing blush creeping on his face.
"We were guarding empty house for over a month, looks like." Moody was already reading the letter, snorting few times. "He certainly doesn't mince his words. Quite refreshing."
"He is missing, for god's sake! Give me that." Remus shook his head, trying to stop thinking about rather sharp tang of cinnamon, that came from direction of the woman standing next to him, and all but ripped the paper from auror's hand, ignoring the one armed shrug.
To my dear stalkers,
Word of caution to you, if you don't want a person you spy on to know, that they are spied on, you might consider :
Not reading on the duty. Seriously, the sound carries, especially in the evenings, sometimes you can hear trains even if train tracks are few miles away.
Wear less descriptive shoes. Trainers, purple, size six, six and half?. You tripped over something and your cloak slipped. It was visible for nearly fifteen minutes.
And the other, smaller, looked like that.
Underneath was a strangely detailed shoeprint with visible elongated triangle upper shape and small square heel.
Hestia's new ankle booties. Tonks was rather jealous of them, but she couldn't really spare one third of her income for high heel shoes, that won't be able to stand some heavy workout. Or rain. Or gravel. It was a sensible thing to do. Yeah.
You left one full print after stepping on the muddy ground near the garden hose and they are quite distinctive here.
One of you should quit drinking the oldest and most fermented apple juice with such passion. And cut on smoking cheep snuff.
Is Mrs Figg onto this farce? Now that I think of it, her house is full of Kneazels. Didn't recognized them at first, Crookshanks is pretty…specific.
Now that I had my fun at your expanse, you might want to know why I decided to leave.
In simplest terms 'Stupid times call for stupid measures'.
The people you let take such a good care of me decided to kill me. It could have been avoided, of course, if one of you was visible and they knew you were watching over me, but thank fuck you didn't bother to do that.
Let me enlighten you to the nature of the Dursley's family, because I refuse to believe that you'd be so coldhearted and uncaring, if you knew what was going on behind this white painted fence. Those people are obsessed with the concept of normal and in all they do, they strive for the average. You have seen this house, this street, I think you might have a good idea what pass as normal here.
And then, there is me. A foreign looking person who is not exactly a conformist, happen to be a liberal, can't quite stand beige and have the unfortunate privilege of being a wizard and living in magic hating household.
I am everything Vernon Dursley hates.
I am also not an absolute idiot, polite when someone doesn't rain fiery shit on my head, and, against best efforts, not the worst looking guy, if you believe Hermione. (I do, that girl is blunt like a hammer and I wouldn't have it any other way).
And that makes Petunia Dursley more angry then anything else in the world.
She is a jealous and spiteful creature and no matter how much she loves her son, she wishes that he would be more like me. Because I remind her of my mum, who she could not help but compare herself to and fall short.
You do the math.
In this house my every virtue is a mark against me, so it will now not come as surprise to you, that this lovely family had practiced neglect and abuse on me like it was Olympic sport.
Quite frankly, I wouldn't let them take care of tree legged hamster, with how much parental instincts and kindness they share between each other.
Of course, you might not believe me, nobody before did, after all.
Take a look at the locks on the door. Gauges on the side of the window are from the bars, you might want to ask the twins and Ron about them. If not for them I wouldn't be there to moan and bitch about my personal prison shared with feathery inmate. Dudley's room is next to this one. Tell me what kind of parents would do that to their own child. But what might convince you, is the cupboard under the stairs. You walked by it on your way up. There is still a cot and few pictures in there, makes for a quite a story.
I left you a message inside. Please take my things wherever are you going?
I will not come back to this house, and that's a promise. I was already told in few flat English words, that should I do, my body will be found in a ditch, and do I believe it? Coming from a man who spend some time in prison for nearly clobbering someone to death, was only let out from lack of evidence and keeps the pipe he'd done it with in garage under worktable?
Yes. Yes I do.
So, a word of warning. If you'll make me come back to this hellhole, to be starved and beaten and used for free labour and closed under lock and key with bucket and glass of stale water, somebody will go out through front door feet first.
And I will do everything in my power for it to not to be me. If Vernon Dursley raises a hand against me ever again I will kill that man.
And if you think I am bluffing, I would say ask Dumbledore, but for all his virtuous, he likes sugar-coating everything, so ask my friends, since I told them nearly whole story of how exactly Quirrell died. Except how it is to wrap your burning hands around someone's neck and feel them stop breathing, even when they are clawing at your face. Because it's ugly and I don't want Hermione or Ron or twins or anybody I love to ever know that. Never, if I can help it.
I worry about them, so take good care of them for me, alright? Help them prepare instead of patting them on the head, because when shit will hit the fan they will be like sitting ducks. And find somebody to talk with Ginny, she sounds sad in her letters.
Just…make sure that they won't one day wake up as adults expected to fight and to cope, when no one taught them how.
That turned more heavy then I expected.
For now, I'm biding you adieu and there's sweet bugger all you can do about it.
See you in September.
Love and curses,
The boy who takes vacation from all the drama.
PS. How is Babymort?
PPS. Happy decoding.
"Think it's true?" Asked Tonks, her voice strangely hoarse, and when Remus looked at her, she was brushing off her tears with blue jacket sleeve. It was then, he realized that his own cheeks were strangely wet. He cleared his throat.
"All of it. Any if it. Does it matter? Even if the fraction is truth… "She didn't need to continue. The implications were clear enough.
"It's true. At least some of it." When they still stood over unstable desk, leaning on it perhaps to heavily, Moody was already moving through the room, opening wardrobe and two drawers and then he pulled something from under the bed accompanied with a sound of ripping duct tape. A trash bag. "I had a bunch of cases of child abuse in my career." His grizzled expression turned even more foul. It took a moment for them to decipher it as concern. "There is rotting bits of food hidden in pillowcase, under that floorboard, that's where the smell is coming from. Lock-pick. All things that he likes or needed over the years are hidden among the trash in case someone would like to destroy it."
He pulled out Gryffindor banner from under old comics pile that looked untouched, dust on the top was thick and undisturbed. Dream-catcher with small greenish-blue stones got fished out from behind the bedside table, where it was hanging on a pin wedged inside the wood. Funny shaped glass that turned out to be Sneakoscope, was previously sitting in a box on highest wardrobe shelf that proudly proclaimed 'Furby'.
"He is really gone." Remus was holding Harry's most praised possession, photo album, that was missing few shots, gently pried away and probably carried close wherever he was. But for him to leave it...
"Yes he is."
"How can you say that so calmly?!" Remus's eyes flashed with a yellow tinge when he rounded on Moody. Not like the Auror looked impressed at all, snorting under his nose about choleric mamabear werewolves, before just shaking his head and looking at Lupin through the corner of his natural eye.
"Listen, Lupin, the lad run off, and I would be damned, but that might have been the best decision he made with information he had, no sense in moaning about it." Remus gasped uncomprehending, paused for a moment before he blew.
"He is fourteen!"
Tonks in a gesture of self preservation from continued argument she had no need or want joining, opened the door and with a few Silencio thrown around she took a peak at the room next to Harry's. It was… To call it a mess would be admitting that Tonks' own achievement in this department was meagre at best. And she was a person who was considering throwing away the fridge instead of cleaning it. Circe, how can anybody live in that kind of pigsty? The walls were nearly invisible, every inch of space was taken, sometimes or maybe most of the times, growing vertically. PC and laptop and two tablets on top of some magazines, TV and one of those game stations, CD's that took one whole wall. She could see at lest eight plates, but not even two square inches of the floor...nor the bed for the matter, covered in so many tent-sized clothes that they made a nest. It smelled like a stale sweat and cheese and things unnamed. No wonder that they didn't feel food getting spoiled in Harry's austere little room, with this just next door. She looked at the teenager who was gleefully killing everything in sight on his computer, music wailing so loud that he would not notice a bomb going close. She could see what Harry was getting at.
Neglect can go both ways.
Tonks brushed her red hair back, dissolving her silence spell and rolling her eyes when she saw them still arguing.
"Kids run away from home every day, not saying that's alright, but better on the streets then dead. He sends out the message every three day, writes his friends regularly so he must be safe and sound. And he was smart enough to pull wool on our eyes for whole month, would do so for longer if we didn't come here. Kid had us all fooled, and he obviously can take care of himself, the last thing we need is for the other side to catch hint that he is out there."
It was hard to argue with that. Harry kept in contact, his 'I am fine' turned into short messages, no longer with that angry increasingly less readable scrawl. Maybe it should have clue them in a bit sooner.
"I want to see the cupboard." Announced suddenly Tonks, her hands curled into fists and arms crossed. Her hair was a curious mix of vivid red and muted, mousy brown, flicking and changing as emotions warred in her chest. "It's not that I don't believe him, I do…I just...
"Would rather find proof that he was exaggerating." Her mouth was pulled into unhappy line, but she nodded. "If you stay an Auror, you will deal with many things like that. Kids being beaten, sometimes killed by accident, murdered. From newborn to teenagers to adults. If you want to do your job well, you can't cling to hope of human good nature, when evidence proves otherwise."
Remus glared furiously at him, turning to Tonks to offer few kinder words in the face of her obvious distress, and blinked in shock to find only squared shoulders and violet eyes gleaming with determination. Before he got to the point, she was already out of the door, head held high, wand in hand and quiet feet.
He turned to Moody.
"What was that supposed to mean?"
"Don't coddle her, Lupin! She is a badger and that means teeth and claws and conviction. She isn't some weak minded pushover that you need to hold by hand all the time, so stop doing that."
"I don't do that!" Protested the man, twirling around in agitated circle. "I just don't get it why you would needlessly upset her, isn't the situation bad enough?"
"She has job to do, no, shut your yap, Lupin." He added sharply when he saw Remus put his hand up to argue his point. "You care for a woman who will go head to head with the worst scum scrubbed from the proverbial shoe bottom of this world, job that doesn't end after you come home. It stays with you, right here." Moody tapped the side of his head, right next the swirling eye with his finger, driving the point home. "So you either respect her and stand by her side or not at all and be left behind. You can be gentleman all you like, but stand in her way and she will raze you."
"Tonks is a very sweet girl…"
"That's very kind of you to say" Remus turned, his face already hot to see her smiling lightly, even when her eyes were rimmed red. He felt his heart clenching.
Bigger part of him was already whispering 'nope, don't go there' but the other unapologetically was singing 'oops, too late for that. You are in loooove fluffy butt'. It sounded irritatingly alike Sirius. He was doomed. But Moody was right, damn him, and he shuddered internally since he was now taking romantic advice from a man who lost his left buttock and without irony called himself Mad-eye.
Merlin help him.
Now or never.
"Are you going to stand there like gorgon got to you or are you finely going to help me here ?"
Moody already had a ton of little knick-knacks spread all over the narrow, dusty bed after he scurried the room, plucking them from the weirdest places. And then, he took out a bag out of the many pockets of his trench coat and carefully started packing them.
"Wait, what are you doing?"
"What does it looks like? You go for the desk, take the papers and that notebook, anything that might look important, too. " He ordered without turning, his electric blue eye sweeping the corners, trying to find out if he missed something. Two pairs of surprised eyes were digging into his back. "What? The lad is not going back here, he took only what he needed the most. Doesn't mean he won't be happy to have those back."
"And next year?" Asked Tonks quietly, her fingers playing with the strangely delicate bracelet made of pinkish and orange seashells and wondering where it came from, so beautiful and out of place among all those broken things.
"Well, we will just have to make sure that he doesn't return, don't we?" Remus put his hand on her shoulder, his kind, tired face hovered close, filling with quiet determination.
She smiled weakly.
A hint of solution was better then none.
She thought of the small dark cupboard. Of tiny handprint in the farthest corner, barely visible in the muted overhead light. Row of overthrown cheap plastic soldiers, all of them chipped or broken. A cot, stood up and pushed to make a place for Harry's trunk. Tiny, dirty, overused. There was a bleach stain on the floor, covered in dust. How long was it there? The cupboard was small in every direction. It had a lock far too complicated for a place you should keep your hoover and Mr Muscle in.
She thought of the small boy who wrote 'Harry's Room' with something sharp in the corner, place that nobody would see unless they were looking for it. Pictures. Flying motorcycle, trees, a demented looking bunny, three people, adults and a child standing in the middle of green. Three others like the last one. And one with a woman only. All of them swallowed by green. For a moment she thought it was grass. And then she realized that it wasn't grass at all, but a very familiar spell. Oh God.
She thought of the wizarding trunk that now stood close to the front door and how a person this young could and did eschew most of his earthly possessions not impulsively, but with full knowledge of what he was leaving behind.
The good, the bad and the ugly.
There was a note burning a hole in her pocket.