A/N: First, thank you for all of the R&Rs. Secondly, for those of you reading my others, yes, they will be continuing and finished. Ever Love is a side project, even though it too will be continuing until complete.
Chapter 7: Interlude – Black Reward
Sirius Black crouched low in the bushes just in view of Malfoy Manor. The neatly trimmed high hedges hid most the grounds, but the large dark colored Manor was visible over them. He knew it was a dark grey, but in the darkness, it almost blended into the night. The columns of dark grey were almost impossible to see in what little light was coming from inside the Manor. Sirius could see guards standing at the gates, watching intently. With a deep calming breath, he threw back his head, drinking the Felix Felicis he had taken from Severus Snape's personal store room two weeks before.
Remus had helped Sirius convince Dumbledore to ask Snape where Wormtail was hiding. It had taken several hours, and one large shouting match, but finally the Headmaster relented to his demands. Then it was just a tense period of waiting for almost two weeks. Snape had finally relayed the information the night before at the Order of the Phoenix meeting. Sirius had gone to Hogwarts with Dumbledore to borrowed Harry's Invisibility Cloak, so he could get into Malfoy Manor unseen. He had then been called to McGonagall's office where he had listened to Harry's tale of a strange portkey. Sirius was still trying to get his head around that one. But he didn't have time to think about that right at the moment. He had more important things to do.
Sirius' nerves were on edge, even before he had taken the potion. This little foray behind enemy lines was one of the most stressful things he had ever done, even when he was an Auror with James, and it could be his last if he wasn't careful. He waited the five minutes to make sure the potion had taken effect, slipped on the Cloak, and broke his cover from behind the bushes. He walked quickly toward the gate. As he neared the large iron and gold gateway, several Death Eaters appeared just ahead of him.
Sirius smirked under the Cloak, as he walked close behind the last Death Eater and onto the Malfoy Estate. He knew the Liquid Luck was working. The grounds were well trimmed but had a stagnant feel to them. Sirius knew this place was touched with the Dark Arts; he could feel it. It made him shudder to think about it. He wished he had the time and authority to raid the house and maybe, just maybe, catch Lucius Malfoy doing a crime. Sirius shook off the feeling and paid more attention to the man he was following. It wouldn't do him any favors to be distracted.
Sirius followed the group into the house, not making any sounds. The large entryway was split in the center by a massive spiral staircase that went up four floors. A sitting room was off to his right, but the group turned left down a long hallway. The Death Eaters led Sirius to an ornate study where Lucius Malfoy waited in front of a massive fireplace. Sirius felt compelled to stay there with them for a few minutes. After all, who was he to argue with Felix?
A trim servant girl with long reddish-brown hair entered from the other door carrying a large platter with various drinks on it. Sirius looked at her with curiosity. There was something about her that the Felix was reacting to. She sat the tray on the bar in the far corner of the room where he still couldn't see her face. Sirius looked over at the Death Eaters, was drawn back to her for some reason. He still couldn't see her clearly, but her mannerisms looked familiar. Sirius hadn't seen them in years, but he thought those mannerisms were a little off. Her movements were jerky and mechanical, as though the servant girl was…yes, that was it! She was under the Imperius Curse!
Sirius let the Liquid Luck guide his hand as he drew his wand. He stuck the very tip out of the Cloak and opened silent fire on the Death Eaters. They started dropping one by one in quick succession. Sirius had quickly stunned the entire group except for Lucius Malfoy. Malfoy was looking around confused as the other Death Eaters fell one after the other.
"Who's there? Who dares enter my house and attack me?" Lucius ground out as he pulled his wand out of his walking stick.
"Stupefy!" Sirius smirked as he stunned Malfoy. Sirius turned to the servant girl as a glass hit the floor. She was holding her head as if she had a massive headache. When she looked up, her hair falling away from her face, Sirius almost fainted. It was a face he had longed to see, even more than James and Lily's.
"It…it's not possible!" he breathed.
She recovered slightly, looking around. She bent down, retrieving one of the dropped wands, as she looked around cautiously.
"Who's there?" she asked in a frightened voice. "I know someone is here. Show yourself, coward!"
"Coward?" Sirius mumbled, stepping closer. He still had the Cloak on and knew she couldn't see him. "Just because I'm hiding doesn't mean I'm a coward."
The woman looked around trying to find the voice, her eyes wide with terror. "Show yourself!"
Sirius stopped within a foot of the extended wand as she swung it from one side of the room to the other. As she moved the wand back toward him, Sirius stretched out his hand and took it from her. She gasped as the wand disappeared from sight. Her face changed from fear to realization as she looked at the spot the wand was when it vanished.
"Invisibility Cloak," she breathed. "James? Is that you?" she implored.
"No," Sirius answered, dropping the hood of the Cloak. "But it is someone close."
"Sirius?" she gasped with a sob. She went to throw herself into his arms, but stopped as a wand appeared, pointing at her heart.
"You're supposed to be dead," Sirius said flatly. "Prove to me you are Marlene McKinnon."
"You know my name isn't McKinnon anymore!" she growled at him. "It hasn't been since a week after James and Lily got married."
She rolled her eyes. "You've been around Mad-Eye too long."
"Prove it, then," Sirius stubbornly told her again. Liquid Luck or not, Sirius was not taking any chances.
"Fine," she sighed. "I'm your wife, I'm the greatest good you'll ever have."
Their pet phrase for each other. Only Marlene knew it. Sirius paled; eyes widened as his arm dropped. "Marley?" he gasped. She nodded as he dropped the Cloak, revealing the rest of him. He opened his arms to her, and she wasted no time, rushing into them. They remained in that hug for a long few minutes.
"Where are we?" Marlene asked. "Wait, Malfoy Manor," she said suddenly as she looked around. "How long have I been here?"
"Fourteen years," Sirius answered.
"Fourteen years?" Marlene hollered.
"Shhh!" Sirius told her frantically. "I have to find someone before we can leave," he whispered.
"Who?" Marlene whispered back.
"Peter bloody Pettigrew," snarled Sirius as his face darkened.
"Peter?" she asked confused. "I don't understand."
"Yes, Peter," Sirius spat as he retrieved the Cloak from the floor. "We don't have time for answers right now."
Marlene took a deep breath. Something wasn't right. Fourteen years or not, she was missing something. She looked around the room carefully as she thought about it. "I know where he is."
"Where?" Sirius asked, handing her the wand he had taken earlier. "Please, I need to find him. I have to take him with us."
"This way," Marlene motioned for him to follow. "I'm still a little confused. The Imperious is still wearing off. You sound angry with Peter."
"You could say that," Sirius commented quietly. "I'll explain later. Right now, we need to stun this lot again before they wake up."
Marlene nodded as they started stunning the Death Eaters again. Sirius added an extra kick to Lucius for good measure, and because he had promised Ginny he would if he got the chance. He heard the satisfying crunch of bone and cartilage as Malfoy's jaw and nose broke. Sirius smiled a little as he leaned over him.
"That is from a very scary redhead you made very angry at you," Sirius told the unconscious Malfoy. Marlene gave Sirius a questioning look as he stood. "Later. And part of it is not my story to tell."
"What did he do to Lily?" Marlene asked with a stern tone as they walked to the door.
"Not Lily. Ginny."
"Who's Ginny?" asked Marlene with a raised eyebrow.
"Harry's girlfriend," Sirius smiled his cocky smile at her.
"Ha…Harry's what?" Marlene stammered. She looked back at Sirius with wide eyes.
"Fourteen years, remember?" he asked with a smug smile and head tilt. Marlene nodded weakly. "Come on. We need to get to Peter before my Liquid Luck wears off."
"You took…never mind," Marlene sighed, as she shook her head. "Impossible to tell with you," she grumbled.
"Harry and Ginny said the same thing," Sirius grinned as he opened the door. Marlene just stared at him for a moment before following him into the hallway.
Marlene led the way up the stairs for two flights. She turned down a corridor with rich green wallpaper in Old English patterned teardrops. They walked halfway down the hall, where Marlene pointed to a door on the left. Sirius nodded, silently casting the Alohomora. He quietly opened the door, looking in. Pettigrew was laying on the bed, fast asleep.
Sirius and Marlene crept into the room, closing the door behind them. Sirius motioned for Marlene to watch Pettigrew, while he checked the window. All was quiet outside so far. As Sirius turned back, he started to feel the potion ebbing away.
"Slytherin snot," he cursed. He hurried back over to the bed. "Potion's wearing off. We have to go, now!" Sirius pointed his wand at Pettigrew.
"Stupefy!" He made sure the Cloak was secure in his pocket, then pulled out a ragged looking book. He quickly bound Pettigrew, adding another spell for good measure, and grabbed the other man's wrist roughly. "Grab on."
"Yup," he answered. Marlene touched the book, Sirius tapping it with his wand. "Cellar!"
Just as they felt the pull behind their navels, the door burst open as five Death Eaters charged in. The Death Eaters had no time to even fire a spell as they disappeared. Sirius and Marlene landed with a light thump of their feet in the cellar dungeon of Number Twelve Grimmauld Place.
Sirius let Pettigrew fall to the hard, stone floor unceremoniously.
"Why can't I see anything?" Marlene asked rubbing her eyes.
"Oh, sorry," Sirius lit his wand and handed her a piece of parchment. "Read this, just not out loud."
"Fidelius?" Marlene asked, before reading.
"Yes," Sirius confirmed.
Suddenly, like a veil had been lifted, everything came into focus around her. They were in the cellar of Sirius' ancestral home in London. Sirius gently guided her out of the cell, closing and locking the door behind him. He stared at it for a moment, adding three more locking spells and several wards.
"You aren't getting away this time, you little rat!" Sirius spat venomously at his former friend. Sirius moved over to a small whirring device on the table on the far side of the room. He tapped it three times. Three small puffs of smoke spewed out of the little chimney. Sirius tapped it three more times, getting a two-puff response. He smiled as he turned back to Marlene. "Now we wait for Dumbledore."
"While we wait, would you mind explaining this?" Marlene pointed to the cell. "Because the last I knew you and Peter were thick as thieves, along with James and Remus."
"Peter was Lily and James' Secret-Keeper," Sirius answered, lowering his head.
"What? No. You were…" Marlene began in shock. Sirius shook his head. She stared at him with wide eyes.
"I know. And I kick myself daily for having had the brilliant idea to throw people off and switching places at the last minute," Sirius almost cried. "It cost Lily and James their lives, it cost Harry his parents…" Sirius covered his face as he sank to his knees and sobbed for his friends and their son's fate for the millionth time.
"No," Marlene gasped. "James and Lily are…" she trailed off. Sirius could only nod. "Oh, Sirius," Marlene cried, hugging him close. They knelt in that hug crying for their lost friends.
"You were thought to be dead. I had nothing left but Harry and I failed him," Sirius wept. "The night it happened; I went after Peter. He tricked me. He tricked everyone. He was the spy for Riddle."
"Riddle? Who's…?" she asked confused.
"Tom Marvolo Riddle is Voldemort's real name," Sirius answered. Marlene looked shocked. Sirius took a deep breath. "Come on, I'm sure we can shock Moony, and maybe my cousin Dora, if they're not snogging. Although, that would be even better."
"What?" Marlene blinked.
"Like most everything else you've missed, it's a long story," Sirius chuckled a watery laugh.
"Wait, where's Harry?" Marlene glared at him, suddenly. "Where is our godson?" she demanded.
"Hogwarts," Sirius answered. "Do you even know the date?"
"No," she answered sheepishly.
"It's the end of March," Sirius told her.
He smiled suddenly, pulling Marlene into another hug. "I think I owe Ginny a very big 'thank you', but Merlin knows that girl is gonna be smug!"
Marlene giggled as they walked for the door.
Sirius and Marlene stopped at the sitting room doorway to a scene of two people in an intense kiss. One was very enthusiastic about it, the other a little reluctant. Sirius smiled as he raised his eyebrows at Marlene, who was in a state of shock. There on the sofa was one Remus Lupin trapped under a younger woman with pink hair. Marlene had met Dora once, but her hair had been a bluish-purple then. They had become close friends because of their connections with Sirius. Dora had become something of a little sister to Marlene. Sirius place a finger on his lips, motioning Marlene back outside the door with a wink.
Once Marlene was hidden, Sirius entered the sitting room fully. He walked over to the sofa, standing just behind Dora. Marlene was out of sight from the couple but had a good view of the proceedings. Sirius stood with his arms crossed and a mock scowl on his face. Marlene rolled her eyes as he leaned over Dora's shoulder.
"Comfy? Or would you like a room?"
"Sirius!" shouted a frightened looking, wide-eyed Remus as he and Dora broke apart. Dora jumped back, tripped on her own foot, and fell hard on her behind.
"Oh…uh…Hi, cousin," Dora weakly squeaked. Sirius tried to hold the scowl at the two red-faced people on the sofa and floor, but he couldn't and burst out in a barking laugh. Remus narrowed his eyes and frowned.
"If you're back, I assume Peter is downstairs?" huffed Remus trying to change the subject.
"Yes, he is," Sirius proclaimed happily. "And I brought back a bonus."
"What are talking about?" asked a confused Remus. "What kind of bonus?" Remus suddenly sniffed the air. His werewolf senses alerting him to another person in the house. His face paled as he slowly stood. Sirius helped Dora to her feet as Remus looked at the doorway. His mouth hung open, quite speechlessly. Dora looked at both of them confused.
"Would one of you with super sniffers like to let me in on this, or do I have to stand here waiting?" Dora frowned with aggravation.
"How?" Remus stumbled out. "How is this possible?"
Sirius turned to the doorway, holding out his hand to Marlene. She came into the sitting room with a smile. Remus sat down very slowly. The shock was still very evident on his face. Dora's mouth fell open, her eyes as round as Galleons.
"Hello, Remus," Marlene spoke to him first to break the shock. "Hi, Dora."
"M…Mar…Marlene?" Remus slowly stuttered out as he very slowly stood again. Marlene smiled at him with a nod. "How…We thought…"
"I was taken by Lucius Malfoy the night my family was killed. He had me under the Imperious since then," Marlene answered after she hugged him warmly. Tonks came over, hugging the other woman fiercely. Tears were in Tonks' eyes. "I know, Dora. It's really me."
"Marley, I missed you so much," Dora wiped her eyes as they broke the embrace. "Mum and dad are gonna go bonkers to know you're alive."
"They may have other things to go bonkers about," Sirius grinned impishly at Remus. They turned red once again, much to Sirius and Marlene's amusement.
"Harry Potter," Sirius spoke to the mirror in his hand. He waited for a response. Marlene looked at him nervously as Sirius frowned and tried again. "Harry Potter!"
After another minute, the mirror rippled. Harry's face appeared with swollen lips, messy hair and a dazed look in his eyes. "What is it, Sirius? I was a little…uh…occupied."
"Oh. I couldn't tell," Sirius smiled. "Hi, Red!"
"Your timing is impeccable, Sirius," grumped a disheveled looking Ginny as she came into view.
Sirius could help it. He burst into a barking laugh, so hard he doubled over, disappearing from view. Marlene looked at the mirror. She was just out of their view. She gasped quietly at seeing the resemblance Harry had to James. The pretty redhead, Marlene figured was this Ginny Sirius had been telling her about.
"Black! If you don't stop laughing and tell us what you need," Ginny growled, "Merlin, help me, I'll hex you next time I see you!"
"Sorry," Sirius gulped for air as he stood. "It's just you two are the second couple I've interrupted tonight."
"Dora and Remus?" asked Harry. Sirius nodded. "About time!"
"All well and good," Ginny glared. "We were busy."
"Well, I have news," Sirius smiled. "And I owe you a big 'thank you', Red." Ginny smiled very smugly.
"You got him?" Harry asked excitedly.
"And more," Sirius grinned.
"More?" asked Harry. Sirius turned motioning Marlene over. Ginny looked confused; Harry looked a bit concerned.
"This is Marlene," Sirius introduced.
"Marlene McKinnon?" asked an astonished Harry. Ginny's mouth dropped open. "But you said she…"
"We never found her body, just her family," Sirius answered. "And it was a bit of a sore spot when I told you about that. You see, Marlene and I had just been secretly married for about a month when Voldemort went after her family."
"Married?" Harry and Ginny shouted. They looked at each other with surprise.
"Yes," Sirius confirmed. "Anyway, Marley, this is Harry, as if you couldn't tell." Marlene smiled. "And his girlfriend, Ginny Weasley."
Ginny's smug smile returned. Harry nodded. "I…I'm…happy for you, Pads." Harry sounded dejected. Ginny hugged him close.
"Harry, what's wrong?" Sirius asked confused.
"Well, you have Marlene back, so I guess I have to go back to…"
"No," Sirius said soothingly. "You don't understand, Prongslet. I meant what I said about being a proper family."
"But you have…"
"Hush, Harry," Marlene spoke for the first time. "My being back does not change that. You see, Lily and James made me your godmother."
"What?" Harry asked weakly. Ginny's smug smile returned as she kissed Harry's cheek.
"See, Pads," she turned that smug look to Sirius. "Good things come to you when you wait for them!"
"Told you she'd be smug," Sirius rolled his eyes. "Yes, Red. Never let me or Harry forget that."
"Oh, I won't," Ginny smiled. "And don't do anything we wouldn't do."
"No promises there, Red!" laughed Sirius with a wink.
"Just so we understand each other," Harry grinned impishly.
"Oh, dear Merlin!" Marlene groaned seeing the look on Harry's face. "I'm gonna go starkers with you three around, aren't I?"
"Wait until you meet the twins?" Harry laughed with Ginny and Sirius at the scared but confused look on Marlene's face.