By the Light of the Moon
HP_Beholder 2011 Recipient: donnimmaculata
It was a cold night; the light of the night sky held back by storm clouds. It was a good night for Arthur to be about, considering what was at stake.
His nervous-looking shadow crept along the road; his eyes darting about as he went. He could have used magic to get to his destination, but it left a trace and he couldn’t afford that.
A building loomed before him: its windows dark and empty, like sockets in a skull.
He crept around to the back, where he found the door unlatched. It clicked open in his hand and he took a deep breath before walking in. The dark was stifling, but he couldn’t risk anyone knowing he was here. There were bodies sleeping just above him. He froze as he heard someone turn over in their bed.
God, what would it look like if I go and get myself hexed?
He felt his perspiration and he hoped he didn’t smell. It just wouldn’t do.
He felt his way through the room, biting back a swear as he banged his knee on a heavy table.
He eventually found what he was looking for: the stairs leading to the second floor.
“There was another break-in last night.” Bill Weasley poured coffee in his father’s mug.
“What?” Arthur Weasley blinked. “Where? Why wasn’t I called?” He prayed silently that they hadn’t called on him and found his house cold, his bed empty.
“It wasn’t that big of a deal, relatively,” Bill snorted. “It only took a couple Aurors and a curse-breaker.”
“Well, I appreciate the lie-in.” Arthur smiled tightly.
“Figured you would,” Bill chuckled as he took a sip of his coffee. “How are you doing, dad?”
“Fine!” Arthur laughed. “I’m fine! Don’t know why everyone thinks I’m going to burn the house down!”
Bill quirked a corner of his mouth at his father. “Well, it’s awfully big and empty these days.”
“That’s for certain. No more trying to sleep through the lot of you pounding up and down those stairs and you mother yelling at you the whole way.” He swallowed down the lump in his throat.
“You know, there’s always a place for you with us,” Bill ventured.
“Oh, don’t be silly. I’m doing fine.” Arthur reassured him. “You kids worry too much!”
“Well, just so you know.” Bill took a sip from his cup.
He hadn’t planned on making it a habit.
If you told him a year ago that he would be slinking into buildings at night, hiding in shadows, slipping off into the darkness he’d have waved you off. Said you were being silly and should lay off sweets before bedtime if those were the types of dreams you were having. But here he was.
He cursed himself as he put on his cloak and grabbed his hat. He opened the front door to the Burrow and flinched as a cold wind hit his face.
The cold was enough of a shock to shake some sense into him.
It wasn’t right. Or… perhaps it was right, but not the best way to be going about things. His shoes made hollow sounds as he went down the few steps leading to the ground. The gravel shifted under his feet and he looked around nervously.
He would have rather Apparated inside the house, but residual magic outside the house could be explained by any of the house’s many enchantments to keep animals away. Inside it might cause notice.
He raised his wand in the air and there was a loud *CRACK* as he disappeared from his yard and reappeared in a small cornfield. It was late in the season and all the stalks had dried out, the wind causing them to rattle in the breeze.
Arthur normally thought of the cornfield as peaceful. A quiet place that was almost always without people. It was why he’d chosen it for his Apparation spot.
He crept through the field, stopping here and there and listening for any sounds that would signify other people, but there were none. Just him, the corn stalks, and the dark night sky.
He looked grimly upwards. Rain would wash away all signs of him outside the house, but he didn’t fancy getting soaked. A drop fell on one of his cheeks and he increased his pace, heading straight for the little town.
He always felt guilty when he left the house, but it was always pushed aside by waves of anticipation. He felt it now, starting as a ball of ice in his stomach and sending little shocks through his system.
He hated the idea of losing control, but it was getting harder and harder to stop himself from creeping out the door at night.
He paused on the edge of town as he saw a doorway open, light spilling out into the street and jolly laughter coming from within the home, but he was relieved to see it was just someone letting the cat out.
He tried to look casual as he made his way to his destination, but he was nervous of even the cat seeing him. He had never fully recovered from the fright Professor McGonagall had given him when she had been prowling the halls of Hogwarts in her cat form. He had been in his fourth year and he was fairly sure the Ravenclaw he’d been caught with had been as well.
He chuckled to himself in the darkness as he remembered a pretty, dark-haired girl with long legs, letting his hand creep under her sweater for the first time.
His eyes fell on his destination and he looked around quickly. The streets were empty. Some of the houses had cheery yellow light filtering through their windows, but most of them were dark, their occupants having gone to bed for the night.
The building he was going to was dark and he was embarrassed to realize this excited him.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. If the children knew they might never forgive him.
“What? Another one?” Arthur frowned at the wizard standing in front of him.
“I know.” Bill took a sip of coffee from his mug and winced. “God, what are they making this from these days? Petrol?”
“Do you… do you think there’s any pattern to the break-ins?” Arthur asked casually.
“Not yet.” Bill shrugged.
“Well,” Arthur said, patting his eldest son on the shoulder. “I’m sure it will be all sorted out soon.”
“He could be under the Imperius curse?” George frowned at the other faces around the small table.
“I don’t think so.” Bill shook his head. “I know all about curses, remember?”
“He’s just trying to cover everything.” Ron ran his fingers through his red hair nervously.
“I know,” said Bill sullenly. “I hate to put a tail on him, but…”
“If he is Imperioed I want to know right away. Then we can counter-curse him immediately,” Percy said quickly. “Who knows how many others are effected?”
“I’m telling you he’s not cursed!” Bill snapped.
“But he can’t be going around doing bad things!” Ginny looked horrified. “He’s… dad!”
“There could be a perfectly reasonable explanation,” George pointed out.
“I’d like to know one.” Bill crossed his arms and snorted.
“I say we have him followed,” Percy said with a tone of finality. “Settle this for once and for all.”
“It’s an invasion of privacy!” Ron argued.
“But it could clear him if it came to that.” Ginny said quietly.
“I don’t think any of us like it.” Bill grumbled.
“I’m not sure we have a choice at this point.” Percy took a deep breath and let it out. “Better we find out first if there’s anything to it.”
“Are we agreed?” Bill looked around at his siblings. “I know none of us is happy about it, but what can we do?”
“We lost him!” The Auror standing in front of Ron Weasley looked bewildered. “He Apparated away on us!”
Ron bit off a comment about his father always flying everywhere on his broom. He rubbed the stubble beginning to grow on his chin. “Then we’ll have to put a watch on Hogsmede and Diagon Alley. See who’s got Apperating visitors these days.”
“These had to come down to you so I figured I’d bring them around. We can get lunch.” Ron looked at his father hopefully.
Arthur smiled wearily up at his son, dark circles ringing his eyes. “Oh, I don’t know, son. I’ve just got too much to catch up on. You know how it is.”
Ron tried not to look suspicious as he took his father’s appearance: the weary look on his face, the rumpled clothing, the heavy blinking as if he were having trouble keeping his eyes open. “You OK, dad?”
“Of course I am,” he waved his youngest son off. “You’ve better things to worry about besides me. Stop being silly.”
“Having trouble sleeping?”
Arthur hesitated. “Something like that. I’m sure I’ll be back to normal soon,” he reassured Ron.
“Well, if you decide you want to get a bite…”
“You’ll be the first I call.” Arthur grinned. “Oh, if you’re going to that little Chinese place around the corner I’d like some of that soup of theirs. The spicy one.” He floundered about for the name of the dish and failed. “You know which one.”
“Yeah.” Ron brightened. “I’ll bring you some.”
“There’s a good lad,” Arthur said warmly. “Maybe a few of those eggrolls.”
“Right.” Ron laughed. “I’ll pack you a lunch. Be back in an hour.”
“I’ll be ready to eat by that time,” Arthur said as he eyed the papers on his desk critically. “I might even have a spot cleared by then.”
“Good luck.” Ron grinned, feeling much better than he had a moment ago.
“You might just be the biggest jackass I know.” Bill was sitting at Ginny’s kitchen table, fuming as he looked at Ron.
“I’m not going to stop talking to our father because you’ve gone mental,” Ron snapped back.
“Both of you, stop it!” Ginny gave them an irritated look. “Bill, he’s right. Ron, you shouldn’t have gone alone.”
Ron took a deep breath and let it out as Bill snorted.
“Ginny’s right,” Percy chided them. “There’s no avoiding talking to him, but there’s no reason to be careless about it.”
“What happened to you?” Ron looked at her accusingly. “Last time you didn’t believe it either.”
“I know, but—“ Ginny shook her head. “If you want to clear him entirely you have to follow Ministry protocol. It’s the only way.”
“You think there’s something to it, don’t you?” George asked.
Ginny threw him a dirty look and realization dawned on Ron.
“You know something,” Ron accused her.
Bill blinked and looked at her. “What do you know?”
“I don’t know anything!” Ginny turned around and began fussing with a teakettle.
“Oh, yes you do!” George snorted. “You haven’t changed since we were kids. Now put the kettle down and spill it.”
Ginny rolled her eyes. “I’m sure it’s nothing.”
“Come on, Gin,” Bill said with a sigh. “What do you know?”
“Well, I was around at the Burrow last Wednesday and… this is stupid!” Ginny looked at them crossly.
“What happened last Wednesday?” George prodded.
“Near the door. There was mud. And there was mud on one of his pairs of shoes as well,” Ginny looked dismal.
“But it hasn’t rained lately.” Ron frowned.
“So he had to have picked it up at home or in London. Where’s it been raining?” George asked.
Bill’s expression turned dark. “Hogsmede.”
Arthur crept out the door of the building, his body weary and his mind a blur. There was always a surreal quality to his nighttime excursions and he’d learned to revel in it.
His hands were still sticky and he tried to rub them off on his dark coat.
Suddenly, he heard a cry.
“There! There he is! Grab him before he Apparates away!”
Arthur looked up at the approaching lights and he felt the blood drain from his face. A figure approached and Arthur drew his wand.
The figure fell to the ground in a heap as a group of people approached.
“Dad!” Arthur heard a scared cry. “Dad! Are you all right?”
Ron rushed over to pat his father down.
“I’m fine.” Arthur laughed nervously. “And he’s only been petrified. He’s fine, too.”
“I have to take your wand, dad,” Bill said regretfully. “I have to see what spells you’ve been casting.”
“Ah,” Arthur started fidgeting. “Well, really, I’d rather you not.”
“And why is that?” A tall Auror with dark hair looked at Arthur suspiciously as Bill gently took his father’s wand from him.
“Well, it’s really a private matter,” Arthur began to turn pink in the harsh light of the search party.
Several other Aurors were prodding at the body on the ground as Bill cast a reversal spell on his father’s wand.
Two silver snakes grew out of the tip of the wand and began churning against each other. Several other simple spells showed themselves after.
“What on earth was that?” Ron made a face. “Really, is it some sort of dark magic?”
“I should say not!” Arthur scowled at his sons harder than any of the other Aurors.
Bill recreated the spell so the Aurors could examine it further. They were all peering at it when the door flew open.
“Well, I’ve never seen the like!” Madame Rosmerta gasped. She was in her dressing gown with a shawl thrown about her shoulders, her hair in complete disarray and a deep red blush flushing her face.
She and Arthur exchanged a look and instantly Bill knew what it was. He let out a squeak and dropped it on the ground.
“Well, that was just rude!” Arthur scolded his son as he picked his wand up.
“Sorry,” Bill mumbled as he turned pink and his eyes went down.
“And what do you say to the lady?” Arthur prompted in a voice that was becoming angry.
“I’m sorry for being so disrespectful,” Bill said obediently.
The other Aurors began to snicker and politely excused themselves to examine the body.
Ron let out a cough that sounded suspiciously like: “goodjobdad.”
Arthur glared at him and gave an exasperated sigh.
Madame Rosmerta broke out into a grin at Ron. “You were always my favorite.”
“Oh, hey!” Bill protested. “That’s not fair!”
“Hmmm…” She looked him up and down. “Loud-“
“I was jolly!”
“I always fixed them!”
“Only to people who deserved it!”
“This is all becoming very enlightening,” Arthur interrupted. Bill scowled and Madame Rosmerta let out a giggle. “Perhaps this isn’t the best place to discuss things.”
“Of course,” Madame Rosmerta agreed. “I’ll put a kettle on and I have fresh biscuits for tomorrows opening crowd.”
“Wicked!” Ron broke out into a smile and strode into the Three Broomsticks behind Madame Rosmerta.
Arthur looked at Bill who was becoming more embarrassed by the moment.
“Did you really think it was me breaking into people’s houses?” Arthur looked at his oldest in disbelief.
“We didn’t know what to think,” Bill admitted. “Then Ginny saw mud on your shoes after a break-in in Hogsmede and—“
“Ah,” Arthur said knowingly. “She has a sharp eye, that one.”
“None of us wanted to believe it.”
“I should hope not!”
“What should I tell them?”
“That their father is inappropriately seeing someone so close to their mother’s death.” Arthur let out a sigh.
“I think they’d like that a lot more than you turning into a maniac.” Bill gave his father a small smile.
“I suppose so.”
The sound of Ron laughing came by on the wind.
“Sounds like Ron’s alright with it.”
“I should think so. He’s had a thing for her since he was small.”
“You might have to keep your eye on him.” Bill chuckled.
“I will.” Arthur smiled wryly. “Now, can you owl your brothers and Ginny? Mainly so Percy doesn’t do himself a mischief.”
“More important things first.” Bill said seriously.
“A nice cuppa and a biscuit, of course. Not to mention keeping Ron quiet so he doesn’t wake her lodgers.”