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Imitation Of Life

Chapter Text

The whole magical society was shaken, but not surprised, upon receiving the tragic news of the death of Marie Dumortier, French Minister For Magic and member of one of the most influential families in the wizarding world. Old age brought with it the inevitable, but Marie did not suffer: but Marie did not suffer: she simply slept as she slept every night, but she did not wake up any longer. This, of course, did not ease the mourning of those she left behind, especially Barbara Chesterton, one of her last students at the time she lectured at Beauxbatons and now Professor of History of Magic at Hogwarts, replacing, despite much resistance, the ghost of Cuthbert Binns.

Barbara had always been especially dear to the late Minister. She had lost her parents in her first year of study and had been adopted by Marie, who personally took care not only to make her a better witch, but also to make her a better person - something Barbara would be eternally grateful for. Marie loved her and welcomed her as if she were a child out of her own gut, and her departure left a painful hole in Barbara, who was now in front of the mirror, looking at nothing and trying to gather the strength to say goodbye for the last time to her tutor. Tears rolled down her target face as she wept silently, with her husband Ian stroking her brown hair, in an unhelpful attempt to comfort her. He himself was not very close to his mother-in-law, but it was thanks to a recommendation from her to Minerva McGonagall that he got the job of Potions Master, and it was with this work that he was able to be closer to his wife. In a way, Marie also helped him.

Convincing Barbara to get up and attend the funeral in Brussels required a lot of time and patience from Ian, but getting her out of her melancholic state was impossible. All the way she kept quiet, with her head lowered after apparating. The couple's only child, Johnny, had been left at home, , because Ian wanted to spare him from going through the trauma of watching his grandmother's funeral. So, while both walked towards the agreed place, the overwhelming silence weighed on Ian's shoulders, forcing him to look around to avoid facing his mourning wife. But everywhere he looked at seemed abandoned, sad. The sky was cloudy and it was obvious it would rain. It was as if nature were mourning for Marie too.

The path seemed longer with each step they took. Ian's legs burned and he wanted to scream as loud as he could, knowing that his wife just did not scream because the knot in her throat prevented her.

The disturbing silence ended as soon as they approached the coffin, ignoring the acquaintances who wanted to give them their deepest condolences. At the sight of the cold, lifeless body of her foster mother, Barbara gave a grunt of despair and collapsed.

When she woke up, she was in her bed, being watched by her husband, her son and a Healer. She looked around, and when her mind was sufficiently recovered that her memories would haunt her again, she grabbed her husband by the arm and cried in agony:

"-Oh, Ian! I missed my mother's funeral!"

Chapter Text

For Barbara, worst than burying her mother was to keep living without her. She had the love and support of her family and friends to comfort her, of course. But it wasn't just the pain, it was the way everywhere she looked at had memories of Marie in it, it made her feel that there was a hole in her chest, it was as if she was lost.

Two days after the funeral, Professor McGonagall told her she had all the time she needed to recover, and two weeks after that, Hagrid, very kindly, had baked a cake to her, which she thanked with tears in her eyes. And then, Barbara felt so suffocated at home that she decided that her life needed to go on and she had to go back to work. She was an intelligent and independent woman, after all. She couldn't let herself be conconsumed by mourning.

Her students were waiting for her with open arms and compassionate looks. Despite she knew their intentions were good, that only made her remember what her sadness was about. But she kept strong, even when she was walking down the aisles and students continued to try to give her their condolences, and even during meals, when they couldn't stop talking about how the whole Beauxbatons stopped to pay a homage to Marie. Even with all that, Barbara kept her head high and did the best work she could do, not only as her own homage to her mother, but as a way to make her proud of herself.

Not that she didn't cried, but she did her work very well, and she laughed with her best friend Vicki, and she smiled when Ian kissed her, and these little victories made her confident enough to finally talk about her mother feeling only miss, and not pain. So, she got up one day in the middle of the meal and said to everyone in the room:

"Professor McGonagall, I wish I could say some words about our recent loss."

"Of course, my dear." Minerva said, and even if her face was calm, her eyes showed how she was proud of the colleague.

Barbara looked at each one of the tables before taking a deep breath and saying:

"My dear students, my dear teacher colleagues. You all know about the great lost the wizarding world has suffered recently. Marie Dumortier was our friend, our professor, and a really great woman, who cared about the suffering of those who needed protection. And she did her best to help. When our world was at war, she helped people to survive, using her influence and money. And when I lost everything, she gave me a new home, and became a mother for me. So, to celebrate her life, let's not be sad. Let's do what she did and live our lives the best way we can, because we can only control what we have today. What we are now. For that, love now, laugh now, live now. We shall be the best people we can be now. That's her legacy to us."

As she talked, she could felt some tears falling from her eyes, but she didn't care. Her mother deserved it. Her mother deserved the best. When she finished, she was applauded by students and teachers, and when Barbara turned around and came back to her seat, she saw the proud smile of Minerva, Vicki and Ian, who would always be her number 1 fan, and his lovely eyes. Heaven, she loved those eyes. When Barbara sat down beside him, Ian took her hand and kissed it, then said:

"It was beautiful. Your mom would love it."

"Thank you, Ian." She replied.

"I love you."

Barbara smiled fondly.

"Love you too."

Talking about her mother helped Barbara to feel better even more than she thought it would. After her emotional speech, Barbara felt more comfortable and free to talk about Marie and remember her. It still hurt, but at least now she could share it with Vicki or Ian and remember the good times they spend together. In a way, she felt like it was keeping her mother alive. Some nights, she could even have good dreams. She was getting better, and she knew how happy her mother would be with that.

It was in one cold morning, when the breakfast was being served at Hogwarts and the owls came to deliver the letters, that Barbara received two letters.

The first one made Barbara smile fondly. It was from Healer Joan Smith, an old friend of her and Ian, who was in one more of her travels. In fact, it was traveling with her that Barbara and Ian got together. In the letter, Joan said:

"My dear Barbara,

Susan wrote me to tell me how you're getting better day by day, and we're both very glad to know it. You're such an amazing person, and I admire and respect you deeply for that. Know that everyday we raise our wands for your mother. She'll never be forgotten. Be strong, I know you can do it.

Yours,

Joan Smith."

Barbara kept smiling with every line. But as soon as she started reading the second, her smile fainted. It was shorter than Joan's and there was no sender in it, and said:

"My dear Mrs. Chesterton,

First, I want to apologize to you. I did not wrote this letter sooner because I wanted to respect your mourning, but I just can not stay silent anymore. What would you do, Mrs Chesterton, if I told you that Marie Dumortier was not the saint everyone thinks she was?"

Barbara threw the letter in the table, disgusted. Her heart was heavy and fast. She had only recovered from mourning, and now there was somebody trying to ruin her mother's memory!

Chapter Text

On the following two weeks, Barbara gave her best to ignore the accusatory letter she had received. She was using a strength that, until that moment, she did not know she had, to move on and keep her family strong as well. However, all her efforts have proven unworthy, on a Tuesday, while she was getting ready for the birthday of her friend Steven, her owl came bringing with her a second letter, that made her even more apprehensive than the first."

It had the same calligraphy of the last one, and it read:

"Dear Barbara,

I understand how my last letter may have been disturbing. That said, the truth usually is. Your mother was not who she said she was. Meet me at 2:00 p.m. at the Church of Saint Cecilia and I will tell you why."

With her heart accelerated and her body shaking, Barbara kneaded the letter until her nails were meeting the flesh of her hand. The doubt had begun to consume her mind. There was no doubt that Marie had made mistakes like anyone else, but what would be so serious that would take someone to write those letters? Should she keep ignoring the anonymous writer, or should she listen to what they were saying?

A part of her wanted to ignore all that. A piece of her wanted to tell her that if Marie had made such a serious mistake, certainly it would've been found out early, while she was still alive. Another part of her, however, was asking her if she really knew everything about her mother.

However deep her mourning was, Barbara was determined to not let pain win her. She was a strong woman, intelligent, sensible. She would not be intimidated by whoever was writing those letters, nor with the threat that it could represent for the memory of the first person who loved her. And was with this conviction, that she felt her strength coming back to her body, as she left home with both letters on her pocket, looking for somebody who certainly, any wizard would consider a symbol of hope.

 

 

 

It was a warm afternoon and a peaceful day of work for the Aurors. Nothing beyond their routine, what allowed that, in the end of said afternoon, the best friends Harry and Ron rested on their chairs, laughing about some new mess their kids got into in Hogwarts, whem their colleague Christopher interrupted them to say there was a woman outside, waiting to speak to Harry.

"Why it has to be Harry?" Ron questioned "Did she at least say what it was about?"

"What do you think?" Asked Harry, getting up with an ironic smile. "Troubles, of course."

 

Barbara Chesterton was waiting for him standing, because she was too nervous to sit. Who saw her, of course, wouldn't imagine she had been through a grief that almost destroyed her. She greeted Harry politely, and walked confidently while following him to the Aurors' interrogatory room.

"Thank you for talking to me, mr. Potter. I'm Barbara Chesterton"

"I know. You're my kids' teacher. Did something happened?"

"Yes. You must know my mother died recently."

"Yes. Sorry for that."

"Thank you. She was always very respected on the wizard community, but after her death I started getting letters saying she didn't deserve that respect." She said, handing both letters to Harry, who read them with his eyebrow raised. Then Harry silently handed them back to her, with a comprehensive look. But before Harry could speak, Barbara interrupted him:

"I know it's not your work as an Auror to help me with this.." Barbara bit her lower lip, apprehensive, looking to the ground while Harry listened her carefully. "But I know you're also an orphan like me and that you've faced so many injustices."

Harry felt a strong impulse to tell her that the abuses at the Dursleys' house, Umbridge's torture and the loss of so many people he loved in the hands of a cruel tyrant and his followers was way worse than someone staining the memory of an old witch, but he quickly denied this thought due to pure compassion.

"What exactly do you want me to do?"

Barbara thought for an instant.

"Advise me."

Harry sighed looking at her eyes. Yes, maybe they hadn't been through the same things, but he knew exactly what she was feeling at that moment.

"You know what? Tomorrow is my day off and my wife will be visiting her brother. Go to that church, and take your wand with you. I'll be around."

Barbara's face lightened up as she smiled. Is not that she wasn't going to the church already, not that she needed protection, but to count on someone who understood her, and an Auror who would be there in case it was dangerous, made her more relaxed.

Just before 2:00 p.m. of the next day, Barbara entered the old and quiet Church of Saint Cecilia, accompanied only by her shadow e and the sound of her steps echoing on the building. She sat down on the middle row, her legs very close and her head high, trying to distract herself from her growing anxiety with the beautiful architecture of the place and knowing she could finally face whoever was trying to defame her mother.

Didn't take too long, then, before the sound of other person's steps also echoed on the Church, when Barbara saw a man sit by her side.

Seeing him aroused Barbara's curiosity. Until that moment, for her, the anonymous writer had no particular look, just a faceless stranger who, maybe, was looking for bribery or revenge. And there he was, a man no older than 60, thin and tall, with a benign look. It certainly surprised her.

"I'm glad you came, Barbara."

"I'm glad you came too. I'll be more calm knowing soon what those letters were about."

"I know how hard it must be for you to deal with that. But you have the right to know."

"I'm stronger than you think. So, what do I need to know?"

"Do you know exactly what was you mother's participation on the war against Voldemort?"

Bárbara could feel her heart freeze for a moment.

"She donated money so the families of muggle borns could have safety."

The man laughed quickly.

"Do you remember all the people who disappeared at the time? Including muggle born children your mother was teaching?"

This time, Barbara felt all her body freezing. The man repeated:

"What was your mother participation in that?"

"What are you insinuating?" Asked Barbara, deeply offended and angry.

"I don't. I can prove it. And I will"

"Who are you?..What do you want with these accusations?"

"My dear Barbara, I'm someone who wants justice for all those victims. And there is not a better way melhor to start doing justice than pulling out Marie Dumortier's mask in front of the person she loved the most. You."

The man laughed again and started walking towards the exit. Once in the door, he turned to Barbara and said:

"By the way, my name is Paul Chamberlain."

And then left, with Barbara watching him fixedly until he disappeared. With his words heaving her heart e and throbbing on her mind, Barbara went to the square next to the church, where she found Harry sitting and watching children play. She sat by his side and said:

"Do you remember when I said it wasn't your work? Now officially it is."

Harry turned to look her in the eyes and asked:

"Why?"

"I was raised by a Death Eater. And I want to file a complaint."

Chapter Text

Harry listened intently as Barbara told him, detail by detail, everything she had spoken to Paul Chamberlain. He left his eyes fixed on her while his mind processed everything she was saying. He never thought that, almost 20 years later, he'd be dealing with Death Eaters again. That made him feel a bitterness and a horrible tightness in his chest. He was starting to think about Paul when Barbara finished her narrative, meeting his eyes looking for a reply. Harry focused on the letters again, which he read carefully.

"He said he had proof?" Asked Harry, raising an eyebrow.

"He did. And that he'd start to destroy her with me."

Harry sighed. Not that he didn't belive Marie could be a Death Eater - he did. But there was something preventing him from fully trusting Paul.

"He said which ones?"

"No. And that's why I want to do a complaint against her. If his intention was to expose the monster she really was.."

"An official investigation would be enough to make justice. But if it's not, it takes away from him any advantage he thinks he has." Harry completed, feeling a little more admiration than his voice reflected. "And you did well. He may be saying the truth, but hiding something. I don't trust his intentions."

"Nor do I. And it always comes back to the complaint. If his only intention was to have justice or to destroy my mother's image, he would have made this complaint. You'd find out everything he knows and more. But no, he made accusations to me. That's personal to him."

"What means he wants revenge. He didn't want her arrested, he wanted her hated. Do you have any idea why?"

Barbara thought for a moment, perplex, when she opened her mouth as if she'd just noticed something..

"Harry, he insinuated that my mom was responsible for the missing of muggleborn children."

Harry raised an eyebrow again, puzzled.

"Is there any possibility of him being one of those kids? Maybe a survivor?"

"Maybe. He should be a teenager at that time."

"Great." Harry nodded. "We can start with that. What do you know about these missings?"

"It was at the time my mother was the headmistress of Beauxbatons." Started Bárbara. As she talked, Harry got up and brought a blackboard close to them, where a bewitched chalk started to write down everything they were saying. "3 muggleborn children went missing inside the school."

"All of them at the same time?"

"Yes, two months after the beginning of the classes."

"And what did they found out?"

"Practically nothing."

"And what did she say about that?"

Barbara sighed.

"Once she told me she felt guilty for having lost the kids. That she should've protected them. Has it happened before?" She asked, curious. "Has a Death Eater ever regretted what they've done?"

"I've met one who changed sides." Said Harry, reminding Snape dadly. "He was so bitter and lonely."

"And that's why he became a Death Eater?"

"No." He replied, looking at the ground, while the chalk waited for more information to write down. "I think he wanted power. He felt so much hate all the time. I confess once I hated him."

"Did you forgive him? If my mother was really a Death Eater, I don't know if I can forgive her."

"I forgave many people. But I still want them to pay for what they've done."

"And have any way to make my mother pay?"

"No. But we can give an answer to the family of those kids. I'll talk to Hermione, maybe she can get more information about them."

"Sometimes I forget you're friend of the Prime Minister."

"I don't." Harry allowed himself to smile. He was proud of Hermione. "She keeps reminding us."

"Brilliant. And what do I need to do?"

"Go home and wait. I want to know what Paul will do next. As soon as I've talked to Hermione, I'll talk to you."

Bárbara raised an eyebrow.

"Isn't this forbidden?"

"Must be. But I never cared much about rules."

"Have a good afternoon, Harry." Said Bárbara, saying goodbye to Harry with a friendly smile.

 

Contrary to what she thought, Barbara felt much quieter after making the complaint. Played wizard chess with her son, read her favorite books and even had a romantic dinner eith Ian in the same restaurant he asked her to marry him, and the sincere and loving smile he had on his face that night was just so precious it melted Barbara's heart.

She was almost forgetting about the investigation when, one night, she heard someone knocking on her house's door. Barbara put her tea and her book about magical creatures on the dinner table and then opened it, smiling joyfully at the sight of Harry, that was carrying scrolls in his hands.

"Harry! Come in." She walked away so Harry could enter the house. He reciprocated the smile and put the scrolls besides Barbara's book.

"Hermione got it in the archives. I've found something interesting." He said, giving the first parchment to her.

"What is that?"

"A list with the name of every missing child."

Barbara opened it, and it was written on it:

"Nina, Maud and Anne Larue, sisters of 17, 16 and 14 anos respectively, disappeared during a quidditch training. The student Catherine Vazquez claimed to have heard screams in the field and to have asked help to a teacher, but when they arrived, they found the field empty."

As soon as she finished reading, Barbara folded the parchment again returned it to Harry, that now was beside her.

"And then?" Barbara asked. "Do you think it was my mom who took them away?"

"It's possible. Schools of witchcraft are very protected. No one can just enter one of them and kidnap three kids. Someone from inside participated. And no one has more power in a school than a headmistress."

Barbara felt her heart getting heavier, not just just as Marie's daughter, but also as someone who is a mother.

"Do you think there's any chance these girls are alive?"

Harry closed his eyes with sorrow.

"No. Voldemort didn't think these people should live."

Barbara felt like crying.

"I'm feeling a little ashamed now."

"Why?"

"Because all of my life I have adored this terrible woman amd now I'm here with you, the person whom people like her hurt the most. I'm so sorry, Harry."

He put his hand on hers.

"It's not your fault. You're doing what it's right."

"Look at these three innocent girls. If it was my Johnny in their places, I'd die."

"I know. I just fully understood the sacrifice of my parents when James Sirius was born. I'd die for him too."

Barbara smiled tenderly, and Harry reciprocated the smile.

"Do you think you can found out what happened to them?"

Harry sighed.

"That's the cruel part. I reviewed the reports of the investigation of that time. It was almost one year searching all around the world, but..some proofs disappeared, and apparently, Catherine, the only witness, committed suicide before she could be interrogated."

Barbara's heart skipped a beat.

"What?"

"And that's when your mother retired. Tomorrow afternoon, Paul will be interrogated. I want his proofs, because your mother wasn't just a Death Eater, she also bribed Auror to cover up her crimes." He said, as puzzled and disgusted as Barbara.

Chapter Text

The passing of hours on the wall clock was the only sound in that room while Paul Chamberlain, with a confident smile on his face, faced the ginger man who was completely still, leaning against the wall in front of the table where he was sitting. A little far from them, a third man, with brown hair and glasses, read carefully the documents he had taken from the file at the end of the room. Returning them to the folder, the man nodded to the ginger, who moved away from the wall and joined him.

"Good evening, Paul." Greeted the dark haired man. "I'm the auror Potter. This is my friend, the auror Weasley."

Paul smirked.

"How could I not recognize you, Harry Potter? And of course, Ronald Weasley. I recognized both of you as soon as I arrived."

"Good." Harry replied harshly. "If you recognize us, you must know how serious your accusations against Marie Dumortier are, don't you?"

"Of course" Paul answered, with a smile that reminded Harry of Umbridge, smiling while torturing him, and that made Ron shiver. Both felt an immediate dislike for the man they were interrogating. Then, Rony asked:

"Did you know Marie Dumortier personally?"

Paul cast an arrogant glance at the redhead, but it was to Harry that he asked:

"I thought you were the interrogator here, mr. Potter."

Harry felt his stomach wrap with disgust, but he kept a firm posture and coldly said:

"We both make questions. You only answer them. Was I clear?"

Paul nodded reluctantly. Harry continued:

"Answer the auror Weasley." Ron kept an authoritarian posture, but he couldn't hold back the shadow of a smile seeing that scene. Not just because it was an absolute delight seeing a despicable man like Paul being reprimanded that way, but also because it was in times like these that he could see how Harry hadn't changed: he never could be quiet when something was wrong.

Looking firmly to Ron, Paul replied:

"No."

"Have you ever had any type of contact with her?" Ron questioned.

"No."

"Then how did you know her, exactly?"

Paul was getting annoyed with Ron's constant questioning, but when he looked away and saw that a bewitched feather transcribed everything he said, he tried to reassure himself.

"I studied in Beauxbatons, at the time she was the headmistress." He replied, with a slightly lower tone of voice, looking at his hands on his lap.

Harry and Ron exchanged apprehensive glances.

"If you studied at Beauxbatons," Harry asked "did you know the sisters Nina, Maud and Anne?"

"More than that. I was their friend." He answered with a certain sadness, which didn't go unnoticed by the attentive eyes of the two aurors who were interrogating him.

"So you were close to the sisters? Tell me about them." Said Harry, leaning over, hopeful to get more information.

"They were always so nice to me, the three of them. Nina was so smart! Maud was a little more insecure, but brilliant at quidditch. And little Anne..so vain! I loved them as if they were my sisters!" He started, with a tender and nostalgic glow in his eyes. "At the time we said they were Marie's favorites..her protected. Just like it was with Barbara. I'm glad that at least she didn't have the same fate as my friends" He answered bitterly.

"What do you know about their disappearance?"

"I already said! They didn't disappear! They were given to Voldemort!"

"And that's why you believe Marie was a Death Eater? Do you think she collaborated to the death of muggleborns?"

"No.." Said Paul, and there was a mix of shame and sadness on his eyes. "I already knew before it happened. And I think that's what condemned the poor girls. I swear, mr. Potter, there's not a day that I don't blame myself for what happened. Marie was the tyrant, but I gave them to her."

"And why would their deaths be your falt?"

"Call it what it really is, mr. Potter! Murder!" He raged. "And it was my fault! I told Nina the truth about Marie because I wanted her to be careful..and she confronted Marie! And that's why Marie decided to get rid of them. She wanted to protect her disguise!" Paul was shaking a little, and his voice was high. It was obvious it was a delicate matter to him.

"At that time, did you tell anyone else about your suspicions? Maybe during the first investigation?"

"How could I?..at that time, people like Marie had power, influence, money! Who would stand up against them, if they were the authority?"

Harry swallowed. He knew very well the feeling of indignation and impotence in the face of tyranny.

"And what made you believe that Marie was a Death Eater?"

"I never talked to her in person. I just saw her in school. Then, one day on vacation, I woke up on the middle of the night hearing my father's voice..he was whispering, talking to a woman. Me espantei ao ver que aquela mulher era Marie. So I hid, sitting on the floor behind the sofa, to hear what they were saying. That's how I found out."

"And what they were saying, exactly?"

"My father was angry, he kept talking about the Master's will, about obeying him. Then Marie explained it was too soon, that they should be cautious or their plans would be delayed..it was the first time I felt afraid of my father. I'd never seen him get so angry. And Marie started saying she had many allies in the Ministry, and as soon as she got to be Minister of Magic it was only a matter of time before the Master's plans materialized, and my father shouted, disgusted, that they had promised to maintain the purity of blood! Now, I didn't need much more to know what they were talking about, I read newspapers!"

Harry felt disgusted hearing Paul's words. Exactly the same he heard Snape and Draco saying. The same that Hagrid explained, feeling the same revolt as him. Purity of blood...

"And when did you talk to Nina?.." Ron asked, realizing the seriousness in his friend's countenance.

"As soon as the classes came back. The next night, I saw Nina argue seriously with Marie. Then, the next day, they were gone..do you realize, mr. Potter? That's why this is so personal for me! This woman killed my friends!" There was a deep revolt in that man. His resentment had become hatred. "But at that time I was just a lad. I couldn't do nothing. But now I can. You will get justice, won't you, Harry?"

"I will found out the truth." Harry replied, looking fixedly at the Paul.

"Good. Have a good day. And tell Barbara, please, that I regret that fate has brought us together in these circumstances. She's a really admirable witch."

"She knows that."

Paul then said goodbye with a nod, before disappearing through the door, among the crowds who walked the Ministry. Even after his exit, Harry kept the same bitter look. Realizing that, Ron asked:

"Harry? Are you alright?"

Harry took a moment to reply. Then he said:

"Isn't it amazing how something you thought was already healed can hurt again?" He said, lightly touching the scar on his forehead. It really hadn't bothered him in years, but the pain in his chest was still fresh. Harry then asked himself if one day he would stop feeling this pain. He didn't think so. He was so distracted on his own thoughts, that he didn't realized that Ron had asked him something.

"What did you say?"

"I asked if you don't want to go home."

"No, I'm fine. And I already know exactly where we can begin."

Chapter Text

The deep snow that fell to the french ground and roofs sank with the steps of the three friends that had just apparate there. Their long and heavy coats made the walk a little slower, and the cold made it increasingly difficult to feel their bodies.

The silence between them was broken when Harry stopped abruptly in front of his two best friends, with his hands on his waist, and asked:

"Beauxbatons is not far away from here. What should we do when we get there?"

"Nothing! It would be too reckless to go to Beauxbatons!" Hermione protested.

"But why, Mione?" Ron asked. "If it was there where the sisters were kidnapped?"

"Exactly! That's the crime scene, all the investigation of the french aurora was concentrated there! But we have one suspect that they never investigated." She said, with a clever smile on her face. It was clear to Harry and Ron that she had planned all the operation even before arriving there, and that excited them a lot. They trusted Hermione more than themselves.

"Marie.." Ron whispered, rubbing his hands so they'd get warm. "How do we investigate her?"

"It's very simple. Marie had a house close to Beauxbatons, where she lived most of her life, and which today is inhabited by Monique, Marie's younger sister. Is the only house around here, all other buildings are shops or establishments."

"And how do we enter there?" Harry asked. "I doubt she didn't know her sister was a Death Eater or that Marie hasn't hidden her traits."

"Ah, Harry.." Hermione replied. "Marie had two faces. Her family barely knew the first one. And everything that protected Marie through all these years was her position and contacts. Death Eaters are too arrogant to be careful."

"Very well. But we still need to know how do we enter there."

Hermione smiled and opened her arm.

"That's why this snow couldn't be more opportune! From this moment on, we're british tourists that got stuck in the blizzard and need a place to stay the night."

Harry smiled back to his friend.

"You're brilliant, do you know that?" Ron commented, holding his wife's hand while they walked again.

"Of course I know. Does it scares you?"

"No. I like it." Ahead of them, Harry walked alone, smiling to himself upon hearing his best friends flirt like it still was their first date.

Hermione guided them to the uncared for fence of a big old loft with a vaste garden that was now fully covered by snow. Carefully moving the chains that locked the small wooden gate with the help of her wand, the witch said:

"Remember the plan. And if Monique ask, usem nomes falsos."

"What if she recognize us? Perhaps she'll see Harry's scar." Ron asked, taking the snow out of his hands.

"Her vision is not so good anymore..she's too elder. So, let's start?"

Pushing away the gate, the three friends entered the garden of the house, leaving a trail of footprints. They stopped in front of the house and Hermione, taking a deep breath, started to desperately knock on the door, crying for help. Her throat was already beginning to ache when the door was opened by a small elder woman, hunchbacked and gray haired, who walked too slow. It was Monique Dumortier.

"Good evening, ma'am." Hermione greeted. "My name's Sally. That's my husband Chris and our friend Jamie." She said, pointing to Ron and Harry.

"Ahn, what you're doing in the snow, darlings? You're gonna be sick." Said the elder, who had a strong cough, and was forcing her eyes to try to see her visitors better.

"We're tourists and got lost!" Hermione answered. "We need help..Can we spend the night here? Just for tonight?"

Monique stayed ssilent as if she was thinking about it.

"Poor kids, come in.." she said, pulling away so they could enter.

The illumination of the old house's interior was precarious, but enough so the friend would see que that it was in awful conditions. Certainly, Monique was too old to take care of it, and the many candles that were in every corner of the house, that provided this illumination, made Ron have a hideous foreboding that at any moment there could be a fire there. Monique took one of them and started to climb the stairs with some difficult, saying:

"There's beds up here, come! Come!"

Seizing the opportunity, Hermione followed her and asked:

"Are you living here alone? It's a very big house, it must be lonely."

Monique stopped on the middle of the stairs to look at Hermione, making the three friends stop too, trying to hide their nervousness. Then Monique said, in a weeping voice:

"I had a sister, a long time ago...and now she won't come to visit me anymore.."

"I'm sorry." Said Harry.

"Don't worry, boy. She left this house to me..this house takes care of me." Monique smiled and went back up the stairs, making Harry, Ron e Mione shiver, wondering what she meant by that.

The upper floor of the house had 4 rooms and a bathroom, and Monique guided them to the last one of them. It was a simple room, with two beds and a wardrobe.

Monique waited while the three wizards took of their heavy coats and decided in which beds they would sleep. Then, while she was lying down, Hermione said:

"Thank you so much for letting us stay the night here, ma'am. Really."

Monique smiled again.

"It's gonna be alright. You will behave, won't you? The house hates naughty kids." She said, looking at the roof and closing the room's door.

Hermione motioned for Harry and Ron to be silent, and so they remained until they were sure that Monique was asleep. Then, they all breathed a sigh of relief.

"She speaks as if the house is alive!" Ron whispered.

"There's something wrong here." Hermione agreed.

"In this case" said Harry "let's separate and each one will search in one room, so we'll go faster."

"No!" Hermione replied "It's not a good idea, Harry! It's useless to be fast if we're dead! Ron is right..we better be careful with this house.."

Hermione picked up her wand and went ahead, while Ron whispered to Harry:

"Did she just said I'm right?"

"It had to happen sometime."

 

The first room they looked was beside theirs, and was much tidier than the rest of the house, though it wasn't clear: its dust made Harry sneeze several times. In it, there was only one double bed, a dressing table and a wardrobe.

Some photographs adorned the delicate dressing table. Harry looked at them for some time. In the first one of them, two little girls were hugging each other and smiling to Harry. In the other one, one of them, already a teenager, proudly displayed her Beauxabatons uniform. And in the third, now an adult woman and very pretty, kissed and held a man that was standing by her side. This particular photograph caught Harry's attention, that took it out of the frame. On the back of the photo, it was possible to read:

"Engagement of Marie Dumortier and John Chamberlain. January of 1971."

"Hermione!" Called Harry, giving the photo to his friend. "Look at this. John Chamberlain. It's Paul's dad! He was a follower of Voldemort and he and Marie were engaged!"

Hermione smiled victorious.

"Do you know what that means, Harry? That's Marie's room!"

Harry smiled back at her, but then a strong breeze passed by them, putting out all the candles.

At once, the friends picked up their wands and said "lumos!", but had to cover their eyes and protect themselves when a even more violent wind passed by them, broking some windows.

With his wand in hands and whispering "what was that??!" Rony started walking in the room looking for an exit, and it only made him even more confused.

That's because, the moment he opened the door to the corridor, Rony saw himself again in the same room he was trying to leave. Confused, he ran to his friends, but when he was about to tell them what happened, the three of them heard a malicious voice, calling them from the door. It was Monique Dumortier.

"Oh, oh, the house doesn't like naughty kids.."

Chapter Text

The deep snow that fell to the french ground and roofs sank with the steps of the three friends that had just apparate there. Their long and heavy coats made the walk a little slower, and the cold made it increasingly difficult to feel their bodies.

The silence between them was broken when Harry stopped abruptly in front of his two best friends, with his hands on his waist, and asked:

"Beauxbatons is not far away from here. What should we do when we get there?"

"Nothing! It would be too reckless to go to Beauxbatons!" Hermione protested.

"But why, Mione?" Ron asked. "If it was there where the sisters were kidnapped?"

"Exactly! That's the crime scene, all the investigation of the french aurora was concentrated there! But we have one suspect that they never investigated." She said, with a clever smile on her face. It was clear to Harry and Ron that she had planned all the operation even before arriving there, and that excited them a lot. They trusted Hermione more than themselves.

"Marie.." Ron whispered, rubbing his hands so they'd get warm. "How do we investigate her?"

"It's very simple. Marie had a house close to Beauxbatons, where she lived most of her life, and which today is inhabited by Monique, Marie's younger sister. Is the only house around here, all other buildings are shops or establishments."

"And how do we enter there?" Harry asked. "I doubt she didn't know her sister was a Death Eater or that Marie hasn't hidden her traits."

"Ah, Harry.." Hermione replied. "Marie had two faces. Her family barely knew the first one. And everything that protected Marie through all these years was her position and contacts. Death Eaters are too arrogant to be careful."

"Very well. But we still need to know how do we enter there."

Hermione smiled and opened her arm.

"That's why this snow couldn't be more opportune! From this moment on, we're british tourists that got stuck in the blizzard and need a place to stay the night."

Harry smiled back to his friend.

"You're brilliant, do you know that?" Ron commented, holding his wife's hand while they walked again.

"Of course I know. Does it scares you?"

"No. I like it." Ahead of them, Harry walked alone, smiling to himself upon hearing his best friends flirt like it still was their first date.

Hermione guided them to the uncared for fence of a big old loft with a vaste garden that was now fully covered by snow. Carefully moving the chains that locked the small wooden gate with the help of her wand, the witch said:

"Remember the plan. And if Monique ask, usem nomes falsos."

"What if she recognize us? Perhaps she'll see Harry's scar." Ron asked, taking the snow out of his hands.

"Her vision is not so good anymore..she's too elder. So, let's start?"

Pushing away the gate, the three friends entered the garden of the house, leaving a trail of footprints. They stopped in front of the house and Hermione, taking a deep breath, started to desperately knock on the door, crying for help. Her throat was already beginning to ache when the door was opened by a small elder woman, hunchbacked and gray haired, who walked too slow. It was Monique Dumortier.

"Good evening, ma'am." Hermione greeted. "My name's Sally. That's my husband Chris and our friend Jamie." She said, pointing to Ron and Harry.

"Ahn, what you're doing in the snow, darlings? You're gonna be sick." Said the elder, who had a strong cough, and was forcing her eyes to try to see her visitors better.

"We're tourists and got lost!" Hermione answered. "We need help..Can we spend the night here? Just for tonight?"

Monique stayed ssilent as if she was thinking about it.

"Poor kids, come in.." she said, pulling away so they could enter.

The illumination of the old house's interior was precarious, but enough so the friend would see que that it was in awful conditions. Certainly, Monique was too old to take care of it, and the many candles that were in every corner of the house, that provided this illumination, made Ron have a hideous foreboding that at any moment there could be a fire there. Monique took one of them and started to climb the stairs with some difficult, saying:

"There's beds up here, come! Come!"

Seizing the opportunity, Hermione followed her and asked:

"Are you living here alone? It's a very big house, it must be lonely."

Monique stopped on the middle of the stairs to look at Hermione, making the three friends stop too, trying to hide their nervousness. Then Monique said, in a weeping voice:

"I had a sister, a long time ago...and now she won't come to visit me anymore.."

"I'm sorry." Said Harry.

"Don't worry, boy. She left this house to me..this house takes care of me." Monique smiled and went back up the stairs, making Harry, Ron e Mione shiver, wondering what she meant by that.

The upper floor of the house had 4 rooms and a bathroom, and Monique guided them to the last one of them. It was a simple room, with two beds and a wardrobe.

Monique waited while the three wizards took of their heavy coats and decided in which beds they would sleep. Then, while she was lying down, Hermione said:

"Thank you so much for letting us stay the night here, ma'am. Really."

Monique smiled again.

"It's gonna be alright. You will behave, won't you? The house hates naughty kids." She said, looking at the roof and closing the room's door.

Hermione motioned for Harry and Ron to be silent, and so they remained until they were sure that Monique was asleep. Then, they all breathed a sigh of relief.

"She speaks as if the house is alive!" Ron whispered.

"There's something wrong here." Hermione agreed.

"In this case" said Harry "let's separate and each one will search in one room, so we'll go faster."

"No!" Hermione replied "It's not a good idea, Harry! It's useless to be fast if we're dead! Ron is right..we better be careful with this house.."

Hermione picked up her wand and went ahead, while Ron whispered to Harry:

"Did she just said I'm right?"

"It had to happen sometime."

 

The first room they looked was beside theirs, and was much tidier than the rest of the house, though it wasn't clear: its dust made Harry sneeze several times. In it, there was only one double bed, a dressing table and a wardrobe.

Some photographs adorned the delicate dressing table. Harry looked at them for some time. In the first one of them, two little girls were hugging each other and smiling to Harry. In the other one, one of them, already a teenager, proudly displayed her Beauxabatons uniform. And in the third, now an adult woman and very pretty, kissed and held a man that was standing by her side. This particular photograph caught Harry's attention, that took it out of the frame. On the back of the photo, it was possible to read:

"Engagement of Marie Dumortier and John Chamberlain. January of 1971."

"Hermione!" Called Harry, giving the photo to his friend. "Look at this. John Chamberlain. It's Paul's dad! He was a follower of Voldemort and he and Marie were engaged!"

Hermione smiled victorious.

"Do you know what that means, Harry? That's Marie's room!"

Harry smiled back at her, but then a strong breeze passed by them, putting out all the candles.

At once, the friends picked up their wands and said "lumos!", but had to cover their eyes and protect themselves when a even more violent wind passed by them, broking some windows.

With his wand in hands and whispering "what was that??!" Rony started walking in the room looking for an exit, and it only made him even more confused.

That's because, the moment he opened the door to the corridor, Rony saw himself again in the same room he was trying to leave. Confused, he ran to his friends, but when he was about to tell them what happened, the three of them heard a malicious voice, calling them from the door. It was Monique Dumortier.

"Oh, oh, the house doesn't like naughty kids.."

Chapter Text

Monique stood still at the entrance of the room, with a sadistic smile as the wind invaded the house with increasing force, hitting with shards of glass from the broken windows Harry, Ron and Hermione, who were trying in vain to protect their bodies. Hiding in the space between the bed and the wardrobe, Hermione risked to open her eyes and see the malignant expression in the old woman's face. Then, helping her friend and her husband to hide with her, Hermione shouted furiously at Monique:

 

"You knew it! All this time, you knew Marie was a Death Eater and now you want to kill us so no one will know the truth!"

 

Monique laughed, while the three friends cringed in their hiding place.

 

"Of us all, Marie was the worst, if you want to know. Always questioning, always disobeying.." she said, with contempt. "But I don't have to worry about killing you. The house will take care of it."

 

"What does that mean? Why do you talk as if the house was alive?" Screamed Harry. 

 

"It is alive! My dear Marie gave life to it! Now it is the weapon and the tomb!" Monique answered, raising her arms.

 

"You're mad!" Said Ron, disgusted, but Harry asked what he had in mind since he arrived there:

 

"That's what she did, then? Marie used the house to kill the Larue sisters?"

 

Monique laughed cruelly in response, and her laugh was like a bucket of cold water for the three friends.

 

"Far from that!" She shouted, with an inhumane fury. She didn't look the same helpless old woman that welcomed them in the middle of a blizzard.  "It's what she should've done from the start!"

 

"Are you telling us she didn't kill them? " Hermione asked.

 

"Unfortunately.." Monique replied, with the same contempt in her voice. "Those children were freaks, a disgrace to our family! Marie stained our good name, mixing her blood with Larue's filthy blood, that..that..muggle."

 

"What?" Said Hermione, while Rony protected her with his arm already filled with cuts. "What are you saying?!" Deep inside, Hermione just wanted a confirmation. Because she knew exactly what the woman meant.

 

"My sister, so perfect, always loved the privileges of being a Death Eater but never its obligations. She had the audacity of falling in love with a human, an artist! And she mixed her blood with his, shaming our whole family! She hid it very well..but when poor Mr. Chamberlain found out, he broke the engagement and demanded that she killed them!"

 

"So that's why she didn't kill them?" Asked Harry. "She was their mothers?"

 

"She gave birth to those freaks, yes."

 

"Then what happened to them?"

 

"That coward Chamberlain boy heard her father confronting Marie and warned the three girls. But my sister was so smart! She built this house. The house protects anyone who has my sister's blood"

 

"Marie brought them here! They were here all along!" Said Hermione.

 

"You're smart like her, my child. Just like the house protected me, it protected those girls too. I would have killed them myself, but Marie locked them like birds in a cage, inside the safest room of the house. Only she could enter it. But you don't have her blood, do you, poor kids? The house won't protect you." Said Monique, knocking some candles down, making the floor start to burn. However, just like the glass didn't hit her, the fire didn't even come close to her. It was the house, protecting her. The old woman laughed, seeing the three of them tomarem taking a hard decision, once the wind was stronger and the fire was spreading.

 

But Monique's laughter didn't last long. Quickly, her face twisted in an expression of pure horror. She tried to find a way out, but she knew that if she moved, she would be burned. Confused, Harry, Ron and Hermione looked up, risking having their faces cut, and witnessed fright what was terrorizing Monique:

 

It was the ghost of Marie Dumortier.

 

Although Marie died at a very advanced age, her ghost looked very young. It also looked very furious, as she slowly walked towards her cornered sister, with a severe and somber look.

 

Trying to protect herself from her sister, Marie took a false step and fell to the floor, in the middle of the flames, that spread through her hair and clothes. Marie, watching her sister scream in pain, knelt by her side and said:

 

"You were mistaken, dear sister. The house wasn't made to protect you. It was made to protect my daughters. And now that I know that you wanted to hurt them, I have no more reason to keep you safe."

 

Saying this, the ghost held her sister's body, causing Monique to be burned alive.

 

Desperate because of the woman's screams, the three friends took their wands to try to save her, but with a look from Marie, a barrier of fire formed between them and the sisters. Next, a path opened, so the friends could leave the room in safety. Realizing that was their only chance, the three of them left the place, only to realize that the path didn't take to the exit of the house, It took to a room downstairs, one they hadn't noticed existed.

 

The room where Marie hid her daughters.

 

Its door opened alone, and with nowhere else to go, the three friends entered it. It was a simple room, but cozy. Inside it, it was impossible to know that the rest of the house was on fire. As soon as they got in, the door slammed behind them, and there they stayed, while the house was consumed by fire.

 

In that room there were three beds next to each other. And seemed to have people sleeping in them. When Hermione lifted the blankets, she saw the three Larue sisters, and their cruel destiny: they were all dead, lying in their beds. And just like the ghost of their mother, they were still as young as in the day they disappeared.

 

"So they're really dead." Said Ron, shaken up. Hermione replied:

 

"Monique said that only Marie could enter here. They must have starved when their mother died."

 

Harry and Ron closed their eyes, imagining how agonizing the last days of those poor girls must've been. Then, they heard the door of the room open. The three of them turned around, and saw the ghost of Marie get in. She approached the beds with a loving look, but as soon as she saw the dead bodies of her daughters, she started to cry, clinging desperately to the girls.

 

And knowing there was nothing else to do, the friends left the room. Only it was intact, because the house, made of wood, had been burned by the fire, that was still burning, however, the entrance of the house had been destroyed, and the friends saw in it their chance to run away. When they were leaving, Hermione saw, on the floor of the living room, a book. Cleaning the ashes that had soiled its charred cover, Hermione saw only a name in it: Marie Dumortier. It was a diary.

 

Keeping it with her, Hermione ran away with her husband and her friend without looking back.

Chapter Text

The snow falling outside covered part of the village. On the houses, families had dinner together and warmed up in front of the fireplaces, and in that bar, a group was drinking butter beer, laughing and singing joyfully, celebrating something and cheering up the other clients. Only one woman in that bar did not seem to be affected by the celebration. She was Barbara Wright.

 

It's not that Barbara did not care about the group's rejoicing. It's that she was too lost on her own thoughts to realize what was happening around her. But such thoughts were not sorrowful. She was just reviewing on her mind the last event in her life, trying to understand who the woman who raised her was. That was why Barbara was there and that was why even though she was in a bar, she still hadn't drink. Her mourning was already gone, and she was going back to be the same intelligent, brave and strong woman she was before. A woman who knew she deserved answers - and to have those answer, she had agreed to meet an auror who had helped her in that bar.

 

Harry Potter came into that bar almost unrecognizable, with the coat collar up and his clothes almost completely covered in snow. He took off the coat, leaving it on a hook, and took a envelope out of it. Next, he sat in front of Barbara, who smiled at him. 

 

"It's over, Barbara."

 

"What did you get?"

 

"Your mother.."

 

"Marie."

 

"Marie was a death eater, just like her family and closest friends."

 

"So Paul didn't lie?"

 

"Not about that. Marie came into conflict with her family when she fell in love with a muggle artist. She had a secret relationship with him and they had three daughter."

 

"The sisters Larue?"

 

"Yes. And Marie ended up choking on her own poison. When she heard other death eaters talking about killing muggles, she knew that it included her daughters and her boyfriend. That changed her mind..and made her fight her family. That's when she decided to marry Paul's dad."

 

"So he really knew her? She was his stepmother?"

 

"The marriage never happened, but yes. He knew and hated her. That's why he told you the truth but didn't say anything about the marriage. He wanted to take a revenge on her, but didn't want to burn his dad too."

 

"That's why he waited until her death. Dead, Marie can't defend herself."

 

"Truth. He was friend of her daughters, and he was convinced that she had killed them."

 

"Did she?"

 

"No, but they died anyway."

 

Barbara, who until that moment was calm, looked away and said sadly:

 

"Poor girls. What happened to them, Harry?"

 

"Marie set a spell on her own house. She turned it into a hiding place to her daughters. But Marie couldn't always be there, so she left her sister Monique taking care of the girls. The problem is that Monique hated muggles. She made the girls starve."

 

That made Barbara feel sick, and made Harry think of the days when his uncle made him starve too. He knew exactly what those girls had been through, locked in a room, starving and afraid. But he chose not to comment. Instead, he continued:

 

"I've been there with Ron and Mione. As the house was bewitched to protect only those who had Marie's blood, it attacked us. But Monique got chocked on her own poison too. Marie's ghost was there..and killed her sister."

 

"Did you get hurt?"

 

"No, we're fine. But before we were out, se found something. It belonged to Marie. I thought you should read." He said, giving the envelope to Barbara. She opened it carefully and took the book Hermione had saved out of it. Harry waited patiently while she read the only thing written on what seemed to be a diary. Those are the words that Barbara read:

 

"I already lost the count of how many times I cried to sleep in secret, sorry and suffering. All my life, I was taught to hate muggles and everything they represented. But meeting Pierre shook everything I thought I knew about life. He is lovely, kind, honest..and muggle. And I fell deeply in love with him. I thought I couldn't feel a greater love than this until the moment that I gave birth to our daughter.
I wasn't aware that It was possible to love someone this much, or that It was possible to suffer this much, untiluthemoment that I had to part with them. I couldn't raise them in the ambient that I lived. And I kept suffering, thinking that Pierre and our girls could be victims of the hate that I, for so many years, helped to spread in secret. One day, my worst fear became true.
I did what I had to do. I accepted to marry only to know more about the attacks, and convinced John to let me be the one who was going to kill my three babies. I hid and protected them, but I couldn't save Pierre.
Since the day I fell in love with Pierre, I don't have a life anymore. To the death eaters, I live as one of them. To the wizarding world, I live as the kind woman I never had been. I live an imitation of life: I pretend to be a kind witch to compensate the pain that I've caused. To imitate my love for Pierre, I tried to John. To imitate my girls, now I take care of Barbara. It's easier to take care of Barbara than to be with John. John doesn't look nothing like Pierre. Barbara on the other hand is so alike each one of my girls that warms my heart. She has the brilliance of my Nina, the sweetness of my Maude and the innocence of my Amber.
I cry when nobody can see me, as the woman who can't be with the one she loves, as the mother who can't hold her daughters, as the person who carries the worst of the remorse. And that'll consume me for as long as I live."

 

Barbara read all the text in silence. When she finished it, she smiled at Harry and said to him:

 

"I would love to drink a butter beer right now, Harry, but today I have to have dinner with my family and tomorrow I have a class that will delight my students. I know I am delighted. Thank you, Harry."

 

Saying that, she gave him a tender smile, returning Marie's diary to him. Then, she disappeared in the streets covered in snow.