Sirius couldn't detect the scent of any recent inhabitation in the house. The owner, he knew, was currently in St Mungo's and the rest of the man's family was now dead.
Sirius padded up the path towards the front door and pawed at it. It was locked. The house was in a reasonably busy neighbourhood and Sirius didn't want to be seen. Deciding to make his entrance through the back door, he moved stealthily around towards the rear of the house. Upon reaching the back garden he transformed and in a single quick movement he unlocked the back door and slipped inside the house.
The house was large and elaborately furnished, but there was a coating of dust over nearly every surface in the place. The kitchen, living room and one bedroom looked as if they had been unused for many months. The rest of the house looked like it had been unused for far longer.
Sirius' search of the house revealed nothing. However, just to make sure, he transformed back into Padfoot. As a dog he was able to pick up things, such as scent, that he could easily miss as a human. He sniffed around the house and, in the living room, he found something, a trace of a scent that shouldn't be there. It vanished in the centre of the room, as if it simply disappeared into the floor.
Sirius quickly transformed back, cut a neat slice in the carpet at the point the scent vanished and peeled it back to reveal a trap door.
Sirius began to tremble in excitement. This could be it! Please let this be it! He then, with trembling hands, opened the trap door and carefully descended.
Once he reached the bottom, he slumped in disappointment. This wasn't it. Adam wasn't here. He was standing in a small brick room, it was moderately furnished, but it was unmistakably a prison of sorts. Sirius wondered why Barty Crouch had such a room in his house. However, that wasn't important because Adam wasn't here.
Sirius left the house, repairing the damage he had caused to the carpet on his way out, so as to leave no sign that he had been there.
He made his way slowly back to Grimmauld Place, once again feeling wracked with guilt over what had happened to Adam. It was all his fault. True, the boy had encouraged him and had been the driving force behind the plan, but Sirius had gone along with it. He was supposed to be the adult, for Merlin's sake! What had he been thinking, following the orders of a fifteen-year-old boy? Albus had given him hell for it and rightly so. It was because Sirius had gone along with Adam's plan that everything had gone to hell.
For all he knew Adam could be dead. No! Sirius wouldn't think that. He was alive and they would find him. Soon…
Ginny June 22nd 1996
Ginny pulled her trunk behind her as she walked up a very familiar street. She knew this street from somewhere. As they turned the corner Ginny saw a street sign.
Someone she knew lived here! She and Adam had been here to visit him! Sirius! But she didn't know where Sirius lived.
Ginny groaned and tried not to keep thinking about it. It made her head hurt.
"Does anyone know why we're here?" Ron asked sullenly. He hadn't been impressed when Mum told him they weren't going back to The Burrow for a while.
"Quiet, Ron," her mother snapped. "I'll explain everything once we're inside."
"I don't see why we have to stay here," George replied grumpily. "We're of age."
"George! Do you have your own house?" Mum asked. When George didn't answer she continued, "I didn't think so, and you're certainly not living in The Burrow without me there!"
After a short walk they stopped and Ginny watched her mother rummaging in her pockets. Eventually she withdrew a sheet of paper and passed it around the other Weasleys.
The Headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix may be found at Number 12 Grimmauld Place.
She was at Sirius' house! Why had she forgotten that? She glanced over at her mother and saw her quickly burning the slip of paper. The paper! The piece of paper she had been shown when she came here with Adam sometime last year, had been different. Maybe that had something to do with it?
Before Ginny had time to consider the question, she was hustled into the house by her mum.
"Don't go too far inside! And don't touch anything!" her mum shouted, as they entered through the front door.
Once everyone was inside the house, Mum ushered them down into the kitchen. All was quiet and, by the sound of it, there didn't appear to be anyone else in the house.
"What's going on, Mum?" Ron asked, once they were all sat down around the kitchen table.
"Professor Dumbledore has asked me and your father to join an organisation he is running and this is its new headquarters. I'm staying here for a while to help look after the place."
"What does this organisation do, Mum?" George asked, suddenly seeming eager to know what was going on.
Ginny had a pretty good idea what the organisation was doing. Looking for Adam.
"Well," Mum hesitated, "you know how the war ended? The war with You-Know-Who?"
Ginny nodded, along with her siblings.
"Well, Professor Dumbledore kept a pretty big secret. Apparently, Harry Potter survived."
"What!" Ron exclaimed.
"I know!" Mum continued. "And now some of the old followers of You-Know-Who have reformed and kidnapped him."
"Whoa," Fred said quietly.
Ginny carefully schooled her features into an equally shocked look. She didn't want to give anything away. None of her brothers seemed to know quite what to say to the news. To them, Harry Potter was someone they had never met. If only they knew!
Once the explaining was done, Mum cooked them all a meal, and then helped them sort out their bedrooms. Ginny was directed to a room on the first floor, while Ron had a room on the second and the twins a room on the third.
Her room was reasonably clean, but it wasn't as nice as her room at home, or her room at Hogwarts. At least, Ginny thought, while she was here she would be in the centre of anything that happened. She needed to find some way to help Adam, and if being here was the best she could do, then she would do that gladly.
Once she had sorted out her room, Ginny began to feel tired from her long day of travelling and, as she didn't feel much like socialising with her brothers, she settled down to go to sleep.
She lay there in the dark listening to the soft creaking of the unusual house. Soon, the darkness seemed to close in around her and she felt herself drifting off.
She was looking over the shoulder of a very short man who was standing in a bare stone room. Suddenly, with a start she saw him. Adam was lying on the floor in one corner of the room. His glasses were smashed. Ginny watched, as Adam recognised the short man and pulled back from him.
The short man raised his wand and muttered something. Adam screamed. His legs spasmed as his body writhed in pain. His head thrashed back and forwards as he continued to scream. After what seemed like an eternity, the spell was lifted and Adam stilled.
Ginny awoke with a strangled cry. She was covered in sweat and was trembling wildly. They were torturing Adam! She got out of bed, attempting to calm herself down in the process. In her sleep she had apparently been kicking, tossing and turning, so her sheets had been completely scattered off the side of the bed.
Collecting herself, she decided to go down the kitchen to get a drink of water. As she descended the stairs she chanted silently to herself, It wasn't real. It was just a dream.It was just a bad dream. That's not really happening to Adam. She had bad dreams from time to time and always ignored them.
She eventually reached the kitchen and pushed open the door.
"…filthy half breeds… blood traitors… children of filth… sleeping in Mistress' house," she heard mumbling coming from inside the room.
As she stepped inside the room, a house-elf walked around the corner of the table and into her eye-line. Its skin seemed several times too big for it and it had a filthy loincloth tied around its middle.
"Oh… filthy blood traitor miss is here…" it said.
Ginny stood still, watching the elf as it sloped off across the kitchen, and started doing something inside one of the cupboards.
"Ginny?" she jumped as she heard a voice from behind her.
Ginny spun around to see Sirius standing in the doorway.
"Oh, Sirius," she said softly, not quite knowing that to say to the man
"Come on, let's have a drink." He nodded towards the elf. "He's not been bothering you, has he?"
Ginny shook her head.
"His name's Kreacher," he informed her as he grabbed some cups and began filling them with pumpkin juice.
"Why haven't I seen him before?" she questioned.
"I'm not sure he's entirely loyal to me. So I was always careful to keep him away from, erm, Harry. Just in case he overheard something he shouldn't."
"Oh," Ginny replied.
"Are you okay, Ginny?" Sirius asked.
"I'm fine. I just had a bad dream," she hesitated. "Has there been any news?" she asked in a small voice.
"I'm afraid not," Sirius replied. "I've been out searching, as have others. But nothing so far."
"He's going to be okay," Ginny said uncertainly.
"Yes, he is," Sirius said, sounding slightly more confidently than she had.
"Sirius," Ginny continued softly, "why didn't you contact me after…" she paused. "You know…?"
"I…" Ginny began, feeling her temper beginning to take hold. "I felt like I'd been abandoned! No one's been telling me anything! I'm not just some little kid!" she said in a raised voice. "Surely I have a right to know what's going on!"
"Oh, Ginny. I'm sorry, it's just that…" Sirius began, but, before he could finish, a noise from the other side of the kitchen attracted their attention.
The door opened and Tonks stumbled into the room. She looked absolutely exhausted.
Their conversation postponed for now, Sirius shot to his feet and ushered Tonks to a chair. Ginny also got to her feet and quickly prepared a drink, which Tonks drank greedily.
"Thanks," she said with a tired smile.
"Everything okay, Tonks?" Sirius asked.
"Yeah, just a long day. Was on duty all day, then I went to do a search," she replied.
"Anything?" Ginny asked hopefully.
"Nothing," Tonks said sadly.
"Where'd you go?" Sirius asked.
"Nott's place," she replied. "Definitely nothing there."
Tonks took another long gulp of her drink, and once she had finished she looked apprehensively between Sirius and Ginny.
"I actually wanted to talk to you two," she paused. "I've been thinking and I think I've finally sussed it out," Tonks said carefully. "After everything that I did last year with you guys, please tell me honestly. Adam is Harry isn't he?"
Ginny spotted Sirius looking at her. He was obviously waiting to see what she would do.
"I know Remus knows something, he gets all… shifty… every time I try and question him on it," Tonks continued; she was looking a little nervous now.
"You're right, Tonks," Ginny said softly. "Adam is Harry."
"Oh," Tonks said lamely, then she paused as if realising the implications of what she had just been told. "Why didn't you tell me?"
"I…" Ginny began, not quite knowing what to say.
"We spent lots of time together last summer…" Tonks continued, her voice very quiet. "You all knew but you didn't tell me."
"I…" Ginny stammered, suddenly feeling wretched that after the time they'd spent together, she had never thought that Tonks, perhaps, deserved to know.
"Tonks," Sirius interrupted. "I'm sorry… we're sorry. It's… it's just that we were scared something might happen."
"Well, something did happen!" Tonks snapped back. "And now all your secrets might as well be for nothing if You-Know-Who has him!"
"Y-Y-You-Know-Who has him?" Ginny said and suddenly, much to her horror, she felt tears welling up in her eyes again. Why had no-one told her that You-Know-Who had Adam!
"Oh, Ginny, I'm sorry. We don't know that for certain, but Remus told me that Albus fears it is possible," Tonks quickly added, crossing the room, so she could put her arm around Ginny. "We'll get him back. I promise."
June 23rd 1996
The next morning after breakfast, Mum corralled all of the Weasley siblings to help clean the house. Ginny wasn't too bothered by this. At least it gave her something to do.
Today's task was to clean the drawing room.
"I'm going to start de-Doxying the curtains. The rest of you clean the rest of the room and then come and help me," Mum instructed Ginny and her brothers.
"I'll take the cabinet," Ginny said immediately.
"Erm, I'll take the cupboard down here then," Ron added hesitantly.
Ginny and Ron grinned at each other. That left the twins to deal with the very suspicious-looking sofa and chairs.
Ginny and the rest of her family worked hard all morning, cleaning, throwing things out and generally getting mucky.
"I'm going to get lunch ready," Her mother announced tiredly from her position near the curtains, when it was approaching midday. "The rest of you keep working."
Ginny had completely cleared out two out of the three shelves in the cabinet, so she started working on the top one. Most of the items she placed in the bin immediately although some of them warranted further inspection. Even so, only a few items had actually been worth keeping.
"Boys, Ginny! It's lunchtime!"
Ginny spun around; she saw her mum standing in the doorway. She had just pulled a locket out of the cabinet and stopped for a second to examine it.
"Come on, Ginny!" her mum said. "Don't just stand there!"
Why was Mum so impatient?
Ginny turned and left the room.
"What have you got there, dear?" Mum asked.
"Oh, I just found this locket."
"Is it worth keeping?" Mum asked.
"Oh, umm," Ginny hesitated. "I suppose not," Ginny replied, smiling at her mum.
"Get rid of it then, dear," she said.
Ginny hesitated for a second, then, chucking the locket back into the bin, she walked downstairs with her mother.
Later that evening, after an exhausting afternoon of cleaning, Ginny was loitering in the hallways of Number Twelve. She desperately wanted some information, any information on the search for Adam.
No one was telling her anything.
"Hello, Ginny," Remus said as he walked in the door. He was the first to arrive.
"Hi, Remus," she said. "Is there any news?"
"I'm afraid not — well, not from my end anyway."
Ginny and Remus talked for several minutes before the rest of the Order began to arrive. She saw many of the other members arrive and proceed into the room that Sirius had set up for the meeting. They eyed her warily, obviously unsure as to who she was.
"Ginny!" One person exclaimed when he came in through the front door.
"Bill!" Ginny exclaimed happily and she ran to her brother and gave him a hug.
"Ginny, this is… erm… Fleur," Bill said. "She's going to be joining the Order."
"Hi, Fleur," Ginny said. "You were in the Triwizard Tournament, weren't you?"
"Yes," replied Fleur in accented English. "I was at Beauxbatons then. I work for Gringotts now. Bill has been helping me with my English."
"We better get in there," Bill interrupted, flushing red slightly. "Albus needs to see Fleur before the meeting. I'll catch up with you and the others later," Bill told her, and he walked past her into the dining room.
When Tonks arrived through the front door a few minutes later, Remus darted forward and gave her a hug. Ginny giggled slightly and Remus turned around and blushed. He seemed to have forgotten that Ginny was there.
"Remus," Sirius said, approaching the group from behind, "we're just about ready to start."
Ginny knew she wouldn't be allowed into the meeting, but she hoped that maybe she could at least listen in.
Ginny slumped when she heard her mother's voice echoing down the hallway.
"What are you doing down here!?" she exclaimed. "Oh, hello, Remus. How is Adam doing?" she asked, seeing Remus.
"Oh…" Remus hesitated. "He's fine," Remus continued, now looking uncomfortable. "Molly, I'll fill you in later. Professor Dumbledore wants to see me before the meeting."
"Oh… okay," Mum replied. "And I'm sorry if Ginny was bothering you."
Ginny felt a sudden surge of anger. She had just as much invested in this as anyone! She wanted Adam back, too! After shooting a distasteful look at Remus and Sirius, Ginny pushed past her mother and stormed back upstairs to her room.
Sirius June 23rd 1996
Sirius felt a pang of sympathy for Ginny as she thundered back upstairs. A lot of people gave that girl far too little credit. At least he could fight to get Adam back. She couldn't even do that.
Sirius moved into the dining room, closed the door and took a seat.
"Thank you for coming, everyone," Albus said as he stood at the head of the table. "Before we hear the progress reports, I would like to welcome a few new members: Bill Weasley, Fleur Delacour and Kingsley Shacklebolt."
The three new members stood. Sirius didn't know much about Bill and Fleur, but he had heard good things from Tonks about Kingsley. Apparently, he was a very skilled Auror. He would be a great asset.
"So let us hear the reports from our searches so far," Albus instructed.
Sirius gave his own report and then he listened as report after report came back with no results. Crouch, Malfoy, the Carrows, Nott and Yaxley. They had all been investigated and none of them seemed to have anything to do with Adam's disappearance.
Albus sat slumped in his seat. Slowly he pulled himself to his feet.
"Very well. I have a few more places that have come to light from my research. I consider these to be long shots but," he hesitated, "it seems like we now have no other choice," he sighed. "Unless anyone has any further business, please see me for your assignments."
Once Professor Dumbledore had closed the meeting, Sirius approached him.
"Albus, do you have an assignment for me?" he asked.
"Ah, yes, Sirius. In the course of my research, I've come across a place from Voldemort's past that I believe may have been used by his followers. I want you to investigate a place called Little Hangleton. There is a house there owned by a man named Riddle. It is possible that they are there. Here are the details," Albus passed him an envelope and then paused. "Sirius, remember what I said to you. If you find anything, please don't attempt a rescue on your own!"
"I promised you at the last meeting, Albus, that I would follow your orders and that hasn't changed," Sirius replied. Look at what had happened last time he had gone against Albus' wishes.
With the meeting concluded, Sirius returned to his room. He would head out to Little Hangleton first thing in the morning.
June 24th 1996
When Sirius entered the village of Little Hangleton the next morning, there were several people moving around the high street. The village consisted of a reasonable number of houses, a pub, a church and a couple of shops. As far as Sirius could see, the village was entirely Muggle.
In order to find the house that belonged to the man named Riddle, Sirius decided to stop the first passer-by that he saw. As this was a Muggle village, he felt fairly safe about showing himself. If he did encounter another wizard he could always escape.
"Excuse me, sir," Sirius asked a man, who had just come out of the local shop.
"Yeah?" the man replied.
"Do you know where Mr. Riddle lives?"
"Mr. Riddle?" the man asked.
"I don't know any Mr. Riddle. But the big house on the hill is called the Riddle House. There's supposed to be a caretaker there, but he did a runner just under a year ago."
"Thank you very much," Sirius replied, looking up at the large house that dominated a nearby hill.
He set off towards the big house up on the hill. It seemed to be deserted but, to be on the safe side, he transformed into Padfoot and cautiously approached the house. He sniffed around several of the windows. They were all dirty and cracked, making it impossible for him to see inside.
Sirius crept around the outside of the house. It still seemed completely deserted. At the back of the house he found a door that was slightly ajar. He slipped inside and walked down the hallway.
The hallway was still furnished, but now irretrievably dirty and coated in dust. The smell of the dust was overpowering. As he approached the stairway that was at the end of the hallway, he heard a creaking sound. The creaking sound continued every second or so and Sirius realised that someone was coming down the stairs! The house was occupied!
Sirius padded rapidly back down the hallway and hid himself in one of the ground floor rooms. He left the door open just enough so that his eyes and nose could fit through if necessary.
He heard the person who had come down the stairs moving along the corridor towards him. He seemed to be shuffling along the dusty carpet.
Once he came into sight, Sirius had to fight to control himself. He clamped his jaw closed, desperately trying to control the growl that threatened to spill from his throat. It was Wormtail! He was carrying a tray in his hands. He passed Sirius' door and went into a door a little further down the corridor.
Sirius took stock of the situation. If Peter was here, then in all likeliness Adam was here, too. This was it! He had found him!
He was just about to charge out of the room after Peter, when Sirius remembered his promise to Albus. Although it hurt to do it, he wouldn't try to rescue Adam here and now. He needed to get back to Grimmauld Place and report in. So, he transformed back to human form and attempted to Apparate back to Grimmauld Place.
It didn't work and Sirius realised that an Anti-Apparition Jinx must have been placed around the house! He would need to find a way to slip away from the house on foot, before he could Apparate.
By the time Sirius managed to return to Grimmauld Place, it was early evening. As soon as he entered the house, he ran into the kitchen and Floo-called Albus.
Albus came through the Floo immediately.
"We will go as soon as I can get the Order together," Albus announced, once he had heard Sirius' report. "It will take time for our Auror members to get away from the Ministry without attracting suspicion."
"To hell with suspicion!" Sirius roared. "We need to get him out now!"
"Sirius," Albus said attempting to placate him, "Tonks and Kingsley are some of our most capable wizards. We will not go until they are here."
Sirius swore loudly and then began pacing the room.
"Sirius, you have done well. We risk doing more harm than good if we go now. We will be unprepared."
Sirius waited, impatiently, in the dining room for the two hours it took Albus to gather the rescue team. Eventually, after much time wasting, everything seemed to be ready and the team was assembled around the table.
"Sirius," Albus said to him gravely, "we will see you upon our return."
"What?!" Sirius snapped. "It almost sounds as if you're not planning on me being there!"
"Sirius, you are too emotionally involved. Leave it to us. I will lead the rescue party myself."
"What!" Sirius exploded. "You can't be serious!"
"Sirius, that is my final word on the matter. Now, I need to go."
Albus and the rest of the rescue team left one by one through the Floo. He didn't know how Albus planned to get the group to Little Hangleton. It had taken Sirius several hours to find the place. Once they had all gone, Sirius kicked one of the chairs across the room in frustration where it impacted the wall with a crash.
"S-Sirius," a voice said from the doorway, "what's going on?"
Sirius spun around to see Ginny standing there. He beckoned her inside. She slipped into the room and closed the door.
"We found him," he said.
Ginny sprang forward and hugged him. "Thank you, thank you, thank you," she chanted.
"Albus isn't letting me go," Sirius said morosely.
"What!" Ginny screeched. "You should be there!"
"Ginny," Sirius said softly, "Albus has told me to stay here."
"Sirius," Ginny said; she was beginning to tear up, "you have to go get him! Please! Please! He trusts you… I trust you…" she trailed off.
"Ginny…" Sirius replied. He knew in his heart that she was right. Would James still be standing here if he was still alive? No, he would be right out there fighting.
"Okay," Sirius replied. "I'll get some supplies together and go."
"I'm coming, too," Ginny announced.
"Absolutely not!" Sirius replied.
"He's my… my… please, Sirius, I have to do something!"
"Ginny, I'll go. But there is no way you are coming with me. You aren't of age, so you can't even do any magic there."
Sirius watched as Ginny seemed to deflate in front of him.
"I've got something that will help you!" she exclaimed, her expression suddenly brightening.
Quick as a flash she dashed out of the room. She returned a minute later with something rolled up under her arm.
"The Cloak?" Sirius asked in amazement.
"Adam left it with me before we went to the Ministry," she told him. "If you need it, take it."
Sirius gratefully took the Cloak, it would be useful.
"I need to go," he said.
"Good luck, Sirius," Ginny replied.
He turned around and winked at Ginny before he left the room. He wasn't going to waste time with the Floo. He would leave the house and Apparate straight there.
Darkness had already fallen by the time he reached Little Hangleton. As soon as Sirius arrived, he slipped the Cloak on and began making his way through the village towards the Riddle House. He hadn't wanted to Apparate too close to the house because he needed to avoid Albus and Wormtail.
Sirius looked up at the Riddle house. It was such a large house that it dominated the nearby horizon. Sirius saw small flashes of light from windows and wondered if the searchers realised how obvious they were being.
Sirius made his way down the main street of the small village. As he neared the road that snaked up towards the Riddle house, he saw a cloaked figure emerge from it.
Sirius pressed himself up against the window of a now closed shop. Cloaked figures invariably meant a wizard and whoever this was, one of Albus' rescue team or Wormtail, he didn't want to be seen.
The cloaked figure looked from side to side, checking if the coast was clear. Satisfied that it was, he made his way down the street towards Sirius. Sirius controlled his breathing and stood completely still. He couldn't be seen but he could still be heard.
As the cloaked figure passed, Sirius felt himself shudder involuntarily.
"Hurry up, Wormtail. Time is short," a cold voice said. "Have you finally collected all the ingredients? Is all prepared?"
"All is prepared, my lord," Wormtail's voice replied. "I have worked hard…"
Sirius squinted. He had only seen one person. So who was the second voice?
The cloaked figure passed and Sirius followed him. If he had fled from the house, then they may have taken Adam with them. Sirius kept his distance and followed the cloaked figure through every turn he made on his journey through the village.
Eventually the figure entered the village graveyard and wound his way between the tombstones. Sirius followed, maintaining a short distance from the figure. Eventually the figure went around the other side of a large tomb and, before Sirius could catch up, he disappeared out of sight.
Sirius followed him towards the tomb. He paused there for several minutes making sure the cloaked figure had truly gone and wasn't waiting to ambush him.
However, a scream that echoed across the graveyard soon jarred Sirius into action. He quickly passed the tomb and noticed that he now seemed to be in the area of the cemetery where the largest monuments were. In the distance he could see a faint glow.
Sirius crept cautiously from tombstone to tombstone, keeping himself hidden even though he had the Invisibility Cloak on. He needed to get closer. As he drew nearer Sirius saw sparks begin flying up into the sky. He froze. Had they seen him? Was that some kind of warning signal?
As suddenly as the sparks began, they stopped with a billow of white smoke. Sirius crept even closer. Everything seemed now to be very quiet. Sirius crept closer still. He was finally close enough to see what was going on. The first thing he saw was a tall, almost skeletally thin man, standing near a cauldron.
"Robe me," the man said in a high cold voice.
Wormtail picked himself up from where he had been lying on the floor. He was sobbing, moaning and cradling one of his arms. With his other hand, Wormtail picked up some black robes and placed them over the thin figure. Sirius couldn't make out any of the other man's features. He was staring straight ahead. At… Sirius stifled a horrified gasp.
The man was staring at a boy that was tied to a large headstone. The boy had black hair and Sirius realised with horror that this was Adam with his appearance charms removed.
Adam was slumped, the ropes that tied him to the headstone appeared to be taking all of his weight and Sirius realised, with a dreadful sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach, that he hadn't seen a single movement from him the whole time he had been watching.