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Defining Moments by eHPF
Format: Short story collection
Chapter 1: Percy Weasley: Prodigal
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Percy Weasley: Prodigal
A lone figure, hooded and cloaked, stood in the centre of the Hungerford footbridge, leaning on the dilapidated old railing and staring out across the river. He huddled into his cloak, ignoring the strange glances of the Muggles who passed by him. He knew he looked odd to them, but there was some comfort in the anonymity of the Muggle world, and Percy Weasley was in need of comfort.
The sky today was almost as grey as the river, and he thought as he stared at the ripples and eddies that it had been so since he'd first left the Burrow to strike out on his own, since he'd abandoned family and home and gone to the Ministry. The entire world had been grey, ever since Harry Potter had told the world he'd fought He Who Must Not Be Named and escaped.
He'd been alone, truly alone, for the first time in his life. At first the privacy in the tiny apartment had been wonderful, no one to bother him, no other voices to tell to hush up when he couldn't hear himself think, but after a while, the silence had grown oppressive. He'd begun to miss the presence of his large family around him, missed telling off Fred and George, missed Ginny poking her head in to see what he was doing, missed Ron and his stupid Chudley Cannons, missed his mum fawning over him and doing all the cooking and cleaning, and most of all he missed his father. He missed how the whole family was always eager for his father to come home, his mum's eyes lighting up and all of his siblings rushing to tell him about their day. He missed sitting in his father's study, reading while his father worked. But most of all, he missed the approval in his father's eyes, the pride when he looked at his third son. Percy had not seen that approval in his father's eyes for a long time.
Percy had not believed Harry's story. He'd known the boy for four years, but he hadn't really known him, it seemed. He'd thought Harry was trying to get attention, wanted to have everyone fawning over him, and it had angered Percy that his family believed him. How could You-Know-Who be back? How could a boy of fourteen fight him off? Why would they believe it when the Minister of Magic himself had assured everyone that it was not so? Who could believe a silly little boy and a mad old man?
But he understood now. He'd seen the evidence with his own eyes, and it was difficult to swallow. He couldn't go back, when he'd been so horribly wrong. Not after the things he'd said to his father. He kept going to work. His job was still there even now that Fudge was gone. Percy knew it was only because Scrimgeour wanted a lever to use to get to Harry Potter, that the new Minister knew that Harry was very friendly with the Weasleys and wanted a Weasley on his side, and this was proven when Scrimgeour asked him to take him to the Burrow at Christmas. His mum had cried and hugged him, but he'd felt guilty for being there under a lie; he'd not wanted to go home, not like that, he wasn't ready, and he hadn't even really wanted to bring the Minister, but he didn't feel he had a choice but to comply with the request. And then someone had flung mashed parsnip at him, and he'd stormed out, feeling unloved and unwanted. At least the Ministry still wanted him.
Percy knew he'd been used to get to Harry Potter, but he wanted the job badly. At least if he was still a Junior Undersecretary, it didn't seem that his life during the past year had been a waste. Somehow he felt less stupid for having his position, and he clung to his authority at the Ministry and continued to give his father the cold shoulder when he saw him at work. It was small comfort, but he could not swallow his pride and come home on his knees, especially after they'd shown him at Christmas that he was not wanted: he just needed more time.
But the more time passed, the harder it seemed to go home, until he didn't think there was any way to do it at all. His brother Bill was married, and he did not go, though the invitation his mother had sent him sat on his table for months. Scrimgeour was killed, and a new Minister chosen who Percy could see was working for You-Know-Who, and still Percy stayed at the Ministry. It grew darker and darker in the halls of government, and everywhere he looked Percy saw evil and destruction, his eyes opened at last, but it only made it more impossible for him to leave. He kept going to work, because he did not know what else to do. And he kept ignoring his father at work, because his father was now on a list of suspicious persons, and Percy was afraid.
He did not want them coming for him in the night, did not want to go to Azkaban, did not want to disappear without a trace, and so he kept coming to work every day and kept his head down and his mouth shut to the evil all around him, and he watched his father in awe and shame. Arthur Weasley came in to work every day with his head held high, saw the evil around him and stood against it. He spoke harshly to those he saw committing injustices, even though it put him at personal risk. He stood strong for Dumbledore's memory, and continued to press for Muggle rights in the face of a government that did not even see Muggle-born witches and wizards as human. Percy was proud of his father, and ashamed to be his son because he did not believe he could be as good and brave a man as his father was.
He'd thought he could be, once, thought that by siding with the Ministry against Dumbledore that he was doing just that. But somehow nothing had gone right after he'd left home, and the person he'd tried to be had never been real, and the person he became instead was not someone he would ever wish to be. He had cut himself off at the knees, destroyed the very roots that would have steadied him through the storms, and now he was alone, without an anchor in a sea of evil.
He pushed away from the rusted railing, turning away from the river, and blended into the crowd on the footbridge as best he could, heading home to his dingy little flat.
He began to grow more and more afraid to leave his flat at night as the year pressed on, as the entire country looked for Harry Potter, and he listened to 'Potterwatch', heard voices he knew well as Lee Jordan and Professor Lupin, and the Auror Kingsley Shacklebolt, and finally his brother Fred all told the world the truth, despite the dangers. The more deaths that were reported, the more Percy was afraid; he did not want to stay in, in case they came for him, but he did not know where to go if he went out. His father stopped coming in to work at Easter, and the rumours said the entire Weasley family had disappeared, gone into hiding. Percy felt more alone than ever.
Eventually he found himself leaving the grey wash of London and Apparating into Hogsmeade in the evenings after work, and looking up at the school, wishing he could go back to the days when he'd been carefree, though he had thought at the time that he'd had the weight of the world on his shoulders as Head Boy. How had he sunk so low from what he'd been? He didn't even recognize himself any more.
He ate dinner in the Hog's Head, a ratty and dusty pub that seemed full of criminals, but Percy thought he was sure to be left alone there: who would look for Percy Weasley in a place like this? And it was there that he met the bartender, Aberforth Dumbledore.
It began with a simple, gruff inquiry as to what he thought he was doing in a place like that. Percy hadn't meant to tell him, had meant to make a snide remark in answer, but somehow the entire story poured out of him, and he found a sympathetic ear in Aberforth, who was the black sheep of his own family.
“I know your father,” Aberforth told him gruffly a few nights after Percy had told his story. He'd been back every night, chatting with Aberforth in low voices. “Why don't you just go home, boy? Tell him you know you've been an idiot.”
Percy ducked his head as Aberforth moved away, replacing a bottle of firewhiskey to the liquor shelf; he always avoided catching a glimpse of his own reflection in the mirror behind the bar. Lately he could not stand to see himself. “They already know I am. I don't know that they'll want me back.” They didn't want me at Christmas...
“Parents always want their child back,” Aberforth said, and there was something in his voice that Percy dared not disagree with.
A few nights later he was at home, hoping for a 'Potterwatch' broadcast and feeling guilty about the letter he'd once sent to Ron, when he'd said horrible things about the boy he now hoped really was The Chosen One, when a head appeared in his fire. Percy's heart leapt in terror, thinking they were coming for him at last, but then he recognized the surly bartender from the Hog's Head.
“Get to Hogsmeade, now!” Aberforth said, and disappeared.
Percy did not hesitate; he stood and Apparated straight out of his flat and into the wizarding village.
The air in Hogsmeade was thrumming with excitement, and students were fleeing down the street, away from the castle, their faces pale with terror. No one seemed to notice him, in their haste to escape they were shoving past him, and he made it to the pub with difficulty through the crowded streets.
“What's going on?” he asked as he caught sight of Aberforth in the dim light. Aberforth seemed possessed that night of the same coiled energy that his brother had always had, and Percy knew before he said it what must be happening.
“It's come, boy,” Aberforth rasped. “War. Get your wand out, now, it's time to take a stand.”
Percy could only stare. Him? Fight? But he had taken the wrong side, had shunned his family. How could he now fight?
“Are you deaf?” Aberforth said harshly. “It's time to fight, boy! Time to decide whose side you're really on!”
Percy stared at him, paralysed, and Aberforth said impatiently, “Are you a Weasley or not?” He shook his head at Percy and left the room, leaving Percy staring directly at his own reflection in the dirty mirror for the first time in months.
Percy stood frozen for a moment, his eyes fixed on his reflection. Red hair, glasses, tall and thin, he looked very much like his father, and he'd hated that when he first left, when he was desperate to show he was nothing like his father. His father would fight. No matter what else had happened, what mistakes had been made, his father knew right from wrong, had taught it to all his children, and his father would fight against evil. Percy's eyes met their twin's in the mirror, and he hoped now he could find his father in himself, and he said aloud, “I am a Weasley.”
He ran for the stairs, for the secret passageway into Hogwarts, following Aberforth.
It was a long climb to the top, he was sweaty and tired already, but he was going to fight, and he knew he was fighting on the side of good this time. He tumbled out of the door into the castle, overbalanced and fell, grabbed a chair to right himself, and as he got to his feet, he asked, “Am I too late? Has it started? I only just found out, so I -”
And then he saw them. His family. They were all standing around as if he'd interrupted them, and now were frozen in shock. His mum was clutching Ginny's arm, and Ginny was staring at him open-mouthed. His mother looked stunned, as if she'd never thought to see him there. The twins were over near Bill, and there was Fleur, the sister-in-law he'd never really met, and there... there was his father. They were all staring at him.
Suddenly Percy was faced with confessing to his family his crimes against them, and begging for their forgiveness, and he did not know how to begin.
In the horrible silence that fell as he looked at the family he'd abandoned, he heard vaguely Lupin's words about his son, but the words didn't penetrate his mind, and he said loudly, causing Lupin to fumble with the photograph he'd been holding, “I was a fool!”
Bill was giving him a stony glare, and the twins looked as if they did not feel 'fool' quite covered the enormity of his own stupidity, so Percy continued, “I was an idiot, I was a pompous prat, I was a – a-” Words failed him; he could not think of a word bad enough for what he'd been, but fortunately, his family was now there to help him out when he stumbled.
“Ministry-loving, family-disowning, power-hungry moron,” supplied Fred.
It hurt to hear, though he knew it was all true. “Yes, I was.”
“Well, you can't say fairer than that,” Fred said, and he held out a hand. Percy's heart leapt at this token of acceptance back into the family, from one of those he'd least expected it.
It was as if a dam broke: his mother threw herself at him, sobbing, shoving Fred aside to get to her lost boy. Percy knew she would forgive him, had always known his mother would forgive him, and he looked to his father. It was his father whose acceptance he craved, his father whom he had insulted the worst, about whom he'd been the most wrong.
“I'm sorry, Dad,” he said quietly, his eyes begging his father's forgiveness.
His father's eyes welled with tears, and he rushed over to wrap his arms around both his son and his wife, and Percy let out his breath in a sigh. He was home at last.
A/N: Dialogue used from Deathly Hallows pages 605-606.
Chapter 2: Luna Lovegood: All Things Possible
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It began like any other day. Luna awoke with a sense of peace, love and joy. As always she woke to her mother’s singing, a voice that sounded like tinkling bells.
Luna immediately got out of bed, slipping into her purple Furple slippers, and her matching fluffy robe.
“Good morning, Moonshine,” her father greeted her from behind his upside-down Quibbler.
“Good morning, Dad,” she replied.
Xenophilius inwardly sighed. It had been months since she had called him ‘Daddy,’ and he was pretty sure that it was just another sign that her childhood was waning.
“Good morning, Lu Lu,” her mother smiled.
“Hello, Mum. What are we discovering today?” Luna asked, excitedly.
“Well, I thought we might walk through the near by woods and gather roots.”
“And look for Twiterpated Winkies,” Luna added.
“Of course,” her mother agreed. “After that we can have lunch and then I wanted to tinker around in the workshop.”
“What are you making?” Luna asked with great interest.
“I’m not sure. We’ll see what presents itself,” she placidly answered.
After a filling breakfast, Luna went up and dressed. She picked out her purple jumper dress, with the matching purple and white stripped shirt and tights. Most of her body looked like a lilac candy cane. She also made sure to tie an onion to her belt to ward off the Diggities.
Downstairs she slid into her cherry red galoshes, and her long light-blue overcoat. She picked up the basket beside the door, and met her mother in the garden. Sol Lovegood was picking some of the ripe vegetables from their garden. She held up two tiny radishes that she had fixed to wires.
“For you my dear,” she said, as she attached them to Luna’s ears.
“Oh, thank you, Mummy.” Luna literally jumped with joy.
“They help to ward off the Nargles,” Sol explained.
“I know, I know,” Luna said, as she spun in circles.
Sol laughed at her little free spirit, and gently took her daughter by the hand. She walked briskly as Luna skipped, by her side, and into the woods.
This was Luna’s favourite thing to do. She adored the forest. Its dark, sweet, loamy aroma and the buried treasures that lay under their feet just waiting to be discovered. Looking through the tender green leaves and seeing the sun filter through them, was very much like a cathedral with light streaming through stained glass windows. This was a sacred, hallowed place. The forest was to be both revered and feared. Luna had learned this from her mother and kept it close to her heart.
They spent most of the morning digging, unearthing roots that would become soups or potions or ornaments. By the time they made their way back home they were smattered with dirt and sweat, but Luna’s basket was filled with her earthy treasures.
“Look at this one,” she bubbled. “It’s Soapwort Root. This will help with Dad’s winter colds.”
“That’s right,” Sol agreed. “I’ll be sure to start brewing a batch of cough medicine soon, before the fall sets in.”
They washed their findings together and then washed themselves and took in a simple lunch.
Luna gathered her sketchpad and pencils and brought them into her mother’s workshop. She had a small corner of her own that Sol had set up for her. There was a little table, an easel and a stool. Luna’s work area also met at the corner of two windows. She could look out in one direction and gaze into the woods; in the other direction she could see a small garden she herself had planted. Today she decided to concentrate her efforts on the woods. She took out her pencils and began to sketch the trees’ outlines.
Her mother was checking on a cauldron that had been simmering for about a week. She decided to use her second cauldron to get started on making the cold remedy. They both worked intensely and quietly, each focused on the task at hand. The only sound was the roll and simmer of the potion bubbling.
Sol broke the silence, muttering to herself, “I wonder if I just added…” And then there was a horrific explosion and a burst of pink light. Luna caught it all out of the corner of her eye and jumped. She ran over to where her mother was lying on the floor, covered in pink goo.
“Mummy,” she said, tentatively. “Mummy, are you ok? Mum…” Her mother had taught her not to touch potions with her hands just incase they were dangerous; so Luna took the pencil she had tucked behind her ear and prodded her mother with the dull end. It was then she knew something wasn’t right.
The rest of the day was a blur. Luna couldn’t really recall what happened. Some how her father came home quickly after the accident. He scooped Luna up in his arms and put her in her bed. She slept fitfully and woke to different sounds. Someone who must have been a physician was speaking, then she heard more footsteps and more people asking many questions, then finally the most frightening sound of all, quiet muffled crying. In an explosion of pink light and a stifled whimper, Luna’s life had been torn apart at the seams.
The two years that followed crept by at a dirge like pace. Xenophilus worked out of his home and took care of Luna. She was never alone and that comforted her greatly. By the second year she had begun helping to take care of her father. Her father was shocked by her resilience, although he saw her loss in small ways. She gave up drawing, and she no longer skipped, but other than little things, Luna was still the light-hearted, gentle creature she always had been. She had become more so lately, because of her excitement of going off to school. Xenophilius was silently dreading it, but he did not let her know and pretended to share her enthusiasm. He hugged her perhaps too tightly and was reluctant to let go on the platform at the train station, but he did finally release her and she bounded onto the Hogwarts Express.
That night Luna was unable to sleep. With all the excitement of the Sorting and the loneliness of being in a new place, she needed to find a quiet place to settle.
‘The forest,’ she thought.
Although she knew it was not allowed, she couldn’t keep herself from walking towards it. It called to her. As she stepped into the trees they enfolded her in their cool, dark embrace. She held her wand in front of her, so it was difficult to make out more than shadows, but quickly her eyes adjusted to the indigo night.
She saw something ahead moving. At first she was afraid; it had suddenly dawned on her: she was in the Forbidden Forest at night and no one knew where she was. She didn’t even know what resided in these woods. She watched the slight movement and the animal in question approached her hesitantly. It had the appearance of a horse, but something was slightly odd. It was too skinny. The animal stood right in front of her and looked her dead in the eye. She made herself grow still. She knew to give each creature respect, so she stared serenely at the animal as it regarded her. After a moment it put its head down and began sniffing.
It circled Luna, who stood very calmly, as it smelled her. It finally found what it had been searching for in her coat pocket. The sandwich she had saved after the feast. Her stomach had not allowed her to eat much at the opening feast, so she saved something for later. The horse-like creature put its mouth in her pocket trying to retrieve the sandwich. It tickled, and Luna began to laugh.
“So this is what you want,” she said, gently, as she took the food out of her pocket.
The animal quickly picked at the meat, leaving the bread, cheese, and toppings to spill to the ground.
“You only like meat I see,” Luna acknowledged.
The animal regarded her as if to ask for more.
“I have no more. Not with me,” she stated, airily. “But I will come back tomorrow night, and I will bring only meat.”
The horse-like creature nodded its head in agreement, and then trotted off into the forest.
And for the first time since that fateful day, Luna skipped. She skipped out of the forest, her heart as light and buoyant as her gait.
A/N: Thanks to 2kool4skool and Ron_Hermione_Forever_246 for betaing.
Chapter 3: Charity Burbage: The Letter
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Charity Burbage: The Letter
Charity Burbage stood in the doorway of her mother's dressing room, regarding her with amusement as she watched her twist back and forth, her long arms straining behind her back.
"Problems, mum?" she asked.
"I can't...reach...the zipper," she panted, her fingers searching fruitlessly for the small metal tab. She stopped struggling, letting her arms hang loose as she tried to catch her breath. "Are you sure this is necessary, Charity?"
"Absolutely. Now hold still." Charity drew the soft yellow fabric of her mother's dress together and raised the zipper slowly. After adjusting the material over her shoulders and waist, she turned her mother around slowly until she was facing the floor-length mirror in the corner of the room.
"This isn't too revealing?" her mother asked uncertainly, holding the edges of the skirt out at arm's length, her lower lip caught between her teeth. For a witch who was accustomed to ankle-length robes, even a modest Muggle dress must seem quite daring.
"You look smashing," Charity assured her, looking over her mother's shoulder at their shared reflection; and she meant it. Charity was a younger version of her mother right down to the unruly red hair, light blue eyes and petite frame, and she found herself wishing fervently that she would age as well as her mother had.
She squeezed her mother's shoulder and turned to lift a pair of delicate, heeled pumps from their nest of tissue paper in the box on the dresser. "Shall we try the shoes, then?"
Her mother considered them doubtfully. "I'm going to break an ankle in those."
"Not if you're careful," Charity told her. "Now sit." She knelt by the bed and lifted her mother's foot to her own knee, sliding the shoe on carefully and fastening the tiny buckle.
Her mother had brushed out her long hair this morning, and it was a soft cloud around her face as she extended her leg and turned her foot from side to side to admire the shoe. The sudden smile she directed at Charity was very girlish and quite becoming as she reached down to trace her fingers lightly over the delicate strap across the instep. "It does look rather nice, doesn't it?"
"Let's see you stand," Charity said after she had helped her into the other shoe, extending her hand towards her. Her mother stood and then grabbed Charity's arm tightly as she tried to find her balance.
"Take it slowly," she advised, as her mother began clomping about the the room awkwardly, a frown of concentration on her face. Charity hid her smile behind her hand. "And step down with your heel first, mum."
Her mother wobbled precariously as she reached the end of the room and turned slowly, stumbling as one ankle turned inward. They both looked up at a thud and a muffled oath from the next room.
"I'd best go check on dad," she said. "You keep practicing."
She opened the adjoining door and stared incredulously at her father who was looking quite smart in a dark blue suit that offset his blond hair nicely, save for the length of blue and red striped fabric wound about his neck and head.
"That's not how you wear a tie, you know," she said, gently untangling it from around his neck.
"I'm aware of that," he bit out impatiently, "But I think the damned thing tried to attack me."
"Here, let me," she said, standing behind him and reaching around to work the four-in-hand knot.
"I don't understand why we can't just wear our dress robes," he grumbled. "Sam knows who we are."
"Yes," Charity agreed. "Sam does know us. But the rest of his family does not." She walked around to face him, frowning at him in mock severity as she tightened the knot snugly against his collar. "And you wouldn't want to make a scene, would you? Not today of all days."
His eyes focused over her head and she saw his face soften. "I suppose not," he said.
She patted his cheek fondly before moving over to his dresser, where a worn and creased map of London was displayed. "Have you found us a place near the church?" She lowered her voice conspiratorially. "Just between us, I don't think mum will be able to walk very far."
"Not yet," he said, pulling uncomfortably at the knotted tie. He came to stand next to her, tapping the page here and there with his wand, bending low to study the information that appeared on the map. He straightened as a sudden thought seemed to occur to him.
"That's another thing," he said, brandishing his wand. "What exactly am I supposed to do with this?"
"Do you even have to bring it along?"
He raised an impatient eyebrow. "Really, Charity. With all that's been happening, how can you even ask such a thing?"
"Never mind, you're right," she said, raising her hands in surrender, knowing her father would rather leave the house starkers than go anywhere without his wand. "Your suit jacket has an inside pocket. It should fit in there, though it might be a bit uncomfortable."
With her parents squared away for the moment, Charity returned to her room, closing the door and flopping down ungracefully behind the desk. She ran her hands distractedly through her short hair and retrieved her quill from where she had tossed it aside. Nibbling the end thoughtfully, she read over what she had written earlier, nodding her head in approval. After struggling with the letter all morning, it was nearly finished, but now she was hesitant to post it. Charity knew she sometimes tended to act impetuously...perhaps she should wait a while.
She propped her chin in her hand and stared off into the room. She knew what Arthur would say. She could almost hear his voice urging caution and gradual change from within. But the mood was changing, with ugly rumors flying everywhere. Anti-Muggle sentiment was growing; borne of fear and ignorance and prejudice. It was intolerable and it was high time that someone took a stand; someone who understood both sides. Not speaking out was tantamount to approval. The time for caution had passed.
Charity pushed herself away from her desk, walking around the small room that she and her younger sister Faith had shared growing up. They had both moved out of the house years ago, Faith after her marriage to Samuel and Charity after securing a position at Hogwarts, but the room looked much the same as it had when they were girls. Faith was her only sibling and had been a bit of an "oops," or so her mother had said, arriving as she did less than a year after Charity's birth. They had been completely devoted to one another, as close as twins, until circumstances intervened.
Charity's gaze fell on her old teddy, still in its special spot atop the bookcase. It was threadbare, with one arm falling halfway off, and as she lifted it down, her thoughts turned back to the day when everything had started changing.
Faith and Charity had been arguing that day, for as devoted as they were to one another, they would still butt heads occasionally. She couldn't remember what had started the argument, but it had ended when Faith had thrown Charity's teddy to the floor and stomped on it. Charity, in retaliation and without conscious thought, had sent Faith's favorite doll flying around the room. Faith watched her doll hurtle about above their heads, ending by tossing itself out a window, and she had stared after it, her mouth gaping, before turning huge, frightened eyes on Charity.
"How did you do that?" she whispered.
"I don't know," Charity whispered back, equally horrified, and then they had both burst into tears, bringing their mother running from the other room.
Their mother took in the sight of her daughters draped over each other, shuddering in fright, and asked with some alarm, "Girls, what happened?"
In between huge, gasping sobs, Charity told her mother that she had killed Faith's doll, that she didn't mean to and she didn't know how it happened. Her mother laughed and gathered Charity into her lap, stroking her hair and murmuring softly to her.
"Accio Bessie," her mother called in a clear, calm voice, and the doll came flying back through the window, landing at Faith's feet, who promptly snatched her up and clutched her protectively to her chest.
"You see? No harm done, Faith. Charity didn't really mean to hurt her."
"But how did she do it, mum? And why do you look happy?"
"It happens to all witches and wizards when they're growing up. It's perfectly normal." She turned her attention to Charity and lifted her chin with two fingers, her eyes warm and loving on her oldest daughter's face. "You're getting close to the age where you'll start school and learn to control your magic. Until then, you'll have to be extra careful when you feel angry or upset, okay?"
Charity nodded and Faith looked puzzled. "Why hasn't it happened to me?"
Their mother frowned slightly and shook her head. "Perhaps you're not old enough yet, Faith."
Charity gently replaced her teddy on the bookcase and knelt to pull out an over-sized, dusty album from the shelf. Her old scrapbook. She turned it over in her hands and it fell open to the page where she had carefully, almost reverently, preserved her acceptance letter from Hogwarts. She could still remember the morning the post owl had arrived, bearing the letter with the Hogwarts seal; could remember the visceral thrill of opening the envelope and seeing her name on the page.
A few weeks later she had been completely overwhelmed by her trip to Diagon Alley and upon her return home, Faith had been right there, trying on Charity's new robes, even taking a turn with her wand. In imitation of Charity, and perhaps hoping to produce the same shower of sparks as she had, Faith waved the wand around gently at first and then, when nothing happened, a bit more vigorously.
"It's not doing anything," Faith said, a scowl of impatience on her face.
"The wand chooses the witch," Charity told her confidently. "At least that's what Mr. Ollivander said. It took me ages to find this one. Just wait until next year. You'll get to pick out your own wand then."
"Faith, put that down!" her mother said sharply from the doorway. "It's not a toy." They both turned, startled at her sudden appearance in their room and her uncharacteristic display of temper.
"It doesn't even work anyway," Faith said dismissively, dropping it on the bed before brushing roughly past her mother. "It's just a stupid old stick!" she called back over her shoulder.
Charity retrieved her wand from the bed, turning it carefully in her hands, excited and more than a little frightened at the pulse of energy she could feel flowing from the smooth wood to her fingertips. "It's not stupid," she whispered.
"Of course it isn't," her mother said soothingly, sitting on the bed and pulling her oldest daughter down next to her. "Faith is having a tough time right now."
"Just one more year, though, mum," Charity said, brightening at the thought. "Then Faith will be going to Hogwarts, too." She had been caught completely off guard when her mother's face had dissolved and she had wrapped her in a fierce embrace.
"Next year," her mother said, her voice breaking.
Charity had been too young at the time to understand why her mother had sounded so sad.
The next summer, when Charity returned home full of stories about her school and her new friends and all she had learned, the atmosphere in the house had changed. Her parents wore constantly pinched expressions when they looked at Faith. They discouraged Charity from speaking too often of Hogwarts. Faith remained silent, kept her eyes down in their company, and spent much of the time outside by herself. Finally, when Charity could no longer stand the tension, she had cornered Faith in their bedroom late one night, after the house had fallen silent.
"Will you please tell me what's going on around here?" she whispered, standing over her sister's bed, hands on her hips.
Faith rolled away from her, bunching her pillow up around her head. "I'm trying to sleep."
"Don't do this to me," Charity pleaded, crawling into bed beside her sister. "Everything's different. You know it, too."
Faith had sat up then, and face to face, their knees touching, they had talked.
Charity had tried to be reassuring. "It's going to be great, Faith. Later this summer you'll get your acceptance letter and we'll go to Diagon Alley together and then there will be the Sorting. Maybe we'll even be in the same House."
Faith looked away, unshed tears making her eyes shine brightly in the moonlight streaming through the window. "I...I don't think so, Charity."
"Don't be silly. Of course you will."
"No, listen to me," Faith said, in a low, urgent tone. "I've caught Mum crying a few times. And once I heard her and dad talking when they thought I wasn't listening and they said..." Her voice caught and she looked down, the shame evident on her face.
Charity waited for her to continue, her chest tight, unable to take a full breath.
"...they said I'm a Squib." She whispered the last word, unable to meet her sister's eyes. She hugged her knees tightly.
"You're not," Charity said, although in her mind, the words had the dreadful ring of truth. It would explain so much.
"I know I am. I'm not like you or Mum or Dad. I can't do magic, not even by accident." Her voice broke, and tears began to stream down her face. "I don't want to be different, Charity," she sobbed. "Why did this happen to me?"
Charity had no answers for her, not that night, and finally the two sisters had fallen into a troubled sleep, curled up together, needing each other's presence for comfort. The next morning, neither spoke about the previous night's conversation, and it was never mentioned between them again.
As the summer days passed, the mood in the house grew more and more strained. Every day the sisters would wait patiently for the post, and every day there were letters, but nothing from Hogwarts. Charity's firm belief that her sister would be joining her was beginning to waver until finally, a week before term was to begin, Faith pulled her aside after breakfast.
"Mum says I'm going to a different school," she said, her voice dull and flat. "A Muggle school. St. George's."
And there was nothing Charity could say in return, nothing that would take the defeated look from her sister's face; nothing that would ease the sudden hollow ache in her own chest at the knowledge their paths were diverging forever.
Charity settled herself against her old bed, the scrapbook resting on her upraised knees. She paged through it slowly, feeling overwhelmed at the bittersweet memories surging through her mind with each new discovery. Her fingers hesitated over a folded piece of drawing paper and she opened it carefully, smoothing it across her lap, her hands trembling slightly. The colors were beginning to fade now- it had been so many years - but her own blue eyes still stood out clearly in the portrait that Paul had drawn of her.
She could still picture him as he looked then, his dark hair falling in his face as he bent over his easel, glancing up occasionally to study her with his intense, piercing gaze before returning his attention to the paper, his fingers moving deftly and surely as he worked. She brought the creased paper close to her face, the scent of the pastels causing a nostalgic longing for the girl she had been and the boy who had helped her discover another side of herself.
Her memories of the night she met Paul were just as vivid.
It had been four years since Faith had been sent to a Muggle school, and she had grown from an uncertain and insecure little girl into a self-assured and confident teenager. Charity, on the other hand, was struggling. She was an average student at Hogwarts with nothing to distinguish her and always a bit out of step with her classmates. She missed having Faith to confide in, but with little in common, the sisters had gradually drifted apart. Falling in love with a Muggle boy was the farthest thing from Charity's mind the night she sat in their room, watching her sister preparing to go out for the evening.
Faith was standing in front of her dresser mirror, humming a song Charity didn't recognize as she twisted chunky strands of her newly-cut hair to frame her face. She caught Charity staring at her in the mirror and turned to face her, sighing in an exasperated manner.
"You're studying again?" she asked.
"I have to," Charity said, turning her attention back to her Charms textbook. "N.E.W.T.s are coming up this year. I can't bodge them like I did my O.W.L.s."
"Honestly, Charity." Her sister crossed her arms and regarded her bemusedly. "Newts? Owls? I have no idea what you're on about half the time."
"Never mind," she sighed, returning to her book, envying Faith her carefree attitude. It was easy for some people, she thought.
Faith approached her desk and closed the book emphatically under Charity's startled nose. "You sound as if you could do with a break," she said, striding to their closet where Charity's robes shared space with the Muggle-style outfits that Faith favored. She began sorting through the rack of clothing, looking at Charity appraisingly over her shoulder. "We're nearly the same size," she said, tossing her a dark green shift. "This'll do."
Charity stood from her desk and picked up the dress, the silken cloth sliding smoothly over her hands. It was so different from the coarse wool of her school robes and she suddenly wanted very much to feel the cool wash of the fabric against her body. "What's this for?"she asked quietly.
"You're going out with me tonight, of course."
She dropped the dress on the bed and sank back into the desk chair. "I can't, Faith. I don't know any of your friends."
"Doesn't matter. Now let's do something about that hair of yours, shall we?"
Her hand went unconsciously to her hair, which she wore long and pulled back, the normal style for her female classmates at Hogwarts. "What's wrong with it?"
"Nothing at all, if you're seventy years old," Faith snorted, pulling out the low bench at her dressing table, motioning for Charity to have a seat.
Charity left the house later that evening feeling like a little girl playing dress-up, her hair curled around her face, the fabric of the dress making her skin tingle, certain that Faith's friends would immediately see through her facade. She had been relieved when they had accepted her into their tight-knit group without question and she had quickly gravitated toward Paul, finding him easy to talk with and more than a little attractive.
He was tall and thin, with an unruly mop of black hair and dark, earnest eyes that seemed never to leave hers. The first time they had sat near each other and he had draped his arm casually around her shoulders, the resultant electrical surge she had felt had shaken her deeply. He had sensed it, too, turning to look at her, the expression on his face suddenly serious and searching.
The rest of that summer was glorious and Charity had found herself spending every spare moment at Paul's side, learning everything she could about his foreign and fascinating lifestyle. Her happiness had been shadowed only by her mother's growing concern over her obsession with the Muggle world until one night she had impulsively taken Charity by the arm as she was following her sister out the door.
"Faith has no choice in the matter," her mother had said in a low voice, "but you're a witch, Charity. Don't forget that."
"Maybe I'd like to forget it sometimes," she had snapped, jerking her arm free. She hadn't meant it, but was at a loss to explain the the elemental change she could feel taking place within her.
Charity stood and brushed off her knees, carefully sliding the scrapbook back into its place on the shelf. Her life had taken so many interesting turns since then. She had easily procured a job in Muggle Relations after leaving Hogwarts and had been pleasantly surprised a few years later when she was recruited for a newly-created professorial position at her old school. No one had quite known what to make of a pure-blood witch as the Muggle Studies professor, but it had been the perfect fit for her. She enjoyed teaching, and although she knew she was risking her position at Hogwarts, she found she no longer cared. There were more important things at stake now.
She returned to her desk and sat down heavily, her gaze falling on the newly-framed photograph on the desktop: Faith, looking pleased and a bit dazed, smiling happily at her husband, Samuel, who was holding a tiny bundle protectively in his arms. Charity reached out one finger, caressing her nephew's dear little face in the photo. In the midst of the fear and hatred was born this beautiful new life and with it, the hope for a peaceful future. He was an innocent little boy who might very well grow up to be a Muggle-born wizard, and he deserved to live in a world where he wouldn't be judged on the circumstances of his birth.
I will do whatever I can to make a difference for you, she promised him silently, and with renewed determination, she picked up her quill and added her final thoughts to the bottom of the page.
Our strength lies in our diversity and our willingness to learn from one another. Only then can we hope to build a future free of the prejudices of the past.
She signed her name to the bottom of the parchment, rolled it and sealed it tightly before she could change her mind.
"Ready, Charity?" Her mother peered into the room just as Charity was tucking the letter under her arm and gathering a brightly wrapped package from the floor. "It's nearly time for the baptism. Your father finally found a place where we can Apparate but we have to leave soon."
"Almost, mum," Charity said. "I just need to post this letter first. Go on ahead and I'll join you in a moment."
On the back porch, Charity lifted Heliotrope from her perch, fastened the letter to her leg and gave her a kiss on her feathery head. Heliotrope clucked softly and nibbled at a strand of Charity's hair. "Daily Prophet office, love," she said, tossing the owl into the air and watching her climb in flight until she was just a small dot against the blue sky.
Charity ran down the lawn towards her parents, overcome with exuberance and the sense that what she had just done was absolutely right. She took her place at their side and as they were preparing to Apparate, her mother asked suddenly, "What exactly are we supposed to do at the ceremony?"
"Stand there and look proud," she said. "I think you two can manage that."
Her parents glanced at each other, their faces suffused with the joyful anticipation of seeing their first grandchild, and they laughed and grabbed each other's hands before they Apparated away.
Charity threw her arms wide, lifting her face to the sky. The brilliant summer sun was warm on her face and she felt her heart lift from her chest, sharing in her parent's happiness and nurturing the private hope that her letter would somehow make a difference for her and for everyone she loved.
A/N: My gratitude to pookha, snapekat and protowilson, the beta readers who encouraged me and helped immeasurably in improving my story. Also, thanks to NevillesSoulmate for the amazing chapter image.
Chapter 4: Remus Lupin: Choices
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Remus Lupin: Choices
Dying rays of the setting sun were stubbornly breaking through the yellowish curtains drawn over the only window in his tiny flat, illuminating the graying walls and creaking floor boards, as well as his figure sitting on a scruffy-looking sofa that took up the majority of the room. His hands clasped together in front of his face, elbows supported on his knees; he glared at the simple roll of parchment sitting innocently on a low table before him.
It was amazing how this little piece of paper had managed to awaken such turmoil of memories and emotions in him. Growing up under less than warm and welcoming circumstances, Remus Lupin had always had a hard time expressing his thoughts and feelings - his calm and collected exterior hid an overly analytical mind, bound with insecurities.
Most of the people who knew his family would say Remus had taken after his mother, not only inheriting her gentle eyes but the endless patience and tolerance she used every day in order to deal with his difficult father, as well as with the veil of prejudice surrounding their home.
John Lupin, on the other hand, was a very proud man, never afraid to say what was on his mind and respected for his slightly intimidating posture. Although aware of the talking of the local gossipers for taking a Muggle for a wife, his tall and serious image prevented anyone from criticizing his choices in front of him. He was a man who never backed down from a challenge and who always had the final word. Everyone knew better than to start an argument with John Lupin.
But John Lupin was also known to act before thinking. There were times when he should have thought whether it was wise to engage in an argument at all.
“You got something against werewolves?”
Remus would still dream of that day sometimes. In his mind’s eye he could recall every devious line of Fenrir Greyback’s face, the way he licked his upper lip obscenely while his eyes traveled towards the little boy whose excitement over being taken out to town was quickly replaced by a feeling of anxious discomfort he couldn’t quite understand or explain.
“I’d keep an extra eye on your boy if I were you, Lupin. Such a pretty boy…”
There were times when the nightmare would take up different features, the scenery would change and instead of a warm summer day there was a night unnaturally brightened by the iridescent light of a full moon. The same boy would be sitting on the lowest step of the porch and a pair of yellow eyes would light up in the nearby bushes, the moonlight reflecting on his bared canines.
These memories were all jumbled together, blurring and intertwining with one another; blending together and painting pictures he wasn’t sure ever happened. They were the first coherent memories of a four-year-old boy, a boy who wasn’t lucky enough to remember something nice like building a birdhouse with his father or a serene walk through the forest with his mother. A boy whose life was marked from the very beginnings of his conscious mind.
His father had been a strict, disciplined man, considered rough and cold by many.
He could still sometimes hear him speaking in his loud, commanding voice, telling him to strengthen up, to take a stand all the while barely even looking at him. As if he was the living result of one bad choice, a mistake he made that stood before him every single day, mocking him until he would finally admit to making it.
He never did.
“You shouldn’t be afraid to stand up for yourself, Remus. No one will dare to mess with you if you know how to stand up to them.”
How Greyback still dared to mess with his father even though he confronted him so determinedly was a mystery that marked the majority of Remus’ childhood. Being a contemplative and sensitive child, he spent most of his time thinking and trying to make up theories and explanations that would help him understand why exactly he had to sleep in the cellar once a month. And why he would wake up aching all over, with his clothes off and all scratched up with no memory of the night whatsoever. It was all so terribly confusing but no one had ever taken time to explain it to him.
With a trace of his tainted innocence he had started to believe that maybe this was all just some silly fairy tale his mother used to read him. That maybe, once he figured that mystery out, he would be released of this strange illness his parents kept insisting he had. As every child is, he was full of dreams. Patiently, he would wait until he got cured and than he could go to all those places he wanted to go, do all the things he wanted to do. As every child does, he wanted to make history, do something memorable, be special.
It was indeed difficult to explain to a four-year-old that he already was special, but not in the way he wanted to be. How to explain that instead of a brave shining knight he had become a monster, the big bad wolf that gets slain by the end of the fairy tale. Maybe that was the reason why no one really talked to him, because, after all of the misfortunes the family had been going through after Remus had been bitten, talking to a confused and frightened little boy was the last thing they could think about by the end of the day.
Maturing faster than other children his age, he soon realized the full meaning of the word ‘werewolf’. He soon realized there was no cure; he soon realized he had to be locked up in the cellar each month so as not to rip to pieces every person crossing his way. He had learned it the hard way, by overhearing his parents talk one night while they thought he was asleep. He had gone numb from shock; he had almost entirely stopped talking for a while. He would stay up all night, staring the traitorous moon down, watching it fade with the sunrise, through tearful eyes wishing for the hideous silver ball never to rise again. With pure childlike naïveté, he almost believed it might come true if he only wished hard enough.
He had started meeting the moonrises awake.
His first conscious transformation was an absolute horror. He had been six years old at the time. Staring at the fragments of an old, full-length mirror he had broken some years ago, he could see the deformation of his body, the horrible, distorted way his limbs started to stick out. And the pain… He didn’t even register his own scream from the pain that had clouded his thoughts. With the last remains of his conscious mind, he had allowed a tear to fall and a question cross his mind.
In all those stories his mother used to read to him, the monster always got vanquished in the end. Somewhere deep down, there was a hopeful side of him that wondered, if he were a very, very good monster, than maybe his story might have an alternate ending. That hope kept him from turning bitter and spiteful. That hope remained glowing somewhere deep inside him even when he grew older, even when all seemed lost and in vain. That little glimmer of childhood innocence Remus still held on to, desperately guarding that last piece of untainted soul that kept him human.
It wasn’t a rarity to hear his parents talking about him while they thought he was asleep. He would be just a wall away, sitting with his knees up to his chest and absorbing every word spoken, hoping someday he might be included in one of the choices constantly made in his name.
Each morning he would look up hopefully at his mother’s tender face, hoping she might bring up a subject they had so vehemently discussed the previous night and ask his opinion on it. Each morning, he would get up early enough to see his father off to work, hoping he might smile at him and ask him if he wanted to come along.
Another wasted dream that never came true.
His father would just pat him on the head as if it were a force of habit and look at him with a peculiar expression in his eyes before walking away. He was, after all, a mistake his pride still had trouble accepting. His mother would kiss him on the cheek distractedly and serve him a little something for breakfast before rushing off to work in the households of neighborhood women, a way for her to help the family’s poor economical situation. And he would be left all alone up until the time he would sit up against that wall again and listen to his parents argue about him once more.
In his loneliness he often wondered about the possibility of his life taking a different turn had some choices been made a bit differently.
Maybe if they hadn’t decided to move away from London when Remus was two.
Maybe if his father had decided not to take him to town that day. Maybe if he had been a bit less proud.
Maybe if he had gone inside the house before the moon had risen instead of asking for a few moments more to play.
The fact remained; he couldn’t change what had already happened. Time and fate had their own choices to make. He could only learn from the mistakes, be brave enough to recognize and accept them. He liked to consider the calm and benign way in which he approached the many misfortunes life had in store for him as his greatest strength, as well as the best way to keep his sanity. His condition had taught him to avoid trouble, to avoid attention, to simply get by one day at a time trying not to disrupt his calm routine of living.
Looking around his shoebox of a home, he had to exhale a bitter laugh. This couldn’t exactly be called a life. It was mere existing.
Come to think of it, Remus never really had as many choices to make. There was one choice, the most important one, the one he had never really been given. The choice of being normal.
He couldn’t help but scowl while thinking of how people often took their normality for granted. They all looked for a way to be seen, noticed, remembered. Remus’ only option was to walk through life with his head low, blend with the crowd, appear as unnoticeable as possible. Be unacknowledged. Unrecognized for what he was.
Glaring at the letter before him, he felt himself being torn. As much as this offered an opportunity for normalcy he had been longing for, the realist in him was trying to keep him from having another illusion broken. Destroyed and shattered like the ornate mirror he accidentally broke when he was four years old.
An old wives tale spoke of a curse, seven years of bad luck for those who break a mirror. His curse had haunted him four times that long and it still wasn’t going anywhere.
The soft rustle of feathers made him look towards the window. The purple shades of twilight outside were rapidly darkening. He witnessed another moonrise, but his eyes on tonight’s Waning Gibbous were not as resentful as they were all those years ago. The tawny owl that had brought him the letter was still there, picking at the feathers underneath her left wing. The letter did state that the owl was to wait for his response.
Slowly, tentatively he took the letter and read it for what seemed to be the fifth time since the owl brought it. His attention was growing weak as he caught himself gazing at yesterday’s copy of the Daily Prophet sitting on the farthest end of the table. The almost deformed face of his friend – the person he used to call his friend – continued to scream into the camera. He had read the front page article so many times since yesterday morning he could practically quote entire paragraphs from it. Even after twelve years it still seemed almost unreal to him that Sirius had indeed committed that horrible crime.
Remus held on to a memory of a self assured boy who was his first Hogwarts acquaintance. The two had soon gotten close since neither of them entirely felt as if they belonged – Sirius to the House of Godric Gryffindor and Remus to the school in general. Thinking of it only triggered more memories from the happiest time of his life, the only happy period of his life. It made him remember James and Peter as well and the incredible feeling of acceptance he had always longed for.
Professor McGonagall had asked him once why he wanted to become only a simple teacher when with his grades and potential he could become much more. Even at the age of fifteen, the ever aware Remus knew that Dumbledore was influential, not almighty, but he didn’t really long for a heroic career as an Auror and making history anymore.
“Hogwarts is the only real home I ever had.”
But the First War came sooner than anyone expected. And his world fell apart with the deaths of James and Lily and Peter, with Sirius’ betrayal. It took him a while to crawl out of the darkness that had fallen upon him at that time.
And then the werewolf registrations began. The Ministry was picking up its shattered pieces and trying to deliver the world from all the evil.
Unfortunately, werewolves fell into that category.
It was no secret he had taken a great effort in trying to pass himself as normal. Being registered prevented him from getting an occupation that could actually pay enough to fulfill all the basic needs for a human being. Than he would have to remind himself he wasn’t a human after all, swallow his pride and accept whatever temporary job he could get, no matter how humiliating it might be.
With a longing look he regarded his well-preserved collection of books and a careworn brown case collecting dust at the bottom shelf. Lifting his wand, he pointed it almost lazily and made the case glide gracefully towards him. His fingers felt the engraved script that read ‘Professor R. J. Lupin’.
He used to be so full of those dreams that don’t really come true as often. But don’t dreams always carry the biggest worth when they grow old and grey with you? However, sometimes, with some adjustments being made, some dreams can be reached, if only for a little while. His hand traveled over the worn leather, his fingers leaving marks on the thin layer of dust. With a wave of his wand, the case was clean again, the title looking a little more respectable than before.
He had made his choice long ago.
He was Remus Lupin, both the man and the werewolf. But he was also Remus Lupin, a son, a friend – or at least he used to be. He was Professor Remus John Lupin, both his suitcase and his diploma said so. He was aware this dream would not, could not last for very long, but he was ready to lift his head and stand up from the crowd he had been hiding in for so long.
Glancing at the tawny owl that was still cleaning its feathers on his windowsill, apparently still waiting for the response on the letter it brought, he smiled lightly and stood up to get a fresh piece of parchment. The quill glided over the cream colored surface forming the letters with the elegance of his school days.
If only for a little while, he dared to reach for that little glimmer of hope again.
A/N – Thanks so much to reallyginny for beta reading this chapter and giving me the encouragement I needed. Much thanks to NevillesSoulmate for the beautiful chapter image. Also, my gratitude goes to everyone at eHPF for making this collaboration so amazing! I am incredibly honored to write alongside such talented authors.
Chapter 5: Petunia Dursley: Something Lost
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Petunia Dursley: Something Lost
She wasn't quite sure why Lily was on her mind when she woke up that mild November morning. She lay in bed listening to Vernon's rumbling snores, watching the sunlight that filtered through the curtains and sent splashes of gold onto the walls. Through the shutters, she could see slices of a perfect blue sky. What a beautiful day, she thought. Why did it have to begin with her? She swung her legs over the side of the bed, searching with her feet for her soft pink slippers. As silently as she could, she tiptoed across the pastel carpet and shut herself in the bathroom. She ran a hot bath and got in, leaning luxuriously against the side of the tub. She had read in Tattletale Magazine that hot morning baths were a favorite hobby of Helen van Hopper, the famous actress. Silly, she thought, drawing the sponge over a bony arm, why would anyone list bathing as a hobby? And anyway, who cares what actresses' hobbies are? She set down the sponge with a satisfying plop. Not Petunia Dursley, that much was for sure!
No, Petunia had always been the levelheaded, sensible one in the family. She prided herself on her lack of curiosity, her common sense, and above all, her precision in everything she did. Take the house, for example. A visitor would be hard-pressed to find a single hair on the living room sofa or a speck of dirt on the floor. She liked to think that the house was a reflection of herself: perfect, glowing, and immaculate. Even as a child she had liked to keep her belongings neat and tidy. Lily was always the careless one, strewing dolls and wildflowers all over the house as though it were a rubbish bin for her convenience.
There she went again, thinking about her sister! Petunia shook her head in disgust and drained the tub with a sharp yank. She dried herself off and put on a peach crepe dress, matching heels, and the pearls Vernon had given her for their third anniversary. A large, frilly apron was tied over the entire outfit before Petunia set off to her housework. She took a broom and a dustpan and swept the entire second floor, pausing only to check on Dudley with adoring eyes. Her precious cherub was still fast asleep in his cot, his rosebud mouth fastened securely over one ear of his teddy bear. Petunia had been delighted to see what wonderful features he had inherited from herself and Vernon. The child had her dark blond hair and blue eyes, and she thought his shoulders and strong chin were exactly like Vernon's. What a handsome man he would become!
Her parents had never been able to see what a remarkable child he was. The last time she had seen them alive, all they had done was criticize Dudley and the way she was raising him, insisting that she was spoiling and overindulging the boy. And of course - because they hadn't been able to help themselves - there had been the inevitable comparisons to perfect Lily who had a "knack for motherhood" and her Christ child with his halo of golden light. That was one of the few times in her life Petunia had ever flown into a rage. She had practically thrown her parents out of the house and had refused to speak to them for months. Petunia flattered herself that she was a very tolerant woman - hadn't she sat there for twenty years, listening to them compare her to Lily? Hadn't she swallowed her hurt and anger at always coming up short? She had long ago learned to bottle her resentment deep inside, but she refused to let them throw her son on the scales and measure his worth the same way they had always measured hers.
Petunia began attacking the windows with a self-righteous vigor, violently scrubbing the glass and wishing she could do the same to her memories. Why, of all mornings in the blessed year, had they chosen to haunt her today? Vernon had an important client coming for dinner and she hadn't even dusted the bookshelves yet! She heard her husband get out of bed and took it as her cue to start breakfast. She set aside the rag and went downstairs, turning on the oven to make biscuits and heating the kettle for coffee. Spreading plastic down on the counters (floury surfaces were such a nuisance), she began kneading dough and moistening it with cream, the same way she and Lily had watched their mother do it so many times.
"Would you girls like to try?" her mother asked, smiling down at them. She pulled two little stools on either side of her so they could reach the counter. "Petunia, you can go first if -" But Lily grabbed a ball of dough with greedy hands, always ready to be the first, the best.
Instead of reprimanding her, their mother laughed affectionately and stroked the shining red hair. "Want to use the rolling pin?"
"No, Mummy, Tuney can have it," she said stoutly.
Petunia took it and began rolling out her ball of dough. When she looked over, Lily was already cutting into hers with the floured mouth of a glass. She began rolling faster, trying to catch up, but that only made the dough break apart.
"You're rolling it too much, Petunia," her mother pointed out, reaching over to help. "Here... see how Lily made hers?"
Conscious that she had somehow failed, Petunia jumped quickly down from the stool to hide her red face. "I'm bored. I'm going out to play." As she walked out the door, she could feel Lily's eyes on the back of her neck.
Later, when she was sitting on the swings by herself, Petunia heard footsteps and turned to see her sister carrying a plate of buttered biscuits. "Here, Tuney. I made these just for you," the little girl said shyly, holding them out. "I hope you like them." Without waiting for a response, she put her arm around Petunia's neck and lowered her voice confidentially. "They're extra special. Because I love you."
Petunia pulled open the oven and slid the trays inside, shaking her head in exasperation. She could not stop thinking about Lily! What on earth was wrong with her today? Maybe the room had been too stuffy last night and she had woken up with a fever. It was unusually mild for November. She made a mental note to keep the windows open tonight, even though the Smiths next door probably had the same idea and would probably be arguing about their no-good daughter again tonight. Not that a woman like myself would be interested in their dirty laundry, she thought, cracking some eggs into a bowl, but it must be the most terrible thing to have a daughter like that! She wondered if the girl had been sent to the headmaster's office for bullying again. Mrs. Smith had been talking about it on the phone with her friend last week, and she had also mentioned something about finding cigarettes in the girl's room. Petunia shook her head sadly. A tragedy!
Dudley began squalling from upstairs and she dropped her cooking utensils, hurrying to change his diapers. "Good morning, my precious popkin!" she cooed, kissing his feathery blond head. "How is my sweetums? How is my Dinky Winky Duddledums?"
He made the most adorable noises and tugged on her hair. "Hunwyyy!" he shouted.
"Yes, yes, my angel, Mummy is going to feed you now," she reassured him. She scooped him up in her arms and carried him down to his chair in the kitchen. "Here is your applesauce, my Ickle Diddykins!" she sang, setting a small bowl in front of him that he immediately upset. What an energetic, cheerful little boy he was!
"Dake!" yelled Dudley. "Mummy, dake!"
"Cake for breakfast, Diddy love? But -"
The child began screaming, big fat tears rolling down his face, and Petunia felt her heart melt. She went over to the refrigerator and pulled out some leftover chocolate cake, cutting out a generous slice for her baby and watching him dig in eagerly. "That's my sweet boy," she murmured, stroking his soft downy hair. What would she ever do with herself when he went off to school? Thank goodness she wouldn't have to worry about it for a few years yet!
"Come on, Lily," urged Petunia, tugging nervously on her plaits. "We'll be late for the bus!" She checked the watch that had been a sixth birthday present from her parents, tapping her toes impatiently.
Lily stumbled down the stairs in her brand new shoes, looking as uncomfortable in her crisp school uniform as Petunia felt. "I was kissing Mummy goodbye!"
The two girls hoisted their book bags and left the house, joining the growing queue of children at the corner bus stop. Lily stared at the older students with wide eyes.
"You're not afraid, are you?" scoffed Petunia.
"No," the little girl said defiantly, moving further away. But when the school bus began approaching them from Cherry Lane, Lily moved closer to her sister again.
Petunia looked down at her small, anxious face and softened. "Want to sit together?"
Lily's face brightened. "Yes, Tuney!"
"It's all right. Don't be afraid," said Petunia, taking her sister's hand in hers. "I'm here with you. I'm here."
The biscuits came out of the oven, piping hot and cooked to a golden-brown perfection. Petunia began setting the kitchen table, laying out marmalade and butter and trying to keep her mind on the task at hand. She was beginning to wonder whether she were really ill. Don't be stupid! she scolded herself. You can't be ill, the Westons are coming tonight and the study isn't clean! She knew that the Westons would not be coming into Vernon's study anytime soon, but she simply could not enjoy the evening knowing that one room in her house was untidy.
Dudley had finished his cake and was now clamoring for a piece of the bacon frying away on the stove. "Yes of course, my darling Duddydums," cooed Petunia, dropping three or four large pieces on a plate for him.
Reaching over, she flicked on the little television set that sat on top of the refrigerator. There was nothing good to watch this early on a Monday morning, so Petunia settled for an entertainment talk show. Oh well, it's noise at least, she thought, stirring the scrambled eggs around in the pan. It's not like I care about their sordid affairs! The host was interviewing a supermodel who was simultaneously announcing her divorce from her husband and her pregnancy with another man.
"The shameless tramp!" muttered Petunia, thanking her stars that she was a respectable wife and mother far away from the likes of loose supermodels. She stared at the beauty's platinum blond hair, wondering what kind of dye she had used and whether they sold it at the regular supermarket. She supposed not.
Petunia knew from the first moment she laid eyes on him that the boy was trouble. Lily thought no one knew, but sometimes Petunia heard her climb out her bedroom window to go see him. Her room was right next door and she could see them on the lawn. The boy grabbed Lily's arm eagerly and they set off together for their little hiding place in the woods. He always came for Lily - never for Petunia. Because she wasn't special, he said.
"You mean because I'm not weird like the two of you!" she had snapped right in front of Lily. Later on she had apologized, but things between them had never been quite the same. Petunia could never forgive the boy for taking her sister away.
One night she waited until the two of them had left before climbing out of her own window. She knew where the secret place was, having followed them once before. Very quietly Petunia tiptoed through the trees and watched them.
The boy was touching Lily's hair! Running his fingers through the river of shimmering copper, the hair that Petunia had always loved to brush. She would never love it again after this; she would only envy it.
"Your hair is - it's like magic," he exclaimed, then drew his hand away shyly. "I know you'll fit right in at Hogwarts, Lily."
"But how do you know I'll get in?" Lily asked.
"I just know," he insisted. "You're special. You're a witch, a wonderful witch. We'll go there together and have such fun!"
Lily beamed. "And Tuney? Could she come with us, Sev?"
The boy's face darkened and he shook his head determinedly. "She's not like you and me, Lily," he explained. "She's just a Muggle. She thinks we're weird."
"She didn't mean it -"
"Yes, she did. And besides," he added, lowering his voice, "I don't want her to come. I just want to go with you."
Vernon's heavy tread sounded on the stairs, jostling Petunia from her reverie. "Good morning, dear!" he thundered, giving her a hug and a kiss. "Smells delicious down here. Is that bacon you're eating, Dudley my boy?" He laughed and picked his son up. "Real food for a real man, eh, Junior? That's my boy! That's my son Dudley!"
Petunia watched the two of them together, her heart full. Vernon Dursley had been the first and only human being who had ever loved her best; he had chosen her from among everybody else for his own. He appreciated her and he worshiped their child. She couldn't have asked for a better husband. "Good morning," she said, placing some eggs and bacon on a plate for him. "How did you sleep?"
"Like a baby!" he chortled, sitting down and dandling Dudley on his knee. The boy giggled and tugged at his mustache. "You like it, don't you? Well someday, little chap, you shall have one. And you shall be every bit as good-looking as your old man - yes you will." He smacked a kiss on the child's head and set him down again, turning his attention to the plate of food.
"Tuck in, darling," said Petunia encouragingly, picking a piece of lint off his shirt. "You'll be home with the Westons at six o'clock sharp?"
"Yes, I'm picking them up and driving them straight here," he confirmed, his mouth full of scrambled eggs. "I boasted a great deal about your cooking, Petunia my love, so mind you make that roast the same way you always do."
She swelled with pride and kissed his receding hairline. "Bless you, Vernon. Of course I will."
Petunia stomped into the restaurant lavatory, trying not to cry because she knew Lily was right behind her. She dumped her purse on the counter and pulled out her lipstick, swiping it on half-heartedly.
"What was that all about?" demanded Lily, hands on her hips. "Why all of the antagonism towards James? Hmm?"
She remained silent, trying not to meet her sister's blazing green eyes in the mirror.
"Petunia Evans, don't you dare ignore me when I'm talking to you!" Lily grabbed her shoulder and spun her around. "Why do you hate my boyfriend? I'm always polite to Vernon!"
"Because he's so bloody perfect and you're so bloody perfect! Because every time you're around, I disappear!" shouted Petunia. "That's why!" The tears were flowing and she could feel her mascara dripping off her lashes. "I chose tonight to announce that Vernon and I are getting married, and nobody gives a damn because you and perfect Potter always have to have the spotlight, don't you!?"
Lily stared at her with wide eyes. "Petunia, I'm sorry -"
"Save your apologies, Lily. It's not your fault anyway," she said, wiping her eyes. "Mum and Dad couldn't care less about me. One of the happiest moments in my life, and they don't even care. Sometimes I wonder if they'd notice me if I were dead."
"Don't say things like that!" Lily snapped. She grabbed a tissue from her dress pocket and wiped her sister's face with it. "I didn't ask Mum and Dad to play favorites. Do you think I like it any better than you do?" She sighed. "They're happy for you, I know they are. It's just that they don't see me that often, you know?"
Petunia sniffled. "I suppose. I'm sorry I blew up at you. And I'm sorry I've been so horrible to James."
"That's more like it," agreed Lily, grinning, "now I'll actually consider being your maid of honor." She pulled Petunia into a fierce hug. "I know we've sort of fallen out over the years, what with me being at school at the time. But no matter what, you'll always be my sister, my Tuney that I love with my whole heart." That got them both crying this time.
"I love you too, Lily. I don't understand you, but I really do love you."
Lily stroked her hair. "Shh, don't cry anymore. I'm here with you. I'm here."
"Petunia, are you all right?" Vernon tore his eyes from the television and stared at her. "Are you crying, dear?"
She dabbed at her eyes with a corner of her apron. "No, of course not!" she replied. "I was cutting an onion for the, ah, omelette. Will you excuse me, Vernon?" She swept out of the kitchen and shut herself in the downstairs bathroom. Her legs were trembling so badly, she had to lean against the sink for support. Damn you, Lily, she cursed her sister, breathing shallowly. Something didn't feel quite right; these memories and pent-up feelings must have come from somewhere. Maybe Lily was still trying to make amends. Maybe she was still hoping Petunia would talk to her and had resorted to witchcraft when her calls and letters hadn't done the job.
"Leave me alone, Lily!" Petunia quavered. "Your - your voodoo doesn't scare me!"
She half expected to hear her sister's voice or see her face in the mirror, just like in those Friday night matinees that Vernon loved so much. To her immense relief, nothing magical happened and there was silence except for the distant sound of the kitchen television.
"I won't have my family associating with a murderer!" She sank to the floor, cradling her head in her hands. The day she learned of her parents' death was a day she would rather forget, but this memory - like the others she had seen this morning - was too overwhelming to be denied. She let it wash over her, eager for it to be over.
The sisters were facing each other from opposite ends of Petunia's living room. "I already told you what happened!" Lily said desperately. "I saw him! He came to Mum and Dad's house..."
Petunia glared at her. "Start from the beginning!"
Lily took a deep breath, fighting to stay calm. "James and I went to Mum and Dad's for dinner at around six. We were all sitting in the dining room when the front door burst open." She was shaking so badly that she had to grab a chair for support. "A man came in wrapped in a cloak. James and I somehow knew that it was him before he even made a move ... there's just this - this darkness that surrounds him..."
Petunia gripped the mantelpiece so hard her knuckles turned white. "And then?"
"He pointed his wand at me and asked me where Harry was," Lily whispered. "He thought Harry was with us, but we had left him with Sirius back at Godric's Hollow. He wanted the baby and I told him I would never tell." She sat down and put her head between her knees as though she were about to be sick. "It happened so fast ... he killed Dad -"
"No!" Petunia moaned, feeling faint.
"James starting fighting him," her sister continued in a hopeless voice. "James told me to take Mum and run, but I couldn't just leave him. There was a flash of light and I saw Mum fall to the ground. I've never seen her lie so still ..." She sobbed. "By then, he had realized that Harry wasn't with us. I was angry, I wanted to kill him with my bare hands. James managed to stun him but he knew we were no match for him. He grabbed me and we Apparated back home."
It was quiet for a long time before Petunia spoke. "It's your fault," she whispered.
Lily looked up at her, her beautiful face streaked with tears. "What?"
"It's your fault!" Petunia screamed. "If you hadn't visited them, if you hadn't been a stupid cow, they would still be alive! You brought that - that criminal there and now Mum and Dad are dead! You murderer!"
"No, Petunia, please listen to me," begged Lily, dropping to her knees. "Please, please..."
"You are the one to blame! You killer!" shrieked Petunia, backing away. "If it weren't for your magic ... if you weren't a freak!" She pointed out the door with a shaking finger. "Get the hell away from me. Get out of my house and away from my family this instant!"
Lily was sobbing uncontrollably, shaking her head. "Tuney, I love you! Don't do this! You're my only sister -"
"You're no sister of mine. Get out," Petunia ordered, shaking with fright. She half expected the cloaked man to appear in her home at any instant. Dear lord, her son Dudley was napping upstairs alone! "Get out!" she shouted again, wild with terror. This woman in front of her was a stranger; maybe she had always been a stranger and Petunia just never saw it. She would bring ruin and destruction to the quiet life Petunia had begun with her husband and son, a quiet life in which she was first - in which Lily did not belong.
Lily didn't wait for another word. "I love you, Petunia. So, so much," she said softly, her eyes filled with the deepest sadness. "I don't know if I'll ever see you again, but I hope you'll forgive me someday. Goodbye." She disappeared into thin air, leaving nothing but an empty room and a hollow feeling in her sister's heart.
The seven months that followed had brought letters from Lily, phone calls that Vernon answered only to say that his wife was out, and a large birthday card when Dudley turned one in June. Petunia had thrown them all away and now she flung herself on the bath mat and wept and wept, thinking of everything that could have been - and might still be - between the two of them. But she could not forgive her sister for taking their parents away. Lily had killed them as sure as if she had been the one holding the gun - or magic stick, or whatever the freaks used. Lily had ended their lives before Petunia had a chance to say what she had been holding inside all of these years, before she could tell them how much they had hurt her and how much she hurt still. They were gone forever, lost to the very daughter they had preferred, the daughter whose strangeness they had always accepted unconditionally at the expense of the other. It was ironic, really.
Petunia took in a few deep, shuddering breaths before rising to her feet and washing her face. She looked at herself in the mirror and saw a woman who had everything yet still wanted for so much. Slowly, she left the bathroom and returned to the kitchen. Dudley was crawling on the floor and playing with an assortment of pots and pans, and Vernon was finishing his breakfast and snorting at a commercial for cheap cars.
"Would you like some coffee, dear?" she suggested, trying to sound normal.
"Yes, please. And would we happen to have any milk?" asked Vernon, flipping the channel. "I looked in the refrigerator and we've run out."
"It must be on the doorstep. I forgot to bring in the cans this morning," Petunia replied. She wiped her hands on her apron and walked to the front door. The milk cans were stacked neatly to one side and she reached for them.
It was then that she noticed the basket on the doorstep. There was a soft flannel blanket inside and something was moving. A tiny pink hand emerged from the folds and there was a soft gurgle. Cautiously she moved aside the blankets and looked into the rosy-cheeked face of a baby. The shock of black hair swept a high forehead on which was emblazoned a zigzag scar, an ugly red against the pale skin. But what caught her attention immediately were the eyes, a perfect almond-shaped pair of bright green. "Oh my God," she whispered. But why would Lily's child be on her doorstep? And on the very same day that she had been plagued by memories of his mother!
There was a letter tucked into the blankets and she reached for it, all the while staring into the child's eyes. He was looking at her without a hint of fear or curiosity. It was as though he knew exactly who she was and why he was there. Petunia tore her eyes away from his, unnerved, and turned her attention to the letter.
To Mrs. Petunia Dursley,
My name is Albus Dumbledore and I regret to inform you that your sister, Lily Evans Potter, and her husband James have been killed...
That was all she had time to read before the ground rose to meet her and the world turned black. When she regained consciousness, she was lying on the sofa in the living room. Vernon stood over her anxiously, fanning her with one of the throw pillows.
"Petunia! Are you all right?" he demanded.
"Yes, yes," she said impatiently, trying to sit up. "Where is the boy? Did you -"
Vernon pointed to the basket on the coffee table. "What does this mean, dear?" Vernon ventured, gesturing to the letter. "It says here that your sister has been murdered, Petunia! - and that we are responsible for her son."
She gazed up at him, shocked. "Vernon, no! We can't raise him with our son! You know what his parents were like, you know what kind of people they associated with!"
"Apparently we are ordered to keep the boy until he comes of age," her husband said softly, scanning the letter.
Petunia shook her head desperately. "No!" she repeated. "Whoever killed Lily killed my parents, and they'll likely come for us as well!" She rose to her feet and stared down at the baby, who looked right back at her with his unusual eyes. "It's this child that the man wanted," she whispered. "That's what Lily said. Don't you see, Vernon -"
"But listen, Petunia," Vernon interrupted, clearing his throat and reading part of the letter aloud. "I know that you will have strong reservations about raising him as your own. You know by now that the murders of James and Lily and of your parents are connected to the child you see before your eyes. Through a miracle of love, the fact that your sister died to save her son has given him a powerful protection. This protection may live on only if he resides with another who shares her blood and who was deeply loved by her - you yourself."
Petunia closed her eyes.
"As long as you keep this child beneath your roof, as long as you give him a home, you and your family will also be protected. I give you my word, and the word of Albus Dumbledore is not to be taken lightly," Vernon continued. He snorted. "This Dumbly-dor thinks a great deal of himself. How do we know we can trust him? Who is he, anyway?"
"A great and powerful wizard," Petunia answered without thinking. She turned a deep red when her husband glanced at her. "That's what Lily said anyway," she added hastily.
Vernon put his hands on her shoulders and looked straight into her eyes. "Petunia, this is your decision. What should we do?"
It was a while before she could find her voice. "The letter says nothing about loving him," Petunia said. "We are to give him a home for the purpose of protection only. He is here on our charity alone. There is no question that our Dudley will take precedence in everything. He is our son; this boy is nothing more than a burden to us. His parents were freaks of the worst kind who got themselves in trouble with dangerous criminals. They got themselves killed and they got my parents murdered. We won't have any of that under this roof."
Vernon nodded fervently. "Quite right, my dear."
"His mother is dead to me," she continued, her voice quivering only slightly. "From now on, he has nothing to do with her. What I decide today is for our family's safety and well-being alone. He is an albatross, but if it means that we'll be safe from murderous psychopaths, then so be it."
Vernon looked at her expectantly.
Petunia cleared her throat. "The boy will stay."
A/N: Thank you very much to NevillesSoulmate who made the beautiful chapter image. Thank you to everyone at eHPF, especially our leader Jessi who started this collaboration - it's a real privilege to write alongside all of you.
Chapter 6: Kendra Dumbledore: The Price We Pay
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Kendra Dumbledore: The Price We Pay
by Georgia Weasley
A shaft of pale moonlight cut across the small room, forcing its way through the crack in the door and laying its cold fingers in the woman’s dark hair. Curled on the floor next to a makeshift mattress, her head rested next to the child’s still form. The evening’s chaos drained her, and sleep tried to take her weary mind away from the unfathomable events of the last three days. She fought against it, not wanting the child to awaken without her knowledge.
Quietly, the door to the hidden shack creaked open and a man slipped into the darkened hovel. Her head jerked up, wand in hand, prepared to protect her daughter. Seeing the tall, slim form of her husband, she relaxed.
“I got what I could, Kendra. There is enough food here for perhaps three more days. I don’t think we’ll need it, though. There were Ministry officials in the village looking for “the Muggle killer”. The time has come for me to turn myself in.”
The blue eyes that usually twinkled and shone with laughter were dim. Kendra stood and placed her hand against his whiskered cheek. Lines of grief and frustration carved themselves into Percival’s sweet face, making a fierce version of the man she loved. His eyes darted to the small girl lying on the straw-stuffed mattress.
“Is there any change at all?” He asked, his voice hopeful. Kendra’s hand dropped away from his face, and she turned to look at Ariana with him.
“No. Actually, I think it’s gotten worse. She blew the bed apart earlier. We have to come to the conclusion that…..that the damage is permanent. We are never going to get her back, Percival. When those boys hurt her, they broke something…..that I can’t repair. Her magic is still powerful, but she can’t control it any more than she could control her heartbeat, or breathing. I don’t know what to do for her.”
The desperation in her words burned her throat. In his rage at finding his daughter’s bloody, broken form lying in the grass near the roses in the back garden, Percival had tracked and killed the three Muggle boys responsible. That act of vengeance had not cooled his anger. Now, it heaped guilt upon the burning ashes of his heart. In one tragic moment, Kendra’s family was destroyed. She thought of Aberforth, her youngest son, who had led his father to the scene he had witnessed but had not been able to prevent. Not one word had come from his mouth since that time. And Albus, whose sense of responsibility was so great even at his young age, held himself accountable. He had let her wander on her own, knowing that she’d begun to show signs of powerful magic that she could not control. How could he have known she’d be seen by the boys?
Percival fell, broken, to his knees beside Ariana’s bed, grasping Kendra’s skirt and clinging to her. Sobs wracked his body.
“This is my fault, Kendra!”
The pain in his rasping voice forced her to close her eyes, and she remembered what she’d been before Percival Dumbledore swept into her life with his sparkling eyes and easy laughter.
“You’ve met a boy, have you?” Her grandmother’s words resounded in her tiny kitchen. Kendra turned to look at the pearly, translucent figure of the ghost that had been her constant companion from the time she was born until she left for Hogwarts six years ago.
“Yes, Abuela. His name is Percival Dumbledore. He says he loves me!” She could not keep the pure amazement from her voice as she recalled how he’d taken her hand in his and promised her the moon, stars, and any desire of her heart. Glancing at the ghostly form of her grandmother from the corner of her eye, she waited for her response.
“He says! He says! How do you know, mi carino? People can deceive you! Do not trust so easily! How do you think I ended up this way?” The ghost flew around the room in agitation. Kendra shook her head. It always came back to this.
Her Spanish grandmother once loved a young Muggle man with all her heart and soul. Fearing the relatively new Statute of Secrecy in Europe, she kept her secret from her love, marrying him and giving birth to Kendra’s mother. Relieved when her daughter showed no signs of magic, Abuela led a happy life with her young family for several years. Unfortunately, thinking herself alone in the house one day, she used a simple spell to mend a broken teapot. Her husband saw this, and became frightened of his wife, fearing the strange abilities she had shown. This was the time of witch hunts and Inquisition, and many people were tortured and killed for their magical talents by the Church. Some of them were not even witches or wizards, but innocent Muggles that had been accused by jealous or vengeful neighbors.
Abuela trusted the love of her husband, and told him the truth of her identity. Instead of protecting her secret, her very own husband turned her over to the Church officials who came to ‘interrogate’ the suspected witch. Fleeing the impending doom, Abuela hid her daughter among non- magical relatives. With her husband leading the search, she was soon found, horribly tortured, and executed. She’d refused to leave her daughter, and came back as a ghost to stay with Kendra’s mother. She’d followed her to England when she’d married. And when her beloved child died in childbirth, fueling her anger and distrust of the world, Abuela stayed with Kendra. Her muggle father never saw nor suspected the haunting. He believed the sadness of his only child came from a motherless life, and wrapped in his own grief, left her to her own devices. He loved her, but he could not understand her.
Bitterness oozed from the very being of the shining white phantom of her grandmother, and Kendra learned from an early age that love could not be trusted, and people would disappoint her. Kendra developed into a shy, lonely girl. Friends were not welcome in her home, and people began to see her as snobbish and haughty when her fear kept her from speaking to the neighboring children in her village. When magic began to leak from her fingers while cooking for her father, or slip from her mind while sewing by the fire, her grandmother assured her that she must stay hidden to assure her fate would not end up like her own. Kendra began to feel like a prisoner, bound by magic and fear, from the life she knew existed somewhere for her.
That life called upon her during the summer of her eleventh year. A letter arrived, sealed in purple wax and adorned with her name in beautiful letters. She read it again and again, taking in each word as if it were oxygen to her suffocating soul. Escape! A chance at something she couldn’t even put a name to! Despite warnings from her grandmother, she’d packed and left for Hogwarts anticipating an entirely new life for herself.
At school, she’d still been the friendless, shy girl. After serious admonishing from her grandmother not to mention her Muggle background lest she bring unwanted attention to them, Kendra kept everyone at arm’s length. It was not until Percival Dumbledore took a seat next to her in Transfiguration class that her world changed irrevocably.
First, he became her friend, talking with her about classes and teachers. He possessed a manner that put her at ease, but at the same time made her heart race. When those blue eyes searched her own dark ones, he seemed to see right into her heart and mind. She could keep no secrets from the auburn haired boy, and she didn’t really feel that she wanted to. Surely her grandmother was wrong?
One evening, sitting at the top of the Astronomy Tower, Kendra revealed her grandmother’s theory to Percival. His reaction caught her off guard.
“You actually believe that you cannot trust love?” He’s turned to take her hand in his, eyes widened in confusion and disbelief.
“Well, yes. Abuela says it is the most fleeting of emotions. People are not inherently good, Percival, no matter what you may think. They do horrible things to each other!”
Stepping away from him, her hand burning where he’d touched her, she looked out into the velvet sky. Each star winked and twinkled, reminding her of Percival’s eyes. She closed her own.
“But Kendra, that is not all people do! Without the love of those around you, how do you get through this life? It is true that terrible things happen, but we have the choice to love each other and make this world we’re in better! Think about it, please. Imagine a world without your grandmother, or your father, beside you. They choose to love you, Kendra, to make your life beautiful. Without those moments, what is this life? Love is not the most fleeting of emotions, dearest, it is the most powerful force in the universe.”
That night, he’d taken her in his arms, and she could not argue with his statement. Nothing on earth could convince her that this love was wrong. From then, she welcomed people into her life and heart with abandon. Percival opened the locked door she’d been bound behind and life seemed to blossom into a sweet thing of friends and experiences she’d never dreamed she would have.
So, she’d argued with Abuela, trying to force the apparition to see the depth of her love for Percival and agree that this man was true. His way was right. Love and trust were the better ways to live. Abuela refused to acknowledge Percival or Kendra’s newfound beliefs. Kendra married Percival, turning her back on the suspicious, fearful ways of her grandmother. She’d thought then that she would never return to them.
Burying her fingers in Percival’s hair, she turned his devastated face toward her.
“No, this is my fault. I believed your way of trust and love, and this is where it led me. Abuela was right. I’ve got to get Ariana away, Percival. She’s different now, and people will take her from me. They will hurt her. I will find a place where there are no Muggles, and hide her away from the world. Her difference puts her in danger. People do horrible things to one another in this world.”
Her words became cold, falling from her lips like ice. Percival’s face crumbled in upon itself. The warm, beautiful woman he’d married slipped back into the frightened, sheltered girl he’d known years ago, within a moment. He knew then, his family was lost. Standing, he nodded his head.
“They will be here in the morning, I am sure. I will not fight them, Kendra. I want you to know….I love you.” And with that, he walked into the bedroom.
She heard him shuffling parchment and scratching away with a quill, but she couldn’t find the curiosity to wonder what he wrote. She felt herself being forced back behind the locked door of her childhood, and her heart clawed toward freedom inside her. Her entire soul trembled with this decision to return to a life of solitude and loneliness. Turning to take in the soft curve of her daughter’s cheek in the moonlight, she steeled herself to her choices. For the safety of her daughter, she would be the prisoner again. Kendra returned to her place on the floor beside her child, and wept.
Early the next morning a loud knock resounded on the door, and they jumped at the disturbance. Kendra moved to block Ariana from view before Percival moved into the room. Albus and Aberforth came bleary eyed from the small bedroom, faces drawn with worry and exhaustion. Percival nodded to Aberforth to open the door.
Five wizards stood in the door, cloaked in black robes and holding wands at the ready. Percival raised his hands in surrender, looking at his family with eyes that no longer twinkled. They held such great sorrow that Kendra looked away, unable to hold such a painful gaze.
“Mr. Dumbledore, we’ve come on order of the Ministry and the Wizangamot to take you into custody for the murder of three Muggle boys.” A gruff voiced wizard stated, looking at a parchment scroll that clearly held the warrant for Percival’s arrest. “Do you wish to give any testimony on your own behalf?”
Percival caught Kendra’s stare, feeling her silent plea hanging in the air around her like a shroud.
“No, I do not.”
The wizard stepped toward Percival, reaching into his robe and removing his wand. “Do you intend to come with us of your own free will then?” Each wizard seemed to grip their weapons tighter, anticipating Percival’s reply.
“I do, sir. Please let me take leave of my family, before we depart.” Percival’s eyes bored into the wizard’s own with such desperation, and the wizard gave a short nod.
Percival knelt in front of Aberforth, hugging him fiercely. Standing, he turned to Albus, their oldest son. Grasping the boy as though he was life itself, Percival clung to him. Before releasing him, Percival slipped a letter into the pocket of his robes. “For later,” he whispered. Stepping back, he faced Kendra. Her face closed down in lines of determination. Already, he had lost her to those old beliefs. He brushed his lips across her stiff cheek, and felt her strength waver. Quickly, he let her go. It would not do for her to lose her resolve now. She would need it in the days, weeks, and years to come.
Kendra watched as the wizards flanked her husband and led him out of the tiny shack they’d hidden away in while deciding what to do. Their choices had been made. Percival vanished into the bright morning sun with the wizards who were intent upon bringing justice to the world. Kendra disappeared behind the cold façade she’d thought she’d freed herself from upon meeting Percival. Abuela’s voice rang through her mind, and pierced her heart.
“You cannot trust, Kendra. People do horrible things to one another. It is better to be alone than pay for your love with your life.”
Payment had come due.
A/N- A special thanks to morgana at eHPF for doing the beta work, extra help, and believing in me.
Thanks also to reallyginny and JLHufflepuff for encouraging me to do this, as well as all the brilliant authors at eHPF. You are the best and brightest of this site!
Chapter 7: Hannah Abbott Longbottom: Heirloom
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Hannah Abbott Longbottom: Heirloom
The gleaming mahogany chest sat on the dresser. Hannah Abbott Longbottom ran her fingers over the smooth surface, admiring the inlaid wooden design on the top before carefully opening it. She lifted the top and fingered the heart shaped, gold locket that hung on a hook there. She pulled it out and gently polished it with a cloth. Her mind flashed back to when she was a little girl and watching her mother do the same thing.
“Can I wear it, Mum?” the little girl with the white, blonde hair asked.
“Not tonight, love. Your dad is taking me out to dinner. Gram is going to come and stay with you. But one day you’ll get to wear this necklace, too. My mum gave it to me on my sixteenth birthday, and her mum gave it to her on her sixteenth birthday. When you turn sixteen, you’ll get it too, love.”
The little girl watched as her mum fastened the clasp behind her neck with nimble fingers, her nails a shiny red. She looked down at her own fingernails. Mum had painted them a pretty pink shade when she did her own this afternoon. No one could ever be prettier than her mum. Her dark blonde hair was flowing freely over her shoulders in soft waves, and her makeup had been deftly applied with a brush enchanted with a wave of her mother’s wand. The midnight blue velvet robes she was wearing brought out the blue in her eyes. Her mother turned and smiled at her.
“I used to watch my mum get ready for an evening out as well.” She reached out and fingered a curly pigtail on her daughter’s head. “Only she never used a wand,” she said with a wink as she picked hers up and flicked it toward the cosmetics on the counter and they quickly put themselves away in the cabinet.
“What was it like being a Muggle?” the little girl asked again. She never tired of hearing about all the things that Muggles had to do for themselves.
Her mother laughed. It was her favourite sound in the world. It sounded like tinkling glass, or fairy bells, and it made her feel safe and loved. “Very similar to what your life is like, darling. I played and laughed, and had to clean my room by hand, just like you.” She bent down and kissed her daughter on the top of her head.
“Eve? Are you ready, love?” She heard her father call up the stairs.
“Just about. Well, Hannah, dear, how do I look?”
“Like a princess, Mummy,” she said with a smile.
“Well, then, I think I must be ready. Be a good girl for Grams. I’ll see you in the morning.” Hannah watched as her mother left the room after kissing her one more time.
The sound of something crashing brought Hannah out of her reverie. She walked into the other room to see Neville muttering under his breath and waving his wand to pick up the pieces of the vase that he’d knocked off the table.
”Is everything all right, dear?” she said with a slight smirk.
“Who put this table here?”
“You did, love, when we moved in years ago.” She bent down to pick up the picture frame that had also been knocked off the table by the overly large box he’d been levitating into the room. She smiled as she looked at the face of their daughter laughing back at her. Her daughter’s laugh was so like her mother’s. She loved to make her laugh. Every time she heard it she felt her mother’s presence nearby embracing her. She felt something small and cool in her hand and looked down to see that she still held the locket in her hand.
“It’s yours now, love. Happy Birthday!” Hannah had opened the black velvet box knowing what was inside of it. She’d been waiting for her sixteenth birthday her whole life just so she could finally have the locket. She opened it up to see a small, still photo of her mother as an infant looking out at her on one side, and a small moving photograph of herself as an infant on the other. The only real way to distinguish the difference between the two infants was that one was a Muggle photo. She had lost track of how many times people had commented on how much she looked like her mother. She felt so pleased to be compared to her, though she didn’t think she’d ever be so beautiful.
“Thank you, Mum. I’ve waited my whole life for this.” She closed the locket again, and saw the engraved rose on the front, accented by the tiny diamond chips. She knew it wasn’t a truly valuable piece of jewellery. Not monetarily at least, but the history and love with which it came were priceless.
“Wear it well, my dear. And if you should be blessed with a daughter, then you can pass it on to her when she turns sixteen.” Her mother had beamed at her; her eyes glistening with unshed tears. She reached up and touched her daughter’s cheek. “I can’t wait to see you with your own children.”
Hannah wiped a tear surreptitiously, but not before Neville noticed.
“What’s wrong, love?” he asked, closing the gap between them.
“Nothing. I’m just remembering my mum,” she responded holding up the locket to show him. “She would have loved being a grand mum to Evelyn and Jordan. I’m sorry she didn’t have the chance to meet them.”
Neville wrapped his arms around her and kissed the top of her head. “I’m sure she’s watching over them.”
Hannah looked up and kissed him before going back into the bedroom. She walked over to a bookshelf that was against the wall and pulled down a photo album. She flipped through the pages until she found the one she was looking for. It was a favourite photo of their daughter as a baby, just learning to sit by herself with a huge toothless grin on her face. She picked her wand up and pointed it at the photograph. “Geminio,” she whispered, and an exact replica appeared. She then waved her wand at the replica and shrank it down so that it would fit inside the locket.
Opening the locket, she carefully removed her mother’s infant photo and replaced it with her daughter’s. She gently placed the locket in the same black velvet box that she had opened on her sixteenth birthday, only a month before her mother had been killed. Then she wrapped it in brightly patterned paper. She pulled out a piece of parchment and a quill and sat down at the desk in their room. She paused trying to decide on the right words to say. She looked across the room and saw her reflection in the mirror. She looked so much like her own mum. She was now a year older than her mother had been when she was killed.
She closed her eyes, remembering that horrible day. She’d only been back at Hogwarts for two weeks when Professor Sprout had summoned her out of Transfiguration class and escorted her to the Headmaster’s office. She’d never before been up the spiral staircase that moved them of its own accord ever upward to the door that led to the inner sanctum of Professor Dumbledore.
“Ah, Miss Abbott, please, sit down,” Professor Dumbledore had said as he waved his good hand toward an empty chair opposite his desk. Most of the students had noticed that the Headmaster’s hand had been badly injured and there were many speculations as to how, but she hadn’t seen it up close before now. She quickly looked away. She looked around the office at the strange objects that cluttered the room. A cabinet to the side was giving off an eerie glow. The walls that surrounded her had the portraits of previous headmasters all gazing at her with sad looks in their eyes.
She didn’t remember Professor Dumbledore ever speaking to her directly before. What could she possibly have done to be called into the Headmaster’s office? She hadn’t done well on her Charms exam the day before, but surely that wasn’t reason enough to be summoned here. She nervously sat down in the chair and with a shaking hand straightened her robes and then grasped them firmly together to try to hide how uncomfortable she felt being here.
With a nod from Professor Sprout who had come to stand behind her she looked at Professor Dumbledore and waited for him to speak. His eyes were kind, but didn’t have the usual twinkle in them. He peered at her over the top of his half-moon spectacles. Then he reached for a bowl that was on his desk and offered it to her.
“Lemon drop?” he offered. She tried to open her mouth to decline, but it wouldn’t cooperate so she simply shook her head. He set the bowl back down on his desk, took a long breath and looked at her again. “Miss Abbott, I’m afraid it is my sad duty to inform you that your mother was killed last night by Death Eaters.”
Hannah knew Professor Sprout put her hand on her shoulder and gave it a squeeze, but she didn’t feel it. She looked at Professor Dumbledore, but did not see him; the sound of the large phoenix shuffling on his perch did nothing to stop the ringing in her ears. “Your mother was killed last night by Death Eaters…Death Eaters…Death…Eaters.”
Professor Sprout came around and sat in a chair next to her and took her hand in hers. Hannah turned unseeing eyes toward her Head of House. “Hannah, dear, we’ve arranged a Portkey to send you directly to your home. We’ve been informed that Aurors are on the scene to offer protection to you and your father.” She reached up and put her hand under Hannah’s chin tilting her face so that she could see into her eyes. “Is there anything I can do for you, dear?”
Hannah blinked then. She saw a tear escape Professor Sprout’s eye and watched as it slowly made its way down to her chin. She reached up to her own cheek and wondered where her own tears were. Surely she should be crying. Why wasn’t she crying? Why wasn’t she screaming obscenities? Her heart felt as if a serpent was coiled around it, squeezing tighter and tighter. If it squeezed anymore then surely her heart would stop beating altogether.
“Miss Abbott, the Portkey will leave in thirty minutes. Professor Sprout will help you to pack,” Professor Dumbledore said in his quiet manner. “I’m truly sorry for your loss. I remember your mother when she was a student here. This is a tragedy. If there’s anything I, or the other staff here, can do for you, please let us know.”
Hannah simply nodded at the Headmaster, not trusting herself to speak. Professor Sprout led her down the spiral staircase and back down the corridors and staircases to the Hufflepuff dormitories.
“Do you need any help packing your things, dear?”
“No…no thank you,” Hannah said, her voice cracking as she spoke for the first time. Numbly she walked up the stairs to the room she shared with the other sixth year girls. She opened the door and saw Susan sitting on her bed, the blue curtains pulled back to let the light from the lamps in. She had her Transfiguration book open on the bed in front of her.
Susan glanced up when Hannah came in, and was startled to see the look on her best friend’s face. She jumped up and ran to her, grasping Hannah’s cold hands in her own and leading her to her own bed.
“Hannah! What’s wrong? Why did Professor Sprout call you out of class?”
Hannah looked at her friend and saw the love and worry in her eyes. It was then that her own eyes began to sting. She felt the prickles of tears beginning to form, the lump in her throat was growing larger by the second, and surely by now the serpent around her heart was ready to end her torture as it squeezed ever tighter. She hoped for the relief of her heart giving up the fight to continue beating despite being constricted so.
“My mum… Death Eaters… gone.” It was all she managed to get out before collapsing into her friend’s arms.
Hannah felt the tears fall onto her hands where they rested on the blank parchment. She waved her wand and a handkerchief flew across the room and she used it to dry her face and to wipe the blots on the parchment. It had been a while since she had cried over her mother’s death. Time had eased the pain, as it usually does. There were still times, however, 25 years later when it all came rushing back at her; when the grief was too much. She looked over at the photograph of her wedding day that was in an engraved silver frame on her dresser. It was not a photograph of her and Neville, though. She had a formal portrait of the two of them hanging in a frame on the wall of the sitting room. This one was a candid shot taken by Susan of Hannah with her father. It was her favourite photo of the two of them. She watched as her father fastened the clasp of the golden locket around her neck and beamed at his daughter, with all the love he felt for her obvious in his gaze. As she watched the scene replay itself over and over, she could still hear his words of encouragement.
“You look beautiful, darling,” he said as he came into the room after she was dressed. Susan had helped to put her hair up in a careful twist. Using her wand to softly curl the tendrils left around her face. She looked up into her father’s eyes and saw the unshed tears glistening there. “So much like your mother, you are,” he whispered.
She gave him a watery smile, “Don’t make me cry, Daddy. It’ll mess up my face.”
“Impossible! Nothing could mess up that beautiful face. Neville is a lucky man.”
“I think I’m the lucky one,” she’d replied, glancing down at the modest sapphire ring on her left hand. Despite the certainty she felt in her decision to marry Neville, she noticed the shaking in her hand and picking up the locket had handed it to her father. “Would you put this on for me? I’m not sure I can at the moment.”
“I’d love to.” Her father struggled slightly, trying to fasten the small clasp with his large fingers. He could have used his wand, but real magic would have ruined the already magical moment he was sharing with his little girl. “Your mother wore this necklace on our wedding day. She was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen… until now.”
He leaned down and kissed her on the top of head. “She’d be so proud of you, love. Don’t ever forget that.”
Hannah looked at the wrapped box and then at the blank parchment and began to write.
My darling Evie,
It’s hard to believe that it’s been sixteen years since I first held you in my arms. You were so beautiful, all eyes and cheeks. I’d never seen anything so perfect as you. I’ve never told you this before, but the day you were born, I was so scared. The thought of another person’s life being completely in my care was so daunting, and I didn’t have my own mother to help me through it. The second you were placed in my arms though, I felt such peace, and I knew then, my mum was there with me. I could feel her. I know it sounds superstitious, but knowing that Mum was watching over us, that she wasn’t going to miss the important moments in your life, was a great comfort to me. My grandmother gave my mother this locket on her sixteenth birthday. Mum gave it to me on my sixteenth birthday, just a month before she died. And now, dear, it is your turn. I’ve watched you learn to crawl, walk, run, and even to fly. Very soon, you will be on your own, but for now, you are still my little girl. I hope that someday you will be blessed with a daughter of your own and will pass this locket on to her.
Have a wonderful birthday, darling.
All my love,
Hannah wiped yet another tear as she folded the letter, picked up the wax stick and melted it a bit with her wand and then, using the seal with the badger and lion entwined together, sealed it shut. She turned it over, and in her smooth, swirling script wrote on the front: Evelyn Alice Longbottom, Hogwarts.
Despite the fact that Neville would be going to Hogwarts in the morning for his classes, Hannah took the small package and the letter, and tied them firmly to the leg of their owl, Persephone. She opened the window, handed the owl a treat and whispered quietly, “Take this to our girl.” She watched as the wide, brown wings spread and gracefully took to the sky, taking the heart locket with it, knowing that her heart had been given away sixteen years ago already. As she watched, she saw a star shoot past just beyond Persephone. She smiled, nodded and whispered, “I love you too, Mum.”
***A/N ~ According to the Lexicon, Hannah Abbott’s mother died around September 14, 1996. Her birthday is not listed, but in honour of my dear friend Em’s (aka emz on HPFF) 16th birthday, which is August 15, that is now Hannah’s birthday in my story. Happy Birthday, Em dear, your Sweet 16 helped inspire the path this story took.
A big thank you to momotwins for beta’ing this story. She rocks! Also, another huge thank you to NevillesSoulmate for the beautiful chapter image. I’m truly awed by the other chapters in this story. The members of eHPF are all truly talented writers. I’m honoured to be able to call them friends and to be a part of this collaboration. If you’ve liked our chapters, please feel free to stop by our individual author pages to see what else we’ve written.
Chapter 8: Angelina Johnson: Getting Out of Bed
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“Oh, this night is too long
Have no strength to go on
No more pain I'm floating away
Through the mist I see the face
Of an angel, calls my name
I remember you're the reason I have to stay”
Pale – Within Temptation
Inside the great castle walls a war was ravaging its very foundation, a battle that would later be known as good versus evil, prejudice versus tolerance. Angelina Johnson found herself in the midst of this very war. She was proud to stand up against the hatred that had been brewing for many years since Salazar Slytherin had been one of the four founders of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The hatred had then been passed on through his descendents including a very dark wizard named Tom Riddle, whom later changed his name to Lord Voldemort. The hatred grew and was spread amongst the wizarding community dividing pureblood wizards from Muggle born wizards, and the pure bloods that supported them. Now seventeen years after Lord Voldemort was destroyed when he cast a spell on an innocent infant, he was back with his followers in an attempt to finish what he had started.
Angelina was against these many followers known as Death Eaters. With each spell she cast, she thought about the life she had lived. She remembered each of the happy moments that had made this battle worth fighting in. She thought about receiving her first letter from Hogwarts. She thought about when she tried out for the Quidditch team and made it. She thought about the moments of pure laughter she spent with Katie Bell and Alicia Spinnet, her two very best friends. She remembered the most romantic moments spent alone with Fred Weasley, the man who only hours before had gotten down on one knee to propose. These were moments that she felt defined her life, the moments she thought would forever decide exactly who she was. In an instant those moments paled in comparison to the life she was about to face alone. She heard the scream, she saw the wall fall, and she watched the love of her life crushed beneath it. Fred Weasley, her fiancé, was dead.
She dropped her wand when he had fallen and she ran to him, screaming. People yelled out for her, watching the many curses that missed her by only inches. There was no stopping her as she frantically tried to resuscitate him. Her attempt proved fruitless; he was gone. She felt strong hands wrap their arms around her and pull her away from the scene, whispering gentle calming words in her ear. She turned in Lee Jordan’s arms and cried with abandon against his solid chest. He lifted her off the ground and followed Alicia down the hall to an unoccupied classroom. Alicia performed a charm and a flask appeared with a potion inside. She forced Angelina to drink it, and a calming sensation overcame the young witch.
As the days passed, Angelina refused to leave the refuge of her bed. She turned away all of her visitors, including her parents. She slept wrapped in Fred’s old shirt, ignoring the fact that the scent of him was beginning to fade on the old, worn fabric. The only time she left her bed was to go into the bathroom where she would expel any of the food or drink her mother had forced down her throat. Then she would cry until she was back in her bed and could succumb to her exhaustion.
Each time she slipped from consciousness, she relived the moments that she had shared with Fred. Each memory seemed fresh in her mind, as though to keep reminding her that she would never find true happiness again. She felt she would remain a hollow shell forever.
After another trip to the loo, she climbed back into her bed and willed herself back to sleep. Her mind transported her back to a day that she had always hoped she would never forget.
Fred was sitting on the small bench in the Hogwarts courtyard. His head was buried in the only book that she ever remembered seeing him read. “Twelve Fail-Safe Ways to Charm Witches,” Angelina read aloud with disbelief laced in her voice.
He snapped the book closed and looked at her as red crept across his pale face. “Just looking for some light reading,” he said casually.
“Who do you want to charm?” she asked, pretending to tease him but deep down wishing he’d say it was her.
“McGonagall of course,” he teased her back. “If only she would return my feelings of love.”
Angelina smiled, though she felt sad that he hadn’t said her. She turned her attention to the other students in the courtyard. Further off, she saw Percy pick up the quill that Penelope had dropped, and he was rewarded with a kiss. She truly wished for this to be her and Fred.
“Percy is such a prat,” Fred commented, obviously having witnessed the tender moment Angelina had been watching.
“Your book is failing you,” Angelina snapped as she stood up and started to walk away.
Fred was dumbfounded for a moment. “Whoa, Ange,” he called after her. “What did I do?”
She turned back. “You are so insensitive Fred. How could I have thought you would actually care for a girl, let alone be romantic?”
“Would you rather I did this?” Fred asked, as he lowered his mouth to hers and tenderly kissed her.
Angelina awoke to her mother placing a tray of food on the bed. “Time to eat dear,” the elder witch said.
Angelina opened her eyes and the light from the sun burned her retinas causing an instant headache to begin pulsating inside her skull. She tried to close them again, but her mother was persistent. “You’re wasting away.”
“It’s my life, and I can waste away if I want to,” Angelina said irritably, as she pulled the quilt back over her head.
Her mother pulled the blanket away and looked at her daughter with tear filled eyes. “I know you’re hurting right now, but not eating won’t bring him back. Your suffering cannot wake the dead.”
Angelina gave up trying to fight, as she was too weak anymore to do anything. She chewed slowly on the bread her mother handed her and then swallowed the lukewarm tea. Her stomach rolled with nausea as she finished. She lay back on her pillow and closed her eyes again.
She needed to escape reality once more and return to the dreams that brought her back to him. The dreams that made her remember why she loved him so deeply. As she slowly drifted off, a smile played upon her lips.
The bright sun glistened across the Quidditch pitch with not a cloud in the sky to hide behind. Not even a gentle breeze could relieve the heat. However, it was the perfect weather for a game, as Oliver Wood, the captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team, had pointed out. Slytherin was against Gryffindor in a game that would decide whether Gryffindor would take the cup for the first time in seven years.
Angelina soared through the air on her broomstick, trying to focus on the game and not the very attractive red head that was flying circles around the pitch. Things were tense, and she had a feeling this was going to be a very intense and possibly dangerous game, as the enmity between Slytherin and Gryffindor had grown even stronger.
However, Angelina managed to score the first goal of the game, and she felt filled with euphoria as her eyes met Fred’s and he winked at her as a smile pulled at the corners of his mouth. It was short-lived however when Marcus Flint, the captain of the Slytherin team, purposely slammed into her, causing her to almost fall from her broom.
A second later Fred retaliated by whipping the club in his hands directly at Flint’s head. It hit him from behind and sent his face into his broom, which made his nose bleed. Even though Gryffindor received a penalty for this, Angelina didn’t care. All that mattered to her was that Fred cared enough to hit another guy over the head for her.
She made eye contact with him again, and he was looking at her with concern, like he wanted to fly over and make sure nothing was broken. Instead he settled for accepting her smile. He blew a kiss in her direction before focussing his attention back on the game.
In the end Harry caught the snitch, which ended the game with a win for Gryffindor. Angelina could already hear the beginning of the celebration, as Gryffindors, and even Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws, were cheering loudly.
Fred immediately came to her side. “Are you okay?” he asked as his eyes did a visual check.
“I’m fine, but thanks for looking out for me,” she said gently.
“I wish I could have done a little more damage to Flint. Where does he get off trying to hurt you?”
“You know Slytherins don’t play by the rules. I’m fine, and I would rather you didn’t end up in Azkaban over me.”
“It would be worth it. You matter so much to me.”
“You matter to me t…” she couldn’t finish what she was saying as he dipped his mouth to hers. She felt her knees go weak at the way his lips felt on hers. She had found Heaven on Earth.
On the tenth day following Fred’s death, Angelina had yet another visitor. George Weasley opened the bedroom door and sat down on the chair in the corner of the room. He waited for Angelina to wake up, crying silently as he looked at his dead brother’s broken fiancé. After an hour he saw her small body stir on the large queen sized mattress. She rolled over and looked in the corner of the room. “Fred,” she whispered and his heart broke. She sat up quickly and stared through her foggy haze.
“I’m sorry Angie,” George spoke softly. The whimper that escaped her lips felt like a hex to the stomach. She began to cry harder as she looked at the man that was identical to the love of her life in almost every way, except that he wasn’t him and never would be.
“I missed you at the funeral,” George said gently, as he moved closer to her.
“I’m sorry,” she replied. “I just couldn’t face them. I don’t want to face anyone.”
“Hiding from the world won’t make your life without him any easier. Believe me, I’ve tried.”
“I can’t do this right now. I can’t deal with the fact that he is gone.”
“When are you going to be ready to deal with it?”
“When I choose to be,” she snapped. Her dark eyes slipped from anger to sadness again and tears started to fall down her face. “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be angry with you. I know you’re trying to help.”
George took a moment to observe the young witch that was sitting before him. She was so much thinner than she had been only ten days before. Any joy that used to be present on her face, or in her eyes, was gone. Instead, her eyes were hollow, and her face was stoic. The underbelly of her eyes was swollen from the many tears she had cried over her loss. He couldn’t begin to imagine the depth of pain she must be experiencing, and he decided he didn’t even want to try.
“Can I go back to sleep now?” she asked gently. Her voice wavered and he could tell she was very weak.
“I think it would be better if you came with me. I don’t want to leave you here like this.”
Angelina seemed to consider this for a moment but the fear of leaving her bed won out, and she politely refused to go. She asked if perhaps another time would work for him.
He asked again, as she caught sight of the unshed tears that were glistening in his eyes. She frowned and dropped her body back down on the mattress. Her head sunk into her feather down pillow, and she knew if she tried she could go back to sleep in only seconds where she would once again relive her memories of him.
“I don’t think so,” she answered. She knew he was trying to help her, but she felt it was pointless as nothing could help. Nothing would fill the empty void that consumed her.
“Come on Angie. You’re stronger than this. I know you are. I’ve seen it.”
“I appreciate that you believe that, but I really don’t have the energy right now.”
George frowned. He set something down on the bed next to her and left. Angelina let her curiousity get the better of her and she opened the parchment.
If you’re reading this it is because I didn’t make it through the war. I asked George to give this to you. It is a few reminders of what we had and the people that I know are going to be there to help you through it. George will be strong for you if you can’t be, Alicia will talk you through anything and cry with you when you need her to. Katie will help you plot ridiculous schemes and make you smile. Lee will remind you of the good times when the pain gets to be too much. My mother will cook for you and hug you tighter than you’ll have ever felt. Please let these people help you. They want to, and I want to know that you are surviving this. I love you so much, and I hate that I won’t be there to spend my life with you. I never thought this would ever be a reality, or maybe I didn’t want to believe it. Since it is, the only thing I can do is give you one last look at what we had and provide you with a chance to let go.
I thought I would share my favourite memory of us. It was the night of the Yule Ball. You looked so beautiful in your long, dark red dress, with your hair pulled back. I wanted to kiss you right then and there, but I knew you, or Katie and Alicia, would hex me for messing up your hair or makeup. So, instead, I opted to admire just how amazing you looked. That night as you danced wildly in my arms, I knew I was madly in love with you. I decided then that I never wanted to hold anyone else the way I held you. You truly were my angel. Later, when you and I slept together for the first time, I knew you were the woman I was going to spend my life with. The good news is that you were the woman I spent my life with. I can’t be the man that does that for you, but I want you to be happy. Please find happiness and love where you can. You deserve it.
I don’t really have much else to say. I’m not good at dealing with my emotions, but you know that. Please take care of George. You are both sharing in this pain, and if you hang onto each other, I have faith that you’ll both survive.
Goodbye Angel, I’ll love you forever and always. Fred
As Angelina read the last word on the parchment, she pressed her face into her pillow as her whole body shook. She choked on her sobs. These were his last words to her. She felt like the strongest of Cruciatus curses had been cast upon her. She was in agony. Memories flew through her mind. She remembered the taste of his kiss and the gentle way his fingers caressed her bare skin. She could still hear the sound of his laboured breathing and the way he’d whisper her name as they came together. He had always been gentle with her, always so considerate and loving. She felt even emptier as she realized no man could ever touch her the same way. No man could possibly make her yearn for him the way Fred always did. He filled her life in so many ways, and now her life had nothing that could bring her joy. She imagined she might never laugh or smile again.
She crawled to the window and looked out at the empty garden. Her mind filled with images of the moments they spent out there together. She wanted to die, but at the same time she knew she had to live for him.
Slowly and with great effort, she wrapped her dressing gown around her shoulders and went downstairs and out into the sunlight. The heat felt almost unbearable at first and the brightness of the sun’s rays burned her eyes as she had become so immune to the darkness.
She wandered further, as her eyes scanned the breathtaking landscape. Nothing had changed since she had last walked through the narrow pathway that led her to the edge of the forest. The world had continued around her, unfazed by her broken heart. This reality slammed against her and she dropped to her knees as she continued to cry with abandon. She had no idea how she was going to live without him. He had been her life for so long, and now she would never have him to rely on. She had to be strong for herself and that scared her more than anything.
She dragged herself up from the ground, fighting the nausea that was overtaking her. She tried to push away the sadness that clouded her mind. She had to keep going for him. For the life he died for. Every muscle in her body tried to fight her will to go on. Pain ripped through her, but she took one step at a time as she walked further towards the tree line.
She pulled her wand out of the pocket of her gown and cast a Patronus that would go straight to George. Within minutes she knew he would be back for her and would help her to begin her life again. She had four amazing friends that would help her pick back up the fragmented pieces of her life. It was time to escape the safety of her bed and the dreams that would forever remind her of the love she lost. However, she was comforted in knowing some day those memories would not bring sadness and tears, but a smile at what she had had.
A/N: Thank you to Ron Hermione Forever 246 for making sure there were no mistakes.
Disclaimer: I don’t own anything to do with Harry Potter.
Chapter 9: Bellatrix Lestrange: Meeting
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Bellatrix Lestrange: Meeting
I watched my face in the mirror intently for a while, and then I added some more mascara, just for a good measure. I wanted to look my best. Or rather, my sexiest. And no, I was not going on a first date with my new boyfriend. The people I wanted to impress today were twenty years older than me. They were my husband’s old schoolmates.
I gritted my teeth. I didn’t want to go to that bloody meeting in the first place. I had no idea why Rodolphus insisted so much. He could be so headstrong sometimes. The character trait I chose him for in the first place... It had seemed to be impressive, compared to the stupid mildness of my schoolmates. Now, it was just irritating. A year after the wedding, and I couldn’t stand my husband already.
I checked the whole picture. Yes, it was all right. Not too trashy – not like Andy, with her terrible habit to dress like a Hogwarts resident whore whenever she wasn’t required to wear the uniform – but not too conservative, like Cissy, who seemed to think that showing her ankle was something highly inappropriate. Enough to get that group of middle-aged men to their knees.
I turned to the house-elf. “Tell my husband I am prepared.”
She disappeared and I sat down to the only armchair in the room. Really, a husband. Rather my last resort, after facing the very real possibility of becoming an old maid, which was obvious to me after a couple of years at school. Before the wedding, and shortly after, I really had thought him to be worthy of me... Andy warned me against this arranged marriage, telling me that I was making the biggest mistake of my life. But still, even after finding out that Rodolphus wasn’t the impressive person he had seemed to be originally, I couldn’t quite agree with her.
The elf reappeared. “Master is awaiting you in the hall, Mistress.”
I got up and descended the stairs, repeating, for what felt like the thousandth time in the last year, the reasons for which I married him. I didn’t know whether Andy had expected me to have a crush on a schoolmate, exactly the thing she had done so often. If she did, she didn’t know me as well as she thought. I, unlike her, hadn’t liked going out with boys that were below my level. Salazar, I hadn’t even liked going out with boys who were on my level, as I had proved by breaking up with Lucius. And, unfortunately, there had been no one above my level in the whole school. There had been some people among my parent’s friends, but I hadn’t known them that well, and that was why I had asked my parents to recommend someone. They had introduced me to a couple of men, and I had chosen Rodolphus. He had been the eldest, and so he had seemed to be the most interesting. And there he was, in the hall, in his perfect, black robes, as dumb as ever.
“Shall we, my dearest?” he asked, and I only nodded.
Why did I want to get married right after school again? I asked myself, still furious that he made me spend an evening with his stupid friends. It was probably because I knew that living under my parent’s roof would be humiliating, and that I couldn’t endure their constant caring. Also, the ‘married’ status was somehow more respectable than ‘single’, and I always wanted all the respect that was there to be had. There was no point in waiting. I wouldn’t find anyone worthy of me; the idiots like Rodolphus were the best that was there to get. So now, I was playing a good wife, knowing that he adored me and would do anything for me.
He escorted me through the door, and he side-along Apparated me to a place I didn’t know.
It seemed to be pretty ancient and to belong to a very rich family, too. One thing was definite: it was not a bar. Strange, I always though that men had their after-school meetings in bars, drinking themselves into oblivion. Not that I ever saw Rodolphus drink into oblivion, but that didn’t mean much – I hadn’t known him very well before the wedding, and he lived in another part of the house anyway, so I wouldn’t hear him coming home.
A house-elf appeared. Apparently, one of my husband’s schoolmates had invited us to his own house.
“Master awaits you,” he announced and led us through the hallway and to a tall door. He opened it for us. Rodolphus entered first – quite surprising, he never used to be impolite – and even more surprisingly, he fell to his knees. I was rather confused, to tell the truth, and I scanned the room. People in dark cloaks were sitting around it in comfortably looking armchairs, and right before us, a strange looking man with a mask-like face was drinking from his cup. He was radiating with confidence; he obviously had the entire room on his command. There was something about his calm demeanour that proved it.
He put the cup on a small table and said quietly, in a rather high voice, “You may stand up, Rodolphus.” There was something about his voice, something immensely charming. It was like an order, but still, not that rude: it was soft, in a way, and I was angry that my husband wasn’t getting up quickly enough.
“Did you bring her?” that beautiful voice asked.
“Yes. My Lord, I would like you to meet my wife, Bellatrix Lestrange.”
He turned to me and looked into my eyes with his, and it was with an intensity I had never experienced before. I felt like drowning in the darkness of his gaze.
“Bellatrix,” my husband continued, “I’d like you to meet Lord Voldemort.”
Lord Voldemort smiled, and it was a strange smile, mysterious somehow. It enchanted me, and he said, “It is very nice to meet you. I am glad you could join us for this evening.” It couldn’t be more obvious that he wasn’t at all awed by my beauty, that he wasn’t intimidated in the least bit by my pride, by my power. Unheard of.
He turned to the rest of the room. “Now, when the party is complete, we can set off. We will be Apparating to Sloane Square. Does everyone know where to go?”
I nodded immediately and he left the room. All the men turned to follow him, and I all but ran out through the door, forgetting Rodolphus completely. I didn’t want to lose Lord Voldemort. I wanted to see that smile again, to hear that voice. I was intrigued by him. Why was he a sudden king of those men? We were in the hallway again, and he turned on the spot and disappeared. I did the same.
I appeared next to him on a dark, almost deserted square, frightening some Muggles who were passing by. I didn’t think about the Statute of Secrecy for a minute. The man next to me seemed to be above such things.
The other men started to appear, Rodolphus among them. In the light of a street lamp, I recognized some other faces. There was Dolohov, Nott next to him, and Rosier at the other side of Lord Voldemort. It was a real high society over here, and that made Lord Voldemort’s rule over them even more intriguing. I knew all of these men from the balls and banquets I attended with my family and with my husband. Apart from them, there were more or less ten unidentifiable people. Then Lord Voldemort spoke again, and I forgot all about them.
“Let’s go,” he said, and marched down the King’s Road with me right behind him. I didn’t know what it was that was so fascinating about this man, that I didn’t question anything he said or did – a sharp contrast to my husband.
He turned to one of the side streets and I was after him. He came to a sudden halt in front of an ordinary looking building.
“Here we are,” he said. “You know what to do. The middle-aged man is the Mudblood, then there’s his Muggle wife, his filthy children, and his Muggle parents. I trust you to manage this.”
Three men approached the door and unlocked it. I didn’t see their faces in the dark. Lord Voldemort then turned to me.
“I have a special task just for you and me, Bellatrix. Oh, and Rodolphus can go with us, too.”
I couldn’t hold my excitement. He was talking directly to me!
“The Mudblood has a sister, the same filth he is, but she has a wizard husband. Let’s show him what happens to people who marry filth...”
I nodded, eager to prove myself to him, because I could hear soft taunting in his tone, as if he doubted me.
He entered the house and led the way upstairs with me behind him, my husband forgotten once again. Finally, we came to a flat door, which Lord Voldemort opened and turned to me.
“It’s up to you, Bellatrix.”
“What do you want me to do, my Lord?” Somehow, this title was just appropriate for him. For once, Rodolphus was right.
“Just kill the Mudblood. It’s the best we can do to them. But I’d like to see some torture of the wizard... I want him to remember that what he did was really wrong.”
I only nodded and entered the apartment, walking as quietly as possible. It was going to be much easier when they were asleep. I don’t really know why I didn’t even hesitate. I’d never killed anyone before. Maybe it was because of that voice, soft, ordering me to do it, giving me the right, but doubting I was able to at the same time.
I walked silently into the bedroom, Lord Voldemort and my husband behind me, and I scanned the scene. The couple was sleeping peacefully in their huge bed, not a worry on their calm faces. I turned back to Lord Voldemort and saw expectation in his dark eyes, but there was doubt, too, very much doubt. I wasn’t used to being doubted, and I wanted to prove myself to him, especially to him, very much. Let’s see... he apparently wanted to see the couple suffer... They probably did something to him, I guessed, and he just didn’t want to share it with me. Naturally, why should he? Obviously, they had done something to infuriate him, and they deserved to be punished.
I nonverbally placed the silencing spell on the room. Then, I Summoned the ropes to tie husband and wife, and I woke them up. They shouted and tried to grab their wands, but they couldn’t. I charmed the husband’s eyes permanently open and used my wand to direct him opposite his wife. I turned to her, then, and said quietly and confidently, thinking about the unknown thing they’d done to Lord Voldemort.
And she was dead. Just like that. She deserved it, little bitch, I was confident of that, otherwise Lord Voldemort wouldn’t want me to do her in.
The husband cried out, and it sounded as if he was in pain. I turned back to him.
“Why did you cry?” I asked him. “You had no reason. She was no good to you. But don’t worry, I’m going to give you a reason right now...”
And with my eyes turned to Lord Voldemort, to the praise and approval I wanted to see in his face, I said: “Crucio!”
I could feel it wasn’t very strong at first. After all, it was the first time I had done it, but then I drank in Lord Voldemort’s eyes, his delight, and the curse gained strength, and the more delighted he was, the stronger the curse grew, and the stronger the curse, the more delighted Lord Voldemort...
“Enough,” he said then, quietly. “He would end up insane.” His voice was even more pleasant now, the taunting gone.
He turned to the man. “Remember this lesson. Wizards do not marry filth.”
With that, we left the room.
We met the rest of the group on the stairs, all nodding to express that everything went according to plan. We left the house, then, and that was when Aurors attacked. They Apparated right in front of us, attacking without hesitation. There was a huge number of them, most of the department probably, and despite the fact that I was a very skilled dueller, as I watched them coming I really thought we were goners.
That was before I saw Lord Voldemort jump into action. The magic he performed was something I had never seen before, as he turned and attacked, without even using his wand, creating a wall of fire to make them retreat. I tore my eyes away from him and started to fight. I duelled three Aurors at once, firing only the killing curses – anything else would be a waste of time, I didn’t want them to wake up suddenly behind my back. There weren’t many left behind the fire barrier, and Lord Voldemort kept that up while fighting with five others. He was unbelievably powerful.
With my humble help, and that of the others, of course, he vanquished them after a short fight, making them Apparate back. They had several deaths – all of those that had been left behind the barrier for us to fight with them and some who were consumed by the fire, too. Lord Voldemort was furious, livid. He turned to us and his eyes were gleaming red.
“Who gave them an alert? Someone must have done. They knew we were here.”
He turned around, and I felt him breaking into my mind with huge strength, and mind you, I wasn’t a bad Occlumens. He rummaged through my memories and then was gone, and he turned to Rodolphus, and to Avery, and to each of them. He was unbelievably strong, and I realized I didn’t mind him going through my head at all, although I would have killed anyone else, my husband included, for trying to do so. No, he wasn’t impressed with power. I was impressed with his, and I felt like never before. I wanted to give myself to him, to give him my entire life. Now the question wasn’t whether he was worthy of me but whether I was worthy of him. I was afraid. I was insecure. For the first time in my life, I didn’t know if I passed the test, and I would give everything to be sure that I did. I desired nothing more then the approval of those dark eyes, and I would go to hell for it.
He turned from the last of us and stood in though for a moment, and then: “That filthy bastard!”
He ran up the stairs, and I followed behind him, wanting to know what would happen next. He returned to the flat we were in, and the wizard I had tortured lay there on the bed. Lord Voldemort grasped the wizard’s shoulders, looked directly into his eyes, and then his fury came out like a wave and the wizard was dead.
Lord Voldemort turned to us, his eyes still gleaming red. “He called the ministry. I don’t know how they managed to get that many people to Apparate here so quickly. Maybe they had a late meeting,” he smiled coldly, “to discuss some of our latest actions, and so they were all there.” He smiled again. “Never mind that. He won’t bother us again, and the Aurors were taught a lesson. We’re returning to Avery’s now.”
And he Disapparated. I was just a second behind him.
Gathered in the drawing room again, we all sat down, and Lord Voldemort spoke, his eyes dark again.
“That went quite well. Actually, I am very glad that the Aurors came. It made it a bit more interesting. Now, Bellatrix, could you come here?”
I stood up and went to his armchair, where I knelt.
“You did very well,” he said. “I admit that Rodolphus was right in wanting you to join us. You will now promise your eternal services to me, understood?”
“Of course, my Lord.” How could I not?
“Do you, Bellatrix Cassiopeia Elladora Violetta Black Lestrange, promise to serve me, obey my every word, and never falter in your devotion to my cause from this day forward till death takes you?”
“I do.” There was nothing I’d rather do, despite the fact that I didn’t really know what his cause was. I was sure that whatever he decided to do was a wise and good thing.
“Hold out your left arm.”
I did, and he took out his wand and started to draw a symbol in my skin. It hurt, but I would gladly endure much, much more for him.
The result was a skull with a snake coming out of its mouth. I looked at it, and it was lovely, carved in my skin, the eternal mark of my devotion to him.
“You are now officially accepted into the inner circle of my supporters, the Death Eaters. You may take your place.”
I did, feeling very happy, and I listened to his beautiful voice as he talked about some past adventures. He was the most wonderful man I had ever met. The first man I felt was more skilled, stronger than me. The first man that wasn’t afraid of me.
“That will be enough for today,” he said. “You may go home.”
I rose and bowed to Lord Voldemort. “Let’s go,” I said to Rodolphus without so much as turning my head to him. At that moment, I loved him for taking me here, but I hated him for being my husband.
A/N: Thanks to wonderful WeasleyTwinMom AKA momotwins for beta-ing this chapter, I wouldn’t dare to post it to such a wonderful company of other eHPF collab chapters without her correcting my poor English...
Thanks to Lisa AKA Norbert1175 for making this wonderful chapter image.
And thanks to the wonderful collective of eHPF, I’m honoured to be part of this wonderful fic.
Chapter 10: Andromeda Tonks: Story Time
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Andromeda Tonks: Story Time
A middle-aged lady sat down on a cushioned chair, catching her breath and taking a moment of relaxation. She pushed her light brown hair behind her back, ignoring the gray strands that were beginning to dominate. She had aged relatively well up until the last six years or so, especially when she compared herself to her sisters, one of whom was now dead, the other of who continued to take care of a son who was not quite as easy or carefree as her own daughter had been.
She didn't like to think of her dwindling looks when she had so much to do and so much life left to live. Years ago she realized she would just have to forget about the looks she had tried to maintain for much of her life. The only person of the male gender she had to impress was a five-year-old child of her own relation. And a dog, but that didn’t count either.
Seeing Teddy’s vibrant face, full of life and full of joy, made her realize just how much she had in life. Most people were only blessed with one set of children to raise, but she had an unexpected child who came to her when she needed him the most. Sure it was difficult at times to care for a child when most people of her age were becoming grandparents, but she enjoyed it most of the time. It gave her pleasure watching him grow up, learning about the world and how special he was. Family was there all the time as well; his godfather especially acted as an angel, making sure he was doing well and that she was doing well too. She had more family than she ever had before, yet she still missed him.
It was at moments when Teddy was acting up and she was tired that she missed him most, her memory clinging to moments past, trying to recall his voice, his face, his beautiful presence. And it was difficult to call out to Teddy, without thinking of her own sweet Ted.
She began to shut her eyes, tired from a long day's work, but she didn't have time for more than a quick nap. Teddy would have to get ready for bed soon and she would have to clean up for the night. She still had about two hours of work before she could really sleep; closing her eyes for a minute wouldn't hurt, though.
Her eyes strained upwards, searching for the voice behind the shout. "Teddy, dear," she answered as soon as the culprit was in her view. "What do you need?"
Her grandson approached her closer, his eyes a light shade of gray for the time being, appropriating the classic Black look. She was happy herself not to have inherited that trait, her eyes a more faded brown.
"I wanna hear a story," he said, his young tongue dragging out the words, especially at the end of the sentence.
"I'm tired, honey," she said, her eyes focused on Teddy. "Not right now."
"Please," he begged. "I wanna hear 'bout you and grandpa. You said you’d tell me." His eyes turned into a delicate dark brown shade, his hair changing from blonde to a medium-length dark brown color. He looked like a miniature version of his grandfather. It was the same trick Teddy's mischievous mother played when she was that age. Both of them knew they could get what they wanted when they flashed the eyes of Ted Tonks in her direction; that was her weakness.
"Okay," Andromeda said, tricked into another story of her past.
“I met your grandfather only a couple of weeks after I left Hogwarts, the wizarding school I was telling you about,” Andromeda began, her eyes fixed upon her grandson. Teddy stared at her, his expression full of wonder, his look intense.
“I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do with my life. All I knew was that I wanted to live in a place of my own.”
Andromeda remembered that Hogwarts gave her a kind of freedom she enjoyed, but living on her own was different than living at the dormitories in the school. There was real freedom in that. There were no rules other than ones she created herself and there were no elders telling her exactly how to act. She had wanted that.
“I moved into my own place right away, but it wasn’t exactly what I imagined it to be.”
Andromeda’s youngest sister, Narcissa, was the only one who helped her move, but she still had her parents watching over her at all times. Since she didn’t have a job lined up right away, her parents were still paying for her flat, which meant she was still under their rules mostly.
Without a job, Andromeda was living in an extended version of her parent’s care. She didn’t even know why she hadn’t lined up a job right away. Perhaps it overwhelmed her. Perhaps she wasn’t sure if she’d pass all her N.E.W.T.S. and in that case she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do. Most of it probably had to do with the fact that she just wanted some time off after school. She wanted to be a teenager, but being a teenager wasn’t exactly all that she had expected.
Andromeda’s parents didn’t care that she didn’t have a job. What they did care about was that she currently did not have a respectable boyfriend, or any boyfriend for that matter. That was real trouble. Her eldest sister, Bellatrix, was already married and Narcissa was set to marry Lucius Malfoy, a choice approved by both her father and her mother. Her father tried to set Andromeda up with Bertrand Goyle, but that was one thing she resisted. She wanted her own life, not one set up by her parents.
“I wanted to get a job so I could set my own rules,” Andromeda told Teddy. Teddy continued to stare, waiting to hear more.
Andromeda knew she had respectable scores in school. She ended up passing all of her N.E.W.T.S. with average scores. There was no subject in which she stood out as exemplary in, and there was no subject in which she took an extreme interest in.
One of her mates from school, Bridget Beasley, was beginning to train as a mediwitch at St. Mungo’s. She wasn’t best mates with Bridget, most likely because Bridget was a Hufflepuff and her parents would have forbidden that, but they were close acquaintances.
“One night I met a friend and she told me about a job helping out at the hospital.” Andromeda just wanted a job, so as soon as Bridget told her she got the job, she started.
“The next week I began working at St. Mungos. I walked into the hospital every morning just at 8:00AM.”
Andromeda always presented herself with a half smile on her face and a huge sigh before each shift started. She was able to walk past the Welcome Witch without any confrontation each morning, but it usually left her depressed. She was never friendly, and Andromeda was fearful she would turn out that way if she stayed there for too long.
“I didn’t really like my job right away,” Andromeda explained truthfully. She wanted Teddy to fully understand the story. It was important to her, and even though some may have thought it was too much for him to handle, she knew it was okay to tell him most of the facts. He was a smart boy and he would understand. He had already been through so much in his life without his parents guiding him along.
“Why not?” Teddy interrupted.
“I think I just missed my free time,” Andromeda said. “I was used to having lots of time to myself, but I came home tired, overworked, and afraid that I wasn’t exactly learning what I should’ve been learning. I didn’t want to be bad at my job.” Andromeda was afraid of failure, but she was also afraid of her relationship with her coworkers. She and Bridget got along but almost everyone else seemed to be afraid of her. She was a Black sister, after all, and she could be quite intimidating, even if she was nothing like her sisters or the rest of her family.
“You’re not bad at anything,” Teddy said with a smile, illuminating the dimples on his pink cheeks. “You’re good at stories, making potions, spells, cooking…”
“Thank you, Teddy,” Andromeda said, interrupting, “But I really wasn’t good at my job right away. That’s actually how your grandfather and I met… because I was so bad at my job.
“Maybe we should stop here tonight,” Andromeda said, thinking of the memories and knowing the rest of the story would make her emotional. She wasn’t prepared for that now.
“No!” Teddy said, refusing to accept her words. “I wanna hear more!”
Andromeda laughed at her grandson’s interest, but she was a bit upset with him. He was her grandson, but she had to be a bit strict with him. He couldn’t get everything he wanted in life, even if he was a child who had to grow up with a disadvantage.
“Not tonight,” Andromeda persisted. “It’s time for bed.”
Teddy frowned, breaking Andromeda’s heart, but she continued to stay strong. It was difficult when her own daughter had used similar tactics, and it was even more difficult now acting as the sole parent without backup. But since she had gone through it before, Teddy’s pout did not influence Andromeda into resignation.
Andromeda picked Teddy up, holding him tightly within her arms. She kept her eyes focused away from his pain as she walked up the stairs to his bedroom.
His room was immediately to the right of the stairs; the room Nymphadora once occupied. She had trouble encouraging herself to redecorate the room once it was known that Teddy was going to live there permanently, so the true mood of Nymphadora adorned the room with a hint of Teddy’s personality shining through. The walls were plastered in yellow paint with touches of black as well; her Hufflepuff heritage a true part of herself. The Hufflepuff crest lined the middle of the wall and a stuffed badger toy rested upon Teddy’s bed, the young boy taking comfort in the toy his mother left behind. There were posters upon posters of Quidditch teams, and pictures of Nymphadora from several different time periods.
Andromeda’s favourite picture, the one closest to Teddy’s bed was of Nymphadora and Ted. Nymphadora’s smile matched at age seven perfectly with her father’s. In the picture, Ted watched protectively over his daughter as Dora leant down to a pile of autumn leaves and pushed them up into the air. Both child and father laughed as the leaves flew in all directions, one even shooting into Dora’s hair. Ted brushed the leaf away immediately and the two hugged, Nymphadora fitting perfectly into her father’s arms.
Andromeda put Teddy down, telling him to wash up for bed. As he did so, she pulled down the black comforter and the werewolf sheets on the small bed that had been Nymphadora’s. Even knowing his father’s condition, Teddy insisted on the frightening sheets, a reaction that surprised Andromeda. Of course she couldn’t refuse him, though it was his godfather who eventually succumbed to his wishes on the day of his fifth birthday.
Teddy pounded into bed after a disgracefully short time spent washing up. Andromeda tucked him in, kissed him, and told him goodnight before she set to her own duties before going to sleep for the night.
The next morning came all too soon for Andromeda. She had been up late cleaning, a task that was growing systematically longer with each passing day. It didn’t have much to do with her cleaning skills growing rusty, more because Teddy was growing into a more troublesome boy, much like his mother and, she suspected, his father as well.
Teddy woke up early, a habit he liked to save for the weekends and Andromeda knew he would want breakfast right away, but she felt uninspired and fixed a bowl of cereal for the both of them. Teddy did not complain as the bowl was set in front of him, though he immediately requested a continuation of the story.
Andromeda did not protest this morning as she did the night before, as she was already more prepared to go on.
“Where did I leave off yesterday?” Andromeda asked Teddy.
“You were saying that you were bad at your job,” Teddy answered.
Andromeda remembered, immediately diving into the story. “One day, the mediwitch manager pulled me aside and told me that he had to talk to me,” Andromeda continued, as Teddy munched on the cereal, milk running down his chin.
“He didn’t think he was giving me sufficient training in all I needed to be taught. I’m pretty sure that was the day after I gave Ms. Johnson a truth serum instead of a healing potion, but I can’t quite remember.”
Teddy laughed, milk splattering in several directions. Andromeda handed a napkin to Teddy and he took it grudgingly to clean his face. Napkins were not his favourite; it was enough torture that he had to use a spoon when eating.
“So he suggested a tutor and he had someone in mind; someone who had just become a full-time mediwizard.
“I was rather stubborn at that age, and I tried to talk him out of setting me up with one, but it wasn’t easy. If he would have told me who the tutor was, I might have been a little more accepting of it.”
“Who was the tutor?” Teddy asked.
“The person you happen to be named after,” Andromeda said. “Ted Tonks.”
Teddy’s eyes grew wider in anticipation of the rest of the story. He had already finished his cereal and he pushed it aside, eventually relaxing in his seat, waiting for the story to continue.
“I knew Ted briefly in school, but he was several years older than me.”
Ted was the type of boy that Andromeda had been strictly forbidden to befriend. He was a Muggleborn, one of the worst types of people for a Pureblood like herself to associate with. But Andromeda was all for seeing people her parents didn’t accept, especially now that she was out of school. She remembered that Ted was a star Quidditch player for Ravenclaw, most likely a prefect, and a relatively popular student. She was okay being tutored by him, especially because he was quite handsome.
“He walked in to greet me that day, having been told that he was to tutor me. Nothing prepared me for seeing Ted in his lime-green robes. His face lit up and looked full of life. His smile blossomed and he walked with joy. I know it’s probably silly, but I think the green made him even more handsome.”
Andromeda paused, her cheeks turning red with embarrassment, as she watched for Teddy’s reaction. She hadn’t meant to reveal those details to her grandson, but they somehow slipped out. Teddy did not react to the details in any odd way; all he wanted was for her to continue.
“I truly believe some people in this world are meant for each other. Ted was that person for me, and I knew it from the first day we worked together.”
That was as far as she could go for now. Her eyes began to tear up, remembering the moment when she figured out she wanted Ted to be there with her for the rest of her life. It was not love at first sight because she had known him before, but after several days on the job together, she was ready to defy her parents and spend the rest of her life with him. He may not have felt the same way, but she was prepared to show him that she was worthy of him.
“Why don’t you get dressed?” Andromeda said, trying to change the subject.
Teddy shook his head.
Andromeda sighed and wiped away her tears. “How would you like Victoire to come over to play today?” Andromeda asked in hope of distracting Teddy.
“Okay,” Teddy said. “But I still want to hear more.”
“If you go be a big boy and get dressed while I call Victoire’s parents, I’ll continue,” Andromeda said. At least it would give her a break. And if Victoire visited, Teddy would have another distraction and Andromeda would have a chance to calm her emotions.
Teddy dashed up the stairs and Andromeda slowly walked over to the phone, a gadget she wasn’t used to using, but one that Teddy’s godfather helped explain to her. It was a Muggle idea that was much more useful than some of the stuff wizards came up with.
Andromeda dialed the number slowly, and waited patiently as it rang, focusing her attention away from Ted.
“Hi Bill,” Andromeda said. “Would Victoire like to come over to play today? Teddy’s in the mood for a friend.”
“Of course,” Bill answered. “I was just about to call you. Fleur’s at work today and I’m off, so I’ll bring her right over.”
“Thanks,” Andromeda answered. “I’ll see you in a bit.”
As soon as Andromeda replaced the odd-shaped device, Teddy came pounding down the stairs. She laughed at the first sight of him, with his jeans on backwards, wearing a green shirt, just slightly darker than the green of Ted’s robes. At least Andromeda knew she was telling her story for a reason. Teddy was paying attention and getting to know a bit about his grandfather. She owed that much to Ted, even if it was difficult for her.
“What happened on that first day?” Teddy asked, excitedly rushing over to Andromeda. Andromeda helped Teddy put his pants on the correct way and then she walked over with him to the same chair where she started her story yesterday.
“I was impressed by Ted,” Andromeda continued, sitting down in the chair while Teddy sat in her lap and faced her. “Many people were intimidated by my family, but Ted wasn’t at all.”
Andromeda was especially worried about Ted, knowing he was a Muggleborn. Many of her coworkers who were Muggleborns tended to ignore her, but Ted didn’t.
“He didn’t talk down to me. I guess he was more of a coworker than a boss. He knew I needed help, but he treated me as if I knew exactly what I was doing. He treated me with respect.
“The first time Ted was called out that morning, he took me with him. He told me to Apparate to a certain address right away. We had to be quick because there was a woman in need of serious medical attention.” Andromeda appreciated that Ted never babied her. Her old boss would’ve Side-Apparated her to the address, even though Apparition was something she had mastered long ago. Ted worked with her perfectly, setting high expectations that she was motivated to achieve.
“What’s ‘Apparate?”’ Teddy asked, trying to follow the story. Andromeda sometimes forgot that she was talking to a five year old.
“Apparition is a way to travel, somewhat like a Portkey. You can’t learn it until you’re older though,” Andromeda explained, as she watched Teddy’s expression change from excitement to disappointment when he realized he would have to wait to learn about Apparition.
“Our first call was to a witch’s home,” Andromeda continued. “She was an older woman and she was trying to make a complicated potion called the Draught of Peace.”
When Andromeda and Teddy arrived at the witch’s home, she was doubled up on the floor in pain, lying in a fetal position, clutching her stomach, crying out curses.
“Ted immediately ran over to her, concern evident in his eyes. He began to pick her up and looked to me for help. I came to his aid and together we lifted her onto her couch.
“Ted told me that she had been working on the Draught of Peace, and I tried to think what complications could have arisen, but I wasn’t having much luck. Ted asked me to chose a potion from his supplies to heal her, and he expected me to find the correct one. I wasn’t exactly sure what to pick out.”
The phials were all labeled, but Andromeda had never been great at potions. She knew Ted knew which one was needed, but she couldn’t figure it out. Her old boss would have told her exactly what it was without giving her time to even guess, but Ted began to lead her to the answer.
He asked her to think of the ingredients in the Draught of Peace and to figure out which ingredient was the most complicated.
Andromeda remembered making the Draught of Peace in her fifth year, but she couldn’t quite remember the ingredients. She looked at Ted with disappointment. She wanted to show him that she was capable of becoming a mediwitch. He inspired her, but she still didn’t know what potion ingredient he was looking for.
Ted took a phial from the supply box without saying anything to Andromeda. Andromeda realized later that he meant for her to see the label on the phial, so that at least she could guess that ingredient he was trying to teach her.
Suddenly Andromeda remembered it was hellebore that had caused her such difficulty when she made the Draught of Peace. It was a poison if just a bit too much was used and that must have been what the poor witch had done. Ted was giving her a potion that helped counteract the poison’s effect.
Ted was ecstatic with Andromeda’s sudden realization. His teaching method had paid off and Andromeda was grateful that he had taught her something. She was capable of possibly being a mediwitch one day. Ted’s methods gave her the confidence booster she needed.
“Your grandfather helped me figure it out,” Andromeda told Teddy. “He was a great teacher.”
Teddy smiled, his brown eyes looking much like his grandfather’s. Andromeda loved the resemblance. She loved her Ted, and she loved her Teddy as well.
“He continued to help me through tough times like that, and I studied harder for him. I wanted to be the perfect student because of his encouragement, and eventually I was. I learned to love healing and I learned to love him.”
At that point, a knock on the door disturbed both Teddy and Andromeda. Andromeda was not as emotional at that point, and although she wanted to continue the story, it would have to wait.
Teddy jumped out of Andromeda’s lap and she walked over to the door. She opened it to find Bill and Victoire. Victoire was a miniature image of her mother in appearance, but she had more of the Weasley tendencies, not minding getting dirty and not acting like the proper lady as Fleur would prefer. Victoire was the perfect playmate for Teddy.
Victoire ran right into the flat to find Teddy. Bill came in as well, deciding to spend some time with Andromeda. The two had become close friends since Victoire and Teddy were such great friends.
“Could I get you anything, Bill?” Andromeda asked. “Water, tea, coffee?”
“No thanks,” Bill answered. “I just had breakfast and I’m perfectly content.”
“Nana, Nana!” Teddy said, interrupting his elders. “Can you finish telling the story?”
“Oh, I’m not sure Victoire and Bill would want to hear it,” Andromeda said.
“What story?” Bill asked.
“The story of how Ted and I met.”
“I always love hearing that story,” Bill said. “I don’t mind.”
“I’m already towards the end,” Andromeda said. “Maybe another day.”
“You don’t have to start over,” Bill encouraged her. “The end of the story is beautiful.”
“Oh, all right,” Andromeda answered. She walked back to her chair while Bill, Victoire, and Teddy followed. Victoire and Teddy sat on the floor together, facing Andromeda and Bill sat on the couch. They were prepared to listen and Andromeda found she was more emotional now that her audience had increased in size.
“Ted and I continued to work together,” Andromeda started again. “Within a year or so I finished training and we began to work together as full fledged partners. It came as no surprise to anyone but Ted when I asked him on our first date. We had some extra connection, but Ted never said anything about it. I couldn’t hide my love for him, so eventually I made the first move.”
Ted reacted in a way that did surprise Andromeda. He wanted to go out with her, but he was concerned for her welfare. He knew that she would be defying her parents to go out with him, but she didn’t care. As long as she had Ted’s shoulder to lean on, she was okay. Andromeda assured Ted she didn’t care what her parents thought and from that point on their relationship flourished.
“After we were a couple for about a year, Ted proposed,” Andromeda said. “He had flowers and we sat atop St. Mungo’s enjoying a perfect meal together, even if we weren’t supposed to be there. He showed me the cloudy spot in the sky called the Andromeda Galaxy and told me he always thought of me when he looked at that section of the sky because it was the most beautiful part of the sky and I was the most beautiful part of his world.” The words rang through Andromeda’s head as tears welled up in her eyes again. Living without him was difficult, but at least she had so many beautiful memories.
“Then he proposed. Of course, I accepted, defying my parents and even some of my friends.” Andromeda’s relatives had gone so far as to blast her off the family tapestry just for marrying a Muggleborn. “But it was all worth it. I loved your grandfather.”
Teddy jumped up, knowing that the end had come, and Victoire followed his cue. “I wanna be a mediwitch!” he said. “Just like grandpa!”
Andromeda and Bill laughed. “Grandpa was a mediwizard,” Andromeda said.
Teddy blushed, his cheeks red with embarrassment. “That’s what I meant. I wanna be a mediwizard!”
“Me too!” Victoire said. “Just like ‘dromeda!”
Teddy and Victoire started running around the flat, holding hands and dancing and skipping.
Andromeda and Bill watched them, enjoying the children’s delight. Andromeda was amused but still tearful.
“Are you okay?” Bill asked her.
“I just miss him,” Andromeda said. “Every day I think about him and I miss him.”
“I know,” Bill said, taking her hand and wrapping her into his arms for a hug. “But at least he left you Teddy.”
“He left me with a beautiful grandchild,” Andromeda whispered. “Teddy is wonderful.”
AN: It's such an honor to be a part of this collab, and I do hope you guys liked it. I just want to say a quick thanks to everyone at eHPF for making it such a great community and thanks to those who helped me with this story and the doubts I had for it. Thanks to JLHufflepuff and Renny for creating such a fun place to hang out at and creating such an awesome collab. Thanks to norbert1175 for the beautiful chapter image. Finally, thanks to reallyginny for being such an awesome beta, making this story so much better, and making sure that Teddy acted like a five year old and not a two year old.
Chapter 11: Ginny Weasley: Growing Strong
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Ginny Weasley: Growing Strong
“Listen Ginny,” Hermione said to me, “you have got to get on with it. You have to be more comfortable around him. Start going out with other guys. Act like it doesn’t matter that he’s around. Eventually he’ll start to notice that you don’t like him as much as you used to. He’ll realize you’ve grown up and aren’t just Ron’s little sister anymore.”
I thought about what Hermione said as she looked at me, waiting for my expression. Wanting advice on what to do about Harry, I had come to Hermione. She was the only person who knew that my feelings for Harry were more than a mere infatuation. I didn’t know how to handle the feelings that had tormented me for the last three years.
“Maybe you’re right.” I murmured to Hermione. “Maybe I should. I might figure out I don’t like him as much as I used to. I might even find someone I like more. The worst that can happen is he’ll never notice me, which is no worse than it is now.”
“Exactly.” Hermione confirmed my concerns.
I left feeling better about the situation than I had in a long time. Hermione was right. I needed to get on with my life and quit being so available. I was the annoying little sister and that’s not what I wanted to be to Harry. It was time to grow up and be my own person with, or more apparently without, Harry. The time had come to show Harry Potter what kind of woman I could be.
That’s when my entire life began to change.
It was the beginning of fourth year for me. I had taken Hermione’s advice, some could say, too well. Now and then I felt that I had taken it too the extreme, but I figured out that it was a lot easier to forget about Harry if I kept my mind focused on other things and other people.
Our first night back, Hermione and I sat and talked about the summer and about how happy we were to be back. The boys hadn’t made it back from the beginning of the year feast, so we had free reign to talk about them as well.
“You seem to be getting the hang of going out with other guys.” Hermione commented. “It’s like Harry is just some other guy in school.”
“Harry who?” I said with a small laugh.
Hermione smiled. “That’s more like it.”
“So, to change the subject,” I nudged her with a smile, “has my dingbat brother opened his eyes to your feelings?”
“No. In fact, I don’t know that I’ve forgiven him completely for last year.” Hermione gave me a smug, unforgiving look. Her stubborn streak could never be broken.
The portrait of the fat lady opened up, and Harry and Ron climbed in and Ron collapsed into the armchair in front of me. Hermione gave me a knowing look as Harry sat down beside her.
“What are you two girls talking about?” Ron eyed us curiously.
“None of your business.” I said, rolling my eyes at my oblivious brother. “I’m going to go upstairs though. I’m tired and I want to get unpacked. I wanted to see a ---friend, before I go to bed, too.” I winked at Hermione and took one passing glance at Harry as I hurried upstairs. I caught Ron’s suddenly reddened face, getting angrier by the second. His expression grew worse with my wink toward Hermione; he knew it probably had to do with some guy.
I lay on my bed later thinking about Harry. My secluded four poster bed was the only place I allowed my thoughts to turn to him. Walking around the castle that night, I heard a lot of hushed whispers about Harry and what the Ministry of Magic was saying about him. Those whispers did nothing to me compared to the pain I felt when I overheard Cho Chang talking to her friends about how cute Harry was this year.
“Did you see him looking at you, Cho?” I heard one giggle.
“Yeah,” another one of her friends chimed in, “he couldn’t take his eyes off you.”
Cho’s smile lit up her face, and the meaning of it hit me right in the gut. Last year it was easier to take, because Cho had hooked up with Cedric Diggory. This year, there was no Cedric, and nothing else to stand in the way.
Even though I dated other boys, the fact that Harry fancied another girl still bothered me. Every time I saw him and Cho together, I felt like crawling in a dark hole somewhere. Cho and Harry started spending time together. They walked back and forth to class together. Harry didn’t really make time for anybody except for Ron and Hermione, so when I wanted to find out how he was, I had to talk to Hermione.
As the weeks dragged on, I became less and less aware of how absent Harry had been to me. He used to be around all the time, hanging out with Ron or after the Quidditch matches. Now Cho was the one waiting for him. Thankfully, I had finally found a distraction of my own. To my surprise, I had fallen head over heels.
I walked down to breakfast a few weeks before Christmas to meet my boyfriend Stephen. Stephen was tall and had wavy brown hair. He had dark brown eyes that you could see your future in and a smile that lit up his face. He was also a member of Slytherin House-- a fact my family, now knowing my secret, was furious over.
I met Stephen in our Transfiguration class. When class first started, I wasn’t happy at having to share it with the Slytherins. Then, on the day we were trying to change our teacups into mice, he used the wrong spell and ended up exploding his, sending sparks in my direction, burning my robes and nearly missing my flesh. He looked through his eyelashes when he apologized, turning on his charm and begging me to forgive him. So when he asked me out, there was no way I could resist. Suddenly Stephen was all I could think about, and I hoped he felt the same about me.
As I reached the last step of the stairway before getting to the Great Hall, my eyes swept the expansive room for him. I finally spotted him standing by the wall outside the doors, talking to a girl, engaged in an intimate conversation. She was leaning against the wall with a radiant smile that made her face glow, her cheeks rosy pink. His arm was above her left shoulder and he was looking very confident and proud of himself. I remembered that look. That was the look he wore when he realized that he had had an effect on me. Stephen whispered something in her ear and she giggled.
I cleared my throat, and they both looked up. The girl’s face went white as she scrambled out from behind Stephen, heading out of sight. My face flushed scarlet, and I grew angrier by the second.
“Hey Sweetheart!” He turned on his sweet and innocent voice. I stood before him with my arms crossed over my chest.
“What was that all about?” I confronted him.
“What, me talking with Carrie? Oh that was nothing. I was telling her about a boy in my year that likes her.”
“Is that right? Cause that’s not what it looked like to me.”
“Would I lie to you, honey?” He questioned, his dark eyes staring back at me, pleading for me to believe him.
“I guess not.” I said against my better judgment. He pulled me against him and I wrapped my all too willing arms around him, though my intuition knew I should still be mad.
“There now, see, everything is okay.” He whispered into my ear and chills ran straight through my body and my heart melted.
This happened more than I wanted to admit. Steven seemed to constantly be in compromising situations with other girls. When I would confront Stephen, he would always tell me that I was making a big deal out of nothing. When I wouldn’t let the subject drop he would get angry and stalk off in the opposite direction, telling me I was being stupid and to get over it. Then I wondered if maybe I had made a mistake keeping on at him. He was right, I was overreacting and there wasn’t anything going on with the other girls.
The next few weeks went by just like the last few. I felt like a second hand girlfriend and Stephen only paid attention to me when it was convenient for him. Every time I turned around Stephen was showing some other girl attention, always telling me it wasn’t what I thought. Anger built in me more and more as the days passed. My fears and concerns were pushed off by Stephen and I felt lonely, sad because I was hurting him, accusing him of spending time with other girls. I didn’t know how to deal with it and soon I shut completely down.
“Ginny, I don’t know what’s wrong with you and it’s worrying me. Please let me help.” Hermione volunteered.
“I don’t need any help Hermione,” I said, speaking firmly, “I’m fine, really.” I smiled at her with the best fake smile I could manage. I didn’t feel it in my heart though. I turned around and walked toward the portrait hole to leave the common room, Hermione's mouth wide with shock. As I was leaving, out of the corner of my eye, I saw Harry enter the common room from the boy’s dormitory.
"What's going on with her?" He questioned Hermione.
"I'm not sure; I think something bad is going on...." Hermione’s voice was shut off with the closing of the portrait to the common room.
I walked slowly around the castle that night, thinking about how messed up things were for me right now. Two years ago, even last year, I was pining away for someone who didn't like me, someone who thought I was still a little girl. Thinking back to when he saved me from Tom Riddle and his diary, I realized again, that he did that because I was his best mate’s sister, not because he actually liked me. With this reconfirmation, I felt even worse. I walked around the corner, heading in the direction for the library and that's when I saw them. Stephen and Carrie were standing in the corner, lips locked in a full on kiss. They both heard the gasp as it escaped my lips. Stephen looked up at me, the lie already forming in his eyes.
“Don’t even tell me I’m not seeing what I think I’m seeing here.” I screamed at him.
“Ginny, honey, let me explain.” He pleaded with me, but I could see he was becoming angry.
“NO! I don’t want to hear it!”
“Well it’s not like you deserve any better.” He spat maliciously. “You’re going out with me. And everyone knows it. Can’t you just be happy with that? You want to spend all your time with me. You are nothing to anyone here, least of all me. Do you think any other guy around this castle would want you? No. You have friends, my friends, because they take pity on you.”
“I have friends,” I yelled back, “Hermione is my best friend.”
“And why do you think that brainiac is friends with you? You are the sister to the guy she wants to go out with. What makes you think she really is interested in you?”
“Because she’s concerned about me.” I whispered more to myself than to him, feeling defeated. I slid down, crumpled in the floor.
“That’s what I thought.” Stephen was standing over me, looking into my eyes. I could see the hatred there, but did not want to believe it. I loved him and I knew he loved me. This was all just a huge misunderstanding.
“A lot of people care about me,” I muttered in a last ditch effort to make him understand.
“Really, you think you know. Why don’t you ask Harry Potter?”
“Stephen, please.” I pleaded, tears already flowing down my cheeks. He knew that would hurt. It’s like every word was meant to be a dagger, sent straight to my heart.
Stephen stepped over me. Carrie, snickered as she walked behind him.
I sat there for I don’t know how long, crying to myself, wondering what I had done to deserve this.
There was no way that I could go back to the common room right now, Hermione would be there, along with Harry and my brother, all wanting to know what was going on, why I was crying. I really didn't feel like dealing with any of them right now. I decided to go down to the lake to sit on the shore and just think, needing to be alone.
Two hours later, I crawled back through the common room portrait hole. To my dismay, Harry and Ron were still there, working on homework that they obviously hadn't finished yet. I knew my face had to be red from the crying I'd done in the last two hours, but there wasn't much I could do about it now. I was here and they had already seen me. My brother was the first to speak; Harry just sat there looking at me with shock on his face.
"Ginny, what's wrong with you? Why have you been crying? Who's hurt you? It’s Stephen, right? I’ll rip him to shreds!" Ron was utterly furious at the look on my face, though as he wrapped me into a big brotherly hug, I knew he wasn't upset with me. His voice suddenly became much more gentle. "I'm sorry, that wasn't meant toward you."
"I know Ron. I just want to go to bed, please." I pleaded. "I've had a hard night and I just want to forget it."
"Okay, sis. Go get some sleep, we'll talk tomorrow."
As I looked up at my brother I wondered what had come over him. There was no way that I could tell him what really happened. He would kill Stephen, and right now, even though I didn't care what happened to Stephen, I didn't want my brother in the middle of it.
Starting off toward the dormitory, I heard Harry call my name. Before, I would have loved to hear him call my name. Tonight it meant nothing, and I continued walking without looking back.
I woke up the next morning, a renewed hope in me. Though there was a nagging feeling there, something I knew I would have to face. Stephen. He would be there and I hoped things would be better.
Walking down to the Great Hall for breakfast, I saw Stephen. He was waiting by the door to the Great Hall, no one with him this time. I smiled instantly when I saw him. When he looked at me, my smile fell, as there was no smile beaming back at me.
“Hey Ginny,” he said, his fingers encircling my arm, guiding me to the door and leading me out to the lake, “we need to talk.” Even if I hadn’t wanted to go with him, I would have had no choice. But I did, and he knew that.
“Okay,” was all I could come up with.
We walked silently until we reached the lake, there was no one in sight. My mind flitted back to last night and I started to worry; however, when I looked into his eyes I saw no contempt and my heart suddenly began to rise.
“Listen, I’m sorry about the other night. It just irritated me and I felt like you were following me around. I didn’t understand why you were there.”
“I wasn’t even looking for you,” I explained, trying to keep my voice level so he couldn’t hear the nervousness in it, “I was just wandering around because I felt bad and didn’t want to be with everybody else. You know, my friends?” I finished with a little sting in my voice. I saw a flicker of anger flash through his eyes but it left quickly.
“Come on Ginny, you know I didn’t mean that. You know I was just angry.”
“I know you didn’t, I’m sorry for bringing it back up.” I wanted to ask him about the kiss, but I was afraid of pushing him back over the edge.
“Look, just don’t go walking around the castle at night. I don’t want people thinking you’re psycho or anything. If you start following me around, they will. And I don’t want people to think bad about you.” For some reason something still didn’t seem right, but I was happy that he was being sweet again. My heart rested a little and I breathed a sigh of relief.
That night, I was awoken by Professor McGonagall, knocking on the door to our dormitory.
“Ginny, I need you to come with me please.” She eyed me nervously, apparently seeing the sweat that was pouring down my face and the frightened look on my face.
“What’s going on Professor?” I asked feeling more suffocated by the second.
“Something has happened to your father and Professor Dumbledore wants to see you in his office immediately.”
“Is he okay?” I questioned, now panicked.
“We aren’t sure yet.”
I rushed after Professor McGonagall, every footfall making a noise that reverberated loudly along the empty corridor. I felt that the sound was magnified by my mind throbbing, aching to know what was going on. We were quickly in front of the gargoyle which led the way to Professor Dumbledore’s office.
“Quickly, Ginny.” Professor McGonagall’s voice boomed in my head.
I followed her into Dumbledore’s office.
As soon as I found out, I ran to find Stephen. I knew I would have to leave soon. I found him walking along the corridor with another Slytherin girl. But I didn’t care.
“Stephen,” I hollered down the hall. He stopped but didn’t turn for a minute, until I caught up with him. The girl had walked on without Stephen. “I’m sorry but I had something important to tell you. My father’s been attacked and they don’t know that he’s going to live. I’m leaving tonight to go home for Christmas.”
He slowly turned, contempt in his eyes. “What did I tell you about following me around the castle?” He spat.
“I needed to tell you about my father.” I stated, disbelief flowing from me.
“I don’t care about your father! I told you not to come and find me. I don’t care what’s happening with you or your Muggle loving, blood traitor, father. You don’t come looking for me!”
Before I could say anything else, he turned on his heels and left. I started after him, but then stopped, my own feet refusing to move further.
I helped mom with dad over they Holidays both at St. Mungo’s and at 12 Grimmauld Place. I didn't pay much attention to Ron and the others. Ron was so consumed with what happened with dad, that he didn't badger me about the ordeal with Stephen. While I was helping mom, she and I started talking back and forth about things going on at school. She was concerned about Harry, with all that was going on with him. She quickly became aware that I didn't want to talk about Harry, so she left those unanswered questions for another time. She asked me about Stephen. At first, I didn't want to say anything, but I felt a connection with my mom for the first time in years.
“Well, I don’t know. I just overburden him at times I guess.” I started out.
“What do you mean, ‘overburden him’?” My mother asked.
“He tells me I follow him around too much.”
“He doesn’t want to spend time with you?”
“No he does,” I corrected her, but then tears welled up in my eyes.
“Honey, what’s wrong?” My mom pulled me into her arms. I felt an odd comfort in her embrace.
“Mom, I found him kissing someone else. But he told me that that I shouldn’t have been following him around. He told me that the only friends I had were his friends and that’s because they take pity on me. He told me that the only reason Hermione is my friend is because she wants Ron. He told me that I didn’t deserve him and that I deserved to have him treat me that way. Then he found me the next day. He was so sweet. He told me that he was sorry but that he didn’t want people to talk about me. He only wanted to look after me. I didn’t even ask him why he was kissing someone else. I didn’t want him to be mad at me again. Mom, what am I doing wrong?”
She held me while I cried, her arms cradling me like I was a little girl again. Her little girl, as I knew I would always be.
“Ginny, now I want you to listen to me. I know that I am your mother and you probably think I don’t have a clue as to what I’m talking about. But you need to understand something. I was once where you are. I had a boyfriend who I thought hung the moon. I wanted to be around him all the time. He wanted to be around me when it was convenient to him. Then I met your father. Your father always wanted me around. He was proud to show me off in front of his friends and he wanted to be with me, even if it meant being away from his friends. Your father always took my feelings into consideration first. We didn’t always agree, but even when we fought, I knew I was still wanted. I didn’t have to worry that he was going to leave me. I didn’t have to go to bed wondering what I would face the next day. To your father, I was the most important person in the world," she informed me, "And I still am, Ginny. As your father is to me."
Then I suddenly realized that all those, not quite right, feelings I had, they did have a meaning. Stephen didn’t care about me. He didn’t feel for me like I did for him at all. He was using me. I deserved so much more. I wanted someone to love me and want to be with me. Not someone that didn’t want to be seen with me, or only wanted me when it was convenient. I didn’t want to have to share and from now on, I wasn’t going to.
School started the following week. I hated leaving mom for the first time since I’d started school. Dad was feeling better and he looked better. He hugged me tightly before I left. I could tell in that hug that mom had spoken with him. But he never let on that he knew anything. He only told me that he loved me. Mom drew me into a big hug before I got onto the Hogwart's Express at Platform 9 3/4.
"Remember what I said, Ginny," she whispered, "You deserve someone that will be like you're father has been to me. Someone that will appreciate you, care for you above all else."
"Thanks mom, I love you." I said aloud, not caring who heard me.
As I was getting on the train, I saw Stephen out of the corner of my eye, walking toward me. Right behind him was my family, Harry, and Hermione, all watching with anticipation. I blocked them out and looked up at Stephen as he came forward.
"How are you Ginny?" He asked, light dancing in his eyes, knowing he'd get me with the power he'd always had over me.
"Just fine Stephen, how are you?" I stared him straight in the eye, my mouth wavering into a small smile.
Stephen raised his arm, as if he was going to wrap it around me. Quickly, I escaped his embrace, as I ducked. He looked at me with a shocked expression in his eyes, his mouth open wide.
"Just fine since you have shown me the real you, Stephen. You need to find someone else that will believe your lies. I'm done, and you are nothing to me." Now a dumbfounded expression crossed Stephen's face. I knew he didn't know what to think of that. I turned to look at my family. Everyone was smiling, except for Harry. I looked into Harry's eyes, and I saw something there, a look I'd never seen before. There was a softening to his eyes, a gleam. And suddenly, I knew I was no longer just his best mate’s sister, I was something more to Harry Potter. This would be a good semester.
A/N: Thank you so much to Georgia Weasley (swelch1) for beta-ing my story. Thank you for your guidance and critique. This story would not be what it is without you! And again, thanks to NevillesSoulmate for the beautiful chapter image.
Chapter 12: Harry Potter: The Truth At Last
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Harry Potter: The Truth at Last
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference - Reinhold Niebuhr.
There was no point in getting sentimental. I knew only too well what had made me decide to dig into the horrors of the night that changed my life forever, into the memory that had been guarded for years by my subconscious. The memory that was often struggling to emerge, to reach the surface… if only in part.
Dwelling on the fact that I had hardly known my parents served no purpose. Neither did the feelings of resentment, of contempt that I had harboured towards my only surviving relatives for as long as I could remember. I had to let go of these emotions; let go of the longing and the hatred. I had to focus only on the task ahead. If I were to have a chance to defeat Voldemort, I had to find out exactly what happened, what my mother did to bring about his first demise.
I remembered the excitement that ran through my veins when I first saw my parents waving at me in the Mirror of Erised; how, when I encountered Dementors, I secretly relished hearing my mother’s voice, though she was screaming inside my head. I knew that what I had to face was going to be emotional, yet I had to be strong, to keep calm; otherwise, this process would just prove too unbearable, and I couldn’t allow myself to fail. I needed to know, not just for my own sake but for everyone’s.
All I could recall from the night in question was a blinding green light; a light so powerful that I had not been able to remember it properly until Cedric was killed and I saw it again. Yet, despite the faintness of my early memory, I could tell that something had been different. The jade-coloured light I had seen as a baby hadn’t been a mere flash; more of an explosion. I had to witness that again. I had to find out what had really gone on.
The idea of using hypnotic age regression had first come to me at Cecilia’s instigation. Cecilia, the acclaimed nonagenarian psychologist and parapsychologist who had known Jung and whose website Hermione had discovered. After we made her acquaintance, we found out, to our astonishment, that she was in fact the lady Tom Riddle Senior had courted before and after he married Merope. A greater coincidence would be hard to imagine; but perhaps it was fate.
She herself had seen horrific things. Once we had become friends, she had confessed to us how she had been a visitor at the mansion, when, unbeknown to Riddle Junior, she had watched the family’s murder from outside an ajar door. On her own account, that was one of the reasons why she had become interested in the paranormal.
She understood the importance of discovering precisely what had happened and was of the opinion that hypnosis could prove an effective method for accomplishing this. Moreover, she believed that it could help me deal with the grief I had been too young to experience at the time but I still felt, and with my anger and resentment. Painful as this may be, I then decided that she might have a point, that there seemed to be more to gain that there was to lose; that it was worth a try.
She had recommended a practitioner in London who was one of the top psychiatrists in the country, someone who was in fact a personal friend of hers. I had given her permission to tell him the basics of my story, of my background. I trusted that the therapist knew something about wizards; otherwise I feared that it might be him who would be in need of counselling afterwards.
Ron, Hermione and Ginny accompanied me to the first session. As I stepped over the entrance of the Edwardian building in Harley Street that hosted the clinic, I squeezed Ginny’s hand. I could tell she felt my apprehension, which was hard to conceal since my hands were sweating. She held me tight and winked, trying to give me strength.
A receptionist showed us to a waiting room that was almost wallpapered with this guy’s qualifications. Soon enough my name was called. I went in alone.
The hypnotherapist appeared to be in his early fifties. His physical appearance was nothing out of the ordinary and his voice was gentle and rather engaging. He asked me to make myself comfortable, to relax. I tried this best I could. He enquired, in a very soft tone, if there was anything specific that I wished to achieve, any particular problem I wanted to overcome. I almost laughed at this. Indeed there was something really huge that I wanted to accomplish, but I just couldn’t go and tell him that my ultimate goal was to defeat the darkest wizard ever. Instead, I told him that my parents had been killed when I was one and that I wanted to know more, which was in essence the truth.
He smiled at me in a manner that gave away the fact that he knew this already. I noticed him glancing at my scar very discreetly.
“I take it that you’re looking for closure,” he said empathically.
“I guess so,” I replied, knowing that I couldn’t make it too obvious that I was only there seeking information. It occurred to me that he might otherwise have concluded that this was not the purpose of this type of therapy.
“Mr Potter, am I right to think that you wish to let go of negative feelings, of the sadness and grief that you still feel?”
“Yes, I think so. You can call me Harry, by the way,” I told him with a smile.
“Very well, Harry,” he continued, “from what you tell me, it seems that age regression would be appropriate in your case, if you are happy to give it a go. Now, there are two ways in which we could do this. You could view experiences from your earlier years as a spectator, so to speak, or you can re-live them. The latter is likely to bring about further benefits, but I must warn you that when you watch the recording of our session, you will see yourself feeling, not merely describing, what happened, once again. It can take a lot of courage to do this. The choice is yours, of course.”
I had to admit that it was a scary prospect, despite the fact that I knew hypnotherapy would not invade my mind. I could never forget how terrible I had felt after my Occlumency lessons with Snape.
He stood patiently, awaiting my decision. I didn’t speak again until I had actually made up my mind.
“Erm, I think I’ll go for option B, if that’s okay.” I didn’t really know what made me choose this. After all, all I wanted was to know… Yet again, at that stage I believed that there must be some merit in fighting my inner demons head on.
“If you are sure,” Dr Riley spoke again, pausing as if looking for me to re-confirm, “that should be fine. I just needed to make you aware that this might be tough."
I simply nodded in agreement. Dr. Riley motioned and I followed him to a separate part of the office. There were two comfortable-looking chairs, and I could see evidence of video equipment.
“Alright, Harry,” he explained, “for age regression therapy to work I need you to be in a state of deep relaxation and deep somnambulism.“
I had to say, the prospect of losing control like that did frightened me a bit. However, everything about my current surroundings was calm and pleasant. I began to feel safe.
The practitioner explained to me that it could take from a few minutes to over half an hour to get me into the necessary trance. I suspected that, given my nervous and impatient temperament, the latter might be the case.
Dr Riley played some very soft and relaxing music. He then asked me to take a deep breath and hold it in, then to let it go and close my eyelids. He said that my eyelids should be so relaxed that they would no longer work. He gently commanded me to go deeper, to relax further… I could hear him perfectly although, yes, I was now extremely calm. He touched my arm, explaining that he was testing that it was now limp, but that I mustn’t help him or this would interfere with the relaxation process.
Having become satisfied that all was in order, Dr Riley directed: “Now send that feeling down across your body, from your head to your toes, as if you meant to go two times deeper.” I really tried to comply.
“Well done, Harry. You’re doing really well. Now let’s relax your mind. Allow your mind to relax as much as your body. In a moment I’m going to have you slowly and softly begin to count starting with the number one. After each number, let your mind double its relaxation. After a little while, the numbers will fade away and disappear. When they are gone, raise your right index finger to let me know.”
I did that. It felt somewhat weird to lose the numbers but it didn’t feel bad. In fact, it all felt really positive.
“Now,” he proceeded, “I am going to count to five. With every number, you will double your relaxation. Once I have finished, I will ask you to board a train that will take you to the first moment when you truly understood the concept of death.”
My breathing was deep but steady. I smiled when he mentioned the train. I had made some sort of automatic mental association with the Hogwarts Express.
“Now, tell me what you see, what you feel, Harry.”
“I’m at school… I have an ambivalent feeling about this place… The lessons take me away from my relatives’ home, which is good. I, umn… I enjoy learning maths and various subjects but , no, … the other kids aren’t always nice to me. Now, the teacher is angry with me.”
The therapist was patient. He let me take a break from my speech. He never rushed me; he never interrupted. “I know,” I said, excited at how the scene was becoming increasingly more vivid, “He’s angry with me because I haven’t done my homework.”
Dr Riley remained quiet, silently inviting me to tell him more. “I tell my teacher that I hadn’t been able copy the instructions from the blackboard. The classroom erupts in laughter… The laugher hurts… Mr Rayburn, the teacher, calls for silence and tells me to see him after class.”
We paused again. “I dread having to see Mr Rayburn after hours… I know no one will believe me... He writes something in the blackboard again and asks me to read it. My heart pounds… I tell him that I can’t, that is too far away. To my surprise, he smiles… He says that I need to tell my parents to take me to an optician… I tell him that my parents are dead and that they aren’t coming back… His expression is odd, as if he is no longer cross with me but he looks slightly sad… He apologizes and tells me that he’d not been at the school long and that he didn’t know. He asks me who I live with… I tell him.
“Alright, Harry, how old are you at this point?” Dr Riley asked.
“Just seven… Now, I think I can see some more,” I continued. “I’m at home, with my aunt, uncle and cousin… My cousin is gloating and telling my aunt that I got into trouble at school. My aunt yells at me before I can explain that I am not in trouble; as I’m trying to tell her that it seems that I need glasses… Then my uncle comes into the room and he tells me, in a menacing tone, that my parents never left them any money for them to buy me glasses, that they were good for nothing, and that I’m a freak like them… They always call me freak. I cry.”
Dr Riley then asked me if I felt ok, if I wanted to take a break. I said that I was fine and ready to continue.
“Alright, Harry, in a moment, but only if you feel thoroughly relaxed and up to it, I’m going to ask you to get back on the train. This time, I’m going to ask you to go back to an earlier time, a time when you are sure you knew that your parents were dead, even if you didn’t fully understand what that meant. Take your time.”
I felt my breathing slow.
“I am younger now,” I started to relate, “I’m about to start school, but haven’t yet… My aunt is watching television. My cousin is lying on the carpet playing with some toys… He is not looking at the screen. He has left an old colouring book lying on the floor. I pick it up when neither of them are looking and take some crayons from a pencil-case. My aunt appears engrossed in her program… It is early afternoon… Then, all of a sudden, she almost jumps out of her seat. I fear that she may be angry with me for taking Dudley’s book, but then I note that she is staring at the screen even more intently. I take a look myself. Umm… some of the people on the TV seem very familiar… I think it might have been one of my aunt’s favourite soap operas… There is a strong noise and two cars collide. There is blood everywhere.”
Dr Riley asked me to relax again. He had noticed that my breathing had become more erratic. “Now I’m beginning to understand something. I drop the colouring book back onto the carpet, just in case she disapproves of me trying to use it… I tug her skirt and asked her if this is what happened to my mum and dad… I can see that she doesn’t welcome the distraction and that she feels irritated. She tells me it was something like that, but then she carries on watching and pays no attention to me… I just want to know more. I wonder if dying hurts. I ask her that… She finally snaps and tells me that she will punish me if I keep asking questions about my parents, that they are dead and that’s it and that I shouldn’t talk about them… She adds that I should be grateful that they had taken me in, that if they hadn’t I would have been left to starve and die myself… I accept that, for the moment, and I speak no further. Still, I do wonder if children can die… Maybe that’s why I didn’t… Perhaps, if I had been a grown up, I would have died instead of them.”
After another hiatus, this time longer, the hypnotherapist prompted me to embark on the next journey and to stop when I knew that I had been permanently separated from my mum and dad.
“It’s cold and dark and a very big man with a long beard is holding me… We are going across the sky on a motorbike…”
Dr Riley cleared his throat and asked: “Harry, do you know who this man is? Do you recognise him?”
“Yes, he is Hagrid. He works as gamekeeper in my school.” I continued, “I’m wrapped in blankets. I’m on a doorstep. Then, it is daylight; someone, a woman, screams… I wonder where Mummy is, where Daddy is, why I’m there. After a short period, I fall asleep.”
“Can you tell me any more about what happens next, in the next few months perhaps, ” he asked patiently.
“Okay, there is another boy. He’s about my age, but he seems a lot bigger… We are both able to walk, but I’m sitting on the floor… He is trying to hit me with a spoon. I move away… He now comes nearer and attempts to stick his finger into my eye. He misses; when I make a gesture with my hand for him to let me be, he punches me quite hard and I begin to wail loudly. This boy is obviously my cousin… The noise I’m making brings my aunt back to the room… My cousin goes to her and grabs her clothing. She cuddles him… Then she moves towards me and yells, urging me to shut up. I continue to sob… She drags me and takes me to another room. She shuts the door. My weeping has no effect at all. No one comes to comfort me… I want someone to hug me… I want my special blanket! My desire to get this is very powerful, almost out of control. The door opens suddenly as if propelled by a really strong force, but nobody is there. I haven’t moved, so I know it’s not me who has opened this door… Now, the blanket flies across the room towards me and lands in my arms. I cuddle into it.”
Dr Riley sighed on hearing this.
I could see a little more still. “Now, my aunt enters the room and shouts again. She looks scared, though… She doesn’t even look at me but tries to take the blanket from my hands. I struggle to keep it, but she is much stronger than I am… Now she begins to destroy it with a pair of scissors that she finds in a drawer… I cry again… I don’t understand why, but the woven fabric has now mended itself. My aunt screams and locks me in the room. I pick up the blanket once again. It makes me feel safe.”
Dr Riley then asked me about the blanket. “It’s soft and pale blue, “ I began to explain. “Wait a minute! It’s the same blanket Hagrid wrapped me in right before I was left on the step!”
At that point, the therapist told me that he was going to bring me back to the present. He started to count again and commanded me to wake up when he stopped.
I began to feel my eyelids again. I blinked. My throat was dry and my tongue felt heavy. He offered me a glass of water and asked me how I felt. I replied that I felt fine but that I didn’t remember anything since having closed my eyes.
He told me that this was normal. He said he had video-recorded the session so that we could go over it together. He commented that the material was certainly interesting but reminded me that the session may instil in me feelings of anger. He said that this was perfectly acceptable and that I should not repress these feelings but try to slowly accept them and let them go. He explained to me briefly how children perceive death at different stages in their development, how they are not aware of it being permanent until they are about seven years old. He then said that many issues had been revealed and that he had thought it was best to leave my parents’ death scene for another session.
I became a little anxious because I really did want to get back to this. He reasoned that it would have been unfair to make me re-live so many sad memories in one go. I then asked him if we could watch the video.
“I think it might be best if we do this another time, when you have had the chance to rest.”
I felt intrigued and impatient. I kept insisting on seeing at least part of it.
He must had realised that not knowing what I might have said under trance was going to bug me until our next meeting, because he turned on the video recorder and told me to sit comfortably. I bit my lower lip lightly.
In retrospect, I found the glasses scene somewhat funny. I giggled involuntarily. This was Uncle Vernon at his best! I shook my head and smiled. Dr Riley didn’t say anything but looked at me as if he was confused. It was obvious that he expected me to be rather incensed.
He stopped the tape and asked: “Harry, what are your feelings on this? Do you feel hurt? Do you feel angry about how your uncle talked about your parents?”
“Yes, I do,” I explained, “but I must say, I have grown used to them speaking ill of my mum and dad. It doesn’t come at all as a surprise.”
The therapist momentarily frowned and asked if I wanted to end the session.
“I’m happy to continue,” I replied “Don’t worry, I feel perfectly alright. I just want to see what else has come out.”
I could tell he was afraid of taxing me too much. He reminded me that he would stop the recording whenever I told him that I had had enough; that it was my decision.
We moved onto the next scene, the one where my aunt was watching television… “Of course”, I muttered, “at the time, I had been convinced that my parents had died in a car accident.” I started to play with my hair.
The hypnotherapist looked straight into my eyes and asked, “Was it a car accident?”
“Harry, look at your body language in the video. You are not so much upset as curious. Why did you think it had been a car crash?”
I shrugged and explained that that was what I had been told; that I only found out more, through other people, when I was eleven.
“Oh, I see. You were lied to. It seems that you were forbidden from asking about your parents, from dealing with your grief. From what we see here, you were not allowed to deal with these events in a healthy way. I can understand why, even so many years on, you are still disturbed by this. It may well be that you haven’t mourned their deaths properly, not to this day, Harry.” He looked seriously concerned as he said this. “Do you think I’m correct in thinking this?”
“Well, I have missed them,” I argued, “I have cried on occasion,” I added feeling a little embarrassed.
“You don’t need to justify yourself. You have done nothing wrong. You don’t always have to be brave. Do you reckon that if you allow your sorrow to surface, it may help you move on?”
I nodded in assent.
Then, I heard myself talking about the flying motorbike. I blushed quite strongly. Dr Riley smiled at me in a comforting way. He knew about magic, most definitely. This was a relief. I did have the feeling, after all, that Cecilia wouldn’t have recommended him to me if she thought that he was likely to think that I was completely insane, or that my supposed subconscious memories were only the product of a vivid imagination.
The blanket episode enraged me somewhat but made me realise that my aunt had been terrified of me and of my magic. For all her meanness, I began to understand her a little.
I thanked Dr Riley and asked if I could take the video recording to copy it.
I was surprised when he hesitated.
“Well, Harry, our code of ethics states that the practitioner should act in the client’s best interest. How can I be sure that you are not going to watch this repetitively and become distraught by it? I have come across quite a few clients who have done just that.”
Whilst it wasn’t essential that I obtain a copy of the recording of this particular session, I was going to need the one from when he regressed me to the time of Voldemort’s attack at Godric’s Hollow. My intention had always been to collect that memory and put it into the Pensieve, so I thought it would be better to create a pattern from the onset.
I smiled broadly and tried to assure him that I would not obsess.
He still seemed undecided but, then, he smiled back and passed the tape to me, reiterating that I should give it all a break and have some rest. We arranged a further appointment for a few weeks later, and I left.
My friends had waited for me really patiently in the waiting room.
“How did it go?” Hermione asked. I told her that it had been fine but that we hadn’t gone through the Godric’s Hollow scene, that it had been left for the next session. Ron patted me in the back. We walked towards the car park in silence and I drove home.
I had, by then, moved out of Grimmauld Place and was living practically in the Muggle world. I had decided a while back that this would be safer and a lot more anonymous. The four of us were now hunting Horcruxes. Not long before, I had purchased an apartment in London; my apartment became our base. As we arrived, I felt rather comforted by the sight of the familiar modern building. I was home.
I sat on the large leather sofa in the living room and stretched out my legs. Ginny sat next to me and put her arms around me. I kissed her very softly. Hermione went into the kitchen and came back with the biggest bag of chocolate frogs ever. Ron followed her in with a bottle of wine and conjured up some glasses. Undoubtedly, they were trying to pamper me. This was really nice but it made me feel a bit awkward. I had always hated people fussing over me.
There was a message on the answer-phone. It was from Cecilia, wishing me luck.
When I headed for the recorder with the tape in my hand, Hermione commented that it didn’t sound like a good idea to watch the video straight away.
I slid in the tape and pressed play. “I’m not a wimp, you know,” I said smiling, as I playfully hit her with a cushion. “Anyway, I have seen it before. I just want to see what you guys make of it.”
Their reactions were, in fact, very much what I expected. I could see Ron’s pulse rising as he heard me tell Dr Riley what my uncle had said. Hermione seemed particularly concerned over the fact that my aunt had forbidden me from talking about my parents. Ginny just kept squeezing my hand.
When it was done, I simply told them not to worry about me. Ginny went into the kitchen and prepared a salad; and we all sat informally around the coffee table to eat. Afterwards, we played a Muggle game called Cluedo that Hermione had bought. Ron beat us all at it quite miserably. They did manage to get my mind off things; they really were the best friends I could ever wish for.
As the days passed, normality was more or less restored and, thankfully, my friends stopped trying to please me all the time. I felt that I was back to being, in their eyes, normal Harry.
However, as the time for my next meeting with the therapist approached, I began to feel more and more restless. I kept on telling myself that I had already endured the experience enough times. The Dementors had taken care of that! Yet, I was apprehensive.
My friends decided to accompany me again. Once more, they waited just outside the therapy room.
Dr Riley opened the conversation. “Harry, how do you feel? Are you relaxed? Comfortable?”
I nodded. I was really intent on going through my parents’ murder scene, although I did not want to make my motives obvious. I just wasn’t sure how, if at all, I should bring the matter up. To my amazement, he seemed to have read my mind.
“I know you are very keen on going back to a specific moment in your life. Is this because you suspect that the root of your problems lies there?” he enquired.
“Erm, you mean, when my parents died?”
“Yes, Harry. Now, bear in mind that this may have a strong impact on you. Also, this scene may not hold all the answers. You were, how old, did you say, fifteen months?”
“Well, when you experience the event, you may not realise that they are dead. You will probably think they are asleep.” He paused at that point as if deep in thought but did not asked me about the cause of death. I guessed he knew he was going to find out soon enough. However, he did ask me if I, myself, had been injured in the incident.
I decided to tell him the truth, though it was hard to explain it to a Muggle, even one who appeared to know Magic existed.
“Yes, sort of… That’s when I got this scar,” I replied flicking my hair so that he could clearly see it.
“I’m a medical doctor, Harry. Do you mind if I take a quick look?”
“Sure, go ahead.”
I knew full well that he was going to find it uncommon. I wasn’t wrong.
“If you don’t mind me asking, what happened? You said that your parents were killed, but not in a car accident. This was certainly not caused by a bullet or a knife either,” Dr Riley said tentatively.
“Okay,” I started, “this is going to sound mad but some of the stuff that has come out in my memories, umm… well… you know it’s a bit different. Alright, let’s come clean: Do you know about my world, about magic?”
He smiled, “Well, our common friend certainly believes in this, yes. I have been trying to keep an open mind. I have been really careful to avoid at all costs planting memories on you, and I’m pretty satisfied that what you have related under hypnosis was real. I just didn’t realise that magic can leave scars.”
“Well, it doesn’t normally. I guess that my relieving the night when my parents were killed will bring about some kind of explanation,” I ventured.
“Harry, I’m becoming more and more wary of what effect re-living this may have on you,” he told me in a worried tone.
“Look, I need this over and done with. I have to come to terms with whatever is that happened!” I concluded. I was determined.
“I have to admit, you have visited some pretty unhappy memories and have reacted well. I can also see that you are finding it hard to move forward without dealing with this. Very well, but please be aware that if I find that you’re becoming overly distressed I will bring you back straight away. No protests afterwards, alright?”
When I woke up from the trance there was sheer chaos around me. I could hear various voices speaking at once in agitated tones. Dr Riley was hovering over me looking like a surgeon who was about to lose a patient on the operating table. Ron, Hermione and Ginny were there in the room too. Everything felt surreal. The last thing I could remember was excruciating pain in my scar.
“What happened?” I asked, trying not to let my tone of voice give away my alarm. My prime objective was retrieving the memory of whatever I had relived and, if the therapist concluded that I was too fazed, he would not allow this.
Dr Riley made a motion with his hand asking my friends to step aside for a moment. Then he directed me to save my breath, to keep calm.
He waited for about a minute and then spoke very quietly. “Harry, you fainted whilst in trance. “I have never even heard of this happening before.”
I tried to interrupt him. I could feel my heart racing. But he said: “don’t speak yet. Breathe first, deeply. There will be time. Relax. I’m not trying to put you under again. I just want you to relax, that’s all. That’s better.”
“How do you feel now?” Dr Riley asked.
“Better, definitely better. But, are you sure that I really did, um… faint?”
“Yes, it was different from being in a trance. You stopped responding to my commands completely. Trust me, I can tell the difference,” he concluded with a gentle grin.
How could this have happened, I wondered. “Now, what did I say, before, well…?”
“Harry, I wonder… Do you remember any of it yourself? Don’t worry if you don’t. In our previous session, you didn’t, which is after all, far more common,” he explained.
“I remember being in a great deal of pain and fighting something off with all my might,” I gulped. “Something really unpleasant, something evil…” My chest felt very tight and I was almost gasping for air as I said this.
“Please, rest now, take it easy,” Dr Riley instructed me. “Have some water.”
I picked up the glass and took a sip. “Please, you must tell me what I said!”
The therapist looked towards my friends and said politely: “Now, if you would excuse us…”
“We only ever came in because we heard you screaming your head off,” Ron blurted out. Hermione tagged the sleeve of his T-shirt disapprovingly, making a gesture for the others to follow her to the waiting room. Ron and Ginny eventually obeyed her.
“So, at what point did I actually scream?”
Dr Riley took a deep breath and started pacing up and down the room. “Well, the session started really well.” He paused for a moment. “You appeared calm at the beginning, yet…” He seemed deep in thought for a few minutes as it trying to work out the sudden change. He finally said: “I don’t think we should go through this now, though. I know you are going to ask me to review the video but I cannot agree. This is not advisable after seeing what happened when you were in trance. I won’t say never – I’d say in a few months, perhaps, we can begin to review it slowly, if you still wanted to. My opinion, as a clinician, is that you need time to recover from whatever had such a dramatic effect on you. The effect was physical, Harry, not just in your mind.”
My jaw dropped. I now had the distinct impression that I had messed up well and truly. I was desperate to learn more. I made eye contact with the practitioner; non-verbally begging him let me see the video. He shook his head for a moment. His expression gave away that he was trying to weigh out what could be more harmful to me: the revelations I had made or my unquenchable curiosity. Finally, after what seemed like a very long minute, I felt that he was giving in.
“Alright, I’ll relate to you what you said.”
“I prompted you to go back to that night using the train imagery again. You said that you were asleep in a crib. Then, you heard a man’s voice shouting. The noise had woken you up. I asked you who he was, if you knew. You thought for a few seconds and said that he was your father. Apparently he was urging someone to take you and run. Your father was in a different part of the house. You did not see what happened there; but, for what you told me, he bellowed that he was going to hold someone off.”
I twitched. Yes, this scene was familiar enough.
“The next thing you saw was a tall, hooded man.”
“Is that when I shouted?
“No, Harry, no. He didn’t particularly frighten you at first. I asked if you had seen this person before this exact point in your life, and your answer was negative. What unsettled you was to hear a woman yelling frantically. You recognised her as your mother. You were quite composed when you described her, by the way.”
I smiled. He asked me how I felt about it all and reiterated that I had gone through enough for one day, that we should end the session. But I said no – once again, I insisted that I needed to know why I had reacted like I had.
I waited. He instructed me to do a short breathing exercise.
He then continued. “Then you said that the man in the hood had a really chilling, high-pitched voice and was laughing. You felt cold and started to shiver. He said to your mother something like: Step aside, you silly girl. She kept shouting Not Harry! Please have mercy, not Harry, kill me instead! You said that this man told her that she didn’t need to die.“
Dr Riley then stopped. He awaited my reaction. I was worried that the trance might have ended and that I would never get to know anything past this point, especially as it was clear that he would not consent to making me relive this situation again. And all because of my stupid screaming and fainting!
“Okay, here we come to a realm I don’t profess to understand. Maybe some of it will make sense to you, I wouldn’t know.”
“Let’s see,” I said, eager to move along.
“Alright, I took notes of the words you uttered because, I must confess, I was completely unfamiliar with them. “
I looked at him feeling nervous but I let him know that I didn’t mind at all.
“Okay, Harry, you said that the man was chanting something. I asked you if you knew what it was. You said that you didn’t but tried to repeat what you heard; something that sounded like: en-lil.” He told me after consulting his note-book. "This man was apparently calling for this en-lil, whoever or whatever that may be. Another word that you spoke several times was: an-an-a-kee. You didn’t understand this either but apparently the man said something about the rightful rulers of Earth and that he was their descendant and then you kept repeating something like: dil-moon." Dr Riley blinked at that point but carried on. “You said that he mentioned that it was Halloween, under the new moon, when the power is strongest.”
I frowned in surprise. “Those words don’t mean anything to me.” I was now getting very excited, but a certain sense of dread took over me all the same. I spoke very quickly, as if we were about to run out of time, as if the memory would altogether dissipate if we didn’t hurry “Did he say anything else? Was he doing anything else, I mean, did he have a wand out or anything?”
“Apparently so, yes,” he sighed. “You said that it was pointing at you, not at your mother, holding the wand in his right hand and a rectangular piece of clay in his left which had markings on it.”
“Yes, and…?” I prompted.
“You became a bit agitated at that point but still weren’t too bad. In hindsight, I should have brought you back then. But anyhow, this man said that the tribute was about to be paid.”
“Yeah, my life, no doubt,” I let it escape.
“He was also chanting something in a language that you didn’t know at all.”
“I see… Also Halloween at the new moon, umn…”
“Then, your mother intervened. I’m only trying to replicate your words here. I still don’t really follow… Well, you described a shaft of bright green light travelling very fast towards you. She pointed her wand at it and then, very quickly, to herself. The light changed its course and, at this very moment, she spoke a word that sounded like, let me check my notes: in-an-a."
I swallowed hard but I was still determined to see this through.
Dr Riley continued. “Immediately after that you cried that the light had hit you, that it was dazzling and wasn’t just a flash; it was everywhere. That was the point where the session – became – unusually intense. I mean, I’ve practised for twenty-six years, and I’ve never – well. You had been on the chair, relating what happened, what I just described. The very next second, you were on the floor, crouching. And you appeared frantic. Frantic as though you were trying to fight something off – your arms were flailing. Quite honestly, it resembled some sort of fit, some sort of seizure. I went down on the floor with you. I commanded you in the strongest of terms to come back to the present. Nothing worked, at first; and then you let out a cry and – that was when you fainted.”
I took a deep breath. I couldn’t take all this in. Not at once, anyway. I couldn’t resist going over my scar with my fingertips, as if searching for something. I cleared my throat and tried to sound casual and to conceal that my heart was still beating fast.
He was standing; I was sitting down. He rested his arm on my shoulder and asked if I had expected any of this. I knew how worried he had been about possible false memories.
“I’m afraid a lot of it makes sense, yes,” I told him with a gloomy smile. “A lot of it doesn’t, but a lot of it does. You haven’t planted fake memories on me, rest assured.”
Once Dr Riley ascertained that I was fit to leave, he advised me to take a break from all this but asked me to get in touch at any time I felt I needed to. He said that I should do some breathing exercises and made a follow-up appointment for a couple of weeks later.
It was evident that my friends were still very worried about me. Ginny hugged me very tightly. Hermione told the others to leave me in peace; but I knew they were all, deep down, anxious to find out what made me react the way I did and to learn whether I had discovered anything of relevance. Too many thoughts and emotions were clouding my mind. To deal with their curiosity, I simply told them that I had been reacting to the moment when I received the scar and that the memory had caused it to hurt again horribly. Ron raised an eyebrow but didn’t say anything. In all truth, I felt completely drained. I let Hermione drive back.
As soon as we reached the apartment they all insisted that I go to bed. Uncharacteristically, I took their advice. My sleep wasn’t particularly peaceful, though. I woke up after a couple of hours wondering about the nature of the magic my mother had invoked. Could it have been dark magic? That would have been completely unlike anything I knew about her. I had written everything down from Dr Riley’s notebook. Those strange syllables were somehow disturbing. What was the word she said? Could it have been a name? A person? A spell? A deity? I had no idea. The session had opened more questions than it had answered. Moreover, I was stricken with the thought that something had tried to enter me and that it had, dear Merlin, succeeded. A theory started forming at the back of my mind. This time, however, I was not brave enough to bring it to the fore.
It was by now the middle of the night and everyone was asleep. I got out of bed very quietly, almost secretly. I paced up and down the spacious living room and then I found myself staring out of the glass wall, into the depths of the Thames. I stared with vacant eyes, almost failing to register the bridge and buildings that, from where I stood, were visible in all their grandeur. I took out my wand and collected my memory of the session with Dr Riley into a glass phial, before I had the chance to forget any of it. I then once again felt extremely tired and felt myself beginning to doze off, so I returned to bed.
When I woke up it was almost midday. Ginny was the first to come into the room. She was carrying a delicious smelling pot of coffee and some freshly baked chocolate croissants. Here they came again with all the pampering.
“Are you okay, mate?” Ron asked me as I went into the kitchen about an hour later, to make some more coffee.
I smiled. “Yes, Ron. Please stop worrying about me. We all knew that reliving that moment was going to be hard,” I said casually.
“You can share it with us, you know,” he replied.
I walked into the living room. Ron followed me. Both Ginny and Hermione were sitting on the sofa. Ginny turned the television off as soon as I came in.
I threw her a knowing smile. “Alright, I’m about to tell you all of it, okay?”
As promised, I recounted what Dr Riley had told me I had said. When I got to the part when Voldemort attacked me, I noticed that Hermione was shaking. She was trying to conceal the fact as best she could by holding her hands against her knees. I realised then that she suspected the same as I did.
Hermione shook her head and frowned deep in thought, at the mention of an-an-a-kee. She also took note of the sounds in-an-a and dil-moon. She said that something rang a bell and wrote down these syllables.
“Well, this sounds like Anun Aki. It sounds sort of Egyptian. Now, this sounds like Inanna. Wait a minute! I know I’ve run across names like that, and I know it was during the summer of fifth year, when I took a Muggle class in world mythology. Right, I think I remember! Inanna was a Sumerian goddess of love and Anun-aki, anunaki? Native American? No. Well, maybe Google has it."
Hermione headed straight for the computer. I remarked that there must have been nothing on these in Hogwarts, A History. We all laughed at this.
“Here! It’s asking if I mean ‘Anunnakki.’ That’s it! Yes. It’s Sumerian, from Sumerian mythology,” she told us excitedly. “Okay, I think we need to get Cecilia onto this. I’m not entirely sure how much to trust Muggle sites when it comes to the magical ramifications of things.”
“So, they are all names for Sumerian gods?” I asked her. So both my mother and Voldemort were invoking Sumerian gods! “Why would my mother – at a time like that – have spoken the names of Sumerian gods?”
Hermione looked into my eyes. It was almost as if, in that moment, she was speaking without words, because I immediately seemed to understand that she seemed to know already: that my mother had been a knowledgeable woman, a brilliant woman, a Head Girl, Slughorn’s prize student. Finally, Hermione spoke aloud: “Harry, she gave her life for you, the ultimate act of love, and she spoke the name of a goddess of love, after all.”
At that point, I didn’t know what to think. I agreed, however, that engaging Cecilia’s help could be a good plan. She had researched myths at great length. She knew about our world. Hermione volunteered to Apparate to Little Hangleton and bring her back with her, if she would agree, which I knew she would. They were back in less than half an hour.
Cecilia looked particularly frail on that occasion, yet her eyes were warm and alert, as always. I took her slowly through the whole session. At the mention of me having passed out, I felt her empathy flow through her wiry hands onto mine. I knew that she felt guilty about having suggested hypnotherapy to me. She asked me to forgive her.
“No, honestly, it was me who wanted to know,” was my sincere reply.
She was particularly interested in the Anunnakki and Enlil.
“Well, Hermione is right as to this being part of the Sumerian mythology,” she started “The people of ancient Mesopotamia believed that humans had been created by gods, who they call the Anunnakki. Both Enlil and Inanna are part of this pantheon. They appear in the Babylonian myth of creation: Enuma Elish.” She stopped for breath and continued, in her friendly yet distinctively posh accent. “Now this is interesting because in the mid nineteenth century, archaeologists discovered seven clay tablets recording this myth and you said that Voldemort was holding something like that in his left hand. I do wonder… but let’s see first.”
I felt a glimmer of hope because the piece of clay I had said Voldemort was holding could very well have been one of these tablets. I had no doubt that he had intended to create a Horcrux that night, with my death. This just made so much sense; the tablet would have been the receptacle. If he believed in these myths enough to invoke them and he considered himself a descendant of these gods, this object would have been important enough to him, especially since it was connected with creation. What he was muttering when he attacked me was probably the Horcrux making spell. I had been convinced that something evil had entered me and I suspected I might now be hosting a piece of his rotten soul, but this seemed more logical; my death was to split his soul and the tablet to receive it. But he had killed my dad already and had failed to murder me. Yes, the tablet had to be the Horcrux and not my body! My spirits dramatically lifted.
“Who are these Enlil and Inanna though?” Ron asked.
“Well, let’s start with Enlil since we are trying to figure out Voldemort’s invocation first. He is the legitimate son of Anu and Ki. By taking over his father’s role and becoming god of the heavens, he separated earth and air. His half brother, Enki, disputed his authority. Minor gods known as Igigi helped the Anunnakki maintain the Universe but, at one point, they refused to continue doing so. Humankind, according to this tradition, was then created in their stead.”
“Do you mean like house-elves?” protested Hermione.
Cecilia smiled. “Well, they were not considered equal to the gods. Humans never are in mythology. Predictably, some deities mated and reproduced with humans, which is of course common in mythology. Enlil didn’t approve of this. To his liking, they also made too much noise and decided to get rid of them and sent them the Great Deluge, the flood that, incidentally, is an event present in most Indo-European religions. Enki then decided to help save mankind. Now, at first, I did wonder why Voldemort had not been more attracted to Enki, since he is in fact the alchemist; but can you not see a pattern here?”
Ginny answered this time. “Yes, he thinks of Muggles as the Anunnakki thought of humans, and of Enki as a kind of blood-traitor.”
“Yeah, that’s why he invoked that one,” Ron agreed.
“I think we could go as far as venture that he does believe in Sumerian cosmology and sees himself and maybe even all pure-bloods as the direct descendents of the Anunnakki,” Cecilia concluded.
“But he is not a pure blood!” I protested.
“No, Harry, but he sees himself as one, because of him being a descendent of Salazar Slytherin. Now,” she continued, “you talked of Dilmun.”
“This was the home of the gods. Enlil was once banished from there to the Underworld but he managed to return after a period of time. If we are correct that he wished to make a Horcrux that night, it would have made sense for him to invoke a deity who had himself successfully returned from the Land of the Dead.”
Even if this could seem a bit off topic, it was something that was worrying me and I just blurted out: “Cecilia, I believe that what my mother did was ancient magic. Dumbledore told me so.”
“Well, from what you have told me, Harry, Voldemort encountered something unexpected. Your mother’s knowledge and her sacrifice.”
Do you think she also believed in these gods and their supremacy?” I asked nervously.
Cecilia then held my hand again and squeezed it hard, expressing how much she felt for me.
“You said she mentioned Inanna,” she stared into my eyes at that point. I never met your parents and cannot tell you for sure what their beliefs were, but this is the myth: Inanna, was a goddess of love, fertility and war. Your mother was all these things, a mother, a lover and a very valiant warrior. I personally think she brought this deity up as an example of someone who could save themselves from death but then she chose for you to live, in her stead.”
I closed my eyes and gulped.
“According to myth, Inanna descended into Irkalla, the Underworld, which was controlled by her sister Ereshkigal. Her sister killed her; however, she was permitted to leave the Underworld and return to life, so long as someone else took her place. By and large, according to many Indo-European myths, for one life to be spared, another one has to take its place. There are some parallels. They both did have a choice. That’s probably where her inspiration came when she quoted her.”
I had been following the story with avid ears. Now, I just broke down and cuddled Cecilia. I couldn’t stop sobbing. She held me tight and brushed my hair with her very slender fingers.
Although the story we had put together appeared to tally reasonably well, something at the back of my mind was telling me that there was more to it than that. I did very much wonder if going into the Pensieve would add any further details. After all, Dumbledore had left it to me in his will. In principle, I understood that the memory could only reveal what I remembered Dr Riley telling me I had said. Yet, I had this niggling feeling that having brought this to the surface under trance might had triggered something in my brain to make me consciously remember more.
As soon I had realised that the tablet that Voldemort had with him was the likely receptacle, I had begun to feel safe. Still, was this just I wanting to believe that? The truth was that the curse had been diverted and that it had rebounded. Instead of hitting me, it had hit my mother and it all had exploded. Things had not worked out according to plan. Moreover, something seemed to have got inside me, hence the struggle and the horrific pain. I needed to know for sure.
I was intent on going into the Pensieve to see if I could find out more. Of course, I didn’t want to worry any of my friends. Also, if my worse fears were to prove real, they would try to prevent me from sacrificing myself. Ginny, however, had become suspicious of my late night wonderings around the flat. One very early morning, just before dawn, she caught me red handed. She told me very determinedly that we would go in together or not at all. She looked about to hex me but kissed me instead. She called Ron and Hermione. She had made it very clear that the matter concerned everyone.
I had been right about the Pensieve allowing us to see the actual scene rather than the session at the clinic.
The truth, at last!
For a moment, time stopped and my heart speeded up. The memory had left no room for imagination. The force that had tried to get into me was certainly a part of Voldemort’s soul. I wanted to vomit, to die there and then! The whole notion disgusted me so much. It wasn’t just the prospect of death. The mere thought of a part of him being lodged inside me revolted me so dreadfully. I felt contaminated beyond words. I so very much wished that my mother hadn’t saved me at all!
As we came back, I collapsed on the floor momentarily. Ginny, Hermione and Ron looked at one another with a kind of terror I had never seen before. My eyes had dried out; the tears wouldn’t come.
Their own fear was palpable. I could breathe it. After a few minutes, I managed to stand up. They all hugged me and hugged each other.
“Why me?” This was not a fate that anyone deserved or could endure. Suddenly, I felt uncontrollable rage. A bright light hit the Penseive and burst it into pieces. I hadn’t even taken my wand out of my pocket.
Ron and Hermione tried to argue that this might not be conclusive. Wishful thinking, I called it. I had seen, unmistakably, the vaporous shape that lodged itself into me as a baby. This was now undeniable.
Ron broke the silence by saying that I was still the same to them; that nothing would ever come between us.
The months went by. I went through the normal stages that someone would go through when diagnosed with a fatal disease: denial, anger, depression… absolutely everything. My friends went through this too. On the odd occasion, I really tried to enjoy what little time I had left.
Giving myself up would be useless until all the Horcruxes were destroyed. I still sought those fiercely. However, I noticed that my friends were no longer so keen.
I kept telling myself that I would see my parents soon enough. But leaving my friends behind was not something that I could really handle. Especially Ginny. The day we found out, she gave herself to me with a passion that I just wasn’t strong enough to resist. I knew it was wrong because I would only make her more miserable in the long run, but everything about her; her caresses, her breasts, her hair, were just so comforting. I fear I did wrong her, even if she said, time and time again, that she wanted it that way.
The hardest bit happened when I inadvertently overheard Ginny and Hermione. Ginny was so upset she was hard to understand. I could barely make out that she was telling Hermione about a fairy-tale in which a man loses his lover and brings her back from the death, but that she is so miserable that her life is not worth living. She said that for my sake, she had to let me go, that I could not continue living in the knowledge that, whilst I existed, he would never be mortal, allowing others to be murdered and tortured. Those were my precise thoughts.
I put my affairs in order and ensured that everyone was well provided for. I never discussed that with any of them. On a positive note, I had now enough ammunition to vanquish the Dark Lord forever… I knew now more about his fears and beliefs than he was ever likely to imagine.
I was his last Horcrux, the one he never meant to make.
I made love to Ginny for what I gathered it would be the last time and prayed that my friends would forgive me for what I was about to do. I slipped into Ron and Hermione’s room very quietly, thinking I ought to say good-bye. They were both fast asleep, and I changed my mind. I knew they would try to stop me. Maybe, subconsciously, I wanted them to. I found myself weeping. Walking into a certain death was harder than I had ever expected, but it would all be worth it if I achieved my goal. After all, as Dumbledore had said, there are worse things than death.
And now, Lord Voldemort, I’m ready to face you, with all the consequences!
AN: My absolute gratitute to Bella_Portia for her awesome work in this story, without whom this could have been a complete disaster. Also, to chiQO9 and Labby, my resident psychologists, and to Aurora Dawn for the grammar help and encouragement. I also thank NevillesSoulmate for making a wonderful banner for me.
Lily’s quotation is from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
Chapter 13: Albus Dumbledore: Expiation
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And as your fantasies are broken in two
Like a fragile angel falling from grace, an angel who knew nothing but the injustice and desecration of humanity, Ariana Dumbledore died.
Judging by her limp figure and the abrupt end to her piercing cry, Ariana died just before she hit the cold, dirty floor. The snow-white skin of her corpse appeared even more pallid in death than it had in life, and her large blue eyes remained open, as if they would never forgive the scene they had just bore witness to.
For a moment, one excruciatingly agonising moment, Albus Dumbledore felt as dead as his sister actually was, and he found himself without the strength or motivation to even breathe. (He would feel this internal decomposition to some degree for many years after, since our personal demons never really leave us.) He remained still, his wand arm fallen to the side, and stared at the dead body of his younger sister.
Aberforth Dumbledore, naturally, was quicker to act. As swiftly as the curse had killed Ariana, Aberforth was at the side of his dead sister. He wrenched her up by her shoulders to an almost sitting position and was practically shaking her, whether out of fear or shock or grief, it was not clear. There were tears flowing down Aberforth’s face, such tears he had not been able to muster since his father’s incarceration, and not even at his mother’s funeral. Aberforth had lost much in his fifteen years of life, and now he found himself with, quite literally, nothing more to lose.
Albus saw his younger brother carry Ariana’s corpse to the settee (in life, Ariana had been petite even for her age), kiss the corpse upon the forehead, and drape a cheap blanket over it. Quite shockingly, especially considering Albus’s inability to even comprehend what had just happened, Aberforth suddenly spun around and all the tenderness of his prior expression had been replaced by the irate madness of a boy who had lost absolutely everything.
“WHAT DID YOU DO?” shouted Aberforth, pointing his wand at Albus and running straight towards him. “WHAT CURSE WAS IT?”
“I…I…” was all Albus managed to get out, his voice breaking. But Aberforth ran right past him until he reached Gellert Grindelwald, to whose throat Aberforth pointed his wand.
Albus had completely forgotten Gellert between this moment and the duel’s end. But Ariana had only been dead for about one minute, so perhaps Albus’s lapse in short-term memory was excusable.
Gellert appeared to be trying very hard to summon empathy, but Albus knew that even without his wand in his hand, he could easily counter Aberforth’s threatening stance.
“It wasn’t the Killing Curse!” insisted Gellert in his curiously perfect English. “And if it was, then I didn’t cast it! Did you even see a flash of green light?”
Gellert’s long blond hair, so curly and so resplendent in the candlelight, was even more beautiful now than it had ever looked before. Not for the first time, Albus considered it to be angelic, though a very different kind of angelic from Ariana’s corpse: Angels fall for only two reasons, because they are either the instigator or a follower, and Gellert was certainly not the latter.
Aberforth faltered for a moment and looked back to Albus, then returned his attention to Gellert.
“Don’t you dare blame this on Al, you Austro-Hungarian bastard!” said Aberforth, who was slightly taller than Gellert despite the age gap. (Though, as it were, Gellert wasn’t quite two years Aberforth’s senior.)
So he knows his geography, thought Albus. Perhaps Aberforth can read.
Gellert gave a bark of disbelieving laughter. “I’m not accusing Albus of anything! With due respect, Aberforth, you’re the one who is so terribly eager to pass judgement, but you played as much of a role in the argument as either Albus or I. And my father was Swiss, I’ll have you know.”
In another life, Albus might have chuckled at this last comment, but humour seemed irrelevant now. He had lost everything, and the worst part was that he had not known that he had everything to lose.
(Neither Albus nor Aberforth would realise for many years that they had not lost everything on this warm summer night, but that would not be until they reconciled and discovered that they had had each other all along.)
Aberforth looked even more unhinged, if that was possible. “My sister is DEAD, but of course you don’t care! Ever since you came to Godric’s Hollow, everything has gone WRONG! You waltz in like the saviour of wizardkind, recently expelled from Durmstrang for what I’m sure are noble reasons, and you seduce Al, the ingénue of our story, and since he was already prone to lusting for power you teach him all of this Dark magic rubbish and convince him to help you take over the world! But of course Ari falls by the wayside of your master plan and Al neglects her to the point of abuse, or else he would’ve if I hadn’t picked up the slack! And now, final in this sequence of events, Ari is DEAD, so yes, Grindelwald, this is ALL YOUR FAULT! Listen up, Al, because here’s the rub: You think you’re going to save the Muggles by making them second-class citizens in your new regime? Sorry to spoil the illusion, or delusion, as it were, but your little friend is much more interested in GENOCIDE! Right, then, Grindelwald, let’s exterminate the Muggles because they certainly don’t deserve to live more than YOU do, you goddamn son of a bitch!”
This must have been the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, because there was a magnificent flash of red light and Aberforth flew backwards and collided with the wall with such force that the entire house trembled. He’d lost his wand somewhere along the way and it lay on the floor in the centre of the room, while Aberforth himself was crumpled in the corner.
Albus swung around to face Gellert, who was beginning to show the faintest sign of irritation.
“That was entirely unnecessary, Gellert!” said Albus, glaring. “What, you had to defend yourself? It’s not like Aberforth is even capable of successfully hexing you!”
The boy with the golden hair chuckled. “It was a pre-emptive strike, but you can call it whatever you wish. But oh, I suppose he’s become immobile now…let’s fix that.”
And with no wand, only a single, calculated look, Gellert levitated Aberforth, who looked scared out of his wits, to standing.
“Stop doing that!” said Albus. “No more wandless, non-verbal magic, you understand? And Aberforth, go upstairs or out or somewhere, just bring Ariana with you.”
For the first time possibly ever, Aberforth did as his older brother said and carried Ariana’s petite corpse up the rickety staircase to the small second floor of their home.
Gellert was now leaning against a bookcase, his arms crossed and his face twisted into a smirk. “Well done, taking authority like that. Perhaps you’ll make a good leader after all, Albus.”
With the hand that was not holding his wand, Albus unconsciously made a fist. “My sister just died, Gellert, and it’s entirely my fault, so I’d appreciate it if you could pretend to be even slightly sensitive about the matter.”
“I truly am very sorry,” said Gellert, pouting slightly. “But is it really fair to blame yourself, Albus? We were both casting so many unstable experimental curses that we’ll never really know who technically killed your sister. By the way, what was that blue-coloured spell, the one that temporarily turned Aberforth’s head halfway around?”
Albus turned around and took a few steps away from his closest friend. “You don’t understand the severity of the situation, Gellert. And would you please stop acting so damn cavalier?”
“I understand it perfectly, Albus,” said Gellert coldly. “You’re having second thoughts about the plan, right? We’re supposed to implement it next week, but you’re allowing doubt to muddle your mind. That’s why you began the argument with me earlier, the argument that would escalate into this duel, yes?”
Albus turned back around to face Gellert, now a safe distance away.
“Yes,” said Albus, bitter. “Of course I have second thoughts about the phenomenal mistake we are about to make! But it’s not out of fear, no, I’m just beginning to see—”
“Of course it’s out of fear! It’s always about fear with you!” said Gellert. “You’re fearful by nature, and it was foolish of me to think that you would ever change! Fine, let’s use the logic of your cowardly mind: You confronted me and told me that we should reconsider executing the plan for another month or two, just to ensure for the umpteenth time that everything is in order. I said no, if we didn’t act now during the interim period between the administrations of two Ministers for Magic then we’d lose our one opportunity to infiltrate the Ministry. You continued with your pathetic excuses and I politely disagreed, and somehow we ended up in a three-way duel with your daft brother and then Ariana got in the way. So yes, Albus, if you hadn’t been so weak then we never would have fought, and your sister would still be alive. Following your twisted logic, then you certainly killed Ariana!”
It took every bit of Albus’s fortitude not to curse Gellert at that moment, because such an attack would simply incite a more vicious one from Gellert, and they would find themselves in another outright duel. But strangely, it briefly occurred to Albus that he could cast a Killing Curse at Gellert, and then the boy neither would nor could counter his attack. However, Albus quickly dismissed the oddly violent impulse, because he was hardly daring enough to go through with it.
“What is it now?” asked Gellert tauntingly. “Honestly, I realise that you need to grieve for your sister, but you mustn’t lose sight of our original plan. We are destined to achieve greatness, Albus. Fame, power, respect—it’s all you’ve ever wanted!”
Albus bit his lip. “Perhaps you’re right…I always did want those things. But what does it even matter anymore, Gellert? For all intents and purposes, I killed my sister. I never forgave my mother for dying and leaving me with all of her responsibilities. My father is incarcerated—who knows, after all this time he’s probably dead! And I can’t imagine that my brother will take any of this well.”
The other boy stared him down. “Are you serious? I can’t even believe this—well, perhaps I can. You’re taking the coward’s way out and obviously I’m the stupid one for having faith that you could overcome your humble beginnings and actually make something out of yourself. Take another serious, introspective look into your character, Albus: Are you satisfied with the craven, pathetic, pusillanimous, and utterly unremarkable person you’ve become?”
To this, Albus had no response. No man wanted to hear such cruel words from a respected friend and colleague, but their effect on him was so much worse. With every one of Gellert’s horrible accusations, Albus’s heart began to break.
Gellert rolled his eyes. “That’s what I thought. Weak as always, aren’t you, Dumbledore? I’m must say, I’m relieved that you’ve shown your true colours before the commencement of our plan. I have sufficient time to alter the preparations, fortunately. Ultimately, I think this will be for the best…it’s not like I ever needed you, anyway. It was charitable of me to allow you to feel like you contributed something.”
“HOW DARE YOU?” Albus shouted, all of his resentment, confusion, and sadness boiling into absolute rage. “How DARE you say such things to me? You have NO right to come into my home and make such VILE and SLANDEROUS claims, especially so SOON after my sister’s death! You have NO right, NO tact, and absolutely NO grasp on reality if you think that you could have come this far without me! WHERE would you be without my research on the twelve uses of dragon’s blood? WHO found the most recent owner of your precious Deathstick? I used to admire you, Grindelwald, I really did, but you’re nothing more than the wretched apparition of a wizard with any intelligence, true ambition, or merit, and I think that YOU should consider the worth of your OWN character!”
The house was still for several minutes. The air was heavy and thick with the humidity that late summer often brought. Albus half-expected to hear Aberforth’s tiptoeing footsteps upstairs, or at least for the boy to barrel down the staircase and interject himself into the argument, like a vindictive case of déjà vu. But Aberforth did not even make a sound…the earlier events of that evening would not repeat themselves, neither Albus nor Gellert could take back the words they had said, and Ariana would never draw breath again.
Gellert had not moved either, after Albus had aired his grievances. The boy simply stood there, his wild blond hair as magnificent as ever, staring at Albus as he never had before. Whether it was fear or surprise or respect in Gellert’s almond-shaped eyes, Albus did not know.
But then, without warning, Gellert strode to the door and picked up his hat from the hook beside it.
“So that’s it, then,” said Gellert, avoiding eye contact. “Er…goodbye, Albus. Perhaps we’ll meet again, one day.”
“I sincerely hope not,” said Albus, as the door slammed shut behind Gellert.
A/N: It is truly an honor and a privilege to take part in this collaboration, with not only some of the best writers on this site, but with the colleagues and friends whom I respect so very much. eHPF is such a remarkable community and I thank every member for helping to make it such a special place and, of course, JLHufflepuff and Renfair for giving us such a happy and supportive little corner of the internets.
Oh, and thanks for reading!
Chapter 14: Lucius Malfoy: Last Man Standing
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Lucius Malfoy: Last Man Standing
We stand in Hogsmeade watching the parade of evacuated Slytherins, both of us in a panic of eagerness as we count the heads, peer under the cloaks, and then, with growing anxiety, consult one another and then look again. We repeat these actions. And then we repeat them again, until all the students are counted, and recounted, and the evidence of our eyes cannot be avoided. Draco is not with them. Not among the Slytherins, not among the other students, not there at all. Devastation descends. My blood turns cold, and a vulture in my stomach begins to gnaw away at my insides. From that moment, I can think of nothing but my son; I can concentrate on nothing else; and my mind works unceasingly on the same question: where is he? What has happened to him? Is he dead? Is he alive?
During the carnage they called the Battle of Hogwarts, I am not allowed in the castle. I have no wand, so I cannot fight. And, as warriors go, I am in something less than top condition. A few weeks ago, the Dark Lord was in a hellish rage upon learning that Potter had escaped from the Manor only seconds ahead of his arrival. It descended in a paroxysm of violence upon Bellatrix and myself. His curse struck my eye, and I discovered afterward that it was leaking blood and vitreous fluid. Since I was forbidden to leave the house, and therefore had no access to a Healer, I expect I will lose it. All in all, I am a calamity. I made the mistake of looking into a mirror before I left. My skin is so pale as to be nearly gray; it matches the torn soiled linen of my robes. My cheeks and eye-sockets have hollowed, and I am gaunter than I have ever been in my life. My left eye is swollen closed. I must resemble a wraith among all the jubilant, boisterous Death Eaters.
Now we are marching toward Hogwarts castle behind the Dark Lord, behind Hagrid as he carries the body of Harry Potter. I do not care about Potter. I do not care that my eye throbs; or that my muscles and bones, and my entire body down to the soles of my feet, all ache. All I can think about, all I care about, is finding my son. We march four abreast. Veteran Death Eaters and new recruits, students and giants, all advancing. The smell of sweat and blood permeates the air. As we are walking well behind the Dark Lord, my wife takes my arm and pulls me so that her lips are close to my ear. “He’s alive in the castle,” she whispers and releases me at once. I look toward her involuntarily, amazed; but she is already looking straight ahead, ignoring me, as she marches on in her pale blue robes and hood, a ghost gliding among the black-garbed death eaters.
I keep myself quiet, but my heart is racing. Alive? How would she know, unless . . . I try to see to the front of the column, up to where Harry Potter’s remains are being carried, but it is impossible. I am suddenly terrified for her. If she lied to the Dark Lord, the consequences for her will be unspeakable. I strain my ears for some sign of a commotion, but there is none.
I march along, trying to keep myself as expressionless as Narcissa. I cannot banish Draco from my mind. I see him lying injured, without help, in some deserted corridor. My anxiety to get into the castle is overwhelming.
As we approach, it becomes evident that some of the people inside, people sentimentally attached to Potter, are now able to see the body in Hagrid’s arms. I am starting to hear screams and cries. Taking great care not to draw anyone’s attention, I scan the group of students and teachers and Order members and others who are beginning to gather outside a doorway. Logically, there is no reason for Draco to be among them, and yet I cannot help looking and hoping to see that platinum hair.
No one pays me the slightest attention. I have long since been relegated to the ranks of the wandless. There was a time, many years ago, when I was the Dark Lord’s second in command. But now – now, I am nothing more than pathetic joke. There is nothing about me in my current state to make anyone pay me an iota’s worth of attention. That would have outraged me once; but right now, my obscurity is a cloak of safety.
Meanwhile, we have halted. With a florid demand for silence, the Dark Lord draws to himself the attention of everyone. He fails, initially, to keep it and is reduced to silencing his audience with magic. In the old days, a multitude of witches and wizards, utterly spellbound, would have packed a field to hear him. Strange how time changes things!
The Dark Lord, having amplified his voice, announces to the crowd that the Potter boy is dead, killed as he ran away trying to save himself.
This statement causes a palpable response among the Death Eaters. I can see Dolohov and Rabastan Lestrange secretly share a look, as though they don’t quite believe their ears. I feel around me a sense of disquietude in response to the Dark Lord’s lie.
I look toward the castle. Eventually, I will have to inch my way into the entrance. But do I dare do that now? Not yet; too soon.
I turn my attention to the crowd of defenders – the survivors of the earlier battle. I know some of those people; I cannot avoid recognizing them. Thirty yards from me, the Granger Mudblood and the Weasley boy stand weeping with their arms around each other. They lean in toward one another – and I am struck with an image of Narcissa and I standing together – the same gesture, the same expression, the same posture, the same support – if only we dared! I looked away. McGonagall is a mask of grief; her voice, a manifestation of sheerest misery. My old teacher, now my son’s – good God, where is Draco? Is he truly still alive? Narcissa’s information, whatever the source, was it a lie? McGonagall’s grief makes me bitter: Would she mourn for Draco the way she did for Potter?
A memory came upon me suddenly: I have Apparated outside the yew hedge and am walking along the drive toward the Manor when Draco, no more than three and wearing an enormous straw hat, appears from behind a tree and runs up to me, shouting, “Dad! Daddy!” I pick him up and carry him, and he immediately begins explaining that the peacock had spread its feathers twice in one day. He has to let go of me to illustrate by making a two-handed gesture of a spreading fan. And, he tells me, he needs a broomstick; not wants, needs. I ask him why, and he give a dozen reasons. But mostly he scolds me for going away and demands that I stay at home with him from now on. I carry him into the house and sit in a chair, holding him in my lap, listening to him. Soon after, our old house elf, who had been my nanny and is now Draco’s, comes to dress him for dinner. “The little one loves his daddy, Mr. Lucius,” she had said, leading him out.
I shake away the memory and continue to examine the growing crowd, willing myself to see through and behind them – anywhere, any hint. What about Gregory Goyle? Or the Crabbe boy? I wasn’t sure whether their absence was a good sign or bad. I told myself it was good – if Goyle and Crabbe were missing, Draco must not be alone. The three of them were nearly inseparable.
And I see the red hair and profile of Arthur Weasley. We never got along, Arthur and I, not since my second year at Hogwarts, which was when Arthur Weasley became a sanctimonious prick of a Gryffindor prefect. I believe he took points from Slytherin every time he saw me in the hallway. Even back then, Weasley seemed to have the goal of ruining my life.
The Muggle Protection Act always sounded like an innocuous bit of legislation, as though it prevented wizards from hunting Muggles out of season. In reality, it authorized the search, without warrant or any legal protection whatsoever, of the home of any person whom the authorities suspected of harboring evidence of crimes against Muggles or Mudbloods. If they found evidence to support a prosecution for murder, the suspect was subject to prosecution regardless of however many years had elapsed. Many people, myself included, were living with secrets that linked them to crimes committed during the First Wizarding Wars. I was forced to dispose of several compromising objects; others, I secreted away in hidden compartments under multiple enchantments – and held my breath. But there was one particular item that was unusually problematic, and, at the same time, that posed a special temptation.
Years before, the Dark Lord had entrusted an enchanted diary to me with the instruction that I hide it away in safekeeping until he should ask for its return. And so I had, for more than ten years. When Weasley passed his Act, the diary slowly became something of an obsession to me. I was constantly apprehensive lest it be discovered, despite my precautions, during a Ministry search; if this ever happened, the diary could not possibly be explained away. The situation became so dire that my better judgment abandoned me. After all, the Dark Lord had been gone for more than ten years.
When I reflected on it later, I could only conclude that I would never have done what I did, but for that combination of circumstances – overwhelming fear of exposure, an irrational anger at Weasley and a desire for revenge against him, a shameful loss of faith that the Dark Lord would ever return, and – I had to admit – overweening pride leading me to believe that I might act on behalf of the Dark Lord. And so, I had slipped the Dark Lord’s old diary to Arthur’s daughter, Ginny. The result had been a disaster for many people, particularly myself, although the extent of the disaster did not become obvious for some time.
Not that any of it matters.
There is a commotion up front. I hear some boy – good heavens, it’s that Longbottom boy – challenging the Dark Lord. Surprising courage, indeed. But no good will come.
We are suddenly quiet. I am far enough back that I must strain to see. There is Longbottom. The Dark Lord is immobilizing him with a body-bind curse. There was an impulse in the group at the castle as if they would storm the Dark Lord. At that instant, I feel a twitching in the Mark on my arm, and all the Death Eaters around me immediately raise their wands toward the Hogwarts defenders. I, of course, have no wand to raise; I merely stand and watch.
The Sorting Hat is now placed on Longbottom’s head. There is a gasp in the crowd as, suddenly, the hat bursts into flames. Longbottom stands on fire, as I stand watching, unable to look away, until - - what is that? What is happening?
Longbottom, no longer frozen, pulls a sword from the hat and beheads the abomination Nagini.
Chaos is descending like an avalanche. The Dark Lord’s screech of loss rends my ears.
And then invasion: Centaurs. The whiz of their arrows precedes their onslaught, their pounding galloping hooves bearing down upon us. And giants, giants all over, tramping about, fighting with one another, utterly disregarding the wizards; we have to stay out of their way or be trampled. I feel a shadow above me; I look up; I see the air full of creatures – thestrals and hippogryphs. In the incredible noise and disorder of war, I must get Narcissa out of there. I grab her hand, feeling the surge of adrenaline, and we run with the others toward the castle, away from the Centaurs’ arrows. She drops my hand and soon disappears; the crush at the entrance is a tidal wave sweeping us along inside.
I try to negotiate my way through the crush, but it is difficult. I scream, I bellow Draco’s name. The entrance hall rapidly empties into the Great Hall, carrying me with it.
Once inside the Great Hall, I discover that the crowd is, surprisingly, not quite so dense. Individuals are battling, dueling one another; some on the floor, others, standing on tables. I rush through them, pushing some out of the way, a gray ghost in the gray twilight, as I make my search. Again, I feel the rising panic, the terror that Draco will not be here. I have trained my eyes – my eye – to search not only for Draco but also for Goyle and Crabbe. The bad eye is leaking; I wipe it on my robe.
There are tables, draperies, every sort of obstruction to the line of sight. I look everywhere, always calling for Draco, and occasionally for Vincent or Gregory.
Schoolchildren are fighting Death Eaters, some of whom are older and more experienced than I am myself. I do not care. But even as I rush throughout the crowd, avoiding the combatants and their myriad spells, certain observations penetrate my single-minded focus. I pass by; I see wizards falling in combat; I pay little attention; and I do not notice what side wins or loses. But after a time, it sinks in that the fallen are overwhelmingly the Dark Lord’s people, the Death Eaters; and those standing are overwhelming the defenders: Hogwarts students, Order members, and others who stand against the Dark Lord.
I nearly trip over a body. When I looked down, I recognize Yaxley lying across the floor, stunned stone-cold. A few seconds later, I slip and go all the way to the floor, bracing myself with my hands on a slick sticky liquid that turns out to be the blood of Walden MacNair. He is bleeding from the head, unconscious, perhaps dead. MacNair was a disgusting, cruel, petty little man in life; now he had his blood all over my hands. I wipe them on his robes, then hurry on.
After falling over MacNair, I get the idea of climbing onto a table for a better view. This makes me vulnerable; but I hold up my empty hands, showing that I am not a threat, and look around. No sign of Draco or of his friends. But as I stand looking to the west, there is Greyback fighting with the Weasley and Longbottom boys and then – down he goes. Continuing to survey the room, I see Arthur and one of his older sons dueling the Minister. It seemed that the minute I recognize this group, Thicknesse joins Greyback.
In back of me, I hear a high, squeaky voice intone, “Avada Kedavra.” At the first syllable, I wheel toward the voice. As I turn, simultaneously, I hear a scream, Dolohov’s final scream before little Flitwick’s curse silences him permanently.
I continue looking around, and there I find the Dark Lord. And right beyond him, my dear sister-in-law.
The Dark Lord is dueling Shacklebolt, and McGonagall, and, incongruously, Slughorn in his pajamas. From the look on her face, it seems clear McGonagall and the others are dueling to kill; but, regardless, they are not able to bring him down.
Fifty yards away, my sister-in-law, the terror of the Dark Lord’s forces, is dueling three schoolgirls.
I step down, having seen nothing of Draco from the table, and resume my search on foot. I take off at a run. Of course, between the uncertain light, the crowd, the need to be alert for flying curses, and coping with one working eye, it is difficult to see where you are going. Missteps are easy; I have already gone down once. This time, I have gone scarcely twelve paces when I catch my foot under the extended leg of a fallen man and pitch forward, landing prone over his lower legs. It is a hard fall. It knocks the wind completely out of me. I hit my head – not enough to knock myself out, but enough to hurt. I have to lie where I have fallen for a few seconds before I can get up.
I’m forty-three. These days, I feel ten years older. Prison and the Dark Lord’s ill graces. So, not being as robust as I once was, it takes me a moment to recover.
After several seconds – or a minute, who knows – I start to push myself up. It is then that I realize my hand is resting on something other than the floor – something thin, something rounded and tapered. When my fingers recognize it, I feel my jaw drop a little.
I look at the man on the floor. For the first time, I realize it is my old colleague Rookwood. He has been Stunned and, like MacNair, he is bleeding from the head. I put my hand on the artery at his neck but feel no pulse. I see no sign of life, no breath.
The Dark Lord had tortured Rookwood two years ago over the Prophesy. The Dark Lord likes to play hard with his toy soldiers, never considering that doing so may cause them to break when he sends them into battle. Rookwood, under the Cruciatus curse, had convulsed so badly that he repeatedly struck his head against the wall, causing a concussion and making his brain swell. Stupify should have left him temporarily unconscious, no more. Instead, he had been so weakened by the Dark Lord’s punishment practices that a stunning spell at the wrong angle was as deadly as Avada Kedavra.
And now, I have Rookwood’s wand.
I pick it up, resting for a moment on my knees. To be holding a wand after nearly a year – it feel so wonderful as to be momentarily distracting. The sensation of my hand closing around a wand, even a wand which is not my own, is like homecoming.
And the very moment my fingers close around the handle, I feel it. In the Mark. Only a twinge, but impossible to mistake. It made me suck in my breath.
Of course; what could I expect? The Mark is an umbilicus, connecting the legions to the master. And now that my hand holds a wand, I have become an armed wizard, a warrior of the Dark Lord. As I had vowed.
I look over at Bellatrix, more than a match for three young girls. But when I look around, I see no other Death Eater fighting for the Dark Lord. It appears that she is the only one remaining.
Take up the wand, now, Lucius. Take up the wand and defend me.
Oh, God. A jolt. Not painful but urgent.
But, of course, I must defend the Dark Lord. I must defend him. I must! Anything else, anything, it can wait. It must wait.
Everything you have ever lost will be restored to you a thousandfold. All I have to do, right now, is to take up Rookwood’s wand and fight for the Dark Lord.
But, no. I do not intend to fight. I do not intend for either side. I must find my son.
The pain is immediate, so sharp and piercing that I cry out.
You made an oath. Have you forgotten?
Dear God, dear Merlin. The oath. It was nothing I could ever forget. I was eighteen years old, too young and far too naive to comprehend where my actions might lead me.
A memory takes me. Instantaneous, and yet it seems to cut through the years.
I am being led into an unfamiliar grove, which is utterly black on this moonless June night. I am terrified. At the same time, I have a tremendous yearning to prove myself worthy. The stars in the sky are masked by trees; the darkness is near total. My knees rest on the dirt as I kneel before the Lord Voldemort. Butterflies of apprehension flutter in my stomach. He states the oath. The oath binds me corpore menteque animaque, per aeternitatem. I repeat these words. I know my Latin perfectly well, and I know that I have just bound myself to him body, mind and soul, for eternity. I quiver as I say the words, but I say them. Backing out is not something I have ever even considered. A masked Death Eater standing behind me seizes my arm and twists it so that the forearm is bared. It hurts, and I suppress the urge to yelp. That transitory pain is nothing. It is no preparation for what follows. I cannot see the Dark Lord touch his wand to my arm, but I feel the spell burning into it, maiming and re-sculpting the skin and muscle down to the bone, deforming it into the brand of the Dark Lord. My eyes water; I barely restrain myself from crying out. I am almost at the point of begging him to withdraw the spell, when it stops of its own accord. And the pain is replaced by joy as I am pulled to my feet. I suddenly realize the sky is visible after all. Euphoria, triumph, acceptance, as I stand beneath a black velvet sky bejeweled with stars, illuminated by weirdly flickering torches, as I listen to the applause of twenty Death Eaters standing around me in a circle.
It had been the best night of my life. In retrospect, I came to realize that what I really wanted that night had nothing to do with the Dark Lord or the Death Eaters. I was a wealthy child who had, at seventeen, become a legal adult. At eighteen, I was a very wealthy man on the verge of marriage, having just become engaged. But I had no line of demarcation between my life as a wealthy schoolboy and my life as an adult. My father was still lord of the manor. I had no passion to lead me to a career, and I had no financial reason to work. I was about to graduate from Hogwarts. I felt myself in a kind of limbo. But one thing seemed abundantly certain: to become a knight of Lord Voldemort was to pass a rite of passage out of childhood, to become an adult before all the world. I became an adult, and I acquired a purpose.
That night of my initiation was followed by some of the best years of my life.
We sweep into a house, breaking the charms and Apparating. There are four of us, myself as squad leader. I cannot be more than twenty or twenty-one. But I remember this one. The householder is some blood-traitor – I don’t recall his name – he suddenly realizes we four are standing in the dark in his bedroom. And one second later, he realizes who we are. At that moment you can smell his fear in the air. In the dim illumination of the wandlight, you see him tremble and quake. It makes me pull myself a little straighter as I feed off the traitor’s fear of us, of these nightmare apparitions, these shock troops of Lord Voldemort. It is intoxicating, this power over pain and mortality.
I remember well: I wanted to pound the air, call to the heavens, that I was Lucius Malfoy, I was the Dark Lord’s disciple, I was a lieutenant of the coming regime, I was the prince of the earth. I walked an inch above the ground in those days.
But those days are past, long past.
And yet, as dawn’s advent lightens the twilight, I stand holding Rookwood’s wand, in full realization that those times could return, and my place in them could return. Of course, I will never be twenty again, but no matter. Once again, I will wield that power, experience that rare sense of another wizard’s abject fear of one’s own power. All the others seem to have fallen. Beside Bellatrix, I seem to be the last man standing. And somehow I always knew; I knew luck would come back to me. This is surely it. For years, wizards and witches showed me respect to my face, while joking about me behind his back; my greatest source of power and fear lay in the size of my account at Gringott’s. No more. From this day forth, I shall be a wizard to be reckoned with.
All I must do – there, between myself and the Dark Lord: a Hogwart’s student, then a centaur, then a tall wizard who looks to be an Order member. Not one of them is looking at me. So, looking one to the other – simple. Smite them all with curses, one two three, and move to the Dark Lord’s side, and fight beside him. The Mark on my arm felt warm, almost as if encouraging me.
Forget them now. They will be restored to you, if you only pick up the wand and aid me.
Wait, what is wrong with me? I entered this Hall intending to search for Draco. I cannot afford distraction.
What was I thinking a moment ago? It is so easy to picture Narcissa hit by a stray curse. She is wandless like myself. She, having given hers to Draco to take back to school with him. So she is defenseless in this room full of amateur duelists. And my son: I picture Draco, hidden away in a distant corner of the castle, wounded and forgotten, bleeding out until he is past help.
All of a sudden, there is a woman shouting to everyone to get out of her way, so she can engage Bellatrix. The voice draws my attention immediately. I know it, even though I have seen very little of Molly Weasley since she and Arthur left school. They had both been four years ahead of me. She was formidable as a girl and I don’t suppose she’s changed. Back in school, she was one girl I would not have chosen to cross. . .
The pain in my arm makes me stagger, and I nearly drop the wand. A sudden memory seizes me.
The Dark Lord was always partial to the Cruciatus, and he was always fond of chastising his disciples, but somehow he never turned this predilection against me.
Until the evening of the Rebirthing, shortly after the escape of Harry Potter, when he requested his diary.
“Tell me again, Lucius, what became of my diary.”
On my belly, face to the dirt. “It was destroyed, my Lord.”
And by whom was it destroyed, Lucius?”
“As I understood it, my Lord, by Harry Potter.”
A shriek, like the shriek of a banshee. It runs through my marrow like a cold wind, making me shiver to the core. And then the curse. I never heard it. My legs feet as though each muscle is independently in spasm. I feet as though I am being pulled apart. I bend and contort, crying out. I try to escape to a physical position of comfort, but it is impossible. The pain will stop for a moment, allowing an instant’s recovery; but then it increases, taking a different form, a screeching agony in my chest that radiates down into my gut, making me think that something inside must surely have ruptured. With the pain is the anguish that I will never see Draco, never see Narcissa again, because my liver and my intestines are breaking apart, and I am bleeding inside. Surely, it pleases the Dark Lord to torture me to death. I hear myself begging, pleading.
I am breathing hard, as though the torture ceased only moments ago. The intensity skews my memory. Has it truly just stopped?
The Dark Lord is speaking to me. Is this memory? The room feels oddly dark, and I feel slightly dizzy with a sense of disorientation. I feel as though my self is not the same as it was a moment ago. I turn toward the Dark Lord, and he is engaged in his duel, exactly as before. Yet, even as he duels, his voice speaks in my mind, as though the snake in the Mark were sending his words through my veins. But now the voice, that before had been enticing, reassuring of my heart’s desires, has turned high and cold and replete with contempt. I hear his voice, and I am utterly debased, despicable as a cockroach.
You broke like a porcelain teacup, like the brittle rich boy that you are. Would you like to know why I stopped, finally? It was not because you’d served your punishment. It was disgust that stopped me – outrage that a soldier in my ranks – a man, at that –
was so pathetically weak he could not tolerate a fair punishment. Who cried for his wife, and I had barely begin. I would have thought you were a four year old child, instead of a grown man. It so disgusted me, I had to stop. Your sister in law, Bellatrix, takes her punishment without complaint. And gets up again and does her duty. I hardly need state that she’s twice the man you are. Or will ever be. Even that little Mudblood girl they tortured at the Manor showed more fortitude than you ever did – wandless, indeed! To redeem your shame, you should be rushing forward to aid me.
A year in Azkaban, and the sense impotence is thorough and utter. Word seeped in, and I learned of Draco’s situation. I could infer for myself that it was in retaliation for my own failure. That my son had taken it upon himself to bail me out with his own flesh and sanity and life and future. To be tucked away in an oubliette of a cell, as dependent on others as a child or a caged animal. I was more desperate for information than for food, but none came. And then, when they finally let me out, it was over. All that remained to be done was to tell me what happened in my absence.
My home was no long my home. My refuge, my privacy, had been stripped away, and my childhood dwelling, the home of my family for centuries, had been commandeered. We sat and watched that snake devour human beings on our dining table and dared not look away. It haunted my dreams that one day the serpent would unhinge its jaws to swallow someone I loved. At night I could not make love to Narcissa. There was too much terror in the air. Instead, we clung to each other like frightened children. And, I confess with embarrassment, some nights, approaching sleep, my mind escaped so completely that it took me to other, safer times in my life. And, in my half-dreams, I would forget that I was not a very small boy clinging to his mother. Absurd, no? But the mind does what it can to keep us sane. I would waken in the middle of the night, and it would seem to me that if the Dark Lord took Narcissa from me, the grief would kill me. But then thinking of Draco, I would recall that I had not the option even to die.
But why does it seem now, at this time, that the Dark Lord has seized control of me, or of a part of me? I have borne the Mark for nearly twenty-five years, and I don’t recall anything like this.
Dinner at the Lestranges. “. . . is always strange,” was my little joke. Narcissa assured me it stopped being funny after the fiftieth time I said it.
But here we are. Dinner has been served. It was perfectly fine, but that does not stop Bellatrix from pretending the veal was overcooked in order to give herself an excuse to Crucio the chef. She spends most of the meal trying to convince Narcissa that a few glasses of wine will be good for the baby, even though Cissa, in her seventh month, is abstaining. I keep hoping the stress of pregnancy will cause my wife to snap and curse her sister – if not Crucio, Silencio would be welcome – but I am disappointed.
It’s been a jolly evening all around. The Seldens are also dining with us; and on the way to the bathroom, I observe Rodolphus with his hand on John Selden’s leg. I suppose I should feel sorry for Bellatrix. But I don’t.
The worst part of the evening is the after-dinner conversation. It’s very much like being back in Slytherin House, listening to a bunch of infatuated Sixth and Seventh Years. Bellatrix sits admiring and fondling her Mark, looking like a newly engaged girl wondering at the many facets of her ring. She proceeds to hold forth on her favorite subject. I admire the Dark Lord, also. But I try not to make a fool of myself. Bellatrix has no such reservations; and listening to her carry on is difficult to stomach.
“Did you know what these,” she lovingly indicates her Mark, “can do?” She pauses for effect, batting her eyelashes, as if the Dark Lord were actually there to see her. “The Dark Lord designed this one particular spell, so that, the fewer the warriors, the stronger the summons. Isn’t that brilliant?”
“The fewer the warriors ?” I wonder. “You mean, if most of us are killed or disabled or disarmed, the summons becomes particularly strong?” She nods. “What does that mean, exactly?”
She stares at me. “It’s for the Dark Lord to know what that means. The Dark Lord maintains his own counsel. You know that. I feel honored that the Dark Lord confided in me as much as he did.”
“Do you know what this unusually strong summons feels like?”
“I don’t need to. I will always be at the Dark Lord’s side.”
“Does he touch the Mark to for this summoning?”
“How would I know?” She smiles lovingly at her Mark, and would no doubt have kissed it had she been alone. “I know the need is communicated through the Dark Lord’s Mark. I know the Dark Lord is a genius.”
“Did you know,” asks Narcissa dryly, “that you’ve mentioned the Dark Lord five hundred, sixty-seven times since we arrived. I’ve kept count.”
“What if an armed warrior disregards it?”
“Oh, he won’t. He can’t. The Mark will make it too painful, too intense. It’s genius. It’s all a way of making sure that the Dark Lord survives any crisis.”
“He told you that?”
She smiles proudly, looking us both in the eye. “Yes.”
I haven’t given a thought to that conversation, or that awful dinner party, in eighteen years. It was two months before Draco was born.
Is that Bellatrix’s laugh? Oh, no. It cannot be. Molly took her.
And now, the Dark Lord is a monster in his wrath. His fury is a thing of terror, a force of nature.
Dear God, I can’t breathe. There is an invisible python was wrapped around my chest, pulling its coils tighter, constricting, holding me so that I cannot draw breath. With every attempt, it draws its coils tighter, and tighter. I’m feel that I’m turning blue, that my heart is about to burst . . .
Suddenly, it stops. I gasp for breath.
And I see him. The Potter boy. So – so, he must have been alive after all. Narcissa must have lied to –
Your wife is dead. Forget her. Pain, radiating from my Mark through my arm to my head. I bear it, somehow. But I can hear myself breathing, raggedly.
Now the Dark Lord and Potter are moving toward each other, their attention appears to be completely fixed on one another. I manage, with difficulty, to tear my own gaze away and look around the room a final time. This time – a miracle! My eyes catch a glint of daylight falling on a pale head. It is up against a wall, nearly hidden by drapery. I slowly move toward it.
As I begin to move, the pain in my arm flares like a supernova. Turn. Kill the boy. Kill Potter.
The pain stops me in my tracks. I am now bent double over a table, using my wand-hand to hold myself up. My left arm is being eaten-through with acid. I can’t bring myself to look at it. I know there is no flesh there. I can feel the wind against the screaming nerves of my exposed bones. The snake lodged in the Mark has eaten away the flesh, eaten it down to the down to the bone.
Dear Merlin. Am I truly the last man standing? The last soldier, the last Death Eater.
I push myself up to standing, turn toward Draco, and begin to move toward him. I must go to him.
But why? I suddenly ask, making myself freeze. And I think to myself, isn’t he better off without you? Aren’t you a useless, utterly useless, utter failure to everything you’ve ever touched. You couldn’t protect him then, I told myself. What makes you think you can now?
Utter failure, correct. I would have thought you would at least be able to retrieve a glass ornament from a teenaged boy without some absurd mistake. After all, you are an expert on brittle things that break, inasmuch as you are one yourself. But no, you utterly failed in that as in everything.
So prove me wrong. Prove yourself worthy to be Draco’s father. Kill the Potter boy.
Suddenly, the dizziness and disorientation come upon me again. Kill the Potter boy. Kill Potter? This is wrong. It makes no sense. The Dark Lord had never asked anyone to kill the boy. He had always demanded that the boy be left for him. He had always forbidden any of his followers to kill the boy. My arm is on fire, my equilibrium is off, I cannot think, and I feel as though I have walked into a dark fog.
But I can see Draco. He is slightly closer than he was. I can just reach him.
The Dark Lord, taunting Potter, speaks disparagingly of love.
I break into a run and rush, stride after stride, across the room to where Draco is partly leaning, partly lying, against the curtain. Oblivious to any pain or voice, I go down on one knee to where I can take him in my arms. His hair smells singed, his face is burned and blackened. “I’m here,” I whisper.”
“Dad,” he says. I hold him, pressing his head against my chest, overwhelmed with relief. I cannot not ignore the pain of the Mark, as it is constant and awful. But I bear it. “Where’s mum?” he asks.
“Coming,” I tell him, as we turn to watch the duel unfolding before us.
Now the Dark Lord reminds Potter that he, the Lord Voldemort, brought about he death of Albus Dumbledore. But, to the amazement of every listener, Potter refutes him: “No, you did not.”
We listen, tense and rapt, my arm around him. A second later there are rapid quiet footsteps, and Narcissa nearly slides into us. She hugs Draco as though she will never release him and kisses him silently. Her tears and Draco’s are falling freely, but I do not have the luxury. We scrunch down together and watch, our arms intermingled and our heads close.
Pathetic despicable faithless coward. Do your duty. Kill the Potter boy.
The pain has lost its acuity and focus. I believe I know the reason: the Dark Lord’s attention is fixed so completely on the Potter boy that there is nothing left to direct at anyone or anything else – there is only a preexisting, floating spell that does not require his current attention or intent. Particularly with my family around me, I feel I can bear it. But the oddest, most interesting thing is the plea that I kill the Potter boy. It is unthinkable that the Dark Lord should request, let alone require, help for such a task. The inescapable conclusion would seem to be that the Lord Voldemort, greatest of wizards, has some lingering question in his mind as to whether he is up to the task.
But the Dark Lord’s anger, his terrible rage, is present a hundredfold, barely held in check, subject to bursting forth at any second. It may be that the Potter boy does not know his peril. But the two of them continue to circle; the Dark Lord continues to hold back.
The Dark Lord’s rage is an inferno, destroying everything in its path. If young Potter does not take him, he will come after my family and me. I feel it. I feel it and I will myself not to fear it. I will not collapse before him. This time, I will not. I feel the warm humanity of Draco and Narcissa beside me, and I am determined.
And suddenly, they are talking about the Dark Lord’s wand. His great preoccupation. He tortured Ollivander for information about that wand in my home.
Harry Potter is speaking, and as he speaks, I hear and feel Draco turn, concentrating his attention.
“The Elder Wand recognized a new master before Dumbledore died, someone who had never even laid a hand on it.”
I felt my son tense. I myself understand what is coming, because Draco has told me the full story of what happened the night Dumbledore was killed.
“The true master of the Elder Wand was Draco Malfoy.”
Draco gave a gasp. I shift my position slightly, so that my body hides Draco. The Dark Lord is speaking again.
“. . . and after I have killed you, I can attend to Draco Malfoy . . .”
I turn and look at Draco and Narcissa. I quickly kiss them both. Then I disengage myself from them and turn, so I am facing toward the Dark Lord. No sudden movements. I am slow and subtle, nothing to notice. Slowly, slowly I am on my feet. The Dark Lord is still circling. The Mark on my arm burns, but it is a dull sensation. I take Rookwood’s wand – again, very slowly, no one noticing. After all, I am no one, simply Draco’s father, who has no intention of failing to protect his son this time. So I quietly, within the shadows, move the wand into en garde, keeping it masked. And I load the curse, feeling the intention flow into me, into an antechamber of my mind from which it could be released in the space of a thought. All of the horrors, the torture, anguish, humiliation, and loss that his monstrosity has visited on my family give weight and focus to my curse.
And now, I will stand here quietly and wait to see what happens.
Even with one eye, it is possible to aim. You just have to be very careful.
If, by some miracle, the Potter boy prevails, I will do nothing, merely return to my family.
But if the Potter boy should fall, then – my curse will hit the Dark Lord so quickly that onlookers will call the duel a draw.
1. The lines set out in italics and bold type are quoted directly from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 36.
2. I am very much indebted to Morgana67, who was kind enough to beta this chapter, for her many helpful suggestions and her encouragement.
3. Kudos, gratitude and a virtual bouquet to the very talented NevillesSoulmate, who created the wonderful graphic.
4. I am grateful to be a part of this fantastic project, and to participate with so many gifted authors.
Chapter 15: Dobby: True Courage
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For a true hero isn’t measured by the size of his strength, but by the strength of his heart.
- Disney’s Hercules
It had all been worth it. From the moment he had met famous Harry Potter, Dobby had been in awe of him. He had treated Dobby with an unparalleled respect. As if that weren’t enough, he treated him as an equal. In return, Dobby had always done anything to help Harry Potter, and now, he had the opportunity to do something truly spectacular. Dobby the house-elf had the chance to save a life.
The life in question was Harry Potter’s, and that alone convinced Dobby that he should help him any way he could, even though the thought of returning to that horrible Manor was enough to petrify him. The cruelty he had faced at the hands of those monsters was enough to drive any normal being insane.
There was nothing that Dobby regretted doing, even up to the last breath he ever exhaled. As he felt the knife plunge into his chest, he accepted his fate. He would have loved to live on – perhaps convince Miss Granger to make more elf hats for him – but he accepted it. He was dying.
As his breaths became more ragged and he began to feel weaker, Dobby thought back to earlier that evening when Aberforth had summoned him.
He was sitting alongside Winky, sipping Butterbeer near the fireplace in Hogwarts’ kitchen. It was late at night, and so the elves were passing their time in their own ways. Dobby was half-way through telling Winky about his latest encounter with some first years in the Gryffindor common room when he heard his name being called. It was almost as though someone had whispered it in his mind, and he immediately focused his attention on it. Luckily for him, Winky was already too sotted from Butterbeer to pay him any heed. Dobby recognized the voice to belong to that of Aberforth Dumbledore, and instantly Apparated to the Hog’s Head.
He made a slight bow of his head towards Aberforth, noting that he was the only one in the Hog’s Head. With a firm voice, Dobby asked, “Is there something you was needing, sir?”
Aberforth nodded. The expression he wore was grim as he said, “Dobby, I need a favor from you. Will you go to the Malfoys’ Manor and save Harry Potter?”
At the mention of the Malfoy name, Dobby inhaled sharply. The little elf swayed slightly as terror flooded him. His body began to shake of its own accord, and he found that unpleasant memories were rushing back with the speed of the Hogwarts Express train. His large green eyes met with Aberforth’s bright blue as Dobby looked up at the wizard. Amidst his terror, he realized that Aberforth was asking for Dobby’s help.
“Harry Potter has his miss and his Wheezy?” Dobby asked, his voice sounding unsteady now, even to his own ears. He clasped his hands together in an attempt to stop them from shaking.
“I believe so. Will you help them?”
Dobby was tempted to cower for awhile longer, but suddenly felt a wave of courage flood him. He stood as straight as he could and a fierce look spread across his face, as he replied, “Dobby is wanting to help Harry Potter, sir.”
Aberforth nodded and a slight smile appeared on his lips; Dobby was reminded suddenly of Aberforth’s brother. After a moment during which they simply stared at one another, Aberforth spoke. In a quiet voice, he said, “I thought you would, Dobby.”
With another little nod of his head, Dobby Disapparated.
Dobby had arrived at Malfoy Manor, feeling the appropriate amount of horror at being back in his former masters’ home. He suppressed a brief shudder that he wished to give in to, and then stared up at Harry Potter and his Wheezy.
He tried to control his trembles, but found himself unequal to that task. With his best attempt at a voice, he said quietly, “Harry Potter, Dobby has come to rescue you.”
Dobby nearly jumped as a scream sounded from above. A fraction of his terror seemed to ease at the sobering sound. He needed to help Harry Potter, and quickly.
He answered all of Harry Potter’s questions hastily, and finally nodded in agreement to helping them escape to Shell Cottage. Only sheer terror at being in this accursed home again enabled Dobby to hastily make his way to the where the wandmaker was lying on the floor.
Once his small party was gathered together, Dobby Disapparated with them, landing on the lawn of Shell Cottage a few seconds later. Dobby led them to the house, wanting to deposit them safely before returning. Their progress was slowed greatly by the fact that the wandmaker was barely able to hold himself upright. He had to rely on Dean and Luna to support him.
As they reached the door, Bill Weasley stepped out, instantly taking the wandmaker and gaping at them all. A hasty explanation was offered by Dean, who smiled briefly at Dobby before following Bill inside to help. He would have returned to Malfoy the manor right away, but the blonde-haired girl named Luna had turned to face him. “Thank you, Dobby,” she said quietly, bending down to kiss his cheek in gratitude.
Dobby felt his cheeks redden as he tried to smile at her, “Dobby is thanking you, Miss.”
“Bring them back safely,” she called out as she disappeared inside. Dobby nodded, eager to fulfill his mission.
He Apparated back to the manor and found himself standing off the side of the room. Anger welled within him to see his former mistess’s sister holding a knife to Miss Granger’s throat, and with a snap of his fingers, he sent the chandelier raining down, causing both chaos and damage. He would have taken a moment to be pleased with himself, but the danger wasn’t over yet.
He turned when his former mistress call his name and walked further into the room, pointing his finger at his old mistress. His hand was shaking badly, but he did his best not to let it show. In a squeaky voice he repeated almost the same words he had said to her husband so many years before, “You must not hurt Harry Potter.”
As Mistress Lestrange called for his death, Dobby Disarmed Narcissa. Anger was fueling his actions, and a bit of his fear disappeared. Satisfaction replaced those feelings as he shouted that he was a free elf now. No longer would he tolerate their cruelty.
Dobby felt Harry Potter take his hand, saw the flash of silver, and felt the pain, but he refused to let that consume him at the moment. He concentrated all his energy on getting them to Shell Cottage.
They came to a stop once again on the grassy slope that was Shell Cottage’s lawn. The pain from the knife in his chest was monumental; none of the punishments Dobby had ever endured hurt as much as this.
Harry Potter finally turned to look at Dobby. Dobby instantly felt worry over the expression on Harry Potter’s face, and struggled to not let his worry consume him. His mind was suddenly transported back to when he first decided to help Harry Potter, trying his best to ensure Harry Potter’s safety….
Dobby told himself over and over that what he was doing was right. The punishment would surely be worth it, although his efforts would be in vain if Harry Potter somehow managed to get to Hogwarts.
But it would be impossible for him to, Dobby decided with a firm nod. He would warn Harry Potter, then return to the Manor and punish himself thoroughly. Perhaps Master Malfoy would not become aware of what he had done.
Putting his shoulders back, he nodded to himself. If he didn’t stop Harry Potter from returning to school, then Harry Potter’s life would be in grave danger. With a heavy heart and a firm mind, Dobby decided to do whatever he had to.
He walked around Harry Potter’s room, looking for the perfect spot to wait. As he moved near the bed, he noticed a sock sticking out from underneath. Dobby let out a joyous little squeak and hastily picked up the sock. Socks, it seemed, were his weakness.
After distracting himself with the sock for a few minutes, Dobby realized that someone was coming up the stairs. He tossed the sock aside and stood up on the bed, tugging on his tea cozy nervously. He had no choice but to succeed at his mission. If he didn’t, then Harry Potter would surely be placed in imminent danger. Dobby was the only one who had overheard talk of the diary and the chamber, and as a result, he was the only one who could warn him. The evil that had been performed….
When the door squeaked open and Dobby turned to face it, his eyes fell upon the form of Harry Potter, one of the greatest wizards of all time. Dobby bounded off the bed and made a low bow; he knew now that helping Harry Potter would be the most noteworthy thing he’d ever done in his lifetime.
Dobby pulled his mind back to the present and looked into the deep green eyes of the one he viewed with utmost reverence. He could feel himself swaying and could feel his chest heaving, and both he and Harry Potter looked down at the knife in his chest. He felt hands gently lay him down, but couldn’t seem to find the words to thank him. Dobby wished he could tell the great Harry Potter just how great he was, but found that words were quickly failing him. His own large green eyes met with Harry Potter’s for the last time. With a last, very taxing effort, he managed to say quietly, “Harry…Potter….”
He could feel himself fading from life, and hoped that his last act would be enough. That maybe, just maybe, he could have really made a difference.
A/N: I really admire Dobby for the courage he showed throughout the books, and I hope I did him justice in this chapter. All characters of course belong to JKR, and I used three quotes from Deathly Hallows, Chapter 23 (Malfoy Manor). I also want to add a quick thank you to all of the wonderful members of eHPF – you are all such amazing people =)
Chapter 16: Fenrir Greyback: Ravenous
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A cold Northern breeze washed over his face. A chilling dampness caressed his back. A hammering heartbeat pulsed through his body.
He awoke from sleep; his large body leaving an imprint in the grassy field where he passed out during the night.
He had no recollection of the last 12 hours, but the taste and smell of metal in his mouth, and the warm feeling in his stomach told him that it had been a good night.
Hunger (n): A compelling need or desire for food.
Ravenous (adj): Extremely hungry.
Fenrir Greyback came to the village of Sanford through the South entrance. Tucking his wand into the inside pocket of his coat, he trudged in, quickly mixing into the small crowd of people going about their daily lives.
Townsfolk flitted back in forth between shops, each person a succulent steak with a unique marinade. Fenrir’s mouth watered. It had been almost a week since he had eaten a real meal. He could only put it off for so much longer.
A tavern a few buildings down seemed to call to him. The sign on the door read: “Wolf’s Den Tavern.” Fenrir smiled at the irony. Certainly it was fate that he came across this particular pub.
He took a seat at the far end of the bar. The pub was full of sweaty, dirty, Muggle men. Their foul, collective odor wafted across the room, filling Fenrir’s nostrils. He grimaced in disgust. To him they smelled like raw meat gone rancid, and he would have nothing to do with such a disgusting menagerie of human filth.
A burly bartender took his order, placing a mug of beer in front of him. The smell of a fresh pint, and the tickling sensation of the foam pleasantly offset the disgusting mess that surrounded him, but it was short lived, for the pint was gone before his order of steak, extra rare, even arrived.
He ate his snack in peace, unwilling to gaze at the writhing mess of humanity. The mere thought of them made the smell come back. This wasn’t the first time he had been disgusted. Humans were all alike for the most part, vile, filthy creatures; living pathetic, meaningless lives. Each day a monotonous repeat of the last. The already repressed hungering for adventure appeased by television, sex, and drugs. Years of nothingness had dulled their senses to the point where they couldn’t smell their own wasted lives, or hear the cries of their inner animal, a far more noble creature, begging to be released, to live life the way it was meant to live; the way Fenrir lived his.
His hunger stayed for the moment, Fenrir paid his tab and walked out the door. This town was no different than the last; just another mindless fast-food restaurant where the food was quick, easy, and completely unsatisfying.
This disappointment was even greater than the last. The town of Sanford was supposed to be a great place. Magazines labeled it as a “Great place to raise a family.” If Jesus, blue-collar monotony, and fish and chips every Friday night with the guys equated to a stellar upbringing, then it was no wonder the world was going to hell. Sanford wasn’t real. The people there weren’t real. They were filler, mixed with spare parts, and an extra layer of grease and fat to hide the rubbery flavor. Was every town like this? Would Fenrir have to travel all the way to Hogsmeade, where magic and mystery intertwined and cultivated the minds, to get a decent meal?
As he exited through the Northeast entrance, a sugary smell cut through the fog, and filled his nostrils. A burning hunger began to grow in the bottom of his stomach. The smell was familiar, but had its own unique flavor. Fenrir’s mouth watered as the source of the delectable smell approached. A mother and child were walking along the path, headed back towards town. The mother smelled of Sanford. She was as rotten and unappealing as her kinsfolk. But the child…
The little boy ran off the road towards a small pond. His actions greeted by heavy, loud calls of discontent from the mother. She was wasting no time in ruining her son. The boy had seen a frog, and his mind was focused on one thing only. Catching it. He didn’t know why he wanted to catch it. He certainly hadn’t thought about what he was going to do after he caught it. But he was going to do it anyway. The boy dived, arms outstretched. The frog hopped into the air, but the boy’s reflexes were sharp, and he got him. Too bad he was a Muggle, he could have been a great seeker.
The boy landed in the mud, getting it all over his clothing. The mother walked over and picked the boy up, scolding him loudly. Already Fenrir could smell the meat beginning to spoil… and he was so hungry.
The full moon was weeks away. Fenrir would not be able to wait much longer. The child saw Fenrir and waved to him.
Fenrir tried to waive back, but the pain of hunger made it difficult to move his arm. He felt drool trickling out of the corner of his mouth. He was so hungry…
Chapter 17: Nymphadora Tonks: For His Future
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Nymphadora Tonks quietly hummed as she rocked Teddy. Tranquil and content, he was nursing in his sleep. His chocolate-brown lashes curled against his cheek. The corners of his lips were drawn up in a satisfied smile. With her free hand, she ran her fingers over his dark brown hair that was barely showing a hint of curl.
Looking up from the book he was reading, Remus Lupin turned to his wife and asked, “Is he finished?”
With a smile, Tonks answered, “I think so, but let’s give him a minute more. He just looks so happy. I hate to disturb him.”
Nodding, Lupin settled back in his seat and took in the sight. Flickering light from the dying fire danced over Tonks and Teddy as they were nestled in the rocking chair. Conflict might rage around them; but in their modest house, the family was at peace. Stifling a laugh, he smiled as Tonks’ head began to nod. Having Teddy was the most incredible event of his life, nevertheless the lack of sleep was taking its toll on both parents. He stood and carefully took the boy out of his mother’s arms. Carrying the infant to his crib, he placed Teddy on his back before spreading the robin’s egg blue blanket across him.
Tonks felt an overwhelming surge of love for her husband as she watched his tender care of their son. Straightening her blouse, she crossed the room and wrapped her arms around his waist before laying her head on his chest, “Can you believe he’s ours?”
Shaking his head, he led his wife back to the threadbare couch. Looking into her eyes, he caressed her cheek.
Tonks felt her pulse quicken as their lips met, and she ran her hands across Remus’ back. Instantly, her body was at war with itself - overwhelming fatigue battling the need for intimacy with her husband. She ran her fingers through his hair and drew him closer to her.
A wisp of smoke shot through the roof and materialized into a foggy badger before their eyes. George Weasley’s voice filled the room, “Harry’s come back to Hogwarts. The battle is beginning now!”
Tonks’ eyes locked on Remus’ face - his eyes filled with determination as he watched the patronus fade away. Seeming to make his mind up at once, he reached down and gently stroked her cheek; this time the touch was laced with the sadness of an unspoken goodbye.
“I have to go,” Remus slowly got to his feet and hesitantly crossed the room and stood next to the crib. His brow furrowed with grief as he stroked his sleeping son’s hair.
Tonks reached out and clutched at his hand, “Please don’t leave us.”
“Harry needs me now,” his gray eyes burned with intensity. He knelt next to the crib, “If our world is ever to be sane again....” Standing again, he wrapped his wife in his arms one last time. He lowered his head and buried his face in her hair. He took a deep breath and steeled himself for the coming moments. Tenderly, he tipped her face up to meet his as he placed his lips on hers.
Tears filled Tonks’ eyes as she felt the desperation in his touch, “Don’t you dare say goodbye to me. You’ll come back to us. Do you hear me?” Her voice rose as she refused to let the tears fall.
“I have to go. Whatever I do, remember I did it for his future,” he cradled her face in his hands as he gently placed a final kiss in her hair. “Take care of him,” he ran through the room and threw the door open.
Before the door closed completely, Tonks saw him begin to turn. When he disappeared, her knees buckled underneath her. She knelt staring at the door, willing him to reappear. She could picture him striding back through, a trace of laughter in the lines that crossed his face. He’d explain that it was a mistake. The twins were poking a bit of fun at them.
She’d heard the optimism in George’s voice - the battle they’d all been waiting for had come at last. She and Remus had discussed this moment at length. He’d join in the fight, and she’d stay behind with Teddy - never mentioning the necessity for one parent to stay behind, those words would be too painful.
The minutes passed like hours.
When Remus left, a piece of Tonks - her heart - had gone with him. She couldn’t bear not knowing how the battle was going. Visions of familiar faces came unbidden to her mind. Had they lost anyone yet? She refused to dwell on that last word, although she knew it was true. In a battle, warriors were lost. Which of her friends, her family, wouldn’t be coming home tonight? Her eyes dropped to the floor and she took a deep breath. Slowly, she stood - surprised to find her legs asleep. She’d obviously been frozen for longer than she’d thought. With that realization, her heart sped. Had she waited too long?
Her eyes fell on Teddy, her sweetly sleeping son. His now-pale brown eyelashes kissed his fair cheeks. Gently, she took his tiny hand in hers and brought it to her lips. As she studied his perfect face, she knew what she had to do. He deserved so much more than this....
He deserved a future where he wasn’t judged by the purity of his blood.
He deserved a future where he wasn’t forced to hide because of who his father had been.
He deserved a future.
As she gathered his things together - his favorite blanket, the small white stuffed owl Ginny had sent him - she placed them carefully in a suitcase. She realized what she was about to give up, spending his future with him. She’d never be there to kiss his knee when he fell or wrap her arms around him when he was frightened in the middle of the night. She cast her eyes back on him. He’d have to understand - someday. Someone would be there to tell him the story....the story of what his parents had given up to ensure his future. As she clicked the locks on the suitcase closed, she noticed something on their bedside table. With trembling hands, she reached out and grasped the picture of Remus with his arms wrapped around her waist. He looked younger than she’d ever seen him. He was so happy on their wedding day. Yes, that was the vision of his father she wanted Teddy to remember. Opening the suitcase, she placed the picture on top.
Tonks reached down and carefully picked Teddy up. For an instant, she hesitated. Should she write him a note? Shaking her head, she thought better of it. Time was of the essence, and what would she say? Hopefully, her actions would speak for her. When he was older, he’d understand that she never wanted to miss her chance at knowing him, but she had given her life for his future.
Taking one last look around the room, she pointed her wand at the candle, still burning brightly, “Nox.” Before the smoke faded completely into the air, she’d stepped from the front door - her son in her arms - ready to meet her future.