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2012 Writer's Duel: A New Kind of Love by HPFF United

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Format: Short story collection
Chapters: 19
Word Count: 50,409
Status: WIP

Rating: 15+
Warnings: Strong Language, Strong Violence, Scenes of a Sexual Nature, Contains Slash (Same-Sex Pairing), Substance Use or Abuse, Sensitive Topic/Issue/Theme, Contains Spoilers

Genres: General
Characters: Harry, OtherCanon
Pairings: Other Pairing

First Published: 01/07/2012
Last Chapter: 01/15/2012
Last Updated: 01/28/2012

Summary:

This story contains entries for the 2012 Writer's Duel, Prompt 3: A New Kind of Love - Many of the stories on HPFF center around romantic relationships, but for this prompt, authors had to push the boundaries of what it means to be in a relationship. Instead of exploring the lives of a dating/married couple, they were challenged to look at other types of relationships: a mother and child, two old friends, a boy and his dog, a student and her favorite teacher. Banner by HarleyQuinn


Chapter 1: Twice Blest by Aiedail
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“The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
It droppeth like the gentle rain from heaven
upon the place beneath."

(The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare)




There were several reasons that what I had decided to do was wrong.

Still, it was easy to forgive myself. I couldn’t look at him without remembering that some things are simply able to be boiled down to the purity of life, that we preserve some things at costs to ourselves. That economies are flexible, that priorities sometimes are not in accordance with things like rules and responsibility.

I believe that it’s mostly Ronald’s fault, and probably Harry’s, too, that I have acquired in these months a certain disregard for rules; and it’s not all rules, of course…only ones that exist simply to preserve the tradition of authority, and that have no ground when one uses one’s brain to really get at the spirit of some matter or other. If you had asked me, for example, when I was twelve and new at Hogwarts, to use a Time Turner to get to all my classes, I would have been shocked! The gall, I would have said, of cheating physical phenomena that have been set firmly in place for centuries! But look at me, now--not that people know. It’s me now using my brain where before a list of set traditions would have stopped me from doing things they deemed improper. What’s the merit of a list of rules, then?

I understand that it’s a rather juvenile platform; that I’m ahead of my age though not quite removed from adolescence in thinking that authority is obsolete, though, certainly, not in all cases. There are people stationed above students who have earned their place there; who deserve what they have, even if it is very little.

It admit that it puzzled me, that we skipped so much course material; there had never been anything about Professor Snape to suggest that he had a special interest in werewolves, but then, I had thought, we’d never really heard him talk about anything besides potions, had we? It only made sense that there was something he wanted to tell us without saying as much. There is a backwards sort of politics to a small school’s route of information, so I was not quite expecting some overarching message, some secret code, but it failed to surprise me when I began, slowly at first, to understand.

I’m here now for answers; for a couple kinds, incompatible kinds--a kind that is affirmation and denial--and I need both to make everything clear; to be absolutely certain. There are matters in which approximation is insufficient to answer needs, and I like these matters best, but that does not mean that at times I do not step into them with trepidation. It is not a long walk to the third floor, probably twenty minutes at a leisurely pace, but each moment seems long, longer than moments are, really, because I wish them to be. Time is not something that, more than is necessary, I seek to manipulate. There is no spirit to time, nothing to have, only a steady existence, and I have always been comfortable with this coexistence. It has never felt like a resignation to reside comfortably with something that simply is until this moment. Dread has never done this to me before; it’s changing me, and it’s really all Snape’s fault.

That’s not entirely true, I think to myself as I pass by a portrait of several red-nosed wizards sampling wine. It’s not all Snape’s fault--part of it is mine, and mine only, the price of an inquisitive nature, a mind that takes information as pieces of a larger puzzle, that is, largely, unsatisfied with knowledge for knowledge’s sake; because that looks too much like separate blotches of truth, and I believe, without quite knowing why, that nothing is entirely separate from anything else. Perhaps that’s why it was so easy for me, once I stopped trying to avoid it, to understand what Snape meant, assigning us this essay; to know what he wanted us to know. It is volatile, dangerous, the things he has said to us, the thing that he said that most students will not understand, will not see in the same words that I see.

Ronald, in part, because he won’t write the essay; Lupin won’t expect it, and most students won’t finish it. And I hope, in a brief faint flash of revelation, a small understanding of what this knowledge can achieve, what it can uproot--that nobody will write this essay.

It is not every day that you will hear these words from Hermione Granger.

I walk past the bust of Paracelcus and my heart beats quickly; I’m close to the classroom now, and for a moment nothing is more appealing to me than the idea of turning around and heading to the library instead, or an empty classroom where I can sit down and read over my essay another time, to make sure that I’m not heading into something silly, avoidable, when it can change everything. But I can’t make myself turn around; it seems my legs are determined to take me where my mind falters; instead of running, turning around, I reorder dates in my head, make again notes of his absences, the strange quality of his Boggart, his inexplicable sicknesses, hoping that none of it fits, that something’s off, that it doesn’t feel right in the way that I’ve come to interpret it.

It’s probably a fault of mine that I can’t simply ignore facts after I’ve apprehended them. If I could, it would be easier than ignoring anything to ignore the fact that his absences have all occurred at specific points on a lunar calendar; that it’s once a month, that he’s sick at the full moon; that his Boggart is a full moon; that he’s obviously poor, his robes are tattered, his face is far too old for his age, that he knows so much about magical creatures, that he’s interested in the boundaries between humans and beasts. It would be easy to ignore these things if I was somebody who could, because it’s the sort of thing--one of the ever things--to want to ignore.

Most professors do not live in their offices, but I suppose the rent of a small Hogsmeade flat is not something that Professor Lupin can afford, and so it’s here, at his office, that I’m knocking on the door of his residence, under the guise of a casual visit, perhaps needing help on an assigment--I’m not yet certain. When he opens the door I think I’ll turn around and walk away; he looks extremely haggard, circles under his eyes, the skin thin and pale, dry and cracked, like parchment, his limp hair falling over his forehead unhindered, his robes dirty, probably unwashed. I can’t help but wonder how many days ago the full moon was; how long he’s been sick, when it was; was he a child, too young to understand? Or was it a more recent wound, something that immediately presented itself as powerful enough to change everything? I wonder, and something stirs in me; he offers me tea, and I thank him, accepting, only to have time to compose myself, to figure out how it is that I can talk to him now--am I afraid? If I’m right--then he’s been this way all term--my discovery, sudden understanding, doesn’t change anything about him.

But am I afraid?

There has been talk, I think, while Professor Lupin is in the other room boiling water, amongst the students about Sirius Black--and of course I worry! Harry, after all, means a great deal to me--and I can’t help but in this moment compare them, Lupin and Black, because if I understand, and I hope--I hope that it isn’t true--Snape means to suggest, then, that Lupin is like Black--and if I only take the state of their wardrobes, their appearances to mind, there isn’t too much to suggest that they are not alike; that Lupin isn’t--a killer--that he isn’t bloodthirsty at times--but I know too much about Lupin, that he is good, that he is teaching us how to survive in a world that is riddled with the coming of darkness--we can all tell, we’re uneasy, us students, as a body--that he’s helping Harry learn the Patronus Charm, something only a good person would do, somebody like Lupin.

He comes back into his office where I’m sitting across from his desk in a small, modest chair, and hands me a cup of tea. I take it, thank him as well as I can, try not to squeak, or do anything unkind. I can’t help but look at him, wonder if we’ve all just narrowly escaped whatever a werewolf can bring, death or worse--but his eyes are the same light brown, kind, slightly inquisitive, and his haggard, tired face is not untinged with well-meaning. I relax, sip my tea.

“Miss Granger,” Lupin says, and I close my eyes for a moment, to stop myself from becoming too anxious, “what brings you here today?”

Well, you see, Professor Snape assigned us an essay on werewolves--I told him we weren’t there yet, we were due to start on--but then I understood why, I put things together, and I want you to tell me--tell me that it isn’t true, if you can.

“Well, Professor,” I say, feeling a sort of resignation at the understanding that I cannot ask him, not only because it would be incredibly out of bounds, but because I cannot, physically, voice the question. “I was wondering if you could--you could answer me a question.”

“Yes?” he asks, looking curious. He takes a moment, very human, to add a lump of sugar into his tea, and then offers me the bowl. I take a lump, to buy time, and to consider that it is a ridiculous thing, a werewolf having tea, handing me a sugar bowl!

“You’re teaching Harry how to cast a Patronus,” I say, and then the words form themselves without my conscious understanding, and I’m speaking only to speak, to have an excuse. “I was wondering how he’s coming along. It’s only natural, I suppose, to be worried about him, what with--with Sirius Black, and the way that the dementors affect him so.”

“Ah, yes,” Lupin says. “He’s coming along better than I expected.” He stirs his tea and sips it quietly. There’s a tank in the corner I can’t help but notice, empty, but awaiting something, probably some water creature. It’s all trying to remind me of the real reason I’ve come, to pressure me to ask him.

It only takes observing him, watching his face alight with energy as he tells me how proud he is of Harry, on a confidential note, of course, to understand something that I couldn’t before--that I’m not afraid, that it doesn’t mean anything, that his being a werewolf isn’t something that he chose, is something that he deals with--is probably something he’s ashamed of, and my heart contorts at the thought that anyone should ever have to become something that one’s ashamed of--and there’s no use asking, no use because he’s a wonderful teacher, a good person, somebody trying to make a living when everything about his situation works against him. It’s not difficult to see that the way a Wizarding society works is steeped in the purity of blood--he and I, in that respect, have something quite in common, and I take refuge in this idea--I have excelled, not unnoticed by the great extent of my peerage, because the purity of one’s blood is an illusion, and it is a state of existence that is the only merit--Lupin is real, and alive, and is not, no matter what Snape thinks, what he intended us to do with this information, a werewolf in any way that truly matters. Because there’s no ignoring it, now--I know it’s true, when I look at him, when I consider the facts; Professor Lupin is a werewolf, and it is very taxing to him.

I will keep your secret, I think as Professor Lupin reminds me lightly that he has grading to do, and that it’s really too nice a day for a student such as myself not to venture across the grounds.

I follow his advice, walking along the Black Lake, wondering, as I kick up a bit of gravel, if his paws have touched this ground, what it’s like to transform--other than the obvious, that it’s painful, a horrid experience.

It wasn’t good of me, to keep Professor Lupin’s secret, if you looked at it from a standpoint I was apt to take at times; strict observance of rules set in place to protect. But the more I thought about it, the less problematic his being a werewolf became--Harry told us, once, after all, that Snape had provided Lupin with a strange goblet, and I hadn’t understood; I had, too, under the spell of Harry’s way of presenting Snape in a singular light, been nervous for Lupin, been extremely confused, but had forgotten about it. Now that it was impossible to forget, in light of new evidence, I thought I understood what was happening--Snape must be making Lupin some kind of potion that allows him to either retain control of his mind during the transformation, or make it less painful, or constrict him in some way. After a bit of research, I discovered a potion I thought he’d probably be making--Wolfsbane. It made sense. Things fit together in a way that was only--fitting.

But I understood, on a level beyond my acceptance that it wasn’t necessary to follow all rules, that it was dangerous, me knowing, not letting others know. I would console myself with the fact that Dumbledore must have known, but then, I couldn’t be sure--Dumbledore was trusting, immensely so, enough to be unable to see that Quirrel was…what he was, back then--and so I felt that moral obligation to let somebody know, just to be sure it was common knowledge.

Still, I could never make myself do it. I’d pass Lupin in the corridors and see that he was especially tired, especially frail, and take immense pity on him, although pity, perhaps, isn’t what I should have had for a teacher, for somebody who had so many other traits and abilities in his favor that pity almost seemed an insult. But something drew me to him in a secret confidence, in which I would relish the idea that I, perhaps, was the only student amongst us that understood Lupin at all, knew the reality behind his half-hearted façade. You may call it pride--I rebuked myself on several occasions, but could never really allocate punishment. As I said--it was easy to forgive myself, although I knew the danger that I allowed, that it wasn’t ever certain Snape would continue to brew Wolfsbane, that Lupin would remember each month, to take it.

It was a rainy day, and we were cooped in the castle--I’d recently stormed from Divination after Trewlaney had “seen” the Grim again--and I could tell, as soon as I saw him coming up the corridor, that Professor Lupin had heard about it, that he wasn’t allowed to approve in any way.

“Hello, Professor,” I said to him, noticing he looked much better today, his skin not quite so frail, his shoulders unslumped, a quiet twinkle in his eye.

“Good morning, Miss Granger,” he said, and I did not miss the look he gave to the textbook in my arms--my late Divination text, which I was taking to the Owlrey to send to a second-hand shop. He inclined his head and made to keep walking, but I stopped him, grabbing the sleeve of his robe. I could tell I surprised him, but I swallowed my conviction, determined to say something. Anything, without letting him know completely, but something that perhaps in the future he may be glad of, that somebody thought to say anything at all.

“You’ve heard, doubtless,” I said, attempting to look at least a little ashamed, but with a certain feeling that I didn’t quite succeed. “That I dropped Divination. You see,” I blundered on, ignoring the expression of mild confusion coloring Lupin’s features. “You see, what Trewlaney and the people who--who believe her ‘Inner Eye,’ or whatever it is, don’t understand something that I believe is truth. While I base a lot in facts, and in rules, and in evidence, I know that not everything is as it appears. Bare facts are worthless. You must fit them into an overall picture--an isolated occasion in the depths of a crystal ball is not going to convince me that it is strong enough to eradicate something very human--the ability we have to act unpredictably for our circumstances.” I wasn’t sure Professor Lupin understood what I meant--and I couldn’t say it, I didn’t think, differently without being too clear, without saying too much. “That’s all. Have a good day, Professor.” I released his sleeve and walked past him brusquely, feeling vaguely pleased with myself.

The grounds were beautiful that day; the view from the Owlrey incredible, the glass surface of the Black Lake dazzling even in the rain.


Chapter 2: Desk Job by Hippothestrowl
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"Molly!" Arthur Weasley's raised whisper never made it downstairs but Ginny poked her head out of her room.

"Ah! Ginny, can you help me with this cravaty-thing?"

"Dad! You didn't say you were getting new dress robes." said Ginny as she dragged her father back into the light of her room and started loosening the badly-crooked knot in his cream neckerchief. His rich deep
purple robes hung straight, true, and neatly pressed in contrast.

"Relax, Dad - you're early and there's plenty of time," said Ginny, scowling at the troublesome knot.

"Yes, well, first time for me and I want to make a good impression."

"Well you have then, Dad." said Ginny, nodding her head in approval.

"Hermione, lob me my wand would you?" Ginny twisted half around and pointed at her opened desk.

Hermione, who was already absorbed in rehearsing some musical coloured light charms with her own wand, casually pointed it at the jumbled contents in the desk and danced Ginny's wand from it and across the room without even breaking her rhythm or her concentration. Ginny caught it deftly and retied her father's tie with a low incantation and a couple of tiny flicks. She smoothed down his robe sleeve unnecessarily and stood back to appraise his overall appearance.

"Still using your old desk then, Gin?" said Mr. Weasley, looking over her shoulder.

"Where would I be without it?" Ginny hovered her wand back into the desk amongst the other junk and the desk obligingly lowered its lid.

"Ginny, do you remember..." He did not need to finish the question. Mr. Weasley and Ginny smiled knowingly at each other as together their thoughts went back through the years.

~~~~~~~~~~~~




"I don't think I do enough for her Molly," said Mr. Weasley. "I mean I'm usually in touch with what the boys are up to; always understand what--"

"Oh don't start that again, Arthur. You're a good father to her," said Mrs. Weasley.

It was the end of summer but there was still plenty of daylight early that Friday evening. The couple stood together gazing out the parlour window into the garden, listening to the shrieks of laughter from Ron and Ginny who had improvised a gnomes tea party and the gnomes were not cooperating.

"What's she going to do Molly, all on her own?"

"What am I then? Scotch mist?" retorted Mrs. Weasley, with mock indignity.

"You know what I mean. I've never seen a child that wanted to go to school so badly. When Ron starts Hogwarts on Sunday I'm not sure she's thought how different it will be round here. Even worse, maybe she has. Trouble is we're a bit isolated."

"Well, there's Ottery when we can get," said Mrs. Weasley as she watched a sulky gnome trying to remove the tiny pinafore Spellotaped around him.

"Yes, we must make the effort each weekend from now on - at least till she starts Hogwarts proper. We can do that can't we, Molly? Who's that girl again? Luanna or something. She got on alright with her didn't she? Perhaps we could persuade the Lovegoods to visit Ottery together with us - have tea - make a day of it kind of thing - on a fairly regular basis I mean." Mr. Weasley scratched behind his left ear to help himself think.

"They're a bit... you know - odd," said Mrs. Weasley, "but she's nice enough. Poor kid, her mum dying like that last year. 'xpect she'd be glad for someone to play with as well."

"And more time. I must make more time for her while Ron's away."

"Arthur, you're already working all hours and extra days at the ministry," said Mrs. Weasley.

Mr. Weasley didn't seem to be listening. He was still scratching his ear. "I wish there was something we could get her."

"Oh, Arthur, you know we can't afford anything else. There's been Percy's new robes and Ron's books and goodness know what else."

"I know. I'm just saying," said Mr. Weasley, crestfallen at not being able to provide more for his only girl. He began to almost regret his refusing a promotion to Biannual Analytical Reorganization of Filing a
few months back. He saw the look in his wife's eyes and he knew what she was thinking.

"I like my work as it is," he said, defensively. "BARF would just have been a desk job. You know how much I like working with muggle things."

"Too much! If you'd sell off some of your junk maybe... And don't look at me like that! Think I don't know what you've got out there?"

"No - it's not that. You've given me an idea - reminded me of something."

Mr. Weasley walked swiftly out the back door and headed for his garage. Once inside, he pushed away an old mangle and a couple of toasters, scooped a pile of electric plugs back into their box, then he stopped
his hurried searching and stood thoughtfully for a few seconds. His face lit up like one of his light bulbs and he tugged a doorless dish washer away from the back wall and beamed at what he saw there.

The unitiated witch or wizard would only have seen a pile of firewood but Mr. Weasley saw much more than that. He stroked each piece lovingly while he examined them all as if they were works of art. Carefully, he studied the inky hole in one length of panel and puzzled over an old biscuit tin full of screws and small wrought-iron bracers. He looked grimly at the badly-scuffed footboard, the graffiti on a hinged panel, and put to one side what he now realized was the missing dishwasher door.

Mr. Weasley was not a sighing man. So he shrugged his shoulders, rolled up his sleeves, and set to work.

~~~~~~~~~~~~




"Ginny! What time do you call this? You should be off to bed," Mrs Weasley stood, hands on hips, glaring at her daughter.

"Mum, what's Dad up to?" Ginny was stood on a stool in her dressing gown and leaning precariously over a sink full of suds. She was peering out through the gloom of dusk at the flickering shadows and lights spilling out from the half-open garage door. "He's been out there hours apart from dinner."

"I don't know, dear. Another one of his schemes I suppose," said Mrs. Weasley. "Here, take him a cup of tea then it's bed for you."

"Not a good idea," choked Ron from the pantry doorway. He sputtered crumbs from tomorrow's cherry pie as he mouthed silently at his mother, "See - cret!"

Ginny had not been particularly inclined to take out the tea. She had not been bothered either way. But she did not miss Ron's clumsy attempt to exclude her from some special hidden knowledge so his effort had just the opposite effect from that which he had intended. Like a ferret out of a greased drainpipe, Ginny leapt off her stool, swept away the proffered cup of tea from Mrs. Weasley and shot out the back door while her mother was still trying to figure out what Ron had been eating.

The young girl hugged her gown closer with her free arm to keep out the surprisingly cool evening air, crossed the yard, and then elbowed fully open the little side door that led into the Weasley garage. She stared at whatever her father was crouching over below his muggles' tools shelf.

"Is that a..." began Ginny but she was interrupted by Mr. Weasley's jerking his head up suddenly at the unexpected intrusion and making violent contact with the shelf above, bumping one or two tools off onto
the floor with a clatter.

Mr. Weasley rubbed the top of his head and looked ruefully at the underside of his shelf. Then he rotated around in the cramped space to face his daughter while at the same time vainly trying to obscure his
partly completed assembly.

"A desk!" cried Ginny. Her eyes lit up like a disbelieving lottery winner on first seeing that all the numbers match. "Dad? Is that... Is it..."

"It was meant to be a surprise. It's got a long way to go yet."

"For..."

"Yes, it's for you," said Mr. Weasley, studying his daughter's expression closely but she was not looking at him.

"That is... just wonderful."

Mr. Weasley looked back at his efforts with some surprise. His earlier vision and his enthusiasm had worn off. Having not the slightest idea of how to reconstruct a wrecked muggle desk of unknown vintage he had so far only managed to arrange the separate parts on top of and against boxes and tins to try to work out what went where. He had been wondering what to do about a missing part when Ginny had startled him.

"And it's a real one, Dad! It's a real desk not a toy," observed Ginny, eyes wide and flitting back and forth over the different sections of wood. She was trying to look at the fragile arrangement from different
angles and Mr. Weasley eased aside to give her viewing room. He was still rubbing his sore head and moved cautiously clear of the offending shelf.

"Is that tea for me?" asked Mr. Weasley, anxiously watching the cup wobbling on the saucer in Ginny's shaky hand.

"Oh, yeah," said Ginny, blindly handing over the hot beverage to dock with her father's quick lunge without taking her eyes off his experimental arrangement of boards, struts, strips, and crosspieces.

"You see, those little holes won't be there when it's done properly," explained Mr. Weasley peering over his first welcome slurps for an hour or so. Some of Ginny's enthusiasm was beginning to rekindle his
interest. "Look, these are nuts or bolts or... something and they get pushed in... somehow." He nudged at the screws tin on the floor with his foot.

"Very clever these muggles. I think they somehow make each nut fill up two holes," he said but tailed off rather doubtfully.

"Unless... Dad, you don't think there's not enough do you?" said Ginny, looking at her father's face properly for the first time. "Some lost I mean?"

"Well..."

"What happens if some of the holes are not filled up, Dad?"

"Erm... I... suppose it won't hold so much. So many books and things I mean."

"Why'd they make the holes if they only have to be filled up again eh, Dad?"peering closely at the would-be furniture.

"Erm..."

"It's still wonderful though." Ginny resumed gazing at her dream. She imagined herself sitting at it already. It would contain the most amazing things: textbooks and parchments and test results and schedules;
potion recipes and history dates and... maybe her very own wand. The teacher would be asking a really difficult question. Ginny's hand would shoot up. She was the only one who knew the answer.

"Ginny?" Mr. Weasley looked at his daughter curiously. Ginny's eyes regained their focus.

"The nuts are not a problem anyway," said Mr. Weasley, mistaking his daughter's reverie for disappointment. "I can duplicate those easily enough."

"What about the missing side, Dad?"

Mr. Weasley cringed inwardly. He had been suppressing the nagging doubt that it might not be possible to complete the task properly. Ginny suddenly became aware of the effort he had made so far just to find and assemble the parts together sensibly. He had given up much of his precious Friday evening and his face looked tired.

"Look, I'm sorry about the side," said Mr. Weasley.

"Can't you use a repair spell on the desk?"

"No, it doesn't work like that Ginny. This one's so broken up it's like constructing something new. Now, if we had a damaged side we could fix it alright."

"Can't you just conjure up another or copy the other side?" asked Ginny.

"I tried that but the other side is the wrong way round. See this bevelled edge and the pattern on this face? It looks wrong whichever way I turn it."

"Perhaps it won't show if it's against a wall..." suggested Ginny.

"No - it has to be just right."

"Why?"

Mr. Weasley straightened himself up well clear of his shelf, lowered his cup with a clink into its saucer and looked at his daughter with a surprised expression on his face. "Because it's for you."

Ginny couldn't speak for a little while after that.

Mr. Weasley thought for that silent minute, slowly sipping his tea and looking at the pieces of wood he had positioned together. "I'm sorry, Ginny. I don't think I'll be able to finish it for Sunday."

"Can I help then Dad?" said Ginny.

"We'll see. Come on. Time you were in bed." He drained his cup and they went back to the house together.

"What do we have to do apart from pushing the nuts in the holes?" said Ginny as they crossed the yard.

"Well, the backboard's split and the lid needs cleaning down to get rid of the marks and graffiti and so on."

"Oh, I like the graffiti! That means it's a proper desk. I can add a Weasley one."

"Definitely then," said Mr. Weasley. The ambiguity was lost on Ginny but fortunately he meant what she thought he meant.

~~~~~~~~~~~~




They found two or three hours together on Saturday afternoon and recovered a tool from the floor which they saw nicely fitted the slots in the 'nuts' so they could twist them in. Ginny started them off part way and Mr. Weasley drove them home. She carefully oiled the hinges and held the lid while Mr. Weasley attached it. The bench seat slotted neatly at the front and slid back and forth smoothly on hidden slats to
allow access which Ginny happily tested far more times than was necessary. They used the mending charm together on the backboard and duplicated the left side. Finally, Mr. Weasley spoke to a colleague
through the floo network to find out how to transform the side piece so it was 'just right.'

Sunday evening, Ginny was so excited when her father came home she hardly noticed the big heavy box tied with string he slipped down beside his armchair.

"Guess who I saw today, Dad!" cried Ginny, jumping up and down as soon as she heard her father was home.

Mr. Weasley, who had already been tipped off by his wife, said, "Someone we know? Someone important? Surprise me."

"Only Harry Potter that's all! He's going to Hogwart's with Ron! He looked at me! He waved at me - I think he waved at me, Dad!"

Mrs. Weasley smiled but did not contradict her daughter. Mr. Weasley looked duly astonished. "Harry Potter! Well I never!"

After the evening meal they pulled out a few splinters and smoothed down some rough edges on the desk. Mr. Weasley deleted a couple of verb phrases but left the rest of the graffiti intact. He used a scouring charm to clean the desk surfaces and a coating spell to instantly varnish it dry then they hovered it together up to Ginny's room with Mrs. Weasley coming up attentively behind.

"Where'd you want it, Gin?" Mr. Weasley asked.

"In front of the window, Dad, so I can look at the trees when I'm thinking out an answer."

"Looks good there," said Mr. Weasley as he stood back.

"One more surprise - from your father," said Mrs. Weasley. She laid down the stringed box and pulled it open.

"Books!" Ginny's eyes widened. There were several free pre-school primers issued by the ministry, a lot of ancient completed and marked exam papers, a dozen blank exercise books, and a huge pile of scrap
parchments only used on one side. These were quickly established inside the desk and the lid got well used while she checked and rechecked that all the contents were ideally arranged.

"And these are from me," said Mrs. Weasley.

"Mum!" squealed Ginny. She took the ink well, bottle, and quills and placed them reverently in place on her very own desk and stood back to survey the result.

When Mr. and Mrs. Weasley went to bed that night they looked in as usual to check Ginny was safely asleep. She was. She had fallen asleep at her desk, slumped over it, practically cradling it in her arms with her face pillowed on her open exercise book.

Mr. Weasley picked her up gently enough not to wake her and tucked her into bed. Mrs. Weasley pulled out her handkerchief and licked a corner but Mr. Weasley stopped her rubbing the ink smudge off Ginny's face with just a shake of his head. He looked proudly at the desk they had made together and tried to read what she had written but it was much too dark.

~~~~~~~~~~~~




After they had reminisced, Ginny fluffed pointlessly at her father's cravat and said, "I've still got that first book, Dad."

"Have you really?" said Mr. Weasley. "What's it say?"

Ginny did not need to dig it out. She knew what the first line below her name and the date said by heart. "This is the best thing I ever got - my dad and my mum."

Mr. Weasley's eyes would have watered but Mrs. Weasley was calling from downstairs so he blinked very rapidly, threw back his shoulders resolutely, and held out his elbow for Ginny to grasp.

"Shall we?" said Mr. Weasley, "don't want to keep Harry waiting do we now?"


Chapter 3: Express by girly1393
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Severus had had plenty of time to contemplate what death would be like. He didn't know if there would be anything, but he hoped he would awaken to the glowing, glorious green of Lily Potter's eyes. He had never much considered dying itself, although if he had, his first impression would have been doom at the Dark Lord's hands. He wouldn't have expected it to be so painful, but he wasn't much surprised. However, he would never have anticipated Harry Potter to be kneeling at his side. In one last effort to reconcile for the years of torment he had inflicted upon this boy, this boy he now saw was more like his mother than his father, Severus offered up the truth. Begging for one final glimpse, Severus opened his eyes wide. He would die with those heavenly green eyes and, if he was lucky, he would see them again soon.

But luck had never much been on his side. He opened his eyes to a swirl of gray, and he did not understand. He could not fathom the depths nor the expressions. This was all wrong.

"Severus," a smooth deep voice called softly, the sound echoing into a void. "Severus, take my hand." He became aware of the emptiness encompassing the both of them, a white sort of nothing that held sharp edges and distinct shadows. His eyes flickered a moment, absorbing the sleek black hair and the curve of a nose, the points of a smile and the bend of shoulders, and finally he found the outstretched hand. He grasped it and was pulled onto his feet. In a rush of sound and a dizzying of vision, a blast of color surrounded him. It held vibrant blues, dusty browns, a smattering of reds, a stretch of greens beneath him, and distant moving rainbows shaped vaguely like people.

He turned to the nearest figure and gasped aloud. Here, before him, stood an enemy of his schooldays. Sirius Black had never spared him a kind word, never offered a helping hand, never even addressed him by his proper first name.

"Severus, I am sorry," he began, his eyes earnest and probing. "I am sorry for the way I abused you, humiliated you, and terrorized you in our school days. I am sorry for the ungrateful, grueling manner I treated you with as adults. Dumbledore trusted you, and thus I should have put my unfounded schoolboy grudge against you aside, yet I never managed it. I apologize deeply for assuming you were only pretending to be on our side and playing a fool of all of us. I am so inexpressibly grateful to you for what you have done for Harry. You have given him the tools to save the world, Severus; you have saved us all."

Severus felt for a moment as though he had lost his mind. During his years at school, he continued to hope that one day his bullies would finally understand what they had done to him. He never expected the worst of them to step forward and acknowledge the pain he caused, but it was the best gift he had been given. If Severus had not believed in a heaven before, he did now. Only in heaven could such joyous words be uttered.

“Sirius,” he tried, his voice cracking under the weight of his need to express his feelings, but he was hushed quietly.

“There is much for you to see here, Severus, and then you can say everything you wish to,” Sirius said softly. He gestured for Severus to follow, and with a deep breath, Severus did. As they walked, it seemed Sirius had more to say.

“Every person is met by someone from their past. Regulus was here for me. He and I were at odds when he died; he died knowing I thought him scum, and he made it his duty to inform me of what he had finally learned the moment he saw me again. The person who comes to meet you is someone who has something to say, and I admit it took me quite a bit of persuading to be the one for you. I know it’s only right, though, that you begin your afterlife with something you should have had your whole life: peace of mind. Dumbledore almost took my head off when I told him I was going, his seniority be damned.” Sirius chuckled here and Severus surprised himself by joining in.

There were plenty of words he wished to give that old man, very few of them pleasant, but he realized it could wait. He had spent the last few months following Dumbledore’s orders to perfection and he had paid dearly for it. However, right now, it seemed as if much still needed to be accomplished. For Severus believed that Voldemort lived and Harry Potter remained in the gravest of perils.

“You’re probably wondering where you are. I think I told you all out of order, actually. I forgot all of the rules the moment I saw you.” Severus burst into unexpected laughter. Sirius Black had never remembered a rule in his life; Severus had hated him in school for it, for the way he could disregard every rule ever made and still be treated like a prince. A quarrel about Sirius’ royal habits is where the inspiration for Severus’ self-given title, the Half-Blood Prince, had come from: his own desire to be loved so thoroughly and the history of his mother’s heritage.

“This is not like what any of the storybooks tell children,” Sirius continued when Severus’ laughter had died. His guide still retained a smile and Severus found himself grinning back. He wasn’t entirely sure why, but he knew it was akin to his revelation that, in Death, mortal arguments and grudges held little value. “There is a time for atonement and a time for reflection, but mostly there is peace. It is difficult to describe, but in a little while, you shall see for yourself. Ah, here we are.”

Severus spun in the motioned direction in time to see Remus Lupin step toward him. He did nothing more than smile and shake his hand, nodding in recognition of something Severus didn’t understand yet. Severus knew his issue had never really been with Remus, just that he had been jealous of the friends he found even in spite of his condition, of the bond he maintained with three other boys while Severus was type-casted as a loner for many of his years, of the friendship he enjoyed with Lily even when she ceased to speak with Severus. Remus forgave him for the harm and misfortune he had caused, and Severus released his jealousy. It was useless here, wasn’t it?

“Severus Snape, you are one brave man,” a voice rang out from the depths and Severus recoiled ever so slightly. He gasped a few deep breaths and spun around. Instead of a deep rage, Severus found himself surprisingly relieved. He had hated James Potter with a ferocity he could not control, but when he acknowledged the truth, he knew Lily had always been meant for James. It was not worth his energies to remain angry at this man now that they lived in Death. “You cannot imagine how grateful I am for all you have done for my boy, and how much I envy that it was you who got all of those years with him instead of me.”

The jealousy of James Potter was something he had longed for during their school years and to hear of it now seemed to permanently release the anger and the hatred toward James.

Severus offered his hand and James shook it enthusiastically. Severus felt gratitude for the lack of mention of his lifelong love of Lily and of all the terrible arguments and duels they had gotten into over her the last few years at Hogwarts. A hand clapped him on the shoulder and Sirius Black’s face belonged to it.

Severus stood in the circle of these men, the men he had envied for seven long years as a student and unspeakably into the empty yearning years of his adulthood, and examined each of their faces.

James Potter was undoubtedly the youngest, having died at 21 years of age. He had the most joy, the most celebration, the most love in his face. His face had always been an open book, his hazel eyes alighting with every emotion he felt. It seemed juvenile now, how much he had hated and cursed this man when, if they had ever tried, they could have been great friends. Maybe now, in this afterlife, they could give it a go.

Remus Lupin had the most worn face of them all, the result of many horrible years of worrying and fighting. It was younger and lighter, though, than Severus could remember seeing in years, the older version of his face when they had left Hogwarts. There seemed no more pain, no more worry, and no more fear in his eyes. Severus had heard of his son’s birth, and he wondered how he would deal with leaving his son. Severus hoped he knew it was for a worthy cause, the safety of the future, and that, if Harry Potter had a say about it, the young Lupin would know what his parents had died for.

Sirius Black appeared more handsome than he had in years, especially to Severus. It seemed fruitless, how they had tormented one another for years when they could have gotten along. This man had fought for the opportunity to be the first to greet him in death, to share his apologies and ask forgiveness. Severus extended his hand and Sirius Black took it.

“There is one more,” he stated quietly and led Severus by the hand away from James and Remus. Without knowing how, he knew that James and Remus would be there until he returned.

A flourish of red stole Severus’ attention and he released Sirius with a jolt, a grin smearing itself across his face. He took off running, his knees groaning in distaste but his need for her embrace stronger than his aching, slightly aged limbs’ complaints.

“Lily!” he cried. She lifted her head, her beautiful smile gracing her glorious mouth and her breathtaking eyes piercing him with a simple happiness. She laughed when he charged into her, wrapping his arms tightly around her.

“Sev, it’s good to see you,” she whispered, folding her arms around his back and squeezing in return. “My, you have gotten old!”

“You would have, too, Lily, if I hadn’t told the Dark Lord about the prophecy. I knew it was wrong, even as I did it, but I was just so angry with what had happened to me in life. Selfishly, I begged him to spare your life when I found out it meant your family and he offered you the chance. That’s why you had the opportunity to give Harry such power. I envied that, too. I hated that you loved both of them more than you had ever loved me. I’m sorry, Lily, I really am. I have spent my whole life trying to make up for that mistake, and I’m sorry I could never love Harry. He was too much like James, and I had always wanted what James had. I wish I had been a better person, but I wasn't. I wish I had had better motives, but I didn't. I'm sorry, Lily."

“Oh, Sev,” she said, her voice creaking with emotion, “you have more than redeemed yourself. You put your life in danger by double-crossing Voldemort and you saved my son’s life.”

“I’m not sure he will live, Lily, not if what Dumbledore deduced turns out to be true.”

She just smiled in return and, not for the first time since he had arrived, he felt very confused.
“Time is different here, Sev, and so you wouldn’t know. You were still in transfer when Harry needed help. Severus Snape, your contributions to his knowledge gave him the courage to face Voldemort alone and the Horcrux within him was destroyed. You were being greeted by Sirius as the most feared wizard in history was killed by a backfiring spell, rebounded off the wand held by my seventeen-year-old son. It's over, Severus."

Severus knew he would have to make a very strong case for it against his mother, but he also knew it was him who would greet Harry Potter when he finally came to Death.

“Hey, Severus!” Sirius called in the distance. Severus turned and found himself facing the one place he knew he belonged. “You still owe me a duel!”

Severus laughed. “I don’t think you’ll win!” he yelled back.

Walking side by side with Lily, he approached Sirius. James, hand in hand with Lily, and Remus faded away and Severus found himself filling up with words. As they began to form, he realized they belonged to his own apology and he sucked in a deep breath, preparing himself to express the words long due in coming, for he now apologized not just to Sirius but to the universe for what he had done over the expanse of his life.


Chapter 4: My Best Days by TheHeirOfSlytherin
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I sit down forcibly onto the step at my front door. It had been raining and I can feel it soak into my jeans, but I don't care. I'm too mad to care. I hate the girls down the street. I shouldn't hate them, according to mum I should be the better person by ignoring them. Not hating them would mean I'm not letting them get to me. But they are getting to me and I want to hate them; it helps.

I hear the door open, but I ignore them. It's probably Hugo coming to ask to borrow something of mine, as soon as he sees me he'll go back inside, knowing to leave me alone. But the door doesn't close and he doesn't leave. The moment he sits beside me, I know for sure it's not my brother. He places his arm around my waist, pulling me onto his lap, and I wrap my arms around his waist and squeeze tightly. I don't want to let go and I don't want him to leave me.

He whispers that he's here for me, that he isn't going anywhere. He always knows.

"I hate them," I mutter.

He understands why I say it, he's not completely rational like mum; he let's me speak my mind, no matter what, he knows it helps. "I know. They don't matter anymore, sweetheart. Only you matter."

He takes my hand, removing it from his side and stands me up. He leaves me, going back inside the house, and I'm confused. But he comes back seconds later with the car keys and shuts the door. He holds out his hand.

"Come on, you and me are going for a drive, we'll go wherever you want, Rosie, and we won't come back until they're nothing but a distant memory."

He grin is infectious and I find I'm copying him. I take his hand.

Dad always knows just what to say and do to make me feel better.

The drive is far from quiet; we laugh and joke, he tells me stories of when he was younger, stories about Fred and George. I love hearing those stories, they make me think that, like them, I can do anything. I wish I could have met Uncle George's twin.

I know why dad is doing this; it's to keep my mind occupied. He doesn't want me thinking of those girls anymore. I'm grateful. He tells me how he passed his driving test.

"You really confunded the instructor?"

He nods. "Your mum thought having a car would be practical and that we should both be able to drive it and there was no other way I would pass first time." He turns to me slightly, his lips curved into a smile. "Don't tell her I just admitted to that. Besides it's was only for a little thing, my driving is fine. I was twelve when I first drove a car."

I giggle. "I promise I won't tell her. Why were you driving at twelve? I'm almost twelve and I can't drive at all."

Dad tells me about the day he and Uncle Harry had to get themselves to Hogwarts for second year.

When we finally get home that night, I barely remember the reason why I said I hated those girls.

xXx

Albus is valedictorian for our graduation. He talks about making new friends, surprising family with the news of the house we were in, rivalling in classes, Quidditch, how we'll lose touch with each other but never forget and how some people with be a part of our lives forever. Everyone claps, some are crying, people cheer. We shake hands with the Headmaster and then hug everyone around us. Family make their way to us. I see my dad; his smile could light up a room. I know he's proud of me.

I have a secret I want to tell him, but I don't want that pride to disappear.

It's too late to hide; Scorpius is beside me, hugging me. He talks enthusiastically about Al's speech, laughing about how he knew he'd add the houses in and how his father had been shaking his head in seat. Scorpius had been placed in Gryffindor along with Albus and I. He had told us from the beginning that he had excepted to be in Slytherin, as did the rest of his family. I never understood people's expectations of others. We made friends with him during the feast. Dad said to beat him
in our subjects, that didn't mean I couldn't be friends with him too.

He pulls me closer ever so slightly and kisses my cheek. My secret is out. I turn and see Dad's grin fade. Has his pride gone too?

He stops in front of us. Scorpius holds out his hand, says hello, as he did everytime he came to visit. I hold my breath, I think my heart is going to stop beating any minute. I'm waiting for Dad's reaction. I
don't know what he's thinking.

His smile is back, he takes his hand. "Hello, Scorpius." He turns to me. "I was afraid you'd never tell me yourself, Rosie, and I have to see it through public displays of affection; it's not the best way but okay."

I don't know what to say. "How -" I manage to stutter.

"Oh, Lily told me ages ago," he says dismissively. "You know what she's like. I've had time to get used to it." Dad hugs me tightly and kisses my forehead. "As long as you're happy, it's okay, and I don't think he'll do anything stupid," he murmurs that last part in my ear. I'm given a strange look by the boy in question when I laugh out loud at my dad's words.

"You're the best dad ever," I tell him.

"I know," he replies.

We laugh at that, Dad, Scorpius and I, taking in his joking tone. I don't doubt my words, though. I know every child says that about their parents but it's true in every way.

xXx

I'm so nervous. I've never been so scared in all my life. I pace the room, my hands running up and down my white dress, more for something to do than anything else. I stop in front of the mirror, catching a glimpse of my reflection, and focus on calming my breathing. I was fine before,
with mum and my family, but they left me alone to get themselves ready to enter, and I can't seem to stop the nerves.

I shut my eyes gently, breathing in and out deeply, counting each second between breaths; the longer they are, the more relaxed I feel. I don't hear the door open and him come in. He places his hands on my shoulders.

I open my eyes and Dad is watching my reflection through the mirror. He breath tickles my neck, his voice his calm. "Are you ready?"

I don't answer, I don't even nod or shake my head for an answer, I don't move at all. I think he understands how I'm feeling; his smile is reassuring now. He removes his hands and goes into his pocket, pulling out a long, rectangular box.

I wasn't going to give it you now, I was going to wait until my speech," he says to me, opening the box, revealing a white gold chain with heart shaped pendant at the end. He stayed behind me, holding out his hand instead. I pick it up gently and he moves to box, back into his pocket I presume. I notice the inscription and bring the necklace closer.

You'll always be my baby.

"I didn't engrave that," he murmurs. "That is exactly as it came. But it's exactly what I'd want to say, that had to be a sign. So you had to have it." Through the mirror I see his eyes shining with unshed tears, happy tears. "All I did was put the pictures in."

Confused, I turn the locket sideways and realize it can be opened. The picture on the left is of all four of us as a family; Mum, Dad, Hugo and I. It's a Muggle picture; we took it with the camera my maternal grandmother got Mum for our holiday. That was our holiday picture. I remember everything about the day that picture was taken; building sandcastles, eating ice cream, Hugo and I pulling faces when Dad kissed Mum.

The picture on the right is just of Dad and I. It's at my graduation, not long after I find out he knows about my relationship. Scorpius took the picture. I was so happy; Dad was proud of me, I was with someone I loved, someone I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, to marry.

My nerves are gone.

Dad understands my change in mood, he always does. He holds his hand out, wanting the necklace. I give it to him and he puts it on, letting it fall gently against my chest, then he holds out his arm for me to take, to walk with me down the altar. "Scorpius is waiting for you."

We stop so I can pick up my flowers; roses naturally. Then the music starts and we turn the corner. And I see him. I feel like the aisle lasts forever, but I make it to the front. I ignore everyone looking at
us, only seeing Scorpius. I barely register Lily taking my flowers. Dad joins our hands together and gives a small, reassuring squeeze. He lingers for a second longer, as if afraid to let go, but I turn to him, my other hand going to me necklace and he nods, standing back. Scorpius notices for the first time, but he can't see what it says. I'll show him later. Right now it's only for me and Dad.

I'll always be his baby.

xXx

The pain lessens after the nurse gives me the potion, but it's still so uncomfortable. They tell me it'll be time to push soon, I tell them not until Scorpius is here. Hugo assured me he was on the way, I could wait.

Dad squeezes my hand and stokes my hair back away from my face. "It's okay, sweetheart. You're doing great."

"When he comes, are you going to leave me?" I whisper.

He shakes his head and kisses my hand. "No way. I'm definitely staying over on this end, but I'm not leaving."

I laugh, despite my obvious discomfort. "Good." The door opens before I can say any more and Scorpius runs to my side, clucking my other hand. His face is slightly red, he is breathing rapidly and his tie is askew. I can't help but laugh.

"I'm sorry, it took me longer to get away than I thought. I didn't want to miss anything. Why they had to put you in a room so far away from the entrance, I will never know."

Dad gives him a look like it is obvious. "Probably because this is were the baby ward is."

The healer thankfully interrupts anything Scorpius might have said. "It's time to push, Mrs Malfoy."

I do. I squeeze my hands around my dad's and my husband's and follow the healer's instructions. With my two favorite men in the whole world supporting me, my baby boy is born. He has small tufts of Scorpius' dirty blond hair and my dad's and brother's blue eyes. He is perfect.

Dad kisses the top of my head while Scorpius holds out baby and the healer allows immediate family in; Mum, Hugo, Draco and Astoria Malfoy. Draco hides his discomfort well as he wraps an arm around his son. Dad asks him if he can hold the baby. Scorpius does and his mother uses that to hug him tightly, saying how proud she is.

I watch Dad take care with my boy, holding him tightly and murmuring words of love. "Does he have a name yet?" Dad asks when he finally looks up at us.

I nod, happier than I've ever felt. "Liam Ronald Malfoy."

xXx

My hand is shaking a little, small, happy tears falling down my cheeks as I finish my memories. I remove my hand from my locket and wipe them away quickly and put my glass down. I smile across the room to my dad. He has Liam sitting on his knee, while my mum has our two year old daughter, Casey, in her arms. His grin makes him seem years younger and his eyes are shining with tears again, just like on my wedding day.

"I've got so many happy memories," I continues. "I have a lot of good days with family and friends, but my best days will always be the one's with my dad in them. You're always there for me, no matter what."

He places Liam down on the floor and stands up, walking my way. Knowing exactly what he's doing I stand up too, letting go of Scorpius' hand. He pulls me into a hug and hold me close. "I love you, Daddy," I whisper.

"I love you," he says back. "You want to know something else? They're my best days too." 


Chapter 5: A Love only a Mother Could Understand by RachelleSnape
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There I was sitting on my bed all by myself in utter shock. I had been sitting in that spot for about three hours. I left work early that day and spent my day in bed. I had planned on spending my day doing work around the house and making dinner for Ron. Of course that all changed about three hours ago. I was still shocked, even sitting there thinking for three hours about how my life is going to change did not help with my feeling. At that point, I began to cry my eyes out. Then I saw Ron walk into our bedroom, seeing the look on my face and I saw the look of concern spread across his face.

“Hermione, what is the matter?” he asked, while rushing to my side, dropping everything in his hands during the process.

I just sat there and stayed silent. I could not speak. Ron moved unto our bed next me and held me for a little while and I just continued to cry.

“Hermione, tell me what is wrong, please. I can help, what ever it is, let me help you. I am your husband, what ever is bothering you, you can tell me,” he said while he used a tissue to wipe away my tears.

I still could not speak, but I did manage to lift my arm. I moved my hand and pointed towards the loo. He looked at me quizzically. Then I pointed at the loo again. He finally understood. He kissed me on my cheek and got out of bed. He quickly walked into the loo and walked back out with an even more confused look on his face. He was getting on my nerves and I was finally arriving back to reality. I sat back up and he came back to sit down next to me. I got up and went into the loo. I grabbed the evidence off the counter and brought it out to him. Then I handed him the stick. He still looked very confused.

“You still do not get it, do you?” I asked annoyed.

“No, Hermione I do not. What is this?” he asked holding up the pink stick.

“Ron it is the one test I would have been happy to have failed,” I started, then took a long breath and continued, “It is a pregnancy test. I am pregnant.”

Ron’s eyes widened and he, of course, fainted. Thank God he was on the bed already.

That was, of course, the day that I found out that I was pregnant with my little Madison.

About seven months later, I unfortunately went into premature labor with her. I was so worried when I felt my water break in the middle of Diagon Alley. Ron and I had been doing more baby shopping at the new baby store outlet a little past Gringotts. We were just finishing our ice creams and I stood up trying to bend down to grab the bags and it was there in that spot that my water broke. Ron went ballistic. He had no idea what to do, especially since we were not at home. Unfortunately, I had to be the adult, again.

“Ron it is okay. Here, sit down on the chair. Breathe honey, breathe. Everything is going to be okay. Just breathe. We just need to get back to the house quickly. Our healer said that we can still apparate during this, just as long as we do not floo anywhere, we should be fine. We need to get back so I can pack my hospital bag and then we need to apparate to St. Mungo’s. Can you handle that honey, please, I really need you to be able to do this,” I said to him.

After a few more deep breaths, Ron vacated his seat, grabbed all of our bags, and apparated the two of us back to our spacious living room. Then the contractions began to come. It took me about thirty minutes longer to get my hospital bag packed than I thought, especially because the contractions were already hurting like crazy, and then Ron finally apparated the two of us to St. Mungo’s. We quickly checked in and we were brought to a private maternity room. After about twenty minutes, Healer Johns came into the room.

“Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, we were not expecting you for another two months,” he said looking at the chart.

“That is correct. We were in Diagon Alley shopping and my water broke. Also after arriving home to pack my bag, I started having contractions,” I explained to Healer Johns.

“Okay well Mrs. Weasley, we will check on some things in a few moments and discuss our options,” Healer Johns said before leaving the room.

He returned shortly with a piece of the ultrasound parchment and a healer’s assistant. He turned the lights out and pointed his wand at my abdomen. The ultrasound image showed up on the parchment and I could see my little girl.

“Everything looks fine, she is just wanting to come out of there early,” Healer Johns said, “She is a little small though. She may need to stay here for a little while after the birth to make sure she stays healthy.”

“What ever she needs,” I said to him.

After a few agonizingly painful hours of labor, I gave birth to my darling little girl, Madison Katherine Weasley. I got to hold my baby girl and it was at that time I became a mother. As soon as I saw her eyes, I knew my life had changed and I instantly made a bond only a mother and child could have together. It is amazing how quickly it came to me.

She is my heart and soul. I would do anything for my precious little girl. Of course she is the only child that Ron and I were blessed with, but I could not ask for more from a child. She is such a “Mommy’s Girl.” She does love her daddy though, but if she ever needs a single thing, whether it is someone to brush her hair, someone to fix her scrapped knee, or someone to help her with her homework, she came to me to help her.

**********

I just I cannot believe how fast she grew up, it seems like it was only yesterday that I was in St. Mungo’s birthing her, but it was not yesterday, it was over twenty years ago.

I remember the day she met the man of her dreams during her first year at Hogwarts. Yes, she did not start dating him until her sixth year, but they were like her father and I. They were the best of friends until they realized they could have so much more by being more than friends with each other. I saw it in her eyes, about a year after they became boyfriend and girlfriend. I saw that sparkle, like the sparkle I still get in my eye when Ron walks into a room.

She came to me one day after she left Hogwarts and told me that she thought he was “the one.” I hugged my only daughter and told her how happy I was for her. It is not everyday a woman’s daughter finds out that she has found her soulmate. We sat there and cried, tears of happiness, for a few moments and I hugged my only daughter like Mrs. Weasley would hug me or Harry when we came to the Burrow for a visit.

**********

My daughter was happy and that made me even more happy. The day she moved into her own flat was one of my hardest days of my life as a mother. I had to let my baby move out of our family home, the home she grew up in but little did I know the actual hardest day of my life as a mother would come later.

About a year after my little Madison left home on a night at the end of February, there was a small knock on mine and Ron’s bedroom window and there sat Madison’s owl, Lucy. I waved my wand and the owl flew in with a letter. It had only nine words written on the piece of parchment that was attached to Lucy’s leg. Big news! We will be there in ten minutes! Ron and I quickly got dressed and I cleaned up the messy living room with a wave of my wand. Ten minutes later, there was a light knock at our front door. Ron went to the door, let them in, and led the two of them to the living room.

“Hello my Madison. Hello Ethan. Why the late and spontaneous stop by?” I ask hugging the two of them.

“Hello Mum!” Madison said excitedly. “Well Ethan and I have some news for you.”

“Just for me?” I asked, looking at Ron.

“Well I had to talk to Mr. Weasley about it first,” Ethan answered my puzzled look, and my eyes went huge.

“Oh my goodness!” I yell.

“Yes, Mum! We are ENGAGED!! Ethan and I are getting married! He just asked me like fifteen minutes ago. You mean so much to me Mum, I wanted you to be the first person I told,” Madison said while hugging me.

Then she let me go and held out her left hand to show me the beautiful ring Ethan picked out to give to her. It was beautiful, just like my little Madison.

**********

My little girl is standing in front of me in a beautiful white dress that I helped pick out. It looked absolutely gorgeous on her. The day we went to go get it, she told me that she only wanted me to be with her because my opinion meant the most to her, I was her best friend. Her bright white, A-line dress with sweetheart top and the small embellishments was absolutely stunning on my little girl. I just finished putting the last few little touches onto her hair when her father came in to tell us it was time.

My little girl is getting married today. I am going to have to give my daughter away today. I take back what I said earlier, THIS is the hardest day for a mother. Thankfully, I know that Ethan is the best man for my daughter to marry. Of course, I would not allow her to marry him if he were not the best for her.

I watched my daughter walk down the aisle toward Ethan that day. I watched Ron give our daughter away to Ethan. I watched and listened to them exchange their vows to each other. I watched them have their first dance as husband and wife at their reception. Of course I cried before, during, and after the ceremony. I was now going to become second person my daughter would go to for help and her husband, Ethan, would be the first person she would go to if she needed anything. I accepted it though, I suppose this is how my mother would have felt if she remembered me on my wedding day years and years ago.

**********

Madison is still my little girl even if she has a husband and has been out of our family home for over five years. One day when I got home from work, Lucy was sitting on the table just inside our front door.

Mum, I need to speak with you right away. Please apparate to my house as soon as possible. Love, Madison

I dropped everything I was carrying, yelled to Ron that I would be back later, and immediately apparated to Madison’s and Ethan’s home in Godric’s Hollow.

“Madison, Madison,” I called from the foyer.

“Mum,” she called from where it sounded like her bedroom.

“I am coming Madison,” I say and I charge up the stairs.

I enter her bedroom and I recognize that face. It was the same face of shock I had when I found out.

“Mum,” she cried out to me.

“Oh honey,” I say and I lay down next to her and hold her tightly, “You are going to be fine. I promise. I felt the exact same way when I found out that I was pregnant with you.”

“You did?” she asked, “You were this scared?”

“Yes, I was. It is okay to be scared honey. It is a baby after all. You will never be the same once you have him or her. You will always be a mother after his point,” I tell her, “And there is no better thing in the world. I love being a mother, I love being your mother. You are my baby, no matter what or how old you are and I will always be here for you.”

After a few minutes, someone coughs in the doorway.

“Am I interrupting?” Ethan asked.

I look from Madison to Ethan and back to Madison, “He does not know?” I whisper to her.

Madison shook her head to answer my question.

I was amazed. I was wrong, yet again. When she came across something she could not handle, she did not call Ethan first, she called upon me. My baby still needs me sometimes and I will always be here for her when she does.

**********

I am now a proud grandmother and my own daughter now knows what that special bond is between a mother and daughter. I am glad to know that she finally knows how much she means to me. She means the world to me. She is my only daughter. She is my baby, even if she has a husband and a baby of her own. She will always be my baby, no matter what, and nobody not a single person can ruin the special bond that my daughter and I have with one another.

The love between Ron and I is very special and I am glad I will never have that love with anybody else.

However, the love that I have for my daughter, Madison, was A New Kind of Love that only a mother can understand.

-The End-


Chapter 6: My Existence by rj_sunshine
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 Tom, my child, my lovely … what shall become of you? Will you be a banker, a baker, the Prime Minister… the Minister of Magic? As I hold you within my weak ‘Squib’ body, I wonder whether you will be the same as I - just as plain and just as pathetic as your poor mother, a person with no name nor relevance to mankind.

Dull pearlescent white skin, dry as chalk, neglectful of sunshine with jet black raven hair, limp, wiry. My eyes were often described as empty and dead, a cold blue rather than one reminiscent of the sky. Your grandfather said often that I was a waste of space, a sack of brittle bones only useful for tailing those of worth and importance and bowing to their every need. The Illustrious Slytherin name was all he ever harped on about! The way my father and brother, Morfin, talked about some guy who died years ago - you would think he were a king, a saviour of sorts who changed life as we knew it. Who cared if we were related? I don’t want anything to do with him. Who cared if he could talk to snakes? I certainly didn’t. I hate the language, despise it. Parseltongue was the mud that my father used to abuse me with and I myself was forced to use it in order to say ‘Yes, Sir, your food is ready’ and ‘No, Sir, I shan’t ever think for myself again.’ That intrepid sea of hissing and lies had borne its own evil, spawned the Devil in the form of my kin.

Blood is such a fickle thing, Tom. It runs through our veins, keeps us alive, but it is nothing compared to the thrill of finding your own heart, finding love. You see … even at the thought of your father, I know you understand me. You wriggle and writhe inside of me excitedly before I even say his name. Tom, just like yours, little one. Ever since I knew you were a boy, I said you would take his name and hopefully everything else. He is very handsome (as you will be), polite (as I shall teach you to be), wealthy (as I hope you will be) and … he was the love of my life. To live without love is worse than dying in sin, I say, Tom and don’t you forget it. Your father was and is the single most beautiful thing I know in this world and he made me the happiest witch alive - besides you of course. I know your birth will be a thing of miracles. The angels will fall to sing to you, the sun shall rise and everyone will know that someone special had made their way into the world. I imagine harps … yes, choral music resounding in the background. They do say that music of the classical type makes a child less aggressive; I read that in the muggle baby book your paternal grandmother (Mrs Riddle) gave me after we came home from the hospital on the 2nd of September. I remember it all very clearly. Your father and I came home, hand in hand, our bodies bursting with happiness that you were healthy and growing. And you are still - I’m nearly bursting at this very moment in time as your knee presses gently yet forcefully into my bladder. You’ll be a playful little boy and I can’t wait to hold you.

That is why it is my deepest regret that your father will not be around to nurse you, change your nappy or sing a unmelodic lullaby at which point I would take over. I doubt you will ever meet him, ever let your gorgeous sapphire eyes fall over him. One day you might; on a sunny day by the coast, or in the middle of a busy crowd as we shop in the delicatessen you may recognise a man, tall, dark and handsome as though you were looking into a mirror. But he will walk on, I guarantee it. He’ll tear himself away from us and continue his life as though we never existed. It is my own fault and like many children you may think it was yours. I assure you, nothing was ever down to you; you were made with love. The reason you will grow up without your father is due to myself. I let your father love me prematurely. He would have in time … but I simply … helped him along a little bit … you’ll understand when you are a lad, when you have your eye on a young maiden. Oh, when you are in love you lose yourself within the object of your affection and will stop at nothing until you hear them say they love you as much as you love them. And there lies the problem. Tom Riddle just wasn’t ready. It was all too soon. And when your grandfather and uncle were gone, I pursued him - more than I should have, I suppose, but without that, you would not be here within me. And so he is gone. It shall be you and I against the world, my son. We don’t need anyone else. We depend on nobody …

I have it all planned out, Tom. When you are born, I will take you in my arms and make you feel safe. Then we will find somewhere to live. Better than this homeless shelter that I am sitting in with damp peeling walls and no heating; I wouldn’t let you stay here. We will find a nice countryside home in Gloucestershire somewhere. Gloucestershire sounds nice. The little cottage will have a lovely country kitchen, a sitting room with a roaring fire and two bedrooms - one for you and one for me. While you learn to walk and talk, I shall get an education. Maybe hire a nanny while I learn mathematics (not Arithmancy!) and work at a post office. And on most days I will sneak home some fresh bread or a cake or two to make you smile. If you dislike chocolate, I’ll bring you blueberry. If you’re intolerant to wheat, all hope is not lost. I will bring you anything you wish for, because I am your mother. Just because your father will not be there to run about with you tirelessly, or to teach you to stick up for yourself when you are a man, or to teach you mechanics, or how to drive …

I am not a useless woman. Not at all. No matter what people will say. And they will. Talking is just as easy as breathing to the folks in Little and Greater Hangleton. The old people start the gossip and the young ones spread it. ‘Tramp’ they called me. ‘The weirdo’s daughter’, ‘Pauper’ … We Gaunts got it all. Rubbing my rotund stomach, I smile at the thought of getting away from the names. We are Riddles now. No divorce or separation will convince me otherwise. Not even the cold, scathing look your father gave me when he left me. He cast me aside onto the street - poor, dirty, cold, pregnant … He reminded me so much of the past.

But I am stronger than one to live in hate …

This cough of mine … it’s getting worse really … the handkerchiefs are no longer white and clean. I don’t know what is wrong with me, but I will pick myself back up and get better as I have done for the whole of my life. I must admit, the weight of you takes its toll on my chest … and my legs shake … my head spins … my heart quivers … I haven’t eaten well in a while and everything I consume, you take. I used to get three course meals at the Riddle House but long gone are those days of surplus. You’ll find no gold chalices here, nor glittering diamond chandeliers, nor seventeenth century carpets, hanging oil paintings or even laughter. The only happiness in my life is you. Knowing that you will be here soon makes me smile every day. Just thinking of you, I know not to let the evils of my past shape me. I forgive your father - which is why I give you his forename. I forgive your grandfather - which is why I give you his middle name. I forgive them all. It made me who I was today being dictated to by those people. And that is why I wish of you these few things:

Don’t be a pushover - no one tells you what to do except me, your mother.

Strive for the best. I wish you a fruitful career with many bountiful rewards to follow.

Eat all of your vegetables. They’ll keep you healthy.

Get a good education. Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry awaits you as it never did for me. Pardon my eagerness, but I shall live out my wizarding youth through you. I was never a first-rate witch, but you shall be a fine young wizard. Part magic, part muggle - the best of both. And then you can choose which world you wish to stay in. I don’t mind which you decide.

Never forget your father; I will tell you about him every day of your life, but as I get older and more forgetful you will have to remind me.

Please, I beg of you, never use Parseltongue if you can help it. I know there will be the chance that you will know it. I will avoid the Reptile House on all of our trips to the zoo if that’s what it will take; it shall be my only secret.

Finally - and most importantly - just remember, Tom Marvolo Riddle, everyone had darkness within them; it’s just your choice whether to act upon it. Don’t let hatred and lies rule you. Live in love. Bathe in it, let it fill you up from your tiny toes to your head. Enjoy it. Enjoy life. I live solely because of you, Tom. You are me, you are him and you are yourself. I live for you. Although I may not be able to give you everything you deserve in life, know that I tried. You are my existence, my precious little baby and no one can take that away from me. Not your father, grandfather, uncle nor anyone else who would dare try. I will always look after you until the day that I die. And even still, I plan to never be more than a step away from you.

I can’t wait to touch your soft skin, to kiss your cheek, to talk to you, to see you. I didn’t even anticipate my wedding day as much as I am your birth. I’m even learning to knit. I pulled apart my jumper for the wool. It won’t be blue (it’ll be an icky grey) but I suppose you won’t mind.

Christmas is coming … you know what that means? It means a filling meal for the both of us. Turkey … roast potatoes … vegetables … gravy … my mouth is watering at the thought of it. We’ll receive no gifts this year, but next year we will be on our way up, I promise you, we will -

Oh … you’re so funny, Tom. You’ve rolled over to your side now, so I guess you’re tired of me talking. I am too. My throat hurts anyway, so sweet dreams, my dear. I guess you will hear from me again tomorrow and the day after and the next day and the day after that …

I look forward to meeting you.


Chapter 7: Standing on the Bridge by LittleWelshGirl99
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A broken man is standing on the bridge that once held so much joy for him.

I am standing on the bridge. The one we always came to. The bright colours of the flowers seem to merge into one another, becoming one big yellow, pink and green blur, mingled by my tears in the same way a painter might mix up his paints. The tears roll down my cheeks and I am acutely aware of every bit of skin they slide over. I don’t brush them away. I am this tear; it is part of me. And as it falls off the edge of my nose and tumbles down to join the deep waters of the lake below, I too, am falling. The sun beats down upon my back as I hold tightly to the railing with shaking hands. But despite the warmth, I know that nothing will ever disperse the numbing cold that will forever more have its home inside my heart. It runs as ice through my veins, piercing my soul and freezing my brain of all thought, except for one. She is gone.

As if to tease me, to increase the depth of my suffering, her tinkling laugh echoes through the air. Like bluebells chiming. That’s what I’d always told her she laughed like. I claw at my head, trying to extract the terrible sound. What would they be doing to her now? Torturing her? Mutilating her pretty face? I feel as helpless as a fish trapped in a barrel, faced with a fishing hook. I want to run to her, scoop her up into my arms and secure her in a little bubble of protection for all eternity. I should have. I should have taken better care of her after Angelie’s death. But that, too, had driven me mad with pain. My sanity. My wife. My little daughter. What more can they take from me? How can they cause me so much anguish that I feel dead inside, yet must still force myself to eat and sleep and act normal? And I cannot even give up on life, because they have left me with the tiniest thought that she may still be alive. She might not quite be gone. And while that thought lives on, so must I.

I stand in the centre of the bridge. I know it is the centre, because we’d counted the wooden slats and marked the right one. There are five on either side of my one. I always stood on this one when we came. She’d even written my name on it, as soon as she’d learnt how to do it with her wand. It’s carved deep into the wood in her childish handwriting. I kneel down and run my hand over the rough surface, as if it contains some clue, some essence of my daughter. I look to the right and gaze at Angelie’s name. Her’s is faded. Angelie has not been to this bridge for many long years. Painstakingly, I crawl along the surface of the bridge until I see the last name upon the wood. Her name. This name is already starting to fade, being consumed by the wildlife and falling leaves. An ant crawls along the ‘L’ and I resist the urge to swat the bug. Because it is still alive. And she almost certainly is not. I drink in her name, wanting so desperately for her to materialise on the spot, smiling, blonde hair flying out behind her, eyes sparkling with joy as she cups a soft rosebud to her cheek. And I see her so clearly, it is like she is here.

“Look, daddy! I found the first rose of the year! I win!” I reach for her, happiness coursing through my body, though I know that this is merely a figment of my imagination. “You do win, my darling. What prize will you demand of your poor father?”

“Can I have anything? Even the moon? The stars!” Her eyes are more beautiful than the brightest star.

“Anything,” I whisper, standing to hug her. But my arms pass through her body and meet only prickly leaves. Her face contorts into a terrified scream. A scream that goes on and on long after she is gone, bouncing off my skull, off the trees, creating a cyclone in the water. And my scream joins hers, pouring out all my anger and misery and love. It’s swallowed up by the greedy air, and all is silent once again.

I slump against the back rail, legs drawn up under my cloak, as if this will protect me from the world, from the pain all around me. You might go to smell a sweet rose, but before you know it you’ve punctured a finger on the thorn. There’re a lot of roses here, in every colour imaginable. But twice as many thorns. I feel like a child again, a child who keeps losing a board game to the other players, except the other players are cheating, and the board game is the monopoly of life.

I don’t really know why I have come here. Here, to the place where the memories are the strongest and the sweetest. I suppose it’s where I feel closest to them. I can almost taste them in the air, smell their perfume. I keep expecting one of them to run out from behind a bush, squealing tricked you! And every time they don’t, I am transported back to the past with a blinding stab of pain. Sometimes memories are the most lethal form of weapon. And I feel more alone than I have ever felt before.

I could leave the bridge, I suppose. There are two directions I could go in; left or right. I look to the right. Where will that take my weary feet? Mist obscures my vision as I peer into the oppressing air. It seems charged and tense. Shadows merge and dance, forming pictures, faces that I do not recognise, but I somehow know are important. Laughing, mocking, taunting. Beckoning me with dark fingers. Whispering into my ear.

The darkness, so ominous in comparison to the bright sunlight where I sit, solidifies into a body. An ancient man with flowing, white hair and a beard strides towards me, wearing a cloak of moonlight and riding a chariot of fire. His feet never touch the ground. “Who are you?” I protest, angry that he has come to this sacred place of ours. He smiles,

“I am your future.”

“What’s your name?” my voice shakes. Is he real? I cannot tell.

“My name is whatever you want it to be.”

“That’s not an answer.”

“Make your choice.” Terrified, I pluck a red rose, throw it at him and scream, “Leave me be!” His body crumbles into swirling dust where the flower touches him, and the rose falls to the floor, covered in black ashes. I breathe heavily, and resist the urge to walk off the bridge, kneel by the lake and splash water over my face to halt these dreadful apparitions that plague me. For too long I have been living in a shadowy half-world. But I fear that once my heavy feet step off the wooden structure, they will never find their way back again. So I brave to look at the other route off the bridge; to the left. The air has a hazy, pink tinge to it, and I can almost feel the heat emanating from places unseen. A sweat breaks out on my forehead and upper lip, and my skin becomes itchy and damp. The light is blinding me, searing through the back of my head with a steady strength. I see pictures once more, but these faces I do recognise. Angelie and a younger version of myself sit on a hilltop. The breeze just lifts the ends of her long, shiny hair and her smile lights up my whole world. She plucks a small, blue flower and hands it to me. I cannot hear her voice, but I know what she is saying. How will I ever forget? No father ever does.

“Philius. We’re going to have a child,” she whispers into my ear, softly kissing my cheek, her lips softer than feathers. My younger self turns and gazes into her turquoise eyes, seeing the ceaseless love, mixed with slight fear. I take the bluebell, smiling, and tuck it into her hair.

“If it’s a girl, we’ll call her Belle. After this flower,” I suggest in a voice so thick with emotion that it is a struggle to form each syllable.

“No,” she replies, “Luna. After my mother.”

“Lunabelle?” Angelie laughs with mirth, slapping my arm gently,

“Don’t be silly! Everyone would tease her at Hogwarts!”

The scene changes, showing my little Luna as a young child. She’s wading through the river at the back of our house, singing softly to herself and peering into the clear, fresh water, searching for fish. She spots something and lets out a yelp of surprise before falling over with a large splash. She comes up laughing, her hair wet and tangled, spraying droplets of water through the air. Angelie appears, also laughing, holding out a warm towel. Luna steps into it thankfully and squirms as her mother rubs her dry fiercely before wrapping her in a strong embrace.

“Where’s daddy?” Luna asks excitedly, “I think I’ve discovered a new breed of fish in the stream!” A slight shadow falls across Angelie’s face, and she tries to keep her tone light,

“Daddy’s very busy at the office, sweetie. It’s very hard being a journalist.”

“But when will he be back?” Luna’s face sparkles with naivety. I feel tears trickle down my cheeks again at the harsh reminder of all that has been lost.

I wrench my tiring eyes from the scenes with great sadness. It weighs on every bone in my body, drooping my shoulders and squeezing the only tear I have left to give, out onto my cheek. I stand, gathering all the shattered remains of my existence, and walk over to her name once more, looking down on it. The tear seems to fall in slow motion the salty water is absorbed by the dry wood and cracks in the carved ‘n’. I realise that I have failed her in every way possible. And I make a silent promise to myself, to the world, that I will not give up on her. No matter what.

I walk slowly to the right, into my future, just glancing back one last time at the bridge, such a sacred, pure place, before I am swallowed by the waters of fear and unrest. In the place where the tear fell, a violet bluebell has sprouted out of her name. Its face is turned towards the sun with joy, celebrating all that is still beautiful in life. And I smile softly.


Chapter 8: Lonely Drops by NaidatheRavenclaw
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Drip. Drop. Drip. Drop.

The morning dew falls from a leaf and into a small pool collecting on the next.
Drip. Drop. Drip. Drop.

It is steady. Rhythmic.

Drip. Drop. Drip.

Drip.

But just when you think that the pattern can never be broken, two drops fall at once. The pool rises with their weight and spills over the edge. The pattern has been ruined. The perfect regularity has stopped, and as much as you wish, you can never falsely believe in its perfection again. It has been ripped from you like innocence is ripped from a child, and you are left facing the harsh reality of the world.

Drip. Drop. Drip. Drop.

But then it starts over, as if nothing had ever happened to it. You refuse to be fooled by the pattern, because you know it will be ruined, but as soon as you start to believe that the one time was just a fluke, it is ruined again, and this time, your illusions are gone for good.

But the boy sitting in front of the leaves says nothing as he watches the dew fall. He is a small drop of water in a vast ocean, surrounded by so many other drops and yet he sticks out from the rest. He has broken all bonds he had with those other drops, so now he floats freely. He is forced to let the wind carry him farther and farther away from the cluster of drops he used to know, and none of his shouts will call him back.

He wishes he had stayed with them. But he focuses on the pattern. He needs the regularity. He needs the perfection.

His eyes follow each drop of water as it teeters on the edge of the leaf, then leaps off and lands with its brethren in the pool below. And each time the pattern breaks, he winces, almost imperceptibly, but a motion all the same. His usually well-kept hair hangs limp and disheveled around his shoulders, and the clothes he had worked so hard to keep in perfect condition are ripped in several places and covered in dirt.

His lips are parched. The water taunts him. He slides his finger over the leaf, lifting it to his lips and kissing the cool drop of water that resides on its tip. When he pulls his finger away, there is a clean white circles surrounded by a circle of grime.

It doesn’t matter. Nothing matters anymore.

*

The sun rises higher in the sky, shedding its light over the world. It glimmers off the lake, but he stares into its fiery power. Maybe if the glow is bright enough, it will blind him from seeing the destruction around him. Maybe it will blind him to his problems. Maybe he will be allowed to forget, to simply forget, that he ever had a mother and a father and a brother who is now gone.

But today is not his lucky day. For just as he opens his eyes wider, a shadow appears in front of him, blocking the sun from his view. He looks up, staring into the face of a man with tear stained cheeks and singed hair. He barely recognizes this man.

The man has been so many things to him. Father. Teacher. Guide. Leader. Model. And then, more recently, opponent. Rival. Traitor. Enemy. Target.

And now, what was this man to him now? Stranger? Outsider? But certainly not family. Certainly not someone he could trust. He wants it to be different. He wants to call this man dad again. But the shores of love lie too far apart to be breached, and the circle that was once family now lies in fragments, dead and scattered through a river of hatred.

He takes a deep breath, then stands. He cannot be around this man anymore. Too much guilt fills him as he looks into the face he used to know.

But nothing can prepare him for the look inside his eyes. So much hurt, so much pain, so much loss, but just a little bit of anger. At a time for celebration, but also a time for mourning, why should there be such anger?

Even as it confuses him, a dam breaks somewhere in the back of his mind, and a torrent of memories rush forward. And suddenly, he remembers that glint of anger. He hasn’t seen his father angry often. But it was always that same glint in the corner of his eye. The sudden flash of recognition is all he needs. He remembers that he is related to the man in front of him by more than just blood, and before he can stop himself, his eyes fill with tears.

More than anything, he wants to close the gap between them and fill the emptiness inside of himself with an embrace, but he knows that doing so will only result in pain. So he steadies himself and utters the words he never thought he had the courage to say.

“I-I’m sorry, Father,” he whispers.

He averts his eyes, hoping for an answer. Waiting to hear which words will pour from that mouth. And the words come, but they are not soft and soothing like he had wanted. Instead, they are gruff, hiding the pain in each syllable.

“We were a family, Percy. That should have come above all else for you. But you couldn’t quench your thirst for power, could you?”

The words sting, but he says nothing. He lets the words hit him because he knows they are true. Nothing he says can ever change his actions.

“We were so happy when you were sorted into Gryffindor. Bravery. Chivalry. Loyalty. But all of that was lost on you, wasn’t it? You saw nothing more than your own personal gain.”

The boy staggers backwards, as if his father had dealt him a physical blow. But the words hurt more than any curse ever would. He knew that he had abandoned his family, the people who loved him even when they shouldn’t, to fight on the wrong side.

“Father, please. I…” he struggles to form the words. “I was wrong. I should have trusted you.”

At this, his father bends down to stare him directly in the eyes. “But you didn’t. You left. Do you know that your mother cried for weeks afterwards? She never truly got over it. Do you know that Charlie couldn’t believe that his own brother would do such a thing when we told him? He kept telling us that it couldn’t possibly be true. But it was. How could you do that to everyone, Percy? You were a part of the family.”

The use of the past tense scares the boy. And tears now threaten to spill from his eyes as he looks away. Anywhere but those harsh, brown eyes that hold his gaze even as he looks upon the rubble. He tries to say something, anything, to defend himself, but no words come. There is no excuse for what he did, and he knows that.

Instead, he simply says, “I know.”

The two words hang in the air. They bring an apology so large it can never be put into words. His father turns away again, his frame smaller now, broken. He hates seeing his father like this. His father is supposed to always be strong. Always be perfect. But he is just as tired as the rest of them, if not more.

Abruptly, he begins to speak without really thinking about what he is saying.

“I was never your favorite, father. Mum loved how well I did in school and how little I got into trouble, but I know that you liked Bill and Charlie and the-the twins better. You liked the boys who broke the rules every now and then. You liked that they had a sense of adventure. But I was always too normal for you. Back then, I was jealous, though I would have never admitted it. I didn’t know how to make you as proud of me as you were of Charlie when he became Quidditch captain. So I worked even harder in school, but it was never enough. You always congratulated me and patted me on the back, but that was it. The same twinkle in your eyes that was there when Bill got into a little mischief was never there for me.

“I know I was arrogant, father. And I know I’ve been a pompous prat. But you were never there to be proud of me, so I had to be proud of myself, you see. I-I just wanted you to love me as much as you loved it when Charlie found that old rubber duck in the stream and gave it to you for your birthday. Please, Father? Please say you still love me?”

He waits, but no answer comes. He blinks, and a lone tear slides down his cheek. Without thinking about it, his tongue darts out from his mouth and catches the salty drop. He swallows, tasting not only the tear but also the memory of everything he has lost. He knows that he lost a brother today. But he could have never imagined that he would also lose his entire family.

When still another minute passes and no answer comes, he speaks once more.

“I didn’t understand what family meant. I thought that being branded with red hair and freckles would hold me back in the world. I didn’t want to be labeled a Weasley. I didn’t want to be like you, father. I wanted to be better, so much better. But I-I was wrong. Being a Weasley is not a curse; instead, it is a blessing. I never realized just how much I had until I lost it. The love, the support, the family. All of that’s gone now, and I can’t blame anyone except myself.”

He turns away, knowing he has said all that he can. His heart beats erratically, setting a strange yet comforting beat as he waits for an answer. Five second pass. Then ten. A whole minute goes by without a word, and he knows that no words will come.

Dejected, he takes a step forward, wishing only that he had realized his mistakes sooner.

Just as his foot touches the grass, however, a call comes from behind him.

“Percy, wait.”

He stops in mid-step, but does not turn around. What is the point? Only severe disappointment and anger will meet him if he looks back at that face.

“Percy…” the voice calls again.

He tries to ignore it, to detach himself from it. It does not exist. It is but a stranger to him, and he should not listen to it. Yet he ignores the pain he feels and turns ever so slightly, so that he can just make out the silhouette of his father against the sun.

“Percy. I forgive you.”

And then he is running, running without qualm. He knocks into the man, forcing him to stumble backwards and throws his arm around his stomach like he did when he was a little child.

He had thought that he would never hear those words again. Three simple words making all the difference in the world. And one embrace healing two broken hearts.

In just a few moments, they break away, and the man takes the boy’s face in between his hands and looks him in the eye.

“Remember this, Percy. I did not forgive you because you apologized to me. It takes great character to admit you are wrong, but anyone can utter such a small falsehood. I forgave you because you came today. When it mattered most, you supported the family. It may have taken you a few years to understand it, but you came in the end. You’re a man of great words, Percy. But your actions make your true character. Remember that.”

The boy nods, the smallest hint of a smile appearing on his face.

“Thank you. Thank you.”

The man smiles in return, and pats his son on the back.

“Come on then. Your mother is worried sick about you. She’ll be wanting to see you as well.”

“You go on. There’s something I have to do first,” he responds, waving his father off.

Once he is out of sight, he sits back in the same position and watches the dew slide off the leaves.

*

Drip. Drop. Drip. Drop.

The pattern does not seem so regular this time. There is sometimes a pause between two drops, and other times, they happen one after the other. And the sound is not always the same. Sometimes it is loud, and other times, it is so faint that you can barely hear it.

But he likes the irregularity. Life is not regular, after all. There are times when two drops fall at once, and other times when no drops fall for so long you almost give up on one falling again. There are times when the drops are loud and noticed by everyone, and other times when the drops are only heard by those who really matter.

And those are the drops that matter most. The ones that only your family can hear. The whispered drops of doubt and despair.

Crawling into your parents’ bed at one in the morning because you had a nightmare that a hippogriff was chasing you. That’s a small drop.

Confessing to your sister that you kissed a girl for the first time. That’s a small drop.

And coming to support your family above all. No one can imagine that drive to protect your brothers and sisters, or the need to make your parents proud. But that’s a small drop too.

And still, that bond between father and son is the smallest drop of all. The moment when he talks to you about your first girlfriend. The first time you go to him when you realize that you smell bad. Playfully wrestling and joking with each other for no reason at all. Scarfing down all the food you possibly can at the dinner table.

No one else needs to know about that. No one else wants to know. But the solid chain that binds father and son; well, that just can’t be broken.

The boy smiles, watching the drops fall for the final time before standing and walking towards the castle.

Things would get better. 


Chapter 9: Partners in Family Vandalism by manno_malfoy
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"Father, every single break, every single time we're in this house, you give me this endless, pointless conversation! Why can you not settle for the fact that I am different, that I am a Gryffindor, and that that is that!" the fifteen years old Sirius Black bellowed very loudly, that every Black in the mansion, even the sleeping portraits tucked under layers of dust in the upper and lower partitions of the place heard his shamefully deafening words.

"What you fail to understand, Sirius, is that I would drop the subject if you would drop your discerning habits and your disgraceful companions!"

"THEY ARE NOT DISGRACEFUL!"

"Yes, they are. According to every single one of us Blacks, even those remotely connected to this noble family, would consider them as so –"

"Then maybe the problem isn't with my friends; maybe it's with this noble family," Sirius challenged his father, his tone mocking and dangerous.

"How dare you?!" his father shouted, his eyes widening with fury.

"Father, I've said my piece! And this never ends and it's not the first time I say it. So if you'll excuse me…" the young boy said and stormed out of the room, and raced out of the house, as was his usual after every argument with either of his parents.

In the sitting room, which was only a few marble tiles away from the door behind which the two Blacks were fighting, sat yet another group of Blacks. They were startled by the way Sirius had burst out of the room as he made its heavy wooden door bombard with the adjacent wall loudly, and leave yet another grey scrape against the painted rocks.

A young Black lady got up, her soft and long brownish hair flailing behind her head as she started to take wide strides out of the sitting room. When she heard the heavy footsteps and the distinctive taps of her older sister's newly acquired obsession, her black pair of high heel shoes, the younger Black stopped and turned around to face her sister.

"Don't you dare follow him out, Andromeda; don't you dare!" Bellatrix whispered furiously to her younger sister, her eyes wide and stern with warning.

"And why is that?" Andromeda asked her sister despite her apathy towards anything Bellatrix may have had to say or any warning her mind bore.

"Oh, you know why," she said rather bitterly, narrowing her eyes.

"For the millionth time, Bella, he did not choose to be put in Gryffindor. He was purely Black when he stepped out of Uncle Orion's house and headed off to King's Cross, so I am sure that the train ride was not long or effective enough to change things that had been instilled in him for eleven years," Andromeda responded very calmly, knowing that blowing up in Bella's face would bring no good at all.

"Oh, but you heard Uncle Orion, and he is right. He may have had no hand in being sorted into Gryffindor by that rattled old hat, but he has every hand in picking the
friends to lurk around with, not associate with mudbloods and bloodtraitors," she said.

"And be treated like a pariah and left out by the people he is supposed to live with for long seven years? You know how most of the Gryffindors are."

"Better than bring shame to this family, and defy the morals we've been raised on!" Bellatrix argued, raising her voice.

Andromeda smiled to herself, and Bellatrix noticed the mischievous side to her sister's smile.

"But your sleeping around with Lestrange does not bring shame to this family and defy every moral our mother has raised us on, Bella?" Though meaning to be malicious, Andromeda kept her tone soft and gentle; there was no better way to taunt Bella.

"I do nothing wrong as openly as Sirius does –"

"And yet that doesn't mean that they're any less wrong or that you're keeping the virtues of this family any more faithfully. If that's really what you think about Sirius, then you should know that you're no different from him. At least he has effective reasons that had led him to the state he is currently in, while you have nothing to rely on for an excuse but your inability to control your desires!" Andromeda said sternly, turned on her toes, and started to walk towards the door again; no footsteps of an interloper coming from behind her this time.

She stepped out of the rather dark mansion and into the orange light of sunset. The sun was more of a massive curve than a ball, sinking every second deeper and deeper into the greenish woods that went on for several miles.The gentle and tingling summer breeze reeked of freshly grazed grass and blossoming belladonnas, with a little hint of dust that hardly caught attention or caused irritation.

Without having to even look around, Andromeda found Sirius, his lustrous black hair slightly orange under the sunset's colors. His back was bent forward over something that Andromeda could not see, and that made her notice the height her cousin had gained over the past few months.

Andromeda stepped forward, her steps muffled by the glowing grass beneath her flat shoes and the sound of her breathing concealed by that of the trees being ruffled by the soft wind. When she finally reached her cousin's side, she saw that he was poking the purple petals of a belladonna with his wand, and was staring at the beautiful, dewy plant so intently that, despite their proximity, Sirius had still not noticed Andromeda

"If you do manage to poke a hole through it, Grandmum is going to consider it vandalism and have you punished, you know," was how she started the conversation.

"Well, honestly, Dromeda, I'd rather be locked up in a room here than have to spend all my time with people who can hardly stand me and I can hardly stand. I can be doing lots of other things with my time," Sirius said nonchalantly still looking at the belladonna. Then he looked up at Andromeda and continued, "And I know what you'll say, Andromeda. Like every time, you'll tell me that we should just shut up and try to bear with them because no matter what they're our family and we cannot deal without them. But I just can't bear it anymore. Every bloody Christmas, and every bloody summer…"

"Yeah… that's no longer my opinion, really," Andromeda told him and bit the corner of her bottom lip.

Her cousin's face crumpled in confusion, bringing all his features to the center of his face.

"Don't look at me like that! I get it now more than I did, let's say, two weeks ago. When it comes to some things, to some topics and cases, maybe we shouldn't just keep quiet and let them deal with us however they want. Especially when what we want is no less than our natural right in life."

Even after Andromeda's little attempted explanation, Sirius's baffled frown was still bruising his face.

Andromeda sighed loudly in response. "I want to show you something; but you need to promise me that you won't tell a soul, not even Potter, Lupin, and Pettigrew!" she warned.

"Oh, do I ever?" Sirius said with a smirked then chuckled for an emphasized effect.

What Sirius was referring to was an incident from Andromeda's seventh year at Hogwarts and his third. He and his three friends were sneaking around the castle after curfew, like was their habit, when Sirius walked onto Andromeda and Ted kissing, and had his friends change their course just so no one would see her.

Andromeda still believed that Sirius did that because he cared for her no matter how many times he told her that he only did it because he knew it was Ted Tonks. Because that meant that he could have a rebellious companion in the family, and because their companionship was not going to work if the whole school heard of it and Andromeda ended up killed by her parents, he decided that the less people who knew of that, the better.

"I'm just saying…" Andromeda said and rolled her eyes at her cousin. "Okay, here we go."

Andromeda slipped a hand into the pocket of her long blue robes, fumbled about a bit, then brought out the forever familiar red box.

She opened it and said, "Teddy proposed to me, Sirius."

"Let me guess, two weeks ago?" Sirius asked with a mocking smirk on his face as he inspected the ring his cousin was holding out.

"Yes, Sirius, how very witty of you. It's good to know you listen to me when I'm talking though," Andromeda told him with another roll of her eyes, something she seemed to do a lot while talking with Sirius.

"So what did you say?"

"I said 'yes', of course!" Andromeda replied fervently, her features softening into a faint smile.

"Then why do you go around with the ring in the pockets of your robes?" he asked her with an eyebrow raised, then snatched the box out of her hand.

Andromeda gasped and took the box back, closed it, and tucked it safely back into her pocket. "Because I'm not you, Sirius; because I'm not a Gryffindor. You go around here casting your views, even though you know they reject them. While I… I'm supposed to be good little Andromeda, a true Black lady who will end up with this handsome and rich pureblood one day. And I do not know how tell my Mum, how to tell my sisters, that the love of my life has asked for my hand in marriage."

"I can make a big banner that says 'Congrats to the newly wedded couple: Andromeda and Ted Tonks' and hang it up in the sitting room while you are all having dinner!" Sirius told her with an encouraging smile.

Andromeda chuckled and rolled her teary eyes once again, making a drop slide down her flushed cheeks.

"So you're telling me you have a better plan?"

"Well, of course, Sirius, Teddy and I could never come up with anything as brilliant, imaginative, bold, or rebellious as such, but we've got a rather humble plan," Andromeda said.

"Oh yeah, and what's that, may I ask?" Sirius asked her.

"Well, when we decide that we are ready, emotionally and mentally, to tell my parents, we'll do it… together. That or we will just elope, no matter how socially frowned upon that is. It probably equals marrying a muggleborn in vulgarity through our parent's eyes," she explained.

"Eloping is cowardly, Andy; just tell them. To hell with what they think! And if the two of you did not have the guts to fess up about your relationship to our family, why did Tonks propose in the first place? And why did you say yes? If you're just going to still keep your feelings unrevealed, why change the status of your relationship at all? Why bother?"

"He told me that he wanted to show me that he was serious about our relationship, Sirius; that he's not just screwing around with me –"

"He's screwing around with you?!" Sirius asked, horrified.

"Ugh, no, you repulsive little creature! Not in the literal sense of the word!" Andromeda scolded him jokingly. "I'm not Bellatrix. And Teddy is, as surely as hell, not Lestrange."

"Alright, alright; I was just checking," Sirius said with a chuckle, holding his hands up at face level defensively.

No, Andromeda did not go around sharing the things she would eventually find out about either of her sisters. But it was Sirius who found out in the first place and told Andromeda, then, afterwards, Andromeda got to find out for herself.

Sirius wanted to tell everyone; he wanted Bellatrix to get caught; he wanted some cousin of his, aside from Andromeda , to receive some blame for a change. Nonetheless, Andromeda told him to do otherwise; she told him that there would not be so much gain from telling anyone, and that the only way to benefit from the information they had was by using it as leverage against Bellatrix.

It took a lot of convincing, and several 'no, Sirius, we will not be slipping Veritaserum in Bella's morning tea's, but she had him keep it to himself in the end.

"Will I be invited to the wedding?" Sirius asked her after a few moments of silence.

"I doubt there will be one, Sirius. No one would come," she told him, then pursed her lips sadly.

Sirius resumed poking the belladonna again as he said, "I'd come. And I'll bring the James, Remus, and Peter with me too!"

"No, thanks! If I do manage to make a wedding, I'd like to keep it as distinguishable as possible from a massacre, and I would like to have my wedding dress not burnt to
the thread before I even put it on," Andromeda said with half a smile and looked up at the sky.

It was now a dark shade of solid turquoise, a few orange bumps lighting its darkness as they burned, and a few stars glimmered as though competing with the few remaining rays of the sun.

When she looked back down at Sirius, she found him holding two purple petals in the palm of his left hand.

"Do you realize what you just did?!" Andromeda asked him, horrified.

"Vandalism," Sirius responded coolly with a nod. He tucked one petal in the pocket of his trousers then slipped the other into Andromeda's slightly opened hand that was falling limply at her side. "And now, you're my partner in crime," he said rather smugly. "Tell them, Andromeda. At least, when you get married to that Tonks bloke, I'll have a place to stay if I'm ever excommunicated," he told her and winked, then left her standing under a sky so thoroughly troubled with incongruous colors.

A perfectly teal sky, with a few rebellious oranges and various striking, sparkling diamonds: her and her cousin's story told by celestial bodies, just like the ones the two of them were named after.


Chapter 10: Just George by AC_rules
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It had never occurred to George to resent being a twin before the Christmas of 1984. Before that point he had always been content to be part of a pair and to be FredandGeorge rather than just George. Like a pair of socks; a two. A team.

It was one of those crispy winters that curled around the Burrow like a fist; ice and snow creeping at the windows and open fires keeping all warm inside. The sort of Christmas with snow ball fights in the orchards, burying Ron’s teddy in snow drifts and dashing back to the house with runny noses and numb fingers – the very epitome of all that a childhood Christmas had been able to offer. Bill and Charlie were back from Hogwarts, Ron had been a tag-a-long and Ginny had been an annoying little girl. The house had been overflowing with people, children, life existing in every nook and crevice in the house and George could not have imagined any way that he would fail to be content. It had been Bill’s fault.

It was Bill’s haunting taunts of the legendary Hogsmeade – a topic which had been used to upturn jealousy from all of his younger siblings almost daily since he had returned for the Christmas holidays (it was rare for any to have more than the other, for they were all so accustomed to sharing: experience was a commodity worth boasting about in the Weasley household). Each day he spun another long weaving story about the glorious shops overflowing with warm, sticky toffee, candy canes and liquid sugar; the post office with more owls that you could count (and both George and Fred could count to very high numbers indeed); a house so haunted that nobody would dream of visiting alone... and Zonko’s – the home of all of the Twin’s desires.

“Dungbombs,” Fred whispered to him, both sat under the dining table and sharing conspiratory whispers. The cream table cloth hung low over the edges of the dark wooden table, shielding the two from the view of any outsiders; with Bill and Charlie home it was difficult to find space for them – in any case, Ron had looked like he might want to join them. Still, the two liked inhabiting the space under the table; appearing hours later to their mother’s confusion and their shared delight –identical grins as they made up their own stories about duels, nearly drowning in the pond and messing around in their father’s workshed leaving their mother utterly stunned and confused.

“Fake wands,” George returned, gripping one of the table legs with excitement as he grinned at his brother.

“Think of the pranks,” Fred breathed, the bright brown of his eyes exactly reflecting George’s own – exactly the way it always should be. Two mirror images, together – in unison.

“Shush!” George said hastily, crawling across the floor on his knees and listening intently –a finger pressed against his lips, “listen,” it was not uncommon to hear footsteps with so many people in the house, and for a second Fred looked like he was going to speak up and disagree with the instruction imposed, “Charlie and Bill,” George said pointedly. George was always better at spotting precise details, whereas Fred was more likely to jump into action at the slightest notice – but they both knew exactly what the other was thinking; we might find something out about the Christmas presents.

And, this time (for they had been sleuthing and sneaking around the house, desperately trying to feed their desire for knowledge about the mysterious gifts since the first whiff of Christmas met their expertly tuned noses) they were successful.

“I brought most of my presents from Zonkos,” Bill said casually after a few minutes of dull talk about wrapping paper, his voice laced with a hint of superiority, “you know – the joke shop,”

“Yes,” Charlie returned impatiently, “Hogsmeade, Hogsmeade, blah blah – look, have you got anything for –?” Charlie stopped abruptly as more footsteps joined were heard and the twin’s father joined the brothers in the kitchen.

“Have you seen the twins, boys? Ron here is supposed to be playing with them...” Mr Weasley said, but neither of the twins were listening about the desperate plight of their little brother (the little twerp could play by himself – since their mother had banned the ‘push Ron down the stairs game’ he just didn’t fit in).

“Zonkos,” George whispered excitedly, his eyes lighting up. Fred nodded; a wide smile spread across his features.

“He’ll stay with you until I find the twins,” The twin’s father said, placing Ron on the floor before his footsteps were to be heard exiting the kitchen – masked only by the irritated sighs of the twins’ eldest brothers. Fred and George were nearly too absorbed in their own shared excitement not to see the silhouette of Ron – teddy bear in hand – struggling to sit on his little chair at the table, but not quite.

Fred and George exchanged a look before Fred pushed one of his feet under the table cloth so that it rested neatly on the base of Ron’s chair. George leaned forward, watching the outline of Ron’s form carefully, “now,” he whispered. Fred pushed the chair backwards just as Ron tried to sit back on his chair. Ron landed on the floor with a discontented ‘oof’; Fred retracted his foot as fast as his reflexes allowed him and both the twins stifled their imminent laughter as Ron began to cry.

“Let’s go,” Fred said, beckoning George to the other side of the table through his laughter. George nodded, crawling behind Fred to the other end of the table cloth. Together, they pushed up the table cloth ready to make their grand escape from the scene of their crime.

“Fred! George!” Their mother yelled, her telling footsteps lost underneath Ron’s loud tears. They were caught; red handed and guilty in the act. George looked down at the floor for a second, knowing that the only way he wouldn’t burst into laughter was not looking at his counterpart, “to your room,”

Their attempts to remain solemn as they exited the room stretched only until the doorframe, then the laughter exploded from his lips – and his brother alike – both of them hurrying up the stairs as fast as they could manage, racing their way to their room with tears of mirth sparkling in their identical eyes.

And they didn’t even have to play with Ron.

*

George had never wanted anything more than he wanted to own a Zonko’s product.

All through Christmas Eve he lay awake in his bed and stared at the ceiling, and when morning finally came he was the first one awake and flying down the stairs. He dragged his toy wand down the side of the staircase with every intention of making as much noise as possible; anything that would hurry up the process. He wanted to hold a gift wrapped Zonko’s product so much that he’d even consider playing with both Ron and Ginny (although Ginny didn’t really do much so that wasn’t too bad).

It was Weasley Tradition that after the annual Weasley jumpers were given out, the youngest gave out presents first. George very much doubted that Ginny herself had gone to the shop and brought them each a chocolate frog, anymore than he and Fred had brought Percy a book without pictures in (what was the point?), but he decided that he appreciated the chocolate all the same. In the same way he vaguely appreciated the exploding snap cards from Charlie – explosions were always quite fun – but, honestly, all George wanted to do was rip open his very own Zonko’s something-or-other.

“Bill’s turn!” Fred said, just as eager, and one by one the presents were given out.

And then it happened. Bill leaned forward, pulling a crisp and inviting parcel from under the tree with the declaration, “this one is for Fred and George,”

And then George realised the horrific truth. He wasn’t about to own a Zonko’s product, he was simply going to own half a Zonko’s product. Suddenly George wanted nothing more than to rip away the status of ‘twin’ and be a whole, individual person all by himself. He wanted the present to be addressed to ‘George’ and not ‘Fred and George’ – he wanted his own room, his own ideas, and his own sense of self. And damn, he wanted a Zonko’s product all to himself.

It wasn’t fair that he had to share more than everyone else just because he was a twin. It wasn’t decent that Ron had a Zonko’s fanged Frisbee all to himself whereas all George had was half a package – a package, incidentally, that Fred was opening.

For the first time in all his life he thought that Fred might not be sharing his thoughts and, surprising even himself, George did not want him to.

It wasn’t until his mother, concerned about George’s quiet behaviour at Christmas dinner, had reminded him that they would never be expected to give two presents themselves and Fred quietly pushing the blessed Zonko’s product to his side of the bedroom and saying, “it’s yours Monday, Wednesday and Friday; mine Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and on Sunday we share,” seeming so solemn and unlike himself that George was reminded of everything that he loved about being half of a whole.

“Monday its mine, Tuesday it’s yours; and the rest of the days we share,” George corrected, and then Fred had smiled. So it had been worth it.

***

It wasn’t until much later when that feeling of longing for individuality crept up on him again; there were glimpses of it through the years, moments when he’d feel more like a sidekick than a partner, fleeting thoughts centred around ‘what ifs’ and days when it irritated him that nobody could differentiate one from the other – twin from twin. Mostly, it was bliss. Some people spent their lifetimes searching for a soul mate, but George had been born a mere few minutes after his.

Sometimes, when he was feeling more introspective, he would think that perhaps they shared a soul – the easy way they could just talk, the way their emotions and their thoughts reflected each other’s so naturally and how there could be no one that could be quite so important, in all the world, as the other half of his jigsaw. Yet, Christmas again, 1994, and he resented him once more.

And this time it was a girl.

It seemed so obvious that Fred might think of Angelina too, of course. George was used to the same ideas occurring to them both simultaneously, but it hadn’t crossed his mind that the same might be true for girls until after the question had been voiced, hanging there, and then she had said yes.

George sat at the fringes of the Yule ball with Lee Jordan and their Hufflepuff dates, laughing easily about his little brother’s revolted expression. It wasn’t like he hadn’t had fun; he’d already embarrassed Ginny several times by approaching her and Neville and talking in loud voices as to attract as much attention as he could to the awkward couple, bothered Percy by harassing Bagman (although the bloody git still managed to avoid them) and danced with his own date multiple times before flopping down onto one of the seats and discussing how exactly they could have smuggled in a bottle of firewhiskey. It had been pleasant, even with the stabbing reminder that he was – yet again – jealous of his own twin.

“George,” Fred said, appearing beside them and sitting down easily, Angelina, Alicia and one of their friends were with him too, chatting in hushed voices as they joined them at the table. He tried not to think about it, “think we should try corner him before the end of the night?” He muttered quietly, jerking his head towards Bagman and raising his eyebrows. Angelina looked over at him with her wide eyes, as if questioning what exactly they were talking about in such low voices. George looked away.

“Nah,” George returned quietly, “he’d spot us coming over,”

“Drinks, ladies?” Fred said loudly, glancing around the table. Angelina grinned and nodded. There was something about the ball which turned normally quite sane girls into giggling and blushing messes, and although Angelina hadn’t succumbed to this cliché as much as the others (particularly Lee’s Hufflepuff date, who’d been amusingly flustered) she still wasn’t her normal self, “coming, George?”

George stood up easily and followed his equivalent; falling into step with him was as easy as breathing.

“Do you think she can tell the difference between us?” George asked.

“Who?”

“Angelina,”

“Dunno mate, she’s known us a long time,” Fred said, looking as his brother for a moment too long, “we could pull the magnificent-twin-swap, see if she noticed?”

“Nah,” George said as they reached the drinks table, “I’m too good looking – it would never work,”

“Speaking of good looking,” Fred said, glancing back towards the table, “who’s your Puff’s friend?”

“Lee’s date?”

“He wouldn’t mind,” Fred grinned, stretching out his arms and glancing back at the table. George could just make out Lee leaning across the table imploringly as he chatted to Alicia, and wondered how long it would take for the Hufflepuff dates to tire of being additions to their already formed friendship group.

“What about Angelina?”

“Variety, my friend, is the key to life,” Fred said, nodding as if he was serious, but with his eyes still sparkling with the absolute thirst for living that they both possessed.

Some things in life that you cannot share, and so you make sacrifices. Not even as a twin, but as a Weasley, both were adept at making some sacrifices. George looked at his brother and laughed, scanning the crowd to see if he could point out Ron’s disgruntled expression and the way Ginny was now wincing slightly as she walked, as if someone slightly awkward had stepped on one of her delicate feet multiple times... things that he’d wanted to point out to Fred before, to share with him, but had been too against the concept of sharing to give in to the want, “what do you reckon would happen, if we dissolved a canary cream in pumpkin juice?”

Most of the time, they didn’t even feel like sacrifices.

“It’d have to be someone really stupid, to actually drink it,” Fred said, “you’d be able to taste it – wouldn’t you?”

“Tell Lee it’s got rum in it,” George added in another conspiratory whisper, “he wouldn’t turn it down in front of five girls,”

“But it’d taste of biscuit,”

“Do you think Lee really knows what Rum tastes like?”

“That’s a point,” Fred said, “then we hijack his date, whilst he’s flapping around on the desk... then... do you reckon it would work if we tried it on Ron?”

***

The third time it was different again. Each time he had flirted with the idea of being a reluctant twin, before quickly banishing it aside and embracing the fact that they were a two. Like a pair of socks; a team. Rhubarb and custard; strawberries and cream; red and gold. Always. This time he was so wholly filled with the desire to be separate from it all, to not be tied to someone by an umbilical cord, a soul and a singular shared mind. He didn’t want to be FredandGeorge anymore than he wanted to be just George. He no longer wanted to exist as part of an entity, because when part of yourself is ripped from you it really hurts.

He’d never been alone before, and he didn’t know how people did it. How did all these hundreds and thousands of people exist without having another piece of themselves? Without a soulmate and without your reflection to finish your sentences and speak your thoughts before you’d thought them, and if Fred had never been a part of him then maybe it would not hurt so much. Maybe, maybe, he wouldn’t be here.

He wondered how anyone could grieve for half a person, and yet here they were mourning half of a whole. Were you a twin if there was only one of you left? Were you still half a person, if half of you was gone? George had never been a whole person all on his own, and he was not entirely sure how he is supposed to become one now. Every decision was talked through, discussed, joked about and it was just like talking to himself; every moment was shared and experienced through two pairs of eyes and two pairs of legs. George was half blind and half lame.

George thought there were too many pairs in life, each of them a reminder of what it is to be alone: shoes, socks, cereal and milk, eyes, ears (except his, at least that much shows how he really was – a fraction of something larger, not complete at all), lovers, parents and twins. George was an unfinished novel, a sentence left hanging and a whole manner of unfinished tangible things that barely exist at all.

“George?” He squeezed his eyes shut one last time and opened them. They were wrong, whoever said that eyes were the window to the soul, because ears are the window to George’s soul – partial. A gaping bloody hole.

“Okay,” George muttered, standing up – glancing once more at the front at the service; a coffin, a photograph peeled from a catalogue they made together and a whole history of belonging, however grudgingly – before he left that place with a fraction of a family by his side.

***

George hardly believes that once, however briefly, he would have traded something as precious as a brother to be an individual. With age comes the acceptance and the realisation that people were never meant to be alone. Especially not someone like him, who always loved living and laughing too much to be self-sufficient. It is much better to need to make people laugh and need someone to say the first word, than to change the world by heroics or bravery. Having enough nerve to try is good enough and there is nothing quite so splendid as spending a life with someone and watching them grow old. All of this, George has learnt.

It is okay to be jealous of someone you love just as it is okay to feel more like a person when you are part of something bigger. There is nothing shameful in grief, in happiness, in togetherness, in love and still missing someone every time you breathe.

Now he is without his partner he can understand what it is to have one, and once again a dash of hindsight changes the world. Siblings bring out the worst, most immature, purest part of yourself and twins always remind you of who you are. They might have had a long glorious life with each other, but instead they had a short glorious life as a two. George may be the spare parts left over from a greater machine, but surviving for both of them was worth enough. It was okay. It was far from glorious, but life was too good and he was too FredandGeorge to waste it wishing.

He is still himself, but sometimes he thinks he has been diluted. And sometimes he thinks he has been doubly concentrated.

George sits in his office (an extravagant affair plastered with letters from delighted children who love mischief, some of which are his own children) as he writes Bill a birthday card: they would only ever have been expected to buy one present. They might have split the bill. Or perhaps they might have made some sort of bet over it – who can convince Ron to eat an entire tube of spot sweets (does your friend have annoyingly perfect skin? Are you just highly vindictive? Atrocious acne that’s guaranteed to make other’s feel nauseas!) or who can eat the most cockroach clusters? Instead here he was, having forked out three galleons all by himself.

“I guess that’s the disadvantage then,” George tells his counterpart with one of their shared little smiles, “but, I get my own Christmas presents and I get the girl. Got to look at all sides of the deal, mate. Got to look on the bright side,”


Chapter 11: Never Let Me Go by In The Shadows I Dwell
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The salty, bitter taste of dried blood within his mouth was enough to wake him. Lying face down upon the dirt covered stone floor of Azkaban Prison following the mass breakout, the man could scarcely move. As he attempted to roll over he felt every muscle in his long tired body scream out as stretching and pulling away from his frail frame as he forced himself onto his back. The night sky was now visible above him. He noted that it was similar to the night sky he had first travelled across the Great Lake to Hogwarts beneath. Memories rushed through his mind as he glanced across at the broken and fragile frame of the woman beside him, the woman who had been beside him for so long it was hard to imagine life without her.

She was his best friend, looking at her now it was hard not to imagine the awkward bespectacled girl he had met on the train to Hogwarts – Jessica Miller – the curly haired blonde witch whose bright blue eyes looked almost a little too large for her face at the time, unhelped by her large glasses. She had grown into her features in time, just as he had grown to love her as the sisterly presence he had always been missing in his life. He’d watched her grow from that girl he had met on the train into the strong woman he knew today, the woman dying at his right hand side. He could hear her muffled breaths, each rattling through her body as though someone had poured a bag of marbles into her lungs and could not help but feel a stabbing pain consuming him. They had dared to harm this innocent and kind woman, a crime for which he would make each every last one of them pay for if he made it out alive. Although it would not be revenge, he would be avenging her death, for in his heart he knew she would never make it home to her sons and newly born grandchild.

A large gash had spread across her forehead leaking blood slowly down her face. Her eyes were still closed, and he hoped she felt no pain. The gash was not the worst mark he had seen across her beautiful face, the position they both held had left much worse across her pale skin, but no matter what happened, she was still the same beautiful Jessie as she was before. He wished he could say the same for himself. His injuries had left him bitter and cold, yet she seemed untouched by this. He wasn’t sure what she would be once this was over. He could not help but think of the moment he’d met her, he’d loved her from that moment onwards. He could still remember the way her eyes lit up and the way her hair seemed to glow as she walked into the carriage. He’d never seen someone so beautiful; he could barely believe his luck that she chose to sit next to him, let alone befriend him. That early schoolboy attraction he had experienced passed in coming weeks, she was in fact very beautiful, but it was her friendship he came to rely upon more than anything else, and then later on, Jessie herself.

She was the constant in his life; they had grown up together and had seen each other through the most trying of times. He could still remember her tears staining his robes as she cried on his shoulder the day her husband had been found dead, his tears too had stained her robes that day for Christopher Miller had been a good man, decent and entirely devoted to the woman he loved. His end had come slowly, painfully almost. Dragon Pox was not acknowledged as a pleasant way to die; it had almost destroyed Jessie to see him in such pain. She would have done anything to end his suffering and yet she could not bring herself to do the one thing he had asked – to stop fighting for him. She never gave up; she couldn’t as it was simply not in her nature to do so. She had never been someone to quit, and she would never have given up on Chris, no matter what the cost.

Jessie was renowned for her quick wit and intellect, two traits which had made her a favourite for the promotion to Division Head of the Auror Department, although she had missed out only slightly to Kingsley Shacklebolt, a man she believed would have been able to fill the position far better than she ever could have. But they were her words, not the words of everyone you spoke to. Jessica Miller was a model employee and a strong friend. Her laughter was infectious and she could always be trusted when making judgement calls. It was what had made her presence within the department so strong, she had many enemies, but even then, she was smart enough to know how to avoid them, and acted with a courage which meant that she never need show her fear, even when confronting the Death Eater who had so viciously attacked her during his sentencing.

He could never remember a time that Jessie had shown fear, he’d seen her tortured for information, injured in the most brutal ways possible and he’d seen her heart broken more than a few times. She was never scared. It was he that was afraid. She was his rock, the one person who kept him from losing his mind with fear, she kept him humble and human and above all else, she reminded him that sometimes, you didn’t always win. He’d learnt many life lessons from her and she had given so much for him, just as he had for her. There was a spoken bond between the pair, a partnership. They would never leave one another behind. This time would be no exception; he would not leave her here to die alone. Although he did not know it, he too would die here. He had found a certain peace within himself, and perhaps he knew, but he was not ready to give up without a fight, for he too had a family to return to, a wife and children waiting nervously for his return home from his shift at Azkaban. Whether or not Martina Williamson knew her husband lay at the brink of death as she nervously sat in front of the fire putting the finishing touches on a scarf for her husband would remain a mystery, but at this point in time, he was not aware that he too, like his partner was dangerously close to Death’s cold embrace.

A shuddering breath caught his attention, it sounded like rocks being dragged through a lawn mower, out of place and likely to break the machine from which the sound was being emitted at any moment. Her eyelids cranked open like a machine being booted up by a large surge of electricity and her left arm scraped about blindly in the darkness, her right arm remaining trapped beneath a large pile of rubble. “Tom…” She whispered her voice barely audible, “Tom?” Her voice cried out again from the darkness, this time the fear had risen in her voice like a wave rising in the ocean, gently at first but had moved dangerously close to crashing.

“Jessie…” He whispered reaching out for her arm finding only a great nothingness, the distance between them was too great for him to reach her, to comfort her, to hold her as the life within her came to a sputtering halt.

“Tom…” She whispered, the recognition of his voice calming her, “Are we… dead?”

“No, Jessie…” He whispered his voice trailing off into the long corridors.

He wanted to tell her that they had died and were somewhere else. Anything seemed like a more pleasant situation than the one they found themselves in, but saying such things might have frightened her more than she already seemed to be. There was that unfamiliar fear in her voice which still lingered, something he had never heard aside from once during their time at Hogwarts, the day that Moaning Myrtle’s body had been found. He had held Jessie as she screamed, the body frightening her more than he had ever seen her before. It was just lying there in the bathroom she had told him, a group of girls had entered the bathroom after dinner to find the young girl lying frozen upon the floor, a look of utter horror spread across her pale stony face, her limbs rigid and unmoving. Jessie had not easily forgotten it, her ghost returning to haunt the girl who had shamelessly bullied her tormented the girl. Thos who had found her body in the bathroom would never forget that moment; many of them were never quite the same again.

There were many things that had changed her in her life, Christopher mainly, but the scars she received during a routine inspection when a wanted Death Eater viciously attacked her with a knife left her with scars trailing down her face and body. She was young at the time, new to the Auror office just as he was, and it was in that moment that everything changed. The war had grown serious. They’d been thrown in the deep end barely able to swim for themselves, two young Aurors thrown head first with barely any weapons into the middle of the battle. Auror’s were expected to lead the way, but he’d had his doubts they could do that, especially considering they were so young. They were talented, there was no question about that, but they weren’t mentally prepared for that aspect of the war. They’d been forced to watch as one by one Auror’s were killed in the field, and at the time he couldn’t help but wonder whether he or Jessie would be next.

He opened his eyes, there were tears cascading down Jessie’s delicate features, features that despite hardening over time under the strain of their work remained as fragile as the day he had met her. He remembered her tears as her date for a trip to Hogsmeade stood her up, she was seemingly fearless, but she was far from emotionless. He’d broken her heart. A heart that loved so much more than one initially thought possible. Mark Hemmingway had broken Jessie’s heart and in return she had broken his nose. In the man’s mind this was but a simple trade, someone getting what they deserved. Justice on the simplest of levels. It was wrong to wish for someone to experience such pain and humiliation upon another - he knew this - but where Jessie was concerned the man was more than willing to overlook what was socially accepted as right and wrong, for he did not wish to see her in pain. For there was a time when he too, had loved her as she had loved Mark Hemmingway. A time where she took his breath away with a simple glance, a smile or a nudge in the ribs. There was a time when he would have given anything to be the one she looked at with such love in her eyes, but the feeling was never returned.

He remembered the night of the Yule Ball, that was the night he had fallen in love with her, for the second time. The second time was the time that had been the most serious. The first was the love of one friend for another; the second was serious, complete and utter rip your heart out and hand it to them on a platter, love – the kind people wrote books about. The moment he’d laid eyes upon her, her blonde hair pulled back into an elegant bun and her beautiful pale pink dress robes bringing out the natural rosiness of her cheeks and lips he’d known he loved her. Even now, his life flashing before his very eyes he could not help but feel his heart leap in his chest at the very thought, but it was for a very different reason this time. He knew that it would be the last time he would relive this moment, the last time he would see the then sixteen year old Jessica Miller for the very first time that night. He could still remember the feeling of the smile which had spread across his lips like a grass stain spread across the knee of a pair of jeans as they slid across the grass as she had taken his hand, at that moment he felt like the luckiest teenager at Hogwarts.

The gentle tingling of her lips upon his that evening was something he would also never forget. If he placed his concentration into it, he could still remember the ever so slight and familiar taste Butterbeer that lingered upon his lips following their kiss. The only kiss they had ever shared, and would ever share. He smiled at the thought as in a single instance the breath that had filled his lungs escaped in a single almighty surge. He gasped in pain, attempting to refill his failing lungs, yet could not find the same amount of air to sustain him. It was as though in the space of a single breath a band had wrapped around his lungs and had been pulled tight, reducing the capacity the life sustaining organs even further. A single tear fell from his right eye as he craned his neck sidewards to take in his surroundings. There would be no escape from this. He would die here among the collapsed stone and the bodies of those whose consciences were far less clear than his own.

They now lay among the voiceless dead. The screams of those who, too, lay trapped beneath the now destroyed walls of Azkaban Prision had long faded, merging into a single chorus of voices all screaming for the same thing – an end. Whether that end came from rescue or the clutches of death itself there were too many voice screaming for it to even distinguish one from another. But there was a single voice the man could tell apart from all the others which swirled around them overwhelming his senses. Jessie’s voice was familiar, even amongst all the others. The way her voice kissed his ears was like breathing, it was natural. He had opened his eyes upon hearing her voice whispering in his ear several times, but it was one instance that drew him backwards into the deepest corners of his mind, to a time which he admittedly, had forgotten.

He glanced across; she was looking at him, a desperation and fear creeping up into the darkest corners of her eyes, pleading with him to do something. She would never voice these desires, it was simple not in her nature to do so, but he could see that she simply wanted to be released as well like all others trapped in this nightmare. He opened his eyes to another time, a time in which he had woken in the small Muggle tent that had become theirs as they travelled across Europe following a trail of seemingly unrelated Muggle murders. He had awoken one morning to Jessie’s eyes staring intently at him as he attempted to pull himself from his short night of sleep. There was something missing from her usual stare, something that seemed to hollow out her eyes leaving nothing but a deep dark pit where that something was now missing. That was the first time he had noticed it, and it had only begun following the death of Christopher.

The work they did often left one hopeless. There were many times he wished he could just walk out of the office and never come back, but he loved his job. He loved everything about it, even when he saw the most dreadful blood curdling crimes imaginable; he knew that he was responsible for seeing that they never committed those crimes again, and that’s what kept him coming back, that and Jessie. He often had nightmares they revolved around the horrible things he had seen humans do to one another, and the things they had allowed themselves to become, but he never let these things define him. He could not allow them to. As time went on it became clear that Jessie was slowly allowing it define her just as those scars had marked her a woman of incredible strength, the war had taken its toll on them all. The things she wished she had never seen clearly stayed with her throughout the night and day until there was only a shadow of the girl he had known remaining, and yet there were brief glimpses, instances where he saw the smiling twelve year old pushing him before running as fast as she could, only to find her glasses smashing upon the ground moments later.

That morning she had reached out and taken her hand, and for the first time in her life she whispered something to him, four words that still to this day echoed through his mind, like a single whisper would through an empty corridor. ‘Never let me go.’ Those words had been whispered with such tenderness, a quiet fear forcing them from her lips as though she too had recognised that slowly her silent fears had taken control of her. Taking her hand, small and soft in his own, large and calloused hand he whispered the only words of comfort he could offer his oldest friend, 'I’ll never let you go alone…'

With that final memory his eyes snapped open and reaching out with the last bit of strength left in his body he reached through the darkness and despite the distance, took his partner’s hand. They had seen many great battles together, but now they were facing the most frightening of all battles as they had lived much of their lives - hand in hand. The man looked at the woman he had called his best friend for more years than he even liked to recall and could not help but be glad that it was she who would journey with him into the next life, the realisation that he too would not make it washing over him. He felt her hand squeeze his own and with a gentle glance he looked into those bright blue eyes one last time.

“Am… I… going to… die?” She asked, her voice filled with a strange calmness he had not quite expected.

“No, of course not… Jessie.” He told her squeezing her hand tightly, hoping to reassure her.

“You’re a horrible… liar… Tom…” She whispered.

“It’s not as bad as it looks.”

“It… is… I’m going to die…”

“You’re not…” He hissed trying to move his body towards hers to no avail.

“I am… You can’t… follow me… this… time.” She replied, her breaths growing shorter.

“I will always… come for you…”

His words were growing shorter as he found himself growing increasingly out of breath; the band which he imagined had been wrapped around his lungs tightening further.

“Tom…” She whispered as her eyes closed one final time and her final breath escaped her lips.
With tears in his eyes the man freed his left hand taking the hand of the old friend he had loved like a sister for more than sixty years and whispered to the now empty body of his best friend, “I'll never let you go.”

With those final words his hands slumped to the ground and his body slackened. The last image to pass through his eyes to his brain before the connection severed and his life vanished before his own eyes was that of the now old blonde witch he had travelled through much of his life with. A fitting end to the life they had lived mostly together. And with that final glance, Tom Williamson breathed his last breath.


Chapter 12: Charon's Obol by GubraithianFire
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Author's Note: In Greek mythology, Charon is the ferryman who takes the dead down the river Styx. Charon's obol is the payment the dead are supposed to give him for his service.




 

CHARON’S OBOL




Her last words to her husband were these:

“Just don’t bury me, or I swear on my grandfather’s soul, I will haunt you until you can join me.”

Draco obeyed. Three days after his wife’s passing, he and his twelve-year-old son watched her body go up in smoke. Scorpius had to be taken aside by his grandmother because of the panic attacks. He didn’t want to breathe in his mother’s pancreas, or her large intestine, or her femur, or her skull.

There were three carriages in the funeral entourage; Malfoys were always buried in somber style, as long as there was a body to bury, and Narcissa Malfoy saw no reason to change that for a cremation. The first held Draco, Scorpius, and Draco’s sister-in-law; there was another for Scorpius’ three grandparents; a third, the plainest, was for the selection of people who were closest to the small, made smaller, family. Draco’s father-in-law, Honorius Greengrass, had raged against not being in the first carriage, but Draco had been firm: Scorpius wanted his aunt with him. Even the boy knew his mother had held no affection for her parents in life, and he would not dishonour her by letting her father ferry her down the Styx of the well-kept-but-hardly-used magical thoroughfare that crisscrossed this part of Wiltshire.

On the carriage ride home, Draco tried to force his son to at least hold the urn of his mother’s ashes. He protested as violently as he could without upsetting the small silver coffin of a jar.

It was Daphne Nott who ended up persuading her nephew to hold it. “You know how clumsy your father is,” she said. “D’you think your mum would like it if she thought there was the slightest chance he might drop it? Here, you can help me. Together we’ll have a good hold on her.”

Scorpius took the left handle, Daphne the right. Draco leaned forward and patted his son’s knee in what passed amongst Malfoys for affection and moral support, and let his hand hover there, perhaps waiting for Scorpius to take it, to form a bizarre circle between them all: the widower, his son, his aunt, and her dead sister. But Scorpius didn’t take it, for he needed both hands to hold his mother. The boy did not trust himself or even his aunt to be able to keep her steady while the carriage threatened to upset the fragile equilibrium of his world after that last farewell.

The funeral procession reached home, although Draco had not thought of Malfoy Manor as home for decades, in good time, but disembarked slowly; the second two carriages were empty by the time Daphne and Draco emerged, and they had yet to coax Scorpius out. It was Daphne’s turn to bat away the indignantly bereaved grandparents: Scorpius wanted his father. The boy had no place for his grandparents’ version of affection. In his twelve-year-old boy way, he doubted he would ever allow affection to fill the hole in his heart ever again.

“I have her right here,” Draco said, the urn cradled in the crook of his arm. “She’s safe, Scorpius. Come on, now, you have to come inside.”

The boy narrowed his eyes. “She’s dead, not safe.”

Draco did not respond with anything but his coolest tones. “Come into the house.”

Daphne, for her part, took her nephew’s hand in hers and, much to her brother-in-law’s dull surprise, hoisted herself back into the carriage and announced, in answer to his stare, “I’ll keep him company.”

Narcissa tittered in the background, in the disapproving way that to Draco meant old crones, backs bent with bitterness, smiles warped by time and bad luck. Narcissa’s back was still straight and her smile the same it had been when Draco was a boy, but her face was lined and her mind dulled; her mutterings reminded him of senile house-elves, who thought they could not be heard and quietly, secretly, dearly wished they were.

“Fine.”

He turned his back on his son and sister-in-law and took the great steps of Malfoy Manor two at a time, his mother and in-laws scrambling after him. Honorius muttered a scathing comment about the constitution of his only grandchild, and though his wife curled her lip in disgust, he went unpunished. Draco ignored the jab and led everyone inside, for there was a funeral party awaiting them. Astoria had, in the days before her death, begged him to not hold a wake, but this was something Draco could not bluster his way out of.

Malfoys always were sent off in somber style, as long as there were physical remains to honour, and Narcissa saw no reason to change the rules for her daughter-in-law.



The grandparents and family friends and even the house-elves all tried their respective hands at persuading Scorpius out of the carriage still parked in the Manor drive, but nothing worked; no bribes were accepted, no carefully worded threats about the family honour were heeded, no gentle reminders of what his mother would have wanted him to do were enough. Daphne stayed with him the entire time, but it was only when the guests and grandparents and the sun left that Scorpius consented to hop outside. Daphne clambered after her nephew wearing only a black sheath dress, having left her mourning robes in the carriage, and nearly tripped over her heels before impatiently kicking them off at the foot of the steps.

She found Scorpius in the drawing room, having planted himself in front of the fireplace. It was the smaller of Malfoy Manor’s receiving rooms, used for Sunday brunches and weekday teas. It was in here that this great mausoleum of a house came closest to reaching intimacy, the closest it could come to feeling like home.

“Where’s Dad?”

Daphne glanced around, aware of how smooth the area rug was under her bare feet. This was a rug her sister had picked out, the first change she’d made to Malfoy Manor when she first moved here. It had not been a welcome change. “I don’t know. Shall we go find him?”

“No need.” Draco reappeared through the door they’d entered from with a tin of biscuits in his hand. “Good to see you out. Hungry?”

Scorpius shook his head, eyes fixed on his mother, but Daphne padded backwards, as quiet as anyone could be here, to steal back to her brother-in-law. “He needs to sleep,” she hissed under her breath, taking a biscuit for cover.

Draco didn’t answer her. “Maybe you should change.” Now that the guest mourners were gone, he himself had back to his pyjamas and dressing gown. He didn’t care that Daphne was still around to see him like this, even though the dressing gown was a shoddy thing by now, worn with use and washes.

Scorpius tore his gaze away from the polished bit of silver that had usurped his mother’s place in the geography of the house and maybe the structures of life and family he had built up in twelve years to look back at his father. The boy blinked and was astonished by how strange it was to see another witch standing next to him.

His mother had always stood to his father’s right, and her hair was fair, like spun gold, and once or twice Scorpius had noticed that his father’s arm snaked around her waist, a black-sleeved circlet, an ivory bracelet to adorn the figure that looked nothing like that of the other mothers he knew, a secret gesture of… intimacy, at least. His aunt, on the other hand, was taller than his mother had been, and her hair was dark, although he had noticed that she’d missed the grays at the roots when she was dyeing it, and she was standing on his father’s left, and they did not look like they had ever touched. It was like the inverse of what had been real life.

The boy swallowed his confusion and said, in a steady voice that brought a pang of parental pride to his father, “I think I’ll go to my room now.”

Daphne, with the bitter taste of concern in her mouth, started forward to accompany him as she had all day, but Scorpius shuffled away before she could catch him. The two adults listened to his steps recede into the hall, and when they couldn’t hear them anymore, Draco let the biscuit tin crash to the floor and strode again to the fireplace. Daphne stayed at the threshold to clean up, then came to sit down on one of the armchairs facing the mantle. She balanced the tin on the armrest and kept eating while Draco stared.

“I should have scattered the ashes.”

Daphne blinked and let the wrapper of her biscuit fall to the soft carpet, and waited for the crinkle of its impact to fade away before asking him, “Why bother?”

“Maybe I should scatter them anyway,” Draco mused, ignoring her. He fell back to the loveseat, nearly tripping over Daphne’s wrapper, but righting himself before any more damage could be done to this family. “When Scorpius is older, I guess.”

“You could do it now if you really wanted.” Daphne began to massage her temples. She’d spent so much time with Scorpius, comforting him, holding him, patting his hair down when it he fussed with it too much, smoothing his collar when Grandfather Greengrass came to see him, that she had not had time to mourn for herself, not just for her nephew. “He’d understand. You saw what he’s been like all day.”

All day? Draco had seen him all his life. Some might have liked to undermine his and his late wife’s and his world’s style of parenting, but it was all he and she and they had known, and it was all they had a hope of living through this with. He leaned forward and took a biscuit. “Theodore brought these,” he added, for the sake of having something to say.

Daphne had thought so; she remembered Theodore and his wife bought them in bulk, to satiate their monstrous little daughter. “Nice of him.”

“Do you want tea or something?” The lord of Malfoy Manor stood, seemingly on unsteady legs, and made a motion that brought a house-elf scurrying forward. His small custom-made tunic was black, as were the tunics of all of the house’s servants, no longer slaves. “Bring us some tea, would you?”

Servant or slave, the elf still knew not to speak to his master when he was in this state. He hurried away through his elf-passages to leave the great aristocrats to themselves again.

Daphne spoke once the elf was gone. “Scorpius told me he wants to go back to school on Monday.”

The widower did not take long to react. “Good for him. Better than moping around here.” Hogwarts had nothing to do with his mother, after all. It would be easier to sleep there, where he knew his mother’s remains were not waiting for him to come see them in the morning.

“You don’t want him home?”

“I want him to do whatever he wants. If that’s going back to school, I won’t stop him. It’s not like I should keep him here anyway.” He exhaled heavily just as the elf came back, balancing on his back a silver tray that matched the urn. The elf set it down on the table, bowed low to the master and the late lady’s sister, and left without a sound. Draco thanked the air where he had been before pouring. “My mother wants to move back in now, Daphne. That… that would be worse for him than not having his mother here at all, you know that.”

Daphne bit her lip. “But he’d have you, remember, if he stayed home, and me. And, really, your mother’s not that bad when she’s not hysterical for both your sakes.”

She did not refer to her own parents. They loved their younger daughter more than they did their older, and that love applied to her son as well. Theirs was not even Narcissa’s brand of love: it was more suffocating, more unforgiving than that. It was a wonder to Daphne that they had not disowned her for her divorce, and she only barely managed to keep their hints about remarriage at bay. She couldn’t imagine what they would do to her, say to her, now that they had lost their favourite.

Draco knew why she didn’t talk about her parents. He remembered the early days of his marriage, and he remembered Astoria telling him why she did not want to invite her mother to tea or her parents for dinner, why she did not want them babysitting her son, why she wanted them far, far away from her new home. He had heard the stories way back when, in his and Daphne’s school days, but marriage shed light on them in a very different way. In a much more unsettling, ethereal way. Just as, he suspected, tragic death cast a more unsettling, ethereal light on the life of the deceased.

He held out one of the delicate porcelain cups–he hadn’t seen this set for a long time, not since before Scorpius was born–to her, and kept the other. “Astoria was happier when he was at school,” he sighed between sips of his tea. “She wanted him to have a better idea of the world.” Black, without sugar, honey, anything to alter its nature. “What else did he tell you today?”

Daphne, finding that the tea was too strong for her, sprinkled sugar over it as if it were for decoration instead of taste. A lot of life in this house and this society was like that, really. Ornamentation. “Not much,” she said after she had stirred in the sugar. Now, she rather thought, there was too much. “I told him stories about her growing up, when she was his age, that sort of thing. He liked those. He said… let me think…” She broke off, took a sip, and then balanced the cup on the other armrest. “He’s got a girlfriend, I think. Some Ravenclaw. He’s going to dump her when he gets back.”

Draco barked out a laugh, his first today. “And she’s why he wants to leave?”

She shrugged and unwrapped yet another biscuit. “I just think he can’t handle a relationship right now. Could you have?”

Ron Weasley had warned his daughter about Scorpius before school started. Draco remembered that when they got home, Astoria had immediately and not without glee announced that she had already chosen a colour scheme for the wedding. She had said she rather liked the idea of her son marrying a Weasley, but Draco suspected she would have been upset if it ever did come to pass. Marriage, even to a Weasley, would not give her son the escape she craved for him. In this world, marrying off a son is not a loss. Scorpius, after all, would not be the one to surrender his name.

Draco, now lost in thought, now tried to remember to whom he would have to write thank-you letters in the next few days. As if this had been a wedding. The Golden Trio, as the epithet went, had come, and with them had been Draco’s second cousin, tagging along out of respect, or pity, for the family he had but never wanted. “Andromeda’s grandson–Ted, I mean–he seemed to get along with Scorpius.”

Daphne hadn’t noticed, but she understood why her nephew would like him. “Well, yes. Ted makes Scorpius’ loss seem… easier to bear. It could be worse. Like I said, he still has you.”

Tonight was not the first time the idea that perhaps fate had stolen from Scorpius the wrong parent occurred to him, and it would not be the last. “I suppose.” He finished his tea and sighed. “How are you holding up, anyway?”

Daphne had been on the receiving end of this question for days, but she imagined this was nothing compared to how it was used against the widower and his son, as an armed fortification against despair deeper than extended sympathies. This seemed a bit unfair to her: it was her sister was on the mantle. They had never had the best relationship, even when the news first came out, but Daphne had sworn to her sister on her deathbed that she would never leave her son the way she had left her husband. In a way, she felt, though this was probably just the grief and the extended time spent in an enclosed space with a motherless boy getting to her, that there would never be another man she would love as much as she loved Scorpius. There was no one who deserved her more.

She knew what grief was: she had grown up watching children get killed and Muggles slaughtered, but the loss back then had been a shared one, the grief of a generation. In peacetime, if this could be called peacetime, death, though the same it had been twenty years ago and millennia before that, seemed a sharper pain. A lifetime of bloodletting could help one understand the mechanics of death, perhaps even prepare for it, but it was never enough. People were not supposed to die when all was well. Not here.

Then again, this was Malfoy Manor. The basement had been a dungeon, the drawing room a torture chamber, the halls led to execution, doom. Evil lurked in this house, corruption nestled in the cobwebs like it owned them, death framed mirrors and portraits and bedrooms. Sugar and time were precious commodities here. Decoration to hide the bloodstains, the ashes, the bitter tea, underneath.

“I just don’t want him hurt.”

“A bit late for that, Daphne.”

“I don’t want him crippled by his hurt.”

“And yourself?”

Daphne smiled a soft, sad little smile. “She was as good as dead to me for a very long time, Draco. I can’t imagine it will be much different now that it’s true.”

Draco had never been crippled by his hurt, only drowned by it. There were times even now when he woke up in the middle of the night and felt the Mark on his left arm burning, burning. Astoria hadn’t been able to help him then. Sometimes he even woke up wondering if she had helped at all, if settling down had been the right thing. And then he would pad to his son’s room and look upon him, and to his vague horror, even this was not enough to reassure him that everything had been worth it after all. Perhaps the new world order was nothing of the sort.

Perhaps it was just the old one, with sugar on top.

“I’ll be fine.”

She was two years younger than him. She was supposed to survive him.

“But God, the house is going to be empty when he leaves.”

Daphne cast her eyes around the drawing room, and wasn’t sure if she was avoiding the urn or if she had forgotten it was there at all. “It always seems empty to me.”

Draco, however, could not forget that it was there. The urn seemed to match the tea set. A trifle of an idea occurred to him, that perhaps this wasn’t an urn at all. Maybe it was from this very tea set, a twin of the sugar bowl. In essence, a coffin after all.

But what it held was not her body. Not her soul. She wasn’t really in an urn; she wasn’t even in this house. Draco had never for a moment believed that the dead lived on in the hearts and souls of the living, that memory and legacy were enough to render one immortal. He would not be able to function today, if he was functioning at all, knowing that witches like his elder aunt or wizards like her overlord were immortal because they were remembered, because they still haunted his dreams and danced over his skin like shade. Draco was not ready to be a vessel for their continued glory.

His wife was most assuredly dead.

“It usually is,” he said. “Maybe once Scorpius goes back, I’ll take some time off. Get out of here for a bit.”

A smile tugged at the corner of her lips again. “And your mum can watch the house while you’re gone.”

He did not mention that he was half-considering never coming back. “You know, for someone who hated Wiltshire so much, she never much said where she did want to go.”

“Probably because she knew she wouldn’t get out.”

A rueful smirk played on his mouth, almost an echo of the expression that had been his signature decades ago. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Daphne shrugged. “Just that we both know we aren’t going anywhere. We can’t–won’t–get out. This place… I know it’s your home, but it might as well be mine, or my parents’, or Theodore’s, or anyone else’s. It represents the same thing, doesn’t it? You can holiday all you want, but… You were born here. Your son grew up here. Draco, my sister died in a sickroom in this house, in front of her twelve-year-old son.”

Astoria had railed against her son being at her deathbed, but Scorpius defied her demand. As the hours passed, she had come around to the idea, even reached with the last of her strength to take his hand; Scorpius had been afraid accepting it would destroy her. She had gasped out her last words to her husband with her butterfly-ephemeral grip fixed on her son’s shaking hand. She had blessed him with her last bloody coughs, her last breaths, and his eyes widened to drink in, drown in, all that he could of what was left of his mother while there was something of her that had not yet forsaken him.

Draco had watched.

He now cleared his throat. “Just don’t bury me, or I swear on my grandfather’s soul, I will haunt you until you can join me. Those were her last words.” At her lack of response, he added, “I thought you deserved to know.”

Daphne hadn’t cried yet today, but if anything could have reduced her to tears, it might have been this. “He was killed by Grindelwald, you know, our grandfather. He was ambassador to Bulgaria. Stayed in Sofia until the end, when Grindelwald invaded and killed him.”

Draco was taken aback, and felt a vague sense of the macabre descend down his spine. This conversation, whatever it was, seemed to be reaching for something greater than mere death, mere morbidity, and he wasn’t sure he liked it. Death was not macabre. That honour fell to life. “Funny she was thinking of him at the end.”

“Well, no, not really. There wasn’t a body to bury then, either.”

But there had been a body, and she knew it. It had been sent from Sofia nearly a century ago, brought to rest in the Greengrass family’s Cornwall crypt the very day it arrived, a marble coffin, freshly tilled earth. Roses at the headstone.

When she died, Astoria had not thought of the grandfather she never met. She had not seen herself as the messenger that was supposed to be spared death, who had no quarrel with its authority, but was slaughtered anyway. Daphne knew this because she had spent hours with just grief and a twelve-year-old boy whose mother had become ash for company. This boy had not spoken very much to his aunt, except for when she told him stories about her dead sister. He had liked those, she thought. And then, just before he finally jumped out of the enclosed space with grief and a woman in the late afternoon of her days, he had told her a story of his own.

His mother’s last words were these:

“I wish it were you instead of me.”


Chapter 13: Together by XxJinxxedxX
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Just after the war ended Andromeda Tonks refused to visit any grave but her daughter’s. She went every other day and would spend hours just talking to her, apologizing to her, sharing memories with her, telling her every detail of her son’s, Teddy, life, and just anything that could pop into her mind.

It took a long while, but Andromeda was slowly visiting all of her loved one’s graves. Nearly five years after the war she only had one last grave she had yet to visit, Bellatrix Lestrange. Andromeda did not want to go, but she knew that it was the only way she could ever find closure for what happened to her near perfect family.

Andromeda walked slowly through the graveyard. As she passed by the tombstones she read off the names, “Alastor Moody,” “Fred Weasley,” “Collin Creavey.” She paused knowing that her daughter’s would be the next name to be seen. Kneeling down Andromeda looked at the tombstone that marked where her daughter and son-in-law lay. A tear dripped down her cheek as she stood up once again and continued through the rows of graves.

When she found the stone she had been searching for she stopped and scowled at it. Memories of the night she received news of her sister’s death flooded back into Andromeda’s head. Andromeda had never even shed a tear for her lost sister, she had only cried for her daughter and the people who had died fighting for their side of the war.

Taking a deep breathe Andromeda began to speak to her sister, Bella, “I am sorry; it’s as simple as that. I’m sorry it ended like this Bella. We used to be so close to each other, just like sisters should be. When we were younger it was always you, Cissa, and me. What happened to that? What happened to the days when nothing was ‘evil’ in our lives? Why did you join the Dark Lord? Why did you have to die while we hated each other? Why did you have to kill my only child, your only niece? What made you so cold hearted? I’m sorry that I have to have those questions running through my head. Though, most of all I’m sorry that I am glad that you are dead.

“I know it is awful for me to think in such a manner about my eldest sister, but unfortunately it’s true, I’m glad Molly killed you. I am glad she put an end to your crimes. Do not take that as I am happy you are dead, that is not the case at all. I would have preferred you did not go as far as you did on your dark path and had to die. Maybe then my baby girl would be alive and have had a loving Aunt Bella,” Andromeda paused as her tears ran down her cheeks.

Once she had regained her composure Andromeda continued to speak, “I have hated you for what you did for nearly five years now. I have wished that you were still alive so that I could torture you until you begged me for death and then I could kill you myself. I had always found a way to forgive for your crimes, after all you were my sister and I loved you, but you went too far when you killed my daughter, my baby girl, my Dora. You took nearly everything from me and I want to always hate you for that, but I won’t, because I need to move on with my life, for both my sake and Teddy’s. I will never forgive you for what happened that night, but I will not let the rest of my life be spent on my hatred towards you.”

Andromeda wanted nothing more than to destroy the tombstone in front of her, but she controlled her anger and decided to finish her talk with her sister so she could leave, “You will always be my sister and that is what I have decided to remember you as. I will remember you as my elder sister who always looked after me when I was young, not as the psychopath that joined the dark Lord and killed my daughter. My sister truly died when she was seventeen years old, not in the Final Battle of Hogwarts.”

She paused for a moment, but managed to push herself on, “Goodbye Bella. I hope that you can manage to find peace with yourself and that you will one day finish paying for your sins.” With those final words Andromeda Tonks walked out of the graveyard and away from her sister.

Andromeda walked back to her home where five year old Teddy Lupin was waiting for her.

“Grammy, you’re back!” Teddy squealed as he ran to his grandmother. Andromeda smiled and scooped the small boy into her arms. Teddy gave her an odd look when he noticed the tear stains on his ‘Grammy’s’ face, “What wrong Grammy? Why were you crying? Did something make you sad?”

Andromeda shook her head, “No, no, Teddy I’m not sad, at least not anymore.”

“Then why is your face all wet?” Teddy accused.

“I was crying because I had to say goodbye to someone for good today, but I am okay now. As long as I have you Teddy Bear I can never stay sad,” Andromeda smiled as Teddy’s hair color turned from bubblegum pink to baby blue.

Teddy let out a yawn as his grandmother ruffled his hair. “How about we go get you into bed, Teddy Bear?” Andromeda said.

The blue haired boy nodded as he yawned again. Andromeda carried him into his room that was covered in pictures of wolves. She tucked him into bed and kissed his forehead. “Good night, Teddy Bear,” Andromeda smiled at her grandson.

“Nighty night Grammy,” the blue haired five year old yawned and fell asleep.

Andromeda got back up and walked out of the room, closing the door behind her. Going into her room she pulled out a small box from underneath her bed. She opened the small box to reveal a group of photographs and other memorabilia.

Taking out the first photo Andromeda found herself staring at the faces of her and her sisters at her fifth birthday party. The three girls where laughing happily with one another as if no evil could ever harm them. Andromeda smiled sadly at the young trio.

Reaching in the box again she felt her had touch a cold metal. Andromeda pulled the object out of the box to see that it as the locket she had received from her sister Bella at the birthday party from the picture. Turning the locket around in her hand Andromeda fond the engraving, “Dromeda, I promise we will always be together, Bella.” Andromeda felt the familiar feeling of a tear running down her cheek.

“Why did this have to happen to us? What happened to always being together? Was our love stored in the part of your heart that turned to stone? What happened to us, Bella?” Andromeda choked through her tears.

“Grammy, what’s wrong? Why are you all sad again?” Teddy Lupin whispered as he walked into his grandmother’s room while rubbing the sleep from his eyes.

“I’m only sad when you are not with me, so come over here and give your grandma a huge hug, Teddy Bear,” Andromeda attempted to smile at her only grandchild.

“You know that I don’t believe that Grammy,” Teddy smirked while climbing onto Andromeda’s lap and crossing his arms in a pouting fashion.

“Oh, I know you don’t, Teddy,” she sighed

“Can we go visit Mummy and Daddy today?” the five year old asked.

Andromeda let out another sigh, “Alright, if you really want to, Teddy Bear.”

Teddy’s face lit up with a smile as he jumped out of Andromeda’s lap and scuttled out of the room to find his jacket. Andromeda slowly gathered the photos and locket back up, set them into the box and placed it under her bed.

Andromeda walked out of her room to find Teddy standing by the front door with his coat on and hers clutched in his small hands. “Come on Grammy, hurry up!” Teddy squeaked. Grabbing her coat from Teddy’s hands Andromeda took Teddy’s hand in hers and apparated them to the cemetery.

After they arrived Teddy slipped out of his grandmother’s fingers and rushed to his parents’ final resting place. Kneeling down, he started to talk all about his week, “- and then I fell and scrapped my knee, but don’t worry, Grammy fixed it right back up. See?” Teddy rolled up his pant leg to reveal his knee was indeed fine.

Andromeda looked around the graveyard seeing rows and rows of those who had fallen in the final battle against the Dark Lord Voldemort. Her eyes stopped as she saw a woman with blonde hair kneeling before Belatrix Lestrange’s grave. It was Narcissa Malfoy, the youngest of the three Black sisters.

Sighing deeply Andromeda decided to go and talk to her sister. Andromeda had not talked to Narcissa since a few days after the war ended; in fact the sisters had not even seen one another since they parted ways for, what they thought would be, forever.

“Cissa, how have you been? It feels like it has been forever since we last spoke,” Andromeda said hesitantly.”

“Dromeda! I wasn’t expecting to see you here, what a pleasant surprise. I have been fine. How about you and… oh what was his name? Todd? No, that can’t be it. Toddy? No, that’s not it either,” Narcissa trailed off in thought as an attempt to remember her great nephew’s name.

“Teddy, his name is Teddy,” Andromeda replied. “We have been fine, thank you. Now, may I ask, who’s grave are you visiting?” Andromeda asked, even though she already knew the answer.

Narcissa looked taken aback for a moment, “I was replacing the flowers at Bella’s grave. Who might you be visiting, seeing as though it is clearly not our sister?”

“Teddy wanted to come and visit his parents, my daughter, you know, the one that Bellatrix killed,” Andromeda said through gritted teeth.

“Dromeda, I know you must hate her for what she did, and I’m sorry that it had to drive us even farther apart,” Narcissa did indeed seam sorrowful about it. “Do you remember when the three of us were inseparable? It was nearly impossible for someone to see one of us without the other two,” Narcissa smiled sadly at the thought of when their lives were near perfect.

“I guess that all good things must eventually end,” Andromeda replied.

“Do you think we could try to regain the relationship we once had?” Narcissa asked hopefully.

“I’d like that Cissa, it might not be the same as it was then, but I’d like to still be able to have you in my life,” Andromeda smiled and looked up to Teddy running towards her.

“Grammy, who is she?” he asked pointing at Narcissa.

“She is my sister, Cissa, your mum’s aunt,” Andromeda said while pulling Teddy into her lap.

Teddy’s face lit up, “Does that mean at Christmas you’re gonna give me presents too?”

Narcissa smiled, “Of course I will, Teddy,” she then turned back to Andromeda, “You’re right, it may not be like it once was, but together I’m sure we can move on.”

Andromeda nodded, “Together.” With that the two sisters hugged and in the process squished Teddy in between them.

“Um, Grammy, you and Auntie Cissa are squashing me!”

The aging women laughed and released each other from their embrace. They walked out of the cemetery, each holding one of Teddy’s small hands, together. 


Chapter 14: His World by StEpH_M
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Nott never liked sitting around the Slytherin Common Room fire, the people that sat there weren’t the nicest people. Always talking about Muggleborns, Mudbloods as they called them. Nott found what they thought of Muggleborns to be trivial, to him there wasn’t any difference between Muggleborns and Purebloods other then their parents. They had the same magic, they learnt the same things at the same skill level, so he didn’t see why they were seen so lowly by the people seated around him.

The head of the group that dominated the fireplace was Lucius Malfoy, the pale blonde boy who liked to preach about how great purebloods were, he also delighted in torturing Muggleborn students whenever he came across them in the Halls. To him it was a sport, and it disgusted Nott. The only reason he was here, listening to all their vial talk and pretending he agreed was for the little Ravenclaw girl that Nott adored above everything else. She was the reason he went through the vigorous training and guilt that he accumulated everyday from participating in or watching Malfoy torture people. It was to protect the sweet innocent brunette that was his eleven-year-old sister Elena.

He had been so glad the day that she had been placed in Ravenclaw and not Slytherin or any of the other houses. In Ravenclaw she was safe from Slytherins snide attitudes, the kind they showed to Gryffindor’s and Hufflepuff’s. Slytherins usually left Half-bloods and Purebloods from Ravenclaw alone. With Elena in Ravenclaw, she was safely away from Slytherin influence and hatred, he never wanted his beautiful little sister to have to go through what he had, he wanted her to stay innocent and oblivious to what people in the outside world were planning. Safe in her bubble of naivety and happy for as long as possible.

The price he paid for his deal to keep her out of the line of fire was burnt into him forever. The pain that still lingered from the day that it was tattooed onto his skin still remained months after the event. Nott had a feeling it would never truly leave. It was a reminder of the servitude he promised to the one they called the Dark Lord.

To him, it was his life and misery to keep his sister in the ‘light’; he could never condemn her to the life he now had to pretend he wanted to be in. He didn’t want to condemn anyone, why someone would willingly choose to get such a shameful mark branded on their skin so that the whole world could see, was beyond is imagination. Nott knew that some people were crazy, Bellatrix Black, a pale, skinny, black haired girl that had a over the top enthusiasm for other peoples misery, was a good example of that. She had forcefully dragged her younger cousin Regulus Black, into the darkness that was the Dark Lords circle.

----

It was pasted 1am and still Malfoy’s voice was drowning on about the Dark Lord. Nott had gotten used to not listening to the words that spilled out of Malfoy’s oversized mouth. If it was a normal situation he would have just left and retired to his bed, but it was Malfoy, as the head of the group and they one that received the Dark Lords orders, it was disgraceful to get up and leave while he was talking. Even if it was for something as trivial as a bathroom break, you would be shunned and tortured like the Muggleborns.

“…As Christmas break is coming ever closer, I thought of a way of keeping in contact without owls. Owls can be intercepted and I don’t want those Mudblood loving Aurors to find out our plans.” Snarled Malfoy. He had been going on like this for almost half an hour, talking about Christmas break and the impending threat that was apparently the Aurors and some group called the ‘Order of the Phoenix’. It seemed strange to Nott, coming up with cryptic codes or enchanted objects that told them when the next meeting was to be held.

But to Lucius Malfoy it was all necessary and no one had the authority to say otherwise.

Nott was looking forward to Christmas break, it meant time that he could spend alone with his little sister. Somewhere safe where he could be the protective, affectionate older brother. He couldn’t wait to be back at the Nott mansion where he could forget about all the cruel things he had witnessed at school.
He was so entranced in his own thoughts that he almost missed everyone getting up from their spots around the now dying fire. He looked around, stood up swiftly and fluently and started walking towards his dorm. Ready for his warm, soft bed so that he could fall into unconsciousness and forget about this night all together.

----

Everyone was lining up on the stations with their owls and trunks. All that could be hear was the engine of the Scarlet train and the children talking loudly over the Hogwarts Express.

It was Christmas break and Nott and his little sister were getting ready to be on their way home. They were almost at the front of the queue, waiting for someone to help them get their trunks on the train. Nott had made sure as soon as he had finished breakfast that day, to get Elena and not let her out of his sight. He was planning to get a compartment just for the two of them, where he could chat with her and keep an eye on her.

Nott led his sister into an empty compartment and put their trunks in the racks about the chairs. Nott was just about to sit down with his sister when he heard the door open and quickly shot up to see who it was.

“Nott, may I sit in here with you and your… sister?” Bellatrix snarled, a gleeful look of hatred in her eyes. Bellatrix was the last person he wanted to let sit in his compartment, especially with his sister there. He didn’t want anything to happen to her and if they were in Bellatrix company something most defiantly would.

“No Bella, I don’t think you can. Go look for your sister and her boyfriend. Maybe even your fiancé, just leave this compartment please.” Nott replied.

The smirk that had been etched onto Bellatrix’s face faded in mere seconds. Nott was scared for what would happen next and gripped his wand tightly; ready to jump in front of his sister if the need presented itself.

“Why Nott, grown a backbone have you? You might want to watch what you say. That sort of talk will only get you in trouble now that you have pledged you’re allegiance.” Huffed Bellatrix as you stalked out of the compartment, slamming the door behind her. Nott relaxed, breathing deeply he sat down and looked around the compartment. Finally he laid his eyes on Elena, waiting to find out how much she understood from the comments Bellatrix had just given.

“Brother, are you ok? You look scared. Why are you scared?” Elena whispered as she slid across the seat. She snuggled into Nott’s side and placed his arm over her tiny shoulder. Elena looked up into Nott’s eyes and gave him a reassuring squeeze before laying her head on his chest and closing her eyes.

“Everything is fine Elena, don’t you worry about a thing.” Came Nott’s muffled voice as he placed his face on Elena’s head. He kissed it, and then reverting to his original position he began stroking his sisters hair as she lay in his arms.

The way that they were seated was just another reason why he didn’t want his little sister to change, she was perfect to him and he knew in the back of his mind; that Elena felt the same way about him. Nott only wished that he could make her proud of him and be the man that she idolized. But he knew, as soon as he had been branded with the Dark Mark that the part of him that was ‘perfect’, was a distant memory.

Elena looked back up at her brother and smiled, she got up from her seat and stood on the red cushions so that she could reach the trunks above her head. Nott was curious about what she was getting and was about to get up and help her get the trunk down when Elena jumped off the seat and moved back to her original position in his arms.

“Brother, I made a present for you, I was going to wait till Christmas but I thought you could use some cheering up.” Elena said kindly as she gave her brother the object in her hands.

Nott flipped it over and discovered that is was a photo album, one that had homemade art all over it. Love hearts and swirls of all different colours. It was beautiful and it had been made for Nott by the most precious human being that he had ever come across.

“Thank you, this is the best gift anyone has ever given me. Did you make it yourself?” Nott asked, smiling down at his gorgeous little sister. Wondering what he had done to deserve such a caring sibling.

“Yep, well Professor Flitwick helped. He taught me how to charm the photos and put a protection spell on them so that they wouldn’t fade.” Informed Elena proudly; she was playing with her hands, fidgeting. Nott knew she was waiting for him to open up the photo album.

Nott carefully pulled back the front cover and stared intently at the first page. On it was a picture of himself and Elena when she was born. He could see his smiling face as he rocked baby Elena side to side. He remembered that he had also sung to the baby girl in his arms, lulling her to sleep.

He continued to flip through the pages, watching as slowly the two siblings grew older, but in all of the photos they looked as close as best friends, not siblings. Nott and Elena had only ever had a couple fights and every time they had made up just a couple hours after the incidents.

“Elena, it’s perfect, I am so glad you made this for me. You are the best sister in the world.” Nott said, giving his sister the biggest hug he had ever given her. She was to good to be true, Nott thought and he was scared that he could loose it all in a second if he didn’t play his cards right.

Looking down at the now curled up girl in his lap, he came to one final decision. To Nott, Elena was the image of innocence, and he was determined to do anything in his power to keep her exactly how she was. He was willing to go to Azkaban, to put up with torture, to die for her a million times over. Just so she would stay innocent and out of the inevitable war. She was his world, and that is how it would always be.

It was never going to change, and even if she grew up and she turned on him realizing just what he had done to keep her safe. He would still do it again, in his heart Nott knew that what he did was the right thing, the only thing that would insure is sisters safety. No matter how his life ended, his story, as long as Elena was alive and well, it would end right. She would always be Nott’s world.


Chapter 15: Loving Lovegoods by The Claw of Raven
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Xenophilius Lovegood sulked across the cluttered living room to the chair opposite his daughter, Luna. He plopped down, looking weary and defeated. “It’s done,” he said with as much enthusiasm as a deflating tire.

“No Papa, you can’t be serious!” cried Luna. Her usually shimmering hair had grown coarse over the summer.

“It’s as good as done!” barked Xenophilius. “I’ve made the call. We won’t be running any more issues of The Quibbler.” It was unlike him to be gruff with his daughter, but as the summer wore on his mood sputtered like a car engine on the final days of its life. His hard countenance weakened and he added softly, “They threatened me. I can’t bear the thought of losing you.”

Luna stared at her father implacably. “He needs us, Papa,” she said airily. “He needs to know he isn’t alone.”

Anger again boiled through Xenophilius’ veins. It was an anger fuelled not by hatred, but by frustration and desperation. “This boy – Harry Potter – is he really worth dying for?”

“Yes,” said Luna simply. “He really is. You mustn’t stop. Not now.”

Xenophilius contemplated for several moments. “Suppose I do call Humphreys and tell him it’s back on,” he mused. “Then what? I surely can’t contradict everything the Minstry’s been saying. They’ve made it quite clear! Harry Potter is the most wanted wizard in all of Britain!”

“And what is he wanted for?” asked Luna, knowing perfectly well that the question was unanswerable. Finally her gaze shifted to the nearby window. She glanced out at the lush hills just beyond her backyard. “It’s so nice outside,” she said in a dreamlike voice. “It’s peaceful, really.”

“Nature’s tranquility in times of war has always perplexed me,” marveled Xenophilius.

“But it will not be like this for long,” said Luna whimsically. “Soon it will be gone. Poof. Taken away. The very beauty will warp into something wretched. Our lives will no longer be full and flourishing. We will yearn for these days. Unless –“

“Unless the boy succeeds,” interrupted Xenophilius.

Luna nodded slowly. “He is the chosen one …” her voice trailed off until only the docile sound of crickets could be heard from outside.

Tears trickled from her father’s widened eyes. “I swore to protect you when your mother died,” he croaked. “How can I willingly put your life in danger?”

“Life will not be worth living if Harry Potter fails,” argued Luna. “We must help him.”

Xenophilius looked more defeated still. He sunk lower in his chair. He was trembling noticeably. “And if I do, I mean to say, if I were to publish more articles proclaiming Harry Potter’s destiny and greatness, where would you go? You must hide surely.”

“Hogwarts will be the safest place still,” said Luna.

“With Snape as Headmaster?” goggled her father. “He’s a known Death Eater!”

“There is still good at Hogwarts,” said Luna. “I will always feel safe as long as I am inside the castle.”

“My brave, brave girl,” whimpered Xenophilius. He cried yet he was beaming.

“I love you, Papa,” she said seriously, gazing once again into her father’s eyes.

“I love you too, darling,” he reciprocated. “Be careful and safe. Stay vigilant. If I am to do this, you will be in grave danger.”

The next morning, Xenophilius escorted Luna to King’s Cross Station to catch the Hogwarts Express. He bent down and embraced her affectionately. He had an odd feeling that this would be the last time he would hold his daughter. The red toy-like train bustled into the station and in mere minutes Luna was gone. She arrived at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry that evening without complication. All was well.

Xenophilius returned home determined to complete the task Luna had demanded of him. Being in control of a popular magazine, The Quibbler, he had the power to influence the public’s perception of Harry Potter and earn him some of the respect he deserved. However, when he sat at his desk, quill in hand, a sudden wave of despair washed over him like a tsunami. He collapsed to the ground and sobbed relentlessly. In the deepest part of his soul, he knew that writing another issue of The Quibbler in support of Harry Potter would result in his daughter’s death. He had seen her only today; he did not have the heart to kill her. He would wait until tomorrow.

Tomorrow came and passed. In fact, all of September rushed by while Xenophilius spent most of his days coiled on the floor of his bedroom, speaking only to himself in incomprehensible gibberish. He was adamant about not writing another word for The Quibbler. Furthermore, he had not yet spoken to his publicist, Humphreys, whom he was sure would be unwilling to renegotiate a deal in these troubled times.

In the middle of October, Xenophilius received a letter from Luna wondering why there had been no new editions of The Quibbler. He responded after some deliberation, saying he had fallen far too ill to write an entire issue singlehandedly and that Mr. Potter would have to wait until he recovered. This was only partially a lie; for in his state of depression, he was in some sense very sick indeed.

The very next day, an owl flew through the open kitchen window. Tied to its gangly foot was a scarlet envelope. Shaking heavily, Xeonophilius took the letter and unsealed it. The envelope became lifelike at once and soared out of his hands. The flap that he had torn open took the form of a mouth and Luna’s determined voice emanated from it: “You listen here, Papa. We are at war. You cannot seek to appease the enemy. Be courageous. I will die for this cause. If I do, at least I will see Mum again. So much can be accomplished with words. Write boldly, swiftly, and meaningfully. Make me proud.” The letter again became inanimate and fluttered down into his outstretched hands. He gaped and sank onto the floor.

“I will,” he said aloud. “I will make things right. Mark my words. I vow to make my daughter proud.”

Unfortunately, it was now dusk, and the draining experience of hearing his daughter’s scornful voice made Xenophilius fatigued. He would wait until tomorrow. In his bedroom, he drew the curtains tightly shut and sealed the door completely; not a photon of light could enter. And so, for many days Xenophilius remained in utter darkness unable to face his destiny. “It is still night,” he said repeatedly to himself in madness. “I will start tomorrow.”

Having drunken only a bit of water produced by an aguamenti charm, Xenophilius was malnourished and dazed when he heard a commotion in the kitchen. He sprang to his feet and dashed out of his room. The light stung his eyes. He squinted, but could discern only the outline of two men in his kitchen. One appeared to be bending over fetching something off the floor.

“Thieves!” croaked Xenophilius in a hoarse screech like the voice of a goblin.

“Calm yourself, Xenophilius,” said the shorter, plumper man. “It is I, Arthur Weasley, and this is my son, Bill.” As he spoke, Xenophilius’ eyes adjusted and the two men shifted into focus. Both men had lurid red hair and astonishingly similar facial features. The one speaking bore deep creases beneath his eyes, and had a sallow, but resolute countenance. The other, his son, was tall and muscular; he would have been very handsome if not for the deep scars gashing his face. Xenophilius had taken Luna to Bill’s wedding only three months ago. The Weasleys resided on just the other side of the hill.

“It’s polite to come barging into people’s homes these days, is it?” said Xenophilius coldly. “Don’t bother knocking no more. And smash my things while you’re at it.” He had noticed the source of the banging; Bill was holding the remnants of a shattered plate.

“We did knock,” said Arthur incredulously.

“And banged and yelled and summoned,” added Bill. “And the plate was an accident. I’m sorry.” He extracted his wand and waved it gracefully. The pieces of the plate stuck back together as if by glue.

“Why have you come?” demanded Xenophilius. “Is it Luna? Is she alright?” A sudden panic struck him.

“Luna is absolutely fine,” assured Arthur.

“Well if you consider getting beaten up by the Carrows fine then –“

“That’s quite enough, Bill!” snapped Arthur.

A puzzled look dawned on Xenophilius’ face. “Well what is it then?” he asked, more curiously than angrily.

“We’re here on official Order of the Phoenix business,” said Arthur. His gaze shifted from Xenophilius’ eyes to his own feet. Then he spoke more quietly. “You must continue writing in support of Harry Potter.”

“No!” cried Xenophilius. “I can’t! Luna! They’ll hurt her. They’ll kill her!”

Arthur looked up. He and Bill pointed their wands at Xenophilius’ face. Their demeanor was positively frightening. “I’m afraid we must insist,” said Arthur sternly.

Xenophilius gawked at them for a moment before producing his own wand hurriedly. “Stupefy!” he shouted, but both Arthur and Bill were too quick.

“Protego!” yelled Arthur, deflecting the jet of red sparks towards a kitchen cabinet. The wooden door exploded into kindling.

“Locomotor Wibbly!” shouted Bill at the same instant. Orange and yellow sparks erupted from the tip of his wand striking Xenophilius square in the chest. Xenophilius’ legs gave way, and he collapsed to the ground causing his wand to jerk out of his grip; it rolled to Arthur’s feet. Xenophilius tried repeatedly to stand, but his legs were like jelly; he kept toppling back down.

“What dark magic is this?” he cried. “Preposterous! I’ve done nothing wrong.”

“You’ve done nothing at all!” spat Arthur. “That’s precisely the problem.” He bent down to pick up Xenophilius’ wand. “I think I’ll hang on to this for a while.”

“In here, Dad!” called Bill who had wandered from the kitchen.

“Not my office!” bellowed Xenophilius. “Don’t go messing around in there. You have no right. I swear I’m going to –“

“Silencio,” interjected Arthur calmly, pointing his wand at Xenophilius, who continued to move his lips but fell silent at once.

“Here we are,” beamed Arthur, stepping out of the kitchen and into the room Bill had found. There was a large oak desk with several pieces of paper, quills, and inkbottles occupying its surface. The floor was messy as well, covered with previous editions of The Quibbler and some scraps of Xenophilius’ past meals.

“Let’s get started,” said Bill, extracting a glittery pink quill from his robes. “We’ve got an entire magazine to write.”

“It will be a long night, no doubt,” agreed Arthur. “But first, what was that enchanting curse you used back there, locomotion wobbly, or what was it?”

Locomotor Wibbly,” said Bill, enunciating grandiloquently. “It turns the victim’s legs into jelly. Fred and George showed it to me this summer. I’ve been dying to see if it actually worked.”

“Those boys,” said Arthur shaking his head scornfully. “And how long will it last?”

“Only a couple of hours,” reassured Bill. “Or so they said …” His voice trailed off unconvincingly. “Should we put him to sleep?”

“No!” barked Arthur. “We need his signature on the final product. Remember, it’s absolutely essential people think it’s he who’s writing it. Otherwise it will lose all credibility.”

“What a funny world we live in,” scoffed Bill. “Loony Lovegood is our most credible resource.”

In a week’s time, the newest issue of The Quibbler was available at every wizarding store across the country. It was the first bit of news opposing the overly authoritative Ministry of Magic since Albus Dumbledore’s death the previous spring. Luna first saw the issue in the hands of a second year Ravenclaw boy. He was scurrying to bury it in his bag when Alecto Carrow walked passed; naturally, Hogwarts had banned the issue. Luna demanded he hand it over and the boy acquiesced at once. She gasped. Her father had gone too far. On the cover was a cartoonish image of the Minster of Magic, Pius Thicknesse, arm-in-arm with the white ghostly figure of you-know-who. In bolded red letters was the title Ministry Unveils its Newest Ally.

Luna’s face was as white as Voldemort’s. There was no subtlety in her father’s message whatsoever. The Ministry of Magic was sure to reprimand him and deliver on their threat to kill her. In a panic, she confided in her most trustworthy friend, Neville Longbottom.

“I won’t let anything happen to you,” assured Neville after hearing her ominous tale. “They won’t get you at Hogwarts.”

“But then Papa!” she exclaimed. “They’ll go after him instead!”

“He did this to himself,” reasoned Neville.

Luna shifted uncomfortably. “It’s my fault,” she said finally. “I did this to him. I forced him to write in Harry’s defense. I didn’t think he’d go this far.”

“So what can you do?” inquired Neville considerately.

After a moment’s thought, Luna replied, “I’ll write to him at once. He’ll tell me what I am to do.”

But Luna’s letter never reached her father. In fact, all of Xenophilius’ means of communication had been severed. His house was under strict lockdown by the Ministry of Magic and he was trapped in his own home like a rat in a cage. His numerous attempts to contact his daughter had been thwarted. He yearned to tell her the truth; it was not he, her loving father, who wrote her death sentence.

Hogwarts served as a physical sanctuary for Luna over the next several weeks, but emotionally, she had never been so vulnerable. Thoughts and dreams of her father tormented her constantly. No one had any news of him; she knew something was awry. Thus, despite Neville’s objections, when given the chance to return home for Christmas break, she could not resist. Her concern for her father led her to abandon concern for herself. On December 20th, Luna Lovegood boarded the Hogwarts Express, but she never reached Platform Nine and Three-Quarters. She was arrested on the train for alleged treason against the Ministry of Magic. The basement of Malfoy Manor was to be her new home.


Chapter 16: Through a Mother's Eyes by megaaan
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It’s always difficult, when your child leaves for their first day at school. I cannot help myself, and tears fill up in my eyes as my daughter proudly slips on her new black shoes and picks up her navy schoolbag. Her thick brown hair is pulled back and knotted by her neck, and she looks up proudly at me as she says goodbye.

“See you later, Mummy.”

There are no tears from her – no whispers that she wants to stay at home. I know that she is unusual in this, and that it should be her crying with me comforting her, but I had never prepared myself for that. I know my own daughter. She is always eager to learn, and I have no doubt that she will be fantastic at school. She is only in Reception, for heaven’s sake – and here I am acting as if she’s going to take her eleven plus! Any minute now I’ll be telling her that she should be proud of herself- although, I suppose she should be anyway, no matter what age she is.

I bend down so that she can give me a kiss goodbye, and all too soon she is out of the house. I stay outside, watching as she runs impatiently next to her father, and I can imagine her already asking how long it will take to walk; she wants to be there as soon as possible.

My hand is raised in a half wave long after they turn the corner and can no longer see me. A strangled laugh comes out of my mouth as I realise how silly I am being – after all, she will be back before long – it isn’t like she has gone off on a mission to save the world!

Shaking my head at my antics, I turn back into the house and towards the kitchen, where I make myself a nice cup of tea to calm my nerves.

~

When I manage to finish the ironing, it is twelve o’clock and almost time for me to pick up Hermione. As it is her first day, she is only staying until lunch time – but tomorrow she is free to stay the whole day if she wants to. She will, if I know anything about my daughter.

I am fifteen minutes early, but I catch sight of another mum who is also early and we make small conversation before our children are let out. At exactly twelve thirty – when we had been joined by many other parents – the door opens and a small group of four year olds stream out, straight towards their mothers. Hermione is the last, still talking to the teacher.

They make their way over to me slowly, and I stand still, resisting the urge to meet them halfway. The woman introduces herself.

“Hello – you must be Hermione’s mum! I’m Miss Smith, her teacher for this year,” she starts, and proceeds to tell me that my daughter has already shown a keen interest in learning, and has left the school with three books from the Reception book box.

“Don’t feel pressured to return them,” she finishes. “Not many four-year-olds are this keen on reading – she can keep them as long as she wants!”

Hermione chatters to me the whole way home.

“Most of the people in my class don’t even want to read or write – they just want to play in the sandpit!” she exclaims indignantly.

“Well,” I reply, “some people enjoy playing – like you enjoy learning. And other people don’t like learning at all!” I glance up to the rear-view mirror so I can see her eyes widening in horror, and I stifle a grin.

“But if they don’t learn things, then how do they know things?”

“I don’t know, Milly. I don’t know.”

She changes the subject abruptly, frowning slightly at the nickname.

“Mummy, what school did you go to?”

“Well darling, I went to Barnsdale Primary School – which was where I used to live. I went to a secondary school nearby too – Simmons.”

“Will I go to the same secondary school as you?” I blink, surprised.

“No dear – Barnsdale is a long way away from here.”

“Which secondary school will I go to, then?”

“Darling,” I sigh, “that’s a long way away. I haven’t even thought about where you’re going to go.”

~

All too soon, Hermione is acing her eleven plus, and is preparing to take the exam for Ashford High School. She is in her room all the time, and I am sent out to the library weekly with a list of books to collect for her. I don’t know what she has found to revise – as far as I know, her friends who are also taking the exam are spending their weekends playing, and haven’t done so much as read through a book. I question her on this, and she replies “Well they won’t get the scholarship then, will they?”

She is right – and is the only girl from her year to get the scholarship into Ashford High. I ask her where she would like to eat as a celebration, and she suggests the nearby pub. I agree readily, and she immediately retreats to her room so that she can read some more – or prepare for the beginning of the term. I follow her upstairs, and find her curled up on her bed, a book in her hand.

“Milly?” I knew she hated the nickname, but I couldn’t help it. She rolls her eyes briefly, before looking up at me. “Would you like to bring a friend with you for the meal?”

“No thanks,” she replies, her eyes sinking down again to the pages of her book, and I ask again before she can become immersed in it.

“Are you sure?”

Her eyes meet mine, and I know that she wants more than anything to say ‘Actually mum, do you mind if I bring two?’ just so that I can feel reassured. I know that she doesn’t mind at all that she doesn’t have anyone to bring – her friends are her books, and she’s happy like that – but I worry for her all the same. I wonder how she isn’t incredibly lonely, without anyone to talk to – and I wonder if it really does bother her but she’s just trying to hide it.

“Positive,” she replies, and I give her a weak smile as she returns to the book which is clasped in her hands.

I break down later that night, tears dripping off my chin as my husband wraps an arm around me.

“What if she never has any friends and she’s alone throughout her life?” I whisper, pushing back images of my daughter, my beautiful daughter living alone when she is older – with no friends at school or at university – always the last to be picked for any sort of game – sitting alone at lunch – living with seven cats and a library in her house when her hair is grey and her eyes are drooping.

Tim is confused, but he tries to comfort me nonetheless.

“She’ll be fine – don’t worry! She’s going to Ashford now, where there will be loads of girls her age who enjoy learning just as much as she does. She’ll make friends easily!”

~

It is the next day, a Saturday, when I am writing to Ashford High – accepting the scholarship and stating that Hermione will be attending the school in September – that there is a knock on the door. Not expecting a visitor, I open it carefully – to see an older witch with grey hair and a thick envelope clamped in her left hand. She extends the right one, and I shake it.

“Minerva McGonagall – Deputy Headmistress of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. May I come in?”

She brushes past me, and I am left with my arm still extended, my eyebrows crunched together and my mouth opening and closing. Hogwarts School of what?

~

It is dark outside when she leaves, and her face is lit only by the light from the hallway as she says goodbye. I go straight back to the sitting room, where I had left Hermione. She is still in the same position – her head on her knees and her eyes focussed on the door.

“So...” I begin, unsure of where this conversation is going to go.

“Can I go?” Her voice is barely a whisper, but I know that she wants this more than anything else.

“I need to talk to your dad first, although I don’t know how I’m going to convince him that I’m not telling him a load of rubbish... Mrs McGonagall could at least demonstrate the magic... darling, I don’t suppose you can do anything to prove to him? I know you said you’ve done strange things before, but I’ve never seen anything...”

“He’s already seen me do it.”

“What- he’s seen you do magic? How? When?” I cannot help myself – I’m almost jealous.

“I didn’t tell you because I didn’t know what it was, and I knew you’d be angry,” she stops talking, and then carries on under my searching glance. “It was last year, I think, and I was going to make myself a hot chocolate. I went to get a mug and accidentally dropped your favourite one on the floor where it broke – wait, let me finish,” she adds quickly as my eyebrows rise up my forehead. “Daddy heard the crash and came in, but before either of us could pick up the pieces they all started moving towards each other and slotting into place...and before we knew it, your mug was sitting as good as new on the floor.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“What would I say?” she laughs. “Hey, mum – I just broke your favourite mug, but don’t worry! It fixed itself and is now good as new!”

I join in with her laughter, agreeing that it might not have been the best thing to tell me. Later on, as I tuck her into bed, I lean down and whisper in her ear.

“You can go.”

It feels like she is four again, and I am sending her off to school for the first time – and I realise that I will feel this way every time something happens in her life. When she was very young I had her tightly wrapped up in my arms, and every time something happens – her first word; her first step; her first day at school – I had to let go of her a tiny bit. I know that the same feeling will come when she has her first boyfriend; when she moves out; when she gets married and has children – and all of a sudden my fears from the previous night are gone. I know that she will have friends at this school. I know that she will fit in.

When I reach the kitchen, I see the half-written letter to Ashford High. With a smile, I crunch it up in my hand and lob it behind my head. I laugh out loud when I turn around to find it has somehow gone straight into the bin behind me, and begin scribbling out another letter, this time declining the scholarship and her place at the High School. I didn’t worry about Tim – I knew he would agree with me and do whatever is best for our daughter.

~

All three of us wake up early on the morning of September the first. Hermione, who has read every book we bought for her at least twice, already knows the ins and outs of Hogwarts – from its entire history to (more importantly for us) exactly how to get on to Platform 9 ¾ .

Fortunately, we get there in good time and have no trouble in getting onto the platform – although we do waste about ten minutes once we get there, in awe of the witches and wizards surrounding us and the clothes they are wearing and their movements. Eventually, we drag our eyes away long enough for us to put Hermione safely on the train with her luggage.

We wave her off cheerfully, and then she is gone. I won’t see her until Christmas, and then she will leave again.

“So, for seven years – and most of her teenage life – we will see our only daughter twice a year,” Tim states, as we slowly walk back to the car.

“Why are we sending her away again?”

He stops walking, and places a kiss on the top of my head.

“Because it’s what she wants.”

~

Her first letter comes two days later – delivered by owl as she said it would be. She had started it on the train and it contained her excitement about her arrival, as well as which house she had been sorted into (besides which is a list of all four houses and their stereotypical qualities). I smile at her passion and enthusiasm, which I have never seen directed so strongly at something other than her books, and I know we have made the right choice.

I reply immediately, and we swap letters at least twice a week. I learn in great detail what her lessons have been like, and her observations of the people in her year and – specifically – her house.

It is November when I receive the best letter to date.

Dear Mummy and Daddy,

You will be pleased to know that I have made some new friends. Harry Potter and Ron Weasley – do you recognise their names from my previous letters? Harry has been brought up as a muggle like I was, and so we have that in common. Ron is his best friend, and the one who likes to play chess a lot. About a week ago, we helped each other out of a rather sticky situation, and since then we have become quite close. I help them with their work, which they appreciate – and even if they get on my nerves a bit, I think they might grow to be very close to me.


The letter continues, but I stop reading there – tears of happiness streaming down my face. Tim chooses that moment to walk into the kitchen, and stops short at my face and the parchment in my hands.

“What is it? Jean – what’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” I sob. “Nothing’s wrong at all.”

~

In her first year, she comes back every holiday bursting to tell us everything that has happened. She spends great detail on describing the library and the lesson plans, and not much on what she does with her two friends when they aren’t working.

“Oh, just stuff,”

When this is met with a raised eyebrow and a questioning look, she expands slightly.

“Ron and Harry play a lot of wizard’s chess – and Harry has to practice for Quidditch as he’s on the team. I spend a lot of time in the library or the common room, studying.”

I can’t shake the feeling that she is hiding something, but I ignore it – asking for the seventh time what the point is to the game Quidditch.

However, she stays at school over the Christmas holidays in her second year. She tells us in one of her weekly letters that she has the option of staying, and she wants to – so she can stay with her friends and continue studying, as she wants to get the best marks possible in her exams. I write back immediately, reminding her that her exams are in six months, not six weeks – surely she could spare the holidays to come back and see us?

Her next letter worries me. It has been scribbled hastily on a scrap of parchment and says “I have something important to do at school. Mummy, there are some things I haven’t told you about the Wizarding world, and what has happened over the past year. I promise I will explain everything when I can, but I don’t think it is right to do it all in a letter. I’m looking forward to seeing you in the summer.”

We don’t force her to come home for the holidays.

Sometimes I worry that we are giving her too much freedom, and that perhaps we should insist on her coming home. At the same time, however, I know that this must be important – or she wouldn’t have stayed. I also know that she wants to tell us, and that we will know everything in the summer holidays.

~

In the end, we see her before the holidays – although not in the way we would want to. We get a visit from Professor McGonagall in March, early on a Saturday. She tells us that our daughter has been petrified – but that a potion is being made to revive her. She also says that she is very lucky to be alive - if she looked directly into the eyes of this snake, she would have died.

The professor takes us to the school, but we are unable to take in the magic and the beauty of it – all we want is to see Hermione, and for her to be alright.

We think that we are prepared, but we aren’t. I am expecting it to look like she is asleep – like she is peaceful. Not for her eyes to be open, her legs to be bent and her arm to be pointing upwards. Her skin is waxy and pale, and her eyes are glassy and unseeing. She is like a statue, and so unlike my daughter that I break down by her bedside, tears streaming down my face and dripping from the end of my nose to her arm - which my hands are clasped around – and a feeling of utter hopelessness washes over me. I don’t know what I can do to help, or if there is anything at all which will make this situation better.

Eventually Tim drags me back home, and we get a letter three months later which is written in Hermione’s neat hand, saying that she has fully recovered and is looking forward to seeing us in the next few weeks. I am tempted to contact one of the Professors so that we can see her immediately – but Tim refrains me. After all, the summer holidays are extremely close.

~

When she finally arrives home, she takes us through to the living room, and sits us down on the sofa before settling opposite us.

“The first thing I will say is that I can’t tell you everything.”

I open my mouth to protest, but shut it again quickly as she ignores me and continues speaking.

“However, I will tell you all that I can.”

Here, she begins her shortened version of the past two years – including how she really became friends with Ron and Harry, and a vague description of why she couldn’t come home at Christmas. When she has finished explaining why ‘Voldemort’ wants to kill Harry, we continue to stare at her, our eyes wide and our jaws slack.

“So, this Voldemort bloke is trying to kill your best friend, and doesn’t care who he murders in the process – especially you, for not having magical blood?” Tim asks.

She stiffens, thinking that we will take her away from Hogwarts, and to a muggle school where she will be safe. I don’t blame her, I have half a mind to – but I can’t, and I won’t. Magic – and Hogwarts – are the only things that have ever truly made her happy, and given her friends. I know that we will never be able to bring ourselves to take them away from her, and I wonder briefly if this makes us good or bad parents.

“That’s the gist of it, yes.”

“Then will you promise us one thing?” I speak, finally. “I want to know exactly what is going on, all the time. I want you to write to us weekly, telling us what has happened – not only in your results, although we love to hear that – but what is happening elsewhere in the Wizarding world, and how you are involved.”

She breathes out slowly.

“I think I can promise that, yes.”

~

We don’t see much of Hermione over the next few years. She spends most of her time at school, and with the Weasley family at Christmas and much of the summer too. I mind – of course, I mind – but she sends us her lengthy letters weekly, and this satisfies our thirst for knowledge of what she is doing. She also has the Wizarding newspaper sent to us by owl each morning, so that we know exactly what is going on. In her letters, she tells us which articles to believe, and which we will have to read into to discover any truth.

We are happy that she is so obviously enjoying herself, but we can’t pretend that sometimes we wish she had never got her entrance letter to Hogwarts. Not only do we never see her, but she is in so much danger – most of which she is hiding from us, I’m sure.

In her fifth year at Hogwarts, she starts signing her letters ‘Milly,’ as opposed to ‘Hermione’. This upsets me more than I ever thought it would – she’s always hated that nickname. Absolutely detested it; even though I’ve used it since she was born. She said that it’s a ‘silly, girly name – and not very practical at all’. I stopped using it after she went to Hogwarts – I felt that she had finally grown out of it – and seeing her sign it at the bottom of her letters makes me feel that she wants to be babied again – like she’s almost afraid of growing up. I begin to address my letters to Milly, and use her nickname when I’m talking to Tim. I assume that if she uses it, then finally I am also allowed to.

~

We receive a letter towards the end of her sixth year, saying that she has been invited to the wedding of Ron’s brother. It is in the summer holidays, and so she will be spending a few days at The Burrow, but she wants to spend the rest of the holidays with us. That’s fine by us – it will be the first time we’ve seen her in a year, and so the more time she has with us, the better.

~

Hermione has been home for a while now, and she is preparing to go to The Burrow tomorrow, for the wedding. I have picked out a pretty dress for her to wear, and she looks gorgeous in it; so grown up! I feel like my little girl has finally disappeared, and a fully grown woman has taken her place, and I am upset I haven’t been able to watch her grow up.

She is nervous. I know something sinister is happening in her world – more than she is letting on – but I refrain myself from asking. If she hasn’t told us, then it is safer for us not to know.

I dish up the roast – chicken, her favourite – and call her down for dinner. I go into the living room to get Tim, but am distracted briefly by the television programme he is watching, about Australia.

My senses and memories become foggy, and I feel weak. I sit on the arm of Tim’s chair, and wait for my dizziness to pass – which it does, in due time. I feel as though I have forgotten to do something important, and I cannot for the life of me remember what it was.

“Why don’t we move to Australia?” Tim asks, out of the blue. “We’ve always wanted to – and anyway, what’s stopping us?”

The idea floods my mind, invading my head and I agree immediately – even though there is something nagging at the back of my head. It is probably something unimportant, and I shrug it off.

“Nothing’s stopping us, dear. Nothing at all.”


Chapter 17: Only Adventures by gingersnape
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She reached out her hand and let the stars fall into her palm. Her eyes were closed and the chill of the night hung around her in the eerily still manner only the darkness could manage. Her hand was heavy with her growing collection, but she did not clasp her fist shut until she could no longer bear the weight of the world. She held her stars close to her and whispered how they were safe with her. And all the while, her mother listened and softly plaited her daughter's hair.

She reached out her hand and let the rain fall into her palm. It was sticky and sweet and her colourful dress was soaked and clung to her legs uncomfortably, but she loved the rain anyway. She wanted to dance and wanted to run and wanted to show the rain how much she loved it, but she simply stood on the steps in front of her house, holding the rain in her hand. It slipped between the cracks, no matter how tightly she kept her fingers together. Every now and then, she would just open her hand and let all the water crash onto her bare feet.

Her eyes remained closed but she knew everything around her was dancing in the rhythmic beats of the rain. How could anyone not want to dance, even if only in their minds, when a rain like this was upon them? She hugged herself as the chill from the rain crept onto her skin and inside her. And all the while, her mother watched and thought of how she had stood in the rain so many years ago.

She reached out her hand and let the leaves fall into her palm. The autumn breeze was harsh and whipped her hands raw. They were dry and cold, threatening to crack open at any minute, but she kept her hands stretched out anyway. It had never bothered her before, so she told herself it was of no consequence. She winced when the wind pulled at her skin anyway.

She could hear the trees bending in the wind and the creek that ran behind her house, but she did not want to open her eyes. They were comforting when she could only hear them and she knew seeing them would mean she was in a real place. When all she did was listen, the world was her own and hardly a world. She just was.

Her legs were stiff from standing for so long and all she wanted was to sit and soak up the sliver of sunlight still hanging in the air. The night was approaching though, and she knew if she sat down, she would not stand back up. Falling asleep was nice enough, she supposed, but she could not let herself stay for too long. She was only there to wait and wait she would.

Her mother was inside, working away at some new adventure. Adventure. It was what she called her experiments. They were no more adventures than the times her daughter spent standing at the edge of the creek, really. But that did not stop her mother from thinking of her experiments as forays into the great unknown.

She crunched the leaves into a dust as she balled her fist up and held the remains of the summer close to her. “Luna! Luna, come inside!” her mother cried, and with that, the dust trailed behind her as she ran inside. Bits and pieces caught in her hair, but she didn't mind because she was returning to her mother. And all the while, she watched her mother stare into space with a look of confusion on her face.

She reached out her hand and felt her mother's hand fall into her palm. It was cold and dry and it squeezed Luna's hand, but not like it usually did. This was a squeeze to say she had no more strength to do more than that. Her mother's eyes were open in their sad lonely way, but Luna could hardly hold a gaze at her. This did not happen to little girls. Little girls had mothers whose eyes were filled with happiness and hope. Little girls had mothers who held hands like they would never let go. But there she was, a little girl, holding her mother's hand and promising not to let go.

Her father knelt on the floor, taking his wife's other hand with both of his. He clenched his teeth and had shaky breaths, interrupted by his attempt to mouth something, but the words getting caught in his throat. Luna could not look at him either. She could not look at the floor, where her mother's snapped wand lay, still fresh with the burnt smell of an adventure. She could not look at the curtains that shimmered like sunlight no matter the time of day. They too were a product of an adventure. After looking back at her mother, she closed her eyes.

Her cheeks were sticky with the streaks from salty tears. The seconds felt like hours but every light squeeze from her mother was so fleeting she could hardly tell if it was real. She did not like how real it felt. She wanted it to just be her mind. She wondered if she should have warned her mother about adventures. They always made her worry, if only a little bit. But she had never really said so.

The reality was slowly worming its way through her mind, sinking into her thoughts and weighing down the possibility of a mirage. A dream. Anything other than truth. The air was getting thicker and she had to think about each breath she took. She knew nothing had changed other than her mother, but the illusion of it all gave her something to think about. In and out, inhale and exhale, expand and sink, was all so much nicer than focusing on the reason she was rocking on her heels, waiting for something, anything.

“It was the adventures, wasn't it?” she whispered, not even meaning to be heard. She held her mother's hand close to her and hugged her mother's arm as tightly as she could. She would not let go until she got her answer and the answer changed what might happen. Answers meant knowledge and knowledge meant solutions and a solution she needed.

She opened her eyes to look at her mother, whose eyes were softer and happier, if only for a moment. “Is. It is an adventure. Don't forget that, love. I'm just at the beginning of my adventures.” Her voice was hoarse and her face contorted with pain, like it was difficult to move, let alone talk. She grew quiet again and all the while, her mother's words echoed in her mind.

She reached out her hand and let a dark nose fall in her palm. Her stomach twisted as she looked at the castle looming in the distance. She had been alone since that morning. A few others had sat in her carriage on the train, but the did not pay her any attention. She simply sat in the corner, absorbing their conversation. Piecing together the people and the places.

Those students had been older; they had been through this before. It was not a new adventure. She stiffened as she thought of adventures. She fancied the idea of adventures. They were exciting and filled with opportunities, but she could not control how nervous she was. She played with her hair and looked out the window, but that did not help her either. After giving up on not thinking about what would happen, she had closed her eyes and listened to the tiniest piece of a world she was a train ride from entering.

The people around her were giving her funny looks. It was almost as if they thought she was a fool for holding her hand out. One person almost ran into the skeletal horse she was with. The first years were to go in the boats, she knew, but she wanted to desperately to ignore the large man directing her towards the dark lake.

The horse seemed almost surprised she was paying attention to it. It was gentle and calm and unlike any other horse she had seen. She mostly wanted to stay because it was focused on her, as opposed to everything else that day. “Miss, you can see 'em?” The large man towered over both Luna and the horse, but his smile was gentle and almost sympathetic. “They're thestrals. You're a bit young to see 'em, aren't you?”

She did not know what that meant, but she nodded and followed the man to the boats. The evening was colder than usual and she felt like her cloak was like a dress after she had danced in the rain. The wind blew right through it, chilling her skin, but the thick material clung to her. She could not escape how cold she felt, unless it was not just the wind. She rubbed her hands together and sat down in one of the boats. She would be inside soon enough.

As the boat rocked back and forth in the water, she closed her eyes. She imagined the water was really just the creek that ran behind her house. The wind was rustling through the branches and the leaves were tangled in her hair. She was sitting even though she wanted to stand. Sitting might let her sleep and if she fell asleep, she did not know when she would wake back up.

The air was thick with careful whispers. They too had their stomachs pulling at their insides with worry. She thought about her own worries. Thestrals. He had looked so concerned when he had told her of the creatures. And some people couldn't see them. Very few, by how he had led her toward the boats. She felt so small in his presence, but he seemed to think of her as much older than she was. How could she be such a little girl and nothing like the little girl she had been so long ago all at once?

The rocking stopped and she stood up as straight as she possibly could after she climbed out of the boat. She wanted to be as tall as the castle. She wanted to soar off the highest towers and dance with the flags as they swayed with the wind. She wanted to be free. It was all an adventure. That was all. Not something to be scared of. Not something to close her eyes at. Just an adventure.

She bit her lip and let the cool air hang around her. Her palms were sweaty and she thought of what had once rested there. All of the stars. All of the rain. All of the leaves. Her mother. The thestral. She could feel them as she pulled her hand close to her and looked into the night sky. And all the while, she hoped her adventure might be as exciting as whatever adventure her mother was having. It was just the beginning, after all. 


Chapter 18: Phoenix Flames by DracoFerret11
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Outside the mullioned windows, the sun was setting below the Dark Forest. Albus Dumbledore stood in his office, his back to the brilliant colors illuminating the sky. On a perch beside the door, a large scarlet bird stood, carefully watching the Headmaster as he read a letter from Nurmengard Prison.

Albus sighed and placed the letter on his desk again. He hadn’t spoken to Gellert Grindelwald in fifty-one years, why would his former-friend choose to write to him now? He shook his head—it wasn’t important. He had already decided that he wasn’t going to respond.

Crossing the room, Albus reached out to the phoenix that still hadn’t looked away from him.

“I will be fine, Fawkes,” the aged man murmured, stroking his pet with a withered, blackened hand.

Fawkes moved carefully to step onto Dumbledore’s arm so the Headmaster could carry him to the desk. As he sat in his high-backed chair, Fawkes shifted to perch on his knee, resting his head against Dumbledore’s palm while large, shiny tears dripped down his face.

Dumbledore smiled.

“This is one ill that you cannot heal,” he murmured to his oldest friend, deeply touched by the phoenix’s concern for him. “This hurt goes deeper than just a charred hand…I regret that I have to say that I am dying, my dear friend.”

The phoenix’s tears fell harder, as if he was trying desperately to prove his companion wrong. They had been together for nearly a hundred years; Fawkes didn’t want to say goodbye just yet.

Albus’ smile faltered as he watched his phoenix’s distress. They had been through so much together. Stroking the bird’s scarlet head, he remembered the day Fawkes came into his life:

“You don’t know what you’re talking about, Albus,” Gellert snapped. They were standing in the kitchen of Albus’ home in Godric’s Hollow. The early morning light was filtering through the windows, brightening a scene that couldn’t have been more serious.

“I’ve changed my mind, Gellert,” Albus scolded his younger friend. “I don’t think domination is the right way to go about things. We aren’t on top of the world! The rules still apply to us!”

“You disgust me,” Gellert hissed, turning on his heel and wrenching the door open to the garden. Albus quickly followed the boy he loved, hoping desperately that this was an argument they could overcome…if only Gellert would listen to reason.

Outside, the sunlight blinded the two young wizards, causing them to pause in their spat to blink the white spots from their vision. Maybe if they had paused longer, Albus thought, things would have turned out differently.

“Gellert…” Albus said quietly, running a hand through his auburn hair in frustration and slowly approaching his friend, “Gellert, please…we can find a different way to change the world. We can still be in this together.”

The sixteen-year-old wizard looked furious. He pursed his lips and drew his wand, glaring at Dumbledore from only a few feet away.

“If you take one more step, Albus, I won’t be responsible for what I do,” he warned, his eyes narrowing. “Stay away from me.”

Albus closed his eyes, trying to hide the pain he was feeling at his best friend’s rejection. He really had believed that he and Gellert would be together forever, but he could no longer agree with the direction that his friend was taking in his path towards power.

Opening his eyes, he stared sadly at Gellert Grindelwald for only one more moment before making one of the most terrible decisions of his life: he stepped forward.

Later, looking back on it, Albus wouldn’t be able to remember why he had done it. Was he trying to prove that he wasn’t afraid of his friend? Was he being arrogant and daring Gellert to start a fight? It didn’t matter. Once he had taken that one step, Gellert’s wand whipped through the air, beginning the first battle that the two powerful young men would endure and breaking their friendship forever.

Albus stumbled backwards as Gellert’s first curse hit him. He drew his own wand, tears pooling in his eyes—the boy he loved had attacked him, and now he was forced to defend himself. He had no desire to curse Gellert, but he had left Albus with no choice. Things had gone too far and now there was no other option but to duel his best friend.

“Don’t be soft, Albus!” Gellert yelled furiously, throwing curse after curse at his friend. “Fight back!”

Albus knew he couldn’t defend himself forever. If there was another wizard in the world who could match him for skill, it was Gellert Grindelwald. He had to incapacitate his friend before someone saw their duel—Muggles lived nearby; they were at risk of exposing their entire world.

Hesitantly, Albus began to fight back, his wand lashing through the air as he attempted to stun, curse, or disarm his opponent. And then, shockingly, everything changed. In one moment, Albus’ world was turned upside down:

A scream rang out from somewhere to Albus’ left. He turned to find the source, recognizing his sister’s voice and praying she was just upset by the display of violence she’d seen. Ariana was slumped against the house, her eyes dull. Albus felt bile rise in his mouth, fearing the worst. He quickly turned back to face Gellert, just in time to see the second most-horrifying thing that day:

A flash of green light emitted from Gellert’s wand and Albus’ blue eyes widened as he realized his friend was trying to kill him. Before he had the chance to leap out of the way, a burst of flame erupted before him and a glorious scarlet bird appeared, swallowing the jet of green light and turning into fire once more, falling to the earth as a pile of ashes.

Gellert stood, shocked at this change in the battle, surprised for just long enough for Albus to shoot a stunner directly at his chest. Gellert stumbled backwards, his eyes losing focus for a moment. He regained his balance and took one last look at Albus before turning on his heel and disapparating.

Albus had no time to mourn Gellert’s departure. He stumbled to the side of the house, his bright blue eyes already filling with tears.

“Ariana?” he choked. “Ariana, please…please, no…” He knelt beside his younger sister’s still body. Her blonde hair was spread around her face like a halo. Had her eyes not been open and staring into nothingness, she would have looked like a sleeping angel, lying gracefully in the dew-damp morning grass.

Albus reached forward and gently smoothed her eyelids down, gathering her in his arms and rocking her back and forth as he cried. This was his fault. It didn’t matter whose spell had hit her; this was his fault. If only he hadn’t been so selfishly absorbed in his own quest for power…if only he had paid more attention, noticed more…maybe Ariana would still be alive.

He sat, holding his sister’s body for a long time, knowing that everything had now changed. Nothing would ever be how it was again. Gellert was gone, Ariana was dead, and he could be assured that his brother Aberforth was never going to speak to him again.

Albus took a deep breath and wiped his eyes on one sleeve. He still couldn’t breathe or even think completely clearly, but he knew that he had things to do. Carefully lying Ariana down, he decided first to check on what had saved his life in the duel against Gellert. He pulled out his wand and inched slowly towards the pile of ashes still smoking on the garden path. The closer he got, Albus could hear small chirping noises emitting from the cinders.

Curiously, he prodded the pile of ashes with the tip of his wand and, to his great surprise, the head of a tiny, shriveled bird poked out. Despite everything that had happened, Albus’ face broke into a smile. He knew what this was. He could barely believe his eyes, but his studies weren’t in vain—he was crouched face-to-face with a phoenix, one who had just swallowed a killing curse for him.

“Hello,” Albus murmured, scooping the tiny bird into his large palms. It cooed at him and looked trustingly into his eyes. Albus’ tried to swallow the lump that rose in his throat. “It’s just you and me now…” he whispered, his voice breaking. “I’m sorry we have to meet under circumstances like this.”

The phoenix blinked slowly and raised its tiny, damp wings to attempt to gain enough balance to stand.

Albus smiled again, his blue eyes filling with tears. As he watched the bird, a name flashed into his mind.

“Fawkes?” he asked quietly. “Is that your name?”

Albus had experienced enough of the magical world to know that he had no reason to question how this animal was able to communicate with him. There was enough on his hands without wondering that yet.

Fawkes chirped quietly and Albus nodded.

“Into my pocket, for now, I think,” he reasoned, sliding the little phoenix into a fold in his robes. “I have things to deal with.”

As he turned back to the house, his brother immerged. Aberforth spared only one look at Albus before turning to his sister’s body. Instantly, all Hell broke loose.

Shaking his head to rid himself of the memory of his sister’s death and his brother’s rejection, Albus Dumbledore turned back to the phoenix on his knee. It had been nearly a hundred years since Ariana’s death, but he still felt it every day. It had been an accident, yes, but that didn’t matter. He still played a part in what had happened, and for that, he would never forgive himself.

He could have died that day, though, and there was a very blatant reason why he hadn’t: the phoenix still perched on his knee. Fawkes had come from thin air, literally, to save Albus’ life. The Headmaster couldn’t explain just why it had happened, but the bond between the two was irrevocably strong. They had spent nearly every waking moment together since that day. If there was anyone in the world that Albus could tell everything to, it was his phoenix.

Fawkes finally looked up from Dumbledore’s hand, his tears abating as he accepted that this injury could not be cured by phoenix tears. The elderly wizard stretched his crippled hand and tucked it into his pocket, smiling at his pet.

“It will be fine, Fawkes,” he assured the bird. “Thank you for trying.”

The phoenix settled down, his black eyes still shining with moisture. Albus could tell that Fawkes didn’t easily accept that he could not help his companion, but he knew that the bird was exceptionally intelligent as well…he understood what was happening.

“We’ve been through quite a lot together, haven’t we?” the Headmaster said quietly. “I will sincerely miss you when I am gone…”

Fawkes began to sing softly, comforting Albus and himself as they sank back into the world of memories:

“I know I have to face him, Fawkes,” Albus said quietly as he sat in his office one night. It was very late, he noticed, glancing down at a strange watch with twelve hands and tiny planets moving around its edges. The phoenix on the other side of the room cooed softly. Albus smiled. “Don’t worry,” he said reassuringly. “I know Gellert…I know how he will choose to fight me…and I know I will win.”

He sighed, his eyebrows knitting together. The last thing he had ever wanted to do was duel the man he loved for a second time. Their first battle had ended terribly enough…but this was something that had to be done. There was no turning back. Gellert had gone too far in his desires to become a Dark wizard and rule over Muggles—he had to be stopped, and Albus was the only one who could do it.

Double-checking that he had everything he needed, Albus whistled softly to Fawkes who glided onto his arm. There seemed to be a heavy weight resting on Albus’ chest. He wondered vaguely if he would be able to travel in such a weighed-down state, but the moment that Fawkes settled onto his arm, there was a flash of flames, and they were gone.

The moor where they landed was nearly pitch-black, but Albus knew that Gellert would be here soon. He had been closely monitoring him with Legilimency for several weeks. There was no doubt that he knew Dumbledore was coming for him—he would show up.

A strong wind whipped through the few trees on the hilltop, swirling around Albus and Fawkes, ruffling robes and feathers, chilling them slightly. It was still the middle of summer, mid-July, but a sudden cold ran over the area, signaling Gellert Grindelwald’s arrival.

“Albus,” a cold voice said from behind the Transfiguration professor.

Albus turned slowly, Fawkes balanced carefully on his arm, a comical location for such a large bird.

“Gellert,” he replied calmly, drawing himself up to his full height which easily towered over the other wizard.

“We both know why you’re here, Albus,” Grindelwald said bluntly, not even slightly intimidated by his opponent. “You think you can convince me to ‘come quietly.’ You think you can convince me to conform to what the Ministry says I should do. Don’t you understand? I have been above your precious laws for years! There’s nothing you can do to stop me now!”

Albus continued to smile as Fawkes took flight, carefully circling the two wizards. The wind strengthened, blowing the phoenix off-course and forcing Albus to regain his footing. He would not be defeated by a simple gale, he thought sternly.

“You cannot continue with how you’ve been going about things, Gellert,” Albus replied. “You’re hurting people…and I can’t allow that.”

Grindelwald laughed coldly.

“You disappoint me, Albus,” he taunted. “You weren’t always such a Muggle-lover. It really does disgust me how soft you’ve become. Do you even have the stomach to fight me anymore?”

Albus sighed.

“This is a mistake, Gellert. The Aurors are on their way…you will be going to prison for your crimes. Fighting me will just make things worse for you.”

Grindelwald’s face contorted into a mask of rage. For a man who had once been quite attractive, he had become bitter, withered, and cruel with age. Nearly fifty years had passed since their fight in the garden at Godric’s Hollow, but Albus remembered it like it was yesterday. Their differences divided them, and things would never have worked out for the better…it had all come down to this: a battle on a lonely hilltop in the dead of night, surrounded by the howl of the wind and a faint whisper of phoenix-song.

“Your bird won’t save you this time, Albus,” Grindelwald warned, drawing his wand. “This is between you and me…this is the end of it all.”

Albus reluctantly pulled out his own wand. He knew his former-friend was right…this was the end of it all. As soon as his opponent’s wand was raised, Grindelwald bowed and began a battle that would become one of the most famous in wizarding history.

The two wizards slashed their wands through the air with unimaginable speed, countering and blocking one another’s spells. Jets of multi-colored light illuminated the scrub grass and gnarly bushes that the combatants only barely managed not to trip over. Albus’ gray-tinged auburn hair flew behind him in a spectacular halo as he parried Grindelwald’s blows, dodging curses and hexes with the ease of a man half his age.

“Just give up!” Grindelwald yelled as an ugly maroon cloud shot from his wand towards Dumbledore. “You can’t beat me. I have the most powerful wand in the world! I am the most powerful wizard in the world! Walk away, Albus. Walk away and I will not pursue you.”

Albus didn’t reply. He had never been one to taunt an opponent during a duel; he had more important things to concentrate on. A beam of golden light danced from his wand to dissipate the menacing red cloud; he prepared for the next onslaught. Surprisingly, it didn’t come.

Grindelwald froze as the night air filled with the popping sounds of Aurors apparating onto the hill. They quickly surrounded the two great wizards, expecting to be able to take Grindelwald into custody easily—that wouldn’t be happening.

The Dark wizard threw his wand up and began a new assault on Dumbledore, desperate to at least win the battle against his nemesis, if he couldn’t escape prison. The Aurors were casting anti-disapparition spells around Grindelwald and Dumbledore; there wasn’t much else they could do to help.

A black cloud surrounded the dueling pair, blocking them from sight. Spells shot back and forth, crackling in the darkness and fizzling as they missed their marks. Finally, desperate to end the battle, Dumbledore let out a piercing whistle, calling Fawkes back to him. Grindelwald shrieked in anger.
“Leave your bird out of this, Albus! We both know he has nothing to do with our quarrel!”


“He is merely here as a precaution, Gellert,” Albus replied calmly, firing another spell at the man who had once been his dear friend. Gellert parried Albus’ attack and responded with a wildly-shot curse. Albus threw up a shield spell just in time, forcing the curse to rebound. Then, without warning, as Fawkes dove between them, Albus used a spell that Grindelwald would have thought to be far too elementary—the Expelliarmus charm.

The Elder wand flew through the air in a graceful arc, landing at Albus’ feet where he stooped quickly to pick it up. From where he stood, Gellert took three steps forward, his eyes widening in shock.

“Albus,” he murmured, before falling to his knees. Albus hurried forward as the black cloud began to slowly dissolve. There was blood blossoming from Gellert’s neck—the spell that had rebounded had hit him.

Desperately, Albus turned to Fawkes, knowing the phoenix was the last hope in saving the dying man’s life. He may have made the wrong choices, but at one point he had meant the world to Albus and he didn’t want him to die.

Fawkes swooped over to the pair of wizards and landed lightly on the grass beside Gellert’s chest, leaning down to let soft tears fall onto his wound and heal him.

Gellert looked curiously into Albus’ eyes and nodded. They were through. Albus had won. He had also saved Gellert’s life whether or not they would ever speak of it. As the Aurors surrounded him, Gellert finally looked away, admitting defeat.

Albus stood and beckoned to Fawkes, and together, the two of them left the scene.

Dumbledore shook his head once more, bringing himself back to Fawkes’ song and trying to blink the tears from his eyes. He had only done what was necessary. He had to stop Gellert before he hurt anyone else…but he had sent his best friend to prison for the rest of his life.

He looked back down at the letter resting on his desk. It didn’t say much. Gellert was simply requesting Albus’ visit. He didn’t say he had changed, and Albus knew he hadn’t. There was no redemption for that man, as hard as that was to accept. Sighing, Albus turned back to the softly-singing phoenix, the one creature that had been with him through the hardest times in his life, the one creature that had saved his life countless times and the lives of those important to him. Fawkes had healed Gellert all those years ago, knowing without Albus having to say, that he would never have been able to live with himself if his former-friend had died at his hand. The bond between man and phoenix was undeniably strong. After nearly a hundred years, the two were inseparably. Their loyalty to one another was unparalleled by anything in memorable history.

“You are truly the best companion I could ever ask for, Fawkes,” Albus admitted quietly as the last wavering note of the phoenix song drifted into silence. “You have been with me through more than I could ever expect another to have to experience…and for that I will never be able to thank you enough.”

The phoenix crooned again and rested his head against Albus’ shoulder, showing his unyielding support once more. Albus felt incredibly lucky to know that this animal had chosen him above anyone else and had stayed by his side through thick and thin…what more could he really ask for?

“I do not have much longer on this Earth,” he whispered to Fawkes, looking him directly in the eye. “You have been the best companion that I could ever hope for…the one this that I regret, knowing that I will soon die, is that I will leave you behind to fend for yourself. You are strong beyond measure and loyal without compare…I am sure that you will be able to endure this life without me. I only regret that I will be moving to a life without you.”

Fawkes’ tears began to fall once more, this time in sorrow for the approaching loss of his closest friend. He bowed his head as the tears coursed down his beak and splashed onto Albus’ robes.

“Oh, my dear friend,” the Headmaster murmured, “if only your tears could heal the pain you are feeling…Come, Fawkes,” he said quietly, lifting the phoenix to his arm and standing, “we’ll go to sleep and forget today’s worries. Sleep will renew us and the morning will feel different.” Together, they went to Albus’ bedchambers and Fawkes swooped carefully onto the perch beside Albus’ bed, settling down for the night, knowing that the emotional pain that the two of them were feeling was something he couldn’t heal.

Eight months later, the pain was fully renewed, but not for Albus. He was gone. Fawkes knew the moment that the life left the Headmaster; he felt the loss in every fiber of his being, instantly crumbling in on himself. If he could burst into flames and leave this world behind, he would choose to in an instant. Life without Albus would not be the same. It would not be comparable.

Tears could not heal this pain, but they coursed down the phoenix’s face all the same, drenching his feathers and embodying what he felt. Albus was no longer here with comforting words and soft hands. For the first time in a very long time Fawkes felt alone, empty and alone.

He slowly lifted his head as he heard the shouts from below in the castle—Dumbledore’s body had been discovered. His duty at the school had ended with the Headmaster’s. Carefully, he closed his eyes and in a flash of fire, found himself outside the window, soaring on the air.

The song he sang spoke of friendship. It spoke of loss. It spoke of sacrifice. He sang for the lives that Dumbledore had saved over the years and the many times that he had saved Fawkes, himself. He sang for the long nights awake in the dark, listening to Albus’ voice as he pontificated quietly to the one being in the world that he knew would listen and understand. Fawkes sang for the loss that the world felt when Albus Dumbledore left it. He knew that he could stay for the funeral…He knew he would see people who appreciated the greatest wizard to ever live, but to him…nothing would ever be the same and no kind words could change that.

As the stars faded and the morning sun peeked over the horizon, shattering the darkness with pinks and oranges, Fawkes turned away from Hogwarts. His song was over. He had said his goodbyes, and in a flash of phoenix flames, he was gone.


Chapter 19: Inseparable by MagicalInk
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It was a pleasant summer day in London and the sun shone warmly, yet not suffocatingly. The voices kept talking on the other side of the door. Kayla had now lived for almost nine years on that orphanage and was finally going to leave it.

"Sshh!" she caressed her dog. "Let me listen." The dog squealed wanting attention.

She knew eavesdropping was wrong, but this was a conversation she just needed to listen to.

"She's such an adorable girl. I still can't believe someone else hasn't adopted her yet!" said the woman.

"I can't either." dreamingly responded Ms Brown, the lady who took care of the place and had lovingly raised Kayla. She had repeated that answer as naturally as possible each time they asked, though she actually knew why. Odd things tended to happen around Kayla when she got emotional. Like too exited and happy when she was going to be adopted, or when other kids angered her by teasing her dog. She had even made glasses crash once. But even with all of Ms Brown's care, she had grown independent and really smart for her age, so she had decided to control her feelings this time and not let anything go wrong.

"Maybe it's the dog." proposed the man. "What was her name by the way? Boots?"

Kayla had been with her dog since she had memory. Ms Brown told her they were found at the same time and so they grew together, never leaving each other apart. She had called her Boots because of the white spots she had on her black legs, as if she whore shoes. She was her only friend. Other children usually got adopted before the age of six, in the big city of London, leaving her there all the time.

"Well they're both really charming." stated the man. "So do we need papers for adopting the dog?"

"Oh no. Boots doesn't have any." laughed the old Brown. "You know, today's Kayla's ninth birthday, I think she's going to be really happy." she said with her sweet voice.

"Did you hear Boots? We're finally having a family!" she whispered happier than ever. The dog licked her cheek and they went downstairs gleefully tip-toeing.


~*~


"Thanks Samantha! Thanks Andrew!" she said and hugged both. She finally had a room for herself and a huge chocolate cake. She had a weakness for chocolate.

"You know you can call us mum and dad now." Kayla knew she couldn't but nodded anyways.

"What do you think of going to the park? I've been told you like them. We'll search for schools tomorrow ok?" asked Andrew.

"Yeah." she smiled. While her new parents got ready she lied on her new bed caressing Boots. "This is gonna be ok. No, this is gonna be awesome!" and then she lifted a tennis ball without her hands as they always did in secret. The ball flew from one side of the room to the other and Boots chased it jumping and skidding on the wooden floor.

 

 


~*~


"Don't worry dear. Boots is going to be ok. You know that. And you'll see her after school." she nodded as she hugged Samantha tightly. She knew she would be ok, just like last year, but what she didn't like was changing of school. The kids in the other one had been her friends at first but then got mad at her when she wasn't able to show them how to do her tricks. Objects flying, moving, disappearing. They liked it at first, and then wanted to do it. But how could she explain to them if she couldn't understand it herself? It was just as if it was magic. But nobody got it.

But she was ten now, and had learnt to be strong, from the orphanage and at school, and she would affront it. And then go to peacefully play with Boots to the flying ball again.

And who knew? Maybe this guys would be different. Maybe they'll be her friends no matter what, like real friends. Maybe in this school, they would be smarter.

 

 


~*~


Kayla threw the ball as strong as she could. She didn't want to change of school again. The only true friend she had now was Boots. Her parents didn't understand what happened and neither did she, but Boots liked it. She liked her 'weirdness' as others called it. They could play together as no one else could, and they always did. It made them special, and they were always together.

It was a day of playing together when the letter arrived. The letter that would change her life forever.

Just days before her eleventh birthday, Samantha and Andrew were cooking and she was playing with Boots when they heard a knock on the door. Nobody expected it. And nobody could have ever expected what came next.

A really big man stood in the entrance. He had long black knotted and messy hair with a matching beard and some gray hair here and there. He wore pale blue jeans, ski boots, a flashing pink flowers shirt and a little summer hat that didn't seem to fit him. And to finish, a really small and old pink umbrella with holes on it.

"Hey, er, good evening. Um, I have a letter for Kayla, from a school. But er, they asked me to come and explain because it's kinda complicated." he smiled with such a sweet smile that Andrew let him in, or maybe he was too scared to not. He had to bend to enter the house.

Kayla stood up fists prepared and turned to Boots, to see if she attacked him. But she just smelled him and then proceeded licking him. The giant's face softened at the look of the dog and his eyes didn't seem to belong to his enormous scary physics anymore.

"Well take a sit er-" started Andrew.

"Hagrid. Rubeus Hagrid. And you must be Kayla. I have a letter for you." he extended his arm to give her a small envelope. She took it without hesitating, reassured by Boots' behavior. She opened it and quickly read. At the end, she just didn't know what to say and stayed petrified with her jaw dropped.

"Yeah, people tend to have that reaction." her parents raised an eyebrow in request for a better explanation. "Kayla here is a wizard." To that, Samantha almost fainted. He smirked and tried to continue. "Her, um, her-... er her parents were too, I mean wizards. But they er, they died fighting in the blood wars against the Dark Lord, building a better world for everyone." he finally finished.

They all looked puzzled at him, trying to find sense to his words.

"They fought in the good side of the blood wars. Some magical wars. Anyways, Kayla being also a wizard needs special education to properly use her skills and that's what Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is for." he recited. "All the information is there." he pointed the letter, still in Kayla's hands.

Andrew and Samantha walked towards her to take sit besides Kayla but before they could read anything she said:

"I can't go."

"What?" asked the three.

"I can't go. Here," she showed another parchment, "it says they admit pets, but not dogs. I'm not leaving Boots, there's no chance I do."

"What do you mean sweat heart? You'll see him after class, as always!" Samantha thought.

Kayla shook her head.

"No. It's a boarding school. If I wanted to go, I'd have to leave Boots. And you." she looked at her parents. "I'm sorry Hagrid, I can not go." she gave him the letter back.

Her parents stared at each other thinking of what to do. The other two seemed to have notice it because they didn't say anything. But Kayla knew what they were thinking. They had only adopted her two years ago and she now needed to leave to a special school, returning to see them only in holidays. But she had struggled in schools and in being adopted because of the 'skills' this new school will help her control.

"You should go anyways. We won't find another school like this and we don't want that 'find a school problem' again." started Samantha.

"Is there anyway we can take her everyday to this school, Hagrid?"

"No, I'm afraid there isn't. To keep the school secret, it's far from here and you wouldn't see it anyways." he answered.

Kayla looked at her dog who was already looking at her. She then remembered all the times she had come crying back from school and she was her only consolation. She couldn't just leave her there, after all they had been through together. They were friends.

"But if the dog is the only thing that keeps you from going," Hagrid childishly smiled, "I could ask Headmaster Ravensdale to let me take care of him while you're in class. I'm the keeper of keys and grounds of Hogwarts by the way."

Kayla finally grinned and hugged her dog. Her parents sighed. Hagrid offered them the letter with puppy eyes.

"Ok." Andrew took it. "All information is here right?" as Hagrid nodded, Kayla jumped to hug them.

"Thank you! Did you hear Boots, we're going to a magical school! Together!"

 

 


~*~


Kayla wondered how many other wonderful things she will discover. First Diagon Alley, with all those magical stores. She thought that the wands, hats and robes were only tales things, but she found out with amazement that it was all real. In the joke shop she found tons of amazing objects, not to mention a potion to make her dog go flashing blue, or another one to make her float in the air.

And now the Platform 9 3/4, hidden in the King's Cross station. Now she and her dog were about to find tons of kids like her. Her parents kept telling her to be nice and other things but her attention was elsewhere.

"Yes I'll write you at least once a week." she repeated.

They were still talking when she heard the trains' whistle and ran to it with her luggage and her dog after a last goodbye.

"Jump Boots!" she ordered an tried to put her suitcase in. A boy who had also ran to catch the train helped her in and they both waved goodbye to their respective families.

"Wow! Didn't know we could have dogs! Hey, let's get a compartment." Kayla followed the boy.

"What's his name?" he asked.

"Her." she corrected. "It's Boots, and I'm Kayla. Kayla Clark."

"Teddy. Teddy Lupin." They stretched hands. "How did you get a special permission for the doggie here?" he asked.

"Well there was no way I was leaving her. We had always been together and Hagrid told me he could take care of her."

"Yeah, he's pretty cool, isn't he? So, since when do you have Bootsie?"

"The orphanage." her voice broke.

"Oh, I'm sorry. I'm an orphan too you know?" she smiled a sad smile. "My parents fought in the blood wars." he proudly announced.

"Mine too!" she said, eyes wide.

"So..."

"Wait? Did you just change your hair color?" he smirked. "How?"

"I'm a metamorphmagus. I can change my appearance to my will. Just like my mom did. If I wanted to look like Boots..." he said and raven hair started to grow where his blue one was before and his eyes turned amber brown. Kayla exploded laughing and he came back to normal.

"I found a potion that changed Boots' hair color, in um..."

"Weasley's Wizard Wheezes! I love it! They now have tons of stuff for animals! But tell me, how is it that you two got so attached?"

"Oh it's a long story. Well it's actually my whole life's story." Teddy raised an eyebrow telling her to go on. "But I can tell you some little adventures we had..." he leaned forward as a sign of full attention and his eye turned dark green. She looked down at her dog remembering hundreds of adventures they had had as she caressed her.

"Well they once took us to a pool. The orphanage I mean. We were having fun at first, competing swimming, until I-" she still couldn't believe it, "magically appeared a bubble around my mouth and nose so I didn't need to go out to breathe. But the other kids were jealous of me being," she didn't know when she would get used to it, "well of me being a wizard. It was like cheating. So when everyone turned their backs, they pulled me deep in the pool and struck my bubble without anyone noticing. Or they thought so. Boots always watched me, so she jumped and kicked everybody, and saved me from drowning."

"Wow. What a little super doggie you have there! I wish I had a friend like that! Uncle Harry, well he's actually my godfather, anyways he also has a dog but he's too old. I bet yours is magical to have lived so long and still be energetic." he caressed her as she shook her tale. "She must be one of those who scent danger."

Kayla smiled at the idea of her dog being special, like her.

"But I bet that's not the only story you have, is it?" he smirked.

The rest of the trip, Kayla told him how they found weird dazzling rocks in a forest excursion that got them out of a tree maze, an how they played jokes to children who teased them. As the day went on, Teddy changed his hair with the sky color to see Kayla smile. Boots will bark at him and they would laugh.

"I hope he doesn't get bored at school." she sighed.

Teddy grinned as an idea flew through his mind.

"I know a place where we could take her and we would never get bored. The Forbidden Forest." Kayla jumped to the 'forbidden' part but Teddy continued, "Oh come on! With her special nose, we could go and discover magical creatures without risking anything!" She really wanted to discover new things. "After all she has lived, you don't want her to stay in Hagrid's house forever. She's an adventurer, we are adventurers and can't just stay there doing nothing."

Kayla thought for a moment. They sure were adventurers. And she couldn't stand the idea of Boots lying down doing nothing while she learned magic. They had always had fun together, escaping from others and, more important, from troubles. They had made an unspoken promise to never let the other be alone. She just loved her more than anything. She smiled thinking of what else they could discover together. And Teddy seemed like a nice boy. He knew about magic.

"Mission accepted." she laughed shaking his hand as his hair turned back to his normal short and tealish blue hair and his eyes to indigo. She turned to Boots, who kept shaking her tale in excitement, as if she understood they were ready for new adventures.
 


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