Chapter 43 : 42 - The Spider Web
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If you look closely at a spider web, you can see the seemingly fragile strands of interlinking threads connecting one delicate section to the next. It’s strength and beauty lies within the spider’s skill in attaching the pieces of its world together, to intertwine its immediate reality to extenuating factors in the mutual reality. To watch the precision of the spider as it weaves the delicate netting leads one to consider the amount of planning involved in trying to balance all aspects of its life. The web’s intent is to catch prey, however, there is much more to the silky mesh. The threads bind each section together, making connections to seemingly unconnected parts, and if one strand was to break, the entire web could be destroyed. Some webs, however, are much stronger than they appear, being able to withstand many of nature’s elements, lasting for years. The one thing that must be maintained is belief, the faith in nature. Mother Earth has a way of taking care of its own.
“Ta da,” I bounded into the upstairs room of the Shrieking Shack. “Not one, but three, count them, three Wolfsbane Potions, infused with a very special Stasis Charm, just for you. It was such hard work,” I brought the back of my hand to my forehead dramatically, “but so worth it.” I grinned happily at my friend who was lounging by the fire, reading the latest edition of the Daily Prophet.
He looked up. “Three months? What? You don’t want to see me anymore? I’m hurt!” he feigned disappointment.
“I want you to always be prepared. You read the paper, and you heard the last bit of news from Albus. The Potter boy is still having dreams, even though one of his professors is giving him Occlumency lessons. We know that Voldemort is after something in the Department of Mysteries, probably the prophecy, and is probably trying to “persuade” the boy to go after it. He can’t remove it himself. And after that incident at Azkaban…” I rambled.
“Incident?” Remus snorted tossing his legs over the edge of the long seat, waving the paper at me. “It was a mass break-out of some of You-Know-Who’s most devoted followers, which means that he now has some very strong back-up and that the Dementors are most likely on his side, too. As for the man giving Harry the lessons, he’s an excellent Occlumens, but loathes Harry and relishes taunting him, and I’m afraid Harry shares the sentiment. I’m not certain how effective those lessons will be.”
“Have faith, Remus,” I encouraged with a smile. “I’m certain the man is a professional. After all, Albus trusts him, doesn’t he?”
“Merlin only knows why,” he leaned his tattered elbows onto his knees, eyeing me through the sandy grey fringe. “He’s a very unpleasant man.” He paused and frowned in thought, as if he wanted to continue but changed his mind. “You up for a stroll to Hogsmeade, or do you have to rush back to work?” He quickly changed the subject.
I tipped my head to the side, and rolled my eyes pretending to think, but knowing what my answer would be. “I’d love to got for a walk, but a short one. I am due back.”
Bundling up against the early February cold, we hiked to Hogsmeade to peruse the shops, chatting along the way about our work, or at least the parts that we were able to discuss. He was spending a lot of time with Sirius’ lately, trying to keep his friend appeased but was also trying to persuade the other werewolves to join Albus’ force. They were frightened, though, and afraid to chose sides. He was, also, beginning to understand why I claimed to always be “working”. I had never explained what type of work I had been doing, not that I lied, simply didn’t disclose the details. It was a tough job balancing my life between the Wizarding and Muggle worlds and the multitude of tasks I held in each. If one really thought about it, I didn’t have a double life; it was more like a triple life. Remus half joked that he didn’t envy me and realized how hard it must be to keep everything straight. I reassured him that life was a bit easier now that I had someone to confide in.
“What about your bond?” he asked curiously. “That’s rare, ancient magic, something special.” He had once pressed about who this person was but my (and Albus’) insistence that he was better off not knowing kept him from pursuing the matter. I think he had his suspicions, though, although he never said.
“We don’t get to see each other as often as we’d like. As with any connections that I have, there’s at risk, and have to be disassociated from Albus and the Order. You are a totally different story,” I shook my head at his next question before he could ask. “We had a public connection through the development of Wolfsbane, and therefore, have every reason to be seen together.”
Remus smiled wolfishly. “Lucky me.”
Stopping in front of Gladrags Wizardwear, we examined the contents of the storefront window. I watched Remus’ reflection in the glass and felt an uncomfortable pulse emanate from him. He seemed to be lost in thought for a moment, and I nudged him back to reality.
“I don’t think it’s your colour,” my lips twitched with amusement as his cheeks flushed slightly.
“I…um,” he shook his ducked head and started to walk away, hands stuffed in his coat pockets.
“No, no,” I put out my hand to hold him in place. “Whose colour is it?” I smirked, egging him on about the lovely purple scarf that he was eyeing.
“No one’s,” he replied softly, examining the nearest pile of snow.
“Come on. Tell me. What’s her name? Or is it one of those things that I’m not allowed to know?”
He shook his head. “You know what I am and what’s coming up. I can’t let myself get involved with anyone. Of all people, you should understand.”
“Psshhh, don’t give my that. It’s obvious you like her. Is she part of the Order?” I wagged my eyebrows as he rolled his faded grey eyes.
“Yes, but it can’t be,” he insisted, turning away from me to continue the path.
“You know,” I began as I looped my hand through the crook of his arm, walking slowly down the main street, “We don’t know when this war will come to a head. The terrorism has already started, but to put your life on hold, afraid to make a move, is a waste of precious time. Remus, you deserve to be happy, and if she’s in the Order, she knows what you are and will be taking similar risks. Don’t be afraid. Take the chance,” I encouraged.
A light snort from my friend made me look up. “That from the queen of putting her love life on hold,” he smiled.
The bells of St. Mary the Virgin Chapel peeled through the crisp winter air. The gathering had been small, only about sixty or so guests, but the crowd that had gathered outside the church exceeded over a hundred as students, past and present, and uninvited faculty members waited for the bride and groom to appear. I had been placed on the groom’s side, sandwiched between Professor Cornwall and his wife and Professor Liberman (aka Master Lindstrom) and now relished the bright sunshine as we waited for the couple to make their appearance. Milling through the crowd, it was obvious whom the crotchety, old man with the heavy, oak cane was related to for as people approached to express their congratulations, he replied with a curt, “It’s about bloody well time! Wish Eva could have lived long enough to see it.” I smiled at the resemblance and turned to speak with a group of colleagues from John Radcliff. The conversation was almost giggly as the group discussed the courtship of the foul-tempered Adam Kurtz and his young teaching assistant, Carla Pratt. It was obvious that she had a firm handle on the man, and he had softened somewhat under her attention. “She planned it well,” one said amusedly. “He’ll certainly never forget their anniversary,” another chuckled. It was Valentine’s Day. We all nodded in agreement and joined the cheers and applause as the couple stepped from the church, glorious sunbeams shining upon them as they acknowledged their guests.
The reception that followed granted the opportunity to finally touch base with some colleagues that I hadn’t seen for a while. Although I still lectured occasionally, I had limited myself to a select few professors and subjects. It was good to hear that the study I had initiated at the hospital was still progressing and had expanded into fields that I would never have considered. The Muggle world seemed to embrace progress and advancement much more readily than the Wizarding world, financing ideas and theories, waiting patiently for results. It angered me to think that the diffident thinking of the British Ministry of Magic was hindering my present project. The Head of Departmental Research at John Radcliff asked if I would be interested in examining these new procedures, and I happily accepted.
“Are you ever going to get married?” Professor Cornwall had snuck up behind me, abruptly breaking my train of thought. The question was unexpected and caught me off guard but was not spoken with a malicious tone.
I smiled cordially but held my tongue.
“You’re a beautiful, young woman, Daniella,” he continued. “There’s more to life than work. Granted, many, including myself, certainly appreciate your efforts, but you really should find someone.”
The words of my friends and colleagues, whether they were Muggle or Wizard, seemed to keep repeating themselves, and Remus’ words struck home, “the queen of putting your love life on hold”. I wished that Severus was by my side, sharing our lives together. As it was, he had sent a small gift and note this morning by our favourite “Stark Post” with a hope that we could meet sometime soon. I shook my head, not seeing it happen soon enough. I was beginning to look like a pathetic, old maid, burying myself in work rather than making a life for myself with someone I loved.
As Adam and Carla made their way through the guests, I watched the small gestures: a touch on the arm, a brush against each other, side-glances of an unspoken but understood message. I never thought he would find someone that he would let into his snarky world, but they seemed to be a perfect pair. Smiling warmly as they approached, I held out my hands and offered my most sincere congratulations.
“I’m glad you got the message,” Albus turned briskly out of the dark kitchen and paced to the study, lowering himself into the large armchair by the unlit fireplace. He waited for me to follow and take my place. It was obviously going to be a short meeting for even with the absence of the fire, there was no tea brewed and a deep frown was set on the old man’s face.
“Remus relayed the message without difficulty. What’s going on?” I asked.
He sighed slowly before he began. “Things at the school are becoming increasingly difficult. I fear that the Ministry may attempt to have me removed. I believe that you have been kept abreast of Professor Umbridge and her increasing power?” I nodded. “Harry has begun to…shall we say…rally the troupes, and it will merely be a matter of time before they are caught.”
“Why don’t you warn them?” I leaned forward in my seat.
“I must keep my distance from the boy. If Voldemort really is entering his mind, as I suspect, the last thing I want him to find there is me.” He paused for a moment. “I must ask something of you that may be very difficult to do.” I leaned back against the soft cushion, waiting for him to continue. “I understand that the Ministry has blocked your present project.” I nodded slowly. “And that your team has gone as far as it can go in its present state.” I tipped my head questioningly. “Are there any other projects requiring your immediate attention?” I shook my head cautiously. “Good. Would you consider taking a sabbatical? Events are building, and I need your skills without so many distractions.” He paused to let me think.
I had finished the last lecture in the most recent series at Oxford just a few days ago and had not scheduled anything new. The project at the Ministry was, pretty much, at a stand still. I would have to return to Rome to check on progress there, but the last time I had checked, it too, had gone as far as it could go. Returning home would not be questioned with the rise in tensions in Britain. It would be seen as a “get out while we can” exodus. Once back in Rome, a formal request for sabbatical could be made. I foresaw no problems. It, actually, seemed to be the perfect time. Then, the strangest question came to mind.
“Where would I live?” I asked quietly, not that I was particularly attached to my flat in London.
“Here,” Albus replied. “This house recognizes only you, me, and Severus. It remains unplottable and completely secure from intruders.” He waited once more.
“I’d be isolated again?” I really didn’t like that idea.
“Not really, but information of your activities will be kept on a need to know basis. You will still have contact with me, Remus and Severus, and I believe that you are keeping an eye on one little Muggleborn witch.” He raised his bushy, white eyebrows questioningly, pale blue eyes peering over half-moon glasses.
“Yes,” I replied. “She’ll be five this Saturday. I’m curious see if her powers have developed any further.”
“So young,” he shook his head. “Yes, keep in contact with them. Use Earth magic, and place a Protective Charm on her and her family. We don’t want the wrong people to get any ideas.”
Albus left me sitting in the cold study. I had agreed to the sabbatical, thinking that it would do my mind good to have fewer things to think about. I could focus strictly on the war and not have to balance so much. Yes, I smiled to myself. A sabbatical is the perfect solution.
Colourful, helium-filled balloons were tied to the back of Adrianne’s chair as she knelt on her seat, leaned forward, and blew out the five sparkling candles on her Barbie birthday cake. Emily had invited a few of Andrianne’s playmates for the party, and they gathered around to get their share of the chocolaty sweet. I grinned happily from the kitchen doorway, watching Emily pass out the dessert, while Colin snapped pictures. The twins anxiously hovered in the background, not wanting to have anything to do with the girls, but not wanting to miss out on the cake either. As soon as they were served, they disappeared into the playroom and way from the squealing females.
When the presents were opened and the party guests had gone, the family gathered in the living room for a quiet moment together. I was pleased to be considered part of that family. They meant the world to me. I hugged the boys lovingly, and they disdainfully wiped my kisses away as eight year old boys would do. I feigned shock and hurt, and they lunged at me, smothering me with rough hugs and laughter. The family had given their presents to Adrianne when she rose in the morning, and now it was my turn. Pulling a pink and white box the size of my palm from my bag, I held it out to the little girl. She gingerly took it and sat on the floor in front of the coffee table to slide the curly ribbon off and peel back the paper. She lifted the lid to find a small silver amulet nestled in the packing cotton. The flat disc showed an encircled triquetra engraved on one side while the rune “Wyn”, an angular P, was engraved on the other.
“This is a very special necklace,” I told Adrianne whose eyes were as large as Galleons as she held the pendant. “This symbol,” I pointed to the triquetra, “is the symbol of protection, and this, I flipped the amulet over and pointed to the P, means happiness and security. As long as you wear this,” I took the amulet from her fingers and placed it around her neck, “I will always be with you, watching over you,” whispering in her ear, I added, “keeping you safe. Happy birthday, cara.” As I finished attaching the chain, Adrianne touched the pendant and I could feel the Protective Charm activate.
The child turned to me, a huge smile on her face. Her arms reached up, and I was drawn into a neck-breaking hug as she whispered, “I love you, Auntie Dani.”
As always when I visited, I joined Emily and Colin in tucking her into bed, and as we left the room, she called softly, and I turned while my friends continued down the hall, “Watch this,” she whispered as she squeezed her hand together, her little face scrunched in concentration. As she released her hand a dull, glowing orb emerged from her palm. She floated it to the far wall, and I stood watching her proud smile.
You must keep this a secret, I cautioned, and she nodded in agreement. I smiled and waved my hand gently toward the light, brightening it slightly, watching Adrianne grin in the glow. Bringing my hand to my throat, I indicted to her amulet. Remember, always keep it on, and I’ll always be with you. She reached for the necklace and touched the runes with her fingers, feeling the charm seal itself. With a big yawn, she smiled again and rolled over to sleep.
When I rejoined the others in the living room, the twins were saying their “good nights”, and Colin was taking them up to bed. I received another raucous round of hugs before they raced up the stairs being hushed by their father.
“They really love you,” Emily observed with a friendly smile.
“The feeling is mutual,” I replied flopping into the corner of the sofa.
We sat in silence for a few moments unwinding from the afternoon activities, Emily’s head leaning against the back cushion, eyes closed, relishing the silence.
“That was a beautiful necklace you gave her. I should have taken it off of her and put it away for special occasions.”
“No,” I quickly replied, “It has a special clasp that can’t be broken easily, and the chain may not look it but is very strong.” I paused for a moment, measuring the next words. “It’s important that she keep it on.” I paused again. “I’m taking a sabbatical from work, going back to Italy for a while. There are things that I need to do, but I promise to stay in touch.”
Emily’s eyes were wide open as she bolted upright in her seat. “Is everything alright?” she looked very concerned.
I nodded with a forced smile. “I’ll be back, but I don’t know when. I want you to have something, though.” As I walked to the front door to retrieve another package, Colin rejoined us, and Emily explained the situation. Colin’s concerned face met my upturned lips as I handed the package to my friends. Emily unwrapped a ten-inch polished, black plate. It was edged in silver, and the border was embossed with the same triquetra pattern as Adrianne’s amulet.
“I hope you like it. It has a stand so that you can put it on your mantel.”
“It’s beautiful, almost looks like a mirror,” Emily breathed. “Thank you.” She rose to place the dish on the wide walnut mantel, centring it to face the room.
Perfect, I thought, feeling satisfied. Emily’s placing of the scrying mirror sealed the Protective Charm that had been placed on it. It would enable me to keep an eye on the family from a distance, and the charm had been activated with her touch, protecting the occupants of the house.
As with all webs, the spider eventually moves on, seeking and facing new challenges, but the web remains intake, if cared for. Mother Earth has a way of taking care of its own.
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