By the first day of February, Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Dean, Seamus, and Neville were all back in school. All of them were in perfect health, but they refused to talk about their perilous adventure. Harry had told the DA what had happened in a dull monotone, so of course the entire school knew the story—that Tabby had been kidnapped and Mya killed, that Harry and his friends had gone after her, that Harry had escaped Voldemort and death once again. But the ravenously curious school wanted other questions answered, such as how Tabby had saved them all, how exactly the students had gotten out, and where Tabby was right now. Those foolish enough to ask these questions, however, were punished with scowls, curses, and often Hermione beginning to cry. Harry’s face, always distant and cold these days, would tighten, and a strange look of pain would appear in his eyes before he turned away. Soon the furor died down, and the seven students were left alone as they clearly wished to be.
All of them had changed. Though there had been tensions between Dean and Ginny for a few weeks, now it seemed that they had nothing in common anymore. Only a day after their return, Ginny broke things off. On the other hand, Ron and Hermione clung to each other. Ron seemed more serious, more focused on his work, while Hermione seemed to think less of her work, as if she had realized what was most important. Dean didn’t laugh as much—none of them did. There was a look of determination in Neville’s eyes, and he spent a great deal of time in the library or in the headmaster’s office.
But the most pronounced change was in Harry. Very few people had realized just how much Tabby had affected him. He never smiled now, and he threw himself into his work with the DA, learning new defensive spells and hexes, not all of which he meant to use for his lessons. There were dark shadows under his eyes from lack of sleep—his nightmares had come back. And there were times, often in the evenings, when his cold mask would fall away, and all of his worry and hurt would show in his eyes.
On one such evening, his friends were all gathered around him in a taciturn group. They were the only ones left in the common room—none of them welcomed company. Ron sat in the floor beside Hermione’s chair; she stroked his hair absently. Neville and Seamus sat on the sofa with Dean on the floor beside them. Harry paced back and forth across from Ron and Hermione’s chair. All of them watched Ginny, who was kneeling before the fire with her eyes closed. Aside from the crackling of the flames, there was absolute silence.
Suddenly Ginny gasped, stiffening. “Tabby,” she cried, her hands coming out in front of her.
Harry froze, staring at Ginny.
“Tabby, listen to me—no, don’t—” Her voice broke off in shock. Slowly Ginny opened her eyes and looked at Harry. “She blocked me,” Ginny whispered, sounding terribly hurt. “I could feel her, she was there, she heard me…but she blocked me out.”
Harry swore softly and resumed his pacing. Ginny had been trying to touch Tabby’s mind constantly for the past three days. So far, she’d been unsuccessful.
“You got her?” Ron asked, frowning.
“She was right there, Ron!” Ginny groaned, lowering her forehead to the ground. “I felt her as if she were standing right behind me. But she pushed me out. She’s never done that before!”
“Do you think she’s angry at us?” Hermione asked.
“No,” Neville said confidently. “Tabby’s not like that.”
“She’s not angry,” Harry agreed. He shook his head and continued pacing. “More likely she thinks we’re angry at her. She feels guilty that she hurt us.”
“It wasn’t her fault,” Hermione insisted for the thousandth time.
“She’s not giving us a chance to convince her of that,” Seamus pointed out.
“So what do we do?” Dean asked.
The other students looked at Harry. He and Tabby had become the leaders of the group, and Harry felt a pang of loss when he realized again that Tabby was not by his side. In a way he couldn’t forget it, but it struck him anew several times a day, as if his heart hadn’t yet accepted her absence. He reached into his pocket and touched her letter; he carried it everywhere with him, and by now he knew it by heart.
Let me say right away that this is the hardest thing I have ever done. My heart screams that I am a fool, but I know this already. I should have seen this coming, should have accepted it from the very beginning—there is no freedom for once such as me. But I was blinded by my own fears, and I refused to believe.
Madame Kylin will return to France tonight, and this time I will go with her. I never truly realized just how destructive my powers can be. I must learn to control them, and I cannot do it at Hogwarts. It really is for the best. I nearly killed you and the others, and the thought of that nightmare coming true terrifies me. I will never forgive myself for hurting you, and I cannot let it happen again. Madame was right: I am different from you, so drastically different that being near you could destroy you. I couldn’t bear that.
I don’t know if I will ever see you again. I want to, Harry, but I have so much to learn, so much to do, and it could take years. I don’t want to take years away from your life waiting for me. By the time I have learned what I need to learn, I will be much older and much changed, and there will be no place in your lives for me. Tell the others I thank them for everything, and that I wish them well. And for you, Harry, I wish every happiness, every joy in life. My prison won’t be so terrible if I know that you are happy.
If it will help you to accept my decision, know that I will never forget you. My heart is bound to yours, always and always, and my short time with you will always be the best of my life. You gave me a taste of freedom, a taste of the life that I could have had in a different world. I had the chance to learn, an opportunity to make something worthwhile of myself. I had friends who cared about me, and I had you, Harry Potter, a most precious gift. I owe you so much, and I wish I could repay that debt.
Perhaps, someday in years to come, I will come and find you. Until then, I hope that I will always See you with that light in your eyes that I grew to love.
You are ever the owner of my heart.
Love, always and forever,
She loved him; it was clear in every word, every letter she'd written. And she believed that she couldn’t be with him, because of a terrible accident and his own stupidity. He had tried to write back to her, saying that she couldn’t do this to him, that he loved her, too, that he was sorry, that she was the light in his life. But Hedwig hadn’t returned from her attempt to find Tabby, and with every passing day Harry’s heart plummeted deeper.
She didn’t know if she would ever see him again. That was what hurt the most. Harry couldn’t bear the thought of never seeing her, of losing her forever. She meant everything to him, and somewhere she was hurting, too, blaming herself.
You promised me! he wanted to shout, hoping somehow she would hear. You promised you would be with me at the end! You have to come back. You have to come back to me.
Harry blinked and looked up, remembering where he was, and that his friends were waiting for an answer. Cursing under his breath, he rubbed his eyes under his glasses and looked at Neville. “What have you found out about Kylin?”
Neville stretched, as if Harry’s question had reminded him of weary hours bent over books in the library. “Dumbledore told me the name of her home is the Chateau de l’Ombre, or Shadow Castle. I finally found a mention of it the other day. It’s a really old place, built ages and ages ago by a wizard who hated the rest of the world and wanted to escape it. The castle is spelled to move from place to place every few minutes, maybe four or five times an hour. No one outside the castle knows when it’s nearby, but it is never in the same place twice. I think Madame Kylin put a restriction on the spell to keep it somewhere in France, but it still moves around. Powerfully protected and virtually undetectable. I don’t even know how Kylin gets in. But that’s
where she’s got Tabby.”
“Well, at least Voldemort won’t find her,” Hermione reminded them.
Harry sighed and stopped pacing, rubbing his forehead. “But neither will we,” he muttered.
“I’ll keep looking, Harry,” Neville promised. “Tabby saved my life and the sanity of my parents. I’m not giving up on her.”
Harry nodded. He admired Neville’s determination, but even he had admitted that it was going to be almost impossible to find Tabby. There was very little they could do.
“Tabby’s letter reads as though she wants us to forget about her,” he said slowly, “or at least she thinks we should. But I don’t mean to do that. We’ll improve on what she’s taught us and remember what she gave us. Ginny can lead the Hawks and teach them what she’s learned from Tabby last summer and throughout the year. Ron…” Harry looked his best friend in the eye. “I want you to help me become an Animagus. I imagine there will be others interested, especially since Tabby’s method works so well. What you don’t know I imagine Hermione can find.” Ron nodded, and Hermione dashed her tears away and looked determined.
Harry looked at his friends, all of them expecting him to come up with the solution. He suddenly felt terribly tired and sank into a chair. “I hadn’t realized how much I depend on her,” he whispered, sinking his head into his hands. “I don’t know if I can do this.”
“We’re here for you, mate,” Dean reminded him softly.
“She promised that she’d be there for me,” Harry growled. “Before she even knew anything about me, she said that she would help me fight. And Dumbledore said that we were going to be on the front line. All of us, including her.”
“Then we have to believe that she’ll be back,” Seamus said calmly.
“Yeah, how long could it take to learn what she needs to learn?” Dean asked.
“Years, from what Tabby says,” Harry pointed out, again touching the letter.
“You can’t lose hope, Harry,” Neville insisted. “Tabby works miracles with the ease of breathing; look what she did for my parents. You have to believe that she’ll find a way to come back. She’s part of us, and we’re part of her. She will be back.”
Harry gazed at Neville, then got up and wandered to the window, looking out at the clear, cold stars. “I hope you’re right, Neville,” he murmured. “I hope you’re right.”
Tabby shivered and pulled her cloak tighter around her. The wind whirled around her and bit her cheeks, flushed with cold and streaked with tears.
I’m sorry, she thought, knowing that her friends couldn’t hear. I’m so sorry.
The door opened behind her. “Tabitha?”
Tabby rose obediently. “Yes, Madame.” She took one last look up at the white, distant stars, but they had no advice for her. She had to rest; there was work to be done.
She turned and entered the castle, and Madame Kylin closed the door behind her.
a/n: The last chapter! It's taken forever, but it's here. Tabby's story being very very long, I have divided it into two parts. This is the first part; the second will be called Heart of the Golden One and will take place when Tabby and her friends meet again, and they will, trust me. But before I begin posting that story, I will spend a good deal of time editing this one, so please be patient. You may want to look back at old chapters, because there will be some changes appearing. I will begin working on Heart as soon as I can. Thank you for your patience, and I hope you enjoyed the story!
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