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Chapter 15 : Making the Choice
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Valora woke up the next morning, feeling groggy and a little confused. It hadn't been a steady sleep that night. she had woken up more than once only to turn and see Sirius next to her, and as grateful as she was for his friendship she wished it had been Severus beside her. Now she looked about and realized she was alone, and weirder still, dawn was barely peeking through the window. It couldn't even be six in the morning, it was so early. Still wearing her sweatpants and a grungey t-shirt Valora crept down the two flights of stairs to the kitchen where she saw Dumbledore speaking in hushed tones to the rest of the adults. Silently, Valora walked in and was immediatley on edge when she saw Dumbledore's worried expression.
"What's happened?" She asked. Arthur leaned forward to hand her a copy of the daily prophet. The front page had a picture of Deatheater's marching about a small town while little homes blazed merrily behind them.
"Voldemort did this." she said flatly and Dumbledore nodded. Valora couldn't tear her eyes from the page and her lips pursed in distaste. She roughly threw it back onto the table.
"So what do we do?" She asked suddenly, immediatley ready for action. Dumbledore rested a calming hand on her shoulder.
"The rest of the Order are on their way, so get changed and we'll discuss it when everyone gets here." he said quietly. Valora glanced at the others before nodding and going back upstairs. Throwing open her bag she grabbed her leather pants. Screw looking professional. Right now she wanted nothing more than to go out and start throwing curses around at those vile, evil, sons of -
"Professor Nox?" came a girl's voice from the other side of the door.
"One moment." She answered, throwing her black t-shirt before opening the door. Hermione was standing in front of her.
"You can call me Valora when we're outside the classroom, you know." she said with a smile before noting the girl's worried expression.
"Everything alright, dear?" Valora asked as she walked over to her bed, sitting down to better pull on her heavy boots. Hermione looked confused by the attire but said nothing.
"I could ask you the same thing." she said nervously twisting something around in her hand, which belatedly Valora realized was a copy of the Daily Prophet.
"I'm sure the Order will handle it. There's no need to worry. In fact they'll all be here in a minute." Valora said, trying to be reassuring as she pulled her hair back and watched the younger girl whose bottom lip seemed to be trembling slightly. Valora immediatley wanted to comfort her and took a step forward.
"Hermione, it'll be alright." Valora said, patting her shoulder gently. "Are the others awake?"
"No, not yet."
"Well, get them up, you all should be listeneing in." Valora said, grabbing her grey sweater and going to walk past the girl.
"But, we're not supposed to listen in to Order meetings!" Hermione whispered nervously. Valora raised an eyebrow at her goody-two-shoes attitude.
"So? Haven't you ever heard that 'all is fair in love and war'? Well, darling, we are in the middle of a war, so I suggest you start trusting your instincts instead of what other people tell you." Valora said, heading for the stairs.
"What if my instincts tell me not to listen to you?" Hermione asked boldy. Valora gave a small laugh.
"Then don't listen to me. Do what you want, but at least give your friends the choice of doing what they want." She told her before rushing down the stairs, leaving Hermione staring after her. What kind of teacher told you to screw the rules? Then again what kind of teacher wore leather pants?
In the dining room everyone was seated around the table with Dumbledore at the head. Valora spied Severus out of the corner of her eye and ignored him, as they had planned. Valora did note how he stiffened slightly when she took a seat between Sirius and Remus. Moody was eyeing her dangerously, as was Kingsley. Everyone was staring at her and for a moment she regretted the leather pants, then pride kicked in and she straightened up a bit.
"Hello, everyone." She chirped happily. Moody grunted and looked away from her. She suspected that Dumbledore had either already warned them not to say anything or else Sirius had. Dumbledore cleared his throat gently before speaking.
"This attack was very close to Hogwarts and the Ministry feels it would be prudent to close the school down for a while." he said calmly. "I made it quite clear that would be suicide, but he insisted that the students go home more often as to make the school less of a target and so a spring holiday will be instituted. I'm afraid for my professors this will mean some rearranging of exam schedules."
"But, Hogwarts is the safest place for them to be. Why would Scrimgeor want to send them away? That's ridiculous!" Molly said angrily. Arthur took her hand and squeezed it gently.
"It would make the school a less desirable target, Molly, making it safer than it already is. Besides it would be no longer than the christmas holidays. I can't say I'm pleased with the descision either but it could have been alot worse and given the circumstances" Dumbledore explained. Clearly Molly still didn't agree but she nodded in agreement anyway, trusting Dumbledore's logic.
"Also, Hogsmeade weekends have been canceled for the remainder of the year."
Sirius groaned audibly, which earned him an elbow in the ribs from Valora and a raised brow from both Severus and Dumbledore.
"Does this mean we're going to post more Order members at Hogwarts, then?" Tonks asked, casting a sidelong glance at Remus.
"It does. Now there are a few more things to go over..."
Harry, Ron, Ginny, Hermione, Fred and George all leaned precariously over the banister, each holding an extendable ear in their hands. Harry however was thinking about what Hermione had told them a few minutes ago as she'd woken them up. She had burst into their room and shaken them roughly awake.
"There was an attack! Get up!" she had said as she ripped the covers off Ron. Harry reached for his glasses and hurriedly shoved them on before attempting to speak.
"Where? When?" he asked as he pulled jeans on.
"Last night in Merryton. It's a wizarding town not far from Hogwarts. C'mon she said the Order was going to be here any minute and I don't want to miss anything." Hermione said, throwing a pair of pants at Ron who was just sitting up and stretching.
"Who's 'she'?" Harry asked skeptically.
"Val- Professor Nox. She said we'd better listen in." Hermione admitted.
"I thought they didn't like us eavesdropping on Order meetings?" Ron said with a wide yawn.
"She said 'all was fair in love and war'. I don't really care why she said it, but she told us to listen in and I think she's right. We're in the middle of a war and we should be aware of what's going on." Hermione said. Harry stayed quiet when Hermione left to wake the others.
"What's that all about you think?" Ron asked, pulling a shirt over his head.
"I have no idea. She doesn't want to tell me anything but she wants us to know whats going on?" Harry shook his head and scrambled to the banister where he waited for the others.
Even now as he listened to the meeting he was wondering about Professor Nox. She made absolutely no sense and oddly enough he was getting kind of used to it. At least now he knew he wasn't the only one she was hiding things from.
A few hours later as the meeting finished, Valora quickly stood and walked out, followed by several others. She felt something slip into her pocket as Severus passed by her. She watched him walk away without turning back and admired his self control. She wasn't sure she had been so clever, throwing him a look or two at points thoughout the meeting. She was sure nobody had noticed but him but he would probably have loads to say about it.
"Filthy blood-traitors and mud-bloods ruining my mistresses home, and this one. Been coming around and spoiling everything since she was little. Corrupting Master Black and making my Mistress angry. Bad, nasty woman."
"Hello, Kreacher." Valora said sweetly, smiling down at the vile little thing.
"She's speaking to us. We'll not answer, we'll pretend not to hear." he said shuffling away, down the hall. Valora rolled her eyes and stepped into the bathrrom to read her note.
Meet me in the park around the corner. Make sure nobody follows you.
Valora smiled to herself before vanishing the note and slipping out of the bathroom. Everyone seemed to be in the kitchen and so she easily made her way out the front foor and ran across the street to the park. Safely hidden behind the walls of trees and shrubbery she made her way down the path until she saw a figure in all black leaning near an old stone wall.
"Way to blend in." She said with a smile. Severus turned and opened his arms for her and she ran into them, leaning up to kiss his face and check him for any sign of harm.
"What makes you think I'm hurt?" He asked as she continued to inspect him for injury. Valora took a deep breath.
"If he came that close to Hogwarts there's no doubt in my mind that he met with you. Most likely to ask about me or Harry. So, I'm checking to make sure he didn't torture any information out of you." She said flatly, although they both knew if he had tortured him for information he wouldn't have been standing there. Severus stilled her hands with his own.
"I'm fine." he said, bending down to kiss her gently. Valora reached up to make the kiss last longer and Severus frowned.
"This isn't the safest place to do that." he said gently. Valora frowned and firmly grabbed his arm before apparting with a pop. They landed in a dim, dusty room that Severus didn't recognize and Valora hated.
"Where are we?" He asked tentaively, already sensing the answer.
"My father's house." she said, glancing around. "I haven't been in here since I was sixteen." she noted numbly before turning her attention back to Severus."So what did he say to you?" She asked. Severus avoided her eyes as he spoke and began pacing near the grime covered windows.
"He wants you dead, almost as badly as he wants Potter dead." Severus said coldly.
"I'd appreciate it if you called him 'Harry' when you're with me. He is my godson." She said quietly, brushing the dust off of the couch before sitting down.
"Didn't you hear what I said? He's going to try and kill you. You embarassed him, mocked him, eluded him for years. You managed to trick one of the greatest wizards in history. Doesn't that mean anything?" Severus asked. Valroa shrugged.
"I guess it means I'd better watch my ass." she replied with a smile. Severus groaned and Valora gave a half-hearted chuckle."I don't know what you want me to say, Sev. I'm not surprised, and you shouldn't be either. We both knew this was going to happen. If anything I'm surprised he didn't come looking for me years ago, as soon as he came back."
"He thought you were dead, remember?" Severus said flatly. Valora rolled her eyes.
"How does he think he's going to do this? Will he come to kill me himself or send someone else to do it like the coward he is?"
"Don't speak like that." Severus snapped angrily, and Valora raised an eyebrow.
"He hasn't been able to kill me yet, Severus. He may be one of the greatest wizards ever, but he's a crap hunter. That's why he has people like you and Malfoy to find these things for him. Besides that I'm sorry if I just can't seem to muster that much respect for a murderer." She said angrily. turning herself to face away from him. Severus knelt down in front of her, putting a hand to the side of her face and making her look at him.
"I don't even want to think about him getting his hands on you." He said quietly, his voice thick. Valora looked down at him and smiled.
"He won't, I promise. Harry is the one we should be worrying about. Barely anyone besides the Order remembers Valora Nox, but everyone and their Gran knows about 'the boy who lived'. He's the one that needs protecting." She said gently. Severus looked at her carefully for a moment before speaking.
"Do you think maybe you should tell him who you are?" Severus asked softly, knowing what her reaction would be. Valora's eyes blazed and she stared at him for a moment before going off.
"You were to one who made me afraid to tell him in the first place! Now it's alright?! Now that there's a price on my head and I really have become the most dangerous person to be around you want me to start a family reunion? Are you insane?" She yelled, pushing him back so she could walk angrily out of the room and into the yard, Severus followed after her.
"That's just it though. You'll be keeping each other safe. The Dark Lord doesn't think you would put yourself within twenty feet of Potter outside Hogwarts, for his own protection. And besides that, I think with all this going on you need each other." He explained delicately. Valora stared off into the distant hills. When she was younger she had dreamt of just dissapearing into those hills, running away from everything, now they seemed like a faraway prison she had escaped from and would never return to.
"I don't think it would change anything." she said quietly, wrapping her arms around herself. Severus came up and placed his hands on her waist.
"I see the way you look at him when he passes by you. It's like you've lost everything all over again. The fact that he's angry with you is killing you."
"How can I tell him who I am without explaining about you, and my years as a Deatheater? He wouldn't be able to understand, and even if he did he could tell Sirius and then where would I be? Where would we be?" she asked leaning back against him. Severus tightened his grip on her.
"You and I both know you are a master of dancing around the truth. You could easily tell him who you are while holding back some information, and in time maybe he could know it." Severus glanced up at the sun which was rising higher in the sky. Valora followed his gaze and squinted in the bright light.
"I should probably be getting back." She said and in the next instant Severus had apparated them back to their spot in the park, his arms still secured around her. She turned and smiled up at him, kissing him tenderly while disentangling herself.
"I'll see you in a few days, love." she said, going to leave, when Severus grabbed her hand.
"I don't want you going anywhere alone from now on." He said sternly. Valora nodded.
"Fair point, but it's just around the corner, I'm sure I'll be fine." She said with a smile, but Severus didn't let go of her hand.
"Did you want me to walk you back?" He asked, sincerely and Valora's smiled widened at his earnest expression.
"How exactly would we explain that one?" She asked, Severus shrugged and released her hand.
"I love you, I'll see you soon." she said.
"Be careful. I love you too." He said before apparating away. Valora wrapped her light grey sweater tighter to block out the chilly December wind and ran back to Grimmauld place.
She walked in and was immediatley met by Sirius who was sitting in front of the fireplace in the parlor. He looked up at her windbitten face and raised an eyebrow.
"Where in Merlin did you run off to?" he asked. Valora shrugged.
"Went for a walk to clear my head." she said, taking the vacant seat beside him. Delicious smells came wafting in from the kitchen.
"I take it Molly already started dinner?" she asked, stretching her fingers close to the flames in attempt to rid them of the cold.
"Well, it is Christmas Eve and there are alot of people to cook for." Sirius said quietly watching her muscles relax in the considerably warmer environment. Severus was right and she knew it. Valora chewed on her lip as she stared into the dancing flames. Maybe she could have both. She could keep her secrets and her godson. It would be difficult but she had spent her whole life avoiding honesty, perhaps that would come in handy. If anything she knew she wouldn't survive much longer without telling Harry who she was. Despite getting Severus back the guilt was still eating her up.
"Is everyone in the kitchen?" She asked suddenly.
"Except fot the kids, they're upstairs."
"Perfect. Come with me." She said, standing and offering a hand to Sirius to pull him up. He groaned as he came to his feet and Valora laughed.
"You're such an old man." She joked, before walking into the kitchen with Sirius right behind her. In the kicthen sat Arthur, Bill, Fleur, Remus, and Tonks while Molly fussed over the various pots and pans.
"I have something to say to you all." Valora said firmly. Molly stopped stirring and put a hand on her hip while the others all looked up at her. Sirius slipped his hand into hers and squeezed it gently.
"I'm going to tell Harry who I am before we all go back to school, but I don't want anybody else interfering. What I choose to tell him about my past is my business. I won't be telling him where I've been for the past sixteen years and I won't be telling any of you either. I'm back for good now and if you can't be around me without knowing the truth I suggest you leave, because none of you have any rights to my past." she said. Molly gave a small smile and nodded but said nothing.
"It's your choice, Valora." Arthur said quietly. Remus looked at her and shrugged and she shrugged back. Tonks sat quietly, not looking at anyone. Sirius suddenly dragged Valora out of the room and into his study, closing the door tightly behind them.
"What?" she asked as he turned to look at her.
"How are you going to explain why you've waited so long to tell him? And what's all this bullshit about how you're never telling anyone where you've been?"
"Not even me?" He asked, his voice heavy with sadness. Valora bit the inside of her cheek and looked at the cieling to avoid meeting his eyes.
"I don't know how I'm going to explain it to Harry. I'll tell him what I can. Shouldn't you just be happy that I'm telling him at all?" She asked, annoyed. Wasn't this what he had been bugging her to do for months? Now she was doing it and he acted like it wasn't important. What did these people want from her?
"I am. I'll be happier when I actually see you doing it though. How long will that take?" He asked.
"I'll tell him before we get on the train back to school."
"Excuse me?" She asked with wide eyes. Sirius shuffled his feet nervously.
"I need you to promise me that you're going to tell him."
"You don't trust me now?" she asked coldly. Sirius didn't respond and Valora laughed bitterly. "Fine, I promise to tell him before we board the damn train. Are you happy now?" she asked, going to step around him. Sirius caught her around the waist.
"Don't be angry."
"Why the hell not? You're all acting like I've betrayed you. I haven't done anything. What happened had nothing to do with any of you, and it's nobody's business but my own."
"We all care about you. Don't be stupid and think that everyone's your enemy. They're just looking out for Harry. They were the same way with me for a while, 'Lora. Imagine how it was when I first came back. They thought I'd killed Lily and James. Harry hated me more than anyone. Now look at us, an almost proper family. All we need is you, when your ready to come home."
"Home?" she asked with a raised eyebrow.
"Me and Harry are your family, Pardus. We want you home." Sirius said quietly. Valora manuevered herself so she was hugging him.
"I'll tell him soon." she whispered. Sirius smiled and held her tightly.
"Happy Christmas, Lora."
"Happy Christmas, Sirius."
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