Darkness had fallen over Grimmauld place. Quiet has fallen over the house, for the most part. The second floor hallway is quiet, thanks to noise deadening spells that muffled the normal night noises of the house. The one on Ron’s door had been calibrated to account for his snoring, so the rest of the floor is peacefully at rest. In the nursery, moonlight illuminates a peaceful scene. Teddy sleeps quietly in his cot, his hair Hermione’s. On the divan, Harry and Hermione rest peacefully, her head in his lap and his arm around her shoulders. Kreacher crouches on the floor watching the sleeping Teddy, waiting for something. Pricking up his ears, listening to something no one else could hear, he nods and glances up at the mirror over the cot. The mirror begins to glow with a soft silver light, as if roiling silver clouds were on the other side of it. Watchng the mirror, your gaze is drawn towards the mirror, passing through, a shrouded landscape surrounds. No sense of direction or distance applied, but voices in the mist draw you on.
“Padfoot, are you certain you should do this?”
“Prongs, how many times are we going to talk this through? I’m the only one who ended up here with a body; I can go back to the borderlands and talk to them while they dream as long as they’re in the house.”
“They’re so happy, should we interfere?”
“Lily, of course they’re happy. But they still need to know about the prophecy. You know how both of them are; they’ll want to know so they can plan.”
“You mean so she can plan.”
“Sev, Harry has plans, you have to admit that.”
“Enough of this bickering, do we have another choice?”
“Wormy’s on the other side.”
“Moony, you know no one has seen him. He’s hiding out in Malfoy Manor. Besides, neither one of them would trust him. Would you trust Peter if he showed up as a ghost and started telling you that you had to make a choice about Nymphadora?”
“I told you, it’s ‘Tonks’. Call me that one more time James and I’ll hex you.”
“Prongs, I never said that Wormy was a good idea, you asked if there were any other options. And please, if you won’t call her Tonks, at least try for Dora.” A few seconds of silence, then. “Mad Eye should be on their side.”
“In more ways than one, but no one’s seen hide nor hair of him since Harry’s rescue. He’s not here, but if he stayed behind, you’d think someone would have heard something. He’d never pass up a chance to haunt every Death Eater he ever suspected.”
“Just a thought, and it sounds as if you’re right.”
“Is Albus certain about the prophecy?”
“As certain as he ever is about this sort of thing.”
“Why can’t I know the specifics of the prophecy?”
“Padfoot, for the twentieth time, it’s because everyone here, even you, knows that you’ll tell them if you know.”
“Is He really coming back?”
“Once he gets out of Azkaban, Lucius and his leftover Death Eaters will try to bring Slytherin back.”
“If we keep him locked up forever, then we won’t have to interfere with them. Look at them James, they’re so good together. I’ve been waiting since they rescued Padfoot to figure out how they felt about each other.”
“Lily, no one stays locked up forever. And if he did, someone else would just take his place and then the whole prophecy would be out the door. At least, this way, Draco is supposed to help the four of them stop it.”
“How are they supposed to stop it if they don’t know what they’re doing?”
“Albus says that the prophecy indicates they will successfully oppose it if the four of them are working together. What’s the chance of that if those two run off together? Miss Weasley is known to hold a grudge.
“Severus, she’s more like Molly than anyone wants to admit, I’d say the chances are naught.”
“Thank you, James.”
“Don’t cry Lils, they’ll be together eventually.”
“Padfoot, I told you not to call me that. I’m his mother, I can cry if I want. You’re going to break their hearts.”
“Padfoot, just go. Right or wrong, if we don’t do anything, Teddy will draw them together enough that they’ll realize how they really feel. Ginny’s already starting to see it.”
“Are you sure Dora? They’d be wonderful parents for Teddy.”
“They’ll still be his godparents. If Mum does most of the day to day raising, they can still make certain he’s loved by everyone involved.”
“Right then, I’m off. Someone wish me luck.”
“Try not to screw this up Sirius.”
“Thanks for the vote of confidence Severus. Did you ever consider a career as a motivational speaker?”
“Sorry Albus, didn’t see you come in, Padfoot was just leaving.”
“Tell Miss Granger I’m dreadfully sorry, but I’m afraid she’s going to have to be very annoyed with me for many more years until this sorts itself out.”
“She’s so going to have your portraits transported to Azkaban.”
“The price one pays for doing the right thing.”
The bounding silhouette of an immense dog streaks through the silvery mist towards the glowing rectangle of light that is the reverse side of the mirror. Pausing for a second, it seems as if the shadowy dog peers through the glass, shakes its head and then gathers itself. Leaping through the light, it disappears and only the silvery mist is left, trackless as before.
Looking around, Sirius marveled at the changes in his old house. While not really there, the presence of his soul and attached body in that area called the borderlands allowed him to interact with the material world in limited locals. Gazing fondly at the sleeping teens on the couch, he shook his head. “I should have seen this coming. She’s so much like Lily it’s scary.”
“Master Sirius has returned, I see.” Jumping at the bullfrog voice of Kreacher, Sirius whirled around to face the house elf.
“I should have known that you would be able to see me, Kreacher.” Looking embarrassed, Sirius studied the elf carefully. “Kreacher, I’m very glad that you’ve served Harry and his friends as well as you have. I was wrong about you, and I was wrong to treat you the way I did.” Looking over his shoulder and nodding towards the sleeping Hermione, he smiled. “I’ll tell that one that she’s right about house elves and I was very wrong,” Turning back to face Kreacher, he knelt down and extended his hand to the elf. “Regulus is well and he speaks of your admirable service. I thank you for helping my brother to redeem himself and affirm that your service is a credit to the House of Black.”
“Tell Master Regulus that Kreacher honors his memory.” Touching the locket that hung from a goblin silver chain around his neck, he bowed. “But I think that this is ill done, interfering with the young master and his companion, regardless of the motivation. They have both suffered much and are finding their true happiness with each other, thanks to the youngest Black.” Gazing fondly at the sleeping Teddy, Kreacher placed a gentle hand on the infant’s back. “No one will listen to Kreacher on this.”
Shaking his head, Sirius stood and watched the elf. “Kreacher, if it’s any consolation, I don’t like this any more than you do. There’s a prophecy and if these two pair off, bad things will happen. My job is to influence their dreams so they remain friends, even though we all think it’s wrong.”
“The old one is convinced that this will bring about happiness for these two?” Looking at him curiously, Kreacher moved to stand between Sirius and the sleeping pair.
“Yes, Albus is certain that this will bring about a chance for the four of them to prevent the return of Salazar Slytherin.” Shaking his head, he frowned. “I’m sorry Harry, but it looks as if you’re going to have to be the one who shoulders the weight of the world once again. Blame Trelawney I suppose.”
“Why not blame Albus Dumbledore, since he isn’t being totally candid with Harry once again?”
Sirius whirled around and faced an incredibly beautiful woman sitting in the rocking chair behind him. Dressed in a fashion that was out of date a thousand years ago, there was something slightly alien about her as she sat in the moonlight gazing at him in an appraising manner. Kreacher was shaking his head and side stepping so that he was between both of the newcomers and the sleepers.
“Bloody hell, who are you?” Looking closely, he could see that while she was casting a shadow in the room, she seemed more substantial to him that the things in the room, which meant she existed in the borderlands where he currently resided.
Smiling she looked over at Kreacher. “Kreacher, I’m not going to harm your precious charges. Unlike some, I’m going to insure that they are afforded a choice.” Looking back at Sirius, she inclined her head. “You can call me Maeve, and I’m here on behalf of my own.” Nodding towards Hermione, she smiled. “I won’t see that one hurt blindly again. Your meddling old fool almost cost Hermione her life with his plans and plots. If she’s going to be hurt, then she’s going to go into it with her eyes wide open and willingly.” Nodding at Harry, she smiled. “Since he’s her chosen, my protections will extend to him as well.”
“He’s my godson; do you think this is easy for me?” Looking at the two sleeping peacefully, he shook his head. “But a name doesn’t answer my question, although it was very impolitely framed. Mistress Maeve, who are you and what is your interest in this?”
Chuckling in a low voice that sent chills up Sirius’ spine, she smiled. “I am Maeve, Queen of the Sidhe and Mistress of the Twilight Lands, where you currently stand.” Nodding towards Hermione she smiled gently. “And my interest is redeeming my word to that one. She doesn’t know it, but she has claim of kith and kin with the People Below the Hills and I’ll not see her hurt blindly.” Looking back up at him, she pushed her hair back behind her ears, and Sirius could see the subtle points that crowned her upswept ears.
“What makes you say that Albus isn’t being candid with them?” Arching an eyebrow at her, he smiled. “There’s a prophecy and he’s fairly certain that this is the best path to take to skirt all of the dangers it presents.”
Laughing, a sound that was reminiscent of tinkling bells, she gazed at him fondly. “A prophecy, aye there’s a prophecy. There’s always a prophecy. I’m surprised that humankind can select whether to have rashers or bangers for breakfast without running afoul of some prophecy.” Reaching into her robe, she pulled out a crystal globe that glowed eerily in the light. “Catch.” Tossing the globe to him, she laughed again as Sirius juggled for a second before he caught it securely. The globe had a label attached to it. Written in a spidery script the label read;
‘SPT to MMM and APWBD(d)
Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley, Ginevra Weasley, Salazar Slytherin, unknown wizard (Lucius or Draco Malfoy?), and unknown witch (?)
12 May, 1998’
“Would that be your prophecy?”
“This is supposed to be in the Department of Mysteries. They must be going mad trying to find it.”
“Indeed. In fact they considered the fact that your godson and his friends broke into the Hall of Prophecy once before until Arthur was able to account for their presence during the time I liberated this trinket.” Laughing at the look on Sirius’ face, the sound of her laugh reminded him of delicate crystal chiming in the morning sun.
“How were you able to liberate this? Prophecies can only be retrieved by the individuals name.” Watching her closely, Sirius noticed a strange look flashed across the exotic beauty’s face.
Smiling, she shrugged. “Did Dumbledore tell you what was in the prophecy?”
Looking abashed, he glanced down at the globe. “No, he didn’t. He said that prophecy was worded in such a way that it could impact on these two and invalidate itself if they knew some of the specifics.” Looking unsure of himself he glanced up at her. “Do you know what’s in here?”
Holding out her hand, she waited for him to return the globe. As their fingers brushed, a small shock ran through Sirius. Smiling at him, she returned the globe to her robes. “I do know what’s in there, and as far as he said, your Dumbledore is correct. But did he tell you what happens if they succeed?”
“Slytherin is prevented from coming back. End of story, bad guy is worm food.” Smiling, he waited for the other shoe to drop.
“There is that, but there’s something else. If they succeed, then two of the four will die.”
Shocked, Sirius shook his head. “Albus would never hide something like that.”
“And when did Harry find out he had to go willingly to his death to defeat Voldemort?”
Looking stricken, Sirius stared at her. “You can’t be serious?”
“Actually, you’re Sirius, I’m Maeve.” Grinning at the expression on his face, she shrugged. “If they succeed, then some time will pass while their surviving enemy regroups. If the enemy moves early, then the two youngest Weasleys will perish when she moves against them. If their enemy waits then your godson will lose his two oldest friends in one stroke. What do you think that will do to him if he has to watch her die because someone wants revenge on him? How long will he survive with that guilt?” Sighing, she shook her head. “They can’t know everything, but the will know something. That’s why I’m going to insist that they’re going to have a choice, and that they know what they’re giving up.” Standing, she walked over to the divan and took Sirius’ hand.
“Look carefully at them.” With the touch of Maeve’s hand, the image of the two subtly changed. Sirius could see a subtle glow to them and from both of them he could see a conduit of energy that passed out of the room while another returned to them. “You can see at the heart level, you can see their love for the other two and the love that is returned to them. They’re truly in love with those two, and neither will suffer loneliness or heartache for this choice.” Squeezing his hand tighter, he could feel a subtle exchange between the two of them. “Now look deeper, past their hearts and down to their souls.” Sirius stared at the two, and it seemed his perception began to sink through them. The external forms of Harry and Hermione began to waver, and he could see the essence that made up both of them. At that level, the two weren’t joined so much as they were mingled. He couldn’t tell where one began and the other left off. The two fed off each other, reinforcing the weak points in the other while accepting the same. “Soul bound, one to another. Freely chosen, though they’ve both set aside their external feelings for the sake of duty and commitments. They’ve gone and fallen in love with others, but the bonds that connect them are still there.” Looking Sirius in the eye, she could see the concern and affection he had for the sleeping boy. “They will have a choice and they will know what they’re choosing.”
Nodding, Sirius turned his head. “I don’t think Albus knows how much these two love each other. I just wish I thought it would matter to him if he did.” Sighing, thinking about the explanations he was going to have to give when he got back for not following through with Albus’ hidden plan, he shook his head and smiled. “This way I don’t have to explain to James and Lily why I rerouted the kids’ lives without their knowing about it. What do we need to do to give them your choice?”
“The lands of dreams lie alongside the Twilight Lands where the elves dwell. This is why mortals sometime cross over to us in their dreams. I can direct them there, but since they’re both so stubborn, we’ll have to get them to shed the limitations their hearts and minds have put on them. When wizards cast a patronus, it touches on their very soul. If they cast it in a dream in the Twilight…”
“Their souls will be released. And I know just what we need to do to get them to do that.”
Crashing through the night, Harry and Hermione running through an unfamiliar forest. They could hear the sounds of pursuit in the distance. Stumbling into a clearing, the moon shown down bright and glorious as they stopped to catch their breath.
“Harry, what in Merlin’s name have you drug me into?” Smiling, Hermione grabbed Harry’s hand as they looked around the clearing. Centered in the clearing was an ancient stone plinth.
“Funny, I was just about to ask you the same thing. This doesn’t look like any of my nightmares.” Looking around, he shook his head. “And I usually don’t realize that I’m dreaming either.”
Shaking her head, Hermione stared up at the sky. “Mine are usually Malfoy Manor, the Department of Mysteries or the Great Hall.” Blushing, she shook her head. “Harry, I don’t think this is just a dream.” Waves of despair and anguish reached them.
A tall, gaunt robed figure slowly came into view. Gliding into the clearing, the pair could feel the telltale draining of happiness as the dementor approached. Looking over his shoulder, Harry could see another approaching from the other side. “Back to back, wands ready.” he whispered.
Facing the two threats, their free hands clasped, they readied their wands. “Patronuses?”
“Works every time.” Grinning, she thought for a second. “Let’s try to see what happens if we use the same happy thought. The day we met?”
“That always works for me. On three?”
“Expecto Patronem!” Two voices rang out in unison, and silvery wisps started to explode from their wands. Instead of coalescing into their beloved patronuses, the wisps curled back and began to envelop the pair. A curious sense of disorientation followed and suddenly Hermione found herself much closer to the ground then she had been. Standing up on her hind legs (!?) she looked down and saw the lower body of her otter gleaming in the night. “Harry, we’re in trouble now”
“’Mione where are Prongs and Starlight?” Harry’s voice sounded panicked, although the dementors were keeping their distance.
“Who? Who’s Starlight?”
“Your patronus.” Sounding embarrassed, he continued. “That’s how I always think of her.”
Sighing, she smiled. “Harry, leave it to you to name my patronus. However, the answer to your question is we’ve become our patronuses. Look down at your feet, all four of them.”
“Merlin. How’d that happen?”
“We’ll figure that out later, love. Right now we need to get out of here.” Concentrating, Hermione leapt into the air, did a spin around Harry’s antlered head and landed on his back. “Ok Prongs, you run and I’ll steer.” Seeing a flash of light in the distance, she grabbed his antlers and gently turned his head in the proper direction. “Run towards that light, the dementors won’t stop us and I’m certain whatever is chasing us isn’t as fast as you are.”
Nodding his head, and shaking Hermione as she held on for dear life, Harry began running in the direction she indicated. “Stop nodding your bloody head. You might be a stag, but you can talk.”
“Sorry about that. Any thoughts as to why this happened to us?” Harry’s running settled down to a series of graceful leaps and bounds as he stopped thinking about running and just allowed himself to do it. “I like it, but I’m not looking forward to spending the rest of our lives like this.”
“I’m working on it, but this isn’t some Marauders-worthy prank we’re pulling here.” Tilting her head to the side, she listened. “Those don’t sound like werewolves behind us; I think we’re being chased by real wolves.”
“”Mione dear, is that a good thing or a bad thing?”
“I take it the Dursley’s never let you watch those nature specials on the Beeb, growing up.”
“Are you kidding? If it didn’t involve exploding aliens or really bad variety shows, it didn’t play at the house.”
“Well, one of the reasons there are so few wolves in Britain anymore is because they kept killing off the deer population.” She replied dryly.
“Got it, bad thing. Too bad Hagrid never covered this kind of stuff in class.”
“He did talk about those wolves that breathe out freezing masses of ice crystals from Norway.”
“Are any those following us?”
“Haven’t a clue.”
“Fine, I’ll just worry about the normal wolves that can eat me, not the ones that can turn me into a frozen pot roast.”
“At least you get to be pot roast; all I am is a quick snack.” Looking carefully, Hermione noticed the gleam of right was off to their right. “Veer right, we’re off track.”
“I can see it now” Switching his heading, Harry started moving towards the light. “Any ideas on what we’re going to do when we get there?”
“Figure out how to use it to our advantage. What we always do.” Trying to sound reassuring, Hermione was desperately trying to think of a plan.
“Worst case scenario?” Sounding grim, Harry gracefully leaped over the brush as they wound their way through the ancient forest.
“We find a place where we can turn to face them with something at our backs. You stab them with the sharp pointy things that are so conveniently placed on your head while I play cheerleader and chant ‘Go, Harry, Go.”
Sighing, Harry thought for a second. “You can fly, love. What say you get the heck out of here and I run like the wind and lead the bad guys on a merry chase until sunrise?”
“Not a chance, Harry. We’re in this together. I’m not leaving you alone here. This is why we need your brilliant idea.”
“Working on one. When we got transfigured into our patronuses, what happened to our wands?”
Silence reigned for several seconds. “When you looked down at your feet, did you see them lying on the ground?”
“Nope, and I think I would have noticed that. Does that mean we still have them?”
“Harry, I knew that I loved you for more than just your Quidditch muscles.” Doing a graceful backflip, Hermione was now facing back the way they had come. Spying a rock lying beside the path, she silently levitated it up and sent it hurtling off into the brush behind them where it crashed with a resounding thud. “We’re back in business, we’ve got magic.”
“We’ve also got a glowing circle on a rock wall coming up. I thought you were driving?”
Flipping around, she landed on Harry’s head, clutching his antlers with her forepaws. Directly ahead, and getting closer with each bound, was a glowing circle with a larger rectangle imposed upon it. Around the border there was an inscription.
“Harry, you’ve got the better eyes right now. What does the inscription say?” Feeling that the oncoming pattern looked familiar, she strained her eyes to see.
“Must be the orchestra entrance, it’s the name of a musical instrument written all the way around that glowing circle.” Shaking his head, he almost threw her off.
“Stop that Harry; I’m getting carsick, or deersick. Which instrument?”
“It says ‘Viola’.”
Laughing, Hermione pumped her forepaw in the air. “Run straight for the circle and jump through it when I say the password.”
“Password? Have finally gone mental on me? It’s going to hurt when we hit that wall.”
“Do you trust me, Harry?”
“Of course, you know I do.”
The wall loomed before them, and they were aiming directly for it. “Harry, if you love me, jump on three.”
“One” The wall was coming closer
“Two” The sounds of the wolves were getting closer.
Harry’s leap carried them through the center of the glowing circle, which flared briefly and then faded as the sounds of the wolves behind them fell silent.
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