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Love, Not War by Yoshi_Kitten
Chapter 9 : A Drop of Veritaserum
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 13


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It was late afternoon on the next day when Minerva arrived back to the Burrow for Saleena's questioning. The Healer, however, got behind at work and was therefore running a few minutes late.

Harry, Ron and Hermione decided to take advantage of Mcgonagall's moment of downtime to discuss the issue between Voldemort and the Gypsies with her. This current problem was, after all, the very reason that the Trio had come home. Minerva had brought several books back with her, at Hermione's request. She opened it straight away and began reading out loud:

“The book says that: a Gypsy is a common name for a witch with exceptional magical powers. All known gypsies are female, as they are strictly a matriarchal society. Gypsy children who are born male are often cast out, or are made to become servants of the clan. A Gypsy can be easily identified, as she does not require the use of a wand to perform magic. As of today, there is only one known Gypsy clan in all of London, though it's current whereabouts are still unknown. Anyone with any knowledge of this, as always, is encouraged to contact the Ministry at once.”
 
“Yes, because a warning in some old book is going to make me go out of my way to assist the Ministry,” Ron laughed.

Hermione just rolled her eyes at him and continued reading. Gypsies are known to have abnormally long life-spans, ranging from two to three times the length of most wizards. Common superstitions say that Gypsies are evil and will therefore bring you bad luck. During the witch-hunts in the late 1600’s, it was the Gypsies who gave the magical community away to the muggles. They were stubborn and proud, and refused to hide who and what they were. This caused a war between normal witches and wizards and the Gypsies. The feud between them lasted for over fifty years before the early Ministry of Magic finally discovered their primary weakness; a rare metal known as Zirconium. Once this discovery was made, wizards were finally able to drive them back and -”

“- Yes, we already know about the Gypsy wars, Hermione,” Ron cut in again. “Can't you just skip ahead to the good part already?”

Hermione sighed and traced her finger down a few paragraphs. At the end of the Gypsy Wars, however, they were still unwilling to follow the statutes of secrecy. Therefore, the Ministry declared them to be unstable and dangerous, and all persons know to be of Gypsy heritage were banned from wizarding society. It was because of this act that the Gypsies then went into hiding and began to form what they call Clans. Upon the formation of the very first clan, the Gypsies chose their strongest and most powerful leader to become their first Queen. All that is known about her to this day is that she calls herself Queen Carla, and she was elected as their leader some three-hundred years ago.”

“But what does any of this have to do with why Voldemort is wanting to find them?” Harry asked.

“If you two would just let me finish this page,” Hermione snapped irritably, “then perhaps we might find out.” Harry then apologized and encouraged her to go on. Hermione shook her hair out of her eyes and continued.

“Anyways, next it says that: 'Because of their longer lifespans, Gypsy leaders; also known at the Clan Queen, traditionally skip a generation. It is customary for the queen's second descendant to become the next-in-line so that she may begin her training at a younger age. It is said that the Gypsies born into the Queen's bloodline often poses extraordinary talents and abilities. They can be telepathic mind readers, have natural healing abilities without needing the aid of medicinal herbs or potions, then can accurately see into the future at will, and some can even control the weather and other forces of nature; although that particular talent is extremely rare. The Gypsies often refer to these special abilities as “The Gifts”. Only a Gypsy bearing one of the gifts can become Queen, and if she studies and harnesses her special gift, eventually, in time, she will master it.”

Hermione stopped reading and they all considered what they had just heard. At last, McGonagall was the first to speak. “If the rumors are true, then that would certainly explain why Voldemort is trying to find the only known Gypsy Clan.”

Ron furrowed his brow, trying to figure out how she had arrived at that conclusion. “How so, professor?”

“Well, if this leader of theirs has been in power for over three-hundred years now, then I imagine that she is quite old. It is possible that this Queen Carla is getting ready to die; which means that her granddaughter is probably preparing to take over the clan now,” McGonagall explained. “Whoever this new girl is, she is likely to be inexperienced and, therefore, vulnerable. So if Voldemort can get to her and control her, then he will inevitably be able to control the entire clan.”

“Which would not be good at all!” Hermione exclaimed. “These Gypsies seem to be extremely powerful, and I for one would not want to have to face one in battle.”

“Right you are, as always, Miss. Granger,” McGonagall complimented.

“Well, I'm not afraid of no girl,” Ron said enthusiastically. In a flash, Hermione whipped out her wand and aimed it at him. Ron yelped in fear.

“You were saying?” Hermione stated.

“Well, that is, except for you dear,” Ron laughed nervously. “Now could you please aim that thing somewhere else?”

Hermione glared at him before lowering her wand. “You should fear them Ronald,” she said threateningly. “They are exceptional thinkers and they can move extremely fast. They don’t need wands to use magic, so it’s difficult to predict what their next move is going to be. And if you’re battling one that can read minds, you might as well not even try. If Voldemort gains control of an entire Gypsy Clan…” Hermione trailed off, shaking her head.

“Why would the Gypsies want to join Voldemort in the first place though?” Harry asked. “I mean, if they're a society of all women, then that doesn't exactly make much sense.”

“Probably because they could then come out of hiding, with Voldemort's help,” McGonagall assumed. “He would be certain to offer them the various freedoms that the Ministry has been denying them for all these years.”

“It’s always the same story with the Ministry, isn't it?” said Ron. “They’re nothing but a bunch of prejudice cowards, who put restrictions on everyone and everything that they feel may have the power to overrule them.”

Hermione shook her head in disgust. “You know, maybe if they didn’t have to stay hidden all the time, and perhaps if Scrimgeour would consider allowing the Gypsies back into society; then maybe, just maybe, we wouldn’t have this problem. But, of course, we all know that he will never allow that to happen. Which, of course, means that now we will have to try to find them before Voldemort does.”

Ron smiled at Hermione. She was so passionate about equal rights and he loved watching her get all worked up about it. She noticed him smiling and frowned at him. “This is not funny Ronald!” she exclaimed.

“No, I know it’s not,” he said quickly. “That’s not why I was smiling anyways.”

“Good,” Hermione said shortly.

Harry was beginning to question whether giving the locket to Hermione was such a good idea. He decided it would be best to deflect the conversation in another direction. “So you mean to say that you really did not know anything about this, professor?” Harry asked, turning back to face McGonagall again.

“I can assure you, Harry,” she confirmed, “that I have had no idea whatsoever of Voldemort’s current plannings. He is getting all the more difficult to figure out these days.”

“But that’s only because he knows we’re onto him,” Harry assured her.

“Yes, but for us not to have known anything about this situation is ridiculous!” McGonagall exclaimed. “That is a rather major bit of information, and we just-so-happened to overlook it? I am convinced that this is no coincidence. I just wish that I could pinpoint exactly how Voldemort always seems to know what we are up to, and yet we cannot ever seem to figure out what he's got going on. Somewhere along the lines, we are either being spied on, lied to, or both; and I cannot stand not knowing who is behind it all.”

“Don’t worry, professor,” Hermione said. “Whoever it is, I’m sure you'll catch them sooner or later. No one can avoid detection forever, not even the best spies.”

At that moment Saleena walked into the living room, and the conversation subsided. “Sorry if I’m interrupting anything,” she said. “I can leave now and come back later if you’d like.”

“No, that’s quite alright,” McGonagall asserted. “The three of the were just about to leave. We can pick up this conversation up again later.” Harry nodded in agreement and got up off the couch to leave. Ron and Hermione followed. “I’ll contact you three again once I’ve have finished here. I need to speak with you all before you leave again.” Harry nodded again and the trio left to go upstairs to Ron’s room and wait.

“Please have a seat, Saleena” Minerva instructed in her business-like manner once they were gone. Saleena took the chair directly across from her as Minerva pulled a small bottle out from the pocket of her robes. She gently popped the cork off and handed it across to Saleena, who reluctantly reached out and took it from her. “Now please use this sparingly, as it is all I have left for right now. A single drop will suffice, as this interview should not take very long.”

Saleena held the vial in her hand. For a moment, she just stared at it, then finally she looked back up at McGonagall. “We are still in agreement that my family is to be left out of this discussion, correct?” she asked.

McGonagall studied her for a moment. For Saleena to make this request only raised more questions in her mind, but she knew she would not get the girl to cooperate otherwise. “That is correct,” she gave in with a sigh.

Saleena silently did as she was told then, using only a single drop of the Veritaserum. It tingled her tongue as she swallowed it. She then handed the bottle back to McGonagall and waited.

“I have only got a few questions to ask of you,” McGonagall began. “The first is this; are you a spy from either the Ministry or Voldemort?”

“No,” Saleena answered. “I told you yesterday that I am not.”

“At which point I also told you that I needed to be one-hundred percent certain,” she reminded her. “Moving on then, do you currently, or have you ever worked for the Dark Lord?”

“NO,” Saleena practically yelled. “And I'm not a Death Eater, if that's what you were planning to ask next.”

“Do you agree with any of his teachings?”

“None.”

“And what about Lucius Malfoy?” she asked. “He is a Death Eater after all. Are you working for him?”

“No,” Saleena assured her. “Again, like I've already told you; Lucius and I’s relationship has always been strictly business. I take care of their son whenever he gets sick, that is all.”

“Have you ever had relations with any other know Death Eaters?”

“No, I have not. I do not make it a point to associate myself with those types of people.
 
“So then,” McGonagall continued. “If we were to have a private meeting, can you assure me that you will not go back and tell Lucius Malfoy anything that is discussed?”

“No. I’ve told you that I am NOT a spy!” exclaimed Saleena. “Why would you even ask that?”

“Because, Saleena, secrecy is of the utmost importance here,” she answered. “And before I can allow you to join the Order, I have to know that you can be trusted well enough to keep our secrets. You can keep a secret, right?”

“Yes, I can most definitely keep a secret,” Saleena said fiercely. ‘Seeing how as I’m already keeping the biggest secret of my entire life from the rest of the world,’ she added, thinking only to herself.

“Good.” Minerva nodded in approval. “Moving on then, I understand that you were also associated with former Order member Sirius Black. Were you aware that he was a part of this organization?”

“Yes,” Saleena answered. “Sirius was actually the first person to tell me about the Order of the Phoenix, back when the first war with Voldemort got started.”

“And how well did you know Sirius?”

Saleena shifted in her seat uncomfortably. She did not like discussing her past with anybody, especially not when it pertained to her feelings for Sirius Black. “I guess you could say that we knew each other rather well,” she finally answered. “We met when I was five years old, and he was six. My mother and father moved in next door to the Blacks, you see, and Sirius and I hit it off right away as children. We grew up together, and we were practically inseparable for five whole years. But then my parents got divorced, and I was taken to France to live with my dad at the age of ten. Meanwhile, Sirius went off to Hogwarts without me, and I started my studies at the Beauxbatons Academy of Magic a year later. Even then, we still remain close friends though.”

Saleena knew, right then and there, that the Veritaserum was working on her because she never would have said that to Minerva McGonagall otherwise. She was not comfortable with the direction the conversation had taken at all.

“And the two of you kept in touch through letters,” Minerva stated.

“Yes, that is correct,” Saleena nodded. “Although I am not sure how this is relevant.”

“I'm just making sure that I have all of your connections and affiliations straightened out,” McGonagall reassured her. “Now, I must ask you, how well can you work in a team? Here in the Order, our missions are often dangerous, and sometime you may have to trust your own life in the hands of someone else. Or, there may be a situation, where the lives of others are place in your hands. Can you handle the pressure that comes in times like that? Are you willing to make difficult decisions where life and death are concerned, should it ever come down to it?”

Saleena paused to consider this question for a moment. McGonagall was basically asking her if she would be willing to put her life on the line for the side of good to win this war. Was she willing to risk herself if it ever came down to it? “Yes,” she answered softly. “I can handle the pressure, and I would do whatever was necessary. You can count on me, Minerva, I promise you.”

Minerva seemed to be pleased by her answer. “Well then,” she said. “I guess there is only one more thing I need to know from you, Miss. Saleena. Why is it that you wish to join the Order of the Phoenix? Exactly what do you expect to contribute?”

“That’s easy,” Saleena smiled. “Because I want to help you win this war, in whatever ways I can. I hate Voldemort for all of the evil he has done, all the innocent lives he has taken, the pain he has caused for everyone. He must be stopped, no matter the cost. I feel that I can use my abilities to really help the Order. I am willing to be a benefit in whatever way I can. I may not be the best in a duel, but I can be ready to heal your injured immediately afterward. And I have access to the storage room at St. Mungo's, so I can easily obtain ingredients for just about any potion you could possibly want. I'm also fairly skilled at recovering people's memories, should a situation ever arise where you would need someone to remember something. I know how Voldemort likes to mess with people's minds, so I feel like that may be a good contribution as well.”

“And exactly how far are you willing to go for our cause?”

“As far as it takes.”

Minerva could not have been more pleased with Saleena’s answer. “Excellent answer,” she said. “I suppose that settles it then. Congratulations, Saleena, and welcome to the Order of the Phoenix.”

“That's it? Really?” Saleena could not believe that it was really that simple. “That seems a bit too easy. You mean to tell me that, after all the time I spent fretting over this meeting, that that was all you wanted to know?”

“Yes,” McGonagall answered, giving her a stern look. “That is, unless you feel that there is something else I should know. Anything you’d like to share?” Saleena bit her lower lip, hesitating for a moment, then shook her head no. “Then it’s settled then. Now that I know for a fact that you’re not in league with Voldemort or the Ministry, I feel that we can trust you.”

“Thank you,” Saleena said sincerely.

McGonagall nodded. “Well then, I suppose that now is as good a time as any to catch you up on what's been going on recently. As you are already aware from our previous conversation yesterday, it has just come to my attention that Voldemort is intending to induct an entire clan of Gypsies into his army. Harry, Ron, Hermione and myself were just discussing possible theories as to why this could be.” McGonagall continued speaking, taking no notice of the clearly distressed look in Saleena's eyes. “I am trying to gather as much information on the subject as I can. So I must ask you, Saleena, do you happen to know anything about Gypsies?”

Saleena gulped. There it was, the topic she had most wanted to avoid. “Yes,” she unwillingly replied. “I know a great deal about the Gypsies.”

“As do I,” McGonagall continued, paying no attention to Saleena’s reluctance. “There is only one known Gypsy clan in all of London, and it is my belief that their current leader is about to die. Based on what I've gathered so far, this seems to be the only conclusion that makes any sense. Therefore, is is my believe that Voldemort is after their next-in-line. I guess he figures that if he can get to her, he can eventually get to the entire clan. Would you happen to know anything about this?”

Saleena groaned as she felt the Veritaserum begin to take over again. She couldn’t stop herself from answering with a very quiet “Yes.”

This time, McGonagall did notice her behavior. “Saleena, what is wrong with you? Why are you resisting the serum? Are you hiding something from me?”

“Yes,” she squeaked unwillingly, in a small, humiliated voice. “And I would really rather not talk about this right now, please” she pleaded.

“Why, because right now you cannot lie to me?” Minerva deduced. “As a member of this Order, if you know anything in regards to our current situation, then you are obligated to share that knowledge with me. Therefore, I command you to tell me everything that you know about the Gypsy situation this instant.”

Saleena buried her face in her hands, her long hair concealing her face from Minerva’s view. This was a very difficult topic for her. She growled in frustration. “What exactly do you wish to know?”

“Has Voldemort really found the Gypsies?”

“Yes, he really has found them,” she said with a sigh. “And some of them have already agreed to join him, no matter what happens after their Clan Leader dies.”

Minerva wondered where she had gotten all of her information from, but she knew that the Veritaserum would be wearing off soon. So she continued to pressed Saleena for as much information as she could manage. “Well who is their next clan leader going to be?”

“They don’t know yet,” Saleena answered as vaguely as she could manage.

“So if they do not know themselves, then there is no way that Voldemort could know yet who she is,” McGonagall said in relief. “Very good. That means that we are safe for the moment. Tell me, Saleena, is there any chance you might know who their current Clan Leader is?”

“Yes, I know who she is,” Saleena said still giving vague answers.

“A name, Saleena. Do you know her name?”

Saleena gritted her teeth. “Yes, and it’s Caraleonna,” she said, thankful that the truth potion did not make her reveal the last name. “Though she prefers to be called Queen Carla.”

“She's the one I have heard about. It's interesting that she is still alive after all these years...” McGonagall was thinking to herself out loud, pondering what she had just learned. “I wonder how much time we have left until this Queen Carla dies?”

Saleena desperately wished that she could get up from her chair and run as far away from the room as possible. “Only about a month or two,” she answered said softly, still refusing to make eye contact with the headmistress.

Minerva gaped at Saleena in shock. She had been thinking aloud just then, so she never expected to actually receive an answer to that question. She eyed the woman across from her suspiciously. “Saleena how on earth could you possibly know all this?”

Saleena clapped a hand over her mouth to stop the answer from coming out. The only thing Minerva got was a muffled response.

“Saleena, please take your hand away from your mouth and look at me,” Minerva ordered. Saleena did as she was told and when she looked up, Minerva noticed that she had silently been crying to herself. “I am sorry if this is difficult for you. But, for the sake of the Order, I need to know where you are getting all of this information from. How is it that you know who their Clan Leader is and how long she has left to live?”

Saleena did her best to answer as vaguely as the Veritaserum would allow her to. “I know this because Caraleonna's daughter came into my office, a little over a week ago, and she told me everything.”

“Well who is her daughter, and why would she come to you with information on Caraleonna's state of health?”

Saleena wished she could just answer that it was because she was such a skilled healer. But the Veritaserum was still in her system, so she could not lie. She looked up and glared at McGonagall with pure hatred. In that moment, she hated the headmistress for forcing her to confess the biggest secret of her life. Hated the fact that there was nothing she could do now to hide it. She knew that the answer to this one little question would change her entire identity forever.

“Her daughter is Kireonna Blackwell,” Saleena spoke with reluctance. “She came to me because Queen Caraleonna Blackwell is my grandmother. I am the one who is next in line to become the Gypsies new Clan Leader. It's me, Minerva.”

“That’s not possible,” McGonagall gasped.

“Look, even if I were able to lie to you right now,” Saleena spat. “Do you honestly believe that I would just make something like that up?”

“And here I was thinking that we could actually trust you!” McGonagall exclaimed. “But now how can I, knowing that you're a Gypsy? This whole time you have been lying to my face. It's no wonder you did not wish to discuss your family and heritage. I should have known then that you were deceiving me, right from the start.”

“No, I am not a Gypsy,” Saleena retaliated. “I gave that part of myself up a long time ago. I chose to go and live with my father in France, rather than stay behind with my mother, because I wanted nothing to do with those Gypsies and their stupid laws. I practice none of their traditions, and I do not agree with any of their customs, so do not attempt to group my in with those creatures, Minerva.”

“Running away from your past doesn't mean you are no longer one of them, Saleena” McGonagall replied. “It is in your blood and, try as you might, you cannot deny it, nor can you change it. You are a Gypsy, just as much as Draco is Lucius Malfoy's son. No matter how many times he tries to deny it, it will never change the fact that Lucius truly is his father. The same applies with you,” she explained. “You may deny being one of them, but the truth is; you completely are, and you always will be a Gypsy by blood.”

“No, I’m not-”

McGonagall cut her off sharply. “Miss. Saleena, do you have a wand?”

“What? Yes, of coarse I have a wand!”

“Do you use it? And I mean really use it.”

Saleena put her head down in shame. She still couldn’t lie. “Yes, but only as a prop. It isn’t real.”

“I thought so.“ McGonagall nodded. “Now that my point has been proven, I rest my case. The only question left here is; what do I do with you now?”

“I-I don’t understand,” Saleena said slowly. “You’re still going to trust me?”

“I don't really see where I have any other choice,” Minerva confessed. “You have been nothing but honest with me, after all. And you being a Gypsy does not change the fact that we need your healing abilities, and I truly do think that you could still be an asset to the Order. However, now that everything is out in the open, I think we should both agree not to lie to one another from now on.”

Saleena nodded. “Yes, I agree. But please, can this information stay strictly between the two of us?”

“Yes,” Minerva agreed. “For now, I see no reason to make your position common knowledge to all other members. Your secret shall be safe with me for the time being.” Minerva was now trying her best to gain Saleena's trust. She was quite pleased to have beaten Voldemort to finding the Gypsies next-in-line, and she planned to recruit Saleena to their cause before he ever had a chance to get to her. This was a huge victory for the Order, but she did her best to contain her enthusiasm.

“Now that that's settled,” Minerva moved on, “and since we have both agreed not to lie to one another, I would like for you to tell me exactly what your gift is, Saleena.”

Saleena gave McGonagall a curious look. She wasn’t quite sure how to react to this. Sirius Black and the Malfoys were the only wand carriers to have ever learned of her secret. Sirius had been accepting of it from the beginning, as had Draco. Lucius Malfoy, however, had used this knowledge to exploit her into doing his bidding. So she had gotten mixed reactions in the past, but she never expected for Minerva McGonagall to be so seemingly okay with the discovery. The concept did not make very much sense to her at all.

“W-what do you mean, my gift?” Saleena finally asked, curious to figure out just how much Minerva knew before providing her with an answer.

“I may not be all that familiar with Gypsies, but I am no fool,” Minerva declared. “I know that most Gypsies are gifted, and that the ones who are chosen to be their leaders usually tend to be exceptionally gifted. So what are your special abilities, Saleena? What sets you apart from the rest?”

“Isn’t it obvious?” Saleena asked. “I am gifted in medicine. I see things whereas other Healers do not. Mixing herbs to create antidotes and such has always come more naturally to me. I’m also pretty good at reading people and knowing what they want or need, even when they cannot express if for themselves. And I...” here, Saleena hesitated.

“Go on,” McGonagall urged her.

Saleena swallowed past the lump in her throat and went on. “I-I can see into people's memories. Not their minds, but their memories. Whenever I touch someone, I can see whatever it is they may be remembering as if it were a memory of my own. The way it works is kind of like watching a movie, only I can never forget or unsee anything. I know I could be a lot stronger at it than what I am, but I never pursued my training for it as a girl.”


“I see,” said Minerva. “And when your mother visited you in your office last week, what did she want from you? If the two of you had not spoken in so long, I find it difficult to believe that she would come all that way for nothing.”

“She wanted me to go back with her and take up my place as their next Queen.” Saleena did not bother to hide the anger and contempt from her voice as she spoke. “Kireonna came to let me know what was going on with Caraleonna, and she offer me my rightful place as their leader. She said that if I wanted to, I could go back with her and finish my training, harness my powers, and master my abilities. I have no idea what on earth ever made her think that I would actually say yes to such a preposterous request, but-”

“And what will happen to them if you do not go back Saleena?”

“Well, mother said that the clan will have to elect a new leader, and our family name will lose all of it’s power,” she answered truthfully. “But none of that matters to me.”

“Who do you think they would be most likely to chose as their new leader?” Minerva continued the questioning.

“I think you already know the answer to that one,” Saleena mused.

“Voldemort,” McGonagall stated and Saleena nodded. “I was afraid of that. I guess now it looks like there is really only one way to stop him from getting the Gypsies to join him then.” Minerva was looking straight into Saleena's eyes as she spoke. “When I asked you how far you would be willing to go for our cause, you replied that you would do whatever it took. Did you honestly mean it when you said that?”

“Yes, I meant every word.” Saleena was beginning to get a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. Her mind was racing, trying to guess where Minerva was going with this.

“Saleena, I think I have an idea as to what your first assignment for the Order is going to be.”

Then suddenly, it clicked. Saleena stared at Minerva in horror as she realized where the conversation was headed. “Oh, no you don't,” she snapped, shaking her head fiercely. “Don't think for one second that I cannot see where this is going. I won't do it though, so you might as well not even bother to ask me!”

“How badly do you wish to be a part of the Order of the Phoenix, Miss. Saleena?”

“More that anything, but-”

“Then it is time for you to do your part,” Minerva interrupted her. “Every single member of this Order have all had to make sacrifices here, and you are no different. You said that you wanted to help make a difference in this war, and that you would be willing to help out wherever you could. Well, now is your chance to do just that.”

Saleena was still shaking her head in denial. “Yes, but you cannot ask me to do this.”

“I'm not asking you, I'm telling you to,” McGonagall said with as much authority as she could muster. “Seeing how as you are the only one who has the power to put a stop to all of this, it is your responsibility to go back to your people and talk some sense into them. And if the only way to do that is to become their leader, then so be it.”

“And then what?” Saleena shot. “Loose my job and become an outcast in society? I have worked way too hard throughout my life to get to where I'm at just to throw it all away on a whim, Minerva. Besides, mother says that they might not even listen to me, even if I do go back. And why should they? After all, I chose to walk out on them.” Saleena got up from her seat, preparing to leave the room. She had had enough of the conversation and could not take very much more. “I'm sorry, but if this is what it means to be in the Order, then you can count me out. I will take no part in this.”

“Miss. Saleena, please calm down,” McGonagall said softly. She knew then that she had overstepped her bounds and she simply could not allow the Gypsy to leave. Keeping peace with Saleena was crucial to their success. “If it really means that much to you, then I guess we can try to figure something else out.”

“Like what?” Saleena sneered. “You and I both know that there is no other possible solution!”

“I'm not sure at this very moment,” Minerva sighed. “But I would appreciate it if you could at least go to them and try to -”

“Minerva, I told you already that I do not -”

“- Will you just let me finish,” Minerva hissed, her impatience finally getting the best of her. Saleena snapped her mouth shut, unwillingly, and took a moment to listen to what the headmistress had to say. “All I wish, at this moment, is for you to go back to your mother and talk to her,” Minerva went on. “At least allow her to finish your training, so that you may have the full use of your abilities. I'm sure there is far more to this gift of yours than you know yet, and the Order could certainly use that to our advantage. But your abilities will do us no good if you do not know how to fully use them and control them properly. So please, go back and finish your training. And while you are there, talk to them. Gain their trust so that you may invite as many of them as you can to join us.”

“You would ask me to split up the Clan?”

“It sounds to me like the Clan has already split,” McGonagall said. “It is unavoidable at this point, Saleena. Don’t you get it? That is what Voldemort does to people. He splits them up because he knows that divided, we are weak, but together we are strong. So, rather than having you go back to rejoin them, I would like to send you there to try and get as many of them as you can to join us. Does that solution work better for you?”

“I suppose,” Saleena sighed. “I can try my best, but I doubt that very many of them will listen to me. It'll be hard gaining their respect after I have been gone for such a long time.”

“Well I want you to do whatever you have to do in order to get as many of them on our side as possible,” McGonagall ordered. “Even of only one of them listens to you, it will still be better than none. And that'll be one less Gypsy that Voldemort will hive on his side in the end. Am I understood?”

“Yes ma’am,” Saleena said with a nod. “When do suppose I should leave?”

“The sooner the better,” Minerva stated. “If your grandmother is as sick as they say she is, then we haven’t got much time left.”

“I suppose I shall at least need at least one more week to prepare then,” Saleena said. She then ignored McGonagall's look of protest and continued. “Draco is still not in the best condition, and I have to ensure that he is healthy again before I just abandon him. Not only that, but I will have to come up with some sort of explanation to give my boss that will explain my extended absence to him. I'm sorry, Minerva, but I do not wish to lose my job as a direct result of this mission.”

From the look in her eyes, Saleena could tell that McGonagall wanted to object. She did not do so, however. “Very well,” she replied instead. “But one week is all we can spare. Not a day more than that, understood?”

“Yes, ma'am, I understand.” Saleena was desperate to escape the interrogation and be alone for a while. She could not believe everything that had transpired in the past half hour. “Now, if you don't mind, I would like to be excused. I have to go check on my patient, and after that I would much like to get some rest.”

McGonagall did not argue as Saleena made to leave the room. She was pleased with the way the conversation had turned out; glad that she had found the next Gypsy queen before Voldemort could get his hands on her. But still, she could not help but wonder if she had made the right decision, forcing her to rejoin her people and learn to harness her powers.

It was a huge risk, to say the least. But Minerva was just going to have to trust that Saleena Blackwell would not turn on her once she became stronger and was more fit to be a leader. For if that were to happen, it would certainly not end well for anyone involved.


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