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Chapter 6 : Live and Let Die
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You used to say, "Live and let live"
But if this ever-changing world in which we live in, makes you give in and cry
Say live and let die
Live and Let Die – Paul McCartney
Araminta knocked on Gideon’s door, shifting her weight from one leg to the other. She looked down at her clothes nervously. She didn’t have much Muggle clothing, but found robes uncomfortable and didn’t want to wear them if nobody else was. Luckily, she’d managed to find a pair of jeans and a top, and for once she was glad that she was used to robes; on a hot day like the one forecast, robes were incredibly uncomfortable, so she would most definitely be comfortable even in jeans.
“Who is it?” Gideon asked from the other side of the door.
She rolled her eyes.
“Merlin,” she replied sarcastically.
“Oh good, I’ve always wanted to meet him,” he said light-heartedly. “We need to come up with a couple of security questions. But I don’t know enough about you to come up with a good question.”
“How about, we prove it’s me first, then decide on a question later?” she suggested, leaning against the wall. “So. You’re an Auror, and you’re pretty good at duelling, but you don’t like the paperwork bit, especially when it comes to Death Eater sightings, which you think are pointless. You think of Marlene McKinnon as your best friend, even though she’s marrying your brother, and I get the impression that you and Sirius Black don’t quite see eye to eye. You have six nephews, and you hope it’s a niece on the way. Also, Lily Potter doesn’t seem to think much of your Healing skills.”
He laughed. “I think that pretty much proves it.”
She heard a chain sliding and a key turning; then the door opened. Gideon was standing inside, dressed in a shirt and jeans.
“Come in for a moment, I’ve not had breakfast yet.”
She stepped past him into the flat, and he shut the door behind her.
“Have a seat.” He gestured towards the kitchen table. “Do you want a drink?”
“I’m fine, thanks,” she replied, sitting down at the table. He sat opposite her, with a plate of toast and a steaming mug. She stared at her hands for a moment, as he ate.
“I wanted to be a dragon breeder when I was younger,” she said finally, looking up at him.
“You wanted a security question.”
He cocked his head.
“A dragon breeder?”
“I like animals,” she said simply. “And I couldn’t see myself doing anything else.”
“Until now. Well, seven or so years ago. When my parents died. I changed my outlook on life, I guess.”
She was glad that Gideon didn’t press her any further. He got to his feet, gulping down his drink – she wasn’t sure why, but she suspected he was a coffee person – and put his mug and plate in the sink behind him.
“Ready to go?”
She got to her feet and followed him to the door. He pulled it open and they left the flat.
“We’ll Apparate from here,” he said quietly, using his wand to lock the door. “Do you know where you’re going?”
She shook her head. She’d hardly ever been to Hogsmeade.
“I’ll guide you.”
He held out an arm. She took it and they Disapparated.
They landed on a cobbled street; she stumbled, losing her footing, and grabbed hold of Gideon in order to keep herself upright.
“Steady on.” He grinned, amused.
She rolled her eyes, irritated with him – as she often was, she reflected. She scowled, now annoyed with herself.
The street was eerily quiet.
“It’s not usually as busy as Diagon Alley,” Gideon told her, “but it’s become even quieter as the war’s gotten worse. It was heaving here nine years or so ago, when I first started coming during the school term.”
“Is it a popular place for Hogwarts students?” Never having been to the school herself, she was intrigued.
“Oh, very popular. It was the only time we were allowed to leave the grounds. And there was an extra pull for guys too.” He smirked. “Barmaid who works at the Three Broomsticks is very good looking. I still think I got so, so close to pulling her.”
She raised an eye brow sceptically.
“Yes, because I’m sure she loves underage students.”
“She’s only six or so years older than me. Started working there in my Third Year, the first year I came to Hogsmeade. Her dad’s the landlord, she’ll inherit it when he retires. She’s sitting under a lot of money there.”
“Oh, so that’s where the attraction lies-”
“I told you, she’s good looking-”
“Oh, well that makes things better! You fancy her because she’s pretty, not because she’s rich. Nice to see your moral compass points north.”
He nudged her with his elbow.
“I sense a bit of jealousy.” His smirk grew.
She rolled her eyes.
“Hardly,” she said in a biting tone.
They had reached the edge of the village and she could see the castle ahead of them. The entrance gates were open and Aurors were milling around in front of them. She’d seen the castle before, but it still took her breath away every time she laid eyes on it.
“It’s so beautiful,” she murmured.
Gideon said nothing. He simply nodded in agreement.
They reached the gates. Marlene and Fabian were deep in conversation, off to one side and Sirius was talking to several other Aurors she’d seen before in the corridor at the Ministry, but didn’t know the names of.
Marlene looked up as they arrived.
“Finally!” she said in exasperation. “Take your time, why not! I’m putting you both up by the station.” She grinned at Gideon. “You’re on the boats.”
A large smile spread across his face.
“Off you guys go, then!”
Gideon took Araminta’s elbow and led her away from the gates.
“The station is on the other side of the castle,” he told her, as they set off round the perimeter of the castle grounds. “Most of the students get there by carriages, so some of the guys will be stationed along the route to check everything’s okay.”
“What are we doing, then?”
“There’s a fleet of boats which carries the First Years over the lake at the beginning of the year. It’s a tradition that’s lasted for centuries. At the end of the year, the First Years take the boats back to the platform. Then the boats go back for the Seventh Years.” He grinned again, but this time it looked pensive. “It’s quite moving, really, leaving the castle the same way you arrived all those years before, your last glimpse of it the same as your first...” He paused, and let out a chuckle. “The only thing is, the boats are made for four Firsties. It can be ... interesting ... getting the Seventh Years back across.”
Not for the first time, she felt a slight pang of sorrow that she’d never been to the school.
“Didn’t you ever want to come here?”
It was as though he could read her mind.
“The choice was never mine. I’d grown up knowing I’d be homeschooled. My mother was, and she felt it was the best thing for me. The only thing I regretted was not being able to meet other people my age like other girls could. Still, I’ve a few family friends my age, so I don’t feel I missed out too much.”
But she knew the words were a lie. If he knew too, he said nothing, for which she was grateful.
A large red steam train was sitting by the platform at Hogsmeade station, waiting for the students. He led her past it, to a steep path through the trees behind the platform.
“We’ll stay at the top,” he told her. “Hagrid – the gamekeeper – will show them up the path. I don’t fancy walking down it.”
She smiled wryly, her eyes on the path that weaved away from them down the steep hillside. She was grateful to stay at the top.
“Do you normally stand here?” she asked.
“Actually, I’ve always been where the carriages stop,” he told her. “Clearly Marlene fancied a change this year.”
She looked back at the platform and saw several carriages approaching it. Seeing what was pulling them, she stiffened.
“You can see them?”
His voice was low, his tone tender.
She nodded and closed her eyes, trying to remove the image of the Thestrals from her head.
“You never told me they pulled them,” she said quietly, once the feeling of nausea had passed.
“You never asked.” He paused. “There used to be a time when nobody could see them; when few people knew the carriages were pulled by anything. They thought they were simply pulled by magic. And now ... it seems as though every other person you come across in the corridors can see them. It really is a horrific time for the wizarding world.”
She nodded sombrely, her eyes still closed.
“Just don’t look at them,” he said gently, placing a comforting hand on her lower back. “They can’t hurt you.”
She nodded again, deliberately turning away from the platform, and opened her eyes.
The sound of enthusiastic chatter alerted them to the arrival of the First Years, who reached the top of the path, deep in friendly chatter. Most of them glanced curiously at Gideon and Araminta as they passed them, save for one girl, tiny, with messy brown hair, who positively flung herself at Gideon and wrapped her arms tightly round his middle.
“Hey, Celine,” he chuckled. “I’ve missed you too.”
“I passed all my exams!” she said enthusiastically. “And Gryffindor won the House Cup! And the Quidditch Cup!”
“Nice to see you’re all keeping up the good work.” He grinned. “We haven’t lost either cup for eleven years, I’ll have you know.”
“Twelve now,” she corrected him. She turned her head and her eyes fell on Araminta.
“Celine, this is Araminta, she works with me,” he said, seeing the direction of her gaze. “Araminta, this is Celine, she’s Marlene’s younger sister.”
“Nice to meet you!” Celine beamed at Araminta, before turning to face the platform, which Araminta still had her back to. “Where is Marly?”
“Over by the carriages.” He waved his hand airily in that general direction.
“I’m gonna go say hi to her. See you later, Gid.”
She hugged him again and dashed off in the direction of the platform. The smile fell from Gideon’s face and was replaced with an expression of pain and anguish.
“Nobody should have to cope with this, let alone a twelve year old,” he said quietly. “She should be having fun, not having to worry every day about whether her sisters will survive to the next, or wondering whether her Muggle-born friends will make it through the summer holidays. And that ... that’s the most heartbreaking thing.”
She turned to follow his gaze, forgetting the Thestrals for a moment, and inhaled sharply in horror at the sight in front of her; Celine was feeding one of the Thestrals an apple and stroking its long nose.
“She can see them...”
“She was nine. She was in Diagon Alley with Marlene and their sister Sandrine – she graduated last year - when Death Eaters attacked. She was young, but she knew what death was when she saw it.” He paused. “She could see Thestrals before she could turn a match to a needle, before she could levitate a feather. That’s not right.”
“The poor girl...” she breathed, filled with pity for Celine. “But she seems so carefree...”
“She’s twelve, she’s just finished her first year at Hogwarts and is going home; of course she’s happy and bouncy now. But the things she’s seen ... seeing a death is bad enough but when it’s at the hands of your own sister it leaves a scar that no Healing can treat.”
“She saw Marlene...”
“Worse. Sandrine. She was underage at the time; never cast the spell before in her life, but one of her friends was about to be murdered. If anything could motivate somebody to cast that spell, that would be it.”
Araminta chewed on her bottom lip.
“What’s she doing now? Sandrine?”
“Healer training. Before that incident, she was going to train to be an Auror. But after that ... well, it put her off a bit.” He paused, again. “She’s engaged, now. Marries in the autumn. She’d elope this second, as would Marlene, but it’s their parents’ dream to see their daughters have beautiful weddings, so that’s what they’re doing.”
Araminta looked down at the floor, turning away from the Thestrals.
“I ... I don’t think I’d realised just how much this war has affected families,” she said quietly.
He smiled sadly.
“I guess, if you’re more sheltered from it, you don’t notice things like that. You just assume it’s the people fighting who suffer. I don’t think there are many people in the Order who haven’t lost at least one family member due to the war. I suppose the McKinnons are one of the exceptions, and James’s parents died of natural causes, but that’s about it.”
“And what about you?” She looked up at him, curious.
He bit his lip and stared out across the lake.
“My parents,” he said slowly. “Killed shortly after Fabian and I left Hogwarts. At least they lived to see us pass all our exams.” He smiled painfully. “But they never even found out Molly was pregnant with Fred and George, let alone got to see them. All those kids have on the Prewett side is me and Fabian. The McKinnons are practically family, though, so there’s a small consolation.”
She chewed her own lip.
“Were they Aurors, your parents?”
“Dad was. Mum didn’t work. She didn’t need to. They just got caught out one day. It was round about the time Voldemort stepped up his crusade. Before that we all knew something was happening, but we never expected he’d turn on purebloods. Mum and Dad were always outspoken against the Death Eaters, so it was too risky for Voldemort to let them live, I guess.”
More chatter began to filter its way up through the trees, but this time it was mixed with laughter and sobs.
“Here they come.” Gideon grinned.
The students coming towards them were much older than the first years and appeared to know Gideon . Several of the boys nodded or grinned at him and he greeted them in return, while, to Araminta’s disgust, a number of the girls gazed at him with what seemed like adoration.
“This lot were Third Years, my last year,” he informed her, when the stream of people had died down to a trickle. “Good kids. Mostly,” he added, as a couple of boys passing shot him looks of disgust and near hatred. “Ah, here we go...”
He was looking in the direction of a blonde girl, making her way up the path with several others. She raised a hand to wipe her eyes and threw her head back with laughter, probably in response to something one of her friends said. The girl looked up towards them and seemed to notice Gideon. She turned and said something to her friends, then jogged up the path.
“What have I told you about not looking too eager for a boy?” Gideon grinned and raised an eyebrow, as she flung her arms around his neck. He laughed and hugged her back. “Good to see you too, Ari.” He planted a kiss on her head. Araminta scowled.
“I’ve missed you, Gid,” she replied, pulling away and wiping her eyes again. “You said you’d visit, you jerk!”
He raised his hands in protest.
“I said I’d visit if I found the time. Being an Auror is a full-time commitment, I’ll have you know.”
“Yeah, yeah. You were just scared of Scott.”
“No, I was not scared of – okay, I was scared of Scott.” He glanced over the girl’s shoulder at a boy who was standing a few feet away from them, glaring at him menacingly. “But he’s a lot bigger than me, and determined to protect his girlfriend, so-”
“I’ve told you, I’m not his girlfriend.” She rolled her eyes.
“It’s not me you need to tell that, it’s him,” Gideon pointed out. “Anyway, Ari, this is Araminta Gamp, my understudy at the Ministry. Araminta, this is Arieda, a good friend of mine.”
I can see that, Araminta thought dryly. She swallowed down that response, replacing it with a more polite one. “Nice to meet you,” she said stiffly, forcing a smile.
“Gideon’s mentioned you in his letters a lot,” Arieda replied, with a grin. “He was right; you’re very pretty.”
He groaned and threw his head back.
“Stop twisting things I say! Merlin, Ari, you don’t half know how to whip up trouble.” He punched her lightly in the arm. “Anyway, Lily told me to give you her love. I think she expects you to visit in the next couple of days.”
“Then I’ll do that.” Arieda turned back to Gideon. “How you doing?” she asked him cautiously.
“Fine,” he replied, with a shrug of his shoulders.
She sighed. “I can always tell when you’re lying.”
The boy behind her was looking irritated.
She rolled her eyes.
“I’ve gotta go, but I’ll see you soon.” She stood up on tiptoes and planted a kiss on Gideon’s cheek.
“You trying to get me killed?” he asked, raising an eyebrow.
“You’ll have to come for dinner some time, see my flat,” she said.
“You’re moving in with Sophie, right?” She nodded and he continued. “No way. Have you seen the way she looks at me as though I’m a piece of meat?”
“Well, you are quite a looker,” she reasoned. “She’s not that bad any more, and you know it, now stop being so mean.”
She sighed with frustration.
“See you later.” She smiled. “Nice meeting you, Araminta!”
She turned to join her friend, who looked extremely annoyed.
“Just a friend?” Araminta asked Gideon who was watching Arieda walk off.
“Huh?” He turned to look at her. “Oh, yeah. Just friends. I’ve known her since she was eight. She’s a great girl.”
Araminta raised an eyebrow and turned back to the path. The last few Seventh Years were reaching the top of it.
“Are we done now, then?” she asked, tapping a foot absent-mindedly on the ground. “That seemed fairly easy.”
“It’s fine when there isn’t any trouble, but if we didn’t do this, then there undoubtedly would be. That the last of you, Jane?” he called out to one of the girls passing them.
“Yeah, we’re the last.” She smiled at him and followed her friends towards the carriages.
“Another admirer?” Araminta asked lightly as they followed the Seventh Years to the platform.
“Sister of a friend,” he replied gruffly, watching as Jane greeted Sirius with a hug and kissed his cheek.
“Who’s the friend?” she asked curiously, as the last of the carriages vanished around the corner.
“Dead,” Gideon replied hollowly.
“Sorry,” she said quietly.
“S’okay. Most people I knew from Hogwarts are dead now, anyway.”
The matter-of-fact way he said it sent a shiver up her spine.
Most of the students had boarded the train and the Seventh Years were collecting their luggage from the large pile on the platform or glancing around the platform, as though soaking up their surroundings before they left the school for the last time. Arieda was talking to Marlene, as Fabian lifted a trunk that Araminta presumed to be hers onto the train. Sirius and Jane crossed the platform to join them. Gideon bristled as Arieda greeted Sirius.
“What’s your problem with him?”
The words slipped out before she could stop them.
Gideon was frowning as he turned to face her.
“Don’t go pretending nothing’s up between you. Every time he’s either in the vicinity or mentioned you sort of ... stiffen up. And I can tell, you hate that Arieda’s talking to him. So what’s happened? Why do you dislike him so much?”
His frown deepened.
“He’s a bone-headed idiot, that’s what’s wrong with him.” He scowled. “Too big for his boots, too arrogant for words ... thinks he’s superior to everyone else. He may not agree with his family about killing Muggles, but he sure as hell thinks he’s better than them.”
It was her turn to frown.
“He doesn’t seem that bad,” she reasoned. “Granted, he’s an arrogant shit, but I don’t really think it’s because of his family.”
“Trust me. I’ve known him for years. He seems to think he’s entitled to respect just because he’s a Black and that his rejection of the family values should earn him even more respect.”
She chewed on her lip, as she watched Arieda and Jane boarding the train.
“Well, Marlene doesn’t seem to have a problem with him.”
“Marlene likes to give people the benefit of the doubt.” He scowled, as Sirius waved at the girls before turning and walking away. At this, Gideon strolled across the platform towards Marlene and Fabian. Araminta followed him.
Marlene turned as they approached.
“We’re off to the Three Broomsticks for lunch; do you two want to come?” she asked.
Araminta opened her mouth to agree, but Gideon got in before her.
“Who else is going?” he asked.
Marlene sighed with aggravation, but was distracted by the conductor’s whistle. She, Gideon and Fabian turned to the train to wave at Arieda and Celine, both of whom were standing at the door of the carriage.
Marlene closed her eyes. She looked irritated.
“I asked Sirius if he wanted to join us,” she said, in a tone which made it clear she would not be revoking this invitation.
“In that case, thank you for the invitation, but I have fresh bread at home that needs eating.”
Gideon made as if to Disapparate, but Marlene grabbed his sleeve before he could vanish.
“Gideon, you are being a complete adolescent. Just grow up! I get what you’ve been through, I really do, but to be so tied up on it still is ridiculous-”
He pulled his arm out of her grip.
“If you think it’s so ridiculous, then I’ll do you a favour by not forcing you to put up with me,” he snarled, before Disapparating with a loud pop.
The three of them stood in silence for a moment. Then Marlene turned to Fabian and opened her mouth.
“Don’t ask,” he said flatly before she could speak. “I have no idea why he’s still like this.”
“I swear to Merlin, you’d better not ever end up like this,” she told him firmly.
He shook his head.
“Trust me, I won’t,” he said darkly.
She smiled slightly and turned to Araminta.
“Will you come?” she asked her.
Without Gideon, the only person in the group she really knew, she was less sure.
“Well, I wouldn’t want to intrude...” she began nervously.
“Nonsense! We’d love you to come!”
Fabian nodded in agreement, and she caved in.
“Brilliant!” Marlene beamed. “Now we just need to round up Sirius-”
He appeared at Fabian’s side.
“You okay?” Marlene asked him.
“Right as rain.” He grinned slightly. “Where’s Gideon?”
“He had to go ... something about fresh bread...”
Sirius’s smile fell and he looked so dejected that Araminta felt a pang of sympathy for him. Whatever had happened between them, Sirius was clearly as keen to try and resolve it as Gideon was to leave well enough alone.
“Sorry, Marls, I-”
“Don’t blame yourself, Sirius, he’s being an idiot.” Marlene’s tone was short. It was clear that she was irritated with her friend. “Anyway, let’s not allow him to put a dampener on things, we haven’t had lunch out in a while, and none of us have had the chance to talk to Araminta much yet. How are things going?” She turned her attention to Araminta as they left the station and headed back towards the village.
“It’s okay, I suppose...”
“Still think it’s the right career choice?”
She bit her lip.
“Things were ... a bit slow ... until yesterday.”
Fabian nodded in understanding.
“It’s like that in the Auror office. You can go three months with nothing, and then have five raids in a row. The Death Eaters don’t tend to think of us Aurors when they schedule their attacks, funnily enough. How’s it going with Gideon as a mentor?”
“He ... knows his stuff.” Araminta paused again. “But he can be...”
“Difficult?” Marlene laughed hollowly. “He has massive mood swings, has done for a good two years or so now. It’s what the war does to people, when their lives start being pulled to pieces. It’s even had an effect on Sirius here; I haven’t found an Ever-Bashing Boomerang in my in-tray for months now.”
“Stocks are low, Marlene, I have to save them for more worthy victims,” Sirius said.
“The Hit Wizard office. Their secretary drives me nuts – so do half that sub-department, come to think of it. Just a shame I can’t see their reactions. I think it would be a bit too obvious if I were there every time they found one, especially as I’ve got no business there.”
“You weren’t responsible for that Dungbomb in MLE the other month, were you?” Fabian asked curiously.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Sirius replied smoothly.
“I’ve heard that one before,” Marlene said, grinning. “Mostly when Louisa was trying to put you and James in detention for blowing up the potatoes in the Great Hall, or something of that kind.”
“I told you, those potatoes were blown up by the Slytherins,” Sirius protested.
“Pray tell me, when does anyone trigger a bowl of potatoes to blow up in their own face?”
“Double bluff? Those snakes were always looking for an excuse to get us in detention.”
“Yes, and they were hardly short of a reason.”
“You’re not sticking up for the Slytherins, are you now, Marlene?” Sirius sounded surprised.
“I can’t think of any group of people more deserving of potatoes in their faces, Sirius,” she said dryly. “But dungbombs in MLE is a slightly different issue, and if you get caught-”
“Innocent until proven guilty. Without proof they can’t find me guilty and what proof is there? None. It’s not like I keep dungbombs about my person. Aside from anything else you find you lose friends very quickly that way.”
Fabian let out a loud laugh, Marlene giggled, and Araminta smiled slightly.
“So, what did you think of Hogwarts, Araminta?” Marlene asked, as they reached the edge of Hogsmeade.
“It looks really nice,” she said slowly.
“You were homeschooled, weren’t you?” Fabian said.
“My parents wanted me close by, and they taught me themselves. I’ve never been as close to the school as I have today.”
“It’s the most amazing place I’ve ever been to,” Marlene gushed. “It felt so homely right from the start. And the grounds are massive, too. It’s a great place, and in such a beautiful location.” She paused. “Do you ever wish you’d gone to Hogwarts?
It was like déjà vu, Araminta thought wryly.
“Never thought about it,” she said, hoping they wouldn’t see she was lying – or that if they did, they’d leave it, as Gideon had. He was learning, she realised, when to leave something alone. She supposed he’d learned that probing didn’t get him anywhere and only led to an argument.
They reached the Three Broomsticks. Fabian held the door open for the other three and followed them inside. Marlene made a beeline for a table in the corner.
“We always sat here when we were students,” Fabian grinned, taking a seat beside her. Araminta sat opposite. Sirius had gone to the bar.
“Ah, Rosmerta’s looking rather stunning, as always,” Fabian continued, glancing across to the bar. Marlene rolled her eyes. “Gid’s missing out, she’s gone for low-cut today. And she’ll smash Sirius’s face into the counter if he doesn’t look up,” he added. “He has no subtlety at all sometimes.”
“Well, it’s hardly as though the male species was created with subtlety in mind,” Marlene commented. “Sirius Black just takes all male traits and exaggerates them beyond belief.”
“But you get on with him?”
Araminta was intrigued to know what Marlene thought of him.
“He’s a good kid,” she said, nodding. “We shared the same common room for six years, and while there were times he and James Potter could drive me round the twist – and did, with glee – most of the time we got on perfectly fine. It was hard not to get on with them at school, unless you signed up to the pureblood supremacy bollocks or you were Lily Evans.” She looked up as Sirius slid into the seat next to Araminta and her hands deftly stopped the tankard he slid across the table to her.
“On the house,” he said, pushing two more towards Araminta and Fabian, who took them. “Did I hear Mrs Potter’s name mentioned in conversation?”
“I was just telling Araminta about how you and Potter were complete nuisances at school, impossible to like...” Marlene had a mischievous grin upon her face.
“Oh, come on, McKinnon, are you telling me that you still believe Lils didn’t like James for all those years?” Sirius raised an eyebrow. “Even I can see it was all a pretence, and I’m hardly the expert at girls and their emotions.”
“Yes, well, dense is also a strong male character trait,” she said, smirking. “All hate aside, she still didn’t get on with you two for a good few years though, did she?”
“Well, I admit, turning her hair blue on the second day of First Year did cause a bit of friction, but nothing that wasn’t easily resolved,” Sirius said breezily. “And now look where we are, they’re happily married and I have a godson. See, I knew what I was doing the whole time.”
Fabian snorted in disagreement.
“Suit yourself.” Sirius shrugged. “But I still maintain it’s where you slipped up, Prewett; your woman would have looked lovely with bright pink locks and you’d have been married years ago.”
“I beg to differ. Pink looks awful with my complexion,” Marlene cut in.
“And I really don’t think demonstrating my excellent use of a colour-changing charm would have sped things up,” Fabian finished.
“How long have you two been together?” Araminta asked curiously.
“Three years or so,” Marlene replied. “Had a fling at school, back around Fifth Year, broke it off, then got back together in Auror training. We’d have eloped last year but Mother likes the big weddings, even in these troubled times.” She shook her head in resignation. “Got her paws all over this one, and Sandrine’s too, by all accounts. That reminds me.” She plunged her hand into her pocket, pulling out an envelope and handing it to Araminta, who frowned, before taking it. “And I won’t accept no for an answer,” she added in a stern voice.
Araminta opened the envelope and saw an invitation to Marlene and Fabian’s wedding, in two Saturdays’ time.
“You’re having it at Hogwarts?” She was surprised.
“There’s nowhere else safe to have it,” Marlene explained, scowling. “See, as I keep telling Mum, if she’d let us elope, it would have been no problem, but Fabian and I live in a small flat with no garden, and Mum and Dad’s house is in the middle of the city too, so we can’t hold a big wedding there, and the only other safe places have Fidelius charms on them, so they’re completely out of the question. Luckily – or not, as the case may be – Dumbledore caved in to Mum. She can be very persuasive when she wants to be.” Her scowl deepened. “Anyway, I expect to see you there. Just Apparate into Hogsmeade and walk up to the gates. They’ll be open.”
Araminta nodded, touched at the invitation.
“I – thank you,” she said, not sure of what else to say.
Marlene waved a hand airily.
“It’s meant to be a celebration, the more the merrier,” she said. “You are coming, Sirius?”
“You think I’d pass up a shindig like this?”
“Shindig?” Marlene raised an eyebrow. “You’ve been learning too much vocabulary from Jane. Or was that a Mary-ism?”
“That one was a Mary,” he replied with a grin. “Anyway, I’ll order our food, shall I?”
“What the fuck were you playing at? Why didn’t you tell me what you were doing?” she demands.
“Why should I have?” he hisses.
“You nearly killed me!”
“It missed you, didn’t it?”
“Only just! If I hadn’t ducked, I wouldn’t be here right now!”
“Well let that be a lesson for you,” he snarls. “We need information? Do you have any yet?”
She inhales sharply.
“If you don’t get us information soon, you’re as good as dead,” he spits.
He Disapparates with a quiet pop, leaving her breathing sharply, as she asks herself desperately what she should do.
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