Chapter 63: Persons of Interest
A/N: Read, Review, Enjoy!
Harry could hear dozens of people rushing through the hall outside his room. St. Mungo’s was a flurry of activity as wounded Aurors, students and professors were all tended to by nearly every healer on staff. Those who were beyond help were immediately taken to the morgue and their families notified. The fact that Colin Creevey, Professor Sprout and Auror Magnus Grover were among them was something Harry was having trouble accepting as reality just as he did every time someone he knew was taken away so horribly. He had wanted to go instantly to Jacey as he’d given her Mykele’s ring back before they had departed Hogwarts, but he convinced himself that there was nothing to be gained by tiring himself further and remained where he was until after the nurse checked in on him.
Drake had already assessed him, found him to only be extremely worn out and administered herbs meant to heal the minor wounds, slight frostbite and to help him sleep. The last effect was the one Harry fought against, wanting only to go check on Luna and the others. He knew she was okay and only one room over with Jacey (who for the sake of her safety wasn’t officially a patient here), but knowing wasn’t the same as seeing. He was more than a little irritated to have been the only one to be placed in a room by himself… of course he knew this was because he’d insisted everyone else be looked at before him and had therefore been placed in the last available place, this small one person room. Still, all the Weasley brothers were down the hall together, Draco had been placed with Lupin, Luna and Jacey were next door and even Hermione and Ginny had been paired up together.
Pretending to be asleep, he waited until after the nurse peeked in to throw off the covers and get out of the bed. His knees nearly buckled as both his exhaustion and the herbs caught up to him. Just get back in bed. Luna’s voice invaded his mind. She sounded tired, concerned and amused all at the same time.
Rather than answer her, he simply waited to be sure his legs would support him and quietly made his way out into the hall and to the room next to his. He knocked before opening the door, already knowing the both Luna and Jacey were aware of his desire to see them. They were each sitting up in separate beds and outwardly they seemed fine. But inside their heads was as burnt out and exhausted as his, even if they had all begun regenerating their energies.
“If we are to fight like this a lot, we had better find more coven members or eventually we will break something in our minds.” Jacey answered his thoughts with concerns of her own.
“We’re leaving in less than a month.” He assured her
“And what of Elise, Sarah and Elanya?” She pushed testily.
“They have both sides of the war looking for them now.” Harry answered, taken aback by her desire to do something. He’d often felt the way she did… but if her actions with the vampires were any indication, Jacey wasn’t used to her enemies getting away. But those women had escaped them on a grand scale twice now and clearly she didn’t like losing.
“And everyone on all three sides will now be looking for coven members.” She muttered.
“No, they’re looking for any strong psychics.” Luna replied as Harry sat on her bed and took her hand. “We are the only ones looking for actual coven members.”
“You are sure we will find them first?” Jacey asked, both hopeful and doubtful all at the same time.
“For now. If something changes, you’ll both be the first to know.” Luna shifted uncomfortably as she debated whether or not to tell them something now.
“What’s wrong?” Harry felt himself frown. He didn’t want anything more to worry about at the moment.
“That’s just it… I’m not exactly sure.” She sighed. He could feel how tense she was with anticipation, even after being given herbs to help her relax.
“It is a feeling you have?” Jacey pushed, having also caught onto Luna’s plight.
She nodded. “I feel like there’s someone coming for me-“ She cut herself off and slowly smiled. “Besides him I mean.” She climbed out of bed just as the door began to open, revealing Xeno Lovegood. Luna hugged her father in grateful disbelief. “I can’t believe you actually came here!”
“Of course! Arthur already kept me from going out to the train with the other parents, I had to come make sure my little Luna was alright.” He pulled away to look her over and assure himself that his daughter was in fact okay. Then he leaned in close to whisper, “I saw the crash, I’m the one who told Arthur exactly where you all were.”
“I had tried to send you my vision.” She quietly confessed.
“Why didn’t Arthur let you go to the train?” Harry’s curiosity interrupted.
Xeno looked up in surprise, taking in him and Jacey for the first time since walking into the room. He shook it off and offered a friendly yet frustrated smile. “It seemed he was concerned that with the recent articles I’ve been publishing I would be too large a target out there.”
“You haven’t sent me any new Quibblers… What have you been printing?” Luna asked worriedly.
“Well, with the success of the article about Lucius… It’s proven that the quill is mightier than the wand and I’ve been taking every opportunity to learn secrets and expose Death Eaters.” Xeno said excitedly. “We’re more popular than the Daily Prophet… seems people think we’re the ones printing the truth now! And all those years they doubted me…” He smiled happily and Harry felt Luna put aside her own reservations to be supportive.
“That’s all well and good, but Arthur was right… you’ve made yourself a pretty big target.” She said with a quite fake smile of her own. Apparently she had no problem telling Harry when she thought he was being dangerously thoughtless but telling her father when he was doing the same was a whole different story.
“That also makes Luna a target… Lucius is already so mad about the article that he was ready to fling her off a cliff.” Harry spoke up, trying to be the voice of reason that Luna couldn’t find it in her to be at the moment.
Xeno’s bright face darkened in an instant. “Oh yes, I was told all about the incident… Lucius has quite a lot coming to him.”
Before Harry could say that he’d missed the point, Luna suddenly stumbled back to lean on the bed as a sudden vision overwhelmed her. “Someone is coming for me… for us.” She looked up at her father in fear before turning to Harry and Jacey. “Don’t let them take us.”
“Of course not.” They answered at the same time. “Who is it?” Harry asked.
She shook her head. “I don’t know, but he’s not what he says he is… and he’ll be here soon.”
Draco paced his room, unable to relax no matter how sore and weary he felt though he was grateful to be alone. Lupin had left in search of Tonks as soon as Drake was done examining them. It seemed they’d healed themselves of all their major, life-threatening injuries and were simply given herbs to take care of the ache that remained. They’d both refused the sleep remedy, Lupin because he had so much to do and Draco because he didn’t want to chance falling into nightmares.
While waiting to be seen by healers, he’d overheard Ginny telling Lupin everything that had happened as far as she knew it… She’d been careful only to state facts and not give her opinions on them as she knew Draco was in the room and possessed a heightened sense of hearing. He hated what she had to say, the story she had to tell. She had no idea whether he’d killed Cho, Crabbe, Goyle or Pansy when he’d attacked them but she’d been clear that whatever he’d done was in self-defense or defense of her. The uncertainty lingered with him… had he killed all of his former friends? Worse yet, had he left them alive after biting them? Had he unknowingly spread this curse to those who would use it to spread destruction? He was scared to ask and terrified of the answer.
Lupin had left the door open when he went and tired of the curious stares of those passing by, Draco now moved to close it. But someone down the hall coming his way caught his eye and once more his gut clenched with guilt. Colton James was nothing more than an annoyance and yet as the wolf he’d gone after the boy just as if he were Cho or one of the Slytherins presenting both a danger and a challenge. “Hey.” He called out as Colton passed. “Can I talk to you for a minute?”
He turned and looked at Draco with suspicion and a bit of fear… but that old Gryffindor spirit wouldn’t let him show it. “Why? So you can finish the job without witnesses?” He sneered.
“If I wanted to kill you I would have done it the first time you annoyed me.” Draco shot back before relenting with a sigh. This kid had every reason in the world to be angry with him… plus according to Ginny, he’d saved her when Draco himself had been unable. For that alone he owed Colton, but adding in that he’d tried to attack the boy was more guilt and gratitude than he could handle. He had to make it even between them so they could go back to equally despising each other for no good reason. “Actually I wanted to do something I rarely do… I wanted to apologize.” He forced himself to choke out.
“As if that would make it okay.” Colton scoffed, crossing his arms. But curiosity and the chance to gloat were strong and he followed Draco back into the room, though he made sure to remain by the door... and to keep it open for easier escape.
“I know it doesn’t… which is why I’m willing to offer to do whatever you want me to do in regards to your brother. I’ll testify at whatever hearing you want and tell everyone what I found out from Crabbe.” He offered begrudgingly. The last thing he wanted was to tie himself up in someone else’s legal affairs, but this was the biggest gesture he could think to make.
Colton seemed taken back and then he hardened and his eyes grew dangerous. “No thanks. When I tried to get you to agree on Halloween I had thought you were the only one who could help me… but I’ve since learned that you have nothing valuable to offer anyone! My family would rather I leave things as they are than risk something happening to me because of you as well.”
“You know I had nothing to do with what happened…” Draco said slowly, reaching to grasp the amulet around his neck as he struggled to maintain his temper.
“To Carter? Yes, I’m aware now that you beat it out of your old friend to save yourself from incrimination... but they were out that night trying to impress you, weren’t they? If they hadn’t-“
“Regardless, nothing they or Troy did that night was on my orders.” He angrily interrupted. “They even hid the whole thing from me afterwards… I had no idea! So I’m willing to make things right and tell whoever you want what really happened to Carter and why.”
Colton shook his head angrily. “And as sure as I am that you’d not only willingly but happily testify against Crabbe, Goyle, and the mysteriously missing Troy Mason, I’d rather you not do it to save yourself the guilt from trying to attack me. You did do that and there’s no one else to blame. You’re a monster now, a beast that can’t control itself. How long before you wind up hurting those freaks who are stupid enough to claim you as a friend? Well I’m not stupid… I learned my lesson at the Costume Ball and today taught me that even when I’m trying to help it’s best to stay away from you. Ginny and I could have died today while you were rushing about like a wild animal! I tried to help her, she tried to help you and what do you do? Corner us both like we were Cho Chang! I hope Ginny comes to her senses, but I know I have and the less to do with you the better. And if that means you have to live with the fact that there’s one person unwilling to forgive you for being what you are then all the better for me!” He ended with a shout before turning and walking confidently out of the room. Draco let him go, figuring there wasn’t too much he could argue with… while vicious in his intent, Colton hadn’t really said anything that was untrue…
He was so angry with himself… and with Harland Myers who had done this to him… and with Lucius and Voldemort who had sent the werewolf to him hoping Potter would put him down like a rabid dog. He ran his hands through his hair to keep them busy but it wasn’t enough. In one burst of rage, he turned and swept his arm across the table, sending tools and herbs flying everywhere.
“Scourgify.” A soft voice said behind him, cleaning up the mess he’d just made.
Draco froze… he knew her scent had seemed closer, but Colton had kept him so distracted that he hadn’t realized until just now that she had probably been eavesdropping on the whole conversation. His stomach filled with dread and he hesitated to turn, not quite ready to face whatever was about to happen between him and Ginny…
“Her back is extremely bruised and there are two slipped disks.” Healer Drake was telling Molly as he delivered Ginny’s diagnosis. “She also has three broken ribs. I’ve already treated her with energy work and herbal remedies but it’ll be awhile before she’s all healed.”
“Thank you.” Molly said gratefully before gesturing to the other bed. “What about Hermione?”
Ginny and Hermione shared an amused and frustrated glance as the two adults continued to talk as if neither girl was in the room. “In a few days, they’ll both be good as new.” Drake smiled encouragingly before leaving to check on other patients.
“Whew, what a relief. You kids are all going to be okay.” Molly said with a sigh as she sat on Ginny’s bed and put her hand over her heart.
“So Fred, Harry, and everyone else are okay too?” Hermione asked. They hadn’t had the chance to see any of their friends since being ushered into this room and so both girls were worried.
Molly nodded happily while wearing an expression of tense exhaustion. “Yes, everyone is fine or so Healer Drake has told me. Arthur is with the boys now and then he was going to check on Harry, Draco, Luna and you two… I haven’t even laid eyes on my sons yet.” She stood suddenly as if she’d just forgotten something. “In fact, I think I’ll go peek in on them… you two will be okay alone for awhile?” She smiled sweetly, having no idea that months ago it wouldn’t have been wise to leave the two girls alone in a room together… but everything was different now and so they nodded and allowed her to check on her sons.
“It must be hard to have all of your children in the hospital at once.” Hermione said thoughtfully as Molly left.
“Well, at least this time we didn’t go looking for trouble, it found us.” Ginny answered, throwing off the covers and grabbing the hospital robe that had been left for her. When they’d first arrived here, her back was ablaze in pain and she was having trouble moving, but after Drake’s treatment and the herbs, she felt entirely new and though tired, she wanted to see her brothers and Draco… at least she thought she wanted to see Draco.
“Where are you going?” Hermione asked with a wide yawn from her own bed. She had no major injuries but from the look in her eyes, staying awake was becoming a struggle. Clearly she had taken the sleeping herbs that Ginny had only pretended to consume.
“For a walk. It’ll be fine.” She assured the other girl before turning and walking out. The Aurors who had arrived to the train with Dumbledore were now patrolling the halls, watching over both students and their fellow Aurors who had been hurt in the battle. This made Ginny certain that not only would it be okay to let Hermione sleep alone in the room but also for her to be wandering the halls… Still, she had been sure to remember her wand, just in case.
She had fully intended her first stop to be with her brothers, even if she had to pass Draco’s room to get to theirs. She still wasn’t certain what she wanted to say to him, wasn’t sure what she could say that would make either one of them feel better. But as she rounded the corner, she saw Draco’s door was open and that there would be no way past without chancing him seeing her… the last thing she wanted was for him to think she was avoiding him, even if she was at the moment. As she stopped to think, she realized she could hear voices coming from the room… one was Draco’s and the other she was horrified to realize belonged to Colton. Inching closer to the doorframe, she was able to clearly hear what they were talking about.
“As if that would make it okay.” Colton meanly responded to whatever Draco had just said.
“I know it doesn’t… which is why I’m willing to offer to do whatever you want me to do in regards to your brother. I’ll testify at whatever hearing you want and tell everyone what I found out from Crabbe.” She could hear the strain and reluctance in Draco’s voice and knew he wanted nothing to do with any of what he was offering… But the fact that he was still offering showed her just how guilty he was feeling and how desperate he was to make things right in any way possible.
And then she heard Colton refuse… listening to the rest of the small argument between the boys only confused Ginny more. Until that day, Colton had no reason for the way he acted around Draco (aside from his five and a half years as the school bully). But now he had a pretty good reason… except clearly it was the wolf and not Draco himself who had wanted the chance to tear the other boy to pieces. The fact that it seemed at the end that he was willing to hurt her to get to Colton proved just how not in control Draco had been… didn’t it? Now that he was back in his own mind, he was remorseful to the point where he was willing to place some power in the hands of the very boy his wolf had wanted to challenge… By not accepting what he was offering, Colton was saying that there was no separation between Draco and the wolf. But listening in had only made Ginny more certain that there was actually a pretty big divide between human and animal. The more Draco gave in to this curse, the more strength and self-awareness the wolf possessed when it was free… but clearly they were separate beings with separate thoughts about how to interact with the world.
“I hope Ginny comes to her senses, but I know I have and the less to do with you the better. And if that means you have to live with the fact that there’s one person unwilling to forgive you for being what you are then all the better for me!” Colton was practically shouting by now. Hearing the finality in his tone, she quickly hid herself around the corner as he walked out and down the hall without looking back.
Ginny knew the impact his words would have on Draco and she was sure Colton knew too, which was why he’d said so many of the things he’d said. Taking a deep breath, she moved back to the door in time to hear Draco cry out in frustration before knocking something over. Peeking around the doorframe, she saw him looking down at the mess with his back to her. “Scourgify.” She said softly, waving her wand.
He froze for a moment before letting his shoulders sag. “I’m so tired of everyone else cleaning up my messes.” His tone was tired and quietly defeated.
“At least that was an easy one to clean up.” She joked lightly, coming fully into the room and closing the door. “I think young Colton’s hopes are going to be dashed… I haven’t come to my senses at all when it comes to you.” She said with more confidence than she felt… she had wanted to undo the damage Colton had just done, to assure Draco that what the wolf did had nothing to do with who he was. She truly believed that even after all that had happened, the wolf wasn’t bad… it only performed the instinctual actions of an animal that had been forced to fight.
He shook his head but still didn’t turn to face her. “Maybe you should. Amulets, potions, solitude… it’s a lot to go through just to be able to try and live a normal life the rest of the time.” And then he did turn, his expression one of tortured sadness. “I’m not noble enough to push you away like Potter tried with Granger last year… I don’t want to be without you. But I also don’t want to eventually be the reason you or any of the others get hurt. Everyone has done what they could, I’ve done everything I could and still the beast was let loose today… I don’t know who I hurt or how badly, I don’t know if I bit someone and spread this curse among those more willing to use it to hurt people. What would I have done if Lupin hadn’t shown up to stop me? I mean I even attacked him just because the wolf didn’t want to be conquered. What if the next time they pull one of these ambushes, they do it at night during the full moon? Two days early in broad daylight was bad enough… I don’t want you to be scared of me, but how can I expect that when I’m scared of myself?”
He seemed to deflate a bit before Ginny’s eyes as he let his worries out into the open… To some degree they were the same fears he’d had since Harland had bitten him, but now it all seemed more real to them both after seeing a piece of the untethered wolf in action. She wanted to reach out to him but as she stepped forward he moved back away from her. “I’m not scared of you, Draco.” She said firmly.
“I don’t believe you.” He sullenly replied before sitting back on his bed and staring at the floor.
“Am I scared of the wolf? Absolutely… I’d be a fool not to be. I’m just as scared of Lupin’s wolf… they are the caged wild animals within you. But both wolves are sleeping right now and all I see is you, a person that I could never be scared of…. Someone I love very much.” She walked over and hesitantly reached out to him again. At first he ducked away from her touch, but she wouldn’t let him continue to torture either of them. Taking his face firmly in her hands as she stood over him, she made him look up at her. “I don’t know what would have happened if Lupin hadn’t shown up and I don’t know what happened to those you attacked out there. But I do know that right now it doesn’t matter. Right now, it’s just you and me… and me telling you that there’s nothing you or your wolf could do to make me stop loving you.”
“Right now…” He whispered before leaning forward and resting his forehead against her stomach. “Eventually every moment is right now.” He sighed as they both recalled their long ago conversation. “But what if it’s time to start thinking a few moments into the future?”
Ginny wrapped her arms around his head and held him close. “I promise… a few minutes, days, or years and I’ll still feel the same.”
“You can’t promise that.” He said, putting his own arms around her waist as he clung to her. “No one can.”
“Maybe, maybe not. But I can promise it right now.” She answered, looking at him with an amused grin as she moved to sit next to him.
He shook his head and offered a small smile. “Have I ever told you how frustrating you are?”
“Only several times every day.”
“You know that I love you too, don’t you?” He asked quietly.
“It is nice to hear every once in awhile.” She teased, taking his hand and squeezing it in reassurance before turning more serious. “Look, you are entitled to feel however you want after what happened today… we all are, even Colton. But I won’t let him or anyone else push you into thinking you are some horrid creature that is unable to feel or control itself. I won’t let you tell yourself that either. Human or wolf you are always Draco, I love you and so do your new friends and family. That’s all you need to know.”
“What about today? Cho took the amulet… what if it’s Harland next time?” He sighed, letting more of his fears out into the open.
Ginny hadn’t known Cho had taken the amulet from him… she’d assumed he’d ripped it off himself as he had when facing Lucius and now felt guilty for the thought. But then something occurred to her, making her happily excited. “Draco… if Cho took the amulet then don’t you see? You didn’t lose control, it was taken away from you… had she not removed it, who’s to say you would have? She let the wolf free and if it turned on her and those fighting with her then it’s no one’s fault but hers. And you weren’t just out there attacking people at random, you were protecting me and even Colton for awhile there. As for what happened before Lupin showed up… Well with the wolf already running so free in your head and perceiving Colton as a threat… it was the mind of an animal driven by instinct. And it’s all Cho’s fault!”
He shook his head again. “It would be nice to blame Cho for everything, and sure she’s partly at fault… but what I am is Harland’s fault and so again, what if next time it’s him?”
“Then we’ll deal with it when it happens.” She assured him. “It may never happen at all you know, so why spend your time punishing yourself for a possibility that may never occur? I’m not going anywhere, not because of Harland or the curse he passed to you. And neither will Lupin, Tonks or Harry. Face it, you can torture yourself all you want thinking of the future but we’ll still be there to tell you that you’re being ridiculous.”
Again he offered up a small smile. “And is that a threat or a promise?”
“Both.” She grinned, leaning up to kiss his cheek and feeling like she’d at last begun to make progress in staving off the constant self-doubt and self-loathing that seemed to be the continual side effects of this curse on the human part of him. If only Fred had been able to find a way to cure this whole werewolf thing permanently…
As for herself, she felt relieved. After this, what could be left to question about their relationship? They had moved beyond their past misdeeds and had forgiven or forgotten time spent with Cho and Gem. They’d survived Tristan and all the secrets kept from each other. They had gotten past his uncertainty after Lucius’s reappearance, and were now moving forward from their horror at being presented with the potential of the beast within him. There was nothing more except the continuation of this war… but that was outside them. They’d continually questioned every aspect of whether their union was right or safe or healthy. Now as they both sat in contemplative silence, she was certain in a way she never had been before… there was nothing about Draco she couldn’t accept and that was a freeing realization. Sneaking a glance at him, she couldn’t help but smile in contentment, now feeling almost completely opposite how she had felt when leaving her own room a few minutes before.
Just as she was about to let him know that she would need a few moments to go check on her brothers, a knock sounded at the door. “Come in.” Draco called wearily. His relief was evident when only Lupin and Tonks entered. And then his face once more tensed as he suddenly gripped her hand tightly while asking the question that proved their talk hadn’t calmed his fears as much as it had hers. “So? I know you two have the news by now… did I kill anyone out there?”
“I’m fine!” Fred shouted in frustration as Molly continued to fuss over him.
“Yeah, he only had a vampire break his leg… quit overreacting mum.” Bill said teasingly.
It had been bad enough when it had been Arthur in here talking to his boys… but he had been called away on urgent matters and that left Molly who’s bedside manner was a whole different story. “I’m not!” She insisted as she yet again reached to fluff Fred’s pillows. “Between Ginny practically breaking her back and Fred nearly getting his leg ripped off… you’re all pushing me toward heart failure!”
“Oh yeah, no overreaction there.” Charlie muttered, sharing a grin with his brothers... except Ron who was quiet and withdrawn.
“I have to make sure Harry isn’t any worse off, sometimes he’s more reckless than all of you put together… Then I’m going to see how long it’s going to be before I can get you all home.” Molly announced, her entire manner seeming flustered and overwhelmed. Bill and Charlie both got out of their beds and began dressing. “Whoa, what are you two doing?”
“Drake checked us out and we’re fine. There’s a lot to do and a lot that dad is going to need help with.” Bill answered.
“The best way you can help me or your father is to ensure you stay healthy.” She crossed her arms, ready for the argument.
But being the oldest, Bill had long ago figured out the best way to deal with their mother, though the method only ever worked for him. He simply walked to the door and opened it. “We’re fine mother, we are both adults and neither of us have been knocked off our feet.” He snuck an amused glance at Fred. “Focus on the ones that need you to hover, we’re adults and we’re needed elsewhere.”
Charlie bent to kiss her cheek. “We’ll be back at Harry’s house for a late dinner.” He promised as both boys walked out to avoid any guilt she may want to lay on them to make them stay.
Molly sighed and shook her head, too tired for the rant that normally would have followed. “Well, at least I still have you two and Ginny to need me.” She turned back to Fred and Ron who shared an apprehensive look. It seemed their mother’s empty nest syndrome was starting long before her nest was actually empty.
“I’m an adult now too you know.” Fred hesitantly replied.
“Oh yes, and your actions today prove it.” Molly said with sarcasm as she rolled her eyes. “Age is just a number… Running away from a guard meant to protect you, stealing ministry property to drive straight into danger with only Lee to help you and getting the car destroyed in the process, running around a battle not only after being told to stay at the train but also after breaking your leg… These decisions don’t exactly scream maturity, Fred.”
“Technically Elanya damaged the car and Mrs. Macnair broke my leg.” He muttered as Healer Drake poked his head in the door.
“Molly? I hate to ask, but it seems we’re a bit short staffed at the moment. I’m going around looking for anyone with any nursing history to help out.” Drake said with an apologetic smile.
Before Bill came along, Molly had studied medicine and healing while Arthur toiled away at the ministry. With so many children, it had been useful knowledge that more than once saved a trip to the hospital. It seemed with every battle, she was becoming more and more recognized as a talented nurse and Fred felt proud of her for it. He thought that maybe it wouldn’t be so bad for her to look into reviving her career now that her children were almost all grown… it would certainly make him happier to have other people for her to bestow her concern on.
“You two stay right where you are.” She said to him and Ron.
“Where would we go in our conditions?” Fred asked innocently.
Though she shot them both a look full of suspicions and warnings, she finally left with Drake. As soon as she was gone, both he and Ron got out of bed though he was having more trouble than his brother with his injured leg. “Where are you going?” Ron asked in concern. “Drake said not to walk around.”
“And mother told us both to stay here, so where are you going?” He shot back.
“To see Harry.” He answered, shifting his eyes to the ground.
“Uh huh, and by Harry you mean Jacey, right?” Fred teased as he ensured his legs would hold him up. Drake had given him another dose of energy work to complete the healing and plenty of herbs to take care of the pain and discomfort, but though nothing hurt it was like trying to stand after days spent in bed… His legs were shaky and unsteady but he was determined to be stronger than even he thought he could be.
“Maybe… I’m not sure yet.” Ron said quietly as he sat back down on the edge of his bed.
Hearing the sadness and defeat in his brother’s tone, Fred switched his focus from himself. “Are you okay?”
Ron slowly shook his head. “I killed two vampires… I mean with Mrs. Macnair I had to right?” He looked up and stared desperately at Fred. “If I hadn’t she could have hurt you worse… or even bitten you. I couldn’t save Parvati but I had to save you…” He trailed off for a moment before shaking his head. “But the other one… I did it to prove a point I think… that’s not a good reason to kill someone, is it?”
He took a deep breath and said the first things that came to him, uncertain whether anything would make it better. “Mrs. Macnair could have and probably would have killed any of us if it meant helping herself or finding her son. And maybe it’s Harry, Jacey and Draco’s fault for killing Tristan in the first place… but who’s to say what Tristan would have done if they hadn’t stopped him? It’s about survival now Ron, our lives over those trying to take them. As the bodies pile up it becomes clear that there will always be a reason for revenge on both sides… That’s what propels a war forward, the need to not only come out the victor but to make the enemy pay for what it did in the name of trying to win. It doesn’t matter if its us or them, it’s the same sentiment… the only difference is we have the grace to feel bad about it after. You and Harry didn’t go looking for people to kill, you were forced into it to protect yourselves and others. Even if you’re questioning your motives with that other vampire… think of who they could have hurt if you hadn’t.”
Ron nodded slowly. “Jacey said the vampires recognized her, that they couldn’t be allowed to tell others like them where she was. I watched her kill two of them… I wanted to prove that I could… I don’t know, that I could be an asset… That I could be reliable and not someone who needed to be looked after. I guess I wanted to take care of it for her…”
“Well, she told you all she was some kind of hunter back in Greece, right? I’m sure she wouldn’t be viewed as a friendly face to any vampire.” Fred agreed. “The last thing any of us need is a horde chasing after us because they want to get even with her… she wanted to protect all of us and you wanted to protect her. And if you hadn’t, that vampire could have bitten anyone including dad or Tonks who were there fighting as well.”
“I wanted to go talk to her… I want her to tell me about the vampires and her past with them but I don’t think she will.” He sighed, pulling on his robe as he prepared to leave despite his reservations.
“It’s her past to tell. Maybe now isn’t the best time to demand she lay it all out for you. We all went through a lot today, just give it a little time.” Fred urged. “Go see her and assure her that you’re glad she made it out alive… when we get back to Harry’s house, then you can find the right time and way to ask.”
He nodded thoughtfully. “I guess you’re right.”
“Hey!” He called as Ron walked to the door.
“Yeah?” He turned.
Fred looked down, suddenly feeling awkward and uncomfortable. But he needed to say the words he’d been thinking since first setting off toward the train with Lee. “I’m sorry. You know, for everything that happened before today… I’m sorry Ron. I shouldn’t have kept you in the dark when I was in trouble and I shouldn’t have let the others do it either. I’d be furious if I hadn’t known you were in danger… I haven’t always been the best brother, and I can’t promise that I will be in the future. I just… I wanted you to know that I am sorry. We can start over, just put it all behind us and forget it ever happened. A fresh start.”
“I don’t want to start over.” Ron shook his head and smiled. “How would we learn anything if we just forgot all about this? Look… I’m sorry too. I haven’t been myself lately and I haven’t made the best decisions. The island and everything about it is over, I’m ready to move on but we shouldn’t forget.”
“Okay then.” He agreed. And that was all they needed. They nodded at each other and then Ron was gone, off to see Jacey.
Fred once more stood, feeling a bit more steady this time now that he knew what to expect. He wanted to go check in on Ginny and Hermione who were conveniently located in the same room; the very thought of walking the halls was exhausting and he was glad to only have to do it once. His eyelids were heavy and he knew that was the effects of the sleeping herbs Drake had given him. But he fought the tiredness just as Ron had and left the room, using the wall to help support and guide him along the hall and around the corner. By the time he was able to knock lightly on their door, he was sweating from the effort.
“Come in.” Hermione’s sleepy voice called out.
He walked in just as she was reaching out to turn on the small lamp next to her bed. As the dim light came on, he realized they were alone. “Where’s Ginny?”
Hermione sat up and yawned. “I thought she was going to see you guys… she probably got sidetracked by Draco.”
Knowing that Draco’s room was between theirs and that the door had been closed, he was left to hope his sister was simply having a nice conversation. “How are you feeling?” He asked, collapsing next to her.
“Better than you look.” She said, her eyes becoming more alert as she fought the sleep potion to take in his pitiful appearance. “What did Drake say?”
“That it’ll be a few days before I can run any marathons.” He smiled, hoping to put her at ease.
“And how long were you supposed to wait before walking the halls?”
“It doesn’t matter… I just couldn’t wait to see you.” He leaned over to kiss her shoulder.
“Well, aren’t you charming… of course, it’s a lot harder to be charming if you wind up putting yourself in a coma or something by rushing around before you’re supposed to.” She said as she playfully shoved him away.
“I have no where to go now.” He grinned, scooting to lay himself down on the bed. “With the right incentive, I can stay here forever.”
“Oh yeah?” She laughed as he lay with him, pulling his arms around her. “And what is the right incentive?”
“Simply you, my dear… that’s all I need.” He said, pulling her close and kissing her forehead. Together they sighed, and he hoped she felt as blissful as he did… after all, everything was perfect in this moment.
Ron raised his hand to knock on the door, but hearing several voices on the other side he hesitated. He’d hoped Luna would have gone off to see Harry, but it seemed he had come to her and Jacey. And there was someone else… a man who sounded familiar.
You can come in. Jacey’s voice whispered through his mind. Her tone was friendly, and he felt that she was almost glad to know that he was there.
Despite her invitation, he knocked and waited for Harry to open the door. Ron walked in slowly, surprised to see Xeno Lovegood sitting on the bed with Luna as he tried to comfort his daughter. “What’s going on?”
“Luna said someone is coming for her and her father.” Jacey replied from where she was sitting on her own bed. Harry took to restlessly pacing the room as he probably had been doing before Ron arrived… even though he was limping, no one suggested he stop and sit knowing it was better that Harry have a way to attempt to expel some of his anger.
“They’ll be here soon.” Luna quietly added.
“Who?” Ron demanded.
She shook her head in frustration. “I have no idea! He’s dressed like an Auror in my vision, but all I know is he’s not who he says he is.”
“And you’re sure about this?” Xeno urged as he wrapped his arm around her shoulders. “I haven’t seen anything.
“She is always sure, even when she doubts herself she knows what is true.” Jacey replied defensively.
“Besides, you know you don’t have visions as often as you used to.” Luna told her father.
“Not since you kids were born. I only get the really important ones now.” Xeno smiled.
“If he’s dressed like an Auror then we should get Arthur, Tonks and Kingsley.” Harry said as he continued to pace.
Are you okay? Jacey’s voice once more invaded Ron’s head as the others talked aloud.
I’m fine… I just wanted to make sure you were okay. He answered, remembering Fred’s advice.
I am only sorry that we have left the battle to enter into more trouble. She said, her voice sounding so tired. I hope we are able to settle this vision quickly and just go to wherever you all call home and stay still for a few moments… I am so tired of always having to be alert and moving.
He could hear her mental sigh and the pure exhaustion she had for life in general. From what little she had told him, he knew she’d had a tough life… he could only imagine what she wasn’t telling and how those things were affecting her now. He wanted her to tell him about it, and not just because he was beyond curious… he wanted her to trust him and he desperately wanted to trust her. He’d killed that vampire for her… she may not have needed him to, but they both knew that he’d done it to prove himself as a capable ally and someone she could rely on. He’d done it to undo his behavior the past few weeks as much as to prevent any untold damage the creature may have done.
“They’re coming.” Luna said suddenly, leaping to her feet. Even with her warning the loud, brisk knock startled them all.
Before anyone could move to answer the door, it swung open to reveal a tall man rival to Kingsley in stature. His long hair and beard where black and his eyes a piercing, stormy blue. His nose was crooked as if it had been broken and he’d never taken the care to have it fixed. He entered the room wearing a sneer as he took them all in. Eight more Aurors were behind him though Ron recognized none of them.
“We are here to take Xenophilius Lovegood and his daughter Luna Lovegood into custody.” The large man in charge announced almost happily. “They are persons of interest in today’s tragedy.”
The minute she laid eyes on the man, Luna knew… everything from her vision clicked and the slithering serpents she had seen at this man’s feet had clearly alluded to his allegiance to Voldemort. “What do you mean they are of interest in what happened today? Who ordered you to bring them in?” Ron asked suspiciously as Harry and Jacey took protective steps in front of Luna and Xeno, ready to use what little of their powers they’d regenerated.
Don’t, it’s what he wants. She warned them. Then he’ll have a reason to take you both as well.
What are you talking about? Harry demanded.
But the man replied for her while answering Ron. “It has come to my attention that they have both reported having ‘visions’ of the train crash before it happened. As the new Head of the Auror Department, I am within my rights to bring in and question anyone who may have any information to help us in our investigations.” His tone was professional but he was trying very hard to keep his mind locked up tight. She could feel Harry and Jacey attempting to pry their way in and decided to save them the trouble… she knew why the man was here and if he somehow succeeded in getting her and her father away she was terrified of what would happen.
He’s wants to hand us over to Voldemort… please, don’t get yourselves in trouble but don’t let them take us either. She pleaded, knowing she’d be unable to hide her fear from them.
They had included Ron in their silent conversation so that he wouldn’t be taken by surprise and he stepped up now to do his best to diffuse the situation peacefully. “I think you need to find my father, the Minister should be present to ensure that two people currently under his protection are properly represented before they disappear within your investigations.”
“There is no time to inform the Minister, he will be given our reports to review of course… but today’s events have troubled the entire country and we must move with haste. We are within our rights to do whatever necessary to apprehend those responsible.” He said with sinister glee.
Shield! Luna called out to everyone, having already seen what the man had intended in her brief vision. Harry and Jacey had been gripping their wands since she’d told them of the potential danger and Xeno had his… Ron was the only one foolish enough to have left his behind and so she quickly cast to shield him from the binding spell the Auror had tried to wrap them all in as Harry reached out to include her in his own shield.
Though the man may have been upset that his plan didn’t work, the chaotic confusion was enough for him to make a move. Barking out orders, the other Aurors crowded into the room with him, pushing everyone aside as they reached for Luna and her father. Everyone was attempting to cast spells but with the small room so crowded it was nearly impossible to be sure to hit a target and not an ally. “Expelliarmus suspectos!” The man finally cried and Luna felt her wand magically pried from her hand. Harry, Jacey, and Xeno lost their wands as well and Harry instantly started swinging his fists as three Aurors stepped forward to hold him back. The others rushed to push back Ron and Jacey and that’s when Luna felt the cold steely handcuffs encircle her wrists. “For your own protection.” The tall man leered down at her as he grabbed her arm and began dragging her out.
Luna looked around in a panic as she attempted to drag her feet and pull free of the man’s hold… her friends were fighting wildly to get to her while her father had finally been taken into custody by the two Aurors he’d been struggling against. She could feel Harry and Jacey building themselves up to use their powers and knew that things were about to get a whole lot worse.
Draco didn’t know what to make of Lupin’s sad smile. He still hadn’t gotten the chance to apologize to him for trying to fight him out there, but at the moment the damage he may have done to others was weighing more heavily on his mind… Some part of him knew that Lupin understood that he hadn’t been in control and had probably gone through similar circumstances several times in his life. But had Lupin ever killed anyone? Maybe… it was likely, after all, this was his second war. Was Draco ready to know that perhaps he had killed someone as well? No… especially if he wasn’t in control of himself when it happened. Ginny may be able to find a way to sit next to and forgive him, but how was he supposed to handle how he felt about himself?
Tonks sat on his other side and gave his arm a squeeze in a show of support. Draco felt that he was breaking Ginny’s hand as he gripped it in anticipation of what they had to say, but she didn’t complain, she simply held her breath and waited along with him. “No, Draco… as far as we know you didn’t kill anyone.” Lupin said quietly as he sat on the edge of his own bed across from them.
“What do you mean ‘as far as you know’?” He demanded.
Lupin and Tonks shared a look. “From reports on the field, Cho Chang wasn’t among the captured or the deceased. Best we can guess, one or all of her friends took her with them but we have no way of knowing the injuries she sustained.” She softly answered.
“And the others?” Ginny asked as Draco struggled to understand what he felt about this revelation… Cho could be dead, she could be severely injured or she could have been bitten and was now in the process of becoming a werewolf… Of the three he knew which he wanted to be true, even if such dark thoughts were unwelcome among these people. All he hoped was that he hadn’t bitten the horrible girl.
“Vincent Crabbe, Gregory Goyle and Pansy Parkinson are in critical condition… but they’ll live.” Tonks said with an attempt at a cheery tone.
“And none of them were bitten.” Lupin assured them, making Draco feel immensely better than he had a few moments ago. Pansy, Crabbe and Goyle may mean nothing to him, but he’d rather their deaths not be on his head… the fact that he’d managed to control himself not to bite them was even more of a relief.
“I’m sorry for all of it.” Draco said, looking only at Lupin as he really only meant to apologize for what had occurred between them... now that he knew he hadn’t done any irreversible damage to the others he could care less if he’d maimed them in the name of protecting himself and Ginny.
He nodded and offered a smile. “It’s forgotten, Draco. I’ve done far worse in my less controlled years.”
“Besides, Cho’s the one who took your amulet.” Ginny added, still clinging to the fact that it wasn’t entirely his fault that the mind of his wolf was let loose in the first place. But Cho was someone who would apparently continue to haunt him. As relieved as he was that his former cronies were going to live, he couldn’t stand the fact that he had no idea what Cho’s fate was… had she died of her wounds? Worse, had she been bitten? He couldn’t stop torturing himself with the uncertainty.
“What’s going on out there?” Lupin asked suddenly. And then Draco could hear it too, people were yelling down the hall and many of the voices belonged to their friends.
Arthur! Potter’s voice ripped through their minds as the other boy called out for help, his obvious panic causing him to forget to keep the message to it’s intended recipient.
Lupin and Tonks were on their feet and out the door in an instant and Draco was right behind them, rushing toward the chaotic scene outside Luna and Jacey’s room. A large man with a crooked nose was dragging Luna out in handcuffs as two other Aurors brought Mr. Lovegood behind them. Both father and daughter were struggling to get away and they could hear Potter, Weasley and Jacey yelling as they tried to fist fight their way into the hall.
“No! Harry, Jacey… Don’t!” Luna was screaming over her shoulder, clearly sensing the other two were about to expose their powers and get themselves taken into custody as well… if they were able to be taken, which Draco highly doubted.
“What’s going on here?” Tonks demanded as she walked up to her fellow Aurors. Lupin pushed his way to Harry and Jacey, placing a hand on each of their shoulders and squeezing tightly as a reminder to remain calm. Ginny clutched Draco’s hand as they approached and he was sure to keep them both at the edges of this confrontation… it was clear Tonks didn’t recognize any of these people and that was enough to make him nervous.
What do you want to do? He thought out to Potter.
Hang back for now and see if Tonks and Arthur can help… but no matter what, they aren’t leaving with Luna or Xeno. He replied, his anger just barely held in check.
Draco agreed and left it cooler heads to prevail. But he was ready… he’d noticed that one of the Aurors had possession of the others’ wands, so he gripped his tighter and waited to see whether he was going to be forced to battle for a second time that day.
Harry felt like his head was going to explode as he held back the intense desire to use his power and just apparate away with Luna, Xeno and their friends. But that would only make him a target and Luna had already claimed that’s what the Auror wanted. So he forced himself to wait, telling Draco, Jacey and Ron to do so as well.
“I don’t have to answer to you.” The man replied to Tonks as she demanded to know why they were trying to arrest Luna and her father.
“But you do have to answer to me.” Arthur said as he quickly rounded the corner. Harry was relieved to see him, certain that there was no way he would allow this to happen.
“Minister Weasley.” The man nodded with a sneer of contempt.
“The Lovegood family is currently under the Ministry’s protection, on who’s order are you acting to bring them in without my prior knowledge?” Arthur demanded.
“My own, sir. We have not been afforded the chance to meet, what with my hasty appointment after the recent and unfortunate disappearance of Auror Mackle. I am the new Head of the Auror Department, Auror Seth Nerezza.” He bowed slightly as he introduced himself though he didn’t loosen his grip on Luna’s arm. Tonks seemed entirely unhappy with her new boss and Harry couldn’t blame her… how were they supposed to get around this man, who Luna was certain was employed by Voldemort, when he was now in charge of the forces meant to protect everyone?
“Regardless, you are in no position to take a student who has not only been through a traumatic experience but has yet to be released from medical care.” Arthur insisted.
“I am sorry to inform you that you are wrong sir.” Nerezza smiled. “I have been brought on specifically to assemble an elite team of Aurors to investigate anyone presenting a danger to wizarding society. Word of the Lovegood family’s visions has gotten out and we must know what if anything they can tell us about today’s events as well as any others coming up. They are to be detained indefinitely until it can be determined whether they are useful or a threat to our community.”
“Their visions today not only kept today’s events from becoming even more tragic, they also led us directly to the site to aid the students. They are no threat to anyone who is not trying to cause harm to our way of life.” Arthur returned, crossing his arms and standing tall.
The Auror’s words stuck in Harry’s head, “…presenting a danger to wizarding society…” It reminded him of Elise’s warning that everyone would turn on them if they knew the extent of their powers… he hadn’t doubted her, but being presented with evidence of her words was something else altogether.
“That is up to our investigation to uncover. We cannot simply take your word, sir. Not everyone is always who they seem to be.” Nerezza answered Arthur, amused by the irony of his statement. “They reported knowing things before the crash occurred, it is imperative that we have answers to give the public as quickly as possible and so the Lovegoods must be questioned.”
“But not like this, not before Luna is even released from the hospital and not without some sort of representation looking out for both their interests.” Arthur refused to back down. “They are not criminals and they are not suspected of any crime and you’ve accused them of nothing more than seeing things that led them to attempt to stop and/or help with today’s disaster.”
“The Quibbler would love to print a story about how the new Head of the Auror Department is violating citizen rights.” Xeno piped up casually, as if he were entirely unconcerned with what was occurring. Harry knew different… the man may not be scared for himself, but he was terrified for his daughter and Harry was glad to know that Xeno possessed some sense after all.
Nerezza and his Aurors laughed. “If you are in custody, I don’t see how you intend to write such a story.”
“I am a reporter for his magazine.” Jacey said quickly. As she was the only one who seemed unknown to them, they had no way of knowing she was lying. “I would be happy to write this article and publish it for all to see.” Harry could feel Ron’s disapproval at her drawing attention to herself and knew she could feel it too. Luna was also unhappy, but Harry didn’t care… this was taking too long and his ability to have patience had never been strong. Reason was clearly not working, Nerezza had his orders and it seemed Voldemort was eager to have someone telling the future for him. But he knew Luna’s power didn’t always work on command and Xeno’s was entirely unreliable… he doubted the Dark Lord would take well to having to wait. Leaving the hospital in the wrong hands could result in fatal consequences for the Lovegoods and there was no way Harry was going to let it happen.
Make him leave. He demanded of Arthur, urging him to speed this along before things got worse and his self-control left him completely.
Jacey added and Harry could sense that her own patience had worn thin as she only wanted to ensure her friend and fellow coven member was released.
“As Minister I am deeply disappointed in the behavior of the new Head of the Auror Department. I assure the public that I had no say in his appointment to the position and am currently directing an investigation into how he got the job and who exactly hired him.” Arthur said suddenly. “That is a direct quote that I am allowing you to use in your article, Miss.” He added, turning to Jacey and pretending he didn’t know her… it wasn’t hard as he hadn’t really ever had the proper chance to meet her.
Nerezza’s eyes darkened. “I assure you that there is no scandal in my appointment."
“And that is up to my investigation to uncover.” Arthur returned with a smirk. Harry worried about him getting on the wrong side of this newest adversary, but clearly his threats were working and so he decided they would simply have to deal with the next thing as it came. Right now, getting Luna and Xeno released without him or Jacey revealing themselves was what was important. It was bad enough he’d used his power in front of so many witnesses during the summer while fighting Voldemort at the Leaky Cauldron… Arthur had worked hard to keep that out of the papers, but Harry knew people talked. And he was sure there were several students who saw both him and Jacey using their powers today. It was only a matter of time before Nerezza came for him along with Luna and the man’s next words only solidified this thought.
“Fine, we will release the Lovegoods for now until they can be brought in to be questioned with their representation.” He said, letting go of Luna and angrily fumbling for his keys to remove the handcuffs. “But let me just say that they are not the only ones we intend to question. Many witnesses reported seeing Mr. Potter doing strange things while fighting out there… and you as well, Miss-?” He looked to Jacey, waiting for her to provide her name.
“Who I am is of no concern to you.” She replied testily.
“I see. And I assume your travel papers are in order?” He asked, picking up on Jacey’s obvious accent. “I’d hate to discover that a Quibbler employee was in the country illegally.”
“Of course her papers are in order.” Arthur answered for her. “As to your threats to bring Harry or his house guest in for questioning, we are happy to comply. Simply contact my office and set up a time for me to bring them by. I will be acting as their representation as well as Xenophilius and Luna’s if they are unable to find their own. That is how certain I am that you are wrong in trying to accuse any of them in any sort of wrongdoing. In the meantime, I will be looking into not only your appointment but also Auror Mackle’s disappearance. Until I am certain nothing untoward has occurred, you are on restriction. All of your investigations must be run through my office for clearance where they will be reviewed by either myself or my own trusted staff for relevance and necessity. We don’t have time to waste on unfounded hunches, Auror Nerezza.”
“You don’t have the authority-“
“But I do.” Arthur grinned. “You see, knowing what a valuable position yours is, I convened a special committee to vote on granting the Minister’s office the power of ultimate management over the Auror Department. We elected Auror Mackle as the new Head of the Department last year after concerns were raised about his predecessor. The fact that I already have concerns about you does not bode well for your tenure as Department Head.”
“Well then, I guess I’ll just have to work quickly to prove myself.” Nerezza slyly returned as he handed over the wands he’d confiscated… Harry knew the man didn’t care to prove himself to Arthur and so he worried what the threat would provoke the man to do. It seemed that so far, his job was to find a way to divide Luna and then him from their allies and hand them over to Voldemort and he’d come close to succeeding. Harry couldn’t describe the pride, admiration and gratitude he felt for Arthur, even as he knew that having stood his ground had made them all bigger targets. But that was a concern for later, right now things were going to be okay.
Without further confrontation, Nerezza and his Aurors walked away. The moment he was sure they were gone and before anyone could comprehend what had happened, Arthur turned to Tonks in full problem solving mode. “I want all of those Aurors’ names and their records on my desk by morning. Find Alastor, Kingsley, Apollo and Nia and do what you all can to find out how Seth Nerezza was promoted without my knowledge. I’m going to call the committee together at once to determine how to proceed.”
“Everyone on the committee can be trusted?” Lupin piped up, at last releasing his grip on Harry and Jacey.
“I’m almost positive. All but three have joined the Order and of those left, I know they have reason to want to stop Voldemort. But then again, one can never really be sure who is on what side.” Arthur said with a sad sigh before sending Tonks off to carry out her orders. Then he turned to the Lupin, Xeno and the teens. “I’m going to have Drake release you all. Be ready to apparate home in ten minutes… Xeno and Luna, I insist you come as well, at least for tonight. I assume I don’t need Harry’s permission to extend an invitation to stay longer.”
"They can stay forever.” Harry instantly replied, wanting only to hug Luna but holding himself back while in the hall where so many people were walking and looking curiously at their group.
“I heartily accept… at least for Luna.” Xeno said reluctantly. “I must return to my mother and to my printing press. There is much to do now.” Luna sighed and looked away and Harry hid his happiness from her. Of course he didn’t want anything to happen to Xeno, but whether the man went off in pursuit of printing more articles was his choice… and it was Luna’s choice whether she went with. But he knew she didn’t want to, she wanted her father to join her in staying with Harry and the others. She was used to Xeno going off and though it made her sad, she clearly wasn’t going to follow his dangerous example… and at least she knew that wherever he was staying was somewhere provided and protected by the ministry.
Arthur nodded, as unhappy as Luna with Xeno’s plans. “That is your decision, I’ll see to it that you travel safely. Remus, please go tell the others that we’ll be leaving. The sooner we get everyone back to the safety and privacy of Grimmauld Place the better.” He reached out to pat Harry and Ron reassuringly on their backs before rushing away.
“You’re all okay?” Lupin asked. They all nodded slowly. “Alright then, go back into this room and get ready to go. I’ll send Fred and Hermione down here to join you all.” He waited until they had followed his instructions before making his way down the hall and around the corner.
“I’m going to go now.” Xeno said, scooping Luna up in his arms and hugging her tightly. Harry could feel her melancholy, her reluctant acceptance of the situation. Outwardly, she showed only the affection of a daughter saying goodbye to her father.
“Be careful Daddy. I love you.” She said softly as she returned the embrace.
“I love you too. Everything I do now is for us and our safety.” He assured her.
“I know.” She sighed, looking like she wanted to cry but was unable to find the tears.
“You all be careful.” Xeno said to them as he released his daughter and moved to the door. And then he was gone and they were all left to stare uncomfortably at each other. It seemed all of their clothes were damaged and rather than repair anything, they decided to remain in their hospital gowns and robes until they could get home and into fresh clothing.
Harry and Luna wanted to be alone together… but so did Ron and Jacey as well as Ginny and Draco. They all had things they wished to discuss with their partners, things they wanted to do that were best done in private. They were all barely holding on, waiting for that moment when they could be themselves with the person they each trusted most and so all that remained now was awkward silence. After what seemed like an eternity, someone knocked on the door and Fred opened it to reveal himself in a wheelchair, his mood cheerful despite his situation.
“Hey guys check it out, wheels!” He announced as he rolled into the room with Hermione walking behind him and rolling her eyes. “Drake wouldn’t release me without the chair because he was sure I’d walk around and hurt myself all over again… I don’t know why he’d think that, I can follow healers orders.”
“Yes, because you’re the picture of self-control and would have delighted in laying in bed for days.” Hermione laughed. “Not to mention how unhappy he was to find that you had already walked yourself to my room…”
Glad to have a distraction, Harry and the others instantly bestowed their attention on the new arrivals. “You’ll be okay though, right?” Ginny asked in concern as they all gathered around Fred.
“According to Drake.” He answered quickly.
“As long as he does what he’s supposed to.” Ron added with a grin, having been in the room while his brother was being treated. “But I’m sure mum will see to that.” He teased. Fred threw back his head and groaned as he realized all the ways Molly would now be hovering over him.
At last Lupin and Arthur returned with Molly, Bill and Charlie right behind them. “Let’s get you all back to the house. Drake will be by in the morning to check on everyone.” Arthur said with a weary smile. “I’ve arranged a port key so that no one would have to tire themselves further by apparating.” He held out a large top hat and together they all reached out to grab hold of it. Within moments they were all standing in the parlor and Harry couldn’t remember ever being happier to be home.
After she ensured everyone was okay, especially Fred and his wheelchair, Molly rushed into the kitchen to start making dinner. None of the teens had eaten since breakfast and their anxiousness had kept them from eating much then… after a long day filled with terror, adrenaline and fighting, Harry knew they were all starving and couldn’t wait to be treated to one of Molly’s lavish meals. “Well, I better get back to the office.” Arthur said reluctantly. “There’s a lot to see to.” Lupin offered to go with to help and after a slight hesitation, Arthur agreed, figuring the more help he had the better… especially if it was one more person he knew he could trust.
As soon as they were gone the teens dispersed. Harry and Luna went straight to her room and the minute the door was closed she threw herself in his arms and buried her face in his shoulder. He sighed in contentment, having only wanted to hold her since that morning when she’d first told of the dangers coming to them. Circumstance and fear of exposure to their enemies had kept them apart, but now there was nothing that could make him let her go. He needed her comfort as much as she was seeking his. It’s all too much… when do we get to stop and breathe? She silently asked, wrapping her arms tighter around him.
Right now. He answered, kissing the top of her head. We’ll take this moment, it belongs only to us.
I can’t wait to leave London. Coven or no coven, I can’t stand it here anymore. She sighed as she looked up at him.
It’s dangerous everywhere. He reminded her, though he knew what she meant. Here everyday was certain to bring more bad news, more hurt and anger and frustration. Out in the world everything was unknown, they were unknown… well, he wasn’t. But surely he wouldn’t be as recognizable as he was here. At least he hoped he wasn’t. Suddenly leaving didn’t seem like the same escape it had before as a million new worries began invading his head.
Harry rushed off with Luna, apparently completely forgetting that Jacey had never been to his house before. Draco and Ginny also disappeared upstairs while Fred and Hermione muttered something about going to the backyard and made their way into what Jacey assumed was the kitchen- at least that is where Mrs. Weasley had disappeared and where some delicious smells were starting to emanate from.
“Well, I guess I can help you look for your room if you want.” Ron nervously offered, the only one not too wrapped up in someone else to forget their proper manners and show her around.
“I do not understand. Should you not know where the rooms are?” She asked in confusion
“This isn’t an ordinary house.” He grinned before leading the way upstairs. He passed the first landing, explaining that only rooms for adults ever showed up there. She certainly felt like an adult but trusted that he knew what he was talking about. Sure enough, down the hall from the second landing and across from Luna’s room, a door bearing the name Jacinda Nicolau was waiting. She slowly turned the knob and opened the door, wondering what this house’s idea of perfect was for her.
She gasped in amazement, her eyes watering as she took it all in. The walls were a soft sandy hue, the furniture all made of a light mahogany. The large four-poster bed in the middle of the room was covered with an old quilt just like the one her grandmother had made her before she died. In fact, the entire room was nearly identical to the one she had grown up in, right down to the small vase of hyacinths on the desk. All that was missing was the view of her papou’s garden through the window.
“So you like it then?” Ron asked from the doorway as she walked in to explore memories from her happier past.
“I guess I’ll leave to let you settle in then.” He said quietly as he turned to leave.
“Or you could stay.” She offered instantly, not yet wanting to be left alone in the eerie familiarity of this strange place.
“I would not have offered if I was not.” She smiled at him to show that she was glad for his company, which was entirely true now that she was back to feeling like the person she wanted to be and not the cold survivor she had learned to be. It had hurt to allow him to go ahead and kill that vampire for her… but Luna had been certain that it was the right thing and she trusted Luna’s visions. Still, she worried that Ron would begin to develop the same harsh exterior she had after coming to terms with taking lives… of course, he had done so in battle while she had gone hunting for the creatures. And the vampires he had killed had their death coming to them as they had already attacked humans… Jacey was not completely sure that every vampire she destroyed was worthy of such a fate. She knew that there were some among the creatures who tried to live good, peaceful lives; in her blind need for vengeance, she had not cared to figure out which vampire was bad, she had only wanted them all dead. For years she had gone in search of those creatures, gaining a reputation among them and the underground Death Eaters waiting for the time to rise again. In retrospect it was not something she was proud of, and it had only led her to do more terrible things in order to get by. She had not wanted to tell any of her new friends anything about that time in her past between losing her family and finding Hogwarts… but she wanted more than Ron’s friendship and her secrecy was one of the things making him hold himself back from her. Maybe it was time to place her trust in someone, to put herself out a limb and believe that he would still want to be there, that he would still want to know her. Could she take the chance?
“I think it is time that you know a few things about me.” She said slowly as she sat on the edge of the bed. “I only hope you can understand.”
He closed the door and eagerly walked over to her. “I don’t care what you have to tell me, I only want to be told.” He assured her.
“I am scared of how you will see me.” She nearly whispered, suddenly losing some of her nerve.
“Anything you have to say about your past… it won’t change how I feel about you now.” He carefully sat next to her and took her hand. “I just want to understand you and who you are today.
Jacey nodded and took a deep breath. “Okay… but you have to understand, I was very angry…” She began, looking down at the ground as she began to recount the events that led to the worst years of her life.
NOTE: Next few chapters- we learn more about Jacey… Ron gets a return letter from Parvati… Harry, Luna and Jacey are interviewed by the ministry about their actions during the train battle… News arrives of Cho’s fate… Mr. Macnair is questioned… Luna and Hermione make plans to visit their families before leaving… that’s all the ends I can think need wrapping up before they all head out to search for the coven. Of course, who knows what might come up along with all of that, but I’m going to try really hard to stay on track.