Chapter 64: What Comes Next?
A/N: Read, Review and Enjoy!
It took Fred only a few moments to decide that he didn’t want to be outside in the backyard… it was too cold and snowy despite Molly waving her wand and ensuring they were both bundled up. Hermione smiled as she followed him back in, knowing the only reason he’d chosen the backyard as his attempt at solitude was because he was worried about going up the stairs. “What happened?” Molly asked as they made their way into the kitchen to remove the layers of coats, scarves and blankets she had wrapped them in. She was busy using her wand to direct several boiling pots, sizzling pans and stirring spoons.
“Do you need any help?” Hermione offered as a distraction. She knew Fred didn’t have a reason for coming in so quickly after fighting with his mother to go out in the first place… at least not one he was willing to vocalize.
“Oh no, I have everything pretty well taken care of.” She smiled warmly before turning to wave her wand and get rid of the extra clothing and fabric she had wrapped them in. “Why don’t you both go change out of those hospital robes and get comfortable? Dinner will be ready soon.”
“Thank you!” Hermione said, following Fred as he wheeled himself down the hall muttering to himself.
“How am I supposed to do this?” He asked quietly as they reached the bottom of the stairs. “I’ll have to walk up them.”
Hermione smiled. “You’re silly.” She teased, waving her wand and morphing the stairs into a ramp. “Need a push up?”
He shook his head as a slight smile slowly spread across his face. “I guess it’ll be more fun coming down than going up.” He did his best to wheel himself, but she was there to ensure he made it, giving the chair a push only when he needed it. Fred and Harry were similar in their desire to do things themselves and not be viewed as weak… the last thing she wanted was to deal with Fred should he suspect her of pitying him.
At last they made it to the second landing and down to his room. He waited until she had followed him in before slamming the door shut and slumping down in the wheelchair, clearly exhausted. “So, I guess the fun has worn off?” She teased, remembering how he’d been excited at first to be given the chair and the tricks he’d instantly tried to pull in it.
“Rather quickly it seems.” He grinned tiredly as he rolled over to his dresser to grab fresh clothes. She watched as he struggled to undress and then redress himself, waiting until he actually requested her help to go assist him. But he never asked, using his good leg to help him get up or move when necessary. “Well?” He asked with a sigh as he at last accomplished the task.
“Everything looks straight. You are a master dresser.” She laughed.
“Yeah?” He raised an eyebrow. “Come on over here and I’ll show you that I’m a master un-dresser as well.” He flirted, rolling over to her and reaching out to grab her robe.
“But my clothes to change into are upstairs.” She said, playing dumb as she reached out to run her hand through his hair.
“That’s not important.” He grinned.
She laughed, taking his face in her hands and leaning down to lightly kiss his lips. “I’ll be right back down. Try not to drive yourself crazy in the few moments I’ll be gone.”
“I make no promises.” He pouted. Too tired to attempt apparating to her room, she made her way to the door to take the long way when he called out to her. “Hermione?”
“Yeah?” She turned and looked back. He seemed so much smaller and more vulnerable as he stared at her from the wheelchair.
“This is only for a couple of days… I just… I don’t want… You don’t have to…” He struggled for what he wanted to say, obviously worrying about making himself clear without hurting her feelings. But in the last year she’d gotten to know him better than ever before and so she already knew what he wanted to express.
She smiled and walked over, settling herself comfortably in his lap and resting her head on his shoulder as she held him. He instantly wrapped his arms around her and sighed. “Molly is going to hover enough… I know you don’t need me to take care of you.” She leaned up to kiss his chin. “But you’re going to have to accept that I want to.”
“Well… I guess that depends on what you mean by ‘take care of me’.” He teased, cupping her face and kissing her deeply.
“Well, that depends on the kind of care you need.” She answered with seductive slyness before once more capturing his lips with hers.
“I had a good life before the vampires came” Jacey sighed, getting up to begin pacing. Ron remained where he was, patiently waiting for her to decide how she wanted to get it all out. “I may not have known much of my mother or grandmother before they died, but my brother, father and grandfather made up for it. I was so happy, we all were. And then over time people began reporting vampire attacks, and not just muggles either. As the reports grew more rampant, Papou was certain that the creatures had some purpose, something they were seeking. Not since the Dark Ages have vampire attacks been so careless or blatant. He began investigating along with a few of the other elders in our wizarding community. They became certain that the rumored underground Death Eaters were involved in the vampire attacks, they just did not know how. Even so, they decided they would travel to Athens and tell the Ministry what they knew. But on the night before they were to leave, all of Messini was struck. I was walking home from a friend’s house with my brother Lysander and we passed our Papou who was in the meeting square preparing for his upcoming journey with the other elders… Suddenly the night erupted in screams of terror, both from our village and the muggle one living around us. Papou, Lysander and I raced home but by the time we got there, it was crawling with the vampires and we could hear my father screaming inside. Papou raised his hands and set the house on fire, trying to force the creatures away… Lysander, he was always one who was quick to act, he raced inside to try and help our father and I tried to follow but Papou held me back, he said that one of us had to survive…”
“You don’t have to tell this part.” Ron assured her, seeing the angry struggle behind her eyes as she paced endlessly before him. He knew how hard it was for him to talk about George or Percy… he didn’t want to put her through reliving any of this.
But she shook her head. “I do though, because it is important that you understand what drove me to do the things I did, to be the person I was for so many years and why I no longer wish to be that person.”
“Whatever you want, I just don’t want you to be upset…” He felt guilty for pushing for this information for so long. Of course it was a difficult story for her to tell, otherwise she would have disclosed it all long before.
She ignored him, going on as if he hadn’t said anything. “I knew the moment my brother died… I could feel my own fire grow stronger. I was so angry, so sad… I was only thirteen and my whole world was ripped apart in moments. Other villagers began burning their homes to get rid of the vampires and so I went on a rampage, using my power to burn everything I laid eyes on. Everyone who had survived, wizard and muggle, they all found weapons and fought for Messini… eventually we won, killing all but five of the vampires. But our own losses were much greater. Papou sent some of the men to apparate to the ministry and inform them of what had happened at the same time the muggles were alerting their useless police system… but they returned quickly to report that no ministry help was coming, that we would have to go there if we wanted aid. That was when Papou realized the ministry had been compromised, that the dormant Death Eaters had begun making their move… he told us all that they must have found a way to bring back their leader, this Voldemort I had heard about. We all knew the stories of his rise to power and that an infant boy had been the one to destroy him, but Voldemort had never made it to Greece during the first war… only his followers did, most likely in preparation for eventual invasion.”
“We would have been twelve at that time, in our second year… Harry’s second time facing some form of Voldemort’s consciousness” Ron said quietly. “We didn’t think anyone besides Dumbledore and our own families believed us that Voldemort was trying to come back.”
“From my understanding of Harry’s memories, that had more to do with your former Minister.” Jacey said with a sigh, at last sitting next to him once more. “We may not have known what was happening here, but we knew something was going on and Papou was certain that a man such as Voldemort would not have been vanquished so simply all those years ago. He feared our ministry was as corrupt as yours used to be… or still is except for your father it seems.” She shook her head again and stared down at the floor as she put herself back into her memories. “The survivors of the magical community in Messini knew that something was going on, so we all buried what we could find of our loved ones… Papou created headstones outside the ruins of our house meant to commemorate the two we lost and couldn’t find… Alexei and Lysander Nicolau… even now I see those stones engraved with their names and I am filled with anger and sadness.” She stopped and took a deep breath, roughly wiping away the tears she hadn’t wanted to shed. Ron reached out and took her hand; she clung to him, squeezing all the feeling from his fingers as she regained control over herself.
“You don’t have to go on… we can talk again later.”
“No, now is the time.” She insisted, giving his hand one last squeeze before letting go and getting up to pace again. “The survivors gathered whatever we had left and began making our way through Greece to Athens to see for ourselves. With so many children, we could not apparate and none among us could set up these port keys like your father. During our travels, the men taught the women and children how to fight and defend themselves from any vampires or thieves along the way. I paid close attention, intending to learn the names of the five vampires who had escaped and hunt them down if it took the rest of my life.”
“Did you?” He interrupted, remembering how she’d been so interested to know Tristan’s name when she’d first arrived.
“Yes, and all but one has been eliminated. But that comes later in the story.” She replied before moving on. “We arrived in Athens with only one vampire attack along the way, but when we got there, it was as bad as we’d expected. After picking up with a few contacts they had in the city, Papou and the other two surviving elders were able to find out that the attack on Messini was planned… The Minister had been corrupted by Voldemort’s followers and was playing into their plans. They were using the vampires to spread fear and despair… and then the Minister was supposed to have seemingly taken care of the creatures to restore everyone’s faith in him and therefore make us all trust and believe in him. Messini was the first village and that is why the ministry did not care to hear from us… they were waiting for more of these planned attacks before acting. We were mad… I was furious that my brother and father had died because the ministry had decided to play a dangerous game of chess… I did not want to be a pawn any longer and neither did the rest of us. And neither did anyone in Athens once we spread the word. We became criminals, wanted by the ministry for treason… apparently they thought our exposure of their dark deeds against their own people was more treasonous than the deeds themselves. Luckily, most citizens did not agree and we found safe havens wherever we went… until the vampires finally arrived in Athens. By that time I had learned all five names of the ones who had escaped Messini. Less than a year had passed, I was fourteen and I suddenly found myself not only a fugitive from my government but constantly being forced to fight for my life… I suppose you could understand that to some point, Harry understands it even more because it seemed to have been happening to him here in London… no one wants to hear the truth within a corrupt government because they think they control everything. I was forced to kill four vampires before we decided to flee Athens altogether. For the next two years we traveled around Greece, never staying too long in one place. We became known as the Hunters… me, my Papou and six other men and women from Messini who decided to travel with us. We killed so many vampires that I foolishly began to hope that they were on the brink of extinction, but of course they were not… Not when they could so easily make more of themselves. One of the men with us was an Elder like Papou, his name was Tobias and he had been a friend of our family since they were boys together. One night after we had set up camp, he went into the trees to find fire wood for me to light… he had been gone only moments when we heard him scream. Papou raced to help, we all did… but it was too late. Old Tobias was torn to pieces and the twenty vampires had us surrounded. We fought, but Papou and two others were killed. In my rage, I did not know what I was doing and allowed my fire to flow freely… not only did I burn the vampires and the trees, I accidentally killed the only other survivor besides myself.”
Ron jumped in surprise when Jacey grabbed up the vase of flowers on her desk and threw it against the wall with an angry shriek of emotion. He instantly went and forced her to let him hold her, to allow his comfort until she could place this grief she carried with her back into whatever dark corner of her mind that she normally kept it.
“Afterwards I wanted to die, I felt horrible… I had taken an innocent life, the life of a friend and ally, someone I had known all of my life.” She said into his shoulder as she buried her face against him. And then with a deep shuddering breath she pushed herself away, wrapping her own arms around herself as she moved to the window. “Ever since losing Lysander, Papou had told me how important it was that I survive to carry on our bloodline, that fate would intervene to keep me alive as long as necessary, that I or my children would have a large destiny ahead of us. We are not the seers of the coven, but with the events of the last two decades, he knew that something was coming, it was why he was compelled to learn so much about the coven in the first place. For him and for the rest of my family I knew I had to find a way to go on, that no matter what it took, I had to survive until everything made sense, until destiny came to meet me. I am not proud of the way I lived or the things I did…”
“Everyone has regrets.” He said gently.
“Regret is for those who had a choice.” Jacey answered bitterly, leaning forward to place her head against the cool glass. “I only needed to go on living, I just did not know how or why. If I were to carry on, I needed a purpose and the only one I could come up with was to avenge the deaths caused both directly and indirectly by the vampires and Death Eaters. Using my power and the fighting skills I had acquired, I lived in the woods, hid in villages when I could and followed every lead that could bring me to those five creatures who had escaped from Messini. By the time I was fifteen, I had killed two of them… and many, many others. I realized I was beginning to be recognized among them, that those who escaped me had spread word of the damage I was inflicting. I knew I would not be able to go on alone much longer. That is when I met Alexandros Verga and my life took an even deeper spiral downward.” She shuddered and went to her bags to pull out a sweater before sitting down at her desk and hanging her head. Ron sat on the bed and quietly waited to see if she wanted to continue.
“I hated him at first sight…” She started again, clenching her fists as she spoke. “I had heard his name, I knew he was a Death Eater… I knew the cruel and vicious acts he had carried out. But I also knew that I needed him to go on because he was working directly with the Minister in Athens. I needed a wand issued to me in order to really protect myself and if I went on my own, with no formal education and my own poor reputation, I would have at best been turned away… at worst I would have been imprisoned for the crimes attached to my name, even if I had not committed all that I was accused of. I convinced Alexandros that I was weak, that he was the only one who could make me strong. I convinced him that I was in love… it is a feat I am proud of considering the total disgust I held for him. Slowly I became assured of his desire for me if not his total regard, but I was also learning that lust could be an even more powerful motivator than love… at least for those like him who perhaps do not know how to love. I made small requests at first and he granted them willingly. And then I placed myself in danger, pretending my powers had failed me so that he would be forced to come to the rescue… I was actually surprised when he did. After I told him that I needed a wand so that something like that would never happen again. He said there was only one way to convince the Minister that he could trust me not to turn any wand against him… I had to incriminate myself along with him so that I would be as guilty as he was. Alex promised that if I did this, he would not only get me a wand, he would teach me how to use it.”
“What did they want you to do?” He asked breathlessly when she faltered.
She shook her head and ran her hands through her hair. “I was in so deep at this point, I had no way out. To refuse would have meant death, and even if I could escape, I would be hunted even more than I was before… tying myself to Alex had meant that I was around to hear many secrets that they would not have wanted to get spread around… There was a man in Athens, his name was Stavros… he was muggle-born but a very powerful wizard and he had taken on a personal vendetta against the Death Eaters and their invasion of the Greek Ministry. Unbeknownst to Alex, I passed on every secret I learned to Stavros and he was publicly crying them out in the wizarding streets. They wanted him silenced, but since he was always in public and vigilant about what he ate or drank, they were unable to reach out to him without witnesses. The point was not to draw more attention to the Death Eaters’ silent take over of the government. They wanted me to set him on fire during his next public appearance… an act that could not be traced by anyone who did not know what I was capable of. I hid my horror and agreed to do the deed provided Alex show me that he had actually gotten me a wand. And so he took me to the shop and allowed me to find my wand… but he kept it until I fulfilled my end of the deal. I snuck out that night and went to Stavros to tell him of the plan. He insisted that I do what I must, that he was ready to die for his cause. I told him that I could not take his life, but in the end he told me I had to… that he appreciated the warning as it allowed him to make arrangements to benefit all. I left feeling uncertain. But the next day, Alex took me to the mound on which Stavros was to speak and the old fool was there. I met his eyes as he spoke and invaded his mind to be sure this was what he wanted. And then he was engulfed in flames… he never even screamed out, simply fell over and writhed on the ground. We ran as people rushed forward but I knew it was too late, I felt his presence fade from my head. It was the second non-vampire life I had taken and I was sick to my stomach over it. But Alex was proud of me so I hid everything I truly felt up inside myself and forced myself to grow cold.”
“But Stavros told you to-“
“And so did Alex.” She interrupted angrily. “At some point, it should be my choice whether or not I kill someone. Maybe I did have one, maybe I could have walked away… but I cannot think like that because it only leads me to question whether or not I would have… Maybe I did not want to walk away… These are thoughts that have tortured me for a long time now. But going cold and numb made it all go away. I was able to do and say the things Alex and the Ministry wanted of me while trading lessons in casting. Eventually I felt I knew enough to teach myself and stole several spell books to learn from. Together, we would go out and hunt vampires… Alex hated them as well and did not like being forced to work with them. In June, three days after my seventeenth birthday, I asked him to help kill one of the two remaining five from Messini. I did not explain the importance of this kill, just that I needed his help because of who the vampire was… Nicolas Lazos. He was from a very old and very rich wizarding family and despite the creature he was, it was believed that he was living like his more civilized counterparts and therefore not a monster at all. But we knew different because we had been forced to work with him. Alex agreed because he wished to cut ties with his group of Death Eaters and make his way to London where news of Voldemort’s actual return was being spread… he hoped to gain a place within the inner circle.”
“Well, if it was June and you were just turning seventeen, then that would have been at the end of our fifth year… after the Department of Mysteries.” Ron mused, trying to match up the horrors of her life with the horrors of his. “Voldemort had been back for a year but no one believed us until then, when he actually showed himself.”
Jacey nodded. “For that entire year I’d heard rumors… it was the first time I’d heard Harry’s name since I was a child being told stories of Voldemort’s first defeat. I had the feeling that I wanted to meet him, to find out how he did it and if he could do it again before this all spread even more… but by the time Alex and I chose to kill Nicolas I knew it was too late, that the evil had spread worldwide and that it would take more than one young boy to end it all. Papou’s stories of the coven were in my head and I thought, well, maybe one boy could not do it, but a strong group from all over the globe, perhaps they could. So when Alex said that the only way he would agree to killing Nicolas was if we then left Greece I agreed, hoping I would be able to find more like myself and finally leave him behind. We were able to kill Nicolas quickly and quietly, taking him by surprise in his own home. That is when Alex let me in on the last part of his plan… we had to marry. I saw the logic in it, I could travel easier and with less fear as someone’s wife and he needed to have a reason to leave the country. Neither of could just disappear after the things we had been apart of… there were so many murders we were responsible for. After Stavros, there were many others they asked me to take care of and as my chosen handler, Alex was the one to set up my attacks. I was able to do it all from that cold place I had created within myself, but I hated who I was. If marrying Alex was going to get me away from it, then I was willing. One of his Death Eater friends officiated the farce of a union and we fled to Switzerland right after, using our honeymoon as an excuse… really we wanted to leave before Nicolas’s body was discovered.”
Ron thought about all that she was telling him and didn’t like it at all. “Are you saying that for awhile, you were actually a Death Eater?”
“I never allowed them to brand me with their ridiculous tattoo, but I suppose that is exactly what I was… spreading fear and taking innocent lives. For some time, I pretended the wizards I was killing were vampires… eventually I could no longer lie to myself but to refuse to go on carrying out their orders would have only resulted in my immediate death. Without Alex I had nothing, no money, no protection beyond my own power and questionable wand skills, nothing to claim as mine other than the clothes on my back. I married him so that I could leave it all… I had no delusions that he was going to change. But I did want to change, I wanted to be my old self again so badly that the whole time we were in Switzerland I plotted how to kill Alex, to get rid of that one last piece tying me to the nightmare of the last few years. But I was irritated to find that I could not carry through with it… I did not love him, but my regard for him had grown. I could not see him as anything other than the man who had provided me the only safe haven he knew, even if it was someplace I never wanted to be. I expected we would go on to London, but his contacts informed him that things were complicated there at the moment, that Voldemort was planning and they would let us know when we could come. I desperately wanted to be in London, to try and find Harry and secure myself a different safe haven, one not built on the premise of taking lives and spreading fear and destruction. Instead, Alex took us to Paris where he was needed more. We met with Minister Moreau, a small, frightened man with little to no backbone. The Death Eaters had just begun their invasion of his ministry and it seemed he was willing to step aside and let it happen, despite passionate speeches to his people that he would never allow it. Using a false name, I walked the streets and listened to the magical community… they had believed in their minister, had truly expected to be safe from invasion. But they were fully aware that Moreau wasn’t the leader or the wizard they thought he was and they were in the midst of planning an uprising. I kept this to myself, figuring that if they could do it, I would be more than happy to join. But I had doubts. I was on the inside of the Death Eaters, I knew how deeply they were burying their roots.”
She got up and moved to the window once more, throwing it open and letting the cold air wash her flushed face. “And then I sort of woke up.” She said with a soft sigh, turning back to face him with the wind blowing through her hair. “I realized that I could help the people of Paris simply by telling them what I knew. I met a lawyer woman named Vivian, she was insistent that a rebellion be planned and after telling her that I was her perfect spy, she allowed me to help… though she did not ever give me any information about her efforts. I knew she did not trust me, I did not have to read her thoughts to see that and I could not blame her. I did not trust myself, I had lost so much of who I was that I began to fear I could never get it back. One night, after a fight with Alex, I went to Vivian and broke down. I could not hold back my tears any longer, it had been years since I cried, since I allowed any sort of weakness within me. I was tired, exhausted and I wanted out. I told her everything, she was the only one before you to hear any of this. She told me to divorce Alex, even if it meant losing that connection to the Death Eaters’ activities. She said that I had been riding the wheels of someone else’s fate and it was time to embrace my own, as a fighter for freedom and not as a tool for destruction. She helped me with everything, handled all the paperwork from her office. Alex was not as upset as I had thought he would be… In his head, I could see that he did not trust me anymore, that he had been seeing a change in me that disturbed him. Besides, he had found a woman in Paris who had captured his fancy and while having a wife would not have stopped him from pursuing her, it was certainly easier to present himself as a single man. He wanted to wipe away my memory but I used my fire to keep him back, threatening to kill him before he could even think of reaching for his wand. And then I left and hoped to never see him again.”
The room had grown cold, Ron could see their breath puffing out into the air in white wisps. Jacey seemed not to notice at all and so he hid his shivers and crossed his arms for warmth. “What did you do after you left him?”
“I stayed with Vivian for a few months… and then word began to spread of vampire attacks in Paris. And not just vampires this time, apparently the demons and werewolves were making moves as well. But my blood does not boil at the thought of any other creature like it does with vampires. I knew what I wanted to do and I did not want to put any blood on Vivian’s head… she had taken me in and treated me as if I were her sister, I wanted her to be safe from everything, including me. So I left in the middle of the night, leaving a note with promises that I would see her again though I was not sure I meant it or that it would even be possible. There was one name left on my list of the five vampires from Messini, but he was not in Paris… at least I never found him while I was out hunting. Eventually it became like Athens, the Parisian vampires began to recognize me and the purpose with which I stalked them. I did not care who they were or if they carried any sins- if I found someone with fangs, I eliminated them. I had no idea how much time had passed until I realized that I had missed my own nineteenth birthday… I was floundering, I felt lost. All I knew anymore was hunting and violence, I could not return to Vivian with all that I had done and I had no where else to go… and then I received your letter.” She smiled faintly as she stared off into space. And then she looked at him once more with intense seriousness. “Your letter saved me Ron. Not only were you offering up the chance to meet Harry, you gave me hope that maybe Papou had been right about my destiny, that there was a coven to join, somewhere I could belong. You gave me a reason to become myself because I knew I could not come to you all as I was. Before I could reply…” Here she choked up and had to wipe away more tears before they could spill. “… Vivian and her rebellion efforts were eliminated. The explosion could be heard for miles and I ran through the streets with everyone else to see what had happened. I found the building Vivian operated out of engulfed in fire as dying screams could be heard from inside. I knew she had plans to attack the ministry during the summer… apparently the Death Eaters had somehow found out as well. Without care as to who would see me, I covered myself in my own flames and rushed in… I was too late, Vivian and all but one other had died in the blast. I brought the sole survivor out and then I ran and ran, trying to outrun my tears and anger. When I was able to stop, I found someplace in an alley to curl up and feel all of the despair that I needed. And then I decided that I would come to London… but I could not let Vivian’s rebellion efforts die with her. So I wrote to you, telling you that it was too dangerous to correspond but that I would be in touch and then I gathered as many as I could and began telling Vivian’s story. Eventually I was able to leave them to their plans, certain that they would be able to protect themselves and their city… or at the very least, keep the Death Eater invasion from spreading. By that time, I realized you would all be back at your school and so I made my way there. The rest you know.” She finished, walking over to stand before him. “What I need to know is what you think of me, whether you can accept all that I have told you.” She stared down at him as he sat, her eyes full of fear and hope.
Rather than answer, he stood and took her face in his hands before pressing his lips to hers, kissing her with as much depth and passion as he felt. No, he didn’t hate her… he didn’t think he could have hated her even if she’d admitted to being the one to bring Voldemort back herself. Putting aside the horrible things she did, he was glad that she had survived, that she was able to be here right now with him. He may not approve of or like that she had nearly been his enemy, fighting with the Death Eaters, but clearly that wasn’t where she was meant to be… she was meant to be with them and he wouldn’t have it any other way. She pulled away and stared into his eyes, boring into his head and reading his thoughts. “You are sure?”
He smiled and kissed her cheek. “Absolutely. And we never have to mention it again.” He insisted, never wanting either of them to have to relive her past.
“Hey in there!” Ginny called through the door. “I’m assuming Ron is with you since he wasn’t in his room. Mum is calling us all for dinner!” She announced before heading downstairs.
Ron was starving, it had been a long day from train crash to emotional outpouring and he hadn’t eaten since very early that morning. Jacey’s stomach suddenly growled as her relieved mind was finally able to focus on something else. They smiled at each other and nodded before going down to the kitchen, not needing to say anything in that moment. He felt they understood each other perfectly.
Dinner was rather quiet as everyone was far more concerned with filling their empty stomachs than conversing. Molly had created quite a feast and so no one was shy about piling their plates for the second time… some even went back for a third helping. Arthur, Bill, Charlie, Lupin and Tonks arrived just as everyone else was sitting back feeling full and sated. Harry let them get through most of their meal and a bit of small talk about everyone’s health before letting his anxious curiosity run loose. “What’s going to happen now, Arthur?”
He shook his head and pushed his plate away. “I honestly don’t know.” He sighed and looked to Tonks. “It seems that there is nothing to trace how Seth Nerezza became the new Head of the Auror Department… no one actually appointed him yet somehow all of the paperwork and personnel information was in proper order. Alastor is still with Kingsley, Apollo and Nia trying to find something that will lead us somewhere.”
“Well, there was that one thing Moody told us…” Tonks said slowly. Arthur nodded, indicating that she could go on. “Nerezza had signed in several times over the past few years to the Archives and the Hall of Records. The only thing is, he never signed in with his real name… Moody worked with Edgar Crescent and they analyzed the handwriting of everyone in the register. Several names where written by the same hand and they all matched with samples of Nerezza’s written reports.”
“So he was the one stealing ministry files… And the eight Aurors who were with them? I didn’t recognize them.” Ron pressed. Being the minister’s son had given him occasion to come across every member of the Auror squad… but Harry was certain no one had know who those men were when they rushed into the hospital room. He looked to Arthur, hoping that someone knew them now.
“They were all hired a few days ago by Nerezza after his appointment to his new position.” He answered.
“You think they’re Death Eaters.” Luna said... it wasn’t a question, after her vision she was sure that Voldemort was involved in all of this.
Arthur nodded. “It’s what we’re all thinking and I’m scared that it’s true. They are infiltrating the Ministry in the worst way possible, by taking over as intended protectors of our citizens. The next step is my office and if we don’t stop their infiltration into the other departments, they may just take over as Minister as well.”
“It is Paris all over again.” Jacey muttered as Ron reached out to rub her shoulder. “Only Moreau gave into the forces invading him.”
“I assure you that I will not.” Arthur replied with a tired but reassuring smile.
“How are we going to handle the inquiry into Luna and her father?” Harry asked, bringing the conversation back to what he deemed most urgent. He had no doubt that Arthur would never willing allow the ministry to be taken, he knew the man would fight to the end and would never give into Voldemort. But the beginning of the fight was keeping Luna, Jacey and himself out of the enemy’s grasp.
“Perhaps if we leave earlier?” Jacey suggested.
Arthur reached out to gently grab Molly’s arm to stop her protests before speaking. “You three leaving the country before this can be resolved is not the answer. The idea is to not have anyone chasing after you… if you disappear before they pull this sham of an investigation, that only lends credence to Nerezza’s claims that you have something to hide and that you could all three present a danger to others. It will give him the power to send his own Aurors after you, Aurors out of real ministry control who don’t have the same interests in your protection or the protection of others like our real Aurors. You will in effect be leading the enemy directly to the very people you are all trying to find.”
“So what are my dad and I supposed to do?” Luna asked quietly. She was carefully composed and ready to take his advice. Harry took her hand under the table knowing that no matter what, he would take her and Jacey and disappear before letting Nerezza or anyone else take any of them into custody. She squeezed his fingers and silently told him to calm himself, to just wait and see what was to come. For her sake he took a deep breath and made an attempt at patience.
“As soon as Nerezza presents his formal request, I will arrange a time for you both to be brought to the ministry.” Arthur said with authority as he began laying out his plan. “I’ve already spoken to Xeno and he’s agreed to allow me to act as representative to you both. I have a strong feeling that Nerezza will make his request first thing in the morning so expect this to happen in the next day or so. Once there, you will not say anything unless I tell you to. It is fortunate for us that you can both silently speak to me and that will most likely work in our favor. I assure you that no matter what case he presents, you will not be taken into custody. Now… here’s the part that may be upsetting…” He paused and seemed to prepare himself for what he knew was coming. “For this to work, Harry and Jacey can’t be anywhere near any of this.”
Arthur stood along with Harry and held up his hand to halt his protest. “Hear me out. We know you and Jacey are already also in his sights… but until he can find enough witnesses to what you both did out there, he can’t accuse you of anything. He can’t even question you beyond what any other students present would be asked. Unfortunately, word of Luna and Xeno’s visions couldn’t be hidden as it would inevitably be questioned why the engineer of the train pulled the brakes to avoid the explosion spells and how we knew instantly where to send rescue and relief efforts. But every Auror present at the train has been instructed to keep silent about anything they may have seen you or Jacey do. Luckily the only students to witness your feats turned out to be friends of yours and they’ve agreed to remain silent as well. Obviously we can’t count on everyone to keep their word, but there will never be enough from this incident to bring either of you in for any valid reason… and if he tries to anyway, it will give us a reason to reprimand and revoke his position.”
“Something we’re already trying to do anyway.” Tonks added for extra reassurance. “There’s something they missed in getting him placed as Department Head, we’ll find it and we’ll get rid of him.”
“Perhaps finding out what happened to Auror Mackle.” Luna suggested casually.
“That is something else we’re working on.” Tonks answered, looking at her warily. “Is there something you have to add that can help us?”
Luna shook her head. “Not yet.”
Harry turned back to Arthur. “I still don’t see why I can’t at least be outside the room while they’re being questioned.”
“Like I said, I don’t want there to be any reason for them to pay you any more attention than they already do.” He sighed. “Harry, you know you aren’t the most even-tempered person in the world… the last thing we need is for them to provoke you into doing something that will give them a reason to take you into custody. I can’t have my focus split worrying for both you and Luna. Besides, I have something to offer to make you feel slightly better.”
“Mr. Macnair?” Harry plucked the thought from Arthur’s head. “Really?”
He nodded. “I am going to arrange to have Tonks and Kingsley question Mr. Macnair up at Azkaban at the same time Nerezza will be questioning Luna. I don’t want him to know that we are attempting to get answers of our own. I figure Macnair won’t be as honest as we’d like and so perhaps you could help get some of his story out of him. We need to know why the vampires are working with the Death Eaters and how long they’ve had this alliance.”
Jacey stood so suddenly her chair toppled over. “I want to go as well. These are questions that I have long sought answers to and I want the chance to finally have them.” She insisted, leaning forward on the table and staring intently at Arthur.
“Okay…” He slowly replied. Harry had forgotten how intense she could be to someone who didn’t know her and it seemed Arthur was unsure how to deal with the newest addition to the household. “But you are going only to question and to listen.”
“I agree to the terms.” She picked up her chair and sat down looking both thoughtful and angry. Ron once again reached out to rub her shoulder in comfort… and Harry realized that something had happened… Jacey had told Ron something of her past and luckily, Ron was choosing to be supportive. Harry hoped that someday she would trust him and Luna to know her past as well, but until then, he wouldn’t pry as it was something that clearly upset her.
Arthur got up and motioned that Tonks, Lupin, Bill and Charlie do the same. “We have to be getting back to the ministry. There is still so much to be done.”
“It’s already past eleven… don’t be too late.” Molly scolded as she stood to say goodbye.
“It’ll take as long as it takes.” Bill grinned, leaning down to kiss her cheek before apparating away with Charlie.
“We’ll try not to be there all night.” Arthur promised before also leaving with Tonks and Lupin.
Molly shook her head and turned to the teens. “Alright, everyone up to your rooms and go to bed. You need rest and Healer Drake will be here first thing in the morning to check on all of you.”
Bidding her goodnight, they made their way to the stairs. Hermione waved her wand and created a ramp… Harry shared a mischievous grin with Ron, and together they each grabbed a handle of Fred’s wheelchair and raced him up, weaving and threatening to ram him into walls. All three boys were laughing, completely ignoring Hermione’s requests that they be careful. Harry knew Fred was miserable now that the novelty of the chair had worn off- he would be too- and so he wanted to find some way for the other boy to have some fun with it.
At the second landing, everyone coupled up to enter a room… Ron and Jacey disappeared back into hers, Hermione pushed Fred the rest of the way into his and Draco and Ginny tiredly made their way to his room. Harry was happy to follow Luna into hers, collapsing on the bed before she even closed the door.
“I’m so tired in every imaginable way.” He sighed, burying his face in one of her pillows. He felt her climb onto the bed to begin rubbing his shoulders and flipped himself over… they’d both been through a lot that day and he wanted them to take care of each other, not have her concerned only about him. He took her fingers and kissed them before smiling up at her. “It’ll be okay when you go talk to Nerezza, right?”
“As far as I know…” She said, staring off for a moment. “Nothing is coming to me saying that it’ll end badly.”
“So, what’s wrong then?” He sat up, feeling her discomfort with… something.
She looked away, getting up to change into her pajamas. “I need to go see my grandmother before we leave.”
“I’m sure that can easily be arranged.” He assured her, wondering where this was going.
“I know… I guess I’m worried about us all leaving in a few weeks.” She finally admitted, pulling on an oversized T-shirt and climbing back into bed beside him.
“Why?” He asked, suddenly feeling tense.
Luna smiled slightly. “I haven’t seen anything. It’s just a general sense of foreboding. I’m hoping my grandmother may be able to help clear some of it up… She may be older and her powers may have faded, but she still sees things when it’s important and hopefully she’ll be able to tell me things about my family that will make going out into the world less scary. And if she knows something about my family’s artifact then all the better.”
“I’m scared to go out there too.” He admitted as they lay down to hold each other. “Anything could happen and we’d be thousands of miles from Arthur or Dumbledore or anyone else who could help us. I’ve never had a home I didn’t want to leave… now I do. I’d much rather stay here where it’s safe and let Arthur and the Ministry hunt down everyone we need to find. But we can’t because it seems Arthur is the only one with any power in the Ministry that we can trust.”
She laughed a little. “Right, like you’d ever willingly sit back and let someone do something for you anyway.”
“Okay, so you’re right. But it doesn’t mean I don’t want to want to stay home.” He smiled. “Now is the time for us to take action and I guess I’m ready… are you?”
“I have to be, I don’t have a choice.” She grimly replied, pulling herself closer in his arms. “I can’t let you go without me and you can’t stay here. We have to go… I just wish I were as strong as you and Jacey.”
“I’m glad you aren’t.” Harry answered, leaning to sweetly capture her lips. “Our strength comes from our desire to overcome the things we’ve experienced, it’s strength built on hardness and the ability to distance ourselves from the violence necessary to go on. You have a different kind of strength Luna… yours comes from the desire to always do right and your ability to forgive those who’ve sinned against you.”
“I haven’t forgiven Lucius.” She said darkly.
“No, but you also aren’t ready to kill him on sight. You tried to build a case against him so that he would legally pay for taking Kane’s life.” He quietly replied. “Don’t you see? Your strength is that you are free from the venom of revenge that drives me and Jacey and so many others. That makes you a better person than us… and it makes me want to be a better person too.” It was true. He wished he didn’t have this need to be the one to bring Voldemort down… it was more than the fact that he’d been told since he was eleven that he was the only one who may be able to, it was that he felt he deserved it. He hadn’t been given a choice as to his place in this war, he was born into it and the life he should have had was taken from him because of it. He wanted revenge for those years taken from him, for never being allowed a real childhood, for not being able to enjoy the magical world presented to him without fear, for constantly having to worry about everyone he loved, for everyone he loved who was taken from him…
“You need to ask Jacey for the ring.” Luna said softly, gently brushing his hair off his forehead while trying to wipe away the thoughts that were slowly dragging him down.
“I think it’s important that you talk to Sirius.”
“Not my parents?” He asked with a smile, knowing her advice always had a reason behind it.
“You didn’t want to talk to Lily until you learned why Ruby and Richard Adler had to go into hiding… I assumed James would be equally difficult to speak with. But Sirius… I think he may have the advice you need to hear.”
“I wasn’t aware that I needed advice.” He teased.
She smiled up at him. “We all need some advice I think… I just hope we all get it in time.”
“Meaning?” Harry asked with a sense of dread.
But she only smiled wider and shook her head. “I don’t know.”
Draco woke to find Ginny trying and failing to quietly get herself dressed. “What are you doing?” He asked sleepily as he reached for the clock. “What time is it?”
“Early…” She said in an apologetic half-whisper as she came to sit next to him. “Go back to sleep, I didn’t mean to wake you.” She leaned down to kiss him and then continued preparing to leave.
“But you did and now I’m all curious.” He grinned, sitting up and watching her fumble to climb into her jeans.
“Mum told me last night that Laurel was coming by early to see me… I was going to talk to her in my room. She should be here any moment.” She stood and pulled on her sweater and then ran her hands through her unkempt hair before pulling it back.
“Oh…” He looked down at his hands, suddenly nervous and uncertain.
“What’s wrong?” She asked in concern, once more coming to sit at his side.
“Nothing… I was just thinking… do you think she’d stay and talk to me too?” He asked quietly, still unsure if he really wanted to speak to the woman. But he had to talk to someone neutral, someone who didn’t know him well enough to look past his indiscretions because they cared for him. Ginny, Lupin and Tonks… they were saying all the things he wanted to hear after yesterday’s events and it was making him uncomfortable. He needed an outside ear to listen and tell him the real truth and not one distorted by emotion or feeling. If Laurel was already going to be here, then why not take her up on her offer and try to let her help him?
Ginny seemed both happy and concerned by his question. “If she doesn’t have an appointment then I’m sure she would…” She said slowly, clearly holding back from once again asking him what was wrong. “Is there something bothering you?” She asked at last, unable to refrain from posing the query in a different way.
“Yes, and I’m hoping maybe she can help me figure out what it is.” He joked though he was actually quite serious. He hoped the woman would be able to mirror back his concerns and make sense of them for him.
“Tell you what… I wasn’t thrilled by the idea of facing the world without a shower. I’ll send Laurel to talk to you first and when you guys are done she and I can visit and catch up.” Ginny offered as if she and the healer were old friends. Clearly the two had struck some kind of closeness as Laurel had been the one to break through Ginny’s barriers in a way none of them could and made it possible for her to accept Draco at all… something he would eternally be grateful for. He knew their friends believed he had been the one to bring Ginny back to who she was while she’d been the one to fully change him, but if that were true, then neither of them could have done it without Laurel.
“Okay, as long as neither of you mind.” He agreed, figuring that this time he was the one who needed to talk to the woman more.
“I don’t and I’m sure she’ll be fine with it as well.” Ginny answered just as the bell rang. “That must be her. I’ll send her up.” She stood and leaned to kiss him once more before going to meet the healer.
Draco sat in the lonely silence, lost in thoughts of what he would actually say to Laurel when the woman herself knocked on his half-open door and peeked her head in. “Ginny said you wanted to talk?” She asked with a gentle smile.
“I think so…” He awkwardly replied.
Coming the rest of the way in, she closed the door and settled in his desk chair. “I know yesterday must have been difficult.” She prompted, clearly wanting him to feel comfortable.
“But not for the same reasons as everyone else.” He shook his head and told her his whole sad story. Before he knew it, he was telling her everything that was weighing him down, from his fears of what he’d done yesterday to the volatile relationship he now had with his father. It felt so good to release it all, to let it flow out of him unto trustworthy ears who could make sense of it all. When he was finally done he felt weightless and turned to her, eager for her to tell him what to do.
“The last time we spoke so briefly… you asked me about protecting someone you hate and we both knew you meant you father. Forgetting the outcome of your actions, how did you feel in that moment when you took a stand and finally gave up his hiding places?” She asked out of nowhere, confusing him greatly. He hadn’t expected her to focus on that part of his story.
“I don’t know… I was happy and apprehensive because I knew I had just cut all ties with him.” He said uneasily.
“And after all that he did in the woods… do you feel it was worth it?” She gently prodded.
“I don’t know.” He said again. “He essentially kidnapped Ginny to use as bait and tried to kill Luna… I know that I would do anything to stop him.”
Laurel nodded. “You’re forgetting the most important part… he tried to kill you too.”
“And I was willing to take him with me.” Draco answered confidently, recalling how much he regretted Potter saving Lucius along with him and Luna… he had nearly ended his father and he wasn’t sorry.
Again she nodded. “And while I may not agree that it should always be an eye for an eye, I am sure that no one faults you for your actions. I know that I don’t. You did what you thought was necessary to protect those around you and you have come to terms with the fact that it may mean the end of your father. So why are yesterday’s events bothering you? You once again did what you had to in order to protect those around you… why is it so difficult for you to accept that you injured former friends or may have killed this Cho Chang?”
“Because I wasn’t really me.” He replied without thinking.
“And therein lies your problem.” She smiled. “You want there to be a separation between yourself and the wolf living within you, perhaps because that is what you’ve been told to expect. You are not the first werewolf I have come across and I’m sure you have heard that just like people, every wolf is different.”
“Many times.” He muttered.
“Well, it’s true.” She got up and came to stand next to him. “I have met some who were so in touch with their humanity that the change barely affected their mind at all. And then there are some like the one who bit you, this Harland… they have no humanity and are more wolf than human to begin with. Just like real wolves in the wild… some are good and some are bad, but they are all wild animals driven by instinct and to add in humans equally incapable of reaching their rational mind is only a recipe for disaster."
“So which am I?” He asked. “Can I learn to keep the change from affecting my mind or am I too far gone?”
“Honestly?” She took his arm and led him to sit on the edge of the bed. “I think you fall somewhere in the middle. You so desperately want to be a better person that your wolf isn’t as rampant as it could be… but when the human side of you is out of your control, then the wolf seizes it’s chance to roam free. It doesn’t make you evil or a monster… it makes you one more person who must learn to deal with the hardships presented throughout life.”
“This isn’t a normal hardship.” He argued.
“For you it is.” She argued back. “You must stop comparing yourself to others and their idea of normal and learn what is normal for you. Only you know what you can live with or how far you can be pushed before breaking. But you are forgetting your own inner strength… that same drive that was inside of you when you decided to take your own life in your hands, that kept you going while disaster and tragedy surrounded you and your new life… It’s still there Draco, but you are letting it die because you are so concerned with what everyone thinks and whether they’ll abandon you out of fear or anger. Clearly you don’t trust yourself… don’t you trust anyone at all?”
“Meaning?” He asked angrily as he rose to his feet to face her.
“I mean, Ginny- who has only ever tried to stand by your side, who has let go of everything in both your pasts to look toward the future. I mean Harry- who took you in despite your history together and never looked back, who stands up for you as if you’d been his friend from the beginning. I mean Lupin- who has given you the family you always deserved, who looks out for you as if you were his blood.” She also stood, refusing to sway under his anger. “Don’t you trust them as they trust you?”
“Maybe I don’t deserve their trust…” He looked away, unable to maintain her gaze as it bore into his soul.
“If you believe that, then that is your issue, not theirs.” She countered. “The difference between them and me is that I’m willing to call you out because I don’t have to fear that I’ll lose you like they do. We both know they all care about you so why put them through wondering why you won’t let them? Do you trust them?”
He stopped and really thought about the question. “Yes… I know Potter won’t turn on me. I know Lupin and Tonks want to take care of me and I know that Ginny loves me if she can get past me trying to hurt her to attack some innocent idiot.”
“That wasn’t you, that was the wolf that you allowed to run rampant. It was still two days before the moon and if you had desired there would have been more control. But you were angry, you were injured and you were looking to protect those you care for… so you gave into what you think of as the stronger side of yourself and there is no reason to blame yourself for it. Cho took the one thing that could hold you in check without your consent, but it was your choice to give into it. Don’t regret that choice, learn from it. You said you didn’t bite anyone, so somewhere in your head, you had to have been holding back… find that strength and build it.”
“And if I do?”
Again she smiled and shook her head. “I’m not saying you’ll ever overcome your wolf’s instincts… a wild animal will always be a wild animal no matter how well-trained or cared for and there is nothing to blame them for because it is their nature. But they are capable of being trained, of learning to listen and hold back. Work with your wolf, don’t fight it and maybe things will start to become clearer for you. You’ve already proven that the human side of you is capable of change, right?”
“What if the wolf is simply the worst part of me?” He let his real fear out without realizing.
“What do you mean?”
Draco walked away, wanting to gather his thoughts and make himself clear before turning to face her again. “What if I didn’t change, what if I simply found a way to hide the worst part of me away until I can no longer contain it? What if I can’t control the wolf because I don’t want to? Because I want a way to unleash the bad that is building up inside me?”
“Why would you think that?” She countered.
“Because no one can change that much.” He replied miserably. “I watched Potter try to be cold and unfeeling last year and while he was good at it, he couldn’t keep it up. Maybe I’m just holding out longer because I have a place to hide the real me…”
“No, Draco. I don’t believe that.”
“Why not? You don’t know me.” He reminded her.
“But I do know you… through Ginny’s eyes and memories as well as from what you’ve told me. Would you like me to tell what I think?”
“Go ahead, this should be interesting.” He defensively crossed his arms and waited.
“You are someone who was not born cold and thoughtless, you had to learn to be that way. But you felt wrong about it your whole life… your friendship with the squib gardener is evidence that you didn’t share the same viciousness as your parents. But you carried on because you were desperate for the love and approval that was constantly withheld from you. I think when you met Harry and were rejected by him that first day at school, it led you to give credence to the things your father had said about him… Over time I think you came not only to be jealous of Harry’s newly charmed life but to also resent him for the attention your father bestowed on him over you and this let you go on being horrible to him and his friends. I think the real you momentarily tried to poke through over the years… like when you knew it was wrong for Ginny to be given the diary, or when you didn’t fight as hard as you could have in Umbridge’s office. I think that eventually you were unable to convince yourself that the things you were doing were really what you wanted to do and you began to resent your father for expecting you to be what he wanted and then still not recognizing you for it. I think you felt weak when you finally turned against your former life but at the same time you knew that you had been incredibly strong in taking a stand. I think you changed your desperate need for approval from Lucius to Harry. I think you are someone who places your worth on how others treat you and what they think of you. Most of all, I think you are someone who so desperately wants to belong that you don’t realize that you’ve finally found a place where you do perfectly fit in and are therefore constantly testing yourself and everyone else because you are so unprepared to be happy.”
With a heavy sigh, Draco uncrossed his arms and sat next to her. “You really think it’s okay for me to be happy?”
“As happy as one can be during times like these.” She nodded encouragingly and reached out to pat his arm. “And more than that, I think you deserve to be happy. Everyone who matters has forgiven your actions yesterday. Even better, they understand not only why it happened but that you are remorseful for it and I’m sure that only makes them love you more. Now you need to understand and forgive yourself.”
“I just don’t know what to do.” He ran his hands through his hair nervously. “Potter and the other are going to be leaving soon… half of me wants to go with them and the other half wants to run far away from all of this and just start over.”
“With or without Ginny?” Laurel asked with a knowing smirk.
“If she wanted to come with me to disappear I would welcome her… if she didn’t agree I would stay to be with her.” He answered decisively.
“And disappearing together would solve all your problems?”
“No.” He shook his head. “We’d probably spend most of our time wondering and worrying about the others and what they were doing… but running around the world doing dangerous things isn’t exactly the safest plan.” He was careful not to say too much about the trip or why it was necessary… Not because he didn’t trust her but because he wanted her to have deniability should she ever be questioned.
“There are pros and cons to every decision, Draco. The potential danger of following your friends comes with knowing where they are and that they’re safe while the exciting prospect of a fresh start comes with the uncertainty of whether those you care for and who have taken care of you are alive or dead. You have to decide which you can live with. Either way I won’t judge you and neither would any of the others I’m sure. Harry would probably love for you and Ginny to disappear away from all of this so that there are two less people for him to ensure live through each battle. But I know he, Lupin and the others would miss you.” She reached out and squeezed his shoulder. “It’s time you figure out which direction your life will take. What happens next is something everyone asks when they finish their schooling… you and your friends simply aren’t afforded as much time to decide who you all are as everyone else.”
“I know who I want to be.” He answered.
Laurel nodded encouragingly. “Okay then… now figure out what you have to do to get there.”
Harry heard the doorbell and sat up in a panic before remembering that Molly had mentioned last night that Laurel would be coming by. “Okay?” Luna sleepily asked.
“Yeah, sorry.” He said quietly, turning to lie down again and wrap his arm around her. She snuggled in closer against him and drifted back to sleep. He was on the verge of doing the same when the bell rang again. This time they both sat up as they knew no one else was expected quite this early. “Drake?” He looked to Luna for an answer.
She shook her head and buried herself back under the covers. “Dumbledore, and he’s here to see you and Jacey.”
Leaving her to go back to sleep, Harry quietly got dressed and hurried downstairs, stopping only long enough to call to Jacey… but she had heard the brief conversation between him and Luna as neither of them had bothered shielding their minds. She met him on the landing and together they continued down to the parlor where Molly was hovering over Dumbledore offering everything from a simple cup of tea to a full blown breakfast. “I assure you, I want for nothing.” The old wizard smiled at her before turning to look at them. “I don’t have much time anyway, I simply wanted to return these.” To Harry he held out the box containing DaLydia’s dagger, his invisibility cloak and the Marauder’s map… to Jacey he held out Mykele’s ring. His smile widened as he took in their surprised faces. “The rest of your luggage from the train will be arriving later today, after Seth Nerezza’s Aurors finish going through it. I figured it was better these items not be found during their search and hurried to obtain them before the trunks were taken to be inspected.
“They are searching our luggage?” Harry asked in bewilderment.
“They are searching everyone’s luggage.” Dumbledore clarified. “I am certain it was a way to go through yours and you friends things, but to keep up the appearance of equality, they are conducting an investigation into anything brought on the train.”
“What do they hope to find?” Jacey finally spoke. “The explosion spells were set on the tracks, not the train.”
“We are all aware… I am not sure what they are hoping to find, but the items you now hold would have made them very happy to come across and so I took it upon myself to disappoint them.” Dumbledore rose and placed a hand on each of their shoulders. “Both of you be careful with these family artifacts of yours.”
“You know what this is?” Harry indicated DaLydia’s dagger. He knew he’d never told the headmaster about finding it.
“Of course I do. And this is for you, to better understand it’s powers.” He pulled a small book from one of the many pockets in his robes. “However, I leave you with the same warning as I gave about the ring… these objects are powerful and you cannot rely on them alone, you must be stronger than your desires to use these tools.”
Harry read the book title Mythical Gems and Crystals. “This will have information about the dagger?”
“It is the only book in the world that does.” Dumbledore nodded. “Every important stone in history is covered here, up to and including the Sorcerer’s Stone… of course, you know the fate of that particular crystal and it’s creator.”
He nodded, remembering all the way back to his first year and the first glimpse he’d gotten of Voldemort’s cunning and determination to survive while using Quirrell to obtain the Sorcerer’s Stone and unlock it’s powers. He sent the full memories to Jacey so that she would understand rather than rely on the small pieces she had already seen in his head. He could feel her guilt, that he was sharing his past with her when she couldn’t bring herself to do the same. It’s okay. I don’t have to know who you were then, I know who you are now. He assured her before turning his attention back to Dumbledore. “Do you know anything about what Luna’s artifact may be?”
“I’m afraid I do not. That is history and lore belonging to her family and they are the only ones who can tell her… there are many powerful objects created since that first coven, it would be foolish and irresponsible of me to assume I could match one up with her ancestors.” He offered a grave smile. “Now I must go, there is much to attend to. But I will be back tomorrow for the Order meeting.” With a nod he dismissed himself, politely walking to the door and waiting until he was outside to apparate away.
“So, what does it say about the dagger?” Jacey asked, looking over his shoulder as he flipped through the book.
“I have no idea… I believe this is written in Latin, just like the book we found about Mykele.” He answered in frustration.
“So you cannot read it?” She asked as she struggled to make sense of the foreign words. “Do you know a spell to translate it?”
“No, Ron might though since Hermione tasked him with learning all the translation spells for when we meet the coven members… it’s how he was able to write to you and read your return letter. But with a book this old, I’m nervous to perform any kind of spell… besides, I have an easier way. I know exactly who would be able to read this.” He silently called out to Hermione to announce that he was on his way to see her. He knew she had spent the night in Fred’s room. While they were both happy not to be a couple anymore, the last thing he wanted was to walk in and see her happiness for himself just as he knew she didn’t wish to witness the intimacy he and Luna shared. He waited for her and Fred both to okay his visit before walking up with Jacey. Luna met them at the second landing.
“I was curious.” She smiled before joining them to walk over to Fred’s door.
Hermione answered their first knock right away. “Where’s the book?” She asked, her eyes bright with excitement at the thought of learning something new.
“You can read the rest later if you want. Please, just tell me what it says about DaLydia and the dagger.” Harry answered as he gratefully thrust the book in her direction. Fred was in his wheelchair, so the rest of them sat on the bed and waited as Hermione quickly flipped through the book and scanned several pages. “Well?”
“It talks about her life as a crystal carver and all the things she created… oh wait- here it is.” She said with enthusiastic curiosity. “DaLydia’s greatest creation was the one she refused to show anyone… a clear quartz crystal that she shaped into a dagger. While it’s unknown exactly what it does, rumors persisted that she had infused her own powers of telekinesis and telepathy into the artifact. It is also rumored that she had made the dagger give the bearer the power to see in the dark and become invisible.”
“Just like Mykele and the ring.” Fred unnecessarily pointed out. “I guess great minds think alike even if they live decades apart.”
“The only difference seems to be that while Mykele’s ring also allows conversations with those who died and have yet to cross over, the dagger allows the bearer to communicate with animals.”
“Hey, that’s Kavita’s power.” Harry pointed out, remembering their discovery of the youngest member of the coven.
“And the power to talk to the dead is Jie Chen’s.” Hermione answered with a shrug. “Who knows why a telepath infused animal speak into her creation or why a pyrokinetic would play with after-life communication… you’d have to ask them.”
“So forgetting the oddities… Harry using the dagger will be more effective than if anyone else were to, right? Just like me and the ring?” Jacey asked.
“We found the ring pretty effective.” Fred answered defensively. Harry knew he was upset that he’d given the ring to Jacey and she seemed to sense it as well.
“Would you like to use it?” She offered kindly.
His mood brightened considerably at the thought of talking to George. “Absolutely!”
“To answer your question Jacey, I think the only differences between you two using your artifacts and anyone else is that your own frequencies will resonate with them and therefore the effects of the energy used won’t affect either of you as much.” Hermione piped up. Luna seemed relieved to hear this… after the vision she’d received so long ago about him and Fred being overcome by the ring, Harry knew she had feared the same would happen with the dagger.
Remembering their conversation from the night before about talking to Sirius to gain perspective, he turned to Jacey. “Can I use the ring when Fred is done?”
“Of course.” She smiled while sharing a sympathetic look with Luna… both girls had people they’d lost that they would like to talk to, but unlike him and Fred, their loved ones had already moved onto whatever waited after death. She went to her room to get the ring, returning moments later and handing it over to Fred who appeared eager for them all to be gone.
Hermione handed Harry the book back. “It you need me to go through any of the rest of this, let me know.”
“I certainly will.” He said, squeezing her hand in gratitude as he took the offered book. “Thank you.”
He, Luna and Jacey stepped into the hallway… apparently Fred had no problem letting Hermione stay but from the others he wanted privacy and they were happy to give it. “Now what?” Jacey asked.
Luna reached out and grabbed Harry’s arm as her eyes rolled back. He and Jacey both made sure to steady her on her feet until she came out of the vision. “Now we wait for Arthur to get come back home.” She said, shaking herself of the effects. “Nerezza has moved quickly and set up the interrogation for today.”
Ron waited until Jacey came back before leaving the room to get dressed in his. It had been nice sleeping next to her once again, he hadn’t realized how much he missed it. And like before, though they did nothing more than sleep, he felt they had spent their time more intimately than if they had explored the desires swirling within them. For now it was enough, this closeness they shared.
He had just finished putting on fresh clothes and was eager to get back to her when someone knocked on his door. He opened it to find Lupin holding a letter. “It seems this didn’t make it to Hogwarts in time and was rerouted here.” He said with a sympathetic smile as he handed over the envelope.
“Thanks.” Ron said in a daze, taking the letter and already knowing it was from Parvati. Lupin left him to it and Ron closed his door, wondering whether he really wanted to open it and read what she had to say. Locking his mind up tight from invasion, he sat on his bed and stared down at the envelope. After what Jacey had told him, he understood that when she first came to Hogwarts she still had some of that cold hardness she had described… That she hated vampires more than she cared to save a young girl’s life and had already suspected Parvati to be too far gone to be helped. Understanding didn’t make it easier to accept that she hadn’t raised the alarm and warned them of what Tristan and Troy were doing to Parvati… but he could accept that perhaps now, if she had it to do over again, she may do things differently. But there was no going back, what happened to Parvati had happened and it was a guilt he felt destined to carry with him forever. It was his fault Parvati was targeted at all, her interest in him had made their enemies believe her useful… the least he could have done was return her affection with equal regard, but after meeting Jacey that had been impossible.
Rather than open her letter, he got up and placed in his desk drawer. He wanted to wait, to be sure to read it when he felt he was in a more steady place… like once he figured out who Vincent Riley was and how to contact him to find the vampire colony. Determined to find a way to approach Hermione for help that day, he quickly ensured his memory of the past few moments was locked up tight before going down to meet up with Jacey in her room. “Something is wrong.” She said immediately after allowing him in. Apparently she could tell he was hiding something.
“Maybe, maybe not. It doesn’t matter right now.” He assured her. “I just want to spend time with you… I want us to trust each other.”
“And keeping secrets is the way to accomplish that? I told you everything last night.” She replied defensively. He stared at her for a moment… She was right, it wasn’t fair. But his secret correspondence with Parvati had the ability to affect the way he thought or felt about Jacey and so he was reluctant. “It can be no worse than anything I told you.” She persisted.
“I got another letter from Parvati, but I don’t want to open it.” He blurted out rather than face her disappointment.
“Why not?” She asked suspiciously after a short pause.
He sighed and shook his head. “You know why. I want to keep moving forward, not continue looking back.”
“And you fear my actions- or inaction rather- in her fate will only make you recall your somewhat justified anger with me.” She took a deep breath and sat on her bed. “I did so many things I cannot change… it saddens me to think that the last one carried out while trying to find myself is the one that is going to ruin me.” She looked down as his mind swirled around everything he knew of Parvati since she had become a vampire… suddenly she leapt to her feet and grabbed him by the shoulders as she stared angrily and desperately into his eyes. “How do you know the name Vincent Riley?” She demanded with passionate fury and anxiousness. Clearly she had been listening to his thoughts.
“Lupin said he is the one running the vampire colony that Parvati was sent to. He thinks Vincent is an okay guy for what he is.” He was shocked into answering without realizing he was doing so.
“Lupin can think whatever he wishes, I know the truth.” She said darkly, turning away and wrapping her arms around herself.
“What do you mean?” He asked, now the one eager for information as it became clearer that she knew who this man was.
“Where can he be found?” She demanded rather than answer.
“I don’t know… Lupin would never be told about the colony’s location. I was going to ask Hermione to help me find out how to contact him because… well, because…”
“Because you want to visit Parvati.” She answered distractedly while he fumbled for words. “I only hope Vincent is different than when I knew him… Draco switched sides so it’s possible I suppose.” She rambled as she thought.
“What are you talking about? Who is this Vincent guy to you?”
She turned to look at him, her face blank and her eyes hard and dangerous. “He is the last name on my list… he is the fifth vampire to escape the destruction brought down on Messini.”
NOTE: Coming up: Luna’s meeting with Nerezza, Harry talking to Mr. Macnair and then Sirius, an Order meeting, and visits with family before leaving London… keep checking back and I’ll keep posting!