Chapter 68 : Family Reunions
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Draco held his breath as the lace continued to make small circles over Scotland... but it wouldn't pinpoint any further. Still he tried, pushing himself until at last he realized this was all he was going to get. Sighing in defeat, he lowered his arm and shook his head. “I don't know why but I can't find their exact location within Scotland... maybe they're using anti-detection charms.”
“Or it could be because they're moving.” Granger explained. “If the target is in motion, it's harder for the scryer to find them. The fact that you got it down to a single country means they must've been there for a few days even if they aren't staying in one place.”
“So we'll send an Auror squad to Scotland immediately and I'll alert both ministries.” Arthur announced with authority. “I'll be sure to warn them all that these fugitives have a hostage and are extremely dangerous.” He quickly apparated away to the ministry to sound the alarm, taking Tonks with him.
“I wonder what those women are up to in Scotland.” Lupin mused.
“I think it has something to do with Harland.” Luna said. “His face keeps floating into my head whenever they are mentioned... I'm just not getting anything solid yet.”
“Well, they know how to at least stave off your visions... they are probably keeping their decision making as spontaneous as possible.” Jacey suggested.
“Whatever the case, if Harland is involved then I don't like it.” Lupin muttered.
“Maybe Lucius is up there.” Fred offered. “I mean, they most likely took Kiara to bait him in... it makes sense they'd go somewhere he is.”
“Or they took her to get to Draco directly...” Potter turned to look at him. “You do want to meet her, don't you? They might suspect the same.”
“I had no idea she existed. I wouldn't walk into a known trap for her.” Draco insisted while not at all sure that it was true.
“I understand the desire to know where you came from... I know you're curious.” He returned.
Of course Potter could understand, he was on his own search for errant grandparents. “So I'd rather she not be hurt or killed... I could say that about most people. But I'm not about to join with Elise and the others just because they're threatening her.” He could feel himself getting irritated. He was so tired and the last thing he wanted was to have to really question what he was willing to do to save a life that was almost totally disconnected from his. Feeling a yawn coming on he allowed it, over-emphasizing so the others would take the clue.
Luckily Molly was still in the room and being the caring, attentive woman she was, she instantly honed in on his desire. “Draco dear, you've had a rough couple of days and nights... why don't you head on up and get some rest. All this discussion will be waiting in the morning.”
“Absolutely.” He gratefully replied. Bidding everyone goodnight, he hurried up to his room before some new development popped up to keep him. While Arthur and Molly were certainly aware of the relationship between him and their daughter, he knew Ginny wasn't too keen on them knowing just how intimate they were (nor was he) and so she wouldn't be following him up right away. He had a few moments to relish in the complete solitude. The thought of asking her to stay away for the night never arose... he had promised her every night of the month but the full moon and he'd meant it. However, these few moments to sit and breathe were crucial... suddenly he couldn't wait to be out of London, where he wouldn't be as known and would be able to run whenever he pleased. The closed in, claustrophobic feeling was the worst and while it wasn't as bad as last night, it still left him feeling fidgety and anxious even with how tired he was.
He quickly did some jumping jacks and other exercises, trying to get as much of the feeling out of his system as he could so that hopefully he could sleep... It had been almost fourty-eight hours since he'd been able to. At last Ginny came knocking at his door and he happily answered as the solitude he'd been craving had begun to annoy him. “You look terrible.” She said, frowning at him in concern.
“Well, aren't you the little self-esteem booster.” He rolled his eyes and moved to climb into bed and under the covers.
“It's just because you're tired right?” She asked, completely ignoring his comment. She got in next to him and reached out to feel his forehead. “You aren't feeling ill?”
He took her hand and kissed it as he smiled up at her. “I promise, a good night's sleep will cure all. You really tired me yesterday and then again this morning.” He teased.
Ginny smiled back at him. “Okay, I'll take the blame for why you're so exhausted... it's flattering in a way I suppose.” She laughed and settled with her head on his shoulder and her arm draped across his chest. He was grateful that she was going to wait until morning to pick his brain about how it had been to see his mother... he still wasn't sure how he felt about it anyway. But at least he'd learned something that proved very useful and as he wrapped his arms around Ginny and closed his eyes, he let his last thought be the hope that Elise, Elanya, Sarah and Cho be found quickly and that Kiara make it through unscathed.
It had been quiet the last few days but Harry was on edge, just waiting for the next thing to come. There was still no news from Scotland saying Elise and the others had been located and neither Nia nor Apollo had as of yet been able to get into the ministry in Wales. Lupin was still trying to get information about Tristan's possible twin while Willem was preparing his first articles for the Daily Prophet come Monday... things sure to catch Elanya's attention and hopefully bring her back to London were she could be placed in custody.
In addition to all the anticipation built up from those events, Tonks had reported that Nerezza wasn't pleased that Luna had been snatched out of Azkaban while his back was turned and Harry knew it was only a matter of time before the man came up with some new way to try and get her to Voldemort. True she was the strongest postcognative in the world... but there were plenty out there that were probably very good. The only reason to pursue her was if they knew there was none better... or maybe it was simply because of her relation to Juniper Lovegood who Tom Riddle knew was once in the Dark Society. Perhaps Voldemort thought that Luna could provide a link to the Scrolls... or as a bonus to her visions, her capture would persuade her grandmother to tell what she knew of those stupid Scrolls.
But whatever Juniper knew, he and Luna were going to find out that day. Kingsley, Moody and a small Auror escort were going to discreetly transport them out of town to the house where Junpier and Xeno were hiding. It seemed Arthur wanted to get all trips out of the house done in one day as while he and Luna were with the Lovegoods, Draco and Ginny were being escorted by Lupin, Tonks and a few more Aurors to see Andromeda. Additionally, Hermione and Fred were being taken by Bill, Charlie and some more Aurors to see the Grangers. The house was a flurry of movement and noise as they all prepared and Harry sat alone in his room listening to it all... it made him feel full and happy, to have so many people he loved under one roof- his roof.
The bedroom door creaked open, he hadn't closed it completely just so Luna could come in whenever she chose. “Hey.” She said quietly. “It's time to go.”
“Okay.” He knew her anxiousness was greater than his. He may not have known what his grandparents were involved in, but they weren't alive to tell him... Juniper on the other hand was alive and had been given many chances to tell her granddaughter... so why hadn't she? What was there to hide?
We'll find out soon. Luna silently told him, leaning to rest her head against his shoulder. He instantly wrapped his arms around her and held her tightly. He'd picked up the anger, confusion and hurt she was feeling behind her composed exterior.
You can't blame her until we know her reasons. He reminded her.
She pulled away and nodded. “I know. I'm just scared to know the reasons. I've never known my grandmother to back down from anything, so what could force her to keep quiet?”
“We'll find out soon.” He echoed her words. Taking a deep breath together, they joined hands and walked downstairs to begin their journey.
Hermione was nervous and kept her hands balled into fists to remove the desire to bite her nails. It wasn't a normal habit of hers, but it was all she wanted to do as the car approached Ezzlingham and the familiar street that she had been brought to before. “Well, this is it.” Bill said from the driver's seat as he pulled the ministry car to the curb.
“We'll walk you both to the door... do you want us to come in with you?” Charlie asked kindly.
“No, it'll be okay.” She replied with a hesitant smile.
Bill got out and opened the door for her as Fred scrambled across the seat to climb out as well. She walked up the pathway with the Weasley brothers surrounding her, and Aurors hovering in the sky unseen on their brooms... yet she didn't feel at all protected from what may take place inside. At the door, they waited for her to be ready and with a deep breath she made the decision and reached out to ring the bell and announce her presence.
Her father answered, his eyes narrowing in suspicious curiosity as he looked at her. “Well, I hadn't expected to see you again so soon. I suppose your all are here to demand your way in again.”
“I just wanted to come talk to you and mum.” She answered, nodding slightly at Bill and Charlie to indicate they could walk away. Clearly their warmth in their own family made them unfamiliar with the coldness now on display and so they were unsure whether to take her cue... thankfully they did and went to sit in the car where they could keep an eye on the house.
Wayne Granger waved her and Fred in and turned to call for his wife, not caring whether they followed. In the parlor, he pointed at a couch. “You might as well sit down.” He grumpily invited while sitting in his own chair.
Mildred came in a moment later, her surprise quickly giving way to bitterness. “Hermione, what a surprise.”
“I wanted to share some news with you both... I've finished school early and with top grades.” She said slowly. “I wanted to show you that I could do it, that I wasn't going to fall by the wayside because of the friends I chose.”
“You expect us to applaud?” Mildred asked condescendingly. “What kind of life are you prepared for? Only one in their world! You come here, what, expecting praise for finishing at that school while away from us? And on top of it, you come with one of those boys you brought here last time... where is the one you turned on us for?”
“This is Fred.” She tried to remain calm but already had a feeling she'd made a mistake coming here. “Harry is visiting someone else right now.”
“Ah, the lad decided to let you out to think for yourself. How nice.” Wayne muttered.
“Every decision I've made since leaving you has been my own. No one else has ever tried to make me into the image they saw... Harry, Fred and everyone else let me be myself and that includes thinking and doing whatever I want whenever I want.” She could feel her anger rising and reached out to Fred. He was there, taking her hand and squeezing it in support. “What's wrong between our family is not anyone's fault but ours.” She added more calmly.
“Last time you made it very clear that he was more important than we were.” Mildred crossed her arms. “And his little speech about taking care of you made it clear neither of you thought us necessary in your life any longer. What's wrong now Hermione? Clearly you are with this boy now... is he not as rich as Harry? Was Harry's love for you not as enduring as two foolish teenagers thought it was? Are you coming to us now because you need financial support?”
“I have a vault full of money provided to me by a very dear friend who lost his life. And while Harry and I may have realized that we weren't in love we weren't fooled by the fact that we love each other and always will, he is my best friend. He's far from kicking me to the curb and even if he did, I would still have the means to keep a roof over my head.”
“Until the vault of money dwindles.” Wayne scoffed. “You wanted to tell us you were going to be okay but all we hear is that you are living in your ex-boyfriend's house and living off his generousness and some mystery money left to you by some dead friend. How exactly is your completed 'education' going to help you make a living?”
“Excuse the interruption.” Fred put in. Hermione practically broke his hand she was squeezing it so hard, but he ignored her and went on anyway. “With all due respect, you don't know much about our world and I'll admit that what you do know doesn't make us look very good. But whatever Hermione chooses to do with her 'education', she'll be able to. Every pathway is open to her with grades and scores like hers and she'd excel in any profession she chose. And as I've found her assistance to be invaluable in my business of potionmaking, she'll always have an open position within my company. When she tells you that you don't have to worry, it's because she's ensured that her life will be exactly as successful as she wishes it to be in whatever field she desires.”
Hermione slowly let out the breath she'd been holding, warmed by his words and relieved with his ability to rein himself in. “And that was my point.” She quickly added to his short speech, drawing her parents attention away from him. “In the wizarding world I have options, I'm someone special and talented. In your world, I fade into the background and that's not where I want to be.”
“The background is where it's safe.” Mildred said quietly.
“No, the background is where you go to be ignored, not saved. I'd much rather be up front, fighting for the life I want and the things I believe in. I'd rather be one of the people making sure it's safe everywhere than hiding and hoping to stay out of the way.” She argued passionately.
“So you've come to ultimately say what? That you're joining this... this resistance or whatever it is in that world?” Wayne asked, anger and concern mingling into one overwhelming emotion.
“Dad... I'm not here to lie to you. That world is at war and yes, thanks to the associations I've made, I am in the middle of it.” Hermione let go of Fred and stood, holding up a hand against her parents' protest. “Please, let me tell you... if someone doesn't stop our enemies, then in a very short time your world will be at war as well and against forces most of you couldn't possibly fathom. I am scared all the time that I and everyone I care about will die, I'm constantly under stress as everyday reveals new challenges and I've put my life on the line in several battles. I'm exhausted mentally, physically and emotionally. But I have never felt so alive or so much purpose for living. I have a reason to get out of bed every morning and it's not just for some job... it's to be part of a group that's trying to save the world. I can think of nothing greater one could do with their life and right now, there's nothing I'd rather do. I believe in our cause and the people fighting for it and for the first time ever, I believe in myself.”
They shared a look before Wayne stood and came over to place a hand on her shoulder, speaking in a low voice. “Hermione, we never wanted you to be unhappy, that's why we let you go to Hogwarts in the first place. You are the smartest person I know, maybe even more so than your mother and me.” He smiled slightly. It had been a long time since they had paid her any sort of compliment and so she returned his smile, hoping this was going somewhere pleasant. But his face fell once more as he took her hands and looked at her imploringly. “But you must understand that those with brains don't belong on the battlefield. That is a place for the brawn, for those with more than just mental endurance.”
“I'd trust her with my life.” Fred once more interrupted from the couch. “In fact, I already have a couple of times.” He added with a lighthearted grin. “You see, in our world, brains actually help since our battles are mostly fought with wand dueling. Hermione's ability to wield a wand is rarely rivaled.”
“Yet surely you can understand our position of not wanting our daughter anywhere near battles of any kind.” Mildred answered stiffly. “Just because your parents feel differently-”
“But they don't.” Fred shrugged. “My parents would much rather my brothers, sister and I stay out of all this completely as any sane parent would. But they also know better than to stand in the way of their children's destiny. Without their consent, we'd still be involved but with resentment toward them for trying to hold us back. It's not wrong for us to want to defend our freedoms just because we're young. Correct me if I'm misinformed, but in the muggle world haven't many of your people sent their young teenage children into war? We are of age to decide what we will defend with our lives.”
“And that is our fear young man, that it will come down to Hermione's life ending over this cause.” Wayne argued, still clutching her hands.
“And I and everyone who cares for her will give our own lives before letting that happen.” He vowed with passion, rising to his feet. “You seem to think she is alone in this but nothing is further from the truth. She is surrounded by people wishing to keep her safe... we all keep each other safe, that's how friends and allies work.”
“We understand the concept.” Mildred rolled her eyes. “What is foreign to us is this desire to join into a dangerous war that neither of you seem to need to be apart of. There are adults who are more than capable-”
“We are adults mum.” Hermione cut in. “In the eyes of the law and in our own minds. In fact, I barely remember what it felt like to be a child. I am comfortable with who I am and what I'm capable of. I'm not lost and just looking for something to do. I have found my place and my purpose at this moment in my life and I don't need your support or blessing... but I'd like it. I'd like it very much if you could push aside your disappointment that I'm not who you wanted me to be... and even if you can't be proud of who I am, I'd like it if you would accept it.”
“I can't... and I won't.” Mildred shook her head and got up, moving toward the door to the kitchen. “Your father is his own person, just like you tell us you are, but I won't accept this. Come back when you've regained your senses, until then I'll hear nothing you have to say.” She stalked through the door, slamming it behind her.
Hermione turned to look at Wayne who even now was still holding her hands. He was looking down and shaking his head sadly.... her last hope to find that parental support she'd been craving. “Daddy?” She asked softly, not afraid to let herself hope as he at last raised his eyes to meet hers. The moment of truth had come...
Ginny could feel how nervous Draco was as they rode through the woods... the closer they came to the clearing with the quaint cottage, the more tense he became and he stared more intently out the window. He'd told her days ago that he was going to warn his aunt and uncle of Lucius's threats against them. She knew he was scared Andromeda and Ted would turn their backs on him maybe even forbid him from their home... she had tried to tell him that she was convinced they wouldn't care any more than Lupin or Tonks had but he wasn't used to trusting his family.
“Almost there!” Tonks said happily as she swerved to miss a tree.
“Eyes on the road darling.” Lupin carefully reminded her as he clung to the door handle for dear life.
“You okay?” Ginny whispered as Lupin and Tonks lightly argued over her driving ability.
Draco merely nodded and reached out to rub her knee before turning to look out the window once more. She may not be able to read his mind, but she knew him well enough to recognize that should Andromeda respond in the wrong way, it would crush him completely.
At last they arrived in the clearing and as soon as Tonks placed the car in park, Ginny, Draco and Lupin all instinctively got out as quickly as possible. The Aurors that had been flying with them for extra protection landed and spread out to set up a perimeter. Tonks knocked excitedly on the door and moments later, Andromeda herself answered looking effortlessly beautiful.
“Dora!” She exclaimed, reaching out to warmly embrace her daughter. “And you've brought my son-in-law and my nephew as well! What a wonderful surprise.” She smiled and reached out to hug first Lupin and then Draco who awkwardly returned the display of affection. Then Andromeda turned her attention on Ginny. “And you're the Weasley girl, welcome to you as well.” She said, quickly embracing her too.
“She's Draco's girlfriend.” Tonks teased, nudging her cousin. He offered a slight smile and nodded to confirm.
“And he couldn't have found a better one.” Andromeda smiled kindly. “Well, come on in all of you. Ted is fixing lunch for us” She led them into the parlor and gestured for them all to sit. “I find it fascinating how he likes taking so long to prepare meals... rarely lets me just use my wand to make things easier.”
“That's because everything tastes better when you put time and effort into it.” Ted answered as he entered the parlor, stopping to kiss his wife's head before sitting next to her.
“Dad was a chef in a muggle restaurant when he met mom.” Tonks explained.
“And someday, I'll open my own restaurant.” He grinned and shrugged. “You know, once the world settles down a bit.”
“So how are you all? Fill us in.” Andromeda urged. “You both have finished school?”
Ginny shook her head, answering for them both as Draco continued his uncertain silence. “Draco has... I still have one more semester next fall.”
“Well I imagine you'll make it through with flying colors.” Ted said supportively.
“What about you Draco? Are you excited to be done with school?” Andromeda prodded, clearly having noticed how troubled her nephew was.
“Lucius came up to the school... we had to fight each other.” He blurted out.
Andromeda's eyes darkened and she looked to Tonks before replying. “I know, Dora told us after Remus informed her of the incident. I am glad you, Ginny and your friends are okay.”
Draco shook his head and looked at the floor. “He was mad about Lupin and Tonks signing on as my guardians...”
“And I already told you that neither of us care about his threats.” Lupin interrupted.
“That's right.” Tonks agreed, reaching over to squeeze his arm. “Lucius isn't as scary as he thinks he is.”
“He's not upset about that... are you Draco?” Andromeda asked wisely. “You've come to terms with the fact that Dora and Remus can take care of themselves... it's whatever threats Lucius has made against me that are upsetting you. I can't imagine he would have been pleased to know you were brought to see me.”
“Neither was my mother.” Draco answered, recalling the meeting he'd had with Narcissa a few days earlier. “I just don't want to cause you any trouble.”
Andromeda smiled and stood up, offering her hand to Draco. “Come, take a walk with me before lunch.”
Ginny could see the indecision in his eyes as he finally looked up at his aunt. Ultimately he got up to go outside with her. “It's okay out there?” She asked, half rising to follow.
“It'll be fine.” Tonks assured her, grabbing her arm and pulling her back into her seat. “There are charms and Aurors protecting the property's borders... and he may just need to hear what she has to say.”
“Okay.” She sighed, still trying to catch a glimpse out the window.
“I know what can keep us all occupied... I need help cutting up all the vegetables and setting the table.” Ted grinned as he led the way into the kitchen. “And you can all put your wands away... things are done the old fashioned way in my kitchen.”
Ginny, Tonks and Lupin obediently put their wands on the table though she was nervous... she'd seen her mother cut up vegetables plenty of times, but never without magic. She wasn't sure she'd be able to do it without cutting off her own fingers and with that thought, she happily volunteered for the tedious job of setting the table. As she began putting out plates, she hoped that Andromeda told Draco whatever it was he needed to hear in order to let go of this one of his many concerns.
Luna smiled through the reunion with her grandmother and the disappointment of learning her father was away. She calmly accepted tea and cookies and sat quietly with Harry on the couch until she was certain that Kingsley and the other Aurors were outside and out of earshot. “Grandma, we have something very important to discuss with you.” She said quickly before she could stop the words.
She nodded knowingly. “Yes... you want to know about the Dark Society.” She smiled and tapped her forehead. “They may not come like they used to, but I still get visions my dear. I saw this conversation coming the moment you decided to come see me.” She leaned forward in a conspiratorial manner. “And we'll just forget whatever it was you two were really doing the last time you were here... your spells are good and my mind is old, but eventually I recalled everything.”
“It was important.” Luna said simply in their defense.
“Of course it was, or else you wouldn't have done it.” Juniper chuckled. “You know I'm never one to lecture you lovey... your conscious must be your own guide.”
“So if you knew why we wanted to come see you this time and you haven't tried to stop it... does that mean you'll tell us what we need to know?” Harry asked hesitantly.
Juniper sat back in her chair and sighed as she carefully studied them both. “That depends on two things... what you ask and whether my intuition says I should answer.”
He looked to Luna, silently urging her to go ahead and ask the one question she'd been desperate to know the answer to. “Why didn't you ever tell us about the Dark Society or that you and Grandpa were a part of it? You told me and Kane everything else... we could have understood that too if you had explained it.”
“Oh Luna, it wasn't for me to tell.” She said softly. “I hated keeping things from you kids, but the Dark Society isn't the only secret I have. You see... I was working for the ministry long before joining the Royal Watch Division of the Auror Department. The reason it was so easy for me to be recruited is because for seven years I had acted as a ministry spy. They sent me anywhere they thought dark forces were gathering to find out whether they could be considered a threat. None of them ever were... until the Dark Society.” Her eyes stared off as she became lost in the past, continuing her story as if they weren't even there with her. “I had already married by that point and so we went in together. After I found out I was pregnant I got scared... I kept seeing dark shadows everywhere threatening him even in my womb. After the Adlers stole the Scrolls, I knew the Dark Society wouldn't be as powerful as it could be and for the sake of my family, I requested to be transferred to a different department. Before the order could come and someone else assigned to the group, I had the worst vision of my life... I watched my husband die. I went to the ministry to try and warn them but it was too late. For my safety and the safety of my unborn child, they kept me away from the group until I gave birth and then put me in training for the RWD. I wanted to go after those I knew responsible for my husband's death, but knew they had much worse fates ahead of them than any I could hand out... and when Voldemort took over I was proven right.”
“Because Voldemort killed Thadeseus?” Luna asked gently.
She nodded. “Yes, and those loyal to him. It was a much worse evil about to be unleashed, but I felt vindicated.”
“You mentioned the Adlers... what do you know of them?” Harry casually put in, eager to keep Juniper in her memories.
“They were confusing people... after awhile I suspected they were also spies though no one in the ministry ever mentioned it to me. But even though they were at every meeting like I was, they didn't seem to be very involved. It was like they were waiting for something to happen... When Thadeseus showed up with the Marqueesian Scrolls, claiming to have killed their keeper, the Adlers changed. Ruby became even more secretive while Richard became friendlier, more invested in gaining the group's attention. When I had a vision of Richard distracting us all while Ruby stole the Scrolls, I went to my handler at the ministry but was told to let it happen. I knew Ruby had those powers and so during one meeting, I thought out to her that I knew her plan and would help in any way I could. It seemed she had also sensed that I had abilities similar to hers and so she accepted my help, instructing me to help Richard make a distraction. We did and she used her power to move things to take the Scrolls without anyone noticing. That night they disappeared... my handler told me not to worry about them and assured me that the scrolls were in safe hands. I never heard of the Adlers again.”
“Who was your handler?” Luna asked breathlessly as Harry struggled to put the pieces together.
“Jennitha August.” She answered steadily.
“She's the one who took the Scrolls from the Adlers!” Harry burst out in excitement. “She gave the Scrolls to Tereus and is now one of the three people who know his location.”
“How do you know this?” Juniper demanded with equal excitement as she got caught up in Harry's emotions.
“Because the Adlers were my grandparents.” Harry admitted. “The reason you never heard of them again is because they took on new lives as muggles... they became Mr. and Mrs. Evans. You don't know why they were in the group or what persuaded them to leave?”
She shook her head in sympathy. “I'm afraid not. I knew very little of them to begin with. Like I said, it seemed the whole time they were waiting... and it must have been for the Scrolls, but I couldn't tell you why or how they knew Thadeseus would eventually have them.”
Luna could feel Harry's disappointment and tried to make it better. “What about Jennitha August? You said she was your handler, surely you know about her?”
“All I know is that she worked for the Department of Mysteries and I was told to forget she existed when I joined the RWD.” Juniper looked away uncomfortably, anger and regret suddenly radiating from her. “What I couldn't have known was that my silence could very well have have helped kill my grandson all those years later.”
“What are you talking about?” Luna asked, her heart dropping to her stomach.
“Julian Heath... the reason Kane went to the Malfoy mansion that day... he was Jennitha's son.” She quietly answered. “They took him to find out where his mother was I'm sure of it.”
“No.” Harry said quietly, reaching out to pat Juniper's arm. “Lucius had a man name Harland Myers hiding in his house... this man is a werewolf and Julian was working on ways to control the transformation in the Department of Mysteries. That's why they took him, because Harland wanted the ability to change forms whenever he wanted, regardless of the moon.”
She stubbornly shook his head. “Maybe that's the reason Lucius gave for Harland's sake, but I know they were looking for Jennitha. I know because I was approached by Lucius at Kane's funeral.”
Luna remembered that day, a mockingly bright beautiful day in the cemetery where they'd just buried her brother. She had been standing with her father and grandmother as everyone gave their condolences... and then Lucius had approached. Juniper had ordered Xeno away, worried he would cause a scene or get himself in trouble. He'd grabbed Luna's hand and dragged her away, leaving her grandmother to stand and talk to Lucius alone. “You said he'd come to try and plead his case that it wasn't his fault and try to persuade you from suing.”
“And he did at first.” She nodded in agreement. “But then he told me that he knew my past, he knew I had an association with Jennitha and offered me a substantial amount of money to give her location. I'm not sure how he knew, maybe Julian had talked before he died. But I told Lucius the truth, I didn't know where Jennitha was and even if I did he'd be the last person I would ever give anything to or take anything from. And then I walked away and made it my business to never see the man again lest I lose control and curse him on the spot.”
“So you really have no idea where to find her or what the Adlers were up to?” Harry summarized unhappily.
“Well, I have boxes of old files up in the attic... I had them bring everything from my house when we were relocated here.” She explained. “Some of them have my notes and other evidence from my days with the Dark Society. You're welcome to look through them.”
“That would be great.” Luna said appreciatively, rising with her grandmother to go to the attic.
Wait! The artifact. Harry quickly reminded her of the other thing they had needed to talk to Juniper about.
“Grandma!” She called as she sat back down.
“Yes my darling?” She turned and smiled brightly as if they hadn't just been discussing dark and depressing topics.
“Obviously you know about the first coven and that we're descended from Gwendolyn Crowley. Well, Harry is descended from Lyraline Eldyrwood and we've made contact with two other descendents. We plan to go find the rest in a little less than two weeks... well, we've learned that somewhere in each bloodline, someone created an artifact that helps enhance our powers and even contains one other wandless power of the original coven along with other abilities like seeing in the dark or becoming invisible-”
Juniper held up her hand to stop Luna's outpouring of information. “I believe what you're trying to ask me about is Gwendolyn's mirror. It's up in the attic as well though far better protected. Come on.” She turned and walked out of the room. Luna and Harry stared at each other for a moment before getting off the couch and scrambling after her.
“Hermione...” Wayne sighed and gave her hands one more squeeze before letting her go and stepping away. She felt her heart break but refused to show it.
“So you're with mum then.” It was hard to hide the sadness in her voice.
“I love you Hermione... and so does your mother. The thought of you being in constant mortal danger is more than either of us can handle and to listen to you tell us that you enjoy it scares and hurts us on levels so deep within us that the pain is unbearable. Your mum, she's ready to break to pieces... we've always wanted you to have a successful and happy life, but you have to know that this isn't what we envisioned.” Wayne told her, his tone attempting to hide his emotion.
“So because it's not what you planned for me, you're going to turn your back?” She asked desperately.
He hesitated and took a deep breath before answering. “No, how could I? I cannot approve of your choice to join this war you speak of, but I also can't forget that you're my daughter always and forever. We may have been stricter than most parents while you were growing up but that's only because it's all we knew. That's how we were raised, with plans and rules and our futures all mapped out for the best possible road to success.”
“And are you happy?” She took a step toward him. “This life you had, the life you wanted me to follow... it gave you success but did it make you happy?”
“Sometimes.” He answered honestly. “When I was your age, I wanted more... but I never went for it. Of course, my goals weren't nearly as dangerous. I can understand your desire for a life of greatness and excitement, but I don't understand the world you've chosen to embrace and I'm not sure I want to. If this is what you feel you have to do, if you know deep in your soul that the choices you are making are the right ones for you, then go and someday maybe I will understand and be proud of whatever you accomplish. But I don't think you're making the right choices and so at this moment, I won't give you my blessing... only my desire and my hope that you make it back to tell me I was wrong.”
She fought back the tears and nodded. “Okay then... for now that's enough. I just don't want you or mum to hate me.”
“Oh Hermione.” He reached out and hugged her, something he hadn't done since she was eleven and she first came back from Hogwarts... after informing her parents that she wanted to continue at the school, her father especially had grown distant. It was good to feel his comforting arms around her once more and so she couldn't stop the tears that slid down her cheek. “We can loathe your decisions, and we can be so angry with you that we can't even look at you... but we could never, never hate you and there's not a thing in the world that could change that. It is the surest promise I can make.”
“Thank you.” She whispered, fearing that to say more would only make her cry harder.
Wayne pulled away and carefully wiped away the few tears staining her face. “I am proud of you, just so you know. I'm proud that you finished school early and at the top of your class. I'm proud that you've developed so many skills to help you forge a career somewhere in that world. And I'm even proud that you've found something you believe in so strongly that it's made you a stronger person. But that doesn't change the fact that I can't support any decision that could mean the end of your life. It is my worst nightmare that I outlive you.” She started to reply but he stopped her. “No, enough has been said. I'm going to go help your mother in the kitchen... I suggest you both be gone as quickly as possible.” He moved to the door before turning to look at her once more. “But make sure you do everything in your power to come back just as quickly.”
Hermione held out until he was through the door before letting the tears freely flow. She was suddenly dizzy and her knees felt weak and so she knelt to the ground, waiting for the world to stop spinning. She instantly felt arms wrap around her as Fred knelt down to offer comfort. She turned and buried her face in his chest to muffle her sobs, not wanting her parents to hear her crying. She stuck it out through the end and now that it was over, wave after wave of emotion washed over her making it impossible to regain her bearing. “It's okay.” Fred quietly whispered in her ear. “You still have me... you have Harry, Luna, Ron and everyone else.”
“I know.” She whispered back.
“Your parents don't hate you, your father hasn't banished you from his life. They're scared that's all.” He offered, clearly unsettled and unsure what to do to make her feel better yet desperate to figure it out. “And just remember... the less involved they are in any of this, the safer they are.”
“I know that too.” She tried to pull herself together for his sake but she couldn't help how she felt... especially since she didn't really know how she felt.
“Ah but did you know that penguins can't walk backwards?” He asked.
“What?” She was taken aback and sat up to look at him.
“Because they're top heavy and have small feet, it would be impossible for them to support their weight while walking backwards.” He grinned happily.
“What does that have to do with anything?” She asked in bewilderment.
He shrugged and reached out to brush her hair out of her face. “I've been storing these little facts just in case I ever want to feel like I know something you don't.” He joked.
She felt herself smile before she even realized she was amused. Happy to have been effectively distracted from her tears, she was able to put them on pause. “I hate to burst your bubble, but I knew that about penguins... Kangaroos can't hop backwards either.” She chuckled as she used her sleeve to wipe her eyes.
“One of these days, I'll find something.” He vowed with a comical pout.
Taken by the moment, she leaned in and kissed him. “Thank you for coming with me.” She said, once more lowering her voice to a whisper.
“I'd go anywhere with you.” He replied with an easy smile. “And right now... I'd like to go home with you. Let's get out of here.”
“I think that's a good idea.” She nodded unhappily. Smoothing her hair and rubbing her face one more time, she took Fred's offered hand and got to her feet. She forced herself not to look at the kitchen door nor think the symbols of the past behind it. Instead she only focused on the door that led outside to her future.
Luna and Harry looked around the messy attic and wondered just where those boxes of files could be. There was stuff everywhere, trunks full of clothes, old spell books, two dressers, chairs, rugs and about fifty boxes any of which could be the three or four they were looking for. But Juniper walked past it all to the far wall and pulled out her wand, tapping the tip in three specific places. The entire thing disintegrated, proving the wall had been an illusion charm. Behind it was a small safe and Juniper crouched low to spin the combination and open it. “Here it is then.” She said as she delicately pulled out a small object wrapped in a piece of silk. She placed in Luna's hands and gestured that she be the one to uncover it.
Holding her breath, Luna gently removed the silk and stared in wonderment at the beautiful hand mirror she now held. It was made of silver and etched with intricate Celtic designs. The actual glass of the mirror was tinted darker, making her feel that she was a ghost of herself as she looked into it. “And this will help me or anyone holding it tell the future?” She asked in awe as she handed it to Harry to inspect.
“Yes to a point... if you hold it up and say the name of any person known to you, it'll show them five minutes in the future.” Juniper answered with a smile.
“And Gwendolyn was really the one to make this?” Harry handed the mirror back to Luna. His wheels were already turning, wondering if they could use it to find their enemies.
“According to legend, she and Thanos Romanos each made a mirror containing their own powers as well as each others' before they split up their lives and their children.” She informed them.
“So this will also give me the power to manipulate other energies?” Luna asked excitedly. Despite Harry's instant dread that this was one more thing to link her to Thanos's current decedent Miles Papadopoulos, she was happy to be handed one more clue to her other less dominant ability.
“It worked for me in my younger years.” Juniper replied with a wink. “I'm so proud that I can now give it to you lovey, that you are carrying on our family's name as one that stands up to evil.”
“Why didn't you ever give this to daddy?” She stared at the mirror, certain she could see shadows gathering within it as it's energy merged with hers.
“Your father was never interested in our past or future, not like you kids were. He of course liked that we came from a long line of strong if slightly eccentric witches and wizards, but beyond that he didn't care. He found his passion in his silly magazine and I supported him as a mother does, but when first Kane and then you began to question and listen to my stories I had hope again. When Kane joined the Aurors I was certain....” She trailed off, shaking her head and forcing a smile. “Ah, but that is in the past and there's nothing we can do to change it. Oh Luna my love, go fulfill your destiny but do your best to ensure you live through it. My heart couldn't take your loss as well.”
“I'll do my best.” She promised gravely as she went to hug her grandmother.
Juniper held her for a few moments before pulling away and wiping her eyes. “Well, that's enough sentimentality out of me for one day.” She said with a nervous laugh. She leaned in and kissed her forehead before stepping away and gesturing to the boxes. You can take whatever you find to peruse at your leisure. I'll be downstairs preparing lunch so we can share a meal before you both have to leave.”
“Thanks grandma.” Luna called after her. She turned to Harry and held out the mirror. “Well, you want to try?” She knew he was desperate to see if the mirror would show them Elise or even Voldemort.
“I think it'll probably work better if you did it, right?” He asked uncertainly.
Luna held the mirror up and stared into it as he moved to stand behind her and look over her shoulder. Blocking out everything else, she thought only of Elise and everything she knew of the woman. “Elise McKinney.” She said with force. The glass wavered and rippled before an image appeared. It was Elise, sitting at a table in a nondescript pub and drinking from a large mug along with Sarah. “Well that isn't very useful, is it?” Luna said in disappointment.
Suddenly it seemed Sarah was looking directly at them through the mirror... and then she smiled and waved. “What the hell was that?” Harry demanded as she quickly lowered the mirror. “It's five minutes in the future, how could she have seen us?”
“She couldn't have.” She answered decisively as her intuition picked up. “Someone told her we would find a way to spy... they have a seer.”
“You're sure?” He grabbed her hand that was still holding the mirror and tried to look into it, but the glass had gone blank when she'd lost her concentration.
“Those few moments of seeing them... it filled me with all kinds of...” She couldn't explain, but she knew she was sure. “They found a seer to join their group. They plan to use this... man... yes it's a man, they plan to use him to see us and the decisions we make. I think they know we're leaving and they plan to follow us.” She felt jittery, like she'd drunk too much caffeinated tea and now couldn't relax if she wanted to. “Here, wrap this back up for me. I don't want to touch it anymore right now.” She handed the mirror to Harry and sighed in relief as the moment it left her grip, her heart stopped racing along with her thoughts.
“You're okay?” He asked as he picked up the silk and rewrapped the mirror. “These artifacts are supposed to enhance our powers.”
“I just wasn't expecting such a rush. You and Jacey didn't react that way to your artifacts.” She sat on one of the trunks and ran her hands through her hair, trying to bring herself back to a calmer state.
“We also don't have a power like yours. We get to choose when to use our ability, yours can come to you at any time. I'm not surprised it sort of knocked you off your feet.” He sat next to her and soothingly rubbed her back. “Now that you know what to expect, it probably won't be so bad next time.”
“I sure hope so.” She stood and stretched, feeling calmer yet still too energized to remain in one place. “Let's find the files and go down to lunch... I don't want to be up here anymore.”
“Okay... I don't suppose it would be as easy as Accio files!” He waved his wand and they both looked around expectantly but nothing happened. “I didn't think so.” He sighed.
“I bet they're toward the back... I mean, why would she need easy access to them?” She suggested.
“Wait! I have and idea.” Harry picked up the mirror once more and tore away the silk so he could look into it. “Luna Lovegood.” He said loudly and clearly. Curious she went to look and saw herself digging through an old box in the corner. “They must be over there.” He grinned.
Sharing a look of curious excitement, they quickly went over and with Harry using his power to clear a path, they were in the corner looking at four lonely boxes. Luna opened the one closest to her and pulled out some of the papers to be sure. “Yes, this is it.” She happily told him.
“And it's five minutes exactly.” He replied. She turned from digging in the box to look at him, he was holding up his wristwatch and grinning.
“Well, are you going to help me look through the rest of these or stand there gloating?” She teased.
After checking all four boxes, they found only two that had mention of the Dark Society. They each grabbed one and began heading downstairs but Luna could feel that something was troubling Harry. “What's wrong?” She asked as they descended the stairs.
“It's just... I'm confused. Were you always going to find that box in the corner or did you only find it because we looked in the mirror? And if it's only because we looked in the mirror, then how could we have seen something that wasn't going to happen? Was it because you had made the decision to find the box that the inevitability that you would succeed showed us that future?”
She turned and smiled. “Welcome to the paradox that is my life... I find it's best not to dwell and simply trust my instincts.”
“I can see why... thinking about it is giving me a headache.” He grumbled as they continued down to the kitchen. While Luna was happy to spend time with her grandmother, she and Harry both were eager to get home and begin going through the files. She forced herself to engage with Juniper and pretend that she wasn't wishing to be somewhere else. An hour later, Kingsley showed up to collect them and after a heartfelt goodbye, they were at last on their way. Answers waited in those files, answers to questions that continue to pop up and tie her and Harry's pasts together in ways they never could have imagined. He still had much to learn about his family... but she still had to process the things she'd already learned about hers. Kane, Julian, Jennitha... so many things were connected. She knew Julian wasn't dead, they had discovered that Jayalina Delamora had helped him escape before Edmund killed her. If they could find him... would he be able to lead them to Jennitha? And if they could find her, then what? Would she be able to give them answers about the Adlers? Would she be able to assure them that Voldemort will never find Tereus or the Scrolls? Hopefully something in those files would give them a clue otherwise if they went looking for Julian or Jennitha, they'd be searching for two needles in an Earth-sized haystack.
Draco was nervous as he and his aunt walked silently through the woods. He didn't want to be the first to speak but it was clear that's what she was waiting for. “I'm sorry.” He said at last, not really knowing what else to say.
“Draco I can assure you of one thing.” She stopped and turned to face him. “Whether or not you ever came to see me, whether I chose to embrace you or not... Lucius would have always targeted me eventually. It's not your fault that he has chosen you as his reason. I already told you a few ways I have defied him and there are many more that I won't get into. But I've known for a long time that he wished unpleasant things for me.”
“But now my mother knows too...” He quietly argued.
Andromeda laughed and shook her head. “The relationship I've shared with my sisters has never been easy. Bellatrix and I completely severed communication in the years before her death, but Narcissa... it was harder to leave her behind because there were times when I felt she was more like me than Bella. That night she ran to my house when you were a baby... I told her that if Lucius came and she chose to leave with him that I would never forgive her. I told her I wouldn't accept that she was willing to let her materialism and stubbornness destroy both her and you. I made it clear that once she left with him, I would no longer provide her sanctuary.”
“And when Lucius came, she made her choice.” Draco was disgusted with his mother, not taking the chance to get out when she could. He'd always thought of her as a victim of circumstance, turning to sleeping droughts and potions to get her through a life she hadn't intended. But she could have had it different, she made the decision as to what her life would be and by extension his as well.
“And I kept my word.” She said firmly as she prepared to share another memory. “During your third year at Hogwarts, Narcissa came to see me. She said she didn't like that you were trying to imitate Lucius and asked me to take her in so that she could break away while you were at school and have a new life ready for you both in my cottage when it was time to pick you up in the spring. I denied her... I told her that if she was truly concerned for your safety then she could send you to me and I would gladly take you in but that she remained unwelcome in my home. It hurt to tell her no, but I knew she hadn't changed... I knew she was simply angry that you seemed to like your father more than her and wanted the chance to have you to herself. She's a very selfish woman, your mother. And while I was concerned that you may just take after your father, I couldn't allow her back into my life knowing that she wasn't really done with Lucius. I had my own family to protect.... but I had hoped she would do the right thing and send you to me once you came home from school. As you know, she didn't.”
“I'm not sure I would have willingly come anyway... not back then.” He answered with shame. “I wouldn't have thought of it as being saved.”
“Maybe, maybe not. The point is, you weren't given a choice and for that I share partial blame.” Andromeda delicately placed a hand on his shoulder and sighed in regret. “I could have contacted you myself... I had thought about it a few times over the years. But the truth is, sometimes I'm as selfish as my sister. I had Dora and Ted to think of and I knew reaching out to you while you were under your father's roof would only bring trouble. I had to hope that you would come to dissatisfaction with that way of life on your own just as Sirius and I had... and I promised myself that if you did, I would be there to support you, to give you options. And so we come to it.” She smiled nervously which only made her seem more appealing. “I would like to offer you a place here in the cottage, a room that's all your own. I don't care about Lucius or Narcissa, let them come. You and Dora are of age and I am ready to take the stand during this war that I should have last time.”
Draco thought hard, recalling how much he hated feeling like an interloper at Potter's house. But Potter had made it clear that he was happy having him there and found it to be no burden at all. Plus Ginny was there and he felt that if he moved in here, he'd simply be running away from the more difficult life his friends were about to embark on. He hadn't wanted to go with on this trip around the world, but now that he had a viable option, could he stay behind? Could he really sit here in the cottage living a quiet and cozy life while not knowing whether the others were in trouble? “So... what do you think?” Andromeda asked, her nervousness growing in his silence.
“You said you're ready to take your stand... well so am I. I can't hide here waiting for the danger to find me, not when I have the chance to be part of a group looking to stop the danger for good... or at least until the next rise of evil.” He answered slowly, arguing with himself while making his case to her. “I can't leave my friends.” He added. It was a statement he never thought he'd make, but now that he actually had friends that he cared for it was true.
“I understand.” She said with a sigh. “And while I'm disappointed I won't get to spend time knowing you better, I couldn't be more proud that you've come so far in such a short time. Loyalty is only owed to those you respect, to those looking out for your interests as well as their own. I'm am glad you have found people who deserve your loyalty and more, that you deserve their loyalty in return. But I do want you to know that for as long as I have a home to offer, you will have a place in it regardless how your parents may feel about it. I'm not scared of them.”
“I'm not scared of them either.” He insisted. “But I am scared of what they'll do to anyone who isn't me. It's not fair that-”
“That they'd go after people you care for instead of you directly?” She interrupted with an unhappy smile. “It's because they know... that is the way to go after you now. Love can make us very strong if we give into it, but it is also one of our greatest weaknesses and no one is better at exploiting that than those who refuse to give into those emotions that form attachments. I'm not saying there wasn't a time when your mother and even your father didn't really love you... but the more they realized that love could be manipulated against them, the more they fought it. It's how it's always been in the Black family and I'm sure it's the same for the Malfoys. Lucius may not be a real Malfoy by birth, but it was how he was raised from infancy and even if there were something positive from his real parents, he clearly chose to bury it and embrace the family he thought was his. He flourished in their care and was obviously meant to be the person he is. But you were like me and Sirius... you didn't flourish in that life, it only made things more difficult for you. We are two of the few able to defeat our upbringing and think for ourselves. And that's why they want to destroy us... to them, we make the family look weak, we leave questions in others' minds about whether the Black and Malfoy families are as fearsome and impressive as history claims. We are the bad apples about to spoil the whole bunch. Unless you regret becoming the person you are now, there is no reason to let them make you feel like you've made a mistake. Their threats may be serious, but they shouldn't force you to give up anything that makes you happy because that just means you've automatically let them win.”
It was similar to the advice Lupin had given about Cho and what his own stubbornness had been telling him from the beginning. But it was hard to listen to when the idea of someone actually getting hurt was very real... “I know you're right. And you've been able to be happy all these years...”
“More or less.” She turned and they began walking back to the cottage. “I realize it's harder in these times, but it's what we all have to do. We have to take these moments between the horror and fill them with as much joy, life and love as we can so that we always have something to continue fighting for. It can't be all bad all the time Draco, otherwise why go on?”
It was more advice he had received in different words from different people... at some point, he had to give into the fact that he did actually believe what they were telling him. Well, being happy was easiest when he was with Ginny and to his surprise, Potter as well. So that settled things then... he would go wherever they did and while he'll never be able to completely relax, he'll let himself enjoy whatever ride they were getting ready to board.
Fred was worried. Despite his efforts to cheer her before leaving her parents, Hermione had been silent the entire way home and after a few words to Molly, she had wrapped her arms around herself and once again descended into silence as she followed him up the stairs to his room. She absently walked around getting things ready to finish the amulets, her body on autopilot even as her brain was probably whirling a million miles a minute. “So, I guess we beat everyone else back here.” He said absently.
“I wasn't expecting the visit to last very long anyway.” She answered distractedly as she lit two cauldrons. “Does this color look right to you?”
He sighed and walked over to peer in. “Looks fine to me.” He grabbed her shoulders and forced her to stand still. “Are you okay?” He asked in concern. She'd gone from hysterical to nothing and now it was clear she was intent on keeping busy so as to not have to think or feel at all.
She shrugged him off and walked over to the crystals and began sorting them, looking for those of a useable size. “I was upset, I got it out of my system.”
“You're parents are scared...” He told her again. “Maybe they aren't handling it well, but-”
“I really don't want to talk about it.” She turned and met his eyes. “Clearly there is nothing I can do to fix things with them until this war is over. They love me, I love them... we just don't like each other right now and that's the way it is.”
It was the logical way to look at it... why feel bad if you can't change things? Fred relented, figuring she needed to think that way until her emotions on the matter became more manageable. “Okay... all I can do then is offer an ear if you do ever want to talk about it.”
She nodded and bit her lip as she thought. “That's all I need.” She finally said, walking over and wrapping her arms around him. “Thank you again for coming with me today... even if it wasn't exactly something I'd wanted you to see.”
“Hey, you've lived with my family and seen enough to make me question every day why you're with me.” He joked, rubbing her back as he held her. “Besides...” He so wanted to tell her that he loved her and there was nothing in the foreseeable future that would change that... but he couldn't. He was too scared that it wasn't the right time, that she would be uncomfortable and break things off because she didn't feel the same. So he said the next best thing he could think of. “I'd go anywhere you go... you always make me feel stronger, more ready to face the world and I can only hope I do the same for you.”
She laughed and looked up at him, reaching to cup his face in her soft hands. “Of course you do... and on top of that, you make me happy too.” She smiled, parting her lips in invitation and he readily leaned down to kiss her.
“You make me feel very lucky.” He whispered as they leaned their heads together.
She smiled again and sighed. “I think I need to tell you something...”
“You can tell me anything.” He grinned back.
Hermione nodded and once more leaned in to kiss him before pulling away. “I love you.” She said those musical words without hesitation, words he'd only ever hoped to hear from her, words he'd been dying to utter himself. He couldn't believe it... was she simply saying it because of what happened today... to ensure there was someone permanent in her life?
“You don't have to-” He started but she put her hand over his mouth to cut him off.
“No, you don't have to say it.” She said firmly. “I said it because I wanted you to know. I may not be able to talk to you about everything I'm feeling, but to know that you're there anyway waiting to make it better... it just makes me realize that I love you, I love the way you want everyone to be happy and I love how you make me feel about myself.”
This time he was the one to grab her face as her kissed her with furious passion. She'd said everything he could want to hear and while there was still that small part of him that couldn't help but doubt, he refused to believe she wasn't being honest. They broke apart for air, both breathing heavily as they held each other. “I love you, I have for I don't even know how long and for more reasons than I can count.” He told her, feeling like he was in a dream. Well if he was, then Merlin help the fool who tried to wake him.
She smiled again before lightly kissing his lips. “That's it then, no turning back now.”
“I'd never want to.” He assured her.
Leaning to check on the cauldrons, her smile turned coy. “It seems we have quite some time before things will be ready here.”
“I have a few ideas as to how to productively spend our time.” He said suggestively, walking backwards towards the bed.
“Oh yeah?” Her tone was teasing as she followed him. “Like what... more research?”
Letting himself fall onto the covers, he propped himself up on his elbows. “Yes, for my own personal study on the effects of the female body on a teenage boys' mind. I have a few hypotheses I'd like to test.” He reached out and took her hands pulling her down next to him and leaning down to kiss her neck.
A loud thump from outside the door interrupted them. It was followed by Willem calling out. “Hey, your trunks have arrived.”
Fred groaned unhappily. “Well, there go my experiments.”
She laughed and ran her fingers through his hair. “It's okay, I have a feeling we both already know the results.”
“I'd like to be certain.” He returned with a pout as he went to answer the door.
“Hey guys.” Willem greeted them, ignorant that he had ruined a very fun moment. He gestured to Fred's trunk at his feet. “They finally returned everything they confiscated from the train and all of your trunks arrived.” He looked to Hermione. “I sent yours up to your room already.”
“Thank you.” She offered him a smile.
“Your mother wanted me to let you know that your sister and the others will be back any minute and Harry and Luna are on their way as well. She said dinner will be ready by the time everyone's home.” Willem went on.
Fred sighed, realizing his alone time with Hermione was temporarily suspended. He certainly didn't want to have to explain to his mother why they were both late to a meal... especially since there were only so many times they could use the potions as their excuse. Thanking Willem and sending him on his way, Fred turned back to her with a mischievous grin. “You know, I bet we have a good half an hour still.”
“Ah, but what kind of viable data could be gathered in that short a time.” She teased as she stood and walked up to him.
“Oh, very, very valuable data.” He argued, reaching out to tug playfully on the hem of her sweater as he pulled her closer.
She leaned up to kiss his lips. “We'll have all night to experiment.” She reminded him in a whisper. They could vaguely hear the door opening downstairs and Tonks calling out the arrival of her group. Hermione smiled again. “Until then, just look at it as us having more time to think about what exactly we'd like to do to each other in the name of... research.” She kissed him again, lightly biting his lower lip and sending a shiver of anticipation down his spine.
“Well, let's go see if there's anything we can do to hurry the evening along.” He urged, suddenly hating everyone else in this house and wishing they lived alone to do what they wanted when they wanted without the awkwardness of socially inappropriate behavior. She laughed and started heading toward the door but he grabbed her hand. “I love you.” He said... he had to be sure that she was sure. He studied her face closely, looking for any sign of uncertainty.
But there was none. She gave him a sincere smile and her eyes were filled with honest devotion. “I love you too.” She openly returned. It was all he could have wanted from her and so he decided not to question, he was more than willing to just give in and lose himself in the next stage of an intimate relationship certain that he'd finally found the right girl to take that journey with.
Draco had come back from his walk with Andromeda in a much better mood which relieved Ginny greatly. He seemed lighter, as if he had made some decision out there that had removed the weight he'd placed on himself by doubting everything all the time. Except her... it had been a long time since he'd doubted her or their relationship and that realization made her happy. She was glad to be someone steady in his life, someone he knew he could rely on and even better, she felt the same about him. Now that his aunt had helped him past some of those last fears and insecurities he'd held onto from a past life that was still pursuing him, perhaps he could get back onto the path toward the strong, confident person that Ginny knew he was.
He was much more talkative on the way home and by the time they got back to Harry's house it was hard to remember that Draco had ever been in sour mood at all that day. Molly was there to greet them before informing them that their trunks had finally arrived and giving instructions to clean up for dinner as it would be ready soon. They went up to her room and while he went to sit on her bed, she eyed her trunk warily. “I don't know that I like the idea of people going through my clothes and things... especially if Nerezza was in any way involved.” She shuddered at the thought of such an invasion of privacy. “I wonder why it took so many days to get it all back to us?”
“After he first said something about them searching our luggage, I suggested to your dad that he carefully inspect everything before bringing it back into this house so that's probably why.” Draco said casually. “I figured that Nerezza or one of his Aurors may try to attach some kind of tracker or listening device but he'd already thought as much.”
“I wonder if they found any.” She quickly looked over her trunk herself, suddenly paranoid that the ministry had missed something.
“Have you ever met my mother?” He asked suddenly out of nowhere.
She was unsettled by the change in topic and shook her head to focus as he was clearly wanting to be serious. “No, not officially or anything. I've seen her though.” She answered while thinking of the photo of Narcissa she had taken from his room so many months ago. With his family so prominent in his mind lately, had he finally noticed the picture was missing? She felt guilty for taking it now, she'd been in a different more manipulative frame of mind then... could she be honest now? Could she admit she had the photo and why she'd taken it? Did she even know really why she had taken it?
“What did you think of her?” Draco pushed.
She shrugged, uncomfortable giving an opinion on someone she hadn't met... especially since the things she did know made her not like the woman at all. “I thought she was very pretty but sort of... I don't know, standoffish. She didn't seem like someone who smiled a lot or gave into anything fun.”
“But you didn't automatically think she was evil or anything, right?”
“I still don't.” She answered quickly. Getting up from where she'd been kneeling by her trunk, she went to sit next to him, taking his hand in hers and leaning her head on his shoulder. “She may not be the best person, but evil is a whole other classification. I think from what you've told me of her that she's someone who is very much out for herself while at the same time worried about disappointing her family's idea of what she's supposed to be. I think she's probably very confused and that she simply doesn't care to figure herself out because that may mean admitting that she had made mistakes.”
“She had two chances to get out of that life...” He said quietly. “Twice she went to Andromeda for help and to get it all she had to do was give up Lucius once and for all. Why couldn't she do it?”
“Maybe she was scared of entering a life she knew nothing about other than it made her sister and cousin targets to the rest of the family.” Ginny suggested. “And maybe, somehow, she really does love him.”
Draco took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “I just feel like there are so many people I never really knew... and so many that I was misinformed about.”
“Well, it's up to you to figure out who you want in your life. It's not wrong to want to know your mother even if she isn't the person you thought she was.”
“But that's just it... she's proven to be almost exactly who I thought she was, or more accurately who I feared she was.” He hung his head and sighed. “Andromeda offered to let me come stay with her.”
Ginny felt her heart stop for a moment. “And?” She asked breathlessly.
“I decided I wanted to stay with you and the others.” He squeezed her hand and turned to kiss her forehead. “And I'm sure it's the right choice... but it's nice to know I actually have options should I ever anger Potter. Until this war is over and I can find some kind of job, I certainly can't support myself.”
“A broke Malfoy... I never thought I'd see the day.” She teased.
“Yeah well, the only thing that makes it better is knowing that now that Lucius is a fugitive, his accounts are frozen and he's just as destitute as I am for abandoning him.” He said with a malicious grin.
Ginny sat up as an idea struck her. “Hey, didn't your parents ever start a trust for you?”
“Yes, one that would become available to me on my eighteenth birthday.”
“Well that's only a two months away!”
But he was shaking his head in dismay. “It doesn't matter, even if I were old enough to access it, that account would have been frozen along with all other Malfoy holdings.”
“Because of his criminal dealings and status as a fugitive... but as your guardians, maybe Lupin and Tonks can argue on your behalf and get the trust opened so that you can still get to it when you turn eighteen.” She pushed, eager to see the idea through so that there was one less thing for him to worry about. “I'm sure they'd be happy to do it and the worst thing that could happen is the ministry denies the request... but if my dad helped out then there's an even better chance that they'll say yes.”
“They all have enough to deal with, especially your father.” He stubbornly returned.
But Ginny knew she was just as stubborn. “And one of the things they're all dealing with is taking care of all of us... wouldn't it be better if there was a way they knew they wouldn't have to worry about you once we do all move out of here? It doesn't hurt to ask.”
Ron came knocking on the door to announce that Harry and Luna were home and it was time for dinner. Ginny didn't move, waiting for Draco to give an answer. “Okay, fine.” He finally relented with a sigh. “I'll ask tomorrow but I'm going to make sure that this isn't going to inconvenience or get any of them in trouble.”
“Deal. I'll let it go until then.” She agreed as they got up to head downstairs. She wasn't sure what kinds of jobs werewolves could hold down but she had seen how difficult life had been for Lupin... she didn't want that for Draco and if he could start off his life as an adult in the more comfortable means that he was used to then he had to try. She knew he didn't want to get his hopes up but sometimes it helped to think positively and if he couldn't, then she would do it for him.
Harry was glad to be home and couldn't wait until after dinner to begin looking through the two boxes he and Luna had brought home from her grandmother's house. He sat there impatiently and forced himself to eat though he wasn't hungry at all until at last he was able to excuse himself along with the rest of the teens. They all hurried up to his room where they were eager to find out what he and Luna had learned. She began by showing them all Gwendolyn's Mirror.
“So any of us can see the future now if we use this?” Ron marveled as he delicately handled it.
“Well, five minutes into the future of whoever you ask to see.” Luna corrected.
“So... does that mean we can ask to see ourselves?” Fred asked, intrigued by the whole idea.
“I don't know... try it.” Luna suggested with a shrug.
He took the mirror from Ron and turned serious as he stared into it. “Fred Weasley.” He said as they all gathered around to see what happened. Sure enough, Fred's image appeared in the glass... he was limping down the stairs after everyone else.
“So something's coming along to gather our attention then.” Hermione said as she nudged Fred who pulled herbs from his pocket to swallow down.
“Good thing I had a warning that my leg was about to get a workout. Gives me a chance to take care of the pain before it even starts.” He grinned.
But Harry could see the truth, Fred had already been hurting but hadn't wanted to take anything in front of everyone else lest they worry... this had come along to give him a reason to have the herbs and he was grateful. Not wanting to call him out in front of the others, Harry turned to Luna instead. “Any idea what's going to happen?” He asked as he felt himself tense in preparation.
She stared off for a moment before responding. “Visitors... coming to look for help.” She shook her head in frustration. “There's two people I've never met coming but I can't see them, they're just shadows... I think someone may be protecting their minds while they're journeying here.”
“Maybe holding this will help.” Jacey suggested, taking the mirror from Ron and handing it back to Luna.
But again she shook her head. “It doesn't matter... we're about to see for ourselves.”
They all grew silent and strained to listen. Sure enough, they heard someone knocking at the front door within moments. Harry was the first to hurry out of the room and down the stairs to find Molly opening the door to let in Kingsley and Moody. They looked past her directly at him and his friends as they gathered around him at the bottom of the stairs. Surely they couldn't have been the two Luna saw... they weren't strangers to her. “Potter, we need to talk to you and Arthur for a moment.” Moody said as his false eye fluttered around to stare at something through the door behind him.
“What's going on?” Arthur asked as he came from the kitchen.
“Two people came to the ministry tonight seeking sanctuary... we weren't sure what to do with them other than to bring them here and see what you and Harry wanted to do about them.” Kingsley answered.
“Why would my opinion matter?” Harry asked as dread gathered in the put of his stomach.
“Because of who they are.” Moody grunted.
“No.” He shook his head, refusing to believe it. “You are not telling me that the Dursleys are standing on my doorstep right now.”
“Well, just two of them.” Moody turned and opened the door to reveal Aunt Petunia and a much smaller Dudley huddled together as they waited. “So... any suggestions?” He asked.
I have a few. Ron thought out cruelly, matching Harry's sentiments exactly. The last thing he wanted was to take them in and let them infect the home and family he'd made for himself... but perhaps it was time for his aunt to finally prove useful. Maybe she had been old enough to remember her parents time with the Dark Society...
“What are you doing here?” Arthur demanded when it became clear that Harry was speechless.
“My husband refuses to believe the world is as dangerous as it is right now but unfortunately I don't have the same luxury. As much as I hate it, I am aware of this world and I know that this man my sister died fighting won't stop with overcoming all of you, he'll come after my world too. Your people helped my parents disappear once-”
“They deserved the help.” Harry interrupted hoping what he said was true and that the Adlers had taken the Scrolls only to secure their safety.
“Regardless, I want safe passage out of the country for me and Dudders.” Pentunia ignored him, addressing Arthur instead who was obviously the adult in charge. “Where's that Mr. Dumbledore? I did my part and fulfilled my word to him. He owes me this as we wouldn't be in danger had he never brought that boy to me.”
“Albus has far more important things to deal with than the likes of you.” Moody told her. “An audience with Minister Weasley is more than you deserve and he'll be the one to figure out what's owed to you.”
Arthur sighed and shook his head. “It's not my decision... it's up to you Harry. We'll handle this however you think is best.” He said quietly. They all knew how Harry felt about the Dursleys but the fact that Vernon wasn't there made it easier not to hate them as much... at least until Petunia opened her mouth.
“Just remember, I took you in when you had nowhere and were in danger.” She angrily reminded him, clearly upset that her fate had somehow ended up in her nephew's hands.
“Oh I remember, I'm sure there's a closet around here somewhere we can fix up so I can return the favor.” He shot back before he even knew he was speaking, his fury with her rising as he was now being presented with a past he had so severely distanced himself from.
“That was never my idea.” She muttered.
“Yes, well, I'll be sure to recommend you for sainthood.” He said sarcastically. Sensing the discomfort of everyone around him, Harry decided it was best to just end this now. “They can stay here until something else more permanent is arranged... on one condition.” He met Petunia's eyes directly to show that he would no longer be weak in front of her.
“And that is?” She asked testily, obviously forgetting that she was the one here looking for a favor.
“You and I are going to sit down to talk, I'm going to ask you questions and you are going to answer me honestly. If you lie I'll know and I'll kick you and Dudley both on the street without a second thought about either of you.” He said steadily. “If you can't agree to that, then you might as well leave right now... so what will it be Aunt Petunia?”
She glared at him, taking a moment to really decide if putting up with him was worth the hassle. At last it seemed she came to the realization that she didn't have any other choice. “Fine, let's get this over with.”
NOTE: What does Petunia know? What's in Juniper's files? Will Ron and Jacey be able to track down Vincent Riley? Find out next chapter!
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