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Chapter 70 : Past and Presents
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A/N: In this chapter we find more answers while everyone receives some special gifts for the holidays. Read, Review, Enjoy!
“What do you mean she's been murdered?” Harry asked Twizzle though he was looking to Dumbledore since the elf had been overcome by her grief.
The old wizard shook his head. “When Dobby brought Twizzle to the school this morning, we went to investigate. Crysta-Belle Howley was lying on the floor of the Shrieking Shack. There were no apparent wounds... it is clear she was a victim of the killing curse. There are no clues as to who is responsible but we have our suspicions... someone tried to set fire to the building. But the charms Miss Howley had placed on the house prevented much damage.”
“So it was probably Elise.” Hermione quietly said what they were all thinking. “But why?”
“Did you check the store?” Luna asked Dumbledore.
He nodded. “I was unsure of the password having never been there myself, but Twizzle helped us. Someone went through everything, it is unclear as to whether anything was taken. Twizzle is going to help us determine that, but she insisted that she had to come see you first.”
“It is what Madame Crysta-Belle wants for Twizzle to do.” The elf wailed. “Madame Crysta-Belle says if she dies to comes to Harry Potter and says she gives her house to him!”
“You did good.” Harry gently assured her while in complete shock over what she had said.
She nodded and used the hem of her little skirt to wipe her eyes. “What does Twinkle do now Master Potter?” She asked sadly.
“What?” He stood and once again looked to Dumbledore.
“In her Will, Crysta-Belle left you the Shrieking Shack and ownership over everything in it. That includes Twinkle, the house elf.” He explained.
“No, I'm not owning anyone.” Harry protested. “And why would Crysta-Belle leave me her house, I only met her a few times?!”
“Actually she left everything to Lily Potter...” Dumbledore answered quietly. “As Lily's heir, you inherit anything she owns which is now the Shrieking Shack.”
“Fine.” He agreed begrudgingly. “But owning property is different than owning a living thing. Twinkle, you can do or go wherever you want.”
He was offering freedom but the look of horror she gave him made it seem as if he'd offered to cut off her head. “Oh no sir, please! Twinkle does not wants to be anywhere else buts her home.” she protested, throwing herself to her knees. “Please do nots make Twinkle go!”
“Okay!” He answered after looking around at his friends for advice. “You can stay there as long as you know you're free to go anytime you want. I'm no one's master.”
She seemed taken aback, as if unsure that this wasn't somehow a trick. Dobby stepped forward to help. “Dobby tells Twizzle before, Harry Potter will be as good to Twizzle as her old mistress,”
She nodded slowly though her sadness was still quite evident. “Twizzle agrees.” She said at last.
“Okay good, that's settled.” Dumbledore turned to the elves. “Will you please help us figure out if anything is missing now?” She nodded and Molly moved to see them all out.
“Well, that's two houses left to you now. Racking up the properties aren't you Potter.” Draco teased to break the silence.
“What do you think Elise was after?” Jacey thought aloud as she settled into the couch next to Luna.
Harry shook his head, still in disbelief over the last five minutes of his life. “First Sarah is meeting Pansy in Knockturn Alley and then we find out that Elise has killed someone to ransack the store... I just don't know.”
“What are you talking about with Sarah and Pansy?” Hermione asked in confusion. Draco quickly filled her in on what he and Ginny had overheard. She thought about it for a moment. “Is it possible that Crysta-Belle knew where Nanami or this Talena person are? It's the only way I can think the two events are related.”
“That's not all that could be related...” Luna said as she came back from a brief flash of something and looked at them all in concerned excitement. “That's the third time now... every time I hear the name Talena, I see a glimpse of Tristan. I think we may have learned his twin's name today.”
It had been easier when Ron and Ginny had been there to help him feed energy to the ring... but after talking with George as a group, Fred had requested time alone with his ghostly brother. Still he pushed aside the discomfort for a few more moments with George. “Well, it's just us two.”
“As it was in life.” George grinned before becoming more serious. “Can I ask... why did you go there today?”
Fred shrugged, not really having an answer to give. “I just felt like I should. I won't go back. The past is the past. Today I faced it and now it's done.”
“Good.” He nodded as he floated closer. “You've come too far to go back now Freddie.”
“I know.” He smiled, thinking of everything good in his life. And then the guilt sank in and he hung his head. “It's still never going to be perfect without you here.”
“I'm here now.”
“But that could change at any time, couldn't it.” He returned angrily.
“Yes, but until it does lets just enjoy what we do have. Most people don't get this opportunity after losing someone they love.” George gently told him.
“Okay. But I just want you to know, it's not easy without you... even if I have found other ways to be happy.”
“Yes, nothing can occupy one's mind like the company of a pretty girl.” He teased. “How is Hermione?”
“She told me she loves me.” Fred smiled as he remembered the moment.
“Well, then I guess she's not as smart as we all thought.” He laughed. “I'm glad for you... I take it you returned the sentiment?”
“How could I not? I only never said it to her before because I was scared of running her off.” He admitted. “Maybe it's too soon, but nothing says we'll survive and I wouldn't want to die without her knowing how I felt about her.”
“You're right, it may be too soon. But who cares?” George grinned again. “So.. hopefully relationship woes haven't hurt the business?”
“On the contrary, involving Hermione has only helped. She's a whiz with most everything. Plus, Lee is the best employee we could have ever asked for. Our relaunch has been entirely successful.” He beamed. “And on a personal note, I'm turning out to be quite the potion master. I've even managed to make glamours.”
“Impressive. Now when the war is over, you and Hermione can go teach at Hogwarts together... I'd love to see you as the new Potions Professor.” He joked.
Fred shuddered. “Please... I couldn't stand being there to learn, I can only imagine it'd be worse to go there to teach. Way too many rules.”
“Yeah, imagine getting someone like the younger Draco in your class... you'd quickly lose your job for using magic on students.” He laughed and shook his head. “I have to go now, I can feel how much you're struggling to keep me here.”
He couldn't argue, feeling he'd already been pushed past his limits. “Yeah, alright. Until next time then.”
“You bet.” George said as he began to fade. “I'm proud of you Fred...” And then he was gone, back to wherever it was that his soul waited.
Fred ripped the ring from his finger and sighed in relief. Reaching into his pocket, he swallowed down more of Drake's herbs and then lay back on his bed to think. If you got rid of the war and forgot his twin was dead, he really did think he'd achieved happiness. Eventually the war really would be over... but George was always going to be dead... could he really someday move past it to fully enjoy what he did have? Maybe, but that thought saddened him. He didn't want to come to a day where it didn't hurt all the time knowing his brother was gone, he felt guilty just for thinking it could happen. But maybe he could take that large part of him that was George's absence and make it smaller, contain it so that he could live life with some semblance of normalcy. He needed to know whether it was possible and there was only one person who's advice he could seek...
“Talena Macnair...” Harry said thoughtfully.
“We'll let Arthur know and see if he can find any leads with the name.” Hermione insisted. “She could be anywhere after all, and if Sarah and her friends are looking for her, it's better our side be the one to find her.”
“But why Talena?” Draco asked. “They could have tried to recruit Tristan any time they wanted.... plus they fought the vampires at the train site. I thought we agreed that they had Harland and therefore had chosen werewolves as their humanoid of choice?”
“Who's to say they didn't try to get Tristan on their side.” Luna shrugged. She was almost sorry she'd brought up her feelings about this at all, but she knew that if it was true, then the Order had to find Talena as soon as possible. Mr. Macnair had insinuated that his daughter was seeking revenge for her twin's death... she presented a great danger to Harry, Jacey and Draco. “Besides, it's not like their plans are ever clear... only they know what they're up to unless they screw up so I can catch a glimpse.”
Jacey stood. “Well, there is nothing that can be done until we know that this is the right girl and she is found. Ron and Ginny are done speaking to George and have gone to their rooms.” She announced, looking at Draco specifically. Together, they headed upstairs to check on their separate partners and ensure they were handling the reminder of their loss.
“Fred's still talking to him.” Luna answered Hermione's unspoken question. “I can't imagine it'll go much longer, he's getting pretty tired.”
“I have an idea.” Harry announced out of nowhere, becoming more excited the more he thought. “The Shrieking Shack... if I can get Twizzle, Arthur and Kingsley to fortify it, make it impenetrable... we can use it for the coven, it'll be like our headquarters. Everyone we find, we can tell them to meet us there since I'm assuming most of them can't just up and leave with us... this way we won't have to give away the address here.” He sat next to Luna and smiled happily. “It's perfect... not only will it be close to Hogwarts for when you and Ginny have to go back, but it'll keep us close to Dumbledore and news from the ministry.”
“Wouldn't it be dangerous to have such a large target as the new coven so close to both the school and Hogsmeade?” Hermione chimed in. “I mean, Elise already got in to murder Crysta-Belle.”
“We'll make sure it can't be done again... and with the entire coven together, it's not like anyone would be able to sneak up on us.” He argued.
“I don't know... what do you think Luna?” They both turned to look at her, waiting for her opinion on which they both placed heavy importance.
She took a deep breath and cleared her mind, trying to find something to tell her what to do. “Nothing is coming to me saying it's a bad idea... yet.” She answered slowly. “As long as knowledge of it remains minimal and no other seer is able to figure it out, it might be okay.”
“See.” Harry took her cautious words and fit them to agree with his stance.
“What I heard was a lot of uncertainty.” Hermione crossed her arms stubbornly. “If no one finds out, if the house can be charmed enough and if no other seer tells the enemy... it's one too many ifs.”
“Well, until we know otherwise this is the best plan we have.” He replied, proving he could be just as stubborn. “I wish someone hadn't had to die to make it happen, but I'm trying to make the best of a terrible situation. Clearly my mother made a big impression on Crysta-Belle, I may not have known the woman well, but I'm positive she wanted to ensure I knew that I had the house because she wanted to help in some way. She most likely died because she refused to give Elise whatever she'd come looking for... why else would my mum have left not only the clue to the ring there, but DaLydia's Dagger with her as well? She trusted the woman to protect these things with her life and whatever this last secret was, it's the one that finally killed her. She went to her grave for this war, I want to take her gift to me and put it to it's best use. Right now, that's to serve as a home to the coven.”
“Fine.” She relented. “But you had better come up with a fast exit plan in case things change and someone comes to find you all.”
“Excuse me.” Luna stood and moved away from their argument.
“Where are you going?” Harry asked suspiciously.
Where I'm needed. She silently told him. “I want to check something in Gwendolyn's mirror.” She said aloud to allay Hermione's suspicions. Leaving them to sort out how to safely inhabit the Shrieking Shack, she went upstairs and stood patiently outside Fred's door. She didn't have to wait long.
“Oh, hey.” He said in surprise as he opened his door. “I was just coming to find you.”
“I know.” She smiled.
He gestured her in and turned to her nervously, sticking his hands in his pockets so he wouldn't fidget. “It's been a long day.” He said as he let out the breath he'd been holding.
“It's okay, you can ask me.” She sadly told him, sitting on the bed and patting the space next to her.
He sat down quickly but then found it hard to find the words. “You've lost a brother... Does it get easier?” He asked at last, hanging his head and staring at the floor.
“Yes and no.” She said kindly. “Sometimes I don't think about him at all and when I realize it, I get sad all over again. But when I am remembering him... it's not with sadness. I remember the time we spent together, the things he told me, the way his entire face seemed to smile when he laughed. You'll always know he's not here... but eventually, it becomes easier to accept, especially when you don't get the chance to still see him any time you want.”
“So... once I can't use the ring, it'll become easier? That doesn't make sense.” He shook his head.
“It's okay. I know that you are aware of what I'm saying even if you aren't ready to hear it.” She reached out to hold his hand. “None of us are going to take George from you while you still have the chance to talk to him... but someday, maybe you'll realize that it'll be easier not to see him. I just hope it's before he crosses over and is taken from you before you're ready.”
This time he nodded slowly while squeezing her hand. “I hope so too. But how do I stop needing him?”
“You don't.” She gently told him. “You just eventually realize that you just have to go on without him. And you know what?” She leaned in close to make her confession. “I'm still not all the way there either. It's been more than six years and I'm still not healed. There is no time limit Fred... you can take as long as you need. As long as you continue living and don't let these flashes of intense grief hold you back.”
“Thanks.” Was all he could think to say.
She smiled and stood, pulling him up to stand as well before she threw her arms around him in comfort. He hugged her back, each sharing the moment to understand the other's pain. Nothing more needed to be said at the moment and so he walked her to the door and together they walked upstairs. He broke off to go knock on Hermione's door while Luna found Harry's left slightly open in anticipation. She walked in to collapse on the bed next to where he sat reading and let out a deep sigh. “Yes?” Harry asked as he looked down at her in amusement.
She shook her head and sighed again. “Just a long day. Find anything in the book yet?”
“No, so far just stuff we already know.” He answered, closing it and placing it on his nightstand. “You can take a turn tomorrow if you want... Julian isn't exactly the most interesting writer.”
She smiled and climbed under the covers without bothering to change her clothes. “I wonder why he wrote the book in the first place.”
“Maybe he just wanted to get the truth out. Could be one more reason Voldemort had Lucius target him.” He suggested as he lay next to her, pulling her close as they turned to look at each other. While staring in her eyes, he reached out to gently brush her hair from her face before running his fingers through the long strands. “Are you okay?”
“Not right now, but I will be... just caught up in sad memories.” She admitted. “They'll fade away in awhile.”
“Until reminded again.” He nodded in understanding.
She yawned and snuggled in closer to him. “Let's just go to sleep and see what the morning brings.”
Harry lightly kissed her nose before resting his head against hers. “Goodnight Luna. I love you.” He said, clearly feeling she needed to hear what was already clear in his actions.
“I know. I love you too.” She smiled and closed her eyes, ready for sleep to come despite the sad visions of memories past that she was sure to see during the night. She only hoped that in the morning, she for once wouldn't remember whatever is what she dreamed.
“You are okay?” Jacey asked as Ron answered his door. She had gone up to see him as soon as she knew he was done speaking to George but now she was thinking that perhaps she should have waited. He seemed tired and upset, agitated with the things he cannot change in his life. “I can come back later.” She said quietly.
He shook his head. “No, I could use a distraction.” He replied decisively as he invited her in. Closing the door, he turned and offered a weak smile. “So, what happened with the guy Lupin gave the letter to?” He jumped right in, pushing aside whatever he did not care to feel and focusing on his other problem... how to find Parvati.
Jacey paused a moment, recalling how she had flirted with the man to keep him occupied while she searched his head. But Ron had not asked for her method of obtaining the information and so she felt somewhat comfortable keeping it to herself... no need to make him more upset for no reason. “He did not tell me anything, I had to look through his thoughts.”
“And?” He pushed, becoming excitedly anxious as she dragged out her answer.
“And he is going to be handing the letter off along with other mail for the colony in two days to someone named Siobhan Bragan. She is one of the elder vampires helping Vincent run the colony.. she is coming from Ireland.”
Ron sat on the bed and stared at the wall thoughtfully. “So you believe the colony is there?”
“It might be. Or she may have just been on an errand there and is stopping through London on her way back to where it really is.” She sighed. “I had hoped Vincent himself would be the one, but perhaps Lupin warned him that you were interested in finding out who he was.”
“Well... maybe we can trace his steps with the information Moody got for us. If they lead us to Ireland that will be one more thing to say the colony may be there.” He suggested.
Moving to her desk, she took out the parchment that the strange Auror had brought them. “It could not hurt I suppose. And we will have to go to Ireland eventually to find Ajala Kapoor so if we do not have something more specific by then, we can always take a look around.”
“How without the others noticing?”
“We will worry about that when we come to it. Right now we must verify the information that we have.” She handed over the parchment and watched as he seemed to read over it. But she knew his eyes were simply roaming the words while his mind was a million miles away. “Nothing hurts more than losing family.” She quietly told him, empathizing with his loss.
“You don't have to tell me.” He muttered. Then he looked up at her and softened his attitude. “At least I still have most of my family.”
“Yes you do.” She smiled kindly. “It is okay, I have had years to learn to deal with my losses, yours are still fresh.”
“Have you dealt with it?” He asked without thinking... realizing what he'd said his face twisted in discomfort.
“Meaning?” She returned though she knew very well what he had meant. But she wanted him to say it, she wanted to finally have this out and while she would not have personally chosen this moment, he clearly could not keep it to himself any longer either. “It is okay, say whatever it is you want.”
Ron sighed deeply and shook his head. “From what you told me, it seems you focused more on revenge than the fact that you had lost your family... maybe at first it was to not have to think about their deaths, but all these years later, have you faced it? Or are you still letting the revenge keep you from dealing with everything? What happens when you find Vincent, the last one who destroyed your village? Say you do wind up killing him... what then? There is no more revenge, everyone will have paid the price in your mind... so what happens when you have to live the rest of your life quietly without your family?”
“What will happen to you or Harry once Voldemort it gone?” She argued. “You may be facing things differently than I had to, but none of you are any different than I am. You want Voldemort dead because he turned your brother Percy against you all and is responsible for putting him in the position to kill George. Harry wants revenge for his parents and countless others... what will you all do when Voldemort is gone and the war is over? What will any of us do? I cannot tell you, I am not the precognative one. We will all have the time then to focus on what we cannot now and who knows, it may break some of us who do not allow our feelings to be continually expressed. But what we cannot do any longer is judge each other on how we choose to handle our grief or who among the enemy has to die for us to get there.”
He continued to stare at the floor. “Maybe.” He said at last though he still would not look at her again. “I don't want to talk about it anymore.”
“We never talk about anything that is in the way between us.” She protested. “You do not wish to discuss Vincent any longer then let us talk about Parvati. You are comfortable asking me about my struggles and I gave my answers. So... What are you going to do once you get to talk to her? Will you still blame me?”
“Honestly?” He finally looked up as he stood and faced her. His eyes were so filled with sadness and uncertainty, telling her just how much he had been torturing himself with those very questions. “I don't know. I won't until I actually talk to her... which is your point isn't it? You won't know what to do about Vincent until you see him, Harry and the coven won't know how to stop Voldemort until they face him and I won't know if I can forgive you, my friends or myself until I talk to Parvati.” He stepped closer and took her hands. “So I guess what we should be asking is- what are we supposed to do in the meantime? Can we keep going the way we have?”
“Anything is better than nothing.” Jacey quietly answered as she looked up at him. “Is it not? At least until we can get out of our own way and have everything?”
Without warning he leaned in and kissed her, his lips softly caressing hers as he let go of her hands to cradle her face. Though startled, she returned his passion, wrapping her arms around his waist and pulling herself closer against him. “Maybe I'm tired of being in my own way.” He whispered when they broke for air, their faces inches apart as they shared breath.
Jacey was flush with the idea of his desire for her... but this somehow felt wrong, like he was forcing this to be the right time rather than accepting that it was. She leaned up to lightly kiss his lips once more before breaking off contact completely and stepping away. “Or maybe you are hurting and looking for some way to feel better.”
“Jacey... you're not just-” He started but she quickly cut him off.
“I know how you feel about me, the good and the bad.... I was not implying that you were using me. What I mean is, you were looking for a way to not feel sad or lost. That is not the way we should begin what I hope will be a meaningful relationship. I want to be with you Ron, but only once you are one hundred percent sure that you can be with me. I want us to be able to be together without any lingering doubts. I've had a fake relationship, one that was useful rather than passionate... I never want it again. I do not want you to wake up tomorrow regretting tonight.”
“It wouldn't have been regret, it could never be that.” He insisted before sitting back down on the bed and nodding. “But I understand what you're saying... I want everything in my life to be perfect too and I'm hoping with everything I have that you are going to be a part of it.”
“For as long as you'll have me, but only once you are ready.” She smiled going around to the other side of the bed and climbing in. “In the meantime, I am not going anywhere.”
“Except around the world.” He replied as he also got under the covers and stared up at the ceiling.
“But you are coming with, no?” She sat up, suddenly nervous that perhaps he would want to stay behind until they reached Ireland.
Again he sighed heavily. “Of course I'm coming with... I haven't the slightest idea as to what else to do.”
“That is no reason to embark on such a dangerous journey.” She returned. Despite the fact that she very much wanted him to be wherever she was, he would never survive if his heart was not truly in the cause.
“I know. I guess what I meant was... I've been following Harry into danger since I was eleven and now, I just don't know how not to. I certainly can't stay behind and pretend to not know what's going on around me even if I wanted to... which I don't. I want to be part of things, I want to help in any way I can. I'm just tired and I wish this whole war was over already... but everyone feels that way.”
She felt sorry for him, he seemed both sure and confused. “It is hard when you begin to consider that others have feelings.” She lightly teased.
“Tell me about it.” He muttered with a small smile.
She laid back down and wrapped her arm around him as she cuddled close. “I am glad you are coming with. I would be lonely without you.”
He kissed her forehead in response, returning her embrace as they settled in to sleep. She could not help but think of how they could be spending their night... but she was certain she had made the right decision. Maybe he would not regret it, but he would not have felt right about it... the fact that he had agreed to stop so quickly assured her of that. And besides, it would break her heart if they let themselves go to enjoy whatever was brewing between them only for him to talk to Parvati and decide he just could not be with her after all. She had never been in love and she was not entirely sure Ron would be the first... but she wanted him to be, even if she could not quite reason out why. Hopefully someday she would have the chance to find out, until then, she would not open herself to the kind of pain Ron's rejection could cause her.
It had been four days since they'd gone to Knockturn Alley and it seemed the Weasley kids had decided to put it forcibly out of their minds so they could get back to their lives... for Fred that meant potion brewing which also meant Hermione was locked away with him as they worked long hours to create new and better cures. She leaned over to carefully pour the strange concoction into the bubbling cauldron in front of her, concentrating hard so as not to add too much. “No!” Fred shouted, startling her and making her nearly drop the vial she'd been holding. She glared at him while trying to steady her racing heart. “Sorry.” He grinned sheepishly. “I realized I made a mistake... you can't pour that in there. It goes in the other cauldron.”
“And what exactly would have happened had you not realized in time.” She asked, crossing her arms and staring him down.
“I'd really rather not think about it.” He leaned down to kiss her cheek before grinning wider. “You're still here and in once piece... can't we just be thankful?”
“Mhmm, I hope you'll understand that I will be triple checking everything you have me doing in the lab from now on.” She turned to carefully pour the vial's contents into the correct cauldron.
“What, one near death experience and I lose your trust?” He joked as someone came knocking at his door. He ducked the towel she threw at him, laughing as he went to see who was there to see them.
“Hello, I hope I'm not interrupting any important experiments.” Willem smiled warmly yet nervously as Fred invited him in.
“Only Fred's test on my willingness to assist him.” Hermione said pointedly.
He made a face at her before turning back to Willem. “What's going on? Need story ideas for the Daily Prophet now that you have them only printing the truth?”
“Not exactly...” He pulled an envelope from his pocket and held it tightly in his hands. “This came for me at the office today and I'm supposed to give it to your father and the others... I guess I wanted your advice since it involves you too.”
“Involves me how?” Fred demanded. Hermione came around to stand next to him, placing a hand on his shoulder in support.
“Well, here you can read it... it's from Elanya.” He handed over the letter and they both eagerly looked it over.
Dear Uncle Willem,
Congratulations on your new employment! I was thrilled to see
that they have made you editor, even if it was a clear plot to try and lure
me and my companions out into the open. You can share this letter with
whomever you choose, I assure you it cannot be traced. That being said
I would hope familial ties would compel you to keep our communications
to yourself... it would be so nice to finally have some family that I know
I can trust. When this is all over, I would very much like to know you
more... provided you survive since you insist on remaining loyal to those
who allowed you to rot in Azkaban for six years. Until then, I would like
you to know that despite taking part in this ill-conceived ploy to bring
me out, I am thinking fondly of you. Now... if you would be so kind as
to give the rest of this letter to Fred Weasley, I would greatly appreciate
it as what I have to say is for him.
Hello my island partner! I don't know about you, but after the weeks in
paradise, I find it tedious to be back in reality... such as it is. No hard
feelings about the train, okay? I mean, yes I would have killed you and
your little girlfriend if given the chance, but it wasn't personal. Until
Harry, Jacey and Draco come to their senses, I fear we must be enemies.
Hopefully someday that will change as I find some of you very intriguing,
you especially. So much defiance and willful determination... are you
sure you're serving yourself best by remaining where you are? Don't
worry, I don't intend the question to be rhetorical... I will see you soon
I'm sure since we are going to be searching for the same people. So
think about your answer, I'll be seeking it when next our paths cross.
My best to you both,
“She knows we're going looking for coven members?” Hermione was surprised and a bit frightened. The last thing they had wanted was for any of their enemies to know what they were up to... but if they had found another seer as Luna feared...
“Maybe they only know about Nanami.” Fred said hopefully. “Though she did say 'people' and not 'person'.”
“Tomorrow is Christmas... two days after that you all leave.” Willem looked to them both. “So, should I show this to Arthur?”
Fred turned to Hermione, trusting her to know what was best. “Yes.” She answered. “He should know that she's been in touch with you at least. Despite what she says, maybe they can trace the letter, or maybe Draco can use it to scry for them again. Nothing Arthur says will stop Harry, Luna or Jacey from going anyway. You go tell him and we'll let the others know.”
He nodded unhappily. “Yes, I figured I would have to tell... I just feel wrong for doing so.”
“Because Elanya chose her words carefully.” Fred quietly told him. “She called you family for a reason... she knows the word means more to you than it does to her. She says she wants to trust you but remember, she's done nothing to earn your trust in return.”
“Knowing that I'm being played doesn't make it any easier.” Willem replied with a tired sigh before going to find Arthur.
“Well, let's go deliver the bad news.” Fred groaned. “Maybe the sooner we tell Luna, the easier it will be for her to see something.”
“Maybe.” Hermione answered thoughtfully as they went upstairs.
Harry answered after the first knock and invited them in with a wary smile... clearly he knew they were bringing some kind of bad news. Luna was lounging on the bed with Julian's book. “Hey guys... so Willem got a letter?” She asked.
Fred quickly filled them in on everything Elanya had written to both him and Willem. “So, what do you think?”
They all looked to Luna who turned away, staring at the wall as her eyes became unfocused. “There's no vision.” She finally said. “But I also don't have the sense that they know we are going after coven members specifically.”
“Meaning they do know we're going after psychics.” Harry sat heavily on the bed and glared at the floor. “Of course this wouldn't be easy, nothing is.” He muttered.
“Why would she make us aware of it though?” Hermione asked the question that had been bothering her since reading the letter over Fred's shoulder. “I mean, why let on that they know you're looking too?” Luna got up and left without a word, baffling her and Fred. “Where's she going?”
Harry smiled. “To her room to get the mirror. I don't think she realized that she didn't say it out loud.”
“I don't see how looking five minutes into the future will help at the moment.” Fred replied as he took a seat in the desk chair.
“She's going to use it to try and force a vision, isn't she?” Hermione asked. “After all, the mirror would feed her natural energy.”
“I think that's exactly what she's planning.” Harry said, looking concerned. “Hopefully it'll be like when Jacey uses the ring and it won't drain her out.”
“Even if it does, this is important.” Luna answered as she came back in and regained her place on the bed. “We need to know that we'll get to Nanami first.”
“Well, if she's a coven member, she wouldn't accept any offer except yours, right?” Fred suggested.
“Maybe... it depends on what kind of person she is at the moment.” Harry shrugged. “Jacey's implied a few times that had we come to her earlier, she may not have been willing to hear us out. We know nothing about Nanami other than the few basic facts our ministry had. We would've had to go to the ministry in Tokyo if we wanted anything more in-depth. She could be a Death Eater for all we know.”
“Just be quiet while I concentrate.” Luna told them all. She lay down and closed her eyes as she tightly gripped her mirror. Hermione sat next to her to watch, as ready as Harry was to wake her should something appear to be going wrong. When someone came knocking at the door, Fred was the one to get up and answer it, letting in Jacey.
“I have gotten the sense that I should be here.” She told them, joining Harry on his side of the bed. They held hands and did whatever it was they did to help each other, presumably feeding their energy to Luna. All of it fascinated Hermione and she found herself studying them more closely every time they used their powers in front of her. One day when the war was over, she was going to really study them... with their permission of course. She wanted to unlock the secrets of their abilities and see if she could help them learn what they only know instinctively and maybe sate her own mind as to how they can do what they do. Until then, she had to rely on them to know what they were doing and that it would keep them all safe. She held her breath and waited for whatever news Luna would bring.
“What do you think they want?” Ginny asked, unsure whether she was nervous or excited. Lupin and Tonks had just called for Draco to come down and speak with him and she crossed her fingers that it would be good news.
“I don't know.” Draco shrugged as they headed downstairs. “I guess we're about to find out.”
She took a look at him as they went, he had dark circles under his eyes and his whole appearance had a wrinkled, unkempt quality. She knew he hadn't been sleeping well and had begun to regret making him go with her to the place where George had died. Maybe he'd been right, that it was her grief to bear... he'd come so far in a year, overcome so much to prove to her, their friends and himself that he was someone different from who he'd been. Forcing him to remember the pain he used to help cause them and the irrevocable damage done to her family in that one day, it seemed cruel after so much progress. She'd only been thinking of her pain and the fact that she didn't want to face it alone... she had wanted him there because she didn't blame him for anything that happened that day. Maybe he could have warned them, but why would he have then? He'd always been the same person he was now, but she'd long ago learned to separate Draco into how he made his decisions in the past and how he made them in the present. She'd tried to tell him all of that... but nothing she said seemed to make a difference. As they entered the parlor, she desperately hoped Lupin and Tonks weren't about to add to Draco's troubles.
“Take a seat.” Tonks invited with a smile.
“What's going on?” Draco asked warily as he sat next to Ginny on the couch.
“Well, we took yours and Ginny's advice and looked into unlocking your trust and having it released to you on your eighteenth birthday as it was supposed to.” Lupin paused to share a look with Tonks.
“And?” Draco prompted. Ginny held her breath, hoping with everything she had.
“And, we succeeded.” Tonks announced, leaned down to happily hug her cousin.
“Really?” He was in disbelief, his eyes widening as he thought of the possibilities... as long as those possibilities included her, Ginny didn't care what he wanted if it would make him happy.
“Really.” Lupin grinned. “Now it's not the entire Malfoy fortune, but it will be enough to sustain you in the lifestyle which you're accustomed for a few years until you decide what to do with your life.”
“Or I could go on as I am and leave all the splendor and mansions behind... then it would last a few decades.” He answered, looking truly happy for the first time since Knockturn Alley. And why shouldn't he be... he'd just been told he would be receiving complete and total freedom, a way to take care of and support himself even if it was his family's money.
Tonks went to her bag and pulled out a form. “All we need is your signature on this. It says that you are forbidden from using the funds to support your parents who are now both criminals. Otherwise, it's all yours with no stipulations. Albus helped us prepare everything so we know there were no loopholes thrown in to catch you up.”
“Thank you. I trust Dumbledore and you two even more. But I think I want to read it myself... it's important from now on that I'm aware of and able to understand everything affecting my life.” He stood and they nodded in understanding.
“Take all the time you need, you won't be eighteen until June.” Lupin said sympathetically.
But as a ministry worker, Tonks knew better. “Actually, you have until the end of the year to sign. If we don't get the request in during this quarter, everything will be delayed.”
“I only need the night.” He assured them. “Thank you again for making this possible. I know it couldn't have been easy.”
“Easy or not, it was worth it if it'll make you happy.” Tonks assured him.
Draco hurried back up to his room and Ginny was right on his heels, unbelieving of what had just happened. “What are you thinking? What's wrong?” She demanded, closing the door behind them.
He shook his head and tossed the form on his desk. “At first I was so happy... but after thinking about it for a few moments, I don't think I can take the money.”
“Why not? Because it's Malfoy money?”
“Yes!” He shouted angrily, at last letting out some of the emotion he'd been holding in. “That's exactly why! When I think of the things they did to get those galleons... the people who's lives were ruined or lost... how can I use that money to support myself and not have every cent I spend weigh on my conscience?”
“By realizing that you earned it.” She steadily replied. “You aren't Lucius, even back then you didn't help him make his fortune... it's one that was built over generations, riches built on blood, lies and betrayal. The sins performed to gain the fortune aren't yours! But the sins perpetrated against you, those make you worthy of receiving it... as long as you don't continue on the tradition, as long as you give some of it back to those it was taken from. We'll all carry sins and guilt with us the rest of our lives, none of us are left unscathed or burdenless. Why continue to struggle if you don't have to? Let this be the one good thing your parents did for you. You were worried about being reliant on Harry or Lupin and Tonks... this is your freedom!”
“So if I take the money and do something good with it... then that automatically takes away everything horrible done to gain it?” He argued doubtfully. He threw himself down in his chair and dropped his head into his hands. “It was so much easier to not have a conscience.”
“How would you know?” She returned, crossing her arms and staring him down until he looked at her. “You can pretend all you want but we all know better now. You were never comfortable with the things you were asked to do back then. If you had been, then you would have been more successful in ruining our lives all those years. You wouldn't have let a time-turner stop you from going after Lupin or tried to keep me from getting the diary back... you wouldn't have let any of the obstacles that always came up get in your way.”
“Maybe you're right... and maybe if I had realized it sooner, George would still be here for you and Fred.” He got up and started pacing, uncomfortable now that they'd fought their way to the real problem weighing on him. “You and your family have given me so much... Fred is the one who found a way to help me with the werewolf curse... I just don't understand how any of you can stand it...” He stopped and looked her in her eyes before turning away again. “How can you love me?”
“Because even if you had turned on your life sooner, it wouldn't have stopped anything. You didn't plan on us being there that day, you didn't plan to force Harry away, you didn't plan us to follow them and you certainly didn't force Percy to use the killing curse. You didn't even fight us that day... and your guilt just for being there compelled you to write to me and nearly got you killed. I blamed you then because I didn't know better, now I do... we all do. It was Jasper who saw our decision to go to Knockturn Alley and it was Voldemort and Lucius who decided to use the man's vision to their advantage. We don't care that you were there with them Draco... we all know you and we all know you didn't want George to die... we know you'd change it if you could. But the fact that you can't isn't any more your fault than it is ours. Events aligned that day, and we are suffering the results... maybe the things you and Cho had done had helped get us there, but you were only doing what you had to in order to survive, you couldn't have known that Cho's Bickeross would send us on the quest for a cure that would wind up ending someone's life.” She wiped away the tears that she couldn't hold back. “I miss George... I can't even put into words how it feels to lose him or even Percy. So if I can see that it wasn't your fault, why can't you?”
“I'm sorry.” He came over and wrapped his arms tightly around her, pulling her close in comfort as she wiped her eyes on his shoulder. “You shouldn't have to be making me feel better about this... you're the one who lost someone.”
“But you found someone that day.” She looked up and smiled encouragingly at him. “You found yourself, who you really are and who you want to be. Just do us both a favor and recognize that you deserve to be happy.”
“I'll try.” He promised as he gently kissed her lips.
“Then take the first step.” She whispered. She took his hand and led him to the desk, picking up a quill and gesturing toward the form. “Sign this and claim your independence... but only if you want to. It'll never work if you only do it because I'm asking.”
Releasing her hand, he took the quill and stared at the paper, trying to decide if he could live with knowing that the money he needed was tainted by those who had gathered it. At last he sighed and leaned over to sign his name. “I won't need it all, especially if I find work after the war... the first thing I'm going to do when it's mine is find a way to take half of it and make it useful to those who need it.”
“Whatever you want.” She agreed with a teasing grin. “I'm certainly not with you for your wealth.... I'm not the one who was accustomed to that life.”
“Yeah well, would it be strange if I admitted that I like being poor better?”
She laughed heartily, knowing he didn't truly know the meaning of the word. “Of course you feel that way, you're destitute yet still in the position of having friends to help you until you get on your feet. Try having lived my life before Harry came into it... if he hadn't given his Tri-Wizard winnings to the twins, if he hadn't lent credibility to my family's name so dad could become minister, if he hadn't invited us into his home as well... Well, I don't want to think about back then and how things could still be the same.”
“And I don't want to think back to when I could have had anything I wanted so long as I never questioned where it came from or how it was obtained.” He agreed. “So we'll just make this like everything else and keep it in the past and continue moving forward.”
“Along with your guilt over George?” She pressed.
“I don't know Ginny... that one is a little harder. But I promise not to dwell on it anymore.” He offered.
“Okay then.” She took the paper from him and put it back down on his desk before turning back to him and smiling suggestively. “Lupin and Tonks aren't expecting you to give that back until morning anyway...”
Returning her smile, he grabbed her hips and pulled her into him. “Whatever shall we do to pass the time?” He asked as he trailed kisses along her jaw and down her neck.
“I'm sure we'll come up with something.” She answered breathlessly, throwing her arms around his neck as he scooped her up and carried her to the bed. She was certainly ready to move forward and was willing to do whatever it took to get him to that point as well.
Everything was both sharp and hazy as she walked... the world seemed to move beneath her feet and never stilled. Luna tried to gain her senses but everything around her was a shimmering darkness... she could feel the spray of water on her face and tasted salt... so she was on an ocean somewhere then. Once she came to that realization, she knew she was standing on a boat and could just make it out a wall behind her in the darkness. Reaching out, she was able to find the railing in front of her which was good... even in a vision she didn't want to fall overboard. She didn't understand why the boat was dark, where were all the lights? There was no moon, only thousands of stars that barely offered enough light for her to see her hand in front of her face... her hand... she realized she was holding something in her other hand and that it must be the mirror... it had come into the vision with her. Suddenly there was an explosion of flames at the front of what she now saw was a large ship, the fire lighting the sky. Though terrified, she moved toward the light and held up the mirror. “Elise McKinney.” She whispered. The glass rippled and cleared to reveal the woman fighting with Jacey in a lifeboat far from the ship... apparently they had found a way to confine their fight from the others. “Sarah Elaine.” She tried next and was shown the woman fighting with Harry and an unknown Asian woman... it must be Nanami, but it was unclear who she was helping- Harry, Sarah or herself. Feeling the pull of her tired mind she hurried, wanting to assess the entire situation. “Elanya Delamora.” She said quickly. The image once again shifted to show Elanya fighting with Fred and Hermione. She could tell they were talking, but their words were somehow drowned out. “Cho Chang.” She finally demanded and was shown exactly what she had expected. Cho was fighting Draco and Lupin at the front of the ship as Ginny desperately tried to put out the fire. And now she knew where all her friends were if not the outcome of their fights which she'd learned were impossible to predict as they always made instinctual choices in battle.
But one thing bothered her... she hadn't seen herself at all. Dread gathered in her stomach and she looked into the mirror once more time, ignoring the pull of her mind calling her back. “Luna Lovegood.” She whispered. Unlike when Harry had used the mirror to say her name, she received a view from her own perspective and saw a strange man and woman in some kind of uniforms. Perhaps they worked for the ship... only that idea was shattered when the woman spoke, not to the Luna in the mirror but through the mirror to the real her. “Well, I guess we'll have to change our plans slightly now.” She said with a leering smile.
And then it was over, Luna was back in reality and laying on Harry's bed as he, Hermione, Jacey and Fred looked down at her in concern. She sat up in excitement, desperate to share what she had seen. “The boat! They were all there... I don't know who found Nanami but she was there too and the woman... she saw me somehow!”
“Whoa, calm down.” Harry said soothingly. “What woman?”
Quickly telling them everything, she ended exactly where the vision had, with the strange woman who seemed to know she had looked in on this particular future. “It was all so real... I could feel the heat from the fire, taste and smell the sea salt... she must have seen me.”
“But how?” Hermione mused. “I mean, you're the strongest seer in the world and you have the strongest tool meant to be used by your family... who is this woman and how could she have seen you?”
“The only way is if she is related.” Jacey said with a shrug. “I can think of no other way than if this woman also has Gwendolyn's blood in her line.”
Luna shook her head, immediately certain that this couldn't be true. “No, my grandmother and father were both only children and she was far too young to be from any other generation. I have no cousins, not even on my mother's side. This woman, she couldn't have been much older than I am... she seems familiar the more I picture her face but I just can't see how I could have a relative I don't know about.”
“Show us what she looks like.” Fred suggested. “Maybe one of us will recognize her... or at the very least, we'll know who to look out for.”
Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes and conjured an image of the woman... the long black hair, the stormy gray eyes and pale skin... it was the picture of a very beautiful person and she pushed it outward to imprint it into each of their minds. Hermione gasped in shock. “You all don't see it?” She asked, looking around at them in disbelief.
“What?” Harry demanded. “I mean, there's something horribly familiar about her but... I can't put my finger on it.”
“Horrible is right... she looks a lot like Tristan, doesn't she?” Hermione hinted.
“You right.” Luna said, instantly knowing it was true the moment it was suggested to her. “It seems that they will succeed in finding Talena Macnair.”
“And convincing her to join them.” Jacey added unhappily.
“It still doesn't explain how she knew Luna was having a vision of her.” Harry protested. “There's something we're missing...”
“No one knows the limits of power pureborn vampires can have. Being able to see the future, it would explain how Tristan knew to get around Luna seeing his plans and we know he was able to hypnotize people through his eyes as well as fly. Talena could have all of these powers and more.” Hermione pointed out.
“Tristan knew...” Luna shuddered as she recalled the quidditch match and how the vampire had trapped her and Draco. “He said that I wouldn't see his plans no matter who's blood flowed through my veins. It was his hint to say that he knew about my link to Gwendolyn.”
“But your family isn't in any way related to the Macnairs... right?” Harry asked.
“No.” She answered with conviction.
“Not that you are aware of anyway.” Jacey said, ignoring Luna's glare. “All I am saying is that there are a lot of family secrets coming out all over the place... yours could just be beginning.”
“I would know... I would sense that there was some kind of relation or connection.” She insisted. “Something else is going on.”
“If she's sure then I trust her.” Hermione said supportively. “But that means there's some other reason Tristan knew what he knew and why Talena can see you seeing her... maybe it's just some freaky vampire precognative ability but whatever the case, it's not good.”
“You can't go looking for visions of her on your own anymore.” Harry declared. “If one comes to you we can't help that, but if you need to go looking for her then you have to let us help protect your mind.”
“Okay.” Luna readily agreed... the prospect of being alone in a vision with Talena wasn't something she was looking forward to.
“I wonder...” Fred started before staring off into space. His mind was tightly locked and it was clear he didn't want them knowing what he was thinking.
“About?” Jacey prodded.
“A lot of things.” Fred grinned, deciding to keep his secrets. “We left some burners going, we better get back downstairs.” He grabbed Hermione's hand and pulled her out of the room, her face a mask of confusion as she followed out of curiosity.
“What was that?” Harry asked, mystified.
“We can work together to find out.” Jacey suggested.
Luna shook her head. “No, I'm sure it's nothing dangerous. Let him be. We need to figure out what we're going to do. Lupin booked us a ship to get to Japan since Ginny can't apparate... we have to figure out another way.”
“I refuse to get in those airplanes... they are entirely unnatural.” Jacey shivered. “Just the thought of being stuck in a metal tube thousands of miles in the sky before it crashes down to earth with no escape for any inside... I would much rather fly a broom to Japan.”
“That may be our only choice then if we're to avoid all boats.” Harry replied. “Of course, if we help the others apparate, we won't have to worry about anyone being able to trace us and then it won't matter that Ginny is underage.”
“Except Talena may be able to trace us and then we'd be leading her directly to every coven member we find.” Luna argued. “I'm uncomfortable doing anything like that without fully knowing what she is capable of and what powers she possesses.”
“More uncomfortable than sticking to the ship while knowing what is to come?” Jacey asked.
“At least on the ship we do know what's coming.” She returned.
“Right, better to face the beast you know than the one you don't.” Harry nodded. “We'll let Draco, Ginny and Lupin know so they'll be prepared... but we won't tell Arthur or anyone else. No need to worry them... it's not like we can travel unnoticed with a team of Aurors trailing us.”
“Which is exactly what Molly would insist Arthur arrange.” Luna sighed. “Okay, we don't have to tell anyone who won't be with us.”
“But you said that Talena told you they were going to change their plans now.” Jacey pointed out.
“We already knew we were going to have to be on guard out there... we'll just have to be extra aware.” Harry said quietly. “This is going to be so dangerous... maybe the three of us should just go alone... sneak out and leave early.”
“You think they wouldn't follow us?” Luna smiled sadly. “They know where we're going and who we're looking for... it'd be far more dangerous for us all to be out there and split up from each other.”
“Okay.” He sighed. “I didn't want to leave them behind anyway... I prefer everyone where I can see them. I'd bring Arthur, Molly, Bill, Charlie and Tonks as well if I could.”
“They have work to do here.” Jacey said. “We will just have to hope that with more coven members, we become more invincible to those forces lesser than us.”
“But is Talena lesser than us?” Luna asked. “Tristan didn't seem to be.”
“Alone maybe not... but together, Harry, Draco and I were able to kill him.” She pointed out.
“Yeah, with a lot of luck and after nearly losing our lives as well.” Harry argued. “Hopefully the trend continues... our abilities seem to grow steadier and more powerful as we come into contact with more coven members. After all, it wasn't until Luna started coming around that mine reawakened and adding you has only helped.”
“So as long as we get to Nanami first, we'll stand a better chance against Talena.” Luna reasoned. “But we already knew that.”
“You're sure you couldn't tell who's side she was on in the vision?” He asked her.
She shook her head, feeling frustrated. “No, I didn't have time... what I did see was entirely unclear.”
“She has to be on our side.” He insisted. “There's no other way...”
Luna took his hand and held it tightly, wishing she could give him more. “It three days, we will be on our way to finding out just how difficult this is going to be. All I know is that we should be prepared for the war to follow us.”
Draco kept his eyes closed but he could feel Ginny staring at him as she waited for him to wake. He tried to remain still as Christmas morning wasn't something he'd looked forward to since he was a very young child. He'd learned early on that it was just like any other day, only dressed up a bit, and he was dreading the experience of a semi-functional family celebration when all he knew was the dark depressing traditions of his own completely messed up home.
“I know you're awake.” Ginny whispered in his ear before sitting up and placing something small and light on his chest. “Your breathing changed.” She added her proof that he was faking.
“Congratulations detective, you cracked the case of the guy who just wanted five more minutes of sleep.” He teased while keeping his eyes closed... at least until she hit him in the face with her pillow. “Okay, okay, I'm awake.” He sat up and grinned at her before noticing that the small gift she'd placed on his chest had slid down to his lap. “What's this?”
“Happy Christmas!” She said happily as she gestured to the pile of presents at the foot of his bed. Then she reached into his lap to pick up the small gift and hand it to him. “This one's from me.” She said proudly.
He'd received tons of presents every year at Christmas, none of which his parents had actually shopped for themselves... that was the servants job. He'd been sure to wait until his parents went to bed to thank whichever member of the staff they had sent, feeling touched, saddened and resentful that they knew more about him than his own mother and father. But he knew Ginny had put thought and effort into finding something to gift him... just as he had for her. This year was definitely going to be something altogether different and he just wasn't prepared. “What is it?” He asked to stall and buy more time to think of the proper reaction... what would she be looking for in his response?
“You have to open it and see moron.” She rolled her eyes and laughed. “You sure know how to suck the magic out of the holiday.”
“You're the one who's resorted to name calling.” He teased back. With nothing left to do, he tore away the paper to reveal a small, plain wooden box. Ginny was so anxious he felt she may take the thing from him and open it herself if he waited any longer... clearly she wanted his honest reaction, he just hoped it was the right one. Opening the box he saw a small jagged clear quartz crystal attached to the end of a short silver chain. He knew instantly what it was, his mother had owned a much more ornately gaudy and overpriced one with a brilliant ruby instead of simple, pure quartz. “A pendulum?” He asked with a grin as he carefully picked it up. It instantly made small, uncertain circles in the air, waiting for him to ask it for guidance and direction.
“That it is.” She smiled, reaching out to tousle his hair. “I figured if you were going to keep scying, a pendulum would keep you from pulling out all your hair. So you see, it's a gift for me as well... I'm not sure I could take you seriously if you were bald. Luna helped me, she picked the crystal that she said you were meant to have... so I guess it's from her too. But I'm taking all the credit.” She laughed and threw her arms around his neck before kissing his cheek. “So, do you like it?”
“It's the best present I've ever gotten.” He honestly replied. In truth, he realized she could have given him anything at all and it would've been the best thing he'd ever received... it was the first gift he'd gotten that was picked out by someone who loved him and had him in mind. She'd even gone so far as to bring in Luna to ensure every detail was perfectly suited to him and it showed just how much he was in her thoughts.
“You're a liar.” She accused with another laugh. “I can only imagine the amazing things your family was able to afford.”
“It's not the same.” He argued. “Even the most expensive gift means nothing if it's given without real affection. I've gotten lots of things I liked before... but this from you, it's suddenly the only thing I've ever wanted.”
“Sometimes, you say the sweetest things.” She smiled and leaned in to tenderly kiss her lips.
“Mmm.” He broke contact and reached under the bed to pull his gift to her, it was in a small bag. “I suppose you'll want your present now?” He desperately wanted the attention off of him... he was touched beyond words by what she'd given him and he didn't want to become overwhelmed so early when he still had a whole day of new experiences ahead of him.
“Really?” She asked excitedly before trying to pretend she didn't care. “Well, if you went through the trouble...”
He laughed at her display and handed the gift over, suddenly even more anxious than before. “It's not much... I am broke after all.” He quipped nervously. Ginny brushed off the comment and pulled the tissue paper away before reaching into the bag and pulling out a small stuffed animal in the shape of an elephant. Her eyes widened and she looked up at him in confusion. “That's the one isn't it? Purple with big ears?” A few months before they'd been in his dorm room and while he'd been trying to study, she had grown bored and begun to ramble on. Eventually she'd told him about some silly stuffed elephant she'd had, describing it down to a T. It was given to her by Bill on her 1st birthday and had instantly became her favorite toy... years later it had become lost or stolen when trolls invaded her home and though she had tried to play it off when she was telling the story, he'd been able to tell that it upset her to have lost something so treasured during her childhood. He'd thought she'd like having a new one, but perhaps he'd been mistaken...
“I didn't think you were even listening.” She said at last. “I was just going on talking so it wouldn't be silent and because I was tired of homework.”
“Even when I try to ignore you it's impossible.” He replied cautiously. “Was I wrong in thinking you would like this?”
She smiled widely and this time threw her whole self into his arms as she held him tightly. “No, you were absolutely right. I love you Draco... you're a great boyfriend even when you don't know it.”
“Well then, I can't wait to see what I'm capable of when I'm actually trying.” He grinned in relief, glad that he'd done this Christmas thing correctly. It had been easy to shop for his parents because he'd never been invested in whether or not they actually liked what he got them... especially since they didn't care what he received. Thinking of something for Ginny had nearly caused his brain to explode under the pressure... in the end the story of the stuffed elephant had popped into his head the moment Luna had asked him to accompany her into the toy store. She'd claimed to have wanted something for her neighbor's son, but the fact that he'd been the only one to walk out with a purchase now led him to believe that maybe she'd helped him as much as she'd helped Ginny in picking out the right crystal. He couldn't be more grateful for the help.
Fred had been gone when Hermione awoke but she didn't let it bother her... he'd left her door open a crack so he clearly intended on coming back. She got out of bed and put on her robe before waving her wand to start a blaze in her small fireplace. Then we went to her desk and pulled open the drawer to grab the envelop holding her gift to Fred. She hoped she hadn't overstepped her bounds, but she couldn't think of anything better to say that she loved and accepted everything about him. Hearing footsteps on the stairs, she quickly got back into bed and waited with an expectant smile. Sure enough Fred entered carrying a tray with two covered plates. “Oh good you're awake... couldn't sleep without me?” He teased as he carefully put the tray down and climbed in next to her.
“That must be it.” She rolled her eyes and smiled.
“Happy Christmas!” He kissed her before presenting his tray. “Breakfast in bed to start the day?”
“Sounds wonderful.” She agreed, her stomach softly rumbling as the delicious smells invaded her nose. “But first, I have something for you.” She handed over the envelope and laughed as he dramatically shook it.
“Hmm, I wonder... is it a pony?” He grinned.
“Maybe next year, if you're good.” She tauntingly patted his cheek.
“I'm going to hold you to that.” He said seriously before tearing open the envelope and pulling out the document inside. Hermione held her breath as his eyes read over it, his face filling with both amusement and confusion. “This says the amulets I made for Draco and Lupin have been patented.”
“Yes, it's an important step in the process if you ever intend to make it public... and in the meantime no one will be able to steal one and lay claim to it.” She quickly explained.
“I'm aware of the purpose of a patent... but it says the official name is Wolfie Potion.” He looked at her with a wide smile. “I thought you said we needed a serious name.”
“Well, I figured if I embraced it, you'd stop using it to annoy me.” She said as she returned the smile. “You can always go down to the ministry and change it later.”
Fred pretended horror at the idea. “No, absolutely not! It's perfect the way it is... just like you.”
She smiled against his lips as he kissed her. “You are capable of saying the corniest things and still sounding somewhat romantic.” She teased.
“And on that delightful note, here's your gift.” He got up and went to the pile of presents by her bed to pull out the one he'd obviously wrapped himself.
Excited, she sat up on her knees as he stood beside her and tore off the paper as soon as the oddly shaped item was in her hands. Under the colorful wrapping was a plain mason jar filled with something extraordinary. The whole jar was emitting a soft white glow and shielding her eyes, she was able to see that inside was something small and glittery suspended in mid air. “It's wonderful...” She said breathlessly, feeling suddenly small as a sense of something bigger and greater overwhelmed her. “What is it?”
“Something else you may have to get me a patent for... although I really only ever wanted to make it for you.” He reached out and grabbed her around the waist, pulling her close so he could whisper in her ear. “I figured out how to create a star.”
“You're not serious.” She held up the jar for a better look, but the light it emitted was too bright to properly focus on what was at the center beyond a small glittery mass.
“Well, as close to a real star as one can get.” He admitted. “I've been experimenting with a lot of things when you're busy helping Harry and Luna... I wanted to make you something special, something no one else had and no one else could ever give you.”
“You definitely succeeded... very few guys can deliver when they promise a girl the stars.” She laughed. “I love it almost as much as I love you.” She added, kissing him deeply and passionately while clutching her star.
“I'd do anything to keep every promise I ever make you.” He said, his voice husky with desire.
She leaned to carefully place the jar on her nightstand before looking him in his eyes as she gently brushed his hair off his face. “I believe you.” She answered with a seductive smile, ready to make their Christmas morning very happy indeed.
Harry and Luna had slept in well past breakfast, but considering how late they'd kept each other awake and what they'd been busy doing, he certainly didn't mind. However, hearing that the rest of the house was up and moving made them realize they'd lost the opportunity for a private Christmas morning... so they decided to save their time until the evening and quickly got up to join their friends in the festivities. Guests would be arriving soon including her father and grandmother and he and Luna both wanted to be appropriately presentable before they showed up.
No sooner had they entered the parlor and bid everyone a Happy Christmas than the doorbell rang. Tonks squealed in delight when Molly showed in Andromeda and Ted, getting up to go hug her parents. “I'm so glad you guys came!” She exclaimed.
“Me too, it seems I was worried for nothing.” Andromeda smiled at Harry. “This house is quite different than when I was last in it years ago. Definitely a change for the better.”
“Thank you, and welcome back I guess.” He returned her smile, once more finding it hard not to instantly like her.
“Well, should we pass these out now or is there somewhere you'd like us to put them?” Ted asked about the huge pile of presents in his arms.
“We got a little something for everyone... as thank yous for looking after Dora and Draco.” Andromeda explained as she passed out the gifts. “Of course you'll understand if we went a little over board to spoil our daughter, son-in-law and nephew.” She added with a laugh as Tonks, Lupin and Draco were suddenly bogged down with brightly wrapped presents. Poor Draco appeareded out of his depth but it seemed he was quickly adapting... Andromeda's next words also seemed to help. “And don't you dare tell us that you got us something in return, we want nothing from any of you except maybe a few more visits.”
Molly rushed to get the door as the bell sounded again, coming back into the parlor with Xeno and Juniper Lovegood. Luna instantly got up to greet them, her previous frustrations with her father forgotten now that he was in front of her. Harry went over to shake his hand but Juniper would accept nothing less than a bone-crushing hug. She's a tough old bird. Luna thought to him, amusement evident in her tone along with a deep sense of affection toward her grandmother.
Everyone settled in to talk and visit and Harry looked around at the Weasleys and the Lovegoods and the Tonks around Draco and Lupin...It made him felt empty, saddened that he didn't have his own personal family within the larger hodgepodge assembling of family they'd put together. He, Jacey and Hermione were the odd ones out, left with no one to come to the door for them. Harry. Lupin's voice crossed his mind. Meet me in the hall.
He went without question, eager to see what his friend had to tell him. Lupin managed to slip away and putting a finger to his lips, indicated that he wanted Harry to follow him upstairs. Together they snuck up to Lupin's room where he quietly closed the door and turned with a nervous smile. “I saw you looking sad.” He said, conjuring chairs for them to sit in as he had the last time they'd talked here.
“Just a certain melancholy I experience this time of year.” Harry sighed and sat in the chair.
“I figured... which is why I thought I'd give you my gift now.” Lupin grinned nervously and swallowed hard before going on. “In my mind, I have a perfectly clear memory of Christmas with Lily and James... Sirius and I were there, it was right before we all went into hiding and eight months before they died. Peter was mysteriously absent though we'd invited him... Sirius and I used the day to try and convince James that Peter couldn't be trusted, but we had no proof, only our intuition. Lily seemed to feel the same way we did, but they argued that everyone would expect them to pick one of us as their secret keeper... and then you woke up from your nap and the rest of the day became about you, their six month old son who was experiencing his very first Christmas. I want to show it to you, so every year you can remember that you had a family that loved you very much, even if it was for a much shorter time than any of your friends. But it's up to you and whether you think you'd like to see it.”
He desperately wanted to see the memory... but would it make him feel better or just give him one more reason to resent the fact that his parents had been taken? He'd been too young to have any recollection of the event himself and he'd so long felt detached from James and Lily...even using the ring to talk to them hadn't bridged the gap though ironically it had made them feel more real to him. “I want to see it.” He decided, closing off his mind from Luna and Jacey... he wanted this to be just for him.
Lupin smiled and nodded. “I figured you might.” He closed his eyes and leaned back in his chair, trusting Harry to do what he needed to do.
He was hesitant as he pushed into his friend's memories, wanting to be extra careful not to do anything that would jeopardize his mind.
“Okay that's enough of all this serious talk for now.” Lily said as a baby cried in the background. “Harry's awake and all I want is for this to be our best day with him yet.”
“Fine.” Sirius conceded unhappily. “But this isn't over... you really have to listen to us about Peter.”
“And we will.” James answered dismissively before smiling at his wife. “Just not now, whatever Lily wants Lily gets.”
“I'll remember you said that when it comes time for chores.” She laughed before leaving the room to go get Harry.
“I can't believe he's almost six months already.” Lupin said as he got up to get more hard cider. “I feel very old now that you two are having kids.”
“One kid, Harry's all we need right now.” James laughed... clearly he had already been in the merry drinking mood.
“Besides, it makes no sense bringing even more children into the world as it is now.” Sirius said grumpily.
“Well!” Lily said, coming back into the room with her son cradled in her arms. “With statements like that, I'm certainly glad we made you his godfather.”
Sirius instantly softened, getting up and going to scoop Harry from her and hold him out to look at in adoration. “Oh come on, you know I love this little guy...” He smiled as the baby reached up and grabbed his hair while giggling in amusement.
“Yes, I think he was merely speaking of his own life...” James teased. “Glad that barmaid didn't end up pregnant are you?”
“More than words can express.” He agreed with a shudder, handing Harry back to Lily. “That one was definitely trying to trap me up in marriage.”
“Well, someone will someday you know.” She grinned settling herself and Harry on the floor by the large, decorated tree and the presents piled beneath it.
“Bite your tongue woman!” Sirius said in mock disgust. “You two can play house all you want, that is not the life for me.”
She ignored him and focused on her son. “Here Harry, look at all these gifts.” She laughed as the baby ignored the brightly colored wrapping paper to grab at the sparkling ornament on the tree. “No my love, that's not for you.”
“Here kiddo.” James came and sat with them, pulling out a long thin box and handing it to baby Harry.
Lily helped remove the paper and opened the box to reveal a small flying broom. “James! He's far too young for this.” She scolded.
“He's never too young to follow in my footsteps.” He answered defensively.
“Let us hope quidditch is all he follows you in.” Sirius joked. “It'll be much more beneficial to the lad if he takes after his mother.”
“Whoever he is, whatever he does, we'll love him to pieces.” Lily replied, hugging Harry close and kissing his soft head. Then she looked at her husband with devilish smile. “Even if he does take after James.”
“You make me feel so special.” He teased.
“How about giving him a more practical gift.” Lupin cut in. “Give him the one from me and Sirius.”
“It's not a whole Quidditch set is it?” Lily asked with a smile.
“Open it and see.” Sirius answered mysteriously, getting up and pulling out a large, oddly shaped gift hastily wrapped in silver paper and topped with a big red bow.
Lily handed Harry to James and eagerly unwrapped her son's gift, revealing a large stuffed dragon with a bucket seat and handles. “Well look at that!” She said happily.
James carefully placed Harry in the seat, ensuring he was able to sit up properly. Then with a wave of his wand, the toy dragon was moving around the living room and Harry was laughing in delight.
“Once his feet touch the ground, he'll be able to use it to help him learn to walk.” Lupin said as they watched in amusement.
“It'll happen in no time. He catches onto things rather quickly.” James proclaimed proudly.
“Hmm, well then he does take after Lily.” Sirius grinned.
“Let us hope in one area at least... he already shows signs.” She pointed as Harry stared at his blanket across the room, and then it flew at him and he happily laughed as he held the blanket in his little hands.
“Well that will get annoying once he hits the terrible twos.” Sirius joked.
Lily went over and picked up her son, once more cuddling him close to her. “Never.” She insisted. “I love everything he does and everything about him.”
“We all do.” Lupin told her, elbowing Sirius.
“Yeah, I'll admit... he's the only child I've ever been able to stand being around.” He reached out and let Harry grab onto his finger before going to refill his cup.
“Didn't two of your cousins have children?” James teased.
“Okay, so Dora is another exception, especially now that she's thirteen... out of childhood and well into becoming a young adult. I've yet to meet Narcissa's new offspring and I doubt it'll happen any time soon.” Sirius returned. “Though I have heard through Andromeda that it was a boy. Lucky Malfoy, he gets the heir he wanted.”
“Oh joy, another generation of Malfoys.” James grumbled.
“Maybe he'll be different.” Lily said optimistically. “It's unfair to judge a child, he could be like you or Andromeda and decide to leave the family... with the right guidance. Maybe you should try to introduce yourself to him when he's a bit older.”
“Sirius is the one you send to provide guidance?” Lupin laughed heartily, ignoring his friend's glare. “Whatever becomes of the newest Malfoy, I'm sure Sirius would only encourage a different type of incorrigible behavior.”
A bell went off in the kitchen and James quickly went in to tend to their dinner. He called Lily in for help and she carefully placed Harry in Lupin's lap before going to see what he needed. Sirius came and sat next to them on the couch, once more reaching out to let Harry grab his finger. “Well old friend, are you ready to play uncle for life?”
Lupin stared at Harry and smiled. “Absolutely. You?”
“I don't have to play uncle, I'm the godfather.” He returned with a grin. “All the glory of a parent without the real responsibility, I'm more than ready for a whole life with this little guy.”
Harry pulled himself out of the memory, not really needing to see anymore. The feelings evoked from what he had seen would be with him forever and while he may be even more resentful for what was taken from him, he was also more driven to protect what he had. “Thank you.” He quietly told Lupin, unable to say anything more.
They both stood and walked to the door, ready to rejoin the festivities downstairs. Suddenly overcome, Harry turned and hugged Lupin tightly... they really were each others link to the past, to James, Lily and Sirius... he wanted to feel that closeness to them. Lupin hugged him back, equally emotional about what he'd just relived. It was a time before he knew that he would lose all of his friends, before he'd struggled to make it on his own. “We had it good back then Harry.” He said, pulling away to look at him. “We have it good now too. We just have to hold on.”
“I know.” He answered with a solemn smile. “Let's get back to them all.”
NOTE: Next chapter... an Order meeting and preparation to leave and then... they'll be off to travel the world! Finally!
NOTE: Reference to the diary from HP and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling, reference to the time-turner from HP and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling.
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