There had been little news about Skorponok since the previous evening, and an uneasy silence was drawn over the living room.
Harry was lying with his head on Ginny’s lap while she was absentmindedly running her hand through his hair. Across the room, Ron was sitting on the floor with his back against Hermione’s legs – she, in a not-so-shocking turn of events, was reading a book titled The Complete History of Goblin Banking.
Ginny felt an uneasy tug at her insides – she was getting used to the feeling, since she’d been experiencing it every time she thought about the werewolf that was out to kill Harry. She’d been trying to figure out if she’d have preferred to not have been in this situation at all – sure, things would have been easier:
Dean would be the one resting his head on her lap, they would probably be alone at home and she would have been worrying about something as mundane as her Quidditch-broom. Then he would say something about how he couldn’t imagine his life without her and she’d smile and kiss him without saying anything back.
Yes, she decided. Things would have been easier, but I would have been miserable without knowing it.
“Harry?” she said quietly so that only he could hear her.
“Hmm?” he said back with a small smile. “Something wrong?”
She sighed quietly. “Not at all,” she said and kissed him. “Thank you for choosing the Supermarket,”
His smile widened. “Thank you,” he said with a shrug, immediately remembering the night they’d met. “My life has gotten considerably more exciting since your first appearance in it.”
She tilted her head and bit her bottom lip. “As has mine,” she chuckled.
His smile faltered. “I’m sorry about that,” he said sitting up on the couch they were sharing.
Her brow furrowed. “Sorry for making my life more exciting?”
He shook his head and took her one hand in both of his. “I’m sorry for painting a target on you and your family’s backs.”
She snorted. “Please,” she said waving her hand dismissively. “I’m a Weasley.” When he didn’t reply she chuckled. “I practically have my own little army,” she joked lightly, pushing into his shoulder with hers playfully.
“I don’t want to be the reason you get hurt, Gin,” he said while looking down. “I wouldn’t be able to live with myself.”
She sighed and put her hand under his chin and raised his lips to hers quickly. “I’m not here because of you, Mr Potter,” she said seriously. “I’m here because I wanted to be here -”
“You sure know how to make a bloke feel special,” he chuckled.
“You are special,” She said, a blush tingeing her cheeks.
“How so?” he asked huskily, watching her lips and moving his head closer to hers.
“You’re not going back!” he barked – the crushing finality of his words blatantly obvious.
“But Father -” Warren tried quietly.
“As long as Skorponok is a threat, you will stay here, Warren,” Greyback said in his same emotionless tone and walked away from the tree they had been standing under.
Warren sat down moodily and plucked out a handful of grass. All he wanted to do was see if Lillian was alright, but – being one of the more fortunate wolves under Greyback’s protection – he wasn’t allowed anywhere out of camp until the threat to his life was dealt with.
He heard approaching footsteps and looked up, sighing heavily when he saw Remus Lupin walk towards him with his hands in his pockets.
“I heard about your predicament,” Lupin said as stopped a few feet away.
“You’re not allowed to talk to me,” Warren said bitingly without looking up.
“Not unless you want me to,” he said with a light shrug.
“And why would I want to talk to an outcast, Lupin?”
Remus shook his head and chuckled whilst looking at his worn-out shoes. “I’ve been in the company of humans since I was born, child,”
“I’m almost thirty years old! I am not a child!” Warren snapped and got to his feet.
Remus shrugged. “You act like one.”
Warren felt as if he’d been scolded – in a way he felt that he needed it. He took a step back and looked at his feet. “I’m sorry,” he said, hoping that the other man could hear his sincerity. “You’re going to get into trouble if someone sees you talking to me,” he said quickly, scanning their surroundings quickly with his eyes.
“Greyback asked me to speak with you,” Lupin explained when he saw the panic in the younger man’s eyes.
Disbelief was painted across Warren’s face. “Why?”
“He says that the witch may have left an impression on you,” Lupin said and he walked slowly towards the tree and into the shade. “Apparently you failed to call him Father upon your arrival yesterday.”
“You don’t call him that either,” Warren said and he shook his head. “Why is it such a big deal to him?”
“I’m an outcast, as you so rightly put it,” Remus explained. “It’s a big deal because you are in his inner circle, Warren.”
Warren went to sit back down against the tree. “Why didn’t you ever join up with him? Come and live in the camp, I mean.”
Remus’ mouth pressed into a hard line. “I’m not allowed -”
Warren looked up with a pleading look in his eyes. “Tell me it isn’t true.”
“What isn’t true?” Remus asked as he sat down next to Warren.
“The way he turns children,” Warren prompted hollowly. “The suicides that follow – the broken families.”
“I’m not allowed to tell you about it, Warren, but I can’t lie about it either – so I’m staying silent.” Remus said softly, confirming Warren’s troubles.
“She was right,” Warren gasped. “He’s a murderer.”
“Easy now,” Remus warned him. “The trees have ears.”
“Let them listen!” the other man burst out. “I won’t be a part of this anymore!”
“Warren – once you leave here… there’s no coming back,” Remus said calmly, not wanting to sway the other man’s decision.
“I won’t have to,” Warren said. “I won’t be associated with that murderer ever again!”
He took out his wand and was gone with a loud pop, leaving Remus Lupin stunned.
As he looked to his left, however, he saw the hulking figure in question lean against a tree not too far away.
“I had such hope for him,” he said whimsically. “He won’t last alone out there.”
“I did,” Remus said defiantly, standing up from under the tree.
“You had humans helping you – he won’t be so lucky.” Greyback sighed.
“We’ll see,” Remus said, pulling out his wand. “Always a pleasure, Fenrir,” he said – not meaning a word of it.
Greyback inclined his head, if only slightly, and Lupin followed Warren’s example – vanishing with a pop.
Lillian Jensley sat alone on a bench the next morning, sipping on a hot cup of tea.
After having virtually no success with getting to sleep the previous evening, she decided that a change of scenery could only do her some good – the tea was something she’d come up with a few minutes earlier.
Lillian, she scolded herself. Why are you worrying about things that no longer concern you? She asked, shaking her head at her own idiocy.
I literally threw a man to the wolves, thank you for asking, she answered honestly. I can’t not worry about what happens to him.
Warren had been brief act in the circus she now called her life. Something dangerous, she suggested. Possibly acrobatic.
A cool breeze spilled over the perfectly green grass in front of her and she inhaled deeply.
Breathe, kiddo, she remembered her grandfather saying. Just take a breath and keep going.
To be honest, his advice was mostly on her acting capabilities – she’d always struggled to remember the lines she was supposed to say – but on some level, she’d concluded that his advice could e applied to more than an amateur production of Snow White, a muggle story she’d grown up with.
We should just put the past behind us and focus on something – like work, her reasonable side suggested. The loss of sleep can’t be doing us any good.
Why can’t we just not do anything for a minute? She snapped back. Just stay still for a minute and take a breath of cool and fresh air.
For the first time in a long while, there was silence in her mind. She was finally able to look at leaves falling from a tree, signalling that summer would be ending soon. She sighed contently and wrapped her free arm around her body.
I just wish I knew that Warren was alright, she said and another cool breeze whipped through her hair.
“Why are you sitting out here alone?” a voice from behind her asked worriedly.
She whipped her head around and tightened the grip she had on her wand immediately.
“Warren,” she exhaled in relief. “You’re alright.”
He didn’t answer her, but came to sit beside her silently.
“I’m sorry for the way I handled out conversation the other day -” she started, but was silenced by him shaking his head.
“You were right, Lillian,” he said quietly. “I was wrong about him.”
Dread overcame her. “You didn’t do anything – did you?”
He shrugged. “I left the camp, if that answers your question. I’m alone now – an outcast.”
“He kicked you out?” she said with a gasp. “Warren, I’m so sorry!”
He chuckled. “I left out of my own accord as soon as your accusations were confirmed.”
She stayed silent and let out a heavy sigh. “What a mess this has become – all of this because of some werewolf with low self-esteem.”
Warren laughed at her words and pretty soon she joined in – the weight finally off her shoulders.
“I wonder where he is, though,” Warren said suddenly.
“You don’t know?” she asked.
He shook his head. “No – the werewolves were forbidden to interfere. Greyback didn’t want to start a war.”
“How very noble of him,” she said, rolling her eyes.
“The Potters have the entire ministry on their side – he won’t be able to get very far,” Warren conceded.
“Then why are his whereabouts still a mystery?” She asked.
“They aren’t – well not exactly,” he said with a shrug.
“Wait – what?”
“He’s here – in Holyhead,” he said darkly. "Apparently."
The cool breeze suddenly felt like a freezing gust of wind on Lillian’s neck, and the rusting of the trees were doing nothing to calm her nerves. Shivering, she stood up and told Warren that he should accompany her to her apartment, where he could stay at least until he could make some other arrangements.
There are prerequisites to being a best friend, Hermione thought. One was to never judge the other’s decisions, always offer support and never do something behind the other’s back.
Why, then, was she standing in front of the Burrow having a conversation with Dean Thomas? Well, she huffed mentally, that’s my business, now, isn’t it?
“Hermione, please,” he pleaded. “I just want to talk to her alone.”
She crossed her arms and pulled herself up to her full height. “I don’t think you’ll be having that request fulfilled anytime soon,” she stated plainly.
“I said something in a moment of weakness, and now I’m undesirable no. 1?!” he burst out.
“Be quiet!” she hissed. “If Ron knew I was talking to you -”
“Ron’s my best friend, he wouldn’t mind,” Dean said with his brows furrowed.
“Ron was your best friend, Dean,” she said without a trace of remorse. She’d never liked the way Ron was when they were together.
“What, has Potter taken that away from me too?” he spat the name out as if it were poison.
“D’you know why we were taught verbal spells at Hogwarts before we were able to do non-verbal ones?” she suddenly asked.
Dean looked confused. “Sorry?”
“Verbal spells, Dean. The ones you say words with,” she explained impatiently.
“I know what non-verbal spells are, Hermione,” he said rolling his eyes. “I just don’t know where you’re going with this.”
“So that we could master the basics and minimise the probability of any mistakes in the future,” she continued.
“Great,” Dean said whilst shaking his head. “This applies to my situation, how?”
“You taught Ginny verbal spells, so to speak,” she stated plainly. “Now she won’t make the same mistakes with the non-verbal ones.”
“You’re telling me that me and Ginny -”
“Ginny and I -”
“Whatever,” Dean said, once again shaking his head. “Ginny and I weren’t a mistake!”
His chest was heaving and his eyes bloodshot with rage. When she looked down at his hand she saw his wand gripped tightly, pointed at the ground.
“Dean,” she said, covering the panic in her voice flawlessly. “You need to calm down.”
“Don’t tell me what to do!” he said raising his wand at her. “I will get her back!”
He barely had time to register before his wand was flying out of his hand towards her.
“Give me back my wand,” he said venomously. “I won’t be held responsible if something happens to you.”
She snorted and broke out in a grin. “Oh, Dean.”
“Don’t you dare laugh at me!”
Her smile never faltered. He was advancing on her now.
“I’d watch myself if I were you, son,” Mr Weasley said calmly from where he’d been standing by the kitchen door.
“What, because I’m outnumbered?” Dean laughed darkly.
“No, I won’t interfere,” Arthur said with a shrug.
“Why then!” Dean burst out.
“Because you are way out of your league,” Came Hermione’s voice, low and focused.
She raised her wand at Dean.
Dean’s head snapped up along with Mr Weasley’s. Hermione’s eyes never left Dean's figure.
“Ginny?” Dean said softly.
“Shut it,” she said dangerously. “Harry, please see that Hermione and my father get inside – I’m just going to talk with Dean.”
“Gin -” Harry said uncertainly.
“I’m keeping his wand,” Hermione said, to reassure him. “At least, for now.”
“If you’re sure,” he said, still not exactly thrilled by the idea.
She nodded and kissed him quickly on the cheek. “I’ll be right in,”
So Mr Weasley, followed by Hermione and lastly Harry – who cast a quick glance back to his girlfriend – made their way back into the Burrow.
Ginny had crossed her arms and was still standing a few feet away from Dean.
“I’m so glad to see you,” he said, a smile suddenly on his face. He tried to walk towards her, but stopped in his tracks when her hand indicated for him to stay where he was.
“I’m going to be doing the talking,” she said, her voice low and furious.
He nodded silently, and the grin slipped off his face.
“You come to my family’s home and dare to threaten Hermione – someone I already consider to be my sister – after everything you’ve put my family through.”
“Ginny, I -”
“I didn’t ask for your excuses!” she snapped, and his mouth closed immediately. “Those people,” she said, pointing at the Burrow. “They’re my family, Dean, and insulting them – threatening them? That is not the way to apologise!”
She took a deep breath and wiped her eye.
“I loved you once,” she said softly. “You were my family once – but things have changed!”
“Because of Harry Potter?!” Dean burst out. “You want me to keep quiet, fine! But I’ll say this: We were fine before he came along!”
“I was miserable!” she burst out, throwing her hands up in frustration. “You were fine!”
“Don’t say that,” he said, taking a step closer. She automatically took one step back.
“It’s the truth, Dean,” she said whilst wiping her eyes again.
“Has he been saying things about me?” Dean asked, his voice quivering with anger.
“Leave Harry out of this,” she said weakly.
“He’s a part of this!” Dean shouted, causing her to flinch.
“I couldn’t agree more,” came the one in question’s voice, strong and confident.
Ginny looked as if she were being saved, but Dean scowled.
“I thought you were instructed to stay inside, Potter,” he said venomously.
“I’m not going to fight with you, Thomas,” Harry said as he walked to stand by Ginny’s side. He took her hand in his. “But if you talk to her like she’s a piece of dirt one more time – I’ll definitely be stepping in.”
Dean’s expression resembled that of a child that had just gotten a vomit-flavoured Berty Bott’s bean.
“You were saying,” Harry prompted and squeezed Ginny’s hand reassuringly. She felt resolve flowing into her body, along with the strength his presence seemed to bring with him.
“We are over, Dean,” she said, wiping a stray tear off her cheek.
“But Ginny, I love you,” he said, tears spilling from his eyes.
Ginny felt Harry’s hand stiffen around hers, but she simply brushed her thumb across it.
“You love the idea of me,” she said simply. “You stopped loving me a long time ago.”
Dean looked to the side and sniffed quietly. “I need you,” he whispered.
“No you don’t,” she said kindly. “You need oxygen; you need to move on with your life.”
He nodded. “I’m sorry for causing all of this trouble,” he said, now speaking with Harry.
“It’s not me you should be apologising to,” he answered, his posture still tense.
Dean nodded. “I’m sorry Ginny,” he said. “May I at least have a hug?”
Harry cleared his throat uncomfortably and Ginny felt a tremor rippling through his arm.
“No,” she said quickly. “Too much has been said – it’s too soon for that,”
“Is it because I’m standing here?” Harry asked bitterly. He couldn’t believe the other man’s nerve.
Ginny smiled and shook her head. “Of course not.”
“Oh,” was all he could reply with.
Dean took a step towards the house. “I’ll just go and get my wand, then,”
“I think that’s the best idea – ow!” Ginny yelped just as Harry’s hand tensed and he crumpled to the floor.
It was pain beyond anything Harry had ever experienced; the bones in his body were on fire; his head was surely splitting in two; though his eyelids were shut, his eyes were rolling madly in his head – he wanted it to end… to black out… to die… The pain was so intense, so all-consuming, that he no longer knew where he was…
Ginny crying out his name was lost to the pain that seemed to be screaming in his ears.
And then it was over and he was lying on the ground, shaking as if he’d been stabbed with a knife.
“Dean, get him inside,” Ginny commanded as she stood with her wand pointed at the darkness. She couldn’t help but think about how fast winter seemed to be coming. Days were getting shorter –
Then Harry was screaming loudly again, his body writhing on the ground.
“DEAN!” Ginny yelled and he tried to pick Harry up off the ground.
“He won’t stay still!” Dean said suddenly, giving up the impossible feat. “I’m getting help!”
“Protego!” Ginny cried. The spell was so strong that the entire backyard was illuminated for a few moments. She risked a glance at Harry who was trying to get to his feet.
“G-get ins-side – s-safe,” Harry whispered.
“There is no way in hell I’m leaving you alone!” she burst out.
“Ginny! Drop the shield charm! We can’t get out of the house!” she heard Hermione pleading.
She shook her head and looked in front of her – starting when she saw a ghostly figure just beyond the boundary of her shield.
“Yes, Ginny,” Skorponok said maliciously. “Drop the shield charm.”
Wow, let me just say that the crumpling load of Senior-year accompanied with a severe case of writer’s block almost drove me to abandoning the story!
But, I pushed through it and out of it came this chapter – shorter than some of my previous chapters, but I’m really proud to be able to get it uploaded!
So – down to business. Some drama in the chapter – what with Warren and Skorponok making some appearances. I’d love to hear from you and what you thought about it!
As usual, any questions, comments, thoughts or concerns are more than welcome! I answer all reviews as soon as I’m able! SO PLEASE REVIEW!
With all my love and gratitude,