Chapter 1 : The Final Hallow
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The two owls sitting on my open window sill screech before taking off in fright. I numbly hold onto the envelope, which moments ago was tied to a tawny owl, a third and unexpected arrival in my daily owl post. The swirls of smoke fade as they float towards the ceiling.
I glance down at the envelope, pondering. Whatever is inside, it cannot be good. But after everything that has happened, I don’t suppose it can make things be much worse.
Carefully, I tear the wax seal and peer inside. For a split second, I think it’s a cigarette lighter, but it happens to be a small, rectangular box. There’s no note.
Gently, I pull the box out of the envelope and hold it in my hands. Why would someone magick an owl in order to give me this?
Something shifts inside as I turn the box around. Sighing, I slowly open the lid.
“For the love of Merlin!” I gasp, putting the lid back on and dropping the box onto my desk. My stomach twists in knots as I glance fervently around my room.
“Amelia?” Aunt Susan knocks on my door and pops her head inside. “Have you had breakfast yet? I’m about to head off to the Ministry.”
“Yes, yes,” I say, recovering. I use my edition of The Daily Prophet, today’s first owl, to cover the box. Aunt Susan notices my reach towards the sealed envelope, which was delivered by the second owl, on my desk.
“What’s that?” she asks. “Is it--?”
“Well then! Open it!” She comes fully inside my room. “Michael! Amelia got her results!”
Several clanks come from downstairs. I know that Uncle Michael, Eddie, and Helen are coming from the breakfast table. I keep my face neutral as I slip The Prophet and the box into my bag.
“About time! When the kids got their Hogwarts letters a few weeks back, I was starting to worry about the N.E.W.T.s…” Uncle Michael lingers in my doorway as Eddie and Helen push their way into my room.
“I didn’t know this was a Corner family show,” I mutter.
“Oh, Amelia, come on! You already got one N.E.W.T. from last year in--”
“Okay, okay. I’ll open it,” I said. I take several deep breaths to settle my racing heart. I would rather not talk about the one N.E.W.T. I earned in my sixth year at Hogwarts. Lifting the envelope for a dramatic effect, I slowly open the seal.
“Well?” Aunt Susan prompts, sitting on my bed and hugging Eddie in anticipation.
Aunt Susan immediately appears behind my shoulder after casting Eddie aside.
“Mum!” Eddie huffs.
“Wow, Amelia, wow,” Aunt Susan breathes. “You’ll get a decent job at the Ministry with these! Everyone, listen to this. O’s in Transfiguration, History of Magic, and Herbology--Neville and Hannah will be thrilled-- and E’s in Defense Against the Dark Arts, Arithmacy, and Charms--oh, honey, these are really good, concerning.”
“Concerning what?” I ask. I let her have my results as Uncle Michael and Helen come over to see them.
“I’m sorry,” Aunt Susan says. “I didn’t mean to make you upset. I just wanted to highlight your achievements despite--”
“There’s no despite!” I insist, shouldering my bag. Again, my heart thumps wildly in my chest. My tone becomes calm. “I know that you are all concerned about what happened at the funeral, but as I’ve told you before, I’m fine. I only had met him once before, so I never really knew him--”
“We aren’t talking about your father, Amelia,” Uncle Michael says sternly. “We’re talking about--”
“Listen,” I interrupt. “That was almost six months ago. We hadn’t been dating when it happened. I don’t know why you think an expired Hogwarts relationship would distract me from achieving good N.E.W.T. scores.”
Aunt Susan and Uncle Michael frown at each other. Helen and Eddie suddenly are interested in the rug at the foot of my bed.
“I’m going to be late to Ollivander’s,” I say. “Good-bye.”
I leave the Corner’s alone in my bedroom as I rush downstairs. Grabbing my traveling cloak, I walk into the back garden, so I can Apparate to Diagon Alley.
“Good morning, Miss Fortescue,” Ollivander says as I enter his shop. The old man lifts a trembling hand in my direction. “I was thinking I was going to miss you today.”
“I’m here, Mr. Ollivander,” I say as I hang up my cloak and bag into my work cubby. “I wouldn’t dream of missing today, especially with all of the new Hogwarts students coming this week.”
“Pine wood, eleven inches with dragon heartstring,” Ollivander murmurs as he watches me put on my apron.
“You still remember,” I tell him, flashing him a smile.
“I remember every wand I’ve ever sold, Miss Fortescue. Your grandfather, who owned that ice cream shop before the Second Wizarding War, had redwood, twelve inches, dragon heartstring. An ancient wood for someone so knowledgeable… The Second Wizarding War got him, I’m afraid…”
“Yes, I know,” I say quietly, linking my arm through his. “Tell you what. You manage the counter while I get to cataloging the upper shelves today.”
As soon as I have a spare moment in the shop, I go into the utilities closest to breathe in the darkness. N.E.W.T. scores and Hogwarts baggage aside, my mind focuses on the tiny box hiding securely in my bag.
Who sent it to me? I have a few ideas, and they all link back to The Cause.
Why would they send it to me? My stomach lurches. It could be a message. It is a message.
It’s happened. They’ve done it. Maybe. Probably…
I give a shuddering sigh and grasp onto the mop for support. They want me to check. They want me to…
No. I won’t give them the satisfaction.
But it would answer so many of my questions.
If I am to do what they want, then I would be playing into their hand. What could have they accomplished since the funeral?
Why do they want me to see that they’ve finally killed James?
I could trace this back to the first few weeks of my fifth year at Hogwarts. At first, he was mad at me. Before then, we had only known each other as acquaintances: different houses, different years, different social circles. What connected us was Neville Longbottom. James’ parents were friends with him, and my cousin and legal guardian, Aunt Susan Corner (nee Bones), was friends with this wife, Hannah. But after using my authority over James, everything changed.
It was late, and I had missed dinner because I was in the library before prefect’s rounds. On my way back to my common room, I stopped by the kitchens for a quick snack. Someone was already there.
“Good evening, miss!” squeaked a few house elves. “Can we get you something to eat?”
“Well, if it isn’t a prefect out after hours,” taunted a voice by the fireplace. I turned my attention to the boy standing in the shadows.
“Potter?” I asked, frowning. “What are you doing here?”
“Same as you, I’d expect,” he grinned as he stepped into the light. He took a bite of his pastry. His brown eyes reflected the firelight, and a smile was in the corner of his mouth as he chewed.
I was caught. I clenched my toes. “Actually, no,” I replied coolly.
“Miss?” asked a house elf. “Miss doesn’t want a midnight snack?”
“No,” I lied. “I was just coming from my prefect’s round, and I remembered that I have a request for all of you.”
“What is it? What is it?” asked some of the house elves. “Anything you want, miss!”
James watched me silently, wondering what my next move was. I stood a little taller, so my prefect’s badge was noticeable in the dim light.
“I request that you do not serve the Gryffindor table bacon tomorrow,” I said.
“What? Why not?” demanded James as he swallowed a bite of pastry too soon.
My eyes stayed on the house elves. “I’m making this request as a prefect. I saw some rule breaking this morning during breakfast at the Gryffindor table, and as a consequence, they shouldn’t get bacon tomorrow.”
“Yes, miss!” squeaked a few house elves.
“What the bloody hell for?” demanded James. He walked closer to me. “You can’t do that--”
“Would you rather me take away house points?” I asked.
“I saw you throw some bacon at a few third years this morning,” I told him calmly.
“That was only my cousin, Freddie. No harm was meant by it!”
“Throwing food is against school rules.”
“And you’re taking away the bacon?” James asked. “But my team needs the protein--”
“I could report you and you’d get detention, Potter,” I said. “Either lost house points and detention or no bacon.”
James fumed at me. “You can’t--”
“Sure I can. I just did. You’re lucky that I’m not reporting this encounter. You should be in your dormitory.”
“Just because you’re a prefect--” James started.
“I am,” I interrupted. “Finish your pastries and get back to your tower. Next time I see you out after hours, I’ll report you.” I turned to the house elves. “Thank you for your assistance. Good night.”
“Fortescue--” James was cut off by the house elves’ polite farewell.
“It’s getting late,” I said. “See you later, Potter. Remember what I’ve said.”
With a growling stomach, which I was fairly certain that James could hear, I turned and walked out of the kitchens. As soon as the painting was back on the wall, I let out a sigh of relief. I had not expected to find anyone else there. I hated surprises.
My dreams that night ended in terror. I was always running in the garden at night; I thought I was after food, but I could have been playing a game. But the face from The Prophet was there, the face that caused me to glance away from my morning newspaper and over to James Potter just as he was throwing bacon at his younger cousin. The face of the prisoner who had been broken out of Azkaban the previous night, the face of a man that I swore I saw once as a child at Hannah and Neville’s wedding.
The man had glittering eyes, like he was watching my every move. Slowly, ever so slowly, he lifted his lips in a twisted smile, his shining, silver tooth catching the light. And I knew that he had me where he wanted me.
My racing heart woke me every time, and I thought of my encounter with James. Would my request to withhold the bacon be listened to? I hoped to Merlin that it would be. If I had no say over my dreams, then I hoped that I could have a say over breakfast.
Sure enough, the next morning there was no bacon at the Gryffindor table. How did I know?
“See you in Charms, Amelia!” Victoria Montague called as she turned her head back towards me.
I was finishing my breakfast, since I had come up late from my dormitory. A night of no food and little sleep made it difficult to get moving in the morning. I waved after her, sipping a goblet of pumpkin juice.
An arm reached from behind me and grabbed something from my plate.
“Merlin’s beard!” I exclaimed, turning around.
James laughed at me, holding one of my strips of bacon in front of him. “I can’t believe the house elves listened to you. No bacon today. Mmm,” he finished, shoving my piece of bacon into his mouth.
My eyes narrowed, and I grabbed my last piece of bacon and licked it from top to bottom before dropping it on my plate. “Serves you right, throwing food. Wasteful,” I sniffed.
James raised his eyebrows. “What makes you think I’m scared of a little saliva?”
He reached towards my plate, but I was faster. I took a bite of my bacon.
“Merlin, Fortescue. You’re one cheeky prefect.”
“All in the line of duty.” I finished my bacon.
James frowned. “Well then, I best keep my toes in line around you. Wouldn’t want to go without bacon again.”
James lingered for a moment before shrugging and walking towards the door. I watched after him.
“Amelia, what did you do to my brother?” Albus Potter asked from a few seats away from me.
I open my eyes. They’ve adjusted to the darkness; I can see outlines of buckets and brooms. Ollivander calls my name again.
“Coming!” I yell, grabbing a duster.
Whatever the motive, I know that what I received today does not bode well. Whoever sent it to me knows that I’ve had possession of the other two at some point in my life.
I thought that this one was lost. At least, that’s the conclusion I came to throughout my investigations. Seems like I was wrong.
At least this time, I didn’t steal it.
A/N: Anything you recognize belongs to JKR.
New story! I'm interested to see how this turns out. Any feedback is most welcome! :)
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