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Chapter 16 : Slipping Away
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Chapter 16 – Slipping Away
Nyah sat, her eyes wide with wonder at what Hermione had just said. Still clinging to the tattered old blanket, Nyah slid off the bed to the floor. She slowly made her way through the fog that her mind was presently wading in, and stepped towards the window to join Hermione.
“You know?” Nyah timidly asked the woman who was, at this moment, staring blindly out the bedroom window with a sad smile on her face. “Hermione,” whined Nyah, “do you know him? Who is he?”
Silence was her only answer, as Hermione continued to gaze at nothing in particular, lost in the memories of snowy owls. Nyah bit her bottom lip nervously, knowing it was impolite to intrude on the silence – but this was much too important. She glanced around hoping something might distract her own thoughts, as she bounced anxiously on her toes.
Finally, she reached and tugged gently on Hermione’s shirt hem. “Hermione,” Nyah called, hoping to bring Hermione out of her trance.
“Hmm…” Hermione lazily answered, still not fully drawn back to the urgency of Nyah’s question.
Nyah fiercely clung to the blanket, getting more and more impatient. In her most demanding voice, which shocked even Nyah, she hollered, “Hermione!” Nyah stomped her foot a bit as the air whipped through the room causing all of the candles to extinguish.
Hermione jumped as the light extinguished from the room, the warm sudden force of wind throwing her hair in all directions. There in the shadows stood a small, distinct figure, tears running down her face.
“Nyah… what’s wrong?” Hermione asked, wiping away the tears, the breeze dying down as her fingers touched the girl's face. With a flick of Hermione’s wand, the candles relit.
Sobbing into the knitted blanket, Nyah begged, “Please tell me – something – anything about him.” Nyah wiped the rest of her tears with the back of her hand and whispered, “My dad – you said you knew him. What’s his name?”
Hermione smiled, still rubbing Nyah’s cheek, as she shook her head. “It was so cold… your cheek – the last time…” Hermione remembered, and then cleared her throat. “Right then, your dad… well, he’s quite wonderful and he loves your Mum and…”
“Mum?” interrupted Nyah, nearly choking on her tears, “You know my Mum too?” Her eyes were wide with excitement as the candle flames in the little room danced higher and brighter.
Looking around, noticing the difference, Hermione shook her head with a large smile set on her face. She leaned down and whispered, “Yes, I know your Mum, too… and just wait until she sees you! She probably won’t let you out of her sight for a very long time, you realize that?” Hermione stood with her hand on her hip, thinking. With a smile, she took Nyah’s hand and led her downstairs to the front room. There, on the sofa table was a rather large box.
“I was going to wait until we got to the Burrow, but I think it’s best to give you this now,” Hermione said, nudging the young girl towards the present.
Nyah's feet reached the table, her heart beating loudly against her chest and her breath shallow. Her fingers lightly danced across the box, landing softly on the dark purple ribbon that wove around the edges. Quiet tears slid down her cheeks, amazed at the gift she had not yet opened. No one had ever given her a more beautifully-wrapped present, and Nyah could only dream about what was inside.
Long-forgotten were the questions running through her head, as Nyah gently tugged on the ribbon end, enjoying the velvety texture as it slid through her fingertips. Taking a slow, deep breath, she lifted the lid and was met by layers and layers of tissue paper which crinkled as she moved them out of the way.
Finally, Nyah’s fingers met soft fabric and she pulled from the box a beautiful dark purple dress. It was dotted with white butterflies and a small sash about the waist. She turned to Hermione and held it up, gaining a large smile of approval. As they discussed the dress, the flames in the fireplace sputtered a bit, causing Hermione’s eyes to linger there, almost certain someone’s face had just appeared above the logs.
“What is it?” Nyah asked, looking intently between Hermione and the empty fireplace.
Waving her hand, Hermione responded, “Oh nothing – I’m sure I was just imagining things. Must be all the excitement!”
As Nyah continued on about the dress, dancing about the room, Hermione’s eyes continued to dart back to the fireplace, reminded briefly of Sirius popping in and out of the Gryffindor common room.
“Thank you Hermione!” Nyah said, offering a quick hug to Hermione. “It’s the most beautiful dress… can I wear it tonight – to the party?” she asked, beaming.
“Of course, that’s why I gave it to you!” Hermione exclaimed. “Why don’t you run along and get cleaned up and I’ll come up in a bit and help you with your hair.”
Nyah rolled her eyes dramatically. “Ugh, my hair,” she mumbled, “well, good luck with that one.” Throwing a mischievous smile at Hermione, she ran up the stairs – dress in hand.
Hermione waited for Nyah to get upstairs, and then turned to watch the fireplace a few moments more. Satisfied that the earlier event must have been her eyes playing a trick on her, Hermione set about gathering the items she would take with her to the Burrow, prepared to turn the Weasley family upside down…
Nyah had showered quickly, nearly unable to contain her excitement. Not only was she going to her favorite place in the world – The Burrow – she was being thrown a birthday party, meeting the rest of the Weasley family, and possibly getting some more answers about her parents.
Throwing on her dressing gown, she hurriedly stumbled out of the bathroom and across the hall, smacking her big toe on the door in the process. Cursing under her breath, she hobbled into the brightly-lit room as the sun poured through the windows chased by a warm breeze.
Nyah gingerly walked towards sunbeams, eyes closed, and stood near the window enjoying the kiss of the wind on her face. Nearly lost in the quietness of the moment, she was startled when Hermione knocked on her door.
“Yes, come in,” Nyah answered, hopping back over towards the bed.
Hermione peeked into the room with a smile dancing on her face. “Ready to work on that hair?” she asked.
Raising an eyebrow in doubt, Nyah shrugged and simply said, “Sure…why not?”
Hermione moved the chair to set it in front of the mirror and Nyah took a seat. Pulling her wand from the pocket of her jeans, Hermione placed a drying spell followed by a smoothing charm on Nyah’s jet black hair.
Nyah’s mouth dropped open as she saw her naturally untidy hair become soft and manageable.
“Can you write that down for me?” Nyah said with a laugh. “I have to learn how to do that when I get my wand!” She sat and gazed at her hair in the mirror, amazed at the transformation.
Hermione’s eyes went a bit somber. Although finding Nyah’s biological parents was vitally important – especially considering who they were – it was nothing without finding the wizard responsible for the spell placed on Nyah as a child. It was crucial they sort this out, and time was quickly slipping away…
Hermione was in the front room sorting through mounds of parchment when Nyah came downstairs. Her hair was pulled up in a ponytail, held with the ribbon from the package. She looked much too old for her age, Hermione thought, and the ache in her heart made its appearance once more – this time, longing to keep Nyah to herself, instead of letting her go. Ginny was right, Hermione did love this little girl, and had the situation been different – she would gladly petition the Ministry for permanent custody.
With a heavy sigh, Hermione pulled Nyah into a hug, holding on to this last moment because once they got to the Burrow – life for everyone was going to change.
“Thanks again, Hermione,” Nyah said, returning the hug. “Oh,” she said, jumping a bit, “I forgot to bring down the blanket and bag. I’ll just be a moment!” Nyah turned and ran towards the stairway. “Should I bring anything else to the Burrow?” she asked, one foot dangling off the bottom step.
“You might want your shoes,” Hermione answered in her motherly voice, still sorting through the stack of parchment.
“Shoes – right,” Nyah said, looking around. Seeing the strap of her new sandals under the sofa table, she scooped them up and plopped down on the ottoman.
Nyah glanced at the fireplace, as a hiss arose from the logs. There, floating in the flames was a head, somewhat like a transparent picture. Nyah looked intently at the bodiless face, her mind racing to remember where she had seen those eyes before. A small, cruel smile hung on his lips as Hermione was heard calling for Nyah, “Are you ready to leave for the Burrow?”
Nyah was frozen – did she cry out for Hermione – poke the head with a stick – or simply run away; she chose the latter. Grabbing her other sandal, she sped for the kitchen, nearly knocking Hermione down as parchment flew to the floor.
Out of breath, she gasped, “A man – there’s a man – in the fire!”
Hermione sped around the corner just as the fire hissed and popped as it had earlier in the day. Nothing remained but ash and soot. There was no way of knowing who had been listening in on their conversations.
Nyah peeked into the room, a bit nervous about reentering. “Hermione, is that – normal? People’s head’s just popping in like that?” she asked.
Hermione stood tapping her wand on her hand while she paced the floor. “No, not particularly,” she answered, still watching the fireplace.
Nyah knew better than to interrupt Hermione when she paced, and thus resolved to complete putting on her sandals. Just as she snapped the sandal in place, green flames shot up and a large figure walked into the room.
Both Hermione and Nyah screamed, as Hermione fixed her wand on the would-be intruder.
“Whoa! Whoa!” he yelled, hands thrown in the air, “It’s just me!”
Hermione’s wand arm collapsed to her side as Ron stomped his feet on the rug, ridding himself of any soot.
“What the bloody blazes was that all about?” he demanded of both Hermione and Nyah.
Obviously infuriated, Hermione turned on the spot and reached for her parchment. Ron looked to Nyah with his shoulders raised, still wondering why his wife nearly hexed him into oblivion.
“Well, there was this head in the fireplace,” she started as Ron’s eyes grew wide. He turned to examine the hearth as Nyah continued, “I know I’ve seen him before, but…”
Hermione dashed back in the room, “Seen him – what do you mean you’ve seen him?”
“Well, I think – I mean, he looks a bit like the man at St. Mungo’s and maybe even from one of my dreams,” Nyah tried to explain.
Ron sat down on the chair near the ottoman, and looked directly at Nyah. “What man did you see at St. Mungo’s?” he asked, the vein in his forehead popping out a bit.
Taking a deep breath, Nyah explained, “When Mrs. Weasley and I left the hospital that day, there was a man that walked past the fireplace. He had blond hair and funny-colored eyes. He just stared at me until I was gone.” She pulled her arms around her, as if guarding off a chill, “It was rather creepy come to think of it.”
Ron absentmindedly reached out and rubbed her arm as he got up from the chair to once again inspect the fireplace. “And you think this was the same man?” he asked Nyah.
“I think so, but I can’t be sure,” she whispered, “it looked so different in there.”
Standing to look at his wife, Ron suggested that once they leave for the Burrow, that they close off the Floo network to the house. Hermione simply nodded her approval.
“The Burrow!” Hermione exclaimed, “We have to get going!” She was shooing Nyah and Ron towards the hearth.
“Wait, I still have to get the bag and blanket.” Nyah said running up the stairs. She gingerly placed the pictures, the piece of wand, and the blanket in the red bag. Before leaving, she also grabbed Hedwig to come along – just for good measure.
Ron and Hermione were chatting softly when Nyah came back in the room with her things. Ron looked at the bag and again towards Hermione, a frown on his face. “Where did she get that?” he mouthed to his wife.
Hermione simply placed a finger to her lips to quiet him, unsuccessfully.
“Hermione, why does she have that owl?” he demanded.
Rolling her eyes, irritated that her husband once again couldn’t contain himself, she helped Nyah step onto the grate. “She has it, Ronald, because it’s hers,” Hermione said curtly, staring at him, hoping he’d understand what she was trying to say.
Nyah giggled at the dumbfounded look on Ron’s face as she clutched the red bag to her chest, grabbed a handful of powder, and clearly said, “The Burrow.” The feeling of being whisked away overtook her – the cottage leaving, her body racing towards the Burrow.
She stepped gingerly out of the large fireplace onto the hearth rug at the Burrow and brushed off her new dress and sandals. Nyah remembered not to block the hearth as there might be someone else coming out.
Peeking around the corner into the living room, Nyah hoped to see Molly, but no one seemed to be around. She wandered through the quiet living room, studying some of the pictures on the mantle. Smiling, happy faces stared back at her from all of the photos, some even waving. One picture in particular caught Nyah’s attention. It was on a shelf she couldn’t quite reach, even on her tiptoes.
“Those are my brothers, George and Fred,” a soft voice spoke from behind her.
Nyah turned quickly, nearly bumping into the stocky red-head behind her as he reached for the picture. He didn’t introduce himself, but Nyah could sense a calm kindness about him.
Trying to remember all of the names Rose had taught her, Nyah squinted, looking over the man before her. “Let’s see… I don’t think you’re Bill because you don’t have any scars and you’re not wearing an earring,” Nyah deducted as a gentle laugh erupted from his mouth, “and I know you’re not Percy because you aren’t being completely and totally proper.”
The smile lingered on his face as he watched Nyah sorting it all out, counting the Weasley’s on her fingers. “So, if I’m not Bill or Percy, then I’m….”
“Charlie,” Nyah proclaimed, cocking her head to the side, waiting for a reaction.
Laughing still, he said, “Very good! Most people have to know us for years to remember all of our names. Aunt Muriel used to just call out ‘hey you’ or ‘number six’!”
Feeling quite at ease, Nyah sat on the sofa and studied the tanned, freckled face that Charlie wore. “Rose said you take care of dragons,” Nyah asked skeptically, “is that really true?”
For the next half-hour or so, Charlie told Nyah about the dragons and showed her some of his favorite burn scars; especially one on his forearm which Charlie said resembled a Firebolt, whatever that was. Eventually, the conversation came back around to the picture of George and Fred.
“So tell me, Nyah,” Charlie asked, sitting on the couch next to her, “why did this picture interest you out of all of these?”
“Because I have one just like it – I just didn’t know who they were,” she said reaching deep into the bag. From the recess of the sac, Nyah pulled a small photo very similar to the one Charlie was holding.
Scowling, he asked, “How did you get this?”
“I’m not sure,” Nyah told him, “I was actually hoping one of you could tell me.”
Charlie ran a hand through his thick, red hair and leaned back on the couch. Raising his eyebrows, he said, “Well, this was the last picture taken of Fred and George before Fred died. It was actually taken the night little Teddy Lupin was born. Teddy’s dad, Remus, was popping in and out, telling everyone the baby had been born, and well… Fred thought every big moment in life deserved a song and of course, George joined in.”
His blue eyes sparkled as he continued to talk about his brothers and Nyah was thoroughly captivated. She learned that Teddy’s mum and dad died the same night Fred did, during the war. He had been raised by his grandmother, but Teddy had spent a lot of time with the Weasley family.
Hermione put her finger to her lips as Ron stepped out of the fireplace. The pair stood, unnoticed at the back of the room, leaning into one another. They quietly listened, lost in their own memories as Charlie talked.
“So, Teddy isn’t really your nephew?” Nyah asked, looking again to the laughing, singing duo that stared back at her from the photo.
“Technically, no,” Charlie explained, “but family is about love – not about blood.”
Whispering as she touched the photo, “Maybe that could be me, too…”
“What?” Charlie asked, “What could be you?
Sighing, she looked into his eyes and explained, “Maybe, you know, eventually… I could be family too.”
“Well,” Charlie said, a broad smile crossing his face, “let’s see… you’re living with my brother and sister-in-law, my mother talks about you nonstop, and we’re having a birthday party in your honor… I’d say you’re pretty close already.”
Nyah smiled as she put the photo back in her bag. Nearly family, she thought happily as the candlelight danced.
“Blimey!” Charlie laughed at the nearly-exploding bag Nyah set on the table. “What else are you carrying in that? A dragon’s egg?”
Nyah giggled and shook her head. She had just started to tell Charlie about her treasures when a voice rang out through the room, “Nyah, there you are!”
“Mrs. Weasley!” Jumping from her spot on the sofa and abandoning the bag, Nyah ran to collect a hug. Taking a step back, she said, “Did you see the dress that Hermione gave me? I mean – I’m sure it’s from everyone, but isn’t it wonderful?” Nyah twirled for Mrs. Weasley as she smiled in approval.
“You look lovely, dear,” Molly said, offering one of her signature hugs. “Now, Rose is just outside helping set the table,” she explained, searching the countertop, “why don’t you run along and help her? I’m sure she’ll be happy to see you – what with all those boys out there.” She grabbed the napkins and handed them to Nyah, “Here take these with you.”
“Yes, Mrs. Weasley,” Nyah said as she walked out the door, eager to help Rose with the table, but a bit nervous about what boys she might encounter outside.
The sun hung low in the sky, holding the air in gentle warmth, sending a soothing glow over the Burrow. Nyah’s dress swayed gently in the breeze and she made her way to the long table set up under a large, white tent. She attempted to count the chairs, and drew quite nervous when she lost count, twice.
Rose had just set the last plate and came running to meet her.
“Come on,” Rose exclaimed, pulling Nyah towards the table “if we hurry, maybe James and Albus will give us a go on their brooms!”
Nyah came to a complete stop and looked at Rose, horrified, “Brooms – actual broomsticks? Are you bonkers? I don’t know the first thing about riding a broom! What if I fall off and kill myself?” Nyah took a deep breath and was ready to continue her argument for staying on the ground when Hugo came slowly sailing by, carried by a miniature broom, a look of pure joy on his face.
“Nyah! Nyah, look at me!” Hugo yelled as he flew past the table again. “Watch – I can turn, too!” He took a big arc around the shed and back towards Nyah, wearing the same broad smile on his face.
Watching, Nyah noticed that Hugo’s broom didn’t get higher than about two feet off the ground and didn’t move very quickly. She wasn’t sure why, but she felt like broomsticks would usually fly much faster than that.
A boy Nyah had never seen was running alongside Hugo, minding that he didn’t fall and hurt himself. The boy looked to be about Rose’s age, but taller. He wore glasses and had the most wonderful, bright green eyes Nyah had ever seen which complimented his cheerful smile.
With a poke, Rose teased, “See, even Hugo can do it.” Raising her eyebrows, daring Nyah to say no.
Sighing, Nyah surrendered and said, “Okay – but if I die – I’m going to kill you!”
“That makes no sense!” Rose said, dragging Nyah to the shed near the house. “Where did he go?” she mumbled, looking up in the sky and around the house.
Checking her ponytail once more, Nyah asked, “Who are you looking for?”
With her fists planted on her hips, Rose growled, “James Sirius Potter. He said we could ride if I set the silverware and glasses for him.” She stomped around the side of the shed, still looking for the absent boy.
“You go look in the house, and I’ll check down by the pond,” commanded Rose as she set out towards the tall tree near the water.
Shaking her head, wondering how she was going to find someone she didn’t even know, Nyah stepped into the little kitchen. Immediately, fire rose up within her and the kitchen door slammed shut as she saw her snowy owl flying through the air, being bounced roughly in the air. Clasping her hands into fists, she strode past Hermione and Mrs. Weasley, straight into the living room.
“Put her down this instant,” Nyah demanded of the boy who held Hedwig by her wing. She was aware of the tingling sensation in her toes, and Nyah hoped the boy would hand the owl over quickly.
The raven-haired boy smiled arrogantly at Nyah as he tossed the little owl in the air. She sensed all eyes were on her, but her gaze was completely focused on Hedwig and her captor.
Suddenly, he threw the owl high above her head. Nyah jumped to catch it, but it was too high. She stomped her foot and the candlelight swelled, casting a sudden glow in the room. Nyah turned to retrieve her most precious treasure, and found herself looking into the green eyes of the little boy from outside. Holding out her hand, she insisted, “Give me my owl, please.”
Not moving his green eyes from her brown one’s, he slowly reached towards her open hand and then yelled, “James, catch!” as he threw the owl well past her and back into the hands of the first boy.
“You’re James?” Nyah asked, trying to ignore the creeping sensation traveling up her legs, as she crossed her arms angrily in front of her. She glared at James, waiting for a response. When none came, she simply said, “Rose is looking for you. Now – give me my owl.”
Laughing, he yelled, “Catch me!” as he ran straight past her and out the door, with Hedwig in tow, the little boy running close after him.
“No!” cried Nyah, tears now running down her face as she stumbled towards the door, tripping on her new shoes. She reached down and grabbed the sandals off her feet, throwing them to the floor.
Nyah heard more people flooing into the Burrow, but didn’t care about anything other than her owl. Heading for the door, the tingling sensation nearly overflowed within her, as the room filled with a strong breeze.
Hermione’s hands reached out, trying in vain to calm her. “Take a deep breath and tell me what happened.”
“They took her and ran off – my owl,” Nyah cried, “and when I told them to give her back they threw it over my head and now they’re gone.” Nyah was now shaking and felt strong arms surround her shoulders, supporting her.
Turning her around, Ron smiled apologetically as he patted her arm. From just outside the kitchen window, Nyah heard the sound of the boy’s laughter. With one last look at Hermione and Ron, she sped off after them, determined to retrieve her owl.
Hermione saw Nyah run towards the pond, seeking out James and Albus. The nervousness in her stomach was building, preparing her for the challenge ahead. She watched as the Weasley’s gathered in the living room, blissfully unaware that their world was about to be changed, once again, forever.
Harry and Ginny arrived, with Lily in tow. They had been running late, sending the boys on ahead, as Lily had still been napping. The red-haired little girl was rubbing her eyes as she tried to get Teddy’s attention.
Charlie was swapping hand-shakes with Bill while Teddy swung Lily around in circles. Fleur was fixing Victiore’s and Dominique’s hair once more. Percy wouldn’t be able to make it, as they had previous plans with Penelope’s family.
Molly and Arthur were happily in the midst of their loved ones, as Hermione looked on. Ron slipped his arm about her waist, and stared intently, waiting for her to take notice.
“I know, I know,” she sighed, refusing to look at him.
“Listen Hermione,” he said, pulling her tightly to his chest as their eyes met, “you’ve got to tell them. Once they see her – they’re going to know. And you’ve been a mess all day – better to get it over with.” Ron kissed her quickly and added, “But hurry though, I’m starving!”
Shaking her head, Hermione took a deep breath as Ginny made her way to the kitchen.
Concerned at the look on Hermione’s face, Ginny asked, “What – what is it?”
Grabbing Ginny’s hand, Hermione called to the room, “Excuse me – I need to talk to everyone for a moment, please.”
Pulling Hermione back towards the kitchen, Ginny urged her friend for answers, “Are you okay? Is everything alright with Ron?”
Looking deep into her sister-in-law’s brown eyes, Hermione felt hot tears chase down her cheeks – the thought of Nyah slipping away… “Everything is fine. This isn’t about me…. it’s about Nina.”
Author's notes: Thank you to everyone! You've been wonderfully supportive in your reviews as well as private messages to me.
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