Chapter 1: True Visions
The visions came once a month, without fail. Two weeks after the end of her monthly, Dorcas knew to be on the lookout for the signs. The only sign that bothered her was the never-ending itching, as if she’d unwittingly happened upon a small phalanx of fleas with a leader unwilling to call retreat. There were potions and herbs she could take for the blinding headaches and constant ache in her jaw. Those were easy enough to treat if she got to them soon enough. But nothing could stop the itching.
Normally the visions were about tiny moments in her life. Last month’s had centered around the glove she’d misplaced the winter she was thirteen. For three nights straight, she writhed in pain on her bed while her inner eye showed her the contents of Micah Stevenson’s foot locker. She’d always known that git had taken it while the pair had dried in front of the fire the winter of her second year at Hogwarts.
Now that she knew where the glove was, her life wasn’t any better. Considering that she hadn’t given Micah the time of day when they were in school together, she wasn’t about to hunt him down and ask for her glove back. It could stay where it was and rot for all she cared. These visions had never been an asset to her. They were minutiae in a life otherwise full of random, interesting things. For once, she wished her visions told her important things like the winner of the Harpies/Falmouth Quidditch match so she could earn some real money. Or maybe remind her that she needed to post a letter to her parents who were beginning to worry about the long stints of silence between communications.
Her jaw had locked almost completely at noon and she’d staggered home from the Frosty Dragon, acting like one of the patrons she’d been serving all morning long. Before the headache knocked her out completely, she filled a glass with water and put it beside the bed she finally collapsed onto.
The vision was different this time. A shadowy white form was the only constant in an ever changing landscape. Sometimes it was creeping through a forest, but most often, it was walking up to her, laying its head atop the hand she was holding out. Just when she thought she might recognize the shape, it faded into nothing more than a blob without a true form.
Dorcas woke up more confused from this vision than she had from any other. These scenes were telling her something she didn’t quite understand which was giving her a strange feeling. This felt like something important. Not like the missing mitten or the countless other images she’d seen.
A knock at the front door sent her scurrying to make herself presentable. The glass of water came in handy to clear her cottonmouth. Nothing could be done with her rumpled clothing or tangled hair but she didn’t care. She very much doubted anyone interesting was going to be visiting today.
“Dorcas Meadows?” A tall black man stood in her entryway, hands deep in the pockets of his corduroy trousers. Nothing about him was shadowy although there was an interesting glint in his left ear. She’d never met a man who wore an earing before. It glinted hypnotically and she couldn’t take her eyes off the tiny gold hoop.
“Are you Dorcas Meadows?” he asked again when she didn’t answer.
This time she pulled herself together enough to nod her head. He must think her a bit slow but she couldn’t gather her scattered thoughts enough to answer him verbally. Besides, her jaw was still hurting enough that the nod would have to suffice; any other movement would be too much for her overtaxed muscles.
“I’ve been sent to give you a message.”
She waited. He waited. Both of them just stared at each other. Dorcas tried unsuccessfully to get most of her hair smoothed down just in case that was what he was waiting for. Perhaps she needed to be more presentable before he could deliver it.
“Message?” Her voice was a stifled groan as she pushed the word out.
“You don’t remember me?”
She shrugged, not able to place him. A lot of witches and wizards came through her life on a daily basis. The Frosty Dragon did a lot of business with the Diagon Alley crowd. Jock was proud of his little pub even if it was rather dirty and worn down with age. Not everyone could have a sparkling new place of business like the Leaky Cauldron.
“We went to school together.” He seemed to want her to remember him as she shrugged again. “I was a couple years older than you. And several inches smaller. Most of my height didn’t hit me until right after I left Hogwarts.”
“Gryffindor?” As he nodded with a sheepish grin spreading over his face, she was finally able to place him. “Kingsley?”
“You do remember. It’s been a long time.”
After doing some quick calculations in her head, she nodded. “Five years.” Without thinking, she laughed. It was foolish but she had gotten carried away with the idea that she’d been out of school for over two years. The sound ripped through her fragile system with alarming speed, all her senses sending out alerts. Bile rose in her throat as her eyes squinted against the sudden bright lights that burst behind her eyes. She gave an agonized cry and pitched forward, unable to stay conscious long enough to fall somewhere soft this time.
There was no vision this time, only nightmares of pain. She hadn’t given herself time to recover, so now she paid the price. As her body writhed under the agonies afflicted by this supposed gift, there was something else. Something new. A calm voice telling her it would be okay. A cool cloth wiping the sweat from her face. Even someone brushing her hair out of the bird’s nest it always became when she wasn’t able to care for it.
When the pain broke, Dorcas was alone. She stayed very still just to make sure everything was still in place. A wave of prickly heat broke over her foot but she didn’t dare try to scratch at it with her body still feeling as fragile as it was, so she dealt with the agonies in silence. When she had everything categorized in the Not Broken, Just Sore column, she turned her head and concentrated on the doorway. Her flat was small enough that she should be able to sense if anyone else was there. Unless he’d gotten high marks in stealth, she couldn’t feel him nearby.
With a sigh, she turned onto her right side and curled into a tight ball. Another day and she’d be free of the visions and back to pouring drinks at the pub. Her life would be back to normal for another month. It would be as if tonight had never really existed. Already the oddness of her visitor was seeping back into the wisps of her dreams, and she could almost believe that he was merely a fragment of them.
Until the front door opened. Instantly, she was fully awake. Her wand was across the room, completely useless to her at the moment. If she dared exert the power, she could’ve called it to her side, but she wasn’t sure of what she was dealing with just yet and wordless spells still tired her out. Maybe it was time to work on those skills again. She’d get right on that tomorrow.
“You’re up. Feeling better?”
Her eyes widened. “Kingsley?”
“And you still remember my name. I wasn’t so sure you would after that collapse in the hallway. I give it a nine point five for precision but you’ve got to work on your form.”
Even though her body still protested the movement, the laughter bubbled up from inside. No one had ever made her laugh like this before. It felt like pure joy at its finest.
“I’m assuming that was you who got me to my bed. And stayed with me?” She knew the answer was yes, but she also wanted to find out why. Anyone else that she knew would have pushed her inside the door and closed it tightly, only worrying about getting to where they needed to bewithout a care that she might be in trouble. Of course, no one actually visited her. Not these days. Her parents didn’t know where she lived thanks to the forgetful charm she cast on them after every visit. Once a year was all she could take of family love.
None of her friends from school were still around. People changed and went their separate ways. She was a barmaid now. No friends but plenty of customers. Luckily they were tipping well these days. Perhaps if that kept up, she’d consider them friends.
“Of course. You needed me. I couldn’t just leave you.”
“But you did.”
He held up a bag. “You have very little food in this place and I needed to change my clothes. You were out for awhile. Do you often have this trouble?”
“Only once a month.” She shrugged, happy to be able to make that movement without too much trouble. “I don’t normally invite people over to witness my gymnastic attempts, though. Did I blacken an eye? I’m always very careful to fall on something soft.”
When Kingsley sat down on the bed beside her, she tried not to flinch. His sudden closeness was making her uncomfortable, even if it was in a good way. Her thoughts migrated back to the bits and pieces she remembered of him soothing her nightmares. No one had ever done that for her before. Especially not her own parents, who’d spent those days of the month trying to ignore their daughter’s strange skills. It made her heart do odd little jumps that this man, who knew her weirdest secret, was still sitting there when he could have easily walked away without losing her respect.
“No bruising. I caught you before you could hit the floor. Just barely, though. You surprised me so I didn’t react as quickly as I could have. And I tried a few of the triage spells I learned but none of them seemed to help you, so I went with the old-fashioned wet cloth. Sorry I couldn’t do more.”
“Feeling very white knightish, are we?” She propped herself up on her elbows, closing the distance between them. His dark eyes were flecked with bits of gold, something she never would have noticed if she hadn’t been so close. Since he wasn’t shying away, she breathed a little easier. “I’m not used to being rescued so I wasn’t expecting much. Thanks for keeping me beautiful.”
He reached out a steady hand, pushing a piece of wayward hair behind her ear. Dorcas thought she might faint from the riot of emotions spiraling from this new contact. She was scared and exhilarated, all at the same time. If he kissed her, she could very well die happy. Why couldn’t her visions show her things like this?
“I do what I can. Are you sure you’re feeling alright?”
“Never better. I’m stronger than I look right now. This is… my low point.”
He’d moved closer while she talked so that her breath moved against his skin. Any minute now, she thought with a jump of excitement.
The squawk of an owl broke the mood, sending them both careening apart just seconds before the fateful moment.
“Wha… where did that thing come from?” She hadn’t meant to yell but her nerves were too frayed to sound calm.
Kingsley didn’t look any calmer. The tawny owl flew to his shoulder, asserting its presence in the suddenly tense situation with a strident hoot. “Dumbledore. I told him he could find me here until further notice since I wasn’t sure how I’d find you when I got back. Couldn’t have you recuperating alone.”
The statement would have filled her with lust a moment before, but now it sounded trite, as if he’d been sent here by her mother to do a job he didn’t want to be doing. She forgave him because she felt rather embarrassed for her own loss of control. They barely knew each other. Maybe it was for the best that the owl had come along when it did.
Rearranging the blankets to keep from having to look at him, Dorcas struggled to compose herself. What did their old Headmaster want with someone who wasn’t a student anymore and yet wasn’t old enough to be a professor? And how did Kingsley fit in with him?
“Dorcas?” She looked up when he said her name. It had the sultry undertone once again. “You are doing alright, aren’t you? No more crashing over if you move wrong?”
An embarrassed shrug and a nod were all she could manage.
This time he moved in quickly, not giving her any time to compose herself. The kiss was everything she’d thought it would be – warm and hesitant with a tinge of the passion she still felt in the air. Unfortunately, it was over before she could reciprocate in kind, both of them pulling apart with a haste only a first kiss can create.
“I’m fine,” she assured him as she struggled for a reason to keep him here without sounding wanton. “Don’t feel you need to stick around. If Dumbledore needs you….”
For a moment, she thought he was going to nod and walk away. While she would have been disappointed, it’s what she expected him to do. Instead, he shook his head.
“I’ve got to make dinner first. Remember? You don’t have anything to eat. The least I can do is show off my cooking skills. I hope you like meatloaf.” When she nodded, still dumbfounded, he gave her the most beautiful smile she’d ever seen on the face of a man. “Good. It’s the only thing I can cook with any certainty.”
But he didn’t walk into the kitchen and started dinner; he leaned over her again. On an impulse, she put her hand up to caress his cheek. “I’m giving you plenty of time to come up with a better reason than dinner to keep me around. But think fast. I can only stretch the preparations out for so long.”
A shiver ran through her as he walked away. For a moment, as she touched him, she’d felt as if she had lived that moment before. It was the same feeling she got whenever one of her visions came true, but she felt sure she would’ve remembered seeing someone like Kingsley in her dreams. He’d been in there somewhere would should won’t be having this feeling. With any hope, she would come up with a reason to keep him around. There were things she wanted to know about Kingsley Shacklebolt… and she definitely wanted to kiss him again.
Chapter 2: Forget the Night Out
He'd been planning for so long but he should have known better than to trust a destination charm sold by a witch with shifty eyes.
The wicker basket was clumsy in Dorcas’ tight embrace but she held it as close as she could in the crook of her arm, a shield against anything that might jump out at her from behind the tall, thin trees. The sun had long since disappeared from the patch of sky she could see above her. “I know I said I wanted to do something exciting for our first date but I don’t really think getting lost was what I had in mind.”
“Neither did I,” Kingsley growled, scanning the forest surrounding them as if he, too, thought there might be something out there that thought they were a tasty treat. “I don’t know what went wrong. The directions were clear. If I knew where we were, I could maybe find a place that didn’t look quite so forlorn and we could have dinner but-“
A caterwalling to their right sent both of them to the edge of the path, Kingsley’s wand out and ready to hex anything that came near. Dorcas had the basket up and ready to deflect any random charm that could be harmed by thin branches braided together in a decorative shape. As the sound faded into silence, Dorcas let the basket drop back down.
“At this point, I think our dinner has been sufficiently shaken into globs of goo. How about you Apparate us back to my place and we’ll go to the takeaway on the corner. We’ll try a first date again some other time.”
Quicker than she thought possible, Dorcas was wrapped in his arms and could feel the first tug at her insides as he began the process of getting them back home. She clung to him as well as she could with the basket still hanging from her arm. They were both sufficiently rattled by this experience that Dorcas didn’t want to chance him forgetting any part of her behind.
“All here?” he asked as he stepped away, taking his own mental inventory.
She nodded her head , trying not to look disappointed to have lost the warmth of his body against hers. It was strange how close she’d grown to this man over the past couple of weeks, considering they only saw each other for an hour or so a day. Their schedules weren’t as compatible as she would have liked but they took time together where and when they could. Most of that time had been here. She could only imagine at the barrenness of his flat if he thought this was the best place to meet. The new pillow shams did nothing to liven up the décor but at least she was trying.
Putting the basket down, she tried not to think of where she’d really like to spend the rest of the evening. Instead of glancing toward the bedroom (where there were always clean sheets on the bed just in case things moved in that direction), she smiled brightly and acted like she couldn’t wait for the same chicken and dumplings she always ordered. “So… takeaway?”
“You’re really alright with the way the evening is ending up? I just wanted it to be perfect.”
“Kingsley, you don’t need to work at making it perfect. Being with you is so much better than not being with you. If you want me to, I’ll pretend that our time in that forest never really existed. See? Gone.” His cheek was smooth under her hand. As he turned his head to kiss her palm, she shivered. “Do that again.”
“What? This?” He kissed her palm again before glancing down at her in confusion.
“I’ve seen you do that. Sweet Necessity. You were in one of my visions doing just that. I thought… I thought it was much further in the future.”
His eyes lit up as she whimpered. “What else did we do?”
“No, that wasn’t a good sound. Did you, perchance, have cottage pie for lunch?” When he nodded, she began pushing him toward the couch. “This night is going to get very, very interesting. But maybe I can soften the blow a bit. Do be sure to tell me when you start to feel… odd.”
Chapter 3: I Never Imagined
Dorcas begins to realize just how important her visions can be to the Order.
Dorcas prowled through the room like a caged animal getting to know the circumference of its cage. She didn’t take any notice of the portraits or assembled treasures, as most people would have done. Instead she spent her time looking for a dark stain on the carpet in the shape of a rose. All last week, her dreams had centred around a large room with carpet this same colour. As soon as she’d walked into Professor Dumbledore’s office, she’d known she was in the right place. Unfortunately, she couldn’t see a stain marring the pristine carpet.
Between her need to solve the riddle of the dream and the words swirling uselessly around her, Dorcas felt out of sorts. She was here at Dumbeldore’s request but he had yet to acknowledge her presence. To make matters worse, he and Kingsley were deep in a discussion she didn’t understand. If they didn’t need her, why was she here?
What she really wanted to do was curl up in Kingsley’s lap and bury her face in his neck. This was the first she’d seen him in three very long days. There were lines on his face that hadn’t been there when she’d seen him last and he’d sat down very stiffly. They hadn’t gotten to the point in their relationship where they could easily discuss the intricacies of their jobs (not that pouring pints left anything to the imagination) or what he might be doing that would put him in harm’s way. She wanted to ease his pain but all she could do was put her hand on his shoulder as she came to stand behind him. A warm tingle spread throughout her body as he covered her hand with one of his. She liked this feeling of belonging he gave her.
It surprised her when Dumbledore moved his intense gaze up to hers. “Did you find what you were looking for?”
She shook her head. “Not this time.”
“Perhaps next time you visit, it will be where you can find it.”
“Perhaps,” Dorcas echoed, not completely certain she wanted to find the stain.
In general, her visions were starting to grow clearer. They were showing her sharper images that happened with much better consistency. Ever since she had taken the challenge her former headmaster had laid out for her, as a matter of fact. Join us, he had cajoled and she’d agreed. They’d never talked about what it was that she’d be doing to help the Order or even what the Order did. She’d agreed and that was that.
“Do you know what it is that I’m supposed to be looking for?”
“The answer, I’m assuming. Isn’t that what you’d like to find?”
From the fireplace, a green cloud of smoke erupted and belched into the room. Out stumbled two men, one very much the worse for wear. They both collapsed into a heap on the carpet.
“Death Eaters,” croaked the one still holding his head up. They were both covered in dirt and grime. “They had us surrounded but we were able to get away just in time. Gideon got one last shot in but it left him unprotected. Got a nasty cut on his side.”
“I’ll live,” the other man mumbled, clearly just barely hanging onto consciousness out of spite. “We’ll need to send someone back. Couldn’t get the book.”
“A book is not worth your life. You did well getting him away, Fabian. For now we’ll-“
“It won’t be there.” Everyone stared at Dorcas as she interrupted Professor Dumbledore. “The book is gone now.”
Kingsley’s hand tightened around hers. “Who has it?”
“A ghost. No… not a ghost. But similar. Vague edges. And you’ll need to get his wound cared for. He’s bleeding out on your carpet.”
“You know the way to the Infirmary, I assume? Kingsley, perhaps you’ll held Fabian get his brother to see Madam Promfrey. Miss Meadows and I will await you back here.”
She watched as Kingsley left, bearing the majority of the burden for both of them. As she stepped forward, she saw the darkening stain spreading like a rose across the burgundy carpet. “There it is. Did you know I would find it today?”
“No. I can’t say that I had any idea what it was that you saw in your dream. But it was obvious there was something bothering you .”
“I don’t know how to explain it.” Dorcas sank down in the nearest chair, her aching head between her hands. “The visions used to be fuzzy and most of them were so inconsequential that they might just as well have been normal dreams. Ever since I… it’s Kingsley, isn’t it? I thought it was you but it’s Kingsley.”
At her incredulous look, the professor shrugged. “Perhaps it is Mr. Shacklebolt that has prompted the strength of the visions to increase. One can never tell about these things.”
Before she could answer, Kingsley walked back through the door. His face was set in a determined frown. “Was it Benjy? Did you send him after the book even though the plan was to send the Prewetts after it?”
“You know I didn’t. As far as I know, Benjy has spent the day at the Beach House.”
Dorcas watched as the frown turned into a scary smile. This was a side of Kingsley she’d never seen before although she’d always known he had more to him under the easy grin and cheerful demeanor. It made sense, though. She was thoughtful as she watched him jump into action, trying not to find it too horribly sexy.
“Dorcas, I’ll meet you at your flat after-“
“No. I’m coming with you. The visions are getting stronger and I can be helpful.” He was about to shake his head but she beat him to the punch. Moving quickly, she grabbed hold of his arm, swinging it accent her words. “You won’t have to worry about me, Kingsley. I’ve got a wand and can use it. You need me.”
Her last words did the trick. “Come on. We’ve got to make a stop at the Beach House to make sure Benjy really sure has been at home all day. After that, well, we’ll figure it out as we go along.”
Chapter 4: Name Me
In which there is llcohol consumption & pretty barmaids... and nicknames are given.
Dorcas lifted the half-empty glass, trying not to smirk at Kingsley’s confused expression. Nothing delighted her quite so much as getting into a conversation that didn’t go anywhere. He took everything so seriously that it turned into a farce.
“But your parents named you Dorcas. Surely that’s a good enough reason to use it.”
She looked around the room once again before concentrating on the handsome man across from her. The barmaid was flirting with the men at the table just over from theirs and it was starting to irritate her. The only thing that saved the girl from a nasty fall next time she walked by the table was the fact that Kingsley hadn’t once looked her way. Dorcas didn’t like to share.
“My brother’s name is Agamemnon. Would you suggest he go by that tongue twister?”
He thought for a moment before answering. That he had to give that question any consideration made her chortle. Or it might have been the fact that she had already had three pints before this one. For someone who worked in a pub, she certainly couldn’t handle her liquor well.
“That is not the same thing. He is entitled to a nickname if he chooses. You, on the other hand, don’t want a nickname. You want an entirely new name.”
“To go with the new me that you’re suggesting. I want to break away from Dorcas and become… Meredith.”
“You aren’t a Meredith.”
That acknowledgment cheered her up. She wasn’t fond of the name Meredith but it was the name that came to mind the quickest because it was the name of the bubbly barmaid.
“Eunice?” he offered with a twinkle in his eye she felt all the way to her toes.
“Too much like Dorcas.”
“I’m not very queenly. “ Nor do I want to stay a virgin now that your pretty smile is directed at me, she thought as the fuzzy feeling in her stomach spread lower.
“Reminds me of a tree.”
“My uncle’s name.”
It was several minutes before she stopped laughing so the conversation could continue. In the meantime, Kingsley beckoned the ever-present Meredith and ordered another round. If she’d been able to stop him she would have. Clearly she’d had too much to drink as it was but she liked how it was loosening her drinking companion up.
“So,” he said as she got herself composed again. “Not Jack.”
“Perhaps we should stay with something more feminine.”
“Delicate, even. Befitting your small stature.”
Dorcas grimaced dramatically but held her tongue. Her lack of height was not her favorite conversation topic. Over the years she’d heard just about every short joke there was, most of them from that brother of hers. The only thing that kept her from changing the conversation was her sudden desire to see what he would say if she acknowledged his statement.
“I am tiny.”
His hand came out to capture a curl that was hanging over her shoulder. Together, they watched the auburn lock nestle against the pink skin of his palm. “Small enough to fit in my hand.”
Was the alcohol making that statement into an innuendo or had he truly meant it like her imagination was hoping he had? A shudder ran through her as she contemplated what his hand might be able to hold. It was nearly impossible to close her gaping mouth without the use of her hand but she managed after a few tries.
“Maybe not that tiny.” She shook her head violently enough to dispel the erotic images as well as to move the rest of her hair out of his reach. “I’m bigger than… say, a mouse.”
“A mouse.” His voice caress the words but she wasn’t sure she liked where he was going with her choice of words. “I like that. I think I shall call you Mouse.”
“But… I didn’t say… you can’t just… what if I don’t like it?” Dorcas was truly flustered. He was looking at her like he might want to kiss her but talking about her as if she was a child. It might have been mixed signals or just an overabundance of hormones mixed with too much alcohol.
“I could call you Agamemnon but we’d have some confusion when your brother came to visit.” When she didn’t answer, he continued, “But if you don’t like it I could-“
“Everything alright over here? Need anything else?” Meredith had chosen the worst possible time to come over to ask about refills but Dorcas almost forgave her for it. Nearly. If the woman hadn’t leaned over to showcase what exactly was holding her corset up, Dorcas might have stayed silent.
Just as Dorcas was working up a comment that compared her parentage with those of beetles and other small animals, Kingsley beat her to the punch. “Go away now, Meredith. We’re done for the evening. When we’re gone, you can clean off the table but until then, we’d prefer to be left alone.”
Even though his words were rather abrupt, he smiled while saying them, leaving Meredith completely confused. “Sounds good.” She covered over her confusion quickly, sauntering off with her hips swaying in a way that gave Dorcas vertigo as she watched.
“What do you say? Shall we leave? Have I softened you up enough?”
“Softened me up? For what?”
His hand was back, this time smoothing away the hair at her temples. The calluses on his fingertips scrapped her skin, igniting a blaze of sensation. “Silly Mouse. I’m trying to tactfully think of a way to ask you back to my flat but you make it rather difficult. I suppose it’s because there is no tactful way of asking so… would you like to go back to my flat?”
“Will you do that thing again with your fingertips? That thing you did just now?”
“When I touched you?”
She nodded. “Yes. The touching.”
Kingsley stood up and held out his hand to her, still the gallant knight he always was no matter the amount of alcohol they had consumed tonight. “I can assure you there will be touching. Lots of touching, Mouse.”
“Oh good.” It wasn’t the answer she wanted to give him but it was hard to form the right sentiment when she was holding his hand, being led from the pub to the darkened street outside. They would be at his flat soon and all she knew for sure was that she wouldn’t mind the new nickname so much if he always said it with that tone of voice. It was enough to make her follow him wherever he asked her to go, irregardless of the alcohol content of the evening prior to the question.
Chapter 5: In the Middle of the Night
It's hard to tell someone your dreams when they're really nightmares.
There were too many blankets on her. Dorcas began to wake up slowly as her mind tried to figure out why she’d piled her bed with so many coverings when she normally slept with just a single sheet. When the dreams came, her body overheated as it tried to compensate for the intrusion.
This time, as she fought, it only got worse. There was something across her chest, holding her down so that she could barely breath from the panic that creapt through her blood stream.
“Bloody hell, Mouse,” Kingsley hissed in the darkness. “You didn’t have to claw me up. If you wanted me to move, you just had to ask.”
She woke up completely then, remembering where she was and who she was with. “No blankets,” she gasped out as she tried to calm her reeling nerves and control the panic. Within seconds she was free but her heart rate was still racing.
Kingsley turned on the lights and brought her a glass of water. She took it, leaning against him as she drank it all. They sat in silence, his hands running up and down her back as she concentrated all her energy in relaxing because he would ask the question soon, forcing her to remember just what exactly happened.
“You want to tell me what that was all about?”
“A vision,” she whispered. “I get them sometimes as dreams. I didn’t think… I would have said something last night if I thought they would interfere. Must have been all the alcohol.”
Now that she wasn’t panicking, her body began to cool down. It had been so hot before that now she felt as if the water had turned her insides to ice. Instead of holding back from Kingsley’s embrace, she snuggled as close a possible.
“This wasn’t exactly how I wanted to spend our first morning together. I assault you and you bring me water.”
She felt him shrug, his smooth muscles all working in tandom under her hands. It could prove to be addicting to be able to touch him this way. Kingsley, dressed, was a nice picture but Kingsley, undressed, was a much better playground.
“What did you see?” he pressed when she would have preferred that he leave that part of this experience out of the conversation.
“What does it matter? It doesn’t mean anything.”
He pulled back from her, leaving her to shiver alone when she wanted his warmth the most. “It means something even if you don’t think it does.” Just when she thought he was going to leave her alone, his hands came up to frame her face. “Even if it’s a forgotten mitten, it’s important.”
It touched her that he remembered the first story she’d ever told him. “It’s hard to remembered specifics. The panic didn’t help my memory. I’ll try.”
“That’s all I ask of you.”
With a deep breath, she laid back on the bed. Being in this new place felt strange. Not a weird strange but a different strange. She hoped that was what had brought on sucha weird vision instead of the stimulus of their evening together. If this was going to happen every time they were together like this, she was going to have to learn a new way of coping because she wasn’t giving him up. It was bad enough that she would be getting sick soon.
“A dark room with very little shadow so more or less completely dark. There was a cry and a sudden green light and then silence. See? Nothing helpful?”
He stood up and walked around the bed, rearranging the bed so that she didn’t have as many covers as he did. When it was done to his liking, he turned out all the lights but the one out in the hall. It was much like how she kept her own room so that she could sleep but would still be able to find her way around, usually to the loo when she needed to get up.
When she was snuggled against him once again, he murmured, “Are you going to tell me who it was?”
“I didn’t see.”
“But you recognize the sound the person made.”
Dorcas tried to stifle the exasperated cry. He was amazing at knowing when she wasn’t telling him everything. “It was a child. Not a child I know. The room might have been a conservatory because of the windows. There’s nothing I can do about this, Kingsley. I didn’t see enough. A room. A child. A light. I’m useless.”
“Let me decide how useless the information you give me truly is. You never know when you might give me the push in the right direction.”
She laid a hand on the smooth skin of his arse. “How about this direction?”
It was all the request he needed.
Chapter 6: Waiting
It's the people at home who suffer the most.
When Dorcas waited for Kingsley to come home, the seconds felt like years. He'd been gone for two days. To be exact, he'd walked through the door 16 hours, 42 minutes and 14 seconds ago. That was over sixty thousand seconds of her life that had been lived without him. It hadn't used to bother her this much, being away from Kingsley, but today it was affecting her in strange ways. There was a void in the pit of her stomach whenever he wasn't nearby. Nothing seemed important and she found herself staring off into space, counting each of the seconds.
Maybe it was bothering her this time because he hadn't left for work. As far as she knew, Dumbledore hadn't called him for any secret assignments. Arthur was taking care of Bill while Molly visited her mother. The Order wasn't planning anything. Why then was he gone? What was keeping him away? The flat was starting to feel like a prison and she was quickly turning into the insane prisoner trapped within the walls.
The front door began to open. Before he was able to get a foot into the room, she wrenched the knob out of his hand and jumped into his arms. There was water beaded up on his coat but she didn't care. He was home.
"I'll take that kind of greeting every time I come home." He returned her kisses with fervor. "I take it you missed me?"
Dorcas nodded her head as she kissed her way down his throat. The rasp of his beard against her lips was more erotic than any foreplay she could think of at the moment. "For what it's worth," she whispered as he gathered her up into his arms and began to carry her the rest of the way into the room, "I'd much rather you stayed here with me."
"For what it's worth, I do, too."
Chapter 7: What Was Meant to Be
She'd always wondered just how much of her own future she would be able to see.
The tiny Christmas tree looked naked without the six boxes they’d shoved under it. They hadn’t been big, most of them holding books or random small trinkets. Three for Kingsley and three for Dorcas. An even exchange.
As she was cleaning up the paper littering the floor, humming along to the song on the wireless, Kingsley set a small box on the table. The movement caught her eye but she looked away before her brain registered what he’d done. Slowly, she straightened so that she faced him at her full height. Even so, he was almost as tall as she was even though he was slouched down in the chair, nonchalant about the whole situation except for the keen gaze that was picking up every single movement and expression.
“I thought we said we weren’t going overboard on gifts this year.”
“Did we?” The elegant shrug of his shoulders didn’t give anything away but Dorcas could see the smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. “I don’t remember that. Oh well. Too late to take it back to the store now that I’ve wrapped it up. You might as well open it now.”
She was going to protest but her curiousity got the best of her. The box was small, too tiny to be holding a necklace or even a pair of earrings. Even though her heart was racing, her mind wouldn’t let her think about what the pretty packaging might be hiding. Really, what else could it be?
Sure enough, a sapphire winked at her as she opened the box. Six tiny diamonds surrounded it, vying for attention from the larger gem. In a word, it was gorgeous. She couldn’t hold back her intake of breath as she realized what she was looking at.
“What is this?” she asked, just to make sure everything was very clear between the two of them. If this didn’t signify what she thought it did, she wanted it made clear right now.
“What do you want it to be?”
“Cheeky git.” Her smile was brilliant but, as the tips of her fingers touched the silver of the ring, her body jerked as her consciousness slipped away from the present.
Death. All the brilliance of the ring couldn’t hide the fact that it told of blood and battle to come. There would be no wedding. There was only death. Her death. She watched as it happened over and over, none of the gory details ever altering.
His hand on her cheek brought her back to reality. “What do you see?” The compassion in his eyes was hard for her to see, even after all this time. He knew what her unfocused eyes meant. Over the past months, he had taken care of her as she suffered from the effects of the visions. Every one of them had come true. Every single one.
“We’ll have to talk to Fabian about his plans for next week.” Dorcas struggled to think of a suitable lie. She’d never gone far into the future so she picked the next confrontation they had coming up. With a great struggle, she pushed down all the horror she’d seen. “I can’t believe a silly vision got in the way of the happiest day of my life.”
“The happiest? Silly Mouse, your wedding day is supposed to be the happiest.” Taking the ring from her clutched fist, he placed it on her left ring finger where it fit perfectly. Now that the vision was over, she could appreciate the beauty of the ring once again.
All she could do was fall into his arms. The tears on her face could be mistaken for an expression of happiness so that she was the only one who knew that her heart was breaking. This was the first man she’d found that she could truly love. Nothing was hidden from him because she needed him to understand everything that she normally would have held back. Nothing except this last vision. She wouldn’t do that to him. Not now. There would be time for broken hearts later. She was going to live in the moment while she still had moments left to live in.
“It’s beautiful, K. Almost too beautiful. You do spoil me.”
“I only try. If you’d actually let me follow through with half the things I’d like to do, it would be so much easier to spoil you. Will you marry me? Will you make me the happiest man on the planet?”
The question wasn't new. Every time he asked, she shook her head and gave him a kiss. This time was no different, although her stomach was in knots. This time it felt different to refuse him. This time it felt wrong. “This is a horrible time for a wedding. So much…” she couldn’t form the word death, “darkness. “
“No, it’s the perfect time for a wedding. People need to see our hope for the future.”
Dorcas cringed at the lies she was going to have to tell in the coming days. It would have been a beautiful day and a wonderful event for their friends to celebrate with them. Now it was just something that should have happened but never would.
Placing a single kiss on the back of the hand holding tightly onto hers, she savored the moment. “Love you, K.”
He bowed over her, his body encompassing hers in warmth and safety. “Love you, Mouse,” he whispered back. “Love you so much it hurts.”
Chapter 8: Out of the Loop
Dorcas discovers that her world is starting to fall down around her and there is no one to protect her, not even Kingsley.
The door slammed shut with enough power that several of the pictures fell off the wall, a hue and cry coming from the occupants inside the paintings that Dorcas ignored. She had been so angry that she hadn’t been able to Apparate away from the meeting today. If it hadn’t been for the Knight Bus, she would have been forced to pound the pavement for miles.
“You missed dinner.” A seemingly calm Kingsley leaned in the doorway, a leather bound book under his arm as if he’d been lounging in front of the fire and she’d come in to interrupt his quiet time.
She wasn’t sure if she was irritated at the sight of him looking so rested and at ease or happy to see that he was here even after the words she yelled at him earlier. Biting back the words she so desperately wanted to shout at him to continue the tense argument, she did nothing but shrug her shoulders.
“Fine.” He turned away from her with nothing more than his own shrug but something inside her broke. The words and emotions would no longer be denied.
“You shut me out today. How dare you? I’m as much a part of the Order as you or anyone else that was at that meeting. What gives you the right to tell me what I can or cannot hear? This?” She held up her left hand. The only reason the ring was still there was because she’d forgotten all about it until this moment. “If that’s the case, consider it solely yours once again.”
“It had nothing to do with our relationship,” Kingsley stated calmly over his shoulder. “It was decided, and not by me, that you weren’t to be a part of that particular discussion.”
Something was wrong with that statement but Dorcas couldn’t think what it might be. At past meetings of the Order of the Phoenix, she’d been likely to claim she was being ignored but this was the first time she’d ever been excluded.
“What could I possibly do to get myself thrown out?”
“Not thrown out. I never said anything about you being thrown out. Look at the bigger picture here, Meadows.”
Dorcas sank to the ground as her knees gave out. It might have looked as if she was weary from her trek home but it was really about the tone of Kingsley’s voice. She had only ever heard him use that tone of voice when he was being the diplomat for Dumbledore. When someone got out of hand, he brought them back to reality with this measured cadence.
And he’d called her Meadows. Not Mouse. The ring on her left hand felt like it weighed a thousand kilograms as she felt the weight of his censure.
“What would that big picture be?” she finally answered when she could find her voice again.
When he finally turned around, Dorcas noticed that the hands holding the books were white-knuckled and trembling. She wanted to feel for him but she found she couldn’t. Not until he answered her. “There is word amoung our spies that they’ve found a way to understand some of our strategies. The lesser plans but, nonetheless, plans that should have been secret.”
“Who gave away this information?”
His eyes were bleak. “You. Everything they’ve come to know lately is in direct correlation with one of your visions. That’s why you had to leave today. The less you know, the less likely you’ll have a vision about it.”
But she’d ceased to hear him. The Dark Lord knows how your life will end, she realized with sudden certainty. And he is glorying in his role in your demise.