1 May 2002: Korallgrottan, Sweden
"She's really managed to keep the dress a secret from you?" Pansy asked.
"We don't live together, and Ginny can keep her mouth shut when she wants to," Draco replied. "I presume you've seen it."
Pansy nodded. "Parvati was working on it when I went in for my final fitting," she said.
"I do like this new suit she made you," Draco said. "Brown is a good color for you."
"Thank you," Pansy replied.
"So, formal date," Draco said, raising his eyebrows.
"I don't know how I feel about her!" Pansy said. "Stop asking."
"I didn't say anything," he replied, smirking.
"No, but you're thinking it."
"I've just never seen you go out on this many dates with anyone."
"We've only been out four times since Africa," Pansy said.
"Which was only six weeks ago!" Draco said.
"She's different," Pansy said. She cocked her head. "You're not going to become one of those tiresome people who reacts to his own settling down by urging all of his friends to settle down, are you?"
"Have I ever done anything as tiresome as urge you to settle down?" Draco asked. "Would I?"
"Well, no, but—"
"But nothing. You just seem happy, is all."
"Well," Pansy said, "she doesn't bore me."
"Good. Keeps you out of trouble."
Pansy crossed her arms. "Nice."
"I'm serious," he replied. "A bored Pansy is a dangerous Pansy, and you've been that way since you were four."
Draco braced himself for whatever Pansy was about to throw back at him, but that was the moment that Parvati and Ginny appeared at the top of the stairs. He could see Parvati holding Ginny back just a touch, getting her to pause and pose on the landing before moving slowly down the stairs. Model know-how, to be sure, but also something Draco had noticed at society parties where witches would make sure that everyone had seen them in their new formal robes. Parvati had done a lovely job with Ginny's, of course—a deeply plunging bit of silk in antique brass that echoed the masses of freckles on Ginny's arms and chest and complimented her red-gold hair.
"You look incredible," Draco said. "You're going to make every last one of them jealous."
Ginny smiled. "Thank you," she said. "I hope so."
Draco laughed, pleased at how much more relaxed Ginny was than she'd been at his own party. He'd gone to Pansy immediately after, wondering if she could help Ginny with her anxiety about wizarding society, but Pansy pointed out that neither of them really could; they were too immersed in it to see what Ginny saw. The Patil girls, though, seemed to have done the trick. Parvati was a Gryffindor, and had had a Muggleborn best friend, so she'd been building that bridge since she was eleven, and Padma was seeing it all from the other side as she settled into her life with Ron. When Ginny asked Draco to bring her on this trip she'd been her old, confident, determined self.
But Pansy would be helpful tonight; after all, she'd been surrounded by the upper echelons of wizardry during her time in exile, and these holiday parties were the white-hot center of international wizarding society. Draco was glad that she'd asked Parvati to the party as her date, so Parvati could help out without being any the wiser about why they were there. Not to mention that Pansy was always just a little calmer when Parvati was around.
This year the May Day party was in a marble cavern covered in flowers that seemed to grow right out of the fissures, with balls of glowing light floating near the ceiling. They made quite a figure walking in together, even if Draco did say so himself, and he could see the others taking note. Even if Ginny hadn't looked top-notch in her gown she would have created a sensation, as Draco had been going to these parties for almost a year now, and the rarely-mentioned girl at home was a mystery. Oh, the facts about Ginny could be easily obtained, of course—Gryffindor, entertainment journalist, of impoverished background, fought with valor in the Second War—but they wanted to know none of that.
"Just pretend it's another Patil New Year," Parvati was saying. "The conversation is much the same, just gossip and a very small amount of business. Don't answer any questions you don't want to—you're so good at that anyway—and laugh when someone is inappropriate. Let Draco cut them, if he wants to."
"And I won't leave you alone," Draco said.
Ginny took a deep breath, and exhaled; only someone who knew her well would be able to see any trace of nerves. "Well," she said. "Let's plunge in."
"No," Pansy said, holding her back with just a touch to her elbow. "Let them come to you."
Ginny smiled slowly, that devious little grin that was Draco's favorite. "All right," she said. "Shall we stand near that little table in the corner?"
Pansy was right; they did come to her, slowly at first but then in waves, as if choreographed. Most of them were perfectly nice, especially when they heard that Ginny was moving into travel writing, and she took away many names as references for other locales should she choose to write about them "correctly." To them Ginny was her usual warm self, laughing and asking questions and taking an interest generally, so much so that many of them didn't realize that they'd gained very little new information about Ginny, only a general sense of liking her. Some, of course, were less kind; to them she responded with an icy politeness Draco had seen from her only on very rare occasions, and they fled from her presence so quickly it was as if she'd personally dismissed them.
And then there was Queenie Greengrass. When they were younger only Pansy could reliably put Queenie back into her place, and he was very glad indeed that Pansy was still with them, Parvati at her side. Pansy had had a lot of practice; back when it was assumed that he and Pansy would eventually marry, Queenie and her mother had done a good amount of maneuvering to get Draco for Queenie, and Pansy had insisted on being the one to push her back. Draco had been mostly amused; he knew that he was a prize on the wizarding marriage market but to campaign so openly was a bit much.
Draco had at least been prepared for her presence, as Queenie was Pansy's contact for the May Day mission; the Draupnir was safely stowed away in Pansy's belongings. Odd, their secret adversary choosing Queenie; his other choices had been, like Pansy, people who had managed to never quite take sides. But Queenie's loyalties had been very clearly on the side of You-Know-Who during the war, though unlike some of her classmates (poor Millicent for one) Queenie had got other people to do her fighting, such that when the smoke cleared there were no crimes they could actually charge her with. She was a slick one, Draco would give her that much.
"My goodness," Queenie said as she approached them, "is it Old Student Days and no one told me? Hullo, Parks, don't you look … fashionable. And you've brought your pretty mannequin with you, how nice. You always did have an eye for balance."
"Thank you, Greenie," Pansy said. "Not sure you have the same eye; you're looking a bit lopsided there."
Queenie's long blonde hair was piled atop her head into some sort of odd shape that had to be deliberate, but did look as though it was listing dangerously to starboard. "That's the desired effect, darling," she replied. "Charmed to stay up, of course."
"Of course," Pansy replied. "And you know Parvati."
"Been seeing you in the fashion mags," Queenie said, shaking her hand in the approved society manner of a light squeeze of the fingertips. "Which one of those designers you work with lent you that fabulous gown?"
"Oh, I made it myself," Parvati said. "Along with Ginny's, and Pansy's suit that you were just admiring."
"Well, she sews, too!" Queenie said. "The complete package. I might have expected that of Weasley, but not a Miss Bridgerton girl. But Weasley's skills run more to darning socks and replacing buttons, I should think. Good thing you have a boyfriend to buy clothes for you."
Draco scowled, but Ginny was smiling. "Actually, Queenie, I make my own money, and bought this dress myself. You seem to think that just because I have something you want, that I want it for the same reasons. But I don't want Draco for his money." She turned to him. "I want him for his body."
Draco tried not to laugh, but failed. "I should hope so," he said.
"I would expect a Weasley to be vulgar, but not you, Draco," Queenie said with a sniff. "I'm not sure your mother would be proud of your current associations."
"Really?" Draco asked. "I think she would."
"So do I," Pansy said. "She always did like a girl with claws."
"And your father?" Queenie asked.
"Given that my father was buried under three tons of Miss Bridgerton's Academy when it collapsed, I'm quite all right with dismissing any feelings he might have had on the matter," Draco said.
Ginny extended her hand. "Cousin, let's shake hands and call a truce. We're going to see a lot of each other at these sorts of functions, and it would be childish to keep sniping at each other like this."
Queenie widened her eyes and stared at Ginny. "Cousin?"
"Your mother was a Prewett and so was mine," Ginny said. "And with the war and all, the blood traitor business seems a bit silly now, doesn't it?"
"It's gone right out of style," Parvati said.
Queenie looked around to the group she'd brought with her and, finding no one was about to speak up for her, took Ginny's hand. "Very well," she said, "but I don't have to like you."
"No," Ginny replied, "let's not rush into anything."
Queenie sniffed again, and then walked away, her head held high, though the effect was somewhat mitigated by the sideways sway of her hair.
"Well," Ginny said, "that wasn't so bad, actually."
"I'd say very well done," Pansy said.
Parvati grinned. "I'd say we have a new May Queen."
Draco wrapped an arm around Ginny's waist. "So would I," he said, "and I'm her lucky escort."
7 May: London
"You're sure you want to do this?" Ron asked.
"Very," Harry replied.
"It's a bit late to back out now, anyway," Hermione said. "You've already asked them to come here."
"And with no details," Draco said. "Can't imagine what they might be thinking."
"They must know it's about all of this," Ginny said.
"I certainly hope they do," Pansy said, "or my presence in a meeting room at the Ministry would be a great surprise."
Harry had requested—and been granted, as he was, well, Harry Potter—a small room adjacent to the large Ministry dining hall. He'd told Ron that he was done with all the secret-keeping, back in Africa, and as Hermione had handed in her thesis, the two of them could come to London and be part of telling their other friends what all the traveling had been about. Ron was dubious, but he wasn't the lead on the case. That role went to Draco, who quite agreed with Harry.
And anyway, they'd got to a place where some additional hands, battle-hardened if not Auror-trained, would be welcome.
Padma walked in then, with her sister, Seamus, and Dean in tow. Padma knew, of course; she'd known since shortly after Ron had taken the case, which was good for Ginny because it gave her a friend with whom she could speak freely, what with Hermione in the States tending to Harry. Ron thought it was rather nice how close his sister and his fiancée had become in the last year or so. They certainly seemed to calm each other's anxieties, something Ron had never been particularly good at for either of them.
Once everyone was seated, Ron sat up a bit straighter in his chair. "Right," he said, trying to look business-like. "Harry, would you like to start, since you called this meeting?"
Harry nodded. "A few months after the war ended, someone started contacting witches and wizards who, well, let's say had managed to avoid choosing a side in the war itself, hinting at the opportunity to be part of something bigger and better than the Death Eaters had ever been. You know, without the disadvantage of being led by a psychopath seeking immortality."
"We started hearing rumors about this as we were picking up the last of the resistance," Draco said. "So I sent a message to the one person I knew in that position who I hoped I could trust."
"I wanted to come home and make amends," Pansy said, "Seemed to me that Millie died for absolutely nothing, and I was angry. I told Draco I was happy to help in any way I could."
Seamus cocked his head. "So that's why you two started going around together," he said.
"Yes," Draco replied. "Ginny knew the broad outlines—such as why I was spending so much time with Pansy—but none of the details."
Pansy said, "A few weeks later, I got my first letter. They were never signed, but they gave clear instructions and rewards. I knew some of the others who'd received letters, but not all. We didn't do much; mostly looked up information and sent it to our mysterious leader."
"Wherever this leader was hiding, there weren't many libraries, apparently," Draco said.
"At any rate," Harry said, "that first bit of activity led to the events at the Euro Cup—the Dark Mark projection, capturing Draco, all of that."
Parvati looked at Pansy. "That's why I saw you with those people at the stadium," she said. "You were working with the Aurors even then?"
"I was," Pansy said. "But the whole thing had been mucked up—a complete farce. I managed to get Draco out in the chaos and still keep my cover."
"Up until then, it had been my case," Draco said. "And Harry's, unofficially. But with everything that happened, Sirius decided we'd better bring some more people on the case."
"Since Parvati had already come to me with her suspicions about Pansy, and I had started asking questions," Ron said, "it was easiest to bring me in."
"Did you know about this, Hermione?" Seamus asked.
"Not until much later," she replied. "After Harry went to rehab at McCormick, Ron finally told me."
"That was one of our first mistakes, not asking for Hermione's help," Harry said. "But Sirius was always in favor of secrecy, especially that he was retaining me as a kind of unofficial consultant while I was playing Quidditch."
"Of course once I was brought in," Ron said, "the whole case went dead."
"That's why you were so angry that autumn," Dean said to Draco.
"To have the whole thing slip through my hands," Draco said, "and on top of that, have Weasley brought in to help me? It was a disaster."
"Their disaster," Ginny said. "Not yours."
"Well, I know that now," Draco said. "I took other cases, and after a while I thought that we'd never find out who had been behind it all."
Pansy said, "And I took a job in the Ministry, working for Remus Lupin in International Magical Cooperation."
"But if you've called us here," Seamus said, "it must have picked up again."
"I finally got another letter this past September," Pansy said.
Parvati looked up sharply. "Lammas?" she asked.
"I think it was, yes," Pansy replied. "Why?"
"It was Lammas, wasn't it," Dean said, "when you were in our flat and you fainted."
"But why is this important?" Ron asked. "Mightn't it be a coincidence?"
Parvati shook her head. "I didn't just faint—it was as though all my magical energy left me in a rush, and then came back. I spoke to Trelawney soon after that and she agreed that it meant that someone had set the first half of my prophecy into action, which meant that I'd get the second half soon."
"Second half?" Hermione asked.
"See," Dean said, shaking his finger, "the things you don't learn when you drop Divination? Prophecies come in two halves. The second half is revealed when someone begins to put the first half into effect. They don't always come to the same person, the way that Trelawney's did about Harry; that happened because Voldemort acted on her prophecy immediately. But they can sit for decades, even centuries, until someone finds them and starts to follow them. Trelawney always thought Parvati would get one of these leftover second halves, and she was right."
"It makes sense, that the secret adversary found a prophecy," Pansy said. "We have been very clearly directed since then."
"Directed to do what, exactly?" Seamus asked.
Hermione opened her notebook. "Before each holiday since Lammas, a letter has come directing Pansy to the local of the wizarding society parties. There, an artifact important to the local magical tradition is stolen by one of the secret adversary's other contacts and given to Pansy, who's charged with smuggling the artifact into England using her Ministry credentials. A facsimile is created with all appropriate charms, and placed into the vault at Gringotts. The artifact itself is kept here at the Ministry, and Remus works to smooth over relations with the home country."
"The cuff in India," Parvati said. "And the crown in Mexico. And the armor in Chile. And more I probably don't even know about."
"Solomon's Ring in Tanzania," Draco said, "an Aboriginal shield in Australia, and Odin's Draupnir last week."
"No wonder you were always there, Parvati." Pansy said. "It was your prophecy we all were acting out. Or rather, the one connected to you."
"Well, given that, it shouldn't be difficult to find out what it says," Harry said. "And the Ministry is a good place to start."
Parvati shook her head. "I came here first thing, last fall, trying to find it myself, and it's not here." she said. "I'd know; I'd feel it."
"Only the prophecies made here in Britain are at the Ministry, though," Dean said. "Maybe we've come to the time to go through the international records in the library at Hogwarts, since we know better what we're looking for."
Hermione said, "Harry and I are headed up there tomorrow anyway, so we can start poking around for it. I don't know how much help Trelawney can be, but—"
"Oh really, Hermione," Parvati said. "It's all an act, didn't you know that?"
"How do you think Snape could have been fucking her all this time if it wasn't?" Draco asked.
"Snape and Trelawney?" Hermione asked. She turned to Harry.
He shrugged. "I thought you knew! Anyway we should bring Parvati, since she'll know it when she sees it."
"I'm coming, too," Dean said. "I'm actually familiar with reading these things."
9 May 2002: Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
Dean hadn't been back to Hogwarts since the war; he didn't think any of them had other than Harry. It was always a little unsettling how quickly magical buildings recovered from destruction; London certainly hadn't been so fortunate after the Second World War. But here, very little seemed to have changed, save some additional names on a memorial plaque somewhere. And it really hadn't been that long, even if many things had occurred in the interim. The students looked younger, but that happened every year.
Trelawney's tower room, at least, didn't seem much different, nor the library, where he'd spent most of the day searching through various recorded prophecies for ones that mentioned, or could be interpreted to refer to, either the solar holidays when the transfers took place, or the artifacts themselves. It was mind-numbing work, reading carefully enough to catch anything relevant but not waste time on dead ends. Hermione, of course, was in her element, and provided some needed structure to their research, so they weren't just searching through everything blindly. Dean had never been one for research, at least in books, though he could look through photo and art archives all day long. So this wasn't exactly playing to his strengths.
Now Dean and Harry were bedding down again at the Hogsmeade Inn, room 204 for sentiment's sake; the girls were down the hall. The decor had changed but the view from the window had not, and Dean sat in the window seat lazily sketching while Harry was in the shower.
"I thought you hated drawing buildings," Harry said, as he emerged from the washroom.
"That's why I'm doing it now," he replied. "And I thought you hated the library, yet you might be the best researcher of all of us. Except Hermione, of course."
Harry just shrugged. "I had to get a job; it's part of recovery," he said. "Preferably one that isn't all about me, the way Quidditch was. And once you're doing it—I just like to do a thing well, if I'm really going to do it." He started running a comb through his wet hair.
"Why do you even bother with the comb?" Dean asked.
"Looks even worse if I don't."
"Product is your friend," Dean said, putting away his pencil and paper. "Or so Seamus would tell you."
"Many have tried, none have succeeded," Harry replied. "Oh, speaking of my good looks, the Ministry is all over me for an official portrait."
"Not surprising," Dean said. "Want me to recommend someone?"
"Well, they gave me a list," said Harry. "But I want you to do it."
Dean, who'd been pulling off his shirt, stopped short. "Me?"
"I don't want some stuffy formal picture," Harry said. "You make people look pretty much like themselves. And if I have to sit still while someone stares at me I reckon it may as well be someone I know. Besides, I trust you."
"Wow," Dean said. "I don't know what to say."
Harry got into his bed. "Say you'll do it. Is there a reason not to?"
"I suppose not. Huh." Dean paused, thinking, and suddenly a vision of Harry, sitting alone on the front steps of Hogwarts, came into his mind. "Right, I'll do it."
"Brilliant!" Harry said, grinning.
"Is that what McGonagall pulled you and Hermione aside to talk about at lunch today?" Dean asked, getting into bed himself.
"No. She, well, she was offering us jobs, actually. She and Hooch want a sabbatical and have asked us to take over their classes for a year."
"And who would take over as Headmaster?"
"Well, he wouldn't be able to interfere in our teaching. Interim and all that."
"Think you'll take it?"
"I'd like to," he replied. "Be nice to teach something other than curses. Learn how to fly all over again."
"And that wouldn't be, you know, dangerous for you?"
"What, teaching flying? Oh, Hooch said she'd talked to the McCormack Centre people specifically about it before she offered, but it actually might be therapeutic. All relatively low altitude. Wouldn't play pro Quidditch right now, of course. Haven't fully discussed it with Hermione yet, though."
"And you come as a pair?"
"Well, not like that, no, but—"
"You still haven't done anything?"
"When could I?" Harry asked. "She's been writing, flat-out, since we got back from Africa. She only just handed the thing in last week—that's how we could make this trip."
"No," Harry said. "Has to be when we're not just in the house, working. So she can get away from me if she needs to."
Dean cocked his head. "You really think she'll need that, Harry? Come on."
"Maybe?" he asked. "I don't know. I hope not."
The next day the very first thing Dean read gave him a chill he couldn't explain. "I think I found it," he said, sliding the book to Parvati. She read the page, her eyes widening with each line.
"Well, dear?" Trelawney asked.
Parvati nodded. She steadied her breathing, then began to read aloud.
The potential of the ancient peoples lays hidden, high and low, north and south, east and west. If brought together under the sun's path, they can withstand all attacks. If brought together under starlight, they bring only destruction.
"Why does that sound familiar?" Harry asked.
"Because it's the epigram on my dissertation," Hermione said. "I ran across it a few years ago when I was researching the French colonization of Africa. The diviner was a witch from the Ivory Coast who taught Divination at Beauxbatons at the turn of the last century."
"Marguerite Diabaté," Trelawney said. "A great woman. My own teacher was taught by her."
"You had us read her book," Parvati said. "No wonder I've always felt such a connection to her."
"So our adversary must have found it where I did, in that library in the south of France. But I didn't think that prophecy was about power," Hermione said.
Snape grimaced. "If power is what you seek," he said, "then everything is about power. Or the Deathly Hallows would be merely a children's tale."
"Twisted, you mean?" she asked.
Trelawney shrugged. "All things are and are not. Prophecy can only predict an outcome after choices are made."
"That's why they're so vague?"
"I prefer open to interpretation," Trelawney said, sighing.
Snape turned to Harry. "I'm sure Mr. Potter here can understand the power interpretation."
Harry nodded somewhat reluctantly. "The ability to bring all of those different systems of magic together—I can see how tempting that would be, to a certain kind of person."
Parvati turned to Trelawney. "What now, Professor?"
"We wait," she replied. "Don't leave her alone. You in particular, Dean. I have a sense that you will need to be present. I always could feel your deep connection, even back in your schooldays."
"Um, we're not—" Dean began.
"Oh I know," Trelawney replied. "But there are connections other than romantic. Important ones."
Parvati smiled. "Then we wait."
15 May 2002: Chip's Head Island
Harry saw the envelope first, in the middle of the kitchen table where Tom Hughes must have left it for them. Hermione was just behind him, hanging up her jacket in the mud room.
"I think it's going to rain," she said.
"It is raining," Harry replied, and handed her the envelope.
"Salem," she said, seeing the college design in the wax sealing the envelope. She tapped it against her hand. "Quiet in here, isn't it?" She walked into the living room and turned on the wireless.
A Led Zeppelin song started to play, and Hermione hoped it was a good omen. Outside the living room windows the sun was low in the sky, hanging at an angle through the light rain. Long days were coming, and the grass in the small garden beyond the French doors was green and bright and probably needed cutting.
Hermione took a deep breath and ripped the envelope open. She only needed to read the first line—"It is our pleasure to inform you"—to know that her thesis had been accepted, her oral exam passed. She threw the note down; she needed to move. So she turned up the radio, kicked off her shoes, and went out into the garden.
Soft warm rain fell on her shoulders as she moved to the music: you know it's all right, I said it's all right, you know it's all in my heart, you'll be my only, my one and only, is that the way it should start?
She remembered that first time she'd danced for Harry—that was to Zeppelin, too. As her body moved she realized this was hers, he was hers, and there was nothing selfish about accepting that. She'd never let fear keep her from anything else she wanted in life; the letter sitting on the living room floor proved it. The war, his problems, her wanting him to follow a certain path—they were all excuses, ways to avoid making a life with Harry, lest their life together really be about his life. But if anything, this year had shown her that Harry didn't want that.
Looking out on the ocean she realized that wasn't Calypso, as she'd thought for so long. She'd always been Penelope—not the one he left, but the one he came back to.
Hermione turned and saw Harry walking out of the house toward her, with the same hopeful expression he'd had for the last few months.
"I'm so proud of you, Hermione," he said.
She stopped dancing and put her hands on his hips. "I'm proud of you too, Harry," she said. "You can't know how much."
"Thanks," he said, and put his own hands on her waist.
She could see that he wasn't going to make a move now, and somehow she not only loved him all the more for it but took from it the strength to do it herself. She slipped her hands behind his neck and leaned forward, kissing him because she wanted to, and the man was willing. The kiss was unhurried, full of echoes from the past and all the better for it.
He looked at her and she could see the apology in his eyes. But they'd done all that, in private and in front of therapists; that part was over.
"It's all right," she said. "Really."
"It is," he said, looking relieved, and kissed her again.
"Let's go inside," she said.
He grinned broadly. "Get out of these wet clothes?" he asked.
"And into a dry bed, yes, Harry," she replied, rolling her eyes more at his words than the sentiment behind them, because she actually couldn't wait to get her hands on him again.
They walked back into the house, into the past and the present and the future all mixed up together, same as it ever was.
25 May 2002: London
The two weeks since their visit to Hogwarts had been odd, to put it mildly. Dean demanded that Parvati bunk down in their guest bedroom. During the day she sat in Dean's studio with him and sketched dress after dress, took things on and off her little mood board, and watched Dean work on the early stages of his official portrait of Harry. She saw Padma for lunch nearly every day; the upcoming wedding was providing a welcome distraction, with so many final details to nail down. And Pansy dropped by most evenings after working her cover job at the Ministry, either taking Parvati out to dinner or staying in with Dean and Seamus. Sometimes Parvati felt that she should be putting up more of a protest—she really could take care of herself, and had been for some years now—but she was actually rather glad for the support, because inside she felt so unsettled.
She knew it was coming, could feel it, but it was taking its time. She was taking, not quite a potion but more a simple tisane of herbs that Trelawney suggested to make her both more receptive to the prophecy and more resilient after it came; apparently looking into the future took a lot out of a person. It made all of her senses a little too open and slightly out of her control, everything blurry and sharp at the same time. She and Pansy hadn't spent a night together yet, but they'd fooled around plenty on Pansy's couch, and Parvati was even more easily orgasmic than usual, not to mention more aware of and responsive to what Pansy was feeling. She tried to warn Pansy not to get too used to it, but the other girl just smiled and said they may as well enjoy it while it lasted.
Then one night they all went to a gallery, as Georg's photography book—the assignment that had sent Parvati to India, those many months ago—had finally been released. They congratulated him, saw friends from the art and fashion worlds, then went back to Seamus and Dean's flat for dinner.
"It wasn't a successful show, I don't think," Pansy said.
"Of course not," Seamus declared. "It contained no pictures of me."
"Oi!" Parvati said, though she was grinning. "There were two snaps of me!"
"Very well, a qualified success," Seamus allowed.
"Oh God," Dean said, rolling his eyes. "I've created a monster."
"I just wish he'd chosen to display the simpler photos in the book," Seamus said, "rather than the ones with all the bells and whistles."
Pansy nodded. "I agree; those were the photos I preferred. He did himself no favors there. I could have curated a much better show."
Parvati cocked her head. "Why don't you?"
"Why don't I what?"
"Curate. In a gallery, or a museum."
"Oh, I don't know," Pansy said. "I've never studied formally."
Dean said, "You've been in arts and artifacts at the Ministry for almost four years now. I'm sure that makes you as qualified as any Muggle with an art degree."
"Unless you want to be an Auror, when all of this is over," Seamus said.
"No," Pansy replied. "Not for me."
"I can't imagine you'd just stay at the Ministry," Parvati said.
"I honestly hadn't thought about much beyond this case," Pansy admitted. "It's been going on so long."
Parvati put a hand on Pansy's shoulder, and Pansy covered it with her own.
"It's all right," Pansy said. "I knew what I was getting into. After all, I didn't fight a war, like you lot, so I have to make up for it by doing my part."
Seamus shook his head. "If I'd been on the other side from Hermione, or, god forbid, Dean? I don't know that I could have fought, either."
"Well," Pansy said, and the table fell silent.
"On that note," Seamus said after a bit, "I'm off to bed, as I have to be at St. Mungo's early tomorrow." He stood and started to clear the table.
"I should go," Pansy said.
"No, no, stay," Dean said.
Pansy raised an eyebrow. "You trust me in your house?"
Dean shrugged. "You've been in and out of here almost every day since we got back from Hogwarts."
"Oh," Pansy said. "I suppose that's true."
Seamus said, "Since I started trusting Harry's judgment of people he hasn't steered me wrong. Harry and Draco and Sirius and Ron? Not worried."
"Besides," Dean added, with just a hint of steel in his voice, "you betray us and you'll have more than me and Shay after you. Not that we wouldn't be enough."
"Point taken," Pansy said. "Well, at least let me help you with the washing up."
"Sure," Seamus said, and the two went into the kitchen, dishes following them.
Dean turned to Parvati. "Sorry if that was too much," he said.
"No, it was fine," Parvati said. After all, she was still trying to absorb the new revelations about Pansy, herself. "She's fitting in well, I think," she said. "Or trying to."
"She is," Dean agreed. "Seamus seems to like her. She makes him laugh."
"More than the other ladies of yours that I've met," Dean said, "though you didn't exactly set a high bar there."
She giggled. "I suppose not."
"But the important thing is if you still like her."
"You mean, now that she's no longer forbidden?" she asked.
"Something like that, yeah."
Parvati thought for a minute, and smiled. "I do."
"Good," Dean said. "That's what matters."
Dean went off to bed when Seamus did, and Pansy and Parvati retired to the guest room not long after. It was nice, fooling around and not thinking about needing to leave; she couldn't remember the last time she'd been with a girl when they weren't rushed in some way. She found herself looking forward to falling asleep next to Pansy, and to waking up next to her as well. She actually hadn't been sleeping very well of late, and figured it was a side effect of the tisane or just her own anxiety. But lying next to Pansy it was easy to close her eyes and slip under.
Parvati had been having vivid dreams for weeks now, so she wasn't surprised to find herself in the middle of another one, this time somewhere in a low-lit room, like an art gallery or a museum, with glass cases here and there under its own spotlight. What was surprising was seeing Lavender; she hadn't dreamed of her friend in over a year.
She was yellow-haired and smiling, as always. "Oh, you look so pretty, Parvati!" she said.
Parvati shook her head. "You've always been the prettiest girl, Lavender," she replied. "You always will be." She didn't say, "because you'll never age," but then, they both knew that.
"You're so sweet," Lavender replied. "Come, see all the pretty things I have to show you."
Parvati realized that the cases all had precious objects. "How did you get them?" she asked.
"Oh a boy brought them to me; you know how that goes." She paused. "Or maybe it was a girl! I can't remember." She led Parvati to the first case.
"The cuff," Parvati said, watching as Lavender reached into the case and pulled out the Durga cuff.
Lavender slipped it onto her arm. "Yes, but I think it looked better on you," she replied.
They walked to the next case. "This is nice, though." She placed Mictecacihuatl's crown atop her head.
Parvati followed as Lavender went from case to case, putting Solomon's ring on one finger, Odin's draupnir on another. She affixed the breastplate of Elemgasem's armor to her chest, and picked up the Spineflex shield. "How do I look?" she asked.
Parvati raised one eyebrow. "Overdressed," she said, "and ridiculous."
Lavender looked down at herself. "They don't all go, do they?" she asked.
"No," Parvati said. "The metals are too different. There's nothing pleasing or harmonious. It's all just discord."
"I suppose," Lavender said. "A look only a mother would love! Or is that father? Oh, it's so confusing here, Parvati!"
"I know," Parvati said. "I wish you were here with us."
"Me too, but I've accepted it." She cocked her head. "And I think you have, too."
Parvati bit her lip. "Do you like her?" she asked.
"I like her because she likes you," Lavender said. "So many of them didn't."
"You're right," Parvati said. "And you're okay?"
"I am," Lavender said, nodding. "And anyway Neville's here, so we're having a nice time. Oh, and your Pansy's friend Millicent. I never realized she was so funny!"
"I'm sorry I didn't get to know her."
"She's sorry too." Lavender set the shield down. "I have to go now, but if I tell you something, will you remember it?"
"Of course!" Parvati said.
"The daughter of the mother, the son of the father, must be together in the strongest sun, in order to realize the ancient potential. Can you remember that?"
"I can remember that," Parvati said.
"Good," Lavender said. She took off the armor, the rings, the cuff and the crown, placing them on a table, then walked up to Parvati and gave her a hug. "Goodbye, darling," she said.
"I love you so much. I wish you didn't have to go," Parvati said.
"I know," she replied, stepping back. She shook a finger as she said, "But you take your time getting here, okay?"
Parvati smiled in spite of herself, but then, she always did when Lavender was around. "Okay," she said.
Lavender turned and walked away, into the darkness of the room.
Parvati awoke, full of good feelings, and reached out for Pansy, next to her. She expected to touch a shoulder, perhaps an arm, but instead her arm came up against Pansy's thigh.
"What?" she said, waking up more fully. She opened her eyes and saw that Pansy was sitting up in bed, next to her, but had her robe on. Dean sat at the foot of the bed, parchment and quill in his hands, and Seamus was leaning up against the door jamb, a glass in his hand.
"Are you all right?" Pansy asked. She was stroking through Parvati's hair, as she often did, but there was a stiffness to her movements.
"What?" Parvati asked, sitting up herself. "Did it happen?"
"Here, have this," Seamus said, walking into the room and handing her the glass, which contained some sort of potion. "It's from Trelawney's recipe."
She meant only to sip it, as it smelled odd, but once she started she felt compelled to drink it all down in one go. Gasping a bit, she handed the glass back to Seamus.
"Good," Seamus said. "It will help you remember."
"Do you remember any of it?" Dean asked.
"Lavender was there, talking to me," Parvati said.
"We know," Pansy said, her voice a bit sharp.
Parvati looked at her, confused, then said, "There was something she wanted me to remember."
Dean read from his parchment. "'The daughter of the mother … the son of the father … must be together in the strongest sun … to realize the ancient potential.' Was that it?"
"Yes," Parvati said. She felt the potion kicking in then, and it was like a veil had been lifted. "Yes, that's it precisely. We were in a room and she put on all the objects that you've been gathering, Pansy, and then we talked about how they didn't look right together, and then she said what you just read."
"So that would be the prophecy, then?" Seamus asked.
"I think so, yes," Dean replied.
Pansy stood up. "I'll let the others know," she said, and walked out of the room.
Parvati watched her go, and had a strange feeling that Pansy was leaving her, or maybe had already left. Which wouldn't make her that different than any of the others, and they hadn't had to watch her get a vision. "Well," she said, more to herself than anyone else, "that's that, I suppose."