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"So, what are your plans for the future?" Myles asks. "I've heard rumors you're going to be an Auror."

It's been three weeks since Alanna defeated Roger, and she still feels like her life is half over. She killed someone--who admittedly deserved it--and nearly killed herself doing it. She slept in Eleni Cooper's guest room for almost the entire first week, and spent the second week negotiating to make sure Thom wouldn't be sent to Azkaban. She's barely had time to think, let alone figure out what she's going to do.

"I think the application deadline has passed."

"I can't imagine they'd turn you down," says Myles, with a smile.

"You're right. But--I don't think I want to. Not yet, anyway." She smiles. "To be honest, I'm a little sick of fighting."

Myles grins back. "I never thought I'd see the day." He steeples his fingers. "Well, if you're not doing anything else, I'm actually looking for some help."

"Help?"

"As you know, I've taken over as Headmaster. Our staff has taken quite a hit, and I'm having trouble finding enough people willing to step up and help teach. Apparently, Hogwarts isn't the cushy gig it once was."

"You must be desperate to be asking me," she says. "I barely finished school, with everything else that was going on."

"I can't imagine you're underqualified to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts." He considers, and then says, "George Cooper is taking over Transfiguration. And as Head of Slytherin House. It will be quite a scandal, once the purebloods recover enough to feel scandalized by things. A half-blood with a muggleborn mother, Head of Slytherin."

"I'm surprised he agreed," Alanna says evenly. "It doesn't seem like George's kind of thing."

"Well, he's not particularly popular right now, from what I understand. Those who sided with Roger see him as a traitor, and those who didn't see him as, well. A Slytherin."

"I guess I should have known that." She sighs. "Well, if it's just Defense Against the Dark Arts, I won't last more than a year, will I?"

"I believe that curse died with Duke Roger," Myles says. "But I of course won't make you stay if you don't want to."

"Of course," says Alanna.

It'll be nice, she thinks. A year to teach, to unwind. Just until she's ready to face the real world again.

*

Alanna found out she was a witch when she was eleven and she and her brother Thom got theirHogwarts letters. Their father was furious, talked about how he told Headmaster Naxon that no children of his would go to Hogwarts, not after what happened to their mother, and the two of them just stared at him in blank confusion.

George was the one who told them the story, on the Hogwarts Express.

"You heard of Duke Roger?"

They shook their heads.

George sighed. "Guess that's no surprise," he said. He was a fifth year then, one of the Slytherin prefects. Alanna never got a real answer for why he took her under his wing as well as Thom once they were sorted; all he's ever said about it is that he liked the look of her right from the start. "My ma's a witch and even I didn't really know the whole story until I got here. Do you know the King's a wizard?"

"The King?" asked Thom. "Of England?"

"The same. Prince Jonathan himself is in his second year at Hogwarts, as a matter of fact. Anyway, the King's nephew, Duke Roger, he was a wizard too. He tried to seize power back ten years ago, when you two were just wee sprouts."

"I'm sure you were so old and wise at five," Alanna said.

"Hush," said George. "He wanted to take control of the wizard world and the Muggle world; he got a lot of purebloods mobilized behind him. I never have found out why he came to kill your ma--not sure anyone knows. Your da didn't care about the war, from what I've heard. But he killed her and tried to kill the two of you, and you killed him instead."

Thom and Alanna exchanged a look. "We killed him?" she asked.

"That's what I heard. And no one knew what happened to you after that."

"Dad hates magic," Alanna explained. "Because it got our mom killed. We didn't know," she added. "He never told us until we got the letters."

George ruffled her hair. "Well, now you do," he said. "Any anythin' else I find out, you'll be the first to know."

*

"You're teaching?" Alanna asks, finding George in his usual booth at the Three Broomsticks. "Doesn't really seem like your thing."

He flashes her a grin. "Don't think I'd be a good teacher? I taught you everything you know about fightin' and pickin' locks. And some magic stuff too, not that you needed my help for that so much."

"Yeah, but--I didn't think you wanted to do it forever."

"Who said anythin' about forever?" he asks, raising his eyebrows. "I was just thinkin' for a year or two. Until Myles finds someone better. That's what you're doin', isn't it?"

"Who said I was doing anything?"

He smiles. "I know he was going to ask. And I know you, lass."

She wants to say he doesn't know everything, but she is going to be teaching, so it seems kind of futile to protest. "Just for a year or two," she agrees. "I have to make sure you aren't leading all the kids down the wrong path or anything."

"I don't think I can do a worse job with that than the last few guys," he teases, and she can't help smiling. "And, like you said, it's just a year or two. How much harm can we do?"

*

Three years later, and Alanna's starting to think she might be hiding.

"Don't think it's actually possible for you to hide," George says, when she tells him as much. "Think you're actually increasin' enrollment here. Kids are comin' just to look at you." He winks. "Not that I blame them, mind."

She rolls her eyes. "I'm being serious. I was just going to help out for a year, and now I'm the longest-running Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher in decades. This wasn't how it was supposed to be. I was going to be an auror."

"You can still be an auror," says George. "But you're good at this, you know. You're good for them."

Alanna flushes. She's going to respond when she hears a soft knock on her door. "Come in."

Keladry Mindelan pushes the door open, looking embarrassed. She spots George and looks like she wants to melt into the floor. "Sorry, am I interrupting?"

"We're just having some tea," says Alanna. "Can I make you some?" Kel is a first year Gryffindor, a halfblood who hasn't quite figured out where she fits in yet. She's the only girl in her year in Gryffindor--George might be right about enrollment being up, but that's only in comparison to how low it was after the war--and Alanna knows she hasn't made many friends yet.

"Are you sure it's okay?" Kel asks.

"Come on in," says George, standing and pulling out a chair for Kel. "We're just chattin'."

Kel frowns. "I didn't think Slytherins and Gryffindors chatted," she says. "But I'm still figuring it out."

Alanna laughs and pours Kel a mug of tea. "Well, my brother is a Slytherin," she says. "And George and I go way back. What's wrong, Kel?"

Kel looks moodily into her mug. "I guess it's about that, a little. I think the Sorting Hat made a mistake. I don't fit in Gryffindor. It wanted to put me in Hufflepuff, but--" she blushes. "You were in Gryffindor," she mumbles, not looking at Alanna.

George grins at her, and Alanna mouths, shut it.

"You know," George says, looking at Kel, "the Sorting Hat wanted to put me in Hufflepuff too."

"What?" asks Alanna, before Kel can say anything. "Really? You?"

"What, that's so hard to believe?" he asks. "I may be ambitious, but I'm loyal too. And my ma's a Hufflepuff. If I had my choice again, I might even pick Hufflepuff this time around."

"You picked Slytherin?" Kel asks.

"You two don't have to sound so scandalized," George says, rolling his eyes. "Maybe if I'd known about the reputation, I wouldn't have picked it, but I was real driven when I was a kid. Wanted to make somethin' of myself. And that's how you feel too, right?" he asks Kel. "You want to be brave and strong, like Professor Trebond here, so you pick Gryffindor. That's all you need to belong."

"I hate saying George is right, but George is right."

"You know, I'm callin' you Professor Trebond, like a professional," George says dryly. "You could at least call me Professor Cooper."

"I've never respected you before, and I'm not starting now." She smiles at Kel. "Seriously, Kel. Sorting--isn't actually a big deal."

"Not a big deal?" asks Kel, sounding dubious.

"Well, me and Professor Cooper are friends, right?" she says, glancing at George. "And we're supposed to hate each other. So it can't be a big deal. My friend Raoul is a Hufflepuff. Headmaster Olau was my favorite teacher, and he was the Head of Ravenclaw when I was here. If you're not making friends with the Gryffindors, you should try some of the other houses. How are this year's Slytherins?"

"Assholes," says George. Kel looks scandalized, and he winks at her. "Sorry, was that inappropriate?"

"This is why people come to me for advice and not you," Alanna says dryly. "Are we helping at all?"

Kel smiles into her mug. "A little." She worries her lip. "Neal is nice, he's a third year. And Daine and Numair in Ravenclaw."

"Well, there you go," says Alanna. "Ignore the jerks and apparently all the Slytherins, let me know if any Gryffindors do anything, and I'll talk to them. And stick with Neal. He could use someone to look after him."

"You know you're not actually Head of Gryffindor, right?" asks George.

"No, but I am very frightening."

George tweaks her nose, and Alanna flushes again. Kel is looking very pointedly into her mug, and Alanna's glad that she doesn't really have any friends to gossip with. Then she feels awful for being happy that an eleven-year-old girl has no friends.

"Feeling better, Kel?" she asks.

"A little."

"I didn't feel like I fit in for a while either," Alanna says, clapping Kel on the shoulder. "George was my only friend for a few weeks, other than my brother Thom."

"Aren't you best friends with the Prince of Wales?" Kel asks, squinting at her.

"Yes, but it took a few weeks."

Kel finishes her tea and puts her mug down. "Thanks," she says, bowing a little. "For talking this through with me."

"Anytime," says Alanna. "My door is always open. I'll even kick George out next time if you want."

"I helped!" George protests. He smiles at Kel. "My door's open too."

"Thanks," she says again. "Both of you."

She and George sip their tea in silence for a minute, until Alanna finally has to say, "Hufflepuff?"

"I'd pick it if I had the choice today," George says, with a shrug. "Haven't had the best time as a Slytherin. And, like I said, I'm loyal. Why do you think I'm here and not out there, tryin' to be the next Minister of Magic?"

She grins. "Still grateful to Myles for giving you the job?"

His smile back is softer, gentle even. "Come on now," he says. "You know that's not what I'm talkin' about."

*

Before she went to face Roger, George took Alanna aside and said, "Be careful."

"I know."

"Alanna," he said, insistent, and tucked her hair back behind her ear. It made her more nervous than the battle she knew was coming. She hadn't seen George more than a few times a year since he left Hogwarts, but they wrote each other all the time, and he was still her best friend, so there was no reason for her to be nervous. "I mean it."

"I do too." She smiled weakly. "I'm planning to come back."

"You better."

And then he kissed her, and they kept kissing until Jon yelled, "Alanna, where are you? It's time."

"I love you," George said, and kissed her once more, quickly. "Come back, yeah?"

"Yeah," she breathed, and left him.

The next time she saw him, it was after the battle, when she woke up in his mother's guest room. He was sitting by her bed, holding her hand.

"Hey, George," she said, her voice barely working.

"Hey, sweetheart," he said, sitting up and grabbing water for her with his free hand. "You got him."

"Of course I got him. You doubted me?"

"Not for a second." He squeezed her hand. "How are you feeling?"

"Like I nearly got my ass kicked."

He laughed. "Fair enough. Let me get Ma."

She'd expected him to say something about it, to say he loved her again, or to kiss her. But he didn't. He never has.

But when she's honest with herself, she knows he still does.

*

She spends Christmas morning with Thom. About half the morning is her trying to convince him to come visit Jon and Thayet with her in the afternoon, but in the end all he agrees to is coming to Eleni Cooper's house for dinner, which is more than she expected. Even three years later, he's not comfortable spending time with most people.

"I wish I could help," she tells Thayet, bouncing Roald on her knee. Thayet's pregnant again and always glad to have Alanna over to hold the baby and take some of the pressure off. As the young prince's honorary aunt, Alanna figures it's the least she can do. Plus, he's adorable. "But it wasn't like he was particularly social before he accidentally helped raise a dark wizard from the dead."

"No," Thayet agrees, amused. "Is he happy, at least?"

"I think so. I wish he'd at least come teach at Hogwarts, then I could keep an eye on him. But he thinks he'd be an awful teacher."

"I think he's right. Speaking of Hogwarts, where's George?"

"On his way, I assume. He was coming from Eleni's, but he said he'd be here."

"How are things with George?"

"Are you trying to gossip, Thayet? You're a princess, you know."

Thayet tosses her head. "My official title is Duchess, thank you. And I'm not gossiping. I just want you to be happy. You are to Thom as I am to you."

"I'm not nearly as bad as Thom."

"One of the many reasons it's better to be me than you," she says smugly, and Alanna laughs. "It's good to be a duchess."

"Clearly." Roald starts to cry, and Alanna cradles him.

"See, you like children. You could have children!"

"Oh my god, Thayet. One, I'm a teacher, I see all the children I need to see. Two, I am happy. I know you and Jon worry about me, and I appreciate it. But--I am happy, I promise you." She smiles. "Not that I'm surprised you worry about it. I wasn't expecting it either."

"Teaching actually does suit you," Thayet says, cocking her head at Alanna. "But--and I promise this is the last I'll say about it--do you think you'd still be so happy if George left?"

Alanna frowns. "Is he planning to leave?"

"How would I know? I barely talk to him. I just think it's something you should ask yourself. Think of it as a thought exercise."

"You have nothing to do while you're pregnant but sit around your gigantic palace and read trashy gossip articles in the Prophet, do you?" she grumbles.

"Sometimes she does sudoku," says Jon, coming in with George and kissing Thayet on the head as he passes her. "Just for a change of pace. Happy Christmas, Alanna."

"Happy Christmas, your highness," she says, bowing.

Jon rolls his eyes and gives her a crushing hug, somehow still avoiding the baby. Jon's got skills. "You don't have to always be a brat, you know."

"No, but it's much more fun." George gives her a hug too, even though they saw each other last night for dinner. Alanna leans into it and tries to ignore Thayet watching her. "Thom's coming for dinner, by the way," she tells him.

"I figured. What about you two?" he asks Thayet. His arm is still around Alanna. "Jon said it'd depend on how you were feelin'."

"I can probably drag myself out of the house for that. I do enjoy telling your mother she's a better chef than anyone who works for us. She always looks so surprised, no matter how often I tell her. It's delightful. She's my favorite."

George takes Roald from Alanna and lets the boy play with his finger. Alanna looks away, but she makes eye contact with Jon, who raises his eyebrows, and then Thayet, who's smirking.

Nowhere is safe.

"Come on," she says, stepping away from George and the baby. "We've got presents to do before dinner, right? We bought Roald so many clothes. He has to try on all of them."

*

Lioness: Rejected?
Delia Eldorne,
Daily Prophet Gossip Correspondent

It should have been a triumphant year for Alanna Trebond, better known as "The Lioness." As we approach the one-year anniversary of the Lioness's defeat of Duke Roger, one might expect to find the heroine basking in her success, moving on to bigger and better things. Instead, it seems her life is going increasingly off track.

Trebond could have had her pick of any post-war career she wanted, but instead of capitalizing on her victory, she fled back to Hogwarts. Many have theorized that she was shattered by her experiences, and by her twin brother's involvement in the Dark Lord's rise. But there may be a simpler reason for the Lioness's gloom.

In a press conference this morning, Jonathan, Prince of Wales, announced his engagement to Thayet Wilima. Until this announcement, speculation ran rampant about whether the prince would marry this foreign beauty or his childhood love, Alanna the Lioness. With that question answered, perhaps we also have our answer to why the heartbroken Lioness has left the public eye.

Sources close to the Lioness suggest she may also be finding comfort with George Cooper. Readers may recall Cooper, one of the few Slytherins to side against Duke Roger in the war, or so he claims. Many have wondered about his relationship with both the Lioness and her brother, and students at Hogwarts confirm the pair are very close.

"Everyone thinks Professor Cooper's going to propose any day," said one student. "Anyone can see he's crazy about her."

Trebond and Cooper have been rumored to be involved for many years, but both have declined to comment on the possibility of an engagement. We here at the Prophet wish Prince Jonathan and Thayet every happiness, and hope that we will be able to announce the Lioness's engagement soon.

*

Summer used to be Alanna's least favorite time of year. Before Hogwarts, their father didn't want to deal with them, so he'd find summer programs and ship her and Thom off for as long as he could, without any input from them. And then, afterward, it was three months of being away from her friends and being banned from using any magic. Father at least stopped sending them away, worried they'd slip up and use magic and blow his cover, but it was still her least favorite time of year.

Now, it's what she looks forward to the most.

"They're all gone!" she declares, flopping down on the armchair in George's office.

George looks up, amused. He's wearing his glasses, which she rarely sees, and the sight never fails to make her stomach flip. "I thought you liked 'em," he says.

"I do. But we have Hogwarts to ourselves for three months. I would have killed to get to stay here all summer when I was a kid."

"Don't say that. Someone will overhear and the next thing you know, the Daily Prophet'll have headlines about how the Lioness killed someone when she was a student at Hogwarts."

She laughs. "And we all know what a great source of information they are." She frowns at him. "You don't seem excited. Why aren't you excited? I was thinking we could do a few day trips to Egypt this year. Raoul is in the pyramids, we can't let him have all the fun."

He holds up the letter he's reading. "It's from my cousin, Rispah. You remember her? Hufflepuff. She was in her seventh year when you started here."

"Only vaguely."

"Well, she moved to America after the war, and she's got some place she's tryin' to turn into a school. Full of ghosts and boggarts and who knows what. She wants me to come help her clean it up while we're on break."

Alanna frowns. "So you're leaving?"

"I don't have anything else to do," he says. He gives her a sad smile. "Much as I like spendin' my summers hangin' around with you, I'd feel bad turnin' her down when she needs help."

"Yeah," she says. She hasn't been away from George for more than two or three days since the war ended. He's always been close enough she could see him without making a big deal of it, stop in at his office because she was walking by, visit his mother for dinner because she always had an invitation. She could get to America, if she wanted to. But it wouldn't be the same. It would mean something, if she went to see him. "No, you're right, you should go help her." She smiles. "I'll have Hogwarts even more to myself."

He looks away, and Alanna knows she said the wrong thing. "Well, I suppose that's one way of looking at it."

It's on the tip of her tongue to say she'll still be able to see him, to say she'll come visit and help, but the words stick in her mouth, and they just sit in uncomfortable silence until dinner.

*

She thought he might say something after Jon got engaged. He was obviously worried about her, and she realized for the first time that maybe he thought she was still interested in Jon.

"I hear you're all torn up inside," he told her the morning the Prophet ran their ridiculous piece about her inner turmoil.

"Mmm," she agreed, sipping her tea. "It was news to me too. Thank goodness Delia Eldorne is here to tell me how I'm feeling. So many parts of my own life I'd miss out on if not for her."

"Did you know he was plannin' to marry Thayet?" he asked.

"It was pretty obvious. You didn't?"

His shrug was too casual. "I thought he had some options."

"No," she said. "He didn't."

And there had been a moment, a long, terrifying, breathless moment, where she was sure he was going to say he loved her, or kiss her, or something.

But then Myles came in and started talking about something else, and Alanna told herself, like always, that she was very glad he had.

*

Three weeks into the summer, Thom throws a book at her and says, "Just go find George, you're driving me crazy."

Alanna ducks and the book only clips her. "Ow! What was that for?"

"As I said, you're driving me crazy. And you're teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts, are you telling me you can't protect yourself from a book?"

"Shut up," she says, glaring. "It wasn't a dark arts book. And I don't need George to function or anything. I can have a perfectly nice summer all by myself."

"If you were doing that, I wouldn't care. But you're coming here to bother me instead of your boyfriend every day. So please, for my sake, go to America and help him do whatever he's doing. You can come talk to me about how he's not your boyfriend for some incomprehensible reason once a week, like you usually do. Everyone will be happier."

Alanna opens her mouth and closes it, because she doesn't actually have anything good to say to that.

She sends George an owl, all casual, asking how he's doing and if it's going well. His response is prompt and warm, and it has an address on it, just like she hoped. She goes to Jon and asks if he's got a portkey that will get her close to Ohio; she's hoping he'll ask why, will at least pretend to be surprised, but he says, "Yeah, I had one made up as soon as he left."

She scowls. "In case of emergency?"

"You could stop being stubborn about this," he remarks, casual.

"Just shut up and give me the portkey," she mutters.

The building is very old and clearly very haunted; Alanna hopes it was very, very cheap. She wishes Jon had put the portkey a little farther away from the site itself. She'd planned to spend a while in the air, flying to wherever George was, and by then she might actually have come up with something to say to him.

She wipes her sweaty palms on her robes and knocks on the door.

The woman who opens the door is quite striking, with red hair and an impressive chest, and if Alanna didn't recognize her as George's cousin from the year they were at Hogwarts together, she'd probably be jealous. But Rispah beams. "Lioness! To what do we owe the honor?"

"I'm looking for George," she says, tucking her hair back.

"I was hopin' you'd say that. He's on the third floor arguin' with one of the ghosts. You'll be able to hear them if you go on up."

The first floor is cleaned up and looks nice; she can see how it'll make a nice school, someday, if they can deal with everything else. The second floor is about half done, and the third is a disaster.

"I'm goin' to tell her," George is saying. "Well, I already told her, but I'm goin' to tell her again. Soon."

"You always say you're going to do these things," a faint voice replies. "But things get away from you, and the next thing you know, it's your unfinished business. I don't want you to end up like me, my boy."

Alanna pushes the door open, and George and the ghost both jump. George turns, clearly expecting Rispah, and a grin breaks out on his face when he sees her. "Hey! What are you doing here?"

"I was driving Thom crazy," she says, picking her way through the leaves and debris littering the floor. "He told me I should come bother you instead."

George gives her a one-armed hug around her shoulders and kisses her temple. "Came all this way just to bother me, huh?"

She wraps her arms around him, smiling. "Well, I'm not doing anything either. I thought I could maybe help."

"Aren't you going to introduce us?" the ghost asks pointedly.

George clears his throat and turns a little pink. "Yeah, sure. Alanna, this is Professor Williams. Professor, this is my best friend, Alanna. We were discussin' if he'd like to haunt the new school or move on."

The professor adjusts his glasses. "That is not what we were discussing," he informs George. "A pleasure, my dear."

"Same," she says. She turns back to George. "So, you think you've got enough work for three people?"

George is looking down at her like he doesn't quite believe she's real. "Yeah," he says. "I think we can find something for you."

*

George Cooper was the first person she met on her way to Hogwarts. She and Thom were at King's Cross, trying to find their platform, and someone said, "Lost?"

She and Thom both spun to see the boy behind them, tall and lanky, probably fifteen or sixteen, with brown hair, hazel eyes, and a big nose. "No," she said, wary. She still thought the whole thing might be a hoax. She wasn't going to ask a strange boy where to find Platform 9 3/4.

"Ah," he said. "My mistake. I saw you two looking between platforms nine and ten. I thought you might be havin' trouble findin' your train."

"And you can help?" Alanna asked.

"I can help. Just go right between."

"Pull the other one," said Thom.

The boy laughed. "No, I'm serious. I'll go first, you two just follow me, alright? I'll show you where to go." He disappeared into the wall between the two platforms, and Alanna and Thom stared at each other. The boy came back out after a few seconds. "Come on! You're supposed to follow me."

"We don't know the spell," said Alanna.

"You don't have to. The platform does."

Alanna shrugged at Thom and pushed through, emerging into a new platform, crowded with people and animals. The hazel-eyed boy grinned at her. "This is real," she breathed.

"It's real," he said. "I'm George Cooper. And you must be Alanna Trebond."

She gave him a wary look. "How did you know?"

"You and your brother are a little famous," he said. "You didn't know?" She shook her head. "Well, come and sit with me. I'll tell you about it on the way."

*

"So, you missed me, huh?" George asks. They're back at Rispah's; Alanna is glad she has two spare beds. She thinks she'll probably stay.

She shrugs, a little awkwardly. "Thom doesn't like being bothered as much as you do." He's looking at her like he's trying to see something deep inside her, and she wants to turn away, but she doesn't. This is probably important.

"Rispah wants me to come teach for her," he says, soft. "She thinks I'm good at it."

"Here?" asks Alanna, incredulous. "But--it's so far away."

"I know," he says. He reaches over and takes her hand. "You know I'm not goin' to leave you, Alanna. You've got to know."

She swallows, licks her lips. Tries to figure out words. "I know," she says. And then, in a burst of courage and determination, she adds, "But I'm not going to leave you either."

He smiles at that, tugs her closer, and says, "Are you goin' to run if I say it again?"

"I didn't run when you said it the first time," she says. "I had things to do. Dark wizards to defeat. I couldn't just--stop that and make out with you."

George laughs, slides his hand up to cup her face, and says, "Okay, then. I love you." And then he kisses her again. It shouldn't feel so familiar and so right, she thinks, wonderingly, not when they only did it once, but she's melting into him and he's pulling her closer and it's just what it should be.

"I didn't run," she says, when they finally pull apart.

He laughs again, sliding his hand up her side. She ended up in his lap, somehow. "You didn't," he agrees. "Am I goin' to have to wait three years to say it again?"

"You didn't have to," she says. "I just--" She bites her lip, not sure how to explain. "I'm just really bad at this," she settles on.

"Nah," he says. "You're fine." He tucks her hair back and kisses her again. "I'm going to have trouble stoppin' now," he remarks, and she smiles.

"I don't mind. I, um." She takes a deep breath. It's not hard. "I love you too."

"Okay," he says. "Good. I was hoping you did."

"I think I'd like to do something else," she says. It feels almost as monumental. "Teaching in America might be nice. I always thought I'd travel. But--I was hiding, a little." She smiles. "And you were at Hogwarts."

He laughs. "What a coincidence; that's why I was at Hogwarts too. So I guess we can go wherever we want now, if we're both leavin'."

"Yeah," says Alanna. "But I should warn you, I'm kind of famous."

He laughs again and kisses her. "I had no idea."

She makes a face. "They're going to write so much stupid stuff about us. Even more than before."

"But I'm worth it, right?" he asks.

"Of course you are."

That makes him smile, a real smile. "I should have left years ago," he teases. "I would have, if I'd known you would come after me."

"I'll always come after you."

"Hmm, always?" He picks her up off his lap so he can stand, and then deposits her back on the chair. "In that case, I'm goin' to bed. You goin' to come after me?"

She laughs and stands up herself. "A promise is a promise," she says, as if it's a great hardship, and follows him upstairs.

It turns out Rispah doesn't need two spare beds, after all.

*

Lioness Rampant
Nealan Queenscove, Staff Writer

For someone who's so famous and so well known, authorized stories about Alanna Trebond, popularly known as the Lioness, are few and far between. Unauthorized stories are a dime a dozen; stop by Flourish and Blotts and you'll find entire shelves dedicated to telling the story of Alanna Trebond's life, from her birth and that first encounter with Duke Roger to her final triumph over him, ten years ago Thursday. Some of them even have a short epilogue to tie up her life with a neat bow (spoiler warning: she married long-time friend and ally George Cooper; the pair have one child and are expecting twins this autumn, just in case you've been living under a rock).

But none of them are her words.

Her words when I asked for an interview were, "Damnit, Neal, why are you bothering me again?" which was what I expected from the respected and beloved professor I'd known from Hogwarts. Among the many traits the Lioness taught me at school was perseverance, however, and she finally agreed after my repeated badgering.

"It's like you were a Hufflepuff or something," she muttered.

We meet at her home in Shropshire. It's not the ancestral seat of the Trebond family; that's her brother's house. The Cooper home is smaller and cozier, and I compliment her on it immediately.

Nealan Queenscove: Nice digs.

Alanna Trebond: This had better be quick, Neal. I'm pregnant and irritable.

Q: You realize I'm planning to print a direct transcript of this conversation, right?

T: If I cared about people hearing what I was going to say to you, I wouldn't have agreed in the first place.

Q: So, why did you agree?

T: I did mention the repeated badgering, right? And maybe if I talk to you, it'll get other reporters off my back for a little while.

Q: How many interview requests do you get a week?

T: I don't even want to think about it. Don't you have real questions?

Q: Sure. I guess the biggest one is, ten years later, how do you feel? You went through more in the first eighteen years of your life than most people go through ever.

T: Like I did the right thing.

Q: Was that ever in question?

T: It was for me. Killing someone is a big deal, even if they deserve it.

Q: You've been pretty quiet since the war.

T: Well, once it was over, I stopped being very interesting.

Q: You taught at Hogwarts for three years, correct?

T: You were there all three years, Neal. You know I did.

Q: It's for the record! I'm being a good reporter! So, what have you been up to since then? The people want to know. Stop dodging the question. Aside from your marriage, you've been very out of the public eye.

T: My marriage wasn't in the public eye, it was private. All we did was announce it happened. But you're right, I guess that's more than I did for the rest of my life. George and I were in America for a couple years, helping his cousin with a school she was starting up. That was nice. I'm a lot less famous in America.

Q: But still famous?

T: Let me put it this way, in America, people came up to me on the street to ask for my autograph. Here, people come up to me on the street to tell me I shouldn't have married George because I have "such nice blood" and I shouldn't ruin it.

Q: Seriously?

T: Seriously. Never tell anyone they have nice blood. It's really creepy.

Q: I will keep that in mind. And what are you doing now?

T: Being pregnant, mostly.

Q: Touche. So, some people--not me, please don't hurt me--have said you peaked early, and defeating a Dark Lord at eighteen means the rest of your life is downhill from there. Any comment on that?

T: It's really dumb?

Q: I'm starting to see why you don't give interviews.

T: You knew what you were getting into. But, okay, fine. More seriously, no, my life isn't in some downward spiral. Defeating Roger was something I had to do. It was a good thing, over all. It wasn't fun. It wasn't the high point of my life. Teaching was better, and I had to teach you. Being in America was better. Having kids and getting married--none of that was a letdown. I might never do anything more important than defeating Roger, that's true. I won't mind if I never have to do anything that important again. But I do things that are better than that every day. I'm happy ever day. Not a lot of people can say that.

So there you have it, straight from the lion's mouth. Alanna Trebond is happy, and she'd like everyone to stop telling her she chose the wrong husband (according to a recent poll, a full seventy percent of you wish she'd married the prince, which is really none of your business) and telling her that her life is a let down. She'd also like everyone, especially me, to leave her alone. Because she's happy, and I have an "adverse effect" on that happiness. Which I assume means she will not be coming for Christmas this year.

But she's happy, and that's all we can ask for. So we should all stop bothering her and let her be.