Just three weeks into their summer vacation, Serena was ready to be back at school. Blaise was hovering over her, obviously worried. Harry had taken to flying regularly, promising to stay within the wards, though he was understandably still upset over Cedric’s death. She wasn't really sure how to help him. Severus was in and out, caught up in meetings with Voldemort and meetings with Dumbledore and his Order.
No one else had been to visit them. Not Draco and Narcissa. Not the Weasley's or Hermione. Even Blaise's mother, Aurelia, had stayed away. From the snippet of a letter she had read over her friends shoulder she learned his mother had fled the country to a villa in Italy, emancipating him in the process. They hadn't received anything more than cryptic letters, and Serena had had enough. She had already finished her summer work and searched the Potter family library, reading all of the books on Wandlore, Blood Magics, and any other topics she thought may be helpful in the future. She had brewed enough Wolfsbane to last Remus the next year and a half, but even he hadn't stopped over. Severus had gone so far as delivering the potion to him.
For someone who was usually ahead of the curve, Serena felt completely out of sorts being kept in the dark. The manor felt empty without Sirius and Remus bickering at the dinner table. It felt empty without Narcissa's prim but well meaning directions. She felt empty at the utter silence from Draco.
Finally, after their third day absolutely alone, Serena couldn't take it anymore. “That's it!” she hollered angrily, her voice echoing through the empty house. Several elves scattered as she stood, storming through the house with her magic raising around her. Blaise fell into step beside her.
“I'm surprised it took you this long. Is my Storm finally mellowing down?”
“Fuck you,” she said fondly and he laughed as Harry met them in the parlor.
“What's going on? I felt your magic . . . How are you using it without getting in trouble?”
She snorted. “One, I broke the trace on my wand ages ago. Blaise's too. Two, I broke the trace on yours at the Dursley's last summer, remember? Three, this is a magical household. They can't track it here. Four, when I decided we would be staying here, I made the house unplottable. The Ministry couldn't find us if they tried.”
“Oh...” Harry said sheepishly. “That doesn't answer what's going on.”
“What's going on is we are getting some damn answers.” She shoved them both into the fireplace and grabbed a handful of floo powder, stepping in behind them. She threw it down, shouting out an address Sirius had told her last summer. “Number Twelve Grimmauld Place!” She gripped Blaise and Harry's hands just as they disappeared in a whirl of green flames.
When they arrived at their destination, she tugged them out of the fireplace. She wasn't surprised that Sirius had granted them access to the house, but she was surprised to step out of the Fireplace into the dining room and directly into a meeting of sorts. Heads turned to stare at them, and she dropped the boys hands. Severus was seated among the crowd, along with several of their Professors, Bill, Arthur, Charlie and Molly Weasley, Kingsley Shacklebolt, and the witch called Tonks.
At the end of the table sat Remus and Sirius, both looking rather sheepish. Though she had been hellbent on speaking to them, she couldn't help but take a moment to categorize every face she saw around the table, memorizing them for later. She inclined her head vaguely at the headmaster. “Dumbledore. Might I borrow Sirius and Remus?”
The man sighed. “As you can see, we are in the middle of an important meeting. If you would please exit through that door, they will be with you shortly.”
She scanned them again before she snorted and leaned back against the mantle. “Dumbledore, you once again forget that myself and Harry are emancipated adults. Blaise too, with his mother fleeing the country. With everything happening, we have as much right to these meetings as anyone else. However, since I know for a fact that Harry hasn't bothered to practice his Occlumency, I'm sure he would very much like to go join his friends upstairs.”
She saw her brothers confusion turn to a pout at being left out, and then to excitement to see his friends.“Perhaps Ginny will practice with you, since you refuse to do so yourself,” Serena provided.
Molly scowled at her. “Ginevra does not know Occlumency.”
Serena snorted as Harry quietly left the room, sensing the tension. He hated being in the center of these things, though Serena didn't mind at all. She felt more powerful there. “I taught her in her first year at Hogwarts. After everything she went through, she was quite afraid when Albus raided her mind much as he tried to do mine in the office. She thought she had been possessed again. Couldn't have that, could we?”
A hush fell over the room and several sets of eyes shot to Dumbledore. Then a middle aged witch with black hair stood up. “How do we know we can trust them, Albus? They're Slytherin's, likely to fall to his will. And the papers-”
“Mrs. Vance, might I remind you that there is already one Slytherin in our midst? And the papers lie. Surely you understand that if you are sitting at this table,” Severus said, then slid over from where he sat on a bench alone. Blaise and Serena walked over, sitting down on either side of their Head of House. “I would trust these two with my own life. If that is not enough to convince you, then by all means-”
“That is enough, Severus.” Dumbledore turned to look at them, and both Serena and Blaise raised a brow in challenge. “You both understand that these meetings are of the utmost importance and that the things discussed here should not be shared. Not with anyone outside of this room.”
They nodded solemnly, but Molly interrupted.
“Albus, they're just kids . . .”
“Kids who are central to this. Harry too, and Ron and Hermione, even Draco. However, out of the six, only these two can be fully trusted and guard their minds. With Blaise and Serena informed, they can help to better guard the others. They are emancipated and they wish to join. We need all of the help we can get, students or not, and they both have Severus’ blessing.” After Albus’ speech, the woman relented.
“As I was saying, we have not yet heard back from Hagrid and Olympe. I believe they are still trying to reach the giants. They will be sure to contact us as soon as they are able. Remus, your report?”
The man glanced nervously at Serena before he spoke. “I am slowly gaining traction in their ranks. They don't trust me though. They will not allow me to stay longer than a couple of days, though I have gathered that they are excited about his return. Most are seeking him out, and pledging allegiance. He is offering them freedoms that we can't. Many that they shouldn't have,” He said darkly.
Dumbledore nodded solemnly. “Keep trying. Sway who you can. If it turns volatile, get out.”
Remus nodded, and Serena knew they were discussing a werewolf pack. She frowned, but turned as Dumbledore called for Shacklebolt's report. “Fudge is growing increasingly delusional. He seems to have taken up Delores Umbridge as his Senior Undersecretary. Vile woman, and seems to sympathize with anything that will grant her power. She, and thus Fudge, would be easy for He Who Must Not Be Named to sway. They seem to be working on some way to allow the Ministry to gain a modicum of control over the school, with Malfoy swaying the board into passing legislation.”
“And what would that legislation be?”
“That has yet to be released. You will be informed as soon as I know.”
Dumbledore nodded. “Final report, Severus?”
Beside her, Severus sighed heavily, though he stiffened as well. “He believes that I am still his agent. He has asked me to lay low, and allowed me leniency in when I arrive. He has asked that I begin scouting for students who may wish to join the cause when we enter our next term.”
Outraged sounds came from around the table, but Dumbledore raised a hand, silencing them. “The Slytherin students who would consider supporting him made themselves known at the feast, did they not, when they refused to stand?”
Severus nodded. “The house is less unified than I have ever seen it.”
Dumbledore turned to Serena then. “Am I to take it that the students who stood with you at the feast are the ones who stood with you when you took the Durmstrang students to the dungeons?”
She didn't bother to ask how he knew. She simply nodded. “Yes, Sir.”
“And am I correct to assume you are a sort of leader to those students.”
She nodded. “A majority still stand neutral, though most of the older students disagree with my blatant disregard for tradition. The only reason my ranks held that night was because of the Durmstrang students.”
Dumbledore watched her for a moment before he spoke. “Understand that I am not asking you to try to sway them,” he began and she snorted.
“But you are certainly asking something.”
The man gave her a slight smirk. “That I am. Protect your own. Do not allow them to be swayed back to Voldemort's side. If needed, come to me and Severus and we can adjust rooming situations that would leave some vulnerable.”
She looked down at her hands, folded tightly in her lap as her thoughts turned to Draco. She couldn't even keep one of her closest friends from turning sides. How was she supposed to keep anyone else from doing so? She nodded, though she doubted she would succeed in such a thing.
“You realize that in the long run if I do not become a double agent as Severus is, it puts myself, Harry, Blaise and Hermione at even greater risk?”
Several sharp intakes of breath sounded around the table. A heavy silence fell over them.
“And how do you figure that?” Remus spoke softly, his voice carrying through the room.
“He made me as his weapon. If I do not go to him, he will come for me. He knows not of Hermione and Blaise's bonds, though I'm sure he suspects mine and Harry's. He will be more relaxed in his pursuits of Harry if he believes I am on his side, thus buying us all more time. It is safer for me to walk in where I'm expected than for me to hide. I would make me a valuable asset.”
“You already are, Serena,” Charlie said softly. “I still remember your magic at the World Cup. That's not normal of a fourteen year old.”
Dumbledore was quiet, and suspiciously, so was Molly. After a long while, Albus spoke. “We will discuss that at a later time. Keep your options open.”
“I always have.” She felt anger rising through what she could now identify as her bond to Harry and tried to ignore it.
Dumbledore cleared his throat. “Does anyone have something to add?” When no one spoke up, the man nodded. “Then this concludes our meeting.” She felt the wards around them lift, and she stood swiftly, leaving the room and searching out Harry. She tried to ignore the house-elf heads on the wall, but still found them incredibly creepy, and the neglected feel of the house didn't make it any better. She found him in a room at the top of the steps, and felt Ron and Hermione with him. She listened quietly, as they hadn't put up any wards. It certainly wasn't hard to hear Harry’s shouting.
“You couldn't even bother to send me anything but a vague letter! And this whole time you've all been together and the rest of us-”
“Harry, please listen to us,” Hermione began. “We couldn't! Dumbledore was very clear about it, and we weren't allowed to-”
“Well, fuck Dumbledore!” Harry shouted and Serena had just barely managed to get her privacy charm in place. She stepped into the room and pinned Harry with a scolding glance.
“Though I couldn't agree with you more, you'll find that this house is teeming with Dumbledore’s blind supporters who would do anything on his word. It would not be wise to express such sentiment here.”
“Serena!” Hermione said happily, coming over to hug her. Blaise slipped in behind her, shaking Ron's hand. They both seemed to turn to the door, their brows drawing in confusion when no one else entered.
“Where is-” Ron began.
“With his father,” Blaise said tersely as Serena closed off, drawing away from Hermione.
“What happened in there?” Harry asked, and Serena shook her head.
“Can't tell you. Get your occlumency up to speed and Dumbledore may let you in the meetings.”
“All of us?” Ron asked excitedly, but Serena shook her head.
“Harry, and Mimi perhaps, but your mother was upset that Blaise and I were there. I doubt she would let you. Hermione's parents, being muggle, don't really understand it, do they?”
Hermione shook her head. “What is Occlumency?”
Serena raised a brow at her. “All of the books you've read, and you don't know what Occlumency is?”
“Occlumency,” Severus said, entering the room. The Gryffindor's tensed, but Serena glanced at him, all but begging him to be nice. “Is the art of guarding one's mind from prying eyes. And whether you will be allowed in meetings or not, it is an art I would advise you all to study and practice.”
“Why, Sir?” Hermione asked tentatively. The man had never exactly been kind to her, and her hesitation was understandable,
Severus surveyed her. “Because without Occlumency, a Legilimens could break into your mind. The Dark Lord is a master Legilimens, as are myself, Dumbledore, and Serena, and that's just to name people you know or could be a threat. At any moment, any one of us could choose to pluck information from your unguarded minds as easily as we breathe. Though myself and Serena try to avoid such intrusions, the other two are not so discriminating with their abilities.”
“Is that why you two had that weird standoff while he was covering for Remus in Defense third year?” Ronald asked. Severus turned to him, raising a surprised eyebrow.
“Perhaps there is hope for you yet, Weasley. Yes, that is why. I angered Serena by setting the lesson on werewolves and she forced her way into my mind to make it known. There are several books that can assist you in the basics, as can Serena. But while she can show you the basis of the barriers around your mind, you must work on them independently for them to be of any use to you.” He glared at Harry on the last bit.
Hermione nodded. “Will you show me, Serena?”
She began to respond, but Sev cut her off. “After you have studied the basics and begun to practice on your own. You need to know what you are getting into, Miss Granger.” With that, he turned to Serena. “There are two dogs waiting for you downstairs.”
Serena rolled her eyes. “So much for playing nice,” she said as she turned and followed Severus out the door and back down the hallway into a parlour. He glared once at Sirius then turned, closing the door behind him.
“What's his deal?” Sirius asked, looking more offended that the man had left in silence than he ever did when he threw insults. Perhaps Sirius knew Severus better than she thought, as it was a true sign of his anger that he stayed silent.
Serena stayed silent as well, ignoring the man. Her anger had barely subsided. While she understood that Harry had needed him more after that awful night in June, not only had he left her behind in the Headmaster's office, he hadn't even bothered to say goodbye to her before he headed back to his home. He hadn't bothered to visit either of them since the summer started. She was incredibly displeased with her godfather at the moment. Instead, she remained standing, and turned to Remus. “How is it really going, Rem?”
Though he obviously noticed her dismissal of Sirius, Remus was wise enough not to comment on it. “It's alright. We are making slow progress, though I fear the werewolves are a lost cause. What brings you?”
“As pleasant as it is to be left with only Blaise and Harry for company for days on end, I rather figured I'd figure out what in the hell was going on for myself.”
He frowned at her. “Isn't Severus with you?”
“When he isn't engaged elsewhere, which is rare.”
“Summoned home to his father,” she said sullenly. “Look, I get it; we're all busy. But at least send an owl, would you? Or send the others over during meetings. Harry is going out of his mind, both from grief over Cedric and boredom, and his nightmares have increased. I daresay that Blaise and I aren't far behind him, as there is only so much studying you can do before your eyes hurt. Severus will keep me up to date on the meetings whether I attend or not. But don't leave Harry alone right now.” She turned, ready to leave when Sirius spoke up again.
“What's got you all out of sorts? What did I do?” He said, not one to be ignored.
She turned to glare at him, her words angry and venomous. “You've left me behind once since you've returned to us, Sirius Orion Black.” His eyes widened at her tone, but she continued before he could speak. “Don't you dare do the same to Harry.”
Serena walked swiftly from the room, slamming the door behind her. She walked angrily through the dining room, where the others were busy eating lunch. After a moments debate, she decided not to join them, instead grabbing a pinch of floo powder and muttering the address for Potter Manor under her breath.
Blaise and Severus remained behind at Grimmauld and she knew Harry was having a good time with his friends. Feeling utterly out of sorts, and utterly unconcerned about it, she wondered if she was dissociating before she scribbled a note and turned, apparating away from the eerily empty house with a pop.
She appeared on a familiar old dirt road and walked swiftly up the pathway. Aware that she was overly dressed in a fine black dress, heels and a cardigan, she strode up to the front door of the orphanage. She knocked, and as always, Sasha answered. The woman blinked at her for a moment, before she recognized her.
“Serena? My, you have grown. What are you doing here?”
“I....” She wasn't really sure, and while Sasha’s sad expression showed she seemed to know that, the woman said nothing as Serena made up an excuse. “I came to ward the place. If Voldemort figures out that Harry and I have ties here, he will surely try to attack the orphanage.”
The woman didn’t seem the least bit skeptical, despite all of the Daily Prophet’s articles. “How do you intend to ward it alone?”
She snorted. “Sasha, I know we've lost touch over the years, aside from the orphanage reports, but let me assure you, I can and will ward this place alone. Keep the kids distracted, will you?”
Her once-mentor nodded and went inside, calling the curious kids away from the windows. Once she was sure they were busy, Serena withdrew her wand, and began casting the complex wardings she had read about. They blocked most spell damage, and would prevent anyone with negative intentions from entering the property. It was ancient magic, ritual magic that she chanted into the air as she walked around the outskirts of the property, wand raised and emitting a faint glow.
Next, she searched the property, grumbling when she found that it was an entirely muggle building. There were no crystals in the foundation to build up magic to support the wards. She summoned several of the crystals from Potter Manor. She had filled about a hundred large crystals in the summer before her third year, and she summoned five of them to her now.
She knelt on the ground at a corner of the building and set the first crystal there. Using her magic, she drove it deep underground, and connected the wards back to it. The nearest reaches of her ward connected there. Satisfied, she repeated the process at each corner of the building, before connecting the crystals to each other. Their magic strengthened as the wards fully settled over the building. She enchanted them to draw excess magic from the small horde of magical children that now resided there before she walked to the front gate.
With the largest crystal in hand, Serena directed it into the ground in the center of the gateway. From this one, she powered a ward that would repel and confuse anyone who was rejected by the other wards. They would forget what they were doing, where they were going, and see nothing but an abandoned building before them. Satisfied, Serena turned back to the door, then stopped when she saw Tyler gaping at her from the front porch.
He had grown, but so had she. He looked fit and healthy now, stronger than she had seen him. He had a light to his eyes where there had been none before. “What did you just- How did you-”
She sighed, walking towards him. He met her in the center of the walk, looking warry and confused. “That's how I got into the school. It's for folks with magic.”
“But then- can Allie-”
“Use magic? Yes. But not like that. Few can.” She glanced out over the nearby field, waiting for his judgment.
“But . . . What did all that do?”
“Protected you all.”
He studied her silently for a moment. Before realization dawned on him. “You weren't kidding, about buying this place. That's why it's gotten better.” She nodded solemnly, and he continued. “But what are you protecting us from?”
She sighed. “Ty, there is a war brewing in my world, and the man who murdered my parents is once again rising to power. He wants to kill my brother, and use me and my magic as a slave. If he knew I had ties to this place, he would not hesitate to burn it to the ground. And it wouldn't be a fire that you could escape. I couldn't- I wouldn't let that happen.”
He stepped forward and hugged her tightly. She was surprised that he wasn't angry at her, or disgusted with her. “When did you get so short?” he mumbled, and she laughed lightly as she stepped back.
“When did you decide that it was worth it to go on?”
He frowned for a moment. “When did you?” he asked, then shrugged. “Like I said, things got better. I've already got a few scholarships for Uni, though it will be a few years before I go.”
She smiled a genuine smile. “That's great, Ty. Come on, there are some kids here I need to check on.”
“Like you and Allie, are they?”
She nodded, and saw his resolve set. “Show me. I'll keep an eye on them. I always knew you two were different, even if I couldn't pinpoint how. How is Allie?”
“I . . . I don't really know,” she said honestly. “The stress of everything that's going on around me kind of pulled us apart. She's safer that way. We meet up to study a few times a month with some other girls, but there is a rather large target on my back. I would hate to see her caught in the crossfire.”
He frowned. “Always taking on burdens that you shouldn't. I guess some things never change.”
She snorted. “No, I suppose they don't.”
She spent the next several hours at the orphanage doing a variety of tasks. Serena pulling the magical children over age six aside in a group, then one by one. She made them promise to keep it a secret, and they replied that Matron Sasha had already told them they were different. She showed them simple spells, and allowed them to try her wand. Several grew sad when it didn't work for them and she laughed, telling them that her wand was tricky. She assured them that they would get to pick their own and get to go to Hogwarts, no matter the cost, as she would sponsor them personally if necessary. She told them stories of her own time in the orphanage, and was surprised to hear that room eleven stood vacant as a memory to their most generous donor.
For the first time in the last few years, Serena felt connected with her youth. She felt grounded in her roots. This was why she was fighting the war, so that innocent kids like these had families, and could grow up in safety, whether they be muggle or human. She shooed everyone but Tyler from the kitchen, closing the doors with locking charms before she called Mipsy. Tyler stared at the elf as Serena gave her directions.
“Mipsy, please bring me all of the kitchen elves, but tell them they must be quiet. We have about one hundred people to feed. Please fetch the ingredients and bring them here, yes?”
“Of course, Miss Serena,” the elf said with a bow, as Serena set about modifying the kitchen. She updated the cabinets, replacing the broken shelves and missing handles. She removed the rust and grime from the cookware and appliances and set about enlarging pots.
“Huh. I wondered why Sasha was kicking us out of the Kitchens. She's a witch too, isn't she?”
Serena raised a brow at him. “I didn't tell you that, you understand me?”
He laughed. “I won't say a word.”
She set to the fridge and cabinets, setting undetectable extensions charms on them as house elf after house elf arrived, greeting Serena and setting to work, cooking as quietly as possible. Serena shrank the island so they could better reach it and set to peeling potatoes with magic while Tyler seasoned the meat and handed it off to an elf to cook. The elves gave them funny looks, but didn't question her as she cooked with them. Within the hour, dinner was ready, and she graciously sent her small army home, returning the counter to normal and spelling the pots and pans clean.
Together they stepped out of the kitchen and let the kids serve themselves. Sasha approached them with narrowed eyes.
“You did not just break the International Statute of Secrecy, did you?” the woman whispered aggressively.
“Well, considering he caught me turning the foundation into a magically sustained building, what harm are house elves?”
Sasha gripped her brow, then turned to Tyler. “You are not to say a word to anyone, got it?”
“I know better, Sasha,” he said quietly. “I always knew a few of you were different, even if I couldn't tell how.”
She studied him for a moment before nodding, and helping the younger kids with their meals. Serena smiled at the display and shrugged her cardigan back on.
“The others are probably wondering where I went. It has been so nice to see you, Tyler. Please, if you need anything, or just want to talk, send a letter through Sasha. She can reach me.”
He nodded, and hugged her again. “Watch your back, yeah?” He said, before he turned and helped himself to a plate of food. She quietly walked to room eleven, and found a stack of notes left to her and Allie. She scooped them up, and decided to owl Allies to her when she got home. Serena stared around the bland, empty room that she had grown up in, then left without a word to anyone, apparating when she was beyond her own anti-apparition wards.
She landed in the dining room of Potter Manor and heard several sets of feet come running. Severus reached her first.
“Where were you?!” He shouted, and she felt her eyes widen.
“I left a note. It's not that big of a deal.”
“Not-Not that big of a deal!” He shouted, as Sirius and Remus came in behind him. “Serena, we had no idea where you were! Do you know how dangerous it is out there? The Dark Lord could have taken you in a heartbeat.”
“The house elves knew where I was. Besides, he wouldn't hurt me, Severus, and it's not like he is doing much right now. He's planning his next move, like any smart Slytherin. And my magic-”
“Has already failed you once in the last two months. What if Barty Crouch Jr. told him that you had been bothersome? What if he told him about the magic blocker? What would you do if you found yourself without magic at his feet?”
She contemplated for a moment, and changed the topic. “Blaise and Harry could have found me at any time.”
“No, they couldn't. Your bonds went dead about three hours ago,” Remus explained.
Oh, that was why they were so panicked. Confused and mildly worried she had expected, but not panic. “Damn. That'd be the wards. Look, I was at the orphanage. If he ever found out I have ties there, he would have gone after them. I set some wards, talked with the kids, and made dinner. That's it. I'm fine. You're overreacting.”
“Overreacting?!” Sirius began, but Severus cut him off with a raised hand, his voice deathly quiet. Blaise and Harry skidded into the room, and to her surprise, Draco was on their heels, looking worried.
“You’ve avoided my question, Serena. What would you do if you found yourself a squib at his feet?” He asked, never breaking eye contact. She held his gaze.
“Die before I served him”
“And if he forced you to take it? If he forced you into an Unbreakable Vow?”
“I'd absolve the bond and the mark, kill myself or find a way to subvert him from the inside.”
“And if he binds you and prevents it?”
“Fight my way out at the first logical and available chance.”
“You don't know hand to hand.”
“And you haven't bothered to teach me! You haven't been around to do so! No one's been around! If you expect me to sit around in a huge empty house for the rest of the summer with just Harry, Blaise and my thoughts for company, you've got another thing coming! There are plenty of other things that I could be doing. That need doing before the war is upon us! You’ll not lock me away like some damsel in distress, damnit! Either you care enough to be here or you don't, but fucking pick one!!” she hollered, turning and stalking out of the dining room, shoving her way through the boys clustered at the door. She walked swiftly down the halls, ducking down the secret passageways she hadn't bothered to show them and took the trapdoor into the training room before she warded the room shut. Sitting down cross legged in the center of the room, Serena tuned into the magic of the house, eavesdropping on their conversations below.
“We were so busy watching Harry, we forgot about Serena,” Remus said.
“Again,” Severus said angrily.
“Lily was this way too, around fifth year. Pushing her limits and challenging anything that stepped in her path. She'll calm down-” Sirius said, and Severus snarled.
“This has nothing to do with Lily. Nothing at all,” he sneered nastily.
“They may look like their parents, and even have some of their mannerisms, but you forget, Sirius, that Harry is not James, and Serena is not Lily. They have been through so much more strife. Just shy of fifteen and they're more mature than James and Lily ever had to be. Ever got to be,” Remus said thoughtfully.
“What are we to do though? We can't be here all summer and keep up with our duties,” Sirius said.
“She's not asking for us to neglect our duties. Just to make some time for them too,” Remus said and she thanked Merlin he had a level head as she tuned into the other conversation that was currently taking place in the parlour.
“What do you mean I haven't got a right to comment? I've known her as long as you both have!” Draco said indignantly.
“Technically, I've known her since birth,” Harry pointed out, but they ignored him. She felt herself snort.
“It was you leaving and your complete lack of contact since, that pushed her over the edge,” Blaise informed him.
“I've never seen her this distraught before, this anxious and wild. Is she like this often in Slytherin?” Harry asked.
“No,” the other two replied swiftly. “Only one time before,” Blaise amended.
“Is that where the nickname 'Firestorm' came from?” Harry asked. There was a silence in which she figured someone must have nodded before Harry said, “It seems rather fitting.”
Blaise sighed. “Look, she's got a lot going on. A lot relying on her. Hell, Draco, after that boggart class you know how she is. She's terrified of herself and suddenly she has just me and Harry to help manage her magic. Yes, it's easier for her now, but she's still frightened of what's coming, whether she says it or not. You know she thinks through everything she does. She didn't do this to piss us off. She did it because she felt like she had too, and the bonds closing off was simply a result of the ward that she didn't anticipate.”
“She's not the only one with a lot going on.”
Blaise sighed angrily, his frustration rising to make it sound like a growl. “You think she doesn't know that? Why do you think she went to Sirius' place instead of coming to the manor?”
“Because Father warded her out,” Draco said logically, and she found she couldn't be offended. She had expected it.
“Because she doesn't know if you even want anything to do with her anymore!” Blaise shouted.
“I . . . Wha- . . .Of course I do!” Draco shouted in return.
“Really? ‘Cause you've been nothing but a cold, callous bastard to her for the last two months! You have not been there when she's needed us, and I don't just mean now. Every time she needs us, you fucking vanish! And she still fucking forgives you for it! No one else gets that kind of leniency from her and you continue to throw it back in her face you absolute prat!” Blaise bellowed.
She could practically see the scene. Draco would be standing by the window, Blaise by the door, and Harry on the couch between them, watching the two Slytherin's, unsure if he should let them be or intervene.
“I, I didn't mean-” Draco stuttered.
“I'm not the one that needs to hear that, Malfoy,” Blaise said coldly, then she heard a door slam, and knew Blaise had left the room. She withdrew from the manor's magic and stood. Glancing around the room and thinking of her agility and endurance lessons with Severus, she wondered if she could still get up to the high beams that supported the roof. Not even two minutes later did she hear Blaise pounding on the door.
“Let me in, Rina!”
“Use your magic. Break my wards.”
He groaned. “Really? You're turning this into a training session?”
“Giving up already?” She called.
It took him a few tries, but as she wasn't trying to maintain, them her wards crumbled. Blaise let himself into the room, shaking his head, but looking pleased with himself. He glanced around, trying to find her and she suppressed a chuckle, though she knew her amusement slid down their fully developed bond.
“Rina, where in the hell are you?” he asked exasperatedly. She laughed and he looked up, studying her position balancing on the beams above him. She smirked at him as he glanced around. “How in the hell did you get up there? Magic?”
“Nope,” She said before doing a flip off of the beam and using a bit of magic to slow her momentum as she landed lightly on her feet beside him. “Severus was rather in depth and varying with my training before third year, though I suppose he thought I was too young for hand to hand.”
He just shook his head, studying her. “You want to duel, don't you?”
“Gotta blow off steam somehow,” she said, before walking across the room and turning back to face him. She raised a brow when she saw he didn't have his wand out, but followed when he bowed first.
When they both stood straight, hexes began flying and she felt her lips tug into a grin. “You have been practicing behind my back!” she said, deflecting a charm and sending a hex at him.
“Of course I have. We have a war coming, remember? Theodore's magic is getting stronger, too. He can do some wandless spells now.” He dodged her hex and threw a curse at her.
“I guess I wasn't sure if you took me seriously.” She bent backwards lithely, dodging the spell as she threw her own, blasting apart the target dummy behind him when he ducked.
“Of course I did. I can tell when you're playing or speculating and that certainly wasn't something you were joking about.” He tossed up a shield and sent a furnunculus at her.
She grinned and spun out of the way. “You're lucky that one didn't land.”
“On you? Never.”
She smirked and switched her mentality from dueling to teaching as she had when she taught him to use her magic style. “Think of something you want to do that there isn't an exact spell for. Nothing to seriously harm, but to make an effect,” She directed and stood still, watching him focus. She ignored the group she felt walking in the door as she focused on Blaise, waiting for his attack.
The wide wooden floor board that she was standing on suddenly flew out from under her. She raised her hands up, flipping over in a back handspring to come up on her feet before she grinned at him. “Again.”
He smirked and one of the punching bags slid down its beam, barreling towards her. She ducked and rolled out of the way, coming up in a crouch. “Again.”
He scowled at her, digging deep in his Slytherin creativity. She felt his magic gathering, and allowed the wind to knock her over. She fell gracefully, rolling to come up on her feet. But as she went to stand she found he had pinned her down with the same wind. She smirked and used her magic to cut her way through the gale, sending it back at him.
From there, their duel grew more creative and heated. After a long while, she had him stuck to the high beams by his shoulders with some strange variation of magnetism, and he had her backed into a corner with a semi-circle of fire she couldn't put out. She frowned at the flames until understanding dawned on her.
“Blaise . . . Did you just use fiendfyre in my house?”
He attempted to shrug, then scowled when he couldn't, kicking his feet in frustration. “You wouldn't let me down!” he retorted and she snickered as he ended the magical flames. She had to admit, she was surprised by his precision and control. Fiendfyre was not an easy bit of magic to learn and she had never dared try it herself. She stepped forward and studied him.
“It's magnetism, not a sticking charm. I think I turned that cross section and the center of your shoulder blades into opposite magnetic poles.”
He scowled, and after a moment he fell, though he stopped himself with magic before he could face plant into the ground. “You think?”
“I wanted to see how magnetism reacted with magic.”
“Using me as a test subject?”
She smirked. “Who better?”
They watched each other for a moment, then spoke at the same time. “Draco.”
They fell into a fit of giggles when they heard an indignant “Hey!” from the door frame. She had long been aware of their audience and knew Blaise had been too, but they hadn't bothered to worry about it. Severus was watching them steadily, looking vaguely impressed.
“You managed to teach him . . . When did you do that?”
She blushed a bit. “Uh . . . it started last summer while Draco and Narcissa trained and I guess it just sorta continued in our spare time.”
He turned to Blaise next. “Where did you learn fiendfyre?”
Blaise snorted. “You do realize that my mother is the Aurelia Zabini, right?”
Severus just rolled his eyes. “Do you think the two of you could train Harry? It will give you something to do in the times that we can't be here.”
“Though we are working to remedy that,” Remus added.
Serena assessed Severus for a moment. “Depends on his patience. It's slow going at first. And only if he agrees to Occlumency lessons as well. I'm sick of leaving him in the dark.”
“I'm rather sick of being there myself,” her brother replied.
“What about me?” Draco asked. She didn't look over at him, didn't think she could right now without something catching fire or exploding. “Will you teach me?”
Thankfully, Blaise answered for her. “Will you actually be here?”
“I . . . I can try.”
Serena shook her head, still not looking at him. “I need to focus on Harry and you need to focus on Lucius' teachings. I will consider teaching you during the school year.”
“Alright,” he said. The others seemed to pick up on the tension.
“Harry, did we ever show you James' room here? You'll have to let us in the family wing, but there might be some things in there you like,” Remus said, taking Harry's shoulder and guiding him and Sirius from the room.
Severus and Blaise didn't even try to make excuses. They simply turned and left, shutting the door behind them. They were quiet for a while before she heard Draco's footsteps on the wood floor. She didn't move a single muscle as he stood in front of her.
“Don't. Don't apologize.”
“But I should.”
“If you feel you need to, not because Blaise convinced you you should.” She turned away, walking to a window and surveying the grounds. She wished that she could trust him as easily as she trusted Blaise, but she couldn't. She still didn't know what his ultimate choice would be. And while it hurt to think of him siding with Lucius, she knew it was a possibility. She had thought of it an awful lot despite her dislike of the subject.
He sighed and walked a bit closer to her, though he kept his distance this time. “I truly didn't mean to hurt you. That's the last thing I meant to do. I just didn't want you to worry.”
“Shutting me out does not in anyway make me worry less or feel better. Have you even met me Draco? I worry either way.” They fell into a silence before she dared ask. “How did you know something was wrong? How did you convince him to let you come here?”
“Severus sent mother a letter, thinking you may have sought her out. I told him I needed Severus' advice for a brewing issue. Father was never great at potions.”
She smirked a bit at that as he worked his way closer. “Surely you'll have to go back soon.”
“Yes,” he said indifferently.
She didn't turn from the window. “You should probably go, then,” she said quietly.
“Do you want me to?”
“Of course I don't. But you have appearances to keep and a father to please.”
He sighed. “You're angry with me.”
“I'm angry with the world we live in.”
Draco stepped forward and wrapped his arms around her. She allowed it for a moment, allowed the physical comfort she craved, before she pressed her hands to his chest and shoved roughly. He staggered back as Serena stepped out of his reach and fixed him with a glare, viridian eyes blazing in anger.
“No, Draco! I've told you before! You don't get to do what you want and assume you can just smooth it over like nothing happened! I'm not a wishy-washy person that does things halfway. Either you want me around or you don’t. Either we are something or we aren't. And if whatever this is between us isn't worth your time, you don't get to act like it is when it suits your needs! I won't let you use me like that. You don't get to act like we are together when you're signing yourself up for a death sentence.” She walked away and began pacing in frustration. “Haven't you figured that out by now? That there is no way he can win? That if you follow him, and somehow he does win, we might as well be dead anyway!? That a world ruled by him isn't a world worth living in?”
“But if I follow him and he does win, then I-”
“What? What could you possibly do that isn't covered already? You can beg for our forgiveness? Severus is already in the perfect position to do that, explain away our actions with the recklessness of youth.” Her voice was rising to a near shriek. She took a moment to calm down before she continued. “And even then, I still wouldn't let him.”
“What would you do then, if the Dark Lord won?”
“Do you really want to know, Draco?” She asked, turning on him and finally staring him down.
His resolve crumbled a bit in the face of her fury, knowing that she truly had considered all possibilities, but bravely, he continued. “Yeah, I do. Surely you've thought of it.
“And, in this scenario, surely you, his loyal follower , wouldn't leave his side?” She could have laughed at her use of the word. This wasn't a scenario, it was a possible outcome. It was the thing of her nightmares.
He shook his head. “No. I would stay.”
“Then I would leave the country with Blaise, and Harry if he would come,” she said firmly. She felt a shift in Blaise's bond, and rolled her eyes. “If you're going to eavesdrop you might as well just join us, Zabini!” she shouted at the door.
Blaise sheepishly walked into the room, standing between them a little distance away so that they made an awkward little triangle. Draco watched her, jaw dropped for a while before he turned to Blaise. “And you? Would you go with her?”
“I... I don't--”
“No. In this scenario, would you go with her or stay?” Draco asked harshly.
Blaise looked distinctly uncomfortable. “If . . . If you were adamant to stay at his side . . . then yes. I would leave with Serena. But it's just a scenario-”
“Sure. Sure... I see how it is. My two closest friends would leave me instead of finding a way to stay!” He shouted angrily.
Serena snarled, advancing on Draco swiftly. “Do you even know what you're saying?! Do you think either of us would find that easy to do?” She asked, jabbing a finger into his chest as he refused to back down. He sneered down his nose at her in a look so reminiscent of Lucius, she struggled not to slap it off his face. “No, I wouldn't. It would tear me apart. But you have no idea what you're like every time we do this! Every time we have this fight! Every time you go crawling back to your arrogant bastard of a father!” She felt Narcissa enter the room, probably to collect her son, but she couldn't stop now. Now that the words had started, she couldn't hold them back.
“Oh, and what am I like then?” he asked, equally angry and egging her on in the cold, arrogant drawl she hated,
“Him! You're just like him! Cold, and emotionless, and uncaring!” she shouted in his face, her arms extended in her anger. Draco’s eyebrows shot into his hairline and he looked thoroughly affronted. “You morph into someone that I don't recognize! Someone I don't know! And if my choices were to watch you become that person permanently or leave, you had better believe that I would leave, because ripping my own heart out would hurt less than watching you turn into everything that you're not! It would be easier to break my own heart than sit idly by and watch you turn into sociopathic monster!”
The windows around them shattered, and several splinters flew into the air from the wood of the room. She hadn't even realized her magic had risen and she swore, turning away and mending the damage with a passing thought. She angrily glanced back at Draco’s stunned face before she moved to leave the room. “'Cissa,” she said quietly in greeting as she strode past. She had had enough for the day and couldn't take anymore. She went down a floor and locked herself in her rooms. Taking advantage of the magic she had built up, she sent it into some empty crystals for later. She threw herself on her bed and closed the curtains with a flick of her wrist before she finally let her tears fall.