Actions

Work Header

I Put a Spell on You

Chapter Text

It never ceased to amaze Neville how immediately the heat and clamor of a battle could be swallowed up in icy silence. It never startled him how suddenly that cold void could be filled again. This time, this sound did. Only a minute or so before, you and he had been racing together to get a better angle to attack the giants sieging the castle. Now...

Now you were splayed across your brother’s chest, wailing at such a pitch that the hairs on the back of Neville’s neck stood at attention.

“Fred—Fred. N-No, Fred. No! How? Why?” you sobbed as Neville looked on, feeling numb and helpless. His feet remained rooted to the floor among the rubble and other bodies that had fallen there. As badly as he wanted to comfort you, it was though you were suddenly a million kilometers away. Struggle as he might, he could not reach you.

“Fred! Wake up! Please wake up!”

Neville ought to have cried, too. A sob stuck heatedly in his lungs. Fred had always been decent to him—never cruel on purpose, never had a problem with Neville asking you out. He had liked Fred. Neville ought to have cried, too. Nothing came out of his mouth.

“This way!”

An unfamiliar adult voice broke him from the spell of your crying. He lurched forward, got his hand on the torn shoulder of your robe, tugged on it.

“No!” you screeched, and threw yourself back onto the ground. You had eyes only for Fred, but the sound of gaining Death Eaters drew nearer. Neville again tried to pull you up. It was like trying to lift a boulder without magic, and he never been strong physically or magically. Your sobbing continued. He doubted you even remembered he was there.

“Oi, hear that?” said the same male voice from before.

“Some crying kiddies,” a woman cackled in reply.

“We have to go,” Neville said urgently, pulling you backward with all his might. His task was made all the more difficult by your constant struggle to return to Fred’s side.

“No,” you said. “We have to help him. Let me go! I need to stay with him!”

“There’s nothing more we can do for him,” Neville said over your heightened shrieks. The noise of spells exploding against the wall beyond you joined in the tumult.

“Fred! Fred! Get up, Fred!”

“[Name], please!” With a final burst of effort, Neville tore you away and threw you out of the path of those racing to you. Your crying stopped at once, but he did not think it was because he had surprised you with the force of his actions. Rather, it was because he was crying now, not over Fred, but over you. The tears running down his cheeks stung where they touched the cuts he’d accumulated throughout the night. “I can’t lose you tonight. We’ll come back for him. I prom—”

Avada—

Expelliarmus!

Before he could react, he’d been nearly killed and promptly rescued. He did not so much as pause to look at his attacker. You stared at Neville over your extended wand, face glossy with your own tears. Slowly, your eyes drifted back to where Fred’s body lay. Neville shuddered. You stepped back toward him. Unable to watch, he closed his eyes…

…only to feel your shaking hand wrap around his own and pull him after you down the hall.

“Come on,” you said. “I don’t want anyone else I love to die tonight.”

He nodded. You let him go. Side by side, you both sprinted up the hall, slinging your own curses at anyone who dared get in your way. It wasn’t fair, but Fred had to be forgotten for the time being. But Neville promised, deep inside his heart, that he’d get you through this battle. Then you’d go back for your brother. That time, Neville would be prepared to comfort you in any way you might need.

Chapter Text

A summer never felt shorter than the one that led to your sixth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. This was the year you had been dreading for several before—not because of the difficulty of your N.E.W.Ts looming ahead, but because your sixth year would be your first in quite some time alone. When you settled into your favorite chair by the Gryffindor common room’s fire after the Welcoming Feast, it was not, as it had been the last two years, to collapse into Oliver’s lap for a somewhat intimate hello. You sighed as you sank into the worn cushion underneath you, and cast a tired look out the dark window.

“Where on earth did you get that rock?”

You turned a tiny smile on the wide grin that belonged to your best friend, Alicia Spinnet. Various duties had kept the two of you apart much of the day, but now she had the opportunity to fix her eyes directly upon your left hand. Your fingers wiggled in a teasing hello.

“Noticed that, have you?” you asked, scooting over in the chair to make room for her. Alicia threw herself into the space without further invitation. It was true that you both did not fit as well together as you had as first years, but her closeness and warmth soothed some of the loneliness you felt.

“Am I the first to see it?” she said. “Who couldn’t notice? It’s huge! And you’re not exactly the jewelry type.”

“Well, I had to make an exception. This one is special.”

Alicia let out a squeal that made several of the recently-arrived first years jump—not that she noticed, busy as she was hugging you. By the time she had finished, you were nearly as bright-faced and bashful as you’d been when you got the ring to begin with.

“Alica…” you said in a strangled voice.

Laughing, she gave your hair a lighthearted ruffle. “Here I was, about to ask how you were holding up, and you’ve already gone and got engaged! How did Oliver even know to get you an engagement ring?”

Your right hand twisted absently at the silver band on your left. “I think he must have to talked to my dad about it. You know Oliver came to meet my parents a few days before we left for the World Cup. He was holed up in Dad’s library forever.”

“And your parents are okay with you getting married so young? You haven’t even graduated yet!”

“They know that Oliver makes me happy. Besides,” you smirked, “it’s not that young for a witch. I’ll be of age this very year.”

She shot you an appraising look. No one besides yourself knew your parents better than Alicia, who had been popping in and out of the house since you were twelve. “I’ll bet they’re thinking you’ll break up before the end of the year. Long distance is hard.”

“Not going to happen. I love him.”

“You’ll have Hogsmeade weekends at least.”

“Yeah,” a wistful note crept into your voice, “so long as Puddlemere United doesn’t need him.”

When Alicia touched your hair a second time, her hand was lighter. “If anyone can make it work, you two will. I mean, if he proposed to you the night of the World Cup…”

“It means he loves me just as much as Quidditch,” you finished.

“That’s right.”

Another smile spread slowly across your face. You had been planning to keep this under your school-issued pointy hat for a little longer, but why wait? Alicia didn’t think you were being an idiot. “We’ve already settled on a date,” you said, working hard to sound casual. “You’ll be my maid of honor?”

She stared. Your skipped one beat, then skipped another. Just when you had begun to despair that Alicia didn’t really approve of your upcoming nuptials, she let out a scream of delight even louder than before.

“Yes, yes! A thousand times yes!” Her embrace was swift. “Have you guys picked your colors? What should I wear? Where—”

“Excuse me.” One of the younger students, a new prefect, you guessed at the sight of her gleaming badge, said. The girl stood by your chair, and didn’t look happy. “I’d appreciate it if you could take this conversation to your dormitory? You’re upsetting the first years.”

You opened your mouth to tell her where she could shove it. Before you had the opportunity, Alicia smiled at her, wrapped her hand around yours, and pulled you up out of the chair and toward the stairs.

“Sure thing,” she said easily, but as she led you toward your dormitory, Alicia caught your eye. A few stifled snickers turned into a gale of laughter. Disapproving fifth years or no, you realized your year without Oliver could still be full of happiness, only to grow all the more when you reunited with him again.

Chapter Text

Never before had the Burrow felt as oppressively silent than the evening Remus Lupin at last worked up the nerve to attend to a long-procrastinated errand. A new moon lent an almost suffocating darkness to the scene. The house itself was nearly entirely black, save for a single square of warm candlelight coming from the kitchen on the first floor. No one in the floors above spoke or stirred. Steeling himself, he knocked on the door.

It opened at once. Molly Weasley looked more tired than Remus had ever seen her. Had he not known better, he might have suspected her of struggling with lycanthropy herself, so deep were the bags underneath her eyes. For her sake, he did not remark on them. Sleep was a luxury none of the Order could afford, especially during those past few weeks.

The two exchanged the usual testing greeting, then he stepped inside. An empty kitchen awaited him. There was no sign that it was in use at present, save for a candle and a copy of the latest Daily Prophet on the table. Remus lifted his eyebrows as he turned to look at Molly.

“I’ve kept you up,” he said in a soft voice.

She attempted to smile. “Don’t be silly. I’m waiting up for Arthur. I just don’t feel safe sleeping when it’s just me and the children.”

“And [Name].”

Molly hesitated. “And [Name],” she agreed, as she cast a sharp look at the ghostly staircase just visible in the dim light that spilled into the nearby living room. “I told her to expect you tonight, but of course she isn’t down here.”

“How is she?” The question was difficult to ask. Remus was not even sure he wanted to hear the answer—and his dread increased at the softening in Molly’s expression.

“Not well at all, I’m afraid. Tea?”

He got the feeling she offered more out of a need for something to do with her hands than a real desire to welcome him. Whatever Molly might have said, a midnight visit could only be an inconvenience on top of a pile of inconveniences. Smiling, he answered, “No, thank you. I won’t keep you long. When you say she’s not well…?”

“I mean she’s not well.” With a great air of exhaustion, she slid into her vacated seat at the table and momentarily hid her face in her hands. “She won’t eat. She won’t drink. Hardly sleeps. We can’t get her to talk to anyone.”

“It sounds as though she ought to go to St. Mungo’s.”

“Don’t think we haven’t suggested it. The last time Arthur offered to take her, she nearly cursed him.”

Pity welled in the pit of Remus’ stomach. Everyone had known this arrangement would not be fair to the Weasleys, who already had so many members of their own family to worry about, but where else could you have gone? Grimmauld Place was no longer a haven, physically or mentally. Neither could you have gone with Remus where his work took him. With Sirius gone, you were quite as alone as Remus always was.

“I’m sorry, Molly.”

She seemed startled by the apology. “Don’t be! We don’t mind looking after her, the poor dear. It would just be nice if she were a little more…cooperative.”

“I’ll speak to her about cursing Arthur this very night.”

“If anyone can make her see sense, you can.” To this statement, Remus could make no reply. He wondered if he was not now nothing more than a painful reminder for you, after Sirius’ death. “She’s staying in the twin’s old room for now. Here, I’ll show you.”

“I can find it myself,” he said before she could stand up. “If I’m not very much mistaken, your clock says Arthur is on his way. Stay here. Greet him. If we need anything, I’ll let you know.”

Molly’s lips thinned. Remus expected her to argue. Then she let out a long sigh, nodded gratefully, and looked over her shoulder at the clock propped up in the chair across from her. Sure enough, her husband’s hand had leapt from “mortal danger” to “travelling.”

“It’s the door that smells like smoke. You can’t miss it,” she said.

“Thank you.”

One whispered word from his wand, and the tip ignited. Remus followed its beam through the cozy living room and up the stairs. He had not climbed far when, true to Molly’s word, the twang of smoke filled his nostrils. Pausing to listen for signs of life inside the room brought him nothing. Well, all he could do then was what he had come to do. The sooner he got things over with, the sooner he could leave the Weasleys in peace.

His quiet knock drew no answer, which did not surprise him given the hour. Waiting for a more reasonable time to wake you, however, was not an option. He was expected back on duty before sunrise. After a moment in which he allowed himself to imagine a better world in which this conversation was not necessary, Remus put his hand on the doorknob, twisted it, and pushed the door open.

The black room smelled of smoke mixed with unwashed hair. No light save for that from his wand broke the dark. Small stacks of boxes caught the gleam, looking oddly flat inside the white glow. He followed their path with his eyes until they reached the bed, then brought his gaze further up to the woman sitting upon it. Only after he had adjusted to seeing in the dark did he notice how gaunt that woman was.

One month had passed since Sirius died. In that time, your skin had shrunk to cling to your bones; your eyes had sank into your skull; and your hair had transformed into a wild, tangled nest. In short, you looked almost like Sirius had in his wanted posters—and he had spent twelve years in Azkaban.

“Remus?” you croaked through a throat dry with disuse.

His smile that time was the hardest bought of the evening, and he was thankful that he could drop it when he turned to pull the door shut behind him.

Nox,” he said, picking his way over to the bed stand. The candle there lit with a jab of his wand. You both blinked at each other in the sudden flood of light.

“What are you doing here?” you asked him.

“I’ve been planning to visit for weeks. Surely Molly told you.”

You shrugged. “I didn’t think you’d really come.”

All the time you spoke, your eyes remained fixed on the chipped wall. Remus moved to sit on the bed next to you. Even that didn’t seem to jar you at all.

“Why wouldn’t I come?” he said. His tone was gentle, patient. The last thing he expected was for his question to bring tears to your red-rimmed eyes.

“Because it was my fault,” you said, so listlessly that Remus suspected you’d been saying the exact same words to yourself for weeks.

“Why would you—”

Don’t.” Though you still would not look at him, your voice cracked. “I can’t hear that it wasn’t my fault. Not from you.”

Remus very carefully looped his arm around your back. The smell of your dirty hair intensified. He hardly noticed; werewolves often smelled worse than that. You, at least, did not reek of blood, only pain and despair.

A tiny shudder pressed its way up your spine, as though you had to suppress the urge to tip your head onto his shoulder. Gone was the little girl the Marauders had adopted as their own during her second year. Remus did not believe that he would ever get see that girl again.

“If you can’t hear it from a friend, who can you hear it from?” he asked.

“You wouldn’t be my friend,” you said, “if you knew.”

“We’ve been friends for years, [Name]. Nothing can change that.”

“This would.”

“Sirius dying was not your fault.”

“That’s not what I’m talking about.”

“Then what—” Before he could finish his sentence, you snapped your face in his direction. The vacancy in your eyes drew him short. He had seen that look before, in his parents eyes so long ago, but never in yours. You shivered again, this time so forcefully that the motion rocked the bed. Your tongue snaked out of your lips to wet your mouth.

“I—” Nothing more came out. Your eyes shut as you shook your head. “I—I—I—”

“[Name], it’s okay. You don’t have to—”

“We were expecting,” you choked out at last.

Stunned, Remus could do nothing as something inside you burst. Sleeping children lay above and below, but they were forgotten in the moment. You sobbed so hard it sounded as though your chest might crack open. Still he gaped, frozen in place. He had to cough several time before he found the voice to say:

“You’re pregnant?”

Your crying continued. You only shook your head wildly as the noise increased in volume.

“But you just said…”

“I lost the baby,” you moaned into your knees. A chill like that of a dementor attack filled the room. Your tears drained slowly away into continued sniffles and hiccups. “The night h-he died. When—When Kingsley told me—I—it’s gone! Sirius didn't even know. I hadn't told him yet. Now it doesn't matter. They're both dead.”

“But…”

No, it made sense. For so long, you’d been alone. James and Lily dead. Peter blasted to bits. Sirius locked away for their murders. In many ways, you and Remus had only had each for twelve years. Even that had been strained. You could not believe Sirius capable of betraying your makeshift collection of older brothers. Remus could not afford to believe otherwise. Then—to get Sirius back—to be with him again—to have your faith confirmed—only to lose him not once, but twice. The grief of it. Who could have stood it?

“Oh, [Name],” he breathed.

“He’s gone. The baby’s gone. If I had just been stronger, maybe just one of them would still be here.”

It wasn’t your fault. That much remained true. Remus wanted to repeat the fact, but the words simply wouldn’t leave his lungs. There you sat, crying in his arms, heartsick in the worst of ways, and he, your last remaining friend, could do nothing to comfort you.

So he did the only thing he could, and that was to cry with you, for your lost friend, for your lost child. It wouldn’t solve your problems or his own, but maybe, just maybe, the shared grief might help you finally start to heal.

Chapter Text

The summer prior to your seventh year was the coldest in your memory. It was not just the breeding of dementors that caused the chill, either. Sixteen had not been good year for you. The slow rise of Voldemort had seen the loss of many things: your normal life, your family, and—worst of all—Albus Dumbledore, the one person who had tried to keep a young, distraught woman intact. Staring out upon the misty yard of the Weasley home, you felt as numb and as hopeless as the night you’d got the owl saying your parents had died in the line of duty.

“What are you looking at, [Name]? You’ve been awfully quiet.”

You turned at last from Ron’s bedroom window. Three others crowded the tiny space: Ron himself, Hermione, and, of course, Harry. It was the last who had interrupted your deluge of thoughts. The trio had been talking among themselves, you realized, and you hadn’t heard a word. Bashful, you stepped carefully through Hermione’s large spread of books to sit next to her on the small bed. Her frown deepened the closer you got to her.

“What’s wrong?” she asked. “You don’t look so well.”

What wasn’t wrong was a better question. All the same, you didn’t want to intrude on their planning. Mrs. Weasley hadn’t given any of you a chance to sit down since Harry arrived. You shook your head as you pulled your knees to your chest to give Ron more walking room. Hermione, however, knew you well enough to press the issue.

“[Name]…”

“I was thinking,” you said slowly, “about how I won’t get to go back to school.”

“Why wouldn’t you be able to go back to school?” said Harry. Even as you smiled at him, your fingers clapped around your forearm. The raised skin there felt hard through the fabric of your top. He knew better than anyone what direction your thoughts were going, and scowled as he added, “That shouldn’t be an issue.”

“It shouldn’t be, but it will be,” Ron said absently, only to have Harry turn his scowl on him instead.

“Dumbledore—”

“Dumbledore’s gone, Harry,” said Hermione.

“McGonagall won’t—”

“McGonagall won’t have a choice.” You sounded tired, and you were. Those same thoughts had been playing through your mind on repeat every night since your former headmaster’s death. It was hard to believe that a mere year ago, you had had both parents and a healthy body. “Voldemort’s got his claws into the Ministry. They’re not going to let a werewolf go to school.”

“She won’t let them ban you. She’ll fight it.”

“And they’ll get her fired and replaced with a Death Eater. Or they’ll just kill her outright. Face it, Harry. Hogwarts needs Professor McGonagall more than it needs me.” No one needed you. In the face of Harry’s fierce gaze, you felt tears prick at the corners of your eyes, and stared at your bare feet to avoid him seeing.

“That’s not fair,” he said at last.

You had to smile at that. “No, it’s not. I just don’t where I’ll go instead.”

“Well, that’s obvious,” said Ron. “You’ll stay here. Mum and Dad won’t kick you out.”

Molly and Arthur had shown you a great kindness in opening their home to you that summer. They’d known your parents well, had practically been your adopted aunt and uncle while you’d been growing up. So long as Lupin came by once a month with a Wolfsbane Potion, you were not a danger to them…but you were still another mouth to feed in a difficult time, another obstacle to the Weasleys managing a happy life. How could you stay, knowing that? A werewolf in the house would only make things harder for Arthur at work.

“No,” you said. “I’ll probably go abroad. My parents left me some money. Maybe I’ll go to America, and—”

“You’ll come with us.”

A beat of silence followed Harry’s proclamation. Ron and Hermione exchanged a look you didn’t understand—not that you could spare much thought about its meaning, given how busy you were gaping at Harry.

What?” you gasped.

“You’ll come with us. We can’t go back to Hogwarts either. It makes sense.”

Your nervous laughter lifted into the air. “No, it doesn’t. You’ve already said you didn’t want me coming.”

“I’ve changed my mind.”

“I’m not asking for your pity.”

“This isn’t pity.”

“Do you think I’m going to run off to America and fall in love with some other boy?”

“Hardly.”

“Good,” you said. You knew how lucky you were, to have a boyfriend that didn’t care that you’d been bitten. When the other students flung curses at you even after Dumbledore had allowed you to continue your education, Harry had gone out of his way to protect you. You loved him. But you wouldn’t ask him for more than he had already given you. “I can’t come with you. Wherever you’re going, I’m sure Wolfsbane Potions will be light on the ground.”

“Actually…” Every eye in the room swiveled to Hermione. As usual when it to came her myriad talents, she remained perfectly blasé as she continued, “I’ve been practicing, and I think I’ve got the finer details down. Keeping you docile at the full moon shouldn’t be a problem at all.”

Hermione doing this—especially after all the times she’d given you a shoulder to cry on the year before—broke your heart. “That’s lovely,” you said in a hushed voice, “but we won’t exactly be able to get ingredients on the fly.”

“Oh, don’t worry about that,” she said cheerfully. “I’ve been making regular orders in bulk all summer. There’s enough to keep you in stock for at least a year inside my bag.”

The statement struck you speechless. A desire to cry swallowed you so fully that for several minutes you were capable only of preventing yourself from doing so. Eventually, you were able to croak out:

“Why?”

Ron smirked as he reached over to clap your back. “Neither of us really thought Harry would be able to leave you behind, mate. I’ve been taking notes from Lupin whenever he visits, too. You know, so we can make sure you’re comfortable while we’re on the road.”

Now you couldn’t help but allow the tears to run down your cheeks. Harry caught your eye and nodded.

“So it’s settled. You’re coming.”

“Th-thank you,” you said through a hiccup. Then, before anything else could be said, Ron leaned in closer for a hug. Hermione followed suit. So did Harry, until you were tangled up in the arms of all your closest friends, laughing and crying at the same time. Yes, you were more alone than you’d ever been in your life in some ways, but as far as you were concerned, in that moment, there had never been a place you’d more belonged.

Chapter Text

Valentine’s Day: an otherwise normal day of classes at Hogwarts, broken up only by couples getting a little too close. As the entire castle headed for the Great Hall for dinner that night, many voices joined together in plans for the next Hogsmeade visit. Your voice did not take part. You were far too busy loitering in front of the Hall’s doors and worrying over what came next to think of anything so mundane as as Hogsmeade weekend.

“And what are you doing? As though I don’t already know.”

Once the shock of being so suddenly addressed passed, you found the source of the question: a tall, willowy, beautiful witch gliding down the last step of the stairs nearby. It was Mary Allister, your best friend, and the absolute last person you wanted to see at that moment.

“I could ask the same of you,” you grumbled when she was close enough to hear you. Your sullen greeting only caused Mary to grin wickedly.

“I wouldn’t miss this for tickets to the next World Cup,” she said. “Little Miss Perfect, about to make an absolute fool of herself!”

Blush flooded your cheeks. “I’m not making a fool of myself.”

She tossed her head proudly, making a display with her glossy dark hair that hardly improved your confidence. “Your blood isn’t anywhere near pure enough to tempt Tom Riddle. That sounds foolish to me.”

“He’s an orphan. No one knows who his parents are. My blood might be purer than his.”

“Does he even know you exist?”

“He will after this! Now are you here to encourage me, or make fun of me?”

“Oh, a little of both. Better hurry, unless you want to wait until next year to talk to him.”

Gasping, you whirled about to face the other direction. Sure enough, Tom Riddle was there, leaving dinner while deep in conversation with a fellow Slytherin boy. Months of planning might have soon been for nothing had you not called out, “Tom!” before you could stop yourself.

He and his friend drew to a stop. So unexpected was that development that you froze up. Mary had to give you a rough shove to get you moving again, and even then, the handsome man ahead continued to look around for someone else’s approach until you stood right in front of him.

“Yes?” he said after a brief pause.

Egads, he was beautiful. What had you been thinking? Mary was right. Pure-blood or not, Tom Riddle was far too smart, gorgeous, and talented for the likes of you, whether or not you were prefect, top of your class, and a quidditch team captain.

“What do you want, girl?” Tom’s friend demanded. You gave a slight start, then shoved a small parcel into Tom’s chest.

“I-I-I wanted to give you this,” you stammered.

“What is it?” Tom asked as he took the package. If you’d been red before, now you were the color of a Chinese Fireball.

You swallowed. “A…Valentine’s Day present.”

Something in his dark eyes seemed to flicker. He looked…angry. But you must have imagined that, because he blinked a second later and looked again his pleasant self. “You’re [F Name] [L Name], correct?”

He knew? Your voice lost, all you could manage in was a nod.

“Professor Dumbledore speaks very highly of you. It’s a pleasure to meet at last.”

“We’re going to be late for our meeting with Professor Slughorn,” said the other boy, impatient.

“Coming, Lestrange. I’ll open this later,” he added to you as he pocketed the gift. “Good evening, [Name]. I hope to see you again.”

Just like that, he and Lestrange were gone, leaving you to gape after them. Mary, once she arrived, was just as stunned as you were. Only getting some warm roast into your stomach started to wake you back up—and that only long enough to shoot straight to cloud nine. Mary had been wrong. Half-blood or not, you might have had a chance with Tom Riddle after all.

Chapter Text

“Eh, Remus?”

A soft voice broke the stuffy silence of Hogwarts’ library. Night had fallen; curfew was near; Remus had thought he was the only student that remained cramming for the following morning’s Potions exam. The rest of his friends had returned to Gryffindor Tower long ago. He almost thought he’d imagined the voice, but when his tired eyes dragged upward, he found you standing next to his table. You frowned in the steadily fading candlelight.

“Oh, hello, [Name].” A thin smile was offered to you as Remus gently closed his book on antidotes. “What are you doing up so late?”

“I could ask you the same question,” you replied.

“Studying.”

“So close to curfew?”

His shoulders lifted in a shrug. “Why not?”

To his great concern, your frown only deepened. Had he said something wrong? He must have, for instead of bidding him goodnight and leaving to check out your things before the library closed, you pulled out the chair next to him and took a seat.

“Remus, you don’t look well.”

He blinked owlishly at you, relieved that in the darkness you could not see the red creeping into his face, and that Sirius was not nearby to make a mountain out of a niffler mound. A nervous finger stretched out the worn collar of his ill-fitting robes. “I feel fine.”

“You’ve got bags under your eyes again, and you’re all pale.”

“Oh, that. I’ve told you before, I always look like this.” At least so close to the full moon, Remus always looked like that. The following evening, he’d be running through the forest with James and Sirius and Peter—but you couldn’t know that. You couldn’t know why he looked sickly every few weeks. Keeping you in the dark might have been easier, unfortunately, if you hadn’t taken a sudden interest in him at the beginning of the term.

“Not always.” Scowling, you crossed your arms over your chest.

“Often enough to be always.”

“And that’s supposed to make me not worry?”

Yes, Remus decided, he was very glad that Sirius and James weren’t there to hear this. Your [color] eyes gleamed at him through the dimness. By then, his blush had climbed high enough that his ears burned. “You shouldn’t be worried at all,” he answered as he tried to pick his book up casually, despite the lengthy pause that had preceded his reply. He didn’t manage it quite fast enough, and saw your eyes narrow before he got his back on the page.

You didn’t move. Somewhere in the back of the library, an old grandfather clock ticked off the minutes. For all of Remus’ running his eyes across the words, not a single one sank into his mind. He could concentrate on nothing but your closeness, your staring at him…and something Sirius had said earlier that very year:

“So, I spotted you and [L Name] walking to class together today.”

“So?”

“So? That’s the third time this week!”

“She had a question about the Transfiguration homework, that’s all.”

“Didn’t look like a homework question to me.”

“Meaning?”

“You two looked…cozy.”

“There’s nothing cozy about that corridor in the middle of winter.”

“She’s clearly in love with you, Moony! When are you going to ask her out?”

“How about never?”

“Never! Why never?”

“You know why never. She can’t know my secret.”

“You can take a girl out without telling her your whole life story.”

“Well, you would know all about that, wouldn’t you?”

“Actually, I would.”

“You want me to be miserable.”

“I want you to be happy. You deserve that.”

“I’m not going to ask [Name] out. There’s no point in encouraging her.”

“Suit yourself. An afternoon with you in Hogsmeade might cure her of her interest, at least. Think about it, Remus, won’t you?”

“You don’t feel warm.”

Remus blinked hard, and found himself back in your company in the library. You had a hand pressed to his forehead and another frown pulling down your lips. Embarrassed, he brushed your hand away, avoiding your gaze once more. “It’s because I’m fine, [Name].”

Was it his imagination that you blushed that time? Suddenly shy, you gathered your books into your arms and quickly cleared your throat. “Right.” Your voice sounded oddly high as you turned toward the door. “Sorry to have bothered you, Remus. Goodnight.”

He watched you go with an odd sinking sensation in the pit of his stomach. No girl had ever shown an interest in him before. How could they, with Sirius and—to a slightly lesser extent—James always hanging around? While the rest of his group, including Peter, dated and fell in love and experienced heartbreak, Remus had watched on, telling himself that he preferred to be alone. That he deserved to be alone. That even without the werewolf problem factored in, his shabby appearance would drive any woman away. He could not provide after Hogwarts, could not support a family. Better that his hopes not rise only to be dashed. Better to be alone than a destroyer of lives.

But then there was you: walking him to class, giving him homemade Pepperup Potions after the full moon, stolidly ignoring James’ and Sirius’ incessant teasing. Remus realized he might not have been as okay with being alone as he’d once thought. Maybe Sirius was right. Maybe one date wouldn’t get anyone hurt.

Books forgotten, Remus stood and walked briskly toward the hall. “Library is closing, Lupin, dear,” said the librarian. “Don’t you need your things?”

He didn’t hear her. As soon as one foot was safely inside the corridor, he broke into a trot. So close to curfew, the halls were mostly empty. No sign of you lay up ahead, and he worried he might not spot you until after you’d re-entered the Tower, upon which hope all would be lost, as he wouldn’t dare do what he was about to do in front of his friends, and it wasn’t likely he’d work up the nerve to ever try again.

By the time he reached the corner around which the entrance to the Gryffindor common room sat, he was sprinting. So close to his time of the month, exerting himself did not feel good—but it was worth it, for as soon as he rounded that corner, he saw you preparing to give the password to the Fat Lady.

“[Name]!” he called. To his relief, you paused. Better still, you did not look angry once he arrived, panting, to stand in front of you.

“Remus?” you said, bewildered. When he could not answer for gasping for air, you crouched to look at his shining face. “What’s wrong? Do you need the nurse?”

“No!” With a great deal of effort, he straightened and managed to quit wheezing. Your confusion did not vanish, but neither did you rush him to explain himself. You waited politely until he was able to say, “I wanted to know if…if you’d like to go into Hogsmeade with me this weekend.”

Astonishment showed so plainly on your face that Remus thought he must have mistaken your intentions. Sirius was not often wrong about women, but he was often wrong about everything else. Could you be the first combination of both? When you rearranged your expression into a furrowed brow, his conviction deepened. Then you said:

“Will Potter and Black be there?”

“Er…” Lying would certainly not set this whole affair off on the right foot. “Probably. But I’ll try to convince them to stay out of sight at least.”

Your answering smile was radiant. “Then I’d love to.”

Remus heard you fine, but even after all his effort, he could not be sure. “You…you will?”

“Of course. I’ve only been trying to get you to ask me out since September.”

He beamed at you. You smiled right back. Several minutes of standing like that in happy silence were interrupted by the Fat Lady impatiently clearing her throat.

Well?” she said. Starting, you turned your attention back to the painting.

“Sorry! Password’s Devil’s Snare.”

“Thank you.”

Slightly pink in the face, you looked back at Remus as the Tower’s entrance appeared. “Shall we?”

“After you.”

Going in first himself seemed a better idea after clambering in to find his trio of friends lying in wait right beyond the opening. They grinned wickedly at you and Remus in turn. To your credit, you only gave them each a cool nod before heading for the stairs. “Potter. Black. Pettigrew.”

“Hi—Hi, [Name]!” Peter squeaked.

Only after you’d disappeared did Remus relax—not that James had any intention of letting him do so. He and Sirius caught each other’s eye in such a fashion that Remus almost began to regret what he’d just done. Almost.

“So,” said James. “What was that about?”

“Nothing,” Remus answered, and was rewarded with seeing Sirius’ face fall with disappointment.

Nothing?” he repeated.

“Just studying for the test. I’m tired. Think I’ll turn in.”

He could only imagine their expressions after he stepped past them. A small smile worked its way onto Remus’ face. For once, he had a good secret to keep. He felt good, despite the moon in his dormitory window beaming almost fully fattened far above, and it was all thanks to you.

Chapter Text

Morning arrived too gray and dreary to fill the small bedroom with sun. You woke with your hair splayed across an unfamiliar pillow, and thin, threadbare sheets twisted around your body. For a bleary moment, you wondered what in Merlin's name could have interrupted your sleep. The fog pressed against the nearby window was too dark and quiet to have done so. Then you realized that the body next to yours was stirring.

A hook-nosed, greasy-haired man rose slowly from the bed. At the sight of his scrawny naked back, all your memories of the night before came flooding back—the kind of memories that ached.

“Where are you going?” you snarled as Severus Snape extracted himself from the covers. He turned a quizzical black eye to you. At once, you snatched the sheets up and over your bare chest. During the previous night, Snape had seen more of your body than any man in your life, and yet shame burned in your cheeks at his seeing it in the relative light of day. That his gaze never once strayed from your face only fanned those flames higher.

“To see the Dark Lord,” Snape answered at last.

You peeked under the covers at the skin of your left forearm. “I didn’t feel my Mark burn.”

One of those false smiles of his that you so despised played across his mouth. “The call is for me alone. Or are you displeased to have your husband torn away from you so soon?”

A hard grin of your own met his. “Trying to get away from me already?”

“Forgive me.” Snape inclined his head. “I had not realized you wished to keep me around now that the deed has been done. Shall I ask him for more time for an, ah, honeymoon?”

“I can ask him myself if I so wish!” The nerve of Snape, to stand before you exposed and laugh at you. If he had not been the favorite of your master, you would have hexed him on the spot. “And I do not wish it,” you added. “I do not wish to see you ever again. Go on your ‘mission,’ and die. I would like it better that way.”

He tutted. “We’ve only been married a day. Let us not start quarreling. After all, the Dark Lord has blessed our marriage himself.”

“I had no choice in the matter, as you very well know!”

Perhaps if you had been a little more like your sisters and found a suitable pure-blood spouse—”

“I would have been more useless to him.”

“—he would not have seen fit to reward me by giving you to me,” Snape finished as though you hadn’t interrupted.

“I am not chattel!” you snapped.

“If you had not been so enamored with a certain Sirius Black…”

“Do not,” you jumped out of bed, taking the blankets with you, “speak to me of Sirius Black!”

Your anger did not disturb him. “He thought of you like every other girl that came onto him, but he knew what you were. He wouldn’t touch you, would he?”

“Shut up!”

“And now you are chattel, to be bred for the pure world to come, and you deign to act as though the Dark Lord did not do you a favor by finding you a willing husband.”

“At least Sirius Black was pure!” you screamed. “What about you? How are you any better? You and your obsession with that filthy mudblood—” Your words choked off as your tongue stuck to the roof of your mouth. In front of you, Snape held his wand, snatched from the bedside table, his already ghoulish face twisted with rage.

“Do not,” he breathed heavily, “ever speak of Lily Evans that way again.”

Unable to answer, you simply glared at him.

“Do you understand?” he shouted.

Again, you made no motion to reply. There was a flash of light, and you flew into the air where you dangled from your ankle. Your only source of coverage slid to the floor. You were naked, and no matter how you struggled, you could not free yourself from Snape’s spell.

He took his sweet time sauntering toward your slowly twisting body. All the shadows in the room put his hooked nose in higher relief than ever. Still unable to speak, you glowered at him until the two of you were practically face to face.

“I,” he said in that high, dangerous voice of his, “am no more pleased by this situation than you are. However, if the Dark Lord wills it, we have no choice. We must make do. But if you ever, ever,” he grabbed your upside down chin, “speak of Lily Evans again, I assure you that I will do everything in my power to convince the Dark Lord your services do not require a tongue. Do I make myself clear?”

Your lips curled. A stupid mudblood could ruin your life even so long after her well-deserved death. Well, if your beloved husband wanted to spend his years pining over Lily Evans, you could at least appreciate her causing him pain.

As Snape let go of you and took a step back, you felt your tongue unstick. He raised a single eyebrow when you continued to keep quiet.

“Well?” he asked.

What choice did you have? If Snape had threatened you with death, there would have been no question of your decision. What he promised was far worse. However hard you had worked, whatever loyalty you had shown, the Dark Lord had more use for the man that stood in front of you.

“Yes,” you spat.

The saliva at his feet only brought a cold smile to his face. “Very good.” With that, he walked to the room’s wardrobe to dress. Before he turned to apparate, he looked at you again. “Do try to be patient. I’ll be home soon. Then we can begin our life of happily wedded bliss.”

At the same time he disappeared, you fell onto the bed. Your pillow muffled the hot, angry tears that bubbled up from inside you. Your sisters had been right. All that time, you thought you had mattered to your master, but in the end, your life had turned just as foggy and dark as the day outside the window.

Chapter Text

Albus Severus Potter sat by the edge of the lake, brooding as he often did when left to his own devices. There was not much else to do. It was the end of December and so bitterly cold that even the giant squid could not crack the ice on top of its home. The Hogwarts grounds lay silent under several feet of fresh snow. No one remained out of doors to build snow forts or to have snowball fights. Albus was alone, or so he thought.

A distant voice came to him on the wind. Another lousy ghost, he figured, or, worse, James home from vacation early. He huddled closer to his jar of fire and ignored whoever it was calling. They would leave eventually. They always did.

“…Albus? Is that you, Albus?” The noise of boots on ice accompanied the voice once it was nearer. What was more, the voice belonged to someone he knew, and that someone was not his brother. Blinking, he shifted on the freezing shore to watch your approach.

“[Name]?” he asked. “What are you doing out here alone?”

You placed your hands on your hips in a characteristic gesture. “I could ask you the same thing. May I sit down?”

“Oh. Sure.” He scrambled a bit away to allow you room beside the fire jar. You took it, prodded the jar with your wand, muttered, and sat back as the warmth and light intensified.

“That’s better.”

“So?” Albus prompted you.

“So…what?”

“What are you doing here?”

You frowned. “Looking for you, obviously.”

“Why would you be looking for me?”

You and Albus were not even in the same House. As evidenced by the enormous black-and-yellow striped scarf thrown around your neck, you were in Hufflepuff. You were friendly enough in the classes you both shared—Care of Magical Creatures and Defense Against the Dark Arts—after Scorpius had charmed a particularly threatening older Gryffindor for you, but that didn’t mean you were friends. Only in third year, and you were keeper for your house team. He’d seen James eyeing you often enough to know what that meant.

“Don’t you want some company?” you asked, instead of answering his question.

Albus scowled. “I stayed here because I didn’t.” And what a row that had been. It had taken the combined efforts of his mother, aunt, and uncle to keep his father from flying to Hogsmeade to retrieve him. James and Lily would have a field day teasing him when they got back.

“Well, I stayed because I did. Where’s Scorpius?”

“At home with his father. Why don’t you just leave me alone, [Name]?”

“I just told you. If I wanted to spend Christmas alone, I’d have gone back to the orphanage.”

“Go spend it with someone in Hufflepuff, then,” Albus muttered.

“Spoken like a true Slytherin.” That got him angry enough to look at you. You grinned. “Come on, Albus. Let’s get where it’s warm.”

When he saw you reaching for his hand over the jar, he remembered all over again why James liked you so much. You were lithe from quidditch practice, with clear skin and eyes that held a dancing warmth that Albus almost never had directed at him by others. Why did you have to come outside and remind him of what he couldn’t have?

“Just leave me alone, [Name],” he said crossly. He had never had to talk to you without Scorpius around before. Albus found he didn’t like it. “You go where it’s warm. I like it out here.”

Finally, you frowned. “You’re being a right brat right now, you know?”

“So? If you wanted someone friendly to talk to, you should have gone looking for James.”

“If I wanted to talk to your brother,” you crossed your arms over your chest, “I’d have gone home with him for Christmas when he invited me.”

A cold that had nothing to do with the wintery air froze him to the core. He gaped in the face of your grumpy expression. James had gone that far? Albus swallowed.

“My brother?” he asked.

“Uh-huh.”

“Invited you to our house for Christmas?”

“Earth to Albus. That’s what I just said.”

He opened and closed his mouth twice more while his brain connected the dots. James wasn’t just looking at you; he was actively pursuing you! No matter how much James received—friends, loving parents, good grades, popularity—he had decided that he had to take you, too.

With a jolt, Albus stood, knocking his only heat and light source into the snow. His hands balled into fists. “Well, that’s just great!” he spat. “Why don’t you just send an owl to James, then? I’m sure my father can arrange to floo you over there!”

Angry tears burned his eyes. He didn’t wait for your reply before he turned to run back toward the dark shape of the castle on the horizon. One thing! James couldn’t even let him have this one thing!

“Petrificus Totalus!”

One second, Albus was moving at a decent clip. The next, each of his limbs snapped against his body. He toppled backward into a drift.

“Albus Severus Potter!” you shouted as you appeared above him. Your cheeks had gone dark. “I know this is a lot to ask of you, but could you stop being an idiot for five minutes and listen to me?”

Seeing as you still had him in a full-body bind, he had very little choice but to do so.

“If I had wanted to spend the holidays with your sainted brother, I’d have gone. I didn’t! Crazy as this sounds, I really wanted to spend them with you!”

You breathed heavily and watched him. Only after several chilly minutes of silence did you remember that Albus was unable to answer you. The counter was uttered, and a hand offered to pull him up. He took the hand that time.

“You…don’t like James?” he asked, feeling a little bit ashamed of himself.

“No. He’s a prat. Why would I date a guy that treats my friends like dragon dung?”

“We’re friends?”

You nodded. “Could be better if you’d quit hiding behind Scorpius all the time. And wouldn’t yell at me when I’m worried you’ll get frostbite.”

“I’m sorry,” Albus said. “I just…my brother…”

“You don’t have to explain it. Having a family must be rough.”

He chuckled. “You have no idea.”

“Great. Now that we’re on the right feet again,” the familiar twinkle reappeared in your eyes, “will you please come play gobstones with me in the Castle? I’m lonely; I’m bored; and I’ve already filched a whole tray of turkey sandwiches from the kitchens.”

The two of you were almost back inside when he realized:

“A whole tray? So you knew I’d come all along!”

You flashed him a knowing look as you pulled open the doors. “I had an idea.”

For the first time that day, a slow smile spread across Albus’ face. He followed you through the winding halls of the school and then—surreptitiously, in case anyone or their cat might be watching—into the otherwise empty Hufflepuff common room. There all was bright and warm, including your smile. You won every round of gobstones, but happy, full of food, and feeling that James might not have got everything he’d wanted for Christmas, Albus didn’t mind. That holiday, James was missing something that Albus wasn’t: your friendship, and the subtle promise of something more.

Chapter Text

Bright shone the day you arrived in Britain for the long-awaited wedding. One minute, you stood in comforting, familiar Sofia, the next in strange, unfamiliar Ottery St. Catchpole. The effects of the long-distance portkey showed in your dizzy steps that followed your arrival. You’d never have found where you were going had you not been steadied by a firm hand at your elbow.

“Careful,” said Viktor in your shared native tongue. “Are you all right?”

“The only thing I’ve hurt is my pride,” you assured him as you straightened yourself. “I’m still not used to traveling so far magically.”

He smiled. “You should come to more of my games.”

“And miss an opportunity for a great assignment that isn’t your record? I think not.”

The smile on his face widened as Viktor moved his hand to yours. “Come along. We don’t want to be late.”

To be honest, you would not have minded. You would not have minded missing the entire blasted ceremony. Going was important to Viktor, though, so you allowed him to pull you along beside him. He knew where he was going, at least. The wide field in which you had landed seemed to stretch into the horizon in every direction. Soon enough—too soon for your liking—a strange shape reared up against the landscape. As you drew nearer, you realized the shape was a house with a large tent filled with people set up next to it. Sure enough, that tent was your destination. Viktor led you right to the entrance of it, where there stood a boy with a shock of bright blue hair waiting for guests.

“Friends of the groom or the bride?” asked the boy.

“Bride,” Viktor answered in English. The child nodded and made to show you to your seats. Before he could get more than a few steps ahead, he got a good look at Viktor, and froze in place.

You’re Viktor Krum!” he gasped.

“That is me, yes.”

One of the things you loved most about Viktor was his modesty. You’d been dating another member of the Bulgarian National quidditch team when the two of you had met. That man certainly hadn’t known a thing about humility, and you were quite glad now that the relationship hadn’t worked out. Then again, he probably wouldn’t have thought it a good idea to drag you to his ex-girlfriend’s wedding.

The boy, however, seemed not to be thinking of quidditch at all. He brightened upon confirmation of his suspicions, then headed off in an entirely different direction. “Auntie wanted to see you when you got here. Follow me!”

“If that is what Herm-Own-Ninny wishes,” Viktor said as he made to do so. His grip on your hand did not allow you to slip away unseen into the pavilion. “There is no need to be nervous,” he added quietly, the pair of you trailing after the child through the home’s cramped kitchen.

“Me? Why should I be nervous?” All you were doing was meeting your husband’s first love, the perfect, demure, brilliant woman who corresponded with him regularly to that very day. “I only worry about what the tabloids back home will say.”

The dark eyes he turned upon you sparkled with amusement. “Do you care what they say about you all of a sudden?”

“Of course not!”

“Neither do I. Don’t worry. You will like Herm-Own-Ninny very much.”

At that very moment, your youthful chaperone stopped at a door on the third floor landing. He rapped on it before saying loudly, “Auntie! Viktor Krum is here to see you!”

Several seconds later, the door opened. A very pretty woman with bright red hair appeared there to ruffle the top of the boy’s head. “Thanks, Teddy,” she said. “Now get back to your post before Perce finds out you left it.”

“Okay!” Teddy sang, then pushed past you to race back the way had come from.

“Come on in,” said the woman, stepping aside to let you through. Inside the room were three other women: one blonde reading a magazine in the corner by the window, a brunette sitting at a large oval mirror, and the last another blonde working on the second’s hair. Only the last did you recognize. Fleur Weasley, her husband, and her daughter had all come to your own wedding a year ago. The redhead looked enough like Bill that she must have been a relative. Beyond those two, though, you were lost in a sea of strangers.

When the door closed behind you, the woman at the mirror gasped, stood, and walked over to your husband to embrace him.

“Viktor. I’m so glad you were able to make it.”

“Hermione! You will ruin your makeup,” Fleur scolded. Hermione smiled sheepishly and stepped away.

“Not that Ron will notice,” said the redhead. “He’ll be too busy trying not to trip on his own two feet. He, Harry, and Neville got into the Fire Whiskey last night, so Ron’s going to be even clumsier than usual.”

“You look wonderful,” Viktor told the bride, and indeed she did. Though this Hermione did not radiate beauty like Fleur did, she had a quiet grace that you knew instantly Viktor liked. Her simple but flattering wedding robes only added to the effect.

“It’s been too long,” Hermione said. “I’m ever so sorry I didn’t make it your wedding. It was such a busy time at the Ministry.”

“I understand. Let me introduce you to my wife now: [F Name] Krum.”

“Hello,” you said uncomfortably. Your Bulgarian accent was much thicker than Viktor’s, as you’d had fewer opportunities to practice English than he had. It made you feel dumber than usual hearing it around that lot.

Hermione offered you her hand without remark. “Hermione Granger, soon to be Granger-Weasley,” she said, and the pair of you shook. “I hope you don’t dislike me too much for inviting you. I wanted to invite Viktor, you see, and Ron will feel so much better knowing you came along, too. Besides, I’ve wanted to meet you for ages! Viktor talks about you all the time in his letters.”

“He does?”

Viktor chose that time to turn his attention to the redhead. “So, Ginny, I hear that you and I will be having a rematch soon?”

“He does,” Hermione said before she leaned in closer to add, “and I can tell he wasn’t lying. You seem exactly the kind of woman he’d fall head over heels for.”

You felt blood rush to your face. That Viktor had been so kind about you in his letters surprised you. He wasn’t really keen on expression his inner feelings to anyone but his closest friends. “He speaks quite highly of you as well.”

“He is a good sort of man, isn’t he? But enough about him. I’m sure you’ll be hearing about Viktor all night long. He tells me you work at the Bulgarian wizarding paper?”

“I do.”

“Do you keep a portfolio? Would you mind sending me some of your articles?”

“I could, but…why would you want them?”

“I think reading the news from a Bulgarian point of view would be fascinating,” she answered, “and I’m told you’re a wonderful writer.”

You rolled your eyes, and at last offered Hermione a smile of your own. “What does he know? He only cares about quidditch.”

“Men.” Hermione laughed.

To your great surprise, you spent a very pleasant ten minutes chatting with Hermione, Ginny, Fleur, and the last woman (who turned out to be an oddity by the name of Luna Lovegood). Time seemed to fly by until Viktor took you toward the door so that you could find your seats.

“Goodbye, Herm-Own-Ninny. We will see you at the service,” he said.

A chorus of goodbyes followed you down the stairs. Before you could step outside, however, Viktor pulled you aside.

“What?” you asked him.

“Do you forgive her now?”

“Forgive who?”

“Herm-Own-Ninny. For dating me so long ago.”

You frowned. “It was never a matter of forgiving her. She’s just a little hard to live up to. But you were right. She is very nice.”

“She liked you, too. I could tell.” He pressed a kiss to your temple, then intertwined his fingers with yours as you left the house together. “Do you think there will still be seats in the back?”

With Teddy’s help, you found a couple. It wasn’t long after you got settled that the music started and Hermione appeared. For the first time, you were able to see her with clear eyes. She was beautiful, and blissfully happy with her own love. Hermione Granger-Weasley was no longer your rival. One day, she might even become your friend.

Chapter Text

It had been a long time—perhaps not long enough a time—since last you had set foot inside the Hog’s Head. In many ways, the old building remained the same: same cobwebbed lamps, same peeling walls, same more-dust-than-wood floor. The only thing different there was you. You were older then, out of school, working full time for the Ministry, and (at the moment) so full of anxiety that it felt as though a swarm of billywigs had nested in your stomach.

Only two days prior, you had been summoned to this place. Your instructions were quite clear. You were to get a room for the evening so that you and a certain someone could have a private chat. Having not heard from the summoner for many years, you had eagerly made the reservations. Now that you were there for the meeting, however, you wondered if you hadn’t simply been fooled.

The crowd of dark-cloaked individuals sitting in the back of the bar did not assuage your fears. You recognized only two of them, and they were the Lestranges. The man had never shown you anything but disdain, and his wife…well, she kept throwing you looks fit to kill, and you could have sworn that, out of the corner of your eye, you’d seen her flick her wand in your direction several times. Why they kept looking at you, you had no idea, unless they were the ones that thought tricking you into a secret meeting had been a clever trap. The Lestranges had been written up by the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office recently, but why would they think you could get them out of it?

“Hello, [Name].”

You turned on your stool at the sound of the voice. There stood, handsome as always, a man you had not seen since shortly after you’d left Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. “Tom!” you said, and instantly rose to hug him. Tom Riddle did not hug you back, but stood stiffly in your embrace until you saw fit to release him.

“Do you have the room?” he asked when you were done. Still cheerful—Tom had never been one for public displays of affection, or any display of affection at all—you headed right for the creaky stairs.

“I do. Why are you all wet?” you asked as the two of you climbed up to the waiting room. Indeed, Tom's dark hair was covered in snow, and the front of your robes had gone damp during your hug. He took out his wand at once to begin blowing hot air at his head.

“I came from the Castle,” he explained.

“Hogwarts? What were you doing at Hogwarts?”

“Asking for a job,” Tom replied, waving his free hand impatiently while you unlocked the door with your own wand. “Not that it matters. That old fool wouldn’t give it to me.”

“What? Why wouldn’t Professor Dumbledore let you teach there?”

“You know he never liked me. What are you staring at?” he demanded, for as he came into the room you had let out a loud gasp. There in the better light, you realized that Tom did not look quite as handsome as always. His face looked as pale and waxy as a vampire’s, and the whites of his eyes were shot through with red veins.

“What happened? Did Professor Dumbledore curse you?”

“Of course not.” Tom dumped his cloak unceremoniously onto the bed.

“Then what—”

“Forget about him. He’ll meet his own end soon enough. You.” You started at his tone of voice; although Tom had never been gentle in the years you had dated during school, he’d always seemed more bored with you than angry. “I thought we discussed you using that filthy name to refer to me. I told you what I prefer to be called.”

For a moment, you were confused. Then it clicked. “You mean Voldemort?” That had been in one of his last letters to you before he quit Borgin and Burke’s to go exploring other countries. “You can’t be serious.”

“I do not wish to be known by a name so alike to a Mudblood’s. If you knew me…”

“I thought I did, To—Voldemort,” you hastily corrected yourself. Again, that strange flicker of anger came across his face. You had seen it often enough by then to know that it wasn’t a trick of the light, but still you did not know the meaning of it. When you had asked him during your sixth year, Tom had claimed he didn’t know what you were talking about.

“Maybe once. But those who know my real name—know it and use it—they know me better still.”

He seemed then to be talking more to himself than to you. His eyes remained fixed on his long, elegant fingers. For several minutes, he stood in silence as the snow built up against the window outside. Then you could take it no longer.

“They?" you asked. "Who is they?”

“Surely you saw them,” Tom said, looking at you at last. You wondered what you must have looked like to him, so much older than you had been the last time he'd seen you, older and softer and slower. A surprisingly ugly smile pulled at the corners of his mouth. “My followers. Those downstairs that wait to greet me.”

“That big crowd?” You tried to hide a pang at the thought that you were not the only one that Tom had called there that night. All over again, you felt like a child longing for the attention of someone as beautiful and intelligent as he had been. But he was right. You no longer knew him. “The Lestranges, right?”

“Among others. They await my orders. Tonight, it begins.”

“What begins? Tom,” you slipped again in your nerves, “why did you call me here?”

"Because I need you, [Name]. I’ve always needed you.”

Holding your elbows in your hands, you turned toward the black glass of the window. “It hasn’t felt much like that since you left.”

You felt him behind you for some time before he wrapped his arms around your waist and settled his chin on your shoulder. “I’ve been away learning.” His breath tickled your ear. “Learning so much. Dumbledore will be sorry he did not take advantage of my skills. You, though…You I called here for a special purpose.”

Already you felt the desire to melt against him, but you knew Tom wouldn’t like that. Always it was his decision where your bodies went and when. It was enough to be close to him, to have soft words whispered to you in the night. Most days it was enough, at any rate. That night had you so rattled that you broke his grip to look at him. “You mean like you called all your other friends to meet you downstairs?”

“Not quite like that. I assure you, you will be given an honor far greater than any of them. But first, I need to show you something.”

The eagerness in his voice made him sound almost like a boy again, albeit a boy with a distinct hiss to his words. Still, it was Tom, and you had loved Tom for as long as you could remember. If he said he would honor you, then he would. After you nodded your consent, he turned back to his robe and pulled a box out of the pocket.

“What is it?” you asked, curiosity getting the better of you. He beckoned you closer. Inside the box sat a huge golden locket emblazoned with a great green “S.” “It’s beautiful!”

“It was Slytherin’s. My forefather’s.”

“How did you—”

“I stole it.” He clicked the box shut. “While I was working for Borgin and Burke’s. You wouldn’t have seen the report of it missing. She kept it secret. You might remember the name of its owner, though, a certain Hepzibah Smith?”

“The old woman whose house-elf killed her! We represented the elf in court. How could you have got into her things?”

“I have my ways. Before I forget, you did as I asked and didn’t tell anyone I was coming to town, correct? You didn’t, say, mention it to that Mary of yours?”

“No. I didn’t.”

His bloodshot eyes seemed to grow enormous in front of you. Tom smiled another cruel smile, withdrawing his wand from the same place he’d pulled the locket from. “You’re lying. It works better that way. Her memory can be modified, just like the elf’s.”

You opened your mouth to form another question, but he cut across you before you could begin:

“An honor, [Name], remember? The highest honor of all. In a way, you will be a part of me forever.”

The last thing you saw was a flash of green light coming from the wand of the only man you had ever loved. Tom had never felt the same. He had not lied to you about the honor, however, for it was your death that kept the tiny heart inside that locket beating for many years to come. Your name would not go down in the wizarding history books, but what Tom created from you one day would.

Chapter Text

Hermione Granger almost never felt foolish. Embarrassed, yes. Angry? Absolutely. Foolishness, however, was an emotion that hardly ever plagued her. She knew that she was smart, and that she had good instincts. Why, then, did she feel so stupid abut walking into the Three Broomsticks on her own that November afternoon?

“Hermione!”

Her name came to her across the crowded pub as soon as she stepped through the door. A flash of movement from the back of the room caught her eye: you, waving above the heads of the other Hogwarts students crammed between your table and the entrance. For some reason, her feelings of stupidity increased as she picked her way toward your table.

“You made it,” you said as you shifted your bags off the chair beside you so that Hermione could take a seat, “and you didn’t bring Ron or Harry.”

“They have detention with Snape. I don’t know when they’ll learn they can’t just attack Malfoy outside of the dungeon, even if he did insult their families.”

You made a face of sympathy, though whether it was for her or her friends, Hermione didn’t know. There were a lot of things about you that she didn’t know—such as just why you had insisted on being given one of her elf hats when you’d caught her knitting in the library last month. Even stranger to her was that you were wearing that hat just then, out in public. The table of Ravenclaws behind you seemed to think that just as odd as she did.

“I should go get a drink,” she said, and she started to rise. You leapt to your feet before she could get to hers.

“I’ll get it!”

“[Name], you don’t have to do that.”

You waved her down. “I told you today was my treat, didn’t I? Be right back.”

Indeed you were only minutes later, despite all the other students still coming in to get out of the cold. “Thank you,” Hermione said. She took the warm mug of Butter Beer that you handed her as you sat back down.

“Nothing but the best for the girl who got me through Arthimancy this term.”

Hermione felt her face warm slightly. Must have been its proximity to her drink. She pushed the glass a little farther away from her when she set it down. “I didn’t do that much.”

“Are you kidding? If you weren’t tutoring me, Professor Vector would have flunked me ages ago!”

“So you’re doing better now?”

As if on cue, you whipped a piece of parchment out of your bag and handed it to her. “My first ‘A!’" you said. "If this keeps up, I might really get the O.W.L.”

She smiled, passing the paper back. “Looks like you won’t need me anymore after the holidays.”

“What?” Hermione was surprised to see your face go ashen. “You can’t abandon me now! You know I haven’t got a head for numbers.”

“Why don’t you simply drop the course if it’s too difficult?"

“And do what instead, Miss I-Took-Them-All? I’m only taking this and Muggle Studies as my extras. Besides, I need Arthimancy for my career path.”

That was a feeling Hermione knew all too well herself. “I suppose, if you really think you’ll still need the help…” She didn’t quite understand why you would. You took excellent notes. It was only the actual application of the study that got you so confused.

You grinned at her acquiescence. “Thank you. Wow, smart, kind, and pretty. You really are the complete package.”

“W-What?” Unfortunately, she had selected that moment to drink more Butter Beer, and your cheerfully blasé statement caused her to inhale much of the liquid instead of swallowing it. That time, the burning in her throat was certainly caused by her beverage. Coughing, she managed to splutter an undignified, “Me? Pretty? What are you talking about?”

“That you’re pretty,” you said. “I’ve said so ever since we met. Doesn’t Ron ever tell you that you’re pretty?”

“Why would Ron tell me I’m pretty?” Hermione demanded.

“I dunno.” A frown pressed wrinkles into your forehead. “I kinda thought the two of you might be seeing each other.”

“Me and Ron?” Hermione accepted the napkins you passed her and began to sop up her mess. “Ron and I have never gone out.”

“You and Harry, then. He tells you you’re pretty.”

Suddenly, something in Hermione’s head clicked. Her feelings of dullness and shame vanished. She felt her normal bright self, and so was able to look you straight in the eye as she said, “Neither of them tell me that I’m pretty because we’re friends, just friends. What’s going on here, [Name]?”

“Nothing is going on."

“Really. Inviting me here?”

“We don’t get to spend much time together outside of the library.”

“Buying me a drink?”

“To say thank you for getting me that ‘A.’”

Pretending to be awful at Arithmancy?”

“That part's genuine, actually.”

“You’re up to something,” she said firmly, “and if you want our arrangement to continue, I need you to tell me what that is.”

In the face of her stern tone and crossed arms, all of your natural charisma and bravado evaporated. Staring down into the depths of your own empty Butter Beer mug, a dark color unspooled in your cheeks. Hermione knew before you spoke that her revelation earlier had been the correct one, before you took a deep breath, before you even worked up the nerve to look at her.

“I like you, Hermione,” you said. “As more than a friend. You’re the smartest, bravest, most wonderful person I’ve ever met, and…”

“And?” she prompted you.

You wiggled your fingers together, took a second steadying breath, and answered, “and I’d like to know—if you aren’t already interested in someone else, because maybe you aren’t interested in p-people like me—if you’d like to g-go out with me sometime?”

Hermione blinked. She had seen it coming (even if not as quickly as she’d have liked), but she didn’t know what to say. Of course she liked you. You were intelligent, friendly, and—as an bonus—not nearly as interested in Quidditch as everyone else she spoke to on a daily basis. And, after all, she had been the one to sit much closer to you during last week’s tutoring session.

But what would her parents say if she told them that she’d started seeing another girl? She could tell them that its acceptance was another quirk of the wizarding world. Then she would have to worry about getting caught in a lie, though, not to mention that her parents didn’t live in the wizarding world and would still have to worry about what Hermione would have to deal with outside of it.

Well, she decided, when higher color still began to enter your cheeks with the silence between you stretching on, she didn’t have to tell her parents right away. They knew she was old enough to choose her own dates, and they knew that she was smart and had good instincts.

“Would this be our first date, then?” she asked.

A wide, relieved grin broke out on your face. “Would you like it to be?”

"I would." She drained the last of her Butter Beer and smiled right back.

There would be time to worry about the rest of her friends later. Ron and Harry, they’d accept her either way. If they didn’t get another detention just in time for the next Hogsmeade weekend, maybe she would let them tag along with the two of you to tease her. Then again, with how much she enjoyed pressing her feet against yours underneath the table…maybe not.

Chapter Text

“Why were Narcissa and Bellatrix here today?”

The sitting room had grown dark in the hours since they left, but you knew the remaining black shape in the center was your “beloved” husband. He did not allow Pettigrew out of his chambers without permission, after all, and who else would be lurking about so long after sunset? Leaning against the doorway that led to the kitchen, you saw Snape shift on the couch. His beady eyes flashed in the dim light that came from the candle in your hand. Had he been sleeping all that time? No, his voice was not thick with dreams when he answered:

“I fail to see how their business is any of yours.”

“I am the woman of this house. Business that goes down inside it is my business,” you said as you strode into the room.

His sneer was a predictable as the phases of the moon. After a year of seeing that expression so often, it still annoyed you, but no longer drew you into a blind rage. Very little made you that upset anymore. The fire of your anger had blown into cold ashes. Though the Death Eaters had seen many victories of late, time had not been so kind to you.

“And what a woman you are,” said Snape. “A real woman of the house would have been here to greet them herself. Narcissa would have, had the roles been reversed.”

Your cheeks went dark. Narcissa Malfoy was not a Death Eater. She had a life so different from yours that imagining living it was impossible. Snape meant to rile you up, that was all, and you would not give him the satisfaction. It was one of the few pleasures left to you in life to deprive him of his.

I was on patrol,” you returned. “While you were playing happy hostess, I nearly got caught by Shackelbolt. Not that you’ll care, I expect.”

“You are correct in assuming I do not.”

He kept his gaze carefully away from your face. You had no delusions that seeing the painful effects of your duel with the auror bothered him. It was only that if he could pretend you were not in the room with him, he would. Too bad for him that you had no intention of playing along with him that evening.

“What did Bellatrix and Narcissa want?” you asked again, thrusting the candle into his greasy face. If he burst into flames right then and there, burned into a soot stain on his ugly furniture, you wouldn’t have minded. Before he could, Snape killed the flame with a lazy flick of his wand, and plunged you both into further darkness.

“How do you know that they were here at all?”

“Pettigrew told me.”

“Ah. Keeping track of the Dark Lord’s nosy castoffs is much more difficult when I have so many living in my home.”

“Dammit, Snape, if you don’t tell me, I’ll—”

“Kill me?” He raised a single eyebrow, then stood. “I don’t think so. A spy is still needed at Hogwarts, and who would replace me? You? You wouldn’t last a day around the likes of Dumbledore. Not when you can’t even win a duel against one Auror.”

“Kingsley Shacklebolt is not just an Auror,” you snapped as Snape walked toward the kitchen. “I gave as good as I got. You’re not really risking your neck when the old fool trusts you, are you?”

Snape stopped with his back still toward you. Heart hammering in your throat, you wrapped your free hand around the wand in your pocket. There would be no repeat of your wedding night if you could help it, even though you’d been spoiling for a rematch ever since. You would teach your husband—whose loyalties no one could ever truly be sure of—to call you a castoff and a lover of blood traitors if he would just give you half the chance.

When he turned his head to look at you, however, it was not to cast a spell, but to answer your question. “The information won’t help you anyway. Bellatrix was here, yes, but only incidentally. It was Narcissa that begged for my help, and that she will receive.”

Your eyes narrowed despite the disappointment you felt over having nothing to report on Bellatrix. “What kind of help?”

Again came his cold smile. “I am touched,” he pressed a hand to his heart, “that you care, but it is a trivial matter. When Draco fails, as you know that he will, I will kill Albus Dumbledore.”

What?”

Over the months since you had married him, you had endured much from and because of Severus Snape. Your fellow Death Eaters—Bellatrix especially—made no secret of their disdain for you and your husband. He might have left you alone for most of the year to teach at Hogwarts, but still you saw him at meetings where he showed you no more respect than the rest. From your lofty position of trusted servant, you had fallen to the lowest of Death Eaters. Even Peter Pettigrew claimed more honor than you. And for what? A man determined to mock you at every opportunity.

“You think I lie?” he asked softly.

“You will not bite a hand that feeds you. Why do you wish to protect Bellatrix so?”

“Bellatrix,” he said, “can protect herself. You, on the other hand…”

“So can I!”

“Hm. Judging by the sores Shackelbolt left you with, I don’t believe you. When the time comes—and it will come—I suggest you run. The Order will come here first, and so will he.”

With that, Snape took his leave. You stood in the black study with your heart racing. The danger was obvious. If Draco was to kill Dumbledore and not Snape, the Dark Lord would take no pleasure in his plans being thwarted. Your husband was among his most trusted Death Eaters, yes, but you were no longer. If the Dark Lord believed you to be involved, you would pay with more than just your life. The Order would not be any more merciful. And yet…

And yet no one could beat Albus Dumbledore in a duel. Not you, not Lord Voldemort, not Harry Potter, and certainly not Severus Snape. This was a step in the right direction. You had been warned, and so could plan ahead. All you had to do was bide your time, and maybe—maybe—you could put an end to this miserable chapter in your life. If not? Oh, well. It was not much of life anymore anyway.

Chapter Text

Number Twelve Grimmauld Place proved to be just as dark and musty as you had expected. The “Noble and Most Ancient” House of Black had died out ages ago—save for one member, and he hadn’t been fit to oversee the once grand home’s upkeep. Neither, apparently, had his house-elf. Though your arrival had been a busy flurry of goodbyes and lists of rules and crazed screaming, now you were able to observe without interruption the filth your parents had left you in.

Cobwebs dangled thick and dusty from a magnificent chandelier above your head. The horribly loud portrait that had greeted you now sat quietly behind limp, moth-eaten curtains. So disgusted were you by the moldering carpet beneath your feet that you had not, as the plump redhead in charge suggested, gone upstairs to drop your trunk off and clean up before dinner. Of course the elf—they did have an elf, didn’t they?—should have been the one to carry your things to your bedroom, but you supposed you’d have to brave seeing the place for yourself eventually. As awful as the Order of the Phoenix’s headquarters was, it was also your home until school started up again in September.

A door slamming somewhere high above your head interrupted your bitter musings. Footsteps followed that noise, and then a voice:

“Hermione?” A flash of red appeared behind the banister. Before you could reply in the absolute negative, the owner of that red hair appeared in front of you. You recognized him at once, of course. How could you not, after sharing both Potions and Care of Magical Creatures with him for several years? Ron Weasley frowned at you as he recognized you in turn. “You’re not Hermione.”

“Very good, Weasel,” you sneered. “Glad to see those eyes of yours are still working.”

His ears went a dark color that didn’t bring your usual sense of satisfaction over insulting a Gryffindor along with it. “[Last Name]. What are you doing here?”

“Oh, since I’m not your muggleborn girlfriend, you can’t be half-arsed to give me a proper hello?”

“Just answer the question.”

“And deprive you of the pleasure of thinking ill of me?”

“Mum!” Ron bellowed.

“MUDBLOOD FILTH! SCUM! DESECRATORS OF MY ANCESTRAL HOME!”

With a roll of your eyes, you forced the curtains over the picture of Mrs. Black closed. Mrs. Weasley arrived not long after, cleaning her hands on her apron and looking frustrated.

“Ron, what are you shouting about? How many times do I have to remind you not to upset that horrid painting?” she asked.

“Mum, where’s Hermione?”

“Hermione isn’t supposed to get here until tomorrow, dear.”

“Fine, but what’s she doing here?” he asked as he pointed over to where you remained standing exactly where his mother had left you ten minutes ago. She blinked.

“[Name]? What are you still doing downstairs?”

“Talking to your son,” you replied. ‘We were having such a lovely conversation that I couldn’t bring myself to leave.”

“That’s good to hear.” Clearly, she didn’t see the sour look you shot each other while she was gazing back toward the kitchen. “Ron, why don’t you show [Name] to the room she’ll be sharing with Ginny and Hermione?”

Yours and Ron’s jaws dropped, though over entirely different issues, you presumed. An entire summer with the school know-it-all and the Weasley’s brat? What had you done to deserve such treatment? Ron recovered first and said:

“She’s a Slytherin!”

Her distracted manner dropped at once, and she gave her son a look that told you that whatever else Mrs. Weasley might have been, she was not a woman to cross. “Ronald Weasley, where are your manners? This girl is just as much of a guest as Hermione will be, and as long as she is under this roof, I expect you treat her as one. Do you understand?”

“Guest my arse,” Ron muttered.

“What was that?”

“Nothing, Mum. Let’s get this over with.”

Whatever Mrs. Weasley was so preoccupied over, it must have returned in full force for her to miss that comment. Ron pointedly ignored your trunk and started up the rickety old stairs. Scowling, you heaved the heavy object behind you as you followed. If you’d known you were to be responsible for carrying your own luggage everywhere for two months, you might not have packed so much.

“Dinner will in thirty minutes, [Name],” Mrs. Weasley called after you’d reached the top of the first flight. “There’s a bathroom on the fourth floor if you’d like to clean up first.”

“Thank you,” you said, rather than remind her she’d already given you all that information. She nodded, eyes still elsewhere, and disappeared into the downstairs kitchen once more.

Unfortunately, her doing so left you alone with Ron. His back remained resolutely toward you. From there you could see that his neck had turned the same color as his hair. He really didn’t want you around, did he? Not that you could blame him. Up until very recently, you wouldn’t have been caught dead talking to him either. You had just decided to allow him to sulk in silence when something interrupted—that something being your trunk catching on a stair and flying open due to how much you’d crammed inside it. Family photographs, jewelry, dress robes, and trinkets tumbled over the floor. You swore, loudly, and the resumed shrieks of Mrs. Black blasted from downstairs.

“What’s all this?” Ron asked, bending to pick up something that had fallen on his shoe.

“A bra!” You snatched it away from him to stuff it back where it belonged. “Never seen one of those before? I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised.”

“You mean to say all that’s in here is clothes and school things?”

“And everything from home I could carry. What else would I have brought?”

“I dunno. Dark things? Stuff to spy on us with?”

Given his record in your classes, you already knew Ron wasn’t as dumb as he appeared to be at first glance. So why was he acting so stupid now? There went your plan to hold on to some of the natural pure-blood pride you’d been raised on. He clearly wanted to take it from you himself by making you answer his inane questions.

"You really think I’d come to this dump just to get information on you, Weasley? Because historically I’ve been so fascinated with your each and every move.”

“Well,” he said, “your parents are dark wizards.”

“Pure-blood,” you corrected him. “Pure-blood, not dark. It’s not the same thing. And I think if my parents wanted a spy in the Order, they could do a lot better than sending in their fifteen-year-old daughter, don’t you?”

He still didn’t look convinced. “If you’re not here as a spy, what are you here for?”

A dramatic sigh escaped your lips as you shoved a lock of hair behind your ear. “My parents are working for the Order now, so I’m ‘skiing with my cousins in France’ for the summer,” you said, complete with air quotes.

“This isn’t France.”

“Another,” you heaved your freshly packed trunk back up with a groan, “very astute observation.”

“No, I mean…why are you here instead of really in France? Seems more your speed.”

“Because I’m not of age and still have to go where my parents think it’s safest. Besides, it’s kind of interesting to be at headquarters. Almost like being at the front lines, but without all the curses getting flung at your head.” Which was why you hadn’t thrown a huge tantrum upon being dumped there. Yes, it was disgusting, and yes, you had to spend your time with the muggle-borns and blood traitors your life had raised you to hate before your parents had their change of heart, but...

…But you had to admit that life at Hogwarts had also proven You-Know-Who’s philosophy wrong. The smartest student in your class came from muggles. The best quidditch player hadn’t ridden a broom before he went to school. The greatest Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher you’d had had been a werewolf. Purity didn’t mean as much as people like the Malfoys wanted to believe. As a child, you couldn’t do much for the cause, but you could stay out of your parents’ way. It would be worth it, in the end. Or so you hoped, though spying a nasty nest of spiders in the corner of the molding by Ron’s foot made you rethink that.

He only stared at you after your explanation. Whatever. He didn’t have to believe you. You’d known from the moment you’d seen him at Grimmauld Place that he wouldn’t. Four years of house-based dislike couldn’t be erased just like that—or so you thought, until Ron interrupted your struggling to pull your things up another flight of stairs by pulling it up himself.

“I’ll get it,” he said. Once you’d worked out that there really wasn’t much he could do short of tossing the heavy object onto the landing and incurring Mrs. Black’s wrath, you nodded your head in thanks. The rest of the climb was spent in silence until, several minutes later, Ron announced, “We’re here.”

A single closed door sat on the landing. Inside was probably more dirty furniture and someone that hated you. Sensing your hesitation, Ron nudged you forward.

“Ginny isn’t so bad,” he said. “Just be careful not to piss her off. She’s not above muggle fighting when we can’t use magic.”

“I’ll…keep that in mind.”

He looked about to clap you on the back, then seemed to think better of it. Leaving your trunk next to you, he walked backward down the stairs.

“See you at dinner,” he said awkwardly.

“You, too.”

He nodded, then turned to leave you to consider the blemished silver doorknob leading to your summer roommate. Ginny Weasley, you mused, was not the kind of girl to give up grudges easily. If Ron was being honest with you, you were in for an unpleasant summer holiday. He hadn’t had to warn you, though, and perhaps it was time to start considering making things easier on yourself. Ginny and Hermione would be much easier to handle with someone they cared about on your side.

“Weas—Ron?” you called before he could get very far.

“Yeah?”

You took a deep breath. “I’m sorry for what I said before. It was a force of habit. We’re both blood traitors now, I suppose. What do you say to a truce this summer?”

He climbed back toward you to eye your outstretched hand with suspicion.

“You won’t call me Weasel anymore?”

“I’ll do my best.”

“And only for the summer?” he asked. “We can go back to hating each other at Hogwarts?”

“Of course. I have a reputation to uphold. If we spoke at school, they’d kick me out of Slytherin right away.”

“The Gryffindors probably wouldn’t like much either. It’s a deal.”

You both shook hands, and you offered him a rare smile.

“Better get in there,” you said, gesturing toward the door. “If I’m not down for dinner, I’ve been murdered.”

“Ginny wouldn’t murder you. Only give you one hell of a black eye.”

“Lovely. It will go so well with my complexion.”

He chuckled as he left for his own bedroom for the second time. “See you later, [Name].”

You watched him go, then went to meet your fate. Maybe he wasn’t so bad, that Ron Weasley. He glanced at you before you shut the door and his cheeks were a nice shade of pink. It was then that you realized with a start…if you kept thinking pleasant things about him, it might be a lot harder to hate him back at school than you anticipated. Well, there was only one way to find out. Despite your trepidation, you thought the summer might turn out interesting after all.

Chapter Text

Dawn broke just as Peter Pettigrew finally crept through the edge of the woods that boarded the land that surrounded his destination. He had been in rat form all night long, and it had taken him longer than he’d intended to find his way there. Bright green streaked the edge of the horizon when his small, furry body grew quickly into his typical human one. He looked wildly around to make absolutely certain no one lurked nearby to see his transformation, then scurried up the steps of the nearest house to rap on the door.

Each second without an answer frightened him further. His heartbeat and breathing grew so rapid that he had to stare at his hands to make sure he was, indeed, still human. Would he see his fingers morph into claws without his permission? Fingers they remained, but that did little to soothe Peter. So many things might have gone wrong. So many things already had. Just when he made up his mind to magic the door open himself, it opened to reveal the woman he’d come for.

“Oh, Peter.”

You’d been crying. Your normally pretty [color] eyes were shot through with red veins; your hair was a mess and your clothes wrinkled. He felt a pang deep in his stomach that might have been guilt or jealousy. Before he could decide which, you swooped over the threshold to embrace him. Awkwardly, he patted your back while you sobbed enough to wet the front of his robes. Given that it was very early on the first of November, this did nothing to warm Peter after his long journey outside, and he was very grateful when you let him go.

“I’m s-sorry,” you said, looking up at him through watery eyes. “It’s just—just so horrible. But Peter,” those same eyes went wide and worried, “what happened to you?”

He winced as your soft fingers touched one of the cuts on his face. In his flight, he had not been terribly careful to avoid branches or the odd brush with a bowtruckle protecting its tree.

“It’s nothing, [Name]. Really.”

“I’ll get you fixed right up. Come in. You must be freezing.”

You ushered him into your home without protest on Peter’s part. Once you closed the door behind you both, he could relax. Certainly it was warmer inside than out. You’d only recently inherited the home from your deceased parents—there was a lot of that going around of late—and already it looked more like you. That comforted him somewhat. He allowed you to push him into the couch and stoke the fire with your wand.

“Stay here. I’ll be right back,” you commanded before disappearing into the hall.

As though he had anywhere else to go. All his friends and enemies were one and the same now. Each and every one of them would be out for his blood soon, if they weren’t already. His beady eyes darted toward the window. No figures moved among the trees in the growing light. For the time being, Peter could rest.

When you returned, it was with a bottle of potion and a soft cloth. You set both down on the cold wood floor and knelt in front of him.

“I’m sorry I didn’t notice you were hurt sooner,” you said, dabbing the potion on his many cuts. He winced, but bit his tongue to hold back a hiss of pain. “I’m just so—so upset. When you didn’t send word, I thought—well, it doesn’t matter now. Were you out with the Order all night?”

“Y-Yes. I was.” He hated to lie to you, but what choice did he have? Luckily, you were too involved in healing his wounds to look him in the eye and see the deception there.

“Did you get any of them?”

“Any of…w-who?”

“Any of the Death Eaters. Any of the,” here you said an ugly word that matched the uncharacteristically ugly look on your face, “that—that…you know.”

Again you dissolved into tears. Peter pulled you close enough to press his forehead against yours. This, unfortunately, did not have its usual calming effect. You continued to sob, even when he tried quietly saying your name.

“It’s just—just so awful! I know You-Know-Who is gone, but Lily and James! I wouldn’t have traded them for this. They shouldn’t have had to die.”

“It is awful”, Peter said soothingly.

“And with his followers still out there, it isn’t safe.”

“No, I guess it’s not.”

“And what about p-poor Harry? I know he’s got Sirius, but—”

“But he hasn’t got Sirius,” Peter interrupted.

Pulling away, you blinked at him. He moved his hands to your shoulders. Life wasn’t fair, was it? He was supposed to have received everything he’d ever wanted the night before: power and honor and respect. He should have known that with his luck things wouldn’t pan out. Now he had to leave the one thing he’d had already: you, his girlfriend of three years. If he did not leave, you would find out the truth. Someone would tell you, and he’d be damned if he was going to let the Death Eaters or the Order of the Phoenix take your love away from him.

“What are you talking about, Peter?” you asked.

He swallowed. You trusted him. It wasn’t fair. But life wasn’t fair to anyone, especially not to him.

“Sirius did it. He killed the Potters.”

“Your mad. Why would he? Sirius loved James and Lily. He would never do anything to harm them.”

“You know he was their Secret Keeper. How else could He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named get through?”

“Maybe the charm failed. You-Know-Who was a powerful wizard. If anyone could break a Fidelius Charm, it would be him or Dumbledore.”

“[Name].” Peter kept his voice flat as he moved his hands to entwine his fingers with yours. “We’ve suspected for months he had a spy in the Order. Tonight we found out it was Sirius Black.”

“No!” you gasped.

“We should have known he’d turn out rotten. Just look at his family. His own brother was a Death Eater, too. If I’d guessed, I would have offered to be the Potter’s Secret Keeper, but—he was my friend.”

You leaned in to kiss him. “He had us all fooled. Don’t blame yourself.”

“Who else can I blame?” Peter murmured. “Remus has other things to worry about. And now Harry…”

“What about Harry?”

“Sirius will be after him now. He would have ruled alongside his master if Harry hadn’t somehow destroyed him. I owe it to Lily and James to stop Sirius before he can commit any more murders.”

Your muffled sound of protest when he let you go and stood pleased Peter. He was more pleased still when you held him back.

“Why you? Why not call the aurors? Or tell someone in the Order?”

With a blank face, he turned to look at you. “This is my job. I didn’t tell anyone of my suspicions, and now two of my best friends are dead and their son is in danger. I’ve got to be the one to bring Sirius in. You understand that, don’t you?”

You released him, your eyes brimming with tears—tears for Peter and not for the Potters, he noted with some satisfaction.

“I do, but…you’ll be careful? If he was willing to kill James, he'll be willing to kill you as well.”

“I’d give my life for this. You know I love you, [Name], don’t you?”

“I do.” The second kiss of the morning was deeper than the first. “I love you, too. Please come home when you’re done. I’ll be waiting.”

One of the things he loved best about you was that you believed in him. With you, he did not have to fear being compared to his grander, more talented friends. So Peter knew, when he told you, “I will,” that you believed that, too, just as you’d believed every other lie he’d spouted off that day. As he disapparated from your house, he mused that the lies were worth it. Harry Potter could take everything else from Peter’s life, but he wouldn’t take the woman Peter loved.

Chapter Text

Second year had only just began and already it was proving to be just as tedious as the first. "Potter" this and "Potter" that. Bad enough that the Headmaster was obsessed with the Boy Who Lived, but now a teacher? Not to mention that Potter remained Gryffindor seeker, top of Defense Against the Dark Arts, and Hogwarts’ golden boy even after a serious breach of the Statue of Secrecy. It was enough to drive any Slytherin mad. In fact, it seemed to have done so to your friend, Draco Malfoy, who spoke of nothing but Potter after you found a table in the library that evening.

“Then that mudblood dared to suggest Father bought my place on the team. Can you believe it?”

“Sure can’t.”

“Like Potter can really play. He only got on his team because of that ugly scar.”

“Yep.”

“Oh, well, it wasn’t all bad. Stupid Weasel cursed himself. He was still throwing up slugs over supper! If his father weren’t such a failure, they could get him a new wand and maybe he could manage some real magic.”

“A shame, really.”

“[Name]!”

You dropped your book in shock when Draco shouted in your ear. It knocked your ink bottle over and covered your essay in black goo. Luckily, you had only got a few lines in, or else the dirty look you shot him would have been much worse.

“You weren’t paying attention to me,” he said, rather than apologizing.

“Sorry, Draco,” you said. “Professor Snape might let you turn in your essays late, but I’m not spending another Saturday pickling spine of lionfish because I did.”

“He assigned that days ago. You should have finished it yesterday.”

“I couldn’t because I was with you, Crabbe, and Goyle.” You pulled another roll of parchment from your bag and scrawled your heading across it. “Can’t you complain about Potter to someone else until I’m done?”

“Crabbe and Goyle are in detention with Sprout, and Pansy and Millicent are busy. I’m bored,” he added in a drawl.

“I’m bored, too.” Potions was Draco’s domain, not yours. You shut the book on common effects of ground unicorn horns with a sigh. “Shall we go down to the kitchens and kick the—”

“Harry! Harry! Over here, Harry!”

Turning, you saw one of the teeny Gryffindor first years scurrying through the aisles of books. He stopped somewhere beyond your field of vision. Draco crept over to the end of the shelf your table sat behind, then motioned for you to follow.

When you peeked around the corner, you saw the Creevey boy dancing around a table occupied by none other than Potter and Granger. You’d have thought they’d be preoccupied with Weasley’s mouth slugs that night, not having a cozy get together in the library, but there they were. Creevey evidently noticed nothing strange about this.

“Hi, Harry! What are you doing here? I’m going to work on an essay for Transfiguration. Professor McGonagall is tough, isn’t she? Oh! Can I get a picture of you studying? Dad’s never seen a wizard study.”

“Not now, Collin,” Potter sighed.

Creevey didn’t listen. He’d already pulled out the camera from his bag and started snapping away. Potter stared pointedly at his book. Granger seemed too involved in reading to notice the ruckus at all.

“Oh, by the way, Harry,” Creevey said, “I’ve got that picture of Ron from earlier. You know? With the slugs? Do you want one?”

“Speaking of Ron—Harry, maybe we should go check on him,” Hermione suggested.

“Good idea,” said Harry.

“Do you have to go, Harry? Hermione can check on him!” Creevey bounced after them as the pair of Gryffindors gathered their things and headed for the exit. “You can stay and help me with my paper! I bet you know all about Transfiguration.”

“Er…some other time. Goodnight.”

Granger and Potter vanished from your sight, leaving a crestfallen Creevey in their wake. Good thing, too. If you’d had to endure one more minute of Potter worship, your head might have exploded.

“Forget kicking house-elves,” Draco whispered. “I’ve got a better idea.”

He strode out of your hiding place and right for where Creevey sat at Potter’s vacated study spot. Trying to hide a smirk, you followed.

“Well, well, well. What do we have here?” Draco asked.

“An ickle first year doing homework. How sweet,” you said.

Creevey looked up as both of you sat down—you on the table, Draco in a seat. Draco propped his feet on the top without even bothering to make sure Madam Pince was not nearby to see his blatant rule breaking.

“Hi.” Creevey thrust a tiny hand at Draco. “I’m Collin. Collin Creevey. And you are?”

Draco eyed the hand for a moment before he lazily pushed it aside. “So, you finally got rid of old Scar Head, I see.”

“Who? Oh, you mean Harry? No, he just left to see his sick friend.”

“Looked more to me like he wanted to be anywhere but here,” you said.

“Probably thought his head would get too big for him to leave if he stayed any longer.” Draco snickered.

“I’d leave, too, if some muggle-born wanted me to do his homework for him.”

The pale pink rising on Creevey’s face showed he suspected you were teasing him—and that besmirching the great Potter’s name would not be tolerated.

“He would have helped!” he said. “He just had to go help Ron instead.”

“Oh, please,” said Draco. “He couldn’t wait to leave. Weasley was just an excuse to get away from you.”

“That’s not true!”

“Why would Harry Perfect Potter want to help out a moron that can’t write his own Transfiguration essay?”

“At this rate you’ll never become a real wizard,” you said with a serious nod.

“I will, too!” Creevey said, his eyes now shining with unshed tears.

“Not when you insist on clinging to all this muggle rubbish.”

Although Creevey tried to protest, he could do nothing to stop Draco from snatching up his camera where it sat by his bag. He tossed it to you as the boy made a lunge for it.

“Give it back!”

You instead clicked the button on top as you pointed the lens at Draco. “Stupid thing doesn’t even do anything.” With your wand, you levitated it over Creevey’s head and back into Draco’s waiting hands. He pressed the button several times more without bothering to look through the peephole.

“You’ll waste all the film!” Creevey wailed.

Draco rolled his pale grey eyes. “Oh, I’m sorry. You need all you can for your shrine to Potter. I forgot.”

“No!” Creevey stumbled when Draco magicked the camera over to you again, and stomped in frustration. “I’m taking all sorts of pictures for my father! He’s never seen magic.”

“All the more reason,” you said, “to keep him from seeing it. We don’t need people like you mucking things up, do w—”

“What is going on here?”

All three of you looked up to find Professor Snape standing by the table. Before either you or Draco could make your excuses, Creevey spoke up:

“They took my camera, s-sir.”

“And what,” Professor Snape asked, “is your business in bringing such a contraption into the library to begin with?” Creevey went pink and gave no answer. “Miss [L Name]. Return that at once.”

With a frown, you dumped the camera back onto the desk. Its owner snatched it up to check for damage without so much as a thank you.

“I think it is time you two returned to your common room. There is an essay due tomorrow, and if I am not mistaken, you, Miss [L Name], never turned your last one in. Well? Go. Now. Before I take points from you for causing such a commotion.”

“Yes, Professor,” said Draco. He grabbed your hand to pull you back to your previous station, where you collected your things. Then you left under your Head of House’s sharp gaze. Only once you were out of earshot did Draco speak again. “That was fun for a little while. You think Crabbe and Goyle are finished with detention yet?”

“Dunno. ‘Spose I should try to finish my essay. Professor Snape could have got us in a lot more trouble.”

“Yeah. I guess. You know, if that prat wasn’t so obsessed with Potter…”

Your eyes glazed over as Draco returned to his favorite subject. Oh, well. You’d had a spot of fun that evening. Besides, you had to wonder if, if you got Creevey alone again, he might give you a copy of that photo you’d taken of Draco. He looked quite nice in it. Not to mention, that Draco probably would complain about Potter heaps less than the real one walking by your side.

Chapter Text

Diagon Alley had not seen such a perfect day in nearly a year. A month after the fall of Voldemort, all the funerals for those who had died during that final battle were finished, and the trials for his followers had just began. A bright summer sun shone in a clear blue sky for the grand re-opening of the shops. Customers great and small returned in droves to enjoy laughter and color and fun. Every other business seemed to be running some sort of special sale in celebration...all except for one.

Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes sat as dreary and dejected as it had since its owners went on the run. Gone were its flashing window displays, its cheering customers, its colorful presentations. In their places now sat cobwebs, dirt, and dust. It looked as though no one had entered the building in months, but you knew that wasn’t true. Someone was inside, and it was for that someone that you had come.

Alohomora,” you whispered as pointed your wand at the locked front door. A soft snick told you the spell had worked. One needless look behind yourself (everyone else was having far too good a time to notice one woman breaking and entering a shutdown shop), then you stepped into the building. The door swung shut behind you, and you did not bother to lock it again.

“George?”

You voice fell flat on the dust-covered floor. No one acknowledged you, not even the row of magic jack-in-the-boxes that stared at you from the nearby shelf. They had not been cleaned in recent memory either. Shuddering, you followed the several trails of footprints through the dark store.

The light only dimmed more the farther back you strode. Up led the prints into the second floor flat. You did not hesitate to climb the stairs. A single hallway lay at the top. Several doors led away from it, but you did not have to follow the path to know which door you wanted.

“George!” you called again. You knocked on the door second to your left and still heard no response. “George, it’s me!”

For the first time, you allowed yourself to feel a flurry of fear. Just because Voldemort was gone from the world did not mean all evil was. You’d lost your own mother to a more mundane kind of evil before you ever set foot in Hogwarts. Could something like that have befallen your boyfriend?

You shook your head. What were you thinking of? This was George Weasley! Evil might remain, but it could not touch him. But if that were the case, why was he ignoring you?

“I’m coming in, George. For the love of Merlin, you better be wearing pants.”

Opening the door to the Weasley’s flat did not require use of magic. One turn of the knob, and you were in.

What met you was a great wafting scent of Firewhisky. The curtains were drawn tight over the window, but you could see the shapes of several glass bottles on the floor, counters, and table. Forgetting momentarily what you were there to do, you rushed to the window, pulled up the covering, and wrenched the thing open to get a better look at the sty.

“Bloody hell. What’s going on?”

A shape struggled free of the blanket on top of the nearby couch. Seconds later, out popped the familiar (though disheveled) bright red hair of one George Weasley, owner and proprietor of Weasely’s Wizard Wheezes. He hissed in the full gleam of sunlight, then covered his head with a pillow. You marched over and snatched it up.

“Blimey!” he exclaimed.

“What are you doing?”

George groaned. “Can’t you yell at me later? I’m a nursing a hangover, in case you couldn’t tell.”

“I’m not surprised. It looks like you had a giant over for drinks last night.”

“That’s because I did. Hagrid came over. Speaking of, what are you doing here? I don’t remember extending you an invitation.”

“I’m here looking for you,” you said, tossing his pillow into a corner and sitting on the chair a few feet away.

“Ah, but perhaps I didn’t want to be found. Did you ever consider that?”

“Pick a better place next time if that’s the case. Do you know how worried I’ve been? Do you know how much you’ve worried your mother?”

“She knows where I am,” he said with a grimace.

“No, she doesn’t. You ran off right after Fred’s funeral and no one’s seen you since. No owls. No word. No nothing.”

A rather nasty pause followed your words. George’s eyes narrowed before he hopped off the couch and marched—or staggered, really—for the bathroom. You stayed put. The sounds of his vomiting into the toilet came through just fine from where you were.

“Always want to get straight to the point, don’t you, [Name]?” he asked, tone horribly cheerful when he resurfaced. He dragged the stained sleeve of his robe across his chin to clean it. If he meant to disgust you in doing so, he managed.

“You do not get to guilt trip me after you’ve disappeared for a month,” you snapped.

“I can do whatever I damn well please.”

“Which in this case is drink yourself to an early grave and let your dream rot?”

“Sounds good to me.”

He turned his back resolutely toward you and picked up the nearest Firewhisky bottle. You watched him sadly as he lifted the opening to his mouth to catch the last dregs. George and you had been dating since shortly before he and his brother left Hogwarts for good, but you’d been friends long before that. That was how you knew he didn’t really mean what he was saying—which was fortunate for George, since that made you less inclined to take your wand out and hex him.

“Is this all you’ve been doing up here?” you asked. “Drinking and sleeping?”

“No. I’ve also considered using Avada Kadavra on myself.”

“That isn’t funny.”

“It wasn’t a joke. Can’t you see? Fred’s gone. I’m not going to joke ever again! There’s nothing funny left.”

“If you’re serious, then I’m taking you to Saint Mungo’s right now. You’ve had enough,” you added with a flick of your wand, and sent George’s near-empty bottle into the bin.

“I’m not going anywhere,” he told you.

“You are if you’re thinking about killing yourself.”

“What do you care?”

That stung, badly. “I’m your girlfriend, George,” you said with a touch of hurt. “Of course I don’t want you to die.”

“Didn’t much care when Fred did, though.”

“I think it’s awful that Fred died. I think it’s awful that anyone on our side died.”

“Then why did you come here to interrupt my grief?”

By then, your anger had you on your feet. Your fingers curled around your wand, prepared to fling a spell at George’s stupid head. You didn’t, though, because you could not see his wand. For all you knew, he was so upset he couldn’t even do magic anymore. One cleaning charm, and his flat wouldn’t be so filthy. Surely Molly had taught him the incantation for that before he moved out.

“Ginny sent me,” you said in a tone of forced calm. “She said she tried to come see you here, and you refused to talk to her. I don’t know why she thought you’d talk to me instead, but here I am.”

“You wouldn’t be if I hadn’t been asleep when you showed up.”

Tears stung your eyes, but you refused to cry. In the past month, you had cried more than most had a right to. You would never shed another tear again, not if you could help it. Not in front of George, not in front of Ginny, not in front of anyone.

“Why are you being so awful?” you asked.

“Because I lost my brother!” George shouted. He shoved several more Firewhisky bottles onto the floor where they shattered. “No one gets it! Mum and Ginny knew Fred, but not like I did! He’s dead, and now nothing will ever be the same!”

“And I lost my father!” you screamed right back.

“Did you know him half as well as I knew Fred?”

“He was the last family I had! I still hurt!”

“Not as badly as I do!”

Your voices rang back at you both from the walls. Despite your best efforts, a few tears fell from your eyes, obscuring the angry face that belonged to the man you once loved. You had tried. Really. You had tried to give him space, to give him comfort, to let him grieve as much as he needed. Meanwhile, you had no one, no one at all to talk to about your imperiused father trying to kill you, or of you killing him by accident defending yourself. George hurt, but you did, too, and you were at a point where you could say that you deserved better.

“Is that how it is?” you said hoarsely.

George said nothing.

With long strides, you walked back to the door. He was still staring at you wordlessly when you turned around for the last time. “I’m leaving, George. And I’m not coming back. I got a job with Mr. Ollivander, gathering wand cores for him. He doesn’t get around as well since captivity. The work requires quite a bit of traveling and I’m not sure where I’ll be going first, but I don’t suppose you’ll want to owl me. At least this way, I’ll be gone. I won’t have to watch the last person I love rot away.”

You took care to slam the door behind you. Outside, all the warmth and cheer of the weekend continued. Without fear for George weighing you down, you could properly join in, or try to, at least. Happiness still felt far from you, and yet…you’d left your memories up in that cold, dark flat on top of Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. In time, they would fade. For now, you just wanted to know that joy still existed somewhere you couldn’t quite get to yet.

Chapter Text

Most Hogsmeade weekends were cause for celebration. Seventh year students received so few breaks in their studies after all. By mid-May, they saw none at all. You, in fact, had planned to stay in the castle to cram for your Divination N.E.W.T.s, rather than waste time going into town that day. The thought that you were not in your common room with a stack of books nagged at you throughout the morning. If not for your boyfriend’s insistence on you accompanying him that Saturday, you would have been there still.

Having got you outside for “a bit of fresh air,” however, Teddy seemed in no hurry to return to Hogwarts. He seemed in no hurry to get anywhere at all. First you trundled to the sweet shop, then the post office, then the Hogsmeade branch of Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. From store to store he led you until there was nowhere else to go. And yet, as you left the Three Broomsticks after an hour of sipping gillywater, he continued up the main street.

“Teddy?” you said. You saw his eyes flick in your direction. They were dark brown that day, and he’d turned his partially buzzed hair violet. “Teddy, where are we going?”

“Tired of my company already, [Name]?” he asked with a grin.

“Not your company, no. But I should be studying. As should you.”

“Exams aren’t for another three weeks! You study too much.”

“And you don’t study enough.” You tugged on his hand, which had been interlaced with yours since you’d left Hogwarts. “Come on. Let’s go home.”

“One more stop.”

“You said that after the last three!”

“Humor me. You’ve been so busy lately that I’ve hardly seen you. Pretty please?”

How could you say no to that adorable pout? “Fine.” You rolled your eyes good-naturedly. “But this really has to be our last stop. I promised Rose I’d help her study for her Herbology final, remember?”

“Last stop.” Teddy bent to kiss your cheek. “I promise. Would I lie to you?”

“Each and every day like clockwork.”

He chuckled, but the sound was subdued. Now that you thought about it, Teddy had been rather subdued all day. Gazing at him intently all the while, you allowed him to pull you along, up and away from the typical hustle and bustle of the town. No further word passed between you.

The houses and shops slowly disappeared behind you as you moved on. Fewer students called out to greet you. Soon, you and Teddy walked alone together along the winding dirt path that led out of Hogsmeade. Just as you were beginning to suspect you knew where your final destination was, Teddy drew to an abrupt stop.

A large expanse of flat land sat before you. Gray stones and bright bunches of flowers dotted the well-kept grass. He had brought you to the memorial cemetery installed for those that fell during the Last Battle of Hogwarts.

“What are we doing here?” you asked.

“You’ll see.”

His answer did little to calm you. Oblivious to your nerves—or ignoring them—Teddy pushed open the beautiful gate and stepped inside the graveyard. You followed hesitantly. Many Hogwarts students made it a point to visit this place, especially around that time of year. Being the daughter of a Death Eater, you’d never set foot in it. You were not welcome there.

“Teddy,” you whispered, “can we please leave? I don’t want to get stuck in the hospital wing this week.”

“No one is going to curse you.”

Clearly, he couldn’t see the looks those gathered kept throwing you. The iron grip he had on your hand forced you to keep going even though you could. Cringing, you scurried along next to him until, quite suddenly, he let you go.

“Huh?”

Teddy knelt in front of two graves, each bursting with flowers. He affectionately caressed each headstone before looking at you with a small smile.

“I wanted you to meet my parents.”

“Your—!”

Yes, you saw that now. Nymphadora “Tonks” Lupin read one marker, the other Remus John Lupin. Your hands lifted to cover your mouth as tears filled your eyes.

“There wasn’t much time left, you know,” he explained, “what with us leaving school soon.”

You nodded, unable to speak.

“I’ve been meaning to introduce you for ages, but it took me awhile to work up the nerve. I wanted to bring Victoire, but—well. You know how that went.”

“Yes.” After all, you and Victoire Weasley had been best friends up until her very messy breakup with Teddy. That you were dating him now hardly helped matters.

As though he read your mind, Teddy grinned. “Don’t worry. She won’t come. I paid James off to keep her busy for us.”

“Oh. Good.”

Why were you so damn nervous? Teddy’s parents couldn’t do anything to you! Neither could Victoire, whether she made an appearance or not. All the same, you hung back to watch in silence. Then he motioned for you to quit dawdling.

“Come on. Dad made it a point not to bite, even in life,” he said.

Feeling awkward, you moved forward until Teddy was able to grasp your hand once more.

“Mum. Dad.” An uncomfortable laugh told you he felt just as anxious as you did. “This is my girlfriend, [Name]. You probably didn’t like her dad much, but…she’s great. I never got to know you myself, but I want you to know her. Harry says you can see what’s going on down here, so you probably already know that I love her. She’s going to stay with me for a long time, at least as long as she’s willing to put up with me.”

Tears filled your eyes. You dried them with your sleeve, but not quickly enough for them to escape Teddy’s notice. He let out a whoop of laughter.

“You actually crying, [Name]?”

“Shut up!” you snapped. “You’re not typically so serious.”

He winked. “Enjoy it while you can, babe.”

After that, he went quiet. It took him elbowing you in the ribs to make you understand he expected you to say something as well. What on earth were you supposed to say? That you were sorry your father had made their short lives so miserable? Wouldn’t that kind of ruin the mood? You cleared your throat to buy some time and still drew a blank.

“Er, hello, Mr. and Mrs. Lupin,” you began. “Um. I know my family has done some terrible things to yours, but…I love Teddy. More than anything. I’d never hurt him, and,” you shot him a smirk, “I intend to stick around until he gets tired of me.”

“Thank you,” Teddy whispered, squeezing your hand.

There wasn’t much left to do once the confessions were done. He cast a few cleaning spells, made sure the enchantments on the flowers remained in place, and spoke to his father about the map his godfather had passed down to him, and that Teddy in turn would pass down to James. Then Teddy grabbed your hand again and headed for the exit, all at once his usual cheerful self.

“All right, now we can get back to your studies and my interruptions,” he said as the cemetery fell behind you.

“Do we have to involve your interruptions? Can’t I have one study session without them?”

“Absolutely not. As your boyfriend, it is my duty to ensure you have plenty of distractions to keep you sane.”

“At least promise me you won’t disrupt my studies with Rose.”

“Nothing doing.”

“Your funeral,” you muttered.

Grumble though you might have, you’d meant what you’d said to Teddy’s parents. As long as he’d have you, by his side you’d remain, distractions and all. You guessed his mum and dad wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Chapter Text

The further Harry marched into the Forbidden Forest, the more the noise of grieving from the Castle faded away. Darkness pressed against him at all sides; more than ever, it felt as though the trees themselves possessed malevolence in their boughs. He, however, was not afraid of them, not when he knew what lay waiting for him beyond their black and gnarled trunks. His way forward had never been more clear, and though he did not want to die, he knew that his doing so would prevent many more from dying.

As he came into a small clearing, he stopped walking. The sky above the leaves had an orange-ish cast to it. Hogwarts was on fire. Closing his eyes to resist the urge to run back, Harry turned away and pulled something from his pocket. That something was the Resurrection Stone, the tool of legend he’d only recently realized he owned.

Hermione’s recounting of the The Three Brothers floated through his mind. The Stone was not to be used to force the dead back to life. He had no intention of doing so. All he wanted was company while he walked to his death, but first there was one person he needed to see. Closing his eyes, he turned the stone three times in hand.

When he opened his eyes, he no longer stood alone in the glade. A familiar figure lingered nearby. She looked neither ghostly nor solid, but rather somewhere in between. On her face was an expression of anxious curiosity.

“[Name],” Harry breathed.

Smiling now, you closed the gap between you and him. You did not touch him, but Harry felt a warmth and peace radiating from your image. He knew that it was you—real or not—because of it. Not since your passing had he felt that same peace.

“Hello, Harry,” you said. “It’s been awhile.”

Your aura proved not enough to prevent tears from rushing to his eyes. Embarrassed, he took off his glasses and wiped the wetness away. This reunion was supposed to make him feel better, but apparently the wounds of losing you two years before remained fresh.

“S-Sorry,” he said as he placed his glasses on his nose.

“That’s all right. Are you okay?”

“Not exactly.”

You blinked, then cocked your head to one side in a characteristic gesture. “I’ve been watching, you know. You’ve been so brave.”

“I don’t feel so brave right now.”

“But you’re going anyway.”

“I have to.” Harry shook his head, trying to ignore the distant sounds of wailing coming from the direction of Hogwarts. How many people had died that night alone? How many did Harry know personally? If he changed his mind and returned now, who was to say what he would find there? “Too many people have already died for me. My parents. Cedric. Sirius. You.”

“Harry.” You drifted closer. He found himself unable to look at you. “Harry, I didn’t die for you.”

“If I hadn’t dragged you to the Ministry—”

“You didn’t ‘drag’ me anywhere.”

“I should have told you to stay.”

“Never was much good at doing what I was told. I made my choice. I wanted to help you save Sirius. He’s important to you.”

“You’re important to me, too,” Harry said around his constricted throat.

“What happened wasn’t your fault. My parents weren’t making things easy for You-Know-Who. I’d have attracted the Death Eaters’ attention eventually.”

“Not so soon.” Though would it really have been easier to lose you in sixth year, or while he was away from school this year, or even tonight? Harry doubted it.

You looked at him with pity welling in your beautiful [color] eyes. “Maybe not, but it was still my fault I died. I was… overconfident.”

With a great force of effort, he wrenched his gaze back to your face. “I never wanted this. I-I loved you, [Name].”

“I love you, too.”

A strange tingling arose on Harry’s lips as you bent to kiss him. He almost put his hands around your waist, so familiar did it feel. You even smelled the way he remembered, the way the Armontentia in Slughorn’s class smelled to him still. Then he remembered that you weren’t there. Not really. Even if he convinced himself you were not just a shadow, he couldn’t be with you the way he once had.

As though you remember this at the same time, you stepped away, leaving not a mark in the moonlit grass. “And I know you love me enough not to want to keep me around like this,” you said.

“No, I—I...just wanted to say goodbye.”

“It’s not really goodbye, though, is it?”

Harry hesitated. “No. I suppose it’s not.”

You kissed him again, that time on the cheek. “You’re still the bravest man I know. Go on. Your family is waiting.”

“Right.” He swallowed. All at once, he felt he could do this. “I’ll see you soon, then?”

“I’ll be waiting.”

With that, Harry spun the stone three times more. You vanished as quickly as you had appeared. He let the clearing stand empty for a few minutes. Soon. He’d see you again soon. And Sirius and Remus and his mum and his dad. If that wasn’t inventive enough to go through with this, what was? All he needed was to summon the others, and he would be ready to face Voldemort one last time. That was all that stood between him and the warmth of your arms.

Chapter Text

“Where is she? Let me through! I’ve got see her!”

It didn’t take someone in Rowena Ravenclaw’s direct lineage to figure out who the loud voice out in the hall belonged to. You knew, and you were hardly the smartest student in your year. Also, you were stuck in a hospital bed, and therefore entirely unable to see out the door. Fred and George—the ones that had brought you there after the unfortunate incident—snickered at the exasperated look on your disfigured face.

“You told him!” you said indignantly. As though you hadn’t already had a miserable enough day.

“Oh, sure, [Name].” George rolled his eyes.

“We haven’t left your side for a moment, but we’re just so close to Oliver that we share a psychic link and let him know where you are,” said Fred.

“If you didn’t tell him, how does he know I’m here?” you demanded.

“Oh, I don’t know. Could it be the massive commotion you made between classes?”

“[Name]?” the person outside bellowed.

“Hide me,” you begged the twins in a whisper. “Disillusion me, charm me out the window, something!”

They looked all too delighted to refuse you.

“No can do.”

“You’ve made your bed. Now lie in it.”

“You little—” you said, but before you could find where Madam Pomfrey had stashed your wand (“to prevent temptation for revenge”), footsteps interrupted you. Much to your horror, the one person you least wanted to find out about this rushed into the room.

“[Name]!”

You hardly had time to take in Oliver’s pale face, mussed hair, and disheveled robes. As soon as he spotted you, he shoved Fred and George aside, then threw himself into the chair next to your bed and his face onto your stomach.

“Oliver,” you said, exasperated. “You’re heavy.”

“What did you do to her?” he spat as he sat up to glare at the twins.

George was clearly affronted. “Us?”

We’re the ones that saved her,” said Fred.

“She did the rest all by herself.”

“You honestly expect me to believe that?” Oliver asked.

“Ahem.” All three boys turned to see you lying there with your arms folded over your chest. “If you’re all quite finished speaking about me as though I’m not here.”

“I’m only trying to get them to tell me the truth!”

You let out a short breath, closing your eyes as you did so as to not see Fred and George’s triumphant grins. “They are telling you the truth.”

“See? What did we tell you?”

“Assuming the worst of us. You’re as bad as Percy, you are.”

If life didn’t hate you, that would have been the end of that conversation. Oliver would leave satisfied, having seen that you were not in your final death throes, and you could spend the rest of the afternoon taking a nap. Unfortunately, life did hate you. Rather than return to class where he belonged, Oliver grabbed both your hands in his. You opened your eyes to see that familiar manic fire in his.

“You don’t have to lie for them,” he said.

“Hey!” the boys cried in unison.

Blaming the twins would have been the easier move. Merlin knew they weren’t above mischief in the halls. On the other hand, they had been your best friends for years now, and it wouldn’t do to throw them under the Knight Bus—even if in doing so, you saved face in front of your boyfriend.

“I’m not lying, Oliver. I really did start the fight. Fred and George only finished it.”

“And we did it without making such an obvious mess,” George said proudly.

“Not that the Slytherins deserve such consideration,” Fred added.

Oliver waved them into silence with one hand, though he kept the other around one of yours. “You mean to tell me that you got into a fight between classes? You?”

“That’s what I just said, isn’t it?”

“But why?”

“Does why really matter?”

“My prefect girlfriend just got into a fight with Marcus Flint and wound up having a panda head on top of her body!” Behind him, George and Fred exchange whispers as they scrawled something down in the muggle notebook they always carried with them. “So, yes. It matters.”

“I…” A hundred different falsehoods came to you at once: You’d got tired of looking at Flint’s ugly face; you overheard him insulting a muggle-born’s blood status; you thought he might be selling contraband study materials to anxious fifth years. Anything would have been better than the truth. But when Oliver’s brow furrowed in concern and his fingers gripped yours tighter still, you knew you had to come clean.

“He insulted your keeping skills,” you muttered, refusing to meet his eye.

“Huh?”

“I said,” you said more loudly, “that he insulted your keeping skills and said that when Gryffindor loses this Saturday, it will be all your fault.”

Oliver gaped at you. Fred and George beamed. For quite some time, the hospital wing stayed so silent you could have heard a quill drop. Then:

“You got transfigured like this over something as meaningless as quidditch?” Oliver thundered.

There was a beat, followed by the twins doubling over with laughter. You were glad they found the situation so funny. Oliver never thought quidditch was meaningless. Never! His acting so out of character was the last thing you wanted. Now your face was so hot that you probably looked like a sunburned panda.

“What do you mean, ‘meaningless’?” you snapped. “You love quidditch more than anything else in the world!”

“Not so much I want my girlfriend getting hurt over it!”

“I’m so sorry I defended your honor, then!”

“I can defend my own honor!”

“Next time, I’ll let you!”

“You don’t even like quidditch!”

“But I do love you!” you shouted. “So I don’t want someone like Flint insulting you and the thing you love so bloody much!”

Your glowering contest with Oliver didn’t end right after that. Slowly, though, he deflated, and Fred and George’s laughter trailed away into the occasional giggle. Thank goodness Madam Pomfrey had been busy with a trio of second years caught unawares by the venomous tentacula, or she’d have already kicked everyone out—maybe even you! Bad enough that Oliver had seen you with a panda head; the rest of the school didn’t need to as well.

He kissed the tip of your black nose. “I love you, too.”

“Enough to forget I did something this stupid because of a dumb game?” you asked hopefully.

“Even if I did, these two won’t.”

The looks on Fred and George’s faces made it obvious that by the time you got back to your common room, everyone would know what transpired that afternoon and exactly why it had. A second kiss from Oliver—this time on your awkwardly shaped mouth—was enough to distract you (mostly) from this distressing revelation.

“This isn’t permanent, is it?” he asked.

“Flint messed up whatever spell he was using, so no one’s quite sure when it’ll go away.” Upon seeing his horror, you hastened to add, “But Professor McGonagall promised to take a look once lessons are over for the day. I’m sure I won’t be this way for long.”

“Thank goodness. I’d hate to spend the rest of my life kissing a bear.”

Evidently, he didn’t mind doing so too much. Not for the time being, anyway. You got some excellent snogging in that day, until the instructor in question showed up and took points from Oliver for skipping out on Transfiguration. He shot you a wink before he and the twins left for supper. As you settled back in your bed to await Professor McGonagall’s assessment, you thought that maybe life didn’t hate you so much after all. If it did, would you ever have had such an excellent boyfriend and friends?

Chapter Text

Red was the color of the things you loved most in the world. Red was the color of the sunset over the Forbidden Forest. Red was the color of the quaffle streaking up the quidditch pitch. It was the color of the blood you added to certain potions, the dominant color of the Gryffindor banner, the rubies glittering in the House Cup glasses. Most importantly of all, red was the color of the hair that belonged to one Ginny Weasley, the greatest girlfriend anyone had ever had.

Red was also the color of her brother’s face when he caught her kissing you that night in April.

“Ginny!”

It happened so suddenly. One second, you were cozied up with her in a chair next to the fireplace; the next, you’d been shoved away. You toppled onto the floor and looked up to find Ron holding Ginny away from you.

“Ron!” she snapped as soon as she’d ascertained you weren’t badly hurt. He, however, didn’t spare her a glance.

“What do you think you’re doing to my sister?”

“Uh,” you answered. Confrontation never had been your forte—and Ron looked plenty confrontational.

“Kissing her? Out in public? Not that that’s okay to do in private, either!”

“Er.”

“You stay away from her, you hear? As if it wasn’t bad enough when the boys were all over her.”

“But I—”

“Get out of here. Now. Ow!”

You couldn’t see what Ginny did through your tears, but soon she was by your side, gently helping you to your feet.

“Ginny, what are you—”

“Shut up, Ron. Haven’t you done enough for one night? [Name]?” she added kindly. “Are you all right?”

“I’m okay,” you said shakily. The only thing Ron had really hurt were your feelings, and you weren’t about to admit that to her. She shot you a knowing look that lasted until she saw you settled in the chair once more. By then, every eye in the common room was on her, but did Ginny care? No. Turning right back to Ron, she set a scowl on her face.

“If you ever touch her again, I’ll hex your nose off!” she shouted.

Ron frowned, obviously confused. He recovered quickly, though, enough to shout, “All I wanted to do was rescue you!”

“Rescue me from what?”

“What—” He turned a darker shade of red than ever. “What it looked like you were doing.”

“Oh? Tell me, what did it look like I was doing?”

“Getting snogged in public. By a girl!”

Ginny let out an ugly laugh. “First of all, Ron, I hardly call a peck on the lips ‘snogging.’ Second of all, I was the one doing the kissing. And third, I’ll kiss whoever I damn well please, and that includes my girlfriend!”

“Your—!”

“Girlfriend, yes. Haven’t heard of those?”

He could only sputter before turning to Hermione, who had been trying to work on homework through the entire row. “Did you know about this?” he demanded.

Hermione, rather than answer, simply sighed and said, “Ginny’s in fifth year. I think she’s old enough to know who she likes.”

“Not if it’s a girl, she doesn’t! I thought you liked Harry,” he said, returning his attention to Ginny.

Harry, who sat next to Hermione and had been watching with great interest while Ron and Ginny fought, hastily ducked his head and pretended to be engrossed in a copy of Historical Uses of Dragon Spleen.

“I did like Harry,” Ginny said.

“Then you do like boys!” Ron said triumphantly.

“I like girls and boys, Ron.”

“So you’re going around snogging everyone? My sister’s a—”

“You don’t want to finish that sentence,” Ginny said in a low, dangerous voice. “I don’t like Harry anymore, and now I’m with [Name]. It’s not my job to explain sexualities to you. Ask Hermione if the concept is too difficult for you to understand.”

All he could do then was gape like a fish. In the wake of his silence, Ginny snatched up your hand, pulled you from the chair, and marched in the direction of the portrait hole. You were almost there when Ron came back to himself.

“Where’re you going?” he wanted to know.

Ginny rounded on him again. “Somewhere more private to kiss [Name], now you’ve got the whole room watching. Not that it’s any of your business where we go or what we do.”

“You can’t!” he said, casting nervous glances at the many onlookers.

“And why not?”

“Because I said so. If you do, I’ll—I’ll…”

“You’ll do what, Ron?” Ginny placed her free hand on her hip.

“I’ll tell Mum.”

A chorus of “ooohs” followed his declaration. To your surprise, Ginny only offered him a shrug.

“Okay, then,” she said, and made to climb out of the common room.

“Ginny, wait.”

That time, it was your voice that stopped her. Throwing you a curious look, she paused.

“What is it?”

You were painfully aware of how many students were listening in. Months of covert dating, and this was how your relationship got revealed? Shy by nature—so shy it was a wonder that beautiful, brave, talented Ginny had so much as noticed you—you would have picked literally any other way to come out in public. The deed was done, though, and you wanted no more pain to come from it.

“I don’t want you to get in trouble with your mum,” you mumbled, shuffling your feet.

Ginny’s expression softened. “I won’t. I told her about us months ago. She’s thrilled to get to meet you this summer. Actually, Ron’s the only family member I didn’t tell. Because he’s a git."

Before any further retaliation could come your way, she led you away from Gryffindor Tower. Red was the color of her gorgeous hair as it flowed behind her. Red was the color of your face as you followed her down the hall. Red was the color of Ron Weasley’s cheeks the day you learned Ginny loved you enough to tell her family about you. Was it any wonder that red was your favorite color of all?