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No Such Thing as Coincidences

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Prologue: How It All Began

 

Part 1: Never Give Up

 

April 21, 1980: Molly Weasley née Prewett was a bit reluctant to leave her infant son with her two rambunctious older brothers.  It wasn’t that she didn’t trust them—because she did—she was just reluctant to leave little Danny Weasley with anyone, really.  Danny was only three months old and he was a very small and delicate baby, unlike his big brother Bill; Bill had been much bigger by the time he had reached three months.  Bill, her baby boy, her first born, was one and a half and he was already proving to be as much of a handful as her brothers had ever been.  Little Danny, however, was another story entirely.  Danny was so calm and quiet; he rarely ever fussed or cried, instead he just stared solemnly at the world around him with his big stormy blue eyes, drinking everything in.

                “Molly, the boys will be fine with your brothers for a few hours,” said Arthur Weasley, snapping his wife out of her reverie.

                Molly sighed wistfully at baby Danny, who was sitting solemnly in his baby seat watching his twenty-four-year-old Uncle Gideon making funny faces at him in an attempt to get him to laugh.

                “Go on, you lovebirds, have some fun,” said Gideon’s twin brother, Fabian, shooing his sister and her husband out the door.  “Gid an’ I’ve got things under control here.  Sides, we got Lil’ Billy here to keep us in line, righ’ bud?”

                “Righ’ Nucle Fabby,” said Bill, a silly grin plastered across his small, freckled face. 

Molly smiled fondly at her firstborn as Arthur ruffled their son’s bright red hair.  “Alright, Bill,” said Arthur fondly.  “You take care of your baby brother and your uncles for us, okay?”

                “Kay, Daddy,” said little Bill, his grin growing even wider and his bright blue eyes sparkling mischievously.

                “Be good,” said Molly hugging her son tightly.  She turned to her second oldest brother.  “Fabian—”

                “I know the rules, Molls,” said Fabian Prewett, putting a comforting hand on his little sister’s shoulder.  “Don’t worry; Gid and I have everything under control.  You two lovebirds go and have some fun now, ya?”

                Molly smiled at her big brother and gave him a quick hug.  “Thanks again, Fab.”

                “No problem, baby sis.”

                “C’mon, Molly,” said Arthur, smiling at the love radiating from his wife; Molly Weasley had the biggest heart of anyone he had ever known.

                “Alright, Arthur,” said Molly with a sigh.  “We’ll be back to pick up the boys around midnight.  Please don’t let them stay up too late,” added Molly, turning once again to her redheaded twin brothers.  “Danny needs his sleep; he’s a very fragile baby, you know.  And he likes to—”

                “Molly,” said Gideon Prewett, coming over to his sister, baby Danny in his arms, “we know the routine—you’ve only told us about fifty times tonight alone, not to mention every other time we’ve done this.  You go and have some adult time with your husband tonight.  I promise; you have nothing to worry about.”

                Molly gave a sigh of defeat, hugged Gideon, and kissed baby Danny on the forehead before allowing Arthur to lead her out of the house.  Once outside of the wards, the young couple apparated to Diagon Alley in London for their nice, quiet evening out.

 

                “Molly, the boys are fine,” said Arthur for what felt like the thousandth time that night.  “You just checked on them ten minutes ago and your brothers said they both went to sleep hours ago.”

                “What time is it?” Molly asked worriedly, ignoring her husband.

                Arthur glanced at his watch.  “It’s 11:55, Molly.  Five minutes later than when you last asked.”

                “We should leave,” said Molly, fidgeting slightly.

                “I’m sure everything’s fine, Molls,” Arthur said soothingly as he signaled the waiter that they were ready for the bill.

                Molly sighed deeply.  “I’m sorry Arthur,” she said softly.  “I know you must think I’m being terribly foolish, but I just can’t seem to shake the feeling that something’s not quite right tonight.”

                Arthur had learned early on to trust his wife’s eerily accurate intuition and now was certainly no different.  “We’ll leave as soon as we get the bill, alright dear?” he said comfortingly.

                Molly gave a sigh of relief.  “Thank you, Arthur,” she said.  “I’m sorry to cut our evening out short, but…”

                Arthur took his wife’s small hand in his much larger one and smiled gently at her.  “It’s alright Molly.  I can see how important this is to you.  We’ll go to your brothers,’ get the boys, and then we’ll go home.  Hopefully that will ease your mind some.”

                Molly nodded distractedly as Arthur let go of her hand to fish around in his pocket for the money to pay the bill.  She just couldn’t shake the feeling that something was horribly, horribly wrong…

 

                April 22, 1980It was five after twelve by the time Molly and Arthur finally apparated back to Prewett Manor.  Molly shrieked and nearly fainted when she saw what was waiting for them and Arthur wasn’t much better off (he didn’t shriek, though if the set of his jaw was any indication he desperately wanted to scream): It was the Dark Mark, floating above the charred mansion.  Molly broke into a run and burst into the house, Arthur hard on her heels.  She froze in horror at the sight before her. 

                Arthur took one look at the scene and gave his wife’s shoulder a comforting squeeze.  “I’m going to contact the Ministry, Molly,” he said quietly.  Molly simply nodded as her redheaded husband left to floo the Ministry, leaving her alone.  When the aurors finally arrived on the scene, Molly was still standing frozen in the entry hall staring at the lifeless bodies of her elder brothers, silent tears streaming down her pale face.  By the look of the room and the presence of two stunned Death Eaters, the redheaded men had put up a spectacular fight before the killing curses were finally fired (later, after much interrogation and a liberal use of Veritaserum, it would become know that Fabian and Gideon fought bravely against no less than five Death Eaters and went down like the true heroes they were).

                Arthur silently walked over to his wife and stroked her short and curly, red hair.  “Molly,” he said quietly, “the aurors are here.”  She simply nodded.  “They’re looking for the boys,” he added hesitantly.

                Molly looked up sharply.  “They-they’re not—” she couldn’t bring herself to say the dreaded word.

                Arthur’s normally vibrant blue eyes looked as haunted as his wife’s normally warm brown ones.  “I don’t know,” he said quietly, his voice strained.  “Th-there are no other bodies, but…” he trailed off, unable to finish the thought.  The redheaded couple held each other silently, hoping and praying that their babies were all right. 

Molly and Arthur were suddenly startled out of their nearly catatonic state by the cries of an unfamiliar auror.  “Oi!  We got a live one out here!”

                Molly and Arthur started, looking at each other before running through the house and out into the backyard where they found, coming out of the woods, a tall bespectacled man with messy black hair and bright blue eyes.  On closer inspection, Molly saw that the black-haired man was carrying a small redheaded boy in his arms.

                “BILL!!” shrieked Molly, running at full speed to the man holding her eldest baby.  Arthur followed his wife, tears of relief running down his pale, freckled cheeks.  Molly slowed down as she reached the auror holding her son.  “Please, is my son alright?” she asked, fear flooding her voice.

                The auror turned his piercing azure gaze on the redheaded woman.  “He’s alive, Mrs. Weasley,” he responded kindly, “but he’s received a nasty blow to the head.  I don’t know just how bad it is; I think the best thing would be to take him to St. Mungo’s as soon as possible.”

                Arthur held out his hands to take his son from the black-haired man.  Once he was safely in his arms, he seemed to relax a bit.  “Thank you,” the twenty-two-year-old man said sincerely before turning and heading back to the house.

                Molly didn’t move.  “Is there anything I can do for you, Mrs. Weasley?” asked the bespectacled man gently.

                Molly turned her tearstained face to the older man.  “It’s Molly,” she said.  “Thank you, Auror…”

                “Potter.  Christian Potter, but you can call me Chris.”

                “Chris.  Thank you for finding my Bill.  But…” she trailed off, tears pouring down her face.

                “What is it?” he asked gently, putting a comforting hand on her back.

                “M-my baby!” she sobbed.  “D-did you find him?”

                Chris was confused.  “Your husband just—”

                “No!” cried Molly.  “My Danny!  H-he’s only just three months old!  He’s so small, so fragile…he never cries, you know.  Not even when he’s hungry or scared…please, where’s my baby?”

                Chris looked sadly at the small, sobbing, freckled woman in front of him.  “I’m sorry Molly,” he said softly.  “We haven’t found anyone else…”  He looked at the distraught Molly Weasley and his heart broke; he couldn’t imagine losing his son James, or the baby he and his wife were expecting in six months time.  “I promise, we’ll do everything we can to find your son—I’ll do everything I can,” he said resolutely.

                Molly looked up at her little boy’s rescuer, a miniscule smile flitting briefly across her grief-stricken face.  “Thank you, Aur- Chris,” she choked out.  “Please, please find him.  I-I know he’s alive, I just know it…don’t ask me how, I just have this feeling…”

                Chris smiled softly.  “My wife calls that a mother’s intuition; she’s the same with our son.”

                Molly blinked.  For all she was a mother and a wife, she was still only a twenty-year-old woman who had just lost her brothers, her protectors.  It was nice to have someone besides Arthur to care about her. 

“So I’m not crazy,” she said softly.

                Chris smiled slightly.  “No, you’re not crazy Molly.  If you need anyone to talk to, feel free to contact me,” he offered, hoping to bring this broken woman some small comfort.  “Or if you need another woman to talk to, feel free to contact my wife; she’s a healer at St. Mungo’s.  Her name’s Joan Potter.

                Molly sniffed and gave the tiniest of smiles.  “Th-thank you, Chris,” she said softly.  “It means a lot to know that you care, even though we’re practically strangers.”

                “It’s no problem, really Molly.  Besides, I know Arthur from work—he’s a good man.  He talks about you and your boys all the time, you know.”

                Molly gave a small, sad smile.  “I-I’d better go; I need to see how Bill’s doing,” she said.  “Th-thank you again, Chris, f-for everything.”

                “Let me know how that son of yours is doing, alright?” he said, giving the young redheaded woman a quick hug.

                “Of course,” she whispered.  “A-and please, find my baby.  Please.”

                Chris nodded, his throat constricting with emotion.  “I’ll never give up, Molly, I swear it.”

Chapter Text

Prologue: How It All Began

 

Part 2: Unwanted

 

May 2, 1980:  Bellatrix Black sat stock still on the marble counter of the bathroom at Number Twelve Grimmauld Place, staring blankly at the results of the hated test in front of her.

                “Shit, shit, shit, shit,” she said loudly.  “Bloody fucking hell!”  She let out a primal scream as she slid gracefully off the counter and threw the empty potion bottle as hard as she could (which was quite hard) at the wall, shattering both the bottle and the mirror it had hit.

                A timid knock sounded on the door.  “Trixie?” came the soft, cold voice.  “Are you alright in there?”

                Bellatrix wrenched the door open forcefully, her insane grey eyes even more wild than normal.  “What the bloody hell do you want, Cissy?” she asked sharply.

                The petite blonde almost eleven-year-old stared up at her eldest sister, blinking her cold, ice-blue eyes.  “You were yelling, Trixie,” she said simply.  “I wanted to make sure everything was alright.”

                “I’m fan-fucking-tastic, Narcissa,” Bellatrix growled, her long raven curls falling wildly around her face.

                Narcissa’s eyes widened at her almost seventeen-year-old sister’s rather colorful language.  “Is this because Andy left to live with that- that mudblood?” she whispered anxiously, spitting out the word as if it were a disease that she might catch.

                “You would do well to never speak the name of that blood-traitor again, Cissy,” Bella growled.  “She is no sister of ours.”

                “But she’s not yet fifteen,” argued Narcissa, eyes wide as saucers, “surely mother can make her come home, whether she wants to or not.”

                Bellatrix gave a harsh laugh, her cold, insane grey eyes flashing dangerously.  “And why would we want a blood-traitor like her soiling The Noble and Most Ancient House of Black,” she snapped.  “Just forget about her, Narcissa.  From this day forward, I am your only sister.  When you see her at school, you would do well to ignore her completely.  She no longer belongs in our family; Aunt Walburga has already burnt her off the tapestry.  She is dead to us now.”

                Narcissa tilted her head to the side, her silky blonde locks flowing gracefully down her back as she did so.  “What if we could make her leave the mudblood?  Could she come home to us then?”

                Bellatrix stepped forward menacingly.  “Poor naïve Narcissa,” she hissed mockingly.  “Once a blood-traitor, always a blood-traitor.  I don’t think your future husband will much care for that attitude from you.”

                Narcissa’s big blue eyes widened.  “W-what do you mean by that?” she whispered, shocked.

                Bellatrix shook her head and gave her baby sister a scathing look.  “Lucius Malfoy,” she said simply.  “You’ve been promised to him since your birth, Narcissa, and once you turn seventeen, you will marry him.  One broken marriage contract is more than enough shame upon our family.”

                Narcissa nodded, eyes wide.  “So she—”

                “The blood-traitor was promised to Ferdinand Avery,” Bellatrix replied harshly.  “Just as you are promised to Lucius Malfoy and I to Rodolphus Lestrange.  Now, I am very busy right now and do not wish to discuss such filth any longer.  You will go pretty yourself up, Narcissa,” she sneered.  “Lucius is coming over for dinner this evening and you are to be formally presented to him since you are starting at Hogwarts this September.”

                “Yes Bellatrix,” Narcissa replied dutifully before obeying, turning from her seething sister and gliding gracefully out of the room.

                After Narcissa left, Bellatrix quickly locked the door of the bathroom with her wand and cast a silencing charm for good measure; she, her parents, and her sister were guests of her Aunt Walburga, her Uncle Orion, and her cousins Sirius and Regulus—it would not do well for any of them to hear what was sure to be her extremely inappropriate outburst.

                Double checking her locks and her silencing spell, Bellatrix finally gave into her frustration and screamed with all her might.  “LUCIUS MALFOY, YOU FUCKING BASTARD, YOU GOT ME PREGNANT, YOU BLOODY ASSHOLE!!”

 

December 14, 1980:  “Just get the bloody thing out of me!” Bellatrix hissed menacingly at the scared-looking healer trying to help her.

                “Are you sure you wouldn’t like a pain-killing potion, Ms. Black?” asked the mediwizard kindly.

                “NO, YOU FUCKING IDIOT!!  I JUST WANT THIS DAMN THING OUT OF ME!!” Bellatrix screamed at the old man.

                “Ms. Black, please understand, I can’t just make—”

                “THE HELL YOU CAN’T!!” Bellatrix screamed at the frazzled grey-haired mediwizard.  “USE SOME FUCKING POTION OR SOMETHING, JUST GET IT OUT!!” 

The pain, Bellatrix could handle, it was this feeling she couldn’t handle; the feeling of something growing inside of her, making her…feel.  She was a cold hearted bitch and proud of it; she’d be damned if she was going to let some bastard kid change that.

                The mediwizard held up his hands in defeat.  “Alright, Ms. Black, I’ll see what I can do.”  He waved his wand at the door and three seconds later a tall, middle-aged brunette witch stepped into the room.  “Ms. Black, this is Assistant Healer Maybelle.  She’ll be taking care of you while I go see if I can’t find a potion—”

                “I DON’T FUCKING CARE!!  I JUST WANT TO GET THIS THING OUT OF ME NOW!!”

                Muttering under his breath about ungrateful, hormonal pregnant women, the mediwizard stalked out of the room, leaving the young assistant healer to deal with the screaming, cursing seventeen-year-old.

 

                “Congratulations Ms. Black, it’s a girl,” said Healer Terse wearily, holding out the small child to Bellatrix.  Sixteen hours after she had first come into St. Mungo’s, Bellatrix’s baby had finally arrived.

                “I don’t want to touch that bloody thing,” Bellatrix snapped irritably, folding her hands stubbornly across her chest.

                Healer Terse’s eyes widened in shock.  “Now Ms. Black, surely you don’t mean—”

                “Of course I damn well mean that!” she snapped at him, her grey eyes flashing dangerously.  “I wanted the fucking thing out, and now it bloody well is.  End of story.”

                “Ms. Black—”

                “Stop ‘Ms. Black’-ing me, Terse,” she snapped irritably.  “I want nothing to do with that fucking thing.  Put it up for adoption or something.”

                “What about the fath—”

                Bellatrix’s eyes flashed dangerously.  “That bloody bastard doesn’t get a fucking say in this,” she said tersely.  “He’s not the one who had to walk around with that fucking thing inside of him for nine months, at school, making him feel things!”

                The mediwizard sighed wearily, running his hand through his thinning grey hair.  “If you’re sure Ms. Black…” he said.

                “Absolutely,” she snapped.

                He sighed in resignation.  “Alright.  I’ll still need some information from you, though.”

                “Fine,” she snapped back.  “Ask away; the sooner I can get out of this bloody hell-hole, the better.”

                “Alright,” began Healer Terse, beckoning Maybelle forward to take down what Bellatrix said.  “Mother’s full name,” he asked.

                “Mine or the brat’s?” she snapped.

                “Your full name,” sighed the mediwizard wearily.

                “Bellatrix Cassandra Black.”

                “Date of birth?”

                “September 6, 1963.”

                “Blood status?”

                “Pureblood,” she said proudly.

                “Father’s full name.”

                “Lucius Scorpius Malfoy,” she said flatly.

                The mediwizard stopped short.  “Are you quite sure, Ms. Black?”

                “Of course I’m fucking sure,” she snapped at him.  “I’m the one who bloody well had sex with him, aren’t I?  Now, what’s next?”

                Healer Terse heaved a sigh.  “Father’s date of birth.”

                “November 4, 1962.”

                “Blood status?”

                “Pureblood,” she said again.

                Healer Terse looked uncomfortably at the seething raven-haired beauty in the bed in front of him.  “You’ll need to pick a name for your daughter, Ms. Black.”

                “Can’t you do that?” she snapped.

                He shook his head.  “Hospital policy.”

                “Fine,” she snapped.  She let her mind wander before saying the first thing that popped into her mind.  “Fidelius Druella Malfoy.”

                The mediwizard nodded.  “Perfect.  Thank you Ms. Black, that’s all I needed from you.”

                She heaved a sigh of relief.  “Can I go now?  My boyfriend’s family is hosting an exclusive Christmas party and I want to go,” she lied through her teeth.   Truthfully it was only a half-lie—there really was a party, but it was an initiation party for some new Death Eaters, including her fiancée Rodolphus Lestrange.

                The mediwizard, however, simply shook his head at Bellatrix’s request.  “I’m sorry Ms. Black, but I must insist that you stay the night.  We need to keep an eye on you to make sure there are no complications from the birth.”

                Bellatrix growled under her breath and frowned at the mediwizard.  “So I can leave tomorrow?”

                “Barring any complications,” he replied.  “Now, why don’t you spend some time with your daug—”

                “Take it away,” she said sharply.

                “Pardon?”

                “Are you fucking deaf?” she said angrily.  “I said take the damn thing away!!  I don’t want to spend anymore fucking time with that fucking brat!  I’ve had it inside of me for over nine bloody months, I just want it gone!”

Startled at the young pureblood’s attitude, but wanting to avoid yet another scene, the mediwizard gestured for Maybelle to take the baby and leave.  Bellatrix didn’t even bother to watch as Fidelius Malfoy was taken away; she could have cared less and she sincerely hoped that  she’d never have to see that “fucking brat” again.

Chapter Text

Prologue: How It All Began

 

Part 3: Separated

 

May 18, 1981:  “Alright, Andromeda, one last push!”

                Andromeda Tonks née Black gave a shriek as she pushed with all her might.  “Just get the damn thing out of me!” the almost sixteen-year-old screeched at the mediwitch.

                Suddenly a baby’s cry could be heard through the room.  “Congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. Tonks, it’s a boy,” said Healer Morgan Lesroy smiling.  “Daddy, you can cut the cord so that Mummy can get this little boy’s twin out.”

                “TWIN!!” screeched Andromeda, seriously regretting her naïve insistence on abstaining from drugs or pain-killing potions.  “WHY DID NO ONE TELL ME—AAAAAAGHHHHHHH!!

                “That’s it, Andromeda, push,” coaxed the young, blonde mediwitch.  “This one should come out a bit easier…”

               

                Twenty minutes later…

                “This is it, Andromeda, you’re almost there!”

                “I really hate you Ted!” screamed Andromeda as she once again pushed with all her might.  “This is your bloody fault!!  You did this to me!!  We are never having another damn kid!  EVER!!

                “Whatever you say, Dromeda, dear,” said Ted, allowing his beloved wife of eight months to crush his hand as much as she pleased.

                “Damn straight,” muttered Andromeda.

                “Okay, Andromeda, this is it, push!”

                With a scream of pain, Andy pushed with all her might, though she was now thoroughly exhausted; she had been in labor since yesterday morning and she hadn’t even know that she was having twins at the time.  Amazing that, really.  With all their magic the healers failed to see that Andy was carrying twins instead of just the one.

                “Congratulations, Mummy and Daddy, it’s a girl,” said Healer Lesroy.  “Daddy, you wanna cut the cord on this one too?”  Ted smiled and did as he was told.

                After the twins were cleaned up and given a clean bill of health, they were finally handed over to their young parents.  “Oh, look, Dromeda, his hair’s only a shade or two lighter than yours!  Oh, and look!  He has my nose!” cooed the seventh year father happily.

                Andromeda chuckled tiredly, understandably so as she had been in labor for nearly twenty four hours.  “He has your eyes too, Teddy.  Big, brown, chocolate eyes.  Yum,” she said, a contented smile on her porcelain face.

                Ted chuckled.  “And how’s our baby girl, eh?”  Ted looked over at his daughter.  “Oh, look!  She’s got my hair, look at that!  Oh, defiantly has your pretty little nose, Dromeda.  Oh, looks like she’s got the Black eyes though…”  His face fell, recalling that he was the reason that Andromeda had been disowned by her family at such a young age.

                Ted looked to Andromeda for her reaction.  “So she’s got cousin Siri’s eyes, hm?” said Andromeda, referring to her fourth year cousin, the only member of her family she still spoke to besides her Uncle Alphard.  “I think he’s gonna get a kick out of that.”

                Ted chuckled, glad to see that this news wasn’t upsetting the recently disowned fifth year mother.  “He sure is,” he said with a smile.

                “Did you tell him?” asked the young new mother, suddenly; they had had to leave Hogwarts so quickly that she hadn’t had time to tell Sirius the news herself.

                “Of course Dromeda,” said Ted, smiling at his lovely blue-eyed wife.  “He’s on his way over with his friends as we speak.”

                “Good,” said Andromeda, giving a sigh of relief.  “Can’t very well have my favorite cousin not come see his godchildren.”

                Ted chuckled.  “So how are you doing, my dear?”

                “I’m honestly fine, Ted.  A bit tired, but that’s to be expected; I did just deliver twins.”

                Ted chuckled happily.  “So, have we decided on names yet, darling?”

                “Hmm, I know we discussed Michael or Eustace, but I really don’t like those.”

                “Me neither.  I think those were ones my mum snuck in there.”  Ted paused and looked over at his sleeping son.  “You know, I’ve always liked the name Alexander.”

                “Alexander,” mused Andromeda.  “Alexander Sirius Tonks.  I like that.”

                Ted kissed her hand gently.  “It’s prefect, love.”  Andromeda gave a great big smile.

                “Okay, now for the little princess,” said Ted, brushing his large hand over his infant daughter’s tiny head.  He suddenly jumped a bit and gave a yelp of surprise, startling his wife.

                “What’s the matter, Ted?”

                “S-she—h-her hair just changed color!”

                Andromeda rolled over to look and her mouth dropped open at the sight of her peacefully slumbering child, currently sporting a mop of lime green hair.

                Just then the assistant healer walked in.  “Good evening, Mr. and Mrs. Tonks.  I have your children’s blood work back now.  Everything seems just fine, except according to the blood tests, your little girl is a metamorphmagus.”

                “A what?” said Ted, frowning slightly.

                “A metamorphmagus, Ted,” said Andromeda patiently, silently signaling the assistant healer that she could leave, “is someone who can change their appearance at will without a wand.  It’s an ability you’re born with; it’s not something you can learn.”

                “Is it dangerous for her?” asked Ted concernedly.

                Andromeda shook her head.  “Not at all, Ted.  Metamorphmagi are very rare, but it’s an interesting power.”  Ted still looked a bit skeptical.  Andromeda took his hand and squeezed it.  “Don’t worry, Teddy.  It’ll be okay, I promise.”

                Ted beamed at his beautiful wife.  “Thanks love.  Now, we need to pick a name for our little meta-whosie-whaddy—”

                “Metamorphmagus,” laughed Andromeda.

                “Right, that,” said Ted, a bit frazzled.  “So, names…how about Katherine or Margaret?

                Andromeda crinkled her small nose.  “Too ordinary…”

                “Right.  Sybil?  Calliope?  Cassiopeia?  Clytemnestra?”

                “No, none of those seem quite right,” pondered Andromeda, tapping her chin thoughtfully.  “I’ve got it!” she burst out suddenly.  Ted raised his eyebrow in question.  “Nymphadora.  Nymphadora Andromeda Tonks.  It’s so pretty!”

                “Are you sure, Dromeda?” asked Ted, skeptically.

                Andromeda glared daggers at her Muggle-born husband.  “Hey, who was the one in labor for twenty-four hours here, me or you?”

                “Nymphadora Andromeda Tonks it is, then.”

                “Darn tootin'.”

                Ted rolled his eyes and mumbled to himself, “I never should have gotten her hooked on television, especially bloody American television!”

                “What was that, dear?”

                “Nothing, nothing darling.”

                “Good.  Cause I really need some good old-fashioned non-hospital tea right about now.”

                “Coming right up, dear,” said Ted, mumbling to himself on the way out about ridicules names and stupid words you can’t even pronounce.  Luckily for him, Andromeda had chosen to take this time to fall asleep.

 

                Andromeda’s cousin Sirius Black came by an hour later with his friends James Potter, Jessica Martini, Peter Pettigrew, and a rather sickly looking Remus Lupin (it was the second day of the full moon and the young lycanthrope looked like he might pass out at any moment, yet he still insisted that he be there for Sirius’s favorite cousin)—all Gryffindors, a fact Andromeda was proud of, even though she herself hadn’t escaped the Black’s Slytherin curse. 

The five teens all ooh-ed and ah-ed over the babies until the nurse finally shooed them away.  While they had been there, Andy had asked Sirius to be the twins’ godfather.  Nearly bouncing off the walls with delight, the hyperactive fifteen-year-old raven-haired boy had yelped out a great big “YES!” as he smothered his favorite cousin in a great big bear hug.  Then, much to everyone’s surprise, Ted and Andromeda asked Jessi to be the babies’ godmother (she and Andy had spent a lot of time together since they were both so close to Sirius).  The curly haired, honey-skinned brunette, though surprised, readily accepted; Andy had become something of a big sister to her in the past couple of years.

                After the group of fourth years left, Ted and Andy were finally able to get a couple of hours sleep before Alex and Dora woke them up with their screaming.  Grumbling sleepily about babies and “bloody evil husbands,” Andromeda woke Ted, insisting that it was his turn to see what the babies wanted.

 

                May 20, 1981:  Andromeda collapsed wearily on the plush burgundy couch, hugging baby Alex close to her chest.  She was finally home—well, technically it was Ted’s parent’s home, but still—and Merlin did it feel good.

                Ted, holding baby Dora, sat down beside his wife.  “My family’s coming by later to see the babies,” he said quietly.

                Andromeda groaned.  “Can’t we get your family to disown you like mine did?” she groaned, only half-joking.

                Ted laughed at his wife.  “Sorry, Dromeda; we still need a place to stay till I finish school, get a job, and find us a place of our own.  It’ll be okay, I promise,” he added, giving her a one-armed hug and a soft kiss on her forehead.

                Andy absentmindedly stroked Alex’s dark brown—almost black—hair.  “Teddy,” she said softly, “how are we going to explain Dora?” she asked suddenly.  “Your parents are the only ones who know about magic; how are we going to explain to all your cousins why Dora keeps changing her hair and her eyes and her face and Merlin only know what else?”

                Ted groaned.  “Bloody hell, I’d forgotten about that.”  He gave a sigh and ran his free hand through his mousy brown hair.  “I suppose we’ll just have to play this one by ear.”

                Andy nodded thoughtfully, playing with her loose, waist-length ebony-black hair.  “I suppose we will.”

 

                Andy and Ted were getting some much needed sleep before they had to leave their babies with Julia and Simon Tonks (Ted’s parents) and head back to Hogwarts for their respective OWLs and NEWTs. 

The afternoon had been exceptionally hard on them both.  Ted’s parents had invited over all twelve of his cousins (that is, six cousins and their respective spouses) and their collective sixteen children.  They had all arrived around noon and stayed until eight at night.  Ted and Andromeda had spent the majority of their visit watching Dora like a hawk and spiriting her away any time it looked like she was going to change in front of Ted’s muggle relatives.

                Andy and Ted were so deep asleep that they didn’t hear the crackling of the baby monitor signaling that something had happened to the one in the nursery.  They were so deep asleep that they didn’t even hear Dora’s wailing as she wondered where her twin was and why he wasn’t with her anymore.

 

                Tony Harris snickered to himself.  His wife’s fool of a cousin hadn’t even noticed him slipping back into the house and neither had his overbearing parents or that teenage wife of his.  Silently he had snuck up to the nursery, turned off the baby monitor, and snatched up the baby boy.  Tony had never much cared for his wife’s family, especially her cousin Ted; there was just something weird about him—that and the fact that he was eighteen, still in school, and married to a girl who hadn’t even had her sixteenth birthday yet.

                Jessica Harris was barren.  Tony hadn’t known that little fact when he’d married her, but he certainly did now.  They had been trying for six years to have a baby; they had checked with every doctor in the state of California and had finally come to England to visit her cousin before they had finally found out the truth.

                As Tony swiftly left the Tonks house, he felt that he was fully justified in his actions.  In his nearly permanent drunken state, he had somehow convinced himself that it was Jessica’s family’s fault that she couldn’t have any children.  If they had just moved her out of England sooner, maybe they would have a son of their own. 

Except that now they did.  Tony stared down at the small bundle in his arms, the baby’s messy black-brown hair blending into the darkness.  The stupid kid hadn’t woken up at all.

                Tony grunted as he slipped into the seedy bar his contact Jack had told him to meet him at.  Inside he searched for Jack, finally finding the thirty-something good-for-nothing con artist sitting at a small booth in the far back.  Tony grunted again as he slid into the seat across from Jack.  “You got the papers?”

                Jack silently handed the older man a manila folder.  Tony flipped through the papers inside.  One stated that one Alexander Sirius Tonks had been adopted by Anthony James Harris and Jessica Marina Lavelle Harris and another stated that Alexander Sirius Tonks’s name had been changed to Alexander Lavelle Harris.  Tony grunted approvingly.  “Everything seems to be in order, then.”

                Jack raised his pale eyebrow.  “I tol’ yeh, didn’ I?”

                Tony snorted.  “Yeah, sure kid.  You got the tickets too?”

                Jack handed Tony two airplane tickets.  “Yer fligh’ leaves in two hours an’ yer wife’s leaves tomorrow a’ three.”

                Tony nodded, grabbed the folder and the tickets, and smacked a stack of bills on the table before standing up.  “Anything goes wrong, I’ll find you,” he promised harshly.

                Jack snorted.  “Good luck wi’ tha’, then.”

Barely containing his rage, Tony turned around, still clutching the sleeping baby, and stalked out of the bar.

                An hour later, after a stop by the hotel to drop of Jess’s ticket and leave her a note, Tony was on his way to the airport with Alex, ready to begin a new life as far away from his wife’s damn cousin as possible.

Chapter Text

Prologue: How It All Began

 

Part 4: Why Can’t I Keep Her?

 

March 18, 1986:  The day started out like every other for Cordelia Potter.  Upon waking, Nessa, her own personal house elf, helped her get dressed in a pretty, pale pink, flowered dress and white Mary Jane’s.  Once she was dressed, Cordy thanked Nessa (just as her mother had taught her to), padded softly over to the door, and left her room.               

Skipping gleefully down the hallway, the tall, tanned five-year-old made her way to her parents’ room.  Reaching the door, she held out her small fist and knocked three times on the door.

                “Who is it?” called out the melodic voice that she loved so much; this was her favorite part of the morning.

                Tossing her long, chestnut curls over her shoulder she giggled and replied, “It is I, Princess Cordelia, requesting entrance to the queen’s chambers.”

                “Fair maiden, do enter,” called out the playful voice from within.

                Cordy pushed open the door and saw her mother sitting in her usual spot brushing her long, wavy nut-brown tresses.  Big chocolate eyes twinkling mischievously, Cordy bounded across the room and pounced on her mother’s lap.  “Morning Mummy,” she giggled, hugging her mother tightly.

                “Morning, Princess,” her mother replied, smiling the special smile she saved just for her daughter.  “What would you like me to do with your hair today?”

                Cordy frowned thoughtfully, her sun-kissed nose crinkling slightly.  “Can I have a pretty pink bow in my hair Mummy?  Please?!

                Joan Potter laughed at her daughter’s antics.  Kissing her cute little button nose lightly she replied, “Anything you like, Princess.”  Cordy gave a squeal of delight and sat down on her special stool in front of her mother and her mother took Cordy’s special pink hairbrush and began their special daily mother-daughter bonding ritual.

 

                At seven thirty on the dot Joan Potter dropped Cordelia off at Ms. Puddlemore’s, a daycare center for magical children, just as she did every day.  Giving her mother a quick peck on the cheek Cordy skipped off to play with her best friend, Dora Tonks.

                “Hey Dora!” she cried, plopping herself on the floor beside her currently red-haired friend.  Today Dora was dressed in a lime green skort, bright purple leggings, silver ballet flats, and a fluorescent orange t-shirt that read “Trouble” in big, black, block letters—it had obviously been her dad’s morning to get her to daycare; Andromeda Tonks would never have let her daughter out of the house dressed like that.

                “Wotcher, Cor!” said Dora, smiling brightly, her currently turquoise eyes sparkling with mischief.

                Cordy giggled happily.  “What do you have planned for us today, Dora?” she asked sweetly, flipping her dark curls over her shoulder playfully.

                Dora smiled brightly, playing with the end of her long red braid.  “You see that kid over there?” she asked mischievously.

                Cordy looked over where Dora was pointing.  “The one with the red hair and freckles?” she said, crinkling her nose playfully as she spotted her friend and godbrother Charlie Weasley.

                “Yup,” nodded Dora happily.  “He’s here for just the day with his brothers,” she quickly pointed out a taller redheaded boy with bright blue eyes and a smaller redheaded boy with glasses, “and I want to play a prank on them like Siri and his friends do,” she declared brightly.

                Cordy clapped her hands excitedly.  “Ooo!!  Jamie will be so happy!  He loves pranks!”

                Dora smiled, her eyes changing to a mysterious amber color.  “I know!!  We could be just like them!!”

                “Oh, what fun!” Cordy cried.  Then she frowned thoughtfully.  “So how do you prank someone?  Mummy won’t let Jamie tell me till I’m older.”  She pouted at that.

                Dora grinned happily.  “Siri told me just what to do.”  She looked around conspiratorially before leaning close to Cordy and whispering the plan in her ear.  Cordy squealed with delight as Dora laid out the plan for her.

 

                “How many times do I have to tell you two, food is for eating not for throwing!” Ms. Stacey yelled, exasperated, at the two guilty looking girls covered in applesauce and pumpkin juice sitting in front of her.  “And what’s more you soaked the poor Weasley boys with green paint!” she added, pointing over to the far corner where Ms. Lori was attempting to clean the paint off of the three currently green Weasleys.

                “Sorry, Ms. Stacey,” said Cordy, giving her best “innocent” puppy-dog pout.

                “It was just a bit of fun,” added Dora happily, her hair changing to green to match the paint she and Cordy had “spilled” on the Weasley brothers.  “Siri and Jamie and their friends do it all the time!!”

                Ms. Stacey sighed in exasperation.  “Girls, for the thousandth time, those boys—”

                “Jessi’s not a boy!” protested Dora indignantly, defending her godmother.

                “Alright, those teenagers are precisely that—teenagers.  You two are not.  You, Nymphadora, are only four and you, Cordelia, are only five!”

                The girls looked guiltily at the floor.  Just then the door burst open, admitting two frazzled-looking men.  “What did they do this time?” asked the bespectacled black-haired man.

                “Daddy!” cried little Cordy, jumping up and latching onto her father.

                “Hey, baby girl,” he said lovingly.

                “Wotcher, Daddy,” said Dora, grinning sheepishly at the brown haired man trying desperately to hide his smile.

                “So what’d they do this time?” asked Ted Tonks curiously.

                Ms. Stacey sighed in exasperation.  “Nymphadora and Cordelia covered the Weasley boys with green paint and started a food fight at snack time.”

                Chris Potter was trying his hardest to hide his smile.  He looked down at his sheepish-looking daughter.  “Is this true, Cordelia,” he said, trying to sound stern.  “Did you and Dora paint your godbrothers green?”

                Cordy looked sheepishly up at her father.  “We just wanted to do pranks like Jamie and Siri and Remy and Jessi and Petey do,” she said innocently.

                “Dora?” asked Ted, glancing at his now blue-haired daughter.  “Is this true.”

                Dora nodded her head proudly.  “We want to be just like them when we grow up,” she stated matter-of-factly.

                Ted and Chris looked at each other; they both knew they had to get out of there before they burst into laughter and caused their rambunctious daughters to never ever take them seriously ever again.  “Well, I think that as a punishment you two should have to play with the Weasley boys for the rest of the day,” said Chris firmly, his lips threatening to quirk into a smile.

                “Do we have to?” the two little girls whined together.

                “Yes,” stated Ted simply.  “Now, Auror Potter and I have to get back to work, so you two be good, understand?” he added sternly.

                After getting their daughters to (grudgingly) promise to “be good” Chris and Ted left the room, quickly closing the door behind them.  Once they were out of earshot, they looked at each other and burst into uncontrollable laughter; these meetings were becoming an almost daily occurrence for them, each one more exciting than the last.

                “So, same time tomorrow?” Ted joked as he prepared to apparate back to his office in the Department of Magical Games and Sports at the Ministry.

                “Sure thing,” Chris joked back.

                Grinning at each other and fighting back more laughter, the two men apparated back to work, not knowing that they would never see each other alive again.

 

                “Dora!  Charlie!!  Look at what I can do!”  It was five o’clock and the parents would begin arriving in an hour to pick up their kids, but the three toddlers in question couldn’t have cared less.

                “Wicked!” cried Dora, clapping her hands as her hair changed from bright yellow to sea-foam green.

                Charlie passed his hand underneath the floating teddy bear, honey brown eyes wide in awe.  “How’d you do that, Cor?” he asked, fascinated.

                Cordy shrugged her small shoulders.  “Don’t really know.  I did it to my dolly last night too.”

                Dora’s now sapphire blue eyes widened.  “That’s bloody brilliant, Cor!”

                Cordy’s smiled brilliantly, until she hear Ms. Stacey’s sharp voice.  “Nymphadora Tonks!  I will not tolerate that kind of language in this daycare!” she snapped, her silver-grey eyes flashing madly.  “And Cordelia Potter, what do you think you are doing with that bear!?”

                “S-sorry, Ms. Stacey,” Cordelia whispered, fighting back her tears.  “I-I didn’t mean to…i-it just s-sorta happened…”

                Ms. Stacey’s face softened a bit.  “It’s all right, Cordelia.  I just don’t want you children doing such things on purpose, understand?  You’re all far too young to be doing purposeful magic.”  All three children nodded their understanding.  “Good,” she said.  “Now Nymphadora—”

                The door burst open suddenly, cutting Ms. Stacey’s tirade short.  Looking over to see who had dared to disturb the children’s haven, Ms. Stacey saw a frazzled looking young man with wire-rimmed glasses, messy black hair, and sad-looking hazel eyes.  “Can I help you?” asked Ms. Stacey, gliding over to the visitor.

                The man looked up sharply at Ms. Stacey.  “I need to see Cordelia Potter right now,” he said without hesitation.

                “Sir, I’m afraid—”

                “Jamie!” squealed Cordelia, recognizing her big brother.  She jumped up off the floor, causing the bear to fall to the ground, and ran over to her brother, hugging him tightly around the knees.

                “Hey Brownie,” he said softly, kneeling down to her level.  “How’s my favorite little sister doing today?”

                Cordy rolled her eyes at her big brother.  “Jamie, I’m your only sister!”

                James pretended to be shocked.  “Really?!  Are you sure?”

                Cordy giggled.  “Of course I’m sure, silly.  What are you doing here?”

                The smile that had crept across James’s face while talking to his sister slowly faded.  He slowly stood back up and faced Ms. Stacey.  “Ms. Monahan,” he said firmly, “I need to take my sister home early today; it’s quite urgent.”  Stacey Monahan was about to protest, but something in James Potter’s eyes made her decide otherwise.  She nodded tersely in acceptance.  “Thank you,” said James, picking up his sister.  “Let’s go home now, Brownie.”

                “Kay, Jamie,” she chirped happily, burying her face in her brother’s worn, white t-shirt.  Glancing over James’s shoulder as he carried her out the door, Cordy called out to her friends, “Bye Charlie!  By Dora!  See you tomorrow!”

                Had she been looking at her brother’s eyes, she would have seen the sudden flash of pain at those seemingly innocent words; the very same words he himself had uttered to their parents just the night before...

 

                James carried his baby sister down the hallway to the travel room where he threw some floo powder into the fire before crying out “Potter Manor” and stepping into the fire with Cordelia.

                Seconds later the siblings found themselves shooting out of the living room fireplace.  James dusted Cordy off before doing the same for himself.  “Go to the kitchen and ask Bic to get you something to drink, okay Brownie?” ordered James.

                Cordy tilted her head to the side.  She could tell that there was something wrong with her brother; he looked so sad.  “What’s the matter, Jamie?” she asked innocently.

                “I’ll tell you in a minute, Brownie,” he said sadly.  “You just go ask Bic for that drink—and no caffeine or sugar, understand?  I’ll be right there; I just have to take care of something first.”

                Cordy squinted her big brown eyes, scrutinizing her brother for a moment.  “Okay, Jamie,” she finally said, giving her brother one last glace before bouncing off to bother the House Elves in the kitchen.

                James watched his little sister bounce happily down the hall.  He smiled sadly, wiping a tear from his bright hazel eyes.  Today he would have to give innocent little Cordelia the worst news of her young life; today would inadvertently be the day that her innocence would die and there was absolutely nothing he could do to change that, as much as he might wish otherwise.

                Taking a few moments to compose himself, James thought about how he was going to break the terrible news to his precious baby sister.  Lost in his own thoughts, James didn’t notice where he was until he found his nose pressed up against the kitchen door.  Straightening himself up, he took a deep breath to compose himself before softly pushing the door open.

                James couldn’t help but smile sadly at the picture of innocence sitting before him.  Little Cordelia was sitting on a stool at the island in the middle of the kitchen, dunking a chocolate chip biscuit (cookie) into her tall glass of milk while chattering away about her day to Bic and Nessa.  James heart sunk in his chest—it was going to be up to him and him alone to shatter the beautiful innocence that was his precious baby sister. 

With a heavy heart, James stepped forward into the kitchen toward Cordelia, clearing his throat loudly to make his presence know.

                “Master James!” squeaked Bic fondly, prancing (yes, prancing) over to his young master.  “Is there something Bic can be doing for young master?”

                James smiled fondly at the young, enthusiastic house elf.  “No thank you, Bic, I’m fine for now.  I just need to speak with Cordy.”

                Bic nodded his head in understanding.  “Of course, Master James.  Nessa and Bic will be leaving Master James to speak with Mistress Cordelia now.  Master James is calling Bic if Master James is needing anything,” he stated before giving Nessa a nod.  With a simple POP Nessa and Bic were gone from the kitchen, leaving James alone with Cordelia.

                Forcing himself to smile, James pulled up a stool and sat down next to Cordy.  “Want a biscuit, Jamie?” Cordy asked, holding out the aforementioned sweet.  James took the biscuit wordlessly, but didn’t eat it.  The Potter siblings sat in silence for what seemed to James like hours (it was actually only two minutes), Cordy happily munching on her treat and James simply picking his apart.

                Realizing that he couldn’t put off the inevitable any longer, James gave a sigh and turned to Cordelia.  “Brownie,” he began slowly, “I have something very important to tell you.”

                Cordy cocked her head to the side, scrutinizing her brother.  “What’s wrong, Jamie?” she asked, innocently.

                James heaved a sigh; no matter how much he practiced or how much thought about it, he would never truly be ready to place such a burden on his precious little sister.  “Cordy, this isn’t easy for me to say—I’m not sure exactly…” he trailed off.  This conversation had gone much more smoothly in his mind (then again, that was true for most things).

                Cordy put her small hand on James’s muscular arm.  “‘Skay, Jamie,” she said.  “Daddy already told me not to throw paint at Charlie an’ Billy an’ Percy anymore.  Me’n Dora said we wouldn’t—we swored it.  OH!  The wickedest thing happened today, Jamie!!  I showed Dora and Charlie this cool—”

                James couldn’t take it anymore.  “THEY’RE DEAD, CORDELIA!!  MUM AND DAD ARE DEAD!!” he exploded.

                Cordy stared at James, her eyes growing as wide as saucers.  Tears began to well up in her chocolate brown orbs.  “Th-that’s not funny, Jamie,” she whispered.  “Wh-why would you say something like that?”

                Tears were now freely falling from James’s hazel eyes.  “I’m sorry, Brownie,” he whispered, his head in his hands.  “I-I didn’t mean to tell you like that—it just slipped out—”

                “Y-you’re lying!” Cordy cried.  “N-no!!  I-it can’t be true!  I-it just can’t!”

                James pulled Cordelia close and hugged her tight.  “I’m so sorry,” he whispered in her ear.  “I wish it wasn’t true, I really do, but…”

                Cordy pulled away just enough to look up into her brother’s eyes.  “Th-they’re really gone, aren’t they?” she whispered, her face wet with tears.  “Daddy was going to take me to Diagon Alley this weekend,” she said softly, causing her brother to shed even more silent tears, “and Mummy promised to teach me how to make biscuits like a muggle.”

                James hugged his sister even tighter.  “I’m so sorry, Cordy,” he sobbed into her soft, brown hair.  “I wish you didn’t have to go through this pain; you’re far too young…”

                Cordy spoke so softly that James almost missed what she said next.  “What happened to them?  How did they die Jamie?”

                James closed his eyes.  How was he supposed to tell this innocent little creature that the most evil wizard of their time had had his minions—er, Death Eaters, that is—attack their parents in broad daylight in the middle of Diagon Alley?  How was he supposed to tell her that they were killed simply because they were good and kind people who only wished to make the world a better place for future generations?  How was he supposed to do this on his own?

                “Cordelia,” he began slowly, choosing his words carefully, “Mummy and Daddy were out at lunch and some very bad wizards attacked them.  Th-they fought back, but…”  James’s eyes filled with tears yet again.

                Cordy pulled back from her brother and looked him straight in the eye.  “Why would someone do that?”

                James sighed heavily.  How was he supposed to explain the politics of the war to a five-year-old?  Granted, she was an extremely bright and talented five-year-old, but she was still just a five-year-old nonetheless.  “Because Mummy and Daddy disagreed with Voldemort.”

                Cordy tilted her head to the side.  “But why would he do that?”

                “Because he’s a very evil man, Cordy.  He thinks that purebloods are better than everyone else, and that anyone who doesn’t agree with him should be killed.”

                “But we’re purebloods,” said Cordy, confused.  “I don’t think that.”

                “Exactly, Brownie.  And neither did Mum and Dad.  That’s why he had them killed.”

                Cordy fell into a thoughtful silence.  What she said next started James.  “J-James?” she said softly.  “D-do you think…do you think Mummy and Daddy are in Heaven?”

                James was startled to say the least.  The Potters hadn’t really been very religious, but that didn’t mean that they hadn’t believed in such things.  James pondered Cordy’s question for a moment.  “You know what, Brownie,” he finally said, a small, sad smile gracing his lips, “I think they are.”

 

                April 4, 1986:  “What do you mean she has to go with them!?”

                The occupants of the living room of Potter Manor all gave a start at the yell that came from the small, private parlor where James and his best friend Sirius Black, who had been like a second son to the Potters, were currently speaking to the lawyer in charge of Christian and Joan Potter’s will. 

Cordy was sitting silently in her special chair beside the fireplace, staring into the flames while Charlie and Bill Weasley were trying to get her to smile; Molly Weasley (Cordy’s godmother) was currently out of the room putting Percy and her newborn twins to sleep (at only three-days-old, Fred and George Weasley were already starting to give both of their fairly young parents grey hairs); Arthur Weasley (Cordy’s godfather) was standing near the entrance of the room speaking quietly to Kingsley Shacklebolt, Chris Potter’s protégé, about Merlin-only-knows-what; Remus Lupin, James and Cordy’s cousin, was holding tightly onto a mug of coffee, keeping silent vigil over the children while casting occasional glances to the parlor door and the lone redheaded figure of Lily Evans, James’ girlfriend—due any day with Remus’s twins (they had dated for a while when James and Lily had broken up for a while)—who was pacing in front of the door; widowed Luna Black, Sirius’s sister-in-law and Lily’s best friend, was sitting in a comfy gold armchair holding her seven-month-old son Orion Black and fighting back her tears as she watched her and James’s two-year-old son Cody Potter and her and Remus’s one-year-old lycanthropic twins Callista and Cleopatra Lupin playing on the floor, completely oblivious to the tragedy that had recently occurred; Jessi Martini, Remus’s best friend and one of the Marauders, was sitting Indian style on the floor with her best girl-friend Regina Johnson née Jordan, simply watching her and Remus’s two-year-old twins, Derek and Diana Lupin, playing with Luna’s children, Regina and Sirius’ almost two-year-old son Paul, and her and Sirius’s girls (three-year-old Liana, one-year-old Melody, and five-month-old Grace), and doing her very best impression of a rock as she tried to wrap her mind around yet another tragedy in her very young life.

                Molly had just walked back into the room, child-free, when the parlor door suddenly banged open and a livid James Potter stormed out followed closely by a fuming Sirius Black.  “They can’t do this to us!” James fumed.  “What gives them the bloody right to tear us apart?!  Don’t they bloody well know that we’re all each other have now?!”

                “Language, James!” snapped Molly sharply.  “There are children in the room!”

                Normally James would have apologized to Molly, but right now he just couldn’t deal with her mothering on top of everything else.  Throwing the room in general a dark look, James stormed out without speaking another word.  Lily looked at Sirius, an unspoken question in her eyes.  Sirius nodded his head and jerked it in the direction that James had gone.  Wordlessly thanking him, Lily waddled off after her moody black-haired boyfriend.

                Jessi stood up, towering over Sirius; he, at six foot three, had to look up a good three inches to look her in the eyes.  “What happened in there, Sir?” she asked huskily, the suppressed tears evident even behind her strange (in a good way) Italian-English accent.  Sirius stared up into the chocolate brown eyes of his honey-skinned “secret” lover, his grey eyes locking with hers.  So engrossed were they in each others’ stares that they didn’t realize that the rest of the room (minus Cordy and the rest of the children) were staring at them, awaiting Sirius’ answer.

                The spell was broken by Remus clearing his throat.  The lovers quickly broke their gaze and began to stare at anything that wasn’t each other.  Remus didn’t know who they were trying to kid; everyone but they themselves could see just how in love they were and a person would have to be pretty dense (*coughsiriusharryronandcassi-cough*) to not see that in their own ways Liana (who was a female carbon copy of Sirius), Mel, and Gracie all looked just like the two of them.  “So?” prompted the sandy-haired werewolf, quirking an eyebrow at the black-haired pureblood.  “What went on in there?  Prongs sounded pretty upset.”

                Sirius shook his head, indicating the children.  Molly took the hint and ushered them off into Cordy’s playroom.  Once the children were out of the room, Sirius took a seat on the plush scarlet couch and began to explain exactly what had gone on with the lawyer.

 

                “Our own bloody parents want me to send Cordelia off to live with Mum’s damn squib cousins!” James raged at Lily, pacing back and forth across his childhood bedroom.  “How could they do something like this to us?!”

                The pregnant redheaded witch stroked her protruding stomach gently as she patiently listened to her hazel-eyed boyfriend rant on about his parent’s decision of Cordelia’s custody in the event of their deaths.  “Surely they can’t be all that bad, James,” she said wearily.  She was tired, she was pregnant, her feet were sore, her back hurt, she was craving a banana-maple syrup smoothie (of all things), and she was due in three weeks; Lily loved James with all her heart, but his incessant griping over this was starting to wear on her last nerve.  “This may just be the hormones talking, but would it really be all that bad if Cordy went off to live with these squibs?  At least she’d be away from Voldemort.”

                James glared at his emerald-eyed girlfriend.  “Dammit, Lily, she’s my baby sister!!” he yelled.  “I can’t just send her off to live with Laurie and Jeff!  They hate magic!!  They’re frickin’ jealous ‘cause it’s something they should be able to do but can’t!!”

                “James—”

                “No, Lily!” James yelled.  “How would you feel if your little sister was getting taken away from you, huh?  What if it was Willow?”

                Lily gave a sigh.  “I’d be just as angry as you are,” she admitted wearily.

                “Exactly!!  I’m of age!!  I’m frickin’ twenty years old!  And even if she can’t stay with me, why not her bloody godparents?  What’s wrong with Molly and Arthur?!  They’re two of the best bloody parents out there!!”

                “JAMES!!”  James finally stopped his tirade and looked at the pregnant beauty sitting in front of him.  She patted the bed beside her and, blinking stupidly, James sat down.  “You need to calm down, James,” said Lily soothingly.  “I understand, really I do.  You may not think so, but I do.  I care about Cordelia just as much as you do.  I know how much you love her, but are you really ready to take on the responsibility of taking care of her on your own?”

                James turned his hazel stare to Lily and stared deeply into her emerald eyes.  “I would do absolutely anything for Cordy,” he said so seriously that it made Lily shiver.  James laughed softly before continuing, “Besides, it’s a little late to be questioning my responsibility, isn’t it?  I mean, I already have a two-year-old son and you know I’ll care for your twins as if they were my own.”  He smiled broadly.  “Besides, the Marauders and the Unattainables are my family; we all consider each other’s kids to be our own, you know that—what’s ours is yours and what’s yours is ours and all that.”

                Lily couldn’t help but smile at that.  “I love you James Potter.”

                James bent down and kissed Lily’s bright red hair.  “I love you too, Lily Evans.  I love you too.”

 

                May 18, 1986James Potter sat stony-faced on the edge of the lone bed in a small hotel room of an even smaller hotel at the edge of London.  Tucked into the bed next to him, still sleeping soundly, was little Cordelia, her soft pink cheeks still wet from the tears she hadn’t stopped shedding since their parents had died.  No longer was Cordelia Jillian Potter a happy-go-lucky five-year-old girl; she had been forced to grow up long before her time.  The past week had been especially hard on them, with the recent deaths of their parents and Cordelia’s impending departure from James looming over their heads like a giant storm cloud of doom.

                James sighed heavily and got up off of the bed, walking slowly to the tiny bathroom.  Shutting the door softly, so as not to wake his sister, James slid down against the door to the floor and finally let free the tirade of tears that had been threatening to fall since he had received the letter.

                Despite his best efforts and the efforts of his friends and “family,” James had been unable to gain custody of Cordelia.  Six days ago, a letter had come from Laurie and Jeff Chase, informing James that they would be coming to London on the eighteenth to pick Cordelia up and take her back to California with them.

                The dreaded day had finally come.  Through his tears, James glanced up at the clock on the bathroom counter.  6:45 A.M.  Three hours and fifteen minutes until they would come to take Cordelia away from him, possibly forever.

                Taking off his glasses, James wiped the back of his hand across his face to get rid of his tears.  He then stood up and splashed his face with cold water, trying to compose himself.  Staring at his reflection in the mirror, all he could think about was that he was somehow to blame for Cordelia’s fate.  Maybe if he had been a better son, if he hadn’t gotten so many detentions in school, maybe then his parents would have named him as Cordelia’s legal guardian instead of his mother’s magic-hating squib cousins.

                A soft knock on the hotel room door jerked James out of the hole of self-loathing and misery he was currently living in.  Unlocking the bathroom door and exiting the small room quietly, James made his way to the main door, giving a quick glance to the bed to make sure Cordy was still sleeping.

                Pulling open the hotel room door, James smiled slightly as he found himself staring into the amber eyes of his favorite cousin.  “Hey Moony,” he said quietly.  “What are you doing here?”

                “What, I can’t come visit my favorite cousin, Prongs?” Moony said, keeping a straight face.

                James placed a hand over his heart teasingly.  “I had no idea you felt that way about me, Moony.”

                Moony aka Remus Lupin pushed past his cousin into the small hotel room.  “Not you, you great prat,” he said as James shut the door, “I was talking about Brownie.”

                James made a dramatic stabbing motion to his chest.  “You wound me, Moony.  And here I thought we had a special bond.”  James gave his best puppy-dog look (which wasn’t really all that great—not once you had seen Cordy’s or Lily’s or even Sirius’s), which just made Remus laugh at him. 

Moony’s laughter was infections.  A few seconds was all it took for James to break down and join Remus’s laugh-fest.  Wiping tears of laughter from his under his glasses, James placed his hand on the young werewolf’s shoulder.  “Thanks, Moony; I really needed that.”

                Remus shrugged.  “No problem, Prongs; it’s what I do.”

                James chuckled lightly.  “That you do, Moony.”

 

                As per usual, Cordy woke up at seven on the dot (how she was always able to do so never ceased to amaze James).  Upon seeing her favorite cousin sitting in a small armchair reading a book, she promptly jumped out of the bed and ran squealing to the sandy-haired young man, jumping on his lap and giving him a fierce hug.

                “Remy!!” she squealed in delight.  “You’re here!!  I missed you soooo much!!  Ooooo, you wanna see something wicked cool?  Look what I can do!!”

                James chuckled happily as he watched the ecstatic five-year-old showing off her “wicked cool” levitating skills to the introverted werewolf.  He couldn’t remember the last time he had seen Cordelia this happy—no wait, that wasn’t entirely true: the last time he had seen her this happy had been right before he told her that their parents were dead.

                This thought alone was enough to sober up the black haired twenty-year-old.  That was literally a lifetime ago; it wasn’t his reality anymore.  No.  His reality now was that his parents were dead; his baby sister—whom he had sworn he would always protect and keep from harm—was no longer her same bubbly, vivacious, happy self; and he was losing her to a couple of magic-hating squibs who lived halfway across the world in a small Californian town called Sunnydale.

                “Hey Prongs, you alright there mate?”

                James blinked his bright hazel eyes.  “What’s that Moony?”

                Remus turned his concerned amber eyes on his bespectacled friend.  “You zoned out there, mate.”

                “Oh, sorry,” James replied distractedly.  “Where’s Cordy?”

                “I sent her to get dressed,” he replied, inclining his head toward the bathroom door.  “I told her we’d take her out for ice cream.”  He paused for a second.  “Is that alright with you?”

                James nodded distractedly, staring aimlessly at the bathroom door.  “Sure thing, Moony,” he replied automatically.

                Remus put his hand on James’ shoulder comfortingly.  “You don’t want her to leave,” he stated simply.

                James turned to look his cousin in the eyes.  “Can you blame me?” he replied softly.

                Remus glanced toward the bathroom door.  “No,” he said softly, “I really can’t.”

                The two old friends stood in silence for several minutes.  Remus started when James finally spoke.  “I can’t help but think that this is somehow my fault,” he admitted, his voice catching in his throat.

                “How’s that?” asked Remus gently.

                James fidgeted and averted his eyes, looking anywhere but at his cousin.  “Maybe if I’d been a better big brother—you know, been around more, done more stuff with her—maybe then she wouldn’t have to go.”

                Remus grabbed James by the shoulders and shook him none too gently.  “Don’t you dare think that, James Potter!” he growled sharply.  “Look at me, Prongs!”  James stared at his feet.  “Goddammit!  James Isaac Potter, look at me!” he practically yelled.  James finally looked up at him.  “Don’t ever think it was something you did, Prongs!” Remus said fiercely, his voice almost a growl.  “You’re the best bloody brother a little girl like Cordelia could ever hope for!  You should hear her go on about you—she absolutely adores you, mate!!  I’ve never seen a little girl quite so taken with her big brother before—you’re her bloody hero, Prongs!”

                James blinked back his tears.  “Then tell me, Moony,” he whispered softly, “why can’t I keep her?”

                Moony’s shoulders sagged a bit.  “I don’t know, Prongs,” he admitted defeatedly.  “I just don’t know…”

                “I’m ready for ice cream!”

                James and Remus turned to look at the small little brunette who had just come out of the bathroom dressed in a bright yellow sundress printed with huge silver crescent moons and tiny little silver stars, her small feet clad in a pair of pretty silver sandals and a silver bow holding her chocolate curls out of her little brown face.

                Cordy saw the two young men staring at her.  “What?” she said irritably, placing her small hands on her hips and pursing her full pink lips.  “Remy promised me ice cream, Jamie,” she said matter-of-factly.  “Now, let’s go!”

                James couldn’t help himself.  He burst into laughter.  Remus tried his best to hold back, but slowly he too gave into his chuckles, which quickly turned into full-blown laughter.  Before either of them knew it, they were both grabbing onto each other in an attempt to not fall to the floor from the intensity of their laughter.

                Cordelia pursed her lips even more.  “I don’t see what’s so funny,” she insisted, narrowing her eyes at the two laughing friends.  “Ice cream is no laughing matter.”

                James and Remus did their best to calm down.  “Of course it’s not,” said Remus.  “I did promise.”

                “Yes you did, Remy.”

                “Yeah,” said James, holding the stitch that had formed in his side.  “Everyone knows you don’t get between Moony and his ice cream—especially if it’s chocolate.”  Cordelia laughed as James expertly dodged Remus’ hand coming down towards his head.  Remus simply rolled his eyes at him and grabbed Cordy’s hand, calling out for James to hurry up if he wanted ice cream too.

 

                All too soon their time with Cordy was up.  At ten on the dot, Laurie and Jeff Chase showed up in the lobby of the small hotel the Potters were staying at to collect Cordelia.  Leaving Cordy with Remus, James and the Chases went into a small side room to talk.

                Things got pretty heated between the two parties.  Laurie and Jeff were dead set against James and his “freak” friends having any contact with Cordelia.  That was the point where James burst out and told them that Cordy had been showing signs of magic since before Chris and Joan had died, and that she was going to be a pretty damn powerful witch, too.

                The real kicker came when Laurie and Jeff handed James the papers they had acquired the week before.  They first showed him the formal adoption papers for Cordelia Jillian Potter, then they had the audacity to tell him that they were legally changing her last name to Chase and the papers would come through in three days time.

                By the time their “conversation” was over, James Potter was absolutely livid; unfortunately, there was absolutely nothing he could do.  According to wizarding law, his parents’ will had to be obeyed to the letter, and that meant handing over custody of Cordelia to these American squibs.

                The farewell James, Remus, and Cordelia shared was a tearful one.  Cordelia refused to let go of James and Remus, forcing Jeff to pry her bodily off of them.  Cordelia wasn’t about to go without a fight, though.  She kicked and screamed as hard and loud as she possibly could as Jeff pulled her away from the two remaining men who meant the world to her.  She cried out for “Jamie” and “Remy” as Jeff dragged her off to the airport with Laurie.

                James was a broken man; Cordelia meant the world to him and now she was gone.  It was at that instant that James Isaac Potter decided he didn’t care what anyone thought; he leaned into his cousin’s comforting shoulder and cried his heart out.  He cried for his dead parents, he cried for the true end of his childhood, he cried for Jessi’s mum, he cried for Sirius and his horrible family, he cried for Remus and his lycanthropy, he cried for his dead aunt and uncle (Remus’s parents), he cried for all the things over the years he had suppressed inside of him.  Most of all, though, he cried for Cordelia, the little sister he was afraid deep down that he might never see again.

Chapter Text

Prologue: How It All Began

 

Part 5: Taken

 

January 21, 1987:  Elizabeth “Buffy” Anne Longbottom was contently playing in the front yard of the Longbottom mansion.  Today was her sixth birthday and she was anxiously awaiting the arrival of her big brother Frank and his new wife Alice—her sister.  Buffy loved that; she had always wanted a sister and Alice was really nice.  Plus Buffy thought she was really pretty.

                Buffy was so engrossed in her dolls that she almost didn’t notice her brother’s arrival.  “Hey Sunshine,” a masculine voice said softly in her ear.

                Buffy squealed with delight; there was only one person who called her that—her big brother Frank.  “Frankie!” she squealed, jumping up off the ground, only to find herself being swung through the air by her tall brown-haired brother.

                “How’s the birthday girl?” he asked, setting his blonde-haired sister down and meeting her hazel-green eyes with his own chestnut brown orbs.  Buffy smiled; she loved how Frank always treated her like she was a big girl, not a baby.

                “Super-duper,” Buffy replied happily, squeezing her brother tight.  “Where’s Aly?” she asked, looking around the yard for her pretty blond sister-in-law.

                Frank chuckled playfully.  “Oh, I see how it is.  You love Alice more than me.  I’m hurt, Sunshine.  Truly I am.”

                Buffy swatted the nineteen-year-old’s arm playfully.  “You know I love you too, Frankie,” she said, smiling up at her big brother.

                Frank gave his little sister a swift hug.  “I know, Sunshine; I was just playing with you.”

                Buffy rolled her eyes.  “I know, Frankie.  I am six, you know.”

                Frank chuckled.  “Yes, I forgot, you’re all grown up now, aren’t you.”  Buffy nodded her head seriously.  Frankie chuckled; he really loved his little sister.  Straightening himself up, Frank sighed and ran his hand through his chestnut brown hair.  “Well, Sunshine, I’ve got to go say ‘hi’ to Mum now.  Are you coming in?”

                Buffy shook her head.  “I want to wait for Alice,” she said stubbornly.

                Frank ruffled Buffy’s long, wavy blonde hair playfully and chuckled.  “Well, it’ll be a bit of a wait, Sunshine.  Aly got held up a bit at Auror training.”

                Buffy’s hazel-green eyes went wide with worry.  “She will be here, won’t she?”

                “Of course, Sunshine; she promised.  You know Alice never breaks her promises—especially to you.”

                Buffy smiled in relief.  “Oh, good.”

                Frank chuckled.  “So are you coming in?” he asked.

                Buffy shook her head adamantly.  “I still wanna wait.”

                Frank shrugged his shoulders.  “Suit yourself, Sunshine.  See you inside, then.”  Giving her a kiss on the top of her sunshine blonde head, Frank turned and headed into the house to greet Gardener and Augusta Longbottom, his and Buffy’s parents.

 

                Twenty minutes had passed since Frank’s arrival and Alice still hadn’t shown up yet.  Buffy had moved on from playing with her dolls to playing with her favorite hot pink, daisy-covered rubber ball.  She was contentedly kicking said ball around the yard, not-so patiently waiting for Aly’s arrival.  As she was playing, she had somehow managed to unintentionally move closer and closer to the dirt path that marked the front end of the Longbottom estate.

                One solid kick was all it took to send the ball flying across the dirt path into the flower-filled meadow beyond.  Buffy hesitated for a moment; she knew she wasn’t allowed to cross the dirt path.  Her mum and dad had told her time and time again to stay on their side of the dirt path and to never venture into the meadow alone.  Buffy didn’t understand why she wasn’t allowed in the pretty meadow; it didn’t look scary to her.  She was, after all, only six years old; her parents had never explained to her that the safety wards and muggle-repelling charms on the house only extended to the path and not into the meadow beyond.

                Normally Buffy listened to her parents and obeyed them wholeheartedly, but for some reason today felt different to her.  Maybe it was because she was now a grown-up six-year-old, or maybe it was something else entirely.  Whatever it was, Buffy felt compelled to disobey her parents and chase her favorite ball into the meadow.  As Buffy stepped across the path she felt a strange tingling sensation; this was the wards and charms set on Longbottom Manor, though she didn’t know it.  As Buffy stepped off of the path and into the meadow, she giggled happily.  She had made it into the big bad meadow and nothing bad had happened to her.  Maybe her parents were just being silly.  After all, Frank and Alice were allowed to go into the meadow and so were Mummy and Daddy.  Why not her?

                Buffy picked up her ball and turned to go back across the path into her front yard (she may have been curious and a bit rebellious today, but she wasn’t daft enough to want to incur her mum’s wrath).  She was a single step away from the dirt path when she felt a heavy hand on her shoulder.  She made to scream (what was a stranger doing touching her, Buffy Anne Longbottom?  How dare he!), but was silenced by a cloth covered hand shooting out to cover her mouth and nose.  Buffy struggled as fiercely as she could, but she was no match for the strength of what she figured was a full-grown man.  Buffy kicked and wriggled, desperately trying to break the man’s hold on her, but it was no use.  The last thing Buffy thought of before her world went black was Frank and how he wasn’t there to save her.

 

                What was meant to be a happy occasion quickly turned sour.  Alice Longbottom arrived at her in-laws’ home expecting to see eager little Buffy playing outside, waiting for her to arrive just like she always was.  When she apparated to an empty front lawn, she started to get a bit worried.  Thinking that maybe Buffy had gone inside after all, she too headed into the house.

                That was when panic set in.  Alice innocently asked if Buffy had come inside and was instantly greeted by three insistent “nos.”  Alice’s lightly freckled, ivory faced paled horribly and she informed her husband and his parents that Buffy wasn’t outside.  In a panic, the four adults spread out to search the grounds for Buffy.

                It was Frank who found the only clue.  He was searching the front yard when he spied a hot pink blob near the dirt path.  Running over, Frank saw that it was Buffy’s favorite ball—and it was on the wrong side of the path.

                Gathering his family back in the house, Frank told him what he had found and his mother instantly burst into tears.  Patting his wife’s back comfortingly, Gardener Longbottom told his son to call in the aurors.  Seeing that her husband was in too much shock to do so himself, Alice took it upon herself to call in backup.

                The aurors arrived quickly and searched the property and the meadow beyond for hours.  By nightfall there was still no clue as to Buffy’s whereabouts.  It was with a heavy heart that Head Auror Alastor Moody had to inform the Longbottoms that their six-year-old daughter was missing and might not ever be found.

 

                January 22, 1987:  Buffy yawned and stretched her small arms as she sat up in her bed.  Throwing off her pale pink covers, she slowly climbed out of bed and made her way down the stairs.  She entered the kitchen to the smell of bacon, eggs, and pancakes cooking.  Stepping through the archway, Buffy saw her mother sitting at the island sipping her coffee as she dutifully watched the cooking food.  Buffy shuffled into the kitchen, smiling at her mother.  “Morning Mommy,” she said.

                Her mother looked up, smiling at the sight of her daughter.  “Morning sweetie.  Are you hungry?”  Buffy nodded her head.  Her mom smiled, set down her tea, and got up to fill a plate up with food for her daughter.

                Buffy’s mom set the plate of food down on the island as the little girl clambered up onto the tall island seat.  Finally making it to the top, Buffy smiled happily and dug in.  After she had eaten half her eggs, a third of her pancakes, and all of her bacon (not to mention half a glass of freshly-squeezed orange juice), Buffy looked up expectantly at her mom.  “Where’s Daddy?” she asked curiously.

                “He had to leave for work early this morning.”  Buffy nodded her head in understanding.  “Did you sleep well last night, honey?” her mother asked her.

                Buffy played idly with her remaining eggs as she answered her mom.  “I had a weird dream last night, Mommy.”

                “Oh?  What was it about?”

                Buffy scrunched her little nose thoughtfully.  “I-I don’t remember exactly…I was happy, I remember that.  And there was someone who made me smile, but then…” she trailed off.

                “Then what, honey?”

                “Then the bad man came and took me away,” she whispered, tears in her eyes.

                “Oh, sweetie,” said her mother, coming around the island and wrapping her small blonde daughter in a great big hug.  “You’re safe here, sweetheart; no one will come and take you away from your daddy and me.”

                “But—”

                “No.  Listen to me Buffy Anne Summers; I promise you, no one will ever take you away from me and your daddy, ever.  Understand?”

                Buffy nodded and snuggled deeply into Joyce Summers’s embrace.  “I know Mommy.  I love you.”

                “I love you too, Buffy,” Joyce replied, hugging her daughter tight.

                Buffy felt safe in Joyce’s arms, the thought of Hank Summers doing the same, making her feel good and loved.  There was only one thing nagging at the back of Buffy’s brain: who was the man who had made her feel safer and more loved than she had ever felt in all of her six years of life and why couldn’t she get him out of her mind?

Chapter Text

Prologue: How It All Began

 

Part 6: Goodbye to You

 

December 12, 1987:  Seven-year-old Willow Eleanor Evans sat on the window seat in her bedroom, idly watching the snow fall to the ground.  Her sister-in-law Ana Evans and her one-year-old twin nieces Jordan and Taylor had arrived the night before for the Christmas holiday.  Willow’s thirty-year-old brother Alex (Ana’s husband) was on call at the hospital until the 22nd, so he would be in and out until then; Alex was a doctor, an obstetrician to be exact.  Willow’s twenty-four-year-old four-month pregnant sister Petunia and her horrible husband Vernon Dursley were scheduled to arrive on the 20th—she wasn’t particularly looking forward to that visit, especially because Tuney had been increasingly cold to her since she had started to take after Lily.  Lily was Willow’s twenty-one-year-old sister—her favorite sister, if truth be told.  Lily and her husband James Potter would be arriving tomorrow, along with James’s three-year-old son Cody and Lily’s one-year-old twins Ember and Ender Lupin.  Willow was especially excited to see Lily this year; Lily had told them all that she had some big news to share.  Besides this, Willow had recently discovered that she was able to float small things like a pencil when she really concentrated. 

Lily Potter was the only one who could really understand Willow because Lily was a real live witch and she had told Willow more than once that she was a witch too.  Willow had been so happy when Lily and James (who at the time had just been Lily’s boyfriend) had taken her aside on her sixth birthday and told her so.  Apparently they had been wanting to tell her since she had first started showing magic at the young age of two and a half, but Sarah and Joshua Evans (Alex, Tuney, Lily, and Willow’s parents) had insisted that they wait until she was at least six before they told her.  Unbeknownst to them all, though, Willow had discovered that she was magical all on her own when she was just four years old and she had been practicing ever since, though she had done her very best to act surprised when she was officially told two years later.

                Lily and James had told Willow absolutely everything about Hogwarts, the school for witches and wizards that they had both attended.  Lily was adamant that come her eleventh birthday, Willow would be getting her very own letter to Hogwarts and she too would get to learn magic.  Willow had been so excited at that news.  Lily was really the only one who truly understood Willow.  Her parents were loving and kind, but they were “muggles,” according to Lily—that is, non-magical folk—as were Alex, Tuney, Vernon, and Ana.

                Willow shifted restlessly on her window seat and sighed heavily.  Sixteen more hours till Lily and James arrived.  Sixteen more hours until her best friend returned home for Christmas.  Sixteen more hours till—

                A sharp knock at her door startled Willow out of her reverie.  Climbing down off of her seat, the petite redhead made her way over to the door.  Opening it slowly, she found herself staring into her big brother’s great-big sapphire blue eyes.  “Alex!” she shrieked happily, jumping up and down while hugging him around the knees.

                Alex chuckled as he grabbed his hyperactive emerald-eyed sister by the shoulders to calm her down.  “Calm down, Wills,” he said, laughing at her antics.

                Willow stopped jumping, instead bouncing on the balls of her feet.  “Sorry Lex.  I’m just so happy to see you!”

                “I can see that,” chuckled Alex.  He promptly picked up the small green-eyed girl and settled her on his shoulders.  Willow squealed happily as Alex carried her out of her room and down the stairs.  Arriving in the empty living room, Alex plopped Willow down on the couch before sitting himself down beside her.  “So,” he asked, making himself comfortable on the squishy green couch, “what do you want for Christmas this year, Pixie?”

                Willow stared straight into Alex’s eyes and stated seriously, “I want to go to Hogwarts and learn magic just like Lily and James.”

                Alex smiled broadly at his baby sister and chuckled.  “Well, I can’t help you on that one, Pix, sorry.”  Willow looked slightly crestfallen.  “Don’t worry sis,” he said, hugging the small redheaded girl comfortingly.  “You’ll be going there before you know it.”

                “Promise?”

                “Promise.”

 

                Willow was happily watching her identical strawberry-blonde nieces as Ana worked in the kitchen to get dinner ready.  Willow was amusing the twin terrors by shooting up multicolored sparks—something she had recently discovered how to do.  Tay and Jor sat entranced, their identical sapphire blue eyes staring at their Auntie Willow in awe.

                “Willow, please bring the twins in for dinner!” Ana called from the dining room.  Willow reluctantly stopped her light show and picked up a twin in each arm before heading into the kitchen and greeting her pale-haired sister-in-law.  After setting the twins into their high chairs, Willow proceeded to help the blue-eyed woman put the food on the table.

                “Willow, dear, will you please go get your brother and tell him that dinner’s ready?”

                “Sure thing Ana,” Willow chirped happily, skipping off just as Ana began telling off one of the twins for tugging on one of her blonde braids.

                Willow continued skipping down the hall, searching for her brown-haired brother in every room.  Finally she found him sitting in their father’s office talking to someone on the phone.  “Are you quite sure?” she heard him say, his voice sounding strained.  “There’s no mistake?”  Willow couldn’t hear what the person on the other end had said, but she could tell that it was causing her brother great distress.  “I see,” he stated finally.  “Well, thank you for telling me.  Yes, yes, I’m sure you are.  Very well.  Yes, tomorrow at eight.  Right.  Yes, you too.”  Hanging up the phone tiredly, Alex leaned back in the chair and wiped a couple tears from his face.

                “Alex?” said Willow timidly.  “Are you alright?”

                Alex started.  “Willow.  I-I didn’t see you there.  Did you need something?”

                “Oh, right.  Ana wanted me to tell you dinner’s ready.”

                Alex made no move to get up.  “Oh, thank you Willow.  Tell Ana I’ll be right there.”

                Taking this as a dismissal, Willow turned to leave.  As she reached the doorframe she suddenly turned back around to see Alex running his calloused fingers through his thick chestnut locks.  “Are you alright, Alex?” she asked again.

                Alex started and stared into the concerned emerald orbs of his baby sister.  Heaving a sigh, he replied, “I just got some bad news, Pixie, that’s all.  I need a moment to think.”

                Willow gave a small nod.  “Mummy always says its better to talk about things, else you might ‘splode and go all kablooy.”

                Had Willow been any other seven-year-old she might have missed the brief flash of pain that crossed her brother’s face, but she wasn’t.  However, she didn’t say anything, choosing instead to store the information away for future reference.  “That’s good advice, Pix,” said Alex softly.  “You be sure to remember that.”  Willow nodded her head in compliance.  “Now, run along and get to the table.  I’ll be right there; I promise.”  Giving one last glance back at her brother, Willow left their dad’s office and walked slowly back to the kitchen, contemplating what the strange look that had crossed her brother’s face mere seconds ago could have meant.

 

                December 13, 1987When Willow came downstairs in the morning she was surprised to see that her big sisters, Lily and Tuney, were sitting silently together at the kitchen table.  “Lily?” said Willow sleepily, not sure if she was still dreaming or not.

The young redheaded woman (most people said Willow looked just like her) turned and gave her sister a small smile as she sipped on her coffee.  “Morning sleepyhead,” she said blearily.

                “Tuney?” Willow added, turning to look quizzically at her thin, brunette sister.

                Petunia smiled stiffly at her baby sister, clutching her tea cup tightly.  “Good morning, Willow,” she said shortly.  “I hope you slept well.”

                Willow smiled shyly up at her oldest sister.  While it was true that Tuney wasn’t nearly as pretty as Lily— with her plain, straight, shoulder-length brown hair, sharp, nut-brown eyes, and thin, angular, some said horse-like, features many considered her to be the plain-Jane of the Evans family—Willow still looked up to her; Tuney never lied to her, even when Alex and Lily might do so to spare her feelings.  Willow knew that deep-down her sister still loved her, but ever since Willow had started showing signs that she was just as magical as Lily, Tuney had become cold and distant—thought not outright hostile, as she was to Lily—to her.  “I slept very well, thank you for asking, Petunia,” Willow replied politely, just as Tuney had taught her.

                Petunia gave her youngest sister a small smile before responding, “Excellent,” and returning her attention to her tea and absently rubbing her slightly swollen stomach tenderly; at four months pregnant, Tuney was just now starting to show, though if she hadn’t been so thin no one would have noticed just yet.

                Still not completely awake, Willow sat herself down at the table next to Lily, poured herself a bowl of her favorite sugar-loaded cereal, and helped herself to a big glass of milk.  The three sisters sat in silence, the elder two sipping their respective beverages and the younger munching happily on her cereal as they slowly joined the world of the living.

                Willow was suddenly interrupted from her meal by a pair of strong hands lifting her bodily off her chair and spinning her around.  “Jamie!” she shrieked happily, immediately recognizing the bespectacled black-haired man currently holding her.  “Put me down!”

                “Whatever you say, Mini-Lils,” he said, playfully dumping her gently on her rear; ever since James Potter had first been introduced to the Evans, he had taken to calling Willow “Mini-Lils,” saying that she looked exactly like her big sister—he wasn’t the only person who said that either.  Laughing, Willow picked herself up off the floor and hugged her favorite brother-in-law (she truly despised Vernon Dursley, the pompous fat prat) before settling herself back in her seat to finish her breakfast.

                James sat down in the empty seat next to her with a certain grace and arrogance that only he could pull off.  As he sat, Petunia pursed her thin lips until they were almost non-existent; it wasn’t exactly a secret that Petunia Dursley and the Potters (Lily and James) didn’t get along at all.  Ignoring the brown-haired busy-body, James smiled at the pixie-like girl sitting next to him.  “So how’s my favorite sister-in-law this morning?” he asked playfully, tugging on a strand of Willow’s bright red hair.

                Willow giggled.  “Just peachy, Jamie.”  Willow couldn’t help but notice the flicker of pain that crossed James’s face every time she called him that, but she didn’t really understand why; Lily had told her confidentially that someone close to him had always called him that and that she was gone now, but Willow couldn’t get anything else out of her normally very open big sister.

                James smiled at her again, ruffling her hair.  “That’s super, Mini-Lils,” he said happily, reaching across the small girl to snatch Lily’s coffee mug from her.

                “James Isaac Potter, don’t even think about it!” Lily growled at her husband, swatting his hand away from her precious coffee; she was not a morning person and God, Merlin, and Zeus help the person who tried to take her coffee away from her.

                James retracted his hand quickly.  “Geez, Lils,” he said teasingly, “moody much?”

                “Shut up, James.”

                James mock bowed in his seat.  “As milady commands,” he teased.  Willow giggled.

                Narrowing her emerald eyes at her husband, Lily snapped, “You are a pompous prat, James Potter!  I don’t know why I ever agreed to go out with you, let alone marry you!”

                James made a stabbing motion to his heart.  “You wound me, Evans,” he said playfully.

                “Go to Hell Potter, you bloody arrogant prat!” she growled at him.

                Willow suddenly burst into laughter.  Lily’s eyes snapped up to look at her baby sister.  “What’s so funny?” she asked irritably.

                “Y-you said a bad word, Lils!” Willow managed to get out between her bursts of laughter.

                Lily suddenly looked mortified.  “Oh sweet Merlin!” she breathed.  “Will, I’m so sorry!  I didn’t mean—don’t you ever repeat those filthy words, you hear me?”

                James did his best to hide his smile at his wife’s abrupt change of mood mid-apology—he honestly couldn’t wait until she told her family the good news.  “I think Willow gets it, dear,” said James once he had schooled his features to not give himself away.  “Don’t you, Mini-Lils?”

                Willow giggled.  “Of course I do, you prat,” the seven-year-old redhead said playfully.  “I would never say such things, unlike dear, sweet Lily here…”

                “Yeah, yeah,” Lily grumbled, “I get it; I’m a horrible person, swearing in front of a seven-year-old.  I said I was sorry, okay?”

                James reached behind Willow to pat his wife’s arm soothingly.  “We know, Red,” he said softly, “you’re just not a morning person; I’ve know that since first year.  I shouldn’t have teased you like that.”

                “Darn tootin’,” said Willow happily, eliciting a small half-smile from a still-not-quite-awake Lily, a loud burst of laughter from a far-too-happy James, and even a tiny quirk of what might have been a smile from a near-forgotten Petunia.

                The foursome spent the next ten minutes in relative silence (relative meaning that James was doing everything in his power to entertain the little girl he considered his own little sister and make her laugh—which he did, many times) for about ten minutes before Lily—having finally finished her precious caffeinated beverage—finally broke the silence.

                “So, you got here rather early, James,” she said, setting down her now empty mug and staring at her hazel-eyed husband.  “Was there something you wanted?”

                It always amazed Willow how her bestest brother-in-law (the title of bestest brother was already taken by Alex) could go from a funny, playful guy one second to a serious, no-nonsense kind of guy the next.  James instantly stopped his games with Willow, putting on his “Big-Boy” face, as Will had dubbed it.  “Lily, have you heard from Luna lately?” he asked seriously.

                Lily frowned thoughtfully.  “You know, James, it’s strange.  I don’t think I’ve spoken to her since we helped get her, Rion, and baby Cassi settled in their new house.”  She looked up quizzically at her husband.  “That was two and a half weeks ago, wasn’t it?  Is something wrong?”  The concern in Lily’s voice seemed to grow at the thought that her best friend or her children might be in trouble.

                Temporarily avoiding the inevitable, James said, “Cody’s spending Christmas with her this year, so are Calli and Cleo—that is, for a few days.  They’re going to see their dad too.”

                Lily waved it off.  “Yeah, yeah, I know.  Calli and Cleo get to join Ember and Ender for a fun, full moon-free holiday with Remus and Derek and Diana this year.”

                James may have been caught off guard for a moment, but that didn’t deter him.  “So, we were talking about dear sweet Luna, Lils,” he said, bringing them back to the original topic.

                Petunia stood up at this.  “Ugh!  You freaks can have the dining room.  I’m going to go find my husband.”  Petunia turned suddenly to Lily, pointing her finger accusingly at her.  “If I hear of you corrupting our precious baby sister—” she hissed.

                “Yeah, yeah, I get it, Petunia,” said Lily lazily.  “Now why don’t you just run along to Vernon, ya?”  Tuney glared at her little sister for a moment before giving a great dramatic huff and sweeping out of the room, her pastel pink bathrobe billowing out behind her as she left.

                Rolling her eyes at her sister’s dramatics, Lily looked back at her husband.  “So we were discussing Luna, ya?”

                “Right,” said James, nodding her head.  “You know she hasn’t been right since Regulus died and she’s been refusing to speak to Padfoot since their one-night-stand.”

                Lily nodded her head thoughtfully.  “She really loved that boy, didn’t she?”

                James huffed moodily.  “Seems like it, though I have no idea what she ever saw in that slimy Slytherin git—c’mon, Lils, even Sirius called him that!”

                Willow looked from James to Lily curiously.  “Isn’t Slytherin one of the houses you were telling me about at Hogwarts?”

                Lily and James started, realizing for the first time that Willow was still in the room with them.  Glancing at one another, they came to an agreement.  “Wills,” said Lily gently, “why don’t you go see if Ana needs some help with the twins; they should be up soon.”

                Willow huffed moodily.  “I never get to hear anything good,” she grumbled to herself as she pushed her chair back from the table and got up, flouncing from the room.

                “Think she’s mad at us?” asked James worriedly; Willow was his favorite member of Lily’s family, aside from herself, of course.

                Lily just rolled her eyes at her husband.  “She’ll be fine, James,” she said.  “Now, where were we?”

 

                Willow was curled up on her favorite forest green armchair in the living room, reading Lily’s old copy of The Standard Book of Spells (Grade One)—after much pleading, and repeated use of her infamous resolve-face, Willow had convinced Lily to give her all of her old school books, saying that if she was going to be accepted to Hogwarts anyway, she might as well get a head start (even though it was still four years till she could go).  Willow found the book to be quite a fascinating read and couldn’t put it down, soaking up every bit of information she could without actually performing the spells.

                So engrossed was she in her book that she didn’t notice Alex, followed by Lily and Petunia, come into the room and sit down—Petunia in their mother’s old oak rocking chair and Alex and Lily on the earth brown sofa.  She didn’t notice that she was no longer the sole occupant of the green-and-brown living room until a large, rather calloused hand gently took her book away.  “Hey!” she protested, looking up to see her brother’s large blue eyes staring at her. 

Willow could instantly tell that something was wrong.  She looked past Alex’s misery-ridden eyes to see Lily sniffling inconsolably on the couch and Tuney staring blankly at the unlit fireplace.  “Wh-what’s wrong?” Willow asked timidly, unable to look away from her older siblings; she had never seen any of them this shaken up before—even Petunia was obviously stricken by something; she never stared, insisting that it was completely rude and unladylike, no matter who or what was being stared at.  Willow’s simple question caused Lily to burst into tears and Petunia to let out a strangled sob of her own.  Staring into the eldest Evans sibling’s eyes, Willow saw the tears glistening in the sapphire depths.  “A-Alex, p-please.  Y-you’re scaring me,” she whispered frantically.

                “I’m so sorry, Willow,” he said hoarsely.  “I-I wish I didn’t have to tell you this…”

                “Tell me what?”  Willow was growing more frantic with each attempt to avoid the issue.

                “Will, baby, Mum and Dad—” Alex began, kneeling down in front of the small girl and taking her pale hands in his own rough, tanned ones.

                “Wh-what a-about t-them?” she asked frantically.  “Are they not going to make it back for Christmas?  Did they decide to stay in California with Auntie Sheila and Uncle Ira?”
                Alex shook his head sadly.  “Not quite, baby,” he said brokenly.  “Th-there’s been an accident…”

                Willow shot up out of her seat, causing Alex to sway from the suddenness of her movement.  “NO!!” she shouted frantically.  “Don’t say that!  Don’t you dare say that, Alexander Matthew Evans!”  Willow may have only been seven, but there was a reason why her classmates had been calling her a know-it-all and a genius since she was four years old.

                Alex grabbed Willow firmly by her shoulders, forcing her to look at him.  “Willow, look at me baby.”  She fought him, knowing what was to come, but praying to all that was sacred that she was somehow wrong.

                “Willow,” came a soft sob from the opposite chair.  She looked up to see Petunia’s grief-stricken brown eyes staring at her.  “Just listen, please.  You need to hear this.”  Willow nodded reluctantly; it wasn’t often that Petunia asked her for anything, so she decided to indulge her this once.

                “Thank you,” said Alex softly.  Tuney nodded her head at him and he turned back to the pixie-like girl stranding in front of him—standing in front of the kneeling man, Willow barely reached his shoulders.  Alex took a deep breath and stared deep into Willow’s beautiful emerald eyes.  “Will, you need to hear me out, understand?”  Willow nodded reluctantly.  “Wills, Mum and Dad got an early flight back the day before yesterday.  They wanted to surprise you and come home early for Christmas—you know the Rosenbergs are Jewish, so they didn’t see any reason to stay any longer.  Well, I-I got a call yesterday…Mum and Dad were headed back from London.  They were about ten miles out of the city when- when—” Alex took a deep breath to compose himself and continued, “Th-they we-we’re in an accident, Wills.  I-it was a drunk driver.  M-mum and D-dad…th-they di—they didn’t make it, Willow.”

                “No,” Willow whimpered, crumpling into a heap on the floor, sobbing her great big heart out.  Alex reached out comfortingly and hugged her tight.  Tuney, seeing her baby sister in pain, looked over at Lily and, sharing a kind of connection they thought they had long since lost, both sisters put aside their differences and ran forward to join their big brother in comforting their baby sister.

                An hour later when James and Ana came back with the twins, they found the four Evans siblings all sitting together on the floor—Alex with Lily asleep on his lap, holding on to Willow’s hand, Willow asleep in Tuney’s lap, Tuney asleep on Alex’s shoulder, her free hand holding tightly to Lily’s, and Alex sitting with his arms around them all.  Hearing a small noise, Alex looked up to see his wife and black-haired brother-in-law standing in the doorway.  Giving an almost imperceptible shake of his head, James and Ana took the hint and left the grieving siblings alone to comfort each other; both knew that the moment would not last much longer, but for now all that mattered was that they were a family, a family in pain, and right now they needed each other.

 

                January 5, 1988:  Willow felt very small and alone as she stood by her parents’ newly filled graves.  She knew that this wasn’t strictly true, but she still felt very much alone; Alex had Ana, Petunia had Vernon (no matter how much of a great, fat prat he might be), Lily had James, and even Ember-and-Ender and Taylor-and-Jordan had each other.  Yes, despite her loving and caring family Willow Eleanor Evans felt very much alone.

                Willow sniffled, her normally vibrant green eyes dull and red-rimmed from crying so much.  She wished very much at that moment that she could somehow bring her parents back to life.  She was so lost in her grief that she didn’t even notice the two twin strawberry-blonde blurs sneaking up to her.

                Willow was nearly knocked down by the sudden impact of the twin one-and-a-half-year-olds latching onto her legs.  “Why bees you so sad, Auntie Wiwwow?” asked the identical girls.

                Willow sniffled again.  “M’sad ‘cause I miss my mummy and daddy,” she said quietly.

                The twins looked up at her solemnly (for possibly the only time in their lives) with their big blue eyes.  “We sowwy, Auntie Wiwwow,” they said together.

                “‘Skay to bees sad, Auntie Wiwwow,” said Tay softly, hugging her favorite auntie tightly.

                “We bees missing Gampa Jowsh an’ Gamma Sawah too, Auntie Wiwwow,” added Jor, hugging Willow just as tightly as her twin.

                Willow, brave seven-year-old that she was, tilted her head up to hide her tears from her young nieces.  “I love you two, you know that, right?” she said softly, her voice wobbling ever so slightly.

                Twin angelic faces stared up at her lovingly.  “We wove you too, Auntie Wiwwow,” they said together.  Willow smiled despite her sadness; Taylor and Jordan had the uncanny ability to cheer up even the gloomiest person.

                Willow wasn’t sure exactly how long the three of them stood there, the mere presence of the normally troublesome twins comforting her.  It came as a shock to her when she felt a hand on her shoulder, looking up to find…herself staring back at her.  No, that’s not right… she thought.  Willow blinked rapidly, trying to clear her mind.  Looking up once more, she nearly laughed at herself for her simple mistake; it was Lily standing in front of her, of course.

                “Are you ready to go, Wills?” Lily asked gently, her eyes puffy from crying.  Willow nodded, just now realizing that the twins were no longer attached to her legs.

                “Where—”

                “Remus wasn’t feeling too well, so he left and took Ember and Ender with him, and Tay and Jor were getting tired, so Ana took them home.  Alex had to go meet with the lawyers again, so James and I offered to take you home with us.  Petunia and Vernon left as well.”

                Willow nodded slowly, taking her sister’s hand.  She and Lily were silent as they made there way over to the small hill where James was waiting for them.  As they reached the top of the hill, Willow saw that James was holding a gold coin.  “What’s that for?” she asked, her natural curiosity taking over.  “Isn’t that wizard money?”

                James smiled at the little redheaded girl.  “Sorta, Mini-Lils.  This is our ticket home.”

                Willow raised her delicate eyebrow questioningly.  “It’s called a Portkey, Wills,” explained Lily.  “You enchant an object—any object, really—and it can transport you from one place to another.”

                Willow nodded her head, smiling slightly.  “So I get to try it?”

                James grinned widely, glad to have momentarily distracted Willow from her grief, and said, “Yup.  Now, I just need you and Lils to touch the coin—just a finger’ll do—and we’ll get going in five, four, three, two, one.”

                Willow felt a tug behind her navel and she felt herself being jerked away from the hill.  Seconds later they arrived in Godric’s Hollow at the Potter’s home, Willow landing unceremoniously on the floor in a heap, whereas Lily and James managed to stay standing.

                “So what’d ya think, kiddo?” asked James, holding out his hand and helping her up.

                Willow smiled broadly.  “That was wicked cool, James!  Can we do it again?”

                James chuckled and Lily rolled her eyes.  “Maybe later, Mini-Lils,” he replied with a smile.

                Willow shrugged her small shoulders.  “Okay,” she replied dully, her grief slowly returning.  Her face suddenly brightened as she thought of something completely different.  “Ooo!  Lily, can I help you set up the baby’s room!  Please?!

                Lily laughed.  “The baby’s not coming for another six months, Will.”

                Willow pouted.  “I know, Lils, but I want to help decorate my nephew’s room anyway.”

                Lily and James looked at each other quizzically.  “What makes you so sure it’s a boy, Will?” asked Lily kindly.

                Willow turned her piercing emerald eyes at Lily, the intensity of her gaze unnerving Lily a bit.  “I just know, Lily.”  With a squeal of delight, Willow’s attitude inexplicably changed again and she grabbed Lily’s hand, dragging her up the stairs.  “C’mon, Lily!” she giggled happily.  “I wanna see the nursery you’ve got picked out for my nephew!”

                Lily cast a pleading look at James as she was dragged up the stairs by the hyperactive seven-year-old, but all she received in return was a cheeky smile.  “You are so sleeping on the couch tonight, James Isaac Potter!” she yelled at her husband as she was tugged out of sight.

                James’s smile faded.  He had only one thing to say to that.  “Bugger.”

 

                January 6, 1988:  A bleary-eyed Lily slowly made her way into the kitchen at some ungodly hour of the morning (it was actually about ten o’clock, but to Lily anything before noon was ungodly early).  She was so not a morning person.  And the incessantly-cheerful smile on her husband’s face was not helping matters either.

                “Morning sunshine,” James chirped happily as Lily walked over to the counter to pour herself her much needed morning mug of coffee.  “How did you sleep last night?”  Lily grunted, sitting moodily in her chair at the table.  “Me, you ask?  Why, I didn’t know you cared, dearest Lily,” James babbled on, ignoring his wife’s usual foul morning mood.  “I slept just wonderfully, thank you.  That couch of ours is quite comfortable, you know.  Now, I don’t know about you, but I find it especially wonderful to be woken by a hyperactive seven-year-old girl jumping on top of me.  Quite effective, if I do say so myself.  Now, if I may be so bold—”

                “If you don’t shut up right now, James Potter, I will personally make sure that you can never reproduce again,” Lily growled angrily, her wand drawn and pointed at her husband.

                James gulped.  “Shutting up now.”  Lily grunted again and put her wand away, turning her attention back to her coffee.

                The couple sat in silence until Lily was finished with her caffeinated beverage.  She stood up and cleared her mug before turning around and asking her husband the question that had been bothering her for the past few minutes.  “Where’s Willow?” she asked.

                “Oh, she woke me up this morning, ate some breakfast, then asked if she could work on the baby’s room.  Apparently she’s planning a surprise for him.”  James’s forehead creased in thought.  “I would like to know why she’s so bloody sure it’s a boy, though.”

                Lily waved him off.  “That’s just Willow.  She told Ana that she was having, and I quote, ‘trouble-making twins’ when she was pregnant with Taylor and Jordan.”

                “You think she’s a seer, then?” asked James curiously.

                Lily laughed.  “Merlin, no.  She doesn’t get visions, just feelings, she says.  Trust me, I’ve asked.”

                “Oh, alright then.  So is Alex coming by this afternoon?”

                Lily nodded, sitting back down at the table with her husband.  “He should be here at two.  He’s been meeting with Mum and Dad’s lawyers all week; apparently there have been some issues concerning who gets custody of Willow.”

                James looked up at Lily thoughtfully.  “You know, Lils, we could take her in.  She’s such a sweet little girl; we could raise her.”

                Lily grinned widely.  “Glad you think so, husband-of-mine, because I already told Alex to consider us.  Apparently he and Ana had the same thought, and Petunia even wanted too, but Vernon flat out told her no.”

                “So what’s the problem then?” asked James curiously.  “We’re all her family.”

                Lily sighed.  “I know, James, but apparently Mum and Dad’s will was very specific on this issue and Alex is having trouble getting around it.”

                “What does it say?”

                Lily shrugged.  “Alex didn’t say.  He just said that he didn’t like what it said and that he would fight it tooth and nail to get it changed.”

                “So is that why he’s coming over today?”

                Lily nodded.  “Yes.  Today was their last meeting.  He’s coming over to tell us and Willow who gets custody of her.”  Lily sighed.  “I just want Willow to be happy and safe, that’s all that really matters to me.”

                James reached over and took his wife’s small hand in his own, squeezing it gently.  “Me too, Lils.  Me too.”

 

                Two o’clock crept up on the Potter household much sooner than expected.  Lily was curled up on her favorite forest green armchair reading Hogwarts: A History yet again, James was catching up on some paperwork (he was an auror, like his father before him), and Willow had yet to emerge from the unfinished nursery.

                Precisely as the clock struck two, a knock rang through the small, cozy house.  James and Lily both quickly looked up from what they were doing to stare in the general direction of the front door.  “That’ll be Alex,” said Lily, methodically marking her place before setting down her book and getting up to answer the door. 

Making her way to the front door, Lily pulled it open to reveal her blue-eyed big brother, looking as if he hadn’t had a proper night’s sleep in weeks.  “C’mon in, Alex,” she said quietly.

                Alex stepped over the threshold and pulled Lily into a tight hug.  “How are you holding up, Lily?” he asked gently.

                Lily shrugged as Alex let her go.  “As well as can be expected, I suppose.  You?”

                “I’m fine, Lily.”

                Lily snorted.  “You look like shit, Alex,” she said bluntly.  “I highly doubt you’re fine.”

                Alex sighed.  “Don’t worry about me, Lily.  We need to talk about Willow.”

                Lily rolled her eyes at her big brother’s stubbornness.  “Alright,” she said, letting it go for the time being.  “Let’s go into the living room.”

                Lily led Alex into the comfy living room and the siblings sat down together on the cream-colored couch.  “Where’s Willow?” asked Alex, looking around the room and seeing only James.

                Lily waved him off.  “She’s up in the nursery.  Apparently she’s working on a surprise for her nephew.”

                Alex smiled slightly.  “You too, eh?”

                Lily grinned.  “Yup.  She’s thoroughly convinced I’m having a boy—though she hasn’t said anything about him being a troublemaker yet, so I still have some hope.”

                James decided to pipe in then.  “Well, Red, he is my son too; I’d be shocked if he wasn’t a troublemaker.”

                Lily’s emerald eyes widened as she came to the same realization.  “Oh bloody hell,” she groaned, her face in her hands.  “I’m doomed!  The earth is doomed!”

                Alex laughed, patting his sister’s leg.  “Don’t worry, Lils, I’m sure everything will be just fine.”

                Lily lifted her head and smiled.  “Thanks Alex,” she said, shaking her head clear and steering him back onto the original topic. “You came here to talk about Willow, though, didn’t you?”

                Alex’s face instantly fell.  “Lily—”

                Lily knew from Alex’s face that something was horribly wrong.  “Alex,” she said shakily, “just tell me.  I know it’s bad; I can see it in your face.  Please, just tell me.”

                Alex took a deep breath and looked Lily straight in the eye.  Emerald met sapphire as Alex said shakily, “Lil, Mum and Dad, they- they left custody of Willow to her godparents.”

                Lily gasped.  “Ira and Sheila?  They left custody of our baby sister to them?!  They hate magic just as much as Petunia and Vernon!  Isn’t there something—”

                Alex frustratedly ran his hand through his thick chestnut brown hair.  “I’ve tried everything, Lily!” he said sharply.  “The bloody will is iron-clad.  There’s nothing we can do, short of convincing the Rosenbergs to give her up.”

                “Well, then we’ll do that!” insisted Lily stubbornly.

                Alex shook his head sadly.  “I’ve already tried that,” he said dully.  “They’re adamant about adopting her.”

                “Do they know about her magic?” asked James suddenly.

                Alex nodded his head.  “I was hoping that that would convince them to refuse to take her in, but they insisted that they could ‘cure her of her abnormality,’ as they so eloquently put it.”

                “Abnormality?!” screeched Lily at the same time that James shouted, “Cure her?!”

                “She isn’t abnormal!” insisted Lily.

                “There’s nothing to cure,” said James angrily. 

“She’s a perfectly normal little girl!” Lily growled angrily.

Alex held up his hands to stop the couple’s tirade.  “I know, I know, and I completely agree with you,” he said, “I was just telling you what Ira and Sheila said.”

Lily and James’s anger deflated and they stared sheepishly at the ground.  “Sorry,” they both said.

Lily looked sadly back up at her brother.  “There’s really nothing we can do, is there?” she whispered defeatedly.

Alex hung his head.  “I’m so sorry, Lily.  I swear I’ve tried everything, but there’s just no way around the damn will.”

Lily scooted closer to her big brother and hugged him tight.  “I know you tried your hardest, Lexy.  I don’t blame you, you know.  It’s not your fault.”

“But it is my fault, Lil,” he said sadly.  “If I had been more responsible—”

                “Don’t you dare think that, Alexander Matthew Evans!” said Lily sharply.  “You are the single most responsible person I know!  You’ve been taking care of me for as long as I can remember and I know for a fact that you’ve helped out my friends on more that one occasion—Jessi can’t stop raving about how ‘bloody amazing’ you are, for Merlin’s sake!”

                “You’re a great guy, Alex,” said James, kneeling down in front of the siblings.  “I’m proud to call you my brother.  I know you’ve done everything you can…”

                “When are they coming to take her?” asked Lily softly.

                Alex looked at his sister sadly.  “Three days,” he responded almost inaudibly.  “They’re coming for her in three days.”

 

                January 9, 1988:  James and Ana stood off to the side as the Evans siblings said their final goodbyes.  Taylor, Jordan, Ember, and Ender had all been left with Remus Lupin (Ember and Ender’s father)—the two sets of twins had said goodbye to their Auntie Will the night before (Ana and Lily hadn’t wanted them to cause a scene in public)—and Vernon had flat out refused to come.

                Willow had tears streaming down her porcelain cheeks as she hugged Alex, Tuney, and Lily like there was no tomorrow—which there wasn’t for them, at least as a family.  She couldn’t believe that she had to go live with Auntie Sheila and Uncle Ira; they hated magic just as much as Tuney and Vernon did—maybe more, if that was even possible.  Alex had explained that he had tried everything to keep her, but it just hadn’t been possible.  He made her a promise to write her every single day, though.  Lily did too, and even Tuney promised to write “whenever she could.”

                All too soon Willow felt herself pulled away from her siblings by a pair of rough hands.  “Let’s go, girl,” said Ira irritably.  “Our flight’s leaving.” 

Waving goodbye as Ira dragged her off, Willow couldn’t help but burst into tears again.  As she stared back at her family, she got the awful feeling that she would never see Lily or James again.  This caused her to cry even harder.  “Stop crying, girl,” barked Ira.  “You should be thanking your mother and me for saving you from those freaks and freak-lovers!”

                “They are not freaks!” sobbed Willow.  “And you are not my parents!”

                “Yes we are, girlie,” he said sharply.  “The papers went through yesterday.  You are now Willow Eleanor Rosenberg, daughter of Ira and Sheila Rosenberg.  We are going to raise you to be a good little Jewish girl and we will cure you of your abnormality, do you understood me?”  Willow could only nod meekly through her haze of tears as Ira led her onto the plane and sat her down between himself and his wife.

                “Oh, so your father’s told you the news then?” said Sheila, her so-obviously fake smile not reaching her eyes at all.  “You are going to be the perfect daughter, Willow, I promise you.  Now, get some sleep, little one—it’ll be a very long time before we get to California.”

                Tears streaming silently down her face, Willow meekly complied.  As the plane took off, Willow couldn’t help but think about her family—her real family—and how much she was going to miss them.  She was headed off into the unknown; new parents, a new name, a new country, new everything.  Through her haze of tears, Willow watched as England slowly faded into the distance and she couldn’t help but think that the raging storm outside reflected her mood perfectly.

Chapter Text

Chapter 1: What Once Was Lost

 

June 2, 2002: Ever since his parents had told him that he was adopted, Daniel “Oz” Osborne had been looking for any information he could find on his birth parents.  It had been almost six years since that fateful day and Oz had finally found something worth looking into.  After slowing down (or rather, bringing to a screeching halt) his search for a couple years while he searched instead for a way to control the (very literal) wolf within him, he was finally able to track his adoption to a small, little-know agency in London, England called the Stewins Adoption Agency. 

A week ago he had gone to the agency and spoken with the very agent, one Mrs. Miranda Cullins, who had handled his adoption.  Apparently an elderly couple had found Oz hidden in the forest behind a destroyed mansion when he was about three months old.  Mrs. Cullins didn’t know if that had been his family’s home, but she informed him that it appeared that he may have been the only survivor of the fire that had decimated the building that night.

                Oz looked down again at the old newspaper article he held clutched in his black-nailed hand.  According to the article, brothers Gideon and Fabian Prewett had been killed late in the night of April 21, 1980.  The cause of death had been uncertain, but it had had nothing to do with the fire that had ravaged the house that night.  The article also claimed that there had been no one else at the house.  Carefully folding up the worn article, Oz stuck it back into his equally worn bag and headed into a small, run-down pub in London called the Leaky Cauldron.  Standing in front of the building, he could literally feel the magic rolling off of the place and somehow he was oddly comforted by that.

                Walking through the front door of the pub, Oz found that the inside wasn’t much better than the outside; it was dark, dingy, and full of smoke, but at least it was mostly clean.  He casually took a seat at the bar and absently fingered the small black box he kept in his pocket.  The small, silver necklace inside, carved with the initials DOW, was the only other clue to his past; he had had it as long as he could remember, though he hadn’t been able to wear it since his cousin Jordy had bitten him over four years ago.     

“What’ll it be, then?” asked the old man behind the bar, breaking Oz out of his reverie.

                Oz looked up thoughtfully.  “What do you recommend?” he asked.

                The old man gave him a toothy grin.  “Th’ butterbeer’s always good, though if yer lookin’ fer somethin’ stronger, I’d recommend th’ Firewhisky.”

                Oz considered this thoughtfully, his stoic face betraying no emotion whatsoever.  “Butterbeer then,” he finally replied.

                “Sure thing,” said the bartender, expertly filling a glass and setting it in front of Oz.

                Oz sat stoically sipping his butterbeer for several minutes, simply looking around the small pub.  Upon hearing the bartender clear his throat, Oz looked up at the old man, raising his eyebrow in question.  “Lookin’ fer someone, are yeh?” asked the old man, refilling Oz’s empty tankard.

                Oz nodded.  “Kingsley Shacklebolt,” he replied simply.  The bartender jerked his head, indicating a booth in the far back of the pub.  Oz looked over when the barman had indicated to see a large black man sipping a tankard of his own.  “Thanks,” said Oz simply, grabbing his butterbeer and walking toward the large, black man.

               

Oz silently approached the large, bald man.  “Kingsley Shacklebolt?” he said quietly, coming up beside the booth.

                The man looked up, large mocha eyes scrutinizing the small blue-haired youth in front of him.  “Who’s asking?” he asked, his voice deep and menacing.

                “Daniel Osborne,” Oz replied.

                Kingsley nodded in response, indicating that Oz take a seat.  Once Oz was seated, Kingsley got straight to the point.  “Miranda Cullins from the Stewins Adoption Agency contacted me, said you were looking for your parents, right?”

                Oz nodded, pulling out the well-worn newspaper clipping.  “I traced my adoption there, but all they could tell me was that I was found in the woods not too far from this house the night the Prewett bothers died.”

                Kingsley glanced down at the muggle article, already knowing what it said; he had been in the auror training program at the time.  His mentor had been assigned to the case and he had insisted that Kingsley work with him and get some practical field experience.  Not sure how much the strange blue-haired boy knew about the wizarding world, Kingsley simply nodded.  “I know the case,” he said slowly.  “Never heard about any kid being found, but I wouldn’t doubt that it might have happened.”  That wasn’t strictly true, however: Kingsley knew full well that a one-and-a-half-year-old Bill Weasley had been found just inside the edge of the forest behind the Prewetts’ home with a bad head wound and a severe case of memory loss that night.  Kingsley creased his brow in thought.  He thought that he vaguely recalled Molly and Arthur Weasley mentioning something about a baby boy, but he wasn’t certain—as just a trainee, he hadn’t been privy to the more sensitive information pertaining to the attack.  Kingsley looked over at Oz expectantly, but all he received in way of a response was a calm nod of the young man’s head. 

Several moments passed in contemplative silence.  “Is this all you have to go on?” Kingsley asked the younger man suddenly.

In response, Oz reached into his pocket and pulled out the small box he had been fiddling with earlier, passing it over to the large, black auror.  As Kingsley opened the box, Oz explained, “I’ve had that as long as I can remember—apparently it was on me when I was found.”

“Mind if I borrow this for a while?” asked Kingsley, studying the silver necklace thoughtfully.

“Sure,” replied Oz with a casual shrug.

                Kingsley continued to study the necklace.  “You wouldn’t happen to know what DOW stands for, would you?” he asked thoughtfully.

                Oz shrugged.  “Not sure.  Near as I can figure, they’re my initials.  Always figured that must be why my adoptive parents named me Daniel.”

                Kingsley appeared lost in thought.  Oz lounged back in the booth, staring stoically at the older black man.  After a minute or two of silence, Kingsley finally spoke again.  “I have a hunch about your parents, but I need some time to do a bit of digging to confirm my suspicions.”

                Oz shrugged nonchalantly.  “Time’s not an issue.”  Kingsley looked at the odd, short man strangely.  Oz raised his eyebrow and explained.  “I’ve been looking for nearly six years now; I can wait a while longer.”

                Kingsley raised his dark eyebrow at Oz.  “You must be an extremely patient person.”

                Oz shrugged.  “It’s a gift,” he said passively.

                Kingsley gave a small smile at that; Daniel Osborne was definitely a man of few words.  “I’ll need some of your hair,” he said suddenly, “to test my suspicions, that is,” he added quickly. 

Without a word, Oz reached up and pulled out a few strands of his blue hair, placing it on a napkin and sliding it over to Kingsley, who pocketed it.  “That it?” asked Oz.

                Kingsley nodded.  “I’ll contact you when I find something,” he said.  Once again, Oz simply nodded in response.  Kingsley slowly got up out of the booth, straightening his robes.  Shaking Oz’s hand, he asked one last question, “Out of curiosity, are you from America?”

                Oz nodded.  “Left about three years ago—haven’t been back since.”

                Kingsley nodded again.  “Hmm.  Well, it was nice meeting you, Mr. Osborne—”

                “Oz.”

                “Oz, then.  I’ll look into this as soon as I can and let you know what I come up with.”

                “Thanks.”

                “You plan on staying in town?”

                Oz shrugged.  “Don’t really know; I move around a lot.”

                Kingsley nodded thoughtfully once again.  “No matter,” he said, waving his hand dismissively.  “Well, good-bye, Oz.  I’ll talk to you again soon, I’m sure.”

                “Thanks,” said Oz, gracing Kingsley with a rare smile.  “I really do appreciate it.”  Kingsley nodded yet again (he seemed to really enjoy doing so) before turning and heading out the back door of the pub.

Oz sat in the booth a while longer, sipping on his butterbeer and contemplating the turn of good luck he seemed to have suddenly stumbled across.  If this streak continued, it wouldn’t be long before he would finally get to meet his real parents…

Chapter Text

Chapter 2: A Promise Kept

 

June 3, 2002Molly Weasley was cooking up a storm in the kitchen when Kingsley Shacklebolt arrived at the Burrow.  “Molly!” he called, peeking his shiny, bald head through the front door.

                “In the kitchen!” came her frazzled response.

                Kingsley followed the wondrous aromas through the house and into the kitchen.  “Your cooking smells as lovely as ever, Molly,” said Kingsley, a grin plastered on his Samuel L. Jackson-esque face, as he stepped into Molly’s domain.

                Molly looked up from the vegetables she was chopping to see who had come over.  Seeing Kingsley, her smile brightened before faltering slightly.  “Hello, Kingsley.  Please sit down,” said the every-motherly Mrs. Molly Weasley.  “Would you care for a cup of tea?”

                Taking the offered seat, Kingsley replied, “Thank you, Molly; that would be lovely.  Two sugars, please.”  With a wave of her wand, Molly conjured up a tea cup and poured the offered beverage.  Handing the cup to the large auror, Molly instantly went back to chopping the veggies.

                “So, what brings you here today, Kingsley?  Has something happened at the Ministry?” she asked, slightly worried, while continuing to prepare her family’s meal.

                “No, no, Molly, nothing’s wrong,” reassured Kingsley.  Molly gave a sigh of relief.  “I’m actually here to talk to both you and Arthur,” he said, sipping his tea.  “I’ve already flooed him and asked him to come home early.  He should be here about—”

                “Molly!  I’m home!” came a loud, happy cry from the front hall.

                “—now,” finished Kingsley with a smile on his face.

                “In the kitchen, Arthur!” called Molly, never once looking up from the vegetables.

                Arthur Weasley came into the kitchen smiling.  He kissed his wife hello in greeting and sat down at the table across from Kingsley.  “So what’s all this about, Kingsley?” asked Arthur, his face going serious as he took his tea from his wife as she sat down beside him.  “What’s so important that you called me home from work early?”

                Kingsley gave a sigh.  “I had an…unusual…meeting yesterday afternoon.”

                Arthur furrowed his brow.  “I don’t see what that has to do with Molly and me,” he said, sipping his tea slowly.

                Kingsley fiddled with his teacup nervously, trying to think of the best way to approach the subject.  Finally coming to the conclusion that there was just no easy way to do it, he barreled right in.  “Gideon and Fabian Prewett were attacked and killed by Death Eaters twenty-two years ago, correct?”

                “Twenty-two years this past April,” replied Molly quietly, the strain in her voice obvious.  “What do my brothers’ deaths have to do with anything?  That was a very long time ago Kingsley –why bring it up now?”

                Kingsley gave another sigh.  “I’m sorry for bringing it up, Molly, I really am; you know I wouldn’t if it wasn’t important.”  Molly nodded her head in reluctant understanding and Kingsley rubbed his shiny, bald head as he carefully considered his next words.  “You remember Christian Potter, of course,” he began slowly.

                Molly and Arthur nodded thoughtfully, a bittersweet look coming across both of their faces.  “Of course,” replied Arthur, a small smile creeping across his face.  “He was a wonderful man and a great friend—a hell of an auror, too.”

                “He’s the one who found our Bill that day,” said Molly softly, blinking back tears.  “He was so kind; he became like a brother to us after that—did you know he named Arthur and I godparents of his little girl, Cordelia?”

                Kingsley smiled wistfully.  “I didn’t know that,” he said softly.  “He was my mentor during my auror training, you know.”

                Arthur nodded his head smiling slightly.  “I remember,” he said simply.

                “You were there that night weren’t you?” asked Molly slowly, a flood of long-suppressed memories suddenly coming back to her.

                Kingsley nodded.  “I was in my second year of auror training and Chris had just taken me on as his protégé; that was my first real field experience,” he told his former year-mate and her husband wistfully.

                Molly smiled slightly.  “Chris always used to say that he was surprised that you were a Ravenclaw, you know; he thought you’d have made an excellent Gryffindor.”

                Kingsley chuckled.  “He used to say that to me all the time; at least twice a week…right up until he died…”  Kingsley suddenly became serious again.  “Molly, do you remember what Chris promised you that night?”

                Molly started.  “Promised?  What he pro—”  Suddenly it hit her.  “Danny,” she breathed softly before completely breaking down on her husband’s shoulder.

                Arthur soothing stroked his wife’s curly red hair.  “He promised Molly that he would find our Danny; that he would never give up searching for him,” said Arthur roughly, working hard to hold back the flood of tears that threatened to fall from his own eyes; he had to be strong for his wife.

                Kingsley nodded.  “I’m sorry to bring it up, Molly, Arthur.  I know what a painful subject it still is for you.”

                Molly swiftly wiped away her tears and took a moment to compose herself.  “It’s not something you can easily forget or get over, Kingsley,” said Molly bitterly.  “In fact, it’s not something you ever really get over.”

                “Losing a child is something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy,” said Arthur softly, causing the three old friends to lapse into a thoughtful silence.

“I know it sounds crazy,” said Molly suddenly, “but I know he’s still alive out there, somewhere.  I just know it.”

                Kingsley smiled at the fiery Weasley matriarch; she had to be one of the strongest people he knew.  He gave Molly’s hand a comforting pat as he continued.  “You know Chris never gave up the search, right?”

                Molly and Arthur started in surprise.  “Surely—” began Arthur.

                Kingsley shook his head vigorously.  “No.  He never gave up, not even when he died.” 

At this statement, the Weasleys looked quizzically at the large black auror.  “What do you mean by that, Kingsley?” asked Molly, confused.

Kingsley took a deep breath.  “Chris always knew that there was a chance that he wouldn’t make it through the war, so he took certain precautions,” he explained slowly.  “About a month before he and Joan were killed, he took James and me aside and made both of us swear to continue his search for your son should anything happen to him.”

“James?” whispered Molly.

Kingsley nodded.  “Chris’s son James Potter.”

Arthur shook his head in disbelief, running a hand through his thinning red hair.  “I never knew that,” he said softly.

Kingsley shrugged.  “You wouldn’t,” he replied simply.  “James and I were the only ones who knew about the task Chris had given us.  James did his best—he and I spent a good year and a half looking for leads together—

but then…well, James had to consider his own wife and son.  That was around the time the Potters went into hiding, you see.  Then James and Lily were killed and I knew that it would be up to me to find your son.  For the first few years after their death, I searched almost religiously for your son.”  Molly and Arthur started and stared at their friend.  Kingsley gave a weak smile.  “As much as I hate to admit it, after a couple years of absolutely no leads I was sorely tempted to just give up.  Then I remembered how much you and your family had meant to Chris and I realized that I could never give up until I found him.”

Molly and Arthur looked at their friend in awe.  “Y-you did all that for us?” whispered Molly.

Kingsley nodded.  “And for Chris; I knew how much it meant to him.  He was like a father to me, you know.”

Arthur shook his head in disbelief and Molly blinked rapidly to get rid of her tears.  “You know,” she said suddenly, “we made Chris and Joan Charlie’s godparents when he was born.”

Kingsley smiled.  “The four of you were close, weren’t you?”

Molly smiled back at him.  “Despite the fact that their son was only six years younger than me, yes, we were very close.  Chris helped fill the void my brothers’ deaths left—not that he could have ever replaced them, mind you, but still…” Molly trailed off suddenly.

                Arthur cleared his throat loudly.  “Not to cut this trip down memory lane short, Kingsley, but Bill and Charlie will be coming home soon.  Was there something you needed to tell us?”

                Kingsley chuckled.  “Yes, Arthur, there was.”

                Molly raised her eyebrow at her auror friend.  “Well?  What is it then?” she asked.

                Kingsley took a deep breath.  “I told you I had an…unusual…meeting yesterday, right?”  Molly and Arthur both nodded.  “Well, I was at work yesterday morning when I received an owl from one Miranda Cullins from the Stewins Adoption Agency in London asking me to meet with a young man at the Leaky Cauldron.  The letter didn’t say much more than that, but it still intrigued me, so I went.  When I arrived, I was approached by a strange young man.  He was quite short and well-built with painted black fingernails and blue hair.”  At this, Molly pursed her lips in disapproval and Arthur did his best to suppress a chuckle.  Kingsley smiled and continued, “He was an oddly stoic young man—couldn’t have been more than twenty-two or twenty-three.  He introduced himself to me and said that the Agency had told him that I could help him track down his parents.  When I asked him if he knew anything about them, he handed me this.”  As he said this, Kingsley set the muggle article about the death of the Prewetts on the table in front of the Weasleys.

                Molly gasped and covered her mouth.  Arthur raised his eyebrow in surprise.  “This is a muggle article,” he stated slowly.  He looked at Kingsley quizzically.  “Why would a muggle come to you about his parents?”

                Kingsley shrugged.  “I don’t know, but I can only assume that he wasn’t exactly a muggle—he was able to see the Leaky Cauldron after all.” 

Arthur nodded thoughtfully.  “That’s true…”

                “Is that all the boy said?” questioned Molly.  “And what does any of this have to do with Arthur and me?”

                Kingsley held out his hand to stop Molly’s tirade of questions.  “I’m getting there, Molly, be patient please.”  Molly nodded her head in reluctant acceptance.

“As I was saying,” Kingsley continued, “this young man handed me this article and told me that after nearly six years of searching, he had tracked his adoption to the Stewins Agency in London.  They had given him the article, telling him that whoever had brought him there had found him in the forest behind your brothers’ home the night of the attack.”

                Molly gasped sharply and Arthur’s eyes widened.  “Is there something you’re not telling us, Kingsley?” asked Molly a bit more sharply than she intended.

                Kingsley paused for a moment.  “Molly, Arthur, what was your son’s name?  His full name?”

                “I don’t see how—”

                “It’s important, Molly,” said Kingsley firmly.  “Trust me.”

                Molly nodded reluctantly.  “Daniel Osmond Weasley,” she said softly, brushing a tear from her face.  “His full name was Daniel Osmond Weasley.”

                Kingsley nodded, a smile creeping across his face.  Molly was wiping away her tears and didn’t notice this, but Arthur did.  “What is it, Kingsley?” he asked, staring down the younger man.

                “We talked for a bit,” said Kingsley slowly, unable to keep the smile from his face, “this strange man and I.  He definitely grew up in America—the accent is unmistakable—but he said he hasn’t been there in three years.  He mentioned that he’s been traveling since he left…”

                Arthur raised his brow.  He was normally a very patient man (raising six rambunctious boys and one very spunky girl can do that to a person), but he could tell that Kingsley was purposefully avoiding something here.  “Just spit it out, Kingsley,” said Arthur rather more sharply than he meant to.

                Kingsley raised his hands in surrender.  “Alright, alright, Arthur.  No need to get your knickers in a twist.  Anyway, I asked him if there was anything else he knew about his parents and he handed me this, saying it had been on him when he was found.”  Kingsley passed them the small black box Oz had handed to him the day before and watched as the couple opened it.  Molly gasped as she saw what lay inside.  Arthur picked up the necklace and simply stared.

                Molly started to cry.  “I-it l-looks j-just l-like the n-necklace G-Gid g-gave t-to D-Danny the d-day he was b-born!” she managed to get out over her sobs.

                Kingsley smiled widely.  “He gave me some of his hair yesterday,” he said matter-of-factly, as though it was an everyday occurrence that someone handed him his hair.  “I did the tests this morning.  Molly, Arthur, I’m very pleased to tell you that I’ve found your son.”

                Arthur was rendered speechless and Molly completely broke down, throwing herself on Kingsley, who patted her back awkwardly.  “Oh Merlin, sweet Merlin!  My baby!” she sobbed.  “You found my baby, Kingsley!!  Thank you, oh thank you!”

                Kingsley patted her again and tried to pry her off of himself.  “You’re quite welcome, Molly,” he said with a smile.

                Arthur, having regained the ability to speak, asked in a strained voice, “How was he?  Is he alright?”

                Kingsley, finally free from Molly, shrugged.  “We didn’t really talk too much, unfortunately; I wanted to run the tests as soon as possible.”  Arthur nodded thoughtfully at that.  Kingsley continued.  “He seemed like a nice young man—a bit strange, maybe, and very calm.  I’m not sure how much he knows about magic or our world—I got the feeling that he knows something, but I also get the feeling that he grew up as a muggle.”  Arthur smiled at that.

                “Does he still go by Daniel?” asked Molly suddenly, her warm, honey brown eyes piercing right into Kingsley.

                “He introduced himself as Daniel Osborne,” replied Kingsley.  He suddenly chuckled.  “He told me to call him Oz, though.”

                “Oz,” pondered Molly, frowning slightly.  “It’s a bit strange…”

                Kingsley shrugged.  “It seemed to fit him,” he stated honestly.

                Molly nodded thoughtfully.  “I suppose…”

                “He is almost twenty-three, Molly,” said Arthur soothingly.

                Molly nodded again.  “That’s true…”  Suddenly a thought came to her and she turned her gaze back to Kingsley.  “Does he want to meet us, then?”  She suddenly sounded uncharacteristically apprehensive and about twenty years younger than she actually was.

                Kingsley gave a small smile.  “I think he might, Molly, but I’m not positive—why else would he spend so many years searching for you?.  I told him I’d contact him as soon as I found anything out.”

                “Have you?” asked Arthur.

                “Not yet; I wanted to tell you first.”  Arthur nodded in approval.

                “Can we write him, then?” asked Molly, tears of joy clouding her vision.

                Kingsley shrugged.  “I don’t see why not.”  He suddenly paused.  “He did say he didn’t know how long he would be in town for, so he may not be able to meet you right away.”  Molly looked a bit crestfallen at this news.

                “You said he was most likely raised as a muggle,” said Arthur suddenly.

                “That’s right,” said Kingsley, nodding his dark, shiny, bald head.

                “So wouldn’t he find a letter delivered by an owl to be a bit…strange?  Muggles don’t use owls for post, right?”

                Kingsley chuckled.  “You’re right about the owls, Arthur, but somehow I don’t think it will faze him too much.”  Arthur raised his eyebrow in a silent question.  Kingsley shrugged and explained, “The way he acted in the Leaky Cauldron, it didn’t seem like there was much that would truly surprise him.  He seemed to take all the robes, pointed hats, and public displays of magic in stride—the boy didn’t even bat an eyelid once.”

                “How do you know he was raised as a muggle, then, and not as a wizard?” asked Molly.

                “No wand, for one,” said Kingsley, ticking off the reasons with his long, dark fingers.  “He’s not a squib, that’s for sure—I could feel the untrained power coming off of him, not that he seemed to know or even notice this —and the article, its definitely muggle.  If he was raised in our world, he would have found the article from the Prophet instead.”

                Arthur nodded his head thoughtfully.  “That makes sense,” he said slowly.

                Molly turned to look at Kingsley again.  “If we write him a letter, will you make sure he gets it?” she asked.

                Kingsley smiled.  “Of course Molly.”

                Suddenly they heard the front door bang open and the sound of laughing and talking filled the house.  “I’d better be off then,” said Kingsley.  “I’ll come back tomorrow for the letter, Molly,” he added, standing up.  “Arthur, I’ll see you at work tomorrow.”

                Arthur nodded.  “Goodbye Kingsley and thank you.”

                “Yes, thank you so much,” replied Molly, a broad smile spreading across her tearstained face.

                Kingsley gave a nod. “You’re quite welcome.  Until tomorrow then Arthur, Molly.”  With that, Kingsley turned on the spot and apparated out of the Burrow with a loud CRACK.

Chapter Text

Chapter 3: Decisions

 

June 6, 2002:  Oz was packing the last of his things into his van (not that he had all that much to begin with anyway) so that he could head off on his next adventure.  He had just strapped his guitar safely in place when an owl swooped down, landing next to him on the floor of the back of his van.

                “Hey,” said Oz, taking the strange appearance of the small bird in stride.  “Isn’t it a little early for you to be out?  One nocturnal creature to another, it’s not quite sunset, you know.”  The owl simply hooted and held out its leg, which had a roll of parchment tied to it.  “This for me?”  The owl hooted an affirmative.  Oz untied the parchment and gazed at the small bird.  “You thirsty?”  Taking the owl’s hooting as an affirmative, Oz pulled out a water bottle and poured some into a small aluminum bowl. 

While the owl was drinking, Oz dug through his smaller bag and pulled out some jerky, breaking off a small piece.  “Don’t know if you’ll like this, but hey,” said Oz, holding out the piece of dried meat to the bird.  The bird nibbled it a bit and hooted appreciatively before taking off.  “Strange,” Oz said to himself as he watched the owl fly away.

                Sitting down in the back of his van and shutting the doors, he stared down at the strange parchment in his hand.  Oz couldn’t help but raise his eyebrow as he saw the strange way that it was addressed:

 

                Mr. D. Osborne

                The Back of the Van

                The Street in Front of the Sleeping Wolf Inn

                London, England

 

“Huh,” was all Oz said before carefully unrolling the parchment.  Once unrolled, he discovered that there were actually two sheets of parchment.  He read the shorter one first.  It read:

 

                Oz-

I just wanted to let you know that I have found your parents.  As it turns out, they’ve been looking for you for twenty-two years now and were quite delighted, to say the least, to finally find you, so they asked if they could send you a letter.  Your parents are quite anxious to meet you in person, though I did inform them that you said you might be traveling.  If you can, please write them back as soon as possible; they understand that you may not be able to meet them right away, but they would still love to hear from you.  It would mean the world to both of them to just hear from you that you are okay.

I realize that I don’t really know you, but I find myself needing to tell you this anyway: your birth parents are amazing people, Oz.  We attended the same school and I was in the same year as your mother.  I’ve also been close friends with both her and your father for years.  My mentor was also a close friend of theirs and he led the search for you for nearly seven years, up until his death.

I wish you the best of luck in re-connecting with your family.  If you need anything else, please feel free to contact me.  This may sound a bit strange, but all you have to do to reach me is find an owl and send your letter off with it; it will know how to find me.

                                                                                                Best of Luck,

                                                                                                Kingsley Shacklebolt

 

Oz nodded thoughtfully to himself as he finished reading the letter.  Kingsley Shacklebolt certainly seemed like a decent guy. 

Taking into consideration what Kingsley had said in his letter, Oz didn’t even hesitate to open the second letter.  It read:

 

                Dearest Daniel,

Dear Merlin!  I’d almost given up hope of ever finding you again!  When Kingsley came and told us that he had finally found you, we were ecstatic!  Words cannot even begin to express how much your father and I have missed you, how much we have longed to find you.

I’m not sure what exactly I should tell you first, Daniel.  Well, first off, my name is Molly Weasley and your father, my husband, is Arthur Weasley.  You have an older brother (Bill), five younger brothers (Charlie, Percy, Fred and George, and Ron), and a younger sister (Ginny).          

Bill, short for William, is twenty-three and, until recently, he worked for a bank in Egypt.  However, due to certain recent events, he has decided to transfer to the bank’s London branch and come back home.  Bill doesn’t like to talk about his relationships until they get serious, so we haven’t heard whether or not he has a lady friend right now.  He does spend a lot of time with his best friend’s widow and her twins, but that relationship is purely platonic—Bill, Chase, and Mya were all very close and neither Bill nor Mya are quite over Chase’s death yet, even after nearly two years.

Charlie, short for Charles, is twenty-one and he works on an animal preserve in Romania.  It’s quite dangerous work, but he truly loves his job.  He and his long-time girlfriend Liana somehow manage to successfully maintain a long distance relationship with him in Romania and her constantly traveling the world with her boss—she’s the manager for world famous dancer Jessica Martini.  Charlie and Liana are not married yet, but they do have three absolutely wonderful children: Kentley (Kent) is three, almost four, Mackenzie (Kenzie) is two, almost three, and Mikayla (Kayla) is just six months old.  I do wish they would hurry up and get married, but both are far too stubborn for their own good, especially when it comes to the topic of matrimony.

Percy will be eighteen in two months—he graduates from school on June 8th of this year.  He was Head Boy of the exclusive boarding school all of your siblings and your father and I have attended (Bill was Head Boy in his day as well) this year.  Percy already has a job lined up at the Ministry for when he graduates; he is very excited to begin working there.  As far as I know he has a steady girlfriend in Penelope Clearwater, his year-mate and a prefect, though I don’t know how serious they actually are.  I haven’t personally met her, but she sounds like a lovely girl for Percy.

Fred, short for Frederick, and George are twins; they are sixteen and the pranksters of the family.  They are finishing up their fifth year of school (there are seven years total) this year.  Unfortunately, unlike their elder brothers, they were not made prefects.  Fred and George have caused more trouble than all of the rest of their siblings combined!  They are quite smart actually, if only they would spend more time on their studies and less time pranking people and causing trouble.  Fred tends to go through girlfriends rather quickly, though the object of his desire is one Cassiopeia Black, one of Ron’s best mates.  She’ll never have him though; she’s too much in love with her best friend’s twin brother Harry Potter to think of anyone else.  George on the other hand is a one woman man.  He and Mary Evans-Potter (Harry’s twin sister) have been dating since September 2, 1999.  Sure they have had the occasional fight, but it’s almost always my George’s fault!  He just doesn’t always understand women.  Poor Mary!  She really loves him, you know.  She and Harry and Cassiopeia and Hermione (Granger) are all like my own children to me, but especially Mary—if George doesn’t screw things up too royally, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Mary added to the family tree after she’s finished with school.  She really is a sweet girl, you know, despite her rather infamous temper.

Ron, short for Ronald, is fourteen and is finishing his third year of school this year.  Ron is very loyal to his friends; three of his best friends (Mary, Harry, and Cassiopeia) spent the summer with us last year, and they and their other best friend (Hermione) are planning on visiting us again this coming summer.  Ron does fairly well in school, though he does have a tendency to get into trouble—not nearly as much as the twins, though.  He is especially good at chess; he even got recognized for his skill at the end of his first year.  He and Mary love to pick on each other; it’s quite amusing, actually.  They truly act like brother and sister nearly all of the time.  Ron doesn’t have a girlfriend, but whenever you mention his best friend Hermione around him, his ears go red, a sure sign that there’s something there—not that either of them realize it yet, mind you.  Ah, young love.

Ginny, short for Ginevra, will be thirteen in two months.  She is finishing up her second year of school this year.  She had a pretty rough first year last year, but she seems to be doing much better now.  In fact, it seems that this year was a big turnaround for her.  Ginny has finally made a friend of her own: Melinda Santos.  I haven’t yet met the girl, but by the way Ginny goes on about her, she sounds absolutely wonderful.  Ginny is still a bit young yet to have a boyfriend—all the boys including her father agree wholeheartedly with that, though Ginny herself is none too pleased.  She does, however, have a crush on someone: Mary’s twin brother Harry.  It’s quite cute, actually.  She’s normally very outgoing and peppy, but when she gets around Harry all she can do is stammer and stutter and blush.  Those two would make such a cute couple, though I do worry about the strain her crush may put on her friendship with Cassiopeia.  They are all still young yet, though, so there is really no rush for them to pair up just yet.

Your father Arthur and I actually married over Christmas holiday during my seventh year at school (as I mentioned before, your father and I both attended the same school as your brothers and sister): December 21, 1977 is our anniversary.  We’ve been happily married for twenty-four years now and we live just outside of Ottery St. Catchpole.  Your father works for the Ministry.  He’s been offered a promotion many times, but he loves his current position far too much to give it up.  My job is just to be the best wife and mother I can be and I absolutely love it.

I don’t know if you know your real birthday, so I thought I’d tell you: you were born at exactly one pm on January 15, 1980 in London and your full name is Daniel Osmond Weasley.  The necklace you gave to Kingsley was actually a gift from your godfather, my older brother Gideon Prewett, given to you on the day you were born.  You were a rather small baby; so fragile and tiny.  You never cried; you just stared at all of us with your stormy blue eyes—the same blue as my father’s.  You had the most beautiful red hair, too—it’s a Weasley trait, the red hair.  All of us have red hair—even myself; my brothers were redheads too (it’s also a Prewett trait as well, you see).

That leads me to the night you disappeared.  My big brothers, Gideon and Fabian Prewett, were babysitting you and Bill while your father and I had a night out to ourselves—our first night out alone since Bill was born.  All that night I had a feeling that something was wrong, but Gid and Fab told me that I was just being a worrywart.  Turns out I was right after all.

Before I can explain what happened that night, there’s something else I have to tell you.  I know this is an awful lot of information to put into a simple letter, but I feel you have a right to know.  Danny, magic is real.  Our whole family going back generations has been magical, including you; the Weasleys are an old pureblood family as are the Prewetts (my side of the family).  We are all witches and wizards—well, except for one of my second cousins who happens to be an accountant, but we don’t talk about him much.  There are some in our world—the wizarding world that is—who would tell you that purity of blood is all that matters, but our family has always thought that that prejudice is just silly.  Some of the best witches and wizards I have known are half-bloods (a muggle or muggleborn parent and a half-blood or pureblood parent) and muggleborns.  A muggle, by the way, is a non-magical person and muggleborns are witches and wizards who come from all muggle families.  Most pureblood families are very elitist and prejudice against anyone who isn’t a pureblood like themselves.  Our family may be purebloods, but we are what the elitist purebloods refer to as blood traitors and muggle-lovers; we know that the purity of one’s blood has absolutely nothing to do with how good a witch or wizard is.

I should probably give you some kind of explanation about the wizarding world—providing you don’t crumple this letter up and burn it because you think we’re a bunch of nutters and you want nothing more to do with us.  Ron’s friends have told us of the varying reactions they had to the revelation that magic is real, so I don’t expect you to just accept it blindly.  The wizarding world is its own separate world.  We have our own schools, hospitals, government, villages, and shops.  We use wands to perform our magic; it’s the most basic tool of a wizard’s education.  The school our whole family has attended for generations is called Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, currently run by headmaster Albus Dumbledore.  Magical children who have had or will have their eleventh birthday before September 1st are sent a letter of acceptance to Hogwarts the summer before they are to start.  This letter details what possessions are acceptable to take to the school and what supplies are needed for classes.  Gringotts bank (the wizarding bank) is run by goblins.  Bill actually worked as a curse breaker for them in Egypt, though I’m not quite sure what he’s doing for them now that he’s transferred back home.  Wizarding money is fairly easy for us, but I have been informed by those who didn’t grow up in our world that it can be a bit tricky, so I’ll just leave that particular explanation for another time.  The Ministry of Magic is our governing body.  The current Minister is Cornelius Fudge, though he’s really not doing all that great of a job at it.  Arthur heads up the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office—he’s absolutely batty about anything muggle and Percy’s new job is in the Department of International Magical Cooperation.  Diagon Alley is the main place in London where witches and wizards go to buy their magic supplies: robes, wands, potion ingredients, familiars, brooms, quidditch supplies, etc; it’s actually located out the back of the Leaky Cauldron.  Kingsley was a bit surprised that you didn’t seem more surprised by the pub—you know, the Leaky Cauldron is protected so that muggles can’t see it.  Quite handy, really.  Secrecy is a big thing.  We must keep our world a secret from the muggles—there’s some law about that, but Hermione would probably know better than I about that; she’s quite a brilliant young woman, really—Mary and Cassi as well.  Oh dear, I seem to have gone a bit off track, haven’t I?  Well, I’ll just say one last thing before I get back on subject.  Charlie does work in Romania, but he actually works on a dragon preserve.  A Dragon Tamer is both one of the best paying and one of the most dangerous jobs out there, but for some Merlin forsaken reason, your brother absolutely loves it.

Anyway, to get right down to it, I will tell you what happened the night you went missing.  On April 21, 1980, Arthur and I left you and Bill with your uncles for the evening.  Being the paranoid mother that I was, I checked in on you boys at least once every twenty to thirty minutes.  Finally I couldn’t take it any longer, so Arthur and I left the restaurant and headed back to my brothers’.  By the time we arrived back to the Prewett Manor, it was too late.  Hanging above my brothers’ house was the Dark Mark—the Dark Mark is the mark that You-Know-Who’s servants, the Death Eaters, send into the sky after they kill.  When we went into the house I found my brothers lying dead in the hallway.  They put up such a fight and managed to stun a couple of the Death Eaters before the Killing Curse was fired.  I was in shock, so Arthur flooed the Ministry and they sent over some aurors (dark wizard catchers) to help out.  Neither Arthur nor I had any idea what had happened to you or Bill.  We finally found a man carrying little Bill out of the forest—he had a very bad concussion and as a consequence suffered severe memory loss; he doesn’t remember much of anything that happened before waking up at St. Mungo’s (a magical hospital) three days later.  That was also the night I met Chris Potter.  He was one of the top aurors and we immediately clicked.  He became like another brother to me and his wife became the sister I never had—despite the fact that their son was only six years younger than me.  Chris and Joan and Arthur and I became very close; we named them both godparents to Charlie, and they named us godparents to their youngest, Cordelia—she’s about a year younger than you, but I haven’t heard from her since her parents died and Arthur and I were refused custody.  Chris was a very loyal man; the night that he brought Bill back to us, he swore an oath to me that he would never stop looking for you.  He kept that promise, passing it down to his son James (Merlin rest his soul) and his apprentice Kingsley (Shacklebolt), who was like a second son to him.

We are all looking forward to meeting you, Daniel.  I do hope you are able to come visit us soon.  If you can’t, we will understand, but, please, at least do send us a letter and let us know how you are doing.

With all our love,

Molly & Arthur Weasley (Mum and Dad)

 

P.S. ~ Don’t worry about Molly; she’s just very excited to have finally found you—not that I’m not, of course, because I am.  I just want you to know, son, that the intention of this letter is not to scare you off.  Rather, it’s to tell you the truth and to let you know that we love you very much and as a Weasley you will always have a place here with us should you need or want it.  Oh, yes: don’t worry about the owl.  That’s the normal way for witches and wizards to send post.  It’s fairly simple really: you just tell the bird who you want the letter delivered to, and send him off.  Muggles us stamps, don’t they?  And postmen, right?  Oh, and those automobiles!  Oh dear, your mother is giving me that look again.  I believe I shall stop here and let her give this to Kingsley before she hexes me.  Once again, I do hope we haven’t scared you away, son. –Love, Dad er, Arthur (whichever you prefer)

 

Oz finished the letter and folded it up carefully before sticking it into his bag.  It was a lot of information—being the second oldest of eight kids, for one.  Then there was the whole magic thing.  Of course Oz already knew that magic existed, he just never realized that there was a whole separate community just for magic users, or that he was one of them.

                Oz sighed and pulled out the letter he had received and read earlier that day; the one that told him that Willow’s girlfriend Tara had been shot and killed and that Willow had gone over the deep end with her magicks and was now on a Giles-sponsored trip to a coven in Devon to learn to control her power and use it for good.  After reading the letter for what seemed like the thousandth time, Oz came to the decision that Willow needed him.  He didn’t know what it was, but he just knew that his beautiful redheaded goddess needed him—if only to be a friend—during her time of grief, so that was where he was headed.  His family would just have to wait a bit longer, though nothing could stop him from writing them back a letter of his own…though he did feel inclined to leave out the werewolf detail; he felt that that particular issue was better addressed in person.

Chapter Text

Chapter 4: Another Weasley

 

June 12, 2002:  Molly Weasley practically ran into the kitchen.  “Arthur!  Arthur!!” she called, waving a piece of parchment in the air as she practically flew through the door.  “Call the children!!  Hurry!”

                “What’s the matter, dear?” asked Arthur concerned, coming down the stairs.

                “He sent us a letter, Arthur!!” Molly practically screeched, clutching the letter tightly in her hand.  “We didn’t scare him off!”

                Arthur smiled fondly at his wife.  “I’ll round up the kids, Molls,” said Arthur, smiling at his lovely wife.  “Why don’t you whip up a nice lunch for us while you’re at it, eh?” he added with a broad, playful wink.

                “Arthur Charles Weasley!” shrieked Molly, frazzled and worried over what could possible be in the letter.

                Arthur came over to his wife and kissed her on her forehead.  “It’ll be fine Mollywobbles, I promise,” he whispered in her ear; his nearness and voice still sent tinges up Molly’s spine even after twenty-four years of marriage.

                “Alright, I’ll calm down.  Cooking always helps me do that anyway,” she said, as if it had been her idea all along.  Arthur simply nodded in agreement.  Molly suddenly turned on him.  “Well?  What are you waiting for, Arthur?  Get the children—all of them!!  And no excuses this time, understand?!”

                “Yes, dear,” replied Arthur as he headed up the stairs to fetch their brood of redheaded children, leaving Molly in her element, cooking up a meal large enough to feed an entire army—or their family.

 

                Twenty minutes later Molly surveyed the kitchen table, giving an approving nod.  Arthur was seated at the head, as it should be.  On one side sat her eldest sons: Bill and Charlie talking about Quidditch and Percy attempting to engage his father in a conversation about the Ministry.  On the other side sat her younger sons and her only daughter: Fred and George had their heads together, scheming up Merlin only knows what, and Ron and Ginny switched between discussing tactics for chess and tactics for Quidditch.  Molly, at the end of the table opposite her husband, smiled at her happy family.  And soon it will be complete again, she thought gleefully to herself.

                The Weasleys were about halfway through their meal when Molly decided that it was time.  Clearing her throat loudly to get her family’s attention, she waved the letter over her head.  “What’s that Mum?” asked Ron and Charlie simultaneously.

                “This is a letter from someone very dear to this family—”

                “Harry!” said Ginny, blushing a bit as she said so.

                “Mione!” suggested Ron, his ears turning bright red at just the thought of the brown-eyed, bushy-haired bookworm.

                “Li!” said Charlie, grinning furiously.

                “Mr. Crouch,” put in Percy, as stiff and pompous as ever.

                “Mary!” said George almost dreamily.

                “Cassi!” suggested Fred, grinning manically.

                “Father Christmas,” put in Bill, getting annoyed.  “Why don’t we all just shut up and I’m sure Mum will tell us who it’s from.”

                “Thank you Bill,” said Molly, beaming at her eldest.  “Now, your father and I have never told any of you this before because, well, frankly, it’s been a rather painful subject up until now.”

                “What are you talking about, Mum?” asked Ginny sweetly.

                Arthur stood up and went over to join his wife at her end of the table.  “What your mother is trying to tell you is that you have another brother.”

                “WHAT?!”

                “Are you serious?”

                “Bloody hell!”

                “Language, Ron!”

                “Huh?”

                “I think that we ….”

                “…should let…”

“…dear Mum…”

“…and Dad…”

                “…explain this,” Fred and George finished together.

                “Thank you boys,” said Arthur.  “Now, I’m sure you all have a lot of questions…”

                “How old is he?” asked Ginny hopefully; maybe she wouldn’t be the youngest anymore.

                “He’s twenty-two,” said Molly.  Damn, thought Ginny dejectedly.

                “What’s his name?” asked Bill.

                “Daniel Osmond Weasley,” replied Arthur.

                “What happened to him?” asked Charlie.

                “The night that your uncles were killed, he went missing,” explained Molly.  “We’ve been searching for him ever since and it turns out he’s been searching for us too—he met Auror Shacklebolt at the Leaky Cauldron, who put two and two together and figured out that Daniel is our son.”

                “What does he do?” asked Percy.

                “I’m not sure,” said Arthur truthfully.  “Kingsley didn’t say.”  Percy sniffed indignantly.

                “What does he look like?” asked Ron curiously.

                “Well,” said Arthur, “according to Kingsley, he’s quite short, but well-built apparently.  He has stormy blue eyes and his hair’s naturally red—of course—though Kingsley said it was blue when he met him.  Ah—Kingsley also mentioned that he wears his fingernails painted black and he dresses like a muggle.”  Ron smiled happily—looked like he might have another cool older brother.

                “We would like to know…” began Fred.

                “…does our brother dear…”continued George.

“…know about magic…”

                “…and does he prefer…”

“…to be called Daniel…”

                “…or Danny…”

                “…or something else entirely,” they finished together as their entire family rolled their eyes at their antics.

                “First off,” said Molly, “I told him about magic in the letter I wrote to him, but I don’t know how he took the news.”

                “Secondly,” interjected Arthur, “When he was a baby we always called Daniel ‘Danny,’ but now, according to Kingsley, who has actually met him, he goes by Oz.”

                “Oz,” muttered Bill.  “That’s pretty wicked.”

                “Mum,” interrupted Ginny, “can we just go ahead and read the letter?  I’d like to get to know this new brother of mine.   Please!!

                Arthur chuckled at his daughter’s antics.  “Yes, Molly, why don’t you read it aloud for us.”

                “Are you sure you don’t want to, Arthur?”

                “It’ll be alright, Molly.  Just take a deep breath,” she did just that, “now let it out,” she did that too.  “Good girl.  Now, let’s crack open that letter and see what Dan—Oz—has to say about himself.”

                Molly smiled and, shaking nervously, opened the letter and began to read aloud:

 

                Hey.

Sorry I couldn’t come up with something cooler there.  Oh well, better luck next time.  I guess I should tell you right off the bat that I’ve known about magic and the supernatural for years now.  Never would have guessed on a hidden wizarding society, though.  Willow would love that—especially the magic school part.

So I’m a wizard.  Does that mean I can do magic and stuff?  Huh.  Never would’ve thought.  Suppose it does answer a few questions I’ve had over the years, though…but enough about that.  You told me all about my family; it’s only fair I tell you something about me.  Well, here goes…

I was raised as Daniel Osborne in a small town in California called Sunnydale.  I was sixteen when Rob and Nancy (my adoptive parents) told me that I was adopted.  To tell the truth, I wasn’t all that surprised; I was always so different from them, especially in the height department (I don’t’ know if you know, but I’m a bit on the short side of short). 

I was seventeen and on my first go ‘round of senior year when I found out the truth about Sunnydale—it’s on a Hellmouth.  That is to say, it attracts all kind of demons and other nasties, many hell-bent on destroying the world.  That was the year I started to help out.  It was also the year my life changed drastically in a very different way—but that’s not something I want to discuss in a letter.

When I was seventeen, right before I found out that I was living on a Hellmouth with demons and vamps and such, I met the girl of my dreams.  I first saw her when my band (I was lead guitar) was playing at The Bronze (the local nightclub).  We were playing at a culture appreciation dance type-thing and I happened to look up and I saw her.  She was standing all alone, dressed up in a fuzzy Eskimo suit; she looked so adorable.  As soon as the song was done I walked across the dance floor to find her, but she left just a second before I got to her.  That was the first of many such near-encounters.  At long last the day came when I finally met her.  It was on the first day of career week (she was a junior, I was on my first senior year) and the two of us were the only ones in the whole school chosen by a big time computer company to discuss a possible future career with them.  It was a big honor, especially since we were the only two in the school that they were trying to recruit—I like to call it fate.  Of course, things didn’t go smoothly —they never do on the Hellmouth (though that was before I knew about that).  During Career Week, there was this crazy policewoman (who I found out later was actually some sort of demon bounty hunter) who pulled a gun on Buffy.  While Buffy (Willow’s best friend) and Kendra (a friend of Buffy’s from out of town) were fighting her, she managed to get out a couple shots before the gun was aimed at Willow (the girl I’d met).  I don’t know what made me do it, but I jumped in front of her and got a bullet to my arm.  I don’t regret it for a second, though.

After that day, Willow and I started to hang out more.  We went on a couple dates before she invited me to a surprise party she and Xander (her childhood best friend) were throwing for Buffy.  What a surprise party that was.  We were all set up—Willow, Xander, Giles (the librarian and the designated group “dad”), Cordy (Xander’s girlfriend), Angel (Buffy’s boyfriend) and I—and waiting for Ms. Calendar (the computer teacher and Giles’s girlfriend) to show up with Buffy.  Boy was it a surprise when they did: Buffy came crashing through the wall fighting a vamp.  That was the first vamp I had ever seen dusted.  Cordy, with her usual tact (and yes, I’m using sarcasm here) just had to pop up and yell surprise.  I remember how concerned Willow was about me.  She wanted to know if I was okay with everything, if I still wanted to hang out with her.  Truth be told, learning that vamps and demons were real actually explained a lot, and I told Willow as much.  She was so relieved.  After that fateful day, I became an honorary member of the Scooby Gang (that’s what Willow and Xander had dubbed our group fighting the forces of the Hellmouth and all that badness).  Willow and I grew closer over that year and we began dating.  That year I went through some major changes and I was afraid that Willow wouldn’t want to be around me once she found out, but I was so wrong.  She was nothing but supportive and understanding; I think that’s when I first realized I was falling in love with her.

The end of that year was hard on everyone, but especially on Buffy.  A new big bad came to town, with an unfortunate obsession with Buffy, and he targeted all of her friends just to get to her.  The worst was when he killed Jenny Calendar, Giles’s girlfriend.  After that things went from bad to worse.  Angelus—the big bad—had teamed up with his insane childe Drusilla and her childe Spike and the three of them were working on some plan to send the world to Hell (literally).  Not long after Jenny died, we found out that she had been working on a way to give Angelus back his soul.  Willow was determined and took it upon herself to finish what Jenny had started.  The first time Willow tried the curse it ended in disaster; it was a trap.  They were in the library, which just happened to be where the Hellmouth was, when the vampires attacked.  Willow was preparing for the spell and none of them were ready for it.  Giles was knocked out, a bookcase fell on top of Willow and she was out too, Xander told Cordy to run (so she did), and Xander got hurt too, but not as badly as Willow or Giles even.  Poor Kendra, though—Kendra had first shown up around the time I first actually met Willow and she showed up again with the business of Angelus and Acathala (this stone demon who was a portal to literal Hell-on-earth).  Anyway, back to Kendra.  Kendra was in the library too while Buffy was out looking for Angelus.  It was, of course, a trap, not that she knew it until it was too late.  Drusilla, Angelus’s insane seer childe, hypnotized Kendra and killed her.

I came when Xander called and told me Willow was in the hospital unconscious.  I was so worried; Xander had called her parents, but they were out of town, as usual.  I was by her side the entire time, though.  Buffy came by once Willow woke up.  She had been accused of Kendra’s murder and expelled from school and was now hiding while she went after Angelus.  Willow was still determined to do the spell, though.  After Buffy left, with Xander following her to help Giles (who had been kidnapped by Drusilla and Angelus), Willow convinced Cordy and I to help her set up for the spell and try again.  Trust me; no one can resist Willow’s resolve face.  She had just woken up; she was so pale and fragile, but I have never met a stronger person.  She wanted to do the spell for Buffy.  She knew how much Angelus had hurt Buffy and she knew she had to try.  Willow began the spell and at first we weren’t sure if it was working.  Suddenly, it was like raw power was flowing through her.  Afterwards, she told me she could feel the power flowing through her, and she knew the spell had worked.  That was her first spell ever, her first step into the world of witchcraft.  The spell had worked, but it was too little, too late.  Angelus had already opened Acathala when the spell hit him and Buffy was forced to kill him to save the world.  After that she ran off to LA for several months—her mom had kicked her out after Buffy had told her her biggest secret and she had just killed the love of her life—personally I think she deserved some time off.

Thus began a new school year.  After spending the summer patrolling with Xander, Cordy, and Willow, it was time to go back to school.  Of course, I had failed to mention to Willow that I would be returning to repeat my senior year with her.  It’s like this: I had missed some of my finals while I was helping the Scoobies to save the world and then I kinda didn’t go to summer school to make them up.  Even though I had to repeat my senior year, it was kind of nice to be able to spend more time with Willow.  That year was pretty eventful in and of itself.  Buffy came back and got accepted back into Sunnydale High (with some difficulty) and Faith came to town (she kinda did the same thing back in Boston that we did in SunnyD).  Things took a turn for the worse one night when Buffy and Faith were out on patrol together.  Faith made an honest mistake and couldn’t deal with the consequences and began to fall deeper into the darkness.  She eventually joined forces with the newest big bad—the Mayor.  Graduation Day was certainly a day to remember.  You see, the mayor had actually been around for about a hundred years and he was planning on ascending (becoming a full-blooded demon) on graduation day.  He had grown quite fond of Faith and she had become like a daughter to him, so when Buffy put her in a coma in the process of trying once again to save the love of her life, he was not a happy camper.  During our graduation ceremony, we rallied the entire senior class to fight the Mayor.  The principal was eaten, but that wasn’t really a big loss (he was, as Cordy so eloquently put it, “a tiny, impotent Nazi with a bug up his butt the size of an emu”).  Sadly, not all of our classmates made it that day.  The Sunnydale High class of ‘99 had the lowest mortality rate thanks to its Class Protector, Buffy, but that didn’t mean all of us survived the actual graduation ceremony.  Buffy was able to lure the demon-snake Mayor into the school by taunting him with Faith’s knife.  Once he was in the library, Buffy barreled out of there and she and Giles blew up the school.  It was the only way to kill the Mayor.  Plus it was just kinda cool.

Buffy’s boyfriend left after graduation and Cordy left for LA before too long also.  She and Xander had long since broken up and Xander left on a road trip across the US a few weeks after graduation.  With the library blown up, Giles was now unemployed—I’m honestly not sure exactly what he did that summer.  Willow helped Buffy patrol a lot as well as helping her pick out her classes for UC Sunnydale and I was pretty busy with my band that summer, but I joined them in patrolling as often as I could.  That fall, Buffy, Willow, and I all started at UC Sunnydale.  Things went well for a while; I lived in a house with my band mates and Buffy’s first roommate turned out to be an evil soul-stealing demon.  Willow moved in with Buffy after they sent Kathy (Buffy’s demon roommate) back to her home dimension and Xander came back a few days after school started; apparently his car had broken down before he ever left California and he had spent the summer working to earn the money to get it repaired.  It wasn’t too much later that another familiar face showed up in our lives again: Anya.  Anya was an ex-vengeance demon who had granted Cordy a wish after Xander cheated on her, but she had lost her power source and had been turned mortal.  She had been stuck as a seventeen-year-old and asked Xander to the prom.  She had then left before the ascension and she came back because she apparently couldn’t get Xander out of her mind.  After an awkward start, Xander and Anya began casually dating, secretly hoping to form a relationship of sorts.  Earlier that year, Buffy had met Riley, a TA for her Psychology class.  They had a strange sort of attraction to each other, but she was still getting over Angel at the time, so she didn’t act on that attraction right away. 

It was around this time that I met Veruca.  She was the lead singer of another band and from the first time I saw her, there was something that drew me to her.  I knew it wasn’t love; it was like I recognized something in her that I saw in myself.  When I figured out what it was, I tried to help her.  Instead, I ended up making the biggest mistake of my life.  After that, I tried to get Veruca to leave me alone, but she was convinced that I should be with her, not Willow, so she decided to go after Willow and she nearly killed her.  I had to do something, so I stopped Veruca from hurting my Willow.  After that, I realized I had to leave; I had to find myself before I could be with Willow.  I never wanted to hurt her, but I think leaving her did just that.  I spent the next several months traveling around the world, trying to find myself.  After I felt I had accomplished my goal, I decided to go back to see Willow and tell her what I had been doing.  We spent that whole first night I was back just talking.  The next day, I was walking around campus when I came across a new friend of Willow’s, a girl named Tara.  Somehow I knew that the two of them were close, and I completely lost control.  I was so close to hurting her, something I had hoped would never happen again.  After that, I got into a spot of trouble and Buffy’s new boyfriend Riley had to help me out.  Afterwards, I realized that as much as I loved Willow, I couldn’t be around her until I was completely in control of myself.  I love her so much; all I wanted was for her to be happy.  I had to leave again. 

I spent the next three years traveling the world.  I found myself in Europe two years ago and—more specifically—England just last year.  While I was on my journey of self-discovery, I reopened my search for my birth parents, which led me to the Leaky Cauldron and Kingsley Shacklebolt, which in turn led me to write this letter to you.

I would love to meet you all, I really would.  Unfortunately, that meeting will have to wait a while.  I got a letter yesterday from Giles.  He told me that Willow is in really bad shape right now.  Apparently there was an accident and her girlfriend, Tara, got shot and killed.  Willow consequentially got lost in her grief and turned to dark magicks.  She killed the man who shot Tara and then she tried to end the world, seeing it as the only way to stop all the pain and suffering.  Xander was the one who stopped her.  He told her he loved her no matter what, and if the world was going to end there was no place else he would rather be.  Somehow he got through to her and she came down from the dark magicks. 

Will’s pretty messed up right now.  Giles told me that he brought her to a coven in Devon, so I’m headed there to see her.  Don’t ask me how, but I just know that she needs me right now.  I haven’t seen her in three years, but I’ve never stopped loving her; she’s always been the only girl for me.  All that matters to me is that she’s happy, and right now she’s not.  I can literally feel her pain; it’s suffocating.  She really loved Tara and I’ve finally realized I’m okay with that as long as it made her happy.  I’ve got to go and help her in any way I can.  I really don’t care if she doesn’t want me anymore or if she chooses to find someone else to spend her life with, I just need to be there for her in whatever way she needs me to be.  As soon as I finish this letter I’m heading out.  I don’t know how long I’ll be gone.  I promise to come and meet you guys as soon as I can, but right now Willow is my number one priority.

                                                                                                                                    TTFN,

                                                                                                                                           Oz

 

Molly finished reading the letter, folded it up gently and set it on the table in front of her.  The entire Weasley family was speechless.  Molly and Ginny were blinking back tears; Bill and Charlie were staring blankly at the wall in front of them; Fred and George stared at each other, as if reading each others’ minds (which they very well may have been doing—it’s a magical twin thing, after all); Arthur had his jaw clenched as if fighting back his own tears; Ron just stared down at his hands; and Percy was furiously polishing his glasses (very Giles-esque).

                Bill was the first to break the silence.  “The letter really says all of that?”

                Molly nodded slowly.  “Every single word.”

                Charlie nodded thoughtfully.  “I remember studying about the Hellmouth in my sixth year DADA class.  I can’t believe my big brother had to live with all of that.” 

Ron nodded in agreement.  “Sounds like he had it pretty tough.”

                “So, all these years…” said Fred.

                “…he’s been looking for us too?” finished George.  Molly simply nodded.

                “He’s not the only one,” said Arthur.  “We never stopped looking either.  Auror Chris Potter started the search back in ‘80 and Aurors James Potter and Kingsley Shacklebolt continued it.”

                “I can’t believe Auror Shacklebolt actually found him after all these years,” mused Percy, pompously placing his horn-rimmed glasses back on his nose.

                “Oh, it’s so romantic,” sobbed Ginny.  “He loves her so much!  That’s just so sweet!”

                Bill patted his sister’s back.  “There, there, Gin.”  He turned to his parents quizzically.  “Wait, if I’m older than him, why don’t I remember him at all?”

                Molly looked at her oldest son sadly, tears in her eyes.  “That night,” she began, “the night my brothers were killed and Danny went missing, you were there too.”

                Arthur continued for his wife.  “Chris Potter found you in the woods.  You had a very bad head wound—we don’t really know how you got it.  I took you to St. Mungo’s right away and they told me that the blow to your head severely damaged your memory—they said that you might not ever remember anything that happened before that day that you finally woke up.”

                Bill frowned thoughtfully.  “Wait—you said I was found in the woods?”  Arthur and Molly both nodded.  “W-we were staying with Uncle Gid and Uncle Fab that night, me and Danny, weren’t we?”

                Molly and Arthur both looked up sharply.  “Y-you remember?” said Molly in awe.

                Bill frowned some more.  “It’s a bit fuzzy…” he began slowly, “nothing’s clear really…I remember hearing something strange outside, then Uncle Fab telling me to take Danny and run…I-I remember running…I-I…I think I found somewhere safe…then I remember wanting to go back, needing to go back…I left him…then I remember seeing the Dark Mark and I tripped over something and fell…then it’s all black…”

                Arthur frowned thoughtfully at his son.  “After all these years…I wonder if maybe the letter triggered your memory…or maybe just talking about him…”

                Bill shrugged.  “The hell if I know.”

                “Language, Bill!”

                “Sorry Mum.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 5: Unbreakable Bond

 

                May 23, 2003:  Alexander “Xander” Harris fidgeted nervously as he ran a large, calloused hand through his messy black-brown hair.  With his single chocolate brown eye (he had lost the other back in April in a battle with The First’s minion Caleb) he glanced once again at the letter sitting on the bedside table, the letter that had thrown him for a loop and completely turned his world upside down.

                Sighing deeply, Xander picked up the letter and held it clenched in his fists.  Here it was, the thing he’d been missing all these years, and yet…he was afraid he’d just get disappointed again.  Unconsciously, he opened the letter again and before he knew it, he was once again reading the now familiar words:

 

                Dearest Alexander,

After twenty-two years I have finally found out the truth.  Yesterday I received a strange letter through the post, informing me that my husband’s cousin Jessica Lavelle Harris and her husband Anthony Harris had died.  I did not understand why my husband and I were the ones receiving this news until I came to the bottom of the letter.  Apparently in his will, Anthony Harris had confessed to kidnapping a two-day-old baby boy back in 1981 and raising him as his own son without ever telling his wife how he had truly acquired the child.  It was then that I knew.  You see, in 1981 my son went missing.  Anthony’s claim piqued my curiosity.  If I had any doubts they were immediately quelled when I found included in the envelope an adoption certificate for one Alexander Sirius Tonks and a document recording that his name had legally been changed to Alexander Lavelle Harris.

I hope that you will consider coming to meet your family.  Your father and I never wanted to lose you; it was purely coincidence that Mr. Harris was able to spirit you away from us that fateful night.  If you would consent to meet with us, I would be eternally grateful.  Please respond as soon as possible.  I hope to meet you soon, Alexander.

                                                                                                All my love,

                                                                                    Your mother Andromeda Tonks

 

                Xander set the letter down again and sighed.  It had been two days since he had arrived in England, two days since he had received the letter and learned the truth about his parents.  If he was completely honest with himself he was quite happy to find out that the drunks who had raised him weren’t his biological parents.  However, it also brought up painful memories of his almost-wedding to Anya, when he left her because he’d been afraid he’d turn out just like Tony Harris.  Thinking too much about Anya still hurt; she had died in the final battle with The First just a mere three days ago, just when they had started to re-form their relationship.

                Xander groaned and got up from the bed he had been sitting on.  Walking over to the small desk under the equally small window he sat down and pulled out a pen and some paper.  He supposed now was as good a time as any to respond to Andromeda—his mother.

 

May 27, 2003:  “Any response yet, Teddy?”

                Ted Tonks sighed and closed his chocolate eyes (so like his lost son’s), praying for patience.  “The muggle post hasn’t come yet today, Dromeda,” he said tiredly.

                “Oh, right.”  Andromeda flopped gracefully onto the baby-blue couch, her silky, waist-length black hair flowing around her as she did so.  Ted couldn’t help but smile at her; to him, she was the most beautiful woman in the world.

                Seeing her husband’s “yummy” (her exact words) chocolate brown eyes on her, her own deep blue eyes sparkled with mischief.  “Are you trying to distract me from my latest obsession Mr. Tonks?” she teased playfully.

                Ted raised his dark eyebrow at his wife and smiled mischievously back at her.  “Why, I do believe I am, Mrs. Tonks.”

                Andromeda smirked playfully and glided gracefully over to her husband.  “And just how do you propose to do that, Mr. Tonks?” she said, sitting herself on Ted’s lap and running her fingers through his short, mousy brown hair.

                Ted clamped his hands around her waist and smiled up at her.  “Well, I—”

                “Wotcher parentals!” came a cheerful cry from the entry hall.  Andromeda and Ted groaned simultaneously as their daughter (currently sporting a cherry red bob and cerulean eyes) waltzed into the room, predictably tripping over her own two feet and falling to the ground.

                “Hullo Dora,” said Ted, smiling half-heartedly at his daughter sprawled out on the sitting room floor.

                Pulling herself up, Dora Tonks smiled cheekily at her father and raised her eyebrow mischievously.  “Not interrupting anything, am I?”

                Andromeda groaned and buried her face in her husband’s shirt.  “You bloody well did this on purpose, didn’t you Nymphadora?” she groaned at her daughter.

                Nymphadora just smiled at her mother and replied, “Wouldn’t you like to know?”  Andromeda shot her a vicious glare.  “Okay, okay.  It was just a coincidence, honest.  I just thought I’d come visit.”

                “It’s been a while, Dora,” said Ted, raising an eyebrow at his daughter.  “Any reason in particular you are honoring us with your presence today?”

                Tonks rolled her eyes.  “Can’t a daughter visit her parents just ‘cause?”

                “No,” said Andromeda simply.  “Not when you are the daughter in question anyway.”

                “Maybe I just wanted to visit my favorite little sister,” said Tonks.

                “Anaxandra’s over at the Chosens’ house,” said Andromeda sternly.  “Try again.”

Tonks sighed.  “Alright, so I had a fight with Nick and we broke up, okay?  Happy now?”

                “Exceedingly so,” replied Ted.  “Never liked that chap.”

                Tonks sighed and her hair morphed into a wave of gold that went down to her elbows.  “You were right, okay?  The guy was a no good scumbag who only wanted one thing from me.  Happy now?”

                Andromeda got up from Ted’s lap and went over to hug her daughter.  “How can we be happy when our baby girl is hurting?” she said, hugging her now spiky purple-haired daughter tight.

                “He was just using me Mum,” she whispered into Andromeda’s shoulder.  “How could I have been so bloody stupid?!”

                “Shh, shh—it’s okay, baby, Mummy’s here.”  Andromeda let Dora cry on her shoulder until she had let it all out. 

Sniffling a bit, Tonks let go of her mother and wiped her eyes dry and morphing her hair to her natural mousy brown.  “Thanks Mum,” she said.  “I think I’ll just go get myself a snack now, if you don’t mind.”

                “The ice cream’s hiding in the back of the freezer,” said Andromeda, smiling at her daughter.  “I had to stick it where Anaxandra couldn’t reach it.”

                “Thanks Mum,” said Tonks.  “Oh, and I left the post on the table in the front hall.”

                Barely restraining herself as Tonks left the room, Andromeda practically shot out of the room and down the hall, frantically searching through the mail.  Finally she found what she was looking for.  Grabbing the single envelope, she rushed back into the living room where Ted was now busy reading The Daily Prophet.  “It came,” she cried happily to her husband.  “He wrote back!”

                Ted looked up from his paper and smiled at the beautiful ebony-haired woman standing in front of him, her face aglow with happiness.  “Well, don’t just stare at it, Dromeda.  Read it already.”

                Hands shaking with excitement, Andromeda sat down on the couch and opened the letter.  Unfolding the paper inside she began to read:

 

            Andromeda Tonks-

Well, I have to say I was completely shocked to get your letter.  I mean, I knew that Tony and Jessica never made it out of Sunnydale, but this was something else entirely.  Can’t say I’m disappointed exactly.  Tony and Jessica were never great parents, just a couple of drunks who happened to have a kid.  I don’t mean to offend you or anything, but I don’t really know you, so I hope you don’t mind if I don’t call you mom just yet.  Sorry I took my time getting back to you, but this was—still is—a lot to process.  I would like to meet you though.  How’s this Friday sound?  Just send me the when and where and I’ll be there.

                                                                                                            -Xander Harris

 

P.S.~ I’m staying at a friend’s flat in Bath for the time being.  Feel free to call anytime—just look up Rupert Giles.

 

                Andromeda looked up at Ted after finishing the letter, her eyes wide and a huge grin on her face.  “Teddy,” she said happily, jumping up from the sofa, “he wants to meet us!  Our baby boy wants to meet us!”

                Ted smiled just as widely as his wife as he set his paper down.  “When?” was the first question that popped out of his mouth.

                “Friday—this Friday.  He said just to let him know where and when.”

                “That’s wonderful, Dromeda!” cried Ted happily, jumping up and hugging his wife.  “We’re going to meet our son!”

                The couple heard a large THUNK and whirled around to see Tonks once again on the floor.  “S-son?” she gasped as she pulled herself up off the floor.  “I-I have a brother?”

                “Dora, honey,” said her father, walking over to the ginger-haired witch and holding her steady.  “Why don’t you sit down?  You’re mother and I have a lot of explaining to do.”

                “Damn right you do,” muttered Tonks as she let her father lead her over to the sofa, her eyes flashing to a dangerous amber and her hair morphing so much from her current emotional turmoil that she looked like a giant walking rainbow.

 

                “So, let me get this straight,” said Tonks slowly as her parents finished explaining the situation to her.  “Not only do I have a brother, but I have a twin brother who was kidnapped when we were only a couple of days old and was raised by dad’s crazy drunken cousins in the States.”

                “And we’re meeting him on Friday,” added Andromeda happily.

                “Right.  I think I need to sit down.”

                “You are sitting down, Nymphadora.”

                “Oh.  Bloody brilliant of me, really.”

                “Nymphadora, darling, I know this is a lot to take in, but—”

                “No, Mum, this actually explains a couple of questions I’ve had over the years.”

                “Really?” asked Ted curiously.  “And what might those questions be?”

                “Well, I did always wonder why it felt like a part of me was missing, you know.  The twin thing explains that,” her parents shot her inquisitive glances, so she elaborated.  “Summer after my third year, I went to Charlie’s, remember?  Well, he has twin brothers and we were trying to figure out exactly why they seemed to almost read each other’s minds and we came across this book that explained how magical twins have a sort of innate magical connection, allowing them to share emotions and thoughts and even communicate telepathically.”

                Andromeda quirked her eyebrow at her only daughter.  “I didn’t realize you were so interested in the subject,” she said, suppressing a smile.

                Tonks’s face turned red and her hair changed to her favorite bubble-gum pink spikes.  “Yeah, well, like I said, I always felt like something was missing.  I guess it was just my subconscious trying to make up for that.”

                Ted looked thoughtfully at his daughter.  “You said there was more than one thing,” he said quietly.

                Tonks nodded, her hair morphing into a sheet of pure silver.  “There have been times…sometimes I get this feeling like part of me is in pain or really sad or sometimes really happy.  The thing is, most of the time nothing’s happening to me.”  Tonks paused for a moment then continued.  “The worst yet was last month—I swear I couldn’t see straight for a week afterwards, and I do mean that literally.  Then seven days ago—Mum, I swear my heart was breaking into a million pieces.  I wasn’t sure I could go on…it still hurts, Mum, and I don’t know why.”

                Ted and Andromeda looked at each other.  “Sweet Merlin,” breathed Andromeda, “you still have the twin bond.”

                “That’s the only logical explanation,” mused Ted.

                Tonks scoffed.  “C’mon Dad, since when is anything in our world logical?” she said, purposefully morphing herself to look like her mother.

                Andromeda frowned and Ted gave a small smile.  “Point taken, Dora,” he conceded.

                Tonks, finally getting control of her haywire emotions, morphed back to her normal heart-shaped face and delicate (very Black) features, giving herself amethyst colored eyes and long, curly aquamarine hair.  “So,” she chirped, anxious to change the subject, “when are we inviting this long-lost brother of mine over so I can actually meet him?  Oh, and who’s telling Andra?”

Chapter Text

Chapter 6: Reunited

 

May 30, 2003:  Xander had been out with Willow helping her drown her guilt after breaking up with Kennedy (Xander had never really liked the bratty slayer much, but he hadn’t wanted to hurt Willow’s feelings by saying anything of the sort) when Andromeda had called.  He didn’t hear the message until the next morning, in fact, when he woke up with a major hangover.  It took him nearly half and hour and about ten cups of coffee to finally realize that he had less than twenty-four hours to mentally prepare himself to meet with his birth family.

                The first thing he had done upon sobering up enough to realize this was call Willow, frantically begging her to come over.  Ten minutes later the frazzled redheaded witch had arrived, looking just as crappy as he himself felt.  Ushering Willow over to the couch, Xander made her sit and shoved an extra-large cup of coffee at her.  He was practically vibrating with nervousness (or it could have just been the ten cups of caffeine he had just ingested) as he waited for Willow to finish.  As soon as she was slightly less hung-over, Xander proceeded to tell her everything: the letter, the fact that he was adopted, and the fact that his birth parents wanted to meet him in less than twenty-four hours.

                That had been twenty-three hours ago.  After a painfully long pep-talk in which Willow tried to convince Xander that this was the opportunity of a lifetime for him, he finally ran out of excuses, at which point Willow used her infamous resolve-face on him, resulting in him standing at the door of a buttercup-yellow country home just outside of Bristol, straightening the non-existent wrinkles out of his dark blue button-down shirt and fiddling nervously with the eye patch over the remains of his left eye (it was beginning to become a bit of a compulsory action to him now, messing with his eye patch).  Xander glanced down at his watch: it was time.  No more delaying the inevitable.  No more—

                Xander’s train of thought was interrupted suddenly when the door was jerked open, revealing a young woman with a heart-shaped face, short, straight, mousey-brown hair that was pulled back into a ponytail, cool gray eyes, and delicate yet aristocratic features.  The strange woman stared at him, seemingly assessing him.  Xander fidgeted slightly, but that did not deter him from observing this woman further.  She was a good three inches shorter than his five foot eleven inches and she was wearing green army-print cargo pants, a fluorescent orange crop-top t-shirt with the words “WARNING: Major Klutz” in big neon green block letters on it, and heavy black combat boots.  He also noticed that she had three piercings in each of her ears, plus one in her right cartridge; he observed that she had her nose and her bellybutton pierced as well. 

Catching his eye, the woman suddenly grinned at him.  “You must be Alexander,” she said cheerfully.

                Xander gave a nervous smile.  “Call me Xander,” he said.  “Sorry I don’t know who you are—I’m assuming you’re not Andromeda, but that’s just ‘cause you don’t look old enough to have a son my age.  I mean, I could be wrong here and I don’t want to assume anything, cause you know what they say about assuming—you make an ass out of me or something like that.  Hehe.”  He cleared his throat nervously.  “So anyway, I’m guessing you’re not Andromeda and I’m probably making a great big fool of myself babbling here, so hey, I’m Xander not-Andromeda.”  Xander smiled nervously at the pretty young woman as his babbling came to an end. 

The woman smiled brightly at him and for some strange reason he felt inexplicably drawn to her.  “You’re right on that,” she said brightly.  “I’m not Andromeda—I’m her daughter Nymphadora,” she gave a sour look and Xander couldn’t help but smile, “but please call me Tonks.  Oh, and don’t worry about the babbling; I’ll leave that out of the official repot,” she added, winking cheekily at him.

                The tension eased somewhat, Xander held out his hand to her.  “Thanks for that—wouldn’t want to make a bad first impression.  Like I am here.  Nice to meet you Tonks.”

                Tonks smiled at him.  “Back atcha, Xander,” she said.  “And don’t worry; you’re not making a bad impression—I’m a very impressionable person.  And I just realized that made no bloody sense whatsoever.  Oh bollocks.  See, I babble too.  Don’t worry about it.” 

“Good to know.  Nice shirt, by the way,” he added nervously, grasping for straws.

“Thanks,” said Tonks, glancing down at her shirt and smiling at Xander.  “Sadly, it’s very true.”

Xander chuckled lightly.  “I can kinda relate.”

Tonks smiled brightly at him.  “C’mon in, Xander; Andra and the parentals are dying to meet you.  Mum hasn’t shut up about you since she got your letter.”

                Xander was shocked.  “Really?”

                Tonks rolled her eyes as she ushered Xander into the house.  “It’s been all she can talk about for the past bloody week practically.”

                Xander shifted nervously as he followed Tonks down the hall.   “So…you’re my sister then?” he said, trying to alleviate the nervous silence.

                “Twin, actually,” said Tonks cheerfully.  Glancing back at Xander’s shocked face, she added, “Don’t worry about it; they only told me about you three days ago.”

                “Well, that makes me feel a little less out of the loop then,” he said with a lopsided smile.

                “It was quite a shocker for me,” said Tonks, chattering on, sensing that silence would just make Xander even more nervous.  “I mean, I just came over to visit, and suddenly I overhear Mum and Dad talking about their son.  Then it was all ‘Nymphadora, darling, I’m dreadfully sorry we didn’t tell you sooner, but you have a twin brother.’  And then Dad decided to pipe in, of course, and he’s like ‘Dora, we meant to tell you before, but we just didn’t know how.’  Then Mum chimes in with ‘by the way, he’s coming for lunch on Friday.’  Bit of a lot for a girl to process on short notice.  How’d you handle it, then?”

                Xander smiled.  “The letter, I just kinda brooded a while on that, but the phone call…well, I was kinda hung-over when I got the message.  Took me ten cups of coffee to process it, then I freaked out and called up my bestest buddy and told her she had to come over.  Of course she was hung-over too, so I had to wait for her to sober up, then she had to spend the next twenty-two hours trying to calm me down.”

                Tonks laughed.  “Sounds like fun.”

                “Yeah, buckets of giggles,” said Xander.  “So, who’s this Andra you mentioned earlier anyway?”

                “Wot’s that now?”

                “Earlier.  You said that ‘Andra and the parentals’ were dying to meet me.  Who’s Andra?”

                “Andra?  Well she’s…special?  Complicated?  I think I’m gonna go with special here.  On a bad day, I’d probably say completely nutters, but I’m sticking with ‘special’ today.”

                “Uh…Okay?”

                Tonks sighed.  “The simple explanation is that she’s our cousin, the daughter of Mum’s older sister,” she explained.  “The more complicated explanation is that Andra has been with us since she was about a week old.  She’s more like a little sister to me than anything else.  In fact, Mum and Dad actually adopted her when she was about two years old.”

                “Oh.  Guess that makes sense.”

“Well, we’re here,” said Tonks, stopping suddenly.  “You ready?”

                Xander grimaced, fidgeting with his eye patch.  “If I say hell no and run screaming like a girl, will you think any less of me?”

                Tonks giggled.  “Of course I will,” she joked.  “It won’t be that bad, I promise.  Mum and Dad are very nice people actually.  Andra can be a bit scary if you’re not used to her ‘specialness,’ but she’s harmless, I promise.  Now, let’s go.”  With that she linked arms with Xander and pushed open the parlor door.

                This was it, Xander realized.  He was going to meet his real parents.  Looking curiously around the room, the first thing he noticed was how clean it was—nearly spotless, really.  The second thing he noticed was the woman sitting primly on the lavender armchair, her long ebony hair flowing freely down her back.  This must be my mother, he realized, gulping for breath.  She was beautiful—a bit intimidating, true, but still beautiful.

                Xander didn’t realize he was staring at first.  Suddenly the woman—his mother—looked up and her deep blue eyes locked onto his single brown one.  Then she smiled at him.  Standing up gracefully, her every move as fluid as liquid silk, she walked over to the newly-reunited twins.  “Hello,” she said, her voice soft and regal, “you must be Alexander.  My name is Andromeda Tonks—I’m your mother.”

                “H-hi,” said Xander nervously.  “That’s me.  I-I mean, me’s Xander, uh, Xander is me, that is—”

                “Mum, Dad,” interrupted Tonks cheerfully, sensing her twins’ nervousness, “I’d like you to meet Xander.  Xander, meet Ted and Andromeda Tonks.  I personally like to call them Mum and Dad,” she added playfully.

                For the first time Xander noticed the man in the room.  Tall, though a couple of inches shorter than his wife, with short, mousy brown hair and the same chocolate brown eyes as his son, Ted’s smile as he stood and crossed the room was enough to put Xander at ease.  “Hello Xander,” said Ted, sticking out his hand for him to shake.  “I’m Ted.  You can call me Dad if you feel like it, but I’ll understand if you don’t want to.”

                Grinning, Xander shook his father’s hand.  “Nice to meet you, Ted.  Maybe we’ll just take things slow, see where it goes from here.”  Ted nodded in agreement.  The next thing Xander knew, he was being attacked by a sobbing black-haired woman.  “There, there,” he said, patting Andromeda’s back awkwardly.

                Composing herself, Andromeda pulled herself off of her son.  “I’m terribly sorry about that, Alexander, it’s just that I’ve waited so long to find you.  I’d almost given up hope of ever seeing you again…”  Andromeda turned from the one-eyed man and buried her face in her husband’s shoulder.

                “It’s alright; I don’t mind,” said Xander awkwardly, giving Andromeda his goofiest smile.  “It’s not everyday gorgeous women throw themselves all over me, even if I am related to them.”

                Tonks snickered, Ted smiled, and Andromeda lifted her head off of her husband’s shoulder, drying her eyes.  “Thank you for that, Alexander.  Nymphadora, please show Alexander around a bit while I finish putting our lunch together.”

                “Ta Mum,” replied Dora, saluting cheekily.  “Sound good to you, Xander?”

Xander shrugged in response and followed Dora out of the room.  “It’s Xander, by the way.  Just Xander,” he called back to his parents.

                Tonks chuckled and grabbed her brother’s arm.  “Good luck with that, mate.  Mum’s got a thing for given names—she insists on calling me Nymphadora, no matter how many times I ask her not to.”

                Xander chuckled.  “What about Da—er, Ted?”

                “Oh, he’s cool.  He calls me Dora.”

                “Dora.  I like that.  Do you mind…?”

                “Why not?  We are twins after all.  And it is kinda weird to be calling me by our last name.”

                “Yeah, that is weird.”

                “Bloody right, you are.”

                Xander grinned and threw his arm around Dora’s shoulder.  “You and me, we’re gonna get along just great,” he said as the reunited twins headed off down the hall together.

 

                “…and here we have the upper floor,” said Dora, leading Xander up the stairs.  “Up here we have Mum and Dad’s room, my room, the guest room, our old playroom-turned-gameroom, the loo, and…Andra’s room.”  Dora shuddered in horror at the last.

                “That bad, huh?” said Xander knowingly.

                “Worse,” said Tonks, gently grabbing Xander’s head and turning it to face a bright, lime-green monstrosity of a  door with a large gold star engraved with ‘THIS IS A STstarR’ and a gold placard that read ‘Anaxandra’ (with the 'Anax' part crossed out). “And that’s just her door,” Dora said gravely.

                “Oh God,” said Xander, looking at the door in horror.

                “Don’t worry,” said Dora, pulling Xander over to the door, “the inside’s much worse.”  That said, Dora grabbed the handle and swiftly pushed the door open.

                If Andra’s door horrified Xander, it was NOTHING compared to what was inside the room.  Andra’s room was every fashion-conscious, or indeed even every non-visually impaired, person’s worst nightmare.  The walls of the room were painted a vivid orange and covered with large and small yellow and black buzzing bumblebees and her carpet was a sort of burnt orange that clashed horribly with the walls.  A large four-poster bed covered in neon, lime green sheets covered with a vivid salmon-colored giant squid sat underneath the large window and an entire wall was devoted to a rather large aquarium filled with a variety of fish and other sea creatures.  The third wall played host to an aquamarine door covered with yellow caution tape that Xander assumed to be the closet.  And in the middle of the room, lying stomach down on rug that looked like an aquarium (Xander could have sworn the water and the fish were moving), swinging her mismatched-socked feet (one was a neon orange fishnet stocking and the other sported lines of horses doing the can-can in matching dresses) in the air, was a small girl whose short, messy raven hair seemed to defy gravity at every angle.

                Xander was startled out of his observations when the humming that had been present since the door opened suddenly turned to outright singing.  “Here comes Bobby, here comes Bobby, right down Gecko Lane.  Thinks he’s spitting lots of ice, but always spitting flames.  Something, something, something, something…all is merry and bright.  So cover your head, fireproof your bed, ‘cause Bobby comes tonight.”  Once the tiny girl had finished singing, she continued right on humming her song, all the while drawing on something in her hands with a shiny silver marker.

                “Andra,” called Tonks.

                Andra attempted to jump up, screeching, “DOOOOOOORAAA!!!!,” but all she managed was to trip over her own two feet and land flat on her bum back onto her strange rug, clutching some sort of blue-and-silver lizard to her chest.  “Sorry Lord Cuichette the Splashiful!” she whispered loudly to (it appeared) her rug.  “Doot-Do-Doot-Doot-Doot-Dora, Doot-Do-Doot-Doot-Doot-Dora!  You’re home!!” She proceeded to sing merrily, all the while still sitting sprawled out on the floor, holding her lizard tight to her chest (poor thing was starting to suffocate).   “Señor Goldfish released you!  Be free chickadee!!  Fly home to the magical mountains of candy joy and sparklyness!”

                Dora laughed merrily.  “Hello to you too, ‘Booths,’” she said, ignoring Andra’s strangeness.  “I have someone special here I’d like you to meet.”

                Andra giggled.  “I’m norra Booths, Do-ra.  I’m a turtle, silly.”

                “Of course, how silly of me.  Now, would you like to meet my special friend?”

                Andra wrinkled her small nose delicately.  “Is it a special friend like Nick or Jason or Galahad or Charlie or—”

                “I get it Andra,” Dora interrupted the small raven-haired child, blushing slightly.  “No, this is a different kind of special friend.  Very different.”

                “What kinda special friend, then, Do-ra?  Is it a special friend like Steve or Cheese or Bobby or Oscar or Hark or Mo or—”

                “This is Xander, Andra,” said Dora, interrupting Andra’s tirade, pulling Xander forward by the arm and presenting him to the small girl who was still sitting, sprawled on her bum, on the ground.  “He’s my twin brother.”

                Andra wrinkled her nose and her forehead in confusion.  “Like Gred-and-Forge and Mary-and-Harry?”

                “Yes, like them.”

                Andra looked completely confused.  “But you don’t have a twin, Do-ra.  There’s only one of you.  You’re the only Tiggery mousey-pup.”

                “Yes, well, I only found out about Xander very recently.  Mum and Dad never told me about him.”

                Andra gasped.  “Mumandi and Teddy-dad never told you you were Xan-der-and-Do-ra not just-Do-ra?”

                “That’s right,” said Dora, pulling Andra up gently by her armpits (she was still tightly clutching her strange lizard to her chest, poor thing).  “A long time ago, a bad man took Xander away from us and it made Mum and Dad so sad that they never talked about him anymore.”

                Xander “oofed” as he was nearly bowled over by the overenthusiastic bundle that was Andra.  She clutched his hips tightly in a hug (Bobby the lizard had been flung across the room in her scatter-brained, spur-of-the-moment hug-fest).  “I’m so sorry Xan-der!” she cried.  “I’m glad you’re Xan-der-and Do-ra not just-Do-ra!  Don’t go away again, I love you!  The gurglewats don’t like it when you leave me!  You can be my brother if you want to!  I’ve always wanted a big brother.  Or a little brother.  Or a puppy.  But Mumandi says I can’t have a puppy and when I ask for a little brother Mumandi just goes all white like the chizzywack on El Grampador’s head and Teddy-dad starts laughing and turning red as tommy’s toes.”

                “Uh, thanks kid,” said Xander, patting Andra’s head and feeling very lost and confused.

                “Just go with it, Xan,” Dora whispered in his ear.  “She’s Andra the Strange.”

               

                Lunch wasn’t going all that bad, in Xander’s opinion.  He was a bit confused at first when Andra was sent out to visit a friend for the afternoon, but once Dora explained to him just how impossible it was to have anything resembling a serious conversation with Andra around, he understood.  So it was himself, Ted, Andromeda, and Dora sitting together around an elegant yet simple table enjoying conversation and a meal.  Ted and Andromeda told Xander about how they had met in school and how they had gotten married after they had found out Andromeda was pregnant.  Seeing the two together, Xander could tell that the pregnancy hadn’t been the only reason for their marriage, though.  They then proceeded to explain how Andromeda had only been fifteen and Ted eighteen when the twins had been born and they explained how Tony Harris had somehow managed to kidnap him (Xander) from Ted’s parents’ house only two days after his birth.

                Xander was thinking deeply, wondering whether he was ready to accept Ted and Andromeda enough to call them his parents (he and Dora had already bonded and both now felt more whole than either could ever remember).  He was slightly surprised, yet at the same time pleased, that not a one of them had asked anything about his eye patch; he wasn’t quite sure if he was ready to relive that particular memory just yet.  And then there was the matter of the supernatural: Should he explain that to his parents and Dora?  Would they just think he was completely insane and decide they wanted nothing to do with him?

                Xander was saved from having to answer his own questions when Dora spoke.  “Mum,” she said, her face dead serious, “I think we should tell him now.”

                Ted and Andromeda looked at each other then at Dora and Xander.  “I think you may be right, Nymphadora, dear,” said Andromeda solemnly.

                “Tell me what?” asked Xander quizzically.  “It’s not something bad is it?  Cause I’ve had enough bad news in the past couple months to last me a lifetime or two, thank you very much.”

                Andromeda smiled at him knowingly.  “Alexander, dear, what do you know about magic?”

                Xander started.  Could it be possible that they already knew?  “Quite a bit, actually,” he stated matter-of-factly.

                Ted grinned widely.  Xander couldn’t help but notice that it was the same smile that Dora was currently wearing on her face.  “Son,” he said happily, “have you ever heard of the wizarding world?”

                Xander started, dropping his fork.  “There’s a world of wizards?” he said, a smile creeping across his face.  “Wait till Will hears about this; she’ll go nuts!  Why do you ask?”

                “Well,” stated Nymphadora, grinning cheekily at her brother, “our family is a part of that world.  Mum, Andra, and I are witches and you and Dad are wizards.”

                Xander’s face fell a bit.  “I’m no wizard,” he said grumpily.

                “Dear,” said Andromeda soothingly, “have you ever made something happen, something that you couldn’t explain?” 

Xander thought about it a moment.  There had been several times he had wondered, especially since meeting Buffy, but he had never considered—“You’re serious about this aren’t you?” he said.

                His parents nodded.  “You would have attended school with Nymphadora had you been with us,” said Andromeda.  “We received your letter at the same time that Nymphadora’s came, but unfortunately we were unable to find you to give it to you.”

                “Wait, what school are you talking about?  What letter?”

                Dora grinned.  “Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, of course.  If you are accepted, you receive your letter after your eleventh birthday.”

                “So,” said Xander slowly, “you’re saying that I could have gone to a magic school?”  Ted and Andromeda nodded and Dora grinned happily.  “Man, now I know why I hated high school so much!” he joked.

                Dora laughed.  “C’mon, muggle school can’t have been that bad,” she said teasingly.

                Xander rolled his eye.  “Well, if you don’t count the animal possession, psycho-invisible girls, multiple vampire attacks, principals—as in more than one—being eaten, blowing up the school on graduation day, and many other weird things—oh, like a substitute teacher who was actually a giant preying mantis or the swim team turning into weird fish monsters —yeah it was just peachy.  And what’s that muggle thing anyway?”

                “Muggles are non-magical people,” said Dora, waving him off.  “What’s all this about possession and preying mantises?”

                Xander smiled cheekily.  “Oh, that’s just your standard day in good ole’ Sunnyhell.”

                “Sunnyhell?” asked Ted, furrowing his brow.

                “Sunnydale, California,” clarified Xander.  “It’s where I grew up.  Oh, yeah, and it was a Hellmouth.”

                “Was?” asked Dora curiously.

                Xander’s mood suddenly darkened.  “It’s gone now.  Just a big sinkhole in the middle of nowhere.”

                “I remember reading something about that in The Prophet last week,” said Ted slowly.  “You were there, weren’t you?”

                Xander nodded sharply.  “The last bus out.  Not all of us made it, though…”  He fell into silence at the thought of his recently-deceased ex-fiancée.

                Dora put a comforting hand on his arm.  “You don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to,” she said softly.

                He gave her a small smile of thanks.  “It’s just too soon,” he said quietly.

                Dora nodded.  “So, what do you do, Xander?” she asked, changing the subject.

                Xander brightened at this.  “I’m a carpenter,” he said proudly, “and a damn good one at that.  I was in charge of the reconstruction of Sunnydale High last year.”

                His parents smiled brightly at him.  “That’s wonderful, son,” said Ted proudly.  “Do you enjoy it, then?”

                “Absolutely,” Xander replied.  “It took me a while to figure out that’s what I wanted to do, but once I started, it was just so right.”

                “As long as you’re happy,” said Andromeda regally, “that’s all that matters.”

                Xander smiled at her.  “Thanks,” he said.  “So what about you, Dora?  What do you do?”

                Dora grinned.  “I’m an auror, a dark wizard catcher.  I’m the youngest in a century, actually.”

                “But she’s still damn good at her job,” said Ted proudly.

                “Thanks Dad,” she said happily.  “I got top marks in concealment and disguise, but I nearly failed stealth and tracking—I’m dead clumsy, you know.”

                Xander laughed.  “I know the feeling.  At least you’re good at the disguise thing, though.”

                “Hell yeah,” said Dora, suddenly morphing her hair to her favorite bubble-gum pink spikes.

                Xander blinked and gave a small yelp.  “Holy macaroni and cheese!  Was that magic?”

                Dora smiled.  “Sorta.  I’m a metamorphmagus, actually.”

                “A meta what?”

                “I can change my appearance at will—it’s really rare, even in the magical world.  Comes in handy though, let me tell you.”

                “I can imagine,” said Xander, smiling.  “That’s pretty neat.”  He suddenly had a thought.  “Wait, does that mean—?”

                Andromeda shook her head.  “No, Alexander, you are not a metamorphmagus.”

                “Phew!  Don’t know if I could handle that on top of everything else,” he said teasingly.  “Nothing against you, sis.”

                Dora’s smile suddenly went even wider.  “You called me sis!” she exclaimed happily.

                Xander started, then slowly smiled.  “Yeah, I guess I did.  It just sorta feels…”

                “…right.  I feel it too.”

                “So it’s a twin thing, then?”

                “Pretty much.”

                “Cool.”

                Ted suddenly cleared his throat.  “Not to interrupt your twin thing, but I do have to be back at work in an hour.”

                “Right, sorry Dad,” said Dora.

                “It’s alright,” said Ted.  “Xander, you already knew about magic, right?”  Xander nodded.  “When did you—”

                “When I was fifteen,” replied Xander.  “It all started when this new girl showed up at school…”

 

                An hour later Dora was accompanying Xander back to his flat.  The small family had spent their time together listening to Xander talk about his adventures in Sunnydale with his friends.  He even told them that his best friend was a witch, though he didn’t mention that his other best friend was the Slayer—it wasn’t his secret to tell, after all.  Luckily the topic of his missing eye hadn’t come up and neither had the destruction of Sunnydale.  It was all still too fresh in his mind and he didn’t want to talk about it yet.

                “So,” said Xander as they reached the door to his flat, “this is where I live.”  He paused.  “You wanna come in?”

                The pink haired witch who was his twin sister smiled.  “That’d be great,” she replied.

                Unlocking the door, Xander led her inside.  “Welcome to my humble abode,” he said jokingly.  “I know it’s not much, but it’s really just temporary.  I’m renting it from Giles—one of my friends.”

                “The librarian, right?” said Dora, looking around the apartment.  “It’s actually kinda nice,” she said.  “It’s a bit like my place.”

                “You don’t live with Andromeda and Ted, then?” said Xander, walking into the small kitchen and pulling out two beers, offering one to his sister.

                Taking the offered drink, Dora sat down at the table and replied, “Nope.  Got my own flat in London—closer to work and all.  It’s not much, but it works for me.”

                Xander joined her at the table.  “So…you like your job?”

                Dora paused.  This was her twin; if she couldn’t be honest with him then who could she talk to?  “It’s not what I expected,” she replied carefully.  “It’s a whole lot of paperwork and not so much with the catching of dark wizards.”

                “Paperwork sucks, huh?” said Xander, taking a drink.  “I know the feeling.”

                Dora sighed.  “It’s not just that either.  Things have been…pretty tense lately.  There’s—well, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named has been out of the picture for thirteen years, but now…there’s some rumors floating around…”

                “And you’re not sure what to believe, right?”

                Dora nodded.  “It’s just so frustrating.  The Minister is saying he’s not, but Dumbledore says he is.  Back, that is.”

                Xander paused for a second.  “This Dumbledore guy…who is he?”

                “He’s the headmaster of Hogwarts and one of the most powerful wizards out there.  He’s the only one You-Know-Who was ever afraid of.”

                “And you trust him, right?”

                Dora suddenly smiled, realizing what Xander was doing.  “You’re good at that, you know.”

                “Good at what?”

                “Reading people.  You see things that others might miss.”

                Xander’s face suddenly fell.  “Yeah, that’s what HE said before HE poked my eye out,” he said darkly.

                “Xander, I’m sorry—I didn’t mean—”

                “I know,” he said, heaving a sigh.  “It’s just…it only happened last month.”

                “How?”

                “Crazy evil preacher guy, working for the big bad, decided since I was the ‘One Who Sees’ he should take that away.  Would’ve taken both my eyes if Buffy hadn’t been there.”

                The twins fell into silence for a moment.  Dora held Xander’s hand in her own and gave it a squeeze.  “I’m sorry,” she said quietly.

Xander gave a small smile.  “Don’t be, but thanks.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 7: The Godfather

 

June 4, 2003:  “TONKS!

Dora jolted up from her desk, her bright green curls morphing into ginger spikes as she did so. “Wotcher!” she called sheepishly, looking up to see Kingsley Shacklebolt staring angrily at her.

                “Tonks,” the large black auror said irritably, “I’ve been calling you for the last five minutes!”

                “Sorry, King,” she said, stifling a yawn.  “I was out late last night.”

                “Again?” said Kingsley, raising his eyebrow at the young auror.  “What have you been up to lately?”

                “Well,” said Tonks, unable to suppress her grin, “let’s just say I ran into an old friend and we’ve been busy catching up.”

                Kingsley heaved a sigh.  “Tonks,” he said, “if you continue to let your personal life affect your performance at work, I’ll have to report you to Scrimgeour.  Now, I don’t want to have to do that, but if you can’t shape up I may very well have no choice but to do so.”

                “I understand, sir,” said Tonks tonelessly.

                Kingsley, who secretly had a soft spot for the young auror who reminded him a bit of himself at that age, sighed and sat down opposite her.  “Look, Tonks, I know you hate all this paperwork, but its part of the job.”

                Tonks sighed, frustrated.  “It’s just, this isn’t what I expected when I decided to become an auror,” she confessed.  “And I thought things might be different now, but with Fudge being an idiot about You-Know-Who—oh shit, sorry sir,” she said suddenly, realizing what she had been saying.  “I didn’t mean to say that, it’s just—”

                Kingsley waved her off and quickly cast a silencing charm around her cubicle.  “I take it you’re not too pleased with Fudge right now?” he said, his dark face impassive.

                Tonks looked him in the eye, deciding it was worth the risk to speak her mind.  “I think Fudge is being a bloody prat, Kingsley,” she said frankly.  “If Dumbledore is willing to stand up and say that You-Know-Who is back, then I for one am quite inclined to believe him.”

                Kingsley then did the last thing that Tonks expected; he smiled warmly at her.  “I had a feeling that’s how you felt, Tonks.  In fact, I told Dumbledore just the other day that it wouldn’t be long before you blew.”

                “Wha—”

                “Tonks, what would you say if I told you that there exists a secret organization of witches and wizards dedicated to the fight against He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named?”

                “I’d say, where do I sign up,” she said without hesitation.

                “Atta girl,” he said smiling.  “I thought you’d say that.  If you don’t change your mind about all this, meet me at the visitor’s entrance after work this evening—I promise you won’t regret it.”  Without another word, Kingsley lifted the silencing charm and stood up and headed out of her cubicle.  “Oh, and Tonks?” he said, pausing for a moment.

                “Yes?”

                “I expect that paperwork on my desk by the end of the day.”

 

                Tonks made her way to the muggle entrance of the Ministry at the end of the day, as per Kingsley’s instructions.  She was walking through the Atrium when she suddenly felt someone behind her.  Whirling around quickly, wand at the ready, she was met with a familiar grinning face.  “Merlin, Xander!” she yelped.  “You nearly gave me a heart attack there, you bloody wanker!”

                “Sorry sis,” Xander said, smiling even wider.  “Thought I’d surprise you, that’s all.”

                Dora chuckled and rolled her honey brown eyes.  “You’re a great big prat, Xander Tonks, you know that.”

                “It’s what I live for,” said Xander, mockingly giving a flourishing bow.

                Dora laughed.  “How do you always know what to say?”

                Xander shrugged.  “It’s a gift, I guess.”

                Dora smiled brightly.  “So, any particular reason you’re here?” she asked.

                “What?  I have to have an excuse to visit my baby sister?”  Tonks glared at him; ever since their parents had told them that Xander was older by about twenty minutes, she hadn’t heard the end of it.  Seeing the look on her face, Xander relented.  “Okay, okay,” he said, holding out his hands in a gesture of peace.  “I wanted to show you this,” he said, whipping out his brand new wand.

                Dora shrieked in delight, clapping her hands.  “That’s bloody brilliant, Xan!  Congrats!”

                Xander grinned.  “Thanks.  Andy—Mum took me to get it this afternoon.  Thirteen inches, willow, with a…” he suddenly trailed off sadly.

                “Whazzamatter, Xand?” Tonks asked, concerned.

                His jaw set, Xander said, “I told you about Anya, right?”

                Dora screwed up her face in thought.  “Your ex-vengeance demon ex-fiancée who didn’t make it out of Sunnydale, right?”

                Xander nodded his head.  “The core is her hair.”

                Dora started.  “What?”

                “You heard me.  The guy—Ollivander, was it?—said that the core was a hair from the vengeance demon Anyanka—Anya.”

                “Are you okay with that?” Tonks asked softly.

                Xander shrugged moodily.  “I’m not sure, honestly.  I think it might be kinda nice to have a piece of her with me, but…”

                “…it just makes the pain that much more real,” finished Dora knowingly.

                Xander nodded.  “Yeah.”  He shook himself, burying his bad mood, plastered a smile on his face, and said, “So you gonna teach me some magic now, or what, lil’ sis?”

                Tonks laughed.  “Later, Xan, I promise.  How ‘bout we go out and celebrate with a drink down at the pub instead?”

                “Lead on, fair lady!” said Xander playfully, grabbing hold of Tonks’s arm and letting her lead him over to the muggle entrance.

               

It wasn’t until they had arrived out on the street that Tonks remembered what she had discussed with Kingsley earlier.  “Oh shit,” she swore suddenly.

                “Wazzamatter, Dora?” asked Xander.

                “I forgot that I told Kingsley I’d meet him after work.”

                Xander’s eyebrow rose playfully.  “Oh, is this your boyfriend?  Cause, you know, as your brother I get the privilege of threatening him for you—I got a good one involving getting beaten to death by a shovel that I’m just dying to use.”

                Tonks whacked Xander on the arm playfully.  “Shut up, Xan.  He’s not my boyfriend, he’s my boss.  He wanted to talk to me about something.  I wonder where he—oh, wotcher Kingsley!”  Xander looked up to find himself staring into the eyes of a large, rather intimidating black man.  Xander wondered why he hadn’t noticed the guy before, then realized that he must have come up on his blind side.

                “Hello Tonks,” said Kingsley impassively.  “Did you forget about our meeting?”

                “What?  Oh, him.  Right.  Well, see, the thing is…”

                “Xander,” said Xander, sticking out his hand.  “I’m her brother.”

                Kingsley raised his eyebrow warily.  “I wasn’t aware you had a brother, Tonks.”

                Tonks blushed a bit.  “Well, neither did I till about a week ago.”

                Kingsley gave the younger man a questioning look.  Xander shrugged it off.  “Apparently I was kidnapped by my dad’s crazy, permanently drunk cousin as a baby and then raised on the Hellmouth.”

                The bald auror started.  “You’re from Sunnydale?” he asked curiously.  Xander nodded.  “So, were you there when—”

                “Yeah, and I’d rather not talk about it right now, thanks.  It’s all still a little too fresh,” Xander said shortly.

                Dora patted her brother’s arm comfortingly.  “Not everyone made it out, King,” she said softly.

                Kingsley gave Xander a look of understanding.  “Right.  Sorry about that.”  He then turned back to Tonks.  “So, about our meeting…”

                “Yeah, about that,” said Tonks, “you wanna tell me what this is all about?”

                Kingsley looked uncomfortably at Xander.  “Can we discuss this in private?”

                Tonks stuck out her chin stubbornly.  “Anything you want to say to me, you can say in front of Xander.  He’s my twin and I trust him completely.”

                Kingsley frowned.  “But does he know about You-Know-Who?”

                “What?  The big bad that no one believes is actually back?” piped in Xander.

                “That’s the one,” said Tonks cheerfully.

                “Pshaw,” scoffed Xander.  “The big bads don’t necessarily just lie down and die nicely.  If someone—especially some all-powerful wizard guy—says he’s back then people should take that seriously.  Besides, if the government is denying he back, then he probably is.”  Tonks looked at him quizzically.  “Bad experience with a government organization, I’ll tell you later,” he said, waving it off.

                Dora shrugged.  “Fine by me.  Anyway, King, you gonna tell me what the bloody hell this is all about or what?”

                Kingsley sighed in defeat.  “Alright then,” he said.  “But if he ends up betraying us—”

                “He won’t,” said Tonks confidently.

                “But if he does, then there won’t be a single place on this earth he can hide, got it?”

                “Clear as crystal, Mace,” said Xander with a salute.

                Kingsley couldn’t’ help but smile; being well versed in all things muggle he got the pop culture reference all too well.  “Alright,” he said.  “It’s like this: you believe Dumbledore, right?”

                “Abso-bloody-lutely,” replied Tonks without hesitation.

                Kingsley nodded.  “Well, then I’d like to offer you an invitation to join The Order.”

                “The what?” said Xander.

                “The Order of the Phoenix,” said Kingsley quietly.  “We’re a secret group led by Dumbledore dedicated to fighting against You-Know-Who.”

                Xander and Dora looked at each other, communicating silently with one another.  Coming to their answer, they nodded to each other and Dora spoke.  “I’ll join,” she said, “provided Xander can too.”  Before Kingsley could protest, she added, “I know you don’t know him and I know he doesn’t know much magic yet, but he’s been through a hell of a lot more than most people these past seven years.  He’d make a great asset, King.  Besides,” she added with a lopsided grin that was quite Xanderish in nature, “he’s the one who convinced me to listen to my instincts about this whole mess in the first place.”

                Kingsley grudgingly agreed.  “Very well then,” he said reluctantly.  He quickly handed them a slip of paper.  “Memorize this—don’t say it out loud—then burn it.  Meet you there!”  With a CRACK Kingsley disapparated and left the twins staring at the paper that read The Headquarters of The Order of the Phoenix may be found at Number Twelve Grimmauld Place, London.

                “Incendio,” said Dora, pointing her wand at the paper and setting it on fire.  Then she turned to her brother.  “You ready big brother?” she asked.

                “Lead the way, little sis,” he said grabbing hold of Dora’s arm.  The last thing he said before they disapparated was, “Does this mean I don’t get my celebratory drink?” accompanied by Tonks’s peals of laughter.

 

                Dora and Xander arrived at Grimmauld Place to find Kingsley waiting for them.  “You remember what you read?” he said shortly.  The twins nodded.  “Good.  Now think about it.  Don’t say anything, just think.”

                Tonks and Xander looked at each other bemused, then shrugged.  Both thought about what the paper had said and suddenly they could see a house appearing between numbers eleven and thirteen.  “Holy sun-dried Moses on dry white toast!” exclaimed Xander, jumping slightly.

                Tonks laughed and Kingsley cracked a bemused smile.  “Don’t worry,” Tonks whispered to her boss, “you get used to him after a while.”

                “Hey!” exclaimed Xander playfully.  “I’m missing an eye not an ear you know!  I can hear you just fine!”

                Tonks rolled her eyes playfully and pulled him up the front steps.  “C’mon, pirate man,” she teased, “let’s follow the nice auror and get the scoop on this Order deal.”  Tonks stopped quickly.  “Bloody hell,” she moaned.  “I’m starting to sound just like you.”

                Xander grinned.  “I fail to see how that’s a bad thing, sister dear,” he teased.

                Kingsley smiled, trying his best not to laugh at the siblings’ antics.  “Alright you two, quiet now.  Try not to make any loud noises as you enter.”

                “Why—”

                “Just trust me,” said Kingsley, pulling out his wand and tapping the door three times.  The door swung open quietly and Kingsley motioned the twins in.  “Quickly and quietly now,” he whispered.

                Xander and Tonks were through the door and had started following Kingsley down the hall when suddenly Tonks tripped over something, falling over with a loud THUNK and causing Xander to trip over her and land on the floor beside her.  Kingsley sighed and plugged his ears and not a minute too soon either.

                “MUDBLOODS!  FREAKS! BESMIRCHING THE HOUSE OF MY FATHERS!!  HOW DARE YOU SET FOOT IN THE NOBLE AND MOST ANCIENT HOUSE OF BLACK!!  BE GONE!  BLOOD-TRAITORS AND MUGGLE LOVERS!  FILTH—”

                “Oh shut up, you old hag!” came a hoarse yell.  Xander and Dora pulled each other up off the floor just in time to see a haggard-looking man with long, black hair wrestling the curtains closed over the portrait of a screaming woman.

                “So that’s what Mum meant when she said pictures move and talk in our world,” muttered Xander.

                “Yeah,” Dora muttered back.  “But they’re normally not that bad.”

                “Sorry about that,” said the man, turning around to face them.  “Feel free to ignore my mum—I always have.”  Xander instantly liked this man.  He kind of reminded him of, well, himself, actually.  Xander couldn’t help but grin back at the man.  What really surprised him, though, was Dora’s reaction.

                “Sirius Black!” she screeched, pulling out her wand faster than lightning and pointing it right at the gaunt-looking man.  “Kingsley, why aren’t you arresting him?!” she whispered fiercely, not wanting to re-awaken Sirius’s mother.

                Kingsley grinned and forced Tonks’s arm down.  “Tonks,” he said quietly, “he’s innocent.”

                “Really?” said Tonks, raising her bright red eyebrow disbelievingly.  Xander was more than a bit confused at this point.

                “Whoa, whoa, stop right there,” he said, holding up his hands.  “To quote my bestest buddy, what the frilly heck is going on here?  And who is this guy?”

                “Sirius Black,” said the man, turning his haunted grey eyes on Xander.  “And I’m innocent,” he added turning to Tonks.  “I was framed by Peter Pettigrew.”

                Dora turned to look quizzically at Kingsley, who nodded.  “It’s true,” he said.  “Dumbledore’ll vouch for him.”

                Dora settled down.  “Well, if Dumbledore trusts him, then I just have one thing I’d like to do,” she said stonily.

                “What’s that?” said Sirius, sounding a bit nervous.

                “This,” said Tonks and without any warning she threw herself at him and hugged him tight.

                Without a second thought Sirius hugged him back.  “Missed you too, Dora,” he said happily.

                She pulled away reluctantly, wiping tears of joy from her eyes.  “You know,” she said, “Mum always did say she couldn’t believe you would go and do something so psychotically stupid as that.”

                Sirius’s face broke into a grin.  “How is Andy anyway?”

                Dora smiled widely.  “She’s over the moon lately,” she said happily.

                “And why’s that?” asked Sirius.

                Dora pulled Xander forward.  “He’s why,” she replied.  “Sirius, meet Xander.  Xander, Sirius.”

                “Hey,” said Xander.  “Am I the only one who’s in the dark here?” he asked, shaking the older man’s hand.

                Sirius shrugged.  “I’m not quite sure what you mean, but not to be rude—who the bloody hell are you?”

                “Sirius,” said Tonks happily, “Xander’s my twin brother.”

                Sirius’s eyes went wide.  “Bloody hell!” he exclaimed, suddenly pulling the one-eyed man into a big bear hug.  “I haven’t seen you since the day you were born!”

                Xander patted Sirius’s back awkwardly.  “Uh, not that I’m not loving the whole reunion thing, but I still don’t know who you are and I’m kinda having trouble breathing at the moment.”

                “Oh, sorry about that,” said Sirius sheepishly, letting go of Xander.  “I’m your mum’s cousin,” he said with a smile, “the good one.”

                “He’s also our godfather,” added Tonks with a happy smile.

                “Mum didn’t mention anything about cousins,” said Xander thoughtfully.  “Dad did—said Jessica was his cousin—but Mum didn’t.”

                Sirius’s face darkened.  “That’s because just about everyone from our side is an evil git or married to one,” he said with a frown.  “Or both.”

                Xander looked to Tonks.  “I think I need some explanations, please.”

                Tonks sighed.  “I figured.”

                Kingsley suddenly cleared his throat.  “Not to break up this little family reunion, but we do have a meeting to attend,” he said, motioning toward the dining room.

                “Right,” said Sirius, suddenly sobering up a bit.  “Everyone’s in the dining room—follow me.”  With a shrug of her shoulders, Tonks grabbed Xander’s arm and dragged him off after Sirius, leaving Kingsley to tag along behind them.

 

                The meeting itself didn’t take very long.  Nymphadora and Alexander were introduced and Xander told an abbreviated version of his life story and how he’d been “fighting the good fight” since he was fifteen.  It took a bit of convincing, but finally both Tonks and Xander were inducted into The Order, the only one outright opposing the both of them being one Severus Snape (the greasy git).

                As soon as the meeting was over most of the members took off, leaving behind only Xander, Tonks, Sirius, and Sirius’s friend Remus Lupin.  The four adults were sitting at the table in silence, each one wanting to start a conversation, but none quite knowing how to do so.  Xander sat fiddling with his eye patch while Tonks was morphing her fingernails into various colors and patterns, Sirius was nearly bouncing in his seat, and Remus was staring stoically at the wall.

                Finally Xander couldn’t take it any more.  “I don’t suppose you’ve got any alcohol,” he said evenly.  Three sets of eyes looked at him.  He shrugged and explained, “Dora owes me a drink.”

                Tonks cracked a smile.  “That’s right!” she said happily.  “Big brother got his first wand today!  Sirius, do you have any Firewhisky?”

                Sirius smiled mischievously.  “Of course, Nymphadora.”

                “Don’t call me Nymphadora,” she said tightly, her hair turning from violet to bright red.  “It’s Tonks.”

                “He gets to call you Dora,” Sirius grumbled as he got up to fetch the Firewhisky.

                Tonks rolled her eyes.  “Is he always such a baby?” she asked Remus teasingly.

                Remus smiled, his shaggy, graying, sandy colored hair flopping into his amber eyes, causing Tonks heart to inadvertently beat just a little faster and her belly to do flips.  “I’m afraid he’s never really grown up,” he replied, his voice low and hoarse.

                “Something we have in common then,” piped in Xander happily.  “Now, about this Firewhisky…it doesn’t actually set things on fire, does it?  Cause, you know, I like fire as much as the next pyromaniac, but what with the missing eye and all I’d probably miss it coming and end up setting the whole house on fire—not to mention myself and all of you too.”

                Tonks laughed and swatted his arm playfully.  “No, you prat,” she said happily.  “It just feels like your throat’s burning when you drink it.”

                “Oh, if that’s all,” said Xander sarcastically.  Tonks burst into laughter and soon had her brother joining her.

                As Sirius stepped back into the room with the promised drink, he found his young cousins practically rolling on the floor with laughter and his old friend watching them bemusedly.  “What’d I miss?” he asked, sitting down next to his school friend and pouring out four glasses of Firewhisky.

                “Oh, Xan here was just amusing us with his amazing sarcasm,” quipped Tonks.

                “I live to serve,” said Xander, flashing the metamorphmagus a smile and taking a glass of the Firewhisky.

                “In that case, I’d like a grilled cheese sandwich on wheat bread with a cup of tea please,” said Remus, his face impassive.  “Oh, and don’t forget the chocolate either.”

                Xander burst into laughter.  “You’re good,” he said smiling.  “What with the stoic face and the sarcasm… you know, you kinda remind me of Oz.”

                “Who’s Oz?” asked Tonks curiously.

                “Old friend,” said Xander, eyeing his drink warily.  “He used to date my best friend, but I haven’t seen him in years.  Well, bottoms up!”  Xander tipped his glass and downed the Firewhisky in one go.

                Tonks, Sirius, and Remus all stared him expectantly.  When he didn’t react, Tonks had to ask, “So?  Whaddya think?”

                Xander shrugged.  “Not bad stuff.  How much of this do you think it’d take to get completely wasted?”

                Tonks sighed heavily.  “Again, Xander?” asked softly.  “How long are you going to keep this up?”

                He shrugged.  “Till the pain goes away, I guess,” he said quietly, pouring himself another glass and downing it.  “So,” he said as he poured himself a third glass, “what was the deal in the hallway earlier?  You looked like you were about to kill Sirius there, Dora.”

                Tonks rolled her eyes, knowing she wasn’t going to get any further with him tonight, so she complied.  “Sirius escaped from prison,” she said simply.

                Xander rolled his eye.  “I know there’s a lot more to it that just that.  What were you in for?” he asked.

                Sirius smiled at the youth who reminded him a lot of himself at that age.  “Got framed for murder,” he said.  “I was my friend James and Lily Potter’s secret keeper—”

                “You were who’s what now?”

                “James and Lily,” said Remus.  “James was one of our best friends and Lily was his wife.”

                “A secret keeper, well, that’s a bit more complicated to explain,” said Tonks. 

“It’s part of the Fidelius charm,” said Remus.  “A secret is entrusted to a single living person and no one can find out the secret unless they are told directly by the secret keeper.  It’s what this house is under—that’s why you had to read the paper before you could see it.”

“What he said,” said Sirius.  “So, basically I was their secret keeper, but I convinced them to change to our ex-friend Peter at the last minute.  I figured I’d be the obvious choice—Voldemort would never think of going after Peter.  Turns out Peter was the spy,” he snarled.  “He betrayed his friends and Voldemort came to Godric’s Hollow, killing first James then Lily, but when he tried to kill their twins, Mary and Harry, the spell backfired and he was reduced to nothing more that a spirit of sorts.  When I went to check on Peter and couldn’t find him, I knew something was wrong, so I went to Godric’s Hollow only to find my friends dead.  Dumbledore—you do know about Dumbledore, right?—had ordered Hagrid to take Mary and Harry to safety, along with my daughter Cassi, so I decided to go after Peter.”

                “That really was quite stupid of you, Padfoot, you insufferable git,” said Remus mildly.

                “Yes, I know that now, Moony, thank you,” said Sirius, smiling sadly at his old friend.  “Unfortunately, at the time I wasn’t really thinking straight.  I went after Peter, planning to confront him, but for once he was smarter than any of us could have thought.  He screamed to a street full of muggles that I had betrayed Lily and James then he blew up the street and cut off his own finger as he transformed.”

                “Transformed?” asked Xander, now on his fifth glass.

                “Into a rat,” growled Remus.  “He, Sirius, James, and the girls were all illegal animagi—they learned how to turn into animals.”

                “Neat,” said Xander.  “Amy was a rat once,” he said, “but it took Willow nearly three years to figure out how to fix her.  So what happened next?”

                “Well, in the process of blowing up the street, Peter killed twelve muggles, making it look like I had killed them and him.  When the aurors came, I was laughing my head off—not one of my finer moments, to be sure—and they sent me to Azkaban with no trial.”

                “Azkaban’s the wizard prison,” explained Tonks.  “It’s guarded by dementors.”

                “Which are…?”

                “Creatures that suck every happy thought out of you and make you relive all of your worst memories,” explained Remus calmly.

                Xander flinched.  “Ouch.  I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy—okay, maybe on Snyder, but he was a mini-Nazi with a bug up his butt.”

                Tonks laughed.  “Aren’t you the eloquent one, Xander.”

                “Big words for a little girl,” said Xander smiling cheekily at her.

                “How many glasses have you had, Xand?”

                “Six or seven,” he replied calmly.  “So what happened next?”

                “I spent the next twelve years there,” said Sirius, his eyes haunted by the memories of his imprisonment.  “I finally escaped by turning into a dog.  You see, the dementors only sense human emotions, so as a dog I could slip past them unnoticed.  I was the first—and only—person to escape,” he added, sounding a bit proud.  Remus rolled his eyes.

                “Congrats,” said Xander, raising his glass to Sirius and downing it in one shot.

                “Thanks,” said Sirius with a smile.  “Anyway, I had seen a newspaper article and Pettigrew—Peter—was in the picture—in his rat form, obviously.  His owner—a Weasley boy—is a student at Hogwarts, so I headed that way.”

                “Everyone thought he had escaped to kill Mary and Harry—possibly Cassi too,” said Remus sadly.  “Myself included, I regret to say.”

                Sirius nodded.  “I made it to Hogwarts and tried to get at Wormtail, er, Pettigrew, several times.  I finally succeeded and in the process I revealed myself to Mary, Harry, Cassi, and their friends.  Then Moony here shows up and I told the whole story that I just told you,” he explained.

                “After that—and a, em, complication—Padfoot and I revealed Wormtail for who he really was,” said Remus slowly.  “We were on our way up to the castle when, well…it was a full moon and—”

                “You’re a werewolf,” said Xander simply.

                Remus started.  “How’d you know?” he asked curiously, a hint of fear creeping into his voice.

                Xander shrugged and downed another glass (“I swear to Merlin, Xander, I’m going to cut you off!”).  “I told you, you remind me of Oz.  He’s a werewolf too.  Didn’t I mention that part?”

                “Nope, pretty sure you left that out, Xan,” said Tonks cheerfully.

                “Oh, well he is,” said Xander.  “None of us really cared.  We’d even take turns Oz-sitting during the full moon.”

                “What do you mean?” asked Remus sharply.  “How were you able to be with him when he was a werewolf?”

                “There was a cage in the library—still not sure why, I guess Giles is just weird like that—and we’d lock Oz in during the full moon then take shifts keeping an eye on him, to make sure he didn’t get out.”

                “What if he had?” asked Remus.

                “Tranq gun,” he said.  “Came in handy a couple of time—Willow’s a dead shot with it.”

                Remus raised his eyebrow.  “I take it there’s a story behind that.”

                Xander laughed.  “Yeah.  Crazy jealous boyfriend made a potion that made him go all Jekyll/Hyde and he was convinced that Oz was hitting on his girlfriend—he wasn’t by the way; the guy’s was hopelessly devoted to Wills.  Still is, actually, even though they’ve been ex for about three years now.  Anyway, it so happened that this crazy jealous guy decided to go after Oz on a full moon, right before moonrise.”

                “So he-he killed him, then,” said Remus hoarsely.

                “Nah,” said Xander nonchalantly.  “Willow took Oz out with a tranq before he did any real harm. The guy got away, though, but he showed up dead the next day.  Not sure exactly how the guy died—Buffy was a bit vague on the details, but I think it had something to do with Angel.”

                “Who?” asked Tonks.  “I don’t think you’ve mentioned her before.”

                “Him, and I haven’t,” said Xander pouring himself yet another glass of Firewhisky.  “I don’t like him much, but he’s Buffy’s ex and he does still help us out on occasion.”  Xander snorted into his glass.  “Still don’t like him, though.  Well, cheers!” he said, downing yet another glass.

                Tonks decided it was time to step in.  Sure all four of them had been drinking, but Xander was reaching alcohol poisoning level here.  “I’m cutting you off, Xander,” she said as sternly as she could in her slightly inebriated state.

                “Mine!” whined Xander and Tonks took away his current glass.  “Do-ra,” he whined, “I drink I’m not swear, really!”

                Tonks scoffed.  “Right.  And I’m the bloody Minister of Magic.”

                “Really?  I didn’t know that.  Since when?” threw in Sirius stupidly.

                “That, my friend, is what we like to call sarcasm,” said Remus, easily the most sober of the four, dryly.

                “Let’s drink to sarcasm then!” said Sirius cheerfully, raising his glass in a toast.

                “D-Dora took mine,” complained Xander, trying to take the nearly empty bottle from the middle of the table.  “Hey!  I jus’ want one more, please, Dora, with a cherry on top?”

                “No,” said Tonks, glaring and sticking her tongue out at her brother.  “I’m cutting it off!  I mean, you off!  I’m cutting you off!”

                Xander leaned back in his chair and sulked moodily.  “You’re a meanie, Dora,” he huffed.  “I don’t like you no more.”

                “And you’re being a complete arse, Xan,” she snapped at him.

                Xander pouted.  “Will’d let me have more,” he complained.

                “Yes, well, I have a feeling she’d cut you off about now too,” snapped Tonks.

                “Pleeease, Dora?” he begged giving her his best puppy dog eyes (which didn’t go very well considering he only had one eye and that kind of ruined the effect).

                “No!” she snapped at him.  “That’s it.  You’ve gotten completely smashed every night these past couple weeks, Xander!  You keep this up you’re going to end up in the hospital or dead!”

                “Good for me!” he retorted.  “Cause then at least I’d actually feel something other than numb!” he snapped, standing abruptly and knocking over his chair before storming out of the room.

                “Now that was entertainment,” said Sirius happily.  “Ooo!  Can I storm out next?  Pleeeeeeeease?!” he pleaded, already well on his way to matching Xander’s alcohol intake.

                Remus looked from Sirius to Tonks.  “It appears we are the only ones not joining in the ‘who’s going to need a healer first’ contest, Nymphadora,” he commented lightly.

                “It’s Tonks,” she snapped.  “I hate that bloody name!”

                Remus raised his eyebrow at her.  “I think it’s quite lovely,” he said softly, smiling at the now red-headed witch.

                Tonks was slightly taken aback.  Blushing a bit (she had to admit that Remus was kinda cute) as her hair morphed into her favorite bubblegum pink spikes, she muttered, “Yeah, well, you and my mother are the only ones.”

                Sirius snorted loudly.  “You two’re soooo weird,” he slurred, grabbing the almost empty bottle of Firewhisky and standing up, knocking over his chair in the process.  “I’m gonna storm out now too.”  And with that, Sirius turned around and skipped (yes, skipped) out of the dining room to join Xander…wherever the hell he was.

 

                “Here, Xandy, Xandy, Xandy!  Heeere, Xandy, Xandy, Xandy!”

                “For the love of Twinkies, please shut up,” Xander slurred from his seat on the couch in the small front parlor of Number Twelve.

                Grinning maniacally, Sirius waltzed over and plopped himself down on the couch next to his eldest godson.  “Aw, does poor ickle Xandykins want some more Firewhisky?” he said playfully, dangling the near empty bottle in front of Xander’s face.

                Xander groaned.  “You’re evil, Sir,” he said.  “Jus’ gimmie.”  He reached out to grab the bottle from his black-haired cousin.

                “Ah-ah-ah,” said Sirius, waving his finger at the younger man.  “You only get some if you decide to play.”

                “Play?” said Xander, completely confused.  “Play what?  And why?”

                “A game,” said Sirius.  “An’ ‘cause it’s no fun getting drunk if you don’t play stupid games while you do it.”

                Xander pondered this for a moment.  Then he nodded.  “Makes sense,” he said.  “So, what’s this game of yours?”

                Sirius grinned widely.  “It’s called ‘ask a bloody question and whoever has the most embarrassing story has to drink a shot’—I think we were all completely smashed when we came up with the name.”

                Xander grinned.  “I’m in.”  He glanced at the bottle Sirius was holding and said, “Hope that’s not all you got.”

                Sirius gave a bark-like laugh.  “Course not.  Now, have a drink and let’s get this party started…”

 

                Tonks and Remus sat in silence at the table after Sirius “stormed out,” the only sound being the faint cries of Sirius calling for “Xandy” echoing from the hallway.  Tonks shifted restlessly in her chair, glancing at Remus as she did so.  Remus was staring blankly into his glass, his thoughts clearly elsewhere. 

Tonks finally decided that she couldn’t take the silence any longer.  “So,” she said bluntly, “you’re a werewolf, eh?”

                Remus blinked his amber eyes and looked across the table at the chipper now blue-haired witch.  “Yes,” he replied flatly.

                Tonks nodded thoughtfully.  “When’d that happen?”

                Remus stared at her strangely.  “A long time ago,” he finally replied.

                “More specifically.”

                Remus arched his eyebrow.  “Why do you want to know, Nymphadora?”

                “Tonks, it’s Tonks,” she gritted out from between her clenched teeth.

                Remus’s lips twitched in what could have been a smile.  “Why, Nymphadora?” he asked again.

                Tonks huffed in exasperation.  “I’m curious, okay?”

                Remus took a sip of his Firewhisky and said calmly, “Curiosity killed the cat, you know.”

                Tonks huffed again and rolled her eyes.  “If you haven’t noticed, Lupin, I am not a bloody cat nor am I cat-like in any way, shape, or form—I trip over my own bloody feet for Merlin’s sake!”

                Remus’s lips twitched into a smile.  “No, you are certainly not cat-like,” he said simply.

                “So are you going to tell me?” Tonks persisted.

                Remus cocked his head at her in a very canine way, regarding the young metamorphmagus thoughtfully.  Tonks couldn’t help but squirm under the scrutiny of his intense amber gaze.  Finally after what seemed like ages to her, Remus finally spoke.  “Someday, Nymphadora, I may tell you, but that day is not today.”

                Tonks huffed and sulked down into her chair, muttering profanities to herself.  Remus and Tonks sat in silence for a while longer before the silence was eventually broken by Tonks, who jumped up from her chair quite suddenly and proclaimed that she had to call Xander’s friend Willow and let her know that Xander was alive.  She then proceeded to rush out of the dining room as quickly as she could, leaving behind Remus, still sipping his drink calmly and smirking slightly.  Oh yes, it was well past time for the Marauders to have a comeback.  He’d have to speak to Sirius and Jessi about that in the morning…

Chapter Text

Chapter 8: Jessi

 

June 5, 2003:  “Wakey, wakey, eggs and bakey!”

                Xander groaned at the incessantly chipper female voice and rolled over, hoping to go back to sleep.  Unfortunately for him, he forgot that he had fallen asleep on a rather narrow couch the night before so he instead found himself landing with a large CLUNK on the rather hard wooden floor.  Sitting up slowly, Xander remained on the floor, rubbing his sore head as he watched the show unfolding in front of him: Sirius was slouching in an armchair, attempting to sleep while a very tall, very pregnant, brunette woman with honey brown skin was glaring daggers at him.

                “G’way, Jess,” came Sirius’s raspy voice from the armchair beside the couch.

                “Up, Siri,” said the woman sternly.  “You went and got yourself drunk last night; it’s your own bloody fault you feel like shit now.”

                “Bloody hell, Jess,” Sirius groaned sitting up and burying his head in his hands, “since when do you mind me getting pissed?”

                “Since I can’t,” she snapped at him.

                “Why can’t—OW!  Bloody hell, Jess!  What was that for?”

                “You bloody prat!” Jessi hissed.  “You knock me up and then have the audacity to ask why I can’t get pissed with you!  You are completely unbelievable, Sirius Orion Black, you sodding son-of-a-bitch!”

                “Sorry,” he mumbled incoherently.  “Just wanted to help Xander feel better.”

                “Who?” asked the woman.

                Xander decided to pipe up.  “That would be me,” he said sheepishly.  “Xander Ha—er, Tonks.  I’m Dora’s long-lost twin brother.”

                Big chocolate eyes scrutinized him intently.  “Xander,” she finally said, “that wouldn’t happen to be short for Alexander by any chance, would it?”

                “Yup, that’s me.”

                “Huh,” said the woman, breaking into a smile.  “I guess that makes you my godson, then.”

                “Huh?”

                “I’m your godmother—name’s Jessi Martini, by the way.  This prat here is my lover.”

                “Ah, I see,” said Xander, smiling back at her.  “Sorry about that.”

                Jessi waved him off.  “Don’t be.  Don’t know what I see in him most days, but then he goes and does something incredibly endearing and it all makes sense again.”

                “Thanks, Jess,” said Sirius with a goofy smile.

                “Shut up, Siri, I’m still mad at you,” she snapped, whirling on him.  “Bloody prat,” she sniped at him.

                “Spoiled brat,” Sirius sniped back playfully.

                “Ruddy canine.”

                “Stupid cat.”

                “Bloody nutter”

                “Bossy witch.”

                “Incompetent moron.”

                “Moody feline.”

                “Pissy child.”

                “Snippy princess.”

                “Insatiable prankster.”

                “Ruddy troublemaker.”

                “Fugitive.”

                “Adulterer.”

                “I know you are but what am I?” snapped Jessi.

                “How’s the husband?” shot back Sirius, standing up and looking up at Jessi (she was a good three inches taller than him).

                “Don’t know don’t care.”

                “Are you as turned on as I am?” said Sirius huskily.

                “Shut up and kiss me you prat,” said Jessi just as huskily.

                The next thing Xander knew the two were entwined together as though they were one person rather than two.  Disturbed by the mental image of where this scene looked to be heading, Xander quickly slipped out of the room.

 

                Stepping into the dining room, Xander was pleasantly surprised to see one Remus Lupin sitting at the table, sipping a cup of tea, and reading a copy of The Daily Prophet.  “Morning Remus,” said Xander, smiling at the sandy-haired werewolf.

                Remus looked up from his paper.  “Good morning, Xander.  How are you feeling this morning?”

                Xander plopped himself down in a seat and accepted a mug of coffee from Remus before replying, “I woke up with the hangover from hell, but suddenly I’m feeling much better.”

                Remus smirked knowingly.  “Jessi woke Sirius up, didn’t she?”

                “Yup.  And I’m pretty sure they were about to go all National Geographic on me in there.”

                Remus nodded his head.  “I can quite imagine, believe me.”

                Xander paused a moment then asked.  “Are they always like that?”

                “Oh, trust me, that was nothing,” replied Remus casually.  “You should see them when Spotts isn’t so hormonal from being seven months pregnant with the spawn of Padfoot.”

                Xander nearly dropped his mug.  “It gets worse than that?”

                Remus nodded his head solemnly.  “On more than one occasion at school some poor sod walked into an unused classroom or the Gryffindor common room or the boys’ dormitory or the boys’ bathroom to find them going at it like rabbits.”

                Xander shuddered.  “Really didn’t need that imagery.  Is she really my godmother?”

                Remus nodded.  “Nymphadora’s too.”

                “What the frilly heck were my parents thinking?!”

                “Sirius was the only family member that your mother got along with and Jessi was a dear friend.  Andromeda never experienced the exploits of Sirius and Jessi until after the fact—Andromeda was a Slytherin and we were all Gryffindors—rival houses and all that.  She’d heard the rumors, of course, but she refused to believe them.”

                Xander contemplated this in silence.  Suddenly it hit him.  “Remus?” he said.

                “Hm?”

                “I don’t hear anything.  Do you think it’s safe yet?”

                Remus glared at him.  “Do you want to be scared for life, boy?  Jessi’s an expert at silencing charms—believe me, I know.”

                “Oh,” said Xander.  Then he realized something.  “Wait, what do you mean you know?”

                Remus raised his eyebrow.  “Well, let’s just say that Sissi and I used to be more than just friends.”

                “Really?”

                “Indeed.  Until we slept together and realized that we weren’t meant to be.”

                “So you and her?  Just the once, right?”

                “Twice,” replied Remus, blushing a bit.  “We decided to drown our sorrows together eleven years ago and we were both completely smashed—the first time was when we were just out of school.”

                “So how’d that go for you?” Xander asked teasingly.

                Remus blushed bright red.  “We decided we were far better off as best friends—brother and sister even, but definitely not lovers.  The twins are now eighteen, with careers and families of their own and Finn is nearly set to start Hogwarts in the fall.”

                “Wait, you’re telling me you and Jessi have kids?!”

                “Yes, well, Jessi is immune to magical birth control, and muggle birth control is nullified by the magic naturally present in a witch’s body…and Jessi loves her sex.”

                “I see,” said Xander contemplating.  “Out of curiosity, just how many kids does Jessi have anyway?”

                “Well,” began Remus, “she and I have the twins and Finn, she had a son with James the year he died, she has two children with her husband, and she and Sirius have eight not counting the one on the way—so fourteen, soon to be fifteen.”

Xander jumped and actually dropped his mug this time.  “Sweet googly-moogly!” he exclaimed.  “How does she do it?  And what do you mean husband?  I thought she and Sirius were together.”

                Remus chuckled.  “One question at a time, Xander.  As to how she does it, her family is filthy rich; she has a mansion full of servants—more than one, actually—and most of her children are of age, some with families of their own.  As for the husband issue, well Jessi and Carlos had a fight while she was pregnant with Eli and she left him, but to this day he reuses to give her a divorce.  As you can see, that hasn’t stopped her from being with Sirius; they’ve been together off and on since our first year, even when they were both dating other people.”

                “She’s a very messed up person isn’t she?”

                “Yes, I’m afraid she is,” sighed Remus.  “Her parents weren’t around much when she was growing up and then her mother was killed at the end of our sixth year.  Her father was never the same after that; he withdrew completely and has rarely ever left the comfort of his wing of their castle in Italy since.”

                Xander contemplated this.  “Is she a good mom?” he finally asked.

                “She’s certainly around more than her or Sirius’s parents ever were,” replied Remus.  “She’s not always the most responsible person, but she lays down the law when she has too—her children all adore her, that’s for sure and she loves them unconditionally as well, despite whatever else she may claim.”

                “Well, I guess that’s all that really matters, isn’t it?”

                “Indeed,” replied Remus.  “She’s really an amazing woman you know.”

                “Well, I really don’t know her, but as long as I don’t have to see or hear her and my cousin going at it I’m not against getting to know her.”

                Remus quirked his eyebrow at Xander.  “Good luck with that,” he quipped.

                “What have I gotten myself into here?” muttered Xander, thumping his head on the table and burying his face in his hands.

                “I’ve been asking myself the self-same question since I first met Jessi on the train to Hogwarts back in our first year,” said Remus fondly.

Chapter Text

Chapter 9: Going Home

 

                June 6, 2003:  The hospital room was empty but for a single young woman lying motionless on the bed.  She looked peaceful, almost unnaturally so; the chestnut curls that splayed across the stark white pillow framed her face and gave her pallid skin an almost ethereal glow.  In fact, but for the unnatural tone of her skin one would think she was simply sleeping.  This was not the case, however: this young woman was in a coma and had been for the past three months.  The doctors were now of the opinion that she might never wake up, that she would remain trapped within her calm, peaceful shell forevermore.

 

                Inside the young woman’s mind, she was anything but calm and peaceful.  Thoughts and images continually assaulted her mind.  Names—Jasmine, Angel, Connor, Fred, Wes, Gunn—faces—a smile, a light kiss, soulful eyes—this was all she knew.  Memories were her constant companion.  Possessed by an evil being, unable to cry for help, she saw her shell commit unforgivable acts.  A baby’s cry, a lullaby softly sung.  Awkwardness—feelings of love and lust that didn’t feel quite right.  The first feeling that there was something wrong inside of her.  A vision of what might have been, what she had given up for her friends—and what she had gained in return.  Pain, head-splitting, mind-numbing pain.  Death of an old friend, depression of another.  Royalty—she was a princess because of her visions.  Healing, mending broken trusts.  Emotional pain, pushed away by her best friend.  Worry—unhealthy obsession, must fix.  Pain.  Visions assaulting her brain unmercifully.  A kiss—first and last—used to pass on a gift.  Smiling grey-blue eyes, goofy clothes, an Irish accent.  Brooding—must stop him.  An explosion—congratulations, we survived.  Fighting, proving her worth.  Falling, unimaginable pain.  A stolen kiss to break her heart.  Holding hands, secret glances.  A goofy smile, fiercely loyal.  Love?  Lots of pain and fear, but also acceptance.  Loneliness.  Bad girl, no presents for you.  No magic, magic is bad.  Jamie.  No, girl, you’re ours.  If you’re good, if you’re normal, you can have anything you want.  Bad girls get punished, you know.  Are you a bad girl?  Tears.  Don’t leave me, Jamie!  A tired smile, a promise of sweets.  Hazel eyes twinkling mischievously behind wire frames.  Mummy?  Daddy?  I’m so sorry, Brownie.  Look Dora, look!  Bright green hair—Wotcher!  We wanna be like Remy and Siri and Petey and Jessi and Jamie!  Did you paint your godbrothers?  Sorry Daddy.  Red hair, smiles.  I love you, Auntie Molly.  You’re our Brownie, you know.  What’s a-a nick-name Jamie?  Jamie—James Potter.  Who am I?  Brownie…no, Cordy.  Cordelia Chase.  Why doesn’t that sound right?  Cordelia.  Cordelia what?  You da bestest bwover in da whole wide world, Jamie!  And you’re my favorite little sister, Cordy.  Sister?  Brother?  Jamie, how comes yous get more dan one name?  You do too, Cordy.  What bees my big long name, Jamie?  You’re Cordelia Jillian Potter, my Cordy.  Cordelia Jillian Potter.  Cordelia Potter.  MY NAME IS CORDELIA POTTER!

               

                Without any warning, the woman who had been in a coma for the past three months sat up quickly.  “I remember,” she said, her voice hoarse from lack of use.  “I’m Cordelia Jillian Potter,” she continued, her voice growing stronger as she spoke, “my brother is James Isaac Potter.”  She stood up shakily, testing her balance.  Satisfied that she would not fall over, she removed the various medical devices attached to her body.

                A nurse, who happened to walk by, noticed Cordy out of her bed.  “My God, what’s going on here?” she asked, her voice panicked.

                Cordy looked at the nurse, her gaze resolute.  “My name is Cordelia Potter,” she said strongly, “and I’m going home.”

 

June 13, 2003:  It had been a week since Cordelia had woken from her coma.  It had taken quite a bit of convincing, but two days after her awakening she was finally able to talk the doctors into releasing her.  The first thing she had done upon her release from “that dratted place” was head down to the LA courthouse where she promptly demanded that she wanted her last name legally changed back to Potter.  Again it had taken some convincing on her part, but once Cordy had produced the birth certificate she had found in the Chase’s safe mere hours earlier, they relented and legally changed her name.  Having taken care of that minor detail, Cordy contacted Angel Investigations, letting them know that she was alive and well, but that she needed to take some time for herself and could they please not try to find her before she headed off to the airport where she promptly bought a ticket on the first plane out to England.

               

                Upon arriving safe and sound in England, Cordelia rented herself a car and found herself a hotel in the middle of London to stay at.  That had been three days after she had woken.  Cordy spent the next four days searching for any sign whatsoever of her brother or her childhood home.  On the third day she had discovered a strange little pub not far from her hotel where she heard a couple of men talking about the Potters.  Turning on her infamous Queen C charm, Cordy asked them if they knew where the Potter Mansion was located and was told that it was located about thirty miles north of London in a fairly secluded area.

                That was how Cordelia ended up sitting in her car in front of a large, light gold mansion.  Staring up at her childhood home, Cordelia had a sudden flash of a small brown-haired girl and an older teenage girl with skin the color of honey chasing a pack of teenage boys around the front yard.

                Shaking herself out of her reverie, Cordy spoke to herself.  “Get a grip, Cordelia,” she said firmly.  “Just go up there, knock on the door, and say ‘Hey Jamie, remember me?  Your sister?  Guess what?  I’m back!’”  Cordy snorted.  “Yeah.  That’ll go over well.  Well, I guess it’s now or never.”  Before she could change her mind or talk herself out of it, Cordy climbed out of her car and made her way up the stone path to the coal black front door.  She paused for only a second before lifting the ornate golden lion’s head knocker and banging it firmly against the door.

                Cordy was startled when the door opened to reveal not the black haired boy of her memories, but a small, strange-looking creature with large tennis ball-like eyes.  Before Cordelia had a chance to react, the strange creature let out a squeal of joy and rushed forward, hugging Cordelia tightly about the knees.  “Mistress Cordelia is returning to Nessa!” the creature squeaked happily, tears forming in its unnaturally large eyes.  “Nessa is being so happy to be seeing Mistress Cordelia again!”

                Cordy blinked rapidly as a new flood of long-forgotten memories assaulted her brain: Nessa helping her dress and sneaking her sweets before dinner, helping her tie her shoes and making sure she wore her coat when it was cold outside.  Cordy’s face broke into a genuine smile.  “Nessa!” she exclaimed, bending down to hug the creature she now remembered was a house elf.  “How are you?”

                Nessa smiled brightly up at Cordy.  “Nessa is being quite well, Mistress, but Nessa is being much better now that Mistress Cordelia is returning to Nessa!  Can Nessa be getting anything for Mistress?”

                Cordy smiled kindly at the small creature.  “I’m a bit thirsty, Nessa.  Do you have any coffee?”

                Nessa smiled and squeaked happily.  “Of course, Mistress Cordelia!  Come with Nessa, please.  Nessa will be showing Mistress to the kitchen and Nessa and Bic will be preparing whatever Mistress Cordelia is desiring.”

                Following the happy house elf through the house, Cordy took a moment to sort through her recently recovered memories as they walked.  “Nessa,” she finally said, “you said Bic is still here, right?”

                “Yes Mistress Cordelia.  Bic is being in the kitchen waiting for Mistress.”

                “What happened to Tipsy and Bobo, Nessa?”

                Nessa’s face fell.  “Nessa and Bic’s parents have been joining Mistress Cordelia’s parents a long time ago.”

                Cordy put her hand on Nessa’s small shoulder.  “I’m so sorry, Nessa.  I’m sure you and your brother miss them dearly.”

                “Mistress Cordelia is too kind,” said Nessa, smiling once again through her unshed tears.  “Nessa and Bic is missing them, but we is knowing they is happier being with Master Christian and Mistress Joan.  We is knowing they is being happy taking care of Mistress Cordelia’s parents.  Now we is at the kitchen, Mistress.  Come with Nessa, please.” 

                Cordelia followed Nessa into the large kitchen and was promptly greeted by an overjoyed Bic, who hugged her just as tightly as Nessa had.  After assuring the ecstatic house elves that she was indeed fine, Cordy settled down at the island in the middle of the kitchen and contentedly sipped her mug of coffee.  She was just about to ask Nessa and Bic where James was when a sudden CRACK caused her to jump and spill her coffee on herself.  “Shit!” she cursed, looking down at her ruined white shirt.  “I loved that shirt!”  Hearing a pleasant chuckle, Cordy whirled around to find herself face-to-face with an old man with a long white beard and twinkling blue eyes set behind half-moon spectacles.  Sunnydale instincts kicking in, Cordy narrowed her eyes at him.  “Who are you?” she asked suspiciously.

                Chuckling, the man pulled out what Cordy, with her newly recovered memories, recognized as a wand.  “May I?” he asked.

                Nodding stiffly, still not sure she should trust this strange man dressed in bright lemon yellow robes printed with silver stars and various phases of the moon, her eyes never left his as he waved his wand at her.  “What did you do?” asked Cordy suspiciously.  His eyes twinkling with mirth, the man simply gestured at Cordy’s shirt.  Looking down, Cordy saw that the coffee stain on her shirt had disappeared.  She smiled happily.  “So, who are you?” she asked again, this time sounding much friendlier (well, he had fixed her shirt, he couldn’t be completely evil, now could he?).  “Are you like Gandalf or something?”

                The man chuckled again.  “I am flattered, my dear, but no, I am not Gandalf.  I am Albus Dumbledore, headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.”

                “Oh!” exclaimed Cordelia.  “I remember you!  My brother used to talk about you all the time.”

                Dumbledore smiled.  “Really?  And who might you be, my dear, that your brother knows me so well?”

                “Oh, right.  Sorry.  I’m Cordelia Potter—my brother James went to your school.”

                Dumbledore started a bit and looked more closely at Cordy.  “You’re James’ sister?” he said, looking her over once more.  “Yes, yes, I don’t know how I didn’t see it before…you do look so much like your mother.”

                Cordy smiled.  “Thanks, Professor,” she said.  She paused a beat then asked, “You wouldn’t happen to know where James is, would you?”  Dumbledore’s face immediately fell at Cordy’s seemingly innocent question, the smile fading from his face and his eyes losing their ever-present twinkle.

                Cordelia, however, didn’t see this because at that exact moment she was assaulted with her first vision since waking from her coma.  Letting out a cry of pain, she collapsed and would have fallen to the floor had Dumbledore not been there to catch her.  “Tall black man with a shiny bald head—attacked by a dozen creepy guys in black cloaks and white masks—he’s hurt real bad—alley outside ‘MoM’, whatever the hell that is—help him!” she gasped out through the pain. 

As her vision subsided, she continued to hold tightly onto Dumbledore, in far too much pain to support herself.  Apparently she had been possessed longer than she thought because she hadn’t had a vision that painful since her twenty-first birthday.  Then again, Doyle had been half-demon and had the visions complete with the mind-numbing pain, so she must have been possessed for longer than she originally thought.

                “Cordelia,” said Dumbledore kindly through Cordy’s haze of pain, “I need you to trust me alright?”  Cordy nodded painfully—every little motion hurt like a dozen knives simultaneously stabbing her brain.  “Good.  In a few seconds I’m going to apparate us out of here to someplace safe, but first I need to tell you that the headquarters for The Order of the Phoenix can be found at Number Twelve Grimmauld Place in London.  Do you understand, Cordelia?” Cordelia nodded again in affirmation then moaned in pain as her head moved.  Mere seconds later she felt a slight pull and then they were gone.

 

                The next thing Cordy knew she was being sat down in an unfamiliar chair at an unfamiliar table in an unfamiliar room.  Groaning in pain, she buried her face in her arms and lay her forehead down on the cool wooden table.  “Molly,” she heard Dumbledore say softly, “could you please get our guest some coffee and a painkilling potion?  I need to alert Nymphadora and Alastor—Kingsley is in grave danger.”

                “Of course, Albus,” replied a vaguely familiar, motherly voice.  “I’ll take good care of the poor dear.  You just go make sure that Kingsley is safe.”  Cordy heard a CRACK and assumed that Dumbledore had left.  Seconds later she felt a gentle hand on her shoulder.  “Here, dear, drink this; it will help with the pain,” the same voice said, putting a small vial in Cordy’s hand.

                Not wanting to be in pain any longer, Cordelia drank the potion without question and within seconds she felt much better.  “Thank you,” she said gratefully, accepting a mug of coffee from the motherly redheaded woman standing beside her.

                “How are you feeling, dearie?” asked the woman, taking a seat beside Cordelia.

                “Much better, thanks,” she replied, sipping her caffeinated beverage.  “Whatever you gave me worked so much better than the stuff I usually take.”

                “This happens to you often?” asked the redheaded woman, her voice full of concern.

                “Unfortunately—it’s part of the whole vision package,” replied Cordelia.

                “Oh, you poor dear,” said the woman, giving Cordelia a hug.

                Cordy patted the older woman on the back awkwardly.  “It’s okay, really,” she said.  “It’s my way of helping people, of fighting the good fight.  I like being vision-girl.  Sure, the pain’s not all that fun—okay, no fun at all—but I wouldn’t give up my visions for anything.”

                “That’s so brave!” sniffed the older woman, smiling at Cordelia, her honey brown eyes bright with unshed tears.

                “Erm, thanks, I think.  Not to sound rude or anything, but who are you?”

                “Oh, I’m so sorry dear, where are my manners.  I’m Molly Weasley—you may call me Molly if you’d like.”

                Cordy started, nearly spilling her coffee for the second time that day.  “I’m sorry, what did you say your name was?”

                “Molly Weasley, dear.”

                Cordy’s eyes went wide.  “Auntie Molly?” she said, truly looking at the older woman for the first time.  She was a bit plumper than Cordy remembered her Auntie Molly to be and she could already see a few grey hairs peppering her bright red hair, but she could still see that this woman was indeed her Auntie Molly.

                Molly tilted her head and looked quizzically at the young brunette seer.  “Do I know you?” she asked curiously.

                Cordelia snorted.  “You could say that,” she replied mischievously.

                Molly looked the young seer over.  She couldn’t deny that there was something familiar about her.  She frowned slightly and asked tentatively, “Are you related to Joan Potter, by any chance?”

                Cordy smiled.  “I should say so; she was my mum.”

                Molly gasped.  “Cordelia?” she breathed tentatively.

                “That’s me,” replied Cordy, smiling widely at her godmother.

                Molly gaped at her long-lost goddaughter for a moment before pulling her into a tight hug.  “Dear sweet Merlin!” Molly breathed, loosening her hold on Cordelia so that she could look at her better.  “I thought I’d never see you again!”

                Cordy smiled.  “I know!  I only remembered all of this stuff a week ago.  I just want to get my old life back now.”

                “Well,” said Molly happily, “if you ever need anything, Arthur and I will be more than happy to help you out.”

                “Thanks Auntie Molly,” Cordy said with a smile.  “So, how’s your family?”

                “Oh, we’re all doing wonderfully, dear.  Bill recently left Egypt to work at the London branch of Gringotts; Charlie’s still working with dragons in Romania, he has a steady girlfriend, and they have three wonderful children; Percy—” here Molly’s voice cracked, “—Percy’s working for the Minister and he’s refusing to speak to us right now.”

                Cordy put a comforting hand on Molly’s shoulder; even if she didn’t really understand half of what Auntie Molly was talking about (how the hell was she supposed to know that her godbrothers were in foreign countries?  She hadn’t seen them since she was five), she did understand that whatever Percy had done was hurting her.  “I’m so sorry Auntie Molly.”

                “Thank you dear,” said Molly, squeezing Cordy’s hand in thanks.  “Now, where was I…oh yes, the twins.  Fred and George are going into their seventh year at Hogwarts, Fred is still obsessing over Cassiopeia, and George is trying his hardest to repair his relationship with Mary; Ron’s going into his fifth year and Ginny’s going into her fourth—they’re both doing quite well, actually—they’ve got lots of  good friends: Hermione, Cassiopeia, Mary, Harry, Melinda—”

                “Who’re Ron and Ginny?  And Cassiopeia and Mary, for the matter,” asked Cordelia curiously.

                “Oh, dear, that’s right,” said Molly, “you were gone—Ron’s our youngest son and Ginny’s our baby girl.”

                “Congrats Auntie Molly,” said Cordy happily.

                “Thank you dear,” said Molly smiling at her goddaughter.  “Anyway, Cassiopeia and Mary are two of Ron, Ginny, and the twins’ friends.  Now, how have you been?”

                Cordy shrugged.  “For the most part, pretty good.  I’ve been keeping busy since I graduated high school—oh, and I was in a coma for three months.”

                “WHAT?!”

                “I’m fine now, Auntie Molly, honestly,” reassured Cordelia.  “Being in that coma actually helped me remember my life before Sunnydale—by the way, where is James?  I keep asking, but no one’s answered me yet.”

                Molly stared incredulously at Cordelia.  “You mean you don’t know,” she said slowly.

                “Know what?” asked Cordelia quizzically.  “Is there something wrong with him?”

                “Dear Merlin,” Molly muttered.  “When was the last time you heard from him, Cordelia?”

                Cordelia wracked her brain for that bit of information.  “It was when I was five, so…seventeen years ago,” she finally replied.

                Molly looked at Cordy sympathetically.  “Poor dear,” she said, “I had no idea…”

                “Where is he, Auntie Molly?” asked Cordy, a tone of panic in her voice.

                “Cordelia, dear,” said Molly slowly, “James and his wife were killed fourteen years ago by You-Know-Who.”

                Cordy fell back in her chair as though boneless.  “Wh-what?” she stammered, clearly in shock.

                “I’m so sorry dear,” said Molly, reaching out a hand as though to comfort the girl then thinking better of it.

                “Jamie’s dead,” repeated Cordy slowly, her voice hitching with unshed tears.  Molly nodded in confirmation.  “And his wife,” added Cordelia hollowly.  Molly nodded again.  “Who—”

                “Lily Evans,” supplied Molly, “you remember her, don’t you?”

                “The pretty redhead, right?” said Cordy.  Molly nodded in assent.  “Jamie always was obsessed with her.”

                Molly smiled at the fond memories Cordelia’s statement had brought up.  “Yes, he was,” she replied softly.  She paused for a second then added, “They had a son, you know.  And a daughter—twins, actually.”

                “Did they—”

                “They both survived,” Molly assured Cordy and the younger woman let out a sigh of relief.  “They’re at Hogwarts, same year as my Ron,” she added.  “They’re both friends with him, as a matter of fact, and they’re like another son and daughter to me.”

                “What’re their names?” asked Cordelia curiously.

                “Mary and Harry,” replied Molly.  “Mary Lily Eleanor Elizabeth Brianne Guinevere Anor Evans-Potter and Harry James Potter.”

                “That’s a really long name,” stated Cordelia.

                Molly nodded in agreement.  “Yes, it is.  But Lily and James didn’t know that they were having twins; Mary was their ‘unexpected surprise,’ as they so fondly called her, and they apparently couldn’t agree on a middle name, so they both picked one and they let their four closest friends each pick one too.  You remember their friends, right?”

                Cordy scrunched up her nose in thought.  “I remember Siri and Jessi, Petey, Luna, Gina…oh, and cousin Remy,” Cordy finally said.

                “Yes, that’s right,” replied Molly.  “Well, except for Peter—you may want to ask Sirius and your cousin about him.”

                “Why?” asked Cordelia.

                “It’s not my story to tell,” replied Molly simply.

                “Fine,” conceded Cordelia.  “So, where are we anyway?” she asked, switching topics with ease.

                “The Noble and Most Ancient House of Black,” said a raspy, masculine voice from behind the brunette seer. 

Cordy turned around to view the speaker and saw two men standing in the doorway of the dining room.  The first was a gaunt, pale man with shoulder-length black hair and piercing gray eyes.  Standing just behind him was a familiar sandy-haired, scarred, sickly-looking man with bright amber eyes.  Even with the shabby clothes and the streaks of gray in his sandy hair, Cordy would still recognize that particular man anywhere.  “Remy?” she said, staring wide-eyed at the tall, thin man, whose face was marred by numerous old scars.

                The man in question stepped forward and stared at her oddly.  “Brownie?” he said, his voice hoarse.  “Is that really you?”

                “It’s really me,” she assured him, standing up from her seat and walking over to give her favorite cousin a big hug.

                “I haven’t seen you since you were five!  You’ve gone and grown up on me Brownie,” he teased.

                Cordy laughed at that.  “I should hope so, Remy,” she said.  “I’d rather not be stuck in a five-year-old’s body, thank you very much.”  She took a moment to really scrutinize Remus.  “You look old,” she finally said, her voice full of surprise.  “Why do you look so old?  You are not old, Remy!”

                Remus chuckled and the man beside him gave a bark-like laugh.  “See Moony, you’re not old—Brownie said so!” proclaimed the black haired man.  Remus just rolled his eyes at him.

                Cordy scrunched her eyes and stared at the black-haired man, trying desperately to place him.  “Siri?” she finally said.  “That you?”

                Sirius bowed dramatically.  “At your service, Princess,” he said dramatically.

                Cordy’s face fell as she recalled the last person who had called her that particular nickname.  “Please don’t call me that, Siri,” she said softly, her voice tinged with an old pain.  Pushing past her memories of Doyle, she took another look at Sirius.  “You look awful,” she said bluntly.

                Sirius looked slightly affronted, but Remus just laughed loudly.  “Well, she’s got you there, Padfoot,” he said, clapping his old friend on the shoulder.

                “Moony?” said Sirius, a strange glint in his stormy eyes.

                “Yes, Padfoot?” answered Remus, raising his eyebrow at Sirius, indicating that the black-haired man didn’t intimidate him in the least.

                “Shut up,” growled Sirius.

                “I’d rather not,” replied Moony mildly.

                “Bite me,” snarled Sirius half-heartedly.

                “I’d rather not do that either, you mangy mutt.”

                “Moooooony!” whined Sirius, his mood changing more quickly than a woman with PMS.  “That wasn’t very nice!”

                Moony quirked his eyebrow at Padfoot.  “It wasn’t?” he stated.  “Well, I’ll just have to do better next time, you flea-bitten mongrel.”

                “Broooownie!  Moony’s teasing me with sarcasm again!” Sirius whined, turning to Cordelia.

                Cordy was doing her very best to fight back her laughter.  “And what am I supposed to do about that, Siri?” she asked once she was sure she wouldn’t burst out laughing the second she opened her mouth.

                “Make him stop!” whined Sirius, giving Cordy his best puppy-dog face (he had that face down to an art—in fact, it was rumored that he had, in fact, invented that face).

                Cordy just rolled her eyes at him.  “Give it up, Sirius,” she said, “I’m immune to the puppy-dog look.”  Truthfully, she had seen far better from Angel and even Xander (pre eye loss anyway).

                “Molly, do you think you could fix us up a small lunch while Cordelia and I attempt to pacify this child?” interjected Remus, hoping to bring the conversation back to something higher than a four-year-old level (though that may have been underselling the four-year-old at this point).

                “Hey!” exclaimed Sirius.  “I think I’m offended by that!”  Cordy and Remus just rolled their eyes at him.

                “Of course, Remus,” replied Molly, glaring at Sirius.  “I’ll just be in the kitchen whipping something up if you need me.”

“Thank you, Molly,” said Remus.  The Weasley matriarch smiled at him and Cordy and glared at Sirius once more before disappearing into her domain (the kitchen).  “Now,” said Remus once Molly had left the room, “why don’t the three of us sit down and have a nice chat over a cup of tea—no Firewhisky for you, Sirius, you’re still on restriction from your binge last week.  I said sit, Sirius,” said Moony, pushing the sulking Sirius down into a chair before guiding Cordelia back to her chair and sitting down next to her.

                “Now,” continued Remus, “what have you been up to for the past seventeen years, Brownie?” he asked cordially as he conjured up a tea kettle and poured them each a cup of tea.

                “Now that’s a loaded question,” replied Cordelia with a small laugh.  “Besides, I’d much rather hear about you guys and Jamie.”

                “You do know—” began Remus.

                “Yes,” interrupted Cordelia.  “Auntie Molly told me.  She didn’t go into the specifics, though—she said I’d have to ask you guys.  She did tell me about Mary and Harry, though.”

                “How much did she tell you about them?” asked Remus, sipping on his tea.

                Cordy shrugged.  “Not much,” she replied.  “Just that they're my niece and nephew, they’re alive, and that Mary has a ridiculously long name.”

                “Yes, well it’s quite a bit more complicated than that,” said Remus.

                “You see,” said Sirius, “when Voldemort killed Lily and James he tried to kill the twins too, but for reasons that no one knows the curse backfired and he was stripped from his body, existing as little more than a spirit for the next thirteen years while Mary and Harry got away with nothing more than a scar each.”

                “And after that?” asked Cordy.

                “He came back a few months ago,” said Sirius, his voice becoming more raspy than usual with emotion.  “He performed a ritual using Mary and Harry’s blood and he got himself a new body.”

                “It’s actually a bit more complicated than that, but I don’t really think you want to hear about that right now,” added Remus.

                “I see,” said Cordelia, trying to keep calm.  She remembered the name Voldemort as having something to do with her parents’ deaths all those long years ago, but now wasn’t the time to dredge up those memories.  Deciding that the safest thing was to change the subject, she asked, “So, what have you two been up to for the past seventeen years?”

                “Odd jobs here and there,” said Remus vaguely.

                “Prison—framed for murder,” said Sirius, his voice dripping with bitterness.

                “Say what now?!” said Cordy, nearly spilling her tea (today was just not her day).

                “Peter Pettigrew framed me for the murder of Lily, James, and a bunch of muggles before faking his own death and making it look like I’d killed him too,” Sirius explained, “and I got sent to Azkaban.  I was there for twelve years; I escaped two years ago and was able to convince Moony, Mary, Harry, Cassi, their friends, and Dumbledore that I was innocent.”

                “So you’re free now, right?” asked Cordelia.

                “Not exactly,” said Sirius sheepishly.

                “He’s a fugitive,” said Remus quietly.  “Peter got away from us before we could turn him in.”

                Sirius glared at Remus.  “Stop blaming yourself for that, Remus,” he said sternly.  “It wasn’t your fault!”

                “If I hadn’t forgotten to take my potion—” began Remus morosely.

                “It—Wasn’t—Your—Bloody—Fault,” said Sirius punctuating each word by shaking Remus roughly.  “Stop with the guilt-trip already, Moony, jeez!”

                Remus cracked a small smile.  “You’re spending far too much time with the Dangerous Duo, Padfoot,” he said.

                Sirius groaned and sank back into his chair.  “Bloody hell,” he moaned, “I’m starting to sound just like them, aren’t I?”

                Remus chuckled.  “Indubitably, dear Padfoot.  However, I’m sure the girls will be quite elated to hear that they have inadvertently had an impact upon your vernacular, Sirius.”

                Sirius glared at Remus.  “What did you call me?” he growled.

                Remus rolled his eyes at his friend.  “I merely said the girls will be happy that they have affected the way you speak.”

                “Oh, that’s okay then,” said Sirius.  He paused for a second then added, “I thought that we agreed no big words that I can’t understand, Moony.”

                Remus smiled mischievously.  “No, Padfoot, you agreed.  I said absolutely nothing pertaining to whether or not I would persist in using my rather extensive vocabulary to cause you as much aggravation as humanly possible.”

                “Mooooooooony!

                Cordy had been following the conversation with her eyes as the two bantered back and forth—it was something akin to watching a tennis match, in her opinion.  “You two are like a couple of kids,” she said with a grin as their bantering lulled down.

                The two marauders grinned at Cordy and replied together, “Thank you, Brownie!”

                Cordy rolled her eyes.  “That wasn’t a compliment boys,” she said dryly.

 

                Cordy, Sirius, and Remus spent the next three hours poring over their life stories and exchanging witty banter.  An hour in, Molly popped in with their lunch, made up some lame excuse about cleaning the third floor bedrooms, and hurried away, leaving the three to continue catching up. 

Cordy was just getting to the part in her story where she left for LA when she was quite rudely interrupted by peals of raucous laughter coming from the front hall.  Yelping, Sirius leapt from his seat just as a loud shrieking began, emanating from the same hallway.  “MUDBLOODS!  FILTH!!  SHAME OF MY FLESH!  HOW DARE YOU BEFOUL MY FATHER’S HOUSE!  CRETINS!  UNCLEAN—”

                “SHUT UP, YOU OLD HAG!” Sirius barked loudly.

                Cordy raised a questioning eyebrow at her cousin as the cacophony of noise in the hallway died down and asked, “Do I even want to know?”

                Remus smiled grimly.  “That was Mrs. Black,” he explained, “Sirius’s mother.  We can’t seem to get her portrait down, no matter how hard we try.”

                “She sounds lovely,” deadpanned Cordy.

                “Doesn’t she just,” replied Remus in his usual sarcastic tone.

                As Remus finished speaking, Sirius came back into the dining room panting and smiling.  “Sorry about that," he said cheerfully.  “It was just some loud, clumsy visitors deciding to grace us with their presence.”

                “Ah,” said Remus knowingly, “the Tonks twins have arrived.”

                “The who?” asked Cordy curiously.

                “The Tonks twins,” explained Remus patiently.  “They’re—”

                “Honey, I’m home!” interrupted an incessantly cheerful sing-song voice that was most undeniably female.  Cordy whirled around to see a tall young woman with shoulder-length, platinum-blonde hair framing her heart-shaped face and accentuating her bright turquoise eyes standing at the threshold of the dining room door.

                “Good afternoon, Nymphadora,” said Remus smoothly.  Cordy’s eyebrows shot up—was he flirting with her?  Oh my God, he WAS!!

                “Who’s your friend, Remus?” asked Nymphadora, a hint of jealousy in her voice.

                Remus gave her an amused smile.  “Why Miss Tonks,” he teased playfully, “if I didn’t know any better I’d say you were jealous of my dear cousin here.”

                “C-cousin?” stuttered Tonks, looking ten different kinds of relieved (not to mentions two or three different kinds of embarrassed).  “You never mentioned you had a cousin, Remus.”

                Remus quirked his eyebrow at the blonde-haired woman and said simply, “No, I didn’t.”  Tonks looked at him expectantly, but the sickly-looking man offered her no further information.

                Taking pity on the forlorn-looking woman, Cordy rolled her eyes, held out her hand, and said, “Hi, I’m Cordelia Potter.  Tall, sick, and silent there is my cousin.”

                “I resent that comment, thank you very much,” Remus said softly, a small smile playing on his lips.

                “Whatever, Remy,” said Cordelia, rolling her eyes at him.

                Tonks chuckled playfully.  “I can definitely see the family resemblance,” she teased.  “I’m Tonks, by the way.  Well, Nymphadora Tonks actually, but I bloody hate my first name,” she amended, making a face of disgust at her name as she shook Cordy’s hand.

                Cordy made a face too.  “I don’t blame you,” she said.  “What was your mum on when she named you?”

                Tonks shook her head helplessly.  “I ask myself the same thing every day,” she said morosely.

                “Ask yourself what?” came an all-too familiar male voice from behind Cordelia.

                Cordy whirled around, her eyes wide.  “Xander?!” she exclaimed, surprised.

                Standing in the doorway, Xander froze, his single brown eye wide and his jaw hanging open.  “C-Cordy?!” he stuttered once he had regained control of his motor skills.

                Before Cordy could respond, she found herself caught in a tight Xander hug.  “Xander, wha—?”

                “You’re alive!” he exclaimed happily, refusing to let her go.  “You’re awake and alive!”

                “Not for much longer if I don’t get some air, doofus!” she choked out, convinced that she was turning purple from lack of oxygen.

                “Oh, right.  Sorry,” said Xander sheepishly, reluctantly letting go of the former cheerleader.  As Cordy caught her breath, Xander began speaking again.  “So,” he said slowly, “you’re not dead.  Or in a coma.”  Cordy gave him a strange look.  “No, no!” he protested vehemently, holding up his hands in a gesture of peace, “That’s a good thing!  Really!  I mean, Deadboy—” he caught Cordy’s glare, “I mean Angel called us a few months ago and told us you were in a coma and probably wouldn’t ever wake up.  I wanted to visit you, you know, but things were crazy busy with the First trying to off the girls and me losing an eye and all…and did I mention how happy I am that you’re awake and not of the dead?  Cause I am.  Happy, that is.  I mean, that you’re not of the dead.  Or the undead, for that matter.  I mean—”

                “Shut up Xander!” Cordy yelled.  Xander fell silent.  “Thank you,” said Cordy.  “God, you’re as bad as Willow with all the babbling.”

                “Sorry,” the one-eyed carpenter said sheepishly.

                “It’s okay, Xander,” said Cordy softly.  “Honestly, I’ve kinda missed that—I mean Fred-babble just doesn’t hold a candle to a good Willow-babble.  And I’m glad that you’re happy that I’m not dead—I’m pretty happy about that too.  Now, what the hell are you doing here, Xander?”  Her voice suddenly changed to an icy annoyance.

                “I’m here with my baby sis,” explained Xander, smiling cheekily and throwing an arm around Dora’s shoulders.

                “Twenty minutes,” Tonks muttered, “twenty bloody minutes younger and he won’t stop rubbing in my bloody face!”  Her hair suddenly morphed into tight, electric blue ringlets falling down to her waist.

                “Oh my God!” exclaimed Cordy, suddenly looking at Tonks in a whole new light.  “You’re Dora!”

                “Hey!” protested Xander, pouting playfully.  “Only I get to call her that!”

                Cordy ignored him.  “I can’t believe it!” she said happily, staring at Tonks as she spoke.  “You’re just like I remember you!”

                “Um, sorry, but what the bloody hell are you talking about?” asked Tonks.

                “Two words, Dora: Madam Puddlemore’s.”

                “MERLIN’S DIRTY GREEN GYM SHORTS!!” Tonks exclaimed, finally placing the young seer.  “Cor!

                “Pulled any pranks lately, Dora?” Cordy asked with a mischievous grin.

                Tonks laughed merrily.  “Only every bloody day,” she said with a smile.  “Still trying to pull one over on the three remaining Marauders, though.”

                “And how’s that going for ya, cuz?” asked Sirius with an evil grin.  Tonks mumbled something inaudible.  “I’m sorry, cousin dearest,” Sirius teased, “I didn’t quite catch that.  Would you care to repeat that a bit louder, please?”

                Tonks glared at her maniacally grinning cousin.  “I said,” she muttered through her gritted teeth, “Moony, Padfoot, and Spotts are pranking gods and I am not worthy to lick their bloody sneakers.”

                “Damn straight,” said Sirius still grinning like a madman.

                “Just you wait,” Tonks seethed at the black-haired fugitive, “I’ve got my partners-in-crime now.  You three sodding gits better watch out for Tonks, Xander, and Cordy from now on.”

                “Hey!” protested Xander.  “When’d I agree to this?”

                Tonks glared at him with angry amber eyes.  “You’re my bloody twin, Xander; you don’t get a choice in the matter,” she snapped at him, grabbing him and Cordy by their arms and dragging them out of the room. 

“This means war, Sirius Black!” Tonks yelled back at the ex-convict as she and her “volunteered” cohorts headed up the stairs.

                “Whatever you say, cuz!” Sirius called back to her.

                Chuckling, the black-haired animagus turned to Remus, who was currently staring after Tonks even though she was already far out of sight, even for someone of his enhanced vision.  “We’ll show them who the REAL pranking gods are, right Moony?” he said to his very distracted lycanthropic friend as he plopped himself down into a chair beside him.

                “Mm-hm,” replied Remus distractedly.

                “We have to plan a bloody brilliant strategy—that’s your job, Moony, old boy,” Sirius rambled on.

                “Mm-hm,” said Remus again.

                “And we’ll have to call Jessi in on it, of course.”

                “Mm-hm.”

                “Full moon’s tonight, tomorrow, and the day after, so we’ll have to work around that.”

                “Mm-hm.”

                “Jessi’ll be here soon.”

                “Mm-hm.”

                “Moony, can I have a pet dragon?”

                “Mm-hm.”

                “Can I get a manticore cub too?”

                “Mm-hm.”

                “I’m going to strip naked and run around the house screaming bloody murder at the top of my lungs in, say…fifteen minutes.  That okay with you, Moony?”

                “Mm-hm.”

                “I’m also going to abduct Mary and Harry from those bloody muggles they stay with and take them out drinking all night long.  You okay with that, buddy old pal?”

                “Mm-hm.”

                “Did I mention I’m taking Cassi and Finn out drinking too?”

                “Mm-hm.”

                “You okay with that, Mr. Moony?”

                “Mm-hm.”

                Deciding that this called for drastic measures, Sirius grinned evilly at his friend and asked, “Moony, can I have your chocolate?”

                “Mm-h—NO!  Sirius Orion Black that is NOT funny!” yelped Remus, snapping out of his Tonks-induced trance at the mention of his precious chocolate.

                “You are so bloody predictable, Moony,” chuckled Sirius happily.  “Figures, the only thing that can distract you from my dear lovely cousin is your precious chocolate.”

                “Sirius,” growled Remus menacingly.

                “Yes Remus?”

                “Shut up before I bite you.”

                “Shutting up now.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 10: The Wizards, the Witch, and the Werewolf

 

June 14, 2003:  Cordy, Xander, and Tonks had spent the entire night plotting and reminiscing.  The plotting took priority, but once that had subsided they turned to exchanging watered-down versions of their life stories.  Soon Cordy had learned all about Xander’s kidnapping and subsequent placement in Sunnydale, then later of the loss of his eye, the death of Anya, the destruction of Sunnydale, and the discovery of his birth family.  She also learned a bit about Dora’s school years and her days in the auror training program. 

After being pushed, prodded, and guilted into it, Cordy proceeded to tell her tale: from her arrival in LA to her reunion with Angel; from Doyle’s death and receiving his visions to the appearance of Wesley and meeting Gunn; from the drama that was Darla and Angel to the subsequent firing of his team; from meeting Lorne and her enslavement-to-royalty stint in Pylea to saving Fred; from the news of Buffy’s death and Angel’s subsequent depression to the return of Darla and the birth of her miracle child, brought about by her own self-sacrifice; from the news that Cordy’s visions were slowly killing her to her choice to become part demon in order to keep them (“See!  It’s always me the demon chicks are attracted to!”—“Shut up, Xander.”); from the reemergence of Holtz to Wesley’s false interpretation of a prophecy and his subsequent betrayal; from Connor’s kidnapping and childhood spent in the hell dimension of Qor-Toth to his ultimate return and brainwashed, deep-rooted hatred of his biological father; from Connor sending Angel to the bottom of the sea to Cordelia herself becoming a higher being; from Cordy’s return and loss of memory to her possession by the being known simply as Jasmine; from Connor’s major Oedipal complex to Cordy’s “pregnancy”; from Jasmine’s manipulation of Connor through Cordelia to the loss of Angel’s soul (again); from the appearance and death of The Beast to the return of Angel’s soul via Willow; from the “birth” of Jasmine to Cordelia’s coma; and finally the return of Cordy’s memories of the magical world, her awakening, and her arrival at Grimmauld Place.  That particular conversation had lasted far into the night and none of the three got to sleep until well into the wee hours of the morning.  Therefore it was well after noon (thank Merlin Dora didn’t have to go into work in the morning) before the three twenty-two-year-olds deigned to grace the house with their presence.

               

It was two o’clock when Xander, Cordy, and Tonks finally stumbled, bleary-eyed, into the dining room.  They were vaguely surprised to see that they weren’t the only ones still half-asleep: sitting at the table looking like death himself was Remus, looking much sicker than usual, accompanied by Sirius and a pregnant, honey-skinned, brunette woman, both of whom looked only slightly better than Remus.

                “Morning,” Cordy said blearily, plopping down into the seat next to Remus.  Xander and Dora silently plopped down too—Xander between Sirius and Dora and Dora between Xander and Remus.  Sirius and Jessi (the pregnant woman) both gave the three younger adults small smiles while Remus simply grunted and continued to stare blankly into his cup of tea.

                As the six adults sat silently at the table, the motherly Molly Weasley bustled in and set a cup down in front of each of them, gently refilling Remus’s own as she did so.  Jessi took a sip from her cup and instantly spat it back out.  “This isn’t coffee,” she whined, staring pitifully at Molly.

                Molly pointedly ignored her look.  “Of course it’s not,” she scoffed.  “None of that rubbish in your condition, dear.  No, it’s tea for you till that little one pops out.”

                “But Mo-lly—”

                “No buts, dear,” said Molly with finality.

                “Fine,” huffed Jessi.  “Can I at least have the peanut butter jar and a spoon, then?”

                Molly smiled softly at the younger woman.  “Of course, dear,” she replied kindly.  “I’ll go get that for you; you just sit there and relax.”

                “Thank you, Molly.”

                “You’re quite welcome, Jessica.”

                Chuckling quietly, Cordy turned from Jessi to say something to her cousin only to find that he had fallen asleep in his tea—quite literally at that.  Poking him gently she said, “Remus!  Wake up, Remy!”

                “Don’t bother,” said Sirius, his voice thick from sleep.  “He won’t wake up.  ‘Sides, he needs his rest; last night was a bit rougher than normal for him.”

                “Huh?” said Cordelia, confused as to why last night would be “rougher” than “normal.”

                “Don’t you know?” asked Jessi curiously, graciously accepting the peanut butter jar and spoon from Molly as the Weasley matriarch bustled back out of the room.

                “Know what?” asked Cordy curiously.  “Is there something wrong with Remus?”

                “Not more so than usual,” replied Sirius cryptically.

                “Then what’s the matter?” persisted Cordelia.

                “You remember Oz, right?” asked Xander suddenly.

                “Duh,” said Cordy rolling her eyes in exasperation.  “He’s kinda hard to forget: short, spiky-haired stoic guy.  He was the only one of you Scoobies I could stand one hundred percent of the time.”

                “Well,” continued Xander, “you remember what happens to Oz on full moon nights?”

                “Uh, yeah.  He’s a werewolf, duh.”

                “Right.  Well, last night was a full moon.”

                “So?  It’s not like he’s here or anything—is he?”

                Xander sighed in exasperation.  “No, he’s not here,” he replied slowly, “but Remus and Oz have that full moon problem in common.”

                “Remy’s a werewolf?”

                “Bingo.”

                “Oh.  Poor Remy.”

                “So…you don’t care?” asked Sirius cautiously.

                “Duh,” said Cordy with another eye roll.  “He’s my cousin.  Besides, werewolves are people all but three nights a month—honestly, there’s three nights a month I’m a monster to be around.”

                “Just three?” quipped Xander.

                “Shut up, Xander.”

 

                June 20, 2003:  The three days of the full moon passed with no more problems than usual.  A few days later, Remus was mostly recovered and feeling as good as he ever did.  It was then that he decided that it was his duty as Cordy’s cousin to personally take her to get her very first wand.  Xander and Sirius—as their pet dog Snuffles—decided to accompany Remus and Cordy to Diagon Alley (Dora wanted to come too, but unfortunately she had to work).

                Cordy gasped in awe as she entered Diagon Alley for the first time in seventeen years; it was even more amazing than she remembered.  Xander and Snuffles smiled (yes, the dog smiled—this is Sirius we’re talking about, after all) at her reaction and Remus chuckled lightly.  “Come on, Brownie,” he said gently.  “We need to stop by Gringotts to get you some money before we can get you your wand.”

                Cordy wordlessly followed Remus into the bank, leaving Xander and Snuffles outside (Xander claimed that his lack of depth perception caused him to get sick more easily on the Gringotts carts—as if Remus couldn’t see right through that excuse). 

Once inside Remus spoke briefly with a goblin (Gornook according to the name placard), handed him the key to Cordy’s vault (according to Remus, it had been set up for her by her parents years ago in the event of their deaths), and they headed down to the vault, escorted by another goblin, this one named Grandock.

                After the nauseating ride to and from her vault, Cordy and Remus both had to take a breather before continuing on, much to Xander and Snuffles’ amusement—that is, until Remus brought up what Dora told him had happened Xander’s first time at Gringotts and what happened to Sirius every single time he went.  That shut the two cousins up real quick.  Once Remus and Cordy were sure that they weren’t going to hurl all over their friends (though they weren’t quite sure that they didn’t deserve it at this point) they all headed off to Ollivanders.

               

                Remus pushed open the door to the small, dimly lit shop, causing a bell to tinkle softly.  “Welcome,” said a soft, creepy voice from the back of the shop.  Squinting her eyes to see better, Cordy was able to make out a strange, thin man with large, pale, almost luminescent eyes slowly making his way toward them.  “Remus Lupin,” the man said softly, not blinking once.  “Rosewood, thirteen and a quarter inches, unicorn hair.  Quite reliable—excellent for defense.  You are still taking care of it, right boy?”

                “Of course Mr. Ollivander,” Remus replied solemnly,

                “Good, good.  And Alexander Tonks,” Mr. Ollivander said, turning his creepy, unblinking gaze on the one-eyed man.  “Willow, thirteen inches, hair from the vengeance demon Anyanka.  Very pliable—good for transfiguration.  How is it working for you?”

                “I’m learning slowly, but surely,” answered Xander nervously.

                “Good, very good.”  Ollivander then turned his creepy gaze on Cordy.  “Ah, Cordelia Potter,” he said, his voice barely above a whisper.  “I’ve been wondering when I’d be seeing you.  Which is your wand arm?”

                “Er—my right?”

                Ollivander produced a tape measure from seemingly nowhere and began to measure Cordelia’s arm.  As the tape measure continued to measure various body parts by itself, he told her all about how the wand chooses the wizard or witch not the other way around.  He also explained about the cores he used for the wands and how no two wands were exactly alike.  Finally, after what seemed like an eternity to Cordelia, Ollivander snapped his finger and the tape measure fell to the floor.

                “Try this one,” he said, handing Cordy a wand.  “Oak, eleven inches, phoenix feather.  Rather rigid.  Give it a wave, go on.”  Cordy had barely moved when the wand was snatched away from her.  “No, no.  That simply won’t do.  Try this one: willow, nine inches, dragon heartstring, nice and flexible.  Give it a wave—No.  How about this one: redwood, ten and a half inches, unicorn hair, excellent for healing.  Go on—No, that’s not right either.  Tricky customer, eh?  Don’t worry,” he said, “we’ll find your match.”  Ollivander rummaged around one of the shelves in the far back of the store for a bit.  “You’re a seer, correct?” he asked as he dug around.

                “Yes,” replied Cordelia proudly; she loved her visions, despite the mind-numbing pain that accompanied them, as they gave her a sense of purpose and meaning.

                “Hm,” said Ollivander thoughtfully, pulling out another wand.  “I think we’ll try this one.  Mahogany, twelve and a quarter inches.  Quite whippy.  Give it a wave, Miss Potter.”  Cordy took the wand and instantly she felt a wave off warmth spreading up through her arm.  She gave the wand a wave and a stream of silver mist shot out of it.  “Wonderful, simply wonderful!” praised Mr. Ollivander.  “I’ve been wondering when someone would come and claim this particular wand.”

                “What’s so special about it?” asked Cordy curiously.

                “Well my dear,” said Ollivander, staring straight into her eyes, “the core of that particular wand is a single hair from an Irish, half-demon seer.”

                “Doyle,” said Cordy in wonder.

                “Yes, I do believe that was his name,” said Ollivander softly.  “He told me that someday a young seer would come to me in need of a wand and that I was to give her one made with his hair as a core.”

                “That sneaky little Irish bastard,” said Cordelia fondly.  “He knewGod, I miss him!”

                Xander came up to Cordelia and put a comforting hand on her shoulder.  “At least now you’ll have another piece of him with you,” he said softly.  “And this one won’t cause you any physical pain, either.”

                Cordy looked up at Xander in surprise.  “You’re right,” she said slowly.  “When’d you get so damn insightful, Xander?”

                Xander gave his ex a lopsided grin.  “Since I’m ‘The One Who Sees,’” he said.  “It’s what I do.”

                “Git,” said Cordy fondly.

                “You know you love me,” he replied cheekily.

                “Yes,” said Cordy almost inaudibly, “I think I just might.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 11: What’s in a Name?

 

June 22, 2003:  Cordy was pacing across her room.  Tonight she was going to have dinner with her godfamily for the first time in seventeen years.  So far Auntie Molly was the only one she had seen, but the rest of the Weasleys—minus Percy—were moving into Number Twelve tonight.  Even Charlie was coming to stay for a few days before heading back to Romania and his dragons.  Needless to say, Cordy was nervous.

                A soft knock sounded on her door and Cordy jumped, startled.  “Cor?” called Dora.  “You in there?”

                “Yeah, come in Dora.”

                Dora came in, her Weasley-red hair falling past her shoulders in soft waves and her feral amber eyes paying tribute to the object of her affections (*coughremuscough*).  “How you holding up?” she asked, taking a seat on Cordy’s bed.

                Cordy stopped pacing and turned to face Dora.  “I’m nervous as hell,” she snapped.  “I haven’t seen Uncle Arthur or Bill or Charlie in seventeen years!  The twins were only a few days old back then and I’ve never seen the rest of them.  Oh, and the last time I saw Bill and Charlie—besides my parents’ funeral—we both dumped green paint on them!”

                Dora’s face broke into a huge grin.  “Oh, yeah,” she said.  “I remember that.  Bloody brilliant, that was.”

                Cordy cracked a small smile.  “It was, wasn’t it?”

                “Yeah, it was.”

                The two old friends sat in silence for a while.  “You think they remember?” Cordy asked.

                “Nah,” replied Dora.  “Bill doesn’t hold grudges and Charlie’s taken one too many bludgers to the head to remember something that happened so long ago.  ‘Sides, even if they do, they both like a good practical joke as much as any of their brothers.  ‘Cept Percy.  Not sure what’s wrong with that git.”

                Cordy giggled.  “He always was a pompous prat, wasn’t he?” she said.  “Even as a kid.”

                “Yup,” said Dora with a chuckle of her own.  “That’s Percy to a T.”

                The two were silent for a moment.  “You really think this dinner’s gonna be okay?” Cordy asked.

                Dora pulled Cordy down onto the bed beside her and gave her a great big hug.  “I know it will,” she said.  “The Weasleys are an amazing lot; you have absolutely nothing to worry about.  Trust me.”

 

                When Cordy and Dora finally made their way downstairs they found Xander pacing outside of the closed dining room door.  “How’s that hole to China coming there, Xander?” Cordy teased.

                Xander looked up, startled.  “Hey,” he said, ignoring Cordy’s teasing.

                “You nervous there, Xan?” Tonks asked.  Xander nodded .  “Don’t be.”

                “Have you seen how many people are in there?” he said, panicking a bit.  “That’s a heck of a lot of red.”

                “It’s just the Weasleys,” said Tonks, rolling her eyes, “and Remus and Sirius and Jessi—possibly King.”

                “Big scary black guy, right?” said Xander.

                Tonks rolled her eyes again.  “He’s just my boss, Xander,” she said.  “He’s cool.  Besides, you’ve met him already.”

                “Yeah, but I didn’t do much else,” Xander grumbled.

                “Shut up and get in there, you bloody cowards,” said Tonks, pushing Xander and Cordelia through the door.  The two stumbled rather ungracefully into the room.  Xander fell over and landed hard on the wood floor and Tonks, following close behind her friends, laughed, then promptly tripped over her twin and landed on top of him.

                Cordy, however, got lucky.  As she stumbled through the door, she found her descent stopped by a pair of rather calloused, strong hands.  She looked up at her rescuer and smiled at him.  The first thing that she noticed was his short red hair and overabundance of freckles, indicating that her rescuer was, in fact, a Weasley.  She then noticed that the man’s lightly tanned skin was peppered with various burns and scars.  What caught her attention the most though was his eyes, his strangely familiar, bright, honey-brown eyes, which sparkled with mischief and mirth.

                “Charlie?!” she said.

                “‘Lo Cordy,” he said, smiling widely.  “Long time no see.”

                “Same to you, Charlie.  God, it’s been ages!”

                “See, told ya you’d like your surprise, Char,” said Dora as Remus (hehe) helped her up from the floor.

                Charlie laughed loudly at that.  “You were right, Dor,” he said with a smile.  “Just like old times, eh?”

                “More like ancient times,” piped in Cordy.  “God, that was a lifetime ago!”  She sighed happily and added, “It’s so good to be home.”

                “Glad to have ya, Cor,” said Dora with a genuine Tonks-smile.  Cordy grinned back at her and noticed that Dora had yet to let go of Remus’s hand.  Dora noticed Cordy’s gaze and dropped Remus’s hand as if it had burned her.  “Shut up, Cor,” she muttered darkly.

                “Whatever for?” asked Cordy innocently, her chocolate eyes sparkling with mirth.

                “Huh?” said Xander, finally up off of the floor.

                Cordy rolled her eyes at her ex.  “Never mind, Xander,” she said.  “It’s a girl thing.”

                “Oh, right,” he said accepting Cordy’s explanation without question.  “So, what’s for dinner?  I’m starved.”

                “You ate enough to feed a small army at lunch, Xander,” said Cordy.  “How the hell can you still be hungry?”

                Xander shrugged.  “It’s a guy thing,” he said, grinning cheekily at her.

                “Aargh!” Cordy huffed.  “You are bloody impossible, Alexander Harris!”

                “It’s actually Alexander Tonks now,” Xander pointed out.

                “Whatever,” said Cordy, rolling her eyes at the one-eyed man.  “You’re still impossible.”

                “And you’re still the same old Queen C,” Xander snapped back.

                “Doofus!”

                “Bossy!”

                “Dumbass!”

                “Airhead!”

                “Dweeb!”

                “Brat!”

                “Cheater!”

                “Bitch!”

                Cordy and Xander paused to take a breath and the next thing any of them knew the two were snogging passionately in front of everyone.  “Is it just me or are you having flashbacks of high school here too?” said Xander breathlessly as they pulled apart.

                “Shut up and kiss me, you bloody prat,” snapped Cordelia, pulling Xander close and proceeding to snog him senseless. 

                Works for me, thought Xander as he continued to snog his high school sweetheart.

                Cordy and Xander continued snogging until Molly came into the room with the dinner.  “He-hem,” Molly cleared her throat, causing the snogging couple to break apart.  “Well,” said Molly, her voice light with amusement, “I’m glad to see that you two are getting on so well, but right now it’s time to eat so please take your seats.”

                “Yeah, we’re starving here!” called out one of the identical twin redheads.

                “Wasting away to nothing, we are!” called out the other twin.

                “Not very nice, you know,” they said together, their honey-brown eyes sparkling with laughter.

                “Fred, George, please just shut up so we can eat,” said a redhead who wore his long hair pulled back in a ponytail and sported a stylish fang earring.

                “Yeah, what Bill said!” cried out the youngest redhead boy.

                “Ronald, don’t encourage them,” piped in the small girl with bushy brown hair seated next to him.

                “But Mione—”

                Mione glared at him, her deep brown eyes locking with his honey-brown ones, and he fell silent.  “And that is how you deal with Ronald, Ginny,” she said to the redheaded girl seated on her other side.

                “Thanks Hermione.  I’ll keep that in mind,” Ginny said with a smile.

                “Well, if that’s all done with can we please eat?” piped in Jessi.  “Baby’s hungry—and no, Sirius, we are not naming her Tiger Lily or Princess Jasmine, so don’t even think about it!  Honestly, next time Aly and Hales want you to watch a bloody movie with them, you are watching something other than sodding Peter Pan or Aladdin, understand?”

                “Yes, dear,” said Sirius.

                “I have you so well trained,” said Jessi with a smirk.  The whole table burst into laughter as she petted Sirius’s head as if he were a great, loveable puppy.  Sirius just scowled darkly at his pregnant lover and took it like a man…dog…person…thing.

                As they were all laughing at Sirius’s scowling face, the large black man from Cordy’s vision two weeks earlier came into the dining room sporting an almost non-existent limp.  “Wotcher Shacks!” cried out Dora as the man sat down beside Arthur.

                “Hello Tonks,” he replied with a smile.  “And how many times have I told you not to call me that ridiculous nickname, Nymphie.”

                “Point taken,” Tonks grumbled, shuddering at the nickname Kingsley had bestowed upon her.  “I’ll stop Kingsley.”

                “Thank you, Nymphadora,” he teased.

                “Don’t call me that, Shacklebolt,” she snarled, her Weasley red hair growing redder and her amber eyes flashing dangerously as she spoke.

                Kingsley held up his hands in surrender.  “Sorry, Tonks,” he said.  “It won’t happen again.”

                “Good,” snapped Tonks as her hair went back to Weasley red.  “It better not.”

                Kingsley nodded his shiny, bald head in affirmation then turned his attention to Cordelia.  “So,” he said, “you must be the seer Dumbledore found.”

                “That’s me,” said Cordelia.  “I’m vision-girl.”

                Kingsley smiled at her.  “I understand that I have you to thank for remaining amongst the living.”

                Cordy shrugged.  “It’s no big,” she said.  “It’s kinda what I do, you know—use my visions to help people and all, that is.”

                “Still,” said Kingsley, “I must thank you for helping to save my life.  I’m Kingsley Shacklebolt, by the way.”

                Cordy took his offered hand and shook it.  “Cordelia Potter,” she said by way of introduction.

                Kingsley’s eyes shot open wide.  “Potter?” he said.  “Was you father Christian Potter, by any chance?”

                “Yup,” replied Cordelia with a bob of her head.  “Chris was my daddy dearest.”

                “Chris Potter was my mentor in the auror training program.”

                “Aurors’re like policemen in the wizarding world, right?” asked Cordelia, trying to get her facts straight.  She hadn’t really understood what an auror was at five years old (the last time she was in the wizarding world), so she wanted to make sure she knew now.

                “Sort of,” replied Kingsley, ever proficient in muggle culture.  “Technically we’re ‘dark wizard catchers,’ but I suppose one could make that comparison.”

                “Neat,” said Cordy.  She then turned to Molly, who was busy serving the food, and asked, “So, Auntie Molly, are you gonna introduce me to your little rugrats now?”

                “Rugrats?” asked Arthur curiously.  “What’s that?  Is that like a fellytone or plugs?”

                “Sorry,” said Cordy, “must be an American thing or maybe a muggle thing—or quite possibly both.  I meant the kids.  Oh, and it’s from a cartoon, by the way.”

                “Right,” said Arthur.  He opened his mouth again, most likely to ask Cordy about ‘fellytision’ or possibly cartoons, but he was stopped by a glare from his wife.

                Molly sat down once she finished serving everyone their food and began the introductions.  “Cordelia, dear,” she said, “you remember my eldest, Bill.”

                The redhead with the long hair, sparkling blue eyes, and the fang earring smiled at her.  “Hey Cordy,” he said with a mischievous smile.  “Dumped green paint on anyone lately?”

                “I was five!” she protested.

                Bill chuckled.  “Don’t worry, Cordy.  I won’t hold it against you—much,” he teased his godsister.

                Cordy rolled her eyes at him and Molly smiled at them.  “Yes, I daresay you remember Bill,” Molly said, “and Charlie as well—”

                “Why don’t I remember this ‘alleged’ green paint incident?” asked Charlie.

                “Too many bludgers to the head,” chorused all of his siblings and Tonks.

                “Bloody gits,” he muttered as he crossed his arms and slouched down into his chair.

                “Right,” said Molly, ignoring her moody son.  “Now, the twins—that’ll be Fred and George, dear—are going into their seventh year.  I daresay you may remember them as well, though they would have been just born when you…left us.”

                “Pasty?” asked twin number one (Fred) holding out the aforementioned food.

                “Pumpkin juice?” asked twin number two (George) holding out a pitcher of the drink.

                “Don’t take any food those two offer you,” interrupted the redheaded, honey brown-eyed girl.  “I’m Ginny, by the way, the baby of the family.”  She made a face of annoyance and Cordy smiled.  “I’m going into my forth year.  This git,” she reached across the bushy haired brunette girl and slapped her brother upside the head, “stuffing his face is Ron.  He’ll be a fifth year this year.”

                “Oi!” Ron exclaimed through his mouthful of food.  “What was that for, Gin?”

                Ginny and the brown-haired girl both rolled their eyes at him.  “Ronald is a bit dense, I’m afraid,” said the bushy haired girl.  “I’m Hermione Granger, by the way.  I’m one of Ron’s best friends.  Are you related to Mary Evans-Potter and Harry Potter, by any chance?”

                “From what I hear, yes,” replied Cordy.  “I’ve never actually met them, though.  James wasn’t even married last time I heard from him.”  There was a bit of an awkward silence following Cordy’s statement.

                Once again, Jessi was the one to break the silence.  “Not that this food isn’t absolutely delicious, Molly,” she said, rubbing her protruding stomach lovingly, “but you wouldn’t happen to have any peanut butter, would you?  Baby’s craving some again.”  Molly sighed, realizing that nothing was going to change the cravings of a pregnant woman (especially this pregnant woman), summoned the peanut butter jar and a spoon, and passed it along to the younger witch.  “Thanks, Molly,” she said, digging into the aforementioned peanut butter with relish.

                “So,” said Sirius with a mischievous smile, “while Jess here is otherwise occupied, can I get some name suggestions for my soon-to-be-born baby girl?”

                “How about Rose?” suggested Hermione.

                “Jessi’s forbidden any and all flower and plant names,” Sirius said.

                “Ooo, how about Olivia?” said Ginny.

                Jessi shook her head violently.  “That’s apparently a no,” translated Sirius.

                “Desdemona,” suggested Kingsley.

                “Jessi said no Shakespeare.”

                “Mary,” suggested George.

                “Cassiopeia,” suggested Fred.

                “One, Mary’s as good as my daughter and two, Cassi is my daughter.  That would just be too bloody confusing.”

                “Joan,” suggested Xander.

                “Too plain.”

                “Nzingha,” suggested Bill.

                “Too weird.”

                “Ainsley,” suggested Cordy.

                “Granddaughter’s name.”

                “Hope,” suggested Arthur.

                “Already got a Grace,” said Sirius.  “Jessi said no more virtues.”

                “Dragon,” suggested Charlie with an evil grin.

                “Hell no.”

                “Language, Sirius,” snapped Molly.

                “As much as I love that name, Molly, it’s not a very good name for a girl,” he replied.

                She glared at him.  “Samantha,” she snapped.

                “Already suggested by yours truly, got vetoed.”

                “Laura,” suggested Remus.

                “Again, already suggested and Jess said it was too plain.”

                “Kiki,” said Ron.

                “Ah—no.”

                “How about Andromeda?” said Tonks.

                Jessi stopped eating, her spoon halfway to her mouth.  “Merlin’s ugly orange socks, that’s bloody brilliant!” she exclaimed.

                Sirius stared at his lover for a moment, completely gobsmacked.  “You mean you actually found a name you like?”

                Jessi shrugged.  “Why not?” she said.  “She is your favorite cousin, after all.”

                “You guys know I wasn’t serious about that,” said Tonks.

                “That’s ‘cause I’m Sirius,” Sirius punned badly.

                “Shut up, Siri,” said Jessi, rolling her eyes at the black-haired animagus.  “It’s actually a brilliant suggestion, Tonks,” she said.  “And there’s no way in Hell I’m naming any kid of mine Nymphadora—no offense to you.”

                “Thank you, Jessi!” exclaimed Tonks.  “Oh, and none taken.”

                Jessi nodded at the metamorphmagus.  “Wouldn’t wish a name like that on anyone.”

                “I think it’s a lovely name,” piped in Remus.

                Jessi rolled her eyes at her best friend.  “You would, RJ,” she retorted.

                “What’s that supposed to mean, Sissi?” asked Remus, his amber eyes narrowing.

                “If you can’t figure it out on your own, then I’m certainly not going to tell you.”

                “But Sissi—”

                “Don’t you ‘but Sissi’ me, Remus John Lupin,” she snapped.  “You’re the one who can’t see what’s right in front of your bloody face, you stupid prat!”

                “What—?”

                “Figure it out, RJ!” she snapped.  “Now, baby Andi’s bloody tired so she and Mummy are going to go take a nap.  Don’t bother us.”  Without another word Jessi stood up and left the room, slamming the door behind her.

                “What’d she mean by that?” mused Remus.

                “Not a bloody clue,” shrugged Tonks.  Everyone else at the table hurried to bury themselves in their food, silently screaming at the clueless werewolf and metamorphmagus who were completely and totally in love with each other—and completely clueless.

Chapter Text

Chapter 12: The Evans Family

 

                June 30, 2003:  Willow had barely seen her oldest and best friend in the month since she and Xander had come to England.  Within the first week of being there, Xander had discovered his birth family and was more often than not off with them somewhere leaving Willow to her own devices.  Not that she begrudged him his happiness, she just missed him.  At first Willow was “forced” to wander around London by herself to keep herself amused.  Then, a mere six days ago, she ran into someone she had not expected to see again so soon, and in London of all places (she was thinking more like Istanbul): Oz.  Over the past week the two had reconnected and spent more time alone together than they had in years.  In fact, Willow was beginning to feel things that she hadn’t felt in a very long time—since Tara died, at least.  At first she tried to deny it, but now…she could no longer deny that she was once again falling head over heels for the stoic guitar-playing werewolf.

                Today Oz and Willow had decided to take a causal stroll through the streets of London.  After arguing and debating with herself the night before, Willow had finally decided to tell Oz exactly how she felt and their stroll was the perfect time to do so.  She was a bit nervous, to be sure.  Even though she was nearly one hundred percent certain that Oz still loved her, she just couldn’t stand to have her heart broken again so soon after Tara.  True, it had been over a year now since her death, but that kind of pain takes much longer to fade and even then it never truly disappears completely.

                The not-quite-a-couple was strolling down the street, occasionally brushing hands, which caused Willow to blush attractively.  Willow had finally worked up the courage to tell Oz exactly how she felt about him when the not-quite-a-couple was bowled over by a pair of teenage girls.  “Sorry, didn’t see you there,” said the first girl, her mischievous blue eyes boring into Willow’s emerald ones.

                “Yeah, sorry mates,” said the second (identical) girl, also locking her eyes on Willow.

                “Mary?” the strawberry-blonde twins (for there was no doubt that was what they were) asked together.  “What are you doing here?”

                “Um, sorry,” said Willow.  “I think you have the wrong person.  My name’s not Mary, its Willow.”

                “Willow?” the twins (it was quite obvious that that’s what they were) said.

                “You wouldn’t happen to know an Alexander Evans…” asked twin number one.

                “…or a Petunia Dursley…” asked twin number two.

                “…or a Lily Potter?” they asked together.

                “Um…yeah,” said Willow.  “They’re actually my brother and sisters.”

                “Auntie Will!” the twins screeched, launching themselves at the shorter redheaded woman.

                “Uh—do I know you?” asked Willow, frightened.  Oz was waiting silently on the sidelines, poised to protect Willow should she need him to.  Not that she wasn’t powerful (cause she was), he just felt very protective of her.

                “Oh, sorry,” the twins said together.

                “I’m Jordan Evans,” said twin number one.

                “I’m Taylor Evans,” said twin number two.

                “Alex Evans is our dad,” they said together.

                “Oh goddess!” exclaimed Willow, hugging the twins tight.  “I haven’t seen you two since you were babies!  You were shorter than me back then, not the other way around…”

                “We get that a lot,” the twins said in unison, smiling mischievously.

                Willow grinned at them.  “So, how have you been?” she asked.  “What have you two been up to?”

                “Playing pranks…” said Jor.

                “…causing trouble…” said Tay.

                “…creating chaos...”

                “…wreaking mayhem…”

                “…the usual,” they finished together with identical grins.

                Willow laughed.  “Sounds about right.  How’s your dad?” she asked.

                “He’s good,” said Tay.

                “He misses you,” said Jor.

                “He’s actually in the city tomorrow.”

                “Here’s his number.  He’d love to see you again.”

                “Thanks,” said Willow.

                “Welcome, mate,” the twins said together.

                “Well,” said Jor, “we’d love to stay and chat…”

                “…but we have to meet our boyfriends…” continued Tay.

                “…for a whole bloody day of ‘family fun’…”

                “…and other such nonsense…”

                “…ta!” they finished together before taking off down the street just as quickly as before.

                Willow shook her head in amusement at her nieces.  “Those girls are something else,” she said.

                “You gonna meet your brother?” asked Oz.

                “Yeah, I think I am.”

 

                July 1, 2003:  Willow was fidgeting with nervousness as she sat at a small table outside of a quaint little coffee shop in the middle of London.  She was going to be meeting her brother for the first time in fifteen years in less than ten minutes and goddess was she nervous. 

                “It's gonna be okay Willow,” said Oz, reaching across the table and holding her hands in his own.  “I’ll be nearby if you need me, I promise.”

                Willow gave a small smile.  “Thanks Oz,” she said.

                Oz gave her a genuine smile.  “Anything for you,” he replied.

                “IthinkI’mstillinlovewithyou,” Willow blurted out quickly before she could change her mind again.  Oz just stared at her, unfazed.  “I-I mean, I understand if you don’t feel the same,” Willow babbled, “and I won’t hold it against you, but I can’t help how I feel and I don’t know that I ever stopped and—”

                Oz finally silenced the petite redhead by leaning in and kissing her fiercely.  “I never stopped loving you either, Willow,” he said.

                “Really?”

                “Really.  But we’ll have to talk about us later—I think your brother’s here.”

                “How—”

                “He smells kinda like you.  Now, I’m just gonna go inside.  Call me if you need me.”  Oz gave Willow one more kiss before he headed inside.

                “Are you Willow?”  Willow looked up to see a tall, tanned, middle-aged brunette man with sparkling sapphire eyes staring at her.

                “Yup.  Willow’s me—I mean, I’m Willow.  Hey Alex.”

                Alex grinned and gave his baby sister a hug.  “It’s so good to see you again, Pixie.”

                Willow grinned.  “Goddess, it’s been so long since I’ve been called that.”

                Alex chuckled.  “I can imagine.  May I sit?”

                “Please,” replied Willow, motioning to the seat that Oz had just left.

                “So, Willow,” began Alex, “Petunia will be joining us soon.  I hope you don’t mind, but she dearly wanted to see you again.”

                “She does?” said Willow, surprised.  “I guess that’s fine.”

                “Good,” said Alex with a smile.  “So…was that your boyfriend I saw leaving?”

                Willow blushed bright red.  “W-well, we used to date.  In high school and freshman year of college, but we …broke up.  Now…we just kissed for the first time in three years.  We haven’t had a chance to talk about it yet.  I mean, I hope we will, but I can’t know for sure and I’m babbling now aren’t I?  I do that a lot, sorry.  My friends call it ‘Willow-babble.’  Oz used to think it was cute, but that was a long time ago and I’ll just be quiet now.”

                Alex chuckled.  “I almost forgot about that,” he said.  “You used to do that all the time—especially when you were first learning to talk or when you got really nervous about something.”

                “Really?”

                “Yes.  It’s an Evans trait.  The twins did it all the time.  They still do, actually.”

                Willow’s face broke into a grin.  “Do they always do the whole finishing each other’s sentences thing?” she asked.

                “Always,” replied Alex.

                “Weirdness.”

                “Willow?”

                Willow looked up from her conversation with Alex to see a tall, bony, horse-faced woman with short brown hair and familiar brown eyes standing over her.  “Tuney?” she gasped.

                The woman nodded and gave a tiny smile as Willow squealed, jumped up, and gave her a hug.  “It’s nice to see you too, Willow,” she said as Willow relinquished her hold on her.

                “How have you been, Tuney?” asked Willow, sitting back down.

                “I’ve been well, thank you,” replied Petunia.

                “That’s good,” said Willow.  “So…how are my nieces and nephews doing?”

                Alex’s smiled faltered for a fraction of a second.  “Taylor and Jordan are doing well,” he replied, coving up his momentary slip.  “They’re starting at Oxford this fall—a year early, I might add.  They both have steady boyfriends, for the most part, and steady jobs…oh, and they both made me a grandpa.”

                “Say what now!”

                “Taylor and her boyfriend James Clotaire have twin girls, Simone and Paris.  They’ll be two on the twenty-fifth.  And Jordan and her boyfriend Kale Bane have a son, Hale, the same age to the day as Taylor’s twins, and twins girls, Lani and Nani, who’re two months old this month.”

                “Wow, way to go gramps,” teased Willow.

                “Har har, very funny,” grumbled Alex.  “Especially since Hale and Tay’s twins are only a year younger than Emmy and Matt.”

                “Who?” asked Willow.

                “Ah, yes, you don’t know,” said Alex.  “Ana and I had another set of twins.  They’ll be three in August.  Emily and Matthew are their names.  Then a year later we had Crystal—now she was a complete surprise.  We also have a son, Mark, in-between the two sets of twins.  He just turned ten two weeks ago.”

                “Wow,” said Willow.  “Tell Ana I said congratulations.”  She then turned to Petunia and asked, “What about you, Tuney?”

                “Vernon and I only have one child, our son Dudley,” she replied primly.  “I believe I was pregnant with him at the time of your departure from us.  He’s nearly fifteen now.”

                “Ah, yes.  I remember.”

                “How have you been?” asked Alex.

                “Not too bad,” Willow replied.  “I made some amazing friends in Sunnydale, most of whom I’m still friends with to this day.  I dated a musician from the middle of my junior year of high school to the middle of my freshman year of college.  We broke up mid freshman year and I started seeing someone else.  But…she got killed in an accident right in front of me just over a year ago.  Now…well, after Sunnydale sank into the ground I came here with my oldest and bestest best friend and I ran into my ex again and I think we might be getting back together again.”

                “Willow, dear, you’re babbling,” said Petunia.

                “Oh, sorry,” she replied.  “I kinda do that a lot.  By the way, where’s Lily and why didn’t you guys write to me, like, EVER?”

                Alex and Petunia both shifted uncomfortably at the mention of their sister, but they chose to avoid the subject for a while longer.  “Willow,” said Alex, “we did write you, all three of us did.  We wrote you all the time, up until you turned fifteen.”

                “Why’d you stop?”

                “Ira and Sheila didn’t agree with something we did,” said Petunia.

                “Wha—”

                “We had your last name legally changed back to Evans and they couldn’t get it changed back to Rosenberg no matter how hard they tried, so they forbade us to write to you anymore,” explained Alex.

                “But—I never got any letters from you.  Ever.  And they never told me my name got changed back—thanks for that, by the way.”

                “You’re quite welcome, Pix,” said Alex.

                “I’m not surprised that your godparents withheld our letters from you,” scoffed Petunia.  “Mum and Dad were really the only ones who could ever stand them.  Pretentious gits,” she muttered darkly.

                “Too true…” muttered Willow.  Suddenly she realized something.  “Hey,” she said, “why are you two being all avoid-y about Lily?”

                Alex’s face fell and Tuney’s turned to stone.  “Willow,” began Alex, “Lily and James were killed fourteen years ago.”

                Tears began to form in Willow’s emerald huge emerald eyes.  “Wh-what?”

                “I’m sorry, Pixie,” said Alex, rubbing her arm in comfort, “but they were killed by an evil wizard by the name of Voldemort.”

                “Ember?  Ender?  Cody?”

                “Perfectly fine.  Ember and Ender grew up with their Aunt Regina and Cody was adopted by a very nice family,” soothed Alex.

                “Lily’s baby?”

                Here Alex grinned.  “Babies, actually,” he said.  “For once you were only half right.  Lily and James did have a son, but first came his twin sister.”

                “Are they okay though?” asked a teary-eyed Willow.

                “Yes,” Alex comforted her.  “I raised Mary until she started at Hogwarts four years ago and now Petunia has both Harry and Mary.  You see, I was transferred to America shortly before Lily’s death and we’re actually only here visiting and getting the twins settled in at school; we’ll be heading back at the end of August.”

                Willow nodded then said, “Mary and Harry—so that’s why Taylor and Jordan thought I was Mary?”

                “Yes,” said Petunia.  “She looks just like you and Lily, except she has her father’s eyes.”

                “And Harry?”

                “He looks just like James, but with yours’ and Lily’s eyes,” said Alex.

                “Oh.  But they’re alive and well, right?”

                “Yes,” both Alex and Petunia replied.

                “Good.”  Willow stood up.  “It was very nice to see you both again, but I think I need to go now,” she said mechanically.  “I-I think I need some time to-to process this—she was my first best friend, you know.”

                Alex and Petunia looked at each other.  “We understand,” said Alex, standing up and embracing his baby sister.

                “Don’t be a stranger,” said Tuney, doing the same.  “I still live in Surrey, if you need anything.”

                “Thank you,” Willow replied as she watched a green-haired Oz make his way over to her, as though he had sensed her pain and her need to leave.

                “You okay?” he asked as he came up to her and held her close.

                “No, I’m really not,” she sobbed as he led her away.

Chapter Text

Chapter 13: Full Moon at Number Twelve

 

July 12, 2003:  Willow and Oz had been officially dating and slowly rebuilding both their relationship and their mutual trust since the day that Willow had met with her siblings and found out about Lily’s death and they soon found themselves facing their first full moon cycle together since their early college days.

“Willow,” said Oz, “I need to talk to you about something.”

                “What is it, Oz?” said Willow as she snuggled closer to her boyfriend.

                Oz shifted slightly, the only indication that he was nervous.  “You know how I left to learn to control my wolf?”

                “Mm-hm.”

                “Well, after the accident with Tara, I found out that not transforming during the full moon would only hurt me and those I love in the long run.”

                “What are you saying?” asked Willow.

                “It’s just, the only way to stay in control of the wolf for the majority of the time is to transform during the full moon.”

                “I understand Oz, really I do,” said Willow.

                Oz kissed her lightly on the head.  “Thanks, Willow,” he said.

                “Welcome.  I love you, Oz.”

                “I love you too, Willow.”  The couple sat in silence for a while, simply enjoying each other’s presence.  Oz was the one to break the silence finally.  “Willow?”

                “Hm?”

                “You remember how I told you I was adopted?”

                Willow sat up.  “Did you find your family?” she asked.

                Oz nodded.  “I haven’t met them yet, though.”

                “Why not?”

                Oz shrugged.  “Bad timing, I guess.  But that wasn’t my point.  My family is magical, Wills, and they say I am too.  They all even went to some magic school—Hog-something—”

                “Hogwarts,” said Willow.  Oz looked at her curiously.  “Lily and James went there,” she explained.  “I was supposed to go too, Lily promised me since I was six that I would.  I even got my letter and everything, but Ira and Sheila wouldn’t let me go.  They hate magic.”

                “I’m sorry, Will.”

                “‘Skay.  So, what was your point again?”

                “Hm?  Oh, this werewolf I met last year wants me to join him in the fight against some evil wizard.  Voldemort, I think it was.”

                “The one who killed my sister and James?”

                Oz nodded.  “That’s the one.  I told Remus—the werewolf—that I’d come by and meet him this moon.”  He paused.  “I’d like you to come with me.”

                “Of course I’ll come with you,” replied Willow.  “When and where?”

                “In a few hours, here in London,” he replied.  “I have to show you the paper first.  It’s a spell of some sort that protects the house.”

                “Sure thing.”  Willow snuggled deeper into Oz.  “Do we have to go now?”

                “No.”

                “So we can have more snuggles and smoochies first?”

                “Always.”

                “I love you Oz.”

                “I love you too Willow, so much.”

 

                At a quarter to twelve, Willow and Oz stood in the middle of Grimmauld Place in London staring at the empty spot between Number Eleven and Number Thirteen.  “You sure it’s here?” asked Willow.  She could literally feel the dark magic from the spot seeping into her bones.  Oz nodded and handed her a piece of paper.  Willow read it and jumped, giving a small squeak, as Number Twelve Grimmauld Place appeared in the previously empty spot.  “Holy macaroni and cheese!” she exclaimed.  Oz made an expression of amusement at this.  “So this is the place, then?”

                Oz nodded.  “Let’s go knock, shall we?” he said, holding out his hand to her.  She took it and followed him up the steps to the door.

                Oz lifted his black-finger nailed hand and knocked firmly on the obsidian door.  A brief shriek could be heard through the door followed by hoarse yelling.  Finally the door creaked open revealing a tall black woman with short, magenta colored hair.  “Yes?” she said, glancing down at them.

                “I’m here to see Remus Lupin,” said Oz.  “He asked me to come by today.”

                “Of course,” said the woman, ushering them into the house.  “Quiet in the hallway, please—we don’t want to wake Mrs. Black.”  Oz nodded and he and Willow followed the woman into the dining room.  “You two can relax here.  Remus should be back shortly,” the magenta-haired woman said.

                “Thank you,” said Willow with a half-hearted smile, still processing the news of her sister’s death all these days later.  The woman nodded and left the room, leaving Oz and Willow sitting alone in the rather gloomy room.

                “It’s kinda creepy here,” whispered Willow, looking around the dimly lit room.

                “Yeah.”

                “How long do you think we’ll have to wait?”

                Oz shrugged.  “Dunno.”  Willow sighed.  Sensing his mate was uncomfortable, Oz pulled her to him and held her close.  Felling safe in his strong arms, Willow closed her eyes and snuggled closer.

                As the newly reunited couple sat in silence, drinking in each others presence as a flower drinks in the rays of the sun, they were joined in the dining room by a large, black man with a single gold hoop in his left ear.  “Long time, no see,” said Oz.

                Kingsley started and stared at the redheaded couple sitting at the table.  He hadn’t noticed them before, but now that he did he recognized the spiky-haired young man in front of him.  “Oz,” he said.  “What brings you here?”

                Oz shrugged.  “Meeting someone.”

                “Finally meeting your family, eh?  Your mum’ll be thrilled.”

                Oz started.  “They’re here?”

                “Isn’t that why you’re here?” asked Kingsley, puzzled.

                Oz shook his head.  “I’m here to meet a friend, actually.”

                “Oz,” said Willow, “since Sammy Jackson here says your family’s here, why don’t you go ahead and meet them while we wait?  Sorry, ‘bout the nickname, by the way.”

                “It’s quite alright,” said Kingsley with a smile.  “I’m Kingsley Shacklebolt.”

                “Nice to meet you, I’m Willow Rosen—Evans, sorry.  Willow Evans.  I’m Oz’s girlfriend.”

                “Pleasure to meet you Miss Evans.”

                “Same to you, Mr. Shacklebolt.  And it’s Willow.”

                “Kingsley, please.  Mr. Shacklebolt was my father.”

                “Alright, Kingsley.”

                “So, Oz, would you like to meet your parents now?” asked Kingsley.

                Oz looked to Willow.  “I think you should, Oz,” she said, holding his hand.  “It’ll be good for you.”

                Oz nodded in affirmation.  “Alright then,” said Kingsley.  “Why don’t I go get them?  You two just sit tight, ya?”

                As Kingsley left the room, Willow turned to Oz and asked, “Do you want me to stay?  ‘Cause I can stay if you want me to.  Or I can leave.  Do you want me to leave?  I’ll understand, you know.  I’ll just leave now, ‘cause of course you want me to—”  Willow was shut up as Oz kissed her fiercely on the mouth.

                “Stay,” he said, “please.”

                Willow grinned brightly at him.  “Okay.”

                Oz smiled back at her.  “Thank you.”

                “Anything for you, Oz.”

                “You’re the best.”

                “And don’t you forget it, mister,” she teased.

                Oz chuckled as Kingsley reentered the room.  “You ready to meet your parents?” he asked.

                Oz nodded a lot more calmly than he actually felt.  “He’s ready,” Willow told Kingsley.

                Kingsley smiled at the younger man.  “Don’t worry, they’ll love you,” he reassured Oz.  He then turned to the door to the kitchen and said, “He’s ready now.  You can come on out.”

                Oz, still clutching tightly to Willow’s hand, and Willow stood up to face the redheaded couple that had just stepped into the room.  Looking at Oz’s parents was almost like looking at a future version of themselves.  Oz’s father was a tall, thin, kindly-looking man with clear blue eyes that sparkled with laughter.  He was balding and what red hair remained was lightly peppered with grey.  He, like his wife, had a multitude of freckles peppering his ivory skin and his face was careworn, but still retained an air of youth and playfulness about it.  Oz’s mother was a short, pleasantly plump, very motherly-looking woman whose short red waves were only slightly peppered with grey.  Her kind, honey-brown eyes were set in her love-filled face as she stared longingly at her long-lost son.

                “Oz,” said Kingsley, interrupting their ‘staring contest,’ “I’d like you to meet your parents, Molly and Arthur Weasley.  Molly, Arthur, meet your son Daniel—Oz, sorry—and his girlfriend, Willow Evans.”

                Willow, seeing that Oz was still trying to compose himself, said, “It’s wonderful to meet you, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley.  Oz has been looking for you for so long.”

                “Please, dear,” said Molly as Kingsley quietly left the room, “call us Molly and Arthur.”

                “Alright,” said Willow, “as long as you call me Willow, none of this ‘Miss Evans’ stuff.”

                Arthur chuckled.  “I think we can do that, Willow,” he said.  “It’s very nice to meet you.”

                “Thank you,” said Willow before elbowing her lycanthropic boyfriend in the ribs.  “Oz, don’t you have anything to say?” she prodded.

                “Hey,” the redheaded werewolf said.

                That one simple word jerked Molly out of her statue-like silence.  She burst out sobbing and rushed over to Oz, pulling him into a ‘Mrs. Weasley hug’ and holding him tightly to her as if she was afraid he would disappear if she let go.  “Oh, my baby!” she sobbed loudly as she clung to her second-born son.

                “It’s okay, Mum,” Oz said, patting her back soothingly.

                “Molly,” said Arthur, amusement in his voice, “let the poor boy go before you hug him to death.”

                “Oh,” sniffed Molly, calming down a bit, “I’m sorry Daniel.”

                “‘Salright, Mum,” he said with a slight grin.

                “Welcome back son,” said Arthur, smiling, as he pulled Oz into a manly hug.

                “Thanks Dad,” said Oz with a small smile as Arthur too let him go.

                Molly then proceeded to give Willow a hug too.  “Thank you for bringing Daniel back to us, dear,” she said.

                Willow blushed, embarrassed.  “Please, Molly, I really didn’t do anything,” she protested.

                “Nonsense,” said Molly, brushing the younger witch off.  “You’ve done plenty just by staying by his side and supporting him.  I can see how much you two care about each other.”  Willow blushed again and Oz smiled at her. 

Arthur smiled at them and said, “Why don’t the four of us sit down and talk for a bit, eh?  Molly, love, would you fetch us some tea please?”

“Of course, darling,” replied Molly, summoning four teacups and a teakettle.

Willow gaped in awe.  “That’s so cool, Molly!” she said in excitement.  “What spell is that?”

                “It’s just a simple Accio, dear.  A summoning charm.”

                “Are you a muggle, then?” asked Arthur.

                Willow shook her head.  “No,” she said, “I’m muggleborn.  My big sister told me I was a witch when I was six.  She was one too.  I figured out that I was magical when I was four, though.  I kinda overheard my sister talking to my parents about it.  I started reading my sister’s old schoolbooks as soon as she officially told me and soon after that I could control my accidental magic.  Which would technically be a misnomer, ‘cause if you do it on purpose it’s not actually accidental, now is it?  And I’m babbling again, aren’t I?”  Oz nodded in affirmation.  “Right.  Well, anyway, I stopped using magic when I was seven ‘cause my guardians hated it and I didn’t start practicing again till I was seventeen.  I’ve been practicing pretty much ever since then, though.”

                “Didn’t you go to a magic school, dear?” asked Molly.

                Willow shook her head.  “No,” she said.  “I got my Hogwarts letter when I was eleven, just like my sister promised, but my guardians wouldn’t let me go.”

                “They don’t like magic, I take it,” said Arthur.

                “Exactly,” said Willow.  “They’re horrible about it.  Even my magic-hating sister Tuney—er, Petunia—thinks they go over the top with it.  I remember that message.  When she found out they were going to let me go untrained she chewed them out pretty bad over the phone.  I think that’s the only time she’s ever defended magic.”

                “Wait,” said Molly, “you’re surname’s Evans, correct?”

                “That’s me.”

                “So, would your sister happen to be one Petunia Dursley?”  Willow could hear the disgust in Molly’s voice.

                “She is,” said Willow.  Before Molly could say anything more, Willow held up her hand and added, “If you know her, I’m sure you think she’s just some awful bigoted person, but she’s really not all that bad.  She’s always been there for me, even with the whole witchy thing.  True, she became more distant after she found out, but she’s never outright abandoned me.  She’s hurting, is all.  Tuney and Lily were very close, so I’m told, before Lily went off to Hogwarts, and Tuney felt left out and alone when she left.  By that time Alex was already in college and our parents were desperately trying to have another child—this was long before I was born.  Tuney just felt jealous ‘cause she was left behind and I think she may have felt a bit ignored too.”

                “Hm,” said Molly.  “I still don’t much care for that woman.”

                “I respect that,” said Willow, “but I can’t help that I feel differently.  I’ve only seen her once since I was seven, but I can see that she has grown colder.  I think she’s never truly gotten over Lily’s death.  Or there could be something that happened in the year between when I left and when she died ‘cause Tuney and Lily were still on semi-speaking terms when I was sent away.”

                Oz, seeing that this particular conversation wasn’t going to end well, decided to breach a new subject.  “So Dad,” he said, “what’s your opinion on werewolves?”

                “They’re just the same as everyone else except for three nights out of the month, why?  Do you have something against them, son?” asked Arthur, quirking his eyebrow, as he and Molly stared intently at Oz.

                Willow took Oz’s hand.  “Not particularly, no,” replied Oz.

                “Oh, that’s good,” said Arthur, relaxing a bit.  “Sorry about that.  We have a close friend who’s a werewolf.  Why did you want to know, anyway?”

                Oz looked his parents straight in the eye, took a chance, and said, “I’m a werewolf.”

                “Oh my poor baby!” Molly cried, launching herself at her shortest (yes, he was without a doubt the shortest) son and hugging him tight.

                “When did it happen?” asked Arthur.

                “I was eighteen,” he replied as he patted his mother on the back to comfort her.

                “How?” asked Molly, letting go of her son, wiping her eyes dry, and staring at him intently.

                “I was babysitting my cousin Jordy,” he explained.  “Apparently he doesn’t like to be tickled.”  Oz held up his right index finger to show the tiny scar.

                “But if he wasn’t transformed—” began Arthur.

                “Apparently if you’re born a werewolf you don’t have to be transformed to infect someone else,” Oz explained.  “When I called my Aunt Maureen, she told me that she got pregnant with Jordy one summer she spent here in England.  She didn’t find out till after he was born that Fenrir was a werewolf.  Her mum was a witch, so she wasn’t left in the dark.  Gramma Nellie had to explain it to her after Jordy’s first full moon.  She had never told Aunt Maureen or Nancy—my adopted mum—about magic because neither of them had ever shown any.”

                “Wair—Fenrir?” said Arthur.  “Fenrir Greyback?”

                “I think so, why?”

                Arthur and Molly exchanged a fearful glance.  “Fenrir Greyback is the most vicious werewolf there is,” explained Molly.  “He delights in biting small children, especially those whose parents have displeased him in some way, and raising them to hate humans.”

                “He’s sided with You-Know-Who—er, V-Voldemort—and he uses the fear he inspires in others along with his own influence over the werewolf population to turn as many werewolves as possible against humans and make them think that You-Know-Who is the solution to their problems.”

                “Huh,” said Oz.

                “It’s such a shame,” sighed Molly, “but there’s only so much that Remus can do—he’s just one man, after all.”

                Just then the magenta-haired witch who had answered the door popped her head in the room.  “Molly,” she said, “Remus just fire-called.  He said they’re running a bit late.  Something about Finn and peanut butter, he started ranting just as the twins started fighting, so I didn’t quite catch what he was talking about.”

                “Thank you, Mya,” said Molly, smiling at the tall black woman.  “Is there anything else you needed?”

                Mya shuffled a bit.  “Actually, yes,” she said.  “I just got a call from work—they said something about an unidentified charm—and I really need someone to watch Charli and CJ for me.”

                “It’s not a problem, dear,” said Molly waving her off.  “I’m sure Ginny and Hermione will be up to it—and I’ll be here to help too, of course.”

                “Thank you so much, Molly,” said Mya.  “Tell the girls thank you too.  Just please make sure no one charms the twins hair again.  I still haven’t figured out what Chloe did to them and herself last summer, and I’m a charms expert!”

                “Their hair is still red?” asked Molly with a frown.

                Mya nodded.  “And the top layer of Chloe’s is still blue,” she added.  “Sadly enough, Mum and Dad Chance still haven’t even noticed and Chloe’s not even in school yet, so they don’t even have the excuse of her being away most of the year for their un-perceptiveness.”

                Molly pursed her lips and frowned disapprovingly at the mention of Mya’s in-laws.  “They’ve changed so much since Chase’s death,” she said.

                Mya’s mocha eyes took on a saddened look.  “So have Bill and I, Mum Weasley,” she said.  “He was my husband, after all, and Bill’s best friend.  Chandler, Charisma, and Chloe have all changed too.  I just thank Merlin that our babies are still to young to truly understand what happened to their daddy.”  She glanced over quickly at the clock on the wall.  “Oh shit!” she exclaimed.  “Sorry, Mum Weasley, I gotta go.  I’ll talk to you later.  Thanks again for the help!  Bye!”  Mya turned on the spot and disapparated from Number Twelve with a loud CRACK.

                “I’m sorry dears,” said Molly, standing up, “but we’ll have to cut our conversation short.  I need to let Hermione and Ginny know that they are responsible for Charli and Chase this afternoon.”

                “Of course, Molly,” said Willow.  “Can I meet them?  How old are they?  Are Charli and Chase two boys or a boy and a girl?  I absolutely adore little kids!”

                “Will, one question at a time, baby,” said Oz, placing his hand on her arm.

                “Oh, right.  Sorry Molly.”

                “It’s quite alright, dear,” assured the ever-kindly Mrs. Weasley.  “Charli and Chase Jr. are five, Charli’s a girl and Chase is, of course, a boy, and of course you can meet them.  Later, though, after you’ve talked with Remus.  Speaking of—Arthur, when Remus and the rest return, please make sure they all have a good meal—especially Remus and Jessica.  Oh, and do not let Jessica eat only peanut butter again.  She has a baby to take care of, after all.”

                “Yes dear,” replied Arthur.

                “Good.  Now, I’m going to go check on the children.  Willow, Daniel, don’t let Arthur bother you too much about muggle things.  I’ll be back later.”  With one last warning glare at her muggle-loving husband, Molly left the dining room.

                “So…who was the pink-haired lady?” asked Oz, breaking the semi-awkward silence.

                “Who, Mya?” said Arthur.  “Oh, she’s your brother’s Bill’s close friend and his late best friend’s widow.  Mya Chance is a charms expert, the best Gringotts, the wizarding bank, has seen in decades.”

                “She seems nice,” commented Willow.

                “Oh, she is,” agreed Arthur.  “She’s a strong woman, our Mya.  She and Chase were Hogwarts sweethearts, much like Molly and I.  They married right after Chase graduated—Mya was a year behind him and Bill—and had their twins shortly thereafter.  Then three years ago Chase was killed by a rogue Death Eater—one of You-Know-Who’s followers—in Egypt as he was coming home from Gringotts one night.  Mya was devastated and Bill blamed himself because he had decided to work late that night instead of heading home with Chase as usual.  But Mya persevered.  She’s been doing a bloody amazing job of raising her twins, not to mention her brother-in-law and two sister-in-laws since, and of course Bill helps her as much as he can.”

                “Did someone say my name?”

                Arthur grinned and Willow and Oz whirled around to see a tall redheaded man sporting a fang earring.  He stood in the doorway with his arms crossed, his long hair pulled back in a low ponytail, and a grin plastered on his tanned and freckled face.  “Hello Bill,” said Arthur, greeting his eldest son.  “I was just telling this fine young couple here about Mya.”

                Still grinning like mad, Bill sauntered over and casually slid into an empty chair.  “Ah yes,” he said.  “She’s a bloody amazing woman, that one.  I actually just ran into her as I was leaving Gringotts.  She was chatting up her brothers when I saw her.  Kai just wanted her attention—he’ll be four next month, you know—but I think Lee was trying to convince her to bring him back here with her tonight so that he could visit with Fred and George.”

                “That’s just what we need,” groaned Arthur, “Lee Jordan reunited with his partners in crime in a confined space.  Your mum’ll positively murder me if that happens.”

                “Oh, don’t worry Dad,” said Bill with a grin, stretching his lanky frame and locking his hands behind his head, “I’m pretty sure she shot that idea down bloody quick.”

                “Good,” said Arthur, relieved.

                “So—I’m Bill Weasley, curse breaker for Gringotts,” he said, introducing himself to Willow and Oz.  “You are?”

                “I’m Willow Evans,” said Willow, “Wiccan-witch extraordinaire.”

                “Oz,” said Oz simply.

                “Just Oz?” teased Bill.

                “Bill, this is your brother Daniel,” said Arthur.

                Bill’s bright blue eyes widened in surprise.  “Bloody hell!” he exclaimed, grinning like mad.  “It’s absolutely smashing to meet you, mate.”

                “You too,” said Oz, a hint of a smile on his pale, lightly-freckled face.  “So you’d be my big brother then?”

                “Yup.  I’m the oldest Weasley—sadly though, not the tallest.  That particular honor currently belongs to the twin terrors—er, I mean to Fred and George.”

                “Ah.  I’m pretty sure I’m the shortest,” said Oz.

                “Oh really?  Charlie’s pretty damn short, you know.”

                “Only compared to you, Ron, and the twins,” said Arthur.

                “I’m five four,” said Oz.  “Even Willow’s taller than me.”

                “Oh.  You’re right, you are the shortest,” said Bill.  “You’re even shorter than Gin.  Sorry mate.”

                “‘Skay.  I’m used to it,” Oz said with a shrug.  “I’ve resigned myself to being the stoic, short, werewolf brother.”

                “Wait, you’re a werewolf?” said Bill.

                “For five years now.”

                “Oh.”

                “It’s no big; I’ve accepted the wolf as part of who I am now.”

                “Well, that’s good…”

                Suddenly there was a great clamor of noise from the front parlor.  “Sounds like they’re back,” said Arthur wryly as the sound of bickering grew louder and closer.

                “Sirius, you sodding son of a bitch, get your pasty white arse back here right now!”

                “Overreacting?  I’m overreacting?”

                “What the hell was that all about, doofus?!”

                “So then I said ‘no, I’m not seeing anyone’…”

                “…and I said ‘what makes you think she’d want you?’…”

                “Seriously, you need to learn to control your violent impulses, Mel.”

                “Well, forgive me for having thoughts, oh mighty bitch queen!”

                “Like hell I will, you crazy bint!  You’re gonna bloody murder me!”

                “C’mon Moonlet, let’s leave these crazies alone,” said Remus as he slipped into the dining room with a small, yet strangely tall, boy who looked like a darker version of a young Remus, right down to the sickliness.

                The boy, who looked about seven but for his height, shook his shaggy chestnut brown hair out of his large, amber eyes and stared mournfully at Remus with said heart melting eyes.  “Daddy, is Mummy mad at me?” he asked.

                “Of course not, Moonlet,” said Remus, bending down to look his son in the eyes.  “Why on earth would you think that?”

                Moonlet stared down at his shoes and mumbled, “Mummy’s been mad since she came back from the Ministry this morning.”  He looked up and stared worriedly at his father.  “Am I not allowed to go to Hogwarts after all?” he asked.

                Remus raised his eyebrow at the small boy.  “Why on earth would you think that, Finn?” he asked.  “Of course you’re going to Hogwarts, son.”

                “Really?”

                “Really, really.”

                Finn gave a squeal of delight and launched himself at Remus, nearly knocking him over in the process.  “Thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou!” he exclaimed.

                Remus chuckled.  “You are quite welcome, Moonlet, though I had little to do with it.  You should thank your mother for this one.  Now, go sit down and have something to eat while we wait for Sir and your sisters to stop bickering amongst themselves.”

                “Yes Daddy,” replied Finn.

                Remus chuckled and gave his son a big hug.  As he straightened up, he finally noticed that he and Finn were not alone in the room.  “Hello Arthur,” he said, glancing at Willow and Oz.  “I didn’t realize we had guests.”

                Arthur chuckled.  “Apparently you’re not the only one,” he said, gesturing to the hallway where they could still hear yelling and cursing (“Sirius Orion Black, you sodding bastard, you are a complete git!”—“Bloody hell, woman, give your damn trap a rest, will ya!”).

                “Touché, Arthur,” said Remus.  He then turned his attention to Willow and Oz and said, “I apologize for my, er, friends—and I do use that term quite loosely at the moment.  I’m afraid Sirius doesn’t get out much these days and he’s gotten Jessica pregnant, so neither one is very pleasant to be around at the moment.”  He, Oz, and Finn all flinched simultaneously as the not-so-far off shriek of Mrs. Black joined the cacophony of noise in The Noble and Most Ancient House of Black.

                “It’s no problem,” said Willow as she rubbed Oz’s back soothingly.  “I’m Willow Evans, by the way.”

                “Remus Lupin.”

                “Oh!  You’re the one Oz came here to see!  Oz, Oz—he’s here!”

                “Calm down, baby,” said Oz.  “I can see that.”

                “You came to see—” began Remus.

                “Wait!” interrupted Willow.  “Remus Lupin?”

                “Yes, that’s my name.”

                “Do you by any chance have twins named Ember and Ender?”

                “Well, yes, but how did you—”

                Willow squealed in delight.  “Oh goddess!” she exclaimed.  “How are they?  I haven’t seen them since they were nine months old!”

                “And you would be—?”

                “Willow Evans, their aunt.  Lily is—was—my sister.”

                Remus’s amber eyes went wide.  “Willow?!  My goodness, it’s been a long time, hasn’t it?”

                “Yes, yes it has.  Are they doing well?”

                “Quite well, yes.  They’re seventeen now and going into their last year at Hogwarts.  They should be coming by in a week or two, actually.”

                “Well, hopefully I’ll get to see them then,” said Willow.  “But I’m bogarting your time now—Oz is the one who came to see you, after all.”

                “Yes, yes.  Oz, was it?” Remus said, turning his attention to the redheaded man sitting beside Willow.

                Oz nodded in affirmative.  “Oz Weasley, I guess,” he said.

                Remus raised his eyebrow in surprise.  “Weasley?” he asked.

                “I’m his long-lost son,” he said, motioning to Arthur.  “My name’s actually Daniel, but I just go by Oz.”

                Remus suddenly realized why Oz looked and smelled so familiar.  “You’re that werewolf I met in Devon last year,” he stated.

                “Yup,” replied Oz.  “I remembered your offer and after what I’ve heard happened to Willow’s family, I’m more than willing to do whatever I can to help.”

                Remus gave Oz a genuine smile.  “I’m very pleased to head that,” he said.  “I’ll inform Albus tomorrow and we will arrange for your induction as soon as possible—yours too, if you’d like, Willow.”

                “Induction in what?” asked Willow.

                “The Order of the Phoenix,” explained Arthur.  “It’s an organization headed by Albus Dumbledore that is dedicated to the fight against You-Know-Who.”

                “I’m definitely in then,” said Willow.  “That son of a bitch killed my big sister.”

                “Well said, Willow,” said Remus, “but I would be ever so grateful if you would please refrain from using such language in the presence of my eleven-year-old son.  He gets enough of that from his mother.”

                “Oh!” exclaimed Willow.  “I’m so sorry!  I didn’t mean—I didn’t realize I was so loud!”

                “You weren’t,” spoke up Finn.  “I’m a werewolf, like my daddy.”

                “Oh, well, I still shouldn’t have said that—er, sorry, I don’t know your name.”

                “Finn Lupin, Miss Evans.  It’s very nice to meet you.”

                “Oh!  Such a polite little boy!  You can call me Willow, if you’d like, Finn.”

                “Okay, Willow,” he said with a smile, glad to have found someone outside of his family who didn’t care that he was a werewolf.

                “And I really am sorry about before,” said Willow.

                “It’s alright, Willow,” Finn insisted.  “Mummy says much worse all the time.  So does Uncle Padfoot and Liana and Mel and Sir and Jasson and—”

                Remus reached over and covered his son’s mouth, cutting him off.  “That’s enough of that, Finn,” he said, blushing.

                “Yes Daddy,” he said as Remus let him go.

                “Good.  Now, as soon as Sir and your sisters get in here, we need to take our potion.  Do you take Wolfsbane, Oz?”

                “What’s that?” asked Oz and Willow together.

                “Well, Wolfsbane is a fairly recent discovery.  It’s a potion that, when taken the week preceding the full moon, allows a werewolf to keep his or her mind during the transformation.”

                Oz glanced at Willow.  “That sounds much better than other remedies I’ve found,” he said.  “Would it actually do anything if I took it tonight?”

                Remus shrugged.  “It might, but then again it might not.  Since you’ve never taken it before, there’s no way to say for certain if it will work or not.  You could try it, though.  The worst that could happen is that you will transform as usual and—if you chose to stay here—Sirius and I will be able to prevent you from hurting anyone if it doesn’t take.”

                Oz looked at Willow.  “You should try it, Oz,” said Willow.  “It could be good for you.”

                Oz nodded once.  “Okay, I’ll do it.”

                Remus smiled.  “Good choice, Oz.  Don’t worry,” he added, placing a gentle hand on the younger wolf’s shoulder, “you won’t be alone tonight.”

                “Yeah,” piped in Finn.  “Calli and Cleo are transforming with us tonight and Uncle Padfoot always stays with us too.  Is Mummy staying with us tonight, Daddy?”

                Remus shook his head, his graying sandy-brown hair falling into his eyes as he did so.  “No cub,” he said.  “Mummy can’t come again till she has the baby.  We don’t want baby Andi getting hurt, now do we?”

                “No,” huffed the eleven-year-old werewolf, pouting as he sank down into his seat.

                “I’m sorry son,” Remus said, “but that’s just the way it has to be.  Besides, once you’re off to Hogwarts, she won’t be able to be with you either.  However, maybe, if you ask him nicely, Sir will join us tonight.”

                Finn’s amber eyes lit up at the thought.  “He’ll be Midnight for me?” he asked.

                “If you ask nice enough, maybe I will,” said a new voice from the doorway.

                “Sir!” squealed Finn, launching himself at his black-haired half-brother.  “Please, please, please, please stay!  Please!

                Sir chuckled and ruffled Finn’s shaggy hair.  “Sure I’ll stay, squirt,” he said.

                “And I’m sure a certain blonde daughter of mine has absolutely nothing to do with this decision of yours, does she Sirius?” said Remus with a raise of his eyebrow.

                Sir averted his grey eyes and ran his tanned hand through his short, spiky hair.  “Well,” he admitted,  “she may have something to do with it.”

                “That’s what I thought.”

                “Sorry Uncle Moony,” he said with a lopsided grin, “I can’t help it; your daughter’s hot!  She’s a bloody goddess, she is!”

                Remus closed his eyes and turned his face to the ceiling.  “I don’t need to hear anything more about you and my daughter, Sirius,” he said.

                “What about Sir and Cleo?” asked the tall girl who had just walked into the room.  She had wavy dark brown (almost black) hair that fell down to her waist and her big chocolate eyes were flecked with grey.  She wore low rise, hip-hugging blue jeans, black heeled boots, and a bright orange, low-cut vest-shirt that brought out the honey tint in her tanned skin beautifully.

                “Hello again, Melody,” said Remus.  “Sirius and I were just discussing how I don’t want to know what he does with my daughter when I’m not around.”

                “Please, Uncle Moony,” scoffed Mel, rolling her eyes, “everyone knows what those two do when they’re alone.  I mean, Jo’s, what, two now and Cleo’s gonna pop out another sprog any day now—”

                “I’d rather remain in denial, thank you,” said Remus, interrupting Mel’s tirade.

                “I hear the weather’s nice there,” Mel said.

                “Mel?”

                “Yes, Uncle Moony?”

                “Do shut up.”

                Mel rolled her eyes.  “It’s so your time of the month.”

                “No shit, Sherlock.”

                “See!” 

                Remus just rolled his eyes and decided to ignore his “niece” for the time being.  He was in luck because just then in walked his identical twin daughters, Callista and Cleopatra (who was as large as a house because of the baby), their long, silver-blonde hair billowing behind them in some invisible breeze and their mysterious amber eyes staring right at him.

                “Good evening Daddy…” said Calli.

                “…you’re looking particularly stressed tonight…” said Cleo.

                “…was it perhaps…”

                “…something dear Melody…”

                “…has said to you concerning…”

                “…my relationship with dear Sirius?”

                Remus rolled his eyes at his unnaturally un-hormonal pregnant daughter and her twin.  Even transforming into a raging beast three nights out of every month didn’t phase them and to be quite frank it got on his nerves that they could be so calm and collected at this time of the month while he and Finn were reduced to ill-tempered, childish behavior.  “I’d rather not talk about it,” he said shortly.

                “Alright Daddy…”

                “…as you wish.”

                “Who are your lovely new friends, Daddy?”

                “One is a werewolf, the other his mate.”

                Willow blushed at that.  She had suspected as much, but Oz hadn’t yet told her for sure.  “I meant to tell you earlier, baby,” Oz whispered in her ear, “but I wasn’t sure how you felt.  All I want is for you to be happy, Willow.  Even if that means you’re with someone who’s not me.”  Okay, so now he had.

                Willow smiled lovingly at her boyfriend and kissed him deeply.  “I love you Oz,” she whispered.  “You’re my one and only.  To be honest, I was kinda suspecting it was something like this, but I figured you’d tell me when you were ready.  I am curious though—how and when—”

                “Did it happen?  It was during freshman year, before the whole Veruca thing.  We, er, marked each other when we were having sex.”

                “But I’m not—”

                Oz shook his head.  “No.  I checked it out, and for some strange reason, a mating mark doesn’t infect a non-lycanthropic mate with lycanthropy, even with a born werewolf.  Besides, it’s not like I was transformed when we did it.  And anyway, it’s some whole magical-mystical thing—the books weren’t really clear on that point.”

                “Oh, okay,” said Willow.  “Well, now that we’ve got that cleared up, I’m Willow Evans,” she said cheerfully to the newcomers, “and this is Oz Weasley, my boyfriend.”

                “Pleasure to meet you…”

                “…Willow Evans and Oz Weasley…”

                “…I am Callista Lupin, soon to be Callista Niles…”

                “…and I am Cleopatra Lupin.”

                “Sirius Black Martini, rising sixth year,” threw in the black haired boy.  “I’m Cleo’s boyfriend.  And this lovely lady,” he added, gesturing to the shorter (by an inch) brunette woman beside him, “is my big sister and best friend Melody Black, recent Hogwarts graduate.”

                “Hey,” she said by way of greeting.

                “Nice to meet you,” said Willow at the same time that Oz said, “Hey.”

                Mel was staring intently at Oz, like a huntress stalking her prey.  “You wanna shag me?” she said suddenly.

                “Melody Kathleen Black!” snapped Sirius, his face a lovely shade of lobster red.  “That is completely inappropriate, not to mention unbelievably rude!”

                “Sorry,” she grumbled, not sounding sorry at all.  “It’s just I haven’t had a decent shag since last Tuesday.”

                Sir stared at his favorite sister incredulously.  “You have an eleven-day old son at home Mel,” he said.  “Are you trying to get yourself pregnant again?”  Mel just shrugged.  “And you can’t just go around propositioning guys you’ve just met for sex!”

                “It worked at Hogwarts,” she said flatly, as if there were absolutely no problem with doing so.

                Sir rolled his eyes at her.  “I’m so sorry,” he apologized to Willow and Oz.  “I’m afraid Mel has some major issues—please excuse her.  I’m still working on training her on what is and isn’t appropriate to say to people —she gets it from our mum, you see.  She never learned either.”

                “‘Salright,” said Oz, shrugging the whole thing off.  “I’m perfectly happy with my Willow, though.”

                Willow smiled brightly at her mate.  “You’re so sweet, Oz,” she said.  Oz just smiled back at her and kissed the top of her head.

Mel rolled her eyes.  “Ugh,” she groaned, “I’m surrounded by lovey-dovey couples.”

                “Melody,” said Remus, “that’s quite enough.  No more talk of s-e-x in front of the child.”

                “He’s old enough for it,” said Melody, all emotion gone from her voice.

                “He’s only eleven, Mel.”

                “So?”

                Remus glared at the brown-haired beauty who had sometimes been called the Heartbreaker of Hogwarts (and, in less kindly circles, the Whore of Hogwarts).  “Just stop, alright,” he barked, his feral amber eyes flashing dangerously.

                “Whatever, Uncle Moony,” Mel said emotionlessly as she rolled her eyes.

                Remus was spared from having to think of a comeback by the arrival of two very loud, bickering couples: Sirius-and-Jessi and Xander-and-Cordy.

                “Shut your fucking mouth you bloody wanker!  There’s no way in hell you’re getting some tonight!”

                “Oh, like you’re one to talk, mister demon-magnet!”

                “I’ll say whatever the bloody hell I want to say, you crazy bint!”

                “What the hell’s that supposed to mean, your queenliness?!”

                Remus cleared his throat loudly.  “In case you children were unaware, we have guests and small children here, though the actual children are acting far more mature than you four are.  Please refrain from using such language in their presence.”

                Four guilty faces turned to the floor.  “Sorry RJ/Remus/Moony/Remy,” they chorused.

                “Thank you,” said Remus.  “Now, everyone sit down and shut the hell up!”  Hearing the slight growl in the alpha wolf’s voice, Jessi, Sirius, Xander, Cordy, Sir, Mel, Calli, and Cleo all quickly complied and sat down silently at the table.  “Good,” said Remus, his patience by now completely gone.  “Now Mel, I believe you have the Wolfsbane for us, correct?”

                “Aye, aye, mon cap-i-tan,” she said.

                “Really not a good time Mellie,” whispered Sir.

                Mel just rolled her eyes.  “Whatever Sir,” she said.  She reached into the front pocket of her jeans and pulled out a tiny cauldron.  “Engorgio,” she muttered and the cauldron grew to normal size.  “There should be enough there for one extra wolf,” she said.  “Can I go now?”

                “Yes you may, Melody.  Thank you,” said Remus.  Mel nodded awkwardly and left the room, shutting the door quietly behind her. 

                After Mel left, Sir dished out the potion into five separate non-silver goblets and handed them to the werewolves.  “Just to warn you,” said Remus to Oz, “it tastes rather disgusting, but there’s really nothing to do about that.”

                Oz nodded and downed the potion quickly.  He shuddered as he swallowed.  Remus wasn’t joking; it was the nastiest thing he’d ever tasted.

                “You good baby?” Willow asked

                Oz nodded.  “Go see him, Wills; I know you want to.”

                Willow gave Oz a quick peck on the cheek and stood up, walking over to Xander, who was currently locked in a staring contest with Cordelia.  Tapping his shoulder on his blind side and causing him to break their staring contest (“Hah!  Take that, Tonks!  I win!”), Willow scowled playfully at her oldest and bestest friend and teased, “Some Xander-shaped friend you are, abandoning your bestest best bud to big bad London and keeping her out of the loop.  That right there goes against the bestest best friend code of 1989.”

                Upon hearing her voice, Xander grinned and jumped up from his seat, crushing the petite redhead in a ginormous Xander hug.  “Wills!” he exclaimed.  “What are you doing here?!”

                “Having—trouble—breathing—Xander!”

                “Oops.  Sorry Wills,” Xander said, letting go of Willow so that she could get some much-needed oxygen.  “So…what are you doing here, Wills?”

                “I’m here with Oz, actually.”

                “Oz-Oz?  As in ex-boyfriend Oz?”

                “No,” said Cordy.  “Another short werewolf named Oz.  God Xander, what do you think?  By the way, it’s great to see you two again, Willow, Oz.”

                “Same,” said Oz.

                “Oh, right.  Hi Cordy,” said Willow.  “Glad to see you up and about and not all comatose.”

                “You and me both.”

                Willow laughed and went to give Cordy a hug.  “I’m glad you’re better,” she said.  “I gotta say, though, this is the last place I’d ever expect to run into you.  This place reeks of dark magic, by the way.  Any particular reason for that?”

                Sirius gave a bark-like laugh.  “Welcome to The Noble and Most Ancient House of Black, Evans,” he said.

                “Willow, my name’s Willow.”

                Sirius flashed her a charming smile.  “Sure thing, Willow.  Anyway, this is my family’s home.  The Blacks are notorious dark wizards, which would be why I left them in the first place.  I’m Sirius Black, by the way.”

                “I thought he was Sirius Black,” said Willow, confused, pointing at Sir.

                Sirius let out another bark-like laugh.  “He’s Sirius Black Martini, my son—”

                “—and mine.  I’m Jessi Martini.  I’m Finn’s mum too,” said the enormously pregnant, honey-skinned brunette.

                “Yeah, we get it, Jessi,” said Cordy rolling her chocolate eyes.  “You get around.”

                “I do not!” protested Jessi.  “I only have kids with—” she paused to count on her long, slender fingers—“four different men.  Mostly just Sirius, though.”

                “Whatever, Jess,” said Cordy, rolling her eyes again.  “Anyway, I’m actually here with my cousin,” she said, turning the conversation back to the original topic.

                “Cousin?” said Willow.

                “Yup.  Remy here’s my cousin.  I actually came looking for my brother, but apparently Jamie’s long dead.”

                “Jamie?”

                “Yup.  James Potter.  Did I mention that my last name’s actually Potter, not Chase?”

                “No, you actually left that part out.  You know, I had a brother-in-law named James Potter.”

                “Really?”

                “Yeah.  Weird right?”

                “Cordelia, Willow, you’re talking about the same person,” said Remus tiredly, yet still managing to smile slyly at them.  “Just thought you might like to know.”

                “Were you supposed to go to Hogwhatchamacallit too?” interrupted Xander.

                “HOGWARTS!” yelled ever other person in the room.

                “Jeez!  Sorry,” said Xander.  “Gang up on the one-eyed guy, why don’t you?”

                Cordy rolled her eyes at him.  “Give it a rest, Xander,” she said.  “There’s only so many times you can pull the ‘woe is me, I lost my eye’ card.”

                Xander shrugged.  “It was worth a shot.”

                “That it was, cousin mine,” said Sirius.

                “Whoa, whoa—back up here.  Sirius is your cousin?” said Willow.  “When’d this happen?”

                “Long before I was born,” joked Xander.  Seeing Will’s infamous resolve-face, he amended, “I found out after I met my parents and my twin sister.”  Jessi smirked at how Remus’s pale face went red at the mere mention of the pink-haired auror.

                “So,” said Willow, “let me get this straight: Cordy’s a Potter and she’s related to Remus, Xander’s a Tonks and he’s related to Sirius, I’m an Evans and I’m related to James Potter through marriage, and Oz is a Weasley.”

                “Oz is a Weasley?!” exclaimed Cordy and Xander.

                “Did I not mention that?” said Oz, raising his eyebrow.

                “No, you really didn’t,” said Cordy.  “Welcome to the family, godbrother,” she teased.

                “Don’t worry, Oz,” said Bill, clapping his little brother on the shoulder, “at least she didn’t dump green paint on you.”

                “I was five!” protested Cordy as the rest of the room (minus Oz) burst into laughter.  Oz simply smiled.  “I hate you, Bill,” she huffed.

                “Love you too, ‘sis,’” he said with a smirk.

                “I’m so getting you back for this.”

                “I’d like to see you try.”

                “Is that a challenge?”

                “Maybe.  What’re you gonna do about it?”

                “Well, as soon as Dora and Charlie get back I’m going to plot with them—and Xander.”

                “Hey!  How’d I get dragged into this again?” protested Xander as Cordy dragged him out of the room.

                “Shut up, Xander,” she snapped.  “Oh, and by the way, Bill, I’m calling in the twins on this one!”

                Bill’s face visibly paled and Cordy shot him a wicked grin as she dragged Xander out of the room.  Bill looked around the table for a helping face, but all that was to be found were looks of pity and/or amusement.  “I’m alone on this one, aren’t I?” he said.

                “Sorry son,” said Arthur, clapping his eldest son on the shoulder in comfort.  “Unless you can get the Marauders on your side you’re screwed.”  Bill looked hopefully at the three remaining Marauders.

                “Pregnant,” said Jessi, sucking the peanut butter off of the spoon she had summoned.

                “Werewolf—full moon tonight,” said Remus, a wicked glint in his feral amber eyes.

                “Are you kidding me?” said Sirius.  “There’s no bloody way I’m passing up the chance to see what Brownie and Co. are capable of.  You’re on your own, mate.”

                Bill’s face fell.  “Bollocks.”

 

About an hour before moonrise everyone but the five werewolves and the two non-pregnant animagi left—Jessi with much protestation.  Willow stayed and chatted with Xander and Cordy in Cordy’s room for about twenty minutes before their constant, incessant bickering finally grew to be too much for her to handle.  Willow then spent the rest of the evening meeting and getting to know Bill, Molly and Arthur, Mya’s twins, and (once she got back from work) Mya herself (the rest of the Weasley clan, besides Charlie, and Hermione Granger had all headed off to bed early—or so they claimed.  Charlie and Tonks had spent the night at her flat, enjoying some quality best-friend time together before he had to head back to Romania).  Eventually Mya took the twins to bed, followed closely by Bill, neither of whom reappeared.  They were followed shortly by Molly and Arthur, who claimed exhaustion as they headed up to bed.  This left Oz and Willow alone.  Deciding their time would be better spent discussing the day’s revelations in private, the young couple made their way up to the room Willow had been given and spent the rest of the night coming to terms with what they had learned that day.

Chapter Text

Chapter 14: Sweet Revenge

 

July 13, 2003:  Willow made her way downstairs the morning of the second (and worst) day of the full moon.   She passed Mya as she descended.  The magenta-haired black woman was leading a chocolate-skinned, violet-eyed teenage boy and girl up the stairs.  Willow vaguely realized that they were most likely twins because (besides their gender) the only major difference she saw between them was that the boy had short black hair and the girl had silky, straight, black hair that fell down below her waist and was held back loosely by a purple headband.  Willow felt a strange, mystical tug on her senses as she passed them, but the was too exhausted to process what it might mean.

                “Morning Willow,” chirped Mya.  “How are you this fine morning?”

                “Sleepy,” said Willow.  “Whozzat?”

                “Oh, these are Chase’s younger twin siblings, Chandler and Charisma Chance.  Guys, I’d like you to meet Willow Evans.  She’s Mary and Harry’s aunt on their mother’s side.”  The violet-eyed twins mumbled their sleep-induced greetings to Willow.  “Sorry,” said Mya.  “I’m afraid Chan and Riz aren’t really morning people.”

                “‘Skay, Mya.  I’m not either.  Need coffee—talk later,” said Willow sleepily.  Willow quickly continued down the stairs and headed towards the dining room before Mya could chat any more.

 

                Willow entered the dining room to behold the cutest sight ever.  Finn, the littlest werewolf was lying in the corner of the room by the fireplace, curled up against a big, black dog, fast asleep.  “They are cute, aren’t they?” Mrs. Weasley whispered in Willow’s ear, causing her to jump a little.  “Sorry dear, I didn’t mean to startle you.  Coffee?”

                “Thank you, Molly,” said Willow, gratefully accepting the caffeinated beverage and joining the tired werewolves and Sirius at the table.

                Willow sat down next to Oz, who gave her a soft peck on the forehead before returning to stoically sipping his coffee.  Remus was half asleep, holding onto his nearly-full teacup tightly.  Sirius was half-lying, sprawled out on the table, drooling and snoring gently.  In complete contrast, Calli and her uber-pregnant twin Cleo were the perfect picture of composure as they sat regally and daintily sipped their tea.  In the corner of the room the big, black dog stirred, opening his eerie grey eyes.  With a soft POP a tall, black-haired youth appeared in the dog’s place.  Finn didn’t even stir, so Sir (the dog-turned-human) simply stroked the little boy’s shaggy chestnut locks and gratefully accepted a mug of coffee from Molly Weasley, who was bustling between the kitchen and the dining room, preparing breakfast for anyone who might want it.

                The peaceful silence was rudely interrupted by a crash and a muffled yelp, followed by the all-too familiar shrieking of Mrs. Black’s portrait.  “HALF-BLOODS!  FREAKS!  STAINS OF DISHONOR!  HOW DARE YOU SULLY THE HOUSE OF MY FATHERS!”

                Sirius snorted awake at the unpleasant sound of his mother’s shrill, grating voice.  “Goddamit!” he muttered darkly.  “Tonks.”  He lurched up out of his seat and flew out to the hall to yell at his cousin for disturbing his sleep yet again, and on the morning after a full moon, no less.

                “What a way to wake up,” Jessi drawled as she sauntered into the dining room.  “I think I’m officially awake now, along with the rest of the house.”

                “I thought you went home last night, Spotts,” said Remus.

                Jessi waddled over and hugged Remus around the shoulders.  “Just ‘cause I can’t transform with you right now doesn’t mean I’m going to abandon you, RJ.  I stayed here last night so I could make sure you were okay this morning.”

                “What about the kids?” asked Remus.

                “I left Grace in charge.  She’s ‘responsible’ after all.”

                “You say that like it’s a bad thing,” said Remus with a raise of his eyebrow.

                Jessi gave him a “duh” look.  “If I didn’t know any better, Moony, I’d say she was yours instead of Padfoot’s.  She’s responsible, neat, smart, well-behaved, a prefect—where the bloody hell’d I go wrong?!”

                “What’s so wrong with all that, Sissi?”

                Jessi gave her best friend an incredulous look.  “What’s wrong?  What’s wrong, RJ?!  She’s- she’s a prefect!  She’ll probably get Head Girl this year too!  Where the bloody hell’d I go wrong, Moony?”

                Remus sighed in exasperation; this was one argument no one ever won against Jessi.  “Sissi—”

                “Where, Remus, where?!  I mean—”  Jessi was suddenly shut up by Molly, who shoved a spoonful of peanut butter into her open mouth.  Suddenly blissfully content, Jessi took the jar of peanut butter from Molly and sank down silently into the seat next to Remus.  Willow glanced quickly over at Finn and was more than a little surprised to see that the young werewolf was still fast asleep, curled up on his brother’s lap.

                “Thank you, Molly,” said Remus, rubbing his temples.  Molly smiled at the werewolf, gave his shoulder a quick squeeze, and returned to the kitchen.  The smells of toast, eggs, pancakes, and sausage were beginning to waft through the house.

                “Wotcher, all!” chirped a cheerful voice.  Willow looked over to see a tall brunette woman, who reminded her an awful lot of Xander, follow a grumbling Sirius into the room.  Sirius plopped back down next to Jessi and attempted to steal her peanut butter (“MINE!” she growled), but to no avail.  Tonks (the brunette woman) settled herself down next to Remus and smiled cheerfully across the table at Willow.  “Wotcher,” she said.  “I’m Tonks.”

                “I’m Willow,” she replied, “and this is my boyfriend Oz.”

                “Nice to meet you.  I love your hair, by the way.”  To Willow’s amazement and amusement, Tonks morphed her hair to match Willow’s, her natural gray eyes sparkling mischievously.

                “Oh, oh!” Willow exclaimed.  “You’re Dora!  You’re Xander’s sister!”

                “You know Xander?” said Tonks, puzzled.

                “He’s only my bestest best friend in the whole wide world,” she replied with a huge grin.  “We’ve known each other since we were really little.”

                “Oh!  You’re that Willow!  He talks about you all the time, you know.”

                Willow smiled.  “Good,” she said.  She looked at Tonks and Remus, seeing their surreptitious glances at each other, and she couldn’t resist asking, “So, are you and Remus a couple, Dora?”

                Remus and Tonks both blushed as Jessi and Sirius snickered evilly at them.  “Well, I—I mean we—” stuttered Tonks.

                “I—Nymphadora and I—that’s just—” Remus stuttered and Jessi elbowed him hard in the ribs.  He winced (he was still quite sore from his transformation just hours ago), rolled his eyes, and said, “What I meant to say was, not exactly, but—Nymphadora, would you like to out to lunch with me this afternoon?”

                Dora blushed, her hair morphing to her favorite bubble-gum pink spikes.  “I’d love to, Remus,” she replied.

                “Wonderful,” Remus said.  After their short conversation, the two simply sat with silly grins plastered on their faces for a good minute and a half.

                “You two can thank me’n Jess for those heart-to-hearts now,” said Sirius.  Tonks and Remus shared a look.  As one, they raised their wands at Sirius and shot a series of silent spells at the meddling animagus.  Sirius began to freak out when he couldn’t figure out what they had done to him.  “Moooooony, what’d you do to me?” he whined.  Remus conjured up a small hand mirror and handed it to Sirius with a satisfied smirk.

                Sirius cautiously raised the mirror to his face and looked at himself, shuddering as he surveyed the damage.  Remus and Tonks had transfigured his normal-sized, aristocratic nose into a huge, honking beak, the likes of which he had only ever seen on one Snivellus Snape.  But that wasn’t all, oh no.  The mischievous duo had also charmed his skin green (like Elphaba), transfigured his robes to a lovely shade of hot pink with small mewling white kittens on them, and—horror of horrors—charmed all his beautiful ebony hair away.

                “Spoooooots,” Sirius whimpered, “Moony and Tonks are being mean to me.”

                “Hell if I care,” snorted Jessi.  “You tried to steal my peanut butter, you wanker.”

                “But Jeeeesi—”

                “Holy begeebers on toast!  What happened here, cuz?”

                Sirius scowled at Xander as he walked into the room, a huge grin on his face as he surveyed the damage done to Sirius.  “Moony and Tonks are being mean to me,” he huffed.

                “Aw, suck it up, you big baby,” yawned Cordy, coming in behind Xander, dressed only in the button-up shirt he had worn the day before.

                “Cordy,” said Willow, “why aren’t you wearing anything besides Xander’s shirt?”

                Cordy blushed, her perfectly tanned skin turning bright red.  “Shut up,” she snapped.  “I really don’t want to talk about it.”

                “But I thought—” protested Xander.

                “I said shut up, Xander,” she hissed.

                “Did you—” said Dora, glancing back and forth from a very red and happy Xander to an equally red and mortified Cordy, “—you did!  Good on you, Cor!” she exclaimed with a large, toothy grin.

                “Shut up,” Cordy hissed, her face nearing embarrassed Weasley red.

                “What’s going on?” asked Sirius, puzzled and clueless as usual.

                Dora winked at Cordy.  “Don’t worry Cor,” she said, “I won’t tell him if he can’t figure it out for himself.”

                Cordy groaned and sank down into an empty seat at the table.  “I am so screwed,” she moaned as she buried her head in her arm on the table.

                “Oh, I know that,” said Dora.

                “Shut up, Dora!”

                “Hey!” interjected Sirius.  “Is someone gonna fix me here?  Moony?  Spotts?  Tonks?  Anybody?”

                The three aforementioned friends looked at each other.  “Nah,” they said in unison, standing up and leaving the room together.

                “Jessi?  Remy?  Dory?  Pleeeease!!” cried Sirius, chasing after them desperately.

                And through it all little Finn Lupin slept peacefully on, safely tucked away in his big brother’s lap.

Chapter Text

Chapter 15: A Day with the Weasleys

 

July 16, 2003The full moon passed with no serious injury to any of the werewolves or animagi in Grimmauld Place.  Remus and Tonks’ first date went exceptionally well, much to the delight of all parties involved (Jessi and Sirius threw themselves into their friends’ new relationship with a ferocious gusto), and they had already planned a second.  Xander and Cordy, however, were still avoiding each other after their unplanned night together and subsequent morning embarrassment.

                It was Charlie’s last day in England and Oz still had not met any more members of his family.  He and Willow planned to remedy this oversight and were going over to the Burrow for a family dinner with the entire Weasley clan (minus Percy as he still wasn’t speaking with his family) later that day.  At half past three a knock sounded at the door of Willow’s London flat. 

“I got it!” Willow called out, running a brush through her brilliant red hair.  She opened the door to reveal a familiar, smiling redhead.  “Hello Bill,” she said with a smile of her own, stepping aside to let him in (that good old Sunnydale rule of never directly inviting someone in was still deeply engrained in her brain).

                “Hi Will,” said Bill.  “You and Oz ready to go?”

                “Just waiting for Oz to finish up.”

                “Actually, I’m good,” replied Oz, stepping out of the bedroom.   He was dressed in torn blue jeans and a black t-shirt promoting some obscure band.

                “Great,” said Bill, with a cheeky grin.  “Let’s get going then, shall we?”

                “Uh—Bill?”

                “Yes Will?”

                “How exactly are we getting there?”

                “Well,” said Bill, “we have two options.  We can floo over or we can do side-along apparation.  Your pick.”

                “What’s floo?” asked Oz.

                “Travel by fire.”

                “You actually travel by fire?” said Willow, emerald eyes wide.  “Doesn’t that burn you?”

                Bill laughed.  “Of course not, Will,” he replied.  “It’s magical fire.  You throw the floo powder into it first which makes the fire virtually harmless, allowing you to safely travel through.”

                “Oh, right,” said Willow faintly.  “Forget about that.  What’s the other one then?”

                “Apparation.”

                “Yeah, that.”

                Bill grinned playfully at Willow, turned on the spot, and with a loud CRACK disapparated.  He reappeared with another CRACK a second later on the other side of the room.  “That, my friends,” he said as he walked back over to Willow and Oz, “is apparation.”

                “Nice,” said Oz.

                “That looks much less draining than my teleportation,” commented Willow.

                “Really?  Teleportation drains you?” he said.  “Weird.  I know someone else who can teleport and it doesn’t drain her at all.”

                Willow cocked her head to the side thoughtfully.  “Hers must be an inborn power,” she mused.  “Mine I have to channel from the earth—very draining and very dangerous.  Not planning on going back there again anytime soon.”

                “Long story?” asked Bill, quirking a ridiculously red eyebrow at the tiny redheaded woman.

                “Like you wouldn’t believe.”

                “So…you two wanna try apparation?”

                Oz and Willow communicated silently for a moment.  “Yes,” Willow finally replied.  “I’m not quite sure how I feel about stepping into a fire on purpose, even if it is magical, so let’s go with the other one.”

                “Alright then,” said Bill, clapping his hands together.  “Will, Oz, take hold of my arms and we’ll be off.”  Once the young couple had a good hold of Bill, the taller redhead turned on the spot and all three disapparated with a loud CRACK.

 

                Willow, Oz, and Bill apparated with another loud CRACK onto a grassy green hillside.  “Welcome home,” said Bill with a smile, motioning to the house at the bottom of the hill.  The house was strange, to be sure.  It was lopsided, very tall, and quite obviously held together by magic.  It wasn’t the largest of homes, or the nicest, or the fanciest, but it felt like a home.  It just exuded homey vibes that made anyone and everyone feel welcome.  It looked cozy and safe (figuratively, not structurally); someplace where love and kindness mattered more than material wealth and possessions.

                “It’s amazing,” said Oz, allowing a rare smile to grace his pale, lightly-freckled face.

                “I couldn’t agree more,” said Willow, her emerald eyes sparkling with joy.

                “Glad to hear that,” said Bill, smiling back at them.  “C’mon; Mum’s waiting.”

                “Lead the way, Billy-boy,” said Willow to her new favorite “brother.”

                Bill laughed and led the couple down the hill to the strangely welcoming house.  “Mum!  They’re here!”

                Upon hearing her eldest son’s voice, Mrs. Weasley came into the front hall, wiping her hands on her apron.  “Welcome dears,” she said, giving Oz and Willow each a trademark Mrs. Weasley hug.  “Everyone’s outside.  I think the children started up a game of quidditch in the orchard if you’d like to join them.”

                Bill brightened.  “C’mon, little brother,” he said, grabbing Oz’s arm and dragging him outside, “I’m gonna teach you how to play the best sport in the whole world!”

                “Come along, dear,” said Molly, smiling at Willow as the boys ran off, “the backyard’s this way.”

                “What’s quidditch, Molly?” asked Willow as she followed the Weasley matriarch.

                “It’s a game played on broomsticks,” she replied.  “Arthur and the children absolutely love it.  I’m sure one of the boys would love to teach you, if you’d like.”

                “I-I’d have t-to fly?”

                “Of course, dear.  What else would you do with a broomstick?  Sweep the floor?”  Molly laughed.

                Willow chuckled nervously.  “All the same, I think I’d prefer to keep my feet firmly on the ground, thank you.”  Airplanes were one thing, but to have to rely on a bunch of twigs and a stick to keep her from falling, well, she’d rather keep her feet firmly planted on the ground, thank you very much.

                “That’s quite alright, Willow dear,” said Molly, squeezing the young woman’s shoulder gently.  “You can join Arthur and me with Kentley and the girls on the ground, if you’d rather.”

                “That sounds so much better, thank you Molly.”

                “Gwanny Mowwy, Gwanny Mowwy!” cried a little redheaded girl, running up to them.  “Guess what?”

                “What, Missy Kayla?” Molly asked, picking up the honey-eyed toddler.

                “Gwampa Awfur said dat he would teach me ta pway qwiddige wike Daddy taught Tent!”

                “Well, you must be a big girl then, Missy Kayla.”

                “Yup.  Me dis much bigga den Tenzie,” she said solemnly, holding her little arms apart as far as she could.

                “My goodness, you’re right!” exclaimed Molly.

                “Granny Molly?”  Willow looked down to see a little brown-haired, blue-eyed boy who looked to be slightly older than Kayla tugging on Molly’s skirt. 

“Yes Kent?” said Molly.

                “Grandpa Arthur said that he was gonna teach Kayla how to fly, if it’s okay with you.”

                “Of course, Kentley,” she said with a smile.  “Why don’t you go to Grandpa’s shed and get Uncle Bill’s and your daddy’s old kiddie brooms.”

                “Thanks Granny Molly,” said Kent.

                “Taywa go too, Gwanny Mowwy!” insisted Kayla.

                “Alright,” said Molly, putting Kayla down.  “Run along then, you two.  And be careful in Grandpa’s shed!”

                “Yes Granny Molly.”

                “Otay, Gwanny Mowwy.”

                “Good.  Now shoo!”  Not needing to be told twice, the brother and sister duo scampered off.

                “Cute kids,” said Willow.

                “Oh, they’re darlings,” said Molly as she and Willow continued to walk through the backyard.  “They’re growing up so fast, too!  Kentley is starting school this fall—his mum and her mum are insistent that he go to a muggle primary school—and Mikayla and Mackenzie are just getting so big!  I feel like every time I blink they grow another inch.”

                “Are they twins, Mikayla and Mackenzie?”

                Molly laughed.  “Heavens no, dear,” she replied.  “I don’t know if Charlie and Liana could handle them if they were.  They’re close enough as it is—Kayla’s three and Kenzie’s two.”

                “And Kentley?”

                “Kent’s five now—such a big boy.  I think he’s going to be a quidditch player when he grows up.  His daddy could have been, if he hadn’t gone off chasing dragons, and his mum’s not half-bad herself.”

                “Not half-bad?” piped in Arthur.  “The girl’s bloody brilliant on a broom, Molls.  Nice to see you again, Willow.”

                “You too, Arthur,” Willow replied with a smile.  She hadn’t even noticed that she and Molly had arrived at the orchard until Arthur spoke.  “And who’s this pretty little princess?” she asked, smiling at the tiny redheaded toddler sitting on Arthur’s lap.

                “Me bees Tenzie!” said the curly-haired girl with a toothy smile.  “Who bees yous?”

                “Hello Kenzie, I’m Willow,” Willow said, bending down to the grey-eyed girl’s level and smiling at her.  “It’s very nice to meet you.”

                “Tenzie wike Wiwwow’s haiw,” Kenzie giggled.  “It vury purdyful.”

                “Well, I like your hair too, Kenzie,” she said with a smile.

                “Fanks,” said Kenzie.  “Yous haiw’s wed wike Tenzie’s!”

                “It is, isn’t it?”

                Kenzie nodded her head, her lose red curls bouncing about her shoulders.  “So bees Daddy’s an Taywa’s an Gwanny Mowwy’s an Gwampa Awfur’s an Unca Biww’s an Unca Pewcy’s an Unca Fwed’s an Unca Geowge’s an Unca Won’s an Auntie Ginny’s.  But not Mummy or Tent.  Mummy’s haiw bees bwak wike Mummy’s name an Unca Pafoo’s haiw an Unca Siwi’s haiw an Unca Pafoo’s name an Unca Siwi’s name too an Tent’s haiw bees bwown wike Auntie Jessi’s haiw an Unca Moony’s an wike Auntie Gwacie’s an Auntie Mew’s haiw too.”

                “Is that so?” said Willow, stifling a giggle at Kenzie’s cuteness.  Kenzie nodded solemnly. 

                “We’ve been working on our colors, haven’t we, princess?” said Arthur proudly.

                “Yup.  Gwampa Awfur bees teaching Tenzie hew cowors.”

                “You must be a big girl, then.”

                “Tenzie bees dis many!” she said proudly, holding up two tiny fingers.

                “That many, huh?  Wow.  That’s pretty neato.”

                Kenzie scrunched up her little button nose.  “What bees neato, Wiwwow?” she asked.

                “Neato means awesome, kiddo.”

                “Oh.  Neato.  Neato, neato, neato, neato.  Neato, neato, neato—”

                “Apparently Mackenzie has found her new favorite word,” said Molly dryly as Kenzie continued to chant her new word.

                “Sorry,” said Willow sheepishly.  “I didn’t know she’d like it that much.”

                “It’s quite alright, Willow dear,” said Molly.

                “Yes,” added Arthur.  “The wonderful thing about being the grandparents rather than the parents is that we get to hand the kids back off to their parents when they get to be too much—like now,” he motioned to Kenzie, who was still chanting “neato, neato, neato, neato.”

                “Oh, don’t bother them; they look like they’re having fun,” pleaded Willow.  “I’ll watch Kenzie if you’d like.”

                “Are you sure?” asked Arthur, spotting Kent and Kayla making their way back across the yard.

                “I’m sure, Arthur.”

                “Well, alright then,” he said, handing the wriggling, giggling two-year-old bundle of energy over to Willow.  “I’ll just be over on the other side of the orchard with Kent and Kayla, if you need me.  Though I know Molly’s more than capable of helping you out if need be,” he added, kissing his wife tenderly on her forehead.

                “Go on, Arthur,” said Molly, dismissing her husband.  “Spend some time with Kentley and Kayla.  Willow and I will be just fine with Kenzie.”

                “Of course, darling,” he replied, kissing his wife’s soft, pink cheek and heading off to meet his two eldest grandchildren.

                “Auntie Wiwwow?  Tenzie get down an pway, pwease?”

                “Sure thing, sweetie,” said Willow, letting the tiny redheaded girl climb off her lap.  She proceeded to run around, laughing and playing happily in the grass. “Auntie Willow?” Willow asked Molly.

                “Sorry about that, dear,” said Molly.  “Mackenzie tends to call any adult she really likes ‘auntie’ or ‘uncle.’  She must really like you to call you that so soon after meeting you.  She seems quite taken.”

                “She’s a cutie-pie,” said Willow, smiling fondly at the grey-eyed girl twirling in the grass.

                “She certainly is,” said Molly.

                The two women sat in silence for a while, switching between watching Kenzie play in the grass, Arthur teaching Kent and Kayla to ride a broom, and watching the Quidditch game in progress.  Finally Willow spoke.  “Looks like Oz is really enjoying himself,” she said, watching the small redheaded figure (that she could somehow instinctively tell was her boyfriend) zoom expertly around the orchard as he tossed a bright red ball to (presumably) one of his brothers.

                “Yes,” said Molly.  “A love of quidditch seems to run in both the Weasley and the Prewett families.  Percy’s the only one of my children who never really much cared for it—playing it, that is.  He still loves to watch.”

                “Do you enjoy it?” asked Willow.   

“Oh yes,” said Molly.  “Not as much as I used to, I’ll admit.  Not since my brothers died.  They were exceptional beaters, Fabian and Gideon.  Pranksters too.  Fred and George take after them quite a bit, actually.”

                “You miss them terribly, don’t you?”

                “Don’t you miss Lily?”

                “Very much,” said Willow, remembering not only her first best friend/ favorite big sister, but also her beloved Tara, taken from the world so suddenly.

                “There’s your answer, dear,” said Molly with a sad, understanding smile.

                Willow and Molly were prevented from wallowing in their grief by the rather fortuitous end of the Weasley quidditch game.  All eight players made their way over to Willow, Molly, and Kenzie.  “‘Lo Mum,” they all said (except for Oz, who just nodded stoically).

                “Did you have a nice game?” asked Molly.

                “Just spiffin’, Mum,” said Fred.

                “Abso-bloody-lutley,” added George.

                “Language, George!” chided Molly.

                “Honestly woman, can’t you tell I’m Fred?!”

                “Oh—sorry, Fred.”

                “Just kidding, I really am George.”

                “Oh, you—”

                “Hi, I’m Willow.  Willow Evans,” said Willow, quickly defusing the potentially lethal situation.

                “Enchanté, mademoiselle,” said Fred, flirting playfully and kissing her hand, causing her to blush.

                “I’d tell you how lovely you are, Willow, but undoubtedly Mary would find out about it and then I wouldn’t have a snowball’s chance in Hell at getting her back,” teased George, smiling playfully at her as Fred finally let go of her small, delicate hand.

                “Language, George!

                “Sorry Mum.”

                The only non-redheaded adult rolled her eyes.  “Ignore Fred and George,” said the pale, black-haired, grey-eyed woman who bore an eerie resemblance to Sirius Black, “we all do.  I’m Liana Black, by the way—Charlie’s girlfriend.”

                “And I’m Charlie,” said a short (taller than Oz, though), stocky redhead with a goofy, almost Xanderish, grin.  “Those three little ragamuffins running around here are ours.  I see Kenzie’s become quite attached to you,” he added, motioning to his youngest daughter who was hugging Willow’s leg tightly.

                “Oh, I don’t mind,” said Willow.  “They’re so cute!”

                “Be that as it may,” said Liana, “they’re still trouble with a capital T—all three of them.”

                “Yeah, they get into everything,” said the youngest redheaded boy.  “They climb into your trunk and—OW!  Bloody hell, Gin, what was that for?  You’ve been taking lessons from Mary, haven’t you?”

                “Language, Ron!”

                “Sorry, Mum.  But seriously, Gin, what was that for?”

“Sorry about Ron,” said the redheaded girl sweetly, ignoring her tall, gangly brother.  “He just doesn’t know when to shut up.”

                “Oi!”

                “Shut up, Ron,” said the girl.  “I’m Ginny, by the way,” she added, turning back to Willow, “and this loudmouthed, obnoxious git is Ron.”

                “Nice to meet you,” said Willow, staring at the girl who looked a lot like her, except for her honey brown eyes (almost identical to Molly’s) and her much more heavily freckled skin.  “I’m Willow.”

                “C’mon, Willow,” squealed Ginny.  “I’ll give you the six sickle tour of the house before we head out to Diagon Alley.  I’ve always wanted a sister!” she exclaimed as she pulled a bemusedly smiling Willow toward the Burrow.

                “Hey!” protested Liana.  “What am I?  Chopped liver?”

 

                Willow and Oz were thoroughly enjoying Diagon Alley, though Oz’s expression (or lack thereof, rather) gave away no such thing.  As the redheaded werewolf and his girlfriend walked hand in hand down the alley, following Molly, Arthur, Ginny, Ron, Bill, and the twins (Charlie and Liana had stayed behind at the Burrow with their kids), they drank in the magnificence that was the magic of the wizarding world (despite having been around wizards and witches for the past few days, they really hadn’t seen much of this strange, new world outside of Grimmauld Place).  Willow enjoyed their brief trip to Gringotts (she thought that the goblins were “kind of cute,” wtf?!), though Oz couldn’t get out of there fast enough (people often forgot to mention it, but Goblins really weren’t the most pleasant smelling beings and Oz, with his enhanced werewolf senses, couldn’t stand to be around them for very long).  Things went much the same at Madame Malkin’s.  Willow was giddy with excitement and Oz was pretty much indifferent, only buying a few sets of robes at Willow’s persistent insistence.  Willow and the Weasleys passed by several more shops (Willow just had to have the tiny, red owl from Eeylops Owl Emporium—she named her Lily in honor of her late sister—and Bill managed to bully Oz into buying himself a racing broom (a Nimbus 2000).  Not that he took much convincing; the stoic werewolf had taken to quidditch like a fish to water) before they arrived at the most important stop of the day: Ollivanders.

                “Here we are,” said Molly.  “Arthur and Bill will go in with you two,” she said to Willow and Oz, “and we’ll all meet up at Florean Fortescue’s when we’re done, alright?”

                “Sounds like a plan, dear,” agreed Arthur.  “We’ll catch up with you in a bit.”  Waving goodbye to his wife and youngest children, Arthur ushered his two eldest sons and Willow into the small, dimly-lit shop.

               

A soft bell sounded as Willow and Oz followed Bill and Arthur into the shop.  “Hello,” said a soft, creepy voice from the shadows of the shop.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Ollivander,” said Arthur.

                “Ah.  Arthur Weasley.  Maple, fourteen inches, unicorn hair.  Nice and springy.  And William Weasley.  Beech, fifteen inches, sphinx hair.  Unusual wand.  I’ve only ever made about nine or ten sphinx hair wands.  Are your wands still working well for you?”

                “Yes, sir,” said Arthur while Bill simply nodded an affirmative.

                “Good,” said Mr. O, “very good.  Ah, and this must be Mr. Daniel Weasley and Miss Willow Evans.  I’ve been expecting you both for quite some time now.”

                “You have?” said Willow, perplexed.

                “Yes indeed, Miss Evans, I have.  Now, which would be your wand hands?”

                “Oh, well I’m right handed and Oz is left handed.  Is that what you mean?”

                “Yes, yes.  That will do nicely.”  Mr. O proceeded to measure Willow and Oz as he explained about the uniqueness of his wands and the way a wand was chosen.  “The wand chooses the wizard—or witch—not the other way around,” he said in his oddly creepy voice.

                “Really?” said Oz, raising his eyebrow.

                “Of course,” replied Mr. O.  “Here, try this one, Mr. Weasley.  Oak, ten inches, unicorn hair, extra rigid.  And for you Miss Evans, maple, twelve inches, phoenix feather, infallible.  Give them a wave.”

                They tried out wands for quite some time.  Finally around the sixth wand or so Oz found one that fit him: willow (appropriately enough), eleven inches, griffin feather—an “unusual combination” according to Mr. O.

                Twelve wands later and Willow still had no luck finding the right wand.  Twenty-eight wands later, after trying a total of forty-four wands, Willow finally found hers.  “Try this one,” said Mr. O in his creepy voice.  “Willow, eleven and a half inches.  Go on, give it a wave.”

                Willow barely touched the wand when she felt a rush of power surpassing anything she had ever felt before rush through her fingertips and fill her whole body, her very being, with a power she had only ever come close to when she had called all the potentials to be slayers.  “This is the one,” she whispered reverently as the brilliant white glow that had begun surrounding her faded away.  “I can feel it.”

                “Oh bravo!” said Mr. O, clapping as Arthur, Bill, and even Oz (who had never actually seen just how powerful his Willow had truly become) looked at her in awe.  “How curious that this particular wand, of all wands, should choose you, Miss Evans.”

                “Why?” asked Willow, studying her new wand carefully, mesmerized.

                “Well, my dear,” said Mr. O, “the core of that particular wand is the hair of a werewolf—that particular werewolf, to be precise,” he added, pointing at Oz.

                “Huh,” said Oz.  “Weird.”

                “Yes,” said Mr. O.  “Young Auror Shacklebolt donated the hair just last year.  He said that you wouldn’t mind.”

                Oz just shrugged.  “I don’t,” he said.  “It’s of the good.”  Mr. O nodded his thanks to the stoic werewolf guitarist.  “Just curious, how did he know about me?”

                Mr. O smiled his creepy smile.  “It showed up when he tested your hair, of course, Mr. Weasley.”

                “Of course,” replied Oz.

                “How much for the wands, Mr. Ollivander?” asked Arthur.

                “You don’t have to—” protested Willow.

                “We can afford—” began Oz.

                “Don’t worry about it, Will,” said Bill.  “If you like, you can pay us back once you’ve gotten settled into our world.”

                “But not you, son,” said Arthur to Oz.  “It’s tradition for a father to buy his son his first wand.  No, that’s all there is to it, Oz.  I’m buying your wand for you and that’s that.  Now, how much, Mr. Ollivander?”

                “Eight galleons each,” replied Mr. O.  Arthur and Bill paid for the wands and the four of them left the shop to meet Molly and the (underage) Weasley kids at the ice cream shop.

 

                Molly began cooking dinner almost immediately when they got back to the Burrow, yelling at anyone who got in her way, especially Liana (apparently she had tried to help once when she and Charlie had first started dating and ended up burning a pot of water.  She said it was all her dad’s fault, her poor cooking skills came from him).  Willow spent the rest of the afternoon showing off her new wand and practicing spells.  She was pleasantly surprised to discover that with her wand she was able to do more difficult spells with far less effort than she was without one.  Arthur and the boys (including Oz and Kent) were “recruited” to help set up the tables outside and set them for dinner, while Liana and Ginny were relegated to “kiddie watching,” that is, keeping an eye on Kayla and Kenzie.

                Dinner that evening was an…experience.  Molly returned Oz’s silver DOW necklace to him and he gave it to Willow for safekeeping, since he couldn’t touch it himself.  Willow and Oz both learned everything anyone (except perhaps James Potter or Oliver Wood) could possibly want to know about quidditch (Oz discovered that his newfound love of the sport was something shared by his entire family).  They listened to Molly plead with Bill to cut his hair and get rid of his fang earring, heckle Charlie and Liana for refusing to get married, scold Arthur for asking Willow and Oz too many questions about muggle things (“What exactly is the function of a rubber duck?” asked Arthur.  “To keep kids from eating soap while they take a bath,” replied Oz), and downright screech at the twins about something called Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes.

                All in all it had been a wonderful day.  Both Oz and Willow found that they immensely enjoyed spending time with Oz’s newfound family and they were both anxious to see them all again.  They would miss Charlie dearly when he headed back to Romania in the morning and they were even looking forward to meeting the illusive Percy Weasley, despite what the Weasley siblings (mostly the twins, Ron, and Ginny) had told them about him.  As Willow drifted off to sleep late that night, snuggled tightly in the strong arms of her soul mate (Soul mate?!  Where did that come from? thought Willow), she couldn’t help but think that this was the perfect ending to a perfect day.

Chapter Text

Chapter 16: Birthday Blues

 

                July 31, 2003:  Mary Evans-Potter woke up at the crack of noon on her fifteenth birthday to the loud sound of tapping on her bedroom window.  “Fi’ mur minutes,” she mumbled as she rolled over under her navy blue quilt.  The tapping persisted.  “Alright, alright,” she grumbled.  She sat up and ran a porcelain-pale, well-manicured hand through her newly short, brilliant red hair.  Standing up and blinking her hazel eyes blearily, she opened the window and let in a pure black owl.  “‘Lo Vader,” she mumbled, stroking her owl as she removed the letter that was attached to his leg.  “Cass finally wrote back, huh?”  Hooting in response, Darth Vader flew over to his perch and helped himself to his water dish and the toast that Mary had put out for him the night before.  Mary opened the letter and read:

 

                Mary,

Hope you’n Harry are doing well.  Things are kinda crazy here at Hogwarts.  Uncle A decided to take me to meet my Grandda last week.  *shuddersinhorror* Thank Merlin—er, Zeus—the Ministry didn’t let him raise me!  Only good thing those bloody gits have ever done.  LOL!

Anywho, just wanted to let you know that I can’t come for your birthday this year, sorry mate.  Uncle A’s got a lot planned for me this summer (help me!  save me!), so I’m kinda busy.  Hope you have a great birthday.  Go see George or something, keep your mind off of Cedric.  If I don’t see you sooner, I’ll see you on the Hogwarts Express on Sept. 1st.

LYLAS!

            Cassi

 

                Mary had just finished reading her letter when the bedroom door burst open revealing her messy-haired, emerald-eyed twin brother.  Harry Potter fidgeted, pushing his round, wire-rimmed glasses further up the bridge of his nose and ran a pale hand through his ebony-black hair.   “I can’t bloody believe she did that to me!” he snapped.

                “Can’t believe who did what?” said Mary, lounging regally on her un-made bed.

                “Cassi!” Harry yelled, throwing his arms up in frustration.

                Mary sighed. “I know she can’t come, but what’s the big deal Harry?” she asked.  “It’s not like either of us has never celebrated without her before.”

                “No, it’s not that.  Its—UGH!”  Harry plopped down on the bed beside his two-inches taller (and two minutes older) twin sister and handed her his letter.  “Here, read it yourself,” he said bitterly.

 

                Harry Potter,

We can’t see each other anymore.  I hope you are well.  Sorry I can’t come this year.  See you at Hogwarts.  I hope we can still be friends.

            Cassiopeia Black

 

                Mary whistled in sympathy.  “Merlin and Anor, that’s bloody cold, even for Cass,” she said.

                “Tell me about it,” groaned Harry.  He flopped down on her bed and covered his face with his hands, pushing his glasses onto his forehead in the process.  “Do you think she’s serious?” he mumbled through his fingers.

                “No, she’s Cassi,” joked Mary.  “Sirius is her dad, remember?”

                “Ha bloody ha, Mary,” snapped Harry, removing his hands from his face (allowing the glasses to fall back into place) and glaring at the smirking redhead.  “I’m trying to be ser—er, non-joking here.”

                “I know, I know,” sighed Mary.  She turned to Harry and locked her hazel eyes with his emerald ones.  “Something’s wrong with her,” she said.  “I’m not sure what exactly, but I can tell that something’s definitely off.”

                “What are we gonna do?” asked Harry, concerned.

                “What can we do?” said Mary with a shrug.  “We’ll do what we always do, of course.”

                “What’s that?” asked Harry.

                “Bug the hell out of her till she finally cracks,” replied Mary, a mischievous and slightly evil glint in her eyes.

 

                At six o’clock in the evening a lone, cloaked figure waited silently on the hillside.  Minutes passed and the cloaked figure was joined by the motherly figure of Molly Weasley.  “Happy birthday, Mary dear,” she said, giving the younger woman a great big hug.  “Are you sure you want to do this today?”

                The cloaked figure nodded, causing her hood to fall, revealing her vibrant, shoulder-length red hair.  “I have to do this, Mrs. W,” she said.  “Not just for me, but for my babies too.  If I put it off, I’ll just lose my nerve.”

                Molly nodded in understanding.  “Alright, dear,” she said.  “I’m here for you no matter what, you know that, right?”

                Mary hugged the redheaded Weasley matron.  “Thanks, Mrs. W,” she mumbled into Molly’s curly red hair.  “You’re the best.”

                “You’re quite welcome, dear,” replied Molly, hugging Mary back.  “Now, are you sure you’re ready to do this?”

                Mary nodded an affirmative.  “Let’s go before I change my mind,” she replied.  Without another word between them, Molly led Mary down the opposite side of the hill.  The two witches walked for a good five or ten minutes before they reached a modest two-story, beige house with a white picket fence.  Mary glanced warily at the very normal-looking house.  “I guess this is it, then,” she said.  “There’s really no turning back now.”

                Molly placed a comforting hand on the younger redhead’s shoulder.  “It’ll be alright, Mary dear,” she said.  “This will be good for you.  You need closure, all of you do, and you can support each other this way.  This will help, I promise.”  Without waiting for Mary to respond, Molly lifted the brass doorknocker and brought it down sharply three times. 

The door was opened by a middle-aged woman, her blonde hair hanging loosely down to just below her shoulders and her grey eyes full of a deep, deep sadness.  “Hello Mary, Molly,” she said in a strangely strong voice for one so obviously grieving.  “Won’t you come in?”

                “Thank you, Christine,” said Molly, placing a guiding hand on Mary’s shoulder and steering the suddenly panicking redhead through the door.

                Christine turned back to face the redheaded witches after shutting the door and said, “Amos is in the living room playing with the twins.  We’re ready to go whenever you are, Mary.”

                Mary jerked her head, Molly’s comforting hand never leaving her shoulder.  Mary took a deep breath and said, “Let’s do this before I completely lose my nerve, Mrs. Diggory.  Mr. Diggory has my babies?”

                “Please, Mary,” came a hoarse voice from the living room door, “I’ve asked you to call me Amos.”

                Mary nodded.  “Of course, Amos,” she said.  “Where are the twins?”

                “Cedric is playing with his toys and Dwinky is getting Cimorene ready to go,” replied Amos.  “Why don’t you go in and get them.  I know they’d love to see their mummy.”

                “Okay,” replied Mary, heading into the living room and leaving the three adults behind.

               

Mary smiled wistfully at the scene in the living room.  Little Cedric Jr. lay on his back, swatting playfully at the toys hanging in front of his big hazel eyes, so like his mummy’s.  Everything else about Little Ced, however, was purely his father: same nose, same mouth, same chin, even the same thick, sandy brown hair.  Little Cimorene, Mary noted as Dwinky wrestled the wiggly two-month-old into a tiny black dress, was just the opposite: she had her daddy’s beautiful stormy grey eyes and everything else was purely Mary, from her cute button nose to her thick, bright red hair.

                Mary was jolted out of her wistful reverie by a high, squeaky voice.  “Miss Mary!  Miss Mary!”

                “Yes Dwinky?” Mary replied, blinking her way back into reality.

                “Mistress Cimorene is being ready now, Miss Mary.  Is Miss Mary requiring anything else?”

                “No, thank you, Dwinky,” Mary told the female house-elf.  “I think we’re good here.”

                “Dwinky shall be leaving Miss Mary, then.”

                “Very good,” said Mary.  Dwinky nodded and with a soft POP she disappeared.  “Okay babies,” said Mary, picking up Cimorene and Cedric, “it’s time to visit Daddy.”

 

                The evening sky was grey and overcast and a light drizzle rained down, casting a sheet of gloom on the English countryside.  Whether by some ancient elemental magic or by pure cosmic coincidence (if there even is such a beast), the gloomy and slightly depressing atmosphere provided the perfect backdrop for the small group of people gathered in Ottery St. Catchpole’s sole wizarding cemetery in front of the recently filled grave of one Cedric James Diggory.

                Molly Weasley and Mary Evans-Potter stood back from the grave, holding tightly to young Cimorene and Cedric Jr. respectively, allowing Amos and Christine Diggory a moment to say goodbye to their only son.  All too soon the couple stepped back.  Handing Cedric Jr. to his grandfather, Mary made her way toward the grave and sank to her knees on the muddy ground in front of the marble headstone, lovingly tracing the words written there for all eternity:

 

Cedric James Diggory

September 7, 1985-May 24, 2003

Beloved Son and Father

Loyal Friend

A True Hufflepuff

Gone, but Never Forgotten

 

                “Hey Ced,” Mary said softly.  “I-I miss you, you know.  More than I ever thought possible.  Funny, isn’t it, in the not-funny-in-the-slightest kind of way, of course.  It’s been two months and seven days since you died, Ced.  Two months and seven days since our babies lost their daddy.  I can’t help but count, baby.  There’s a hole in my heart since you died.  George—he’s helping.  I know you’d want me to be happy, but right now I just want to die, because it would mean I’d get to be with you again.   Today isn’t so bad, though.  I’m actually doing okay today, Ced.  But there are so many days—Merlin, Ced, some days I just feel so empty.  I know logically that I have so much to live for, especially Little Ced and Cimmy, but some days it’s just so bloody hard.

                “I tried to see you, you know.  I told you how I can access the Realm of Death through my dreams sometimes, remember?  Well, my dad told me that I wasn’t allowed to see you yet.  Said it was ‘much too soon.’  Merlin, I wanted to slug him good and hard right then and there—my own bloody father!  But deep down I knew he was right.  If I saw you again, I don’t know if I could just let you go.

                “I remember what you told me, Ced, in my dreams.  You told me to learn to love again.  I promise I’m trying, Ced, I really am.  I think—I think I might even be able to, with time.  George is being surprisingly understanding about the whole thing.  Does it—does it make me a bad person that I think I might be falling for him all over again?  I mean, you haven’t been gone all that long—two months and seven days, eight tomorrow—and I’m already thinking about George instead of you, Ced.  Already you, your very being, doesn’t fill my every thought.  Does—does that make me a bad person, Ced?  That I could even contemplate moving on with my life?  Merlin, I’m some kind of cold-hearted bitch, aren’t I?  Merlin and Anor, I am!  Sweet Anor, that I could even contemplate—I’m just being paranoid and delusional again, aren’t I?  No, you always used to tell me that I was just paranoid.  ‘Never delusional,’ you’d say.

                “You called me luv.  You told me you loved me so many times, Ced.  You meant it, too, I know.  You meant it with all your heart, your soul, your very being.  And yet at times I can’t help but curse you, curse your very existence, for leaving me.  Yet I can’t stop loving you, no matter how many times I might wish otherwise.

                “Merlin and Anor, I miss you so much, Ced.  Our babies miss you too.  I’m going to make sure they always know how loyal and brave their daddy was.  A true Hufflepuff, despite the occasional Gryffindor tendencies.

                “I love you, baby.  I love you so much.  And I know you would want me to be happy again.  I think that George can make me happy, but I need you to give me some sort of sign that I’m doing the right thing here.  Please, baby, I need to know.”  Mary raised her tear streaked face to the sky.  “I just need to know that you’re okay with this, Cedric.”  Mary closed her eyes.  “Please,” she whispered. 

She suddenly felt a feather-light kiss on her forehead.  She opened her eyes slowly and gasped.  Standing in front of her in his Hufflepuff yellow and black was a completely translucent Cedric Diggory.  “C-Ced?” she whispered.

                “Hey Mary,” said Cedric with a small smile.

                “Wh—are you a ghost?”

                Cedric shook his head.  “No, luv,” he said, stroking her fair cheek with his translucent hand.  “I’m only here for a minute or two.”

                Mary desperately tried to touch Cedric’s hand with her own, but found that it simply went right through him.  “Baby—” she began, tears forming in her hazel eyes.

                “Shh,” said Cedric, wiping the tears from her face.  “It’ll be okay, luv, I promise.”

                “How—but I can’t touch you,” she whispered, marveling at the strange feeling of Cedric’s insubstantial hand on her skin.

                Cedric smiled softly.  “Let’s just say there are some higher-ups that felt that I deserved a chance to say goodbye to you properly.”

                Mary closed her eyes and leaned into his touch.  “You really can’t stay, can you?” she whispered.

                “You know that I can’t, luv,” said Cedric.  “I’m sorry, luv.  I really wish I could, but it doesn’t work that way.”

                Mary sighed.  “I know, Ced.  A girl can bloody well wish, though.”

                Cedric chuckled.  “Of course, luv.  Now, I have something important I want you to do for me, Mary.  Do you think that you can do that, luv?”

                “Whatever you ask, I’ll do, Ced.”

                Cedric shook his head and smiled at Mary.  “You shouldn’t say things like that, luv,” he said.  “If I were anyone else, I could make you do something really bad with a promise like that.”

                Mary’s hazel eyes bored into his grey.  “But you won’t, will you Ced?”

                Cedric sighed.  “You know I won’t, luv.”

                “So, what do you want me to do?”

                Cedric stared into Mary’s eyes lovingly.  “I love you, Mary Evans-Potter, with all my soul.  What I want is for you to find love again, and George is just the bloke to do that for you.  You and he are destined in a way that you and I weren’t.  He’ll make you happy again, luv.  He’ll love you just as much as I do, if not more.  Please let him love you, Mary.  You need him as much as he needs you.  Promise me you’ll let him in again.”

                “I promise, Cedric.”

                Cedric smiled and kissed Mary full on the lips one last time.  “Thank you, luv,” he whispered.  “I love you so much, Mary.  Never forget that.”

                “I love you too, Cedric,” said Mary, tears filling her eyes.  She knew that their time together was drawing to a close.

                Cedric smiled.  “Give my love to Ced and Cimmy.”

                Mary smiled back tearfully.  “I will,” she replied.

                “Now, you need to let me go, Mary.”

                Mary nodded.  She took a deep breath, cleared her mind, and spoke, her voice full of love and understanding: “Goodbye Cedric.  I’ll always love you.”  With a final smile, Cedric faded away.  Wiping away her tears, Mary stood up, straightened out her little black strapless dress, took a deep breath, and headed back over to Molly, the twins, and the Diggorys.  It was time for her to move on.

Chapter Text

Chapter 17: Discoveries

 

August 1, 2003:  The phone rang once, twice, thrice.  A tall, willowy brunette ran into the room, and managed to catch it (just barely) before it stopped ringing entirely.  “Hello?” she said, putting the phone to her ear.

                “Hey Dawnie.”

                “Buffy!  Hey!” said Dawn.  “How are you?  How’s Rome?  Are you having fun there?  When are you coming back to England?  Giles is great; he’s teaching me Latin and Ancient Greek and Sumerian and a couple of demonic languages.  How’s—”

                “Whoa there, Dawnie!  Slow down, honey.  One question at a time, please.”

                “Oops,” said Dawn.  “Sorry Buffy.”

                “It’s okay,” placated Buffy.  “Now to answer your questions, fine, good, yes, and Christmas.  That work for you?”

                “Yeah,” said Dawn.  “So, what’d you call about anyway, Buffy?”

                There was silence on the other end for a moment.  “I remembered something else last night, Dawnie.”

                Dawn’s unnaturally large blue eyes widened at her sister’s words.  Ever since the Council had been blown up back in December, Buffy had been having strange non-Slayer dreams.  When the Scoobies, headed by Giles, had started rebuilding the New Council back in May, Giles had come across some safeguarded documents, including some about Buffy.  These documents stated that she had been removed from her birth family at the age of six and had then been placed with the Summers.  She’d been given a shiny new set of memories to go with the family change, her old ones locked away deep in her subconscious.  With the destruction of the Council and its pet wizards, however, the charms on Buffy had started to wear down and she was slowly recovering long-suppressed memories of her former life. 

“What did you remember, Buffy?” asked the almost sixteen-year-old (Her birthday was only five days away, as she’d happily inform anyone who would listen.  Or wouldn’t, for that matter; she was an equal-opportunity botherer, after all).

                “I remembered—”

                “Dawn!” called Giles, coming into the front room and interrupting Buffy’s revelation.

                “Yes Giles?” said Dawn, moving the phone away from her mouth and brushing her hip-length chestnut brown hair out of her face.

                “A letter came for you today, dear girl,” he said, handing the tall, lanky teen a rather strange, thick envelope.

                “Isn’t it a bit early—or late, whichever—for the mail?” asked Dawn.

                “Yes, well,” said Giles, removing his glasses, “this wasn’t regular post, Dawn.” 

Dawn looked curiously at the strange envelope.  The first thing she noticed was that it was made of parchment rather than notebook paper or stationary.  The second thing she noticed was that it was addressed in bright emerald green ink.  The third thing that Dawn noticed was the name on the envelope.  “You were saying, Buffy?” said Dawn, continuing her conversation with her sister, but never taking her curious eyes off the strange letter in her hand.

“What?  Oh, yeah.  I remembered my—or well, our—last name!” she informed Dawn.  “It’s—”

“Let me guess, Longbottom, right?” interrupted Dawn.

                “How did you know that?” 

Dawn smirked and rolled her eyes; she could practically see the suspicious and slightly put-out pouty look that was undoubtedly gracing her sister’s face.  “I just got a letter addressed to ‘Miss D. Longbottom.’  It was kind of knowledge by default on my part.”

                “Oh.  I guess that’s okay then.”

                Dawn rolled her eyes again.  “Sorry to burst your happy bubble, Sis.  Next time I just won’t say anything when I get some freaky weird-ass letter.  So what if it turns out to be a trap to get to the Slayer.  I’ll just get kidnapped again and blame you as usual.”

                Dawn could almost see Buffy glaring at her over the phone.  “Don’t even joke about that, Dawn.”

                “Come on, it’s not like its Tuesday or anything,” huffed Dawn.

                “Still,” said Buffy, “you say something like that and next thing you know you’ve jinxed us all.”

                Dawn just rolled her eyes.  “You are so weird, Buffy.”

                “So says the girl whose favorite food is salsa smothered peanut butter and banana quesadillas,” retorted Buffy.

                “Hey!  They’re really good!” protested Dawn.

                “I rest my case.”

 

                Once Dawn was finished with her conversation with Buffy (an hour and ten minutes later), she headed off to join Giles in the library (the pair was currently staying at Giles’ late mother’s ancestral home in Somerset).  When she entered the room, Dawn found Giles engrossed in reading a letter that looked quite similar to the one that she herself still clutched tightly in her hand, unread. 

                “Giles?” said Dawn, settling herself oh-so gracefully (that was sarcasm) in the seat next to the older man.  “What’s this weird letter all about?”

                “Hm?” said Giles, not even bothering to glance up from his own letter.  “Oh, well, you’ll just have to read it yourself, Dawn.”

                “You’re a meanie, Giles,” pouted Dawn.

                “Yes, quite,” said Giles, still engrossed in his letter.

                Dawn rolled her eyes, her favorite stereotypical teenageism.  Realizing that her badgering was futile, she opened her letter and read:

 

 

HOGWARTS SCHOOL

of WITCHCRAFT and WIZARDRY

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Headmaster: ALBUS DUMBLEDORE

(Order of Merlin, First Class, Grand Sorc., Chf. Warlock,

Supreme Mugwump, International Confed. of Wizards)

 

                Dear Miss Longbottom,

We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  New students typically start at the age of eleven, but due to circumstances beyond our control, chiefly your rather unfortunate location on the Hellmouth prior to its destruction, we were unable to extend you an invitation until now.  If you accept, we will provide you with the necessary tutelage to catch up to your appropriate age group, sixth year, I believe.  Please find enclosed a list of all necessary books and equipment.

                                Term begins September 1.  We await your owl by no later than August 6.

                Yours sincerely,

                Minerva McGonagall

                Minerva McGonagall

                Deputy Headmistress

 

                “Giles?” said Dawn, wide-eyed.

                “Hm?  Yes, Dawn?” said Giles, finally done reading his own considerably-longer-than-Dawn’s letter.

                “This says I’ve been accepted to a school for witchcraft and wizardry.  Pigwarts, or something like that.”

                “Hogwarts, yes,” said Giles with a smile.  “It’s the best school for magic out there.”

                “Wait,” said Dawn, narrowing her eyes suspiciously, “how did you know that?”

                Giles took of his glasses and began polishing them.  “I went there myself,” he explained, “and I have been asked to take up the position of assistant librarian for the coming school year.”

                “So, you’ll be coming with me?”

                “Yes, I’ll be at Hogwarts with you.”

                “SQUEE!!” squealed Dawn, launching herself into her father-figure’s arms.  “We’re gonna have sooo much fun this year!”  Giving Giles an extra big hug, Dawn jumped up like an ADD squirrel and skipped out of the room.

                “Dear Merlin,” said Giles, slipping back into the wizard speak of his youth and polishing his glasses furiously.  “Hogwarts is doomed.”

                “Giles?  Do I really get a magic wand?” Dawn called from down the hall.  “That is so amazingly awesome!”

                Giles groaned and pinched the bridge of his nose.  “Hogwarts is definitely doomed.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 18: Reunions

 

August 1, 2003:  “You want me to do what now?!”

                Giles removed his glasses, closed his eyes, and pinched the bridge of his nose.  “For the twelfth time, Dawn,” he said irritably, “you throw the floo powder into the fire, step in, and say ‘The Leaky Cauldron.’  It’s quite simple and completely harmless, I assure you.”

                “You want me to step into the fire,” said Dawn.  “What’s wrong with this picture here?”

                “Good Lord, Dawn,” snapped Giles, “witches and wizards have been traveling this way for centuries.  It is perfectly safe.  Now, we must go now or we’re going to be late.”

                “Are you sure—”

                “Merlin’s beard, girl!” exclaimed Giles.  “Would you like me to go first?”

                Dawn grinned sheepishy up at Giles.  “If you don’t mind,” she said.

                Giles looked skyward, praying for patience.  “Fine,” he said.  “If it will ease your mind, I will go first.”

                “It would.” 

                Glaring irritably at the brunette teen, Giles took a pinch of powder from the pot on the mantle and threw it into the fire, causing said fire to turn emerald green.  He then stepped into the flames saying “The Leaky Cauldron” and with a WHOOSH he vanished.

                “Wicked cool,” whispered Dawn, her unnaturally large blue eyes wide with awe, before grabbing some powder and following Giles.

 

                Dawn landed in an ungraceful heap on the other side of the floo.  Giles immediately helped her up, brushing the soot off of the teen as best he could.  “Are you a wizard or not, Rupert?” sneered a cold, silky voice.

                “Yes, yes.  Quite right,” muttered Giles, flushing bright red.  He pulled out his wand (oak, sixteen inches, sphinx hair, excellent for Defense) and muttered, “Scourgify,” causing Dawn to become all clean again.

                “Wicked cool, Giles,” said Dawn.

                “You have been spending far too much time with Faith,” Giles muttered, but Dawn could see the corner of his mouth quirk into a smile.

                “As disgustingly touching as this is,” said the cold, masculine voice again, “we do have places to be and people to see, Rupert.”

                “Yes, quite, Severus,” replied Giles.

                Dawn glanced over toward the speaker to see a tall, unnaturally pale man with an overlarge beak of a nose and greasy shoulder length, coal black hair dressed in a black…dress?  “Giles,” said Dawn slowly, “who’s the greasy, cross-dressing, overgrown bat-vampire wannabe?”

                Giles quickly covered his laugh with a cough as the “bat-vampire wannabe” sneered at Dawn.  “Dawn,” said Giles, “this is Severus Snape.  He was a few years behind me at Hogwarts.”

                “It’s Professor Snape now, Rupert,” sneered Snape.  “I am the Potions professor and resident Potions Master at Hogwarts.”

                “Oh, and here I thought for sure you’d be gunning for the Defense post,” bit out Giles, not liking Snape’s condescending tone one bit.

                Snape sneered at Giles (it seemed to be his thing).  “We must be going now, Giles,” he said, not realizing that calling Giles his last name was no longer an insult.  “The headmaster is waiting to meet the girl.”

                “Dawn,” snapped Dawn.

                “Excuse me?” sneered Snape.

                “Don’t speak to her that way,” snapped Giles, letting his Ripper persona loose for a bit.  “Her name is Dawn.  I suggest you get used to it, Sev.”

                The two old “friends” (depending on how the mood suited them) stared each other down.  Snape broke first.  “Here,” he sneered, thrusting a small piece of parchment at Giles, “read this then step in the floo and say ‘Headquarters.’”

                Glancing at the parchment, Giles commented, “Fidelius?”

                “Of course,” replied Snape with a sneer.

                “Of course,” muttered Giles.  Passing the parchment to Dawn he told her, “Think about what’s written—don’t say anything, just think it.  Do you remember what it says?”  Dawn nodded, staring down at the ashes left behind when the parchment had spontaneously combusted in her hands.  “Good,” said Giles.  “Now, throw the floo powder into the fire, step in, and say ‘Headquarters.’”

                Dawn did as she was told (a first).  “See you on the other side, Giles,” she said cheerily.  The last thing she saw as she vanished in the emerald flames was Giles and Snape staring each other down again as if their glares alone could kill each other.

 

                For the second time that day, Dawn tumbled out of a fireplace and landed in an ungraceful heap on the floor.  “Eurgh,” she said standing up and brushing herself off.  “Does that ever get any easier?”

                A warm voice chuckled and Dawn whipped her head up to see a Merlin-Gandalf-Santa Claus looking man dressed in a neon green dress (she didn’t yet know that they were actually robes) with chirping (eep!) yellow canaries on it.  “Eventually you do get used to it, Miss Longbottom,” he said.

                Dawn couldn’t help but smile at the kindly old man.  “Good,” she said, “cause it’s really fun and all, but I just get kinda sick of landing on my a—”

                “Dawn!”

                Dawn turned at the all-too-familiar voice to see that Giles had just come out of the floo.  “—butt,” she amended, seeing the disapproving look on her father figure’s face.  “Sick of landing on my butt.  Better Giles?”

                Giles rolled his eyes at Dawn.  “Yes, quite,” he said.

                “So glad to hear you allow your charge to use such language, Rupert,” sneered Snape, who had come out of the floo behind Giles.

                “Hey!” protested Dawn.  “There is so nothing wrong with saying butt!  It’s not like it’s a swear word or anything.  It’s just the name of a body part, duh.”

                Giles just rolled his eyes again and decided to drop the subject completely.  “Dawn,” he said, “I’d like you to meet Professor Dumbledore.  He’s the headmaster of Hogwarts.”

                “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Miss Longbottom,” Dumbledore said, his clear blue eyes twinkling merrily behind his half-moon glasses.

                “Uh, you too,” replied Dawn, suddenly unsure of herself.  “And it’s Dawn, just Dawn.  I’m not really used to the whole ‘Longbottom’ thing yet.  I mean, before yesterday I thought I was a Summers, for crying out loud!”

                “Of course, Dawn,” said Dumbledore with that ever-present twinkle of his in his eyes.  “I do hope you become comfortable with your new last name soon, though.  The Longbottoms are wonderful people, I’ll have you know.”  Giles interrupted by clearing his throat and throwing a pointed look toward Snape.  “Ah, yes,” continued Dumbledore, getting Giles’ message, “we must proceed with your testing.”

                “Testing?”

                “To see what you already know about magic and what you still need to learn, of course,” replied Dumbledore.  “Now, if you would follow me please, we can settle in and get started right away,” he added, steering Dawn to a small room in the front of the gloomy house.

 

                It took seven hours (long, painful hours in Dawn’s opinion), off and on, to finish testing Dawn.  Professors came and went (Dawn honestly couldn’t remember half of them).  The headmaster had had to take his leave fairly early on, but Giles had stayed with her the entire time (and not just because it was his wand she was borrowing for the testing).

                Dawn slumped into the dining room exhausted at 6:05 that evening and plopped herself down in a chair.  “So what’s the what, Giles,” she asked, her voice muffled by the fact that her face was currently buried in her arms on the table.  “Am I going to be a sixth year, or am I doomed to spend the rest of the year with a bunch of whiny eleven-year-olds?”

                Giles chuckled at Dawn’s dramatics.  “You are not doomed to spend the year with ‘whiny eleven-year-olds,’ my dear,” Giles reassured her.  Dawn picked her head up.  “You are not, however, quite up to par with the sixth years yet either.”

                Dawn’s head fell back down.  “Pre-pubescent Twelve-year-olds it is then,” she mumbled.

                Giles chuckled at that.  “No, my dear,” he said.  “The professors are all confidant that—with a bit of hard work—you could be up to a sixth year level by September 1st.”

                “Really?” asked Dawn, lifting her head from the table once again, a hopeful look on her face.

                “Really,” replied Giles, smiling at the blue-eyed teen.  “Severus informed me that you are already at a sixth year level in Defense Against the Dark Arts in everything but the wand work and that you are already at a fifth year level in potions.”

                “Its cause Willow and Tara used to let me help them sometimes,” said Dawn.  Realizing what she had just said, she turned to Giles and said, “Can we just pretend I didn’t say that?  Or at least not tell Buffy?”

                “Dawn—” began Giles.

                “Dawnie?!”

                Dawn whirled around, her loose, hip-length hair whipping about as she did so.  “Cordy?!” she shrieked, running forward and flinging herself on the brunette seer.  “You’re not in a coma!”

                Cordy laughed.  “So I’ve been told,” she said, hugging Dawn back.  “How’ve you been, Dawnie?”

                “Mmeh,” said Dawn.  “I’ve been pretty good.  I’ve been staying with Giles at his family mansion in Somerset.  It’s pretty cool.”

                Cordy arched a perfect eyebrow at Dawn.  “And where’s Buffy?” she asked.

                “Right now, she’s in Rome rounding up slayers and trying to get ahold of some Council funds.”

                “Oh, that’s right,” said Cordy, “they went all KA-BOOM last year, didn’t they?”

                “Uh, yeah, they did,” said Dawn.  “Who told you about that?”

                “Oh, a certain one-eyed birdie told me.”

                “Xander?!”

                “You know any other one-eyed people?” asked Cordy, raising her eyebrow at Dawn.  Dawn blushed and shook her head.  “Didn’t think so.”

                “Oh, right.”

                “If you don’t mind my asking, Cordelia,” interrupted Giles, “why exactly are you here?”

                “Good to see you too, Giles,” said Cordy, rolling her eyes again.  “I’m well, thanks for asking.”

                “Wh—oh, yes, quite.  It’s wonderful to see you, my dear.  I’m glad you’re well,” said Giles smiling at the ex-cheerleader.

                “Glad to hear it, G-man,” she teased.

                “Oh Merlin’s beard, not you too!”

                Cordy rolled her eyes again.  “As if,” she snorted.  “I just couldn’t resist.  As to why I’m here—do you mean here, here or England here?”

                Giles took off his glasses and began to clean them.  “Well, I-I meant here, here, but either will do.”

                “Well, that’s easy, then,” she said.  “I came to find my brother.”

                “I didn’t know you had a brother, Cordy,” said Dawn.

                “Well, that’s cause I never told anyone,” explained Cordelia.  “The Chases are my mum’s squib cousins and they were given custody of me when my parents were killed.  My older brother tried, and failed, to get custody of me.  The Chase’s never really liked magic, so they spoiled me rotten till I sort of just…gave in and repressed all my memories from before they adopted me.  Let me tell you, one thing a coma’s definitely good for is bringing back lost memories.”

                “I-I take it, then, you are from a wizarding family?” said Giles.

                “Pureblooded to boot,” said Cordy.  “Not that it matters or anything.”

                “So, did you ever find your brother?” asked Dawn.  “Can I meet him?”

                Cordelia heaved a sad sigh.  “I found out that my brother was killed fourteen years ago,” she said.

                “Voldemort?” asked Giles.

                “You got it in one, bub.”

                “I’m so sorry, Cordelia,” said Giles.

                Dawn gave Cordy an extra-tight squeeze.  “‘M sorry too, Cordy,” she said.  “I remember how sad I was when Buffy died.  I know how you feel.”

                Cordy hugged Dawn back just as tightly.  “Thanks, Dawnie,” she said.  “I miss him a lot.”  She could feel the tears welling up in her chocolate eyes and hastily blinked them away.  “But it all worked out okay, I think,” she added.  “I found out that I’ve got a niece and a couple of nephews running around out there somewhere and I got to be reunited with my favorite cousin, who also happens to have been really close friends with Jamie—my brother.”

                “Oooo!  Is your cousin cute?” asked Dawn.

                “Dawnie!!” yelped Cordy.  “He’s way too old for you!  And he’s seeing someone!  But duh he’s cute; he’s related to me, isn’t he?”

                Dawn couldn’t help but laugh.  “I missed you, Cordy,” she said, once she could breathe properly again.  “It’s so great to see you again.”

                “Missed you too, Squirt,” said Cordy.  “It’ll be nice to have another girl around to go shopping with.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, Xander’s sister’s great and all—”

                “Xander has a sister?!” exclaimed Dawn.

                “You’ve spoken to Xander recently?” said Giles.

                “He didn’t tell you?” said Cordy, puzzled.

                “No, I’m fairly certain I’d remember if he mentioned something like that,” said Giles.

                “Oh, well, basically he’s adopted, has a twin sister, and is a wizard,” said Cordy, completely oversimplifying the whole thing.  “Anyway,” she continued, “Xander’s sister is great.  She’s funny, smart, successful, and has excellent taste in guys, but we don’t really have the same taste in clothes or the same interests… And I’m about to have a vision now,” said Cordy, clutching her head as she fell to the ground in pain.  Giles caught her before she hit the floor.

                “What do you see, Cordelia?” asked Giles.

                “A boy and a girl on a dark street—he looks like Jamie and she kinda looks like Willow—and a big, blond whale kid.  They’re being attacked by these creepy demons with hooded cloaks and scabby hands.  It’s so cold—no hope—no happiness—just despair and pain and loss—” Cordelia grew pale and began to weep silently.  “You have to help them, Giles.”

                “Did you see where this is?” asked Giles gently, but urgently.

                “Little Winging, near Private Drive—or maybe Privet?” said Cordy, holding her head in her hands and keeping her eyes tightly shut to ward off the pain.

                “Thank you, Cordelia,” said Giles, helping her to a chair.  “Dawn,” he added, turning to the blue-eyed teen, “go find Molly Weasley and ask her for a pain-killing potion for Cordelia.  I must go alert Albus immediately.”  Understanding the gravity of the situation, Dawn took off without complaint.  With a comforting squeeze to Cordelia’s shoulder, Giles too took off, leaving the brunette seer alone in the dimly-lit dining room.

                “Oh my God,” Cordelia gasped to the empty room, eyes flying open wide.  “They’re already too late.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 19: A Night to Remember

 

                August 2, 2003:  Mary waved goodbye to Kitty and Jeff Rymes, her muggle summer friends, as they took off down Privet Drive in their brand new car (an early sixteenth birthday present from their mother).  Once the Rymes twins were out of sight, Mary heaved a sigh and reluctantly headed toward the front door of Number Four.  She was just about to go inside when she was almost bowled over by her messy-haired twin storming out of the house. 

                “Where’s the fire, Harry?” the redheaded girl asked.

                “Stupid…Dursleys…no news…Dursleys…” Harry muttered to himself, not noticing his rather temperamental twin sister.

                Mary grabbed her brother by the shoulders, forcing him to look at her.  “Okay, Loser,” she said, using her special nickname for him fondly, “you and me are gonna take a nice loooong walk and cool you down, m’kay?”  Harry jerked his head in a nod.  “Good," she said, steering the emerald-eyed teen down the front steps to the sidewalk.  “And they call me Hothead,” she muttered as the two of them set off together down the street.

 

                It was getting dark, but neither Mary nor Harry really cared.  The twins simply sat in silence on the swing set in the old neighborhood park, communicating telepathically with each other over their twin-bond. 

                So you gonna tell me what’s got your knickers in a twist or what? Mary thought-spoke.

                Harry gave a mental sigh and replied, I’m just sick and tired of everyone keeping us in the dark about, well, everything and never telling us jack squat.

                Mary turned her piercing hazel gaze on her brother.  Somehow I get the feeling it’s more than just that, brother-mine, she thought-spoke.  But still…want me to say “screw privacy” and dig around in some heads for some news?

                Harry looked thoughtful for a moment before heaving another thought-sigh and replying, No, you promised not to do that…again.  Besides, we can’t be stuck her for much longer, right?  Suddenly frantic, he turned his panicked emerald gaze on his older-by-two-minutes sister.  They’re not just gonna leave us here to die are they?!

                Mary gave him both a literal and a mental eye-roll.  Stop being such a drama queen, Loser, she thought-spoke.  Of course they’ll come for us…eventually.  Personally, I’m hoping for sooner rather than later, but at least if it is later, I get to give ‘em all a good old-fashioned ass-kicking.

                Harry stared at her.  You’re a very violent person, you know that, right?

                Mary stared back at him and cocked her eyebrow.  Hi, I’m Mary Evans-Potter, she thought-spoke.  And you are?

                Mary…

                No, we’ve established that I’m Mary, since apparently we’ve never met.  So…you are?

                Ha bloody ha, Mary.  I get it, Harry thought-spoke.  I was simply making an observation.

                I hope you figured that out before now, thought-spoke Mary.  Cause if not, you’re even denser than I thought.

                Harry rolled his eyes (both mental and physical) at the redhead.  Course I knew that, he thought-spoke.  C’mon, not even Ron’s that dense.

                True…Oh sweet bloody Merlin and Anor, speaking of all things dense, the Fat One has arrived.

                Harry jerked his head up to see their overlarge whale of a cousin (whom Mary had dubbed “the Fat One” upon meeting him in person nearly four years previous) Dudley and his gang of miscreants advancing toward them, absorbed in their own “discussion.”  Harry glanced between his sister, who had an evil grin that he knew all too well spreading across her face, and his cousin, trying to measure which was the bigger threat.  Sighing, he made his decision.  “Mary,” he said, “please don’t do anything stupid.”

                “Stupid?  Moi?” she said, a far too innocent look on her face.

                Harry groaned and did the all too familiar hand-face motion (definition: hand meets face, usually in exasperation).  “We are so doomed,” he groaned.

                Apparently luck was on the Evans-Potter/Potter (often shortened to just Potter) twins’ side, because Dudley and his gang didn’t see them at the park and soon moved out of sight.  Harry heaved a sigh of relief and got up off the swing.  “C’mon, Hothead,” he said, holding out his hand to her, “it’s time to head back.”

                Mary rolled her eyes at him, but took his hand anyway.  “And here I thought I was supposed to be taking care of you tonight, Mr. Moody-Pants,” she teased.

                “Hey, we’re twins,” said Harry with a shrug.  “We take care of each other.”

                Mary snorted.  “Hate to break it to you, brother-mine, but you so totally sounded like a girl there.”

                “Did not!” protested Harry.

                “Did so,” insisted Mary, snickering.

                “Did not!”

                “Did so.”

                “Did not!”

                “Did so.”

                “Did NOT!”

                “Did SO.”

               

                As the still bickering twins rounded the corner, they came across Dudley, who was calling goodbye to his retreating gang members.  “Big D?” Mary and Harry said together, stifling their laughter at the name they had heard Dudley’s gang call him.

                “That the best those morons can come up with?” said Mary.

                “Honestly, I can’t imagine much better from them,” said Harry.

                “Course not,” scoffed Mary.  “I doubt those bloody ponces have more than half a brain between the lot of ‘em.”

                “What did you say, freaks,” hissed Dudley, narrowing his eyes at the twins.

                Mary rolled her eyes.  “Lighten up, Big D,” she said.  “You don’t wanna give yourself a heart attack now do you Dudders?”

                “Do your ‘friends’ know your mum still calls you Ickle Diddykins?” said Harry.  “Hm…Whatever would they say…”

                “Shut up, you freaks!” hissed Dudley.

                “You shut up, Big D!” Mary snapped at him.

                “Why don’t we all just head home,” offered Harry, attempting to keep the peace.  “It’s getting late.”

                Dudley sneered at Harry.  “What?” he taunted.  “You scared to be out at night?”

                Mary rolled her eyes.  “FYI, Ickle Diddykins, this is night.  You know, when it gets all dark outside?  Ringing any bells?”

                Dudley sneered at her too.  “No, you two are just scared when you’re in bed, is all,” he said, ignoring Mary’s jab.

                “What are you talking about?” asked Harry, placing a restraining hand on his sister’s shoulder.

                “‘No, not Cedric!  Please, not Cedric!’” Dudley said, mocking them.  “What, do you two have some sort of threesome going on with this Cedric or something?”

                Before Dudley could make another sound, he found himself being held at wand point by a viciously angry redheaded witch.  “Don’t you dare mock him!” she snarled, her eyes and her necklace (The Flaming Heart of Anor, a magical necklace that signified that she was Anor’s heiress) flaming.  Her bright red hair appeared to be living flame crowning her angry countenance.  “He was an amazing man and you are not fit to lick his boots, you fat pig!”

                “Y-you’re n-not a-al-llowed t-to d-do m-ma—that—o-outside o-of s-school!” Dudley stuttered.

                Mary leaned in closer to him, pressing her wand harder into the soft flesh of his throat.  “Try me,” she growled.

                Dudley looked over to Harry, obviously desperate.  “Don’t look at me,” Harry snapped.  “I’m this close to joining her.”

                Mary opened her mouth to tell Dudley off again, but instead she found herself gasping for breath in the suddenly icy cold air.  Turning, she shared a frightened look with Harry, who was doing the same.  “I-it can’t be, can it?” she whispered.

                “S-so c-c-cold,” Dudley wailed, looking around frantically.

                “Shut up, Dudley!” the twins yelled.

                “You don’t think—” said Harry.

                “What else could it be?” said Mary.

                The two shared another glance, ignoring Dudley’s pathetic whining, and came to the same conclusion.  They were carefully scanning the area for danger when they heard a strange noise coming from the alley.  Moving as one, wands out, the twins advanced toward said alley when—

                “—the hell, Dudley!” roared Harry as he fell to the ground, having been punched in the face with Dudley’s ham-like fist.

                “Dudley, you bloody wanker, you’re heading right at them!” yelled Mary as Dudley ran towards the alley.  “Stop you stupid, stupid git!”  Mary pulled Harry up and the two Potters ran after their least-favorite cousin as fast as they could.  When they finally entered the alley, their worst fears were confirmed (and relived).  There in the alley, advancing slowly on an unsuspecting and sniveling Dudley, were three dementors.

Ex-ex-expect—” Harry stuttered, trying desperately to cast the Patronus charm.

Expecto—Expecto—Ex-ex—” Mary tried too, but was also having some issues.  It was bloody hard to think of a happy memory when the dementors were hell-bent on sucking them all away.

                Desperate, Mary grabbed Harry’s hand and clasped it tight.  Feeling a strange rush of warmth run through them, the twins simultaneously held up their wands and yelled, “Expecto Patronum!

                The twins watched in a mix of pleasure and awe as Harry’s stag (Mary had named him Prongs) and Mary’s dragon (she had named her Mina) chased down the dementors.  Returning to their casters, the patronuses (patroni?) bowed and allowed the twins to pat their heads before dissipating.  The twins then noticed that Dudley had fallen to the ground at some point.  Harry bent over him to see if he was okay while Mary kept watch, wand held at the ready.

                “Harry!” hissed Mary as she heard footsteps approaching.  Harry instinctively drew his own wand and jumped up to join Mary.

                The twins peered at the entrance to the alley as the owner of the footsteps appeared.  It was their neighbor Mrs. Figg, the crazy cat lady.  Surreptitiously, the twins tried to hide their wands before she saw them.  “Don’t put those away!” she barked at them as she came closer.  “Keep your wands out, you idiots!  There could be more of them!  Oh, I’m going to kill you, Mundungus Fletcher!”

                “What?” said the twins, too shocked that Mrs. Figg knew what a wand was to really hear anything else she way saying.

                “He left!” Mrs. Figg said, wringing her hands in frustration.  “Left to see about a batch of cauldrons that fell off the back of some broom.  I told him not to leave!  Oh!  I’ll flay him alive, I will!  It’s a good thing I put Mr. Tibbles on the case, else I might have been too late.  Hurry up!  We’ve got to get you back.  Ooh, this is going to be a pain in the arse to sort out.  I’m going to kill him!”

                “But—” said Harry, confused.

                “Are you a witch?” asked Mary, equally confused.

                “Pshaw.  Of course not,” said Mrs. Figg.  “I’m a squib—can’t do a spell to save my life.  That’s why I told Mundungus not to leave.  I can’t believe him!  I’m going to murder him, I will!”

                “Um—”

                “You best grab your cousin, Harry,” said Mrs. Figg, either ignoring the twins’ confusion or completely oblivious to it.  “We need to get the three of you back home quickly.”

                Too much in shock to argue, Harry bent down and did his best to pull the much heavier Dudley up.  With a bit of (reluctant) help from Mary, he finally managed to get enough of a hold on him to help him walk home (Mary flat out refused to help with that part).  Once Harry was settled with “Ickle Diddykins,” Mrs. Figg took off down the street, muttering to herself and cursing Mundungus Fletcher while glancing behind occasionally to make sure the three teens were still following her.

Chapter Text

Chapter 20: Murphy’s Law

 

August 2, 2003While listening to Mrs. Figg rant on about Mundungus Fletcher and explain that they were under constant guard by Order members, the twins, their cousin, and their crazy cat-lady of a neighbor ran into Dung himself.  The twins had to wait and listen while Mrs. Figg told him exactly how she felt about his idiocy.  Soon Mary, Harry, and Dudley entered Number Four to even more yelling.  After the first few minutes of yelling, the twins just tuned out Uncle Vernon, knowing that he was just ranting on about the same old shit he always did.

                “…fix him!” the twins dimly heard Uncle Vernon yell.  That was when the first owl swooped in, dropping a letter on Harry’s head.

                “What’s with the ruddy bird?” yelled Uncle Vernon.

                Mary and Harry ignored him.  “Open it, Harry,” said Mary.  “Just open it quick, like peeling off a band-aid.”  Hands shaking with nerves, he opened the letter and held it out so that they could both see it.

 

                Dear Miss Evans-Potter and Mr. Potter

We have received intelligence that you have both performed the Patronus Charm at twenty-three minutes past nine this evening in a muggle-inhabited area and in the presence of a muggle.

The severity of this breach in the Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery has resulted in your expulsion from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  Ministry representatives will be calling at your place of residence shortly to destroy your wands.

As you have each already received an official warning for a previous offence under section 13 of the International Confederation of Wizards’ Statute of Secrecy, we regret to inform you both that your presence is required at a joint disciplinary hearing at the Ministry of Magic at 9 AM on August 12th.

Hoping you are both well,

Yours sincerely,

Mafalda Hopkirk

IMPROPER USE OF MAGIC OFFICE

Ministry of Magic

 

                “Holy shit,” swore Mary.  “Bloody bleeding buggering sodding fucking hell!”

                “I second that,” said Harry.  “Is this…”

                “…legit?  I’m pretty sure.  Damn, we are so screwed!”

                “What’s this all about now?” roared Uncle Vernon, his face purple and confused.

                “Well, my dearest Uncle V,” said Mary, “it appears that Harry and I have been expelled from school.” 

Vernon’s look of glee didn’t last long as a second owl flew in through the window and dropped its letter into Mary’s hands.   She opened it and held it so that Harry could read it too.

 

Mary & Harry—

Dumbledore’s just arrived at the Ministry, and he’s trying to sort it all out.  DO NOT LEAVE YOUR AUNT AND UNCLE’S HOUSE.  DO NOT DO ANY MORE MAGIC.  DO NOT SURRENDER YOUR WANDS.  And Mary, for the love of Merlin and all that is holy, DO NOT LOSE YOUR TEMPER AND DO SOMETHING THAT YOU MIGHT REGRET LATER.

            Arthur Weasley

 

                “There goes my master plan,” Harry muttered.

“Well, good to know people think so little of us,” said Mary.  “And I would NOT do something I would regret later.”  Harry just gave her a look.  “Okay, so I might, but what’s so wrong with that?  Takes all the fun out of life if I have to spend time fighting to keep my temper in check; I’d rather just let it go.”

                “Who are all the ruddy letters from?!” Vernon roared at the twins, ignoring Mary’s schpeil, as always.

                “The first was from the Ministry of Magic, expelling us—” explained Harry.

                “There’s a Ministry of Magic?!” roared Uncle Vernon.

                “Duh,” said Mary, rolling her hazel eyes in annoyance.

                “Well, that explains everything.  No wonder the country’s going to the dogs,” Uncle Vernon muttered. 

Mary snorted at her uncle’s stupidity.  “Cause, ya know, a magical ministry SO affects you.”

                “What’s wrong with my Dudders?” wailed Aunt Petunia.  “What did you freaks do to him?”

                Mary sighed.  “For the last time, we didn’t do anything to your precious ‘Dudders,’ Auntie P.  If anything, we saved his soul tonight,” she explained, exasperated.

                “It was dementors,” added Harry.  “They make you feel like you’ll never be happy again.  They’re what happened to Dudley.”

                “Dementoids!” roared Uncle Vernon.  “What kind of bullshit is this, boy?”

                “They’re real, Vernon,” said Petunia, her face far paler than normal.  “Dementors are real.  They guard the wizard prison Azkaban.”

                “How did you know that?” asked Harry.  Mary could only stare at her aunt in shock.

                Petunia pursed her lips into a thin line.  “That—that horrible boy told her years ago and I happened to overhear them,” she admitted reluctantly.

                “What the bloody hell is going on here, Petunia?” roared Vernon.  “What’s this about dementools?  What’s wrong with Dudley?  What—AARGH!  BLOODY BIRDS!  NO MORE RUDDY OWLS IN MY HOUSE, DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME?!”  Ignoring Vernon’s tirade, the bird calmly swooped down and landed on Harry’s head, allowing the messy-haired teen to remove the letter before taking off again.

                Mary leaned in again to read the letter with Harry.

 

                Dear Miss Evans-Potter and Mr. Potter,

Further to our letter of approximately twenty-two minutes ago, the Ministry of Magic has revised its decision to destroy your wands forthwith.  You may both retain your wands until your joint disciplinary hearing on 12th August, at which time an official decision will be taken.

Following the discussions with the Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the Ministry has agreed that the question of your expulsion will also be decided at that time.  You should both therefore consider yourselves suspended from school pending further inquiries.

With best wishes,

Yours sincerely,

Mafalda Hopkirk

IMPROPER USE OF MAGIC OFFICE

Ministry of Magic

 

                “Okay, so we’re not expelled anymore,” said Harry.  “That’s a good thing…right?”

                “Of course it is,” scoffed Mary.  She then paused, realizing what she had just said.  “Oh bloody hell,” she groaned.  “When’d school become a good thing?”

                Harry chuckled.  “Well, at least we’ve got a hearing to look forward to, joy of joys,” he commented.

                “And that’s where they’ll sentence you, eh?” said Uncle Vernon, suddenly grinning manically.  “That’s where they’ll put you in prison.  Or maybe they’ll execute the both of you, eh?”

                Mary rolled her eyes in annoyance.  “They won’t kill us for something like this,” she said.  Harry couldn’t help but notice how she said nothing about prison.  “You know what,” she said, “I think I’m going to bed now.  You coming Harry?”

                “Yeah, that sounds good,” he said, moving to follow her.

                “Now wait just a bloody minute!” roared Vernon.  “Neither of you freaks are going anywhere until you tell me exactly what happened to my son!”

                “Fine!” huffed Harry, sitting himself down on one of the wooden kitchen chairs.

                “Fine?!” snapped Mary.  “It is so not fucking fine, Harry!  I have no—”

                “Just sit, Mary, please,” Harry said, giving her his best puppy-dog look (he’d been practicing).

                “Fine,” huffed Mary.  She plopped herself down on Harry’s lap in retaliation.

                “What.  Happened.  To.  Dudley,” seethed Uncle Vernon.

                “The three of us were in the alley between Magnolia Crescent and Wisteria Walk,” Harry explained, fighting to keep his temper in check because he knew that if Mary spoke she wouldn’t hold back this time.  “Dudley thought he’d be smart with us, so Mary pulled out her wand and I had to do the same to keep her in check—don’t say a word, Mary, you’ll bring the house down on our heads.  Then three dementors showed up—”

                “But what are dementrons?” persisted Uncle Vernon.  “What exactly do they do?”

                “I told you,” said Harry, exasperated, “they suck out all of your happiness and if they get a chance they’ll kiss you.”

                “K-kiss you?” stuttered Aunt Petunia.

                “They suck out your soul,” said Mary.

                Petunia gasped.  “His soul?!  They didn’t—he still—”

                “Of course they didn’t,” said Harry, exasperated.

                “Even you’d know if they had,” added Mary, rolling her eyes.

                “Fought ‘em off, did you son,” said Vernon.  “Gave ‘em the old one-two, eh?”

                “You can’t give a dementor the ‘old one-two,’” said Harry, his teeth clenched in anger.

                “God, you people are so mentally damaged,” muttered Mary, glaring at the Dursleys.

                “Why’s he alright, then?” barked Uncle Vernon.  “Why is he not empty?”

                “Because we used the Patronus—”

                Mary was interrupted in her explanation by yet another owl.  “NOT ANOTHER RUDDY EFFING OWL!” Vernon roared.  “I WILL NOT HAVE THIS IN MY HOUSE!  I WILL NOT TOLERATE THIS, I TELL YOU!”

                Mary and Harry ignored him (as per usual) and Mary took the letter from the owl.  For the first time ever, the twins were disappointed to see that it was a letter from Harry’s godfather, Sirius Black.  They had both been hoping for a letter from Dumbledore explaining everything.  Instead, the note simply said:

 

                Arthur’s just told us what’s happened.

            Don’t leave the house again, whatever you do.

 

                Mary and Harry stared in shock at the letter.  Harry turned the parchment over, looking to see if there was anything written on the back.  There wasn’t.  “It’s even shorter than Cassi’s letter!” Harry exclaimed angrily.

                “Is that seriously all he’s got to say to us?” growled Mary, ignoring the perfect (if overused and occasionally a bit lame) potential pun for once.  “That’s a bunch of bullshit!”

                “—a peck of ruddy owls in my house!” Uncle Vernon continued ranting, oblivious to the fact that the twins were completely ignoring him.  “They must think this is a bloody zoo or something!”

                Having gotten the gest of his rant, Harry spoke.  “We can’t stop the owls from coming,” he said while crushing Sirius’s poor-excuse-for-a-note in his fist.

                “Yeah, it’s not like we have control over them or anything.  I never claimed to be a bird-whisperer or anything.”  Mary cocked her head to the side thoughtfully.  “Though, with the way Harry and his bird go on, maybe he’s one.”  She smirked at the glare Harry sent her way.

                “Tell me what really happened to Dudley!” Vernon roared, his purple face a testament to his growing anger.  “If it was really those dementias, you wouldn’t be getting expelled!  You two must have done you-know-what!”

                “We did,” snapped Mary, “just not on Dudley.”

                “We cast the Patronus Charm,” explained Harry, fighting to stay calm.  “It’s the only way to repel dementors.”

                “And just what were these demondroids doing in Little Whinging?” asked Vernon.

                “Couldn’t tell you,” said Harry.

                “No idea,” said Mary with a shrug.

                “It must be you two,” Vernon insisted.  “You two are the only—” apparently he still couldn’t bring himself to say it “—the only you-know-whats for miles.”

                Mary shrugged.  “Just chronically unlucky, I guess,” she said dryly, but the look she shared with Harry said otherwise.  The twins were obviously thinking the same thing.  Who was that desperate to get rid of them?  They could think of only one person…thing…Star Wars alien dude…whatever…who was: Voldemort.

                “If these demondogs are supposed to be guarding this Alcatraz—”

                “Azkaban,” Mary corrected automatically.  “Alcatraz is in California.”

                “Don’t interrupt me, girl!” Vernon roared.  “If they’re supposed to be guarding this prison, why would they come here?” he pondered.  He glanced over at the twins and his face twisted into a cruel smile.  “They were coming to arrest the two of you, weren’t they?  You’re on the run from the law, aren’t you?”

                “No, of course not,” said Harry, shaking his head.

                “What, you think we’re that stupid?” said Mary.  “Besides, dementors just guard the prison; they don’t arrest people.”

                “Then why—”

                The twins shared a look.  “He must have sent them,” said Mary, ignoring their uncle.

                “Who else could have?” said Harry.

                “What are you two talking about?” asked Uncle Vernon, his face completely purple with rage.

                “Lord Voldemort,” they said together.

                “Lord—wait, that name sounds familiar…” said Uncle Vernon, trailing off.  “Wait, is he the one who—”

                “Murdered our parents?” said Harry.

                “Yeah, that’d be dear old Voldie-poo,” said Mary, her voice dripping with contempt.

                Aunt Petunia gasped.  “He’s back?” she whispered.

                “Yeah.  We saw him come back in May,” admitted Harry.

                “Sodding bastard had my boyfriend murdered too,” muttered Mary, choking back her tears.

                “So…this Lord Voldything’s after the two of you, is he?” asked Uncle Vernon, a strange gleam in his eyes.

                “Pretty much,” said Harry.

                “Sucks to be us,” added Mary.

                “The one who killed your parents,” said Vernon.

                “Yes,” replied the twins.

                “He wants you dead.”

                “That’s the general consensus,” said Mary.

                “And now he’s sent these dismembers after you.”

                “That’s what it looks like,” said Harry.

                “I see,” said Vernon, looking from his white-faced wife to the worn-out twins.  “Well, that settles it,” he said, glaring menacingly at the twins, “you two can get out of this house!”

                “What?” said Harry.

                “Say what now?” said Mary at the same time.

                “You heard me—OUT!” Uncle Vernon bellowed, causing everyone, including Dudley and Petunia, to jump.  “OUT!  OUT!  I should have done it years ago!  I never should have taken you in in the first place, girl!  Owls treating the place like a rest home, miniature earthquakes, puddings exploding, half the lounge destroyed, Dudley’s tail, Marge bobbing around on the ceiling, and that flying Ford Anglia—OUT!  OUT!  I’ve had it with the both of you!  You’re both history!  You’re not staying here if some loony’s after you, you’re not endangering my wife and son, you’re not bringing trouble down on us, if you’re going the same way as your useless parents, I’ve had it!  OUT!”  Mary and Harry stood stock still, shocked.  Even Mary, who always had something to say, couldn’t think of a response.  All either of the twins could think of were the letters from Mr. Weasley and Sirius telling them not to leave the Dursleys’.  “You heard me!” continued Vernon, getting up in their faces.  “Get going!  Get out and never darken our doorstep again!  Why we ever kept either of you in the first place, I’ll never know!  I should’ve put my foot down like I did with the other one!  But noooo, we thought we could squash it out of you, thought we could turn you normal, but you’ve been rotten from the beginning—both of you have!—and I’ve had enough—BLOODY EFFING OWLS!”

                A fifth owl zoomed down the chimney extra fast and nearly crashed to the floor before catching itself and flying over the twins’ heads straight at Petunia.  She shrieked and ducked, covering her face as the owl dropped a red envelope on her head before heading back where it came from.  Harry reached for the letter, but Petunia got to it first. 

“That’s a Howler,” explained Harry.  “We’ll all hear it if you open it, there’s no helping that.”

                “Drop it, Petunia,” ordered Vernon, “it could be dangerous.”

                “It’s addressed to me,” said Aunt Petunia shakily.  “Look, Vernon: Mrs. Petunia Dursley, The Kitchen, Number Four, Privet Drive—” the envelope began to smoke as Petunia trailed off.

                “Open it, Auntie P,” said Mary.  “It’s gonna happen anyway.  Better to just get it over with—like ripping off a band-aid—er, a plaster, that is.”

                “No—” insisted Petunia.  Her hand was trembling as she looked around for a way out, but it was too late.  The envelope burst into flames and Petunia dropped it, screaming.

                “REMEMBER MY LAST, PETUNIA,” roared an ominous, awful voice from the ashes of the letter.  Petunia looked as though she might faint.

                “What’s going on, Petunia?” asked Uncle Vernon hoarsely (all that yelling was finally getting to him).  “What’s going on here?”  Petunia was silent.  Dudley, Mary, and Harry all stared at her, bewildered.  “Petunia, dear?  P-Petunia?”

                Petunia raised her head, still trembling, but her face was set.  “The twins stay here, Vernon,” she said firmly.

                “W-what?”

                “They stay,” she said.  “That’s all there is to it.  Besides, there’ll be too many awkward questions if they leave.”

                “But Petunia, dear—”

                Aunt Petunia ignored her husband, turning to face the twins.  “You two will go to your rooms.  You are to stay there.  You will not leave the house under any circumstances.  Are we clear?”

                “Crystal,” said Mary, spying the strange—protective?—glint in their aunt’s plain brown eyes.

                “Good,” said Petunia.  “Now get to bed, both of you.”

                Mary moved toward the stairs, but Harry stayed put.  “Who was that Howler from?” he asked.

                “Don’t ask questions,” snapped Petunia.

                “Are you in touch with wizards?” prodded Harry, attempting to shake off Mary.  She was tugging his arm, trying to drag him to the stairs.

                “I told you to go to bed!”

                “But what did it mean?  Remember your last what?”

                “Go to bed.”

                “How come—”

                “YOU HEARD YOUR AUNT, NOW GET TO BED!” roared Uncle Vernon.

                As Mary finally dragged Harry off, she muttered to him, “Dude, I’ve got three words for you: curiosity, cat, and killed.”

                “That’s four words,” said Harry.

                Mary growled at him.  “Shut up, you bloody moron, before I set you on fire!”

Chapter Text

Chapter 21: Welcome to the Family

 

August 5, 2003:  Cassiopeia Black sighed for the millionth time, trying to get her great-uncle’s attention.  What truly incensed her was that she could tell that he was purposefully ignoring her.  He knew that she didn’t want to go stay at her dad’s house, but did he listen to her?  Noooo.  Realizing that her sighing was getting her nowhere, Cassi whined, “Why do I have to go to this Grimoir Place anyway?”

                “It’s Grimmauld Place, my dear girl,” said her uncle, looking highly amused at her mispronunciation.  “And we’ve gone over my reasoning many times, Cassiopeia,” he added.  “It will do both you and your father well to spend some time together and I’m sure that your friends will be delighted to see you as well.”

                “But—”

                “No buts, Cassiopeia dear,” said her uncle sternly.  “You are going to spend the rest of the summer at headquarters and that is final.”

                “Uncle A—”Cassi whined.

                “No,” said Uncle A.  “You are staying at headquarters and that’s final, Cassiopeia.”

                “Grumblegrumble…stupid bloody uncles…grumblegrumble…mushrooms…grumblegrumble…trisksy, sneaksy buggers…grumblegrumble…snorkel…” Cassi muttered under her breath.

                “What was that, Cassiopeia dear?” said Uncle A brightly, his clear blue eyes twinkling mischievously, indicating that he’d heard exactly what she’d said.

                “Nothing, Uncle Albus,” said Cassi sweetly.  “Are we there yet?”

                Albus Dumbledore, Cassi’s great-uncle, chuckled. “Actually, we are, my dear.”

                Cassi stopped short.  “Oh.  Wasn’t expecting that,” she said, looking around at the gloomy, run-down neighborhood her uncle had led her to.  “Not much to look at, is it?”

                Dumbledore chuckled again.  “No, it’s not.”

                “So…” said Cassi, turning back to her uncle, “which house is it?”  Dumbledore silently handed her a piece of parchment.  Cassi read it and looked back up at her uncle.  “Uncle A,” she said, “what’s this about?”  She yelped as the parchment suddenly burst into flames and she quickly dropped the offending article.

                “Think about what you just read, my dear” said Uncle A, ignoring his niece’s non-life threatening predicament.  “Now concentrate—”

                “Holy mother of Zeus!” Cassi exclaimed as Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place magically appeared between Number Eleven and Number Thirteen.  “Where the bloody hell’d that house come from?!”

                “Not out here, my dear.  I shall tell you once we are inside,” insisted Uncle A.  He ushered Cassi up the front steps and into the house.  “Please be quiet, Cassiopeia dear.  We do not want to make too much noise in the hall,” he added as he closed the door behind them.

                “Why—”  Cassi’s unfinished question was answered when she bumped into a small table in the narrow hallway, causing a loud THUMP.  That was when the screeching started. 

                “CHILDREN OF FILTH!!  SCUM!  MUTANTS!  FREAKS!!  MUDBLOODS AND BLOOD TRAITORS!  TAINTING THE NOBLE AND MOST ANCIENT HOUSE OF BLACK!”

                “Who’s that?” asked Cassi, staring curiously at the screeching portrait of an ugly, old hag.

                The raving portrait stopped suddenly as it spied Cassi.  “Bellatrix?” the portrait witch asked in a normal volume. “Is that you, darling?”

                Cassi turned to her uncle.  “Who’s the crazy portrait lady?” she asked.

                Uncle Albus chuckled.  “That would be Sirius’ mother, my dear,” he said, his blue eyes twinkling with mirth.

                Cassi turned her stormy grey eyes on the portrait, studying it intently.  Brushing her long, ebony curls out of her face, she asked, “Are you sure, Uncle A?”

                “I’m quite sure, my dear girl.”

                “Huh.”  She turned back to the portrait, plastered a cheeky smile on her ghostly pale (and yes, that was just her natural skin tone) face, and said, “Hello Portrait Grandma.  Nice to meet you.”

                Mrs. Walburga Black (well, her portrait anyway) looked scathingly at Cassi.  “You are my granddaughter?”

                “Well, Sirius is my dad—”

                “BLOOD-TRAITOR!  SHAME OF MY FLESH!  ABOMINATION!  HOW DARE YOU SOIL—”

                “SHUT UP, YOU OLD HAG!”

                “HOW DARE YOU SPEAK TO ME, YOU FILTHY LITTLE MUDBLOOD!”

                “I’LL HAVE YOU KNOW, MY BLOOD IS JUST AS PURE AS YOURS, GRAMS!” Cassi shouted back.  “MY MOTHER WAS A DUMBLEDORE AND HER HUSBAND WAS UNCLE REGULUS!”

                “FILTH!  HOW DARE YOU SPEAK MY SON’S NAME!  STAINS OF DISHONOR!  BLOOD-TRAITOR SCUM!”

                “I’LL SHOW YOU SCUM, YOU DECREPIT OLD HAG!”

                “BE GONE!  MUGGLE LOVERS!  FREAKS!  BY PRODUCTS OF DIRT AND VILENESS!  HALF—”

                “SHUT UP, YOU OLD HAG!” yelled a familiar hoarse voice, the man it belonged to bounding down the stairs and violently yanking the worn curtains shut over the portrait.

                Cassi stared at the tall, ebony haired man, her expression struggling between elation and horror.  “Hi Dad,” she finally said.  “Long time no see.”

                “Cassi,” said Sirius, grinning widely at his fifteen-year-old daughter and holding out his arms for a hug.

                Cassi rushed him and held him tightly.  “I missed you, Daddy,” she said.

                “Missed you too, Dea,” he replied, stroking her curly, raven-colored locks.

                “Is that seriously your mum?” asked Cassi after she had let go of her father.

                “Unfortunately,” said Sirius, for once ignoring his favorite (or least favorite, depending on his mood) pun.

                “Please tell me that portrait’s completely inaccurate, then,” she said.

                Sirius looked at his daughter in pity.  “Wish I could, Dea,” he said, “but I’m afraid it’s eerily accurate.”

                “Damn it,” muttered Cassi.  “So I’m just all around doomed to go completely nutters then, huh?”

                “What are you talking about, Cass?” asked Sirius, furrowing his brow.

                “Well, all my grandparents are completely mad—”

                Sirius gave her a knowing look.  “Albus took you to meet Aberforth, I take it,” he said.

                “What the bloody hell is with him and the damn goats!” Cassi exploded.  “He’s like obsessed with them or something!”

                Sirius chuckled.  “That’s very true,” he said.  “Aberforth isn’t exactly the picture of mental health, mind.  None of the Dumbledores are—‘cept your mum and her mum.  She was only a Dumbledore by marriage though.  Neither are the Blacks, for that matter.  Even Andy’s a bit of a loony at times and Merlin knows I’m not completely sane anymore, if I ever was to begin with—which, according to Moony, I wasn’t.”

                Cassi visibly deflated.  “So I’m basically doomed to a life of insanity then,” she said.

                “Pretty much, kiddo,” Sirius said.  “Welcome to the family.”

                “Damn.  There goes my ultimate plan for world domination.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 22: KA-BOOMS, Pirates, and “Girl Talk”

 

August 5, 2003Though she had been reluctant at first, Cassi found that she was actually enjoying spending time with her dad at headquarters.  Not that she’d ever admit it.  Uncle A’d never let her live it down.  It had only been a few hours since she had arrived, but already Cassi was settling in nicely to the strangeness and gloom that was Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place.

                “Aaaaaaand—checkmate!” said Sirius as his black knight (“Tis but a flesh wound!”) moved to block Cassi’s white queen (Cassi had pulled a Mary and decided to call her Jadis).

                Cassi glanced, puzzled, at the board and frowned. Something didn’t seem quite right with her dad’s move, yet at the same time she couldn’t see anything wrong with it.  “Is it?” she said.

                Sirius glanced down at the board too and frowned.  Now that he thought about it, something didn’t seem quite right with his move, yet at the same time he didn’t see anything wrong with it either.  “I think…” he trailed off, unsure.

                Cassi sighed.  “We are so pathetic,” she said.  Sirius nodded absently, still trying to puzzle out what was wrong with his move.  “Neither of us can play this bloody game to save our lives…so why are we attempting to again?”

                “Cause Moony’s being mean and hid the Exploding Snap and the Gobstones from me,” said Sirius.  “He says I’m banned from playing them cause I just try to make more messes and KA-BOOMS instead of actually playing the games.”

                “What’s wrong with KA-BOOMS?” asked Cassi, honestly perplexed.

                “Exactly!” exclaimed Sirius, jumping up in the heat of the moment.  “Everybody loves KA-BOOMS!”

                “What’s all this about KA-BOOMS?”

                “Yeah, what he said.”

                Cassi whirled around to see a tall, dark haired man with an eye patch covering his left eye and a slightly shorter woman with aquamarine, spiked hair standing in the doorway of the library, mischievous smiles on their faces.  “Who the bloody hell are you?” asked Cassi.

                “She’s related, isn’t she?” said the woman, turning her violet eyes on Sirius.

                Sirius smiled brightly at her.  “Tonks, Xander,” he said, “I’d like you to meet my daughter Cassi.  Cassi, these are my cousin Andy’s twins, Xander and Tonks.”

                “Wotcher, Cass!” said Tonks.

                “Nice to meet you, cuz,” said Xander with a smile.

                “You’re American?” asked Cassi, focusing on the one eyed man.  Noticing (for the first time as Sirius’s density was, in fact, genetic) his eye patch, she added, “And a pirate, apparently.  Aye avast!”

                “Shiver me timbers!” said Xander in his best piratey voice.  Everyone burst into laughter.

                Once they were calm, Cassi reiterated her first question.  “But really, Xander, are you American?”

                “Raised at least,” he replied.

                “Me too!” exclaimed Cassi.

                “You don’t sound very American,” commented Xander.

                “I’ve been here for four years now,” she explained with a shrug.  “Plus I pick up accents super easy.  I sounded all English and stuff after only like six months or something.  Well, except for that week I spent with Seamus in third year.  Mary was this close to stuffing me in a leprechaun suit and making me do a ‘Seamus.’  And then there were the two weeks I spent with Eddy and Oliver in June.  Mary claims I was a step away from starting up a bagpipe appreciation club.”

                “Ah,” said Xander.  “I suppose that makes some kind of sense…”

                “Seamus?  Eddy?  Oliver?  Who are these blokes?” asked Sirius, narrowing his eyes in suspicion.

                Cassi rolled her eyes.  “Seamus is just a friend, Dad,” she explained.  “He’s a Gryff in my year and we went out for a week in third year, but it just didn’t work out.  Same with Eddy.  He’s an older Gryff and we went out for a bit this summer, but it just didn’t work out between us.”  She conveniently left out the part where he had dumped her to go out with his ex as that was still a bit of a sore spot for her (it was the first and only time she had been the dumped rather than the dumper).

                “And Oliver?” Sirius persisted.

                “Nothing,” Cassi said a little too quickly.  “Nothing happened.  There’s absolutely nothing to talk about.  He was just the quidditch captain my first through third year.  The really cute, older, Scottish, quidditch captain with his big, strong arms and his dreamy brown eyes and—”  Tonks cleared her throat loudly.  “Oh, oops.  Shutting up now,” Cassi mumbled, her pale face turning bright red with embarrassment.

                Sirius narrowed his stormy grey eyes (so like Cassi’s own).  “Cassi—” he growled.

                “It’s nothing!  He’s nothing!” insisted Cassi.

                “Cassiopeia Selene Helen Hecate Anor Black, tell me right this instant, young lady, or I’ll—”

                “Oh, let it go, Sirius,” interrupted Tonks, rolling her eyes at her overprotective git of a godfather.  “Leave the poor girl alone.  It’s obvious she’s got a bit of a crush on the bloke.”

                Sirius’s eyes glistened dangerously.  “Cassi—” he growled again.

                “Oh, come on, Dad!” she protested.  “It’s just a bloody stupid crush!  It’s not like he even noticed me at all ever.  Course that could be ‘cause he was too infatuated with Mary…and I’ve said way too much now.”

                “What’s this about Mary?” pushed Sirius, equally as overprotective of his redheaded “niece” as Cassi, if not more so.  Cassi refused to speak (the wrath of Mary was a horrific thing to face).  “Where’s this bloody Scottish bloke so I can hunt him down and wring his skinny little neck!” he barked, a murderous gleam in his eyes.

                “Sirius!” snapped Tonks, her hair flaming bright red with anger.  “Leave her alone!  Unrequited crushes are horrible enough without daddy dearest threatening to tear said crush limb-from-limb.”

                “Hmm…not a bad idea actually…” said Sirius, seriously considering the option.

                “Don’t even think about it, Dad!” shrieked Cassi.

                “C’mon,” said Xander, grabbing Sirius by the arm and pulling him from the room, “now’s the time we make our hasty retreat with our manliness firmly intact.”

                “But—” protested Sirius.

                “Dude, they’re gonna have ‘girl talk’ time now,” Xander explained to a clueless Sirius.  “Take it from a guy with a butt-load of girl-friends; you do not wanna stick around for this if you’re not forced to.”  Sirius got a strange, wistful look on his face (no doubt his sick and twisted mind having come up with an alternate meaning of “girl talk”).  “Dude,” Xander whispered, “that means they’re gonna talk about boys and stuff.”

                “Oh, right,” said Sirius, realizing exactly what “girl talk” would do to his “rep” (if he even had one anymore).  “Let’s go bother Moony.”

                “To the Batmobile, Robin!” exclaimed Xander, striking a superhero pose with his hands on his hips.

                “Who are you talking to, Xander?” asked Sirius, genuinely confused.

                “You don’t know who Robin is?” gasped Xander in disbelief.

                “Who?”

                “What about Batman?”

                “Who, Snivellus?”

                “What about Superman?  Spiderman?  Captain America?  Iron Man?  Hulk?  The X-Men?  Black Widow?  Wonder Woman?  Aqua Man?  Green Lantern?  Flash?  Hawkeye?  The Fantastic 4?”

                “Never heard of them.”

                Xander took Sirius by the shoulders and steered him out of the room.  “We have so much work to do, my furry little friend,” he said as they (finally) left the room.

                Tonks and Cassi shared a look.  “The earth is doomed,” groaned Tonks, sinking down onto the couch.

                “The earth is definitely doomed,” added Cassi, collapsing next to the older witch.  “Now about this alleged ‘girl talk’…”

Chapter Text

Interlude: An Interlude on Density

 

August 6, 2003:  “Who’s the new girl?” asked Cordy, sitting down on the table in front of her cousin.

                “What new girl?” asked Remus, glancing up at her from his seat in one of the wooden chairs.

                “The one who’s moping around upstairs.  You know, tallish, grey eyes, black, curly hair—”

                “Oh, you mean Cassi?”

                “Is that her name?” asked Cordy.

                “If it’s who I think it is…”

                “She’s been hanging out with Siri a lot.”

                “Yes, that’s her.”

                “Who is she, though?” asked Cordy, frustrated.

                “She’s Sirius’s daughter,” explained Remus.  “Her name is Cassiopeia Black.  She’s fifteen-years-old and seems to be in some sort of ‘funk’ lately.”

                “Ah, I see.”  Cordy paused for a moment then asked, “Is she Jessi’s too, then?”

                “No, not Cassi.  Her mum was Luna Dumbledore.  Do you remember Luna?” asked Remus.

                “Can’t say that I do,” replied Cordy, shaking her head.

                “She was a tiny little thing, very petite.  She had long silvery-blonde hair and big blue eyes, very shy and quiet.  She and James dated somewhat seriously for a while in school, though you may be too young to remember that.”

                Cordy scrunched up her nose in thought, causing Remus to flash back to a much younger Cordy who always used to do the same.  “Did she wear a lot of blue?” she asked, trying to place this “Luna” person.

                “Yes, as a matter of fact, she did.”

                “Hm.”  Cordy continued to scrunch her nose as she thought.  “I think I vaguely remember her,” she said.  “She wasn’t really around all that much, was she?”

                “No, not after we’d graduated,” replied Remus.  “She was married to Sirius’s little brother by then and he didn’t much care for any of us Gryffindors, besides Luna, that is.”

                “Ah.  I see.”

                “See what?” asked Sirius, walking into the room at that moment.

                “See that your daughter’s a mopey little thing, isn’t she?” said Cordy quickly, not wanting Sirius to know what they were talking about (any talk of his hated family or his dead friends tended to send him into a weird, depressed funk that took days to break him out of).

                “Who, Mel?” asked Sirius, genuinely confused.

                Remus rolled his eyes at his friend.  “Mel’s not even here right now, Padfoot,” he said.  “Brownie’s talking about Cassi.”

                “Oh,” said Sirius, plopping himself down in the chair beside Remus.  “She’s mopey?”

                Cordy rolled her chocolate eyes at him.  “You are so dense, Sirius,” she said.

                “That’s what Mary keeps telling me,” said Sirius.  “No clue where she gets that idea from.”

                “Oh really, Padfoot?” said Remus, quirking an eyebrow.

                “Yes really, Moony,” replied Sirius.
                “So you have no clue where she might get the idea that you’re a bit denser than the average person from?”

                “Not a clue,” said Sirius seriously.

                “God, the density is killing me!” exclaimed Cordy.

                “Hey!  That’s what Mary always says to me!” said Sirius.  “Lily used to say it all the time to me and James too!”

                “Excuse me while I bash my brains out to escape all this stupidity,” said Cordy sarcastically.

                “Don’t let me stop you,” said Remus, amused.

                “You are so off my Christmas list, buddy,” Cordy muttered darkly.  “Both of you are.”  The two Marauders simply laughed.  “I hate you guys,” Cordy snapped.  She got up and stormed out of the room.

                “Love you too, Brownie!” Sirius and Remus called after her.

Chapter Text

Chapter 23: Assemble the Guard

 

August 6, 2003The dining room of Number Twelve was a cacophony of pure noise as the Advance Guard prepared to make their way to Privet Drive to fetch Mary Evans-Potter and Harry Potter.  Rupert Giles entered the room to a chorus of happy yells as he was “attacked” by a great big blur of red and almost-black.  His “attackers” immediately began to talk a mile a minute.  At the same time.  Loudly.  Giles couldn’t understand a word.  “Do shut up, please!” he said.  They fell silent.  “Thank you.  Now, one at a time, if you please.”

“Giles!  What are you doing here?!” asked Willow.

                “Yeah, G-man, what’s the what?” said Xander.

                “I’m a member of the Order,” explained Giles.

                “Since when?” asked Xander, shocked.

                “Since I graduated from Hogwarts in 1981.”

                “Wait, you went to Hogwarts?” said Willow.

                “Yes, I did and—Good Lord, is that Oz?!”

                “Hm?” said Willow. She glanced across the room at her purple-haired boyfriend who was talking to his older brother, Bill.  “Oh, yeah, we’re together again.”

                “That’s rather sudden, isn’t it?” said Giles, concerned that Willow was rushing things too quickly after her breakup with Kennedy (he’d never liked the chit).

                “Not really,” replied Willow with a shrug.  “We’ve been together since the end of May, plus when I saw him again it was kinda like a big hole in my heart filled up again.”

                “Hm.  Well, if you’re sure…”

                “I’m happier than I’ve been in a long time, Giles,” said Willow, “and so is he.  We’re good for each other.”

                “They really are, you know,” said Cordy, coming up behind Giles.  “God, it’s like a flashback from high school, especially with Xander around,” she added, smiling brightly at the assembled Scoobies (minus Buffy, who was still in Rome, and Dawn, who had been forced upstairs, as she was still underage).

                “Are you and Xander—?” asked Giles.

                “No!” said Xander.

                “Of course not!” insisted Cordy at the same time.

                “They are so in denial,” Willow muttered to Giles, a huge smile on her face as the brunette “couple” began their infamous bickering.

                “Yes, I hear it’s quite nice there,” said Giles, a smile playing on his lips.

                “A balmy 102 degrees, last I heard,” said Willow.

                “Yes, quite.  I wonder if they have ice cream there.”

                “Only on Tuesdays.”

                “Tuesdays?”

                “Didn’t you know?  Everything happens on Tuesdays.”

                “Ah, yes.  How could I have forgotten?”

                “Well, it has been pretty quiet since we sank Sunnydale.”

                “I do believe you may have just jinxed us, my dear,” said Giles.

                “Ah, doody.”

 

                “Can I have everyone’s attention, please,” Remus said loudly, stepping up on top of the table so that everyone could see him properly.  “Attention!”  The noise continued.

                “Oi!  You lousy bunch of ingrates!” yelled Sirius, trying to help his friend out.  “Moony’s talking here!”  Still the noise continued.

                “EVERYONE SHUT THE BLOODY HELL UP!!” roared Jessi, causing the entire room to fall silent (she was quite a frightening and intimidating woman, especially when pregnant).  “It’s all you, RJ,” she said smugly, turning the floor over to her bestest best friend.

                “Yes, thank you Sissi,” Remus said, rolling his amber eyes at her, more out of habit than anything else.  “Now, I’m going to announce who is going to be part of the Advance Guard to retrieve Mary and Harry from their aunt’s house tonight.  Alastor and I would like to thank you all for your enthusiasm and for volunteering your time for this mission, however, only a few of you will actually be joining Alastor and I tonight.  When I call your name, please join Alastor in the front parlor for your instructions.”  Remus took the parchment that Moody had thrust at him and began to read aloud.  “Emmeline Vance,” he said, “and Hestia Jones.”  A stately, fair-haired witch whom Giles remembered as being one of his Ravenclaw yearmates and a black-haired witch with pink cheeks left the room, following Moody.  “Elphias Doge and Rupert Giles—Hello Ripper, nice to see you again,” said Remus, looking up at Giles and smiling brightly.

                “Same to you, Rem,” said Giles, returning his smile, before following the silver-haired Doge out of the room.

                “Dedalus Diggle and Sturgis Podmore,” Remus continued.  An over-excited wizard with a top-hat and another with a square jaw and thick, straw-colored hair got up and left the room as well.  “Nymphadora Tonks—”

                “It’s Tonks, Remus!  Just Tonks!”

                Remus ignored her, his lips twitching as he tried to hide his smile.  “—and Kingsley Shacklebolt,” he added.

                “See you later, big bro,” said Tonks, ruffling Xander’s shaggy hair before following her boss out of the room.

                “And the final two member of the Advance Guard are Mya Chance and Regina Johnson,” finished Remus, watching the two chocolate skinned women, the younger with cropped magenta-colored hair and the elder with a single ebony French braid hanging down to the middle of her back, make their way out of the room before climbing down from the table and making his own way out.

 

                “It’s Jordan again now, Rem,” said Regina, who was waiting in the hall when Remus stepped out, closing the dining room door behind him.

                “What?” said Remus, confused.

                “My last name; its Jordan again, not Johnson,” said Gina.

                “Since when?  Why?” asked Remus, shocked.  “I thought you and Alvin were still madly in love.”

                Gina sighed mournfully.  “I had to give Al an ultimatum,” she said.  “We’ve been fighting horrifically since Angelina came home for the summer and told us that Mary and Harry saw You-Know-Who come back.  Alvin simply refused to believe it, you see.  So I told him that if he was going to be a stubborn fool, he wasn’t going to take Angelina, Ryan, and I down with him.  I told him it was either us or his denial.  Well, that and he never quite took to Paul or Ro.  He was never outright mean to them, just cold and distant.  He would’ve kicked Paul out when he turned seventeen if he hadn’t known that I would’ve stopped him.”  She paused for a moment then continued, “The divorce was finalized last week.”

                “I’m so sorry, Gina,” said Remus, giving his old friend a small hug.  “I never would have thought that of Alvin.  I thought he was smarter than that.”

                A snort came from behind them at Remus’s words.  “Oh please,” said Mya, letting her presence be known.  “Uncle Alvin is an arse, plain and simple.”

                “Mya—”

                “No, Aunt Gina,” interrupted the magenta-haired woman, “you know it’s true.  He’s being a bloody stupid git about this and you know it.”

                “But what if I made a mistake?” said the elder of the two woman, turning her mocha eyes mournfully on her niece.  “What if I just threw nineteen years of marriage away for nothing?”

                “You didn’t make a mistake, Gina,” said Remus.  “You stood up for your beliefs and didn’t back down, no matter what.  That was a very Gryffindor thing to do.”

                “Remus is right, Aunt Gina,” said Mya, hugging her aunt around the shoulders.  “You are a bloody amazing and brave woman and I am proud to be your niece.”

                “Have I told you lately that you’re my favorite niece?” said Gina with a small smile.

                Mya scoffed, her own mocha eyes sparkling mischievously.  “I’m your only niece, Aunt Gina,” she said, tugging playfully in the end of Gina’s French braid.  “Biologically anyway.”

                “Exactly my point, my dear Mya,” said Gina, smirking.

                “Hey!  I think I should be offended by that!”

                “You are so much like your dad,” said Gina, smiling at the thought of her overprotective, prankster of an older brother.

                “I’ll take that as a compliment,” said Mya.

                “You do realize that means you’re a lot like Lee too, right?” said Gina, raising her eyebrow at Mya.  “He’s even more like Tony than you are.”

                “Oh bloody hell,” groaned Mya dramatically.  “Just kill me now.”

                “I’d rather not,” said Gina.  “I’d rather like my favorite niece to be among the living.”

                “You were hopelessly corrupted by the Marauders when you were in school, weren’t you?” said Mya, her full, red lips twitching into a small smile.

                “Well, I did share a dorm with an honorary Marauder…and I had classes with all of them…and I was best friends with their girlfriends…and occasionally I was one of those girlfriends…”

                “We did our best,” said Remus, smiling wolfishly.

                “The Marauders: corrupting wizarding youth since 1977,” said Gina.

                “And bloody proud of it too,” said Remus.

                “There’s no way you’re staying away from them now, is there Aunt Gina?” groaned Mya.

                “Not a chance, kiddo,” said Gina.  “Momma Bear is back and here to stay,” she added.  She had been given the nickname by the whole of Gryffindor for being the unofficial “Gryffindor Mum.”

                “Glad to have you back, Momma Bear,” said Remus, throwing his arm around Gina’s shoulders and walking off down the hallway with her.  Mya followed behind them, shaking her head and groaning in mock horror.

Chapter Text

Chapter 24: Freedom!

 

August 6, 2003The twelve members of the Advance Guard landed softly and quietly in the backyard of Number Four Privet Drive.  Despite Moody’s severe paranoia, the group had made the trip in fairly decent time (it was only nine o’clock at night).  Motioning to everyone to dismount their brooms, Moody clunked over to the back door and used his wand to unlock it.  After the other eleven had filed into the house, Moody himself stepped inside and shut the door.

                Apparently Tonks’ rouse of the Dursley’s having won a lawn competition had worked like a charm because there was no car in the driveway and Moody’s sweep of the house with his magical eye revealed that the only other people in the house were Mary and Harry.  All was going very well…until Tonks made her way thought the kitchen, banging into a small table right outside the door and causing an ornamental plate to crash loudly to the floor.  Luckily for her, Remus was there to catch her before she herself fell as well.

                “Thanks,” she whispered to her werewolf savior.  Remus nodded and made sure that she was alright before (reluctantly) releasing his hold on her.

                “Tonks!” barked Moody, his grizzled hair, peg leg, swiveling magical eye, and missing chunk of nose making him a fearsome picture indeed.  “Constant vigilance!”

                Tonks rolled her natural grey eyes at her mentor.  “Don’t get your knickers in a twist, Mad-Eye,” she said.

                Mad-Eye growled menacingly at his protégée, but was prevented from retaliating in kind by Remus.  “Quiet!” the sandy-haired lycanthrope said firmly, his enhanced hearing picking up a small noise upstairs.  “Someone’s coming down.”

                Sure enough, seconds later the Advance Guard found themselves staring at the hope of the wizarding world: the Potter twins (or Evans-Potter twins, as Mary constantly insisted they be called).  The teens stood on the stairs with their wands drawn, twin looks of sleepy confusion on their faces.

                “Lower your wands,” growled Moody.  “You’ll poke someone’s eye out.”

                “Professor Moody?” said Mary and Harry together.

                “Don’t know about the professor bit,” said Moody.  “Didn’t do much teaching, did I?  Now, get down here so we can see you two properly.”

                The twins hesitated, but Remus’s voice reassured them.  “It’s alright,” he said.  “We’ve come to take you away.”

                “Professor Lupin?” said Harry.

“Uncle Remus?” said Mary.  “You're coming to take us away, ha-haaa!!  You're coming to take us away, ho-ho, hee-hee, ha-haaa, to the funny farm.  Where life is beautiful all the time and we'll be happy to see those nice young men in their clean white coats and you’re coming to take us away, ha-haaa!!!!!”

                Remus groaned.  “I regret ever introducing you to that song, Mary,” he said, burying his face in his hands.

                “Why are we standing around in the dark?” Tonks asked suddenly.  “Lumos.  Ooh!  They look just like I thought they would!” she said, excited, once she could see the teens properly.  “Wotcher, Mary, Harry!”

                “I see what you mean, Remus,” said Kingsley, his voice a deep rumble.  “They look just like their parents.”

                “Except the eyes,” said Elphias Doge, a wheezy-voiced, silver-haired wizard.  “He’s got Lily’s eyes and she’s got James’.”

                “Are you sure it’s them, Lupin?” growled Moody, as paranoid as ever.  “It’d be a good lookout if we brought back a couple of Death Eaters impersonating ‘em.  We should ask ‘em a question only the real Potters would know.”

                “Evans-Potter,” muttered Mary.  “It’s Evans-Potter, not bloody Potter!”

                “Unless anyone’s got any Veritaserum,” added Moody, ignoring Mary’s mini-schpeil.

                “Mary, Harry, what forms do your Patronuses take?” asked Remus.

                “Dragon,” said Mary, cracking a smile.  “I named her Mina.”

                “Don’t mind her,” said Harry.  “Mine’s a stag.”

                “Named Prongs,” added Mary cheekily.

                Remus rolled his eyes and smiled wryly.  “Only you, Red.  Only you.  That’s them, Mad-Eye,” he confirmed.  “No one but Mary can get that cheekiness down pat.”

                “Hey!” protested Mary.  “I resent that remark!”

                “Of course you do,” Remus chuckled.

                Smiling widely, Mary tucked her wand behind her right ear and ran up to Remus, hugging him tight.  “Missed you, Uncle Moony,” she muttered.

                “Missed you too, Red,” he replied, hugging her back and breathing her scent in deeply.     

                “Don’t put your wand there, boy!” Moody roared suddenly, ruining Remus and Mary’s moment.  Mary glanced over to see that Harry had stowed his wand in his back pocket.  She stifled her laughter as Moody continued.  “What if it ignited?” he roared.  “Better wizards than you have lost buttocks, you know!”

                “Who do you know who’s lost a buttock?” asked Tonks, cocking her head to the side in interest, allowing her chin-length violently violet hair to spill into her grey eyes.  Remus couldn’t stop drooling.

                “Hey Uncle Moony, you got a little something right there,” Mary teased, pointing to the corner of her mouth.

                Remus blushed as he wiped the non-existent drool off his face.  “Shut up,” he muttered darkly.

                “Love you too, Uncle Moony,” Mary said, grinning cheekily at the poor werewolf.

                “Never you mind, Tonks,” Moody growled, ignoring Moony and Mary and focusing on the bane of his existence, known to most as simply Tonks, “you just keep your wand out of your back pocket!  Elementary wand safety,” he grumbled as he stomped off to the kitchen, “nobody bothers about it anymore…I saw that!” he called back irritably as Tonks rolled her eyes at the ceiling.

                “So, how are you two?” asked Remus, turning his attention back to the twins.

                “F-fine,” said Harry, running his fingers nervously through his messy hair.

                “Just peachy,” added Mary.  “You wouldn’t happen to know what’s up with Cass, would you?” she asked.  “She’s barely contacted me at all since we got together in June and she broke up with Harry through a bloody note on our birthday, of all days.  A note!  On our bloody birthday to boot!  Not even a proper letter, mind, just a bloody, fucking—”

                “Yes, I get the point, Mary,” said Remus, interrupting her schpeil.  “Look, all I know is Cassi’s been in some kind of weird funk since Professor Dumbledore brought her by yesterday and he claims that she’s been like this since the end of last term.”

                “Hmm…”

                “You know, you’re lucky the Dursleys are out,” Harry said, steering the topic away from the still-sore topic of his girlfr—er, ex-girlfriend.

                “Lucky, ha!” snorted Tonks.  “Luck had nothing to do with it.  It was me that got ‘em out tonight, you know.  Sent ‘em a letter by muggle post telling ‘em that they’d been short-listed for the All-England Best Kept Suburban Lawn Competition.  They’re heading off to the prize-giving right now…or at least they think they are.”

                “Damn,” said Mary with a smile.  “That’s bloody brilliant!  I’d pay good money to see Uncle V’s face when he finds out there’s no such thing.  That’d be bloody pricelesstotally picture-worthy.”

                “As much as I agree with Mary, I have to ask, when can we get out of here?” said Harry, shaking off his own visions of Uncle Vernon’s priceless expression.

                “Pretty much right away,” said Remus.  “We just have to wait for the all-clear.”

                “Are we going to the Burrow?” asked Harry.

                “No, not the Burrow,” said Remus, shaking his shaggy head, “it’s too risky.  We’ve set up headquarters somewhere else, somewhere undetectable.  It’s taken a while; that’s why we’re only just coming to get you now, you see.”

                “I see…” said Mary, trailing off and looking over the gathered Order members.  “Who’re all these people?” she asked.

                “Mary, Harry, this is Alastor Moody,” said Remus, pointing to the familiar grizzled man sitting at the table, sipping from his hip flask and surveying the house with his magical eye.

                “Yeah, we know,” said Harry uncomfortably.

                “We do know what he looks like, even if we never technically met,” added Mary, rolling her eyes.

                Remus simply continued, smiling at the twins as he did so.  “And this is Nymphadora—”

                “Don’t call me Nymphadora, Remus,” said the violet-haired Tonks with a shudder.  “I’ve told you a hundred and twelve times, it’s Tonks—just Tonks.”

                “—Nymphadora Tonks, who prefers to be known simply by her surname,” finished Remus, casting an amused smile at the violet-haired witch in question.

                “So would you if your bloody mother saddled you with a name like ‘Nymphadora,’” Tonks muttered darkly.  “I mean, seriously, what was she on when she picked out my name?”

                “That would be called pain potions, my dear Nymphadora,” said Remus.  “I imagine she was in quite a great deal of pain after giving birth to both you and your brother.”

                “Yeah, but still—”

                “Seriously,” interrupted Mary, “your name’s Nymphadora?!”

                “Unfortunately,” said Tonks, grimacing.

                “Cass so totally owes me ten galleons,” said Mary.

                “What for this time?” asked Remus, sighing in exasperation, “or am I going to regret even asking?”

                Mary rolled her eyes at him.  “Back in first year I bet Cass ten galleons that I could find someone with a weirder name than hers and she said that I couldn’t.  I so totally win—Nymphadora is so much worse than Cassiopeia.”

                “Right,” said Remus.  “You know, I really shouldn’t be encouraging you girls to gamble…”

                “But…” prompted Mary, her hazel eyes twinkling playfully.

                “But I can’t help but find the whole thing bloody amusing,” said Moony, trying and failing to hide his smile.

                “That’s cause you’re totally awesome, Uncle Moony,” said Mary.  “You’re the coolest uncle ever.”

                “Does Padfoot know you feel that way?” Remus asked with a smile.

                “What Uncle Padfoot doesn’t know can’t hurt him,” said Mary, waving him off.  “Anywho, you were introducing the adult-like peoples, Moony?”

                “Oh yes, quite right,” said Remus.  “This is Kingsley Shacklebolt”—the tall, black wizard with a single gold hoop in his left ear bowed his greetings—“Elphias Doge”—the wheezy-voiced wizard who had commented on the twins’ eyes nodded his head—“Dedalus Diggle—”

                “We’ve met before,” squeaked the excitable Diggle, dropping his top hat.

                “I remember,” said Mary.  “Unfortunately,” she muttered under her breath.  “Stalker.

                “Emmeline Vance,” Remus continued, either ignoring Mary’s comment or simply not hearing it (Mary strongly suspected it was the former, werewolf hearing and all), as a stately witch in an emerald green shawl inclined her head regally, “Sturgis Podmore”—the square-jawed wizard winked (Mary shuddered.  Perv, she thought to herself)—“Hestia Jones”—the pink cheeked, black haired witch standing next to the toaster waved cheerily—“Rupert Giles”—a tall man with glasses and a single gold hoop in his left ear smiled warmly—“Mya Chance—”

                “We’ve met,” said the tall, black, magenta-haired witch with a smile.

                “You’re Bill’s friend, right?” asked Mary.

                “Aren’t you related to Chan and Riz?” asked Harry.

                “Both, actually,” replied Mya.  “Chan and Riz are my siblings-in-law.  The three of us briefly met at the World Cup last summer.”

                “I remember now,” said Mary.  “Coolness.”

                “And this is Regina John- Regina Jordan,” Remus corrected himself.

                “Hi, I’m Angelina’s mum,” said the tall, motherly black woman.  “I’m also Mya and Lee’s aunt.”

                “Nice to meet you Mrs. Jordan,” said Harry.

                “Same to you dear,” replied Regina with a smile.  “But it’s actually Ms. Jordan now.  You can call me Regina or Gina, if you like.”

                “Oh, t-thank you, Regina,” Harry stuttered.

                “You’re quite welcome, dear,” she replied.  “Dear Merlin, but you two do so remind me of Jim and Flower.”

                “Flower?” asked Mary.

                “That was our nickname for Lily,” said Regina.  “She was Flower, Luna was Harmony, Jessi was Spotts, and I was Momma Bear.”

                “Momma Bear?”

                “Gina here was the unofficial ‘mum’ of Gryffindor,” said Remus.  “We were in the same year at Hogwarts and she was one of your mum’s best friends, you know.”

                “Actually, we didn’t,” said Mary.

                “We all drifted a bit after graduation,” explained Regina.  “Luna and I both got married almost right out of school while Lily and Jessi decided to focus on their careers first.”

                “I see…” said Mary.  She glanced around the room at everyone.  “Got any more people hiding out in the backyard?  Or maybe in the garage?” she joked.  “Anyone decide to set up camp in the backyard?”

                Remus smiled wryly.  “A surprising number of people volunteered to come get the two of you,” he explained.  “This is only a small number of them.”

                “I notice Sirius isn’t here,” said Harry, sounding a bit disappointed.

                “Or Jessi,” added Mary.

                “Sirius isn’t allowed to leave headquarters because he is still a wanted man,” explained Remus.  “As for Jessi…she’s a bit…indisposed…right now.”

                “They both begged, pleaded, cajoled, whined, threatened, and downright screamed to be allowed to come, but eventually even the unbeatable charms of Padfoot and Jessi were no match for Dumbledore’s mighty twinkle,” joked Regina.

                “We’re just waiting for the signal before we leave,” said Remus, glancing casually out the kitchen window.  “Shouldn’t be more than fifteen minutes now.”

                “A bit too clean, these muggles,” said Tonks conversationally, glancing curiously around the spotless kitchen.  “My dad’s muggleborn and he’s the biggest slob you’ll ever meet.  I guess it varies, just like with us, eh?”

                Mary chuckled.  “Yeah.  Aunt Petunia’s just a neat freak, is all.  I’m actually convinced she’s a bit OCD.”

                “So what’s going on?” Harry asked Remus, changing the subject abruptly.  “We’ve heard next to nothing all summer.  What’s Vol—”

                Several of the witches and wizards in the room hissed at this, Diggle dropped his hat again, and Moody growled, “Shut up, boy!”

                “What?” said Harry.

                “Not here,” said Moody.  “It’s too risky.”  He looked at the twins with his normal eye; his magical eye remained pointed at the ceiling.  “Dammit!” he growled, reaching up to his magical eye.  “Damn thing keeps sticking, ever since that Death Eater scum wore it!”  With a nasty squelching sound like an un-suctioning plunger, Mad-Eye popped his eye out of his head.

                “Gross!” squealed Mary.  “Oh dear Merlin, did you have to do that in front of everybody?”

                “You know Red here’s right, Mad-Eye,” said Tonks, “that’s downright disgusting.  You could’ve at least run off to the loo like a normal person.”

                “Get me a glass of water, would you Harry?” said Moody, ignoring Tonks (as per the norm).  Harry obediently did as he was told.  “Cheers!” said the semi-retired auror, dropping his eye into the glass and prodding it up and down a bit.  “I want three hundred and sixty degree visibility for the return trip.”

                “How are we getting ‘there,’ wherever ‘there’ is?” asked Mary, desperately trying to ignore the eye floating in the glass.

                “Brooms,” said Remus.  “Nothing else would work out.”

                “YES!!” exclaimed Mary, jumping up and punching her fist in the air in excitement.

                “Remus says that you two are good fliers,” commented Kingsley.

                “Good?  Good?” said Mary, her pervious celebrations forgotten in what she felt was a slight to her, in her own words, “amazingly fantastical, mad, wicked, and cool quidditch skills” (so said the daughter of James Potter, aka He-Who-Severely-Needs-To-Deflate-His-Head).

                “They’re both excellent,” said Remus as he glanced down at his watch, appeasing Mary in the process.  “Mary and Harry, you two’d better head upstairs and get packed now.  We want to be ready when the signal comes.”

                “Aye, aye, mon cap-i-tan!” said Mary, giving her “uncle” a mock salute.

                “I’ll help!” said Tonks brightly, nearly tripping over her own two feet as she headed off to follow the twins up the stairs.

                “Now that the young’uns are gone, let’s party!” joked Gina, clapping her hands together once.

                “Are you insinuating that I’m old, Aunt Gina?” said Mya, raising a dark eyebrow and crossing her arms across her chest.

                “Course not,” scoffed Gina.  Mya relaxed.  “That would imply that I’m old,” she added.

                Mya stuck her tongue out at her aunt.  “You suck, you know,” she huffed in mock-anger.

                While aunt and niece continued to bicker, Giles made his way over to Remus.  “Hello Rem,” he said warmly.

                “Hello Ripper,” replied Remus, smiling down (Remus, at six foot five, was a good four inches taller than Giles) at the older wizard.  “It’s been a long time.”

                “Yes, it has, hasn’t it.”

                “Since you graduated.”

                “Hm.  So it has.”

                “So what have you been up to all these years, Ripper?” asked Remus.

                “Ehm, well, you heard about my foray into the Dark Arts, I gather?”

                “I think witches and wizards in China heard about the demon-summoning escapades of you and your band of merry men, Rupert,” said Remus, his lips quirking into a smile.

                “Yes, quite,” replied Giles, having the decency to look embarrassed.

                “Sirius in particular was quite upset to hear about it,” added Remus, glancing at Giles.

                Giles cringed.  “He didn’t—”

                “No,” Remus reassured him.  “He just moped around a bit more than usual and spent about a month or two hexing Ravenclaws nearly as much as Slytherins.”  Remus paused for a moment, then said, “He really idolized you.”

                Giles started at that.  “Really?” he said, surprised.  “Why?

                “Why?” repeated Remus, quirking his eyebrow.  “You honestly don’t know?”

                “Know what?” asked Giles.

                “Sirius always saw you as something of a role model,” said Remus seriously (no pun intended).  “I think that he saw something of himself in you.”

                “How so?” asked Giles.

                “You’re both from old, pureblood families—his darker than dark and yours bordering on the grey side of white—and you both fought tooth and nail against the call of the dark.  Seeing someone else, someone older whom he actually respected, doing exactly what he wanted to do gave him hope.  You gave him hope, Rupert, hope that he wasn’t doomed to become just like the rest of his family.  When he heard about your demon-summoning stint, he felt… betrayed, I guess.  He began to feel as if he couldn’t escape his dark heritage after all,” explained Remus.

                “Oh dear,” said Giles, blanching.  “I-I never realized…”

                “We’re ready and rarin’ to go, Uncle Moony!” said Mary cheerfully, bounding down the stairs as she pulled on a cropped, long-sleeved dark blue denim jacket over her black halter top, which put her silvery Christmas-Star shaped curse scar right above her heart on display.  Following behind her at a more sedate pace was Harry, holding onto both of their owl cages, and Tonks, floating both of their trunks in front of her with her wand.

                Moody, who had long since replaced his magical eye in the socket, scowled at the Guard members who were snooping through the kitchen as Remus pulled out a pre-written letter to the Dursleys and placed it on the table.  “Perfect timing,” he said.  “Let’s head out to the backyard now, shall we?  We should be taking off in about a minute.  Now, I’ve left a letter telling your aunt and uncle not to worry—”

                “They won’t,” said Harry.

                “—that you’re both safe—”

                “That’ll just depress them,” said Mary.

                “—and that you’ll see them next summer.”

                “Do we have to?” the twins whined.  Remus smiled sadly, but didn’t answer them.

                “You suck, Uncle Moony,” grumbled Mary, pulling her short, red hair into a semblance of a messy bun and securing it with her wand.

                “Come here, both of you,” said Moody gruffly, beckoning the twins with his wand.  “I need to Disillusion you.”

                “Say what now?” said Mary, quirking a bright red eyebrow and crossing her arms defiantly.

                “What’s that?” asked Harry.

                “Disillusionment Charm,” said Moody, raising his wand.  “Lupin here says you have an invisibility cloak, but we can’t risk it falling off you while we’re flying.  This’ll disguise you better.  ‘Sides, there’s only one o’ them an’ two o’ you.”

                “You first, brother-mine,” said Mary, pushing her unsuspecting twin closer to Moody, who tapped him roughly on the head with his wand.

                “You next, girlie,” Moody said.  Mary rolled her eyes and grumbled something about “crazy non-fake fake ex-professors” as she stepped close to him and (grudgingly) allowed him to repeat the process with her.

                “Nice one, Mad-Eye,” said Tonks, taking a look at the newly Disillusioned twins.

                “Wha—Oh bloody hell,” said Mary, glancing down at herself, “I’m a frickin’ human chameleon!  What the hell?”

                “Never you mind, girl,” growled Moody.  “It’ll keep you and your brother safe and that’s all that matters right now.  Now let’s get outside and wait for the signal.”

 

A paranoia-filled hour and a half later (had Moody had his way it would have taken twice as long), the Advance Guard and the disillusioned twins landed smoothly in a small patch of grass in an unkempt square in an old, run-down neighborhood in London.

                “We’re nearly there,” said Remus, following closely behind Moody and the twins.

                The group stopped in the middle of the dirty, run-down square and Moody pulled out what looked to be a silver cigarette lighter.  “Borrowed it from Dumbledore,” he muttered.  “It’ll help keep the muggles from noticing us.”  That said, he clicked the strange device until every light in the square had been extinguished.  “Right,” he said, pulling a slip of paper out of his pocket and sticking it roughly in front of the still Disillusioned twins.  “Read this and memorize it,” he said, illuminating the paper with his wand.  It read:

               

                The headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix may be found at Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place, London.

 

                “This writing looks familiar...” muttered Mary.

                “You both got it memorized now?” asked Moody.

                Mary looked at Harry, forgetting that he couldn’t see her.  “I’m good,” she said.

                “Me too,” said Harry.

                “Good.  Ince—

                “Wait!” exclaimed Mary, realizing what Moody intended to do.  “Please can I burn it, Uncle Moony?  Pleeeaaase?!

                Remus rolled his eyes.  “I suppose,” he said.

                “Yippee!!” she squealed.  With a single thought, she caused her hand to burst into flame and casually flicked it at the paper.  A second later said paper was reduced to ashes.

                “If we’re done playing around now,” grumbled Moody (Mary was convinced that he was upset that he hadn’t gotten to play with fire), “let’s go inside.”

                “Of course, Alastor,” said Remus.  “Think of what you just read,” he said to the twins.  They did so and watched in amazement as Number Twelve magically (quite literally) appeared between numbers eleven and thirteen.  “Come children,” he said with a smile at their amazed expressions, “let’s get inside.” 

That said, Remus headed up the steps of the now visible Number Twelve and tapped the door with his wand, avoiding the giant silver serpent knocker as he did so.  There was a series of metallic whirs and clicks and the clinking of a chain before the door creaked open ominously.  “Well, are you coming?” said Remus, quirking an eyebrow before heading into the house.

                Mary glanced over at where she knew Harry was.  “Well, I guess it’s now or never,” she said.  Taking a deep breath to calm her nerves (the house was damn creepy), she squared her shoulders and followed Remus inside.

Chapter Text

Chapter 25: Hogwarts Is Doomed

 

                August 6, 2003:  Mary and Harry were quickly ushered up the stairs once they were inside the house.  “The younger kids are already in bed; the rest of them are in the second floor library,” said Mrs. Weasley after greeting the twins with hugs and smothering.  “We shall call you all down for supper after the meeting is over.”

                “Can’t we just stay—”

                “Mary,” said Remus, “I’m afraid you must be of age to sit in on Order meetings.”  She pouted her full red lips.  “Don’t give me that look, young lady.  You are not allowed in Order meetings unless you are seventeen.  Unless I’m going senile in my middle age, you are only just fifteen.”

                “Rub it in, why don’t ya?” grumbled Mary.

                “Just go upstairs,” he said.  “Cassi’s up there.”

                Harry perked up at that and dashed up the stairs, Mary following close behind.  Molly frowned.  “Did you tell her that George is up there too?” she asked.

                “No,” said Remus, a distinctly Marauderish grin on his pale face.  “They have to start speaking again sometime.”

                “Your funeral, mate,” said Sirius, leaning on the kitchen doorframe.  “Snivellus is snarking about not having started yet.  I need you in there before I do something that will land me back in Azkaban.”

                Remus heaved a dramatic sigh.  “I suppose I must do my duty.  It is my birthright: one friend in all the world, destined to fight the Death Eaters, the dark creatures, and the forces of Padfoot—Ow, Gina!  What the bloody hell was that for?”  Remus rubbed the sore spot on his head where Regina had hit him.

                Regina rolled her eyes and passed him, heading into the kitchen.  “You were being over dramatic.  Sirius is enough of a drama queen for this house.  We really don’t need another one.”

                “Yeah, Moony,” said Sirius.  “Wait, hey!  That was mean, Momma Bear!”

 

                Mary, who had slowed down as she ascended the steps behind her brother, could already hear squeals of joy and laughter as Harry was greeted by their friends.  She picked up her pace so as not to miss the fireworks when Harry had his inevitable confrontation with Cassi.  It was a good thing she did, because by the time she set foot in the sitting room that the kids had commandeered Cassi and Harry were standing several feet apart, arms crossed, having a staring showdown.

                “You’re just in time,” said a girl, her alto voice softly accented.  Mary flashed a brief smile to her, gazing up into the violet eyes of her friend Charisma “Riz” Chance.  “I’m pretty sure the shit’s about to hit the fan here; we’ve got bets going on who’s going to blow first.”

                “Four sickles on Harry,” Mary muttered back.  At Riz’s raised eyebrow, she added, “He’s been oddly moody this summer and he’s been ready to pick this fight since our birthday.”

                Sure enough, Harry exploded first.  “What the bloody hell was that all about, Cass?” he yelled, throwing his hands in the air.  “A letter?  You broke up with me through a bloody letter?  What even made you think that that was a remotely okay thing to do?”

                Cassi’s pale face was red with suppressed anger.  “Oh like you don’t know,” she spat, dropping her hands to her sides and clenching her fists.

                “No, I really don’t!” exclaimed Harry.  “I certainly wasn’t expecting a breakup as my birthday present from you, Cassi!”

                Cassi paused for a moment, blinking her grey eyes owlishly.  “What do you mean you don’t know,” she said, her voice icy cold.

                “I mean that it was kinda out of the blue there, Cassi.  I thought we had something good going on.  What happened?”

                “Cho.”

                Harry paled dramatically.  “Oh.”  His voice was small.  “You found out about that.”

                “Yeah,” said Cassi bitterly.  “Hogwarts has an excellent rumor mill.”

                Harry visibly deflated, the fight gone from him in seconds.  “I’m sorry,” he said softly.  “I never meant to keep it from you; it just sort of happened.”

                Cassi’s gaze softened, though she was still visibly angry.  “Well, you did and it hurt, Harry.  I thought I meant more to you than some pretty girl who batted her eyes at you on the quidditch pitch.”

                “It was just a kiss, Cassi,” Harry pleaded.  “It didn’t mean anything.”

                “It didn’t—Harry, you bloody kissed her!  That kinda means something.”

                Harry was at a loss for words.  “I-I just- I didn’t think—”

                Mary snorted.  “Well that’s obvious, Loser.  Why didn’t you tell me that little detail?”

                “I-I didn’t think it was important.”

                “Didn’t—” Mary stared at her brother, mouth agape in astonishment.  “That’s it.  Cassi, we’re ditching and finding a nice library to invade.  Riz, Mione, girls, you’re more than welcome to join.  Guys—you suck, so bugger off.”  The Order kids could only gape at the weirdness of Mary as she bodily pulled a fuming Cassi out the door, most of the girls following with varying expressions of confusion and amusement.  The guys simply stared after them, bemused.  Fred and George simply shrugged, used to Mary and Cassi’s antics; Ron blinked bemusedly, as dense as ever; fourteen-year-old Jasson Potter stared, perplexed at their retreating backs; Harry, blushing, looked down at his feet; seventeen-year-old Ender Lupin, eleven-year-old Finn Lupin, thirteen-year-old Devin Black, and sixteen-year-old Sirius Martini looked at each other with raised eyebrows; and Neville Longbottom and Chandler Chance looked between Harry and the retreating girls as if puzzling out the situation.

                “What just happened?” asked Chandler Chance, Riz’s twin brother.

                Neville Longbottom, a tall, slightly pudgy teen with dark chestnut hair, shrugged.  “Beats me,” he said.

                The boys all looked at Harry and Ron, as if they were expected to have all the answers.  “Don’t look at us,” said Ron.  “We’re just as clueless as y’all.”

                “Mate,” said Harry, “if you’re picking up Cassi’s slang, you’ve been around her too long.”

                “Bullocks.”

 

                Cassi, used to Mary’s mercurial temper, eventually took the lead and guided Mary (and their followers) to a large library located another floor up in the house.  It took several minutes for all of the girls to settle down in the library.  Mary was surprised to see so many half-familiar faces; there were only one or two that she didn’t recognize at all.  Clustered around the fire was the largest group, consisting of Remus and Sirius’ daughters: seventeen-year-old Grace Black, fourteen-year-old Roxy Black, twelve-year-old Natalie Black, seventeen-year-old Ember Lupin, and fourteen-year-old Ro Lupin.  Huddled on the longest deep green couch in the room were Mary and Cassi’s closest girl friends: thirteen-year-old Ginny Weasley, thirteen-year-old Lindy Santos Martini, fifteen-year-old Riz Chance, and fifteen-year-old Hermione Granger.  Seventeen-year-old Angelina Johnson was there, giving Cassi wide berth as usual (she was in love with Fred, who was hopelessly smitten with Cassi), and glaring daggers at her from her seat on the dark grey armchair under the window.  Of the three remaining girls, only thirteen-year-old Andra Black-Tonks was familiar, her wild black curls unmistakable.  Of the two remaining girls, one looked to be older than them, the other younger.  The younger girl was short and pale with wide, silvery-blue eyes and wavy dirty-blonde hair.  She wore a necklace of butterbeer caps and radish earrings.  The older girl was tall with long, hip length brown hair that was stick straight.  She had large, sapphire blue eyes and was all arms and elbows.

                “So,” Mary whispered to Cassi, “who are the new girls?”

                Cassi looked over to the blonde girl chatting with Andra on the window sill and then to the brunette perusing the bookshelves.  “Oh, the blonde’s Andra’s friend Luna Lovegood—apparently she’s a Ravenclaw in Ginny’s year.”  She frowned a little in the brunette’s general direction.  “I’m not too sure about tall-girl there.  I think I heard someone call her Dawn, but we haven’t actually been introduced.  Also, I appreciate the attempt at cheering her, Mar, but I think Angelina’s glaring stare is kinda defeating the purpose here.”

                Mary frowned over at the tall, chocolate skinned girl who wore her raven hair in multiple braids.  “I actually didn’t realize she was here.  Why isn’t she in the meeting?  I thought she turned seventeen last year?”

                “She did,” said Cassi.  “But Dad and Molly got into some big fight over whether Fred and George should be allowed into meetings now that they’re seventeen.  From what I gather, it got pretty intense until Remus intervened and negotiated an age of eighteen for Order members if they’re still in school.”

                “Bet Angelina wasn’t too happy about that.”
                “Nope.  She was pretty pissed.  I think she, Grace, Ember, Ender, Fred, and George have created some sort of petition they’re trying to get Molly to agree to so that they can go to meetings too.”

                Mary laughed.  “I bet that’ll go over well.”

                “Like a house on fire,” said Cassi, cracking a smile.

                The duo locked eyes; stormy grey met hazel and the teens burst into a fit of giggles.  It was a testament to how well their friends (and the Gryffindor population in general) knew them that the only ones who even looked their way were Luna and Dawn.  “Aren’t you glad I dragged you off,” said Mary, fighting to breathe while clutching tightly to the arm of the dark green loveseat they sat on.

                “So glad,” said Cassi, holding her stomach and trying not to roll onto the floor.  “I really needed this.”

                “I know,” said Mary.

                “Hey.”  Mary and Cassi looked up from their giggle fit into eerily large blue eyes.  “I’m Dawn,” the girl introduced herself.  “I realize we’ve never met, so I thought I’d take the initiative.”

                “Cassi Black,” said Cassi, “and this is Mary Evans-Potter.”

                “Hey,” said Mary, giving the older girl a half-wave.

                “So,” said Dawn, plopping herself down on the arm of the loveseat, “I’m kind of new to this whole wizarding world thing and I was told that you guys were the ones to talk to.”

                The friends looked at each other.  “Did you recently find out that you belong to an old wizarding family?” asked Cassi.

                “That your whole life was a lie?” asked Mary.

                “Pretty much,” said Dawn.  “Did that happen to you?”

                “Big time,” said Cassi.

                “Only difference is that we were a lot younger,” added Mary.

                “And a lot moodier,” muttered Cassi.

                “Hey, speak for yourself,” said Mary.  “I’ve always been a perfect little angel.”

                “Hey, Angel,” Hermione called from where she sat playing chess with Ginny, “your horns are showing!”

Chapter Text

Chapter 26: Avengers Assemble!

 

August 6, 2003:  Remus rubbed his temples and fought the urge to bang his head on the wooden table.  He loved Sirius like the brother he never had, but sometimes he just really wanted to strangle him.  They hadn’t even gone five minutes before Snape started in on Sirius and his inability to help the Order, which led to a massive cat-and-dog fight between the two of them.  Remus didn’t know how he had ended up in charge of this meeting in the first place.  One minute he was talking to Albus, the next he was suddenly agreeing to run the meeting because there was some sort of crisis that only the great Albus Dumbledore could handle.  Remus was getting really sick of things like that happening to him.  His friends were no help either; if they weren’t part of the problem, they goaded on the source of the problem like they were kids all over again.

Remus finally had enough.  “Everyone shut the bloody hell up!” he snarled, his voice loud and commanding and his eyes flashing gold.  Surprisingly, the room fell into dead silence.  “Thank you,” he said shortly, standing up to address them all.  “Now I know I’m no Albus Dumbledore, but for some reason he chose me to lead tonight’s meeting.  I would prefer to do so in a peaceful and succinct fashion as I am sure we all have things we’d rather be doing tonight.  Now Alastor, please report on tonight’s mission.”

“Everything went smoothly,” the gnarled ex-auror admitted grudgingly.  “We got the Potter twins away with the muggles none the wiser and we weren’t followed back.”

Remus nodded.  “Thank you, Alastor.  Now, the next item on the agenda would be the induction of our newest members, but we really do need Albus for that.  So instead, I will open up the floor.  Does anyone have anything to report?”

 

“I wonder what they talk about at their secret Order meetings,” said Cassi, bouncing a red rubber bouncy-ball off of the nearest wall.

“Probably stuff about Voldi-poo and his Death Munchers that they think we’re too young and delicate to hear about,” said Mary, pouting and adding a card to the tower she and Dawn were building out of a regular pack of muggle playing cards that Dawn had found in her bag.

                “You know, as birthdays go, I gotta say this is actually one of my better ones,” said Dawn absently as she studied the lopsided card structure in front of her.

                Mary and Cassi stopped what they were doing and stared at the leggy brunette.  “What?” they said together.

                “It’s your birthday and you’re spending it playing with cards in the library?” said Mary, in shock.

                Dawn simply shrugged.  “Beats my sister’s birthday when she, her friends, and I got stuck inside the house and literally couldn’t leave.”

                “That sounds like quite the story,” said Cassi, flipping over to lie on her stomach.  “Care to spill?”

                “Well,” said Dawn, leaning back against the leg of the couch, “it all started with a wish…”

 

                “I feel like there’s something I’m forgetting,” said Willow, slumped over the table next to Oz.

                “Hmm,” said Oz absently, shrugging.  The order meeting had broken up rather quickly after Alastor’s report and most of the members had left Grimmuald Place for their own homes.

                “Was there something I was supposed to do today?”

                “Well,” said Cordelia from her seat across the table, “isn’t Dawnie’s birthday this month?”

                “Oh bloody hell,” groaned Giles.  “That was today.”

                The Scoobies stared at each other in horror.  “We should be shot,” said Xander.  “I can’t believe we forgot the Dawnster’s birthday!”

 

                “…and then Anya figured out that my guidance counselor was actually a vengeance demon, one of her old friends actually, and she called her in and got her to break the spell.  Or well, actually I think she only broke it because she wound up stuck inside the house too, but that’s not really the point.”

                At some point during Dawn’s story her audience had grown to include all the other girls in the room.  They all stared at her in wonder.  “And that was your sister’s birthday?” said Riz, violet eyes wide in wonder.

                “Yup.  One of her better ones, actually.  She thinks the day might be jinxed or something.”

                “That sucks on an epic scale,” said Cassi.

                “Got any more stories you’d care to share with the class?” asked Mary.

                “Well, one of my favorite stories has always been her seventeenth birthday…it’s got romance, loss, dismemberment, and explosions.”

                “Ka-booms?” said Cassi excitedly, an almost maniacal look in her grey eyes.

                “Yes, Cassi, ka-booms,” said Dawn, a wicked smirk on her face.

 

                “I wonder what Dawnie’s up to now,” said Willow.  “I hope she isn’t moping around.”

                “Relax, Willow,” said Cordelia, lounging back in her chair.  “She’s a big girl now.  I’m sure with a little groveling and a large shopping spree she’ll forgive us.”

                “We are horrible people,” groaned Xander, banging his head down on the table.

                Cordy whacked him on the head and he yelped.  “Oh man up, ya big baby,” she said.  “And drop the dramatics.  Sirius is all the drama queen this house can take.”

                “Speaking of your brother’s strange friends, where’d they run off to?” asked Oz, breaking his usual stoic silence.

                “I think they ran off somewhere to catch up in private,” said Giles.  “I’m fairly certain they haven’t all been together since 1989 at least.”

                “Hey Xan, did your sister run off with them too?” asked Willow.  “I was hoping to hang out with her a bit.  She seems fun.”

                “Sorry Wills,” said Xander.  “She has an early shift tomorrow so she headed home.”  He suddenly frowned.  “Oh crap, that means I’m in charge of getting Andra home tonight.”

                “Who’s Andra?” asked Cordy.  “Her dog?”

                Xander burst into laughter.  “That’s priceless, Cor!” he said, trying desperately to catch his breath.  “Though for some reason I picture her more as a bird or a turtle than a dog.”

                “Wait; she’s some kind of pet?” asked Willow.

                “No, hardly,” said Xander.  “She’s my little sister slash cousin.”  At his friends’ odd looks he elaborated, “She’s biologically my cousin, but my parents raised her and adopted her when she was a baby, so she’s really more of a sister.  She’s this tiny little thing—I don’t think she’s even five foot—and she has this weird obsession with sea creatures.  She practically vibrates with energy; you know, I don’t think I’ve ever seen her stand still for more than ten seconds.”

                “Sounds…wonderful,” said Willow.

                “She’s something alright.”  He glanced up at the grandfather clock in the corner.  “I should probably go get her and take her home,” he said, getting out of his seat.  “See you all later?”

                “We’ll be here,” said Willow.

 

                A knock on the library door interrupted Dawn’s story about her entire hometown randomly bursting into song and dance.  Hermione got up and opened it.  “Can I help you?” she asked the one-eyed man standing in the doorway.

                “I was told Andra was up here with the rest of you girls,” he said.

                “And you are?”

                “I’m her brother, Xander.”

                “Xander!” squealed Andra, shooting up like a bottle rocket and racing to engulf him in a hug.

                “Hey there, Turtle Girl,” he said, picking up the small teen in his strong arms.  “How was your girls’ night?”

                “Loonya and I had lots of fun,” she said.  “We went searching for Snufflepods so that they wouldn’t attack Dora anymore when she’s here.  Then we listened to Dawnie tell us stories about a Buffster and some Scooby-Doos.”

                “Is that so?”  Xander looked across the room and spotted the tall brunette sitting in the middle of a crowd of teenage girl.  “Hey Dawnster,” he called out.  “Happy birthday.”

                Dawn looked up from her conversation with a raven-haired black girl who looked to be as tall as her.  “Xander!” she squealed, tripping over her own feet as she attempted to pass through the crowd of girls.

                Laughing, Xander flipped Andra onto his back.  He then walked calmly over to the edge of the crowd and helped Dawn to her feet.  “Nice to see you, Dawnster,” he said, hugging her tight.

                “You too, Xander,” she said, hugging him back.  “I think we have a lot of catching up to do.”

                “Later,” he said, pulling back from the hug.  “I have to get a certain monkey back before the zoo closes.”

                “I’m norra monkey, Xan-der,” protested Andra, tugging on his dark brown hair.  “I’m Turtle Girl!”

Chapter Text

Chapter 27: Out of the Woodwork

 

                August 7, 2003:  Mary had been putting off this particular meeting for as long as she could, but it was quite difficult to do so when she was living in the same house as her ex (and potential future) boyfriend.  She managed for the better part of the day by employing the age-old tactics of ducking and hiding.  She wasn’t a coward; she just wasn’t sure what she was going to say to him.

                Her luck ran out right before lunch time.  Mary had been walking into the ground floor sitting room when she thought she saw George, so she quickly did an about-face—and ran smack-dab into George.  She had mistaken Fred for George, a mistake she hadn’t made in years.  A familiar mischievous grin grossed his freckled face and she internally kicked herself.  “You haven’t been avoiding me, have you?” he teased.

                Mary scoffed.  “Don’t flatter yourself, George,” she said.  “I just…forget that I had…something…I was supposed to be doing in the…elsewhere.”

                “Real convincing there, Mary!” Fred yelled from the sitting room.

                “Go jump in a lake, Fred!” she yelled back.  “This isn’t your conversation.”  She heaved a sigh and turned pleading hazel eyes on George.  “If we’re going to do this now, can we please take it somewhere a bit more private?”

                George, as always, turned into a pile of goo at that look.  “Sure thing, Angel.  Did you have someplace in mind?”

 

                “How’d you find this place?” asked George, looking around the room in awe.  It was a small room, hidden in the second level basement and filled to the brim with everything an aspiring inventor of pranks and potions could ever want.

                Mary shrugged, inspecting her shoulder-length fire-engine red hair for split ends.  “I’m a chronic insomniac.”

                George snorted.  “No you’re not.”

                She scowled at him.  “People change, George,” she snapped.  “Don’t presume to know me; we’ve been apart for most of the past year.”

                His face reddened in anger.  “And whose fault is that, Mary?”

                “Yours,” she said, glaring at him.  “I’m not the one who went all caveman on his girlfriend when she was just trying to make friends.”

                “You were flirting with him!”

                “For the last time, George, I was not flirting with Viktor Krum!  Besides, Mione likes him.  I wouldn’t do that to a friend.”

                “Wait wait wait wait,” he said, his hands waving in a stopping motion.  “Mione likes Krum?  Our little bookworm Hermione likes quidditch superstar Viktor Krum?  Is that why she went to the Yule Ball with him?”

                “No, she was just out for the attention” she said sarcastically.  “Whaddya think, George?  Does that sound like Hermione to you?”

                “No, I guess not.  It’s just weird.  I always thought her and Ron—”

                “I know, right?  I think if he’d gotten his head out of his arse first, she might have gone with him instead.  But Viktor actually went out of his way to ask Hermione.  That tells me right there he’s genuinely interested and not just using her.  Besides, we all know Mione’s more into books than looks.  Tell me right now that a professional quidditch player who is used to having gorgeous women throw themselves at him is going to look twice at someone like Hermione unless he genuinely likes her—not to be mean, or anything.”

                “Of course not,” said George.  “I was just as surprised as anyone else when she showed up with him.  Our Mione does clean up nice, doesn’t she?”

                “She’s bloody gorgeous when she actually puts in the effort.  It’s the hair,” she added in a stage whisper, giggling.  “And you’d better pray she never finds out that we had this conversation, capiche?”

                “Hey, she won’t be hearing it from me.  And look, we can have a civil conversation after all.”

                “Well would you look at that.”

 

                Dawn had convinced Cordy to take her out on the town for the day, using the brunette seer’s guilt over forgetting the blue-eyed teen’s birthday to get what she wanted.  She needed to get out of that house for a while and this happened to be the perfect excuse.  Besides, she had discovered (to her absolute horror) that technology and witchy magic did not mix and she had a very important phone call to make.  While Cordy was off getting their lunch, Dawn waited in the park, surrounded by shopping bags and exhausted from shopping with Queen C.  She spread out on the orange and black blanket they had borrowed from the Weasleys and dialed the familiar phone number.

                Buffy picked up on the first ring.  “Dawnie?” she said, sounding panicked.

                “Yeah,” she replied.  “Sorry about yesterday; apparently this witchy magic stuff messes with technology.  Willow’s working on fixing that, by the way.”

                “Oh thank God.  I was sure you’d been kidnapped again or something.”

                “Yeah.  Thanks for the vote of confidence there, Buffy.”

                Dawn just knew that Buffy was rolling her eyes.  “Hey, with your track record, anything could have happened.  Anyway, I wanted to wish you a happy birthday.  I guess it’s late now, sorry.”

                “Don’t worry,” said Dawn.  “Everyone else forgot too.”

                “Well, we shouldn’t have,” protested Buffy.  “You’re important too.”

                “No, I get it, Buffy.  There’s a lot of crazy stuff going on right now.  I mean, you’re regaining your memories from when you were a kid, Giles just met up with some non-Ethany old school friends, Willow and Oz are back together and they both found their families, Xander has a twin sister, and Cordy’s been hanging with her cousin and his friends a lot.”

                “Wait—what?  Everyone’s there except me?  In England?  Did an invitation for a Scooby reunion go out and I didn’t get one or something?”

                “No,” Dawn assured her.  “I’d say it was a series of coincidences, but I know you don’t believe in those.”

                “There’s no such thing as coincidences, Dawn.  I’ve told you this a million times.”

                “Yeah, I know.  It’s just really weird; all these long-lost relations coming out of the woodwork and all.  Speaking of, how goes the memory recovery?”

                “Pretty good, actually.  I’ve been getting some pretty cool memories from when I was little.  Like I have an older brother, apparently, and we were really close.  I mean, he was a lot older than me—I think he was married and everything.  Or something like that.”

                “Any idea how I fit into your crazy new family?” asked Dawn.  “I mean, I know the monks inserted me into your fake memories, so does that mean I’m not real again?”

                “Of course not, Dawnie,” said Buffy firmly.  “I mean, you got that magic school letter with the Longbottom name, right?  That’s gotta mean something.  You’ll always be my sister—our blood’s the same, remember?”

                “I know,” said Dawn.  “I just was hoping that maybe…maybe I really do belong to your old family.  Like, I was part of them back then too and I just got lost somewhere along the way.  That sounds crazy, doesn’t it?”

                “It’s not crazy,” said Buffy.  She was quiet for a moment.  “Dawnie,” she said slowly, “this might sound strange, but I think I do remember you, from before.”

                Dawn started.  “W-what?  I was just kidding, Buffy.  I know it’s not possible…”

                “Just hear me out, Dawnie.  I remember, when I was about five, Frankie’s wife was pregnant.  Frankie’s my brother.  And I was so excited about being an auntie, but then one day Frankie came home crying.  I didn’t really understand what was going on, but I remember overhearing Frankie and Mum talking about a baby.  I-I think something happened to it, because the next time I saw Ally, my sister-in-law, she wasn’t pregnant anymore.  They never brought along a baby, though, or talked about what happened that day.  At least not to me.”

                “Buffy, you don’t think…”

                “I think anything’s possible,” she said.  “What if you were that baby and somehow the monks managed to get a hold of you that early on?  If-if you think about it that actually would make more sense than making you out of nothing.  You are most definitely a flesh-and-blood girl, and even magic can only do so much.  I’m remembering that more and more every day.”

                “I-I don’t know, Buffy…doesn’t it seem like pulling at straws here?”

                “No, hear me out Dawnie.  What if one of the monks could see the future or something and knew to prepare for Glory years ahead of time?  What if they somehow knew that it needed to be our blood that carried the key to defeat her?  What if somehow by taking you, they saved you?”

                “How would that be saving me, Buffy?” said Dawn angrily.  “If—and that’s a big if—what you’re suggesting is true, then they took me away from a family who loved me.  They took away my chance to live my life like a real girl and instead used me like a pawn when it was convenient for them and made me think that I wasn’t even real.”

                “Wh-what if it saved your life?” said Buffy quietly.  “That conversation between Frankie and Mum?  I remember them saying something about a stillbirth.  I didn’t really understand what they were talking about at the time, but…”

                Dawn was silent.  “But-but…that’s not possible…”

                “What if they were able to use their magic to give you life when you wouldn’t have had a chance any other way?  What if the price for your life was to be used as their pawn?  Could you live with that?  ‘Cause I know I could.  What I couldn’t live with is what would have happened of you had died as a baby.”  Dawn was speechless.  What if?  “Dawnie?” said Buffy.  “I-I think we need to talk to Giles about this.”

                “N-no,” said Dawn finally.  “I don’t think he really knows anything about all of this.  I-I’ll talk to Professor Dumbledore—he’s the Headmaster of Hogwarts.  Giles and everyone else trust him.  It sounds like if anyone knows anything, it would be him.”

                “So you’re just gonna up and ask this Bumblebee guy?  He’s good?”

                “He’s good.  He seems to just know things, Buffy.  I-I’ll ask Giles or Xander or-or Willow or Cordy to go with me, but I think he’s our best chance to solve this little family mystery.”

                “Alright, Dawnie, if you’re sure.”

                “I’m sure.  I’ll keep you posted.”

                “Thanks, Dawnie.  One more thing?”

                “Yes, Buffy?”

                “Can you find out what happened to my parents and my brother and his wife?”

                “Sure, Buffy.  Who am I asking about?”

                “Gard and Augusta Longbottom and Frank and Alice Longbottom.”

 

                “Wait, George, we haven’t really talked about this,” said Mary, as she pushed George (who had been leaning in to kiss her) away.

                “What’s there to talk about?  I love you, you forgive me; I was under the impression that was enough for us to give it another try.”

                “Well, yeah, but logistics, George,” she said, preventing the teen from getting close enough to kiss her.  “That’s what got us last time.  You and I were on completely different pages.  Different books even.”

                “So what, you wanna draw up a contract or something?”

                “Don’t be ridiculous,” scoffed Mary.  “We couldn’t—could we?”

                “Mary!”

                “Fine, fine,” she huffed, rolling her hazel eyes.  “I just want to make sure we’re not rushing into things again.”

                “Rushing?” said George, raising his ginger eyebrow.  “Mary, Angel, we’ve been together for almost three years, not counting last year—”

                “Let’s not talk about last year.”

                “Agreed.  My point is we’ve already been together for so long; obviously something works between us.  I don’t think there’s any rushing in our relationship.”

                “You basically asked me out the day we met,” protested Mary.

                “Yes, and you agreed to go out with me.  See, we just work, Mary.  You just have to believe in us.  Give me another chance.  I won’t disappoint you again, I promise.”

                Mary melted under George’s intense chocolaty-brown stare.  “Oh fine.  I trust you.  But we’re doing things at my pace, in my time.  Understand?”

                “Clear as crystal, dearest.”  George leaned in and this time Mary allowed him to kiss her for the first time in over a year (that one time at Yule Ball did not count, no matter what the redheaded twin thought).

 

                “Dawnie?”  Dawn looked up from where she had been pulling blades of grass out of the ground (she was that bored) to see Cordelia.

                “Finally,” she said.  “I’ve been waiting forever.”

                Cordelia snorted and sat down beside the younger brunette.  “Don’t be so dramatic, Dawn.  It’s barely been an hour.”

                “What took you so long?” Dawn asked, pulling herself up to sit on her bum and rummaging through the plastic bags of yummy goodness that Cordy had bought with her.

                “Had to make a quick pit stop at the apothecary,” Cordy said nonchalantly as she pulled out a white paper container full of lo mien.

                “Everything okay?” asked Dawn, pouring tabasco sauce on her orange chicken and mixing it with the shrimp in lobster sauce.

                “Yeah,” replied Cordy, wrinkling her nose at Dawn’s choice of food.  “I’ve been feeling a bit off color lately; visions and whatnot.”

                Dawn narrowed her eyes at the brown-eyed Scooby.  “Alright…”

                Cordy could tell that Dawn didn’t completely buy her story, but until she had definitive proof of anything else, she was sticking to the vision thing.  “I swear, Dawnie, I’m fine.  Now let’s enjoy your birthday Chinese food picnic, shall we?  I even stopped into Florean Fortescue’s and bought a gallon of his chocolate-coconut-mint never-melt ice cream for you.”

                Dawn squealed in delight.  “You’re the best, Cordy!”

                She looked smug.  “I know.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 28: Secrets and Lies

 

                August 10, 2003:  Lucius Malfoy was livid; visiting his insane sister-in-law often did that to him.  “Aw, is ikkle Wucy fwightened of widdle owd me?” cackled Bellatrix madly.

                “What have you done, Bellatrix?” asked Lucius, fighting to hold in his anger.

                “The poor, widdle wamby wost its way,” she cackled.  “Gone, gone, the spark is gone.  Faith and Hope and Charity, took that spark right out of me.”

                “What are you saying, Bellatrix?”  He had a pretty good idea what she was talking about, but he needed to hear the words for himself.

                “Wock-a-bye baby in the twee top, Bewwa wiw kiww you if you don’t stop.  If you don’t wisten, Twixie wiw shout.”

                Lucius was more certain than ever.  The conversation had started because he and Narcissa were reluctant to give their youngest son, Draco, into the Dark Lord’s service.  They had already pledged their eldest, Gareth, and were now regretting it because of how much he had changed in the time since.  Bellatrix was all for her underage nephew being inducted, but when Lucius snapped that she had no idea what it was like to be a parent, she had cracked (more so than normal, that is).  She had started babbling about babies and sparks.  Lucius was reminded of her several times great-aunt, Drusilla, a seer who had been driven insane before being turned into a vampire.  Bellatrix didn’t often show it, but she had some of her ancestor’s power.  It showed more strongly in the years since she had gone mad in Azkaban, but it had always been there.  Why Lucius agreed to these family excursions to Azkaban, he’d never know.

                “Bewwa and Wucy sittin’ in a twee, k-i-s-s-i-n-g.  Bewwa and Wucy and baby makes free…then Bewwa made baby go a-way.”

                Lucius grabbed the bars of her cell tightly.  “Bellatrix, tell me what happened,” he demanded.

                Bellatrix cackled madly.  “Wun and catch, wun and catch, the wamb in caught in the bwackbewwy patch.”

                “Come, Lucius,” said Narcissa, placing a dainty, perfectly-manicured hand on her husband’s shoulder.  “We’ll get nothing further out of her today.”  Lucius allowed himself to be led away.  His mind was reeling with a thousand different thoughts; paramount among them was that he needed to visit St. Mungo’s as soon as possible.

 

                Later that afternoon, Lucius made his way through the lobby of St. Mungo’s, his black, silver-topped cane tapping a staccato rhythm on the marble floor with each step he took.  The black-haired witch manning the desk looked terrified as he stepped up to her.  “I need to access my wife’s family’s records,” he said crisply.

                “Sir, I-I don’t think I’m allowed to do that,” she said nervously.

                “Then bring me the person who is,” he snapped.

                “Y-Yes sir,” she said, quickly pressing a button on her desk.  “Healer Marcos will be down in a moment.”

                Lucius sniffed and glared down his pointed nose at her.  “He had better be.”

                Three minutes and twenty-seven seconds later, the healer arrived.  He was a middle-aged man, balding and portly, with sharp, hawk-like green eyes.  When he spoke, his voice was thin and reedy.  “Lord Malfoy?”

                “You certainly took your time,” said Lucius, with a sneer.  “My time is valuable; I do not care to have it wasted.”

                “I’m sorry, Lord Malfoy, but I do have patients that require my attention.”

                “Yet the Malfoy and the Black families are responsible for a considerable portion of this hospital’s funding.  Funding which allows you and your colleagues to continue to treat your patients and conduct your research.”

                The healer obviously knew a thinly veiled threat when it was directed at him.  “Quite.  My office is just back this way; we’ll talk there.”

               

It was a short, silent walk to rather large office that Healer Marcos claimed as his own, situated on the ground floor back behind the lobby.  Once Lucius and the Marcos were settled, the aging healer asked, “What may I help you with today, Lord Malfoy?”

“I need access to my wife’s family’s records from 1978-1983, specifically the records of one Bellatrix Black Lestrange.”

Healer Marcos appeared flustered.  “Lord Malfoy, this is most irregular.  Those records are confidential information that I can’t just—”

“You can and you will, Healer Marcos,” said Lucius, his voice smooth as silk and deadly as an adder.  “Not only do I personally control the majority of this hospital’s funding, but I am also Madam Lestrange’s brother-in-law and legal next-of-kin.  I believe that she took something from me, years ago, that your hospital would have records of.”

“And w-what is that, sir?”

“A child.”

 

Lucius was in shock.  He barely made it through the floo before collapsing on the pristine crème sofa in the family lounge at his manor.  He’d suspected…and yet it still came as a shock to him.  Out there, somewhere, he had a daughter.  A daughter.  He and Narcissa had talked about having another child after Draco, but she’d never been able to conceive again.  He loved his sons fiercely, but he’d always secretly wanted a daughter; a little princess to love and spoil.  He closed his icy eyes and pictured her as a mini-Narcissa, all ice and quick intelligence.  This daughter might not be from Narcissa, but she was still his and he was very jealous of anything he considered his.  He tried to picture what the girl—young woman—would look like.  Salazar, she’d be nearly twenty-three now.  Five years older than Gareth.  Would she have his coloring or would she be a mirror of her mother?  He prayed she’d not inherited the Black insanity; rather, he hoped she’d have the intelligence and cunning both the Malfoys and the Blacks were known for.  He wished more than anything he had known of her at her birth so that he could have raised her himself; he only hoped that she would forgive him for not finding out about her sooner.

Lucius was broken out of his musings by the soft click of high heels on the white marble floor.  “Lucius?” said Narcissa, her voice soft and warmer than most people ever heard it.  “Are you alright, darling?”

He smiled tensely at his wife.  “Not really, my love.”

When Narcissa moved, she always seemed to glide with a grace unequaled.  This was no exception as she made her way to her husband and sat beside him, curling her smaller body into his.  “Will you tell me, darling?” she asked, her ice blue eyes full of concern.

He took her delicate hand in his and laced their fingers together.  “I learned something rather…interesting today, Cissa,” he said, “and I am not quite sure yet what to do about it.”

“Must something be done, Luc?” she asked, gently toeing off her black heels and folding her legs elegantly onto the sofa.

“Of course,” replied Lucius with conviction.  “It would not do to simply ignore this information, shocking though it is.”

Narcissa turned her head to look up at her husband and raised a delicate, platinum eyebrow.  “What, exactly, is this mysterious ‘shocking’ information, Lucius dear?” she asked.

Lucius flinched slightly.  “It has to do with your sister,” he said.

“What about Bellatrix?”

“Well, you recall that I admitted to courting her before our betrothal was finalized?”

Narcissa narrowed her icy eyes.  “I thought we were not going to speak of your dalliance, Lucius dear,” she said, her voice cold as ice.

“I would be perfectly happy to never again bring up my atrocious lapse of judgment, were it not for what I discovered.”  He took a deep breath and finally spoke the words out loud, “Bellatrix had a child, years ago; my child.  A daughter.  The healers did the blood tests themselves after the child was born, just to confirm your sister’s claims.”

Narcissa’s face was an unreadable mask of icy perfection.  “I see,” she said.  “What happened to this child; this daughter of yours, Lucius?”

Lucius winced.  Narcissa rarely ever used such an icy tone of aloofness with her husband; she reserved that for her public façade.  “According to St. Mungo’s records, she was to be placed in a Wizarding orphanage,” he admitted.  “However, when I looked further, there appeared to be some sort of mix up in the process.  She was apparently sent overseas, to America, where they soon lost track of her.”

“Is there no way to track her?” asked Narcissa, her face blank as ice.

“A tracking potion, I suppose.  One made with both Bellatrix’s blood and my own.”

“Hmm.  Would my blood suffice in Bellatrix’s place?”

Lucius’ grey eyes widened in surprise.  “You would do that for me?”

Nacrissa sniffed delicately and her icy façade cracked.  “Of course,” she said softly.  “You are my husband and I love you.  This child clearly matters to you and the girl would not only be my step-daughter, but my niece as well.  She is blood.  I will help you, Luc.  Just promise me no more secrets?”

“Of course, Cissa, love,” he said, kissing her gently on the temple.

“What is the girl’s name, anyway?”

“Fidelius Druella Malfoy.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 29: They Got Off!

 

                August 12, 2003:  “They got off!  They got off!  They got off!  They got off!”

                Grimmauld Place was full of the sounds of laughter and cheering as the entire Order and their kids filled the gloomy halls to celebrate Mary and Harry’s successful trial at the Ministry.  Willow and Cordy smiled at each other from their seats near the fire in the front parlor. They had talked while the twins were off at the Ministry and had decided to put aside their differences (at least for the time being) and meet their mutual niece and nephew together.  They had worked all afternoon on pulling together what pictures they could find on such short notice of their sister and brother, creating an album to show Mary and Harry.  Nessa and Bic had been a great help in that area, popping back and forth between Potter Manor and Grimmauld Place as needed, fetching and carrying photos and scrapbooking supplies to the (over)enthusiastic young women.

                It took a while before the two Sunnydale alumni were finally able to corner the twin children of James and Lily Potter.  “Hi Mary, hi Harry,” said Cordy, flashing them her infamous mega-watt smile while Willow grinned uncertainly from behind her.  “I’m Cordy and this is Willow.  We’ve actually been wanting to meet you for a while.”

                “Really?” said Harry petulantly.  “Wanted to gawk at the Twins-Who-Lived like everyone else, I suppose.”

                Mary elbowed her brother sharply in the ribs.  “That was rude, Loser,” she snapped.  “Just because you’re all moody and angry right now doesn’t mean you have to take it out on our friends and whoever else decides to talk to you today.”

                Harry scowled.  “I’m not all moody and angry,” he snapped.

                Mary rolled her hazel eyes.  “Yeah, you kind of are.  But you’re a teenage boy so it’s to be expected.”  She turned her attention to the two older women.  “Sorry about him, but you know how boys can be.  What can I do you for?”

                Willow giggled.  “We actually just wanted to talk to the two of you in private, if that’s okay?”  At the look of uncertainty on Mary’s face, she hurriedly added, “Dumbledore knows all about this, I promise.  A-and Remus and Molly and Arthur were the one who suggested we should pull you aside today.”

                “We’re of the good, I promise,” added Cordy.

                Mary and Harry shared a look and a silent conversation.  Harry shrugged.  “Mary thinks you’re good, that’s enough for me,” he said.

                “Can we talk upstairs in one of the libraries?” asked Willow.  “It’s a bit loud down here.”

                Mary laughed.  “That’s one word for it.  I think I would have gone with bedlam myself, but I’ve been told I have a flair for overdramatizing the situation.”

                “No,” said Willow, taking in the cacophony of Grimmauld Place, “I think bedlam pretty much sums it up.”

 

                Five minutes later, the quartet was happily settled into the quiet of the second floor library.  With a flick of her hand, Mary set the fireplace roaring and sighed in contentment.  “That’s more like it,” she sighed, sinking bonelessly into the depths of the plush emerald armchair she had claimed as her own.  “Now, what was it that you wanted to talk to us about?”

                “Well, you see, it’s like this,” began Willow fidgeting nervously, “we recently discovered that—it’s not a bad thing, I think, I thought it was a good thing, actually, but—”

                “Oh for crying out loud!” cried Cordelia.  “We’re your aunts,” she said bluntly, in typical Cordy fashion.

                “Our aunts?” said Mary.

                “I thought we only had Petunia and Ana for aunts,” added Harry.

                “Not true,” said Willow.  “I’m actually the baby Evans.  Lily was fourteen when I was born.”

                “James was my big brother,” said Cordy.  “We had that same huge age gap.”

                “Why weren’t you around?” asked Harry.

                “Why have we never heard about you before?” asked Mary.

                “Well, I was left in the care of my mum’s squib cousins who lived stateside when my parents—your grandparents—died,” explained Cordy.

                “I was sent to my godparents, who were America muggles,” said Willow.  “I know Alex and Ana and Lily and James and even Petunia fought it, but my parents’ will was ironclad.”

                “Same,” said Cordy.  “I remember Jamie was devastated when he had to leave me with the Chases.”

                “I-I don’t really know why Alex or Tuney never told you about me,” admitted Willow.  “I was always Alex’s Pixie, so maybe it was too painful to him and I know Tuney never hated me, despite the magic thing, so I don’t really know why she wouldn’t say anything.  Maybe it was just too much for her, losing both of her sisters like that.”

                “As for me, well, after Jamie died, there was only Remy left and I hear you two didn’t meet him ‘til you were thirteen already.”

                “I-I think I’ve seen pictures of you,” Mary said to Willow, a far-off look in her eye.  “I used to think they were pictures of my mother as a child until I saw her and you together in some of them.  I suppose I just never thought to ask; I remember Uncle Alex would always get sad when he looked through those albums with me.”

                “No one ever mentioned our dad had a sister,” Harry insisted stubbornly, addressing Cordy.  “Surely someone would have said something.  I’ve never even seen any pictures of you.”

                “On that note,” said Cordy, nodding to Willow, “Willow and I came up with something we thought you two might like to see.”

                Taking that as her cue, Willow pulled a large album, bound in red leather and trimmed with gold, out from where she had stashed it behind the couch.  “Cordy and I got to talking and we decided to pull together a little something to show you what your parents were like growing up.”

                The twins joined their newly discovered aunts on the couch to better see the album.  “So this is, like, their lives before Hogwarts?” asked Mary curiously, staring intently at the cover of the book.

                “Yup,” said Cordy, popping the p.  “A bit during too.  Remy told us that you already have an album of them during and after school, so we thought we’d fill in the gaps for you.”

                “You have to understand,” said Willow, “we’re a lot younger than James and Lily, so we probably remember them differently than their friends and teachers do.  Lily was my role model and my best friend when I was a kid.”

                “And Jamie was the best big brother in the world,” said Cordy.  “I thought he was the greatest thing since princess dresses and hot chocolate; I wanted to grow up to be just like him and his friends.”

                Mary and Harry were captivated.  Sharing a glance, the twins made themselves comfortable next to their aunts.  “Show us?” said Harry, emerald eyes full of longing.

                “Of course,” said Willow, smiling brightly.

 

Elsewhere...

 

                “The ritual circle is complete, My Lord,” said Ethan Rayne, the chaos mage, bowing low to the pale, sinister form that was Lord Voldemort.

                “Excellent,” hissed Voldemort.  “Wormtail, bring in the muggle.”

                A trembling man, pudgy and balding with rat-like features, entered the room, levitating a young, unconscious woman before him with his wand.  “Put her in the circle, Wormy,” said Rayne, not bothering to hide his distaste for the man formerly known as Peter Pettigrew.

                “Gently, Wormtail,” snapped Voldemort.  “If she is damaged, the whole ritual could be compromised.”  Watery eyes wide with fear, Wormtail gently lowered the woman into the center of the circle; an evil thing painted red like blood on the stone floor, it was comprised of a strange variety of demonic and ancient symbols.

                Once the woman was placed and Wormtail had scurried back into the shadows, Ethan anointed his own forehead with oil from a stone basin placed just outside the circle.  As he did so, he muttered words of supplication in an ancient tongue; some demonic hybrid that was fused with Latin.  That completed, he reverently picked up the wicked looking dagger that lay beside the basin.  “We beseech thee, Pluto,” he chanted, dark eyes fixed on the woman, “King of the Underworld, Lord of the Dead; accept this sacrifice.  A soul free from evil’s taint to grace your most revered halls.  We ask in return that you release unto this earth one whose darkness has been banished to the abyss of your kingdom.  Hear our prayer, o Pluto, and grant us your favor.”  He raised the knife high and without regret plunged it deep into the helpless woman’s chest.  She woke for a brief moment as the knife entered her heart, her eyes flying open and her breath coming in sharp gasps as blood trickled from her mouth.  Then she went still, her life force spent.  Ethan stepped out of the circle.

                Voldemort edged forward in his seat, his eyes full of sadistic glee, and watched as the woman’s blood flowed over the pattern of the painted circle, settling in the swirls and sharp edges of the symbols until it covered all the lines.  The last drop settled into place and a sudden burst of blue flames shot from the circle of blood, engulfing the woman in radiant light and shielding her from view.  It lasted only moments before it simply disappeared, the woman gone.  In her place was a crouching figure, shrouded in shadow and cloaked in darkness.

                Voldemort smiled cruelly.  “You have served me well, Ethan Rayne,” he said sinisterly.  “The Potter twins won’t know what hit them.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 30: The Offer

 

                August 22, 2003:  “Pass the salsa, Chuck.”

                “It’s right in front of you, Fay.  Get your own damn salsa.”

                Fred snorted at something Wesley whispered in her ear and Faith narrowed her eyes at the couple.  “What?” she said.  “What’s so funny?”

                “Percy just told Fred that Charlie-boy isn’t getting any tonight, pet,” said Spike from his seat sprawled out on the lobby’s sole remaining couch.

                “I ain’t your pet, Fangless,” snapped Faith, “and Fang’s gonna butcher you if he catches you with your nasty boots up on his precious couch again.”

                “I’d like to see ‘im try,” snarked Spike.  “Peaches isn’t the boss of me.”

                “Is that so, William?”

                Spike glanced up lazily, a smirk gracing his sharp features.  “That’s so, Peaches,” he said, his voice challenging and his icy blue stare mischievous with just a hint of malice.

                Angel met his gaze with unwavering cold, brown eyes.  “Get your feet off my couch, Spike,” he snapped, his arms crossed over his chest and his posture ramrod straight.

                “Make me,” said Spike smirking up at his Grandsire.

                Angel growled.  “Now children,” said Connor, coming up behind his father and placing a hand on his broad shoulder, “no fighting during dinner.”

                “Good one, Junior,” said Faith, smiling at the brunette teen.  “Show ‘em who’s boss.”

                Connor flashed her a predatory grin and flopped down beside her on the floor, growling playfully when she ruffled his shaggy hair.  “Watch the hair, Faith,” he whined.

                Faith laughed.  “Just like your old man, kid,” she teased, “always obsessing over your hair.”

                “I do not obsess over my hair,” insisted Angel, shoving Spike’s feet off the couch and sitting down.

                “Hey Faith,” said Connor, “I’ve got this weird envelope for you.”  He held up a strange parchment envelope sealed with emerald with stamped with an elaborate M.

                Faith furrowed her brow in confusion.  “Where’d that come from?” she asked.  “We already got the mail today.”

                Connor sniggered.  “An owl attacked Dad on the way back from the taco place,” he said.  “It had this envelope attached to its leg and wouldn’t leave Dad alone til I took it.”

                “You gonna open it, Fay?” asked Gunn, knocking shoulders with his slayer girlfriend.

                “I dunno,” said Faith with a shrug.  “Seems kinda fishy to me.”

                “I assure you, my dear, it is not fishy in the least.”

                The entire Angel Investigations team jumped to their feet, ready to fight.  Standing in the lobby by the front doors was a strange old man with long white hair and beard, wearing royal purple robes with aquamarine stars and moons printed on it.  Angel stepped forward, lowering his hands.  “Albus Dumbledore?” he said.

                “Liam O’Connor,” said Dumbledore, his blue eyes twinkling brightly.  “You were already a legend at Hogwarts and beyond when I began my first year.  I must say, the years have been far kinder to you than me.”

                “Yeah, well, comes with being a vampire.”

                “Indeed.”  Dumbledore squinted at Spike, his eyes widening after a moment in recognition.  “William Pratt,” he said.  “You’ve aged well too.”

                “Vampire too, mate,” said Spike, shrugging and sticking his hands into the pockets of his leather duster.  “Do I know you?”

                “I don’t believe we’ve had the pleasure,” said Dumbledore.  “I’ve heard stories, though.  I do believe Hogwarts still plays host to the poetry club you started during your time as a student.”

                Angel and Faith practically doubled over with laughter, Spike’s glower be damned.  “William the Bloody Awful Poet,” chuckled Angel.

                “Can it, Peaches,” snapped Spike irritably.

                “What’s the matter, Fangless?” said Faith, smirking as she stood up with the dangerous grace of a panther.  “Can’t take what ya dish out?”

                Spike opened his mouth to retort, ice blue eyes narrowed to slits, but Wes interrupted.  “Gentlemen, Faith, perhaps you can save your alpha pissing contest until after we hear why Professor Dumbledore has come to see us.”

                “Thank you, Mr. Wyndam-Pryce,” said Dumbledore graciously.  “I’ve actually come today to offer a few of you places at Hogwarts this coming school year.”

                “What’s Hogwarts?” asked Fred and Connor at the same time.

                “Does this have something to do with this weird ass letter?” asked Faith, waving the envelope at the elderly professor.

                “Why don’t you open it and find out, my dear,” suggested Dumbledore, his blue eyes twinkling merrily.

                Faith eyed him warily, but sat down at the reception desk and opened it.  The letter read:

 

            Dearest Fidelius,

I am much aggrieved that your mother saw fit to hide your existence from me.  I would have taken you into my home in a heartbeat.  You should have been raised among blood, alongside your brothers, in the greatest of pureblood finery.  Would that I had known of your existence; you would have wanted for nothing.

Alas, that is in the past and the past must remain unchanged.  All I can do is look to the future and hope, my dear daughter, that you are amicable to meeting your unwillingly estranged father.  I pray you bear me no ill will for the wrongs that your mother has committed against you by depriving you of your birthright.  Would that I had known of you when you were first born, my wife and I would have taken you in and she would have raised you as her own.

It is my greatest desire to meet you, my dear Fidelius.  I hope you will amicable to this.  Please send me an owl at your earliest convenience so that we may meet.

            With deepest regards,

            Lucius Scorpius Malfoy

 

                “Well, what’s it say, Fay?” asked Gunn when Faith finally set the parchment down.

                Faith blinked slowly.  “This guy claims he’s my Pops,” she said, her mind still processing what she had read.  “He says he just found out about me and wants to meet me.”

                Dumbledore frowned thoughtfully at the broken wax seal of emerald green on the parchment.  “This seal looks familiar to me,” he said.  “Who wrote you this letter, Miss Faith?”

                “The letter’s signed Lucius Scorpius Malfoy.”

                Dumbledore hummed thoughtfully and stroked his long, white beard.  “Perhaps you would consent to come to England with me, young Slayer,” he said.  “I believe I can help you uncover the truth of Mr. Malfoy’s claim.”

                “She won’t be going alone,” said Gunn, stepping behind Faith to hold her close.

                “Of course not,” said Dumbledore.  “I had hoped to entice yourself, along with Messers Angel and Spike to join our staff this year as Professors of Muggle Studies, Care of Magical Creatures, and English, respectively.  I also have a letter here for a Mr. C. O’Connor; an invitation to attend Hogwarts this coming year as a student.”

                “That’s me,” said Connor, bewildered, stepping forward to accept the strange letter from Dumbledore.

                Angel’s brow furrowed.  “Isn’t he a little old to be just now starting Hogwarts?” he asked.

                “I believe that with some tutoring, young Connor will be able to catch up to at least the sixth years, if not the seventh years, by September 1st.  It is not impossible; already we have one student who is completing the same process this summer.  She is about the same age, I believe.”

                “Connor,” said Angel softly, “son?  Would you like to learn magic?  Like—like your mother and I both did in our mortal lives?”

                “I—both of you knew magic?”

                “Aye,” said Angel, a bit of his old Irish brogue slipping though as his mind fell to old memories.  “My family, the O’Connors of Galway, was an old Pureblood family.  Darla—though that was not her name when she was human—was also from an old pureblood family, though I know not which one.”

                Connor turned to Dumbledore.  “I would learn magic at this school?” he asked.

                “Of course,” said the professor.  “Would you like to attend?”

                “I-I think so,” said Connor, glancing over at his father.  “I’ve never actually been to school before.”

                “I’ll take the job,” said Angel abruptly.

                Spike scoffed and shrugged his shoulders.  “Can’t leave Peaches and Junior alone for too long or they get cagey,” said Spike.

                “If Fay’s in, I’m in,” said Gunn.

                “Very well,” said Dumbledore.  “I can have a portkey ready in an hour, if you would consent to leave today.”

                “Of course,” said Angel.  “Fred and Wes, you guys hold down the fort while we’re gone.  If you need more help, call Lorne.”

                “Will do, Boss,” said Wes.  “Have a safe trip.”

 

                An hour and a half later everyone was packed and gathered in the Hyperion lobby.  Dumbledore stood in the center of the room holding an empty coffee can.  “Excellent,” he said when Angel finally joined them.  “Now, everyone place a finger on the can.”

                “That can’s gonna transport us across the ocean?” said Gunn dubiously.

                “Indeed; it’s magic,” said Dumbledore.  “Now, everyone get ready in five—four—three—two—one—”  There was a quick flash of light and then the Hyperion lobby was empty once again. 

Chapter Text

Chapter 31: Family Secrets

 

                August 24, 2003:  Faith and Gunn walked hand in hand down the streets of London (a rarity for Faith, but she was trying, really, to be more affectionate with people she cared about).  “Where are we meeting these cousins of yours again?” she asked.

                “Some pub called the Leaky Cauldron,” he replied.

                Faith looked around and squinted at something that seemed to always stay just out of her sight.  Frustrated, she narrowed her dark eyes at the spot and suddenly her vision solidified.  “Hey Chuck,” she said slowly.

                “Yeah?”

                “I think I found it.”

                “Where?”

                “Right there,” she said, pointing to the run-down building between a record store and a book store.

                Gunn’s gaze seemed to pass right over it.  “I don’t see it, Fay,” he said.  “Are you sure you found it?”

                “It’s right there between Gothique Records and Thomas and Gudgeon Books.”

                Gunn looked again and this time he saw the pub, appearing apparently from nowhere.  “Aw hell,” he said, “my cousins are mixed up in this magic shit too?”

                Faith smirked.  “It would appear so, Charlie-Boy,” she said.  “C’mon, let’s go meet ‘em.”  She dragged Gunn along with her slayer strength across the street toward the Leaky Cauldron.

 

                The inside of the pub was dark and smoky and filled with the strangest assortment of people Faith had ever seen outside of a demon bar.  “You sure this ain’t a demon bar?” asked Gunn echoing her thoughts.

                “Nothin’ pinging on my slaydar,” she said.  “A were or two an’ a few others that read as not fully human, but no outright demons.”

                “We good then?”

                “Five by five, Chuck.  See your cousins yet?”

                Gunn glanced over the room and eventually met a pair of brown eyes that reminded him painfully of Alonna’s.  “I think I just did,” he said, waving back to the woman and leading Faith across the crowded room to meet her.

                “Charles!” exclaimed the large, smiling black woman.  She stood and embraced him when he was within arms’ reach.  “It’s been too long.  How are you, dear?”

                Gunn smiled back fondly.  “I’m good, Auntie.  How’re the girls?”

                “Growing like weeds,” she said, chuckling.  “I left them at home with Uncle Greg today.  I’ve got the boys with me…somewhere,” she said, looking around.  She shrugged.  “They must have run into some friends.  They’ll show up sooner or later.  Now, who’s your friend, dear?”

                “Aunt Regina, this is my girlfriend Faith,” Gunn said.  “Faith, this is my aunt, Regina Tinker.”

                “Nice to meet you, dear,” said the woman, her skin the color of milk chocolate and her raven hair worn long and straight.

                “You too, Regina,” said Faith, holding out a hand to shake.

                “None of that now,” said Regina, waving her off and pulling her into a hug.  “You can call me Auntie too; you’re practically family.”  She then whispered in Faith’s ear, “Charles has never brought a girl to meet us before; you must be something special.”

                Faith was slightly uncomfortable with the level of affection Regina was showing her.  She’d been growing slowly better about it with Gunn, but sometimes she still shied away from even him.  “Thanks,” she said, awkwardly patting the older woman on the back, relieved when she was finally released from her embrace.

                “Mum!”  A tall, black boy with close cropped black hair came running up, followed by a younger boy who was slightly shorter, with wild dark brown curls.  “I ran into Seamus; can I go off with him?”

                “Not today, Dean,” Regina said.  “Your cousin’s here.”

                Dean looked at Gunn curiously.  “I don’t remember you,” he said bluntly.  “Have we met before?”

                “I haven’t seen you since you were a baby,” admitted Gunn.  “I’m Charles Gunn.  Your mom calls me Charles, but most people just call me Gunn.”

                “Wicked cool nickname,” said the younger boy, smiling widely.  “I’m Jasson Thomas.  Are you gonna stick around for a while?”

                “Pretty much,” said Gunn.  “Faith and I both have some business here this year.”

                “What kind of business, if you don’t mind my asking?” said Regina curiously.

                “Faith’s looking into some long-lost family and I’ve been offered a job at some boarding school out in Scotland,” said Gunn.

                Dean frowned thoughtfully.  “Are you gonna be teaching at Hogwarts?” he asked.

                “Yeah, how’d you know?”

                The teen shrugged.  “I guessed, actually.  You found the Leaky and we always have at least one new professor each year.”

                “You go to Hogwarts?” asked Faith.  “Isn’t that a magic school?”

                “Yeah, it is,” said Dean.  “Jasson and I are wizards.  I’m going into fifth year and Jasson’s gonna be in third.  Gryffindor, the both of us.”

                “What’s a Gryffindor?” asked Gunn.

                “It’s one of the four houses at Hogwarts,” said Jasson.

                “Why don’t we take a walk down Diagon Alley and the boys can fill you in?” suggested Regina.

                “Sounds good to me,” said Gunn.

                “C’mon,” said Dean excitedly, pulling his cousin along by the hand.  “You’re gonna love this place; it’s wicked cool.”

 

                “My Lord,” said the nervous Death Eater after he straightened from his bow, “Our guest is most displeased with the accommodations we have provided.”

                Voldemort turned his red-slit eyes on the hapless minion.  “Then fix the problem,” he hissed.  “Make sure our guest is comfortable and well cared for; that is the only task that matters to you at the moment.”

                “My Lord,” the minion said again, even more nervously, “our guest requires further sustenance.”

                Voldemort waved a pale hand and two other Death Eaters came up behind the first.  “Then our guest shall receive it.”  The second two Death Eaters took the first by the biceps and dragged him out of the room, kicking and screaming in terror.  Voldemort cast a cold gaze around the room at the assembled Death Eaters.  “Wormtail,” he called out.

                The short, trembling man stepped forward, his watery eyes fixed on the ground.  “Y-yes My Lord?” he stuttered.

                “You are now in charge of our guest,” he said, sounding bored.

                “M-my Lord?” said Wormtail.

                “You have proven your loyalty to me, fickle though it is,” said Voldemort, motioning pointedly to the man’s new silver hand.  “I require you to make sure that our guest is kept happy and well fed.  Can I trust you with this important task?”

                “Of-of course, My Lord,” stammered Wormtail, bowing low.  “I w-won’t fail you.”

                “I know you won’t,” said Voldemort coldly.  From down the hall the pained scream of the first Death Eater echoed off the walls.  Wormtail flinched; he knew what would happen should he fail.

Chapter Text

Chapter 32: The Order of Aurelius

 

                August 25, 2003 “Is this the place?” asked Faith, staring in confusion at the empty space between Number Eleven Grimmuald Place and Number Thirteen.

                “This is like the pub, right?” said Gunn.  “Maybe if you squint really hard…”

                “Don’t think it works like that Charlie-boy,” snorted Spike, flicking the smoldering butt of his cigarette onto the ground.

                “Dumbledore said to read this first,” said Angel, pulling a small scrap of parchment from the inner pocket of his black leather coat.

                “What, is the house just going to magically appear when we read it?” scoffed Faith.

                “Most likely, pet,” said Spike.  “That’s how wizarding magic works, usually.”

                “Huh,” said Faith, taken aback.  “Wasn’t expectin’ that.”

                “Here,” said Angel, handing her the slip that he’d already read and shown to Connor.

                Faith and Gunn glanced at it and then handed it to Spike.  He took a quick glance and nodded.  “See it now, pet?” he asked with a grin as her look of suspicion quickly turned to shock.

                “That house was not there a second ago,” said Connor.

                “It’s magic, son,” said Angel, stepping up to the door.  “C’mon; it wouldn’t do to keep our hosts waiting.”

 

                “Got any twos?” asked Cassi.

                Mary stared at the cards in her hand.  “Go fish,” she said.

                Cassi sighed and drew a card from the pile between them.  “Why are we playing this bloody stupid game again?” she asked.

                Mary shrugged.  “You were bored and Uncle Moony still won’t let us play with gobstones, exploding snap, or wizards’ chess,” she said.

                Cassi frowned.  “When’d the last one get added to the list?” she asked.

                “I believe it was after that last game you played with your dad.”

                Cassi tilted her head to the side.  “The one where we got bored and started making our pieces do battle?”

                “That’d be the one,” said Mary.  “Something about it being too violent for our already corrupted minds.”

                Cassi raised her eyebrow quizzically.  “How’s that even make sense?” she asked.

                Mary shrugged.  “Beats me,” she said.  “The only sense it make to me is the kind that’s not.”

                The girls were saved from their boredom (and their game of ‘Go Fish’) by a knock on the door.  “I’ll get it!” they both yelled, stumbling over each other in their haste to get to the front door.  In all their pushing and shoving and tripping antics, they failed to notice the amused look on Remus Lupin’s scared face as he passed by the kitchen entrance to answer it himself.

 

                The door of Number Twelve was opened by a tall, tired-looking man who smiled at them and said, “Come on in; Dumbledore told me we were expecting you.”  They all stepped inside the house and the man added, “Please be quiet; we don’t want to wake Sirius’ mother.  She can be a real banshee.”

                Faith cocked her head to the side, hearing a loud crashing and squealing coming from an open door down the hall.  “That doesn’t bother her?” she asked.

                The man chuckled.  “We charmed the kitchen to muffle sounds.  You must have extra sensitive hearing to hear the girls bickering from out here.”

                “I’m a Slayer,” said Faith.  “The last called one, actually.”

                “Would I be right in guessing you are Faith, then?” asked the man.

                “Yup.  Dumbles told you?”

                “No, Cordelia actually.”

                “Cordelia’s here?” asked Angel, something tightening painfully in his soulful eyes.

                “Yes, she’s been staying with me and Sirius this summer.  Oh, but I’ve been painfully rude; I haven’t even introduced myself.  I’m Remus Lupin; I’m Cordelia’s cousin.”

                “I’m Angel,” said the souled vampire, shaking Remus’ hand.  “I’m a friend of Cordy’s.  This is my son Connor, my friend Charles Gunn—”

                “Call me Gunn.”

                “I’m Spike, mate,” said the peroxide blonde vampire.

                Remus raised an eyebrow.  “As in William the Bloody?”

                “You’ve heard of me?” he said, expression brightening.

                Remus’ eyes twinkled with mischief and he smirked.  “I was a member of your poetry club at Hogwarts for my first two years…until my friends forced me to quit because it wasn’t cool enough for them.”

                Spike’s eyes flashed murderously and Angel burst into laughter.  “That’s priceless,” he said, smirking.  “You’re actually remembered for something you were terrible at.  I love it!”

                “Sod off, Peaches,” snapped Spike, thrusting his hands into his duster pockets and glaring murderously at his grandsire.

               

                Mary and Cassi tumbled into the hall just in time to hear Remus talking about Hogwarts’ infamous poetry club.  “Are you telling me you’re William the Prat of the bloody awful poetry club?” Mary asked the blonde vampire incredulously.

                “What of it?” snapped Spike, irritated.

                “We had to force Mione to leave that club,” said Cassi.

                “There was duct tape involved,” said Mary.

                “And hours of ‘It’s a Small World’ played on repeat,” said Cassi, shuddering.

                “We finally got her to promise never to go again,” said Mary solemnly.

                “It’s a social death sentence, that club,” said Cassi.

                “Even Percy the Prat-like Prefect and Big-Head Boy thought it was bloody awful,” added Mary.

                “Mary and Cassi if you could focus your attention on me for half a minute, I would greatly appreciate it,” said Remus, his voice tired and strained.

                “Yes Moony?” they said together, their equally pale face pictures of innocence.

                “Girls, obviously we have some additional guests here today.  They will be staying with us until the Hogwarts term starts.  Please make them welcome and don’t scare them off.”

                “Are you insinuating that we’d do any less?” asked Mary, blinking her hazel eyes in faux-innocence.

                “It’s like you don’t even know us,” said Cassi, wiping an imaginary tear from her cheek.

                Remus rolled her eyes.  “Everyone, this is Mary Evans-Potter and Cassi Black.  Mary is Cordelia’s niece and Cassi is the daughter of the man who owns the house.”

                “Slanders and lies!” screeched Mary dramatically.

                “I thought you loved us, Moony!” wailed Cassi, fake-fainting onto Mary’s shoulder.

                “Girls,” said Remus, sighing, “meet our guests.  This is Charles Gunn, Faith, Connor, Angel, and Spike.  They’re here at Dumbledore’s request.  They’re part of a demon-hunting group from Los Angeles.”

                “Is that Voldie-poo’s secret then?” asked Mary.  “Is he recruiting demons now?”

                “Well, he’s been after the werewolves since the first war,” said Remus, “and many vampire clans chose to join him as well.”

                “Silly werewolf, you’re not a demon,” insisted Cassi.  “You’re just lunarly challenged.”

                “And we’ve never met a vampire, so we really couldn’t say for them,” added Mary.

                “Well now you’ve met two,” said Spike grinning.

                “Who?” the girls asked together.

                “Well, me and Peaches,” said Spike.

                “Never heard of a vampire called Peaches,” said Mary.

                “That’s not a very frightening name, is it?” said Cassi.

                “My name’s Angel,” the brunette vampire grumbled.

                “He used to be known as Angelus,” added Faith.

                “Wait, Angelus of the Order of Aurelius?” asked Mary.

                “The vampire with the face of an angel?” asked Cassi.

                “That’s our boss man,” said Gunn, grinning.

                The girls looked at each other.  “Wicked!” they exclaimed and suddenly they were off talking a mile a minute, asking Angel all kinds of questions while Spike grumbled sullenly in the background.

Chapter Text

Chapter 33: Snapshots of Life in the House of Black

 

                August 26, 2003: Cordelia was surprised to find the kitchen of Grimmauld Place already occupied when she got up at about five in the morning.  She blinked a couple of times at the familiar black-clad figure sitting in the dim-lit room.  “Angel?” she said hesitantly.

                “Hello Cordy,” said the brooding vampire, smiling hesitantly at his best friend.  “How have you been?”

                “Better than I’ve been in a long while,” replied Cordelia, sitting down beside the vampire.  “You?”

                Angel shrugged.  “Connor isn’t trying to kill me anymore, so there’s that.”          

                “Good, I’m glad,” said Cordy.  The pair fell into an awkward sort of silence, each wanting to talk, but neither knowing exactly what to say.

                “You’d think I’d be better at this,” said Cordy suddenly, a smile quirking at the corner of her lips.

                “What, talking?” said Angel.

                “Well, yeah.  I mean, we both know you kind of fail in that department, but I’m like the queen of gab.”

                Angel raised an eyebrow.  “I thought you were Queen C, the meanest bitch ever to come out of Sunnydale High?” he quipped, a mischievous twinkle forming in his brown eyes.

                “So there is a sense of humor hiding under that brooding exterior,” said Faith, walking into the kitchen and casually draping herself across the chair on the other side of the vampire.  “I was beginning to wonder.  Cheerleader.”

                “Faith,” said Cordy evenly.  “How’s life on this side of the bars?”

                “Five by five,” said Faith, smiling predatorily.  “Got myself a brand-new boyfriend and everything.  How’s not being in a coma workin’ out for you?”

                “Aw, c’mon,” said Gunn, stepping into the room and casually draping an arm around Faith’s shoulder, “can’t have two of my three favorite girls fighting now, can I?  Least not without some mud or wet t-shirts—kidding, kidding.”  He hastily stepped back from the brunette women, his hands raised in surrender as he received death glares from them both.

                “What’s going on?” asked Willow sleepily, entering the room hand-in-hand with Oz.

                “I think Faith and Cordy are gonna fight,” said Oz.

                “My money’s on Cordy,” said Xander, popping up from behind the redheaded couple.

                “I thought we discussed your betting habits, Xander,” admonished Willow.

                “I’ll cut you in,” he wheedled.

                “What are you betting on now, Xander?” asked Giles, entering the room from the back stairs.

                “Cordy and Faith are gonna fight,” said Willow.

                “There’s not going to be any fighting here,” insisted Faith, “unless it’s me beatin’ up my boyfriend for being an idiot.”

                “Can I get in on that?” asked Cordy, glaring at Gunn.

                “Finally, we agree on something!” said Faith, smirking at her fellow brunette.

                Cordy smirked back.  “Well now that we’re on the same page, you think we can take ‘em?”

                “Hell yes, girl,” said Faith.  “You and me, we’ve got this handled.  They’ll never know what hit ‘em.”

                “Gentlemen,” said Giles, wary of the predatory looks on the Slayer and the Seer’s faces, “I suggest we leave while we still can.”

                “That might be wise,” said Angel, hastily standing and following Giles out of the room.  Gunn fled too, grabbing Xander by the arm on the way out.

                Oz and Willow looked at each other and shrugged.  “It was great seeing you two again,” Willow said.  “We’re gonna go back to bed now.  See you later?”

                “Have fun with Wolf-Boy, Red,” said Faith.  “Try not to wear him out too much.”

                Willow smiled mischievously at her one-time nemesis.  “No promises,” she said and she and Oz left the room as well.

                “Now that they’re all gone, what do you want to do?” asked Cordy.

                Faith swung her chair around, sitting down on it backwards.  “Up for a game of poker?” she asked.

                “Oh, honey, you said the magic words,” said Cordy, smiling her mega-watt grin and pulling out a pack of cards.  “You just wait til you’ve tried it with these wizarding cards my cousin picked up for me…it’ll blow your mind…literally, sometimes.”

 

                August 27, 2003:  “I’ve figured it out!” shouted Willow, taking the hall stairs at a gallop and inevitably waking Mrs. Black.

“Figured what out?” asked Oz, who was playing a rousing game of wizards’ chess with his youngest brother in the front sitting room.

“Why I’ve been so twitchy around here lately,” said Willow, plopping down onto the arm of Oz’s chair.

“Oh?” said Oz, raising an eyebrow.  “And why’s that?”

“There’s a slayer here, at Grimmauld Place.”

“Yeah, that Faith lady,” piped in Ron.  “I thought you guys knew each other.”

“No, besides Faith,” said Willow, waving her hand dismissively.  “I’ve been having this weird tingling feeling since before she got here, anyway.  That and she wasn’t called by my spell, so she doesn’t ping as strongly on my radar as the baby slayers do.”

“So who is it, then?” asked Oz curiously.

Willow frowned in frustration.  “That’s the problem I’m having,” she admitted.  “It always happens with different groups of people, which always have more than one girl in them who could be a slayer.”

“Do you need help thinning the herd, so to speak?” asked Ron.  “Fred and George are always up for a bit of mischief, if you are.”

“You know, I just might have them do that for me,” said Willow, a mischievous smile crossing her face.

 

Fred and George’s plan worked beautifully.  In all the confusion from one of their dung bombs, Willow and Oz were able to herd the women off into a separate room.  Once there, Willow was able to get a clear read on them.  “Those ten,” she said quietly to Oz, motioning to the group she’d marked with her magic.  Oz nodded and escorted the others out of the room, leaving Willow with her chosen ones.

Willow looked over the remaining ten.  She recognized most of them by appearance, though she only knew one by name.  Regina, Lily’s old friend, was there along with the pink haired woman who had greeted Willow on her initial visit to Grimmauld Place.  With them was the violet-eyed teen with hip-length raven hair whom Willow often saw around the house with a twin brother.  There were three girls that she thought she recognized from the night of the full moon; a sullen brunette with a penchant for the color orange and a pair of identical twins with silvery-blonde hair and too-wide amber eyes.  The remaining four she didn’t recognize at all.  There was a little girl, maybe about six, with sandy blonde hair and smoky-blue eyes who was half-hiding behind the sullen brunette; a tall teenage girl with dark brown curls and honey brown skin who looked a lot like a miniature Jessi; an Asian woman with bright purple hair that hung down to the middle of her back; and a fair skinned woman with red curls about the same color as her own.

“Hi, I’m Willow,” she said, causing them all to look at her.  “I’ve called you all here for a reason; you’ve all been Chosen.”

“Chosen for what?” asked the sullen brunette (Willow, for the life of her, could not remember her name).

“To fight the darkness,” said Willow.  “Vampires, demons, and other nasty things that go bump in the night.  You’re all slayers.”

“I thought there was only one,” said the redheaded woman with forest green eyes.

“There used to be,” said Willow.  “But just a few months ago when we were fighting the First Evil, I did a spell that turned every girl who ever had the potential to be a slayer into a slayer—even those who would normally be too old or too young.”

“That actually explains a lot,” said Regina thoughtfully.  “Would this have been back at the end of May?”

“Yeah,” said Willow.  “You felt it, didn’t you?”

“I think we all did,” said the magenta haired black woman.  “I’m Mya Chance, by the way.  I don’t know that we were ever properly introduced.”

“Willow Evans,” said Willow, smiling at the other woman.  “I think the only one here I know is Regina, actually.”

“You’ve met my aunt, then,” said Mya.  “This is my sister-in-law, Charisma Chance.”

“I usually just go by Riz,” said the chocolate skinned, violet eyed teen.

“I’m Cameron Black,” said the curly haired, pale-skinned woman with a smile.

“Any relation to Sirius?” asked Willow.

“He’s my father-in-law.”

“My condolences.”  Cameron laughed.

“I’m Melinda Santos Martini,” said the Jessi look-alike.  “Call me Lindy.”

“Are you Jessi’s daughter, by any chance?”

“Yup; my whole life,” said the curly haired teen.

“My name’s Tina Clouseau,” said the purple haired Asian woman.

“Melody Black,” said the sullen brunette, “but people usually call me Mel and this is my oldest daughter Sienna Whitby.”  She gestured to the small, blonde girl attached to her leg.

“Callista Lupin—” said the first blonde twin, dressed in buttercup yellow.

“—and Cleopatra Lupin,” said the second blonde twin, dressed in mint green.

“Call us Calli and Cleo,” they said together.

Willow smiled.  “Now that we’ve all been introduced, I’d like to tell you a little bit about what being a slayer is all about…”

 

                August 28, 2003:  “Are you Dawn?”

                Dawn looked up from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them to see a tall boy about her age with floppy brown hair and piercing blue eyes staring down at her.  “Yeah,” she said.  “Who’re you?”

                “I’m Connor,” he said, sitting down across the library table from her.  “Cordelia said you were trying to catch up on learning magic too.”

                “Too?” asked the gangly brunette.

                “I’m supposed to be going to Hogwarts this year, but I’ve never done any magic before.  That Dumbledore guy said that I could catch up with my year group over the summer, but since terms starts in a few days…”

                “You need some help, don’t you?” asked Dawn, raising an eyebrow at the boy.

                He smiled guiltily at her.  “Yeah.  Cordelia said you could help me?”

                Dawn had to admit that he was pretty cute…and his smile made her melt a little inside.  “Okay,” she said, “but only if you promise to actually work and not just bug me.”

                “I can do that,” said Connor happily.  “Where should I start?”

                Dawn pulled The Standard Book of Spells (Grade One) from the bottom of her pile.  “Start reading, buddy,” she said.  “You’ve got an awfully long way to go.”

 

                August 29, 2003:  “So you’re the infamous Sirius Black.”

                The gaunt, raven haired man lounging casually on the sofa raised an eyebrow at Faith.  “That would be me,” he said, his voice raspy and whisky-smooth.  “Who are you?”

                “Aw, you missed the intros?” the Slayer teased, flopping down on an armchair that was such a dark green that it was almost black.

                He waved her off, rolling his stormy grey eyes.  “Please, when Dumbledore starts to talk, I tune him out unless I hear my name.”

                “I hear that’s how you miss the important stuff,” said Faith, smirking.

                “Oh please, like you don’t do it too.”

                “You caught me,” said Faith.  “Can’t say I like these meetings very much; I’m more of a doer than a thinker.”

                “And I still don’t know who you are,” said Sirius.  “You’re obviously part of the vampire’s group, but other than that…nope, sorry, totally missed your name.”

                “I’m Faith,” said the brunette woman.  “I’m the Slayer.  Well, a slayer these days, but that’s all semantics.”

                Sirius gave her a scrutinizing look.  “The Slayer, huh?” he said.  “Bet Moony swooned.”

                “Moony?” asked Faith.

                “Uh, Remus Lupin?” said Sirius.  “It’s an old nickname from our school days.”

                “Cause of the werewolf thing, right?”  At Sirius’ narrowed eyes, she rolled her own and said, “Please, I’m the Slayer; it’s my job to know these things.  I’m not gonna slay your boyfriend, don’t worry.”

                “He’s not my boyfriend,” said Sirius blushing.  “I’ve got my own girl-lover-Jessi person and Moony’s mooning over my little cousin anyway.”

                “Easy Fido, I was just teasin’ you,” said Faith.  “Cheerleader already told me all about the Wolf-man/Pinky drama.  Haven’t even met the X-Man’s sis yet and I already like her.”

                Sirius snorted.  “Yeah, Tonks is pretty cool.”  He narrowed his eyes at her.  “You know, you kind of remind me of her.  You look more like my other cousin, but there’s something about you…are your parents magical?”

                “According to the guy who claims to be my pops, yes,” said Faith.  “I never actually met ‘em; I was in the foster system until I was fifteen and ran away.”

                “I ran away when I was sixteen,” said Sirius, “but that was because pretty much my whole family is obsessed with the dark arts.  So who’s claiming to be your dad?”

                “Some Lucius Malfoy guy,” said Faith shrugging.  “Dumbles seems to think the letter was legit.”

                Sirius started.  “Lucius Malfoy’s your dad?”

                “Possibly, why?” asked Faith.

                “He’s a slimy, snakey git that’s why,” snarled Sirius.  “He’s a Death Eater; one of Voldemort’s favored ones too.  He’s also married to my cousin.”

                Faith raised a dark eyebrow and pulled out the folded and creased letter from her jeans’ pocket.  She skimmed over it.  “So apparently his wife’s not my ma,” she said.  “Doesn’t say who is.”

                Sirius stared at her carefully and his eyes widened suddenly.  “Bloody buggering hell,” he cursed.  “I think I might know who your mum is.  You look a lot like her, anyway.”

                “Who?” asked Faith curiously.

                “My other cousin,” said Sirius slowly, “Bellatrix Black Lestrange.”

 

                August 30, 2003:  “Hey Willow, can we talk?”

                “Sure, Oz,” said Willow, stepping into the library with the currently silver-haired man.  “What did you want to talk about?”

                “There’s something that’s been on my mind for a while,” he said.  “It’s something that would change things between us, but in a good way, I think.”

                “Oh?” said Willow curiously.  Oz suddenly dropped to one knee and her emerald eyes widened in understanding.  “Oh!”

                “Willow Eleanor Evans,” he said, taking her hand in his, the nails of his long fingers covered in chipped black polish, “will you do me the honor of marrying me?”

                Willow stood gaping like a fish in shock for a moment.  “Yes!” she finally exclaimed, throwing herself on her boyfriend and hugging him.  “Yes, I will marry you, Daniel Osmond Weasley!”

                “Good,” said Oz, pulling back slightly.  He reached into his jeans’ pocket and pulled out a small, black box.  “Cause I’d really hate to have to return this.”  He opened the box, revealing a lovely gold band with an elegant, tastefully sized diamond set in it.

                “It’s gorgeous, Oz,” said Willow, holding out her left hand and allowing him to slip it on her finger.  “How did you know?”

                “I may have had a little help,” he admitted.  “My little sister apparently has excellent taste in jewelry.  Should probably warn her boyfriend about that, huh?”

 

                August 31, 2003:  “Cordelia, can we talk?”

                Cordy whirled around to glare at the one-eyed brunette.  “We’re talking now, aren’t we?” she snapped irritably.

                “No, I mean yes, but can we go talk somewhere that’s…else?”

                Cordy sighed and pulled Xander into one of Grimmauld’s many smaller libraries, shutting and locking the door behind them.  “There,” she said.  “Is this ‘else’ enough for you?”

                Xander sighed and shoved his hands deep into his jeans’ pockets.  “Look, Cordy, can’t we just talk for once?  No fighting?” he asked, looking her straight in the eye.

                Cordy sighed.  “That’s a tall order, Xander,” she said.  “We’ve never been much for the talking thing.”

                “I know; yelling’s more our style,” he said, “but I really feel we need to talk some things through.  Yelling can come later—will come later, I’m sure.”

                Cordy sat down on the dark green and black patterned sofa.  “So talk,” she said imperiously.

                Xander slouched against the wall by the fireplace.  “What are we, Cordy?” he asked.

                She raised an eyebrow at him.  “Well, I’m a woman, you’re a man.  We’re also both magical.  I’m not sure where you’re going with this, Xander.”

                “I mean, what are we to each other?”

                “Oh,” said Cordy.  “You really ask the hard questions, don’t you?”

                Xander shrugged.  “It needed to be asked, Cor.”

                She sighed deeply and closed her eyes.  “We’re…complicated Xander,” she said.  “I think I might have loved you once…before you broke my heart.”

                “I might have loved you too, Cordelia,” he said.  “Lots of time has passed since then, yes, but…I don’t know that those feelings ever went away, not completely.  I think it might be why we still fight so much.”

                “You’re scarily perceptive aren’t you,” said Cordy.

                “So I’ve been told.”

                “I loved someone else once,” admitted Cordy.  “It was brief and I never got to see if we could ever even be anything before he was gone…but I think I could have loved him, given the chance.”

                “I loved Anya,” admitted Xander.  “I loved her so much that sometimes it hurt, but I was too scared of becoming my father to commit to her.  By the time I realized how stupid I had been, by the time we started to work things out again, she went and died a hero’s death on me.”

                “My Doyle did that too,” said Cordy, a sad, wistful smile on her face.  “I never knew he had it in him.”

                “Same with Anya,” said Xander.  “She was never one to jump into a fight.”

                “Doyle could be a weasely little coward sometimes and he drank way too much…but he was a sweetheart and a good man.”

                “Anya had even less of a brain-to-mouth filter than you and she didn’t really understand how to be human, but she was brave and good and she had a beautiful heart.”

                “We’re quite a pair, aren’t we?” said Cordelia, laughing, as she wiped a tear from her tanned cheek.

                Xander’s lips quirked into a small smile.  “That we are,” he said.

                “So are we giving ‘us’ another shot?” asked the former cheerleader.

                “Well, considering we’ve already slept together, I’m not gonna say no.  I’ll leave the decision up to you, Cor.  Like I said, I still have feelings for you; always have.”

                “Same here, Xander,” said Cordelia.  She took a deep breath.  “Okay, let’s give this thing a shot.”

                “Really?”  The look in his single brown eye was hopeful.

                “Yeah, why not.  Cordy and Xander two point oh.  We’ll never know if we can still work together, as a couple, unless we give it a shot.”

                Impulsively, Xander darted over and hugged her close.  “Thanks, Cor, for giving me a shot.”

                “You’re welcome, Doofus,” she said fondly, hugging him back.  “Just don’t make me regret it.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 34: Further Up and Further In

 

                September 1, 2003“Is everyone all packed?  We need to leave for the train station in ten minutes!” cried Molly Weasley frantically as everyone rushed around Grimmauld Place the morning of September 1st.

                “I can’t find any of my socks!”

                “Has anyone seen my chess set?”

                “Fred and George, give that back to your sister!”

                “Where’re my shoes?  I can’t find…no, not those ones, Cass, the other red heels!”

                “Padfoot, no!  Sit!  Bad Padfoot!”

                “For the last bloody time, has anyone seen my socks?”

                Sirius’ ancestral home had turned to bedlam in the course of an hour as parents, children, and professors alike began to panic as ten o’clock drew closer and closer, bringing with it the start of term and the long-awaited return to Hogwarts.  Molly had finally had enough.  “QUIET!” she yelled, silencing everyone in the house, including (temporarily) Mrs. Black.  “Ron, your chess set is already in your trunk.  Fred and George, give your sister back her diary—it’s not cursed; Alastor checked it twelve times.  Sirius, for the last time, you are not coming with us.  Mary, if you can’t find your heels, I’ll send them to you later, and for Merlin’s sake, Cassiopeia, did you check the laundry for your socks?”

                “I did,” wailed Cassi, dramatically flinging her arms in the air.  “I can’t find them anywhere.”

                Remus cleared his throat.  “I believe I may know the fate of your socks, Cassi,” he said.

                “What?  Where are they?  Did the trolls steal them?”

                “Dude, seriously, calm down,” said Mary, tugging Cassi back by the arm as she attempted to jump Moony.  “They’re just socks.”

                “But they’re my socks,” the raven haired teen whined.

                “As I was saying,” said Remus, interrupting the girls before they could get going on one of their infamous schpeils, “I believe your father stole your socks, Cassi.  He’s been leaving them lying around the house in hopes that Kreacher will accidentally free himself.  Had I realized they were yours, I would have stopped him.”

                Mary raised her red eyebrow.  “How did you not realize they were girls’ socks, Uncle Moony?”

                Remus raised an eyebrow right back.  “You’ve obviously never seen Sirius’ socks,” he said dryly.

 

                Cordy and Remus glared disapprovingly at Sirius, in his dog form, as he frolicked playfully around the platform.  “He is such an idiot,” Cordy hissed to her cousin.  “Doesn’t he realize he’s just asking for trouble coming out like this, dog or not?”

                “He’s always been this way,” said Remus with a long-suffering sigh.  “Sometimes I wonder why I still put up with him.”

                “Because you’re a sucker for his puppy-dog eyes,” said Regina, trailed by her three youngest children, the older two who were headed off to Hogwarts for their seventh and fourth years  respectively (the youngest was only seven and the eldest, who wasn’t there, had graduated last year).  As her little boy tugged on her red healers’ robes, she picked him up and settled him on her hip.  “Go ahead and get your stuff on the train,” she said to her two tall, teenage daughters.  “We’ll be along to say our goodbyes before you take off.”  Both girls kissed their mother on the cheek and hugged Remus before heading off toward the scarlet engine.

                “Cute kids,” said Cordy, glancing after the retreating cocoa skinned girls and smiling at the little boy in Regina’s arms.  “They’ve got someone on the train to watch out for them, right?”

                “Of course,” said Remus.  “Your friends Angel and Spike will be there as well as Gunn and Faith.  Nymphadora and Melody will also be riding the train with them all the way to Hogwarts, just for extra protection.”

                “Safe as houses,” Regina assured Cordy.

                The brunette seer groaned.  “You just had to go and jinx it,” she said, eyeing the train worriedly.

 

                Dawn wandered down the corridors of the crowded train, Connor trailing behind her like a lost little puppy.  “Keep an eye out for an empty compartment,” she said to the older boy.  He nodded silently to her and scoped out the corridor, glowering at anyone who got too close to them.

                “Hey, you’re that girl, aren’t you?”

                Dawn turned to face a familiar looking raven-haired girl hanging out the door of a compartment toward the back of the train. “What?” she asked.

                “That girl, the one who we met over the summer, right Mary?” she turned to someone inside the compartment.  “Isn’t she the girl?” she asked.

                The raven haired girl was joined by another girl, this one with fire-engine red hair.  “Oh, her,” she said.  “Yeah, um…Dawn, right?  I’m Mary Evans-Potter, this is Cassi Black.  We met when you came by Cassi’s house to study this summer.”

                “Oh!  You’re Cordy and Willow’s niece, right?”

                “Yup,” said Mary, popping the p.  “That’d be me.  Cass here is my sister from another mister—we like to call him Snuffles.”

                “He hates it,” said Cassi gleefully.

                “Come in and join us,” said Mary, smiling genuinely and gesturing to the compartment.  “We could always use some new blood in our pre-Hogwarts rituals.”

                Connor furrowed his brow in confusion.  “You have to perform a blood ritual before you reach Hogwarts?” he asked.  “I don’t remember reading about that in Hogwarts, A History.”

                “Oh, young padawan, you have so much to learn,” said Mary gleefully, slinging an arm around the older boy’s shoulders.  “Come on in and let’s get started.”

                “You too, Dawn,” said Cassi, smirking at the taller girl and linking elbows with her.  “I hear you know my newest cousins and I want all the dirty details.”

 

                Elsewhere (Voldie-Poo’s Top-Secret Lair)

Wormtail watched in nervous fascination as the chaos mage came flying through the open doorway and slammed against the wall.  “What are you staring at, Pettigrew?” snarled Ethan Rayne, wiping his bloody nose on his sleeve.  “The Dark Lord put you in charge here.  You’d better get in there and see what it wants.”

                Wormtail whimpered pathetically.  “M-maybe y-you…”

                “Not a chance,” said Ethan Rayne, a sadistic grin on his blood-streaked lips.  “The Dark Lord gave this honor to you.”

                Wormtail’s beady rat eyes darted toward the open door.  “Y-you summoned—”

                “Which means my part is done,” the older man snapped, eyes flashing dangerously.  “It’s your problem now, Pettigrew.  Best of luck, old chap; I’ll be sure to give a nice eulogy at your funeral.”  His grin only widened at the pathetic little whimper that came out of Wormtail’s mouth.  “Ah, glorious chaos,” he said gleefully as he watched the plump, rat-like man inch his way into the dreaded room, “thou art a fickle bitch.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 35: A New Year Begins

 

                September 1, 2003:  The students waited restlessly after the sorting, curious as to why it was taking longer than usual for Dumbledore to get up and make his start of term speech.  Mary let her eyes wander around the Great Hall, taking in the new ickle firsties.  They’d gotten a decent crop in Gryffindor this year, with Remus’ son Finn and Kingsley’s niece Ororo Ramirez, along with twin Weasleys (Arnold and Archibald—distant cousins of Mr. Weasley’s).  Mad-Eye’s granddaughter Cherise had been sorted into Ravenclaw and looked to be fitting in nicely over there, another distant Weasley cousin (a redheaded boy named Casey) had been sorted into Hufflepuff, and among the legacy Slytherins was Veronica Nott, whose older brother Theodore wasn’t actually half bad (for a Slytherin, anyway).

                “Before we begin our start of term announcements, we have two older students joining us this year from our sister school in America, The Salem Institute of Witchcraft and Wizardry,” said Dumbledore, standing up in front of his chair.  “Professor McGonagall, if you would please do the honors?”

                McGonagall stepped forward once again, still holding the Sorting Hat.  “For sixth year: Longbottom, Dawn,” she called out.

                The leggy brunette whom Mary and Cassi had met at Grimmauld Place and accosted on the train walked up to the stool, tripping on the steps, and sat down.  McGonagall placed the hat on her head and Mary held her breath with the rest of the school as they waited to see where this new transfer would be placed.   The Hat took its own sweet time with the sixteen-year-old; it was nearly five minutes before it finally called out (in what Mary thought was a rather reluctant tone), “RAVENCLAW!”  Mary and Cassi both clapped politely as they watched the older girl walk over to the bronze and blue table, sitting down beside a blonde girl they recognized as Andra’s best friend Luna.

                “For seventh year,” said McGonagall, drawing the masses attention back to her, “O’Connor, Connor.”

                “How unfortunate,” Mary muttered to Cassi upon hearing the boy’s name.  She recognized the shaggy-haired teen as Dawn’s friend from the train (he hadn’t said much; he’d been too busy brooding).

                “Sucks to be him,” Cassi muttered back.  “At least my first and last names are different.”

                “Amen, sister.”

                “SLYTHERIN!” the hat called out.  The light smattering of applause was a fraction of what Dawn had received as the sullen boy slouched his way over to the green and silver table at the opposite end of the hall from Gryffindor, sitting down on the single empty corner as far from the rest of the students as he could.

                “Now that that’s out of the way,” said Dumbledore loudly, drawing the collective attention of the hall back to him, “I have a few other start of term announcements to make.

                “Joining our staff this year we have a whole slew of new teachers.  Teaching Muggle Studies, please welcome Professor Gunn.”  A tall bald, black man stood and smiled at the students; Dean Thomas and his brother clapped and whooped louder than anyone else.  “Assisting Madam Pince in the library this year is Mr. Giles.”  Mary and Cassi snickered as Dawn nearly tripped in her haste to jump up and clap for the older, bespectacled gentleman.  “Miss Melody Black is also joining our staff as Professor Snape’s assistant.”  Mary couldn’t help but noticed that Snape, though looking less than pleased to be in such close quarters with a Black, seemed less homicidally angry than usual as the moody brunette was re-introduced to the school she had only recently left.  “Sadly, Professor Hagrid is away on sabbatical for the time being, so until he returns please welcome Professor O’Connor.”  Mary couldn’t help but stare as Connor sunk lower in his seat, avoiding the penetrating gaze of the tall, stern-faced brunette man at the staff tale.  “We will also be introducing a new class this year, as some of you may have noted in your letters.  English will be a required subject, at the request of several of our faculty members, for first through third years and select students beyond that.  It will also be offered as an elective for any fourth year or above who is not already in the mandatory class.  Teaching this class is Professor Spike.”  Mary and Cassi shared a look at the strange name as a platinum blonde man with sharp cheekbones and a black leather duster stood up and grinned cheekily at the students.  “And finally, I am obligated to introduce our ministry appointed Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Professor Umbridge.”  Mary and Cassi both snorted with laughter at the sight of the enormous pink toad and her simpering smile.

                The two girls promptly tuned her out as she hijacked Dumbledore’s speech and turned their attention to more important things.  “So,” Cassi whispered to Mary, “what’s going on with you and George?”

                Mary blushed crimson.  “I’d rather not talk about that.  Pass the corn, please?” she hastily asked as the food magically appeared, despite the fact that The Toad was still rambling on.

                “Oh no, you’re not getting off that easy, missy,” said Cassi, narrowing her gray eyes at her friend.  “What’s going on, Mar?  Did something happen between you and George?”

                “No nothing like that,” insisted Mary, stuffing some roast beef into her mouth.  “It’s just that things are still kinda weird between us right now.”

                “The whole Cedric thing?” asked Cassi, pouring gravy on top of her potatoes.

                “Mostly yeah,” said Mary.  “Maybe we should just pretend fourth year didn’t happen?”

                “Is that how you wanna play it?” asked Cassi, raising an eyebrow at her friend.

                “Yup, that’s what I’m going with,” replied Mary definitively.

                “Alright then,” said Cassi, shrugging nonchalantly and lifting a massive scoop of her gravy smothered concoction to her lips.  “How ‘bout them Harpies?”

                “You hate the Harpies, Cass,” Mary deadpanned.

                Cassi gave her friend a potato-full grin.  “Not as much as you,” she said.

                “Ew, Cassi,” the redhead said, scowling, “do you have to talk with that disgusting excuse for a vegetable falling out of your pie hole?”

                Cassi looked thoughtful for a moment. “Yes, yes I do,” she said, completely unrepentant.

 

                Later that evening…

                She shivered as she walked through the dimly lit streets of Hogsmeade, hugging her royal blue pea coat close to her body.  She kept glancing over her shoulder, quickening her steps as a deep feeling of unease spread through her bones.  She felt the piercing gaze of unfriendly eyes upon her, though try as she might she could see no one else around.  Oh how she wished she hadn’t left the house so late, but poor old Aberforth had been in desperate need of one of her restorative potions and she simply couldn’t say no to the loveable old coot.  Elphie and Mal had tried to warn her, but she had been so sure that nothing bad could possibly happen in Hogsmeade, of all places; she had, after all, been doing this for over a year now.

                A suddenly skittering of tiny feet on the cobblestone street made her jump nervously and she broke into a run.  She could just make out the modest two-story cottage she shared with her husband and his father at the edge of the village under the light of the waxing moon and hope filled her chest; she was almost home.  She couldn’t help but glance back once more, which caused her to trip on a loose stone.  She crashed gracelessly to her knees, panting in terror as the skittering turned to the soft stomp of human feet.  The last thing she heard before her world went black was a high-pitched, squeaky voice saying, “Stupefy.”

 

                She didn’t know how much time had passed when she found herself jerked awake unkindly.  She took in her surroundings with wide, terrified eyes and didn’t recognize a thing.  She struggled to pull herself from the floor with great difficulty as she discovered that her hands were bound tightly behind her back with coarse rope.  She was attempting to create the proper leverage when she was roughly jerked to her knees by a rough hand tangled in her loose blonde hair.  She cried out in pain and was slapped sharply on the cheek.  “Quiet,” hissed the voice of her captor as he dragged her to her feet and across the bare room to the only visible door.

                “Wh-who are you?” she stuttered, terrified.  “W-what do y-you want with m-me?”

                “Shut up,” the man hissed, pulling the door open and throwing her to her knees.  “I’ve brought you dinner, my lady,” he said to someone in the new room.

                “I see that.  Do you want a gold star for actually doing your job?”

                Her blood ran cold at the familiarity of that voice.  She looked up and inhaled sharply.  She had to be hallucinating; that voice, the woman it belonged to was dead.  “G-Glorificus,” she choked out in a whimper.

                A stunning blonde woman dressed in a skin-tight red dress and matching sky-high heels stepped close and ran her painted red nails sharply down her captive’s cheeks.  “Well isn’t this just a pleasant turn of events,” she said, a wicked smirk twisting her ruby red lips.  “You actually did something right for once, Wormtail.”

                “B-but you’re d-dead,” the captive blonde stuttered.

                “Last I heard, so were you Sweetcheeks.  I wonder if you still taste as good as you did last time,” she said conversationally before plunging her hands into the woman’s head.

Chapter Text

Chapter 36: Let’s Do the Time Warp

 

                May 7, 2002“Your shirt.”

                Tara stared at the splash of red covering Willow’s white top, a strange numbing sort of feeling spreading out from her chest.  Her vision started to turn black around the edges, blurring in and out, and she crumpled to the ground.  The last thing she saw before she lost consciousness was Willow’s frantic face hovering over her.

 

                “Miss!  Miss!  Are you alright?”

                Tara looked up, blue eyes darting around frantically, but not really taking anything in.  “Wh-where—?”

                “You’re in Hogsmeade, down in the residential area.”

                Tara focused in on the voice, rich and masculine, letting it ground her in reality.  She blinked a few times to clear her vision.  Standing over her in the middle of a cobblestone street in an old-fashioned neighborhood was a tall young man with skin as pale as milk, hair as black as night, and eyes the color of storm clouds.  “H-Hogsm-meade?” she asked.

                “It’s a small town in Scotland,” said the young man, taking Tara’s hand and helping her to her feet.  “I’d say by the sound of your voice that you’re a long way from home.”

                “Y-yes,” said Tara sadly, “I r-really th-think I am.”

                “C’mon,” said the young man, leading Tara gently by the shoulders, “I’m going to get you inside and serve you a nice cuppa.  Once you’re feeling better you can tell me all about how you came to be here, aye?”

                “A-alright,” said Tara, allowing the man to lead her, too shocked to do much else.

                “I’m Malcolm, by the way.  Malcolm McGonagall.”

                “M-my name’s T-Tara.  T-Tara M-Maclay.”

 

                “Here,” said Malcolm, setting a bone white tea cup down in front of Tara.  “Drink this.”

                “Th-thank you,” said Tara, picking up the cup and gingerly sipping on the hot beverage.  It tasted pleasantly of chamomile and honey with just a hint of ginger.

                “You’re very welcome,” replied Malcolm, sitting down across the table with his own matching cup.  “So, what brings you out to Hogsmeade, Miss Maclay?”

                “I-I honestly d-don’t kn-know,” she said, holding the tea cup gently in her hands.  She found the familiar heat and scent comforting.  “One m-minute I was with m-my girlf-f-friend in her b-bedroom, the n-next I w-was waking up h-here.”

                Malcolm frowned thoughtfully.  “What’s the last thing you remember?” he asked.

                “I-I heard a l-loud bang a-and th-th-then there w-was red all o-o-over Willow’s sh-shirt.”

                Malcolm winced.  “I hate to say it, but it sounds like someone in that room was shot,” he said.  “Considering the way you suddenly appeared in Hogsmeade, I’d say you had an incident of accidental apparation.  Not that I’m an expert, by any means.  My Dad would know more, but he won’t be home till late tonight.  You’re welcome to stay here; we have a spare room.”

                “Th-thank you,” said Tara, smiling shyly, “but I w-wouldn’t want t-to imp-p-pose.”

                “It’s no imposition,” insisted Malcolm, smiling back at her.  “Please, I insist.”

                “A-alright,” said Tara.  “Y-your f-f-father w-won’t mind?”

                “No,” said Malcolm.  “Who do you think taught me to always help out a damsel in distress,” he added with a wink.

                Tara blushed, a light dusting of pink coloring her cheeks.  “I-I don’t know th-th-that I’d call m-myself a d-d-damsel in d-distress.”

                Malcom stood up and offered his hand to Tara.  “Even Amazon’s need some help every now and again.”  Tara took the offered hand and allowed the man to pull her to her feet.  “Now let me show you to the guest room.  You’re welcome to stay with us as long as you’d like.”

 

                May 8, 2002:  Tara was disoriented for a moment when she woke up.  She vaguely remembered the antiquated streets of a strange country village and the Good Samaritan who had helped her in her time of need.  The room she woke up in had pale yellow walls and a wood-framed window with white lace curtains.  The bed she was lying in was a queen size, she guessed, with a mint green quilt covered in little flowers that matched the walls.  “So it wasn’t a dream,” she said to herself.  As always when she was alone, her stutter was practically non-existent.  She got out of bed and stretched, taking a closer look around the sunny room.  Beside the bed was a white terrycloth bathrobe lying on a wooden rocking chair.  Tara took this as a gesture meant for her and pulled it on over her worn, dirty clothes.

                She cautiously made her way downstairs to the kitchen she remembered from the night before.  The man sitting at the table drinking coffee was not her knight in shining armor, however; this man was several decades his senior with salt and pepper hair and deep wrinkles on his stoic face.  He glanced up as she entered the room.  “Mornin,” he said gruffly, his voice gravelly and deep.  She was surprised at the lack of an accent in it.

                “G-good m-m-morning,” she replied, nervously tugging the robe closer to her body.

                “You must be Tara,” he said, setting his mug down on the table.  “Mal had to leave for work early this morning.  I’m his dad, Elphinstone Urquat.  You can call me Elphie.”

                “It’s n-nice to m-meet you, El-lph-phie.”

                “Sit, kid,” he said.  “There’s lots of eggs and bacon left.  Do you prefer coffee or tea?  We’ve got both.”

                “T-tea is fine, th-thank you,” she said as she sat gingerly in the wooden chair across from the old man.

                “Sure thing,” said Elphie, standing up with a groan, his joints popping and his bones creaking.  “What’s your poison?  We’ve got earl grey, oolong, Darjeeling, chamomile, green tea, jasmine…really just about anything you can think of.”

                “I l-like cham-m-momile,” said Tara shyly.

                “Chamomile it is,” said Elphie, giving her a rugged smile as he scooped some leaves into a tea cup and poured hot water over it.  “Here you go.”

                “Th-thank y-you.”

                “Do you take cream or sugar?” Elphie asked.

                “J-just a bit of s-sugar, p-please,” replied Tara.  Elphie spooned some sugar into Tara’s tea.  “Th-thank you.”

                “You’re welcome, kid,” said Elphie.  “So, Mal won’t be home until this evening.  He asked me to keep you company until then, if you’ve got no objections.  I could show you around the village, if you like.  I’m headed there this afternoon anyway to meet my wife for lunch.  You’re more than welcome to join me; I’m sure she can get you in touch with Dumbledore.”

                “D-Dumbledore?” said Tara curiously.  “Wh-who’s th-that?”

                Elphie smirked.  “Only the most powerful wizard alive today,” he said.  “He’s also the headmaster up at Hogwarts School, where my wife works.  If anyone can help you figure out how you wound up here, it’s him.”

 

                Elphie and Tara spent the next three hours exploring Hogsmeade.  Tara found herself strangely comforted by the older man’s presence.  She’d never been overly comfortable with men, but Elphie Urquat reminded her a bit of Giles and she’d always had a bit of a soft spot for Buffy’s Watcher.  Their tour of the small wizarding village ended around lunchtime at a bustling restaurant called The Three Broomsticks.  The bell above the door jingled merrily when they entered the building and Elphie’s face lit up as he waved to someone sitting in the back corner of the restaurant.  He led Tara over to a booth where an old man with long white hair and an equally long white beard sat with a stern-faced, middle-aged woman who wore her dark hair pulled back in a tight bun.

                Elphie bent down to give the woman a soft peck on the lips.  “Afternoon, darlin,’” he said, sliding into the empty booth across from the two.  “I’d like you to meet Mal’s latest stray.”  He pulled Tara down beside him.  “This is Tara.  Tara, this is my wife Minerva and her boss, Headmaster Dumbledore.”

                Minerva raised a dark eyebrow at her husband.  “She’s rather more human than Malcolm’s usual strays,” she said dryly.

                “M-Malcolm does this o-often?” asked Tara, her voice soft and timid.

                “Often enough,” replied Minerva, her dark glare intense.  “Tell me, Miss Tara, what brings you to Hogsmeade?”

                “I-I’m not sure, actually,” she admitted, “I j-just sort of sh-showed up here yesterday.  The l-last thing I r-remember is seeing b-b-blood on m-my g-girlfriend’s sh-shirt.”

                “It sounds like you may have had a bout of accidental apparation, my dear,” said Dumbledore, speaking for the first time.  “Has anything like this ever happened to you before?”

                “W-well I’ve b-been practicing m-magic since I was l-little, b-but I’ve n-never t-t-teleported m-myself before.”

                “Interesting,” said Dumbledore, stroking his long beard thoughtfully.  “Which school did you attend?  Ilvermorny?  St. Philomena’s?  Thunderbird?  Atlantis?”

                “Uh, n-none of th-those?” said Tara.  “I w-went to H-Hemery in L-Los Angel-les.  My m-mother taught me m-magic at h-home.  My f-father didn’t w-want me to go to m-magic school.”

                “I see,” said Dumbledore.  “That could account for your accidental apparation, my dear.  There’s only so much a person can learn from homeschooling when it comes to magic.  How would you feel about taking a few private lessons from myself and a few of my teachers on the finer points of magical control?”

                Tara stared wide-eyed at the old wizard.  “Y-you would be w-willing to do th-that for m-m-me?”

                “Of course, my dear.  Why won’t you take a walk up to the school with me and we can discuss it further; we’ll leave these two lovebirds alone for their lunch.  The house elves have made a fantastic carrot soup that I’ve been craving like mad.”

 

                November 6, 2002“Tara!  I’ve got great news!”

                Tara looked up from the counter that she was wiping off.  She’d been working for Hollis Evergroot, the apothecary, since her second month in Hogsmeade when Professor Snape had grudgingly declared her a potions prodigy.  She smiled at Malcolm’s pale countenance, his goofy smile melting her heart and causing butterflies in her stomach like no boy ever had before.  “What’s up, Malcolm?” she asked, setting her rag down and giving the younger black haired man her full attention.

                “So, you know how tomorrow’s your six-month anniversary of your arrival here in Hogsmeade?”

                “Yes, you’ve told me this many times, Malcolm,” said Tara rolling her eyes affectionately.  Malcolm was her best friend and he was the one who’d convinced her to work with Ms. Evergroot to create a potion that effectively got rid of her stutter.  “What’s the great news?”

                “Well, that means you’ve officially known me for six months,” teased Malcolm, artfully dodging Tara’s playful swat.  “Seriously, though, I talked to Ms. Evergroot and got you tomorrow off.”

                “Why?  What’s going on tomorrow?” asked Tara curiously.

                “Tomorrow you and I are going on a little trip to Diagon Alley in London.”

                “What for?”

                “What for?” repeated Malcolm incredulously.  “You’ve been here six months tomorrow and you’ve never been anywhere else except Hogwarts!  You simply must experience Diagon Alley and I’m just the guy to help you, Tare.”

                Tara’s lips twitched into a smile.  “You’re impossible, Mal,” she said.  “Of course I’ll go with you.  What time are we leaving?”

                “Bright and early, Tara,” said Malcolm, leaning over the counter to peck her cheek.  “I’ll see you back home tonight.  Be prepared for the best day of your life!”

                Tara’s hand lingered over the spot where Malcolm had kissed her as she watched him bounce out of the store.  “What is this feeling,” she whispered to herself.

 

                November 7, 2002Tara had been oddly nervous when she dressed that morning, going through ten different outfits before settling on a long, pale blue peasant skirt with a loose, cream colored blouse that showed just a hint of cleavage.  By the time the pair stopped for lunch at The Leaky Cauldron, though, she’d relaxed and felt more like her normal self.  They’d spent the morning exploring the various shops along Diagon Alley, Malcolm dragging Tara from one to the next with the excitement of a child.

                “So how do you like Diagon Alley, Tara?” asked Malcolm as they waited for their food.

                “It’s wonderful,” said Tara, briefly smiling at the waitress who delivered their butterbeers.  “I can’t believe you’ve never brought me here before, Malcolm.”

                Malcolm blushed.  “Well, I was saving it for a special occasion.  Most witches and wizards come here by the time they’re eleven, so I figured since you’d already passed that milestone, we might as well make it even more memorable.”

                “You spoil me, Malcolm.”

                “Well, you’re worth it, Tara.  You’re very special to me.  Ever since you landed in my life, it’s like everything’s gone technicolor.”

                “Why Malcolm, I wasn’t aware you were familiar with such a muggle term,” Tara teased.

                Malcolm raised a dark eyebrow.  “You do know my dad is muggleborn,” he said.

                “Yes, Malcolm,” she said, rolling her blue eyes fondly, “it’s been mentioned a time or two.  I was just teasing.”

                “Oh, right.”  Malcolm ran a hand through his black hair nervously, tousling it in the process.  “I’m sorry, Tare, I’m just a little nervous today.”

                “Why?” asked Tara.  “It’s just me.  We do this kind of thing at least once a week.”

                “I-I know,” said Malcolm, nervously fiddling with something in his pants’ pocket.  “It’s just…Tara, how do you feel about me?”

                “What do you mean, Malcolm?  You’re my best friend; I wouldn’t have made it through the past six months without you.  I…I find I’m very fond of you.  I miss you when you’re gone and I look forward to the time we spend together.  I’m-I’m really not sure what else you mean, Malcolm.”

                “That-that’s perfect, Tara.  That’s just what I wanted to know.  You’re my best friend too, but I find that in the time you’ve been with us here I’ve also started to fall for you.  I realize that you may not feel the same, but I just wanted to put it out there. You are everything to me, Tara, and if you’d accept, I would like you to be my wife.”  He pulled a small, black box out of his pocket and opened it, revealing a simply elegant diamond ring set in a silver band.  “I-I know this may be a bit premature, but I just thought—”

                Tara put a hand over his mouth to shut him up.  “Malcolm,” she said, “you’re starting to babble.”

                “Sorry,” said Malcolm.  “I’m just a bit nervous.”

                “It takes a lot of courage to ask me this, knowing what you do about me and my past,” said Tara.  “I-I can honestly say I haven’t given much of a thought to marriage, but…if I were to marry, who better than my best friend?”

                “Is that a yes, then?”

                “That’s a maybe,” said Tara, gently closing the box and resting her hand on top of Malcolm’s.  “You’ve given me a lot to think about, Malcolm.  Ask me again when I’ve been here a year.  In the meantime, ask me out on a real date, not just one done under the pretense of celebrating my arrival here.”

                “Got it,” said Malcolm, his pale cheeks rosy with embarrassment.  “Tara, would you like to go out to London with me Friday night for dinner and a film?”

                “Of course, Malcolm, I’d be delighted.”

 

                May 31, 2003“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to join this man and this woman in the bonds of holy matrimony.”

                Tara tuned out the priest as she stared into Malcolm’s loving eyes, the stormy grey comforting her nerves on this joyous day.  She almost couldn’t believe that this was really happening.  She’d never imagined that she’d ever be getting married, much less to a man, but here she was and she just couldn’t bring herself to regret it.

                “Do you, Malcolm Elphinstone McGonagall, take this woman, Tara, to be your lawful wedded wife?”

                “I do.”

                “And do you, Tara Evelyn Maclay, take this man, Malcolm, to be your lawful wedded husband?”

                “I do.”

                “By the power vested in my by the Ministry of Magic, I now pronounce you man and wife.  You may kiss the bride.”

 

                “Mrs. Tara McGonagall,” Tara mused as she lay in bed with her new husband.  “I like the sound of that, but it may take some getting used to.”

                Malcolm kissed Tara on the crown of her head and snuggled closer to her under the covers.  “I like the sound of it too,” he said.  “We have the rest of our lives to get used to it.”

                Tara smiled.  “I’m okay with that,” she said.  “I’m so glad I gave you a chance.”

                “I’m glad too,” said Malcolm.  “I already can’t imagine my life without you.”

                “So, Mr. McGonagall, what’s our next step?  We’re married now—are we going to stay in Hogsmeade with your dad?”

                “Well, Mrs. McGonagall, I was thinking we should get our own place now.  We can stay in Hogsmeade, if you like, so you don’t have to commute to work.  I’m used to it so I don’t mind.”

                “I would love to have our own place in Hogsmeade,” said Tara, cuddling closer to her new husband.  “When can we start looking?”

                “As soon as we’re back from our honeymoon,” said Malcolm.  “How does a few weeks in Rome sound?  You told me you’ve always wanted to go.”

                “That sounds perfect, Malcolm,” said Tara, kissing him sweetly.  “Thank you.”

                “Anything for you, Tara.  You mean everything to me.”