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Chapter 10: Compacts, Crawls, and Comfort (Year 6)
"Watch carefully," Harry said as Ginny wound a length of string around her wrists and hands in a complicated pattern. "The hand is quicker than the eye."
He drew his dagger and swiped it through the bit of string Ginny was holding out to him. The string's two ends fell against Ginny's hands, cleanly cut through. "Which is stronger, steel or flame? Steel can cut string, but what can flame do?"
"Burn it up?" Ron suggested.
"Ordinary flame would, yes." Harry blew into his palms, kindling a blue-violet fire, as Ginny unwound the string and gathered it into her own hand. "But when the flame is magic…"
Ginny extended her closed hand, and Harry directed the flame around it in a swirling pattern, which spiraled around three times and vanished with a small pop. Then he reached into the curl of her fingers and pulled out an end of the string.
The entire length slid smoothly out of Ginny's hand, with no cuts or knots visible anywhere. Ginny opened her fingers and wiggled them to display that no bits of string were left. "What steel can cut," she said, accepting the string back from Harry, "flame can restore. So we see that flame must be the stronger of the two. And there you have it."
"But…" Hermione stared wide-eyed at the string. "I saw you cut it! And your fire magic doesn't work like that, Harry, it couldn't just—"
"Repair the string?" Harry grinned. "It didn't. It's a Muggle trick, Hermione, sleight-of-hand. What you saw isn't what you think you saw."
"But we're not going to tell you any more than that," Ginny added. "Good magicians never reveal their secrets."
"Does that mean evil ones do?" Ron caught Ginny's hand as it was headed for his shoulder and pulled her off-balance, doubling her over on his outstretched arm and hoisting her feet off the rug. "Harry, you want this back?"
"Well, which one is it?" Harry lounged in his chair, winding the reclaimed string around his fingers. "Is it Ginevra, or her evil sock-stealing boy-snogging trick-doing house-elf twin Virginia?"
"Hmm." Ron peered closely at the squirming bundle on his arm. "Can't tell from here. Hermione?"
"There are so many other things we should be doing today," Hermione murmured, then shook her head and joined in the careful examination. "Let's see here. Her ears are round, not pointed, so that sounds human to me, but we have to bear in mind that house-elves are masters of disguise…"
Draco sat by himself in the library, the Half-Blood Prince's book, which he had borrowed from Harry, mostly buried under a slew of other books. Two or three of those, he had needed a note from Professor Black to so much as approach, and even then Madam Pince had looked at him oddly. He didn't care.
His offhanded comment about Zacharias Smith at the Halloween party had come back to him a few days ago from a wholly unexpected direction.
"I got your note, here I am," said the other person his thought had involved, setting her bag on the small section of table he wasn't using and seating herself across from him. "Is this all for that piece of Professor Black's homework I heard Harry and Ron moaning about, or is this something else?"
"Something else. Very else. As in, we may be using Moaning Myrtle's bathroom again." Draco looked in both directions, then drew his wand and cast a careful Muffliato towards Madam Pince. "Luna, this is important, and it has to be secret." He drew one long breath, nerving himself up to say the words. "I think I know why you were sent that vision."
Luna held up her hand, halting him, and exchanged her seat for one on the same side of the table where Draco was, then leaned her head affectionately against his shoulder. Two fingers slid along his neck and collarbone, caressing and playful. The tiny tug they gave to the gold chain they encountered along the way might have been nothing more than a lover's ploy for attention.
Except it's not. Draco leaned into the embrace, willing his pendants intangible to Luna and enjoying her slight shiver as they passed through her skin and bone, reappearing on the opposite side of her neck. No point in showing off to the world what we can do with these, and no point in talking aloud about things no one else needs to know either.
Now we can be private, Luna said over the chain link. And if anyone sees us, they'll think we're just cuddling. Madam Pince may scold us, but we're being quiet so she won't chase us out. As Draco had, she took a deep breath before approaching the subject. Tell me what you've thought of.
Well, I approached it from the other side. So to speak. Draco flipped a few pages in one of the books he'd borrowed from the Restricted Section, finding again one of the potions he'd been most intrigued by. Stopped thinking about it as what's going to happen to me, and started thinking about what it means for you, and for…him. No name was necessary to accompany the pronoun, nor had one been for quite some time. Whatever else is or isn't going on there, we know—know for certain, had it confirmed by Higher Authority and everything—that he'll show up there, that you'll both say those words, and that he'll take you away with him, thinking you're on his side. He laid his finger on the title of the potion. What if you brought a flask of this with you?
Luna leaned forward to read the line Draco was indicating, and a momentary shock of hot, brilliant delight shot through the sense of her magic. I like that. I like that very much. She looked at the piles of books, sizing them up with a new, analytical twist to her thoughts. But you haven't decided finally on this one, have you? After all… She fluttered her eyelashes briefly. There are so many possibilities.
Aren't there just. Draco lifted the chain off Luna's neck. "But that means you'll do it," he said, looking into her eyes. "You'll…finish what I couldn't. Make sure he can't hurt anyone else I love, ever again."
"Of course I will." Luna clasped his hand fiercely. "I love them too."
Their intertwined fingers rested across the title "A Potion for the Permanent Transformation of a Selected Human, Wizard or Muggle, into an Animal Form Selected by its Brewer".
Neville leaned against a tree at the edge of the Not-So-Forbidden Forest (his own coinage, as nothing at the Founders' Castle was likely to do worse than startle him), pretending to ignore the soft footsteps creeping up on him. She was ten feet away—five—two—
Without looking, he darted a hand behind him, fingers wiggling. A shriek and a shower of bark and twigs later, Meghan was glowering down at him from a branch above his head. "Don't do that."
"Don't sneak up, then," Neville returned, asking the branch for a favor. Obediently, it lowered its end towards the ground, widening and flattening its upper surface as it went.
"I'm allowed to sneak if I—" Meghan's self-righteous declaration broke off in a yelp as she slid swiftly down the branch, landing in a small and indignant heap at Neville's feet.
"Yes, you are." Neville purposely did not look down. "But you have to take what comes with it. Like my sneaking back."
"Bleh to you." Meghan clambered to her feet and put out her tongue at him. "Bleh, I say."
"Do you? I'll be sure to make a note of it." Neville traced the four letters on the trunk of the tree, watching with satisfaction as they rose up in relief. "There you are," he said, tapping them with a finger. "My note."
"Silly." Meghan giggled, spinning in place. "I'm glad you can be now," she said, her voice rising and falling in his ears as she rotated. "For a while, in the summer, I thought you weren't ever going to smile again—"
She stopped, staring towards the castle. Neville leaned forward to follow her line of sight and blinked in surprise. A familiar head of bushy brown hair, along with its owner, had just vanished through the great doors of the castle.
What is Mrs. Danger doing here?
The silliness in the common room lasted until after Draco and Luna, wearing similar expressions of grim satisfaction, had returned from wherever they had been and joined in wholeheartedly. Once it was over, since no one seemed likely to start homework (or, for a miracle with the match less than a week away, Quidditch talk), Hermione thought it might be time to bring up something which had been troubling her for a while.
"Did anyone notice what we didn't have this summer?" she asked, after making sure that the rest of the common room was sufficiently engrossed in its own pastimes that only explosions would be likely to draw attention. "Other than fun," she added, cutting off Harry. "I mean us, the Pack. Something we've had every summer since we've come to Hogwarts."
"Enlighten us, O sweet sister," Draco drawled. "What didn't we have this summer?"
Hermione withdrew a scroll from her pocket and snapped her wrist, unrolling it across the table. "A prophecy," she said, as Warriors leaned forward to look at the verse lines she had copied from Danger's originals. "We never had a prophecy."
"But didn't we have one just before Christmas?" Harry slid his fingers down the scroll until he found the final entry. "This one—When holly wand met wand of yew. Wouldn't that have reset our once-a-year clock, so we shouldn't expect another one until right about now?"
"No, I think I see what Hermione's saying," said Ginny, examining the scroll. "Do you have all of them on here, Hermione? Every one Mrs. Danger's ever had?"
"Every one I could find." Hermione frowned. "Why?"
"Tell you later." Where the boys couldn't see, Ginny's fingers formed the sign for Not bad, just funny. "But what did happen this summer, everything we all did and went through, that was important. We should have had a prophecy about that. And we never got one."
"Prophecies don't always work like that, though," said Luna. "Sometimes it's the little things that matter the most, and the things that seem most important to us, in the long run, really aren't."
"Thus speaks someone who would know." Draco squeezed Luna's hand briefly. "But I see your point too, Ginny. The prophecies Danger gets tend to tell us about the things we would consider important. And I think Padfoot losing his magic, Letha getting her memories wiped, Moony nearly being killed, Neville's dad dying—all of that ought to have qualified. So why didn't it?"
"That's what I was thinking, too." Hermione flattened the scroll on the surface of the table. "But then I remembered something Danger learned a long time ago, the very first time she ever went to the Founders' Castle, the night before Padfoot's trial. There are rules about what they can and can't say in the prophecies. And one of those rules is, they can't tell us anything twice. So what if Danger hasn't had her prophecy yet this year because we're still missing something we should have worked out in one of her older ones?"
I can't believe I'm doing this.
Danger stepped into the entrance hall of the Founders' Castle, looking around appreciatively. She hadn't been sure that the small ritual Aletha had written to her, copied from the notes she'd taken from Neville and Meghan's dictation, would work, but no sooner had she voiced her request and closed her eyes than she had seen the star-studded dream-path, stretching away at her feet.
I wonder if that's how Remus saw it, when he came after me that first time…
"Danger," Maura Gryffindor greeted her from the top of the marble staircase. "Looking for anyone in particular?"
"As a matter of fact, yes." Danger approached the staircase and leaned against one of the banisters, trying to stay casual. "You wouldn't know where I could happen to find Alex, would you?"
"Ah." A surprising amount of understanding, chagrin, and sympathy was packed into the single syllable. "The last I saw him, he was headed for the Owlery. But I give you fair warning, he's not in the best of moods. Without any intent to offend, if you're angry with him, this may not be the best time to approach him."
"No, not angry." Danger shook her head. "Maybe I should be, but I've always known we couldn't rely on foreknowledge forever. And he did…" She stopped, recalling just how very against the rules Alex's intervention in the events of the summer had been. Fortunately, Maura seemed indisposed to pry. "Mostly, I'd just like to know why, and if this is absolutely the end for my little rhymes or if I should be watching out for anything else."
"In that case, go right ahead." Maura blew into her palms, then tossed the small, shining object which had materialized down to Danger. "That will take you where he is as soon as you're ready."
Danger smiled, looking at what she now cradled in her palm. "A Snitch," she said, rocking it back and forth. "Or a sculpture of one, anyway. Is there any truth to the story—"
"Now, that would be telling." Maura winked. "Be off with you."
The colors of the room blurred around Danger, re-coalescing after a moment or two into a different set. The Owlery, in the Hogwarts below filled with the warmth of feathered bodies and the earth tones of their feathers, was here a cool, wood-framed room with a shallow layer of straw on the floor, awaiting whatever messengers the faithful Founders and their children might receive. The vivid green of Alex's robes where he leaned against one of the chest-high walls, staring into the distance, was the only jarring note in an otherwise peaceful picture.
Unfortunately, I'm about to inject another one.
Danger cleared her throat.
"Wow," Ron said succinctly, reading over a copy of the first prophecy Mrs. Danger had ever received, his heat spell in place so that the letters glowed slightly to his eyes. "She knew right off where Wormtail was, if she'd just been able to put the pieces together."
"She had a few other things to think about," Harry pointed out. "Like falling in love with Moony, stealing me and Padfoot, getting everyone into hiding at Letha's place in London."
"True. And…" Ron trailed off, running his finger along the first line. "Black to red and red to brown"…why do I feel like I should know what that means?
He glanced over the top of his scroll at Harry and Ginny, curled side-by-side on the sofa, her head against his shoulder and his arm around her waist as they pointed out details on their own scroll to one another. Although his eyes could no longer register such details, Ron's memory painted a vivid portrait of their contrasting colors, Harry's tan from the summer, somewhat faded by now, to Ginny's plentiful freckles, Ginny's eyes of chocolate brown to Harry's leafy green, Harry's endlessly disordered mop of black hair to Ginny's sleek red mane—
Ron looked down at the scroll again, then up at his sister and his best friend. The view had not changed.
Probably a good thing I didn't object too much to their getting engaged, then. Seeing as how it was fated and all. Ron allowed himself a little smirk at his brotherly forbearance, then returned to the perusal of the prophecy. But that's only half the line. What's this other part mean, this "red to brown"? Is it still hair colors? And if it is, who…
His eyes slid a few feet to the left, and the answer hit him like a Bludger to the pit of the stomach.
No wonder her parents didn't seem surprised!
Alex didn't jump, adding to Danger's certainty that he'd known she was coming. "Yes?" he said in a monotone. "If you're looking for answers, I'm afraid I'm fresh out."
"Not really." Danger leaned back against one of the walls, resting her elbows on the ledge. "I was thinking more along the lines of spending some time with a friend. Expressing… not understanding, perhaps, I don't think anyone could understand what you went through unless they'd been there themselves. Though in some senses I have. But I think the word I'm looking for is 'sympathy'."
"As in 'tea and'?" Alex laughed hoarsely. "It's too late for that. Years, hell, centuries too late."
"Too late for me to be sorry that my friend is in pain?" Danger moved a foot or two to her left, wrinkling her nose as she did. For one instant, she had caught the scent of her goddaughter and the Pride's beta male.
But nothing says it has to be a fresh scent. I know they come here sometimes, just for fun, just because they can. They wouldn't be here now, not in the middle of the day, not with all the work I know they have to do. And they know better than to eavesdrop, even if they are…
Ignoring the fact that Meghan's knowing better seldom stopped her from doing anything she thought would be fun, Danger continued. "Whatever's happening with Amanda, it's hurting you. Hurting you now, not in the past. Because whatever she's done, whatever she's doing, she's still your daughter, and you still love her. Don't you?"
"Don't I wish I could stop, you mean." Alex turned around at last, revealing red-rimmed eyes and a face set in grim, bitter lines. "She's a fool, Danger. A single-minded, double-dyed, triple-brewed fool. And her crazy, meaningless crusade is meddling with people we both love. Meddling with you. Or weren't you wondering why I hadn't been in touch this summer like I usually am?"
Danger nodded slowly. "Hermione had some thoughts about that," she said. "I didn't want to dissuade her, because going back through all those prophecies seems like a fine idea in its own right, but it struck me that just because you can't tell us things twice, says nothing about not telling us about some things at all. In the past, that's been used as a punishment, usually when you broke the rules. But by the time you broke the rules in July, we were already into things you'd never mentioned. For which I'm not blaming you," she added as Alex, his eyes narrowed, started to reply. "I might have, if I'd thought of that at the time, but since I didn't and it's over, there's no sense in getting angry about it. Only in finding out what happened, and fixing it if I can."
"Well, I don't know." Alex sighed heavily. "How good are you at getting people to give up ideas they've been cherishing for the better part of a thousand years?"
"Eyes of ashes, hair of sun, a heart with paces never run…" hmm, I wonder who this could be meant for. Draco traced the two lines with his finger, making Luna, beside him, giggle. It really was spelled out for them, wasn't it?
At least, that's what it looks like to us, sitting here after it's all happened. It was probably a lot harder to see back in the thick of things.
And "salvation, justice, vengeance"—yes, yes, and yes. All of the above. He spent a moment examining his life and found it very good. Even if I do have to die, at least I had a chance to live first. To enjoy myself, to have fun, to be happy. And, yes, to rub it in Lucius's face just how much of a blood traitor I really am. He snickered. Thank you, Mother, for that.
"It even predicted us," Luna murmured. "Here, in this part. Harry and Hermione and Meghan, and your parents, of course, taught your heart what it meant to love, how to trust people and care about them and want what's best for them more than you want anything for yourself. And after that…"
"After that, you came along," Draco finished. "And won my heart just by being you."
The only problem is, Amanda did the same thing. Not exactly the same way, but I don't think I'd be happy having either of you as just a friend anymore. And I'm certainly not crazy enough to ask a pair of girls if they'd be willing to share!
He looked back at the prophecy, trying to will the words into taking effect on his heart. Luna's the only one mentioned here. She's the one Danger's seen for me over and over, right back to that wedding she's always dreamed for her and Moony. She's the one I know, the one I trust, the one who's already promised to carry on what I might not be able to finish. Why can't that be enough for me?
The answer, if any existed, was not forthcoming.
"A thousand years." Danger nodded slowly. "That tomb the cubs found, near what's become their Sanctuary, the serpent's daughter who is not evil. That's hers, isn't it? And she bound herself there as a revenant, hoping to end the curse on your line? Turn it back to its caster, shift it to someone else and let it fade away, or even bind it to something unliving?"
"Not exactly, but…" Alex waved a dismissive hand. "You've got the majority of it. The rest is details, or things I can't tell you yet. But what she never could accept, still can't, is that there is no way to turn a fatal curse. Trust me, we looked." He ran his fingers restlessly through his hair, heightening his resemblance to Harry. "And even if there was, what would be the point now? My line, our line, died out a few hundred years ago." He snorted a reluctant laugh. "Which makes it all the more ironic that their surviving relatives should look so very much like them. I suppose the first Lucius Malfoy was trying to fix it in people's minds that he was William Beauvoi's rightful heir by heightening the family resemblance."
"So if Draco should be suddenly transported back those few hundred years, no one would have any trouble believing that he was a Beauvoi." Danger smiled. "He'll be glad to hear that. You know how much he's always hated looking like his father."
"If that'll take his mind off everything else, tell him and welcome." Alex paced restlessly towards the door, but stopped short of it and turned back. "I just don't understand why it had to be now," he said plaintively. "She's been waiting so long—couldn't she have waited just a few more years? But no, she had to jump right into the thick of things, and she may not physically carry my blood anymore, but her soul is the same, which means her magic. And she's my daughter. My heir. Which means, in terms of power…" He spread his hands helplessly.
Danger sucked in her breath as everything came clear. "She's the reason why we never had a warning this summer, isn't she," she said, the words statement rather than question. "She has the same magic you do, and because she's living in the world, mingling with us and being part of things, she's throwing off what you do for me. Muddling everything up by getting too close." She stopped, frowning, as the implications of this became clearer to her. "But that means…"
Alex smiled one-sidedly. "Why do you think Matthias's line believes Parseltongue is all they have?" he asked softly, stepping nearer. "They lied to themselves for so many years, Dad and Matt and his kids after him, that they couldn't bear to look at the truth anymore. So they denied our greater gift was ever there, claimed snakey talk was the only thing that distinguished the family, and at this point, I'd bet my however-many-greats-nephew believes it. He's proud as a peacock of being able to talk to little wiggly things, and completely missing the bigger picture of what he ought to have had." His smile spread a bit, becoming warmer, more real. "Draco was closer than he knew when he mentioned the Pythia to you. We've got at least one, possibly more, somewhere up the family tree."
"How have I missed that all these years?" Danger laughed. "Even before I knew who you were, every one of my crazy dreams was always in the same voice. Your voice. Why would that be, unless you were the only one who could tell me those things?"
"It's not always as clean-cut as it seems," Alex warned. "After so long, I cross with our resident Fates quite a bit. But then again, seeing now and seeing ahead are two sides of the same coin. Luna's always had a little of both."
"Which is why you could speak to her like you did to me sometimes, isn't it?" Danger nodded, remembering. "She's had one or two of your iambic tetrameter specials along the way. One of them, if I remember right, even quoting from my first one…"
Harry called Ron and Draco into a huddle at one point, apparently discussing something they had done shortly after the abortive werewolf attacks in the early days of the year, which left the girls free to have a quiet conclave of their own.
"You may want to add these," said Luna, handing Hermione two slips of parchment. "One is Mrs. Danger's, but I don't know that she ever showed it to anyone. She told Ginny about part of it, but that's because it told her to."
Hermione scanned down the lines, then looked up at Ginny. "When?" was all she said.
"The day you left for your first year." Ginny had a small, secret smile on her face. "I tried to convince myself for the longest time that she hadn't meant what I wanted her to, but now I'm pretty sure she did. They've always known, haven't they?"
"Yes, they have." Hermione glanced over at Ron. "Though I think they were wise not to tell us too much to start with. What's the other one?"
"It's mine." Luna folded her hands in her lap. "The one I spoke the day Harry told us about the first part of the prophecy, just after we'd become the Pride. It names the Pack-friends and your parents, and if you read it carefully, it tells you who we would all end up with. Only we weren't old enough to realize that was what it meant."
"Cat and dragon, phoenix bright…" Hermione's voice dropped to a mumble as she continued to read, following the lines with her finger. "Yes, all right, there are the adults, but I don't see where—oh." She laughed once. "Now I do. Silver pearl, well, Pearl is obvious, and Neville's for his silver fur. And silent snow, for Snow Fox and an owl, who flies silently." She set the parchment on the table, shaking her head. "They knew our Animagus forms, even before we did. That doesn't seem fair, somehow."
Ginny shrugged. "We all got what we wanted in the end," she said, tapping a fingertip against the words "black to red". "How much fairer than that can we ask?"
"One thing they may find that they'll think is me repeating myself," Alex told Danger as they strolled out of the Owlery together. "It's that bit about the lion's line continuing. Tell them to pay more attention to details, and to bear in mind that things can change." He grimaced. "And that I'm not always sure what I'm talking about either. Some of this I come up with, working with things I see as clearly as I'm seeing you, but some of it…"
"Dumped into your head, rather the way you used to dump it into mine?" Danger chuckled. "Not that I blame you. I would have had a much harder time adjusting to this, when I started out, than I did to random prophecies." Her hand gesture indicated Alex, the castle, and the tiny, hyperreal world it and the Founders inhabited. "It seems almost…disrespectful, or it would have to that girl I used to be. She would have been horribly shocked at how human you all are."
"Which is why I went for the swirling colors and echoing voice approach back then, and why we can just go for a walk together now." Alex hefted Danger's hand in his, as though weighing it. "Your cubs aren't the only ones who've grown up over the last fifteen years."
"Yes, but don't tell Sirius that. He still considers maturity a disease, or claims to." Danger smiled fondly. "We've all been so happy together. And that was because of you, Alex. You and the others, of course, but in large part because of you." She stopped, turning to face him. "You gave us the gift of each other. It's a gift we might never have had any other way, and it's a gift that has done so much good, for so many different people. Please, when you're counting up what you've done or haven't in your time here, don't ever forget that."
Alex shut his eyes, drawing a ragged breath. "Thank you," he whispered, and did not resist when Danger drew him gently into an embrace.
"All right, I think we've got it narrowed down," said Harry, surveying his reunited Pride. Neville and Meghan had emerged from one of their various hidey-holes a few minutes earlier, looking slightly startled but none the worse for wear, and joined in what Ron had dubbed the prophecy crawl with vigor. "There's only two bits we can't identify as being something that's already happened, and one of them looks like it's for the very end of the war—the very last bit of the first one Danger ever had, I mean. When they who saved the saviorand so on. So that we can probably leave. But this…" He tapped the six lines in front of him. "This, we may need to talk to somebody about."
Hermione picked up the parchment and began to read aloud.
"When holly wand met wand of yew,
"The endless fight began anew;
"A third there is, with cloak and stone—
"Who'd win must call them first his own.
"But they shall come, as shall those shells
"In which unhallowed spirit dwells…"
"Then it goes into things we already know about," she said, lowering the parchment. "The spell-breaking year and so forth. Holly wand is obviously you, Harry, and yew wood is traditionally linked with Dark magic so I wouldn't be at all surprised if it was what Voldemort's wand is made from."
"And when your wands met, at the Ministry after everything that happened at the Department of Mysteries, it started the Second War for good and all," said Neville. "Gryffindor versus Slytherin, the way it's always been." He glanced upward. "Most Slytherins, anyway," he said in an apologetic tone.
"'A third there is'," read Ron, frowning at the parchment. "A third what?"
"Wand, probably," said Ginny. "It's the only thing that there were two of mentioned already."
"Wand, cloak, and stone," murmured Luna. "Traveling along a lonely, winding road at twilight…" She leaned over and whispered a few words in Draco's ear. He pulled a small item from his pocket and handed it to her, and she hurried off towards the stairs to the girls' dormitories.
Draco shrugged when everyone looked at him. "Wants to Floo her dad," he said. "Did anyone recognize what she said there? It sounded like a story, but I can't place it offhand."
The other Pack-cubs shook their heads, but the Weasleys were nodding tentatively. "It sounds like one of the Beedle stories Mum used to tell us," said Ginny. "Only the time was off. Mum always told it happening at midnight."
"Best time to encounter Death, you know?" Ron made a grand, vague gesture. "Symbolic and all that."
"Encounter Death?" Hermione repeated, a trifle shrilly. "You mean the story is about people dying?"
"Oh, I know it now." Neville snapped his fingers. "Three brothers. They thought they had tricked Death, but instead Death tricked them, so two of them died pretty soon after the meeting anyway. Only the third brother, the one who wasn't arrogant or rude but just careful, got to live out his life and do everything he wanted to."
"So the moral of the story is 'Don't be rude to Death'." Draco shook his head. "Still better than Muggle fairytales, I guess. What does it have to do with a wand and a cloak and a stone, though?"
"They got to ask Death for gifts, and those were the gifts. An unbeatable wand, an invisibility cloak…" Neville trailed off, turning, as did the rest of the Pride, to look at Harry.
Harry returned their looks skeptically. "You've all seen it," he said. "Used it, worn it. If it was some kind of present from Death and going to drag me off to die, don't you think it would have done it by now?"
"But that's the point, Harry. It won't." Ginny motioned a hood and drape of fabric with her hands. "The cloak was the one gift that wasn't a trap, because all the third brother wanted was a way to keep himself hidden from Death until he decided it was the right time. He didn't try to master Death, so Death never mastered him either. Maybe…"
"Yeah." Harry nodded. "Maybe. A lot of maybe. But an unbeatable wand? What's that all about? And what about the stone? What did that do?"
"That was the second brother," said Ron. "Story says the first brother asked for a wand that would always beat his opponent, and the second brother didn't think that was enough, so he asked for a way to bring people back from the dead. But magic can't do that, so all he got was a sort of a picture of the girl he wanted, like an animated memory."
"The story says he was seeing her as if through a veil," Ginny recalled. "And he eventually killed himself out of grief, because he couldn't really be with her, even with the power in the stone."
"And the first brother bragged about his unbeatable wand, and got himself murdered in his sleep by somebody who wanted it more," Neville finished. "Great bedtime story for little kids, isn't it?"
"Remind me to tell you the original versions of some Muggle ones sometime," said Hermione, as Luna came trotting back across the common room towards them. "Any luck, Luna?"
"The Elder Wand," Luna announced, laying her finger on the word "third" in the prophecy, then moving it to indicate each item as she gave its name. "The Cloak of Invisibility. And the Resurrection Stone." She sat down beside Draco again. "Together, they're called the Deathly Hallows. This is their sign." She drew her own wand and sketched it in the air in lines of light: an equal-sided triangle, a circle inside it touching each of its lines at the center point, and a vertical line bisecting both. "And Daddy says that some of the stories claim whoever owns them all at once will have power over death."
"Power like…reversing it?" Meghan asked timidly. "That isn't supposed to be possible, not when someone is truly all the way dead…"
"Maybe not reversing it," said Harry, copying the sign in flame between his hands. "But I bet they'd be a nice boost for someone who wants to keep it away. And an unbeatable wand doesn't exactly sound like the sort of thing we'd want him to have either."
"Definitely not." Draco stretched, then put his arm around Luna. "So what do you suggest we do about…" He stopped, looking at the parchment Hermione had set back on the table. "Correct me if I'm wrong," he said, pointing at it, "but that wasn't there before."
The Pride turned as one to see four new, neatly written lines beneath the six they had just been discussing.
It does not count as telling twice
If all I do is give advice.
If you'd know more, your phoenix-friend
Go ask, and to his words attend.
The handwriting was old-fashioned and ornate, but entirely readable, and Harry grinned to himself, fitting a name to it without much difficulty.
Trust Alex to find a way to be snarky, even at long distance.
Looks like we'll be paying Professor Dumbledore a call sometime pretty soon…
And I will try to make it soon in our world as well, though I do start a temp job tomorrow so it may be a bit delayed. Hope this clears up some of the mystery about Amanda, and about the Slytherin gifts.
Quick reminder to please check out on Amazon or Smashwords, and buy if you have the money, my original historical fantasy, A Widow in Waiting. Also to visit my Facebook page to keep up with what I'm doing generally. Big exciting announcement today!
Next time: Quidditch, more Sanctuary, more classes, more Occlumency, and possibly something you've all been wanting. Or possibly not. I don't know yet. And this is not quite the single chapter which covers all of HBP, but it does seem to cover a good bit of DH, without the random camping…
To Steal and Save, the first novel in the Elemental Heirs series, proceeds apace (halfway through Chapter 4). It is, I hope, everything you loved about Living with Danger plus loads of fun new stuff…at least that's what I'm trying for. You'll have to let me know, when it comes out, if I succeeded.
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