Chapter 17: Something Borrowed, Something Blue (Year 6)
"While unicorns are certainly one of the strongest and most Light-focused magical creatures, it is a matter of Muggle folklore that that they can tell the state of a human being's…" Professor Sylvanus Kettleburn coughed, his face flushing. "Yes. Well. Unicorns tend to prefer women over men, but there is no truth to the stories which seem to state that they will not allow themselves to be touched by anyone who is…that is, who has…or rather, who has not…"
"He doesn't seem to want to say 'virgin'," Ginny murmured to Luna as their classmates exchanged baffled looks. "Care to do it for him?"
"No." Luna shook her head. "He ought to be braver than that, if he's a professor. Especially for Care of Magical Creatures. He has to face all sorts of terrifying animals."
"Sometimes human beings are more terrifying than animals ever could be." Ginny took another look at the spindly, stammering wizard. Judging by the snickers and comments now rising from her class of Gryffindors and Ravenclaws, he'd finally managed to get his point across. "He's not married, is he?"
"No ring." Luna tilted her head, her eyes going unfocused, then focusing again. "And no other signs on him. Even if the stories were true, the unicorns would still let him touch them. But…" She blinked, an incredulous smile starting to spread on her face.
"What?" Ginny asked, then switched into Pride-sign as a couple of her Ravenclaw classmates shot glares at her. Is it something good? You look happy.
It is good. But it's also sad. Luna pulled out her Monster Book of Monsters and stroked it down the spine before opening it to the entry on unicorns, her hands continuing to talk in the interstices of her movements. He thinks it can never happen. Which, he's just borrowing trouble because he's never even asked, he's a few years older than my Draco's Pack-parents so there's not that much of a difference between them, and they're both magical so they've got lots of time left in any case…
Who? Ginny demanded. Who is it?
Luna signed the answer.
The entire class turned to see why it had taken Ginny Weasley and Luna Lovegood so much longer to get the joke than anyone else.
Madam Pomfrey looked down her nose at Harry despite his several inches' height advantage, an ability she shared with most of the mothers of his acquaintance. "And what is it this time, Potter?" she inquired coolly. "More Quidditch injuries?"
"Sort of." Harry nodded awkwardly at his left arm, which he was cradling against his chest with his right. "We were experimenting at practice with this one hex I got from my godfather, you cast it on a Beater's bat, it turns a wooden Bludger into iron for a little while after the Beater hits it, and I was looking the other way at just the wrong time, and…"
"I would have thought you'd had quite enough experience with that particular spell." Madam Pomfrey beckoned him into the hospital wing, pointing at the bed she wanted him to sit on. "Or don't you recall how it happened that you made a certain memorable visit here in your second year?"
"Yeah, I know. But I was…" Harry almost shrugged, but remembered in time not to jostle his arm. Both forearm bones were broken, but in different places, which somehow made it hurt worse than if he'd snapped them in the same spot.
And isn't it sad that I can tell the difference?
"It's not like what happened to me was the spell's fault," he said finally. "It was the person who cast it, and the person who used the bat it was cast on."
And one of them's dead now, while the other one, or an older version of him, wants me dead…
"Besides, I thought it would be good practice for some of the things I've been doing with the DA," he went on, sighing in relief as Madam Pomfrey conjured a sling around his left arm, freeing his right hand to take the goblet of potion she was holding out to him. "We don't really have a teacher sponsor anymore, so I have to keep on top of things." He grinned to himself between swallows of potion. "Even if we do have a visiting professor of sorts, now."
"Yes, and what Dumbledore is thinking, to let him back into this school after everything that went wrong the first two times…" Madam Pomfrey hmph'd and poked Harry's arm with her wand, muttering a spell under her breath. The pain was already gone, courtesy of the potion, but some sensation remained, and Harry grimaced as he felt his bones slide back into place and knit themselves together.
It feels like someone has my arm, just my arm, under Imperius. I wonder if that would be possible? A partial Imperius, to control only a part of a person's body? Maybe you could make someone, oh, I don't know, strangle themselves. Creepy to think about.
Could you make them cast a spell, if you got their wand arm? No, you'd need their mouth too, to say the incantation. But you could make them shoot a potion piece. Or a Muggle gun. Bad news all around, both of those…
"There, that should do it." A backwards swipe of Madam Pomfrey's wand removed the sling, and Harry flexed his fingers, checking his range of motion. "Have Meghan check you tonight to be sure, and nothing too strenuous with that arm for a few days. Give the healing time to settle in." The nurse planted her hands on her robed hips. "Which means, Potter, no more borrowing overly creative and thoroughly illegal hexes to try out during your all-too-mad-as-it-is Quidditch practices. Stick to flying and tactics. And you may tell that 'visiting professor' of yours, from me, that he's not to encourage you to do anything madder than he used to get up to."
"Does that mean I can be as mad as he was?" Harry scooted out the swinging door before Madam Pomfrey could come up with a rejoinder for this.
Because if so, that would give me a lot of leeway…
"Moon, more wrist, less elbow," Sirius instructed, walking behind the line of DA skirmishers firing spells up the indoor range for which he'd commandeered an unused classroom. "Abbott, good, but put a little more power into it. Finnegan, ease back some, you don't have to blow it to bits every time…"
That 'somewhere else' I was mentioning to Alex, that I thought I could do more good than I can at the Office full-time, came and found me after all. Where better than right here at Hogwarts, three afternoons a week? These kids aren't bad, certainly—they beat the robes off us pretty handily last year!—but you can't fix the little mistakes you're making if nobody ever tells you what they are, and spotting what they are takes an observer. A trained, adult observer by preference, and one who actually cares about what he's doing, instead of—
The Zippophone in his pocket buzzed. He pulled it out and flipped it open. "Black here."
"Snake's in the lane!" hissed his daughter's voice. "Snake's in the lane!"
Sirius groaned under his breath. Here we go again… "Thank you," he said aloud, then snapped the lighter shut and waved his own wand at the lights, making them flicker three times. Instantly, the skirmishers broke off their practice, pairing up and beginning to duel one another, using a wide variety of the spells Sirius recalled his cubs recounting with relish in their stories of the DA Silly Duel Tournament.
The one with the flying boat could actually be useful, if you could get it large enough…
But the point of these spells was not to be useful, and the point of his being here, at this precise moment, was not to guide these students into better use of their magic, but to play into a certain person's favorite stereotype of him.
As much as I love giving him new things to twit me on.
Quickly hiding the targets the skirmishers had been shooting at, Sirius began to stroll around the room, correcting a wand grip here, a spell motion there, but in a desultory, haphazard fashion, rather than the brisk, no-nonsense tone he'd been using a few moments before. When a spell's incantation or results struck him as funny, he made sure to laugh instead of keeping his emotions in check, sending answering waves of snickers around the room.
Perfect. The brainless Auror wannabe, only in the Office because his name was in the news a few years back and it would be bad press to fire him, and a bunch of incompetent kids who think they can fight the Unforgivables with Hair-Thickening Jinxes and hot apricot preserves…
A ripple of black robes caught his eye, and he groaned loudly, thrusting his wand into the center of a haphazard duel between Katie Chi and Blaise Zabini. "No, no, no! That's not how to do a Color-Changer, not at all! Here, let me show you—stand still, Zabini—"
Blaise, recognizing his cue, dodged swiftly to one side, avoiding Sirius's spell.
The person standing in the doorway of the classroom was not, quite, able to do the same.
Sirius grimaced broadly as Severus Snape, his hair and robes now a delicate shade of sky blue, stepped back into view, glaring at every student present as though cataloging their names for future detentions. "Sorry 'bout that, Snape," he said a bit too casually. "Let me fix you up here—"
"I will do it myself. Thank you." The last two words were added in a tone which suggested the speaker had just dropped a full cauldron on his foot. "I had come to see what the noise was about, but I suppose, since they are with you, Black, that this is an authorized school activity…"
"As official as they come," said Sirius heartily. "Defense Association practice—just putting in a few extra hours with the kids who need it most, you know. Care to stay and watch? You being the proper Defense teacher and all, I mean, I'm just a volunteer when you get right down to it."
"No, I think I have seen enough." Snape stepped two paces into the room, located the full-length mirror Sirius used to help the students see the problems with their casting motions, and restored himself to normal appearance with three insultingly lazy flicks of his own wand. "Do recall that we have a general curfew, and that club meetings, even with an…adjunct instructor in attendance, are not considered sufficient reason to flout it."
Turning on his heel, the Hogwarts Professor of Defense Against the Dark Arts stalked out of the room.
"'Do recall that we have a general curfew,'" Sirius mocked, not truly under his breath, to the accompaniment of hisses, boos, and groans from the DA. "I'll curfew him…just because the kids aren't perfect, he thinks he can come in here, bully everybody…and whose fault is it they're not much good, anyway? Not theirs, not if they aren't being taught how to do this stuff…"
The Zippo, still in his right hand, buzzed again, and Sirius flicked open its top. "All clear!" Meghan chirped before he could acknowledge. "Carry on!"
"Thanks, love." Sirius shut the lighter and tucked it away again. "You heard her," he said to the skirmishers, restoring the targets to visibility with a broad wave of his wand. "Back to your marks. Two more rounds at that distance, one a bit longer, and then we'll pack it in for the night."
Having just provided Snape with the perfect report to hand off to Moldy-snort. "Yes, my lord, I have observed the so-called 'Defense Association' at practice…no, my lord, nothing to be concerned with, they are more concerned with learning foolish spells to play practical jokes on one another than with any true skill in battle…"
He returned to his steady pacing behind the line of students, letting his eyes watch for problems without any conscious input needed from his mind. And he won't have to use Occlumency for it at all, except to hide what he suspects. Which, if Moony's to be believed, is a fair bit easier than hiding what you know.
Thus, our little game, to be sure Old Grumpy never knows anything more than would be good for him about these kids.
An aberrant movement snagged his attention, pulling him out of his thoughts. "Ah-ah, Entwhistle, too much wind-up—you're giving your opponent time to get his own spell off if you swing back that far, make it short and sweet. Good, Smythe, very good, but don't get overexcited. Remember, the more worked-up you are, the more likely it is your enemy can beat you with your own nerves…"
"Can you believe someone fronted the entire sixth year their Apparition lessons?" Ron asked incredulously as the elder five of the Pride made their way down to the Great Hall in company with their Housemates. "There's what, at least forty of us, and the lessons are twelve Galleons apiece…"
"Four times twelve is forty-eight, times ten is four hundred eighty," Hermione calculated aloud. "That is quite a lot of gold, but maybe the school governors got up a fund because they want to be sure every student can Apparate, because of the war."
Harry, recalling a conversation he'd accidentally overheard during the holidays, kept his mouth firmly shut and his eyes away from Draco.
"Fred and George say the instructor's rubbish, though," Ron went on, scowling. "Goes on and on about his 'three Ds' and never really explains how it's supposed to work, or what you're meant to do. Just what not to do, which isn't really helpful, y'know? Not for something we've never done before, something this complicated…"
Neville shrugged. "We all managed our Animagus work," he said, keeping his voice down as a matter of habit, since the rest of the Gryffindor sixth years were uniformly DA members and had seen what the Pride could do. "How much harder can Apparating be?"
"Creative Splinching 101," Draco murmured. "Legs over here, arm over there…"
Hermione developed a quiet case of the giggles.
Stepping through the door of the Great Hall, Harry had a look around. The House tables were gone, as he'd expected given the size and character of this lesson, and the four Heads of House were standing on the teachers' dais talking, but the fifth person awaiting them was no one Harry had expected from Ron's description.
"Professor Jones?" said Hermione in surprise, stopping short and nearly causing a four-student pile-up in the doorway. "But—I thought—"
"If she's qualified, why not?" Ron ducked around his girlfriend and caught her sleeve, towing her out of the way. "She can't be any worse than the Twycross bloke Fred and George were talking about, the way they tell it they had to learn everything practically on their own when they'd sneak out to Hogsmeade on their free time…"
Harry glanced back at Draco, who had a small, satisfied smile on his face. How'd you set it up? he signed under cover of finding spots for them near the front of the Hall.
Asked Moony who'd satisfy the Ministry and the school governors both, while still properly teaching us how it's done, Draco signed back. He who pays the piper. A brief laugh, silent but real. Or in my case, is the piper.
About to answer this, Harry stopped at Draco's quick sign of negation. Professor Jones was stepping up to the edge of the dais, looking over the assembled sixth years.
"Hands up all those who've had older siblings take this course in the past," she said, her voice easily reaching the back of the Hall. "Or any relation, really, anyone you know who's attended Hogwarts within the last ten to fifteen years and might've told you what it's like."
About half the assembly's hands went up.
"As I thought." Professor Jones nodded. "Now, hands up all those whose relations told them the course was practically useless except for making the Ministry think you'd been trained."
Amid ripples of snickering, the same set of people raised their hands.
"Again, no great surprise." Drawing her wand, Professor Jones conjured a simple wooden shape on the dais beside her, two uprights with a crossbar at the top. Harry was reminded of the empty doorframe on which he and the Pride had practiced sneaking through Death Eater wards the year before, when they'd been planning to rescue Graham Pritchard. "Something to remember in your future lives, ladies and gentlemen. Just because you have a certain skill, it doesn't always follow that you can teach that skill. But enough from me about my predecessor's shortcomings. What is this?" She laid a hand on one of the uprights. "Go ahead and call it out, and don't think too hard, I'm not trying to trick you. What would you say this was, if you saw it in the middle of a wall somewhere?"
"A door," said Su Li promptly. "But it isn't in the middle of a wall, Professor, it's just out in the open air…"
"True enough, but the point still holds." Professor Jones stepped through the frame to the other side, then back again. "It's a door. A means of getting from one place to another. Which, ladies and gentlemen, is all Apparating is, at its heart. You begin in one place, and you end up in another."
"But you're just stepping across the dais," Justin Finch-Fletchley objected. "You could as easily go around it!"
"True enough." Professor Jones smiled. "But if I do this—"
She stepped through the door again—
And vanished with a small pop as her body passed through it.
Though Harry knew the sixth years had all seen Apparition before, a small wave of "Ooh" still passed through them, and heads started turning as people began to look around the room.
"Back here," called Professor Jones's voice, and the students wheeled as one to see her standing just inside the door to the entrance hall. "The Anti-Apparition wards over Hogwarts grounds have been lifted only for this one hour, and only to the edges of this room," she cautioned, striding forward towards the dais again. "Just in case you were thinking of having a bit of practice on your own. Don't."
Unless, of course, you know how to get to Hogsmeade, Harry finished inside his mind. And maybe have a professor or two, or maybe an "adjunct Defense instructor", who'd be willing to go with you and run security, to be sure no Death Eaters sneak up on you.
We might even be able to get some of the Order, or the Red Shepherds, if they can be spared from fixing up the Roads and trying to locate DE strongholds. His eyes found Artemis Moon, who was looking rather bored—he suspected she, like her sister, had learned to Apparate early, either from her parents or from her boyfriend Adrian Pucey, who had left Hogwarts now but was, if not an official Red Shepherd, loosely affiliated with the group. But that's always assuming we need the extra time. If Professor Jones is half as good at teaching Apparating as she is at History of Magic, we might not…
"So, you've seen my little demonstration," said Professor Jones, boosting herself up onto the dais again with a lithe movement which reminded Harry that she'd been one of Padfoot and Letha's teammates on the Gryffindor Quidditch side in her day. "Now let's get to what it means. A door is a very simple way of getting from one place to another—you simply step forward through the door, and there you are. But what if the door takes you, not just from one room into the next, or from your house into the outdoors, but from a platform onto a train? What then?"
"You'll…go where the train is going?" hazarded Theodore Nott after several seconds of baffled whispering among the students.
"Precisely." Professor Jones pointed to him, beaming. "Five points to Slytherin. Apparating can be likened to having your own personal train, which can take you anywhere you wish to go. Almost anywhere, that is—most wizarding homes and institutions are warded except in specific areas designated for arrivals, and though you generally could break those wards if you tried, it's considered most impolite to do so. But, just like riding on that same train, Apparition has its dangers. How many of you have mothers who've shouted at you from platform nine and three-quarters when you're about to leave for Hogwarts?"
Harry hid a snicker and raised his hand, along with Draco, Hermione, and most of the rest of the room.
"And what is it they most often say to you?"
"Get back inside that train this instant," Harry quoted, a rumble of voices around him all saying the same thing in different words.
"Because if you've got bits of you sticking out of the train, you could get hurt." Professor Jones stepped up to the doorframe again, this time with her elbow deliberately sticking out. "And if I try to pass through this door but I'm not looking where I'm going…" She rapped her arm lightly against the left doorjamb. "Ouch. Only if you happen to be Apparating and you're not looking where you're going, as it were, it's a great deal more painful, because parts of you can end up left behind, or at other random destinations. This, of course, is known as splinching, and depending on the magical skill of the witch or wizard involved, can take several forms…"
A lecture as brief and incisive as Harry had come to expect of Hestia Jones followed, but instead of laying out the reasons behind certain seemingly nonsensical wizarding laws or the root causes of endless clashes with goblins, she was enumerating the levels of splinching. Only an inexperienced Apparator, she explained, usually caused any true injury to himself while splinching, because even a few months' practice would accustom a witch or wizard's magic to the transitions of Apparating, meaning if and when they splinched themselves, although the parts of their body were physically separated from one another, they remained magically connected.
Which is why Moony was able to get himself back together pretty quickly at the World Cup, with Letha's help—if he'd been younger, the age we are now, his magic wouldn't have been used to Apparating, wouldn't have been able to maintain the connections between the pieces of him, and… Harry winced away from this image. Yeah. Not pretty.
"There are spells laid over the Hall tonight, as there will be at all of our lessons, to help maintain this unity for you," Professor Jones announced. "Meaning that you will not die if you splinch yourselves here, as will probably happen to all of you at least once as you're learning how Apparition works. It will hurt quite a lot, there's not much we can do about that, but we'll get you put back together as quickly as possible." Her wave included the Heads of Houses, sitting in a row of chairs on the dais behind her. "Do try not to kill yourselves once you're licensed, though, the Ministry tends to frown on that."
Hermione broke away from a rather heated Pride-sign conversation with Draco and raised her hand.
"Yes, Miss Granger-Lupin?"
"How do you keep yourself from splinching, Professor?" Hermione had her eyes resolutely forward, away from Draco, who was glowering at her. "Is it just a matter of holding your concentration long enough, or is it more like some of the higher levels of Transfiguration, where you've got to know a bit of the basic structure involved or you might end up with something that looks right but doesn't work properly?"
You had to bring that up, didn't you? Harry groaned under his breath. Draco had not, as Harry had half-suspected he would, been forced to drop Transfiguration after his O.W.L. year, but the E he'd earned on the dreaded exams had probably been only by a point or two, and his lack of natural talent was becoming more and more apparent as the year progressed. Their latest lesson, a day or two ago, had ended with Professor McGonagall pulling Draco aside to try his conjurations behind a Privacy Spell, after several of the witches in the class had threatened to be sick over the bits and pieces of mouse which kept arriving on his desk in random (and occasionally twitching) piles.
He's not quite the worst one there, but he comes close, and you had to go and blurt that out in front of everybody. Not that they don't all know it by now, but still.
"It's a bit of both, and five points to Gryffindor for bringing me so neatly into my next topic." Professor Jones leaned against the doorframe, sketching a human figure in the air with her wand. "To go back to our analogy of the train, to keep from getting hurt, as your mothers have told you repeatedly, you need to stay inside the carriage at all times. When you're Apparating, though, you make your own carriage, and that's where the concentration comes in." A swirl of her wand created a halo of light around the figure. "You do need to know the basic structure of your body, to be sure you're telling your magic to take all of you, your entire self, along for the ride, but there's no detailed anatomical study needed."
All of you, your entire self. Harry twisted at a bit of his sleeve. Why does that sound familiar?
"Just now, when you're starting out, it would be a good idea to have a mental checklist," Professor Jones went on. "Right leg, left leg, right arm, left arm, and so on. The more aware of your body you are, the more likely it is that you'll get that whole body to its destination in one piece."
Aware of your body—legs, arms, torso, head—
Harry stopped himself just in time from whooping aloud in glee as the connection hit him.
Borrowing from what we've already done, just like I did for Occlumency, and for nonverbal spells—Neville even mentioned it on our way in here—
"So, who wants to give it a try?" Professor Jones stepped back from the doorframe. "Come on up here, tell yourself this door will take you to the back of the Hall—I'll give you a target, to make it a bit easier—" Another wave of her wand created a second doorframe, prudently standing three paces inside the Hall. "And step on through. One word of warning first. You do all have your wands with you?"
Snapping his wrist, Harry exhibited his, watching as most of the DA did the same, as the other students rummaged in pockets or pouches to bring theirs out.
"Good." Professor Jones drew a red circle in the air with a slash through it. "Never try to Apparate without your wand somewhere on your person. Even if you don't have it in your hand, as long as it's with you, your wand acts as a focusing point for your magic. Without it, Apparition is very, very difficult, and incredibly dangerous even if you do manage it. I can only think of a few wizards, off the top of my head, who could so much as get it started, and fewer than that who could pull it off without killing themselves."
Hermione made a small squeaking noise, pulling the Pride's eyes to her. She was looking past Professor Jones, Harry saw as he turned, looking at the Heads of House, at the end of their row, the part furthest into the shadows of the Hall—
At Snape? But why—
Draco let out a soft "Ahh" of comprehension. Den-night story, he signed when Harry glanced at him. The day we left the London Den, Snape Apparated out of our backyard to the Ministry, remember, when Moony caught him with a Memory Charm halfway through it so he couldn't give us away? But Hermione had his wand, Snape's, I mean, she was up the tree with it, we had to return it by Dobby before we left…
Harry whistled under his breath. He'd known that Snape must be a powerful wizard, given various magical displays throughout his Hogwarts years and the strength of the attacks he was still occasionally unable to block in his Occlumency lessons, but hearing what Professor Jones had to say cast his Defense professor's abilities in a new light.
But then, I already knew he could fool Voldemort. Compared to that, almost anything has to look easy.
"So, who's my first victim, then?" Folding her arms across her chest, Professor Jones surveyed the room. "Come on, now, don't everybody speak up at once…"
Reminding himself once more of the connections his mind had made, of the skills he'd already acquired, Harry raised his hand.
"All right, Potter, let's have you." Professor Jones beckoned him forward. "Right up here by me, if you would."
Rather than use the stairs, Harry hoisted himself onto the dais with his arms as Professor Jones had done, and caught a look of approval in her eye as he straightened. "Stand straight on to the door, now," she instructed him, pointing to the spot where she wanted him. "Get a picture of your whole self in your mind, tell your magic to take you from this door to that one, and step through. If you've done it right, you'll feel squeezed for a moment or two, and then you'll be there." She moved back a pace. "Good luck."
Harry half-closed his eyes, searching for the focus he used while watching for the Snitch or trying to throw Snape out of his mind. A deep breath or two helped calm his nerves to the point where he could call up his memories of what it felt like to transform back from being Wolf, of the first few seconds of settling into his human body again.
That's me, he told his magic, feeling it wash through him, warm and red, from his core just below his breastbone outward to the tips of his fingers and toes, then settle around him in a shell that included such important items as hair, clothing, and glasses. That's what needs to stay together. Now take it, all of it, and—
He stalled for an instant, trying to think of how to tell his magic to connect the two doors, but another memory came to his rescue, Percy's careful voice explaining the theory behind the Red Roads.
I didn't understand everything he was saying, but I got that the Roads are actually in another place, another world almost. It touches our world at the places where Percy and the other Shepherds set up entry points for the Roads, but the distances between those points are shorter in that world than they are in ours.
Maybe, when we Apparate, what we're really doing is taking ourselves into and out of a world where the distance between this door—he glanced up once more at the wooden construction in front of him—and that one—a quick look over his classmates' heads at his target—isn't the entire length of the Great Hall, but just—
Holding tightly to the image of his human self whole and entire, adding in the overwhelming desire to be at the other door, to be there now, Harry strode forward.
An instant of the familiar compression and blackness of Apparition, and then he was looking at the backs of his classmates' heads, and over them to the teacher's dais. Professor Jones looked surprised and pleased; McGonagall was smiling more broadly than Harry had ever seen her anywhere except the Den; Flitwick was rubbing his eyes like he was having trouble believing what they were telling him; Sprout was nodding matter-of-factly, as though he'd done nothing more interesting than correctly juice a Snargaluff pod; but Snape—
Harry didn't bother restraining his grin. It had only lasted for an instant, but he'd caught it. Professor Severus Snape, for a fraction of a second, had looked approving of something he, Harry Potter, had done.
I'm never bringing it up to him. He'd just deny it anyway. But it might be funny to let him see that I know next time we do Occlumency…see if he chokes on it, starts turning odd colors…
The rest of the class was turning around now, beginning to applaud as it registered with them that Harry had managed a successful Apparition on his first try. Harry took a quick bow, then returned to his place beside the rest of the Pride, Neville smiling fully for once and Ron pumping his fists above his head. Hermione beamed at him in awe, and Draco flashed him a sign of thumb to little finger, then hand fully extended, as Professor Jones called the class back to order.
One for the record books, Harry translated, recognizing the sign as one the Pride had borrowed unchanged from the Marauders rather than altering it for their own use as they had so many others. More than you know, Fox, more than you know…
"It's such a pretty color at this stage," said Luna, gazing into the cauldron which hung from Draco's tripod in Moaning Myrtle's bathroom. "Almost the same as the fire you conjured for it. Or as these." She extracted her pendants from her robes, fanning them out to display her jewels. "But I couldn't ever do what Mrs. Letha did—Professor Black, I should say—"
"We're alone, you can call her whatever you want," Draco pointed out from across the room, where he was rinsing a handful of mixed pepper seeds in one of the sinks (not, as he'd made carefully sure, the one which hid the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets). "And what do you mean, you couldn't do what she did?"
"I've used all my blue jewels already." Luna tapped her finger against each pendant in turn as she spoke. "One to help us talk to each other, the night we gave baby Norbert to Tonks to take to Charlie in Romania, and then one to take my Seeing powers away and one to bring them back again. So all I have left is my red one, and that doesn't do the same thing." She let the pendants fall back against her chest. "How many do Meghan and Hermione have left, do you know?"
"Pearl has…two?" Draco dropped his pepper seeds on the cloth he'd spread out on the counter beside the sinks and started to pat them dry. "No, one. Because I know she used one the night we rescued Pritchard, and then another one during the Diagon Alley attack, to watch me and Neenie going after Harry in that dreamworld. And Neenie should have one as well, because she used one to talk to me when Moony and Danger got so sick, the same summer as the World Cup, and then she gave me one of the two she had left at the birthday party that summer, up at the Founders' Hogwarts. I'd have to check with them, but I think that's right. Why?"
"I was just curious." Luna edged carefully around the cauldron and came to Draco's side, peering down at the pepper seeds. "How many of each do we need?"
"Six, so twenty-four all together. Let's get them sorted out first, and then we can pick the ones that look the best. Why were you curious?"
"Because I had a dream." Luna spread the seeds out with gentle fingers, beginning to separate the various colors into smaller piles around the edge of the larger one. "About Hermione having a dream. And I didn't think it made sense at first, but now that I know she's given you a blue jewel, it does."
"A dream about Hermione having a dream?" Draco frowned. "How does that work?"
Luna laughed. "First I went to sleep up in Gryffindor Tower," she said, her hands never ceasing their quick, deft motions. "And then I Saw Hermione, asleep and dreaming. She was at the Den, and she looked younger than she is now, maybe about fourteen, so it could even have happened that same summer you'd mentioned, the year before the Tournament. But I couldn't See into her dream then, not while I was dreaming too, so I had to make myself wake up to go Looking, because I wouldn't have dreamed of her dreaming unless her dreaming was important."
Draco pieced this together and nodded. It made at least partial sense, which was better than he often got with Luna. "What was she dreaming, then?" he asked, spreading out Luna's small piles of pepper seeds to better see which ones were plump and symmetrical, being careful not to mix them in the doing. "Could you tell how it was important?"
"I think it had something to do with one of the…things." Horcruxes, Luna's hands shaped, a cage of fingers around an empty center, signifying the "shells" by which Danger's prophecy had referred to the receptacles of Voldemort's bits of soul. "Because Harry was holding what looked like the cup Professor Dumbledore showed us in his memory from Madam Smith's house-elf. Perhaps that means he and Ginny will be able to persuade the goblins to give it to us. But you were there as well." She drew her pendants out from under her robes again and closed her fingers around them. "Holding one hand like this, with blue light gleaming. I couldn't understand it—though I do now, of course—but I still don't understand what Hermione said."
"Why? What did she say?"
"She said…" Luna released her pendants, letting them fall. "She said, 'No, don't do it.'" Her eyes rose to meet Draco's. "And I'm not at all sure which of you she was talking to, or what she meant by it."
Nor am I.
Though I can't say I like any of the possibilities.
But, Draco reminded himself, like Luna's vision, Hermione's dream would happen when it happened, and worrying about it beforehand would change nothing.
And besides, maybe Neenie's wrong. Maybe she's telling me not to…oh, I don't know, channel a load of magic into my blue jewel and use it to drag Voldemort's mind and soul into the cup Horcrux, so we can kill him outright when we stab it with Harry's dagger. He grinned briefly. Wouldn't that be a funny little ending to the war?
"We'll find out when we find out," he said, returning his attention to the pepper seeds. "Let's get this done."
Because whatever happens, to me, to Harry, to anyone else, one thing's for certain.
I'm not leaving my father around to go after the Pack and Pride once I'm gone.
Okay, I lied a little bit. There wasn't Sanctuary or Quidditch, but there was DA and classes. And there weren't goblins, but that's just because we didn't get there yet. Apparition lessons, though, those we had! How do you like my take on them?
Just a reminder, if you have the money and the ability, to please, please invest in a copy of Homecoming! If you like the DV, I really do think you'll enjoy what I've done with it in an original setting…and the ideas, far from being gone, are multiplying ever thicker…
Or, if you're broke like me, you can always review. That's free, takes only a few moments of your time, and makes for a very happy author! Oh yes, and if you were wondering, Hermione's dream is in Chapter 30 of Dealing with Danger, though Luna hit the high points.
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