Chapter 31: Soul-Searching (Arc 7)
"So how is this going to work again?" asked Sirius, watching Neville and Meghan carefully settling pre-enchanted talismans into the outer edges of a board engraved with a number of concentric circles and angled lines. "And use little words. I'm an Auror, not an Arithmancer."
"You see this?" Harry dangled a fat gold locket engraved with a serpentine S by its chain. "This is a bad thing. Can you say bad thing?"
Sirius groaned and aimed a swat at the side of Harry's head. "Not that little."
Harry dodged, laughing. "Sorry, couldn't resist. But it is. A bad thing, I mean. So is the cup the other group's got. And there's other ones like them out there, ones we need to find. We've got most of them, but not all, so this is going to help us home in on the ones we haven't got. There's a spell we can tune to exactly the enchantment that's on this—" He set the locket in the central spot on the board and snapped a clasp around its chain, still talking. "—and then when we send it out seeking, it'll tell us how far away from us are all the other things with that same enchantment on them."
"That'd only give you a distance, though." Sirius paused, thinking. "Or is that what the other site is for, where Moony and Danger are with Hermione and the others? Because if you have two sets of distances, from two different points…"
"You can put them on a map as circles around your starting points," Harry finished. "And then search the places where the circles cross. Some of them, probably most of them, are going to be dead ends, but I'd rather have a list of fifteen or twenty spots we can check and eliminate than just run around the country poking aimlessly at things and hope we get lucky."
"Oh, I don't know. Poking aimlessly at things always sounded like fun to me. Especially if you've got to live close to your work, and you're trying to stay off the map because somebody's looking for you." Sirius leaned back on one heel, considering this. "Fit up a caravan or even just a tent, move around a lot, keep a nice low profile. I'd need to ask Danger along, though, given how I am in the kitchen—you'd be fine, master chef that you are…"
"But we want the war to end sooner, not later," said Meghan, straightening up. "And just running around without any real idea where to look wouldn't do that."
"This is true. How about we compromise?" Sirius sketched a tent in the air with his wand. "If we can get the war over with in that six months Alex told Danger about, I'll do the grunt work for a big, extended camping trip, all next summer. Leave notes for everybody who'd care, let them know we'll see them in September, and poof!" With a flick, the tent was gone. "Spend a few months doing what we like, instead of what we have to."
"That does sound nice." Neville dusted off his hands. "Am I invited?"
"Wouldn't dare leave you out. Not with my Pearl over there glaring Stunners at me." Sirius frowned. "Not the right color, though, those are red…let me think, what is that sort of silvery-gray…is it a Hair-Thickening Jinx? No, that's more bluish, so that'd be Luna…"
Laughing, Sirius scooped Meghan off her feet and slung her over his shoulder. "That's my name, and who might you be?"
"Put me down put me down put me down right now!" Meghan pounded her fists against her father's back.
"Putmedownrightnow? That's a funny name." Sirius grinned at the boys, both of whom were snickering. "What do people call you for short? Putme, or Rightnow, or what?"
"Ooooooohhhhh—" Meghan's entire body tensed in fury.
"Don't even think about it, young lady," said Aletha sharply, coming around the bend of the trail they'd followed to get to this lonely, forested spot, her Zippo open in her hand (certain locations interfered with the magic needed to connect one Zippo to another, so she'd dropped back to get in contact with the other group of spellcasters while the rest of their group set up the board). "Your magic is for healing, and for emergencies. Not for dealing with your father in one of his moods." She paused, and her sly grin crept across her face. "Mine, on the other hand…"
Sirius hastily set his daughter back on her feet. She stuck out her tongue at him, then flounced over to her mother, who halted her with a hand laid gently against the base of her throat. "Behave," Aletha murmured, and Meghan sighed but nodded. "Now, where are we?"
"Everything's set on our end," said Neville, indicating the board at his feet. "How's the other group coming?"
"Ready when we are. Remus should be along in just—" A loud crack cut off Aletha's words. "Speak of the alpha."
"I'm not sure I like the connotations of that." Remus walked around the board, seemingly seeking for one particular vantage point, his eyes focusing and unfocusing as he shared his vision with Danger. "Ah, here we are…and yes. Both sites are ready." He glanced over at Harry. "Whenever you are."
"Right." Harry rolled his shoulders once, then drew his wand. "Count down from three, please?" he requested.
"Certainly." Remus's eyes swirled brown, indicating the fullest extent of his bond with Danger, and the slightest echo of her voice came along with his, as Sirius was sure a touch of Remus's voice was audible in Danger's countdown for Hermione. "On my mark. In three, two, one—mark!"
Harry snapped his wand down to point at the locket. "Revelare alii!"
Almost instantly, a talisman along the edge of the board let out a musical ping, one of the runes engraved on it lighting up. Meghan snatched up a preloaded quill and a bit of parchment, scribbling down the shape of the rune and the color it had turned. Another talisman pinged, and Neville quickly marked its indications on his own parchment—another, louder this time, as both quills moved in unison—
Silence, for five seconds, ten, fifteen. Harry exhaled and slid his wand back into its holster. "That should be all of them," he said. "One double-strength bounce, it sounded like, which probably means we've got two in the same place or very close by."
"Which matches what we already suspected." Neville was comparing lists with Meghan. "If the other site got answers nearly this clear, we'll be able to get this down to a radius of ten or fifteen yards every time."
"And if there are any places we shouldn't go in person, I can scope them out 'walking'." Harry waved his fingers in the air to indicate what he meant. "We really owe Fox for this one." His face shut down momentarily, but the anger/guilt scent on the air was impossible to disguise. "As if we didn't for everything else."
"Neville had something he might want to tell you about that," said Remus, shooting a glance at the broad-shouldered boy, who reddened slightly. "Though if we're finished here—"
"We are." Harry bent down and unclasped the locket from the board, grimacing as he slid it over his head. "Let's get back and put everything away, and then we can find somewhere we won't be overheard. Something good, Captain, I hope?"
"Confusing." Neville removed two of the little talismans and tucked them into his pockets. "Which may be the same as good at this point. I really don't know."
"If it's confusing, then it will make us think," said Meghan reasonably. "And if we're thinking, then we aren't giving up. So yes, confusing is the same as good. Right now, anyway."
"This is all your fault, you know," Sirius muttered to Aletha, waving his wand to scatter branches and leaf litter across the place where the board had lain, disguising the fact that human beings had ever been here. "No daughter of mine should be this…this…"
"Smart?" Aletha chuckled. "And who was it that decided to marry me, exactly?"
"I'd just got out of Azkaban, I wasn't thinking clearly—and besides, you set that whole scene up, don't try to deny it. Wearing that dress when you know how much I love seeing you in red, sitting at the piano singing 'As Time Goes By' to make me think about going to see Casablanca with you…"
"I don't recall hearing you object."
"Like I said. Not thinking clearly. Because if I had been…" Sirius grinned. "I would have asked you, instead of you asking me."
Aletha regarded him levelly. "And the difference would be?"
"To the outcome? None." Sirius shrugged. "But that'd be one less thing you'd have to tease me about."
"One less? Out of a lifetime's worth?" Aletha chuckled. "You really are desperate, aren't you?"
"Only to keep hold of you, my love." Twining an arm around his wife's shoulders, Sirius drew her close to him. "Only to keep hold of you."
"Why don't we give them a minute alone?" Remus suggested to the cubs and Neville, herding them back along the path.
Safely back at Hogwarts, the lists of runic results set aside for analysis later, Neville explained his earlier revelation to the assembled Pack and Pride, Luna sitting back a bit from the larger circle, doodling idly with her favorite set of colored pencils.
"I was talking to Mum, down in the DA storage room—the one that's in the castle proper, I mean, not the stuff we keep down in Hagrid's Place—and she asked me how I was handling things." Neville spread his fingers, as though to indicate the lines of a spiderweb. "I'd just been thinking magically, so I looked, or sensed, whichever you want to say, along the Pride-magic, without really intending to." He shrugged. "I've actually been trying not to look that way, because…"
"As long as you don't see it, it's not there?" suggested Danger, her tone understanding rather than accusing.
"Pretty much. But by the time I realized what I was doing, it was too late to stop, and a good thing, too." Neville squeezed Meghan's hand gently, smiling at her as she quivered with excitement. "What I saw there wasn't what I thought I was going to see."
"Like this?" Luna passed her drawing up through the ranks until it reached Neville, who laid it down on the floor for everyone to peer at. Seven small globes of color wove a circle among themselves, interlaced by lines of light, with a spot for an eighth globe clearly visible but the eighth itself missing.
"Yes, very much like this." Neville covered the place where the missing globe ought to be with his hand, then took it away. "You've caught it really well, Luna. The way the lines sort of trail off instead of breaking, without even being twisted very much…it's almost like Draco's had to go into hiding, like he's under a block or shield, to keep unfriendly magic from finding him. And while it's going to stop us from finding him too, it isn't strong enough to out-and-out cut him off from us, so if we really wanted to…"
"We could find him." Hermione laced her fingers together, as though trying to keep herself from leaping up to perform this action on the instant. "But that doesn't make sense—we know what's happened to him, and it isn't anything nearly as nice as going into hiding—"
"We know what it looks like has happened to him," corrected Remus when Hermione paused for breath. "It looks like Lucius has been able to follow through on his every threat, and alter Draco's thoughts and memories to reflect what he, Lucius, prefers rather than what Draco wants himself. But tell me this. Of the two of them, Lucius and Draco, in a fair fight, which one would you place your money on?"
Sirius snorted. "Since when did Lucius know how to fight fair? But I take your point, Moony. Draco's stronger-minded than old Lucky ever was."
"Besides being a trained dreamsculptor, and thus used to treating the inside of his own head as a vast and shapeable space," added Aletha. "And let's not forget that we were assured he would have some protection. Obviously that didn't extend to his body—but what about his mind and soul?"
Ron was frowning, tapping two fingers against the back of his hand like his drumsticks. "But then who's running the body?" he asked, looking up. "If Fox pulled himself out somehow, jumped ship like you going walking," he angled his head towards Harry, who nodded in understanding, "or even just tucked himself in some little corner up there and barricaded the door—which, if anybody could do it, he could—that'd just leave his body with the candles lit and nobody home, wouldn't it? Or am I off?"
"No, you're right on," said Ginny. "Breathing and blinking and all of that, maybe swallowing if something goes in the mouth, a body does that on its own, as long as it's alive. But if Fox's mind and soul weren't there, that's all it would do. A spell can't create a person." She turned to Meghan and Aletha. "Can it?"
"Offhand, I would say no." Aletha twined her pendant chain around her own fingers. "Though, of course, it's not the same as what happened to me. My memories weren't altered, they were wiped away. And then when I got them back, I had to let them settle in on their own time. But my soul, my mind, neither ever left their proper place. I was always me, whoever I defined that as."
"Even if you could 'create' the illusion of a person with a spell, it would be blindingly obvious outside a very limited set of boundaries." Danger held up two fingers. "A simple gesture, but what does it mean? I could be telling you there are two of something I can see, or claiming my side will win a contest, or beating paper but being beaten by rock." She grinned suddenly. "And if I turn them around—"
"You could have warned me about the sense of humor before I married her," Remus remarked to Aletha.
"Would you have listened?"
"Probably not." Remus intercepted Danger's hand and kissed it. "But I see what you're saying. Being human is such an immensely complicated, context-specific task that it's hard to imagine any spell, no matter how intricate, could even begin to replicate it. And when you take into account what they're hoping to do with Draco, which will bring him into close contact with us, his own family and friends…"
"So there must be a person there," said Ginny. "But how?"
"And even more important than how." Hermione shivered a little, and leaned into Ron when he put an arm around her. "Who?"
Draco lounged in front of the fireplace in his room, watching the flames with his chin resting on his hands. The Standard Book of Spells, Grade Three lay disregarded beside him.
Father only said to study them. He didn't say for how long. And none of them were hard at all—one or two tries and I had them down. He grinned to himself. Blood will tell, I suppose.
Wonder if I'll go into the history books? "Draco Malfoy, despite the tragedy which shadowed the formative years of his life, nonetheless became one of the foremost wizards of his day, playing an active role in the establishment of Our Dear Master in his proper place as ruler of the wizarding world…"
His eyelids started to droop. With a yawn, he let them.
Of course, it'd be even nicer if I was there to see those entries for myself. Wonder if the Dark Lord would be willing to share that immortality he's after? Father seems to think he's going to get a bit of it, and it shouldn't be too hard to find something that would include me on that. Possibly even this plan they've got for me now, if I can pull it off properly…
"Dreaming big dreams again?" said a laughing voice from across the room.
"Fox!" Draco sprang up, noting in the same breath the slight give of the floor and his own reduced stature. His nightly regression to a much younger age should, he was certain, have bothered him far more than it did, but somehow his gladness at seeing his mysterious relation overshadowed any annoyance he might have felt.
Or maybe that's just because I know this is a dream. And in dreams, you can be anything you want. Bouncing over to hug Fox around the legs, he spared a brief smile. Even when that anything is "four years old".
"Hello to you too." Fox leaned down and scooped him up, then casually flipped him and dangled him over the bed. "What's been going on? More homework?"
"Mm-hmm." Draco squirmed until he could see Fox's face from his upside-down perspective. "But it's boring. I don't even have to work hard to get it right. How come anybody has to go to Hogwarts, if all the spells are that easy to learn?"
"Well, maybe other people aren't as smart as you are." Fox grinned at him. "Or maybe they just want an excuse to hang out at Hogwarts. I understand the castle's pretty awesome. How're the plans for getting you there coming along?"
"Okay, I guess." Draco wiggled, and Fox obligingly spun him upright once more and set him on his feet. "But I don't really like them much. It's sort of scary, what they want me to do. And dangerous. What if things go wrong and I get stuck there?"
"Your father would come get you if anything happened, wouldn't he?" Fox squeezed Draco's hand comfortingly. "Or one of his friends, or even his Master if he had to. That's what being on the same side means. You back each other up when it's needed."
"Yeah, but I don't think a lot of them like Father very much." Draco sat down on the floor again, Fox following suit. "They whisper together and look at him all nasty after meetings, or when we go by in the hallways. I think they're just jealous because he's done so much to help the Dark Lord, like getting me back safe from the Pack, and letting everyone live in our house."
"People always get jealous when someone else does well," said Fox in a tone of vast experience. "Don't let it worry you too much. So, what did you want to do tonight?"
Draco gave this some serious thought. Almost everything Fox did with him was fun, whether it was going out flying (Father had been pleasantly surprised by his prowess on a broom in his waking life), working through the tricky bits of his magic lessons (Transfiguration, with all its fiddly bits and exceptions to rules, annoyed him intensely), or even practicing his music (the dream version of Malfoy Manor, to his surprise and joy, contained a room with a piano, and he kept intending to find out if that translated into the real world). But something about tonight, about where he'd been and what he'd been doing when he fell asleep, had made him feel itchy and discontented, and he knew just what he wanted to counteract that.
"Story," he said with certainty, then quickly rephrased at Fox's lifted eyebrow. "I mean, please will you tell me a story? One with music, and families, and adventures, and scary bits in the middle but a happy ending?"
"Don't want much, do you?" Fox chuckled. "But as it happens, I know the perfect one. Shall we go down to the music room for it?"
"Yes, please." Draco clambered to his feet, taking Fox's hand when it was offered. He wasn't allowed to accept help while he was awake, since he had to be the hope of the House of Malfoy and Malfoys never needed assistance, but his dreams belonged solely to him and to Fox, which meant they could have things just the way they liked them.
I only wish I could meet him while I'm awake too. Then we'd be the same age, and we could have even more fun. Surreptitiously, he cast a glance up at Fox's face. I wonder where he stays during the day? Does it have to be nearby here, or does distance not matter in dreams?
"You keep looking at me sideways and your eyes are going to stick like that," said Fox with a straight face. "Mind, it'd make you a great duelist—nobody would ever know which way you were going to cast next—but I think your father would object if you couldn't look him straight in the eye the way he expects."
Draco snickered at his relation's silliness and bounced a few times on his toes.
Dreams are good enough for now, he decided. I can worry about finding out where Fox really is after I'm finished with what Father wants me to do. After I've gone to Hogwarts and distracted the Pack by pretending I want to come back to them. After Father and his friends use that distraction to get into the castle and set up the talismans that will let them come and go whenever they want. And most of all, after I've taken out one of the Pack's biggest supporters, struck a proper blow for the proper side of the war…
"Why do you think Father wants me to act the way he does, around the Pack, I mean?" he asked as they turned the corner into the music room. "It can't be to fool them. They already know how awful they always were to me. And there won't be anybody else around to fool. It doesn't make sense."
"Not if you're thinking about it all straight." Fox released Draco's hand to wave his own hands in rigidly parallel lines in front of his face. "You have to learn to bend your mind a little." His fingers waggled back and forth in illustration. "To think like somebody who isn't you. And one of the things most people learn how to do while they're growing up is called 'rationalization'. Which means telling yourself little stories about how the bad things you're doing really aren't that bad at all."
"So…" Draco sucked his breath through his teeth, trying to follow the logic. "You mean the Pack might believe all those things Father was telling me? About how nice they always were to me, and how they never treated me any different than Hermione or Harry or Meghan, except when they had to?"
"Probably they do." Fox nodded solemnly. "Nobody ever wants to think they're the bad guy, Draco. And people will swallow almost anything if you put enough sugarcoating on it. I'd bet you ten Galleons if we had the grownups of the Pack here right now, they'd tell us they'd never been anything but sweetness and light to you."
Draco shivered at the thought, and huddled closer to Fox, who put an arm around him. "It's going to be okay," his relation told him firmly. "I won't let anybody hurt you, not if I can help it." The older boy hesitated. "Only…"
"What?" Draco looked up. "What's wrong?"
"It's complicated," Fox said slowly, sitting down to bring himself more to Draco's level. "But there might come a time…" He chewed on one side of his lip for a moment, his eyes distracted. "Draco, do you trust me?"
"Yes." The answer came immediately and without hesitation. Even Draco's waking mind, with its constant watchfulness to keep him safe from attempted counterstrikes by the Pack against him or his father, had never found fault with Fox.
"That's good. Because there might come a time when something scary starts happening to you. Something that might hurt." Fox grimaced. "I'm not trying to frighten you, I promise, and if I knew more about it, I'd tell you. It's all cloudy and hard to understand, even for me. But I don't want you to get taken by surprise. If that starts happening—when it starts, really, I don't think there's much question that it will, one of these days—I'll help you as much as I can, but you have to try your best not to fight me. Or the people I tell you are okay, if I can't get there."
Confused, Draco frowned. "Why would I fight you, or your friends?"
"Because you have magic on you." Fox shaped an outline around Draco with his hands. "From your father, and from other people. It's meant to keep you safe, but there are bits of it I don't like. Bits that somebody who didn't care about you might be able to use the wrong way and hurt you." He shrugged. "Or maybe I'm just being paranoid, seeing problems that aren't there. I mean, Lucius is your father. He's done what he thinks is best for you."
"But you don't think so." Draco watched Fox's face and saw the slight contraction of annoyance on it. "You don't like what he's done. Why?"
"Now that," said Fox lightly, "is a very long story. And somewhat of a boring one, at that. I'll tell it to you if you really want me to, but that would mean we wouldn't have time for the story you actually asked for, the one we came down here to have in the first place…"
Draco shook his head hard, and Fox chuckled. "All right, then. One story with music, families, and adventures, coming right up."
Opening his right hand, he blew across its palm, forming a cloud of darkness beside the two boys, which cleared to reveal a landscape dotted with castles and cottages. Draco settled back against Fox's legs as the older boy began the tale, speaking slowly and clearly over the instrumental music, piano and violin and flute, which had wound its way out of the silence.
"In ancient times there lived a great and evil wizard, so great that most feared even to speak his name…"
The tale of the warrior-boy who defeated the evil one even though he was only a baby, and the brave and clever wizards and witches who built a family for him after his own parents had died, unfolded piece by piece. Draco watched the dream-figures in their long, elaborate gowns and fancifully cut suits in fascination, though certain parts of the story puzzled him more than others.
"What does that mean?" he asked a few minutes into the tale, causing Fox to halt the scene on an image of the four adults accepting a bundle from a beautiful witch with blonde hair, a tear gliding down her pale face as she released it. "How did they take the evil wizard's most precious treasure? That doesn't look like a treasure. It's a baby."
"What do you think your father values most in the entire world?" Fox countered.
"Me," said Draco promptly. "But—" Sudden understanding rushed over him. "Ohhhh."
"Exactly." Fox smiled and reanimated the scene, continuing his narration. "For a time, they traveled, and came back to their homeland to settle anew…"
When Fox started to describe the young warrior and his siblings and friends, Draco almost interrupted again, but managed to get his voice under control in time. Still, his thoughts whirled.
Known for his cunning, called the fox—but no, that can't be meant for him, this story happened hundreds of years ago. It's just a coincidence.
As he watched the story-family assembling, though, he couldn't help but notice that the wolf-warrior's brother, green-stoned dagger belted at his waist and a lazy smile hovering on his face, did look a great deal like Fox.
So maybe that's one of his ancestors. Or maybe he just uses his own face because of the names. It could be almost anything. And while I'm busy thinking, I'm not listening to the story!
Shaking his head to clear it, he set his thoughts aside and turned his ears back on, just in time to hear the description of the wolf's final friend, "small but a mighty warrior. It is she whom the warrior chooses, she out of all the world, to stand at his right hand and fight by his side."
Draco made a face. "Is that like love stuff?" he demanded, looking unfavorably at the smiling figure of the red-haired girl called Lynx where she stood, as advertised, directly beside Wolf, her hand twined with his.
"Yes, that's like love stuff." Fox's eyebrows went up again. "Not in the mood for romance, I take it?"
"It's more boring than practicing spells. And it's stupid." Draco folded his arms across his chest. "Why would anybody want to do all of that anyway? Get goopy about somebody and sing songs to them and sit in trees with them? I don't get it."
"It's one of those things that's hard to explain until it happens to you." Fox glanced up at the picture, where the twelve story-people had formed a small dancing square and were moving through a complicated pattern. "But I can tell you this much. It should almost always start with being friends, because if it doesn't, it's not going to last. You think you could be friends with a girl?"
"Maybe." Draco eyed the gowned figures dubiously, finding his attention drawn more and more to the one Fox had called the owl, her dark-blonde hair tumbling about her pretty face, with its wide blue-gray eyes lending it a perpetual expression of mild surprise. "If she was nice, and we liked some of the same things. But I don't know what girls like."
Fox shrugged. "The same things boys like, most of them. Music, Quidditch, books, animals, cooking, fighting…we aren't that different. Should I keep telling, or do you want to talk about girls some more?"
"Keep telling. Please," Draco added quickly, before Fox could prompt him.
"All right, then." Fox cleared his throat, and the story-figures whirled out of their dance and began to outfit themselves for war, faces grim and set. "These friends, along with his parents, stood with the wolf at his last great battle with the Dark One, who had returned to threaten the world again…"
When the story was over, Draco let out a long sigh, watching the family spin one another in circles, hug and kiss, laugh and cry, celebrating their victory and their survival. "They look so happy," he said quietly. "And I'm—"
He snapped his teeth shut over the word, but his treacherous mind finished the sentence anyway.
Which doesn't make any sense, because I have everything I ever wanted, I'm going to have more and more, as long as I can do a couple little things that ought to be easy, especially as strong as my magic is turning out to be—how can I not be happy?
"Life's harder than it looks, isn't it?" remarked Fox, apparently for no reason at all.
"Yeah." Draco leaned back against Fox's legs again. "It really is."
Fox's hand came down to rest against Draco's head, his fingers stroking absently through Draco's hair. Within the story-picture, the fairer of the adult wizards blew across his hands to paint fiery streaks of color through the sky, making the rest of the family clap and cheer in celebration. From somewhere, far away or very nearby, a gentle line of piano music began to play, rising and falling in the same rhythm as Fox's strokes.
Draco's eyes drifted shut as Fox began to sing softly, a song about rainbows and what they might be hiding. His last thought was to wonder, hazily, how he could be falling asleep when he was already asleep and dreaming.
And then there was nothing more, until he awakened in the faint light of dawn, curled up on the floor in front of his cold fireplace.
Luna blew on the surface of the potion as it rippled gently in the cauldron, shattering the image she'd called onto it. "I knew I would find you doing something like that," she whispered, smiling. "Now we need to find a way to tell the others, without telling them too much…"
Scooping up a quill and parchment, she began to write, bits and snatches of words, murmuring the occasional phrase aloud, but not so loudly that Hermione, across the room working a tricky little spell on a pile of iron filings, would have a reason to look her way.
It was frightening, sometimes, thinking she finally understood what she'd seen two summers before, because what if she were wrong? What if her hopes, her dreams, were just that, insubstantial as an unsummoned vision, and all her desires turned out to be fruitless?
But then, what if I'm right? Pursing her lips, Luna rearranged three words for a better effect. That will be very difficult too, making sure that everything stays on the right course. Not letting any of it happen too soon, or worse, too late.
She wondered sometimes how the Founders, or whoever had been the Guardians before them, managed it all.
But then, that's why they live in that lovely castle, and have the sort of magic which means they never need anything physical. So they can put all their attention on making stories turn out right. She sighed. Even if, to the people in the stories, they don't seem to be coming out right at all.
Pausing in her literary efforts for a moment, she sketched a pair of scenes in the margin of her parchment. One depicted simply a starry night with a crescent moon, five of the twinkling spots of light forming a larger, five-pointed figure. The other showed two people, one tall and slim and pale-blond, the other more petite and better-curved with darker blonde hair puddled under her head, lying side by side on a hilltop, hands intertwined, taking turns pointing out shooting stars to one another.
There are some things the rest of the Pride doesn't need to know. And one of them is how many worlds are out there, with some relation to us and ours. Mrs. Danger might want to hear about it sometime—though with her dreams, maybe she already knows—or Mr. Padfoot, to put it into his stories, but I don't think anybody else should.
She smiled to herself. Though maybe, if my understanding is right, some of the better ones can be the bride's gift to the bridegroom. Her eyes fell upon Amanda's letter, tucked under the flask into which she and Hermione planned to decant the Imprimatus Potion when it was finished, and her smile broadened. One of them, anyway.
Dipping her quill again, she returned to her writing.
Hermione swept the last of her enchanted iron filings into their vial and capped them securely, allowing herself a full breath for the first time in nearly ten minutes. "I don't know how you'd planned to do that bit by yourself," she said in Luna's general direction.
"I wasn't." Luna never looked up from her parchment. "Either Draco would have done it or we would have asked you together. What is the poetry called again, that Alex likes to use to talk to us in?"
"Iambic tetrameter. Four beats per line, each beat with an unaccented syllable followed by an accented one. Why?"
"Because." Luna blew on the writing which occupied the center of her page. "I think that's what I have here."
"You think—" Hermione clamped her lips shut and hurried across the room to look over Luna's shoulder.
Abhor the spell from first to last,
But spare the one on whom it's cast;
Be wise to know a lie from truth,
And help the long-imprisoned youth.
"Odd." Hermione frowned, accepting the parchment as Luna extended it to her. "I'd thought Alex said he couldn't talk to us much between now and the end of the war. But four lines, I don't suppose that counts as much, so he got it smuggled through. I wonder what it means?"
Luna was smiling, Hermione saw from the corner of her eye as she read the little verse over again, but that didn't mean much. Luna liked to smile. Though why she should be smiling in the direction of Amanda's letter, Hermione couldn't fathom.
And it doesn't really matter anyway.
"We should show this to the others," she said, setting the parchment down. "Let me just make sure today's step is fully finished, and that we're all set for tomorrow's, and then we'll go see where they've got to—Harry's probably doing his own set of calculations on those Horcrux results to compare to mine, Ginny and Meghan both had Herbology projects and Neville said he'd give them a hand, and if I know Ron he's making a shopping list for Hogsmeade tomorrow…"
As much as I did enjoy canon, I felt that the plot of DH relied entirely too much on sheer dumb luck. So I'm doing it differently myself, and I hope you are enjoying!
Let me know if you can figure out what Luna's little sketches refer to. They're other pieces of my writing, if that helps at all. Also, the story Fox tells Draco should be ringing bells for old-time DV readers…for anybody else, check out "December 31, 1992", one of the chapters in the Dangerverse Datebook!
Next time, things get very interesting for anyone who's also following LupineMoon's Defying Gravity on fanfiction.net…and even if you're not, it's going to be a wild ride. Everybody buckle up, make sure you have tissues and cuddle buddies close at hand, and please don't forget to take your one minute and review! Thanks and see you soon!
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