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Chapter 24: Happy Ending

"One two three four five six seven,

"All good children go to heaven…"

It was a sunny August Saturday, and the Pack was at the park near the Den, playing. Draco was taking his turn at jumping the rope Aletha and Danger were turning, while Harry and Hermione waited impatiently. Remus helped Meghan throw a ball for Sirius to chase. Whether it went fifty feet or only two, the huge black dog bounded after it with the same enthusiasm, making Meghan clap her hands and laugh.

Draco missed his jump, and the rope tangled around his ankle. He quickly kicked free and jumped out. Harry took his place, and the game went on.


She waited in line, biting her lip anxiously. They’d got through the M’s and N’s, they were into the R’s, she’d be up any minute now, and Professor McGonagall would say her awful name, but she could even live with that if it meant it was her turn…

"Tonks, Nymphadora."

She gulped and walked forward, being extra careful not to trip. Delicately, she sat down, and the Hat fell onto her head.

"Well, well, daughter of Andromeda Black, are you? I remember her… bound and determined not to be a Slytherin, when I wouldn’t have put her there in the first place, it was obvious she should be a Ravenclaw. You’re pretty bright yourself, but oh, I see, you have your own ideas of your proper place… very well, I do try to satisfy all comers if I can… GRYFFINDOR!"

"Yes!" Tonks shot to her feet as the Gryffindor table cheered for her.

And promptly fell on her face.

Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later.

"Weasley, Charles," Professor McGonagall read over the laughter. A red-haired boy sat confidently down as Tonks picked herself up and made for the table. The Hat took only a moment with him — he too was a "GRYFFINDOR!" Because of her fall, he and Tonks reached the table at about the same time. They looked at each other and laughed.

"Nymphadora, is it?" he said, sticking out his hand.

"No. Tonks. Please."

"All right, Tonks it is. I’m Charlie."

They shook.


The Pack went to den-sleeping for a while in early September when Draco had a series of nightmares. He wasn’t too keen to talk about them, but gentle questioning elicited the expected answers — he was trapped in the manor, and his father was chasing him and shouting at him, trying to hurt him. Den-sleeping didn’t make the dreams go away entirely, but it put the adults in a position to wake Draco as soon as he started to show signs of a nightmare, and that helped a lot.

Soon after the Pack went back to sleeping upstairs, Hermione’s birthday came, and was greeted with the pomp and circumstance suitable to the grand age of four. The boys sang her "Happy Birthday" with the edited lyrics so popular among children of all ages, prompting her to whack them both over the head with her new doll. Sirius denied teaching them the altered words.

The fall continued peacefully, as much as it could in a household with three four-year-olds. By Halloween, Draco was smiling on a regular basis, even laughing sometimes. His arrogance, after being almost insufferable through most of August, had slowly dwindled through September and October as he realized it got him nothing, and his timidity was being banished by the casual and loving atmosphere of the Den and the constant company of two boisterous children his own age. He was starting, if the word could be truly applied to any member of the Pack, to be normal.

He would never be like Harry, though. Harry seemed to have no fear and unlimited energy. From the moment he woke up to the moment he fell asleep, he was running somewhere, shouting and laughing, falling and getting back up. Draco was somewhat quieter, more interested in looking at things. Aletha had started giving him piano lessons, because, as she said, "He’s ready. There’s no set age when a child’s ready — it’s when he can sit still long enough to learn and he’s interested." The sounds from the music room occasionally even resembled music.

Neenie was a bookworm, but had developed a mania for climbing. She could be found in the oddest places reading — curled up on a windowsill, squashed onto a bookshelf, and once, memorably, lying on the railing of the indoor balcony that overlooked both front rooms and was a portion of the upstairs hall. Danger almost had a heart attack when she came in from work, looked up, and saw Hermione balanced precariously on a six-inch-wide piece of wood over a one-story drop, totally engrossed in her book.

Meghan, like Harry, never walked when she could run, and seemed seldom to sit still, unless someone was reading to her or playing with her. She was a willing participant in Neenie’s endless games of den with her dolls, being put to bed and woken up with the rest of the "cubs" every five minutes, and doing everything Hermione told her to without question.

"What is your secret?" Remus asked Neenie rhetorically after a frustrating round of "Why?" with Meghan.


"…and in other news tonight — being in jail is unlucky. Being in jail and getting caught trying to break out is very unlucky. But being in jail, getting caught trying to break out, and being the only one caught out of a gang of 20 — now that’s unlucky! Nicholas Cotton reports…"

Danger gasped as the camera zoomed in on a face she knew quite well. Still looks like a radish with a mustache… "Everyone, come in here! Look at this!"

There was an influx of people into the Whites’ front room. Remus and Sirius took one look at the picture on the screen, of a furious man stuck in a window which was just a bit too small for him, and began laughing. "Who is that?" Aletha asked.

"Harry’s uncle," Sirius said, as Vernon Dursley tried to cover his face. "The one Remus and Danger cursed. Looks like it’s still active. Quality work, Moony."

"Thank you, my friend." Remus gave a little bow. "I wonder what it’s doing to Petunia these days?"


A knock sounded on the door of Petunia Dursley’s flat. She yanked it open. "I told you, I’d pay when I…" She trailed off. "You’re not the landlord."

"No, we’re not," said one of the men in the hallway. "Social Services, ma’am."

"May we come in?" the other one asked, his tone making it clear that if she refused, they would come in anyway.

She let them in.

The visit didn’t last long, and the men were very kind, but they made it clear what they thought of her, and her efforts to provide a home for her son. They were going to have to take him away with them, they said. For his own good. She could reapply for custody if she could ever prove employment for more than six months at one place, and residence at one address for the same amount of time…

After they left with Dudley, Petunia put her head down on her arms. He’s someone else’s problem now, she thought absently. Just as well, really. He was starting to act funny. Like the time when he was crying — I told him and told him to be quiet, and when he didn’t, and I spanked him, one of the light bulbs shattered…

No more coming home early to take care of him. No more expenses for babysitters or day care. No worries about getting him into a school…this may actually be a good thing for me…

But slowly, spots of moisture began to appear on her sleeve.


Draco looked around him. He was in a long, dark hallway, and he could hear footsteps at the other end, his father’s footsteps, coming for him —

"Look around you," he remembered someone telling him, "and think about what you see."

He looked down at himself. He was wearing red pajamas and holding a stuffed lion. He had never had red pajamas or a stuffed lion at the manor.

He smiled confidently. I’m at the Den. This is just a scary dream. And I can wake up… NOW!

And wake up he did. Not in his own bed, since he didn’t have one — the three of them still slept in the two twin beds pushed together — but in his own home, with his brother and sister cuddled next to him, and his lion under his arm.

No more scary dreams for me.

He looked at the window. The light looked kind of funny. Almost pink.

He sat up carefully, then knelt up to look over Harry and out the window.

It’s snowing! It’s so pretty, all white like that…

Harry roused under him. "Hi," he said sleepily.

"Hi," Draco said. "Look, it snowing."

"Snowing!" Draco dodged as Harry snapped upright to look out the window himself. "It snowed! We can go out and play in it!"

"Play in it?" Draco asked.

Harry laughed. "You see." He tore out the door of the room. "Moony, Danger, wake up, it snowed, it snowed!"

Draco grinned and shook Hermione by the shoulder. "Neenie, wake up, it snowed."

"Snowed?" Just like that, she was awake. "Snowed?" She sat up, looked out the window, and gave a happy squeal. "Meghan can come and play this year, she’s big enough now! We make a snowman, and we make snow angels—"

"We have snowball fights!" Harry said, bouncing back into the room. "And catch snowflakes on our tongues! Come on, we gotta get dressed an’ eat breakfast afore we can go out!"

Draco wondered as he pulled on his socks what a snow angel might be, and how to make one. He was sure someone would show him.

That was what he liked best about the Den. There was always someone around to show him things.


Charlie Weasley climbed into the Gryffindor common room and looked around for his brother. "Hoy, Bill."

"What’s up, next-up?"

"Just wondering if you knew — does Dumbledore have any family?"

Bill shrugged. "Don’t know. Why?"

"Heard him in the hall, talking to McGonagall. He said he’d be spending Christmas somewhere else this year."

"Huh. He usually stays at Hogwarts for the holidays. At least, I think he does. Oh well, not our problem. Term ends in a couple days, and then we’re off home."

"Home." Charlie smiled. "Home with Mum, and Dad, and Percy, and Fred…"

"And George, and Ron, and Ginny," Bill finished the litany. "And then we spend the whole vacation wishing we were back here, where they aren’t."

"So you say, big brother. So you say."

Bill gave his infuriating "I-know-more-than-you-because-I’m-oldest" smile. "Indeed I do."


Lucius Malfoy had bad dreams every night now. But his dream on Christmas Eve was probably the worst he had ever had.

It was filled with images of his son. Draco nestling against Lupin with a sickeningly adoring expression, listening to a story… Draco watching intently as Black’s woman pointed something out to him on a page… Draco throwing a ball for a huge dog, which must be Black, to chase after… Draco licking a wooden spoon covered in cake batter as Lupin’s woman tidied up the kitchen… Draco running after the Potter boy and the Mudblood girl and Black’s daughter, all of them shouting…

In every image, his son was smiling, or even laughing. The boy was happy. He had the audacity to be happy! Malfoys were not made happy by such plebeian things as having stories read to them, or licking cake spoons. Malfoys found their happiness in power plays, in crushing their opponents, in surviving politically when no others did or could.

But, as he was painfully reminded in every scene, his son was no longer a Malfoy.

"Draco Black." The woman’s insolent voice echoed in his mind, tormenting him. "I rather like the sound of that, don’t you? Draco Black…"

He snarled, knowing the sound would be lost in the constant cacophony of Azkaban. You will pay, Muggle. For that, and for everything else, you will pay.

Even as he thought that, his dream changed yet again, annoying him still more, if that were possible.

How disgustingly sweet. Decorating the Christmas tree. I do not want to see this — which is probably why I am being forced to watch…

Indeed, Lucius was unable even to turn away or close his eyes. Unwilling, he watched the children walk with exaggerated care to hang ornaments on the tree while the adults strung lights and tinsel with their wands.

At least I don’t have to listen to them. Silence is golden — more so than usual in this instance…

He was astounded to see Lupin’s woman levitate the star for the top of the tree into place. A Muggle who can use a wand? That’s supposed to be impossible. Could she be a witch after all, but home-trained?

Black’s woman began to sing — this, Lucius found, he could hear. It was "O Christmas Tree," and the rest of the unnatural group joined her, even the children. Even Draco.

Lucius groaned. No. Malfoys do not sing. They may play instruments in a dignified manner, but they do not do anything so primitive as sing.

Self-evidently, though, Draco did. Lucius took minimal comfort in realizing that the boy’s voice was quite tone-true, and actually rather pleasant to listen to. If he must do it, at the very least he does it well.

Lupin handed Draco his wand, then lifted the boy onto his shoulders, telling him something. Draco reached out and tapped the nearest tree light with the wand. The lights sprang to life, illuminating the tree. Draco’s face lit up as well, with pure joy, as the other children clapped and cheered.

Lupin lifted Draco down from his shoulders, but didn’t set him on the floor. Instead, he held the boy on one hip, and Lucius had to watch his son — his son — sliding his arms trustingly around the neck of that disgusting, filthy, halfblood, Muggle-loving, werewolf, and resting his head on the creature’s shoulder!

He lunged forward, unable to stop himself any longer, to snatch the boy away and beat some sense into him —

And he was awake, in his stinking cell in Azkaban, with the other prisoners screaming around him, and black despair in his heart.

If they can get so far with him after less than six months, what chance do I have? By the time the Dark Lord returns — if he ever does — Draco will be faithful to them, and forever lost to me…

He howled in misery, finally surrendering his dignity. No one can see me anyway. No one will ever see me again. I will be here until I die.

Death, at this point, might be desirable…


Early on Christmas morning, Albus Dumbledore arrived at 71 Crozer Street, bearing a stack of gifts and a plate of scones. "Hogwarts has a new house-elf in its employ," he told the Pack. "One named Dobby, who told me the most interesting tale about how he was freed. He made these for you, and wonders if perhaps, sometime, he could come to visit his little master."

Danger took a bite and rolled her eyes in ecstasy. "He can come any time he likes, if he bakes like this. I may give up cooking."

"Don’t do that, we’ll all starve if you do," Sirius said.

"Yes, and you will start starving if I don’t start getting help with the washing-up," Danger retorted. "That novel you’re working on can occasionally wait until the dinner dishes are done."

Sirius flushed. "Did you have to bring that up?"

"A novel, Sirius?" Dumbledore looked interested. "I didn’t know you wrote."

"I don’t suppose you ever read Witch Weekly, Headmaster," said Aletha, "but Sirius has become a regular contributor. Under a pen name, of course."

Sirius was now as red as any of the Christmas bulbs and beginning to get some of the cubs’ attention, which was quite a feat on Christmas morning with unopened packages under the tree. "Can we get to these before Harry dies of impatience, and discuss my work later?"

"If you insist," Remus said, hiding a smile behind the first present he held up. "This one’s for Neenie — go to it, sweetheart."


Nearly an hour and about an acre of shredded wrapping paper later, the children were ignoring all their new toys and playing in the large cardboard box one of them had come in. "Never fails," Remus said. "We should stop getting them presents and just get them boxes."

"Don’t think I haven’t considered it," Danger said ruefully.

Sirius, in the other room, was explaining to Dumbledore about his career as a writer, and how the short period romances of Valentina Jett had become an eagerly awaited feature in Witch Weekly, appearing every two months.

"And when they started paying, you knew you liked it," Aletha said with a chuckle. "So when they offered to publish a novel if you’d write one, of course you said yes."

"It’s not like I have anything else to do, after all. Except raise the children, and that is a lot of work, but with the four of us sharing them, it still leaves me plenty of spare time. And you know I don’t just like it for the money," Sirius growled, pushing Aletha playfully. "I like it because… because when I write, I can make everything come out all right. The good guys win, the truth is revealed, and there’s always a happy ending."

"Are you saying everything hasn’t come out all right for you?" Remus asked from the doorway, curiously rather than accusingly.

Sirius sighed, his eyes taking on a bit of the darkness of Azkaban, which they had never completely lost. "For now, it has. But you know as well as I do, our lives are precarious. One person sees too much, one of us makes one mistake, and it’s over. We could be separated forever at any time." He gave a short laugh as Aletha slid an arm comfortingly around his shoulders. "I guess I hope if I write enough happy endings, I’ll get one myself."

"I could use some help in here if you want Christmas dinner at any time approaching noon!" Danger called from the kitchen.


Month followed month in the usual order, and life at the Den continued to be predictably unpredictable. No two days were ever the same — except in being happy. The knowledge that the world was looking for them, with no good intent, served to keep the fights among the adults few and far between.

The cubs, of course, squabbled as all small children do, but more amicably than most, taking and changing sides at a moment’s notice and laughing about it all together a few minutes later. Meghan, as she had since she was old enough to notice, tried gallantly to keep up with the older three, going where they went and trying her very best to do what they did. Even when what they did was dangerous for her.

"You are not big enough to be sliding down the banisters like that!" Sirius scolded her one day, plucking her off the rail, where she was sitting at an alarming angle. "You come upstairs with me and play where I can see you."

Meghan made a face. "No fair." It was one of the first phrases she had ever said.

"Yes fair. I’m your father, and I say so, therefore it’s fair. Let’s go."


Sirius, in dog form, lay across three beams of sunlight in Aletha’s front room, snoring lustily. Harry beckoned Hermione and Draco into the room. Meghan followed them, her baby hands wrapped around two bottles she had taken from the fridge on Harry’s order.

The junior pranksters went to work.


Sirius awoke and sniffed.

I smell ketchup.

Someone snickered nearby.

I also smell mustard.

Someone else laughed aloud. There was the sound of a photograph being taken.

I don’t like this.

"Padfoot," said Remus’ voice quietly. "You fell asleep in the sun. That made you hot. Therefore, you were a hot dog. And certain inhabitants of this Den took advantage of that." There was a pause, as Sirius heard what he could now identify as Danger’s giggle. "You’re going to need a bath."

Sirius opened his eyes and looked at himself. He was almost completely covered in condiments.

Well, at least they have spirit. The children had drawn the Gryffindor lion on him in ketchup and mustard. And look on the bright side — they could have used mayonnaise. I hate mayonnaise.

With these thoughts to cheer him, he stood up and Apparated into the bathtub, where he nosed the water on and began rinsing himself off.

But I want those pictures destroyed.


Exams were over. Tonks lay by the lake, feeling extraordinarily good about life, since, for the first time in a month, she had nothing in particular to do…

"Look, they’re here again," Charlie said, pointing out the family crossing the grounds. "They come a lot, don’t they? I wonder if they’re relatives of Hagrid’s."

"One of them’s a friend of my mum’s," Tonks said, rolling over to have a look. "The black woman. Ms. Freeman, I think. And the others are her neighbors, I don’t remember their names…"

One of the little boys, the black-haired one, tugged away from the woman whose hand he was holding and started running. Tonks watched him go, and something stirred in her mind. Being a Metamorphmagus, she was used to seeing her own face under all different colors of hair. But why am I thinking about that?

Something about that boy’s face made her uneasy. As if she’d seen him somewhere before, and he had looked somehow different — his hair had been a different color, perhaps…

"Tonks? You all right?"


"They’re about my youngest brother’s age," Charlie said, watching the other two of the bigger children run after the first one. "Ron. Maybe they’ll be in his year. When he’s at Hogwarts. We’ll have left by then. What do you think you want to do when you leave?"

Tonks shrugged. "Don’t know. You?"

"Something outside, that’s for sure. No desk jobs. I hate being indoors." He looked at her keenly. "I can’t see you on a desk job either. You’re a more active sort…"

The discussion lasted a good half-hour and almost drove the little boy with the annoyingly familiar face from Tonks’ mind. Almost, but not quite.

When she got back to her dormitory, she pulled out a box from under her bed. In it, she kept things she almost never used — like her family photo album. She flipped it open and started looking. She had no luck, until she found the wedding picture of her mother’s younger sister, her Aunt Narcissa, side by side with her haughty pureblood husband, Lucius Malfoy…

Of course, they weren’t side by side any more. In fact, Lucius was almost entirely out of the picture, and Narcissa was just barely visible on the other side. Clearly, whatever their feelings had been at one point, they loathed one another now. Tonks prodded Lucius in the back with her wand, and was rewarded with a glimpse of his sneering face before he ducked back under the frame.

A glimpse had been enough. He was a dead ringer for that little boy on the lawn. Except for the hair, which could be easily changed with a simple charm or potion.

Did I just solve one of the wizarding world’s great unsolved mysteries? Did I just find Draco Malfoy?

And if I did — what do I do now?

She bit her lip — then did what any smart girl would do.

She wrote her mother.

Dear Mum,

I think I saw your nephew today. He was running around with your friend Ms. Freeman and her neighbors and their little kids. He was with them that day in Diagon Alley when you bought me my stuff too, only they called him Reggie. They charmed his hair black, but it’s him. What should I do?

Love from


The answer came the next morning, by return owl.

Dearest Dora,

Do nothing. Especially say nothing, to anyone. You are a very bright girl to see so much, but some secrets are not meant to be told. Does he seem happy with them? Please let me know.

With love,

Your mother

Tonks pulled a quill from her bag and scribbled a reply on a scrap piece of parchment, right at the breakfast table.

Mum —

He looked just fine. He was running and playing like any other kid. And I won’t tell anyone.


Sending it off with the rather disgruntled post owl, she smiled to herself. So now I have a secret. Wonder how many other people know?

Wish I could tell Charlie. He’d think it was really cool.


Valentina Jett’s novel Happy Ending was published in July, to critical acclaim. "A fresh new voice, with an understanding of the trials of human life," one review said. Another called it "well-crafted and a touch wistful, eventually achieving the status of its title in a fully believable way."

But the one that got the Den in an uproar read: "The author’s female characters are well drawn and realistic. She clearly knows the truth of being a woman."

"Is there something you’re not telling me, dear?" Aletha said when she’d recovered from her five-minute laughing fit.

"Look, everyone, a medical miracle," Remus said, scooping up a slightly startled Meghan. "First baby ever naturally conceived with two mothers!"

"Come off it," Sirius said, grinning himself.

"These people are going to get a big surprise one of these days," Danger commented. "A really big surprise."

"You said it, not me," Aletha said with a naughty smile.

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