Living with Danger
Chapter 47: Aftermath
By Anne B. Walsh
Chapter 47: Aftermath
At 10:53 AM on 24 December 1990, the Pack arrived in their Den by Portkey, looked at each other, and collapsed on the mattresses covering the floor.
At 10:54, the screaming started.
No one could ever clearly remember the next fifteen or twenty minutes. Everyone was sure of what, basically, had been involved: a lot of yelling, laughing, crying, running around, jumping on people, hugging, kissing, scent-touching, and at least one case of licking (though Sirius always claimed he’d just forgotten he wasn’t in dog form at the moment), but no one could recall very many particulars. The eventual conclusion was that they had simply mutually agreed to disengage their brains and allow themselves to exult in the moment.
They were free. They were home. And they were together.
As Danger had recalled in her time with the Founders, the Pack had gradually come to accept, and then to need, a higher level of touch than most people did. They comforted and showed affection with touch, so it only made sense that this, their greatest celebration ever, also involved a great deal of holding one another, of stroking faces and heads, of reaffirming, by the most basic of senses, that they were really all together again.
Arthur Weasley wasn’t quite sure how to feel at the moment.
He and Molly had agreed the night before that Sirius Black and his three companions could not, absolutely could not be their friends the Blacks.
Never mind that the Blacks had mysteriously vanished around the time that Sirius Black was said to have been arrested. Never mind that the Blacks were two men and two women, exactly as the newspaper reported Sirius Black and his three companions were. It was a coincidence, that was all, and they weren’t going to think any more about it.
Except, of course, that Arthur had, and he suspected Molly had been as well.
What if they were wrong? What if it turned out that Patrick Black, with his open, friendly smile and his capable hands, was actually Sirius Black, a traitor and a killer? What if they’d befriended a criminal without knowing it?
And what of the Blacks’ children? What had happened to them — and what would Ron do, if his friends never returned, or turned out to be completely different from who he had thought they were? Because, after all, there had always been that little nagging question in the back of his mind, confronted with a child named Harry in the custody of a man surnamed Black...
And then the morning had come, and the trial, and he’d been forced to face the facts.
He, Charlie, Percy, and Fred and George had managed to get seats in the courtroom, and the boys had stared openly as their neighbors were escorted in by Aurors and introduced themselves using quite different names than he knew them by.
It was true, then. Arthur felt ill. He had shown them his collection of plugs and batteries, his workshop in the shed — they had worked there with him sometimes. His wife and theirs, his children and theirs had been friends. He had shared some of the most important parts of his life with the men in front of him, and all the time they had been lying to him, lying about who they were and what they wanted...
But as the trial proceeded, something struck him. The names were different, yes, but the people in front of him were the same people he’d known for the last three years. They spoke and acted in the same way — even, or especially, Patrick — Sirius — with his wry humor and his frankness.
And their reactions to little Meghan (whom he was rather surprised to see, since he had left her at his home with Molly, and wondered what kind of woman this Amy Freeman was, if she could outwit his wife) were the same as his own would have been, if he were somehow restrained and saw one of his children — they looked intensely happy to see her and almost desperate to get to her.
But criminals could put on good faces, could have a sense of humor, could care about their children, Arthur reminded himself. And Black could claim he had been framed all he wanted. None of this was proof of anything...
Minerva McGonagall stood, a few rows in front of him. "Evidence exists to support this story," she said.
Arthur stared as he saw who was with her.
"Ron?" Charlie said incredulously. "Dad, look, it’s Ron! And Ginny, and Luna! What are they doing here?"
"And those animals," Fred said. "They’re the ones that were at home last night..."
"They’ve got Scabbers!" said Percy indignantly. "Dad, Ron’s got Scabbers! What are they doing with him?"
George shushed them. "Look, McGonagall’s doing something..."
The animals, under McGonagall’s experienced hand, were revealed to be not animals but children — the Blacks’ children — Hermione, subtly different than she had been — Drake, or Draco, as Arthur realized belatedly just before the boy named himself — and Harry.
"We’re friends with The Boy Who Lived?" George said in an awed whisper. "Cool!"
"I still want to know what they’re doing with Scabbers," Percy complained, just as Harry proclaimed that he could prove Sirius Black’s innocence.
"Then do so," said Dumbledore.
Harry stepped forward, holding up the cage. "This rat is not a rat," he said loudly, first to the Wizengamot, then turning to face the rest of the courtroom. "This rat is an Animagus. His name is Peter Pettigrew. And he is the traitor and the murderer, not Sirius Black."
The Weasleys exchanged astonished looks as Harry turned to McGonagall. "Professor, can you turn him back?"
"I most certainly can," McGonagall said, extending her hand for the cage.
"Wait," Amelia Bones said from the bench. "If this story is true — I’m not going to say that I do or don’t believe you, Mr. Potter, until I see some proof — but if this story is true, wouldn’t Pettigrew be a flight risk?"
"He’s asleep," Draco said. "He’ll be asleep until three o’clock this afternoon."
"Hagrid gave him a potion to make him sleep," Meghan chimed in.
"Very well," Amelia said, sitting back. "Proceed, Professor."
McGonagall accepted the cage from Harry, unlatched it, and unceremoniously dumped the rat out — Percy made an angry noise — then pointed her wand at the small mound of fur and concentrated.
The entire courtroom seemed to be holding its breath. Arthur knew he was.
Hermione and Harry sprang back as the rat twisted and grew into a small, fat, balding man, snoring loudly as he lay on the courtroom floor.
Percy stared open-mouthed at what had been his pet for nine years as noise erupted all around. Charlie was exchanging waves with someone on the other side of the courtroom — Arthur looked and saw the boy’s girlfriend Tonks grinning at him. Her hair was lime-green today, and she was sitting next to a brunette witch Arthur vaguely recognized as the girl’s mother. She was smiling and dabbing at her eyes at the same time.
"You are free to go," Dumbledore said from the bench, and the chains fell away from the four people who had, until a moment ago, been on trial.
"YES!" Patrick — Sirius, Arthur reminded himself — threw himself out of the chair and snatched his children into his arms, crying with joy. Arthur found his own eyes tearing up just a touch. The action was so like what he would have done if it had been him...
How strange. They were lying — and yet they weren’t. We never knew their real names, but it seems we knew the real people after all...
Percy hadn’t moved since the revelation of Scabbers’ true nature. The twins appeared to be doing a war dance to the chant of, "They got off, they got off, they got off—" A silver-haired witch a few rows away grinned at them and flashed them a thumbs-up before departing her seat.
"Enough, boys," Arthur said, surprised to hear the emotion in his voice. "Charlie, watch your brothers for a moment?"
"Sure, Dad." Charlie grinned at him, though the grin trembled ever so slightly. "Got to you, didn’t it," he said very quietly. "Me too."
Arthur made his way down the stairs to the courtroom floor, where three small children stood in an almost forlorn huddle, watching their friends celebrate with their parents. "Ron," he said, trying to sound stern. All three of them jumped and turned around guiltily. "How did you get here?"
"Luna!" Gerald Lovegood arrived, slightly out of breath from getting to them. "I’m so proud of you — and you’re in so much trouble — Molly Weasley was supposed to be watching you — however did you get here?"
"We Flooed," Luna said, as if she couldn’t see why they hadn’t thought of that themselves.
"We had to come, Dad," Ron said, looking earnest. "Honest, we did. Harry and the others couldn’t go by themselves, â€˜cause they couldn’t say where to go. So we had to say it for them."
"And then Professor McGonagall said we ought to stay and see the end," Ginny added, grinning. "And we did, and it was great — they got off!" Her smile faltered. "Are we in trouble?"
"That’s for your mother to say," Arthur said as severely as he could manage under the pressure of several conflicting emotions.
Ron and Ginny exchanged unhappy looks.
"She’s no stranger,
"She’s a danger
"To us all," Aletha chanted, grinning.
"Age of eight,
"She tried to skate,
"And didn’t wait
"To take a fall."
Danger shoved her friend down onto the mattresses, laughing. "I cannot believe you remember that!"
"I made it up, didn’t I?" Aletha countered. "And that, my friends, is how Danger Granger got her name. She not only fell, she took down four or five of us with her—"
"And I’ve never put on roller skates since," Danger finished. "Or anything else with wheels or blades or things like that. I like my feet to stay where I put them."
She shrieked as Remus hooked an arm around her ankles and pulled her down next to him on the mattresses.
"Is it legal to be this happy?" Sirius asked blissfully, lying on his back with Meghan cuddled next to him and Hermione making small braids in his hair. Harry and Draco were chasing each other around the room on all fours, switching roles from pursuer to pursued at a moment’s notice for no reason at all, and tussling joyously, like a pair of puppies, when they caught each other.
"It had better be," Aletha said firmly. "This family’s law-breaking days are over."
"And that leaves us with a problem," Remus said regretfully, sitting up.
"Problem?" Sirius questioned, tickling Meghan and making her giggle.
"The Weasleys and the Lovegoods."
"Oh." Sirius sighed. "Didn’t think of that."
Molly Weasley was entirely sure how to feel at the moment.
She was absolutely furious.
Not about Meghan, good heavens no — the strange woman in her kitchen hadn’t even had time to answer Molly’s question before Meghan was clinging to her, still crying, but now also babbling something at a high rate of speed — something about "Dadfoot" and "Wormtail" and every so often the words "Aunt Amy." With that and the resemblance, which was recognizable with the two of them together, Molly had realized the woman must be some kind of relative — of course, the Blacks were originally from North America, it made sense that Carrie would have an American aunt.
Amy Freeman, once she had gotten Meghan calmed down long enough to introduce herself, had proceeded to work the little girl up again by telling her that she was going to take her back to her parents. Molly was thrilled, or that was what she told herself. The girl belonged with her family, after all. And it wasn’t as if Molly didn’t have enough of her own.
No, it was the last thing Meghan had told her that was making her blood boil.
"Mrs. Weasley?" the girl had said as she was ready to step into the Floo with her great-aunt. "Just so you know — everybody else went to the trial."
And then she was gone, before Molly could react to the phrase "everybody else."
Because the only other people in the house were her youngest son and daughter, and her daughter’s friend...
And thorough investigation had proved that they were no longer actually in the house...
The Floo flared up. A stocky form appeared in it — Charlie, Molly guessed, and was proven right a moment later. "Ron and Ginny are with us, Mum," he said before she could ask, coughing a little as he stepped out. "And you wouldn’t believe what happened—"
"Later," Molly said grimly, watching the fire like a hawk. Percy emerged next, looking stunned, then the twins, she didn’t know in what order, it didn’t really matter anyway, and then...
"RONALD BILIUS WEASLEY!" she shouted even before that child had fully emerged from the Floo. "COME HERE THIS INSTANT!"
Ron blanched. He knew the Name Rule well — the more of his name his mother used, the more trouble he was in. His full name, middle and all, could not be good.
"AND YOU, MISS GINEVRA MOLLY, DON’T THINK YOU CAN SNEAK OFF!"
Ginny tried to look as if that wasn’t exactly what she had been intending to do.
"WHAT IN THE WORLD DID YOU THINK YOU WERE DOING? RUNNING OFF LIKE THAT, WITHOUT EVEN TELLING ME WHERE YOU WERE GOING—"
"Mum, we had to," Ron protested feebly as Arthur Apparated into the kitchen.
"OH, YOU HAD TO, DID YOU? DID SOMEONE’S LIFE DEPEND ON IT?"
"Molly," her husband interjected.
"Don’t bother me now, Arthur — WELL? ANSWER ME — DID SOMEONE’S LIFE DEPEND ON YOUR LEAVING THIS HOUSE WITHOUT PERMISSION?"
"Yes," Ginny said in a small voice.
"DON’T YOU LIE TO ME, GINEVRA MOLLY WEASLEY—"
"She’s not lying, Molly," Arthur said sharply. "Ron and Ginny may well have saved lives with what they did today."
"How so, Arthur?" Molly asked in a quiet, dangerous voice.
Molly had to sit down.
My children — friends with Harry Potter? Saving Sirius Black from his — undeserved — fate?
And the true criminal sheltering under our roof, eating our food, for all those years...
I am not a fainting type of woman, but I might make an exception today...
"So Luna’s father took her home," Arthur concluded. "And here we are."
"Yes," Molly said, shaking her head slightly in bewilderment. "Here we are indeed."
At some point during the story, all the children had left the kitchen. Arthur took a seat at the table next to Molly and put his arm around her shoulders. She leaned back into it, needing the comfort, needing to know that her husband hadn’t changed, even though everything else in her life seemed to have.
"We need to consider what we’re going to do now," Arthur said into the silence. "Will we continue to associate with them?"
Molly sat upright in surprise. "What do you mean?"
"I feel — bear in mind, Molly dear, this is only one man’s opinion, and a very faulty man at that — but I feel that we should attempt to remain friends with the Blacks. And the Lupins," he added with a smile. "For the children’s sakes, and for ours."
"For heaven’s sake, Arthur, they lied to us!"
"To keep their children safe," Arthur pointed out calmly. "Wouldn’t we do the same in their place?"
"I’ve never been in their place — and I hope I never would be. Accused of crimes, arrested—"
"Falsely accused," Arthur reminded her. "Falsely arrested. They’ve been cleared of all charges, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there are apologies forthcoming from the Ministry, and quite possibly some form of monetary compensation."
"Yes, yes, that’s all well and good, but we’re not talking about the Ministry, Arthur, we’re talking about us, and these people whom we thought were our friends. And now we find out they’ve been lying to us for three years—"
"What have they lied to us about, Molly?" Arthur asked quietly. "Their names, and their faces. Nothing else. Is that any worse than finding out a friend of yours dyes her hair or goes by a nickname?"
"Yes — this is deliberate!"
"It was also necessary. Molly, love, I’ve seen you with Carrie and Danger — Aletha and Gertrude — and you enjoy their company. I know you do. And I would imagine that if they’re anything like the friends you thought they were, that they didn’t want to lie to you. But if they had told you the truth, what would you have done?"
Molly sighed. "I would have gone to the Ministry, I suppose," she said unhappily. "But that doesn’t change the fact—"
An owl tapped on the window. Arthur got up to let it in, and it dropped one of the letters it was carrying on the table before turning around and soaring back out. Molly picked it up, seeing the familiar handwriting with new eyes.
Danger wrote this. But is that really her name, or — no, wait, she told us she was named Gertrude, the day we first met. I’d almost forgotten.
Somehow that made her feel a little better.
She slit the envelope neatly open and pulled out the contents.
"â€˜Dear Arthur and Molly,’" she read aloud. "â€˜What can I say? The masks are off, the truth is out. You must feel as if we’ve betrayed you. In many ways, we have, and we are all so incredibly sorry that it had to be that way.
"â€˜You may not believe me, but you have been some of the best friends we have ever had. We hope that you won’t shun us completely, but even if you do, we beg of you, please don’t keep our children apart.
"â€˜Harry and Draco and Hermione are famous now. They will probably be besieged at school by children who want to be their friends simply so they can be famous too. Your Ron is the best thing that could have happened to them — someone who likes them for themselves, who was their friend before he ever knew that they were anything out of the ordinary.
"â€˜If you want to talk to us, to ask us anything, please feel free to come over. The invitation extends to Ron and Ginny as well, of course. Whatever you decide, we all thank you for three wonderful years of friendship. Yours truly, Gertrude "Danger" Granger-Lupin.’"
Molly and Arthur Weasley looked at one another.
"Yeah, we’ve got him locked up tight," Alastor Moody said with satisfaction. "Anti-transformation wards on the walls of the holding cell — as long as he’s within them, he can’t change — and there’s a team over at Azkaban putting them up on his cell there right now. He’s not getting away this time."
"Sounds good," Sirius mumbled through a mouthful of sandwich, prompting Aletha to whack him on the side of the head and call him an uncouth lout.
"Lovers’ talk," Moody grumbled, but Sirius caught a trace of a smile on his face. "You want to see him before we ship him over, Black?"
"No thanks," Sirius said emphatically, putting his sandwich down on the plate. "I’ve got better things to do than talk to him. I’d rather be with my family." He smiled, realizing that he meant what he was saying. "After all, he doesn’t matter now, does he? The truth’s out. Wormtail doesn’t matter anymore."
"Still has to have his trial, though," Moody said, adding in a lower tone, "though if it was up to me, they’d throw away the key and let him starve in there." The retired Auror got to his feet. "Well, I’d better get back — what time’s that potion wear off again, three?"
"That’s what they said."
"All right, we’ll be ready to transport him around then." Without further ado, Moody Disapparated.
"So, we’ve had Moody, and before him we had Dumbledore and McGonagall and Hagrid," Sirius said, ticking them off on his fingers. "After Dumbledore Fawkes-ed us..."
Aletha giggled. "If you weren’t a pureblood, I’d say that was a Muggle joke."
"Well, I married a Muggle-born, and I’ve been living like a Muggle for nearly nine years, so yes, as it happens, that was a Muggle joke." Sirius swept his wife off her feet and twirled her around once before putting her down. "Never thought I’d see McGonagall cry. And Hagrid — it’s a good thing he carries his own handkerchiefs, no one else’s would be big enough for him..."
"And Dumbledore brought us this," Aletha said, picking up the copy of the special edition of the Daily Prophet, with the enormous headline:
SIRIUS BLACK INNOCENT!
"And apparently some random witch or other got filthy rich off this, because she thought to bring a camera to the trial, and got a picture of Wormtail, and one of me hugging the cubs, and since Dumbledore wouldn’t let any newshounds in the courtroom, the Prophet paid top Galleon for them." Sirius blinked back tears at the sight of the picture, of his own ecstatic face, and Harry’s...
"We owe a lot to Dumbledore," Aletha said softly. "He got the Wizengamot to agree to try us today, and together, so we could all be cleared at the same time — he kept us out of Azkaban, you know it’s standard procedure to send prisoners there before their trials — he was the one who made sure you even got a trial."
"I know." And there’s probably nothing I can ever do to repay him...
But he won’t care. He doesn’t, as long as everything comes out all right.
He looked over Aletha’s shoulder into the den room, where Harry was telling the story over again to Remus and Danger, with Hermione and Draco correcting him every few words, until he snapped something at them and they both shut up, looking chastised.
And the cubs went and formed a new Pack. With Harry as the alpha.
And they swore that oath — which we have reason to know is damn potent —
I hope Molly and Arthur believe us, I’d hate to lose them as friends, and it might be dangerous to Ron and Ginny to keep them apart from our four now that they’ve sworn...
The Floo chimed from the music room.
"My, we’re just so popular today," Aletha said with a little laugh. "I wonder who this could be?"
"Hello, Mrs. Black," said Luna Lovegood as she came into the kitchen. "Hello, Mr. Black. Is Draco here?"
Draco appeared in the door to the den room. "Hi, Luna," he said, looking a little shy but very pleased to see her.
Luna cocked her head to one side, studying Draco. "I like you better this way," she said finally.
"I’m glad. This is how I really look." Draco looked beyond her. "Hi, Mr. Lovegood."
"Gerald," Aletha greeted the man with a smile as Luna crossed the room and followed Draco back into the den room, from whence erupted a great deal of squealing as, Sirius assumed, Hermione and Meghan greeted Luna. "Thank you for coming."
"You’re welcome." Gerald gave Sirius a long, searching look. "So you’re Sirius Black," he said finally.
Remus and Danger came into the kitchen, Danger sitting down at the table, Remus standing behind her, leaning slightly on the back of her chair.
"And — Remus," Gerald said, turning to him. "Remus — Lupin, was it?"
"Not brothers, then."
"Not by blood," Remus said. "But we’ve been through a lot together."
"I can only imagine." Gerald looked around at the Pack. "I came to tell you that I do want to stay friends with you. You were wonderfully supportive after Anita — died — and I can’t see that friendship changing over something as trivial as names. And, as you said, there are the children to consider. Luna’s become great friends with your Drake — no, it’s Draco, isn’t it? Draco Malfoy?"
"Don’t call him Malfoy to his face," Danger warned. "He really hates that name. And he is legally a Black."
"Of all the places people have speculated he might be, this is one I doubt anyone ever thought of." Gerald smiled slightly. "What a story it would make — exclusive interview with Sirius Black and his sons, Draco Black and Harry Potter — but I know you didn’t want to be bothered—"
"And you’re not bothering us, are you?" Sirius said, feeling an urge to do something unexpected. "Harry?" he called into the other room.
"What?" floated back.
"Run upstairs and get my DictaQuill and some parchment?"
"Have a seat," Sirius said to Gerald, who looked surprised and very pleased. "And think of some good questions."
The Floo chimed again. "I hope that’s the Weasleys," Remus said.
Ginny came dashing into the kitchen and looked expectantly at the adults. At least three of them pointed to the other door, and she disappeared through it, to be greeted with excited feminine sounds resembling small dogs being stepped on. Ron stopped short of the second door, looking a bit dismayed by the noises on the other side, and his father and mother arrived in the kitchen before he got up the courage to go through it.
"So," Molly Weasley said, looking straight at Sirius, who got quickly to his feet. "Sirius Black."
"Yes, ma’am," Sirius said respectfully. She was advancing on him, he noticed, as he began backing up almost involuntarily.
"You’ve been lying to us for three years."
"Yes, ma’am, I’m afraid so."
She was getting closer.
"And you’re not a dangerous criminal."
"I certainly hope not."
"Well, then." She was right in his face, and Sirius realized he’d backed into the refrigerator. "I’m going to punish you right now for all the lies you’ve ever told us."
She flung an arm around his neck, dragged his face down to hers, and kissed him on the lips.
When she let him go, Sirius was fairly sure his eyes were crossed. He knew for a fact he was smiling like an idiot. "Arthur," he said dreamily, "you’re a very lucky man."
Then she slapped him.
"All right, that’s more like what I was expecting." Sirius rubbed his face.
"If you ever," Molly shook her finger in his face, "lie to me about anything again, Sirius Black, you will regret it until your dying day. Is that understood?"
"Yes, ma’am." Sirius saluted her.
He looked around. Harry was standing by the door, next to Ron. They had identical expressions of mingled confusion, disgust, and horror on their faces. The adults looked highly amused.
"I got what you wanted, Padfoot," Harry said hastily, crossing the room quickly and depositing the items on the table. "C’mon, Ron, let’s go upstairs."
Ron nodded fervently, and the boys vacated the premises.
Sirius pulled out his wand and activated the DictaQuill. "Gerald Lovegood, interviewing Sirius Black, 24 December 1990," he said into it. "Gerald, say something so it picks up your voice pattern."
"That was the funniest thing I think I’ve ever seen," Gerald said, ostensibly towards the quill, but with his eyes fixed on Sirius.
Sirius rolled his eyes. "Not quite what I was hoping for, but it should do." He balanced the quill on the parchment and sat back. "Go ahead, whenever you’re ready."
"Ron, is something wrong?" Draco asked, breaking off his conversation with Luna.
"Yes, there is," Draco said with certainty. "You keep looking out the window and sighing. You only do that when something’s bothering you."
Ron got very interested in his fingernails.
"Come on, Ron, spit it out," Hermione said.
"Youdonthavetobefriendswithme," Ron mumbled very fast.
"What?" Harry asked.
"You don’t have to be friends with me," Ron repeated, still looking down. "Not if you don’t want to."
The cubs looked at each other, confused. "Why wouldn’t we want to?" Hermione asked finally.
"Because—" Ron looked up. "You’re famous. Well, maybe not you, Neenie, but you will be. You’re Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy—"
"That’s not my name."
"Fine, Draco Black’s sister. And Draco — you’re The Boy Who Disappeared — and Harry... " Ron sighed. "You’re all special. And famous. And I’m... I’m nobody. I’m just another Weasley. So you don’t have to be my friend."
"That still doesn’t answer the question," Harry said. "Why wouldn’t we want to be your friend?"
"You could be friends with anybody," said Ron, now staring at the wall. "Anybody you want to. We’re — well — poor." He said it almost defiantly. "And I’m stupid, and I’m not good at anything. So you don’t have to be my friend anymore."
"Do you not want to be our friend?" Neenie asked.
"No! I mean... of course I want to be your friend — anyone would want to be friends with you—"
"Ron, you said we could be friends with anybody," Harry said. "Anybody we want to."
"You could. You can."
"All right." Hermione and Draco, sensing Harry’s trend, began to close in. "We can be friends with anybody we want to be friends with, you said so yourself." They were surrounding Ron now. "And we want to be friends with you."
Ron looked up to find he was facing a solid wall of conviction. It was written on three faces and carved in the set of three pairs of folded arms.
Ginny, Luna, and Meghan developed a quiet case of the giggles.
Three heads nodded solemnly.
Ron looked as if he couldn’t believe his luck.
"You’re my best friend," Harry said earnestly. "Just because my skin color changed, that didn’t. I hope?"
"No. No, it didn’t change... I’m your best friend? What about Drake — sorry, Draco?"
"He’s my brother," Harry said, making a face in Draco’s direction. It was returned with interest. "Are you best friends with your brothers?"
"No, but they’re not the same age as me."
"Doesn’t matter. He’s still not my best friend. You are." Harry stuck out his hand. "Hi, I’m Harry Potter, nice to meet you."
Ron grinned and took the offered hand. "Ron Weasley."
"You know, that’s the first time I’ve ever told anyone my real name," Harry said thoughtfully. "It’s... kind of nice. Not to be hiding."
"And we never have to hide again," Meghan said with a blissful sigh.
"You will not hide with changed names," Luna said dreamily. "But you will find a hiding place in your home away from home. Remember, by the place of your father’s servant, to thank those who gave your mother her gifts."
Draco looked at her. "Luna, I like you," he said, shaking his head, "but there are days when you don’t make sense."
"You’re perfect for each other," Harry said, and took off running before Draco could catch him.
Life at the Den was back to normal.