Return of the Aurors
Chapter 14: Portal
By Anne B. Walsh
Sirius stood by the fire, watching Chinna teach Hairy an Ewok dance on its other side, a crowd of Ewoks milling about their legs and laughing squeakily. Threelo was shuffling through the steps as best he could, and Emtoo spun gracefully on her wheels as the Ewoks bowed to her. Ron and Neenie were sitting about a quarter of the way around the fire from him, talking in low voices. He hadn’t seen where Drake was, but no doubt there were special important Auror things that required doing. The other pilots who had come down on the shuttle were either watching the Ewoks, Wookiee, and droids dance or passing around a bottle and toasting each other.
I should go get some of that. Dull the pain.
Oddly, though, the pain seemed to be easing even as he thought about it. He felt reassured, as though someone had just whispered in his ear that everything was all right, that it wasn’t what he thought it was, that his friends were right around the corner and he’d see them again soon...
Neenie jumped to her feet. "Drake!" she called out, her voice carrying over the chanting and music. "Drake, what are you doing?"
"Fixing something," answered Drake’s voice from a short ways off. Sirius turned to see his friend leaning against a railing, looking relaxed and casual.
No, wait. That’s not relaxed and casual. That’s â€˜I’m holding onto this bar because I’ll fall over if I let it go’. What just happened to him?
Sirius started towards Drake, hearing other footsteps following behind him. As he got closer, he started to see a pair of light-colored shapes hanging in the airâ€”an old man and a small alien creature, both in hooded robesâ€”but there seemed to be a third beside them, less defined and harder to seeâ€”
The alien’s form expanded, shifted, and a messy-haired woman stood there instead. Sirius stopped dead, causing Threelo to run into him from behind.
I know her, that’s Gold Three’s gunnerâ€”
No, she’s not, she’s General Dadineâ€”
That’s no general, that’s my sisterâ€”
His conflicting mental images suddenly coalesced, and a flood of information deluged him. He squeezed his eyes shut, gave it a few moments to sort itself out, and allowed a great sigh of relief to escape him as one thing came clear.
They’re alive. They never died inside the Death Star, they just jumped clear of the dream before their ships blew upâ€”I must have been so lost in my character they couldn’t pull me out, but I’m out nowâ€”
"How stupid should I be feeling?" he asked conversationally.
"Not too stupid at all," Danger answered in the same tones. "It’s a good story. I nearly got lost in it a few times myself."
"Probably not quite to the extent I did." Sirius opened his eyes and examined the area between Dumbledore and Danger. It resembled a silver archway with a veil covering its opening, if archways could float in midair. "That’s our way home?"
"The way home for most of you, yes," Dumbledore amended. "Draco and Luna will be remaining here."
"WHAT?" Sirius spun to face Drakeâ€”no, Draco, and he’s not my friend, he’s my son and I’m not about to let him do that! "Are you out of your mind?"
The silence after this question was profound. Belatedly, Sirius realized he hadn’t been the only one asking it.
I think that was everybody, actually.
"No," Draco said, shaking his head. "Not out of my mind. Out of my body."
He released the railing and staggered. Hairy pushed Ron aside to catch Draco, grumbling something under his breath about stupid brothers.
"This I have to hear," said Neenie, crossing her arms.
"It’s the only way you can all go home," Draco said simply, letting Hairy support him. "Luna decided to stay here because if she’d left herself divided between two bodies that badly hurt, both of them would have died. When she did, it opened the way home a little bit. My staying will open it more, enough that you can all get back."
Emtoo screeched. "Oh my," Threelo said. "Emtoo wishes to know if you couldn’t have asked for volunteers before simply deciding it would be you who’d stay, Master Drake?" His voice shifted subtly. "I’d like to know myself."
Draco shrugged. "I’m staying because it’s my fault we’re all stuck here. Because I promised Luna I would. And because it should be fun." He got his feet squarely under him, squeezed Hairy’s hand in thanks, and grinned at them all. "How often do chances like this come along?"
Ron and Neenie exchanged glances.
"Tell your friends the remainder of the bargain, Draco," Dumbledore said. "This portal we have established may not last indefinitely."
"Oh. Right." Draco glanced at Hairy again, but the Wookiee face gave nothing away. "After you lot go home... you can’t come back. You can watch, but there won’t be any way in."
"Unless..." Danger prompted.
"What, you’re going to make me say it all?"
"Completeness is important," said Danger sanctimoniously.
"Fine." Draco sighed. "Unless two more of you decided to stay here. Live here. That would be enough magic, enough souls, for the worlds to be connected by a permanent portal. People could come and go in dreams as long as there was a living body for them to borrow here, or some kind of magical substitute at home, but that wouldn’t last much beyond a day..."
"Hold up," said Ron, raising a hand. "Are you saying all it would need for us to be able to come and go anytime we want is two more people to stick around here? Give up what we had at home, keep these..." He gestured to his body. "And then we’d have basically an open door?"
Draco nodded reluctantly. "I guess so. But I don’t want anyone else to suffer for my mistake..."
Hairy and Chinna burst out laughing at the same moment.
Are you kidding? Hairy roared. Him? Suffer? He was over there three minutes ago telling Neenie how cool he thinks this is!
"Tshil yksit tu," Chinna added, pointing to Neenie, who blushed as all eyes turned to her. "Tshia lwai snoosh iwusap rinsiss."
Neenie got the blush under control. "Besides," she said, coming forward to take Draco’s hand. "We’re sort of important if the story’s going to continue from here. And I’m not leaving you behind." This last was spoken in a tone of such quiet intensity that Sirius nearly recoiled from it.
"If you’re sure..." Draco faltered.
Sirius snorted. "Have you ever known your sister to change her mind?" he asked. "About anything?"
"Come to think... no."
"There’s your answer." Sirius held out his arms, and Neenie ran to him for a hug. "We’ll miss you, Princess," he murmured into her hair. "But we’ll be back for visits. Maybe bring a few friends."
An idea teased at the back of his mind. He caught it and tucked it away for further examination later, as his attention at the moment was taken up by expanding his hug to include Drake. "You," he said mock-scoldingly, "have been strange from the moment we brought you home. Can’t you even die normally?"
Drake cocked his head to one side and considered this. "No," he said finally.
"Well, at least now we know that." Sirius tightened his arms around both of them and glanced over at Danger. Her face was accepting, even serene, with only a trace of sadness around her eyes. What’s with you? he signed, freeing one hand to do it. I’d have thought you’d be more upset.
They’ll be back for visits, and we can see them anytime we like, Danger signed in response. And Remus and I have been talking. We may be due for an extended vacation...
Sirius grinned. The idea in the back of his mind was starting to take better shape.
"Houkum wigetuex playndist oomum?" Chinna was demanding of Ron. "Yoon osh iwoan tliekit!"
Ron spread his hands. "Just lucky, I guess?"
Chinna growled at him.
Sirius let Drake and Neenie go; the latter hurried over to Hairy to hug him tightly, while the former squeezed Threelo’s hand, then grinned at Emtoo and levitated her off the ground, making her shriek.
"Really, Master Drake, I must insist you put my counterpart down immediately," Threelo said in his prissiest tones.
"Oh?" Drake lifted Emtoo a little higher, eliciting a rising series of beeps. "What’re you going to do about it if I don’t?"
Threelo lifted his nonexistent nose. "I shall be forced to summon my minions in her defence."
"You have minions?" Drake chuckled. "This I have to see."
Emtoo flipped upside down. Her wheels spun wildly as she screamed in indignation.
"Minions!" called Threelo sharply. "Goma dumia!"
The music stopped with a discordant clang as every Ewok in earshot converged on Threelo.
"Oh," Drake said. "Those minions." He looked around. "Hairy, catch!"
Hairy yelped and flung his arms around Emtoo as she came flying at him, still upside down and still screaming. Drake took off running, a horde of Ewoks in hot pursuit. The little group near the path, as well as the rest of the Rebel pilots, fell about laughing.
"Ah yes," Dumbledore said, chuckling as he watched Drake dodging Ewok charges. "The news I wished to tell you all. It regards Lord Voldemort, and in a smaller capacity Lucius Malfoy. Who I believe has joined us, if only for a short time."
Everyone turned to follow Dumbledore’s line of sight.
A silver-white Malfoy glared at them all.
Ron laughed. "Guess Luna really did shoot him up, then," he said.
"Not exactly," said Dumbledore. "At the time Luna’s marksmanship disposed of the body of Darth Malius, your dream was still a dream, and Lucius had been returned to his own body in our world at an earlier moment in any case. However, he was concerned for his master, and therefore sought out Lord Voldemort’s bedchamber. He arrived there just in time to see the results of angering a Wookiee come to pass on his master’s recumbent body." Dumbledore inclined his head towards Hairy. "Severus informs me the shock appears to have brought on a fatal heart attack."
The laughter from the small group redoubled in strength.
Are you telling me he’s dead? Hairy growled in gleeful shock. Actually dead, this time?
"Doan vorketuh ork ruk sez," Chinna warned. "Owman idui ahflef toofid?"
"Severus was good enough to destroy a certain snake Inferius with Fiendfyre before he reported to me," Dumbledore said mildly. "I believe it is entirely possible there are none left."
Hairy threw back his head and roared. Chinna and Neenie shrieked in unison. "Yes!" Ron shouted, pumping his fist to the sky. "YES!" Threelo clapped his metal hands, while Emtoo and Sirius did a dance of joy together, and Danger merely closed her eyes and sighed in bliss.
Drake came limping up, an Ewok still clinging to his leg. "What’re you all so happy about?" he asked.
This just set everyone off again. By the time Drake had been brought up to date, Danger and Dumbledore were starting to look nervous.
"We need to get this portal solidified now," Danger warned. "If we lose it, I don’t think we could get it back again from this side."
"Where do we sign?" Ron asked, twirling his blaster around one finger.
"You’ve been waiting all your life to be able to do that, haven’t you?" Neenie said with a sigh.
"Pretty much." Ron grinned at her. "Got a problem with it, Your Worship?"
"We’ll discuss it later." Neenie came forward at Dumbledore’s wave and laid a hand against one of the white pillars of the arch. Ron placed his hand on the other, holstering his blaster first, and Dumbledore and Danger both began to chant softly.
Emtoo pressed close to Sirius, making the little croon that Sirius recognized as both pure droid and his daughter in awe. "We’ll be home soon, sweetheart," he whispered, patting her domed head. "Mama Letha’s waiting for us there, and Moony."
A questioning whistle.
"Oh, I’m sure we’ll come back to visit. Probably every few days. And I thought of something... remind me to bring it up when we get home."
Emtoo beeped twice, then rolled forward as Neenie and Ron took their hands away from the portal. Both were white-faced and shaking, and Hairy and Chinna rushed forward to support them.
"Is that it?" Neenie asked, leaning gratefully against Chinna. "Did we do it?"
"We did it," Danger confirmed with a smile. "Our worlds are now linked. Anywhere you or Drake want to set up one of these, just outline it with your lightsaber and say â€˜Ianua apparere!’ Concentrating with the Force, obviously."
"Obviously," Drake agreed with only a hint of sarcasm.
"Stop that." Danger made a face at him. "â€˜Ianua disapparere’ and a slash across will dissolve one. And any time you need amusement and want to watch us for a little while, that’s outlining a box and â€˜Fenestrum apparere’."
"Any time?" Neenie asked, her eyebrows lifted.
Danger sighed deeply. "I hadn’t realized until this very moment what a blessing this will be," she remarked to Dumbledore. "A full quarter of the smart-arsery in my house is about to vanish overnight."
"Never fear, I am sure those who are left will take up the slack admirably," Dumbledore assured her. "Now, I should return home. There will be much that needs my attention. I bid you good night."
"Good night," everyone called as Dumbledore stepped through the portal and vanished.
"I don’t know about anyone else, but I need to get back for a while," Sirius said. "Make sure for myself that Letha’s not dead. That scared me a lot."
"I don’t much care for the disembodied look," Danger said. "Anyone else coming?"
We will, said Hairy in a rumbling roar, Chinna snuggled under his arm. We need to discuss a few things.
"I believe we should be leaving as well," said Threelo, indicating himself and Emtoo. "Metal can be so... confining."
The fleshly members of the party sniggered.
Emtoo beeped huffily and rolled into the portal. Threelo, Hairy, and Chinna followed in quick succession. Danger winked at Sirius and drifted across the threshold.
Sirius took one last look around Hogwor... though not my last forever, if the others like my idea... then started to step forward.
"Padfoot, wait a second?" Neenie called from behind him.
Sirius half-turned. His foot snagged on something, and he tripped, falling backwards into the portal between worlds.
Oh, now that’s graceful.
He braced himself for a hard landing, but instead two pairs of arms cushioned his fall. He looked up into Remus’ and Harry’s faces. "Thanks," he panted, getting his feet under him and standing up.
On the screen, Ron and Drake were snickering. Neenie gave them both a glare, then turned to face the portal. "Never mind, Padfoot," she said. "I’ll ask you the next time I see you."
"Works for me," Sirius called aloud, and heard a faint echo of his voice drift from the other side of the portal a moment later.
That could get creepy.
Drake ignited his lightsaber. "Ianua disapparere," he said carefully, slashing the green blade across the silver doorway, making it vanish. "Now, who’s up for some fun?"
Sirius chuckled and turned away from the screen. They’ll be fine.
"Dadfoot!" shrieked a deliriously happy voice.
Sirius braced himself, but all Meghan did was run up to him at full speed, stop dead just before she cannoned into him, hug him delicately, and run away again giggling.
"So it’s true, then," Harry said, watching Meghan go. "You never get to understand girls. Any girls."
"Sad but true." Sirius sighed dramatically. "We understand only as much as they want us to."
"I’d debate that," said a much-missed voice from behind him. "You understand far less than I want you to, about almost every subject under the sun."
Sirius turned around and let his wife know how much he’d hated thinking she was dead.
"About that, however," Aletha said when she could breathe again, "I will admit you know quite a lot."
"Thank you." Sirius looked around the little cinema and decided there’d never be a better time. "Everyone, can I get your attention for a second?"
Neville and Ginny looked up from their discussion, Meghan from her dance, and Remus and Danger from their examination of Harry’s hands.
"Brace yourselves, people..." Sirius waited for the obligatory grasping of objects and tensing of muscles. "I’ve had an idea."
"Do tell," said Aletha, seating herself in the front row.
"Well, as we all heard, the war’s over, or going to be soon enough. Won’t be so much call for Aurors anymore. So I think I need a new line of work, and I was hoping I could convince you lot to help me with it." Sirius looked up at the screen, where Drake was teaching the Ewoks how to do a conga line. "What do you think of starting a dream world tour guide service?"
The "for now" is because there will be an epilogue and because there might--MIGHT--be a sequel. Depends on how inspired I get. Thank you all for reading!