TMI_kiss-closeup

Someone To Run To (21/32)


Chapter Twenty-One, In Which I Remember and Forget


 

It began like this: no sooner had my friends gone flying back from me, the dishes and the crockery breaking as the table splintered for feet around me, then did Severus come rushing from the head table. I half thought he must have flown to me, or, at the very least, leapt the head table to reach me as fast as he did. Or maybe not. I sat wide-eyed on the bench, the only one which had not suffered from my rage, in stunned silence.

Then he reached me, just as the noise reached me, and put his hand on my shoulder. I became aware all at once of the stares and the pain in my chest, like I couldn't breathe at all. Severus tried to say something – I don't remember what – and tried to see what was the matter, for something was clearly the matter when a girl sends half her house scrawling across the hall. But I interrupted him, just asking that he take me to the infirmary. I'd three broken ribs, which none of the normal potions or spells could heal with my little baby, now at the end of its first trimester, still so small within me. Madam Pomprey was only just able to wrap them like Muggles do and apply a plaster of comfrey before "my friends" showed up.

Severus was speaking to Madam Pomprey behind the curtain when they showed – Ron, of course, all but frothing at the mouth; Hermione, who looked torn between scandalized and reluctantly pleased; Ginny, whose contemplative look I only later understood when she demanded to be my bridesmaid on pain of bat-bogey; and, oddly enough, Neville, who was silent throughout the initial yelling – and started demanding once more to know what I was taking, that I'd agree to marry their hated DADA teacher, and if they could send some along to Voldemort, because, given the strength of it, he'd be sure to turn around and start doing charity concerts for sick, elderly Muggles on it.

Quite naturally, Ron was the most vocal of the bunch. "You're actually marrying that slimy git?" he repeated. "I mean, actually, truly, marrying the guy?"

Slipping stiffly off the bed, moving gingerly as possible, "For once, The Daily Prophet is telling the truth." Admitting it was, somehow, not as joyful a moment as I would have wanted. I blamed it on my aching ribs. I'd have to figure out how I managed whatever it was I did and try not to hurt myself doing it again. I closed my eyes as I steadied myself, and a vision, brief, of glowing amber eyes – a cat's glowing, round eyes with a thousand shades of liquid gold and sticky amber that ended in deep, fathomless black pools that could have been the vastness of space itself or two chasms opening into the abyss; I felt safe looking into their unknowing and all-knowing depths – and of a tower, lightening-struck and bathed in sickly green light, into which the most heartless of laughs echoed from up the dark and winding stair. I might have fallen if I hadn't still been clutching the railing.

"I don't see why," Par began, hissing from my pocket.

"Your nestmatesss do not."

"Like your bond-mate."

Blinking somewhat frantically, I tried to regain my bearings. I had to have hit my head in addition to breaking my ribs, though I couldn't remember doing so. Couldn't remember anything I did that could have broken my ribs, either, but they were broken, so who knew? Maybe I had. Why else would strange dreams start to afflict me when I wasn't dreaming?

Hermione somehow managed to shush Ron long enough to get her words in. "You're marrying Professor Snape. Of your own volition. On Thursday next." I nodded feebly, pulling Paracelsus from my pocket and, as carefully as I could, lifting him to where he could wrap himself like a necklace around me. Then, exasperatedly, she continued, "Why did you tell us?"

I turned and looked at her slowly, giving her a look that seemed to say, "This." What I actually said was, "I love him, Hermione. He asked me to marry him and I said yes. But, for some reason, I didn't think you'd understand."

"Unders-" Ron began, to be shortly halted as Ginny stamped her foot upon his. The look on his face really made me wish Colin was there to take his picture, such an interesting mix between brief pain, deep disgust, and mild nausea was it. It reminded me why I'd feared to tell them in the first place. The rest of the world, who would rattle their spears at me, I could handle; Voldemort, who'd surely find a way to kill my baby if he knew, I could handle in my way; but my friends? I must be co-dependant or something like that because, for the life of me, I could not bring myself to seriously say all the things I wanted to say to Ron now, most of which were oaths I'd learned from Sus.

"Is this what you want, Harry?" Hermione looked me in the eyes. There was a small gash above her left eye from some flying crockery. This alone near broke my resolve. I could hear Severus nearby, still talking with the nurse; his mere presence calmed me more then I'd like to admit, "What you really want?"

Emphatically, "Yes." I tried not to clutch at my chest.

She sighed deeply, then grabbed my shoulders. "If it makes you happy, Éléonore, then I'm happy for you."

I could have burst with happiness, not just from the understanding I'd not expected but from her non-use of a computer cop-up name, but instead I settled for a heartfelt, "Sorry," and felt my eyes begin to tear. Merlin curse these hormones! I'd have hugged her if my ribs hadn't hurt so much…

) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) (

Cold late night so long ago, when I was not so strong you know
A pretty man came to me – never seen eyes so blue

) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) (

They hurt now, as Bellatrix's iaceo tossed me into the large, gilded mirror and the brick wall behind it. It'd been three painful days before the comfrey plasters had healed my broken ribs, during which I, being me, still managed to catch the snitch out from under Draco's nose in the first Quidditch. What? It's not like I could have told them I managed to break my own bones – someone had tried to curse me with a necklace that had cost me my veteran Chaser; I wasn't about to tell anyone I was too injured to play a game, or that I was pregnant, not yet – and, besides, I wanted to play one game as captain before I had to lay down my broom for most the season, having grown rather to large to make loop-de-loops in the air comfortable. Not that it was comfortable, mind, that last practice where my team-mates were more then a little uncomfortable with the fact the Gryffindor captain would shortly be marrying the Head of Slytherin House, but, still, not matter how much Severus said that I should be careful and that if anything happened to me or the baby because I'd chosen to play a game, so help me Merlin I was going to never hear the end of it. I thought it was just because he wanted to make sure Slytherin won the cup this year and told him so; he'd the dignity, at least, to look somewhat sheepish at that. I feared the whole time I was flying that something bad would happen and it took most the fun out of it…

Still, I was not, however, looking forward to another three uncomfortable days of wearing comfrey plasters because Skele-Grow might hurt the baby. "Glantius," I shouted at my dear cousin Trixie from my pained place on the floor, and several dozen shards of silver-backed glass rose into the air and shot with lightening speed towards the Death Eater. Some missed, of course, but most plunged into her already torn and bloodied robes, creating new wounds there. One even managed to scratch at her face so that a line of blood clouded one eye; I'd already blown her bone-white mask to pieces and was bleeding atop them now.

"Ah, ickle baby's learned some new tricks," she said, almost pleased.

"I try," I told her in return, pulling myself to my bare feet (my slippers lost somewhere in the confusion) and feeling the glass crackle and snap under my feet as I cast a stupefy. It missed and left a burn mark in the wall behind my favourite lady Death Eater…

) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) (

I could not run away. It seemed we'd seen each other in a dream
It seemed like he knew me. He looked right through me

) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) (

Severus and I were separated as we left our rooms. He went ahead, as screams pierced the air, caused no doubt by crucios on the inn's Muggle staff and the other guests. I darted down the hall in the opposite direction and, with a quick and quiet spell, stole into the room Alycone and Fleur's sister, Gabrielle were sharing. Both girls were curled up very tightly on the couch therein, wrapped in sheets stolen from their beds. Of Gabrielle, only ten, nothing could be seen more than the top of her silvery tresses and her grey, frightened eyes; Alycone, wand in hand, was only a little more visible. "You to okay?" I asked in the barest whisper. Both girls nodded the affirmative. "Come on, then; let's find the others." Luckily, the Vettriano, which Ron and Neville were sharing, was right across the hall, and I was able to get the girls across the hall without seeing anyone. It was a highly masculine room, the effects only somewhat marred by the fluffy pink robes Hermione and Ginny had pulled on over their nightclothes sitting on either side of the pale-faced Oliver. The Muggle-born had jumped to her feet as I swung the door open, the only one of the group of age, and nearly hit me with a compes – The Binding Curse – before seeing who it was. As I pulled my two charges quickly in behind me, Oliver too stood up and rushed to his sister, grabbing her tightly, and Gabrielle too, simply because she was latched onto the former.

Locking the door behind me, Hermione turned towards me, "Ginny and I just brought Oliver in here – the gardens were burning outside our window – and were about to go for the others, but we heard someone in the hall."

"Yeah, that was me." I was suddenly very conscious of the fact that, while the others were in sleep pants or long nightgowns, all I had on under my robe, which didn't even come to me knees, was a camisole and pair of knickers. And a pair of inn-issue slippers, which, once again, probably said more about the situation then mere words could. "Thanks for getting everyone here – I was worried I'd have to go all over looking for you guys. Still have Paracelsus?" I'd given Ginny the Runespoor to baby-sit on my wedding day; the Weasley held up her wrist and showed the three heads sleeping soundly around it. "Can you stay here with them-?"

"Stay?" cut in Neville, who had his wand in hand but looked very torn about needing to use it, "What about you?"

"All the Order's been called away – it's just us and Severus here," I explained, drawing my cotton robe more tightly around me though the night was far from cool, "and Hermione's the only one of age. You've just got to keep that lot," I inclined my head towards the Caudwells and Gabrielle, "safe. Contact the Ministry if you can: it's too far for a nuntius, but there's got to be a way."

Ron, who'd not said much to me, perhaps from shock, perhaps because we'd actually won our game against Slytherin (proving that I wasn't a traitor, in his eyes, to the Light), this past week, but he said something now. "But what about you, Harry?"

I would have said something about that infernal name if, well, there weren't Death Eaters nearly at our door. Instead, I merely shrugged. It'd never occurred to me that I shouldn't fight. My dear friends, however much they'd trained for war, had never been soldiers. I wasn't a soldier either, but a hero is but a glorified soldier, right? No, no, that wasn't right. But, whatever it was, that was me. "Death Eaters, here – it's kind of my thing. Vit la Lumière, avance Maquisard, You know."

I was already shutting the door behind me when I heard one of them – I'm not sure who – whisper, "Be careful."

) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) (

"Come on home, girl," he said with a smile. "You don't have to love me yet; let's get high awhile.

"But try to understand, try to understand. Try, try, try to understand I'm a magic man."

) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) (

"Severus?" I asked, pulling off my school uniform and pulling on something more casual. It was beginning to get uncomfortably tight; I'd have to get maternity clothes soon. Ick. Which meant, indubitably, Fleur would end up taking me on another shopping trip, which would be most certainly painful for a variety of reasons I don't even want to begin to think about if I don't have to. "How do like the name Claudia Séléné?"

From his laboratory, "Poppy said it's a girl, then?"

Buttoning my shirt, I headed out of the bedroom towards his voice, "No. I don't even think I want to know. I was just thinking. Maybe Lys or Pénélope or Eugène or Lucas even."

"Not Lucas – that was my great-grandfather's name."

"Okay then," as I finished the last button and looked up at him. "Any other forbidden family names?"

After a moment's thought, "William."

"No William Snape's either. I can do that. I'm rather attached to the name Claudia Séléné at the moment, though, so I hope it's a girl. I suppose I could think of a boy's name, but girls are so much easier, what with most guy names being stuffy or stupid. Who was the Emperor who ruled after Septimius Severus?"

"Caracalla."

Wrinkling my nose at that, "Not Severan names, then."

"Whatever you want," he told me, continuing with his work. Paracelsus was watching him from around one of the floating candelabra, hanging over the potion that would, shortly, be given to me to keep The Dark Lord out of my mind.

"You should," said Par from above.

"Call the nestling."

Sus finished, "Éléonore, Mère."

I looked at the Runespoor strangely, "Why would I do that?"

"You've many namesss, Mère, and hardly use any of them."

"Yesss, but Éléonore isss the one name I use."

"Which meansss it'sss special."

"Nestlingsss must have special namesss."

"Like Paracelsusssss."

I proceeded to ignore the snakes from there. "I'm heading up to the tower for a Q&A session; I don't suppose you want to knock me out to keep me from going?" I sighed at his look, "I thought not. Well, into every life some rain must fall. On the scale of things, I suppose this is only a spring shower, but still… See you tonight; if I don't show – well, don't suspect the worse, but something very unpleasant."

Quite blasé, "Will a swarm of locus do?"

"I was thinking something more along the lines of a sleepover, but that's pretty painful sounding as well." Resigned to this particular doom, having followed the earlier ones of Transfiguration (wherein I very nearly turned my whispering Parvati and Lavender, the latter of whom I would have considered doing this upon for the looks she was giving Ron when he was so totally "taken" by Hermione, for all the bickered, already having made plans to go to Slugy's Christmas Party together, into slugs – we were working on vertebrate to invertebrate transfiguration today) and Herbology (which included several Slytherins, who seemed determined to stare at me until they figured out why their Head of House might wish to have a relationship of this short with me) and the, of course, delightful conversation with Dumbledore (who seemed more shocked at the expediency then truly concerned about my marriage, and gave a speech with a great deal about how today was my day, and that my mountain was waiting, so I better be getting on my way, never mind the fact that he'd had McGonagall send me up to meet him after my Transfiguration class), I grabbed a large roll of parchment and headed up to the tower.

He snorted, but continued before I headed out the door, "This should be finished tomorrow morning."

I stopped and turned, setting the parchment down again and nearly clattered into the cauldron where the glorious protection ink, as clear as water but as frothing as the Black Lake before a storm. "In time for the full moon… Moonrise is at six-oh-five tomorrow."

"I'm not going to convince you to wait until the next full moon so we can test this first, am I?"

Laughing, "Since when have you been able to convince me of anything?" I remembered all his early protestations, and how I'd all but forced him to let himself love me. I turned instead from the magical pot and gave him a kiss on the cheek, and headed back for the door.

"The things I do for you, Éléonore."

I smiled at him one last time before leaving. "You can't help yourself. You love me too much."

"At least," he said dryly, glaring up at the Runespoor, who was now hissing out The Atomic Guillotine's breakthrough hit "Kill the Kangaroo," which, not being his usual love song, rather surprised me, "I know the feeling's mutual."

I grabbed the parchment from the countertop and bounded up the stairs with a smile on my face, then a grimace as I grabbed my side. Evil, strange magics throwing my friends about and breaking my ribs! I'm so going to find whatever magic did that, stop it, and keep it from doing it again. Ribs that cannot be healed right away are no fun. All the time I've broken bones, had basilisk teeth imbedded in my arm, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, they were nothing compared to this. I'm soooo glad I'm not a Muggle and have to deal with this all the time. But, then again, if I was a Muggle I probably wouldn't hurt myself all the time. Nonetheless, I made it up to the tower without incident and, luckily, knew the password.

The common room quieted as I entered. It was after dinner, most people there doing homework or chatting lazily by the fire as I had done in other days, maybe better days, when Voldemort wasn't reborn and I'd not known of the prophesy that tied to that of my parents' killer, my inevitable murderer or victim. Maybe I should call my child Destinée or Marvelle or whatever their masculines were, if that's what they wanted from me. In silence, I watched all of my friends and housemates, people I'd known for years, who'd called me a heroine when I stood against Umbridge the Destroyer and a wonder when I won on the pitch and a cheat when my name, unbidden, poured forth from a wooden goblet filled with blue fire and a whore when a thoughtless joke went too far and a brilliant when I was what they wanted. And now, what were they calling me behind my back, when they thought I couldn't hear them? I didn't yet know. Whispers of "Imperious" and "Traitor" and, most devastatingly for a Gryffindor, "Slytherin," undoubtedly would soon follow, only heightened after Fleur, one weekend, discovered my "condition" and resolved to provide me with the proper clothing for it. Ah, Fleur – she, like Tonks, was predictable in her own way. The thought of Tonks, as I was pinning up, the parchment to the bulletin board that took up most of the space between two windows on one wall, caused me to nearly smile with the devilish thought of seeing that my favourite werewolf and metamorphmagus were "forced" into sharing one of the most romantic rooms available, whichever the front desk said was the best. I'd so much to this coming week – get in contact with Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons and finalize the room assignments (and hope the fifteen rooms I'd booked, by mail, along with the Belle Epoch room, would be enough), the menu, the flowers, and whatever else needed finalizing; try to figure out which one of my robes I wanted to wear for the ceremony; do all my homework, for this weekend and next week, so I'd not have to worry about it after said ceremony; find a way to make sure whoever Voldemort had trying to kill me with opal necklaces et al didn't succeed in the next seven days; and, in general, find a way to, without inciting my own murder, tell all of those who watched so dearly my life the truth of it though I shouldn't have to explain to them anything, but the life of a hero, or whatever it was I was, is one of glass and cameras however much I like to pretend otherwise, and, while I might have found safety in the dungeon rooms of the person who'd taken me in when I was scarred and hurt and afraid, not even the solid stone and earth of underground sanctuaries could hold up to that unfaltering stare forever, - I really didn't want to have to do this. But I had to, or else I might go mad with the whisperings.

I finished pinning the giant parchment – an overblown copy of the article, from which I'd stricken all the lies and falsehoods, and highlighted the most salient parts – and turned to face my accusers…

) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) (

Winter nights we sang in tune; played inside the months of moon
Never think of never. Let this spell last forever

) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) (

I knew, even as I cast it, that stupefies weren't going to cut it here. I rushed at her, shouting, "Culteris!" as I went, but a judicious use of shield and running backward kept her from becoming anything but slightly winded. Still, it drew her away from the Vettriano, where my friends were, and keeping them apart was a good thing.

"The Dark Lord," she said, blasting a hole through a wall on the left side into a room of dark reds and darker blacks and dashing through it, "is quite interested to know why the so-called Chosen One," (this part she snarled, her lips curling in such a way as to show the monstrosities that, even amongst the British, were her teeth), "would marry one of his Inner Circle."

"Velleity," I said, casting a proficio around me to protect myself from the artafyrus I'd cast on the furniture she'd animated to attack me while speaking. "That and he's quite dishy."

Trixie gave a snort of derision as she coughed amongst the smoke and dashed through the open French doors. Leaping backwards from the fames, she dashed to the highest part in the gardens outside she could reach – at this moment, a small, round table on a stone patio, surrounded by arms of junipers and a mat of dark grass from which the heads of yellow and burgundy asters rose on spindly stems; trailing comforters and curtains, pulled out of place by the animalised furniture, flailed and smouldered below her – and snarled, "Adustus. Torqueo. Adustus," at me from across the line of burning, still semi-animated and writhing furniture. My shield held, but I felt it crackle and groan under the strain. It was too large extinguish and I couldn't just go around, not when I could loose this woman, this torturer of innocents, and allow her the chance to hurt others more.

So, strengthening my shield, I took the first option that came to mind and, ran through the line of fire, jumping up onto the leather cushions of a small settee that puffed a greasy, flesh-like smell as I landed that made me gag and almost loose my shield. As it was, when I hopped over the low back of the couch, my bare feet, already cut by slivers of mirror that were, no doubt, still embedded therein, felt raw and singed.

I cast a freezing charm at her, but Trixie swayed out of the way so that ice crystals formed on the leaves of the tree above the Death Eater, escaping my spell but causing the table on which she stood to teeter and crash. "Why are you here, Trixie? Angry you didn't get an invitation? What can I say, just because you're my cousin, of sorts, doesn't mean I'd overlook the fact that you tried to kill me and make you a bridesmaid. Maybe if you were younger and prettier – Azkaban did awful things to your skin – or maybe if I'd a domineering mother-in-law planning things," I ducked a demitimens – the Mindbender Hex – of brilliant orange, and sent a confringo her way for the trouble. It shattered the narrow trunk of the tree-standard she stood beside, but the iaceo that soon followed caught her perfectly, slamming her into another, "but I don't, so… expelliarmus."

Dazed by the blow the giant planter had given her, Bellatrix was unable to keep hold of her wand – long and narrow, apparently of blackthorn – and it flew willingly into my hand. Raising one of my bared legs, I snapped the sick and twisted thing over my knee – and, yes, it hurt horribly, but it needed to be done. I'd probably have a red mark for days. I mean, really. This was my honeymoon. Tomorrow, simply because today was Thursday, was Friday and, like our after-school-hours wedding might indicate, was not, as we'd be back in school – me learning, him teaching. People weren't supposed to get cut up and cursed at or burned on their honeymoons – unless, of course, that was their thing – and this was gong to be fun to heal from afterwards, I can already see. Presuming I live. I generally do – presume, that is.

I walked over to the woman, older than my parents would be, older than Sirius and my Severus and Remus, who was struggling to her feet, eyes obviously streaming, the world spinning around her because of my lucky curse and the fortuitous tree behind her. This woman was responsible for so much death and destruction… and, yet, so was I. Because I lived fifteen years (to the day) ago, Voldemort had been reborn. Because Voldemort was reborn, his Death Eaters walked again. Because they walked, innocents died. A=D, or something of that sort. I wondered, not idly, if it was my fate to become this woman to destroy her. Shrugging this off, I was only a foot or so from this Black scion when, with gravelly determination, she struggled to her hands and knees in attempt to stand.

Shoeless, and admittedly not the strongest, I walked, quite calmly, up to this woman with dark Black hair and the straight Black nose and the haunted look of Blacks' who'd spent too long in Azkaban and kicked her in the stomach. Hard enough to be felt in my already burned and battered feet, and in her coward's stomach as she fell back to the ground. "Bitch." She struggled to her feet again, and, with the same foot, I kicked her once more. "I hate you." Trixie rose to her knees, cradling one arm to her side as she sent a mouthful of bloodied spittle in my direction. The black-and-red furniture continued to burn, with a slight sickening squeal, in the room behind us. I kicked at her again-

Her hand caught my ankle, twisting me around. I went sprawling on the ground for the nth time that night, and was seriously getting tired of it. My head felt like it'd cracked open, but, when I pulled my self as best I could upright, I couldn't see my brains spilling out of my skull (or my wand nearby, having flown from my hand as I crashed), and so, with little other thought, scrambled to my feet, ignoring the throb in the back of my head…

I'd never seen the stars above look as beautiful as they did then, bathed in the light of a nearly-full moon and veiled with the smoke of paradise burning…

Trixie was aiming for something nearby– I figured it to be my wand – as she rushed, unsteadily, to a spot to my right. I couldn't even see what she was looking at, so I did the next best thing, and did distinctly ungrateful tackle that brought both of us tumbling to the ground. For a moment, we were both dazed. Then she turned and pinned me beneath her, our legs a tangle, trying to hold me down with one hand as she reached for my want with the other. I don't know how I managed it – maybe the same was I managed to break my own ribs, which, by the way, were now achingly painful and choking me more then this ineffective thing Trixie was doing, whatever you called it – but, somehow, I was able to punch her hard enough to make her loose her grip – most likely from surprise – and scuttle out from under her.

"What are you going to do?" Bellatrix asked, her voice somewhat whistling as she spat out her words, one by one, as if coherency took effort. Maybe she'd jarred a tooth, or something or other, when she'd been thrown by my hand time and time again to the ground, "kill me? Well, I've got news for you, little Harry Potter," her voice grew stronger, more lucid, "Bellatrix Lestrange is not going to be killed by a little half-blood tramp! You think with luck and a few odd spells you can destroy me? Destroy us! We are everywhere – and we are strong, stronger then you or that bird-brained twit Dumbledore can imagine. You think you've cost us something, taking Snape from our ranks? The Dark Lord has known of his treachery since before you were born, harlot, and has servants in the very walls of your beloved Hogwarts. None can stop The Dark Lord's rise!" Perhaps I'd have been more impressed by her campaign spiel if she'd not been bleeding and only up on one knee as she gave it. It's unlikely though, and so I did the only thinking thing I could do before making a lunge for my wand: I corrected her.

"My name is Éléonore. Éléonore Snape."

The Death Eater saw what I was going to do a moment before I did it, and it was all I could do to hope and pray and whatever else there was one could do that I would reach my wand, my holly-and-phoenix wand, before she could, because I knew as surely as I did anything else that whatever spell she would cast from it would not be pleasant, and if she chose not to kill me it would only be so Voldemort could do so himself.

I swear, I know what people say. I've read hundreds, if not thousands, of books. I have heard the words of sages and mages, and everyone else for that matter. I know they say, in their hallowed halls, about killing. But, the fact of the matter is, I was not going to die, not when things were finally working out for me, not today, not ever, and the mere fact that she was going to try to hurt me – and, therefore, my baby – was enough to incense me beyond reason. There were other spells I could have cast, other Dark, but still lesser, spells.

I reached my wand first and shoved the hand that tried to pull it from mine, with nails ragged and dirt-encrusted and what might have been dried blood beneath, away. I was stretched fully, face down, on the stone patio, wand at the end of my outstretched arm, the murderess beside me.

I twisted to face her and brought my wand to bear.

I spoke the curse:

"Advada Kedavara!"

And Bellatrix Lestrange, favourite of Lord Voldemort and scion of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Black, went blank-faced and cold with death…

) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) (

Summer over passed to fall; tried to realize it all
Mama says she's worried, growing up in a hurry

) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) (

"I don't know 'ow you could do this to me," Fleur bemoaned, spreading a wealthy of sticky-noted, high-gloss wedding magazines with French names across one of the wooden benches inside the Gryffindor girls' locker room before the game that Saturday morning. She wore an ice blue sundress with matching purse, an outfit that only one such as she could fail to mar by the two large canvas tote bags she carried with it. The magazines had come from one of these, and were shortly joined by colour swatches, handwriting samples, wedding service directories, a much-thumbed thesaurus, several yards of very similar tulle, and a measuring tape. "What am I supposed to accomplish with only a week to prepare?"

Ginny and Demelza were changing off to the side, while I, trying and largely failing to unknot my shoes (a spell keeping them knotted, I'm sure), was left to deal with Fleur all by myself. Well, not all by myself.

"She already got Sevie to pop the question," Tonks, looking like a crimson-and-gold candy-cane, replied from where she leaned against the lockers. "I think the work's half-done."

With a yank, I pulled off my shoe and threw it at the auror, giggling as she tried to dodge it and managed to trip over it instead. "Shouldn't you be doing something useful like, I dunno, working? Or helping me?"

"As far as the Ministry is concerned, I'm looking for new evidence of trolls in the West Country; Shacklebolt worked it out for me: Dumbledore wants someone watching out for you, at least for the next week. Thinks this news of you marrying Sevie dearest might cause some problems, like people wanting you dead more then usual."

I snorted, then threw my other shoe at her for good measure before going past her to my locker. "Call him that again, and I'll tell him you're calling him 'Sevie' now."

She raised her hands in defeat and went to the pile of cake samples balanced unsteadily atop the magazines. "You going to eat this?" I shook my head, pulling my jersey on as best I could without screaming in pain and unbuttoning my shirt underneath it, so as not to show the comfrey plasters, which would no doubt lead to questions I didn't want to have to answer. I heard a smack land on someone's hand.

"Yes, Alexandrie-Margaux is going to be eating these. With not even a week, she 'as to choose a cake, a colour combination, and invitations before 'eading out onto that field if anything's going to be finished on time!"

"Er," I said, wanting to go, "Arg!" instead from the way my shoulders did not like the way they had to move to get into the uniform's sleeves, "I'm pretty sure the inn's providing the cake." I'd expect it, for thirteen thousand galleons. "And dinner afterwards. We booked fifteen rooms, so those parts are taken care of too." Should I mention that that part was another twenty-two hundred galleons? I mean, think of the shoes you need for one hundred galleon plus a night rooms. I'm sure grasped the whatever-was-needed, this being the marriage of the multimillionaire Earl Dover (heir of the Prince fortune, et cetera et cetera et cetera) and myself, the multimillionairess Baronne de Calais (Girl-Who-Lived, Triwizard Champion, heiress to the Potier fortune, et cetera et cetera et cetera) and covered in both Royalty and Star and Stave, as well as every other remotely interested paper for pretty much everywhere I'd ever heard of. Ari had sent me a letter the night before saying that she was, primarily, happy for us but that if we ever tried something like this again without warning her first, we'd have hell to pay, and that I better be happy that she'd "stock photos" from the summer and, if I wanted new ones (and even if I didn't) I'd have to put up with Colin stalking me for two galleons an hour until he'd some good pictures of me to send off the papers with her damage control. Anyway, whether it was the whole "Dover/Calais," "teacher/student," or "former Death Eater/the Chosen One" angle, it was hot news, and it was really reminding me of all the other reasons besides the whole let's-not-encourage-Voldemort-to-try-to-kill-anyone-(specifically-me) angle I'd advocated before.

Taking a garishly orange cake box from Fleur, she conjured what appeared to be a plastic Spork, and dug in. "See, Ely's got it handled. Ick, carrot cake. Who'd want a carrot cake at a wedding, honestly, Fleur-flower? I worry about you sometimes."

"Call me 'Fleur-flower' again, Nymphadora, and I will tell Monsieur Remus what you told me ab-"

"You wouldn't dare," the witch in love with said werewolf exclaimed, her Spork and a square of green-iced devil's food cake fell to the ground.

"Wait, wait, wait, wait!" I all but shouted, "What did she say about Remus?"

Tonks ignored me completely, "Am I the only one who is seriously weirded out by the fact that she just called by pseudo-boyfriend 'mister'?"

"Well, she told me she 'ad this dream where-"

"Oooookay, enough of that-"

I knelt to strap on my leg guards, "I was listening–"

"And now, Ely darling, you're not."

"Nymphadora's right. We must choose a colour scheme-"

I pouted at them. "I want to hear about Tonks's dream."

From the corner, together, Ginny and Demelza called from the corner where they were waiting for me still, "We don't!"

"You never let me have any fun." I picked up my Firebolt and headed for the door.

"But we still 'ave not decided on a colour scheme. There are so many options. Eggplant, cornflower, and magenta are very 'in' this season. But there's also crimson-and-cloud, or young asparagus with-"

Opening the door to the pitch, I rushed outside to my freedom, ignoring Fleur's protestations…

) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) (

"Come on home, girl," Mama cried on the phone.

"Too soon to lose my baby yet; my girl should be at home!"

) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) (

The bedroom was a sea of candles red, black, and silver.

"I would, at this moment, like to reiterate my vehement opposition to this."

"Your opposition is so noted, but," I added, "you might have wanted to make your point clearer before making the potion for me in the first place."

He set down the vial that contained the ink that looked like water. "I believe I mentioned something at the time about that."

Moving to stand on my toes, I kissed him on the lips, soft and strong. "Yes, yes you did." I placed my arms around his neck, "but we decided risking a little bit of insanity was worth the price of keeping Voldemort out of my head. A wicked looking tattoo wouldn't be too bad either."

"Tattoos are, in my opinion, rarely a good idea when magic is involved."

I smiled at him. "Have I ever told you how much of a prude you can be?"

He raised an eyebrow, "Not in a few days, no." Severus's features then turned to one of mild disappointment. "Nor have I told you how reckless you are in some time. Something must be slipping."

"Love makes you do strange things," I told him, slipping away. "Besides, it's either this, or I tell you about the insanity going on around me. I mean, have you ever seen people planning for a wedding? Fleur is in complete overdrive, and Tonks is following her around like it's the greatest show on earth, my suffering. Or I could talk about what idiotic thing Ron's done to mess things up with Hermi-"

"Miss Delacour always struck me as the overzealous type."

Snorting, "And you aren't?"

"I don't know what you're talking about." The look in his eyes, however, indicated he did.

"I seem to recall a certain someone and an article in Potions Monthly."

Fervently, "You can hardly blame me, Éléonore, for finding the logical fallacy in-" He braked and spun his thoughts on me. "And I suppose you are free from all zealotry?"

I breathed on my nails and brushed them on my dressing gown, "Of course!" barely managing the words before sitting on the edge of the bed in pained laughter.

Almost immediately, he knelt down beside me. "I should have known when you said you were felling better you weren't telling me the full truth."

"What can I say? I learned from the best," I wheezed. Evil, evil, unexplainable magical bursts that can break ribs from inside you. Evil, never mind what Severus said about hormones and magic and whatnot. I didn't like it.

He rolled his eyes at me now, he very clearly and without doubt told me, "Slytherin House would have eaten you alive." I wasn't as certain, but I let it pass and lay back instead.

"Let's just get this over with – we don't want the candles burning out on us now, do we?"

Rolling his eyes again, he responded drolly, "They're charmed never to melt."

"The poor chandlers. Still, works well for us." I scooted back on the bed and sprawled there, breathing shallowly.

And, with that, he began.

"Omini," Severus began in his deep, rich voice. The candle smoke, which had been floating and flickering as smoke normally did, began to bend and weave over the bed, decidedly leaning towards me from the corners of the room. I leaned my head back languidly and breathed in the scents… catnip, camomile, hibiscus… I had read so many stuffy old books, I hoped it worked, "animi dormiendorum exsuscitate cum motis celeribusque lentis, sursisque deorsis, introrisque externis. Nunc tripudiis nobis vita saltate." Beleive it or not, I translated the spell into Latin myself. Awaken now all sleeping beings with movements fast and slow, upwards and downwards, inwards and out, it translated. Dance with us now in the dance of life.

He took the vial of clear, watery ink and, with a movement that, had it not been a semi-occult ritual, would have lead to very different things, he pulled back the hem of my robe and lifted my camisole enough to reveal my navel. Why the navel, you ask? It was the centre of the body, the tie to the magical centre… various things that brought up annoyingly long words like omphaloskepsis and… well, that was the main one. He, still chanting, or casting, or whatever you'd like to call it, poured the potion into my umbilicus, "Huc loco, a his verbis consecravit," it was surprisingly warm and viscous where it touched me, making me feel chill where it didn't, "hac se ipsi pandit, et ipsum tuae semitae datis." In this place, made holy by these words, this one opens herself to you, and gives herself to your path.

The ink felt warm and viscous where it touched me. "Ea oculis cernitis," Severus continued. See with her eyes. I shuddered as the potion, now (as I would later find out) shining as if the moon, several stories above us, was hitting it. "Ea osibus spiratis," Breathe with her mouth. "Se tui magica sumit," Make her magic yours. Almost spasmodically, I twitched as the ink seeped into my skin. "Te sibi magica sumis," Make your magic hers.

My eyes, while open wide, could suddenly see only blackness. I heard the growl of something – something dark and feline – and the rush of padded, clawed feet on a bed of pine needles. "Ea te anima sumitis," my fiancé said, his voice growing hoarser as the power washed through him. Semi-occult rituals, like full ones, were not exactly the best things to practice if you weren't a skilled, well-trained practitioner. This one, a mix between protective spell, amulet blessing, and sacred tattooing, leaned more towards the semi then the occult, but the danger was still there. Especially if I'd gotten it wrong. I heard the rush of warm summer breezes and the soft intake of breath that wasn't my own, and thought I'd done something most defiantly wrong. "Eam te anima sumitis." A heartbeat now, thrumming in tune to mine, joined the sounds I shouldn't have been hearing, and I would have screamed for him to stop if I a) could and, b) thought it would do any good. What dark force had we unleashed? Why hadn't I listened to Severus? Make her magic yours. Make your magic hers.

I felt my head lolling back, my back arching à la petite mort. I felt my mouth opening, and rather then a gasp, as he continued, "Tecum eam cunctum sumitis," a hint of a roar escaped me instead. It was a worse idea to stop in the middle of (semi)occult rituals then to let them come to their unwelcome conclusions… and, even in the midst of all this, I knew he wanted to – stop, that is.

"Tecum eam cunctum sumitis," he said one last time. Make her one with you. And I saw only blackness…

No, that was wrong. It was dark yes, as if I stood, looking out from the depths of a deep pine forest. Between the trunks, wide and flaky with age, the strangest light poured… Golden, late-summer light flickered my way. It looked like a field of ripe wheat, with heavy heads swaying in a gentle breeze. A handful of children played there, some with vibrant red heads, others with darkest of dark black. "Mac," the oldest, though still too young for Hogwarts, called, bending down to lift up a small boy, "Y'can't just wander off like that. What'd Mum say if we lost you?" She was dark haired, with my eyes and his nose…

"Sor-ry," the boy called Mac told her, and they ran to join the others.

"Ring around the rosy," they sung, grabbing hands and spinning in a circle, "a pocketful of posies. Ashes, ashes – we all fall down!" and down they tumbled into the rich field, all ten of them, laughing and giggling all around…

The scene changed. Now it wasn't golden light that entered, but pale and flickering, as if from a hundred candles – this room I knew. It was the bedroom I shared with Severus; dare I call it our room? I could see myself, spasming on the bed, the pale silver ink flowing under my skin, down my belly, and onto my right thigh. Severus was trying, futilely, to still my convulsions. "Éléonore!" he held my shoulders and shouted at me. "Éléonore! Say something! Please, please, say something…" I'd rarely seen him look so worried. It both touched and scared me. I wanted to reassure him, to tell him everything was fine, even if that was a lie – I don't know what was going on, not really, but I still wanted to tell him that I was going to be fine so he wouldn't worry so much, or press his lips to my forehead like he was doing now, which he only did when he was truly panicked.

And then the scene shifted again, and the light was pale again, like moonlight filtered through wavy glass. It was an old, old house I could tell, despite the paint job and pink-chequered curtains. There was a woman just out of sight, veiled in shadows, singing a lullaby – not well, mind, but soft and sweetly, "…close your eyes. Mother's right here beside you. I'll protect you from harm, you'll wake in my arms; guardian angels are near. So sleep on, with no fear; guardian angels are near…"As she sang, the woman came into view, and, if I could, I would have gasped. I had seen this woman, in pictures. I knew her. It was my mother; and she was rocking baby me in her arms… "Lullaby, and sleep tight," she sang to me, "Hush! My darling is sleeping on his sheets white as cream with his head full of dreams." Slowly, slowly, she set me down in the cradle beneath the window bathed in moonlight. I, even from my forest vantage point, felt awash in the love. Not what I felt when Severus held me – no, it was something quite different then that which, at last, I was familiar with – but something else. I wished I could have grown up knowing it, so I might learn its name. "When the sky's bright with dawn, she'll wake in the morning…"

It began to flicker again, quite against my will, to something farther back… to something that, while seeming utterly familiar, was nothing I'd ever seen with my waking eyes… I saw the tower bathed in the green light of death, and a face this time – Draco's face – pale and queasily victorious, as he pointed his wand towards the railing I could not immediately see… Before it could form too clearly between the trunks of the ancient pines, a growl caused me to do a one-eighty and take in the large black jaguar which, with amber eyes, was staring intently at me.

I am Niynhi, it said without speaking, I protect you.

And I woke up…

) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) (

"But try to understand, try to understand, try, try, try to understand.

"He's a magic man, Mama. He's a magic man."

) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) (

The night sky was so perfect, it was hard to tear away from it as I lay there, panting with pain and exhaustion, beside the corpse of the woman I'd killed. One minute, two? I don't know how long I stayed there, unmoving and unmovable. In the distance, I could hear the roar of flames and the shouted spells of other, not-dead Death Eaters.

"Rest is for the weary," I mumbled, pulling myself to my feet. The hem of my robe had risen, allowing moonlight to hit the faint, silvery jaguar tattoo down my outer thigh to glow ethereally. "Sleep is for the dead."

There were still so many left to fight…

But not here. By the time I'd pandered to the main house, Severus had taken care of those there – all just junior, untrained Death Eaters who had probably been his students just a year or two before. I ran as best I could to him, burying myself in his arms without thought to the aurors who were, rather then carting those he'd captured off, paying rather too much attention to us as they apparated in from parts unknown. "I want to go home," I told him, trying not to sob.

"We must make sure your friends are safe first; I thought I saw Bella-"

"They're in the Vettriano," I mumbled softly, "and I took care of Trixie."

He made a noise of understanding then, looking at me more clearly, lifted me off my feet and summarily took me back to the garden house. "Let's get your friends."

I rested, now in tears, against his shoulder. I barely noticed our arrival or his placing of me on the bed while he ascertained everyone else was alive.

"What's wrong with-?" one began.

My husband – and I was not so out of it not to feel a bit of inward thrill at the thought – replied gruffly, "She killed Bellatrix Lestrange."

I heard the sound of someone – Neville, I presumed, though I couldn't be sure – sinking into a chair. Ron, full of fire, "But that's a good thing. She was evil. She deserved to die."

"Perhaps. Perhaps Bellatrix was truly a monster with no chance of redemption, but Éléonore would be equally so if killing did not affect her so. The portkey's ready."

It was a very quiet group that arrived in the Hogwarts hospital wing a moment later.

) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) (

"Come on home, girl," he said with a smile. "I cast my spell of love on you, a woman from a child!
"But try to understand, try to understand. I'm a magic man!"

 
Chapter Twenty-Two,