The faint chime went off, letting me know that Jamie had awoken. We were trying to let her learn to put herself back to sleep, but I also didn't want her waking Lilyan up, if she wasn't able to do it. Lilyan wasn't happy when her little sister awoke her during the night, and neither were my wife and I. We were then forced to deal with two children awake and unhappy.
Anwen was curled up against me, her gentle hand resting over my heart, where it always was when she slept. The beauty of my wife when she was asleep never ceased to amaze me. Her face was relaxed, and without the tension that seemed to seep into her while she was awake, and her breath danced across my face. I didn't want to wake her, I just wanted her to be able rest for a change. I lifted her hand and slid out from under her, placing her hand on my pillow. She immediately curled herself into it, much as she had just been curled against me. I reached down to the floor and grabbed my shirt and pulled it on, and then found the thick socks that I too had discarded near the foot of our bed and pulled them onto my feet. James may have charmed the house to be more comfortable, but the floors were still frigid.
I went to my office, and sat down with a book of counter–curses that Anwen had purchased for me on a recent potions supplying trip to Monaco. I wanted to work with Harry and the other kids on some of this stuff during holiday. I could hear the charm still lightly pinging, telling me Jamie was still awake in her crib, but as of yet, she hadn't gotten loud enough to awaken her sister. Each of the children had different sounding alarms, to let us know if they had awoken during the night. It was like something Muggles used called a baby monitor, but Anwen had made it so we knew exactly which child it was that was awake; good thing too, when you had four children, none of whom were even three yet.
I sat there for a few minutes, reading and thinking about the Christmas holiday next week, when my great-great-Grandfather entered his portrait, which took me by surprise. It was the only family portrait that Anwen and I hadn't removed, because Albus had asked us to leave it here. I had no desire to speak with any of the other family members who had portraits when my parents lived here. Phineas' portrait had been in one of the bedrooms, but I had moved it in here. I didn't want him harassing any of my family. Wouldn't you know, I would have to be related to the least liked headmaster of Hogwarts. What the hell did he want at this time of night. He cleared his throat, clearly indicating that he wanted to speak, so I raised my head.
“Hello there Phineas, what can I do for you this evening?” I asked dryly. I really didn't want to listen to his tirade tonight.
“I've been sent by the Hogwarts Headmaster. That Potter boy had a dream that Arthur Weasley has been attacked. They found him and he is going to St. Mungo's. Harry and the Weasley children will be sent here forthwith,” he said. I immediately stood and went to the portrait. Why would what Harry dreamed be real?
“Was there anything else?”
“Nothing, but I have a great deal that I could say about what you and that Mudblood have done to this house...” I exhaled greatly.
“I don't have time for it tonight, and don't call my wife that.” I growled at him. “Please let Professor Dumbledore know that we'll be ready. I’ll awaken Molly and have her escort ready immediately,” I told him and then waved my hand to dismiss the portrait. I quickly went back to our bedroom, I had left my wand on the nightstand, and I needed to awaken Anwen to speak with Molly.
“Anwen, Anwen love, you need to get up honey,” I said, stroking her face. I hated that I had to awaken her, she hadn't been sleeping well since the twins were born. “Anwen darling, please, please wake up,” I said again, shaking her lightly. She rolled slightly and stretched.
“Sirius, I can't feed the kids yet, not enough milk, just give them a bottle,” she muttered, and then curled back up.
“Anwen, it isn't the babies. Arthur was attacked while on guard duty. You need to get up to talk with Molly. The kids are on the way back here from Hogwarts,” I told her. I watched as the sleep rushed from her body. She pulled herself up, and sat in the bed.
“Do you know anything else?” she asked me, stretching. Her face looked so drawn. I have no idea what has her so upset, not exactly, but clearly something is gnawing at my wife.
“No, come on, you need to talk with Molly. Remus is downstairs, I'll let him know so that he can go with you to St. Mungo's and then I'll go and see James and Lily. It has something to do with a dream that Harry had. The kids will be here soon,” I told her and she nodded at me, the tension overtook her face again as she slid from the bed. I walked around the bed and took her face in my hands. “Are you sure that you're alright?” She closed her eyes and nodded at me, and I kissed her forehead. She raised her hand, and was immediately dressed.
“I'm going to Molly, please tell Remus that I'll make a Portkey when I've gotten her up. Also, let Harry know that we'll need to spend some time with him during the day,” she told me, smiling weakly at me.
We both went down the stairs, Anwen stopping off at the room that Molly and Arthur shared, and I headed down to the lowest level where Remus was up monitoring the coming and goings in the house. We had someone awake now every night, since we had removed the house from the floo network, someone needed to be awake if we had late night guests on behalf of the Order to let them in. I wasn't really surprised to find Tonks there with him.
“Harry and the Weasley kids will be here soon. Harry had some sort of a dream and he saw Arthur being attacked while on guard duty tonight. Arthur has been taken to St. Mungo's. Anwen went to awaken Molly and tell her what we know, and she wants you to go with her,” I explained. Moony had already stood and was nodding as I spoke.
“Charlie arrived a while ago, 5 days late, but Molly didn't know that he was coming home before Christmas Eve anyway. He's with your sister-in-law. I'll go get him, he'll want to go with his mother,” Tonks said getting up and leaving the Dining Room where they were sitting, looking at some books together. We heard a commotion downstairs, and we both quickly went to the basement kitchen, were we found Harry and the others in a heap on the floor.
I listened as Harry recounted the tale, and Moony and I had to struggle to keep the kids from charging off to St. Mungo's with their mother. Charlie and Eira came down with Tonks, and while the reunion with his siblings was warm, it too was rushed due to the nature of the evening’s events. Anwen came down, helping Molly navigate the stairs. She was surprised to see her second oldest son there, and it proved a pleasant distraction from the dire situation that Arthur was in. Anwen looked at Harry, and then looked at Remus and me.
“I think maybe I ought to stay here instead. Will you be okay without me?” she asked.
“I'll go with Mum and Remus, it'll be fine,” Charlie said. “Can you come too, love?” he asked Eira, who was holding his hand, she nodded at him. Molly smiled at the young woman, and Eira reached over to rub her arm. Molly has no idea that it won't be long before Eira is her daughter-in-law. Anwen took an old dented metal plate, and said the incantation over it, and it glowed momentarily, and then went dark.
“I set it to go in a minute. You four hold on, and Remus, you know how to contact us,” she said quietly. “Don't worry, Molly, we'll get them squared away and back to bed. Their rooms are all ready.” Anwen said, indicating the kids, and then hugged Molly and then her sister. “I'm sure that he'll be fine, Molly. He's in good hands,” she reassured her, and then stepped back. The plate glowed again, and then the quartet was gone.
“Come on now, let's go sit upstairs where it's more comfortable. Go on, the tree’s up in the Sitting Room, and we can start the fire,” Anwen said, trying to sound cheerful. She started shuffling the kids up the two flights of stairs. Tonks had put her arm around Ginny, and I was between Ron – who looked like a ghost – and Harry. Anwen followed us all up. The pinging sound of Jamie's alarm started again, perhaps it had never gone off, or maybe we were just willing to be distracted.
“Love, I'm going to go and get Jamie. I'll be down in a minute,” I told my wife and went to retrieve my daughter. When I came back down, Anwen had gotten some butterbeer and tea, and the kids had taken up residence around the room. I summoned a bottle for Jamie, and Ginny reached out for the little girl.
“I'll feed her Uncle Sirius, it'll help distract me,” she said quietly, and I gave her both the baby and the bottle. I then went to sit next to Anwen.
“Sirius, I'm sure that James and Lily don't know what's happened, or they'd be here. Do you think that you should nip on over there, and fill them in? I'm sure that it wasn't the first thing on Albus' mind,” Anwen suggested and I nodded at her.
“I'll send a Patronus to tell them that I'm on my way over, and then go in a couple of minutes. Are you sure that you're okay here?”
“I've got Tonks, we'll be fine. If anything happens, I'll Patronus you, alright?” I walked out and went up the stairs to our bedroom, letting my griffin free from my wand as I went. I put on some clothes, and then headed down to the floo fireplace. We knew that the network was being watched now, which was part of the reason that we had removed our floos from the Ministry monitored system. We could only floo between the family houses. I walked through the green flames and was in the entryway at the Manor. James was waiting for me.
The night seemed to drag on. Ginny fed Jamie, and took her back upstairs and put her back down in her bed. I was watching Harry carefully, he seemed uncomfortable in his own skin, and like he didn't want to be around people; there was also something quite frightening, just behind his eyes. It wasn't long before Sirius returned with James in tow. Harry stood when his father entered the room, and went and threw his arms around him. James held his son tightly, whispering something in his ear. They walked out of the room with James arm draped around his son’s shoulders.
Sirius sat down on the love seat next to me, and I melted myself to him. We didn't need to say anything; I knew that he could feel my concern and fear. The night eventually gave way to morning, and Molly, Remus and Eira came back with a report that Arthur would be fine. Charlie and Bill, who had arrived from Egypt in the last few hours, had stayed with him, and Molly would take the kids to see him later that day. We were getting up to head downstairs to begin breakfast, when James came down, and asked if we could come and talk with Harry upstairs. Molly and Eira took the Weasley kids downstairs for breakfast, and we headed up for an impromptu family meeting.
“Lily said she'll see everyone later, but she didn't want to wake Evan and Emma,” James told us, and we all found places around Sirius’ office. “Harry can you tell them what you told me, please?”
Harry recounted the tale of the evening to us, explaining how he knew that Arthur had been attacked, and how he felt as if he had been the snake that had attacked him. He went on to further explain his feelings towards Albus in his office after the attack, and how he was feeling now. His father and godfather tried to reassure him, but Harry was nearly beyond consoling. Finally it was Remus who spoke up, in his calm and quiet voice.
“Harry, there is nothing wrong with you. I can't explain what's happening, but I know that there is nothing wrong with you. Don't forget, your Aunt Winnie would be able to tell if something had changed in your magic, and as far as I know, she hasn't detected anything,” he told Harry and I nodded in agreement. Harry finally seemed to calm down some at this. “I bet that you’re just tired and overstimulated from the days events. Go on, eat some breakfast, and then get some sleep,” he suggested, and we all agreed. Harry got up to leave, and I stopped him.
“Harry,” I called to him, “later today, would it be okay if I go into your mind again? I want to make sure that you're still protected and to look at those memories, but only if it's okay with you.”
“It's fine Aunt Winnie, just let me get some sleep,” he said, and I nodded at him. When he left the room, I put a silencing charm over us.
“James, there's something that I need to tell you, and you can decide if you want to tell Lily or not,” I explained. I wasn't sure, given how sensitive Lily had become to all of this, if she would be able to handle it. “When I was in Harry's mind the last time, I came across a portal or a passageway, to something or someone else. It wasn't at all like Harry's mind, and it frightened me. Remus looked at my memories, and we both reached the same conclusion,” I had to stop and gather my thoughts. “Harry is somehow bound, magically, to Voldemort,” I told them. I paused and took a deep breath. “I think that it might be tied to what Harry experienced last night. Albus didn't know what to make of it, and I was hoping to get more information before I told you, but clearly, that didn't happen.”
The room was silent for a moment, and then James started peppering me with questions, but I didn't have any answers for them. Sirius just sat there, quiet. The lack of information was why I was certain that I needed to go back in, to see what he had seen and try to figure out what that other place was. We all stood, not really speaking, and started to leave. I looked at my husband, and the look of betrayal in Sirius' eyes was almost too much. We hung back after James and Remus had left.
“Why didn't you tell me? This is what's been eating at you, this is what's made you so tense?” he asked in a hurt voice. I never wanted him to find out like this. I knew that he wouldn't be able to take it well, but to find out that I kept this from him, when I had talked with others about it. I never should have handled it this way.
“Sirius, I wasn't even sure what I had come across, and I certainly couldn't put it into words, not ones that would explain it well. And then, well, dear you've been rather depressed lately, and you were finally getting better, I didn't want to take that happiness away from you,” I tried to tell him. I could see the pain and distrust on his face.
“Anwen, you don't have to protect me, and you don't have to try and make me feel better. I'm an adult after all. It hurts to know that you didn't trust me enough to tell me about this,” he told me angrily, and then left the room. I sat back down in the chair and wept.
By late morning, nearly everyone else was asleep, everyone except Harry and me. James and Lily had taken Ethan and Lilyan back to the Manor with them, and Jamie and John were napping quietly. Sirius had avoided me since our conversation this morning, locking himself in his office. I pray that there isn't any Firewhiskey in there. I was hoping to talk with him later, but right now, I needed to go back into Harry's mind.
“Are you sure that you want to do this, now? We could wait,” I offered, but he shook his head at me.
“Let's get this over, maybe you'll be able to tell me what's going on,” he said. I understood, and I told him to get comfortable. We were in the Sitting Room, he on the couch and I had pulled one of the wingback chairs over closer to him. I had also cushioned the area behind me, just in case we ended up with the same reaction as the last trip I made into the dark tunnel in Harry's mind.
“All right, I'm going in. If I ever make you feel uncomfortable or you don't like what's happening, please just let me know, okay?” Harry indicated yes, and I looked through the mist of his magic to once again find the door and walk in.
Harry's mind was still ordered like a locker room, and very little had changed. I moved through it rather quickly, this wasn't what I wanted to see. I noticed that he had 'cleaned up' a little more of the back of the room, which made me happy. He had been continuing to pack up and put away his memories. When I reached the second door, I hesitated for a second. I wish that there was some way that I could record this. Wizards don't have camcorders like Muggles, but I would really like to have some sort of record of this. The others might be able to see something that I don't. I guess that Wizard pictures will have to do. In my mind I pictured myself holding a camera, and it materialized in the hand of myself that was in Harry's mind. I also quickly conjured a lantern and floated it in front of me. I reached with my other hand and opened the door. As the door swung open, it was clear that it had been attacked from the other side, there were curse burns on the inside of the door. That's not good. Did Voldemort figure out that this passage was here? I shook off my concerns, and started into the tunnel.
As I neared the other end, I extinguished my lantern, and raised the camera. I needed as many pictures as I could get. They would be more stable than just trying to look at things through my memories. If I was thrown out again, my images wouldn't be clear. I shot from as many angles as I could before I took a step, and then I would repeat the process. Again, just before I stepped out, I asked Harry if he was okay, and he confirmed that he was. On the precipice, I took as many pictures as I could and then I stepped into this new area.
It looked a bit like Hogwarts, like the main hallway that led into the Great Hall, but it was in complete disarray. The stones of the walls were crumbling and the wood of the buttresses was decaying and falling apart. There was a thick green/black slime that covered nearly everything, and the windows had been blown out, and shards of glass littered the floor. Scraps of parchment and tatters of books concealed the floor in places, and then there were others that seemed to have had the floorboards either ripped away or blasted to bits. There was a fire off in the distance, and I could see faint images floating in the sky, but I couldn't quite make out what they were. Is that a ring, a cup? What the hell are those? I took as many pictures as I could, of as many things as I could, but I didn't want to push it. Fact finding mission only Anwen, don't confront Him today.
When I had taken as many pictures as I thought would be helpful, I sent the camera out of my mind and had it materialize on my desk in the Library. I then conjured a small jar and scooped up some of the green goo, and sealed the jar and sent it to the same place as the camera. I might be able to get King to analyze that, or maybe I'll just have Remus do it. This is a family matter, not one for the Order, not just yet.
I backed myself out of the tunnel, and breathed a sigh of relief when I was back in Harry's mind. I closed the second door, and then checked on Harry again.
“Harry, are you still doing alright?” I asked quietly.
“I'm fine Aunt Winnie, you're very...gentle in there,” he told me, and I appreciated his words.
“I'm going to try something honey, let me know if you feel anything, okay?”
I lifted my mental hand and I sealed the door in the back of Harry's mind. I knew that it wouldn't be a permanent solution, but it could help in the meantime.
“What did you do?” Harry asked me. “I feel better than I have since the vision last night.”
“I just cleaned something up in there, okay. I'm coming out now,” I told him, and I slowly extracted myself from him. I opened my eyes, and Harry was smiling at me. “Well, how do you feel? Is everything alright?”
“Fine, I'm actually relaxed now, thanks.”
“Good,” I smiled at him. “Why don't you go and try to get some rest, the others aren't planning to leave until around three to go and visit Mr. Weasley, it will give you time to sleep. I'll make sure that we save you some lunch,” I urged him, and he left the room. I too left the Sitting Room and went to the Library, and sealed the door.
After I developed the pictures, I sat there in stunned silence. They were so much worse to look at than when I was standing there. I could concentrate on the destruction and I couldn't fathom just how broken and decayed this mind appeared. I pocketed the pictures and headed down the stairs. Sirius had emerged from his office and was in the Dining Room when I reached the first floor. We both stood there, looking at each other. James and Remus were with him, and they were trying in vain to not look at the pained expressions on both of our faces. I didn't even know that James had come back over. I ran my hand through my hair and exhaled slowly.
“Harry is fine, I went back into his mind, and I have a better idea of what that, thing, might be. I need to talk with Albus about this, right away” I told them. Remus and James nodded, Sirius seethed.
“Fine, go talk with someone else. Plan on telling me, or am I too delicate to know what you found?” he asked, his voice thick and deliberate. I kneaded the flesh between my eyes.
“Sirius, I will tell you when I get back, I'll tell you and show you all of it, but right now, I need to talk with Albus, because it could compromise all of us,” I told him. I didn't have time for his moodiness right now. “Do you want me to take the babies with me, or are you okay with them?”
“What, I'm not capable of caring for my own children now?” he yelled at me.
“Most of the time you are, but I can smell the Firewhiskey on your breath,” I said coldly. I had detected the odor as soon as he stood to speak to me. His eyes turned dark with anger.
“Are you calling me a drunk?”
“No, but...” this wasn't the time for this and I knew it. “Never mind, I shouldn't be long,” I said, and quickly turned on my heels and left, feeling my eyes burning. I could feel his pain and it was breaking my heart, but I had to deal with Harry's situation first.
The next week was uncomfortable at best. I came back from my meeting with Albus livid. His plans were something that I completely disagreed with. He intended to distance himself from Harry in every possible way, and went so far as to suggest that the rest of us do as well. He also wanted to continue Harry's Occlumency lessons, but with Snape teaching him; something to which I had taken great offense. I hadn't spoken with my mentor since that meeting in his office. I wasn't even sure if he would be coming to see his godson on Christmas. The only thing about his absence that would bother me, would be how my eldest son would feel if he didn't see his “Dumbwy”.
Things were strained with Sirius as well. I apologized to him, for keeping what I had found in Harry's mind from him, and he accepted it; but there was still discord there. I knew that it wasn't entirely directed at me, that some of it was simply the situation that he was in, but I hadn't helped it. He often came to bed long after I was asleep, and I would need to get up and take care of the kids in the morning. He would only get up and leave our room when I came in to shower and head out to work. Our tenth wedding anniversary was only a week away, and I wasn't sure if we would indeed be going away to celebrate or not. James and Lily and Remus and Tonks had volunteered to care for our children for us, so that we could get away from everything, and enjoy our anniversary. Sirius and I were barely speaking now, would we really want to go away together?
Christmas morning was beautiful, and I tried to push past the problems with my husband for the sake of my children. We celebrated at Grimmauld, even the whole Potter family stayed overnight, which made our usually overfilled house feel even more crowded. I couldn't complain however, it was the first time that I saw Sirius really smile all week. The biggest surprise was when Charlie proposed to my sister. Of course, she said yes and the ring was beautiful. I couldn't help but see the look of sadness in Tonks’ eyes, that it was my eighteen year old sister who was getting a ring, instead of her. Okay there Remus, time to shit or get off the pot with her. If you're not going to marry her, at least let her go so that she can find some happiness somewhere else.
“You ready?” I asked her quietly. She nodded at me, and together we stepped into the floo and were soon in our flat in Monaco. She went about unpacking our bags, but she was silent. “Anwen, if you don't want to be here, we can go back home...” I suggested and she turned to look at me.
“You want to leave?” she whispered, clearly hurt. “Is it that awful to be around me?” A tear feel from her cheek. I wasn't sure how to respond to her, that wasn't what I was saying, but things had been so strained between us, I couldn't even begin to explain what I meant. I was still angry that she felt like she needed to keep things from me, but I missed her too.
“Anwen, it's not that,” I tried to back pedal. I leaned my back against the dresser and looked at her. She was fingering a negligee in her hands. “I just don't know how to proceed here. I'm already feeling useless, and then I find out that you don't need me either...” she cut me off.
“You think I don't need you? Sirius, I have been dying inside these last weeks, I feel like I'm adrift and I can't find my way back to shore, because every time I opened myself up to your emotions all I felt was anger and distrust. I figured you didn't need me anymore,” she said between the sobs that were rippling through her. I closed the distance between us and took her in my arms. How could I have been so stupid.
“Of course I need you, I just figured that you were so disappointed in me that you were finding other sources of strength to cope,” I told her. Sounds like we both forgot to actually talk to the other one. She finally looked up at me and I could see the same thought dawning on her.
“I am so sorry that I didn't tell you sooner, but part of me hoped that if I didn't say anything, then maybe it wasn't real. That was wrong of me, please, forgive me. I need you so badly, I love you,” she whimpered at me.
“Hey, it's okay. I love you too. I shouldn't have over-reacted either. Of course you were scared by what you came across, hell, Voldemort has latched himself onto Harry's mind,” I told her, finally coming to the realization how frightening it must have been for her to have encountered it. I leaned down and kissed her and as our lips met, she threw a wave of longing at me that blew me away. I picked her up and carried her to our bed. I could feel just how badly she needed me, how badly she wanted to forget Voldemort and simply be one with me. I was sure that I had torn both her blouse and her panties in my rush to free her from them, but they could be replaced, my wife needed me – and it was something that I could most definitely give her.
Anwen took control of our love making, which was rare. We usually just, knew, what the other wanted, but it certainly wasn't unwelcome to have her let me know exactly what she wanted. As she moved over me, her eyes never left mine. We didn't feel the need to speak, our bodies took over and when we were done, I held her against me, realizing just how much I had missed this level of intimacy.
“Sirius, I am so sorry that I didn't trust you, that I didn't give you the chance to react on your own. I've just been so frightened, there are days it feels like you're slipping away from me and the kids. I love you so much, I can't bear to be without you...” she whispered, and I could feel her hot tears hitting my chest.
“Anwen, I'm not going anywhere; but you're right, I haven't really been the most supportive either. We were both wrong, we both forgot something very important,” I told her, running my hands over her back. “We forgot that we have to trust each other, more than we trust anyone else.”
“You're so very right love,” she lifted her head to look at me. “I have missed you my darling. I love you.”
“And I love you.” We lay there for a while, and she shifted herself down into the crook between my arm and my chest. Her hand moved its way across my chest and came to it's resting place, and I knew that she had dozed off, and I too closed my eyes, content in the knowledge that we had somehow weathered yet another storm in our marriage.
The kids were back to school, and I was less convinced that Severus was the right person to be teaching Harry his remaining lessons in Occlumency. He believed that you could “whip a mind into shape” and teach it to block things. I believed that as with teaching anything, it was a gentle, leading touch that would produce the best results.
Harry had used his mirror last night to communicate with his father, who had relayed the message that his Occlumency lessons would begin tomorrow. The mirrors were the only secure form of communication that we had in and out of the school now. Sirius and I had been relaxing at the breakfast table with our children alone this morning, a rare occurrence. Molly had taken Arthur back to the Burrow to help him complete his recuperation in peace, and Eira had left for work at the ministry. There were no members of the Order currently here, and for a few minutes at least, it was just our family here.
“More Mummy,” Lilyan said, handing me her cup. She had her father's love for pumpkin juice. I removed the lid from her sippy cup and filled it again and handed it back to her. Her second birthday was only weeks away. The party would be very small this year, there would be no way to get the Hogwarts kids away from the school with the toad watching so closely. We were worried about my being able to get in to help with the Defense club.
“Here you go, Ladybird. Finish up your toast and then you can get down and go play,” I told her, and she picked up a small square of the toast that I had cut up for her. Sirius was cutting up another banger for Ethan. “How many has he eaten this morning?”
“This is his third,” he told me proudly.
“Wonderful, when he's sick all over the floor, you can clean it up. Oh, look at the time, I have to meet with Amelia at ten today,” I told him, gathering my dishes and getting up from the table. I heard the front door chime, and looked at Sirius perplexed. “We aren't expecting anyone, are we?”
“Not that I know of, but nothing would surprise me anymore. Do you want me to get it?” he asked.
“I'm up, I'll get it,” I told him, tying the sash of my dressing gown more tightly around myself. I reached the front door and unlatched it, and was surprised to find Kingsley on the front stoop. “King, come on in, its freezing out there,” I said, stepping aside to let him come in.
“Anwen, I need to talk with you and Sirius, right away. Something happened last night that affects you both,” he told me, his face full of seriousness. I nodded and led him back down to the kitchen area.
“Um, would you like some breakfast, a cup of tea?” I asked him and he shook me off.
“Not right now, Anwen.” he said, and then I watched as his face took on the Aurors mask that I knew better than most. “Last night there was a break out from Azkaban. Anwen, ten Death Eaters have escaped, including the Lestranges,” he told me. I fell to the floor, and my heart was racing. The world was taking on a black tinge to it, and I could see the walls shrinking in on me. Sirius was immediately at my side, but I could barely breathe.
“What are we going to do?” I whispered before everything went dark and warm.
“I told you that this was a disastrous idea!” I yelled at him. Albus was in the Library, and I had sealed the door. He had returned to Grimmauld, after a week away somewhere, he hadn't told us where he was, but had left Fawkes here should we need to reach him. He didn't want to be in the house when all the kids were home for Easter break. Now that school had resumed, he was back here. He’d been staying here since he had escaped Hogwarts, when Fudge came to arrest him. “His mind is an utter disaster area, and the door has been tampered with. What, did Severus loosen it up, so that Voldemort could break in easier? Was it supposed to help with his damned cover?” I was livid at the mess he had made.
“Anwen, there is more at stake here,” he started this whole song and dance again. Yes, there's much that we don't know, because you won't tell us. You need to have all the information, don't you old man?
“Save it Albus, I've heard it all before. You're manipulating things again, making sure that no one knows everything so that you can play God. You did it with me when I was younger, thankfully, Perenelle chose to fill me in. Do you have any idea how frightened I would have been if she hadn't been honest with me about what distance visualization can do to your mind? How you begin to distrust everything you see, because you can't tell one reality from the other? You would have kept me in the dark, pushing me to learn increasingly more, see more, and slowly driving me into madness. I won't do the same thing to Harry. Tell me everything, or you know damned well that I will find out on my own.”
He stared at me for a minute, and then spoke. “I wish you luck on your quest,” I inhaled deeply, and then stood up, opened the door, and pointed at it. Albus left without another word, I had no idea if he would stay in the house or not, but I most certainly didn't want him in my private space. I closed the door and took out the large satchel of parchment that I had hidden in my filing cabinet, and began poring over it again. He doesn't realize that we've already figured it out. We just wanted to give him the chance to be honest with us.
I looked up at the wall, where I had hung a framed copy of the Quibbler interview that Harry had given and smiled. He is one savvy kid, and he has some very, very smart friends. He's going to need them around him, when we let him know what's going on.
“Really sis, you can't be serious about this,” I told her.
“She's not Sirius, I am,” my brother in law quipped back, and I just looked at him disgusted. How does she put up with that same, lame joke? Really, he's cute and all, and clearly they have mind blowing sex, but he's a bit of a dork.
“Yeah, yeah, funny Sirius,” I said, rolling my eyes at him. I turned back to Anwen without passing further comment on his lame joke. “You can't possibly want me to take the farm, you love that place.”
“Sis, I want you to go and live there. You're a young woman, with a very handsome fiancé. Living with your much older sister, her husband and their four children in a house that doubles as a headquarters for a secret society can't be fun. Go and move into the farm, please. It was your home too, and it will give you more, um, privacy,” she said.
“Like you should be one to talk about needing privacy,” I told her with a sly smile and she nodded at me. Anwen really wanted me to move out to the farm, to have a place of my own, sort of. I was shocked, and thrilled too. “All right, if it's what you want, then I'll do it. But you have to promise that you'll come out and visit, and let the kids come and stay too.”
“Of course, but it really is time that you had a place of your own. Anyway, Molly will have a harder time interrupting you if you’re in Wales.” My mother-in-law to be had a great habit of finding Charlie and me in the most compromising positions, I would be thankful to be free of the constant threat of her walking in on us.
Two weeks later, in the middle of June, I watched as Sirius, Remus and Charlie moved the last of my things out to the farm house. Remus would still be living in the barn apartment, but there was a rather large expanse of yard between our house and his. Anwen and Sirius wouldn't take any money from me, even though I had a fair amount in my bank accounts. They said they owned the house outright, and they were glad that it would get some use. Molly was in the kitchen, prattling on while making dinner for us all. I was surprised when Arthur came out of the fireplace with Anwen and the kids.
“Look who I found at home,” Anwen said as Arthur came through the floo. “He was looking for dinner, I let him know that it would be here tonight.” They each had two kids by the hands. The twins first birthday was next week, and they were both beginning to walk, although Jamie was far less steady on her feet than John. Anwen was gleeful when she was telling Tonks and me last week that she had made it a whole year without getting pregnant, which for the last few years of her life, appeared to be quite a feat.
We settled down for a wonderful meal of meatloaf and mashed potatoes. I watched Charlie eat, and realized that I would need to learn to cook better before he moved in here with me. I somehow doubted that my sandwich making expertise wouldn't be enough to conquer his appetites. James and Lily brought their kids over, and we ate ice cream outside and then we watched as the children were chasing after fireflies in the backyard. I was sitting on a deck chair, well Charlie was on the deck chair and I was sitting on his lap.
“So, beautiful, how many children do you want?” he asked me. I looked at him and smiled.
“6, nice round number, and they always have someone to play with. There were really only 4 of us growing up, Anwen wasn't ever home by the time I was born. It was fine, but we couldn't play team sports so well, two on two doesn't always cut it. So, I'd like 6.”
“Then 6 it shall be. Mum will be thrilled, loves kids, if you couldn't tell,” he told me back. I watched as Molly sat with Jamie, holding a firefly between her cupped hands so the toddler could see it light up better.
“You know, before we have kids, we probably should set a date for the wedding. I don't think that either of our parents would be happy if we went and started having babies without being married first,” I reminded him.
“Well, when do you want to get married? Did you dream of being a summer bride or a winter one?” he asked me, and I couldn't help but smile.
“How did you know to ask that?”
“I do have a sister, and she loved to play bride when she was little. Ginny would make flower crowns and put on an old bath towel as a train and prance around the house. She would always want to marry Harry Potter, even though she really didn't put together that the boy from her storybooks was the same little boy she played with at Anwen and Sirius'. She was like 7 or 8 when she finally realized that they were one and the same, then she was embarrassed. Anyway, I used to be the wizard who would do the ceremony for her. It made her happy,” he explained, and I loved picturing him making his little sister happy. He'll be a really good Dad someday.
“I've always dreamed of being a fall bride. I love when the colors change, and there is this Canadian holiday, in early October, called Thanksgiving; when we take a day just to remember all that we have to be thankful for. It's a beautiful holiday, and if we could be married near it, I would be so excited. I'd like to be married outdoors, and I want my family to be here,” I told him and he smiled at me.
“Then that's what we'll do. We'll get married in the fall next year. I promised your Dad I'd wait until you were twenty,” he said, lightly kissing me. “Do you want to tell them now, or wait for another time?” Before I could answer his question, I saw Anwen and Sirius standing at the far side of the lawn, talking to one of those patronus charm things that they all seemed to be able to do. Anwen had tried to teach me, but Defensive spells were never my strongest suit. I was much better with History, Charms and Potions than with dueling. I could make a good mist, but nothing with form. The thing dissolved into thin air, and Anwen came rushing over to us. I got up off Charlie's lap.
“Eir, can the kids stay with you tonight? There seems to be a problem with the Hogwarts kids, and I need, well we need to get over to the Ministry.”
“Sure, they've got clothes and things here, I made sure that we packed some. Can I help?”
“It would be a bigger help for me to know that they are safe and out of harm’s way. You sure this isn't a problem?” she asked me, clearly worried about something.
“Not a problem at all, go on. I'll talk to you in the morning,” she nodded and took off to floo back to Grimmauld Place, followed by James, Remus and Sirius. Lily was talking with Molly and Arthur and then she too went toward the house. Charlie and I walked over to his parents, who were now talking with Evan and Emma.
“You're going to come and spend the night at GranMolly's house, won't that be fun?” Molly said to the two Potter kids, and they both were nodding their heads. She looked up at us, “Are you two going to be okay with those four, they can be a handful. You could bring them to our house,” she suggested.
“We'll be fine Mum, but I am going to stay here tonight, just to make sure that Eira can handle it all, okay?” I watched Molly raise one eyebrow and look at her son in a very motherly way. Damn she can be scary. She proceeded to remind us of all sorts of things that we already knew, but we nodded and listened anyway. A short time later, they picked up the Potter children, and apparated to the Burrow. Charlie looked relieved that his parents were gone.
I flooed to Grimmauld, and everyone was standing in the kitchen, clearly waiting for me. Tonks, Mad Eye and King had joined us, and I could see that Anwen was distance watching, her eyes were closed and she had her head slightly bowed, her chin resting on her chest. Sirius was standing behind her, holding her to him. We all knew from experience that Anwen sometimes lost her balance when she was watching things not happening in the same room that she was in, I walked over and wove my arm around my husband. Harry is going to make me gray before I'm 40, even with all the glamor charms in the world.
“They're in the Hall of Prophecies, I can't see anyone else there yet,” she said, opening her eyes and looking up. Sirius continued to hold her, and he began speaking.
“Severus told us that the kids took off after Harry got a vision that I was being tortured in the Department of Mysteries. Everyone has kept up with their binding potion, correct?” he asked, and I saw that everyone was nodding in affirmation.
“Okay, Lils, you're going to find someplace to hide with Anwen. She can't fight and protect the kids, and her protection skills are much more valuable right now. There are more than enough of us to get the 6 kids out of there safely,” James told me. I wasn't surprised that this was going to be my job, I really wasn't much of a dueler.
“You three, leave the Death Eaters that might show up to us, we can arrest them and put them in jail. Sirius, any other Aurors arrive, get yourself out of there, having you end up arrested too won't do anyone any good,” Mad Eye growled. “All right then, we've given you all emergency medical Portkeys, should you need them, and get the kids out, and bring them here. We'll get them back to school one way or another. Come on, let's be going,” he added, and we all went upstairs and out into the backyard, where we began apparating to the Ministry.
We apparated straight into Anwen's office, and then from there, into the Department of Mysteries, because the floor was so heavily warded, you could only apparate in from certain places within the Ministry itself. Thankfully, being part of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement meant that Anwen's office was cleared for apparition. When we got to the lowest level, Anwen again closed her eyes and we could all see her eyes moving behind her eyelids. My heart was racing, and no matter how hard I tried I couldn't seem to calm myself. This is my child, Voldemort lured him here, maybe lured all of us here. What the hell was Harry thinking? Why didn't he try to reach us, why didn't he find a way to talk to his father and me? We could have let him know that his godfather was fine, what the hell happened?
“There are Death Eaters here, I count at least 8 of them,” Anwen said quietly. “The kids are all fine, but they're taking quite a beating. They're in the Death Chamber,” she said and Kingsley led the way through the hallway, he said the correct incantation, and the right door revealed itself. We immediately started entering, the Aurors going first, followed by Remus, leaving James, Sirius, Anwen and me in the doorway. I could see the dais with the archway below us. James pointed at something.
“There, see that ledge, about halfway down, stay with Anwen there,” he said, and I watched as Sirius apparated his wife to the ledge. I followed, and stood in front of Anwen, who was kneeling on the ground. Her eyes were closed and her hands were open. I could faintly see them glowing. “Remus has two of the kids, Ginny and Luna. He's trying to help Ginny, she seems to have hurt her leg. They've got two more now...James just sent Harry to collect the rest of his friends, and help get them out of here. They're all going to need to go to St. Mungo's...damn it, there's Bella and her,” Anwen swallowed loudly, “husband.” I knew that the Lestranges were some of Anwen's least favorite people.
A slight smile escaped Anwen's face, “Good job Harry, you're nearly as proficient as your dad,” she whispered.
“Anwen, Albus is here. He's rounding up the Death Eaters,” I told her, and she nodded at me.
“Harry is getting Neville, and they're getting out of here,” she told me with relief. Then, her breathing got ragged and I could see her shaking her head, “Don't antagonize her, just get the kids out of here...” she scolded someone and then her eyes shot open and the color completely drained from her face.
“NO!” she screamed and immediately stood and threw herself from the ledge that we were on.
Everything seemed to stop. I saw the curse hit him, and Sirius lose his balance and then fall back through the curtain. The world ended for a moment, and then the peace was broken by the most painful cry I had ever heard. It seemed to morph, from a guttural scream to a bird cry and then back again. It wasn't until Anwen appeared in front of me, that I realized that was exactly what it was. She had changed, flown down and then changed back, screaming the entire way, while the recognition that her beloved husband was gone moved through her.
Both she and Harry went charging towards the veil. Remus had picked up Harry and I grabbed Anwen around the waist. I couldn't let her follow him into there, I couldn't let their children become orphans. She was kicking and screaming and crying all at once.
“James let go of me, I have to get him, I have to pull him back out,” she yelled at me, throwing her arms wildly.
“Anwen, you can't, he's gone,” I told her, now crying myself. I couldn't believe what I had just witnessed. My closest friend, the man I had known most of my life, the one I considered my brother, was gone. I couldn't imagine the pain that Anwen was in, if I felt like my heart had been ripped out of me.
“Let go of me, he...can't....be...gone...” her body was shaking, and she could barely pull a breath into her. “He...wouldn't....leave...me.....” she wept, still kicking and screaming. I could hear that horrid, cackling laugh of Bellatrix Lestrange, and I could see her slinking away from the room. Harry broke free of Remus, and went charging after her. I wanted to go after him, but I knew that if I let Anwen go, she would dive for the curtain. We had to get her out of here, somehow.
“Anwen, please stop struggling, you're going to hurt yourself,” I told her, but she simply continued to wail and thrash. I didn't know what I was going to do, other than stun her to get her out, except given how close she was to me, I wasn't sure that I could put the curse on her without missing, and I would only get one shot, her shield would be up the instant that I tried.
Remus came over, and was trying to get hold of her as well, and for a moment, our eyes met. He too was crying, and I knew that seeing Anwen like this would be even harder on him.
He can't be gone, I can still feel him, he's so scared and lost. Why don't they understand that he's not dead, I can feel him? I struggled against James and I saw Remus in front of me. Good, maybe he can talk some sense into James. I need to get my husband out of there. Remus wasn't talking to James, he was looking at me, with pity in his eyes. He thinks he's dead too. I could see his hand move toward his wand, and I immediately became afraid. I closed my eyes and pulled all the magic that I could into my hands, and then pushed out the strongest shield charm that I could. I could feel James let go of me, and when I opened my eyes, everyone had been thrown against the walls, my family, Order members, Death Eaters, kids. I didn't care, I knew that they would all leave me alone now, so that I could go and get my husband.
I sat down and put up a smaller, stronger shield around me, and then I released my astral self. She stood and walked around. I could see out of her eyes, and everyone was surprised to see the golden yellow misty Anwen look around. I then stepped through the veil, and began my search for Sirius.
I could feel him, but his connection was weakening. This world was dark, and it was populated with creatures that I had never seen before. They looked like echoes of people, but they were thin and misty, like ghosts would be. Some were more solid than others, but they were all a rather dull grayish green color. They had sharp teeth and they kept trying to bite at me. Not being corporeal, I wasn't worried about myself, my body was safely on the other side. I was terrified for Sirius. I continued to walk ahead, trying to find his magic so that I could lead my astral self to him.
I got up and stumbled over to where Tonks was. “What the hell was that?” she asked me.
“What, the magical shock wave that she sent out, or the astral projection of herself that just went behind the veil?” I asked her. She just shrugged at me, shocked. “Are you all right?”
“I think so, is he really gone?” I wasn't sure what to say. You're supposed to be dead beyond the veil, but Anwen seems so convinced, I don't know.
“I wish I knew what to say love, but I don't. Can you round up these Death Eaters? I'm going to check on her,” I said, kissing her cheek and then standing to walk over to Anwen. She was sitting on the hard floor, eyes closed, palms up. Her hands were glowing with their shared magic, and she seemed so at peace. I got within about a foot of her, and I couldn't get any closer. I just stood there watching her.
Lily and James got the rest of the kids patched up, and put the Portkeys on them to send them out of the Ministry. Kingsley, Mad Eye and Tonks rounded up the Death Eaters and took them to the holding cells on the first floor, so that they could be prepared for Azkaban. I sat there, guarding, watching Anwen.
I don't know how much time passed, it seemed to be moving differently somehow. My body was starting to ache with the wounds from our dueling, and from sitting still for so long. James came back, and took up a vigil at my side.
“How long has she been like this?” I asked him.
“It's been at least three hours, as it's nearly four a.m. now. Lily took Harry home, but I fully expect him to come back when he can get away from her. He believes that Anwen is going to somehow bring Sirius back,” he said quietly. I nodded at him, but continued to watch Anwen's hands glow with magic.
Our vigil lasted through the rest of the night. A little after six, Lily came back, with Harry and Ginny in tow. I was shocked when both of the kids were able to sidle up to Anwen, Harry sitting on her right, his head on her shoulder, Ginny on her left, laying her head in her lap. There was a cast on Ginny's leg, and Harry had helped her in, but other than that, she seemed to be healing. Anwen must know that they believe he's still alive, and that she will bring him back. I went to try to get close to her as well, but she must have sensed my doubt, because I still couldn't get near her.
The farther away from the opening I got, the less dense the throng of creatures was. These seemed more docile as well, some were simply lifeless echoes. I wasn't sure what had caused them to be this way, but I suspected that these were people who didn't want to go on into the next great adventure. I was sure that I wouldn't find Nicolas or Perenelle here.
It was getting much darker here as well, and there were many more crevices to hide in. I stopped moving when I came to an area devoid of any of the creatures, and tried to reach out for Sirius. I could still feel him, but it was hard to pinpoint his exact location. I opened myself up fully to his emotions, and I could still feel his fear, but there was also a sense of despair that was overtaking him. I needed to find him soon.
Suddenly, there was a surge in my magical power. This wasn't magic that I was used to using, it was unstructured, but strong. I let it course through me, and then I again reached out for Sirius. This time I could find him, he was still a bit of a distance off, but I could find him, his signature, his heartbeat was getting stronger inside of me as well.
I raised my hand and let my griffin go, and I watched as it bounded off and then took flight. I must be close enough that it can go and find him. I followed in the direction that the griffin went off in. I kept moving in the same direction, stopping occasionally to reorient myself and send out another griffin to follow.
I could finally see Sirius' magic, it was inside a cave of sorts. Not being solid, I didn't have to climb the mountain to get to the cave about halfway up, I simply imagined myself inside, and I was there. It was pitch black in the cave, so I conjured a lantern and began searching. I could hear his breathing, and I could feel his ragged heartbeat. He's so frightened.
“Sirius, love, it's just me, it's Winnie. I've come to bring you home, love,” I said as gently and quietly as I could. There wasn't an immediate response.
“Go away, I know that you're trying to trick me,” he said. I took a few more hesitant steps in the direction of his voice.
“No love, I'm not trying to trick you, I'm here to bring you home,” I told him, again stepping closer to where I heard the voice coming from. When I turned a small bend, I was shocked at what I saw. Sirius was there, huddled in a ball. His hair was longer and wilder than it had been when I had seen him out in the real world, and it had streaks of gray. His beard was unkempt and significantly longer. He had bite mark scars all over his body, and his lips were cracked and dry. His eyes were partially hidden by his hair, but they darted around, like he was a hunted animal. He looked like he'd been gone for weeks or months, instead of a few hours.
“Sirius,” I said, reaching out for him. I wouldn't actually be able to touch him, but I wanted him to know that it was me.
“Get away from me!” he screamed, and scrambled away. “You can't be real, my Winnie was on the other side, and I can still feel her heartbeat,” he told me.
“I'm her, Sirius. You're seeing my astral self. Remember, I can project myself, and I came in to find you. I want to take you home. You remember our home, we live at Grimmauld Place, and we spend every night in our bed, where we can lay and watch the stars. Our bedroom has a mural on it of Hogwarts, and when you touch it with your wand, you can hear me sing,” I told him.
“No, you’re a figment of my mind. My Winnie isn't here, she's safe, she's alive,” he told me, still backing away into the darkness, I really though that his words were to convince himself, not me.
“I swear Sirius, it's me. Ask me anything, ask me something that only I would know,” I begged him. I needed him to follow me back.
“What are the names of our children?” he asked.
“That's simple, are you sure you don't want something harder?” He shook his head at me. “All right, our eldest is named Ethan Seren, which means a strong star, and his birthday is March twenty-fourth. He just turned three and acts so much like you that it frightens me some days,” I told him, gently taking a step back from the wall of the cave, stepping towards the opening. My beloved husband followed me. “His hair is brown and his eyes are the color of robin's eggs and he loves to fly and play Quidditch with you, although I still think he will be a Chaser rather than a Beater,” I told him, and I could almost see a smile on his face. I took another few steps and he continued to follow me.
“We have a beautiful daughter named Lilyan Vega. We named her after your cousin Andromeda and my best friend Lily. She has jet black hair and bright green eyes and she and Emma Potter look like they could be twins. They were born two days apart, and they are inseparable. You call her your little Ladybird, and she loves Ginny Weasley,” I continued to talk and we continued to walk out of the cave. I wasn't sure how I was moving backwards without tripping over things, but I really wasn't going to ask. Clearly things move differently here.
“We have a wonderful set of twins who are going to turn one next week. John Sirius and Jamie Lyra. We named them after your best friends, and they're their godfathers. They are into everything, and just last week you yelped when you were Padfoot, because John pulled a handful of fur out, trying to pull himself into a standing position while holding onto you,” I told him. We reached the entrance to the cave, and he stopped moving.
“I'm not going out there. You're trying to trick me, make me leave here, so that they can....no, I refuse to leave here,” Sirius said, planting himself down on the ground.
“Darling, I can't get you back from here, I need to get you closer to the entranceway. I promise I will protect you, I will do my best to keep those things away from you, but you have to come back with me. I'm worried about you, so are Prongs and Moony. Come on, please trust me. Our love will protect you,” I told him, hoping that it would be true. He looked at me, clearly debating whether I was telling the truth or not, after what felt like an eternity, he stood and nodded.
“You'll have to climb down from here, but I'll stay right by your side, I promise. I promised that I would never leave you, and I haven't, see, I'm right here,” I told him, desperately wanting to reach out and touch him.
We made it down the rock face, and we started back toward the gateway. I instinctively knew how to get back to my solid body, and somehow, we were able to keep the things from attacking Sirius. The walk back seemed to take forever, he was so weak, but we kept pushing on. I continued to tell him stories of our life, things that only I would know, or memories that I knew would soothe him. The gateway was in sight, just over the next rise, but Sirius stopped, obviously again, paralyzed with fear.
“There are so many of them. Getting through them the first time was so hard,” he told me, running his left hand over the swollen scars on his right arm. His breathing was ragged and uneven, and he began to sway on his feet.
“Sirius, I know it was hard, I came through them too, but once we get through, we can get out of here, and go home to our children. I will be there to hold you in my arms, and I will never, ever let go if that's what you want,” I told him. I couldn't cry in this form, but I knew that I would be crying if I could. My arms ached to hold him. We were so close, I had to get him moving again. I had to get him out of here. “Sirius, do you remember when I woke up from the attack, that night, in the ballroom. No one else knows what happened there, only you and I,” I told him and he nodded at me.
“You listen to me, and you just look at me, and follow me back out, all right. Nothing else, don't pay attention to anything else,” I begged him and he nodded again. So I began singing. I hadn't played the song in years, but I knew all the words, they were burned into my memory. He had brought me back with the song. I hoped I could do the same now.
It was the song that he played over and over that first night, in my music dorm room when he was only sixteen. That first summer together, that first night we ever told each other how we felt. It was the first Muggle rock song that Sirius fell in love with. “Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup, they slither wildly as they slip away across the universe...” I sang, singing the whole song twice through, until we were at the other side of the gateway. I looked at my husband, wishing I could stroke his face and kiss his lips.
“When I tell you to, close your eyes and don't open them until you feel my arms around you, all right. You're nearly home,” I promised him. I turned and released my patronus, and it leaped through the veil. I could see James, Remus, Harry and Ginny near my body, but they seemed to be moving in slow motion. I turned around again, and looked at Sirius. “No matter what happens, do not open your eyes, and don't move from here. You will be in my arms in a moment. All right, close your eyes.” He obeyed and I let my astral self fly back into my human body. I knew that I lacked the magical strength to project and summon Sirius through the gateway.
I stood my physical body up, which ached and was stiff, but I didn't care, and raised my hands and summoned Sirius to me. I heard gasps as his body came flying back through the gateway. He landed hard at my feet, and I bent down and cradled him to me and kissed him gently. “You can open your eyes, I'm here, and you're alive,” I told him, and I wept as I saw his beautiful gray eyes. There were sounds of shock when his friends saw his condition, but I couldn't deal with that now. Several of the spirits had attempted to attach themselves to him as he flew through. I banished them back into the other world, but I could see hands grasping to come through. We must have done something to the portal when I pulled him out. I can't let all those things come back to this plane. I raised my hand and put up a ward around it.
“We need to get out of here, I need to destroy the gateway!” I screamed. James lifted Sirius and hoisted him over his shoulder and started carrying him out. Harry had lifted Ginny and Remus came to help me out. I didn't realize how weak I felt until I had tried to move. When we reached the door, I fired a Bombarda spell from my left hand, and watched as the archway crumbled into a heap. The floor shook and the walls rattled, but none of those creatures had made it through.
I closed my eyes and rested my head against Remus’ shoulder and let the exhaustion take me over.
I’m in shock, utter disbelief. How had Anwen done that? How had she brought Sirius back from the dead? What the hell had happened to him? What are those marks all over him? They look like bite marks, and why does he look so bad, it's only been a day and a half. James and I carried them out into the main hallway of the Department of Mysteries, and I saw three patronuses fire from his wand. He then turned to look at his son.
“You've got your Portkey on, right?” he asked and Harry nodded at him. “Good, hold onto Ginny and activate it. It will take you back to the Manor. Let your mother and Eira know what happened, and have them wait there with the Black kids. Uncle Remus or I will send word as soon as we can. Your Mum will be expecting you.”
“Dad, is he all right? I want to go to the hospital with you...” Harry started to protest, but James shook his head vigorously.
“You need to go home, he's alive, but I don't know what happened there. I need to get Anwen and Sirius to hospital. Don't argue with me, young man,” he told his son, and Harry relented, pulling the Portkey necklace from his shirt. He wrapped one arm around Ginny's waist and put the charm to his lips, and they were instantly gone. I looked at James, still shaking my head.
“What the hell happened in there?” I asked, not expecting him to answer.
“I don't know, but we need to get them to St. Mungo's. Sirius looks like hell, and Anwen must be drained,” he said, and I nodded. “I already let them know that we are on the way there, and asked that the same Healer that treated Anwen when she was poisoned be present. We won't have to explain the shared magic that way. I also let Albus know, he can inform the rest of the Order. Do you still have one of the medical Portkeys?” he asked me, and I removed the smooth stone from my pocket. “All right, I'll see you there in a moment,” he said, activating his, and I watched as my two best friends swirled from sight. Anwen stirred in my arms.
“Where did Sirius go?” she said, opening her eyes in horror.
“Anwen, James took him to hospital. We're about to follow,” I told her.
“Let's go then, no one is touching him before I get a chance to talk with them about what happened,” she said, her voice weak but clearly in charge. I activated the Portkey, and instantly we were in the trauma department at St. Mungo's. When we arrived, there were several hospital personnel as well as James trying to contain Sirius. He was screaming, wild eyed, desperately trying to find something. Probably Anwen. She leaped from my arms and ran to him, climbing up on the bed and nearly sitting in his lap.
“Sirius, Sirius love, stop, I'm right here,” she said, her hands moving over his face and to his chest. They came to rest over his heart, and her left hand remained there while the right one went back to his face. Her hand began to glow on his chest. “They didn't know not to separate us, James was just trying to get us here safely. I'm right here, I didn't leave you, I never left you,” she pleaded with him, tears falling down her face. Sirius seemed to calm down, and Anwen pulled him to her, hugging him tightly. “I told you, I promised you, I wouldn't leave you alone, you're safe darling, I won't leave you again, just hold onto me,” she said quietly, before gently kissing him. Her left hand remained over his heart, now glowing stronger, and she shifted herself so that she could look at us. “He'll be alright now, you didn't know to keep me with him, it's okay,” she said, trying to reassure us. I still wasn't even sure what was going on, but Anwen was clearly in control, regardless of how weak she was. Sirius eased himself back onto the bed, his breathing becoming regular. Anwen's hand remained on him.
“Ma'am, we need to examine your husband,” one of the healers said, and Anwen shook his head.
“No one will touch him until Healer Orlaf is here. Now, you may bring in some re-hydrating and strengthening potions, he will also need a wound cleaning potion applied, and then a Murtlap Essence wrap needs to be put on. These marks,” she said, pointing at the wounds on Sirius' skin, “were created by spiritual realm beings, but they had teeth. I don't believe that they had any venom in them, I think that they were trying to gnaw on his life energy. If you don't want to supply the potions without an examination, I will take him home and treat him myself,” she said, with absolute authority. The medical team looked at her in shock, and then, one by one, they started moving.
“Healer Orlaf is on his way. We'll get those potions for him post haste,” the trauma Healer said, and Anwen nodded. “Can we get anything for you?” they asked, and Anwen closed her eyes and kneaded the flesh between her eyes.
“Um, just a glass of water for now. I have to keep my wits about me, thank you,” she told them and the staff left the room. Anwen turned and looked at me. “Contact Ewan, and ask him if he can come over. I'm sure that we're going to need his help with the magical replenishing again. James, are Harry and Ginny back at home?”
“Yes, I sent them there when you destroyed the chamber,” he told her and she nodded at him. A pained look crossed her face.
“Have Lily check their magical levels, and then start replenishing them as well. I used their magic to help me find Sirius, they're most likely at least partially drained.” James looked at her with a mix of shock and anger. “I didn't know it was them, not until I looked at my body while I was still on the other side. When I saw them there, I knew that’s where the magical burst came from that allowed me to find him. At the time, I just knew that someone was close by, and I could use their magic to strengthen my own. I'm sorry, but I think they'll be fine. Lily will know what to do. Make sure that you get in touch with Ewan, she'll know how,” she said, and James nodded at her and left the room. Sirius had settled down now, and he was just looking off into space. Anwen turned herself again, and leaned her head down near his.
“Love, can you look at me?” she asked and Sirius complied. She smiled gently at him, both of her hands moving to his face. “Do you hurt anywhere?”
“My arms and face hurt, I have a headache, and I'm tired,” he whispered at her, and she nodded at him.
“I'll make sure that they take care of those things. Healer Orlaf will be here shortly. I'll explain everything, if you want to go to sleep, go ahead. I can get the potions into you without your being awake, and I won't leave your side, love. Go ahead and rest. I love you,” she whispered, looking at him in the eyes. His eyes seemed to be searching hers, and when they found what they were looking for, he nodded and began to close his eyes.
“Okay, angel...” he mumbled, as he succumbed to sleep. She turned back to me, leaving a hand on him, gently stroking the side of his arm.
“Anwen, what happened? You were in that trance for nearly 36 hours, we couldn't get near you. Harry and Ginny would talk to us, but you were, almost like asleep or something...” I couldn't wrap my head around it.
“Remus, I'll have to explain it all to the Healer, and I'd prefer to only tell it once, please. Later, if you want, I'll open my mind and let you look for yourself, you won't believe it, trust me. It was hell,” she said quietly, and I didn't doubt it. “I want to get his treatment started, find out how my children are, and then we are expanding this bed and I am lying down with my husband to get some sleep. Will you help me arrange a guard while we rest?” The trauma personnel came back in, and Anwen took control of giving Sirius has potions, but first, she scanned them for tampering. She gently lifted his head, and then waved her hand over the phial, and the potion disappeared. She kissed him lightly and then laid him back down. The staff seemed shocked at how she had given him the potions, especially since she didn't use her wand. She drank down the water, and then refilled the glass and drank it down again. They left the room, and I was alone with Anwen.
“I can answer one of your questions, the kids are fine. Lily and Eira took them to the Manor and they think that they are on holiday with their friends. They've been asking for you two, but Lily has them calm and fed and well. I am sure that they will be happy to see you,” I told her, and she seemed relieved.
The door to the room opened again, and Healer Orlaf came in, followed quickly by Albus. Something passed between Anwen and Albus, and then she gave him a small nod. She recounted the tale, of how she knew that Sirius was still alive, and what she found on the other side. We were all shocked as she spoke. None of us had ever heard of such a thing. She explained the creatures that she came across, and how they were biting, trying to feed on her, but not being corporeal, she was fine. She explained how she found Sirius, and how she had to coax him back out. Watching her, I could tell that this was painful to recount. She finally explained how she was able to pull him back through the archway, magically, and then why she had to destroy the portal.
Healer Orlaf asked her some specific questions about the spirit beings, as she called them, and the wounds that were on her husband. He took some samples as well as some magical readings, and then excused himself to go do some lab work. He also seemed pleased that Ewan would be returning to assist him in this case. That left Albus, the Blacks and me alone in the room. The tension between Anwen and Albus was palpable.
“What happened to the Death Eaters?” she finally asked. Of course, she had no idea what happened after she went beyond the veil. Albus explained the battle with Voldemort, Harry's possession and subsequent throwing off of Voldemort, and the fact that Bellatrix had escaped, as had Voldemort.
“You do realize, he will know about your skills now?” Albus asked her. We had tried for the last 17 years to keep her abilities secret, and that was now erased.
“I know, but I did what I had to. I couldn't lose him,” she said, her calm facade crumbing for the first time. “I will deal with whatever comes... I'm sure that there will be consequences for what happened. Has Fudge sworn out an arrest warrant for destroying Ministry property?” she asked, and Albus chuckled.
“No. He's got bigger things on his mind now, and Amelia has been running interference for you,” Albus said. “There will be a Council of 13 meeting day after tomorrow, if Sirius isn't able to make it, you will need to fill the Black family seat,” he told her and she nodded. “We are going to move to have Fudge removed from office.” They talked a while longer, and Albus asked that I stay with her until an Order guard could be arranged.
“Anwen, how did you know?” I had to ask her. She never hesitated, she never questioned, she just went after him. The mask she had kept up since she had emerged from the portal completely fell, and she looked at me with tear–filled eyes. “I could feel him Remus, his heart was still beating and he was desperately trying to find me. He was so scared and he was in pain, and I knew he wasn't dead. I had to go after him, I wasn't sure that I could live without him,” she told me in hushed tones. She waved her hand over the bed and it expanded, and she got up, walked around the end and climbed in on the far side, resting her head on her husbands chest.
“But, you didn't know if you would make it back out. You didn't even know what you would find there. Weren't you scared?” I wasn't sure if I would have done it, even to save Tonks.
“I was, and I had no idea what I was walking into; but the worst thing that could have happened, was not finding him or being able to save him. I couldn't live with the idea that there was something that I could have done, and that I had chosen not to. I had faith that I would be alright. Remus, I think that this is why I could do these special things—projecting and visualization and astral walking, so that I could save him. I can't explain it, I just knew,” she told me, looking at his face as he rested.
“Really? It could have all gone horribly wrong,” I told her, and she nodded at me.
“It could have, but, I believed that it wouldn't. Remus, there is something between Sirius and me, more than love, more than marriage, more than words. He's the rest of me...I knew that it would work. I had faith in our binding, and in why we are here,” she told me, and it gave me something to think about. She had faith, faith in something bigger than us, I need to ask her more. I went to open my mouth, to give her a follow–up question, but it was too late, she had fallen asleep next to Sirius. I want that. I want what they have, even if its not to that extent. Could I have it? Would I walk through hell for Tonks? I sat there, watching them, pondering my answer.
The last few days have felt like years. I can't believe we haven't even had supper yet. I rounded the corner, and I found her. Anwen had sent me a frantic patronus a few minutes ago, she needed me, that's all that she said. Molly had been at the Manor, looking in on Ginny. She would be staying with us for a few days, I needed to make sure that we restored her magic to its regular level. As soon as the Patronus arrived, I asked to the elder Weasley woman to watch all of the kids, and took off for hospital. Anwen was on the floor, obviously sobbing. Her small body was shaking she was crying so hard. Oh Merlin, what's happened now?
“Anwen...” I said as quietly as I could, but still have her hear me. She lifted her tear stained face and looked at me. “What happened?” She steadied herself.
“He doesn't remember. Not our life together, not our children, he barely remembers me,” she got out in gaps and starts. “He doesn't remember that we're married, that we're bound...” she whimpered before she started crying again. The pain she was in was so evident. I sat down on the floor, and held her to me. There wasn't anything to say. I had been in shock when Remus had come over to the Manor, briefly, to tell us what he had learned. Kingsley was left watching over the sleeping pair. Ewan was on his way here, Portkeying to France, and then apparating into London and would be here soon. As soon as Remus told us everything, he and James quickly returned to hospital. I didn't understand it all, didn't understand how Anwen had done it, but nothing with these two surprised me anymore. The fact that she moved hell to be with him wasn't even surprising. But this, this would be too much. I had no idea how I would feel if James suddenly didn't remember me, but I knew that the pain would be nearly unbearable.
We sat there on the floor of the hospital wing until she was calm enough to move. A room down the hall was empty, and I half carried her in, and sat her down on the bed. “What happened?”
“He woke up, and I was curled up next to him, I was so tired Lily, and I had explained everything to Healer Orlaf and Remus, so I laid down and fell asleep next to him. He woke up, and he looked at me, but it was like he was looking through me. He could tell it was me, but he couldn't figure out why I was in bed with him. He knew Remus, and kept asking about you and James and,” she swallowed hard and then spit out “Peter. It was like the last 20 years were gone. He doesn't remember falling in love with me, or marrying me, or having our children,” she told me, crying once again. I went and sat down on the bed next to her, putting an arm around her.
“What did Healer Orlaf say? Does he know why this happened?” I asked her. I'm not sure that anyone would have a reason for this, I mean really, most people don't come back from death because their spouse went and got them. I doubt that anyone has any practice in this area.
“Um, well, they're really not sure. A healer that specializes in disorders of the brain came in, and called it something, uh, hysterical amnesia. He knows who he is, he just can't access a certain time period of his memory,” she told me, putting her hand to her face. “Lily, to get him to follow me out, I kept telling him stories about our life and love and our children. Somehow all of the memories have mingled together, what happened to him through the veil and our life together. He shut them all because of the pain. I did this to him,” she said, her guilt flowing out like a tidal wave.
“You did no such thing. Anwen, you saved him, and if the memories are still there, then there must be a way. If we can't find it with Wizarding medicine, then we'll look into Muggle medicine,” I told her firmly. She wasn't going to take the blame for this, not if I could help it.
“They hope that it will eventually come back, but I can't push him. He'll remember what he can, when he can. How are the kids going to react when their father doesn't know who they are? The twins are going to be one in 3 days,” she said, I didn't have an answer. We sat there for a while, not speaking. Anwen didn't need chit-chat, she needed time to gather her thoughts.
“Anwen, let's just take things one at a time. First, let's get you cleaned up,” I said. She had stopped crying, so I waved my wand over her, helping her face look less puffy and taking the redness from her eyes. “Um, your clothes are a mess,” I told her, realizing that she hadn't changed them now in days. “Why don't you leave for a little while? James and Remus can stay with him, and you can stand under a hot shower. Soap and water will help make everything look better.” Sshe nodded at me, still looking completely defeated.
“Let me just tell them that we're leaving,” she said quietly, and then we left the room. We got to the door of Sirius’ room, and there was boisterous laughter emanating from the room. I could tell that the sound went right through her. She stopped the tears that were threatening again, and then pushed the door open, placing a smile on her face as she went. “Hey Anwen, Lily, what are you doing here?” James said as I walked in behind Anwen. I went over to him and tried to explain without saying anything. He seemed to understand.
Anwen stood at the foot of the bed, looking at Sirius with such desperate longing in her eyes, but as soon as he looked at her, it was gone. “I'm going to leave for a little while, if it's okay with you. I'd like to shower and see the kids,” she said, rubbing her arms, like she was suddenly chilled.
“It's fine,” Sirius responded, clearly not completely sure how he should react to her either. The tension in the room was so thick, you could nearly taste it. “Can I talk with Anwen, alone, for a minute?” We all nodded and got up to leave the room.
“I'll wait and go back to the Manor with you when you're done,” I told her, and she shook her head slightly at me.
I looked at her, and with what the guys had just told me about our relationship, I wished that I felt some of what they described, but I didn't. I knew that I felt affection for her...there was something else too. When she walked in the room, for a minute, I could feel an overwhelming feeling of longing, and then it was gone. My heartbeat seemed, different, too.
“How are you feeling?” she asked me. Her eyes have such devotion in them. I must be hurting her now.
“Okay. The pain is less, and they seem to be making some of these marks go away. I asked what caused them, and the Healer told me I really didn't want to know,” I told her. She nodded her head at me.
“He's right,” she said, and an uncomfortable silence fell over us again.
“Anwen, come here,” I said, patting the bed next to me. I watched as she searched around the room, looking for something, but I had no idea what. She swallowed hard and slowly walked over to me and sat down gingerly. She was turned so that she was facing me, but I could tell that her eyes were looking over my shoulder, at the wall behind me. She looks like she's going to break into a million pieces here. “James and Remus told me that we're married, although the wedding ring, and the tattoo with your name over my heart kind of gave that away,” I said, trying to make a joke. She gave me a slight smile, and it felt good. I reached over and took her hand. It felt like a shock of electricity went through me when I touched her.
“We are, and we were happy. I didn't say anything, because they said that you needed to remember on your own...” she started but I just smiled at her. She stopped talking and just looked at me.
“I don't think the fact that we're married and have children is the kind of thing that they meant. You look like you're going to burst apart, come here,” I told her, opening my arms to her, she collapsed into them, shaking. She feels right in my arms, like she was meant to be there. “Angel, stop crying, please. I'm sure that I'll remember, my brain just needs to adjust, at least that's what I think they said to me,” I told her, stroking her back. I'm having trouble remembering everything that they said to me. I felt one of her hands move around and twine into my hair, and she finally began to relax. We just sat there, me holding her. She had to have been strong, to bring me back here, and yet, right now she feels like something fragile. My body seemed to have a memory of holding her like this, because it didn't feel off or uncomfortable. She finally pushed herself back into a sitting position, and my hand instinctively wanted to wipe the tears from her face. As my thumb moved across her cheek, I felt her lean into my hand.
“I know it will come back. I can't believe that if you put up with me this long, that I don't want to remember it,” I mused aloud. Her lips curled in a beautiful fashion as a response, and I again felt something inside of me, I just didn't know what it was. “Be patient with me, and answer my questions as they come,” I asked her and I finally saw a genuine smile pass her face.
“Sirius, patience and being married to you go hand in hand,” she said dryly, and I remembered how much I always liked her sense of humor. My word, she is beautiful. The only pictures of her I can find in my mind are of when she was so young, never could I have imagined that she would be this...stunning. Those eyes, you can get lost in them...
“Sirius, are you okay?” she asked me, rousing me from my mental wandering. Her face was wrinkled in concern.
“Oh, yeah. Did you know that you're beautiful?” I asked her, before I even realized that I was speaking. She smiled and looked away shyly.
“You tend to tell me that often,” she said embarrassed.
“Well, see, my mind isn't completely gone, I knew that much about us.” She nodded a little, still looking away. The room was still thick with tension, but it seemed to have abated some. I was starting to feel tired, and the pain in my arm where the Murtlap treatment had been applied was beginning to sting, and Anwen seemed to need sleep more than I, but I didn't want to let her go, not just yet. There was something in her that made me need her to be near me. I took her hand again, and stared into those soft green eyes, and it felt like there was a memory breaking through, but it just wasn't there yet. She looked back at me, and I could feel her soft fingers tracing along the side of my face. She must do that a lot, it feels familiar, I want to kiss her, but am I allowed to? I mean, we’re married, but, things are sort of strange here. I don't remember marrying her.
“Anwen, can I kiss you?” She broke into a most glorious sounding giggles and smiled fully at me.
“You don't have to ask, you never did, even when we were courting,” she told me, clearly thinking this was all somehow funny. I leaned in toward her, and she closed the rest of the distance. When her lips met mine, it was like a dam broke in my mind. Fear, absolute terror broke through me. Something was biting at me, trying to tear the flesh off of me. I ran and I hid, and then she was there. Anwen was the ... I stopped kissing her and looked at her.
“You're the angel,” I blurted out. She looked at me surprised and confused. She doesn't know what I'm saying. “An angel came and got me and brought me back to this world. You were the angel. You were all glowy and gentle, and when you spoke to me, it sounded like music. You kissed me when I was safe,” I told her. I wasn't sure if she would understand, but I didn't have more information to tell her.
“It was me, when you're ready, I'll explain...” she said, trailing off, her eyes searching me again, I just wish I knew what they were looking for. I just sat there, looking at her.
“You must love me.” She nodded and tears slipped from her eyes.
“With all of my heart,” she said quietly, her hand once again on my face. I closed my eyes, and let her hand cradle my face. It felt, perfect.
“Will you tell me more?” She opened her mouth to speak, but I stopped her. “No, later, go and clean up and rest, and then come back. I want to remember. I need to know how I ended up with such an angel.” She started crying again, but she was smiling this time. It was heaven when she brought her lips to mine.
The Chapter 35:
The Path Back
“Anwen, he'll be fine,” I told her, but she was once again looking back across the room at her husband in the hospital bed. Sirius had a happy, if not empty look on his face. He still wasn't remembering much about his wife, and nothing about his children. He’d regained some memories from our school years.
“I know, Remus and Tonks are going to stay, but I hate to leave him here. What if he remembers something while I'm gone, and he needs more information. Or what if the Healer comes in or Ewan has a breakthrough, or...”
“Anwen, we're only going to be a few hours. He'll be fine in that time. If something earth shattering happens, Remus will contact us.” She nodded at me. Anwen was never a large person, in fact, petite was being generous with her – even when she was pregnant with the twins; but standing there, in the Council of 13's blue robes, with the over–sized medallion on her, she looked positively tiny. Lily and Molly had worked for nearly an hour to get Sirius’ robes small enough to fit her, and they still looked too big. The weight of the last week seemed to have shrunk her as well. I wrapped a protective arm around her, she felt like she was all skin and bones. I wonder if she’s eating anything? We needed to be leaving, and I figured I would have to tear her away. I steered her over to the bed.
“We're going to be off, but we'll be back as soon as the meeting is done,” I told the other two Marauders, and Remus nodded at me. I don't envy him the task he has this morning. Sirius keeps asking about Peter, Remus is going to tell him about what a rat he turned out to be.
“Prongs, take care of my girl there,” Sirius said quietly, and I heard Anwen's breath catch. We knew that he still wasn't remembering their marriage or the years since, but he had easily accepted that they were very much in love. It didn't take a trained Legilimens to know that Anwen was hurting inside because Sirius had no idea just how deep their love really was, and what they had gone through for each other. She took a few steps forward and leaned down next to him, holding the damned medallion to her chest so it wouldn't hit him in the face with one hand, and running the fingers of the other down his face.
“Are you sure that you'll be all right while I'm gone?” she asked, sounding as if she hoped that he would beg her to stay.
“I'll be fine. Moony promised to fill me in about Peter, and there are a couple of other things from school that I'm starting to remember. Anyway, can't have the family Council seat be forfeited, can we? Go on, I'll be looking forward to your smile when you get back,” he told her, and Anwen instinctively smiled at her husband. He reached up and kissed her lightly and then whispered, “Be safe my angel.” Anwen nodded and then turned to me and I could see that her eyes were once again cloudy with tears. She headed straight for the door, and I followed her out. Once she was clear of the door, she leaned against the wall, breathing heavily. I put a hand on her shoulder and she looked up at me, heartbreak written all over her face.
“His feelings are pleasant enough toward me, but I had grown used to him looking at me, and being filled with his passion and desire for me, and now...” she wiped the tears off her face, “...now there is just something congenial. They want to discharge him tomorrow, his body is nearly healed, but,” she stopped again, and ran her fingers through her hair. I then watched her take a deep breath and I swore that I could see her emotions being pushed down to her feet. “Well, we can face that mountain when we get back, right now, we have a meeting to be at,” she told me, wiping the tears from her face and attempting a smile. It was the saddest smile that I think I had ever seen. Anwen had never looked more beaten down than she did right now, even in her darkest days after Greece; this was much worse. I pulled her to me and held her tight.
“Anwen, you're not going to do this alone. The whole family will be there to help,” I told her, and she nodded at me and then with a tip of her head, let me know that we needed to be off for the Ministry. Being with the chief Warlock’s personal counsel means that you don't have to stand in line when you arrive at the Ministry, and we were quickly in her office. Amelia and Kingsley were waiting there for Anwen to arrive.
“How are you doing?” her former partner asked her and she looked up at him and just shrugged.
“Better than that night in the mud with you in Liverpool, that's for sure,” she said, he threw his head back laughing.
“You never cease to amaze me,” he smiled at her. Amelia came over and wrapped her arms around her, hugging her tight. Anwen seemed to cling to her.
“Are we still on for Wednesday night?” Amelia asked.
“Sirius is supposed to come home tomorrow, but I think that we are going to stay at the Potters’. He doesn't remember living at Grimmauld with me, so all of his memories of the place are from his childhood, which wasn't great. He actually has stronger and better memories of the Manor, and I'm going to need help. Molly has already agreed to let Harry stay there for a while, so he doesn't have to live in a house full of babies and toddlers. Remus and Tonks have said that they will move in to Grimmauld for the summer, keep an eye on the place. Back to semi-communal living for the Marauders and their wives,” she quipped, and I thought it was funny. I chuckled, but Amelia and King both looked at her shocked.
“Did Remus finally get off his arse and ask her?” King said, suddenly very happy.
“No,” she sighed “not that I'm aware of, and I am sure that I would be aware. Slip of the tongue. After all these years, you'd think he'd get the picture, but...anyway, I hope that once Sirius gets more memories back, we'll be able to go home,” she finished.
“Well anything you need, anything at all, just let me know. The library at the Manor is almost as good as this one here, so don't even think about coming in, unless you need to get away,” Amelia told her, and she nodded at her. “I took care of the issue in the Department of Mysteries as well. They're enthused about the memories that you brought back with you. So much so that all they want is reparations for the clean up and repair. Remus took care of the financial papers. I guess he's on your accounts with Sirius?”
“He's been on them for years, since Sirius was in exile. We never bothered taking him off. I'll thank him for that later, and thank you for handling it,” Anwen said with gratitude in her voice.
“That is what friends are for. The stupid charges against Sirius have been dropped as well, so you don't have to worry about Aurors coming to haul him off to Azkaban,” Amelia said, and I watched as Anwen mouthed 'thank you'. “Well, we need to be off now, this meeting should be interesting, no Lucius Malfoy,” she said smiling and Anwen returned an even brighter one. I was quite certain that Anwen was sleeping better with Malfoy and the Lestrange brothers in Azkaban.
“Nott is gone too, and I would be shocked if Crabbe and Goyle show – they're both wanted for attempted murder, along with Bellatrix Lestrange for what happened to,” King said, and then stopped short. “For what happened last week,” he added quickly. He kissed Amelia goodbye, and we headed into the chamber. Albus was already there, and as we entered he came over to greet us.
“How is he this morning?” he asked, and Anwen smiled at him, albeit gingerly.
“He's remembered a few more things, Harry being the primary one. Remembers the day he was born,” Anwen said happily, and then added in a near whisper, “and making me cry that day. Also remembers giving him his first broom and taking him riding. It's a good thing. Depending on how his morning goes with Remus, I'll take him some pictures of our wedding and our kids later,” Anwen told him.
“What are they talking about this morning?”
“Peter,” Anwen and I responded in unison. Albus nodded in understanding.
“I've contacted Amos Diggory, and members of the Sprout, Scamander and Yaxley families, should representatives from all current families not arrive for our meeting this morning,” he said with a knowing smile. Even Anwen couldn't help but smile at the idea. “King will wait with them in the outer office, until which time we discover if they are needed.”
“Isn't Amelia still the chief Warlock?” she asked, almost teasing him.
“That is one position that I have every intention of giving up first thing today. Albus is welcome to have it back,” Amelia said, and we all smiled at it.
More members filed in, and they all wanted to find out how Sirius was faring. I stood close to Anwen, and with Amelia we ran as much interference as we could. When Arthur arrived, he took up the guard as well, and with the exception of Augusta Longbottom, she was left alone. No one is willing to tell Mrs. Longbottom no. At 10:00 exactly, Albus shut the door and began the meeting. We ended up seating all four new members that day. The Council had most definitely taken a different tone and attitude.
“You know, now that she's going to be the Minister of Magic, you might need to marry her,” I teased Kingsley as he poured the champagne. We were in Amelia's office, celebrating the fact that the Council had just decided that it would be her name that would be put forth for the new Minister at the Wizengamot meeting a week from Wednesday. There was no doubt in any of our minds that she would indeed be affirmed, but we had to keep it quiet until then.
“I keep telling you that I would marry her tonight, if she would have me,” he replied as he pour five glasses of the sparkling French Muggle wine.
“Fine, we'll set a date, and you're all hearing me right now, May 18, 1997. I will marry you King, and I will be happy to be your wife,” Amelia said, and we were all surprised and shocked. King has been wanting to marry her since before Sirius and I were married. A little light went off in my mind, and I knew now why she had been waiting, and why she would be willing to marry him on that date next year.
“Well then, I believe that we have even more to toast. To our soon to be new Minister of Magic and her soon to be husband, may your lives be filled with joy and happiness,” Albus said and we all toasted the pair. I looked over at James and he nodded at me.
“I hate to toast and run, but I very much would like to get back to Sirius. We will see you on Wednesday night, around six to celebrate the twins’ birthday. Please, keep it low key King,” I said, knowing that for Lilyan's first birthday, he actually rented a unicorn for her to take a ride on, and then gave her a huge stuffed one for her room.
“When have I ever done things in a small way, Anwen?”
“Swell, see you all then, and Meil, congratulations,” I told her, going over and hugging her. I didn't use her nickname much when we were at work, but right now, we were among close friends.
“Anwen, you do realize that you'll be going with me right?” she told me as she hugged me back.
“Going with you where?” I asked her, pulling away to look at her. I was confused.
“Anwen, the Minister needs advisors. I'll accommodate your schedule in any way, make whatever changes you need, but you will be my advisor. I will not take no for an answer. There aren't too many people that I trust, and you are one of the few,” she told me. I stood there with my mouth open. “We'll talk when Sirius is better, but know that I will not forget how important you are to me. Now, James, please take her back to her husband, and I will see you all on Wednesday.”
James helped me from the office, I wasn't feeling much of anything right now, except confusion. Within minutes we were back at St. Mungo's and I was so happy when Sirius smiled as I came into the room. He was dressed and sitting up, and the color had truly returned to his face. He opened his arms out to me and I walked to him and nearly fell into his embrace. He feels pleased to see me, but, there’s no passion there. He doesn’t long for me the way I do for him. He has no idea how much I am dying inside without him. I feel hollow without him pouring his feelings into me. I'm working so hard to keep mine from overwhelming him. I could feel his strong arms holding me, and I felt like telling everyone else to go away and just let him hold me for a while, but I couldn't because he wouldn't understand just how I was feeling right now. When his lips found my temple and rested there, I felt like I was being engulfed in flames.
“How was the meeting?” he asked, and I took it as a sign that I needed to pull away. I tried to calm myself enough to speak, and thankfully James chose to answer instead.
“It was good, the Council took on four new members today, and they are making an inspired recommendation for the new Minister. A warrant is being sworn out for Madame Umbridge and her illegal use of the Blood Quill. Harry can decide if he wants to bring further charges against her. Fudge refuses to tell us where she is. Albus is the chief again, and by the time the Council meets the next time, you will be able to go.”
I found my voice, finally, when he was done. “I hate these robes, they're scratchy. Now I know why you don't want to wear them much,” I told him, gently removing them and placing them on the bed. I had worn a simple sweater and flowing floral skirt under the robes, and I felt much more comfortable now. I was very pleasantly surprised when Sirius pulled me down to sit in his lap. I had to stop and concentrate on not kissing him passionately when his arm snaked around my waist and he held me to him. I laid my head on his shoulder and tried to steady myself, but it was so very hard.
We talked with everyone for a while, and then slowly our friends began excusing themselves. Tonks had to get to work, Remus had to check in on a child who had recently been attacked and infected and James wanted to get home for lunch. They all promised to be back later, and then, Sirius and I were alone.
“How was your morning?” I asked him.
“It was a lot to take in. Hard to believe that one of our friends could turn on us that way. He betrayed James, Lily and Harry and then he tried to kill you and ...” He paused and I wanted to help him, but he started talking again, “...don't tell me...Lilyan. It's upsetting. I'm sorry that happened,” he told me. I twisted myself slightly so that I could look at him. His other hand found its way to my knee. I don't know if he meant to do it, or if it was by instinct, but his thumb began to rub small circles in the soft flesh behind my knee. I felt like I might explode from the contact.
“Don't do that,” I admonished him for his attempt to take responsibility for Peter's actions. “It wasn't your fault that Peter came after us, it was because he's crazy and he follows Voldemort. You have no control over that,” I told him and he registered some ambivalence. I leaned my head down on his chest, and for a moment it felt like nothing was changed or gone between Sirius and me. “Please, don’t blame yourself. You couldn’t have known when you were eleven what Peter would become. Let it go, love.”
“For you,” he said, lifting my chin so that I could look at him, “I will try.”
We talked for a while longer, lunch came and we sat at the small table in his room and ate together. It felt like a date, he kept peppering me with questions about our lives, things that he started remembering, or things that people had said to him. He was remembering things from our school years, and the few years that followed. I found it hard to tell him about events without giving too much away, but I found if I just answered the questions he had, it seemed to work out fine. We talked and laughed and for the first time, things were easy and comfortable between us.
“Don't worry, I'm right here, and you'll be fine. Our friends are in there, and the kids are easily distracted,” she told me, but I was terrified of entering the Potter home. I had just been released from the hospital, and Anwen had apparated me here. I wasn't supposed to do much magic, until we could figure out what spells I actually remembered how to do.
I watched as she opened the door and we walked in. There was a sign hanging from the second floor landing that read “WELCOME HOME (sort of ) DADDY” and there were balloons and streamers up. There were scribbles and squiggles all over the sign.
“I think that Ginny had the little kids help decorate the sign for you, Anwen smiled as she spoke. I love the look on her face when she talks about the children. When I remembered Harry's birth, I also remembered that I had somehow made her sad that day. Remus had told me that I had said I didn't want to have kids, and it broke her heart. Why would I have done such a thing to her? I then heard a small rumble of footsteps, and soon the entryway to the house was filled with little kids. I figured the ones that called me daddy were mine, and the ones that called me Uncle Sirius were James’ kids. There were teenagers there too. I only recognized Harry, but I figured that all of the red-heads were Weasley kids. There was a brown haired girl that I didn't know at all. Our friends came in too. Anwen held my hand, but two of the kids were clinging to my legs. It was a little overwhelming.
“All right, Daddy is still a little weak, why don't we let him sit down, and then you can all see your father and me, come on, let's go in the other room, or would you rather go outside? You've been cooped up inside for a while now,” she said gently, and I was again struck at what a treasure she was.
“Outside would be nice, there's a nice breeze today,” I told them, and we started a small parade out. The two teen–aged girls picked up a little blond girl and a nearly completely bald boy, and I figured that they were our twins. Anwen held me back with a gentle tug of her arm.
“If it gets to be too much, just tell me. All of your things have been moved into “our” room here, and you can be alone, or we can be alone if that's what you need. Ginny and Hermione know that they are in charge of our children while they're here,” she explained. I nodded at her and we made our way out through the kitchen to the patio area. This house seemed completely familiar, if just slightly off. Of course, they would have changed things a little. My memories are nearly 20 years old. I wonder if we are sleeping in my room? Mrs. Potter insisted that I decorate it and call it such when I lived here.
When we got outside, there was a chaise open, and I really wanted to sit down and put my feet up. I refused to let go of Anwen however, and she ended up sitting next to me, squeezed into the long chair. I had discovered that I felt better when I was in physical contact with her. It was something that I planned on talking with her about. The afternoon was pleasant, one by one our children came up, and I watched how Anwen would interact with them. It's still strange to call her my wife, I only just began remembering courting her, but mostly, I remember the little girl who was my confidant in school. She’s not a little girl anymore though. Anwen has such nurturing and peaceful manner with our children. She’s a great Mum. Little Jamie came up and curled up on her mother's lap and fell asleep. I could hear Anwen humming to her as she dozed. Ginny came by and picked her up, saying she would take her and put her down for her nap. The other girl, whose name I still couldn't remember, had John, who was near sleep as well. Harry came over and sat at the foot of the chaise.
“How are you feeling?” he asked me, sounding concerned.
“I'm fine, Harry. The memories are coming back every day, and I'm confident that I'll remember it all,” I told him. The potions master, What's his name again? Damn I hate this, thought that he might have had a breakthrough and would be talking with me about it later. He was apparently staying here as well.
“Look, I'm sorry about what happened,” he said, clearly trying to apologize. I really didn't know what he was talking about. “I ended up with this vision of you being tortured, and we tried to contact you, but no one answered the floo at Grimmauld, and I couldn't figure out how else to get hold of anyone...if we hadn't gone to the Ministry, you wouldn't have had to come and rescue us...” he was rambling on, and I could feel my brow furrowing, but none of it made any sense to me.
“Harry, your godfather doesn't remember anything from that night, but he knows you would have never put him or any of us in danger on purpose,” Anwen said, trying to comfort him. “You did nothing wrong, and we'll find a way to make sure you never have problems getting in touch with us again. Tonight I want to re-start your lessons. I am going to finish teaching you, and I need to see everything that happened that night. Albus told me his version, I just need to see what happened when...” she stopped when she saw the horror cross Harry's face. “Harry, there is nothing for you to be upset about,” she reprimanded him. “You threw him out, never forget that. There are grown adults who can’t do that. Tonight, after I get my kids down, we'll work, all right?” She reached down and put a hand on his leg, and he smiled at her. “I am so very proud of you,” she told him, and his entire demeanor seemed to relax. He got up to go with his friends and I watched her study him as we walked away. Did my wife take are of everyone this way? I've seen her care for all of the kids, half our friends and me now. Who takes care of her? She leaned back and I lifted my arm so that she could lean against me. Maybe I can take care of her? I can see why I would have fallen for her. She rested her head against my chest and her arm wrapped around me, and something overwhelming hit me. I looked down at her face, and she looked up at me and I knew it. I was indeed deeply in love with her, maybe not the her that I had shared the last twenty years of my life with, but the woman that had found me and saved me. Did I feel this way before? How did I live with feeling like this all of the time, it's shocking, and wonderful. I smiled at her, and she blushed and turned her eyes away.
“What lessons are you giving him?” I asked her quietly as Harry went to go to the lawn with the rest of the kids.
“I'm teaching him Occlumency. Albus had the brilliant idea that Severus could complete his training, and I assume that I'll be starting over from scratch with the mess that he created while doing that,” she told me.
“You can do Occlumency and Legilimency too? And what does Snivelus have to do with all of it? ” Why in the world would any of us have anything to do with that git?
“Don't think on Snape now, please,” she said quietly, and then she smiled “Sirius, love, you couldn't even begin to imagine the magics that I can do,” she told me with a rather mischievous curl of her lips. “I'll show you in time, but yes, I can do both. You were my favorite test subject when I was learning. I actually think that might be part of the reason that you're having problems now, your mind was pretty disorganized to begin with, sorting through memories now, with things in such disarray, well, it would be harder,” she said quietly.
“Could you teach me to straighten them up?” I asked her. I hadn't ever learned any of these things, as far as I knew.
“I could, but I won't,” she told me, and I felt disappointed. “I would be too tempted to force you to remember things that I think are important to me, rather than letting you find them on your own. However, there are people around you that could work with you. Remus, Kingsley and Mad–Eye would all be willing to help you. Albus could too, but I don't recommend that,” she said flatly, and I knew that there was something else going on there, but I didn't think I should ask her. Instead I just stroked her shoulder, and my whole body seemed to hum with excitement at it.
“I'll do that,” I told her, and closed my eyes to relish the way all of me seemed to react to her. We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing on the patio, and then had dinner. After dinner, Anwen and Harry excused themselves and went to work in the library. Lily had told her that she would take care of the children, so that Anwen could deal with Harry. She emerged several hours later, looking drained and upset. We had moved into the Sitting Room, and only those of us living here, 'the family' as we were apparently referred to, were here. James stood to speak to her.
“What did you see?”
“It was a mess, it's going to take him weeks to re-file everything and clean it up. I went through the portal again, that space hasn't changed, but the door was nearly blown off the hinges. I repaired it, and strengthened it. I don't think that Voldemort will try and use it though. I watched Harry's memory of his possession, and Voldemort can't stand being in Harry's mind. It's fully painful for him and he'll avoid it at all cost. It does however give me a very interesting idea of how we are going to get rid of that thing,” she said with a glint in her eyes. I had absolutely no idea what they were talking about, but it sounded important. I still don't understand this relationship between Harry and Voldemort though.
James sat down, and Anwen came and sat next to me. I instantly felt better, and I had a memory of sitting in this room, on what looked like Christmas, and something to do with a ring. It was like a floodgate had opened, and I could see that day, especially the smile on her face.
“Did I propose to you in this room?” I asked her, and she shook her head no. “I remember giving you a ring here.” She thought for a moment, and then she smiled.
“You didn't propose here, but you did give me a ring. It was the first Christmas that we were dating, and it’s this one here,” she said, showing me a ring that was on her right hand. “You're sure you're remembering it?”
“I am, and you gave me...” I paused, looking over the memory that I had just unearthed, “...an electric guitar? I can play guitar?” I asked her and she looked like she was nearly jumping out of her skin.
“Yes, I gave you the guitar that year, and well, you do play, but not a whole lot lately, the kids don't like the sound much,” she said, with her giant smile nearly engulfing her face. She threw her arms around me, and kissed me. She surprised me a little, but it felt so good. I was about to begin really kissing her back, when she stopped and pulled away from me. “Sorry about that, got carried away.”
“Really, it's okay with me,” I told her, smiling. You can kiss me any time you'd like. I like the way it felt. I must have said something the rest found funny, because everyone was laughing, and Anwen was blushing.
“Even without his memory, Padfoot is still as enthusiastic as ever,” James said, and they all laughed harder and I looked at Anwen. She was glaring at him.
“That's not fair, James,” she said angrily. “We can talk about it later,” she told me when she turned to look at me. “but I'm happy that you remembered something about us. It's your first memory of our being together,” she said quietly. The room turned quiet, but I couldn't take my eyes off of her. Within a few minutes, the room was empty, everyone having begged off for their own activities. When we were alone, I pulled her closer to me.
“I really did like it when you kissed me,” I told her, and she bit her lip and blushed again.
“I'm not really surprised. Um,” she took a deep breath, “we've been known to be rather enthusiastic in our sex life. They've all caught us at one time or another in compromising positions. Glad to know that you liked kissing me though.” I looked at her. Did she really think that I wouldn't want to kiss her?
“Anwen, do you somehow think that you're not desirable to me?”
“I don't know what to think. You don't remember being married to me, you don't know anything about what we went through or about our marriage,” she stopped and took a deep breath. “Why don't I show you the room upstairs, I'm sure that you're tired. I need to check on the kids as well,” she said standing up. I grabbed her hand and she looked at me, but said nothing more. I stood up, pulled her to me, and then taut against me. I wrapped one arm around her waist, and put the other on her soft cheek and pulled her to me, and kissed her passionately. She tasted like strawberries, and my head was actually spinning from the way she kissed me back. Another memory came to me, a glorious day with her, in a room I didn't recognize. We were in bed and her eyes were filled with wonder, and the room smelled like something that I couldn't place. The kiss only broke when we needed to breathe.
“Even if I can't remember the rest, I will want to do that forever,” I told her, and her eyes instantly filled with tears. Relief washed down her body, and I could feel the muscles in her arms and her back lose their tension as she accepted this idea. We went upstairs, and she opened two different doors. One was for a room that was done in pinks and purples. I could see Lilyan in the bed and Jamie in a crib across the room. They were both soundly asleep, and Anwen waved her hand and I heard a ping and then the room was silent and she closed the door.
“It's a warning charm, should either of them awake, it will let me know in the middle of the night,” she told me quietly, and we walked down the hall to the other room that I used to sleep in when I was here while at Hogwarts. Guess we don't sleep in here. The room looked much the same as it had when I was here, except that there was a crib in here now. Ethan was sleeping in the bed, under a dark blue comforter that looked like the same one Mrs. Potter had picked out with me when I was 15. John was on his stomach, with his bottom up in the air as he slept in the crib. I pointed at him and Anwen nodded.
“He always flips himself around like that, slept with his butt up in the air since he was six months old and figured out how to roll over,” she told me with a lilt in her voice that made my heart flutter. She raised her hand again, and a different sounding chime went off, and she closed the door.
“You do wandless magic too?” I asked, putting the pieces together. She nodded at me. I wish I could remember more about her. We walked down the hall, and she came to the double door. This is Mr and Mrs Potter's room. She opened the door, and held it open for me. I walked in, and she stood at the door. I turned around and looked at her. “Don't you plan on sleeping?”
“I wasn't sure if you would want me here or not,” she said quietly.
“I would assume that last week we shared a bed, we should do so now as well,” I told her, taking her by the hand and bringing her into the room and closing the door. “I had another memory of you. We were someplace that I didn't recognize, but it was warm and the room was light and fragrant. You were looking up at me, and we were in bed, and you looked surprised and delighted and amazed all at once. It was a strong memory, I could even taste the air. It reminded me of salt and olives.” Recognition crossed her face.
“Greece,” she said quietly.
“That's all you're going to say? Greece?” I asked her. Clearly there was something else there.
“We owned a home in Greece for a while, and I think that you might be remembering the first time we,” she stopped and looked away, “the first time we were together,” and she blushed again. Her eyes looked far away, but happy, and then pain flashed across her and then nothing. She's trying to hide something from me, something related to Greece. “It's nice that you're remembering me.”
“Anwen, would it help if I told you that I know that I love you?” She looked up into my eyes, surprised but relieved. “I figured it out this afternoon. I can't explain how I know, but when you're next to me, holding me, I feel better and safer. I don't know about our past, but I know that I love you, now.”
“Oh my darling, I love you too,” she said, flinging herself into my arms.
The twins’ birthday party dinner had gone well, and we were in the process of cleaning up from the meal. We would still have cake and presents before bedtime tonight. It was really only a a party with our family and the closest of our friends. War was not a time for any of us to be out and about, celebrating... Voldemort had made his first strike, brought down a the Brockdale bridge this morning. We had all tried to put it out of our minds, but innocent Muggles had lost their lives. Eira and Charlie had left earlier, rather quickly, without even saying goodbye, which surprised me, but I remembered what it was like to be young and newly in love. I couldn't blame them for running off. I stopped for a moment, and just stood still. I was alone for a change, I didn't have to act anymore. I just wanted to stop and breathe. I was shocked when the doorbell to the Manor rang. I was fairly sure that everyone that knew how to get into the wards was already here.
“Winnie, can you get the door?” I heard Lily call and went to answer it. I pulled the door open, and there stood my sister and her fiancée with my Ma and Da.
“Ma, Da what are you doing here?” I asked them, hugging my father and then my mother. My Ma didn't want to let go of me.
“Did yo actually think that we'd miss those pretty babies first birthday? And then with what happened to Sirius? Darlin, I'm still your Mum,” she told me and I smiled at her and then began crying. I couldn't control the tears, they were pouring out of me. I had been strong for nearly everyone else, but this was my mother, and I didn't have to be strong with her. I felt my father grab hold of me and lift me up. My whole body was shaking with the onset of the tears.
“Why don't you take her into the library? I'll make sure that you're left alone for a while. I've kept plates warm for you, and then we'll do the cake,” Eira told them. My father took me in, and set me down on the love seat, and my Ma sat next to me holding me. I didn't have to say anything, I didn't even have to explain the last week to them. For the first time, I was simply able to be. Someone was going to take care of me.
The next week passed quickly. My parents were staying out at the farm with Eira, but spent their days here, playing with their much missed grandchildren. They announced that they would be spending the summer with us, as Liddy and Stephen had taken over caring for the Bed and Breakfast while they were on holiday from the school they taught at.
James had been working with Sirius on his spell work, and we realized that there was very little of his magic that he'd forgotten, he had completely lost all of his wandless skills however. He’d worked so hard for them, now he needs to start over. He'd gained back many of his memories as well, they usually happened in flashes, like a light bulb would simply start working again, and he'd remember something. When it happened, I usually found myself having to stop whatever I was doing to fill in the missing pieces. Sirius could at least remember something about each of our children now, and he had regained quite a few memories of our life together. There were however, some rather large and important gaps. At his follow up visit to see Healer Orlaf a few days ago, he reminded us that some of these things might never come back, the night of the Battle in the Department of Mysteries and the events that followed being the chief among them. Sirius was also given a clean bill of health, which meant that should we choose too, we were allowed to be intimate with one another. I still wasn't sure when that might happen, in many ways, we were still discovering each other again. Sirius had turned into a gentleman, often asking me if he could simply hold my hand or kiss me. I missed the man who would come into a room and carry me off to the bedroom without saying as much as hello. He still didn't fully understand about our binding either, and I knew that the first time we were together, he would be surprised by the strength of the emotions involved.
Tuesday, we were on the patio at the Manor, when Tonks came through the door from the kitchen. I knew that she was on duty today, we had talked about it earlier that morning. I had teased her that she wouldn't be able to use up all of the hot water tomorrow, since half of us needed to get up and be there for the Wizengamot meeting. Tomorrow was the day that Amelia would be nominated, and barring a catastrophe, be made Minster. It quickly became obvious that this wasn't a social call and that the young Auror had been crying. I stood up at her entering, and looked at her.
“Who?” She tilted her head, and then opened her mouth.
“Emmeline Vance,” she whispered. Emme was assigned to Amelia's protection, until she was made Minister. Oh Lord, please no. I could feel the horror gripping me, and Sirius had come over to stand next to me. James and Remus were also standing now, Remus going to be by Tonks’ side.
“Tell me Meil is alright,” I begged. She said nothing, and my legs gave out on me. I don't know what happened next, but I knew that mine wasn't the only cry to be heard. Sirius lifted me up and sat us down on a chair and I sobbed into him.
When I had gathered myself together, I went to check on Kingsley. He was devastated by her death. I contacted the Order and Mad–Eye and Albus came and retrieved him, and took him to headquarters, where the others could keep him from completely letting himself go. There was always someone in the house now, and Molly and Arthur had promised to feed and take care of him tonight. I flooed back to the Manor, and I was greeted by the family, and a bottle of firewhiskey. The six of us each took a glass, and toasted the memory of a good woman and friend.
“You know why she wouldn't marry King? Why she set the date for May 18 of next year?” I asked them, and they all shook their heads at me. “She didn't want the family to lose their seat on the Council. She had me look into it last year, and if you marry, you lose the seat to the next family member in line. Since it was only Susan, she had to wait until she was of age. Susan turns 17 on May 17th. The funny thing is, now that she's dead, a guardian can be named to act on Susan's behalf, until she comes of age. I couldn't do anything for her while she was alive, but I can now that she's gone,” I told them, laughing at the irony. No one else found it funny. I was drunk but I didn't care.
Not long after, we all decided to turn in. Harry had gone to stay at the Burrow for a few weeks, as had Hermione. Molly and Lily had spoken with her parents, and they were more than happy to have her spend the summer with all of us, once again. You should really talk with her about that. I don’t have the strength to take on someone else’s problems. The other two couples had again gone off, arms wrapped around each other, to do what I longed to be doing right now. Sirius and I looked at each other, and he took my hand.
“You're probably tired, why don't we turn in too?” He stood and I followed. That was it, that was all that I was going to get? I was frustrated now.
“They're not going to sleep, Sirius!” I yelled. “They're going to find solace in the arms of their lovers. They're going to remember that they're alive by sharing the most intimate act they can. I don't understand why you're being such a gentleman here, where the hell is the cad that I married?” All of my anger, frustration and exhausting came rushing out of me at the one person who didn’t need to feel it. He looked like I had struck him.
“I didn't know,” he whispered. “I...I...” he stammered, and I just looked at him. “I don't know how you like me to touch you. I don't know what turns you on or what makes you moan. I don't even know what you dislike. The only memory I have of being with you was your first time, which I remember you telling me was painful and uninspiring. I remember being with lots of other women, but I can’t seem to remember being with my wife. I don’t know what you see in me, and I don’t want to disappoint you,” he told me, and I felt stupid. I walked to him, put his arms around my waist and then wrapped mine around his neck.
“I'm sorry, it must be very hard for you, all of this. I didn't think about your feelings, I was just sort of wrapped up in my own. Will you forgive me?” I asked him and he leaned down and kissed me. I took it as a yes. “I guess I'm also a little afraid that you don't want me, not that way. If you’re remembering all of the other girls, you might be reconsidering your choice.” I think it was the whiskey that was letting me talk this freely.
“I thought that I made it clear to you, that I do indeed find you beautiful and desirable and most definitely sexy,” he told me, leaning down to kiss my neck. “I guess that I need to make myself clearer,” he said, as he went to kiss the other side. I groaned in pleasure. “I take it you like that?” he asked, and I made some sort of a noise. “Good to know. Listen to me. I” he kissed my left cheek, “want” he kissed my right, “you,” and he deeply kissed my lips. I broke the kiss after a minute. He needed to know everything before we started.
“Sirius, before we get too far along with this, there is something that you need to know, about our love making.” He stopped and looked at me.
“What?” he looked worried.
“When we're together, um, well the binding makes it very, intense,” I was trying to explain this without getting too specific, but I wasn't finding words. He still looked confused. I was going to have to be blunt. “We can feel each other.”
“Of course we can, silly, we'll be touching each other,” he told me, making a joke like he would have made before his otherworldly adventure.
“No, not physically,” I told him, rolling my eyes at him. “We feel each other's emotions. It's part of how I found you, when you were...lost. I've kept my emotions hidden from you, but, well, when I'm in the throes of passion, I won't be able to keep the wall up – you're going to feel everything and if what I get from you is any indication, it will be quite consuming.”
“Wait, you mean, you've been feeling my emotions all this time and never told me?” he asked, and I nodded at him. “And I could have been feeling yours?”
“Yes, on both counts. I kept mine private so that I wouldn't hurt you or make you feel pressured in any way. I know that they've been intense. I've appreciated being able to feel yours, it helped me know what you needed,” I told him. He seemed hurt.
“Why didn't you tell me?”
“You wanted me to tell you that we share emotions? It's odd and uncommon, I didn't want to scare you.” He nodded at that.
“Will you open yourself up to me now?” he asked, and I nodded at him, and let emotions pour out of me. He seemed surprised and delighted. “Do you really feel this way towards me?”
“Yes. Always, I love you more deeply than I knew was possible.” If I'm going to open myself up, might as well do it the whole way. He picked me up and kissed me deeply. His tongue danced with mine and I felt his hand slip inside of my blouse to caress my back.
“Anwen, my beautiful wife, may I take you to bed?” he whispered and his words made goosebumps erupt on my neck and shoulder. I knew he wasn't talking about sleep. “Yes,” I murmured back.
The past week had been arduous, watching my Anwen weave her way through both her grief and her professional duties was both awe inspiring and painful. She had sung at Amelia's Memorial service, and my memories of her singing had flooded back to me. I realized it was one of the most glorious things that I had ever heard. When we got home, I made her spend several hours helping me sort out the memories that I had gotten back. Anwen also had to help with the rapid finding of another candidate for Minister, as well as help with the legal precedence of having Kingsley serve as the Bones family advisor until Susan was of age. She wasn't happy about the new Minister, they apparently had a history, and it wasn't a pleasant one, but she was beyond caring too much, Amelia's death had shaken her. She agreed to remain as the legal counsel for the new Head of Magical Law Enforcement, but she confided in me that it was only temporary. She had lost her zeal to work for the Ministry now. And twice this week, while trying to solve these legal dilemmas, she had fallen asleep over the books in the Potter family library, sitting in the chair. I had gotten her and carried her upstairs and put her into bed. After everything that she had done, it was nice to be able to care for her, even if it was in a small way.
It was mid-morning, and she was still sleeping. She didn't need to wake up today, her parents had taken the children out to the farm to spend time with them, giving Anwen a chance to relax and take care of herself. I had never appreciated my mother-in-law’s generous spirit more than I did right now.
I marveled at the beauty of Anwen lying there. I had racked my brain, but no matter how hard I tried, there were still gaping holes in my memories of my wife. I had regained enough memories of our children now, that I could at least decipher what they wanted or needed when I was around them, but for the life of me, I couldn't put the whole puzzle of my relationship with Anwen together. The Healers had told me that it was alright to have her fill in the blanks, even tell me stories, as long as she thought that I could handle them. We had spent the days since talking about our life together. It had made me feel like she really was my partner and my love.
My fingers trailed down her face, across her shoulder and down her back, and I reveled in the feeling of her soft flesh beneath my hand. Her eyes fluttered open and she smiled at me. I could also feel her overpowering love. That takes a lot to get used to, feeling what she does, but man, it makes the sex unbelievable. I smiled remembering the activities of the previous night.
“Good morning, love. How are you today?” I asked her, my hand caressing her waist. She smiled up at me, and looked up, as if she was trying to think of something.
“Languid,” she told me, still smiling.
“Did I have anything to do with that?” I asked her and she curled one side of her smile up higher than the other.
“Most definitely,” she replied, pushing herself up so that her lips met mine. I really will never get used to kissing her. “So what are your plans for today?”
“I don't have any, per se. I would like to see if there are other spells that I remember how to cast, and I would love to hear more stories.” I want to remember it all, I needed to. I wanted to be the husband that this creature deserved.
“Sounds like a wonderful way to spend the day,” she purred, stretching her lithe body next to mine. How horrid would it be just to spend all day in bed with her? We've been married for ten years, together for six years before that and all I can think about is being in bed with her – that's sick man. She's the mother of our children, she's a mom, but she's so hot. “Knut for your thoughts.”
“Um,” I stammered when I realized she was talking to me. “I was actually thinking about how beautiful you are, how much I would like to spend all day in bed with you. You are very, very sexy.” She looked away from me, and I watched as the blush bloomed across her face, down her neck and across her shoulders while a nervous giggle escaped her. “What?”
“All of this, having to relive all if it, it's kind of nice, it's like I get to fall in love with my husband all over again. ”
“Good, because I have fallen deeply in love with you,” I told her and she seemed to melt. I held her to me and kissed her deeply. Our lips parted and she nestled down next to me, lying on her stomach, her arm draped over me. “So, tell me about our first kiss,” I asked.
“We already talked about this, it was at the Yule Ball,” she told me, rather plainly.
“No, tell me about our first real kiss, I told you, the kiss at the Yule Ball was just something that I did because its what I did with girls. I hadn't figured out you weren't just any girl yet. I remember it, it was, nice,” it was pleasant enough, but no wand sparks. Not like when I kissed her now. “I want you to tell me about the first passionate kiss, Anwen.”
“Alright. It was Easter weekend of my sixth year. I had come home on Thursday, and told you that I wanted to be an Auror, and you had thrown a fit,” she told me. I looked at her confused.
“Wait, I want to hear about our kissing, not our fighting.”
“I know, but you need the whole story, so hush up so I can tell you,” she said with a glint in her eyes. “So anyway, you threw a fit, claiming that you needed to protect me and take me away, and you nearly forbid me to become an Auror, which was pretty funny, because you had no right to tell me to do anything. I stormed off and went up to be alone in my room. I woke up the next morning and you were sitting on my floor, watching me sleep. There was something in your face, and I knew that everything between us had changed,” she looked away, and her face got soft, as did her voice. “Lily had insisted on throwing me a silly sixteenth birthday party two nights later, and I didn't know it at the time, but you and James had arranged to have my family there. Lily dressed me up in this ridiculously beautiful dress that had me barely covered, and had done my hair all up and I looked completely, different,” she stopped to breathe. “I remember talking with Lily, telling her how scared I was, that you couldn't possibly feel about me the way I had been feeling about you, but she kept telling me that it would be okay. I came downstairs and I couldn't find you, and I was afraid that you were mad at me, and that you weren't there; but then I saw you, and I nearly forgot to breathe. You were so handsome,” she told me, looking at me, running her fingers across my face. “We went in to dinner, and the whole night, every time that I would look at you, my heart would race and I got all sweaty, and it finally got so bad that I had to run away, from my own party.” She rolled her eyes, looking like she was somehow frustrated with her younger self. “I was upstairs, crying like a leaky faucet. I felt so silly. Lily gave me a pep talk and sent me back downstairs. I paused at the door, and listened to the music. The little ensemble that they had hired was playing one of my favorite Adagios and then I came back to the table, and you put your arm around me, and I felt like I would simply melt away into nothing. I opened my gifts, and you gave me a beautiful cloak, that I didn't find out until later, was charmed out the wazoo to protect me. You always wanted to make sure that I was safe, even then,” she looked at me again and kissed me.
“After supper, there was dancing, and you waited patiently, let everyone else dance with me, and then it was your turn. The music was a string version of 'I Can't Help Falling In Love' and you spun me around on the floor, and held me close to you.” She looked away again, her face getting dreamy and lost. “Then you told me that you loved me. It wasn't a friendly love or even a familial love, it was passionate love; the kind between a man and a woman. I thought that I would faint from the words, your hold on me, the feel of your breath against my face and the touch of your hand on my back. I pondered for a minute what to do, and then I told you that I loved you too, and you leaned down and kissed me. It was glorious and I felt like I would fly away. We continued to dance, and everyone else left, and we just kept dancing, even once the musicians were gone and the lights were off. When I finally couldn't stand any more, you lifted me up and carried me to the lounge and you nestled me against you, between your legs and threw your jacket over me. I needed to touch you, needed to be near you.” She finally looked back at me and I was in awe. Her memories were so vivid, it was almost like reliving them with her. “It was also the first time that I was french kissed, that night, and I have to say, that was quite memorable as well,” she said with her wonderful crooked smile.
“Well, I think you should show me how that went,” I told her, and she was more than willing to comply.
Later that morning, we were sitting at the table in the kitchen, eating what one could only classify as brunch given the late hour. Neither of us had actually vacated the bed until around eleven, when the growling of my stomach became unbearable, and very noisy. A snippet of a memory – me shaking off as Padfoot in the mud room off the kitchen – came to me.
“Do I like to run around in my Animagus form?” I asked Anwen and Lily. They both looked at me, and laughed heartily.
“Sirius, love, you adore your Animagus form. We actually had a dog for a while, and you and Molly would run around the yard together. Confused the heck out of our old Muggle neighbor,” Anwen said.
“Mrs. Couch, right?” She nodded at me, and I was happy that I had remembered something new all on my own.
“Do you remember how Harry would take the 'dogs' out, and the whole house would stink for days?” Lily added. Blackie, the Potter family dog, who was resting on a mat by the back door, raised his head at the word, dog, but then put it back down again.
“To call you enthusiastic would be an understatement. Once James is here, maybe you can see if you remember the spell. He has practice getting you out of it when you're stuck, I don't, and I wouldn't trust myself,” Anwen said with a smirk. I was about to ask her why, when there was a flash, and then a phoenix was perched on the chair across the table from Anwen, staring at her.
Anwen was concentrating on the bird, and then nodded at it. “Lily, I have to go,” she said plainly.
“Go, we're fine here. Let me know if you need anything or anyone,” Lily responded, her face very serious. I was completely confused. Is that Dumbledore's phoenix? Why would it be here for Anwen and can she talk with that bird? Was it a common occurrence for it to just show up here?
“I'll be back as soon as I can,” she said, leaning over to kiss me quickly. Anwen then got up, walked around the table, grabbed the tail feathers of the phoenix and in another flash of fire, she was gone.
“What was that?” I asked, still in shock and awe.
“Albus must have needed her immediately, that's his phoenix, and he's only sent it for her twice before, and both times, there was deep trouble. Sirius, I don't doubt that you are confused, but I can't even begin to think about where to start on this with you. We'll need to see what happens when she gets back. Now, James had said that you two were reviewing charms, to make sure that you knew how to do them. Where did you leave off? I'm not as good at them as him, but I did get my NEWT,” she said to me kindly, and clearly, I wasn't to ask questions about what just happened. I wish that everyone would stop walking on eggshells around me, and just be honest with me.
As soon as the disorientation from flashing had cleared from my mind, I could tell that there was something terribly wrong with Albus. He was half sitting, half lying on the settee in his office. Both James and Snape were hovering over him, and his magical signature was fluctuating wildly, with pulses of dark magic trying to disrupt it. As I got closer, I could see the source of the problem, his arm was withered and blackened by a curse that I could see quite easily. The signature on it was completely black.
“What the hell happened?” I asked, coming to kneel at his side. “Who did this to you?”
“He accidentally did it to himself,” Snape said, with clear disgust in his voice.
“He couldn't have, the magic on the curse isn't his,” I told him and he rolled his eyes at me.
“Of course not you simple minded girl. He put on the cursed item, hence giving himself the curse. It was cast by someone else. Even your dim-witted friend here, or maybe your husband could have figured that out. Well, he could have before, now I understand that he doesn't even know who you are,” he sneered at me and I took a deep breath, preparing myself to speak.
“Don't talk to her that way you slimy git. You did your binding, and you admitted that you couldn't do more, I suggest that you be leaving,” James said, standing up, looking like he would hit him. I looked at my friend and put a hand on his shoulder.
“James, don't. He isn't worth the effort, and don't forget, I can fight my own battles,” I reminded him. “Now, someone, please tell me what's going on here.”
“Anwen, I had gone to retrieve an item, a ring, and when I did I made the mistake of putting it on. The curse overtook this section of my arm before I could get it off. I got back here, and Severus was able to contain it. I summoned James, but he has been unable to break the curse. I was hoping that perhaps you would have the ability to do so,” he said to me, looking somehow small and defeated. I thought about it for a moment, and then nodded. I knew that my magic still wasn't at full strength, nor was my mind as disciplined as I would have liked it, but there wasn't much I could do about it right now. I reached my hand out, and let it hover over his mangled arm.
I could feel the magic starting to respond to me, but then it would pull back and re-attach itself to Albus. After several tries, I gave up. “I can't remove it. I'm sorry, it's just too strong,” I told him, and he sighed.
“I didn't actually think that you would be able to, but I had hoped. Can you tell if the curse is at least contained?” Albus asked me, looking somewhat resigned to his state.
“Mostly, although it's doing the most...interesting thing,” I told him, looking at his arm, moving my head around, sort of puzzled by it. I hadn't ever seen a curse working like this. “Every once in a while, a very, very small bit of the curse seems to be able to break off, and stream away from your arm, into the rest of your body. It's almost as if it's attached itself to your blood and is using the bloodstream as a conduit to infect the rest of your body. It's very, very slow, and for right now, your magic is strong enough to combat it, but the longer it goes on, the harder it will be for your body to fight it. Eventually, I think, the amount of curse in your body will become toxic. You will only be able to fight it off for so long, before it overpowers you. I'm sorry,” I told him quietly. I wouldn't want to wish this on anyone, especially not someone that I do truly hold affection for, and whom I consider part of my family. It was much like the way that a cancerous tumor would grow in a Muggle, except that we can't cut out the affected part. “Perhaps, some of the treatments that Remus and Lily use for the Werewolf infected children might help? And Ewan is here, he might have ideas, but I know that the curse is not fully trapped, nor can it be removed” I told him.
“I don't understand what you're saying about the bloodstream, it isn't a blood poison,” Snape said, and it was my turn to roll my eyes at him.
“No, it isn't a blood poison, but it's using the bloodstream as a delivery system.” He and Albus were looking at me like I was speaking a foreign language. I looked at James and sighed and then looked back. “Didn't either of you bother to study human physiology?” They continued to look at me dumbfounded. “This is what's lacking in a traditional magical education,” I told James, referencing our long discussions about how to repair the education that most magical children came to Hogwarts with. I looked back at the other two wizards.
“Look, I discovered something in the last few years, about how magic travels through the body,” I told them, and Snape looked disinterested, while Albus was suddenly intrigued.
“How did you make this discovery, Anwen? This isn't something that one usually studies, no one has been able to determine how,” he asked, and I blushed, knowing the answer that I was going to give.
“It was while I was breast feeding my children of all times,” I said, suddenly feeling embarrassed that I was talking about such things with Albus, and grossed out that I was talking about them at all with Snape. “Magic flows from the center of the body, and pulses along through it, loops back from the extremities and back to the center. I watched my children's magic strengthen as they fed, which made sense, and since they were so small, and generally not that magically developed. I could see the individual streams of magic. They travel just like blood in the body. I think that magic flows along in the body, circulating the same way. I can't see it in older children or adults, but I suspect that it's because there is just too much of it, and individual streams can't be seen,” I told them, and both James and Albus were very interested, so I continued. “This curse is doing the same thing. It's sending small bursts of itself out along the magic in your body. It's using your magical strength to weaken you. We can work to reinforce the containment of the curse, but we aren't going to make it go away, and I doubt that we will permanently halt its progression. I believe that eventually, the curse will spread, and more of the tissue will die,” I added somberly. How had I just gotten involved with diagnosing Albus' medical condition? There are healers to do that – I don't need to be involved in this, not now, not with everything else. I chastised myself for bringing yet another drama into my life.
We all sat there in silence. I wasn't sure what the plan was going to be, but I had basically just confirmed to my mentor that he was dying. I avoided making eye contact with any of the men, hoping that my job here was done.
“Severus, that will be all. We will discuss this at greater length another time,” Albus said, trying to dismiss the Potions Master.
“Sir, while Mr. Potter is here,” he spat at James, “we should discuss his son’s behavior during our last Occlumency lesson.” This wasn't the time or the place, but since he brought it up, I decided that I would discuss it, happily.
“You won't be continuing them. I don't know what the hell you did, but his mind was a mess. Believe me, by the time he gets back to school, he will know how to close his mind off,” I promised them. Severus was angry.
“How dare you. You have no idea what happened...” he started.
“Yes, we do. We watched the whole thing. You should be ashamed of yourself. Your teaching methods are barbaric and cruel, and if you teach Potions the same way, it's a wonder that anyone makes a NEWT in your class. Now, I think you should be going. You know full well that I am more than capable of knocking you on your scrawny ass should you not choose to comply.” I could feel my blood boiling. With that he grabbed the edge of his cloak, and swept out of the room. I rolled my eyes at him. “Drama Queen,” I muttered under my breath, and both James and Albus laughed at me. “Are you going to tell me what you were after?” I asked Albus.
“Anwen, you know that I have no intention of discussing this with you,” I looked at James and he nodded in agreement. He needs to know that we already know all about it. He found the ring, huh. I wonder if he found any of the others, or if he even knows all about them.
“You found something else that houses a bit of old Voldy's soul, didn't you? It's a bit, just like the one that's embedded itself in Harry,” I told him bluntly. He looked at me in shock. “I figured it out after my second trip in, it took a while, reviewing the pictures that I had taken, but I did figure it out, and I told the rest of the family. We think that there are three others remaining, plus the diary, which Harry already destroyed. A cup, a crown and a necklace. We still don't know about the magic that created them, but I have an idea.” He had challenged me to figure it out, and with the help of the rest of the family, we had. He looked from me, to James, and back again.
“I think that he might have turned the snake into one as well, but that's the one that I am least sure of. There is still a small amount of his soul remaining in Tom as well,” Albus told us. I nodded in understanding. “I found the ring, and before I had even thought about it, I was putting it on,” he looked away, looking disgusted at himself. “They're called Horcruxes, and they are very old, very dark magic,” he explained.
“I had a sneaking suspicion,” I confided to him. “I found a book about them in Grimmauld, when we were first moving in. When I started reading it, and realized that it gave directions for making such a thing, I removed it from the bookshelves, and put it away in the family vault. It remained there until I encountered that thing in Harry's mind last year. I went to the bank, retrieved it and finished reading it, and came to understand that even if it wasn't a Horcrux, it was something similar,” I told him quietly.
“How did you figure all of them out so quickly?” He was intrigued, and the color was beginning to come back to his face.
“On my second trip in, I conjured a camera, and took pictures of the space, dozens of them, then I sent the camera to my desk. When I was finished, I developed and studied them. Unconventional I know, but I needed something tangible to study. The other, Horcruxes, seemed to float in and out of relationship with the one in Harry's mind, but they were clearly connected. Have you figured out how to destroy them?” I asked.
“I did, but, it destroyed the ring too,” he told me, pointing over toward his desk, where the ring with a broken stone sat. “I am concerned about the one that's in Harry,” he said quietly, looking off into the distance. “I believe that if he were to allow himself to be...taken down...that the self sacrifice would kill the Horcrux, but I'm not sure what it would do to...” I couldn't believe what he was saying, especially in front of James. What kind of an idiot thinks that letting a kid have himself served up as a lamb for the slaughter makes sense?
“No!” James roared, “there has to be another way!”
“I don't see how...” Albus started, but I cut him off.
“You're wrong, there is another way, I'm sure of it, I need to keep just trying to work all the magics out. James, look at me,” and Harry's father slowly turned to comply. “I will not let Harry be killed without a fight. You have to believe me. His life means everything, and I believe I know what we need to do,” I told him and then I let my mouth break into a small smile. “I've learned a great many things about life and death and love in the last few weeks,” I told him, and his face relaxed.
“I should think that you have,” he told me, coming over and hugging me. He and Remus had most definitely taken a more protective stance around me recently, and I didn't mind at all.
“Now Albus, we need to know what it is that you want to do, and then we are going to figure out how we are all going to work together on it. If we don't agree with you, we will pull Harry from school, and teach and train him ourselves. You made some horrible choices in the last year, and none of us want to see a repeat,” James told him sternly, and the Headmaster looked at us, and then bade us to sit down and talk.
Anwen and I were quiet as we walked away from the castle. It had been a rather heated discussion, and it was obvious that this wasn't the first time that Anwen and Albus had argued about Harry, in fact, it would appear that the strain in their relationship had been caused by their inability to see eye to eye on what Harry should and should not be told.
“Anwen, why didn't you tell me things were so bad between the two of you? You shouldn't have had to sacrifice your relationship with Albus over my son.” I felt guilty about what had happened.
“James, this isn't only about Harry. Albus and I have been having issues for years. It goes back to when he had Sirius intimidating people for information, during the first war. There were other things too, things he tried to keep from me about how my magic works, and what...what it can do to me. Perenelle told me the truth, and it made him livid,” she said quietly. “I was in awe of him as a teacher, loved him as a father figure and mentor, but I couldn't quite get close enough to call him a friend, and now, I choose not to try so hard,” she told me, and I was surprised at her candor. “ I don't always agree with how he manipulates people, and things, for his own needs,” she said quietly, and I was sure that there was more, but given everything she had been through, I didn't want to push. We crossed through the gates, and we were off of school property.
“Are you ready to go home?” I asked her, but she shook her head at me.
“James, if you need to get back, I understand, but I need to clear my head a while longer. There will be more questions to be answered and more stories I need to tell...” she said, stopping and looking at me. “Look, I go back this, irritated, I won't be able to control myself as I need to around Sirius. He keeps looking for information and some I want to give him, but I just can't figure out how,” she sighed, and put her palms to her head, massaging her temples. “I know that I should be more patient with him, but...” she trailed off.
“Come on, let's get something to eat and you and I can talk about how I can help you with Sirius,” I told her, putting my hand on her back, steering her towards the Three Broomsticks. Rosie greeted us at the door, and I shamelessly flirted with her, and she flirted right back. Anwen just smiled and shook her head. We ordered some soup and I got a butterbeer, while Anwen ordered a glass of wine. She seemed to relax as we ate and drank.
“So, what does Sirius want you to explain to him that you're not sure how to?” I asked, she sighed and breathed out slowly.
“He keeps asking why we don't have the home in Greece anymore. He only has a few memories of it, and they're all pretty wonderful ones, but I'm afraid of talking with him about it, to be honest. It isn't just what happened there, it's...I have to explain the whole thing. How awful my life had become just before his...indiscretion,” she stopped and watched her finger slide around the rim of her wine glass, tracing the circumference with the tip of her finger. “Did you know that I had written a letter, and left it with Remus, in case I didn't come back from that last trip to Greece. It was a goodbye to you and Lil and a resignation from the Ministry. I was nearly ready to chuck my life and stay there with him. I was so desperately unhappy,” she told me quietly, tears clearly forming on the edges of her eyes. Even remembering it makes her look broken.
“Would it be easier if I told him? I can leave out about what you were doing at work, and just explain what happened, as best as I understand it. It should be enough for him,” I asked her, she nodded at me, and then was very quiet again. “You know, you don't have to be so strong all of the time. No one would think less of you, if you had to take a little while and just spend some time alone each day.”
“I can't do that to him James. He's still so scared of what he doesn't remember, and I know that he's worried about never being able to remember. He starts panicking when I'm not there. I can feel the relief in him when I return to him. But, sometimes...it just feels like I'm taking care of another child. I know I shouldn't feel that way, it's just so hard. There's a lot I don't want to remember, but he needs me to,” she said no louder than a whisper. I reached over and put my hand over hers. The contact seemed to break down what few reserves she had left, and she just covered her face with her other hand. I didn't say anything, I was hoping that I didn't need to. After a moment, Anwen got hold of her emotions, and slid her hand out from under mine.
“I think we should be heading back there, I just want to make a quick stop at Honeydukes, and then we should go home,” she said, throwing some money down on the table to cover the bill. She's sneakier than her husband about paying. I never would have thought to ask her to pay for lunch.
“James, I need your help with something else,” she said as we walked out of the pub. “I need to convince my parents to head back to Canada, or at least to leave Great Britain. I can't be worried about them with everything else, and as much as I love my sister, she isn't the best dueler; I don't think that she could protect them all.” We crossed the street and headed back toward the confectioner.
“How about if we book them on a world cruise or a Continental tour? Give them a real holiday, since they've taken the time away from their inn?” I suggested, and she smiled at the idea. “Remus and I will explain that you need time with your children to help Sirius remember them. We'll be gentle, and I think that we can get them to agree. I fully understand your need to protect them. Would you like me to check the wards on the farm as well?”
“Yes, that would be wonderful. I worry about Eira out there. At least Charlie is with her most of the time,” she said, smiling. We went into the small shop, and she bought quite a bit of chocolates. “Hey, when you're feeling down, chocolate is the best balm there is. Lately, I have been feeling a little down,” she said no louder than a whisper.
After what felt like forever, Anwen and James came back home, together. I hadn't realized that they were off at the same place. She came in holding a bag from Honeydukes, and was wearing a big smile.
“I picked up some of our favorites, and other things that have meaning for us. I figured you could try some of them later, and see what memories they stir up for you,” she said, coming over and showing me the bag. I leaned down and kissed her. Why do her lips taste like salt? I hope she hasn't been crying again.
“That sounds like a plan. Guess what Lily helped me remember?” I asked her and she shrugged her shoulders. I got out my wand and performed the Patronus Charm, still pleased when the large Griffin bounded forth and looked at her. When it evaporated, I pulled her close to me. “Would that be why you have that wonderful tattoo here?” I asked her, my hand slipping beneath her blouse to touch the small of her back where the winged Griffin tattoo was. I was delighted as she blushed again.
“Partly,” she admitted. “But it also has to do with this. Fire yours again, dear,” she asked, and as I did, I watched as she lifted a hand, and a smaller Griffin materialized next to mine. He lovingly stroked her with his beak and she laid her head on his wing before they both dematerialized.
“We share a patronus form?” I asked her, surprised.
“It's not uncommon for married couples to do so. Lily's changed to match James' when they were engaged,” she told me and I looked over to see Lily and James, arm in arm, nodding at us. “Ours just happened to both completely change form after the mystical Binding ceremony,” she told me and I looked at her puzzled. She took a deep breath. “Sirius, we were married with the three part, mystical ceremony. We've talked about this some, and we can talk more, but only once you've gotten back a few more memories. If I start just telling you all of it, you'll end up overwhelmed by it,” she told me and I nodded at her. We had indeed discussed this, but I was anxious to know about it.
“Does it have anything to do with Greece, and why you're avoiding telling me about it?” I asked and she inhaled sharply and looked away. What the hell happened in Greece? Was it really that bad?
“Sirius, it does, and I think that perhaps you and I should sit down and talk,” James said to me, and Anwen wasn't looking at me yet. I put my hand under her chin, and lifted her face so that she would look at me. The pain in her eyes was excruciating.
“It's so bad that you can't even talk to me about it?” I asked her, and the idea that I had hurt her this badly, I couldn't believe it.
“Sirius, it will just be easier if I'm not the one who does it. We'll talk after James fills you in, okay?” she said, trying to fight back tears. “I'm going out to the farm to see the kids, why don't you come out when you're ready? There's a little inn in town that we love, and we could go down and have a nice family dinner out, how does that sound?” I nodded at her, and she stood on her tiptoes and kissed me gently, and then left the room with Lily. I turned and looked at my best friend.
“What the hell did I do to her?”
I had been working in my lab, when I heard her voice, and needed to come out and see what in the world was going on. As I walked out, I saw them on the lawn. Anwen and Eira were sitting beneath a tree, and all six of the little children were sitting around them with Lily and her Ma. Anwen and Eira were singing some sort of a crazy kids song, with silly motions and such. 'What if my lips were on my hips, what a mess I would be in?' Who writes this stuff? They were all singing and laughing and dancing around, and the happiness of the moment was delightful. They finished singing, and she waved at me, getting up from the group, carrying little Jamie on her hip. The toddler was very attached to her mother, and Anwen's absences had been hard on her. I had heard her crying for her Mummy the previous night, while the kids stayed overnight with their grandparents.
“Hey there, Jamie, can you give Uncle Remus a hug and a kiss hello, I bet he's missed you,” Anwen said to her littlest daughter, and she reached over and put her little hands around my neck and then left a very wet kiss on my cheek.
“I'd better not tell your Auntie Tonks, or she might get jealous that such a pretty girl is kissing me,” I teased, and the toddler hid her head behind her mothers hair. “You look happy,” I told Anwen, and she smiled at me.
“My children always make me happy, no matter what else might be going on in the world,” she told me, completely honestly. “We need to have a family meeting tonight. James and I had quite a discussion with Dumbledore today.”
“Which house and at what time?”
“Manor, at about 9:00. Lil and I need to get the kids to bed first. We're going to go into town, to eat at The Darlin Daffodil, do you want to go with us?” she asked me. Dinner out with Anwen, Sirius and four kids, could be interesting.
“Sure, I guess. Where is he anyway?” Anwen paused, and her face got serious.
“He and James are discussing Greece. I couldn't do it. He's been asking questions, but I just couldn't do that to him. He doesn't know that he broke my heart and nearly shattered me then. I couldn't tell him now,” she said, sounding as if she was apologizing for not wanting to hurt her husband. I put an arm around her.
“It'll be fine. Actually, I have something I want to talk with you about. Remember when we were in your vault last year, and you said that there was stuff in there that you thought should go to Tonks?” I asked her, feeling just a bit foolish.
“Yes, she should have some of the family heirlooms. So should her mother. Why do you want to get something for her?” she asked sounding excited, and shifting Jamie to the other side of her body.
“Well, I was wondering if there were any...um...suitable rings...to..uh...give her...when I...” Anwen smile got huge and she was bouncing up and down on her feet.
“You are going to finally propose! Yeah, yeah, yeah!” she said, dancing around in a little circle. Jamie was clapping her hands as well, because her mother was so happy.
“Anwen, keep it down, I don't want everyone to know before I can ask Tonks,” I reprimanded her and she stopped.
“Tomorrow, tomorrow we are going to the vault, and if you promise not to flip out, I'll take you into the heirloom room and you can go through the cases of jewelry and find the perfect ring. And if its not there, we can take any stone that you want and we'll get it set just the way you like it. I'll make sure that it's not cursed too, because that would suck for an engagement ring,” she finally stopped to breathe and she threw her one free arm around me to hug me.
“What made you finally decided to do this?” She asked when she pulled away from me. I looked at her, and thought for a moment about how to explain this to her.
“What you did for Sirius. How certain you were that he needed you, and that you would be alright. I don't know that I would do what you did, but I know that if I don't even tell her how I feel, how I needed her to be near me, forever, then I certainly wouldn't.” She smiled gently at me.
“Hard to believe that you would ever take a cue from Sirius how to conduct a relationship with a woman,” she said back, smiling that knowing smile of hers. I groaned at the realization that I indeed did want to have that same type of relationship. Anwen and I made plans for the following morning, and we went back to the lawn with the rest of the family. A while later, James and Sirius came through the house into the yard. Padfoot's face was set on Anwen. She stood and he came and lifted her up and held her tightly to him, staring deeply into her eyes. The duo were staring at each other, their breath ragged, a conversation being carried on through their emotional bond. He then started walking toward the house, still carrying her. When they were inside, I heard Lily sigh.
“Maybe we should go to dinner without them?” James said, apparently a little confused and uncertain about what had just happened.
“Probably, dear, probably,” Lily said smiling, patting his arm.
“Ew, you don't want that one, it's got some sort of a curse on it,” I told Remus, and he immediately dropped the emerald and onyx ring back into the box. He picked up another one.
“What about this one?” he asked and I looked up at it and hoped to high heaven that he was joking. “That is ugly with a capital Ug!” I told him, looking at the ring which resembled two serpents twined together, holding an ostentatious diamond between them. “Anyway, I don't think she's real proud of the family history.”
“Nope. There are few relatives that she's willing to admit to sharing a family tree with; Sirius, you, the kids, her Mum, and a couple of other people – most of whom she only knows by name because they're dead,” Remus teased and we continued to rummage through the cases. I found something that I actually liked, and pulled it aside to take with me. After much searching, Remus pulled a ring from the bottom of a very aged case, and held it up for me to see. “What do you think of this one?”
“It's perfect, and it's curse– free, although there is magic in it,” I told hum, and he made a face at me. “It's not bad magic, but it's there; sort of like the watch I gave Sirius. If you're worried, have James look at it, he's better with such things anyway; but it's the right ring,” I told him, trying to suppress my smile. It was a delicate ring, but clearly well crafted, of bands of fine platinum that wove together, with a brilliant pale blue diamond.
“I wonder if I should buy her something instead. A ring that is hers alone. I have some money,” he started.
“No, this is the perfect ring. As for not spending any money on it, all of this is just sitting here; we were thinking about liquidating some of it anyway, having it taken apart and melted down, this is a much better use for it. Remus, of all of us, I understand how you feel about taking things, but in this case, it makes perfect sense. This is the ring you need to give Tonks. Please, take it. If you don't want to tell her where it came from, you don't have to. Look what I found in our ransacking,” I told him, reaching over for the velvet case and picking it up. “What do you think of these?”
“Anwen, they'll look perfect on you. They'll reflect the light and contrast against your hair,” he told me, and I could feel myself biting my lip.
“They're not for me actually. I want to give them to Hermione. Her seventeenth birthday is in September, and Lily and I were talking a few days ago about how we should give her a proper birthday party before school begins. Her family won't know to celebrate this birthday, they barely know how to treat her and her remarkable talents as a witch, so Lil and I will make sure that she is properly honored,” I told him, my hand tracing the stones in the set of hair clips that I had found in the vault. They were silver, but were covered with jewels in an intricate but artistic geometric pattern. From looking at them, I thought that they might have been created in the twenties or thirties, they had a very art deco feel to them. “Don't go being all impressed with me here, Remus. I don't want to hear it,” I told him. He had that same stupid look on his face that he always got when he was about to tell me that I was a great person. “If there's nothing else that you need, I think we should be going? Have you given any thought about how you want to ask her?”
“I have. She loves Stonehenge, I thought I could take her at twilight, and propose to her there. We're far enough away from the full moon for me to be out in the moonlight,” he told me and I smiled at him.
“It's perfect, and she will remember it forever. Just make sure she's wearing nice clothes, every time I think of Sirius proposing, I remember the polka dot pajamas I was wearing,” I told him, putting my hand on his arm. “You know, this is all that I ever wanted for you, happiness. All those years, you were worried about my being happy, and I couldn't figure out how to provide you the same opportunities. You are my best friend, and I hope that I don't have to tell you, that I never would have made it through so much of my life without your strength.” I told him quietly. He pulled me into a strong hug.
“I have only done for you what you have always done for me,” he told me as I returned the hug. We departed the vault, and headed back upstairs. I quickly discussed some financial matters with Targnof, shuffled some money between accounts, and then we left the bank.
“It's a good thing that they like us so much, Sirius and me, we've moved well over half of our money out of the Wizarding world, and put it into Muggle accounts, just in case we need to get away or go into hiding. If you went by just what’s in Gringotts, you'd think the Black family had lost most of its fortune,” I told him jokingly, but I often found myself daydreaming or worrying, about where we might be in six months, a year, five years.
“Remus, would you please tell me what’s going on?” Tonks asked.
“I..I..I have somewhere that I need to take you, can you please stop asking questions!” I sort of yelled at her. She had no idea how nervous I was right now. She just threw her arms up and shrugged. This is not the attitude that I want from my future wife on the day I propose to her.
I apparated her to Stonehenge, just as the moon was rising.
“Oh, Remus, it’s beautiful. This is one of my favorite places. I forgive you for being so grouchy,” she told me, and I nervously nodded at her.
“I know. I wanted to...it needed to be...” I rubbed my wet palms on my pant legs, trying to get them to dry. “I wanted someplace special to do this.”
“Remus, love, what is it? You’re a mess here, come on, let’s go and sit in the grass and you take a deep breath. Do you need to put your head between your knees?” She directed me over to the grass, and we sat down, and I was feeling quite irritated that she was trying to take care of me, instead of letting me do this.
“Tonks, stop,” I told her, and then took a deep breath. “I have never understood why it was that you loved me...”
“Please, just let me say this. It makes no sense to me, you could have someone so much younger, and more handsome, and...but the fact is, love doesn’t make sense. Watching Winnie and Sirius, what they’ve...I so envy them.”
“I know, I don’t know anyone who loves like they do,” she added sadly.
“No, they’re pretty unique in that sense, but I...I love you. I know that’s I’m not perfect, and that there are times that living with me will be a complete handful, but, for some reason, you love me anyway,” I told her, as I moved myself so that I was sitting in front of her.
“I can’t promise that living with me will be easy, or that we’ll ever have fine things, but I can promise that I will wake up every morning thankful to see your smiling face and go to bed every night holding you. Nymphadora Louise Tonks,” I said her whole name, and for the first time, I didn’t see her react to it. I reached into the my pocket and pulled out the ring that Anwen and I had picked out. “Tonks, will you do me the honor of being my wife?”
“Yes, yes, about bloody time you asked,” she yelled as she tackled me, flinging us both to the ground, her lips covering mine.
I got back to the Manor a short time later, and began preparing lunch. Remus had every intention of asking Tonks as soon as she had the time. I contacted Mad–Eye and asked him to trade shifts with her tonight, and he agreed, thereby clearing up her evening. Even true romance can use a friendly little shove. We've all been waiting quite long enough for this, but most especially Tonks.
Lily had been out all morning visiting a young woman who had been infected during the first war. She was pregnant with her first child, and Lily was visiting often, offering her moral support. James and Sirius had stayed home with all of the little kids this morning – with the help of Harry, Ron, Ginny and Hermione of course. I didn't want to think on it too long, but I was sure that all four of my small children had probably been up flying with their family this morning. My suspicions were confirmed when Ethan came running in, asking me when lunch would be ready, so that: “Hawwy can show me how to roll over on my broom.”
“We're you all flying this morning?” I asked my three year old, but it was his five year old cousin who chimed in.
“Yeah, Aunt Winnie, even Daddy and Uncle Sirius. He was laughing so hard while we were flying, and going so fast, he took all of us up on the broom with him, and we were skimming the trees with our feet,” Evan told me, and I looked over the kitchen at my husband, cocking my eyebrow at him.
“Really, all of you were flying that high? Jamie and John too?” Even if he didn't remember that I didn't like having the twins up that high, surely James or one of the girls should have remembered.
“Yeah, you should have heard Jamie crying, she didn't like it at all,” Evan told me, plopping himself down on the floor to pet Blackie, who was once again lounging in the sun coming in from the back door.
“Really, Jamie didn't like it, and she was crying?” I tilted my head and looked at Sirius, he just smiled that crooked smile at me. I exhaled, blowing the air upwards so that it lifted the hairs of my fringe off my forehead. Sirius came over toward me, hopping up so that he was sitting on the counter next to where I was working.
“As soon as she started crying I brought her straight down, and she went to Hermione. They stayed on the ground, and picked flowers from the garden,” he told me, pointing to the windowsill behind the sink where a rather sloppy bunch of flowers sat in a cup. “I don't know if she'll be a Quidditch player, Win.”
I stopped and looked at him, and his use of my nickname. I hadn't heard him use it since the incident a few weeks ago. “You called me Win. You haven't called me Winnie...” I dropped the bread that I was holding as I was in the process of making sandwiches. He hopped down from the counter and came and took me into his arms, his hands holding my hair away from my face.
“I didn't realize that you missed it,” he told me, looking me lovingly in the eyes. “You are most definitely my beautiful Winnie,” he whispered before he kissed me. A moment later, there was a groan.
“Come on Uncle Sirius, Aunt Winnie, you're old, stop snogging over lunch,” Harry complained and we both broke apart laughing. The rest of the teens had followed him in, and with so many hands, we got lunch prepped quickly, and then we sat down to eat. James had come in from the library, where he had been doing some work and Lily had just gotten home. We were eating and conversing, when I looked over at my youngest son. He was very discretely dropping his pear slices onto the floor, where Blackie was picking them up and eating them for him.
“John Sirius Black, do you want to go flying with your cousin after your nap this afternoon?”
“Rughf, nurblyum, orlbo,” he said, telling me something in his toddler language, nodding his head with a big smile.
“Mummy, he says that he wants to fly,” Ethan said, translating for his little brother. I was often amazed at the way my older two seemed to understand the little two, even if they weren't speaking words.
“Then you need to eat your pears, not drop them on the floor for the dog. Anyway, we have butterscotch oatmeal cookies, which I happen to know are your favorite, but you won't be getting any unless you eat your healthy food first,” I told him, and he looked at me with the most puzzled stare. “And your Daddy won't be sneaking you any, either,” I said, giving Sirius that look that let him know I meant business. John looked at me again, then thought for a moment, and then picked up a pear from his high chair tray and ate it. “Good boy.”
The older kids were talking about school, and how they thought that they had done on their exams. Hermione was particularly concerned with her OWL results. Like there is any chance she didn't do well. We finished up lunch, and a whole gallon of milk, and Sirius and I took the twins up first to get them down for their naps. The Hogwarts kids went back out to the yard, while the older four were allowed to go into the lounge and watch one television show before they had to nap. They enjoyed a show called “Rupert” about a little bear. Once they too were down, Sirius and James went to work on some spell work, including some curse breaking. Lily went to start preparing dinner and I had nothing to do...no laundry, no cleaning, no work for the Ministry, nothing even needed to be dealt with for Harry. I was thrilled that I had a few moments to myself, and headed through the ballroom for my favorite room in the Manor.
I sat down at the piano, and took a deep breath, letting my fingers caress the keys. I started playing the Moonlight Sonata and just closed my eyes and enjoyed the experience of playing and feeling the music move through me. I had forgotten just how relaxing this could be, just making music, feeling it flow through me, not really having to think, just being able to do something. It had been a while since I played, and I kept making fingering mistakes, even though the piece was fairly simple. About two-thirds of the way through, Sirius came and sat down next to me. His hand gently ran up and down my back a few times, and as I finished playing, he slipped it under the thin cotton shirt I was wearing. I shivered at his touch, even though it was anything but cold in the room.
“I could feel that you were at peace, so I wanted to come and find what had made you feel that way,” he told me, turning himself sideways on the bench. He gently guided me so that I would do the same, our knees touching, his hands resting on my waist, mine on his thighs. “Then I had this memory, of being in here with you, sitting on this bench, much like we are now,” he told me, as he leaned down and started kissing the exposed flesh of my neck and shoulders. “But I also remember you being frightened of something,” kiss, “Why were we here?” another kiss, “What had you so scared?” and another.
I took his face between my hands. I knew that this would be coming, living here in the Manor he was liable to remember it sooner rather than later. At least that only leaves the miscarriages that I don't really want to have to talk about, oh, and the crap about his grandfather, but maybe I'll just leave that buried. The only one who knows besides me, is King. I made him stop kissing me, knowing full well that I couldn't concentrate with his lips on me, and had him look at me.
“We'll start this with a question. How much do you remember about your brother?” He looked at me puzzled.
“What does my little brother have to do with this?” he asked, sounding somewhat repulsed, but I didn't say anything. “I know that he didn't like you, and that you had problems with him at school. You had an altercation with him at a Quidditch match, and you punched him, and I know that he's dead. That's about all,” he answered. I nodded at him.
“He hated me, I never did figure out why completely, but that's neither here nor there. We did have a fight after a Quidditch match, he called me a whore, I didn't like it. Only time I ever got detention while I was at school – unlike your record, which I think may still stand. Anyway, Regulus joined up with Voldemort while he was still in school,” I told him, and his eyes flew open wide.
“My brother was a Death Eater?”
“Yes, and he never actually finished school, so you did better than him there. He was in the inner circle, along with your cousin Bella, her husband Rodolphus and Lucius Malfoy. The four of them attacked me in Hogsmeade in October of my seventh year,” I told him quietly. He went to say something, but I put my hand on his mouth. I wasn't looking forward to telling this story, and I just wanted to get it out. I looked past him, staring at the clarinet on the wall behind him, encased in glass. “They set off an explosion at the end of the street, to lure all of you away from me, and then they got me to go down a dark alley, where they attacked me. I had curse burns on my face and torso, and they broke my shoulder so that I couldn't change into my bird form and fly away.” I could feel tears at the corners of my eyes, but I didn't want to cry about this, not any more. “Um,” I scratched my head absent-mindedly. “They tried to rape me, and they used the Cruciatus on me. But James found me, and you all got me to hospital in time, and I was fine. It took me a while, however, to completely recover, so we lived here, so you could have help taking care of me. We stayed here for months, and the hardest part for me was letting you touch me again. It kept feeling like their hands on me, groping at me,” I told him, still not making eye contact. I felt him tense against me, his hands moving away from me.
“My brother did that to you? Why did you stay with me?”
“Because I loved you, I still love you. I might not have recovered if it wasn't for you, the way you took care of me. Sirius, it was a very long time ago. I made my peace with those demons – partly because I put the Lestranges in jail and made life hell for Malfoy,” I told him, adding a smile to reinforce my point.
“What about Reg?”
“He was killed by Voldemort not long after that. We found out on Christmas Eve. You were jubilant at the idea that he would never be able to come after me again. The memory that you were having, was of the first time I really let you touch me after the attack. We were sitting on this bench, and you had pulled me so that I was very close to you,” I told him, putting my calves up on his thighs, just like we had been that day. “And you had slipped your hands inside of my jumper, caressing my back and sides,” Sirius seemed to understand, because as I said it, he mimicked his motions of that day. “and you kissed me, very deeply,” I sighed as his lips worked their way from my collarbone back up to mine, “and then you pulled me up onto you like this,” I said, positioning myself over him.
I let my hands twine into his hair, and I got lost in the wonder of his tongue dancing with mine. He had become much bolder in his actions with me, and his hands went roaming all over under my shirt. I slid mine down his body, and released his shirt from the waist of his jeans and let my hands do the same. “You know,” I whispered, in his ear as his lips assaulted the flesh the v-neck of my tee shirt made available, “I've always had a rather wicked fantasy about a piano, and you, and ...” my breath caught “...use your imagination love,” I moaned and he growled in excitement. I raised my hand, sealed the door, silenced the room, and drew the curtains with one wave. “Now, about that fantasy...”
“You don't think that they're having sex in there do you?” I asked my wife, we were sitting in the kitchen, and I had seen the curtains in the conservatory close as I was coming back in from the back yard. Harry and his friends were flying around back there, and I wanted to remind them that they had defensive practice with me in a half an hour.
“It's Sirius and Anwen you’re asking about. What do you think?” I groaned at them. How the hell do they do it? I mean, they've been married less time than Lily and I, but really, they're still like rabbits. Admittedly, he doesn't remember much of the last years, but, really...” I looked at Lily and she was shaking her head at me. “Love, they've always been this way, and it's only going to be worse for a while, since he's just remembering. She'll clean up in there, I know Anwen too well. Anyway, she loves the piano in there too much to make sure that it isn't well taken care of,” my wife told me.
“You know, I wouldn't be surprised if they ended up pregnant again,” I told her. I fully expected them to have more kids, Sirius said that he wanted to have his own Quidditch team, and if Jamie's reaction to flying was any indication this morning, she won't be playing when she gets older.
“Funny you should bring up being pregnant,” she said, looking down at the table.
“Lil, you, we're not, are we?” I said, barely able to contain my excitement. We had been trying to get pregnant with another baby for a year now. I knew that this was something that she wanted very badly.
“I saw the healer this morning, and I am nearly three months along,” she told me, picking up her blouse to show me the obvious bulge to her belly. My hand went to rest on it, and I could swear that I felt something move inside. I looked up at her face and smiled.
“Oh my beautiful Lily, another baby? Really?”
“Really, I'm due on January twenty-fifth.” I was so excited, I leaned over and kissed my Lily. I know in my heart it isn't the best time to be having another baby, but I think that we all knew from everything that had happened here lately, there were no promises in life. Sometimes, you just had to live the life you have, right now.
“So, when are we telling everyone?” I was ready to run through the house now.
“I think we should tell Harry first, he might be embarrassed to find out that his parents are still having sex,” she told me. Oh, forget that, he must know; and it can't come as a big surprise, he lives with Anwen and Sirius.
“Fine, we'll tell Harry shortly, and then I think that we should invite everyone else over for dessert tonight tell them then. I'll fire call Molly and Arthur, have them tell Charlie and Eira and her parents. Oh, and we should get in touch with Remus and Tonks.” I really was happy. We talked a while longer, we both agreed that we didn't care what it was, as long as it was healthy. I would never tell Lil this, but I would love a little girl with red hair and green eyes that looked just like her Mummy. She set about making another batch of cookies, and Anwen emerged and started making a treacle tart. I suggested two for good measure, and she just looked at me, confused.
I fire called Molly and she promised to not only get in touch with Eira, but bring along some fruit pasties that she had made. I got in touch with Remus, but he said that he and Tonks had some plans, but he was sure that they would be over, just a little late. Anwen seemed to jump out of her skin at this turn of events, but she said nothing else, just hummed as she rolled out the pie dough.
I did the lesson with the four Hogwarts kids, and I was pleased with just how far they had come and how skilled they were. We talked some about what happened in the Department of Mysteries, and they all seemed to be dealing with it well, with the exception of Harry, but he and Anwen were working on it. He suggested that we invite Luna and Neville to join them for their defense lessons, and I agreed and promised to contact their families in the morning. The kids awoke from their naps and soon, we were all outside on the deck, playing in the warm summer sun. We had even set up a small Muggle wading pool, and all of the kids changed and frolicked in the water. Lily and I took Harry aside a while later, and told him about the new baby.
“Really, another one. Are you trying to keep up with Uncle Sirius?”
“No, but, we will be even with this baby. Didn't think about that earlier,” I confided in him. “Hey, how would you and Ron like to go to a Quidditch match? I know we haven't kept our season tickets for this year, but I think that we should take in a match. Take Uncle Sirius too, he loves watching Quidditch, or he did. Maybe it will help him remember?”
“Dad, I will always go to a match. When does Portree play again?” he asked, and we went to the Lounge to check the Prophet to see the schedule.
“Hey,” I said, “ turns out that they're playing tomorrow, and they're playing Puddlemere. That was Sirius’ favorite team. Why don't I go down there and see if I can get tickets?”
“That's great Dad. Hey, and Oliver Wood plays for their reserve, maybe I can get a chance to say hi to him,” he told me, looking quite happy. I apparated down into town, and was able to procure a section of seats for tomorrows game. There would be enough room for anyone who could come. I told Lily and she smiled.
“I'm glad that you're going to have a day out, however, I don't see Hermione wanting to go, she's really not much of a Quidditch fan,” she told me, and I remembered that.
“Well, why don't you take her into London to the Art Museum. I know how much she loves that,” I suggested, but Anwen came in and heard the end of the conversation.
“Actually, I need to go to Monaco to get some more potion supplies for Remus and Ewan, how about if I take her with me, and we can hit the Museum there. In fact, if we don't go tomorrow, you can come with me Lils, and then we can go shopping too,” she suggested. I thought that it was the perfect plan.
Dinner was happy, and we sat out on the porch to eat. As night began to fall, the Weasley family began showing up. Molly looked somewhat happy, though not completely, but Bill and his girlfriend looked thrilled to be near each other. Charlie and Eira were wrapped up in each other as well, and even the Hogwarts kids seemed happy to be around each other. I couldn't help but notice that Harry kept giving Ginny some rather significant looks. Sirius and Anwen were up on their brooms, and Jamie seemed to be much happier to be flying, since she was with her Mummy. Maybe I was wrong about her liking flying. Maybe she just needs her Mummy to teach her. Anwen brought Jamie down, and handed her to Eira, and then challenged Harry to a race. He, of course, took the challenge. He keeps thinking that he can beat her, and he never does. His best shot was back when he was about twelve, now he out weighs her by way too much.
Sirius kissed Anwen, and wished her luck and I acted as referee for the race. We set the turn around point and I started the race. Anwen beat Harry back, and had come to a complete stop and was waiting for him to return, laughing at him. “Silly boy, you will never learn,” she teased him. Then Ginny challenged her. This could be a much closer race. Ginny and Anwen are much closer in size, but I think Anwen might be a better flyer. We used the same turn around, and this time, the race was much closer, Anwen only winning by a few feet.
“Ginny, that is some spectacular flying girl. You're amazing up there,” Anwen congratulated the younger woman. Lily started getting the pudding out, and Molly had gotten up to help her. Once everyone had some, I stood up on a chair, deciding that it was time to let them know why we really had invited them all over tonight.
“Friends, kids, family, Lily and I are happy to let you know that we are having another baby in January,” I said gushing. I got down from the chair, and kissed my wife. Anwen popped up and held Lily tight. I knew that she was aware how badly Lily had wanted this. Others congratulated us, and everyone seemed happy, except for Ron, who just looked puzzled. I asked Ginny what she thought his problem was.
“I think he's just flipped out that you and Mrs. Potter actually kiss, doing more is beyond what his mind can grasp,” she told me, flippantly. I couldn't help but laugh. We lounged around for a while longer, eating desserts, and I reveled in being in my friends’ company without having a crisis invading our lives. A few weeks ago, all of this was nearly wiped out, and now, Sirius was doing better, Anwen seemed calmer; Lily and I were going to be having a baby. Harry was adjusting, and we were nearly ready to tell him everything. The future was uncertain, but at least right now, we're happy.
Once it was dark, Anwen took the twins up, and put them to bed, and shortly after, she and Lily took the older four up and got them tucked in as well. It wasn't long after they returned that Tonks and Remus came through the floo, both looking like the proverbial cat that swallowed the canary. Anwen actually squealed when she saw them.
“Moony, what's going on?” Sirius asked.
“We're getting married! He FINALLY asked me!” Tonks yelled, and Anwen was up and hugging them before the words were out of her mouth. I don't believe it, he finally got up the nerve to ask her. Thanks to Merlin! The last Marauder bites the dust. Who'd have thunk it. I went and conferred with Anwen, and a moment later, there was fine French champagne as well as sparkling apple juice for my wife, to toast the newly engaged couple. Love those conjuring skills of hers. Brought the wine over from the cellar at Grimmauld without leaving the patio. We were all surprised when Bill Weasley stood up and cleared his throat.
“Remus, sir, I don't mean to steal your thunder here, but I can't keep this to myself any longer,” he started, and I saw Molly trying to pull him down. Arthur was reaching for her hand, to pull her away. Ginny and Hermione were looking at each other, rolling their eyes. “I asked Fleur to marry me yesterday, and she said yes. So, it looks like we will be having two weddings in the next year,” he said, and another round of congratulations began. Today was really turning out to be a great day.
“It'll be three, Eira and I have set a date for October of next year,” Charlie announced, and everyone was clapping. What a great night.
It was late when I finally was alone with Winnie upstairs. “Why do I get the feeling that you knew what was going to happen with Moony and Tonks today?”
“Because, I did,” she said, scrunching her face together the way she does when she’s trying to keep me from getting angry at her for hiding something from me. “Look, he asked me for my help, and wanted it kept secret. I hope you don't mind, but the ring came from the family vault. Before this” she said waving her fingers in front of me, “had happened, we had talked about giving each of them some of the family heirlooms,” she was rambling again. I silenced her with a kiss.
“I'm not upset, and thank you for helping him,” I told her when I removed my lips from hers. “Today's been a good day. I mean I wasn't happy to find out what a git my brother was, and how he'd hurt you, but the rest of it was good. I'm happy for Moony, and kinda surprised that my kid cousin ended up with my mate, but I guess I dealt with that a while ago,” I told her and she nodded at me. “And Bill and that French girl, what's her name?”
“Fleur, her name is Fleur,” Anwen told me.
“Right. It's good that they're getting married, although Molly doesn't seem real happy.”
“I don't think that anyone is good enough for her children in Molly's eyes, even my sister, who she loves. Give her time, she'll come around, I actually like Fleur,” she told me.
“That's because you can converse in French with her. How many languages do you speak?” She looked away, embarrassed again. Oh, this should be good.
“Damn, I married not only a beautiful, sexy, sweet and wonderful wife, who’s a brilliant mother, but she's really smart too!” I was so proud that I was married to Anwen. I pulled her close again, and wrapped my arms around her. “What about James and Lily, and the new baby? How do you feel about that?” I really wasn't sure how she would feel. I guessed I was happy, I couldn't think of a reason not to be.
“I'm thrilled darling. Lily has wanted this for a while,” she told me, but I could see something in her face. “You wish it were us?”
“No, not exactly. I don't begrudge them having their kids, and I'm not even sure that I would want one right now, but yes, I would love to have more children with you. You once told me that we made such beautiful babies, that we needed to provide the world with them, just to make the world a lovelier place.”
“That sounds perfect. When you're ready, I'm ready. You're a remarkable mother, and the fact that you want me to be the father of your children, it messes with what little part of my mind still works right,” I told her as I headed toward the en suite loo to get her nightgown and the shorts I wore to bed. We changed and got ready for bed and when we were nestled back down, she extinguished all of the gas lights in the room with a wave of her hand, leaving only one small candle lit next to our bed.
“Tomorrow should be good too. You love watching Quidditch, I'm glad that you'll get to go to the game, and spend some time with the guys, and Ginny,” she added. James, Harry, Evan, Ginny, Ron, Bill, Charlie and I were going into town to see Portree play in the afternoon. Anwen shifted against me. “I was thinking, maybe, soon, I could take you to Grimmauld, let you look around, see if anything else comes back,” she suggested, and I nodded to let her know that I thought it was a good idea. Her fingers trailed down my chest, to the tattoo of Padfoot swimming. Her fingers traced along it, and it gave me goosebumps.
“What is it about that one that you like so much?” I asked, while my body shuddered at her touch.
“It was the first one that you got for us,” she told me, as her lips went and kissed it. I couldn't help but groan at her.
“What do you mean?”
“Sirius, my name means beautiful lake. It's Padfoot, swimming, in a beautiful lake. You got it not long after we first time we made love. I have always loved it. But it's actually my second favorite. The one that drives me wild, its the one on your wrist,” she told me, laying her head on my chest. I looked at both my wrists, there was nothing there. She smiled at me.
“Sirius, touch the inside of your right wrist with your finger, watch what happens,” and I did as she asked. I was shocked as her name appeared and then faded. I looked at her surprised. “It's from the handfasting and I've got one too,” she said as she brought her lips to her wrist and I felt a powerful surge pass through me. Being married to Anwen is quite amazing.
“You're a little hot under the collar there, Winnie,” James teased me. He had no idea just how hot I had been earlier.
“Damn straight. He was..irritating and insufferable. That man is a menace, and it would appear that we are in for continued years of crap under him,” I didn't generally swear, but I was angry. I had gone into the office today, and within minutes of my arrival I had been hauled down to the new Minister's office by his personal assistant. Rufus Scrimegeour wanted my assistance in bringing in both my husband and his godson for information regarding the incidents nearly two months ago in the Department of Mysteries. I had, in no uncertain terms, told him no. I then proceeded to quit my job, get back into my office, seal it, remove my personal items, and leave the office through the library door. I snuck out the back way of the building. My career at the Ministry of Magic was thereby done. I hadn't planned on quitting just yet, but I couldn't take any more. I was too aggravated and upset to stick around.
“Winnie, love, you need to calm down. He isn't worth getting this angry about,” Sirius told me, trying to calm me down. I wasn't much in the mood. Being this irritated reminded me that I was the one in control, and I liked having some control over something. Everything else had felt like it was well beyond my abilities, and I was just a hapless puppet playing a part.
“No, I don't need to calm down,” I snapped at him, and Sirius instantly recoiled from me. There were still large blocks of time missing in his mind, and though we had rebuilt enough to have a happy and placid marriage, it was hard to know that he had no idea what most of our relationship was really like. He particularly disliked my edgier, confrontational side, which was rearing its ugly head and was in control right now. I swallowed hard, remembering that I had to make things as easy and open for him as possible, to help facilitate his continued recovery. “I'm sorry, love. I shouldn't have snapped at you. It wasn't fair of me,” I told him, reaching over to take his hand. He didn't pull away, but he didn't respond either. My heart groaned at the damage that I had just done.
“How about if we figure out what we are sure of, what the plan is from here, and how we are going to complete our plans before school starts again?” Remus suggested, and we all nodded in agreement. Lily shifted uncomfortably in her chair, and James got up, got her a small throw pillow, and put it behind her back. She looked up and smiled at him, and they shared a moment of comfortable intimacy. She was not dealing well with the heat and humidity of August, and being four and a half months pregnant, well.
“I'll start. The Auror Department is in shambles. There aren't enough of us to cover regular rotations, and with no one new coming in, it's only going to get worse. The Order is going to be taking care of some of the assignments that require finesse. We're going to be responsible for the safety of Hogwarts however. They're also trying to crack down on the information leaving the Ministry, but there are so many leaks to the press, we can't seem to plug them all. Sorry, James, I know that you really wanted to keep Harry and everything out of the papers,” she apologized, but we all recognized that there was nothing that she could have done about it personally. Tonks and Remus were sitting close, holding hands, but she seemed to be distracted. They had set their wedding date for a Saturday in September, and they would be married out at the farm, in a very, very small ceremony. Lily, Molly and I would be doing the food for the party afterwards, and Albus had promised to get the kids there from school.
“It would be better if other people weren't using his celebrity to get what they wanted from him,” I whispered under my breath. I didn't like the way that Harry was used to get Horace Slughorn to come back and teach this year. We still didn't know who would be teaching Defense, but James and I had a sneaking suspicion. He shot me a dirty look, and then continued talking to Tonks. He and I didn't quite agree on the 'usefulness of celebrity'.
“We didn't expect that you'd be able to stop the flow of gossip out of the Ministry yourself,” James teased. “But we are happy that you're at least keeping an ear out. We all know what is fact and what is fiction, and Harry has told Ron and Hermione. I've tried to get him to tell Ginny, but things seem a little, weird between them,” he said off handedly, and Lily started laughing. I couldn't help but join her.
“Well, yeah, Harry finally figured out that she's a girl, now he doesn't know what to do about it,” Lily said, holding her belly while she laughed at her oldest son.
“Harry likes Ginny? When did this happen?” Sirius said, and I felt bad, realizing that he wouldn't really remember the last few years, watching them dance around each other the way they did. I patted his hand again, and smiled at him.
“I'd say it started about oh, five years ago, maybe longer. The bond got much stronger this past year however, as she helped him work through his feelings about being possessed and cursed by Voldemort. They've been spending a lot of time together in the last few weeks,” I told my husband quietly, and he nodded at me, like he was trying to process this new information.
“Can we help them get together?” he asked hopefully. “I know she has a boyfriend, but, I don't like him, on principle. Never actually met the guy. She needs to be with Harry,” Sirius told me, and I shook my head.
“Heaven help the boy who tries to date either of our daughters,” I sighed. “Anyway...speaking of Harry, he's made wonderful progress. He can keep nearly everyone out of his mind now, except for me, but even King couldn't always keep me out. I'll keep working with him, but I feel fairly certain that his mind is safe from Voldemort. He's reinforced the door to keep the connection closed, unless he were to choose to open it. I have forbade him from trying to do so,” I added with stern emphasis at the end.
“Then if his mind is safe, it's about time that we tell him everything,” Lily said in a quiet, meek voice.
“Actually, Anwen and I have been conversing with Albus, and we think that we have a plan for speaking with him about the horcruxes,” James said quietly, and everyone turned to look at us. “Please, don't be angry, there is something else that's going on, we decided to use our position on that matter to get what we wanted here,” he said, but he was struggling with his words. Word manipulation is a specialty for me.
“James, don't mince words, Albus needed something from me, but I wasn't willing to give it to him without something in return. This is the return. We're all getting, mostly, what we want,” I told them calmly, but they were still not understanding. “Just tell them.”
“It's like this, we're going to finish Harry's training, and it will continue once school has started up again. Albus is going to tell him about Voldemort, about his childhood and his life before he became that monster, and then introduce the idea of the Horcruxes. We're all afraid if we do it too quickly, it will cause Harry too much pain. Anwen will continue monitoring him, from a distance, so that we can tell if it's getting to be too much for him. Anwen is also working on a way to remove that, thing, from him,” James told them.
“Albus has a plan, but it's ridiculous and dangerous, and stupid,” I editorialized. It's barbaric and amounts to asking Harry to commit suicide. It is stupid. “When Voldemort tried to possess Harry this spring, he couldn't, because the sheer volume and capacity that Harry has to love and be loved was unbearable to him. That is something that I am more than willing to exploit,” I said with a smile. If there was nothing else, this room and this family were filled with love. If that was what we needed to save Harry, then God should be praised. “Ewan has been working on a new and improved binding potion, that builds on the strength of Harry's love. We're holding off on it, for right now, because there is something else he needs to do before it will work correctly,” I told them and they all looked confused. “Time will tell,” I shared, but that was the only extent to which I was willing to do so. “We're also going to be teaching the kids all how to do messaging patronuses, so that they can always get hold of us. Albus wasn't crazy about it, thinks that it will give away their relationship to the Order, but I reminded him that you would have to be blind and asleep for the last 10 years not to figure it out that Harry's close to the Order, and through him, so are his friends,” I quipped, and others actually laughed. I was feeling better, and Sirius twinned his fingers through mine. Laughter, laughter better outburst than screaming, try and remember that.
“Alright, then, let's make sure we all know what we're doing. They will be working on healing potions with Ewan, plant identification with Lily, defensive spells and protective charms with Sirius and me, dueling with Tonks, human transfigurations with Anwen and the patronus charms with Remus,” James summed up. We nodded, and started to make moves to get up, but Remus spoke up.
“Actually, I'm going to need to have Anwen teach them, I'm going to be away for a while. Albus has asked me to go underground, to talk with some of the other werewolves, try and keep them from following Voldemort. The promise of the treatment that Ewan is working on might just be enough,” he said, looking at the table. The words just tumbled out of him and fell into the room like vomit. Tonks was crying next to him, holding onto his hand. It felt like the wind was sucked out of all of us.
I don't believe that Albus would ask such a thing of him. Remus has looked for years, for happiness and peace, and now, when it's at his fingertips, Albus thinks that he has the right to take it away? Ewan is so close to a cure, not just a potion to make the changes bearable, but a real cure – a way to remove the infection altogether. I could feel my body shaking, not just at the anger I had at our leader for asking this of him, but at Remus too, because he felt indebted to our former headmaster for all he'd done for him in the past, and would do this damned stupid thing. Tonks had started crying harder, and Lily had gotten up and went to hold her.
“Just because he asked, doesn't mean you have to go,” I stood up, screaming at him.
“Anwen, you know I do. He needs a spy, and I'm here, ready made,” he told me.
“You don't owe him anything, not anymore,” I berated him. My body was shaking and tears were streaming down my face. “Don't you see that? You repaid him in spades for what he did for you twenty years ago. Tell him no, tell him you want to get married and be happy. Tell him he can't take another member of this family and put them into mortal danger,” I pleaded with him, and he was just staring at me. James and Sirius had both gotten to their feet as well. James was staring at me, and Sirius looked as if he was in shock. “Please, for me, for all of the years we've been friends, please don't go,” I begged him.
“Anwen, if it were that simple, you know that I would stay. We have to hold this war off as long as we can. This is what I have to do. Anyway, I have a beautiful fiancée, I have to come back so I can marry her,” he said, going over and taking Tonks in his arms. I was so angry.
“Bastard,” I said as I got up and walked out. As I reached the entryway, I veered toward the front door, and broke into a run as I hit the gravel drive in the front of the house. I ran to the far side of the pond, and sat down in the grass under the huge willow tree there. The grass was tall and soft there, and when I sunk down into it, the tips of the leaves were taller than me. I felt like I was hidden from the world, and the place where all this pain resided. I sobbed in the starlight that was reflected by the pond. I cried until I didn't think there was anything left in me. I was exhausted and overwrought. I didn't even hear Sirius amble up in his dog form, or when he plopped down in the grass next to me, and changed back.
“You want to tell me what that was all about back in there?” I didn't say anything. “You got a secret fling going on with the wolfman that I should be worried about?” he joked, and the tension broke from my body like a badly applied cast.
“Be serious,” I muttered under my breath.
“I am Sirius,” he said, slapping his chest like some silly caveman. I groaned at the bad pun.
“I HATE that joke,” I told him, and he smiled at me.
“I remembered,” he said, his smile getting bigger, “thought I'd use my amnesia to get away with it again.” I shook my head at him. At least there are many more glimmers of the man that I married. “So, what was going on in there, you weren't just upset at Moony going away. You looked like you were going to loose it back there. ” I took a deep breath, and looked out over the pond and the stars reflected there.
“Sirius, you remember how it was, back when we were really young, back when we were like sister and brother?” I asked and he nodded.
“Yes, I do remember our relationship back then, but I'm pretty glad that I finally figured out that you were a girl, and the perfect girl for me. Why?”
“Even while were at school, Remus and I had a similar relationship. We'd sit together, and talk, while he was healing from his changes. I was always at ease with him, even with his problems. Then when you were in Greece, it was often just us, day after day. James and Lily were in hiding, and other members of the Order were busy, so it was us; and we'd talk and dance and laugh. He's the one person that I don't have to be anything for, I just get to be me,” I tried to explain, but I could see that he didn't understand. “Sirius, in so many places in my life, I have to be the smart one, or the kind one, or the organized one, or the caring one. Even with you, I am often having to remind myself to be the patient one; but with Remus, I don't have to be anything. He doesn't expect anything from me. He actually likes...me,” It told him quietly, but I knew I hadn't explained it. It wasn't just his leaving that had me upset. “I can't believe he's going to leave, for God alone knows how long.”
“Love, you have to know that he'll be okay. Albus wouldn't send him if he didn't think he'd survive,” Sirius said, trying to comfort me, but I wasn't sure.
“I don't know that Sirius. I don't know that Albus wouldn't send one of us out to certain death. I don't know that he wouldn't sacrifice one of us for his higher ideals. He's so damned committed to the cause, that I don't think he remembers what its like to live and love,” I rambled. It was all happening again. We were headed back into war, and the people that I loved would be put into danger. It was a miracle that we had made it out of the last war in one piece, I wasn't sure that it would happen again. I had just lost Amelia, I couldn't loose someone I was even closer to. I didn't want to weep for someone that I had lost, or be forced to live the rest of my life wondering, “what would they be doing now?” I couldn't even bear the thought that I could lose my dear, beloved husband or one of my children. I wouldn't do it... I scrambled over and climbed onto my husbands lap, my thighs straddling him. I put my hands on his face and held him to look at me. I was shaking again, and the tears had re-started in earnest.
“Take us away, you and me and the children, let’s just leave. There are so many places we could go, and we could raise our babies away from this. I don't care about the house or anything, I just need us to be safe. I nearly lost you, I wouldn't survive if I did. I can't even form the thought of losing one of our children,” I told him, collapsing onto him. His arms wove around me, and he just held me, his lips on my forehead. I wept, and wept.
“Love, oh my sweet love, if I thought that it would help, I would take you away right now. We have a home, a home very far away from here, and we could go, but it wouldn't help. None of us will be safe until Voldemort is gone for good.” He was being so rational, I only made me angrier.
“Don't say that, we don't have to fight again,” I said pulling back and looking at him. “We don't owe anyone, anything,” I said as I slammed my open hands onto his chest. “Take me away, make it stop, please. I can't do it, not again,” I begged. I looked long and hard into my husbands face, and there was no anger there, no misunderstanding, only love. I felt like I would suffocate in it.
“How is it that you still haven't learned that you don't have to do this alone?”
I just looked at him. What had he just said?
“Anwen, stop being so strong. Stop trying to bear it all yourself. If I actually thought that I could keep you away from the ghosts that are haunting you, I would take you away. I bought two houses, one in a very secluded forest here in Scotland; and another in India. I did it shortly after Voldemort returned last year. If I really thought that you would be able to give all of this up, break our ties, I would take us there tomorrow. But I know you better than that,” he spoke so gently, so calmly. This is him, this is the man that I had come to trust and to hide in his love. This is the person that I fought to bring back. When had he come back.
“You wouldn't ever let someone stand in your place, your high ideals wouldn't stand for it. That's one of the things that I love about you. You're so damned determined to make the world a better place. I could take you away, and for a while you'd be happy, but eventually, you'd need to be back here, doing the right thing. I think that's why you're so upset at Albus right now, because the two of you are so much alike. You both believe in the power of good over evil.” I opened my mouth to protest. “But there is a difference,” he silenced me. “You're not afraid of living, Albus isn't afraid of dying. It puts the two of you at odds.”
I stared at him. This was an unexpected turn of events between us. I was being the impetuous emotional one, and Sirius was being calm and level headed. “When did you get so perceptive?”
“Winnie, I've had to try and re-learn everything. I've had the rare opportunity to get to re-discover my own life, and the people in it. Its been amazing to remember who I was, and then see who I am and try and trace the steps I took to get from there to here. Anwen, I was a lazy, goof off of a kid. Didn't really care about school, did things just to piss people off and get in trouble. I went out of the way to make my family embarrassed of me, and now, I have a life I'm proud of. I'm a father of four amazing children. I have a business, which James says is growing like crazy; we do good things, and help people who might be left otherwise defenseless. I'm a responsible member of the Wizengamot, and the Council of Thirteen. And I'm married to you, one of the most powerful and respected witches in all of England.” I turned my eyes down at this statement. “Don't, don't you dare sell yourself short. Everyone who comes in contact with you, their lives are changed because of you. I've spent these last weeks trying to figure out why in the world you would want to be with me, why you married me. Then something came to me,” he said, and I looked back up at him. “You forced me to become the man I am, so that I would feel worthy enough to be married to you.” I started to shake my head at him, but he moved his hands to my face. “It's a good thing, Winnie. I'd probably have run off, half cocked and gotten myself into trouble, or jail, or dead for that matter if it weren't for you. Please, let me be the man I know I can be, let me be your strength for a while.”
I stared at him, not sure what to say, so I let my fingers trail along his face. I pulled the hair away from his eyes, and hooked the long strands behind his ears. I loved the feel of his stubble under my fingers, the way his whiskers were rough, but the skin underneath was so smooth. I felt the fine lines that formed near the sides of his eyes, where his laughter had worn a permanent crease into his face, and the sides of his mouth where he wore a set of parenthesis to frame his perfect smile. It was his eyes that spoke to me though. The depths of them had always awed me, but now, very deep down, they humbled me as well. I took a shockingly deep and surprising breath into my lungs.
“I was sure that you were gone,” I whispered, recognizing the man that was looking back at me. Sirius pulled my head to his chest, and held me hard and fast to him. “Oh, my Winnie, my sweet, sweet Winnie.”
We lay there, listening to the crickets and bullfrogs singing their nighttime symphony. “Forgive me,” I asked, when there was a lull in the natural cacophony around us.
“There's nothing to forgive,” he responded, “but you need to tell me the rest. I know you've been keeping things from me.”
“Alright,” I responded and the words began spilling out of me. I told him the stories that I had been avoiding, good and bad. I told him about our wedding, and the overpowering emotions that it brought up. I told him of our tangle with the media, and why I hated celebrity so very much. I told him what we had learned about his family, and how hard he had tried to make reparations for his grandfather’s actions. I talked about the babies that we had lost, and how it had nearly broken my spirit. I explained the work that I did after the first war, with the victims of torture and abuse. I filled him in on the prophecy, and what exactly it would entail; and then I told him about Albus' plan, and why it made me so very angry. By the time we were done, there was nearly nothing left to hide from him, I had laid everything bare at my husband’s feet, and he was still there, as strong and steady as ever. The only thing we didn't discuss, I would leave to his discretion.
“Do you want to know about the night in the Department of Mysteries?” I asked him. We had shifted around, so that I was sitting sideways in his lap, my head resting on his shoulder, my nose resting against the bones of his jaw.
“Not yet. I'm not ready. I don't know that I want to remember, anyway. This way, I don't have any nightmares, I'm sure that I will once you tell me. It seems to wake you up often enough,” he told me quietly.
“I didn't realize that you knew I was having problems sleeping.”
“Winnie, you get up nearly every night and pace around the second floor of the Manor. As soon as you would slide away from me, I wake up. Lily knows too. We've both been worried about you.”
I rested there, content to be in his arms, thinking about what he had just said. I hadn't actually succeeded in hiding anything from him, just creating more worry. As the sun began to rise, we could make out the faint wisps of steam rising up from the pond, and for the first time in hours, we recognized that we were outside, and that we had spent the entire night awake and talking.
“I think that I might be in trouble here, I kept you up and out of the house all night,” he teased. “I hope that no one stayed awake waiting for you?”
“It will be fine,” I assured him. “My husband is a very understanding fellow.”
“And my wife is a very generous woman,” he told me, bringing his lips to mine, gently and sweetly kissing me. “Come on, let's get back. After we've gotten cleaned up and eaten something, I think that we need to talk with the family again; and then we are going to plan on going away, at least for a little while.” I went to protest. “I'm not taking no for an answer here. You need to get away, you were on the verge of a nervous breakdown, I'd prefer you not get back to that place again,” he told me, and I relented.
We stood up, and straightened our clothes from our night long respite in the grass. As we started walking back to the house, a question came to me.
“Why did you come out here in your Animagus form?”
“Well, I couldn't see you or hear you, but when I'm a dog, I can smell you,” he admitted and when I figured out the implications of what he was saying, my stomach lurched.
“You were tracking me. That's so gross,” I told him, the bile filling the back of my throat. “What do I smell like?” He didn't answer right away. Oh, this should be good.
“Anwen, you smell like sex to me.” My stomach most definitely lurched again. “At least I like the way you smell, it would be worse if we were married, and you smelled like something I hated. Can you imagine how repulsive it would be if you smelled like cabbage or onions or old fish? It's only you though, Lily and Tonks don't smell that way at all; although Moony says that he does recognize the smell,” he told me, and I wanted to crawl in a hole and die right there. My husband and my best friend were discussing the way I smell. That's just so gross.
“Please, drop this subject, now. I don't think I can talk about it any more,” I told him, and we walked the rest of the way back to the Manor in silence. The house was still quiet when we got back, and we went upstairs, checked on the children and then showered and dressed for the day. I longed to lay down, but I knew that if I fell asleep, I wouldn't want to wake up, and I had some apologizing to do.
I was surprised at how forgiving everyone was, I had been rather bratty the last few weeks: short tempered and sharp tongued. My family had apparently been waiting for me to break, and they were glad that it was simply among them and that none of the kids were involved. It was agreed that Sirius and I would leave with the children immediately, and head to the secluded, yet rustic, home that he had bought for us. He wasn't telling anyone where it was, not even his friends. We would have absolute privacy there; if we were needed, we could be reached via patronus. We could be back at the Manor as quickly as we could apparate. Sirius and I would come back every few days to work with Harry and the kids on their special studies, and to let the little children play with each other, but otherwise, we would be out of communication, which we all decided was for the best. We would come back for the kids’ last weekend before the fall term, and to celebrate Hermione's birthday; and to determine our fall plans.
Everyone excused us, and Remus and I were alone in the study. I couldn't look at him. “I owe you an apology.”
“No, you don't.”
“I called you a bastard, yes, I do.”
“Fine, I accept your apology. Are you okay now?”
“Yes, no, maybe? I don't think that I'm as close to the precipice as I was, but it’s still so hard to take in. I can't believe that I went through that veil, and brought him back. What the hell was I thinking? I'm a mother, who would have taken care of our children?”
“Anwen, that's hindsight talking, at the time you did what you had to do, because you are so in love with him. Don't you see, you did what you had to do. You did what only you could do,” he told me, taking my hand. I didn't want to hear this, not from him.
“Why do you have to be so damned honorable?” I asked him, and he chuckled at me.
“It's something that I learned from a friend. I told him I would only go for three cycles, if by then I haven't made any headway, I'm coming back, and getting married, and I won't go again.” I shook my head at him.
“You're stopping the Wolfsbane, aren't you?”
“I have to Anwen, I have to live the way they do,” he was so calm about it. A single tear left my eye and slid down my cheek.
“But its so horrible for you. You gnaw at yourself and who will heal your cuts and bruises? Who's going to sing to you as you change back in the morning, and help you drink down your water and tea?”
“It's only three months. I'll be fine. I'll get word to you when I can, or I'll send it through Tonks. Please don't worry. I have to do this. I have to try and keep other children from going through what I did.” I hated it when he was reasonable. “If this were to happen to John or Evan or any of the kids, and I knew that I could stop it, I would never forgive myself,” he told me, and it made my heart melt to think that my little boy was one of his primary concerns. “I'll stick around until after this month’s change, and for the party, and then when the kids head off to school, I'll go and seek out my own kind.”
“No, we're your kind,” I reprimanded him, squeezing his hand for emphasis. “We are your family, and we love you regardless of how much noise and fury you make one night of the month. How am I going to get through three months without talking to you?”
“The same way that I will get through the time without talking with you. Come on, you must be exhausted, go and get some sleep. Sirius wants to take care of you for a while, let him. He's not as weak as you think.” I nodded at him.
“I know. But if he's strong, that means that I have to be vulnerable, and we all know how I hate that.”
“Yes, God forbid you'd need someone, Anwen,” he told me, shaking his head at me. “Promise me you'll be safe?” he asked, and I looked into his face, to see the worry there.
“Only if you promise me the same.” I told him as I hugged him tightly.
That has to be one of the oddest birthday parties that I was ever at. It was nice and all, and Hermione seemed to enjoy herself, but everyone was acting all strange. Tonks looked like she would burst out into tears at any moment, and Uncle Remus seemed like he wanted to savor it, like he does with Mum's apple pie. Uncle Sirius and Aunt Winnie were huddled together, looking like newlyweds rather than the old married couple that they are, and they were really vague when we asked when we would see either of them up at Hogwarts. And then there was Harry. He kept looking at me, and then turning red when I would wave back.
I was carrying Arnold on my shoulder as we made our way to Platform 9 ¾. I loved the first day of school, and I loved that I would be finding Dean on the train to school. My lips are all tingly at the thought. Granted, he can be a little pushy and overprotective, but he's a better boyfriend than my last one. Still, what's going on with Harry, he' acting, well, he's acting a little like I used to act around him. Hmm, need to talk with Hermione about that one.
We had come early, trying to get onto the train before other people got here. I saw Harry talking with his Dad, Uncle Sirius and my Dad about something, whatever it was, it must have been important because their heads are close together, and they were ignoring all of their little boys who were standing with them, figuring out how to get into trouble. They have no idea how much work those three are going to be as they grow up. Mum was making sure that Ron had everything. Seriously, he's never going to grow up if she keeps babying him that way. Really, I mean, who makes it to their sixth year without ever even having a date. I'd done more snogging by the time I was thirteen than he's done at half way to seventeen. Maybe I should talk to Bill about getting Mum to leave Ron alone a little.
Aunt Winnie and Mrs. Potter, Lily, I don't feel comfortable calling her by her first name, although she really wants me to, were talking with Hermione, I walked over toward them.
“Honestly, I can't thank you enough for the birthday presents. I've never had a real string of pearls before, thank you so much Mrs. Potter,” Hermione said.
“Call me Lily, you're much too old to be calling me Mrs. Potter, and I'm glad that you like them. They're something beautiful for a beautiful girl to wear,” she told Hermione, and it made me happy to know that someone as nice was being treated well.
“Aunt Winnie, what you and Uncle Sirius gave me, it's too much. The hair clips are lovely, but the book, its so rare and old...” she started but Aunt Winnie stopped her.
“You are the only other person I know who would appreciate a hand written copy of Le Mot in the original French. I was so excited when I found it. You'll find it so much better than the guide that they have for you at school. If you get stuck on the French translations, you can talk with Harry. He may not act like it, but he's fluent in French. I think that he just gets tongue tied around Fleur,” she joked, and we all laughed.
“Come on, we need to be getting on the train,” I told Hermione, and she nodded, hugging both of the women and the little girls who were standing with them. I would really miss Emma, Lilyan and Jamie. It was like I had little sisters. I couldn't wait to go to Hogsmeade and get them some Christmas presents, and to see them all at the first Gryffindor Quidditch match this fall. Hermione picked up Crookshanks’ basket, and we headed off toward the train. As we passed the final archway, partially hidden in the shadows, we saw Uncle Remus and Tonks. Tonks had him pressed up against the wall, kissing him fiercely. Hermione and I looked at each other, and started giggling.
“Guess being engaged makes public displays of affection more appropriate,” I said loud enough that I was sure that they could hear, but I didn't stick around to confirm it.
“Mummy, are they here yet?” Evan yelled at me as he ran into the kitchen.
“Does it look like they're here yet?” I told my anxious child. “Soon, your Aunt, Uncle and your cousins will be here soon. You have to calm down Evan,” I tried to get him to relax, but he was far too excited for that to happen. Sirius, Anwen and the children had left Great Britain the day after the Hogwarts kids had gone back to school, and they had been gone for three months. They were only returning home now, because they wanted to celebrate the holidays at home with us, and to be here for the birth of our baby.
“But, Mummy, I haven't seen Ethan in so long. He left right after Harry left, and I've only had Emma to play with without him,” he complained. I wasn't really surprised that we would miss our friends, what did shock me was the extent to which we had. I knelt down to look at my son in the face.
“Your pacing around and getting anxious isn't going to bring them here any sooner. They will be here, now, why don't you go and say hello to the rest of our guests,” I told him, sending him out into the lounge so that he could talk with the others. At least they chose to come home on a Sunday. Gives us the whole day to spend together. Tonks was here, but that was nothing new, she had taken to nearly living here. Her worry about Remus had almost overtaken her, and it was affecting her work and her sleep. The third moon cycle had passed, and he had promised us that he would be coming home after it. We were all quite eager to see him.
Molly, Arthur, Bill, Fleur, Charlie and Eira were all here. Eira had seen her sister, and through their mother, had better contact with her than we had. It wasn't that they were avoiding us, the opposite was quite true. We had gotten regular owls from them, and presents, but both Anwen and Sirius were quite guarded when they were in contact. We often didn't know where they were. Eira had seen them when she had traveled to Canada to visit their family. It was good to see the Weasleys as well, we didn't really get together with folks much this fall, it was safer to stay inside. I had invited the twins over as well, and we were awaiting their arrival. I hope that they don't bring any gifts for the kids this time.
Kingsley had come over after work. When he wasn't at the Ministry, he was at Grimmauld Place. Amelia's death had hit him hard, and he had engulfed himself in work and the Order. Minerva and Albus were here as well, and they had brought Harry, Ginny and Hermione with them. Apparently Ron had a new girlfriend, and she was consuming all of his time. Ginny didn't have anything nice to say about it, and Harry told me that he'd talk about it at Christmas, when Hermione wasn't with us. I couldn't help but notice that my oldest son and Ginny were still doing their silly dance.
“Lily dear, are you sure that you don't need some help in here?” Molly came in, asking if she could assist me.
“Dinner is nearly ready, all we need to do is let it cook. The appetizers are ready when everyone gets here. I can't for the life of me think what's keeping them.” Anwen had fire called from their hidden home, and told me that they would be here at one o’clock sharp. It was now one fifteen. I was surprised from my stupor when the doorbell rang. I heard Evan and Emma's footsteps in the front hall, and I knew that they had already beaten me to the door. Who would have gotten through the wards?
“Why are you coming in the front door?” my husband bellowed, grasping his best friend and pulling him into a fierce hug.
“We drove over, and we'd have been here sooner, if Winnie had let me drive,” he said with a happiness and carefree sense in his voice that had been missing since before their departure.
“Yes, well, I'm not the one who let my license lapse, am I?” she said, gently kissing him on the cheek while she ushered in their children. Our eyes met, and she broke into one of those face engulfing smiles that we all knew so well. “Look at you, you're as big as a house,” she said to me, coming and putting her arms around me. It was true, I was huge this time. It was harder being pregnant when you're older.
“Look at you, you cut off all of your hair,” I told her. I couldn't believe it, Anwen had always had long hair. Even when she cut it in the eighties it was still longer, and now, I don't think that there was a spot on her head that was more than an a few inches long.
“It'll grow back,” she said in a non committal way, and I knew that I wasn't going to get more information now. They all came in, and took their cloaks off. The children went running off, except for Jamie, who clung to her mother's skirt. Anwen picked her up and held her close. “Jamie honey, you can go and play. I'm sure that Ethan and Emma have missed you,” she told the toddler, but the little blond just laid her head on her mother's shoulder. “She'll come around. I don't know where she got the shy gene from,” Anwen said, but Sirius wrapped an arm around her and whispered in her ear, “I seem to remember a first year who used to hide behind her hair.”
Everyone greeted the pair, and we moved into the lounge, where we had the appetizers. Molly and Tonks helped me get things out, since bending and carrying had gotten difficult. Anwen and Sirius were sitting on the love seat, Jamie was sitting between them, playing with her daddy's wedding ring. Periodically, Sirius would lightly kiss Anwen, or she would lay her head on his shoulder. I sometimes envied the closeness, but then I reminded myself that they were so close now for an absolutely horrible reason.
“You're still not going to tell us where this mysterious house of yours is?” Harry asked his godfather, and Sirius just shook his head at us.
“Tomorrow we're going to set the floo up between this house, that one and Grimmauld, and your Dad is going to help me blood ward it, then, maybe, I'll let you know. Before that, the only others who know where it is are the goblins who take care of my accounts.”
“So, sis, where have you been? The last time I saw you was at Thanksgiving Dinner at Ma and Da's,” Eira asked her, and Anwen smiled at her.
“We stayed in Canada for a few weeks, went to your old school and did a few lectures for the International History classes. Your history lessons are far superior to what our kids have,” she explained, looking over at Minerva and Albus, who nodded. “Then we went and did some touring in America. We came back to Europe a few weeks ago, took the kids to Madrid and then to Paris and then we came back to Scotland. We're going back to Grimmauld tonight, and it will be the first time that we will have slept there in five months.”
“Hopefully Kreacher has kept the place up,” Sirius teased and Kingsley quickly piped up.
“He has. I go up and check your rooms a few times a week, and they're clean and in order,” he told them. Anwen's former partner was one of the few people outside of the family who could get up onto the third and fourth floors of Grimmauld.
“We have gifts out in the car for everyone. What time are we eating, Lils?” Anwen asked me.
“I thought that we could eat at four. It will give the Hogwarts folks time to get back, kids can get their homework done.” She nodded, also understanding that it would give us time to talk once everyone else was gone.
Conversation flowed easily. Ginny had excused herself, and had gone to see Emma and Lilyan, and then came back in and I watched as she knelt down in front of Jamie and talked with her. Within a few minutes, the little girl had thrown her arms around the older girl’s neck, and they left the room. Harry was in a deep discussion with his father and Arthur, and I hoped that it wasn't about this idea he had that Draco was a Death Eater. The only person who seemed to listen to him, and take it seriously, was Sirius. I hoped that he wouldn't fuel this silly idea that Harry had latched onto. Hermione had come to sit next to Anwen, and they were discussing Rune translations.
“The new book has made the classes so much easier, thank you so much,” Hermione was gushing.
“I'm glad that it helped. I'm a little worried about my NEWT score, however. You only missed my OWL score by two points. With that book, you might take away my record,” the older woman teased, and the student blushed. “You would have loved the library that I was at when I was in Tibet. They do runic translations in a much more organic way there, and it was fascinating. In fact, I brought something back for you. Hold on,” Anwen said, and then she waved her hand at a empty table on the far side of the room, and the bags of gifts materialized there. She got up and dug through one of them, and then found a scroll and brought it back to Hermione. “You'll find this fascinating. It's a Tibetan translation guide, and I couldn't believe how close our Runes and the eastern ones are.”
“Aunt Winnie, Uncle Sirius, this is...” the young woman gushed as she unrolled the parchment. “Thank you so much.” Anwen touched Hermione's head lightly, and smiled. I forgot just how nurturing Anwen can be. I have really missed her.
“You're more than welcome. Now, how about if we give the rest of these things out?” she said, and Sirius nodded with her. They had been gone for so long, and had been so many places that there were gifts from all over the world. Not long after, we started dinner and as we were finishing dessert, I noticed that Albus and Anwen had gotten up and started walking out. That is a conversation that I don't envy.
Albus and I walked outside of the house, and we both quickly cast warming charms on ourselves. There was a moment of uncomfortable silence, but I knew that I needed to break it.
“Albus, I apologize for the way that I was acting before I left. I was rather rude and insensitive. I could make excuses about everything that was going on, but in the end, I behaved poorly,” I told him calmly, but before he could say anything I began speaking again. “That being said, I still don't agree with your plan for Harry. I learned a great many things while I was away, and I believe more firmly than ever that there is another way.”
“Anwen, thank you for your apology, but you didn't need to. I knew that you were in crisis, and I do hope that you're right about Harry.” I stopped walking and stood and looked at him. “Child, did you really think that after so many years of being near you, I couldn't see what was happening to you? What you did was unheard of, an unprecedented act of love; I would have been shocked if there weren't some ramifications of your actions. Things seem to be better, both with your soul and with your relationship with Sirius.” A lump had formed in my throat while he was speaking, and I was just standing there staring at him, my mouth gaping.
“They are. It took a while. Once we were away from everyone, we realized that we had been moving around each other, but not really dealing with each other. The power had shifted as well, I had so much more than he did, because I remembered everything. If it had gone on much longer, I would have turned into quite a harpy and he would have just shrunk into nothing. I still don't understand it all Albus. I think back, and I never hesitated in my choice, but now, it terrifies me. I should think that I will spend the rest of my life trying to understand the depths of my love for him.”
“I don't think that you will be the only ones. I have seen many people in love, but you and Sirius, it is something truly remarkable. Most people never come close to that kind of love,” he told me, quietly. He looked so sad as he said it. I had felt any number of things for and towards Albus over the years, but right now, it was something new. Pity.
“Who hurt you? Who shattered you so badly that you never even tried again?” He looked at me in a horrified way, as if I had told him that there was spinach on his teeth, and he was standing up in front of a room full of people; only one hundred times worse.
“It was a very, very long time ago. I had given away my heart, and I thought that I had gotten one in return; but I was just being used. A means to an end,” he stopped talking, and almost looked overtaken by his emotions. “At my worst moments, my fear is that I am doing exactly what was done to me. Thank you for reminding me that my humanity is still intact.” I looked away and blushed. After all of these years, I was still surprised that he could make me feel embarrassed and unsure of myself.
We talked about the progress I had made on a “cure” for Harry, and I was relieved when Albus seemed to agree with me. We talked a little about what had happened this fall at Hogwarts, and he was surprised I knew as much as I did. Just because we were out of the country, doesn't mean that we were out of touch. We also discussed the way Ewan was treating his curse infection. It seemed to remain well contained. Conversation finally turned to what Sirius and I had been doing while we were away.
“We have support in Italy, Germany and Tibet. I brought back a great deal of information from the Tibetans about the destruction of 'fractured soul' as they call it. When all this is over, I very much would like to go back and study eastern magics. They have a term for Sirius and me as well, we're called a “divided soul'; one soul, housed in two people. It was really fascinating to learn about it. Like nature conspired to make us, so that we could share this life together. I'm sure that I'm not doing it justice, but it helped give me closure about what had happened,” I paused, I didn't want to tell him more.
“There is help in Canada, and some from the United States as well. The French Ministry is waiting for our word, and they will be with us as well. Did you know that they pulled their diplomatic unit?” I asked and he shook his head at me. “Apparently our new Minister isn't doing much of a job rebuilding broken relationships. Isolationism will only give Voldemort more ammunition,” I said, shaking my head. “We also made contacts in several eastern European areas. Sirius' family lineage still carries some weight there, and when we need to, we will have help. There was no word about where Ollivander is, however.”
“I'm not convinced that he has left England,” he told me, and I agreed. “Well, we should be getting inside, I believe that I should be getting the students back to school, and I do have some rather pressing work that needs to be attended to.” With that, Albus turned on his heel and started back toward the house.
“Sir, I have one question or maybe it's more of a concern. I think I know why you are letting Severus teach Defense this year, and I'm not going to debate the logic of your choice, but do please consider this: he's still a person. You have a remarkable hold over him, I don't know what it is, but it's there. Try not to use him as a pawn in your game with Voldemort. No one should have their life played with in that way.” When I finished speaking my piece, I started walking again. Albus didn't follow along rapidly, but before we reached the door, he was by my side, and a pleasant look was on his face.
I watched as Anwen and Albus came back in. She didn't need to say anything to me, she simply sent me a feeling of calm and let her eyelids gently close and open again to tell me that she had made her point. I immediately felt at peace when she settled down next to me, and laced her fingers in mine. We watched as most of the guests left, leaving only our family and Eira behind. Anwen and Eira had their heads together.
“No, I think it's a great idea. Call Liddy in the morning, I know that she and Stephen would want to be involved. Don't worry about the money,” she said to her sister.
“Yeah, yeah, we're not all independently wealthy. I wish I could go and travel around the world with my family,” she said in a snobby voice. Anwen was chuckling at her sister.
“Go home, I'll be by to see you later this week,” and with that Eira rose, hugged her sister and flooed to the Farm. Anwen turned and was looking at Tonks. “Any word at all?”
“He got me a message a few weeks ago, telling me that it wasn't going well. He expected to be back after the last full moon, but that was three days ago. I just wish I knew if he were okay. Something tells me that he's not,” she said, her eyes filling with tears.
“Listen to me, there is nothing in this world that he wants more than to be with you. He will find his way back,” she told her, and Tonks tried to smile. “I know how hard it is to be the one waiting, wondering when the one you love will come back to you. Faith, you have to have faith my friend.”
“I think I'm going to go upstairs and have a bath. Maybe it will help me relax,” she said as she got up to leave. The children had all gone up to the second floor playroom, and Lily laid a mirror down on the table and touched it with her wand. Immediately, we saw a picture of our six young children playing upstairs.
“You have to tell me how you did that,” Anwen said, looking very impressed.
“I've already made you a set. I'll get them for you before you leave,” James told her, and my wife beamed at him. “So, now will you tell me where this house of yours is?” I looked at Anwen, and she nodded. We had always planned to tell James and Lily. Part of the reason I bought the house I did was so that they could be close.
“It's about twenty-five miles from here, outside of Broadforth. I bought it because we can use the car and drive between the houses if needed. If I had driven here, we'd have been here in thirty minutes. With Anwen driving, it was forty-five,” I teased her.
“Yes, well, getting caught without a license or any valid identification would be quite awful there dear. I can't wait for you to see the place. He told me it was a ’rustic cottage’, but I don't know in whose world an eleven bedroom estate constitutes such. It's called Ban Garadh, which translates to Fair Garden, and the name is perfect. From the upper floors, you can even see the Inner Sound. I don't relish the winters here, but the home is lovely. When you approach it, it appears completely derelict and abandoned. It's only once you cross the wards that you see just how lovely it is,” she told me, gently caressing my hand.
“I'd like to get it as strongly warded immediately. We know what's been going on here, “ I told James, and he concurred. We talked for a while longer about places that we had been, things we'd seen, and the new safe house that I had purchased in India, just outside of Shimla. It was in a quite remote region, frequented by enough tourists that we wouldn't look out of place, but far enough out that news of an English family having a home there wouldn't really travel.
“It was pleasant enough, and the landscape is lovely, it just didn't feel like home. I'm hopeful that we won't ever actually have to use it as our permanent residence,” Anwen said. I do too love, I do too. By the time that we were done for the evening, it was late, and we flooed from the Manor to Grimmauld, leaving our car there for the night. The children were funny as they exited the floo on the lowest level of their home. Lilyan and Ethan ran off, remembering their rooms and the murals on the wall there, but the younger two just hung back. I suspected that John and Jamie had no memory of being there. Jamie immediately clung to Anwen, and John grabbed my hand.
“It's alright. We're home. Mummy and Daddy are right here. Come on, let's go and see your rooms,” she told the trembling toddlers, and we started up the stairs.
Sirius had headed back to Scotland this morning, to make sure that Ban Garadh was secured for the winter. The winds were brutal as they whipped up the shoreline, and battered the front of the house. We had all lived through the winters in the Scottish Highlands while we at school, but both Hogwarts and the Manor were better protected than our home. Since we had somewhere else to live, we had decided that we would winter in London this year, and then when spring came, move back to Scotland. It was a rare event, at the moment there was no one here from the Order. I expected King, Molly and Arthur for dinner later; and Ewan and Anelle were living here now, but they had left to do some holiday shopping. I was in the kitchen cleaning up the lunch dishes and putting on the roast we would be having for dinner. While we were away, we enjoyed some amazing foods, but Sirius missed his large hunks of roasted meat. I had just finished when I heard the front door chime, and headed up one flight to get the door. The sight that greeted me was shocking.
“Remus, what happened?” I asked my disheveled friend as I pulled him in the door. His clothes were hanging from him in tatters and he looked like he had been starving. I got him into the dining room, and immediately summoned some blankets from the linen closet and put a warming spell on him.
“Had a hard time getting away,” he chattered at me. “Anwen, they wouldn't listen...” he was shaking from the cold, and he looked like he hadn't slept in weeks.
“Kreacher, Kreacher, please come here,” I called our house elf. I appreciated that he had cared for the house in our absence, but he was not thrilled when we returned home. I had been avoiding him, preferring to handle household chores on my own. A loud pop announced his arrival.
“What does Mistress want?” he droned at me.
“Please get some hot tea and soup for Mr. Lupin, and then go and draw a bath on the second floor bathtub. Will you also bring my potions box upstairs, please? That will be all.” I reminded myself to be civil with him, hoping that one day kindness would break his angry spirit. He departed from us without another word. I started helping him take off the tatters of his cloak, and saw his body underneath. He was covered in welts and scars. I gasped at the sight of them.
“Anwen, there's perpetual infighting on the nights of the full moon in the pack. They'll heal,” he told me, and I wanted to cry and vomit. I persuaded my body to do neither.
“I'm going to fire call the Manor. Tonks has been staying there. She'll be so glad to see you,” I told him, making to leave, but he stopped me by grabbing my hand.
“Don't, not yet,” he asked me, his eyes pleading. I relented, against my better judgment. “At least let me get Sirius back here. I can't get you up to the loo on my own,” I told him and he nodded at that idea. I quickly sent my husband a patronus, just as Kreacher came back in with the requested food, and my kit. I started healing the worst of the wounds, at least getting them cleaned out, while Remus gently sipped his tea and ate the onion soup that was left over from lunch. I heard Sirius enter on the floor below, and bound up the stairs.
“Anwen, what's the emergency. It isn't the...” he stopped when he reached the dining room and saw Remus sitting with me. I shook my head at him, and then apologized with my eyes. I knew that he would have been worried, but I wasn't sure if he was alone when I contacted him, so my message was vague. “Moony, what the hell happened?” he said, coming and kneeling next to his life long friend.
“Angry werewolf pack,” the meeker of the two stated, and we both shook our heads. I continued to work, but it quickly became apparent that I would need more supplies than I had in my small potions kit. I looked at Sirius, waiting for us to make eye contact.
“Love, can you go and get some Murtlap essence and a blood strengthening potion from the supplies downstairs? I know that Ewan keeps them in constant supply here,” Sirius nodded and went off. I watched as Remus finished the lunch. “Do you want more?”
“I'm not sure that I could stomach it right now. I haven't had a bite to eat in over a week. Anwen, it was worse than I could have imagined. Most of them are too far gone, Voldemort is making promises...” he trailed off, and I was sure that he was remembering something horrid.
“It's alright. You did your best, and now you're home. We'll take care of you,” I told him, cradling his head to my chest. Sirius came back in, and he could tell that I was heartbroken at the state of our friend. He sent me a wave of love that bolstered me some. I smiled at him and mouthed, 'I love you'. “Kreacher was drawing a bath, why don't you go and help him get into it, and pour this in,” I said, removing the vial of skin revitalizing potion from my kit and handing it to Sirius. I'm going to find you something to change into, and leave it outside the bathroom door. Then we'll get you settled into one of the guest rooms,” I told the two of them, and Sirius came over, and quickly apparated the two of them to the bathroom.
A few hours later, Sirius had left, to finish his work at our other home, and Remus and I were sitting in the guest room. I was watching Lilyan and Ethan on the mirror James had made for me, as they played in the ballroom/playroom. Jamie had her doll and was sitting on my lap while John was very happy to be sitting on the bed with his godfather. He had just finished off another bowl of soup, and John was munching away on the remnants of the bread that was brought up with it.
“You're looking much better now. Can I please call Tonks? She's barely able to function since you've been gone. James and Lily are very worried about her.”
“Anwen, I'm not sure that is such a good idea. The time away, being with my kind.” I glared at him when he referenced himself as a werewolf. “Fine, with others like me,” I still glared, but at least it wasn't quite as bad. “She deserves better. She deserves more.”
“You idiot. It doesn't matter what you think, you're what she wants. She loves you completely. You are underestimating your love and hers,” I told him, getting frustrated that we were back here. “Hey, why don't you two go and play with your sister and brother. They're down in the playroom. Daddy will be home soon, and Grand Molly and Pop Pop are coming for dinner.” The twins looked at me happily, and John scooted off the bed, and took Jamie by the hand. I tapped them on the head, and then watched in the mirror as they appeared in the playroom with their siblings. I turned back to look at Remus.
“I need to tell you about something that happened while we were in France. Remus, we didn't come back so that we could spend Christmas with the family. It's pleasant enough that we will, but Sirius and I weren't quite finished with some of the things that we needed to do while we were away.” I stopped and took a deep breath. I wasn't ready to share everything, not just yet. “Remus, I had a vision, or a dream, or something. At first, I was willing to write it off as a bad reaction to the wine I had with dinner or something, but when I got up the next morning, Sirius had experienced the same thing. You need to hear about it, because it affects us all.”
“Tell me,” he beckoned me to continue.
“It started off with a little boy. The boy looked exactly like the picture of Sirius, the one where he's with James, when they were like eight. He stood there looking at me, and then he said: 'Hello Mummy and Daddy, we haven't met yet, but we will soon.' It was a little creepy. Then Perenelle walked up, and she told me how proud she was of me, and how well I had done with everything. Then things got really strange. They were standing in the meadow outside of our new home, and she told me that I had garnered favor with the ones that she was with, that my actions last spring, in saving Sirius, had made me an honored being in her world. She went on to tell me that one day, when it felt like all was lost, that they would be with us to help us.”
“Then, as if this couldn't get weirder, she told me that hardship and heartbreak would be coming to us all, and that it would feel like we were drowning in sorrow, but to help us, they were sending us gifts. She told me that, exact words: 'Before the Moon cycles for the eighteenth time, each of the protectors would bring to the world a child with their mate. They are born to remind us that there is always hope.' Perenelle then took the child by the hand and they walked off into the mist. I woke up with a start, and I was sure that it was just that we had been to Perenelle's grave, but when Sirius then woke up, and we'd had the same dream, I decided that maybe it wasn't a dream. I found out two days later that I was pregnant again. James and Lily are already due, we're having another baby in August; if Perenelle is right, then you're going to have a baby with Tonks by the end of April 1998.”
“Anwen,” he started, and then he stopped. “Why would I ruin her life that way?”
“I doubt that she would see it that way. Remus, don't be dumb here, she loves you, she wants to spend her life with you. None of us are assured anything, not even how long our lives will be. Love is the only constant. We've been over this, and over this. Let her love you,” I said, and before he could protest, I let my patronus go. I don't think that it was five minutes before I heard her tripping up the stairs, trying to get to him. “Let her love you,” I begged my friend as she burst into the room. I excused myself, reminding them that my children were in the house, and that dinner would be in an hour. I walked out and closed the door.
Christmas was a crazy affair. Lily wanted to open gifts at home in the morning, since she had such a hard time getting moving; but she didn't want to cook, because she was having a hard time spending too many hours on her feet. Molly wanted to cook, but everyone couldn't fit at her house. I didn't care, I just wanted to be with my husband and children. We ended up moving from house to house throughout the day. The morning sickness was bearable this time, but I still avoided most of the food at Lily's early in the day. We were avoiding telling people, at least for a few more weeks. This time I wasn't scared of miscarrying, I think the vision had quelled that fear, we just didn't want to overshadow James and Lily's new child. Remus was the only one who knew.
We had everyone over to our house next, and I was thankful for our house elf for the first time in years. The Weasleys had late dinner at their home, along with Harry and Remus. Tonks chose to stay close to us, I got the feeling that Remus was trying to push her away. Thankfully, she has that wonderful Black stubborn streak.
A week after the kids went back to Hogwarts, I was at the Manor with Lily. We were going through some baby things, trying to sort out what she could use for the new one, and what we would just be putting away. Neither of us knew who had originally purchased what anymore. The twins were down napping, and Eira had taken the four oldest ones to the Farm to play in the snow with her. Remus was still staying with us, several of his injuries were being difficult in healing. Ewan was trying to speed things up.
“Why did either of us buy this?” I asked, holding up a little dress that had a huge floppy collar. “It's for a baby that can't sit up yet, therefore, when they're laying down, this collar will,” I laid the dress across my hand, and the collar flopped over my fingertips, “cover up their face. No baby will put up with this,” I was laughing so hard at it. Lily was too, and then she grabbed her side.
“Don't make me laugh, it hurts.” It only made me laugh harder.
There was a commotion in the hallway, and we came in to find Emma and Lilyan just outside of the floo, lying in a heap on the floor. They were both clearly scared and were screaming and crying. I got down on the floor, and pulled both girls to me, when the flames erupted again, and Ethan and Evan came flying out, bouncing into the girls and me. They too were screaming and crying. I got on my knees, and reached the oldest of the four.
“Evan, what happened? Where is Auntie Eira?” I yelled at him.
“There was this crazy lady, and this beat up man, and they came up to us while we were playing. Auntie Eira started screaming these things at us, and she yelled to get in the house. We all ran inside, and she threw the girls into the fire, and then Ethan and I,” the little boy said through her tears. I scrambled to my feet and grabbed some floo powder, and threw it into the grate, I couldn't get out the other end, and rebounded back to the Manor. It's a closed floo, but if we were compromised at the Farm, we might be compromised here too. I had to keep the rest of them safe.
“Floo's blocked on the other end,” I told Lily. “Go, take the kids upstairs where the twins are sleeping, and lock yourself in. Seal the door and ward the door. I'll get James and Sirius. Go!” I yelled, and she started up the stairs. I fired my patronus to James and Sirius and then sent one to Kingsley. I was debating leaving, but that would leave Lily and all six children here virtually unprotected. Eira isn't bad at dueling, she's just not as strong as any of us. Lily is unpredictable now, the baby's magic keeps interfering with hers. My mind was still deliberating leaving when James and Sirius apparated into the house. Sirius face was hard with a steely resolve, but his eyes said everything.
I wasn't completely sure, but I thought that Anwen had finally fallen asleep; her body certainly felt slack against mine, but I wasn't entirely sure, and I refused to move and check. If she was sleeping, there was no way I was willing to disturb her slumber to check to make sure she was asleep. We were flying back to London, and I was hopeful that she had finally relaxed enough to sleep, or at least that the exhaustion had finally taken her.
You would think that a whole family full of full grown wizards would be able to simply Portkey and apparate to another country, but that is not the case. Turns out, flying in a Muggle airplane is much easier. We would have, but when we were traveling this fall, we found that using a Portkey with four small children was, challenging, at best. Then, with Anwen being pregnant, the motion was very hard on her. Finally, there was the little matter of the coffin that contained Anwen's sister. All those things combined, made airplane flight a much more practical mode of transportation. I had chartered a plane and flew us all to Canada. Anwen's parents wanted Eira buried near them, and there was no dissuading them from this.
Charlie had come with us. His pain over the loss of his fiancée was excruciating. It had taken King, Arthur and Bill to keep him from hurting himself that day. Molly and Arthur had come along as well, to support their son. It would have been the trip of a lifetime for Arthur, had the reason for it not been so horrible. His first ride on a Muggle airplane, seeing another country, staying in a Muggle home. Anwen's parents had closed the Bed and Breakfast down for the month of January anyway, and we were all housed there. Her brother left his team on the road, and was given the week off. Stephen and Liddy had taken a break from teaching, and were staying at their home, which was close by. Haf had left his University studies. I was thankful that we had brought the children with us. Their joy helped to keep things light, or the sorrow would have been overwhelming.
The most disconcerting thing though, hda been Anwen's silence. There wasn't the hysterical crying that I had been used to when horrible things had happened in the past. No screaming or throwing things, no thrashing and wailing, this time, she was just calm and silent. We were sitting on one of the couches in the private plane, the kids were sleeping soundly, which was much better than the screaming that we had all endured during take off. Charlie was across the way, staring out the window, his parents next to him. Molly kept a protective hand on her son, somehow trying to will him the strength to continue on. Anwen had stretched herself out, leaning against me. I couldn't help but be concerned for her as I thought back over the past week.
Kingsley and his new partner, an older man by the name of Braudish, had arrived at the Farm before us. It took me several days to realize that Anwen had contacted her old partner as well as us, when she couldn't floo to the farm. Part of me suspected that she knew what we would find. That same part hated the fact that my wife knew to contact the Aurors immediately. The farm house and the barn were both on fire, and there was a lump on the lawn, covered in King's cloak. I went to rush to it, but King stopped me.
“It's her. You don't want to see her,” he told me, and I looked in horror at our friend. “You don't want to remember her that way.”
I shrank back from him, and looked at James. He put a hand on my shoulder, and I turned away from the scene. “I'll stay with her, right through the intake, until she's...Don't worry Sirius, I'll make sure she's taken care of.” I nodded at him, thankful that the concern he had for Anwen would carry over to her sister; but even more thankful for the professional detachment that he could bring to the situation.
“Sirius, we need to get back to the Manor. We need to check on the girls and the kids,” James said, and I nodded at him. It seemed that I couldn't even form words, just move my head slightly. He grabbed hold of my arm, and a moment later we were in the entryway at the Manor. I had tried to hide my emotions, but it was useless against Anwen. She just stood there. I watched as the color drained from her face, and the light dimmed in her eyes, but she just stood there.
“We need to tell Charlie. James, can you go to Arthur, I think that he'll need his father. He should have family with him when I tell him,” she told me, calm as day.
“Of course. Where are Lily and the kids?”
“Up in Sirius' old room. I told her to seal herself in there with all of them. I wasn't sure if we were safe or not.” He nodded at her.
“Let me go see Lily, then we'll go to the Ministry,” James said, and she nodded slightly at him as he took off for the stairs. I didn't realize it then, but this is how Anwen would be all week; moving through everything, but almost no emotions, and nearly completely silent. She left me with Lily and the children, while she went to the Ministry to tell her sister's fiancée that she had been murdered.
Lily had patronused Molly, who in turn had gotten in touch with Bill, so that Charlie's family could support him. Then she contacted Remus and Tonks, who were immediately at the Manor. Tonks went up to Hogwarts, where she was stationed this year, and told Albus; leaving him the unenviable job of telling the kids at school. And I just sat there, on the couch in the lounge, watching all of this going on, unable to do anything.
“Sirius, are you okay?” Lily asked me, coming to sit next to me.
“No. I've lost every member of my immediate family, and none of them ever hurt like this,” I told her, starting to cry myself.
“Let it out, dear. Anwen's family always loved you, probably more than your family ever did. Eira lived with you for the last few years, what you're feeling is normal,” she told me, in that gentle way Lily has always been with everyone. “Get it out before Anwen gets back, she's in shock right now, eventually it will end,” she told me; and I began waiting for that to happen. Six days later, I was still waiting.
My thoughts were brought back to the present when I heard Lilyan start to whimper in her sleep. Of all of the children, our eldest daughter had taken her Auntie's death the hardest. There had always been a close bond between the two, and Lilyan seemed to understand that she wouldn't be playing with her favorite Aunt anymore. She started to cry, and I was about to get up, when Arthur shook his head at me, and went and picked up the nearly three year old girl, and cradled her in his arms.
“Hey little Ladybird, it's okay,” he told her, stroking her head.
“Auntie Eira's with the angels now, isn't she?”
“Yes she is sweetheart, but you know what, I bet that she loves flying there too,” he told her, and it seemed to placate the little girl’s need for reassurance. She settled against him, and went back to sleep. I had only deep gratitude for what Arthur and Molly had done this week, not only for their son, but for our whole family. I smiled, remembering how Molly had diffused the tension a few days ago.
We flew into Toronto, and from there we were met by people from the Funeral Home. They loaded the coffin into a hearse, and then they had some other vehicles to drive the family in. They even had car seats for the children. The drive from Toronto south is usually a rather wild one, traffic on the QEW was unreal, but this time the drive didn't seem so bad. Anwen was quiet in the car, only speaking when spoken to, or to say something to the kids.
They dropped us off at her parents’ place, while they took the coffin to the Funeral Home. The paperwork the ministry had provided us stated that it was fully prepared for burial; the reality was that King had sealed the coffin, and no one would be able to open it. I could only imagine how horrid my sister-in-law must have looked, if King felt the need to keep anyone else from seeing her. The next day was the funeral, and we met many of my in-laws’ friends and neighbors. I kept close to Arthur, to make sure that he wouldn't give away our secrets, but it all went surprisingly well. Anwen couldn't bring herself to sing, and no one seemed to press the issue.
Things went fine until that night. Anwen was out in the yard, sitting in the snow, when her mother went out to speak to her. I don't know how it escalated, but we all went running when we heard Rhosyn scream, “This is your fault, you were supposed to keep her safe!”
Caldwalder, Arthur and I all got up and went out to see Rhosyn staring at Anwen in the face, screaming at her, fists raised in the air, tears streaming down her face. “She is your baby sister, and you were supposed to take care of her. She's dead because of you.”
Anwen's father reached his wife, and gently pulled her arms down, holding her tightly to him. “Rhosyn, you don't mean that. Eira was an adult, she made her own choices. What happened was a horrible thing, but it isn't Anwen's fault.”
I had reached Winnie by that point, and I was standing behind her, my arms around her. She wasn't crying, she wasn't even visibly upset. She apparently had just been standing there, taking what her mother was dishing out.
“She's right Da. I didn't protect her, not the way I should have, I'm so sorry,” Anwen told them quietly, before sighing. Then there was nothing. We all stood there, in the snow, not sure what to do or say. That's when the back door opened and Molly was standing there, covered in what looked like melted chocolate. “I think that I may not know how to work your stove so well, Rhosyn,” she said. We all turned to look at her, and we couldn't help but laugh. The memory made me smile, Molly made me smile. She had sat down, and given Rhosyn an understanding ear, and it seemed to help. They were both mothers of rather unruly broods; they had a great deal in common. Before we left, Molly let Rhosyn know that she would always think of Eira as her daughter, and that she would have been proud to have welcomed her to the family.
Anwen shifted against me, and then turned her head enough so that I could see that she was awake. I moved my hand so that I could stroke her cheek, and she looked up at me.
“How much longer do we have until we land?” she asked.
“Only a few more hours, why don't you try and get some more sleep?”
“I haven't slept yet, love. I've just been thinking.”
“I couldn't save her. Why was I allowed to save you, but I couldn't save her?” I ran my hand over her shoulder, and I thought for a moment. She wasn't the only one who had thought about this. I couldn't for the life of me figure out why my being here was any more important than her sister being alive. What was it that made it okay for Anwen to come and get me?
“I don't know, love; but I think that it was completely different. I wasn't actually dead.” She nodded against me, and then said no more. The silence was getting deafening.
I was glad to be back home, back in my house. Andromeda was there when we arrived, in theory because of the Order, but in reality, it was to help me with the kids. I still felt numb. I was sitting in the library next to the fire when Ewan came in.
“Anwen, drink this before bed tonight,” he told me, handing me one of the small phials that contained a potion.
“I don't need it.”
“You do. You haven't slept in so long, your brain is going to stop working correctly. You need some sleep. Just one night, please?” I took the small bottle from him, and wordlessly agreed. Time seemed to flow in strange ways for me now. I wasn't feeling anything, just numb, like my whole body had somehow been wrapped in an odd blanket and I could hear what was going on, but it was muffled; see what was going on, but it was blurry. When I touched things, I almost felt them, but none of it felt right.
I took the potion that night, and I did indeed sleep until the next morning. When I realized what day it was, I wished that I had more, just so that I could sleep through the day. Today would be the Wizarding Memorial for my sister. It would be here at Grimmauld, because there was nowhere else to have it. Thankfully, everyone who would come, was already in the Order.
Somehow, Tonks and Andromeda had gotten Kreacher to listen to them, and he had prepared the food and the house. The service was nice enough, Sirius spoke about Eira when she was little, at our wedding, and how she was the first member of the family to welcome him fully. Hermione and Harry talked about how smart she was, and how much fun she was to fly with. Charlie got up, but all he could tell us, was that she was the love of his life, and not a day would go by without him missing her. Arthur and Molly called her the daughter they would always miss. I just sat there, listening, unable to even form words to tell them what my baby sister meant to me.
I saw the looks on the faces of my friends, they were all deeply concerned. I couldn't assure them that I would be alright, I didn't know what alright was anymore. In less than a year, I had done the unthinkable, and brought Sirius back from beyond the veil, lost my boss and close friend, and now my sister, and I was once again pregnant and the most coherent thought that I could form was that I wasn't sure that this was the world to be bringing a baby into.
People milled around the lower floors of our home, eating, talking and reminiscing. Andromeda and Tonks tried to keep the children contained, but there were six of them, and it was difficult. I found a seat by the fireplace in the Sitting Room, and I watched as things happened around me. Sirius came and sat on the arm of the chair, his arm around me, but I didn't even have the strength to acknowledge his presence.
James came in a while later, whispered something to Sirius, and then disappeared. I looked up into my husband’s eyes, but he shook his head to let me know that it was nothing. Time was once again detached from me, I wasn't living in the same realm as everyone else. I laid my head in his lap, and prayed that I would feel something, anything.
People started leaving, and eventually, we were left with just our family, Tonks and Remus. Remus would once again be living with us, his home had been destroyed by the fire. He had lost nearly everything that he had ever owned. It was fine for him to stay here, we had more than enough space, and since Ewan was still trying to heal some of his wounds, the proximity was a good thing. Tonks had taken him out shopping, and gotten him some new things to wear. It may have been the only time that I remembered Remus having all new clothes.
“Love, is there anything that I can get for you before we go?” he asked me, I looked up at him.
“Go? Where are we going?”
“Anwen, Lily left for the hospital hours ago, she's had the baby. She wants you to come and see her,” he told me. How had I missed her leaving to give birth? When had he told me? The blanket seemed to be becoming thinner, and my mind was in less of a haze.
“Winnie, she went into labor during the Memorial. They left hours ago. The kids are taken care of, Remus is going to come with us. We need to go and meet James and Lily's new baby. Minerva wants to take the Hogwarts kids over, but James and Lily want us there first,” he explained to me and I nodded at him.
Thankfully, Sirius didn't take his arm away from me, because I was horribly unsteady on my feet. We made our way down the familiar halls of the Maternity Ward, and Sirius gently pushed open the door to Lily's room. James was sitting on the bed next to Lily, and they were holding a little pink blanket.
“Hi you three, glad that you could make it,” Lily said happily, and her smile actually warmed my heart, just a little. I felt the blanket slip even more, and I felt like I was shaking off a deep slumber.
“You'll be glad to know that everything went well, and we are the proud parents of another beautiful little girl,” James beamed. Lily unwrapped the bundle, and there was her sweet, round face, covered in the lightest of peach fuzz in the same color as Lily's.
“I know that things seem dark right now, but this little girl is a ray of light, a beam of hope for what the future can bring. I want you to meet Hope Eira Potter,” Lily told me, and I looked at her, my mouth hanging open. “Anwen, your sister sacrificed herself to save my children, I cannot think of a braver, more noble woman to have my daughter, our daughter, named after. Even in the depths of despair, we need to have hope.”
The words were so much like the dream that I had had while I was in France, the one with Perenelle, that I looked at Sirius, and then at Remus because he was the only other one who knew of it. I stared down at the little bundle of baby, and whatever had been dampening my senses over the last days completely fell away. There was still pain – a deep, aching pain in the center of my soul – but because of the wonder of this little girl, there was happiness too.
James lifted her up, and put her in my arms, and I started crying. I realized that I hadn't cried for my sister, I hadn't wept over the completely selfless act that she had made. While I would miss her, and I would fully need to grieve for her, I was so very proud of her. My body started to convulse in tears, and everything came tumbling out of me. James quickly took the baby, and Sirius picked me up and went to the chair, sat down and curled me into him. And I cried until the pain wasn't the strongest thing I felt, but instead I was left with pride, and love, and most of all, hope.
I brought Anwen home from the hospital, surprised but not shocked that it was the baby that was finally able to reach her. Ewan gave her another dreamless sleep potion, and then I laid her down in our bed, still fully clothed, even though it was only a little after six at night. Molly, Arthur and Andromeda had stayed and prepared dinner, and then Molly helped me get all six children into bed, since the Potter kids would be staying with us. When we came back downstairs, I wasn't too stunned to find King and Mad–Eye at the Dining Room table with the other adults, including Remus, who had just come back from the hospital.
“Came with the final report from the Ministry,” King told me, holding out a file.
“And I came to fill in what those lazy bums missed,” Mad–Eye added. I shook my head at them. Apparently even though he quit, he still wanted to see things done his way.
“Eira got the kids through the floo, and then blew it up, so that they couldn't be followed back to the Manor. It was very smart thinking on her part,” King told me.
“We found two sets of footprints, they came in through the forest, in past Remus' apartment and lab. We think that they may have gone in there first, and it appeared that it was set on fire first. They then came through the back yard, which is where Eira was playing with the kids. They dragged her from the house, and killed her,” King told me, and I opened the file, but all that was there was a single sheet of parchment, that said essentially what he had just said to me. “The official file has been sealed, and archived. You don't need to know anything else Sirius, neither does Anwen. Chances are, her brain has already filled in the pieces, and she suspects what happened. I don't need to confirm those suspicions,” he told me, and while I wanted to protest, I couldn't bring myself to do it. “The magic was too degraded by the time we were able to get close enough though to be able to tell who might have been the cause.”
“I think that I might be able to help with that,” Andromeda said, and I looked at my cousin, surprised. “This afternoon, after you all left, I was in the Sitting Room with the children. They wanted to watch some television, and I figured that it was alright. Anyway, I wasn't really watching their show, so I got up and went to look at the family tapestry. I've never been very proud of my family heritage, but I love the way that hanging looks. The magic has always fascinated me,” she told me, and I nodded at her.
“We feel the same way, that's why Anwen repaired it, and we keep it up there,” I told her, and she nodded in agreement.
“Well, I was looking at the tapestry, when Evan came over to me, looking at it as well. I picked him up, and I pointed out you and Anwen, and all of your children; then I pointed out Dora's picture, and showed how there was a double line growing there, because you and she are going to be married soon,” Andromeda pointedly told Remus, and he nodded in understanding at her. “Then I pointed out my face, and Evan gasped and hugged me tight. I asked him what was wrong, and he told me that he saw the crazy lady who had hurt Auntie Eira. He pointed at Bella's picture.” The bile rose in my throat, but she kept talking.
“I asked him if he was sure, and he told me that he was. I believe him, the horror that was in his face, he knew it was her. I asked him if he remembered anything else, and he told me that the man that was with her looked like Uncle Remus does, after he's had a bad night. I figured that was his way of saying something about you after your changes?” Remus confirmed this. We had never lied to the children about him, but we also hadn't told them the truth. They all knew that Uncle Remus had bad nights sometimes, and they made him sick. Andromeda's words hung in the air, and they seemed to make all of the oxygen evaporate from the room.
“Did he say anything else?” Remus queried.
“No, but I think that there may be more of a memory there, I just didn't want to push it. Maybe if it were someone that he trusts more, or one of you who could interpret better what he was saying, but that was all that he told me,” she said quietly.
“That's very helpful, it at least gives us an idea of where to start this investigation,” King said loudly, and then turned to Mad–Eye. “It also helps explains the nature of those wounds.” I didn't want to think about what that meant, but I couldn't help it. Bella had taken Greyback to our home, and if it hadn't been for the quick thinking of Eira...how the hell could she do that to someone? How could she be so callous?
“Sirius, sit down,” King commanded me, and I realized I didn't know that I had stood up. “I'll talk with James in the next few days, see if we can sit down with Evan and see if he remembers anything else. We need to know how they found the house.” I sat down, and immediately my brain began working again.
“The farm was never under as strong wards as either this house or the Manor. They're both Fideliused, but we couldn't do that with Farm, since the Muggles would have noticed it suddenly disappearing. We'll just keep the kids inside from now on,” I muttered, hating the idea of cooping my children up inside all of the time, but the alternative was much worse. “I think I need to reconsider the protection on the new house as well.”
We talked for a while longer, and eventually everyone headed off for their own homes, or at least their own rooms. I checked on Anwen, and she was still sleeping soundly, which I was thankful for. I went down and looked at the family tapestry, and pondered for a moment how I had not ended up like the rest of my family. My blood boiled beneath my skin when I looked at my cousin's picture, and I couldn't help but think of all the pain that she had inflicted on my wife and me. I was nearly ready to go off in search of her myself, when I looked down at my own little family, and recognized the small bud that was forming just below the beautiful face of my Lilyan. There's the reason not to go searching for Bella, that still unformed flower that your wife is growing right now. I ran my fingers over the newest addition to the tree, and decided that the wiser course of action would be to go and curl myself up against my wife and our newest child to be.
I couldn't believe what they were telling me. My stomach turned at the thought, and I wanted to run out of the room. Greyback had tracked me to the farm. By living with the pack, he had learned my scent, and he had followed it, taking Bella with him, and tracked me back to where Eira and the kids were playing.
I looked at my friends, Lily was rocking little Hope in her arms, she was just five weeks old. James was sitting next to her, his arm over the back of the chair, looking down with love at his wife. Anwen and Sirius were sharing a chair, wrapped up in each other, happily in love. His hand had slipped inside of her shirt, as it always did when she was with child, to hold the baby too. She had finally shared that she was due to have another baby, in about six months, but the glow that seemed to seep through her skin had long since given her away. None of them seemed fazed by this discovery, in fact, they were laughing at it; but it made me horror-struck.
“Well now, this will be a challenge. How are we going to ward for scents?” Sirius said, with a joke in his voice.
“Well, you're the one with the super smelling ability, I think that we'll leave that up to you,” James joked back and I was dumbstruck by them. How could they be joking at a time like this? How could they find this funny? None of them was safe as long as I was around them. I stood up to leave, I needed to get away from them, and their children.
“Where do you think you're going?” Anwen asked me, looking puzzled.
“If I can be tracked by my smell, then I have to get away from all of you. I can't be near you, it's too much of a risk,” I told them, once again headed for the door.
“Too much of a risk? After twenty-five years, do you really think that you're not being here would somehow erase the smell?” she asked, looking at me with the most confused look on her face.
“Maybe, but I have to get away. I can't do this to any of you,” I told her, again moving toward the door.
“Stop!” Anwen yelled, getting up and standing in front of me. “We don't know if that's really what happened, we just said that Evan remembers the man saying something about the smell of the place. Even if it was your smell, do you really think that running away is going to solve this?” She put her hands on my arms, stopping me in my forward motion.
“Anwen, your sister is dead because of me,” I told her. I had felt this way since I had heard of Eira's murder. If I had been at the Farm, I might have been able to stop it. Instead, I was comfortable and cared for here in London.
“How do you figure that? You didn't come after her, you didn't threaten the children or eviscerate her. You didn't burn the buildings to the ground. You didn't kill Eira, any more than I did,” she told me, a sense of calm and peace in her.
“This wasn't your fault,” I tried to assure her, knowing that she had been blaming herself.
“You're right. This is Voldemort's fault. This is Bella's fault. And if he was there, this is Greyback's fault. But it is not mine,” she said resolutely, “and it is not yours either.”
“You're wrong. If they tracked my scent there, then I left them a trail to find the Farm, just as sure as there is a trail to find me here or at the Manor,” I told her, once again trying to get away.
“So, you're going to take the easy way out, and run away? Fine, leave, and take all of your things, because you're not welcome here anymore.”
“Anwen, be reasonable,” I heard Sirius say.
“No, Sirius, if he wants to wallow in his own pity and self-loathing, then I have no energy to stop him; but I refuse to watch either. My sister gave her life to save our children, and I will be forever thankful to her for the gift of their continued lives, but I will not let her memory be besmirched because he's afraid to live. She had everything in front of her, love and marriage, having her own children and watching them grow up and lead their own lives – all of the things that he has as well, but he is scared to live. He's nearly succeeded in pushing Tonks away, nearly succeeded in his plan to make sure that he's never happy. So, please Remus, before we have this same, tired argument again, go.” Anwen stood aside, but I couldn't move. I looked at my friends, they were all somewhat stunned at Anwen's outburst, but none of them were disagreeing with her. I looked down at her, and her face set firmly against me.
“What if I can't do it?” She laughed at me.
“What, be married? Be a father? Be alive? Why do you have to know what to do before you start it? Why can't you just be like the rest of us, and wake up each morning and figure it out as it goes?”
“But what if I get killed?” She looked at me, with such disappointment in her eyes.
“Wouldn't it be better to have lived your life to the fullest, right until the end; than know that you had died with regrets?” The silence in the room was complete. I could pick out the individual breathing patterns of each of my friends. “I know you have nowhere else to go, so you may stay here, but I would ask that you avoid me. I will not watch you throw all of this away. I love you too much for that.”
Anwen slipped from the room, and Sirius got up to follow her. I turned and looked at James and Lily.
“You can move in with us if you want, but she's right,” Lily said, turning her eyes away from me, looking back down at her sleeping daughter. I opened my mouth to say something, but then closed it again. “If we stop living, we've let him win already.”
“I just want to do the right thing.”
“The right thing doesn't always have to be the most painful one,” James told me, and I left the room to think.
“Well, another hard earned cup for the Gryffindor Quidditch team,” I told my friends as we walked back through the castle. Well, three of us walked, Anwen sort of waddled now, her feet were so swollen from this pregnancy. She had her arm wrapped around mine, leaning herself on me. I had no idea how she was going to make it for another three months.
“As if you had anything to do with it,” Anwen said, looking at me with that amused and irritated look on her face. “Ginny won that match for them, that girl is amazing on a broom.”
“She is, but it would have been over sooner if Harry had been flying,” James said, and Lily just sort of snorted at him.
“Harry would have been flying if he hadn't been so stupid. I'm glad that he lost something that means so much to him, maybe he'll use his head next time,” she said in a way that only a mother could.
“Lils, from listening to Harry, that little Malfoy brat was about to use an Unforgivable...” I tried to interject. Anwen was shaking her head.
“That doesn't matter. Harry could have defended himself in any number of ways, he should have never used a spell that he didn't know what it was, or the origin of it. I agree with Lily, we should be grateful for the mercy he was shown,” Anwen told me, and I stopped.
“Are you calling Snivelus merciful? When did you get soft?” I asked her, wondering if the pregnancy had gone to her brain.
“I'm not being soft, I just think we should all be grateful that the situation didn't end up worse than it did. Now let's go retrieve Harry so we can get back to the kids. We left all seven of them with Molly, Arthur and Minerva,” she told me, but we all stopped cold in our tracks. There in the hallway, was the backside of my godson, he was pressed up to the front side of the redheaded Gryffindor seeker. His hands on the wall on either side of her head, her hands were twined up in his now extremely unruly hair and they were engaged in a rather passionate snog. We all just looked in shock, and I was about to open my mouth to say something when I felt Anwen's hand over it while she was pushing me away. “Oh no you don't, you're not saying anything and we're leaving,” she told me. I tried to protest, but she just kept pushing me away and shaking her head. Lily was doing the same thing to James. When we were around the corner, the girls started talking again.
“I guess they’re done dancing,” Lily said with a giggle.
“I suppose that they're not interested in lunch either, Harry seems to have started with dessert,” Anwen added giggling as well. They were nearly doubled over with laughter. James and I both looked at each other but couldn't figure out what was so funny.
“Care to fill us in on what's got you two so riled up?” James asked them, and finally Anwen was able to control her laughing enough to talk.
“It's just so sweet, and our hormones are all out of whack. Plus, you're going to need to give the 'Little Wizards' talk to Harry again, since it just went from theory to practice,” she said, bursting out laughing again. James groaned at the idea.
“I'll help,” I suggested and all three of them looked at me and said, “NO!” in unison. We got back to the Headmaster's Dining Room and we were greeted by the four adults, wondering where the kids that we were sent to get, were.
“They were otherwise engaged,” Lily said with a grin on her face as she picked Hope up. Molly looked at her confused.
“Harry was caught snogging...your daughter in the hallway. We got them away before his Dad went up to congratulate them and Sirius here went to tell them the best broom closets in the building,” Anwen said and Arthur glared at me.
“Oh thank Merlin the two of them figured it out,” Molly said, clasping her hands together. “Took them long enough, for smart kids, they were, oh thank Merlin. Now we just need to get Ron and Hermione to stop dancing with each other,” Molly said, and I wondered if they actually sat around and talked about these things over tea.
“Those two don't even realize that they're dancing yet, give them time,” Anwen said and they all nodded.
“What's up with the three of you?” I asked the women, and they all looked at me.
“Sirius, it's spring, and the kids are in love, what's better than that?” Anwen told me, and she went to sit down on a couch and put her feet up. She leaned her head back, closed her eyes and put her hands on her swollen belly. She looked incredibly beautiful there. My love for her must have overwhelmed me, because she opened her eyes and smiled at me.
“Nothing at all love, nothing at all,” I told her as I leaned down to kiss her, and then kiss her belly too, coming to rest near her legs. “Are you hungry, love?”
“Always, just nothing with onions, or I'll be tasting them all day,” she requested and I nodded at her. I kissed her again and went to get some plates of food for her, and to make sure that the kids were still eating. Molly and Minerva had gotten them started, sitting at a little table. All six of them were happily munching away, and Albus was sitting on the floor, next to their little table, speaking with them. They were all chatting brightly, and he seemed to be carrying on more than one conversation at a time. Ethan and Evan were replaying the match for him, and Lilyan and Emma were talking about their teddy bears and the picnic they had with them, and the twins were talking in their own language to him, which he appeared to be understanding. Never would know that he's the most powerful and sought after wizard alive. Surely he has better things to do with his time than chat with small children. His behavior was surprising, to say the least. I walked back to where Anwen was, and handed her the plate of lunch, and she smiled at me. Molly had gone to sit at the end of the couch, near Anwen's feet, so I sat on the arm.
“Any luck with names, dear?” Molly asked her, and Anwen sighed and shook her head.
“Nothing, we can't agree on anything. We've reviewed the entire family tree, we've looked at my family, we've even gone as far to consider famous Quidditch players, and we can't find any names that we agree on. Tomorrow, I am going to start reviewing star charts to try to find, something. At the rate we're going, we're gonna let the children name this baby, so it may very well end up with the name “Paddington” or “Babbity.”
I rubbed her shoulder, and she leaned her head on my thigh. “We've still got three months, we'll figure this out,” I told her and she sighed.
“How's Charlie doing? I keep wanting to come and visit, but, I know seeing me has been hard on him,” she asked Molly and the older woman sighed and looked at my wife.
“He takes it day by day. He's going to stay through the wedding, but then I wouldn't be surprised if he goes back to Romania. Too many ghosts are haunting him here. He's appreciated your letters dear, but to be honest, he can't look at you. Says when he does, he sees your sister, and it just hurts too much,” Molly told Anwen, and I could see her nodding.
“My Da always called us the ’bookends’, Liddy, Islwyn and Haf all have his blond hair, but Eira and I were the brunettes. Even had the same colored eyes,” she said wistfully, and I knew that it was still painful for her to think of the loss of her littlest sister.
“How's your Ma doing?”
“She's coping, I guess. We've talked on the phone a few times, but I still think that part of her blames me for what happened. I've talked with Da and Liddy about it, and they think that time will heal her wounds. He's promised me though that they won't try to come and see Pup when it's born. I really would never forgive myself if anything else happened to my family,” she said quietly. I still can't get her to let go of the guilt, even though she says she knows it isn't her fault, part of me is sure she is still blaming herself.
“Well then, we'll just have to make sure that you have enough help that you won't miss having your Mum here. Now, you have to promise me that you won't have that baby until after Bill and Fleur's wedding. We're expecting you to sing,” Molly told her, and Anwen nodded.
“My due date isn’t until a week later,,. but, I make no promises, considering how early the first two showed up. The only pregnancy I made it even remotely close to my due date was with the twins. How wonky is that?” she asked, and Molly just shook her head at her.
“Whatever you do, please don't go into labor at the wedding, Auntie Muriel probably won't stand it,” Molly said, and we all broke out laughing at the idea of Molly's Aunt having a fit due to the wedding being disrupted.
“Molly, are you sure that you want all of my kids at the wedding? Really, our four, put together with James and Lily's two are, well, a handful. They all clearly have more than a bit of their daddies in them,” Anwen said, and while I knew what she was talking about, part of me was hurt that she thought our children were a handful.
“Nonsense, we've got everything planned for them, and both Hermione and Luna have said that they will keep an eye on them while you're singing. I wouldn't want it any other way; at times like these, we need family together. Anyway, if we get too serious, your children will lighten the mood,” Molly told her, and my wife nodded.
The women continued to talk about the wedding plans, and I sort of zoned out, deciding that I really didn't care about napkin colors and the flowers that were being used. The kids finished eating, and they were playing rather quietly with Minerva. I couldn't help but smile at the way she acted like a grandmother to them. Far cry from the way that she would yell at me while I was here. I was roused from my mental ministrations by Anwen shifting away from me. Albus was standing near us, his hand extended to Anwen, helping her up from her sitting position.
“You back with us, love?” she asked me.
“I'm fine, just remembering living here,” I told her, still a little lost in my memories. There were still many times when I would start remembering things, and realize that I was discovering new things about myself, my wife or our children. Winnie was always so gentle with me when these things happened.
“Why don't you take the kids home? Albus needs to talk with me, and then I'll get myself home,” she said quietly.
“Are you sure? You really don't like apparating,” I reminded her. “I could take the kids outside and play for a while, and then we could all use the Portkey home.”
“I'll be fine Sirius. It's just the nausea, and it's better now. Take them home, and get them napping. The family is coming for dinner,” she told me, letting me know that we were having a family meeting tonight. She must know what Albus needs to talk with her about, and then will need to talk with all of us. I nodded at her, and went to collect the kids and the rucksack that we carried all the children's things in. James was helping Lily collect up their kids as well.
“All right my little pups, fall in line,” I called, and the kids squealed and ran over to me. Ethan had John by the hand and Lilyan had Jamie. “I happen to know that Mummy made cookies yesterday, who wants to go home and eat cookies before nap?” I asked, and they cheered at me. I looked over to Anwen, and she was rolling her eyes and shaking her head at me. “Go on, say goodbye to Mummy, she'll be home soon.” They all ran over, and hugged her legs and she leaned down and kissed each one on the head. They said goodbye to Albus as well, telling their Dumbwy goodbye. The kids gathered around the old Christmas card that we had turned into the Portkey and each took hold, and a moment later, we were in the living room at Fair Garden.
“Are you sure that you're going to make it up the stairs? I could call Fawkes down here, and flash you up to my office?” Albus asked me, and I shook my head at him.
“I'm fine. It actually helps with the swelling if I keep moving. My healer reminded me that as quickly as my body healed, we really weren't meant to have babies as often as I have,” I told him. “I think that this might be the last time I'm pregnant.”
“How does Sirius feel about that? He seems to enjoy fatherhood.”
“He does, but he's not the one who needs to carry these kids,” she said and we both chuckled. “He's a rotten disciplinarian. You think that someone who spent so much time being reprimanded would have some idea how to discipline a child, but he's as soft as a pillow,” I told him with a flick of my hand. “It's sweet though. He loves our children with an amazing passion, and they love him right back. I love watching him discover what it's like to be a father, to really be part of a family, to know that he is loved unconditionally. He suffered at the hands of his parents and brother for so long...” I stopped speaking to get hold of my emotions. “Yes, he's a very good father.”
“You're both very good parents, Anwen. You're children are bright, happy and a delight to be around. They will be remarkable people when they grow up,” he told me, but there was sadness in his voice.
“Thank you, Albus,” I told him as warmly as I could, but his melancholy was contagious. We trudged up the stairs, and when we were seated in the office, Albus closed and sealed the door. I continued speaking. “Ewan told me that the treatments have stopped working. I can see that the curse is spreading. I'm sorry,” I told him, bringing my feet to rest on the poof that Albus had sent across the room for me to use.
“We knew this day was coming, Anwen. My affairs are in order, plans have been made. It's just a waiting game now. I wanted to give you these,” he said, levitating a folder at me. “This is everything that I know about Tom Riddle. His school files are there, any information that I found about his parents and the crimes I know that he had committed. Compare it with what you have learned already, and make sure that we don't have any holes that can be easily filled.”
I took the satchel, and laid it in my lap. I couldn't make eye contact with him, I knew that if he could see my eyes, it would betray me. The end is near, he knows it and can feel it too.
“You're certain that your spell will work?” he asked me, and I instantly knew what he was questioning me about.
“I'm sure. The last piece recently fell into place,” I told him. “I'll wait until he's home, once school is out. I'm assuming that it will take a few days to recover. I also want to make sure that we don't need to access it again, before I excise it completely.” He nodded in agreement. An uncomfortable silence settled between us, and we sat there, not looking or talking.
“Anwen, are you sure that you can do this?” he finally asked me, breaking the silence.
“Sir, the magic will work. The new magics that I've learned will allow us to do this, I am confident of that. I'm more than powerful enough, especially since I can draw on Sirius, and James and Lily if I need to. Anyway, I'm not called a bad-ass witch for nothing,” I replied and we both smiled. Then the silence was again making the room thick and uncomfortable.
“Well then, I suppose that's it. Our associate will need to speak with you. Has Sirius changed the wards at Grimmauld yet?” he asked. I shook my head at him.
“They're still the same. Tell him I'll meet him at one tomorrow night. It'll give me time to review this material, and to talk with the rest of the family. Speaking of which, I should be heading home. Everyone is coming for dinner and I've been up and on my feet for far too long today,” I told him, getting up out of my chair, in a very ungraceful way. “I swear, by the time I get to this delivery date, I am going to be as big as a house.”
“Anwen, you're simply beautiful, and while your grace may be a bit off, your still stunning to look at, and you radiate happiness,” my former headmaster told me, and I smiled at him while my cheeks betrayed me. “You have always been very special to me, thank you for letting me share in your exceptional life,” I swallowed down my tears and looked up into Albus' eyes.
“Don't, don't do this now. You're going to be here to see this little one born. The curse is still spreading very slowly. Please, don't say goodbye,” I told him, my tears finally spilling over from my eyes.
“Child, we never really say goodbye to the ones we love. We simply wait for them on the other side,” he told me, which made me cry harder. Clearly, this is goodbye.
“Why don't you come and have dinner with us next week. Ethan would love to have you see his new room, and you'll adore the gardens. Apparently, we can't ward against Fawkes, not that I'd want to. I'll even make you your favorite, Bouillabaisse,” I told him, and he nodded at me.
“Of course,” he told me, giving my shoulder's a squeeze. “How does Wednesday sound?” I nodded at him.
“Come a little before six. Now, for my waddle down to the gates to apparate home,” I told him, headed toward the door.
“Nonsense,” he stopped me. “Fawkes.” The red and gold phoenix flew over to me and I smiled at my friend.
“Thank you. Flashing is very much appreciated. I'll see you Wednesday then,” I told him and he nodded. I picked up the satchel and then grabbed Fawkes tail feathers, I was immediately in the front sitting room at Fair Garden. Jamie started crying at the noise, and Ethan started clapping his hands.
“Is Dumbwy coming too?” he asked me.
“Not today darling, but he's coming for dinner on Wednesday, alright? Oh, my little angel, come here,” I said, putting down the folder and opening my arms to my little daughter. “Mummy didn't mean to scare you, I am so very sorry my little one,” I told her as she hugged me. Her tears stopped as I picked her. Fawkes was still flying around the room, Ethan laughing with delight. “Fawkes, can Jamie pet you?” I asked, and the phoenix flew over, and perched on the arm of the chair. Jamie put her little hand out and petted the bird, who sang a calming tune while she did so.
“Mummy, he's so soft,” she proclaimed with great excitement.
“Yes he is sweetie. Thank you Fawkes,” and with that, the bird was gone. There was a sound behind me, and in lumbered my husband, the dog version of my husband, with both John and Lilyan on his back. I put Jamie down and just looked at him.
“Darling, that's for the game room downstairs, or outside, not up here. Your fur gets in the upholstery and I have to pluck it by hand to get it clean,” I admonished him, my hands on my hips. He quickly changed back, and stood and took me into his arms.
“I wasn't going to jump up on the couch or anything. Just giving the kids rides around the house,” he told me, then kissed me lightly. “I had Kreacher start dinner, and then sent him back to Grimmauld. He took care of the laundry while he was here though, so there's nothing for you to do. Why don't you sit down and relax?” I settled myself against his strong arms and sighed.
“Thank you and I think I will. My feet feel bangers stuffed into my shoes,” I told him, and I sat down on the couch and lifted my feet up. My wonderful husband then took my shoes off and began to rub my feet. I groaned in pleasure. “Have I told you today that I love you?”
“Several times, but I'm always happy to hear it. Relax dear, the kids are fine and the rest of the family won't be here for quite a while,” he told me, and I nodded at him as I rested my eyes and quickly fell asleep.
The following evening, I flooed into Grimmauld Place, and made my way up to the library. He was standing waiting for me, staring at the blank wall where the family tapestry used to be.
“I was surprised when it wasn't here,” he told me. “I wouldn't think that you and Black wouldn't care so much about it.”
“It isn't because he's proud of his family, but instead, as a reminder that even the most broken and sickly of trees can, on occasion, bear good fruit. We've taken nearly all of our personal items out of the house. Our other home is much safer,” I told him.
“Does he know you're here?”
“No. He's asleep, he knows that I have to work with you, that we all do, but that it has to be done in secret. They're still not sure that we should trust you, not sure that you won't betray us all,” I told him, and he nodded at me.
“I won't. I suppose only time will tell.”
“You do understand why they don't trust you? You haven't exactly been, pleasant.”
“Anwen, neither have all of you. If only we knew then what we know now,” he said quietly, and I nodded at him. Memories from the last twenty years flooded my head. I shook myself free of them.
“Everyone is going to hate you, you're aware of that, aren't you? You're going to be public enemy number two, only just behind your boss there.”
“I know, it doesn't matter. We all have our roles to play, this is mine.”
“He'll kill you when he finds out that you've betrayed him.”
“I don't doubt it. I just hope that he does it quickly, but I doubt I'll be that lucky. He'll probably let Bella have some fun before he kills me. It serves as some sort of twisted foreplay for the two of them.” I felt my stomach turn at that idea.
“Okay, that was an image I didn't need. You know, I'm still likely to get sick at the drop of a hat.”
“Sorry. It's a brave thing you're doing, having a child now. The Dark Lord is very interested in you, and your children.”
“I figured he would be, especially after what happened last year. He won't get at me, or my children.” I told him resolutely.
“I would never think to cross you now. What you did last year, the strength of your love for Black, that scared the Dark Lord. Your skills are impressive, but it's your motivation that frightens him. Just be aware. He's not the only one who would be thrilled to hurt you.”
“I know, but I've had enemies for many, many years.” We stood there quietly for a while. “I have one question for you. Were you the one who created the poison that nearly killed Lilyan and me three years ago?”
“No. Peter asked me, but I kept finding a way to keep from helping him. He went elsewhere then.”
“Narcissa Malfoy?” He nodded yes at me. “I figured if it wasn't you, it had to be her. Damn, I married into one crazy family.”
“You've got no idea my dear. She only did it under duress however, if that's any consolation. It really was...”
“Lucius. He hates me, has for years. He's one really, really sick man,” I told him, trying to push aside some of the memories of those years of dealing with the people he had hurt.
“Anwen, when they can, they're going to come after you, and after you hard. Peter told them many of your secrets, and you gave the others away last year...”
“Only some of them. I have many more tricks up my sleeve.” I didn't want to be talking about this. Not now, and certainly not with him. “Now, we're here to talk about how I can help you,” I told him, changing the subject, and moving my hand, indicating that we should sit down. I sat on the love seat and put my feet up, he sat in the wingback opposite me.
“There's not much to do now, it's really just a waiting game. I hope that when the time comes, all goes the way that he wants it to,” he said.
“You know, I don't think that I could ever do what he's asked of you.”
“He never would have asked you. You're far too honorable to do it,” he told me, and I couldn't help but smile at him.
“When you need us, please contact me. I can still sneak into the castle, and I know you know how to get into the Shrieking Shack,” I said quietly, and we let the silence fill the room. “I should be getting home, Sirius is stirring, and if he realizes I'm not in our room, he'll panic and go looking for me.” I could feel my husband awakening from his deep slumber, he was having a rather erotic dream about me I was sure, based on the emotions I was reading from him. I stood up, and my guest did the same. I placed my hand on his arm. “Good luck Severus. I'll be praying for you.” He looked down at me, surprised by my words, and then left the room. I quickly walked back downstairs and flooed back to my home, sealing the floo when I was done.
I waved my hand over myself, returning to my nightgown as I reached the master bedroom. We had brought the bed over from Grimmauld, and the star light from the canopy lit my way. I slid back between the sheets, and curled myself into Sirius. He wrapped his arms around me, his hands running up and down my back. I tilted my head up and kissed him deeply.
“You alright?” he asked me, and I answered with a moan.
“I am now,” I said as I brought my lips to his again. “Now, I happen to know that you were just having a rather steamy dream, and I can feel the after effects right there,” I said, gently moving my hand down my husband. “So, you want to tell me about it?”
“You know, at the rate we're going, this baby is going to be able to name itself,” Sirius teased me, as he once again brought his lips to my swollen belly and kissed it. I was stretched out on the Sitting Room sofa, and Sirius was sitting on the floor near my mid section. He had lifted my tee shirt up, and had his head leaning against the seat of the couch, kissing and stroking the baby. I watched as a little hand or foot moved across me, and proceeded to bop him in the nose. I couldn't suppress my giggle.
“Feisty little bugger, isn't it,” he said, still rubbing my belly.
“You're not the one getting hit from the inside all of the time,” I reminded him. “Sirius, I think this should be our last baby. It really is much harder than it was before. I'm so tired this time.”
“Love, while I love having children with you, it's your body that has to do all the work. If that is what you want, then that is what you shall have. Anyway, we've got our Quidditch team now,” he told me and I chuckled at him.
“That we do. Hey, what do you think about the name Edmund? It means “protector”, and I like the way it sounds; Edmund Black,” I asked him, and a smile crept across his beautiful face.
“It's good Anwen. Sounds like we may have finally found a first name if this little Pup is a boy. Do you have a girl’s name?” he asked me, and I shook my head at him.
“We don't need it. This is a boy, I'm sure of it.”
“Your dream?” he questioned me, and I nodded at him. “I've learned not to go against you when you're sure of something. A boy it is then. Now, even if we're done having babies, that doesn't mean that we're done with practicing the baby making, are we?” he asked me, his eyes dark with desire, as his hand slid under the front of my tee shirt. “I would hate to stop doing this, since we've gotten so good at it.” He lifted himself up, and moved his body so that he was covering me now, his feet dangling off the end of the couch, his other arm coming around to hold me to him.
“I would never think to deprive you of such a thing. We might forget how, and then where ever would we be?” I told him slyly. He grinned at me, with his delicious lopsided grin, and then leaned down to kiss me. As he went to deepen the kiss, Fawkes flashed into the room, and surprised us. I stared at the bird, and listened as he silently told me that Albus would be taking Harry out of the castle, and Albus would like me to keep a shield over him.
“Of course, Fawkes. Let Albus know I'll be watching,” I told the bird, and it flashed out of the room. “Albus is taking Harry out of the castle. So much for our plans, the kids are all still awake anyway, so we would have had to wait for later anyhow. You going to head up to Hogwarts?”
“I should. I know that Tonks is on patrol tonight, but her magic has been a little...off...with everything that's been going on with her and Moony. I wonder if James and Lily know?” he asked me, and I shrugged my shoulders. Just then, James’ stag patronus materialized.
“Headed to your house to leave Lily and the kids while we go to Hogwarts. Be there soon,” he said, and then it evaporated.
“Guess that answers your question. I should go and check on the guest rooms, and make sure that we can get the kids down in Lilyan and Ethan's rooms,” I said, trying to get up. Sirius put his hands on my shoulders, pushing me back down into the couch.
“Nonsense. The rooms are fine, and the beds are made. The kids are all in the playroom,” he said, indicating the mirror that sat on the coffee table, showing our four pajama clad children playing in the Nursery room upstairs, “and they're ready for bed. We'll let them all play for a few minutes, and then put them all to bed. Relax, love. Why don't you see if you can get a fix on Harry?”
“Fine,” I told him, and I closed my eyes, and went looking for Harry. I could find him, but it was very blurry.
“They're still at Hogwarts. I can barely make out his body,” I told Sirius as I opened my eyes. The wards and protections on the castle made it hard to get a clear picture in when I looked for Harry while he was at school. “I wonder if Albus found another one?”
“That's what I'm guessing. Rather reckless of him to take Harry with him, don't you think?” I turned my head and just stared at him.
“You're calling Albus reckless? You? Really?” I asked him incredulously. “That's rich.” He looked at me, and we both burst out laughing. Our reverie was interrupted by James, Lily and the kids coming through the floo. Sirius went over and sealed the floo, since there was no one at the Manor now, there was no where to floo from.
“Alright, all of you stay here, and if there is a problem, patronus immediately,” James started telling Lily and me.
“You know James Andrew Potter, we're mothers, not idiots. I can still beat you in a duel, swollen as a pumpkin and all. We'll be fine,” I assured him, and Sirius started laughing.
“I'd pay to see that, love. We'll be back when we can. Keep watching for Harry,” he reminded me, and I nodded at him. Sirius leaned down, his hand on my belly and kissed me again. “I love you,” he whispered and I swam in the emotions he sent me. They went out the front door, and then apparated away. Lily put Hope's carrier down, and I smiled at the sleeping bundle of pink. The older two had already taken off for the upstairs. I sat back down, and closed my eyes. This time Harry came in much clearer.
“They've left the school, and they're walking into Hogsmeade,” I told Lily, and then opened my eyes. “The waiting game has begun, again.” She nodded at me, and we made ourselves comfortable. I continued to watch Harry and Albus' progress, and a moment later as I watched I started to get extremely dizzy. “Oh, they're apparating somewhere...” I let out the breath that I was holding and then swallowed down the bile that was pooling in my throat. “Okay, I'm not going to be sick...um, they're...it looks like they're at the shore, somewhere.”
I opened my eyes, and tried to get hold of the dizziness and nausea that were sweeping over me. Lily looked concerned, but I brushed her off. I closed my eyes again, and watched as Harry and Albus made their way toward a cave. And then, there was nothing. Everything went blank.
“I seem to have lost them. They were there, and then they just, disappeared. I've never had that happen before.”
“I'm sure that they're fine, Albus is with him. Just relax Anwen, it's probably nothing,” Lily said, trying to comfort me. I nodded at her, and we settled back into our seats. We talked for a while, Lily fed Hope and we put the kids to bed. I kept trying to find Harry, but it wasn't working. I was also worried that we hadn't heard from James and Sirius, but Lily convinced me that they were probably just sitting somewhere, chewing the fat with Tonks, who was permanently stationed at Hogwarts. I couldn't seem to shake the feeling that there was something very wrong.
We were making our way out of the castle; Prongs, Moony, Tonks and I. We were headed to the gates to apparate back to Fair Garden, I knew that I would have to hold onto Moony to get him through, but it was fine now. Anwen would bury her anger now, everything was right with him and Tonks. Glad that there was something right, because everything else felt wrong. We walked in silence. I had wished that we had taken Harry with us, but he insisted that he stay behind, saying he needed to be here. We reached the gates, and I grabbed Moony's arm, and soon we were all on the lawn at our new home.
“Welcome to Ban Garadh,” I told him. “We call if Fair Garden, since the kids butcher the Gaelic. Come on inside, Anwen will be happy to see you. She's missed you terribly.” I opened the front door, and turned to the left, where the sitting room was. I wasn't surprised to see Anwen and Lily awake and waiting for us. When we came through the door, she immediately stood and came to me, putting her arms around me and hugging me tightly. “Anwen, he's...” my voice caught in my throat. “He's dead.” She reached up and wiped the tears from my face.
“I know. We got a house guest a little while ago,” she said, tilting her head to the side and turning sideways. I looked over her head, and saw Fawkes sitting on the top of the chesterfield that was in the corner of the room. “He showed up a bit ago, told me what had happened, and then told me he was to stay here, with us.”
“So you're bonded to Albus' phoenix?”
“No, I'm not his partner. He just said that he's supposed to stay here,” she told me, and I couldn't quite wrap my head around it. “Come on, sit down, do you need me to heal those?” she asked, touching the small curse burns and bruises on my arms and face. I moved to sit down on the sofa, and as I did, my wife must have noticed Remus and Tonks, standing together, arms wrapped around each other, still near the doorway. “You're here,” she whimpered, tears starting to fall from her cheeks, “together,” her shoulders began to shake from her crying. “I missed you so very much,” she whispered as she moved closer to Remus. Tonks let go of him, and he opened his arms to Anwen, who launched herself into them. They hugged each other tightly, and he gently lifted her up off the floor.
“Forgive me, I was so stupid,” he whispered at her, and I could hear her snort in response.
“Yes, you were, but it's over now. Welcome home,” she told him, and I knew that she meant it. Remus put her back down on the ground. She looked at Tonks, and I could see the smiles that broke out on both of their faces. “Happiness will finally be yours,” she said quietly as the two women embraced.
“I can't believe he's gone,” Tonks whimpered as they hugged. Anwen released her, and she looked at James and then looked at me. Neither Tonks nor Remus had been at family meetings as of late, and there were important bits of information that they were missing. “I know,” she said, coming to sit down on the sofa next to me. James and Lily were sitting on the love seat, and Tonks pushed Moony down in a chair, and immediately sat down in his lap. I looked at my wife and smiled.
“Guys, there are a few things that you missed in the last few months...” I started, and between James and me, we filled them in on everything that had happened since Anwen's blow up in late January. We also demolished two perfectly good bottles of Ogden's best over the course of the night, even Lily drank some. Anwen simply drank her herbal tea, grumbling under her breath. They were understandably shocked when they found out that Albus had arranged this.
“He knew that Snape was going to kill him?” Tonks asked, in utter shock.
“It was pre-arranged. The thing is, no one else can know, not yet. We have to act shocked, and appalled and grieving. We can't let anyone know that we knew this was coming.” Anwen explained. They nodded at her. “You've also got to accept that we're working with Snape now,” she told them, and both James and I scoffed. “Don't start,” Anwen glared, and we both nodded at her, kind of. I was still sure that he was going to double cross us, but Anwen had taken extreme precautions in dealing with him, and was sure that Albus was right. I still hated that she was dealing with him. “Well, it's quite late, why don't I show you to a guest room. We'll have time to talk in the morning, and I'll give you a full tour of the house. Come on,” Anwen said, attempting to get up, but she couldn't do it. I stood and helped her up.
“There is no way that I'll make it another six weeks,” she sighed.
“You'll be fine love. I'll carry you around if need be.”
“Great. That'll be wonderful,” she said with an eye roll.
Three days later, we were in the Headmaster's Dining Room. Minerva had opened up this room for us to wait for Albus' memorial service to start. James, Lily, Remus and Tonks had gone to get seats, but Anwen had to walk in with those that would be seated in the front with the other dignitaries, as she was singing today. She would sing two pieces, one was the song that Remus had asked her to sing at his father's funeral during the first war; the other was still up in the air. I wasn't going to go and join the others until I absolutely had to, Anwen was just to fragile right now.
“Have you decided what you're going to do yet?” I asked her.
“Nope. I probably won't know until I get up there, and pick up my guitar. I've rehearsed both of them with Nigel, I'll just cue him when I start,” she said quietly. Nigel Nottingham, the guitar player for Broken Broomsticks would be accompanying her. They both had a great love of Muggle music, and had kept in touch all these years. Anwen felt comfortable asking him to play with her today.
“I know you'll do the right thing, and do what will honor Albus,” I told her, wrapping my arms around her and pressing my lips to her forehead. We just stood there, holding one another, until Minerva came in and told her it was time. I gently kissed her lips and told her I would find her when it was over. I quickly went outside, and found the rest of the family. Andromeda and Ted had stayed at the Manor with all of the kids, except for Hope, who was nestled in her father's arms. Kreacher had gone over to help her, but I really couldn't imagine how well they would be getting along together. I scanned the crowd, and found Harry, Ginny, Ron and Hermione over with the students. He looked so small and lost, I could only imagine how this would be affecting him.
The dignitaries had filed in, and taken their seats in the front row. Anwen had walked down, her arm twined through Minerva's but I wasn't really sure who was holding whom up. Beautiful music began to fill the area, and I looked over toward the lake, and realized that the Mermaids were just below the surface, singing their beautiful melody. It was the same one that Anwen had sung with them, all those years ago. I was thankful that I couldn't make eye contact with her right now, or my strongly held facade might have fallen. We might have known that this was coming, but it didn't mean that it hurt any less.
Anwen stood and sang the old American Muggle song that Albus had commented on all those years ago. It was hauntingly beautiful, and I could tell that she was having a hard time with her emotions, because she made eye contact with no one, other than Nigel when she started the song. She seemed to be singing to the walls of the castle, off in the distance. While she was doing this, Hagrid brought Albus' body down, and laid it on the white marble table. They sat down, and the little wizard who was the head of the International Confederation of Wizards stood to speak.
When he was done, he sat down and white flames erupted around the body, and when they had died away, the final resting place of Albus Dumbledore was all that remained. Many in the crowd seemed surprised when the Centaurs paid their respects, but I wasn't surprised. It would have shocked me if they didn't. Albus was always respectful of everyone, regardless of who or what they were. I wish I could be more like that. I wish that I could just accept people for who they were, not what I had been trained to think about them.
I was roused from my thoughts as Anwen and Nigel stood again, and they conferred briefly, and then she picked up her acoustic guitar. We briefly made eye contact, and I leaned over to the family, and simply whispered, “Watch this,” knowing that she had decided to do the song that would honor Albus perfectly.
She started singing a song by the Canadian recording artist that Eira had introduced her to, the same one whose song had helped Ginny after her experiences in the Chamber of Secrets. She looked above the crowd, knowing full well that the words were going to make people squirm; it talked about providing shelter, helping those who were in need, and doing whatever we needed to, to help with the coming storm. It was the perfect song, perfectly stating what Albus believed, and why he had created the Order in the first place. She made eye contact with no one, until the bridge, where the words “though I may seem helpless, I will do all that I can do,” and she sang it right at where the Minister of Magic was sitting. My heart swelled with pride for my wife in that moment, and I could think of no more fitting tribute to her mentor and her friend. I was sure that Albus was smiling down and laughing at her tenacity right now. He had always respected that she was a force unto herself. I couldn't help but smile at her as well.
The service ended, and the dignitaries began to file out. Anwen stepped out of the procession, and made a bee line for me. I opened my arms and she walked into my embrace.
“I should think that my career at the Ministry is most definitely over, forever,” she sighed.
“That was a bold move, and you weren't planning on going back anyway. You sang beautifully, my love,” I told her, kissing her.
“Winnie, that was, breathtaking,” Lily gushed.
“Thank you. It was the right thing to do, but now, we have other work to do,” she said quietly, and we all nodded at her. Molly, Arthur, Bill and Fleur had joined us, and they each in turn complimented Anwen on her singing, but I could feel her discomfort at their praise. Nigel came over a few minutes later, and handed me Anwen's guitar case. She released herself from my hold, and went to hug him goodbye.
“Thank you so much for your help today,” she told him. He smiled gently at her.
“It was my pleasure. Good luck with that baby of yours, and when we get ready to record again, I'm calling you to do a guest vocal,” he told her, and she nodded at him. Nigel walked away, and was passed on the way by the Minister of Magic headed over toward our group.
“That was quite a move there. How dare you turn Dumbledore's funeral into a political statement,” he chastised her. I went to say something, but Anwen had already opened her mouth.
“You had already done that, by some of the people that you had invited here. My job was to provide music that reflected who Albus was, and that is what I did. I'm sorry that you didn't like my choices, but it really wasn't up to you. Minerva and I had spoken about them, and she was very happy with them,” she told him plainly. He grumbled something under his breath, and then he turned to look at James.
“I need to speak with your son. We need his help, public opinion polls are falling everyday, and the people need a hero to rally around,” he said. I thought James was going to laugh at him.
“My son is only a minor for a few more weeks, so between now and I then, I have no intention of making him available to you. After that time, you're welcome to ask him for his help, but I wouldn't expect it,” Prongs told him, and the Minister grumbled again, and then walked away in a huff. Anwen sighed.
“This is only going to get worse isn't it,” she said, clearly rhetorically. “Come on, let's get back to the Manor and see if those children have driven Andromeda and Ted crazy or not,” she mused, and then I heard her breath catch. “Oh, that can't be good,” she said, and I turned to see what had bothered her. Harry was skulking away from Ginny, both of them looking as though their worlds had fallen apart. “Come on, he's being dumb,” she said as she pulled on the sleeve of James robes. James handed Hope to her mother and the three of us walked across the grassy expanse towards Harry.
“Son, wait up,” James called to him. “What happened? Where's Ginny?” Harry stopped and turned to us.
“I don't want to talk about it Dad,” he said, but James gave him that fatherly look, and Harry let out an exasperated breath. “Look, I broke up with her alright? It's not going to work, there are things that I have to do, and I can't have her around while I do it. Look, let me get my stuff, and we'll head home,” he said, sounding completely defeated.
“What things, Harry?” I asked him, knowing full well what things he was talking about.
“I can't tell you. Dumbledore told me that I had to do this alone,” he said, taking off toward the castle again. We were able to catch him, and James stood in front of him, putting his hands on his shoulders.
“Your godfather asked you what things, and we expect an answer,” James said, and Harry looked at his father, trying to decide what to do.
“Harry, is it about the Horcruxes?” Anwen said quietly, and Harry whipped around to look at my wife.
“How...how....how did you know?” he stuttered.
“You'd be surprised the things we know. One of those things, is that you are going to need Ginny's love to get through this,” she told him quietly. He started shaking his head.
“I can't, Aunt Winnie. She'll be in too much danger. Voldemort went after her when she was just my mate's little sister. If he knows that we're dating it will be that much worse,” he said, protesting.
“Harry, he already knows. Snape would have told him,” James said quietly.
“Dad, then don't you see. I have to stay away from her,” Harry continued to protest.
“Harry, you need her. The love of a good woman makes you stronger,” I tried to explain to him, but he was shaking his head. Anwen stamped her foot down.
“Now listen here young man, my emotions are a mess from this funeral and from being pregnant, and you're not helping things at all. You need Ginny, and I have been waiting all year for the two of you to figure it out so that we could draw on the love that you share. I will not allow you to go and do something extremely stupid, just because you're frightened. That would be taking a page from your Uncle Remus’ book, and even he's wised up and set a date for his wedding to Tonks. Now, go and apologize, and then get your stuff so we can get your arse home and get to work. She's coming to the Manor too, I've already talked with her Mum and Dad. Ron and Hermione will be along in a few days. They've got a few things to take care of first,” she told him in that strong voice that all of the members of the Wizengamot were a little scared of.
“Um, alright,” Harry said meekly, and he trotted off to where Ginny was with Lily and Molly, while they were trying to comfort her. Harry said something to her, and she nodded, and then threw her arms around him and gave him a searing kiss.
“Well then, guess we all know not to cross the pregnant lady,” James quipped and Anwen looked at him with a stone set face.
“James Potter, I haven't forgotten that curse. Would hate for you to be unable to sit down for days now,” she said, cocking one eyebrow.
“Sorry, Winnie. Damn Padfoot, your wife is scary,” he said, and I knew better than to say anything right now. “Come on, let's get everyone home.”
“Why don't you two go and put your things away in your rooms, and then get changed. We'll meet in the Dining Room and eat and talk,” I told them, dismissing the younger two.
“You're not going to need us for this part, why don't Tonks and I take the kids home, feed them lunch and get them down for their naps. Anyway, I know that Tonks wants to get out of her Auror robes,” Remus told me, and I smiled at him. They had settled into our house, it was nice to be sharing my home with my best friend again.
“Thank you, that would be very helpful. There are sandwiches already made in the fridge at home, so it won't be too hard for you guys. Just watch her in the kitchen, they're all Muggle appliances, and she's blown up the toaster already,” I teased him and he just looked down at me and nodded.
“Come on, say goodbye to your kids, and then take as long as you need. I'm pretty handy in the kitchen, I'll make sure that they're fed if you're not back for supper,” he told me, and I nodded at him. Sirius and I went into the Sitting room, and all of the kids were on the floor, playing some sort of a game with Andromeda and Ted. They swore to us that they'd been having a good time, and we took them at their word, and then we watched as Remus and Tonks each took two of the children by the hand. Sirius took the twins, and went through the floo, and then opened it up so that Remus and Tonks could get through too. He then closed the floo, and apparated back to the Manor.
“Here, change into these, you'll be so much more comfortable,” he told me, and I peeked into the bag, and smiled.
“You are the best husband that has ever, ever been,” I gushed as I took the bag and headed for the small loo off the kitchen. When I had emerged, I was in the soft sweatpants and my brother’s hockey sweater that I liked to lounge around our house in. He even knew that I wouldn't want to wear shoes, so he brought me a pair of the loose woolly socks that Molly had made me. I waddled back to the dining room, and my outfit elicited some snickers from others there.
“Aunt Winnie, are any of those clothes yours?” Ginny asked me.
“Hey, I'm very pregnant, and feeling rather uncomfortable. These make me feel better,” I said waving my hands over the clothes I was wearing.
“I don't recognize the logo there on your shirt? Is it a rugby team? It looks like a furry cow,” Harry asked me, squinting at the logo on the shirt. Ginny was holding his hand, but his body language let me know that he wasn't really happy about it.
“No, not rugby. Hockey, it's my brother's sweater, and that's a bison.” I pointed to the 'furry cow' on the front and then turned around so that they could see the 'HODGSON' on the back. “One of the few things that's big enough to fit me now, without being frilly and flouncy,” I said waving my hands around. “Anyway, this kid’s going to play on the offensive line, by the way his feet keep moving in there. Wyn will need to teach him to skate.”
“That's bloody brilliant,” Harry exclaimed, smiling at me for the first time. I made my way over to a chair, and eased myself down into it. I reached for some food, and started picking at it. James and Sirius sat down as well, and Lily came back in from the kitchen. She had offered to have Andromeda and Ted stick around, but they let us know that they were a little wiped out from spending the morning with six kids under the age of seven. Once we were all settled, I looked at the kids, and took a deep breath.
“Harry, how much does Ginny know?” I asked him, and his eyes flew open and he started shaking his head.
“Nothing. Professor Dumbledore told me not to tell her anything,” he told me, sounding very panicky.
“All right, we're going to start from the beginning, and explain why she needs to be here,” I said. Harry opened his mouth to protest. “Look, I know what you were told, but he's not here anymore; and your parents and uncles and I have discussed this. We're in charge now,” I told him, and he nodded. James started explaining how we had started to question things when he had thrown me out of his head, back after the TriWizard Tournament.
We explained that we had figured it out on our own, and that we had gone to Dumbledore last year, and let him know that we would work together, or that we were going to pull him from school and deal with this on our own. James took over, explaining the big picture, everything that we knew, and what we had discovered about the last of the Horcruxes, the one that Harry didn't know existed yet.
“You mean, that thing in my head; the voices that I hear; the bad dreams – all of it is because there is a piece of Voldemort in me?” Harry said, his face turning ashen. Ginny clung more tightly to him, and his parents got up and went to his sides.
“He accidentally lodged a bit of himself into you, when he attempted to murder you, when you were a baby. He may not have known that he had done it originally, but he certainly figured it out last year, when he tried to posses you,” his father explained.
“What?” Harry asked, and part of me was genuinely concerned that he was going into shock.
“Harry,” I started, trying to talk in as calm and quiet of a voice as I could. “Voldemort tried to posses you, tried to control you, or force Dumbledore to kill you in order to kill him, but he couldn't. Being in you, in your soul, was unbearable to him,” I explained. Harry looked up at me in horror.
“I'm that bad, that Voldemort couldn't stand to be in me?” The adults all reflexively laughed at him.
“No, child; you're that good. Your whole being is filled with such light and love that he couldn't bear to be a part of it. It was like you were burning so brightly with love and joy that it seared away the flesh from his being. There is nothing bad in you, Harry,” I told him. “And that's what's going to save you.”
“What do you mean?” Ginny asked me, the faintest understanding of why she was here beginning to dawn on her.
“That thing in you, that nasty little bit, can't stand love. We're going to surround it with so much love that it's going to just bugger itself out of you. Your Aunt Winnie has done all of the work on this, and trust me, when she sets her mind to it, there isn't anything she can't do. Anyway, it's a hell of a lot better than what Dumbledore wanted to do to you,” Sirius added, and I watched as the guys all nodded in agreement.
“What did he want to do?” Harry asked.
“No. You're not going to know. I couldn't believe he'd even think about it,” Lily said resoundingly, and every knew not to cross her.
“Um, no offense here Gin, but why does she need to be here? I like her and all, but, well, love is...” Harry started, and they both blushed.
I grabbed Sirius' hand, and I knew that this would be something that we needed to explain together. I took a deep breath, and began the speech I had been rehearsing in my head for weeks. “Harry, do you remember last year, when I went...” I had to stop talking to get control of my emotions again. I could feel the anxiety pouring off of Sirius and it was overwhelming my already fragile state. “When I went to go and get your godfather back?”
“Yes,” he said quietly. Ginny was stroking the back of his hand with her fingers.
“You know how I was drawing on your magic, yours and Ginny's?”
“Yes, we remember. We've talked about it. It was kinda weird.”
“Well, yes, it was; but there was a reason for that. You and Ginny, you’re like your Uncle and me. It sounds so trite, but, you're soul mates, just like we are. I just knew from the minute that I met him, even when I was little, that I belonged with him,” I told them, squeezing Sirius' hand. A sense of love and protection pushed his anxiety away.
“It's true, from the moment I set eyes on her, I felt the same way about Anwen. I needed to be near her, even though I had no romantic feelings toward her. I just wanted to make sure that she was...safe,” he told me, and his words nearly brought me to tears. I love him so very much, sometimes I don't think my small heart can hold it all in. I looked into his eyes, and was lost there for a moment. Then I remembered that we were at a table full of people.
“After what happened, my going and saving him, his forgetting the children and me… I needed to take stock of my life. I needed to understand who and what we are. I sort of, imploded in on myself. That's part of the reason that we went away, to try and make sense of it all. While we were traveling, I spent some time with a Tibetan Mystic. Eastern magic is very different from what we practice here, and it was a truly eye opening experience for me. They believe and work with very old magics, the kinds of magics that we call elementals. They don't involve spell work, but instead with the connections between all living things. Do you remember when we taught you elemental magic as a child?” Harry nodded in affirmation.
“Love is the most ancient of magics. They have terms for hundreds of different kinds of love, and the ways that it connects us together. There is a form of love, where they believe that the couple were actually created by nature to be together. Their love makes their magic stronger. My ability to use the Tibetan language is, well, poor at best, but it's called kha kha so so bla or what loosely translates to ’divided soul.’ It essentially means that Sirius and I are one soul, living in two bodies. It's why we share magics, why we can feel each other. We could do it even before we were bound to one another, to a lesser extent,” I explained.
“Yeah, we all know that you’re kinda freaky strange there,” he teased us, waving his hand at us. “But, what does this have to do with Ginny and me?” Harry asked, and we both took another deep breath.
“Harry, you and Ginny are like Winnie and me,” Sirius said before I could, and he said it much simpler than I would.
“Wha..wha...what do you mean?” Ginny stammered. Harry was just looking from her to me to his father and back again.
“Ginny, it isn't a coincidence that it was you and Harry that I drew on, magically, last year. I could have pulled on either of the men that were standing there. James and Remus are, by nature of their age and our relationships, more suited to being pulled on. Their magic would have been stronger and more controlled; but it was yours and Harry's combined magic that I drew on. There is a reason for that. Even the colors of your magics are related, just like Sirius’ and mine are. Let me show you. Levitate something,” I told them, and I watched as they removed their wands, Harry made his cup lift up off the table, while Ginny made her spoon float along side. I concentrated for a moment, and then I heard the gasps. Ginny's magic was the bright green of Harry's eyes, Harry's had turned into the fiery copper color that resembled Ginny's hair.
“Before we were bound, my magic was the color of Sirius eyes, and his was the color of mine. I know that Harry didn't start out that color, his was more golden when he was a child, but it became an embodiment of the one that he loved, even if he didn't realize it. We've been waiting all year for the two of you to figure it out, and get together. Harry, you're going to need her love, not only to help you get that bit of old Voldy out of your head, but to sustain you through the darkness ahead,” I told them. Ginny seemed ecstatic about it, but Harry's face contorted into fear.
“What if I don't make it out of this okay? What will it do to her?”
Before any of us could speak Ginny turned and looked at him. “What if this means that you will? What if I'm what's waiting on the other side?” she asked him, raising her hand to his cheek. “I've always loved you, even when we were little and we played together. I will always love you. I was made to love you, Harry,” she told him, moving her face closer and closer to his as she spoke. His eyes searched hers for fear, but I could tell that he found none, when leaned over and closed the gap between them. They continued to kiss, and I kept looking at Sirius and his parents, getting more and more uncomfortable as the kiss went on and on, getting deeper and deeper. Finally, bless his heart, Sirius cleared his throat.
“Um, hey you two, I'm the only one who gets to inappropriately snog my soul mate in public. If you two don't cut it out, we'll have to have a necking contest to see who does it better.”
I groaned and rolled my eyes at him, but at least the younger two stopped kissing. James cleared his throat, and then thankfully, changed the subject.
“All right. We have a lot of work to do. Winnie is ready to remove that thing, but she wants to go in one last time, to make sure that we can't get any more clues about where these damned Horcruxes might be hidden. We have to find Hufflepuff’s cup, Ravenclaw’s diadem or crown, the Slytherin necklace. Then we need to deal with the bit that's in you, his nasty snake and the last bit in old moldy himself. I just wish I knew where we had to start,” he sighed.
Harry reached into his pocket, and tossed something onto the table, with a rather large clunk. It was a grotesquely ugly locket. Harry then tossed a scrap of paper onto the table as well. “Maybe this will help,” he said. Sirius handed me the locket, but I could tell that it didn't have any magic in it at all. I handed it to James. I returned my gaze to Sirius, who was reading what appeared to be a note.
“Whoever wrote that took the real locket. Anyone have any idea who RAB might be?” Harry asked, but I was having trouble hearing, as I too was reading the note that my husband was holding. Sirius' hands began to shake, and when I looked at his face, I could see the furrow in his brow. He turned as his eyes met mine.
“You don't think?” he asked me.
“It would make sense. I found the book in his old room.”
“And, he killed him.”
“That would be a good reason.”
We both fell silent, and I looked over at Lily and James who seemed to have caught on to our conversation. Sirius was still trembling, so I put my arm around him.
“Uh, you want to tell us what the two of you are almost talking about?” Harry asked. Sirius' eyes pleaded with me, and I nodded at him. He broke his gaze and turned to look at his godson.