“I seek to know why you guard two eggs,” Harry said.
From that moment on Harry was like a butterfly caught up in a hurricane. Winddancer screamed as if pierced by a sword. She stumbled forward and drew herself up in what Harry could only believe was agony.
He stumbled backward trying to give her room and to avoid being crushed.
Then she turned her darkening eyes toward him.
“You have no right to know,” she bellowed. “You are unworthy of such knowledge.”
Harry’s heart was beating in his throat. He could see she was about to thrash him again.
Instead of running Harry stood his ground. Winddancer’s entire bulk was close enough to him he could feel her panting breath on his face and her feathers swishing across his exposed arms. Then he heard her in his mind again.
“You mind may be full of fear, but you control it well young one,” she angrily said.
Still not convinced of his safety, Harry kept still. He tried to quiet his mind as well, but as Winddancer had said, it was still filled; now overflowing, with fear. He was hoping his outward showing of courage would save his life.
Forcing his mind to remain quiet, Harry Randal Potter apologized to Lady Winddancer, “I meant no harm or disrespect. I only wanted to understand what held you to this place.”
He could see that his words calmed her slightly, but she was still obviously infuriated by his question. He watched her pace back and forth in front of him as if to decide whether he was worth devouring. “Please, believe me…” he started.
“Believe what?” Winddancer demanded. “Believe you have some kind of magical powers that will free me from this prison? Or believe that you are wise beyond your years and know the secrets that surround my plight? No, I think not young one. I don’t see wisdom in your mind. I feel no magic more powerful than Merlin.”
“So, then was it Merlin who imprisoned you?” Harry asked.
She stopped her pacing and narrowed her eyes at him. Perhaps, she thought, this human is more than he appears to be. Maybe he does possess the wisdom to solve the riddle that keeps me locked here.
“Yes, it was he who placed me here while he and my Lord Windchaser travelled time to destroy evil made far away,” she said. “They never returned.”
This was a new twist on magic that Harry had never heard. To him time was linear. His father had taught him about experiments that ended in disaster when a wizard accomplished the impossible and met himself in the past. He told Harry that the use of such magic was unreliable and highly restricted. He also said he would never use such magic because of the ripples in time caused by such meddling.
“I can only believe my lord and my un-hatched darling are dead,” Winddancer continued.
It was obvious she lived her grief every day. Harry could not tell if she had given up completely or was still held hope they might someday return.
“Do you know how Merlin started this journey,” Harry asked, only slightly aware he was treading close to the gryphon’s wrath.
A one word answer was not helpful. Harry didn’t want to go too far with his questions and risk his health to the gryphon’s capricious emotions. He had to devise a solution to ease into more information.
“If there was something I could do to help, please know that I would,” he said.
Harry sighed. Again he faced another one word reply; and a question at that. The wrong answer could be his last.
“Because, you saved my life,” Harry said.
“I spared your life,” Winddancer corrected. “You amused me.”
This was exactly as Harry had thought when he first saw the gryphon’s reaction to his patronus. She was lonely.
“Then because you spared me,” he agreed. “I am in your debt. And I must confess, helping you may help me continue my quest.”
The gryphon sat down and again looked into Harry’s eyes. He was about to cast them down so as not to anger her, but something told him he should hold her gaze.
“I can see your heart is true, young Harry Randal Potter, son of Andrew,” she said. “The task you ask for may end in your death. Are you still willing?”
“Coming here may have had the same result,” Harry replied with a hint of a smirk on his lips.
The gryphon snorted in laughter. “It still may very well,” she said.
“If you are sure of this, then you are worthy of the knowledge I protect. It is a tome where Merlin recorded his travels. As I have said, I am unable to pursue this knowledge and recover my loss. But if you are as powerful a wizard as you believe, then perhaps you can.”
Harry took a deep breath. Was it really this easy, he wondered. He was about to achieve his goal of retrieving a book written by Merlin himself! And he was about to embark on another quest to find the most powerful wizard the world had ever known.
“Do not grow too confident,” Winddancer said. “You’re bargaining with your life. You are going to a place where the Black Death is a constant threat – there you will learn the evil that it once was.
“Merlin knew it was magic – yet he didn’t know it was from the darkest part of a man’s soul. You may find you are unable to tolerate it and be driven to madness. I warn you; steel your heart now. You will see horrors that will scar your heart. You will hear, touch, and smell death most vile. You will see your kind at its worst.”
Harry was aware the Black Death had ravaged Europe. But he was sure it had been long after Merlin was imprisoned by the Lady of the Lake; long after he had never returned. It didn’t make sense that he would have gone forward in time to combat a threat he knew nothing about. Then it dawned on him – this was the Potter quest. He needed to find Merlin in his own time and bring him forward. But first, he needed to know what he was facing so he needed to follow him to where he went with Windchaser.
“I want to help,” Harry said. “I need to help.”
“Very well,” Winddancer replied. “You do so at your own peril.”
Ginny looked at everything her brother Percy had accomplished in a few days and was amazed at his progress. The Defender of the Light’s office was a smoothly running machine of efficiency. The Great Reckoning was scheduled for the first day of the year – following her and Harry’s wedding. The hearings were to last two weeks and then the newlyweds would start their honeymoon. It was, in her opinion, a perfect combination of their private and professional lives together. She had realized that she and Harry would need to combine their lives to accommodate their positions and career. It really wasn’t that different from what most career minded people did – as Hermione pointedly informed her. It was just something Ginny had never thought of.
“Percy, why do we need an outside firm to redistribute the war booty?” Ginny asked as she scanned a billing from Lyons and Shares.
Percy looked up from his desk in the outer office and rose to answer her.
“The Defender of the Light must be above all suspicion of impropriety,” he said. “If a trusted and bonded firm is responsible for the redistribution, then the wizarding public can be sure every Knut and Sickle goes into the correct hands. It’s a standard business practice for ensuring full transparency.”
“But, don’t we have ethical people here who can do this?” she countered.
“Yes, and that is how we maintain our ability to ensure propriety,” Percy explained. “The Office of the Defender of the Light decides how the war booty is to be redistributed. Lions and Shares handles the actual redistribution. We check their accounting to make sure the money is going where it’s supposed to. Nothing is hidden; everything is above board.”
Ginny looked at the volume of billings and the associated cost and was amazed.
“It just seems like an awful lot that could be spent for other… improvements maybe…like a school for those orphaned by the war.”
“Ginny, I understand what you are saying,” Percy said. “And if it were something less important I might agree. But when you consider the billings as a percentage of the total redistribution budget, it really isn’t that much – it comes down to less than one tenth of one percent of the total. That is a bit high, but not far from Gringotts standard rate. And more than worth it to show everyone that the Great Reckoning is being handled honestly.”
Percy smiled and put his hand on her shoulder. “Besides, I think you have more than enough if you’d like to start a side project with your personal funds.”
This struck her as an odd statement. She didn’t have any personal funds. She could sum up all her material wealth to a hope chest in her room back at the Burrow.
Percy saw her confusion. “Oh dear,” he started, “I guess no one has told you?”
“Told me what?” Ginny demanded.
“That you have a significant fortune of your own as a Defender of the Light. And as Harry’s spouse, you also have certain rights over his holdings as well.”
Ginny’s eyes bulged in shock. “Really?” she asked excitedly. “Percy, is there’s enough to build a school?”
Percy went back to his desk and retrieved a ledger marked DOTL personal accounts. He opened it and proceeded to thumb through it to the last page with entries. He set it down in front of Ginny and smiled. “I think you have more than enough,” he said.
He struggled not to laugh as he watched her reaction to the total. When she put the ledger down, he continued, and this time there was no humor in his voice. “You must understand: this comes with responsibilities. Much of this comes from those who were Death Eaters. It also comes from their victims who left no heirs. Entire families were destroyed and their wealth was turned over to you. So your actions with this money will be closely monitored – by the press as well as the entire wizarding community.”
He stood again. “I cannot begin to tell you how proud it makes me that you are concerned about our most vulnerable citizens,” he said warmly, “and that your first thought was to protect them.
“You make me very proud to be your brother.”
“Stop it, Percy,” Ginny said as she ducked her head. “You are making me blush.”
“What could your brother say that would make you blush,” Harry said from her open office door. “I would think you were immune from their mischief by now.”
“Oh Percy is telling me how proud of me he is that I wanted to build a school for children left homeless by the war,” she said. “I never thought of it the way he did – it just seemed like the right thing to do.”
“That’s a brilliant idea,” Harry agreed. “Percy, can you get a team on that right away?”
While she knew she should have been happy with Harry acceptance of the idea, Ginny cringed at his reaction. While she was glad that he agreed with her about the need for the school, she didn’t need him making decisions for her.
Harry, please, she sent though the link. This is not something I want to just shuffle off to someone else. I want to be actively involved.
I know, Harry returned. I said it was a spectacular idea. But I think we need to focus on William and what Iris and James told us. Percy is more than capable of organizing the upfront work for the school. I know you are capable; I just think you would be spreading yourself too thin if you took this on right now. Besides, I’m just following some of your father’s advice – gather a team of trusted people and let them come up with a solution that fits.
Ginny pursed her lips and thought for a moment. “I think Harry’s right; we need to put a team on this, Percy,” she said. “But, I’d like to be in on the planning.”
At that Percy smiled, gathered the ledger, and went to his desk to continue his work.
See there, Harry sent. It’s not so bad to hand over a little control to others.
Hmm, Ginny sent back. You may want to try it yourself.
I thought I was, he sent, confused. I’ve been depending on Ron and Hermione to help find out more about the Daggers. I’ve let Percy go about organizing the office – which I think he’s done brilliantly. And I’ve got Iris and James working their contacts in William’s organization. While I’m sure there’s more to be done, like the school idea, I think there are others better suited to make those ideas into reality.
Now see here, Harry James Potter! Ginny sent. I am not someone who needs help prioritizing my efforts. I am perfectly capable of deciding when I’ve enough on my plate. I don’t need you telling me that I’m taking on too much.
Am I missing something? Harry sent, wondering why Ginny was so upset.
Brilliant deduction, my dear Potter, Ginny sent. I understand there are things others can and will do for me. But that doesn’t mean that I want them to do it for me.
But, what do you know about starting a school? Harry asked earnestly.
That is not the point. I want to find out. I want to learn. I want to try. Sure I can wave my hand and have an expert do it, but I would rather be involved – at least for now. I may hand it off later, but that will be my decision, not yours..
Harry ran his hand through his hair and sighed.
“So you’re saying I haven’t got a clue on this one, aren’t you?” Harry asked sheepishly.
“Exactly,” Ginny said. “Don’t take away what I start. I have every intention of serving the magical community to the best of my abilities. But I have to learn more about how to do things myself. Otherwise, I’m just a figurehead. And that is not what I want to be for the rest of my life.”
Ginny paused. For a moment and for an instant, there was clarity. She understood that the Defender of the Light was more than just as simple as a leader making decisions. It was a position of authority that could strive to serve others. It was a chance to rise above the petty personal differences that impede progress. She also saw it as being the chance to create change.
While Harry was able to see and feel some of her thoughts through the bond, for the most part they shared base emotions and the thoughts surrounding them. Now it seemed, like most everything in their lives, the bond was changing; becoming more mature and building a more fluent understanding between them. He was able to understand more complex emotions than they had shared before – Love, hate, joy, and excitement were easy to share. But thoughts of an altruistic nature were more complex and all but out of his reach in the bond – until now. He was now embarrassed that he had discounted her idea as something someone else could do while she got on with more important issues.
Ginny felt the bond’s growth too. She didn’t realize with that growth her words had become more powerful with Harry. Now, it was as though every word had a thought associated with it that made it all the more impactful. This was quite different from how she thought of communication. It felt like she and Harry were hearing and listening to each other more intensely than before. And now it was her turn to feel guilty for forcing Harry’s emotions.
I’m sorry, they sent simultaneously though the link.
For what? they again asked at the same time.
I’m sorry for not understanding what you were saying, Harry sent. It’s not like I shouldn’t know that you’d want to do things on your own. I should not have interfered.
“I’m sorry too,” Ginny said. “I should have known that, even with the link, you can’t always read my mind. Although, I think that seems to be changing.”
She smiled and reached for her bondmate. He took her in his arms and inhaled deeply, reveling in the strawberries and wildflower scent.
“Harry, you just need to know that I think about our world too,” she said. “I am committed to making it better – with you.”
Harry smiled. “You already make my world better. I don’t think there’s much more you can do in that respect.”
Ginny smiled up at him. She loved him so when he said or thought things of that nature. It made her realize that he was growing in his love for her the same way she was growing in her love for him. It made her realize he was getting much better.
Ron tugged at the shirt collar of the dress robes he wore as he waited for the tailor to finish with his measurements.
“Ronniekins, do try and stand still,” George said. “I wouldn’t want the tailor to accidently sew you into your robes. Knowing your grooming habits from living with you, I doubt anyone would come within ten feet of you if he did.”
The tailor stifled a laugh with a cough and continued his work.
“You know,” Ron snarked, yanking at the collar again, “it might be better if you worked on some of the uncomfortable parts of these things before the length.”
The tailor drew his wand and tapped Ron’s shoulder. This resulted in an immediate loosening of his collar and instant relief.
“Sweet Merlin, man,” Ron said. “If you knew it was too tight, why didn’t you loosen it in the first place?”
“You never told me it was too tight,” the man said.
Just then Harry entered. Like Ron, he was clad in black and white formal dress robes. The tailor stood up and went straight to him and started pulling at fabric.
“Oy, what am I, some kind of rubbish?” Ron called out.
The tailor smirked. “Oh no, Mr. Weasley,” he said. “It’s just that Mr. Potter’s robes only need a few minor alterations. While he’s grown taller, he hasn’t grown quite as wide…as…”
The tailor’s voice trailed off as he saw the apparent hurt in Ron’s face.
“Your chest and arms have grown broader,” the man recovered.
“And your belly seems to have grown to accommodate that growth,” George added.
Here we go, Harry thought to himself. He had also noticed Ron had seemingly put on a few pounds since the end of the war.
“Harry, you don’t think I’m fat do you?” Ron asked.
George and Harry looked at each other as if an elephant was in the room but no one wanted to mention it.
“Err,” Harry started.
“Ah, there you are,” Iris said as she entered the small room. “Why are you in here doing this when you have that immense ballroom? This is like being in a broom closet.”
“Hello, Iris,” Ron said. “The tailor needed mirrors. Do you think I look fat in these?”
The tailor looked up momentarily with a questioning look on his face. He then went back to work on Harry while Ron stood in front of the mirror trying to look at the back of his robes.”
“Hello, George,” Iris said ignoring Ron’s question as if it were rhetorical. “I imagine there’s something you’d like to say to me?” Like ‘I want to break up, Iris.’ Not that I blame you; I know I’m complicated. And Merlin knows I’m the reason you were kidnapped and tortured. Why don’t you just come out and say it.
Ron was the first to feel the room’s rising tension. He could see Harry looking down at his shoes as if he would turn to stone if he looked at either his sister or George. Ron could also see he had the perfect opportunity to take the mickey out of his older brother while helping Iris. Paybacks, he thought, are a bitch dear brother.
“Yes, George,” Ron started. “Don’t you need to talk to Iris about what’s going on inside that tiny head of yours? You do know when you are dating it is customary to send a lady some kind of correspondence to let her know your intentions? I mean, it’s only the civilized thing to do. Especially, since you’ve been mooning over her, talking Mum’s ear off about her, and now practically hiding from her.”
George was mortified. Especially because everything Ron had just said was true.
“Yes well, thank you, Ronald for your sensitive summary of my current situation,” George said and turned to Iris.
“Iris, I’d first like to apologize for my nosey parker of a brother,” George said calmly. “If you’d like, I’d like to continue this conversation in private, away from that one’s gigantic ears and your brother’s unclosed mouth.”
Harry immediately closed his mouth as he realized his jaw had dropped over Ron and George’s verbal salvos.
Iris gave her brother a demure crooked smile and then looked at George with a straight face. She took an obvious deep breath. “No, this is fine,” she said. “I doubt Harry and Ron need protection from anything. And Mr. Fine is discreet.”
“Very well, then,” George said flatly.
Iris steeled herself. Here it comes, she thought. He’s going to break up with me. Not that I blame him; I am the reason he was kidnapped and tortured. But I love him.
“Iris, I am sorry about my inability to be…shall we say, forthright,” he said.
Iris felt a tightening in her stomach. She was doing everything she could to keep herself breathing calmly. Harry and Ron stood motionless. Harry too thought this was going to be a very painful conversation; the most painful moment for his sister he would ever witness. He wanted so much to leave the room. But, Ron knew better. Even as Harry was making motions to him they should leave, Ron motioned back for him to wait and that everything would be fine.
“Look, I’m really bad at this kind of thing,” George continued.
Each word was like another lash across Iris’ heart. She had imagined this conversation so many times; each time she ended up crushed.
“What I want to say is…” George said and stopped. He looked around at the others in the room and noticed none of them were moving or breathing – include Mr. Fine.
“Oy! Breath you lot,” he shouted. “All I want to do is ask if she’ll consider going out with me again.”
“You what?!” Iris snarled.
George’s head snapped around to look at Iris. She looked angry, seriously angry. George had seen Harry frustrated and upset during some of his more heated exchanges with Hermione and Ron. This was worse. She was about to kill him.
“I guess that’s not only a ‘no’ but a ‘go chuck yourself off a cliff’ then?” he said crestfallen.
Iris produced her wand causing Ron, Harry, and Mr. Fine to dive for cover behind the room’s furniture. George started backing away from her with his hands raised in surrender. “Now, now, there’s no need to get violent,” he said, looking toward the door. All four men breathed a sigh of relief when all she did was cast a privacy charm.
“I can’t believe you, you know,” Iris said in a voice that made George shiver. “You disappear off the face of the earth without as much as a whisper of your location. You ignore my request for a private meeting in my office.” She leaned forward until she was inches from his face. “Finally, I had to have to have your brother track you down and arrange a meeting to get on your ‘busy’ schedule.”
She threw up her arms in frustration. “How do you think that made me feel?”
George rubbed his chin and began to answer but Iris cut him off. “Do you think I’ve nothing better to do than wait around for you to grace me with your attention,” she said in a growl that reminded him of his sister before she cast any of the particularly nasty hexes she used to keep her older brothers in line. “Do you think I wait all day by the fireplace for you to call or for your owl to appear with a letter, is that what you think?”
“Well…” George started.
“Don’t you dare interrupt me,” Iris snapped. “I admit I had some ulterior motive for wanting to speak with you. But you just left hospital without as much as a wave. You…”
George reached his hand out to take her in his arms. Years of defensive training took over Iris’ reaction. Suddenly George found himself on his back at her feet.
“I don’t suppose you’d be willing to join me?” George asked hopefully. He took one look at her steely glare and shook his head. “I didn’t think so.”
Iris huffed and glared at him. Meanwhile, Ron and Harry were up and trying to get the tailor out of the room.
“You know Harry, your sister is a lot harder to predict than you are,” Ron said as he closed the door, leaving George to fend for himself.
“Do you think?” Harry asked sarcastically.
Hermione and Ginny Apparated on the path leading to the Burrow. Ginny knew her parents were due home later that day and thought Hermione’s idea to stop in beforehand was splendid.
“You know I really appreciate your thoughtfulness,” Ginny said as the pair started up the path. “I mean, I know you and Ron have been looking after the Burrow while Mum and Dad have been on holiday, but making sure there aren’t any last moment surprises for them is very nice.”
Hermione nodded slowly thinking about how she could tell Ginny about the real reason for coming early.
“I can’t imagine how I’d feel if I came home and found my house a shambles,” she continued. “Besides, a little tidying up will do me good after this morning with Harry.”
Hermione swallowed hard. She needed to tell Ginny about Jax before they got to the property. While she didn’t think Ginny would mind what she and Ron had done, she didn’t want her to be ‘surprised’ by their guest.
“Can you imagine,” Ginny said. “I mentioned to him that I wanted to do something and he just up and tells Percy to go do it. It was just like I didn’t exist…”
Ginny continued her explanation of her and Harry’s discussion when Hermione froze on the path.
“Oh no, they are here already,” Hermione moaned. She broke into a sprint and ran to the front door. When she opened it she was shocked to see Mr. and Mrs. Weasley sitting at the scrubbed wooden table drinking a cup of tea.
“Ah, Hermione, how are you my dear?” Molly said. “Do come in and have a cup of tea. A bit peeky? I have some wonderful biscuits we brought from our trip. They are actually from a small baker at the foot of the Andes. He was a nice man, wasn’t he Arthur?”
“Oh yes, he was quite knowledgeable and an excellent baker,” he said. “I think he would have a booming business here.”
Molly picked up the tin and offered it to Hermione with a cup of tea she had just poured. At that moment Ginny appeared at the door with a quizzical expression aimed at her friend. She recovered and went to her mother.
“Mum, what are you doing home so early?” she asked as the two embraced. “Harry and I were going to pick you up at the station and take you to dinner.”
“Oh dear, I’m sorry,” Molly said. “We just managed to skip a few spaces in the port key line at the ship, and from there we were able to move through everything much faster that expected. We just got to the station and decided to call the Knight bus. It was really no trouble.”
“It was really quite relaxing,” Arthur said. “None of that overcrowded bother like when we left. Just a simple wave though.”
Ginny smiled and gave her father a hug. “I want to hear all about your holiday,” Ginny said. “Mum you look fabulous. Your hair… and what did you do to your skin? It looks positively brilliant.”
Molly smiled brightly. “Do you like it,” she asked. “At first, I didn’t think I liked it…”
“It’s fantastic,” Ginny said. “Don’t you think so Hermione?”
“Huh? Oh, yes…What?” said Hermione without moving from her initial spot in the kitchen – the tea and biscuit still unmoved in her hands.
Ginny looked to her seemingly bewildered friend.
“What’s the matter?” she asked.
Hermione tried composing herself after the shock of seeing the Weasleys.
“Uhm, well, I was wondering…” Hermione hesitated.
Molly and Arthur sat quietly and waited. Ginny too was quiet, hoping her friend would explain her strange behavior.
“…Was there someone…” Hermione again hesitated.
“Oh, yes,” Arthur exclaimed. “Molly, we’ve almost forgotten. How dreadful.”
“Oh, was that your doing, then?” Molly asked lightly. “We were sure it had something to do with Harry and the Defenders of the Light, but we weren’t sure. So we decided to wait and see.”
Molly turned to her husband who continued.
“Yes, we took down the ward and safeguards you erected,” Arthur said. “Shouldn’t really have all that up; makes our home look more like a prison. Although…it may be a good idea to do something like that the next time we go on holiday.”
Molly’s face brightened.
“Oh, Arthur, do you mean it?” she asked.
“Can we just back up a moment?” Ginny asked. She turned to Hermione. “First off, what are they talking about? And then, what were you trying to ask? I feel like I’m in the dark…”
“You took down the wards and safeguards,” Hermione interrupted.
“Oh yes,” Arthur replied. “A fancy bit of work there too. Was that your work Hermione?”
“But what happened to…Where’s…” Hermione stumbled. Losing Jax would be disastrous. He would be out looking for his lover and would-be killer without knowing how she might hold the key to destroying the final dagger.
“Oh, Ajax?” Molly asked. “He’s out in the shed. We didn’t know what to do with him. And no one told us anything about him.”
“Quite right,” Arthur agreed. “We didn’t know if he was a good Potter or a bad one.”
“Yes, well, I am sorry about that,” Hermione said, relieved that Jax was not free. “I know we shouldn’t have brought him here without asking, but we needed some place safe, some place no one would think to look. We were only going to leave him here for the day. Then it turned into two days. Then the next thing you know, we needed to get him out of here before you came home.
“Why would you bring Jax here?” Ginny asked. “I thought he was still in St Mungo’s. You do know he’s mentally unbalanced, don’t you? Harry had Healer Garzino send another healer to assess him. He told us that he’s completely insane. Not only that, he has a woman looking for him whose most likely just as unbalanced. According to Fleur, she’s the one who put him in hospital – and she’s apparently looking to send him to the morgue.”
Hermione was not aware Ginny knew much about Jax. And this information was more than even she knew. She cursed herself for not looking deeper into who and what Jax was. But now her concerns about Jax’s whereabouts were more critical than ever.
“Then I guess it was a good idea we didn’t just let him go to the Ministry like he said he wanted,” Molly said.
“Sounds like you were right, Molly,” Arthur said. “I should have listened.”
Hermione’s heart fell.
“I thought you said he was in the shed,” Hermione said as a lump the size of a Bludger settled in her stomach.
“Oh, yes,” Molly started. “He’s there. Arthur just meant that he thought it would be okay if we allowed him to move around while he was there. I didn’t think that would be wise…not until we knew more about him at least.”
Hermione turned for the door. “Do you mind if I check on him?” she asked on her way out the door.
The others followed her to the shed. Hermione reached it first and opened to door exposing a thoroughly trussed up Ajax Potter.
“Thank Merlin you are here, Hermione,” he said after she pulled the gag from his mouth. “These people are mad. You have to get me out of here.”
Just then Molly and Arthur entered with Ginny.
“Get her away from me,” Jax screamed. “She’s barking mad. She’s going to kill me.”
Molly smiled warmly at Jax. “Oh don’t get yourself all worked up again, dear” she said. “That’s what put you in this mess in the first place.”
Hermione stood gaping at the scene – this couldn’t happen again. She needed to get the Defenders’ house in order before they accidently got someone killed.
Asiya walked quietly down Diagon Alley. She had slipped away from Bill hours ago. She had heard Bill and Fleur whisper about a dark place he should avoid taking her – Knockturn Alley. But this was where she knew she could find her quarry, or at least information on where to find him.
A small bell tinged as she entered The Tears of Ali. Inside the proprietor had his back turned to the door as he busied himself trying to tidy his shop.
“As-Salam Alaikum, Mr. Nijjar,” Asiya said to the man behind the counter.
Mr. Nijjar froze. He knew this young woman’s voice from long ago. But, he thought to himself, it isn’t possible. She should be long dead.
The aged storekeeper turned slowly to his customer. He could not control his reaction to the horror of seeing this young woman standing in front of him so many years after so much tragedy.
“I see you remember me?” she said. “You must also remember the curse that brings me back to you.”
“Sight of you is curse enough,” Mr. Nijjar spat back. “You are as vile an omen as death itself standing at my door. There can be nothing but evil surrounding your visit.”
Asiya lifted her face to the shopkeeper where Mr. Nijjar was able to see her eyes.
“Merciful gods, your eyes!” he exclaimed. “They are blue. The end is at hand.”
Asiya nodded slightly. A wisp of a smile crossed her face and disappeared as if it were a slight desert breeze. “Yes, your end is here,” she said. “but first…there is something I need to know.”
Asiya moved to the counter and reached for Mr. Nijjar’s hand. He tightened his grip on the counter, but loosened immediately as soon as she touched him. He shut his eyes tightly like a child, hoping the nightmare and its terrible creatures would all go away. He wanted to run; he wanted to scream; he wanted to just get away.
“It will be over soon,” Asiya said. “You will be able to rest then. You will be able to meet you family and forever be at peace.”
Mr. Nijjar’s eyes opened quickly. “What do you know of peace,” he sneered. “You are the bringer of misery and fear. You are the reason for war and disease…”
A small slivery thread appeared from Mr. Nijjar’s ear. It fell like liquid to the counter and pooled there. The more of the substance that came from Mr. Nijjar, more pain he seemed to be going through…and the older and more withered he became. As soon as the flow ceased, Mr. Nijjar’s dark shriveled eyes rolled back and he fell to the floor.
“You are mistaken,” Asiya said. “I am the reason for peace. If it were not for me, men would fight forever. But you need no longer concern yourself. For you, it is over.”
Asiya turned her attention to the slivery mist collected on the counter. She scooped it up with her hands and inhaled deeply. For a moment, her eyes returned to their normal color.
“So, there is more to the Potter I seek?” she said to no one. “And you my love, were you the one who told this William about my great-grandson?”
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