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Jack's Mannequin by Slywolf9

Format: Short story collection
Chapters: 7
Word Count: 17,465
Status: WIP

Rating: 15+
Warnings: Mild Language

Genres: Drama, Romance, AU
Characters: Harry, Ron, Hermione, Lupin, Luna, Draco, Fred, George
Pairings: Draco/Hermione, Hermione/FredOrGeorge, Snape/Lily, Other Pairing

First Published: 09/09/2007
Last Chapter: 01/05/2009
Last Updated: 02/05/2009

Summary:




Would you like to test our new product?  By simply chewing the enclosed purple ball, you will be thrown into a real life scenario of your wildest fancies.

Fred and George Weasley

A 'what if' story of unconnected one shots of various pairings...


Love to Rhona for the banner <3333


Chapter 1: Miss Delaney
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A/N: The following short stories are based on songs by Jack's Mannequin, though they may not always be relevant to the songs.  Most of these chapters were planned before DH, so most won't have spoilers.  If there is any spoiler, I'll be sure to let you know. 

And thanks to Cara Nicole Luvitz at TDA for the chapter image :]  And I know its Autumn in the picture, but really, the story is in the winter, as you'll see.  :]



 




“Well, George, I reckon we’d better try one ourselves.”  Fred looked at his brother and saw the unwillingness in his twin's eyes.

“Well, dear brother, I tried the Floating Fiskars, and we both know how well that turned out to be.”  The bruise on George’s forehead still hadn’t gone away.  “So it’s your turn mate.”
 
Fred gulped nervously.  The one downside as to making all these wonderful products was that the twins often tested them personally.  “Scared git, you are, you know that?” Fred said to his brother more cheerfully than he felt . 
 
“At least I won’t be the git to see whether or not this product works,” George retorted back, smiling nonetheless. 

“Cheers,” said Fred, lifting the purple gumball to George and biting into it.

 “Oh, that’s right.  Fred, just how much do you love me?”
 
“Probably not enough to do whatever it is you’re about to ask me,” Fred replied, eyeing his brother suspiciously.
 
George smiled, but some heat rose to his face.  “Er—see the thing is I promised Hermione I’d take her on a date today, and I just remembered I promised mum I’d go with her to buy her some new dress robes.”  Fred laughed derisively at his twin.  “Oh yeah, you laugh now, but I don’t suppose you’d want her showing off your baby pictures to your girlfriend.  That is, if you had one.”

Now it was George’s turn to gloat at Fred’s misfortune.  The truth was that Fred didn’t have a girlfriend because someone else already smote him.  And not just anyone else, he was smitten with his own brother’s girlfriend.  Fred tried not to let the color rise in his face as he glared at George.  Of course George had no idea or else, Fred doubted not, that his continued existence on this earth would be obsolete.  “Yeah, and what do you want me to do about it?”
 
George looked imploringly at his brother for a moment.  “Well, you know how Hermione gets.  If you get a write up in her bad book, she won’t talk to you for a week.  And a sudden cancel on a date would scratch my name in that book in big, bold letters.”

Fred half dared to hope.  Forcing his voice to sound reluctant and somewhat annoyed, he replied, “And what’s in it for me?”
 
George thought fast.  “I’ll test the next three products.” 

Fred smiled, this was turning out to be the best deal he’d ever made.  “Make it four and you got a deal, mate.”
 
George grinned, relieved that Hermione wouldn’t get mad.  “Four it is.”  George shook hands with his brother.  “Now don’t mess things up with Hermione, or I swear I’ll curse you into oblivion,” George told his brother as he grabbed his wand and started to head out the door.  “Oh, and don’t you dare kiss her.”  With a loud crack, George was gone.

Fred could have died right there, he was so happy.  Disregarding the last thing his brother said to him, Fred grabbed a brush off the dresser in his room and ran it through his hair.  As he went to his closet to change his clothes, a wave of nervousness washed over him.  What if Hermione figured out he wasn’t George?  Fred shook his head.  No, he would make sure of that she wouldn’t…wouldn’t he?  Fred stared at himself in the mirror, examining himself.  The only difference he could tell between himself and George was that his brother’s nose was slightly more crooked than his own, and that his own eyes seemed to be just a shade brighter blue than George’s. 

Fred took a deep breath.  The thing was that this was what he wanted most in the world, to say he was Hermione’s boyfriend, and to have his arm around her, everything that George did without a second thought.  Fred glared at himself in the mirror, bothered by his anxiousness.  He was going to make the most of this. 

“You’re going to want to zip up your fly, dear.”
 
Casting another glare at the mirror that had advised him, Fred zipped up his fly and grabbed his wand before Disapparating with a loud crack.
 
Snow was falling gently from the sky and landing on his hair when Fred had finally walked up the drive to Hermione’s house.  Fred stared up at the house and saw Hermione’s face peering out the window, undoubtedly searching for his twin brother.  Tugging nervously on his shirt, Fred made his way to the door and rang the doorbell.  There was a clamoring from upstairs, and Fred could picture Hermione running down the stairs to hurry and open the door.  One moment Fred was standing alone in the cold, and the next, Hermione had thrown her arms around him in a most energetic hug.
 
Hermione released him and stared up at him excitedly.  “Hi,” she said breathlessly.
 
Fred laughed delightedly.  “It’s only been a week, Hermione.”  Christmas vacation had just begun a week ago, and this would have been the first time George had seen Hermione since Kings Cross. 
 
“Yes, well, it’s been a rather long week, George,” Hermione replied, turning around to shut and lock her door.
 
A sudden stab of disappointment hit Fred suddenly and he recalled that he was supposed to be George, not Fred.  “Er—so where do you want to go?”
 
“Oh, well, I was thinking that Hogsmeade would be nice.  You know Madam Rosmerta has that special mead just for Christmastime.”  Hermione grinned and turned around at Fred again.  “Besides, there’s this book I’ve been wanting to buy.”

Fred’s heart soared as Hermione took his hand in hers, and that feeling didn’t even sink when she rejected his suggestion of Madame Puddifoot’s.  The little town was overly crowded that day with shoppers rushing about for the last two days of shopping before Christmas.  All around were little children tugging on their mothers’ arm, trying to escape into a pet shop or a Quidditch shop and couples taking a break in a cafe.  “Now, Hermione, you’re sure you don’t want to just take a peek inside?” Fred asked hopefully, as he pulled her nearer to Madame Puddifoot’s. 
 
Hermione grinned, and whether the pink in her face was due to the cold or to embarrassment, Fred couldn’t tell.  But she led him away to the bookshop across the street, much to Fred’s disappointment.  “Don’t know how you could choose a book over a good snog,” Fred muttered grumpily.  Hermione pointedly ignored him.  Deciding that now would be a good time to pick out Hermione a Christmas present, Fred watched her every move.  Of the many books she stopped to look at, she kept returning to a set of Expert Charms and Transfiguration
 
“Ah, here it is!” Hermione said excitedly, picking up a thick volume of Magical Creatures’ Rights in the Wizarding World. 
 
Fred looked incredulous.  “Blimey, that book must be at least a thousand pages,” he said weakly.  Hermione rolled her eyes at Fred and went to find a salesperson to buy the book from.  Fred took the moment to flag down his own salesperson and just finished paying for the Charms and Transfiguration books when Hermione returned.  Fred obliged to carry her book for her, and they set off for the Three Broomsticks.
 
The bar was crowded as usual, especially due to the Holiday season.  Fred succeeded in ordering two butterbeers and found Hermione sitting at a table, talking to Luna Lovegood.  As he approached, Luna said, “Hello Fred.”
 
Hermione looked surprised and turned around to look at the entrance, as if expecting to see Fred walking in, rather than looking at the man that was holding her butterbeer.  Fred shot Luna a half imploring, half warning look as he said, “I’m George.”  Hermione looked back at the other two in time to see Luna shrug.
 
“Well, it was nice seeing you, Hermione.  Oh, and be careful of the Nargles,” Luna replied, looking around warily at the mistletoe hanging in the room.
 
Hermione smiled and shook her head.  Fred gave silent thanks that it was Luna who had noticed the difference, and not someone more believable, like Lee Jordan.  “So, how is Fred anyway?” Hermione asked as Fred sat down next to her and took a swig of butterbeer.  Nearly choking on it, Fred tried to calm down.
 
“He’s all right,” Fred said evasively.
 
“Does he still have that bruise from your last product?”
 
Fred was surprised that Hermione had known about that, and thankful that he could answer truthfully, “No.  Mum took care of it.”  Hermione smiled warmly. 
 
“I kind of miss him.”  At Fred’s surprised look, Hermione hasted to say, “Well, I miss seeing both of you at school, that is.  It’s a lot more quite, is all.  Much less fun.”
 
Fred grinned.  Hermione had said she missed him.  “Yeah?  Well, who couldn’t miss me?”
 
Hermione stared at him for a moment.  “You know, you and Fred are too much alike at times.”  She smiled and began to drink her own butterbeer.  After a few more minutes, the two decided to head out again.  Walking around to the top of a little hill on the outskirts of the town, they stopped for breath and looked back.  The village was covered in a blanket of snow, and the falling darkness led to the lights being turned on in the shop windows.  The snow was falling lazily all around, and Christmas trees were covered with little fairies, in a most picturesque scene. 
 
“Isn’t is brilliant?” Hermione commented, pulling her cloak closer around her. 
 
“Yeah,” Fred replied, looking at something other than the dazzling view below him.  As Hermione shivered, he wrapped his arms around her.  Fred closed his eyes and felt the absolute perfection of the moment.
 
“Can you believe, after all these years…” Hermione laughed gently.  “I never thought you’d be the one I went out with.”
 
Fred was too enraptured in the moment to care too deeply that it was George she meant, and not him.  At last he looked out at the little village displayed before him.  “From here you can find everything,” Fred said, awed.  He held Hermione a little closer, reveling in these few moments he knew he would likely never have again.  All at once his heart was full with happiness, yet breaking at the bitter sweetness of it all.  “Hermione?”
 
She looked up at Fred, and he fell even more in love.  Drinking in her soft eyes, the gentle curls of her hair and the affection staring back at him, Fred’s jollity was only marred by the fact that she knew him to be George, and not Fred.  “Yeah?”
 
Fred looked for a moment longer, then grinned down at her.  “Nothing.  I just like saying your name.”  Hermione smiled at him.  “It’s almost at great as hexing a Slytherin.”
 
“Oh, ha ha.  You think you’re so funny.”
 
“I know I am.”  Hermione grinned despite herself.  “Oh, mum wants you to stay with us for a while,” Fred told her.
 
“Yes, I’ll be there for Christmas dinner.”  Fred thought this was entirely too long.
 
“You know, you could come by sooner than that.”
 
Hermione hadn’t heard him, she was staring up at a tree.  “Do you see where we’re standing?”
 
“Yeah, under a tree, in the cold snow, on a hill overlooking Hogsmead.”
 
Hermione didn’t even bother to roll her eyes at his sarcasm.  “Yes, but do you see  what is in the tree?”
 
Fred sighed exasperatedly.  Was she going to go on one of her intellectual talks just now?  “I don’t know, Nargles?”  Fred looked up to see a large clump of mistletoe hanging high above them in a branch.
 
Hermione turned around to face him.  “Yeah, Narugles,” she whispered, placing her arms around his neck and reaching up to kiss him.
 
“Have I ever mentioned that Nargles were my favorite animal?” Fred responded, kissing her back.
   

“Fred.  Oy, Fred!”
 
Fred opened his eyes, shocked awake as he was hit by a stream of water.  “Bloody hell, George!”
 
“Sorry, but you were just sitting there, pretty vacant, and I got a bit worried,” George grinned sheepishly.  Fred’s heart was still beating in his chest, and he wasn’t sure it was because of the rude awakening he’d just had.  “All right there, Fred?”
 
Fred shook his head, sending a murderous look at his brother.  “Of course, who doesn’t love to be dripping wet?”  He stared at George for a moment more, trying to regain his bearings. 
 
“What happened?”
 
Fred considered his options: on one hand, he could tell George to go ahead and try the bloody thing himself, he could tell his brother the exact details of his ‘wildest fancies’ or he could be evasive.  The latter seemed the best choice.  “Well, George, just promise me one thing,” Fred said, a bemused grimace on his face.
 
“What’s that?”

“That you’ll never go out with Hermione Granger.”
 
The request seemed so absurd that even Fred joined in his brother’s roar of laughter.  But then again, George hadn’t been the one to feel all those emotions, the palpitating heart, the utter longing.  Fred glanced around and spotted Hermione in one of the picture frames hanging in the room.  Staring at her, his laughter became only half-hearted.  It was just pretend after all, right?  Fred shook his head and turned back to his brother.  “Come on, let’s try these out on some other people.”
 
George grinned in agreement.  “Yeah, and I think I got our next volunteer,” he said, staring at the pale, blond Slytherin boy who had just walked in.
 
“Well, one things for sure,” said Fred, picking up another purple gumball from the pile that had been on the table in front of him.  “He won’t know what hit him.”

Chapter 2: Rescued
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A/N:  All my love to Cat Lover for the gorgeous image.  Still no DH spoilers.  The switch from reality to daydream is very sudden, with no warning, but I bet you can still figure it out :]

Rescued

“And just what is that?” came a cold voice.  The sneer was unmistakable: Draco Malfoy.

“None of your business, little git,” replied Fred, attempting to stash away the little purple ball he was holding.
 
Accio,” Draco commanded, giving a lazy swish of his wand, and on of the purple spheres soared out of Fred’s hand.  “What is this?  A gumball?” Draco said disdainfully.

Struck with sudden inspiration, George chimed in, “Yeah, our newest.  Why don’t you give it a go.”  Casting a meaningful look at Fred, the latter unwillingly followed his brother away from the silvery blond haired boy.  “No point in arguing.  Wonder what he’ll day dream about.” 

“I hope it’s him getting more of those balls shoved up his—” A door opened behind him and Fred bit back exactly where he hoped his new product would go.  “Welcome to Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes!”

Outside the shop, Draco turned the purple ball over in his hands.  He wandered over to a bench in a secluded corner.  If he was to try this gumball, who knows what could happen, and he wouldn’t want to be in direct view of unwanted persons.  Feeling a surge of recklessness and apprehension, Draco placed the gumball in his mouth and bit into it.

Loud bangs erupted all around him.  Draco fell off the bench onto the ground, out of sight from those causing the commotion, he hoped.  Draco whipped out his wand and peered into the fray.  There were Death Eaters everywhere locked in fierce battle with members of the Order.  Draco ducked down behind the bench as a blue light soared centimeters within where his nose had been a second previously.  His heart pounded as Draco’s mind whirred.  There was no way he was ready for this.  When it came down to it, Draco just wasn’t ready to be a Death Eater.

The high, maniacal laughter of Bellatrix Lestrange reached his ears.  Draco looked out again and took in the scene, or what he could make out of it.  Neville Longbottom seemed to be taking on Bellatrix, while next to him stood Ginny and Hermione taking on the Carrows.  Harry was engaged in a fierce duel with Yaxley and Ron had his hands busty with Fenrir Greyback.  The shouts and loud bangs of spells seemed not to register with Draco.  He watched on as if in a trance as Hermione stunned Alecta and turned to Amycus, sending a hex at the same moment as Ginny.  The Death Eater was blasted off his feet and turned into something large and tentacled in midair.

Meanwhile, Neville seemed to just avoid a Cruciatus Curse, which ignited a fire of fierce resentment in him.  Enraged, Neville charged at Bellatrix, casting every single curse he ever knew at her.  Before even Draco knew what had happened, Neville was lying on the ground in a full body bind.  “So you want to be like your parents, do you?” Bellatrix taunted in a loud screech just discernable over the raucous noise of the other fighrters,  Just as she raised her wand, Draco jumped up, and something collided with Bellatrix, knocking the dark haired woman off her feet,

“Neville, take Ginny and Hermione and get out of here!” yelled Ron Weasley, standing up and turning to face the women he’d just tackled.

“You filthy blood traitor!” Bellatrix screamed in outrage.  “So little Ronnie thinks he can fight with the big boys, huh?”

“Come on,” Neville said as Ginny released him from the body bind.  Hermione refused to leave the battle, and the next moment Neville and Ginny has Disapparated. 
Draco stood there, hidden in shadows, and watched the scene play out before him.  Ron was sending a continual string of hexes at Bellatrix, who seemed to just avoid each flash of light.  And then it happened: Hermione screamed, Ron looked at her, and Bellatrix sent a Killing Curse.  The red-haried boy that Draco had spent years torturing flew upwards, surrounded by a green light, and then fell unceremoniously back to the ground.  Draco watched on in horror as Hermione screamed in agony and began to shoot curses at Bellatrix.  The dark haired woman laughed cruelly as she deflected each spell.  “What’s the matter little Mudblood?  Did I kill your boyfriend?”

It seemed to have been the last straw.  Hermione gave a fierce yell and Bellatrix screamed terribly.  She had falled to the ground and was jerking uncontrollably.  The fact that she’d just used the Cruciatus Curse hadn’t phased Hermione at all.  “Filthy Mudblood!” Bellatrix gasped.  But before the Death Eater could even raise  her wand, she slumped back to the ground, dead at last.  Hermione gave a desperate sob then cast herself upon Ron, kissing him everywhere and unable to stop her body from being wracked by sobs.

“Get out of here!  Go!” came the deep, booming voice of Kingsley Shacklebolt as more Death Eaters Apparated into the scene.  Left and right, members of the Order were Disapparating, but Hermione seemed oblivious to it all.  Without thinking, Draco rushed forwared and aimed a spell at a masked Death Eater that was charging at Hermione.

“Let’s go!” Draco shouted, grabbing Hermione’s arm.  She wouldn’t let go of Ron.  Draco cursed and aimed a jinx at another oncoming Death Eater.  There were only a few Order members left.  Draco grabbed the heavy arm of Ron, and with a great effort, Disapparated.

Draco landed with a thump on the ground.  By the resulting thumps, he knew trhat Ron and Hermione had made it as well.  He opened his eyes to a wand being pointed in his face.  “You.”  Venom dripped from the word as Hermione looked as though she’d like nothing better than to use an Unforgivable Curse on him as well.

“In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve just saved you from a torturous death, so I’d put that want somewhere else if I was you, Granger.”  Draco fleetingly wondered why his words lacked their usual disdain.  It was just shock, he told himself.  Shock and…pity?

Draco took out his own wand and, as if to prove to the girl before him that he wasn’t about to hurt her, he began to cast defensive spells around the cave he had brought them to.  Draco turned around, but before he could even open his mouth, Hermione had burst into fresh sobs and was holding Ron’s body again.  Draco felt as if he was trespassing on something indecent.  He’d never seen someone cry like that before.  Draco felt a stab of guilt in his stomach and turned away.  Muttering something about tea, Draco set about transforming a rock into a teapot, lighting a fire and shooting a jet of water into the pot from his wand.

“Tea…tea…” Draco muttered.  He looked around the cave, but to no avail.  Draco sighed and began rummaging around his robes’ pockets.  Draco was very particular about his tea, and often carried around his own leaves.  Finding them in a little pouch, he added the leaved to the boiling water and conjured two cups.  Hermione’s sobs had slowed into a bit of noisy crying, and by the time the tea was done, she was reduced to hiccoughs and sniffling.  “Here.”  Draco shoved the teacup at her a bit more forceful than he intended, and a bit of tea sloshed out of the side.  Yet Hermione took the porcelain cup without protest and began sipping the tea without a word.  Draco sat there, drinking his own tea, and was at a loss as to what to do.

A long silence passed between the two, as each sipped their tea, lost in their own thoughts.  Then Draco heard a soft plip—plop and wondered it if had began to rain outside.  It wasn’t long before he realized that what he had believed to be raindrops turned out to be the sound of Hermione’s tears dripping steadily into her abandoned cup of tea.  Draco remembered a long time ago when his mother was crying and his father gave her a handkerchief.  Draco took out a silver handkerchief that had his initials embroidered on it in emerald green.  He carefully took the cup out of Hermione’s hand and replaced it with his silken kerchief.

Hermione seemed completely bewildered at the piece of cloth that had just been placed in her hand.  She looked up at Draco, as if she had never seen him before.  The tears still slid steadily down Hermione’s cheeks, but she wiped them away now.  Draco stole furtive glances at the girl next to him.  Hermione looked lost, desperate.  Her eyes were red rimmed and she just sat there as if she had experienced the Dementor’s Kiss.  Draco had never seen anything so pitiful in his life.  Once, when he was very little, Draco recalled a time when he felt as bad as Hermione must be feeling.  He had refused to have his mother comfort him and sat alone in a corner instead.  It wasn’t until his mother had come over and pulled him into a hug did Draco realize that’s precisely what he had wanted.  Draco stared at Hermione, at her misty eyes and languid body.

“Granger?”  She didn’t even blink.  “Granger?”  This was not working.  Draco moved over so that he was sitting next to her.  “Hermione.”  He said the name so softly that he wasn’t sure he’d even uttered it.  But he had, and at last Hermione turned to him.  And then she was hitting him and shouting every accusation she could think of at Draco.  “Stop it.  I didn’t—Granger, stop it!”  Draco grabbed her wrists and held her still.  He should have known that she’d raise hell to give to him.  “I didn’t tell them where to find you, I didn’t instigate any fights, and I didn’t kill Weasley!”

“But you rescued me,” Hermione gasped between sobs.  “Please…don’t get me rescued.”  Draco relinquished his grip on Hermione.  “I wish I’d died.”  And Draco didn’t know what had happened, but Hermione was sobbing into his chest.  “I’d prefer not to be rescued…” she mumbled into his shirt.  Draco’s mind seemed to have gone blank.  What had his mother done to comfort him?

Draco took a deep breath, and slowly, cautiously, placed his hands around the girl crying her soul out to him.  He drew her in slightly and instinctively began to smooth out her hair.  He wasn’t quite sure how long he sat there, comforting one of his sworn enemies, staring into the dull, lifeless blue eyes of another, but at long last, Hermione seemed to have calmed down substantially.

“Hermione.”  Why had he said her first name?  And why wasn’t he feeling the usual rush of loathing?  “I’m—I’m really sorry.”  Had he just said he was sorry?

“I know.” 

Hermione was raising her face to meet his, and Draco was afraid of what he’d see when he looked into her brown eyes.  But when Hermione looked up to meet his gaze, Draco didn’t look into warm chocolate eyes, but rather cold hazel ones.  And the warm weight against him wasn’t the small body of Hermione Granger, but the somewhat larger form of Pansy Parkinson.

“Draco?”  The voice was higher, more disgustingly sweet.  Draco blinked hard.  “Draco, you were just sitting there, not moving, so…Are you all right?”

Of course he was all right.  But Hermione wasn’t.  And Ron certainly wasn’t.

 “I’m fine,” he said coolly.  He stood up from the bench and began to walk away, Pansy following in his waked.  What the hell had just happened?  What he needed now, Draco thought, was a good cup of tea.  He rummaged around in his robes and pulled out his tea leaf pouch.  It was then that he noticed three rather unnerving things: Ron, Harry and Hermione walking across the street; his tea leaf pouch empty; and his handkerchief wet and crumpled, as if it had been through some extreme use.  Draco turned around and looked at the twins’ joke shop, then stared at the girl with bushy brown hair happily walking down the street.

 Draco studded the damp handkerchief into his pocket and muttered, “Impossible.”  But he watched until he could no longer see the brown hair swaying happily in the crisp winter air.         

Chapter 3: I'm Ready
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A/N: Haha, yeah, this chapter REALLY has no DH spoilers...Maybe it's just me, but I didn't quite like the way this chapter turned out.  I honestly envisioned something else...something better....something...great.  Oh well.  Nonetheless, I hope you enjoy and leave me some constructive criticism!  Thank you guys. 

And thanks to Cara Nicole Luvitz for the chapter image!








Luna,


Would you like to test our new product?  By simply chewing the enclosed purple ball, you will be thrown into a real life scenario of your wildest fancies.  When you’re done, just drop us a line about it.

Fred and George Weasley

Luna placed the letter from Fred and George on the table in front of her and picked up the purple gumball.  She glanced around the room for any sign of Madam Pince.  After all, eating, drinking or chewing gum in the library was strictly forbidden.  Seeing no one in the vicinity, Luna popped the ball into her mouth and began to chew.

The door behind her opened and Luna glanced around.  A crowd of people entered the library and in the very center was a handsome boy with brown hair, Cedric Diggory.  They were whispering excitedly but stopped as they reached Luna.  Most of them threw disdainful looks her way, while the others ignored her.  Cedric merely glanced at Luna, and upon making eye contact smiled apologetically and allowed himself to be led to a table on the far side from where Luna sat idly, twirling her wand through her fingers. 

Of course Luna knew him, who didn’t know Cedric Diggory?  Luna gave a small sigh of pity for the boy.  It must be awful to be so popular and be surrounded by so many people everyday. 

Luckily, Luna thought happily, she had never been bothered by such annoyances.  If she had, why, there would be hardly any time to search the castle for Nargles, let alone get any homework done.  Absentmindedly pushing her books, parchment, quill and inkbottles into her bag, Luna glanced across the room and saw Cedric attempting to wave off his group of admirers, claiming he had to finish his Transfiguration essay by the end of lunch.  And without another second to lose, Luna stole out of the library and headed toward the Great Hall for some pudding.

Fridays were always Luna’s favorite due to the fact that she would then have the whole weekend to explore the castle grounds and make friends with the critters of the Forbidden Forest.  Best of all though, Luna used these precious hours to discover those most hard to find mystical creatures, such as the Crumple Horned Snorcak.

“Hello Luna,” Harry Potter called to her from the Gryffindor table as she passed by. 

Luna paused and smiled vaguely at Harry, her mind still on the exploring she would commence tomorrow.  “Hello Harry.”

Lunch having just begun, and with Ron and Hermione on Prefect duties, Harry was quite alone.  “Er—would you like to join me?” he asked her.

“Why yes.  I was just hoping to discuss some new clues my father had found out on the whereabouts of the Crumple Horned Snorcak.”  Luna sat down next to Harry and reached over to scoop up some steamed vegetables on her plate.  As more students filed into the Great Hall, they threw incredulous looks at the Ravenclaw sitting so comfortably at the Gryffindor table.  “We went on vacation last summer to Sweden.  It was really very nice.  Daddy believes he has found a claw from the Crumple Horned Snorcack.”

Harry stared into his pumpkin juice to keep his face straight, but Luna took no notice.  As she continued on her banter about her vacation in Sweden, the Great Hall quickly filled up, then slowly emptied.  “Have you seen Cedric lately?”

The question took Luna by surprise, and she lost her vague look for a moment.  “Oh, yes, in the library.  Oh, it must be awful to be so well known.”

“Yeah,” Harry muttered, being no stranger to having people know all about him.  Rummaging around in his pockets, he pulled out a short chain with a badger on it on it.  On the back was inscribed the name Cedric Diggory.  “Er—would you mind giving this back to him?  He left behind in one of his classes.”

Not questioning why Harry wouldn’t do it himself, Luna accepted the charm and placed it in her pocket.  “Yes.”  Looking around Luna noticed that the Great Hall was nearly deserted.  “Oh, well, lunch is over.”

Harry glanced around the Great Hall.  “Oh, yeah.  Well, I guess we’d better go.  Don’t forget about Cedric.  Thanks, Luna.”

The two friends parted at the entrance to the Great Hall, Harry turning right to head towards the Gryffindor tower, and Luna turning left to make her way towards Defense Against the Dark Arts.  Glancing at her watch, Luna noticed that she had only ten minutes to get to class.  Hastening her walking pace, she heard someone swearing up ahead.  Rounding the corner to the staircase, Cedric Diggory stood, his foot caught in the accursed missing step.  He was trying valiantly to get the staircase to relinquish its hold on his foot, but to no avail.  The only way to get the stairway to release its hold was to have someone pull you out, or to magic your foot free.  And the more Cedric struggled to free his foot, the further in he sank, and the farther away his wand seemed to be.

Picking up Cedric’s fallen wand at the foot of the stairs, Luna made her way towards the boy.  Waving her wand in the direction of Cedric’s left leg just as he gave a tremendous tug, the brown haired teenager fell backwards in surprise as his leg came whipping out.  “Sorry.  Thanks for that, though,” Cedric said as he turned around to help up whomever he had knocked into.

Luna took the hand offered her and stood up gracefully.  “You dropped your wand,” she said, holding it out to him. 

“I—yeah.  Thanks.”  Cedric seemed taken aback at who had just helped him.  Moreover, that she was speaking to him normally.  He followed her as she began to walk up the staircase.  “Where are you headed?”

“Defense Against the Dark Arts.”  Luna looked at the boy walking beside her.  “You don’t like being so popular.”

Cedric was nonplussed.  “Sorry?”

“Well, I wouldn’t, anyway.”  Luna smiled at a suit of armor to her right and it raised its arm in salute to her.  “All those people all the time.  I much prefer to be able to hear my own thoughts.”

“But having friends isn’t so bad,” Cedric replied mildly.

“Oh yes.  But they aren’t your friends when you’re popular.  They’re your fans.”  She stopped for a moment to scrutinize the boy walking next to her.  “How many of them know your favorite color?  Or your favorite creature?”  When Cedric seemed unable to reply, Luna smiled in an offhand way and began to walk again.

“So they don’t know that I prefer owls to cats.  That doesn’t mean that they’re not my friends,” Cedric responded, catching up with Luna.

Without even looking at him, she commented, “But you don’t talk to your parents about them.”  Cedric stayed silent behind her.  She was right after all; he’d never mentioned any of his friends to his mum or dad.  But they were still his friends…right?

Slightly resentful, Cedric asked, “You tell your father about your friends here?” 

He hadn’t really expected Luna to say yes.  Perhaps she would have just said she didn’t have any friends, and he would have felt better.  But instead, she smiled at him and replied, “Oh yes.  I talk about Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny and Neville all the time.”  Luna rummaged around and took out a small frame no larger than a cracker from her robes.  In it was a picture showing six people.  Cedric stared at the cheerful faces of Luna and her friends for a moment and looked away hurriedly.  The longer he talked with Luna, the more unsure of just how many real friends he actually had.

“That’s…really great,” Cedric muttered. 

“You really should talk to them more,” Luna observed.  “So when you’re no longer popular, you’ll still have friends.”  Perhaps this blunt honesty more than anything else struck Cedric.  Of course he wouldn’t be popular forever, but then, he’d never really thought of a life outside of Hogwarts much.  “Transfiguration is that way,” Luna told him as he copied her movement of turning left to head down the hall to Defense Against the Dark Arts.

“Oh, yeah.”  As they reached the door to the classroom, some of the students gave the pair odd stares: an extremely popular Hufflepuff with an outcast Ravenclaw.  Jealous mutters of “Why is he talking to her?” went unnoticed as Cedric raged a battle in his head.  “Hey listen.”  Luna turned away from the door and looked instead at Cedric.  His dark eyes were full of turmoil, and yet a determination.  Luna watched as he shifted uncomfortably and adjusted his backpack on his shoulder.  “Er—well, would you like to hang out at Hogsmeade with me tomorrow, then?  And maybe tell me what your favorite color is?”

Luna blinked in surprise.  This wasn’t something she had expected.  “Oh, yes.  That would be lovely.”

“Great,” said Cedric, and he seemed taller, lighter, as If a huge weight had been lifted from him.  “Well, see you tomorrow.  Oh, and being popular isn’t as great as it seems,” he added, turning to hurry down to Transfiguration. 

Luna stared at the back of Cedric Diggory, as he hurried along.  Not overly surprised, but pleasantly shocked that she had made him see that life wasn’t all about being popular, she was about to enter the classroom when she remembered something.  “Cedric!” she called after him. 

He whirled around to face her, apologizing to some first years he nearly rammed into.  “Yeah?”

 Luna held up the badger with his name on it.  “You forgot this somewhere.”

 Cedric grinned charmingly.  “You keep it,” he called over his shoulder as he broke into a run.

 Luna smiled serenely and attached the badger to her bag.

 

 Slowly coming to, Luna rubbed her eyes.  She was still in the library and must have fallen asleep, she reasoned.  Taking in her surroundings, she noticed a letter lying open a few inches from her quill, and her papers still spread out over the open book she had been reading.  “Of course,” she mumbled to herself.  She pulled a fresh sheet of parchment towards her, dipped her quill into and open inkbottle near her and began to scribble:

Fred and George,

Hope your products give more of a warning next time.  I didn’t know what had happened.

Luna

 As she folded the letter, and began to pack up, Luna noticed something she hadn’t before.  On her bag seemed to be some new charm.  Upon giving it another glance, she noticed it to be in the form of some animal.  Indeed, it looked very much like a badger.

Chapter 4: Bruised
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A/N:  No DH spoilers yet.  Hope you enjoy this one; I really think this is one of my better works :]  Don't feel shy about leaving me some constructive criticism.  Again, watch for that switch from reality to fantasy.

And thanks to Cara Nicole Luvitz for the cpater image!




 




Remus,

     We were hoping you’d help us test out our newest product.  Enclosed is a little purple ball that, upon being chewed, throws you into a real-life scenario of your wildest fancies.  We await your response.

                                      Fred and George Weasley

 

Remus Lupin cautiously removed the purple ball from the envelope.  Turning it over in his hand, he glanced at the clock hanging on his wall.  Five minutes till eight.  Sighing, he placed the candy into his mouth and slowly chewed.

A cautious knocking at his door was what woke up Lupin.  He rolled over groggily and fell off his couch with a thump.  The knocking stopped and Remus contemplated just falling back asleep on the floor—it had been a rough full moon, and he had not been able to properly heal himself yet.  Just as Remus decided not to waste his energy climbing back onto the shabby brown couch, he heard his lock click open and he fumbled around under the couch's cushions until he grasped his wand.  He pointed it at the door just as it opened.

“Oh!  I’m so sorry,” Hermione apologized as she peered into Lupin’s room.

“Not at all.  Please, come in.  I’m afraid it’s not very nicely furnished.”

“Thank you, Professor.”

Remus’ mouth twitched.  “You know, you really don’t have to call me ‘Professor’; we’re not in school.”

Hermione’s cheeks warmed slightly.  “Well, it’s just that…” Remus looked at her expectantly, “Oh all right then—Remus.”

Lupin smiled, noticing how the pink of Hermione’s cheeks accentuated her face, and his stomach flipped.  The next moment it felt like lead as he recalled that she was 17, and just out of school.  Hitching his smile back on, Remus gestured for Hermione to sit down.  “Can I get you anything?  Tea?  Some mead?”

“Tea would be nice,” Hermione replied, sitting back in a squishy dark blue armchair.  Lupin waved his wand and his teapot began to steam.  His hand brushed Hermione’s as he handed her a teacup, and his heart skipped a beat.  Stop it, he told himself firmly.

“So, to what do I owe this visit, Hermione?”

Hermione choked on her tea.  “Oh, well, you know.  No of course you don’t.”  Hermione took a breath, as though steeling herself for what she was about to say.  “Well, it’s just that this was the first day after the full moon, so I thought I’d drop by and make sure you’re okay…” Remus was suddenly very conscious of the cuts on his face, arms and legs, and shifted slightly in his seat.  Well he’d never been much of a healer himself… “Prof—er—Remus?”  He focused on Hermione again, who was giving him one of her noteworthy worrying looks.  Before he had a moment to respond, Hermione had gotten out of her chair and was feeling his forehead.  Remus knew that the heat coursing through him had nothing to do with a fever.

Hermione then proceeded to run her fingers along all of Remus’ cuts as he stared determinedly at the floor.  Taking out her wand, Hermione traced along each of the werewolf's cuts’ cuts and they vanished instantly.  “Thanks,” he said weakly, still refusing to meet her eye.

“Not at all,” she replied brightly.  Hermione had glanced around the room and gave a noise of delight.  There, piled in the corner of the room, were what appeared to be old photo albums.  “May I?”  At last Lupin looked up.

“Oh, yes, of course.”  He walked over to the pile and picked up the topmost one.  Glancing at the date, he dropped it next to the stack.  Hermione would not need to know about his childhood.  The second one was no better: His prized, and rather large, album of his time at Hogwarts, his time with James and Sirius.  The third album was slightly newer, but rather small and worn.  Somewhat worried that the frail brown cover would fall off when he opened it, Remus brought it back to the couch, where Hermione was now sitting, and set it on the table.  “My time teaching at Hogwarts.”

“How did you get these pictures?” Hermione asked, gingerly opening the album and smiling down at the first picture.  It was the welcoming feast, and the whole staff table was in the picture, Hagrid sitting on the ground so as to fit.  Hermione spotted Remus slightly detached from the rest of the teachers, smiling vaguely at the students.  She turned the page.

“Colin Creevy.”  Remus smiled, remembering the little boy who had been following him around, as well as the other teachers, asking for pictures.

“Of course.  He’s always taking pictures, that one.  In fact, some of his pictures were even in the Daily Prophet.”  The second picture showed the cabinet where the boggart had been kept.  Glancing over to the next page, Hermione grinned.  It was Lupin talking to McGonagall during the Halloween Feast.  She turned the page again, and stared for a while at the next two pages. 

The first was of Remus talking to some unknown person, grinning.  He had not been aware that the picture was being taken, and the lighting softened his features, making him look nearly 17 again.  It seemed to be the only muggle photo in the album.  The one next to it showcased a Hermione wrapped in a Gryffindor scarf, her wand emitting red and gold sparks, and her nose and cheeks faintly pink in the cold.  Next to her stood Lupin, his face split into a wide grin, which turned into a cheer as the Hermione next to him turned to give him a hug.

“That’s my favorite,” Remus said quietly enough to have not have said it at all.

The sudden reappearance of his voice shocked Hermione out of her reverie, and she pulled back her fingers that were tracing the photo as though she’d been burned.  “I—oh—sorry?”  Surely he hadn’t just said that.  Before he could reply, and Hermione wasn’t sure she wanted to know the answer, she said, “Well, I quite disagree.  I like this one the best.”  She pointed to the still photo on the previous page and Lupin laughed.

“Yes, that one does flatter me, doesn’t it?”  Hermione grinned up at him, and their eyes caught.  Remus could feel his heart thudding in his chest as he stared into her chocolate eyes, but she didn’t look away either.  He could do it now, of course he could.  After all, what was one little kiss?  Remus made a slight movement towards Hermione, then quickly whipped his head the other way as a large silver wolf bounded through the room and landed on his kitchen table.  Rather nonplussed, Remus muttered, “Excuse me,” and did all he could so as not to run into the kitchen, closing the door behind him.

“There’s a meeting tonight for the Order.  Hoping you’re well enough to come.”  The wolf vanished in a puff of smoke, and Remus covered his eyes with his hand.  What in the name of Merlin did he think he was doing?  That was Hermione out there; he was old enough to be her father.  Every ounce of sensibility in his body told him that he really shouldn’t like her, that it was utterly wrong, because he was too old and he was a werewolf for the love of Merlin.  But that didn’t make him want her any less.  Remus hit himself on the head a couple of times before shaking it vigorously.  Okay, he was going to go out there and be a good friend, and her former teacher.  Nothing more. 

When Remus finally walked back out of the kitchen, he saw Hermione sitting on the couch, turned away from him, the album apparently in her lap.  Remus walked over, and only when the couch creaked as he sat down did she jump and knock the photo album to the floor.  “Oh, I’m so sorry!”  Hermione cried, as she collected up the book.  “I was just…just looking at this picture.”  She passed the book to Lupin, and he gazed down at the photo.  It was taken in Grimmauld Place two years ago.  He was standing next to Sirius, who was grinning broadly and who had his arms draped around Lupin and Harry. 

Except for the obvious differences between James and Harry, it really could be as if the Marauders had come back; the principles anyway.  The three of them looked so happy, it seemed impossible that Sirius was gone from him now.  Remus stared at the picture, painfully aware of the stabbing feeling in his heart.  Not just for the loss of Sirius, but in fear for Harry.   He wanted to be there for Harry, to have Harry ask him questions about James and Sirius and Lily.

“I—It’s a really good picture.  His last picture, I think.”  There was no need to say anything more about the dark haired man in the picture.  There was nothing more Remus could bear to say or indeed think about.  He wasn’t sure when he’d stared crying, but the next thing he knew was that Hermione was holding his hand as he gazed, unseeing, at the photo, tears running down his cheeks.  Despite all of his faults, Sirius was still one of his best mates, and Remus had never cared for anyone as much as he had for his fellow Marauders. 

“I know.   It’s okay.”  Hermione wiped a few tears from Lupin’s face.  “All of us are going to be okay.”  Hermione always knew the right thing to do, Remus thought, as the woman hugged him.  Remus thought that his tears subsided too quickly; and all of a sudden she was pulling away from him.  That was not something he wanted to happen.  “I guess I should be going.  I’ve still got to go and see Harry and see the Weasleys.”  Hermione looked at Lupin; he wasn’t quite sure what to do.  He’d never had much experience with girls, after all.  “Thank you for the tea,” she said after a moment.  Her eyes darted to the album lying abandoned on the table.  “Er…Remus?  Do you mind if I…” Hermione picked up the album from the table and turned to the candid shot of him.  “Can I keep this?”  Hermione turned pink.  “I don’t have any pictures of you, see, and well…”

“Oh, yes.  Sure.”  Why she wanted that picture, well he just didn’t know.  But Remus watched as she carefully removed the photo and held it in her hands for a moment before placing it carefully inside her robes, in one of her hidden pockets.  She chanced a glance at him, and stared for a few seconds before looking away.  Remus was quite baffled at what to do.

“Well, I guess I’ll go now.”  Hermione stood up, and Remus mimicked her movements.

“Oh, yes.  Thank you, Hermione, for stopping by.  And, well, you know where I live, for now, so, just stop by again sometime.  I don’t live that far…” What was he saying?  Of course she wouldn’t stop by again, not soon enough, anyway.  They were already at the door.  Would he really count the minutes she wasn’t there?  Probably.  Every last second with her standing in the doorway seemed precious.  “So, send everyone my regards.”

“All right.  I will.  Goodbye, Remus.”  Hermione was already stepping through the doorway.

“Yeah, goodbye, Hermione.”

“Oh, and, Professor?  Thanks for the tea.”  The last impression Remus Lupin had of Hermione was a red face and bushy brown hair as she whipped around and Disapparated.  His lips were still tingling when he shut the door.


Remus moaned and slowly opened his eyes.  He was sitting at his table, and a letter stood open nearby.  What had just happened?  Slowly he recalled something, ‘…real-life scenario of your wildest fancies.’  Fred and George.  The new product.  Hermione.  So it wasn’t real then.  He’d just been imagining the whole thing.  Disappointment seemed to slide down Remus’ throat as he got a glass of water, and it spread throughout the rest of his body.  He glanced at the letter.  ‘We await your reply.’  Bloody twins.


Dear Fred and George,


I’ve tried your product.  And I must say, you two are far too skilled.  That was really ‘a real-life scenario of my wildest fancies.  Surprisingly wild.  I’m sure it’ll be a big hit.  Just promise me next time…it won’t be too real.  Or too wild.

Remus


Remus Lupin sealed the letter and walked to his door, intending to go out and send it off.  He glanced back and noticed an album with a faded brown cover sitting on the table in front of his couch.  Remus smiled and shut his door.      

 

Chapter 5: Kill The Messenger
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Severus Snape stared at the purple sphere in front of him.  It looked innocent enough, merely lying there on his desk, gleaming in the soft green light emanating from torches surrounding the interior of the dungeon.  And yet, there was something about this oddly glowing gumball that Snape just couldn’t trust.  No doubt it was some trick or other to torment him—he’d confiscated it from that Weasley girl after all.  Merlin knows her twin brothers had caused enough havoc, and Snape had the suspicion that this girl was scarcely different.

 
Slowly reaching down, Severus gingerly lifted the purple gumball.  He rolled it about his hand, staring intently at the deep purple hue.  It was precise the same shade she had been wearing when he had first laid eyes on her, all those years ago.  There had been a most forgiving cool breeze on that dreadful hot summer day.  Severus had wandered to his usual haunt near the park some three miles from his house.  He had watched, hidden, as a girl his age with long, deep red hair ran onto the playground, her somewhat older sister hurrying on behind her.

 
She was wearing a purple blouse, Snape recalled, purple because it had been her favorite color at the time.  Remaining hidden in the bushes, Severus watched the red head as she picked up a dying flower and was he shocked when it bloomed into a beautiful red the next moment.  Snape was sure that is was then he had fallen in love with her.  With her light hearted demeanor, delighted smile, and natural curiosity.  Severus was only eleven years old, and yet he knew what he had found the one girl he would love forever.
 

Snape gripped the ball in his hand tightly and gritted his teeth against the tears that were threatening to fall.  He shifted his gaze away from the candy in front of him to the pensieve only a few feet away.  It was emitting a soft light, no doubt from the many memories swirling about inside it.  Memories of her.  All at once Snape wanted to burn her from his memory, and yet, with only memories left of her, Severus knew he couldn’t live without them.  Without Lily.  And more to get away from his deep despair than anything else, Snape bit into the gumball, hoping for some small reprieve.

 
“Why, Severus, what are you doing here m’boy?  Something I can help you with?” asked the large form of Horace Slughorn as he entered his office.

 
“Oh, no Professor.  I’d only gone looking for…Well, no, sir.  See you later, Professor.”

 
Severus exited the Potion master’s office and slowly made his way out of the dungeon.  Of course she wasn’t in there, he’d merely hoped—but of course she wasn’t.  She’d been avoiding him for days.  She must still be mad at him for last week.  Severus clenched his fists.  To make matters worse, today was the last day for a Hogsmeade visit till the next school year, and a day the both of them had been looking forward to for some time.  Severus paused for a moment by the door of the Potions classroom.  While he had a natural affinity for Potions, it was Defense Against the Dark Arts that Severus was really drawn to.  If only Lily could see his brilliance in the subject, she would admire him undoubtedly.

 
Severus glanced about, looking for a clock.  Quarter to ten.  Lily would no doubt be heading down to the entrance hall.  As Severus ascended the stairs from the dungeon, he began to feel a bit more hopeful.  He wasn’t sure if Lily would be waiting for him at the statue that stood at the entrance of the castle, and he was more than sure that Lily wasn’t sure if she’d be there waiting for him or not either. 


Drawing ever closer to the Great Hall, Snape could hear the excited clamor of students.  With exams over and summer tempting the young witches and wizards, they were more than ready to get into that summer air.  Snape’s breath caught as he saw Lily standing there, her hair pulled back in a messy ponytail and a dark green sundress on.  In his opinion, Lily was the most beautiful girl in school.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t solely his opinion.

 
A group of sixth year boys sauntered up to her and engaged Lily in small talk.  Severus stood where he was, hidden behind one of the castle’s great pillars.  He waited with bated breath as Lily smiled at the boys but managed to shrug them off.  Severus let out his breath and hope once again filled him.  Lily kept glancing around, and Severus was more than certain that she was waiting for him.  His forward step was retracted quickly when Potter and his gang approached Lily.
 

“Hey Evans,” Potter called, strutting up to the redhead.  “You going to Hogsmeade?” the raven-haired boy asked her, much to Snape’s chagrin.
 

“None of your business, Potter,” Lily replied, slightly belligerently. 

 
Snape was more than delighted.  So Lily wouldn’t even think about going with Potter.  The next moment, however, Snape’s heart sank like a stone.  “Well if you are, then I suppose you’d better get on your way.  Filch doesn’t take too kindly to the stragglers,” Remus advised mildly.  Lily smiled briefly at the boy.  Of course, Severus thought in a slight panic, Lily had a small friendship with the werewolf.  Snape merely clenched his jaw, hoping Lily would dismiss the Marauders, but to no avail.

 
“Yeah, come one, Evans.  We’ll show you the real fun to be had at Hogsmeade,” Sirius chimed, gently urging her on with a hand on her back.  Lily took another long scan around the room.  By now Severus was in full confidence that Lily was awaiting him.  Indeed, all he really had to do was step out of the shadows and walk towards her and Lily would desert Potter and his friends.  Severus knew he should do just this, so why wasn’t he?  Knowing that this could very well spell the end of their friendship, Snape remained where he was, already reprimanding himself severely for his cowardice.  Lily sighed and slowly turned back to the boys before her.  Giving them a look that could only very nearly be described as ambivalent, Lily shrugged and began to walk out with the four friends.

 
Thoroughly panicked, Severus waited for only five minutes before he hastened after them.  Severus was careful to keep himself just within sight of them, but still close enough to the side of the road, able to jump into the bushes should the need arise.  After all, Severus had to keep a constant watch, knowing that Potter was far too infatuated with Lily for comforts sake. 

 
It was a sweltering summer’s day, and Snape’s aggravation was only highlighted by this fact.  He watched as Lily broke off from the rest of them and ventured near the local supplies store.  The Slytherin growled in frustration as James noticed Lily had left and followed her in.  This was supposed to be their day; a day of eating ice cream, buying quills and ink, parchment and sweets, all they needed to tide themselves over for the summer, where they would return home and meet up daily to do their homework and contemplate the upcoming year.  Severus and Lily would loll on the grass in the woods between their houses and make watermills in the stream during the day.  They would have picnics with watermelon and peanut butter and honey sandwiches, pondering everything from the pronunciation of words to Descartes philosophy. 
 

They would stare up at the endless blue sky as clouds drifted slowly by; and they would call out various shapes of the fluffy white substance that ventured across their field of vision.  At night, Lily and Severus would camp out in a tent in front of Lily’s house, a small fire going as they roasted marshmallows.  Then the two best friends would spread out on a blanket as they doused the fire to stare up at the infinity of stars and think profound thoughts that neither would recall in the morning.  This was them, this was their friendship.  The eternal flower, always in blossom.  This was the very essence of what was Lily Evans and Severus Snape.
 

And yet here they were avoiding each other, a fissure deepening between them, slowly but surely breaking them apart.  Severus knew he would do something, anything really, to get her back.  There was no one he cared for in the whole world more than Lily Evans.  And he would be damned if the likes of James Potter stole Lily away from him.  Severus had seemed to forget that time was not standing still for him during his reverie, and at last the time called for him to jump behind a tree.

 
“You know, I really was quite capable of buying those quills myself, Potter,” Severus heard Lily argue.  He was displeased, however, to find that her tone was really more flirtatious than it was indignant.
 

“Yeah, well, I figured you could use the money to buy something you’d enjoy more, rather than the feathers of some dead bird,” James replied.  Snape peeked through the branches in time to see Potter shrug at Lily and give her a grin. 

 
Snape was appalled to find that Lily returned him a little half smile, but the jealousy he felt raged at her next words.  “Well, thanks anyway, James.”  Had she just disregarded her adamant use of his last name only, her bitter refusal to speak more civilly to him than need be, and just called Potter by his first name as though they were best friends?  By Merlin, she had.

 
Snape felt the stab at his heart and for a moment he was lost in a sea of anger and envy.  He would have to get Lily away soon, preferably before she began calling Black by his first name as well.  Weaving in and out of the trees and through the bushes, Snape dogged the two as they met up with the other three Marauders and headed in the direction of The Three Broomsticks.  Severus was beginning to feel as if he’d lost completely to Potter when his chance came at last.  Lily had managed to shrug the group of boys off and slip inside the clothing store near the outer edge of the village. 


Knowing that he probably had a good half hour before she came out, Snape dashed into the somewhat dilapidated shop next door and bought the supplies he would need over the summer.  This took longer than he expected, and so Severus half ran to the ice cream shop a half mile away and ordered two cookies and cream ice cream cones.  Rushing back to the clothing store he knew Lily would be exiting from at any moment, Severus came to a halt just outside the door.  Not a minute later did Lily emerge, carrying a small bag in her hand.


Seeing Severus standing there before her with two ice cream cones, Lily’s expression turned to delight, which she quickly schooled to one of displeasure.  Waving the two cones in front of her face, Severus grinned in a playful way.  “Really now, Lily, you can’t stay mad when I’ve got your favorite ice cream in my hand.  Cookies and cream,” he smiled, holding one of the cones out to her.  Lily seemed to struggle with herself for a while before she simply shook her head and smiled at him, taking the offered treat.

 
Snape merely grinned at Lily, taking a small bite from his own cone and sighing at the relief it brought from the sweltering summer air.  As they began walking towards the Shrieking Shack, Severus frowned at her.  “Lily, I’m really sorry about what I said, about everything.  You’re just completely brilliant, and I can’t believe I called you a…a...” He turned to look at her, and waited until her eyes met his, always that startling, emerald green.  In all his life, Severus had never seen eyes like those.  For a moment he got lost in the deep green pools, staring back at his with evident hurt and some anger.  “Lily I—“ Severus cleared his throat and began again. 
 

“Lily, my whole life, I’ve only seen the bad side of things, of people.”  Severus broke eye contact for a moment, glancing at the ground, before forcing himself to stare back into those unique eyes.  “But then I met you, and you showed me everything that was wonderful and good in the world.  Lily, everything I do, every little action, I think only of you, and if you’d approve of me and be proud, or disapprove and frown on me.”
 

Here Lily interjected, asking, “Then why do you continue hanging out with those awful friends of yours and learn all that…all that Dark Magic?” she half accused him.

 
Severus gulped and looked away, mumbling something.  Upon Lily’s statement that she didn’t understand a word he said, Snape stared fixedly at a hole in the nearby tree and responded, “Because I thought that if I could impress you with my knowledge, you might…”
 

“I might what?” Lily inquired.  Now her voice was more curious than angry, and this only served to scare Severus more than he already was.  It wasn’t as if his heart was palpitating enough already, but Severus could feel his normally pale face flush a light crimson.  “Severus?” Lily question again, and Snape knew he wouldn’t walk out of today without telling her.
 

Ever so carefully, his eyes boring another hole into the tree with his gaze, Severus took a steadying breath.  “If I impressed you enough, I though that maybe you might just…love me back.”  Those last three syllables had been said so quietly, Severus was afraid Lily hadn’t heard them.

 
It seemed to take forever for Lily to understand what Severus meant, and each second that passed by, his heart pounding in his ears and his eyes refusing to meet hers, seemed like separate eternities to Severus.  At last, Lily said ever so softly and quietly, the utter shock evident in her voice, “Oh!”  From his peripheral vision, Snape saw Lily step towards him.  “Sev?” she said gently, and he expected the worst.  He knew he’d overstepped his bounds and that now their friendship was ruined because he couldn’t have just lied and said something, anything else.  “Severus?”

 
Severus was forced to meet Lily’s face at last.  Being afraid of what he’d see, Snape closed his eyes and kept them there until the hand Lily was using to cup his face gently stroked his cheek.  Letting his eyes slowly open, Severus was nonplussed to find that Lily had tears in her own eyes and a wide smile on her face.  “Severus Snape,” she breathed, “I have loved you from the moment that we became friends.  I loved you then and I love you now.  And whatever happens, I know that I will always love you.”
 

She was so close to him now, Snape would only have to lean forward ever so slightly and he would be getting that kiss he so desired.  But Lily had done it for him, closing the distance, and he felt her sigh against his mouth.  Severus was on fire, every bit of him tingling and overflowing with love for the girl he held in his arms, kissing with a passion matched only by her.  Lily’s hands moved of their own accord, one moving to the back of Severus’ neck, and the other reaching around his back to clutch at his shirt.  Severus had one arm draped loosely around her waist, the other pulling Lily to him by the small of her back.  Severus felt the burning in his lungs, and as much as he hated to, he at last pulled away, breathing in the air greedily.
 

Severus opened his eyes at last, and for a moment everything was blurred.  He could see the fuzzy outline of Lily’s face, her deep red hair.  But it was her eyes that stayed within the sharpest focus.  That was possibly because a person with those very same eyes was standing before him, and indifferent expression on his face.  “Potter,” Snape hissed, his senses suddenly fully alert.

 
“I’ve finished my detention, sir,” Harry told his Professor.

 
Snape narrowed his eyes at the boy in front of him, hating every bit of his likeness to his father, and yet unable to stop the caring he felt, the concern for his well-being, based solely on the eyes that were his mothers.  “You may leave,” Snape spat, not quite sure he could muster the usual disdain for the tragic boy before him.  Harry left without a word, and Snape made it until the door of his classroom clicked shut before the burn of tears in his eyes could no longer be ignored. 


Dour, cruel reality settled in on Severus, making him realize that his dreams of the past and what could have been were always ephemeral.  It wouldn’t be quite right to say that Severus had been perfidious, but the tacit agreement he’d seemed to make with himself was that he had indeed engendered the demise of the woman he’d been completely enamored with, and it was indeed something he didn’t think he could expiate.
 

Snape sat there, wallowing in his self-despair, abject tears streaming down his face.  Lily had been absolutely infallible, and he’d never so much as told her how much he cared.  Every month he went visiting her grave; every break he would roam their old haunts.  The steady dissonance of rain against the window seemed to swallow up the discord of Severus’ despair.  He was trapped in his constant nightmare, his world where Lily was dead, and it was his fault.  His fault for being jealous, for being inane, for thinking that by belonging to a powerful group, that Lily might like him better.  Severus stumbled over to the window and threw it open.  The rain hit him full force, drenching him within moments.


Every second, every moment he lived without Lily was a torture in itself; one he only bore in the ambivalent need to help her only son through.  Yes, Lily’s only son, and yet James’ only child as well.  Severus felt his heart twinge and another sob escaped him.  If he had another moment with her, just one more day, he’d undoubtedly tell Lily just how much he loved her.  Explain to her that the very depths of his feelings.  And still the fact remained that he wouldn’t ever have just one more day with her; one more moment.  His memories he could relive and cry over, but he would never again see the sparkle of her eyes, or feel the warmth of her skin as she pressed against him in a hug.  He had been the messenger, the one who had betrayed her to Voldemort.  And there was not a single thing he could do to remedy that.


The rain splashed against his face in an unrelenting torrent.  But that didn’t bother Snape one bit, because his mind was revolving around the single most important memory in his life.  Severus transgressed through the dark sky, the stormy clouds.  Vicariously was he lying on the grassy earth, a bright sun warming him and full, fluffy clouds floating by.  However, Severus wasn’t even sparing the clouds a passing glance.  He was instead memorizing every last feature of the girl lying beside him.  Her soft smile, her long, crimson hair, and her eyes.  Snape closed his own eyes against the cruel rain, and for a moment he could see them again.  There they were twinkling back at him, with a warmth that not even pictures could capture; eyes adoring him as if she were his very own Anabelle Lee.  The sparkling, jewel bright emerald eyes of the one person Severus Snape couldn’t live without, and yet continued to fight for.  The eyes of Lily Evans.           
 

A/N: 
Well, I figured it's probably safe to not warn about spoliers anymore,  but I'm still contemplating if I'll have and future generation pairings or not.  Anywho, this was such a sad one; the tragedy of Severus Snape.  It makes my heart hurt.  I hope you enjoyed, and please  leave a review to tell me how it was!

 

 

Chapter 6: Dark Blue
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Dearest Brother,


We know how anxious you always are to try our new products (at this he scoffed) and so we’ve sent our newest to you.  It’s rather a lot like a gumball, so by simply chewing it you will be thrown into a daydream of your wildest fantasies!  The catch?  Just write us back and tell us how it was.  Thanks.

Forge and Gred

Charlie closed the letter from his brothers with a small smile.  What they wouldn’t come up with.  The gumball simply shone back at him, deep violet in the light of the candle set upon his desk.  Charlie tapped the ball curiously, slightly suspicious.,   It was a Weasley Twin product after all.  Still, Charlie reasoned, there was no reason not to try it out, and so he popped it into his mouth.

A screech outside his tent alerted Charlie to the arrival of a rather official looking owl.  Sighing he opened the flap of his tent and let the bird in.  He took the letter from its leg, noting it was a letter from the Romanian Ministry of Magic.  It was an emergency, the letter claimed.  Their delegate who was to represent them at the British Ministry of Magic had been rendered ill with a nasty dragon bite.  And he was to fill in.  Being the second in command and easily the most knowledgeable of the dragon keepers, he would have to attend a brief gala in which he would promote dragon rights and so forth.  But it was the last bit that had Charlie swearing and scrambling to pack his things.  The gala was tonight.

There was a long line for the Floo Network.  Usually it wasn’t so busy on a Tuesday morning, but then maybe Charlie was just anxious to get back to the U.K.  And at least the Floo line was only half as long as the one for the Portkey’s, even if Charlie would have to sit down for ten minutes after he had reached the U.K. by Floo.  And it was really his only option; last time Charlie Apparated, not only had he been missing both his eyebrows, but he’d ended up in Dublin.

Charlie shook his head and stepped up to the large brick fireplace.  “Ministry of Magic, Britain.”  Suddenly the world was whirling around him unrelentingly, and Charlie had to close his eyes and just hope that he would end up in the correct grate.  After several minuets of being tossed around, Charlie felt himself gradually slowing down and he cracked open his eyes so that he could land on his feet.  As his feet touched the ground, Charlie stumbled out of the fireplace into the lobby of the Ministry.

Charlie stumbled over to one of the couches set out for those who found themselves dizzy from their journey.  As his world stopped spinning, Charlie was pleased to find he was still clutching his overnight bag.  After a few more minutes of watching people stumble out of the fireplace and sit down next to him, Charlie figured he was well enough to leave.

As he passed by the large fireplace, a small scream caught Charlie’s attention.  He turned to the fireplace just in time for a small woman to stumble into his arms.  She seemed vaguely familiar, but Charlie couldn’t quite place her.  She was extremely dizzy, and every time she attempted to stand up, she would sway and fall back into Charlie’s arms.  Charlie helped her over to a chair and the women brushed back her dark hair and looked up at him.  She was fairly pale, and the dark of her hair and eyes stood out starkly against her features.  Charlie was suddenly nervous.

The woman seemed to be taking him in as well, his numerous freckles that added to his tanned skin, his fiery red hair just brushing his collar, and his deep blue eyes.  He watched, amused, as embarrassment clouded her face, and then, surprisingly, recognition.  “Th-thank you,” she stuttered out.  She glanced at him again before inquiring, “Charlie Weasley?”

Charlie barely registered his shock before he grinned.  “I see my reputation precedes me.”  She laughed and is resounded like the tinkle of bells.  Charlie’s smile heightened for a moment, before he asked, “Don’t I know you from somewhere?”

She blushed slightly and said, “Hogwarts.  But I was a first year when you were a seventh.”

“Oh.  Still, you seem rather familiar.  Sorry, what’s your name?”

"Cho Chang.”

“Oh!”  Of course.  She was Cedric Diggory’s ex-girlfriend.  And Harry’s, Charlie recalled.  “So what brings you to the Ministry?”

“I work here now.  Actually, I help your father with Muggle things.”  Charlie’s laugh made Cho smile, and she asked, “Are you going to the gala tonight?”

“Is it that big?  Yes, I’m filling in for the Romanian Dragon Keeper.”  There was a few moments of silence while Charlie tried to fix his courage.

He was about to ask Cho to lunch when she stood up.  “Er, well I have to go now, Charlie (he loved how she said his name).  Well, I’ll see you tonight then.”  And she had smiled at him and left before Charlie could say anything else.  Charlie sighed and stood up from where he’d been kneeling.  He figured he’d see his father later and instead checked in with a secretary at the front and Apparated to The Burrow.

His mother was in the family room knitting.  Charlie crept up behind her and covered her eyes.  “Guess who?”

”Charlie!”  He hugged her in affirmation, and Molly screamed delightedly, dropping her needles and yarn to the ground as she flew off the couch to hug her son.  “What are you doing here?  Are you hungry?  You look a bit thin, dear.  Are you eating enough in Romania?”

Charlie laughed and hugged his mother again.  “I’m filling in for another dragon keeper who was supposed to go to the gala.  Yes I am, and I’m eating fine Mother.”  Mrs. Weasley led him into the kitchen and asked him what he’d like.  “Some fried chicken would be nice,” Charlie answered.  Of course Molly set to work making it, she didn’t see Charlie enough to say no.  “I’m just going to put these in my room,” Charlie called to her.  “And lie down for a bit.”

“I’ll call you when it’s ready,” Mrs. Weasley replied, rolling a drumstick in flour and black pepper.

Charlie walked slowly up the stairs to his room, taking in all the slight differences in the Burrow.  He set his bag on the floor and flopped onto his bed, taking comfort in the soft mattress and crisp, clean sheets.  Charlie sniggled his head onto his pillow and wished Bill was there to talk to and duel with.  As Charlie lay there, Cho wandered into his mind.  Charlie shook his head.  She was beautiful, of course, but he lived in Romania for goodness sakes.  And besides, Charlie recalled, Harry said she was probably still pretty hung up on Cedric.  Charlie stared up at his ceiling, a mural of dragons.  It had been years since he’d had a serious girlfriend.  A lot of the time Charlie was far too busy to go out on dates with a girl and so they lost patience and called it quits.  And truth be told, Charlie was kind of weary about getting in a relationship too seriously.  The last girl he’d fallen in love with ran off with one of the other Dragon Keepers, and Charlie never thought he’d live down the shame.  At least he finally understood all those pitying looks his co-workers had been giving him for weeks.

“Charlie!”  His food was ready, and in response Charlie’s stomach rumbled loudly.  Picking himself slowly off the bed, the smell of his food making his mouth water, Charlie dashed down the stairs by twos and practically ran into the kitchen.  There was a large plateful, and Mrs. Weasley explained, “Your father should be home soon.”

As if on cue, Arthur Weasley stepped though the front door of his house and into the kitchen.  Seeing his son there, Arthur’s face broken into a large grin.  “Merlin!  Charlie, what are you doing here?”

Charlie walked over to his dad and hugged him.  “Filling in for one of my co-workers. Are you going to the gala?”

“Yes.  There are a lot of muggle borns there and they are lovely to talk to about all these new muggle objects I’ve just got.  Molly, that looks delicious!”

The three of them sat down to eat and spent time catching up.  No, he didn’t have a girlfriend or know what to do with a computer, and he’d only be staring for the night.  The dragons were doing fine, a few of the mothers’ eggs hatched this past month and were getting difficult to manage, but other than that the little dragon babies were fairly cute, if not dangerous.  The sun had set before Arthur finally suggested they go get ready for the gala.  Molly decided no to come, so it would just be Charlie and his father.

So Charlie went upstairs, took a quick shower and changed into his formal dress roves.  He ran a brush through his hair and took a look in the mirror.  “You look stunning, dear,” it told him.  Charlie took the word of the mirror and went downstairs.

“We’re going to Apparate,” Arthur told him.  “No point in getting all dusty.”  And so with a kiss to his mother, Charlie and his father Apparated to the Ministry of Magic.

The gala was being geld in the lobby, which had been transformed to seat many people on large circular tables.  The Weasley men were on of the earlier ones, and so they took a seat at one of the center tables and watched as the others filed in.  Charlie listened disinterestedly as his father rambled on about Ministry workers, but sat up a little straighter when she entered the room.

It was wintertime, so the lobby was embellished with ice sculptures and fairies and several large Christmas Trees.  Baubles hung suspended in the air, and the ceiling was enchanted to snow.  Cho was wearing a dark blue set of dress robes over a matching gown.  Charlie felt his mouth go dry.  “Ah, that young woman there,” Arthur was telling Charlie, “Cho Chang.  Sweet girl, knows an awful lot of things about muggles.  Charming girl.  Cho!”

His father was calling her over, why was he calling her over?!  Charlie fidgeted nervously in his chair and ran a hand through his hair.  “Hello Mr. Weasley.  Charlie.”  She smiled nervously at the latter, self consciously adjusting her robes.  She looked around the room.  It was thick with all sorts of Ministry employees from all different countries, and Cho felt quite alone.  “Do you mind if I sit with you?” she asked, gesturing to the chair next to Charlie.

“Not at all,” he replied.  Charlie stood up and pulled out the chair for Cho.  She smiled at his chivalrous act.

“Oh, there’s Winston.  If you’ll excuse me,” Mr. Weasley said, scurrying off to a balding man with a large mustache, and leaving the two at the table.

A silence descended upon them so suffocating that Charlie was tempted to cast the Bubble Head Charm for a breath of fresh air.  Charlie took a breath to calm his nerves and forced out, “So, do you miss Hogwarts?”

At the easy subject Cho seemed to brighten.  “Yes.  Hogwarts was really more home to me than anywhere else.”

“So you played on the Quidditch team?”

“Yes.  I was Ravenclaw’s seeker.”

“Oh!  It really is the best position.  I was Gryffindor’s seeker for a long time.”  Charlie sighed.  “But you probably don’t remember me; you must have been in your first year.”

“Oh, but I do!  You were the most brilliant Qudditich player.  I mean, you inspired me—” Charlie thought it was quite amusing how Cho’s face suddenly turned red and she broke her eye contact with him.  He shifted towards her slightly to gain her attention.

“I’m glad to know that,” Charlie told her quietly.  “I’m honored that you remember me so well.”

Cho smiled shyly up at him.  “Well you were my reason for joining the Quidditch team.”  Now it was Charlie’s turn to flush.  He was close to her now, intimately so, and he could see her dark eye’s glittering up at him, amazed at their varying shades of brown and the occasional flecks of black.

“Yes, see you later Winston,” Arthur’s voice called, his feet pattering back towards to the table.  He wouldn’t have known anything was amiss but for the guilty looks on the faces of his son and co-worker.  “Everything all right?” Arthur asked, glancing between the two.

“Oh, yes, Mr. Weasley, just fine.  Er—I’m going to get some punch then, shall I?” Cho replied, her words slurring together in her haste to excuse herself.

“She’s a lovely girl,” Arthur commented.  “Are you going to ask her to dance?”

“Yes, I—what?” Charlie spluttered, turning to stare at his father.

“They’ve got music playing and people are dancing,” Arthur persisted, nodding at the front of the room where there were indeed people dancing. 

“I, oh all right,” Charlie relented, making his way to where Cho was sipping her punch, in the thick of people yet quite alone.  “And they say Mum is the only matchmaker,” Charlie muttered, sending one last dagger at his father, yet all the while feeling that nercous sort of happiness that comes with fancying someone.  Charlie made his way over to Cho and held his hand out to her.  “May I have this dance?”

Cho’s surprised look was quickly replaced by one of that same nervous joy Charlie was sporting.  “Of course.”

Charlie led her to the dance floor and they finished up the fast tempo song, and nercoulsy adjusted each other’s arms as a slow song came on.  The self-consciousness slowly melted away as they grew more comfortable in each other’s embrace and they song dragged on until Charlie was sure that it was only him and Cho in the room, swaying to the slow melody. 

They msut have danced longer than they were aware of, because the room was clearing out, and there was that sense of impending disappointment; he’d have to go home and back to Romania the next day.  But Cho felt so perfect against him, her soft hair brushing against his hands and Charlie didn’t want to open his eyes.  But there are those strange forces in life that compel a person to do things they don’t want to, things they absolutely have no want or reason for, other than the fact that they know they should.

Charlie slowly opened his eyes, the dark blue of her dress swimming in this vision for a moment before they slowly focused and Charlie moaned and rubbed his eyes.  The dark blue was still staring back at him, and for a moment Charlie just sat there and stared back.  Then the owl gave a hoot and walked across the table to dip its beak into Charlie’s cup of water.

A sinking feeling assaulted Charlie and he ran a hand across his face.  He stopped as he noticed the letter from Fred and Geroge.  Charlie glared at it for a moment, hating the gumball for allowing him such a vivid daydream…a daydream that might still happen.  After all, he was long overdue for a trip home.  Charlie searched around for a bit of parchment and a quill.

Fred, George,

Bloody brilliant as ever.  Though I must say, you’re after effects, namely the fact that we’re cruelly ripped away from out fantast, is nothing short of cruel.  I’ll be visiting home by the time you get this.  See you there.

Charlie

A/N: Very odd pairing, I know, but I was struck by the idea that maybe Cho was inspired by Charlie to play Quiddditch.  Anyway, here's to one more chapter.  Sorry it took so long, I've been playing around with other ideas, and haven't been struck with inspiration lately.  Please let me know what you thought of this :]  Thanks again to Abyssica for the image <33

Chapter 7: Holiday From Real
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“Welcome to Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes, where you’re—Oh, hello Harry.”
 

“Hello Fred.  So, got anything new?”
 

Fred shifted uneasily and shared a look with George.  “Well,” George drug out the word, “I suppose you could try our latest.  Mind you, it’s only in experiment form; not sure if it’s really ready for the shelves.”
 

“All right.  Do you mind if I try it?  Whatever it is?”
 

“Suit yourself, mate.  But don’t say we didn’t warn you,” Fred replied, taking a box out from under his desk and grabbing one of the purple gumballs.

 
“Tell us how it goes, eh?” George replied.  “Oh, and before we forget—“

 
“It’ll throw you into your wildest fantasy,” Fred finished.  “So I’d try it at home.”
 

“Cheers,” Harry replied, raising the gumball in salute, a grin plastered on his face, and Disapparating.

   

Bright sunlight snuck in through the cracks in the curtain, and a soft voice was calling his name.  It was gentle, familiar, loving.  He really didn’t want to wake up, but the voice was so persistent.  He tried to wave it off, and that seemed to work.  Sighing contentedly, he snuggled happily under the covers, and was suddenly doused in icy water.

 
Harry sat bolt upright and glared at the woman laughing at him, her wand held aloof now.  “Mum, was that really necessary?” Harry complained, wiping his face.

 
Lily kissed his forehead.  “Yes.  It’s nearly noon, and you’re not even dressed.  Don’t tell me you already forgot your own birthday.  Especially such an important one.”  His mother grinned down at him, hugging him before leaving him to get dressed.

 
Harry flopped back down on his bed, staring up at the ceiling.  The truth was he had forgotten it was his birthday, and now a slow excitement began to bubble inside of him.  He was 17 now; he could finally do magic anytime he wanted.  Harry grinned despite himself and jumped off his bed to grab a towel, deciding that his mother’s Aguamenti Charm was as good as a shower.  One step toward his bathroom Harry stopped.  “Accio towel.”  It sailed across the hall, into his room and outstretched arms, an elegant sail amongst the disaster that was his room.  Harry merely grinned at the blue cloth in his arms.  Oh, he could definitely get used to this. 
 

“17, I’m finally 17!”  Harry danced around his room, making his way to his wardrobe and pulling out a pair of jeans.  He pulled out his favorite green shirt and stared at himself in his long oval mirror.  He didn’t look any different then he did yesterday.  No, he was still Harry Potter, the boy that had great parents and friends who loved him.
 

“I thought I was the vain one, Harry,” called a voice at his door.
 

“Sirius!” Harry cried, all in a jumble of excitement.  “You’re quite early.”

 
“Noon is early then?” Sirius teased.

 
Godfather embraced godson and they stared at each other for a moment, grinning.  “Harry!  Sirius!  Come down here!”  It was Lily, of course; the others must be arriving soon, and so, with a quick glance at the other, Harry and Sirius were racing down the stairs.  The two were very close, and Harry often looked at Sirius as a mix between an uncle and a big brother.  After all, it was Sirius that would teach him things and buy the more dangerous gifts for Harry, when even James couldn’t be persuaded to approve.  Not to mention that Sirius acted childish enough at times, nowhere near mature enough for his age, Harry had found himself thinking more than once. 
 

“Happy birthday, son!” James greeted as Harry skid to a halt in the kitchen.  Even after 17 years, Harry was always slightly taken aback each time he saw his father, more so in the recent years as Harry slowly matured to become a mirror image, almost, of the man before him.  James’ jet-black hair had the occasional grey, but was still as wild as ever, competing with Harry’s own untamed hair. 
 

Harry grinned at his father, both of their eyes crinkling up in excitement.  Harry hugged his Dad, taller than him now, but only just.  “Thanks, Dad,” Harry grinned.

 
“Harry,” Lily called softly.  She never did have to talk loudly, for Harry was as attuned to her voice as he was to his own heartbeat.  She stood slightly off to the side, next to a fair sized pile of presents, beaming at him, and Harry felt his heart swell.  Like a dog called by its master, Harry eagerly sauntered towards his mom.  “Happy birthday, Harry,” she whispered, her arms encircling him, almost as though she was protecting him, a funny notion seeing as Harry was a good six inches taller than her. 

 
“Thanks, Mum,” Harry mumbled back, hugging her close.  Not keen on letting his emotions get the best of him (he was a man now after all), Harry turned away quickly, looking to stare at his hill of presents.

 
“You’ll like mine best,” Sirius snickered, as though it was some great secret.  Sirius had gotten Harry the newest broomstick, just out, and thoroughly trumping the now outdated Firebolt.
 

Harry grinned sardonically.  “I’m sure it will be a great surprise!”    

 
Thick waves of red hair suddenly appeared before Harry’s eyes as his best friend and family flooed in.  “Happy birthday, mate,” Ron grinned, throwing his own gift atop Harry’s pile.

 
“Harry dear, happy birthday!” cried Molly, engulfing him in a hug.  “Lily sweetie, let me help with that.”

 
The guests trickled in quickly after that: Hermione, Tonks and Remus, Neville, Luna, Seamus and Dean, and even Dumbledore.  It was quite a crowd, and the party moved outside so a game of Quidditch could be played.  Harry wasted no time in ripping open his new broomstick from Sirius, and they all spent a few minutes in excited admiration crowded around it.  A rich mahogany colored handle, it was made of cherry wood.  The needles of the broom were all perfectly shaped into a sharp point, the pinnacle of aerodynamic racing secrets.  They had really outdone themselves with the creation of this broomstick.    

 
Hermione absolutely refused to play, so Harry led one team as Seeker, with Ginny, James and Sirius as his Chasers, Fred and Seamus as Beaters and Ron as Keeper.  Charlie was the other team’s Seeker, with Bill, Remus and Dean as Chasers, George and Tonks as Beaters, and Luna as Keeper. 
 

The game began quickly, both teams weaving in and out of each other, and the Quaffle changing hands several times before any points were scored.  James scored twice on Luna, but George managed to stop a third score with one hit to the Bludger.  Soon after, Tonks caused a scene by accidentally knocking the Bludger straight at Bill, breaking his nose, and the game stopped for a few minutes as Tonks patched him up.  (“As clumsy as I am, I’ve had to learn this spell the hard way,” she told Bill, apologizing every other sentence.)
 

The game was soon on again, and Bill was back with a vengeance, scoring five times and severely wounding Ron’s self esteem.  “It’s all right, mate, we’ll get ‘em,” Harry called as he zoomed by in search of the Snitch.  But Harry was wrong, and Charlie’s team kept up a mad spree of scoring.  Ron cursed as yet another Quaffle sailed passed him, Remus having narrowly avoided dropping it prematurely in his attempt to dodge a Bludger sailing towards him from Fred.  Harry glanced Hermione’s way, watching as she changed the ribbons in the air from 220 to 230, a sad score to his team’s 80.  They were severely behind, and the only way to win at this point would be to catch the Snitch. 
 

That’s when Harry spotted it, a flash of gold zooming around the edge of the field.  With a quick glance to make sure Charlie was still high-fiving Remus, Harry shot off in the direction of the Snitch.  Charlie was not so green, however, and shot after Harry, easily catching up and making it a neck and neck race.  It only hit the other players what was happening just as Dean scored a goal, and James cried out in a panic, “Harry, don’t!”
 

But it was too late—a hand had already closed on the walnut-sized gold ball, as both men swerved to avoid a tree.
 

Harry’s pleasure was short lived, however, as he glanced at the score Hermione had diligently been keeping, and realized belatedly that Charlie’s team had won by 10 points, thanks to Dean’s last score.  “Wonderful flying, Harry.  Honestly, you’re a fantastic Seeker,” Charlie encouraged, trying to wipe the glum look off of Harry’s face.

 
“Thanks Charlie, but I’d say you’ve still got your skills as well.  You caught up to me pretty quick,” Harry replied, appreciating Charlie’s effort to cheer him up.

 
“Well, when you work with dragons every day, you have to learn to be quick, or you won’t last,” Charlie answered with a grin.  Harry responded with his own smile.

 
“Good game, Harry.  You’re going to kill them in Quidditch this year,” Dean congratulated. 

 
Hands were shaken and people were patted on the back, as the others caught up to where Harry and Charlie had landed.  The sun was making its descent in the sky now, slowly sinking lower and lower, casting and orange and gold light over everyone.
 

“Great job, mate.  Sorry I couldn’t stop any more Quaffles,” Ron mumbled, his pink ears betraying his shame.
 

“Remus, didn’t know you still had it in you, old boy,” Sirius laughed, clapping his best friend on the back.
 

“Well, one of us still has to be good at Quidditch,” Remus joked, giving James a playful shove. 
 

“Yeah, yeah.  Well you weren’t the one avoiding Tonks’ ill-aimed Bludgers, were you?” James shot back, though his lips were turned up in a smile.
 

“She’s got a good arm, doesn’t she?” George approved, flashing a grin at Tonks.  She smiled in an embarrassed sort of way.
 

“Dinner!” called Mrs. Weasley.
 

The players all shuffled inside, the aroma of pot roast, potatoes and soup invading their noses, and making their stomachs growl.  “They have got to be the two best cooks on the planet,” Ron commented, eyes following his mother and Lily as they levitated their food out of the kitchen and onto the table.
 

Family and friends gathered around the magically enlarged table that was set out in the yard, clearly the work of Dumbledore.  There were little baubles floating in the air, candles within each one, casting a soft light around the area.  Above them hung a red banner, with “Happy 17th Birthday, Harry” set in gold, once again the work of Dumbledore.  As a final touch, Albus had conjured comfortably padded chairs and placed them around the table, making Harry’s into a throne, to the come-of-age wizard’s amusement. 
 

Potato soup, mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, steamed vegetables and pot roast adorned the table, setting more than one mouth salivating.  Before anyone could get too settled, however, a loud clatter in the kitchen alerted the diners to another guest.  “Sorry I’m late—had a bit ‘o trouble getting the Krupps all rounded up,” Hagrid explained, placing himself in the enlarged chair clearly meant for him.
 

Ron had no reservations about taking seconds, nor did Seamus or the twins for that matter.  The first was locked in another battle with Dean over the importance of football (or lack of importance in Ron’s view), while the latter were discussing tales of mischief with James and Sirius.  Mr. Weasley was engrossed in a deep conversation with Lily, who was explaining to him exactly how a toaster worked, while Hermione and Bill were discussing different curses of the ancient Egyptians.  Harry looked around at the table, all his family and friends chatting and enjoying themselves, and smiled.  It was so perfect, a holiday from real, if you would.
 

For dessert Molly had baked a large yellow cake covered in chocolate icing and “Happy Birthday Harry!” written in green.  It was sliced and served, Harry having had a bit of trouble blowing out one little candle, to which he discovered Fred and George had been re-igniting just as he blew it, and the guests lounged back to talk more intimately and enjoy their cake.  Harry couldn’t stop grinning as he glanced around at them all; he couldn’t believe how lucky he was.  He had tried to make a wish before blowing out his candles, but found himself incapable of wanting anything more than he already had.
 

Everyone was still enjoying himself or herself, and Harry was sure Ron and Hermione, perhaps even Remus and Sirius would stay the night, and so Harry crept away to sit under his favorite tree.  The ground was warm and the air was thick with the mixed fragrances of the numerous flowers his mother grew around the house.  The sky was splattered with stars, some brighter than others, but all twinkling merrily, as if in accord with Harry’s feelings.  It was perfect, absolutely and completely.  Harry never thought he’d been so happy, so content, in his whole life.

 
“Harry?”

 
It was his favorite voice, ever, soft, but bold and, of course, loving.  He would know it anywhere; he had dreamt of it often enough.  Harry knew that sometimes, late at night, his mother would still sneak into his room to sing him a lullaby.  Yes, it was definitely Harry’s favorite voice.  Lily sat down beside him and stared up at the stars with Harry.

 
“I wish summer would never have to end.  I wish today would never end,” Harry told his mom.

 
She just smiled and put her hand over Harry’s.  It was so soft and warm, a delicate ivory in juxtaposition with his tan skin.  Yet there was something nagging at Harry, something pulling at the end of his mind.  Quickly Harry looked up, just wanting to see his mother’s face again, to make sure.

 
And the long waves of red hair were still there, the pale skin and smiling mouth.  But her eyes were different.  They weren’t the sparkling emeralds Harry knew both he and his mother shared, but a warm shade of hazel, and freckles too.  A face that was too young to be his mothers.

 
“Harry, I think you fell asleep,” Ginny told him gently.
 

Ginny.  He was at the Burrow, and Ginny was tugging his hand, trying to get him up, but Harry shook his head.  “I’d like to stay here a while.”  And Harry couldn’t control that burst of emotion, the sadness that rose up through him and escaped as a strangled sob when he heard Ginny close the door in the distance.
 

It had all been so perfect, so very right; and it had all been a fantasy.  After all, James was dead, Sirius was dead, and Lily, his mom, she was dead too.  A sudden idea burst through Harry’s better judgment, and he had half a mind to go back to the twins and buy a whole box of those purple gumballs, yet just as quickly as his recklessness took over him, another part of him told him no; he knew he would not be able to handle the crash back to reality.  The product was no doubt perfect, phenomenal and genius, but it came with a price as well; and for Harry this price was too cruel, too high to pay.


Harry closed his eyes and lay back down on the ground.  It was still warm, and Mrs. Weasley’s flowers gave off a similar aroma, but there was no happy chatter in the background, and no warmth next to him, only a dull ache in Harry’s heart.  He lay there for a few moments, willing himself slip away into his fantasy once again, and Harry was sure that, when he opened his eyes to stare up at that vast sea of stars, they’d be the same ones he had just been gazing at with Lily.      


A/N: More of the usual craziness.  Thanks to SwissMiss at TDA for the gorgeous chapter image!!

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