You are viewing a story from

The Road Home by Harry_Potter_Mom

Format: Novel
Chapters: 23
Word Count: 89,967

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Mild Language, Strong Violence, Substance Use or Abuse, Sensitive Topic/Issue/Theme

Genres: General, Mystery, AU
Characters: Harry, Ron, Hermione, Molly, Ginny, Hugo, Rose, OC

First Published: 02/01/2008
Last Chapter: 08/28/2008
Last Updated: 04/26/2009


2008 Dobby Award Winner for Best Mystery/Suspense, Most Memorable Scene, and Best New Author
Finalist for Most Original Character  ||  Amazing banner by NevillesSoulmate

Caught between two worlds - the girl she once was and the witch she is becoming...
Can Hermione help solve the mystery of this young girl before the magic she carries consumes her?
A decision must be made - will Nyah live without magic or die with it?

Chapter 1: Running Late ... Again
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Chapter 1 - Running Late... Again

The tingling sensation had taken over again… pulling her further and further from the Stewart Manor… bidding her to let go. Nyah fought it, attempting to sleep without dreaming… afraid of what lurked there. It was unrelenting, calling her, as her body shook in protest – and then – the scream and darkness reigned once more…

The little attic door burst open, sending dust and papers flying about, and ten year-old Nyah promptly fell straight out of bed onto the hard wooden floor with a loud ‘plop’.

“I’m up, I’m up – really,” Nyah grumbled to the impeccably sparkling trainers staring at her. She attempted to push her hair out of her eyes, but it persisted, making a dark curtain to cover her face from the light spilling into the room.

A soft, but irritated voice rang down, “You’re quite late, actually.” The trainers turned back towards the door, with one more announcement, “Mother says you have five minutes and then she’ll come for you herself… now, hurry!”

Beams of light had just begun to peek through the dirty attic window. Although she wanted to wake up, Nyah’s eyes felt like someone had poured sawdust in them and they screamed in protest at her attempts to get up and going. To add insult to injury, her head was overflowing with names, places, words, and ideas that while seemingly so familiar, meant nothing but another headache.

“Come on, Nyah!” she mumbled, pulling herself off the floor. “Why, oh why didn’t I take my medicine last night?”

The morning sun was just to the top of trees … Nyah was now ‘officially’ late. She jumped from the cot and dressed quickly in her blue and white uniform for school. Grabbing her jacket and not bothering to stop and tie up her trainers, she ran down the steps as fast as she could, thankful that the cold marble stone concealed the sound. Mother never approved of running in the house, but Nyah was desperate not to draw attention for being late, again.

Anna and Alexander, the twins, were at the front door, waiting with Mother, their schoolbags in hand. Alexander snickered as Nyah came into view, while Anna scolded him. Mother, however, simply eyed Nyah coldly…

Mother, a name that was usually given to a warm, loving, caring person … but in the Stewart Manor, the name Mother was more of a title assigned to the person who now stood impatiently at the door. She was dressed impeccably with her over-processed straw-blond hair pulled into a tight bun, her makeup plastered, and her daytime cashmere olive-colored suit with matching gloves and shoes.

“Pricilla, please do try and be on time for once. Not everyone appreciates having to wait, while you sleep your morning away. And do something with your hair!” Mother hissed, looking down her nose at the small girl.

Nyah, or Pricilla, as Mother had called her, hung her head and said, “Yes, Mother.”

Pricilla … the name itself made one pucker and wince all at the same time, especially the way Mother would say it. Although Pricilla was her given name, ‘Nyah’ is what everyone else called her. She certainly did not look like a ‘Pricilla’. However, no one argued with Mother, ever, so Nyah answered to her Christian name like a good girl.

Nyah turned and walked to the small loo in the front hall to do something with her hair as Mother asked. Painfully aware of her straight, black, unkempt hair, Nyah attempted to smooth out the mop. Looking in the large oval mirror, she begged her reflection to cooperate just this once, but as always, the freckle-faced, dark-haired girl’s hair continued to be a tangled mess. Mother would not be pleased, not that she ever was; at least not with Nyah.

Anna set her things by the door and called to her mother who was walking Alexander to the car, “I’ll be just a moment.”

“Do hurry dear; you know how Alexander hates to be late,” replied Mother.

Anna rolled her eyes as she walked down the front hall to check on Nyah. Alexander couldn't care less about being late … the only thing he cared about was impressing Mother and making everyone else’s life miserable.

Anna was a couple of years older than Nyah, and as Mother insisted, Anna stood with perfect posture. Blond curls framed Anna’s porcelain skin effortlessly, her dark brown eyes filled with concentration. Taking the comb from Nyah, Anna managed to pull Nyah’s hair into an acceptable ponytail within moments.

With a quick ‘thanks’, Nyah grabbed her schoolbags and dashed towards the door, but Anna, however, remained steadfast in the hall.

“Anna, come on!”

With a glance towards the kitchen, Anna asked, “What about these?” pointing to the tray of medications on the kitchen counter. “You know she’ll count them.”

Anna was right, Mother always counted Nyah’s medicine to make sure she had actually taken it. If Mother found out that she hadn’t, there was always a significant punishment.

As if that moment stretched out to infinity, all the reasons to take her medicine played in Nyah’s head … but there were so many reasons not to.

With a sigh of defeat, Nyah moved to grab her daily dose of mind-numbing pills when an all-to-familiar sound filled her ears: “Nyah … Anna … late, late, late. Go, now!” Mrs. Cleary, the housekeeper, shooed the girls out of the kitchen after a quick hug to each of them.

“But …” began Nyah.

“No buts today, Nyah, shoo!”  

The girls ran to the car, hoping Mother wouldn’t be too angry. 

Nyah’s dreams continued to haunt her well into the school day. None of it makes sense, though it never does, she thought, but there must be some connection – fireplaces, cars, and brooms – or was it a mop? 

Catching Nyah in a moment of daydreaming during school, her professor yelled “Ms. Stewart! You will pay attention in my class!”

Nyah quickly apologized to Mr. Blakley and moved her eyes from the playground outside back to the blank paper sitting on her desk.

It was very difficult to pay attention today as there were less than two weeks until summer holiday, and the small, cramped, science classroom seemed to sense the anticipation.

Pulling a stray strand of hair out of her eyes, Nyah hurriedly scribbled down the last bit of formula to ready herself for the science test. The rest of the class time was spent reading and formatting an answer … another question … another answer. Nyah’s head began to buzz with all the unanswered questions in her head. She massaged her temples and told herself to concentrate, silently cursing herself for not taking her medicine this morning. 

Science was not Nyah’s best subject, but this was the biggest test of the quarter and she couldn’t mess this up. She was struggling with the last equation and angrily muttered ‘finish’.

As if the paper had been purposely waiting for Nyah to ask, the answer popped on the paper. More confused than ever, Nyah looked down at her test sheet. It was there, the answer … the explanation … everything. Nyah glanced around the room. Did anyone else see that? 
A strange, familiar, tingling, tugging sensation was taking over Nyah … as if a magical part of her mind had been asleep and was starting to wake up, just like she felt during her dreams. That was silly, Nyah told herself; there’s no such thing as magic. 

“There’s no such thing as magic!” … Mother and Alexander reminded her of that often. When she was five, and the funny man in the painting that hung in the front hall started singing Christmas carols, Nyah was fascinated, and sang and danced along with the songs. Alexander, who had just turned seven, ran off to tell Mother and Father that Nyah had ‘broke’ the painting. Father was furious and sent Nyah directly to her room after she had declared that it was Christmas magic and she hadn’t broken anything. The painting was gone by the next morning.

Then, there was the time that her teachers phoned Mother and asked for a conference to discuss the pictures Nyah was drawing in class … a flying broomstick, witches, giants and most worrisome … horribly disfigured creatures with the head of the bird and the body of a horse. According to the school counselor, only a very disturbed child would draw these things. However, Nyah seemed like a very cheerful child and loved her drawings. It didn’t concern her at all that she could see things the rest of her family could not. She also thought it great fun that odd things tended to happen when she got really upset, especially with Alexander.

She hadn’t meant to cause blue spots to pop on his face. Mother had accused her of drawing on him, but Nyah didn’t even have a blue marker … she was just very upset that he had, on purpose, pushed the party cake from her eighth birthday onto the floor. That was the first, and last, party that Nyah had … thanks to Alexander. The spots went away without seeing a doctor, but it took several days and Nyah was punished severely, although she had never laid a finger on him!

That’s when the doctor visits started. At first, it was for what Mother and Father called ‘foolish nonsense’ and ‘psychotic tendencies’, whatever that was. That doctor gave Mother and Father a medicine that he said would ‘set her right’. 

Next was the doctor for bad dreams, as Nyah was not allowed to dream and get ‘crazy notions’ about flying and other oddities; that doctor’s solution was a medicine for a dreamless sleep.

After that, Mother and Father took Nyah to a doctor for her ‘unusual tendencies’ when angered, and went home with a ‘happy pill’, which unbeknownst to Father, Mother took for herself.

When all of these medicines started working, it left Nyah feeling rather disconnected from her own body. She found that life without the medicine was much more interesting than her life with the medication, but according to Mother and Father, it was not a life Nyah was to lead.

However, there would be a few days, here and there, that Nyah would be without her medications. Those were wonderful days filled with a clear mind, great mischief, and even some happy moments.

Nyah was brought back to the present at the insistence of Nicole, the girl who sat in front of Nyah in science class. “Your paper, I need it.” Nyah quickly wrote her name at the top and handed the sheet to Nicole.

“Very good class,” Mr. Blakley began as he collected the test papers, “I will be grading these soon, and you will have your final grades next week, just before school holiday. I do hope these scores are better than last term's. I do not want you to have to repeat this class.” And with that, he stared in Nyah’s direction.

Nyah felt her face flare hot. It wasn’t her fault that the frogs they had begun to examine had escaped and jumped into her knapsack. Nor was it her fault that the lab experiment caused Mr. Blakley to laugh … for three days straight. In addition, no one could ever figure out how during class, his trash can ended up on his desk, upside down, as grades were handed out. Mr. Blakley accused Nyah immediately, but with the reassurance from the class that she had not moved from her seat, he didn’t punish her.

Needless to say, Mr. Blakley was anxious for Nyah to pass his class. As if her classmates had stories to share, the room filled with not-so-quiet whispers.

Finally, the bell rang, signaling the class to move on in their day. Nyah jumped up from her desk, glad to be free from science and made for the door, headed to one of her favorite rooms … the lunchroom.

She met up with her friends, Emma and Abbey, and they walked together to the café. They quickly took her mind off the science test with endless chatter of cake and presents. Emma’s eleventh birthday was coming up that very weekend and she had asked her two friends to come for a sleep over party.

“Well, did you ask? Are you coming?” Emma asked, looking between Nyah and Abbey, “because if you’re not, I’m going to have to kill you! This is going to be the best birthday party sleep over and it just won’t be the same if you’re not there. Please, please, please …”

Laughing, Abbey yelled, “OK, Em, give it a rest!” Abbey was a definite; her parents were going out of town that day and needed someone to keep Abbey anyway, so it worked out well.

Both the girls turned to look at Nyah just as they entered the café. All sorts of sounds and smells hit Nyah’s senses as they walked in.

“Yum … I smell pizza,” Nyah said, heading for the long line of hungry kids.

“Quit thinking with your stomach,” Abbey scolded, “and answer … did you ask your parents? Are you coming?”

“Of course,” Nyah said, lying to her friends as she got in line, “I just have to be really, really, really good between now and Friday.” Nyah felt sure that if she didn’t disturb anyone or anything, Mother and Father would allow one night away from the house. Not that they ever had, but Nyah prayed this would be the first … she couldn’t let Emma down. Besides, it’s not as if they would miss her. The small attic room was so far removed from the bedrooms in the main part of the house that no one would even notice if she were gone. With a small smile creeping across her face, Nyah knew exactly what she needed to do … 

Author's Note:  Thanks for starting this journey with me!  I'd love to know what you think.  You can leave a review below... :-)

Chapter 2: The Fury Within
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Chapter image by the very talented norbert1175 ~ thank you!

Chapter 2 - The Fury Within

Nyah nervously walked to the large study on the main level of the Stewart Manor. The white marble floors were impeccably kept by the staff. Large pots of green ferns were tucked into the corners and there were famous paintings on the walls of the incredibly wide hall leading to the study. 

She marched boldly to the double-doors of the study, and glanced at the full-length mirror that Father insisted be placed just outside the door. He said that first impressions are vital and a mirror would show you what you need to fix before making an entrance.  Nyah looked at herself for a moment. She had chosen to wear her most uncomfortable brown trousers (which she was sure meant that Mother had chosen them for her) and a simple, white blouse with a small stain on the front from lunch. Her hair was down, but combed … besides, Father never said anything bad about her hair.

Turning back to face the door, she knocked twice.

“Come in,” answered Father.

Nyah opened the door cautiously, and stepped inside. She took in the enormous oval room. Mother had decorated in golds, blacks, and whites. Nothing in the room was ever permitted to be out of place; what would his associates think? There were statues, filing cabinets, and something called a bar, but Nyah knew all of that was off limits. There were also photos scattered here and there; happy faces looked back at her as she stared at one particular picture she had never noticed before. It must have been the twins’ birthday party as they were all done up in hats and special clothes. They didn’t look very old, maybe six or seven. Everyone was smiling and Mother looked especially beautiful; she was laughing and seemed really, really happy.

Nyah could barely see Father for the large, brown, leather chairs in front of the desk. She had to lean over to one side to see him properly, and she knew not to be so rude as to take a seat without Father offering it first. He was sitting at his huge cherry desk with his head buried in papers; his eyes scowled in concentration.

Those must be very important papers, thought Nyah. Finally, a small shuffle of her feet brought his attention to her.

“Ah, Nyah! Come in and sit down,” he said with a smile.

“Are you busy, Father?” she asked, taking a seat.

With a small twinkle in his eye, he said, “I could use a bit of a distraction. So, what did you have on your mind?” He took off his glasses, and leaned in, looking at the small girl sitting in the chair and laughed, “The last time you visited my office, if I remember correctly, I believe you asked if you could have a pet dragon … to which I said no.”

Nyah fidgeted in the tall, leather chair … her feet swinging under her.

“You see, Father, there is something I’d like to do today, but I need your permission.” Just say it quickly, Nyah, and get it out, she told herself. “My friend, Emma … well, her parents are giving her a birthday party, and I would like to go … um … please,” she blurted out.

Father’s gaze never left Nyah’s face. He was staring a hole straight through her; it wasn’t anger, or indifference … it was like he was really looking at her … almost down to her soul. He took off his glasses and sat back in his chair. Nyah felt her shoulders sink a little. She knew he was going to say no … she just knew it.

But instead, he said, “Tell me about this girl and her parents. What does her father do?”

Nyah beamed … he was listening … it was working. “Well, her father’s name is William Masterson and he works …” SLAM!

“Pricilla! What are you doing bothering your father while he is trying to work? You know this office is off limits, now go!”  

Mother … why did Mother have to choose this moment to come in? She hates this office …

“Out - go on. Mrs. Cleary is in the garden. You may go and help her with … well … whatever it is she does out there,” Mother snapped.

“But I was telling Father about …” Nyah started.

“Nyah was telling me about her friend …” Father said, glancing in Nyah's direction.

“Emma,” Nyah added softly.

“Ah yes, Emma,” he continued, “and how she is having a birthday party and would like our Nyah to join them.”

Mother’s face turned three shades of red and finally landed on a rather nasty-appearing scarlet color that did nothing for her. She looked at Father and said, “She may not attend any parties, Robert, you know that. What will people think when she starts acting up or worse, has one of her ‘spells’? Think of our reputations, the gossip … your job!”

Well, that did it. Father sat up straighter in his chair and the smile faded from his face.

“I suppose your mother is right, Nyah. I wasn’t thinking of it … in that light,” he said, glancing at his wife.

“But Father, I’ve been perfect all week. Not one bad thing has happened. I’ve even taken my medicine without anyone having to remind me.” Nyah could feel the anger rising as she pleaded with her Father, “Please, just this once. I promise I’ll be extra, extra careful and …”

But she was cut off by Mother’s awful ear-splitting laugh … “Careful? Is that what you call knocking over the vase of roses in the front room, or tripping Cook as the soup was served? Or how about spilling coffee all over my new suit this morning … was that careful?”

“Catherine, please, she may be a little clumsy, but that’s not unusual. Anna and Alexander went through their clumsy phase at about her age, didn’t they?” Father replied.

Nyah looked at her father with as much love and thanks as she could without Mother seeing her. He passed a quick wink her way before turning back to Mother.

Her face was set and rigid, but her right foot was tap, tap, tapping on the polished marble. “She is not going and that’s final. Anna and Alexander were raised with proper etiquette from birth and have never been a bother to anyone. Pricilla was a lost cause from the moment she was dropped off …” Mother’s hand flew to her mouth, but quickly gathered herself and clasped her hands in front of her with her mouth set rigid.

“What do you mean ‘dropped off’?” Nyah asked, the tingling sensation spreading up her legs and through her body. She looked from Mother to Father. “What is she talking about ‘dropped off’?”

Robert looked at his daughter as pain replaced the playfulness. Nyah’s stomach was doing something weird … it was like butterflies … only they were huge and as anxious as Nyah.

“Would someone tell me?” Nyah asked once again.

“Catherine, she’s ten years old now … she should know.”

Mother stood stoic and refused to look at Nyah or even Father.

“Nyah,” Father began, laying his hands on the desk and looking at the young girl…

“No! You mustn’t!” Mother screamed.

“I want to know!” Nyah added, a little louder than she meant to.

“You will not raise your voice to me. You see … you see what she means by ‘perfect’ don’t you?” Mother exclaimed to Father. “Besides, nothing can be mentioned about ‘that’,” Mother said quietly, “until her birthday. Not before. We aren’t allowed.”

Nyah looked between Mother and Father, feeling quite confused and angry.

“Tell me what is going on!” Nyah yelled, but this time she didn’t care how loud she was.

“Nyah, calm down.”

Nyah heard Father, but she wasn’t listening. She was standing now, staring at Mother, insisting on answers.

“What does any of this have to do with my birthday … it’s not for another two weeks!” Nyah insisted.

Mother answered with silence, as she studied her nails in an attempt to ignore the young girl’s demands.

“Tell me NOW!” Nyah exploded and stomped her foot. In an instant, the papers on Father’s desk went flying … not just up in the air and down to the floor … no, they were flying, literally, in circles around Nyah’s head, spinning faster and faster. This was it … there was no stopping it and she knew it. Rarely, had she allowed herself to go this far, but it felt good … too good. Nyah’s hair began flying in all directions, whipped by the wind that the papers were creating. Her eyes set coldly on her mother …

“You will not know about this or anything else until I say so,” her mother screamed over the sound of the papers, “and you are not permitted to leave this house … in fact, you are grounded to your room for the entire weekend. Your meals will be brought to you … now go!” Mother yelled, pointing to the door.

Fine!” Nyah cried as she left the room, the papers in full pursuit. They trailed off, hitting the walls and the floor as Nyah ran to her room passing by the kitchen.

Mrs. Cleary had just come in from the garden with her arms full of vegetables. “Nyah, dear, what’s the matter?” she called as Nyah ran crying by her.

The vase near the stairs exploded as the young girl ran past. The flames in the fire, feeling the tension, sprang to full height, threatening to burst out of their confinement.

Mrs. Cleary set the vegetables in the sink with a heavy sigh, knowing the little girl was hurting, and wishing she knew how to help.

Just then, Anna walked in from the stables. Seeing the mess, she knew it was Nyah and worried about what had set her sister into such a fit. Anna immediately began helping by gathering Father’s papers as Mrs. Cleary had already set about sweeping up the vase.

“Anna, darling” Mother called to her, suddenly appearing in the kitchen, “did you enjoy your ride today?”

“Yes, the ride was lovely, except Alexander refused to jump; he wanted to do the barrels instead.” Anna replied. “Mother, where’s Nyah?” Anna saw her mother turn and watch Mrs. Cleary sweeping, as though nothing abnormal was going on. “Mother?”

“She’s in her room, where she will stay,” her mother quietly hissed, leaving the room.

Anna and Mrs. Cleary exchanged concerned looks. “I’ll take those dear,” as she reached for the papers, “you go tend to your sister.” Anna silently thanked Mrs. Cleary, and as quickly and quietly as she could, Anna made her way to Nyah’s room.

Nyah had stomped up the three flights of stairs to the attic and slammed the door. She threw herself on the bed and burst into tears. Moments later, a soft knock and slow creak of Nyah’s door quietly announced Anna’s arrival.

Nyah loved her big sister, as she alone was able to calm the monster within Nyah and set things right.

She felt the weight of Anna’s small frame sit gingerly on the bed and place her warm, soothing hands on Nyah’s back. Anna never asked her to stop crying … she didn’t even ask for an explanation … she simply was there, for Nyah.  Why couldn’t Mother be more like Anna? Nyah thought.

After gathering herself, Nyah sat up on the bed next to Anna. With puffy, red eyes and hurt and frustration in her voice, she cried to Anna, “Why does she hate me so much? I did everything right this week.”

The tears started flowing again … “I did my schoolwork, I didn’t turn Alexander into a toad - even though he deserved it, I did my chores, I helped in the yard, I kept my elbows off the table at dinner … I even pulled my hair up in a bun!”

As Nyah talked, she got louder and louder … and with each word, the bed shook and the window rattled. Years of dust sprang up from between the floorboards. Anna looked from the door and window to Nyah as she sat with her hands clenched and her face was scowled in frustration.

“Nyah,” Anna yelled, “stop!”

Nyah opened her eyes and looked at her sister. Anna was visibly shaken and afraid.

“Anna, I’m sorry .. I .. I didn’t mean to … Anna, please.” Anna had gotten up and was standing at the door.

“I can’t talk to you when you go off like that ..” Anna announced as she turned and looked at her sister, “Promise you’ll stop.”

“I promise,” said Nyah.

Anna came and sat on the bed again and the girls leaned on each other. When Anna knew that Nyah was well and calm, she asked, “What did happen with Mother and Father?”

Nyah sat up and looked at her hands. She was still angry, but now very embarrassed at how she had behaved. “Well,” Nyah began, “you see, I have this friend at school named Emma. Her eleventh birthday is coming up and she’s asked me to the party.”

“That’s wonderful!” said Anna.

“Not so wonderful,” Nyah continued, “Mother and Father have never let me go to parties and especially overnight parties. I know it has a lot to do with my medications ..”

“Or technically what happens when you don’t take your medication,” Anna interjected.

Laughing, Nyah continued. “Yes, exactly. So I thought that if I was good … really, really, fantastically good, they’d let me go this one time.”

“So that’s what all the properness and lovely attitude this week was about … I see,” grinned Anna. “I thought they had given you too much medication!”

The girls giggled, and then Nyah’s face went into a frown … “The party is tonight, you see, so I went to Father first, in his study. I thought if he said ‘yes’ then Mother would have to say ‘yes’ as well.”

Nyah took a deep, calming breath, as she thought back to what had happened earlier that day … Anna sat listening, intently.

Once Nyah was finished telling Anna about her meeting with Father in the office, the girls sat in silence on the bed. Nyah was exhausted from crying and although talking to Anna helped, it made her even more tired. Dusk was approaching, which meant it was nearly dinnertime.

“It’s just me, dearies.”  The cheery voice of Mrs. Cleary rang through the door after a small knock.

Anna stood and opened the door, allowing her entrance into the already cramped space. “I thought you two might want a snack,” the kind housekeeper said, setting down a tray of tiny sandwiches, a couple of apples, and bottled water; all of Nyah’s favorite things.

“Nyah, dear …” Mrs. Cleary whispered to Nyah, “I’m here if you need me.” She patted Nyah’s cheek, and turned to leave.

Nyah stood and spoke to her, “Mrs. Cleary … thank you … for everything.”

Sniffing in her tissue, Mrs. Cleary took Nyah into her arms and hugged her. Nyah felt really safe … and, for the first time since she could remember, she felt loved.

Author's Notes:  This is a newly-revised version of this chapter... If you haven't left a review before, please consider telling me what you think.  If you read the old version and have suggestions about the new one - please pm me!  I'd love to hear from you!

Chapter 3: What Are Friends For?
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Chapter image by the amazing norbert1175 ~ thank you!

Chapter 3 - What Are Friends For?

Anna and Nyah sat and nibbled on the snacks that Mrs. Clearly had brought up to the attic room … they chit-chatted about school and boys and friends. Nyah sat and soaked it all in, loving these moments with her big sister.

Anna had always been there … she cheered her up when things didn’t go well, bandaged her up the many times she got hurt, taught her about ‘girly’ stuff like hair and makeup, but more importantly, she accepted Nyah exactly the way she was.

The girls had sat and talked all the way through dinnertime. Mother hadn’t sent for Anna, although the girls were sure Mother knew where she was.

Nyah hadn’t pressed Anna for any details about what Mother had said. She probably doesn’t even know anything, so why bother? Nyah thought. She wasn’t sure she had even heard Mother correctly. How could someone be ‘dropped off’ and why? It was very confusing …

The conversation eventually led to Anna and Alexander’s upcoming 13th birthday party next weekend. Mother always threw a huge party. This year, the theme was horses, so there was going to be pony rides, special trick riders coming in, cowboy hats for all the guests - all 100 of them - and the party planner guaranteed a lot of surprises for not only the birthday boy and girl, but for the guests as well. Alexander had put his order in for a rodeo, but was told that may not happen.

Nyah had already been warned by not only Mother, but the party planner as well, to stay out of the way during the event. If she were to cause any problems, or draw attention to herself, she’d be removed and spend the rest of the time in the attic.

The attic … always the attic … little did they realize that it was in the attic that Nyah felt most comfortable. She had always felt uncomfortable in the posh, pristine household and never understood why ... but in the attic, she was home.

“Have you decided what you want to do for your birthday?” Anna asked, interrupting Nyah’s thoughts.

“No, I haven’t really thought about it.” That wasn’t exactly true, but it really didn’t matter … Nyah received whatever Mother deemed her worthy of that day, which was usually not much.

Nyah’s birthday fell exactly one week after Anna and Alexander’s. She was never offered a large-scale party and gifts like the twins, but she didn’t mind; at least that’s what she told herself. A friend of Nyah's choice would be invited for dinner, followed by a small cake and gifts. Mother said that she was much too tired to throw parties back-to-back, plus it was bad manners to ask people to come twice.

Nyah’s thoughts turned to Emma and her party … she was supposed to be there by now. Emma probably thought Nyah wasn’t coming. She hated letting one of her best friends down … so, she knew exactly what she needed to do. She got up and started looking through her room for the travel sack that Anna had given her for Christmas two years ago. Nyah had never gone anywhere, so had never had a chance to use it, and ended up stashing it on one of the rafters above her bed. After some jumping to reach it, she laid the nearly-new bag on the floor. Then she stood with her hand on her hip, thinking hard.

“What are you doing?” Anna asked.

“I need to pack,” Nyah offered simply, with a shrug of her shoulders. She grabbed a change of clothes, her pyjamas, and her favorite stuffed animal; a white snowy owl she had had since she was a baby.

“Pack? She didn’t kick you out - she just grounded you!” Anna blurted, getting to her feet. “You can’t leave.”

Nyah laughed at her sister. “I’m not leaving, leaving - I’m going to a party,” she said mischievously, as she went to the bathroom to grab her toiletries.

“Party - you mean your friend’s party - the party that’s tonight? Are you crazy?” Anna exclaimed, grabbing Nyah by the shoulders.

Nyah shook off her sister and continued to pack.

“She’ll know. You know she’ll find out, and then you’ll be in even bigger trouble. Nyah, please … don’t do this.” Anna was nearly begging as she followed Nyah, but Nyah was determined.

She calmly said, “Anna, I made a promise to my friend, and I need to be there. Are you going to sit there or are you going to help me pack?”

Anna stared at her little sister, trying to grasp what Nyah had just said. “I’ve never been to a party,” Nyah admitted, “let alone an overnight party. Will you help me? I want to make a good impression and I need to make sure I have what I need.” Nyah looked at her sister with a small pout, and knew by the smile she received back that Anna was on her side.

With a sigh of defeat, Anna said, “Well, it looks like you’ve got the basics, which is fine. All you need now is her gift.”

Nyah gasped … a gift … “Great! I can’t go to a party without taking a gift! What was I thinking?” she muttered.

“Don’t worry,” Anna answered with a huge smile, “I’ll be back as soon as I can. Whatever you do, don’t leave yet!”  She signaled for Nyah to stay put.

Nyah happily sat on her bed and looked around. This little attic room had been her home for nearly four years now. Nyah remembered her old room, back on the second floor, near Anna and Alexander’s rooms. It was a large, ornate room, devoid of any colorful items, as Mother said these things would distract from the overall feel of the room. So all of Nyah’s drawings, pictures, and the occasional toy were hidden … in the attic. Every afternoon, as soon as she got home and did her schoolwork, plus any chores she had, Nyah would sneak to the attic and play. She stayed in the dusty attic more than anywhere else. Mother knew where to find her, if Nyah was even missed, which rarely happened. Mostly, it was when Anna or Father asked about her.

Then, there were the dreams … nightmares really. Before Nyah’s many medications, the nightmares happened often, sometimes every night. Nyah would wake up screaming. They had been happening as long as Nyah could remember … mostly it was just jumbled words or thoughts … but there were times where she could almost see them … the people in the car. There was a woman who was singing and a man who was driving and then … something bad happened, but Nyah couldn’t remember what it was … but the woman started screaming.

When she was little, Nyah would wake up calling for her ‘Mum’. Mother, or more often, Anna, would come in. Anna would climb into bed with her, calling ‘shhh’ or ‘it will be okay’. Mother would say ‘enough with the screaming, you’ll wake your father’. But Nyah knew she wasn’t calling for Mother … she was calling for her Mum. Is that what Mother was talking about … being ‘dropped off’ … did her Mum drop her off?

Finally, the nightmares got to be too much for Nyah’s mother to deal with and she moved the little girl to the third floor; the servant’s quarters. Mother started making doctors appointments for Nyah about the same time, after a particularly unpleasant meeting with Nyah’s teacher about some of the things Nyah was talking about to her friends and the things she was drawing in class. No one believed that Nyah saw these things in her dreams. They said it was her ‘negative imagination’. Mother was determined to not allow any child in her house to have such thoughts or dreams, so the various doctors gave the then seven-year-old medication to help her sleep without nightmares. What Nyah didn’t tell them was that, while she didn’t wake up screaming like the woman in her dream anymore, she still had the dreams … she just couldn’t scream …

That was also about the time when Mrs. Cleary joined the staff at Stewart Manor as the head housekeeper. The first night at the Manor, Mother walked her through the house detailing the duties of getting the children ready for bed. When they arrived at the third floor, Mother had told Mrs. Cleary that Pricilla (Nyah) didn’t sleep well and had frequent nightmares which is why she slept up here; away from the main quarters so as not to disturb Mr. Stewart. When Mrs. Cleary asked how to comfort the little girl, Mrs. Stewart told her to simply ignore the noise, and Pricilla would eventually go back to sleep.

Later that night, long after the rest of the house was sleeping, Mrs. Cleary heard crying. She was certain it was coming from Nyah’s room, and tried to obey Mrs. Stewart’s orders and let the girl be, but the crying turned to sobbing and she could hear the little one calling for her Mum. She prayed that Mrs. Stewart would hear her and come to comfort Nyah … but no help came. After what seemed like hours to Mrs. Cleary, she heard the girl calling and calling and then, the strangest thing started to happen… the lights started flickering and there was a banging noise... and the crying continued. Mrs. Cleary couldn’t stand it any longer. Something was wrong with that little girl and if no one else was going to help her, then she would.

Nothing could have prepared Mrs. Cleary for what she saw when she opened the door to Nyah’s room. The little girl was actually hovering above her bed. Every time she cried for her Mum, the lights would flicker on-and-off, and when she cried, it caused the furniture to shake.  Mrs. Cleary let out a scream and slammed the door as the sound of quick footsteps up the stairs traveled to her ears.  

The noise in the next room had finally stopped and the lights were peaceful. Mr. Stewart was the first to step to the door of Mrs. Cleary’s room, followed closely by Mrs. Stewart. Anna and Alexander were peeking through the stair rails, not wanting to miss the excitement.

“What on earth is wrong with that child?” Mrs. Cleary demanded. “She’s thrashing about, crying, calling for her Mum and none of you bother to come? And she was floating!  Floating I tell you … above the bed!”

Mr. Stewart was successful in calming the housekeeper and assuring her that she must have been imagining things as no one in this house could float, except in the swimming pool.

Mrs. Stewart was livid. She kept thinking, “What would the neighbors say if the housekeeper starts talking about the funny things that go on here? Our reputations would be ruined!” Catherine was determined that there would be no more ‘odd moments’ anywhere near the servants.

The very next day, while Mrs. Cleary took the twins to their fitting for their birthday outfits, Mother instructed Mr. Whittaker, the old groundskeeper to move the excess boxes from one side of the attic to the other, which cleared out most of the west end of the dusty room. From there, a little bed was brought in.

Nyah watched as her clothing was taken upstairs to the attic and put in an old dresser. Mother walked Nyah into the room and told her that the servants could no longer be subjected to her nonsense and outbursts.

Here, in the attic, Mother hoped she would hopefully be far enough away not to disturb anyone, and that her ‘mood swings’ would be dealt with by the medicine. Technically, the only thing directly under her was a rarely used bathroom and none of the bedrooms on either side of it were occupied.

As soon as Mother left her alone in the attic, Nyah started to cry. She looked around the room and realized that all of her secret and wonderful things were gone. Mr. Whittaker took everything out, leaving just the bed and dresser.

After dinner was finished that evening, Nyah had her bath and made her way to the little room. She was shocked when she opened the door. All of her drawings were pinned to the walls and the low ceiling, creating a beautiful collage of bright colors. The little window had been wiped down to let some light come through. Fluffy pillows and a thick, down comforter adorned the little bed, and on a little rocker in the corner, sat her fluffy owl. There was a small, circular mirror placed on the dresser. Nyah laid on her bed feeling, for the first time, at home. She slept without a nightmare that night and many more after. Nyah never knew who the angel was that did all of that work, but she was very, very grateful. 

Nyah paced the floor, anxious to be on her way to the party. The sun was starting to set and although she had a general idea of where Emma lived, she had never actually been there. Irritation turned to worry when Anna was no where to be seen. Nyah kept opening her door, listening for tell-tale footsteps to announce Anna’s arrival.

Finally, Anna burst through the attic door, nearly frightening Nyah to death! The girls giggled as Anna handed a beautifully wrapped gift to Nyah.

“Here,” panted Anna, obviously out of breath, “Mrs. Cleary insisted on wrapping it.”

Nyah’s eyes widened in horror … “Mrs. Cleary?” exclaimed Nyah, “she knows too?”

“Well, yes and no … but more yes,” Anna muttered, shrugging her shoulders.

She turned and walked to the door, “Well, come on then. Mother is in the study arguing with Father (what a shock) so you have just enough time to get out the front door without being seen.”

Nyah was frozen on the spot. “Why are you doing all of this?” she asked Anna as she placed the gift in her suitcase.

Anna smiled and simply said, “What are friends for?” 

Anna carried the suitcase down the steps with Nyah following close behind. They had to keep an eye out for not only Mother and Father, but also for nasty little tattletale Alexander.

Once the girls reached the bottom of the steps, Anna motioned for Nyah to be very quiet as she put her finger to her lips. Anna peaked down the hall towards the kitchen. With a nod and a wink, Mrs. Cleary gave the ‘all clear’ to Anna.

Anna turned to her sister and gave her a hug. “My bicycle is just outside. That’s what took me so long. I haven’t ridden it in ages and had to dig it out. Just be careful, be back before breakfast, and … well … have a fantastic time,” she whispered to her little sister.

Nyah tiptoed to the door. She felt more alive than she ever had before. With a quick look at Anna and Mrs. Cleary, Nyah left Stewart Manor.

She hopped on Anna’s bike and secured the travel bag around her shoulders. Peddling off towards the party, she was thankful not to get caught. She got to the end of the drive and turned the bike to the right, traveling down the hill towards town.

Nothing would ruin this night … nothing, but the peering of a small boy out his bedroom window. Alexander smiled cruelly as he watched his sister sneak off in the sunset thinking of the best way to make this work to his advantage… 

The girls erupted with screams of delight when they opened the front door. “Nyah! You came!” Emma cried as she hugged her friend. “Hurry in … we’re just getting started with the fun stuff.”

“I can’t believe your parents actually let you come,” Abbey said, grabbing Nyah’s arm. “And they let you ride your bike all the way here! Blimey, my parents wouldn’t even let me walk to the door by myself.”

“I still can’t believe you’re here!" Emma exclaimed. “This is the best birthday ever!”

“Of course I’m here, I told you I would be!  Besides, what are friends for?” Nyah smiled.

Author's Notes:  I'd love to hear your thoughts on this chapter.  Please consider leaving a review in the box.  :-)  Thank you!

Chapter 4: The Hole in the Wall
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

~amazing chapter image by chiQs09 at TDA~

                                ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The girls erupted with screams of delight when they opened the front door. “Nyah! You came!” Emma cried as she hugged her friend. “Hurry in … we’re just getting started with the fun stuff.”

“I can’t believe your parents actually let you come,” Abbey said, grabbing Nyah’s arm. “And they let you ride your bike all the way here! Blimey, my parents wouldn’t even let me walk to the door by myself.”

“I still can’t believe you’re here …” squealed Emma, jumping up-and-down, unable to contain her excitement. “This is the best birthday ever!”

“Of course I’m here; I told you I would be. Besides, what are friends for?” Nyah smiled.

                                 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Chapter 4 - The Hole in the Wall
Okay … no big deal, Nyah told herself taking a deep breath. You got out without getting caught … you can get back in the same way.

Nyah hated leaving her friends the way she did, with everyone still sleeping, leaving only a note that said she had to be home by breakfast. She hoped that the girls would understand – if not, she would explain everything at school on Monday.

The ride home was dark and rather cold that early in the morning, but she didn’t care … she had had a fantastic time … there was popcorn, a movie, gossip, laughing, and endless chatter. Plus, she had gotten away with it … she actually got away with it! Nothing ‘funny’ happened either, unless you count the lights flickering when she sneezed and no one even thought anything of it!  A headache came on near bedtime, but Nyah had remembered to bring a pain pill along just in case, so once she took that, she felt much better.

Nyah rode through the grass, beside the driveway, hoping it would be quieter than the gravel next to the house. Everything was fine until the bike jolted to a sharp stop, the front wheel turning left so suddenly that Nyah’s stomach hit the handlebar and she fell … not into the soft morning grass, but into the harsh gravel. As her knee hit the stones, she let out an involuntary cry.

Pain shot down Nyah’s leg as she rolled over to assess the damage. Blood was quickly seeping through the jagged area in her trousers and she was sure there was more heading towards her sock. “Great … just great,” she muttered, blowing on the nasty cut.

Nyah hoisted herself up from the ground and gently picked up Anna’s bike. There, in front of the wheel was a rock, embedded into the ground, hiding in wait for its next bicycle victim. Nyah kicked at the rock, but it was unwilling to move. She didn’t take the time to insist, and carefully pushed the bicycle towards the garage, limping on her injured knee.

Okay, you can do this, Nyah thought, just up to the porch, through the kitchen, and up the stairs.
The house seemed to be sleeping, right along with its occupants. The sun had just started to announce its arrival to the sky with the orange, red, and yellow hues, which meant that Mrs. Cleary would be headed to the kitchen soon, so Nyah needed to move quickly. On Saturdays, Mother and Father took breakfast in their bedroom, which gave Nyah a small advantage.

Reaching the porch, Nyah punched in the code to unlock the door and was rewarded with a small ‘click’. She stepped inside and quietly shut the porch door. Glancing into the large kitchen, she was greeted with silence. Nyah made her way towards the stairs, pausing to grab an apple from the kitchen counter.

There was no sight of Mrs. Cleary, or even Mr. Whittaker, the groundskeeper, who seemed to be up before the sun every morning. Tip-toeing towards the stairs, Nyah kept reminding herself to be very quiet. She had just reached the second step when she heard something that made her blood run cold …

“Good morning, Pricilla. Out for an early morning ride?”

Nyah stood up a little straighter and turned towards the dining room to her left. There she sat, in the shadows like a cat waiting to pounce … Mother.

Nyah’s breathing became erratic. She knew she was in trouble and was desperate to think of something --- anything that might explain why she was not only up this early, but worse --- outside of her room --- outside of the house. She stared at her mother hoping beyond hope that her mother would only think she had been outside on the property.

“Where were you this morning?” Mother calmly asked.

Think Nyah … think! she screamed silently to herself, her eyes wide with fear as she saw Mother rise slowly from her seat. Think!
“I believe I asked you a question,” Mother said, as she made her way towards the stairs, touching each chair her hand met, “and you will answer me.”

“I was … I just went …,” stammered Nyah, “I, um … was outside.” The travel bag slung over her shoulders pronounced Nyah’s betrayal.

Mother was within a step or two and Nyah’s heart was beating faster and faster, as though it too, wanted to run. But Nyah was frozen to the step -- she couldn’t run -- she couldn’t move, and it was getting difficult to breathe.

Just then, a cold white hand reached over Nyah’s shoulder and tightened its grip.  She didn’t need to turn around to know who was standing behind her.

“I do believe a punishment is in order,” Mother said as her cold eyes lingered on Nyah a moment.

“Mr. Whittaker, would you be so kind as to escort Pricilla to her room? I’ll be just behind you,” Mother said to the groundskeeper as she walked towards the kitchen.

Mr. Whittaker jerked Nyah so sharply that she fell on the steps. “Now, now, dearie … wouldn’t want you to go and get hurt, now would we?” he laughed, half-dragging, half-pushing her up the stairs.

“What do you think you’re doing to that child?” a voice demanded from above.

Nyah had been watching the steps and didn’t see the housekeeper coming out of her room.

“I’m doing what the Mrs. told me to, so you best not worry about it,” the old man snapped back.

Mrs. Cleary opened her mouth to protest when Mother came up the stairs, addressing Mrs. Cleary, “Mr. Stewart was called to a very early flight as I’m sure you remember, so I will take my breakfast with the children in the breakfast room. And do remember this time, that Alexander enjoys apples and strawberries on his crepes.”

With that, she dismissed the housekeeper by a wave of her hand. “Oh, one more thing,” Mother said as Nyah continued the forced climb to her room, “Pricilla has had her breakfast and won’t require anything until afternoon.”

The last flight of stairs ended and they came to a halt in front of the little attic door.

“Open it!” demanded Mother, her voice lowered in anger.

Once inside the little room, Mr. Whittaker turned Nyah to face Mother.

Nyah had begun to cry and hadn’t even realized it until Mother insisted that she stop.

She tried to stop -- she really did -- but every deep breath brought a new torrent of hot tears.

“I said you will stop this instant!” Mother yelled as Nyah trembled in fear.

“Yes, Mother,” the girl sobbed, hanging her head.

Mother thrust her hand forward and Nyah shut her eyes and jerked in response, waiting for the first blow. When nothing happened, Nyah ventured a look. Mother was holding a glass of water … and Nyah’s medication.

“Take these now … it will make what’s coming - a little easier.”

Nyah obediently took the medicine and water -- she knew the mind-numbing medication would dull some of the punishment, but how much, she would soon find out, as Mother turned and locked the door.

                                 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Nyah lay motionless on her bed, feeling herself slip in and out of consciousness. How long had it been since Mother left her room? Nyah wasn’t sure.

The sun was already high in the sky when she heard footsteps on the stairs. She opened her mouth to speak … to call out for help … but felt the cuts on her mouth sear open, sending pain shooting through her face again. She tried to move -- something -- her hands or feet, but she was too weak -- too tired. The footsteps died away -- and they were gone.

No, there was something … whispers.
“Please don’t let it be them again,” Nyah silently cried. The salty tears burned down her cheeks and into her hair.

“Nyah,” a voice barely whispered. “Nyah, the door is locked. I don’t have a key. Nyah … Nyah, answer me please,” the voice begged.

I know that voice, Nyah said to herself as her mind wandered.

“Anna,” was all Nyah could say before losing consciousness once more.

“Oh my God, Nyah … I’m coming,” Anna answered, her voice faltering. “It’s going to be okay. I have to go find a key or something. I’ll … I’ll be right back.”

                                 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The sun had now passed the midpoint in the sky and Nyah tried to move to get relief from the glare off the attic window. She had managed to roll onto her left side, when she heard what sounded like large rats chewing through the wallboards of her room …

Now that’s silly, thought Nyah, we don’t have rats ... Mother would never allow it.
But that’s what it sounded like … something large chewing through her wall. And then, just as quickly as it started, it stopped. Nyah was certain she had been imagining it when CRACK! CRASH!
A splintered piece of wood flew past Nyah’s face as a wall board gave way near her bed, allowing entrance of a very frazzled-looking Mrs. Cleary, followed closely by Anna.

They raced to her side, and tears of concern filled their eyes. Nyah couldn’t concentrate, but she was sure Mrs. Cleary had said something to Anna, as Anna took off through the hole in the wall, leaving Mrs. Cleary alone with Nyah.

“Come, drink this,” Mrs. Cleary gently ordered the girl, pulling a small bottle from her apron pocket, “It’s going to taste like fire, but it will help.” She propped a small vial up to Nyah’s lips and poured an amber-colored liquid in her mouth.

Nyah sputtered and coughed as the concoction burned her throat going down. Within moments, Nyah’s eyes were clearer, her pain soothed, and she realized Mrs. Cleary was helping her put on a dressing gown.

Anna reappeared in the hole in the wall with an armful of towels, and in the other, a water jug. The two set about cleaning up Nyah’s wounds, each silently praying for the little girl, and cursing those who were responsible for hurting her.

Even though Nyah’s face looked horrible with one black eye and deep gashes about her cheeks and lips, it was actually her back that held the most damage. Mrs. Cleary had to send Anna for more gauze and ointment.

As soon as Anna squeezed out through the hole, Nyah felt Mrs. Cleary touch each of the spots on her back, muttering something under her breath. With each touch, Nyah whimpered in pain, and Mrs. Cleary apologized, but as soon as she was finished, Nyah felt warmth return to her body and she was able to move without as much discomfort. Mrs. Cleary helped Nyah sit up on the bed, and set about checking her over again.

When Anna returned with the ointment, she seemed puzzled at Nyah’s transformation, but was relieved to see her sister sitting up.

Anna sat gingerly on the bed while Mrs. Cleary applied ointment and gauze to Nyah’s back. Anna shared her sister’s pain by wincing every time Nyah cried out, and reaching out to hold her hand.

“I’m so sorry,” Anna finally said. Tears threatened to fall from her eyes, but she willed herself to be strong for her sister. “It was Alexander!” she blurted out. “He saw you ride away and ran straight to Mother. There was no convincing him to be quiet. She was furious … like I’ve never seen her before. I didn’t know what to do Nyah … I’m so sorry,” her eyes betraying her as the tears fell, leaving behind streaks on her otherwise beautiful face.

“It’s not your fault, Anna. It’s mine … I was selfish for going. I’m just glad neither of you got in trouble,” Nyah managed to say.

“Don’t you worry about us, dear. You just get better. Why, when your father sees what that woman did … well …” and Mrs. Cleary’s thoughts were interrupted by the sounds of a car door slamming.

Mother and Alexander were back from their shopping trip, no doubt a reward for catching Nyah.

“Quick, Anna, grab those things and put them in the east room,” ordered Mrs. Cleary.

Anna set about grabbing the towels, gauze, and ointment.

“Nyah, I’ll ask your Mother if I can bring up a plate of food for you. One way or another,” she said pointing from Nyah’s door to the hole in the wall, “we’ll get you a little something to put in your stomach. Don’t be moving about too much. You need time to heal.”

With a kiss on the top of Nyah’s head, she started for the east room. “Oh, and if you need me, you ring this.” Mrs. Cleary placed a small, delicate bell in Nyah’s hand. Nyah wondered how this tiny bell was going to get Mrs. Cleary’s attention all the way downstairs, but she didn’t question it -- she simply smiled at the gentle housekeeper -- and with that, Mrs. Cleary squeezed through the hole in the wall between Nyah’s room and the east wing of the attic. She gave a tug on the board and the broken bottom swung back into position, nearly covering the hole. Unless someone was looking at exactly the right spot, they would never notice any difference.

Nyah’s mind and body begged for rest and she happily obliged. Nyah carefully moved further down onto the bed and even though it was a warm day, she covered herself up with the thick blanket Anna had brought her and drifted off to sleep, praying she would wake up and this had all be a terrible nightmare, but grateful for the hole in the wall.

Author's Notes:  I'd love to hear your thoughts!  Please consider leaving me a note/review.  Thanks!

Chapter 5: A Destiny Revealed
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

~fantastic image by chiQs09~

Chapter 5 - A Destiny Revealed 

Four days had passed since Nyah’s ‘punishment’. She had been kept from school, as the bruises and cuts, especially on her face, could not be easily explained away.

Anna brought school work for Nyah, and Mrs. Cleary had continued to minister to Nyah’s wounds. Each day, Nyah felt markedly better, much to Mother’s dismay.

Nyah was thankful for Mrs. Cleary, as she had been able to soothe Nyah’s back pain with a simple touch. But the wounds on Nyah’s face refused to heal as well, so today, when Mrs. Cleary came in, she frowned at the remaining wounds.

“Nyah, dear,” Mrs. Cleary said, “I’m going to ask you to close your eyes while I tend to your face today.”

Mrs. Cleary had never asked her to close her eyes before, and while very curious, she did as the kind woman had asked. Nyah heard the tinkling of bottles, and then heard the mutterings Mrs. Cleary always made when she tended to Nyah’s back. Nyah felt Mrs. Cleary gently brush her face and smelled the potent medicine used. Nyah wanted to look; but instead, she squinted her eyes closed even more.

“Nyah, if you don’t let me put the medicine on, that bruise might never heal,” Mrs. Cleary gently scolded as she had misunderstood why Nyah’s eyes were closed tightly.

Just then, a loud noise could be heard downstairs … Father’s voice boomed through the house announcing his arrival home and seeking out his family. Nyah’s eyes popped open in shock and excitement. She had forgotten her promise to keep her eyes closed … and there was Mrs. Cleary … holding a curious-looking stick pointed at Nyah’s face.

“What’s that?” Nyah asked reaching out to touch the old stick as Mrs. Cleary quickly pulled it away. “Is that what you’re putting the medicine on with … a stick? Why did I need to close my eyes for that?”

Mrs. Cleary was clearly shocked and she nearly dropped everything in her hands. “Nyah, dear, why don’t you go and see your father … we’ll finish this up later.” she said, smiling, as she scooped up all of her things, including the stick, which she promptly stuck in her hair holding up her bun. Nyah had seen it a hundred times … that stick, old and grey, stuck in the housekeeper’s hair … and thought it was only there to hold up her hair.

With a shrug, Nyah got up from the bed, and opened the door to her room. She was surprised to see Alexander standing on the other side. “Mother sent me to give you a message, Scar Face.” he mocked, “You’re not to leave your room tonight. Mother will be watching.” And with that, he shoved his little sister back into her room.

“You, out!” he spat, pointing to the housekeeper. Mrs. Cleary took a last look at Nyah and walked out of the room.

At nearly 13, Alexander thought himself to be extremely important. He and Mother were so much alike, it made Nyah shudder at the tone of his voice. But once Mrs. Cleary was out of sight, Nyah got the courage to yell at her brother. “You let her be, Alexander, and don’t talk to her like that!” she said pointing a finger at him.

Alexander sneered at Nyah and took a step forward. “And what are you going to do about it?” he said, egging her on.

Nyah could feel the anger building, but Alexander wasn’t looking at her … he was peering around the little dusty room. “Filthy little pig … why don’t you go back to wherever you came from?” hardly noticing the fire in the young girl's eyes.

“Shut it, Alexander, and don’t you call me a pig, you ... you … jackass!” Nyah yelled, stomping her right foot to the floor while her fists were clenched at her sides. The pain sweeping through her body was matched only by the rage and power that was building.

Alexander opened his mouth to speak, finally looking directly at his little sister, and only managed to scream as he felt large, brown ears shoot up from the top of his head, followed by a short hairy tail poking out his backside. Then, to Alexander’s horror, his scream turned to a bray … he was in fact … a jackass.

Mrs. Cleary had not gotten far when she heard Alexander scream. She turned promptly and headed back up the steps, hoping she could get there in time. Yells from the main floor told her that Mr. & Mrs. Stewart had heard the commotion as well and were headed this way.

Mrs. Cleary rounded the bend of the last flight of steps just in time to see the tail ripping through Alexander’s pants. She barely stifled a laugh, but her humor turned to serious dismay as she heard Mrs. Stewart calling to her son. Alexander turned in horror and tried to call for his mother, but again, a bray was all that came from his mouth.

Mrs. Clearly knew there was only a moment to react. With a small flourish, she pulled her wand from her hair, pointing it at the boy, and whispered a counter-curse to Nyah’s spell. She had just enough time to stuff the wand in her apron pocket before Mr. and Mrs. Stewart came into sight. Alexander was frantic, grabbing his head and his backside, and talking ‘foolishness’ and ‘nonsense’ and pointing between Nyah and Mrs. Cleary as his mother checked him over not understanding what he was trying to tell her.

In all the confusion and chaos, no one noticed as Nyah slumped to the floor in pain.

Nyah’s eyes felt groggy. She had been dreaming again, but this time, it was a little different. The song … the song the woman sang in her dream … it was a silly, odd song “… Hoggy Warty Hogwarts, teach us something please …” and the man was laughing, a warm and wonderful laugh, begging her to sing something different. And hair … she could see hair … the woman … she had beautiful red hair. Then, the screaming and a loud THUD … that’s the way it always ended … with screaming.

Willing herself to wake up, Nyah realized she didn’t even remember going to bed, and judging from the absent sun from the sky, she knew it was very late. She started to move, when she sensed someone watching her. Nyah tried to calm her breathing, hoping that whoever was there might think she was sleeping. Tense moments passed and Nyah strained to hear something … anything.

“Nyah.” was spoke in the dark.

Nyah sat straight up looking at the source of the voice. “Mrs. Cleary … is that you?” Nyah asked reaching for her light.

“Nyah, you and I need to have a talk,” Mrs. Cleary said. She was sitting on a chair near Nyah’s window. “I know what you did to Alexander today.”

Nyah hung her head and felt her face burn in embarrassment. Mrs. Cleary went on, not looking yet at Nyah, “I just want you to know that I understand, and I can help you. But, you need to promise me that you won’t turn your brother into a donkey anymore.” She turned and looked at the young girl with a twinkle in her eye and a small smile on her face.

Nyah smiled and agreed. “What’s wrong with me?” Nyah tentatively asked. “I can feel this … this … stuff inside me, but as big as that feeling is … the pain is so much worse.”

The housekeeper’s face fell at Nyah’s statement. “Magic shouldn’t be painful, Nyah.” she whispered.

“Magic … magic … did she just say magic?” Nyah thought to herself. “Mrs. Cleary … what do you mean … magic?” With that spoken word, Nyah felt her heart give a lurch … like it was waking up from a really long sleep.

Mrs. Cleary walked over to the little bed and sat down next to Nyah. For the next few hours, Mrs. Cleary told Nyah all about witches, wizards, muggles, wands, squibs, and rules. Nyah was captivated all the way … up to the rules part. She rolled her eyes and let out an audible sigh. She wasn’t exactly good with rules. Mrs. Cleary chuckled at the young girl.

“So … I’m a witch?” Nyah asked, hopeful.

“Yes, and I think someday, you’re going to be a very good one,” Mrs. Cleary replied.

“And you’re a witch, too,” Nyah stated. “That’s how you were able to mend me, right?”

“Yes,” Mrs. Cleary simply said.

Nyah’s head was spinning with everything she had learned; it all made sense. Everything ‘odd’ in her life really wasn’t ‘odd’ after all … it was magic!

The sun was starting to peek above the horizon, and Nyah felt alive with her newfound knowledge. She was bursting to tell someone … anyone …

“So do all witches work in homes as housekeepers?” she asked Mrs. Cleary.

The woman’s eyes danced with laughter. She explained to Nyah that while some witches and wizards choose to work in the muggle world, most choose to work in the wizarding world; in banks, stores, and homes … just like here … only they don’t have to hide their magic there. They get married, have children, and go to school there.

Mrs. Cleary got up and headed towards Nyah’s door. She turned and looked at the girl. “No one can know … not about you … and not about me. Do you understand?” she asked Nyah.

“What about Anna?” Nyah begged, “She wouldn’t tell anyone!”

Mrs. Cleary shook her head, “No one. Not yet. And remember, try to not use any magic, especially if it causes you pain.”

“I need to look into that … that isn’t a normal reaction.” she said absentmindedly.

Nyah felt a pang of worry … ‘not normal’ … even in a world of witches and wizards Nyah wasn’t normal.

Nyah puttered around her room for the remainder of the day, her only release from her ‘grounding’ was time to run to the bathroom when Mrs. Cleary brought up her meals under Mother’s supervision.

Mother had insisted on locking Nyah’s door after what happened with Alexander. Even though he was fine, Mother blamed her for his ‘altered mental status’ (meaning he kept grabbing his head and backside if anyone looked in his direction) so Mother extended her isolation. Little did Mother realize … Nyah was far from alone. Anna visited her for hours at a time, sneaking in through the hole in the wall. Nyah even went through one night to sneak down to the kitchen to grab a snack. She was very nearly caught by Mr. Whittaker and decided that the chocolate pudding wasn’t worth another ‘punishment’.

Luckily, the upcoming birthday party had given Mother the distraction she needed. She was very busy overseeing all of the final preparations and since Nyah was locked in the attic, she didn’t even have to worry about the ‘brat’ getting in the way. Often, she would catch Nyah looking out the attic window and couldn’t help but wave and walk away, laughing.

Father was away again on a business trip, but promised to be home for the twins’ birthday party. This was his busiest time of the year, and he was gone a lot. Mother had made him promise to be home this weekend, and Nyah was anxious to see him. Father had come to her room while she was sleeping, telling her goodbye, but with Mother standing watch in the doorway, Nyah could do nothing more than give him a hug and tell him to hurry home.

Mother loved that Nyah was locked in the attic, as if she was controlling the young girl, but that was far from the truth. Mrs. Cleary continued to tell Nyah stories of the wizarding world whenever they had a free moment. Nyah was full of questions, and Mrs. Cleary answered them as best she could.

Nyah turned from the attic window, setting her mind to keeping busy for the entire weekend. Anna had brought her some more paper, but she wasn’t in the mood to draw.

With Mother outside, it might be a good opportunity to get out of her little room for a while. Alexander would be trailing after Mother, not wanting to be in the house alone; worried that he might sprout horns or something. That only left the groundskeeper, Mr. Whittaker, but the chance of him being inside while all of the preparations were going on outside, was very slim. So, with a mischievous smile, Nyah set for the hole in the wall.

Nyah made her way through the dark and dusty east room. Having memorized the path, she didn’t need the light any more. She reached the little door that would lead her to a spare bedroom when she heard footsteps … she was sure … Nyah froze.

If they turned towards the spare room, it meant Anna was on her way. Mrs. Cleary was out for the day running errands for Mother, so it couldn’t be her … 3, 2, 1 … top of the steps … “Turn right, turn right!” silently begged Nyah, unable to move.

Click, click, click … HEELS! Nyah turned and ran as quickly and as quietly as her feet could move her. She pushed the board aside as she heard the key enter the lock. Nyah threw herself through the hole in the wall and out the other side. The doorknob was turning. Nyah was closing the board when the board gave way in her hands, ripping from the wall with a thud. “Oh no!” Nyah gasped.

There was no way to hide this … it was a dead giveaway! If Mother found out, this small beacon of hope would be gone … stripped from her … just like her lost freedom. “Come on … think, think…” she muttered. My robe!” Nyah said, reaching out her hand. On command, her robe flew from the corner of her bed straight into her hand. Pain shot through her head, but Nyah kept moving, nearly unfazed at the magic she had just performed. She quickly hung her robe on the nail in the wall that had once held the board. As Nyah turned around … there she stood … staring with her cold, steel eyes … Mother.

“Well, well … what do we have here?” Mother asked stepping gingerly into the little room, “Tidying up just for me?”

She stared at Nyah, her eyes falling to slits.

Nyah stood rooted to her spot. Perhaps if she didn’t move, Mother wouldn’t notice the missing board.

“I received a most interesting post today,” Mother said, waving a letter in front of Nyah. “It’s not odd to get post on Thursday’s, but this was hand-delivered by a messenger. And what’s even more curious is that it’s from school officials. Now, would you like to tell me what you’ve done to warrant a visit … here … from school officials?”

She threw the letter at Nyah, who opened her hand allowing the letter to gently come to rest on her palm. Nyah managed a small smile – that little bit of magic didn’t hurt at all. Mother was completely unaware, and had continued her ranting.

“Do they have any idea how busy I am right now? I don’t have time to meet with school officials about you today!” she screamed at Nyah. With just a couple of steps, she was to the door. Grabbing the door handle, she turned to Nyah, scowling “Whatever it is, it will have to be dealt with between you and the school officials. I will not be bothered with it today! Do what you have to in order to get rid of them and you’ll say nothing about the little ‘punishment’ … do I make myself clear?”

“Yes Mother,” Nyah simply replied.

Nyah stared at the letter in her hand as she heard Mother lock the door. The letter was addressed directly to her:
          Miss Pricilla Diane Stewart 
          Little Attic Room
          15 Summerhouse Way
          Abbots Langley

          {Please refrain from opening until the school officials arrive this afternoon ~ Thank you}

Nyah made her way to her bed, her hands shaking, wondering what the letter was about. “I sent all of my work with Anna … but I haven’t been there for a few days …” Nyah voiced out loud to her room. As she walked past the little mirror on her dresser, she caught a glimpse of herself; her hair was sticking out in all directions and her face was spattered with dust from her near-escape not long ago.

Nyah decided that a good impression would be necessary, so she set about gathering her things for a quick shower. She made her way through the hole, leaving her robe hanging on the nail to disguise the broken board. She had just gone through, when she lost her balance and stumbled to the floor. Hoping no one was in the room below, she started to get up and realized her brush was missing. With a sigh, Nyah knelt down, feeling around on the floor. She caught a glimpse of the handle, and moving a few boxes out of the way, she grabbed the handle. Out of the corner of her eye, clear in the back of the room, was a box that was covered in tape. What could possibly be interesting about another dusty box? Well … this one had her name on it … 

Author's Note -- I'd love to hear from you!  Please leave a review and let me know what you think of the story so far.  Thanks!

Chapter 6: Hidden Treasures
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

~amazing image by chiQs09~

What could possibly be interesting a about dusty box? Well – this one had her name on it.

Chapter 6 – Hidden Treasurers

Nyah set her bath things on the floor and carefully made her way to the little box. Abandoned in the back of the room, the box had sat, possibly for years, waiting for her to find it.

She reached out and touched the name on the box, still not believing that it was labeled just for her. Nothing in this house ever had her name on it, as she was reminded often, because it all belonged to Mother and Father.

Nyah lifted the small box as though it was something precious or fragile. She turned back and went to her room. Listening at the door for the possibility of unwanted visitors, she was happily greeted with silence.

The bed creaked in welcome as she sat and examined the box. Her name was written rather sloppily on one small end of the box … Pricilla … ugh, she really hated that name.

Nyah reached into the little stand next to her bed and grabbed the scissors out of the drawer. Taking a deep breath, she began to cut into the layers of tape surrounding the box. As each layer fell away, Nyah became painfully aware of the magic building up inside of her. Rarely was her magic triggered by an emotion other than fear or anger … this was pure excitement … and Nyah worked hard to contain it.

Her fingers shook a bit as she lifted the lid. Funny, it simply looked black inside, but as Nyah reached in, her fingers fell upon something soft. She pulled out a small, dark, knitted blanket. It was quite tattered and seemingly well-loved by someone … but whom … Nyah? She couldn’t remember ever having a tatty old blanket, but there was very little that Nyah could remember. She gingerly examined the threads, carefully knitted together and her mind started to tickle … like it was reaching for something … but nothing came. Nyah sighed … there was a hole, burnt right in the middle of the blanket. Around it, she could make out something knitted in red … a letter perhaps. She turned the blanket on end and her eyes popped wide … it was the letter ‘N’, or what was left of it. Nyah hugged the blanket close to her. Certain this was hers … she wished she could remember where it came from, and who loved her enough to knit her a blanket by hand.

Nyah looked to the box again. There, stuffed in the bottom looked to be an old bag. With some coaxing, the bag was freed from its tight quarters. Although not very heavy, Nyah could feel something shifting around inside when she shook it. It was a rather plain-looking bag, deep red, with a rather odd charm hanging from one of the straps; a silver ball with wings. How silly – why would a ball have wings? Nyah wondered.

With a shrug, Nyah turned the bag over and allowed the contents to spill out onto her bed. Her head began to throb again, as the excitement continued to build. She trembled as she reached out to pick up what she recognized at once to be the tip of a wand.

Nyah’s thoughts were racing, I bet this was mine. It looks just like Mrs. Cleary’s.  

She grabbed the small pointed end and gently tugged it from the rubble. Her excitement faded to sadness as she realized the wand was broken. The small piece she had, though, was beautiful … it was a very dark brown, nearly black piece that felt firm, but not heavy, in her hand. There was a delicate, intricate, twisting design ending in what looked to be a small ledge … and then … nothing. The rest was gone. Nyah quickly looked through the rest of the bags contents hoping to locate the handle of the wand, but none was found.

This must have been my nappy bag ... Nyah thought, but why would Mother keep this? And why did she break my wand? 

Placing the piece of wand behind her ear, she rummaged through the rest of the contents. There were some nappies and wipes, which Nyah just wrinkled her nose at, “Gross.”

There was a rolled piece of parchment, bound with a ribbon. Nyah carefully unrolled the sheet, but was disappointed to see it blank. She was sure she would find something amazing … spells or secrets … or maybe a clue about where all of this stuff came from. Irritated, Nyah threw the parchment aside and kept looking. Aside from more nappies, the only thing left were a couple of photos.

Nyah smiled at the first picture she saw; it was of herself at probably one or two years old. Nyah had never seen a picture of herself at this age and she laughed. Her black hair was even more wild then, and her bright brown eyes sparkled with mischief. Nyah yelled and dropped the photo on the bed as she realized that the child in the picture was actually moving! After watching the picture version of herself smile and clap over-and-over, Nyah decided it was safe to pick it back up. She looked beyond the cute little baby to the background of the photo hoping it would spark a memory. There was a large fireplace, a couple of chairs, and some toys thrown about including her favorite snowy owl! Nothing else seemed familiar though, and it certainly didn’t look like this house. And then, Nyah saw something pop into the corner of the picture… just a glimpse … of hair … red hair. Her heart fluttered as she reached out to the picture … ‘Mum’.

Nyah’s thoughts were interrupted by the sound of footsteps on the stairs. She sprang from the bed, scooping her precious things back into the red bag along with the piece of wand from her hair. She stashed the bag next to the baby blanket under her comforter. The key was in the lock! She grabbed the box and had just set it behind the bed, when the door flew open.

“Nyah … quick … get your things together, dear!” Mrs. Cleary’s strained voice rang out.
Seeing the shocked look on Nyah’s face, Mrs. Cleary stopped. “What’s the matter? Come on, now …” she continued, sorting through Nyah’s clothes. “We’ve got to get your showered, dressed, and ready. It’s half past one already, and by what your mother says, they’re due here at any time.”

“Who?” Nyah asked, having completely lost herself in the secrets of the box.

The housekeeper continued to mumble to herself as she picked out clothes for Nyah’s meeting, “School officials … coming here … and on a Thursday. Can’t let it wait till Monday when the child goes back … always in such a rush … Where is that jumper? I know I hung it here.”

“Jumper, jumper … oh, I … I have the jumper!” Nyah stuttered, coming out of her shock.

She had expected to see Mother, or worse, Alexander, when the door opened. As her shock gave way to relief, Nyah rushed over to the hole in the wall to retrieve her bath items and good clothes from the east room.

“Mrs. Cleary, I found a box over here … just a little bit ago … and ...” Nyah began, but was cut off.

“Yes, yes ... that’s lovely dear, now hurry!” and Mrs. Cleary rushed her out of the attic room, straight to the bathroom.

The grandfather clock in the downstairs hall chimed the 2 o’clock hour. Nyah was upstairs, freshly showered and dressed and Mrs. Cleary had just set in on her hair, determined to make it presentable. It was pulled up in such a tight ponytail that Nyah felt she’d never smile properly again.

Mrs. Cleary seemed more nervous than Nyah about this meeting. She kept reminding Nyah of what to say and what not to say should they ask about her recent absence from school.

“More than not, dear,” Mrs. Cleary said, half-dragging Nyah down the steps, “they probably just want to see for themselves that you’re alright.”

“Now,” she whispered, looking around all the corners, “I’m going to put a little spell on your scars so they appear less … vivid … alright dear?”

“Will it hurt?” Nyah asked, frowning a bit.

Mrs. Cleary chuckled, “Oh no, Nyah, magic doesn’t need to hurt to work. Yes, there, now just close your eyes.”

Nyah saw Mrs. Cleary pull the wand from her hair as she took another look around the rooms and down the hall. Once Nyah’s eyes were closed, she heard Mrs. Cleary mutter and Nyah’s face felt very warm, like she was standing quite close to the large fireplace in Father’s office.

“Nyah, you look wonderful …”

Nyah eyes opened to see Anna smiling down on her from the stairs.

“Anna!” Nyah exclaimed.

The girls ran to meet each other, happy to be together outside of the little attic. They sat on the stairs enjoying the sun that was pouring in through the front windows. Nyah chatted with her big sister, catching up on everything that was going on with school and the birthday party this weekend … mostly Anna talked. Nyah had so much she wanted to tell her sister, but knew that, for now, she couldn’t.

Nearly an hour had passed, and the girls were content on the stairs, while Mrs. Cleary ran from room to room, straightening, restraightening, moving things from here to there, and generally fussing over everything. She had finally reached her breaking point, and in a voice higher than either of the girls had ever heard her speak, she said, “Where are they? Your mother said they were on their way!”

The girls exchanged glances, and muffled giggles.

“Where is that blasted letter?” she demanded of Nyah.

“It’s in my room; I’ll run and get it.” Nyah said as she ran towards the attic.

A few moments later, Nyah ran panting to Mrs. Cleary, letter in hand. Mrs. Cleary’s eyes quickly scanned the front of the letter as her hand went absentmindedly to her mouth. She turned the letter over in her hand … there, sealed in wax on the back … a letter ‘H’. Mrs. Cleary turned to Nyah and Anna, all of the color in her face nearly gone.

“Nyah … this … this is the letter from the school officials?” she quietly asked.

Nyah nodded her head and glanced at her sister.

“Nyah … this is not from the school officials at your grammar school,” she said with a broad smile, “this … this is from …”

Mrs. Cleary stood up straight as the doorbell rang. She pushed the letter into Nyah’s hands and walked hurriedly away. Nyah and Anna walked behind, as the housekeeper practically ran to the door. She paused for a moment to smooth out her uniform, and opened the door.

There, standing in the doorway, were two of the most unusual-looking school officials Nyah and Anna had ever seen. Tall and thin, the officials silently demanded respect by the mere sight of them. The girls took a couple of steps towards the door to get a better look. One was chatting with Mrs. Cleary, while the other hung back a little, studying the house.

They were dressed in black robes, which fell all the way to the floor. One might think they had just come from a costume party.

They had their hair pulled back, and Nyah was sure they were both women. One looked very old; her hair was nearly all grey and her face was full of wrinkles. Just then, she looked at Nyah, and her eyes burst with a smile that Nyah felt all the way to her heart. At that moment, Nyah didn’t care how old this woman was … she instantly liked her and returned the smile.

The women stepped into the entry hall, still chatting and smiling with Mrs. Cleary. She motioned the two women to the sitting room, and called for Nyah to come along.

“Anna, your mother will, unfortunately, be required to sit in on this meeting. Will you go and fetch her, please?” asked Mrs. Cleary.

Anna reluctantly went to find Mother. She was not looking forward to Mother’s reaction at the news, not to mention how she would react when she met the unusual ‘school officials’. Thinking on that again, Anna laughed to herself, quietly imaging the look on Mother’s face.

Nyah took a seat on the small white sofa in the stuffy sitting room, her eyes never leaving the two women. She was able to get a quick look at the younger woman who was sitting very tall in her seat, looking around, analyzing every detail of the room … including Nyah. Her face was soft, but her eyes, determined. Although pulled back, Nyah saw her hair was brown and curly, as a few strands refused to stay imprisoned in the bun. Nyah was happy to see that someone else had hair that misbehaved like her own. Their eyes met for a moment, and Nyah saw a quick smile before Mrs. Cleary appeared with a tray of biscuits and tea.

“Where are my manners?” Mrs. Cleary exclaimed, calling the occupants out of their silence. “Nyah, I’d like to you meet Headmistress McGonagall and Professor Weasley. They’re from one of the schools I mentioned to you … it’s called Hogwarts.” she explained as she patted Nyah’s shoulder.

“Nyah? I thought the girl’s name was … oh, where is it … ah, yes,” said Headmistress McGonagall as Professor Weasley handed her a sheet of aged brown paper, “Pricilla Stewart.”

“Um … I – I’m Pricilla, but everyone calls me Nyah, please … ma’am.” Nyah’s face burnt with embarrassment. She silently scolded herself for stammering.

“Nyah,” smiled Professor Weasley, as she wrote on the sheet of parchment.

She has a nice voice, thought Nyah.

“Well, Nyah then, do you have the letter that was delivered earlier?” Headmistress McGonagall asked, addressing the young girl.

“Yes, just here,” Nyah said, pulling the envelope from her pocket. She went to hand it to the Headmistress, but the woman instead, told her she could open it.

Nyah carefully opened the envelope, as the Headmistress explained that the majority of the time, muggle-born children are quite surprised to learn they are a witch or wizard, so hearing it directly from the school officials made it a bit easier to understand and that opening the letter early would be somewhat confusing.

The envelope contained a short letter from the Headmistress inviting Nyah to attend the Hogwarts School for witchcraft and wizardry. There was also a list of items to bring, most of which Nyah was completely befuddled at; robes, books, cauldron … and she was able to bring an owl, a cat, or a toad … what an interesting concept … pets.

As the women chatted, Nyah’s head began to throb, again feeling her magic building and building. There had been so much happen today … the box … the letter … the arrivals of two witches to the house to see Nyah …

Nyah’s hand went to her head, as if holding back the pain in her head. She heard Mrs. Cleary’s voice … medicine … yes … medicine. Nyah felt hot tears on her face as she held back the magic … it was going to burst out again and Nyah knew if that happened, her chance at belonging in either world was in jeopardy. “Breathe Nyah …” she heard someone say. Cool air was blowing on her and Nyah felt her body and mind relax.

Mrs. Cleary appeared with Nyah’s medicine, which Nyah took without complaint.

When she was able to open her eyes, she saw the women staring at her, and Mrs. Cleary was even blotting her eyes.

“I’m sorry … I just … I …” Nyah hung her head and started to cry again. “Please let me come with you. I just don’t know how much longer I can stop it and it hurts so badly.” She looked at the women … “Please.”

The younger witch came and sat next to Nyah on the sofa, and placed her arm around Nyah’s shoulders, glancing once at the headmistress. “Nyah, can you tell me why it hurts?”

Nyah thought about it. She wasn’t sure if the pain started before the magic, or after. “I think the pain and magic work at the same time, and the harder I try to hold it in … the worse it is.” she admitted to the Professor. “I accidently turned my brother into a donkey yesterday, and while it was happening, the magic felt so good and so powerful … more than the headache … but once I stopped … the pain took over. I ... I don’t remember much after that.” Nyah looked to Mrs. Cleary.

“This is something we will have to monitor, but it’s still early in the year. Term doesn’t start until September, so we’ll have you stop into St. Mungo’s as soon as you can.” the Headmistress explained with a smile. “And of course, you are going to come to Hogwarts … as long as we have your parent’s permission.”

She pulled from her robe a long piece of parchment, which she laid out on the table with a curious looking pen.

“That’s a quill and parchment,” Professor Weasley explained. “You’ll use them in your studies at Hogwarts.”

“What kinds of things will I be studying? And what is a St. Mungo’s?” Nyah quietly asked, filled with curiosity.

Professor Weasley smiled, but before she could answer, Mother’s voice came trailing through the house. The hairs on Nyah’s arms stood on end. Mother was clearly irate to be called away from the party planning … and she hadn’t even laid eyes on the women in her sitting room … 

Author's notes:  I'd love to know what you think of the story so far... you can leave me a message in the box below - and don't forget to come back and look, as I always reply to the reviews!  Thanks!

Chapter 7: Parental Permission
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

~amazing chapter image by chiQs09~

The hairs on Nyah’s arms stood on end. Mother was clearly irate to be called away from the party planning … and she hadn’t even laid eyes on the women in her sitting room …

Chapter 7 – Parental Permission 

Her voice ripped through the very walls of the house. It was like a locomotive picking up steam … … “I will not be bothered today. I don’t care who they think they are … coming here in the middle of the week. I am far too busy to deal with ordinary, school marms!” The closer she got to the sitting room, the more shrill and piercing her voice became, rather like an angry Banshee.

“Don’t blame me if Saturday comes and the party is a disaster. Call me away … required … who do they think …” Mother turned the corner still screaming at Anna … her voice trailed off and her mouth dropped open as she caught her first glimpse at the women standing in her house. She wrinkled her nose, as she often did, when she encountered something or someone she felt was beneath her.

Headmistress McGonagall pursed her lips as she stood from her seat, while Professor Weasley clasped her hands together and smiled politely. They had no idea what they’d gotten themselves into … but they were about to find out.

Mother surveyed both women, as she removed her riding gloves. Handing them to Mrs. Cleary, she turned to Anna and said in her sweetest voice, “Anna darling, I believe Alexander wished to go on a ride, and since I will be unable to accompany him, I’d like you to go in my place.”

Anna sighed and glanced at Nyah. She had hoped to stay … but as instructed, she simply said, “Yes, Mother,” and turned to walk away.

Mother walked silently into the room and gracefully sat in the high wing-back chair near the fireplace, saying to both women, “Sit, please. Would you like some tea?”  She snapped her fingers and Mrs. Cleary appeared at her side. “Fresh tea for our guests and bring mine the way I like it.”

The room was cold and silent, save the sound of fresh teacups being passed about, and when the Headmistress spoke, Nyah was so startled, she nearly dropped her cup. Mother’s eyes went dreadfully angry at Nyah before looking once again to the Headmistress signaling her to continue.

“Well, Mrs. Stewart, I am Headmistress Minerva McGonagall and this is Professor Hermione Granger-Weasley. We are from a school called Hogwarts.”

Mother looked up from her tea at the word ‘Hogwarts’ as though the Headmistress had just cursed in her home. “Hogwarts … what a preposterous name for a school!” as she laughed into her tea. “But - you’re serious …” Mother quietly said, “oh, well … do go on.”

“Yes, then,” the Headmistress continued, her face a bit pink around the edges and her mouth sitting firm, “I’m sure you’ve noticed that Nyah possesses some very special gifts. Our school is designed to teach young boys and girls how to use their ... shall we say … ‘talents’.”

Mother laughed, “You think Pricilla has ‘gifts’?” Mother asked, her face matching McGonagall’s and raising it a shade. “Is that what you call blowing things up, turning people’s faces blue, and all the other crazy things that go on around here? That is not talent … that is a nuisance!” Mother said, leaning in with a loud whisper.

Nyah turned to silently apologize to the Professor and Headmistress, but they were staring at Mrs. Stewart with looks ranging from irritation to outright anger.

“I am a very busy woman,” Mother said, setting her teacup down. “So, if you don’t mind, can we just speed things up a bit?” she added, waving her hand in circles. “Why are you here? And how does it concern Pricilla?”

It seemed the Headmistress might explode if she spoke, so Professor Weasley took over, “Mrs. Stewart, Hogwarts is a school for witchcraft and wizardry. Nyah is, in fact, a witch,” she said, beaming at Nyah.

Professor Weasley continued, “It’s actually a rare thing for a witch to be born to non-magic parents. I, myself, am a muggle-born witch, and there are very few of us. In fact, the odds are approximately 1 in 100 a witch or wizard is a true muggle-born, which is very exciting.”

Mother’s eyes were getting larger and larger as Professor Weasley spoke. Nyah couldn’t be sure, but she thought she saw one of her eyes actually twitching with every word the professor said.

“We are offering Nyah the opportunity to come to Hogwarts School to learn more about her gift.” Professor Weasley looked between Nyah and her mother for some indication as to how things were going.

Mrs. Stewart sat back in her chair, seemingly deep in thought, and then looked at Professor Weasley. “Weasley, is that correct? Interesting name,” she said, wrinkling her nose as though she smelled something foul. “So, to clarify … you think Pricilla is a witch, and you want her to come to a school with other people like her, to learn more about being a witch?”

“That’s a very basic understanding of what we do, yes.” Professor Weasley started. “But there is so much more to the education she would receive.”

Catherine’s small smile never left her face as she stood and addressed the room. “I appreciate you coming out today, but I can tell you that my husband and I are looking to cure Pricilla … not to encourage this negative behavior. Her medication works quite well … when she takes it,” she said, looking directly at Nyah, “and I can assure you that bolstering this feeling of ‘special talents’ or ‘gifts’ as you call them will only slow her progress. Now, if you will excuse me, Mrs. Cleary will show you out. I do have people waiting,” and she motioned towards the door, excusing the women from her house.

Headmistress McGonagall and Professor Weasley stood and gathered their things. As the parchment for parental permission to attend the school was rolled up, Professor Weasley turned to look at Nyah. She could see the desperation in the young girl’s eyes.

Nyah reminded her of Harry Potter, who grew up in a family much like this. His Aunt and Uncle despised him and wanted nothing to do with the wizarding world. Harry said many times that Hogwarts was his home … and what if the same held true for Nyah … what if Hogwarts could be to her what it was for Harry? She looked around the posh room and knew this wasn’t ‘home’ to Nyah. And that’s when the idea hit …

“You do realize, Mrs. Stewart,” Hermione announced as Catherine was leaving the room, “that Hogwarts is a full-time school. Nyah would actually live at Hogwarts.” 

Catherine stopped in her tracks and turned to look at Hermione. Nyah watched as Mother analyzed what the young woman had just said. A smile cut across the headmistress’s face as she realized what Hermione was doing.

The woman slowly walked back into the room. “She would actually stay … at the school … year round?” Catherine asked, clasping her hands in front of her.

“Except for summer break, arrangements can be made for her to stay over holidays as well,” the Headmistress responded.

“What if we say … ‘donated’ extra funds … could it be arranged for her to stay summers as well?” Catherine asked with greed in her voice.

Headmistress McGonagall glared at Mrs. Stewart, disliking her more and more with every word the woman spoke. She was actually asking that Nyah not come home at all … what kind of mother would do that to her child?

The Headmistress was faced with a decision she’d never had to make before. She knew if Nyah had to come home during the summers, Mrs. Stewart may not allow her to come to Hogwarts at all, but no student had ever been permitted to stay year-round at Hogwarts.

Hermione wondered what would have happened had Harry not been permitted to attend Hogwarts. It would have been devastating, not only to Harry, but to the wizarding and muggle worlds alike.

“We can look into special arrangements for Nyah if that is your wish,” McGonagall simply replied.

“Fine … done then,” Catherine answered quickly. “To whom do I make out the check?”
She turned to Nyah and pointed to the stairs, “Go pack your things. And don’t put anything in that you know doesn’t belong to you!”

Nyah couldn’t believe what had just happened … Mother had said yes … Nyah was actually going to Hogwarts School for witchcraft and wizardry! She turned to run to her room, as the Headmistress said that Mother still needed to sign the parental permission form.

“Some additions will need to be made, of course, considering the circumstances,” Professor Weasley noted as she made the necessary adjustments to the contract, smiling at this small victory.

Nyah watched as Mother took the quill from Professor Weasley to sign the contract … a contract for freedom … she would finally be free … and then … 

Mrs. Stewart pushed and pushed towards the parchment, but the quill wouldn’t touch the paper. “What are you playing at, giving me some trick feather that won’t write?” Catherine exclaimed. “Mrs. Cleary, fetch me a proper pen,” she huffed.

The Headmistress and Professor Weasley looked at each other, neither one believing what just took place. “Please try again, Mrs. Stewart,” Hermione requested.

Nothing … no matter how hard she tried to touch the paper, the quill refused to allow her to sign. Hermione looked directly at the exasperated woman as she continued her attempt to sign Nyah away.

“Mrs. Stewart, there are only two ways this quill will refuse your signature. One is if your intentions are not clear,” Hermione said as she began pacing the floor. “You do want Nyah to attend Hogwarts School as we discussed, is that correct?”

“Yes!” exclaimed Catherine, trying in vain to make the quill work for her.

“Professor, what is the other condition the quill takes into consideration?” the housekeeper quietly asked, afraid of the answer.

“The only other requirement for the parent to sign is … that you are her biological mother or her true legal guardian. If you are neither of these – the quill will refuse your signature,” Hermione said, looking between the headmistress and Mrs. Stewart.

Nyah sank to the stairs. No … it can’t be, she thought as the realization set in.

Hermione reached out and gently took the quill from Mrs. Stewart’s hand.

The room was eerily silent.

“Mrs. Stewart … Catherine …” Professor Weasley said, gently touching the visibly shaken woman “is there something you need to tell us?”

“We can’t help you or Nyah unless we know the truth,” the Headmistress added.

Catherine sat with her head low, her hands laid in her lap. Realizing how she must look … she sat up straight, gained her composure, and looked at both teachers. “What does it matter anyway? What’s done is done. Obviously, your quill has simply malfunctioned,” she snapped to the women.

“Please, Mrs. Stewart. We need to know who she is … where she came from,” Hermione said, trying to reason with the woman.

“I couldn’t tell you … even if I knew,” Catherine said, her knee bouncing anxiously, betraying the calm look on her face. 

The tall, anxious woman stood and paced the floor for a moment before stopping to look at the photos on the mantle. Her face softened a bit as she reached out for a small silver frame, the picture of a man smiling back at her. She visibly struggled with her decision.

Without looking at the other women, she sighed and said, “It was such a long time ago … I didn’t know what else to do.” She turned and stared at the Headmistress, “I could lose everything. If they find out I’ve breathed a word to anyone …”

She took a deep breath to calm herself, clasping the picture to her chest, as she looked at the women in the room. “The twins’ father took off not long after they were born. He wasn’t ready for a family, or so he said. So there I was; no money, no husband, and two babies to take care of.”

Catherine paused a moment, placing the picture back in its proper spot. “A friend of mine from school was kind enough to take us in. She lived above a pub in London. After a while, I settled into a job as a barmaid there.”

Both Hermione and McGonagall found it difficult to believe the woman standing before them ever worked as a barmaid, but they listened intently.

A comforting look from Mrs. Cleary encouraged Catherine to continue … “The kids were tended to by Mallory, my roommate, while I worked at night. About a year after I started, Robert came into the pub one night.”  Her eyes sparkled as she remembered. “He was in town for a business meeting and staying at the hotel nearby. We chatted and he left. The next time he was in town, he stopped in again … this time for a longer stay. One thing led to another … and well, we fell in love. He was everything I’d ever wanted; rich, handsome, kind … but,” and Catherine sighed … “he was married.”

She returned to her seat, staring at the tray of biscuits. “He always talked about how unhappy he was with her … and I of course, encouraged him to leave her. But he said with the business he was in, a messy divorce could ruin him. So, we quietly continued to see each other as often as we could.”

Catherine started sipping on her tea. “The children loved him and he adored them. His wife had never given him a child, and he desperately wanted to be a father.”

“It didn’t take long for the rumors to start around and Robert called one night before I was due to work and put a stop to the whole thing. He said he couldn’t see me again. It was done … over.” Tears betrayed her eyes, the controlled façade crumbling.

“Go on, dear,” Mrs. Cleary said, getting a tissue for her.

“I had to work that night and was a mess. It was a nasty, stormy night out, and there were only a few patrons. I remember sitting on one of the bar stools trying to figure out what I was going to do … how I could win him back, when someone sat down next to me.” She sat up straighter … her eyes clear. “He just simply asked why I was crying … and I told him … I told him the whole story.”

Catherine admitted that with the heavy amounts of whiskey she had consumed that evening, most of the conversation with this man was fuzzy at best. “But he said he could help,” she explained, “and that’s all I wanted. He said he could get me exactly what I wanted … for a price.” Her head fell, slightly. “I had been so upset … but when he looked at me, his eyes looked straight inside me, and it was as if someone poured ice cold water straight through my heart.” Catherine visibly trembled, remembering his eyes.

“Yet, he was talking, reassuring me. Then he asked what I was willing to do, to gain everything I wanted … Robert … a marriage … a father for the twins … money … If there was a way, would I do it? I said ‘yes’. He said he could arrange it …” she said, glancing at the women, “and all he wanted was a favor.”

The women looked to one another, but no one spoke.

Catherine detailed, as best she could, what happened next. “He pulled out a small rolled paper. I asked him what the favor was, and …” she trailed off, her voice choking a bit, “he said it was just a small favor. All I had to do was take in a child, an orphan that needed a home. But that it wouldn’t be right away.” She stood and began pacing again, this time, biting on her perfectly manicured nails.

“I took his frilly pen, like that one,” as she pointed to Hermione’s quill, “and I signed. I still have the scar to prove it, too.” Catherine took her tissue and ran it over her left hand where ‘I will take the child’ was etched into her hand.

Hermione gasped as she touched the woman’s scar. She was all-too-familiar with what kind of quill caused damage like this.

“I’ve tried everything to remove it, but it refuses to leave. I’ve even tried surgery, but nothing!” Catherine explained as she sat down again, this time on the sofa.

Hermione was then the one that started pacing … she always thought more clearly when she paced. “So how did Nyah come to be with you?” she asked Catherine.

“Well, after that night, everything with Robert happened so quickly. He actually called the next morning begging me to forgive him. He said he was filing for a divorce and his wife was moving out; happily, I might add. We were married within a month and the children and I moved directly here, into the Manor. Not long after, he adopted the twins, making them legally his own.” Catherine beamed, remembering. “We were happy … really, really happy. Things were … well, perfect.”

Her face fell a bit as she continued, “We had just celebrated our fourth anniversary and were gearing up for the twins’ sixth birthday party. Other than this irritating little scar and some rather fuzzy memories, I had completely forgotten the grey-eyed man from the bar … until the night the doorbell rang.” Catherine began to shake.

“The devil himself was at my door … I could see it in his eyes. I instantly regretted signing his silly paper. But had I refused his offer,” and she motioned around the room, “none of this would be mine. Anyway, it was very late in the day; nearly nighttime. I remember it had been unusually cold weather for July. I had even taken to wearing a jumper inside the house.”

Hermione remembered that odd summer … the muggles thought it had been just foul weather, but it had actually been a mass breeding of dementors. The few surviving Death Eaters were recruiting, and with control of some dementors, they encouraged them to increase their numbers. Harry was away on vacation with his family to France, and the other Aurors were working overtime to undue the damage. That vacation turned out to be a very dark time for the Weasley family, and it had very little to do with dementor breeding and round up. Hermione’s thoughts were interrupted by Minerva.

“Hermione, I think it might be wise to jot down some of this information,” the Headmistress instructed.

“Oh … of course … yes, sorry Professor … I mean, Minerva,” Hermione stammered a bit. She still had trouble referring to the headmistress by her first name.

Hermione grabbed a blank parchment from her bag and started scribbling furiously all of the facts up to this point. Ink was splattered on her face, her hand, as well as the couch, and she gasped for breath as though she had just run sprints. “Please Catherine, continue.” Hermione was poised, ready to write.

“They were in this very room, waiting for me,” Catherine said, clasping her hands tightly. “They had a child with them, wrapped in a blanket. She was sleeping very soundly. They simply placed her on the sofa and started to leave.”

“I asked what I was supposed to do with her, and he coldly reminded me of the deal we had made; that I was to take in the child and raise it … until he came to collect her.”

“Collect her?  What?” the headmistress exclaimed, nearly choking on her tea. “This person was just dropping her off until some time that he would come and collect her, like … like lost luggage?”

“Catherine, was Nyah his daughter?” Hermione asked, tapping her quill on the parchment.

Nyah could barely hear what Mother was saying, and she dared to peek around the corner. Headmistress McGonagall saw her and put her finger to her lips and motioned for her to sit back. Nyah sighed and scooted back to her original position. She prayed that Mother would continue, soon.

Catherine thought for a moment, and said, “No, she was not his daughter. When I asked about her parents, he simply said that they had, just that night, tragically met their demise in a nasty accident. But then he smiled … a cruel, twisted smile.”

“They had left some of her things in a bag they brought with her. He said that she wouldn’t remember anything, so I was to tell her nothing of our meeting; to raise her as my daughter, and should anything funny start to happen with her to simply ignore it and he would tend to her when the time was right.”

“Then they left, into the night. And I was left with her,” Catherine said simply, examining the state her nails were in.

“What happened after they were gone?” Hermione asked.

“Well, Robert had obviously heard the bell and was curious who would be stopping by that late. I didn’t want him to see the items they left with her, so I took the blanket and the bag they left and threw them in a box from Robert’s office. I taped it up and set it with his other office files that we were going to store in the attic. I don’t know why, but I thought I should somehow mark it, so I would know which one was hers, just in case. I grabbed a marker and then realized I had no idea what her name was. I glanced through the files Robert kept on his desk and there was a ‘Pricilla Diane’ so that’s what I wrote … ‘Pricilla’.”

“Robert came into the room just as I set the marker back on his desk. It dawned on me that I had no idea what to tell him about the child in the next room … so I lied. I told him that a distant cousin of mine had been tragically killed in a fire and since I was the only living relative, the child automatically came to me. He never questioned it and was happy to add another child to the family.”

Catherine stood and began pacing again, her arms crossed, “Being a lawyer has some distinct advantages; one being that when Robert went to the judge about a birth certificate for Pricilla so she could start nursery school, it was granted without question. We, of course, didn’t know her exact birthdate, but she had told us the first few days here that she was going to be four ‘next week’, so we simply set it for the week after the twins.”

“So you have no idea who her parents were?” Hermione asked.

Catherine, looking a bit frustrated, sighed and said, “No, but surely they are dead, like he told me, or wouldn’t someone have come looking for her?”

“Perhaps,” McGonagall replied, her face taking on different shades of irritation, “but this is just unheard of … taking in a child you know nothing about … from someone who just knocks on your door!”

“Please, try and understand … he was offering me everything … everything! I had no choice!” Catherine exclaimed rather loudly.

“No choice? You made a pact with the devil! I’d say that’s some choice …” McGonagall said, anger rising in her voice.

The two women squared off, the tension between them threatening to ignite.

Hoping to calm the situation and distract the tense situation, Hermione asked, “Professor, what about Nyah? We can’t take her with us without permission.”

“No!” Nyah cried, running into the room, “You have to take me … you promised!”

“Nyah, without knowing who your parents really are, and whether they are alive or not, we have no legal right to take you.” Hermione tried to explain.

But Nyah was crying, “I give you permission … doesn’t that count?” 

She reached out her small hands, making a connection with Hermione, silently pleading with her.

“Pricilla, where are your manners?” Catherine scolded the young girl, pointing her finger, happy to spend some energy and anger on Nyah.

The young girl turned and glared at the once-frightening woman before her.  “Don’t you talk to me about manners, Mother,” Nyah spat back. “You are not my mother … you never were … and you lied to me, to Father, to everyone! So don’t talk to me … just - just don’t!”

Nyah turned back to Hermione, again pleading with her.

The teachers looked at one another, trying to come up with a solution.

“We could petition the Ministry. I’m sure I could talk to Kingsley and get emergency custody, although I’ve never heard of a case such as this. But … yes, just until we figure this out. I’m sure he can do something,” Hermione stated, pacing the floor. She was rambling rather, as though a light had popped on in her head.

“Very good, that’s a place to start, but I think it needs to come directly from me,” Minerva said, walking towards the door. “They are going to want to know where she’ll be staying and in whose name the custody should be,” she added, looking to Hermione.

“Please tell them she’ll be staying with Ron and me in Hogsmeade,” Hermione said, glancing at Nyah, “and to ask the papers to be put in my name. I’ll apparate over to sign once you are back, if everything goes well.”

Hermione knew the young girl needed to be with her, but she had no idea why. She reached out and pushed Nyah’s hair behind her ear, smiling back at the face before her … it seemed so familiar … but that was silly … she’d never met her before … but still. 

Once Headmistress McGonagall had gone, the room returned to its stale silence.

Hermione sifted through the parchment, checking and rechecking her notes.

“Catherine, is there anything you can tell me about the man you met or the people who dropped Nyah off to you?” Hermione asked, grabbing her parchment and quill.

Catherine stared off … as if tying to unlock a door in her mind she had closed long ago … “The man at the bar was the same man who came here. He was slightly taller than me, thin, with a walking cane, but just for show. Like I said, his eyes were cold grey.”

“Anything else … an accent, birthmark, his hair color, perhaps?” prodded Hermione, desperate for clues.

“Long and very pale blond.”

Hermione shook her head as if to clear away any cloudy thoughts … “Grey eyes and pale blond hair … are you sure?”

“Yes, of course.” Catherine said curtly, her former self returning somewhat.

“And the other person who came here that night, can you describe him as well?”

“It was a woman, not a man. She was carrying Pricilla, and not well, I might add. She had long red hair; slender, attractive, quiet … in fact, the only thing she said made no sense whatsoever.”

“And what was that?” Hermione asked, still writing furiously.

“Filthy little blood traitor.”

Hermione dropped her quill, and Nyah ran to pick it up. “What’s a blood traitor?” Nyah started to ask Hermione, when the doorbell rang. “So, what is it?” she asked again.

Catherine continued … “I mean, yes, she was filthy, but blood traitor … there’s no such thing, is there?”

At that moment, Mrs. Cleary walked in with the headmistress who wore a small triumphant smile that might have otherwise gone unnoticed. “The papers will be ready for you to sign as soon as you arrive. Go directly to Minister Shacklebolt’s office; he’s waiting and may have some questions,” McGonagall directed to Hermione.

“Catherine,” McGonagall continued, “I too, have some questions. May we?” she said as she motioned to the dining room.

The headmistress walked with Catherine to the far end of the table, as Hermione readied herself to leave. She turned to Nyah. “Why don’t you start packing, and I’ll come and help you as soon as I return.”

Nyah started to worry about her newly-appointed guardian. “You will come back for me, won’t you?”

Hermione walked back to the girl, and once again, felt a familiar lurch deep inside of her. “Of course, Nyah … I won’t leave you here.” She pulled the girl into a small hug, confused at her own feelings.

Nyah turned and ran part-way up the stairs. “What should I call you, please?”

“Well, why don’t we start with Hermione, for now?” she said, smiling at Nyah.

Nyah nodded and said, “Hurry back, Hermione.”

And with that, Hermione left the Stewart Manor to apparate to the Ministry of Magic … to the new mystery of Nyah’s parentage … and to request an official Ministry meeting with none other than one Lucius Malfoy. 

Author's Notes ... I'd love to hear what you think!  Please leave a review.  :-)  
Thanks go out to Girldetective, Browneyes, Silver Thimble, JLHufflepuff, and everyone else who's been kind enough to leave a review and offer tips and hints or to ask questions!  {{{{{hugs}}}}}


Chapter 8: Change Is Often Frightening
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

~wonderful chapter image by chiQs09~

Nyah nodded and said, “Hurry back, Hermione.”

And with that, Hermione left the Stewart Manor to apparate to the Ministry of Magic … to the new mystery of Nyah’s parentage … and to request an authorized Ministry meeting with none other than one Lucius Malfoy. 

Chapter 8 – Change Is Often Frightening

Nyah watched from the second-story landing as Hermione walked towards the tall row of hedges near the road. 

Where is she going?
Nyah thought, curious why her future teacher would head that way. The young girl watched intently as Hermione brushed the strands of hair from her face as she glanced around, as though looking for something – and then turned just a small amount and was gone!

Nyah jumped, a bit afraid of what she just witnessed. Her feet couldn’t move fast enough down the steps, taking her to the spot where Hermione vanished. She reminded herself not to run, as she knew Headmistress McGonagall was in the dining room with Catherine.

As she quickly, but quietly, stepped out the front door, Nyah was struck at how odd it sounded – Catherine – no longer Mother. Nyah’s steps grew slower and slower as the realization of what happened earlier truly began to sink in. She twirled her hair, absentmindedly, creating more tangles to add to the ones already residing there.

“I’m an orphan,” Nyah mumbled to herself. She came to a complete stop near the giant oak tree and leaned onto it, looking for support. Thoughts of Anna, Father, and Mrs. Cleary sprang to the front of her mind. Anna and Mrs. Cleary were here, now – and she knew there was time to say goodbye – but Father, he was away, and she didn’t know when he might come back. “I can’t leave – not yet. I need to see Father,” she whispered to the wind.

Conversing with the breeze, she continued, “Maybe I could stay, just another week or so, to finish up school and say goodbye to everyone.” Nyah sat, chewing her nails, deep in thought, ignoring the beetle running a lazy course over the top of her sandal.

She also hadn’t noticed the small shadow behind the tree, eavesdropping on her thoughts. The boy reached up and brushed his mousy brown hair from his eyes, as the wind wrapped around the massive trunk. His riding boots made no sound in the earth as he tip-toed around, glancing at Nyah as she sat in the comfort of the tree.

Alexander contained a laugh as he thought of all the nasty tricks he could play on the girl he used to refer to as his little sister. But no more – Anna had told him of the school officials that had come to take Nyah away with them.

Knowing this may be the last time he could torment her, Alexander decided his final prank had to be a good one. An evil smile played across his face as his choice was made. He crept away to a dark corner of the Manor – wicked, dark feelings unleashed in his heart.

The hard compacted earth was making it presence known as Nyah’s backside was beginning to go a bit numb. She shifted a little, still deep in her thoughts, as she scratched at the scab on her knee. A small shuffle on the ground nearby brought Nyah from her thoughts. She glanced around as she stood and leaned against the bark.

The large oak tree had an enormous trunk and Nyah had to take three rather large steps to peek around the back. Nervously picking her nails, Nyah was certain she hadn’t imagined the sounds.

Since Hermione could disappear with a small turn, Nyah now wondered what other types of magical creatures might be hiding here-and-there, just out of sight. She took a step backwards and turned around as blood-curdling scream burst from her mouth.
There, dangling directly in front of her were two very large, hairy spiders – their legs reaching for her face as she struggled to get away.

Nyah lost her footing and fell hard to the ground. Before she even had a chance to move, the terrible realization that the spiders were now crawling on her was sending her into a spasm. She stood up quickly, as one of the brown hairy creatures dropped to the ground. Nyah jumped away and turned quickly, desperately looking for the other spider.

Her scream had brought the occupants of the house out into the yard. Headmistress McGonagall was quite confused as to why the young girl would be twirling about in the yard, screaming… that was, until she saw a boy hiding in the tree, laughing as he watched Nyah struggle.

Nyah was getting desperate. It was as though she could feel spiders crawling all over her body and couldn’t get them off. A billowing, black cape was racing to her side as she continued to scream.

Headmistress McGonagall grabbed the young girl as she continued to squirm, tears running down her face – the electricity building.

Please – the spider – it’s on me!” Nyah cried, gasping for air, and unable to stay still.

The Headmistress quickly turned the young girl around and spied the hairy legs just under Nyah’s black hair. With a flick of her wand, the spider was sent sailing… up into the tree limbs… directly into the face of one very surprised Alexander.

The yells transferred from the ground to the tree, as Alexander struggled to get the spider off of him without losing his balance. Angered that his final prank had been turned on him, Alexander threw the spider to the ground where it lay – finally still.

He lowered himself from the tree, shooting daggers from his eyes at Nyah, as the young girl sought comfort in the robes of her savior. The Headmistress wasn’t soft and soothing, but more like a tower and force to be reckoned with, and in that, Nyah drew strength.

Typically, Mrs. Stewart hadn’t even been bothered enough to leave the comfort of the porch. Calling down, she said, “Alexander, dear, don’t hurt yourself in that tree.” And with that, she turned back into the house.

Bringing herself up to full height, Headmistress McGonagall looked down her nose at the scrawny boy who was glaring at Nyah. “Young man, I believe you owe your sister an apology,” she demanded of Alexander.

Unaffected, he snorted and rolled his eyes at the tall woman before him. Staring directly at her, he shook his head. “Apparently, you’ve not heard… this – freak,” he spat towards Nyah, “is not my sister, so no apology is required. Now, if you’ll excuse me… it looks like Halloween has come early. I should go and locate my costume.” He smiled smugly and turned to walk away.

Headmistress McGonagall’s breathing had quickened and her face was extremely pink with anger. “I’ll save you the trouble of looking,” she stated, and with a quick flick of her wand, Alexander was dressed from head-to-foot in a frilly, hot-pink smock. His hair was sticking out at all angles in rainbow colors, his face full of makeup.

Alexander turned and his mouth dropped open as he took in his new apparel. With a right girly scream, he hiked his skirt and ran for the house, whining for Mother.

Nyah’s mouth hung open as her eyes danced with laughter at what she just saw. “That,” she gasped at the Headmistress, “was brilliant!” The elderly woman managed a small snicker in response, quite pleased with the payback.

It was then that both Nyah and the Headmistress heard another laugh – loud and clear. Recognizing the familiar sound, Nyah ran around the tree and lunged into the open arms of Anna. The girls fell to the ground in a fit of giggles, and each committed that moment to memory.

McGonagall walked determinedly to the Manor, eager to finish her conversation with Mrs. Stewart and be on her way – gone from this place. 

Nyah contentedly stared at the clouds passing by, her heart floating with them. She looked over at Anna, whose face bore a completely different set of emotions. A single tear escaped the older girl’s eye, and Nyah followed its course as it lost its way in the blonde hair.

Taking a deep breath, Nyah sat up, pulling her feet under her knees. She preoccupied herself by picking at her knee again, not wanting to ruin this moment – but time was slipping by. Nyah opened her mouth to speak, but nothing but broken words came out. Sighing, she finally said, “I’m leaving soon.”

Anna refused to acknowledge the statement and continued to look to the sky. Another tear escaped her eye, following the same path as the one before. Strained silence between them, Anna sat up and looked to the ground, unwillingly to make eye contact. Finally letting out a deep breath, she whispered, “I know.”

The girls picked at the grass and small stones beneath the tree, hoping this time would last a bit longer. The sound of the front door closing brought them looking to the house. Headmistress McGonagall was approaching the tree, a kind smile on her face.

“Anna, your mother would like to see you,” the woman said, smiling at Anna.

“Thank you, Ma’am,” Anna said while she straightened her clothing. With a glance towards Nyah, she obediently ran to the house.

The tall, commanding woman watched as Nyah stood and faced her. “And you,” she started, “have some packing to do.”

Nyah began biting her bottom lip as she glanced nervously towards the spot where Hermione had disappeared earlier. Ashamed at her own thoughts, she looked to the ground.

Quietly whispering, Nyah asked, “What if they say no - the Ministry people? What if I’m stuck here? And what if I don’t know how to leave?” Nyah shook her head, as though scolding herself for sounding odd. “I mean...” she started again, but was cut off as the headmistress pulled her chin up, looking in her eyes.

“Change is often frightening. But you must ask yourself, isn’t the adventure worth the risk?” the Headmistress asked her.

Taking a moment to think about it, Nyah smiled, her heart lifting again. “Yes," she said, "I guess I have some packing to do,” she said looking at the large, looming windows, Nyah added a soft, “Thank you – for earlier. I really hate spiders.” With a gentle smile, she bolted from the safety of the tree, heading towards the house – the path clear before her.

The Headmistress watched until the young girl was safely inside, and then turned to face the tall hedges, taking a seat on a concrete bench.  After a few moments, a small ‘pop’ resonated and Hermione appeared out of thin air.

Barely taking time for both feet to feel the ground beneath her, Hermione walked hurriedly towards the Manor, completely unaware that her presence was being monitored.

“Hermione,” the older woman called from a bench nearby, smiling at the young woman.

“Professor – I mean Headmistress,” exclaimed Hermione as she altered her course a bit. A bit out of breath, Hermione sat down, smiling to herself. “Sorry… well, I was granted temporary custody.”

“Wonderful,” breathed McGonagall.

“Yes,” Hermione began, “but only until the formal hearing, which is actually set for Monday.”

“Monday?” the Headmistress cried. “How do they expect you to find anything out in that amount of time?”

Hermione sighed, looking out at the lush front gardens. “It’s not going to be easy,” she spoke to the wind.

The Ministry hearing was a bit daunting, as the notices were owled out while Hermione was signing the custody papers. Emergency meetings were rare, now that there was a somewhat-established peace since Voldemort’s fall, so to be summoned to a meeting such as this would be well-attended, more out of curiosity than concern.

Brought out of her contemplation as the Headmistress rose from the bench, Hermione stood as well. “Thank you for coming today,” she said to her former Professor. Glancing at the house on the hill, she said, “I don’t think I could have quite managed this one alone.”

McGonagall's eyes twinkled with vast knowledge and laid a hand on Hermione’s arm, “I’m happy to help. Now – I believe there is a little girl waiting to be freed from this gloomy place. I’m sure we’ll meet up later.”

Glancing about to ensure she was not being watched, McGonagall turned on the spot, and with a small ‘pop’, she was gone.

Nyah met Hermione at the front door nearly bursting with anticipation. After a quick hug, Nyah took a breathless step back and beamed up at Hermione, welcoming her. Hermione laughed, reminding Nyah that she’d only been gone an hour.

“It’s been an hour and a half,” she stated with an edge in her voice, placing her right hand on her hip. She reminded Hermione of another witch, who at Nyah’s age, was quite the spit-fire.

Nyah walked Hermione into the house, and quietly closed the door behind them. Catherine was resting, and it wouldn’t do to wake her, Nyah explained in a whisper.

“Well,” Hermione asked in her quietest voice, “are you all packed?”

“Nearly,” Nyah replied, “Would you help me?”

With a nod, Hermione took Nyah’s small hand in her own and they walked up the three long winding staircases. Hermione’s smile fell from her face as she walked into the attic. The room was old and dusty with the barest of furnishings. The only cheerfulness in the room was hand-drawn pictures pinned to the walls. She thought a well-placed howler to Mrs. Stewart was called for about now ….

“Hermione … hello,” Nyah said, waving her hand in front of Hermione, gaining her attention once again. “Like I said, do I need to bring everything, or do I get different things when we are there?”

“Nyah,” Hermione gently reminded her, “you may not be coming back here for a while, so I think it best to take everything you think you’ll want.” Hermione wondered if the young girl would ever be allowed to come back.

“Hmm,” Nyah said, scratching her head in thought, “I guess that’s it then.”

“What about all of these?” Hermione asked, pointing to the many drawings scattered around the room.

Nyah looked around, a broad smile, coming across her face. “These should stay… maybe if Anna or Father starts to forget me, they can come up here,” she said, looking around. “Except this one… this should come with me,” she whispered as she tucked the hand-drawn picture of a mother, father, and little girl flying on a giant broomstick into her travel sac.

“Ready now?” Hermione said, a bit sad for Nyah.

With one last look around, the young girl simply shook her head and took Hermione’s hand.

A few moments later, and a tearful goodbye to Mrs. Cleary, Hermione and Nyah set out for the front door. They stopped briefly at Anna’s room where the two girls sat crying and hugging one another. Anna had been one of the warmest lights in Nyah’s life, and they weren’t quite ready to part ways.

Hermione was prepared for this. She gave Anna a set of rather simple-looking stamps that when placed on an ordinary letter would be magically sorted and delivered to Nyah at Hogsmeade. This small favor was enough to make their departure bearable – knowing they would be able to communicate.

“Would Anna be allowed to visit me at your house?” Nyah asked, holding her sister’s hand. “Perhaps for my birthday next week?”

Hermione smiled and promised, “I’m sure we can arrange something, as long as Mrs. Stewart agrees to it. Birthdays in the Weasley family are a lot of fun, and I’m sure one more will be quite welcome,” she said, looking between the girls.

With a last hug, a couple of more tears, and the promise to write every day, the girls said their goodbye’s … not realizing how soon it would be before they met again.

Once outside, Hermione realized that she had overlooked one not-so-tiny detail … getting Nyah to Hogsmeade. Normally, students wouldn’t be arriving until September 1st when the Hogwarts Express train ran, but this was June, and the train wasn’t running. That left the option of Floo powder or apparition, and neither one was, in Hermione’s opinion, a good option.

To save the time of searching for a wizarding home to Floo from, Hermione decided it was easiest to apparate. After explaining the basics to Nyah, she took a firm hold of Nyah’s suitcase in one hand, and Nyah in the other – who clung for dear life to Hermione’s arm.

Hermione concentrated on the cottage at Hogsmeade, and turned on the spot.

Nyah felt like someone was giving her the biggest bear hug ever – and wouldn’t let go. As her feet felt solid ground, she stumbled and gasped for air. 

Coughing, Nyah said, “I do not want to do that ever again!”

“I’m sorry,” Hermione explained, “but it was the best option at the time.” She reached down and picked up the suitcases while Nyah adjusted the travel bag on her shoulder. “You’ll get used to it eventually.”

Nyah shook her head and looked up as Hermione opened the gate and walked up to a small cottage.

“Coming?” Hermione asked.

Nyah stood and took it all in … the Weasley home was such a contrast to the stark, cold Stewart Manor.

The cottage looked like something on the front of a postcard. It was a lovely shade of pale yellow with white shutters. Flowers were in full bloom and the lush, green grass just needed to be mowed. There was the hum of bees nearby, and in the distance, the sounds of children laughing. The walkway was made of small, red bricks that made your shoes click when you walked on them. Nyah had never seen such a charming home and she couldn’t wait to go inside.

Stepping through the doorway, Nyah was struck by how comfortable she felt. The familiar tugging sensation somewhere behind her stomach was coming on again. She moved from room to room taking it all in. It was as if she knew what was beyond each turn and behind each door before reaching them.

The windows were open in the front rooms letting a warm breeze to flow through the house. The dining room table was littered with books large and small – the sitting room beckoned you in to take a seat with its comfortable sofa and chair.

As they walked through the home, Hermione chatted about her husband, Ron, their children; Rose who was 6, and Hugo who was nearly 4. Hermione had begun to go on about the rest of the Weasley family, which sounded incredibly large, when Nyah felt very dizzy and her head starting to throb. She wandered over to the fireplace and reached out - clinging onto the mantle, hoping the pain would pass quickly, but instead of passing, the pain was building.

Nyah heard Hermione telling her to breathe … something about water …

Hermione pulled her wand from her pants pocket and with a small wave said, “Accio glass,” as a small glass flew in from the kitchen. “Aguamenti!” The glass filled with water and she coaxed Nyah to take a sip.

Nyah’s breathing was coming faster and faster … she turned and looked at Hermione whose lips were moving, but no sound got to Nyah’s ears.

It was coming …

Nyah felt the electricity rise from somewhere near her toes traveling through her entire body … she closed her eyes, willing it to stop, afraid of this feeling … not here, not now … her hair was rising off her shoulders as though caught by a fierce wind. Her skin burned … everything hurt so badly … Let go …it won’t hurt if you let it go … she told herself. No! Make it stop! 

As the room went black, a scream rang out …

Author's Notes:  I'd love to know what you think of this chapter - I've actually rewritten it now twice and  would like to know your thoughts... of this or other chapters, the characters, the plot, etc.

Just click the little box below.  I ALWAYS respond to my reviews so check back too! =]

Thanks to everyone who have left reviews up to this point!!!!  I appreciate your feedback!

Chapter 9: To The Burrow
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

~chapter image from chiQs09 of TDA~

It was coming …

Nyah felt the electricity rise from somewhere near her toes traveling through her entire body … she closed her eyes, willing it to stop, afraid of this feeling – not here, not now – her hair was rising off her shoulders as though caught by a fierce wind. Her skin burned … everything hurt so badly! Let go …it won’t hurt if you let it go, she told herself. No! Make it stop!

As the room went black, a scream rang out …

Chapter 9 – To The Burrow 

Every inch of her body tingled, like your foot or hand when it falls asleep … Nyah moved very gently trying to rid herself of this odd sensation. She was on the floor and for a moment, wasn’t quite sure where she was. Sitting up, she quickly understood the severity of the situation when she realized that she wasn’t the only one on the floor.

“Hermione, Hermione,” Nyah screamed. “Please … oh, please wake up! I don’t know what to do … please!”

Nyah sat back, pulling her knees to her chest, crying. What had she done?

Nearly an hour had passed, and the rooms were getting quite dark. Nyah reached out once more, touching Hermione’s face. She felt electricity pass between them.

“Please be okay,” Nyah whispered, tears falling from her face to Hermione’s.

Slowly, Hermione’s eyes began to flutter.

“Ron?” Hermione quietly called out, “Ron?”

“No, Ron isn’t … um … he’s not home – yet,” Nyah replied, unsure of what to say to her.

Hermione looked towards the voice in the dark and managed a weak smile. “Nyah, what happened?”

“I ... I’m so sorry … my head,” Nyah cried, gasping for air, “I think … I think I hurt you.” She sat back, buried her head in her knees, and simply cried.

Hermione sat up – a bit too quickly. Her head responded to the sudden movement by sending out waves of nausea and pain. She sat very still for a time, holding her head in her hands.

Once the nausea passed, Hermione reached for her wand and quietly said, “Lumos.” The lights in the house responded with a warm glow throughout.

As she began to move, Hermione became painfully aware of a burning sensation near her wrists. There, burned into her forearms … were Nyah’s handprints! Fear and concern overwhelmed the pain, and Hermione grabbed the girl’s hands, searching her for injuries.

“You’re … You’re all right?” Hermione checked Nyah’s arms and face before looking straight at her. “Are you okay?” she asked slowly. The tear-streaked face looked back at her with such sadness, Hermione gasped. “Nyah, I’m going to be fine. Right now, I’m worried about you.”

“But … I hurt you.” Nyah hung her head and whispered, “I’ve never done anything that horrible.”

Hermione gently rose to her feet and reached for Nyah’s hand. “There’s only one person who can fix this tonight. Come on, let’s go!” Hermione tried to sound as cheerful as she could, not wanting to let on how badly she was burned. 

“Molly!” Hermione called out, stepping out of the fireplace right after Nyah. She was hoping her mother-in-law was close by.

Hermione had put a calming charm on the burns and changed into a long-sleeved shirt so that Rose and Hugo wouldn’t worry. She was trying to stay calm, but the pain had begun to return with a vengeance.

“There you are! I was worried sick … no owl, no note!” Molly yelled, coming towards the fireplace.

Nyah’s interest turned to worry upon hearing the pitch of the woman Hermione had called ‘Molly’. She inched her way behind Hermione, just allowing herself enough space to peer around as the sound of footsteps came closer.

Sensing Nyah’s concern, Hermione laughed as Molly came around the corner.

“I was just about to send Arthur to look for you,” Molly said, pulling Hermione into a sharp hug. She pulled away, holding her daughter-in-law at arm’s length, analyzing her face. “What is it, dear?”

Not wanting to jump right into it, Hermione first introduced Nyah, who by this time, was trying to hide, unsuccessfully. Hermione explained that Nyah was searching for her parents and would be staying with her and Ron for a while. Hermione pulled the young girl around to bring her face-to-face with Molly Weasley.

Molly moved closer and gently took the girl’s face into her hands and looked intently into Nyah’s eyes. “Don’t you worry, dear,” Molly said with a smile. “You’re in good hands.”

Nyah’s initial fear of the woman quickly vanished as she looked into Molly’s face. There was an intense pull behind her stomach again … the bright brown eyes … they were the same as the ones Nyah had seen for nearly 11 years – they were her own!

Without a moment’s hesitation, Nyah threw herself into Molly’s arms trading a hug for a hug … and Nyah knew … she was home.

Nyah followed the two women through the living room, barely listening to their conversation. Amazed at the vast difference between the Burrow and the Manor, Nyah was fascinated and couldn’t help but look around, as Molly and Hermione continued on past the living room.

Although a generous size, the room overflowed with large, mismatched furniture, pictures, and books. It was the sort of room that if you stood still long enough, you might very well blend into, and go unnoticed for quite some time.

Every inch of the room held new surprises for Nyah. She jumped as the houseplants swayed in a nonexistent breeze or seemed to hum as she got near them. Every photo offered a smile or wave, and Nyah’s gaze landed on a picture of what looked to be a wedding. The only two people she recognized were Mrs. Weasley and Hermione; the rest of the paper was filled with a sea of red hair.

A small voice whispered in Nyah’s ear, “What are you looking at?”

A pair of bright blue peered over the back of the chair next to Nyah, red, untidy hair hanging carelessly against a small forehead.

Nyah stood and looked at the little boy, her arms crossed in front of her. “It’s not polite to sneak up on people,” she said in her most grown-up voice.

“Well… it’s not polite to snoop around in my Grammy’s living room,” the young boy responded, hopping around the room.

“What are you doing?”



Stopping in his tracks as though he hit a wall, he peered at Nyah curiously. “Because it’s the most fun thing ever!”

Nyah shook her head as he hopped away, out of sight. She turned to explore the room more as his voice carried back to her, “Are you coming?” He was peeking around the corner, beckoning her to join him.

“Hugo, let her be. She doesn’t want to play your silly games, do you?” Another new face came into view just behind Hugo. She was slightly taller than the little boy, but with an air about her that seemed much more mature than her six-year-old self. Pointing towards the kitchen, she shooed Hugo from sight with just one look.

Nyah watched the little girl move about the living room, seemingly busy, but not accomplishing anything but stirring up some dust. She finally settled near the Victrola and picked up a rather large book and buried her face within it, ignoring Nyah completely.

A beautiful plant caught Nyah’s eye, sitting on the window ledge. The leaves were small and wispy, and appeared coated in powder. Nyah started to reach out, curious if the leaves really were as soft as they appeared, when a caution rang out from behind the large book, “I wouldn’t touch that if I were you.”

“Why? It’s just a plant – right?” Nyah asked, a combination of curiosity and trepidation flowing through her.

Slamming the cover closed, the little girl awkwardly got up from the deep chair, leaving the book on the seat. Very succinctly, she stated, “That is Dittany and in its raw form, as you see there, it’s rather dangerous, more so to women than men. It can cause all sorts of terrible things if it comes into contact with you.” She literally pulled Nyah away from the window, continuing to educate her on the rare aspects of the plant. “Besides, Grandma Molly would be a bit narked if anything happened to it.”

Hugo came bounding into the room, heading straight for the girls. His red hair bobbed in and away from his round face with every leap.

“Hugo,” called Hermione from the kitchen, “why don’t you and Rose show Nyah around a bit while Grandma Molly and I talk?”

While Molly set about putting together a burn ointment, Hermione quietly told her about what had happened at the cottage.

“I’ve not honestly seen anything quite like it. The worse Nyah got, the more chaotic the elements became. It was as if the forces of nature itself were in conflict, waging a war within her body,” Hermione exclaimed, amazed that they both came through the ordeal with only minimal damage.

Molly was stirring the medicinal potion absentmindedly. “And those people she was living with… they have no idea who her parents are? Where she comes from?”

With a sigh, Hermione offered, “No, I don’t think they knew. It was all about money and status, never about that little girl. The woman did mention that the man who dropped her off was tall, with long blonde hair, and cold eyes.”

Raising her eyes to meet Hermione’s, Molly whispered, “Lucius…” Getting a little rosy in her cheeks, she retorted, “You would have thought that little stint in Azkaban after the war would have done him some good, but apparently not. How long was he in there? Four..”

“Six,” Hermione interjected. “Six years. Harry was able to keep Narcissa and Draco from the cells there considering what Narcissa did for him, but the Ministry’s obligation to lock as many known Death Eaters as possible included Lucius, despite Harry’s testimony.”

As Molly tended to Hermione’s burns, they grew quiet in their thoughts. Trying to tie up these sparse fibers into a coherent pattern was impossible without more information…

Interrupting the silence, Hugo burst into the room, falling at Hermione’s feet dramatically, grumbling, “I’m starving!”

The women chuckled at the site of the little boy feigning starvation, and Molly planted her fists on her hips, exclaiming to Hugo, “Alright you, get up off the floor.”

Rose and Nyah came in to help set the table, while Hermione helped Molly finish up the food. Hugo happily ran off to the den to fetch his grandpa for dinner.

Nyah helped as best she could, surprised that Molly was not only cooking the dinner, but also serving it. Everyone helped out in the Weasley home, and Nyah was an eager subject, loving every moment in this new world. She chatted easily with Molly, and followed after little Hugo, taking part in every game he asked her to play.

Hermione had taken to eating dinner with Molly and Arthur nearly every night. With Ron away, it was nice to have some adult company before heading home with Rose and Hugo.

Ron and George had been gone nearly two weeks on a business trip to France. Their first Weasley franchise near Beauxbaton’s had gone over so well, they decided to branch out to a nearby wizarding community, and had gone to secure a property.

Teddy Lupin had asked to tag along under the pretense of learning the business, but everyone knew that the real reason was because Bill Weasley and his family happened to be vacationing during the summer at Fleur’s parent’s home, which was quite close to the Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes new location. Victorie, Bill & Fleur’s daughter, had been spending quite a bit of time with Teddy, but both insisted they were just good friends.

Being Teddy’s godfather, Harry agreed to go along as chaperone. It had been a long time since they had taken a family vacation, and with a lot of persuading, Ginny finally agreed to come along.

France was not where Ginny wanted to go – vacation yes – France no. There were too many bad memories there, but Harry had rationalized that it was time … time to be there … to let her go. So they packed up the children – James, Albus, and Lily – and headed to France with Teddy, Ron, and George.

Hermione had been counting down the days until they all returned. It was bad enough for Ron to be away at the end of the school term, but with Ginny and Harry gone as well, she felt a bit lonely. So every night when Molly asked her to stay for dinner, Hermione never said no and tonight was no exception.

Molly prepared the same amount of food no matter how many people were actually there for dinner. Huge dishes of chicken and ham pie, boiled potatoes, salad, and strawberry ice cream were on the menu tonight.

Dinner conversation was scattered, including details of everyone’s day. Nyah did her best to keep up, but with so many new names, places, and ideas, it was difficult. She laughed out loud at the stories Mr. Weasley told his captive audience, and was enchanted by the vast vocabulary and knowledge of little Rose. Hugo ate everything in sight ‘just like his father’ Mrs. Weasley said.

When dinner was finished and the plates were cleared, Nyah offered to take Hugo and Rose into the living room to play, while Hermione and Molly cleaned up in the kitchen.

Molly was unnaturally quiet as the plates were dried and put away. She seemed lost in her own thoughts.

“Something’s not right … I can’t put my finger on it, but …” Molly had started, but was interrupted with Rose coming in to inform her mother that Hugo and Nyah had fallen asleep on the couch.

“Come on,” Molly said as she smiled, wiping her hands on her flowered apron, “I’ll help you get them up and home.”

As Rose led the way to the living room, they heard Nyah talking in her sleep while Hugo snuggled in her arms like an old friend.

Nyah had been reading a storybook to Hugo when he gently crawled up into her lap. She had never held a child as small as he before and was worried she wouldn’t know how to do it, but Hugo simply curled up, laid his head on her shoulder, and fell promptly asleep. Nyah couldn’t resist running her hand through his thick, red hair. She sat as still as she could, not wanting to wake the little boy. His breathing was heavy and steady … and Nyah felt the sleep transfer from Hugo to herself, as she fell into her favorite dream...

She was singing again … the voice Nyah loved that was now so familiar … ‘teach us something please!’

“Okay, okay, teach her something different” he said with a gentle laugh …

Nyah was still looking out the window – Turn around Nyah … Look at them …

The conversation continued between the grownups.

Nyah willed herself to move, to speak … but felt herself slipping from the dream. She knew she was falling asleep in the seat of the car. And then, she heard the woman scream – Nyah turned and saw the familiar flash of red hair … “Mum” … and the scream died with one word … ‘Harry.’ 

Nyah was being gently shaken awake. Hermione was there, as was Mrs. Weasley.

“Nyah,” Hermione said, “you were saying something about ‘Harry’. How do you know Harry?”

Nyah was someplace between awake and asleep … and her answer was simple … “Harry … he’s my dad.”

Author's Notes:  Oooo... a cliffhanger...  

Again, I'd love to know your thought's on this chapter.  Thanks to everyone who's been so helpful during this process of writing!  I feel blessed by all of the wonderful reviews!  :)

Chapter 10: First Magic
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

“Nyah,” Hermione said, “you were saying something about ‘Harry’. How do you know Harry?” 

Nyah was someplace between awake and asleep … and her answer was simple … “Harry … he’s my dad.” 

~amazing chapter image by chiQs09 at TDA~

Chapter 10 – First Magic 

Molly helped Hermione floo the children home. Hermione carried Hugo while he protested the entire time about being disturbed from his sleep; Molly stood with Nyah, offering support in this newly discovered way of travel; and independent Rose came last, just as she liked it. 

There was so much that Molly and Hermione wanted to ask Nyah once the younger children were tucked in bed, but it was well past midnight and after the long day they all had … the exhaustion was nearly overwhelming. 

Sensing the dilemma within Hermione, Molly laid a hand on her arm, “Why don’t we take another look at those burns before I pop home?” 

Hermione smiled gratefully, allowing herself to be led away from the guest bedroom where Nyah lay sleeping. 

The women sat in silence as Molly tended to the burns on Hermione’s arms, both lost in their thoughts about Nyah's declaration. The ointment Molly prepared seemed to be doing its job quite well. The burns were no longer bubbled and red, and the pain was gone. 

Hermione was amazed at the healing ability Molly possessed and often wondered why she chose not to become a Healer, but before she could ask, she was cut off by Hugo’s cries … 

“Go, dear,” Molly said, “I’ll finish up here and be on my way. I’ll see you in the morning.” 

The women exchanged a hug that meant much more than a simple goodbye, each hoping that the next day would hold more clues to Nyah’s past … and her dreams. 

Darkness fell around Hermione like a well-worn shawl. The only light emanated from the tip of her wand, which lay on the old wooden desk, throwing her face into sharp contrast. She hadn’t been able to rest and needed to get her thoughts on paper for fear that while asleep, they would be lost to the night.

Her fingers caught in her hair as she reread the letters written in haste to Ron, Harry, and Ginny. They weren’t well-written at all - half-thoughts – rubbish really. What could she tell them? There was nothing absolute at this time, and it would cause worry – not relief, and judging from Ron’s last owl, everything was going very smoothly in France; even with Harry and Ginny. 

There had been such a strain on the young couple all those years ago. Losing a child was enough to send most parents running; usually away from each other, especially under the circumstances. But instead of running, Harry and Ginny held tight to the only thing certain in their lives – their love for each other. And what seemed destined by some to be a crushing blow, now stood as a defining moment in their marriage – one they could be proud of. 

Hermione truly missed each one of them, but all she could think about was Ron. He was her rock, her completion. The way he shook his head when she talked – either in agreement or complete confusion – to the encouragement in his eyes and smile to keep going until the problem was solved … it was all she ever needed … and she needed him now. 

Hermione chewed nervously on her quill as she poured over her notes once more. There were so many questions … like pieces to a puzzle. But just as easily as one piece goes in … it creates more and more questions. 

Frustrated, exhausted, and a bit frazzled, Hermione decided she had better get some rest … the day ahead was bound to be a long one.

“Rose, bring your brother another shirt, please,” Molly asked, as she wrangled the nearly 4-year-old out of the soiled tee that wore more of his breakfast than the plate.   “Hugo, I told you I’d bring you the plate in a moment. Why did you grab it like that? Just look at you!” she said, wiping off his face. 

“But I didn’t grab it, Grandma!” Hugo said with a surprised look on his pudgy face, “It just popped on me when I reached for it – all over me!” 

Rose and Nyah were just coming in the brightly lit kitchen, Rose carrying the clean tee for Hugo, when Molly clapped her hands together. 

“Oh, Hugo! We must send an owl to your mum at once,” she said very excitedly, rummaging about for quill and parchment. “I was always so excited when it happened with my children, and I know your mum and dad have been waiting for this moment … oh, for goodness sakes, where is that quill?” 

“You got excited when dad got smacked in the face with sausage?” Rose asked, with a slight look of disgust creeping across her face. 

Nyah helped little Hugo on with his clean tee, as Molly stood at the kitchen scribbling something on some parchment. Rose looked between Nyah and Grandma Molly, analyzing each of them. 

“There,” Molly exclaimed, “now Rose, dear, will you send this with Pig?” 

“Hermione keeps a pig in the house?” Nyah asked, her eyes wide. 

Rose ran upstairs to her parent’s room, as Grandma Molly laughed and began to explain. Pigwidgeon typically slept during the day, perched in the large cage on Hermione and Ron’s bureau. He was an older owl, but small and spry. Rose tied the note to his leg, and while opening the window, told him to take it straight away to her mum. He flew out the window and took a sharp left past the house, and out of sight. 

Molly had turned to Hugo and was fussing over him when Rose came back in. There were now four plates of sausage and porridge with toast set out for all of them, and Hugo got his first. Molly was beaming, as she bustled around the kitchen. Rose and Nyah were still confused. 

Hugo, however, didn’t understand why Grandma Molly had to owl his mum about dropped sausage, but any concerns he had for how his mum would react went out the window as his plate was set in front of him. 

“Just like his father, he is,” Molly told the girls. “Ron was a bit of a late bloom too; had Grandpa and I worried for a bit, but then up he went, and – well, just look at him now. And, well, Hermione …” Molly sighed, “he gets it honestly …” 

“Gets what, exactly?” Nyah asked, thoroughly confused at this point. 

Just as Molly started to answer, green flames shot up in the fireplace and out stepped a very tired, but beaming Hermione. 

“Mum!” yelled Rose, as she jumped from the table. She ran to Hermione and hugged her tight. 

“Good morning, sweetheart,” Hermione said quietly. 

“And you, young man,” she said to little Hugo, who sat clutching a sausage in each hand while his large blue eyes fixed on Hermione. “Just like your father,” Hermione laughed. 

She motioned the little one out of his seat and over to a large chair near the fireplace. Reluctantly, Hugo set the sausages on his plate and made over to where his mother was sitting. 

Nyah watched intently, lost in the wonderment of this family … how even though everyone had been wonderfully accepting … she still was on the outside looking in, and wished desperately for a family like the Weasley’s. 

Hermione took Hugo’s hands in her own and when she looked in his face, her eyes sparkled with tears. He looked so much like Ron it nearly took her breath away. She reached out and ran her fingers through his thick, red hair as a tear made its way down her cheek. 

“Don’t cry, Mummy,” Hugo said, touching her face, leaving sausage grease where the tear once was. “The plate didn’t even break, and Grandma Molly has it all cleaned up, see? Please don’t be angry.” 

Hermione pulled him into a tight hug. “I’m not angry, darling,” she told him, “I’m so proud of you. Today, you grew up a little bit … you did your first bit of magic.” 

Hugo’s eyes went wide and his mouth dropped open. His first magic! Today, he was a wizard! 

“Grandma Molly owled me,” Hermione said as Hugo jumped up in the air, and added with a whisper, “because I missed it …” 

Hermione had never missed anything … even with her busy schedule; from the first smile, the first tooth, the first word, wave, giggle, and step … but this … the first magic. To Hermione, this was one of the biggest firsts, and she had missed it. 

Rose’s first bit of magic had come very early; she was just over a year old. Hermione and Ron had been visiting Hermione’s parents that Christmas. The adults were visiting while Rose played on the floor. She had been teetering after the Christmas tree all morning, especially wanting a bright silver ball that reflected her smile when she looked in it. Ron whispered that it looked an awful lot like a snitch and was certain at that moment, Rose was destined to be Seeker on the Quidditch team, playing for Gryffindor of course. Rose was clapping and staring at the bulb … then she opened her tiny fist and put it in the air … and the bulb jumped from the tree into her hand. She had turned to look at Hermione with the biggest smile and said, “Mine.” Hermione’s mother nearly passed out, and her father laughed remembering back to Hermione’s first bit of magic, with her mother’s reaction being very similar. 

Hugo, however, hadn’t shown any magical ability at all. Ron would secretly confide to Hermione that he was afraid Hugo might be a squib. Ron would pace the floor wondering what to do, what to say … if people were to find out, while Hermione simply waited … knowing, just like his father, that Hugo would shine brightly when the time was right. 

And shine, he did … Hugo was still dancing around the cheery living room with Rose, when Hermione noticed Nyah sitting at the table. The look on her face was more than longing … it was a yearning and aching … to simply belong. 

Hermione moved to sit in the chair next to Nyah, while looking in at the two children dancing around the coffee table. 

“I don’t know,” Nyah blurted out. 

Hermione and Molly looked at each other, a bit confused. 

“Know what, dear?” Molly asked. 

“I don’t know when I had my first magic,” she cried, “that’s what it’s called … ‘first magic’, right?” Nyah looked at Hermione. 

“Yes,” Hermione whispered. 

“Nyah, we’re going to do everything we can to find out who you are and get you home.” Hermione said, rubbing Nyah’s arm. She looked to Molly, wondering if she should ask Nyah about the dreams. 

Before anyone could say anything more, McGonagall’s head popped in the fireplace.
“Good morning, Headmistress McGonagall,” Hugo beamed at the elderly face, “Guess what?” 

The headmistress was unable to resist the charming little boy and said, “What Hugo?” 

“I did my first magic this morning! I made my breakfast plate smash into my face!” he said with a huge smile, throwing his hands to his face to relive the moment. “The sausage went everywhere and I think I even had some porridge up my nose! I can’t wait to tell Dad!” 

The face in the flames smiled lovingly, “That’s wonderful dear, now is your mother available?” 

“Ah, yes, Hermione,” the headmistress said as Hermione hurried to the fireplace, “we need to leave in just a moment to visit the Kelly family and their daughter, Claudia.”
Hermione was nearly panicked in fear of disappointing the headmistress, “Yes – yes, of course – I’m just on my way, Minerva. Thank you.” 

“I’ll see you in my office then. Good day, Molly, children,” and with a ‘pop’, the headmistress was gone. 

Hermione rushed through the house, hugging each child, and ending with a hug and goodie bag from Molly. 

“Thanks, Molly,” Hermione said, heading to the fireplace, “I’ll be home as soon as I can, and then … summer break!” 

“Yeah! Summer break!” yelled Hugo, getting his second wind, doing another round in the living room. 

“Don’t be silly, you don’t even go to school, yet,” Rose said bluntly, “so you can’t know anything about school holiday.” 

“All right, you two,” Molly scolded, pointing her finger at the two Weasley children, “get yourselves together and we’ll just be off.” Turning to Nyah, she smiled and said, “We’re going to head to the Burrow, are you up for that, dear?” 

Nodding in excitement, Nyah beamed. 

“Head up and get dressed, then, and we’ll be off,” Mrs. Weasley said with a smile.
The rest of the day was like the most wonderful dream. They flooed to the Burrow and with Mrs. Weasley helping Hugo, it meant that Nyah had to go alone; she didn’t mind - especially as Rose was staring at her, arms crossed and eyebrow raised, wondering if Nyah would have the guts to do it while Mrs. Weasley reminded her to speak very clearly before throwing down the powder. 

Once everyone arrived, Rose took it upon herself to show Nyah the wonders of the Burrow. They combed the garden for gnomes, and other interesting things that Nyah had never seen. They crawled through the bushes, and hid behind the shed ready to jump out and scare Hugo if he came looking for them. Nyah nearly caught a garden gnome, but upon learning they often gave a nasty bite, the girls decided to leave the gnomes to their worm hunting. They set off for the orchard and pond, where Rose told stories about all of the wizarding things Nyah missed out on … but Nyah’s favorite stories were of the Weasley family; they seemed such a lovely contrast to the family she was raised with. 

Nyah’s thoughts wandered back to The Stewart Manor … although only gone a short time, Nyah felt so distant from the nightmares that lived there. Anna and Alexander’s party would be in full swing by now, and Nyah could imagine the festivities from the pony rides and cowboy hats, to the cake and gifts. She wished she could be there with Anna, but knew that wasn’t going to happen. Nyah also had no desire to leave this place right now; nothing in her life had ever been so perfect. 

Nyah was pulled out of her thoughts when Mrs. Wesley yelled for the girls to come in for lunch. They stood and brushed as much dirt and grass off of their clothes as they could and turned towards the Burrow. Nyah had never been so dirty in her life, and she loved it! She leaned against the old tree, tying her muddy trainers once again. She started to move when she noticed some old carvings in the tree, just slightly higher than her head. Rose stood on tip-toe reading the letters carved inside of a heart; HP + GW. Nyah smiled as she touched the knotty wood, tracing the letters with her finger. 

“That’s my Aunt Ginny – GW – Ginny Weasley. My Uncle Harry did this before the war,” Rose said. “I’ve never noticed it … hmm … I wonder if my mum and dad have one too.” 

The girls spent the next few minutes searching the tree, their hope peaked as they found some carvings on the opposite side – but those were more jumbled with lots of letters crossed out, and one that Rose said looked ‘blasted clean off’. 

“I bet my Aunt Fleur or Aunt Angelina did that,” Rose said, pointing at the tree, “Uncle Bill and Uncle George had a tendency to date quite a few different girls, so one of my aunts probably got tired of seeing the other initials and blasted them off,” Rose explained. 

“So do you think I’ll get to meet all your aunts and uncles before I go to Hogwarts?” Nyah asked, hoping Rose would say ‘yes’

Rose looked around the tree, as if checking it for spies, and lowered her voice to a whisper, “Don’t tell Mum I told you … but your 11th birthday is next week, right?” 

Nyah nodded, while biting her bottom lip nervously. 

“Well,” Rose continued, “my dad will be back from France by then and I heard Mum and Grandma talking about your birthday party, so yes, I think you’ll see everyone!” she added with a mischievous smile. 

Rose put her finger to her lips and Nyah crossed her heart, promising not to tell. Mrs. Weasley yelled again, and the girls ran towards the house, Nyah loving every minute more and more. 

Lost in thoughts of parties, cakes, presents, and the most wonderful temporary family, next weekend couldn’t come soon enough … but for Nyah, the next few days would challenge everything she once was and everything she was becoming … it would seal her fate forever. 

Author's Notes:  I can't thank all of you enough who have walked this Road with me... the reviews have been wonderful and so helpful!!!  Please continue ...  Let me know what you think of this new chapter!

Chapter 11: A Shift in Magic
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

~fantastic chapter image by chiQs09's~

… but for Nyah, the next few days would challenge everything she once was and everything she was becoming … it would seal her fate forever. 

Chapter 11 – A Shift in Magic 

There had never been a day at The Stewart Manor that captivated Nyah in such an amazing way that she couldn’t sleep … but here … there was the Burrow. Nyah was certain that there was never a better place on earth. She had been able to play the entire day with Rose and Hugo; getting dirty, eating a picnic lunch by the pond, and after a late dinner, Nyah got to help with the dishes.

Dinner at the Burrow was once again, a lovely time; Nyah was amazed as the vegetables were chopped, the sink washed the potatoes, and the dishes set themselves – all with a flick of Molly’s wand. Everyone laughed and talked, while Molly told stories of her children when they were young; especially the twins, Fred and George.

Unfortunately, Nyah would never get to meet Fred as he had died in the war against someone named Voldemort. She had wanted to ask more questions about the war, but Rose interrupted with a tale about Nyah’s first introduction to the garden gnomes, and the laughter ensued once again.

No one rushed to the fireplace as the time came to leave, but instead lingered… enjoying this moment with family. Nyah was especially hoping to stay a bit longer, but Hermione insisted on getting the children home and to bed. Molly gave everyone an extra hug and sent them off, promising to see them soon.

Once back at the cottage, Nyah climbed into bed while thoughts of the Burrow filled her mind. She committed each moment to memory in case there was never another day like it. I wish I had a journal to write it all down in, Nyah thought, hoping the details of the day would stay fresh and clear. Sleep had been driven away as the excitement stayed within the young girl.

She slipped out from under the cool sheets, her feet landing on the dark wood floor without a sound. The large window was open a bit and the pale pink curtains danced in the breeze as Nyah found herself wandering through the little room. She touched the walls, tracing the delicate flowered wallpaper as the small vines and blooms chased her fingers in a never-ending pattern. There was a faint scent of lavender, as if embedded in the paper itself, brought to life by the touch of the young girls’ fingers.

Aside from the bed and night stand, the room held a large dresser plus an old desk in the corner. Taking a seat on the small bench, Nyah ran her hand over the top of the wood … it was well-worn and shiny from use. She lifted the desk top and found parchment, ink, and quills – ready for use. Nyah had never used a quill and ink, and thought it best that she get some practice before school started, positive her classmates would know much more about magic than she.

At first, Nyah simply scribbled, getting a feel for the way the ink embedded into the parchment and fanned out a tiny bit if the quill lingered too long. She found that it was very similar to writing the Muggle way, but the quill feather seemed to provide some leverage and made the writing a little easier, except when her nose got in the way causing her to itch furiously. After nearly dropping the ink in her lap and onto the floor, she finally found a small hole for the inkwell to sit properly on the desk.

Quill writing was actually enjoyable, so Nyah pulled out another sheet of parchment and set about writing a letter to Anna, wishing her a happy birthday. She told Anna all about Rose and Hugo, her new bedroom with a view of Hogwarts, and the Burrow. By the time she was finished, two sheets of parchment were filled. Nyah stifled a yawn as she folded the papers. Perhaps Hermione would let her used Pig to send the letter to Anna, instead of the Muggle post.

Nyah giggled out loud at the thought of an owl showing up at The Stewart Manor to deliver the letter. She could nearly picture Catherine and Alexander’s faces if Pig arrived just as breakfast was served, perhaps even landing in the middle of the table.

The smile lingered on her face as Nyah stood and stretched. She peered out the window into the stillness of the night, grateful that sleep had managed to impose on her. But there, in the corner of the yard, Nyah saw a distinct shadow. A wave of fear swept through her body, though she didn’t know why. She knelt down and continued to watch as the shadow moved along the fence line.

Nyah started for the door, bringing the candle along, careful to tiptoe so not to wake anyone. She crept down the stairs and towards the front room, when she saw two hooded figures walking slowly up the front path. Without hesitation or concern for noise, Nyah turned and sped back up the stairs, pounding on Hermione’s door.

“Hermione, Hermione!” Nyah cried, her voice filled with panic, “There’s men outside.”

The bedroom door flew open with Hermione’s hair flying wild, her wand held high. Glancing down the stairs and back to Nyah, she placed her finger over her lips and pointed down the hall to Rose and Hugo’s rooms. With a nod, Hermione moved silently down the steps, as Nyah sped to the children’s rooms.

Slowly turning the large brass doorknob, Nyah entered Rose’s bedroom first, which seemed to be very similar to her own, but decorated in Rose’s favorite shades of blue. The walls twinkled like moonlight hitting water, and Nyah paused a moment, expecting the sounds of waves crashing against the rocks to meet her ears.

Rose was wrapped in a pale blue knitted blanket that was nearly too small for her, but with a little stretching it just covered her toes. Nyah woke the little girl from a sound sleep, and pulled her towards the door.

Rubbing her eyes, Rose whined, “What’s going on?” She refused to move and shrugged off Nyah’s attempts to budge her from the warmth of the bed.

“There are men in cloaks - heading up the walkway,” whispered Nyah. “Your mum sent me to stay with you and Hugo. Now, come on!” Nyah beckoned her to the door.

Fear rising in her eyes, Rose grabbed a dressing gown and clasped tight to Nyah’s hand as they crept out the door and across the hall. Hugo was snoring loudly, undisturbed by the movement in the house, and unaware that the girls had come into his room. He was stretched out completely on the bed, his right foot hanging off the side and his arms reaching in opposite directions.

Hugo’s room was the smallest of the bedrooms, and was decorated in reds and golds; “Gryffindor colors,” Rose whispered as Nyah looked around. His bedroom window faced the front of the house, and the two girls peeked out looking over the yard. Rose gasped as she saw one of the men head for an open window.

“Get away from there!” Rose yelled, not realizing the danger she was in.

Nyah pulled Rose from the window as colored sparks flew by.

The downstairs erupted as Hermione took control and spells were fired at the intruders.

Rose ran out the bedroom door before Nyah could reach her. Both girls made for the stairs; Rose to her mother – Nyah trying to protect little Rose. They landed on the bottom step at the same time, Nyah insisting they stay hidden in the shadows.

The girls cautiously peeked around the corner, watching silently as Hermione stood unmoving in the shadows, barely visible. Nyah watched tentatively as a figure approached the door. “Bombarda!” echoed through the house as the front door was blown from its hinges, sending glass and wood splintering into the front room.

A scream hung on the air, as Hermione was sent plummeting to the floor. Before the dust had time to settle, the two hooded figures stepped into the home, one heading straight for the unconscious woman.

Ignoring the shards of glass penetrating her bare feet, Nyah ran to Hermione, begging her to wake up, but Hermione was unresponsive. Nyah’s breathing became erratic and the tingling quickly spread through her body. A heavy hand grabbed her arm, lifting her from the floor and dragging her away. Angered, Nyah found her footing and stood firm, causing the Death Eater to turn and look at her.

He was a short, stocky man that grunted when he walked, as though the sheer weight of his body was taxing his breathing. There was a dark mask covering his face, but it did little to conceal the numerous scars on his chin, nor the small amount of moustache that sat above his dark lips and yellowing teeth.

Rose had stayed in the shadow of the stairs, covering her mouth, fearing her sobs would reveal her presence. She couldn’t take her eyes off of her mum … lying there, unmoving. Just then, Hugo appeared at the top of the steps dragging his blanket, calling for Hermione.

The second hooded figure lazily raised his wand, pointing it at the little boy. Unexpectedly, Rose screamed and lunged from the shadow, taking the Death Eater by surprise. But she was so small, the cloaked figure simply grabbed her hair and looked in her face, his wand still pointed at the steps.

“This one is too young,” the taller Death Eater said curtly of Rose. He cast her down and turned to face Nyah who was, by this point, watching him with fear. Rose crawled to her mother, moving the debris from Hermione as best she could.

The pain flowing through Nyah was almost overwhelming … but she held firm, not letting her captors aware of a potential weakness; the people she loved. Seeing them hurt was much stronger than any pain, and the magic in her shifted; it had found a purpose. The Death Eater’s grip on her arm tightened as he felt Nyah move.

“Best not to fight Nina,” he said with a sick smile on his face.

“My name is Nyah, and you need to let me go now,” she said, nearly growling at the grown men, willing herself not to cry. Her head was throbbing and the air held an electricity, not yet recognized by the two men.

The taller man snickered as he moved towards her, lowering his wand from the stairwell, forgetting about little Hugo for a moment. His long strides brought him directly in front of Nyah in three steps. He reached out, grabbing her hair and pulling it back, causing her chin to rise sharply.

A cruel smile spread across his face as he took in all of her features. “Yes, this is the one; she has her mother’s eyes,” he said to the stocky man. Then, holding Nyah’s chin, he clicked his tongue while scolding her, “Tsk, tsk … spending time in a mudblood’s shack … terrible choice, Nina, terrible. My father will not be pleased.”

“My – name – is – Nyah!” she screamed, stomping her foot, her fists clenched in defiance. The two men jumped away from the girl, shaking their hands as though burned by the ferocity in her voice. The shorter man, sensing impending danger, ran for the open doorway, but Nyah was past the point of no return. Her brown eyes pierced the mask, transferring the pain within her to the man running towards the door. He sank to the floor, holding his head.

Nyah’s hair was flying around her shoulders as she turned towards the taller man. He stumbled backwards, his hands held in front of him trying to shield himself from the girl’s power. He had no idea how to counteract the magic he was seeing in her. He again pulled his wand from his cloak, but instead of pointing it at Nyah, he chose another target … the sleepy little boy that had just gotten to the bottom of the steps … Hugo.

“No!” Nyah screamed, pushing her right hand towards the Death Eater as the left hand called Hugo to her.

Moments later, Nyah slowly sat up, having been thrown to the floor by the intensity of Hugo smashing into her. He looked at Nyah with surprise and said, “Did you see that? I just flew! Wait ‘till I tell Mum and Dad … this magic thing is brilliant!” He jumped off her lap and turned to his sister, who was still sitting on the floor next to Hermione.

Struggling to her feet, Nyah felt a tug on her pant leg as Hugo pointed towards the far wall. Nyah gasped when she saw the huge hole that had been blasted straight through the dining room wall, allowing the darkness to seep into the house. Just outside, lying unconscious, was the Death Eater that had drawn his wand. Nyah smiled, feeling no remorse. She turned to where the front door once was, realizing that the shorter man was missing.

“Nyah!” yelled Rose, pointing at the gaping hole. The Death Eather had dragged himself around the house and was reaching for the unconscious man. Looking straight at Nyah, he turned on the spot and the two men disappeared with a ‘pop’.

Nyah’s focus shifted at the sound of Hugo’s cries. The front door had landed directly on top of Hermione, splintering in the blast. The three children delicately moved the heavy boards, revealing an unconscious and barely breathing Hermione.

The noise from the attack had awakened the neighbors and they rushed to the small cottage, unprepared for the sight that they beheld. Mr. Baird, the elderly gentleman who lived next door, was the first to arrive. Taking a quick look around while Rose calmly and succinctly told him what happened, he walked to the fireplace and flooed away. His wife, Dorothy, stayed with the children.

Within moments, Mr. Baird arrived back at the house followed by two healers and two wizards to transport Hermione and the children to St. Mungo’s.

As soon as they arrived, healers took the children to a room together on the ground floor in an area for minor wounds, while Hermione was whisked away to a private room on the fourth floor. Rose and Hugo silently huddled on one of the beds, while Nyah sat in a tiny chair nearby, her head held in her hands, trying in vain to comprehend what had just happened.

The assigned healers took turns examining the children, jotting down notes, while Ministry officials barked out questions about the men at the cottage.

The children sat quietly as each one was treated; Hugo had a small piece of wood in his arm, and Rose had several cuts on her knees and hands. The healers applied a soothing ointment and gave each child a small potion, which Rose said smelled like Hugo’s old socks.

Nyah, however, suffered the most physical damage of the three children. The healer-in-training escorted Rose and Hugo to another bed, separated from Nyah only by a curtain. Nyah’s feet had sustained numerous lacerations from the glass and wood, and one of her palms was burnt. Both healers worked in silence with an occasional flourish of their wands and inaudible spells. Nyah was surprised and grateful at how little pain there was. She too, was given a concoction as the healer explained, “I’ve given you a bit stronger potion to help with the pain, but it will also make you sleep. We’ll be sending some home with you to use if needed.” Healer Sabinski asked if Nyah wished for Rose and Hugo to stay here with her or wait in the waiting area.

Rose was still crying, and Nyah said they should stay together. Both children managed to crawl up into the bed with Nyah; Hugo clinging to tightly to her neck. The healer simply offered a smile and moved to leave as a sea of red-haired people burst through the door into the room.

“Where are they? Rose? Hugo? Nyah?” Molly’s voice rang out. The room suddenly filled with warmth and voices as Mrs. Weasley, Mr. Weasley, along with two others came rushing to the children.

“Dad!” Hugo and Rose yelled in unison and they leapt into his open arms.

Nyah couldn’t help but smile as Ron grabbed both children, embracing them fiercely. After a few moments, he set Hugo down, looking at him closely and then tousling the little boy’s thick head of hair. Rose, however, did not let go as easily, and was crying again as her father sat down in a chair with Rose still in his lap. He wiped her tears, and whispered to her that ‘everything is fine’. And in all that, Ron still kept a hand on Hugo, not wanting to let either one go.

The little children took turns showing their dad the injuries they sustained, while asking constantly about their mum. Ron continued to comfort them, promising to see Hermione as soon as the Healers said it was all right. Once again, both children wrapped themselves in the arms of their father, thrilled he was home.

Nyah’s face fell a bit as she realized no one was there to pick her up … to tell her things were fine. Hot, angry tears fell from her eyes as an arm wrapped itself around her, enveloping her tightly. She didn’t resist, and allowed herself to be swept up… away from the misery and pain. A heavy hand touched the top of her head, its warmth spreading through her like pure energy; and again, her magic shifted – willingly – purposefully.

The potion was taking effect and Nyah felt herself slipping to sleep. She begged her mind to focus – to stay with this family, but it was no use … she slipped away to sleep … and to dream.

Mum was singing again, her red hair blowing in the breeze of the open car window … the voice Nyah loved that was now so familiar … ‘Hogwarts, Hogwarts, Hoggy Warty Hogwarts, Teach us something, please!’

“Okay, okay, teach her something different” the voice of her dad said with a gentle laugh as he reached to take Mum’s hand …

“So, where are we going tomorrow?”

“I thought we’d head to central Paris and I’d take my girls shopping … unless you’d rather just stay in the hotel,” he said, winking.

“Oh no… I think our little one needs some new shoes and maybe even a dress for her very special birthday next week,” Mum said as she turned to look at the little raven-haired girl smiling in the back seat.

Nyah’s head felt heavy and her eyes fluttered, fighting sleep.

Suddenly, the car lost its footing on the road, swerving ...

She heard her mother scream – Nyah turned and saw the familiar flash of red hair … “Mum” … and again, only one word … ‘Harry.’ 

Nyah awoke covered in sweat and breathing hard … that was the most she had ever remembered. Her eyes felt groggy, and she reached up to rub them, the dream still lingering in her mind.

The sun had just started to peek through the magical windows of the hospital, and Nyah turned on her side, when she realized someone was sitting in the chair next to her bed, asleep.

The woman’s thick auburn hair fell over her face as she was leaning forward, resting on her arm, while her other hand lay on the bed next to Nyah.

The woman softly stirred from her sleep, taking a deep waking breath. As she sat up, her long hair fell back to her shoulders, and her brown eyes met Nyah’s – a soft smile landing on her full lips.

Nyah simply whispered … “Mum.”

Author’s notes: Thank you all for getting this far with me. I am encouraged by the wonderful reviews, as well as learning a lot about writing. I still love this story and there are quite a few chapters ready to post for validation.

Please leave a review, long or short, and let me know what you think! I answer each one and don’t mind ‘talking’ to you about the story! 

Chapter 12: To Save Her Life
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

The woman’s hair fell over her face as she was leaning forward, resting on her arm, while her other hand lay on the bed next to Nyah.

The woman softly stirred from her sleep, taking a deep waking breath. As she sat up, her long hair fell back to her shoulders, and her bright brown eyes met their mirror image as she looked at Nyah, a soft smile landing on her full lips.

Nyah simply whispered … “Mum.”

~amazing chapter image by chiQs09 at TDA~

Chapter 12 – To Save Her Life

Nyah sat up in the bed at St. Mungo’s, fully awake, staring at the woman sitting next to her; she was beautiful, just like Nyah knew she would be … but still … there was something …

“Good morning,” the woman said, rising from her seat. Still yawning, she stretched her arms towards the ceiling, trying to get her body moving. “I can’t believe I fell asleep. Are you hungry? I can send down for some food.”

Nyah stared, her brows furrowed, unable to look away. The woman stood a little shorter than Hermione, with thick, wavy red hair. Her heart-shaped face and full lips were kind, but unfamiliar.

“Mum?” Nyah asked timidly.

The woman spun around, looking behind her, as if very startled by Nyah’s question.

Touching her chest, and adding a sad smile to her face, she said, “No dear … I’m not you’re Mum. I’m sorry. My name is Susan. I work as an aide here at the hospital.”

Nyah lay back on the bed and simply stared at the window. Hard, raw emotions filled her heart … Why couldn’t my Mum or Dad have been here? Why aren’t they looking for me? she cursed silently – tears soaking her pillow. 

Susan continued to talk to her … about Hermione and something called Aurors – or investigators – but Nyah didn’t hear anything but the sound of her heart beating furiously against her chest …

Of course it wasn’t my Mum … that would be too easy … too perfect … waking up, alone, in a hospital after fighting off two grown men. Why did I expect her to be here? She has no idea I’m here … and maybe – just maybe - she doesn’t even care. 

Nyah’s thoughts were running wild, and the tears were unrelenting … burning her eyes as they fell. Her body began mounting its attack … on emotions … the hurt … and the pain.

The agony spilled over her like a waterfall … an all-too-familiar feeling to Nyah, but this time was different. The magic and pain within the young girl was ever-changing. The more she learned and evolved – the magic adjusted and shifted within her – and the pain grew exponentially to counteract it.

The ache began in Nyah’s head and quickly spread down her torso. The pain hungrily fed on her every thought and yearning … for someone to be there … just for her … the sound of her father’s laughter – the sight of her mother’s smile – the song – the promise – the love … all stolen from her.

Her breathing became unsteady and the pain was coming faster than the tears … Nyah let out an involuntary scream, clutching her head.

Susan ran for the door, calling for Healer Sabinski. Molly and Hermione had been in the hall; Hermione ready to leave for home, as Molly was coming to stay with Nyah. Abandoning Ron and the children where they stood, Molly and Hermione raced to Nyah’s side.

Nyah was curled in a ball on the bed, struggling to somehow regain control of herself. Far in the distance, separate from the pain, Nyah heard voices as the electricity ran its course through her body, her hands becoming unwilling weapons. She heard someone near her scream, but Nyah was unable to contain it … and it was still building.

“Nyah … stop, please … come back to me.”

The sound of Hermione’s voice broke through the barrier of pain.

“I – can’t – stop! Leave!” were the last words Nyah spoke before an onslaught of magic was unleashed in the room.

The point had come … Nyah was giving in … too tired to fight it. The internal battle raged within the young girl as Molly and Hermione watched helplessly, unable to reach her.

Over the chaos, Healer Sabinski looked at Molly and Hermione. “I’m sorry … there’s no other way,” she said, laying a hand on Hermione’s arm.

“Tempus Abdomagi!” rang through the room as red sparks flew out of the end of Healer Sabinski’s wand, which was pointed directly at Nyah’s heart.

A scream escaped Nyah’s lips as her small body went limp and silence filled the room; her magic stripped from her – temporarily, by the healer’s spell. Hermione and Molly rushed to Nyah’s bed, wanting to hold her, but afraid to hurt her. They looked to Healer Sabinski as she walked to Nyah’s side. An evaluation wand was waved over Nyah from head to toe as readings were taken and relayed to the healer-in-training. Healer Sabinski shook her head, not believing what she was seeing. A second and third reading confirmed the diagnosis.

“No … it can’t be,” she said, taking a step back from Nyah’s bed. Healer Sabinski shook her head, her eyes fearful.

“What? What is it?” Hermione asked, fearing the worst. “Is she – is she … dead?”

“No, no,” the healer explained, composing herself, “it’s just that … well, I – I’ve never seen this particular spell before.” She walked around the bed, not taking her eyes off of the unresponsive girl. “There has been dark magic,” she whispered to Molly and Hermione, “dark magic used on Nyah. This particular spell … I’ve only read about it … and never – never seen it actually used.”

Molly was visibly shaking, worry overwhelming her. “What spell is it? Is there an antidote or counterspell … something,” she asked the healer. “She can’t live like this.” Molly reached out and touched Nyah’s face, her warmth in such contrast to the young girl’s cold skin.

Sighing, Healer Sabinski, shook her head. “It’s an ancient spell, similar to the one I used to temporarily block her magic - but it’s dark – illegal in fact. Whoever used this spell did it without cause or concern for Nyah’s safety – or his own.”

Both Molly and Hermione looked to the healer for more answers.

“The spell, if not given precisely, can have catastrophic results on the giver, as well as the receiver.” Healer Sabinski pursed her lips together thinking, as the healer-in-training wrote furiously, trying to keep up. “What is interesting is that directly after the ‘magiaboleo’ spell was given … the ‘obliviate’ spell was performed.” She tapped her wand on the foot of the bed, frustrated her mind wasn’t working fast enough. Purple sparks emitted from the tip with every furious tap – and then – bright blue, as the healer gasped.

The healer turned to Molly, smiling … “He made a mistake.”

Hermione’s face was fierce with concentration, silently cursing herself for not having parchment and a quill handy. She followed the healers every movement, her arms wrapped about her chest, as if holding herself together.

Molly stood at Nyah’s side, never releasing the young girl’s chilly hand from her own.

“A mistake, what kind of mistake?” Hermione asked, calculating all the information the healer was offering.

“Well, if I am correct, a spell was performed to try and abolish, or destroy, Nyah’s magic,” the healer began, as Hermione and Molly both nodded, “but the mistake was in performing the ‘obliviate’ charm directly after. It would have rendered the spell before it somehow – incomplete – not quite taking its effect off completely, but rendering Nyah’s magic an absolute mess, fragmented, which explains the outbursts. Whoever did this wanted her magic gone, as well as her memories.”

The room was silent, giving everyone time to think, which wasn't a particularly good thing.

“What now,” Molly quietly asked, her voice betraying her composed features. “How do we correct it?”

“I’m not sure I have the answer for that, Molly. Let me go and retrieve a book from our library. I’ll be just a moment,” Healer Sabinski said, as she nearly ran from the room, eager to get to the small room down the hall.

Hermione had set about pacing the room; she always thought better when she was moving, but her train of thought kept going in circles, and her head was starting to hurt. She eventually sat in a chair next to the bed, looking between Nyah and Molly.

Although they had only known this young girl for a few short days, Molly’s capacity to love her was endless, as was Hermione’s. What drew them to Nyah was indescribable, but Hermione knew something had to be done. Silently, the two women tended to the child as best they could; covering her with warm blankets, washing off her face, and brushing the hair out of her eyes.

Nyah’s face looked pale, her eyes sunken. Her skin was cold and clammy, and Molly continued to adjust the blankets, trying to do something … anything … that might help.
“Who did this to you?” Molly muttered to Nyah, her face flushed with temporary anger, as she adjusted the blankets once again, not accomplishing anything more than keeping busy.

The door burst open, sending parchment flying in all directions. The healer-in-training quickly ran about, gathering the pages to her chest. Quickly taking a seat, she poised herself, ready to write again.

Healer Sabinski’s tall, thin body was nearly dwarfed by the enormous book she had set out to retrieve. The book was clearly extremely old – its pages of parchment were paper-thin and brittle in areas – the ink faded, nearly unreadable.

Hermione ached to reach out and scan the book, always hungry for knowledge, but realized this was perhaps, not the best time.

The healer's finger came to rest on a page not quite in the middle of the leather-bound book and, at first, simply shook her head … but then quickly turned to a page much further back in the book, her face softening a bit. She looked at Hermione and said simply, “There is hope.”

As per the book on page 433, “…the last recorded spell of this magnitude was performed in 1832 by a witch on her only child. She was trying to rid him of his magic so her muggle husband wouldn’t know she was a witch or their son, a wizard. The spell backfired with lethal results. Not only did the child die, but his mother died two days later, both having suffered such a breakdown of their magic that it physically altered their bodies to the point that the body was unable to sustain life…” 

Molly gasped and Hermione began pacing again, now coming to realize how fragile Nyah’s life was.

Healer Sabinski held up a single finger and continued reading from page 1256, “… a spell which was made illegal in 1833 from a failed attempt to obliterate the magic in a young wizard causing death, came into view once again in the summer of 1901, when a small child was brought in – her parents claiming that a dark wizard had performed a spell on their daughter called ‘magiannullo’. The young girl was physically ailing and very near death. After numerous attempts to lift the spell, a blood cleansing was performed by the patient’s mother. The patient regained consciousness, but was unable to recover any magical ability until 1909 when the dark wizard was captured and admitted to performing the illegal spell. Before his hanging, he performed the countercurse, thus lifting the spell completely …” 

Dust flew from the pages as the healer closed the book. Healer Sabinski covered the front of the book with her hand, deep in thought. Looking between Molly and Hermione, she theorized, “Both the ‘magiannullo’ spell and the ‘magiaboleo’ spell are designed to destroy the magic within.”

Pacing to match Hermione, the healer continued, “A spell that powerful is nearly impossible to break … unless …” she said, breaking her stride.

“Unless what?” Hermione asked.

“Unless the wizard who placed the spell reverses it, and since we don’t know who took Nyah from her parents, modified her memory, and performed the spell … well … I’m sorry to say that it will be impossible for her to stay in our world,” Healer Sabinski said.

Molly grabbed the railing of the bed for support, unwilling to believe what the healer had just said.

Healer Sabinski continued, “Nyah’s magic is building to dangerous levels, and in the process, it’s getting blocked, causing these strange outbursts accompanied by severe pain. If we don’t find a way to counteract the curse, I’m afraid we’ll have no choice but to completely rupture her magic altogether.”

A gasp rose from not only Molly and Hermione, but the healer-in-training as well.

Hermione’s anger was rising, “No, no – absolutely not! We cannot take away her magic. It’s unthinkable! It’s well … it’s just wrong! You said yourself that it’s illegal.” She turned away from the healer, shaking her head and tears covered her face …

The healer said sympathetically, “Hermione, please understand … it’s the only way to save her life.”

Author's Notes:  Let me know what you think... I would love you to leave a review (look for the button below).

I want to thank all of the wonderful people who have guided me thus far, here and over where the 'old people meet'.  I'm grateful to all of you.

And to my fantastic readers - thank you - thank you!

Chapter 13: Missing Pieces of Me
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Hermione’s anger was rising, “No, no – absolutely not! We cannot take away her magic. It’s unthinkable! It’s well… it’s just wrong! You said yourself that it’s illegal.” She turned away from the healer, shaker her head…

The healer said sympathetically, “Hermione, please understand… it’s the only way to save her life.”

~lovely chapter image by chiQs09 at TDA~

Chapter 13 – Missing Pieces of Me

Hermione paced the floor in Nyah’s tiny, sterile room at St. Mungo’s, chewing on her nails. She was good at books, and taking charge… not at waiting. Occasionally she would stop and mumble something, not quite audible to the room, but then would shake her head and continue her constant movement.

Molly sat and knitted – furiously – it was her cure for nervousness, as well as most other ailments. At this point… she had finished two scarves and was working on an early Christmas jumper. She would get frustrated a bit and pull out a row or two of yarn, and then set off again with a heavy sigh.

The healers suggested that Nyah’s body would recover from the magnitude of the ‘Tempus Abdomagi’ spell on its own, but if necessary, they would consider the ‘Rennervate’ spell.

Unthinking … unmoving … undreaming … Nyah lay on the bed, still cold from the shock of the spell. Hermione and Molly had taken turns talking to her, telling her stories, and even reading from “The Daily Prophet,” but nothing had yet stirred her out of her slumber.

Molly finally sent Hermione off to get some tea, sure there was going to be some damage to the floor if Hermione didn’t stop pacing. Just off the lift with tea in hand, Hermione was lost in her own thoughts and not paying much attention to where she was going. She had already gotten off on the wrong floor once, and now, had run straight into something rather solid.

“Watch where you are going, you – Granger!”

That one word snapped Hermione’s defences into overdrive. “Malfoy, what are you doing here?” her sarcasm quite evident.

“Tsk, tsk, Granger – or – oh, that’s right, its Weasley now, isn’t it? Still scraping the bottom of the barrel I see,” he said, lips curled in a cruel smile.

Hermione glared, allowing herself a short jaunt back in time, as Draco begged for his life in the final battle, unwilling to serve anyone’s interests but his own. “Odd, isn’t it? After all these years and I still feel no pity for you…”

“You haven’t changed a bit, you know,” he said, walking around her as she stood near Nyah’s room, “spending time and energy trying to save those not worth saving.” He cocked his head slightly towards the door.

“What would you know about it?” Hermione asked, more curious than angry. Her eyes studied his face – the lines, the hair, and most importantly – the cold, steel eyes. “You’ve never been interested in saving anyone but yourself.”

Unfazed, he simply raised one eyebrow. “Manners now, Granger, manners. In fact, I don’t know anything more than, say – rumors – nothing, really. Pity though, about your little shack… quite the mess I hear. Makes you wonder what they want with a little girl,” Draco said, turning abruptly and staring at Hermione, his eyes forcing their way into her mind.

“Stop!” she cried, blocking the legilemency, drawing a bit of unwanted attention to herself and Draco. Looking around, she lowered her voice and glared at the man in front of her, “Listen to me, Malfoy – you stay away from me and my children or I will personally hex you into oblivion!”

Hermione walked away, still keeping an eye on Draco. Just as she reached Nyah’s door, he called to her – loud enough only for her to hear … “That’s just it, Granger… she’s not yours, is she?” He walked straight at Hermione and leaned in, just barely, “Next time, she’ll have no magic to stop me.” 

Hermione’s blood ran cold as Draco walked away, his trademark scowl firmly imprinted in her mind. She slowly opened the door to Nyah’s room, her thoughts racing. Setting the tea on the table, she took little notice in her surroundings…

“It was him! That foul, evil man…” she spat to the room. “At my house – to take my children! He was one of the Death Eaters!” Hermione was pacing again, her wand out, sparks flying with each word.

“Who, dear?” Molly casually asked, continuing her knitting, a contented smile crossing her face.

Stopping in her tracks, she crossed her arms, and hissed, “Malfoy. Ron’s going to murder him…”

“Who’s Malfoy?”

“A horrid, little ferret who takes pleasure in hurting other people, and …” Hermione’s voice trailed off, as she turned towards the bed…

The young girl sat cross-legged on the bed, devouring a plate of cheese and crackers. Her hair was wild and her eyes dark … but she was awake … and for the first time in days, Hermione could finally breathe.

Molly set down her knitting, coming to stand next to Nyah’s bed. “She woke up just after you left to get the tea,” Molly said beaming, rubbing Nyah’s back.

“Nyah, how are you feeling?” Hermione asked, unsure as to how much the little girl knew about the spell that was placed on her.

Nyah set the plate on the night stand with a small sigh. “I feel – okay – I guess,” she replied, studying her hands. “I mean, its cold – here,” and she put her hand to her heart, “like something’s gone missing.” Nyah shook her head, “That sounds crazy.”

Hermione pushed the hair back from Nyah’s face, as the little girl sniffled a bit, “No, it sounds completely normal.”

“But that’s just it, Hermione … I’m not normal – not here,” she said with a sigh, “and not there either.” Nyah’s thoughts turned to Anna and Father. Nothing was normal anymore – and she didn’t think it would be ever again. Nyah looked up at Mrs. Weasley and Hermione – each with looks of worry imprinted on their face.

Nyah studied Hermione a bit more – the signs of the recent battle were gratefully few; her face held only one bandage on her forehead and her hands held evidence of cuts, although they were left exposed. Nyah reached out to touch the wounds on Hermione’s hands, somehow wanting to make them disappear – but Hermione pulled away mumbling about getting home, Ron, children, and a long nap.

As Hermione left the room to retrieve a healer, Mrs. Weasley whispered, “See, she’s fine … don’t you worry.” She patted Nyah’s arm, happy to finally be going home.

The healers were in and out of the room for the next hour, taking readings with various wands, each recording small, but stable, levels of magic. Nyah was released from St. Mungo’s with explicit instructions on her care and activity level; she was to be kept quiet with daily reports owled in, and should anything happen, they were to bring Nyah straight in.

Hermione had been ordered home to rest, while Molly stayed with Nyah until discharge. The healers insisted on going over the instructions once more in detail with Molly, who was turning three shades of red out of frustration.

Once Nyah was finally freshened and ready to go, Mrs. Weasley led her to the large fireplace labeled “departures” in the lobby at St. Mungo’s. Nyah took a handful of Floo powder as she stepped inside, and with a clear voice, said “Weasley Cottage, Hogsmead.” The green flames shot up as St. Mungo’s began to disappear – and for a second – a man walked behind Mrs. Weasley and looked directly into the flames – his pale gray eyes were piercing,  staring straight through Nyah… and then – he was gone.

Nyah walked out of the flames and into the living room of the Weasley cottage, its familiar surroundings welcoming her home. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, letting the warm air fill her lungs. The windows were opened, but the curtains stood still for lack of a breeze.

There seemed to be no one moving about as Nyah walked towards the staircase. Looking around, the front door had been replaced and the hole in the dining room repaired. No visible signs remained of the Death Eater attack and Nyah shook her head, marveling at the wonders of magic.

As she walked across the rug near the door, her thoughts wandered back to that night… seeing Hermione lying motionless on the rug – Rose crying – and that awful man… pointing his wand at a helpless little boy. A single tear escaped her eye, but her breathing remained steady – no tension and no magic. The one piece of Nyah that felt ‘right’ – was now gone – stripped from her like some defective article of clothing, now tossed aside. She felt, in a sense, nonexistent – not a Muggle – and no longer a witch.

Green flames shot up again the fireplace as Mrs. Weasley came walking out. She nearly tripped over the large oval coffee table, as she continued the rant that had started at St. Mungo’s. “Do they think I don’t know how to take care of a child?” she blurted to the room. “I’ve raised seven children – seven – two of which gave me gray hair the moment they were born!”

Nyah suppressed a giggle while Mrs. Weasley continued to ramble on about child-rearing as they made their way to the kitchen. Tonics and potions of numerous shapes and colors were produced from Mrs. Weasley’s large bag, all with various directions and conditions; and all for Nyah.

Mrs. Wesley turned and looked at Nyah. “Now, how are you feeling?”

Nyah shrugged, unwilling to share her true thoughts just yet, and flatly offered, “Fine.”

“Well, why don’t we start some dinner before I pop home? Let’s see … hmm..,” she said, hands on her hips. Mrs. Weasley pointed to a large cutting board by the back door, “Nyah, dear, hand me that board and I’ll look for some vegetables to start on.”

Nyah took the cutting board off the hook and took a step to hand it to Mrs. Weasley when the back door burst open and a sword came crashing down to the floor in the spot where Nyah had just stood.

Mrs. Weasley instinctively pulled Nyah behind her as the young girl let out a scream. Molly whipped out her wand, ready for battle, as someone yelled, “Take that! And that!” as the sword swooped and plunged through the air, battling an invisible enemy.

Hugo appeared in the doorway, his hands and face covered with dirt. He screamed and dropped the small sword when he saw his grandmother’s face – her wand pointed at him.

“Hugo Arthur Weasley!” Mrs. Weasley screamed at her grandson, dropping her wand arm to her side, clutching her heart with her other hand.

Ron tripped up the back steps and nearly fell flat at the sound of his mother’s cry, as he struggled to pull his wand out of his pocket. Breathing hard, Ron threw his arms up and exclaimed, “Blimey! What was that about?”

“Your son came swinging that sword through the door – and after what happened here just the other night – what did you expect?"  Mrs. Weasley planted her fists on her hips, and asked her son, “Where on earth did he get that?”

Ron grabbed a pastry off the counter and popped it in his mouth while attempting to say, “I gave it to him. He wanted to play pirates.”

Rose had entered the kitchen without any fanfare, but took the opportunity to give her little brother a right smack on the arm as she walked in. Hugo scowled back and followed her further into the room, listening to the argument between the grownups.

“Hugo, go tell your grandmother you’re sorry,” Ron said, pointing to Mrs. Weasley.

Hugo ran to the arms of his grandmother, offering her not only a hug, but a small peck on the cheek. “Sorry I threw my sword at you … but I didn’t know you were here,” he said, offering Molly a small pout.

“Oh, for goodness sakes!” Molly said, squeezing his cheeks, “run off and play!”

Hugo squeezed her tight once more, but it was an abrupt stop-off, as he then made his way to Nyah. His large, blue eyes searched her face and when he found a smile waiting for him, he jumped slightly off the floor and crashed into her legs, squeezing them tightly.

Nyah extracted herself from the little boy and knelt down on the kitchen floor so she was nearly smaller than Hugo. “Are you okay?” she asked, memorizing the little face before her.

“Yep,” he said beaming, as Rose walked up. Hugo leaned over to Nyah and whispered very loudly in her ear, “And you know what? I think you better hide because Dad said he’s going to kill the person who put a hole in the house.” He stood up with his eyes wide and his eyebrows raised, nearly reaching his hair. “You can use my cupboard – I hid a mouse up there for a month and nobody found it!”

Rose wrinkled her nose in disgust, “Gross!”

She rolled her eyes and tapped her foot impatiently at her brother. “Hugo, you know that Dad would never kill someone, would you?” she said, looking up at her father, beaming.

“Only if it was Malfoy,” Ron said with a snicker, grabbing another pastry from the counter.

“Ronald!” his mother hissed.

“Sorry,” he said, shooting a wink to Rose as she shook her head at him, very much like her mother.

“Hi,” Ron said, waving. “You must be Nyah. The kids haven’t stopped talking about you.” He seemed a bit nervous, but leaned in a little towards Nyah, “I was just joking about the whole ‘I’m going to kill somebody’ thing, you know.” He cleared his throat as his face went red.

Nyah stood up, with Hugo still holding onto her hand. She felt bad, and wasn’t sure what to say. “Mr. Weasley, I’m really sorry … about the wall … and Hermione.” Nyah looked towards the floor.

Ron smiled, “It will take a whole lot more than a door to take her out. She’s brilliant, really, she is. Oh, and you can just call me Ron – ‘Mr. Weasley’ sounds like you’re talking to my dad.” He stood with his hands set in his pockets, shaking his head.

“Mum wasn’t home for more than a few minutes before she left again,” Rose announced, while helping her grandmother with the vegetables the trio had picked from the garden.

“What?” Mrs. Weasley dropped the potato she was washing and turned to look at her son, hand on her hip. “Ronald, you know Hermione was to be resting! Why on earth did you let her leave?” her face reddened with every word.

“You try and stop her when she has her mind set on something!” Ron exclaimed, shoving another pastry in his mouth. Swallowing hard, he added, “Besides, she said it was a surprise – for Nyah.”

Nyah had stopped twirling around with Hugo at the mention of her name, her head still spinning a bit while Hugo bumped into the wall, completely off balance. Stifling a laugh at the little boy, she looked at Ron as she asked quietly, “Did you say, she went to do something – for me?”

As Ron nodded, tears sprang to Nyah’s eyes once more. Quickly excusing herself, Nyah turned and ran up the stairs, desperate to be alone with her thoughts.

She closed the door to the little borrowed bedroom, amazed at how comfortable she felt here – away from the cobwebs and dust of the attic, this petite space had quickly become her refuge. She flopped onto the bed and wrapped herself in the familiar quilt, taking in the scent of lavender. Her mind wandered over the many thoughts vying for attention … but as her eyes scanned the room, they landed on the small desk in the corner… the letter – gone.

Nyah jumped from the bed, recounting her steps as best she could remember. She touched the walls and the draperies… Lavender, something about the curtains, and the desk – I know I wrote Anna a letter. Nyah lifted the desk’s lid searching the contents – no letter.

“Hm,” she voiced out loud, “maybe Mr. Weasley has it.”

She sped down the steps, nearly knocking Mrs. Weasley to the floor, as Nyah turned towards the kitchen at full speed.

“Oh, gosh,” Nyah stammered, her hand over her mouth, “I – I’m so sorry. I wasn’t thinking. I’ll just – never mind. I’m sorry.” She turned to run back to her room, when she heard muffled laughing.

Ron was nearly busting at the seams, holding his stomach and pointing at his mother. When he finally got his senses together, Nyah and Mrs. Weasley were both looking at him; Nyah with her arms crossed, scowling with confusion, while Mrs. Weasley stood with her hands on her hips in complete irritation – both wondering what was so funny.

Still laughing, but at least comprehensible, “Ginny did the same thing, remember? Before her first year – but Mum was carrying laundry,” as he took a moment to catch his breath. He acted out his mum throwing the basket of clothes up over her head, and in fits again, “and the underwear – landed on Percy’s head!”

Nyah wasn’t sure if she was laughing at Ron’s story – or at Ron himself! Hugo’s giggles added to the sound, completely unaware at what was so funny, but willing to laugh at nearly anything, especially if his Dad thought it was funny.

Rose, on the other hand, looked like a Molly in minature, standing with her hands on her hips – face tight.

“Ronald, you are hopeless,” Mrs. Weasley sighed, containing a smile, and then turned to Nyah. “Now, was there something you needed?”

“Yes, sorry,” Nyah giggled, “I came down to see if Mr. Weasley – um – I mean Ron – if he knew where my letter was for Anna. It was on the little desk upstairs.”

Ron shook his head and offered a small shrug. “No, but Hermione may have it. She should be back any minute. In fact…” he said, ducking a bit to look out the window, “you can ask her yourself.”

The door opened and Hermione stumbled in, looking a little tired and quite frustrated. Seeing the room full of people, her face softened. Ron and Rose met her at the door, while Hugo offered a big, “Hi Mum!” as he ran off to play outside.

Hermione received a small scolding from Mrs. Weasley about taking care of herself before turning to motion Nyah over. “These last few days have been crazy,” she said, putting her arm around the young girl, “so – I thought it might be nice if you had a bit of a distraction.” Hermione turned and called towards the doorway, “You may come in now.”

A tall, beautiful girl peeked quickly around the doorway of the cottage, her blonde curls bouncing from the movement. She nervously ventured into the front room, as Nyah let out a scream. “Anna!” 

The two girls jumped in circles, thrilled to see one another again, as the grownups covered their ears from the shrieks emitting from that area of the house.

Mrs. Weasley quickly reminded Nyah, “Remember, calm and quiet – like the healers said.”

Nyah was beaming at Hermione as she hugged her, whispering, “Thank you.”

Anna smiled and said ‘hello’ or ‘Nice to meet you’ as she was introduced to everyone. She kept glancing around the room as if she expected something horrid to leap out at her, and was pleasantly surprised at the normalcy of the house.

Hugo was acting bashful and hiding behind his dad, only peeking out when he didn’t think Anna was looking. Ron and Mrs. Weasley were welcoming and polite; but Rose, on the other hand, was not happy Anna was here, and sat with her arms crossed in front of her. She had come to appreciate having Nyah all to herself, and was pleased when she heard Anna was only permitted to stay until Wednesday.

“Ron, please escort your wife upstairs – to rest!” Mrs. Weasley announced, motioning Nyah into the kitchen. “Nyah, it’s time for your medicine, dear.”

Ron took his wife’s hand, eagerly heading towards the stairway, with a grin on his face that Nyah thought made him look a bit goofy.

After Mrs. Weasley gave Nyah a healthy dose of a purple medicine, which tasted a bit like soda pop syrup, the girls went straight to Nyah’s room, arm-in-arm. The rest of the evening, Nyah spent talking and laughing with her sister. They exchanged stories about their week apart and Nyah heard all about Anna’s birthday party.

The next morning, Mrs. Weasley took Anna, Nyah, and Rose to Hogsmeade for a bit of exploring. They had lunch at the Three Broomsticks, and did a lot of window shopping at the curious little shops.

Coming near the lake just after noon, Anna wrinkled up her nose and pointed across the deep blue water, “Why doesn’t someone tear that down? It’s a terrible eye sore.”

Nyah looked between Anna and the building across the lake, amazed at the magic protecting the castle. There, shining in the sun stood Hogwarts, it windows winking at Nyah – its secret safe. It was a small comfort in her heart to see her future school – her magic able to see it, and Hogwarts still recognizing Nyah. She secretly wondered if she would be allowed to attend classes with broken magic … and if she couldn’t be at Hogwarts, where would she go?

They decided to end the day early and made their way towards the cottage. Anna had spent most of the day complaining about everything from the poorly dressed people to the lack of nice shops; she especially didn’t like any of the cooking, which Mrs. Weasley took exceptionally hard.

Hermione had set off for the Ministry as soon as the girls left the house earlier that day. She had gathered as much information to explain Nyah’s situation, as well as a couple of theories. Hermione apparated to the Ministry entrance, prepared to fight for the young girl who had captured the heart of everyone in her family.

Even with Hermione’s best estimate at the number of delegates that would show up, she was shocked when extra chairs had to be brought in for the witnesses. During the session, everything from the first meeting to Nyah’s present condition was discussed in detail. Much talk was had in the nearly packed room about the muggle medications Nyah was given; the room’s consensus being that while helping to deter her outbursts by numbing her emotions temporarily; it served little beneficial purpose, and quite possibly aggravated her magic to a breaking point.

But the final testimony came from Healer Sabinski. She offered little hope aside from finding Nyah’s biological parents as well as the wizard who cast the highly-illegal spell that caused such damage. And what was worse… all of those things must happen before the child’s eleventh birthday – before her magic sets in place. At that point, the condition would become permanent. If left untreated, Nyah’s magic would set off a self destructive pattern that would eventually be fatal.

A vote was taken – a plan set in motion – a girl’s fate sealed – and a woman walked home with the knowledge that a child she has grown to love will die.

Author's Notes - Thank you, thank you for the wonderful reviews offering support, a helping hand, and general praise.  

I'd love to hear from all of you - Let me know what you think of this, or any of the previous chapters!  Thanks!  :)

Chapter 14: World's Apart
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

A vote was taken – a plan set in motion – a girl’s fate sealed – and a woman walked home with the knowledge that a child she has grown to love will die.

~Amazing chapter image by the fantastically talented chiQs09 of TDA~

Chapter 14 – World’s Apart 

Hermione slumped in her favorite office chair, allowing the day’s fighting, disagreements, and remorse at the Ministry’s decision to wash over her. Hot tears spilled down her cheeks, pooling in the soft creases of her neck. Her body cried for sleep, as a silent nightfall overtook the cottage… but her mind would not rest, not now. 

How could they?
her head screamed in protest, as it leaned into her tired hands. How can they possibly consider sending her back to the Muggle world, stripped of her magic forever? Hermione’s hair spilled around her shoulders while the Ministry arguments played over in her head. The numerous names, faces, and arguments rushed at her, vying for attention… 

                                              ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“…With all due respect, Minister, you simply can not strip this child from her magic and send her back to a world who shunned her, her entire life,” Hermione angrily stated to Minister Shaklebolt.

“Mrs. Weasley, please,” he said, drawing his hand to the air to quiet Hermione as well as the hundred-or-so delegates gathered, “our options are extremely limited at this point. Healer Sabinski’s testimony is clear: The child has proven to be a danger to herself and others – her magic is unstable. We must locate the wizard who performed the spell or we must permanently rupture her magic …” the Minister began.

“Again, it’s unethical to take that away from her!” Hermione interjected, her hand coming to rest a bit loudly on the podium. She addressed the delegation, pleading with them to give her time to figure out an alternative, and to hopefully locate the wizard who performed the spell.

“Do you have any evidence to assist in locating the child’s parents or perhaps the wizard who performed the spell?” a senior delegate asked.

“Well – no – not exactly,” Hermione stammered. “I do, however, have some theories.”

“We do not operate on theories, Mrs. Weasley – we operate on facts alone,” echoed a voice from within the delegation.

Hermione opened her mouth to argue her point and present her theories, but was cut off as the Minister of Magic addressed her.

“Mrs. Weasley – Hermione – our only other option … is to sit and do nothing,” Kingsley said, standing and looking directly at her as compassion filled his face. “If we choose that option, Miss Stewart will die. Are you willing to risk that?”

Hermione simply shook her head. 

                                             ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The office was nearly pitch-black as Hermione began to pace the floor. If only Nyah could remember more about her past…

Veritaserum…illegal on a child. Legilimens… again, illegal. Muggle hypnosis… Come on, Hermione, think!  She scolded herself like she used to as a student, unwilling to accept defeat. There must be something I missed.
Conjuring a blackboard and chalk, Hermione set about writing everything she knew about Nyah’s past. The timeline was filled with facts dating back to before Hermione and Ron were married.

She worked with such a fury, the night flew by, and as Hermione hit a stopping point in her thoughts, the first rays of light began peeking over the windowsill. She began pacing again, biting her bottom lip, fatigue creeping into her arms and legs.

“Ron, I need you,” Hermione whispered to the air, knowing she couldn’t wake him until at least noon. He had been spending extra time at the Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes making up for the days he missed leaving France early, due to the Death Eaters attack on the cottage. The long hours were taking its toll, and Ron came home exhausted nearly every night.

Hermione always thought better when Ron, or even Harry, were here to bounce ideas off of. “Ginny!” Hermione exclaimed, as she grabbed a piece of parchment and a quill. Hoping it wasn’t too early in the day, Hermione attached the note to Pig, and begged him to hurry. As the owl flew off into the early morning sun, she felt time slipping away like water through her fingers.

Barely half-an-hour had gone by and Hermione was completely engrossed in mounds of parchment, searching for something – anything she might have overlooked earlier, when a horrible scream broke the concentrated silence of the morning.  Grabbing her wand and tripping on her cloak in an effort to hurry, Hermione stumbled to the front room as Anna was running up the stairs.

“What happened?” gasped Hermione.

Ginny had just stepped onto the fireplace hearth. Brushing floo power off her shoulder, she exclaimed, “I have no idea! I just stepped out of the fireplace and – well – that girl goes screaming her head off! Do I look that bad?”

Laughing as she offered Ginny a quick hug, Hermione answered, “No, you look fine. Anna isn’t used to people walking out of fireplaces and such.”

Hermione studied her sister-in-law. The vacation and time away had obviously been good for her; she was sporting a slightly-shorter haircut that reached just below her shoulders – short enough for Ginny, while being long enough to keep Harry happy. Her skin glowed from time in the sun and she looked rested for the first time in ages.

“So Anna is the girl you wrote to me about?” Ginny questioned, glancing at the stairwell, with her eyebrows raised. “She doesn’t seem very at-ease here – maybe she would prefer the Muggle world.”

“No, no… it’s a girl named Nyah – that was her – sister,” Hermione hinted as she pulled Ginny towards the office. “Let’s talk in here.”

Hermione was certain she had heard a door creak upstairs, and did not wish to be overheard… not yet.

Once in the office, the women chatted about France, and Ginny asked about the Death Eater attack. While the ministry officials couldn’t confirm or deny the uprising of Death Eaters, Hermione was certain of what she saw, not to mention the testimonies of all three of the children.

“I do have a theory, but it’s really reaching,” Hermione explained to Ginny. “Ready? So far, this is what I absolutely know about Nyah Stewart ….”

Hermione gave Ginny an hour long oration on all the facts, sketchy areas, and a theory about Nyah’s past and present. She spoke as though she was back in her classroom at Hogwarts and Ginny was her pupil.

Ginny sat and listened, not daring to interrupt, but let out an audible gasp at the mention of the dream stating that someone named ‘Harry’ was Nyah’s father, but quickly rationalized, that within the wizarding world, ‘Harry’ was bound to be a popular name. Besides, she knew that Harry would never hurt her like that… going and having a child with another woman… it was an absurd thought and Ginny promptly dismissed it.

“What?” Hermione questioned, her forehead creased with worry.

“Nothing – really – nothing,” she said, shaking her head. Ginny smiled and continued, “I think you’ve grown to really care about this little girl. Why don’t you concentrate on finding the wizard, and offer to adopt her yourself.”

A small smile crept across Hermione’s face. It was true – she did love Nyah – and although finding the wizard who performed the spell was vital, she had given thought to abandoning the search for her biological parents. But something in her heart told her that the answers she was seeking were very close – and Hermione was not one to give up on a challenge.

Hermione was lost in her own thoughts when she realized Ginny was still talking. “I’m sorry – I’m a bit tired. I lost that last part,” she said, yawning.

“So, if worse comes to worst, and they do have to rupture her magic completely, she’s still going to be the same girl,” Ginny concluded, getting up to take a closer look at the blackboard.

“Ginny, can you imagine…” Hermione said, looking at the floor, “no – I expect you can’t. I remember growing up thinking I was, well, weird.”

Ginny cocked her head and quipped, “Well, you are a bit weird – look who you married.” She ducked as Hermione threw a small pillow at her.

Hermione continued, a bit more relaxed this time, “When Dumbledore came to the house to speak to my parents, everything fit.” The fire in her eyes grew as she recalled the Ministry hearing. “I can’t let them take that away from her. I also can’t imagine a mother’s grief at not knowing where my daughter was,” Hermione said, sighing.

After a few moments of concentrated silence, Hermione shook her head and argued with herself, “But see – that’s just it… there are no reports of a missing girl – none – here, or elsewhere. The only inquiry during that timeframe was… well… you know.” Hermione cast her eyes towards the pictures on the wall, landing on one with a beautiful girl of about three years old, walking down the aisle with a ring of delicate pale flowers in her black hair – the flower girl at Ron and Hermione's wedding.

The all-too-familiar ache ripped through Ginny’s heart and soul as she reached out to the picture on Hermione’s wall, touching the frame as she watched her little girl nearly dance up the aisle, throwing flower petals in the air and giggling; nearly seven years – and the hurt was still as fresh.

The smell of her baby’s hair – the sound of her laugh still lingered in the air – the whisper in the still of the night, calling for her ‘Mum’ still haunted Ginny.  Her ams longed to hold her little girl one more time. Not a day had gone by that she didn’t wish for a way to go back – to do it over. Just one more day – I’d give anything to have just one more day …Ginny thought as absentmindedly put her hand to her heart.

Taking a deep breath, she made a mental note to stop by the Muggle flower shop and order flowers for Saturday. A sad smile found its way to her face as she thought about the spell Harry found to make the flowers perpetually fresh – it was a small thing, really, but it was all they could do for her now. Charmed flowers, placed on a cold grave. It wasn’t enough – it never would be – but what more was there?

Tenderly, Hermione asked, “How are the nightmares?”

Turning from the frame, Ginny glanced at the floor and pulled her arms around her as though driving off a chill. “There was a fairly nasty one about a week ago – while we were away. It was as though I was in physical pain, Hermione… much worse than the ones before.” Ginny choked back tears as she went on, whispering, “And… I could hear her, just faintly, as though she was tired… just calling to me.” She stood, tears trembling in her eyes as she recalled the haunting voice.

Upstairs, Nyah had spent the rest of the morning comforting Anna. Why did Hermione’s friend have to choose that particular moment to come tumbling out of the fireplace flames?  Anna was now hiding underneath Nyah’s bed quilt, refusing to come out – afraid that someone might suddenly appear through the mirror or jump through the window. Although irritated, Nyah understood Anna’s surprise at the whole thing. She too, had been a bit taken aback the first time someone flooed in to the cottage.

Hermione had told Nyah all about the Floo Network, and even let her practice going from the office at Hogwarts and back to the cottage. Then, Nyah got, from what Hermione said, ‘A quick look around’ at her future school, lingering longest at the Herbology greenhouses, at which Nyah was fascinated.

Nyah excitedly told Anna about the talking paintings, the amazing classrooms, and the bewitched ceiling in the Great Hall. “I will be a bit nervous with Hermione teaching Transfiguration, but I’m sure it will be fine. She says the first year is quite easy. The lake was neat, and… oh, and they even have ghosts!” Nyah exclaimed, clapping her hands.

She was so engrossed in telling Anna about Hogwarts, she didn’t hear Hermione creep up the stairs to check on them.

“Stop – just stop!” Anna cried, popping up from under the covers. She crossed her arms tightly around her, as she glanced around the room. “I can’t do this anymore. I don’t want to hear about flying broomsticks, or pictures that move, and paintings that talk,” her voice getting louder and louder, “And I don’t want to see people walking out of fireplaces Nyah! It’s not normal!”

Nyah sat quietly and stared at her sister in disbelief. This place, these things, and these people were all that were keeping Nyah sane. She had finally found the place where she fit, and Anna was telling her it was all abnormal.

“I want to go home,” whispered Anna, as she walked to the window, putting distance between Nyah and herself. Turning to catch her sister’s eye, she begged, “Come with me. These people… they took your magic so now Mother won’t have anything to worry about. You’ll finally fit in – you’ll be home.”

Nyah looked around the bedroom and thought of Hermione, Rose, Hugo, and Mrs. Weasley. “I can’t,” Nyah said. “This – this is my home. This is where I fit – with – or without my magic.”

A couple of hours later, all of Anna’s things were packed and sitting by the door. The bright pink cases were a stark contrast to their surroundings, as if they knew they didn’t belong there anymore than Anna.

Hermione had sent an owl to Mrs. Cleary letting her know they would be bringing Anna home a day early, and set up transport with the Knight Bus to the London train station.

After a few, long, hair-raising minutes on the Knight Bus, Nyah excitedly stepped off, followed by Anna who was bearing a lovely shade of green. Hermione was eager to get Anna home, but wasn’t looking forward to the half-hour-long train ride to get her there.

Once the train was moving, Anna’s color returned to a more-normal shade. Hermione reminded her that once she stepped off the train, she would be unable to find her way back. She would also not remember most of the ‘magical’ qualities of her trip. While she would remember going to lunch and shopping, she would forget how the plates magically appeared and the drinks levitated to their table.

Anna understood and was grateful. “Will I forget the red-haired woman walking out of the fireplace, too?” she asked, hopefulness in her eyes.

“Yes, that too,” Hermione laughed, shaking her head.

Anna sighed in relief. Hermione continued to talk to Anna, as Nyah looked out the window. Her eyelids dropped and closed… train rides always made her sleepy...

Mum was singing again, her red hair blowing in the breeze of the open car window … the voice Nyah loved that was now so familiar … ‘Hogwarts, Hogwarts, Hoggy Warty Hogwarts, Teach us something, please!’

“Okay, okay, teach her something different” the voice of her dad said with a gentle laugh, reaching to take Mum’s hand …

“So, where are we going tomorrow?”

“I thought we’d head to central Paris and I’d take my girls shopping … unless you’d rather just stay in the hotel,” Dad said, winking.

“Oh no, I think our little one needs some new shoes and maybe a dress, and presents for a very special birthday next week,” Mum said as she turned to look at the little girl in the back seat.

Nyah’s head felt heavy and her eyes opened and closed, fighting sleep on the back seat.

Suddenly, the car lost its footing on the road, swerving.

She heard her mother scream – Nyah turned and saw the familiar flash of red hair … “Mum” … and again, only one word … ‘Harry.’


Nyah was crying, “Daddy!”

Someone walked to the car and peered inside. Nyah screamed, calling for her Mum and Dad – but they didn’t wake up – they didn’t move. The door opened and unfriendly, pale hands grabbed her out of the seat, standing her harshly on the road.

He looked down his nose at the little girl with disgust and triumph mixed on his face. His cold eyes stared deep into her as she cried, clutching her owl and blanket, calling for her Mum.

“Quiet!” he hissed.

From the shadows in the rain, a second hooded figure came to stand just behind the first. A small gust of wind took the hood from the latter, revealing long blonde hair and eyes identical to the man who had pulled her from the car.

Nyah stood silently shaking, as she continued to watch the men before her. They talked in hushed angry tones, and finally the taller of the two took his place in front of Nyah, pushing aside the still-hooded figure.

The blonde-haired man walked a complete circle around Nyah, surveying her. She ventured another look to his eyes, where she met only indifference.

“Father, please rethink this,” the still-hooded figure quietly cautioned, “You don’t…”

“Enough!” resonated through the air.

Nyah’s eyes went wide with fear as the father drew his wand, pointing it at Nyah’s head. “Geminio Corporis!” tore through the cold rain, as he traced the girl’s frame. An identical version of Nyah appeared on the ground next to her, unmoving.

The still-cloaked man reached down and picked up the duplicate little girl from the ground and placed it in the car. Nyah watched in horror as the head slumped onto the seat. Nyah’s bag from the car was tossed on the ground. She picked the sac off the muddy road, and held it tight to her chest.

“Quick, get the hair for the potion…” the father spat to the cloaked figure.

Nyah’s Mum had begun to stir, lifting her head and touching her forehead. Nyah tried to scream, but a hand clamped over her mouth, preventing any sound from escaping. A wand blast sent the car skidding off the edge of the road, out of sight.

Strong arms from the cloaked figure surrounded her, and her hand clasped tightly over the end of his wand. The men turned, apparating away with the little girl between them. A small ‘snap’ from the wand was heard as the air was squeezed out of her – and one final cry escaped her mouth.

They came to rest on a lawn of soft grass. There was no rain, but it was still quite cold. The two men had taken a few steps away, leaving Nyah sitting in the grass, a long piece of wand in her hand. She tucked it quickly into her bag and pulled her blanket closer to her chest, hot tears running down her face.

Looking back to the men, she was surprised to see only the father talking to a thin woman with long red hair…

“Mum?” Nyah sobbed.

The red-haired woman grabbed her by the arm and spat in a deep voice, “You wish. Now stand up!”

A pale wand was pointed at her as a voice rang out, “Magiannullo!”

Nyah screamed as she was thrown to the ground by the force of the spell – and inside her – something shifted and shattered… pieces of herself buried. The last thing she remembered was the look in the eyes of the person standing over her – cold, grey, and filled with disgust. 

Nyah sat up, out of breath, the new images and words thundering through her head. She heard Hermione’s voice calling, “Deep breath, Nyah, deep breath.”

“Hermione, I don’t feel well,” Nyah whispered as she closed her eyes again, holding her stomach.

Hermione guided her to rest on the train’s seat. “Lie down and relax,” she said.

After a few quiet moments, Nyah was finally able to gather her senses and sit up, slowly. A refreshing breeze was pushing its way through the train. The sun was still high in the sky and Nyah could still feel its warmth on her skin.

A hand reached out, landing on her knee, and Hermione’s voice broke through the silence. “Nyah, tell me what you saw – in your dream.”

Nyah opened her eyes, struggling whether to repeat the dream or not. Her dreams were special – private – and the only connection to her parents she had. Sharing them seemed so wrong – even with Hermione. She sat silently with her head hung, playing with a stray thread on the train seat.

“Nyah, even the smallest detail may help,” Hermione whispered.

Nyah looked into Hermione’s face. There was no judgement or malice – only comfort and understanding. Nyah turned to look out the train window, the scenery flying by. She took a deep breath and told them – everything – about the dream.

When she was finished, Nyah glanced at Anna, who looked livid. “You’ve stopped taking your medication and look – the nightmares are back,” she hissed, sounding very similar to Mrs. Stewart.

Anna turned her glare to Hermione. “Mother told you – bad things happen when she doesn’t take her medications!” she said, scolding the grown woman, as she rummaged through her knapsack with fury. “I know I’ve got one here somewhere…”

“What?” Nyah tiredly asked, knowing the answer.

“Your pill of course,” she said as she handed Nyah a pearly white tablet. “Go on,” Anna said, shoving the pill in Nyah’s hand, “take it!”

Nyah slumped in the seat and whispered, “No.”

“What – why not?” Anna cried, her eyes wide in disbelief.

“Because I’ll never find out who I am,” Nyah said, pulling her knees to her chest, retreating back into her own thoughts.

“Fine!” Anna yelled as she thrust the pill back in her knapsack.

Hermione had been making notes about Nyah’s dream – her heart filled with excitement – but her mind cautioning the impulse. Nyah’s dream could only mean one thing, and Hermione was determined to get back to the cottage as soon as possible – armed with this newfound knowledge.

The train arrived at the station, and the three ladies exited the compartment with Anna’s luggage in tow. Mr. Whittaker, the caretaker and occasional chauffeur, was there to meet them. Nyah hid behind Hermione as she stepped off the train. Anna came last, and as her foot touched the platform, her face changed, softening a bit – the spell complete. She would forever forget the magical world, and quite possibly, forget Nyah as well. The girls exchanged quiet hugs, both realizing their paths were taking them in opposite directions; neither one willing to stray from their own road.

Anna walked towards the car without even a glace back, as Mr. Whittaker carried the luggage behind her.

Nyah reached and found Hermione’s hand. A small squeeze from Hermione was the comfort Nyah needed to watch Anna walk away – forever. 

Author's notes:  I'd love to hear your thoughts on this chapter.  Any theories or clues to questions you had before?  Do you have it figured out?

You can leave a review below.... and thank you for coming this far with me!

Chapter 15: Of Owls and Dreams...
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

The girls exchanged quiet hugs, both realizing their paths were taking them in opposite directions; neither one willing to stray from their own road.

Anna walked towards the car without even a glace back, as Mr. Whittaker carried the luggage behind her.

Nyah reached and found Hermione’s hand. A small squeeze from Hermione was the comfort Nyah needed to watch Anna walk away – forever.

~Fantastic chapter image by chiQs09 at eHPf and TDA~

Chapter 15 – World’s Apart 

Nyah stood glued to the platform, watching the car drive away. She was unfazed as people bustled around her – her eyes were set on the silver vehicle which now carried Anna away. Hermione took a step, ready to move on, but Nyah was rooted to the spot – needing to stay. As the car turned the corner away from the station, something shifted inside of Nyah, just a little – letting go of the fear and anger.

With a sigh and a nod, Nyah was ready to leave.

Instead of heading back to the platform, Hermione walked towards the busy street, not far from where Anna’s car pulled away. She was anxious to get home and Nyah had to run to keep up with Hermione’s quick strides.

“Hermione – wait,” Nyah panted, “where are we going?”

Nearly out of breath from walking so fast, Hermione looked at Nyah, the woman’s hair wild and untamed from the humid London air. “I know you’re not feeling well, but we really need to get back to the cottage quickly.” She paused and looked around, not wanting to be overheard. “We need to apparate, okay?” Hermione asked the young girl.

Nyah scuffed her trainer in the dust, sending up tiny clouds from the ground, hoping to delay the inevitable. “There’s no other way?” she asked Hermione, hopeful.

“Not to get us there fast enough,” Hermione explained, reaching for Nyah’s chin, pulling the girl’s brown eyes up to meet her own. “I can’t explain right now, but trust me, it’s really important.”

“Okay. It’s fine – really,” Nyah lied. She took a deep, calming breath, as Hermione turned on the spot. With a small ‘pop’, the two were gone from Muggle London. 

The small cottage came into sight moments later. Hermione landed firmly and Nyah stumbled to keep her balance, grabbing the fence rail for support. Smiling, Hermione chuckled, “I think you’re getting the hang of it,” as she walked up the walk to the house.

“Ugh! I still don’t like it!” Nyah mumbled loudly, meandering up the brick walkway.

Hermione opened the front door, calling for Ron, but only silence answered her. A note left on the table told her that he and the children had went on to The Burrow under the pretense of helping get ready for the party, but Hermione knew it was an easy way out of fixing lunch.

Nyah made her way to the front room, and threw herself onto the sofa as Ron had done the evening before. The sofa’s large, marshmallow-type cushions cradled Nyah’s little body as she quickly fell asleep, content.

Hermione smiled as she watched the young girl drift to sleep; deep breaths causing her chest to rise and fall. There was such innocence about her – Hermione was certain she herself had never been that young. Shaking her head, she remembered the pain in Nyah’s eyes as the child recounted the dream from the train.

There are too many similarities, Hermione thought, absentmindedly playing with her necklace. I can’t just go in and blurt it out… I have to be certain. The car wreck, the song… But she died – I saw her myself. Hermione pushed those thoughts out of her head. 

“And what am I basing it on? A dream – a few scattered facts,” mumbled Hermione as she slowly walked towards the office, determined to find the missing piece. If I’m wrong, they’ll never forgive me… but if I’m right… 

She was writing furiously, as she sat on the office sofa, parchment strewn about her. The dates … they match. Nyah’s physical description … same. Her age, her magic… all the same. And then there was the dream… 

Pain swept through Hermione as she remembered the look on Molly and Arthur’s face when they heard the news of the car crash all those years ago…  A good friend of Arthur’s had personally delivered the urgent message to the Weasley family from the hospital in France. The entire family had been given special permission to use an international portkey that would take them straight to the visitor’s entrance of the Paris Hospital, St. Abra’s. As soon as they arrived, they were quietly ushered to Harry and Ginny’s room.

Harry was conscious and relatively unharmed, aside from a few visible cuts and bruises. He absolutely refused to stay in bed as instructed by the healers, and instead, stationed himself as close to Ginny as he could get, holding her hand, watching as she took each breath. As the family gathered around, he remained fixed at her side, refusing to let go. Hermione had been calm – almost numb - but when Harry made eye contact, his face told a story so fiercely heart-shattering, Hermione gasped, clutching both hands to her face as the tears fell.

She remembered rushing to him with Ron directly behind her; both of them enveloping Harry, holding him up as he cried ‘My baby girl! She’s gone!’  His fists were clenched – his body shaking in their embrace – the pain simply unbearable.

Falling back into the chair, Harry looked at his still unconscious wife. Save the muffled sobs from Molly and Fleur, the room stood silent until Harry’s small voice carried through the small room… “How am I going to tell her? It’s all my fault… Something jumped in front of the car and I swerved. I – I lost control. It’s all my fault… and she’s gone.”  He held his hands out in front of him, as if holding her little body… but nothing was there.

Amid the family’s tears, a gentle tap on Hermione’s shoulder beckoned her to the hall. She reluctantly pulled herself from Ron and Harry and went with the healer to the hall, where, with the help of a translator, she learned they needed someone to identify the body in order to ready it for transport to London. With a nod, Hermione agreed, and walked away with the French official.

The room they had entered was bathed in grey and black, and the one small flickering light overhead offered no warmth or soothing to this place. Hermione felt her feet get heavier with every step, as though the room itself was drowning in sorrow and pain, which soaked straight through Hermione’s trainers and crept up her legs, taking hold of her heart. Her body begged to collapse and grow still – never to reach its destination.

Come on, Hermione, you can do this … for Harry… for Ginny… for Nina. The plump woman stopped at a small table covered with a delicate pink cloth near the back of the long room. Hermione nodded and the woman pulled back the cover, her face offering a sad smile. Hot, fierce tears streamed down Hermione’s face, her body riddled with spasms of grief, as she stared down at the beautiful little girl.

The child was still, as though holding her breath in a game of hide-and-seek… not wanting to be found. Hermione reached down, and gently swept a lock of black hair away from the face of her niece, waiting for the game to be over – waiting for the sparkling brown eyes to open with a smile – but that did not come. Hermione’s fingers met cold, nearly colorless skin. “Nina,” whispered Hermione, as the girl’s face went out of focus from the tears that overwhelmed Hermione’s eyes.

The kind woman had taken scissors and cut a lock from the little girl’s hair to tuck into a small bottle. “Pour Maman,” she said, placing the glass in Hermione’s hand. Yes, for Ginny…

Grabbing a tissue, Hermione wiped the hot tears from her face and hands, hoping to wipe the painful memory away as well. The parchment on her lap was spotted and nearly unreadable. She slowly shook her head, trying to clear her thoughts. Gathering the pages in defeat, Hermione stood and began pacing.

So many things ‘fit’ with Nyah’s story, but it still left too many unanswered questions. Hermione knew Nyah could not have been the little girl at the hospital – that was impossible, even in the wizarding world. But the spell Nyah described from her dream that conjured a duplicate of herself – Hermione had never read of such a thing. If that were possible… she shuddered at the implications that were too horrible to think about.

Everything else was parallel… but why? What purpose would be served by taking a little girl from her parents? Unless Hermione found the wizard – or wizards – involved, they may never know.

Realizing the brick wall was again in her face, Hermione ventured through the house. There was still some time before they were to arrive at the Burrow, so Hermione sat about catching up on some much-neglected housework, still mulling over the best way to announce the news to her extended family about Nyah’s possible heritage.

Ron used to attempt to help out with the chores, but Hermione was very insistent that things were done a certain way, and she eventually decided it would be best to do it all herself. Ron didn’t seem to mind. In fact, Hermione was fairly certain there were times he had done a job poorly so she would never ask him to do it again. She had overheard him giving advice to Harry on the very subject, quoting a book that George had given him for their wedding. She chuckled to herself at the image of Ron and George, discussing housework over a butterbeer.

After putting away a few dishes, Hermione grabbed the laundry and headed to the stairwell. With a quick glance to the couch to watch Nyah sleeping, Hermione climbed the stairs with the basket in hand.

Once finished in Rose and Hugo’s room, she walked to the guest room Nyah currently occupied. Taking in the familiar scent of lavender, she set the basket on the bed, and put away a few of Nyah’s clothes. Glancing at the dresser, Hermione smiled as she looked at the pictures Nyah had tucked into the sides of the large mirror. There was a nonmoving picture of Anna and Nyah taken a couple of years back – their smiling faces frozen on the paper.

There were also some recent ones; Rose and Molly cooking at the Burrow – both of them with puffs of flour on their faces which Rose said made them look like ‘real cooks’. There was also one of Hugo with mud from head-to-toe after a particularly nasty rainstorm where Hugo ‘accidently tripped’ in the garden at the burrow resulting in a tremendous amount of mud. Molly barely blinked an eye as she siphoned the mud from her grandson before sending him to take a long bath, “Ah, those boys,” she said to Hermione who had been mortified at the mess.

Shaking her head and laughing at the memory, Hermione started to turn around when something caught her eye … there was another photo poking out from under the Muggle picture. Hermione could feel her heart beat a little faster as she reached up to the mirror, her reflection in complete concentration. With a small tug, the small picture was released from its constraints. Hermione gasped as she heard Nyah ask from the doorway, “Are you okay?”

Hermione looked into the mirror at the young girl, just up from a nap. Glancing once more at the baby in the picture, Hermione took a deep breath and turned around, taking in all of Nyah’s features; her hair was sticking out in various directions, like new plants looking for sunlight. Perfectly-formed freckles kissed her cheeks and nose, as though they had run back and forth across her face. Her eyelashes would be the envy of most women, long and dark, set perfectly against her almond-shaped eyes. But it was the color of that which hid under her lids that Hermione had known for years… they were exactly the same… the same as Nyah’s mother.

“Hermione?” Nyah was walking timidly towards her, mildly worried at the look on Hermione’s face. “Hermione, is everything alright?”

“Everything is perfect,” Hermione responded, as she sat on the bed, biting her bottom lip as she thought. “Nyah, where did you get this picture?” she asked, holding up the moving photo of the baby clapping on the floor amidst her toys.

Sighing deeply, Nyah plopped on the bed, next to Hermione. She drew her feet underneath her, and took the picture from Hermione’s fingers. Nyah had studied the little picture every day, and had committed every aspect to her young memory. She tenderly placed the picture to her chest as she tucked her hair behind her ear.

“It’s from the box… that Mother – I mean, Mrs. Stewart had,” Nyah answered, casting her eyes to the quilt on the bed. “I took it,” she whispered, tears forming in her eyes. She looked to Hermione, begging, “Please don’t be mad, I just wanted them. I think they were mine… from the bag in my dream.”

Hermione leaned down to catch Nyah’s attention and asked, “There’s more?”

Nyah laid over onto her stomach and reached underneath the bed, retrieving her travel sac. She pulled out the red nappy bag and just barely lifted her eyes as she handed it to Hermione. Nyah’s stomach gave a small lurch, as though she was sorry for handing it over. It was all she had – the only link other than her dreams – and she had already let go of those as well. Nyah sat, nervously twisting her hair, waiting for Hermione’s reaction to her treasures.

Hermione set the bag on the bed at Nyah’s knees, trying desperately to contain her excitement. The bag was stiff with time, but the thread-bare spots told a story of many years of use. Hermione turned the sac over and a small gasp escaped her throat as her eyes landed on the small winged ball – a snitch!  At that point, Hermione’s fingers were shaking as she dared a glance to Nyah.

The young girl sat with her chin seated in her hands, elbows on her knees. Nyah reached out and unceremoniously dumped the contents of the sac onto the bed. Piece by piece, she laid them out and began explaining each item to Hermione, who, in turn had covered her mouth with her hand, willing herself to stay quiet, afraid to ruin where the conversation was going.

Hermione watched as Nyah’s small, delicate fingers rested over each of these items. The child’s theories were close, but world’s away from the truth. The picture of the baby was still the first one Hermione examined. She took in not only the child clapping, but also the surroundings – the fireplace, the bookshelf, the chairs, and the toys. Smiling, Hermione looked up as Nyah began talking again.

“The picture really scared me the first time I looked at it,” Nyah said, giggling. “I had never seen a moving picture!”

Hermione laughed, understanding the girl’s surprise as she remembered her first experience with a wizard photo.

Nyah visibly relaxed, losing herself in talking about her once-secret treasures with Hermione. “I wasn’t sure it was really me in the picture until I saw – this,” she said, pulling out her little snowy owl from it’s hiding spot beneath her pillow. Hermione's eyes overflowed with tears as she gently took the stuffed animal from Nyah’s hand.

“Where did you get this?” Hermione whispered, choking on her tears as she turned the little owl over in her hands, examining it from every angle.

Nyah shrugged, not looking yet at Hermione, “I’ve had it ever since I can remember. Actually,” she continued, thinking hard, “it’s the only thing I do remember about my first night at the manor.” Nyah looked about the room, as if the air would whisper the answers she sought. “I remember crying… for…” she pulled her fist together, “oh, what is her name?”

A soft voice floated through the air, landing on Nyah’s ears … “Hedwig.”

Snapping her fingers, as the light flickered, “Yes, Hedwig. Wait – how did you know that?” she asked, finally looking at Hermione.

“Because that’s her name – her name is Hedwig,” Hermione answered as tears once again ran down her face.

Nyah turned her head to the left a bit as though the clouds were lifted a bit. “My Dad … my dad – he gave me this,” she said, softly taking Hedwig from Hermione, “it was his… I think.”

“Yes, it was,” whispered Hermione.

“How do you know?” Nyah asked, quite confused.

“Because I gave it to him…” Hermione said, standing from the bed to grab a tissue.

Reaching the night stand, Hermione recalled vividly the day she saw the little owl. It was right before Harry and Ginny got engaged in her seventh year. Hermione had chosen to return to finish out her education, unwilling to simply accept an offer of work from the Ministry without her N.E.W.T.s in hand. She and Ginny had taken an opportunity during Christmas break to do a bit of shopping in Muggle London. Ginny had taken a keen interest in visiting dress shops, looking for the perfect outfit to wear for Christmas with Harry.

Hermione, however, had been searching for a special gift for Ron. He had recently began his Auror training with Harry, and while she worried, Hermione knew that the men would take care of one another.

Hermione chuckled as she passed a fudge shoppe, as Ron had recently owled her about finding some wonderful fudge near their current training site. Grabbing Ginny’s arm, the ladies walked into the warm shoppe. Hermione purchased a half-pound of Rocky-Road fudge and had it boxed up. As they were ready to leave, Hermione spotted a small, stuffed, white owl sitting on a shelf in the shoppe. It looked quite out of place, perched alone.

The shop owner, noticing Hermione’s interest, said that a child had left it in his store years before and never returned to claim it. The kind, elderly man handed the stuffed owl to Hermione with a wink and said, “Consider it an early Christmas present. She has looked over me for years… now, she will look after you.” It was the best gift Hermione could imagine giving to Harry that Christmas.

When Harry and Ginny’s first child was born, her first gift was a small snowy owl from Daddy, to watch over her. That poor owl had been dragged everywhere, from bed to playtime to bath time; she refused to go anywhere without it – that, and the blankie her Grandma Molly had knitted for her… just like the one Nyah was clutching now. 

Author's Notes:  I hope you all enjoyed getting a really strong look at not only Nyah's dream, but a little more about the 'treasures' from Nyah's past.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.  Please consider leaving a review.

Thanks to everyone at eHPf, and all of my WONDERFUL reveiwers... hugs to you all!

Chapter 16: Slipping Away
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

When Harry and Ginny’s first child was born, her first gift was a small snowy owl from Daddy, to watch over her. That poor owl was dragged everywhere, from bed to playtime to bath time; she refused to go anywhere without it – that, and the blankie her Grandma had knitted for her… just like the one Nyah was clutching now. 

Chapter 16 – Slipping Away

Nyah sat, her eyes wide with wonder at what Hermione had just said. Still clinging to the tattered old blanket, Nyah slid off the bed to the floor. She slowly made her way through the fog that her mind was presently wading in, and stepped towards the window to join Hermione.

“You know?” Nyah timidly asked the woman who was, at this moment, staring blindly out the bedroom window with a sad smile on her face. “Hermione,” whined Nyah, “do you know him? Who is he?”

Silence was her only answer, as Hermione continued to gaze at nothing in particular, lost in the memories of snowy owls. Nyah bit her bottom lip nervously, knowing it was impolite to intrude on the silence – but this was much too important. She glanced around hoping something might distract her own thoughts, as she bounced anxiously on her toes.

Finally, she reached and tugged gently on Hermione’s shirt hem. “Hermione,” Nyah called, hoping to bring Hermione out of her trance.

“Hmm…” Hermione lazily answered, still not fully drawn back to the urgency of Nyah’s question.

Nyah fiercely clung to the blanket, getting more and more impatient. In her most demanding voice, which shocked even Nyah, she hollered, “Hermione!” Nyah stomped her foot a bit as the air whipped through the room causing all of the candles to extinguish.

Hermione jumped as the light extinguished from the room, the warm sudden force of wind throwing her hair in all directions. There in the shadows stood a small, distinct figure, tears running down her face.

“Nyah… what’s wrong?” Hermione asked, wiping away the tears, the breeze dying down as her fingers touched the girl's face.  With a flick of Hermione’s wand, the candles relit.

Sobbing into the knitted blanket, Nyah begged, “Please tell me – something – anything about him.” Nyah wiped the rest of her tears with the back of her hand and whispered, “My dad – you said you knew him. What’s his name?”

Hermione smiled, still rubbing Nyah’s cheek, as she shook her head. “It was so cold… your cheek – the last time…” Hermione remembered, and then cleared her throat. “Right then, your dad… well, he’s quite wonderful and he loves your Mum and…”

“Mum?” interrupted Nyah, nearly choking on her tears, “You know my Mum too?” Her eyes were wide with excitement as the candle flames in the little room danced higher and brighter.

Looking around, noticing the difference, Hermione shook her head with a large smile set on her face. She leaned down and whispered, “Yes, I know your Mum, too… and just wait until she sees you! She probably won’t let you out of her sight for a very long time, you realize that?”  Hermione stood with her hand on her hip, thinking. With a smile, she took Nyah’s hand and led her downstairs to the front room. There, on the sofa table was a rather large box.

“I was going to wait until we got to the Burrow, but I think it’s best to give you this now,” Hermione said, nudging the young girl towards the present.

Nyah's feet reached the table, her heart beating loudly against her chest and her breath shallow. Her fingers lightly danced across the box, landing softly on the dark purple ribbon that wove around the edges.  Quiet tears slid down her cheeks, amazed at the gift she had not yet opened. No one had ever given her a more beautifully-wrapped present, and Nyah could only dream about what was inside.

Long-forgotten were the questions running through her head, as Nyah gently tugged on the ribbon end, enjoying the velvety texture as it slid through her fingertips. Taking a slow, deep breath, she lifted the lid and was met by layers and layers of tissue paper which crinkled as she moved them out of the way.

Finally, Nyah’s fingers met soft fabric and she pulled from the box a beautiful dark purple dress. It was dotted with white butterflies and a small sash about the waist. She turned to Hermione and held it up, gaining a large smile of approval. As they discussed the dress, the flames in the fireplace sputtered a bit, causing Hermione’s eyes to linger there, almost certain someone’s face had just appeared above the logs.

“What is it?” Nyah asked, looking intently between Hermione and the empty fireplace.

Waving her hand, Hermione responded, “Oh nothing – I’m sure I was just imagining things. Must be all the excitement!”

As Nyah continued on about the dress, dancing about the room, Hermione’s eyes continued to dart back to the fireplace, reminded briefly of Sirius popping in and out of the Gryffindor common room.

“Thank you Hermione!” Nyah said, offering a quick hug to Hermione. “It’s the most beautiful dress… can I wear it tonight – to the party?” she asked, beaming.

“Of course, that’s why I gave it to you!” Hermione exclaimed. “Why don’t you run along and get cleaned up and I’ll come up in a bit and help you with your hair.”

Nyah rolled her eyes dramatically. “Ugh, my hair,” she mumbled, “well, good luck with that one.” Throwing a mischievous smile at Hermione, she ran up the stairs – dress in hand.

Hermione waited for Nyah to get upstairs, and then turned to watch the fireplace a few moments more. Satisfied that the earlier event must have been her eyes playing a trick on her, Hermione set about gathering the items she would take with her to the Burrow, prepared to turn the Weasley family upside down…

Nyah had showered quickly, nearly unable to contain her excitement. Not only was she going to her favorite place in the world – The Burrow – she was being thrown a birthday party, meeting the rest of the Weasley family, and possibly getting some more answers about her parents.

Throwing on her dressing gown, she hurriedly stumbled out of the bathroom and across the hall, smacking her big toe on the door in the process. Cursing under her breath, she hobbled into the brightly-lit room as the sun poured through the windows chased by a warm breeze.

Nyah gingerly walked towards sunbeams, eyes closed, and stood near the window enjoying the kiss of the wind on her face. Nearly lost in the quietness of the moment, she was startled when Hermione knocked on her door.

“Yes, come in,” Nyah answered, hopping back over towards the bed.

Hermione peeked into the room with a smile dancing on her face. “Ready to work on that hair?” she asked.

Raising an eyebrow in doubt, Nyah shrugged and simply said, “Sure…why not?”

Hermione moved the chair to set it in front of the mirror and Nyah took a seat. Pulling her wand from the pocket of her jeans, Hermione placed a drying spell followed by a smoothing charm on Nyah’s jet black hair.

Nyah’s mouth dropped open as she saw her naturally untidy hair become soft and manageable.

“Can you write that down for me?” Nyah said with a laugh. “I have to learn how to do that when I get my wand!” She sat and gazed at her hair in the mirror, amazed at the transformation.

Hermione’s eyes went a bit somber. Although finding Nyah’s biological parents was vitally important – especially considering who they were – it was nothing without finding the wizard responsible for the spell placed on Nyah as a child. It was crucial they sort this out, and time was quickly slipping away…

Hermione was in the front room sorting through mounds of parchment when Nyah came downstairs. Her hair was pulled up in a ponytail, held with the ribbon from the package. She looked much too old for her age, Hermione thought, and the ache in her heart made its appearance once more – this time, longing to keep Nyah to herself, instead of letting her go. Ginny was right, Hermione did love this little girl, and had the situation been different – she would gladly petition the Ministry for permanent custody.

With a heavy sigh, Hermione pulled Nyah into a hug, holding on to this last moment because once they got to the Burrow – life for everyone was going to change.

“Thanks again, Hermione,” Nyah said, returning the hug. “Oh,” she said, jumping a bit, “I forgot to bring down the blanket and bag. I’ll just be a moment!” Nyah turned and ran towards the stairway. “Should I bring anything else to the Burrow?” she asked, one foot dangling off the bottom step.

“You might want your shoes,” Hermione answered in her motherly voice, still sorting through the stack of parchment.

“Shoes – right,” Nyah said, looking around. Seeing the strap of her new sandals under the sofa table, she scooped them up and plopped down on the ottoman.

Nyah glanced at the fireplace, as a hiss arose from the logs. There, floating in the flames was a head, somewhat like a transparent picture. Nyah looked intently at the bodiless face, her mind racing to remember where she had seen those eyes before. A small, cruel smile hung on his lips as Hermione was heard calling for Nyah, “Are you ready to leave for the Burrow?”

Nyah was frozen – did she cry out for Hermione – poke the head with a stick – or simply run away; she chose the latter. Grabbing her other sandal, she sped for the kitchen, nearly knocking Hermione down as parchment flew to the floor.

Out of breath, she gasped, “A man – there’s a man – in the fire!”

Hermione sped around the corner just as the fire hissed and popped as it had earlier in the day. Nothing remained but ash and soot.  There was no way of knowing who had been listening in on their conversations.

Nyah peeked into the room, a bit nervous about reentering. “Hermione, is that – normal? People’s head’s just popping in like that?” she asked.

Hermione stood tapping her wand on her hand while she paced the floor. “No, not particularly,” she answered, still watching the fireplace.

Nyah knew better than to interrupt Hermione when she paced, and thus resolved to complete putting on her sandals. Just as she snapped the sandal in place, green flames shot up and a large figure walked into the room.

Both Hermione and Nyah screamed, as Hermione fixed her wand on the would-be intruder.

“Whoa! Whoa!” he yelled, hands thrown in the air, “It’s just me!”

Hermione’s wand arm collapsed to her side as Ron stomped his feet on the rug, ridding himself of any soot.

“What the bloody blazes was that all about?” he demanded of both Hermione and Nyah.

Obviously infuriated, Hermione turned on the spot and reached for her parchment. Ron looked to Nyah with his shoulders raised, still wondering why his wife nearly hexed him into oblivion.

“Well, there was this head in the fireplace,” she started as Ron’s eyes grew wide. He turned to examine the hearth as Nyah continued, “I know I’ve seen him before, but…”

Hermione dashed back in the room, “Seen him – what do you mean you’ve seen him?”

“Well, I think – I mean, he looks a bit like the man at St. Mungo’s and maybe even from one of my dreams,” Nyah tried to explain.

Ron sat down on the chair near the ottoman, and looked directly at Nyah. “What man did you see at St. Mungo’s?” he asked, the vein in his forehead popping out a bit.

Taking a deep breath, Nyah explained, “When Mrs. Weasley and I left the hospital that day, there was a man that walked past the fireplace. He had blond hair and funny-colored eyes. He just stared at me until I was gone.” She pulled her arms around her, as if guarding off a chill, “It was rather creepy come to think of it.”

Ron absentmindedly reached out and rubbed her arm as he got up from the chair to once again inspect the fireplace. “And you think this was the same man?” he asked Nyah.

“I think so, but I can’t be sure,” she whispered, “it looked so different in there.”

Standing to look at his wife, Ron suggested that once they leave for the Burrow, that they close off the Floo network to the house. Hermione simply nodded her approval.

“The Burrow!” Hermione exclaimed, “We have to get going!” She was shooing Nyah and Ron towards the hearth.

“Wait, I still have to get the bag and blanket.” Nyah said running up the stairs. She gingerly placed the pictures, the piece of wand, and the blanket in the red bag. Before leaving, she also grabbed Hedwig to come along – just for good measure.

Ron and Hermione were chatting softly when Nyah came back in the room with her things. Ron looked at the bag and again towards Hermione, a frown on his face. “Where did she get that?” he mouthed to his wife.

Hermione simply placed a finger to her lips to quiet him, unsuccessfully.

“Hermione, why does she have that owl?” he demanded.

Rolling her eyes, irritated that her husband once again couldn’t contain himself, she helped Nyah step onto the grate. “She has it, Ronald, because it’s hers,” Hermione said curtly, staring at him, hoping he’d understand what she was trying to say.

Nyah giggled at the dumbfounded look on Ron’s face as she clutched the red bag to her chest, grabbed a handful of powder, and clearly said, “The Burrow.” The feeling of being whisked away overtook her – the cottage leaving, her body racing towards the Burrow.

She stepped gingerly out of the large fireplace onto the hearth rug at the Burrow and brushed off her new dress and sandals.  Nyah remembered not to block the hearth as there might be someone else coming out.

Peeking around the corner into the living room, Nyah hoped to see Molly, but no one seemed to be around. She wandered through the quiet living room, studying some of the pictures on the mantle. Smiling, happy faces stared back at her from all of the photos, some even waving. One picture in particular caught Nyah’s attention. It was on a shelf she couldn’t quite reach, even on her tiptoes.

“Those are my brothers, George and Fred,” a soft voice spoke from behind her.

Nyah turned quickly, nearly bumping into the stocky red-head behind her as he reached for the picture. He didn’t introduce himself, but Nyah could sense a calm kindness about him.

Trying to remember all of the names Rose had taught her, Nyah squinted, looking over the man before her. “Let’s see… I don’t think you’re Bill because you don’t have any scars and you’re not wearing an earring,” Nyah deducted as a gentle laugh erupted from his mouth, “and I know you’re not Percy because you aren’t being completely and totally proper.”

The smile lingered on his face as he watched Nyah sorting it all out, counting the Weasley’s on her fingers. “So, if I’m not Bill or Percy, then I’m….”

“Charlie,” Nyah proclaimed, cocking her head to the side, waiting for a reaction.

Laughing still, he said, “Very good! Most people have to know us for years to remember all of our names. Aunt Muriel used to just call out ‘hey you’ or ‘number six’!”
Feeling quite at ease, Nyah sat on the sofa and studied the tanned, freckled face that Charlie wore. “Rose said you take care of dragons,” Nyah asked skeptically, “is that really true?”

For the next half-hour or so, Charlie told Nyah about the dragons and showed her some of his favorite burn scars; especially one on his forearm which Charlie said resembled a Firebolt, whatever that was. Eventually, the conversation came back around to the picture of George and Fred.

“So tell me, Nyah,” Charlie asked, sitting on the couch next to her, “why did this picture interest you out of all of these?”

“Because I have one just like it – I just didn’t know who they were,” she said reaching deep into the bag. From the recess of the sac, Nyah pulled a small photo very similar to the one Charlie was holding.

Scowling, he asked, “How did you get this?”

“I’m not sure,” Nyah told him, “I was actually hoping one of you could tell me.”

Charlie ran a hand through his thick, red hair and leaned back on the couch. Raising his eyebrows, he said, “Well, this was the last picture taken of Fred and George before Fred died. It was actually taken the night little Teddy Lupin was born. Teddy’s dad, Remus, was popping in and out, telling everyone the baby had been born, and well… Fred thought every big moment in life deserved a song and of course, George joined in.”

His blue eyes sparkled as he continued to talk about his brothers and Nyah was thoroughly captivated. She learned that Teddy’s mum and dad died the same night Fred did, during the war. He had been raised by his grandmother, but Teddy had spent a lot of time with the Weasley family.

Hermione put her finger to her lips as Ron stepped out of the fireplace. The pair stood, unnoticed at the back of the room, leaning into one another. They quietly listened, lost in their own memories as Charlie talked.

“So, Teddy isn’t really your nephew?” Nyah asked, looking again to the laughing, singing duo that stared back at her from the photo.

“Technically, no,” Charlie explained, “but family is about love – not about blood.”

Whispering as she touched the photo, “Maybe that could be me, too…”

“What?” Charlie asked, “What could be you?

Sighing, she looked into his eyes and explained, “Maybe, you know, eventually… I could be family too.”

“Well,” Charlie said, a broad smile crossing his face, “let’s see… you’re living with my brother and sister-in-law, my mother talks about you nonstop, and we’re having a birthday party in your honor… I’d say you’re pretty close already.”

Nyah smiled as she put the photo back in her bag.  Nearly family, she thought happily as the candlelight danced.

“Blimey!” Charlie laughed at the nearly-exploding bag Nyah set on the table. “What else are you carrying in that? A dragon’s egg?”

Nyah giggled and shook her head. She had just started to tell Charlie about her treasures when a voice rang out through the room, “Nyah, there you are!”

“Mrs. Weasley!” Jumping from her spot on the sofa and abandoning the bag, Nyah ran to collect a hug. Taking a step back, she said, “Did you see the dress that Hermione gave me? I mean – I’m sure it’s from everyone, but isn’t it wonderful?” Nyah twirled for Mrs. Weasley as she smiled in approval.

“You look lovely, dear,” Molly said, offering one of her signature hugs. “Now, Rose is just outside helping set the table,” she explained, searching the countertop, “why don’t you run along and help her? I’m sure she’ll be happy to see you – what with all those boys out there.” She grabbed the napkins and handed them to Nyah, “Here take these with you.”

“Yes, Mrs. Weasley,” Nyah said as she walked out the door, eager to help Rose with the table, but a bit nervous about what boys she might encounter outside.

The sun hung low in the sky, holding the air in gentle warmth, sending a soothing glow over the Burrow. Nyah’s dress swayed gently in the breeze and she made her way to the long table set up under a large, white tent. She attempted to count the chairs, and drew quite nervous when she lost count, twice.

Rose had just set the last plate and came running to meet her.

“Come on,” Rose exclaimed, pulling Nyah towards the table “if we hurry, maybe James and Albus will give us a go on their brooms!”

Nyah came to a complete stop and looked at Rose, horrified, “Brooms – actual broomsticks? Are you bonkers? I don’t know the first thing about riding a broom! What if I fall off and kill myself?” Nyah took a deep breath and was ready to continue her argument for staying on the ground when Hugo came slowly sailing by, carried by a miniature broom, a look of pure joy on his face.

“Nyah! Nyah, look at me!” Hugo yelled as he flew past the table again. “Watch – I can turn, too!” He took a big arc around the shed and back towards Nyah, wearing the same broad smile on his face.

Watching, Nyah noticed that Hugo’s broom didn’t get higher than about two feet off the ground and didn’t move very quickly. She wasn’t sure why, but she felt like broomsticks would usually fly much faster than that.  

A boy Nyah had never seen was running alongside Hugo, minding that he didn’t fall and hurt himself. The boy looked to be about Rose’s age, but taller. He wore glasses and had the most wonderful, bright green eyes Nyah had ever seen which complimented his cheerful smile.

With a poke, Rose teased, “See, even Hugo can do it.” Raising her eyebrows, daring Nyah to say no.

Sighing, Nyah surrendered and said, “Okay – but if I die – I’m going to kill you!”

“That makes no sense!” Rose said, dragging Nyah to the shed near the house. “Where did he go?” she mumbled, looking up in the sky and around the house.

Checking her ponytail once more, Nyah asked, “Who are you looking for?”

With her fists planted on her hips, Rose growled, “James Sirius Potter. He said we could ride if I set the silverware and glasses for him.” She stomped around the side of the shed, still looking for the absent boy.

“You go look in the house, and I’ll check down by the pond,” commanded Rose as she set out towards the tall tree near the water.

Shaking her head, wondering how she was going to find someone she didn’t even know, Nyah stepped into the little kitchen. Immediately, fire rose up within her and the kitchen door slammed shut as she saw her snowy owl flying through the air, being bounced roughly in the air. Clasping her hands into fists, she strode past Hermione and Mrs. Weasley, straight into the living room.

“Put her down this instant,” Nyah demanded of the boy who held Hedwig by her wing. She was aware of the tingling sensation in her toes, and Nyah hoped the boy would hand the owl over quickly.

The raven-haired boy smiled arrogantly at Nyah as he tossed the little owl in the air. She sensed all eyes were on her, but her gaze was completely focused on Hedwig and her captor.

Suddenly, he threw the owl high above her head. Nyah jumped to catch it, but it was too high. She stomped her foot and the candlelight swelled, casting a sudden glow in the room. Nyah turned to retrieve her most precious treasure, and found herself looking into the green eyes of the little boy from outside. Holding out her hand, she insisted, “Give me my owl, please.”

Not moving his green eyes from her brown one’s, he slowly reached towards her open hand and then yelled, “James, catch!” as he threw the owl well past her and back into the hands of the first boy.

“You’re James?” Nyah asked, trying to ignore the creeping sensation traveling up her legs, as she crossed her arms angrily in front of her. She glared at James, waiting for a response. When none came, she simply said, “Rose is looking for you. Now – give me my owl.”

Laughing, he yelled, “Catch me!” as he ran straight past her and out the door, with Hedwig in tow, the little boy running close after him.

“No!” cried Nyah, tears now running down her face as she stumbled towards the door, tripping on her new shoes. She reached down and grabbed the sandals off her feet, throwing them to the floor. 

Nyah heard more people flooing into the Burrow, but didn’t care about anything other than her owl. Heading for the door, the tingling sensation nearly overflowed within her, as the room filled with a strong breeze.

Hermione’s hands reached out, trying in vain to calm her. “Take a deep breath and tell me what happened.”

“They took her and ran off – my owl,” Nyah cried, “and when I told them to give her back they threw it over my head and now they’re gone.” Nyah was now shaking and felt strong arms surround her shoulders, supporting her.

Turning her around, Ron smiled apologetically as he patted her arm. From just outside the kitchen window, Nyah heard the sound of the boy’s laughter. With one last look at Hermione and Ron, she sped off after them, determined to retrieve her owl.

Hermione saw Nyah run towards the pond, seeking out James and Albus. The nervousness in her stomach was building, preparing her for the challenge ahead. She watched as the Weasley’s gathered in the living room, blissfully unaware that their world was about to be changed, once again, forever.

Harry and Ginny arrived, with Lily in tow. They had been running late, sending the boys on ahead, as Lily had still been napping. The red-haired little girl was rubbing her eyes as she tried to get Teddy’s attention.

Charlie was swapping hand-shakes with Bill while Teddy swung Lily around in circles. Fleur was fixing Victiore’s and Dominique’s hair once more. Percy wouldn’t be able to make it, as they had previous plans with Penelope’s family.

Molly and Arthur were happily in the midst of their loved ones, as Hermione looked on. Ron slipped his arm about her waist, and stared intently, waiting for her to take notice.

“I know, I know,” she sighed, refusing to look at him.

“Listen Hermione,” he said, pulling her tightly to his chest as their eyes met, “you’ve got to tell them. Once they see her – they’re going to know. And you’ve been a mess all day – better to get it over with.” Ron kissed her quickly and added, “But hurry though, I’m starving!”

Shaking her head, Hermione took a deep breath as Ginny made her way to the kitchen.

Concerned at the look on Hermione’s face, Ginny asked, “What – what is it?”

Grabbing Ginny’s hand, Hermione called to the room, “Excuse me – I need to talk to everyone for a moment, please.”

Pulling Hermione back towards the kitchen, Ginny urged her friend for answers, “Are you okay? Is everything alright with Ron?”

Looking deep into her sister-in-law’s brown eyes, Hermione felt hot tears chase down her cheeks – the thought of Nyah slipping away… “Everything is fine. This isn’t about me…. it’s about Nina.” 

Author's notes:  Thank you to everyone!  You've been wonderfully supportive in your reviews as well as private messages to me.  

I'd love to hear your thoughts on the chapter!  Please leave a review and give me your honest thoughts... just click below.  Thanks!  :-)

Chapter 17: Nearly Family
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Pulling Hermione back towards the kitchen, Ginny urged her friend for answers, “Are you okay? Is everything alright with Ron?”

Looking deep into her sister-in-law’s brown eyes, Hermione felt tears chase down her cheeks – the thought of Nyah slipping away… “Everything is fine. This isn’t about me…. it’s about Nina.”

Chapter 17 – Nearly Family

Ginny backed away from Hermione, shocked at the statement. Her brow furrowed as she sighed, “Not today, Hermione. Today is about life and family and celebration… not about sadness. We’ll have to face that all too soon with her birthday Saturday.” Ginny grabbed a butterbeer from the counter and turned away from her friend, lost in thoughts of Nina.

The room seemed to stand still as the women’s conversation drifted through the rooms of the Burrow.

“Just hear me out,” Hermione pleaded. “There isn’t time to wait.”

Nyah had run barefoot past the shed, headed for the pond with only the thought of Hedwig on her mind. She stood in the tall grass, allowing it to dance around her legs as she listened to the wind. It carried words and noises to her ears, as she strained to hear the sound of those irritating little boys who stole her owl.

The echo of twigs snapping nearby caught Nyah’s attention and she crept in that direction, her eyes constantly searching for Hedwig. There was a small group of trees huddled together just past the pond and Nyah squinted in the setting sun, hoping to catch a glimpse of the boys. She walked through the saplings as they swayed, the breeze increasing with each step Nyah took.

Wrapping her arms around two of the smaller trees, Nyah gazed at the sight of the Burrow. James and Albus remained hidden, and Hedwig with them. There were numerous new faces mingled with the familiar ones, and Nyah could do nothing but watch the interaction, longing to fit in.

Rose and Hugo were playing with an energetic little girl who looked to be about the same age as Hugo, her red hair tied back with a dark ribbon. Nyah smiled as she watched the little girl outrun Rose in a game of tag, the wind quieting down the longer she watched the children play.

A sudden chill grabbed Nyah’s heart as she stood there in the trees… fear. She had never been fearful at the Burrow, but there was a strong insistence from somewhere within her that she wasn’t safe. Cautiously looking around, taking in the scene, Nyah tried to pick up any visual clues but there were none.

She closed her eyes and focused on her other senses. Quieting her breathing as she had done for many years, Nyah was able to detect some movement beyond the old rickety fence nearby, but all other sounds were drowned out by the noise of laughter… boys' laughter!

Throwing aside the warning in her heart, Nyah jumped from the protection of the trees, just as James and Albus flew by on their broomsticks. Nyah’s small snowy owl was perched precariously on the back of Albus’ broom, which hovered just a few feet off the ground. She set off in a dead run after the boys, as a small ‘pop’ went undetected in the distance… two figures now crouched in silence just beyond the trees, waiting for their moment.

Nyah stumbled into the kitchen of the Burrow, gasping for breath and cursing a bit too loudly.

“If Mum hears you, or worse – Grandma, they’ll wash your mouth out for talking like that!” Rose warned, following close behind as Nyah grabbed a chair to sit in. “Roxanne, this is Nyah – she’s the one having the birthday.” Then to Nyah, she added, “Roxanne is my Uncle George’s daughter; he’s the one who works with my dad.”

The girls exchanged small smiles and hellos before Roxanne headed for the door, calling back, “Come on, let’s play tag!”

“I’ll catch up with you in a minute. I just need to grab my sandals,” Nyah said, heading for the living room. In the short time she had been outside, someone had moved the discarded sandals and Nyah had to play seek-and-find to locate them. The pair was finally reunited and Nyah took a seat on the stairs to put them back on as the sound of angry voices carried though a hallway.

Curious, Nyah followed the sound to the den just off the hall. The door stood ajar just enough for Nyah to see into the room. Mrs. Weasley was sitting on the couch, with George and his wife Angelina. Just beyond that, Fleur sat on Bill’s lap in an overstuffed chair. Someone was pacing and Nyah could hear whispers from others.

Hermione’s voice reverberated through the room, causing Nyah to jump a bit. “I know this must be difficult, but I’m certain… Nyah is your daughter!”

Frozen at the proclamation, Nyah had to remind herself to breathe. Her hands trembled as she pushed a stray strand of hair behind her ear, silently begging Hermione to continue. She saw her reach down beside the couch, pulling out the red bag that contained her treasures. Why does she have that? Nyah wondered.

“There are the dreams…” Hermione began.

Charlie’s voice interrupted, “You can’t base this on a child’s dreams Hermione. Think about what you are saying!”

“Let her finish, Charlie. There’s more – a lot more,” Ron barked at his brother.

Nyah tried to move to get a better view of Hermione without giving herself away. Hermione took a deep breath and calmly started again, “There were the dreams, but there’s also the chronological data, not to mention her physical features. But the most compelling evidence is here… in this bag.”

Hermione was looking at someone Nyah couldn’t see, holding the red bag in the air. Piece by piece, Hermione removed the items from the bag… the pictures, the wand, and finally... the blanket.

Molly gasped and stood from the sofa, reaching for the blanket. A smile spread from beneath the tears as she ran her hands over the knitting, examining the stitching.  Laughing softly, Molly began pacing the small area of floor in front of the sofa, her eyes finally coming to land on Arthur, his eyes twinkling with tears.

“Do you remember?” Molly asked him, holding the small blanket even tighter to her chest. “Do you remember this yarn?” Her hand went to her mouth, as she was unable to speak any longer.

Arthur came to her side, taking up the story with a smile. “Molly was sick with a terrible cold when Ginny and Harry told us they were expecting, but she insisted on starting the blanket right away, refusing to rest like her wise husband told her to…” he began, but was interrupted as Molly gently tapped his arm.

“I sent him into town to fetch some yarn.”

“She told me to pick out the softest one I could find.”

“And when he got back, I nearly fell out of the bed in horror,” Molly cried, laughing at her husband. “Black! He came home with black yarn! For a baby’s blanket… goodness sakes… what were you thinking?”

Nyah could hear Mrs. Weasley crying, as Mr. Weasley said gently, “I was simply looking for the softest yarn – you didn’t specify a color, dear. Harry jokingly said it matched his hair, but that we had to add some red to match Ginny’s.”

A frantic voice ripped through the air, “So that’s it? Dreams, a couple of pictures, some dates, and a blanket? No – no. It’s not enough.” The sound of scuffled footsteps towards the door caused Nyah to take a step back as the woman’s voice got closer. “My daughter is dead, Hermione!  How could you bring that child here and expect me to blindly believe such a story?”

Nyah’s breathing quickened and the tingling sensation exploded within her as she realized that her mum was standing right there – on the other side of the door.  Without realizing her feet were carrying her into the room, Nyah gently pushed open the door as the air picked up around her.

Red, beautiful hair was caught in the breeze that carried into the room. Looking up, Nyah took in the face she had yearned to see for as long as she could remember. Her golden brown eyes met their mirror image in the woman before her as Nyah whispered, “Mum?”

Ginny’s hands flew to cover her face as she ran from the room, Mrs. Weasley running after her.

Hot tears spilled over Nyah’s cheeks as she looked at Hermione and Ron. “What did I do?” she cried as Hermione enveloped her fiercely. Ron stood nearby, his hand stroking Nyah’s head.

“That was her, wasn’t it? That – that was my Mum,” Nyah gasped between the tears. She pulled herself from Hermione’s grasp and folded her arms across her chest. “She was right here! I heard her,” she said, pushing away Hermione’s attempts to console her. “They were right… all of them! She doesn’t want me.”

Nyah’s breathing was becoming more erratic and the air was taking on a crisp feel within the room. Her eyes met the picture of the singing red-headed duo once more, and she reached for the familiar photo. With her hair pulling out of the ribbon by the force of the wind, she looked to Charlie, handing him the snapshot.

“Nearly family isn’t quite the same, now is it?”

“Nyah,” Ron started, as Hermione cried on his shoulder.

Shaking her head, Nyah grabbed the knitted blanket from Mr. Weasley and ran for the door. Giving it a good hard slam, she sobbed, “I don’t belong here… I don’t belong anywhere.”

A petite figure lay across the small bed in the old room, crying into the small flowered sheets.  The bed was a small comfort as she searched for answers within herself.  Ginny's mind and heart were in war with one another and she paid no attention as Molly sat gently rubbing her back, uncharacteristically quiet. 

                                        ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Ginny had spent many days at the Burrow right after she and Harry’s return from France. At first, it was for the massive family support needed to get through planning and carrying out the funeral. It was a small, private ceremony held at the little church in Godric’s Hollow. A beautiful black marble headstone etched with owls, was placed next to James and Lily, signifying Nina’s final resting place. Ginny had actually slept on the soft, turned earth that night, not yet willing to part from her baby girl as Harry and Charlie stood nearby, keeping watch until dawn.

A few days after the funeral, Harry and Ginny made their way back home. For a short time, the couple spent every moment clinging to one another, and during the quiet days, Ginny found comfort in Harry’s arms. But it wasn’t long before it became painfully obvious Ginny was not well. Harry had returned to work, and upon coming home in the evenings, he usually found Ginny curled up in Nina’s bed, sobbing.

There was no getting away from it – the cottage was filled with everything about Nina; her clothes, her toys, her pictures… even the sound of her laughter seemed embedded in the walls, which seeped out in the quietest of moments. And then there were the screams in the night… Ginny would wake up from a sound sleep, certain she could hear her daughter calling for her. She searched the house top to bottom nearly every night, frantic to find the source of the screaming… but never found it… nor did she find her daughter.

Harry eventually moved them both to the Burrow, selling the small house near Godric’s Hollow. Ginny simply existed, finding no joy in life, and ultimately tried to push away everyone and everything that was important to her – including Harry. And then one night, many weeks after Nina’s death, a miracle happened… Ginny laughed… one small laugh, and the healing process began. 

                                        ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Wiping her eyes on the soft sheet, Ginny sat and stared out the window, lost in her thoughts but comforted by her mother’s presence. “You know,” she started, pushing her hair behind her ear, “I remember so clearly the last time she laughed.” Tears sprang up in her eyes once more as she smiled softly. “Harry was driving that blasted car, and Nina was buckled in the back seat watching the scenery float by the window.”

Mrs. Weasley reached for a tissue as Ginny whispered, “I was singing…”

“The Hogwarts song,” her mother said, as Ginny began crying again, unable to finish.

“She loved it, you know,” Ginny laughed, “and Harry was teasing me… telling me to sing something else… and she was laughing. So soft and sweet – I can still hear it – here.” Ginny touched her chest and the women sat silently sharing tears. “Mum, it still hurts so bad.” Her eyes begged Molly to understand as she cried, “When will it stop? When can I say her name without pain ripping through me?”

She stood from the bed, too anxious to be still, not realizing that her words carried perfectly to the stairway landing where he listened, desperate to join her.

“I was there, Mum! I was there when she died and I couldn’t save her,” she cried, turning abruptly towards the window again. Silence hung in the room, waiting for Ginny to continue.

Her voice deepened somberly, “I remember waking up that night in St. Abra’s, not entirely certain where I was. The lights were off and there was no sound, except Harry’s breathing. I knew I was all right, because he was there. Then the lights came on… and he looked at me… and I knew.” She pulled her arms tight around her, shaking her head, “He was crying – crying in a way I’d never heard him cry… even when Sirius died. This was different… deeper – almost desperate. He just kept holding out his arms, saying he was so sorry… and that she was – she was gone.”

Molly wasn’t even bothering to wipe the tears – they were coming too fast – as she watched her daughter knowing that nothing she said could take away her daughter’s pain.

Ginny looked away from the window and directly into her mother’s eyes, silently demanding the truth as she asked, “Do you think it’s her?”

The bed creaked as Molly rose to her feet, gently taking Ginny into her arms. With a sigh, she offered a simple, “Yes, I do.”

Harry slumped to the floor just outside Ginny’s old room as her voiced carried though the air. Leaning back against the wall, his mind flooded with memories he had spent years trying to hide from… every word she spoke cutting through him like a knife.

He had insisted on driving all those years ago, wanting to see the countryside while they traveled through France. Ginny, always up for a new adventure, gave in and they drove for miles and miles that day. The scenery was breathtaking and despite a short thunderstorm, the weather had been perfect.

Ginny had been singing Nina’s favorite song when something jumped in front of the car. Harry stood on the brake and turned the wheel hard to the left, as he felt the wheels slip on the wet pavement. A scream ripped through the air and darkness overcame him.

Harry slipped somewhere between conscious and unconscious, trying in vain to grasp what had happened. The smell of smoke hung in the air and the taste of blood lingered on his lips. Finding the strength to open his eyes, Harry’s gaze landed on the broken windshield. He slowly turned his head, pain ripping through him, as did his awareness of the situation. The car was on its side, having slid down an embankment.

Held in only by her seatbelt, Ginny dangled precariously from the opened passenger door. If the belt gave way, she would fall another 20 feet to a small waterway below. Fear and panic had run rampant through his body, as he frantically searched his pocket for his wand.

“Don’t worry, sweetheart,” he quietly called to Nina, fighting the overwhelming pain, “Daddy’s here. Everything’s fine – don’t cry.” Harry could only faintly hear her cries, as though she was far away. He reached back as far as he could, relieved as his fingers brushed against a small shoe.

Calm, Harry – think of Ginny… think of Nina, he thought. Harry pointed his wand to the sky and cried ‘Curatio Vestigo!’ as blue sparks shot into the sky. He reached out to Ginny, her hand cold in his as he whispered, “Don’t worry, they’ll get here – help is – it’s on the way.” Darkness came over him once more as he slumped forward... a loud ‘crack’ resonating through the air.

The sound of the bed creaking from the next room brought Harry from his memories. He inched his way closer to the door as Ginny continued to talk to Molly. Harry knew that standing on this side of the door was safe – almost cowardly – but how do you help someone get over the loss of the most precious piece of their own heart….

Growing up, Harry had dealt with horrible nightmares and visions while his friends had to stand by and watch – unable to help, other than be there. At that time, he had no idea how terrible it was to watch someone you love go through that… until Ginny began having nightmares just days after Nina’s death.

She woke up nearly every night to search the house, convinced that Nina was calling for her. At first, Ginny woke him up, frightened by the noise, “Harry! Harry, do you hear that?”

Harry listened to the silence in the room, and whispered, “No, Ginny. Go back to sleep.”

Ginny would thow the covers off and tiptoe through the room, listening to the air, “There… did you hear that? It’s her… it’s Nina. Harry, help me find her!”

And the search would start through the house... always ending up in the same place… Nina’s room. Ginny would lay on the bed, pulling the stuffed animals close and cry herself to sleep with another days’ realization that her daughter was gone – ripped from her life. Knowing he could do nothing more than be with her, Harry simply held her tight as they shared that tiny space night after night.

Selling the house seemed to be an obvious solution, and Harry hoped that a new location would help Ginny let go of the past. They chose to renovate Grimmauld Place until a new home could be built. After a few weeks of constant work, with Kreacher working harder than any of the paid workers, Harry and Ginny moved in.

Ginny had a keen eye for decorating and Harry was happy to see her magically painting the walls, trying out different colors or rearranging the furniture to see how she liked it best. Every room was cheerful and inviting, light flooding in through the large windows giving no indication that the home was once used for dark purposes.

With Harry’s help, Ginny had transformed the old tower room into Nina’s room; not complete, but simply a room for remembering. The tower door itself had a concealment charm placed on it; no one save Harry or Ginny could find and open it.

The tower became a comfort for Ginny – a place to run to when the world seemed to tighten around her. The nightmares continued for ages, and it was always the same, waking up convinced Nina was calling for her Mum. It was then that Ginny would make her way to the tower, drowning herself in the memories.

About the time James was born, the dreams became sporadic, ceasing for long periods of time and Harry could see the joy coming back in her eyes as she took care of their newborn son. She was fiercely overprotective of James and then Albus, but when Lily was born, Ginny never let her out of sight… and Harry never questioned it, knowing full well, it was something she had to do.

He rose to his feet, leaning to the door for support. He found himself drawn into the small bedroom where Ginny stood. Their eyes met as he reached out to her, begging for forgiveness once more.

She smiled gently, touching his face and drawing him into a kiss. Lifting her easily into his arms, he took a seat on the bed as breathless words were exchanged between them.

Molly quietly closed the door, adding, “I’ll just leave you two. But do remember, we’re close by if you need us.”

Once alone, Ginny turned to look at her husband, searching his eyes for answers. “You know it can’t be her, right?” she asked staring at him, waiting for a shift in his face. “It’s not logical…”

Harry cut her off with a quick laugh, “Logic? Who said anything about logic? I’m sorry – I thought I married Ginny… not Hermione.”

After a right smart smack on the arm, Ginny stood to walk to the window once again.
“Ginny, quit trying to analyze it – we’ve got Hermione for that,” Harry told her as he wrapped his arms around her waist. The children were playing… Roxanne with Rose… Hugo with Lily… and Nyah, still chasing James and Albus while Ginny watched them all intently.

“What does your heart tell you?”

“My heart needs proof,” she whispered.

Harry kissed her gently and left her to watch the children from the window as he set about getting what she needed… proof. 

Author's Notes:  Thanks to the eHPfans for help with the spell cast to call the Mediwizards.   I couldn't have come this far without the continued help and support of all of you!  Thank you!!!

I'd would, as always, love to hear your thoughts on this chapter...  please consider leaving a review in the box below. 

Chapter 18: What My Heart Needs...
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

“What does your heart tell you?”

“My heart needs proof,” she whispered.

Harry kissed her gently and left her to watch the children from the window as he set about getting what she needed… proof.

Chapter 18 – What My Heart Needs

Nyah ran from the den, eager to get away from the pain tearing through her heart. Turning the corner, she nearly tripped as her blanket caught on a kitchen chair. She burst through the back door, commanding the wind to follow as they met the open air.  Not bothering to stop and close the door, Nyah simply ran, not caring where her feet took her.

Rose called to her, but the small voice was lost on the breeze as Nyah continued past. Her breath became more erratic and her body begged her to stop. Finally, her palm came to rest on the old tree near the pond, its rough bark digging into her skin as the weight of her world rested there.

The slowly setting sun burned her eyes and she blamed it for the tears running down her cheeks. Why did I come here? She screamed inside her head, throwing the blanket in anger. She doesn’t want me… probably never did. Nyah’s nails were digging at the tree as her head began to throb. She doesn’t want me… She doesn’t want me… played over and over in her head as she sat defeated on the ground with the blanket nearby.

The soft grass caressed her bare legs, as the breeze wrapped soothingly around her. Nyah became aware of the tingling sensation creeping its way into her toes and fingers. The ache in her head was still present, but her mind was becoming clearer as she found herself internally searching for the pieces of magic hidden within. Sensing the tugging sensation near her stomach, Nyah smiled at the small accomplishment. The tingling continued, filling the void left from the healers spell to block her magic. The wind whipped about and the leaves danced, as though rejoicing with her. Nyah felt the warmth return and with a large sigh, the breeze calmed. She closed her eyes and turned her attention to the sounds of children laughing, as the noise slowly drowned out the pulsing rhythm in her head.

Small, cool hands found their way to Nyah’s face as familiar pools of blue calmed her sadness with their smile. “Hello…” his little voice came in a sing-song way, causing an unexpected smile on Nyah’s lips.

She gave a tired laugh as Hugo crawled onto her lap, chatting away. Nyah listened without actually hearing him, but nodded and raised her brows as he talked, feigning interest. The longer his one-way dialogue went, the more animated he became, until finally he was up on his feet pretending he was playing something called “Quidditch”. Nyah gathered from his description, that it had something to do with brooms and balls, and instead of asking too many questions she simply said, “Wow” or “Really?” until he exhausted the conversation.

Hugo laid down on the soft grass, staring up at clouds, as he absentmindedly toyed with the strap on Nyah’s sandal. “Hey, look! There’s a bunny,” he said pointing to the clouds as they traveled by. “And there’s a calipitter!”

Nyah laughed as she corrected him, “It’s caterpillar silly.”

“That’s what I said – calipitter,” he argued, rolling his eyes at the sky, “ and there’s a chicken, and… I’m hungry.”

“You’re always hungry.”

“But this time, I’m really, really hungry… I haven’t eaten all day!”

“You had breakfast with me before I left this morning! And I’m certain you had lunch here and probably…”

“No, those don’t count… it was forever ago! I know where Grandma hides the cookies from Grandpa, come on!” Hugo beckoned, trying to pull her to her feet.

Just then, a small burst of light shone in the trees across the pond. Nyah squinted, shielding her eyes against the sun, trying to see into the small grove. She shifted away from Hugo and moved to get up.

“What are you doing?” he asked, mimicking her with his hand on his forehead.

Scowling a bit, she said, “I thought I saw something…. in the trees.” 

                          ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The small bedroom was quiet as Ginny was lost again in thoughts of Nina. More and more memories flooded her mind as she watched the children run and play in the fading light of the Burrow, her eyes drawn to the small dark-haired girl sitting near the pond.

A knock broke her concentration as Hermione’s voice carried through, “May I come in?” She didn’t wait for an answer and slowly opened the door, peeking in for an invitation. With a small smile, Ginny motioned her inside while an uncomfortable tension settled in the room, as though an unspoken argument had begun.

Finally, with a large sigh, Hermione spoke up, looking directly at Ginny, “Listen, I’m sorry you had to hear it like that – downstairs – but time is running out. Her birthday is…”

Ginny turned sharply and put her hand in the air, “I know, Hermione! I know when her birthday is… You don’t need to remind me!” She crossed her arms and walked to the small chair in the corner, staring at it as though it held all the answers she was looking for. After a few moments of tensioned silence, Ginny meekly asked, “Why? Why didn’t you tell me all of this the other day at the cottage? This was supposed to be a celebration…”

“And it still can be,” Hermione retorted, taking a step towards Ginny as angry tears were held in her eyes by sheer force, “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you everything. I didn’t want to hurt you by giving you wrong information! And do you honestly think that you would have believed me then any more than you do now? There was no proof until today.”

“What? The – the owl? The blanket? That’s not proof Hermione, and you know that!” she yelled. Ginny began pacing, wrapping her arms tightly around her waist.

She walked back to the window as Harry made his way towards the tree… and to Nyah… 

                          ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“Hello,” a warm voice called out from just behind the giant oak. Nyah’s stomach did an enormous flip as she turned towards the sound… there, standing casually, his shoulder leaning against the tree was the man Nyah knew from her dream. He was much taller than she expected, and his jeans and tee-shirt were far different than the stiff suits Mr. Stewart always wore.

Instantly, Nyah’s mind flashed fragments of memories; being carried to bed, beautiful green eyes, laughter, piggyback rides, and lightning… Snapshots – scattered pieces really – memories that had been hidden away years before.

Hugo gave the man a high-five and ran off to play again, leaving Nyah and the dark-haired man in silence. She studied him; how his hair looked like it had been blown about in the wind, the way the sun danced across his glasses making it almost impossible to see his eyes properly, and the small smile that rested on his lips as he looked at her.

Nyah became acutely aware of her own mess of hair, and she tried futilely to make it smooth out a bit, her fingers getting caught on tangle after tangle in the process. She cursed under her breath as she extracted her hands from her hair, a bit embarrassed. A small laugh escaped her lips, as she imagined what Mrs. Stewart would say about her unkempt appearance.

“Something funny?” he asked, shifting his weight a bit.

Looking out over the tall grass, she smiled and said, “Oh, I was just thinking about Mother’s reaction to my hair and clothing. She would have a fit on me and take the brush to my backside as well as my hair.”

Glancing over his shoulder to the house, he started to explain, “Don’t worry about Ginny… she doesn’t care whether your hair is…” He stopped mid-sentence as Nyah looked back at him rather confused. Realizing his mistake, he added, “Ah, you mean the woman who helped raise you….. that mother.” Harry sat and leaned back against the tree, only just beginning to realize how difficult this conversation would be.

Nyah slowly crept around, coming to stop as her sandals met his trainers. “Ginny?” she asked, her voice threatening to fail her. “The woman from my dreams – there in the house,” as she motioned towards the Burrow, “her name… her name is Ginny? My mum is – is Ginny?”

A large smile appeared on his face as he patted the ground next to him. Nyah took a seat on the ground to his left, shifting slightly to be able to watch his face. With a large sigh, he whispered, “Yes, Ginny… Ginny is your mum’s name.”

An explosion of emotions was set off within Nyah at one name… Ginny. Warmth spread throughout her body as though the setting sun was consuming her. Her mind ran over the years of calling for her Mum, especially during her dreams, and she wondered if Ginny ever called for her…

“So if that’s Ginny – my Mum – then you must be… um…,” Nyah stalled, biting her bottom lip a bit as she looked to the initials carved into the tree above his head, “Harry – you’re Harry.”

He nodded and gently reached out to her tangled hair with a sad smile on his face. “Your hair hasn’t changed a bit. I’m afraid you get that from me,” he said, pointing to his own head. Harry reached down and took her hand in his, allowing the years of self-torment to dissolve. He studied each of her small fingers, remembering the counting games they played when she was little. His gaze met the scar just below her left knee where she fell in the driveway to meet him right after her first birthday; he had scooped her up as she cried and bled all over his shirt. But it was her eyes that washed away any remaining doubt… it was like looking into Ginny’s… they were identical.

Harry was overwhelmed with the thought that after all these years… after all the pain… that maybe, things could be set right, and he could finally find the courage to do something he hadn’t been able to in nearly seven years… forgive himself. As he held her cheek in his hand, he whispered, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry I didn’t protect you that night in the car. I’m sorry we didn’t find you sooner… and I’m so sorry that I missed watching you grow up.”

Nyah’s eyes were brimming with tears as Harry apologized, but answered with a smile saying, “I’m not quite done growing up yet.”

Not taking his eyes off of her, he added, “I want to know everything, but first, I’d like to hear about the dream you had today on the train.” A darkness came about his face as he continued, “I want to find who did this to you… to us – all of us – and make sure it doesn’t happen again. I won’t let them hurt you again…”

With those words, Harry took his daughter into his arms, holding her as he did all those years ago. Nyah hugged him fiercely, the tears freely falling onto his shirt, lost in this wonderful moment with her dad. He whispered all the things she’d ever hoped to hear “Everything’s going to be fine” and “I’ve missed you” while they sat under the tree.

The pair sat and talked for another hour, and the Burrow quietly rejoiced at the reunion as they watched from the windows. Nyah confided in her dad about the dreams, the fragments of memories, and the items from the bag she took from the manor. He was most interested in the broken wand, and suggested that they go have a look at it together.

As they began their slow walk hand-in-hand back to the Burrow, harder questions came up. “Why doesn’t Ginny want me?” Nyah asked her dad, looking away to avoid his eyes. “Did I do something wrong?”

Harry stopped near the garden shed and knelt down in front of his daughter, bringing her face slightly higher than his own. “No, you did nothing wrong. Ginny – your mum – she’s just… well… she’s hidden away all the pain and sadness she felt when we lost you. It may take a bit to get used to really having you here with us again. But don’t worry – she’ll come around, and when she does, she’ll never let you out of her sight!”

“Hermione told me the same thing,” Nyah answered softly. A smile crept across her face as a whisper left her lips, “Lightning.”

“What? Where?” Harry asked, glancing to the darkened sky.

Nyah’s hand went to his forehead brushing aside a lock of hair as she smiled. “Lightning… I remember why I love lightening. Anna thought I was crazy,” she said, tracing the familiar scar on her father’s face, “lightning.” 

                          ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“If you move one more time, I’ll kill you myself and go it alone,” Draco spat at his companion.

The large, burly Death Eater shifted uncomfortably in the brush near the grove of trees. “Well, if your bloody father hadn’t insisted on me wearing these bloody robes again, I wouldn’t have to move so much,” Nott responded, his face turning red as he spoke. “Besides… someone needed to come and babysit you, considering what happened last time you tried to get her back.” A smug grin crept across his scarred, round face as he turned back towards the Burrow.

“As unexpected as her magic was,” Draco countered, “at least I didn’t run out the door screaming like a girl.”

Nott turned again to Draco, ready to continue the argument as the sun caught on his glasses, sending a beam of light to the air. A hand shot up to his face and the glasses were jerked off in one swoop. The two men sank even lower in the grass, as they watched a figure walk towards Nyah.

“Potter,” whispered Draco.

“Lucius said nothing about going up against Potter,” Nott said worriedly, inching his way back. “I told you, just like I told him – this is crazy. They found her – Potter is there – it’s over!”

Draco turned to stare intently at the man beside him, who was now profusely sweating. “We will finish this, as ordered. Father isn’t listening to reason, not that he ever did.”

“And then what?” asked Nott. “Is he just going to let her sit at the Mansion? What use is she now? It makes no sense Draco – you know that! What’s so special about her anyway?”

As loudly as he could without drawing attention to their hiding spot, Draco again raised his voice, “Enough! You have no idea the plans that were laid for this years before Father ever brought you in. Go – I’ll do it myself!”

Draco watched, unmoving, as the father and daughter became reacquainted, their occasional union of laughter reaching the trees. Envy spread through him and consumed his thoughts, making his mission a little easier. Choosing between his wife and his father had not been easy, but Lucius’ threats had made it a clear choice.

The sun had set even further in the sky when Harry and Nyah finally moved towards the Burrow, leaving Draco and Nott ready to make their advance. With quite a bit of effort, Nott extracted himself from the rather odd position he had been sitting in by grabbing the nearby fence, as well as Draco’s leg, to pull himself up. Once to his feet and catching his breath, Nott seized Draco’s arm and demanded, “Give me one good reason to walk towards this run-down shack to retrieve that little girl.”

Refusing to even look at the older man, Draco simply said, “Either you go, or I kill you… your choice.” And if I return empty-handed, my son dies by my father's hand… Draco pushed the thought out of his head as he placed the Disillusionment Charm on himself and Nott. They inched their way through the tall grass, moving so as not to give away their position. They moved slowly past the pond, as Draco continued to devise a plan to separate the child from her family. Just then, he stepped on something soft. Glancing at his foot, Draco was relieved and inspired when he saw a blanket lying on the hard earth… and not just any blanket… but the blanket that he had been blasted clean through with the ‘Obliviate’ spell all those years before.

Glancing around once more, Draco slowly pulled the blanket near him as the Disillusionment Charm penetrated the knitted yarn, concealing it from view.

A voice nearby whispered, “What are you doing with that old thing?”

“This ‘old thing’,” Draco huffed, “is exactly the bait we need.” Turning back towards the trees, a plan formed in his mind. “Come on… we don’t need to go and get her… she will come to us.” Draco reached the trees and hung the blanket on the smallest branch in the front, in plain site of the Burrow.

Nott’s footsteps could be seen sinking into the decaying leaves as he stood nearby. “Now what?” he asked in Draco’s general direction.

“Now… we wait.” 

                          ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“Ready?” Harry asked, taking his daughter’s hand.

Nyah felt her hand tingle as it was lost – protected within her father’s much larger hand. She wished she could curl up in his arms and never move – to always feel this wonderful – this safe.

As they approached the house, Nyah’s confidence abandoned her and she lingered outside the Burrow door. Everything she ever wanted was just inside that door… a family, home, love, and most of all, her Mum. But doubt and fear held her prisoner. What if they don’t want me? Nyah thought, her head looking to the ground as she felt her hand slip away from her dad’s.

“Wait,” Nyah exclaimed, searching her mind for an excuse to postpone walking back through that door.

“What is it?” Harry asked, drawing her chin up to force her gaze to his.

“Uh… I – I need to… um,” stuttered Nyah, looking about the yard, “my blanket! I forgot it.” She pulled back, putting a distance between herself and the Burrow. “I’ll just get it,” she said, turning and walking slowly towards the pond.

Harry looked to the upstairs window as Ginny leaned out, her face filled with questions and worry. Turning back to Nyah, he called, “I’ll just be in the inside when you’re ready.” Harry paused to watch her feet drag the ground as she was obviously in no real hurry.

Ginny could no longer contain the tears as her hands slid up to cover her face. She tucked the Extendable Ears into her pocket and turned towards the door – pieces of Harry and Nyah’s conversation running through her head.

She thinks I don’t want her, Ginny thought, reaching for the doorknob. How can I tell her… how can I explain… this piece of me that’s been missing all these years. “No!” Ginny said out loud, nearly startling herself, “She’s dead – gone… this is not my daughter. It can’t be…” The small ‘click’ of the door closing seemed to ignite a swell in the noise downstairs as the family began carrying items outside to the table for dinner. Ginny’s feet seemed disconnected from the rest of her body, falling heavy on the spiral steps leading downstairs. Her mind was completely focused on Nyah’s conversation and barely took notice as James and Albus sped by her, heading for Uncle Ron’s old room to avoid helping with dinner.

Finally reaching the bottom step, Ginny looked as the rooms of the Burrow overflowed with family. Kids of nearly every age were playing and running about while the men carried out the items for dinner, and the women were calling out orders to whomever was unfortunate enough to be standing close by. But someone was missing… she always was… Nina, Ginny thought, tears once again stinging her eyes.

Molly was at the sink washing strawberries, while Hermione was lecturing Hugo about not eating before supper as she confiscated a cookie from his hand. Fleur and her daughters gracefully maneuvered the busy room holding trays of food, while Angelina tried to herd the children outside.

“Coming dear?” Molly called to her daughter, hoping to coax her outside to the fresh air.

Ginny motioned to the den and mouthed over the noise, “I’ll be just there.” She watched Harry place Lily onto the chair next to Teddy before she disappeared around the corner towards the den. The room was dark and quiet, but with a small flick of her wand and whispered, “Lumos,” the candles responded by flooding the room with light.

She walked towards the blackboard Hermione had conjured and analyzed the timeline that was presented. Nina’s name had been added, as was the information from Nyah’s dream. “It’s still not enough,” Ginny whispered.

“What more do you need, sweetheart?”

Ginny set her hands on her hips as she studied the board. Shaking her head, she answered, “I don’t know… but something.”

“You should talk to her,” Harry said, pausing to pick up the silver snitch from the table where Hermione had placed it. “Do you remember when I gave you this?” he asked, tossing it in the air.

The snitch felt light in her fingertips as she caught it midair. “Of course I remember,” she said, turning the snitch over in her hands finding the engraving ‘I belong to only you’. “You proposed to me with this. I thought you had gone blooming mad, giving me a snitch instead of a ring, but then…”

“But then,” Harry interjected as he took the snitch from her hands and held it to her lips. “Ginny, will you marry me?”

She cocked her head to the side and rolled her eyes. “Harry, stop. This is not the time…”

“Ginny,” he insisted, “it was made for you, and you alone can open it… if it’s really her. Now, say it.”

The lights sparkled in her eyes, as she whispered to the snitch, “Yes Harry… I’ll marry you.”

A small ‘click’ was heard as the snitch opened, the spell still complete after 12 years.

“It’s empty,” Ginny whispered, disappointment in her voice.

“Not empty, Ginny… it holds what you’ve been looking for,” Harry said, closing the halves once again. “Proof.”

Still unsure, Ginny glanced at the remaining treasures, finally settling on the wand. “Okay, what about this?” she said, holding up the broken piece, “this does not belong to any of us. How do you explain that?”

“I was hoping to take it by the Ministry and have Kingsley take a look at it, or go see Ollivander. Perhaps he’d recognize it. I don’t know that there’s enough left to perform the “Prior Incantato” but I suppose we could try.”

Ginny shook her head in agreement, pulling out her wand. “Prior Incantato” rang through the room as the broken wand shivered. A small stream of white smoke was slowly released from the wand and began to form.

“What is it?” Harry asked, moving his head from side-to-side, hoping to get a better image.

Ginny gasped as the shadow finally took shape. Her voice trembled as she said, “It’s her… it’s Nyah – I mean Nina, Harry. Look!”

Harry wrapped his arms around Ginny as they watched the sputtering image of their daughter being hit with the “Geminio Corporis” spell, while an unmoving duplicate of her appeared, lifeless, on the ground. The wand grew still and the image dissipated, leaving the couple clinging to one another.

“It’s like watching her die all over again,” Ginny sobbed, the painful past rushing to haunt her again. “I don’t want to do that again… I can’t.”

Harry pulled her tighter to him, as his tears fell onto her hair. “Shhh… This is different. She’s home and she’s safe.”

Ginny looked into his eyes, still tormented, “But why, Harry? It still makes no sense! Why would someone do that, and…” Ginny’s face went still, as a chill settled over her. She looked around the room. “Do you hear that?” she asked, pulling away from Harry, listening to the silence.

“Hear what?” Harry asked, straining to hear something other than the noise of the family outside. “I don’t...” he began, as Ginny placed her hands over his mouth gently.

Fear sprang up in her eyes and she began walking around the table, heading for the door. “Harry… Harry, something’s wrong!” She spun around and looked at him. “Where are the children?”

Throwing his hands into the air, Harry shook his head, responding to his nearly frantic wife, “Outside… they’re outside, with Molly and Arthur.” Harry ran after her as she bolted through the door, “Ginny, wait! What’s wrong?” Catching her arm, he demanded to know, “What is it?”

She was nearly hysterical as she called for James and Albus at the stairs. The two boys appeared suddenly near the top of the steps. Not waiting for anything more than to see them, Ginny whispered, “Lily” as she ran for the kitchen door.

Harry was at her heels, still trying to figure out what was going on. He had never seen her so afraid… not awake anyway. Once outside, Harry pulled her aside while the family looked on, curious why Ginny was so distraught.

“Harry… something’s wrong… like in my nightmares, but I’m awake!” she cried, looking to her Mum and back to Harry.

Molly moved to join Ginny and Harry as Hermione stood up and simply asked, “Where’s Nyah?”

All color went out of Ginny’s face as a scream ripped through the breeze.

“Nyah!” Ginny screamed, running towards the pond, Harry at her side. All doubt aside, Ginny knew her daughter’s cry; she could feel it erupt within her heart reigniting all of the love she had hidden away.

Just past the oak tree, two Death Eaters appeared near the old fence, Nyah between them struggling to get away. Anger replaced fear in Ginny’s eyes as she drew her wand and yelled, “Immobulus!” sending the large Death Eater to the ground.

Harry and Charlie were near the open field, just inside the apparition line of the Burrow. They were firing off spells but none were hitting the other Death Eater. Charlie ducked as green sparks flew by his head, just missing him.

Nyah was still struggling, but was unable to get away. Ginny watched in horror as the Death Eater dragged her just beyond the fence post and turned on the spot with a loud ‘pop.’ At that moment, everything went dark as Ginny slumped to the ground… 

Author's Notes:  A huge thanks goes out to ~Mitch~ for the suggestion about the 'calipitter'.  To all of my lovely reviewers, and my friends at eHPf... thank you for traveling this road with me.  We're nearly there...

I'd love to know what you think... please leave me a review in the box below.  I respond to each one!  You can also contact me on my author's page on HPFF.  I look forward to talking to you!  :-)


Chapter 19: Lost to the Night
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Ginny watched in horror as the Death Eater dragged Nyah just beyond the fence post and turned on the spot with a loud ‘pop.’ At that moment, everything went dark as Ginny slumped to the ground… 

Chapter 19 – Lost to the Night 

Harry fell to his knees, reaching out to touch the spot where Nyah vanished. “She’s gone,” he whispered to the wind, holding out his hands, tears marring his face. Anger unleashed in his heart and he screamed in agony, pulling his fists tightly.

Out of the corner of his eye, he watched Charlie bind the immobilized Death Eater with a rope that was twirling from his wand and wrapping itself tightly around the portly man. George and Ron were standing guard, wands at the ready, continually watching the sky.

As Harry stood, his gaze fixated on the Death Eater. Making his way through the tall grass, he finally stopped in front of the kidnapper. His green eyes were fierce with rage and electricity as his breathing steadied. Eager to strike this man down for daring to touch his daughter, Harry searched his mind for dark spells and smiled as he imagined the outcome. He continued to glare at the Death Eater, taking in the man’s unkempt features and the soul-less brown eyes which were now swimming with fear. His face was unfamiliar to Harry which only meant he was not currently wanted by the Ministry, but the man bore the signs of overindulgence, scars of yesteryear, and the Death Eater mark on his forearm.

“Go and check the rest of the grounds,” Harry growled, glancing to the grass. His voice was low and threatening, and although directed at no one in particular, Ron and George took their leave.

The Death Eater hung in midair, bound from ankle to chest in rope. Harry walked slowly around the tangled man, allowing the anger to overcome all other emotions. The ‘Immobulus’ spell was wearing off, and the man’s face began to change. “Please, please,” he whispered through his mouth gag, “don’t kill me. I – I didn’t want to do it. They made me – they…” he voiced died off as Harry came closer.

“Who made you?” Harry demanded, refusing to blink as he waited for an answer that would never come. The Death Eater shook his head furiously, refusing to speak any more as fear took up residence in his face. “Fine, we’ll try a bit of a different tactic,” Harry said, pulling back his fist and punching the bound man straight in the face and chest.

“Harry, don’t,” Charlie said weakly, barely containing a laugh, as he watched Harry take out some frustration on the older man. “Okay… that’s enough fun for one night. ‘Locomotor’,” he said, as the Death Eater rose high out of Harry’s reach.

Charlie seemed to be having a bit of fun with his capture, turning the older man feet up, sending him rather high in the air and back again. A smug smile crept across Charlie’s face as he began walking towards the Burrow, lazily waving his wand – much like conducting a symphony. The Death Eater unwillingly responded by moving about the yard hitting his head on many of the nearby tree limbs and a couple of times, actually bouncing off the ground. “Please!” Nott yelled, “Stop!”

Harry stomped off towards the house, refusing to crack a smile as he happily watched Charlie’s version of punishment. In the distance, the rest of the family gathered near the large tree by the pond. 

                          ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“Ginny?” Molly quietly cried to her daughter as she knelt to the ground where Ginny lay. “Come on – wake up!” Fear rose in Molly’s heart as the rest of the family divided, helping where ever they could. Molly lifted Ginny’s head into her arms, wishing her daughter was still small enough to pick up and carry once more. She patted Ginny’s cheeks hoping to bring her out of this deep slumber, as silent tears streaked her face.

Arthur’s strong hands wrapped around Molly’s shoulders, giving her strength. “Let her sleep, Molly,” he whispered to his wife, “she’s had a difficult time of it.”

“Sleep?” Molly cried, her voice threatening to reveal how frightened she felt, “How can you let her sleep when her daughter’s just been… well… stolen from right under our noses? And by Death Eaters, no less!”

“He’s right, Molly,” Hermione interjected, all eyes turning to her in surprise. “If what Ginny says is true, and she can hear Nyah, especially in her dreams… then maybe Ginny can help us find her.” The small group stood quietly watching Ginny’s troubled sleep, hoping that Hermione’s theory was correct. “Fleur has volunteered to take all of the children back to Shell Cottage for the night…” she said, her voice trailing off, “or for however long it takes to bring Nyah home.”

Arthur stood as Ron joined the family near the tree, “That’s right,” Arthur offered cheeringly, “We’re going to bring her home to celebrate her birthday properly.”

Hermione’s face fell slightly as she turned to look at Ron. There was fear in her eyes despite the grin she plastered on her face. “What?” mouthed Ron, trying not to draw attention to them. But Hermione’s nervousness was taking over, as she bit her lip and began pacing.

“Molly,” Hermione said, “what time was Nyah born? I know it was the 25th, but I don’t remember the time…”

Molly smiled as she gently brushed the hair from Ginny’s face. “The sun was just rising, so I guess about 6 am,” she answered, finally looking into Hermione’s worried face, “Why?”

There was a long pause as Hermione paced, muttering absentmindedly to herself as she sorted out more details in her head. Finally, she set off in a dead run, heading straight for Harry.

“Hermione!” Ron called after her, “What is it?”

Harry was storming by with a look of sheer anger on his face as Hermione ran to him and blurted out, “36 hours!”

He stopped and stared at her as Ron finally caught up to them. “What about 36 hours?” Harry asked, trying to maintain his composure, as his eyes cooly rested on the Death Eater.

Catching her breath, she continued, “We only have 36 hours to find Nyah and break the spell. Otherwise, it sets… and there’s nothing we can do! Her magic – her magic will begin to destroy her… if it hasn’t already started.” Hands shaking, Hermione wiped the tears from her cheeks.

“I thought you said that Healer at St. Mungo’s shut her magic off or something,” Ron said, his mouth hanging open in disbelief.

“Yes, I did – I mean she did, block her magic – but only temporarily. And from what I saw today, with the wind especially, I would say she’s found a way to tap into it again… but this time… it may have ever more dire consequences,” explained Hermione, looking from Ron to Harry.

Harry shook his head, quietly agreeing with Hermione. “Where’s Ginny? We need to get a plan together now,” Harry said, watching as Charlie was locomotering the bound Death Eater into the Burrow taking care to smack his head on the door frame on the way in. “I think we have a bit of interrogating to do.”

Hermione and Ron exchanged glances as Ron said, “Listen mate, Ginny – well…”

“She passed out, under the tree,” Hermione interrupted, pointing towards Molly.

“Ginny,” Harry whispered, running quickly to her side. He knelt down, running his hand along her face as she stirred in her sleep. “Let’s get you inside”, he whisper to her; his voice soft and catching in his throat as he lifted her into his arms.

“Harry,” Ginny whispered slowly, not quite awake.

Harry pulled her even closer, her head finding its spot on his shoulder, as he whispered, “Shhh, don’t talk. We’re nearly there.” The Burrow was silent, save the incoherent mumbling from the den. Laying Ginny on the sofa, Harry took her hands into his own as he did all those years ago in the hospital. He refused to look away, but knew that the room was filled with family awaiting his thoughts. First, he asked, “Where are the children?”

“With Bill and Fleur at Shell Cottage,” Hermione quickly responded.

“Each one accounted for?” Harry asked, his Auror training beginning to kick in as his mind cleared the anger and rage aside for the moment.

“Everyone’s safe.. well, nearly – nearly everyone,” Ron stumbled, “Sorry mate.”

“It’s okay, Ron,” Harry said, his voice deepening, “I’m going to get her back, and you’re going to help me.” With that, Harry stood and looked to Ron, Hermione, and then finally to Molly. “You’ll stay with her?”

Molly smiled through her tears and said, “Of course, dear.”

A small brush of Ginny’s hand caused Harry to hit his knees, wanting nothing more than for her to be all right once again. “Harry,” she breathed, “Nyah…”

Angry tears escaped his eyes as he kissed her hand. “Don’t worry… I’ll bring her home to you,” he whispered back.

“No,” Ginny said, an anguished look crossing her face, “pain, Harry… she’s in pain.” Her eyes closed and she fell back into a deep sleep, as Harry’s body shook with tears.

Soft, warm hands wrapped around his shoulders and Molly pulled him into a quick hug. “What if I fail her again?” he whispered.

Taking his face in her hands, Molly looked into his eyes and smiled, “I don’t think that will happen, but if it does, remember… it’s just like falling. You simply pick yourself up and set your feet moving again. Now, go! I’ll let you know as soon as she wakes up.”

The room cleared out as Molly pulled a chair close to the sofa. In the quietness, a whisper broke the silence as Ginny called to her daughter, “Nyah, where are you?” 

                          ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Nyah’s eyes fluttered open, pained by the bright light of the room. Her hand moved to shield her from the setting sun, as an strong ache spread through her body. It was as though she was waking from one of ‘Mother’s’ punishments at the Stewart Manor. Her legs felt heavy and her arm seemed a bit out of focus as it took it’s time to reach her face.

Blinking against the sun, Nyah shifted a bit and took in her surroundings. The room was small and unfriendly with nothing more than a hard wooden chair with thin cushions and a side table, along with the bed Nyah was lying in. There was a large fireplace that looked as though it hadn’t seen warmth in many years. The red bricks around the hearth were dusty and their color contrasted harshly against the dingy white walls. The only comfort was a tiny window, which bathed the room with streaks of light, but even the beams lost their joy once imprisoned in the room.

Fear began to take over as Nyah remembered the harsh hands that grabbed her near the pond at the Burrow. She absentmindedly rubbed her arms; the black and purple bruises were no more painful than the energy coursing through her. What have I done? Nyah thought, closing her eyes in hopes the pain would fade. But instead, the ache increased, taking over the whole of her body, begging her to lie back down. I remember…I was upset…, Nyah scrunched her face as she sat up, refusing to give into the pain. Her once beautiful dress was dirty and ripped in spots, and no amount of smoothing could change it. I was upset and Hugo came. Nyah touched her cheek remembering the little boy’s small hands on her face, and then… oh, something else happened… what was it? She rubbed her forehead, deep in thought as a pair of bright green eyes burst into her memory, “Dad,” Nyah whispered, a smile creeping onto her face. That one word brought the day’s memories flooding back, as an absolute belief consumed her heart, “My Dad – he will find me.”

With that hopeful thought, Nyah gingerly stepped onto the cold wood floor, painfully aware of the lingering ache still traveling through her body. Moving cautiously, she crossed the room and climbed up into the chair, peeking out the window. A seemingly endless well-manicured lawn stretched out before her. In the distance, there was a faint shadow of trees and a prominent black fence walked the property line. From this vantage point, Nyah guessed that she was at least three floors above ground.

While taking in the scenery of the grand residence, Nyah watched as a door opened on the main level. Three figures emerged from the shadows of the house, two hand-in-hand. The solitary member stood lingering in the dark as the others ran into the welcoming sunlight. A small boy with blond hair ran past the woman he was with and towards a large tree nearby. Climbing eagerly onto the swing, he beckoned the woman to push him. Nyah could see them talking and laughing but was denied the sound. Years of dust and grime clung to the window, distorting the images and Nyah attempted to wipe the glass clean with her hand, hoping to get a better look.

She froze as the boy pointed to the window in her direction. Their eyes met for a moment, but the distance was too great to know what he might be thinking. The woman was also staring, and Nyah couldn’t look away. The woman's gaze was fixated on Nyah, but she neither smiled nor frowned. Her long brown hair caught in the breeze as she walked from beneath the tree. Nyah had never seen someone so beautiful, angelic even, and without even thinking, she waved. That one small movement seemed to draw the woman from her thoughts as she took the boy’s hand and walked quickly back towards the house.

Unsure what the woman’s response truly meant, Nyah turned her back to the window, and her shadow fell long through the room. From the obvious layer of dust, no one had occupied this space in quite some time. The chair sat stiff and uncomfortable and the table empty. There was a small water closet in the corner of the room with a pocket door for a bit of privacy, but it too, was inhospitable.

What is this place? Nyah wondered, approaching the only other door. Her hand trembled with pain as she reached for the knob. The brass handle felt cool to the touch and Nyah lingered for a moment as it gave a small relief from the discomfort. But upon turning the knob, it resisted and continued to hold her captive. She gently put her ear to the door, quietly listening for any movement, but there was none.

A spark of anger rose in her, and the dust kicked up at her feet in a wisp of air. She pulled on the doorknob begging it to release her, cursing under her breath as the air continued to sweep through the room, growing with intensity. Nyah pounded once on the solid wood as a stabbing sensation ran through her head. She screamed and in response the air burst through the tiny window sending shards of glass shattering into the room. The pain peaked with that bit of magic and Nyah stumbled to the bed, begging for relief. Cries of agony escaped her mouth as she held her head tightly in her hands, as if letting go, it too might burst. Tears cleansed some of the tension in her head as they made tracks on her dusty cheeks.

“Why does it hurt so bad?” she whimpered to the room, trying to slowly find a comfortable position. Thoughts of the woman and the boy filled her head, but were quickly replaced by more comforting scenes of the Burrow, Hermione, her Dad, and her Mum’s red hair. Nyah managed to whisper, “Mum, I need you,” before the pain took over and darkness engulfed her once more. 

                          ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“Nyah!” screamed Ginny, sitting straight up on the sofa. The room was bathed in long shadows and her cry obviously woke Molly, who was now rushing to her side. Ginny grabbed her head as though hoping to contain the dream of her daughter that seemed to shatter in her mind. “Shattered…” she whispered.

Molly was gently rubbing her back, the way she used to when Ginny had a bad dream. “What’s shattered, dear?” Molly asked, pausing to look about the room for whatever it was that Ginny was talking about.

Ginny gently stood from the couch, still a bit unsure on her feet. Molly helped to steady her as Hermione ran into the room. “Ginny, what is it? We heard you…” Hermione said, looking to her friend for answers, “Is it Nyah?”

“Yes… I need Harry,” she said weakly, heading towards the muffled sounds coming through the walls of the den. Opening the door, the noise increased tenfold as the ‘Muffliato’ spell was broken as Ginny and Molly walked in.

“Where is she?” Harry growled at the immobilized Death Eater. A swift kick to the older man’s leg did nothing to relieve the frustration that was searing through Harry. Glancing towards the door, he whispered, “Ginny.” The room hushed as he ran to his wife, helping her into a nearby chair, just in view of the bound Death Eater.

“Sweetheart, what are you doing? You should be resting,” Harry said, trying to regain his composure. He had just finished a rather robust conversation with Ron on the best way to get the information they needed from the Death Eater. Charlie and George stared menacingly, as Nott simply smiled but never spoke.

“Arthur!” Molly cried, planting her hand on her hips, “What are you doing with this man?”

Arthur shook his head and replied, “Nothing dear… just hoping for information from Mr. Nott about Nyah’s whereabouts. The boys were simply trying different tactics, but as of yet, nothing’s worked.”

“Nott?” cried Molly, looking in surprise between the bound man and Arthur. “Teddy Nott’s father?”

“Dad, give me my wand,” George demanded, as he walked across the room towering over the bound man. “I’ve got a couple of ideas on interesting ways to make him talk.”

A small hint of fear flashed across Nott’s face as George spoke, but was gone quickly when Arthur walked towards the door and conjured a Patronus with a message about the kidnapping to be sent to the Ministry. He turned and looked to his family and announced, “We have about 10 minutes to procure whatever information we can from this man, the Ministry will be on their way.”

Molly hurried from the room, as Harry once again took to interrogating Nott. The Death Eater spat at him, a nasty scowl coming across his face. “You’ll never find her now. She’s as good as dead!” Nott yelled, laughing in Harry’s face.

Ginny stood fiercely from her chair, and in two steps had reached the older man slapping him hard across the face. “How dare you! You bastard! Where is my daughter?” Ginny screamed at him. Harry finally stood between her and Nott, trying to shield her from his taunting.

“Ginny…” Harry called calmly to his wife, “You can’t be in here… it’s just too much.”

Fire welled up in her eyes as she pointed at Harry, her hand set firmly on her hip, “Don’t you dare… don’t you dare tell me I can’t be here when this piece of…”

“Ginny!” Molly scolded, causing Ginny to quiet quickly. “Now, if you want answers, perhaps this will help,” Molly said handing Harry a small partially-filled vial.

A bit befuddled, Harry took the vial and uncorked the stopper. He sniffed the potion but smelled nothing. Finally comprehending what Molly had given him, a satisfied smile crossed his face as he walked towards Nott. Crossing her arms and smiling, Molly sat on the sofa, pulling Ginny with her.

“Mum, what is that?” Ginny asked as Charlie and Ron held the Death Eaters’ mouth open. Harry dropped three drops onto his tongue and stepped back.

“Veritaserum,” Harry answered cooly, passing the vial back to Molly.

Ron’s mouth dropped open as he stared at his Mum. “Bloody hell!” he cried, “No wonder we could never keep anything from her!”

“Well, what did you think?” Molly quipped back, “That I’d just believe the nonsense that rolled out of your mouths? A mother needs a bit of help now and again.” She patted Ginny’s leg and added, “It works when they’re sleeping too, dear.”

The boys all exchanged nervous looks, wondering what secrets they had unwillingly shared with their Mum. Even Arthur was fiddling with his shirt, as the potion took affect on Nott.

A slow, dark smile spread across Harry’s face as he leaned in, nearly nose-to-nose with Nott. “Now,” he growled, “you will tell me where my daughter is, who took her, and how I can get her back.” 

                          ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Small whispers broke through Nyah’s restless sleep. Opening her eyes just a bit, the room looked much the same, except that the sun was no longer spilling through the broken panes of glass. The air was still and cold, and the one lone candle gave off little comfort. Somewhere just outside the room, Nyah could hear soft voices. She silently slid from the bed, while jolts of pain shot up her legs as they attempted to bear her weight. Her feet slowly carried her towards the sounds, stopping at the door. “Hello?” she called lightly, tapping the dark wood, unsure if she wanted to make contact with someone on the other side. Nyah pulled her hand back to knock a bit louder, as a loud ‘crack’ tore through the stillness of the room.

Nyah screamed and backed against the wall. A small greyish creature stood in the middle of the room, coming only a bit higher than Nyah’s waist. It’s large bat-like ears were tied up with ribbons of multiple colors and it wore a very ill-fitting pink garment, somewhat resembling an old pillowcase. 

Not knowing whether to laugh or cry, Nyah simply stared, too stunned to move. The little creature seemed aware of Nyah’s worry and put on what looked to be a wide smile as it’s eyes took on the shape and color of large black orbs. A voice rang out from the tiny figure that sounded very similar to someone who had just taken in a large breath of air from a helium balloon.

Muffled giggles replaced Nyah’s concerns, as it chirped, “Poor, poor, Miss. Locked up in this dusty room with all of this broken glass. Mitzi is so glad Miss didn’t get hurt.” It shook its head and glancing sadly at Nyah, as the ribbons bounced about its ears. “Don’t you worry now, Mitzi is here,” she said, hurrying about the room while the dust began to vanish. “You see… I have it all tidy for you soon.” Within moments the room was shiny and clean, and not a bit of dirt or glass was left.

“Um – thank you,” Nyah whispered. “But… if you don’t mind me asking… who are you, and how did you do that?”

The little house elf blinked hard as though surprised by the question, stopping in the middle of making the bed to look at Nyah. She tottered over to the young girl, and Nyah felt inclined to kneel down, just to be at its level.

“I is Mitzi, one of the house elves here at the manor. Mrs. Astoria sent me to tend to you, and oh, you poor little thing. Just look at your dress!” Mitzi squeaked, “Better clothes for you I will bring soon, along with your dinner, and something to help you rest… Miss looks so tired.”

Mitzi was gently patting Nyah’s head, somewhat like you would do with the family pet. Grinning at the unexpected kindness in a place such as this, Nyah ventured on to ask Mitzi more questions, gaining not only the elf’s trust, but also information.

“Mitzi,” Nyah asked, laboring to pull herself from the floor, “where am I?”

The little elf made the bed in record time, and then set about starting a small fire with the wood she ‘popped’ out to get a moment before. “This is the Malfoy Mansion, home of one of the oldest and most noble wizarding families,” she said bowing low to the floor, as though it had been rehearsed.

Nyah leaned against the wall, the pain beginning to mount once more. “I can’t take much more of this,” she mumbled as tears fell to the now clean floor. Mitzi guided her to the small chair, which now was soft and inviting, and offered a bit of comfort.

“Oh, Miss,” the little house elf squeaked, “I’ll go and get Mrs. Astoria. She’ll tell Mitzi how to help little Miss.” She covered Nyah with the large blanket from the bed, promising to return quickly.

Nyah sat in the small chair, shivering, as her body began it’s assault on her magic once again. Small puffs of air and leaps of flames from the fireplace were met with a tirade of pain, as the little girl sat weeping in the chair… afraid to move… afraid to sleep. She whispered to the darkness a single word… “Mum.” 

                          ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

‘I don’t know’ is not an answer!” Harry yelled, as three Ministry Aurors descended on the Burrow. “Why did they take her?” he demanded one more time before being told to step down by Carl Stanwick, a senior Auror.

Carl was a very tall, thin man with greying hair and thick spectacles. His voice was loud and commanding, and he had climbed in the ranks of the Aurors quite easily. He had taken a keen interest in Harry’s training from the start, pushing him to extremes at times, but always the first to congratulate on a job well done. Harry had learned soon after training that Carl’s entire family, save one aunt, had been wiped out by Voldemort. The two men understood each other, and took their jobs very seriously. Realizing the gravity of the situation, Carl insisted on coming to the Burrow himself to bring in one of the men responsible for Nyah’s kidnapping.

Nott kept repeating, “I don’t know… I don’t know,” in a near trance-like state as his eyes went in-and-out of focus attempting to prevent honest answers from continuing to flow from his lips. But he had spilled everything he knew – now the only unanswered question was ‘why’.

Carl quickly briefed Harry with occasional input from Arthur, as the junior Aurors immobilized the Death Eater once more. Promises were passed between the men to alert one another should any new evidence come to light. With a quick handshake, and a nod to Ginny, Carl pointed the Aurors towards the door of the den. Arthur followed, leading them to a safe point of apparition near the fence line of the Burrow.

“Carl, you know Harry’s temper streak. They’ll be no stopping him once enough information is gathered,” Arthur said, looking intently at the man looming over him. “I expect that with, or without, the Ministry support – there will be a visit paid this evening to the Malfoy family. I’m sure they’re in there planning as we speak.” Arthur’s gaze lingered on the Burrow as he said, “They will bring her home.”

Carl glanced at the two rookies who stood just out of earshot. “As soon as we’ve questioned him, the Aurors will be there to lend a hand… but from the looks of it, I’d say you have a pretty good team there, Arthur.” A small pause crossed between them before Carl added, “Give me an hour – two at the most – to question him. I have to do things by the book, otherwise…”

“I know, Carl, I know,” Arthur interrupted, patting the taller man on the arm. “But you know what we’re up against. Time is ticking away for her.”

“God’s speed, old friend. And do watch out for Potter… he’d be a hard one to replace,” Carl said, walking to meet the other Aurors.

Arthur watched as the men turned in unison, disappearing into the night with a ‘crack’. The lights in the Burrow shined like a beacon in the dark, and Arthur quickly found his way to the door, hoping that finding Nyah would be just as easy. 

                          ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“Shh… don’t move, dear,” a soft whisper danced through the air. “Mitzi, hand me that blue bottle.”

Small warm hands guided Nyah’s lips to the cold glass. Lingering in that small relief from the heat that had overtaken her body, she paused.

“Drink,” the woman delicately commanded, tilting the potion into the child’s mouth. “It will help until I can return.”

Strong, hot liquid seared down Nyah’s throat and she coughed at its arrival. Instantly, the chills subsided, but the ache continued. The woman gently laid Nyah back into the chair as her gentle amber eyes searched the girl’s face for traces of pain and fever. Satisfied that the potion was working, she turned to her house elf.

“Mitzi, you will stay with her unless Scorpius or Mr. Malfoy calls for you. Is that understood?” the woman ordered gently, making her way towards the door. “And be sure my father-in-law is hindered in any attempt to locate her.”

The house elf bowed low and responded, “Yes, Mrs. Astoria… Mitzi will stay.”

The door closed as the small house elf came to stand next to Nyah, lightly touching the girl’s arm. A small ‘thank you’ was all Nyah could manage to say before losing herself to a restless, but dreamless sleep. 

                          ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Several flights of stairs below, Astoria Malfoy stepped quietly into the large fireplace of her Master Suite. “St. Mungo’s Hospital,” she said clearly, throwing the Floo powder at her feet. As the green flames subsided, a figure emerged from the shadows, his long thin face twisted in distaste for his daughter-in-law and her noble ideas.

Drawing the long, pale wand of his former Master from his dark green robes, Lucius beheld its beauty once more in the moonlight. The wand quivered in his hand as though it yearned for the Dark Lord’s touch. Lucius whispered, “I will not fail you this time, even in death, my Lord. Your final plan will be carried out very soon. The child of Potter is here… and she will die – tonight.”

Author's Notes:  The original version of this chapter has been split into two as the word count was nearing 10,000.  I realize there isn't a lot of 'action' in these scenes, but all of this information is vital to get you ready for the next phase of the story.
As always, I would love to hear your thoughts.  Please leave a note in the box below ~ I always respond.  And keep watching... the next chapter will go up soon!
Thank you!

Chapter 20: Whispers In The Dark
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Arthur watched as the men turned in unison, disappearing into the night with a ‘crack’. The lights in the Burrow shined like a beacon in the dark, and Arthur quickly found his way to the door, hoping that finding Nyah would be just as easy. 

Chapter 20 – Whispers In The Dark 

The Burrow was buzzing with activity as Arthur quietly closed the kitchen door and gazed about the room. Just as expected, Harry was quickly going over plans with Ron, George, and Ginny. Nott had unwillingly shared details of the plot to capture Nyah thanks to the Veritaserum, and Harry kept repeating what had been discovered.

“Okay, we know that this had been planned for years, but that Nott was only recently brought in – more in a recovery position. It was he and Draco at Ron and Hermione’s house, and it was Draco who was spying on Nyah’s conversation at the cottage,” Harry reiterated as he paced.

Molly and Charlie were writing furiously on Hermione’s conjured blackboard which now occupied the living room. They were filling in dates on the timeline, and adding facts where speculations once were.

“But why?” Ron asked, looking between Harry and Ginny, “What does Draco get out of this?”

Harry stopped pacing, deep in thought, as Ginny spoke up, “It’s not what he has to gain… but what he stands to lose. Nott kept saying Draco stands to lose everything that Harry stands to gain. We just have to figure out what that is, and…”

“Family,” Molly whispered, rubbing her hands together, trying to rid them of the chalk. Her face flushed a bit as the room looked to her in surprise. “I don’t know what that has to do with Draco – what family he would lose – his mother’s gone, and Lucius just now back in his life, and I can’t imagine his wife or son being a part of all of this.”

The room was quiet for a bit as they contemplated this information.

“Okay,” Harry continued, “what else do we know?”

George leaned back in one of the kitchen chairs, his hands folded behind his head, “All we know for certain is that Nott was hired by Lucius to retrieve Nyah and that due to her impressive skills, which she obviously got from me, she was able to defend herself at the cottage.”

Ginny smiled sadly, lost in her own thoughts of Nyah. She had missed so many moments with her daughter and wondered what kind of life Nyah had endured growing up without the parents who loved her. There was so much about Nyah that she didn’t know, and she might never have the chance to find out. I should have been there, she thought, as the years of mourning transferred to anger. Why couldn’t I save her like Lily saved Harry? 

In the distance, Ginny heard someone calling her name. Strong, familiar arms wrapped around her shoulders as George called to her again, this time quite close to her ear. Ginny smacked his arms and turned to look at him with her head cocked a bit to the right.

“Just wondering where your mind had run off to, sis,” he laughed nervously, trying to distract himself from the growing knot in his stomach as Harry double-checked the layout of the Malfoy property from a hand-drawn sketch Arthur gave them.

“Well, if you must know, I was trying to come up with a delicate way to tell you that Nina – I mean Nyah – obviously got her survival skills from her father and her good looks from me,” she said sarcastically, “which leaves very little from you dear brother.”

As the siblings continued their habitual banter, Arthur approached the table where Ron and Harry continued with the plans. “Carl said it wouldn’t be more than an hour – maybe two – and you’ll have all the backup you need, Harry,” he reported, peeking over Harry’s shoulder at the notes on the parchment.

Harry glanced quickly towards his father-in-law, before burying himself back in the planning. “Thanks Arthur, but we’ll be in-and-out before the Aurors even get there.”

Molly and Ginny both stared at Harry, surprised at this announcement. “Harry, you promised Hermione that you would wait. She needs time to locate Healer Sabinski and retrieve not only that old book, but any information as to how the spell will affect Nyah the closer we get to her birthday,” Ginny reiterated, her voice getting louder and louder the longer she spoke. “What if we get there, and…” but Ginny was cut off as Harry gave orders to Ron and George.

“Ron, you and George will apparate just to the edge of the front gate – here,” he ordered calmly, placing a finger on the map. “I’ll be here, just at the edge of the shrubbery. Patronuses will be our contact. I’ll give the all-go from my view and you do the same.” Harry pulled his invisibility cloak from Ginny’s bag as he added, “Remember – our goal is to retrieve Nyah – no matter what. She could be anywhere, so do a thorough search. And if she’s not well,” he said, glancing at Ginny, “just get her out and straight to St. Mungo’s.” His eyes glazed over and his voice became low, “If you should happen upon Malfoy… use your imagination.”

Ginny had stood with her arms crossed tight in front of her, tapping her shoe loudly the longer Harry talked. Taking a deep breath, she said, “And what do you expect me to do? Sit here and wait?”

She grabbed the cloak from Harry and looked him in the eye. Silent but fierce words were exchanged, unnoticed by the rest of the room. He reached for the cloak, which was now held behind her back and pulled her close. Their eyes never parted as his lips caressed hers gently, a promise exchanged between them. “Together,” she whispered, leaning her head to his chest as his arms wrapped around her, “I need to be there for her, you know that, right?”

“Okay you two,” Ron moaned, “just because you’ve been married forever doesn’t mean I need to be reminded of it.” He turned and headed for the kitchen door, with a small grin on his face. “You know Hermione will kill me, don’t you? We promised we would wait for her, and I for one don’t want to get killed – not by her – she’s a bit scary when she’s mad.”

“I’ll head to St. Mungo’s and hurry her up,” Charlie offered, grabbing his cloak and heading for the fireplace. “Go – if what she said is true, we’re running out of time,” he said, glancing at his watch. Charlie took a handful of Floo powder while standing in the large fireplace, and called “St. Mungo’s Hospital,” as he disappeared into the green flames.

George cleared his throat nervously, as hugs and last minute instructions were passed to Molly and Arthur. “Come on,” George said, laughing to rid himself of the uneasiness, “if we’re lucky, we can hold Malfoy down long enough to get a sample of that hair grease he uses.” Slapping Ron on the shoulder, he added, “Did I tell you we’re expanding the shop? Weasley Wizards hair care products for pets; our first item – Ferret Grease!”

Ron and Harry laughed along, as Ginny simply shook her head. The group headed for the door as the seriousness of the situation loomed about them like a dementor in wait. Ginny glanced back one more time, while Molly took to crying onto Arthur’s shoulder. He waved good luck to his daughter as the door clicked shut.

The night engulfed the four as they made their way to the apparition point, just beyond the fence line, as two figures stood huddled together in the light of the Burrow – their task – to simply wait. Molly sighed loudly as a soft ‘pop’ sounded in the distance. She turned, taking in the now empty rooms. A weariness settled over her shoulders and traveling through her body, pushing her down. Fighting the urge to give in to sleep, she slowly made her way to the kitchen as Arthur’s eyes fixed on her. “I’ll just get us some tea,” she said, a worried smile crossing her face.

As she reached for the cups, Arthur gently touched her arm and pulled her close. “They’ll be fine,” he whispered, hoping that by speaking the words, he could will it into happening. “Harry is a Senior Auror and Ginny will take no chances. Ron and George will look out for each other as well. Now, dear, about the Veritaserum,” he said, nervousness threatening to spill out, “exactly how many times have you used it?”

She pulled back a bit, her eyes glistening with tears of worry, and studied his face. He looked quite nervous as he smiled while the left side of his upper lip twitched just a bit. Molly smiled reassuringly, and lovingly patted his cheek. “Exactly once – tonight. It’s rather like an umbrella… you hope you don’t need it, but it’s there just in case you do. Some of the best weapons are the ones left unused. Besides,” she said lightly, pulling away to pour the tea, “You lot gave away secrets all on your own, with no magic or potions pushing it along.”

Arthur gathered her into a long hug, as a sigh of relief escaped him. “Molly Weasley, remind me never to cross you,” he whispered leaning in for a kiss. 

                             ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“It’s just this way, Hermione,” Healer Sabinski said softly as they quickly traversed the dimmed halls of St. Mungo’s. “I wish you had brought her in the moment you realized her magic was seeping through. Without examining her, I won’t know how much damage has been done.”

Hurrying to keep up with the elderly nurse, Hermione apologized as they walked. They came to a small, ornately-carved door very near the end of the first level hall that held no knob. Drawing her wand, the Healer gave a silent command which allowed access to the library.

Once the lamps were lit, Hermione gasped at the size of the room. It was obviously magically enlarged to hold the hundreds, and possibly thousands, of books present in this one room. A few steps in, her fingertips ached to reach out and begin devouring the knowledge held here. There were rows and rows of ceiling-high shelves lined with what appeared to be century-old books and records. The smell of parchment was intoxicating and Hermione stood inhaling deeply, her eyes closing in contentment at the mere thought of spending hours and days in this one room.

The sound of footsteps brought Hermione back in focus as Healer Sabinski rounded the corner carrying not one, but two, large books. Dropping them into Hermione’s arms, the Healer ushered her across the hall, closing off the precious wealth of information as the door closed behind them.

“My office is just in here,” the Healer said, backtracking the hall just a bit. The bare green walls of the room were a stark contrast to the rest of the areas Hermione had seen. It was a comfortable office which was extremely neat and tidy. An oak desk and high-back chair were the only furniture in the room, aside from a table and bench in the corner, which was relieved of its files with a flick of her wand.

The two women sat and immediately began pouring over the small amount of information they could find. Hermione drew parchment and ink from her cloak, making hurried notes about the ‘Magiaboleo’ spell and anything that might release the magic other than the wizard who performed it. After an hour-or-so, a small knock startled them both from their studies. Excusing herself for a moment, Healer Sabinski walked to the door.

Hermione continued to pour over the books, getting frustrated at the lack of information. She closed the second book, and set herself to pacing the floor as she dissected her written notes. Her mind frequently drifted to the Burrow, wondering how much time Harry would wait, and how long Ron could hold him off.

The voices from just beyond the door became very distinct as the office door swung open, allowing entrance of Healer Sabinski followed by a very tall woman draped in a deep blue cloak. They were in such intense conversation, Hermione went unnoticed and stood silently, hoping to blend.

The woman draped her cloak over the chair recently vacated by Hermione, as she rattled off more information to the Healer. “The burns are more intense this time and the saave isn’t taking out the redness and streaking, not to mention the pain he’s in,” she sighed, sitting gently into the chair, her back straight and proper. “Perhaps you have something else?”

“Of course, of course,” the Healer said soothingly, looking through the papers on her desk, “But we’ve gone through the more powerful burn treatments I can offer without seeing him in person. Is he still against a visit here?”

“Yes. He’d choose to sit at home in pain than admit he needs help,” she said, twisting a corner of her cloak in nervousness. She hung her head just a bit and became silent for a moment. “The first time, you mentioned someone… outside of this facility,” she said quietly, “that is an excellent potion-maker. Perhaps she would be persuaded to see Draco and…”

Forgetting her attempt at camouflage, Hermione gasped as she walked towards the women. “Draco – Draco Malfoy?” she asked boldly, attempting to hold her anger at bay.

“Oh, Hermione, yes,” Healer Sabinski said cheerfully. “This is…”

“Astoria Malfoy,” the woman interrupted, attempting to erase any trace of surprise or worry from her voice. Standing calmly to her feet, she towered above Hermione and had a very sophisticated air about her. Her hazel eyes looked directly at Hermione, daring her to speak.

Realizing the delicate balance of the situation, Hermione opted to take a more caring approach, and thus smiled slightly and said, “Mrs. Malfoy, I didn’t mean to overhear, but you mentioned Draco has unusual burns.”

Astoria nodded slightly, wary of Hermione, but desperate enough to listen.

Hermione gently unwrapped the bandages from her own forearm where faint traces of burns remained. “Do they, by chance, look anything like this?” she asked, allowing Astoria a closer look.

“Perhaps,” she answered cooly as she examined Hermione’s forearm, “Similar streaking, but Draco’s is more intense - much more intense,” Astoria replied, glancing from Hermione to Healer Sabinski. As she watched Hermione wrap her arm, she asked softly, “How did you get those?”

Hermione chose her answer carefully, and with a smile said, “They were caused by a child – a very special child.” Hermione set her gaze on Astoria, watching for any sign of recognition, and opted to continue when no information was exchanged. “She’s my niece,” Hermione said, as tears welled up in her eyes, “and she’s sick. If we don’t find her soon…”

Astoria closed her eyes momentarily and sighed deeply. “A dark-haired girl?” she asked, fear creeping onto her face as she looked to Hermione.

Surprise gave way to a flicker of triumph as Hermione shook her head and said, “Yes… have you seen her?”

Considering her answer, Astoria became silent, fear continuing to take over. Would she dare consider sharing the Malfoy secrets with this woman? Astoria stared at a spot on the wall, weighing what she knew was the right thing to do versus what she was told by Lucius – trust no one. A light touch on her arm caused Astoria to open her eyes. There before her were the two women waiting for her answer.

“Astoria, dear,” Healer Sabinski said, “this young girl is missing. She has a very unusual gift which in extreme situations causes these – um…”

“Outbursts of magic,” Hermione continued, tears streaking her face. “It’s very painful for her, and if she doesn’t get treatment soon, she could die,” she said softly, trying to maintain a sense of composure. “Please – if you know anything…”

“Yes,” Astoria said, a hesitant conviction in her voice as she grabbed her cape, “Come with me, but we need to hurry. If it’s the same little girl you are looking for, she’s quite ill.” Astoria sighed, shaking her head, “Nothing has worked, which was the second reason I was here, hoping you could give me something to help her. She is in so much pain and keeps calling for her Mum.”

Tears flowed freely as Hermione whispered, “Nyah.”

The two women set out for the fireplace in the entrance area, preparing to floo to the Malfoy Manor as Healer Sabinsky stayed close, reminded them that getting Nyah to St. Mungo’s was a priority. Green flames shot up in one of the large fireplaces and a tall figured emerged, shaking the ash from his red hair.

“Charlie?” Hermione asked, walking towards her brother-in-law, “What are you doing here? Is everything okay?”

“Did you find what you came for?” he said, glancing tentatively at Astoria. “The – uh – plan was set in motion… we need to go – now.”

“What? They promised to wait!” Hermione exclaimed, the irritation evident not only in her voice but her face as well.

Astoria leaned in and quietly asked, “Is there a problem?”

Hermione sighed, and calmly said, “Possibly… there’s a group headed to the Manor. They are lead by a Senior Auror from the Ministry… They’re going for Nyah and failure isn’t an option, especially for her father.”

“You’ve got to tell them to stop,” Astoria demanded, looking between Hermione and Charlie.

“I can’t,” he said bluntly, “they’ve already gone, and there's no changing his mind...”

Walking into the fireplace, Astoria motioned for Hermione and Charlie to follow. “Then we better get there quickly. They’ll be walking into a trap, and so might we,” she announced as they threw down the Floo powder. “Malfoy Manor, West Wing,” she called.

The trio was swept away in a sea of green flames, all hoping that their arrival would go unnoticed by the rest of the house… 

                              ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Many hours had passed when Nyah woke again to angry voices nearby. The small room was dark and still, the one candle burning low, dancing in an undetectable breeze. Closing her eyes, Nyah listened intently to the conversation, trying to replace the throbbing in her body with the voices just outside the heavy wooden door. Heated words seemed to be exchanged between them, and in a scuffle, the door blasted open. When the dust settled, two men were standing in the small room, cloaks flowing. One was standing quietly near the opened door, staring intently at the floor while the taller man walked boldly towards Nyah looking straight at her, his cold grey eyes in sharp contrast to the brilliant green ones that had just haunted her dream. She smiled in spite of the pain exploding within her at the thought of her father’s eyes.

The older man took this small smile as a sign of friendliness directed towards him, and he attempted his own smile back at Nyah. But it was a twisted, hateful smile filled only with malice and discontent, such that Nyah found herself literally backing away to put a few precious inches between herself and this man, her pain giving way to fear.

Sensing the dramatic shift in Nyah’s emotions, the man exchanged his false sense of kindness for a rigid countenance which suited him quite well. Memories of the Stewart Manor rushed at her, feeding off the pain and misery, joining forces with the fear as it quickly took over Nyah’s heart. The man’s eyes were so familiar – cold and unfeeling - just like Catherine Stewart’s. Dread joined the fear in Nyah, and both were ruled by the hopelessness which invaded that small room.

“So Draco,” the man said with a cold voice fitting perfectly with his eyes, “this is the young lady you’ve been telling me about.” His words were slow and deliberate… his gaze, unfaltering. “And this – child – she is the one who gave you those nasty burns? My, my, little one… I believe we underestimated your potential, didn’t we?” he asked, but not of Draco, yet no one else appeared present.

Nyah shifted just a bit, trying to see behind the man, wondering if someone was hiding in the shadows, as a slight chill filled the room. She flinched at the man’s sudden movement as he reached into his cloak and pulled out a wand, holding it gently in his palm. It was gleaming in the moonlight, and although it’s ivory color would normally be beautiful, Nyah detested looking at it. The wand trembled of its own accord in the outstretched palm of this man as the young girl closed her eyes, hoping for a glimpse of her father’s eyes, but instead, a whisper in her heart gave her more than courage… it gave her comfort, 'Nyah, sweetheart, I’m coming.'
Her mother’s voice rang loud and clear within her, chasing away the fear and dread, and the small smile returned to Nyah’s face as she opened her eyes again to face these men… and that wand. Curiosity and a hint of courage took over, and Nyah whispered, “What is that?”

“This?” the taller man said in forced surprise, “This, child, is the wand of the greatest wizard in the world.” He took a step closer to the bed and Nyah’s pulse quickened, the throbbing in her body nearly drowning out his words. “This wand made you, and tonight, it will destroy you.”

Nyah glanced in fear and desperation at the man who stood near the door. His eyes stared at Nyah, and although they bore the same grey shade as his father’s, there was warmth in them, as well as pity. Nearly overwhelmed in pain, Nyah laid onto the cool pillows, still staring at the men. “So it is your wand?” she asked, closing her eyes, searching again for the familiar pools of green.

A cold and low reply of ‘no’ came from the taller man as he gripped the wand tighter in his hand, “This wand belonged to Lord Voldemort.”

Nyah moaned, the pain taking it’s toll as her arms and legs began to tremble. Still persistent with her questions, she asked, “And he is here… this lord– whatever he is?”

Breaking his silence, the man by the door responded, “No, he was killed years ago by...”

“Silence, Draco!” hissed the father.

“So, if this dark person was killed,” Nyah whispered, “I would think the person who killed him would be the greatest wizard – you can’t be great if you’re dead, right?” 

The clicking of heels on the wood floor brought the father close to her bedside, but the pain was too great to care. Her head was spinning and the space behind her eyes was getting dark. The man before her grabbed her arms tightly while venom dripped from his words, but they were lost in the ache and throbbing. She managed a small ‘please’ before getting sick… all over his shoes. His release was quick while muffled, but angry voices, ran through the room.

A loud ‘crack’ announced the arrival of Mitzi who immediately rushed to Nyah’s bedside. After ensuring that the young girl was all right, the house elf turned to the Malfoy’s and with grave apologies as she bowed before them, took to cleaning the floor of the mess Nyah made.

“Mr. Malfoy, Sir, I is terribly sorry. Such a terrible mess. Please, Sir, Mitzi will help. Mitzi will get them all clean,” the little house elf squeaked, bowing low again.

The senior Malfoy stood tall and walked from the room quickly. “Filthy, disgusting thing! And all over my best shoes! That house elf had better get…” he muttered, his voice finally trailing off.

Nyah was still lying on the bed, embarrassed and exhausted. The pain continued to build, and her body fought against it. Hot tears dotted her cheeks, and she begged Mitzi to help. Strong, rough hands reached her face and forehead and a whisper reached just beyond the pain… “I’m so sorry.” With her last effort, Nyah opened her eyes just a bit to look at the house elf. To her surprise, soft grey eyes twinkled before her. Surrendering to the exhaustion, she closed her eyes as a hand brushed the hair from her face.

Draco stood and watched the child sleeping, guilt creeping in as he thought of how many years she had been kept from her family. “Soon – I’ll explain soon…” he said as he turned for the door. The small house elf stood near the door, twisting the pillowcase she wore.

“Master Draco,” she whispered, glancing towards the door, “they are coming. Two at the gate and two at the north fountain.”

His shoulders falling just a bit, he announced, “It starts.” Looking directly at the house elf, he said, “You know what to do. Tell no one until they are nearly at the house… that will buy them some time to find her.” He looked once more at Nyah before closing the door. 

                               ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Ginny crouched down behind a large grey fountain just inside the property of the Malfoy Manor. She scanned the surface of the grass for movement, but her hearing was impaired by the constant babbling of the water. Harry was nearly to the house itself, concealed by the Invisibility Cloak, but leaving soft prints in the grass as Ginny watched nearly breathless.

Finally, a small shimmer floated across the grass heading for her; Harry had reached his destination and levitated the Invisibility Cloak back to her. It was their plan, and her promise to him, to be hidden by the cloak to keep her safe. She quickly pulled the sheer material around her and stood to her feet. Although logically Ginny knew she was concealed from prying eyes, she felt vulnerable as she began crossing the huge expanse of the yard. Her heartbeat echoed in her ears and she was certain had someone been near her, they too, would hear the rhythmic beat.

Stepping into the looming shadow of the Manor, Ginny looked about for any sign of Harry but saw none. Her feet carried her a bit further when she saw a steep stairwell near the side of the building and a mop of dark hair midway down. Breathing a sigh of relief, Ginny whispered, “Psst, Harry.”

Absolute fear sprang up inside of her when the man on the stairs turned on her, his wand raised. “Who’s there?” he asked loudly, pounding up the steps directly towards Ginny. She instinctively covered her mouth with her hand and pulled her wand from her pocket. Ordering the fear to step-aside, Ginny’s head cleared and she continued to back away from the thin man now standing before her. Choosing an alcove of windows and doors versus the open space of land, she moved quietly to a dark corner and watched. With a sudden move of his hand, the man motioned two other guards out into the lawn as he started towards the shadows of the house… and straight for Ginny.

“I can hear you,” he growled, showing his yellowing teeth, “and I can smell you.” He stopped and inhaled slowly, turning slightly. A cruel smile crept across his face as he looked in the direction Ginny was now hiding. “Vanilla, my favorite,” he whispered to the slight breeze.

Her heart was beating even faster, as she raised her wand. The other two men were still in sight, and sending a spell now would certainly draw their attention. Five paces, four paces, Ginny counted to herself as the man got nearer, his dark eyes wild in the moonlight, three, two…
Bright sparks shot past the side of the house, hitting one of the guards on the lawn. He fell to the ground with a thud hard enough that Ginny felt it in her feet. The other guard took to running towards the entrance as yells from all areas of the house erupted. The man in front of Ginny hesitated just long enough that a well-placed, 'Petrificus Totalis' spell sent him head first onto the concrete pavement. She breathed a sigh of relief as two more men came charging out a door to Ginny’s left. As they stood debating on the frozen man’s condition, Ginny ducked inside and to her relief, the hall was empty and quiet.

Keeping the cloak around her, she chose to travel towards the front of the Manor, hoping to steer clear of the battle outside as spells continued to be fired. The two men outside the windows suddenly fell, as Harry rounded the corner.

“Harry!” she called, still under the cloak, one hand and forearm exposed to the night, “Hurry, in here!” She closed the door quickly, as Harry gathered her tightly in his arms, pressing her against a wall. The smell of sweat and dirt filled her senses as he came closer, breathing hard.

“Ginny,” he whispered, rubbing the cloak, overwhelmed at knowing she was safe. “I saw you go the wrong way, but I was too far to call for you. Are you all right? Did he touch you?” His eyes searched where he knew her face to be, but the view of flowered wallpaper was all he met until she pulled the cloak from her face. Her auburn hair was messy and her angry eyes nearly shielded the worry beneath them.

“I’m fine,” she whispered back, the hint of smile in her eyes. “Have you seen Ron or George?”

He laughed softly and looked to the floor. “They set off one of those decoy detonators and took to running. Worked like a charm! They may already be inside.”

She pulled him close, kissing him deeply as no more words were necessary. When they broke apart, Harry pulled the cloak back over her and motioned her to follow. The dark halls were lined with portraits, most of which were unabashedly whispering to one another, while a few ducked out of sight. Eerily, the only sound was their own breathing, aside from the occasional blast from outside.

Harry and Ginny silently made their way past an elaborate dining area and another library, this one without any doors, and finally to an office at the end of the hall. Glancing around, they turned, ready to try a different passageway as the sound of angry voices traveled to them. Harry placed his finger to his lips and backed into the office.

As the footsteps got closer, Harry leaned in to Ginny whispering, “Get low to the ground. If spells are fired they’ll go above your head.” Ginny shook her head no and tried to protest, but Harry gently pushed on her shoulders, attempting to make her sit down while staying under the cloak. “Just stay quiet. If they take me, you still have a chance to get to Nyah. Just remember…” Harry was interrupted as the office door flew open and in quick succession, spells were fired from all directions.

Harry jumped behind the large desk to avoid a stunning spell from the lead Death Eater. Taking his shot, Harry easily disarmed and stunned two of the men standing in the doorway. Leaning against the desk, protected at the moment, Harry listened for movement. A smile crossed his face as he heard footsteps to his left. He shifted his weight, his eyes set on the area where Ginny should be, wondering which spell she might fire, but none came. With the man’s legs just in sight, Harry fired an electricity spell, jolting the man and causing intense pain. Harry turned quickly to determine the location of the final Death Eater when something large collided with the back of his head. The room was spinning and going dark as he fell to the ground, unconscious and unprotected, his wand slipping from his fingers and laying in the shadow of the desk.

The smallest Death Eater stood staring at Harry with wide eyes and a foolish grin. He set the heavy paperweight back on the desk and looked around, a bit unsure what now to do. Finally, he walked back to the hallway, calling for assistance as men came from different directions. The stunned men were removed from the office as Harry was slung over the shoulder of a particularly large Death Eater.

“Take him to the old library in the south wing and bind him tightly,” Lucius said dryly, motioning to the guard who had Harry. He watched triumphantly as they disappeared around the corner, and then stepped into the office to assess for damages. He walked around the desk and glanced about, sensing something different in the air.

“Was he alone?” Lucius asked the guard.

“Yes, sir,” the cloaked man answered, “Potter was alone.”

“You’ll find his accomplices in the dungeon. Bring them to the library as well. I’m sure they won’t want to miss the excitement,” he ordered as a cold smile spread across his face, “Oh, and should you happen upon my daughter-in-law, be certain she doesn’t leave her quarters.” The guards bowed quickly to Lucius and exited the office behind him.

In the corner, huddled unmoving under the Invisibility Cloak was Ginny, stunned by the first spell fired from the Death Eater’s wand. Helpless, she wondered how long it would be before someone found her.

                              ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Nyah again woke to a cold, still room, hazy visions of sad gray eyes dancing in her dreams. She slowly pushed herself from the bed, her legs nearly giving out from weakness and pain. A small tray of fruit and cheese with milk and water sat near the chair gave signs that Mitzi had been checking on her. Nyah sat and nibbled on the grapes while drinking, her thoughts still pulled to the men who had been here earlier. So similar in their looks, but their eyes told different stories. Her back began to stiffen again, and she tenderly rose from the chair grabbing the door for support. It moved a bit under her weight and Nyah wondered if the younger man had offered her a way out of this prison.

Throwing caution to the wind, she turned the crystal doorknob, knowing it would be locked. A rather loud ‘click’ pushed aside her doubts as the door gave way to a dim corridor. A small pull behind her stomach gave caution and Nyah’s breathing quickened. She crept down the hall, as her body tingled in anticipation and fear. The knot in her stomach grew as the hall broke off right and left. Without another thought, Nyah turned right, heading for a more well lit hallway.

Her body ached and her muscles gave way to shaking as she walked. Even her most violent magic hadn’t lingered pain like this, and Nyah leaned onto the wall for support. Come on, don’t stop now, she quietly scolded herself, forcing her feet forward. It doesn’t hurt that bad. One of these doors must lead to a stairway or a fireplace with floo powder.
She flinched with every movement, and unwillingly allowed tears to escape her eyes as they made trails along her dusty cheeks. Her fingers brushed along the chair railing, steadying her a bit. As though her body knew which direction to go, Nyah found herself at the top of a long, steep stairway, the bottom of which she couldn’t see for the shadows. She crept down the stairs as small gasps of pain escaped her lips with every movement. Finally reaching what felt to be a landing, Nyah reached out in the darkness, searching for a wall, door, or more steps. The darkness whispered to her and Nyah’s fears began to mount against her. The tingling came at an alarming rate and her heart quickened as she frantically searched for a way out of the shadows. Her hand came sharply to rest on a small lever near a corner in the wall.

Nyah pressed her ear to the wall, but could only here the pounding of her own heart which gave little comfort. Tucking her hair behind her ears, she pressed the lever as the door silently opened. A heavy band of candlelight poured into the once dark area, illuminating the landing as well as revealing another set of steps leading further down. Choosing the well-lit room versus more darkness, Nyah cautiously stepped through the door and as though on springs, the door latched behind her.

Glancing at the wall, Nyah was shocked to see that the door had disappeared as though it never existed. Running her fingers along the wall, she could only barely detect the presence of the entry.

She continued on into the room which was decorated even more lavishly than Father’s office at the Stewart Manor. The large mahogany desk sat prominently in the middle of the room, and on the far side was a wall of books. Nyah wrinkled her nose at the thought of having to read all of those books. The elaborate portraits on the wall were dark and forbidding, one actually screamed at her when she looked at it. Nyah turned quickly to get away and tripped, landing awkwardly on the floor in front of the desk. Pain shot through her as though she had been dropped onto cement. For a moment, she couldn’t move and had trouble catching her breath, silent tears dropping into her hair. She rolled to her side, still breathing deep and there, under the desk, was a wand. Setting her pain aside, Nyah gingerly reached for the wand. The dark handle looked to be carved straight from a branch, but it was smooth to the touch and felt familiar somehow. A bit unsure what to do, she looked around the room, and then willed herself to get off the floor. Her stomach and chest were hurting again, and she stumbled towards the door when a whisper was carried to her ears, ‘Nyah’. The young girl leaned against the wall close to the door, listening intently as someone called her name again.

Nyah gasped and looked about the room again, but saw no one. Thinking herself to be a bit loopy, she turned towards the door when she noticed some movement in the corner of the room, very near where she tripped. A shoe appeared where none had been a moment ago, and Nyah walked slowly towards the seemingly disconnected shoe. Using her foot, she gently probed the area and jumped, her eyes wide, when she discovered more than just a shoe. Sitting gentle to the floor, Nyah reached her hand towards the wall, knowing logically that nothing was there, while her heart begged her to trust what she could not see. Her fingers shook and her imagination conjured all sorts of terrible things, when her hand grazed a silky material in midair. Breathing fast as the air began to spin around her, she grasped the fabric and slowly pulled it towards her. Red hair instantly appeared in sight and Nyah jerked the cloak off as an involuntary cry escaped from her lips, “Mum.” 

Authors Notes:  This is the continuation of the last chapter, so you can now see why I divided it!  This story, which started out as a 20 chapter story will now be 21 or 22 chapters.  So hang on to your seats...

I hope you enjoyed reading this chapter as much as I did writing it!  I'd love to hear your thoughts, comments, or questions... please consider leaving a review.  Thank you and Happy Reading!

And as always ~ A huge thanks to my eHPf friends for their confidence when mine was gone....

Chapter 21: Secrets Hidden Within Secrets
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Sitting gently to the floor, Nyah reached her hand towards the wall, knowing logically that nothing was there, while her heart begged her to trust what she could not see. Her fingers shook and her imagination conjured all sorts of terrible things, when her hand grazed a silky material in midair. Breathing fast, as the air began to spin around her, she grasped the fabric and slowly pulled it towards her. Red hair instantly appeared in sight and Nyah jerked the cloak off as an involuntary cry escaped from her lips, “Mum.”

Chapter 21 – Secrets Hidden Within Secrets

As the flames subsided, the trio walked boldly from the large fireplace in the West Wing of Malfoy Manor. Hermione froze as she took in the enormous lounge, dripping in shades of soft silver and deep green. Intricate carvings crept up the dark mahogany columns that lined the walls while dim candlelight cast an eerie glow, which did nothing to make the Manor feel welcoming.

Astoria took a few cautious steps into the room and whispered something to the air. A ‘crack’ resonated through the room as a small house elf appeared, standing nervously in the shadows of the great room. Hermione and Charlie moved closer, hoping to be included in the conversation.

“Mitzi,” Astoria whispered, leaning down a bit, “slow down and tell me what happened.”

Between the hiccups, and the bursts of sobbing, the house elf squeaked, “She gone, Mrs. Astoria! Gone.. and I can not find her!” The little elf threw herself to the floor sobbing at her Mistresses feet, colored ribbons floating in small pools of tears.

“Gone?” Hermione cried, a bit louder than she meant to, causing Mitzi to jump from her position on the floor to hide behind Astoria. “What do you mean she’s gone? Are you talking about Nyah?” Hermione continued to glance around Astoria’s legs, trying to talk directly to the house elf.

“Hermione, stop” Charlie said, pulling his sister-in-law gently away from Astoria and Mitzi. “You'll frighten her and we'll never know what happened,” he said, glancing at Astoria.

With a nod, Astoria turned to Mitzi, and whispered, “These people are family of the little girl. With regard to the child, you may speak.”

The small house elf peeked from around her Mistresses cloak, her large round eyes taking in Charlie and Hermione. With another glance to Astoria, she shuffled her feet until she stood in front of the strangers, fidgeting nervously at the frayed hem of the barely-pink pillowcase she wore.

Hermione opened her mouth to speak, but Charlie touched her arm and spoke instead. “Mitzi,” he said gently, his voice taking on a gentle tone, “my name is Charlie. My niece is here, trapped and possibly very sick. Can you help me find her?” He knelt down closer to the house elf, watching as she turned slightly towards him with her head down.

“Mitzi is a bad elf, Mr. Charlie,” the house elf squeaked, shaking her head slowly as the pastel ribbons whipped across her face. “Mrs. Astoria tells me to watch her, and – and then Mr. Malfoy…” whispers Mitzi, shaking out of fear, “he comes and is mean to the little Miss, and…” The silence in the room is only broken by the sound of large tears hitting the marble floor.

Softly clearing her throat to rid her voice of the panic that was rising, Hermione quietly asked, “Please, what happened… what happened when Draco came?”

“Oh no, not Master Draco… Mr. Malfoy,” she said, her voice dropping to a whisper. “Little Miss meant no harm, but he was shaking her,” Mitzi continued, her eyes pleading to Charlie to understand, “I had to help – had to get him away. When Mitzi came back, the little Miss was gone.” The small house elf glanced to Astoria and waited silently, tears lingering in the crevices of her face.

Thoughts of Nyah rushed through Hermione’s mind as she set herself to pacing. He was shaking her! Why didn’t she fight back? And now, lost – lost, in this horrid house. Hermione’s gaze fell on her own reflection in a nearby window and she whispered, “Please be all right…”

The distinct ‘crack’ of the house elf disapparating jolted Hermione from her own thoughts and she turned to the empty space Mitzi once stood. The silence of the room crept around them, taunting them with its unspoken stillness.

Astoria stood unmoving, her statuesque figure blending seamlessly with the room. Distant mumblings carried through the stillness of the room, and like marble turning to sand, Astoria turned to the large double doors and whispered, “Hurry!” She didn’t stop to wait for her companions and ran from the room as though pursued by an invisible fear. Her cloak billowed in her trail and her feet were silent as she disappeared from the lounge and down a darkened hall. Hermione and Charlie rushed to keep her in sight, barely avoiding the various statues and large plants as they slid on the polished marble floors.

Moments later, Charlie came to a stop near a stairwell, unsure as to which direction Astoria had gone. “Great!” he cried, the sound reverberating in the hall. With a stern look from Hermione, he lowered his voice, whispering, “It’s a trap, and we fell for it! Come on, we need to…”

“Shh…” Hermione whispered as she placed her hand over his mouth, the sound of heavy footsteps carried in their direction. She motioned back down the hall and turned quietly hoping to find her way back to the lounge and the fireplace. A tall tapestry fluttered at her side and a long pale hand grabbed Hermione’s wrist, pulling her through a concealed door in the wall.

Charlie stared at the wall as though expecting Hermione to reappear, waves of panic sweeping through him. The sounds of angry voices heightened as a multitude of creatures descending on his location. Charlie was torn between blasting through the wall to find Hermione or running for the fireplace. Taking a deep breath which did nothing to calm him, Charlie pulled his wand aiming for the tapestry and the wall behind. The fabric fluttered in an absent breeze and Astoria appeared, quickly motioning Charlie to follow. Weighing his options, he ducked into the small dusty room. Deep growls grew close, magnified as they gathered just outside the camouflaged door, sniffing and scratching mercilessly.

“What is that?” Charlie whispered, pointing at the door.

Astoria began moving boxes fervently as she said quietly, “Lucius’s werewolves. He keeps recruiting them, encouraging Greyback and the others to prowl, especially at the full moon. The numbers keep growing and they are getting uncontrollable.” She stood, looking at her guests, breathing hard. “But something’s not right. They’ve never been allowed in the West Wing – Draco forbade it. We’re not safe here.”

Hermione stood shaking, as Charlie wrapped an arm about her shoulders. He took a deep breath and asked Astoria, “How can I help?”

“Draco told me of a small hidden stairwell that leads to his father’s office from this room. Lucius used it to hide,” Astoria said, feeling along the wall.

“Hide?” Hermione said quietly, curiosity taking over her fears, “Hide from what?”

Pausing for a moment to choose her words, Astoria said, “The Ministry, Aurors – anyone who might be after him. Lucius isn’t well-liked, you know.”

“Yet you stay,” Hermione whispered, searching the woman’s face for answers as silent tension fell between them.

Astoria stopped her movements and turned to look at Hermione, while Charlie watched from a distance. “Yes, I stayed,” she said, tears welling up in her eyes. “For Draco – and for our son.”

“But if you knew... about Lucius,” Hermione said, still attempting to understand the logic of marrying into a family such as this.

“Why did I agree to marry Draco?” Astoria asked, finishing Hermione’s train of thought. She turned and shook her head, before brushing dust from a box to sit on. “Draco kept me shielded from Lucius, never allowing us to meet while we courted. It was only after Lucius was arrested and taken to Azkaban that Draco and I married, with his mother’s blessing. He was finally free,” she said as a large, beautiful smile found its way to her face, “and life was good and calm. Draco was haunted by his father’s past and promised we would raise our son differently, with different ideals. It’s just been in the last year, since Lucius’s release, that our lives have been turned upside down.”

Charlie continued searching the wall, as Hermione took a seat near Astoria, hoping she would continue her tale.

“I hear them talking, Draco and his father, mostly at night,” Astoria whispered, looking at nothing but the floor. “Lucius goes on about the plan… how Draco failed to carry it out in his absence, and that the punishment will be severe. Draco attempts to calm him, but – but there’s no dissuading him.”

Hermione glanced towards Charlie before asking softly, “Have you ever asked him what the plan is?”

Astoria laughed quietly, her eyes sparkling with tears, “All I know is that your niece is the key, and that somehow I am responsible for the plan going badly.”

“You?” Charlie asked, abandoning his search momentarily, “How are you responsible?”

Standing gracefully to her feet, Astoria simply said, “I don’t know.”

                                 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“Mum,” Nyah breathed quietly, reaching out to finally touch the waves of auburn hair she had dreamt of. A large smile crossed her face, but was quickly replaced with fear. “Mum? What’s wrong?” Nyah tried to get Ginny to move, but her body seemed frozen. “Please get up,” she whispered, watching as her mother’s eyes darted around the room frantically, never lingering in one spot for very long.

Ginny’s mouth was clenched in concentration, while her hands were slightly open, the wand discarded by her side. Tears threatened to fall from Ginny’s eyes as she stared at her young daughter, but even the tears seemed reluctant to move as they continued to gather, obstructing her view of Nyah. Ginny’s right foot twitched, and a glimmer hope was renewed in Nyah.

Laying the recovered wand at her side, Nyah reached out to rub Ginny’s legs, trying to relieve the tension. Stabbing pains ran with a vengeance through Nyah’s hands and arms, but the child refused to stop, concentrating only on helping her Mum. Fatigue set in quickly as Nyah’s tears fell freely on her Mum’s legs, soaking into the fabric and spotting.

“I - I can’t do it,” Nyah stuttered through the tears, “I can’t help you. I can’t fix anything. You and Dad… came to get me… and – and I’ve ruined it.” Her teeth clenched and her breath hissed between her teeth, as she allowed the anger to wash over her. “I – I don’t’ blame you… for not wanting me,” she whispered, refusing to look at her Mum. The once dormant electricity sparked and began slowly traveling through her body, as a cold wind snaked through the room. Nyah’s magic continued to search her soul, connecting the pieces bit by bit. Her eyes began to burn as the energy consumed her, ready to spill out… ready to flee from this broken body. The pain lay in wait… gathering and building, knowing that its gain would come once the magic was spent.

Nyah held her head, willing the energy to stop, knowing that anyone who came near her was in danger. “I - can’t – stop - it,” she breathed, hoping to warn Ginny. Loud, angry voices carried from the hallway and into the office. Nyah tried to drown out the sound of the blood rushing through her head and listen but only knew the sound was getting louder.

Her head screamed, Lay down, Nyah! Hide!  Nyah glanced at her Mum wanting nothing more than to curl up in her mother’s arms, hidden away from the anger and pain. Instead, she reached out a shaking hand, careful not to touch Ginny’s skin, and draped the silky cloth over her Mum once again. Ginny’s eyes were steady now and stared straight into Nyah’s beckoning her to stay, but the young girl’s decision was to protect her Mum, even if it meant being found herself.

The footsteps echoed in the hall as they approached the office door. Nyah tucked Ginny’s wand under the invisibility cloak and crawled to the only available hiding spot… under the large desk. Pulling her knees to her chin, she sat as still as she could and simply waited.

“… incompetent, loathsome creatures, Fenrir,” a cold, curt voice spat as the conversation continued into the office.

“You know as well as I, Lucius,” a low, animalistic voice replied, “that they are young and inexperienced.”

“They were to find my grandson, nothing more! He is not some simple Muggle snack for your cubs!” A bright blast of red sparks filled the air, illuminating the office as Lucius hissed, “I have ways of handling my family, Fenrir, and do not need your assistance! Now, go – and be certain no harm comes to the boy.”

A muffled growl and a mumbled, “As you wish,” came from near the door. “And what of Potter and his friends?”

“I will deal with them myself. You can have whatever is left…”

The werewolf backed out of the office with a satisfied grin on his scarred face, leaving Lucius seemingly alone in the office. Soft, but quick footsteps led him to a large portrait in the back of the room, where he bowed low, pulling an ivory wand from his cloak.

His long, pale fingers reached out and swept delicately across the painting, as the cape in the portrait billowed in an absent breeze. “My Lord,” Lucius whispered lovingly, “I will not fail you this time. You will see, finally, that it was I who was always your most loyal servant. It’s nearly here, Potter’s downfall, just as you foretold. His child, stolen and raised by Muggles.”

Lucius took a timid step backwards as the wand shook violently in his hand. He stuttered, attempting to explain, “I’m – I’m sorry, my Lord, my – my son… my son did not follow orders and allowed the child to stay with the Muggles.” With another bow, he added, “He and his wife will be punished as well. Their son will be given to you in full service as soon as the Potters are dead, my Lord. There isn’t time to train the child to your original plan. Her birthday is tomorrow and the pact must be completed before then… but rest assured, Harry Potter and his child will die this very night!” The pale wand fluttered and lay still once more, seemingly satisfied by the servant’s offer.

Lucius bowed yet again, stroking the painting and the wand gently before turning and leaving the office, leaving Nyah crying silently beneath the desk, her fate laid out before her as a dark road.

                                 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The trio had continued their search for the hidden door in silence when Charlie tripped on a loose board, falling hard to the floor. The triumphant howls outside the wall increased, signaling to the others that their prey was captured. Cursing under his breath, Charlie moved to get back up when something caught his eye. There, by his foot was a tiny lever, nearly lost under the loose board.

“I’ve got it,” he whispered, tripping the switch. With a ‘click’, a small section of wainscot near Hermione popped open. Stale air wafted through the room, as though they had discovered the remains of an old secret, hidden for decades.

Pulling her wand from her cloak, Hermione calmly crawled through the hole and disappeared without even a glance to the others. A small glimmer of light emanated from the opening, beckoning Charlie and Astoria towards the space. The growling and snarling from the far wall became heightened as the plaster began to give way, offering access to the small room. With his heart racing, Charlie pushed some boxes over the floorboards concealing the lever, and then crawled into the gap. Hermione pulled the door closed, shutting out the primitive sounds from the room beyond.

Wands lit, Astoria led the way, slowly making her way down the narrow dusty staircase. Hermione and Charlie followed closely, the silence only broken by the rustling of spiders and other unmentionables scurrying from sight. Dust danced about their feet, joining them in the journey, and cobwebs hung on their clothes and hair as though hoping to escape the dreary confines of the stairwell. The cool bricks lining the walls did nothing to relieve the musty warm air which closed in around them, threatening to overcome them.

Finally reaching a landing, Astoria paused, unsure whether to continue on down the stairwell or attempt to go into the connected room. She pressed her ear to the door, but no sounds traveled through the wall.

“Is this it?” Charlie whispered, pointing to the tiny exit.

“I’m not certain,” replied Astoria nervously, “I’ve never been down this way, but this should be the main level of the house.” She took a breath, and reached for the small lever. A hush fell over the group as the door silently opened and a rush of cool air welcomed them into to a dimly-lit office space. Astoria peeked into the room and crawled through the doorway, motioning the others to follow.

The grand office was still and bitterly cold, giving Hermione chills that had little to do with the temperature. Strange pictures lined the walls, moving and contorting, some twisting into grotesque shapes the longer you watched.

“Come on,” urged Astoria, throwing cobwebs and dust from her cloak and hair. “If we are caught here, it will be the end of all of us! Hurry!”

But Hermione stood frozen to the spot, her eyes lingering again on the walls, finally landing on the largest portrait in the room. There, behind the desk, was a life-size painting of none other than Lord Voldemort. His cape billowed in an eerie breeze and his crimson eyes bore into Hermione. She slowly backed towards the door, finally bumping into Charlie as he too, was transfixed on the portrait.

A small voice pierced the silence. “It doesn’t move,” Astoria said reassuringly, towering above Hermione and blocking her view. “The other portraits speak, move, and disappear at times – but not that one,” she whispered, turning to stare at the artwork. “Only the cloak moves. Draco said Lucius was distraught to not have his Master speak to him, but that doesn’t stop Lucius from talking to it… whispering to it… worshiping it.” Astoria gave a visible shudder and turned towards the door once more.

Charlie tugged gently on Hermione’s cloak, silently willing her to move, but she remained fixed, unable to retreat. He placed his hands on her shoulders, and physically turned her around, facing her towards the exit. Looking deep into her face, he smiled, hoping to calm her fears as he whispered, “Ready?”

Hermione nodded just a bit and wiped her eyes on her cloak, willing her heart to stop racing. She watched as Astoria continued to check the darkened hallway and Charlie moved out of the room. With a deep, calming breath, Hermione took a step as a whisper of her name floated in the air. An involuntary gasp echoed through the room as Hermione froze again, chills running across her skin, heightening her senses. She slowly pulled her wand and listened again, calmly ignoring the irritated looks from Astoria. Scanning the room for something she might have missed, a soft broken word carried to her again.


The sound was painful, and tears sprang to Hermione’s eyes and she whispered back, “Nyah… where are you?” She tiptoed through the office, looking behind every planter, at the bookcases, and finally walked boldly to the windows at the back of the room. Hermione held her head high, refusing to be intimidated at the portrait that continued to glare at her, but she found nothing.

“Hermione, come on,” Charlie insisted, irritation replacing the softness that lingered there a moment earlier.

“All right,” she snapped back, turning on her heels towards the door again. “I just thought I heard….”

Hermione glanced once more around the room and hit her knees. There curled up under the desk was Nyah, with Harry’s wand clutched in her right hand.

“Charlie,” Hermione called, completely disregarding any thoughts of being quiet, “it’s Nyah.” She reached to push the hair from her niece’s near-colorless face, as Charlie moved the office chair aside.

Nyah’s hands were cold and clammy, and her body shook. Small moans of pain interrupted her scattered breaths, but her eyes were clear and bright when Hermione whispered her name.

Charlie reached out and easily lifted her into his strong arms, his chin quivering as tears threatened to leave his eyes. He held her close and whispered to her as she cried, wrapping her small arm about his neck. Unable to contain her own emotions any longer, Hermione kissed Nyah’s forehead spilling salty tears on the young girl’s.

“Mum,” Nyah breathed.

Hermione smiled and said, “We’re going to take you to her, don’t worry.”

Pain shot through Nyah as her emotions continued to climb precariously high, the anguish nearly succeeding in winning the battle that raged within her small body. She took a shallow breath, choosing her words carefully, “The floor – Mum – there.” Her body shook violently and fell still, her mind floating peacefully as the war continued.

                                 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Draco kept his eyes to the ground as his father toyed with the new captives. The three men were bound near the center of an old library where random books collected dust and walls were torn and demolished, leaving a skeleton, a mere whisper of the grandeur it once held. Shadows moved as dark spells and Unforgivable Curses were fired randomly as Lucius taunted the men with thoughts of horrific torture to their wives and children.

The eldest Weasley laid face-down and unconscious on the hard stone floor, as a slow red stain formed about his head. His only movements were an occasional involuntary twitch. George had put up the loudest fight, spitting back and laughing at Lucius with every curse – but at the vivid description from Greyback of paying a visit to the seaside this very evening to find a dark-skinned little girl playing alone by the shore in the moonlight, George’s laughter froze.

Greyback had circled the bound man until their eyes locked gazes; one too afraid to look away… one too cruel to stop this torture. “She was sitting alone on a rock, the waves dancing on her feet,” Greyback whispered, “her dark curly hair waved to me and her skin blended with the shadows.”

The werewolf took a few steps back, eagerly watching the men’s faces. The smell of fear and torment hung in the air as it mingled with the blood and sweat. Greyback took a deep breath savoring the feeling as the hairs on his neck began to rise with anticipation. His cold amber eyes fixed on George once more as he gave a deep throaty growl. “It was so easy - with the sand and the waves… she didn’t even hear me coming. But oh,” he moaned, laying his head back and breathing deep, reliving the moment, “her scream was exquisite.”

It was more than his heart could take, and George passed out cold – no spell, no curse – simply a thought planted by a monster.

Howls of laughter rang around the room as Death Eaters old and young stood along with creatures of the dark. They joined Fenrir in his gloating and taunting of the captives which now turned their focus to the other Weasley.

Ron had refused to give up, and despite the bruises and open cuts, he continued to stare directly at Lucius and the others. Hot tears made streaks on his bruised and bloodied face, stinging as they traveled along. His left arm, although still bound to its counterpart, hung limp at his side, broken. Lucius’s servants enjoyed hanging Ron upside-down, blood rushing to his head to the point of losing consciousness while hissing ‘Mudblood’ and other vile things about Hermione and the children. Once tired of taunting him, Lucius would simply allow Ron to drop to the jagged floor. It was during one of these falls, that the sickening ‘crack’ was heard.

Harry alone, stood untouched – his punishment up to now was to watch the others tortured. His mouth was clenched in anger as he struggled against the ropes that bound him. Each movement allowed the binds to cut deep into his flesh.

Potter,” Lucius spat, turning his attention to Harry, yet never attempting to hide his distaste for his name, “always in the wrong place at the wrong time. Trespassing, breaking into my home, threatening my family…” His voice trailed off as he watched Draco slip from the room. Lucius nodded to Fenrir to follow and the werewolf, along with two Death Eaters, took off down the dark hallway in silent pursuit.

“Give me my daughter,” Harry demanded, his eyes fierce with anger.

“Your daughter?” Lucius asked, feigning surprise, “What would your daughter be doing here? Surely you must be mistaken.” He took a deep breath and began pacing the floor before continuing, “You see, the only children here are my grandson and a poor, dying orphan girl rescued from a treacherous Muggle family.”

Lucius stared at Harry, jeering, “Surely that isn’t your daughter?” He shook his head at Harry, scolding the young man, “All these years… you let her sit and rot in a filthy Muggle house… beaten and abused. Sound familiar, Potter?”

Lucius gave a small nod to the shadows as a large, burly Death Eater emerged. His eyes still focused on Harry, he whispered, “Bring the girl. Her father would like to see her once more… before she dies.”

                                 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Hermione stood and surveyed the room, quietly calling for her sister-in-law. “Ginny, are you here?”

Shaking his head in irritation, Charlie headed for the door with Nyah in tow. “Hermione, come on, we’re running out of time! We have to get Nyah to St. Mungo’s now and she’s not exactly light,” he said, shifting Nyah just a bit in his arms.

“But if she’s here,” Hermione countered, walking around the desk, “she’d kill us for leaving her.”

Astoria pulled Charlie towards the door as she added, “And Lucius will kill all of us if he catches us anywhere near his study. I promised to help you find your niece, not die for her.”

Crossing her arms, Hermione reluctantly started for the door when she tripped near the corner of the desk. Sending a scathing look worthy of Mrs. Weasley in Charlie’s direction, he covered his would-be laugh as a small cough. A bit embarrassed, Hermione quietly walked to the door, offering one final glance into the room before leaving.

There, near the desk, was a small hand. It was hovering in mid-air where nothing had been moments before. Hermione rushed over and reached for the silky material of the invisibility cloak.

“Ginny!” Charlie gasped, retreating back into the office.

Hermione quickly reversed the stunning spell, causing Ginny to collapse to the floor, tired, but unharmed.

“What happened?” Hermione asked, helping Ginny to her feet.

“Lucius,” Ginny said quietly, “and Death Eaters. They stormed the office and one sent a stunning spell aimed at Harry but it hit me instead.” The once frozen tears flowed freely as Ginny made her way to Nyah, reaching out to touch her hair and her face. “She’s so cold,” Ginny whispered, pulling off her cloak to lay on Nyah. She cleared her throat and continued, “Harry was knocked out and I heard Lucius say that Ron and George had been captured as well.”

“Did you hear anything else?” Astoria said, her eyes filled with fear.

“They were taking them to the old library, where ever that is,” Ginny said, still looking at Nyah.

Astoria and Hermione turned towards the door, as Ginny clung to her daughter… afraid to look away.

“Ginny,” whispered Charlie, “we have to go. Nyah needs to get to St. Mungo’s right away. You’ll be able to be with her there.”

The group set off as quickly as possible down the hall from the study. Ginny was still stiff and couldn’t walk very fast, leaning frequently on Hermione for support. Astoria was a number of paces ahead, slowing only to listen for the sounds of Lucius’s guards. She rounded a corner and ran directly into a hooded figure who grabbed her tightly and placed a hand across her mouth to prevent a scream.

Hermione drew her wand, and Astoria lashed out, kicking her captor in the shin. He released her quickly and grabbed his leg, the hood falling back to reveal soft blonde hair.

“Draco!” gasped Astoria, helping him to a bench in the hall. Recovering from the shock at seeing her husband under the cloak, she moved directly into irritation, “Why on earth would you grab me like that? Hermione nearly blasted you to bits!”

That one word caused Draco to stop nursing his wounds long enough to glare at the unwanted guests. “Granger,” he mocked, knowing how best to irritate her, “I don’t remember offering an invitation to tea for you or your assorted family, who seem to be everywhere I look.” He glanced at the small group, finally landing on Nyah. His eyes softened and he looked to Astoria asking, “How is she?”

“Not well, Draco, thanks to you and your father,” implied Ginny.

Astoria glared at Ginny. “Draco had nothing to do with her condition,” she stated calmly, “did you?”

Draco rose from the bench, ignoring his wife’s inquiry and walked towards Charlie. “Give her to me,” he suggested, as the group looked towards Ginny, “Listen, I think it would look better if I was carrying her and you were helping your sister. I don’t think Potter would like it much me touching his wife.”

Ginny nodded, but added sternly, “Don’t try anything foolish, Draco. You’ve got three wands pointed right at you.”

Taking a deep breath, Draco took Nyah in his arms, amazed at how light she was compared to his own son. He looked at Astoria and whispered, “Things aren’t going well. I need you to lower the enchantments on the Manor. The Ministry needs to be contacted…”

“But Draco,” Astoria objected, “the Ministry? Here?”

Draco nodded slightly, “It’s time they see. There’s no other way to get you and Scorpius out safely.” He sighed and dropped his eyes. “I have no other choice. I can’t stop him alone... I know that now. Go, but be careful, they’re looking for you.”

Ginny nudged Hermione and she called to Astoria, “Here, use this.” Hermione handed the sheer material to Astoria. “It’s an invisibility cloak.” She looked between Draco and Astoria, explaining, “The Ministry was tipped off earlier. They may be waiting just outside. This will help you get to them safely.”

Moments later, Astoria kissed Draco gently and their eyes locked as she pulled the cloak over her, disappearing from sight. The group turned back towards the hall with Draco in the lead. “The closest exit is just beyond those doors,” he said, turning down a darkened corridor. “Once we get there –” Draco started, but was cut off as Fenrir stepped out from the shadows, blocking the way.

Death Eaters grabbed Hermione and Charlie, relieving them of their wands, as Ginny was left to stumble into the wall.

“Well, well,” rasped Greyback, “Out for a stroll with friends, Draco?”

“That’s none of your concern, Fenrir,” Draco spat, “now back to your post.”

The werewolf laughed, a deep growl rolling in his throat as he eyed the captives hungrily. “Ah, this is my post,” he said, looking at Draco knowing the tides were turned in his favor, “I believe the library is the other direction. We don’t want to keep your father waiting…”

Draco backed away from Fenrir and turned, boldly walking towards the room filled with haunted memories, ghosts of the past, and hostages waiting to join them.

                                 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The library doors burst open and the small group was unprepared for the sight that met their eyes.

“Ron!” screamed Hermione as she struggled against the Death Eater. Ron never moved, his head limp to the side, as his body was held upright by an unseen force. “Malfoy, you coward!”

Ginny and Harry locked gazes, tears falling for one another and for the children they may not see again. I love you, mouthed Ginny, while Harry simply smiled back. George lay perfectly still on the stone floor, and Ginny wasn’t able to tell if he was breathing or not. Glancing back to Harry, he seemed to know her fear, and mouthed He’s okay.

“Draco,” Lucius called, eyeing his son’s companions suspiciously, “where did you encounter such assorted company?”

Draco stood holding Nyah tightly, considering his answer. Everything hung in the balance and he had to choose his words carefully. He stepped towards Lucius, his gaze steady as his father searched him for signs of failure and deceit.

“Father, this has gone far enough. The child is dying… there is nothing left of the plan!” Draco insisted, a bit louder than he intended. “Do what you will with the others, but be done with her.”

“Done?” Lucius shrieked, “It is only beginning! I have planned this too long to let go now! The Dark Lord’s orders must be fulfilled this time! A child – a child to carry his legacy…” Lucius strode to stand before Harry, his face mere inches away as he hissed, “She was his chosen one… a child of the great Harry Potter! It was planned out long before…” Lucius turned and stared at Draco, “and if it weren’t for you and your wife, the plan would still be in place!”

The room was silent, hanging on every word Lucius offered. A door opened quietly in the back of the room and a small boy with blonde hair was ushered in by one of Lucius’s guards.

Draco’s face contorted and his teeth clenched, hate for his father filling every crevice of his soul. “No,” Draco said, shaking his head, “Leave him out of this father! Voldemort is dead. It’s finished. He’s nothing more than a ghost – a memory.”

Lucius slowly drew the ivory wand from his robe pocket, stroking it gently as the young boy came to stand at his side, eyes heavy with sleep and confused by the presence of the strangers. Placing a hand on his grandson’s shoulder, Lucius smiled and said, “You’re right Draco, the Potter child is dying – her magic shattered by this very wand – she is of no use to me now.” With a small flick of Voldemort’s wand, Nyah was ripped from Draco’s arms and flung to the ground near Harry. Talking over the sobs from Ginny, Lucius added, “But there is another to offer in service – one far greater in blood status, and he will assume the role and take his place as heir to the Dark Lord’s throne!”

“No, I won’t let you!” cried Draco, pulling his wand. Scorpius was crying, attempting to free himself from Lucius’s firm grasp.

Lucius lowered his head slightly towards Draco and uttered, “Fool.” With yet another tap of the wand, Draco lay unconscious and bleeding. Rolf, the Death Eater who brought Scorpius into the room lifted the boy and carried him off, away from the library, his cries for Draco echoing off the walls. Unscathed at the damage, Lucius turned his attention to Harry, who was now kneeling by Nyah whispering to her.

“And now, to complete one more order of my Master,” Lucius announced as he raised Voldemort’s wand. “Any last words?”

The crowd cackled and roared with anticipation as Lucius watched Harry’s every move as he was kneeling over Nyah’s body, shielding her as best he could. Harry finally turned and sat with his back to Nyah, eyes focused on Lucius.

“Afraid to fight me, Lucius?” Harry taunted. “The least you could do is untie me. Then we could call it even. But you’re afraid, just like Voldemort – and you will meet the same fate as he.”

Lucius wrinkled his nose and yelled, “Enough!” A cruel smile played across his face as he motioned for Fenrir. The werewolf took his place at Lucius’s side as he motioned to the captives, “Choose.”

“Let Potter get a taste for the new reign of the Dark Lord Scorpius as he watches his family die before him,” Lucius calmly stated as Fenrir grabbed Hermione by the neck, eyeing her hungrily.

A strong voice rang out above the cries, “Not today, Lucius.” Harry stood, wand in hand, ready to duel.

Charlie smiled as he remembered that Nyah was holding Harry’s wand, concealed unintentionally by Ginny’s cloak. Harry had managed to get the wand while Greyback and the others were stalking for their next victim.

Harry quickly disarmed the Death Eaters which allowed Ginny, Hermione, and Charlie to reclaim their wands. Spells were fired from all directions and the battle began.

On his right, Harry caught sight of Ginny as she fell to the ground, wounded in the leg. She was holding her own, but stayed near the far wall. Charlie was moving quickly, dodging spells, and taking out more than one Death Eater as he moved through the room.

The remaining werewolves were easily dealt with when Hermione fired the spell that permanently silenced Greyback, his body cold and still before reaching the ground. His followers scattered, retreating into the shadows.

With the last Death Eater stunned, Harry turned his attention once more to Lucius who remained near the center of the room, panting for breath. The older man’s eyes were dark, and the wand in his hand trembled as Harry approached.

A small sound carried through the room, interrupting Harry’s thoughts, as his daughter called for him.

“Dad,” Nyah whispered, reaching into the air, her eyes blurry as the realization of the intensity of pain descended upon her. Her chest tightened, and her breathing slowed as a spark of bright green color penetrated the darkness she was lost in.

“I’m here, sweetheart,” Harry whispered as tears flooded his eyes. “Hang on just a little longer.”

“Harry, look out!” screamed Ginny.

Lucius calmly aimed the wand, his cold eyes set on Harry and Nyah as a curse rang out.

“Avada Kedavra!” 

The sound of rushing air engulfed the room as green sparks flew from the tip of the wand and connected with its target.

Draco stood looking down at the shell of his father, his wand arm falling limp to his side. With a small nod to Harry, Draco slowly turned and limped towards the library door as the faint hue of morning crept to the windows.

                                     ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Author's Notes:  You've all been so patient waiting for this chapter - Bless you all!  The final chapter “The Crossroads” will be up soon.  It will follow everyone to St. Mungo's as the race to save Nyah's life takes a drastic turn.

Let me know what you think and of course, post your questions as well!

Chapter 22: Stepping From The Shadows
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Lucius calmly aimed the wand at Harry and Nyah as a curse rang out.

“Avada Kedavra!”

The sound of rushing air engulfed the room, as green sparks flew from the tip of the wand and connected with its target.

Draco stood looking down at the shell of his father, his wand arm falling limp to his side. With a small nod to Harry, Draco slowly turned and limped towards the library door as the faint hue of morning crept to the windows.

Chapter 22 – Stepping From The Shadows 

“Daddy,” Nyah breathed softly, reaching for Harry, “it hurts – so bad.” Small tears escaped her eyes and slowly traveled down her dusty cheeks. Nyah’s small body shook uncontrollably as she lay on the cold, stone floor of the Malfoy library. The splintered magic within her mounted its attack once more, sending fragments of pain tearing through her flesh.

Harry wiped his eyes quickly on the back of his hand and knelt down next to his daughter, afraid to speak, certain his heart would break with any word from his mouth. He silently cursed his fingers for trembling as he gently brushed the hair from Nyah’s face, surprised at how cold her skin had become. Her lips were pale and dark circles had formed around her closed eyes.

“There’s not much time,” he whispered as Ginny arrived at his side, hot tears freely falling down his cheeks. “I don’t know --,” he said, hesitating between the tears, “I don’t know -- how to save her.”

Ginny’s once teary eyes became a bit fierce as she looked at Harry, her hand reaching to his face and whispered back, “Lucius took her once, are we going to let him take her again?”

Harry glanced around the room, searching the air itself for courage. His eyes finally landed on Lucius’s broken and lifeless body lying alone in the rubble. With a nod, he carefully slid his hands beneath Nyah’s head and knees and stood. She screamed in pain as he lifted her gently into his arms and pulled her close. Harry whispered softly into her hair as she cried, “It’s okay, Mum and I are here. Be strong… be strong.”

Ginny leaned in and kissed her daughter once more as Nyah’s breathing became shallow. Whispering a quick ‘I love you’, Ginny and Harry walked towards the door, stepping over the bodies that littered the former library, conscious of little else other than their dying daughter. The early morning air hung wearily in the halls of the Manor, its suffocating presence threatening to overtake each group as they traversed the corridors.

Ron was leaning heavily on Hermione’s shoulder, unable to stand on his own. She had fashioned a splint about his arm to hold it steady as they walked. They stopped often, pausing to let Ron catch his breath.

Charlie had wasted no time in picking up George and making his way outside to Apparate to St. Mungo’s.

The Ministry Aurors, led by Harry’s Senior Supervisor, Carl Stanwick, along with a team of Hit Wizards, had finally begun to make their way into Malfoy Manor, too late to be of any service other than rounding up the assorted Death Eaters and any werewolves that had yet to make it to the dense woods adjacent to the property. As they met in the hallway, Carl nodded to Harry while instructing everyone to make their way to St. Mungo’s; he would be along momentarily to gather statements.

Through the unsettled dust, another couple emerged – the Malfoys. Draco too, was leaning for support against his wife as they walked towards the morning light and the illumination it offered. Draco stopped short of the entry as he watched his father’s body being unceremoniously carried away, with no distinction between Lucius and the mere servants who died along side of him. A wand lay in the dust near the spot where Lucius fell, discarded and unnoticed by those in the room.

Glancing towards the other families as they talked to the Ministry officials, Draco pulled his wand and muttered, “Accio wand!” The pale wood eagerly left its place amidst the rubble and met Draco’s hand.

Astoria looked questioningly at her husband, but said nothing as she watched him deposit the extra wand inside his cloak. Their eyes met as he put his arm around her shoulders, silently admitting his need for her help. Unspoken words passed between them and they continued their way towards the doors of the Manor. Lingering a short distance from the front entrance, Draco watched as the Potter and Weasley families were being Apparated away, just outside the Manor walls.

                                                ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The windows at St. Mungo’s mimicked the rising sun, its cheerfulness unable to penetrate the hearts of the families waiting in the quiet rooms. Healers traveled quickly from room to room, tracking the progress of each patient.

“Ron?” Hermione whispered once more to her sleeping husband, his snores drowning out the hustle-and-bustle of the hospital. Ron’s arm was wrapped tightly to protect the newly-healed bone, while his cuts and bruises continued to mend with the Healer’s treatments. He had gladly accepted the calming draught and sleeping potion, and was now in a deep sleep.

“Ron, I need you.” Exhaustion had set in full-force, and Hermione laid her forehead onto the clean, white sheets of Ron’s hospital bed. Her body continued to throb with dull pain, even after the healing spells and the Pepper Up potion administered to her by the Healers. Deep breaths, Hermione, she instructed herself, and crying won’t help either. 

“It doesn’t look good,” she sighed, losing the fight to avoid the tears, “Nyah is so weak. Her face… it’s so pale and cold… just like last time.” Tears began to soak into the bed sheets and Hermione allowed the fear and sorrow to wash over her, “I didn’t get to her in time, Ron, and now -- and now she’s dying. With Lucius gone, there’s nothing they can do for her -- except -- destroy her magic and hope her body can heal.” A deep breath took over and Hermione sighed, “Ronald, please wake up...”

The hospital room door opened slowly and the sounds of family and friends gathered in the hallways rushed in, unaware of the disruption they caused. Hermione sat up a bit too quickly and her head screamed in protest, willing her to rest again. She closed her eyes and held a hand to her bandage as though the pain originated in that one spot. A heavy hand landed gently on her shoulder as a familiar voice quietly called her name.

Finally able to open her eyes and focus, Hermione stood slowly and greeted her brother-in-law with a hug. “Bill, how are the children? Has anyone told them what’s happened… and what of Roxanne? Ron told me that Greyback attacked her! Is she all right?” Hermione paused briefly to draw a breath as Bill shook his head.

“Hermione, slow down!” Bill laughed as Hermione began pacing. “The kids are fine. Fleur is still with them at the cottage, except for Roxanne and she…”

Hermione gasped and started for the door, but Bill grabbed her arm and pulled her in front of him. He lowered his voice a bit more and continued slowly, “Roxanne is fine. Angelina brought her hoping that once George realizes that she’s all right, he’ll wake up.”

“Oh,” Hermione said softly as Bill released her arm, “so there was never an attack?”

Bill’s face hardened and his eyes cooled as he stepped towards the window, measuring his words carefully. “They came,” Bill said coldly, a low growl of hate rising in his voice, “with Fenrir.”

An involuntary gasp escaped Hermione’s mouth as she moved closer to her brother-in-law, fear invading every available space within her. Her heart pounded within her chest as it called to Rose and Hugo. “And – and everyone…” she stuttered, unable to complete her thought as Bill’s eyes settled on her.

His face, deeply lined with scars, was fierce -- but there was something else -- resolution. His voice was flat and low as he said, “I did what I had to do. Fenrir underestimated the monster he created in me that night.” Bill crossed his arms and stared at Ron sleeping peacefully. “Fleur and the girls were getting the kids settled, while James and Louis set up a small tent outside – they thought it would fun to camp out.” Bill sighed heavily letting his gaze fall to the floor as he continued, “I wasn’t thinking -- Fleur told me we should all stay together, but…” Bill’s voice trailed off, leaving a tense silence in its absence.

“But what?” Hermione asked, barely audible, “What happened, Bill?”

“I heard them – even smelled them - long before I saw them,” he growled, the hair on his arms standing on end, “in the long grass near the rocks, on the drive, and behind the tree nearest the house. I sent James and Louis inside, telling them to fetch Angelina.”

“There were at least four of them,” he said, turning once again towards the comforting light of the window. “Fenrir and another got away unharmed.”

“So you killed two of them?” Hermione asked.

Bill nodded, anguish and disgust spreading across his face.

“I – I understand how difficult that must have been,” Hermione said gently, placing a hand on Bill’s arm.

“A child, Hermione…” Bill whispered, “Fenrir sent a child. A boy, obviously bitten, and wild. He came from the roof of the house and was aiming straight for Roxanne. She had, um, followed Angelina outside.” Bill paused, allowing the guilt to wash over him once more. “I had no choice… but to see him transform back as he died…” Bill gritted his teeth, causing the words to sound harsh as they slipped through. “He was just a little boy, Hermione, and Fenrir destroyed that – no innocence – no joy – no peace. Only torture and pain…”

“Bill,” Hermione interjected as his temples pulsed with anger, “he’s dead --- Fenrir is dead. He can’t hurt the children anymore.” Bill began to pace as Hermione stuttered on, hoping he’d understand, “And – and the Ministry, well, they were rounding up the rest of the Death Eaters and – and the werewolves as we left the Manor.”

Bill nodded slowly and then asked, “You’re positive? He’s dead.”

“Yes,” Hermione said. “I’m the one who – well, who killed him,” she added softly, nervously tucking a strand of hair behind her ear.

“You... really?” Bill asked, studying Hermione’s face as she nodded. “I just…”

The door to Ron’s room opened quickly, interrupting the conversation as an attendant walked in, his eyes set on Hermione. “Mrs. Weasley,” he said flatly, taking little notice of Ron’s snoring or Bill’s glare, “Mrs. Potter asked me to find you. She needs to speak to you -- about your niece.” The young man simply turned and left the room with no further instructions or comments.

“Nyah,” Hermione whispered, tears filling her eyes.

“Go,” Bill said, “I’ll stay with him.”

With a small smile, Hermione moved to kiss Ron’s cheek and whispered, “I’ll be back soon.”

Ron groaned and turned over, lost again to a deep sleep. 

                                                ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The halls were eerily quiet as Hermione made her way towards Nyah’s room, dread and fear creeping in all around her. Healer Sabinski and the young attendant were standing just outside the door speaking in hushed voices as Hermione approached.

“Ah, Mrs. Weasley,” said Healer Sabinski, “yes, yes -- right on in. They are just waiting for you.” She gave a small pat to Hermione’s arm and scurried away to the adjoining room, leaving the attendant stationed at the door.

As the door swung open, conversations spilled out, distorted and fragmented. Hermione continued into the room, pulled by her need to be near Nyah.

“I just don’t know, Harry,” Ginny cried, as Hermione reached the bedside. “Can’t we wait and see -- give her more time to heal? It seems so rushed and…”

“There is no time, Ginny!” Harry yelled, the anger evident in his voice. “If we don’t do something in the next – what – 28 minutes, she will die! There is no choice and there is no time!”

Nyah was lying still under the white hospital blanket, seemingly unresponsive as her parents continued their argument. Her eyes twitched as the voices grew louder, but the coloring in her face continued to fade away. Her lips were parted slightly, and her breathing was shallow.

Meeting Hermione’s gaze, Harry drew her into the conversation. “Tell her, Hermione,” he demanded.  “Tell her we don’t have time to wait. The spell has to be done – now!”

“And then what,” Ginny sobbed, her breaths coming in short bursts and her eyes swollen and red, “then she’s – she’s – a – a Squib? Is that right? Or – or a Muggle, or…” Ginny gasped, “Hogwarts! She won’t be going to Hogwarts, will she?”

Molly stepped away from Arthur and sat next to Ginny, pulling her into a hug. “Don’t you worry,” she said.  “We’ll find the best Muggle school and she’ll get a wonderful education.” She put on a brave smile through her tears and added, looking between Ginny and Harry, “The point is -- she’s home.  She’s back where she belongs – magic or not.”

Ginny simply nodded, and Harry went to the door. “Please tell Healer Sabinski that we are ready to – to, um, have the spell performed,” he whispered to the attendant.

Standing next to Nyah’s bed, tears streamed down Ginny’s cheeks as she touched the young girl’s face and hair. “I’m so sorry,” Ginny breathed, her voice breaking.

Time seemed to race through the room as Hermione stood watching the scene between mother and daughter. Ginny soaked up every breath - every twitch - every mumble Nyah made as though seeing it for the first time… or the last. She refused to acknowledge the Ministry officials as they walked quietly into the room followed closely by Healer Sabinski.

Josiah Obenhoff, Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot stood silently alongside the two other Ministry Officials specifically chosen for this task: Minister of Magic Kingsley Shacklebolt, and Hogwarts Headmistress Minerva McGonagall. They each carried a small piece of parchment paper, along with their wand.

Molly and Arthur moved to shake hands with the elders, as Harry took his place next to Ginny, his arms wrapping about her waist in an effort to transfer his strength to her. The room held whispers laced with fears and regret which seemed to settle on each person and weigh heavily.

“Mr. and Mrs. Potter,” Healer Sabinski said, her voice curt reverberating in the small room, “there are some last minute details to take care of, so if you would both come this way, please.” The Healer drew a large piece of parchment from her cloak and stepped towards a small table in the corner of the room.

Hermione watched as Ginny reluctantly moved from Nyah’s bedside. She clung to Harry and he to her as Healer Sabinski quickly outlined the details of what would take place, asking again for their consent to perform the spell, as well as reminding them of the permanency. As Ginny reached for the quill to affix her name to the parchment, Kingsley approached Hermione and greeted her with a kind smile.

“Hermione,” he said, his voice low, “you’re going to have to wait outside. Molly and Arthur will join you shortly.”

With a nod, Hermione turned back to look one last time at Nyah whose face now resembled a porcelain doll. “Please stay strong,” she whispered as Nyah’s eyes twitched in response, “and don’t forget – your Aunt Nene loves you.”

“Nene,” a gentle voice laughed, “I had forgotten she called you that.” Arthur’s eyes sparkled with tears as he put his arm around Hermione’s shoulder and squeezed it gently. He looked loving upon his granddaughter and added, “Uncle Ron and Aunt Nene – she never could say Hermione. You drove her nearly batty trying to get her to say your name properly.”

Hermione laughed, and whispered, “Her first magic.”

“That’s right,” he gasped and looked between Hermione and Nyah, as the memory became more vivid, “She got so mad that when she stomped her foot, Molly’s favorite vase exploded.” Tears of joy and sadness landed on his cheeks. Pulling a handkerchief from his pocket, he sighed, “We have a lot of memories to catch up on, don’t we?”

                                               ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Hermione stepped back into the cold, dim hallway of St. Mungo’s as the sound of Ginny’s sobbing echoed off the walls. The heavy door slowly closed, shutting off the sounds and Hermione stood alone, staring at the wood wanting little more than to be at Nyah’s side.

“We’re going to check up on George, dear,” Molly said.  “Would you like to come with us?”

“Hmm?” Hermione asked, lost in her own thoughts.

“George,” Molly repeated.  “We’re going to go and visit a bit while we wait. Why don’t you come too?”

Shaking her head, Hermione offered to stay close to Nyah’s room.

With a sigh, Arthur added, “Well, you know where we’ll be if you need us.”

They continued down the hall and stepped through the doorway. George had yet to wake from the nightmare he was trapped in. The Healers had done all they could, mending his broken bones and wounds, but it would take time for his heart and mind to heal. Before undergoing treatment, Ron had recounted the numerous spells and curses thrown at George from the Death Eaters, but added that it was Fenrir’s tale which had caused the most damage.

Angelina’s face had taken on varying shades of anger and concern as Ron spoke about the ordeal, but finally rested on such sadness as she realized the depths of love her husband had walked through to simply make it out alive. They now waited – hoping that George would somehow manage to find his way back to them.

Hermione began to slowly pace the hallway, allowing the night’s events to spill to the forefront of her mind. She analyzed everything Lucius had said, but little of it made sense. There’s got to be more – a lot more, Hermione thought as she paced the cold hallway, It doesn’t make sense. But Draco said… Hermione abruptly stopped in the middle of the hall, her mind racing against the clock as the seconds ticked mercilessly by. “Draco…” she whispered.

                                                ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Hermione burst through the door to Draco’s room at St. Mungo’s, frustration and desperation burning in her eyes. Quickly pulling her wand from her cloak, she opted to forgo the niceties and get directly to the point.

“Paris, France,” Hermione insisted, her eyes set fiercely on Draco’s as he inched back into his pillow. “You have until I count to three to tell me everything you know about what happened in France with Nyah. What did your father do to her?”

Draco studied her face briefly before lowering his eyes to his hands.


Astoria was sitting calmly in the chair next to Draco’s bedside, her head nearly imperceptibly shaking, her eyes begging Draco to keep quiet.


He closed his eyes and whispered, “It was me.”

Taken aback by this one confession, Hermione took a step backwards, and asked, “What? But I thought…”

“He was there, but so was I,” Draco said slowly, staring at the ceiling to avoid looking at either woman in the room.

“Draco, stop this,” Astoria demanded quietly. “You know they are only after someone to blame this on. Don’t say another word!”

Enraged, Hermione turned her anger to Astoria, “So you would doom a child to not only lose her magic, but possibly her life? She has minutes – that’s all – and I need answers if you have them. Not for me, not for the Ministry, but for Nyah!”

Draco cleared his throat and began speaking, “After Voldemort’s first downfall, Father continued on with his life as though little had changed. He assumed his role in the wizarding society well --- quite well. He tried to rationalize his position, but in reality, he was moving away from Voldemort’s ideals. When the Dark Lord returned, my family paid a great price.”

Absentmindedly rubbing his left forearm, Draco took a deep breath and continued, “When the Dark Lord was finally conquered, Father refused to accept it. He kept saying he wouldn’t make the same mistake twice. For days at a time, he would lock himself in the old library, reading and studying all he could find about the darkest magic, vowing to be faithful until the Dark Lord’s return. He then began taking short trips away which usually resulted in townies showing up – usually wizards, but sometimes – sometimes Muggles. He began experimenting on them with spells, potions…”

“Draco,” Astoria whispered, sitting stiffly into the chair, “you never told me any of this.”

Ignoring his wife’s small pout, Draco continued, “The Ministry began its investigation of Lucius after a Muggle woman was found dead. There had been rumors beforehand, but nothing solid for them to go on. But this only inspired Lucius to be more -- creative. He began renovations on the former library and dining hall, but those were halted early on.”

“Why?” asked Hermione, anxious for more information.

“That’s where he found it -- hidden,” Draco said, looking at Hermione. His voice was low, as though the walls were enemies seeking information.

Hermione leaned closer, as Draco whispered, “His wand -- Voldemort’s wand.”

Gulping down the gasp that threatened to leave her mouth, Hermione backed away as another strange piece of the puzzle found it’s way into her mind.

Draco swung his legs over the side of the bed, still avoiding the stares from Hermione and Astoria. He spoke flatly, as though reading from a book he had all but memorized, “The wand – that’s where it all started. Voldemort had spent hours with his Death Eaters coming up the most horrid ways to bring pain to those who sought to destroy him. Naturally, Potter was his first target. That wand was used to record ideas as well as detailed plans for bringing down the Dark Lord’s enemies… and how best to bring down Potter than by using the ones he loved.”

“But he didn’t use Nyah, he simply…” Hermione argued, her mind still trying to add up all of the details.

“It was a thought, Granger – a plan,” Draco snapped, shooting a glare at his former schoolmate. “Voldemort did nothing but spout the thought, but Father – he took it and shaped it --- and finally put it to action.”

Astoria frowned at the complacency in Draco’s voice, and he took quick notice of it. Clearing his throat a bit, he continued on, “Father’s plan was simple. Take the first born Potter child, raise it in the Dark Arts, and eventually use it to destroy Potter. Lucius sought out a Muggle woman who could easily be bent to his ways. In exchange for a better life, she would agree to take in a child – not just any child – but the Potter’s child.”

“Why a Muggle? Lucius hated Muggles,” questioned Hermione, looking between Draco and Astoria.

Draco rolled his eyes in irritation, and explained, “A Muggle wouldn’t know Potter’s brat from anyone else’s, would they? Besides, this particular woman was ruthless -- she, like Lucius, was willing to go to any lengths to get what she wanted. Besides, it was just temporary until the child was moved to a more permanent home.”

“What home?” Astoria asked, looking directly at her husband.

With a deep breath, Draco said quietly, “Ours.”

The small clock chimed the quarter-hour, harshly scolding Hermione for wasting time. “France, Draco,” she ordered, “I need to know what happened in France. They’re in there – in her room, ready to perform a spell that hasn’t been performed in nearly a century. They’re going to destroy her magic, and you’re the only one who has what she needs -- answers.”

Draco glared at Hermione, prepared to see the disgust and anger she typically returned but it wasn’t there. Instead, there was quiet desperation and for a fleeting moment, Draco felt ashamed.

“We trailed the Potters to France. Father had refused to tell me exactly what we were doing -- it was another way of controlling the situation -- controlling me,” said Draco, pausing to bite his lip as anger filled his eyes. “He positioned me so I could watch -- watch as he lured them in, catching them off guard by casting a Patronus in front of the car. But it was the sound -- beyond the accident -- it was her, the little girl…”

“Nyah,” whispered Hermione, lost in the moment.

Draco nodded, “Nyah. She was afraid -- I had never heard it before in anyone so small. I had seen men, even women – afraid… but to hear it in her voice… it just seeped in. She just kept calling to them but they didn’t wake up.” Taking a small breath, Draco stood, holding on to the bed for support as he made his way towards a chair near the window. After a moment to get comfortable, he continued, “I asked him to stop – to reconsider – but he wouldn’t hear of it. We took her -- and Father performed the spell ‘Geminio Corporis’, creating a duplicate of the little girl.”

Hermione scowled, her mind racing to keep up. Putting one hand into the air, she interrupted, “Wait… the ‘Geminio Corporis’ spell is for inanimate objects only. How did...”

“Soul-less,” Draco replied, now looking directly at Hermione. “It creates an inanimate duplicate.”

Frustrated, Hermione snapped, “I realize that, but to perform that on a person - especially a child – is awful.”

“But in doing so, the illusion was complete -- everyone would think the child died in the accident -- while we walked away with Harry Potter’s daughter,” Draco said, staring at Hermione casually.

Hermione ignored him and began pacing, trying to sort out the details, “But what about her memories --- her magic? I need that spell Draco…”

Magiannullo”, he said, indifferently. “That’s the spell --- but it’s not going to be much help.”

“Why not?” Hermione asked, pushing the hair from her face as she made her way towards the door.

Draco stared at the floor and sighed, “Because I just killed the only person who can reverse it --- my father.”

                                                ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Ginny stared at the parchment, re-reading the same line over and over, ‘…willingly and knowingly hereby allow the permanent and nonreversible “Venficus Aboleo” spell to be performed…’. Her hand trembled and the quill with it as it neared the line Ginny was required to sign. She took a deep breath, hoping for a calm to the storm raging within her. From somewhere seemingly far away, Harry’s voice called to her.

Harry’s typically bright green eyes were dulled with pain and sadness as he reached out and touched Ginny’s arm. “Ginny, you have to sign. They can’t start until…”

“No,” Ginny whispered, still staring at the parchment, “I can’t. There has to be another way.” She turned and looked at Harry, desperate for him to fix it -- to save their daughter -- to think of something brilliant… but there was nothing but defeat in his face.

Harry shook his head slowly and closed his eyes, never wanting to see his failure reflected in Ginny’s face again.

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Potter,” Healer Sabinski whispered, patting Ginny’s arm gently, “if we do nothing, the collisions of magic within your daughter will consume her. It’s already taken a toll on her physical body. By removing the shattered pieces of magic, I have hopes that her body will recover… but if we wait much longer, the damage is irreparable and she will suffer even more.” The Healer set the quill in Ginny’s hand, guiding it to the parchment, “For your daughter’s life, Mrs. Potter. Please sign.”

                                                ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Silence spilled into the room as Hermione's hand lingered on the door handle.

“Perhaps not,” Hermione said quietly, staring into the room. “There’s no time to explain. I need to you to come with me… now. I think we can still save her.”

Draco stood from the chair and shook his head. He turned his back to Hermione as a lifetime of poor choices ran to the front of his mind. He now stood on the horizon of a new life -- free to do as he would choose rather than live in the shadow of his father’s mistakes. But to step out of the darkness required more courage than Draco possessed alone… and thus he remained at the edge of the shadows, staring into the sun. For a moment, his choice was simply not to choose…

The familiar feeling of shutting down took over -- no more pain, no more guilt -- just cold numbness. It was the way of life for the Malfoy family and Draco had learned it well. He closed his eyes, willing the emptiness to spread through him, finally reaching to his fingers as he took a deep breath.

Conscious of someone approaching, Draco stepped back further into the recesses of his mind, longing for an escape when sunlight and heat began piercing the darkness, pulling him closer and finally embracing him.

She wrapped her arms around him, her lips gently pressed to his own. He was a moth drawn to the flame and surrendered to the power she held over him in that one kiss. “Draco,” Astoria whispered as she pulled away, “you can do this.”

His courage was not within himself, but within her. A small smile spread across her flawless face as she took his hand, guiding him towards the door. Holding to that small glimmer of hope, he paused briefly to gather his cloak, realizing a key to Nyah’s survival was tucked safely inside.

                                               ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Ginny scratched her name into the parchment and dropped the quill to the desk. The three officials took their places at Nyah’s bed; Headmistress McGonagall and Chief Warlock, Josiah Obenhoff were at Nyah’s left side while Kingsley was near her right.

“How long will the spell take to complete?” Harry asked, holding Ginny close to him.

“It won’t be long,” the Healer said, nodding to officials. “Please begin.”

Ginny moved closer to the bed taking a spot next to Kingsley, and Harry moved alongside her. “May I hold her hand?” Ginny asked softly as she studied Nyah’s face.

Healer Sabinski shook her head looking at Harry. He reached and took Ginny’s hand from Nyah’s, and held it tightly, silently preparing for the worst.

Headmistress McGonagall raised her wand above Nyah’s forehead and called, “Ut quod ago intus vestry animus, mos ian exsisto infractus, nuquam cretum.”  Soft silvery sparks showered from Headmistress McGonagall’s wand but never reached Nyah’s face as they suspended above her like stars in the night sky.

Nyah’s magic began to react immediately, while a once-absent breeze made its presence known as the air in the room chilled considerably.

The Headmistress held her wand steady while Kingsley cleared his throat and spoke in a soft, low voice, “Ex cruor quod vox, veneficus eram prognatus ut quod eram donatus, lam pro umquam lacer.”  His wand, which was held above Nyah’s waist, let loose blood red sparks, which again, hovered above her body and spread from head to toe.

The young girl’s body began to tremor, and her eyes fluttered. Ginny’s cries once again reverberated off the walls, as she begged them to stop. Harry took a step back away from the bed, pulling Ginny with him as she struggled to reach for their daughter.

Ginny turned quickly and buried her head in Harry’s shoulder, unable to watch Nyah’s struggle. “Please make them stop,” she whispered, hot tears soaking into Harry’s shirt, “They’re killing her -- please, Harry.”

He did the only thing he could at that moment and simply cried with her. They stood clinging to one another as an unfamiliar voice carried through the room. The Chief Warlock’s voice was soft and a bit shaky as he said, “Infractus quod intorqueo lam semotus, a vita vacuus veneficus est vestri perfero.” 

The wind in the room continued to build as Nyah’s breaths came quicker and quicker. Blue sparks from Josiah Obenhoff’s mixed with the silver and red. Healer Sabinski moved next to Harry and Ginny, drawing their attention away from Nyah. “The next part of the spell must be spoken in unison, and once done, they will touch their wands. It will be at that moment that your daughter’s magic will be released,” she said, speaking over the wind.

Still holding on to one another, Harry shifted slightly so that he and Ginny could witness the spell’s completion. All three voices spoke as one, “Virga traho una, a vita verta; una nos dico, ‘Veneficus Aboleo’, pro umquam magis!” 

A single tear fell from the Headmistress’s eye as she moved to join her wand with the other two. The wind was howling, as the hospital room door blew open. Three figures stormed into the room as Nyah screamed in pain, the magic being literally ripped from her body.

“Stop!” screamed Hermione, breathless in her hurry to make it in time. She put her hands up, begging the trio to interrupt the spell. She looked behind her, and called to one of the figures in the doorway, “Do it now!”

Astoria let go of Draco’s hand and he limped slowly into the room, a wand held loosely by his side. He turned briefly and met Harry and Ginny’s stares, while years of guilt and anger fell away.

“Get him out of here!” Harry yelled, pointing towards Draco. “He has no right to be here, Hermione!”

The wind was whipping through the room, and Hermione struggled to pull her hair from her face as she moved between Harry and Draco. “He can save her,” Hermione called over the rushing air.

Not taking her eyes from Draco, Ginny said, “But I thought it was Lucius who performed the spell.”

“Yes, it was,” Hermione said, “but since Draco is his biological son, I believe that with that genetic component – that blood connection – Draco may be able to reverse the spell and not only save Nyah, but save her magic as well.”

Harry and Ginny looked at each other, urgency and panic overflowing within them. Harry shook his head, with his jaw set firm and his eyes burning with anger. He was unwilling to believe – unwilling to trust a Malfoy – unwilling to take a chance. Hanging her head, Ginny felt Harry pull away as hope was ripped from her once again.

“Mr. and Mrs. Potter!” Healer Sabinski yelled from near the door, “Please – let the officials complete the spell. Time is running out!”

Ginny raised her head and found that Draco was staring at her, waiting. She nodded slightly to him and he took a small step forward. Draco quickly raised the near-ivory wand of the fallen Dark Lord and pointed it at Nyah. Above the howling wind, he called loudly, “Necto Magus Renovo!”

A sudden blast of pure white sparks shot from the wand in Draco’s hand, tearing through the still-hovering shimmering stars, and landed on Nyah’s chest. The spell reverberated violently within her small frame, causing her to gasp for air as her body shook.

Draco lay unconscious on the floor, blown back from the explosion from the wand. Disintegrated by the force of the spell, nothing was left of the Dark Lord’s wand but the small handle clutched in his hand. Astoria kneeled next to him, as Healer Sabinski called for assistance.

Kingsley and McGonagall began interrogating Hermione at once, demanding to know why she interrupted the spell, while Harry and Ginny focused on Nyah. The young girl was still and barely breathing, her skin streaked from the spells cast on her.

Harry turned from Nyah’s bed, running his hands through his hair in frustration. “Hermione!” he yelled, “Do you have any idea of what you have done?”

“Harry, please listen…” Hermione said softly, as the room cleared. The Healers levitated Draco from the room with Astoria and the Ministry officials following closely.

Throwing his hands up to stop her talking, he said, “No! The Ministry spell was our only hope --- our only chance to save her.” He glanced at Ginny before heading towards the door. “Maybe there’s still time. They could start again and we…”

The clock chimed the half-hour… Nyah’s eleventh birthday had arrived…
Ginny leaned down and softly kissed her daughter’s forehead, surprised at its warmth. Her hands trembled slightly as they reached to Nyah’s cheek and neck. “Harry,” Ginny whispered, her voice lost in the conversation between Hermione and Harry. Clearing her throat, she called louder, “Harry -- come here!”

Harry moved away from the door slowly, his eyes angrily setting on Hermione’s face. Wrapping his arm around Ginny’s waist, he kissed her hair and finally glanced at Nyah. Her eyes were open and set on him, their golden chocolate color clear and bright.

Quietly making her way to the door, Hermione was surprised to find Draco slowly pacing in the hallway, surrounded by Healers, as well as one very annoyed-looking Astoria. Catching Draco’s gaze, Hermione motioned him into the room with Astoria following closely.

No words had yet been spoken by the young girl and her eyes continued to search the room, finally landing on the stranger near the door. His face was different, dirty and bruised, but those grey eyes -- her mind sought out the memory all those years before when those same eyes looked down on her. This time, however, there was no hate -- only remorse. He nodded and turned to walk back out the door. Before the door closed completely, Nyah smiled softly and waved. She thought she saw him smile back, but couldn’t be sure as the eyes she inherited came into view.

Tears spilled from her tired eyes as Ginny reached to touch her daughter’s face. “Nyah,” she said between tears, “Happy Birthday, sweetheart.”

Nyah smiled and reached up, running her small fingers through the beautiful red hair that had haunted her dreams all these years. Ginny pulled her close, and Nyah whispered, “I missed your hair.”

Finally pulling away and looking at Harry, she added, “And your laugh. I remembered it -- when I was hurting -- I could hear it, like you were leading me through it – through the pain.” She hugged her dad tight and whispered in his ear, “Your eyes… I saw your eyes when I was locked in that room. Could you see me?”

Harry took in a rattled breath between the tears and whispered back, “No -- but I was looking for you every moment.”

“I know,” Nyah said, laughing sweetly, “I told them you would find me -- and I was right.”

Author’s Notes:
A soft translation of the latin spell used by the Ministry officials:
That which lives in your innermost soul, will now be broken, never to grow.
From blood and power the magic was born, and that which was given, now forever torn.
Broken and twisted now removed, a life without magic is yours to bear.
Wands brought together, a life transformed; together we call ‘Magic Abolished’ for ever more. 

I know I said this was the last chapter… but at over 11,000 words and growing, it was best to split it up. But don’t despair – the absolute final chapter of this story is already written and will be posted as soon as everyone has a chance to process this chapter.

Thanks to Megan, my wonderful Beta on the final two chapters. And to my fantastic readers… thank you – you are all amazing!

Okay – please let me know what you think!  And yes, I promise... the next/final chapter will up very soon.

Chapter 23: The Crossroads
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Nyah smiled and reached up, running her small fingers through the beautiful red hair that had haunted her dreams all these years. Ginny pulled her close, and Nyah whispered, “I missed your hair.”

Finally pulling away and looking at Harry, she added, “And your laugh. I remembered it --- when I was hurting --- I could hear it, like you were leading me through it – through the pain.” She hugged her dad tight and whispered in his ear, “Your eyes… I saw your eyes when I was locked in that room. Could you see me?”

Harry took in a rattled breath between the tears and whispered back, “No --- but I was looking for you every moment.”

“I know,” Nyah said, laughing sweetly, “I told them you would find me --- and I was right.” 

Chapter 23 – The Crossroads

“Daddy, I’m fine,” Roxanne said, rolling her eyes. She looked to her mother, exasperated as she wiggled out of George’s arms. “Please tell him to quit hugging me,” she said, plopping down on the window seat.

Angelina smiled and sat on the bed near George’s feet. “Your dad is just happy to see you,” Angelina said, as he gave her a small wink.

“So when are you busting me out?” George asked, leaning up to give his wife a kiss.

Roxanne scrunched up her nose and turned her back to her parents. “Ugh! You know that’s gross, right? And embarrassing!” she cried.

“Of course!” George said, teasing Roxanne. “Why else would we do it?” He looked at Angelina and gently touched her face. “Thanks for staying close by,” he whispered. “I think -- I think I got lost somehow. It was like I was asleep and just couldn’t wake up.”

Angelina pulled him close, resting a moment in his arms as physical exhaustion and emotional relief took over. With a heavy sigh, she said, “I’m just glad you came back to us.”

Clearing his throat to announce his arrival, a Healer-In-Training said, “Excuse me, Mr. Weasley, I just need you to sign here and we’ll get you and your family on their way.” He unrolled the parchment and handed George the quill.

“Well, it’s about bloody time, too!” George exclaimed dramatically, a wide smile affixed on his face. “I can’t waste another minute here… the room service is terrible!”

Shaking her head as George passed the parchment back to the Healer-In-Training, she scolded, “You were only here a week. Besides, you spent most of your time sleeping, eating, or down the hall with Nyah.” The smile faded from her face as Angelina looked towards the door, “I hope they’ll release her soon -- I don’t think Ginny’s been home for more than an hour since they came in.”

Hopping from the bed, George clapped his hands, and once again grabbed Roxanne into another hug. “Why don’t we go down and check on them before we go, eh?” 

                                          ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“James, is there something you want to say to your sister?” Ginny said in her ‘Mum’ voice.

James rolled his eyes at his mum, and walked over to Nyah’s bed where she sat playing with Lily. Looking at everything except Nyah, James finally said, “Sorry I took your silly old owl. It was just a joke.”

“Thanks, James,” Nyah said softly, her face turning red. It was quite awkward to find out the boy who irritated her terribly turned out to be her brother. Nyah reached to her bedside table and gently picked up Hedwig and held her close. Aside from some smudges of something that looked like jam, and obvious dirt, the little owl had made it safely back to Nyah’s arms.

James ventured a look at his sister and as their eyes met, he smiled. Taking a deep breath, he asked “So, what’s your favorite treat from Honeydukes?”

Nyah’s brow furrowed, and she asked, “What’s a Honeydukes?”

Albus jumped up on the bed next to Lily and Nyah with his eyes wide and started rambling, “You’ve never been to Honeydukes? It’s the most fantastic place in Hogsmeade. I can’t believe Aunt Hermione didn’t take you there! I always get the chocolate frogs, but they have all kinds of candy and fudge and sugar quills and …”

Ginny stood back and watched the scene, committing it to memory as the children chatted and laughed. Nyah’s face was full of color and her eyes were bright. Nearly all of her strength had returned and she was doing quite well according to the Healers. She was still having nightmares, and frequently called out for her Mum and Dad in her dreams. Harry and Ginny, with help from Molly, had taken to staying with Nyah at night and on most occasions slept holding her hand just to be nearby.

Concerned about introducing the siblings, Harry and Ginny had brought them in one at a time, starting with their youngest. Lily instantly loved her big sister and clung to Nyah whenever they were together. Nyah soaked up the attention, and eagerly sought out time with Lily. The girls drew pictures, played peek-a-boo, and Lily had taken many a nap on Nyah’s bed curled up close to her big sister.

Albus and James took the news differently. James shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly, accepting the announcement with indifference while Albus, the constant worrier, asked innumerable questions such as ‘Where will she sleep?’ and ‘Are you sure she’s our sister?’ or ‘What if she doesn’t like me?’

“Grammy Molly!” Lilly squealed, wiggling off the bed and running towards the door. She clamped her little arms around Molly’s leg as Arthur squeezed around the other side, making his way to the boys for a quick hug.

The room exploded with conversation and laughter as the younger children hugged their grandparents and talked nonstop. Nyah stood by the bed, still lingering away from the group. There was strong familiarity in watching the family interact, but Nyah was filled with uncertainty and fear. She longed to run into her grandmothers arms like Lily or have her grandfather talk to her like no one else was in the room; much like he was with James. Looking towards the floor, she took a deep breath as she heard someone call her name.

Molly encircled her with a warm, comforting hug. “Nyah, dear,” she said, looking deep into her brown eyes. “I think she gets prettier every time I see her,” Molly said to Ginny, still holding Nyah’s cheeks in her hands.

“How are you feeling today?” Arthur asked, taking his turn to trade a hug with Nyah.

“Good,” Nyah said, smiling at her grandfather. “I am, really.”

Ginny tucked Lily’s stuffed dog into her little bag and handed it to James. “Carry this for your sister,” she said with a small kiss to his cheek. “Be good and don’t fight with your brother.”

James rolled his eyes and went to stand by the door, ready to leave.

“Albus,” Ginny said, pulling the young boy into a hug, “You and Lily help Grandma and I don’t want to hear about any fussing like you did last night at Uncle Ron’s.”

“They’ll be just fine, dear,” Molly said, patting Albus on the back.

Ginny gave Lily one more hug goodbye as she ran for the door, grabbing Arthur’s hand.

“Oh, Nyah, I just finished this before we came,” Molly said, pulling an enormous blanket from her bag. “I hope you like it. I wasn’t sure about the color, but your father insisted.”

Nyah gasped and pulled the blanket close to her. “It’s perfect,” she whispered, small tears tracking down her smiling face. She buried her face in the soft yellow yarn, catching a whiff of cinnamon and vanilla. “It smells like The Burrow. Thank you Mrs. …” Nyah said, stopping short. “I mean Grandma…” 

Throwing aside any hesitation, Nyah wrapped her arms around her grandmother once again and whispered, “It really is beautiful. Thank you.”

Molly rubbed Nyah’s back, just as she had done with Ginny at that age, savoring this moment with her granddaughter. “Oh, Nyah,” she whispered back, tears intruding on any more words.

“Molly, dear,” Arthur called from near the door, as George and Angelina came into the room. “Roxanne’s going to come for the sleepover as well.”

“Well,” Molly sighed, trying to tame Nyah’s hair with her hands, “You and Mum get some rest tonight and hopefully soon, you can come for a sleepover – whenever you’re ready.”

Nyah nodded and smiled. She wrapped the blanket around her shoulders, and climbed back into the bed, soothed by the familiar scent of the Burrow.

“So,” Ginny teased as George waved goodbye to the children, “they finally kicked you out.”

“I think they got tired of feeding him,” laughed Angelina, patting George on the stomach. She leaned in a bit towards Ginny and whispered, “Nyah looks good. How are the nightmares coming along?”

“Better,” smiled Ginny, nodding a bit. “Of course, I stay here every night. Honestly, I’m looking forward to sleeping in my own bed soon,” she said quietly.

“Any further news from the ferret?” George asked, nicking a banana from Ginny’s bag.

Frowning, Ginny answered slowly, “Yes, we met with Draco and his wife last evening.” She moved to sit at the small table in the corner of the room.

“What did they say? More about Nyah?” asked Angelina, taking a seat.

“There had been so many questions, but I think we have all the answers we are ever going to get,” Ginny said, glancing again at Nyah who was pouring over a copy of “Hogwarts, A History”. She lowered her voice to a whisper and explained, “Nyah was simply a tool – a pawn to get back at Harry.” Her face fell as the conversation with Draco resounded in her head...

“I don’t know why you’re here,” Draco had said, getting up from his hospital bed and sitting casually next to Astoria on a lush sofa, obviously brought in for Draco’s comfort. “I told Granger what she needed to know.”

Harry had laughed sarcastically and shook his head while conjuring two armchairs for he and Ginny. Sitting directly across from Draco, he said calmly, “You may have told Hermione what she needed to hear, but there’s a lot more to be discussed -- namely the original plan for my daughter. What was it?” Harry leaned up, looking directly at Draco and waited.

Draco sighed, obviously bored with the idea of talking to the Potter’s. “The plan… well, it was simple, but flawed,” Draco had said, looking between Harry and Ginny, prepared for a hostile response. When none came, he slowly continued, “Originally, Voldemort wanted ideas -- ideas to capture you – to hurt you – to kill you. At one point, there was talk of kidnapping a child, preferably your own, to raise in the Dark Arts but Voldemort laughed at the idea of you living long enough to have children. The Dark Lord’s final fall came soon after and nothing more was said… until Father found the wand.”

He stared into air, lost in the memories of his father’s obsession. After a moment, still looking to no one in particular, Draco had explained, “The wand – the portrait… he spent nearly all his time… talking – whispering to them. Hours – days really – were spent on thoughts of revenge.” He looked directly at Harry as his eyes narrowed slightly. “Revenge against you… for taking away his Master. Nothing else mattered.”

Ginny drew in a deep breath and asked softly, “The family – the family in London… what did you know about them? We were told that someone resembling Lucius, along with a red-haired woman left her there.”

“Polyjuice Potion,” Draco said, looking intently at Ginny as her brow furrowed in concentration. “It was easy – Father brewed the potion and I took the hair of someone the child would recognize so she wouldn’t cause such a fuss,” he explained with a laugh.

“Whose hair did you use?” Harry asked, unsure if he truly wanted to know.

Draco raised an eyebrow and continued to stare at Ginny, “Isn’t it obvious?”

“Mine?” Ginny growled, as her hand moved near her wand. “You used my hair to make her think…” Ginny gasped as tears sprang to her eyes, “… to make her think I gave her away – to those people! She thought I didn’t want her – because of you!”

Draco shook his head and glanced towards the ceiling before looking again at Ginny. “She knew,” he said, as Harry took Ginny’s hand. “She knew it wasn’t you.”

Pausing for a drink, Draco savored the anticipation and irritation building between Harry and Ginny. Sensing a breaking point, he said, “Father was arrested and sent to Azkaban for crimes against Muggles in, um, mid-November I think -- just a few months after your daughter had been placed with the Stewart family. He wrote me from prison and demanded that I continue with his original objective.” 

Draco glanced at Astoria, who had been listening intently, and went on, “Astoria and I had married almost immediately after Father was imprisoned, and his plan was the last thing on my mind at the time.” Astoria blushed and turned away, a playful smile still sitting on her face.

“So, you were supposed to do what?” Harry demanded, irritated at Draco’s stalling. “While my daughter was beaten and abused, you just – just go about your life? That was the bloody plan?”

Ginny quietly begged him to calm down, pulling his face to look at hers. “Harry, please.”

Draco bit his bottom lip as he contemplated his answer, but Harry had gone well beyond patient and stood to draw his wand, “Tell me the plan -- now,” he growled, pointing his wand directly at Draco.

“Sit down, Potter,” Draco spat, growing weary of the questioning. He watched as Harry tucked away his wand and sat down hard in the seat. “Like I told Granger, the child was only supposed to stay out of sight long enough for the news of your daughter’s death to quiet down. At that point, she was to be retrieved, and instructed in the Dark Arts.” Draco paused, wishing the next part of the plan never had to be revealed. “When she was of age, she would be sent on her first and final mission…” he said quietly.

“Which was?” asked Harry, clenching his jaw.

“To kill you,” Draco said, failing miserably at his attempt to lessen the blow.

Ginny gasped, and Harry stood once more -- not to draw his wand, but in an attempt to comprehend what he had just heard.

“Why?” Ginny asked softly, “Why would they send our own daughter to kill Harry?”

“Because it would hurt more -- the knowledge that you were going to die by your child’s hand,” Draco answered, his voice cold and angry as thoughts of Lucius sprang to the forefront of his mind. “They knew Harry would never raise his wand against her.”

“But you said there was a flaw,” Harry said, his voice distant. “What was the flaw?”

With a deep breath, Draco said simply, “Astoria.”

“Me?” Astoria said with disbelief in her voice. “How was I the flaw?”

“Because you refused to take part in it… Not long after we were married, I told you about an orphaned child. Do you remember?” Draco asked, looking more towards the floor than at his wife.

Slow realization crossed Astoria’s face, as she simply nodded in agreement.

“You said you would never raise a child that wasn’t your own.” he said flatly, leaning back into the sofa cushion, barely glancing towards Astoria.

“Their daughter?” she cried angrily, pointing to Harry and Ginny, “It was their daughter you asked me to raise? Draco, I was pregnant with Scorpius and you asked me to take on another child. What did you expect me to say?”

Leaving his wife’s question unanswered, he looked to Ginny and said, “So you see, Astoria became the flaw in the plan -- my way out, so to speak. The plan, well, it was simply dropped and I never mentioned it again. I realize your daughter had a terrible childhood, but the alternative would have been far worse -- believe me, I have lived it.”

“Why didn’t you come to us?” Ginny had asked, her head resting in her hands. “Why didn’t you tell us so that we could….”

She was interrupted as Draco growled, “So you could what -- turn me in? Let me spend the rest of my life in Azkaban, going mental like my father did?” He stared harshly at Harry and then to Ginny, who was shaking her head. “He was a complete nutter, you know, when he finally got out -- talking to that bloody painting for hours and hours every day, and whispering to that blasted wand,” Draco said, throwing his hands in the air. “No, thank you,” he spat, slowly pulling himself from the seat and limping away, his back to his guests. “I believe we’re done.”

Harry quietly offered Ginny his hand, helping her from the seat. Pausing near the door, Ginny said, “Wait.” Her voice carried through the silence of the room and Draco turned to look at her. “Lucius said something about Voldemort’s heir… that instead of Nyah, Lucius had chosen your son. Is that true? Was Lucius grooming your son to take over?”

Anger and bitterness swelled within Draco as he answered curtly, “My son is my heir, and this conversation is finished…”

                                       ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


Ginny heard the small voice, but it seemed so far away. She was lost in her own thoughts, reliving the conversation with Draco over and over in her mind.

“Mum,” Nyah called again, gently tapping Ginny on the arm. “Healer Sabinski,” she whispered, pointing towards the door.

With a somewhat terse smile that reminded Nyah of the Headmistress, Healer Sabinski greeted the room and then turned towards Nyah. “Ah, Miss Potter,” she chirped, “I see you are up and about. Feeling better?”

Nyah nodded and smiled, as the Healer handed Ginny a roll of parchment. “These are the latest results, Mrs. Potter,” she said pointing to the scrawl about mid-page. Glancing at Nyah, she lowered her voice and whispered, “It’s still inconclusive, and while we cannot detect the presence of magic… we also cannot detect the absence.”

Furrowing her brow, Ginny looked up from the parchment and asked, “What exactly does that mean – you can’t detect the absence? Shouldn’t magic be obvious?”

The Healer smiled brightly and said, “In most cases, it would seem to be clear cut – magical or nonmagical – Wizard or Squib… or Muggle. Nyah is most definitely not a Muggle, nor is she a Squib.” 

“But how do you know I’m not a Squib?” Nyah asked softly, her eyes begging for a miracle.

The Healer pulled a spare wand from her pocket and handed it to Nyah. For a moment, the young girl’s face was expectant but suspicious. She glanced from Ginny to the wand, with her eyebrows raised. Slowly, a smile landed on her face and her eyes grew wide.

“Mum,” Nyah breathed, tears forming in her eyes, “I feel it! I really feel it!” She hopped in a circle, squealing.

“Feel what, Nyah?” Ginny asked, watching her daughter with concern and amusement.

“Magic… I can feel magic,” Nyah whispered, hugging the wand to her chest. “It tingles just a bit -- here,” she said, wiggling her fingers.

Healer Sabinski nodded, and pointed again to the parchment. “If you’ll just sign here, Mrs. Potter, you and Miss Potter can be on your way.”

“I can go?” Nyah asked, handing the wand back to the Healer. “Really?”

“So if she can feel it when she holds that wand,” Ginny began, “why is that you can’t detect the magical qualities?”

Glancing towards Nyah, Healer Sabinski sighed, “We believe at this point, that your daughter may possess only a fraction of what would be considered a ‘normal’ amount of magical ability. We don’t yet fully understand the impact a second-generation spell like the one performed by Mr. Malfoy in place of his father. While the genetic quality was indeed there, the quantity was not, and therefore may not have restored Nyah’s magic to its original capacity. Time will tell and we will monitor her progress.” The Healer patted Ginny’s arm sympathetically, and left the room.

Only a fraction of magic, Ginny thought, her heart hurting for Nyah in a way the young girl couldn’t understand. She watched as Nyah danced about the room gathering her things to go home. Home… it’s been seven years… and she’s finally going home.

                                        ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“Dad,” whined Nyah, pulling on his arm as they made their way through the busy streets of Diagon Alley. “Come on! We have to finish getting my books -- oh, and my wand!”

She ducked into Flourish & Blotts, her eyes searching the aisles for Ginny. James and Albus were giggling over a Muggle comic book they had found in a small section near the Transfiguration book for First Years. “James,” Nyah scolded in her most Ginny-like voice, “Mum said no touching, now put that back.”

James rolled his eyes and tossed the magazine on the shelf, as Albus ran on ahead, grabbing Nyah’s hand as she continued her search for Ginny.

“Mum!” Albus called, catching sight of Ginny and Lily near the counter.

Nyah smiled and weaved her way through the line of students and parents, all waiting to pay for their books, Albus still clinging to her hand.

“I found Dad… he was doddering along near the Quidditch supply store,” she said, rolling her eyes. Lily put her arms up towards her sister, silently asking Nyah to pick her up.

Ginny smiled and shook her head, instantly reminded of Hermione as Nyah chattered on about everything… and nothing.

The last few weeks had been a blur with Nyah finally settled at home. They had quickly remodeled the tower room with Nyah’s favorite things, replacing ghosts and memories for a giggling girl who delighted in the simplest of tasks as long as she was close to Harry or Ginny. The nightmares were nearly gone, and life had become strangely comfortable.

“So can we?” Nyah asked, catching Ginny off guard.

“I’m sorry… do what dear?” Ginny asked, lost in the conversation of the ladies next to her.

With a sigh, Nyah said, “Dad – can Dad take me to Ollivander’s? Please?”

Ginny smiled and nodded. “Just be sure to keep Albus with you,” Ginny said as she took Lily from Nyah’s arms. With Albus in hand, Nyah snaked through the crowd, heading for the door.

A short time later, Nyah stepped into the quiet entryway of Ollivander’s Wand Shoppe, instantly amazed at her surroundings. She took in a deep breath, intoxicated by the smell of the shoppe. The small bell on the door rang, announcing the arrival of Albus and Harry as they crossed the threshold to join Nyah.

“Dad,” Nyah whispered quietly, standing close to him, “what do I do?”

Harry just smiled and said, “Take a step up to the counter… and just wait.”

Nyah tiptoed to the old wooden counter, nearly holding her breath. This is it, she thought, my wand. I wonder what kind it will be? Elm, mahogany, cedar…
From behind the counter, a small friendly face popped up. Nyah jumped back and gasped, her hand quickly covering her mouth. “Mrs. Cleary?” Nyah asked, her eyes wide.  "What are you doing here?"

“Nyah dear,” Mrs. Cleary said, rounding the counter and gathering the young girl in her arms tightly. “Oh, I had been hoping you’d find your way into the shoppe!” She took Nyah face in her hands and smiled, “Just look at you! You’ve gone and grown up on me.”

“Mrs. Cleary,” giggled Nyah, walking towards Harry and Albus, “I want you to meet my dad and my brother! They’re my real family – I have so much to tell you!”

Harry gently shook the woman’s hand and said, “Nyah’s told us so much about you – it’s a pleasure. I’m Harry and this is my son, Albus.”

“Mum is just down at the bookshop with James and Lily,” Nyah rambled, “Those are my other brother and little sister. She’s completely adorable – you’ll love her.”

Mrs. Cleary whispered, “What a lovely family you have, Nyah. And starting Hogwarts, you’ll need a wand.” She reached to the counter and rang a small, delicate bell. “Mr. Ollivander will be up in just a moment. I’ll just chat with your father while your wand is chosen, all right dearie?”

Nyah nodded her head, still reluctant to move from the woman’s familiar arms. “Yes,” she whispered, “but you’ll be here, right?”

“Of course,” the woman whispered back, “go on now – he’s waiting.”

Nyah turned – her eyes falling on a frail, old man whose hair was as wild as her own, and white as hers was dark. He stood quietly, waiting for Nyah to approach the counter. “Ah, Miss Potter, I’ve been looking forward to meeting you,” he said softly. Motioning to the stool near him, Nyah sat gingerly, wondering how he would find one wand for just her.

Making no notes, but mumbling to himself, Mr. Ollivander looked closely at Nyah’s eyes and hands. He then began scurrying about the shop, very quick for a man of his age, pulling box after box from the shelves that lined nearly ever inch of the store.

Nyah timidly reached to touch the brown, aged box when Harry cleared his throat from near the door. Venturing a look in his direction, he simply shook his head and Nyah pulled her hand back, waiting for the funny little man to return.

Finally adding three additional boxes to the ever-growing pile, he looked at Nyah and simply said, “Relax.”

Wand after wand was handed to the young girl, and despite intense concentration, Nyah could produce no magic.

With the tenth wand exhausted, Nyah began feeling a bit panicky, and tears sprinkled her cheeks. It’s not working, she growled to herself, wiping her eyes as Mr. Ollivander returned with more boxes. After no response from the next dozen or so wands, Mr. Ollivander stood back, eyeing Nyah closely.

“Let’s try something a bit different,” he whispered, taking Nyah’s small hand within his own.

They stepped between the shelves and Nyah’s eyes widened, taking in the hundreds of wands held in one aisle. Mr. Ollivander took her right hand and placed it, palm side towards the boxes and walked her slowly up and down each aisle.

In the far corner of the store, they continued the pattern. The boxes here seemed older and were in much worse shape, but Mr. Ollivander walked slowly through the short aisle, offering a comforting smile.

Suddenly, Nyah gasped and pulled her hand back, electricity shooting through her hand. She looked at the small man next to her and whispered, “Did you feel that?”

He clapped his hands in excitement and gently took Nyah a step back. “Again,” he said, encouraging her to bring her hand towards the boxes. “Let’s find out which one is calling to you, shall we?”

Nyah smiled, the energy still traveling through her. She took a deep breath and reached her hand to the dark corner filled with tattered, old boxes. Mr. Ollivander pointed towards the floor, and Nyah reached down low with no results. He then motioned to a stepstool and Nyah climbed up, reaching her hand towards the ceiling. A small, pale box shook gently as her hand neared the top of an adjacent shelf.

“Bring it down, dear,” he whispered, “but with your left hand – yes, left.”

Nyah held the box delicately in her left hand as they made their way to the front of the store. Ginny, James, and Lily had made their way to the store and were waiting with the others. Nyah offered a small wave as she took a seat on the stool once more, shaking with anticipation.

Mr. Ollivander opened the small box, as a smile crossed his face. “Ah, yes,” he whispered, “I remember this wand – very nice choice, Miss Potter. Oak, 13.5 inches, and very springy. Unicorn hair at its core.”

Nyah took a deep breath and took the wand that he offered her. It was a smooth, warm honey-colored wand that fit perfectly in her hand. Just beyond the handle, a small carved vine wrapped around the wand’s surface.

“Oak is known as the tree of endurance and triumph,” Mr. Ollivander said as Harry and Ginny approached. “Only a witch of great power would have been chosen by such a wand.”

With tears in her eyes, Nyah whispered, “Thank you, Mr. Ollivander.”

                                       ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Nyah rambled throughout dinner to her brothers and sister, while Harry and Ginny got to know Mrs. Cleary better. They were treated to story after story about Nyah’s upbringing and had soaked it all in.

“How is Anna?” Nyah asked tentatively, watching Mrs. Cleary’s face.

Taking a sip of coffee, the elderly woman nodded and said, “Oh, the children are fine. She and Alexander are now away at school in Ireland.”

“Ireland? When did that happen?” Nyah asked, shock traveling across her face.

“Well,” Mrs. Cleary said calmly, “a while back some strange things began occuring, and out of love and concern for the children, Mr. Stewart felt they would do best away from home.” She managed a tense smile and nervously stirred her coffee.

“So Father – I mean Mr. Stewart… he’s doing all right then?” Nyah asked, pushing the food about her plate absent-mindedly.

Mrs. Cleary nodded, taking another sip of her coffee.

“And her… you know,” Nyah whispered, dropping her voice, “Catherine.”

Mrs. Cleary looked about the dining area, avoiding Nyah’s stare. With a heavy sigh, she said, “Nyah dear, there’s a lot about your -- about Mrs. Stewart that no one knew until recently. It seems that – well – she was actually born into a wizarding family, but when it was learned as a child that she herself had no magic…”

“A Squib?” Ginny exclaimed.

“Yes, a Squib -- she was banished – rejected,” explained Mrs. Cleary. “She was sent to live with Muggle relatives and never saw her family again. When you started showing magical skills at such an early age, she was enraged. She wanted nothing to do with magic.”

“Did she go to Ireland with Anna and Alexander?” Nyah asked as dessert was delivered, still glancing at Mrs. Cleary.

Stalling a bit, Mrs. Cleary mumbled, “Um, not exactly. No one is sure where she went, but don’t worry dear, she’ll turn up.”

Nyah nodded and turned to talk to Lily, as Harry took the opportunity to speak to the Stewarts’ former housekeeper.

“What aren’t you telling her?” Harry asked, nodding to Nyah.

Twisting the napkin in her lap, Mrs. Cleary leaned forward, hoping only Harry and Ginny would overhear. “Catherine’s life simply crumbled. It was as though a veil was lifted from Mr. Stewart’s eyes – and the children… the children refused to be near her. Even Alexander shunned her,” the elderly lady explained. “Mr. Stewart filed for divorce and took custody of both children, immediately ushering them off to Ireland to keep them away from their mother until he could transfer to be with them. He reunited with his first wife as soon as possible, claiming he still loved her, and Catherine – she went crazy. That’s when she let it slip… about her wizarding family.”

“Do you know who they are?” Ginny asked, a small concern swelling in her.

Shaking her head, Mrs. Clearly said, “No. She refused to tell me, but she did say they were all deceased… and then… she was gone.” The woman sighed, looking about the table and added, “It’s getting a bit late and I should be going. Thank you for a lovely dinner, Mr. and Mrs. Potter. Nyah, you make sure and do your best at Hogwarts… I’ll be watching.”

“Why don’t I see you home, Mrs. Cleary?” Harry offered, stepping from the table.

Mrs. Cleary waved her hand in the air and said, “No, no, Mr. Potter. I may be old, but I can make my way down the street just fine.” She winked and gave Harry a small hug goodbye and then turned to Nyah.

Nyah stood and hugged Mrs. Cleary tightly, promising to visit on holiday. She watched the elderly lady leave The Leaky Cauldron before turning back to the table, plopping down hard onto the bench seat next to James.

“This has been the best day,” Nyah said, digging in to the last of her ice cream.

                                       ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The lanterns danced in the night, as Mrs. Cleary made her way back towards the wand shoppe. She stopped for a moment to fuss over the kittens in the window at Magical Menagerie before turning back to the near-empty street.

From the alleyway, a cloaked figure stepped in her path. “Oh, pardon me,” Mrs. Cleary said, stepping nearer to the building, attempting to move on.

The path became blocked again, as the lanterns fluttered in the evening breeze. Dropping the hood, the stranger came face-to-face with Mrs. Cleary.

“Catherine!” gasped Mrs. Clearly, her hand covering her mouth.

A rush of wind and an eerie green light surrounding the elderly woman as she fell to the walkway, fear etched forever in her face.

“Next,” whispered Catherine as she stepped away from the old woman’s body. A dark figure stepped from the shadows, tucking his wand back into his cloak. The pair disappeared into the night as thoughts of revenge hung on the night air.

                                       ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“Mum?” Nyah asked, rearranging the robes and books in her suitcase as she packed for Hogwarts. “Where did my name come from?”

Ginny sighed and sat on Nyah’s bed, thinking back to the day her first child was born. Taking a deep breath, Ginny said, “Family means everything to your father. He didn’t have his parents or grandparents as he grew up, so when you were born, we decided to bring in names from both sides of his family. The name Nina came from your great-grandmother Potter, and Rose came from your great-grandmother Evans… thus Nina Rose Potter.”

Wiping the tears with the back of her hand, Ginny continued, “When we thought – well, that you had died, it was like losing his entire family again.” Ginny paused, allowing the tears to taper. She reached for Nyah’s hand and said, “When Hermione and Ron had their daughter, they asked if they could name her in honor of you… did you know that?”

“No,” whispered Nyah, tears falling from her eyes as her mother spoke.

“Harry was so proud, and if you listened, he would say her name a lot. He was thinking of you when he said it,” Ginny said, staring out the tower window.

“Nina Rose Potter,” sighed Nyah, biting her lip. “It’s going take a long time to get used to that.” Thinking for a moment, she added, “So how did I get ‘Nyah’ from ‘Nina’?”

Ginny laughed and pulled her wand from her pocket. She aimed for the door and called, “Accio picture!” A small snapshot came sailing through Nyah’s open bedroom door and landed in Ginny’s hand. “I think your dad and I figured that out,” she said, sliding a picture in front of Nyah.

The small square reflected a much younger version of Harry and Ginny holding a squirming child in their arms. Standing near a road sign, the trio smiled and waved.

“It’s the crossroad near our first home,” Harry explained, walking through the doorway with Lily in his arms “the home you were born in.”

Nyah pulled the picture closer, studying every aspect. She laughed as the road sign became clear… ‘Nyah Lane’ stood out from the image and she looked to her parents. “A road? You named me after a road?” she asked, her cheeks growing red in embarrassment.

“We didn’t name you for a road – you did,” Ginny answered, raising her eyebrows to her daughter.

“Why?” Nyah asked, confusion setting in.

Harry smiled, taking the picture from her, as Lily climbed on her sister’s lap. “Well, I think Malfoy took the memories he thought were important, but inside you – somewhere deep – you always knew the road home.”

Author’s Notes ~

Wow… here we are at the end of this long road home. What started last year as a few thoughts on paper quickly turned into the story before you. It has been an amazing journey and as sad as I feel, clicking the ‘completed’ button, I know there are more stories waiting in the wings.

I want to thank all of you who have encouraged me, challenged me, and guided me. I could never have gotten this far without each of you – especially my eHPf friends – bless you all!  Also, a huge thank you goes out to Megan for being a fantastic Beta on this chapter and to celticbard for her amazing help throughout every chapter!

I look forward to your thoughts and questions on not only this final chapter, but the story as a whole. If you have other questions or thoughts you'd like to share, please click the “Click here to meet Harry_Potter_Mom and ask about aspects of their writing” on my home page. That will take you to my Author’s Page and you can post your questions and/or comments there as well. I would love to hear from you! 

Again, thank you!