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"The worst parts of tragedy are the marks left on the survivors, however well hidden they may be."
~ A. K. Lovell ~


Chapter 32 ~ Marked

No respite was ever to be found in the realm of dreams.

For her, only nightmares.

And even in Kally's mind of swirling thoughts, both her own and not her own, the dream was still the same.

Sadly it was not a dream.

Cold rain droplets pelted against her, penetrating the torn clothing flanking her flesh with the startling ferocity of a thousand icy knives. Her mouth opened and closed, the downpour splattering against her cyanotic lips, blue from the strangling and the rain's bitter chill. Weakly her fingers clawed at the iron grip encircling her neck, to no avail. Her oxygen sapped muscles simply lacked the strength.

She hung suspended, toes barely scraping the ground as she summoned her last reserves to kick out with long, aching legs. Once. Twice. Nothing happened. She may have missed. She may have lacked the strength to even get close. She simply did not know. The world was fading.

An asphyxiated gargle bubbled in her throat, her trachea slowly crushing beneath her assailant's palms. Dimly she was aware of the way her mud-laden sock stuck to her foot, as her leg seized spasmodically, her toes kicking up the top layers of puddling water.

Once pink lips were numb. Golden eyes rolled back, her blurred gaze taking in the black thunderclouds dominating the night sky, just before disappearing behind twitching eyelids.

Her head had been tilted at an unnatural angle, back so far that her vertebrae were near snapping. It had hurt, for awhile. But now? She could barely feel it.

Somewhere, faintly, she heard a disgusted feminine snarl, followed by a huff of exertion and the splash of a discarded body.

The fingers around her throat slackened in intensity, long enough for the bile choking her throat to register, along with the coppery bite of the mingled blood and sweat dripping into her mouth.

"Get rid of that Muggle." The name was spat with vicious repulsion. "If either were a Reach they'd have done something by now."

The pressure around her carotid arteries suddenly increased as she was raised and chucked to the side, discarded like the inedible entrails of a recent kill. Her ribcage took the impact, her legs smacking against the wet ground just after. Slowly, unable to stop it, she felt herself sinking into the rapidly growing mud puddle, the water lapping at her lips.

She couldn't move. She couldn't even roll over. Not even if she wanted to.

Panting unsteadily, spluttering mouthfuls of muddy water, a numbing overtook her. Unable to do more to escape her slowly approaching death, she pulled her lips closed, drawing in breath through her nose, feeling the splattered mud from
her initial impact sliding down her face in thick, wet chunks.

It was unsettling, the lack of pain. She was hurt. Bleeding from more places than she was aware. Though something sent her wrenching, her form trembling from more than physical shock alone.


Through half-lidded eyes and the strobing lightning of the storm, she sought him out. Peering across the horizontal line of the ground for her brother.

As if the pitiless woman sensed her query, a black, leather boot reared back and kicked, sending a pale something flopping into her line of vision.

A limp hand, its fingers curled over the palm fell to rest in front of her. A choking sound would have ripped from her throat had she the breath to form it. Instead an icy grip tightened around her heart, and she tilted her head, her wavering vision following the arm to the person it was attached to.

She saw him. His hazy, clouded-over eyes were doing their best to look at her, though their golden hue was the only recognizable thing about them. Sean's gaze simply no longer held the unflappable solidity that she had come to associate with him.

Now, only a resigned anger filled her brother's gaze. He was furious, but no longer with the monsters who had killed them. There was no denying it. They were dying. Not dead yet, but they would be shortly. And Sean was no longer angry with the monstrous people who had done this to them.

No. He was angry with himself, and it made her want to scream at his stubbornness. He always had taken the older brother role a bit too seriously. And the fact that he had done a bang-up job of protecting his little sister seemed to be the worst part about death to him.

She could tell all of this just from looking at him, even in her oxygen deprived state. She had always been able to read him, just as he had always been able to read her.

"Kismet," he mouthed feebly, rain splattering from his bluing lips. She tried to smile at his nickname for her, but could not. She tried to swallow, but could not. And trying to reach her hand out, she found she could not reach.

Sean, however, did.

His cold fingers twitched, his arm undulating across the ground like a snake.

And then his slick, slimy fingers curled around hers.

And it was then that the tingling began...

"It happened again, didn't it?"

Dean had been seated on the edge of a bed, elbows on his knees, face resting in his hands. He had all but fallen asleep sitting that way, but at the sound of Ginny's voice his psyche came rocketing out of dreamland into the very present here and now.

And what a damnable hell and now it was.

Seeing her awake, slouching upwards in the bed he had placed her in, he offered her expectant look a strained smile. "That's one way of putting it," he stated hollowly.

The sleepiness in her freckled expression immediately vanished, her brow crinkling with apprehension as she wrung the bed sheets between her hands. But to him, the emotions caressing her face meant the world, for at least she was no longer catatonic. She had been right up until she collapsed the night before.

Not to mention that she had just spoken on her own. It was something he knew for a fact she hadn't done since awakening in the hospital wing. And it was a shame it had taken what had happened the previous night to snap her out of it.

Unaware of his thoughts, Ginny sighed resignedly. "Worse than normal?" she questioned.

Chin still resting in his hands, he nodded. "That's also a way of putting it." He was in no hurry to tell her, to explain. He wasn't about to be the one responsible for her withdrawing back into her previous state.

Despite the potential seriousness of the situation, he watched her small face contort into a scowl meant for him. "You're incensing me, Thomas. I'm recovering from the Imperious curse and a concussion, and thanks to you-know-what I have one hell of a headache. So I'll ask again." Ginny sat up in bed, allowing the sheets to slide down to her waist. "Do you really want to keep dodging my question?"

Dean felt warmed as he watched her red-headed temper rear its head, for a tiny spark could be seen flickering within her narrowed brown eyes. While it was a far cry from the burning fire he was used to seeing there, it was something at least.

"Well Gin," he said, forcing as much lightness into his words as he could manage, "it's hard to dodge a question you haven't been asked."

"Don't make me summon one of those nude drawings you've done, Thomas. I'll do it."

His jaw slipped right off his palm, the heel of his hand striking his nose painfully. He ignored this, staring at her in unabashed disbelief. Forget a slow recovery from her previous shock. She had just rocketed right past psych ward graduation and back to her normal temperament.

"What makes you think I have something like that?" he asked, with what he hoped was a casual air.

Ginny inclined a red eyebrow. "You're an artist," she answered, as if explaining something to a small child. "And all good artists have at least one sketch of the human body, au naturel, stashed away somewhere."

Dean found himself eyeing her with a profound amount of distrust, not to mention apprehension. "You honestly think I would have convinced someone to pose for me?"

Now she rolled her brown eyes. "Since when have you needed a willing model? I've seen the kinds of magazines you and my brother have stashed in your dorm. That's perfect sketching material if I've even seen any."

Dean didn't know what to be more disturbed by. That Ginny had obviously stumbled upon their stash of Wizard's Mating Weekly, the fact that she knew far too much about his sketching abilities, or about what had transpired only hours earlier, knocking the fiery pixie flat on her ass.

He decided to go with the former option. That was safer. For her peace of mind at least.

"Gin, what exactly would drive an even half-sane female to go digging through a male dormitory's dirty laundry hamper, to the point where such literary revelries would be unearthed?"

A sly smile tweaked her lips. "Nothing. But thanks for confirming their location for me. I'll file that fun fact away until I need to blackmail something from one of you."

His eyes formed into tiny slits. "Why you tricky, little..."

But before he could finish the strew of names for the auburn haired minx, she cut him off.

"Can we stop dodging my question now?"

The light-hearted feeling that had been growing within him vanished. He knew he couldn't avoid the topic forever. But his clumsy lips were determined to try, seeing as how they were already forming a rather weak response.

"Again, I didn't hear any question, Gin-gin."

And then it happened. Her return to normality vanished in a heartbeat, a strange look overtaking her features. Her next words emerged so soft that they seemed foreign coming from her normally boisterous lungs.

"Dean," she whispered, something missing from her voice, "I shouldn't have to ask. Not from you."

He didn't break his gaze away from hers. Hell, even had he wanted to he wouldn't have had it in him. Instead he watched her carefully schooled expression carefully, searching for the real emotion hidden behind her taunt mask.

"This one doesn't bear repeating. Ever."

He had said it firmly and decisively, leaving no room for argument.

She argued anyway.

"I deserve to know, Dean," she clipped petulantly.

Damn. She had him there. But he'd be damned if he let her know it.

"Think of it," He suggested carefully, "as a surefire way of protecting your own ass. If you don't know what it was, then those Ministry officials can't force it out of you again."

"What if the information could help someone?" she countered, her legs curling up beneath the bed sheets, like a cat preparing to spring.

He eyed her warily. "Trust me little Red. No one is going to get helped by your newest little tidbit." Quite the opposite, in fact. But he wasn't about to tell her that.

"Maybe if you just told me we could discuss this like rational adults, rather than bickering children," she mock lectured, sounding uncannily similar to the impersonation she often did of her mother.

He smiled weakly at her attempted humor. "Gin, you're better off not knowing this one."

She snorted derisively. "If that were true, you could have just fabricated some false one to ease my 'naive little mind'."

"You're a seer, Ginny. Color me dumb, but I'm guessing you'd see right through that."

They both lapsed into a frustrated silence, and his eyes turned to the window.

It was just after dawn now, and the rising light of sunrise could be seen streaming in through the dormitory windows, the sun finally peaking out from over the Forbidden Forest's tree line. Since she had passed out last evening, time had dragged uneventfully, and he'd kept watch over her the entire time.

She had slept all night, in a prophecy induced coma, but now Ginny Weasley turned her gaze back to him, staring with unparalleled fire, her tussled red hair shining like a blazing halo around her head in the rising sun's reflected light.

Faced with the vision before him, he was again reminded of what a rare glory she was. It was no wonder she was a seer. What was crazy was that she had not started 'seeing' things sooner.

Of course, it wasn't a natural talent, as she had told them multiple times. was something she had acquired that night when she had lain half dead on the floor of the Chamber of Secrets. Apparently sometimes those who have been near death, those who have touched the other side, bring something back with them.

And Ginny had. She had brought back the ability to see farther than she ought.

And it had been hell for her ever since.

"Dean," She implored determinedly. "Tell me. Please."

Her eyes held his, glinting defiantly. Still he hesitated. It was true, she may find out for herself. Eventually. And the key word there was may.

But did he really want her to find out from one of her dreams? In her sleep and alone?


His head jolted up, finding her nose inches from his. She smirked at his startled stare. Hell, he hadn't even seen her get up, but now she was taking a seat beside him, placing a gentle hand on his shaking forearm.

He frowned at the sight. When had his arms begun shaking?

An audible swallow resounded besides him. "It couldn't have been as bad as you're making it out to be," Ginny persisted firmly. "Besides," She continued, trying to sound impish despite the waver of her voice, "Now I really do know where your magazine stash is, which leads me to the list of things I could extort from you for keeping that information quiet."

He grunted in her direction.

"One," She counted. "I've always wanted a puppy. A Beagle would do nicely, but I'm not too particular. So long as it's from a pound or a stray. They need homes more than ones in a pet shop."

He ignored her, making a mental note to find a stray Beagle for her graduation present in three years.

Three years...they could be dead by then.

"Two," She continued, either unaware of or choosing to ignore his bleak thoughts. "I've really always loathed History of Magic. Seeing as how you are free of the subject this year, and must woefully miss it..."

"Won't work," He interjected. "Hogwarts is all but closed. You can't have classes when the school's not functioning."

"It's not closed," She muttered, coiling her nails into his arm in an obvious attempt to cause him pain.

It worked. Shaking her off, he countered, "There are only eight Gryffindor's left here. I can't imagine how many students the other houses have. Do you really think the teachers will stick around to teach so few?"

"They will," She said doggedly, "and they'll insist we continue our coursework. Now three. You know how fond I am of that pair of shorts of yours..."

He couldn't help it. He snorted. "First of all, Gin, those are boxers, not shorts. Boxers as in undergarments. Your brothers would skin me alive if they ever saw you walking around in my equivalent of knickers. Secondly, you shouldn't have stolen them in the first place."

She blinked innocently at him. "The house elves stole all my exercise clothing. I needed something to practice Quidditch in."

"Entertaining half the male population hardly qualifies as practicing Quidditch."

She grunted. "Alright. So I thought it would be funny to see my brother's reaction. The dolt's so thick he didn't even notice."

Her brother... Dean swallowed hard. "Shouldn't you still be trying to extort things from me?" He asked quickly, desperate for a distraction. Any distraction before she read him like a book. Seers did have an abhorrent tendency of interpreting people's thoughts.

And Ginny could only get better at it.

Carefully adverting his eyes to the floor, he listened as she carried on.

"I've also been meaning to write a letter to your sister," She resumed. "I did promise to introduce myself after all, and I'm sure she'd find quite a few ways to put this information to use."

"That's not extortion. That's just cruel," he informed with the air of the condemned.

"All the more reason to arm the poor girl with ammunition."

He huffed in appreciation at her tactics. "Blackmail at its finest," he muttered, swiveling his head to the side. Looking her in the eyes, his expression grew far more grave.

"Does everything predicted happen?" He asked abruptly. Earnestly. "No matter what?"

His sudden change didn't appear to phase her. She had been expecting it.

In response, Ginny shrugged her delicate shoulders. "Dumbledore said nothing is written in stone, but prophecies are the most likely outcome. It's why..."

"It's why they are so carefully guarded by the Department of Mysteries. So no one can mess with the future timeline," Dean finished for her. He had heard the spiel that first night. So had Seamus. While her brother had been off gallivanting with his friends, ignoring his own sister when she had actually tried to get his attention for a change, he and Seamus had stayed with her.

Not that they'd had much choice in the matter. They had been with her when she made it. The experience was what had drawn the three of them so close together.

Oddly enough, it was the beginning of the end for Seamus. Considering it was Ginny's hand that had killed him. Unwillingly yes, but indeed she had. The Imperious Curse had a way of forcing someone into things like that.

It was funny how life worked out.

Besides him she sighed heavily. "Are you planning on telling me sometime today? If not, I suggest you get to work on that Beagle."

He grimaced at her annoyed tone. "Ginny..."

"Dean!" she mocked, finally losing her patience. "I already know it can't be anything good. But sometimes not knowing is worse. Especially when you're the one who predicted it."

"You only say that because you don't know..."

"I would if you would just tell me you stubborn arse of a..." She abruptly trailed off, panting as she regained control of herself.

At some point his hands had balled into tight, strained fists. He stared in fascination as his knuckles turned white.

"Dean," She said quietly, voice shaking, "Despite what my brothers seem to think, I'm not some child to protect. And it would mean the world to me if you didn't start treating me like they do."

His throat tightened uncomfortably at her words. Her brothers...

Turning to her, he ground out grimly, "You predicted a death. A few deaths. Actually."

Her expression remained neutral, and he hoped to God that he was doing the right thing.

"Be honest with me, Ginny," he plead softly. "Are you really sure you can deal with knowing whose? You weren't speaking yesterday and I..." Turning his gaze from her startled eyes to look at anything but her, he continued, "I don't think I can deal with losing three of my friends in one weekend."

And he couldn't. Seamus was dead and Kally was missing. Harry and Hermione were gone as well, and while their absence cut him deeply, they had never been close. Not in the way he was with Seamus or Gin, and growing to Kal...

He simply couldn't lose Ginny to grief. He wouldn't. And despite her present demeanor, how she had been forcing a lightness to her voice only moments ago, he was terrified that if he told her the knowledge would send her spiraling right back down into a spiral of grief.

And the memory of her lying stark white in the hospital wing, eyes wide and staring in shock, was still all to fresh.

And it should be. It had only been yesterday morning. November 1st, the dawn after the wizarding world went to hell.

The day after Seamus died.

Slowly, with careful precision, the back of Ginny's freckled hand appeared on his knee, her steady words filling the air.

"I don't think anyone can be ready to know that," she intoned shakily. "But you're not going to lose me. I..."

Her voice wavered, but for the life of him he could do nothing but stare at the back of her little hand.

"If people are going to die," She said softly, straying purposely from the gaping wound that was Seamus and his effect upon her. "Then we should try to help. Maybe we can change it. Or at the very least, cut the death toll down. But we'll have to strategize if we're going to do that, and I can't help you if I'm unaware of what to expect."

His voice came out in a dry croak. "It won't be pleasant."

"Death never is," she whispered sadly.

Making his decision, he spoke. "It's worse when it hits close to home."

Out of the corner of his eye, he watched her small form go rigid. "How close?"

Her tone had been calm, carefully controlled, and faker than hell. Dean was not fooled, and neither was she.

But because he respected her, he told her the truth.

"Your brothers, Ginny," he spoke roughly. "Half of them."

His rough words fell into the empty space of the quiet room, as the prophetic words she had spoken rang through his head.

"Much blood will descend on the sons of the red headed purebloods. Half will fall beneath death's unswift sword..."

Forcing himself to take a deep breath, he felt his chest rise and fall with tension. Then, casting a concerned glance at Ginny, he watched a transformation slowly occurring.

Within her normally warm brown orbs, the depression of Seamus' death was stirring, becoming overwrought with the uncounterable pain of the truth he had just spoken. Though it was not just pain that shown within her flickering gaze.

Determination shown there as well.

Ginerva Weasley loved her brothers, and she would not give them up without a fight, even if it meant changing fate itself.

Dean had known she would not accept this quietly, so there was no surprise as he watched her clamber shakily to her socked feet. And then, with the dogged resolve of one far surer of themselves than she could possibly be, he watched her make her way towards the dormitory door, not even bothering to dress herself in anything other than her ill-fitting night clothes.

She paused, hovering beneath the doorframe, one short-finger-nailed hand holding onto the door itself. "We should talk to Trelawney," she whispered, voice barely audible. "She may be a right old fraud, but maybe she can help me figure out when and how it'll happen."

Dean knew better to argue, and an absurd part of him actually understood her logic. Trelawney might not be able to make accurate predictions herself, but she did know a thing or two about interpreting the things true seers could see in crystal balls.

And lucky for them, Ginny happened to be a true seer, still coming into her own.

Rising from the bed to follow Ginny down the slide-of-a-staircase, Dean only hoped Ginny would come into her own fast enough to save her family.

She awoke shaking, her fingers curling around the sweat drenched sheets as a scream lodged in her throat, unable to break free. Her skin was tingling, as if the most intense static electricity imaginable were crawling, reverberating across her outer tissues, and by the gods it hurt.

She could feel everything. Every living thing within the house. Every heartbeat pumping rhythmically within the animate, living breathing beings nearby. And within some deep, primal part of her, the terror resurrected by her nightmare was causing her to lash out instinctively, her strange magic reaching out like an extension of her very self to smother those life forces, and the electrical currents that drove their thumping cardiac muscles to the limits.

Just as she had once done to her very own brother, stealing his energy in an animalistic attempt to keep her own heart beating just long enough to survive.

A chill, colder than the solidest of ices, rocketed through her. Her desperate breaths became hotter, her body hyperventilating in sudden panic as the realization of what she was doing took her. For like any cornered animal, a creature would use whatever means that it had at its disposal to defend itself when threatened.

Her dream had been vivid, ghastly, and true. A memory of the night that the last remnants of her family were taken from her. The fear it inspired within her was all too real, and nature had run its course, for she had begun to use her ability to draw on the electricity within the living things around her without even thinking about it as she had slept.

And she was hurting someone. She could feel their presence very near. She could feel the way energy moved through them as her magic attempted to suck it away.

And she knew whose it was.

Potter was kneeling on the floor, next to where she lay at the base of the bed, his large hand having wrapped around her upper arm, and she suddenly understood that it was him who had awoken her.

The King of Idiocy had apparently launched himself across the room at the first sign of her distress, and had somehow wound up with her near the foot of the bed, where one's feet would normally rest as they slumbered. Only her entire body was there, her body's nightmarish thrashing having deposited her there.

But what her fiery eyes saw were how his stone-like features were contorted in pain.

Raw, unadulterated, physical pain.

And she was the one doing that to him.

She let out a strange, choking sound unrecognizable to her own ears. A foreign clicking resonating in her voice, something familiar to a different species, perhaps, but not to her.

A horrible grimace distorted Potter's features as he clambered to his feet, dropping onto the bed next to where she lay tangled beneath the sheets. The thick air filling the room was vibrating, crackling with static electricity, and for a brief, paralyzing second all she could do was watch with horrified eyes as Potter reached out through it, reaching out a rough, calloused hand to again lay upon her shoulder even as she felt herself unable to stop the electrical currents quickly enough.

The second his hand fell upon her bare skin an electrical shock rocked her, forming an instantaneous circuit as her magic shout out to wrap upon his life force with an unyielding vice grip.

She screamed this time, her body flying out from beneath the covers in an instant as she sought to put as much distance between them as she could. There wasn't a doubt in her mind that if he continued to touch her that she'd hurt him.

Mortally, hurt him.

She was scuttling backwards across the small bed, her back connecting solidly against a wall that the bed apparently rested against, and the collision sent the air in her lungs huffing out in one pained, coughing breath.

Potter's face remained twisted, as the sheets she had kicked away slowly fell, fluttering to the floor as if in slow motion.

Throwing her hand out to touch something, anything into which she could release the electrical buildup within her, she felt the wooden post of the bunk she slept beneath.

Crushing her eyes shut she released it in one fast burst, breaking the circuitry she had felt forming with the rest of the living, letting the energy flow out of her into the aged oak.

It wasn't until water doused her arm that the smell of smoke registered with her sensory organs. And then, looking at where her white knuckled grip had curled around the post, she slowly pried her overheated fingers away one by one.

Even in the unlit, windowless room, she could see the blisters already forming upon her scorched hand, whilst the scent of charred wood filled her nostrils.

Biting back the excruciating, throbbing of her fingers, she lifted shame filled eyes, meeting jade colored ones.

Potter simply stared back, his dripping wand outstretched, chest rising and falling heavily.

She didn't have to ask him to know that he understood exactly what had just happened.

Somehow the thought that he did not mind frightened her more than the knowledge that she could have killed him without ever having meant to.

Slowly her lips formed the words.

"Stay away from me."

The methodical, steady drip of intravenous delivery as Gentamicin, 2.5 milligrams per kilogram, flowed into his father's septicemic bloodstream.

Blood poisoning. It was the only knowledge he held of the word septicemic, but according to the physicians that had been in and out of the room like wild-fire, all entering through the sliding, air-tight door and all donning the same white face masks, surgical gloves and caps, something much worse than that was plaguing his father.

Something they couldn't identify. Something with rapid progression, multiple symptoms indicative of a great many things, with a few blatant ones indicative of a pneumonic manifestation.

Only pneumonia could not explain the freckle-like rashes forming on his father's skin, bespeckling his flesh as if a child artist, armed with nothing but a reddish tipped paintbrush, were dotting circular marks across his father at random.

And then there were the harder areas, rising within and near the rashes. The bulbous spots that were just beginning to crack open, oozing puss and blood when prodded with stainless steel tools.

Needles had been injected, samples drawn, lab work rushed.

Still, the doctors hadn't been able to provide him with any answers. Not even as his father had slipped into a morphine induced slumber, a breathing tube inserted down his throat.

The tube. It had been inserted the last time his father had doubled over coughing, choking on what he was coughing up: Free-flowing, liquid, bloody sputum.

Red water. His father had coughed up red water. It was what his little brother had called it. By the gods, his little brother had come in, accompanied by their sister and mother just in time to see that.

His mother had been sedated, his younger siblings taken elsewhere. They weren't handling this well.

Now all Edward could do was sit and watch through blue-green eyes, staring through the thick plastic glasses that the infectious disease ward had forced him to don, watching as the pallor of his father's skin grew increasingly dark, the blotchy purple areas growing beneath them as his dad's underlying tissues deteriorated, becoming increasingly more damaged.

Acral necrosis. That was what the doctor's had called it. But Edward didn't care what it was called. He didn't give a damn. All he cared about was getting his good-humored father well.

The doctor's claimed they needed more time. Time for the tests to be run. Time for the proper course of treatments to be determined.

Only thing was, they didn't have more time.

Whatever it was unleashing hell upon his father's middle-aged body, it had accelerated during the course of the night.

The pulse line of his father grew erratic again, sending his beats per minute well above 90, the cut off for tachycardia. His fathers pulse had been oscillating for hours, just as his temperature had, reaching 101.8 and still climbing. He wanted to wipe his father's forehead clean of the sweat congealing upon it, but he couldn't. There was a loose, clear plastic barrier encircling his father, flapping with each stale gust of the air tight door opening.

Feeling the sweat trickling down his own brow, Edward reached a shaky hand up, wiping it away with the back of his wrist. His head hurt, his body ached, his muscles throbbed. His throat even itched.

A shiver crept up his spine, for somehow Edward knew that his own discomfort had little to do with his lack of sleep and overnight vigil.


It had more to do with the disease killing his dad.

The pale man, who had loved and raised him, let out a strange hiss from behind his oxygen draped barrier, his breathing becoming suddenly erratic.

Reaching out his arm he hit the call button, his father's new pattern of breathing sending shockwaves of fear through him.

And as the door slid open with an uncaring hiss, two physicians rushing forth in time for the flat-lining, Edward dropped his head into his hands and cried.

She watched him over her knees, having drawn her legs to her chest involuntarily, like a small and frightened child. She remained huddled in the corner, her naked toes curled around the bottom sheet still clinging to the mattress, as she repeated her tremulous words.

"Please, Potter. Stay away."

She didn't want to hurt him. God she didn't want to. But the aftermath of her energy was still rippling within her, even as she cradled her burnt and blistering hand within the crease of her other.

Potter, lowering his wand, still heaving in exertion, blinked at her as if very, very startled.

Water dripped from her smiting fingers, a fresh, woodsy scent emitting from the recently burnt supporting pole of the upper bunk bed. The room did not appear to be visibly lit, yet everything appeared around her in stark clarity, in muted colors, but her gaze oddly cut through the gloom to where Potter sat at the opposite end of the bed, not six feet away from where she resided near where the pillows normally belonged.

Six feet away...

It was not far enough. Not nearly.

His fingers suddenly uncurled, releasing his wand to fall upon his drier side of the mattress, where it landed with a slight bounce.

Then she felt the mattress move as he began to slide up along it, clearly intent on getting closer to her.

"Don't!" The word was out of her mouth before she could even process it. Her golden eyes had slammed shut on their own accord, as if not being able to see him would make him go away. Still she felt the damp divan beneath her, its wetness uncomforting.

And her head hurt. God it hurt. Almost as much as her hand.


His rough voice trailed off, enveloping them both in silence. Slowly, steadily, the sharp pain within her hand settled down into a dull throbbing, affording her frayed nerves some small measure of respite.

"I'm not leaving," he finally said intractably.

Drawing in a shuttering breath, she let out a whispered plea.

"I wish you would."

Again opening her eyes, taking in the way his normally tall sitting torso hunkered beneath the upper bunk, head held low to avoid hitting the wood, she watched as a smile quirked his lips.

"Don't worry, Kaylens," he said, light amusement and concern touching his tone. "I know you weren't trying to off me intentionally."

Her lips parted, a protesting sound croaking from her throat, which felt dry from disuse.

Potter responded to this by letting out a short chortle.

"It's not funny," she retorted in a whisper.

The slant of his mouth only grew. "Sure it's not."

She gaped at him, a shameful feeling swelling within her. "You could have been killed," she said shakily. "What could possibly be funny about that?"

Potter's smirk faded, significance overtaking his features. "So could have you," he stated without apology. "Releasing uncontrolled magic in your sleep isn't exactly a recipe for longevity."

"It's happened before," she whispered truthfully. "I would have been fine."

Something dark flickered behind his eyes. "I couldn't take that chance."

"You should have."

Her grating words hung on the air as his features tensed. And unable to consider why, she adverted her eyes. The feeling of the wall behind her was claustrophobic, the expanse of bed separating them having shrunk measurably. Not to mention the upper bunk. She had apparently been resting on the lower, and the upper now seemed to descend slightly, as if intent on trapping her there.

Potter's mouth opened and closed several times, wordlessly, before words finally fell forth.

"Is that what you really want?" he finally asked, stony solemnity having drained the remaining smile from his tone. "Me to leave you alone?"

She stared at the damp sheets, saturated with wand water, something twisting inside her. "No," she finally murmured. "That's not what I..."

"Then what did you mean?" he questioned edgily. "Because I'm not leaving. Get that through your head right now."

Her eyes flickered up, meeting his steely gaze.

"Why?" She whispered, confusion lacing her breath.

"Because," he replied, eyes spinning with an emotion she ill-recognized, "you didn't leave when I needed your help. You could have left me to get devoured by those damn wolves in that clearing, but you didn't. And somehow," he continued, voice lowering, "I think you knew just what danger you were putting yourself in by doing that."

Fervor reverberated from him, conviction and passion she had seen hints of, finally unmasked.

"But," he orated, eyes boring into hers, "you did it anyway."

Her limbs felt oddly shaky. "Potter," she protested, "anyone would have..."

"No," he interjected fiercely. "Not anyone would have. And I'm not about to let you hurt yourself because some cowardly girl injected you with something she never should have, forcing you to relive your whole damn life just to remember who you are. And considering all the unhappy memories you must have..."

Kally felt her golden eyes widen. "You knew," she declared. "You knew I'd dream like that. How?"

"Dumbledore," he disclosed, not missing a beat. "He said it used to happen, but you'd gotten over it. But with your mind fighting to sort your memories from the unicorn's, he said you'd be reliving some pretty bad moments from your past, and that it might cause you to draw again. He said it could hurt you."

She watched in muted fascination as that dark look overtook his features once again.

"And there was no way in hell," he hissed with conviction, "that I was about to let that happen because of a freaking nightmare."

Astonishment swirled within her. "Potter," she whispered, breathing just his name. Nothing more. What was there to say to that?

A wry smile touched his mouth as he watched her clear confusion. "Besides," he added, much more softly. "I've been waiting all night for you to wake up. I'm not about to leave now that you have. I haven't had anyone to fight with in nearly twenty four hours, and I'm itching for a good one."

Her lips parted in a disbelieving gap. "Somehow," she heard herself saying, "I doubt that. I have these hazy recollections of screaming matches with your voice as a prominent participant."

He let out a laugh, thought it sounded forced. "I wondered if you'd remember that. Snape and I were really that loud, huh?"

Dropping her face, allowing her hair to hang in her eyes, she hid a cheerless smile. "You know," she disclosed, wondering at how clear everything from the night before was, "listening to that made me almost like Snape. Apparently we have something in common."

Through the angular strands framing her face, she observed him cocking his head to the side, amused sarcasm tingeing his tone. "Oh? And what's that?"

"Our mutual dislike of you."

"Why is it that we always come back to that?" he bated, sounding only slightly aggravated.

Teeth gnawing on her lower lip, she asked curiously, "Would you have it any other way?"

"Merlin, no," he laughed. It was a peculiar sound.

And then a strange, slithering, warm sensation moved through her mind, like a floodgate suddenly cracking open to allow a tepid trickle to filter through. And as it did, awareness of the alien other flooded her mind. Her conversation with Potter faded into background noise, evaporating into nothingness as her eyes unfocused.

And then she was there, with them. She could hear Lightning's hooves beating against the balmy summer night, during a time when he still bore the colt-like gangliness of his kind. The heavy, moist scent of ferns filtered through his nostrils, her nostrils, inundating their senses. The distinction between them no longer mattered. They were one, if only in memory. She thought as him. Saw as him. Felt as him.

The running herd pressed in around him, comforting him, protecting him from the darker creatures lurking within the forest that night. And he did not mind, for he was afraid.

Even unicorns felt fear when gleaming moonlight refracted from the arachnid lenses that peered at them from the shadowed recesses of the forest, just over the unmarked yet uncrossable territorial boundaries of the wood.


She heard her name through the fog-like mist swirling up from the grass-covered ground. It came again, only this time more insistent. Yet the herd ran onwards, faster and faster as if the hounds of hell were at their heels.


A static-like jolt rocketed through her arm, and she found herself blinking her eyes rapidly, clearing the hazy confusion left in the wake of the new memory that had been revealed to her.

Potter's stormy eyes were inches from hers, green clouds swirling with alarm.

Both of his hands pressed firmly down upon her shoulders, and she was startled to feel the violent heaving of her chest, the quickening of her breath, as if she had ran a considerable distance in too short a time.

"Are you..." he began, only to be cut off as she hastily nodded in response to his unfinished question. She felt the tension in Potter's grip drain until his fingers lay slack and loosened against her skin, as she forced her breath steady, evening it out.

He relaxed backwards onto his legs, holding her at arms length as he studied her with eyes that betrayed considerable relief. Somehow he had made it across the bed to her. How long had she been...gone?

Not wanting to think on it she flexed her fingers, finding the burnt tips of her right hand lacking in the pain that her nerves had been sadistically notifying her of only minutes before. Puzzlement crossed her features as she glanced down at her hands, finding the blistering of before still present, but the reddened coloration dulled in intensity.

"Neat, isn't it?"

Her head rocketed up, and she gaped at him with exposed bewilderment. "What?" she questioned stupidly.

"Unicorn blood," he offered by way of explanation. "It's magical. Dumbledore said that once magical blood is in you, it never dies. The cells will just keep regenerating. Over time, it'll change you, but for now..."

He shrugged. "For now it'll dull any pain you feel. And over time it'll help you heal faster."

Glossy, hazel eyes blinked beneath long lashes. "Oh," she whispered. Heat was radiating off of him, and even with an arms length separating them, it was the only response she could muster with him still touching her like that.

His Adam's apple rose and fell as he swallowed, jade eyes the exact shade of newly matured leaves staring at her with a burning intensity. "I'm glad you're okay," he confessed, pausing, hesitating uncertainly. "I was worried."

"So was I," she murmured lowly, lowering her eyes. The pain of her nightmares was still there, simmering beneath the surface, a fresh wound concealed beneath thin bandages. As was the remorse she felt, for her magic had physically hurt him, he who had risked so much for her, even though he would never admit it.

She had hurt him, and the thought pained her immeasurably, for reasons she did not want to think on just yet.

Biting her lip, she apologetically continued, her voice soft. "It had to hurt. What I did to you," she whispered, "I..."

His hands suddenly slid, stilling her words as his palms moved down along her shoulders, until his hands protectively gripped her upper arms. Her eyes watched him, and how his own eyes suddenly refused to meet her own. Instead his green irises were following the path his hands were taking, tilting down and lingering where his hands now rested upon her skin.

"No offense," he informed, a hint of dark irony in his words, "But your drawing has nothing on the Cruciatus. I've had much worse."

"You shouldn't have."

He smiled grimly. "Doesn't matter. It happened," he restated, pensive lines of resignation creasing his face. "And I'm sure it'll happen again."

She shook her head, sending her thick hair askew. "It shouldn't have to happen again," she insisted adamantly. "It's not..."

"Fair," he finished bitterly. "Since when has life ever been fair?"

Slowly, carefully, the sensation of his fingers rhythmic dance upon her skin registered. He was unconsciously massaging her arms as he spoke.

"It isn't fair," Potter continued, turning his head to talk to the wall. "Not everyone can really understand that, but you..." he trailed off, sounding wistful. "I thought, of all the people, because of what you've seen, that you could."

What she had seen...

Suddenly she felt naked before him. Her mind, stripped bare, for him to see. He had been inside her. Seen what she had seen. Felt what she had felt.

Goosebumps prickled along her flesh, a disquieting wave of anguish brought about by the knowledge that her history had been laid exposed before him.

She had never told anyone about Josh. Ever.

Dumbledore had simply known. The Headmaster had informed Remus. And her tutor had talked about it for her.

Even with Sean, they had never spoken of that night. Never.

And Potter had seen it. He'd done more than see it. He'd practically lived it.

She spun with an emotion she couldn't explain, something of it showing in her eyes, for Potter's own darted to hers, the haunted look spinning there vanishing instantly as he caught sight of her.

His hands immediately released her, freeing her, giving her the space she needed, as he eyed her with undisguised regret.

"Kaylens," he revealed quietly, wearily, "I won't ever do that to you. Not again."

Her eyelids scrunched up over her eyes, as she waited for a calmness to settle over her, though it was not forthcoming.

"You saw everything," she demurred, hurt lacing her whisper. "I never told anyone. You took that from me."

His swallow reverberated in the quiet air. "You can Obliviate me, if you want," he offered.

Her eyes flickered open, spying the hesitation written upon his face.

Her brow creased. "You know so much about me," she continued, looking right at him, into him. "And I know nothing about you."

He smiled sadly. "Then we'll start small," he suggested diffidently. "What's your favorite color?"

Her lips fell open into an open-mouthed gap, glossy eyes blinking as she took his light words in. "My favorite color?" she repeated.

This time a real smile creased his lips at her incredulity. "Yes," he said, nodding encouragingly. "Mine's green. Promise not to tell?"

A tiny shard of apprehension in her shattered, a ridiculous, infinitesimal laugh bubbling out of her. "How Slytherin of you."

In response he inclined an eyebrow, waiting. But behind the facade she could see the apprehension, his unease, as he waited for her reaction.

Knowing not what else to do, she allowed a cheerless smile to crease her lips, before replying, "Forest green."

He shifted, his shoulders unslouching slightly. "Why green?" he asked carefully.

Her throat clenched, an old vision of rich, full leaves gracing high tree branches filling her vision as if she were again lounging high within the boughs, Sean by her side.

The woods had always been their respite from the world. A place for the two of them to hide from worldly hurts and memories. He had taught her to climb trees as soon as her arm had recovered, her nerves functioning within reasonable realms again.

When they climbed, her world had been filled with green. Forest green.

She swallowed hard. "After what happened," she murmured, "my brother and I spent a lot of time in the woods. The can't hurt you. Not like people."

Leaning the back of her head against the wall, she relaxed. "I guess it's peaceful. The color. To me at least."

Closing her eyes she continued, "How about you?"

"My mother's eyes," his response filled with melancholy. "They were green. So I'm told."

Tilting her head back up, she looked at him curiously. "You're told?" she asked forebodingly, eyes flickering back and forth across his face searchingly.

He nodded. "I never exactly got to know either of my parents. All I have are pictures, and not many at that."

"Oh," she mouthed, recalling the werewolf's taunts in the clearing. "So that's what the Death Eater meant."

"Now do you understand why I overreacted?"

Instantly she knew what he was referring to. That day in his dormitory, barely two weeks ago, when she had been looking for a book, and her gibe had resulted in her being pressed up tightly against his nightstand, his blazingly angry eyes boring into hers.

"I'm sorry I called you a spoiled mother's boy," she said uncomfortably. "I didn't know."

His expression flickered askance. "You called me that?"

Whoops. Sheepishly she clamped down on her lower lip, glancing guiltily around.

She felt, more than saw, his eyes narrowing. "Kaylens..." He drew her name out, whilst her body tensed in the dark room. Suddenly she found herself unable to meet his eyes. Too ashamed to. She had made so many assumptions about him. So many wrong ones...

His hand touched her. She nearly jumped out of her skin. Persistently he ignored this, his hand twisting around, gently cupping her chin, forcing her face back around to his.

Still she did not look at him, and slowly, maddeningly slowly, he brought his second hand up, his fingers brushing her cheek, caressing her face as if she were delicate porcelain.

She was trembling. Gods, but she was disturbed by it.

"Potter I'm..." She trailed off, unable to articulate. She was so ashamed. All of the things she had ever said to him, yelled at him, just because he had followed her that one day, were coming back to remind her of what a hardened person she had become.

She didn't very much like that person at all.

"Kaylens," he murmured, pulling her from those shamefaced thoughts, voice sounding vaguely amused. "It's okay. I'm not going to hex you."

Warily she swiveled her gaze up to him, eyeing his shadowed form. "You aren't?"

A low laugh vibrated his throat. "Don't sound so surprised," he rebuked. "If you recall I was just as intolerable as you were. In fact, I'm pretty sure I accused you of being a Death Eater recruit on more than one occasion."

Thinking about it, a slow smile twisted her lips, "You did, didn't you?"

"Too right you are," he acceded, eyes burning with jade intensity. He was studying her, sliding his other hand away from her jaw, trailing his fingers up and along her cheekbone. Her eyes fell shut in response, her skin suddenly feeling rather warm as he cupped her face between his two hands.

"We both made assumptions," she muttered unseeingly, feeling one of his hands slipping around to the base of her skull, resting there.

Potter was quiet, only the sounds of their irregular breaths breaking the silence for a long moment.

"Don't be so hard on yourself," he finally chastised. "Not all of our accusations were without basis."

"Like what?" She enjoined tremulously.

"Well for one," he narrated, "you flat out refused to talk to us, and understandably so. But, how else were we supposed to interpret your seeming support of Malfoy-esqueness?" His fingers were gently working, moving along the back of her neck. "You're insufferably stubborn, you do know that."

"Ah," she managed breathlessly, eyes shut tight. "I'm stubborn, and you're the King of Idiocy."

He glowered. "On his majesty's behalf, I resent that."

She let his indignation wash over her. "You don't expect me to bow now, do you?"

"Would be nice," he commented gravely. "It would also be nice, if you would actually look at me."

Her hazel eyes opened on pure reflex, finding him gazing at her resolutely, an intense uncertainty swimming within his retinas that she had not before seen.

He opened his mouth, as if to speak, but she cut him off.

"You're making a habit out of this."

The indecision in his eyes vanished, replaced with a questioning visage. "Out of what?" he asked hoarsely.

Breathing deeply, she stated truthfully, "Out of being around whenever I wake up from something unpleasant."

A perplexed furrow formed across his brow, the motion of his hand stilling near the base of her skull, his other gripping her shoulder tensely. "You mean like last time, when Remus..."

"Turned," she finished. "Yes. So why are you..."

"Isn't it obvious," he inquired, sounding somewhat disappointed. "I owed you. You saved my life the other night."

Genuine surprise flitted across her countenance. "If you're referring to our ridiculous counting game," she asserted, "then even I can admit that I owe you more than one. You saved mine more times than I saved yours. So why did you really stay?"

Never breaking his scrutinizing eyes from hers, he sighed with frustration. "I wanted to," he admitted grudgingly. "Don't play dumb by asking why."

Something clenched in her chest, responding to the raw emotion in his response. "Oh," she said in barely a whisper. "And here I thought you were planning on hexing me while I slept."

He blinked at her incredulously. "Hex you? Are you kidding?"

Fidgeting nervously, she managed, "Old habits die hard."

His gaze turned cutting, his fingers tapping along her spine thoughtfully. "Maybe I should Obliviate you."

"I still wouldn't mind."

"You're still a terrible liar," he countered.

"Give it time," she said in a small whisper. "I haven't had time enough to practice on you."

Even in the dark, his eyes practically glinted. "I'll give you time," he muttered lowly, applying pressure to the back of her neck and pulling her close, dropping his brow against hers.

She shivered, her breathing growing low and erratic at his touch. Remaining in silence, she waited for him to again speak.

"Question," he whispered, answering her unspoken request, his hot breath tracing along her skin, enticing the shivers rippling up her spine. "Has being honest with me ever occurred to you?"

Swallowing hard, she shook her heard slightly, her skin rubbing against his. "You normally just take the answers from me, Potter," she whispered, shaken at his nearness. "So no, not really."

Immediately and too late she realized how it had sounded, for the hand weaving its way through her hair froze, his body stiffening, tensing in front of her. She felt the split moment of indecision before the warmth of his body pulled away, rattling her severely.

"Potter..." His name came out in a rushed breath, regret twisting her insides into an icy void as she felt the mattress bounce in his departure, hearing his feet meeting the wooden floorboards.

The empty spot before her suddenly seemed cold, vacuous.

Her eyes sought him out, seeing only his torso and legs through the shadows, his upper body and face having disappeared above the top bunk as he stood. "Potter I..."

"We should get you something to eat," he interrupted hollowly. "You haven't eaten in a day. You're bound to be hungry."

Fighting away the vice grip clutching her throat, she scooted to the edge of the bed, allowing her feet to dangle over the side to touch the floor. The flooring felt cold beneath her toes, and she kept her eyes carefully adverted from his as she spoke.

Swallowing hard, she tried his actual name on her tongue.

"Harry, I'm sorry."

She let her words hang there, not adding or amending anything. Staring resolutely down at her feet, she silently hoped he understood.

A floorboard creaked, and she felt his calloused hands wrapping around her wrists, tugging so forcefully that she rocketed unsteadily upwards, falling against his chest, her face pressed against his shoulder.

Her legs felt wobbly, shakier than they ought, as if she were ill-accustomed to using them. His arms were tightening around her, sliding possessively around her waist, a solitary palm rising to rest along her upper back, steadying her and pressing her to him more strongly.

Even as she grasped for her bearings, the warmth of his chest starkly contrasting with the cold pressing against her bare feet, his arms were already squeezing her for a last time. Then, with careful reluctance, he was pushing her out in front of him, intent eyes boring into her own, his hardened hands flexing on her shoulders.

"It's alright," he said gruffly, eyes swimming with something raw and unspoken and thick.

She blinked up at him, lips moving wordlessly, an unpleasant, sickening sensation sweeping through her as she felt him distancing himself. The invisible door was thudding shut between them.

"Come on," he murmured, inclining his head towards the actual door. "I'm betting there is leftover breakfast downstairs worth salivating over."

Then, sliding his hands down her arms, he released her.

His scent, mingled sweat and earth, left as swiftly as he did.

A sense of unease filled her as he turned his back on her, walking towards the door with clear intent. Her gaze shot around the darkened room uneasily, and feeling rather wobbly on her bipedal legs, she followed after him.

Only as they left the room into the dimly lit hall, even its dull light seeming like the sun in comparison to the room they had just vacated, did it occur to her that she had been seeing in the dark. Perfectly. Clearly. And she did not know why.

"Potter," she called tentatively. "Why were the lights off in there?"

Casting a look back her way, his expression softening slightly, he answered, "Unicorn blood has a way of changing more than memories. Apparently it affects your vision too. Unicorns can see in the dark, so now you can."

Her nose crinkled thoughtfully. "Then how could you see in there?"

They reached the top of the stairwell, the sound of a man shouting angrily drifting up, and even through Potter's shirt she could see his form stiffening, muscles tensing.

"Kaylens," he voiced ominously, "as soon as I figure that out, I'll tell you."

A golden loop glinted from the ebony skinned man's ear, his feet stomping around the spare room of earlier, echoing in time to his exuberant rant.

"As soon as he was informed of the situation, he insisted on returning to create damage control. Never mind the fact that if he shows up spouting off about the need for quarantining the entire city before any epidemic makes itself known that it's very probable that he'll be declared delusional as a result of the recent loss of his wife, or a terrorist accomplice!"

Tonks rubbed her temples wearily.

The man's circular assault on the floor stopped, and he whorled in place to face her, gesticulating violently.

"What in the name of wizardry were you thinking by letting him go back there, Nymphadora? And by Merlin you had better have one hell of a good answer!"

Glancing at "Casper," she watched as her normally self-controlled cousin flat out laughed at her verbal berating. The nuances of his facial expressions were blurred, courtesy of the powerful misidentification spell Dumbledore had laid on him for his own safety.

But Regulus' snickers were still audible. Apparently the man was impervious to annoyance from all but direct physical attacks on his personage, so while Kingsley's rant was wearing on her nerves, Reggie was having quite a grand time considering that he wasn't the one it was directed at.

"WELL!?" Kingsley roared impatiently.

Twisting her arms into a chicken wing movement, so as to rub the area where the base of her skull met her spinal column, she began rubbing the pressure points there tiredly in hopes of preventing the oncoming migraine.

"I was thinking," she replied steadily, reminding herself that Kingsley was her superior at work, "that Kenneth Bothan is not only an adult, but the head of an entire country that is about to be besieged by a very serious plague. Short of stunning him there really wasn't a lot I could do to prevent him from heading back to begin damage control, and I couldn't go with him without bringing Emily too so..."

And it was true. Dumbledore had even warily concurred with his decision to head back, though some magical charms had been placed upon the Irish President as a precaution, and one of Dublin's Aurors, who was also an Order member, had been arranged to replace Tonks as his guard.

A vein throbbed in Kingsley's forehead.

"I'm still watching, Emily," Tonks pointed out helpfully. "And Spruner is watching Kenneth in Dublin. So see? They're both taken care of."

A slew of unintelligible words flew her way, and she swore to God that Kingsley's face actually turned red.


Cocking her head to the side, her mouth opened before it could stop itself.

"Are you sure you're not a Metamorphmagus, Kingsley? Because you just changed the entire color of your face."

A paper weight was hurled her way, shattering just to the left of her, as Kingsley began another melodramatic rant about insubordination and how the entire Auror department was doomed.

Of course, some of Kingsley's anger was justified. It was a fact she had to begrudgingly admit, because she had been placed in charge of protecting the Bothan family by not the Order, though they had desired it as well, but by the Ministry.

So naturally when she had created an illegal portkey to whisk the man back to what would soon be a quarantined zone with a high death toll, Kingsley had been less than thrilled, even with Dumbledore's cautious blessing.

Regulus "Caspar" Black lounged further back in his armchair, mock clapping at the show. Kingsley kicked something. Emily opened the door to the room, smiling her missing toothed smile, her face covered in green goop from a misguided, self-played game of exploding snap.

Then the auburn haired eight year old threw a very worried look Kingsley's way, informing him very seriously that he was acting like a child, and that tempter tantrums were bad form.

Tonks shoved a fist in her mouth as the pencil Kingsley had picked up snapped right in half.

Regulus seized the opportunity to throw out a warning.

"You better run kid," he called merrily. "Or place a bet. I'm thinking ole Shacklebolt here will die of cardiac arrest before he starts throwing curses. How about you?"

Emily's wide, disapproving brown eyes looked back and forth between them, before a large gob of green gunk fell, landing with a loud splat on her shoe.

Shaking her head Emily slunk out the door, mumbling about immature babysitters.





Author's Note: WOW! Can I just say thank you to everyone who nominated this story for the Dobby Awards? Honestly, I was floored to see that this story was one of the finalists in both the Most Original Story and the Best Novel Length Fanfiction categories, so thank you all so much for that! This is the first year that the site is doing this, so if you haven't participated give it a shot on July 28th when the actual voting begins. There are over a dozen categories, so it's pretty interesting actually. And congratulations to Njhill22 and FallenAuror as well for making the finals, and to EdwardOllivander, Sagesolon, Ichigopan, TheWorldISee, and KawaiiAce2003 for being nominated so many times in the preliminaries!

Also, I am posting a small deleted scene from this chapter in the Yahoo Group. Just a fun FYI.

Lastly, I just wanted to offer a quick apology for taking longer than my two weeks to post this. I honestly meant to post it earlier, but I had a barrage of unexpected (as in they showed up, on our doorstep, at 6 in the bloody morning, on our days off) houseguests from out of state over the past couple of weeks. Hopefully ya'll won't tar and feather me for that. It shouldn't happen again, pending no further invasions of the beloved blood relations.

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