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A/N: Hey guys! So SORRY for the long wait! I know, I know, I’m a TERRIBLE person! But here it is finally! Please enjoy it and don’t hate me too much!

 

 

~*~

 

 

Ali was gone for hours and her friends were getting worried, but for different reasons. Her long-time, inhuman friends were worried that she would do something drastic to herself, especially considering what tomorrow was. Her human friends, though, were just worried about her emotional well being and confused at her behavior. No one knew what to do; they had no idea how to handle this situation.

 

Especially when the girl in question waltzed through the portrait 3 hours after her sprint into the Forest, whistling.

 

Whistling!

 

What had happened in the Forest? Did she have a psychotic break? Did she mutilate someone? Is that why she’s in such a good mood now?

 

Twyla and Lily shot up at the same time and ran towards the seemingly bipolar girl. Ali smiled brilliantly when they reached her and she wrapped her arms around them both in a group hug. Twyla and Lily exchanged looks of bewilderment and tentatively hugged their friend back. Suddenly Lily pulled away, wrinkling her nose. Twyla did too shortly after Lily. They looked at her strangely.

 

“Ali,” Lily asked, sounding irritated, “Are you drunk?” Everyone sighed in relief, leaning back into their perspective seat, some of the tension leaving their bodies. Ali being drunk was something they could handle, at least it was normal. It certainly explained her odd behavior. Ali laughed happily.

 

“Only slightly, babe,” she replied, wrapping Lily in another hug. Lily laughed weakly and gently pushed her away, her startling emerald eyes searching her friend’s intense chocolate ones.

 

“Ali, are you okay?” she asked, concern lacing her voice. Ali gave her a bright smile and sauntered over to the couch where Sirius and Remus sat, wedging herself between them.

 

“I’m better than okay, Lils!” she chirped. She leaned her head on Sirius’s shoulder and looked at Tyler. Sirius shot a nervous glance at Remus, whose face had darkened slightly, and tried to push Ali gently off his shoulder. But she had a vice-like grip on his arm, so his efforts were in vain.

 

“Ty-ty?” Ali purred happily, closing her eyes. Tyler cocked a brow, looking wary.

 

“Yes, Ali?” he asked, sounding indulgent. Ali smiled, her eyes still closed.

 

“Do you know what tomorrow is?” she asked sleepily. Tyler’s face grew somber and he shared a sad look with his twin.

 

“Yes, Ali, I do,” he replied quietly. Ali yawned then smiled again.

 

“We should do something, like have a party or something,” she said, sounding half asleep. Her grip on Sirius’s arm loosened, but he no longer had to the heart to push the obviously hurting girl off.  He gave Remus a pleading look and the werewolf nodded, jaw clenched.

 

“Anything you want, Ali,” Tyler replied sadly, getting up off the couch. Ali’s eyes cracked open slightly and, seeing that Tyler was coming towards her, she pushed herself off of Sirius and held her arms up for Tyler with a sleepy smile.

 

“Good,” she said as Tyler bent to pick her up. She wrapped her arms around his neck and laid her head on his shoulder as he carried her bridal style up the staircase. All the girls jumped up and were about to run to catch Tyler when he fell, because surely the staircase booby-trap leading up to the girl’s dormitory would activate and he’d fall down it with the sleeping Ali, but the staircase didn’t change. It probably sensed the sleeping girl in the buff boy’s arms and decided it was acceptable.

 

Or perhaps it sensed that the girl in Tyler’s arms was in emotional pain and didn’t want to add insult to injury.

 

~*~

 

When Ali woke up the next morning, it was the second before the sun started its ascent into the sky. Ignoring the throbbing in her skull, she shot out of bed and took a quick shower, rinsing off the smell of alcohol and dirt from her body. After she got out, she brushed her teeth, flossed and gargled with mouth wash. When she was done, her normally radiant teethe shone brilliantly in the low lighting of the bathroom. She then spent an hour and a half on her hair, which was 60 minutes more than she usually did. Ali was taking extra care on her appearance today. Today was a important day for her. It used to be that, on this day, she’d retreat inside herself and block off the outside world. She’d confine herself to her bed, not eating or acknowledging her friends. But this time around, she was ready and, by God, she was going to look her best!

 

Because today was Rune’s birthday and, for the first time since his death, Ali wanted to celebrate it.

 

Ali smiled as she finished her hair and makeup, pleased with the way her dark locks shone like silk and how the eyeliner made her eyes stand out even more than usual. With one last appreciative glance at herself in the mirror, Ali bade the bathroom farewell and went back to her dorm room to great her friends’ sleepy faces. She stifled a laugh at the state of Lily’s hair and the imprint of a pillow on Kathy’s face. She quietly pointed the dried drool at the corner of Kat’s mouth and walked to her trunk to pick out the perfect outfit while the sleepy girl wiped it off her mouth. Ali decided to wear a pair of sweeping black pants that looked almost like a skirt and a light purple tank that glistened in the light. Reaching for her jewelry box, Ali selected a delicate white gold anklet with heart charm with the word “Rune” inscribed in the middle dangling from it; a matching necklace with the words “Rune + Laina” inscribed in a slightly larger heart charm; tiny white gold studs in various shapes and sizes for her many ear piercings; and simple white gold band with a single amethyst embedded in it for her left ring finger. Smiling to herself, and ignoring the irritated stares of her dorm mates, Ali waltzed out of her dorm to meet Twyla, Tyler and Shauna in the common room. But when she reached the bottom of the stairs she saw that there was way more people than she had originally planned on.

 

James, Sirius, Remus, Madeline, and Will were all standing around the blonde twins and Shauna, staring up at Ali with looks of a mixture of awe and determination on their faces. Ali surveyed the unexpected group quizzically, then broke into a wide grin, relieving them all of any tension. Stepping down from the staircase, she embraced her human friends in a tight hug.

 

“Thanks so much for getting up this early to celebrate Rune’s birthday, guys,” she said pulling away, “It means so much to me.” Sirius looked quizzically at Ali’s necklace after she pulled back from him.

 

“Who’s Laina?” he asked. Ali’s hand flew to her throat, grasping the heart pendant tightly in her fist and sharing a quick look with Shauna.

 

“It was Rune’s nickname for me, Sirius.” Ali lied easily. It was shocking, as Ali looked back on her life as human in this brief moment, how good she had gotten at lying. She couldn’t decide if that was a good thing or a bad thing. But either way, lying was a necessity at this point in her life. She needed to lie to keep her human friends sane. Hell, to keep herself sane. Sirius looked at her suspiciously for a moment but when Ali’s wide smile didn’t falter, he visibly relaxed.

 

“Nickname, huh?” he said with a cocky grin, “Mind if I call you that?” Her smile getting wider, Ali patted him on the cheek.

 

“No.”  With a wink in Shauna’s direction, Ali swept out the room, pants billowing in her wake. The twins shared an amused grin and then, with Shauna, gracefully followed Ali out of the portrait hole. Everybody else exchanged equal looks of confusion, Sirius shrugging, and then they too followed.

 

~*~

 

“What shall we do?” Twyla asked as she lit a tall lavender candle, one of many. They group had convened at the luminescent pool that Ali had found the day before and as soon as they got there, Twyla set to work, setting up candles and incense and sprinkling rose petals everywhere to give the space the “right feel of a memorial.” Ali had shaken her head at her friend’s witchy-hippie ways, but had stood aside nonetheless with an amused smile playing on her face. Now, she was languishing on a nearby boulder that she had blasted a hole in to make it a suitable couch-type-thing.

 

“I was thinking we’d say a few words?” Ali said her words more like a question than a statement.

 

Tyler, who was leaning up against a tree while waiting for the girls to finish their “thing,” smiled and said “That sounds like a great idea, Ali.”  He shrugged off the tree and strode over to where Ali was standing by the pool and slung an arm over her shoulders. She looked up at him and smiled, taking his hand in hers. An intimate, brother-sister moment passed between them.

 

“Thanks, Ty,” she said warmly. Tyler smiled wider and kissed Ali on the head, giving her little squeeze as he did so, and then went to stand next to his twin. Twyla smiled at him and took his hand, intertwining their fingers. The intimate brotherly affection Tyler displayed for both girls touched every one of the humans present. Will’s and Madeline’s eyes met in a classic “awwwww!” moment and the boys’ eyes misted a bit, even though they tried their best to hide it.

 

Ali looked at Shauna. “Do you have it?” she asked of the redhead. Shauna smiled widely and nodded, running behind the boulder. When she emerged from the behind the giant rock she was holding a large, golden urn. The urn sparkled brilliantly when Shauna passed under a patch of sunlight that had broken through the trees’ barrier, bringing attention to the intricate vine and leaf design engraved into the body, save for a spot were the word “Rune” was engraved in flowing script.

 

The humans present couldn’t help but feel a tiny twinge of awe at the sight of Rune’s ashes. These were the remains of the man that had stolen Ali’s heart and managed to tame it; a man like that deserved to be revered and envied. Sirius and Remus both were insanely jealous of the permanent place this dead man had in Ali’s heart. A place that neither one could replace.

 

Gingerly, Shauna placed the precious urn in Ali’s hands, who cradled it as if it were her own child. Still cradling the urn, Ali turned towards the pool, and popped the lid off, sticking her hand in.

 

Just as she opened her mouth to say something, Twyla interjected with small, but clear, “Wait!” Confusion lighting her beautiful face, Ali turned towards her longhaired best friend. Twyla beamed and led her brother by the hand over to where Ali was standing, beckoning Shauna to follow. She then snaked her arm around Ali’s waist, Shauna following the suit. Then, turning towards the glowing pool, Twyla sang, her voice like crystals in the sun.

 

As I went down in the river to pray
Studyin' about that good ole way and who
Shall wear the starry crown good lord show me the way


 

Understanding lit up Ali’s and the other two’s faces and the quickly joined in, each with their own unique sound.

 

O sisters let’s go down, let’s go down
Come on down
O sisters let’s go down, down in the river to pray


 

Shauna sang quietly and self-consciously while Ali’s voice rang out clear and confident, the loudest of the all. Clearly, her voice was the lead, even though Twyla had started the song. Tyler’s low baritone added a steady backup for the girls’ sweet notes.

 

As I went down in the river to pray
Studyin' about that good ole way and who
Shall wear the robe and crown good lord show me the way

O brothers let’s go down, let’s go down come on down
Come on brothers let’s go down, down in the river to pray

As I went down in the river to pray
Studyin' about that good ole way and who
Shall wear the starry crown good lord show me the way

O fathers let’s go down, let’s go down
Come on down
O fathers let’s go down, down in the river to pray


 

Ali looked over her shoulder while she was singing, smiling at her human friends. She beckoned them to join with her twinkling chocolate eyes and the stepped forward obediently, trying to sing along with the quartet sweet song.

 

As I went down in the river to pray
Studyin' about that good ole way and who
Shall wear the robe and crown good lord show me the way

O mothers let’s go down, come on down, don't you want to go down
Come on mother let’s go down, down in the river to pray

As I went down in the river to pray
Studyin' about that good ole way and who
Shall wear the starry crown good lord show me the way


 

It seemed as if nature itself had joined in with the group’s song; the wind rustling the leaves and swirling the rose petals around the friends; the birds whistling their mating calls.

 

O sinners let’s go down, let’s go down,
Come on down
O sinners let’s go down, down in the river to pray

As I went down in the river to pray
Studyin' about that good ole way and who
Shall wear the robe and crown good lord show me the way


 

As the last note was sung, Ali removed her hand from the urn and let the wind sweep away the ashes that it held. As a tear rolled silently down her cheek, Ali whispered “I love you. You’ll be in my heart. Always.”

 

~*~

 

A/N: Well there it is! Ali has finally forgiven herself for what happened to Rune. If your wondering what the song (Down to the River to Pray by Allison Krauss) has to do with it, just wait till the next chapter! Please review!

 

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