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The sky was tinted with golden light, driving away the last vestiges of night and bathing the Hogwarts grounds into hues only the early, clear hours of a day could.

Light streamed in through the high French windows, though someone looking for them from the outside wouldn’t have been able to locate them.

The young man peering out through one of the windows was engrossed in his thoughts, contemplating the display, as he had done since the first rays of sunshine had broken through won out against the darkness. His gaze was thoughtful.

“A new morning, pure like there wasn’t any evil in the world.” Neville spread his hands against the cool window pane, let them trail down when he heard steps approaching from behind, and half-turned.

“A new morning, like the one that will come for us. – Feeling philosophical today, Neville?”

Hannah sported an indulgent, teasing smile; still Neville felt caught out and felt the blood rising to his face. He hoped the sun behind him cast his face in shadows, masking his embarrassment.

He cleared his throat; making too much noise, even in his own mind. “Uuh, good morning Hannah. I expected Seamus with some breakfast.”

Hannah cocked her head. “He’s on his way. I offered to go ahead, bringing you this.” She offered a small basket, making it appear as out of thin air as she wiped off the now visible silvery cloth that had hidden it.

“The latest of The Wheezes’ defensive range?” Neville stated the obvious.

Hannah smiled, and absent-mindedly started setting up.

Neville watched her for a bit, searching his mind for a topic that hadn’t got anything to do with Death Eaters, death and oppression.

Both of them jumped a little when the door opened. Neville’s grip on his wand, which he had pulled automatically out of his pocket, loosened when he recalled the Sneakoscope hadn’t gone off, and he relaxed fully when the Foe-glass only showed Seamus and a younger Gryffindor.

Seamus poked his head around the door, shooting a glance at Neville’s wand. “I knew it! Getting jumpy these days, Nev? Anyway, I come in peace and all that.” As if to demonstrate, he held up his hands and stepped in.

“Richie? What’s wrong?” Strangely enough, Neville mused, he felt much more in charge in this kind of situation – but he wouldn’t have only one short year ago.

“Are you okay? Have a bite to eat first, yes?” Hannah pulled the younger Gryffindor to the table and sat him down, then looked up at Neville. “That goes for you too. Go eat.”

“So much for feeling in charge,” Neville mumbled under his breath, but sat down quickly and ducked his head as Hannah looked questioningly at him.

Breaking a bread roll, he repeated his question to Richie Coote.

“They are looking for them.” The younger boy was shaking.

“Come again?”

Seamus, having filled up a plate for himself, swallowed quickly and said, “Some Slytherins were making noise about the Cootes’s being on the run. Apparently, the Ministry didn’t like them standing up for their Muggle neighbours. They are looking for them.”

“I don’t know where they could be. Mum and Dad, I mean. I … I have to go looking for them. But …”

“They might get you too.” Neville inserted quietly. Unbidden, he recalled the taunting words of Severus Snape that Augusta Longbottom would need to be questioned if he, Neville, did not tidy up his act.

“That’s what I was thinking,” Seamus commented between bites. “So I made myself scarce, got Hannah here to deliver the food while I got Richie. – So, Nev, we not only need to get you out of here, but Richie too. And then off with the both of you to a safe house.”

Neville watched Hannah fuss over Richie, and Seamus getting ready to go back outside. He’d start putting in action the plan that they had concocted. The plan to ferry him safely out of Hogwarts, which he had let them go ahead with.

Neville looked around the room, considered. “I’m not going. Instead, you go ahead as planned with Ritchie in my place.”

“What do you mean, you’re not going?”

“That I’m not going to some safe house, where I’ll be treated like a defenceless child. I won’t be able to fight or help. Here, I can; even if it is just from inside this room. I’ll stay here.”

“Neville, they’ll catch you. And this time, they’ll not be content with a few hexes,” Seamus pleaded, repeating the arguments they’d run over before.

Neville looked directly back, at the barely healed scratch on his friend’s cheek. “You can really talk, Seamus. Would you go?”

In a corner of his mind, Neville noticed that Richie looked at him with wide eyes and Hannah sinking back to her seat. But he only had eyes for his dorm mate.

Seamus raked a hand through his hair. “You really believe Harry will come back and make it all right again? Fight for us?”

“If there’s any way to do it, he’ll find it. You are still fighting, aren’t you?”

“Because it’s the right thing to do. And because someone has to. Harry’s a good guy, but we can’t just put all our hope into one man.”

“Then put it in me. I’m here, and I’ll stay here.”

Seamus lifted his hands, let them fall in aggravation. “You are just as stubborn as Harry. Where did you hide that all those years, eh? – So now what? We keep sneaking you food?”

Neville smiled to himself. “Let that be my concern. And Richie, there might be a way to learn something more. I have – I have a friend I’ll contact.”

“You’d do that? And – Neville, could I stay with you? Could you teach me some stuff? I could help.”

“For the time being, I intend to just keep my eyes open. See what transpires, and what those Death Eaters are up to.”

“Now I almost wish I’d stay here too for the holidays.” Seamus said. “But then, I need a break from this place. - I should go. Better make sure Ginny doesn’t get a hold of you before she’s cooled down enough. Which might not be before we’re back from Easter break.”

In answer to Seamus grin, Neville saluted him.

Hannah had packed up the basket, and handed it to him with the words to keep it anyway. Now she turned half-way back. “You be careful. Don’t go taking any unnecessary risks.”

Neville took a step after her, but stopped when Richie spoke, eagerness now in his voice. “So what are we going to do? How can I get in contact with my parents?”

“Hold it, okay? First, we need a place for you to sleep.” Pursing his lips, Neville started to tell the room exactly what they needed as Hannah and Seamus left, luckily unseen, and prepared to depart for their break.

*

Overhead, the arches were showing cracks, testament that indeed the house, and the family who owned it, must have been around for some time. A narrow, grilled window, high up in the wall but actually level with the ground told Luna that it was indeed daylight outside. It had rained earlier, she had heard the raindrops bounce off the paved path that lead from the gate to the house, and also cascading from leaves to bushes to grass. Now, if one looked, one could see the sunlight, being broken in the tiny water drops, and creating a kaleidoscope of colours.

“Don’t you think it looks magical, Mr Ollivander?” Luna mused aloud.

When there was no answer, Luna swivelled around on her perch on her cot, made out of the blankets they had been given. Her brow puckered; the wand-maker was getting weaker by the day, and her attempts to rouse him from the state of melancholia he had fallen into were proven futile more and more often.

Echoing steps had her sit up. They were drawing nearer; yet she did not think it was time for their meagre meal yet. Which could only mean that they would get company – or that one of them was about to be questioned, or worse.

The door was pulled open, scratching loudly over the stone floor, and a rather misshapen shape – one broad, square person, or several leaning on each other? - was pushed inside. It was too dark to make out anything definite.

“Hermione!” The cry, the pure anguish of it almost slew her, and now she also registered the wailing and raised voices, as if from somewhere above. Luna sat up straight, her hand reaching automatically for her ear, but of course her wand was not there.

A second voice tried to reason with the first, get him to calm down and help come up with a plan. Best of all, she knew those voices.

“Harry?” Luna managed. “Oh no, they got you too, did they? I was hoping …”

Of course they had not expected her to be here. She helped them to get the ropes binding them off by using an old nail. All the while, they could hear Bellatrix inquire in an almost panicked voice about some sword, while Hermione – for Luna now recognised her voice, too – denied knowing anything.

“Why didn’t you say so?” Luna commented mildly as she retrieved Ron’s Deluminator from his pocket, when he paused in his worrying about Hermione long enough to inform her he still had it. With a bit more light, Luna noticed the other two. A goblin. And Seamus’s Gryffindor friend, Dean. And where else would he have turned up, but there in the dungeon?

Luna sat there, watching the boys with growing uneasiness. Something had to be done, but she didn’t think banging at the door would do it. Maybe …

A flash of reflected sunlight caught her eye. Harry was standing still, tension emanating from him, as he shouted something at the object cradled in his hands. What, she couldn’t hear, since Ron was still shouting at the top of his lungs and was running around like a chicken without its head. They had attempted to find a way out many times, she and Mister Ollivander, and she said so aloud. But Luna did not feel Ron was paying her any mind.

Then they heard Bellatrix demanding the Goblin be brought to her to verify the authenticity of the sword. The pale blond boy, Draco Malfoy, Slytherin Prince, bade them stand back. Luna was not sure Ron would cooperate and miss the opportunity, but Draco left with his prisoner without incident. She was more preoccupied with the loud crack that sounded just as the cellar door was pushed shut.

A house elf, his large ears flapping, stood in the light of the Deluminator Ron had deployed again. She started forward when Harry uttered the most unthinkable notion. Dean, Mr. Ollivander and she should leave with Dobby, the house-elf.

“Harry, we want to help you**,” Luna insisted, supported by Dean.

Yet Luna had to concede they weren’t of much help without a wand, and she finally went as Harry had asked.

In seconds, the tiny house-elf whisked them away. Luna blinked open her eyes, catching sight of a cloudy sky over blue-grey waves. Seagulls drew their circles overhead, and the air smelt of salt.

She turned around when Dean tugged her hand just as Dobby disappeared again with a loud crack.

A tall redhead came hurrying towards them, and Luna was stricken by his appearance. “Ron in older.” The thought escaped her, as she saw the eldest of the neighbour boys rushing up.

“Luna. How can you be here? What …?”

Luna peered solemnly back. “Dobby will bring Ron, Harry, Hermione, and Mr Ollivander. This is Dean. Would you mind if we stepped in until they arrive?”

Luna continued on her way, greeting Fleur as she stepped into the kitchen, while Dean explained to a bemused and increasingly alarmed Bill Weasley in hurried words that they had escaped from Malfoy Manor only moments before.

*

He felt like there were a thousand ants crawling in his stomach, and if he were to give in to it, he would run.

“But where to?”

The stout little man dragged his feet, and yet it was no use. He was in front of the door already. His silver hand gleamed in the lights in the wall sconces, and he watched, almost detached, as it pushed the handle down.

His instincts were screaming at him to run. They were what had kept him alive until that moment. With a shouted warning, he entered the cellar. His heart beat a nervous tattoo, though he ploughed ahead. Too great was the fear of what he’d have to face if he didn’t bring Potter.

Potter. As in James Potter.

He took a step, and another.

Suddenly, a weight plummeted into him; he was falling to the floor. Two bodies pinned him down, and he struggled to get away. His new hand got a-hold of someone and squeezed.

“You’re going to kill me? […] You owe me, Wormtail.”** He realised he had someone by the throat, and the choked-out words and the face above him confirmed his darkest suspicions. The light flickered and was barely enough to lighten up the cellar and the face was slightly distorted. Still, it was recognisable enough.

Unbidden, another face swam in front of his vision, so very similar and yet different. That other boy, in another time altogether, had had glasses as well. That boy had been laughing over their first meal at Hogwarts, where he, Peter, had ended up right opposite.

‘I’m James. We’d best be friends, since we’re going to share a dorm for years and years to come.’

James had accompanied that with grand gestures, nearly knocking the sickly-looking boy next to him forward into his plate.


“You owe me.” Now two voices were echoing the words back at him, though he couldn’t have said whether they were real or just his guilty conscience.

The urge to survive reared its head, warring with the memories of his teenage years. His new hand twitched with indecision.

“Wormy will sooner end up killing himself.”

The words, coming out of his past, conjured up the memory of another dark-haired boy, with mocking, grey eyes.

As he tried to overcome the familiar spite and anger at what the other boy had seen as teasing, but which hadn’t been for him, the silver hand shot out towards his own face; the fingers spread out.

As it came around his throat and clamped shut with an iron grip, he barely noticed the two young men who were crouching over him, trying to pry the hand loose.

His last thought was of a moment in the Hogwarts grounds. Remus had wanted to try out his new camera, a birthday gift, and cleverly manipulated with charms. It had been poised in mid-air, waiting to be activated. James and Sirius had been goofing off, and he’d been standing next to them, thrilled he’d be included, and to have a tangible proof that he belonged.

*

Several sphinx patronuses were headed for different parts of the country, one for each of the members of the caster’s family.

Molly was directing her laundry to hang itself in the garden, preferring to trap the first wisps of spring in her bed linen to sped-drying it by magic.

“I could help. Seventeen is just a number, I can too do magic,” Ginny maintained stubbornly, arms folded over her chest. “I’ll be seventeen soon enough.” She didn’t know what to do with herself, feeling inadequate and helpless. The whole day since she got off the Hogwarts Express for her Easter break she’d been antsy and wound up tight, although she couldn’t pinpoint the exact reason.

Ginny thought she heard her mother say something about dirty dishes, which she choose to ignore, too occupied by the unfairness of it all. Two tiny spots of light appeared before them, rapidly growing bigger. The two balls of light soared around them.

“Surrounding-sensitive patronuses,” Molly whispered, drawing her wand from her apron and also peered around. Then she flicked her wand to make the patronuses release their message.

Two sphinxes materialised. “Bill.” She gasped in alarm, paling.

“Mum.” “Ginny.” The sphinxes continued in unison. “The Burrow, now. Activate every ward. Prepare to leave soon , Ron’s been seen. I’ll be there shortly.”

If Ginny thought her mother had been pale before, it was nothing in comparison to how she looked then. She herself felt like a giant plunger had been forced over her, all noise and air gone. What did that message even mean?

A ‘crack’ rent the air; causing air to rush back into her lungs; colours seemed to blur around her from the lack of oxygen. The wards hadn’t thrown off whoever had apparated. Molly gasped for air, hurrying on shaky legs across the lawn. When she turned the corner of the house, Charlie was sprinting for the door, but veered of in her direction. He grasped both of them by the shoulders, although he too seemed to be shaking.

“I was just preparing to do some reconnaissance with Moody’s cloak. What’s that message supposed to mean?”

“We don’t know,” Ginny managed, her voice oddly high-pitched. Molly gulped; the vicinity of two of her children bringing back the urgency with which her eldest son had spoken.

“Charlie, activate the extra protection your father showed you. I’ll meet you half-way. Ginny –“

“What?” Ginny cut her off, fearing she knew what was coming.

Molly looked around, praying for another ‘crack’ to announce the rest of her family. If Bill had given her any indication of where to go, she’d make sure personally that Ron was okay. It cost her to stay and wait as he’d said. “Ginny, go get some clothes ready for everyone, take your trunk.”

Ginny breathed heavily. She had half a mind to run, cross the wards and apparate – where? Surely were Ron was, there were Harry and Hermione too. What did it mean, Ron had been seen?

Molly caught her daughter’s arm, one brown set of eyes drilling into the other. Ginny’s whole body sagged in defeat before she turned on her heel to do as she was told, a desperate prayer on her lips.

Two more figures popped into existence simultaneously, and Molly found herself engulfed in four leather-clad arms.

“What happened?” Fred urged.

Molly pulled away reluctantly after a second, shaking her head. “Help your brother, he’s back behind the house. I’ll rather go pack some things. Are you all set?”

She didn’t really wait for answer, pushing the twins to where Charlie was working.

Fred and George exchanged a look. “Surely he didn’t mean us too?”

“Go into hiding?” Fred asked, disgusted by the thought.

“If Ron’s was really dumb enough to show his face to those Mask-Wearing Wannabes …” George let thought hang in the air.

They were silent for a breath as they turned the corner, when Fred started smirking. “Well, one thing’s for sure. Even though we left yesterday not knowing we wouldn’t be back this morning, it won’t do anyone with less than nice intentions any good to come looking for him at the shop.”

“Small consolation, that,” George said wryly, shouting out to Charlie. Together, they put up the extra wards pretty quickly and were just about finished, when their father materialised out of thin air.

“Got delayed, the patronus could only materialise when I took a break for the loo and Travers had, uh, well, finished. They might send in a search party for me any time now. - Is Bill there?”

All three shook their heads, impatience and worry mounting as there was nothing more left to do.

“Arthur!” Molly came tearing out of the door, making a beeline for her husband. Ginny, following close on her heels, found herself tucked under the twins’ arms.

“Are you packed?”

“I packed clothes. Merlin Arthur, do we take food? Where are we going to go?” Molly fretted, giving in to the raging fear a little now that her husband was there. “Where’s Bill? Doesn’t he realise we’re going out of our minds with worry?”

“We don’t know what it means yet, it could be a precaution for all we know.” Charlie said with a calm he didn’t really feel.

“Might be,” Fred agreed heartily. “We practice a hasty retreat all the time at Potter Watch.”

“We just finished packing the last of the equipment to move to the next place, after discussing a basic outline for next broadcast,” George said, just to occupy his mother’s mind. “Remus, Kingsley and Lee said to go, but I’m sure they are curious as well.”

“Almost came with us, too,” Fred added.

Arthur furrowed his brow. “You shouldn’t go bandying about with that kind of info-. What in Merlin’s name …?”

Once more, a sphinx took shape in front of them. “Old Bat’s place. Meet you there.”

The Weasleys stood motionless, waiting for more information that was never to come. Then, Arthur clapped into his hands. “Right, let’s get moving. Everything locked up?”

“We can’t just leave everything.” Molly clasped her husband’s arm and held his gaze. Then she closed her eyes briefly. “I’m being silly. Of course we can. Everyone go now. Ginny you’re with your father.”

Making sure her daughter heeded her words, Molly disapparated, followed immediately by Charlie.

“Go!” Arthur urged the twins, performing the final wand movements that would seal his ancestral home off after them.

“The Old Bat’s place?” Fred chortled, stepping forward.

“Bill should be careful she doesn’t learn he’s said that, or it’s disownment for him.” George followed his brother, and they disappeared simultaneously.

“Everything’s alright as long as they have a fib to tell,” Ginny tried to make light of it all, accepting her father’s arm before she was overcome by the sensation of being pressed through a narrow tube.

They were promptly ushered into Great-Aunt Muriel’s neat little house upon landing. Great-Aunt Muriel had taken the adults aside to demand an explanation of her Great-Nephew Bill’s alarming message.

Ginny wandered from window to window, watching out for her eldest brother. “How can he do that? Send a message like that, and then leave us hanging like this?” she muttered under her breath. What in Morgana’s name had happened? What was happening even now?

“Gin Gin. Wearing a hole in Great-Auntie’s carpet?”

“Way to go, sister dearest!”

Ginny spared only a glance for her brothers before returning to gazing outside. Fred and George moved to either side of her, their tension belying their casual teasing.

Ginny levelled her eyes on George. “Do you have any idea what’s going on?”

He shook his head. “Not a clue. Although …”

“Although it sounded pretty urgent.”

Ginny digested that, when a thought hit her like lightning. “Maybe Ron’s with Bill. How else would he know? Maybe they’re coming back.”

“Maybe.” George sounded evasive.

Ginny caught the exchange of glances that went on over her head. She was used to that from them; they often did that when words weren’t necessary between them. Still, usually their faces wouldn’t be so solemn.

“There.” Fred pointed to the steps of the porch, where a tall figure spun into existence.

“It’s Bill.” Ginny suppressed her disappointment that it was only one person appearing; then she followed in her brothers’ wake.

Entering the living room, Ginny saw Bill, beset by her mother who was talking rapidly. Her father was standing in front of the fireplace, an expectant expression on his face. Charlie had been pacing, and Great-Aunt Muriel was putting her needles down.

“What’s going on?” Ginny cut through the din.

“Yes, please tell us what happened to your brother. – Molly, please, let the boy talk.”

At her father’s words, the Weasleys all looked at Bill in expectation.

“Okay. Don’t interrupt. Dad, can you try get a message to Kingsley, pronto? I have to get back. So here’s what I know. – Earlier this afternoon, several people showed up on my doorstep: Ron, Harry, Hermione, Luna, Dean Thomas and Garrick Ollivander.”

Ginny felt like echoing her mother’s gasp, and she listened with baited breath, hands folded before her lips, as Bill recounted what he knew. It was very brief, with a reminder that they needed to take precautions since Ron, and in extension his family, was now officially on the run.

“So that’s it,” he concluded. “You’ll have to decide what to do; it’d be suicide to be out and about and continue as usual. Not to mention what Ginny would face at Hogwarts. – I’ll need to get back, keep the contact at a minimum. I’d rather I contact you since too much traffic back and forth might draw attention. Now –“

He was cut off by a chorus of contradictions. Ginny was pushing forward, adding her own. “Luna’s there, why can’t I be?”

“Dad?” Bill appealed to the Weasley patriarch.

With an effort, Arthur gathered himself. “We’ll do as you suggested. We wait here – no, no talking back, Ginny – we wait here, sent out word to the order and our allies that Harry Potter escaped from Malfoy Manor and is still resisting. Then we wait. We cannot rush this now. Go – and be careful.”

Bill nodded, and disappeared with long strides.

Gnashing her teeth, Ginny grabbed a vase that was in her way, and hurled it towards the wall.

Before she exited the room, she heard George whistle and say, “This changes everything. Don’t you think?”

But Fred, uncharacteristically, didn’t add a jab of his own. He seemed deep in thought.

*

“Weasley.”

Percy lifted his head slowly from his paperwork. Travers and Runcorn were blocking out all the light from his tiny space, glancing at him with narrowed eyes.

“Good day, Travers. Good day, Runcorn. What brings you here?”

“Questions, Weasley. The whereabouts of your youngest brother, for instance.”

Percy had grown quite adapt at dissembling, and had needed it at more than one occasion. The particular manner of this one, though, sent an ice-cold shudder along his spine.

“I wouldn’t know. We haven’t seen eye to eye for some time now, as we established time and again.”

Travers leaned over the desk. “Don’t try being smart with me, Weasley. You better not keep any information from us.”

With a last menacing glance, Travers swept out of the room, followed by Runcorn, who used his size to look forbidding.

Information regarding what? Percy kept his head lowered, having to clamp down the urge to jump up and learn what had happened.

During the following hours, people kept poking their heads in for no apparent reason, and there was constant traffic in the hallway outside with people whispering conspicuously.

When he got up to get himself a cup of what was sold as coffee from a vending machine, Percy couldn’t stand the prickling sensation in his neck anymore. Deciding against the coffee, he veered instead for the men’s toilet.

He got into a cubicle, and leaned his head against the cool wall. Something was going on, and it concerned Ron. Which must mean, of course, Harry Potter as well. Rushing home wouldn’t help anything, and most likely do more harm than good.

Someone was washing their hands, and left the toilets.

Percy was marshalling himself to go back and wait out the rest of his working day, when a tiny light appeared in front of him, and materialised in the form of a sphinx.

“This message can’t be tracked. Regardless of which side you’re on, here goes. Do with it what you want, brother. Ron’s been seen and is on the run. You won’t be able to contact any of us.”

Percy stood stock still, electrified. He had guessed as much, but still he felt stunned.

“This is just not right,” he mumbled. Ron was supposed to be preparing for his NEWTS even now, not running from the Ministry. Then he gave a short, bitter laugh. “Why am I not surprised?”

No, he realised, he wasn’t. He knew he could no longer hope it would all blow over, with him maintaining the position he had given up so much for. Yet, could he act alone? With quiet determination, he recalled his cool head and went back to his little desk.

When, after a full working day, he was finally able to leave without arousing suspicion, Percy made directly for Hogsmeade, always on the lookout as he scurried through the streets. Then, he took a detour to one particular pub. “I want in,” Percy told the scruffy barkeeper.

*

“Don’t you dare go … Fred Weasley!” As his mother’s voice rose in pitch before trailing off, Fred whirled through space. As he turned up on the same location he’d waited for Remus only hours before, he did not hesitate to send an urgent summons to his former teacher and co-commentator on Potter Watch. He did not have to wait long.

“Merlin above! What’s the hurry?” Remus sounded breathless, as he appeared next to Fred. “Didn’t you just leave?”

Fred nodded impatiently. “Yes, yes, I did. – Listen, I have to talk to Nora, quickly. We have to go into hiding, all of us.”

“What do you mean, ‘all of us’? What …”

“No time, no time at all. They’ve been seen. Ron, Harry and Hermione. They went to Bill’s place, but there’s no saying what’s going to happen next. I have to …”

Remus gripped him by the shoulders, hard. “Are they okay? Harry?”

“Bill said yes. Come on, let’s go. I’ll tell you what I know on the way in. Mind you, it’s not much. He only took the time to warn us, tell us they are safe. But Mum and Dad will learn more, trust me.”

Fred followed as Remus forced himself to focus on clearing the way into the house. He paid no mind to the general hubbub that broke out in his wake as Remus related the scant information he had just received himself to the other inhabitants of the Tonks’ safe house gathering in the hallway. He was intend on reaching Nora’s room.

He took the steps two at a time. There was no time, and he knew he was risking that the tale had already spread; not only among the resistance, but also among the Death Eaters. Before, he might already have been suspected; now they would hex first, ask questions later. His little brother was one of the Undesireables, after all. And they had proof now. No one would believe any longer that Ron was at home with Spattergroit.

Her door opened, and she looked anxiously out; wand at the ready. Such were the times, he mused, that one couldn’t even leave a room without it. “Did you hear?” he asked.

She shook her head. “What happened? I’ve just come back from visiting Tonks. She’s getting more difficult and impatient by the minute, I swear.”

“My brother’s escaped from Malfoy Manor. We all need to hide, and that means it’s too dangerous for me to go out too often. In fact, we’re closing the shop, and have orders to stay put at a safe place. Not here, though.”

She looked at him with her large eyes and he saw comprehension dawn. He didn’t need to spell it out for her; as much as he disliked Slytherins on principle – with one notable exception - no one had ever said they were slow on the uptake. “You won’t be coming around anymore then.”

“Not in the foreseeable future, no. But listen, this cannot continue for forever. And once they’ve forgotten about Ron … Something new will crop up.” He did not know what kind of event would trump having found a trace of the Undesirables, which would surely lead to a renewed hunt for them, but … No, he didn’t even want to imagine. “This is not goodbye. I just wanted to say … Till we meet again, Nora …”

The muscles in her face worked, she swallowed. Then she echoed his sentiment, and sealed her lips to his. For a moment he felt icy fingers stroke down his spine. Foreboding? But no. He would not allow ominous thoughts to steal this moment from him.


________

A/N: This chapter is for those of you who kept asking for another update, and I hope you have an opportunity to read this one. A Very Merry Christmas to you!

The scenes in the Malfoy’s dungeon contain quotes (**) from JKR’s The Deathly Hallows, chapter 23 “Malfoy Manor”.
If the scene between Nora and Fred seems familiar to you, I wrote her view of it in my short story collection “A Family Album”. Everything else you recognise belongs to Ms. Rowling!

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