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The blue fire of the Devil’s Mark pub’s hearth entices me into a pensive silence. I imagine reaching my hand into the flames only to feel icy tendrils licking my skin. A pipe dream, I know, but the desire remains.

The witches of the Devil’s Mark carry on conversation around me. Most of it is about the Peace Summit happening right now in Paris. But that’s not entirely what this meeting is for. Hallowe’en is days away, and we want to celebrate this special holiday in the wizarding world. I’m not in the mood for celebrating or for much of anything, really. I am walking on eggshells everywhere I go. Something is going to happen, and I need to be ready for when it does.

But what will it be?

Will I even meet my goal of finding James? Or will I be stopped short? And by whom?

“Are you going to drink anything?” Sinead asks as she nudges me.

After blinking a couple of times, I meet her gaze. “Oh, yeah,” I say. I take a sip of my Firewhiskey, feigning enthusiasm. “Sorry, a bit tired tonight.”

“I hear you,” the witch on the other side of me concurs. “Been watching the grandkids all week, and I’m bloody exhausted.”

I take another little sip of my drink. The burning sting makes me grimace. Sinead and the witch begin a conversation about their families, but I can hardly pay attention as the room begins to spin. My eyes are suddenly itchy. All I can think about is sleep, something which I haven’t gotten much of these past couple weeks.

“What about you, Lia? Any family news to share?” wonders Sinead.

I shake my head. Aunt Susan and Uncle Michael didn’t hide their displeasure in me going out tonight. I didn’t tell them where I was going, of course, but annoyance flares in my chest. I need to recalibrate myself to be present in this moment. Taking a deep breath, I mutter some basic small talk about my family, though I immediately forget my words after I speak them.

“You all right?” the witch next to me asks as she peers over at me.

“No,” I admit. “I think I have to leave early tonight. Not feeling too well. Excuse me…”

I stand up and put on my cloak.

“But the meeting hasn’t officially started yet,” Sinead says.

“What’s this? Lia’s leaving early?” Faye the bartender inquires from the bar. A few witches turn their attention to me, and I fight to keep a blush at bay.

“Not feeling well,” I repeat as I head to the door. “Goodnight.”

As soon as I am on the darkened street of Knockturn Alley, I know that I’ve made the right choice. The chilly air doesn’t make me feel any better. Nausea teeters in my stomach, and my vertigo has increased significantly. There are only a few people out this time of night as I avoid their eye contact.

The street begins to slant sideways. Something is definitely very wrong. I don’t think I’ll make it to Diagon Alley, where I can Floo back home. Pain pulses through my head, and I pause to lean against a building. My vision is starting to go...

Someone grabs me from behind. “Oh Lia, you should’ve finished your drink,” are the last words I hear before I lose consciousness.


--


I let the events of the dinner party wash over me in recurring waves: the surprise of my mother’s visit; the first encounter of my father, my malicious, ruthless father; the headache of having my mind read; the torment of seeing my friends and family hurt; the humiliation from the Obscurus comment; the “I love you” to James; the Aurors’ prodding questions afterwards; the look on James’ parents’ faces when they saw him injured; the desire to know what my parents were up to--and why; the frustration of piecing this all together. It was the beginning of an obsession, but I couldn’t help myself.

There was a gentle knock on my bedroom door. I looked up from my unread book to see Aunt Susan enter. She smiled kindly.

“Amelia, I’ve washed your favorite jumper for tomorrow’s brunch,” she said as she came over to me. I sat on top of my bed covers, leaning against propped pillows, trying to read. Instead, my mind spun with thoughts of the dinner party.

“Thanks,” I said as she unzipped my overnight bag on the foot of my bed and placed the purple jumper on top. She sat down on my bed with me.

“Hannah and Neville will be here soon for some tea. All set for the wedding?” she asked. After tea, they were supposed to take me over to the Potter’s, and from there we were to get ready for that evening’s festivities.

I nodded, trying to come back to the present. I couldn’t be sulky today. I couldn’t do that to James.

“Are you sure you don’t want me to iron your dress robes again?” Aunt Susan wondered. “Or I could add more plaits to your hair for some extra wave tonight. I could even bring in my jewelry box and look at some earrings…”

She was doing it again: the gestures of kindness to support me in the aftermath of my parents’ disastrous visit. Over the past few days, she and Uncle Michael had given me copious cups of tea, plenty of hugs and declarations of their support, large slices of cake for breakfast, and almost everything in between. Even Eddie and Helen were joining in. Their niceness was suffocating, and I was beginning to despise myself for feeling that way. I knew they cared for me, even loved me, but whenever I pondered on that, all I wanted to do was curl up and cry.

“I’m fine, thanks though,” I mumbled, looking down at my book. I tried to swallow away the lump forming in my throat.

“Well, I do hope you have fun at the wedding,” Aunt Susan continued, placing her hand on my knee. “And that you make responsible choices.”

“Meaning what?” I asked, furrowing my brow. I sat up straighter on my bed. My confusion muted my swirling thoughts.

She looked over at me with knowing eyes. “Amelia, you’re a newly of-age witch going to a party with your boyfriend before staying the night at his parents’ place. Think about it.”

I felt my face redden. “Are you serious right now?” I cried, gripping onto the edges of my book. “Are you really giving me the talk?”

Aunt Susan raised her eyebrows and nodded. “Well, yeah,” she said as if this were the most obvious thing in the world. “This has been a tough week for you; there’s going to be lots of celebrating, which means lots of drinking; and considering your relationship with James, you might--”

“Oh God, stop,” I groaned, covering my ears. She patted my knee again.

“--feel the need to express your feelings,” she finished. “Whatever you choose to do, please make your choices responsibly.” There was a pause. “Amelia?”

“Right, right. Responsible choices,” I said, turning away from her and wishing I were anywhere but here.

“That’s my girl,” Aunt Susan said. She leaned forward and kissed the top of my head. “Truly, you are my girl.” She squeezed my shoulders as I made eye contact with her. “I love you so incredibly much.”

I wished I could have returned her smile, but in the wake of my short burst of horror of the talk, lethargy swallowed whatever energy I had.

“I’ll call you down once the Longbottoms come. Try to get some rest before tonight.” I tried to admire how Aunt Susan knew what I needed--alone time and sleep--but the lingering feeling of having someone reading my mind stopped any positive emotion.

And with a final pat on my knee, Aunt Susan left me to my own bidding. As soon as she closed the door, I breathed a sigh of relief, though that relief lasted for only a fleeting moment. I grasped my book and curled my body around it as I slid onto my side.

I stared out of my window at the grey sky behind the dampened, bare branches. Once again, I was lost to my thoughts. Perhaps it was retrospect that was allowing me to see clearer; after all, I had had plenty of time to think over the past few days.

My parents had said and done many horrible things at the dinner party, especially my father. But it’s what he wanted to know, I told myself, hugging my book to my chest and tucking my legs closer to my stomach. And what he didn’t outright extract from me.

There had to have been a reason as to why he examined the memories he did. Yes, to see how much I knew of The Cause. Yes, to see whom I loved most. But the Hallows, of course the Hallows! I couldn’t be distracted by the Blood Runes or by Grindelwald’s sign and the ideology behind it; I needed to remember what that sign truly meant: the sign of the Three Brothers, the Peverells. The Invisibility Cloak. The Resurrection Stone. The Elder Wand.

My father hadn’t bothered looking for the memories of me under the Cloak with James, nor for my desire to speak with my dead relatives. No, instead he wanted my memories of wands.

I couldn’t see any other way around it. The Cause was anti-Muggle and wanted wizarding superiority. The Cause wanted to expand the limits of magic. But there was more. It was what my father hadn’t said in the information he took from me. I finally felt a sense of direction with the mystery of The Cause--and of the Hallows.

They were after the Elder Wand.


--


“Oi, miss, yeh al’righ’?”

Something pokes me, and I groan. My headache from earlier intensifies as I slowly open my eyes. A blurry figure stands over me. A moment passes as I gain my bearings. I am lying on my back on the damp pavement, teeth chattering from the chill, surrounded by a brick wall, a dumpster, and a man. In a panic, I check for my wand. It’s still there.

“Yeh okay?” The man stares down at me.

“What time is it?” I ask as I sit up. My throat is parched.

“Near half two in th’ mornin’,” he answers. He takes a step back as I stagger to my numb feet. Leaning on the wall behind me, I clench my wand under my robes.

“Where am I?”

He furrows his brow at me. “Whaddya mean, yeh don’ know where yeh are?” He scratches his nose with a dirty finger. “Shoulda known. Haven’t seen yeh ‘round here looking’ fer food before.”

I frown. He’s clearly a Muggle, and from the state of his disheveled appearance, a homeless one. When he lets me know where I am, I use my basic knowledge of London to know that I am some ways away from Knockturn Alley. Whoever was there when I passed out must have placed me here.

But why?

I glance around. I’m in a dark alleyway near a fairly quiet street. Finding a place to Disapparate shouldn’t be too difficult if I can shake off this man.

“Okay, thank you,” I tell him. “I best be off.”

“Waita minute!” he begins, stepping in front of my path. “Yeh haven’t been attacked or nofin', yeah? I don’ want no coppers ‘round here.”

“No. I’m fine. Let me through.” Whatever aura radiates off me causes him shuffle to the side.

“Righ’. O’course, o’course…yeh don’ have any spare quid on yeh, eh?”

I glare at him. “No.”

He backs away from me, and I hurry out of the alley. The world doesn’t spin as much as when I was at the Devil’s Mark…What happened? Who grabbed me before I passed out? Why have I woken up here? I’ve been out for a good few hours, but I haven’t been captured, tortured, or mugged. I’ve definitely been drugged… But why?

I pause at an intersection, waiting for the light to change. Neon lights give the street an eerie glow as small clusters of Muggles stagger down the pavement. I huddle into my cloak to find a sliver of warmth.

As I turn in another direction, no one is outwardly following me, nor is anyone coming for me. I am quite alone, which makes why I’m in this current situation even more perplexing.

Eventually, I find a good spot to Apparate home. Maybe after a good night’s sleep, I can figure out what has happened tonight.

However, as soon as I reach my doorstep, I know that something’s amiss. The light is still on downstairs, which means that Aunt Susan or Uncle Michael or both are still awake, which doesn’t bode well for me. How can I explain my lengthy absence if I can barely think straight?

Bracing myself for my aunt’s wrath, I unlock the door, but as I step inside, everything is chaos. Everything.



--



Finally, it was time to go to the Potter’s. James had written saying that he wouldn’t be there when I got there because of best man duties, but he would come as soon as he was able. That didn’t make things any easier.

Thus far, I had met Harry Potter twice: in the aftermaths of my scrape with the Blood Runes and of my parents’ visit. These visits had been official business, so I wasn’t sure how this upcoming personal interaction with him would go. I also was nervous about Ginny Potter, who had tended to James’ injuries with such a fierce protectiveness that I wondered if she had blamed me for them.

I wouldn’t have blamed her if she did.

After getting through the security measures, my marvel at the midsize house surrounded by a large garden slightly calmed my waves of nausea. Warm light glowed from the inside as Neville, Hannah, and I approached the front porch.

Neville rang the bell, and Ginny Potter answered the door.

“Welcome!” she beamed at the three of us. We stepped inside, and I was glad of the warmth on this bitterly cold day. “Sorry, we’re a bit of a mess right now. Harry’s gone to deal with something for the wedding, and I’m here with Lily--”

“Mum! Lily’s out of bed again!” Albus called from the top of the stairs.

“What’s the matter?” Neville asked, putting down his bag.

“Lily’s got the flu and is refusing to take the Pepper Up Potion.” Ginny sighed as she took our traveling cloaks. “Leave your bags here. Albus, take them upstairs.”

“Mum!” groaned Albus as he caught the end of what she’s saying.

“Now, Albus!” Ginny said sternly before turning to better greet Hannah and Neville. He picked up our bags and rolled his eyes towards me.

“Parents,” he muttered at me before he went back upstairs. Ginny then turned her attention to me.

“Hello, Mrs. Potter,” I said nervously.

“It’s so good to finally properly meet you, Amelia,” she said as she embraced me. She wore a floral perfume that reminded me of a breezy summer’s day. Coupled with the warmth of her hug, I felt my defenses melt a little bit. As we broke apart, she squeezed my shoulders. “Please, call me Ginny.”

“Oh, okay,” I breathed awkwardly. “Thanks for letting me stay over, Ginny.”

“You’re welcome,” she said warmly. “Only there’s been a slight change. With Lily ill, you’ll be sleeping in James’ room--” She caught the stares of Hannah and Neville, and I wanted to disappear right then and there-- “And the boys will be staying in Albus’ room.”

Another groan came from the staircase as Albus came back down. Ginny glared at him led us into the kitchen. I tried to glance at the decor of the house as we went along. Family photos lined the foyer walls along with Christmas garland. We walked past a front study with shelves full of books and a living room with a cozy fireplace and a Christmas tree.

Neville and Hannah sat down at a large kitchen table in front of a giant fireplace. There was a large portrait of Hogwarts over the mantel. There was a cauldron simmering in the roaring fire.

“Lovely brew,” commented Hannah as she looked into . “For Lily?”

“Yes,” sighed Ginny. “She promised me that she would take the potion after the wedding. Right now, she’s delirious off of Muggle medicine.” She placed some tea and sandwiches on the table. “Please, help yourselves. Now if you excuse me, I have to go check on her.”

It was a lovely late afternoon with everyone there. The adults reminisced about their times at Hogwarts. Albus seemed like he had heard these stories dozens of times before, but to hear glimpses of the past fascinated me. The more I listened to Ginny’s take on things--especially the brief period when she had dated my Uncle Michael--the more I admired her.

It wasn’t long until we all had to get ready for the wedding. I unbraided my hair, letting the waves cascade down my back. Lily, after escaping the confines of her bed again, insisted that we do our makeup together, and she let her opinions be heard.

“Maybe a little more eyeliner on your upper lids,” she said before a long coughing fit. “Have you considered using lip gloss? I have some I can lend you.”

My dress robes were a burnt orange, which my Aunt Susan insisted brought out the golden in my hazel eyes. They had three quarter sleeves, and they hugged my curves in all the right places. To tie together the whole look, I wore the star necklace which James had given me for my birthday.

Lily flounced around in her deep purple dress robes. “Ooh, I can’t wait until I can wear some of the adult ones!” she gushed. “Though, I am looking forward to some professional Quidditch robes, Merlin willing.” She spun around, looking at herself in the floor length mirror in the bathroom. Her face paled. “Oh, I need to sit down,” she said suddenly. “Dizzy…”

“There’s Pepper Up Potion for that,” chimed in Ginny as she appeared in the doorway.

“Mum! I told you that I cannot have steam coming out of my ears tonight!” wailed Lily. She began to cough again, and I took that as my cue to leave the bathroom. Ginny nodded in my direction to show her appreciation.

I seeked refuge in James’ room, closing the door behind me. His room was just how I had imagined it: Quidditch posters littering the dark blue walls with a giant Gryffindor banner hanging over his bed. Quidditch gear and broom maintenance items were spread amongst the books and papers on his bookshelf and desk. Somehow, the whole look was tidy with a flair of disorganization, which was totally James.

I paused by the window, gazing into the back garden, which extended into a forest. I wondered how far away was the clearing where the Potters played their backyard Quidditch. It was a clear sky outside, and I hoped that there would be a chance to look at the stars tonight.

Suddenly, there was a knock on my door.

“Come in!” I called from the window. A huge wave of relief cascaded over me when I saw who it was. I began to rush over to him. “James!”

Finally, he was here. James was certainly dressed to play the part of a groomsmen. He lingered in the doorway for a moment, gazing at me, mouth slightly agape. I stopped near the foot of his bed and tried to read his expression.

“Amelia, you look stunning. Radiant,” he said, finally stepping inside the room. I gave a small twirl, letting my amber dress flare around me.

He caught my hand as I faced him again, and he pulled me into a hug. I tried to swallow the small lump in my throat and tightened the embrace. The last time I had seen him, he was bleeding on my dining room floor. As we broke apart, James sat on his bed, still holding onto my hand, and motioned me to sit next to him, which I readily obliged.

“So you get to stay in my room after all,” he teased.

I let out one tiny laugh before the lump in my throat became too large. I turned towards him, trying to keep tears at bay. I really didn’t want to feel this way, not now. “James…”

His look was a combination of understanding and concern. He carefully tucked a loose wave of hair behind my ear. “I know,” he said quietly. “We’ve so much to talk about and not enough time. But let’s have some fun tonight, and we’ll worry about all that other shit later, okay?”

“Okay,” I agreed thickly as I squeezed his hand. My parents, The Cause, and the Elder Wand could wait a little while longer.

“Brilliant,” James beamed, planting a kiss on my forehead. “You all right?”

I nodded. “Yeah,” I answered breathlessly. “How are your arm and shoulder?”

James shrugged with his uninjured shoulder, giving a small smile and a wink. “Not too bad! Arm’s a little stiff, but I’m pretty much healed. I think I’ll be able to perform my best man duties.”

“Embarrassing speech and all?” I asked, feeding into his energy.

“Yeah, though Dad made me recite it for him, and I had to cut about half of it.”

“Too long?”

“And too inappropriate,” James sighed. “As if ‘incessant rambling and poorly timed jokes’ are a bad thing!” He rolled his eyes. “I mean, that’s how I landed you.”

“Hardly,” I laughed, elbowing him lightly.

“But,” he continued, nudging me back, “that means my hardest job of getting the prettiest girl at the whole wedding is already done.”

“Thank you, James.” I tugged at his starry bowtie. “You look rather dashing yourself.”

“No seriously,” he said, grazing his fingers slowly down the soft sleeve of my dress robes. “You always look nice, Amelia, but, wow, that dress...absolutely beautiful...” He trailed off as the hem of my sleeve met my bare skin. His soft touch sent bursts of electricity through me, making it difficult for my short and shallow breaths to appear calm and steady.

As he wrapped his arms around my waist, I felt the silky fabric of his vest as my hands traveled to his shoulders. It wasn’t until then that I realized that this was what I had been waiting for all day: to be alone with James, not to discuss anything Cause or family or school related, but to just be with him.

James leaned forward, but my gaze flitted towards the ajar door as a dark blur dashed past. I knew then that Albus would have seen us out of the corner of her eye and would be rushing back to interrupt--knowingly or unknowingly.

So I, too, leaned towards James, but my lips rested centimeters from his ear. “Imagine what I would look like with my dress around my feet.”

Whatever response James had was caught in his throat as I pulled away. “Hey Albus,” I said smoothly as I stood and brushed past a nearly sputtering James.

Albus cleared his throat in the doorway. “Mum and Dad said it’s time to go!” he announced.

“All right,” James said, having recovered from my unsuspected comment. “We’re coming.”

“We’re leaving now,” Albus asserted.

“I know that!” James said as he marched to the door. “We’re coming.”

There was a moment where they stared at each other before Albus rolled his eyes and walked away.

“Your brother is simply charming,” I lilted, linking his arm in mine.

James snorted. “Yeah, a real charmer.” He gazed down at me. “We'll have to catch our moment later, yeah? C’mon. You haven’t officially met my dad yet…” And he led me downstairs.

In the kitchen, everyone was getting ready to Floo in the fireplace. James confidently walked up to Harry Potter, whom I had yet to see today.

“Dad, let me formally introduce to Amelia Fortescue, my brilliant girlfriend,” he beamed, nudging me.

“Hello, Mr. Potter,” I said with more ease than I felt. To my surprise, he smiled.

“It’s Harry,” he told me, shaking my hand.

“Right, Harry,” I said. The name felt strange on my tongue. After all, he was the Chosen One! I could feel James radiating excitement from next to me.

“I’m glad you’re here, Amelia,” he said kindly. His green twinkled behind his spectacles. “You’re related to Florean Fortescue, if I recall correctly.”

“Er, yeah, I am. He’s my grandfather,” I replied, uncertain of where this was headed. Was he going to bring up The Cause?

“You know,” Harry began as Ginny offered me my traveling cloak, “he used to have an ice cream parlor in Diagon Alley. There was a summer when he gave me free ice cream and helped me with my History of Magic homework.”

“Really?” I exclaimed incredulously. I had never heard this before, but my heart swelled at the news.

“Yeah, Dad, really?” James repeated indignantly. “When was this? How come I haven’t heard about this?”

Harry patted his son’s shoulder. “I'll tell you all about it later. Right now, we have a wedding to attend.”



--



I hold my wand aloft as I shut the front door.

“Homenum Revelio!” I mutter. The spell comes back positive. Someone’s here. Are they my aunt and uncle? Or…?

Light comes from the living room and from the kitchen, which gives me enough light to see in the foyer. Everything is in tatters: photographs are off the walls, the vase is smashed on the floor, all of the drawers are open with their contents spewed everywhere.

“Hello?” I call out. If someone’s here, I’m ready to confront them. My shoes step over broken shards of possessions as I check the living room. Like the foyer, everything is disheveled or destroyed. The cushions of the sofa are shredded. The curtains are slashed. Books have been flung every which way. But no one’s in here.

I slowly make my way to the kitchen. “Anyone here?” I say aloud, closing cabinets, so I can see into the breakfast area. Plates, cups, and the contents of our potions pantry are strewn on the floor. The candles are running low. I make my way towards the kitchen table when I trip over someone. “Merlin’s beard!”

Heart racing, I point my wand at the unmoving person on the floor. It’s Uncle Michael. I kneel down to check him over. He’s still breathing but unconscious. I try to shake him awake. “Uncle Michael, Uncle Michael!” He doesn’t move. He’s Stunned.

In the shadows of the kitchen table, I see another person: Aunt Susan. I rush over to her. She, too, is Stunned, still alive. I brush off some of the junk that had fallen onto her. Whoever ransacked the house must have Stunned my aunt and uncle before destroying everything. I recast the human-presence-revealing spell, and there’s no one else in the house. As I lower my wand to wake up my aunt, something stops me. A cautionary feeling, a survival instinct. Not yet. They should remain Stunned for a while longer.

By now, my head is pounding, and I’m extremely thirsty. I look around for something to drink out of. With trembling hands, I snatch a chipped bowl and get some water from the tap. I gulp the cool water down. The liquid settles uncomfortably in my stomach, but I drink another bowl full.

As I pant into the silence of the house, I start to dry heave. I run into the toilet, dodging various items scattered on the floors. Shakily, I clutch onto the sink once my dry heaving ceases. I stare at myself in the mirror.

I’m pale with dark circles under my eyes. My hair has come out of its plait in tufts. My hazel eyes are bloodshot.

“C’mon, think. Think, Amelia, think,” I mumble pleadingly. What do I do? What are my next steps?

This has to be the work of the NeoWalds. They’ve finally caught on to what I’ve been trying to do, though I am not sure to what extent they suspect my ulterior motives. This is probably why I was drugged tonight: to keep me away from the Corners while they did this.

But why?

I rub my temples to relieve my headache.

I go over the facts: I was drugged, but I woke up hours later behind a dumpster, relatively unharmed and still armed with my wand. I came home to find the house completely ransacked with my aunt and uncle alive, but Stunned. I’ve definitely been followed.

What message can I glean from this?

Perhaps they’re looking for something, I think.

“Of course they are,” I grumble aloud before turning on the tap and splashing water on my face.

But it’s not here.

“Yeah.” I slide onto the toilet and rest my face in my hands.

There’s more to this. They had to have known they wouldn’t find it here…

“Bloody hell.” Of course! It’s practically genius. They know that I’m poking into their networks, but they trust me just as much as I trust them. This whole thing is a test, and I think I know how to pass it.

I spring into action.

I don’t bother to explore the rest of the house. I know that I’ll find what I’ve seen downstairs. However, that doesn’t prepare me for what I see in my bedroom.

My room is truly destroyed. Posters of The Weird Sisters, DJ Unicorn, and The Elf and The Merman have been ripped from my walls, only to be replaced by gaping holes. Most of my clothes have been torn to shreds, including my set of amber dress robes. The mattress of my bed is slashed, and my rugs are torn up. The most painful sight are my beloved books, since the majority of their pages have been ripped out.

I was foolish to leave my bag behind tonight, but I didn’t want to think that I would have to get to this point so soon. I kick the debris off my loose floorboard to retrieve it, a satchel that Victoria had given me for my seventeenth birthday. Afterall, one of the benefits of having dated the son of Harry Potter is that I know loads about how he (and Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger-Weasley) came to defeat the Dark Lord. And Hermione’s beaded handbag, well, let’s just say I’ve taken a page out of one of her precious books.

Prying open my loose floorboard, I grab my satchel, which has been unscathed by the attack here tonight. There are only a few more things I need. I rummage around my room for some more clothing, which is hard to come by after the intruders.

Then, I head downstairs to do the bit that I’m dreading.

As I’m concocting the mixture in Aunt Susan’s cauldron in the kitchen, my stomach churns. My hands tremble, and my head thuds painfully. All I need is sleep. But my journey has only begun.

While the concoction boils, I search for food. I don’t want to take much, though avoiding suspicion should be the least of my worries. I throw a few apples, a tin of nuts, and some chocolate into my satchel. Placing my crescent moon keychain on it, I throw it over my shoulders and return to my mixture.

It shines neon yellow in the cauldron. It’s finished.

Scraping some into the bowl, I walk steadily into the living room. This is it. There is no turning back after this moment.

I stand in front of the window, which faces the street. This is where the NeoWalds can see my response to their message. It’s brilliant on their part.

Of course they can kidnap me or torture my loved ones until I do what they want. But that would only incriminate them further. I would be the victim. I would be innocent. Instead, they’ve vandalized my family’s house and only Stunned my aunt and uncle. They’ve put the Quaffle in my hoop. I’m to decide what I’m going to do next. I’m supposed to do what they want. I’m going to come to them willingly, on my own volition, even after receiving their message. That way, if I get caught by the Ministry, all the guilt would fall onto me.

Those are their conditions, and I must accept. Otherwise, they will do worse. Otherwise, I may fail.

I dip my right index and middle fingers into the neon gloop. On the front window, I trace a triangle. The Invisibility Cloak. Next, I draw a circle within the triangle. The Resurrection Stone. Then, ever so slowly, I make a straight line from the tip to the bottom. The Elder Wand.

I can barely bring myself to look at the finished product. On my way out of the living room, I toss the mixture into the fireplace, which is nearly extinguished, and I have my wand at the ready. Now comes the action which will sever the cord.

I magick the kitchen table against the back door, so there’s a clearing in the kitchen big enough for my aunt and uncle. Then, I move my uncle to where he’s lying next to his wife. Bending down, I take their wands and place them in the sink. I place a knife on the table.

With a flick of my wand, ropes bind their hands and legs. It’s time.

“Rennervate.”

Aunt Susan and Uncle Michael slowly stir. I adjust the hood of my cloak over my head and point my wand down at them. They both realize that they’re bound, and I see their panic as they struggle against the ropes.

“Don’t,” I tell them quietly.

Startled, they look up at me.

“A-Amelia,” pants Aunt Susan. “Are you okay?” She sees my wand pointed at them. “What are… what are you doing?”

“What should’ve been done ages ago,” I answer rigidly.

“Which is what?” demands Uncle Michael hoarsely. He moves against his bonds. “Amelia, untie us. We need--”

“No.”

They both stop rustling and stare up at me in horror as we fall into a deafening silence.

“What do you mean, ‘No?’” asks Uncle Michael. He shakes some of his graying hair out of his face.

“I’m not going to help you,” I told him. “You’re on your own. I’m done here.”

“Amelia, what’s the matter with you?” Aunt Susan props herself onto her elbows. Her big eyes stare tearily up at me. “Are you in some kind of trouble? Are you hurt? Are you--”

“Oh, drop the facade of caring,” I sneer. “I’ve seen the looks you’ve exchanged with each other about my presence in this house. I know that you’ve worried over how I might influence your children. I’ve overheard your conversations about my abnormalities and troubles. I’ve been an inconvenience to you, but you’ve been an inconvenience to me, too. A hindrance to what I can do.”

“Amelia, that’s rubbish, utter rubbish!” exclaims Aunt Susan with tears streaming down her face. “We… we love you.”

I shake my head, and I catch Uncle Michael’s shrewd gaze.

“You don’t have to play the hero, Amelia,” he tells me. And I laugh.

“Me? A hero? Anything but!”

“Amelia--”

“Shut up,” I snap. “It’s about bloody time I leave this hellhole.”

“Let us help you,” Uncle Michael grunts as he sits up. I hex him back down to the floor, knocking the air out of him.

“Amelia!” gasps Aunt Susan. “Really now! Put down your wand and--”

I shake my head. “No. I know what you most fear about me, that I’m my mother’s daughter. Well…” I take a step closer to them. “I am. You’ve failed to make me something I’m not.”

“A-Amelia,” sobs Aunt Susan. “Please. You don’t have to do this.”

“You’re right. But I want to. This was never my home, and it never will be.”

I turn to leave, hearing them struggle behind me.

“Don’t go!” cries Aunt Susan. “Please don’t do this… You’re breaking my heart, Amelia!”

Pausing in the doorway, I turn around and raise my eyebrow. “And I’m supposed to care?”

I walk quickly out of the house and dash to a spot where I can Apparate. I dare not look back as I break out into an icy sweat. It’s done. Now, before I can truly go to The Cause with open arms, I have one more person to see.




--



A/N: Anything you recognize belongs to JKR.

What a chapter! Originally, this was supposed to include the wedding, but Amelia has just taken over her narration of the story. I think the wedding (and what comes with it, before and after) are really important to her, especially now in the present, when she's really taking a plunge into the unknown!

Thoughts on this chapter? What do you think about her revelation about The Cause in the past? Her meeting James' family (properly)? How she's left her aunt and uncle in order to go willingly to the NeoWalds? The contrast between her talk with Susan in the past and in the present?

I would love to hear what you think! I am beyond honored at the support this story has gotten (that being said, if you've left a review, I'm in the process of answering them. So sorry it's taken me this long, life has, as I'm sure you know, been busy)! Thank you!

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