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Hi everyone. My apologies for the long wait. I really don't even have a valid excuse so I stayed up absurdly late and I will pay my penance tomorrow.

I hope it was worth the wait. Thank you as always for your tremendous patience, for reading, for reviewing and for being. You guys are my whole heart and I love you all dearly. If I don't know you yet, pop me a review. If I do, I promise I will read *all the things* and respond soon.

 

All my love- A

 

xxx

 

 




“So now you’re telling me,” Marlene said once we were back at Headquarters, “that my family and I were nearly killed because Vol…” she began but could not finish the name, “He Who Must Not Be Named has some kind of sick vendetta against Yves?”

No one answered her, very well aware of the flair of Marlene’s temper.

“Great!” She screamed, “Just great!”

“All that’s missing from that little temper tantrum of yours Marlene is a stamped foot. Surely you will not deprive us of our only amusement. Indulge us wont you?” Sirius said languidly from his armchair in the corner. Out of everyone, he and Fabian looked the worst. They both looked completely exhausted, filthy and blood stained.

Gideon and Fabian chuckled in response to Sirius and Marlene shot them a deadly glare.

“Joke all you want Sirius,” she said incensed, “but I knew that girl was trouble from the first moment I saw her and nothing’s changed. She’s worse now than she ever was.”

“You know Marlene,” I said in a casual voice, speaking for the first time since we had reconvened at Headquarters. Everyone turned their heads to look as me, obviously taking in the chance to survey me in a way that didn’t require a hurried glance when they thought I wasn’t looking, “I would much rather have left you to die on the lawn outside your burning home, it wouldn’t have made any difference in my life. Not in the slightest. However, for the sake of your parents and brother, who, I must say, are quite lovely, could you shut it before I decide to finish the job.”

Marlene opened her mouth gaping life a fish in a bowl. It was just as well that Dumbledore returned with Mr and Mrs McKinnon. Mrs McKinnon’s eyes searched the room for her children and she hurried over to them, peppering them with kisses and squeezing them both to her in a motherly hug. I looked away. I didn’t need to spend any more energy on anything more emotional than I currently was.

“Yves,” a broken voice said from the direction I was keeping out of my sight, “thank you. Thank you for saving me.”

Mrs McKinnon’s face was gleaming with tears, her face quite beautiful as she smiled. She looked a lot like Marlene but with more kindness.

“Uh,” I said I’m sure with what looked like a grimace, “pleasure.” I forced a tight-lipped smile but it didn’t seem to bother her. She continued to smile at me, her eyes bright, tears continuing to slip from her eyes.

Dumbledore watched the exchange silently before he indicated that I was the next person he wanted to speak to. He led me into the kitchen and with a swish of his wand; the kitchen began bustling with activity. A teapot filled itself with water and settled on the hook above the fire. Two cups flew from the cupboard meeting the sugar pot, rattling teaspoons and two plates. A knife swooped out of the drawer and began cutting thick slices of bread before it dove into the butter and smothered the bread in raspberry jam. We sat in silence while the kitchen buzzed around us finally my sandwich and a cup of tea landed neatly in front of me. Dumbledore put sugar in his tea and stirred it staring out the window apparently completely at ease. I did the same before I ate as much of the sandwich I could.

I drained my tea eager to get the entire ordeal over and done with.

“So…” I said swirling the remnants of my tea in the cup.

Instead of reciprocating Dumbledore looked at me with considerable patience, his face kind and full of understanding.

“I know there are certain facts you wish to keep secret from the rest of us Yves and, as an old man, I have seen enough to understand why you would want to. We all have our demons, ghosts which haunt us, and each and every one of us has made mistakes but no one is too far away from redemption if one truly seeks it.” He paused and took a sip of his tea, smiling to himself as he did, as though it were the best cup of tea he had ever had, here in this simple kitchen, in the middle of a war, across from someone who was probably largely considered a mad person.

“I cannot know for certain the entire story Yves, only you are privy to that, and, as such, much of what I am surmising is guess work. However, this way we can spare you the indignity of telling the story which is causing you so much pain.”

I looked away from him. Obviously he could tell what was happening, this was Dumbledore.

“I believe that you chose to go with Sasha because you knew that even together you and Fabian would not be able to stop him, that to resist would be the end of you both. I cannot say for certain what happened between you but what I do know is that you managed to defeat him.”

He took another sip of tea and gazed out of the window momentarily before bringing his attention back to me.

“I know that something in you changed there Yves. Fabian told me before all of this happened that you could, how did he phrase it…” he said grasping for the word.

“Disengage.” I spoke softly looking into his eyes.

“Yes, disengage. I believe that is what you did, what you are attempting to continue to do now. However,” he said eyeing me over his half moon spectacles, “it is obvious that you are now not as successful at it as you once were. The façade is slipping Yves.”

“Façade?” I asked feeling my own brow furrow. My body was beginning to grow cold, the beading sweat had dried up and I was on the verge of shivering in the warm kitchen.

“Yes.” Dumbledore said running his eyes over me, “You chose the word disengage for a reason Yves. It is exactly what you are doing. You disengage from your people, from your emotions, from your life and you believe that it makes you stronger but it does not. Look at you know. This is not strength Yves. What you were before, that is where the true strength lays, where your heart lives. You hide you true self now but you shouldn’t.”

I smiled at him but shook my head.

“You are wrong.” I said looking him dead in the eyes. I wasn’t scared of his judgement anymore. I was what I was, and if that was a monster, I was prepared to live with it.

“You are right about many things Albus, but of this, you are optimistically foolish. You are right, I left with Sasha to save Fabian and I did kill him. But first I burned away my humanity soaking up as much power as I could. Voldemort was there, he told Sasha where to take me. I think he knew that in the end, if it came down to it, and Sasha and I were to fight, I would be the victor. His loath for Sasha was so evident. But he does not have the same hatred for me. He offered me a place. A place by his side.”

Dumbledore’s face did not betray an ounce of shock if he felt it, he continued to look at me in that infuriatingly fatherly fashion I was growing to resent.

“I should have taken him up on the offer. He said he could help me, that he was the only one who knew how, that without him I would die.”

“That is incorrect Yves.” He said interjecting before I could continue, “He is not the only one who can help you. I have already offered you a solution.”

“A solution that would see me dead!” I said raising my voice, “I chose The Order, Fabian, Sirius, You…” my throat tightened uncomfortably, “over a sure future. And here I am: the weakest I have ever been, in league with The Order pushing him and my answers and salvation further away. This,” I said waving my hand around the homely, familiar, comfortable kitchen, “isn’t going to save me. These people are not going to save me and all I am going to bring to them is heartbreak and misery, all I do is sow discord. I am now, as I have always been, an outsider.”

“How can you say that?” Dumbledore asked in his even voice, not raising it an iota but making it plain that is was his turn to be heard, “There are people here who would die for you, people who consider you their family. There are people here who have given up so much as you have, who suffer with those choices everyday and you would take the word of someone who lies, cheats, steals and murders without thought and without regard; someone fashioning themselves a ‘Dark Lord’ over those who have shed blood for you, who give of themselves to you and who love you?” He stuck out a hand and enveloped my shaking hand in his, giving it a tight squeeze. The more he spoke the more my body seared with pain.

“I took his power.” I blurted half because I needed him to know that he was wrong about me, that all this effort to try and save me was for nothing and half because I needed to confess. “I took other’s power too. Because I can, because it makes me feel good.”

Dumbledore continued to hold my hand and look at me steadily.

“Yves,” he said patiently as always, “do you remember when you first came to me, the first time we met?” he asked and I nodded in response.

“I saw a girl who, despite everything she was taught to be, taught to think, taught to revere, did something she believed to be right, against all odds, without thought for her future, she knew herself with a certainty one seldom witnesses, with a conviction often absent in those with more experience, who have seen more life…”

“But I didn’t. I killed that muggle.” I said tears escaping my eyes now, “I didn’t do it right the first time.”

“No one ever does.” Dumbledore said with a gentle smile, “But you knew within yourself the difference between darkness and the light. And you chose light Yves. You chose the light even though it meant turning your back on everything you once knew, everyone you loved, a home and even the creature comforts of an otherwise wonderful life. All your suffering, all you have endured, has lead you down a path never before travelled. It is up to you to find the light but you cannot do that on your own. Each of us harbours darkness, some feed it, some suffocate it, and some balance it. You,” he said with utter conviction, as though no spoken truth weighed more, “have more strength than anyone I know. But I know your darkness is immense, and that it was never supposed to be yours, it was a destiny forced upon you.”

“You do not know...” I said shaking my head, tears falling in earnest now.

“And I do not pretend to Yves, but you are not the only one who can hold a lamp against the dark.”

“I don’t want anyone else to get hurt.” I said sobbing ridiculously and feeling weaker than I had in years.

“We are all here to hold our lamps aloft Yves, if not for you, for someone else we love, for a world we will stand for, no matter the cost. This is all part of the fabric of our history.”

We didn’t say anything for a long time. My tears slowed to a more manageable weeping before Dumbledore continued.

“You are dying.” He said without hesitation, without the pleasantries.

“Yes.” I said. There was no point in denying it, he would know. He knew so much already.

“Not if we can help it.” He said offhandedly, “Now,” he continued in a stronger voice, “how did you know they would go after Marlene?”

“I had dreams.” I said knowing that it sounded ridiculous but they had not been wrong so far. I knew they were warnings.

“How did you know to believe them?” he said his brow furrowing for the first time.

“They felt real. Some of them were part memory, part… something else.” I told him about the dreams and he listened without interrupting, his eyes never leaving mine. At the end he looked out of the window again and took another sip of what was surely very cold tea by now.

“What is it?” I asked in earnest.

“I do not believe them to be simply dreams Yves. They are something more. However, I do not know where they are emanating from but I have an idea.”

“Albus,” I said shaking my head in frustration, “How am I supposed to trust you if you never give me any information.”

“Faith.” He said turning to me with a wry smile, “I have an idea but it will take some doing to identify whether my hunch is correct. However, seeing that I am quite old and, as a result, quite wizened, if my thinking is correct, you have just handed me and, perhaps, many more of us, a brighter future.”

He rose to his feet and I followed. We walked back into the room with all the waiting, expectant faces. I had expected it to thin out but everyone still sat around the fire. There was relative silence. I looked at the faces of each of them. They were all mourning their fates, the fates of the McKinnon’s and Mary and her family. Without our connection to one another, there wouldn’t be this pain.

Dumbledore cleared his throat and everyone turned to face me. Their faces brightened at the sight of Dumbledore. But, as I continued to watch them, their eyes sliding from Dumbledore to me, they continued to smile. I found Sirius’s eyes first, the hope in them was unmistakable but there was something else there, something that threatened to make my eyes spill tears again. I looked towards Fabian and he had the same look. So did just about everyone else. Obviously except Marlene who looked at me the same way she always seemed to.

“Mother, Father,” She said standing, “I think we should be leaving.”

“Oh,” said Dumbledore genially, “there is no need. I have readied rooms for you all. You do not have to go anywhere tonight. You are safe here and, if anything, you will be well fed and merry before you depart, should you wish, to some place more secure.”

Marlene looked as though she would have fallen over with the slightest disturbance in the atmosphere. Mr and Mrs McKinnon though, looked completely delighted and followed Dumbledore out of the room.

There was a lingering silence in the room at their departure. Everyone knew as well as I that if it persisted either Marlene or I would break the silence and that would end up the way it always did- in bad feelings and mild violence.

To everyone’s surprise it was Remus who stood.

“Well, I think, seeing as we are all stuck here together for another evening…” He flicked his wand and a few cases of butterbeer appeared, along with some bottles of mead, some ice and several glasses.

“Who knows,” he said smiling heartbreakingly, “it may be our last, and if it is, I want to have just one more night where we can be together. A night we can celebrate our victories,” he said putting a hand on Marlene’s shoulder, “and the beautiful lives of those we knew who are no longer with us.” He took three bottles from the case, gave one to Marlene before walking over to me and handing me the other. Bottles were passed around, even to Marlene’s brother who smiled widely at the inclusion.

“Here is to McKinnon’s.” He said, his voice brave and resilient, “who survived a terrible tragedy but who have the love of their family and friends.” He lifted his bottle and took a sip.

“Here’s to Yves,” he said turning to me, “who returns to us changed but still loved.” He took another sip and everyone copied him. Sirius and Fabian were smiling broadly.

“And here is to Mary.” He hesitated and swallowed before continuing, “who was a light in so many lives, who we loved and who, if you’ll beg my pardon, would hate all this sappy shit and expect us to carry on more bravely and more fiercely than we did before.” Everyone smiled toothily before we took another sip.

“Now,” James said from the corner of the room, “let’s have a Hogwarts worthy night off. What do you say Jamie?” he said patting the boy on his back.

“I’ve never had a Hogwarts worthy night off.” He said smilingly brightly at James.

James beamed down at him.

“Well, it just so happens that you’re in luck. No one throws a Hogwarts party like The Marauders.” He said grinning like it was the greatest achievement of his life. Lily rolled her eyes affectionately at him.

“We’ll just have to see about that.” A voice boomed from the doorway.

Gideon trudged through it. I hadn’t noticed that he had been missing when Dumbledore and I returned.

“I believe,” he said making his way over to his brother, “that we,” he gestured to Fabian, “threw the most legendary Hogwarts parties.”

“Sure old man.” James said playfully.

“What a darling party we’re going to have with a couple of cases of Butterbeer.” He said fanning himself like a damsel. Jamie watched him in awe and laughed despite himself.

“Darling party?” James said rearing himself for a playful war of words.

“Yes boy, darling. Where’s the hardtack?” he said mockingly looking around but by now, his theatrical nature had everyone at least smiling, if not outright laughing, “Although, not for you laddie,” he said patting Jamie on the head brotherly, “you stick to the butterbeer.”

“You,” James said walking over to Gideon and clapping a hand on his shoulder, “and I are going to be fast friends. Remus?” he looked towards us, “you heard the man. Where’s the hardtack?”

Remus rolled his eyes but it was difficult for even him to hide his smile.

“Come on Sirius,” he said waving him over, “let’s see what we can dig up.” Remus looked at Peter and gave him a wink.

“Ah… come on Moony…” he said sitting forward in his chair, his exhaustion evident, “why do I have to come?”

“Because,” Peter said speaking for the first time, “you’re the only one who can always sniff this stuff out.” He smiled at Remus.

Sirius rolled his eyes and theatrically got to his feet. I could tell that he was disguising his pain and exhaustion.

“You know what,” he said looking to Peter as though he was simply indulging the entire endeavour. I knew to him, there was nothing better than being here, right now, with the people he loved and cared for. His chosen family, “your lives would be so boring without me.”

“And a lot more quiet.” Remus joked.

“And there would be so little hair everywhere.” Peter said walking after Sirius.

Sirius punched him lightly on the arm before pulling him into a hug.

Lily, Alice, Emme and a begrudging Marlene set up the record player and chose the music, Frank and Gideon spoke to Jamie making him laugh occasionally, his big eyes gleaming, taking in every word of their stories with relish.

Fabian strolled over, his hands in his pockets. He looked, to my surprise, embarrassed.

“I’m sorry about the kiss earlier.” He said standing beside me taking in the scene but careful not to touch me. In the distance we could hear Gideon’s booming laughter and James’s indignant rebuttals to his jokes.

“It’s alright.” I said even though I hadn’t really thought about it.

“I just needed to make sure you were still Yves.” He said honest as always.

“I know… after the way I left…”

“Yeah,” he said cutting me off swiftly, “that’s all forgiven already.”

I nodded, trying to will my eyes to dry up.

“Please tell me you’re staying.” He said, his voice made my inside ache.

“I want nothing more than to run away with you. To go to a place where none of this exists. Where a woman in love can be with a man in love and live the lives they were meant to live. I want nothing more than for things to be different, for you to be mine and for me to be yours, because I love you. I always will. I wish the same for Sirius and I. I will stay for now Fabian, but I will not come to your bed. But I will not go to his either.”

Fabian pulled his gaze back from the scene before me.

“You love me?” He said with the naughtiest smile I had ever seen on him. He looked more like Sirius than I would have ever thought possible.

“Of course I love you Fabian. You have part of my soul.” His smile widened and with a nod took a stride forward before stopping.

“You know,” he said looking back over his shoulder, “I can see why you love Sirius. I think,” he said with a huge smile, “that we could even be friends. And I don’t mind sharing your heart with him for now.”

“And why is that?” Sirius asked from behind me.

“Because I know with you it will be well looked after.”

He turned and joined his brother. I watched him with Jamie. He was really good with children. Sirius watched them too and without turning to look at me he spoke.

“Tell me you’re staying.” He said gruffly.

“Yes, for now, I am staying.” He turned with a smile I had not seen on him in the longest time.

“That’s good enough for me.” He said burying a hand in my hair and planting a kiss on my forehead.

“Black…” A voice warned from the other side of the room.

“What?” he said innocently walking towards Fabian.

“I thought we agreed no kissing.”

“No Fabian,” He said smugly pulling a chair closer while magicking a drink together, “I didn’t promise. I made you promise.” But then registering Fabian’s displeasure at his words, “Alright, alright.” He said raising both arms, “I concede… no kissing for anyone.”

“That goes for you too Potter.” Fabian said smiling playfully at him and Lily in a corner.

“You Prewett,” Lily said placing a hand on her hips trying very hard to disguise her smile so as not to ruin the effect, “can fuck right off.”

I felt as though I was on the verge of collapse. I needed to sleep but a tiny reserve of energy tingled within me and I walked over to where Remus and Peter were organising drinks for the girls.

I wanted to be part of this. It felt right. And it was. Even if it was only for this night.

 

 



 

 

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