Title: The Great Vastness
Alternative Title: The Cat Lady of Wisteria Walk
Author: Gracesane
Characters: Arabella Figg, Other Characters, and brief appearances by Kingsley Shacklebolt, Albus Dumbledore, and Harry Potter
Summary:
I won't tell you that the world matters nothing, or the world's voice, or the voice of society. They matter a good deal. They matter far too much. But there are moments when one has to choose between living one's own life, fully entirely, completely – or dragging out some false, shallow, degrading existence that the world in its hypocrisy demands.
Word Count: 21,527
Completed: July 26, 2014; 10:38 pm
Posted: July 26, 2014

AN: I was sooooo upset when the original version of this got lost on my crashed hard drive. I had originally meant it to be this short little look into what Mrs. Figg thinks as she watches over Harry, but it ended up being this story about her. It was – not to sound full of myself – but one of the best things I've ever written…then I lost it. Hope this version came out even marginally as good…Goodness knows it took me weeks to write this.

It's written as eight parts, as seen by the Roman numerals/subheaders dividing up this beast of a one shot. Please excuse any typos; given the length, I skimmed over some parts when rereading it.

Warning: There are religious references and quotes from the Bible in this story. I am not Christian, so please pardon any errors I may have made. My source of information was the internet, and we all know how reliable that is…

Disclaimer: I own nothing but the writing and the idea.


I.

Orabilis

Thalia Blishwick wanted only one thing: a little girl. She and her husband, Cepheus, already had three strong, handsome little boys, Ambrosius, Augustus and Aurelius, to carry on the Blishwick name. They took after her in appearance, thick blond hair and bright green eyes, but they were their father's sons. They cared not for the finer things in life, preferring to play on their toy broom sticks and pretend they were heroic good wizards. She loved them dearly, but felt bereavement in her heart at the thought of a little girl with her blond curls and bright eyes who she could pamper and dress up.

She prayed fervently after the birth of Aurelius. She prayed first for that healthy, lively, little blonde-haired witch, then when that seemed hopeless for a healthy witch, any healthy witch. After what seemed like eons, she despaired and prayed, A little girl. She could be missing a leg for all I care. Dumb as a rock. Just give me a little girl.

Her prayers were answered four years after the birth of her youngest son. Miss Blishwick entered the world a snowy December morning. Dark brown hair and dark sloe eyes, a tiny little thing whose hand could barely wrap around her father's pinky, she opened her eyes lazily and smiled at her mother. Their hearts melted. They named her Arabella – from the Latin orabilis – Doreen – from the Greek Doron. She was their answered prayer, a blessed little gift.

Little Arabella quickly became their pride and joy. She was quite advanced and began talking and reading before the rest of her peers. She had a sharp tongue, one that she used when annoyed, often at her older brothers, but she also knew how to use her undeniable charm to her advantage as well. With a bat of her thick lashes and a sweet "Please," anyone who met the little girl became besotted. The day three-year old Arabella had found a stray kneazle behind their estate, and demanded that they take it in, her parents didn't stand a chance. Oliver the grey-striped kitten was very much like his mistress, clever and able to get whatever he wanted. Often, he would curl up against the little brown-haired girl as she read in their den to her mother in the afternoons and her father in the evenings.

She read storybooks. Nestled in her father's lap, she read words and phrases from The Daily Prophet while he ate breakfast. On occasion, when he sent them, she read letters from Ambrosius about his adventures at Hogwarts. Those were her favorite. She loved to learn about the magical place where her eldest brother attended school, and when he returned for breaks, she read through his books and notes, asking questions about "this spell" and "that theorem" and "When will I get to attend Hogwarts?"

At four, she was smarter than they could have imagined. So enraptured by their clever, beautiful darling, Thalia and Cepheus failed to realize that she had yet to perform accidental magic. They paraded her around their pure-blood circles who were still enamored with the smart little girl who would proudly proclaim "When I go to Hogwarts, I want to be Head Girl."

But, as four turned to five, five to six, six to seven and seven to eight, they heard more and more comments about her lack of magic. They still brushed it off, stating that "She's just a late bloomer" and "Look at her reading Ambrosius' 5th year books. She's got plenty of magical potential." But, still, they began to grow worried and hired the wizarding world's most renowned healers. They took her out less and less, claiming she was sick. It wasn't farfetched; she had to be ill. There was no other reason why their precious, talented little girl hadn't performed magic yet. Arabella would still tug on her parents' robes, asking "When will I get to attend Hogwarts with Aurelius, Augustus and Ambrosius?" She longed to join her three older brothers, and her parents didn't share their concerns with her.

Eight to nine, and nine to ten, Thalia and Cepheus waited with baited breath for the day she turned eleven and received her letter. The owl never came.

II.

Waste

Arabella wasn't dimwitted. In fact, for an eleven year-old she was remarkably bright. She observed quietly, and picked up on small shifts in people. Despite all protests to the contrary, Arabella knew her parents weren't telling her the truth. Given the little cues she had picked up, she'd almost be so forthright as to say they were lying.

Her Hogwarts letter never came. She asked about it every day for the first week after her birthday, and her parents had no answer for her. They stopped bringing her to social gatherings completely. Her tutor stopped coming. Everyone was treating her differently.

No, Arabella wasn't a dunce. She knew there was a secret they were keeping from her.

It was warm for mid-March. The sun was pouring through her bedroom window, and she would much rather be strolling through their gardens than laying on her bed with nothing to do but to contemplate her parents' behavior.

She couldn't leave her room though. Her mother had expressly forbidden her to leave her room while they had "very important" guests at their estate. Arabella had become accustomed to her solitary confinement while her parents entertained guests, especially after her eleventh birthday.

She petted Oliver as he lay beside her, and he purred delightedly, blue eyes glistening in contentment.

"Oh, Oliver," she sighed, "It's much too wonderful outside to be wasting away in here." The kneazle nuzzled her side, as if in agreement. "Perhaps we could sneak into the gardens? Hiding in the gardens is practically the same as hiding in my room, but much better. Hmm, what do you say?"

Two blue eyes peered at her, and she took that to mean, "Yes."

"Perfect," she smiled, picking her furry familiar off the bed and placing him on the floor. "Come, Oliver-quietly!" She admonished him as he meowed.

The door opened a crack and she peaked out, sighing with relief when she saw the hall was deserted. Barefoot, she silently slipped out of her room, Oliver following close behind. The silk of her robes brushed against the marble floors, and she frowned, hoping no one heard its quiet hiss. She had almost made it to their back doors when we heard her name called, "Arabella!"

She jumped, almost knocking over an antique vase, but she caught it, silently placing it back on its pedestal, before turning around. No one was in the hall, but she was sure she heard her name.

"Arabella! Yes, that's her name, isn't it?" A female voice she didn't recognize asked.

Curious, Arabella followed the voice to their sitting room.

"She was a precocious little thing, I remember. Where is she? No one's seen her in ages."

"Oh, she's just preoccupied with studies." Her mother's voice returned, nervously.

"She's at Hogwarts?" the other voice asked surprised. "I've heard that she's-oh, never mind."

"No, continue, Penelope," her father's voice had an edge to it. "What were you going to say?"

There was a moment of pause before the lady – Penelope – continued. "Some of the other wives have said that she's a squib."

Though Arabella had never heard the word, Penelope had spoken it with such distaste, that it had to be a bad word.

"For such a smart little girl, it's just such a surprise that she hasn't an ounce of magic in her."

Her heart skipped a beat. She knew she shouldn't be listening. She didn't want to hear any more, but a sick sense of curiosity rooted her to the spot.

"She'll never be able to attend Hogwarts. Such a shame, the poor dear. A waste, really. The girl who'll never be a witch."

She took off then, running back toward her room, with no care of silence. She locked her door and collapsed face-down, tears running down her cheeks. After eleven years of hearing nothing but what a clever little witch she was, the thought didn't cross her mind that she wasn't one. Smarter than all three of her brothers combined, how could she not be a witch?

It's preposterous, she thought, sitting up and wiping away her tears. Penelope was just a liar. Her parents would have told her. But then again, they didn't refute it. They didn't say anything in her defense. And it was true, she hadn't gotten her Hogwarts letter, and it had been almost three months since she turned eleven.

She broke out into another round of sobs, falling back into her bed, Penelope's words replaying in her head. Squib. Hasn't an ounce of magic. A waste. The girl who'll never be a witch. In the back of her mind, she heard her door open with a slow creak. She remotely felt Oliver slide up next to her, a dip in the bed and a human hand running through her hair. She could make out a voice frantically speaking. But drowning it all out was the memory of that woman who tore away all of Arabella's dreams.

That was all she could see and hear until everything faded into cold and darkness.

When she opened her eyes, it was no longer dark and no longer cold. A sliver of brightness made its way into her room through a thin opening in the curtains, thin arms wrapped around her waist, pulling her into warmth. Arabella turned in the arms, meeting her mother's sleeping face.

There were tear tracks down her cheeks, and Arabella pressed her fingers against her own cheeks, finding moisture there. Her eyes were puffy from crying, just like her mother's. A small sob escaped Arabella's lips, and her mother's eyes shot open.

"Arabella," she sighed in relief and tightened her hold on her daughter. "Darling, we were so worried."

"Mummy," Arabella snuggled into her mother. "I had a terrible, terrible dream. A nightmare." She felt her mother stiffen as she mumbled, "I – I was a squib."

Her mother shot up into a sitting position, bringing Arabella with her. She had a firm grasp on her daughter's shoulders, and with a shake she stated, "Don't ever call yourself that again."

Arabella looked up to her mother's eyes and saw the truth. She was a squib; it hadn't been a dream. She pulled out of her mother's grasp with a hard glare.

"Why? It's the truth, isn't it?" She climbed out of bed, trying to put as much distance between them as possible. Her voice became quieter and quieter, "I'm just a waste. A poor, unfortunate girl without an ounce of magic. Who will never be a witch. Who will never go to Hogwarts." She shook with anger and sadness, her sight blurring as her eyes welled up. She could make out figure coming toward her, cautiously.

"You lied to me," Arabella said, backing away. "You and Daddy. You knew all this time."

"Bel-"

"You're ashamed of me. That's why you lock me up in my room! That's why you won't let anyone see me. You're afraid of what they'll all think!" She began to sob.

"No darling," her mother started, "that's not it at all."

"Stop lying. You're ashamed be- because I-I'm," she stuttered, her sobs breaking up her sentence. "I'm a muggle!"

Her mother gasped and began to speak, but Arabella cut her off. "I am. Don't deny it. Why don't you just get rid of me? Why not send me off to some muggle orphanage? I'll go to muggle school, and live life as a muggle far away. And you'll never have to see me again!"

"Bella," her mother gasped. "We'd never!"

"You already lock me up. Logically, the next step would be to throw me out, wouldn't it?" Arabella stated in a calm anger, the horrid truth ringing in her ears. "Now, please leave me alone, as you've done for months."

"Darling," her mother sobbed. A part of her felt guilty for making her mother cry, but the other part, the more vindictive part felt justified. "We love you. We'll do anything to show you that. Let us show you that."

"Just leave me alone." She looked away from her mother. "I want to be alone."

They stood there in silence for what seemed like an eternity, but soon her mother dropped her head and turned away. With the click of the door, Arabella was once again alone.

She didn't leave her room for days. She refused all company other than that of Oliver. She had no appetite and left plates of untouched food at her door. When she finally emerged, thinner and sallow, she had but one request. Her parents were appalled; they tried to talk her out of it, but she was stubborn. Magic or no magic, she still knew how to make her parents agree to anything she wanted. She told them if they loved her at all, they'd oblige with her wishes.

That fall, she began her education at a muggle boarding school.

III.

Charmed

Salisbury Academy was an all-girls boarding school, located in on the English Channel. Known for its rigorous academic program and massive campus, the prestigious Salisbury was home to hundreds of intelligent girls between the ages of 11 and 18. It was also home to the snobbiest, snootiest, meanest girls Arabella had ever had the misfortune to meet.

Most of the girls were heiresses to large fortunes, daughters of wealthy aristocrats and businessmen. They dressed in their designer brands and gossiped among each other. Arabella hated it; it reminded her so much of the society that she left behind. In fact, some days she didn't think there was a difference between her life in the wizarding world and her life in the muggle world.

In the wizarding world, she was dirt because she was born without magic. She was scorned, and would never fit in. In the muggle world, she was dirt because she was born without money –muggle money. Yes, her parents were plenty wealthy as Blishwicks, but they didn't bother wasting their money on muggle things. She wore secondhand clothing from the local thrift shop. They were too baggy, often worn down and riddled with holes, and they smelled terrible. It was no wonder she had been the object of ridicule for the past two years. Some of them even called her Ara-smella.

Despite the less-than-amazing company, Salisbury had quickly become Arabella's home over the past two years. At first, she was afraid that she'd be behind in lessons, having grown up in the wizarding world, learning magical facts. She had forced her parents to hire her a muggle tutor the summer before she matriculated, and she worked hard all summer to absorb as much as she could. Upon starting, she was smarter than many of her peers, earning top marks. Her professors were impressed with their taciturn yet resilient student, and she basked in their approbation. After all, she didn't receive any from her parents who still couldn't fathom why she wanted to attend muggle school. She'd bring home her perfect marks over breaks, but her parents would merely smile and say That's nice dear before launching into stories of her older brothers' accomplishments. Oh, that's nice Arabella. Did you hear Ambrosius received a promotion at the Ministry? He's now the assistant secretary to the interim-Assistant Director of Animagus Registry or Oh, lovely. Did you know Aurelius just earned 5 OWLs? And only one Troll!

The campus was beautiful as well. Overlooking the water, Arabella spent most of her free time sitting upon a grassy hill reading when the weather allowed. Otherwise, she was in the library sifting through literature, working on assignments and even chatting up the librarian, an elderly woman by the name of Mrs. Higgins. Arabella considered Mrs. Higgins to be her only friend as Salisbury, and she didn't mind that she only had the one. The other girls were too fickle and superficial. It also didn't help that when she had first joined the muggle world, Arabella would forget and use wizarding terms, a cause for ridicule by her housemates.

That was her least favorite part of Salisbury. The housing system broke girls into their class year and then randomly assigned them into living accommodations. The houses were beautiful little cottages, the roommates nosy little demon-spawn.

Arabella had just packed her belongings into her bag after a long evening in the library. She was hungry, but had skipped dinner, hoping to avoid her roommates, who had gotten particularly vicious this year.

"Goodbye Mrs. Higgins," she waved at the librarian on her way out. "Have a lovely evening!"

"You too, Arabella." Mrs. Higgins smiled fondly as the younger girl walked out of the library.

It was early April, and the last remnants of winter were fading away. The weather that particular day was wonderful, warm, and sunny – highly aberrant from the dismal rain they had been getting all week.

Arabella walked silently and with no care in the world, enjoying the evening's peace. She walked along the stone path back to her house. Maybe she would pull out a book and read outside on the grassy field for a litt-

"Ow." She glared at the sky as she lay on the stone. The contents of her bag were thrown across the lawn, her back and shoulder aching from the impact. She sat up, recognizing her attacker as Rosemary Figg, another girl in her year. "Was that necessary?" Arabella said caustically, as she began to gather her belongings.

"Oh, I'm so sorry Arabella!" Rosemary knelt down to help pick up Arabella's books and papers. "I didn't mean to pull you down!"

Arabella stopped and looked at Rosemary. Her eyes narrowed at the tall strawberry blonde, one of her housemates who was very well-liked at Salisbury. Arabella couldn't tell if the other girl was faking being nice or actually, sincerely being nice.

"Well, next time you decide to pull on my bag, don't." Arabella snatched her bag from Rosemary and began to briskly walk away. She heard footsteps following her and knew that Rosemary wasn't far behind.

"Wait," she said, grabbing Arabella's arm, slowing down her escape. "Why is it that you never come to dinner?"

"Why?" Arabella questioned back with a snort. "Did you miss my company?"

Rosemary linked her arm with Arabella's and happily exclaimed, "Why, yes, actually. I do."

Arabella's mouth tightened, forming a grim line. "Of course you do." She tried to disentangle her arm, but Rosemary had a strong grasp on it.

"It's hard to question someone when they're not around!" Rosemary smiled brightly.

"Question?" Arabella was not amused in the slightest.

"Yes. We've been at the same school for two years now, and I don't know if you know this, but people think you're weird."

Of course Arabella knew it. It's hard to miss that she's constantly being teased. She opened her mouth to express just that and add Thanks to you and your doll-like entourage but thought better and firmly shut her mouth.

Rosemary continued on merrily as if they were the best of friends. "I've wanted to ask you about it for ages, but you're so elusive. One second you're there and the next you're gone. Almost as if you've disappeared by some sort of magic." She paused, looking at Arabella. "But that's ridiculous because everyone knows magic doesn't exist, right?"

Arabella scowled. "That's correct. Magic is something only for fairytales and entertainment shows. Really, is that all you wanted to ask me?" She tried to pull her arm away again, but Merlin, it was like the girl had steel bands for arms.

"Yes, well, Arabella, living together, I've always been curious about you and your strangeness. You really are different from everyone else, and I've always wondered why. For instance, the fact that you distance yourself from everyone else, had made me curious. It was almost as if you didn't belong here, and I wondered, why does she act the way she does?"

Arabella rolled her eyes. She did not want to spend hours listening to a blonde, airhead heiress pick apart her life in an attempt to tear her down.

"Yes, well, Rosemary," she mimicked the other girl, "It's hard to socialize with people who find pleasure in teasing you, though I'm sure you've never had that problem."

"People have teased you from the beginning because you're different. From the moment I saw you, I asked myself, why does she dress like that? She looks ridiculous."

Arabella chuckled mirthlessly. Of course, it all came down to her sense of style.

"It's a simple concept, really, I'm sure you'll understand it," Arabella replied patronizingly. "Not everyone can afford to buy expensive, designer clothing, you know. Being the social butterfly-" nosy busy body "-that you are, you might have heard that I'm here on scholarship."

"At first I really did think, Arabella's on scholarship, that's why she dresses with no fashion sense. But, I know you're not poor. You're quite rich. Richer than most of us."

Arabella looked at Rosemary incredulously. How would she know that? Everyone, even the administration thought she was poor because her parents didn't have bank accounts full of muggle money and her address led to what appeared to be a run-down building in the middle of no-where. Nevertheless, Rosemary really wouldn't know anything about Arabella's past, especially not if she had anything to say about it.

"Rich? Do you not see how I dress?" Arabella questioned. "These are from secondhand stores."

"And I knew you were rich, because I've been observing you."

"Which is absolutely creepy!" Arabella interjected.

"And if you were truly poor," Rosemary continued as if she hadn't said a thing, "you wouldn't wear that golden necklace inlaid with diamonds."

Her hand went up to clutch the necklace tightly.

"It's an heirloom!" Which it was. One of many, many heirlooms, gathering dust in their teeming Gringotts account.

"Or have that nice trunk full of nice jewelry that you never wear. So the question is, why do you wear terrible clothing?"

"Really, Rosemary?" Arabella glared at the other girl, hoping to dissuade her from whatever silly ideas she had. "So I own a few nice things – which I said are all heirlooms I've been given as the only girl in my family. We're poor but we value our family history. Hardly cause for concern!"

"But, even if you weren't rich," Rosemary ignored Arabella, "and even if you are only teased because of your poor fashion sense," Rosemary smiled at her with a cat-got-the-cream grin, "it doesn't explain all of your verbal quirks."

Arabella's stomach dropped to her feet. Rosemary looked positively delighted, and her verbal quirks, as she put it, really were hard to explain.

"Even you don't deny that, Arabella." If anything, Rosemary's grin got wider.

"How I speak is solely based on how my family speaks. We're an eccentric family when it comes to our vocabulary. It's not my fault if no one else at this institution understands higher level vocabulary." Arabella said with all the haughtiness she could muster.

"Really? You've got me there. I'm curious, now. Pray tell, what does the word muggle mean?"

Arabella blanched.

"Did you know you mutter in your sleep? Some of the other girls have heard you talking about how much you loved Hogwarts. What does that mean? I find it hard to believe that you like warts on pigs."

All the blood in Arabella's body must have shot straight to her head, she was feeling so hot and disconnected. Rosemary was practically being vindictive, feigning innocence with that bright smile on her face as she continued to tear Arabella to pieces.

"You know what I think?" Rosemary pulled her closer and conspiratorially whispered, "I think you're not what you say you are. I think you're a witch." She looked at Arabella with triumph, her grip on the other girl's arm tightening

Arabella wrenched her arm away from Rosemary.

"That's," Arabella paused, unable to respond. "That's a terrible thing to say about someone!" she whispered shakily. "You know the other girls may tease me, but they never do it outright to my face!"

Rosemary's smile dropped, only to be replaced with a look of horror and guilt.

"Oh, Arabella, I'm not teasing" she faltered. "I-I only wanted to know why a witch would be attending a normal muggle school."

A deep pain shot through Arabella's heart as she murmured the horrifying truth, "Because I'm not a witch."

She ran off, leaving Rosemary Figg gaping behind in silence.

The next few weeks, Arabella studiously planned her schedule to avoid Rosemary. She would wake up early, go to class, and hide in the library until Mrs. Higgins would kindly push her out claiming that the musty old books would still be there the following day, but her youth wouldn't last forever.

The gloomy April weather reflected Arabella's gloomy mood. Never before had she despised going to class as much as she did those few weeks. While she steadfastly ignored Rosemary, she wasn't blind. She knew Rosemary would stare at her when she thought Arabella wasn't looking. Arabella would do anything to get the other girl off her back.

She was in her new favorite spot, a hidden corner in the library that didn't see many students – any students if the spider webs were anything to judge by. She shuddered remembering the cobwebs that were woven around the chairs and tables. She hated spiders.

Grumbling loudly, her stomach alerted her to the fact that she had gone yet another night without dinner. It was never her intention to starve herself, but she wouldn't, couldn't go to the dining hall where she would be subject to Rosemary's penetrating gaze. So she continued reading her textbook.

She heard feet approaching her hideout, and she sighed. It must have been later than she thought if Mrs. Higgins was already kicking her out. Looking up, it wasn't Mrs. Higgins she saw, but the cautious face of Rosemary Figg.

A small burst of panic ran through her as the blonde approached, her hands behind her back, and Arabella wanted to jump out of her seat and run right out of the library door. It was the look on Rosemary's face though, a nervous expression with blue eyes that looked at Arabella as if she were a skittish animal, which kept Arabella frozen in place.

"It's not healthy to skip dinner. I bought you food," Rosemary smiled nervously as she revealed a brown paper bag she was carrying behind her. "It's not much, but I took what I could from the dining hall." She placed it on the table and waited for a response, but got none. "Can I sit here?"

Arabella nodded slightly, but didn't speak as Rosemary sat across from her. For a moment both girls stared at each other in silence.

"I'm sorry," Rosemary whispered, looking truly remorseful. "I didn't mean to be so rude. And I didn't mean to make you feel bad about yourself."

"You didn't mean to," Arabella said with a glare, not wanting to forgive the other girl, "but you certainly did on both accounts."

"I know! And I feel terrible!" Rosemary exclaimed miserably. "It's just that my brother's a wizard, and whenever he comes home from Hogwarts, he has so many amazing stories to tell and trinkets to show. I'm so fascinated with your world, and I've had these sneaking suspicions about you for a while, but you're so hard to speak to! I suppose once I got you talking, I got carried away. I guess I didn't think about how it would make you feel.

"I really am sorry, you know. More than you know. Could you find it in your heart to forgive me?"

Despite her solitary behavior and sharp tongue, Arabella wasn't a terrible person. Rosemary didn't have any ill intentions, and had truly gone overboard in her questioning. Plus, she looked like a puppy that had just gotten kicked, and Arabella couldn't say no.

With a sigh, Arabella nodded and said "Yes, I forgive you." She was unprepared for the squeal that followed.

"Perfect!" The resulting smile was bright and happy, and Arabella could see how Rosemary was so popular. Being graced with a smile like that felt like basking in the warm summer sun.

Still, she couldn't help but say, "Rosemary, this doesn't mean we're friends or anything." Arabella had a feeling that what she said went in one ear and out the other.

"Of course," the blonde nodded her head, as she stood and came to Arabella's side. She grabbed Arabella's arm, pulling her up. "Dinner's not over yet. Let's go get some real food in you! I mean, I'm not sure if I'd call this real food, at least not compared to my mum's. You absolutely need to try my mum's chicken pot pie! It's to die for."

"Rosemary," she sighed warningly, with no real malice.

"Oh, please call me Rose, Bella- do you mind if I call you Bella?" At the look on her face, Rose quickly amended, "Sometimes, not all the time!"

Arabella had a feeling that she wouldn't be able to get rid of Rosemary Figg anytime soon.

As they walked out of the library, Rosemary gave Mrs. Higgins a wide smile and thanked the librarian. "Thanks for telling me where she was, Mrs. Higgins. I'll take good care of her!"

One word came to Arabella's mind. Traitor. It seemed like there was no one that Rosemary couldn't charm, and as the two girls walked arm in arm toward the dining hall, Arabella was sure she'd be charmed by the girl too.

IV.

Measured in Gold

A nervous laugh escaped Arabella's mouth, as they approached the black car, luggage in hand. She felt Rose squeeze her hand.

"It's not bad, I promise," her friend whispered in her ear. "You've seen the other girls drive around in cars before."

"Seen, yes," she hissed back, "But there's a large disparity between seeing a car and being in a car as it moves. It's no more than a box on wheels!"

The tall man in front of them turned around with a jovial grin on his face. "What are you two ladies whispering about back there?"

Arabella looked down at her feet, not wanting to offend the man. Rosemary, however, had no qualms about addressing Arabella's concerns.

"Oh, Daddy," she sighed dramatically, "Arabella's afraid of getting in your car."

Popping open the trunk of the car, Mr. Figg laughed loudly. "Afraid?" he asked, taking the luggage from their hands and putting it into the back of his car. "I take good care of my Opel Admiral, young lady. It's not going to fall apart as we're driving."

She couldn't help but frown. "You named your car Opel?"

He burst into another barking laugh, Rose joining along. Although they were laughing, she learned long ago that when Rose laughed, it wasn't at her. They were just highly amused by her words.

"No, no," he chuckled. "It's the model. Now get on in, I promise it's completely safe." Arabella opened her mouth to argue, but thought better of it and sighed in defeat.

The two girls sat in the back seat and buckled in. The quite purr of the engine made Arabella jump, and when she looked at her two companions to see if they were as panicked as she, she found that they were both suppressing grins.

"Hmmph," she turned her face away in embarrassment. "How long did you say this drive was?"

The car lurched forward and Arabella did all she could not to make a sound or to a face.

"Twenty minutes," Mr. Figg replied, "it'll be over in a jiffy."

She had to admit, once she got use to the purring and the movement, being in a car wasn't that bad. The scenery zipped by quickly, making her a little dizzy, but she was so fascinated she couldn't look away. It had started raining, and water droplets raced each other down her window. Mr. Figg had started the wipers, and a quiet squeak could be heard every few seconds as the wipers made their way across the windshield. Never had she travelled in this manner before. When she was younger, it was always by floo or apparation. She got to Salisbury by train, which she supposed was similar to by car just a lot higher off the ground, and not so secure feeling. In the car, she could see everything so close to the ground, and feel every swerve and stop. She could hear nature pelting on the metal rooftop of the car, and surprisingly, she felt safe in the little tin box on wheels.

"You're going to like our house, Arabella," Mr. Figg stated confidently. "It has a very old-world charm to it."

"Hmm, thank you again for inviting me to your home, Mr. Figg." She had never been to a muggle home before, despite her five year stint in the muggle world. "It'll be much better than staying at school over break." Again was the unspoken word.

Every year, for the previous four years, she had remained at school over Easter break while everyone else returned home. The first two years, it was a nice reprise from the other girls at school. However, once she became friends with Rosemary, Easter became unbearable and terribly lonely. All the other girls went home to their muggle families, enjoying the Christian holiday, but Arabella's parents saw no point in bringing her home for a muggle holiday. Arabella became a right wet blanket around Eastertime.

It was Rosemary's idea to bring her friend to the Figg's home for Easter, and while at first, Arabella protested, Rosemary's charm won her over. Her best friend was quite persuasive when she wanted to be; Arabella would stay with the Figg's from the Tuesday prior to Easter up through the Sunday following Easter Sunday, after which both girls would return to Salisbury to complete yet another year of school.

"Look!" Rosemary exclaimed, pressing her hand up against her window. "That's our home."

Arabella scooted closer to Rose and smiled at her friend's excitement. The stone house was moderate sized, protected by a black gate. The grass shimmered green as rain fell from above and small buds started to sprout their little heads above the grass and mulch in a show of bravery against the water and the fickleness of late March weather. As soon as Mr. Figg parked the car, Arabella was pulled at a breakneck speed through the rain and toward the house with large windows and dark wood doors.

"Daddy?" Rose shouted behind her as the two girls rushed into the warmth and dryness of the house, "Could you grab our bags, please? Thank you! Love you!"

Arabella laughed as she tried to catch her breath. The house was as lovely on the inside as it was on the outside – just like her friend. As she spent the day in their home, she learned that the Figg's were well off – not as wealthy as her own family – but as the day passed with Mr. and Mrs. Figg and Rose, she found that wealth isn't always measured in gold. Given the amount of love and laughter in the Figg household, Arabella would say that the Figg's were even better off than the Blishwick's.

Sitting at their large mahogany dining room table that first Tuesday, she couldn't even remember the last time she laughed so much her stomach hurt. The tall, dark-haired, Mr. Figg made one imposing figure until he opened his mouth and started laughing. Arabella learned that Mr. Figg was Dionysus in mortal form, always laughing and joking and creating fun and excitement around him. Mrs. Figg, a tall, light-haired beauty, was good-natured and nurturing. She had welcomed Arabella into her home with open arms – literally – and embraced her like her own daughter. Rose looked like a mini-replica of her mother, but was all bubbly excitement like her father.

She listened as the three Figg's bantered and told stories of their family. Between peals of laughter, they asked of her own family, and Arabella wished she could join in with her own funny stories – but she had none. Her family wasn't as lively as the three people in front of her, and she couldn't recall a time when they all sat together for dinner as comfortably as the Figg's. The warmth and brightness at the dinner table was a stark contrast to the angry rumbling of thunder and pounding of rain outside, which more closely resembled dinner at her house.

A large thud accompanied by a flash of lightning had her jumping out of her seat, and all four occupants of the table turned toward the front entrance. She wasn't sure if it was thunder she heard or an intruder – these muggle houses weren't equipped with wards and other safety measures – but her host family relaxed as a voiced called out, "Sorry, I'm late! It was hectic at work today!"

A young man, rushed into the room, sopping from the storm and clothes dripping on the Figg's hardwood floors. Arabella's eyes widened as she took in his appearance. He was not much older than them, 19 at the oldest. He had eyes that mimicked a winter day's sky just before snowfall, and hair as dark as his father's – for who else could this be other than Rosemary's elusive brother? What really caught Arabella's attention was the robes he wore. Midnight black robes with a large M embroidered on the left side of his chest, Arabella knew he was a Ministry employee. The Ministry emblem was a constant throughout her life, as her father was head of the Improper Use of Magic Office.

"Merlin," the man breathed, "You wouldn't believe the case that came in today. A right mess! I almost regret taking the rest of the week off- we're already understaffed as it is!" He went on as if his family was riveted in their seats and he didn't even notice their added guest.

"Charlie," Mrs. Figg admonished, "You're making a mess of the floors. I had just finished cleaning, too."

"Sorry, Mum," Charlie Figg reached into his robes, presumably to pull out his wand and scourgify the floor. "I'll take care of it." He raised his wand and was about to speak until he was cut off.

"Ahem," Rose coughed. She looked over to Arabella with a mischievous grin on her face. Play along, it told her. "You must not have noticed, but we have a guest here today."

Arabella almost laughed aloud at Charlie's expression. Wide-eyed and mouth half open, he dropped his wand, which fell to the floor with a loud clatter. He winced at the sound of his magical companion hitting the floor.

"Charlie, this is Arabella, my best friend." Rosemary smiled sweetly at her brother. "And Arabella, this is my eccentric brother, Charlie."

Charlie opened and closed his mouth a few times, stuttering at a loss for words.

Arabella felt a firm nudge to her ankle, and looked over at Rosemary who raised her eyebrows in question.

Trying to hide her grin, Arabella frowned and asked as politely as she could, "Eccentric? Is that why he wore that costume to work?"

Mr. Figg laughed, almost choking on his potatoes and Mrs. Figg sighed in amusement and soothingly rubbed her husband's back.

"Err. No?" Charlie questioned more than answered, picking up his wand and hastily stashing it back into his robe. "I…work at a costume shop! Yes, that's it. I work at a costume shop." Mr. Figg exploded into another round of laughter.

"Hilarious, right, girls?" He boomed. "They dress him up in girl's clothing to sell their product! Eh, Charlie?"

"A girl?" Charlie demanded incredulously at his father, "Look at these robes! I'm a wizard! And a fine one at that!" At this, Arabella almost spit out her water. The motion drew Charlie's attention back to their visitor. "I-err-like to pretend, I have magical powers."

It took all her strength not to burst into laughter with the rest of the Figg's. Mr. Figg was laughing so hard, she thought he would burst a vein.

"Oh," Arabella feigned confusion. "So that stick, was that your magic wand?"

Charlie Figg blushed as red as a tomato and scratched his head, before muttering about 'changing' before he ran out of the room chased by the sound of his family's laughter.

Arabella, with a smirk, added loudly for good measure, "Why is everyone laughing? I don't get it." The punchline being that she got it far more than Charlie did.

"Arabella," Mr. Figg said through his laughter, "Welcome to the family."

Charlie didn't join the family for the rest of dinner, which was a blessing as the rest of the meal was spent quietly laughing at him. They continued to laugh as they cleaned the dining room and washed the dishes. And as they headed off to their separate sleeping quarters.

"Bells?" Rosemary murmured sleepily to the girl sleeping on her bed room floor.

"Yes, Rosie?" Arabella sighed, half asleep.

"I'm so glad we're friends."

"Me too."

And the two girls fell into a sleep, journeying to their dreams.

When Arabella woke the next morning, it was to a bright, warm light streaming through the window and onto her face and to the sound of birds chirping in the distance. She could have sworn she was still dreaming and that the dream continued for days.

It was strange, being in a muggle home, doing muggle things while they celebrated their muggle holiday, because she felt like she was home. Not home, as in the Blishwick residence, where she was hidden away like a blight on her family's reputation, but home – where she belonged and was free to be joyous.

She was learning quite a lot too. The Figg's were a religious family of the Catholic faith. They were quite devout and they took Easter seriously. Of course, Arabella had learned about Christianity at school, but there was a large difference between reading about the religion and living with a family that truly believed in the Bible and Jesus and God.

At first she questioned it. Salisbury would hold Palm Sunday Services at the school, and Arabella had no idea why the other girls would go and receive little crosses made of palm leaves. She remembered reading excerpts of the Bible at school for her English class, and she remembered that Palm Sunday was in remembrance of Jesus entering Jerusalem, but to her it was just a story. A piece of fiction. A parable.

However, when Arabella and Rosemary would join Mrs. Figg in the kitchen to bake Easter treats for their neighbors, she would listen to Mrs. Figg's soothing voice explain Easter, hoping to understand the muggle fascination with Jesus.

"Easter is a time when we remember Christ's crucifixion and death – and His resurrection." Arabella shuddered at the explanation. It sounded like dark magic to her, the kind her brother Augustus would tell her about. "But," Mrs. Figg would continue, "it also is a time when we recall His defeat of sin and death."

Even Charlie, who still believed Arabella to be a muggle, would chime in and try to explain, "Because Jesus defeated sin and death, we are free from it. Christ was resurrected and given eternal life, and we too are given that opportunity because of Him. "

Charlie's faith surprised Arabella the most. She would think that after living in the magical community, he would see magic in the story – and would see it for just that: a story. But he believed it so profoundly, that Arabella wondered about it through Wednesday as she and Rosemary teased him good-naturedly regarding his job at the costume store and as Mr. and Mrs. Figg told her about the church services they'd be attending that week. They had even asked if she would want to tag along – not that they'd force her to – and out of curiosity, she smiled, and said she'd love to, if they didn't mind having her.

Maundy Thursday, as the Thursday before Easter was called, held a solemn evening. The Figg's chose to forgo Mass that evening for a somber dinner at their home in celebration of the Eucharist, the Last Supper. The Figg's and Arabella, all dressed in mourning black, sat at a pristine white table brimming with food and the smell of lamb permeating the room.

Arabella watched in fascination as Mr. Figg spoke, the most serious she had seen him look since she met him. "'Do you understand what I have done for you?' he asked them. 'You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them."

Arabella listened raptly as he went on, her head down, her hands clutching those of Mrs. Figg and Rosemary. She took to heart, the words that Mr. Figg spoke with such conviction. No life is worth more than any other.

"My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come

"A new command I give you:" – this, Arabella knew, was where the term Maundy Thursday stemmed from – "Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another."

And when he was done, she listened to the Figg's say grace, May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all, now and evermore. Amen.

V.

The Sun that Drives

Arabella frowned as Rosemary caught a knot in her hair.

"Gently, please, Rose," Arabella winced as the other girl tugged at her hair with a brush. "My hair might not be as gorgeous as yours, but I'd rather have this hair than no hair at all."

"Oh Bella, please. Have some faith in me."

Rosemary had insisted that they do her hair for the Easter Vigil service. They had spent yesterday baking hot cross buns with Mrs. Figg and painting Easter eggs with Charlie and Mr. FIgg. Earlier that morning, they ate all the left over buns – Mrs. Figg baked enough to feed an army, and they went on an Easter egg hunt. After a light dinner, Rosemary had dragged Arabella upstairs to try on some of Rosemary's dresses, as No offense, Bells, but your dresses aren't necessarily church best. It sounded like an excuse to play dress-up to Arabella.

Rose was already dressed and coiffed, wearing a beautiful fitted blue dress that stopped mid-calf. She had told Arabella, that none of mid or full length dresses would fit her due to the height difference, so Arabella ended up borrowing a full-skirted dress that ended right below her knees.

Waiting for Rose to finish with her hair, Rosemary allowed herself a slight smile as she rubbed the material of her dress. She hadn't worn something this nice since before she started muggle school. She looked at herself in the mirror and studied the cream brocade dress and its front-facing bow; she hadn't felt this pretty and girlish since- well, she couldn't recall.

"All done," Rose exclaimed, stepping back to admire her handiwork. Arabella's hair sat in a lovely knot at the back of her head. "Almost perfect."

An overwhelming feeling of love washed over Arabella. Although she didn't have any sisters, Rose was as good as. She wondered, if she had a biological sister, would she be like Rose? All caring, loving and affectionate? Loyal and dedicated?

"One last thing." A secretive smile graced Rosemary's lips. She rushed to her bureau and back with two small boxes. "This is yours, and this is mine. Go ahead, open it."

Arabella took the box from Rose's outstretched hand, and gently moved the lid off.

"Gloves. Mum always says that a lady doesn't go to church without gloves. I bought these for you last Christmas, but was just waiting for an opportunity to give them to you."

They were delicate, white little things made of lace and embellished with ribbons. They would go over her hands, and ruffle at her wrists. She was speechless.

"Thank you, they're beautiful." She picked them up and put them on, noting how the gloves complemented her dress nicely. Rose had already put her little black ones on. "Rosie, I adore you."

"And I you." Rose gave Arabella an affection hug. "Now, we have to hurry. We're running late to church!"

In a flurry, the Figgs and Arabella were crammed into the little Opel, Mr & Mrs. Figg in front and the three "kids," as the parents called them, in the back. The immense pleasure of sitting behind Mr. Figg belonged to Arabella, and she laughed as he made faces at her in the mirror. Beside her, Rose would poke her side and stick out her tongue; Mrs. Figg shook her head in amusement, and behind her, Charlie sat glumly, irritated that he, a grown man, was forced to squish in back. He wasn't shy about voicing his annoyance.

"Now, now," Mr. Figg chided lightly. "Don't get huffy just yet. We're almost there, and I expect the best behavior out of all of you." He caught Arabella's eyes in the mirror. "Especially you, Miss Blishwick. Don't think I haven't noticed you giggling back there."

Arabella burst into another round of giggles as he made another face at her in the mirror. In the corner of her eye, she noticed Charlie straighten and whip his head toward her, and she tried to calm herself as to not offend the disgruntled man a few feet away.

Rose's arm reached across Arabella to tap the window. "You see that little edge of stone where the trees meet the sky?" She nodded. "That's our church. Just wait till you see it."

Through the glass window, the sliver of stone moved and grew, until Arabella was left staring at a grand stone building with spires that looked like they touched the darkening sky. Mr. Figg helped her out of the car, but she couldn't tear her eyes away from the groves of people all here for Easter. All these people who believed and had faith in one man who had died a martyr.

Suddenly nervous, she ran her hands down the front of her dress to smooth it out and brushed the back of her head to ensure her chignon was still intact. This was a very important service, and she felt like an intruder with no right to be there.

She linked arms with Rosemary, holding onto her friend tightly as the small family walked toward the crowd, and whispered, "I'm afraid I'm going to get lost in the sea of people. Don't lose sight of me."

She received a winning smile, and listened as Rosemary once again explained the vigil to her while they waited for the sun to make its final dip below the horizon.

As darkness surrounded them, a fire was lit, signaling the start of the Service of Light. Too far back, she couldn't see what was going on, but she could hear the words from the priest's mouth. Rose, always wanting to be in the thick of things, pulled away from Arabella and maneuvered through the crowed, beckoning her friend to follow.

Arabella tried to follow as best as she could, awkwardly bumping into other church-goers, excusing herself as her face tinged pink. Stop, Rose, wait! she pleaded internally.

And suddenly, everyone was moving about. She looked wildly around her with a burning hope to see one of the Figgs, but she caught neither hide nor hair of them as the sea of people swept her away into the church.

It was dark inside, the people around her sung, and began to narrow into lines. Her heart beat savagely against her chest and she felt an onslaught of panic begin to take over. She couldn't do this. Why was she here? All alone with nary an inkling of the ceremony around her, she'd ruin the holiday for these people by doing something offensive. And someone would realize that she didn't belong here. She wasn't a Christian. She wasn't even a muggle! Someone would call her out on it – and then, if they were feeling particularly angry about her ruining Easter, they'd burn her, thinking her a witch. Oh, the start of a new witch hunt, and it'd be all her fault – and she wasn't even a witch!

She started to feel light headed, and the realization that she must have stopped breathing flitted through her head. In her panic, she couldn't think of anything but what a horrible idea it was to bring her here.

"Breathe," a voice murmured so close to her ear she could feel hot air tickle her neck. A hand, holding something long and cylindrical slipped into hers. "I've got you, breathe."

Eyes fluttering closed, she concentrated on the air as she inhaled and exhaled, shuffling forward with her savior. When they opened again, she saw through the inky darkness, Charlie Figg staring straight ahead with a solemn expression on his face. She turned her face frontwards, realizing that darkness no longer surrounded them. Candles throughout the church dispelled the darkness and heralded in light.

Charlie deposited the cylindrical item – a candle, she realized – into her hand before releasing her. The terror on her face must have been evident, for he gently grabbed her wrist and pulled her along like a parent would a small child. Like a child, she copied his movements and light her candle from the Paschal candle. She followed closely behind, worried he might let go and be lost to her in this strange place.

They ended up filling in the end seats of the one of the church's back pews. Charlie took the end and Arabella stood between him and an old woman.

There was speaking, some chant, and movement, but Arabella's head was still pounding from her episode earlier. She was on autopilot, following the cues from Charlie – Merlin, she would never tease him again.

When she finally came to again, she noticed that Charlie had extinguished and taken her candle from her and they were sitting. She caught the woman next to her stare curiously at her and Charlie, but soon turned her focus back to the vigil.

The Service of Light was complete, and they were onto the Liturgy of the Word. She listened as the priest spoke readings from the Old Testament. He started with Genesis and the creation of the universe.

"Let there be light," and there was light.

Arabella was familiar with this, and much of the Old Testament. They had reviewed it in English to help better their understanding of classical allusions to the old text.

He went on, the second reading about Abraham and his son.

'Do not lay your hand on the boy,' said the messenger. 'Do not do the least thing to him. I know now how devoted you are to God, since you did not withhold from me your own beloved son.'

She held back a snort, remembering a discussion of the hairy thunderer as opposed to the forgiving omnipotent God. She would never kill her own child, no matter who asked her to do so.

Arabella turned her head toward Charlie, wondering if it was her lack of Christian upbringing that made her opposed to the story of Abraham. His eyes were closed and Arabella studied him, tilting her head to the side. Asleep or listening intently to the liturgy? She tapped her fingers on his knee, and after a few moments, he pulled his eyes open, quite bemused. Amused, she held back a grin. Definitely sleeping.

Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord: I will sing to the Lord, for He is gloriously triumphant; horse and chariot He has cast into the sea.

The old woman was staring in their direction again, and Arabella fidgeted nervously. Did she really stick out like a sore thumb? It was hard to pay attention – at least she hadn't fallen asleep.

As the priest began the fourth reading, Arabella straightened in her seat, pretending to be enraptured to get the woman to stop staring. In pretending to listen, she began to truly listen and she forgot all her small worries as heard the priest speak.

For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with great tenderness I will take you back. In an outburst of wrath, for a moment I hid my face from you; but with enduring love I take pity on you, says the Lord, your redeemer.

She felt Charlie stir beside her, probably waking up from another nap. Surprising really. Judging by his seriousness in the Opel, she would have thought he would be stringent about respecting Easter Vigil.

Though the mountains leave their place and the hills be shaken, my love shall never leave you nor my covenant of peace be shaken, says the Lord, who has mercy on you. O afflicted one, storm-battered and unconsoled…

Though her eyes were tired, she forced them to remain open.

In justice shall you be established, far from the fear of oppression, where destruction cannot come near you.

She was really truly paying attention, and the fifth, sixth, readings zoomed by, and she was left with the seventh.

I will sprinkle clean water upon you to cleanse you from all impurities, and from your idols I will cleanse you. I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts. I will put my spirit within you and make you live by my statues, careful to observe my decrees. You shall live in the land I gave your fathers; you shall be my people, and I will be your God.

The baptismal vows followed shortly after, and the people around her repeated I will, with God's help as they renewed their Christian vows.

By the time the Holy Eucharist started, she wanted to take a page from Charlie's book and fall asleep. She didn't eat anything, for she wasn't Catholic and she wasn't Christian and she didn't want to take the Church's food – it'd be like stealing, from a church no less – but she followed closely as Charlie continued onward with the vigil.

Arabella held in a large yawn, just as the congregation meandered toward the exits. The old woman was watching her again with narrowed eyes, but she had no time to ponder it. Charlie had grabbed her hand again and the two searched the crowds for the rest of the Figg's.

"So," Charlie began, a little hesitantly, as he pulled Arabella closer to him. "Arabella Blishwick, huh?"

She pursed her lips, trying to gauge his mood. "Yes, Blishwick is correct."

"Would you happen to be related to an Aurelius Blishwick?"

Her face remained stoic as she replied with another question, "What would you know of an Aurelius Blishwick?"

"I went to school with him. I'm going to assume he's an older brother, and say you knew all along what I am?" He spared a sidelong glance at her and scowled when she nodded. The church had pretty much emptied out, save for a few people.

"We should head outside. They're probably back at the car." Charlie pulled her toward the exit. "Does everyone else know you know?" With another nod of her head, his scowl deepened. "Dandy. It was Rose's idea?" It was more a statement than a question, and again she nodded.

As they walked along the stone path toward the street, she said, "If it's any consolation, teasing you about your job at the costume store was a source of laughter for your family, and you know what they say about laughter."

"What do they say?"

"Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face."

The scowl instantly softened, and was replaced with a slight amused smile. "You got me. I might as well let you know, I'm not a costume shop worker. I'm an auror at the Ministry – well auror-in-training."

"Wow, I've heard that's really-"

"Yoohoo!" Rose's head popped out of Opel which, occupied by three Figg's, sat a few meters a head of them.

"Rosemary Elizabeth, get your head back in the car this instant!" Mrs. Figg hissed. The girl ducked back in with glee, and Arabella briefly wondered what could have her in such a good mood. If anything, she should be feeling contrite for losing Arabella when she had specifically told her not to!

She and Charlie settled back into the car in their previous positions. As soon as they started moving, Mr. Figg called out, "We heard the most interesting thing after the service."

"Yeah?" Charlie mimicked his father's tone. "Was it that you've all been playing me all week? And that Arabella knows all about me?"

"There's that," Rosemary giggled, unashamed, "And also that Mrs. Henry, from primary school, was sitting beside you and Arabella today. She knew all about you two as well."

Mrs. Henry must have been the strange woman that kept staring at them during the service.

"Did – did she say anything?" Arabella asked nervously. She thought she did a good job of paying attention- unlike Charlie who had taken a snooze.

"Yes, in fact," Rosemary sighed dramatically before bursting out into another fit of giggles. "She wanted to congratulate us on the new addition to our family – though she did point out that Arabella looked a little too young to be engaged to anyone, despite Charlie being plenty young himself! Arabella, should we switch seats so you two love birds can sit beside each other?"

Arabella colored red in embarrassment and mumbled something unintelligibly. She wasn't surprised that Mr. Figg, Mrs Figg and Rose were all laughing to themselves, but she was surprised at Charlie. She leaned forward to look past Rosie and to glare at him.

He shrugged his shoulders with a smile, and said "Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face?"

Reluctantly, her frown slipped away and she joined in the laughter, all the way back to their home. It was starting to feel like her home too.

VI.

That Moment Now

Gosh, this was the worst Easter break ever. She would have much rather been at the Figg's home, as she had been for the past two years or even at Salisbury, alone like the previous four years. Instead she was stuck at her house, with Ambrosius and his wife, Augustus and his bored attitude, and Aurelius and his incessant questions as her parents hosted a business associate of her father's.

They all sat in their large dining hall, being served by a house elf and eating the house elf's cooking. Sitting there, dressed not in her church-best, but in a new dress robe, custom ordered by her mother, Arabella tried her hardest not to scowl. She didn't want to be sitting in a cold hall with seven other people; she wanted a smaller, cozier room with four of the nicest, most sincere people she knew. She didn't want fancy dishes cooked by an elf; she wanted the scrumptious treats Mrs. Figg made with love. She didn't want this blue, custom-tailored robe made of the finest Indian silk money could buy; she wanted Rose's muggle hand-me-downs.

She didn't know what was so important about this dinner anyway. In fact, if it was that important, why was she there? Her parents had done a mighty fine job of hiding her from the world, so why stop now?

She was thoroughly agitated, but she hadn't forgotten her pure-blood upbringing. She plastered on a serene smile as she sat next to her mother and sister-in-law, and across from their riveting guest, Mr. Tripe, a pure-blood man her father's age, who spoke of politics and economy and those greedy goblins at Gringotts with her father. In Arabella's opinion, this dinner party was a load of tripe. She held back a glare as she stabbed at her plate with as much delicacy as she could muster.

When her mother brought her into the conversation – a conversation she had no interest in – Arabella forced her eyes down so she wouldn't shoot glaring daggers at her mother.

"I have no opinion on the matter," Arabella answered a question about some law that had just gone through the Ministry. She knew nothing of magical law, and had begun to pay more attention to muggle legislation. "My father and brothers are much more knowledgeable on the matter and are more equipped to make judgments than I am, Mr. Tripe"

"Please, Miss Blishwick, call me Ethelred," he had answered immediately.

"Oh, Mr. Tripe. I couldn't."

"I insist, Miss Blishwick."

"Then, you must call me Arabella."

Her mother gave an approving hum from her right, and Arabella looked up at the noise.

"Arabella," Mr. Tripe continued, "Of course, with such beauty, it only makes sense that your name means beautiful. Bella."

She held back a grimace, forcing it into a small smile instead. She refrained from correcting him. Orabilis, Mr. Tripe. Arabella comes from orabilis, not bella. And it doesn't mean beauty, it means an answered prayer.

"Ah, and such a beautiful smile, too." His gaze never left hers, as he raised his champagne flute to his mouth. Beside him, her father smiled and beside her, her mother sighed happily. What was going on here? It felt like there was a deep, dark, arcane secret at the table, and she was clueless.

It wasn't until later, much later, that evening that her question was answered.

Dinner and after dinner entertainment had lasted much longer than Arabella had expected. She had immediately retired to her room as her parents and Mr. Tripe said their goodbyes, changing from that silk robe to her nightgown. It wasn't long until her mother came knocking on her door. Her mother rushed into Arabella's room with the speed of a cheetah, shutting the door behind her.

"Oh, Arabella," her mother cooed, holding her daughter's face in her hands and kissing both of her cheeks with wild abandon. "My, sweet, beautiful, clever, little Arabella!" Her mother sat her down on the bed, and in shock, Arabella did nothing but sit and follow her mother's movement around her room.

Her mother hadn't called her that in years, and hadn't shown so much affection toward her since the day she and little Oliver had eavesdropped on that horrid Penelope woman. A lot had changed since then. Arabella had begun a life in the muggle world, Oliver had been given away, and the Blishwick's had almost all but forgotten Arabella in the past 6 years. At just a few months over 17, Arabella sometimes felt like she didn't know these people she called family. The word family had begun to evoke a different image in her mind.

To suddenly have her mother treat her like that innocent, young child again – well, she didn't question it much, though she should have.

Her mother began to brush her hair, murmuring all sorts of wonderful praises and compliments. Arabella reveled in it, memories of happier times in this house rushing back.

"Lovely hair and lovely eyes," her mother hummed happily, and she hummed along. "Oh, Arabella. You'll make the most beautiful bride."

Arabella whipped around, bewildered. "What?"

A new, different type of shock overcame her and a chill seeped into her, running down her spine.

"Turn back around, darling. I'm not finished." Her mother grasped her shoulders, and maneuvered her back to the edge of the bed so she could plait her hair. "We were thinking a fall wedding. You'd look lovely in the autumn."

"Mum, I don't understand."

Her mother finished her plait, and swung it over her shoulder, before pulling Arabella completely onto the bed. Both women knelt on the bed, one in blissfulness and the other in dread. Her mother grabbed both of her hands in hers.

"Oh, it's wonderful. Ethelred wants to marry you! Mrs. Arabella Doreen Tripe! He'll take wonderful care of you. You'll have not a want in the world."

It all clicked into place, puzzle pieces coming together to form the whole picture. She was at that very important dinner, dressed to the nines, because she was to be betrothed! To think, she sat there across from the older man, politely answering his questions, as her mother and father schemed behind her back. If she had known, she would have really spoken her mind and forced him to leave their house empty handed.

"Why would he want me?" Arabella questioned spitefully, hoping to find a way out of this. "When he learns what I truly am, a squib, he'll want nothing to do with me."

Her mother smiled gleefully and squeezed her hands. "That's the most wonderful part, you silly, darling, child! He knows, and he wants you anyway!" Her mother kissed her cheeks again with a fervor. "After tonight, he's absolutely besotted with you. We couldn't have hoped for anything better to have happened!

"Your father and I were worried, with your graduation from that muggle school drawing nearer. We only sent you there to appease you, you know. We were horrified at sending you off into the muggle world and still are; you belong with us! But with no magic, we wouldn't know what to do with you! You'd be useless here!"

Useless. Arabella's anger spiked, and she fought to control her words. "Yes, well, Mr. Tripe may want me, but I'd never be accepted here in good society. He'd be ruined. He'd hate me for it."

"I thought of that; I wouldn't want that for you. Oh, darling, you don't know how much I've thought of this – how much I've thought about your happiness. But, Ethelred is highly esteemed in the wizarding community, very wealthy, very powerful, with many good contacts in the Ministry. The presence of his beautiful, young wife, magic or not, could never tarnish his reputation and could only boost yours. Besides, you could change the fate of young, magic-less girls in our community. If you're able to marry a Tripe, who is to say that other girls like you can't? He may even love you enough to push for better conditions for children with your condition.

"I know, these past six years, you've been left in limbo. You've been hovering between our world and theirs. It's been hard for us, having to let you go every year, hoping you'll come back and still love us like the same little Arabella did before this whole mess started. It would break my heart when you'd come back, distant, because you are my heart – you always have been – and I've been afraid that my heart would be here one day and gone the next. But, no longer, don't you see? You'll marry him, and you'll stay with us, and you'll make us all proud!"

Her mother opened up her arms, wishing to embrace her daughter, but Arabella stared at her, the wheels turning in her mind.

It was set, wasn't it? If not on paper, than in their minds, she was as good as married. Mulling over her mother's words, she came to realize, that maybe, this, a marriage to a man old enough to be her father was truly her best future. He was rich, and she really truly wouldn't be left wanting for anything. She was clever and charming, when she wanted to be and she really could make a place for herself here, in the society her family was established in. Her mother, who had, unbeknownst to her, been heartbroken all these years, would be happy and they could be the family they were long before Arabella Blishwick learned the word squib. She only had to abdicate her entire muggle life and marry Mr. Tripe.

She fell into her mother's open arms and buried her face in her mother's neck. The sound of sobs – her sobs – filled the room as her mother soothingly smoothed down her hair.

That was it then, wasn't it? By the end of the year, she would be Mrs. Arabella Doreen Tripe, wife of esteemed business man Mr. Ethelred Wulfric Tripe.

She returned to school heavy-hearted and thought of graduation only a few short months away. Not even her best friend could cheer her up, and in fact, her best friend only made her more heavy-hearted.

Rosemary noticed the sadness that lurked behind Arabella's smiles, and she questioned it, the nosy little friend she was. If Arabella wasn't so distraught at the fact that she'd never see Rose again, she would have laughed at how characteristically Rose-like she was acting.

But instead, she would respond, "It's nothing you'd understand. Nothing you could help with."

There was a mere month to go until both girls graduated Salisbury, and Rosemary was growing less and less happy with Arabella's morose outlook.

"Try me."

They were sitting in the library. Arabella was trying to write an essay and Rose was supposed to be doing math homework, but had spent a good portion of the past half hour interrogating her.

"Listen, Bell," Rose looked at her severely. "We've been best friends for years. Four years. While that may not seem like a lot to you, it matters to me. We're inseparable. Rosemary and Arabella – the teachers call us each other's other half. You don't think I can help you, but I want to try! I want to see you smile again. I'd go to the ends of the earth to see you smile again. Let me try. At least grant me that!"

It touched Arabella that Rose would care so much to see her smile, and thinking upon it, Arabella would do the same for her. They were more than best friends; they were practically sisters. Born and raised in separate worlds, they still found each like magnets.

"Rose," Arabella said grimly. "I'm leaving after graduation."

A laugh escaped Rose. "Well, yes. Neither of us are staying here. Is that what's got you in a tizzy?"

"No," she said, desperately. "I'm leaving this world and returning to my own. It's no-not very likely our paths will ever cross again."

Another laugh escaped Rose, this one more broken than the last. She said in disbelief, "What do you mean you're leaving?" Then with a bit more anger, "You can't just leave!" Her hand smacked the library table.

"Neither of us are staying here, Rose!" Arabella mimicked, in annoyance. "You were born and raised in this world, and after graduating, in your world you'll remain. I was born and raised in a different one, and I'll have to return."

"You're not a prisoner, you know. You can come and visit me; I can come and visit you." Rosemary glared at her friend. "Don't be difficult. Charlie straddles both worlds just fine. You don't see him throwing a hissy fit for months over it."

A hissy fit? Here she was, seconds away from a breakdown of monstrous proportions because she'd be leaving behind the person whom she'd come to depend on, and Rosemary had the nerve to call it a hissy fit?

"You're obviously not understanding this!" Arabella exclaimed. Heads turned in their direction, and embarrassed, she lowered her voice. "My family is different than yours. I have no choice in this matter. I will be returning to my world" – a world that had shunned her – "and will not be returning to yours."

"Bologna." She felt the waves of anger radiating off of Rosemary, as the blonde hissed, "You always have a choice in the matter. Someone as clever as you should know that! Whatever it is that's trapping you into this choice, is nothing. You're just too cowardly to try to fight it."

Arabella heard enough. Her friend was clearly not comprehending the magnitude of the situation. Arabella began to clear her side of the table, as she said, "Don't think for a second that you understand what goes on in my life, friends or not. This is a matter that someone like you wouldn't get, no matter how I explain it."

"What do you mean someone like me?" Rose began to clear her own side of the table, loudly slamming her book shut and shoving her belongings into her bag. "Is that an insult?"

"You're a princess, Rosemary," Arabella scoffed. "You have everything." She stood abruptly, picking up her bag. "You've gotten everything you've ever needed. You couldn't possibly know what it's like to be forced into decisions you don't want to make."

Rosemary glared up at her from her seat. Her voice was cold, when she asked "So you're leaving, like my friendship meant nothing to you? Leaving and returning to a place that didn't want you in the first place? And I thought you were smart."

A pain shot through her chest, right where her heart was. So this was it, wasn't it?

As tears began to blur her vision, she murmured to her dear friend, "You've meant the world to me these past few years, and I'm grateful for every day, every hour, minute and second we've spent together. I've learned so much from you and your family. Maybe too much."

She turned away with a sad smile. "Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise."

Before Rose could respond, Arabella rushed out of the library.

The next few weeks, Arabella avoided Rose at all costs. A clean break she told herself. Those heal better. Waking up early and coming home late, it was as if the past four years never occurred, and Arabella had never stopped trying to avoid Rosemary after that interrogation out on a campus path.

Not a single word was spoken between the two, and after the passing of graduation, Rosemary Figg was gone from Arabella Blishwick's life and in her place was Ethelred Tripe.

Soon after graduation, the man had proposed to her, much to her parents' delight – though was anyone truly surprised? Of course, she accepted – she couldn't do much else could she? The ring was gorgeous with a large diamond in the middle and smaller stones circling the band all the way around her finger. Her mother fawned over it immensely. Her mother fawned over her immensely. They went shopping for robes to replace the ugly muggle clothing she had accumulated over the years. They went shopping for wedding items, and had a dress robe custom made.

When her mother wasn't monopolizing her time, Arabella spent her time in the company of Ethelred. Sometimes, in her head she still called him Mr. Tripe, but was quickly coerced into calling him Ethelred. After all, her mother sang, you can't make babies with a man who you aren't familiar with. And you can't be familiar with him if you're still calling him by his last name. She blushed as red as a tomato, recalling the talk her mother gave her about the marriage bed.

As far as older people went, Ethelred Tripe wasn't terrible to look at. Dark hair with sprinkles of gray, and a white gleaming smile with all teeth still intact, she imagined he was quite handsome in his youth. She wondered briefly why he hadn't married yet, and why now, why choose her? She didn't dare question him though, for fear of making him upset and ruining her parents' aspirations for her.

Instead, she hung on his arm as he took her site-seeing and accepted his kisses when he gave them. As months passed by, she didn't feel happier. She didn't grow to love this man. She didn't think she ever could. She felt trapped like a rabbit in the woods. But, while a rabbit would only be trapped until the hunter granted him mercy and killed him, Arabella was trapped for life, wavering between the hope of mercy in death's form and the desperation of gnawing off her own limbs.

Gosh, how she wished Rosemary were here. She would do anything to see a Figg again.

It was mid-August, after some dinner when her father had mentioned an auror at the Ministry, when Arabella came up with a brilliant idea. She told her mother that she wanted to visit her father at work, to surprise him for his birthday. Her mother thought that was a splendid idea and that her father would love it, so Arabella headed off to the Ministry with flowers in one hand and birthday treats in the other.

She flooed in with Aurelius, who abandoned her at the atrium so he could go to his office. All three of her brothers and her father were Ministry employees, so she had to be careful. She hadn't been to the Ministry in years, and it looked different than she recalled, but still similar enough that she could find her way around. She had made it all the way to the Auror Office without being caught, and she hid her face behind her pashmina scarf as she looked for the one name she was itching to see.

"Psssssssst." He was sitting there, twiddling his thumbs behind his desk, oblivious to her. "Charlie!"

He looked around confused for a second, and she had to laugh. He was quite the auror if he couldn't even notice someone who was trying to get his attention. When he spotted her, face covered, flowers and sugary goods abound, he became even more bewildered and he pulled her into his office, shutting the door behind him.

It was a small, cozy little office, big enough for him, a desk, and two chairs. At least he had a window behind him.

"Can I help you, ma'am?"

The flowers and food were gently thrown to the side. She tore the scarf away from her face, and exclaimed quietly, "It's me! Don't tell me it's been so long you don't remember me!"

He looked shell-shocked for a moment, and he fell back into his chair, motioning for Arabella to sit as well.

"I didn't expect to ever see you again," he said bluntly.

"I know." She studied his face for any traces of anger over the hurt she caused her sister, but found none. "How's Rose?"

"She's starting university in a couple of weeks. It's close to home, so she won't be living there, but she's said she's had enough of living far away. She didn't want to live with strangers anymore."

Arabella's head began to hurt as she fought back tears. She could have gone to university with Rose. They could have stayed together and learned together and lived together and laughed together.

"She sometimes asks about you," Charlie added. "I've never had anything to tell her. Until now. If she asks, I'm not going to lie." He was honest to a tee and she didn't expect him to lie for her.

"I know." She looked down at her hands resting in her lap. "Will you tell her I miss her?"

She sniffled as the water works started and tears made their way down her cheeks. She pulled out her handkerchief and dabbed at her face.

"And give her these flowers and, what is that? Cookies?" He asked, leaning closer to the tin container that contained chocolates for her father. "What am I, a messenger owl?"

He made a face that was so characteristically Charlie Figg, and she laughed, wiping away more tears.

"Now, there's that smile I'm used to seeing." She watched in awe as he conjured up a glass of water for her, practically out of thin air. "Here. Now, I suppose you're here for a reason; you might as well make yourself comfortable."

She pulled off her outer robes, the ones that her mother always insisted she wear when she stepped out into the public, and smoothed down her inner robes. She took off her gloves, the ones Rose had given her so long ago, and looked up as Charlie whistled low.

"That's a large rock, if I ever did see one."

She covered her hand in embarrassment. "I'm getting married in late November."

"He must really love you to buy you something that large."

She glanced away feeling awful. Mr. Tripe really did cherish her, but she felt nothing for him. Getting married to him for his reputation and money, she was practically a trollop. Correction,she was a trollop.

"He does; he's absolutely smitten with me and tells me all the time. I don't love him though." If Charlie was surprised, he didn't show it. "It was set before graduation. During Easter break."

Neither said more on the subject. Instead, they talked about anything else, ignoring the elephant in the room.

Finally, Arabella spoke up, "How do you do it?"

It was so abrupt and out of the blue that Charlie stared at her for a few moments before asking, "What?"

"You live between two worlds, one that you grew up in and one you grew into. How?"

Charlie studied her for a moment, leaning back in his chair to get a better look at her. She assumed he did this a lot when interrogating suspects.

"I suppose you and I are similar in that regard. Similar, but opposite. Sort of like yin and yang."

Arabella frowned and released a derisive sigh, "Yes, it seems that way, but while you're balancing on the fence without breaking a sweat, I've lost my balance, fallen to one side, and can't get back up."

She tucked a stray hair back behind her ear, and she noticed how Charlie's grey eyes locked onto her ring as her fingers brushed her cheek and came back down to rest in her lap.

"Did you fall? Or were you pulled?"

"Does really it matter?"

"Of course it does, Arabella!" He leaned forward, resting his forearms on his desk. "I know it's none of my business, but if you're doing this" – he waved one hand at the air, toward her left hand – "out of some sense of duty, then you should rethink your choices."

She pulled her left hand up and practically shoved it in his face.

"I think it's a little too late to re-evaluate my choices, don't you?" she hissed. "I can't do anything. It'll ruin me, it'll ruin him. It'll ruin my family. I've dug my grave and now I've to lie in it."

Charlie didn't respond, instead he flung open one of his desk drawers and began rummaging through his many files and papers. Triumphantly, he pulled out a little leather book and flipped through its pages until he came across one that had him smiling in satisfaction. There was a tearing sound and he slid a single sheet of paper across the table to Arabella.

She picked it up uncertainly, and Charlie motioned for her to read its looping script.

I won't tell you that the world matters nothing, or the world's voice, or the voice of society. They matter a good deal. They matter far too much. But there are moments when one has to choose between living one's own life, fully entirely, completely – or dragging out some false, shallow, degrading existence that the world in its hypocrisy demands-

Charlie's voice broke the silence, finishing the rest of the paragraph "You have that moment now. Choose!"

- Oscar Wilde

She tried to hand the paper back, be he shook his head. "Keep it. You need it more th-"

"Figg!" A knock interrupted them, followed by a booming voice. "You in there?"

Arabella froze and glanced nervously at Charlie.

"Yeah, I'm finishing up some work." He called back. "I'll call you over when I'm done."

"Alright!"

Charlie locked eyes with Arabella, "You should probably head out now." He watched as she put all of her layers back on, before handing her the flowers and chocolates.

"Thank you," she murmured. "I- I really miss you all." She covered her face again.

As Charlie opened the door, he whispered back, "She misses you too."

Arabella didn't make a decision as she went out to lunch with her father. She didn't make a decision that night, or that week or even that month. It was a little over a week into September, after Arabella and her mother had spent the day looking at wedding invitations. Arabella, restless and unable to sleep, was brushing through her hair at her vanity when the samples caught her attention. She picked one up. This one had gold foil, cut in various designs, decorating the edges of the envelope and invite.

Lord and Lady Cepheus Blishwick
Request the honor of your presence
at the marriage of their daughter
Miss Arabella Doreen
to Sir Ethelred Wulfric Tripe
Sunday the Twenty-sixth of November
at six o'clock in the evening

She tossed the invite to the side, unable to stomach the rest of the words. Rather, she pulled out another piece of paper, crinkled and torn with jagged edges on one side. She smoothed it out on her vanity.

You have that moment now.

Choose, she did. At that moment, when the rest of her household was asleep, she chose. In the dead of the night, she packed only her most precious belongings into a small bag. She snuck out leaving behind the slumbering people, the expensive robes, and the house she used to call home. She ran away, toward the only other home she knew.

On the vanity, a silver ring remained, wrapped in a crinkled, jagged piece of paper.

VII.

Magic

Arabella would be the first to admit that she was sometimes jealous – in the best way possible - of her best friend and surrogate sister. Rosemary was sitting at the diner's counter that Friday mid-morning. Autumn was in full swing, the air was nippier than before and the trees had shed their leaves and were bare. Arabella was working at the diner.

It was her full-time job and it paid quite well. She loved meeting new people, travelers and tourists who stopped by for a cup of coffee or tea on their way home, and she loved the regulars, the families who made it tradition to stop by for breakfast every Saturday morning. The tips weren't anything to complain about either. At 19, she couldn't have found a better job, though she did wish she was able to go to university like Rosemary. The blonde, who was now in her third year of school, was in the middle of one of her university stories, talking a mile a minute as Arabella made her a cup of coffee, a bitter drink that she said she acquired a taste for at the institution for higher learning. Arabella couldn't stand the taste of it, but Rose said she was so busy, she couldn't function without the drink.

Rose said she was busy, but she was never too busy to visit Arabella, who lived down the street from the diner at which she worked. Rosemary still lived at home, but more often than not, could be found at her fiancé's home. Joseph Daniels, a tall handsome man with whom Rose went to school with, was yet another cause for jealousy. Arabella didn't harbor any romantic feelings for the man; he and Rose were perfect together. Rather she looked at them and longed for something like that. She almost felt as if Rose were moving forward with her life and Arabella was left behind, working at the diner and going home to an empty flat. But, when those moments of jealous despair overtook her, she thought of the alternative- she could have been married by now, locked in a loveless marriage with a man her father's age. She'd feel immediately better about her life.

She picked up a few plates that patrons left behind, and headed toward the kitchen to deposit them in the sink. When she returned, she was almost surprised to see Charlie Figg there, lounging at the counter beside his sister. Charlie almost spent as much time at the diner as Rose did. He'd like to chat with Arabella during her late night shifts, after his late night shifts at the Auror's Office. She picked up a plate of sausage and eggs from the "Ready to Serve" counter and handed it to Rose with a smile in Charlie's direction.

"Shouldn't you be at work?" Arabella asked him, cocking one eyebrow.

"Early lunch break," he supplied, stealing a bite from Rose's plate. She slapped the back of her brother's hand and pulled her plate away from him.

"So, you decide to steal my food, huh?" Rose stuck her tongue out at her brother. "You have a job, buy your own plate."

He turned his attention away from his sister's plate, and fixed his gaze and a winning smile on Arabella. Since their heart to heart at the ministry two years ago, Charlie held a special place in her heart, just like Rosemary. Rather than being her best friend's brother, he became family, someone older and wiser she could turn to when she needed advice.

"Actually, Arabella, I have a question for you."

Rose's interest was piqued, and she turned her full attention to her brother and best friend, plate of food forgotten. Arabella on the other hand rolled her eyes in amusement. The Figgs were a crazy bunch.

"You see Arabella, there's a function at work next week – you've probably heard of it, the Hallow's Eve ball – and I'm sorely lacking a date."

Arabella groaned, knowing exactly where this was headed. "No." She moved down the counter, wiping up some remnants of food from breakfast.

"You didn't even hear me out!" He jumped off his stool and rushed over to wear she was furiously cleaning the counters. "You just said no to a question you didn't even hear."

"Hmph. I knew where it was headed." He gave her a look that said Oh, really? and Rosemary said in the background Yeah, Bella, hear him out! "Fine, Charlie. What's your question?"

"Would you be my date?"

"No."

She left him there at the counter so she could take the order of an elderly couple that had just settled themselves in a booth. Busying herself, with work, she didn't realize he was still there until he spoke up.

"Why not?"

She whipped around in surprise, to find both Figg children staring at her.

"One, I refuse to step foot within ten feet of a place where so many Ministry employees will be. I have no doubt that if someone recognizes me, my life here will be over. Two, if you're so desperate, take Rosemary. She loves getting dressed up."

Both Figg's made a face at each other and then at her.

"Ewww, I'm not desperate enough to take my sister as my date – sorry, Rose. Also, it's been two years since you've run away. I doubt anyone will be looking for you. Plus, it's Halloween. You'll be wearing a mask."

She headed back to the kitchen, calling behind her, "There's no way you can make me go."

Two weeks later, as she sat in her apartment being poked and prodded by Rosemary, she muttered, "I can't believe you're making me go."

"Oh, hush you," Rose tutted as she played with Arabella's hair. "It's for your own good you know. Face your fears head on and all that."

"I don'-Ouch!" She glared at Rose, who looked back at her with a Sorry, I'm not sorry smile.

"Now hold still, I'm almost done."

After another ten minutes of poking and prodding, Arabella had to admit, Rose had out done herself. She looked fabulous.

She wore a yellow gown, with a skirt that ruffled in various arbitrary places. The waist was more fitted, and had a sweetheart bust line, but Rose had topped the dress off with a cropped black lace sweater that went down to Arabella's elbows. Her hair, usually pin straight and down was twisted into an elegant knot and was held off her neck by a jeweled comb. Rose had done only a little bit of makeup, after all she'd be hidden behind a mask all night. The gold mask, carved to imitate lace, lay on her dresser, and she picked it up, securing it in place.

"Stunning," Rose took the words right out of her mouth.

Arabella threw herself into her friend's arms. "Thank you so much!"

"No, thank you," Rose smiled affectionately at her. "For everything. Now, let's not keep Charlie waiting. He gets touchy when he's kept waiting."

If Charlie Figg was upset, his face didn't show it. In fact, Arabella didn't know what to think of his expression as she walked out to meet him. He wore black dress robes, his dark hair swept neatly to the side, and his grey eyes hidden behind a black mask with gold embellishments. The mask was probably what made it so hard to read him, but for a moment Arabella thought he looked dumbfounded.

Behind her, Rosemary tittered happily and bid them farewell. "Have fun you two! Just don't bring her home too late young man!"

Arabella rolled her eyes at her friend's antics, taking hold of Charlie's arm.

"You look lovely tonight."

"Thank you, you too."

They apparated to the Ministry, and Arabella, unused to the mode of transportation stumbled forward with spotted vision. Charlie's arms securely held her, one hand on her back and the other on her waist, but once she regained her senses, she smiled apologetically and pulled away from him to observe her surroundings. She gasped in wonder. Was there anything magic couldn't do? The hall was dark, the only illumination coming from little balls of light that floated around the room airily. The walls seemed to disappear the taller they stretched, leaving the illusion that there was no ceiling and only the night sky was above them. Tables were scattered strategically around the room, covered in black table clothes and topped with bronze center-pieces. In fact the whole room was decorated in black and an orangey bronze that shimmered every so often. The marble was a pale dusk color that glittered when light hit it just right. Two staircases transcended the room and led to an upper lounge area. Desserts and finger foods were located in the corner of the room, and Arabella pulled Charlie toward the sweets. He chuckled, coming along without protest.

When she had her fill of sweets, she pulled her toward a crowded table full of people he knew. They all laughed and cheered when he walked up to them, somehow knowing that it was Charlie behind that mask of his. He smiled playfully and introduced his friends one by one to her.

"And everybody," he smiled, pulling out a chair for her, "this is Isabelle. A family friend."

Sitting at the table beside him, Arabella basked in the company of him and his friends. They were all very lighthearted, funny, and playful. They made faces and joked and whenever she caught Charlie's eyes, they would twinkle with amusement.

Her smile quickly faded when she caught sight of her brother Ambrosius making a beeline for their table. His mask was tucked into the pocket of his robe, and he hadn't looked like she changed a bit. Panicked, she grabbed Charlie's hand.

"I want to dance." Faster than Charlie could say lickety-split, she pulled him out onto the dance floor.

"Woah, woah," Charlie said, as they weaved through dancing couples. "What's wrong?"

"My brother is here," she replied, glancing over his shoulder. "I'd bet my left leg that all three of my brothers are here tonight."

Charlie pulled her closer, as they twirled around the dance floor. "You've got that mask on. They won't recognize you as long as you keep it on."

She still remained as stiff as a board, her eyes nervously darting from corner to corner, until one of Charlie's friends came up to them and tapped Charlie on the shoulder.

"Mind if I cut in?"

Arabella pulled away from Charlie, with an embarrassed smile, and clumsily said, "Of course, I didn't mean to pull him away from you so abruptly. He's all yours."

The friend, Jonathon, laughed, and corrected "Actually, I wanted to steal you from Charlie for a dance. The Boss is looking for you Charlie."

Charlie reluctantly moved away from Arabella and Jonathon and went off in search of his employer.

"He's quite a guy, isn't he?" Jonathon said, as they shuffled about on the dance floor.

"Charlie?" Arabella asked, smiling at the thought. "He's one of the best."

Jonathon, as Arabella found out, loved a good time. He told stories about work, mostly stories about Charlie, as he dipped and twirled and lifted her to his heart's content. More focused on not falling to the ground, Arabella quickly forgot about her brothers, as she laughed and stumbled about the dance floor. After what seemed like ages, she begged Jonathon to stop dancing as her feet were getting tired and her stomach hurt from laughing so much.

"One more song?" he asked, spinning her out and pulling her back in. But she refused, and he kindly dropped her back off at the table where Charlie sat glumly.

"Charlie?" she approached him, sitting down beside him. He looked up at her but didn't say anything. "Is everything ok?"

He had spoken to his boss earlier. Perhaps, there was something wrong at work that had ruined his mood.

"Fine, why wouldn't it be?" He practically spit the words at acerbically her, his voice so low and controlled.

"If you're not feeling well, we can leave."

"What? I thought you and Jon would want to continue dancing the night away. You were looking awfully cozy."

He said the words with no enthusiasm and a hint of venom, causing Arabella to stop and take a good look at him. He sounded agitated, annoyed and slightly hurt, and he was directing a glare in her direction. He was the one that wanted her to come along to this thing in the first place! She turned her head away from him, sticking her nose up in the air.

"Well, Charlie Figg, I'm in no mood to deal with whatever tantrum you're deciding to have right now. I'm going to get myself a drink and maybe find Jon for more dancing. And when you're ready to go, you can come and find me."

She walked off in a huff, completely aware that his gaze was locked on her, following her as she walked through the hall. Her face felt hot, no thanks to the mask suffocating her. She reached behind her head to find the ties that held the mask in place, hoping to loosen it a little. Careless, she bumped into someone, dropping the mask on the ground. Silently cursing both Figg children for coercing her into this event, she reached down, grabbed the mask and stood up, tying it back onto her face. She looked ahead, and from across the room, she saw the shocked face of her brother, Aurelius.

Slowly and cautiously, she stepped back into the shadows hoping he'd think it was a trick of his eyes. Unaware of her surroundings, she bumped into someone.

"Pardon me." She turned around, to apologize to the man behind her, only to freeze in horror. It was her brother Augustus.

"May I help you, Miss?"

"N-n-no," she stuttered, slowly shifting toward the exit. "I'm sorry."

The moment she was out of the ballroom, she started to run down the halls of the building. Her heels were click-clacking loudly, a dead give-away to her location, and she threw them off her feet and cast them aside. She took turns arbitrarily, hoping that no one would be able to find her.

"ARABELLA!" a call echoed down the hallway. As frightened as a mouse, she ran faster, trying to be quieter and to smother her gasping breaths. She hadn't realized she was crying until the salty taste of her own tears touched her lips and tongue. She was trapped. They'd find her and bring her back home and punish her for leaving. They'd probably lock her away forever.

She was seconds away from collapsing to the floor in defeat, when hands shot out to grab her waist and cover her mouth as she screamed. She was pulled back and her back hit cold smooth stone. She tried to scream through her sobs and wiggled trying to get free from whichever one of her brothers had found her. If she was going back, she wasn't doing it without a fight. She looked up to glare at her brother, only to find it wasn't her brother at all.

Charlie. It was Charlie who had pressed her against the wall of a shallow alcove, behind two pillars, and who was quietly murmuring to her "Breathe, I've got you. Breathe," just like all those years ago in that church. One hand was still wrapped around her waist, his fingers splayed against her back, while the other was covering her mouth. He lowered his head, resting his chin on her shoulder, and he murmured so softly she couldn't be sure, chanting like the words of a liturgy, "I'm here. I've got you."

Feet shuffled pass them, and a voice called out "Aurelius, I think you're a fool. What would she be doing here?" The voice was so close, she trembled with fear, shaking in Charlie's grip, which tightened. "Had one drink too many, if you ask me."

"Shut it, Augustus."

The voices and the footsteps faded away.

"We should probably wait a few minutes before stepping out." Charlie suggested, removing his hand from her mouth and placing it on the wall against her head as a brace. He pulled his head up from her shoulder, giving her a shaky smile.

Now that the imminent threat of being found had disappeared, Arabella was aware of how closely Charlie and she were pressed together. She wouldn't be surprised if he could hear her heart beating – she could still hear how loudly it pounded against her chest. He pulled his other hand out from between her back and the coldness of the wall began to seep into her skin where his hand had protected her before. She watched as he slowly brought it up to her cheek and felt his thumb slip under the edge of her mask to wipe away tears. She immediately felt embarrassed.

"Sorry, Charlie," she whispered, closing her eyes. "I've gone and ruined your night."

"Nonsense, I'm perfectly content where I am right now. Happiest I've been all night, to be honest."

Arabella's eyes flashed open, and she searched his face for that joking humor she knew from him. He looked dead serious, and she watched as he lifted his hand from her face to behind her head where he pulled on the ties of her mask. It clattered to the floor beside their feet, ringing.

"There, you have too beautiful a face to hide away behind that mask."

"Charlie," she said, moving her hands to his chest to push him away. He didn't budge, as set as a stone, but rather raised one eyebrow as to say, I'm still perfectly content right here. She could have sworn she felt his heart beat under one of her hands, and Arabella blushed all the way to her toes, looking away from his intense grey eyes. "My dress is going to ruin if it stays crumpled like this."

"I do like that dress a lot," he said, both of his hands beside her head once more. "I'm very partial to the colors yellow and black. I was a Hufflepuff at school."

"You are very loyal and hard-working," Arabella acquiesced in a murmur. Those were some of her favorite of his traits – that and his unlimited capacity for caring profoundly. "I read a lot about Hogwarts when I was younger, and you fit the bill quite well. I always wondered what house I'd be in."

"Gryffindor," Charlie said without hesitation, using one hand to tuck a stray tendril of hair behind her ear. "You're brave. One of the bravest people I know."

"Hmph," Arabella huffed, "I certainly don't feel brave, always running away scared."

"You're not running away right now."

"I'm never scared when I'm with you," she admitted, face flushing. "You're always there to keep me safe and to ground me when I need it."

"Good, so you won't start running when I tell you that I've wanted to do this all night."

"Do wh-"

His lips slanted over hers, stealing her breath away, and his hands slid down to her waist, pulling her closer to him as he pushed them against the wall with a gentleness that was simply Charlie. As she sighed and leaned into him, running her hands up to his face to remove his mask, she knew that despite not having any magic of her own, in that moment there, in that alcove, with his lips pressed against hers, she finally knew what magic felt like.

VIII.

My Tenderhearted One

She was told that it is funny how quickly life can change. She wasn't laughing. Not even a little. In fact, she would say she was doing the opposite, holing herself in her room crying her eyes, heart and soul out.

And then, there was one.

They had interrogated her a few times. Of course, they knew that she had nothing to do with it. These men and women who filed in and out of her home for days were her husband's friends and colleagues, and by association her friends and acquaintances. They had attended her wedding, been invited to Charlie's promotion celebration, and some of them had even stopped by last weekend for Asian night – Charlie loved Asian food. No one thought Arabella was capable of such a horror – physically or emotionally, but still they asked her to recount what happened.

Did you notice anything strange leading up to that day?

She started with the previous evening, Thursday. Charlie had come home from work later than usual, he'd been coming home later and later every week for a few months. She was worried for him. In his line of work, coming home late usually meant there were bad things happening, dangerous things. He hadn't told her anything about his work – it was confidential, he said, and that he didn't want to worry her. She'd spend hours waiting and wondering everyday if this would be the day he wouldn't come home to her. But he did. Every day he would return home to her, and, whether she was awake waiting, or asleep exhausted, he would kiss her good night and tell her he loved her.

That Thursday night was no different than all the other days that had passed. She had tried to wait up for him and had settled herself on their sitting room couch to watch the tube. She must have fallen asleep, for she woke up nestled in Charlie's arms as he carried her to their bed. He looked down at her, tired, but happy to be home.

After he placed her gently on their bed, he went to their closet to pull out his night clothes. She sat up rubbed the sleep out of her eyes and drowsily asked, "Time?"

"Quarter-past eleven." He sounded dead on his feet, and when her vision cleared up a bit more she saw that his motions were clumsy and his tired fingers were struggling to unbutton his shirt and undo his tie.

"C'mere."

Dressed in his pajama pants and his work shirt, he obliged, kneeling in front of her on the bed so she could help in out of his clothes.

"Charlie?" she asked, fingers working on his tie, "You'd tell me if something were wrong, right?"

He reached one hand up to cup her cheek and looked up at her, his clear grey eyes twinkling with absolute adoration.

"Work's a little busy, love. Nothing to worry about."

She huffed, throwing his tie on the nightstand. "In your line of work, busy is always worrying." She fixed him with a glare. "I don't see why you can't do less field work and more desk work." She began on his shirt buttons, but her own tired fingers fumbled and she ended up stabbing him the chest with her finger. "Ouch."

"If anything, I should be worried about my wife abusing me. I hear she's got quite the temper."

Arabella pouted and lightly cuffed him in the arm before falling back onto the bed. "You can take your own shirt off, mister."

She rolled onto her side, away from Charlie. Behind her, she could hear him shedding off his shirt and rolling up beside her. With one hand on her hip, he pulled her close and kissed the nape of her neck.

"There are people in this world who don't like people like me, magical beings born of non-magical parents, just like they don't like people like you, non-magical beings born of magical parents. Someone has to go out there and keep those people safe. Those people like you and those people like me."

Her husband was kind and loyal and just, and she couldn't fault him for it. She turned in his grip so her face was pressed against his chest, listening to his heart beating. Lub-dub. Lub-dub. In turn, he pressed his lips to her shoulder.

"But, I will always come back to you, my heart, if it's within my power to do so." He whispered against her skin. "That I promise."

Her heart swelled with affection and she reached up and kissed his jaw.

"I love you."

"I love you too."

The next morning, he was gone before she awoke, called in by some emergency at work. She spent her day cleaning and baking, and smiled happily at the thought that she was very similar to the other Mrs. Figg, her mother-in-law. When she tired of baking in the hot summer heat and thought it too much to remain in the house in the afternoon humidity, she decided to go shopping.

She pulled out of their driveway in the old Opel, a hand-me-down gift from her father-in-law, and made her way to the outlet center, where she spent the rest of the afternoon looking at maternity clothes –Ar-are you expecting? One of the female aurors asked in shock – and baby clothes for her sister-in-law, Rosemary Daniels. The entire family was gathering at the Daniel's home that evening for dinner, and she wanted to surprise her sister-in-law and closest friend with a few things.

When she returned home, Charlie had yet to return. She didn't want to be late to dinner, so she left him a note and left it on their kitchen counter.

- C
Gone to Rose & Joes's, see you there?
All my love
- A

She packed dessert into the car along with the new purchases she made that day and headed off toward the Daniels'. There was a downpour, the humidity instigating a thunder storm, and traffic was extra bad heading out of town. The usual half hour commute took twice as long with torrential rain hammering her car and making visibility almost non-existent. She supposed that with traffic, she would be the last person there – Charlie would have apparated or taken the floo, if he had gotten out of work, that is.

-That makes sense, another auror nodded –

When she had finally reached Rose's house, it was overcast, thunder shook the air and lighting lit up the sky. She pulled dessert and her presents out of the backseat and ran to the porch to take shelter from the rain. Shaking herself out on their front porch, she rang the Daniels' doorbell and waited. She rang again, when she didn't get an answer she went ahead and opened the unlocked door – Is the door usually unlocked? – Rosemary sometimes left the door unlocked when she was expecting guests, more often as her pregnancy progressed. She said she couldn't be bothered with waddling towards the door when she felt like a whale – What did you see when you got inside?

She hadn't gotten inside. Met with the unseeing eyes of her husband, she stumbled back out into the rain and screamed for help. On the ground in the pouring rain, as the neighbors came out to her, she acknowledged how morbidly ironic it was that only that previous night she was worried about him not coming home from work. He had come home from work; by not waiting for him, she had sent him to his death.

The police had come, sirens sounding and lights illuminating the evening. They told her that in addition to Charlie, Rosemary and Joseph Daniels and her in-laws were found dead. There was no sign of violence or a struggle, and the muggle police came to the conclusion that there was a gas leak. Peculiarly, each individual looked like they were frozen in fear.

At the end of the investigation, the aurors said differently though. The victim's faces, still tinged with green, said it all. They had been killed, murdered by a wizard who had a vendetta against her poor Charlie.

They had told her that Charlie knew what he was getting into – but the others didn't! she exclaimed. The other four and that little not-yet-born baby didn't! – and that he wouldn't want her to mourn him for the rest of her life. While she knew it was true, she didn't want to let go of him or the Figgs. She had already lost one family at seventeen, and now, she had lost another.

They had all gotten traditional Catholic funeral services and all their friends and family came with their sympathy and trite words of support. They came to her barren home, continuing with their words and looks. She couldn't take it, couldn't stand it any longer, and was glad when they finally left.

She recalled the last man out of her house, a young auror, a new recruit by the name of Kingsley Shacklebolt, who had looked up to Charlie like a mentor. He gave her a hug, a shaky smile, and said that sometimes life just isn't fair.

It wasn't fair at all.

She spent weeks, emotionless, bereft, upset, and angry. She didn't dare leave her house – not even for church, for it was God who had taken everything she had. My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? Instead, she lay in bed, huddled with Charlie's clothes, inhaling his diminishing scent until it faded into nothingness.

It was two months after the untimely demise of her husband, when she finally began to pack away his belongings and return to the outside world. When he died, it was as if she had died along with him, like her soul was trying to follow his into Heaven. But, it was time for her to return to those of the living world – and for those of the living world to come to come find her.

Their shared closet was only half full as she finished packing his clothes into tiny cardboard boxes one late, Friday night. One of Charlie's records played in the background, and she hummed quietly as she packed away another chapter of her life.

A sudden knocking made her jump. Who could be at her front door this time of night? What if it were the murderer, come to finish off the rest of the Figgs? Heart pounding, she quietly ran to the kitchen and grabbed a butcher knife before heading back toward the door. Knife in one hand, she squinted through the little peep hole and almost laughed at the sight before her. An old man with a long, snow white beard and shimmering, dark velvet robes, stood looking curiously around her street. Cautiously, she opened the door, and though she doubted this old man was a crazy mass murderer, she still gripped the knife tightly in her hand as she swung open the door.

If he seemed surprise at the sharp object glinting in the night, he didn't show it. Rather, his eyes twinkled joyfully, as he said, "Ms. Arabella Figg, lovely night tonight, isn't it?"

He held something behind his back, and she waved the knife threateningly at him. "What are you hiding?"

His lips twitched, fighting a smile. He pulled from behind him a basket in which a small, dozing kitten, grey and striped, lay. For a moment, Arabella was speechless at the small cat that looked like a replica of her Oliver from all those years ago.

"Oh, how silly of me. Let me introduce myself." The old man handed her the little cat before bowing deeply. "Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry."

She was surprised she didn't drop the basket – and by extension, the kitten - in shock, but she came to her senses quickly.

"How do I know you're not lying?"

He seemed to ponder that for a second, rubbing his bearded chin pensively. "You don't, but I earnestly hope you do."

Eyeing him, she didn't see anything harmful about him. He had a twinkle in his eye and wrinkles lining his face. Wizard or not, she thought if he tried anything, she'd be faster, or at least she hoped so.

She stepped to the side, allowing the old man entrance into her home and leading him to their – her – sitting room, where she placed the basket and the knife on the coffee table.

"How do you take your tea?"

She may have looked and felt like what the cat dragged in, but she was raised right, knowing that one can never have a guest over and not offer tea.

"No tea for me, unfortunately, this is more of a business call than for pleasure."

Wary once more, Arabella sat within arm's reach of the knife. "Pardon me for being rude, but what would the headmaster of Hogwarts have to do with a squib like me? I'm useless to you."

"Perception is a peculiar thing, isn't it, Arabella?" Headmaster Dumbledore replied nebulously. "What one person may deem useless, may be the most useful thing to another person."

She stared at him expectantly.

"I fear dark times are to come, Arabella; your husband's death is an augury of things of the future. Muggles and muggleborns are being persecuted by dark wizards, and I and others are forming a group to fight against these Death Eaters, as they call themselves. We'd like you to join us."

A snort of amusement escaped her before she caught the very solemn expression on Albus Dumbledore's face. Her amusement quickly turned into hysteria.

"What in the world could I possibly contribute? If trained aurors are getting killed, I don't think I stand much of a chance, don't you agree? I'd be a sitting duck!"

"Not every war is won with a wand." His light eyes pierced hers, and she found herself unnerved. "Your background is ideal for inter-community relations, an ambassador of sorts, if you will."

He wasn't very forthright with information and Arabella found herself irritated- though intrigued.

"What would be the role of the ambassador?"

"You'd be working with muggles officials, muggleborns and the families of muggleborns, informing them of on-goings in the wizarding world, and coordinating arrangements for their safety."

The moment was surreal – the whole night was. Headmaster Albus Dumbledore, at her house, asking her help in his endeavors to prevent deaths like that of Charlie's. It just didn't make sense. None of it made sense.

"Why me?" She asked.

"I can't tell you any specifics, at least not until I have your word that you'll join us. I believe that your background, a mix of wizard and muggle, and your continued liaisons to both worlds makes you an astounding asset. You'll be low-profile, the muggles will trust you as one of their own and be comforted by you, but the Death Eaters would never expect someone like you to be working against them – at least I hope. I can't make any promises for your safety, you see. There will be a war. People are already dying."

Her arrant shock and fear must have been palpable, for he sighed heavily before standing and saying, "Arabella, I don't require a decision today, or even tomorrow. Think on it. You're a very courageous woman, a woman who finds strength in the face of fear and grief. I have no doubt you'll come to a decision you'll be at peace with."

The old wizard was already at the door when she remembered, "Oh, your cat!"

He smiled at her fondly, before saying, "The cat is for you. A friend found the stray, alone and motherless, and thought you would make better company for the kitten than he would." He stepped outside before turning back, almost uncertainly. "For small creatures such as that kitten, – such as you and me –the great vastness of this world is only bearable through the love and compassion we give to others– no matter how fearful we are to do so again."

With a swish of his robes, he was gone, and Arabella was alone with the little sleeping kitten and an almost empty house.

Though she had met Albus Dumbledore many times subsequent to that night, his parting words that first evening he had shown up at her doorstep stuck with her for years to come. They had propelled her to join the Order of the Phoenix in its fight against You-Know-Who, give her all to the organization and its members, wishing that she could fight alongside them, and mourn the immense loss of the Potters. Those words had encouraged her to start a kneazle-kitten adoption agency, gifting the homeless kittens to families that had loss someone in the war, so that they can learn to love again, just as she had. When Albus came to her once more, just weeks after the Potter's deaths, those words convinced her to uproot her life and move to Wisteria Walk to keep an eye on the waif-like boy named Harry Potter.

She knew that the five-year-old boy abhorred coming to her home. That wretched family of his dropped him off at her house more often than not, and she gave him a horrendous time to ensure that the Dursley's would continue to leave little Harry in her care. He reminded her very much of his parents in both looks and in mannerisms, and her heart went out to that the little dark-haired, green-eyed boy who seemed to revel in the morsels of affection she would occasionally give him.

O, afflicted one, storm battered and unconsoled.

"Harry, dear," she said, as he sat sullenly with her photo album on the ground, that hot summer day, July 31, 1985. "I've a treat for you." She watched as he instantly perked up; it took very little to make the young boy happy. "There's some cake in the kitchen. Go help yourself."

He ran into the kitchen, joy in his eyes, as Arabella followed behind him. For a moment, she saw herself in Harry, a young child, forlorn and forsaken, locked away from the rest of the world.

I am aware of your interior suffering, my tenderhearted one.

From the kitchen of the door frame, she watched him excitedly take a bite of the chocolate cake. When he grimaced, realizing the cake was more than a little stale, she grimaced too, overcome with a sense of pity.

Do not doubt me nor the works I am doing in you. Trust in my love for you.

"Come along, Harry. You can eat your cake while I show you my second album. I put it together last week."

He sighed in resignation, bringing his plate of chocolate cake with him into the living room. Hearing his solemn reply of Yes, Mrs. Figg, Arabella sighed. She wished she could give him more, their little boy savior. She could only give him a little bit of love, but it would have to do.

The great vastness is only bearable through the love and compassion we give to others.

She ruffled his hair affectionately, and he looked up at her with a small smile, as if he knew her thoughts.

Happy birthday, Harry.


AN: What was your favorite part? I think mine was part VI: That Moment Now, though I had a couple of favorite lines in other sections!