TH E LIGHTNING LETTERS 5.

"Irie? Irie, whatever are you doing, dear? If I didn't know you so well, I would actually believe you were deep in thought," commented Will, as he entered the flat.

"Will- can't you just be serious for one minute? I'm trying to work out something here!"

"Ah, in your non-existent book, my darling? How's that panning out for you?"

"Will- just Shut. Up. I think I've solved it. But if I'm wrong- if it turns out to be completely wrong I'll just *die.*"

Morose thinking before Iris had even touched any alcohol? This was very serious indeed. Will cautiously sat down next to Iris on the sofa, where she was lounging.

"So you've solved it," he said, slightly confused. "I thought that that was the whole point?"

"Of *course* it is," answered Iris.

"Well- who is she?"

"It's a *boy.*"

At these words, Will froze incredulously for a minute, before bursting into laughter.

"I- I *knew* it!" he gasped out. "I just *knew* it! Remember, I came up with the theory first of all. Just you remember to put *that* in the book. I'm going to be famous!"

"That's not the point," said Iris.

"Then what is? You can't tell me that you're horrified that Harry Potter was gay, Iris. I know you too well for that."

"Of course I don't care!" snapped Iris. "Honestly, how could you think that? But if and when I publish my theory- oh, *you* know what some of the other historians are like, Will! They wouldn't accept it! They just won't accept that if Harry Potter had lived, he wouldn't have married some girl and had seven children. I'd be torn to pieces."

"Iris Henderson!" said Will, looking very angry. "You don't mean to tell me that you're *afraid?*"

"It's just- I don't know..."

"If you back out of this now, you're not the person I thought you were," said Will, looking incredibly indignant. "I can't *believe* you!"

"I didn't *say* I was going to back out!" growled Iris. "It's just- you do realise how much of a big deal this is, don't you Will? I mean, *really?*"

"Do you think I'm an idiot?" snapped Will. "Alright, it'll cause a huge sensation. But that's obviously a good thing! We need to force the world to see that not everything is as black and white and clear-cut as they would like to believe!"

Iris smiled faintly. Funny. That was just what Roy had said that afternoon.

"But- but I don't even have any real solid proof yet," she said.

"Then," said Will, "I suggest we find some. And by the way, who is this boy? Good-looking at all?"

Iris rolled her eyes.

***

Iris was in a state of shock. Will was actually *helping* her. Real, actual *help.* Not rubbishy help like he sometimes half-heartedly gave, in the form of thumbing quickly through a book and declaring it useless. He was actually finding out *very useful things.*

"Right," he said after half an hour looking through several of Iris's books on Dark Age Structures. "Turns out the Malfoy Manor is still standing. It's just got a different name. Draco Malfoy died soon after Voldemort's defeat apparently, and since he'd had no children or siblings the estate got passed on to a second cousin or something like that. They changed the name of it to get rid of the bad blood surrounding it- it's called Reynold Hall now, and it's in Yorkshire. Shall we go there?"

Iris blinked. "What, right *now?*" she asked.

It was Will's turn to roll his eyes. "Irie my sweet, it's nine o'clock in the evening. I doubt we'd really be welcome."

"But what are we going to look for there?"

"Iris, *you're* the historian. Bloody hell, do I have to do *all* the work round here? I'm sure you'll find something to keep you occupied. Just you make sure to prove your theory!"

Iris did do something that night. She owled Roy Deayton. She wasn't entirely sure if she should; but after thinking about her theory more and more, convincing herself even more strongly that she was correct, and remembering what he had said, she swallowed her misgivings and sent a tentative note. The letter did not explain her theory, which she had decided to keep quiet; but it did invite him on a trip to Reynold Hall. Iris left the reason for the visit ambiguous; she wanted solid proof before sharing her conclusion with a fellow historian. She soon received an enthusiastic reply from Roy, and she knew she had made the right decision.

***

The following afternoon, with Roy arriving ten minutes early like the well- behaved young man he was, and Will making them wait about two hours because he was fussing about what one wore to a country estate, they were finally ready to go. Iris was getting even more nervous now, and even more unsure of herself. She was only 24; was she arrogant enough to think that she had solved the mystery when countless other, much more experienced historians had failed? Will agreed with her theory, but well- it was *Will.* Not exactly the most reliable person in the world. Iris comforted herself with the fact that the owner of the house would not know why they were there.

In the end, it turned out that the owner was not there in any case. Their plea was met by the housekeeper of the Hall; a tall, upright and proud- looking woman of about fifty, with white-blonde hair and cool blue eyes. She informed them that her name was Irene Tetson. She was a relative of the owner, a Professor Reynold, and looked after everything whilst he was away. After Roy and Will's immense flattery of her, the Hall, the grounds and of course her again, she finally agreed to show them around.

This actually was a blessing in disguise. The woman turned out to be a walking encyclopaedia of all facts pertaining to the Malfoy line. As she led them through the house, she told them all the history about every item in the Hall. Roy and Iris were in seventh heaven. Will- well, to put it mildly, Will was incredibly bored.

Miss Tetson led them down an incredibly long, open gallery, covered with portraits all the way along.

"It was a Malfoy tradition that the heir to the estate was painted in his 21st year," she announced. "This tradition was continued throughout Voldemort's reign, to the very end."

Iris and Roy looked around interestedly. Even Will seemed to have perked up a bit. Every picture contained a proud, haughty individual, with white- blond hair like Miss Tetson's, accompanied with piercing blue or grey eyes. Iris could certainly see the family resemblance. The pictures were all moving, usually only slightly, lifting things on and off a table, others reading a book, one stroking his pet owl. Despite this continued movement, they all seemed as unruffled as ever. They nodded to the visitors in a distant way, and a few of the more friendly ones called out a "good morning," in cool voices. Iris felt rather out-of-place. These men seemed a world away from her, in their old-fashioned clothes and with their strange way of speaking. She had not seen very many moving portraits in her life.

This continued until they had walked the whole length of the gallery. Miss Tetson was just about to turn and bring them back, when Will suddenly piped up, "where's Draco Malfoy's portrait, please? We were particularly anxious to see him."

Miss Tetson turned and fixed her piercing eyes on Will, somehow not as dismissively as before. "It's in the corner," she said. There was slight reluctance in her voice.

Iris, Royal and Will all walked over to the place she pointed to, at the very end, and in the darkest part of the room. Royal muttered a lighting spell, and they could see the painting clearly. He looked slightly puzzled as to why Iris and Will were so interested in seeing him.

Iris stared at the young man, dressed in black and sitting on a high-backed chair. He had the same platinum-blonde hair as his ancestors, grey eyes, and a sharp, striking face. But that wasn't the thing Iris noticed first.

"Good God!" Royal burst out, staring at the portrait. "It's not-"

"It's not moving. At all," Iris murmured, finishing his sentence for him. She was somehow transfixed.

It was perfectly true. In all the other paintings, the Malfoy heir had nodded, or blinked, or had done *something.* This was different. The young man sat on the chair, surveying them all, but did not move an inch. Iris then noticed the deadened, painful and hopeless look in his gaze. The face was bloodless, the mouth a straight, thin line. Iris could not even detect him breathing.

Will cleared his throat. "Excuse me- but what's wrong with him?" he asked Miss Tetson.

Miss Tetson looked reluctant. "It's always been like that, for as long as I've been here, and longer," she answered. "It's very strange. The portrait *should* move, there's nothing wrong with it- but it just *won't.* Legend has it that at Voldemort's defeat, Draco Malfoy's portrait jumped up from the chair, yelled at something nobody else could see, before sinking back down on the seat and not moving a bit since then. It's not right. It frightens many people who come here, and I asked the Professor if I could take it down- but he refused. It turned out to be rather prophetic, in fact."

"What do you mean?" asked Roy.

"I mean that life imitated the painting. It's well-known that Draco Malfoy came back here after the Bermodsey Battle. He had been a spy, you know- and many just thought he wanted a bit of peace and quiet. I don't know what happened during the Final Stand, but after it Draco Malfoy never spoke again, just like his painting. He was sick of life, I believe. He just wasted away to nothing. Six months later he was dead, and the Manor was handed over to the Reynold family."

A silence followed these words. Roy, Iris and Will all exchanged glances.

"Well," said Miss Tetson briskly, "shall we continue on?"

The two men followed her down the long, matted gallery. Iris just took the time to whisper, "*Harry Potter,*" to the painting, watch its head rushed up to meet hers, a keen interest in the face at last. The two pairs of eyes met for a second, and the look seemed to last for hours. Then a call from Will made Iris jerk guiltily away from the portrait. She walked quickly away from it to catch up with the others, feeling as if she had been caught doing something wrong; but with a new knowledge in her heart.

***

"This is the study, where the Malfoys wrote their correspondence," Miss Tetson announced, showing them into a large, square room. "It is situated just across from the owlery. There's also a lovely view of the grounds from this window."

Will went to look out, but Iris had seen something else of interest. She grabbed at Roy's arm.

"*Look,*" she whispered, pointing.

At one side of the room there stood a glass case. Iris pulled Roy over to it.

"The case is filled with letters," called Miss Tetson from the window. "It shows how they used to owl people at the time- with actual *parchment.*"

Iris didn't care about that. She was staring at one letter, located on the right in the case. There was nothing very interesting about its contents:

'Tell mother I hope her cold gets better soon. Has she taken enough Pepper- Up Potion?'

The sign next to it said: 'Note written home from school by Draco Malfoy.'

And Iris recognised that writing. The elegant, thin script.

It was the same as the Lightning Letters. She had proof at last.

Her reverie was broken by Roy Deayton. "What?" he asked, perplexed. "What do you see?"

In her excitement, Iris had forgotten that Roy did not know of her theory.

"Look," she hissed, pointing at the letter. "It's the same handwriting as the Lightning Letters. Potter's mystery lover- it was *Draco Malfoy.*"

Roy's mouth dropped open. He stared at Iris, then at the letter, and then at Miss Tetson, who was regarding them both suspiciously from the other side of the room. Even Will was looking up at them now. Roy glanced back at Iris, and came to the conclusion that she was absolutely serious.

"The grounds look lovely," he said aloud to Miss Tetson, utterly disregarding the fact that he could hardly see them from his current position. "Would we be able to walk in them, do you think?"

As Miss Tetson led them through the Hall, Roy kept a grip on Iris's arm. As soon as they were out into the gardens, and he had shooed a slightly confused Will away, he turned to Iris.

"You think the author of the Lightning Letters was *Draco Malfoy?*" he asked, looking for assurance.

"Not *think,*" said Iris. "I *know* so. As soon as I've done a test on the letter in that case and the original copies of The Lightning Letters, I'll have the real, solid proof. Nobody can deny it then."

"You'll be famous, Iris," said Roy. "I-"

"-You'll be listed in the book," interrupted Iris. "And so will Will. And Draco Malfoy can have his name put to The Lightning Letters at last, where he deserved to have it all along. But can you imagine what it must have been like?" Iris turned to Roy. "It's not even romantic, not really, although I'm sure it'll be painted as such. Imagine having to live like that for over a decade. Always having to look over your shoulder, not even able to tell those around you that you're with someone. And the *letters.* Imagine loving someone *that much* that you can write such *things* to them? Such *words* that even today, 800 years afterwards, they still touch people, they still speak to people, people still *understand* them."

There was a thoughtful silence. Then Iris gasped, looking up to Roy with tears in her eyes. "Oh god- Roy! Imagine! They'd waited over *ten years* for a chance to be together properly- they both worked so hard, so dangerously to defeat Voldemort, and what did they get in return? One was killed in the effort, defending it. Us. And it hurt Draco Malfoy so much that his even *portrait* knew it, as much as the real one did... and he *couldn't* go on without Harry- it killed him; or he killed himself. I wonder what really happened in that battle- I wonder what Draco Malfoy saw. I wonder if he saw Harry cut down, right in front of him. Can you imagine what that must have felt like? Can you ever imagine *feeling* that much?" Iris finished in awe.

Roy regarded her seriously. "You know the academics won't like this. At all," he said.

"I've already realised that, thank-you very much."

"What I'm trying to say is... if you ever need anyone to back you up- I mean, *professionally,* I'm always there to..."

Iris smiled, and took his hand. "Thank-you, Roy," she said. "I understand."

Roy flushed slightly, but gave her a grin.

They continued slowly through the grounds, following the far-ahead figured of Will and Miss Tetson. As they walked, Iris's mind was full of a jumble of things. Of her book, of what it would mean, what it would signify for them all. But mostly with the thought of that pale, cold face, who she now knew had written such words that had haunted people for so many years. And what had been the purpose? To be forgotten, the feelings you had had to be disregarded, and your only known legacy a deadened portrait. She would write about Draco Malfoy in her book, of course she would; she would find everything she could find out about him- but that certainly wouldn't make up for it all.

Then what *had* it all been for? Iris decided, at last, that it was for others to *live.* These two men, and countless other witches and wizards had sacrificed themselves so that others could go on after them, living in peace and security without fear. Well, she certainly would not let them down.

"Look, Irie!" called Will from ahead. "Real, live *gnomes!*"

Laughing slightly at Will's excited tone of voice, Iris took Roy's hand again, and pulled him until they were running towards her friend.

The truth would be out, soon enough.

THE END.



A/N: And so ends The Lightning Letters. I hope you all enjoyed it! If you'd like to know more about this fic, please read the notes that follow.



WHY is Iris so wary to share her discovery with the rest of the wizarding world? Why does she think they'll be a huge uproar? Well, quite simply, it's this: during the Dark Age, Voldemort came up with a way to ultimately destroy those who opposed him. He and his minions created the Blood Curse (mentioned briefly in chapter 1). This spell would not only target the *principle* enemy; but also anyone related (by blood) to him or her. Voldie was able to wipe out whole families this way. Luckily, the spell was very hard to perform, and he wasn't able to target ALL of his enemies, but certainly enough to cause a whole lot of damage. The main target of the curse would die horribly first; followed by his siblings and then his children. Then the curse would be slightly muted, and would usually not kill the principle's grandchildren or nephews and nieces, causing sickness in them instead. But the effects of the Curse were always there, lurking in the background, and it could strike at any moment. Many families under the spell chose not to have children in case they too were affected. The result was that the comparatively small UK magical population was horribly diminished. They NEEDED people to have children. If your family weren't part of a Blood Curse, or if the risk of you passing it on to your offspring was small, you were absolutely expected to get married and have as many children as you could. This obviously wasn't too great for those who preferred their own sex. After a few generations, they were looked down on as 'not contributing' by others. This continued until all but a few of the Blood Curses were eradicated, about 200 years before this story takes place. Although gay witches and wizards are not looked down on anymore as they once were, the mindset of many (particularly the older generations) is one of distaste.

And what do I think my original characters look like? Well, I didn't describe Iris and Will at all in this. It's up to you to imagine what they look like, but in my opinion, Will is basically a camper Rupert Everett with exactly the same voice. He's sort of based on a friend of mine- except that my friend is even *more* annoying :)! Iris is pretty short, with lots of curves and straight, tied-up black hair. She's not really a beauty but has an intelligent, sharp kind of face. She'd have been a bit of an outspoken Ravenclaw, of course.

And Roy- I kind of described him already- very tall, kind of gangly, and a Thoroughly Nice Chap with some Hidden Mischievous Leanings.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this fic. I thought it was kind of different from what you usually read in fan fiction. And I tried hard not to create any Mary-Sues. I hope I succeeded!

Someone asked what was different about the future. Well, some things have stayed exactly the same. They still owl, there's still a Diagon Alley, and they still wear some form of cloaks. But they don't have wands. Instead, a sort of mini-wand is placed under the skin of one of their hands. Then you can't lose it! Good idea, huh? Also, during the Restoration anything vaguely dark was destroyed, including Knockturn Alley. Graveston Alley is built on its remains. Also, Hogwarts has been destroyed, leaving Rosemount instead. The people in this society are very conscious of their past, and are determined not to let it happen again.

Although I thought there wouldn't be, I might write a sequel to this relatively soon. I'm definitely not going to write a prequel, however- much too depressing! I won't be writing the Lightning Letters either. I've never been in love like that so obviously I wouldn't be able to do them justice. They're meant to be the best-written thing in the history of the wizarding world- and so obviously I wouldn't be able to do them well enough. I'll just leave it up to you to imagine them. Thanks again- and please review if you can!