A fireplace in the British Ministry of Magic's international floo network flared suddenly to life, and a young woman appeared inside it, a small suitcase in hand. Her large, silver eyes were wide as the green flames died away, and she stepped out of the fireplace, taking in the high, vaulting ceiling of Ministry Atrium before looking into the crowd of wizards and witches bustling through.
"Aurore!" called a voice.
Several people turned to see Ginny Weasley hurrying across the room with her son, James Potter, a few steps behind her. Ginny crushed the young woman in a hug that lasted for several minutes before stepping back and studying Aurore.
"Look at you. Look at you! It's been so many years. I was afraid I wouldn't recognize you, but you look just so much like your mum," Ginny said, looking as though she were on the verge of tears.
Aurore smiled. "Yes," she said in a voice that hinted a slight New Zealand accent, "Father always says that."
Ginny shook her head in disbelief. "I still can't believe they finally let you come. I was sure you'd stay in New Zealand or maybe end up in Australia. Your mum wrote that you had offers pouring in after you aced all the exams—"
Aurore's cheeks reddened, and she looked down awkwardly at her shoes.
Ginny chuckled. "Don't blush. We all knew you were brilliant. But here you are in Britain, after all these years."
Aurore gave a smirk that was not reminiscent of her mother at all. "Well, they knew I'd always wanted to visit, but finding out I'd applied and gotten an offer from Gringotts was a surprise for them."
Ginny reached back and grabbed hold of James, pulling him forward into the conversation. Aurore and James' eyes met for a moment before dropping away.
"I still wish you'd gone to school at Hogwarts like James. I tried to convince your mum to let you, but New Zealand was about as far as either of your parents would consider when you were eleven. I know the two of you write constantly, but your studious qualities really failed to rub off intercontinentally. I'm sure you remember how James barely scraped by with the OWLs he needed to become an auror. I nearly died of shame. Professor of DADA, and my own son barely got an A."
James turned bright red and ran a hand awkwardly through his wild hair. "Mum! I got serious about grades for my NEWTs. You can't keep bringing up something from fours years ago."
Ginny gave an undignified snort. "I'll bring it up as long as I want. I couldn't meet anyone's eyes in the teacher's lounge for the first month of your sixth year."
James looked as if he wanted the floor to swallow him.
Ginny laughed, seemingly oblivious of the wizards and witches eavesdropping around them in the Atrium. "Well, maybe you can knock some sense into him now that you're in England. He's like Harry was all over again—always has to be the hero, even in training simulations." Ginny's eyes grew briefly misty before she blinked and gave another laugh. "He could use a friend who's level-headed and pragmatic rather than another Gryffindor like me. I'm always torn between pride and a howler."
The hollows of James' cheeks were stained scarlet. Aurore gave an awkward, tight-lipped smile and bobbed her head.
An elderly witch nearby cleared her throat. Ginny turned.
"Ginny, I haven't seen you since last month's memorial. How are you, dear?"
Ginny assumed a tight, practiced smile. "Mrs Tutley, I'm doing well—enjoying the summer before school begins. We're expecting a larger first year this September, and James is just finishing his second year of auror training."
Mrs Tutley nodded, seeming entirely disinterested by Ginny's reply as she studied Aurore through a pair of spectacles. "How lovely. Who's your new friend here?"
Ginny looked over. "Oh... This is Aurore Black. James and I knew her family when we were abroad. She just got a job at Gringotts, so she's going to be staying with us until she's settled in."
"Aurore Black?" Mrs Tutley's eyes widened, and she peered more carefully at Aurore. "Related to the Ancient House of Black?"
"They immigrated during the First War." Ginny said in a low voice.
Mrs Tutley's eyes grew rounder, and she said in a stage whisper, "Regulus?"
Ginny's eyebrow twitched, and she gave a non-committal smile. "I wish I could talk, but we've really got to be on our way. Aurore only has a few days before her first day of work, and I promised to give her a tour of Diagon Alley first thing. James, be a gentleman and take Aurore's bag."
There were many curious eyes that followed little group to the lifts. As the doors slid shut, whispering broke out.
Ginny Weasley had always been intensely private in interviews about who had hidden her and protected James following the death of Harry Potter. The arrival of a family friend from Oceania would set the newspapers abuzz. A Black. Of course. Harry Potter had been a Black godson. It was obvious in retrospect that a branch of the old and reclusive family would have been willing to extend protection to Harry Potter's child, even if they'd been disinclined to join the war itself. Now that the reconstruction upheaval was reaching an end, it was unsurprising that an heir would make an appearance in order to claim the languishing family seat.
There were several owls posted to New Zealand's school of witchcraft and wizardry, making casual inquiries about a recent graduate.
Aurore was seemingly oblivious of the attention as she walked through Diagon Alley. Ginny Weasley was acting as a cheerful tour guide while James brought up the rear, alternating between eyeing his childhood friend and shooting cheeky grins at anyone he caught staring openly.
Ginny was pointing out a new restaurant when a middle-aged woman bumped into Aurore and then froze, reaching out and gripping Aurore's arm tightly. "Herm—!"
Aurore turned to stare at the stranger.
The woman cut herself off, snatching back her hand and pressing it against her chest for a moment. She had several porcelain-plated prosthetic fingers. "No. No, of course not. I'm sorry. You're not. For a moment you remind me of someone I knew once."
Ginny turned, and a flicker of something appeared in her eyes.
"Angelina," she said in a soft voice after a moment's hesitation, "this is Aurore Black, I lived with her family after Harry's death, when I was pregnant with James."
Angelina stared at Aurore for a moment longer before looking over to Ginny, her shoulders drooping.
She looked back to Aurore. "Oh. It's nice to meet you," her voice was wistful. "I hope I didn't scare you, grabbing you like that. I was just shocked. She looks a little like Hermione did, don't you think?"
Aurore's expression was blank; she looked towards Ginny.
Ginny stared at Aurore as though she were trying to see what Angelina was referring to. "Oh, yes. I think it's her mouth, maybe?" Ginny glanced at Angelina and then back towards Aurore with a serious expression. "Hermione Granger. She was a school friend of ours. She died in 2005, during the post-war imprisonment, prior to the Liberation."
"Oh," Aurore said before looking at Angelina. "I'm sorry for your loss."
Angelina stared at Aurore for a moment longer before nodding and turning away.
Ginny led the way to Flourish and Blotts. "This," she said in a low voice, "was your mum's favourite shop."
"Of course," Aurore said, her eyes glittering.
The bookstore was quiet. The back-to-school crush was not yet in full swing, and buyers were sedate and browsing quietly.
There was a large display of thick books just inside the entrance.
A Comprehensive History of Second Wizarding War by Orpheus Bagshot.
Aurore paused, staring at the books for a moment before reaching out and picking up a copy.
"Just released this week," said a helpful clerk who was standing nearby, eyeing the book in her hands.
"I didn't recognise the title, I thought it must be." Aurore flipped the book open to peruse the chapter index.
"Oh. You're not from around here, are you? Not South African or Australian. You from New Zealand?" The clerk said, eyeing Aurore with greater interest.
"I went to school there," Aurore said in a vague tone as she ran her fingers along the chapter titles. Her index finger paused briefly along the way.
"Well, if you're wanting a history of the war, this is—definitively, the best one out there. I read it in one go, didn't sleep. Absolute zombie here at work the next day, but it was worth it. Orpheus is brilliant with words—related to Bathilda Bagshot who wrote History of Magic and Hogwarts: A History."
Aurore arched an eyebrow and nodded. The clerk seemed to take it as a sign of encouragement and stepped closer. "He spent more than ten years on it. Got special permission from the Ministry to access all the records from the war, even trial transcripts that weren't public yet. It's shocking stuff. Some of the sections, I wouldn't recommend reading if your stomach isn't strong. But—if you want to know what happened. This is the book that'll tell you. It's all there. Everything people should know."
"Do you?" Aurore asked.
The clerk looked uncertain.
"Know everything that people should know about the war?" Aurore said in clarification.
The clerk looked uncomfortable. "Well—for me it's hard not to. I was born in 2005, one of—that generation. The trials went on for years while they tried to figure out what to do with all of us."
The boy cleared his throat. "Anyway. Reading that—helps put it all in perspective."
Aurore looked down at the book in her hands. "I'll check it out. I grew up outside of Europe, but we heard stories. You can't really not hear the stories."
The clerk nodded.
Aurore tucked the book under her arm and wandered further into the bookshop. Once she was in an empty aisle, she quickly flipped the book open to its index and ran her finger through until she found the chapter title she wanted. Page 186.
She flicked through to the place.
" Draco Malfoy, known to the world as the High Reeve, is the most infamous mass murderer in all Wizarding history. The youngest person to ever join Lord Voldemort's ranks, he was only sixteen when he assassinated celebrated Warlock Albus Dumbledore. Malfoy devoted his life to climbing rank within the Death Eater army. Not only was he the youngest Death Eater initiate, he also went on to become the youngest individual to achieve the rank of General during the war.
He possessed what was widely considered an unnatural proficiency in the Dark Arts. There is some debate among scholars about what means he may have used to obtain it.
In addition to the assassination of Albus Dumbledore, some of his most notable actions were the Surrey Massacre which led to the death of Kingsley Shacklebolt, the Order of the Phoenix's leader at the time, and the coordinated capture of all Order safe-houses during the Battle of Hogwarts. While many Death Eaters retired post-war, Malfoy's ascent was only beginning. He involved himself heavily in the capture and interrogation of all remaining Resistance members, using what became his signature curse to kill them rather than permit their imprisonment. His aggressive use of the Killing Curse was key to achieving his status as High Reeve and eventual acknowledgement as Lord Voldemort's successor.
It is the belief of many that if Draco Malfoy had not been killed in the fire at Malfoy Manor that the Death Eater regime could have lasted decades longer. Lord Voldemort's health was so precarious at the time that many believe he would have handed control over to Malfoy before the year's end.
Dark Arts scholar Eustace Sederis wrote in his book Malfoy: A Biography of Europe's High Reeve: 'Draco Malfoy was a monster in a man's skin. He may not have resembled Lord Voldemort in appearance, but his legacy would have been identical. To manage so many consecutive Killing Curses, a person must be utterly without empathy and virtually soulless.'
Draco Malfoy was born the only child of…"
There was a sound behind Aurore, and she instantly snapped the book closed and turned. James was standing at the beginning of the aisle, a cheeky grin on his face.
She studied him for a moment before smiling.
James Potter had never been scrawny like his father, and two years of auror training had made him broad-shouldered. He had the beginning of a dark auburn beard along his jaw, and his hair stood roguishly on end, just long enough to hang over his eyes.
"Hey," he said. He was still holding her suitcase.
A smirk played at the corner of Aurore's mouth, and she quirked an aristocratic eyebrow, her grey eyes staring coolly up at him. "Hey yourself."
He rested his hand on a shelf over Aurore's head so that he loomed over her slightly. Aurore's eyes glittered.
He stared down at her. "Hiding from Mum already?"
The smirk faded, and Aurore looked down. "No. I was just curious about the new book. I thought I'd look up the section about the High Reeve."
The grin lurking in James' eyes vanished. "Don't. They're never going to tell it how it was."
Aurore shrugged. "I know. Somehow—I feel like I need to know what they all say anyway, but it's always the same thing. It quoted that line from Sederis, about the High Reeve being soulless."
She gave another shrug that was almost convincingly indifferent as she looked up. "What do you think the odds are that Mum's even in the index?
James rested a hand on her wrist. "Don't."
Aurore didn't listen. She turned, resting the book on the edge of the shelf as she opened it to the rear index, running her finger along until it stopped under a name.
She released a low breath. "Look..."
She flipped rapidly through the book and finally stopping at glossy photo page in the chapter on Harry Potter. There was a moving photograph with a caption beneath it.
Aurore and James both stared at the photograph.
Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, and Ron Weasley sat squashed together on a couch. They all looked faded and tired.
Harry and Ron's arms were slung around Hermione's shoulders as they turned their heads to stare at the camera and grinned, their eyes happy.
Hermione sat in the centre, so painfully thin her collarbones showed through the green jumper she wore. Her hair was pulled back into two taut braids that were pinned into a thick knot at the base of her head. Her face was set with large, devastated eyes, and she gripped the boys on each side of her.
Just before the photo looped, the corners of her mouth curved up into a sad, forced smile.
Aurore studied it for several minutes in silence before reaching out and gently touching photograph. "I'd never seen a picture of her from the war. Your mum sent a few from school, but there weren't any after her fourth year."
James didn't say anything, but when Aurore kept staring at the photo without moving, he rested a hesitant hand on her shoulder. She looked up and met his eyes before giving a sad smile that was reminiscent of the girl in the photograph.
She looked down again, and her fingers ran along the words captioning the photograph as though she wanted to rub them away.
"Someday… someday someone should set the record straight," she said quietly.
James cleared his throat and shifted. "You know Mum offered to. She wanted to tell what happened to them, just up to the fire. Your mum and dad, they don't want her to."
Aurore nodded slowly, her eyes still glued to photo as it replayed over and over again. "I know they don't. I get it. I do. If I lived through everything they did—I'd just want to leave it all behind. There's no point trying to explain something like that; no one's ever going to even want to understand."
"But"—Aurore's jaw trembled slightly—"she doesn't deserve to be forgotten like this. She shouldn't be a footnote. This shouldn't be the only entry she even has. She deserves her own chapter. She deserves a whole bloody book of her own." Her voice quavered. "And Dad doesn't deserve to be compared to Voldemort and treated like some kind of soulless psychopath who wanted to do any of it—" she pressed the heels of her hands against her eyes for a moment and drew a deep breath. "Sorry. I always think I can handle this—and then I always get so—mad I feel like I'm going to be sick."
She sighed and blinked rapidly. After a minute, she exhaled heavily and gave James a tight smile. "At least I have you, and Aunt Ginny. Mum says I can always talk to her or Dad, but"—her mouth twisted—"she doesn't actually remember it all. She has to take potions beforehand, and if I start crying, she has trouble breathing and grips Dad's hand until she starts turning white. And Dad always looks like he'd rather be murdered, and like he expects I'll never speak to him again."
Her knuckles were turning white as she gripped the book and finally set it down. "I don't know what I'd do without you and Aunt Ginny; without being able to write to you about everything. It was so lonely at school, you know, having to give all the wrong answers because I might lose my parents if I gave the right ones. And always feeling like no matter how close I am to anyone, they'll never really know me or any of the things that actually matter to me. You're the only person who knows me."
James smiled at her, his green eyes bright and earnest. "You'll always have me."
Aurore nodded and after a moment she smiled slowly back at him.
There was a pause as they stared at each other, as if they had only just realised they were standing alone together in an empty aisle.
Aurore's breath caught slightly, and a faint flush appeared in her cheeks. James' eyes darkened, and he shifted forward, moving closer, and began to reach towards her.
The bell at the door rang out sharply. James straightened, drawing his hand back and running it through his hair several times as he cleared his throat and glanced around. "You know, Mum's probably going to show up any second if we don't go back out. But—um, we should talk more—about—" His face was turning spectacularly red. "You know—if you want."
Aurore stood frozen for a moment. "Right. We—should." She nodded repeatedly and shuffled quickly past him in the aisle.
They hurried back to the front of the bookstore, leaving the history book behind, still open to the page with the photograph. The photo caption read:
"The Hogwarts Trio, Christmas 2002. Harry Potter with friends Ron Weasley (See: Weasley, Ron, chapter 7) and Muggle-born witch, Hermione Granger. Granger left England at the start of the second Wizarding War to study healing abroad. She survived the war but died during imprisonment while a surrogate in the Repopulation Program. She was a non-active member of the Order of the Phoenix and did not fight."
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