Her dad threw her a graduation party that night at Grimmauld Place. Everyone was there – apart from Hermione and Harry, who'd both needed to go home with their Muggle families, albeit for wildly different reasons.
(Hermione simply missed her parents, and they were eager to spend time with their daughter. Harry, on the other hand, was stuck going back to Privet Drive to keep him safe and under the protection his mother's sacrifice afforded him. Sirius had tried to protest, but there weren't many good counter-arguments for that one.)
Still, even without the two of them, it was a brilliant night. Her dad produced a bottle of expensive firewhisky sometime around sunset, and everything had grown a little blurry from there onwards. Winona remembered lots of wonderful food and laughter so strong she knew she would be aching for days.
When Winona woke up the next morning, it was to find herself half-naked in her bed with an equally unclothed Fred draped across her chest. Once she and Fred were both awake – and gripping their heads in an attempt to ease the ache – they stumbled down into the kitchen where her dad cheerfully passed them each a vial of Pepper-Up Potion, which was as close as magic could get to a hangover cure.
Winona threw hers down before accepting the cup of steaming tea from her all-too cheerful dad.
"Wonderful night," he said brightly. "I didn't know you could sing."
Horror stabbed through her. "I can't sing."
Her dad grinned. "Well, no, not really, but you sure gave it your best shot when Ginny put the new Weird Sisters album on."
Winona groaned and dropped her head until her forehead knocked against the wood of the kitchen table. Most people had Floo-ed home late last night, including most of the Weasleys and those of the Order who had come to celebrate.
Fred had stayed, but George had left in the early hours of the morning to open the shop. Despite the celebration, they didn't want to close the shop for a whole day. Fred was going to head back about lunch, and Winona was going to go with him to see the shop for the first time. It would be an understatement to say she was excited.
She still needed to talk to her dad about her plans moving forwards, but Dumbledore had asked her to wait until that night, when he would come to Headquarters and help explain the situation. Winona was grateful for the backup, because she knew her father wasn't going to be particularly thrilled with their plan. Whether it got him exonerated or not.
"Want some breakfast?" her dad asked, cheerful to a hellish extent.
Fred let out a groan that served as a yes and Sirius went to the ice box to fetch some eggs. Winona turned to Fred a little too quickly and spilt some of her tea on the white shirt she'd pulled on before heading down.
"Shite," she cursed, climbing to her feet. "I'm gonna go change. I'll be right back."
"Wear something either orange or magenta!" Fred called after her. "That way everyone will know you're one of us, at the shop!"
She waved in acknowledgement, already half-thinking about how she was going to do her hair. She was on the landing outside of Remus' room when the door opened with a creak and a head of bright blue hair stumbled out onto the landing.
Tonks was halfway through shrugging on the jacket she'd been wearing the night before, but she froze like a statue when she realised Winona was stood there, watching her. They stared silently at one another for a long few moments, neither quite knowing what to say.
Finally, Winona put Tonks out of her misery and winked, smoothly tapping the side of her nose before stepping around her and strolling happily up the stairs. From the corner of her eye Winona saw Tonks' hair turn a bright, embarrassed pink and couldn't help but grin.
By mid-morning, any of Winona's lingering headache was well and truly gone, and she was back to her usual self – only except for nearly coming apart at the seams with excited nerves.
"Are you going to cry? You look like you're going to cry. Please don't cry," Fred begged as they stood at the fireplace. She fixed her dress for the hundredth time, a casual old thing that she'd spelled to be a deep magenta, rather than its previous green. She didn't feel terribly comfortable in it, and Fred had insisted she didn't need to make such a fuss, but she wanted to look nice – this was a huge moment.
Since the first year they'd known each other, the twins had been working towards this goal. And she'd been right beside them, dreaming up colour schemes and product applications; she might not have been the founder of Weasley's Wizard Wheezes', but in many ways, this was her baby, too.
It was a strange sensation, to be stepping into her own future. She'd seen this so many times in her mind's eye, but up until now it had always been some faraway thing, a someday dream. And now here she was, about to slide into a reality they'd all worked tirelessly to create. A dream come true.
"I'm not going to cry," Winona insisted, even though she wasn't entirely sure it was true. Fred's skeptical look seemed to agree. She grimaced. "Well, maybe I'll cry a little, but that can only be expected."
"Are you sure I can't come with you?" her dad very nearly whined, looking every bit the disappointed puppy who had been told they couldn't go play in the park. Winona turned to look at him, hovering in the doorway. "I'll stay as Snuffles the whole time, I swear."
But Winona was already shaking her head. "It's too dangerous," she said sternly.
"You going is dangerous," he argued. "You're on the front page of Death Eater's Most Wanted."
"At least I'm not the Ministry's Undesirable No.1."
Sirius opened his mouth but just as quickly closed it again. Winona tried to smile.
"It won't be like this forever," she promised. "I have a plan."
He stood straighter, suspicion lighting his sea-storm eyes. "What sort of a plan?"
"The kind you'll know about tonight," Winona told him primly. "Dumbledore and I are going to lay it all out for you."
Sirius' face seemed torn between flushing with irritation and turning pale with horror. "You and Dumbledore have been scheming?"
"Honestly, Dad," she said, an impish smirk pulling at the corners of her lips, "when are we not?"
And with that she scooped up a pinch of Floo Powder and threw it into the flames. The world turned green and blurry, the ground disappearing under her feet until all she knew was the terrible, dizzying feeling of hurtling down something roughly the size of a drainpipe.
Then, just as suddenly, it was over, and Winona was standing in a cozy little flat that smelt faintly of gunpowder and magic. The furniture was all disjointed, a collection of secondhand pieces that were covered by various hand-knitted throws to cover the odd stain from an experiment gone wrong.
The fireplace was set into the wall, and across from it was a large couch and an assortment of armchairs. The kitchen was to the right, most of the flat an open floor plan that made it seem bigger than it actually was, with a small, round table set between the counter and the couch, four chairs tucked underneath the polished wood. Behind the sitting area was a hallway that branched off into into several different rooms that Winona assumed were the bedrooms and bathroom.
As she stared at the twins' new home, Fred shifted from beside her. He seemed to be giving her time to take it all in, but never let it be said that patience was one of his virtues. "Do you like it?" he asked, practically bouncing on his toes with anticipation.
"Absolutely," she said, a peaceful smile blooming to life. "It's perfect."
"Perfect for what?"
For us, she wanted to say, but a weight on her heart stopped her. She didn't want to go about giving him hope for something that was still too far away to even properly See. But she remembered Fred's words from the weeks before; about how he dreamt about a life where she lived with him and got paint over everything and made his clothes smell like charcoal.
She could imagine it now; could almost see herself sitting at an easel by the window, the warm breeze blowing through her hair as she painted to her heart's content, breaking away from her work to kiss Fred hello and eat lunch with he and George at that tiny little dining table. She could imagine wearing Fred's clothes and apologising when they got covered in paint, only for him to smirk and charm them clean.
But that beautiful, perfect future – as much as she wanted it – it was too far away to go longing for it now. Life, after all, was just a long walk towards your own future. For now she had to focus on putting one foot in front of the other. That was the only way she was ever going to get anywhere.
"For you and George," she said aloud, turning to smile at Fred warmly. "It just looks like you."
And she wasn't kidding – the décor was a patchwork of colours, very few actually complimenting each other. Colour-wise, it looked vaguely as if it had been done by the blind, and the result made the whole flat feel messy in a warm, lived-in sort of a way. But Winona couldn't have imagined anything more fitting for the two human hurricanes that were the Weasley twins.
Winona walked towards the window, stopping only when she reached the glass, leaning forwards to peer out at the view. They were at one of the main forks that split through Diagon Alley, the shop being at the very centre of the two lanes sprouting away. They were several floors up, the flat positioned at the top of the premises. Staring down to the street, Winona could see the dozens of shoppers wandering the lanes of Diagon Alley, oblivious to the Seer staring down at them from above.
The first time she'd ever come to Diagon Alley – back when she was only eleven – she remembered feeling as if she'd come home. She'd say it was a coincidence that she'd end up actually living in the alley, but when it came to Winona and her feelings, coincidences were simply too difficult to believe.
"Got a great view, doesn't it?" Fred had come up behind her. She felt his large hands slide into place around her waist, his chin resting gently on her shoulder as he stared down into the alley with her.
"Yeah," she agreed, leaning forwards enough to rest her forehead against the glass, staring out at the oblivious crowd below.
Was it just her imagination, or was the alley not as full as it usually was? Granted, she'd only ever been to Diagon Alley in the weeks leading up to the start of term, when everyone was out shopping for their school supplies – but staring down at the people in the alley below, she couldn't help but wonder if maybe the crowd was unusually thin because of recent news. A sinking feeling in her gut told her that the crowds were only going to get thinner from here on out.
Fred nuzzled the spot behind her ear. "You wanna see the bedroom?"
Pulled from her musings, Winona laughed, turning around to nudge him playfully in the stomach. "I'm here to see the shop, not christen your bed, you heathen," she teased.
He wagged his brows. "Why can't we do both?"
There was a door at the righthand end of the room. Winona had a feeling in her gut that it was how the shop connected to the flat, and made a beeline for it. "Come on, Freddie," she said over her shoulder. "Quit stalling."
It became apparent when she pulled open the door that the twins had put possibly the most effective Silencing Charm on the slab of wood that she'd ever seen. The moment the door was open, a wave of sound crashed through the silence. Surprised, she shut it again, smiling when the world turned peaceful once more.
"Clever magic," she praised Fred, who grinned like she'd just presented him an award.
Opening the door once more, she began to make her way down the stairs leading deeper into lower half of the building. It was a private staircase, for the owners' use only, and though she couldn't see the shop yet, she could hear its hum of chatter and noise leaking through the walls. The stairs went down in sections and by the time they reached the bottom, Winona found it led into a spacious storage room that was filled with all manner of boxes and spare equipment.
"Through here," said Fred, catching her hand and dragging her through the sea of cardboard boxes. There was a door at the far end of the room, and he led her through it into another large space that wasn't the shop, but rather a room that looked disconcertingly like the potions classroom at Hogwarts.
Cauldrons of all shapes and sizes were spread on various counters throughout the room, some bubbling with sweet-smelling brews, others empty and waiting to be filled. There was a large wall of labelled potion ingredients to Winona's right, and she thought it reminded her of a giant spice rack in a kitchen. It was so well organised that for a moment she could only stare.
"This is where most of the magic happens," Fred told her, already pulling her across the room to the door at the far end, through which all the noise was pouring. He glanced back long enough to cast her a sly look, "Other than the bedroom, of course. But you already knew that, didn't you?"
She was still reeling from the existence of this space at all, but she managed to find space in her head to throw him an eye roll and drawl, "You think you're so smooth."
"I am so smooth," he argued. "I'm the smoothest there ever was."
"Yeah, yeah," she murmured, still staring at their workroom with stars in her eyes.
Fred paused at the door that she guessed led to the main part of the shop, turning to look at her bracingly. "Are you ready?" he asked, half playful and half serious. There was a hint of nervousness in his eyes and so she squeezed his hand, swaying closer in order to press a kiss to the underside of his jaw.
"I'm ready," she said. He nodded once, taking a bracing breath, then pulling open the door and leading her out into the bedlam.
Winona had Seen a lot of things come true these past seven years. She'd Seen her cousin before she knew he existed. She'd Seen people falling down stairs, and others get killed. She'd Seen failing grades and passing grades and marriages and break ups. She'd pretty much Seen it all.
But she'd never been so stunned, so surprised, by something she'd Seen a thousand times before, suddenly made reality. It felt simultaneously like this was seven years in the making, and had also happened overnight. It felt like the beginning of everything and also the end of an age. Truthfully, it felt perfect.
The shop was absolute pandemonium, but in the best sort of a way – Winona had anticipated nothing less.
It was like stepping into a young child's fantasy shop. The colours were so bright and contrasting it nearly hurt her eyes, and all manner of stairs led up to different floors of the packed, bustling store. Kids of every age were stuffed into the shop, testing out products and laughing loudly with their friends.
Winona had thought the alley outside had seemed empty and desolate, but if it was, this store was a bright sunspot against the shadows of the world they lived in. She looked at the grinning faces of all those kids filling the shop and thought to herself that the world had never needed Weasley's Wizard Wheezes more.
"Come on," said Fred excitedly, tugging her into the fray before she even had time to process the beautiful bedlam before her. "I'll give you the tour!"
He brought her first to their Skiving Snackbox range, a large display set against the wall, with little sets of tongs and plastic bags to scoop the treats into. Looking at the display, her own designs shone back at her. The bright colours popped, both familiar and alien, and Winona reached out with a trembling hand to brush her fingers along the silly font she'd used to paint the first ever boxes.
Fred was talking excitedly from beside her, telling her how well the range was going even despite school being out for the summer, but she was barely listening. She was just taking it all in – her own designs were everywhere she looked. She didn't want to do graphic design as a job, but there was something powerful about her own artwork being splashed out like this for everyone to see and buy. Her throat began to feel tight.
Fred eagerly led her through the shop, talking animatedly about every product and how it had been fairing and some of the ways they were already planning to expand their range and take things to the next level. Every now and then he was stopped by a customer wanting to ask a question, and Winona watched him work with that ball of emotion in her throat making it hard to breathe.
They were on the second level, near the bright pink display for their WonderWitch line when George appeared to sweep Winona into a hug. Pulling back, he frowned at the sight of the silver lining her eyes.
"Blimey, Fred, what're you saying to the poor girl?" he asked his twin.
Fred, who had been rambling on for near to fifteen minutes by this point, finally noticed the tears in his girlfriend's eyes. He wasn't alarmed – she supposed he'd known this was coming. "You promised not to cry," he whined, making a face.
Winona let out a wet laugh. "Shut up, I can't help it," she sniped back. "This is amazing."
Fred's sky-blue eyes turned hopeful. "Yeah?"
"Of course, you idiot," she replied with another teary laugh. The emotion was a deepening well inside of her; she didn't see a bottom to it, like it just went on forever and ever. "This is … it's everything," she said breathlessly.
She felt like she wasn't doing a good enough job of describing her wonderment and awe, but Fred and George seemed pleased enough, grinning widely, their smiles warm with pride. Unable to help herself, Winona threw her arms around each of their shoulders and forced them into a tight embrace.
The twins chuckled in her ears but let her squeeze them within an inch of their lives, their own lanky arms wrapped gently around her back as they embraced.
They stood there, the only three silent people in the whole shop, for at least thirty seconds. Winona breathed them in and listened to the bright, childlike laughter filling the building. This was everything she'd dreamed and more. She realised in that moment that it didn't matter that she could See the future; Seeing was nothing compared to actually seeing. It was so close to magic itself, the hum of life and laughter throughout the store of their dreams.
Finally Winona pulled back, wiping at her eyes and sniffling quietly. "So, what now?" Winona wondered, because the peculiar thing about achieving your lifelong goal is that, once you're there, anything that comes after looks a tiny bit fuzzy.
Fred smiled. "This is your store, too, y'know?"
"Yeah, so pick up a broom and start sweeping," added George slyly. Winona slapped him upside the head but that did nothing to melt the grins on their faces. It was like they'd been tattooed there, some part of them that would forever stay.
Oh, how she wished that were the truth.
Winona ended up sat on a stool behind the counter while Fred rang up customers, helping him pack their purchases into the bags she'd designed with a proud beam on her face.
It would be an understatement to say that Winona was somewhat stunned when a woman appeared at the counter with her young son, his little hands overflowing with the twins' products. She looked harried, the poor thing, but Winona guessed that the shop – as wonderful as she found it – was bound to exhaust even the most determined of parents (not to mention their wallets).
Her eyes were somewhat glassy as she helped the boy stack his things on the counter, smiling tightly at Fred's playful banter while he rang them up. Her gaze slid over Winona, then did a double take when she recognised her face from the papers.
"Winona Black?" the woman blurted, the tired glaze to her eyes disappearing at once.
For a moment Winona panicked, one hand snaking up to the wand that she'd shoved in the top knot of her hair. But then sense kicked in and she realised how unlikely it was that the woman before her was a Death Eater taking her son out on a shopping trip to a known Blood-Traitor's joke shop.
She and Harry had been prominent enough figures in the news lately that she probably shouldn't have been surprised that someone had recognised her – if not for her own achievements, then at the very least as the Boy-Who-Lived's cousin.
The woman was still staring, and Winona dropped her hand from her hair with a wooden smile. "That's me," she said, shooting the little boy a smile as if to prove she wasn't going to go crazy and attack anyone – but the kid was too busy cracking open some of the twins' glow-in-the-dark bubblegum and shoving it into his mouth like he would die if he didn't get it in there this instant.
The woman seemed nervous, and Winona busied herself with stuffing the boy's purchases into one of their bright orange paper bags. "I can't believe I'm meeting you," the woman began, reaching up to press a hand to her throat. "I'm a huge fan."
Winona blinked. "Of…me?" she asked, because though she'd been in the news more often than not in the last few years, it wasn't exactly as though she'd done anything extraordinary or worthy of praise. Mostly they'd just aired her dirty laundry and made her seem like a future-seeing mental case. Not exactly fandom material.
"I have all of Cassandra Vablatsky's books," the woman gushed. "I've read everything she's ever written."
Winona realised suddenly that this woman wasn't a fan of her, she was a fan of The Sight. Winona just so happened to be one of the lucky few in this world with blessed with the thing. She tried to think of something to say, but before she had a chance the woman had already barrelled onwards, like a steam train without any brakes.
"My husband and I, we've been trying to have another child for years now, but nothing seems to be working. We're beginning to get desperate," the woman told her fervently, snatching up Winona's hands and gripping them in her own. Winona froze, staring at the woman with a mounting sense of panic. "Please, tell me, can you See anything at all? Are we going to have another baby? When? Will it be a boy or a girl? I want a girl, but Michael, of course, wants another boy."
The woman forced Winona's hand to her abdomen, pressing Winona's frozen digits against her stomach and holding them there by force.
"Please, anything at all that you can tell me… I'll pay you for your time!"
Feeling vaguely like she were watching this all happen from outside her own body, Winona was finally set free by Fred, who gently but firmly pulled her hands out of the tense woman's grasp and smiled his usual, charming smile.
"I'm sorry, madam, but it's store policy that Miss Black can't cast prophecies over customers – it's a conflict of interest," Fred said in a perfectly polite voice.
The woman opened her mouth to speak, but Fred ploughed on before she had a chance to form words.
"We'll be adjusting the signage within the day to let people know, but for now let me give you a ten percent discount on all of this as a thank you for your understanding," he said cheerfully, tapping something into the register before it made a loud ding and he thrust out a hand with that same grin locked into place. "That'll be five Galleons, three Sickles, and a Knut."
It was very clear that the pushy woman wanted to push some more, but despite the grin on Fred's face there was a certain steel to his eyes that made her rethink that move. She handed over the coins with a sullen look about her, then snatched the bag from Fred's hand and left with a huff.
Without a word from either of them, George appeared – as if he'd sensed he was needed – smoothly calling up the next customer while Fred wrapped an arm around Winona's shoulders and guided her into the back room.
"I'm okay," Winona assured Fred the moment they were alone, the door to the invention room sealed behind them. "Really, I'm fine."
"The woman pressed your hands to her stomach, Win," he said, a troubled frown on his face. "As if she had some right to you – to your gift."
Winona swallowed thickly. It was hardly that bad of an offence. The woman had seemed innocent enough – just desperate for news about her future. But there had been something invasive about the way she'd gone about it. Fred was right, it was like she'd assumed she had some sort of right to the information. Some sort of right to Winona.
"Dumbledore warned me this would happen," she confessed.
Fred frowned. "He did? When?"
Winona hesitated. They might have been in the privacy of the invention room, but it wasn't quite secure enough for Winona to be comfortable confessing the truth. Better that be done in the safety of Grimmauld Place.
"I'll tell you all about it tonight," she told him instead. "What time do you close?"
"On a Saturday? Usually around five."
"Good. I want you and George to come over as soon as you're finished closing. I need to have a talk with you and my dad."
Fred looked worried. "Is it anything bad?"
"Not at all," she said, unsure if it was even the truth. "Just like I said to Dad, I've got to tell you all about mine and Dumbledore's most recent batch of scheming." She tried to play it off lightly, but this was no small thing and she struggled not to show how scared the future suddenly made her.
Fred pursed his lips. She could see him trying to figure out whatever it was she was going to tell him and pressed a finger to his lips to keep him quiet.
"We need to wait until we're safe at Headquarters," she told him quietly. "Then I'll tell you everything, okay?"
"Fred – I could use a hand out here!" George's voice was raised over the general din of the store.
Fred sighed with disappointment as Winona smiled wryly. "Do you really think signs will help?" she wondered.
Fred knew what she meant and nodded his head. "If you're going to be here a lot – and I fully intend for you to be – then I think signs saying you're not in the business of fortune-telling is a good place to start."
"Why don't you go help George, and I'll sit back here to draw something up," she said, tapping the bag at her hip. Once it had contained an even split between school textbooks and art supplies, but now that her schooling was a thing of the past, Winona was able to fill it entirely with all the supplies her heart desired.
Now it was home to countless charcoal sticks and sparkling inks and watercolour pens and all the oil paints she could cram inside. Its state of organisation – or rather, lack thereof – would have made Hermione faint with horror, but it worked for Winona, who was able to reach inside and grab whatever she needed with ease.
"Fred! Quit snogging Winnie and come help me!" George shouted through the door.
Fred made another face. "I'd better go."
"I'll be right here," she promised him. "Will you work through lunch?"
"Probably," he said, sounding apologetic.
She quickly hopped up onto her toes to kiss him. "It's okay," she said, meaning it down to her bones. "At twelve I'll pop down the alley and bring us all something back."
"Are you sure you should be out alone-?"
"I'll not get attacked between here and the Leaky Cauldron," she assured him. "You're going to be hard at work. Let me go get lunch. I promise I'll be fine – Seer's honour."
He still seemed unsure, and she loved him for it, though it was unnecessary. By this time next week, she was going to be more exposed to this world than she had ever been in her life; she might as well start getting used to it now.
"Fred, honestly," she said, because he still looked vaguely like she'd told him she was planning on taking a quick swim in shark-infested waters. "I'll be fine."
He wanted to argue some more – she could tell – but then, "Fred, I swear to Merlin if you don't get your behind out here right now-!"
"Go," Winona urged him. With a final sigh, Fred left, slipping back out into the fray and leaving Winona alone in the relative peace of the workroom.
There was a small radio in the far corner, and Winona tapped it with her wand until it began to play the same Weird Sisters album Ginny had played the night before. She hummed along to her favourite songs as she sketched out a basic design for the signs – they couldn't just be boring old, black and white font. If it was going to hang in the window of this shop, then she was damn well going to make sure it was as much fun to look at as everything else in sight.
She'd finished a basic mock-up by lunch and happily left the twins with a kiss to their cheeks as she made her way out of the store and down the alley in search of food.
A fair few people stared at her as she wandered by, but she figured that was as much to do with her bright magenta dress as it did with her somewhat-famous face. She wasn't entirely stupid – she did have some sense of self-preservation – walking with her fingers curled around her wand in her pocket, ready to use it and Apparate to safety…should the need arise.
But she was confident nothing would happen; call it a hunch.
She managed to get to the Leaky Cauldron without being stopped – thank Merlin for small mercies – and Winona slipped into the cool, dank air of the familiar pub with a sigh of relief. Tom, the innkeeper, remembered her on sight.
"What can I get for you, Miss Black?" he asked jovially, loud enough that the people lining the nearby bar turned at the sound of her name to stare.
Ignoring them, Winona ordered three butterbeers and some fish and chips for takeaway, then took a seat on the far end of the bar while Tom passed her order on to the cook. He returned a moment later, and with a smile wide enough to reveal the gaps in his teeth he plopped a bottle of butterbeer down on a coaster in front of her.
She glanced down, surprised. "I didn't-"
"Cook's busy, so it'll be a bit of a wait," Tom told her. "The butterbeer's on the house."
She wasn't one to look a gift horse in the mouth, and honestly, she was rather thirsty. "Thanks, Tom."
"Seems like your graduation went well, innit?" he asked conversationally while he polished a cloudy glass and Winona sipped her cold, frothy butterbeer.
She blinked. "Sorry?"
"Your graduation," he repeated. "You look lovely in the photo."
Her heart dropped to her feet. "What photo?"
Tom handed over a copy of the day's Prophet, turned to the third page, and there in black and white print was an article on her graduation ceremony, along with a moving photograph of her walking across the platform to take her diploma and shake Dumbledore's hand. The little image of her was smiling – a subtle pull of the lips – but the article was hardly so reflective of that.
Black Heir Graduates From Hogwarts
Heir of the ancient house of Black, Winona Black, has yesterday graduated from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Winona – known Seer and daughter of the infamous mass murderer, Sirius Black – was seen looking sullen at the ceremony, as if disappointed to be leaving the safety of the castle.
It's well known that Miss Black has been afforded a great deal of freedom at Hogwarts, and worked closely with Headmaster Albus Dumbledore to use her visions for the good of the school and its students, and even, at times, the greater wizarding community.
It went on to remind people of what had happened in the Department of Mysteries, but danced around mentioning Voldemort in any way. It finished with:
Little is known about Miss Black's plans for life after school, but one thing is certain: Britain will be watching eagerly to see what the Seer Sees from here.
She was scowling down at the copy of the Prophet, watching herself walk across that platform over and over again, the little image of herself caught in a never-ending loop, when somebody sat down on the stool directly next to her. She was content to ignore them, but then they spoke, words said in a sloping French accent. "Do you like my article?"
She turned to look at the newcomer – a man probably in his late thirties, with beady little eyes and flat brown hair. He had a rodential look about him, and in that way reminded her unpleasantly of Peter Pettigrew. She turned her scowl onto him without stopping to consider whether it was rude. Either way, the man didn't seem to care.
"Your article?" she asked scathingly.
He grinned, showing off a series of gold-plated teeth, and gestured to the large camera hanging from around his neck like it were obvious who he was. "Jean Leroy," he said, looking a little too smug as he did.
Sure enough, when Winona glanced at the byline of the article, it read Jean Leroy in tiny, printed font. "I hate journalists," she told him point-blank, because she was very tired, and her day was barely even half over by now. There was still so much more to come – very little of it likely to be pleasant.
Dumbledore would be frustrated by her tone. "You need to present a better image," she could all but hear his ancient voice saying in her head. "You know you have to play the part."
She ignored the voice with a flash of rebellion, turning her unimpressed eyes onto this Leroy guy.
"I'm not all too thrilled with Seers, either," he told her, just as flat.
"Because there's a paper full of words written by Seers delivered to you every day at breakfast, right?"
He was silent a moment before suddenly laughing. It was a gravelly sound, like he'd smoked one or possibly a thousand too many cigarettes in his time. "They warned me you were quick," he said with a smirk.
"Did they also warn you I have a habit of punching people in the face?"
That tripped her up, just a little. She hummed and left it at that. She took another swig of butterbeer and decided to ignore him – only, unfortunately for her, Leroy wasn't so quick to take a hint. Or maybe he was, and he had elected to ignore that.
"While I've got you here, Winona, any chance you could answer a few questions?" he asked, pulling a notepad from seemingly nowhere and licking the tip of a feathered quill.
"Not a chance in hell," she replied, tapping her fingers impatiently against the bar.
This he ignored, as well. "Last anyone heard, you were still dating one of the Weasley twins – now co-owners of Weasley's Wizard Wheezes just a few hundred paces down the alley. How's that going?"
Winona's stare was flat as she took a measured sip of butterbeer, saying absolutely nothing. But despite her silence, Leroy scribbled something down on his pad, grinning like she'd just handed him a story on a silver platter.
"So, things aren't going well, then?"
She whirled on him. "Excuse me?"
"I can only assume your reluctance to comment means there is – er, how do you say – trouble in paradise?"
Winona gripped her butterbeer so tight she genuinely worried it might shatter in her grip, but thankfully she wasn't that strong. "My reluctance to comment means it is – how do you say – none of your bloody business."
Leroy smirked. "My readers will be so fascinated to hear how terribly things are going with your beloved."
Heat prickled on the back of her neck. "I never said-"
He held up his quill. "But it is implied, no?"
"What excellent journalism," she sneered. "Because everyone knows implication is better than fact."
"Ah, in my type of journalism, it is indeed."
Winona's teeth ground together and she took another swig of butterbeer, hoping it would soothe her. Only it didn't work – it was still a conscious effort not to knock the guy on his arse.
"What are your plans now, Winona?" he asked, as if he had any business calling her by her first name. "It's known you like to draw. Will you be pursuing that, or heading down a more worthwhile path?"
Winona turned to him, fury like lightning in the storm of her eyes. "Isn't part of your job also being likeable?" she asked through gritted teeth.
He waved his quill in the air. "Not always necessary," he said, still scribbling furiously on his pad. She'd always found French accents to be pretty, but on this guy it simply made Winona want to hit something. "Would you care to comment on the return of You-Know-Who and the current outcry for Minister Fudge's removal from office?"
She should hold her tongue – she knew that – but anger was boiling in her blood and she genuinely thought that if she didn't let at least some of it free, she might burn to a crisp with the force of it.
"Sure, my comment's this-" she began, turning in her seat, the lightning in her eyes turning to pure hellfire. She opened her mouth, but before she could get the dangerous, spiteful words out of her system, Tom appeared and set a large, greasy paper bag in front of her.
Taking it as a sign from the aether, Winona grit her teeth and dug in her pocket. She produced a small handful of coins, handing them to Tom before snatching the bag from the table and standing smoothly to her feet.
"Winona?" the journalist asked, staring at her expectantly.
She sighed. "Nobody cares what I'm doing, or what my plans are, or who I'm dating," she assured him, the most sound advice she knew how to offer. The rage in her blood had ebbed, replaced by exhaustion and hunger for the food she held in her left hand.
"That's where you're wrong," said Leroy in that same, lilting accent. "Everybody cares. You and your cousin may not like it, Winona, but you're celebrities. And it's my job to report on you to the public."
Her lip curled back. "What honourable work."
"They deserve to know the truth," he told her, undeterred by her venom. "And that's what I'm going to give them, whether you like it or not."
Winona considered spitting more at him, letting the spiteful words come as they so easily did. But she got the feeling that the only thing that would accomplish would be a rather unflattering article in the next edition of the Prophet.
"Leave me alone," she ordered him, eyes cold as ice.
Leroy only smiled and put down his notepad, lifting his camera to take her photograph before she had a chance to turn away. "I'll be seeing you, Winona!" he called after her as she spun on her heel and stomped from the Leaky Cauldron.
Back at the shop, things were quieter than they had been when she'd left. She guessed the kids were breaking for lunch, and that things would pick back up again later. Fred was behind the counter, ringing up two giggling young girls, and George was on the second level, restocking some shelves.
Once they were done, the two girls hurried out the door, holding their WonderWitch products tightly. Winona felt a brief flash of concern, wondering who would be on the receiving end of that love potion, but the thought flitted away when Fred turned a relieved grin onto her.
"Took you a minute," he said as she moved behind the counter and popped up onto her toes to press a kiss hello to the underside of his jaw.
"The pub was busy," she told him – not a lie, but also not the whole truth. She didn't want to worry Fred by telling him she'd been hounded by a reporter the first moment she'd been alone. It wasn't as bad as a Death Eater attack, but Winona knew how he worried. "George! Come eat!"
There was a faint pop as George Apparated down the flight of stairs, appearing before them and summoning some plates from the backroom for them to eat off.
The rest of the day passed fairly quietly. The shop was still busy, although Fred assured her that she'd barely seen anything, and that as the summer holidays stretched on he was confident things would get even more hectic.
As Fred served customers, George took Winona around the shop more methodically than Fred had, showing her the ins and outs and letting her know the basics of what she needed to be able to help when things got busy. She spent the afternoon helping him clean and re-shelve. One kid decided he would sample a Puking Pastel right in the middle of the store, and Winona had never been more grateful for magic as she flicked her wand at the mess and watched it vanish into thin air.
The flow of customers began to slow as the day came to a close, and Winona watched as Fred and George went through their routine of closing the shop for the day. She sat on the stool behind the counter while Fred balanced the till and George ushered out the last few stragglers before shutting, locking, and spelling the doors after them.
"Let us go get changed, and then we'll head to the meeting," Fred said as he tugged at the collar of his suit jacket, the three of them climbing the steep stairs back up to the flat above the shop.
Winona nodded, trying to keep her feet from dragging. She was reluctant to get to Headquarters, because she knew the moment she did, her recent batch of scheming was all going to come out into the open, and the people she loved most were going to be anything but thrilled.
She followed Fred through the door on the righthand side of the hallway, into a surprisingly spacious bedroom. It was furnished with a large queen-sized bed that was made up with deep red bedding and cream-coloured pillows, plus a large dressing table against the wall and a full-length mirror at to its right. The cold wooden floor was covered by a soft, shaggy rug that spanned nearly the whole length of the room, and there was a door off to the side that seemed to lead to a small walk-in wardrobe.
When she looked back at Fred it was to find him smiling at her broadly. "What do you think?"
"I love it," she told him, meaning it down to her bones.
Snatching her hand, he lead her to the walk-in and gently manoeuvred her inside. "I left plenty of space for you," he said eagerly, moving to the righthand side of the wardrobe – which was filled with all his clothes and shoes – and began to strip off his work suit for the day. He wasn't kidding – the lefthand side of the wardrobe was all but empty, shelves and a large section of rack waiting for her to fill it with clothes.
The sight of it wrenched something deep within her, and she looked at Fred while he changed quickly into his other clothes. "Fred, you know I'm not moving in here, right?" she said delicately, hating herself with every syllable.
Fred remained unperturbed. "Well, yeah, not right away," he shrugged. "But I figure you'll be over here often enough to want some of your own stuff here, too. Not that I'm opposed to you wearing my clothes, but something tells me your dad will be grateful not to see you parade home in nothing but my Quidditch jersey."
He said it all with such unrelenting confidence, and she was reminded again that he believed in this beautiful future of theirs with every atom of his being. Just when Winona thought she couldn't love him any more than she already did, he had to go and prove her wrong.
However, her silence seemed to unsettle Fred, and once he pulled his striped shirt on over his bare chest, he looked up at her with a frown. Winona couldn't find words for what she wanted to say, but Fred didn't have quite so much trouble.
"You really are nervous about tonight, aren't you?" he asked, walking across the room to the mirror to run his fingers through his hair, fluffing it up from where it had gone flat during the work day.
"What makes you say that?" she asked, voice tinny and weak, mouth dry as a bone.
Fred met her eyes in the mirror. "I just know you."
She forced herself to smile, but she could tell he saw through it like glass. With a sigh, she relented. "I'm worried about how you're all going to react," she confessed, turning away from his eyes in the mirror, wandering over to the dressing table against the wall, fussing halfheartedly with the things stacked along its top.
"Why?" Fred asked. "Is it really so bad?"
Winona picked up Fred's hairbrush, idly running her fingertips over the bristles just for something to do with her hands. "No…" she said, then sighed, "…and yes."
Muffled footsteps on the rug, then her boyfriend's large, capable hands were resting on her hips. Winona put down Fred's hairbrush as he rested his chin on her shoulder, allowing herself to lean back into his warmth. "You're starting to worry me, Win," he told her as they slowly began to sway.
Winona covered his hands with her own as her eyes slid shut and she breathed in the scent of his bedroom. "What are you worried about?" she asked, trying to sound casually curious, as though she didn't already know the answer.
He pressed a gentle kiss to the spot behind her ear. "That whatever it is, it's going to take you away from me."
"Don't worry," Winona said, struggling to get the words out around the lump in her throat. "Nothing is going to take me away from you. I won't let it." When she smiled, it was even sincere. "You're stuck with me, Weasley."
Fred chuckled and they continued to slowly sway back and forth for several long, calm minutes, until finally they were interrupted by impatient knocking at the bedroom door.
"Come on, you two. At this rate we'll be late for the meeting itself, let alone the earlier session with Dumbledore," George called through the wood, slightly annoyed, but that wasn't unexpected.
Winona pulled away from Fred long enough to spin in his arms, then steal a kiss from his lips before heading for the door without looking back. George was stood in the hallway, arms crossed, looking unimpressed.
"One day, George, you're gonna regret all the interruptions you've given us over the years," Winona warned him.
"Oh yeah?" he asked, arching a ginger brow. "How's that?"
Winona's only response was a smug, mysterious smile before Fred joined them out in the hall. "Ready to go?" he asked, taking Winona's hand and smiling, though she couldn't help but notice the slight crinkle around his eyes that told her he was worried. She squeezed his hand, hoping to somehow reassure him, but judging by the way his eyes tightened even more, it didn't work.
They each stepped into the Floo separately, with Winona first. She appeared in Grimmauld Place within moments, breathing in the burnt-oil-and-spice scent of the kitchen and the general din of voices speaking quietly.
The table they usually used for Order meetings was filled by people, all of them familiar, most of them dear to her.
Her dad sat at the head of the table, and beside him sat Remus, then Tonks on his left. She spied Moody stood in the shadowed corner, gnarled hands gripping tight to the end of his walking stick, and Kingsley was sat on Sirius' other side, happily eating some fruit from the platter in the centre of the table. To Winona's surprise, Mr and Mrs Weasley were present, too, along with Bill, who was chatting with his dad about something quietly. And finally there was Dumbledore, sat at the end of the table closest to the Floo with his back to Winona, his long silvery hair and eclectic choice of robes unmistakeable.
The chatter petered into nothing as she appeared, and with a flash of green light Fred materialised next, followed closely by George. Now everyone was staring at them. Winona could feel the weight of their eyes on her and it made her want to crawl out of her own skin to make it stop.
"Winnie," said her dad, the first to speak up. Winona lifted a hand in a wooden, awkward wave.
"Glad to see you made it back in one piece," added Tonks, a roguish grin on her pale face. "Even if you are ten minutes late."
Winona took a seat in one of the only remaining empty chairs at the table. Fred dropped into place beside her, George opposite him, and when Winona glanced up at Dumbledore, it was to find him looking solemn.
"Sorry for that," she said to the group at large. "The twins' shop – it's amazing. We lost track of time."
"I haven't myself been to the twins' new premises yet," said Dumbledore unexpectedly, "but I have heard wonderful things. Taking into consideration their many years of mayhem at Hogwarts, I'm sure it is a sight to see."
Fred and George shared a smug glance, while Mrs Weasley looked about ready to die of embarrassment.
"Er, Dumbledore," Winona began, speaking quietly to give the words the illusion of privacy, even though she knew the whole room could hear, "I wasn't aware there would be so many people here. I thought we agreed to keep this on a need-to-know basis."
Dumbledore swept a hand towards the room. "And these are the people who need to know," he said so simply that there was no possibility of argument. Winona would have been content to let it sit as that, but Dumbledore continued on. "If this is going to work, Winona, then you are going to need a support system. I trust these people with my life; but more importantly, I trust them with yours. And I'm sure you agree. You've kept enough of my secrets from the people you love. I didn't want this to be one of them."
"And what exactly is this secret?" asked Sirius from the opposite end of the table. He looked distinctly annoyed. "At any point, are either of you going to get around to actually explaining anything?"
"Yes," agreed Moody from the back. "What are we doing here, Dumbledore?"
Winona looked at her former Headmaster expectantly, but instead of saying anything he just bowed his head in her direction, his hands folded menially over his stomach. Inhaling deeply, Winona knew that she had to do this. She couldn't defer to Dumbledore for everything – especially not in the coming months. She had to get used to doing things on her own.
"Dumbledore and I have come up with a plan," she said so suddenly that Mrs Weasley flinched and Tonks nearly spilled the tea she was drinking. "We've decided that my abilities leave me in a rather…advantageous position," she began, attempting to ease them into it.
But her dad wasn't having any of it. "Please just spit it out, Winnie," he said with the tired sigh of a man twice his age.
Fred's hand gripped her thigh under the table, and she took another deep breath, because the air suddenly felt thin and missing most of its oxygen. "I'm going to go work for the Ministry of Magic."
For a moment, her friends and family could only stare. It was George who spoke up first. "You mean the gig they offered you in sixth year?"
She grimaced at the memory. "That's the one."
"But I thought you told Fudge to shove it," said Fred, now gripping her thigh tighter – not out of anger, but worry. She covered his hand with her own, stroking her fingertips over the length of his knuckles. She was trying to soothe him, but it didn't seem to be working.
"I did," she agreed patiently. "But Fudge won't be Minister for Magic much longer."
Another beat of silence, then an uproar.
This time it was Winona who winced, flinching back from the din and gripping Fred's hand tight. Nobody was angry at her – just shocked by the news, and understandably desperate for all the information they could wring from her. She opened to mouth to try and answer some of the questions being thrown her way, but she wasn't heard over the roar.
It only took Dumbledore raising a single hand for the noise to fade, drifting away until there was nothing but Winona's heartbeat thumping loud in her ears. "One at a time, if you please," the old warlock said calmly.
The others exchanged glances, then it seemed Mr Weasley was silently chosen as spokesperson. "He won't?" he asked, wide eyes darting between Winona and the Headmaster, searching for answers.
Again, Dumbledore nodded for her to speak. Reluctantly, she did. "Um, no, he won't – but that's actually not the important part of what I'm trying to tell you-"
"I disagree," spoke Kingsley in his usual baritone voice. "A new Minister for Magic changes everything. What have you Seen?"
"I know there's been pressure for him to resign since that night at the Department of Mysteries," added Remus before Winona had a chance to speak, "but I thought he'd be too stubborn to fold."
"Maybe he doesn't resign," said Bill with bright eyes. "Maybe something happens to him."
"Fudge is a paranoid old bastard," growled Moody. "These days, it'd be easier to kill the king of England for all the protection Fudge'll have covering him."
"England doesn't have a king," said Tonks dryly. "Only a queen."
Winona dropped her face into her hands, because honestly, this wasn't how she'd imagined this conversation going. To her relief, Dumbledore spoke up before they could find themselves any more off track. "I think you'll find that Winona will answer all your questions, should you just take the time to listen to what she has to say," he said patiently, lifting a hand again for extra effect.
The room fell silent again, all eyes on Winona. She cleared her throat, nodding once. "Come July, Fudge is going to resign," she announced. "Remus is right; there's too much pressure for him to step back, and he won't be able to hold it off forever. Soon enough, he'll have no choice."
"Who replaces him?" asked her dad, the look in his eyes dark as storm clouds over the sea.
Winona tried to smile and failed miserably. "I don't know," she told him, apologetic. "I haven't Seen that yet."
The room seemed to sag with disappointment, and in that one moment Winona felt spectacularly useless. Fred's hand squeezed her leg again, fingers drumming a soothing rhythm into the crease at her knee. She took yet another deep breath and let it steady the nausea in her gut.
"What I'm saying, is the Ministry is something of a…hotspot…when it comes to the big players in this war," she said before anyone could say anything to derail them again. "And we've decided that the Order could do with somebody on the inside."
The room looked gobsmacked by the matter-of-fact statement, but her dad was the first to break from his surprise. "Not you?" he said loudly. Winona stayed silent, watching as he began to slowly turn a concerning shade of white. "But…they already have Kingsley!"
"But Kingsley isn't a Seer," Winona told him patiently. "He's also not in the public eye like I am. He can't feed everyone false information. Or, at least, not the important kind; not to the extent I can."
"So basically, you're going to be a spy," Fred said, a statement more than a question. She couldn't get a feel for how he was reacting, but if the tightening grip on her leg was any indication, it wasn't especially well.
"What?!" squeaked Mrs Weasley, finally losing her cool. Winona had been wondering when she'd stop being able to hold her tongue. "But you can't – Winona, you're just a girl – Albus, you can't seriously expect…" she trailed off helplessly, apparently beyond speech.
Mr Weasley reached out to press a hand to her arm, a comforting gesture. "What's the point of it all, Albus?" he asked the Headmaster bluntly. "Won't it be dangerous?"
Dumbledore nodded once. "Extremely."
Her dad's face had taken on a deathly sort of pallor. "Winnie, you shouldn't be putting yourself in that kind of position," he said, sounding calm enough, though the storm in his eyes told a different story. "You should just stay here with me, where you won't be in any danger."
Winona's smile was sad. If only things were so simple. "You don't get it, Dad. I'm doing this for you."
His eyes – her eyes, staring back at her – spoke masses of confusion.
"Look," she began quietly, pressing her palms flat to the table as she spoke, "if I take this job as High Seer, I can ask for anything I want in return. And they're in a position just desperate enough to have no choice but to agree."
Winona watched them all work through the half-riddle she'd given them, and when her dad's eyes widened in shock, she knew he'd understood. He wasn't the only one to put together the pieces. It had clicked for Remus, too.
"You're going to get them to pardon Sirius," he whispered, but the rest of the kitchen was silent enough that his words reached everyone. There was a gasp from the table – Mrs Weasley – and a lot of hushed muttering.
Winona leant back in her chair and said nothing. Mrs Weasley was saying something to Dumbledore, while Moody and Kingsley seem to be arguing about something. Fred and George were talking in their usual, silent way. But Winona was oblivious to it all, meeting her dad's stare down the length of the table.
He looked beyond words, staring at her unfathomably, so pale he could have given a vampire a run for its money.
"But will they even agree?" Tonks was saying over the hum of noise. "I mean, he's still Public Enemy Number One and until the other week, everyone still thought all these disappearances were his fault."
"Yeah, I'm no expert on politics," added Fred, looking away from George to frown at her, "but I don't imagine that the Ministry's going to want to go back on over a decade of slander to declare Sirius pardoned just to appease you."
"They won't," Winona agreed readily. "But I can at the very least swing him a trial. A proper one, this time, with Veritaserum and witnesses and everything."
The oven dinged then, and Mrs Weasley's chair shrieked as its legs dragged across the floor. She shuffled through the small room, opening the oven with a flick of her wrist and pulling out the casserole she'd put in before they'd arrived.
People were still muttering amongst themselves, sometimes looking at Winona, but mostly lost in their own musings. Dumbledore sat calmly in his chair, looking unbothered by the noise in the room and the general uproar their announcement had made. Nobody addressed Winona except Fred, who leaned in to whisper, "This sounds dangerous, Win."
"It is," she replied. "And we've done this bit already."
He rolled his eyes, kept from retorting by Bill, who spoke loud enough to cut through the rest of the noise filling the cramped basement kitchen. "So," he began, "what you're saying is that you think Sirius is going to be a free man? He can move out of Headquarters and actually…live his life?"
Mrs Weasley flicked her wand and goblets of pumpkin juice floated on an invisible breeze towards them all. Winona gratefully plucked one from the air, gulping some down to soothe the ache in her dry throat brought on by stress.
"I wish it were so simple," said Remus with a shake of his head. "It's not going to be easy. The Wizarding world has spent over a decade thinking Sirius a dangerous criminal. That reputation isn't going to disappear overnight."
"Will it even be safe?" asked Mr Weasley, looking concerned.
"Well, if he stays here – at Grimmauld Place – then he should be safe," explained Remus. "With Dumbledore as its Secret Keeper it's one of the safest places in the country. I know how much you hate this place, Sirius," he added, turning to his oldest friend, who had yet to say so much as a word, "but with all the old magic put into its warding… Besides, someone needs to maintain the house as a safe house for the Order. And let's be honest, you'll need somewhere to hide from all the torches and pitchforks."
Winona grimaced. "You really think it'll be so bad?" she asked, concern like a weighted blanket thrown over her heart.
"I think it won't be an easy road," said Remus quietly. "I should know," he added, withdrawing for a moment, suddenly looking so much older than he was. The expression cleared in the span of a few heartbeats, however, making Winona wonder if it had ever been there at all. "But the sooner we begin, the sooner your father will be a free man – in the eyes of the law, if not in the hearts of the public."
"So you'll stay here with him, then?" asked Mr Weasley, looking worried for her.
Winona had hoped this particular topic wouldn't come up, but now that it had been breached, she knew she just had to tell the truth, even if it did hurt her dad in the process. "Dumbledore and I spoke about it at length. We don't doubt the Ministry's going to have me followed the moment I take the job. I can't lead them – or the reporters," she added, thinking of that slimy French journalist from the Leaky Cauldron, "back here."
"Reporters?" It was the first thing her dad had said in awhile. His voice was hoarse and lacking its usual strength. There was a feverish glint to his eyes, now, as if panic had crept up on him and now had its claws sunk deep into his flesh.
"I'm under no illusions as to how this will all play out," Winona said, trying to keep her voice steady and not let her own fear show. If she made everyone think she was strong enough to handle this, then maybe they wouldn't worry quite so much. "The High Seer position, it's going to garner me a lot of" – she glanced self-consciously at Fred – "unwanted attention."
George scoffed. "More so than you already have?"
Winona's wry smile was crooked, like half of her mouth found it funny and the other half was terribly upset.
"It'll be different," she told him. "While we've been at school, there's been a certain removal from the world. Harry and I – we were just a couple of famous kids who spent our days studying and occasionally saving the world. But now that I've graduated – now that I'm out in the real world where reporters can follow my movements and keep an eye on what I'm wearing, and where I eat, and who I'm dating…"
She looked at Fred again, finding him already staring at her. He didn't looked alarmed – or at least, not to a degree that worried her. She wasn't sure how she'd expected him to take this news, but then again, she wouldn't really know for sure until they had a moment to themselves.
"And you're doing this voluntarily?" George asked with a laugh. He was her best friend; he knew exactly how much she loathed the attention of the media. She didn't want to be famous – or at least, not in any way that wasn't a signature on the bottom righthand corner of a canvas. He knew this was the last place she wanted to be; but for that same reason, surely he could see it was the only place she could possibly go from here.
"It'll free my dad and put me right where I need to be, politically speaking," she told him and the table at large. "It's a no-brainer."
"But you've got a price on your head, Win," Fred said, as though she'd forgotten. "By putting yourself in the public eye, you're only making it easier for people to-"
"Fred, I won't just be working for the Ministry," she told him gently. "I'll actually be one of them."
It took him another moment to figure it out. "You're going to convince them you've turned."
Her smile was grim and entirely for show. "Not completely. They won't believe I've just had a sudden change of evil heart. But if I can convince them that I'm being swayed, and that I actually take this ridiculous job seriously…"
Fred still didn't like the plan, she could see it in his eyes. Her dad seemed to side with her boyfriend on this one, though she hadn't really expected anything different. "It's too dangerous," her dad rasped, shaking his head once. The words were said with a ringing finality. "I really don't think you can pull this off."
Offended, Winona leant back to stare at her dad with hard eyes. "Are you kidding? I'm a world-class liar. How do you think these two never got expelled?" she asked as she jerked her chin in the twins' direction. "That was all me, Dad. I'm a mastermind."
"We're not talking about weaselling your way out of detention, Winona," he said sharply. "This isn't…this isn't school. We're talking about life and death-"
"Dad," said Winona, steady and calm and severe enough that her dad stared at her helplessly, like she was already lost to him. "Listen to me," she began quietly, but no less emphatically. "We all have a role to play in this war. Every one of us. Some are just soldiers, wands in a crowd. Some are spies, like Tonks and Kingsley. And some of us – not many, but some – are on the very frontlines. And it isn't right, or fair, that it should be me and Harry, but it is us, and now we just have to focus on getting ourselves through it alive."
Nobody spoke, not knowing what to say. So Winona pressed on with a fiery passion ignited and burning like wildfire in her blood.
"One day, not too many years from now, Harry's going to have to stand on a battlefield and kill Voldemort." Half the room flinched, and the other half grimaced. "There's no choice, and no matter how much I wish I could change it, it has to be him. I can't do it for him. But what I can do is this – this small, dangerous thing – and wade into the shark-infested waters of the Ministry, in the hopes of one day getting my cousin to that battlefield. In hopes of doing my part to save this world from those who would burn it to the ground."
The room was utterly silent, gaping at her. Winona stared right back, so very tired and made even more so by the knowledge that the work had barely even begun.
"I'm doing this," she said to the room, but her eyes were on her dad, who looked vaguely haunted as he stared back at her, trying to come to terms with what she was risking for his sake. "It's happening tomorrow."
"Tomorrow?" asked Mrs Weasley faintly.
Winona nodded once. "Tomorrow, it begins."
A/N: Hey guys, first of all I wanted to apologise for going MIA over the last month. I've been really sick with the flu, and the good news is that I've used the free time it's given me to write. The bad news is that it hasn't all been for this story. But if you follow me on my socials, you'll know I have a bunch of other projects in the works, and hopefully you're as excited about them as I am.
I haven't forgotten this story – nor will I ever. It's very dear to my heart, and I'm going to be writing this until I reach the very last word of Winona's journey … whenever that may be. Thank you all so much for your support over my break, and hopefully I'll be back to updating regularly in no time.
Review of the *Month* goes to: SupMyDudez – I know the feeling of reading an unfinished story and worrying you'll get to the end without having your questions answered. I'm glad that, in this case at least, you were able to get some closure. Thanks so much for reviewing, and I hope you enjoyed this chapter!