Reunion

Harry had barely slept the previous night.

Having taken Anya and the hostess with him when he had dispatched of Nott and activated the portkey the man carried, he along with Lucinda and the others had immediately sent for Cassiopeia.

The woman had wasted no time in summoning the aurors, and the raid on Macnair's establishment had been conducted only an hour later.

Harry had kept his promise to the two women that had assisted him.

Urging the hostess to seek medical help for Anya, he had given them five hundred galleons each so that they could start a new life back home in Slovakia, where what both had endured during their time here would, with a little luck, become little more than a distant memory.

With his promise fulfilled, he had returned home, only to remember that in only a few short hours, he would finally bear witness to Peter Pettigrew finally getting what he deserved.

A part of him wished that he had exacted his own justice upon the man, and though he would always regret not carving a pound of flesh for himself, Sirius's freedom was much more important.

It was, without doubt, what his parents would have wanted too.

Besides, Harry would take no end of comfort knowing that whatever life Pettigrew was granted would forever be filled with utter and unending misery.

Cassie looked tired as she took her place behind the podium, clearing her throat as she shuffled a thick stack of parchment.

"Before we begin, I have an announcement to make," she explained. "In the early hours of this morning, a raid was successfully carried out in Knockturn Alley. Fifty-nine foreign national women were found to have been taken against their will and placed in what can only be described as a most unscrupulous establishment. All are safe and will be returned home. Thirteen arrests were made, including that of Walden Macnair who was apprehended at his home in connection to this case. I would like to thank Madam Bones and her entire department for acting swiftly to put an end to the suffering of these women."

The journalists in attendance had evidently not expected such an announcement, and many began shouting questions whilst others scribbled away with their quills.

"I will be making no further comment on the matter at this time," Cassie said firmly. "Now, if Lord Potter would not mind, it is time for the trial of Peter Pettigrew."

With a nod, Harry left his seat as he removed the glass case the rat had been kept inside and enlarged it, keeping his wits about him as he did so.

If anything were to go amiss with the trial, it would be in the coming moments before Pettigrew was even allowed to give his testimony.

Levitating the squirming rat out of the, he fired a spell at it and watched with a look of pure loathing as the creature shifted into a short, paunchy man.

"AVADA KEDAVRA!"

It was almost expected.

Having had little else on his mind all night, Harry had pondered if Lucius and his ilk would arrive to the trial, and if they did, what was likely to occur.

Malfoy was one thing, but Harry could grudgingly admit that he was no fool.

He would know that Peter would be subjected to Veritaserum and knowing that he could not get to him before he was within the chambers, a desperate ploy to prevent the man talking was all but unavoidable.

Still, Harry was disappointed that Lucius had not seemingly been desperate enough to attempt to murder Pettigrew himself.

Instead, the curse had been cast by Crabbe; something that had duly prepared for.

Even before the final syllable left the man's lips, the glass tank Wormtail had been housed in unfolded and expanded, intercepting the sickly green jet of light.

Upon impact, and taking advantage of the shocked expression of Crabbe, Harry retaliated before the aurors in attendance could.

The glass had already been reduced to a fine powder as Harry's spell left the tip of his wand and Crabbe roared in agony as his eyes and tongue exploded, sending him tumbling into the lords and ladies in front of him.

Harry did not remain idle, however, and placed himself protectively in front of the cowering Peter.

He didn't care if the man lived or died, if truth be told, but if it were to be the latter, it would be on his terms.

"ENOUGH!" Cassiopeia demanded as she drew her wand.

Aurors had already spilled into the room and everything fell deathly silent other than the whimpers of the heavily bleeding Crabbe.

"Dawlish, send for the healers and stay with him," Cassie instructed. "He is to be arrested upon receiving treatment. For now, the trial is postponed until further notice. There will be no more bloodshed within these walls."

Less than a minute after Dumbledore crashed his gavel atop his podium, the room had emptied.

"You were right," Cassiopeia sighed as she approached Harry.

Already, Pettigrew had been forced back into his rat form and placed into another glass tank where he would continue to stew.

"Is it really so surprising?" Harry snorted.

Cassie shook her head.

"No, but I expected them to have a better plan than that."

"Don't talk it up," Harry warned. "They could have anything waiting for us out there. That may have just been a distraction."

The woman stiffened at the thought.

"Do you think it is likely?"

Harry shrugged in response.

"Probably not, but we should always be prepared for anything when it comes to him. Honestly, I doubt he cares enough about that lot to risk himself within the Ministry. There's too many things he cannot control here."

Dumbledore nodded his agreement.

"Nonetheless, this is a less than desirable outcome," he sighed, gesturing towards Crabbe who was being attended to by the aurors whilst they awaited the arrival of the healers.

"He'll live," Harry replied with a shrug. "I suppose this is something of a blessing in disguise. At least I can be at home when Pansy gets there."

"You're not expecting trouble, are you?"

"No," Harry replied, "but you know how both her and Lucinda can be towards me. The last thing I need is any tension between them."

"Ah, the joys of youth," Dumbledore chuckled. "It is nice to see that you have the same problems as any other young man, Harry."

"Problems I can do without," Harry muttered. "No, I'm sure it will be fine. Well, I hope so."

Cassie offered him a knowing look before grinning amusedly.

"And what if it isn't?" she asked. "Lucinda is rather jealous of any female attention you receive."

"She's a vampire," Harry pointed out. "They're prone to bouts of jealousy, apparently," he added. "I suppose I should get back. Maybe I can bribe Jonas into getting between them if things go wrong."

Harry frowned as he made his way towards the exit, the laughter of Cassie and Dumbledore following all the way until he left the Wizengamot chambers where he released a deep breath.

He hoped Lucinda and Pansy got along.

He could certainly do without any additional drama cropping up in his already hectic life.

(Break)

Pansy's entire existence had been turned upside-down in the space of a single morning.

Flashback

She had been in Charms class when Professor Snape had arrived and merely instructed her to follow him.

At first, she believed she was in trouble, though for what, she could not fathom.

Snape said nothing as he led her towards the dungeon, his lips a thin line of irritation. Or perhaps concern?

She had wracked her brains for any possible reason the man would wish to speak to her, and it wasn't until they entered the man's office and she saw her father pacing worriedly in front of the fire that she realised the severity of the situation.

"We must collect your things," he had informed her without preamble. "We will be leaving immediately."

"Leaving?" Pansy asked.

Her father nodded grimly.

"Come, there is no time to waste. I will explain everything when we are away from here."

The next ten minutes or so had flown by in a flurry of activity as she was taken to her dorm room to retrieve her belongings.

Shortly after, they used the floo network from Professor Snape's office where they returned home to find Pansy's mother filling up trunks with clothes and an assortment of items.

"Dad, what is happening?"

Her father deflated at the question.

"I did something foolish, but it was the right thing to do," he sighed. "I cast the deciding vote that has installed Cassiopeia as the new Minister of Magic."

Pansy choked in disbelief as the ramifications of what he'd done fell into place.

"Will he come for us?"

"It is likely," her father answered simply. "That is why we are leaving. I will not have you in danger for my actions."

Pansy had merely nodded her understanding.

Her father was a brilliant man in his own way; politically savvy, cunning, and ambitious. His business acumen was second to none, but he was not the kind to take such a risk.

He had survived the previous war by being cautious and providing just enough support to the Dark Lord to ensure they would not be targeted.

Now, he had gone against the man, and for the first time in her life, Pansy was frightened.

'If he wanted someone dead, he found a way of making it happen.'

Harry had spoken those words to her when he had opened up about the murder of his parents, and she could only hope they did not prove to be an omen.

Still, she couldn't be any prouder of her father.

He had, despite the undoubted hesitation he would have felt, done the right thing to ensure Britain had the best chance at defeating the Dark Lord.

"Thank you," she whispered as she wrapped her arms around him. "For believing in Harry."

Her father snorted humourlessly.

"I have watched that boy grow up, and I have learned over the years to not doubt him. If anyone can do what no one else has been able to, its Harry Potter. Now, come along."

"You still haven't told me where we are going?"

"We have a safehouse in America," her father explained. "I brought it some years ago when I learned the Dark Lord was not as dead as we believed. Preparation, Pansy. I learned that from your grandfather."

End Flashback

Despite the upheaval, Pansy remained proud of her father.

She had opted not to attend another school for the remainder of the year and was self-studying with her parents to take her NEWTs, if and when the opportunity arose to do so.

Today, however, was not about schoolwork or anything else.

No, today she would be visiting Harry, and she could not wait to see her oldest friend, partly because she missed him, and partly to give him a piece of her mind about the foolish antics she had been reading about in The Daily Prophet.

Pansy was not angry with him, but what kind of best friend would she be if she did not give him a hard time for his escapades?

Her eyes narrowed in anticipation as her father entered the room.

"I know that look," he chuckled. "It usually means that Harry is in trouble."

Pansy hummed and her father released a deep breath.

"Don't be too hard on the boy," he urged. "He is fighting a war after all."

"That doesn't mean he gets to be a reckless prat."

"Pansy, Harry has always been a reckless prat. Did you expect anything less from him?"

"No," Pansy pouted. "I'm still going to give him a piece of my mind."

"And I wouldn't expect anything less from you," her father snorted. "Please be careful," he pleaded. "I do not want you to leave the house whilst you are there. Harry is aware of my wishes, and I trust him to uphold them."

"Dad, Harry would never let anything happen to me."

"I know," her father answered simply. "The boy would give his last breath defending you, but that is something we want to avoid. Just be careful."

"I will be," Pansy promised as she removed the Portkey Harry had sent.

It would take her directly to one of the drawing rooms in Grimmauld Place.

"I will see you in a few days, but if you need me, get a message here."

Pansy offered the man a smile.

He had always doted on her, even though she was now a woman grown, he still did so.

"I will be fine," she assured the man a final time before activating the portkey with a touch of her wand.

Travelling across continents was one of the most uncomfortable things she had ever experienced, and though she was pleased to find her feet on solid ground once more a few moments later she was more grateful for the person on the other side preventing her from crashing to the ground from the dizziness.

"We can't have you injuring yourself so soon, can we?"

The voice was as familiar as ever and the scent that filled her nose reminded Pansy of some of the best times she had ever had.

Despite the lingering nausea, she positively beamed as she threw her arms around Harry's neck and squeezed for all she was worth.

For now, all thoughts of chastising him were forgotten as she simply revelled at being in his presence once more.

"I've missed you," she whispered.

She felt him smiling against her and melted further into his embrace.

Too much time truly had passed since they had seen one another.

Pansy did not know how long they remained standing where they were, but it was Harry that broke the hug and looked at her speculatively.

"You've grown."

Pansy rolled her eyes at him.

"I'm not a little girl anymore," she pointed out, "and you're not the same little boy either," she added, looking up at him pointedly.

"I don't suppose I am," Harry snorted. "That doesn't mean I don't wish it could be how it was before all this sometimes."

"You mean when you would get me into trouble with my father or your aunt for being a bad influence?"

"Like you took much convincing," Harry muttered. "How is your father?"

"Worried about you," Pansy sighed. "He cares about you, for some reason."

"I can't even say how much I appreciate what he did. He really made a difference, and I'm sorry that it upended everything for you."

Pansy waved him off.

"It always was a hazard being your friend. I don't ever expect that to change, even when this is all over."

Harry shook his head.

"When this is all over, I will be grateful for a quiet life."

Pansy laughed heartily at the very thought.

"Harry, you would get bored of a quiet life," she huffed. "You will always go looking for trouble in some way. It's just who you are."

"Maybe I'm just used to it," Harry replied with a shrug. "Anyway, there are some people I'd like you to meet. Come on," he urged, taking her by the hand and leading her out of the study and down the nearby staircase.

Pansy had never been to Grimmauld Place before, but the rumours about the Black ancestral home were true.

It was a foreboding place, and one that would be very unforgiving to any who came here with bad intentions towards the family.

She was pulled from her thoughts as they entered a large kitchen where a group of people were seated around the table.

At first glance, they appeared to be just another group of teenagers, but when Pansy looked at each of them individually, they proved to be quite the eclectic gathering.

There were two boys, one of whom was heavily scarred with light brown hair. Despite his marred flesh, his blue eyes were full of warmth.

The other boy was rather odd looking.

Some would say he was unattractive, and they would be right.

It wasn't that he was grotesquely ugly, but his features were not symmetrical, and his nose and ears were larger than would be considered normal.

Pansy would say he had a distinguished look about him, but again, he did not appear to be unfriendly and he even offered her a smile in greeting.

The three females were more guarded.

The least conspicuous of them was a beautiful, blonde witch, who, from what Pansy could tell was exactly what she seemed to be.

There were no scars, nor disproportionate features.

Other than her being more attractive than the average woman, there was nothing else to set her apart from anyone else she had met.

The same could not be said for the young woman with the auburn hair.

Her long, golden eyes and pointed features certainly were not human, but it was her ears that stood out most.

They were exceedingly prominent, and so long that the tips of them protruded through her thick locks.

It was when her gaze shifted to the last of the group that Pansy was taken aback.

The girl seated next to the elven girl was paler than anyone else she had ever seen, and the red eyes immediately identified her as the vampire Harry had spoken of many times over the years.

There was no denying the almost ethereal beauty of Lucinda whose own features were delicate and pointed, similar to the elf.

Even seated, she was much taller than the other girls, and her thick, black hair was a stark contrast to the deathly pale skin.

"I suppose I should introduce you," Harry murmured somewhat nervously. "That's Cain and Jonas," he explained, nodding towards the boys, "and the others are Eleanor, Ana, and Lucinda," he added, gesturing to the blonde, the elf, and vampire in turn. "This is Pansy."

It was Cain that stood and greeted her first, offering a tentative hand that Pansy accepted.

"It's nice to meet you," he said sincerely. "Harry's spoken a lot about you."

"Is that right?" Pansy asked curiously. "And what has he been saying?"

"Would you believe me if I told you that you're the only person he has never insulted?"

Pansy nodded thoughtfully.

"I would," she sighed. "As much of a pain he can be, he has always been sweet with me. The first time we met he even let me play with his enchanted dragon."

"Bloody hell," Harry grumbled as Cain snickered at him.

"Enchanted dragon?" he asked.

"I was four!" Harry defended.

"I bet you wore silk pyjamas," Jonas broke in. "You look like you would wear silk pyjamas. What was he like as a kid?"

"Not much different than he is now," Pansy huffed good-naturedly. "He was always finding ways to get himself into trouble, like when you slipped my Dad that potion."

"Well, he looked as though he needed cheering up."

"You gave him breasts, Harry!"

"Us men like breasts," Harry replied with a shrug.

The other boys laughed as they nodded their agreement and Pansy raised an eyebrow at her oldest friend.

"Not on themselves, you idiot."

"I suppose that's true," Harry conceded, "but if I remember correctly, you helped get it into his food."

"He still doesn't know that, and I'd like to keep it that way. Whenever my mother mentions it, that horrible vein in his temple starts popping out."

"I made it up to him!"

"You sent him one of Cassiopeia's bras in the post!"

Harry chuckled to himself and nodded proudly, eliciting a scowl from Pansy.

"Has he always been such a pain in the arse then?" Jonas asked.

Pansy hummed.

"You have no idea," she murmured. "If it weren't for Cassie keeping him in line, he would have been a menace to society."

"He was when he came to Durmstrang," Eleanor piped up. "Barely a week went by without him causing trouble."

"You can't talk," Harry said accusingly. "You were involved in just about everything I did."

"True," Eleanor conceded.

The grin she wore told Pansy all she needed to know about how mischievous the blonde could be.

"Did he ever know when he should just shut up?" Ana pressed.

"What is this?" Harry grumbled. "How did this turn into taking digs at me?"

"You brought it on yourself, Potter," Lucinda answered. "If you weren't such a troublemaker…"

"Bugger the lot of you," Harry muttered, "especially you, Princess."

"Princess?" Pansy queried.

"Harry gave us all nicknames when we first met," Cain explained. "Lucinda is Princess because it used to annoy her, even though she secretly likes it."

Lucinda bared her fangs at the boy who merely shook his head in response.

"She does that a lot," he sighed. "It's best to just ignore her."

"What about the rest of the nicknames?" Pansy probed.

"Well, he calls me Wolfie, for obvious reasons. Eleanor is Bumblebee, and Jonas is Fugly."

"Fugly?"

"Because I'm fucking ugly," Jonas snorted amusedly. "Well, it's true. My mother is a hag. I was hardly going to be the next heartthrob, was I?"

Pansy offered Harry a disapproving frown.

"What about you?" she asked Ana.

"He just calls me by my full name, Inanna," she answered. "I was named after one of the elf gods, so he doesn't need to be creative with me."

Pansy nodded her understanding.

"What does he call you?" Lucinda questioned her.

"Butterfly," Pansy informed them. "A blue butterfly landed on my hand when we were playing in the garden."

"That was the first time we met, and we found Hector."

"I miss Hector," Pansy said sadly.

She had been devastated when Harry had informed her of his passing. It had been as though a piece of her childhood had died with the little snake.

Harry nodded his agreement.

"Who was Hector?"

"He was the first snake Harry made friends with," Pansy explained. "He looked after him until he died of old age."

The mood of the room had suddenly shifted, and Pansy was grateful when Harry cleared his throat.

"Why don't I show you to your room?" he suggested.

Pansy nodded gratefully, and after bidding farewell to the group, she followed Harry back out of the kitchen and up the stairs.

"I don't think Lucinda likes me very much," she whispered.

"She just takes a while to warm up to people," Harry explained. "She's not the easiest person to read, and you won't get much out of her. I've known the girl since my first day at Durmstrang, and even now she can be aloof at the best of times. You get used to it."

Pansy nodded, though she wasn't entirely convinced.

"Here," Harry announced as he stopped in front of one of the ornate doors. "I'll give you some time to get settled in. My room is just there," he added, pointing to another door a short distance from her own. "I'm glad you're here."

Pansy offered him a bright smile.

"Me too," she returned as Harry entered his own room.

Opening the door to hers, she decided that she would unpack and take some time to compose herself.

Meeting Harry's friends had gone better than she had anticipated, but it had been a draining experience, nonetheless.

Still, she didn't believe she had made a bad impression, and though she was not used to being in the company of what her schoolmates would call half-breeds, Pansy wouldn't say she felt uncomfortable around them.

Except for perhaps Lucinda.

Maybe Harry was right and she was imagining things, but Pansy could not shake the feeling that the vampire was not so pleased that she was here.

Was she jealous?

Pansy released a deep breath as she shook her head, unsure of what to make of the other girl.

(Break)

The Dark Lord glared at the pathetically quivering form of Lucius Malfoy as the man cowered, pleading for mercy and forgiveness. Time and again, he had proven himself an inept failure, and his latest showing of his apparent cunning had only resulted in the loss of another follower.

"I have reached the end of my patience with you, Lucius," Voldemort hissed. "Hand me your wand."

"My w-wand?" Lucius stammered.

The Dark Lord nodded and held out his hand expectantly.

Lucius continued to tremble as he drew his wand from his cane and reluctantly offered it to his master.

"What did you hope to solve with your approach?"

Lucius swallowed deeply as he pushed his hair out of his face.

"If Pettigrew is dead, he c-cannot speak."

Voldemort nodded thoughtfully.

"So, you thought that attempting to kill him in front of the entire Wizengamot was wise?" he asked. "Did you not consider simply bribing or intimidating those that supply and administer the Veritaserum? No, you did not. You acted boorishly, and foolishly. It seems that you have lost the brilliance I once admired in you, old friend," he added disappointedly.

"I d-did not think, My Lord."

"That is evident, Lucius," Voldemort spat. "I shall return this when you have proven yourself worthy of possessing it once more."

It appeared that Lucius would argue, but eventually thought better of it.

It could not be easy for such a prideful man to be admonished in front of his wife and son, but he needed to be taught a lesson.

Remembering the Malfoy heir was in the room, the Dark Lord shifted his gaze towards him.

"It will be up to you to redeem your father's reputation, Draco," he decided with an amused grin. "I will soon have a task for you, and you had better hope for yours, and your father's sake, that you do not fail me. There is no place in my ranks for failures. No, get out. All of you."

The Malfoys scurried from the room and Voldemort took a seat next to the fireplace.

"Imbeciles," he muttered.

Were it not for the security of the house they provided and the ample amounts of gold, all three would be dead as a matter of principle.

Lucius seemed to fear the wrath of the Ministry more than he did him.

Or did he perhaps fear repercussions from Potter, who had once again proven his ruthlessness.

The Dark Lord's nostrils flared as he pondered the boy.

He had spent years wondering just what the prophecy could mean, and even though he knew it now in full, he felt no closer to understanding the damned thing.

As ever, it was one sentence in particular that continued to plague him.

The power the Dark Lord knows not…

(Break)

She had only just finished unpacking her trunk when a knock sounded at the door, and Pansy was surprised to find herself faced with the vampire as she opened it.

"Hello," she greeted Lucinda uncertainly.

The girl's expression was unreadable before she deflated.

"I just wanted to apologise if I came across unfriendly," Lucinda murmured. "I didn't mean to, but, you know."

"I don't know," Pansy replied more tersely than she'd intended to.

"You've never been around one of my kind."

"I haven't."

Lucinda nodded.

"We aren't the easiest of creatures to understand," she sighed. "I do not mean to be hostile or even come across that way. I'm just immediately defensive."

"Of Harry," Pansy said knowingly.

Lucinda frowned.

"Do you love him?" she asked bluntly.

"I do," Pansy replied unashamedly, "but probably not in the way you think."

She finally understood why the vampire had been standoffish towards her beyond what she likely would be with others.

"Not the way I think?" Lucinda asked confusedly.

Pansy took pity on the girl and beckoned for her to enter.

When the door was closed behind them, she looked at Lucinda, and despite the fact that she was what many would consider a dangerous and unpleasant creature, she was still a young woman.

A seemingly vulnerable one at that.

"Do you have brothers or sisters?"

Lucinda shook her head.

"Well, I see Harry as a brother more than anything else," Pansy explained. "I love him, more than I will love anyone else, but I am not in love with him. I care for him the same way someone would care for a brother."

"I don't understand," Lucinda returned thoughtfully.

"Do you not care for your parents? Would you not be upset if anything happened to them?"

Lucinda frowned at the questions.

"I don't know," she answered honestly.

"But you would if anything happened to Harry."

Lucinda visibly swallowed before she nodded.

"We do not have much capacity to care for others," she explained. "It is not in our nature to feel affection. Humans are food to us."

"But Harry is different."

Lucinda nodded once more.

"It still confuses me, but yes, he is different," she huffed. "He is frustrating, and I feel things that are unfamiliar to me because of him."

"Like what?" Pansy asked curiously.

"Warmth," Lucinda answered. "I feel like I matter to him as much as he does me. I feel jealous too, and he can even make me feel sad sometimes. Mostly, he makes everything just feel better. Does that make sense?"

Pansy smiled as she nodded.

"You care about him too. Probably not in the same way as me though."

"No," Lucinda agreed. "It's different to what you said."

"Does he know?"

Lucinda shrugged.

"We have spoken about it before, well kind of."

"Kind of?"

"We were interrupted and other things have gotten in the way. Neither of us have mentioned it since."

Pansy shook her head.

"Harry can be quite dense about things," she sighed. "Things like this are hard for him. After what he went through as a child, he is not always the most emotionally connected person. He's had to be that way to do what he does. If you want my advice, you should take the time and speak with him. I saw the way he looks at you, and he probably doesn't know how to bring it up again. Like I said, he can be quite dense."

Lucinda nodded her understanding.

"Thank you," she offered gratefully. "I can see why Harry says that you're his best friend. He's really missed you."

"I've missed him too," Pansy returned with a smile. "Should we start again?"

Lucinda grinned, showing her fangs as she offered her hand.

"Lucinda Tarasov."

Pansy accepted the proffered limb, shuddering at the coldness of the skin.

"Pansy Parkinson," she replied.

(Break)

Harry looked upon each of the hallows in turn.

Singularly, they were not so unique that they would be easily identifiable, but Harry had felt the power of each. However, combined, they were something else entirely.

He placed the familiar cloak around his shoulders, the one that had been past from Peverell to Potter until it came into his hands before placing the ring on his finger and slowly reaching for the wand.

As he grasped it, the artefacts seemed to come alive, or was it something within him that was triggered by the combination of the three.

Harry could not be certain, but he allowed himself a few moments to become accustomed to the influx of magic before attempted to decipher what it was he was experiencing.

It was odd to say the least.

He had always been acutely aware of his own magic as it flowed through him, his relationship with it only growing stronger over the years. It washed over him comfortingly, even now after the phoenix and basilisk's own had been added to it.

It was forever there, just under the surface of his skin at his beck and call.

The Peverell magic was not so seemingly passive.

It too was there, under his skin, but the differences were quite considerable.

Harry could feel it in every fibre of his being, thrumming throughout his mind, body, and somehow even his soul as though it encased his very existence.

He frowned to himself as he became aware of new feelings, almost as though his eyes were being opened for the first time, and he was seeing the world for what it truly was.

Breathing in the air, he could taste the ambient magic around him, and even hear it.

Everything was so alive, and yet, the gifts had come from Death.

He shook his head of the thought.

Every magical thing in his room seemed to burn brighter whilst the inane items were dull.

It was strange to witness the world in such a way, but it was not his vision of his surroundings that distracted him so.

He could feel something else; the magic of Death urging him to give in to the many whimsical thoughts permeating in his mind.

With a wave of his wand, Harry gasped as several ghostly daggers formed around him before shooting off in various directions, each sticking deeply into the walls and door.

They vanished at his command, leaving no trace of their presence behind.

Following his instincts once more, Harry burst forward in a wave of magic, and when he managed to gather himself a moment later, he found himself outside his bedroom, in the hallway.

He hadn't apparated, that he was certain of, and yet, he passed through his door and done so with what should have been impossible speed, except for perhaps Lucinda.

Repeating the process, he returned to the confines of his room.

This time, he had felt himself pass through the thick oak, and he wondered what limits that form of travel had.

He would need to experiment with it further.

For now, he simply revelled in the magic, and the thought of the many things he knew he could do.

It would take time to process and try them all, but he was excited for it.

Allowing himself one further indulgence, he allowed the magic to carry him off the ground.

It felt odd to be flying without a broom beneath him, and it was something else Harry promised himself he would work on, along with the more practical aspects of the magic he had been gifted.

A knock on the door startled him, and Harry fell to the ground with a dull thud.

"Bloody hell," he grumbled, rubbing his posterior. "Who is it?"

"It's me," Lucinda answered. "Are you okay, I could feel your magic flaring?"

Placing his wand up his sleeve and removing the cloak, Harry opened the door.

"I'm fine," he assured the vampire. "Are you?" he asked, frowning at the rather nervous expression she wore.

"I am, I think. I don't know," Lucinda huffed as she pushed past Harry and took a seat on the edge of his bed.

For several moments, she said nothing and Harry closed the door before joining her.

"This is your fault, you know," she muttered.

"My fault?"

Lucinda nodded as she bit her lower lip, drawing a little blood that she wiped away.

"It's not really," she huffed, "but it's easier to blame you."

Harry chuckled.

"What did I not do?" he asked amusedly.

Lucinda shrugged, and Harry frowned.

She was struggling with whatever it was she wanted to say. It was unlike the usually blunt and forthcoming vampire.

"The night we spoke before you went to get the werewolf. I meant everything I said," she murmured. "I knew I was growing attached to you in some way when I read the article about you and that Greengrass girl. I probably knew it before then, but I ignored it. I didn't understand it, not until my mother spoke to me. She could see it."

"I don't suppose the Alessia thing helped."

Lucinda glared at him as she shook her head.

"It didn't."

Harry suddenly felt immensely guilty for whatever upset he had caused her. He had never intended to, of course, but it had happened, nonetheless.

"Let me explain."

"You don't have to. It's not my business."

"Maybe it isn't," Harry sighed, "but if anyone deserves the truth, it's you."

"The truth?"

Harry nodded as he readied himself.

He had never truly been an open book with anyone and had often felt as though he was living a lie.

"I died," he said simply. "When I came back, I felt different, and I just wanted to feel like myself again. Well, that's not entirely true. I wanted to be the person I'd tried to be for so long, but I couldn't."

Lucinda looked at him confusedly.

"All the laughter, the jokes, and pranks, I like to think that was what my parents would have wanted me to be, and don't get me wrong, I enjoy those things, but it isn't really who I am."

"Then who are you?"

Harry offered her a sad smile.

"I was once a terrified little boy who was haunted day in and day out by the murder of my mother. There's a part of me that is still that same little boy who suffers with nightmares and wakes up, unable to move from fear. I remember when I was small, I would wake Cassiopeia with my screaming. I don't scream anymore, but I'm just as terrified now as I was then."

Lucinda scoffed in disbelief, but her expression softened when she realised that Harry was being serious.

"You're scared?"

Harry swallowed as he nodded.

"I'm not scared of dying. I used to be, but after it happened, I realised there wasn't anything to be afraid. My parents died to protect me, and I am scared that I cannot be as brave as them. I'm not certain that I can beat him and then their sacrifice will be for nothing."

Lucinda was taken aback by the admission.

"I don't think you would have endured what you have if there was no life for you after this."

"This isn't a fairy-tale," Harry replied gently. "This is real life, and the truth is, he is a better wizard than me. He is faster, more powerful, and he knows more magic."

"You managed well enough at Hogsmeade."

"Only because he was not expecting me to be as good as I am, and he was reluctant to tempt fate too much. He knows the prophecy now, and when we meet again, he won't be holding back."

"Neither will you," Lucinda pointed out. "I've seen what you are capable of, Harry, and if there is anyone that I would never doubt, it's you."

Harry snorted amusedly.

"Anyway, that is my burden to shoulder. The whole thing with Alessia was partly me trying to find the piece of myself that I lost. I wanted to be able to be reckless again, but my experience in the chamber taught me that there are no promises in life. It humbled me more than anything else, and I realised that I couldn't even fake it anymore. James Potter was reckless, and I always wanted to be just like my Dad in some way. Maybe it made me feel that a part of him was still alive when I acted like him."

Harry shrugged uncertainly.

"I've lost a lot in my life, and even if I survive Voldemort, I will only ever lose more with each year that passes. It's a grim outlook to have, but it is the truth. Learning about the lasting effects from what happened in the chamber changed me more than the experience itself and I acted poorly because of it. Did the Alessia thing really bother you?"

"We are jealous creatures, and possessive. She had what I wanted. I wanted you to myself."

"Wanted?"

Lucinda rolled her eyes at him.

"I want you all to myself," she huffed. "Is that better? I don't want to see you with anyone else, and I know it isn't fair. You have your responsibilities, and everyone here will expect you to marry some British pureblood, but I can't help the way I f.."

Her words became muffled as Harry pressed his lips against hers and Lucinda melted into the kiss.

"You don't have to explain," he murmured a moment later. "Honestly, I never really knew what you wanted from me until we spoke that night. Everything else that has happened since has gotten in the way of us talking, and I just didn't know what to say. Maybe I've been so focused on what Galanis told me that I've not been able to think of much else. It's a lot to take in."

"I know," Lucinda whispered. "I'm not trying to push you into anything, but I just need you to know."

Harry waved her off as he leaned back.

"The thought of living for so long terrifies me," he admitted. "If Voldemort doesn't kill me, I will watch everyone I care about die, even my own children, and theirs too. The only comfort I can take from it is knowing that you won't be amongst them, that maybe you will always be there."

"You won't get rid of me so easily, Potter," Lucinda snorted.

Harry offered her a soft smile.

"It's not just that," he spoke once more. "Whether I live for a thousand years, or even a hundred, I wouldn't want to live them without you. I'm sorry if I made you feel anything other than wanted. That was never my intention. I'm just not very good with things like this."

"Pansy said something similar."

"Pansy?"

Lucinda nodded.

"I spoke to her," she explained. "If anyone knows you, it's her. She's a good friend."

"She is," Harry agreed fondly. "Are we okay?"

"Are we?" Lucinda replied.

Harry shrugged.

"You tell me."

Lucinda narrowed her eyes at him as he grinned.

"You have to be the most frustrating person I could have found myself in this situation with," she grumbled.

Harry's grin only widened.

"Well, if we have a thousand years together, you'd best get used to it."

Lucinda cursed under her breath as Harry laughed heartily, sprinting from the room as she bared her fangs at him once more.