Author notes at the end -
II. The Slippery White Cat
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"Speak up girl! Did yah… eh, see somethin'?" the wizard growled, making Serenity's nerves jump. His normal-sized brown eye set penetratingly on her face even as his other swiveled over to the corner where Serenity had been sitting.
Serenity glanced quickly at the window by the chair and back, eyes wide. The fog had gone. Had he seen, though?
The question triggered a wild pulse. She couldn't stop staring at the disconcerting blue eye that now focused on her, trying to think. A horrible thought was sinking in her stomach. Never mind had he seen--had he done it? Could he be one of Voldemort's servants?
She didn't have her wand.
No sooner had the thought played out in her mind, than she forced out a weak, "I-I'm fine. It was nothing." She turned and fled, not looking back. As she raced up the stairs, she shouted instructions at herself over her chaos of thoughts and fears.
Keep running--find Luna. Don't look back. Only a little further—keep running. Just find Luna…
Her feet thundered up the steps, her robes billowing around her legs tripping her more than once. The drilling instructions she repeated to herself were the only reasoning voices, the only thing keeping her from thinking there were even more flights of stairs than usual. This race up the steps gripped her in such turmoil, she could hardly believe it when she reached the third floor and broke through the door to see Luna still sleeping within the far chair.
"Luna!" Serenity gasped, happy beyond words at the sight of her guardian. She flew across the floor, grabbing Luna's shoulders and shaking. "Luna, wake up. He found us! We've got to leave NOW!" Luna's head flopped to the side, a book sliding out of her limp fingers to the floor with a loud thunk. In the most impacting moment Serenity had ever known, her elation fell into a wrenching, sickening fear.
Trembling, Serenity staggered back. She might as well have apparated and found herself in middle Egypt for all the bewildered, lost looks she threw around her. Her thoughts were running over possibilities and tripping flat on their faces. She could apparate, but couldn't possibly leave Luna. And then there was the fact that everything screamed in her to stay in the Inn until Artemis would come back. If only she didn't doubt that she could be dead by then.
If that wizard downstairs was the one who was after her, than that prospect was more than likely. But then why wasn't he there already? With this tumult of thoughts hitting her wave after wave, it took her a long while to hear the muffled cries coming from her room. Lightheaded, she felt like she had floated there as if under a spell, staring at the painting of Matilda Hogglewarts as if she had never seen it before.
Matty was in a perplexed state, crying and spluttering to know what was wrong.
The words spilled out of Serenity's mouth. Her breathless voice sounded unbelieving and lost, striking her dazed mind with the ease in which she spoke when something horrible could happen at any moment.
When she was finished, Matty folded her hands in front of her, squared her shoulders and said briskly, "Bring me to the door."
Serenity was so surprised at this odd command that she only blinked and stared. "W-what?"
"No time to stall, girl!" Matty cried, misty eyes for once focused and brimming with purpose. "Place me on the front door. I'll keep watch. No Codswallop can get past Matilda Hobblewarts! Now hurry!"
"But--" Serenity objected weakly. "I-They can apparate--"
"DON'T QUESTION ME!"
Serenity jumped, swallowing her cries and did as told. She swung open the main door to the hallway, hanging Matty up and just catching a glimpse of the old witch rolling her shoulders and positioning her ratty broom as if preparing for a fight before shutting it closed.
She drifted to the middle of the room, arms limp at her sides. Her silver-blue eyes floated around the room in resigned helplessness. Her blind panic had long faded into a steady, alert pulse through her blood. She wasn't sure if she should feel safe now or not. Matty seemed to know what she was doing, but…
Oh, if only she had her wand! She hated this vulnerable feeling that penetrated through her. Numbed to her spot and praying that Artemis would return, Serenity listened hard for the cracking sound of a wizard apparating and looking around for any other way someone could get in if not through the door. Her eyes landed on the hearth where a small fire billowed. It took her five violent heartbeats to remember Birty assuring them at their arrival that the fireplaces were not in the Floo Network.
And then a ruckus of loud voices sounded, muffled by the door. She couldn't make out Matty's shrieks, but recognized the livid, growling voice of the wizard from downstairs. She was quite proud of herself for keeping calm. It was obvious that the wizard was having trouble getting in; Matty's protection had to be working. But… Serenity wasn't quite sure how long it would work for.
She backed up, surveying the room when her gaze caught on Luna's slumped form. An idea froze her in her tracks and she looked at Luna's wand sitting on the low coffee table. It was a long, formidable-looking wand made of burnished redwood. Serenity hesitated.
Luna had made it clear to her that she had taken extra precautions with her wand back when Voldemort was in power. It was cursed to prevent any other but herself from wielding it as she had feared her opponent using it against her in a duel. Serenity had never asked what it would do, simply accepting the fact. But now, it seemed her only choice. She might not have to use it, she rationalized. It'd just be a precaution… she'd feel better if her hand was gripping a wand.
Making her decision, she picked it up… at first as if it were a magical bomb and then clutching it as if a sword. She edged to a position, keeping a careful eye on both the small fireplace (it didn't hurt to check it), and the undersieged door. Her ears continued to prickle for the tell-tale sound of apparating… but that wasn't the sound that she heard; ragged breathing behind her rose the hairs on the back of her neck.
With a hoarse cry, she swung around and staggered backwards to Luna's corner. Her eyes bulged at the masked wizard looming there, a silvery invisibility cloak drooping carelessly to the floor as he pointed a cruel-looking wand at her.
Serenity's breaths sprang rough and fast, her cold, clammy hands trembling as they clenched Luna's wand in front of her. The moment seemed longer than it was for all the thoughts racing through her mind. If she paused too long, he would realize she couldn't use the wand. But--and this thought stung her to the core--what if she did use it?
She watched the wizard raising his wand in slow flashes, feeling dizzy with the arguing shouts in her mind. It can't be any worse than death! She was told that Voldemort's supporters had no qualms using the unforgivable killing curse. That truth spread through her like wildfire, and the instant the hooded wizard started towards her, she raised Luna's wand. "Stupefy!" she yelled, all her breath escaping to bellow the spell. A silver glow shot from the wand, but she never saw if it worked.
Pain slammed into her.
The wand was scorching her hands but she couldn't let go, her fingers felt fused to it. Stars and black spots pelted her vision and she stumbled back into the wall. It felt like ice and fire were raging through her blood. Her crescent moon burned in retalience on her forehead and she squeezed her eyes shut against the waves of disorientation.
When it all had eased, Serenity collapsed to the floor, gasping for air and shaking. The wand clattered to the floor beside her, lying there like an innocent stick. She forced herself to open her eyes, barely able to believe the sight of the stunned wizard in a crumple of robes on the floor. The spell had worked. She pelted a shaky laugh even as her head drooped wheezily and her fingers dug into the rug. As long as it had worked, it was worth the wand's rebound curse twice over.
Her bones felt weak and jellowy, and seemed to melt further as she relaxed. Hunched over, she tried to catch her breath--still feeling drunk on happiness that the spell had worked--when she heard a violent strike against the door. Feeling cold and numb, she heard Matilda's weak voice shrieking to stop, that she would let him in… the time just after that slowed, turning into a desperate blur.
No, no, NO. Serenity shook her head at the floor. She was too weak; she couldn't face another attacker! She looked up wildly across the floor at the discarded invisibility cloak. She tried to move towards it, but her muscles felt limp, and all effort failed--so she did the next best thing to being invisible. She became a cat.
Shutting her eyes, she concentrated furiously, her symbol burning again on her forehead. She felt a soothing wave rush from her head to her toes; bones bolted into action, white fur raced to grow across her milky skin, and her body seemed to cave into a shrunken form just as the door slammed open.
The wizard from downstairs marched into the room, grizzly hair disheveled, even his normal eye bulging, and looking absolutely furious.
In one corner where a chair sat, quilt draping over it onto the floor, translucent silver-blue eyes winked from the shroud of darkness. The eyes watched the wizard stop short at the crumpled death eater, his face unreadable as he looked down at it. His expression went livid, however, as he saw the silvery cloak and began to splutter. "MUNDUNGUS!" he roared, "Good-for-nothing--" He stopped mid-sentence, his round blue eye spinning in its socket before focusing on a darkened corner.
Serenity's white fur bristled, her whiskers twitched, and she sulked further under the chair. Her heart hammered against her small furry chest, tail curling around her. She blinked weakly, praying that shrewd gaze of his couldn't really see her. Even in her agile cat body she felt lightheaded.
She watched in despair as a dirty boot and a wooden leg clunked and clicked across the floor, bringing the wizard nearer to her hiding spot in aching slowness. Even as she shrank back, her sheltering chair was pushed to the side with screech of wood. She craned her head up, whiskers bristling and cat-eyes blinking slowly up at the wizard towering over her.
Suddenly, a smile twisted the gruesome face, something akin to approval flicking in his brown eye. "Slippery young git," he grunted.
He knew it was her. Serenity didn't waste time to think, crouching and bounding past him in a streak of white. She leapt and scuttled down the flights of stairs, ears numb to Matilda's cries after her. Her cat-mind had fused with only one goal, and that was to escape. Her paws didn't make a sound padding furiously down the steps, and her spirit bounded as she saw the ground floor. Just as she landed on it, however, a loud crack sounded. With a cat's angry screech tearing from her throat, she scrambled back towards the stairs, back hunched and hair standing on end. She stared up the length to see the wizard's mismatched eyes glowering down on her.
"Hold your whiskers, girl," he grumbled, a gnarled hand reaching down like a threatening claw.
With an impulsive hiss, Serenity swatted at the hand, swished her tail violently, and disappeared from the Wingtail Inn just as the intent hand grasped at air.
Down a cluttered, moonlit alley, a white cat appeared in a rustle of starry sparks, flicking her head around for movement before bounding down the alley. Serenity's paws splashed in mucky puddles, the pads getting chilled but still she sprinted over the damp cobblestone. Already weak, her lithe muscles ached in response. She turned corner after corner, ducking under fences and leaping over obstacles until she was thoroughly lost. She didn't mind being lost though. If she didn't know where she was, then how could her enemies?
Still, her fervent run soon turned into a weary trot. A violent shudder racked her body due to her wet fur and she paused to lick a tender foot, cat-eyes bleak and sorrowsome. A streetlight flickered on a nearby street, a dog barked in the distance, a rat waddled in the shadows around her, beady eyes caught in the moonlight. Serenity blinked at it gloomily before standing and padding away at a slow pace, tail dragging on the dirty ground.
Running away no longer seemed like a wonderful idea. For once in her life, she wanted someone to tell her what to do. Knowing that she couldn't have stayed at the inn didn't ease her regret. Perhaps she could have outsmarted the wizard and hid outside the Inn to wait for Artemis' return. She was just so desperate to get away that she had apparated foolishly, not caring where she ended up.
She scampered down another street, sure that she would have to live as a cat for awhile hiding in the streets of London in payment of her folly, when a cloaked figure up ahead of her caught her attention. Their back was towards her, but she already felt the leaping joy inside as she paused, tail slashing enthusiastically. A mass of curly hair fell down the person's waist with zigzags of gray in distinct places. Luna was standing there, holding up a light with one hand, looking down a dark alley, and a broom gripped in her other.
Serenity didn't stop to think how Luna had recovered so fast, or how she would have even known that Serenity had escaped and not been taken or killed. She didn't even spare a thought that Luna was holding a Comet-two sixty when she had always frowned at racing brooms. All that took place in her furry little mind was the relief and happiness as she leaped and bounded towards Luna. A few feet away, just as Luna turned to see her, Serenity transformed back into a witch and threw herself into Luna's arms.
Luna looked a bit startled at her (but of course she would, Serenity rationalized--Luna hardly ever received whole-hearted hugs from her). After only a moment though, sympathy washed over Luna's hazel eyes and a hand rose to pat Serenity's back.
Serenity took in a long, luxurious breath. "I'm so glad you're okay, Luna," she murmured, lifting her head to look at Luna with shining eyes.
A smile tugged at Luna's lips. "Likewise!" she said brightly. "You're one slippery girl. None of us thought Mad-eye would need backup tonight…"
Serenity had this sudden, odd falling sensation. This was Luna's voice, but it wasn't Luna. The words us, Mad-eye, and backup rang in her ears and she gave a direct look to the Comet Two-sixty broom. Her hands went limp around Luna's waist and she slowly pulled away.
Luna's eyes grew in alarm and she reached out to clutch Serenity's hands. "No, Serenity! Wait!"
"You're not Luna," Serenity accused, a tremble through her voice.
"No, I'm not," came the prompt reply, taking Serenity off her guard. She had expected the person to try to put a bit more effort into convincing her. She watched numbly as Luna screwed up her eyes; her weary, oval face morphed into a fresh, heart-shaped one, thin lips puckering out, eyebrows becoming to distinct curves over brilliant violet eyes. Finally, the mass of hair shrank into a sleek, short-cropped style and this new woman grinned and shook Serenity's hands as if meeting under perfectly normal circumstances. "Nymphadora Tonks!" she introduced.
~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * End Authors Notes * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~* ~ * ~ * ~* ~ * ~ * ~
Well, I hope you enjoyed the next part to the story! :) I'm pretty happy with the chapter. I'm still at odds though for what to do next. It'll probably end up driving me crazy like all of my stories, but I'm still aiming just to have fun with it. Ideas, suggestions, comments all welcome. Oh, and I did some art for this story! Ones a realism (manipulated from a photo), and the other just plain digital art from scratch. They'll be published at my art website () soon.
Hope you've enjoyed! Star 3
Harry Potter and characters © JK Rowling | Sailor Moon characters © Naoko Takeuchi