"Erin, wake up."
Erin turned over on her side and buried her head under her pillow. "Too tired," she grumbled.
"Sweets, I know you didn't get enough sleep last night," her father said gently and set his hand on her shoulder. "The memories are still running around in your head."
"What time is it?" she grumbled, still hiding her head under the pillow.
"It's just past two," her father said softly, "and I got you something to help. You'll want to analyze everything from a different perspective, trust me."
Erin turned her bloodshot, puffy eyes and tear-stained cheeks towards her father who smiled gently at her. "I hope it's a pensieve," she said sleepily.
Her father's smile widened before he produced the stone bowl. "It's helped your mum and me," he said softly. "I've told everyone that you're still tired from the trip, so take your time and clear your mind."
"I still wish you would have just told me," Erin grumbled as she sat up to hug her father. "But thank you for finally telling me."
"You're welcome, Sweets," her father said with a soft chuckle. "It would have taken longer to tell you, but I certainly understand. Take your time, but everyone's hoping to see you downstairs for tea."
"I'll try," Erin said with a sigh. She watched as her father rose from the bed and with a final comforting smile, he stepped into the hall and closed the door.
"Take longer my arse," Erin grumbled while she grabbed her wand. "If you'd just learn to articulate, I'd be perfectly fine right now."
The next few hours were a painful process as she methodically recalled each memory, tapped her wand against her temple then deposited the silvery smoke into her new pensieve. More than once, new tears bubbled up and streaked down her cheeks as the memories returned to the forefront of her mind. Seeing her father cradling Tonks after she'd died, her funeral, her reaction to Hermione's final letter before he proposed, and many other memories that weren't hers.
With each touch of the wand and the subsequent tap on the edge of the stone bowl, her grief lifted. She found that the memories weren't totally removed from her mind but just the main bulk went into the pensieve. A ghostly version still lingered, reminding her that the memory was there, but it was elusive and difficult to concentrate on. She sighed in relief as the final memory was added to the pensieve and her natural emotions regained control.
A sudden anger swelled within her as she was finally able to move past her father's emotions and analyze her own.
"Why didn't they tell me right away!" she growled and put a fist into her pillow. "Didn't they think I had a right to know!"
Raging, she got out of bed and flung her suitcase open. Within a matter of minutes, she'd thrown what she wanted to wear onto the bed and after grabbing her bathrobe, set off to take a long, hot shower.
As relaxing as the water felt while it cascaded over her body, Erin couldn't shake the anger from her system. She was so angry with her parents that she'd started to cry involuntarily.
They love me, she thought over and over, and they didn't want to hurt me...
Erin growled again and finished her shower after shampooing her hair for the second time. It didn't take her long to dry off, change into her fresh clothes, and make herself presentable.
"Maybe this is how Mum felt after Dad gave her a pensieve," she grumbled and headed downstairs. She remembered to use the handrail this time, luckily, because she'd tripped on the carpet again.
"Is everything ok?" Hermione asked worriedly as she rushed to the stairs.
"It's fine, Mum," Erin said in irritation. "I tripped but I was using the handrail this time."
Hermione sighed in relief and smiled brightly at her daughter. "Are you ready for tea? There's still a half hour before we eat." She looked at her daughter curiously and Erin saw the quick flash of surprise in her eyes.
"Yes, I'm angry," Erin said in a huff. "I need to think things through, I'm sure you understand since you went through the same thing with Dad."
"O-of course," Hermione stuttered, taken aback by the tone in Erin's voice.
"I don't hate you, Mum," Erin said with an impatient sigh. "I just need to process everything from my point of view, not Dad's." She finished walking down the stairs and caught her mother in a hug. "I don't hate you."
Hermione hugged her back in relief and nodded softly. "Take all the time you need, Honey," she said shakily.
"I might not be home for tea," Erin announced as she pulled away. "I'll try to be back, but I don't know how long I'll be."
"Ok, Erin," Hermione said softly. "Take the emergency portkey with you just in case..."
"I will, Mum," Erin said in a less even tone than she'd been using earlier. "I'll be back a little later."
Without a further word, Erin pulled a broken CD from a drawer in the hall table, grabbed her cloak and walked out the front door into the evening air. She heard children laughing from the back yard and she sighed. Aunt Ginny and Uncle Neville are here, she thought glumly as she started down the path that led to the apparation point.
She walked slowly, giving herself time to cool off. Erin had never been so angry in her life. Disappointed or irritated had been the most extreme she'd gotten. The grief she felt through her father's emotions had been the worst she'd ever been through as well.
"WHY DIDN'T HE JUST TELL ME!" she growled angrily and wiped away the tears that had sprung forward suddenly. "I didn't need to relive what he did! I didn't need to feel that kind of devastation!"
She kicked at a rock in the path and watched it tumble down a small dip in front of her.
"There aren't any drop offs on the way to the apparation point," she whispered to herself. She glanced at her surroundings and grumbled when the trees blocked her line of sight. Erin returned her gaze to the path before her and noticed a clearing not far ahead. Hesitantly, she took a step forward and then another. Before she knew it, she was standing at the edge of a wide field. A ghostly memory flashed through her mind—the visuals only—then she clearly saw the snow on the field, the many chairs, and a large plume of pink flame reaching towards the heavens.
The vision passed and Erin saw, instead, several headstones. But one in particular stood out from the rest. The grass around it seemed greener than the rest of the field.
Erin felt her feet move of their own accord then she felt the warmth of the greenhouse charm wash over her and finally, she was staring at the headstone that seemed to call to her.
"That's all she got?" Erin asked incredulously. "She was so brave and kind and all she got was this!"
"I thought you might be here."
Erin spun around with her wand at the ready, a curse at the tip of her tongue, but stopped when she saw her father step from the shadows. She put her wand away but glared at him with anger boiling behind her hazel eyes.
"She wasn't one to capitalize on her acts of heroism, Erin," her father said quietly as he stepped into the enchanted circle with her. "This is what she'd want to be remembered for, a loving fiancée and soon-to-be-mother."
"Why didn't you just TELL ME!" Erin asked angrily. "Why did you have to make me feel everything you did? See everything you did? Sure, I would have been more confused, but I didn't NEED to see or feel EVERYTHING!"
Her father stood quietly, letting her rage against him and it only infuriated her more.
"BLOODY ANSWER ME!" she bellowed.
He replied with a hug, a rather tight hug that kept Erin from wriggling out of his grasp.
"LET ME GO!" she shrieked in irritation and anger. "Dad!" she cried, "let me go..."
He didn't budge an inch. Even after she'd broken down in tears and finally returned his hug.
"Why did you have to show me?" she sobbed. "Why..."
"I wanted you to know that you were conceived of love," he whispered. "I wanted you to know how much I loved her, how happy she made me and how it felt when she was gone."
"You could have just TOLD me," she said again.
"I could have," her father whispered hoarsely. "But I needed you to know. Words are powerful, but I couldn't put it all into words."
"Couldn't you have tried? Just a bit?" Erin asked quietly, calmed from her anger and the sudden bout of tears that hit her.
Her father finally loosened his grip on her and stepped back. "You, of all people, know just how well I can speak," he said with a wry grin. "I could have tried, but it would have taken longer and left all of us even more confused than when I started."
Erin sighed in defeat and looked to the headstone.
"Yes, that's all she wanted," her father reassured her. "And your mum is fine, just shaken up."
"How the hell do you keep doing that?" Erin asked in sheer annoyance.
"You're as readable as I am," he said quietly. "Both of your mums could read me like I was a book. Your mum can read you just the same way as she does me and I can you."
"Are my thoughts that obvious?" she asked in a huff.
"They are, Erin," he said softly and turned her face to look at him. "That's one of the many things that make you so special. That's one of the many things we love about you, Sweets."
She sighed but smiled slightly. "You're not so bad at expressing yourself, Dad," she whispered and hugged him for all she was worth. "Now I'm wondering why it's so hard to stay mad at you?"
"With your mother it's because I'm so adorable, with you..." he hummed for a moment, "...I think it's because you've wanted to marry me since you were three."
"That is so disgusting!" Erin said with feigned horror. "I still can't believe I was like that!"
Her father laughed. "I think most little girls are like that, I could be wrong though, your mum would have to talk to you."
"So... so she's ok? I didn't hurt her, did I?" Erin asked sheepishly.
"She was upset, but your mum knows there's a lot you have to deal with right now," he replied with a small smile. "I'm sure if you talked to her without growling and in your normal tone of voice, she'd feel better."
"I didn't want to hurt her," Erin said with a sigh. "I did tell her I didn't hate her, and I don't, it's just, you two kept this from me for so long..."
"I've been kicking myself in the arse for not telling you sooner," he admitted quietly, "but please keep in mind that we were trying to do what we thought was right. Life doesn't come with instructions and we were both trying to avoid those years for as long as we could."
"I literally know how you feel," Erin said with a slight smile as her father chuckled. "Is there anything else you're keeping from me? Am I some sort of princess or other nobility? Do I have a hidden Island or a castle?" she joked.
Her father laughed and shook his head. "Nothing else, Sweets, but I've added you to the wards so you can visit Tonks whenever you want. Whenever you're ready that is," he added when she looked up at him in surprise.
"You warded her portrait?" she asked incredulously.
"Your mum and I weren't ready to have so many questions asked," he said with a sigh. "Especially from Catherine, she starts and can't quite stop..." he smiled but noted that Erin wasn't and continued. "All three of us thought it best at the time, your mum, me and Tonks. She's not the normal portrait, not like the ones you've seen at Hogwarts."
"What do you mean? A portrait's a portrait, right?"
"Not this one, thanks to your mum," he said with a soft smile. "If you remember, she gave me the portrait just before you were born. Well," he continued at Erin's nod, "she had been doing research during her spare time at Hogwarts and when classes let out for that summer, she mixed a special paint using some of Tonks' ashes."
"So her true essence was stored in the portrait's paint!" Erin said with realization.
"That's right," her father said with a proud smile. "So Tonks is essentially still here, though not physically or as a ghost."
"What does she think of all this?" Erin asked quietly. "Or you... If she's really like she was when she died—"
"It was very tough, at first," he said wearily. "Like I said earlier, I had to put her into storage. She was able to visit other paintings, however, since she was stored at Hogwarts, but she wasn't too happy about being locked away."
"I should guess not," Erin said sullenly as they turned towards the path that would lead them back to the house. "I assume she accepted everything that happened?"
"Eventually," he admitted as he pushed a loose branch out of their path. "She fumed for a few months and refused to speak to either of us, but she eventually calmed down when everything sank in. She remembered what she'd said just before she died and that's what broke her anger down. She realized that I was following her request and living a life of happiness. I do still wonder what would have happened had she lived, yes," he added after a quick glance at her face.
"But Mum might have died," Erin said quietly.
"Yes, she very well could have," her father said with a shrug. "But over the years, watching you and your brothers and sisters growing up, I've realized that I can't keep living in the past. That was another reason I didn't want to tell you. I didn't want to feel all of that again, but I couldn't keep the truth from you for much longer."
"The Ministry of Magic would have forced the issue either way," Erin finished for him. She looked up to find that they were in the apparation clearing. "Why are we here?"
"You wanted to get out, didn't you?"
"I did, but I'm not feeling angry anymore," Erin admitted with a shrug.
"How about the two of us hit the Three Broomsticks? Your mum saved us plates, but I think I want a bit of warmed butterbeer with tea."
Erin smiled brightly, remembering the last time she and her father were in the Hogsmeade inn. She was in her seventh year and it was the last trip of the year before she finished school. She and her father had spent the day together after he'd gotten out of corridor patrol. McGonagall seemed to have gotten soft after she'd become headmistress, but Erin thought it was because of something else. "I'd love to, Daddy," she said with a hug.
He smiled warmly at her and with a crack, the two appeared at the entrance to the quaint wizarding establishment. They were inside quickly and easily found a seat.
"Harry Potter, I haven't seen you around here for close to three days now!" Madam Rosmerta said with a laugh. "I see you've brought your daughter this time."
"Hi, Madam Rosmerta," Erin said with a smile. "It's been ages!"
"It's only been a few months," the older woman said with a laugh. "Let me guess, two stews and two butterbeers?"
"Do you have anything a bit stronger?" Erin asked innocently. She laughed at the surprised look on her father's face and smiled widely. "Honestly, Dad, do you think spending the summer with Aunt Ginny would leave me alcohol free?"
Harry shook his head and smiled. "I guess not," he admitted.
"What would you like then, Erin?" Madam Rosmerta said with a smile.
"I'll have the house wine, please," Erin said with a smile. "I tried ale once and it didn't quite agree with me."
"I also assume you'll want two stews with bread?"
Harry laughed and shook his head in amusement. "I've never changed that order, have I?"
"Nearly twenty years of the same thing, warm butterbeer, stew, and rolls," Madam Rosmerta said with a laugh. "Your father is so predictable sometimes it's scary."
Erin shook her head. "He still surprises me every day."
"If not stew then what would you like tonight?"
"I'd like to give your meatloaf a go this time," Harry said with a grin. "I've heard good things about it."
"I'll take a steak, medium rare with whatever vegetables you've got tonight," Erin said with a grin.
"Right, meatloaf, medium rare steak and potatoes," she returned with nods from both Harry and Erin. "I'll be right back with your drinks."
The two of them basked in the warm atmosphere of the common room as people swapped stories, ate their meals and spent time with one another. Several times, Erin looked up to see her father looking at a booth that she recognized as his and Tonks'.
"So, did showing me everything cause any problems between you and mum?" she asked after her second goblet of wine.
"No," he said with a slight smile. "It made me realize just how much I love her, but having to relive everything brought back quite a bit I didn't think I'd ever feel again."
"If there's anything like this for Andrew, Colin, Leenie, or Cath, I suggest you let them know now, and tell them don't show them," Erin said warningly.
Her father grinned and shook his head. "No, the circumstances for them weren't the same," he said with a sigh. "But they don't know about everything that happened either."
"You WILL tell them, won't you?" Erin asked evenly. "They have a right to know just as much as I did. I'm their half-sister after all—"
"You are no such thing!" Harry said quickly in his 'you-will-listen-to-me-because-I'm-your-father' voice. "You are not their half-sister, your mum carried you for seven months, shared her blood with you, and gave birth to you just like the others! The circumstances were different, but you're every bit as much their sister as you are Hermione's daughter and don't you forget that!"
"But Dad—" Erin said quietly.
"There are no buts about it, Erin," he said in a softer tone. "You're bound to me and your mum by blood, you're bound to Tonks by blood, you're bound to your brothers and sisters by blood, and those bonds make us all family. There are no half-brothers or sisters in this family. Your mum is really your mum, I am your dad, your grandparents are your grandparents, and so on. I know the Weasleys aren't related by blood, but they are the only family I've really known until I started my own with you and your mum. Family, love, these are the ties that bind us together, Sweets, these are what keep us together."
"And you told me you couldn't articulate what you were feeling," Erin said with a smirk. "I love you, Dad."
"I love you too," her father said with a wide smile. "Now why don't we get home and let your mum know you're ok"
Erin nodded and smiled though she still had a lot to think about. She and her father walked slowly along the path on their way back home from the apparation clearing as she mulled everything she'd been told, previously and recently, in her mind. She looked up to see her mother's worried face peeking out the window from the sitting room and Erin smiled at her.
The door opened shortly thereafter and Hermione rushed out to gather her daughter in a great hug.
"It's ok, Mum," Erin said softly. "I was angry and confused, but Dad and I talked it over. I'm sorry I hurt you—"
"Don't worry about it," her mother said quietly as she hugged her. "I know how you feel, I just wasn't prepared for it."
"I'll let you two talk," Harry said with a soft kiss to each of their cheeks. "I think Andrew is trying out a new prank on Eileen."
"Oh, that boy!" her mother said with a growl. "I'm going to kill Fred and George when I see them!"
Harry laughed softly and walked into the house, leaving Erin and Hermione still hugging one another.
"So you went to her grave?" her mother said knowingly.
"Dad told me you could read me like a book," Erin said with a slight laugh.
"Unlike your father, I choose to not point that fact out," her mother said with a sly smile. "I know you value your privacy. Did you want to talk?"
Erin nodded. "It was just so much to take in," she said after a moment. They'd gone back into the house and taken seats in the sitting room. Luckily none of the other children were around and Erin didn't have to deal with bedtimes like the others. "Are you ok?" she asked after a minute. "Knowing that Dad loved her so much?"
"It wasn't easy at first," her mother replied with a sad smile. "I was all set to tell him how I felt on Christmas when everything came out. But when they needed me to save you, I had no choice but to put that behind me and take you as my own."
"That was so selfless of you, Mum," Erin said softly. "I don't know if I could even do something like that."
"I didn't really need to think at all," her mother said with a warm smile. "Your dad was in pain, my friend was dying, and I wasn't going to let you die either. It felt right that I save you and the only thing that mattered was that you live. I couldn't do anything for Tonks, but I could do something for you. Inadvertently, Tonks gave me the ability to have children again. After what Ron did," she shivered at the thought, "I wouldn't have been able to have children at all, and now I have five wonderful sons and daughters."
"DADDY!" Eileen's voice echoed terrifyingly from upstairs.
"ANDREW! ENOUGH WITH THE SNAKE!" Harry bellowed in reply. "GET INTO BED AND LEAVE YOUR SISTER ALONE!"
"IT WAS JUST A JOKE!" Andrew retorted.
"I SAID: ENOUGH. WITH. THE. SNAKE!" Harry bellowed once again.
There were stomping feet heard from one room to another and the slamming of a door.
"I DON'T WANT TO SEE YOU OUT OF BED AGAIN TONIGHT!" Harry yelled angrily.
"Well, mostly wonderful," her mother said with a soft chuckle.
Erin grinned in response and shook her head. "I told Dad the others need to know."
"I know," Hermione said with a sigh. "Tonks is a part of each of them and they have the right to know that as well."
"Mum, why on earth did you make that portrait of Tonks for Dad?"
"He missed her so much," her mother said with a sad look in her eyes. "I couldn't stand watching him pine for her every day, especially since I loved him so much at the time. The only thing I could think of that would make him happy was to give him Tonks.
"He didn't see her portrait again until after we'd gotten back from St. Mungo's and their reunion was the exact opposite of what I'd envisioned," she explained with a shrug. "I thought he'd be happy that she was back in his life but it only tore his heart apart even more. For a moment there, I thought he'd lock himself in his room and wither away, but he surprised me again by putting her into storage and focusing on us."
"Is that when you two got together?" Erin asked quietly.
"Oh, no, not yet," her mother said with a soft smile. "Our wedding was a whirlwind event and he'd only moved on a few months prior."
"Only a few months?" Erin asked incredulously. "I thought you two spent the most of that year dating..."
"That was a long year and quite a few things happened. We moved in together after you were born and Gramma had a field day with another baby in the house. But after eight months or so, he proposed and I said yes," she whispered and smiled at the memory. "Things were rocky at first but he had moved on by then."
"What happened?" Erin asked eagerly. She loved hearing about her parents' past and still daydreamed of their wedding when she was told about it when she was younger.
"I think that's a story for another time," her mother said with a soft smile.
"Oh, come off it, Mum!" Erin said with an eager grin. "We have time!"
Her mother shook her head and smiled wider. "Another time, Honey, right now I'm so knackered it's scary. There was a time I could stay up all night, but I can barely make it past midnight anymore."
"You're no fun," Erin huffed, but the smile that was fighting with her pout foiled her attempt at building up the guilt factor to make her mother spill the beans.
"Since we missed the albums the other night and the rest of the family is here," her father said with a wicked smile from the doorway. "Not to mention Ginny, Neville and the kids..."
"I thought I escaped that!" Erin grumbled.
"Not even for a minute," he replied with a laugh. "Tomorrow night will be album night. Your Aunt Ginny suffers through it each time they visit, I'm sure you can."
"Fine, fine," Erin said with a sigh as her shoulders sagged.
"I'm going to get ready for bed," her mother said with a slight laugh. "You know how your father is with those old photos; he just can't get enough of them."
"What about the new books?" Erin asked curiously.
Her mother and father exchanged the briefest of glances and her father nodded. "We can go through those tonight if you'd like..."
"I'm a bit curious," Erin said with a shrug. "Should I meet you on the sofa?"
"You bet!" he replied with a wide smile. "I'll just grab them." He almost skipped out of the room towards his study and Erin turned to her mother.
"Do you have to go?" she asked quietly. "I'd like you to be there too..."
"Of course I'll stay," her mother replied with a bright smile followed by one of her patented hugs. "Why don't we get into our pajamas and meet back here for hot cocoa?"
"That sounds great, Mum," Erin said with a relieved smile. They passed her father in the hall and after a brief explanation both disappeared into their respective rooms. It didn't take long for Erin to change and set her hair for the night, so after she grabbed a fleece throw from her trunk, she met her parents on the sofa in the sitting room.
They were waiting for her and smiled when she took her customary seat next to her father. Harry looked at the book in his lap for a moment before reaching for the cover with a shaking hand. He opened it slowly and the first picture displayed a group of children along with Tonks, Remus Lupin, Sirius Black, and Erin's grandparents. She immediately recognized the younger versions of her mother and father and laughed as Tonks' nose popped to a pig's snout and back.
"That was one of her favorite ways to cheer people up," Harry said softly. "I'm sure you recognize everyone here... we were so young then and still so naïve."
"Wasn't that when you went to the Department of Mysteries?" Erin asked curiously as she watched everyone laugh.
"This was before we went to Hogwarts," he said with a smile. "We didn't go there until just after our O.W.L.s." Harry turned the page again, showing another scene. This one was a bit more depressing. Harry was forcing his smile as Hermione and Ron pecked each other on the cheeks. He turned from that, at the urging of Hermione and the page opened on another one of Harry with a forced smile holding the head boy's badge. Mrs. Weasley rushed from out of the frame and hugged him tightly, causing the three observers to laugh.
"Gramma Molly hugs like a vise," Erin said with a soft chuckle. "I thought you didn't go to the Burrow that summer..."
"I didn't, that was taken at Grimmauld Place," her father admitted. "I couldn't really handle staying with my relatives and the old Order moved me there instead. It was kept secret," he said to Hermione when she looked up with a shocked expression. "Mum and Dad knew about it but kept it quiet. A month and a half later, I took a portkey to Hogwarts."
"I thought you were at Privet Drive all this time!" Hermione huffed. "Had I known you were there, I would have forced them to take me to you!"
"I know," he said with a sigh. "But with the way things were going, I thought it was best. Had I known what Ron was doing—"
"You don't have to say it," Hermione said with a sigh. "Without a Time-Turner we can't change the past. If we had one, there would be so many paradoxes we'd be thrown in Azkaban without a second thought."
"I was wondering why you didn't use a Time-Turner to try and stop things..." Erin said thoughtfully.
"Like your mum said, the paradoxes would have been too numerous," her father said with another sigh. "It had crossed my mind but your mother's voice, explaining that terrible things can happen to wizards who play with time, kept running through my mind." He turned the page again, revealing the first picture with only Harry and Tonks in it.
"When was this taken?" Erin asked as she watched the two of them horse around. They'd smile at the camera then Tonks would push Harry out of frame, followed by Harry pushing Tonks out of frame. The two would end up laughing after several rounds and the scene would repeat.
"That was middle of seventh year," her father replied with a chuckle as he watched the antics he and his partner were engaging in. "It was before the war really got underway and Tonks still had her parents. I hadn't finished Metamorphmagus training but I had finished half of my pre-Auror training by then. We had just been partnered up and Remus took a picture to commemorate the occasion."
He turned the page again to a completely different scene. Tonks was sullen and trying desperately to turn from the camera. Harry was holding her in place along with Mad Eye Moody and Kingsley Shacklebolt. Tonks eventually relented and turned towards the photographer before storming out of frame with Harry following shortly afterwards.
"We'd gotten promotions for catching the Death Eaters that killed her parents," Harry said wistfully. "They wanted a photo for the ceremony but she was still grieving. I caught an earful that day."
The next photo seemed better, though there were fake smiles on both Harry and Tonks. The backdrop, however, was the same as the previous.
"Another promotion?" Erin asked as she stroked the photo with her finger.
"Yeah," her father said with a tight smile. "That was the day we finally put Dolohov and the Lestranges away for good. It wasn't easy tracking them down, but we'd finally found them in an abandoned coal mine near Surrey."
They went through each page and Harry explained the circumstances and what was happening in each photograph. They'd gotten into the time period where he and Tonks were romantically involved, whether they knew it at the time or not.
The second book had all the pictures that Harry and Tonks had taken while on their holiday to the Caribbean. Erin felt like she was watching everything all over again and her heart felt like it was going to drop like a rock into her stomach. She glanced up to see the father's eyes brighten and her mother's fill with tears.
"You miss her even though she's hanging in your study?" Erin asked quietly.
They both looked at her and smiled.
"When she was Marion, I'd made my first friend since I was at Hogwarts," her mother said softly. "I finally had a girlfriend that I could talk to and she sympathized with me so well."
"And you know how I felt at the time," her father said with a gentle hug. "Would you like to meet her?"
"Now?" Erin asked quickly. "Wouldn't she be asleep?"
"She's taken to being a night owl these days," her father said with a soft chuckle. "But if you're not ready—"
"Bollocks!" Erin said immediately. "I-I can meet her if it's ok..."
"You know it is, Erin," her mother said with a smile. "I know she's wanted to meet you for some time..."
"O-ok," Erin said nervously. "W-where... how do I find her?"
"Come along then," her father said with a comforting smile. He stood and offered her his hand which she took without hesitation. "Let's all go say hello. If you don't feel comfortable, just let us know and I'm sure she'll understand if you do."
Erin nodded nervously as her father and mother guided her to his study. The pink walls greeted her as always and Tonks' urn sat steadfastly in its place with lilies sticking out of the top. The bay window that faced the garden had its blinds open and a portrait that Erin had only recently seen was hanging on the opposite wall.
"Wotcher, Harry!" Tonks said jovially from her spot on the wall. She was about to say something else when Erin stepped into the room and the pink-haired witch looked to her immediately.
"Tonks, this is Erin, Erin I'd like you to meet Tonks," Harry said with a nervous smile.
"Hi," she said quietly.
"Hi," Tonks said equally as quiet. "I wish I could hug you right now, Erin..."
"I wish I could hug you too," Erin sobbed. Harry immediately put his arm around his daughter's shoulders and squeezed gently. Hermione did the same from the other side.
"You've grown into such a beautiful woman," Tonks said with a smile, tears running down her canvas and paint face. "I saw you a few times when you were younger; I wish I could have seen you every day."
"I only just found out," Erin said quietly as she wiped the tears from her cheeks. She walked to the portrait and laid her hand on the canvas gently. "Dad used Legilimency to show me everything."
"I told him that would confuse you even more!" Tonks grumbled.
"I was, at first," Erin said softly as she looked at Tonks. "He gave me a pensieve earlier today to help work through everything. I didn't know that you'd planted the garden out back."
"That was one of my favorite days," Tonks said with a faint smile. "Harry came home from work while I was working on it and I hoped he would like it."
"He did, as you can see out the window," Erin said with a smile. "My favorite is the red rosebush."
"I loved that one too," Tonks said with a smile. "You have his mum's hair..."
"And I'm told I resemble you, even my eyes."
"You do," Tonks said with a smile. "You look so much like me when I was in school. I'm sorry I wasn't there for you, Luv, I really am sorry," Tonks said as she started to cry. "I was so nervous when I found out I was pregnant with you, I thought Harry would leave me and I'd lose my job... But none of that mattered because I would have you in my life."
"You don't have to apologize, Mum," Erin choked out. "I saw it all happen. I know you would have wanted to see me grow up. If I'd known, I would have wondered about you my entire life."
"Hermione's your mum now and she's done such a wonderful job," Tonks said with a smile from behind her tears. "And your dad, he's a unique guy. I miss him but he needs to live..."
"She is my mum and I love her to death," Erin said with a smile of her own. "But you're my mum too. You made Dad so happy when you were together and he was devastated when you died."
"I didn't want to, believe me," Tonks said as her voice caught on something in her throat. "I loved him more than anything in the world and it broke my heart to leave him, it really did. I almost killed Hermione when she poured me onto this canvas, but I'm glad she did. I got to see him again, see her again, and now I get to see you."
"Did they tell you everything that happened?" Erin asked curiously as she conjured a high stool for herself.
"Most of what happened with Ron, that ruddy git!" Tonks spat angrily. "He was such a good guy and then he had to turn around on someone who was closer to him than a brother and then do all those horrible things to his girlfriend!"
"I still can't believe that Dad forgave him," Erin said hotly. "I was ready to throttle him and I didn't even know who he was!"
"But that's what makes your father so special," Tonks said with a loving smile. "Even during the war, he kept the two of them in his heart, and even after Ron cursed me he kept him in his heart. Your father doesn't truly know how to hate anyone. He's had his opportunities, he's even disliked people a great deal, but he never hated anyone."
"That still surprises me," Erin said with a soft smile. "How can Dad love so much after everything he went through?"
"Get used to the surprises," Tonks said with a laugh. "When he proposed to me, I assume he showed you that too, I was so surprised I could barely understand it was happening. Here I was disguised as Hermione, thinking he was actually going to leave me because she'd woken up and realized she loved him. I was afraid I was going to have to raise you by myself—I never liked being alone—and he pops the question! I was still so afraid that he'd leave me when he found out I was pregnant and instead he was deliriously happy. I can read him like Hermione can and towards the end he could read me just as well, but I wasn't expecting that to happen."
"He can read me as well, so can mum, and it irritates the hell out of me," Erin said with a laugh. "I mean, it was so hard to get away with anything when it felt like he could read my mind or something."
"Well, he is a Legilimency master," Tonks said with a grin. "He can easily tell if you're lying, but he's told me about how easy it is to read you. I think when I died, his powers went a little haywire and part of them migrated into you. Sort of the same way that Voldemort was connected to him. Yes, I can say his name now that he's dead and gone."
Erin smiled in amusement. "How does that explain Mum being able to read me as well? I guess if you consider the removal of all those memory charms and her heavy pensieve use..."
"That would do it," Tonks said with a knowing smile. "She had to use the pensieve if she wanted to stay healthy and keep you safe. She's turned out to be the best friend I've ever had, aside from Harry that is."
Erin nodded and yawned sleepily but returned her attention to Tonks. "I don't feel as strange talking to you as I thought I would," she admitted with a nervous smile.
"That's good because I think I'm nervous enough for the both of us," Tonks said with a wavering voice. "I didn't know how you'd react to me after all these years."
"I think Dad's 'explanation' helped with that," Erin said tiredly. "I got to see you as he did, so it sort of feels like I've known you for a while now."
"Don't be angry with your parents for keeping me a secret," Tonks said quietly. "Th-that was my idea."
"What?" Erin asked.
"I saw it this way: Your mum gave birth to you, if you were to find out that she wasn't the one who conceived you, you might have held some resentment against her," Tonks explained. "I didn't want that for Hermione, she's such a giving person, so full of love and compassion, that I couldn't let her lose you like that."
"But she wouldn't have—"
"You don't know that, just like I didn't know that," Tonks said quietly. "It was best you got to know her as your mum and feel loved like you were her daughter, which you are. It broke my heart to do it, but after I saw the three of you together, it had to be done. You're more mature now and can accept what happened, but when you were younger, you probably wanted to marry your Dad and be just like your mum."
Erin sighed. "Now I have some idea how Dad felt when Dumbledore kept everything from him. Did he tell you that I wanted to marry him when I was a little girl?"
"I figured you'd want to," Tonks said with a weak smile. "Not many women can resist his charms, look at me and your mum. I bet Eileen and Catherine were the same way."
"Oh, they fought about it at one point. Eileen was old enough to realize she wasn't going to marry her own father, but it didn't stop her from teasing Cath," Erin said with a sleepy laugh. "I think Cath still thinks she will, but Eileen has her eyes on some bloke in Hufflepuff."
"You look really tired, why don't you go to bed," Tonks said with a gentle smile. "You've been added to the wards and I'll be here for quite some time I imagine."
"I haven't been sleeping well since Dad showed me everything," Erin admitted. "I kept seeing you in the hospital or Ron cursing you. Not to mention all the sex you two had, I'm glad he didn't show me everything!"
Tonks laughed heartily. "Your father was rather—"
"Don't say it!" Erin interrupted before another word could be uttered. Tonks laughed harder at her reaction and smiled lovingly at Erin.
"Don't worry, I won't," she promised. "Now that you know, don't be a stranger, ok? I want to learn everything I can about my baby girl."
"I won't, Mum," Erin said softly and smiled at her. "Tomorrow's Dad's and my birthday but I'll try to drop in as often as I can."
"It's your birthday today, Erin," Tonks said with a wide smile and nodded toward the clock which read one minute past twelve, "happy birthday, sweetheart."
"Thanks," Erin said with half-closed eyes and a wide smile. "I'll see you tomorrow, ok?"
"I wouldn't miss it for the world," Tonks said quietly and blew her a kiss goodnight. "I wish I could do more, but what are birthdays without surprises?"
"This has been one big surprise for me," Erin said through another yawn. "Goodnight, Mum."
She stood and ran her hand over the canvas again, Tonks tried to make contact, but Erin could feel nothing but paint and the cloth that held that paint. She smiled once more before turning around to find that her parents had already left the room.
With one final glance back to Tonks, she turned off the light and wound her way through the house to her parent's room. They both looked up when Erin knocked on the doorframe and smiled warmly at their daughter.
"Thank you both," she said quietly as she sat on the edge of their bed. "I never expected this, but now I'm glad I know."
"I'm happy you're not angry with us over this, Erin," Hermione said sadly. "I'm sorry you didn't grow up with your real—"
"How many times do I have to tell you that you are my real mum," Erin said in exasperation. "You were there when I was born, when I took my first steps, when I said my first words, and when I was sick. Tonks, she's my mum too, but she can't hug me when I need one or make me chicken soup when I'm sick."
"Oh, Erin, I love you so much!" her mother said with a sob and hugged her as tightly as she could.
"I love you too, Mum," Erin said quietly. "If you don't want me to call Tonks 'Mum' as well, let me know."
"Of course you can," her mother replied with a sniff. "She's your mum too, she just didn't live long enough to see you join us in this world."
"I hope you can forgive me for explaining things the way I did, Sweets," her father said with a hint of hope in his voice.
"I forgave you a long time ago for that, Dad," Erin said with a laugh. "You're lucky that you gave me that pensieve or I would have gotten really grumpy by now!"
The three of them laughed softly, not wanting to wake the others after they had finally gotten to sleep and Erin yawned once again.
"Go on to bed," Harry said with a smile, "and happy birthday, Sweets."
"Happy birthday, Daddy," Erin said with a wide smile and a hug.
"Happy birthday both of you," her mother said then snorted out a laugh when they both turned to her with pig snouts in place of their normal noses. They realized what they'd both done and Erin and her father broke down into laughter as well.
"Great minds..." Erin said.
"...think alike," her father finished with a grin.
"Get to bed, we have a busy day ahead of us tomorrow," her mother said with another hug to her daughter.
Erin smiled once more and kissed her parents goodnight before making her way to her own room. A small smile grew into a larger one as she drifted off to sleep. For the first time since she relived her father's memories, she dreamt of nothing but happy occasions.
Erin had woken up early on many days, this day, her eighteenth birthday, however, was the first time she'd been woken by the pouncing of a squealing little girl.
"HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ERIN!" Catherine squealed in delight as her petite frame tackled her older sister.
Erin woke with a start, not expecting her youngest sister to do such a thing.
"CATH!" Erin said in a panic. "Don't DO that! You scared me half to death!"
Catherine responded with a giggle then full blown laughter as Erin deftly tickled the young girl into submission.
"OK! OK!" she squeaked but by this time Erin was laughing fully too.
"Happy birthday," Catherine said again, gasping for air and wiping the tears from her cheeks.
"Thank you, now could you please tell me why you pounced me this morning?" Erin asked with mock sternness. "I've had many birthdays and you're getting rather big for that..."
"Daddy said you'd find it funny..." Catherine said with a wide-eyed innocent look.
"Oh, he did, did he?" Erin asked in a low, calculating voice. "I assume he's awake now?"
"He's making breakfast—OOPS!" Catherine slammed her hands over her mouth and quickly got out of the bed. "I shouldn't have told you that!" she shrieked then raced out of the room before more questions could be asked.
Erin didn't have the time to formulate a plan before her father knocked on the door and smiled mischievously at her.
"Good morning, birthday girl!" he said happily. "We have an early start so I made you some breakfast."
"And conned Cath into pouncing me awake—"
"And thought you might have some fun with your little sister if she pounced you awake," he corrected with a glint in his eyes. He stepped aside and a bed tray full of Erin's favorite breakfast foods floated in the room. With a wave of his hand, it settled across her lap.
"This smells heavenly," she said after sniffing the air. "Thank you, Dad."
"You're welcome, Sweets, and happy birthday," he said with a bright smile. "We have our appointment in three hours."
"I know, Dad," Erin said with a grimace and a roll of her eyes. "Honestly, you'd think I couldn't remember my name sometimes."
"I'm going to talk to your mother about that little habit," he said with a laugh.
"I'm going to kill Andrew," he grumbled but smiled lovingly at Erin. "Enjoy your breakfast—"
"GET IT AWAY FROM ME!"
"ANDREW! WHAT DID I SAY ABOUT THAT SNAKE!" her father bellowed into the hall. He smiled at Erin apologetically and closed the door behind him.
"YOU KNOW HOW SHE HATES SNAKES!" he bellowed again. "If you keep this up, you won't be going to Charlie's for the summer!"
"OK!" Andrew barked in reply.
"Now get dressed, your Aunt Ginny will be here to take you to the Burrow in an hour, no more horseplay!"
Erin shook her head in silent amusement. For the life of her, she couldn't figure out why Eileen was so afraid of snakes, but then again, Erin had a problem with rats so she never brought the question up.
Breakfast in bed was always a treat in the Potter house. It usually meant that you were able to eat what you wanted without it disappearing down the gullet of one of your brothers. Colin and Andrew were near bottomless pits and they loved to eat anything and everything that was laid before them. Still, Erin did miss them and had the strangest feeling that her parents weren't done giving her more. The thought caused her to shudder slightly and then a stronger one when the ghostly memories of her father and Tonks came to mind.
"I think I'm going to ask for memory charms to clear my head of these things," Erin grumbled as she finished off the last bit of sausage.
With breakfast eaten, she found herself with a half hour to spare before she could take a shower and get ready for the day. With seven others in the house, bathroom access quickly dwindled to a few minutes unless you were there first. Luckily, she didn't have to leave in half an hour like the rest so she could take her time.
Erin grabbed her pensieve from its spot on top of her chest of drawers and decided to start looking over her father's memories before she had to get ready. After swirling the silver mist and peering into the smoke, she found herself standing in Diagon Alley that fateful Christmas Eve.
Her mother seemed to have not changed a bit from then. Her wandwork as flawless as she'd come to know it while she grew up. Erin watched as she deflected curses left and right, and easily dodged the Avada Kedavra curses when they were sent her way.
Her father ran up to her mother after he'd taken out a few of the dark wizards. People fell unconscious or dead further up the alley and Erin followed as he met up with Tonks.
She really did look horrible with the looming attack of morning sickness, but the bravery and determination in her face gave Erin a sense of pride. Even pregnant, the woman was still more than a match for those who were attacking her.
"Sis, what are you doing?"
Erin started and pulled herself from the pensieve. She looked up to see the curious smile of her brother, Colin, staring back at her.
"I was just reviewing a few memories," she said quickly and packed the stone bowl into her trunk before locking it tight.
"Oh, well, Aunt Ginny wanted to say hi before we left," he said suspiciously before turning to the door. "She's in the kitchen with Mum and Dad."
"Ok, I'm going to grab a shower before I head down, does she want to leave soon?" Erin asked nervously.
"Take your time, she said she'd wait," Colin replied with a laugh. "Something about how you hated to be 'unclean' before starting the day..."
Erin rolled her eyes. "I'll be down after I take my shower, I just don't like looking like a slob, ok?"
"If you think you look like a slob, you should see my dorm mate," he said with a smile. "We don't call him 'Stinky' without reason. Oh, and happy birthday."
"Thanks, Colin," Erin said with a grin.
She felt blessed that she didn't have to go through the same rigmarole that other women did. Erin shortened her hair so she'd have less to shampoo and dry, took her shower then dressed in her favorite muggle clothing.
"Happy birthday!" Ginny said with a wide smile. "I haven't seen you much at all these past two weeks!"
"I'm sorry, Aunt Ginny," Erin said with a bright smile of her own as the two women hugged each other. "I've had quite a bit to deal with."
"Is Justin still on your mind?" Ginny asked concernedly. "Forget about him, he's rubbish!"
"I have, really," Erin said with a smile. "Mum and Dad told me about the garden and what each flower really means."
Her aunt's eyes widened in surprise at the news. "They—"
"We're all ready to go except for Colin," Eileen chirped from the doorway. "We can't find him anywhere."
"We'll talk later," Ginny said seriously as Andrew and Catherine joined the crowd in the kitchen.
Erin nodded and looked back to the stairs. "Last time I saw him was in his room when I took my shower."
"He's not there, Sissy," Andrew said with a shrug.
"Where is he?" Hermione said with a sigh. "COLIN! IT'S TIME TO GO!" she shouted up the stairs. "DON'T MAKE ME ACCIO YOU!"
"I'll be coming over later today," Erin said to her aunt. "Dad, Mum, and I have an appointment we need to be at later."
Ginny nodded in understanding. "Let me know how it went, Gramma and Papa might want to know as well."
"COMING MUM!" Colin's voice echoed from upstairs.
"I should get the breakfast dishes from my room before Mum goes spare," Erin said with a laugh at her mother's reaction.
"I better not find syrup in your sheets, young lady!" Hermione said sternly, but the smile on her face betrayed any real anger she might have had.
"There isn't any," Erin said with a grin and started up the stairs. Colin almost bumped into her as she rounded the corner and he looked up in surprise.
"I'm coming!" he said defensively and skirted around Erin as if she were going to hit him.
"I was coming for the dishes in my room," she said with a curious smile. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing's wrong," he said quickly and rushed down the stairs to their mother's stern voice.
Something in his eyes caught her attention and she couldn't quite place what she saw. With a shrug, she went into her room and pulled the tray from her bed. She noticed that her trunk was slightly askew from when she last saw it and panic gripped her heart.
Forgetting about the bed tray, she rushed downstairs—hand firmly on the rail—and caught sight of a flash of light from the kitchen.
"Where's Colin?" she asked her mother in near hysterics.
"You just missed him," Hermione replied from the table. "They just left for the Burrow."
"Mum, I think he looked into my pensieve!" Erin said urgently. "He knows!"
"Who knows what?" her father asked curiously as he walked in from the den.
"Harry, Erin thinks Colin looked into her pensieve," Hermione said quickly.
Her father's face went as white as a sheet. "Oh," he said softly and sat down. "This accelerates things a tad bit."
"A TAD BIT!" Erin shouted hysterically. "I ran into him in the hall and something seemed strange! It looked like he was afraid of me or something!"
"Calm down, Erin," her mother said shakily. "We can't do anything about it now but tell him and the others everything."
"Don't use Legilimency on them, Dad!" Erin said at once. "They don't need to go through what we did!"
"I won't," he said quietly then looked to the clock. "We don't have much time before we have to leave as well." Without another word, he quickly made his way to the fireplace. "THE BURROW!" he called in clear, concise words and then kneeled and stuck his head in the fireplace.
Erin watched as he thanked her grandmother for the birthday wishes then spoke quietly with Colin. A few moments later, he emerged from the fireplace with a frown on his face.
"Well?" Erin and her mother asked at the same time.
"He's promised not to say anything and he apologizes for breaking into your trunk, Erin," he said with a sigh. "We're all going to have a chat this afternoon after we're finished at the ministry."
"Everyone?" Erin said.
"The entire family," her father said with another sigh as he ran his fingers through his unruly hair. "It's time everyone knew, but right now, we need to get going or we'll be late."
The three of them let out a collective sigh as they collected their cloaks and each took hold of a broken flashlight. The portkey activated almost immediately after Erin touched it and she found herself tumbling into her father's arms when they landed.
"I'll never get the bloody hang of portkey travel," she grumbled as her mother tossed the now useless piece of rubbish into a bin marked 'USED.'
A short, rotund fellow greeted them in short order and led the trio to a small, clean room with a rather long oak table that stood in the center. They were ushered into the only three seats on the side they were currently occupying and promptly at quarter past eleven, a tall, gangly wizard and a short, attractive witch joined them from the other side.
"Good morning to you," the wizard said as he set a portfolio on the table and sat in one of the two chairs that were left empty. "I'm assuming we all know why we're here?"
There was a general consensus of nods from Erin and her parents while the witch produced a sheet of parchment.
"Erin Potter, I presume?" she asked with a voice that reminded Erin of Headmistress McGonagall. Erin nodded quietly for her to continue. "There are stipulations that must be met before the will may be read and processed. Mr. Potter, is this your wife?"
"She is," Harry said curiously. "Why must you know?"
"Is she one Hermione Granger?" the witch asked without pause.
"I was until we married," Hermione said in confusion.
"Very good," the witch said in what seemed to be a satisfied voice. "We can begin."
"What does my marriage to Hermione have to do with this?" Harry asked again.
"You will find out presently, Mr. Potter," the witch said with an impatient sigh. From the portfolio, she produced a slender disk the size of a dinner plate. With a tap of her wand, it expanded into a metallic bowl where a silvery mist was floating around the rim.
That mist began to snake into the air until a ghostly Tonks appeared before the three of them. The scene around her was instantly recognizable as St. Mungo's during Christmas Eve over eighteen years ago.
"This is my last will and Testament," Tonks said hoarsely. "I never expected it to come to this, but I, Nymphadora Tonks have passed on. Harry, Love, I'm sorry I couldn't be there to watch Erin grow up and I'm so sorry I have to leave you. I hope I can tell you how much I love you before I die and I hope that you've gotten on with your life by time you hear this.
"I hope you're there as well, Hermione. He loved you first and I hope he loves you last. You've been a wonderful friend and I can only hope that the two of you find each other at some time in the future. The doctors told me why the transfer felt so strange and I hope that I've helped you in some way. I was so jealous of you before Harry proposed, and I truly hope you can forgive me.
"What can I say to you, Erin? I don't know you but I can tell you that I love you very much. I know Hermione will make a wonderful mother and Harry a wonderful father. I wish I would have gotten to know you, but it doesn't seem that I will. I miss you already and I've only felt you growing for two months. I love you, Erin, please don't be angry with me for leaving.
"I guess I should get on with things," she said with a sigh. "There's quite a bit of money in the Tonks estate along with a castle and several private properties and businesses. I never dealt with it or touched it but it's all yours, Erin. The barristers will have everything you need. Harry, Hermione, if you've gotten married by this time I'm very happy for you and I had a vault set aside for a wedding gift. I know Erin will be born on your birthday, Dad, and you were right, she's a girl. Please, take these as gifts from me, for not being there for any of you. I really wish I could have and know that wherever I am now, I love each of you more than anything in the world."
The mist swirled once again and disappeared into the collapsible pensieve.
"WHAT!" Erin's parents said at the same time. Her father quickly wiped at his cheeks and Erin saw her mother do the same.
"This was her last will and testament," the witch said in a business-like tone.
"But Tonks didn't have a second vault!" Harry said in surprise.
"Apparently she did, Mr. Potter," the wizard said with a bright smile. "Now, if you'll all please sign where indicated, we can discuss the transfer of the vault keys and provide you with the maps to your properties. There are many wards that will align to you, Miss Potter. If you wish to sell off any of the landholdings or other assets, please contact Gringotts for estimates and auction arrangements."
The witch waved her wand over a second and third identical disk then tapped the first one. Small, blue sparks jumped lazily between the three for a few moments then she handed one to Erin and one to Harry. "These are your copies of the will," she pulled two large envelopes from the portfolio and the signed documents were slipped inside them. "And these contain the official documents, keys, and respective deeds. If you have no further questions?"
Erin looked to her parents who were staring dumbly at their envelope. "No, I don't think we have any," she said quietly.
"Very well, a good morning to you and we're sorry for your loss," the witch said without emotion as if she had rehearsed everything she'd said that day. The two Ministry officials quickly left the room and the door opened behind them, signaling it was time for them to leave as well.
"I don't believe she did this," her father whispered as they walked to the apparation point. "Everything should have gone to you, Sweets."
"I don't really need any of this, Dad," Erin said softly and took his hand. "You knew how she was. Would she leave you out of anything if she loved you so much?"
He looked at her and smiled softly. "No, she wouldn't have."
"Why don't we put Gringotts off for a while and go to the Burrow?" her mother said with a smile.
"Actually, I want to get this all over with, Mum," Erin said quickly. "It's better that I don't have to worry about it later."
Her mother's smile faltered for a moment but it returned just as quickly. "Then it's off to Diagon Alley for us."
They didn't talk much as they apparated to the wizarding shopping district of London and had remained wrapped in their own thoughts until they reached Gringotts. After explaining their visit to one of the goblins in the main lobby, they were soon coasting along the miles of track that lay hidden under the bank.
"Vault three hundred thirty-three," their guide said and Erin's head snapped up from her ponderings. They all climbed out of the cart and she handed the goblin her new vault key.
As the door opened, her eyes went wide. The vault was enormous, easily the same size as their family vault and no less stocked full of coins. Mounds and mounds of galleons, sickles and knuts were stacked everywhere, some of them even reaching the ceiling.
"This is too much," she whispered in awe.
"Deeds, stock reports, and other documentation are stored in the chests to your right, jewelry and family heirlooms are stored to your left," the goblin informed her. "Will you be making a withdrawal today?"
Erin nodded dumbly and after a moment, had a bag filled with galleons. She turned to her parents who smiled at her lovingly.
"We'll have to acquaint ourselves with the Tonks family someday," her father said as he put an arm around her shoulders. "I'm sure they've all grown lonely without anyone to visit."
"Didn't Tonks act strange when she found out about our family castle?" Erin asked numbly as they climbed back into the cart. "She seemed surprised when she visited it that first time."
"I kept my wealth a secret," he replied with a shrug. "I figured that if a close friend could resent that, then anybody would. Tonks didn't tell me about her family estate until a few months before she died and after we had gotten back, she changed her will so you'd get everything. I didn't know she updated it after the attack."
"I was unconscious until just before she died," her mother said sadly. "I wish I could have said a proper goodbye, but when I finished her portrait, I was able to. It was a shock to her at first, but she accepted the fact and," she shrugged, "you know where she is now."
"Vault four hundred thirty-two," the goblin interrupted.
This one was vastly smaller than the other but contained quite a large sum of money in any case. There was a wrapped present sitting on the floor with an attached card. The paper was old and yellowed, as was the card.
Harry looked at Hermione and at her nod, he opened the card.
My dearest Love,
If you've gotten this present, you and Hermione have gotten married and I'm so happy that you've been able to live your life. I'm not going to fool anyone and say I'm not insanely jealous of her for living the life I could have had, but if it's anyone, I'm happy that it was her. I asked the courier to pick out a gift in the Muggle style and I hope that you enjoy it in your new life.
I'll love you forever, Harry and I'll be waiting for you. Keep living your life, my love, and look after Erin and Hermione for me.
He handed the card to his wife and wiped away the tears that had started streaming from his eyes. "I can't believe she did this!" he said with a mixture of sadness and happiness.
"Harry," her mother whimpered before hugging him tightly.
Erin watched the two of them for a moment before they both reached for her. She hugged them both fiercely, hoping to drain off some of the sadness they were feeling.
"Why don't you open the gift, Dad?" she said with a shaky voice.
He hesitated for a moment then began to peal away the wrapping on the gift. He let out a loud laugh that caused the two women to start.
"What is it, Love?" her mother asked curiously.
Harry turned around and held up the box for his wife and daughter to see. Hermione let out a laugh as well and Erin grinned.
"She got us a blender, can you believe that?" he laughed again. The laugher became infectious—except for the goblin who seemed less than amused and more than a little impatient—and the three of them climbed back into the cart.
They stepped into the bright sunlight of early afternoon a short while later and Erin looked to her parents.
"I guess we should get to the Burrow?"
"Not until we get your birthday present," her father said with a smile.
"I've already gotten more than I need, Dad," she said with a smile. They started walking towards Flourish and Blotts when her mother laughed.
"Do you mind if I get a book or three then?" she asked with a wide grin on her face.
"I don't suppose you'd mind if I went to Quality Quidditch Supplies? It's my birthday too, you know..." her father said with a twinkle in his eyes.
Erin laughed as well. "There's no changing you two, is there?" The three of them laughed as her parents shook their heads. "I'll just visit Madam Malkin's then," she said through her snorts of laughter.
Erin watched her parents walk hand-in-hand up the cobblestone-lined street before they each veered to their favorite stores. She shook her head in amusement and turned to the door of her favorite store.
"OOOF!" she said as she sprawled out on the street. She looked around at the scattered robes that were lying on the ground with her.
"I'm so sorry!" she said hurriedly and scrambled to pick up the clothes. "I'm such a klutz!"
"Don't worry about it, Erin," a familiar voice that was laced with amusement said.
She looked up to the offered hand and she took it with a slight smile. "Nathan? Nathan Boot?" she asked as her smile widened.
"In the flesh," Nathan said with a smile. "I haven't seen you since we took our O.W.L.s!"
"I know," she said breathlessly as she handed him his robes. "What have you been up to?"
"Mum has me interning at the Ministry of Magic," he said with a grin. "To tell you the truth, it's supremely dull and I would have much rather gone on that trip to Russia."
"I bet Justine was relieved that you stayed in London," Erin said with a smirk, remembering her classmate's girlfriend.
"We broke up almost nine months ago," Nathan said with a sigh. "She was too controlling and jealous. I couldn't even spend time with my Mum and sisters without her being suspicious."
"Really?" Erin asked, trying to keep the sudden flip in her stomach from being too noticeable. "I just broke up with a bloke named Justin who was trying to control me as well... Maybe it has to do with the name?"
Nathan laughed heartily. "It could be... it could be. Listen, I have to get home, we've got a funeral for my grandfather tomorrow, but I'd like to keep talking. We've got a lot to catch up on."
"I'd like that," Erin said with a shy smile. "I'm sorry about your grandfather..."
"It's ok, he's been sick for quite some time and it's good to see that he's not suffering anymore," Nathan said kindly. "It's a relief for the family, actually, none of us liked to see him in pain."
Erin smiled sympathetically and set her hand on his arm without thinking about what she was doing. "I'm sure he's happy that you thought that," she said softly.
"Well, I need to go, it was great seeing you again, Potter," he said jokingly, reminding her of one of her rivals from Ravenclaw.
"Funny," she said with a sarcastic laugh.
"I'll owl you soon, ok? Maybe we can have lunch or tea sometime?" he said when their laughter died down.
"I'll look forward to it," she said with a smile and fought the burning in her cheeks as he turned towards the Leaky Cauldron.
"Talk to you soon, Erin," he said with a wave before disappearing around the corner.
Erin turned back to the store with a goofy grin on her face and her head caught in a dreamy daze. She began looking through the racks of robes absently when she felt a hand on her shoulder.
"So, who was the young man?" her mother asked with a twinkle in her eyes. "He looked familiar."
Erin smiled widely despite herself. "Nathan Boot," she said dreamily.
"Oh, the Nathan Boot from Hufflepuff?" her mother asked with a wide grin. "The same Nathan Boot you gushed about from your third year to your fifth?"
"Mum!" Erin said in embarrassment but nodded all the same. "He said he'd like to go out to lunch or tea with me sometime..."
"That's great, Honey," her mother said with a tight hug. "I haven't met him but he seemed like a lovely young man."
"He was a great friend in school, until Justine came along," Erin said with a sigh. "But they broke up a while ago, something about her jealousy and need to control him..."
"It must have been in the water," her mother said with a sigh. "Well, we know you aren't like that and with any indication, he's not like that either."
"He's really kind and sweet, Mum," Erin gushed, "and I can't get over how blue his eyes are, I couldn't keep from staring at them..."
Her mother laughed and the two women looked up just as Harry stepped into the store.
"I know what you mean, Erin," she said dreamily as her father slipped an arm around both of their shoulders.
"What are we talking about?" he asked with a curious smile.
"Just girl talk, Dad," Erin said with a grin to her mother.
He smiled brightly and looked at his watch. "Well, we should get to your grandparents' house or Gramma will go spare on us."
"We have that talk coming as well," Erin reminded him. "Should we go back for Tonks' portrait?"
"I think it would be a good idea," her mother said quietly. "She can help fill in any gaps that we can't explain..."
"Seeing as no Legilimency will be used," Erin put in quickly.
"Alright, alright!" her father said with a smirk. "I heard you the last time."
Erin gave up on choosing any new robes and the three of them made their way to the Leaky Cauldron so they could Floo to the Burrow. It didn't take long to reach the Weasley ancestral home and as soon as Erin stepped out of the Kitchen's fireplace, she was engulfed in a hug that could only belong to her grandmother.
"Erin! Happy birthday, dear!" she squealed in delight as she hugged the life from her granddaughter. "I've missed you so much!"
"I've missed you too, Gramma Molly," Erin said hoarsely. "How have you been?"
"I've been fine," she replied with a smile and a kiss to her cheek. "We have a lot of catching up to do, but I have to say hello to your Mum and Dad first."
Erin laughed as Molly Weasley hurried over to her father and caught him in her trademark strangleholds of a hug. Her attention was abruptly pulled away by two pairs of arms hugging her around the waist.
"Happy birthday, Erin!" identical girls' voices sang out in unison.
"Beth! Annie!" Erin said with a laugh and knelt to their level. "I've missed you two so much!"
"Mark is hiding in the sitting room," Annie said with a giggle.
"His face went all red when he heard your voice!" Beth said with a laugh.
Erin laughed silently. "Now it's not good to tattle," she said in her best grownup voice. "He'll come say hi when he's ready."
"Mark looooves you, Erin," Beth said loudly.
"BETH!" a boy's voice shrieked from the other room.
The twin redheaded girls broke down in giggles and Erin shook her head with amusement. "You should stop teasing him, you two," she said with a grin.
"You better listen to her," Neville said sternly. "How many times have your Mum and I talked to you about that!"
"But Daddy!" they cried at the same time.
"No buts about it, young ladies, go apologize to your brother," he commanded as Erin stood to give him a hug. The twins grumbled and stalked off to the sitting room where their brother could be heard growling at them.
"It's good to see you again, Uncle Neville," Erin said with a laugh and a hug.
"It's only been two weeks, Erin," he said with a smile. "But we miss you terribly. Happy birthday," he said with a kiss to her cheek.
"Thanks," she said with a smile. "I hope I can visit again, but just visiting isn't going to be the same."
"It sure won't," another man's voice said from behind her.
"Chris!" Erin squealed and in a flash had her older cousin in a tight hug. "I didn't think you'd be here!"
"Alison got her vacation a bit early, Happy birthday, squirt!" he said with a laugh then picked her up and spun her around.
Erin laughed dizzily as he set her down again. "Where is that wife of yours?"
"She's taking care of the baby," he said with a smile. "Tiffany has become such a handful now that she's walking."
"Oh, I've just got to see her!" Erin squealed in delight.
"Not before you give me a hug," her grandfather said with a laugh.
"PAPA!" Erin said happily.
"You've still got all that energy," Mr. Weasley said with a laugh as his granddaughter hugged him tightly. "Happy birthday, pumpkin."
"Thank you, Papa," Erin said with a smile. "Any word on Percy yet?" she whispered low enough so only he could hear.
Her grandfather smiled widely. "He's finally coming home with Penelope and the kids. I can't believe he's finally coming home..." he said wistfully. "Gramma doesn't know yet, let's keep this a secret, shall we?"
"Of course!" Erin said with a smile. "I just hope the others will welcome him back."
"Your mother and father will, undoubtedly," he said conspiratorially, "your grandmother will as well, but the others? That's going to be a trick. Now go on and say hello to Alison, I'm sure she's looking forward to seeing you."
Erin smiled brightly and kissed her grandfather on the cheek. "Don't forget the film this year, Papa," she said with a wink and laughed at his blush.
"I won't, now scoot and say hello," he said with an embarrassed laugh.
Erin headed for the stairs and noticed her cousin hiding his face behind an upside down Chudley Canons book. She laughed silently to herself and headed up the stairs to her father's old room. She found her Aunt Ginny, Chris' wife, Alison and Tiffany on the bed. Tiffany was in the process of having her nappy changed by her mother and Ginny was smiling happily at the wriggling little girl.
"Hey," Erin said as she stepped into the room.
"Erin!" Alison said happily. "I'd hug you, but I don't think you want what I have on my hands all over you..."
"I can wait until you've washed up," Erin said with a laugh. "Hello, Tiffany," she said with a wide smile to the two year-old. The little girl looked at her for a moment, smiled, then went back to wriggling out of her mother's grasp.
"Really! It's not as if I'm cooking you for tea!" Alison said irritably as she finally got the new nappy in place. "There! I'll be right back," she said to Erin. "And you be good, you little monster," she said with a smile to her daughter.
Erin hugged Ginny tightly before picking up Tiffany and giving the little girl a kiss on the cheek.
"So they finally told you, did they?" her aunt asked as she sat back on the bed.
"They did, in a way," Erin said with a sigh and sat down next to her aunt. "Dad 'told' me through Legilimency—"
"He didn't!" Ginny said taken aback. "I'm going to wring is neck for doing that! Are you ok?"
"I'm fine. He got me a pensieve to help clear my head then I was so angry with him for not telling me sooner and for not telling me with words. I still feel pangs of his depression whenever I think of her," Erin added with a sigh.
"She was a wonderful person, Erin," her aunt said with a smile. "She made Harry very happy for a time and I could see it before they admitted it to themselves. It nearly destroyed him when she died. I don't know how many nights I sat up worrying for him."
"I didn't know that you two had tried dating," Erin said in amusement.
"Well, even though I loved him, I knew he'd never love me back the same way," her aunt said with a shrug. "Let's just say that after we kissed for the first time, we both knew that it wasn't meant to be. That and Hermione was extremely jealous. She wouldn't admit it, of course, since she thought he wasn't interested in her, but she was jealous."
"Well, everything turned out as it should have," Erin said with a sigh and a smile. "Colin saw what I had in my pensieve and it scared him, I think. We're going to tell the entire family tonight."
"That's going to be quite some trick," Ginny said with a soft smile. "Colin didn't look to well when we got here and he's been in the top bedroom brooding all afternoon."
"I need to talk to him," Erin said with a sigh and handed Tiffany to her aunt.
"Now it's time for a proper hug," Alison said nervously from the door.
"I know you heard everything, Allie," Erin said with a smirk. "And I've missed you so much!"
"I've missed you too, Erin," Alison said with a sigh as they hugged tightly for a proper greeting. "You should go talk to Colin, he seemed miserable."
"Will you let my mum know where I am?" Erin asked quietly.
"Sure," Ginny said after laying a hand on her shoulder. "It's good that things will be out in the open."
Erin nodded and left the room. After two more flights of stairs, she found herself standing in front of a closed door. With a soft knock, she opened it to find her brother lying in a bed near a large window.
"Hey, Colin," she said softly as she closed the door.
He looked at her strangely for a moment then turned towards the window.
"When were you going to tell me?" he asked harshly. "When were you going to tell me you weren't really my sister?"
Erin winced and sat on the bed next to her brother. "I am your sister," she said softly.
"Bollocks," he growled. "Your mother isn't the same as mine!"
"She is," Erin said evenly. "I have the same blood running through my veins as you do! Mum carried me to term, raised me, and loved me, just like she did for you!"
"But she didn't conceive you!" he spat back and shrugged her hand off his shoulder. "When were you going to tell me! Tell all of us?" he asked accusingly.
"I told Dad we needed to tell everyone soon," Erin said quietly. "I only just found out myself."
"Right!" he said disbelievingly, but his voice caught in the middle of the word.
"When I got home, Dad and Mum tried to tell me, but instead of using words, Dad used Legilimency on me," Erin explained. "I've always wondered why I didn't look like any of you but they always put it off! Every year I'd ask and they'd put it off! This time they couldn't because I came of age and got her inheritance. They wanted to tell me before the Ministry brought it to my attention!
"Those memories that were in the pensieve, they were Dad's," Erin said as tears streamed down her cheeks. "I didn't ask him to give them to me... I just wanted a simple explanation. Mum was afraid that I'd hate her because of what happened."
"Of course not!" Erin said incredulously. "I love Mum more than anything and she did something so selfless! She saved me, she saved Dad's and Tonks' hope, she helped Dad deal with Tonks' death..."
Colin looked up at her with red-rimmed eyes. "Do you still love us?" he asked quietly.
"Colin, nothing in this world could make me not love you!" Erin cried and hugged him tightly. "You're my brother!"
"I'm sorry I looked," he said with a stutter. "I didn't mean to but you looked so strange when you came out of it..."
"You shouldn't have broken into my trunk, Colin, but you don't have to apologize," she said quietly and pulled away. Erin wiped the tears from her cheeks and smiled softly at her brother. "Mum, Dad, Tonks and I are going to tell everyone tonight."
"She's still alive!" he asked in confusion.
"No, Mum made Dad a special portrait that has most of her memories and essence in it," Erin explained. "I talked to her last night before I went to bed."
"Oh," Colin said. "I-I'm sorry I blew up at you."
"Don't worry about it," she said with a shrug. "I figured that was the kind of reaction I would get from you guys."
"Erin, I'm sorry..."
"It's ok, Colin," Erin said with a sigh. "I had the same problems, but Dad set me straight. He said I was your sister, not your half-sister, because of the reasons I gave you earlier. Which memory did you see?"
"Mum and—Tonks was it?—talking with Dad in the hospital," he admitted guiltily. "Dad looked really bad."
"You didn't feel the emotions that I did," Erin said with a slight tinge of anger to her voice. "He could have told me or guided me through a pensieve recording but did he? No, he had to use Legilimency!"
"You're telling me," Erin said in a huff. "Don't get me wrong, I don't hate Dad, I love him to death, but he could have been more tactful. I had to watch them in the shower, kissing each other, and luckily he edited out most of the sex they had... But I also felt all the emotions, the love, anguish, anger, everything!"
"I don't envy you in the slightest," he said with a smirk.
"Ha, ha, you git!" Erin said with a grin. "So, are we ok?"
"Yeah, we're ok," Colin said with a shrug. "It's just going to take a bit to understand it all."
"You'll know everything by tonight," Erin reminded him. "Come on, we have Gramma Molly's cooking and Mum's cakes to go through. If we don't get down there fast enough, Mark and Andrew will have inhaled most of it."
Colin chuckled slightly. "Could you cast a refreshening charm on me? I would, but I'm underage."
Erin smiled and with a quick flick of her wand, both of their faces were tearstain free and their eyes were no longer red and puffy.
"Thanks," he said with a hug. "You're the best sister I've ever had."
"Thank you," she whispered quietly and hugged him tightly.
They left the room in a somewhat awkward silence and descended the stairs to the cacophony of voices below. Their Uncles Fred and George had finally arrived with Aunts Angelina and Katie. Uncle Bill and Aunt Fleur were talking animatedly with their mother and Uncle Charlie was showing off his newest daughter, Amber.
Erin was feeling slightly dazed after running around to everyone and giving each a hug in turn. Her twin uncles were still pulling pranks and she narrowly avoided green hair and an elephant's trunk after she dodged their new gimmicks. She laughed at her father who had somehow not been fast enough. She assumed her mother and aunt had distracted him while the prank was set into motion.
She finally sat in a chair when a large, brown barn owl fluttered to a landing next to her and held out its leg. Erin looked at it curiously and noticed the letter was addressed to her.
"Thank you," she said politely to the owl and gave it a treat before it left. She turned the letter over in her hands a few moments before she opened it and began to read.
I know we just ran into each other today, but I just couldn't get you out of my head and had to owl you as soon as I could. We didn't get enough time to talk and I really wish we could have but with the funeral and all I needed to get the robes back home to Mum and Dad.
If you're up to it, would you like to go out for tea and a movie this Friday? I know you just got home and if you didn't want to, I understand. I just thought I'd ask before you had to leave again and I didn't want to back away like I did when we were in fifth year.
I'm sorry if this seems too soon or too forward, I just didn't want to take the chance that you'd leave before we could get together.
Looking forward to your reply,
P.S.: Tell your Dad I said happy birthday, I almost forgot that you two shared one.
Erin looked at the letter with wide eyes and a smile crept onto her face as she read it over a few more times.
That's what he wanted to talk about in Herbology? she asked herself with a slight laugh.
"Dad! Is Hedwig around?" Erin called across the noisy room.
"She should be out by the garage, Sweets," he replied with a grin.
"Thanks!" she yelled excitedly and rushed to the door. "Oh, Nathan says happy birthday!"
He looked at her in confusion but when her mother whispered something to him he looked up with his parental face. That was enough to make Erin rush out the door and collide with a rather broad-shouldered redhead.
"I'm sorry," she said with a groan as he helped her to her feet. Erin just realized that the entire house had gone completely quiet.
"That's fine," the man said with a slight smile. "I guess you're Erin?"
She finally looked into the face of her Uncle Percy and smiled. "Heard about my clumsiness, have you?"
He nodded and looked up just as his mother wrapped her arms around him.
"You prat! You giant prat!" she wailed into his chest.
"I'm sorry, mum, I should have been home a long time ago," Percy said quietly as he hugged her back.
The room exploded in sound once again as family members reunited with the last of the lost Weasleys. Erin smiled as she stepped back and remembered the letter in her hands. "Welcome home, Uncle Percy," she said. He smiled at her in return. "I'll be back in a minute, I have someone I need to write to."
Erin nearly ran to the garage where the family owl was resting quietly on her perch. Hedwig looked up at Erin's entrance and the old bird straightened, ready for her delivery.
Erin stroked her white feathers, still immaculate after all this time, and smiled. "Hey, old girl," she said softly. "You up for a delivery?"
Hedwig hooted and nipped at her finger gently, just as she'd always done for Harry, and Erin smiled wider.
"I'm glad, I'll be but a moment," she said quietly. Erin pulled up a stool and grabbed a piece of parchment from the stash under the counter.
I'd love to see you this Friday! I'm still sorry about your grandfather, I can't imagine losing mine, but I can tell you I know how much it hurts to lose someone you really love.
I told Dad you said happy birthday and I think my Mum said something to him because he looked back with the old 'I want to meet him' look. He's really a softy, so I wouldn't worry too much about him.
I was so surprised to receive your letter and I'm looking forward to seeing you at the end of the week. Be strong tomorrow and we'll talk more later. I've got to go now, see you Friday!
She smiled to herself as she rolled the parchment and tied it to Hedwig's outstretched leg. "Could you deliver this to Nathan Boot, please?" she asked sweetly and Hedwig hooted in reply. With a flutter of wings, the aged white owl took to the sky.
"When are we going to meet him?" her mother asked from the door, smiling brightly at Erin's blushing cheeks.
"I don't know," Erin said truthfully. "Why don't we see where this goes before I bring him home to be tormented by Dad?"
"Good point," her mother said with a laugh. "How long did you know that Percy was going to come home today?"
"Papa told me when he visited Aunt Ginny a few months ago," Erin said with a smile. "He wanted to tell someone and I happened to be around."
"Well, I've been sent to fetch you, gifts are being handed out then we've got cake to eat," her mother said as she wrapped an arm around Erin's shoulders. "How do you feel about Nathan?"
"I feel good," Erin said with a goofy smile.
"As long as he makes you happy," her mother said with a wide smile. "As long as you're happy, that's all that matters."
"HAPPY BIRTHDAY!" everyone shouted when Erin and her mother stepped into the kitchen. There were hugs all around and Erin hugged Percy, welcoming him back to the Weasley household properly. There were mounds of wrapping paper hurriedly being levitated into the dustbin as she and her father opened one present after another.
Fred and George had given her father a brazier, harkening back to a prank they played on him while she was in Australia. Everyone laughed as he blushed profusely and handed it to his wife.
Cake and icecream came next and Erin watched in amusement as her brothers and male cousins dove into the chocolate cake with abandon.
Mark had eventually gotten over his initial shyness and told Erin he missed her, before going red in the face again and making a swift exit. His sisters started teasing him relentlessly once again but were stopped by glares from their parents.
Erin sat back and watched as her large family laughed and joked with each other—just as they had for as long as she could remember—when her father stood and cleared his throat.
"Some of you know what happened eighteen years ago," he said in a clear voice, "and now it's time that everyone knows. But before I get into that business, I'd like to thank you all for giving Erin and I the most wonderful birthday we've had in years!"
Erin joined her father and Mother as they unveiled Tonks' portrait. There were a few sobs from Mrs. Weasley and Ginny at the sight and a cheerful 'Wotcher!' from the portrait of Tonks.
Erin's parents and Tonks told the story that Erin knew by heart and she watched her brothers and sisters intently, hoping the other three would understand.
When they finished, they were greeted by stunned silence. Parts of the story hadn't been known to anyone save Erin, her parents, and Tonks and after a few minutes, they were accosted with questions. They were all the same questions that Erin had asked the night she'd been told and she didn't take her eyes from her brothers and sisters.
Catherine was the first one to come over to her, the young girl had been crying when she heard what had happened. Her face was unreadable and she immediately hugged Erin as tightly as she could.
"You're still my sister, right?" she asked quietly.
"Of course I am, Cath," Erin said with a smile. "I've never stopped being your sister."
"I'm glad," Catherine said with a wide smile.
"Hey, Sis," Andrew said next. "Colin told me that you got it all first hand."
"Yeah, I told Dad off for doing that," she said with a smirk.
"It's a lot to take in, you know?" Eileen said quietly. "But that doesn't mean I don't love you."
"And I love you guys," Erin said with a sob and caught her in a hug. Andrew and Colin joined in on the group hug, along with a crying Catherine when their mother and father wrapped them all in a near stranglehold.
Erin looked over to the portrait of Tonks, who was smiling at the family embrace. Tears streamed down Erin's cheeks while she mouthed 'Thank you, Mum' to the teary-eyed Tonks. Tonks mouthed 'I love you' in return.
A/N: Thank you all for joining me on such an emotional and challenging ride. I thought everyone deserved this long, final chapter before the end to this story and I hope you liked it. There were things that just happened and a few questions that were left lingering from the previous chapters that I wanted to answer. There were also some bits I wanted to put in to tie things to the sequel/prequel and, well, I got them in there :) Thanks for all the wonderful reviews and I hope you'll enjoy the following chapter that will have some deleted scenes from the story, a word from my wonderful betas and a bit more from me. I'd like to thank my beta readers: Tawny Spitfyre, Steve, Rachel A. Prongs, researchdome, Muddgutts, and Truffles! You guys are the best and Steve helped me nail down the title of this story. Thank you all so very much!
Special thanks to those who left reviews and of course thanks to all the Anonymous reviewers and the readers who decided to remain quiet...