Remus Lupin, who was currently using his nickname of Moony to differentiate him from the Remus Lupin native to this world, was immensely frustrated.
We just want to go home. To the place we belong. You'd think that this border, barrier, whatever you want to call it would understand that!
But no, the barrier between the worlds had been totally resistant to any kind of magic the motley group had tried on it. Nothing had induced it to open even the smallest hole.
And the smallest hole is all we'd really need. I don't think souls take up physical space, and the only physical things we're trying to send through are the pendants – and even there, we wouldn't be sending these things we're wearing, any more than these animals who are hosting us will be going through the barrier. It's the essence of the pendants we'd send, and the material will come of itself...
He shook his head a little, feeling the weight of the chain around his neck. Dumbledore had been able to find some of the dust that their physical bodies had become after their transfer, using the different traces of their magic as guidelines, and had used that, along with the contributed memories of the day the pendants had been made, to call their magical essence to him.
And then, with an alchemical potion, he changed that lead into gold, and turned it into "host-bodies" for the pendants, the way these animals are for us. Better to do it that way – other kinds of gold might have other kinds of magic on them, magic that would interfere. This way, he's sure of getting fresh gold with no taint.
But none of that mattered, or would matter, if they were to be eternally trapped in this thrice-damned world...
I'm being overdramatic again. It's not a bad world. It has a lot of merits in its own way. But it's not home. We don't belong here.
We have each other, said Danger. That's enough belonging for the moment. Come on, let's take this shield down.
All right. Moony turned to the shield of mingled magical fire and pure magic, which he and Danger had been sustaining along with this world's Remus and his girlfriend Emmeline.
They seem happy. I hope they are. He deserves some happiness, especially. Moony had been privy to many of Remus' memories and thoughts during his stay in the other man's mind, and though he would never discuss them with anyone else, he saw no reason he shouldn't think them over himself.
After all, they might someday keep him out of a similar predicament.
But enough thinking for the moment. The shield, which had kept the effects of the powerful magic Dumbledore had been trying on the barrier between worlds from leaking out, had to come down. Moony caught Remus' eye and nodded to him. Remus nodded back, then lifted his wand and began to speak the ending spell for the shield. Emmeline did the same on her end, and Moony and Danger concentrated on removing the fire they'd woven into the magic without disrupting it.
As they finished, Padfoot – their world's Sirius – wrinkled his nose and sneezed. Meghan put a hand on his neck. "Dadfoot says something's wrong," she said with a bit of confusion. "But he's not sure what..."
A smell of sudden fear and confusion struck Moony like a curse, mixed with this world's version of a scent he knew well. He quickly took the few strides to take him to Draco's side, allowing his Pack-son to lean on him as Draco's legs ceased to hold him up.
"Something's really wrong," said Draco harshly, fighting to get his breathing under control. The rest of the Pack closed around him, offering strength. "Malfoy's scared to death – but it's of something he already did. Whatever it was, it's over. And we should get back, like fifteen minutes ago."
Hold on, then, Moony sent, knowing Draco wouldn't hear him directly, but seeing Danger moving into position against his legs. I'll take you Side-Along.
He knew when the message had reached its target, because Draco knelt and grasped his forepaw, holding on tightly, almost to the point of pain. Moony shut his eyes and thought hard about his destination – the comfortable, peaceful little cottage deep in the woods...
Meghan had no sooner recovered her breath from Side-Along-Apparating with her Mama Letha than she was running into the cottage. She spared one moment to gather her magic and form it into the shape she needed most at the moment –
Commonstro Salubritas, she thought as clearly as she could manage, not only hearing herself speak the words but seeing them on the insides of her eyelids, written in bronze on a background of blue, as though they were a plaque or a shield.
When she opened her eyes, everyone in her view had a shimmer of colors around them, colors she knew only she could see. Most Healers did this spell with a wand. Her magic allowed her to do it wandlessly, but the principle was the same. The colors would tell her at a glance the state of a person's health, whether they were well, sick, injured...
She rounded the corner into the hallway and had to cover her mouth to stifle a giggle. The three wizards lying on the floor were not any three she would have picked to be found all together. Well, Harry and Dadfoot – no, Sirius, she had to remember, he was somebody else – might be together, but Lucius Malfoy... probably not.
And the colors around him were telling her something she hardly ever saw on a magical patient. She frowned, then took another look at Dadfoot – Sirius. She had thought he was the one with that problem, but it seemed not.
She turned her eyes to Harry. Her first look had told her the important thing, that no one was dead, but now she could look more closely. Harry had the marks of someone who had just missed death, who had been very close to it; not as close as in his second year back home, maybe, but close enough. Still, he was alive enough now, and mostly unhurt, and would wake up on his own time, though that time might be a day or two coming if she didn't help him along.
But that can wait. I want to know what happened with them.
Malfoy, she could tell by the sullen colors swirling around him, would be unconscious for the better part of a day without her interference. She had no plans to interfere. Lucius Malfoy and the Pack had never gotten along well, and she didn't think that being in a different universe would have changed that.
But Dad – Sirius. Or what if I call him Mr. Black? That might work better.
Mr. Black, then, might well wake up any time now. But he was going to have a really nasty headache if she didn't do anything to help.
She shut her eyes again and checked herself over. She was feeling healthy and strong, and this body might not be her own, but it was suited to what she wanted to do. It wouldn't be a strain on her to bring Mr. Black awake and heal his headache and the bruises she could sense on him.
Besides, she wanted to be one of the first to hear what had happened. Because then she would get to tell him what else had happened.
Her face crinkled in a cheerful grin. I love good news.
She leaned down over him and laid a hand on his forehead, stroking the other one gently along all the places he'd been hurt in the fight, sending her magic through him and convincing his body that it wasn't hurt as badly as all that...
What did I do, what did I do, what did I do? Malfoy moaned, running around in little circles on the carpet. I was crazy, I was an idiot, I shouldn't have done it, he'll never take me back now, never, never...
"Did you really want to go back?" Draco asked quietly.
Yes. No. Maybe.
"No, it's 'yes, no, maybe so'."
What? Malfoy actually stopped to look up at him.
"It's for skipping rope. You ask a question, then you skip to that beat. 'Yes, no, maybe so, yes, no, maybe so'. Whenever you miss, that's the answer."
That's not funny!
Draco shrugged. "It wasn't supposed to be."
What was it supposed to be, then?
"Weird enough to break you out of your little panic attack long enough to tell me what happened."
Oh. Malfoy lay down on the carpet abruptly, panting a bit. I was in the living room. I heard, and smelled, Potter coming out of his room. Only he smelled funny, like he was under stress. So I went to see what was happening, and I heard him talking – but it wasn't him. It was the Dark Lord.
"Voldemort was here?"
He possessed Potter. He tried to make him kill Black. But I think he missed or something, and the spell came back and hit him instead.
Draco felt his eyes widen until he was sure they looked like Luna's. Harry – this world's Harry, but with his brother riding sidecar – hit by a Killing Curse, even a ricocheted one?
Pearl's here. If there's even a chance he could survive, she'll find it. She's done it before. And worrying won't help. Draco gripped the edge of the bed he was sitting on tightly and forced himself into some semblance of calm. "What then?"
My father showed up. He taunted Black some, and Black charged him and fought him, hitting him and kicking him and things like that. My father said he was going to try to take Black's soul. I didn't know you could do that with magic. And he knows I'm here, I don't know how, and he wants me back – but he wants me fixed first.
"Fixed?" Draco bit down hard on the laughter threatening to escape him at the first thought which had come to him – he severely doubted Lucius Malfoy would want his only son fixed in that particular way.
Get your ugly mind out of the gutter, Draco, and listen – he actually sounds scared.
He was going to Obliviate me, or put me under Imperius. He said so. Malfoy looked up at Draco, his eyes bleak and frightened. I don't want to be under Imperius. And I don't want to forget this. I don't want to forget London, and what we did. I liked it there. I liked the music, and the dancing, and everything we saw. I think I'd like to go back sometime.
"Don't go alone," Draco recommended. "Not until you learn a little more about how Muggles live. But what happened then?"
They were fighting. My father was about to curse Black. I guess he would have taken his soul out. But I stopped him from finishing the spell.
"You did? How?"
If ferrets could blush, Malfoy would have been Chinese Fireball red. I – I bit him. He yelled. Then there was something around them, like light, but not – I got out of the way – and then they both flew backwards, like they'd been pulling on each other and let go. I don't know what happened, I really don't.
"I believe you." Draco leaned back on the bed. "You know, your father has no way to know that was you biting him. He'll just think it was a weird little animal. As far as he knows, the worst thing you did was run away from home."
No, he thinks I faked being mad to avoid getting initiated. He said as much. Malfoy's tone was suddenly bitter. And I did – except I didn't, because you did – and he'll never believe me when I tell him that!
Before Draco could think much about this, there was a scratch on the door. He got up and opened it, and Neenie ran in, plastering herself against his legs. Harry's all right, she blurted. He's alive, Pearl says, the Curse didn't kill him.
Draco felt his knees go weak again in relief.
But she says there's something funny about him. Neenie looked up at Draco coyly. That it's almost like he has double magic. Double strength.
"Or a double soul?" Draco hardly dared to hope, but if the shock of Sirius losing his magic had separated him and Padfoot...
Maybe. She's going to wake him up in a minute and see. But she says she has something she wants us all to see first. Something about Sirius.
Obligingly, Draco followed her out into the corridor, repeating what she'd told him for Malfoy, who got to his feet and came along.
Sirius could feel the dregs of a headache lingering in his skull, but it was dissipating in the wake of the incredibly wonderful news Meghan had given him.
"But how did he survive?" asked Remus, looking up the hall towards Sirius' bedroom, where Harry had been moved onto the bed. "You said the Curse reflected from the mirror, shattered it, and hit him–"
"That's probably part of it right there," said Emmeline. "A reflected curse isn't going to be as strong as the original, especially not if it used up some of its energy to break the mirror."
"And magic isn't working right," added Hermione. "Maybe that even goes for something like the Killing Curse."
"A third reason as well," said Dumbledore, coming out of Harry's room with something in his hand. "The Killing Curse works in two ways, by shutting down the body of its victim and breaking the bonds with his or her soul. However, there was not one soul resident in Harry's body at the time the Curse struck him, but two. Two and a half, perhaps, if one counts Voldemort as being partly present. The Curse, even had it been at full strength, would have been unable to break all the bonds at once."
"I don't care so much why," said Sirius, leaning back against the wall of the corridor. "I'm just grateful he's alive."
"And you may have more to be grateful for than that." Dumbledore bent and placed what he was carrying on the ground in front of Sirius. "Do you have your wand with you?"
"Yes." Sirius reached behind him and pulled his wand out of his pocket. "Don't tell Mad-Eye." Then he looked at what Dumbledore had set down.
It was a feather.
"I thought I wasn't supposed to try any magic without a Healer's OK," he said, confused.
Aletha looked him up and down. "I'm a Healer, and it's OK," she said wryly. "Meghan says it should be safe for you to try it. I trust her judgment."
"Well, all right." Sirius pointed his wand at the feather, not sure if he should hope for the impossible or not. Lack of hope, he finally decided, would sink him as surely as lack of magic, but if he still lacked magic, all the hope in the world wouldn't do him any good.
Summoning up his courage, he swished and flicked.
The feather rose smoothly from the floor to the level of his wand tip. Sirius nearly dropped his wand – only his Auror's reflexes kept him holding it. "I thought I wasn't supposed to regenerate magic in anything short of a month," he said in wonder, staring at the floating feather.
"You didn't," said Meghan smugly, grinning at him. "You stole his." She pointed at Malfoy.
Now Sirius did drop his wand. "I what? How is that even possible?"
"What did he attempt to do to you?" asked Dumbledore.
"He was trying the soul-taking spell again – but he was interrupted, something bit him, I don't know what–"
"I do," said Draco from down the hall. "It's been taken care of."
"Then I felt like something was pulling on me. So I pulled back. Eventually, whatever it was snapped, and the recoil knocked me backwards. You're saying that was his magic?"
"The combination of the spell's being interrupted and its not working as it should, due to the breakdown of magic as a whole in our world, may have placed the two of you into a situation where your souls were in direct contact," said Dumbledore musingly. "And the stronger soul won, and took spoils from its enemy."
"But – won't his magic, I don't know, be contaminated or something? Could it turn me Dark?"
"No," said Remus, shaking his head. "Magic's not in itself Dark or Light, any more than a wand is. It's a tool – you can use it for either purpose, hurting or helping."
"It won't last forever," Meghan cautioned. "But I think by the time you use it up, your own magic will start coming back."
"And in the meantime, Lucius Malfoy is a Squib." Sirius grinned. "I think I like this."
And if he's a Squib – and in Azkaban – he can't put you under Imperius, Draco told his counterpart. You could go home after all. Do you think your mother would believe you?
Maybe. I hope. Malfoy's mind was seething with confused emotions, of which hope was only one. They were so strong Draco couldn't quite block them entirely. But I guess I'll find out.
"Should I wake up Harry now?" Meghan asked Dumbledore.
"I would like to check him first, to make certain he is unharmed, but then, certainly." Dumbledore swept into Sirius' bedroom, and just about everyone got to their feet, or paws, and followed him in.
"–and said, really, really politely, 'Mr. Weasley, may I please kill your sons?' And Mr. Weasley looked at the twins and said, 'Well, since we seem to have a spare...'"
Harry cracked up. "A spare!"
"And both of them took off running without even waiting to hear the end of the sentence."
"What was it?"
"'No.'" Wolf grinned. "But he did say we could make their lives miserable for a day or two. And we did."
Harry's laughter died away slowly as he came back to the present. "I think I owe you an apology," he said hesitantly.
"Apology? For what?"
"I... kind of made it hard for your family," Harry admitted. "They wanted to come in here and look for you, inside my mind, and I didn't really want them to. I guess I was hoping if I just ignored you, you'd go away."
"I was going away," said Wolf soberly. "Getting lost in you, forgetting me. But you weren't doing it on purpose, I don't think..."
"No." Harry shook his head. "But I could have been a lot more helpful, and I wasn't. I guess I don't like people in my mind."
"I can understand that, with Voldemort around. I'm sorry I barged in, but I didn't really have a lot of choice."
It was enough. They understood each other, not quite perfectly, but very well, perhaps a little better than Harry would have liked.
"So, now that we're separate, you can leave, can't you?" he asked. "Go home and all?"
"Tired of me already?" Wolf joked. "Yeah, I guess so. As long as–"
Suddenly they were no longer sitting on the flat plain where they had been a moment before. Instead, they were both hovering in midair above Harry's unconscious body, still sitting cross-legged, but now sitting on nothing. They both appeared to be made of smoke. Harry saw Sirius and Remus in the crowd around the bed and waved to them. Wolf was waving at several of the animals. Dumbledore was the only one in the group who didn't look at all surprised to see them.
Then they were back on the flat surface, inside Harry's mind, he guessed. "What was that?"
"Just at a guess, Dumbledore checking you out, to make sure Voldemort didn't leave scars."
Harry nodded. "Makes sense. When I – when we wake up, how does that work?"
"I'm not sure," said Wolf, frowning in thought. "I think how it works is that I can see and hear and feel, but I can't do anything. You have control, unless I fight you for it, and I don't want to do that. It's your body. But you can also give me control over parts of it, or all of it, for a little while. I might like to say hi to my Pack, make sure everyone's all right. If you'll let me."
"Sure, I'll do that. How do you know all this?"
"Stories," said Wolf absently, stretching his back. "Moony and Danger have a soul-bond, which I guess is kind of like this, and they tell us stories about it."
"Speaking of stories, it's my turn, isn't it?"
"Sure. What've you got?"
"How about the time Ron and I got busted practicing our Animagus transformations in Gryffindor Tower?"
Wolf chuckled. "What'd you explode?"
"Nothing, just set half the furniture on fire."
"Sounds familiar. Good thing Hogwarts is stone, it would have burned down a long time ago otherwise."
They continued to chat, swapping stories and anecdotes, until, almost without warning, everything went red, then dark, and Harry was lying on his back on a bed, his eyes closed. Gingerly, he opened them, and saw that he was in Sirius' bedroom, with Dumbledore leaning over him.
"How do you feel, Harry?" his Headmaster asked.
"Not too bad, sir. Is Voldemort gone?"
"Yes, Harry. He is gone. Did you fight him?"
"Yeah. But I don't think I would have won if I didn't have help."
"Help?" said a female voice from one side. "What help did you have?"
I think that's your cue, Harry said silently. How do I do this?
Just relax and try not to fight me. I swear I'll give it back when I'm done.
You'd better, Harry griped. I'm not getting shunted off into a Golden Snidget. He closed his eyes and concentrated on the opposite of Occlumency, on keeping his mind open...
Despite knowing it was going to happen, he almost fought back when his body rolled onto its side and opened its eyes without him motivating either movement. Only the knowledge that the presence moving him was neutral if not actually benign kept him from trying to seize back control.
"He had me, Letha," said his mouth, before grinning at Madam Freeman. "The ruler of Egypt, the King himself. How could he fail?"
Madam Freeman's hand went to her mouth. Her expression seemed to be composed half of wry amusement and half of astonished joy. "Greeneyes – is it you?"
"It's me," said Harry/Wolf.
After that, things got a little confusing, and more than a little like the dream he'd had that morning, Harry thought, with animals swarming everywhere. He'd have to ask about that...
After the first ecstasies of greeting were finished, Draco, grinning in a way which transformed his face pleasantly, handed over the gold chain that had been left over when Dumbledore had done the magic with the Pensieve. "I think this belongs to you," he said.
"Damn straight." Wolf draped it around Harry's neck. "No one thought to get the daggers back, did they?"
Draco slapped himself on the forehead. "Knew we forgot something."
"Daggers?" asked two or three people behind him.
"We carry silver daggers," explained Wolf, turning Harry's body around to face his family. "Just the four of us cubs – er, kids – but we'd hate to lose them. Do you think there's any way we could get them back?"
"Perhaps," said Dumbledore, smiling in that way he had when he knew something everyone else didn't.
Which is most of the time.
"For this moment, I believe that we should attempt to open the barrier between the worlds again," Dumbledore went on. "It may have resisted us before because not all the displaced people were present. With all eight accounted for, it is entirely possible that the barrier may be more amenable to being opened."
"I certainly hope so," said Madam Freeman. "For everyone's sakes."
Once more, a magical shield was raised around the section of path outside Hogsmeade. Once more, Dumbledore, with Fawkes on his shoulder, stepped forward and raised his wand, moving it in careful gestures. But this time, the results were startlingly different. Directly in front of him, the air parted, and the blackness behind it lit up with a picture, as though it were a movie screen – or a mirror, Remus thought. Especially considering there was another Albus Dumbledore standing on the other side.
But no one else on their side was reflected on the other. Though Remus did know everyone else gathered there...
Ginny Weasley gave a little scream of joy, silent to Remus' ears, and would have run forward, through the opening, except that Ron was holding her back. His face was flushed with excitement, his eyes fixed on the calico cat which was Neenie. Luna Lovegood seemed fascinated by the rip in reality, and Neville Longbottom waved to Meghan, who waved back eagerly.
"Harry first," said this side's Dumbledore calmly, his wand circling the edges of the opening in perfect time with his counterpart's, both phoenixes singing softly.
Remus looked at Harry – something was emerging from him, something white and smoky – something exactly his size and shape –
A ghostly Harry Potter pulled himself free from the Harry Remus knew, then turned around to face his erstwhile host. Thanks, he said, his voice echoing hollowly.
No, thank you, said Harry.
Their hands touched once, then the ghost Harry turned and walked toward the opening. As he did, dust swirled around him, seemingly attracted to him. Movement from the opening caught Remus' eye – Neville had knelt down and was doing something off to one side, where Remus couldn't quite see it.
The ghostly Harry stepped across the border, and was pulled off to one side as by a strong wind. A moment later, Ron released Ginny, who dashed out of sight the same way Harry had gone.
I guess some things never change.
"Draco next," said Dumbledore, and the blond boy stepped forward, the white ferret Remus knew held this world's Draco in his hands. He held it up to his face for a moment, as if communing with it, then set it on the ground. Sirius stepped up to hold Draco's elbow, so he wouldn't fall during the moment his body held no soul.
Two almost-identical forms emerged, one from the human body, one from the animal. The one which had emerged from the human waited until the other was fully merged with the body he'd just left, then grinned at him. Good luck, he said, then turned and crossed the border, where he too was pulled off to one side. Luna's head turned that way, then back to the opening, where she visibly sized up Draco Malfoy before walking out of sight.
One by one, the members of the Pack returned home. Sirius, who wasn't helping to hold the shield, Stunned Moony and Danger's host bodies once their souls had emerged. They would return the lion to the London Zoo (the mystery of the reappearing lion would make a lovely front page story, Remus thought) and the wolf to the Forest at Hogwarts.
Sirius also Untransfigured Madam Freeman and Meghan, turning their bodies back into the flying horse and deer they had been before. They, too, would be returned to their homes in the Forest, but they were unlikely to kill anyone first, so they didn't have to be Stunned.
When all eight of the Pack were safely across the barrier, Dumbledore nodded to Fawkes. The phoenix took flight, still singing, and soared close to the dusty ground. Eddies of dust rose in his wake, some of it curling over into the other world, where it coalesced into the form of four silver daggers, each with a different-colored stone in the pommel, each lying on top of a sheath and belt.
Harry stepped forward and held out the gold medallions and their chains, which dissolved in his hands, bits of lead falling to the ground on this side, swirls of dust crossing the barrier to wreath around the neck of each member of the Pack, leaving the glint of gold where it landed. Some of them noticed, and fingered their new pendants happily. Some of them, such as Neenie, were too busy with other things to notice. Remus sneaked a glance at Hermione, and found her apparently torn between disgust and envy.
Don't worry, he wanted to tell her. Our Ron will get up the courage to try that eventually. Maybe we should get Harry to do to him what James did to me...
The two Dumbledores nodded to one another. The one on the other side turned to speak to the people behind him, and they quickly assembled, even Neenie and Ron emerging for a moment. All twelve of them lifted their free hands and waved.
Goodbye, they were saying silently. Goodbye, and thank you.
Remus waved back, and saw out of the corner of his eye Emmeline and Sirius and Harry doing the same. Even Draco Malfoy managed a little, half-hearted wave.
Both Dumbledores brought their wands down in quick, slashing motions, and the breach in reality was closed.
Remus and Emmeline carefully lowered the shield. It was easier than it had been before. Remus hoped that meant magic was getting back to normal.
"One hell of a day," said Sirius, sitting down on a large rock.
"And it's not even lunchtime yet," said Harry, joining him.
For some reason, this struck just about everyone as very funny. Even Hermione was laughing with abandon.
Amid the noise, no one noticed Dumbledore and Draco take a few steps aside.
"You wish to speak with me?"
"Yes, sir. I..." Draco flushed, looking down. "I don't know if I really want to be a Death Eater."
Dumbledore concealed his inward rush of joy at this declaration. "I see. Do you fear being pressured into this choice if you return home?"
About to nod, Draco stopped. "I don't know," he said. "My father's going to Azkaban, isn't he?"
"Then... I don't know. Mum doesn't want me to, not really, but if the Dark Lord wants me..."
"It must be your choice," said Dumbledore slowly, "not mine, or your father's, or anyone else's. You must decide your own path."
Draco snorted a laugh. "If he wants me, he'll have me. That's how he works. He'll kill Mum, and my father too, if I don't join him..."
"He will not," said Dumbledore. "Not if you tell me of his threats. If you do not wish to join the Death Eaters, Draco, and you are placed under pressure of that sort, contact me immediately. I can arrange for your safety, and your mother's – your father, I think, will be safe in Azkaban, Voldemort is unlikely to invade the prison for one servant whom he believes disloyal in any case, but if it should happen, we will make every effort to protect him as well."
Draco nodded, looking at the ground. "Thank you, sir," he said very quietly.
"You are welcome, Draco."
To himself, Dumbledore smiled.
Even across the boundaries of the worlds, Voldemort is his own worst enemy...
A hawk and an owl wheeled around one another in the sky, as their partners, feline and vulpine, matched their movements on the ground. Nearby, a pair of hunters played stalk-and-chase with their hooved "prey", while trying to keep their tails out of the grasp of the unseen one.
"They are funny, aren't they," said Danger, shielding her eyes against the afternoon sun as she watched her cubs and their Pride-mates play.
"Funny how?" asked Sirius, balancing his chair on two legs.
"Oh, just that we've only just gotten back from something that could have been a disaster, and they're out playing as if nothing happened."
"It's their way of laughing in the face of fate," said Aletha. "Of reminding themselves that it wasn't a disaster. That Voldemort didn't win."
"Speaking of which, do you think we ought to try to keep it on the down low that we're back?" asked Sirius.
"I don't see how we can," said Remus. "Not for long, anyway. School starts in a little over a month, and we have our jobs... I suppose we could go into hiding, but it would be a big strain on everyone. Besides, no harm in making Voldemort wonder just what kinds of secret talents we have up our sleeves, that we can return seemingly unscathed from what he thought was the perfect trap."
"Well, I am not going to work for at least a week," declared Sirius. "Not after that."
"Good," said Aletha. "You'll have time to recover from your concussion."
"The one you're about to get when that chair goes over backwards."
"My chair's not–"
"Nice timing," said Danger, nodding approvingly.
Remus chuckled. The cubs aren't the only ones glad to be home, he said in her mind.
Danger chose to answer with images instead of words, detailing exactly how she wanted to celebrate their homecoming.
Sirius picked himself up off the floor and looked at Remus. "Why are you blushing?"
Life at the Marauders' Den was back to what passed for normal.
How long it would stay that way was anyone's guess.
Harry sat with Remus and Sirius in the kitchen of the cottage. Emmeline and Hermione were in the living room, talking about some obscure form of Transfiguration. The three wizards had been talking as well, about Quidditch, but now they were just sitting.
"Been a weird few days," said Sirius finally, breaking the silence.
"Weird may not be strong enough," said Remus. "Bizarre, completely insane, blow-up-in-your-face strange, maybe."
"There's just one thing I'm still wondering about," said Sirius.
"What?" asked Remus and Harry together.
"Where did Dumbledore get that feather I floated?"
Remus rolled his eyes. "He could have conjured it," he said as if to a very small child.
"But why did he go into Harry's bedroom to do it?"
Harry froze. He'd forgotten about his room. "Er, I don't think he conjured it," he said weakly. "But I do think I need one of you to help me fix something."
Both wizards looked at him. "What did you do?" asked Remus warily.
Harry grimaced. "You'd better just see it." He pushed his chair back and got up. Sirius and Remus exchanged one look – teenagers – and followed him.
Life at the cottage in Kent was back to what passed for normal.
How long it would stay that way was anyone's guess.
(A/N: And we're finished! All done, all over! I decided to leave Draco's fate open, so you get to decide for yourselves – will he take Dumbledore up on the offer, or will he decide it's still cooler to be a Death Eater?
For those who asked: No, this will not be taking place in the actual Danger universe. However, something rather scary and traumatic will happen to the Pack at almost exactly the time this story took place. And it may well have some of the same effects, ship-wise... I make no promises, but just keep your eyes open, eh?
Ah, now I have to get my head into thirteen-and-twelve-year-old gear again, and start thinking about "Dealing with Danger". I'm trying to decide – should I write a nice fluffy opening chapter and introduce the tension in Chapter 2, or should I just go for action straight from the get-go? Input?
Thanks again to Neurotica for letting me do this, and to all of you for reading and reviewing – so please do it just one last time for this story, and I'll try to have DwD up soon for you!)