Disclaimer: If I was J.K. Rowling and had spent seventeen years writing incredible stories which are some of the finest tales this century while simultaneously going to press conferences, being interviewed, and getting bombarded with fan mail, all in the name of Harry Potter while being a single Mum, getting married, and having two more children, and was finally done after almost two decades, do you really think I'd spend my days writing Harry Potter fanfiction?

Minerva McGonagall

Dear Toblerone,

I have never had a more interesting time shopping for school-things.

Getting attacked by a bloodthirsty, psychotic gang, all of whom are wearing rather flashy black cloaks, does wonders for your back-to-school depression. Honestly, I really wish I got menaced by Dark wizards and witches every year, as it so thoroughly eclipsed my black thoughts about the coming year. But, I suppose if I did get menaced by Dark groups every year it would become routine, and therefore fail to stop me from brooding about September.

Looking back over what I've written so far, I seem to have been writing in paradoxes; dwelling on school while writing about an attack which made me forget about dwelling on school, and was consequently satisfactory.

If that made any sense.

But we've just returned from a former teacher's residence, and as nice as she is, you are TO BEHAVE AND TURN IN YOUR HOMEWORK ON TIME from the minute you stop through her door. So it's gotten me thinking about school again.

Oh, Toblerone, I'm not making any sense, am I? Allow me to back up.

Two days ago, Teddy and I went to Diagon Alley along with Harry and Andromeda. After we got all our stuff, the grown-ups left, allowing Teddy and I to wander around unsupervised. Teddy took me to lunch, which was lovely but I found out he's worrying about going out with me because I'm so young (I'm fourteen, Toblerone. Yes, it's not ancient, but the fact that I've already gone through Bland Bloke Boyfriend and Barmy Brute Boyfriend does have something to say for my social maturity). However, he proceeded to snog me in a junk-shop, which hopefully points to the fact that he's not too worried about our relationship.

That sounded so like a chav. Excuse me while I go assume the fetal position in a bin, somewhere. I am not a chav. I am not a chav. Teddy wouldn't like me if I was a chav, I never wear makeup, I do not just care about boys, so I am not a chav.

Yes.

Sorry, I do seem to be going off on tangents, don't I? It's because I'm glancing at the clock so much; Teddy should be coming, soon. He sent Romulus over with a letter saying he'd like to talk to me.

I do hope this entails Mum's linen cupboard. That's fun, that is.

He shouldn't' be here for another half-an-hour, and I'm still looking at the clock every minute.

Oh, sweet Merlin, I am a chav!

All right. I shall combat the chav within me by refusing to glance at the clock, and instead recording what exactly happened while we were snogging in the junk-shop in Diagon Alley.

Er… what happened right after, I mean.

Well, Eira appeared out of nowhere when we were snogging, and said something like "They're coming!"

All around, members of the Aetenitae were Apparating into the shop. Eira's un-Mum, as we call her, put a hand on Eira's shoulder and said, "Remember me?" She looks like the absolute cliché of a femme fatale; long, white-blonde hair, red nails, and a nasty expression. Her nose looks so sharp you could use it as a letter-opener.

Sorry that I'm so flippant, it's just that I'm happy.

Being with Teddy does that to you.

Chav, chav, chav, chav!

Anyway, the members started throwing Peruvian Darkness powder at us, so Teddy and I ran behind the rows of junk to the front of the shop, where visibility was still good. The witch at the desk looked completely bemused as Teddy snatched up an old Self-Stirring Cauldron, the spoon still resignedly whizzing away on top, and used it as a shield to block us from the Stunning Spells they were all sending our way.

"Teddy!" I shouted. "Get out your wand!"

I was already fumbling through my pocket, trying to fine my own, but Teddy's fingers clamped down around my wrist.

"Don't! We're not allowed to use magic outside of school!"

"I think the rules might have changed somewhat, considering the circumstances!" I yelled, somewhat hysterically; the cauldron was reverberating with the many spells being thrown at it, and the figures were coming closer and closer to us.

"We can't-" Teddy started, but a Reductor Curse tore the cauldron out of his hands and hit the saleswitch behind us. She crumpled to the floor. Owena Moon let out a triumphant (and very cliché) laugh.

"What will you do now?" She taunted, but was cut a mite short by my yell.

"Expelliarmus!"

Owena blocked the spell, but the damage was done; Teddy sighed and pulled out his wand.

"You win," he said. I don't know how, but I understood exactly what he was going to do, and I and aimed a Stinging Hex at Owena. Again, she produced a shield, but Teddy was prepared; as soon as she let the barrier down he yelled, "Stupefy!"

Owena dropped. I saw Eira standing in between two large, cloaked people in the back; her face whitened. After all this, she still loves her mother.

One of the men beside Eira rushed to the fallen woman and picked her up. "You'll pay," he growled as the members started Disapparating. He ran right up to Teddy, seemed to growl in his ear, turned, and vanished, taking Owena with him.

Teddy and I looked at each other.

"Good job," I said.

"Thanks," he replied. Then he looked at the ground. "I guess we should see McGonagall, then."

I was about to ask him how he figured that one out when the doors burst open, and in ran Dad, Uncle Harry, Andromeda, Aurors, Healers, and a man with a smoking camera from the Daily Prophet. The next few hours were filled with interviews, inspections, and endless repetitions of our story.

Andromeda was so shaken by the attack that she took Dad up on his offer of letting her and Teddy stay the night. As soon as we were alone, Teddy and I dug out our papers and told everyone that we were going to see McGonagall the next day. As Teddy ably explained:

These attacks are getting worse and worse. I know that they won't try anything really serious until James is at Hogwarts, too, but we have to find out how we can defend ourselves. Professor McGonagall can help us with that.

It took a while to convince Andromeda that we'd be fine, Floo-ing off to meet some old teacher, but in the end we persuaded her to let us go for tea with Minerva McGonagall. Accordingly, we found ourselves in Professor McGonagall's fireplace at four o'clock. Lydia had already arrived, and was sitting in a tall, uncomfortable-looking wooden chair, talking very earnestly to the most extraordinary-looking woman I have seen in a long time.

Minerva McGonagall is very thin and quite tall. She wears rectangular spectacles and a very severe expression. Her hair is black and streaked with grey, and it's furled up on her head in an almost violently tidy bun. She seems quite terrifying, at first.

"The only disagreement I would harbour against the widely-held notion that-" Lydia was saying, when Professor McGonagall looked up and saw us.

"Mr. Lupin, Miss Weasley," she said, her tone clipped but not unkind. Lydia, too, greeted us. "Kindly take a seat. The others should be here shortly?"

"Yes," Teddy said quietly, looking rather cowed.

"No need to look so nervous. We are simply discussing the best course of action for this… situation which you find yourself in. Have a Newt."

There was an opened tartan tin lying on the coffee table. We each took out a biscuit and sat down on a hard, black leather couch. As Lydia continued talking, I looked around.

I knew that we were in a flat in London, but if I hadn't known better I would have said that McGonagall lived in an old-fashioned manor. She obviously had performed an Undetectable Extension Charm on the whole place; the sitting room was enormous, with a huge fire, uncomfortable-looking furniture, and quite a lot of tartan.

Teddy had obviously noticed this too. As Lydia wrapped up whatever intellectual speech she had been giving, Teddy turned to the woman sitting in the supremely uncomfortable- looking tartan arm-chair opposite to us. "I'm not meaning to be rude, but- why are you I London? I mean, you're Scottish, right?"

She nodded crisply. "Yes, I am, and I do usually live in Scotland. This apartment actually belonged to member of the Order of the Phoenix when it was still in operation. As it seems like the evil against which the Order aligned itself hasn't been completely eradicated, I decided to move in again for a while."

She rearranged the Scotch Thistle which stood in a vase nearby, and fixed me with her gaze.

"And how is your family, Miss Weasley?" Instinctively, I flinched She had an air about her which made me feel really, really guilty. "No need to look so nervous. I am merely making conversation. You have quite a number of younger siblings, I presume?"

"Y-yes, Ma'am."

"I can sympathize. I was the oldest, too. And please don't call me 'Ma'am'; I appreciate the respect, but it makes me feel old."

We swapped stores about being the oldest sister until the rest of the Mortals arrived. McGonagall treated everyone with the same, funny mixture of brusqueness and hospitality. Portia seemed to be quite taken with her, purring and rubbing her head against McGongall's legs. When we finally were all seated, she began.

"I presume you are all wondering how on earth I would know about your battle against he Aetenitae, particularly in light of what Miss Moon has gone through recently."

Our eyes flicked to Eira's arm, then back up.

"It is through this wonderful Kneazle, here, that I am able to help you." she said, gesturing to Portia, who was currently nestled in the arms of Bridget, who looked shocked.

"Excuse me? Portia doesn't-"

"I am an Animagus, Miss Twycross. I met Portia almost two years ago, and she has been telling me everything she has overheard since." Her eyes moved briefly to Teddy, then to Fayza, and finally to me. I didn't miss the implications, and started to blush.

"Now, at the moment there is very little help I can offer you. The Aetenitae keep moving their hiding place, correct?"

Eira nodded.

"They will continue to harass you until the opportune time comes for kidnapping Mr. Lupin, Miss Weasley, and Mr. Potter to hold them ransom for the Deathly Hallows. There is not much we can ain from this knowledge. I am keeping my ears open, but the Aetenitae are keeping impressively quiet about their dealing. However, there are some hints I can give you, regarding your self-defence and how best to utilise this group."

Everyone sat up straight, giving her their utmost attention.

"First of all, play to your strengths. Everyone in this group has a great deal of talent in one field or another. Whether you are duelling, holding meetings, or simply finding new ways to communicate- although that parchment spell, Miss Twycross, is excellent- try to hone the skills of everyone here, so that you all may be adequately prepared for the part you will play when t he final attack comes. Mr. Lupin."

Teddy jumped to attention. "Yes, Professor?"

"You are a Metamorphmagus, are you not?"

"Yes."

"You look fairly normal to me. Not that it's a bad thing, but your mother always had the most ridiculously bright hair colours I've seen in my life!" She half-smiled, and added. "The effect was most cheering." She stared away into space for a moment, then seemed to come back to herself and asked, "Do you ever use your powers?"

Teddy shrugged and looked embarrassed. "Sometimes. A bit. I mean, I don't really like all the attention…"

"Do," Professor McGonagall advised. "I'm sure it will add some much needed whimsy to your life."

I did my best to turn my laughter into a sneeze.

"Which brings us to my other bit of advice," she continued, ignoring my choking fit. "Really know each other in this group. Become very close."

"We are!" Fayza said indignantly. McGonagall raised her eyebrows.

"Really? I haven't heard a word out of Mr. Warner or Miss Odwogo since they said hello. How much do you know about them?"

Keeya and Warner both jumped, then blushed deeply. "We don't-" started Keeya, but was interrupted.

"Miss Odwogo, what would you say is your greatest strength?"

Keeya looked thoughtful- and rather flattered. "I suppose- I think I'm all right at calming people down. You know, when they're really worries about something, I'm not bad at soothing them."

"Do you think you'll use this gift in your future career?"

"I'd love to, but I'm not sure what I'll be. I used to want to be a Healer, but I don't have the marks and I don't particularly like Healing physical things."

"There are plenty of St. Mungo's employees who are not conventional Healers. I'd suggest you look into that. How about you, Mr. Warner? What do you wish to be?"

Warner looked very chastened. "It's not- it's not that exciting, really. I'm not-"

"Oh, shut it, Warner," Keeya interrupted, smiling. "He's brilliant at mending things, Professor. It's incredible, what he does, he can fix anything."

"I want to work in the Department of Magical Maintenance," Warner said quietly, looking faintly pleased.

Martin spoke for all of us. "I didn't know that, mate. I'm sorry."

McGonagall nodded. 'Quite. It's incredible what we humans can miss." She looked at the floor, then back at us. The atmosphere completely changed; she looked very vulnerable. "It is a well-known fact that people consider me a bit abrupt," she said suddenly, "but at Hogwarts I prided myself on being approachable- enough- to the students. I suppose what I'm saying is- is to please tell me how this situation is going. If you are in danger, if you find out anything else... I do wish to help you."

I was suddenly overwhelmed by affection for Minerva McGonagall. Here she was, helping us teenagers with problems far too big to handle, and being so lovely about it all. We promised we would keep her informed, and scrambled back in the fire one at a time.

Andromeda was just preparing to leave when Teddy and I re-appeared at my house.

"What's wrong, Teddy?" I asked him quietly as he picked up his trunk. "You've been so quiet all day!"

Teddy looked at me. "Just-just a tough day, Victoire. Still shaken from the thing in Diagon Alley, I guess. I'll see you soon, all right?" He kissed me while the adult's backs were turned. It was so gentle, and so beautiful, it felt like my mouth still had his on it for hours later.

Oh, help me, I'm a chav. But Teddy is just the best boyfriend anyone could ever have- and he's just spinning into the fireplace!

If you will excuse me…


Later

What have I done? Why is this happening?

He took my face in his hands. And he said, "I have to break it off."

I said, "What?"

"I'm not your boyfriend anymore, Victoire."

"Why? What are you- how did-"

He took a breath. His palms were burning against my cheeks. "I don't… care about you romantically anymore, Victoire."

I ripped away from him and ran.

It's Hamish all over again. I am tortured, twisted, falling down a set of stair in the middle of the night. Teddy loved me! He said so! He acted like it, he hugged me at night, he defended me against anything, he worried about me, he made me wear his cloak and he shouted at Hamish and he helped me after Hamish…

The healer has become the torturer.

I've got to go now. I'm numb, and thankful for it- when I am able to feel again, this will be unbearable- and I don't care how much of a chav I sound like.

But why can no-one love me?


A/N: My stats page informs me last chapter garnered 64 hits and 3 reviews, two of which are from my friends in the real world. Somebody see a problem here?

Come on, people. What am I doing wrong? Maybe no-one wanted maple ice-cream with Skor bits, for some reason. Well, how about mocha-chocolate cake? Yes. Please, please, please review and I shall give you mocha-chocolate cake, which I love even though I don't like coffee.

Look, I love you guys, you know I do, and I'm so flattered that people seem to be enjoying this fic. But I NEED FEEDBACK. Please. Especially now that this new romantic crisis is beginning…

Sarah26: Thank you so much for the fluff advice! Do you have an account where I can reply to your reviews personally?