Disclaimer: Don't own it, never have. JKR has that honor.
Note: Well, here's your update, finally! I hope I haven't lost all the readers I had. It's a trifle short, but it felt really good to break through the writer's block at last. Please forgive me for taking such a long time-between Christmas and exams and family drama, things have gotten a little out of hand. Still, I'm going to try and get one more update posted before I leave on vacation later this week…after my birthday. Life, my friends, is nuts. Best wishes to you all, especially to Anya Urameshei! This chapter is for you, for saying that you were in love with this story. I hope you like Wren's second year at Hogwarts even better than the first! Happy reading!
The summer had seemed endless to Wren. She loved being at home, loved being back with her beloved family, and enjoyed being a part of her village again. Ainmire had never seemed so sweet, and her room in Gull Cottage had never seemed so cozy.
Still, though, all of her favorite pursuits seemed empty without her friends or magic. Wren ended up developing a routine, much to her mother's amusement. Before Hogwarts, Wren would spend her days carelessly, merely going from one activity to the next without any semblance of structure. Not so now-she couldn't seem to function without some sort of plan to follow. She would get up in the mornings, make her bed and straighten her room. Then she would leave her bedroom, have breakfast with her family, and then do her chores. After these distasteful activities were over with, she would run outside and have a morning swim, even though she found her pleasure lessened in this activity somewhat since she could no longer use her handy Bubble Head Charm. After at least an hour, she would emerge from the sea water, dripping wet and her fingers winkled like prunes. In order to dry herself, she'd walk along the beach, collecting sea shells and letting her mind wander.
After lunch at home with her mother and sometimes her brother and his girlfriend, Maeve, Wren would then walk through the village, often talking to her favorite shopkeeper, Mr. Holm. Mr. Holm was one of the wizarding inhabitants of Ainmire, and he seemed to enjoy listening to Wren tell stories of Hogwarts. He had been a Hufflepuff, and so he found her descriptions of the Gryffindor common room fascinating. Wren also enjoyed poking around his queer antique shop, which even held a secret room full of magical objects which wizards and witches could buy. Mr. Holm seemed especially fascinated with what he called "The Weasley Stories." He found the Weasley twins to be highly amusing, and often offered Wren suggestions as to what would make a good joke. She decided not to pass these juicy bits on to the Weasleys-they got into enough trouble on their own with having a vicarious shop-keeper help them along.
Wren's afternoons were often spent in her room with her spell books, trying to keep from forgetting all she'd learned, and with parchment and ink as she wrote letters to her roommates and friends. Karrie wrote back often, usually enclosing a lovely pencil sketch of what she was doing. Leah's and Katherine's missives made Wren sad sometimes-they sounded horribly lonesome. No matter how fun summer was, Wren knew that they'd all be glad when school started back.
One afternoon two weeks before the new term began, Wren was ensconced in her room. Devlin had gone to take Maeve to the movies, Eamon was at work, and Taryn had gone to a garden club party. Gull Cottage was quiet and, Wren admitted to herself, unbelievably lonely. The silence was driving her mad.
Suddenly there was an enormous cracking noise, which Wren recognized to be from Apparition. Her heart beating quickly, she hurried into the living room to see who it was. To her delight, there stood Charlie Weasley, looking at the Muggle television with interest. "Charlie!" she squealed. "What be you doin' here?"
Charlie looked up and grinned. "Hello, Wren. How would you like to be kidnapped?"
Wren cocked her head. "If it'd get me out o' here, I'd be thrilled wit it. By why would you be kidnappin' me?" she asked, puzzled.
"Mum wants you to come and spend a couple days at our house. Karrie and John are already there, so the only one we're missing is you," Charlie answered. "Go on, then, pack up a bag and I'll take you back with me."
"Well…." Wren said, unsure. She couldn't leave without her parents' permission. Just then, her mother walked in the door, looking quite nice in a green dress. "Oh!" Taryn gasped as she caught sight of Charlie's tall and rather imposing form. "Who are you?" she asked, obviously frightened.
"Mam, this is Charlie," Wren hastily said as she ran to take her mother's purse and place it on the table. "You remember, Fred and George's older brother."
Taryn wrinkled her nose in thought. "The oldest Weasley boy? Aye, I remember you tellin' me about them. It's good to meet you, lad," she said, as she went forward to shake Charlie's hand.
"It's lovely to meet you too, Mrs. Gallagher. I'm sorry to have frightened you. My mother wants to know if Wren may come and visit for a few days. We'd have her back well before she'd need to start getting ready for school," Charlie said, looking hopeful.
"Well…" replied Mrs. Gallagher slowly, "I suppose its all righ' wit me. As long as she's back in plenty o' time to visit with her family before she has to leave again."
Charlie's broad grin spread across his face. "Fine! We'll get her back to you in a few days, then. I'll wait for you here, Wren, while you pack."
Shooting her mother a thankful look, Wren dashed into her bedroom, nearly tripping over a table in the process. Grabbing a small duffel bag, she flung clothes and other supplies in it at a startling rate. Snatching up a cloak and her broom, she somehow managed to drag the whole mess into the den while simultaneously flinging her cloak about herself. "Well," she said breathlessly, "I'm ready."
Taryn came forward and gave her daughter a kiss. "Good-bye, then, lovey. I'll be seein' ye in a few days."
"Bye, Mam!" Wren gave her mother an exuberant hug. "Take care!" Charlie came forward and took Wren's bag in one hand, and offered her his other. "We're going to be Apparating, Wren. We were out of Floo powder. You know how it's done?" Wren nodded, having already received a crash course in Apparition when he father had taken her to Diagon Alley. "All right, then. Grasp my arm, and don't think you're going to hurt me. I doubt a little thing like you could," Charlie said, laughing. Wren found herself agreeing-both of her small hands could barely wrap around Charlie's muscular upper arm. "One…two…three!" Instantly, mind-absorbing pressure hit Wren's entire body, and she would have gasped if her throat had been able to move. "Oh, why did I ever agree to this foolishness?" was the only thought that managed to get past the pressure before she resigned herself to wait patiently until it was over. Thankfully, it was over but a second later.
"You all right, Wren?" asked Charlie politely as he peered down at her.
"Aye, Charlie, although I'd be just as happy if I returned home another way," Wren said as she tried to catch her breath.
Charlie grinned, but he didn't say anything. He didn't have time, for just then Wren had looked up and caught sight of the Burrow, and out of its doors came pouring the Weasley clan. "Wren!" shouted little Ginny, her hair like fire in the bright sunlight, "I'm so glad you could come! Now there'll be another girl here!" she crowed.
Then Wren was surrounding by Weasley and Weasley relatives. Fred and George were pounding her on the back as if she were a lost comrade, Percy was peering at her through his horn rimmed glasses as if he were examining whether her teeth had gotten any straighter, and Karrie was wrapping her arms around her. "Hello, Wren! Pleasant trip?" she asked with a twinkle in her star-like blue eyes.
"No," replied Wren honestly, "but it's glad I am to see ye again, Karrie. You're lookin' well." Karrie blushed and was about to reply when Mrs. Weasley appeared and pulled Wren out of the chaos. "Mercy, children! Let Wren catch her breath, won't you? Gracious, I had thought that I'd raised you better," she scolded.
"It was an admirable effort, Mum," replied George, "but I'm afraid your lessons just didn't take like they should have."
"We're quite the barbaric lot," Fred said cheerfully. "You might as well accept it. Everybody else seems to."
"I don't know that I'd agree with that, Fred. And neither does Dumbledore, considering the amount of owls that were sent here over the past year. He and Professor McGonagall don't appear to be terribly accepting of your…barbaric behavior at all, bless them. And neither am I, so I shall continue on in the missionary work I've been dealt. This means that you and your brother just earned the highly praiseworthy task of washing all the windows inside and out, which got to go a long way towards your reform. Go along, now, march!" The twins groaned and complained loudly, but got moving at Mrs. Weasley's stern tone, slinking back towards the house in search of cleaning supplies.
Looking pleased with her performance, Molly said calmly to Wren, "Come on in, lovey and we'll get you settled. You and Karrie will be sharing Ginny's room. I hope you don't mind kipping on a camp bed, for the house is bursting at the seams."
"Of course not, Mrs. Weasley," Wren said as she skipped alongside the motherly woman, Karrie following silently. "I'm so glad to be here that I don' mind anythin' at all! I just hope I won' be a bother to ye," she said anxiously.
"Tut, tut, don't worry about that, dear. We like having guests, and I imagine you'll be helping out some anyway, so you won't be a bother at all," Molly replied briskly as she climbed up the stairs. "Here we are, then! Ginny's room. I'll leave you girls to it." She opened the door and then left. Catching sight of the room, Wren could barely contain a gasp of wonder.
It was still a little girl's room, but it was a wizarding room! Stars glowed from the ceiling, pictures of broomsticks littered the walls, and a poster featuring Hogwarts adorned Ginny's closet door. The eiderdown on Ginny's bed featured colorful fish that looked as if they were swimming around in a sea, and her toy rabbit waved cheerfully as the girls walked in. Ginny ran forward and picked it up, saying, "This is Rufus, my rabbit. He's rather old and babyish, but I don't want to get rid of him yet. Do you think I should?" she asked the older girls nervously.
"Heavens no, Ginny!" replied Karrie heartily. "Why, I slept with my toy polar bear up until the night I went to Hogwarts. I think Rufus can stay around for a while longer." Rufus emitted a tiny sigh of relief at this, and everyone laugh.
"That bed's yours, Wren," said Karrie, pointing at a bed covered with a red blanket. "I'm very glad you got to come. Your letters all sounded so sad-are you well?"
"Aye, Karrie, I'm fine. I just missed bein' with my friends and all," Wren said cheerfully as she put her things neatly away. "You canna imagine how wonderful it was to see Charlie waiting in my den, sayin' he was bound to kidnap me. I never knew kidnappin' could be so pleasant," she said, looking around the room. "But if this be the results of kidnappin', I wouldna mind more of it, and that's the pure truth of it."
Karrie grinned for a minute, but her smile swiftly faded as she looked at her watch and sighed. Ginny piped up, "Don't worry, Karrie. He'll be here soon."
Wren looked from one girl to the other. "What's goin' on? What've I missed?"
Smiling weakly, Karrie replied, "Yesterday was my brother, John's, eleventh birthday, Wren. My grandfather took him to see Azkaban today. I'm just worried about him…I remember how I was just after my own visit."
"Oh, Karrie! I'm so sorry…poor little blighter," Wren said sympathetically. "I'm sure he'll be fine, though. He comes from good stock."
Turning her back a little so that no one could see her face, Karrie answered in a steady voice that belied her posture, "Yes, you're right, of course. He'll be fine." Still, a shadow had fallen on the room since Karrie had uttered that dreadful word: Azkaban. Wren could not help but feel as if a nameless evil had entered the house that would be terribly difficult to remove.