Disclaimer: Story based on characters and plot owned by J. K. Rowling, Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books, Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Love and Loss
"'Arry?" A soft, feminine voice near his head asks.
Harry opens one eye a crack and, though blurred with nearsightedness, sees a stunningly beautiful, platinum blonde woman beaming at him. Her warm, soft hand holds his and she has a tiny crease of concern on her forehead between perfect eyebrows.
"Now I know I've died and gone to heaven," he says weakly.
"Zat has to be ze worst line I have ever heard!" Fleur's voice is offended, though Harry can see relief on her face. She squeezes his hand more tightly as her eyes rim with tears.
"Oh, I can do much worse, I promise. I've got the twins to thank for that. How about, 'You must be a hell of a thief because you stole my heart from across the room?'"
"Stop!" she shouts, laughing in spite of herself. Familiar snickers come from a pair of red-haired blurs on the other side of the room.
"Oh, honestly, will you two grow up?" A brown-haired blur says, exasperated.
Harry grins cheekily. "Your legs must be tired, because you've been running through my mind... mmfff." He is kissed soundly by the veela before he can finish.
"See there, Hermione? Our pick-up lines do work. And on a veela no less." Fred nudges his brother and points to the pair.
"True, but you have to be Harry Potter to pull them off," George says, his voice grave with mock sadness.
"Indeed, even in my youth, such piffle rarely proved successful." The Headmaster, dressed in ostentatious robes of orange and yellow velvet, parts the drawn curtain and ducks into the room.
"Oi, Professor. You're a Cannons fan?" Fred asks.
He chuckles and looks at the boy over half-moon lenses. "Indeed, Mr. Weasley. I even recall the last time the Chudley Cannons had a winning season--I believe it was in my youth." His face becomes more serious and he clears his throat. "I'm sure you all wish to speak with Harry, but would you indulge an old man fifteen minutes of time first?" The students nod and file out of the room as Harry reaches for his glasses. Fleur squeezes his hand a final time and parts with a relieved smile.
The Headmaster's demeanor changes as the last of Harry's visitors passes through the curtains. His wand blurs as he rapidly raises a series of privacy and alarm wards about the curtains and quickly moves to Harry's bedside, his face drawn in anxiety and grief.
He speaks rapidly and in a low voice, "Harry, we have little time, so let us get down to business. You're under guard by the Ministry and now that you've woken, they will be sending aurors to question you soon. They still have your wand and a prior incantato showed Unforgiveables, including a killing curse. We need to prepare for your questioning. Can you tell me, briefly if possible, what happened?"
"Voldemort is back," he says flatly.
"A few more details would be helpful, Harry. What happened after you left the Hall?"
Harry nods and lowers his eyes. "I was taken away by portkey and stunned immediately after I arrived. Pettigrew, Crouch, and some wizard called Selwynn did some kind of ritual that allowed Voldemort to rejoin his body. They used my blood and apparently my mother's protection isn't active anymore. He summoned his Death Eaters to him--I counted twenty-two who showed up, but the only others I recognized were Malfoy, Crabbe, Goyle, and McNair, though I might have killed Crabbe."
Harry coughs roughly, thankful that he was unconscious through the ordeal of Skele-Grow treatment for his shoulder and back, and the Headmaster conjures a glass of water and offers it to him. Nodding his thanks, he sips and continues, "Voldemort returned my wand so that he could duel me and show them that he was strong, that his first defeat was a fluke. He toyed with me for awhile, draining my magic into the runic circle and into him, and generally bloody beating me. Then, as he was about to finish me off with a killing curse, I got away." Harry tries to set the glass on the table near his bed, but his hands shake with the rawness of the memory and he knocks it onto the floor, where it lands with a crash.
The Headmaster's brow furls as he vanishes the shattered glass. He puts his hand over Harry's. "Harry," he says gently, "what about the killing curse?"
"You have to understand--I was about to die, Albus. He was so much stronger, I didn't even come close to landing a spell on him. He was just standing there, laughing, ready to finish me... I knew I couldn't Apparate out, so in desperation I went to another place within the circle. Then I destroyed the binding rune with a killing curse." The memory of the curse raises bile in Harry's throat, but he continues, "Other spells just absorbed into the rune, but I knew that the killing curse can't be blocked. There was an explosion and I came to before he or his Death Eaters could get to me. I Apparated a short distance away and then I think I passed out because I woke up here. What happened?"
Dumbledore nods, frowning. "I'm curious to know how you learned to cast the Unforgivables, Harry, but that's a tale that will have to wait for another day. I shall start with what happened after you disappeared. Percy Weasley made your medal into a portkey, as you know..."
"Bastard!" Harry interrupts, remembering, "I'm going to kill him."
The Headmaster shakes his head sadly. "No need. His mind has been destroyed. He obliviated himself just after you left."
"Self-obliviated?" Harry shivers. "Imperius curse?"
Dumbledore nods. "Mr. Crouch's."
"Um, this is going to sound bad, but why didn't Crouch just have him cast a killing curse or severing curse on his neck or something?"
"I suspect that since the Imperius curse was used to plant a command to be carried out without the reinforcement of Mr. Crouch's presence, he was worried that an order to commit suicide might risk shocking Mr. Weasley into breaking the curse. As it was, they had backup--Percy's younger brother Ronald was also under Crouch's control. He started to cast a curse that would have slain his brother, but we managed to stop him in time. We found out where you were and I created a portkey for myself and several others. Upon our arrival, the Death Eaters and Tom Apparated away and we found you shortly afterward."
Harry nods and then frowns, confused. "How did you know where I was? Did Ron know about the graveyard?"
The Headmaster stands and turns away from Harry. "No, I'm afraid I had no choice but to recover that information from Percy Weasley's mind, damaged though it was. We knew he had the information we sought; he needed it to make your portkey."
The sick feeling in Harry's stomach grows. "Albus, didn't you teach me that deep Legilimency on an injured mind could damage it beyond repair?"
The old man sits at the end of the bed near Harry's feet, his face still turned away. "Yes, that is true, Harry. I confess, doing so to Mr. Weasley was a most difficult choice. In the end, I chose the salvation of our world over a faint hope of recovery for a damaged boy. I am sorry if this disturbs you--I assure you that my decision shall haunt me always." He turns toward his apprentice, his face a mask of defeat. "It is a terrible burden, leadership. If only we could avoid these sacrifices, Harry."
Harry sighs deeply. He had never felt much affinity for the arrogant brother of his former friend, but he hadn't wished for him to become a vegetable either. Suddenly, something Albus said nags him.
"Albus, you said, 'sacrifices?' Who else did we lose?"
He pointedly avoids Harry's eyes. "I don't think now is a good time to discuss this, as our time is short. We should lay out our strategy for dealing with the aurors."
Harry grits his teeth. "Who else, Albus?"
"Albus, tell me or kindly get the hell out and I'll deal with them myself!"
The Headmaster sighs deeply. "After you were taken and Percy obliviated himself, Ron Weasley started to cast a killing curse, but he was stopped by your godfather. Unfortunately, all this happened while in his animagus form in front of the Minister and aurors. The peculiarity was noted and the Minister ordered him seized. In summary, Sirius's animagus status was unmasked and he was taken into custody."
"He'll get a trial now, won't he?" Harry asks, hopeful.
Dumbledore's shoulders slump. "A trial was scheduled, yes, when irregularities in
his incarceration were brought to light..." He pauses.
"What aren't you telling me, Albus?" Harry's fists clench tightly.
"Harry, Sirius's testimony, along with Peter Pettigrew's appearance in the maze, would have embarrassed several parties, including the Minister. You no doubt recall his behavior at the end of last term..." His voice tightens, "I did all I could to keep your godfather here under my custody until the trial, but I underestimated what my colleague was prepared to do to protect his reputation." He swallows heavily, his eyes watery. "I'm afraid that Mr. Black was found dead in his prison cell this morning while awaiting trial. The Ministry is, of course, claiming suicide."
Harry's world crashes around him. Sirius? Dead?
"Madame Bones, Mr. Potter is here as you requested. Do you need me to stay?" Tonks, Harry's escort says in a subdued voice.
"No thank you, Auror Tonks. That will be all. Enter, Mr. Potter." She takes a parchment from the open folder before her and starts to read.
Tonks pats Harry gently on the back and gives him a genuine smile. "You hang in there kid--I'll be just outside and down the hall. Come by when you're through, 'kay sweets?" She winks at the depressed, exhausted boy.
Harry nods his thanks and ambles into the large office, his crutches supporting his weight. He stands stiffly before the desk, shoulders back, gaze fixed on the old, sinewy woman seated before him. She wears a monocle attached to a fine, steel chain that clips to her collar. Her left eye, its iris deep blue, scans rapidly over the report held in strong, almost masculine hands. The other eye, a pale, light blue, stares sideways, unblinking. Her grey hair is worn above her shoulder and she has a short fringe, a practical haircut for a hard woman. On her desk are stacks of parchment, a wide folder with several smaller sheets of parchment inside, and several wizarding photographs. A small plaque on the paneled wall reads, "Madame Bones, Director, Magical Law Enforcement."
Without looking up, she gestures to one of the worn leather chairs and says, "Mr. Potter, in your condition, I'd prefer if you sat. I don't want you passing out and hurting yourself further."
"You'll forgive me ma'am if I don't exactly feel like relaxing in this place." Harry mutters, surly, his pain-killing potions having expired hours ago.
"Mr. Potter?" She looks up with her monocled eye from her report. The other eye remains staring into space.
Harry meets her intense stare with one of his own, and he says in a cold voice, "My godfather was killed in his cell while in your custody, ma'am. I think I'll stand, thank you."
She leans back in her chair and steeples her fingers. "Officially, Mr. Black's death was suicide."
Harry snorts bitterly, "Yeah, and I'm the Minister of Magic."
"Not yet..." she says under her breath. She raises her wand and Harry flinches, his crutches falling to the floor, his wand suddenly appearing in his right hand, a curse on his lips. Seeing that she isn't going to cast a spell on him, he straightens slowly. "Nice reflexes, Mr. Potter. Will this set your mind at ease? I swear on my office as Head of Magical Law Enforcement that no harm will befall Harry Potter while he is in my custody, provided he does not initiate hostility." The tip of her wand glows blue. Harry relaxes and nods. He picks up his crutches and slides into the nearest chair.
Several minutes later, a spry, white-haired man with a neatly trimmed, white beard, who wears light grey robes and thick spectacles, knocks on the door frame. Madame Bones looks up and nods at her visitor, who enters and takes the wrinkled leather chair opposite Harry. He swishes his wand and a stone basin filled with silvery fluid floats into the office and settles upon the desk.
Madame Bones raises her wand and, with a twirl, closes the door. "Algernon, if you could secure the room?" The older man makes several gestures with his wand that Harry doesn't recognize and a series of potent wards settle upon the walls, ceiling, and floor. The man casts a sequence of detection spells that cause Harry's magical sight to flare uncomfortably.
"Mr. Potter, I hope you don't mind, but I've asked a colleague of mine to join us. He's from a research branch of the Ministry." Harry nods warily as she continues, "While I don't agree with his decision, the Minister has ruled that any information about Voldemort's return is to be sealed. The official Ministry line is that nothing happened that evening."
Harry's face reddens and he starts to object, but is cut off by the imposing woman.
"I for one believe that he has returned! When four of my aurors, including two senior aurors, report to me that they saw Voldemort and several Death Eaters Apparate from a scene where obvious dark magic has been going on, I am inclined to put my faith in them over a small-minded fool in a bowler hat."
She holds up a parchment with a Ministry seal at the bottom next to her angular signature. "This is an absolution from prosecution for anything that happened that night, and I mean anything, including your use of the Unforgivables. What I ask in return is that you share with us a pensieve memory of the graveyard so that we can know better what we're up against."
Harry considers this for a moment. "Nothing I did was illegal--even the killing curse..."
"Do you want to chance that with this administration?" she interrupts. "I've been able to temporarily bury the report on we found on your wand, but it won't stand up to a direct request from the Minister."
Harry thinks for a moment, then reaches for the document. "No ma'am. Though it's not a very pleasant memory."
"I don't suppose it is," she says wryly.
With a practiced motion, Harry touches his wand to his temple and slowly withdraws a misty tendril. Depositing it in the stone basin, he stands next to the other two near the rim of the the basin. In a flash and a quick sensation of falling, the three land in the graveyard next to a large cauldron.
More than an hour passes and they emerge. Madame Bones has an appreciative look on her face and the other man scratches his beard, deep in thought.
"Mr. Potter, that was... remarkable. We are most grateful for what you've shared with us."
Harry nods, his eyes glancing at the white-haired man as he notes that the visitor hasn't said a word since entering. Harry makes a skimming motion with his wand to recover his memory from the basin and he grabs his crutches from where they were leaning against his chair.
Flicking her wand, Madame Bones lowers the wards on the room. "Please have Auror Tonks escort you back to Hogwarts. We are done for today, Mr. Potter. Thank you again for coming here."
Harry shrugs, bows to both, and hobbles out of the doorway. After he leaves, she closes the door again and her colleague reseals it. "What do you think, Algernon?"
The man speaks in a soft monotone. "The boy is highly intelligent, magically exceptional and one of the last free Runescrives. He resisted Voldemort's Imperius curse, which few can do. He has a proclivity and natural talent for dark magic, though not the temperament--not today, at any rate. I suggest we monitor him carefully." He clears his throat. "After Voldemort is eliminated, we shall need to decide whether, as a security precaution, to dispose of Potter as well, lest we be facing the rise of another Dark Lord. Until that time, he would be a valuable asset, even in the absence of the prophesy..."
"Prophesy?" The normally unflappable Department Head blinks.
Harry takes a deep breath and raps softly on the door. A moment later, it swings open and he sees Fleur, her eyes rimmed in red.
"Harry?" she asks, dabbing her eyes with a which cotton cloth.
"Fleur, what's wrong?"
"Nothing," she says quickly. Harry gives her a questioning look and she turns away. "I have spoken with Father..."
Harry nods and steps forward, attempting to pull her into a hug as his crutches fall to the flagstone floor with a loud clatter. She recoils from his touch, then nods, and steps into his embrace.
After a long moment they separate. Fleur picks up the crutches and hands them to Harry, who nods his thanks. "Come, Harry. Sit with me by the window." She closes the door and the two sit on a light green cushion beneath the wide bay. Outside, the sky is grey and overcast and a steady rain falls.
Harry holds Fleur's hands in his, but she doesn't meet his eyes. "Why do you still wish to be near me, Harry, knowing what my family did to you?"
"He told you about the Order?"
"Oui." Another tear falls down her cheek.
"Then why would you wish to be near me, Fleur, knowing what I mean to them... and to you?" Harry asks softly.
"I love you, Harry, zat's why!"
"My point exactly," he says softly.
Fleur looks up and sees the hurt in Harry's emerald green eyes before he turns to look out over the wet courtyard.
"Fleur, I've been thinking a lot about things the last couple of days, about us... These past days have been some of the worst of my life, with Sirius dying..." His throat constricts as he closes his eyes, fighting the prickling feeling behind his eyelids. After a long moment, he opens them, watching the rain, then turns toward her with a bitter smile. "And some of the most brilliant too. I... I think I love you too, Fleur."
She blinks, stunned, and beams, then takes Harry's head in her hands and kisses him passionately on the lips, her fingers running through his tousled hair. After several minutes, they part, lips swollen, cheeks flushed.
"Fleur, this has all been so much like a dream to me. Besides Sirius, I've never really had anyone who loved me before, not that I can remember anyway. And I..." He sighs as his face harden. "I'm scared, Fleur. Scared that Voldemort will find a way to kill me and hurt those I care about. Or the Rosicrucians. Or the Ministry. I'm scared of a bloody prophesy that asks the impossible..."
Harry shakes his head and turns toward the window as the rain falls more heavily. "Fleur, I love you dearly--I think I always will. But I have to know something."
"Anything," she whispers.
"We both know about the compulsion rune and that your father asked you to spy on me. Did he ever tell you to... get close to me? I mean, I'm just Harry and I'm nobody, really, and I don't know why you'd be interested in me and I don't deserve someone like you and..."
Fleur holds her finger to his lips. "Shh... and you fear zat tomorrow my love will go away, zat it was all just an artifact of magic." She leans forward and clutches onto him tightly, her head on his shoulder, tears again rimming her eyes. "Father did ask me to befriend you, Harry, but I know in my heart I fell in love on my own."
Harry nods, swallowing heavily.
"I understand," she whispers. "I know what it is to doubt if one's companion feels love or magic. I shall ask Father to release me."
Harry says in a choked voice, "And when you discover your true feelings?"
She pulls back and looks directly into his eyes. "When I can prove to you zat c'est l'amour, Harry, I swear I shall return to you."
She kisses him tenderly as thunder rumbles outside.
"We have much to discuss, Voleur." Chevalier conjures a crystal goblet and pours wine from a Burgundy-shaped bottle. He gestures to the rough stone table, where his companion conjures his own goblet. Chevalier fills the glass half-full.
Albus Dumbledore conjures a pair of white napkins, one for him, one for his companion. He tilts his glass and uses his napkin as a backdrop with which to examine the subtle coloration of the liquid. Bright sunlight shines in through the windows of the stone building and bathes the room in warm, pastoral colors. He swirls his wine. "Yes, old friend, we do." The slightly viscous fluid clings to the wall of the goblet. "Let us trade information, as I am sure we have much to offer one another."
"Oui. Very well then. A quid pro quo exchange. I shall start. Tell me, Albus, what you know of this Dark Lord." His milky eyes narrow.
Dumbledore chuckles as he examines the wine in his goblet. "That is rather open-ended, Chevalier. We shall be here for an age and then some and I shall, of course, require you to reciprocate. Did you, perchance, bring more wine?"
"Noted. Was this Voldemort destroyed in 1981? If no, what is his existence now?"
The aged Headmaster pauses as he sniffs his wine and measures his words. "No. He was not destroyed, merely dispelled from his body when his killing curse rebounded. I do not know how he was able to forestall death..." He winces as a sharp pain lances through his temples. "...but I have my suspicions." The pain relaxes.
Chevalier smirks coldly. "Albus, the veracity charms are active. As you know, we cannot help but be truthful with one another in this place."
"Very well. Voldemort, whose name is Tom Riddle, most likely used one of three means of which I know to cheat death. I am sure you know of them."
"His existence for a time was that of a shade. We believe he assumed physical form as an homunculus approximately one year ago. Following my apprentice's abduction, he completed a resurrection ritual and rejoined with his body."
The Headmaster puts his long, crooked nose deep within the goblet and sniffs deeply. "My turn to ask. You have made seven assassination attempts on my apprentice. I know of agents Robért Dupuis, Gerard Delacour, and Michel Moreau-Dupuis. Harry fought Mr. Moreau-Dupuis earlier this year on the Hogwarts Express and he defeated the other Mr. Dupuis some weeks ago. Within the Beauxbatons Academy, you have Professors Bessette and Arceneau, members of the Order, and student, Fleur Delacour. You have two students within the Durmstrang Institute, a Mr. Bubulev and a Miss Macken, who provided information and access. You purchased the gambling debt of a Mr. Bagman, which you used to secure access to our competition. And, I believe, a Mr. Thomas from Hogwarts also passes you information on occasion in return for deposits into his Gringotts vault. To the best of my knowledge, the students are adjoint to the Order, though I notice that Miss Delacour has joined one rune. Am I correct?"
Chevalier coughs roughly. "I am impressed, Voleur. You did miss one abduction attempt, likely the one by a junior member that your apprentice defeated." The old man's eyebrow twitches with a low-grade headache; Fleur Delacour's joining of a control rune is still vexing to him. He sips and aspirates his wine to relish its rich bouquet. "I gather by your calling this meeting that you would wish for me not to kill your apprentice. Please tell me why I should not."
The Headmaster's eyes narrow. "Mutual gain, my friend. I do not exaggerate when I say that were to succeed, the Rosicrucians' goal of exclusivity shall be foiled eternally."
"There is a prophesy about Harry. I could show you a pensieve memory..." He gestures to the ancient stone building in which they sit. "But the magic of this place should suffice to ensure I speak the truth. This prophesy states unequivocally that only Harry Potter can defeat Tom Riddle. If Harry were to die, Tom would achieve immortality."
"Interesting. So the Paracelsus line would never end."
The Headmaster sips his wine appraisingly. "A second prophesy made this past year indicated that Tom would indeed return to power. This prophesy--and preparation for Tom Riddle--is the reason I apprenticed Harry Potter. Now, please tell me whether, with this knowledge in hand, you would be willing to belay your vendetta against us so that we can deal with Tom."
"Indeed, I would entertain a suspension of hostility until such time as this Voldemort is defeated." Chevalier swallows his wine and notes the fineness of the finish. "But after that, I offer no guarantee, of course."
"Acceptable. Do you have any assassination attempts planned now?"
Chevalier purses his lips into a half-smile. "Only one that I know of. I shall endeavor to stop it after our meeting today."
The Headmaster's brow furls. "Can you share any details?"
"Non. I do not know any, as my lieutenant is coordinating it. But I shall deal with this matter posthaste." He places his goblet onto the table and levels a stare at the flamboyantly dressed Headmaster. "My turn. I have viewed pensieve memories of your apprentice's encounter with the dragon as well as that of his joining ritual at Yule and his performance in the maze task. Am I correct that he had not joined focus or power runes at the time he faced the dragon?"
The Headmaster takes a large swallow of wine as he considers the prudence of sharing Harry's uniqueness. He opts to share more than he had originally planned, since little will remain hidden if fate plays out as he hopes and he doesn't relish the headache that he will suffer if he withholds too much. "That is correct. Harry had joined merely a collection of minor rituals at the time--strength, magical sight, mental acuity, and the first two agility runes, if I remember correctly. He has since joined two precognition runes as well as the major ritual that you know of, the Anaximander focus."
"Yes. Especially after the focus, Harry's control over his ancillary magical abilities has been... impressive, to say the least. After his first power enhancement ritual, which should transpire sometime this summer, I expect his raw magical potential to approach mine."
Chevalier's bushy white eyebrows rise to his forehead. "Surely not."
"Oh yes. I dare say, after his second such rune, he will eclipse even you, my old friend. Now tell me, do you intend for Miss Delacour to join the Order? I see she bears at least your first sigil, though in a nontraditional location. On her chest, if I recall, rather than the upper arm..." He smirks at the other man.
Chevalier shudders and the veracity runes snarl in anticipation of the lie on his tongue. "I admit, it has been discussed, but I have not formally authorized her apprenticeship as yet; we have not brought a witch into our Order before." The pain subsides, replaced by a dull throbbing. "I shall discuss this with my lieutenant in our meeting today." He takes a heavy swallow of wine. "After the focus, for how long was your apprentice unable to cast spells?"
"Somewhat over two months." Dumbledore quirks an eyebrow and then sips his wine, the rich liquid rolling over his tongue.
"Impossible!" The man drops his glass onto the table in surprise. A few droplets of red splash onto the granite tabletop.
"Indeed, recall where we are, dear friend." He offers his own wry smile. "You do know the implications of such a delay after the focus?..."
Chevalier nods, distracted by his thoughts. "Of course."
The Headmaster swallows the last of his wine and vanishes his goblet. "My turn, and then I must go. This is an excellent wine--would I be correct if I guessed a Château Haut-Brion, vintage... 1970?"
"Oui." Chevalier turns the bottle so that the Headmaster can see the label.
The two elderly men, among the most powerful wizards in history, stand, shake hands, and Apparate away in a pair of faint pops. A half-drunk bottle of fine wine remains on the tabletop.
Harry sighs as he watches the sun set from atop the Astronomy Tower in a rare, solitary respite from his work. The last rays vanish and he feels pressed beneath the days' weariness, the lonely heartache, the grief. He espies in the distance a tiny patch of white set against the cloudless gloaming. His familiar and oldest friend had been missing for days and he had started to worry. In a few minutes, Hedwig lands with a rustle on his outstretched arm. She blinks and rubs his chin affectionately with the crown of her head as Harry strokes her feathers.
"Sorry, girl. I didn't know you were meeting me here, so you'll have to wait for later for a treat. Where did you run off to?"
Hedwig hoots softly and holds out her leg. Harry unfastens the letter, which has been tied with a lavender ribbon, and notes that it is written on chiffon paper. Bringing it to his nose, he catches a faint whiff of perfume, peach blossoms and cinnamon.
He unfolds the note and begins to read, smiling...
Author Notes: This was the first longer piece of fiction I've written in nearly twenty years and my first novel-length piece in the Harry Potter universe.
I wish to thank several, whose efforts have led to essentially everything you may have found in here of quality. ParseltonguePhoenix, Fenraellis, and Vlad the Inhaler acted as beta readers--I didn't always listen to them, but I probably should have (especially you, Vlad). Sesc helped me with German cultural literacy and with finding some proper German names. Methene gave me several very useful critical comments on an early draft as well as corrected a horribly bad machine-translation of Romanian. The inspiration to write a Harry/Fleur pairing also came from him. Neisseria caught many grammatical mistakes as well as some botched Latin translations--thanks so much for your help. To anonymous reviewer, Diogenes, I offer my thanks for many, many critical reviews; may you someday find an honest man. The darklordpotter crew were, as always, brutal, harsh, honest, and invaluable in distilling quality from early drafts of this work; I also received sage comments from regulars on the fanficauthors and readcon sites. Jbern gave me pointers on another piece that I applied here. (And, he didn't yell too loudly when bits of my story happened to overlap a smidge with his). Respitechristopher provided encouragement at a key time when I had considered dumping the fic and taking up gardening for a hobby instead. Finally, I wish to thank the many readers who offered reviews and critical insight along the way--I learned more from you than you can imagine.
Where do we go from here? I wish like to hear from you, the august reader, whether you feel this universe and story warrants a sequel. As you can tell from this chapter, I have allowed for the possibility of one. If I do write one, it will be in the same fashion as this, where I write the bulk of the story before posting. (I'm not good enough to write a serial--I need more authorial control). Nearly one thousand of you put this story on alerts and another five hundred, on favorites--if those who haven't yet could drop a note, either PM or in a review, letting me know what you think of the story and whether you think it should continue from here, I would be most appreciative.
Thank you again for honoring me with your free time.
Best wishes to you,