GeekySoundCat: Jen's actions would be OOC, except she revealed that particular secret to Tracey and Luna, the two people without the name Black she trusts most. Those two girls didn't have much in the way of friendships before Jen came along (for various reasons), and so they won't screw their best friend over.

jadesabrexiv: I don't think it's a spoiler at this point to say Jen's going to win the next Task : ) I have not read Temporal Beacon, though it's funny that that author and I both came up with a wandless duel as a Task. Yes, Fleur will pull out her Veela talents to snub the judges; now quit figuring out what the champions' strategies are! That's an interesting idea about the beater bats, which could very well be right considering your evidence. However, since Jen has already said she doesn't care about quidditch, that plan would be very unlikely to cross her mind. Burning out the Elder Wand would not be a good thing, for reasons I have yet to reveal.

wordhammer: While Jen is arrogant, being able to do the "impossible" would prompt a lot of questions that she can't safely answer. The smart thing would have been to leave once she had satisfied her curiosity, but I don't want to portray her as completely heartless. Ingrid is straight; I'm trying to stay away from the trap of putting every character and their neighbor in a homosexual relationship.

Word of the Chapter: backfire – to fail to have the desired or expected effect.

Disclaimer: Did any of the Hogwarts professors ever check how Harry was dealing with the epic tragedy that was his life? If not, I don't own the Harry Potter franchise; it belongs to J.K. Rowling, Scholastic Press, Warner Bros., and whoever else she sold the rights to.


Chapter 21
All Roads Lead to Hell

The next Thursday, Pomona Sprout clapped her hands together, pulling her students from the Evanescent Poppy seedlings they were trying – and failing – to repot. The plants had a maddening tendency to temporarily phase out of tangibility at the exact moment one interacted with them physically or magically, and even moving the surface they were on caused them to fall through it to the ground better than half the time. Beyond straining the adolescents' patience, much to her amusement, this behavior also explained why two of the three apothecaries in Knockturn Alley sold Muggle opium instead of the magical variety.

A pity that so many students were quick to dismiss the wonder of her class.

"Now that I have your attention, I have a wonderful announcement to make. In just two and a half weeks is the Yule Ball," she paused so the inevitable whispers could run their course, "a traditional part of the Triwizard Tournament. This event is open to all students in the fourth year or above, but younger years may attend if invited. The ball will start with dinner at eight o'clock on Christmas day and will run to midnight. Dress robes must be appropriate; I do not want to see anyone embarrassing our school by wearing indecent attire. Does anyone have any questions? Yes, Miss Bulstrode."

"What about those of us who want to go but already made other plans?" the bulky girl asked, gaining nods of agreement from several other students. "We will be a week into our winter break by then."

The professor smiled at the poorly concealed motive. "Don't worry, we are not keeping you from any Solstice traditions your families may have. Madam Rosmerta has offered use of the Three Broomsticks's fireplace for students traveling to and from, and the Express will be running on the twenty-fourth and twenty-seventh for those who don't have access to a Floo."

Murmurs of approval rippled through the mixed Ravenclaws and Slytherins. Those two houses held all the Dark and a healthy chunk of the old Neutral families, groups which were far more likely to follow druidic practices than those that made up Hufflepuff or Gryffindor. She personally had no problems with that, though she knew Minerva and Albus felt differently.

"Anyone else? No? All right, then. Homework is a twelve-inch essay on the proper care and handling of today's plant, due next week. Dismissed." The children noisily gathered their things, forcing her to loudly add, "Miss Black, if you could stay behind for a moment?"

A minute later, the two were alone. "Yes, Professor?"

"I have two things I wanted to discuss with you. First, it is customary for the champions and their partners to open the ball. I don't know what your plans were…"

"This year is the first time the entire family could be together for Christmas," the girl said softly. "But with the Floo, it wouldn't be too much of a hassle to come back on the twenty-fifth and leave the next morning. The first dance isn't going to be something complicated like the tango, is it?"

Pomona chuckled at the faint worry in Miss Black's voice. "No, no, just a basic waltz. The first hour will be traditional dances, then we'll let you students party away until the end. You are only required to be part of the opening if dancing isn't something you enjoy." Privately, she hoped it was; it always distressed her how closed off the Ravens were.

"I don't know; the only exposure I've had to it was my aunts teaching me this summer. I'll give it a try, though. You said there were two things?"

"Yes." She flashed a small, warm smile, one meant to ease the transition into her next topic. "I was wondering how you were doing."

"Professor?"

"You seemed quieter today. Normally you're much more lively, even if this isn't your favorite class." She shook her head as Miss Black opened her mouth to deny that. "I don't mind, my dear; I understand that just because I love Herbology doesn't mean everyone else does. Is something the matter?"

"No, I… it's…" The girl sighed. "Honestly, I think I'm just homesick. After three years of private tutors, Hogwarts is a very different experience. It's fun, don't get me wrong, but with seeing my family last weekend after the First Task…"

She nodded sympathetically. "I understand how you feel. My family couldn't afford to send me here until my third year, and I think I cried every night for a month straight from missing them. Not to say money was the issue you had, of course."

"Of course," the brunette replied, a sad smile on her lips. "It was safer, for many reasons, that I didn't attend while Sirius was still in Azkaban or a fugitive. While I do enjoy being here, it doesn't change me missing him and my aunts. It will be good to spend more than a few hours with them."

"I'm sure it will. Well, unless you want to be late for your next class, I suggest you hurry on out. Have a good day, Miss Black," Pomona said, doing all she could not to crow in triumph for cracking the girl's shell a tiny bit. She knew she didn't have to, but she considered it a personal duty to make herself available for all students, not just her Badgers.


Jen sighed, happy to be out of the greenhouses. She had heard about Sprout's tendency to treat the entire school like Hufflepuffs, but this was the first time she had had a front-row seat. Still, she couldn't find it in herself to be too upset; annoying though it might be, she knew the Professor was doing it with the best of intentions.

Even if that was what paved the road to hell.

"Jen!" She turned to Tracey as the Slytherin walked up, followed by a boy she vaguely remembered being pointed out to her. "I know you two haven't formally met, but I'd like to introduce my housemate Blaise Zabini. Zabini, this is Jen Black."

"A lady who needs no introduction," Zabini said, charm oozing out his velvety voice. "It is a pleasure to finally make your acquaintance."

He certainly looks like a dishy specimen with that tanned skin, if I do say so myself. How could Tracey have kept this hunk hidden away like that? That selfish little bitch.

Jen mentally blinked. Wait a minute… Throwing up the barrier she used when around Delacour, she forced herself not to growl as the attraction instantly vanished. What is it with people trying to turn me into a dog in heat?

"The pleasure is all mine," she said, her tone only slightly stiff.

"And classy as well. Would it be too much to assume that you are, at the moment, without an escort to the Yule ball?"

She shook her head. "Considering that we found out about it only a few minutes ago?"

"True," he laughed. "Then would you do me the great honor of allowing me to accompany you?"

The only thing that stopped her from rejecting his offer outright was Tracey's frantically nodding head. Snarling internally, she instead purred, "I suppose I could decorate your arm for one night. Should you be properly attentive, I might not even badmouth you too badly afterwards." She slipped just inside his mind and called up a good measure of lust and embarrassment. So you want to play at seducing me? Brat, you have no idea who you're dealing with.

He shuddered slightly before pulling himself back together. "I thank you for your graciousness. Might I know the colors of your dress? It would not do for us to clash."

"Not at all," she rejoined, tweaking his emotions further. "Midnight blue with silver accents. I take it that will not offend your Slytherin pride and style."

"It will not," he said, a faint blush heating his cheeks. With a muttered, "Good day," he sped to the castle as fast as could be considered appropriate.

Tracey snickered. "Wow, that's the most awkward I've ever – Hey!"

Snapping her fingers to cast an avoidance charm around them, she pulled her – now debatably – best friend to the side of the greenhouse. "Mind explaining why you were so insistent on setting me up with the little kochma?"

"First, I don't understand what you just said, but I bet it was something nasty," Tracey stated calmly. "Second, I was helping you. Lady Zabini, his mother, is one of the rising movers-and-shakers of the Neutral Families, and he's her eldest child and only son. If you can establish a cordial relationship with him now—"

"Then I won't be kicking myself should I need something later when we're Lord Zabini and Lady Black. What businesses are his family involved in that makes them so valuable?" she asked with a sigh.

"No one knows."

Jen cocked her head. "You're joking, right?"

"I wish I was. If you believe the rumors, most of his mother's political power comes from the blackmail she spends her time gathering. Between that, her charisma, and her fortune, she can sway a lot of the minor Neutrals when she wants to."

"Has she ever wanted to?"

Tracey leaned against the wall. "According to my uncle, yes. Mostly it's about creature/being laws, but she's thrown her support to some other bills that were proposed by people who sided with her. Normal give-and-take, that sort of thing."

"I wonder," she murmured, her suspicions strengthening. "You said she has a fortune. How did she get it if she has no footholds in industry? Surely it can't be solely old money."

"Ah, er… There's the rub. She has a bit of a reputation as a black widow. She's married five or six wealthy wizards since she immigrated here about a decade ago, and all of them died under suspicious circumstances. The DMLE was never able to find any evidence that she killed them, but that only leant more credence to the blackmail rumors."

Jen's worry strengthened. "Tracey, did all those men happen to die of sudden multiple organ failure? Almost like their insides had aged decades in the span of days?"

"Er, yeah," the other girl responded, her voice full of confusion. "How did you know?"

"I know because that's the hallmark of a lethal succubus feeding. A succubus whose son you arranged to escort me to the Yule ball. A son who, based on his age, I believe is just now coming into his hunger and powers and will therefore have little to no control over them." She took a deep breath and let it out in a rush to calm down; the greenhouses were a terrible place to commit grisly murder. Sometimes I hate being right.

Tracey's mouth dropped open. "A succubus? Here? They were chased out of the country over two centuries ago!"

"Chased out to where, though? Italy, perhaps, the only Ministry in Europe that's stupid enough to give them a protected minority status? The name Zabini should have been your first clue."

"Are you sure?" asked the girl with a shiver. "I mean, not that I don't trust you, but that's a pretty serious accusation to be throwing around without proof."

Jen ground her teeth. "Proof like him bypassing my mental shields and slipping thoughts into my head? Thoughts that stopped when I raised a barrier that repels Veela Allure? Thoughts that were about how attractive he looked even though I can't bloody see?!"

"Okay, okay, let's say he is a new incubus like you're saying. How much danger are we in?"

"The question isn't will someone die, but when and how many."

"Oh, Merlin," the Slytherin gasped. Her doubts gone, or at least overpowered by her self-preservation instincts, she asked, "What are we going to do?"

"You aren't going to do a thing. I will have a chat with him at the ball about his dining habits, specifically where he will be taking said meals," she stated firmly. Elsie had taught her a great deal about succubi and incubi, which were plentiful in Haiti. In fact, Voodoo witches and wizards were some of the only ones who knew spells that could grievously or even mortally wound them without putting any spectators in danger. "Keep this to yourself until then. Do you normally interact with him in your dorms?"

Tracey shook her head rapidly.

"Good. Stay as far away from him as you can. The last thing I want is for you to get turned into a bargaining chip should this all go south."


"Are you sure this is a good idea?"

Finch-Fletchley glanced over at Tracey. "You've seen how Jen's been acting lately. Something caused her to be upset and angry, and what kind of friends would we be if we didn't try to get to the bottom of it?"

"The anger is mostly my fault. I made a decision without some important information, and now she has to deal with the consequences," she muttered with a grimace. The others looked at her in curiosity, but she turned her head away. "That's all I'll say about it."

"That still doesn't explain why she's depressed," commented Bones.

Patil and Finch-Fletchley nodded, joined shortly by Kenneth. Morag, the only one in the room Tracey had known before Hogwarts, gnawed a fingernail for a moment. "Maybe we should wait for her to tell us herself. I mean, it could be that something happened recently and she just hasn't come to terms with it all yet."

"She's been like this for four days. If it's big enough that she's still processing, it's big enough that she doesn't need to deal with it alone." Patil sighed and turned back to the door. "Besides, she may not want our help, but we should still offer it to her."

The lone Slytherin fidgeted as she leaned against a wall. Considering how private Jen was, this had the potential to blow up in their faces big time. And I really don't want her mad at me again so soon. Before she could start pacing, she heard Lovegood's voice.

"…and maybe we'll even find pickled ringrats!" The dazed-looking blonde opened the door and practically shoved the raven-haired girl inside. "Or possibly just some concerned friends."

Jen was still for a moment before turning to the younger Claw. "How much of that spiel did you make up to distract me?"

"Well, I've never heard of someone turning ringrats into pickles," Lovegood hedged, "and encountering moonswallows was a possibility, just a very, very tiny one."

"Of course, you and your word games." Jen faced the rest of them. "Anyone willing to explain why you brought me here?"

Bones cleared her throat. "Er, we're all worried about you. I mean, um, you've been quiet and… and…"

"Withdrawn," Patil suggested.

"Yeah. Is… is there something we can do to help?"

Jen muttered something under her breath. Louder, she said, "Thank you, all of you, for your concern. However, this is something I need to deal with on my own. I've been withdrawn, as you put it, because I wanted the solitude. Allow me a few days in peace, please."

She walked to the door, only for Lovegood to move in the way. "Please, Jen. We just want you to feel better."

"And you'll do that best by stepping away from the door."

"Are a few more days really going to solve it?" Finch-Fletchley asked. "We've all watched you, and you're just getting sadder and sadder. Maybe it's time you let us in to help."

"No."

Kenneth spoke next. "Look, we understand that it's painful and probably personal, but talking about it will make you feel better."

"I said no. Luna, move."

"You don't have to do this alone," Morag added timidly. She, like Tracey, apparently realized this wouldn't end well; she just wasn't smart enough to keep her mouth shut.

The subject of their entreaties whirled around and screamed, "Dammit, what part of NO don't you understand?! I don't want to talk about it; not to you, or you, or you!"

"You're angry, we get that, but there's nothing you can say that will make us go away."

"Nothing I can say?" Jen repeated to Patil's statement. "You want to know what's wrong? You want me to pour out my sorrows so you can wipe them away like a child's tears? You have no clue what you want!" She turned to Tracey. "Are you going to throw in your bloody opinion, too?"

The girl raised her hands. "I tried to tell them this was a bad idea. I'm just here to help you get rid of the bodies."

"Smart girl. Why don't the rest of you follow her lead and bugger off."

"Because we're your friends," Finch-Fletchley said proudly, "and friends don't abandon friends when they're hurting."

"I don't need or want your 'help'."

Kenneth cleared his throat. "You may not want it, but you clearly need it. Consider this an intervention."

Rattling pulled Tracey's attention away from the argument. Her eyes widened; the door, the wall sconces, and the window frame were shaking like the school was in the middle of an earthquake. She whimpered as she remembered the power Jen wielded and worried that there might truly be bodies lying around by the end of this.

As suddenly as the noise had started, it stopped. A sick smile slid onto Jen's features, and when she spoke, her voice was far too sweet. "An intervention? Well then, since you all are so adamant, I'll tell you a story. This is what you want, yes?" The brunette faced all of them individually, and everyone, even Tracey, nodded slowly.

"Once upon a time, there was a baby girl who was born in a time of war. The girl's mother, concerned for her daughter's safety because she was a soldier, took the baby girl and put her in the hands of a couple who were not involved. 'Take care of her', she said, and went back to the battlefield. The war ended a little over a year later, but the mother did not return.

"Years passed, and the couple had a son, the apple of their eye. 'Why should we continue to care for this girl?' the father asked his wife one day. 'We have our own boy, a child we wanted rather than one forced upon us.' The mother agreed, and so the father took the little girl to a big city. 'Begone, brat!' he yelled, throwing her out of the carriage. 'You have been a curse on my family since you came into our lives, and I will not stand for it any longer!' With that, the father urged the horses back to his house and left the girl standing there, alone and afraid in the winter snow.

"A few nights after she was abandoned, the little girl was searching for a place to stay warm and sleep when four trolls entered the alley. Not looking, one stumbled and fell to the ground. 'Who did that?!' he yelled before he saw her. 'You tripped me on purpose, you little chit!' His companions grew angry as well at the slight, and the girl, scared of the giant beasts approaching her, turned tail and ran. She ran, and ran, and ran, but finally she could run no longer. She collapsed on the ground, thinking she was safe, that the trolls must have lost interest by now.

"But it was not to be, and a minute later the monsters approached her, even angrier for the chase she had led them on. 'She needs to be punished,' said the first troll. 'Let's carve her open,' suggested the second. 'Let's throw her off a bridge,' added the third. 'Let's roast her and eat her,' said the last.

"The first troll, who was the leader of the four, cut them off. 'All good ideas, my brothers, but I have a better one. Let us use her, for I have not been with a woman in months. Let's teach her how to respect her betters.'"

Tracey paled as she heard those words; looking around, she saw that the others had similar expressions of horror. Turning back to Jen, who had walked to the window during the tale, she gulped. She hoped, she prayed, that her suspicions were wrong.

Jen took a deep breath and continued, her voice now flat. "So the trolls threw her against the wall and ripped away her tattered garb. Heedless of the little girl's screams, they forced themselves inside her; when they were each finished, they snapped her arms and left her in the snow, laughing as they walked away. And for the first time in her short life, the little girl whole-heartedly wished for death."

Lovegood cried out a loud sob before rushing to the brunette's side, wrapping her in a tight embrace. Tracey was right behind her, and that was the signal for the others to mob their pained friend.

"Thank…" Jen sniffed, pulling a hand out of the blonde's grasp to brush tears from her cheeks. "Thankfully, the trolls' actions had not gone unnoticed. An old woman, a witch, came to investigate the commotion. She carried the little girl's broken body to her house for healing, and after discovering that the girl had a talent for her arts, she taught the child what magic she knew. The little girl grew into a young woman, and shortly after the old witch died, a rich lord came to the house. 'I am your cousin,' he said, 'and I have searched for you long and hard since the king released me from his dungeon. Come with me; let me bring you back to your family where you belong.' The young woman took his hand, at last hopeful that even she could have a happily ever after."

Her 'fairy tale' ended, Jen broke down in their arms.

As her best friend cried against her shoulder, Tracey reflected on what they had heard. Of all of them, she was the only one who knew that the first part was a lie, even if the rest rang of terrible truth; Jen had been born to the Potters, not a single woman. The Black heiress hated that fact, though, so it wasn't too surprising that she would twist the story to hide her real parentage. Tracey was curious about who the 'couple' and 'trolls' were, but she was too ashamed to voice the question. As she had tried to tell the others, Jen would share her secrets in her own time, and they just had to deal with it. Especially if all of them are this bad. We crossed a line today; there is no excuse for making her relive that. I just hope she can find it in herself to give us another chance, she thought, tightening her grip.

Several minutes later, Jen shuddered and pulled herself out of the circle. Her voice was soft as she explained, "I have not told you this because I want your pity or to be treated like a china doll. Instead, I need you to understand that I bear secrets; some are minor, some are painful, some have been entrusted to me, and some I am oathbound to keep. Forcing me to reveal them is not only disrespectful in the extreme, it could also place my magic or even my life in jeopardy. If you are truly my friends, trust me enough to decide on my own whether or not I need help with my problems." She walked back to the door and opened it.

"Jen," Kenneth said, stopping her from leaving. "I'm really sorry for what we did, and I don't mean to hurt you more, but I have to ask… When?"

"Eight years ago tomorrow."

The door's quiet click caused them to wince as if it had been slammed shut. After a moment, Tracey stepped back and looked each of them in the eyes. "We don't breathe a word of this to anyone. Not our parents, not our other friends, not our diaries. It doesn't leave this room."

"I, Luna Lovegood, pledge on my magic never to share any information learned from Jen Black in this room today with anyone. So mote it be." The flash of light ensured everyone was looking at the girl. "Jen would never ask it of us, but she deserves it considering how we treated her." The others nodded silently and followed suit.


Lily Potter nervously smoothed her robes again as she watched the Hogwarts Express stop. James had told her about his last 'talk' with their daughter, though calling it that was stretching the meaning of the word. 'Fiasco' was probably more accurate.

All because the idiot can't keep his ego under control, she thought harshly. Threatening Jenny was not the way to start a relationship with her, especially not after abandoning her for over a decade. And it was abandonment. Our intentions were good when we put her with Petunia, but all we did was give my vile sister a surrogate to take her hate out on.

After Danny had left for school, she had finally gathered her Gryffindor courage and journeyed to Little Whinging. Sirius's words and her own encounter with Jenny had echoed in her skull for over six weeks by then, and though she did not want to believe her sister would be so petty as to mistreat her innocent little girl to get back at her, she had to know for sure. To her shock and disgust, she had not needed the Veritaserum she had brewed for the occasion; Petunia actually took some sadistic pleasure from describing in horrific detail just how much abuse they had heaped on her daughter's shoulders. Giving her unrealistic chores and extreme punishments, praising their son every time he beat her up, locking her in a cupboard, and at the end, dumping her in London like so much trash…

How could Jenny not hate her parents for the nightmare they had sent her to?

In hindsight, I can't believe we made such an enormous blunder. Danny couldn't have been responsible for all the accidental magic when they were younger. It's strange that Professor Dumbledore's spells showed her as a squib, but he is getting old; a wavering upstroke with his wand, and who knows what the results would be? She sighed. But it was ultimately our fault. We thought that giving her to Petunia would let her have a normal life, one where she wouldn't be looked down on as a second-class citizen because she couldn't use magic. Maybe it's a good thing I can't have another child…

Students were now exiting the train, shaking Lily from her reflection. She glanced about the platform and easily spotted her target's head bobbing above the younger children's; even with access to the Express and Floo, few students old enough to attend the Yule ball had decided to return home for break. Molly Weasley had griped to her for almost an hour on how none of her children were coming back, and though she could do without the fellow redhead's endless complaints, she was equally disappointed that Danny didn't want to spend Christmas with his family. He hadn't the last two years, either.

She approached the contingent of Blacks quickly, uncaring if doing so revealed her desperation. "How are you, Sirius?" she asked, a weak smile accompanying her greeting.

He glared at her. "What do you want?"

"I was actually hoping to have a quick word with…" What do I call her? James had passed on their daughter's warning; the last thing Lily wanted to do was cause strife before the conversation actually started. This was also why she was following all the backwards Pureblood rules concerning public conversations even though Jenny was right there. Suppressing her distaste for the unfeeling term, she finished "…with your scion."

"No."

The denial came not from Sirius, but Narcissa Malfoy. Andromeda Tonks continued, "One conversation with your husband was quite enough interaction with your family for our tastes."

Lily grimaced but nodded. "That was one of the things I wished to discuss. Just a couple of minutes, please." She gave him a pleading gaze for several seconds, and eventually he caved, just as she knew he would. He had never been able to deny a damsel in distress, at least not unless he was in a towering rage.

"Fine, but no longer than that, and you will do it here with us present."

Flashing him a thankful smile and ignoring the other women's contemptuous faces, she turned to Jenny. She was almost grateful for the girl's strange hairstyle, for it meant that she did not have to look at the blindfold she had seen in Flourish and Blott's that summer, a reminder of how her daughter had suffered due to her stupidity. "It is good to see you again, Miss Black."

"I am hesitant to say the same, Lady Potter." Though the impersonal address hurt her, just as James had warned, the greeting was considerably warmer than that they had exchanged previously.

And it took nothing more than giving her some space. There was a reason the Sorting Hat had debated between Gryffindor and Ravenclaw when she was under it: unlike James, she was capable of learning from past mistakes. If Jenny said that she did not want them to call her by her first name yet, Lily wouldn't; if she preferred her adopted surname, Lily could accept that. After all, they weren't really repairing a relationship with her; she didn't know them. They had to build one from the ground up.

She smiled lightly, then remembered that Jenny couldn't see it. "First, congratulations on how you completed the First Task of the Tournament. Having the skill and power to kill a dragon at your age is incredible." The girl inclined her head at the praise, likely the most Lily would get. Still, that she hadn't rejected it lifted Lily's hopes for some progress being made today. "Second, I want to apologize for my husband's words. While it was not his intention, that does not change the fact that he offended you."

"It is quite easy to offend when one does not take reality into account before speaking."

Aaaand right back down. "Indeed, and I will strive to correct that flaw in him. He and I also need to apologize for our… earlier mistakes with you." She paused a moment, and when no explosion seemed imminent, continued, "I know there is no way we can ever make it up—"

"No, you cannot. That ship sailed long ago." Jenny crossed her arms and tilted her head in perfect mimicry of a glare. "Do you have more to say, Lady Potter?"

She shook her head, saddened by her daughter's cold tone and even more that she and James deserved every bit of it. Baby steps, baby steps. Realizing that the invitation to Godric's Hollow she had planned to offer would obviously not be taken well, she took a metaphorical and physical step back. "Not at this time. Have a merry Christmas."

Jenny's lips twitched a moment. "And to you." She turned away and started toward the Floo terminals, followed quickly by the remaining three Blacks. Sighing in disappointment but amazed at how well her daughter had adapted to her disability, Lily walked to the Apparation point. There wasn't any yelling or undeserved insults; that's something, I guess. Maybe next time will be better.

If she had seen the sneer marring the girl's face, she would not have held such hope.


Stubborn teenage idiots. Just so there's no confusion, Jen revealed a painful and personal secret to protect the ones that could have her imprisoned or executed. After this, her friends – and she does consider them friends – will be wary of pushing too far, especially since she implied some are protected by Unbreakable Vows. To make a chess analogy, she sacrificed her rook to kill her opponent's queen; costly, but still advantageous.

Several chapters ago, I promised conflicts between Jen and Lily; unfortunately, now that an opportunity has arrived, my muse just won't put out. I think part of the problem is that I like Lily, always have.

Silently Watches out.