Two Young Eyes to Guide Me
A HariPo oneshot
Note: The Harry Potter characters belong to J.K. Rowling, not me. This pairing was discovered by me, so please gimme a little mention if you write them! Thanks! It is one of many of Mew and Mor's Weird Pairings, most of which you may find in the M&MWP forum. Check out and join the forum FUN! Read, review, and enjoy! This is a SEQUEL: It follows the sixth Jamestin oneshot, "Trial By Fire."
For Jess, Searlupe, Lovisa, and Jo. You guys put Jamestin first, just as I do. ;D
Also, like the previous story, this oneshot is quite long… Time will fly by as you read, but prepare yourself! You'll be glued to your computer screen. :}
James patted his rucksack as he entered Ollivander's store in Diagon Alley. He hummed to himself, thinking that today…today would be a great day at work. He would make sure of that.
Ollivander spied him heading into the back, where the workshop was. The old man put down a wand he was inspecting. "You're in an awfully good mood today, Mr. Potter."
The eldest son of Harry Potter grinned. "I think you will be, too, Mr. Ollivander."
"And why is that?" his mentor asked as James placed his bag in his chair and opened it up.
"Because…of this," James replied. He withdrew from his bag a piece of thick, folded velvet. However, it looked to be glowing, and the glow was explained as James revealed what the velvet hid: a large chunk of unrefined ruby.
Ollivander raised a curious eyebrow. "What are you planning on doing with that, Mr. Potter?"
"Remember my idea? To vary wand creations even more by switching up the carving materials from time to time?" James polished the ruby chunk a bit and turned it over in his hands. As he did so, Ollivander could see that there was a sharp edge to it. "I can finally whittle with something besides my titanium-and-steel knife."
The elderly wizard rubbed his chin and held his hand out for it. "Very interesting… Rubies are known for protection…but they are not the hardest of gems…"
James nodded. "I know. I won't be able to do more than maybe one or two wands with it. But they'll be unique, all right."
"How did you come across it?"
James' grin grew, if that was possible. "My uncle, Bill, gave it to me. He found it in Egypt while on the job and, once the goblins checked it and decided there were more expensive things to possess, they allowed him to keep it."
"So he gave it to you instead of selling it?" Ollivander smiled a little himself. "And so the Weasley–Potter clan continues to surprise me."
The comment made James' heart light. It was true. James' family could still be surprising. After all he had been through since he had fallen in love with Justin, James had never imagined that he'd be where he was today. Turmoil with his immediate family had momentarily left him estranged with much of his extended family. But it turned out that a wedding could pretty much fix that, so now many of the Weasleys and Potters were fine with (or at least adjusted to) him being James Sirius Potter Finch-Fletchley. The only one who refused to fall in line with the rest was James' brother, Al, but that would be a story for another time. After all, ruby daggers didn't come around all that often.
"Take it easy and slow with the dagger," Ollivander said, interrupting James' thoughts. "The wand or wands you make with it will be exceptional." He returned to his own task at hand, leaving James to get right down to work.
And James knew exactly where to start. There had been a design sitting in the back of his mind, sitting on the bottom of his pile of sketches for a few months now, ever since he had thought about switching up his choice of carving materials. Of course, he still had to carve the wand's base and insert a core…but hey, he had time.
Most of the day flew by as James carved the new wand. At one point, he paused to switch things up and mark another wand that was almost done with astronomy symbols. He paused again when the sun was going down to catch a late lunch. Good thing Justin wasn't there to chide him for eating late.
Up the street was the Leaky Cauldron, owned by one of Justin's best mates…and someone who didn't quite like James. James had long ago given up on Hannah ever liking him, though things had gotten better with her. She was not above playing jokes on him, as the Potter had discovered when he'd asked for advice about meeting Justin's parents and she'd told him to do the opposite of what he really should have. But at least she wasn't going to hex him with his back turned, and she didn't poison the food she served him, either.
"Hardly working?" the blonde witch asked when James came to sit down at the counter. Her smile might've looked sweet to others, but to a trained eye it was definitely venomous.
James lifted an eyebrow. "Um, I think the question goes something like, 'Working hard or hardly working?'"
"I know what I said."
He sighed. "Please, Hannah. I'd just like a sandwich. Oh! And one of those butterbeer floats—that was a delicious idea you had." He grinned, finding it amusing that she tried to glare at him with red cheeks.
"Little git… Flattery will get you nowhere. I know how much you'd like your lunches to be free," Hannah remarked as she bustled about the cooking area.
"Hey! I pay," he whined.
James stuck his tongue out at her when her back was turned, but he knew this was an okay day with her…after all, he hadn't done anything to piss her off lately. Happy at that thought, the wizard swiveled around on the barstool and took in the sight of the pub. He didn't go there every day for lunch, but he went often enough. He knew some of the permanent residents, even: the man with the thinning crown of silver-grey hair reading a book at the middle round table was Kenneth Mallow, who had been here since before even the first war; the middle-aged witch and wizard at the window were the Hollistons, former Healers who had made a bad business venture and now would probably never leave London; and then there was the man known as Cooper, who had so many crazy Death Eater stories that it was hard not to laugh (not to mention that Minister Shacklebolt and Harry himself had looked into the bloke, who had most certainly never been a Dark wizard—he was just senile).
But someone new caught James' attention. In one of the booths to the side, one of the booths away from the windows, one of them that had little light…was a little girl. James thought that because she certainly looked younger than Lily, and his sister was entering her sixth year. But this girl was very young. She was disheveled-looking, with messy hair that reached her shoulders and a gray shirt and brown pants that were much too baggy for her. She was minding her own business, taking her time sipping a glass of ice water. No one was with her—at the moment. James figured that whoever she was with would probably return to the table soon.
James faced the counter again in time for Hannah to place a plate in front of him. "Ah, thanks. Hey, wait—what about the float?"
"It's coming, it's coming!" Hannah threw up her hands as though she was ready to give up. Maybe she should, with Ernie, Justin, and James around…!
Work was steady and life was good for James and Justin. It had only been a few months since their wedding ceremony to appease Justin's mother, but things were back to normal for the couple. Actually, things were better than normal, now that James' family was mostly on his side once again. It was one of many reasons why he walked nearly everywhere with a smile on his face.
Even when he went to the Leaky Cauldron a few times on and off for a month and still saw that girl there, his smile didn't fade. There probably was no need to get curious about matters that were out of his hands. Besides, the girl was probably a new permanent resident with some family member. And there was nothing to worry about, right? He didn't see her there every time he went for lunch…it was just most of the time.
Hannah followed his line of sight one day and pointed her chin in the girl's direction. "Curious about her?"
"No," he lied.
Hannah gave him a look. "It's fine if you are."
"The last thing I need is to stir up any more drama in my life. Way too much has happened."
"I'm curious about her, too."
That got his attention, and he looked at the woman. "What? Why?"
"I've no idea who she is, of course."
"What? Then why is she here?"
"It's a free country, James. She can come in and rest as much as any other person."
He furrowed his brow. "So…she's not staying here?"
"Heavens no," Hannah replied. "She comes in here on her own and asks for water. I've tried to be polite and very gentle, but I've never even gotten a name from her. Obviously she's magical or has magical family, because she has stressed before that she doesn't like gillywater or butterbeer."
James nodded. "Huh." The two of them watched her for a little bit until she started to turn her head their way. When she looked at them, they quickly acted as though they'd never seen her.
"I've never had this happen before," Hannah whispered to him. The girl was still looking their way.
"An orphan…or runaway. Whatever she is." Hannah sighed and picked up an empty mug and cleaned it out with a rag; James had noticed she often did that when she was bothered. "I mean, what do I do in this kind of situation?"
James shrugged. "Dunno… Call Dad?"
Hannah gave him a look. "You really think Harry could do something?"
"Well, he's essentially a policeman, isn't he? And it's a policeman's duty to ensure a child's welfare. I could get Aunt Hermione instead, if you want."
Hannah pointed to the front door, which James saw swing shut. "Because it doesn't matter now. She's gone." The witch frowned. "Maybe she overheard us…"
James tried to give her an encouraging smile. "Well, we aren't the bad guys here. We're just two concerned citizens. Besides…" He glanced at the front door again. "I have a feeling she'll be back."
"I never thought I'd say it…but I'll be glad to see the last of the Weasleys and Potters," Justin said as he and James crashed by the lakeside on the first warm weekend of September.
James snorted. "What's that supposed to mean?"
The professor shook off his cloak and spread it out behind them. He leaned back on the ground as he explained. "Come on, James. There've been almost ten years of just your lot. Not to mention that I grew up knowing your parents' generation. And…" He tugged on James' arm so that the younger wizard lay beside him.
"Justin…! At school, seriously?"
Justin smirked as answer. "Anyway, I imagine there will be many more Weasleys and Potters to come, as well as Malfoys and Scamanders…"
James pouted. "No more Finch-Fletchleys, though."
"Eh, we'll get a dog, if we must."
"Not a cat?"
"You're the cat, luv." Justin chuckled at his own remark. "But think about it. You're part of my family now, but I'm also a part of yours. Your siblings and cousins will grow up and have their own lives, too. It would just be nice to have a break for a little bit from seeing any of you at my workplace as well as at home."
"Git!" James smacked him in the arm as Justin laughed. "Laugh all you want, but you've got one more year after this with Lils, Hugo, Louis, Lucy, Freddie, and Roxie."
Justin sighed dramatically. "I know, I know…" He pecked James' forehead. "But I've at least got a lifetime with you."
"You really can be such a smooth talker, Jus… Does anyone else know you've got a playboy personality hiding behind that boy-next-door one?"
"You're the only one lucky enough to know."
"Good Merlin…" James sighed and rested his head on Justin's chest. He drew circles on Justin's chest near the buttons of his shirt. "Y'know…sometimes I feel as though I'll wake up and I'll find out that none of this is real."
"I know the feeling." The older man was quiet for a few beats. "But, it is real. Don't we deserve that? For it to be real? After all the shit that's hit the fan?"
"Why must you laugh every time I curse?"
"Because it rarely happens!"
Justin let him laugh it out, but he pursed his lips. "About what you said, no more Finch-Fletchleys… You know I'm all right with that, right, James?"
James cleared his throat. "I know."
"It was one of the things we talked about before even the handfasting. But you were the one who raised the question." Justin sat up and looked down into James' eyes. "Are you all right with that?"
James closed his eyes and gave it some thought—not that he hadn't done so before. He'd thought about it a lot, actually. "…I think I am," he replied truthfully.
Justin breathed a sigh of relief and bent down to kiss him. Too bad they were near the castle, though. James felt he could've done with some "private times." But, alas, life goes on.
Time spent with Justin and work kept James' mind occupied and his days busy, so he did not get around to the pub as often as before. But October rolled in, and with it came ease as his workload lightened up.
When he walked into the Leaky Cauldron, he had that old smile on his face again, until he saw Hannah. "It's been a while," she said with her mouth in a straight line.
"Now what did I do?" he asked as he sat down.
"It's nothing you did. Though it has been a while." She gestured behind her. "Guess who's back?"
James turned—and there she was, that little girl. Only now she had a flannel shirt over her gray shirt. "Had she been missing?"
"Not really. She came here more often than you did."
They watched her for a minute, and then James faced Hannah. "You know what? I'll still have lunch today."
Hannah gave him a confused look. "As if you come here for my sparkling wit."
"I meant, I'll have it over there," James said, and he pointed at the booth with the girl.
The owner nodded her understanding as James left and walked across the room. He slid into the seat across from the girl and moved as though nothing was out of the ordinary.
"Hi," he said. "I'm James. You?" She said nothing, so he held out his hand for her to shake. She didn't take it.
Hannah walked over at that point. "Hey, James. Do you want your usual? Sandwich and butterbeer float, yeah?" She winked at him, hoping he'd catch on.
"You know…I think I'll take one of those half-roasts you sometimes make… With the gravy, and the peas, and the corn, and the carrots… And, oh yeah, the mashers." He made a satisfied sound as though he'd already taken a bite. "Yeah, I think that'd be good for today."
Hannah gave him a look. "Do you still want that float?" she said through gritted teeth.
"I'll be right back, then."
James returned his focus to the little girl. "Are you hungry? You can get something. I'm sure Hannah would be willing to feed you anything."
The girl shook her head, her eyes on the table.
"It's okay if you don't have money." He smiled gently. "My treat."
She glanced just a little at him before returning her gaze to the table.
Still, she wouldn't talk to him.
James shrugged and swallowed his defeated sigh. He wasn't looking to save anyone, but the girl looked a little lonely, which bothered him. The least he could do was try to make her smile, or something.
Hannah came back with a large plate and his drink, and she placed both items toward the middle of the table. They were still in front of James, but the items were also within the girl's reach. Hannah left without a word, but she did give James a cheering thumbs up.
He took his knife and fork in hand and worked slowly on cutting up the roast—dear Merlin, how could one person eat all of it?—and then he pushed the vegetables around on his plate. At last, he took a bite of the meat and potatoes. Boy, it really was amazing. "Wow," he said around his mouthful. "Are you sure you don't want some?"
The girl didn't shake her head, but her eyes were moving from the table to his plate. He saw her glance at the drink and scrunch up her nose; so, she really didn't like butterbeer. However, she was sorely tempted by his meal.
James ate some more and then feigned pain. "Oh, good Godric… I think I'm stuffed. There's just too much on that plate." He pushed the plate away from him, and the girl's eyes widened with hunger. "I don't think I could eat another bite."
It was as though he'd offered her a million Galleons. She jumped on the plate, sucking up everything on it like a vacuum in a very filthy room. She was oblivious to everything as long as there was food on the dish. Even when there was a clatter at the bar and James saw Hannah's face light up despite having dropped two mugs, the little girl only had eyes for the food. By the time she'd finished, James was only halfway through his drink. But at least now her eyes were on the nearly clean plate instead of on the table.
"That was good," he said.
"No, it was fantastic! I've never had anything like it!" the girl bubbled. She blushed when she realized that she was now looking James in the face.
He grinned. "Glad you liked it." He folded his arms on the table. "Are you sure you don't want anything else…?"
She made a face, but then she pouted. "J—Jacqueline."
James liked that. He thought it was a good name, but it was kind of funny to him, since his and Justin's names were J-names, too. Now that she was looking at him, he got a good look at her, too. She had pink skin, a round nose, thick eyebrows, and golden-brown eyes. Her messy hair was brown and looked as though it had grown uncontrollably from a boy's cut. Even sitting down, James could tell she was a little squirt; her arms were almost half the thickness of his.
"Thank you," she whispered.
He snapped out of his observation. "Oh, it was no problem. Good food is better in good company."
She blushed again. "I…am sorry for being rude earlier. I don't like to talk much."
He nodded. "It's fine, but—Jacqueline, where's your family?"
She tensed. Okay, so she probably wasn't going to answer that question.
"Do you have a last name?"
If she wasn't going to answer the family question, she definitely wasn't going to answer this one, either.
"How old are you?"
"Ten," she said hastily.
"Ah. You know you're almost of school age?"
She nodded. "Yes, of course! I really want to go to Hogwarts. Though…" Jacqueline frowned. "I've never shown any signs of magic." She looked desperately at him. "But I know I'm magical, I just know it! Both of my parents were magical, so I am, too."
James didn't want to mention her family again for fear of her shutting up, but his heart broke a little for her. Had no one ever told her about the existence of Squibs? Still, he wouldn't be the one to dash her hopes. Not when her eyes burned so defiantly at the prospect of going to a Wizarding school with other children like her.
"You must be a wizard, right?" Jacqueline asked.
"Of course." James withdrew his wand from his back pocket and put it on the table. He rattled off its stats as though he was in the shop and not in the Leaky Cauldron. "Larch, unicorn hair core, ten and a half inches, slightly springy."
Her eyes widened to the size of saucers, and it reminded James a bit of when Lily had been little. "Wow…!" She stared at him seriously. "Do all witches and wizards know so much about their wands?"
He laughed, a little pink in his cheeks. "Aha…no, not really. Plenty of people forget much besides the wood and maybe the core. Few recall the flexibility. Most would measure their wand with a ruler or measuring tape if they absolutely had to know the length."
She knit her brow together. "So how come you know so much?"
"I'm a wandwright—a wandmaker. I know a lot about wands. Definitely more than the average witch or wizard does."
Jacqueline was impressed. Her smile grew five times its previous size. "That's so cool."
James blushed. He'd never had anyone say that to him before. "Well…thank you." He cleared his throat. "So…you said you want to go to Hogwarts. Any idea what House you want?"
"Not Slytherin" was her immediate response, and she didn't care to elaborate. "And no," she added, "I don't know what I want to be when I grow up, either."
He pursed his lips, wondering what to say now. Absentmindedly, he looked to his watch, and he bit back a swear. He had to get back to the shop. He looked at Jacqueline. "Hey… I've got to get back to work."
Her face fell, but she didn't look as though she hadn't expected it. "Oh."
"Maybe we can eat together again soon?"
Her smile returned, though it was small. "Maybe."
"It was nice meeting you, Jacqueline."
"Nice meeting you, too…James."
"Waiting for you," Hannah said two days later. She'd said it the day before, too, and she would say it for another several days, as well. And each and every time, it meant that Jacqueline had shown up, waiting to see James again.
James paused. "Have you found out anything she likes?"
Hannah shook her head. "She won't talk to me."
"And she barely talks to me… I'll see if I can get her to pick something." He patted his stomach with half a smile. "I don't think I can take another roast right now."
Hannah chuckled, and James went and joined Jacqueline at the table. So far, besides her name, he'd learned that she loved the color purple, her favorite flower was the daisy, she loved the daytime, and she loved adventure. "Someday…I think I'll travel the world," she'd told him once, her eyes as big as ever.
"Good afternoon," James said today as he dropped into his spot across from her.
Jacqueline grinned. "Hi," she said sheepishly.
"I was wondering—would you like to try something else today?"
"Off the menu."
"Oh." She deliberated. "Um…"
When Hannah appeared, he simply ordered a second sandwich, the same as him. It avoided putting too much pressure on the little girl. "There," he said. "I think you'll like that. You seem to like everything I like."
She beamed at him.
"So…what would you like to talk about today?"
"I've done enough talking," Jacqueline answered.
"You barely talk."
She made a face at him. "Well, today I would like to hear about you."
He sat back in his seat. "All right, shoot."
"Tell me, about your family."
Ha! What to say? There was a lot to say. And no way could he say all of it in one sitting. He supposed he might as well get it over with and tell her about the Potters. But that was nice. She was young enough not to understand who his dad was; he could get by with saying that much of his family consisted of war heroes, but she was so young that it hadn't quite affected her and therefore it was not a top concern of hers. She liked hearing about Al and Lily, though.
"What's it like, having siblings?"
"You don't have any?" he asked.
She shook her head. "Now answer my question."
"Well…" James scratched his head. "I'm not sure how to describe it. They've always been around, so I've never given it much thought. Plus, being the oldest, I always had the responsibility of looking out for them. Al is two years younger than me, and Lily is four years younger. Though the gaps are small, sometimes they made all the difference." He smiled sadly. "Lily can come off as a hothead, but she's more reasonable than most people give her credit for. Al…" He closed his eyes, the scene replaying in his mind of his brother fleeing his wedding just so they didn't have to talk. It still hurt that Al had left his girlfriend, Calytrix Zabini, behind to talk to James in his stead. "Al is quiet but bloody stubborn. He's a good bloke, though."
Jacqueline eyed him. "Is something wrong with him?"
"No. Why do you ask?"
"You look like you're in pain," she remarked.
He frowned. "Well, I am a little hurt by how he's been acting for…wow, almost two years now." He hadn't realized so much time had passed.
"Is he being mean?"
James chuckled very slightly as her words. "Yeah, a bit. But I've not been the best role model for either of them, you see. I kept a secret from my family and, when it came out, Al was the most upset with me."
Jacqueline looked very concerned. "What about your mum and dad, and your sister?"
"Oh, they've forgiven me. Lily was the first in my immediate family to forgive me."
"Well, we're only the Potters. My mum's side of the family is the Weasley side, and there are a lot of Weasleys." He counted them off on his fingers, and by the time he was done both he and Jacqueline were laughing at how large the family was.
"You've got to tell me about them next time," she said once their meal was done. She'd grown accustomed to James' timed break, so she no longer appeared to get disappointed when he had to leave. After all, he almost always came back.
Jacqueline pointed to his left hand, where he wore a gold ring on his ring finger and a gold bangle on his wrist. "Next time…tell me about that family, too."
His face grew warm. "…sure." He got up and ruffled her hair before saying goodbye to both her and Hannah.
Back at the shop, Ollivander was at the counter. "I see you've been enjoying your lunch breaks, Mr. Potter."
"Yeah…I think I have." And that bloody smile returned to his face once again.
It was funny how, in only a few weeks, James had really come to like Jacqueline. She was a sweet kid and James liked her, even though he knew so little about her. There was something strong about her that made it seem as though she could make it by on her own. But there was also something about her that James saw as weak and in need of protection. He liked it when she sat beside him; it felt as though he could protect her like that.
She had started sitting beside him after he'd told her about Justin. It hadn't phased her, hearing about two men in love and married. But she was definitely in awe of James' love for Justin. "And it was only a few years ago when you fell for him?" Jacqueline asked.
James smirked. "This is the tenth time I've told you the story, Jacqueline. You already know that I've been with him for almost four years now."
"Five, if you count the year of friendship-turning-to-love," she reminded him cheekily.
He snorted with laughter. "Thanks for keeping tabs."
"Well, you obviously aren't, and someone should study this amazing love of yours!" She sighed happily. "That's the kind of love I'd like someday."
He raised an eyebrow. "Aren't you a little young to be thinking about boys?"
"Boys? Yuck, no! But I am going to be eleven in June, and doesn't time fly by? I'll be an adult in the eyes of the Wizarding world soon enough. Besides, a girl's allowed to dream." She stuck her tongue out at him.
"Oh, you little—!" James caught her in his arms and tickled her mercilessly. He'd never heard her laugh so hard.
"James," Hannah chided as she brought them fresh waters. "Careful—you'll break her."
He smirked. "Nah, this one's sturdy." He looked as Jacqueline grew quiet and clung to his arm in Hannah's presence. Ah. "Um, Jacqueline, it's okay to talk to Hannah."
Hannah had tried talking to her several times before, but the only one Jacqueline had grown close to in the least bit was James. But it was okay. Hannah knew rejection and knew how to handle it; she had split from Neville ages ago in time to see Neville get together with James' cousin, Victoire. Hannah could handle rejection. Still, she held out her hand and did her best to look trustworthy. "I apologize for not introducing myself properly before, Jacqueline. My name is Hannah Abbott, and I own this place."
Her hand seemed to stay there forever, but Jacqueline did take it and shake it. "Thank you," she mumbled.
Hannah cheered up, James noted. "Oh, it's no problem, dear. I've a son a little older than you." She smiled. "If you ever need anything and James isn't here, don't be afraid to ask me. Or—" Hannah paused and waved to Ernie, who had stopped by from his carpentry shop to see her. He waved back. "—you can also ask Ernie."
"Who's he?" the girl asked.
James smirked, and Hannah didn't miss it, so she gave him a look. It had no effect whatsoever considering how red her face got. "He's…my very good friend," Hannah finally answered.
"Hannah and Ernie are Justin's two closest friends," James added, and suddenly Jacqueline felt better about them, despite not knowing Justin herself. Apparently, anyone tied to Justin or James seemed A-Okay in Jacqueline's book.
"Thanks, Miss Abbott," Jacqueline said with the tiniest of smiles, which Hannah returned.
"It's fine. And please, call me 'Hannah.'"
It was great that Jacqueline had opened up a little to Hannah, too. With Hannah's help and James' experience with his sister and numerous female cousins, James felt that he and Jacqueline were growing closer. He definitely cared for her, and she was growing attached to him, too. He just wished he knew why Jacqueline was forming this kind of family that was not her own.
Over a short break before Christmas, Frankie—Neville and Hannah's son—visited home. Hannah and James told him about Jacqueline and, while Hannah and James watched from the bar, Frankie went and introduced himself to Jacqueline. Over that short break, Frankie covered more ground than James had in months. Well, at least Jacqueline now had a friend who was close in age. She was reluctant to talk to him at first, but James could see Hannah's hospitality working overtime with the combination of Neville's charm as Frankie easily and quickly melted the ice.
The morning when Frankie went back to the castle, he told his mother, Ernie, and James that he'd learned almost everything that James had. However, there was one thing: "She mentioned having an aunt."
The adults exchanged glances. "Did she tell you her aunt's name?" Ernie asked.
Frankie shook his head. "Nah, she's pretty choosy about her words. Smart one, that girl. But cool. She's obviously a girl, but she acts as though she's just another one of the boys." He smiled, and again James saw the combo of his parents in the dark eyes that matched Neville's and the blonde hair a few shades darker than Hannah's. "Jacqueline would be a terror if she were older and hanging out with Scamander and the Weasley twins," Frankie added admiringly, referencing Lorcan and Freddie and Roxanne.
"All right…" Ernie turned to Hannah. "I'll take him to the station. See you later." Both he and Frankie waved before heading out of the pub, leaving Hannah and James to mull over the new information while Jacqueline was not yet there.
"You know, I've always wondered—" James began.
"No, Frankie is not Ernie's," Hannah sniped.
James almost said, "Could've fooled me," but he held his tongue. He stuffed his hands in his pockets and rested against the countertop. "Anyway, Frankie is one smooth kid. Jacqueline quickly adapted to him."
Hannah stared at him. "'Quickly adapted'…? James, do you hear yourself?"
"You say that as if you're some expert on Jacqueline Doe."
"Hey, she's not a Jane Doe," he rebuked defensively. "And what if I am? At least someone in this world's looking out for her."
Hannah gave him a grave look. "James…don't go there."
"You know exactly what I mean. Out there, though she hasn't told us, Jacqueline has a family."
He grimaced, his annoyance slowly changing to anger. "I know that."
"No matter what we might come to know about them, Jacqueline has a family."
He scowled. "And you know what? People thought that about my dad, too. And look at the 'family' he had."
"But he never ran away, James."
"Are you forgetting? My dad and my brilliant uncles took a flying car to the Burrow before their second year and then Dad and Uncle Ron used it to get to Hogwarts that year."
Hannah sighed. "Okay, so he ran away once. But not like this."
"My point exactly. So what's keeping her coming back?"
"Why don't you ask her?" Hannah gestured to the booth where Jacqueline always sat. Sometime during their argument, the girl had slipped into the Leaky Cauldron and claimed her spot. She turned around and knelt on the seat, waving at them and beckoning to James.
"Maybe I will," he spat at Hannah. Walking away from her and towards that smiling face made his anger ebb, and he tried to push Hannah's worries from his mind as he sat beside Jacqueline.
"Hullo," she said cheerily.
"Hey, Jac. How are you?"
"Pretty good. I had the most amazing dream last night. I was going to Hogwarts on the Hogwarts Express, and I got to live on the train." Her grin was so wide. "I lived there and traveled the world. I mean, I stopped by the school a few times to learn some things, but it was so fun." She brought her knees up to her chest and leaned against James' arm. "You were there, and Hannah, and Frankie, and even Ernie. Someone else was there, too, whom I imagined was Justin."
James smiled. "But you've never met him."
"I know. But you've told me so much about him." Her smile was smaller this time, but more…genuine, he determined. "I wouldn't mind meeting him."
He'd been thinking about the same thing for a little while now himself. He had told Justin about her and mentioned her on a second occasion, but James doubted that Justin had grasped Jacqueline's presence in James' recent daily life. "…you know," he finally said, "I don't think he'd mind, either."
It was a little before Christmas when Justin spirited away from the castle and joined James outside the Muggle London entrance to the Leaky Cauldron. "Should I be jealous of you wanting me to meet this little girl?" Justin teased. He slipped an arm around James' waist.
"No. She…she's like Lily. And yet she's not." James frowned. "I can't really describe it."
"All right, then. Show me instead."
James nodded, and the two wizards headed inside. Hannah was happy to see her best mate, but she didn't approach them as they headed for Jacqueline's table. Once there, Jacqueline hopped up and stood to greet them.
"Hi," she said, much friendlier than she first had been in meeting the others.
Justin exchanged a look with James and knelt down so that he could see eye-to-eye with Jacqueline. "Hi, Jacqueline. I'm—"
"I've heard all about you. I knew it had to be you." She smirked at James. "He described you really well."
James scrunched his nose up. "Don't be a brat."
"I'm not. You're clearly in love with him. I can see that."
Justin liked hearing that. He stood up and pecked James on the lips, a motion at which Jacqueline feigned gagging. "Well, now. I think it's high time I heard all about Jacqueline, yes?"
Jacqueline tugged James away from him, and the three sat down. "So you're just the next on a list of people who've been analyzing me," she commented.
James gawked at her while Justin was thoroughly confused. "Beg pardon?" Justin coughed.
Jacqueline nodded. "It's not like I didn't realize it, James," she said to the younger wizard. "But really? I didn't think you were, honest," she continued when he opened his mouth to protest. "But then you wanted Hannah to be my friend. And then it was okay to trust Ernie, too. And then there was even Frankie," Jacqueline added, her cheeks a bit red.
James looked to Justin for help, but the professor only had a what-do-you-expect-me-to-do look on his face. "I…," James began.
The younger wizard frowned and stared down at her. "Jacqueline…you're awfully straightforward today." He paused as she fidgeted. "Is everything all right?"
She turned away from his gaze and relied on her old habit of staring at the table instead of at people. "Why wouldn't it be?"
"That's not an answer, Jac," James stated firmly.
She glanced at him, a pout hovering at the corners of her mouth. Great. Now she also had stopped talking again.
"Jacqueline," he said softly, "I've never pushed you for info before. I've never asked about things I know you don't like. But, if something's wrong—"
"You know what?" Justin interrupted. He looked from James to Jacqueline. "From what I hear, Jac-Jac, you've been cooped up inside here nearly all the time." He got out of the booth and offered a hand to her. "How about we get to know each other while out on a walk? London's lovely this time of year."
She looked unsure still. "But, outside…there are lots of people…"
He shrugged out of his heavy outer cloak and draped it over her shoulders. He then tapped it with his wand to shrink it down to her size. "There. Now you'll be warm and hard to see in all of that cloth." He grinned. "What do you say?"
Though she still looked iffy, she ducked her head. James realized after that it was a nod. "I guess." She got out of the booth, as well, and they waited for James to join them. At the door, Jacqueline reached for James' hand. He looked down and saw that she had Justin's, too. James squeezed her hand as they dissolved into the throng of Muggles.
Out on the streets, Jacqueline was tenser. James debated why she should be, but Justin merely sensed her apprehension and kept the two of them close to him. "Don't you like London?" Justin asked.
"Only a little," she replied.
"Personally, I love London. My family's always loved it, and I guess I never got so used to it to the point that it bored me." He looked over her at James. "'Course, now there's another reason to love London."
James sighed, but he liked what his husband said. "Yeah, yeah…"
"That's right—you live here, don't you?" Jacqueline asked.
"I do. I've an apartment nearby, so that I can be close to Ollivanders. Plus, much of my family works at the Ministry of Magic. And with so many of them in law enforcement—"
"Law enforcement?" she echoed, scared.
"Yes. My god brother, my father… My best mate, my younger brother, and my brother's best friend—they're all Aurors or training to become Aurors. Plus, I've an aunt and uncle who have personal experience with lawmaking at the Ministry."
"Not to mention we know the minister personally," Justin added.
Jacqueline pulled back though the wizards kept walking. "…can we go back now?"
The two men exchanged another look. Justin paused, and they both released her hands. Before James or Jacqueline knew what was happening, Justin scooped Jacqueline up and held her. She really was tiny. "Jacqueline, I know you barely know me, but… James doesn't love or trust easily. But I can tell he cares for you. And I, too, am already feeling the desire to care for you, luv. You're a little charmer, you know that?"
She smiled, just a bit.
"And I want you to know that we can protect you."
She looked doubtful.
"James' dad defeated a Dark Lord. I was one of the people who fought Death Eaters back when I was younger than James. And James is stubborn—he doesn't let anyone get away with hurting his loved ones."
Jacqueline looked between them. "A Dark Lord, you say?"
"The worst kind," James added.
She wrapped her arms around Justin's neck and tucked her head into the crook of it. "I guess we can stay out a little longer, then."
Justin smiled, and James sighed a sigh of relief. He moved closer to them and kissed the teacher when the girl wasn't looking. Yeah, Jacqueline would fit all right with him and Justin. And James was only more convinced of that when they spent the rest of the day out, and returned with a sleeping Jacqueline in Justin's arms.
When they got back to the Leaky Cauldron, Justin put her down in the booth. She woke up, groggy. "Are we done already?"
"We can go out another day, if you like," Justin said.
She sat up. "I'd like that." Then she noticed how dark it was outside and frowned. "But, unfortunately, I have to go home." She took off Justin's cloak, which returned to its normal size as Justin took it back.
"Will you be all right? It's gotten quite cold now," James said, worried.
She cocked her head to one side. "That's a silly thing to ask when November's almost gone, James."
He felt panicky. "See you tomorrow, then?"
"I hope so. And bring Justin around again when you can." She paused before she left, bashful before she stood on the seat to peck their cheeks. Then she hopped down and dashed out of the pub without another word.
Justin drew James into his arms. "There's a lot to her that we don't know…but I definitely like her already."
"Yeah…" James thought about Justin's words. Already, James' mind was whirling with a billion questions. But he also had a million ideas. And a couple thousand of them were nothing he'd thought about before. Maybe a few hundred could go right or wrong, and maybe ten were a little more than hazardous.
But one idea in mind was well worth the risk.
James looked anywhere but at his mother's incredulous face. "I, uh, just was wondering if you had any of Lily's old clothes, really…"
Ginny tossed her head back, rolled her eyes, and groaned. "Can we back up to the part where you tell me that you're treating some strange little girl you barely know as some kind of pet?"
James' Weasley temper flared to life, but he controlled it. It didn't do any good to get angry at either of his parents—he'd learned that the hard way. Of course, it had turned out that his father had forgiven him his secrets long before his mother had, and James would be lying if he said that his mother's grudge didn't color his judgment of her now. Still…he kept his temper in check. "She's not a pet, Mum. She's a person. With a name. Jacqueline."
The redhead crossed her arms in front of her chest as they sat at the kitchen table. Lily was upstairs doing her own thing and Harry was still at work despite the Christmas holiday being right around the corner. Al was nowhere to be found; as soon as his school year had ended, he and Scorpius had done two things—rented an apartment together (for now, with the help of Scorpius' family's money) and begun Auror training. He would probably only turn up when everyone went to the Burrow, and even then he likely wouldn't be in the same room with James. All-in-all, things were back to normal in the Potter household.
He inhaled. "So, I'm asking again—are there any of Lily's old clothes I could borrow for or perhaps give to Jacqueline?"
Ginny eyed him. "James, what are you planning?"
"Only to give someone deserving a very nice Christmas."
"Godric. You know how much you sound like me when you're coming this close to lying?"
He smirked. "I'm only being vague."
"Lying by omission is still lying."
"And you would know because…"
The witch rolled her eyes again. "You know not to push my buttons, James." She stood and flitted around the kitchen like a Snitch. "So are you going to tell me anything?"
"Well, I did tell you a little bit about what's been going on with me."
"Do I get to meet this kid anytime soon?"
He didn't answer. That hadn't occurred to him before. "You know…I'm not really sure. Maybe."
Ginny looked at him, concerned. "Just remember—no more secrets, okay, hon? I don't think my blood pressure could take it."
She nodded, and she went downstairs into the basement to rifle around through his and his siblings' old childhood things. She had to restart sifting through Lily's things when he called down that Jacqueline liked purple, but eventually Ginny had a few odds and ends to pass along to James. "Here. These things should fit a ten-year-old. And…there's no need to return them." She gave him a fleeting smile, a sight that James hadn't known he'd really missed until a few months ago when he had reconciled with his parents.
"Thank you, Mum."
Ginny kissed his cheek. "You're heart's in the right place, James, which should be all that counts…" She sighed. "Will we see you at all for Christmas?"
"I'd like to spend a night at the Burrow with everyone, but I'm not sure how it'd work out." It was so different as his generation matured. Victoire and Neville had been celebrating Christmas away from the family for years, and Victoire had told James that Molly had stopped going a few years ago, too, though now he knew it was due to Molly being involved with Michael Corner. James had missed the last two Christmases, but he was unsure if he wanted to miss a third. He now had a family, too, with Justin…but he couldn't see Justin at the Burrow for Christmas. At least, not so soon.
Plus, James really wanted to give Jacqueline a Christmas that she'd never forget. He was certain that she'd never celebrated it before, but he felt compelled to give her this one thing, this one day—that was, if she'd allow it.
That was the only problem, and it was a small one at that. James and Justin had already decided to spend the holiday at James' cozy little London flat, but James also thought that if they were nearby the Leaky Cauldron then maybe Jacqueline would be more inclined to accept their invitation. The day before Christmas Eve, they asked her.
Jacqueline's brow knit together in confusion. "You want me…to spend Christmas at your house?"
James nodded. "If you'd like. My apartment's very near here, and I think you'd like it. Plus," he added, "it's different scenery from the pub."
She twisted her lips around as she debated, not quite smiling or frowning. "…for how long?"
"Tonight, tomorrow, Christmas, and maybe the day after," Justin replied. He glanced at James, who—as usual—was sitting beside her. "You don't have to stay on the day after Christmas, though. We're not trying to contain you."
"'Contain'?" she asked, looking up at James.
"Cage you," he said. "You're free to go as you please, just as you're free to turn us down." He stroked her hair, though, as she sighed and leaned against his chest. "We just want to offer you a safe place to have fun, Jac."
"So what do you say?" Justin prompted.
She bit her lip. "But," Jacqueline began, speaking to the younger wizard, "what about your family?"
"You guys are my family." His words flew from his mouth before he'd realized what he'd said. Justin looked a little stunned, too, but the gentle smile he gave to his husband told James that no, the words made sense. This little girl had become such a big part of their lives.
"Then…I want a Christmas with you two," she finally answered. She wrapped her arms around one of James, and she was like that until they left the Leaky Cauldron and headed to James' home.
Once there, Jacqueline had a lot to take in. She liked that it was a spacious place and yet it looked lived in. "It looks like a home," the girl said admiringly.
James and Justin exchanged a look. What she said was a heartwarming thing.
Justin went to the small tree they'd set up by the window in the living room and retrieved a small purple bag with a golden bow on it. He passed the bag to Jacqueline.
Her eyes grew big. "Is this for me?"
"But… I thought presents were supposed to be given on Christmas Day."
"We thought you might appreciate these things tonight," he stated as she opened the bag. She unwrapped shampoo, soap, and other toiletries for witches. There were also fresh pajamas, socks, and girly items. Jacqueline blushed.
"I admit, I had to ask my mum and Lils for some help," James said.
Justin snorted. "You mean you had them go buy knickers because you couldn't do it," he teased quietly so only James heard him. James shot him a look, but only because Justin had got it in one. Justin turned to Jacqueline. "We thought you could go relax while James fixed dinner."
"There are fresh towels in the bathroom, on the back of the door," James said. "Feel free to take a shower or even a bath."
If her excitement over the first of her gifts had not outweighed her thankfulness, the wizards figured she would've leapt on them on the spot. Instead, she hopped from on foot to the other, asked where the bathroom was, and ran down the hall, slamming the loo door behind her.
James chuckled. "I think that was a good idea. At least she shouldn't smell now…"
Justin cocked his head to one side. "Come on. You know as well as the next person does how good it feels after a shower. You feel…human again."
"That's true. And food also gets us to feel human, so go peel the potatoes, will you, luv?" James paused. "And remember to use a Slicing Charm this time!" He had to add that, because sometimes the Muggle side of Justin prevailed for certain tasks…
An hour and a half later, James checked on the roast goose and mashers, which were still coming along. He settled back on the couch next to Justin and resumed sketching while Justin read the Prophet. Then Jacqueline appeared at the hall entryway.
She'd scrubbed herself raw, so her skin was pinker than normal. But she looked clean and healthy and happy. The pajamas were a tad too big, with the cuffs hanging over her fingers and over her heels, but they otherwise fit her well. Jacqueline had also wrapped her damp hair up in the lavender-colored towel James had left out for her. She grinned and padded across the carpet.
"I've never done that before," she burst, giggling. She sat down on the floor by James' feet and reclined against his legs. "I've just… That was so much fun." She looked up at them. "Can I take a bath every night?"
Justin chuckled. "I don't think that's a problem. You, James?"
"No, but, Jac, you need to brush your hair," the wandwright said, putting his sketchbook aside.
The girl's shoulders drooped. "I…um…"
"Why don't you go get your new brush?"
She fidgeted but did as he suggested. When she returned, James motioned for her to sit between his knees again, and he gently toweled her hair dry before brushing her hair. She tensed.
"Jacqueline, haven't you ever brushed your hair before?"
She shook her head. "No…"
James opened his mouth and closed it. Even Justin had lowered his newspaper to exchange a look of concern. The girl knew many things, so she hadn't been living under a rock…but for her to have enjoyed bathing that much and to be so fearful of having her hair brushed? Just how wrong were things at Jacqueline's home? James' appetite ignored the smell of the goose as it lessened… Should he have tried to ask Jacqueline's family before inviting her to stay with him and Justin? Why hadn't that occurred to him before? He felt like such an idiot…
And Jacqueline remained tense. So James took a breath to calm himself and patted her head. "Hey, I can teach you, Jac. I used to do this sort of thing for Lily, you know."
"Really?" she asked, and her shoulders eased. He began to brush her hair, and she relaxed completely with them.
Jacqueline smiled, and several minutes passed as James untangled her tresses, which were lovely and shiny like dark, burnished bronze. "I like it here," Jacqueline said.
The couple smiled. And not even a night had passed.
Having someone so young around was totally different from when it was just the two of them, or from when James and Justin chose to do something with Victoire and Neville. Jacqueline was young and still had so many things left to learn, and James felt that he and Justin really did have the ability to teach her.
But they couldn't teach her everything. Some things she would have to go to school for—and James wondered if they could send her to Hogwarts. Would her family even let that happen? What was with her family, anyway?
As they spent Christmas Eve half outside in the snow and half inside with cookies and other goodies, the desire to know if Jacqueline's family even knew where she was burned within James. But he let it go as he saw how happy she was. He'd thought it was one thing, what Justin's happiness meant to him…but Jacqueline's happiness, to an extent, was just as important.
When Christmas came, the two men were woken when James' bedroom door flew open and Jacqueline rushed in and leapt on the edge of the bed. Good thing the wizards had been decent! "Come on, come on! It's Christmas!"
She rushed out to the tree and dropped down in front of it. James and Justin trudged out after her, still exhausted from the day before. Still, Jacqueline waited patiently for them.
"'For Justin,'" she read aloud, passing some box to him. "'For James,'" she read, passing some bag to the other wizard.
As James and Justin opened presents from their loved ones—and there were many more for James this time around—Jacqueline didn't appear to feel left out. In fact, James noted that she marveled at all that they received, stunned that people could put so much thought into gifts for their loved ones. Perhaps Jacqueline actually never had celebrated Christmas before…at all.
Once they'd gone through everything of theirs, James gestured for Jacqueline to turn around and look at the several remaining boxes. "All right, enough of us—why don't you open something, Jac?"
She grinned as she turned and picked up the biggest box. She shook it.
"Just open it!"
Jacqueline stripped the bow off and dismantled the box. Inside was a pillow that was in the shape of a dragon, but it was purple, fluffy, and super soft. She hugged it to her chest. "Oh my Merlin—this is so cute!"
James and Justin chuckled at her reaction. "See?" Justin prodded James. "Some Muggle fads are fantastic."
Jacqueline opened up her other gifts, most of which were clothes. The hand-me-downs from Lily seemed to be a hit, though, and there were a few items—like a violet cloak—that were brand-new and all hers. Nevertheless, each and every present made her more ecstatic.
After they cleaned up, Jacqueline sat fidgeting with her new dragon plush.
"Something wrong, Jac-Jac?" Justin asked.
She stood and waved at them to make space for her on the couch. Then she sat between them, hugging both their arms. "I… I just…" She paused, and James thought she'd gone not to talking again. But then she said, "I've just never had anyone be so good to me. And I have nothing for you guys…"
Justin sighed and gave her a hug. "You don't have to give us anything, Jac-Jac. We did this because we wanted to."
"No 'buts,' Jac," James admonished. He tapped her button nose. "Sometimes it's just nice to let others treat you well, you know?"
She nodded. A minute of quiet passed, and then she kissed Justin's cheek, and then James'. The little girl held on to them even more tightly. "Sometimes it's just nice to be treated well. Happy Christmas, James, Justin."
"Happy Christmas, Jac."
James smiled over at Justin. "Happy Christmas, Jac-Jac."
The night after Christmas, Jacqueline was still with them, sleeping in the guestroom. James and Justin lay awake in bed, even though it was getting late.
Justin sighed. "I can't… James, I need sleep."
"Then go to sleep, luv."
"I can't!" Justin hissed. "You're mind's wired. Therefore, so's mine. But I'm still so tired."
James snickered. "Are you telling me that you can't sleep because I can't sleep?"
"Mm-hmm. So, what's got you awake?"
"Oh no. I know that tone of voice." Justin sat up and looked down at James in the darkness. "James…you can't keep her. We can't keep her."
James pouted. "I know that, Jus… Even Hannah already gave me this lecture—early on, I might add."
"Then I'll take it that she reminded you that Jacqueline likely does have family out there, somewhere, even if she won't tell us anything."
"And you said months ago that you were fine with us being a family together, that that was enough."
"I know, but…"
"…yeah. I wish we could keep her, too."
"But having a kid around—that changes everything, James."
James nodded, though he doubted Justin could see him. "I just wish we knew more about her." He clenched his jaw and snuggled into Justin's arms as the professor reclined once more. "I also wish we could do something about whatever it is that's scaring her."
"While it's an admirable thought, James, there are times when things are out of our hands." Sensing that he'd only made things worse, Justin tried to cheer him up by peppering his jawline with kisses, but worries faded as the two finally fell asleep.
On the second day after Christmas, James still had that inner turmoil, and he felt at the bursting point when Jacqueline told them that she should probably leave. Why, she didn't say.
"Thank you so much for everything," she said, her words muffled as she clung to James' midsection. When she pulled away, her face was tearstained.
Justin knelt down and smudged the tears on her cheek with his thumb, cupping her face in his hand. "Hey, Jac-Jac, it's no problem."
"But," James interrupted, pointing to her things in the living room, "are you sure you can't take anything with you? Not even your dragon?"
She bit her lip and shook her head. "I really shouldn't."
He sighed and hugged her again, not wanting to let her go. "All right then… Now, you have the directions memorized, right?"
"Yes. I think I can get to the Leaky Cauldron from here by myself now."
"Good." James ruffled her hair. "Because if you can do that, then you know that you can find me here if I'm not at the pub or at Ollivanders. Justin will be home with me until after the new year, too."
Jacqueline nodded. "I'll see you soon, hopefully."
"Anytime you want, Jac-Jac," Justin added as she opened the door.
She beamed. "'Bye, guys. I love you!" And then the door closed.
James gaped at the door. The little girl, whom he'd met months ago and would barely speak at first—she loved them?
Justin scoffed in disbelief. "I…can't believe it." He turned to James, held him tightly, kissed him, and laughed. "I… I think we've done an amazing thing, James."
"Justin…I don't think 'amazing' even begins to cover it."
"So we actually popped in, just for tea and biscuits, but I caught the latest gossip," Victoire told James a handful of weeks later. They sat at the counter in the Leaky Cauldron, and Victoire was only alive because Hannah was in the back, cooking alongside Ernie. The two women really couldn't get along with the other in the same room, but at least Hannah only ignored her when Victoire stopped to have a meal with her favorite cousin.
"And what is the latest gossip?" James prompted.
Victoire lifted one orange, arched eyebrow. "Well, I heard from Aunt Ginny that you've made a new friend. How is the kid?"
James whistled. "Well, if you stick around, you might just meet her. Though she's usually here by now…"
"Does she come every day?"
"She tries, but there's no guarantee." James patted his belly. "I've gained weight, though, waiting here for her all the time and eating Hannah's cooking…"
"Yeah. One thing I'll give Abbott is that she knows her way around the kitchen," Victoire praised.
"But come on—what other gossip is there?"
"Hmm, let's see… The Scamanders are traveling the world right now, so my sister wasn't entirely happy to be with the family for Christmas, and neither was Roxanne. Those poor girls—what will become of them if they ever marry Lysander and Lorcan?" She sighed. "Molly didn't go to the Burrow, and I don't know why. I've not heard from her for a while—I'm a little concerned. The last I saw her, she'd gained some weight. More than you have," the witch added, and James made a face. "But I wonder if she and Corner are doing all right, you know? I mean, she'd told me that they were brilliant, but I dunno… Sadly, this was the first Christmas that my little brother wanted to stay at the castle. I really wanted to see him…"
"Anyone else stay at Hogwarts?"
"Just Louis and Hugo. Revered Rowena, those two are as thick as thieves. Everyone else was home, but—" Victoire stopped, realizing what she'd been about to tell James.
"But?" he asked.
Victoire shoved the crisps into her mouth so that she couldn't talk.
"Vic, don't arse around. But…?"
She groaned and gulped her butterbeer to wash down the food. "Um, well… Al."
He should've known. Still, he couldn't believe that Al would skip out on the family. Al never would've done that…or, at least, he never would've before all of James' secrets had been spilled. "Then where was he?"
"Rose said that Al spent Christmas with the Malfoys, because she saw them beforehand. Teddy said that Al had volunteered to be on duty over the break, but Teddy and Uncle Harry had both told him no, that Auror trainees weren't given watches so early in their careers. So, sulking, Al went with Scorpius to be with the Malfoys." Victoire frowned. "I'm so sorry, James."
"No, no, it's to be expected. I bet Calytrix followed them there, too, and got Rose to go along."
"Yes, but only for a day. Calytrix's parents like keeping Christmas just for family. That's what Rose said."
James dragged his fork across his empty plate, trying not to think of his brother. "What about Lily?"
Victoire snorted. "That girl… It's a wonder that your parents haven't kept her and Teddy apart. I mean, the idiot couldn't be more obvious that he's waiting for her."
The piece of news made James smile. "As long as he gives her time to come of age and as long as she's not the first of us to have a kid, then I'm okay with that."
Victoire shrugged. "I dunno. If Lysander knocked up Dominique right now—and she is of age—I think I'd tear his bollocks off." She grinned as James choked on his drink. "Maybe I'd even wear them for earrings…"
"Anywho…" She gave him a long look. "This girl's name…"
"Right. Jacqueline. How close are you?"
James sighed. "Is it that obvious? She's—she's like a little sister to me. And yet she'd not."
Victoire thought a moment. "Would you say she's like your daughter?"
He blushed. "What?"
"Well, maybe you taking care of her and all that good stuff—maybe it's not just like being a protective older sibling. I mean, you and I both know what that's like." She sipped her drink. "Your concern and love for the child—maybe it's more like you fathering her." Victoire laughed as his red face deepened to crimson. She slapped him on the back. "Haha, you doting parent, you!"
"Who's a doting parent?" Hannah asked as she and Ernie appeared behind the bar.
Victoire answered her. "James, I think. Him and Jacqueline—"
"I'm not being her parent," James intervened. He looked at the three of them, who stared at him, unconvinced. "I'm not!"
"Didn't you and Justin have her stay with you for Christmas?" Ernie asked.
Victoire gaped at him. "What? James, for all you know, she could be real trouble!"
He grimaced. As if that hadn't occurred to him! "I just—we thought—it'd be nice for her to have a real Christmas."
"No, Victoire's right," Hannah said, stunning the other three into silence. It was unheard of for Hannah to agree with the woman who'd stolen her ex-husband…! "That didn't really occur to me before…"
"What do you mean?" James asked.
"Finding out her history." Hannah stared at him. "It's not just a matter of what scares her at home and solving that, James. Think about it—you know nothing of this girl and yet she's grown so attached to you, so quickly. What if her family's—what if they're evil?"
To James, it felt as though someone had slipped an ice cube down the back of his shirt. Jacqueline, evil? In no way did it make sense to him. This was Jacqueline, for crying out loud! Jacqueline! Jac! Jac-Jac! But the seed of doubt had been planted, and a sense of dread was tilled inside him. He frowned. "But…"
Ernie put a hand on Hannah's shoulder, getting her to ease up a fraction. "James," he said. "Maybe you don't have to wait for Jacqueline to tell you things, wait for her to open up. I mean, there are how many Weasleys and Potters in the Ministry?"
Victoire put an arm around James' shoulders. "That's a good idea. You could call in a favor with your dad and the others. I'm sure Uncle Perce also has some contacts that could be useful."
Still…the idea was daunting. Jacqueline, his Jacqueline, their Jacqueline…evil? It just didn't seem possible.
"All right…here's what's possible," Harry said.
It was only days later when James met with his parents, Teddy, Aunt Hermione, and Uncle Percy at the Potter residence in Godric's Hollow. By now, the whole family knew of Jacqueline's existence, but only a few knew the details of her involvement in James and Justin's life.
"We definitely need a photo to go by," James' father continued, "unless Jacqueline's willing to come to the Auror Office—"
James shook his head. "She's really only good with Justin and me. Hell, the first time I mentioned that some of you lot were a part of law enforcement, she paled. Going to the Ministry's out."
Hermione pursed her lips. "What about taking a hair of hers? You said she left her brush at your place, because she couldn't take anything with her."
"What good would the hair do?" Teddy asked.
"I've been working with the new Patents Office in the Magical Law Enforcement department. It's separate from the Ludicrous Patents office, and I've tossed around some ideas for new spells and potions, based on my knowledge of Muggle forensics—"
Harry caught up with her insinuation ahead of the others. "Hermione, that's brilliant!"
She smirked. "As if that never gets old…"
"But what's brilliant?" James, Ginny, and Teddy asked altogether.
"By taking a hair, we can use a new spell—it's a kind of locator spell. It's similar to how Muggles test DNA to learn all they can about a person. Our spell might be able to tell us about Jacqueline…anything from a food allergy to her parentage." Then she frowned.
"Why are you frowning?" Percy asked. "Don't do that. Stop frowning."
"Well…this kind of thing works best when we have a database to compare things to… And since this is new magic, it could take ages to learn things."
Ginny shuddered. "A database? Isn't that like a collection of a lot of things? Would you need samples from every witch and wizard around?"
"No, no—but it would be standard practice to have the information of government employees and of criminals registered," Hermione quickly explained.
"But we don't know that Jacqueline's related to criminals," James argued.
"No, but if we could do a comparison, we could rule that out," his aunt stated calmly but defiantly.
"I vote for my option," Teddy said. "How about we tail her? The kid's not old enough to Apparate, so she has to live close by."
"That also sounds like the most harmless option," James remarked. He nodded to his god brother. "Teddy's got my vote."
"And there's really no waiting for the girl to open up?" Ginny inquired softly. The room fell silent.
James sighed. "I'm afraid not. Even if she's not bad herself—which I don't believe she is—I do think that she's in some kind of danger." He cleared his throat as all eyes went to him. "Following Christmas, I've seen her almost every day. However, she shows up later and later… I'm afraid that the next time I go to the Leaky Cauldron, she won't turn up." Saying the words aloud pierced his heart, and his eyes were suddenly hot and wet. He swallowed the lump in his throat. He couldn't cry right now. He just needed to focus on helping Jacqueline in whatever bad situation she was.
Percy rubbed his back. "Hey, it's okay, James. This is what family's for."
The eldest Potter nodded. But now came the hard part—the wait.
Waiting wasn't made any better as Jacqueline switched from meeting James at the Leaky Cauldron to waiting outside his apartment door. When she'd first done that, it was the last week in February, and it'd been so frigid outside. He'd waited for her at the pub at both lunchtime and dinnertime, and he'd feared the worst when she'd not shown. To find her sitting in front of his door—! He'd crushed her in a relieved hug, and then he'd looked her over to see if she was hurt or anything. Yet she seemed to be in fine health.
Most nights, Jacqueline fell asleep on the couch, curled up with her head in his lap after James had read to her. The first few times it'd happened, he'd not moved, but his back couldn't take that. So he switched to carrying her to the bed in the guestroom, a place he was coming quickly to call her room.
The first weekend of spring rolled in, and another night arrived where James had to tuck her in. He sighed and closed her door behind him—and arms wrapped around him.
"Hey," Justin said softly.
James let himself be led to the living room. "What're you doing here? It's still the school year…" He yawned.
"I'm here because your parents wrote me."
James snapped awake. "What? Why?"
"Apparently Ollivander was too chicken to write to me straight out. But you know he likes your dad, so he told him that he was concerned for you. Ollivander said you've been awfully tired at work. Harry and Ginny quickly figured out why, with Victoire's help."
"That gossip… That's the last time I confide in my cousin."
"Oh, don't take it out on her, luv," Justin said, pecking James' forehead. "But you've been essentially raising a kid on your own—and I thought, what kind of dad would I be not to be here for you?"
James wasn't tired enough not to be able to roll his eyes. "Seriously? I'm the mum?"
"Well, everyone did kind of think that you were the bride in the coupling at the wedding last year…"
Justin chuckled and shrugged out of his cloak, draping it across the back of the couch. He spread out length-wise on the couch and beckoned to his husband. When James reached him, Justin pulled James' sweater off for him and put it over his cloak, and then he dragged James to stretch out on top of him. He sighed as James snuggled in. "I might be a git sometimes, but you'll always love me."
"Thanks for coming."
"I figured sleeping on your Justin-bed would help you to wake refreshed in the morning.
Yet, in the morning, James didn't feel quite refreshed. If anything, he found it a little hard to breathe. When he opened his eyes, he saw that Justin had wrapped an arm around him…but James caught sight of a purple dragon wing.
Oh. Jacqueline had, at some point in the night, woken up and found them, and then she'd squeezed herself onto the couch that already seemed small with only two adults on it.
James didn't wake her, though. Instead, he wrapped an arm around her and Justin, and went back to sleep. Who cared about the past and what secrets lurked there if they had wonderful moments like this?
That Sunday morning, Jacqueline surprised them by still being there. She'd gone to bed Saturday night in her own bed—after a quick bath—and risen the next morning to beat the wizards to the breakfast table.
James and Justin got up and joined her, James whipping up a batch of pancakes and Justin pouring some pumpkin juice for all of them. Breakfast was a happy affair, a scene that seemed impossible unless it existed in another person's life.
Jacqueline ate with her dragon plush—Scorcher, she'd named it—in her lap. Justin told them about the latest happenings at the school; for instance, Roxanne and Freddie had helped Lorcan plan his senior prank, but it had gone off months before planned, and all D.A.D.A. classes taught by Parkinson-Zabini had been moved to another classroom after the twins had exploded something foul in her class. James told them that he'd gotten a few more materials to work with from Uncle Bill, and he expounded on how sapphire, emerald, hematite, and gold would help him in his work.
It really was a scene from another person's life. And that person had a happy family.
James didn't voice these thoughts, but he knew Justin felt the same way. He could see it in the way Justin's eyes kept flickering back and forth between James and Jac-Jac.
"You know," she piped up, "I'd love to stay here forever."
James was so glad he stood at the sink, because he dropped his glass, and the drop to the sink bottom was short enough that nothing broke.
"It'd be nice," she continued to muse aloud. "It could be just us—you two, me, and Scorcher—forever." She beamed, but then her smile wilted and her eyes got glassy. "It'd just…be nice."
The two men hung their heads. But they both knew that their hands were tied, and it was just like the Christmas break all over again when Jacqueline left this time.
"For being in a world of magic, I hate that we can do nothing but wait," James growled as he found himself staring at his front door again. How nice it would be if Jacqueline walked right through the door, saying that everything had changed and she could live with them as she wanted. But that wasn't going to happen.
However, what was going to happen startled the couple. The fireplace came to life with green light, and Harry's head appeared through the Floo connection. "James, we've got some information." Harry blinked, recognizing that Justin was there, too. "Actually, you both should come. Meet me at the Auror Office as soon as possible."
The flame disappeared, and James dashed to his room.
"Did Harry mean—"
"Yes," James answered. "We might finally be able to do something for Jac."
Both wizards Apparated, almost carelessly in the corridor outside James' place. But they landed safely outside the Ministry. They would've gone by Floo, had the proper connection been set up, but it wasn't that far away to get there anyway. Inside, they headed straight for the Auror Office; James had memorized the way there when he was little, just in case his mother ever got that one ominous call and forgot the way there in her grief…but James now kept thoughts like those out of his mind.
Harry was standing, pacing in his office, and Aunt Hermione, Uncle Percy, and Teddy were there, too. "Teddy had a good idea," Harry said as he Sealed the door so the six of them could talk without eavesdroppers. "We sent a few Aurors to try following Jacqueline. She really is only a kid. The Aurors didn't lose her once." He crossed his arms in front of his chest. "I had them follow her a few times on separate occasions. While we learned that she takes several different routes, she always goes back to one place." He picked up a folder and passed it to James, who opened it.
"'Cair Carrow,'" James read. "What's that?"
Harry and Hermione were the only ones who shifted in the room. "A long while ago," Harry began, "we had a case. Sister kills sister, use the remaining sibling to ferret out other Death Eaters—that sort of thing. The surviving sister was Hestia Carrow, a Slytherin a little older than us. At the time, I was still getting used to being an Auror, and even Ron and Neville were still Aurors then. We also had a colleague—Hestia Jones."
Something clicked for Justin, apparent in his expression. But James was even more confused. "Wait… There were two Hestias?"
"What happened was this—Hestia Carrow lost everything but her twin sister, Flora, in the second war. Following the war, Flora got swept up in the last wisps of the Death Eater craze, and Hestia was so intent on not losing her sister that she tried to join the Death Eaters with her." Harry shook his head. "But her heart wasn't in it. She killed Flora in defense of her own life, and then we tracked her down."
"It was a clever bit of magic we created with Minister Shacklebolt," Hermione commented. "We could detect when anyone used an Unforgivable Curse. Nowadays, we can even pinpoint the wand from which the spell is cast."
Harry nodded. "Auror Jones brought her in for questioning, and it was decided that Carrow would serve us well as an informant. Over time, she regained the trust of the Death Eaters who'd tried to Mark her and her sister. They were Rowle, Macnair, and Travers. Given time, Carrow learned of a plan to break out other Death Eaters from Azkaban, and Jones passed on this information to the rest of our department. We went to head off the breakout, and…"
"As usual, all hell broke loose with you around," Percy remarked, shaking his head.
"Rowle and Travers were killed and Macnair was placed behind bars. But there had been structural damage."
"It was hell. We'd already stopped using Dementors, but it was bad enough without them," Hermione said. "I can't imagine what it would've been like if they'd still been around." She shivered.
Harry sighed. "The thing is, prisoners got moved around. Security was still not that great—there were holes to be filled. And one hole…" He bit his lower lip. "About ten years ago, we still had some holes."
Teddy's eyes widened. "Merlin, Harry! I'd just come on about then. Why didn't you tell me that there were problems?"
"Because, you learn even when there are problems, Teddy. Besides, you were just a trainee then." Harry turned serious. "And it's not as though I wanted you exposed to the problems in Azkaban then…"
"What happened?" James rasped.
"One of the Death Eaters targeted to be freed—Jugson. He and Nott and Mulciber broke through some barriers whilst being moved… They attacked the Carrows, Alecto in more ways than one." He stopped, and the information sank in as Harry prepared to finish the story. "Alecto Carrow got pregnant, and the resulting child was sent to live with relatives. But paperwork fell through the cracks. The distant cousins Flora and Hestia Carrow were the closest relatives. But with Flora long since dead and Hestia— Well, she moved even before then." His cheeks pinked. "She and, uh, Auror Jones left England, even. But even though the baby girl, born Linnéa Eden Carrow, had no relatives to go to, she was sent away regardless to the current inhabitants of Cair Carrow, the Selwyns."
"Bloody hell," Percy cursed, and James would've been stunned to hear such language from his straight-laced uncle's mouth had he not been so stunned to learn all of this. "I thought the Selwyns were dead. Wasn't there one who died in the war?"
"Tersium Selwyn did," Harry confirmed. "But his wife, Iola, and son, Grant, survived him. Grant was a Slytherin in Ginny's year, but he never showed signs of swaying towards Dark Magic."
"So then," Justin said, "the relatives Jacqueline's been staying with…"
Teddy nodded and scratched his head. "Yeah, we confirmed it. She's been calling Cair Carrow home with Iola and Grant Selwyn."
James tossed the folder back on his father's desk. "Then tell me," he spat. "Which one is she scared of? Or should we bother deciding that before storming in?"
Hermione shook her head. "James, we can't— Unless you've seen her physically injured, there's nothing we can do."
He opened his mouth to say more, but Justin stopped him. "Hermione," Justin offered, "what if we summoned Hestia Jones back?"
"What good would that do?" Teddy asked. "She left the force before I even joined.
"But she took Hestia Carrow with her. I'm sure if we can appeal to Jones, then her partner…"
"Oh," Teddy said, as Harry's words clicked into place.
"And please," Justin continued, "let me ask Jones. I… I was there when Megan died. I think I should be the one to speak to Hestia Jones."
"In the meantime," James stated, "Jacqueline… She can't be safe in that home. She's at my place half the time. And I have no intentions of turning her away, ever. She's been all but kicked out of that house, I'm sure of it—just as I'm sure that she doesn't want to stay there anymore." He looked to Justin. "She told us…this morning. She wants to stay with us forever." His face felt on fire as he told the others such private, personal words, and he felt ready to cry again. But he didn't. There would be no use for crying if he could do something productive to help Jacqueline instead.
"Question," Percy interrupted. "Alecto Carrow is definitely the mother?"
Harry nodded. "She's actually around Hestia Jones' age…" He glanced at Teddy. "Around the age Tonks would be, if she were alive." Teddy tensed at the mention of his mother.
"And it's really possible that she had a kid?"
"What about the father?"
Harry shook his head. "It was a violent act, retribution against two former comrades who had failed in their freedom of ruling Hogwarts back in 1997 and 1998. We'll never know. Mulciber committed suicide shortly after the crime, Jugson died upon escape during the prison repairs, and Nott died two years ago from a heart attack in his sleep."
"There's a possibility then," Hermione added, "that she could even be Theodore Nott's half-sister."
Silence came and sat in the room for two full minutes before leaving. "I think," the Boy-Who-Lived said, "that, as far as we're concerned, we need only to get Hestia Carrow back into the picture, to see if she might care for Jacqueline, or if she might transfer custodial rights." He gave James a small nod of support. "There's no need to call on Theodore Nott."
The rest in the room nodded in agreement, and James rubbed his hand over his face. He'd thought Jacqueline might've been in some trouble. But this was far beyond mere "trouble." "About Mum—if Grant Selwyn was in her year, then she must know him, right?"
His father shook his head. "No. I asked, and all she could tell me was that he was the type that should've been in Ravenclaw—books were all he cared about."
James nodded, but it was a little comfort.
The group dispersed then, Teddy and Hermione returning to their normal duties. Percy spoke with Harry, saying that he'd inform Minister Shacklebolt in case anything they needed to do would need his approval or his help. Justin pulled James from the Auror Office, and it wasn't until they were out of the Ministry and on the street that James felt he could breathe again.
"She—she's not even 'Jacqueline.'" James scoffed.
Justin frowned, and his shoulders drooped. "James…does it matter? She probably picked that name because she liked it." He pulled James into his arms. "Linnéa or Jacqueline or Jac-Jac—does it even matter?"
The wandwright shook his head, but it was hard to figure out what mattered and what didn't anymore.
"She's asleep on the couch again, Scorcher under her head," James told Justin. It was another Saturday, but it was now late March, and they still were unsure what would happen with Jacqueline.
Justin had penned a lengthy yet succinct letter to Hestia Jones. He also informed James that he knew her because she was the older sister of one of his fallen classmates, Megan Jones. In their year within Hufflepuff, they'd lost only Megan Jones and Leanne Moon, but any loss had been bad enough. Justin was hoping that his appeal to her sympathies would encourage her to bring her girlfriend back, so that things could be settled with Jacqueline once and for all.
"After decisions are made," Justin asked James as they stretched out on their bed, "do you think we should tell anyone else about her history?"
"Why do you ask?"
"Well, I know you've grown closer to Victoire, that you tell her nearly everything. But…" The professor shook his head. "Neville can still recall the Carrows all too well. I would hate for him to look at her and color her with the same brush as her mother." His voice was tight. He was quite upset about the situation.
James paused. "…I don't think Neville would be like that. More importantly—" He looked at Justin. "What do we do? This girl needs a home, and if we can give it to her…"
"But we know her history."
"No, we know her past."
"You're right…" Justin hummed softly, and James listened to the rumble within his husband's chest. "So, the real question here is: Are we scared to adopt her?"
Considering the question, it was hard to believe that these same two men had spoken months ago about never having a family. The irony made James chuckle gently. But his smile faded. "What if…what if bad blood does run in the family? Hardheadedness runs in mine; I'm just like my parents. What if Jacqueline's—"
"Shh." Justin pressed a finger to his lips. "James, nature and nurture make a person. I'm certain of it. Besides, I think we'd be great dads."
"Yes, but she's also not shown signs of being a witch. Considering her parentage, maybe it'd be a good thing if she turned out to be a Squib."
"You know what?" The teacher tucked James' head under his chin. "I say we adopt her nevertheless. Even if she's a Squib, she's works out with us. She's fits in. She's another J on the family tree."
"Yeah, all right, I'll buy that… But only after we get things squared away."
"And I think we will, James. I think we will."
Almost all of April had passed by the time Justin got a response from Hestia Jones. She said that she would take a break from Ireland, her new home, and visit the Ministry on the tenth of May, so as not to coincide with the remembrance ceremony for the war. She also said that she would try to convince Hestia Carrow to join her, but that she could make no guarantees, despite Carrow's presence being necessary.
James concentrated on his work to keep his mind busy. Just as he always did, he went to the Leaky Cauldron for lunch, and Jacqueline was always there. She'd taken to stealing his sketchbook to look at his designs, for she admired his passion.
"I don't think just anyone would be so happy designing twigs," she teased.
"What can I say? I'm an oddball," James remarked. He held his hand out for his sketchbook. "Now give it back and finish your lunch, Jac."
She rolled her eyes but complied. "Ye-es," she said, drawing the word out to be two syllables.
James finished his meal and watched Jacqueline over the rim of his glass. She didn't know that Hestia Carrow was probably on her way here, soon. Neither he nor Justin could bring themselves to tell her what they'd discovered. They felt that, if nothing much could be done, then perhaps it was best not to worry her. But James hoped to Godric that things would change for her.
On the morning of the fated meeting, James set off for the Ministry alone, because Justin couldn't get a lot of time away from school. Justin was lucky enough to have gotten permission from McGonagall to set up a direct Floo connection from her office to the Ministry so that he could step out for part of the day, to attend to what he was calling a "family emergency." James doubted that McGonagall truly bought that, but he also knew that she was shrewd enough to understand that family meant family and that she was not one to question it.
He went to Percy's office, for Percy had cleared his schedule to get things sorted out. James' father was also there, for he hadn't seen his old coworker for so many years. James knew that the general hope was that he and Justin could take in Jacqueline, and his parents and the rest hadn't even met the girl.
A little before noon, after Justin had met him there, someone knocked on Percy's door. Percy let their guests—yes, guests—inside.
The one who entered first was a tall witch a little above Harry's height. She had black, wavy hair that fell to her shoulders. Her eyes showed some age, but the blue of them was so piercing that James almost didn't observe that she had the typical Auror's build.
Behind her was a shorter woman of Harry's age dressed in long black and silver robes. Her hair was dark brown and longer than the first witch's, and her eyes were charcoal gray. She was pale, and looked scared.
The first one shook Harry's hand. "Wow, Potter. Nice to see you." She nodded to Percy. "Weasley." She looked at James and Justin, and she seemed to recognize the latter. "Oh my—Justin. I haven't seen you since…"
Justin nodded and shook her hand. "Yeah. It's been a long while since the war." He pushed James forward. "This is James, my husband."
"Right…" Her eyes darted between father and son, but, if she had any musings, she kept quiet. Auror Jones tugged the other witch forward. "This is my…er, Hestia. Hestia Carrow."
Hestia Carrow looked like the typical Slytherin but more scared. She looked at Harry. "I have…family left?"
"Well, Alecto and Amycus are still alive in Azkaban…yes, you do," he quickly answered when she narrowed her eyes at him.
"I never knew the Selwyns. Mother and Father kept company with them, but not Flora and me," Hestia said, though she was turned to Jones as though they were having a private conversation.
"Then why would they have claimed your family's home?"
Hestia shrugged. "I don't know. Because they're homeless and decided to take up residence there?"
"So they're squatters?" James asked.
"After our case," Jones said, "Cair Carrow was stripped. There was nothing left for anyone. Anything of value was sold, and the money went into Hestia's Gringotts account."
"Most of the remaining pureblood families lost everything after the war," Hestia said. "Only the Greengrasses were unharmed, and the Malfoys suffered little thanks to Lucius Malfoy's testimonies. The Selwyns weren't so lucky." She shook her head. "But they never should've been given custody of such a young child, even though Alecto obviously is not an option."
"Then if they're in the wrong, can't they be arrested?" James' tone was incredulous. Hadn't anyone thought of that before?
Percy answered. "Not necessarily. They got away with having her for a decade, and she's clothed and probably fed, even if only a bit. If they ever took her out, no one said anything of concern."
The two Hestias conversed quietly while Percy rambled about all the possible cracks through which Jacqueline had slipped. It tried James' patience to wait for one of them to talk.
Jones spoke up. "It would be strange to suddenly upset the girl's life, but… I'm not saying that we could take her in, but shouldn't we at least meet her? Shouldn't we ate least speak with the Selwyns?"
Justin and Harry exchanged a look. "I suppose we could give them a surprise visit," Harry commented.
"It's about time," James spat, but Justin and Auror Jones both appeared ready to join the fray. He thought for a second that any one of them was going to tell him to stay behind and wait. Thankfully, that did not happen.
Cair Carrow was the ghost of a daunting manor. On the outside, it looked abandoned. The windows were falling apart, and the siding was crumbling everywhere one looked. The roof, too, looked worse for the wear, for one could see from the street that parts of it looked rotted. Cair Carrow appeared barely inhabitable. It probably would've been safer to have had it demolished ages ago.
But James thought he saw a silhouette in one of the windows, and he pointed to it. "There, on the third floor—I saw someone."
Harry nodded to Jones and to Justin, and the three of them marched forward while Hestia, James, and Percy hung back. Harry knocked, and the door swung open.
"I don't think that's a good sign," Hestia squeaked quietly behind James. He agreed.
The lead three fanned out and saw nothing dangerous. But a sound drew them into the old dining hall, and a man stood behind the lone chair at the table. In the chair was an elderly woman with a crazed look in her rust-colored eyes. An eerie grin was painted on her face. "Hestia Carrow?" she asked upon seeing the group.
Hestia hesitated behind James, and he slipped his wand into his hand. "Yes."
The woman's grin widened. "Don't you remember me? Auntie Iola?"
"I've never met you before."
Abruptly, Iola Selwyn's manic calm snapped. She shot up out of her chair, shoving it backwards into her son, the legs scraping roughly against the aged floor. Iola snarled. "Not my fault, not my fault, not my fault—your parents never wanted me to meet you." She slid a scathing look to her son. "I guess they were right, that Grant shouldn't have married either of you." She sneered. "How's dear Flora anyway?"
A spell flew her way and knocked Iola on her rump. All eyes turned to Jones, who shrugged and said, "Oops."
Grant Selwyn, thankfully, didn't take to his mother's defense. He helped her up and then asked them want they wanted. "We've done nothing that requires Ministry involvement."
"I doubt that," James said. "There's a girl—Jacqueline. You'd know her as Linnéa. Where is she?"
Grant frowned. "I don't know."
"Tell us where she is!" the wandwright shouted. Justin appeared at his side, pushing him gently but sternly back.
The adults went silent. The tiny word echoed in the house. James grew panicky. She could be anywhere.
"Hello?" Jacqueline called again. Though louder the second time, it was obvious that her voice was weak.
"Jacqueline!" Justin called. "Where are you?"
Iola scowled at them all. "Damned Mudbloods… Trying to snuff out the pure lines…"
"Mother, shut up," Grant said. When she opened her mouth to protest, he cast a Silencing Charm on her and took her wand, which he surrendered to a stunned Harry. "I'm sorry, Auror Potter. Usually, there's no overpowering her."
"Uh, no apology needed." Harry appeared equally stunned that Grant had recognized him so quickly.
"But, Dad, he—!" James growled as Justin told him to be quiet. Justin never ordered him around…but maybe it was a good idea to listen this time.
"The girl—she never should've been placed with you," Harry stated.
Grant nodded. "I figured. But I didn't know that, not at first. Only a few years ago did it occur to me that she should be with another family. But Mother—she was so set on trapping Linnéa here." He grimaced, and a trace of regret actually tinged his features. His body language was as limp as his dark hair. "I swear that I don't know where she's hidden, because Mother was the last one with her."
"I might be able to find her," Hestia piped up. "It was my home for a long time."
Her statement set a flood of motion free. Percy remained downstairs with Grant to keep an eye on Iola while the others spread out to search the house. James was glad that he and Justin could describe Jacqueline so well to the others, since they were the only ones there familiar with her. And they kept calling for her.
"Jacqueline!" James hollered.
"Jac-Jac, we're searching for you!" Justin bellowed. "Where are you?"
"Jacqueline!" Harry called.
"Jac, we brought our friends to help find you!" James yelled. "Please, help us out!"
The adults settled for a moment, waiting for a response. Then: "Uh…there's a…a big old broom blocking the door…"
Hestia called from one side of the house. "Jacqueline, does the broom have a soft saddle that's big enough for two people?"
"Jacqueline, don't worry," James said. "She's a friend." He bit his lip and blinked the tears from his eyes. Hestia Carrow, a friend—how could he think that? This woman just might snatch Jacqueline away to Ireland… He shook his head. That mattered later. They needed to ensure Jac-Jac's safety right now, and nothing else.
"…yeah, there's a big saddle."
The five of them met in the mouth of the dining hall. Hestia smiled, and she was prettier for doing so. "I know where she is." She led the way up the stairs as she explained, "There was a small junk room that grew as the years passed. Father kept anything that held sentiment for him and Mother in it, and the broom was a custom gift from an old family friend, made for him and my mother not long after they married." She looked down either end of the corridor on the fourth, final floor before turning right and heading for a thick wooden door. The wall on either side of it looked much thinner than the door.
Justin flicked his wand, and the door reflected his spell, shoving him back. Jones and Harry tried their hands at it, and together they blasted the door open. Jacqueline emerged, unharmed but dusty. She saw James and rushed into his arms.
James picked her up and held her tightly, more so than ever before. He patted her hair and kissed her cheek, smudging gray dust all over her face. And then he started crying.
Justin got to his feet and joined them. The other three stood awkwardly around until Justin got James to head downstairs. The eldest Potter son didn't put the girl down once.
Downstairs, Grant Selwyn breathed a sigh of relief, and he shoved Iola off on Percy. "Thank Merlin… Look, I can't put up with her any longer. I should've put her in St. Mungo's ages ago." He gave Jacqueline a sincerely apologetic look. "I'm sorry that you suffered here, Lin—Jacqueline," he corrected. "But I'm sorrier that I didn't help."
Jacqueline's grip around James' neck was vise-like, and she said nothing as they walked out of Cair Carrow.
Upon exiting, Jones and Harry conjured up several protective enchantments. "There," Jones said. "That should hold the place until it's demolished."
Hestia grunted. "We came all the way from Ireland and you don't at least let me blow it up?"
"Er, no, luv. Not happening."
James turned to his father. "What happens now?"
Harry shook his head, admiring the sight of James with Jacqueline in his arms before them. He smiled sadly. "Oh, James… I just don't know."
"Iola Selwyn…she's at St. Mungo's."
"Ah." James didn't feel like saying very much in response to Justin's announcement.
"Percy wrote me," his husband supplied. "Iola Selwyn's never leaving the very same ward in which Neville's parents live. Though they are on opposite ends of the ward," Justin added. "Grant Selwyn's disappeared. He made arrangements for the rest of his mother's stay, but he seemed to be happy to escape."
James groaned. "I don't want to hear any more about the Selwyns. We only met them briefly. They don't matter into our lives."
Justin grew quiet and looked over at James from his desk in his room at Hogwarts. "They do. Even the tiniest moments greatly affect our lives, James. You know that."
Did he? James gave Justin's words some thought. He and Justin had begun as friends, a teacher merely mentoring a favorite student… James had to look away from Justin, because obviously Justin was right.
"Hey," the professor began as a way to change the subject, "what do you say to visiting my mum and dad? It's been a while, you know. I know we see them every now and then for coffee and the like, but we've not had a proper visit for a long time."
James stopped himself from shrugging. He knew that Justin was trying to cheer him up—well, cheer both of them up. Sometimes James could forget that he wasn't the only one who could get upset…but he loved Justin enough always to remember that there were two people in this partnership. "Yeah, why not?"
That was how the two of them ended up traveling to Justin's old family home, so as not to inconvenience the ever-working Elizabeth and Sampson. James Side-Along Apparated, which he preferred for the time being, for his mind was too bogged down. Ever since two weeks ago, when they had saved Jacqueline, James and Justin had not seen the little girl. Upon their return, Hermione had informed them that Hestia Carrow had a legal right at least to get to know her distant cousin, even if she wouldn't take custody of Jacqueline. Jacqueline had gone voluntarily with the Hestias, who were renting a place near the old Jones home, which had long since been sold to another family. The last the wizards had heard from the Hestias, Jones had written to Justin, saying that Hestia was telling Jacqueline as many of the positive things she could recall about the Carrows. And Jacqueline was an avid listener.
"I mean…what if she wants to stay with them?" James whispered over a cup of cider Elizabeth had poured him.
The Finch-Fletchleys all exchanged a look. "James…at least she's safe now," his mother-in-law reminded him.
Sampson folded his paper in half and put it aside. It was rare for him to do anything but observe the conversation. "You say this girl is from bad blood?"
James nodded, and Justin gave his father a look, hoping that he wouldn't worsen things.
"What makes you think anyone can help her?"
"Father!" Justin spat through gritted teeth as Elizabeth gasped. All James could do was close his eyes and hover over his drink.
Sampson held up a hand to his son and his wife. "My reasoning is this—you have told us enough information to fill, what, sixty pages? And you have given us your opinions on everything, as well. But I feel confused. I feel as though there is one more part of the story missing." Sampson, face as stern as ever, locked eyes with James. "Do you want to bring her into this family?"
James' gut did a flip. "I do. I did… No, I still do." But even James wasn't sure. The more they had learned about the past, the more nervous James had grown. Justin had been a good listener, yes, but James wished that Justin had told him, "No, you're wrong, we're going to adopt her, and that's that." James wanted someone else to give him the answers this time. If he cheated on this one test, it wouldn't be so bad, would it?
But, deep down, he knew that was wrong, too. One doesn't accept another's life into their own unless they're one-hundred-percent committed.
"I'm still deciding," the wandwright finally confessed.
Elizabeth put her hands together to get the men's attention. "Well! Enough of that gloomy talk! I wanted to donate my two pence."
"Oh?" Sampson had one eyebrow raised curiously.
She smirked at her husband. "Well, obviously adoption costs money. Surely even for you magical people," she said with a gesture to the two wizards in the room. "But I want you two to know that, if it comes to it, adoption will be no problem. We can most assuredly help you out with the expenses."
James picked his head up, his heart light. Justin already was teary-eyed at his mother's proclamation, and Sampson was trying to hide a pleased smirk behind his newspaper while muttering something about grandkids. The ease of the room reminded James of Christmastime, when he and Justin had invited Jacqueline to join them, and James had blurted, "You guys are my family."
He might still be deciding…but perhaps he was beginning to lean in one direction, after all.
It was the final week of May at last. James and Justin had given it the old go and thrown themselves into their work while Jacqueline remained with the Hestias. She really did like them.
However, the latest missive Jones penned Justin mentioned that Jacqueline had a request. She wished to get together with the boys for "one last time." Jones also told the men that they hadn't yet resolved to take Jacqueline in, though they had grown to like her a great deal. "She's very much a baby sister to us," the ex-Auror had written (though James grimly noted it was funny to call anyone an ex-Auror, because once an Auror, always an Auror, it seemed to him).
With heavy hearts, the couple met at their usual spot in the Leaky Cauldron. No one else was around today, save for Hannah, but even she had made herself scarce, choosing to work as much as possible in the back rather than to stay at the bar. It gave them the illusion of privacy.
At first, when James and Justin had arrived hand-in-hand, they thought the place was empty. "We must've beaten her here," Justin said.
James looked around, but then Jacqueline's head popped out of the booth behind her normal one. His heart jumped into his throat out of relief.
"Don't worry," she said cheerily. "You guys aren't late. I'm not really early, though. I'm just always here." It was as though she had never left.
Her grin alone lit up the entire pub, and James quickly covered the distant between where they stood and the booth. He plucked her from the seat and swung her around in his arms, as though they had rescued her for a second time. "Oh, Jac! It's so good to see you!" He squeezed her tightly.
Jacqueline giggled and kissed his cheek, throwing her arms around his neck. "I missed you guys, too!" When she sat down on the seat again and dragged James to sit beside her, she added, "In fact, I missed you two more."
Justin laughed. "I don't know—we missed you quite a lot. I think we might've missed you more this time."
"Nuh-uh! No way!" She frowned at them, but she wasn't truly saddened. She was in the best mood James had ever seen her in, actually.
"So…," James said, daring to be the bad guy and ruin the mood. "How've you been? Do you like your cousin?"
Jacqueline's smile dropped a smidgen, but she was still fairly bubbly. "I do. Auntie Hestia is great. She's usually so quiet with too many people around, but she's very talkative with me. And, well, with Aunt Tia, too. The other Hestia," she elaborated, meaning Hestia Jones. "I've got some hand-me-downs from Aunt Tia, in fact, some old stuff that used to be her sister's. They're a little big, though…"
"Do you still have your Christmas presents?"
"Oh, of course!" Jacqueline nodded vigorously. "Those are my favorite things to wear. See?" She unbuttoned the Hufflepuff sweater she was wearing to reveal a purple shirt that James recognized as one of Lily's from when she was little. "My denims are Lily's old ones, too. Good thing she's always been short." She grinned, showing her bright white teeth. She really was happy.
James glanced at Justin. He could see that Justin was staring at the Hufflepuff sweater, no doubt remembering when it had once belonged to his friend, Megan. James kicked his foot under the table, and Justin gave him a nod of thanks.
"Shall we order something to eat?" Justin asked; he did look a little peaky.
Jacqueline gave it a moment's thought. "No, I'm not very hungry." She looked between the two men, slowly. "Actually… Can I ask you guys a question?"
"Anything," James replied.
"Remember when I said that it'd be nice to stay with you guys?" She stared at the table. "Can we make that happen?"
The couple exchanged a look. "Jacqueline—is something wrong with Hestia and Hestia?"
She shook her head, but she leaned against James' arm. "No, of course not. I know by now that it's okay to tell you when something's wrong. Imagine if I had told you guys sooner about the Selwyns…" She closed her eyes. "But, while I really like Auntie Hestia and Aunt Tia… I love Auntie Hestia; she's family, family I think I could count on, but…" Her face flushed as her eyes brimmed with tears. "But I love you guys. I want another Christmas just like the one we had. I want to wake up every morning to have breakfast with you two. And I want to take a bath every night and to have you brush my hair, James, before I go to sleep. I want to hear you call me 'Jac-Jac,' Justin, and I want to—to stay with you guys! I want to be a part of your family!" Jacqueline opened her blurry eyes, which looked like molten metal. "You said we're your family, James," she continued, looking to the eldest Potter son. "That means we're a family!" Her voice had grown shrill though not loud. She sounded desperate and broken, as though the world was disappearing beneath her feet.
James wrapped an arm around her, and she buried her face in his chest. She wasn't sobbing, not yet; she was trying very hard not to cry. James smiled at Justin. What a Weasley thing of her to do.
She hiccupped, though still no tears came. "So…"
How could James dawdle any longer? How could he say no? The answer…he'd probably had it for a very long time. "I'd love for that to happen, Jac."
Jacqueline picked her head up, stunned—but giddy. "Really?"
Just like that, her tears were gone. How sneaky of her—James was briefly reminded of Lily, even when Jacqueline spoke. "Then it's settled."
Justin laughed. "I guess it is."
"But!" She held up a hand and got their attention. "Can we change one thing?"
The men exchanged another look, and Justin replied, "Name it."
"Good." She nodded as if reassured. "Because if you're going to be my fathers, then I can't call you 'James' and 'Justin' anymore. Kids shouldn't call their parents by their first names, y'know." She spoke so matter-of-factly that it was hard to turn her down.
Justin laughed again. "Well, then, James," he remarked, looking lovingly at his spouse, "I think it's a good thing that Mum and Father offered to help out, not to mention that Hermione could probably help us out with the paperwork."
James' eyes glinted knowingly. "And we thought there'd be no more Finch-Fletchleys…"
Two weeks later…
"It's official! Today's my eleventh birthday!"
Jacqueline was damn near bouncing off the walls as James nodded, distracted. "That's great, Jac, but I'm a little busy right now." And he was. He'd baked a cake for her birthday—June twelfth, as they'd discovered, now that they had her records. Certainly the records told them a few things, like her birthday and the fact that she had been a premature birth. They also knew that since she hadn't been taken care of that well by the Selwyns (more so by Iola), Jacqueline had been malnourished for years, and she'd likely always be small. However, she was feisty, and she definitely looked healthier after the past year of pub meetings with James.
Jacqueline bounded into the kitchen of James' flat, where she now lived, the guestroom officially claimed as her own. "Oh my Merlin! Is that for me? Is it all chocolate? Oh my Merlin, I've never had chocolate!"
The wizard rolled his eyes, and his shoulders sagged. "Jac, so help me Godric, if you don't like this after all the harping about wanting to try it and demanding it for your birthday cake—"
She giggled impishly. "No, no, it's fine, Dad."
James' face burned bright red. He still wasn't used to Jacqueline calling him "Dad." In fact, he didn't think he'd get used to anyone calling him "Dad"! Did he look like a dad? He didn't think so.
Jacqueline continued to hover around him as he set the cake down on the table to cool. "So when do you ice it?"
"Not yet. Give it a few minutes, otherwise the icing would run if I tried to put it on now. And the message would turn into a giant, purple blob, which would be a huge mess."
"Fi-ine," she said with a roll of her eyes, drawing the word into two syllables. "But make sure you get my new name right, okay?"
"I'm a wizard, not a troll—I can spell!"
She laughed as though it were the funniest thing in the world. "I know, Dad!"
As she dashed back to her room to get Scorcher, James took a moment to catch his breath. Justin would be arriving at any moment, with some presents in tow (it was easier to keep her gifts at the castle where she couldn't accidentally find them, after all). Though Justin could only stay for a little bit since it was a Sunday, he would be back in England for the summer after the coming week, when the Hogwarts school year ended.
James wondered if Jacqueline would indeed be heading to Hogwarts alongside Justin next term. She hadn't shown any signs of magic in all the time that they'd known her and in the short time she'd come to live with James. Also, the Selwyns had never mentioned if she appeared to be magical, and it wasn't something that could be discovered within her records. Well, whatever the case, Jacqueline would be in school somewhere, Squib or witch.
There was a knock at the door, and Jacqueline went to let in Justin. "Happy birthday, Jac-Jac!" he said after an "oof!" when she'd hugged him.
"Thank you, Papa."
James chortled. Justin's face was redder than his.
The family of three settled down in the kitchen, waiting patiently as James assembled a small meal for them. Jacqueline sat beside Justin as he used a spell to blow up some balloons for her—all purple, of course—and Jacqueline admired the magic. "I wish I could use a wand already," she grumbled.
Justin glanced at James over his shoulder. This was not an easy topic to tread… "Don't worry about it, Jac-Jac," Justin said, and he kissed her head to get her mind off things.
"The cake's ready," James announced as an added topic change.
"What about lunch?" Justin snickered. "You want to teach our daughter bad habits already?"
"Dessert's the most important part of any meal, duh," the wandwright retorted. He waved his wand, and the lights dimmed as the candles came to life with fire. He carried the cake over to the kitchen table and put it down in front of the little girl. He stood on her other side while Justin remained seated.
The fire danced in her eyes, and she gaped at the cake before blowing the candles out. Seeing "Happy birthday, Jacqueline Louisa Finch-Fletchley" written in icing might have been the best part of her birthday yet. She grinned, and the wizards knew that she loved the name she'd picked out…plus the addition of a new surname. "Thank you so much, guys," she whispered, her voice wet.
They hugged her. "Of course, Jac," James breathed into her hair, and he smooched her cheek. "Now, put the balloons away while I cut up the cake, yeah?"
Her smile never wavered as she stood and collected the party materials. "Yes, Da-ad." She really loved adding syllables to words, didn't she?
"And go wash your ha—" James stopped short as he watched, and Justin did, too, no doubt, Jacqueline hold one of the balloons…and it blew up. On its own. Just by holding it, it had filled with air.
Jacqueline looked ready to burst, but all she could do was gawk at the item in her grip. She tried to speak, but all that came out was a squeak. She had a clear look of OH MY MERLIN on her face.
"That's amazing, Jacqueline!" the shorter man cheered.
"Congrats, Jac-Jac!" the older man gushed.
But her attention could only be torn away when they heard a tapping, scratching noise at the window in the living room. James' chest swelled with pride, for that sound could only mean one thing. He marched ahead of his husband and daughter and opened the window, and in flew a medium-sized owl. It landed on the back of a chair near Jacqueline and dropped a yellowish letter at her feet.
"Pick it up, pick it up!" Justin encouraged her.
Jacqueline did as she was told, though she moved stiffly, unable to believe this was really happening. But it was. And when she opened the letter to find a piece of parchment written in green ink, she knew that—at last—all her dreams had come true, for inside was written:
Dear Miss Finch-Fletchley,
We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. …
The MOST appropriate way to end a story—with your Hogwarts letter! 83 Playing more Pottermore lately planted this perfect idea in my head, so…yeah. Though I was surprised that this was a little shorter than J6, "Trial By Fire," I'm still really happy with this. So much has changed for the boys, now… And Jac-Jac's adorable. I love drawing her with her dads—they are the cutest little family! X3 Okay, rambling aside, I give an itemized list of notes, like last time:
a) There's a hint of J3, "20 something potatoes of love," mentioned. Can you spot it? ;]
b) Her dragon plush, Scorcher, is in fact one of those PillowPets, the "Muggle fad" Justin mentioned. I liked giving Jacqueline Scorcher partially out of my own love for stuffed animals. I mean, I'm almost 20, but I still sleep surrounded by awesomeness—not to mention I cuddle a couple of stuffed owls and a Tepig (one of the few Pokémon from Black/White that I love). Yeah… -w-
c) Her name? Her new name was her own idea—she'd long ago decided on "Jacqueline," and "Louisa" is a shout-out to a close pal of mine (you know who you are because you're reading this, hon). And *squee* she's a Finch-Fletchley! :D
d) It's my head-canon that Megan Jones was the little sister of Auror Hestia Jones (a member of the Advanced Guard who collected Harry at the start of OotP). Also, I gave Leanne (Katie Bell's friend) the surname "Moon" because there was originally a "Lily Moon" on JKR's list of students in Harry's year, but since there's no mention of a Lily in his year but there's Leanne… I think she's Leanne Moon. It is also my head-canon that Hestia and Flora Carrow are indeed distantly related to Alecto and Amycus. Yechh.
e) The introduction of the Hestias and the Selwyns: Well, I borrowed most of the Hestias' plot from my oneshot for them, "Trip the Darkness" (which you really should read!). Some things didn't exactly translate over from that, but the gist of the storyline is what I used here to help give Jac-Jac a background, not to mention that since witches and wizards live for a long time, it might be entirely possible for Alecto Carrow to have had this child. :O And Iola and Grant Selwyn will look familiar to anyone who has read my fic, To the Future. It was my 2nd multi-chapter fic and featured Ginny/Sirius as the main pairing, and Grant was actually Ginny's best mate. Of course, I still need to finish ToFu… Anyway, I simply borrowed Iola, Grant, and Tersium (who was mentioned as having died in the war) from my ToFu universe; the ToFu plot was not introduced at all here because it's not needed. Lastly, I doubt I will ever need to use them again outside of ToFu like this, so we likely won't be seeing Iola and Grant again within this universe, since they fulfilled their purpose. Sorry for all the OCs, though. :s
f) There's a mention of Troy Finnigan, James' best mate—can you find it? ;]
g) Will we ever know who Jac-Jac's biological dad is? Erm, no. The suspects are all dead, and there's no need to try and get Alecto to say who—besides, it's unnecessary drama for the Finch-Fletchleys.
h) What happened to Cair Carrow after the rescue? I almost wish Hestia had gotten the chance to blow it up… But she didn't. It has been/will be demolished. Cair Carrow's nothing but a memory now, luvs.
i) Okay…what happened to James' 21st birthday? Not forgotten, but ignored by the main charries due to the presence of more serious issues.
j) What's up with Hannah and Ernie? Are they or aren't they? Actually, I have a story planned to explain them. Soon. Very soon. XD I will spoil one thing—they are together, as much as Hannah tries to deny it in front of others. I also do love how Ernie is with Frankie…awww. -w-
k) Sampson's remark about "enough information to fill sixty pages": XDDD This was a little joke for me, because he says this on page 64 of this story. Dumb, I know, but ironically amusing. ;D
l) Calling Hestia "Auntie Hestia" and Jones "Aunt Tia": Hestia Carrow is Jacqueline's distant cousin, yes, but she's so much older that calling her "Auntie Hestia" is more appropriate. Calling Jones "Aunt Tia" is a throwback to something mentioned in my Hestia/Hestia fic, "Trip the Darkness."
m) James, a dad? But he's only ten years older than Jacqueline! Yes, but his affection for her is that of a dad's for his daughter. I had him constantly comparing her to Lily, but their relationship is quite different than that of a sibling one. Besides, Jac-Jac needs parents.
n) Will Jac-Jac fit in with James' family? Do I even need to say it? She's a nice fit for the Weasley–Potter clan. Lily's now an aunt! :D (It's fun being an aunt, though like Lily I'm not much older than my niece, haha.) But Al's now technically an uncle… O.o Well, we'll figure out Al another time, honest. :O
o) James and dessert before a meal: Another little in-joke for me, because my mother's the same way—the first thing she checks in any restaurant is the dessert menu! That way, according to her, we'll know "if the food's any good." XDDDD Thank you, mama mew! ;3
p) Other M&MWPs mentioned/used beside Jamestin: These include Victoire/Neville, Mols/Michael, and Hestia/Hestia, so please give Morghen and me a little mention if you'd like to write them, thank you! If I missed any M&MWPs…well, I don't think I did. I think I simply hinted at some of my fav non-M&MWP pairings (like a certain slash one…).
q) What's up with Molly? Is everything all right with her and Michael? She's fine, she and Michael are fine—I have a oneshot planned for them, too, to explain this.
r) SEQUEL! Of course! :D Because I am not one to disappoint. The next Jamestin story, J8 (holy cow, I write them too much! 8O), is "With Open Arms & Wings." I've no idea how long this will be, as I still have some things to figure out for it. But at least look forward to seeing more of the Weasleys! :D Yaaay! And, as a treat, I'm ready to announce the titles for J9 and J10, as an anniversary present for Jamestin, whom I created almost 2 yrs ago (11/28/10, guys!): J9—"Promises & Alibis." J10—"What Matters Most." Also, I'm announcing the title of my on-going drabble project which I began in March 2012 and involves a heavy dose of this Jamestin universe: "until the ride ends & even after that." I'm not sure when I will begin posting it, but I hope to start posting it sometime this year. It will have spoilers for future Jamestins, so I hope you like that, as well.
s) Credit due: The title of this fic comes from the song "Crooked Legs" by The Acorn. I love this song to death. :'}
Well, that's enough of me talking. I should go write some more! XD So please, review, and don't favorite without reviewing—this was a story three months in the making, and I pour my heart and soul into this universe every time I work with it.
But thank you to everyone who takes the time to read it! See you again in J8, "With Open Arms & Wings"!