Chapter 23

Sorry for taking so long with the chapter, I had been rather depressed lately.

Lily Potter looked up from her book when the fireplace flared green as the floo activated.

"Headmaster? How can I help you?" she said more frostily than ever before. Eric was coming home to the Potter Manor tomorrow and she has already received a word from Eric about what happened and in her opinion it was the headmaster who should have ensured Eric's safety.

"Lily, good to see you, my dear. Did the news reach you?"

"Albus! How can you be so calm? Eric wrote me that a professor from Hogwarts attacked him! How could it happen? And if I am to believe everything, then Voldemort is in Britain again!"

"Lily, please calm down, it isn't necessary -"

"What isn't necessary?" asked Lily in a dangerous voice and started pacing around the room. "Or is Voldemort threatening my child a normal thing?!"

"That certainly wasn't something what I wanted to tell you. You're very much entitled to worries, every mother would." said Dumbledore soothingly. "Did Eric receive any special training?"

Lily paused in pacing for a while. "He knows the basics of what the Potter heir should, he also knows more than normal for a child of his age on magical theory and he had some fencing lessons. I wanted for him to have a childhood." she said in voice that didn't leave space for disapproval. "Where are you heading with this? If security around Hogwarts was as tight as it should be, nothing would have happened. Eric is eleven years old, too young to face the danger Voldemort represents. My child isn't a soldier!"

"I see. I assure you that I wouldn't want such thing from Eric. Child shouldn't be robbed of childhood." Dumbledore looked searchingly at Lady Potter. "But I have to ask you to take your daughter, Adrienne, back home to you, my dear."

"What?!" roared Lily. "You can't be serious."

"I am afraid I am deadly serious. It seems like the remarkable girl is the reason Voldemort was defeated all this time ago after all. At least it is what Voldemort himself thinks. Adrienne have to be allowed proper wizarding family instead of running wild with her irresponsible father."

Lily gaped at the old wizard. "You can't ask me to do so!" In the summer, she wasn't able to look into the face of the girl and it didn't change.

"Lily, dear, please be reasonable. No matter what happened in the past, she is your daughter." reminded her Dumbledore gently. "Right now, she needs you, your love, and the greatest force in the world, to grow. Once you put aside your initial dislike I am sure you can help her to grow into astonishing witch and woman like yourself."

"No, I can't. Good-bye, Albus." Lily turned her back to the old man. Even after all this time she couldn't face her guilt she has buried for so long. She would simply prepare Eric for all she could, nothing more, but nothing less. She would be there for her sweet boy to the best of her ability and that was all that mattered. When she was sure Dumbledore left the manor, a lone tear made her way down her face.

Scene break

"Merry Christmas! Yahoo!" pair of two red haired visitors yelled happily in the castle at Kuraigana island.

Master of the place calmly flipped another newspaper page. When the door of the dinner room slammed open he finally acknowledged them: "Shouldn't you be celebrating with your crew?"

"Hey! We couldn't leave you alone around Christmas, at this point of time nobody should be left alone! So we made a little trip." grinned Shanks at his friend.

"As you know, I don't celebrate Christmas."

"Too bad. Aren't you even slightly curious what are your presents?"

"Yeah and uncle, you won't believe what I did this half of year!"

"Not particularly." Mihawk saw two expressions of kicked puppies and knowing he wouldn't get rid of his uninvited guests unless he complied, he put down the newspaper and treated them – Adrienne to Christmas candy and Shanks to booze.

Hawk-eyes saw the two of them back in festive mood and asked: "As it's Christmas, shouldn't you be with your new children?"

"Aye, we're going to get them and celebrate tomorrow."

"You'd get gloomier here alone. It's gloomy enough; the island is practically a graveyard."

"You're exaggerating, Adrienne. And if your father is turning into new Whitebeard, he'd better accept the consequences."

"Oi, watch it, I am not Whitebeard! And I am not building up a family; even those kids are getting over my head. So, shut up and open your present, Hawky."

Mihawk's eye twitched and he glared at the redheads because of the offensive nickname, but he took the wrapped up box with huge bow-knot and slowly opened it. He would let the Whitebeard pass – for now. "'Legendary goblin weapon-smiths and their crafts'. You outdid yourself, Shanks, am I not getting booze as usual?" teased Hawk-eyes with small ghost-like smile which showed his appreciation.

"Ahh, have you finally got into enjoying life? It has to be my positive influence."

"I wouldn't call getting drunk into the next day a positive influence, Shanks."

"Grumpy swordsmen." mumbled Shanks under his breath.

"You're problematic swordsman as well, dad. Even Benn says so."

"You shouldn't repeat everything Benn says." huffed Shanks.

"You're saying that only because you're losing the bet, dad."

"I am not! Let's set new rules so we won't nullify it every year."

"It's not going to happen. Looser~"

"You little witch -"

"Indeed I am." said Adrienne smugly.

"What takes you here apart from the excuse of holiday?"

"Well, let's get to the part where I get presents." grinned Adrienne at both men.

"You're growing up as a spoiled brat."

"Well, I am not the one to blame." pointed out Adri.

"Reminds me why I don't like children, brat."

"So, a present?"

"Puppy eyes won't get you anywhere. If you want one, try to find it."

"Do I have any clue?" asked Adri excitedly.

"Don't get killed by running out of the castle and into the baboons. My chambers are off limits too."

"Alright!" Adri jumped at her feet and went searching for it.

Mihawk waited for the door to shut up. He stared at his friend and rival with questioning eyes and eyebrow raised.

"If you're going to ask about how did she fare in Britain, you should wait for Adrienne and listen to her. You still don't like the idea she went there, do you?"

Mihawk scowled. "No, I don't and I have a good reason as you should know if you listened. I remember you when you left the island ten years ago."

"It doesn't have anything to do with it."

"Then tell me, what changed? She still doesn't have a mother."

"Perhaps she can get mother with time, but she definitely got a brother, her twin. It's sometimes hard to believe they're twins with how they act. Eric is much more child in his acting than Adrienne has ever been." Shanks looked at him solemnly. "Or is it about the loss of arm because of Luffy again? I have never seen you so much angry like then."

"You lost your arm." hissed Mihawk. "Your dominant, left arm. Of course I was angry, you almost threw away your entire swordsmanship with it. But I respect the decision and why you made it. But not with your wife. Don't you dare to hurt Adrienne with her."

"You've gotten more protective about her, Mihawk." observed the pirate captain.

The master swordsman sat in silence, his cheeks tingled pink before he finally admitted: "I guess I did, after the mess at the Sabaody Archipelago. But that's beside the point."

"Adrienne has her own life and it was her own decision to go to Britain. She's finally having friends of the same age. So, don't worry that much about her."

"You can't protect her there. Do you really think she is ready to be let go?" asked Mihawk after a moment of silence.

"I'll be there as much as I can, but I won't interfere with her decision."

"Found it!" the two men heard excited yell and soon the girl joined them. "You're in a foul mood." observed Adrienne. "You shouldn't argue at Christmas, you can kill each other another time." She chastised them, and then she continued with huge grin. "And thank you for the kimono uncle, it's the best!"

Mihawk nodded in acknowledgment.

"So, do you want to hear about Hogwarts, uncle Hawky? Perhaps I should start with the Mirror of Erised."

Hawk-eyes barely kept his eye from twitching. "Oh?"

"I didn't hear that one." encouraged her Shanks.

"It's a mirror that shows people's dreams!" Adrienne waved her arms dramatically. "I could see myself defeating you as I promised I would, uncle." She gently touched her silver earrings. "Dad and my friends waited for me in a ship."

Scene break

"Ace! Luffy!" yelled Shanks as he searched the forest around Mount Corvo. He couldn't find the two devils in the Fuusha village and Makino could only tell him that Garp visited two days ago. Shanks worried about them, he remembered the barely kept in check terror when they mentioned their grandfather's training.

He scanned the area and then entered the most dangerous part of the forest which hid giant animals. Shanks ducked attack from a enormous eagle and stepped before what looked like a bear den with entrance buried under stones. He blinked at the familiar presence.

"What are you doing here, Red haired?" demanded Garp who was sitting on a rock near the entrance munching on his donuts.

"Where are Ace and Luffy?" What could the crazy marine do to his own grandsons?

"It's none of your business. You shouldn't have come here again, Red haired. Stay away from my grandsons. I don't need you corrupting them, they'll become strong marines!"

Shanks put his hands up to show he didn't mean harm. "I am no threat to the boys. It's their choice to become what they want and it isn't like I am here to take them to the sea. Can I see the brothers to my daughter at Christmas?"

"I told you to stay away. Tell me, how many people have fled before you in fear? Their choice?" Garp scoffed. "They're my precious grandsons. I don't want to choose between my family and my duty again. I won't! I can defend them this way; unlike you did for your daughter – wanted at the age of eight! The boys won't become the next demon child or wind dancer. At least they haven't showed any Conqueror's haki."

"Don't compare Adrianne and the Oharan girl! Their situations are completely different, Adrienne has me and the entire crew to rely on and only strangers or blinded fools would hate her for such thing as haki, you marines are too prejudiced about it. Don't you dare to say I can't protect her? And I won't be leaving unless I see the boys."

Before Garp could retort they heard bear's roar. "Dad!" muffled scream was heard.

"Luffy? Ace? Where are you?" Shanks knew the dad part wasn't the smartest thing to call him with pissed off marine hero right behind him, but now wasn't much time to contemplate on this as he turned to the furious marine. "What have you done to the boys, Garp?! Where are Ace and Luffy?"

Both men heard another silenced groan. "They'll be fine without you. Leave, Red haired, I only took them for a training yesterday. They wrestled with the bear in the cave here." Garp paused and then realization hit him. "Oh, forget what I said."

"The cave is completely blocked and the boys are still there!" The pirate lord was getting angry with the stubborn marine.

"Ah, don't worry, there's a small tunnel that leads outside." Garp frowned. "My grandsons are strong and this would make them even stronger. You have your last chance to leave, Red haired, or I'll capture you. I was benevolent because you saved Luffy's life, but I won't be any longer." warned him the old man. It seemed like the anger was mutual.

"Forget that, Garp, can't you prioritize?" Shanks drew his saber and sliced through the stone blocking the cave.

"I could ask the same thing!" Garp yelled angrily and punched the remnants of said cave. Debris and gravel rained down on everywhere. In the dust were only visible shadows – one of a roaring, angry bear and two, much smaller ones were hiding in what remained of the cave.

"Gramps, I am going to kill you!" yelled Ace angrily. One bigger piece of rock landed almost on him, Ace dodged it with a hiss of pain. "Never mind. Luffy needs a doctor!"

The giant bear didn't take destroying his nest kindly and charged at the men, his previous prey forgotten. "Luffy! Hang in there!" yelled Shanks and cut the animal, nearly diving it into quarters. He rushed to the boys with Garp right next to him. Luffy laid on the ground, pale and bleeding from the many bear gashes on his chest. "I'll carry him. Does Fuusha village have a decent doctor? What happened, Ace?" asked Shanks, but then he noticed Ace's fatigue, the boy could barely stand and wasn't unharmed either. "Can you walk?" was pirate's next question.

Ace didn't get the chance to answer that. "Luffy will live. You should leave now, Red haired."

Shanks saw red and the anger turned into fury when he saw how Garp waited for his departure before helping Luffy. "No." he uttered.

A second later the marine vice admiral was charging at him with fist hardened with haki. Shanks blocked the blow, but his feet sank into ground by the force of it. The pirate coated his sword with as much haki as he could and reciprocate the attack, thinking between the punches he mostly only defended against.

Shanks quickly considered his options. Luffy was bleeding profusely and Ace didn't look healthy either. He didn't have time to fight Garp and from the fights he saw him in with Captain Roger Shanks' haki was too weak and in the end he would lose. Turning his back to the marine would be even more deadly when Garp saw him as a threat. He had his last option – his magic, but Red Force was quite far away and taking with him two wounded boys … he didn't know if he had the power to back it up, especially with the danger of splitting any of them. But Garp couldn't place his grandson's life before his anger and so Shanks quickly locked image of Luffy without a limb or intestines down in his mind and decided to take his chance.

Shanks grabbed Garp's fist with his right hand, guiding him more into direction of his attack and so tried to get him out of balance. His sword struck at the same time with its flat side, aiding the movement. Garp staggered, even more when transfigured straws of now living and growing grass tried to hold him. The moment was all Shanks needed. He gathered panicking Ace and unconscious Luffy in his arms as quickly as possible, took deep breath and apparated.

Loud pop was heard and Shanks fell down at shore near Red Force unconscious, holding the two boys in tight clasp. He didn't woke up for nearly two weeks from the coma of magical exhaustion, but meanwhile Red haired pirates patched up their two new apprentices and the three now inseparable siblings took turns at their father's bedside.

"Thank you." whispered Ace to Shanks who couldn't hear him.

What kind of bet do you think is going on between Adrienne and Shanks?