Sirius shook his head as he and Harry appeared in the foyer of the Black Villa.
"I completely forgot you could do that, pup," he commented as he got his bearings. "So, what are we doing here?"
"I am sick and tired of France," Harry told him. "Come on, pack what we want to take with us. No idea how much time we have," he rushed to the stairs.
"Harry, wait a sec," Sirius called him back. "What is the plan?"
Harry waited at the bottom step. "Look Sirius, they're going to send you out of the country. What if they send you back to England, where both the Ministry and Dumbledore are after us?" He sounded annoyed.
"Harry, they said it was safe there now. Apparently Fudge is gone," Sirius tried. "Look, let's go back and talk things out, okay?"
"Suddenly you're the voice of reason?" Harry let out a weird laugh. "I don't trust politicians. Look, if you don't want to come with me it's fine with me. It's your life you're gambling away. I can handle being on my own."
"No, no, I'm coming with you," Sirius quickly said. "Let's see... how do you feel about Gibraltar?"
"I have no idea where that is," Harry said.
"Didn't those bloody Muggles teach you any geography?" Sirius sounded surprised. "Gibraltar is perfect pup. It's part of Muggle England, but magically, it is in limbo between Britain and Spain. Meaning, it is mostly self-ruled."
"And why is that good for us?"
"The governor is distant family," Sirius recalled. "I haven't spoken to him since I was a Hogwarts brat, but I bet he'll at least listen to us. And if not... you can use that fancy fumation trick of yours to get us out of trouble, can't you?"
"I... I guess," Harry said. "Are you sure we'll be safe though? And what about, well, our stuff?"
"As sure as I can be," Sirius stated. "I'll seal up the wards on the Black Villa, don't worry, I'll make sure the Grangers' and Remus' possessions are out on the lawn where they can get to it. Once we're settled in we can hire a House Elf to get what we leave behind to our new location." He had a gleam in his eye as he thought about starting anew.
"Sounds like a plan... do you think a House Elf can also take my stuff out of Beauxbatons then?" Harry asked.
"Sure, I don't see why not. I'll admit I don't like the creatures much which is why I don't have one here, but they can be useful. We'll need a housekeeper, since I can't cook, and I doubt you want to do all the cleaning," Sirius admitted.
Harry let out a short laugh. "So where is this Gibraltar? Can you take us there?" he asked him next.
"All the way south, once we're across the Spanish border I can probably apparate us, or we can use the Spanish floo system. Erm, do you know how to get to Beauxbatons from here?" Sirius looked critically at his godson.
"Probably," Harry said. "Why?"
"Because if you cross those mountains, you're on the Spanish side. Think that's possible?"
"Easy," Harry said.
"Good. Then let's get the Grangers' and Remus' stuff on the lawn, I'll write a quick note, and we can leave," Sirius stated.
With handy use of the Pack spell the others' rooms were cleared in no time, everything belonging to the others flying into steamer trunks. Harry waited outside as Sirius touched a ward stone, sealing the property. All he had taken with him for now was a change of clothes, the rest could wait.
Hedwig had been waiting in his room, looking at him quizzically. "Hedwig... I must ask you to stay with Hermione for now, okay?" Harry gently stroked her feathers.
Hedwig appeared to understand. She looked sad as Harry stepped away from the trunks, settling down on a tree branch nearby.
"Sure you want to leave her behind pup? We can take her with us, you know," Sirius offered. He'd finished writing his note, and left the letter on top of the middle trunk where the others wouldn't miss it.
"It's better not... she's too noticeable. Besides, who would I write? She'll be better off with the others," Harry sadly said.
"If you're sure," Sirius placed his hand on Harry's shoulder for support. "Hey pup... do you think we should pop by Emma before we leave? See if she wants to come with us?" Sirius sounded unsure.
"I don't think that's a good idea Sirius... who knows what the French will do to us if they catch us. Probably hand you over to the Brits and force me back with the Delacours, and that's if we're lucky," Harry objected.
"You're really annoyed with the girls aren't you?" Sirius asked in a soft tone.
"They broke my trust twice," Harry glared. Sirius got the hint and dropped the subject.
Harry looked around once more. "I think we should go now... you ready?"
"Take us away, pup," Sirius said.
A wisp of smoke rushed to the Pyrenees shortly after.
Hermione looked in shock at the place where Harry and Sirius had been standing a second before. "He... he left me?"
Fleur collapsed to her knees, and started crying.
Remus blinked stupidly, then rushed out the room to get help.
In no time at all the Delacours were back, along with Aurors. While Apolline tried to console Fleur who was crying hysterically, and Gabbi did her best to calm Hermione down in her own way, Jean, Remus, and the Aurors tried to find some indication of where Harry may have gone.
"I am checking Beauxbatons, you should go to the Villa," Jean instructed Remus. "Take two Aurors with you, just in case."
"Surely you don't think they are needed?" Remus asked.
"Remus, much as it pains me, we need to have confirmation of Monsieur Black's whereabouts. He is an undesired person, and if he is still on French soil after the end of today, will be treated as a criminal. We also need to make sure Harry is safe."
"I can see your point," Remus agreed.
Remus and two Aurors flooed to the Villa... or at least attempted to, but the floo seemed to be closed. With a frown on his face, he decided to apparate instead, the two Aurors side-alonging with him.
Instead of appearing in the foyer, they landed in a heap in the back garden.
"We hit an anti-apparition ward," one Auror said as he extracted himself from the pile of limbs.
"Not good... Sirius you fool, what have you done?" Remus asked rhetorically. The villa was sealed off, he couldn't even touch the door before his hand hit an invisible wall, which caused all the hairs on his hand to stand up. You didn't need to be a curse breaker to know it was generally a really bad idea to try to force your way through a ward that physically repelled you.
"Mr Lupin? There's a letter here for a 'Moony'," the other Auror spoke up. Remus looked his way, and saw three steamer trunks sitting on the lawn, with a letter lying on top of one.
"That's my nickname," Remus said. He walked up and took the letter, and read it:
Harry and I are leaving now. I apologize for kicking you out, but with the Grangers staying at the Delacours and us out of the country, the place won't be needed. I hope you can stay with the Delacours as well... if not... there's some galleons in your trunk. Use them for a house if you need it, otherwise just get some new clothes.
I'm not telling you where we're going. The frogs were willing to hand me over to Britain just because I rescued Emma, that should tell you enough about how trustworthy they are. Harry and I both agree France is no longer safe for us.
I am not a fool, I know there's something more with Emma you've not told me. But I trust your judgement in this, so I'll not contact her directly. I only ask that you take care of her while I'm away.
Harry is really annoyed, as I write this I can feel his magical aura pulse. The pup combines Lily's slow boil temper with James' stubbornness... I don't think he'll forgive either girl easily. And I'm not going to force him to.
I'll set up something with the goblins so you can send us letters if you like, just ask them to deliver it to the Head of the Black Family and it should eventually reach me. Yes, I am taking up my role as family head. Not that I particularly want to, but I'll need it to keep Harry safe.
Don't expect to hear from us any time soon. Harry is my prime priority now, I let him down too many times before. The girls will get over him, I'll definitely try to make Harry get over them!
"Padfoot, you fool," Remus muttered. Then, to the Aurors: "We can call off the search, they're not here."
"Not my decision sir, that's up to Deputy Minister Delacour," one Auror replied.
"Well summon him then, he'll want to read this," Remus impatiently replied.
The magically amplified voice of Professor McGonagall sounded through the halls: "All students are to go their Common Rooms right away. Teachers, please escort your students to their Houses then report to the Great Hall; Prefects, please assist the teachers in their task before returning to your own House. Any student found outside of their Common Room or dormitories in thirty minutes will lose House Points and get a detention."
Those that were in their classrooms quickly packed away their things at their teachers' instruction, the others hurried out of the library, school grounds, or where-ever they could be found, to make their way back.
None of the teachers had information on why this was happening, or wouldn't say. About thirty minutes later the teachers all had arrived in the Great Hall. Professor McGonagall stood there, next to an impatient looking Auror. Another eleven Aurors stood close by.
"Minerva, what is going on? Where is the Headmaster?" Pomona Sprout asked.
"In a minute Pomona," McGonagall said. She turned to face a painting hanging behind the Headmaster's chair, "Are all the students in their Houses?"
The occupant, a shifty looking man with very broad shoulders and short, scrubby hair, moved out of his frame, and re-appeared a number of seconds later. "The four door guardians report that they believe everyone is inside," he answered her. "If any of the hallway paintings sees someone, they'll tell me."
"Thank you Corvinus," Minerva nodded respectfully. "To answer your question Pomona, Headmaster Dumbledore has left us. These Aurors are here to... secure our guests, and... protect the castle," she said with distaste.
"Left us? What do you mean?" Professor Sinistra asked.
"It appears Professor Dumbledore felt it best to keep us uninformed of happenings on the outside," Minerva sounded annoyed. "I found the missing Daily Prophets in his office, they're on the Head Table if you wish to read. I think you'll be as shocked as I was. Please, all, read them carefully... we'll need to break the news to the students somehow."
"Madam, may we proceed?" the Auror next to her asked.
"The door will unlock from the outside," McGonagall let out a sigh. "Please, remember that this is a school and keep any violence to a minimum?"
"I doubt Mister Fudge will be a challenge," the Auror said with a grim smile. "We'll be off then, ma'am. My colleague here shall remain with you until the RCM decides otherwise."
The head Auror and seven of his peers left for the stairwell, four of their number remaining behind.
As the Aurors left for their prey, the teachers were reading through the Prophet, their expressions varying from shock to outrage as they realised their world had changed while they had been kept incommunicado.
Former Minister Fudge looked up as the door to his guest chambers finally opened. "About time! Did Dumbledore send you? We've been locked in here all day!" he complained as the Aurors entered.
The two Aurors that had remained loyal to him as a bodyguard took one look at the four new entries, and made a show of slowly drawing their wand, then handed them over with the tip facing themselves.
Fudge didn't pay attention to what his 'useless' guards were doing, as he attempted to fluff himself up in a feeble attempt to intimidate the newcomers.
"Cornelius Oswald Fudge, you are charged with High Treason," the lead Auror spoke. "You will hand over your wand and come with us, now."
"Preposterous!" Fudge spluttered. "I am the Minister for Magic! What is your name Auror, I will have your head for this!"
"Auror Proudfoot, proudly serving the Crown Ministry," Proudfoot spoke. "Surrender your wand, sir."
"Crown Ministry?" Fudge glared. "I am the Minister here! Wait 'till I tell Dumbledore!"
"Mister Dumbledore is gone," Proudfoot said. "Now hand over your wand sir, or we'll be forced to assume you are resisting arrest."
"You are damned right I am resisting arrest!" Fudge stated proudly, then began fumbling for his wand, which he kept in his back pocket. However when his hands reached there, they found nothing... one of the Aurors had simply lifted it from him.
"Stun him, easier that way," Proudfoot ordered. Fudge never even saw who cast the stunner that took him out.
Dolores Umbridge was sitting at her desk when her door opened, writing on parchment. She looked up and saw four Aurors.
"You can wait outside until I am finished," she dismissed them.
"Madam Umbridge? You are under arrest for High Treason," one of the Aurors spoke.
"I knew it!" Umbridge got to her feet quickly. "Fudge turned on me? I will talk! I know all his dark secrets!"
"You misunderstand ma'am... we are with the Crown Ministry," the Auror corrected her. "Former Minister Fudge is likewise under arrest."
"Crown Ministry? You are working for that Bones traitor?" Umbridge's eyes narrowed, and she made to stealthily take out her wand.
Unfortunately for her, her idea of stealth was hardly efficient. Before she could even think of a spell to cast, she too, was stunned.
Hogwarts Great Hall, later that day
The students entered the Great Hall in a disorderly bunch, having been locked up in their Common Rooms without explanation until supper, all classes cancelled.
The more alert among them immediately noticed that Professor McGonagall had taken Professor Dumbledore's chair, and that instead of Minister Fudge, the toad woman, and two Aurors at an extra table, now four (different) Aurors stood at the back of the hall, one near each table.
"If I may have your attention please," Professor McGonagall called out as she rose.
"Where's the Headmaster?" Cormac McLaggen called out.
"That will be answered, Mr McLaggen," McGonagall shot him a glare for interrupting her.
"There have been problems with the delivery of the Daily Prophet and your letters these past few days, for which I apologize. The Headmaster felt it best not to let you learn the news first hand."
"Get to it already," Draco's whiny voice called out. "If there are letters from my father I demand to read them now!"
"That will be twenty Points from Slytherin for lack of respect Mr Malfoy," McGonagall bit at him.
"The Ministry for Magic, along with the Wizengamot, has been replaced with a new Crown Ministry, reporting directly to Her Majesty, the Queen of the United Kingdom, Elizabeth II. Furthermore, for the time being at least, all noble titles have been declared invalid."
As was to be expected, there was a huge uproar at this, especially from the Pureblood crowd. "What? When my father hears about this!" Malfoy spoke up again.
"When your father heard about this, Mr Malfoy," McGonagall glared at the spoiled brat, "your father tried to kill Her Majesty. He failed, was captured, and the muggles hanged him for his crimes."
Silence filled the hall. People were shocked to learn that not only was Mr Malfoy dead, but the muggles had apparently taken down a wizard, and executed him like a common criminal.
McGonagall looked around the Hall while Malfoy slumped to his seat, his face ashen pale. "I can understand you are all... surprised at this news," McGonagall continued. "This will be a difficult time of transition for all of us. Hogwarts itself is also affected: we will require several new teachers, as Professor Snape will not be returning. The Crown Ministry has also informed me there shall be some changes in the curriculum. As such, the school will be closed as we prepare for the next year. We will contact your parents and guardians to make sure you all have a house to return to until the school opens again."
"Professor McGonagall, what about those of us taking our O.W.L.s or N.E.W.T.s?" a Ravenclaw called out.
"I am sure the Wizarding Examination Authority is already well aware of the disruption, Mr Duncan, and you will all be contacted directly." McGonagall answered. "Now, the mail." She clapped her hands, and owls swooped down, delivering letters to most students.
Standing out by their lack of letters were those students that did not receive any, among them Draco Malfoy and Vincent Crabbe. Instead, they got a notice requesting them to stay behind after dinner ended.
The owls flew off, dinner was served, and the students talked among each other. Most Muggleborns took the news fairly well as did many Half-bloods, but the Purebloods, especially those in the Slytherin and Ravenclaw houses, were mainly worried, even those that did hear from their parents. Draco seemed to be in a daze. His expression wavered between disbelief and righteous fury. When he did speak, he loudly exclaimed that it was a lie, and that his father would come for him.
Finally dinner ended, and the students filed out, except for those that received the summons to stay behind, twenty in total: seventeen Slytherins, and three Ravenclaws.
"Where is my mail, Professor?" Draco demanded. Despite being only a third year, his father's high status at the Ministry meant the others fell in line.
"Mr Malfoy, others, please sit back down," McGonagall instructed them. "Calming draught has been placed on the tables... I suggest you take it now, before we continue."
Malfoy scoffed at the notion... the others, especially the older students, did follow the suggestion. Professors McGonagall and Flitwick waited until those that would cooperate drank – all but Malfoy and Crabbe – then she waved her wand.
The side doors opened and sad looking people stepped through. The assembled students recognised family members: either a mother, or an uncle, or someone else they knew.
Draco saw his mother, and rushed up to meet her. "Mother! Where is father?"
"Oh little dragon... I am so sorry," Narcissa said with a sniff. "Your father... he..."
They were interrupted as a wail of despair came from an older Slytherin girl. Her mother embraced her, and softly began rocking her.
"Mother, this is not funny! Tell me where father is, I demand it!"
"Draco dear... your father... he... he is no longer with us," Narcissa said as gentle as possible.
"No! What are you saying?" Malfoy looked around for support, but his fellow students were either staring ahead morosely, or sobbing softly, their kin providing support.
"Draco, please calm down," Narcissa tried. "Your... Lucius... he was found guilty of attacking the Queen... and was executed..." she began to cry.
"You are mad! You're all insane!" Draco pushed his mother away, looking around wildly. "This joke can end now! It is not funny! I demand to know the truth!"
"Draco, please," Narcissa pleaded, but Draco only got louder.
"My father cannot be dead! He's not some filthy muggle!"
"Stupefy," Professor Flitwick stunned him. At a look from Narcissa, he explained: "I apologize madam, but he was upsetting the other students."
"My poor boy," Narcissa held him. "Thank you, Professor. If it is all right with you, I'd like to take my son home now... before the – sniff – funeral..."
"Of course, and my condolences madam," Flitwick respectfully bowed his head. One of the Aurors came near, and offered to help Narcissa get Draco home. Despite her reticence to accept help from the government that had executed her husband, she accepted.
The other students fared a little better, but in the end all were taken by their family to grieve at home.
Next Morning, Delacour Home
Hermione woke from a bad dream. It took her a bit to realise where she was, but then she recognised the bedroom as Fleur's... she had been too tired and distraught to care much about where she had been allowed to sleep, and ended up on a conjured bed in the older Veela's room.
With Harry disappearing, no-one felt it wise to let the girls return to school just yet.
Fleur's bed was empty. Hermione wasn't sure if she was glad or not... on the one hand she blamed Fleur for driving Harry away, on the other hand, the pain she had seen on Fleur's face as Harry left had been real enough that she now finally admitted that Fleur did, indeed, care for Harry as well.
Even if her way was wrong... even worse than Hermione's own clinginess and controlling nature, a small voice inside her tried to tell her.
Not feeling up to getting dressed properly, Hermione just went into the adjacent bathroom, did her morning ritual, and threw on a bathrobe that was hanging on the door. Probably Fleur's, but that it was a little too large for her was the least of her concerns. She found stairs leading down, and followed them to a room where she heard soft voices.
"Hermione dear, how are you?" Her mother asked. Emma was sitting between Mrs Delacour and Mrs Abbott at the breakfast table. Gabrielle was seated as well, Fleur stood at a counter pouring coffee.
"Miserable," Hermione said in a small voice. "Has there been any news?"
Fleur handed her a cup of coffee without words. The Veela looked to be as sad as Hermione felt... her natural beauty was hardly visible under bad bed hair and walls under her tear-stricken eyes.
"Papa and Monsieur Lupin are at the Ministry, trying to find out if they crossed the British or any other border," Fleur told Hermione.
"They left early this morning, before I woke up even."
Hermione shot Fleur a weak smile and sat down, cradling her cup of coffee more for the warmth than to drink it.
"I drove him away didn't I? He's really gone... even Hedwig won't take a letter to him," she said miserably. The snow owl had presented herself to Remus and had made it clear she wanted to come with him. She was now resting in the Delacours' modest owlry.
That, more even than the Black villa being sealed, drove the point home for Hermione. Harry wouldn't have told Hedwig to leave the villa if he had any plan of returning... the only conclusion she could come to was that he had decided to permanently go.
Tears started to slowly flow again.
"Don't cry," Gabrielle said. She took a seat on Hermione's right side, so that the former Gryffindor now had a Veela on each side of her.
"Mama said, true love is forever," Gabrielle continued. "He is mean and stupid now, but he will come back to you and sissie, I know it."
Hermione started to cry for real now. Next to her, Fleur did the same. Gabrielle looked unsure what she did wrong, all she had tried was to comfort her big sisters.
Beauxbatons, Fleur and Hermione's room, a few days later
Hermione and Fleur returned to Beauxbatons the next Monday. As they had feared they found all Harry's possessions had disappeared from their room, and not even a note had been left behind.
At breakfast, Hermione got a rather cold reception... their classmates had been looking forward to being in the same school as the world famous Garcon-Qui-A-Vecu, but now with Harry gone and Hermione returning alone, they blamed her. Gone was the beginning friendship with the other girls.
Hermione felt as alone as she had in Hogwarts prior to the Troll incident. Just like then, she was in a foreign environment, with no friends, and no idea on where to go next. All she had now was her school work... and somehow trying to be the best in class didn't seem as worthwhile a goal as it had in the past. She sat in a daze through Transfiguration, and had to be reminded by the teacher twice to pay attention. The only reason she didn't get a detention was that her teacher felt some sympathy for her.
Fleur had it a little better... she had her clique which had her back. But even Amélie, her oldest and closest friend, couldn't quite understand why Fleur was so sad.
"All men are stupid Fleur, and boys even more so. You're better off without him," she tried to comfort her friend, but that was not what Fleur needed to hear.
The rumour that the Queen of Beauxbatons had been crying in class spread throughout the school quickly.
Hermione arrived back at their room after a lonely dinner. She found Fleur sitting on the bed, with a picture of Harry that Hermione had had with her school books.
"That's mine, give it back!" Hermione demanded.
Fleur looked up sadly, "Please, can't I look at it even? I miss him so... it hurts so bad."
Hermione felt as if someone had hit her. "I... I'm sorry... I miss him too," she sniffled. Fleur got off the bed, and held the younger girl as they both cried.
"What am I doing here Fleur? Harry was the only reason I even came to France... with him gone, who do I have left?" Hermione sobbed.
"I... I don't know," Fleur said after a long pause. "It seemed so simple, I found my mate, the one person in the world who is perfect for me... I would tease him a little, he would fall in love with me, and we'd get married... my entire future was there, with him. Now... what do I have left?"
"Oh Fleur," Hermione hugged her. The two girls just sat on the bed comforting each other.
"Tell me about your first two years at Hogwarts," Fleur suggested.
Hesitatingly, Hermione drifted off into narrative. A small smile returned on her face as she recalled how Harry rescued her from the troll, how he was in fact the first person to pay her any attention other than her parents... how Harry had, with her help, protected the Philosopher's Stone. And how she had given her his first kiss, and they said they'd be boyfriend and girlfriend, at least until she had lost that memory.
Then second year, when the school had turned against Harry because he was revealed to be a parselmouth, but she had stood by him. The long hours of just sitting together and chatting, often not even working on their homework for long, and just being friends.
The horror when she had nearly died when the Basilisk caught her. And how Harry had prevented their so-called friend from feeling her up – or worse – while she was helpless.
And third year, which started so nicely. No Philosopher's Stones, no Basilisks... just the Dementors, but asides from the scare on the train, they had left them alone. How she and Harry had recovered their memories thanks to one misfired spell, and the whole mess that followed.
Fleur gave her a weak smile as Hermione finished. "I didn't exactly do the smart thing in more or less forcing him to be my mate, did I?"
"It's not your fault, you couldn't have known 'she' was really a 'he'... I should've been more understanding," Hermione comforted her.
"We should send him a letter to apologise, hopefully he'll forgive us and come back," Fleur suggested after another long pause. "I... I thought... I thought... I don't know what I was thinking! I didn't realise I was driving him away, it seemed just harmless fun..."
Hermione looked up surprised as Fleur suddenly sounded angry. The Veela hit herself on the head, saying: "Stupid, stupid, stupid!"
Hermione took Fleur's hands to stop her. "Fleur... I am as guilty as you are," she said softly. "We both were wrong. Harry was right... we should have talked with him, see what he wanted. I... we... oh Merlin, do you think he'll come back?"
"I do not know... I really don't know," Fleur said softly.
The girls hugged, using each other for comfort, until they were tired from crying and fell asleep.
Harry may be gone, but at least they had each other. They both hoped that Harry, wherever he was, was thinking of them, too.
Crown Colony of Gibraltar, Magical Quarter
Harry woke up in his new bedroom. Despite the Mediterranean climate, the apartment Sirius had found for them looked distinctly British. Harry doubted he would ever feel anywhere at home again, but at least the surroundings were familiar. And Sirius was with him, which was enough for Harry.
The Magical Government of Gibraltar had a very liberal approach to schooling: as long as students sat for their O.W.L.s at the end of their fifth year, they could be home schooled, sent to the small British school, or even to one of the Spanish schools on the Iberian subcontinent with no problems. Sirius had offered, and Harry had gladly accepted, to get home schooled for now. The fewer people around, the better. He had had it with crowds.
"Is Great Harry Potter Sir likings his room?" Dobby popped up beside him. Harry smiled at the Elf. Going on a hunch, he had called for Dobby as soon as Sirius had gotten them the apartment and was talking about seeing if a House Elf contract was on the market, or if he could somehow get the old Black family Elf to come over. Showing once again that nobody fully understood the diminutive beings' capabilities, Dobby had popped up near Harry almost instantly when Harry mentioned him, and had immediately offered to serve 'Great Harry Potter Sir' and 'Mister Doggie Wizard Sir'.
"Very much so Dobby, thanks," Harry thanked him. No more crazy Veela, no more controlling and inconsiderate 'girlfriend'... perhaps he could finally have some peace and quiet, he thought.
A/N: And so it ends on a whimper, not with a bang. Don't worry, I won't leave the loose ends hanging forever. There will be a sequel, posted as a new story, title yet to be decided. I'll post another chapter to this story when it starts, for those of you that only use story alert.
Thanks again to Mr Norrell for some great help with this chapter.
A/N 2: Since it's being asked I'll clarify: this will continue directly from where it left off, but in a new story. I need a break from this to make sure the sequel is a more internally consequent narrative, and with a number of other changes I didn't want to continue it with a simple "chapter 30".
A part of the sequel is written, and I will work on getting full chapters out as soon as I'm done with my other story. Thanks for your patience.