Edited on 16th of September. Thanks Rafan2421 for Beta-reading.
Plans for the Future
Crete – Black holiday flat – 19th of July
"How are you, Cissy?"
Narcissa Malfoy turned away from the wonderful sight of the sunset over the blood red sea and nearly responded with her usual "fine". But the expression of real concern on her sister's face stopped her from telling her such a platitude, and so she smiled weakly instead: "Better now."
Draco and his mother had been on Crete for a week now, enjoying their time away from Britain, from their dark home and especially far away from Lucius and his 'guest'. Narcissa was unable to prevent a shudder as she thought about the Dark Lord: sitting in her house, eating from her dishes, sleeping in the bed of her late father-in-law. Naturally Lucius had given him the best room in the house, struggling valiantly to get back into his master's good graces. Narcissa had no such wish. While being reared as a Black meant to look down on Muggles and Muggleborns, her parents had never been able to ingrain their degree of hate into their youngest daughter. Yes, she felt superior to more or less everybody – be it Muggles without magic, Muggleborns without proper childhood and even most purebloods – but she didn't feel the need to prove her superiority through acts of mindless violence and daily insults. And the past – her own childhood with Lily Evans running around and the time of Draco at Hogwarts with Hermione Granger who remained beyond reach despite constant efforts – had shown how wrong the pureblood doctrine was about Muggleborns and magic.
Andromeda watched her sister, guessing what was on her mind. While officially mother and son visited Greece and Italy for cultural reasons, in reality they only wished to escape the maliciousness that had taken residence in her home.
"He has been furious with Lucius because he lost the book. It had to be something very special. Perhaps it is possible to examine it, detect the secret behind its cover. It can't simply be some cursed book like everybody assumed."
Andromeda Tonks nodded. Narcissa was speaking about the diary Lucius had hidden amidst the books of Ginny Weasley two years ago. It had been the reason for a Basilisk running rampage at Hogwarts and – while his involvement was never proven – this action alone was enough for her to hate him, aside from every other reason.
"I'll speak with Mrs. Bones about it," Andromeda promised. Amelia had been a friend of hers for a long time and now – with Nymphadora taking a clear position, pro Auror and contra Order of the Phoenix – the sole point of tenseness had disappeared. The diary already was in the possession of the Auror Department since Dumbledore's sacking, so it should be easy to start some serious examination.
The second Black sister was more than happy to be on speaking terms with her beloved younger sister again. While she never had been close to her older sister Bellatrix, Andromeda had really missed Narcissa. It was a bit funny because her appearance much more resembled Bella than Cissy. More than once someone had reacted frightened when meeting her; and Augusta Longbottom was obviously still uneasy around her, despite knowing that Andromeda was nothing like her older sister. For nearly twenty years Narcissa and Andromeda had ignored each other, until Narcissa had made the first step to repair their sibling relation. Andromeda's memory of that moment was still very intense. It had only been a simple Christmas greeting, relayed by Dora, but after twenty years of silence it had shocked her to the core. At the moment they had to be careful, had to hide her visits, but in a few months this would be part of the past. In six weeks Narcissa would leave her husband. In six weeks she would be Narcissa Black again. Andromeda sniggered. Narcissa shot her a quizzical look: "What's so amusing?"
"Lucius," Andromeda smirked: "He secured you the position as Hogwarts DADA teacher, hoping to have a pawn within the school's walls – only to have his pawn give him the cold shoulder."
Narcissa's face split into a smile, too: "Yes, he was always very bad at chess. He'll survive the disappointment – regretfully." She continued to smile but her eyes showed that her last remark wasn't meant to be funny by all means.
Suddenly Andromeda's expression turned more serious: "You shouldn't go back to Malfoy Manor until school starts." She didn't want to show her concern too openly, but she feared for her sister's safety – not only because of Lucius, but because of Voldemort too. The Dark Lord had always been far too interested in the beautiful daughter of the Black family, too interested to be appropriate. And Lucius seemed to agree with that behaviour, only seeing the advantage for himself. Another reason to hate him, Andromeda pondered. Many pureblood husbands considered their women to be no more than assets, meant to look beautiful at their sides, play host at parties and bear their children. But Lucius was taking this to a new level. Her hands clenched as Andy thought about her urgent wish to rip away Lucius' manhood and feed the dogs with it.
"I won't. Sirius offered me Black Manor at Grimmauld Place to live in, not only until September, but permanently. He hates the house, but I think it will be perfect for Draco and me. I already spoke with Kreacher and he's now preparing the house for our arrival."
"Will you need money? Or anything else?" She wasn't rich herself, but she had to offer her help at least.
"No," Narcissa shook her head. "When I left Malfoy Manor, I took everything that I wanted to keep with me. And I still have sole access to the vault with my dowry. Father was so far-seeing to arrange it this way. Draco's school is already paid for, too. We'll be good."
Andromeda nodded courtly, apparently content with the answer but still troubled. Several times she opened her mouth, only to close it again. "He'll try to lay his hands on Draco, you know that. Draco is his only heir, the next bearer of the Malfoy name. To lose you will be bad enough for his reputation, weakening his position among those mongrels. He simply can't allow Draco to slip away too."
"Draco will be at Hogwarts. He'll be safe." Narcissa was obviously concerned too, only trying to hide it from her sister. But Andromeda knew her too well.
"Only until Christmas, Cissy," Andromeda remarked dourly. "You have to find a solution until then."
"I know," Narcissa answered angry and a tad too loud. She sighed deeply and repeated, calmer now: "I know Andy. I'm working on that. I won't allow him to turn Draco into a spawn of that horrid maniac."
"You'll have to fight for your son. If you need help, I'll be there for you." Andromeda smiled reassuringly: "You're my baby sister. I'll be at your side."
Narcissa growled shortly because of the nickname, prompting her sister to chuckle: "Thank you, Andy." Despite her frown, Narcissa was obviously very thankful to have her sister at her side. Leaving Lucius would make her lose most of her 'friends'. To have someone standing at her side would be a good feeling. She looked thoughtfully at her older sister. "You know what they say about Gryffindors and Slytherins?"
Andromeda nodded, equally thoughtful: "That a Gryffindor would die for those he cares about."
"And a Slytherin would kill for them." Narcissa agreed. "I'll protect my son at any cost. Nobody will take him away from me; I won't allow Lucius to ruin his life."
Andromeda nodded with a malicious smile shortly on her lips. Suddenly she stepped forwards and embraced her sister. Narcissa tensed, stood stock-still for some long moments. It was completely foreign for her – a Black and a Malfoy – to show her emotions this open. But then she relaxed. I'll be doing something new. A new life, new friends, she mused. Perhaps this is a part of that change. Hesitantly she raised her arms and returned the embrace.
"We'll protect him together, Cissy."
Pinegrew Manor – 22nd of July
With a sigh of relief Harry sank down to the ground, ignoring that the wooden floor of the training room wasn't very comfortable. The past two hours had been far too exhausting to care about such details. He mumbled something obscure.
"What did he say?" Ana wondered.
"I think it was something unfriendly about your character, Auntie," Daphne grinned, her grin only broadening when Harry shot her a blazing glare. She knew it was unfair to mock him, but it was a fun thing to do. These special training hours were far more exhausting to him than to her. Every day they met in this room with Ana, her Aunt training them in a very special use of their mindlink. While the primary use of that spell – the Congregation called it "Rapport" in their daily use – was to share thoughts, pictures and knowledge in a silent and very quick way, there were far more other uses too. All four teenagers had been trained in the standard use of the spell and slowly got better and stronger at that kind of use. Their range slowly neared the 100-yards – as long as there was a sight of line between them – and they were able to open that link to five other people now at most.
But there was this other use too, a use Ana had mentioned months ago. The link could be used to share power, to strengthen the defence of another person – mostly against Legilimency and mind-altering spells. But overall there was no real limit to the variety of uses.
In these lessons Daphne simply had to use spells, not very strong ones but with an aspect of fine manipulation, exactness far more important than impact. Ana tried to distract her, break her concentration or simply attacked her. And it was Harry's duty to shield her. He tried to intercept the attacks, banish loud noises and irritating lights and especially used the link to protect Daphne's mind with his own Occlumency shields. He had grown much stronger in the past months and while Hermione was still far better at pure Occlumency, Harry was slowly getting the drift about the combination of mindlink, Occlumency and the technique of emotional channeling to reach impressive results.
Emotional channeling – Ana had taught him that technique last winter, a way to enhance his power with his will to protect others. It was his 'world-saviour-complex' as Hermione called it, at its finest. Harry was especially good at protecting Daphne and he had told her once, that even when she wasn't around, he sometimes imagined her to be in danger if he didn't succeed at the task at hand. Apparently it was helping.
"I'm pleased with your improvement, Harry." It was one of the few praises he got this week and as always it made him smile.
"I'm certain you'll be ready to integrate the others at their return." That had been the official reason for their training: In a week Hermione and Neville would arrive at Pinegrew Manor and from then on Ana would train all four teenagers to combine their abilities. "It is easier this way," she had explained to Roxanne, "with two of them already knowing how to work together. Harry is the strongest of them anyway. He'll have to lead them."
Daphne sighed. Sometimes she got a bit jealous to know about the leaps Harry's magical core and power had made in the past months. The constant training and the excessive use of his abilities at the tournament had helped him immensely. She was no weak witch by far, more or less on par with Hermione, and Ana expected her to catch up with her mother before coming of age. But only Harry would be able to bundle the might of all four.
Feeling a sudden urge to kiss him, Daphne sat down by his side, lifted his head with her hands and placed her soft lips on his. For a moment he was surprised, but then he returned the gesture. Both didn't notice how Ana started to roll her eyes. "Thank you, Harry."
Harry smiled: "You're welcome."
He knew she was speaking about the unofficial reason of this training, the real aim of this really hard and excessive training. They had to use every moment to be ready for the healing attempt they planned to make before their return to Hogwarts. The first time Daphne had entered the mind of Alice Longbottom, she had been in grave danger. The fears of Alice had attacked her and only the interception of Harry had rescued her, saved her from serious injuries. They had to be prepared for the next time. Harry had to be able to protect her, to give her time to speak with that frightened part of Alice that was still there. He knew how important this was to her and he would do everything to help her. Harry was terrified to lose her, knew enough about the dangers to wish that she wouldn't dare using that Spirit Healing. But it was her decision alone and she wouldn't be his Daphne otherwise.
"I really need my Animagus training now," Harry groaned, prompting both women to giggle.
"C'mon, old man," Daphne helped him to stand up. Harry wanted to growl at her, but he was simply too exhausted still. His Animagus training included, until now, mostly a number of meditative exercises. Exercises he also used to strengthen his magical core. It was a good way to relax and recover after these lessons with Ana, too.
Ana's expression got more serious suddenly: "Have you decided yet, Harry?"
Harry sighed. "You mean about my Animagus form?"
Ana nodded. She had tested all four teenagers last winter about their ability to learn the Animagus spell. Harry's result had been a very special one. Instead of a simple yes/no and a glimpse of his new form, he experienced a kind of dream, telling him that he had two possible decisions. He could learn the normal spell and get the form of some predator bird – which one he didn't know. Or he could try to master something special, something unusual. Only that he had no idea what kind of form it was apart from being something larger, able to fly and not a dragon. In his dream a dragon had hunted him and Ana explained that this was a sign for something the dragons would hate. Even Hermione had been unable so far to solve that riddle and regretfully he was unable to ask a dragon about the matter.
"I'll try that special form."
Ana sighed: "You're certain? It will be more difficult and the result uncertain."
"Yes," Harry nodded with determination.
"Alright. I'll send a message to my cousin. She'll have to prepare some potions for you."
"She's better than you at potions?" Daphne asked. She had always been impressed by Ana's skill at potions. Someone able to create Wolfsbane had to be really good.
"By far," Ana responded. Daphne was impressed. "My family had a knack for potions for a long time and she is one of the best, perhaps the best since Teresa."
"Teresa? The one with Queen Joanna?"
"Yes, the same. You know: She was Joanna's potion teacher too. She spent her last twenty years with potion research. Many of the more unusual potions today base on her work."
"Joanna knew potions? Was she a witch?"
"No, you don't have to be. It's not very wide-spread knowledge, but potions exist in three levels. The lowest – mundane – is more akin to pharmacy. Those potions aren't very strong but still helpful. And they work on mundane people, unlike the stronger ones. Joanna learned to create them and – according to Teresa's diary – was quite talented. The medium level needs a minimum of magic. It doesn't have to be very strong and quite a number of squibs were very able potion-makers in the past. Most healing potions belong to that category. Only a small number of potions need strong magic to create them. They are the ones potion masters try to create to build up a reputation for them, but in your daily life you wouldn't use them, so their influence is overrated."
"So my aunt and my cousin could learn to create potions too?" It had been a surprise to learn about the squib status of Petunia and Dudley a few months ago, and Harry knew how happy his cousin had been to learn about the possibility to learn how to fly on a broom. Dudley was far more relaxed about magic now and even Petunia seemed to adapt – slowly.
"They could, yes. But that's for later. At the moment they have enough on their plate."
Harry agreed. His aunt and cousin lived near the Pinegrews. Dudley would start at a new school at September – with private tutors to help him with his learning disability. And Petunia wanted to continue her studies of mathematics – and Arithmancy. There would be another time for potions.
"C'mon, old man," Daphne dragged Harry away: "Time for your Animagus training."
"And remember," Ana cat-called: "It's called training, not snogging session."
Daphne threw her a wicked smile: "We're able to multi-task."
The Burrow – 24th of July
"Until next week, Mister Weasley."
Arthur Weasley's thoughtful expression changed into a weak smile: "Until next week, Dr. Michels."
He watched as Dr. Michels floo away to the Leaky Cauldron. From there he would enter Muggle London and ride the bus to get home. Dr. Michels was a squib. No, technically he was a wizard, but his magic was so weak that he considered himself a squib. It was even weaker than Neville's magic had been on his worst day. Arthur remembered quite well how Neville's uncle Algie complained about his squib-nephew years ago. It was a widespread prejudice among Wizardborns, that squibs were more or less worthless. So Dr. Michels decision about how to continue his life was understandable. Only able to use a small number of simple spells, he had decided long ago to leave his family and to live among Muggles. "To be the one-eyed among blinds," or something similar was the proverb. Arthur suspected that Dr. Michels knew a weak form of Legilimency too, not to read thoughts but to assess emotions.
Arthur had no idea how Roxanne had met Dr. Michels, but he had been an incredible help for the Weasley family. Trained as a psai … psy … lago … trained as a mind healer – something apparently far more widespread among Muggles than wizards – he had learned to help in cases like Ginny's. Roxanne not only found him, but paid for and organized his visits. In the beginning Arthur had been a bit hesitant, but after a few weeks he could notice a real improvement.
Visiting the Weasleys once a week, Dr. Michels not only cared for Ginny but also spoke with Arthur, Fred and George every time. All three Weasley men had been extremely troubled because of Ginny's suicide attempt. George, especially, had more than once expressed his guilty feelings, wondering how he could miss the signs, why he hadn't protected her more. Now he was the most protective of all Weasleys, barely able to constrain his urge to shadow her every minute. The conversations with Dr. Michels and the letters from Hermione and Daphne had helped him, but he was still very anxious about her.
Arthur couldn't stop his eyes from watering with tears. It was the same every time after a visit of Dr. Michels. While these visits really helped them to digest the events, they reminded them very strongly of that horrible day nonetheless. Six days a week they were able to forget it, at least partially, but then it came back with full force. His twins had risked their magic to save Ginny; Daphne had gambled her own life to cast the spell. He only knew about that from Poppy, not from Roxanne. Somehow Daphne had seen the danger when Ginny's brothers had not. She cast a health monitoring spell on the girl and received a warning from it in the nick of time. For a short moment a smile crossed his face, as Arthur imagined how Daphne – who had been denied entrance to the Gryffindor tower by the 'Fat Lady' – had blasted a hole into the door to reach Ginny.
Arthur sighed. Dr. Michels more than once tried to explain to them that it was a pointless question to ask about fault and blame. It wouldn't help Ginny in the least and could very well damage the family even more. Molly had been away from them for months now and even after her return in a few weeks, they would certainly need months, perhaps years, to heal. Arthur sighed again. He would feel better knowing that Molly at least had learned something from the whole affair. But he wasn't certain about that. More than once she had hinted at conversations with Albus, something Arthur had avoided like the plague. He and his sons had even left the Order of the Phoenix, unable to work for and with Albus anymore. If Molly was still on speaking terms with Albus, then this was a bad sign.
A glance towards the calendar told Arthur that he still had five weeks. In five weeks school would begin anew, Ginny would visit Hogwarts again – this being the last year for the twins – and Molly would return. He would start to work again. For the first time this afternoon a real smile became visible. He would return to his Department, but not immediately. The conversations with Dr. Michels had been interesting for his work, too. Like with Hermione and her parents, Arthur had used these afternoons to question Dr. Michels about the life of Muggles. The reaction had been unexpected.
"I have to admit, Arthur, that I'm surprised how little you know about the life of Muggles. You're working with Muggle contraptions. You want to prevent Muggles from being exploited by wizards, but you know so little. I really don't want to insult you, Arthur, but how are you even able to do your work with that lack of knowledge?"
At the beginning Arthur had been shocked, even a bit insulted, but a week later – and after some owls between him and Hermione Granger – he had to admit that Dr. Michels was right: After all those years at his work, he had no idea about Muggles. It was distressing. But he was going to correct that deficiency. Dr. Michels – and his wife – had offered hospitality for a few weeks. Mrs. Michels, a Muggle who knew about magic, would show him how Muggles lived: Shopping, using all those wonderful contraption, bus-riding – a whole new world waiting for him to be explored. Hermione had sent him a number of books to prepare him, books normally used by parents and teachers to explain the workings of the world to children. He really loved them and had hundreds of questions waiting to be answered. It would be fantastic.
"Are you alright, Father?"
Arthur turned around and came face to face with Ginny. His daughter looked concerned and he hastened to show a happy smile. "I'm okay, only thinking about my excursion to the world of Muggles."
Ginny nodded and her expression relaxed. Naturally she knew about her father's plans and was very happy about this opportunity. Arthur had always been fascinated by Muggle technology, a fascination Molly neither shared nor understood. More than once he had terrorized a visitor with his endless questions. She melted into his arms, when her father stepped forward to embrace her. Ginny felt loved and secure. It was quite a change to how it had been in former times. For years Arthur had far too often been away from the house, hidden in his working shack, hiding from Molly as Ginny knew. He had appeared weak and cowardly, dominated by the Weasley matriarch. More than once Ginny had to turn to Charlie and Bill, her older brothers substituting for her father.
The twins hadn't been serious enough, Ron far too much under Molly's thumb. And Molly – Ginny loved her, loved her even now. But her mother had always been too controlling, expecting too much from her, always planning Ginny's future. And Arthur allowed it. But this had changed, one of the few good results of this year. He had changed, became stronger. Hell, he even evicted Molly from the Burrow. And Ginny loved him for the time he spent with her now: Weeks and weeks of conversations, of working together at some Muggle contraption without any clue about its workings or simply sitting together in silence.
"I'll miss you at Hogwarts."
She was eager to go back, to continue her education, eager despite the prospect of many weird questions and pitiful looks, but she would really miss him there, something she hadn't felt a year ago.
"I'll miss you too. But you'll be safe and your brothers will watch over you."
Ginny smiled, leaned against his chest and sighed. Arthur had told her about Harry's generous agreement. She knew that her education was already paid, that she would even be able to finish school, instead of leaving after her OWLs. She wouldn't be alone.
With Fred and George there and Dumbledore gone, Hogwarts would be a bit of home again.
Pinegrew Manor – 26th of July
"Good afternoon, Lord Black," Roxanne showed her most beaming smile.
Sirius responded with an exaggerated bow and a hand kiss. "Good afternoon, Lady Pinegrew." Sirius really loved the fact that Roxanne had arranged with Headmaster Flitwick to be called Professor Pinegrew and not Greengrass while teaching at Hogwarts. He didn't know how her husband, Cyrus Greengrass, felt about that. But he didn't care either. And since the agreement he had started to forget about her true last name and called her Lady Pinegrew – or simply Roxanne – while visiting her. With this he clearly voiced his hope to see another pureblood pair split up – sooner rather than later.
"How has your afternoon been?" Since he was allowed to show himself openly, Sirius had begun to spend time with Harry, at least an afternoon per week. They did all those 'manly' things like flying, drinking and eating – only Butterbeer for Harry – and visiting Quidditch and Prank shops. They spent many hours simply talking: About Harry's parents, about the Marauders, or about the future. Sometimes Remus accompanied them, but never one of the girls. Roxanne wanted Harry to have a male influence with women dominating the Pinegrew family most of the time. While Sirius certainly wasn't the best role model, he had started to grow up too over the last year; his months with Remus had really done much towards that.
"Fantastic, but I can't tell you – promised Harry." He showed a conspiratorial smile.
"It's okay," Roxanne grinned: "As long as the Aurors won't pay us a visit tomorrow." She frowned: "They won't pay us a visit, Sirius, I hope."
"No," Sirius soothed her, continuing with a low voice. "We were careful not to get caught."
Roxanne grimaced shortly, but ignored the comment. "And you'll be here for his birthday?"
"Yes, I wouldn't miss it. It will be my first official appearance as Lord Black by the way."
Roxanne sighed happily. "It's really good that all went well. I feared that Lucius would try to interfere, but apparently he is too… occupied at the moment."
"He's an idiot." Sirius smirked: "And soon he will be a wife-less idiot."
"Everything prepared for the great day?"
"Everything is ready. On Harry's birthday the last documents will be written, my status as Lord Black official. I allowed Lucius to coax me into an agreement that bestows Black Manor and a quarter of the Black inheritance to Narcissa. After that he was more than happy to support my claim. Regretfully I forgot to tell him that a similar agreement exists in favour of Andromeda. I still will have more than enough money and she had been poor far too long because of her love."
"I'm happy that you'll have a family again. And never forget: Harry is part of that family. I'll never take that away from you."
"I know, Roxanne. But you realize: In a few years only one person will be really important for him and that will be neither you nor I."
Roxanne sighed. "I fear you're correct about that."
Sirius had left the house after a last conversation about the incoming birthday party. It would be a great event with many important guests, the first party like that for Neville and Harry, who would celebrate their birthday together.
Roxanne entered the library and found Harry sitting there in the semidarkness of the evening, his eyes resting on the landscape behind the window, a paper in his hands. "Are you alright, Harry?"
Slowly the boy turned around and smiled a bit: "More or less, yes. Only thinking."
"About what?" Roxanne came to his side and sat down on the side rest of his chair, her arm around his shoulders.
He sighed and waved with the paper. "I spoke with Sirius about Azkaban."
Her eyes widened shortly and Roxanne nodded. "It must have been difficult to speak about that."
"I'm sure it was." He stayed silent for some minutes, before he continued. "He only stayed sane because of his Animagus form. He tried to sleep as a dog as often as possible. The Dementors ignored him then. Even so it must have been terrible. I can't imagine how it is for someone without that ability."
"It is an inhumane way to punish someone. In my opinion even the death penalty is more humane. I can't explain why we still have this medieval prison. It is certainly one of the things we should change."
"I agree. First Voldy, second equal rights for everybody, third a new prison."
"I see you're making plans. It's always good to have aims." Roxanne smiled, but her eyes showed that she really agreed with his plans. With the influence of the Pinegrews and Longbottoms, the ideas of the four teenagers and Harry's reputation – yes, this could be realistic.
"They paid him compensation – the Ministry to Sirius I mean: A compensation for his time at Azkaban. 13,000 galleons – I expected a larger sum, but Hermione told me it is more than double the sum Muggles would pay, so perhaps he should be content."
"It's not like he would need the money. It's only a gesture: To show that the Ministry accepts its error of the past."
Harry nodded. With another smile he handed her the paper. It was the agreement between Ministry and Gringotts about Sirius' compensation. "He doesn't want the money. Sirius said that I should add it to mum's trust."
"That's a wonderful idea." Roxanne pondered: In a week Harry would be fifteen. After that he would be allowed access to the 'Lily Evans Trust', a part of his inheritance meant to help people with jobs, medical care and schooling. She knew that this kind of social business was far more widespread among Muggles, but it was a terrific idea in her mind.
"He bade me to use it for helping families of Werewolves, to pay for Wolfsbane and support the research of a better potion. I assume he knows how much Remus had to endure in the past."
"Partially because he was too proud to ask for help, but you're right. You should speak with grandma. I'm certain she could start something in her company. Perhaps she can convince her partner to forego any profit."
Harry agreed whole-heartedly: "I'll speak with her." He leant against her. "One year ago… would you have expected this… sitting here… together… as a family?"
"I hoped," Roxanne responded with a soft voice. "I didn't expect but I dared to hope."
She strengthened her embrace and together they watched the sunset in silence.
France – Delacour Manor – same time
Charlie watched the Delacour sisters and struggled hard to suppress a sigh. He had liked their time in Romania better. Fleur's father had been against their vacation, thought it to be inappropriate for his daughter to be there alone with Charlie, but her mother had set her foot down and she was still in charge. There wasn't much her husband could do, if he wanted to continue sleeping in their marital bed. Gabrielle had been with them and Charlie had gotten to like her very much. She was no Ginny, but he understood why Gabrielle was so important for her older sister. But their time at Romania was over. Now they stayed at Delacour Manor for a few days, waiting for the party in honour of Harry and Neville.
"You'll like Hogwarts, Gabby."
Charlie frowned slightly. Fleur had been trying to soothe Gabrielle's fears for weeks. But he was able to understand Gabby: She would be away from her family, she wouldn't have her friends there – all her current friends would visit Beauxbatons – and then there was the foreign language.
"Hermione promised to take care of you and I'm certain you'll be a Ravenclaw – Professor Sinistra will be your House Mistress. She's a really nice teacher and she shares your love for Astronomy."
"Do you think so?"
"Yes, Gabby," Fleur hugged her again.
"And my sister will be there too, Gabby. You'll like Ginny. Perhaps we can visit her before school starts." He looked at Fleur and his girlfriend nodded. "And Luna is a Ravenclaw too, in Ginny's year."
"Hermione told me about Luna, Gabby. She's a bit weird perhaps, but please try to give her a chance and don't mock her. Hermione told me that she is one of the most intelligent girls there and extremely nice – and coming from Hermione that means something."
Gabrielle sighed: "I'll try."
"And when nothing helps, go visit my brothers. Nothing better to lighten the mood," Charlie grinned.
Malfoy Manor – same time
"I hope everything is ready, Lucius."
Lucius shuddered. Voldemort's voice promised punishment. He had no wish to repeat the sessions from before, the sessions Voldemort had used to show his 'displeasure' because of the destroyed diary and the absence of Narcissa. He shouldn't have allowed her to stay away. It was her duty as his wife to support him. And if that meant to share the Dark Lord's bed, then so be it.
"We'll be ready in a few days, a week at most. I'll get the guarding scheme until then and the distraction at Diagon Alley will be ready."
"The Dementors are still willing to cooperate?"
Lucius shuddered again. The conversation with the Dementor had been extremely unpleasant: "Yes, Milord. They won't actively help or attack the Aurors, but they'll stand back. It's all we need."
"Good," for the first time since a week Voldemort appeared to be happy: "Only a few more days, Bella, only a few more days."
Next chapter: Birthday party.