A big fight! The start of problems in Harry's personal life and MORE NAKED VEELA!
Acknowledgements - I'd like to thank everyone in the Alpha Fight Club (IP82, Nukular Winter, ChuckDaTruck, Cubdom and Jcmqk6), who contributed to this chapter. Thanks a bunch to those who commented on the chapter preview on DLP and FFA. It is going up without beta so don't be afraid to tell me what lousy skills I have.
Date - Friday, August 9, 1996
Chapter 16 - I'm a Snake When We Disagree
The look in Vangelder's eyes is priceless. You saw him and Amanda don armor before you left. Armor doesn't stop a killing curse. If they had bothered to open the door at the back of the room, they would have more room to maneuver. Guess the director should have had a stage manager to help him set up his scene? Good for you - bad for them.
You should have known the bastard would go for one of his favorite Dodgespell moves. He throws Amanda in front of your curse. Normally, he would use Reese. It sucks to be her, right now. You don't even have time to process the look on her face as the curse hits her. Oddly enough, it works in your favor. The curse relies on you really wanting that person dead. You probably didn't hate Amanda enough. She sprawls to the ground. What did she say? 'It's a rough world out there.' The wave of nausea passing through you is distracting and discomforting. You've didn't feel that when you used /Crucio /on the Goblin. Maybe there's a limit to how much Dark Magic you can tolerate, but that's a topic for another time. Better switch over to something you're used to and can use with impunity.
"Paulo! What the fuck are you doing?"
The director obviously doesn't approve of your ad-lib. You're already moving. Paulo casts a cutting curse you recognize as one of Collins' favorites. You know just what to do. /"Pello et Engorgio!" /It's a mild banisher combined with an enlarging charm. You use it on the small end table where your wand had been. The table is banished towards Paulo as it swells in size. Kwan would be proud. /'Stupid kitty cook waste magic casting shields! Uses less energy to use items around you to make solid shields. Block opponents view! Don't stand there and look like idiot! Cast spell while they can't see!' /Shit! Even your inner monologue sounds like Kwan now. Either way, it's right. The swollen table eats Paulo's curse falling in separate pieces.
"Tonare! Motherfucker!" True the last part isn't really part of the incantation and you have no real idea, nor do you care who is warming Paulo's bed at night. Still, it's the thought that counts.
Chaos is a good thing. Paulo shields your curse. Damn, he's quick! Then again, so are you. You send you're cutter and a bludgeoner to keep him on the defensive. The cutter collapses his shield and the bludgeoner thunks him something good! That door they needed open is now in it's correct position. They can thank you later. Don Nikolai is still under the Imperius curse, and he is wrestling with Nina for her wand probably on Miguel's orders. Miguel is .... Shit! "Protego!"
Damn! Ow! Ow! Ow! You just got your ass blown back out in to the hallway! Miguel is cursing your dumb ass. Fucking blasting curse. Fucking half-ass shield! Where's your wand? Answer, on the ground back in the room! Actually, that's wrong now. It's flying through the air towards the little magical mafia prince - how nice. New plan, run like hell! If the fates are still watching, perhaps they should step into the kitchen and grab and snack, use the loo, and come back again when you are winning.
"Get him! The doors and the windows are sealed. He has no wand and no way out!"
You scramble into a kitchen and head towards the next room. Two options grab a weapon from the kitchen, or become a weapon. You transform. Let's see dragon hide stand up against what you can do.
"Come on, Black!" You hear Paulo's shout. "Even if you could break the windows or the doors, you'd never make it off this property alive!"
You head through the dining room and learn an interesting lesson - polished marble floors and about one hundred kilos of accelerating feline are not a good combination! You smack headlong into a pillar. Well at least you know that cats can see stars too. Next room has books and carpet. Better traction. Focus Potter! Don't go all feral now! Need to find place to ambush meat - Paulo. Paulo not meat! Paulo is enemy. Kill Paulo Vangelder.
Where to go? Upstairs? High ground? Leap onto Paulo and crush his skull in your jaws? Let him come up and attack him on the stairs? No wait! Trophy room! Lots of dead meat there. Play like dead meat. Let Paulo come to you. Kill Paulo Vangelder.
You slink into the trophy room and go for the corner that can see both ways into the room. Big bear is standing on hind legs. Dead meat doesn't smell right. Doesn't matter. Be rigid like dead meat is! You force your body to stay still. The anticipation is building. Want to flick tail back and forth. No. Tail stays still! You want this kill more than anything you've ever wanted. Timing is critical. He needs to see a trophy. Enemy coming. You choke back the growl.
"Give up now, it will be less painful. Miguel! Wake the girl and her boy. Perhaps their screams will flush him out." Your enemy mutters. He tries to be quiet for a minute, but you can hear him. Eventually you hear him grumble, "Fuck this. I'm going to make you suffer now, boy!"
You were wrong, now you want this kill more than anything. Vernpig called you boy. You could kill him too, if he was here. Some other time, different hunt. Screams from where you came from. More enemies to hunt after this one.
There he is! He's looking around the room. Don't look back! You push down instinct to attack. He moves loose and free. Enemy is used to stalking his enemies. Paulo is close now. Back is to you. He thinks you are in tiny room - closet. He thinks you are in closet. He pulls door open. Go now!
Your rigid muscles uncoil and you close the distance. Enemy is a killer too. He feels your presence. He was fast in the other room, but now you are faster. You slam headfirst into enemy and drive him into the closet. Claws scrape against scales. Paulo wears dead dragon skin. Teeth find neck. Blood! Enemy flails. Arms smack at you. Backlegs rip at areas not protected by dragon scales. His screams are more of a muffled gurgle. He stops moving. You let go of his neck and see that it is still barely attached. Spitting is a foreign act in this form, but you manage to clear most of what is in your mouth while staring into Paulo's lifeless eyes. You could spend some time enjoying this, but there are others to be stalked.
You look at his body for his little stick. Get his stick and use it. No. Dead Meat's stick is broken. What now?
While you plan the next move, something occurs to you - clarity. It has to have been at least four or five minutes now and you still have a pretty good idea what is going on. Well, as much as you always do, but this is an improvement.
You've accepted that you are a survivor and a predator. It's what has been holding you back all along. People are born. They live for a time. Something or someone eventually kills them - that whole 'Circle of Life' and 'Ashes to Ashes' crap. If necessary, you can be that someone or something. Thanks for the lesson, Paulo. Class dismissed.
You move back to the kitchen. Man like Malfoy would head towards the center of the room to curse others. The door you were blown out of is closer to enemy. Not so fast on smooth floors!
Above the screams of the boy and the woman, you hear shouting. "Dammit, Vangelder! Haven't you gotten him yet? Pappa, keep your wand on Nina." He says more, but the magic allowing you to understand him ends. His words don't matter. He dies next. Marble turns into carpet on wood. Gain speed - go faster. Three strides, two strides, one stride, now! Go faster. Leap and kill. Crush skull. Rip stomach. Fast kill.
You transform and scoop up the dead man's stick. The man with the wand is coming out of his fog, when the woman snatches her wand back.
"Reducto!" You dodged but it still hits you. Knocks you across the room. Hurts, but not too bad. Still regaining your wits. Need to cast spells. Mind still a bit sluggish. The old man rounds on her. They are struggling. Boy is crying. You toss the wand away and return to your animal. Who cares about spells when you can do this!
Your animal form rips the woman from the man's grasp. Her whining pleas cease seconds later as you maul her. The man looks between you and the nearest wand on the ground. You shake your head at him. He holds his hands palm out to you. You leap to your wand and transform. Holly and phoenix feather wand is back in your grasp. Mind clearing. Man is saying something.
"Speak in English," you say. It will be a minute before you can cast the translation spell. Need to work on adjust? No work on adjusting to changing back. Must practice.
"I am sorry. I did not realize that you do not speak Portuguese. So, what happens now Mr. Black?"
You pause to buy yourself time to form the words. "I came to save these two. That's all I ever wanted." You gesture towards Karina and Chico. The mind is mostly clear now. You go ahead and cast the translation spell. Chico can't understand and he is scared. Your wand releases them both from their bonds. They haven't hurt the boy too much, but Karina falls over to the ground. She's been hurt - badly.
"What do you want to happen now, Mr. Colastos? You do realize that you owe your life to me?" You ask moving over to look at Karina and cast a few basic healing and pain numbing charms at her obvious injuries. "Don't worry Chico, we'll get your Momma some help."
"You were saving yourself. There was nothing in your actions that created a life debt."
You consider his words. "I think you are bluffing."
The old man looks from the bodies of the dead auror, to his son, and finally resting on his former daughter in law. "I suppose at the very least I owe you a debt of honor and my gratitude for uncovering this nest of vipers. Hmmm, we must devise a suitable story. Nina had those two kidnap the governess and her son. Nina and the other one are related. They tricked you into coming. Miguel and I tried to stop it, but Miguel was killed in the crossfire."
"Why not the truth?" Interesting game, he is refusing to acknowledge the life-debt.
"No, an attack against me by my son is weakness. Being under his control, even for a moment, is weakness. No, it is best this way. Now, tell me who you really are? There is no James Black from England. Nina asked me to find out about you."
"Karina and Chico need healing and I need your assurance that you don't intend to dispose of them as a part of this story we are concocting."
"Are you not concerned about your own welfare?"
Apparently, he needs what Collins referred to as some good old-fashioned bitch talking. "Take a look around. I just killed four people, three without my wand. You're still alive because you aren't my enemy. Karina and your grandson are under my protection. All of us can walk out of here nice and peacefully, or I can kill you and anyone else who tries to stop me."
He obviously didn't like you mentioning Chico's actual status as much as he didn't like you bringing up the life debt. "You do realize, who you are talking to, Mr. Black?"
"Most would consider you a very powerful man. I see a man without a wand and a choice to make. Your story will be more convincing if you have a willing witness."
"We have a deal. Healing and care for these two and safe passage for you. May I summon my people?"
You spare a glance at the weary looking Karina. She's on the ground with a death grip on her crying boy. She nods clinging to the hope that her ordeal is over. You aren't quite convinced yet.
"Do I have your word of honor?" Honor seems to be a popular currency in this part of the world.
"Yes you do."
You gesture towards Nina's fallen wand. He picks it up and sends off a communications spell. "They will be here shortly. A healer will be with them."
A quick walk over to Amanda's body and you retrieve your back of galleons. You check her over, wondering if your curse was strong enough to kill her. Maybe, like that one movie that you always laugh at, she's just 'mostly dead'.
Nope, no need to go find 'Miracle Max' - she's good and dead. "My people will arrange the scene to fit the story I give them. I recommend that you cast at least ten additional spells to remove the residue of the killing curse from your wand." You look on as Nikolai casts the killing curse with Miguel's wand. Killing an already dead body. You move over to Karina and Chico and perform a series of medical diagnostic charms, heal a few bruises and transfigure a teddy bear for Chico.
Karina looks only marginally better after your work. You're not really much of a healer, are you? She tells you in a shaky voice to wipe the blood from around your face. You hadn't really noticed. The guards and healer arrive. He instructs three of them to transport the Machados to the infirmary.
Nikolai asks you to remain to assist in preparing the crime scene for the authorities. He introduces you to Frau Blucher, his personal assistant. The thin and wispy woman is just shy of five foot with a grandmotherly demeanor that reminds you that sickly-sweet, smug bitch who calls herself Bill's mother. She and Nikolai confer in a quick rapid-fire exchange of either German or Bulgarian. Too bad your spell only handles English to Portuguese. The tiny woman listens like a patient parent hearing her child tell them how they were put in detention at school.
Her tone reminds you of someone on the telly discussing a baking recipe. "Well dears, I suppose we should start by bringing the fourth body in here. Where did you say you left him? The closet in the trophy room? Thank you. Mister Juarez, do make sure to sanitize that area. Better vanish the carpeting in the closet. Up in the attic, there should be a something you can throw down to replace it. Now, let's see, these two were mauled to death? What was it and who conjured it?"
"He is an Animagus." Nikolai gestures towards you.
"Oh my, aren't you a fierce one? And you got the other one too! I guess they weren't expecting that were they? Mr. Juarez set the body down over there. Is the head still attached? I don't think we should let the PdM know your little secret. Don't you agree?" You only nod as the scene has taken on a rather surreal quality. The three bodies are mended and their gaping wounds closed. She makes a bit of fuss over making sure that the wounds you inflicted are healed. She reminds you of Petunia chasing you around the house complaining about your cleaning before company arrives.
The Frau, who has a completely neutral expression on her face, levitates Nina's body. "I always thought this one would be trouble. Mr. Black, if you would, stand there and hit her with your most powerful cutting curse."
You comply tossing out one Collins taught you called 'The Bone Saw'. It cuts Nina's corpse in half and gouges halfway into the column behind the body. It draws an appreciative look from all the parties in the room.
Madame Blucher, whistling a little tune uses Paulo's wand to cast a trio of reductor curses into Miguel's repositioned body in a tight grouping around his heart. Even going so far as to inspect the blood spatter patterns on the wall. Nikolai is handed his wand, which he uses to 'kill' Paulo. Two curses were sent into the protective armor and then a 'lucky' piercing curse that sends a cloud of gray matter flying into the far corners of the room. The creepy grandmother from hell pronounces the scene is to her satisfaction. You shiver to wonder what kind of gore fest wouldn't be to her satisfaction?
The three of you go over the story quickly and after everyone is on the same sheet of parchment, the Frau leaves to summon the PdM and probably check on some human spleen muffins she has baking.
While you wait you decide to ask, "What will you tell Renaldo's other children?"
"For now, I will tell them that their mother betrayed me and suffered the consequences. If they wish to know the details, when they are older, I will bring them to the room and show them that column. I will tell them that the man, who killed their mother did that and it would be unwise to seek him out."
You've gained a modicum of respect for the man, "Are you going to acknowledge Chico as your grandson?"
He thinks for a moment. "There would be scandal in acknowledging the boy."
At least he is considering it. Perhaps a bit of flattery, "You are one of the most powerful men in this land. Surely, you can survive a minor scandal? One that would fade so quickly."
"True, very true. I will also need a maternal figure in my other grandchildren's lives. They were very fond of Ms. Machado. They will keep their current governess, but if I am to acknowledge the boy as a Colastos, then I must acknowledge her in some form. I will speak to her when she has recovered about her role in my family. I doubt she will refuse. What of your association with her?"
"Whatever she and I had is over. I went to her house today to give her enough money to leave and go somewhere beyond Nina's reach. She is a good woman in a bad situation. She will be better off under your care."
You remain apprehensive until after the Policia have left. The Brazilian Aurors don't ask too many questions. You can tell they know there is more to the story. You can also tell they know not to pry to deeply. It's a strange game of cat and mouse. The head of their Department is Nikolai's sister and is married to their Minister of Magic. For once you find out what life is like on the other side, mingling with those who work amongst widespread corruption. It's like having Lucius Malfoy on your side. Riddle must get this kind of satisfaction every once in awhile. Hell, Snape has given you more difficult questioning, when he thought Funbags might have helped you with a potion!
Two hours later, you are in the infirmary at the main house. It's nice, probably better equipped than most hospitals. Poppy would be in heaven. You cast a minor privacy charm. It should be enough, you hope.
"How are you doing, Karina?" You sit next in a comfortable chair next to her bed. Chico is in the next one, but has already been given a sleeping draught. He wasn't worked over too badly. Brightly colored salves dotted marks on his face and chest. With any luck, in five years, when he goes to school, no one will be pointing out any scars on his body like he was some kind of fucking animal on display! Whoa there! No bitterness on your part, eh? Karina is another matter. Those diagnostic charms you ran on her indicated a lot of injuries. Nina really hated Karina. The healer must have used a paintbrush to apply the salves. A half full potion rack sat on the nightstand. Sadly, you recognize and or have imbibed most of them during your short but eventful life.
"I can't... I can't feel my legs." She stammers in a choked reply. Some of the nastiest damage she had received was to her back. The restraints had been the only thing keeping her up.
"What did the healer say?"
"She said that the damage isn't permanent, but it may be weeks before I can walk again!"
"You'll be safe here. Whether he chooses to admit it or not, he owes me a life debt. He knows it. I know it. He didn't go into all the details, but he said that he would be willing to acknowledge Chico as his grandson. Until you are able to, the governess will look after Chico. After that, Nikolai implied that you will have a 'minor role' in the family."
You have to get her some tissues as she begins crying. In between sobs, she manages, "You have the debt of the most powerful man in South America's and you only wish him to provide for my family?"
"I may have a few things to ask from him later. I'm still new to all this, but for now, that is all I need."
It takes a few minutes for her cries to subside. You feel very uncomfortable, but hold the one hand that isn't regrowing bones. She regains her composure and regards you fiercely. "I also owe you a debt for myself and my son. I will do anything you ask of me, anything! I will walk again. My scars will eventually fade. If you will have me, I am yours, without conditions and without reservations."
It takes you a minute to find the right words. "I'm flattered, but I can't accept. Bringing you further into my life would endanger both you and your son. I have enemies - ones that make these look like a bunch of two-knut thugs. You can repay me by raising your son, keeping him from becoming arrogant. Teach him right from wrong and to resist the corruption goes with this new life. Raise him to be a wizard people are proud to know for his character and not his connections." You hope Chico won't turn into the next generation's version of Draco Malfoy.
She listens to you. First she looks hurt by your rejection, but then it changes to understanding and finally wonderment. "Who are you really? He said there was no James Black."
"I will not say my name. If questioned under a truth potion, you can say that you only ever knew me as James Black." You remove the sticking charm on your bandana. Taking her one usable hand you use her index finger and trace your scar hiding beneath Fleur's waterproof makeup. It had held up during your 'shower' escapades with Karina. Her eyes open wide in recognition and she whispers several colorful curse words that make you smile.
"You are a good woman, Karina. You deserve a life that rewards you for being a good mother to your son. You won't find that life with me. It would be too dangerous for you and Chico."
The two of you continue to talk. Eventually, you can tell that her pain is getting the best of her and convince her to take the sleeping draught. One of the men waiting outside the door escorts you to a dining room, where you share a private dinner with Nikolai.
Two hours later, you reappear in your hotel room. It took awhile to convince Mr. Colastos to allow you to return to let Bill know what has transpired. You offered to send an owl, but being in a normal hotel, it did not seem appropriate. Nikolai also warned that owls are not really considered secure communications in this part of the world. He had privately acknowledged his debt to you telling you that such things are not spoken of amongst other people.
You have to think about what he can do for you. He seems rather eager to discharge his debt to you. Bill will probably have some good ideas. You grab a quick shower and change clothes rubbing some of the salve that the healer gave you on the nasty little curse burn from Nina's reductor.
Minutes later you are dressed again and you knock on Bill's door. Fleur's voice answers, "Come in...."
You open the door as she completes her sentence, "That must be a new speed record, even for you Mr. Weasley. Oh, Harry..."
You can only stare at the naked part-Veela tied to the bed with silk ropes. A giant charmed feather is um, well you don't know what exactly the feather is doing, but it is the luckiest feather on the planet!
"Harry! Snap out of it! Use your wand and cover me with zee sheet!"
Her shriek shakes you out of your stupor. It takes a moment. Your wandwork seems mighty slow tonight doesn't it. Fleur's full body blush isn't helping matters either. Hey, she shaves! Finally, she's covered although the feather is still assaulting her even through the sheet - lucky sheet.
"Bill charmed zee feather. I do not know zee countercharm." She's obviously embarrassed and her accent has returned. Hell, you want to know the charm!
"I'm sorry. I just needed to check in with Bill." You manage to tear your eyes away and stare at the picture of dolphins jumping out of the ocean. It's a nice picture.
"Bill is at the grocery store picking up some things. He will return in a moment." Fleur starts laughing. You don't want to look, but you have to look. The feather is tickling her arms and face.
"Maybe I should wait next door for him and you could send him over to me?"
"Nonsense, Harry. Come over here and sit on the bed."
You'd rather not. "I'd rather not. Don't you want me to untie you?" Bill and Fleur are downright freaky, aren't they?
Not sure why, you walk over towards the bed. Your plan is to sit on the corner of the bed and stare at the door until Bill returns. Your plan turns to shit when the moment your ass touches the bed and all your clothes vanish. It's just you, your wand and nothing else! Fleur starts howling with laughter. Bill's fucking warded the bed! At least you noticed the tingle of the ward activating.
You scramble off the bed and run into the bathroom, while she continues to laugh. "Not funny Fleur!" This only causes her to laugh even louder, damn freaky wench!
"As many times as you have zeen me naked, I figured I should return zee favor! It was a rather large joke, yes? Well at least larger than most from what I saw. You're clothes are in the closet out here. Bill modified the ward."
"What did I do? What is going on here?" You hear Bill's voice. Shit things just got worse.
"Harry is naked and in the bathroom. He stopped over for a visit and I tricked him into triggering your ward. You should sunbathe more Harry! You're buns, zey are white and pasty when zey should be toasted!"
You hear Bill laughing in other room. "So, let me get this straight, I come back to find my fiancÃ© naked in bed and Harry Potter naked and hiding in the bathroom! I need to owl Rita Skeeter!"
You grab a clean towel and wrap yourself up in it. "Laugh it up you two! I'm coming out with a towel and my wand. Are we going to be grown ups or are we going to be a bunch of giggling schoolchildren?" Honestly, you'd think that you were the oldest of the three people in the hotel room.
"Oh, come on out grumpy McPotter and celebrate our engagement. Wait! Give Fleur a minute to cover up."
"I thought you two were waiting to go to the Family vault in Paris?" You lean back against the door while listening to Bill and Fleur scamper around the room. Bill mumbles something and Fleur smacks him and tells him to disenchant that damn ostrich feather.
"I got tired of waiting for William. I picked my four favorites and brought zem here. He picked one and proposed about an hour ago. You can come out now Harry. I have a robe on."
You come out with a towel wrapped around your waist. Their laughing expressions change when they notice the salve covered curseburn on your chest.
"Harry, you are injured. What happened?" Apparently, Fleur hadn't been looking that high when you made your naked dash to the loo.
"Wrong end of a reductor curse. The healing gel and a pain potion are taking care of it." You mutter nonchalantly on your way to the closet to retrieve your garments.
"And?" Bill adds all business now.
"And I had to kill several people tonight." Fleur gasps.
"Nina Colastos right after she did this. Paulo and Amanda from the Dodgespell tournament and the son of the most powerful wizard in Brazil." The expression on their face is one of disbelief. You gesture at the pensieve in the corner and Bill nods. You pull sufficient memories to get them up to speed and head back into the bathroom to put your clothes on. After dressing, you wait patiently snacking on one of the bananas Bill had brought in. A quick inventory shows bananas, strawberries, whipped cream, chocolate syrup and vanilla ice cream. There are plastic spoons, but no oddly no bowls. They really are a pair of perverts, aren't they? You put most of it in the tiny refrigerator in the room. More than likely, your exploits will be seen as a tremendous mood killer. You ended the memories with you and Nikolai talking before his assistant and the rest showed up.
Five more minutes goes by before they come out of the pensieve. Fleur is visibly shaken. Of course she just watched you use the killing curse and savagely kill three other people. She has all the talent in the world. You remember her showing off for her friends during your fourth year. She lacks the killer instinct. It's probably a good thing. The world could use more Fleur Delacours.
Bill shakes his head. "How are Karina and Chico?"
"Chico is as good as to be expected. Karina is in a bad way. She's in the infirmary at the compound. The Aurors have already been and gone. Colastos' sister heads their department. Her husband is the Minister of Magic. They didn't ask too many questions. I need to get back there. I promised Karina that I will keep an eye on Chico for at least tomorrow."
"Are you sure it's safe?"
"He has granted me sanctuary at his property. He owes me a life debt. I'm as safe there as anywhere else, but if by chance something happens, send Kwan and Collins.
"The part with you in Jaguar form was less hazy."
"I've reached 'Clarity'. Thundercloud will be pleased."
"You used the killing curse."
"I am a Jaguar, a predator, a killer. Death takes many forms. Paulo's betrayal pushed me past the point of wanting him dead. I probably couldn't cast it on anyone else in the room. If Bellatrix or Riddle were here, I could probably do it again, but not against anyone else. Next time I run into Riddle or his Death Eaters, they won't know what hit them."
"Are you sure, you're okay?" Fleur managed to ask. The sincerity of her concern strikes a chord in you.
"I won't lose any sleep over them. I'm sorry I ruined your engagement celebration."
Bill answered. "Don't be. We'll get back into the swing of things soon enough. I want you to check back in every day. Take as long as you need there, but don't overstay your welcome. Having a marker to call in on him may come in handy down the road."
"I'm already trying to think of things, maybe you can give me some advice on what I could possibly ask for?" You search around for something to change the subject. "So, have you decided on a date yet?"
"Probably sometime next summer. You need to start working on the best man speech."
The statement somewhat floors you. You're a little choked up. "Really? Why not Charlie?"
"The job is for the 'best man' not the 'best brother'. Besides the best man needs to be able to fight off all those Delacours, when I steal her away. They wouldn't be afraid of Charlie unless he had a dragon. Hell, most puppies wouldn't be afraid of Charlie. You on the other hand..."
You laugh it off, "You do realize there is a chance that incidents like tonight may somehow find there way into my speech?"
"Merlin, I hope so!" Bill says with a guffaw. Fleur seems to have recovered her composure and is smiling again.
"Oh, and what about Sanchez's little disillusionment charm?" You see Fleur raise her eyebrow questioningly. You guess Bill failed to mention that one.
"Hmm, maybe I should reconsider this? Nah! You'll have to make sure and include my revenge on her."
"You haven't gotten revenge on her."
"Yet, the operative word is yet. I haven't gotten revenge on her yet."
"Whatever. Seriously, congratulations to both of you. You're already great together. I expect you'll be even better. I've got to run and you need to start doing whatever it was you were doing." You put the memories back into your head momentarily reliving them in vivid detail. Your heart is racing by the time you open your eyes again. They both give you a moment to reabsorb the memories. You smile at them. Bill gives you a manly hug and Fleur kisses both cheeks. As you turn to leave you see Fleur pushing Bill backwards onto the warded bed. Thankfully, you Apparate before you see more of Bill then you ever wanted to.
You never realized how much time is required to take care of a young boy. Then again, you lack perspective, as being locked in a cupboard doesn't really demonstrate how to go have fun and play. Chico is a non-stop ball of energy and then, without warning, he wears out and becomes a complete grouch in an instant. So begins your pattern of wearing him down until he and sometimes you need a nap.
You wonder why Frau Blucher can't watch him, but then you remember all those stories that are told to children about old witches, who eat little children. She's German. There was that Hanzel and Gretel story. You wonder if there is any truth?
When you checked back in with Bill, you were able to get your journal. You have made yet another critical blunder. You left an angry witch waiting for an answer. Three letters were waiting for you. At first, you were worried you would say something stupid. All of Friday, you were a little preoccupied with that trivial little murder plot.
Daddy is rather angry after Umbridge's visit to the paper today. I overheard him on the Floo talking to one of his friends. They are talking about shutting him down! He may actually have to move his publishing operations outside the country!
From what he was saying, the case against her had been virtually thrown out for lack of evidence. Didn't you go to Dumbledore about what she did to your hand? A couple of people came forward, but all she got was an official reprimand in her permanent record.
I see you haven't found time to write back to me. If you need help starting, I recommend the line "Luna, I am sorry I am a git." It's a good and rather believable start.
That one wasn't too bad, though you resented the implication that because you weren't there Umbridge got off with a slap on the wrist. If you ever catch up with old Delores, you'll happily give her more than a slap on the wrist. Sounds like the toadbitch is trying to ingratiate herself to Scrimgeour.
So another day passes and still no reply. Apparently, I have somehow offended you. Well let me tell you something, the world does not revolve around you! Other people have problems too! Maybe you're so wrapped up in yours that you don't stop and think about it enough. You keep saying how I hide behind Looney. I do not! Why would I? What do I care about what a bunch of self-absorbed teenagers think about me? Do you care what Crabbe and Goyle think about you? Looney doesn't care what all those shits say about her. I don't care either.
But you, you care about every little insult. All Malfoy has to do is come into the room and look at you cross and the two of you are ready to go for your wands. Here you're saying I have self-image problems.
Get over yourself,
Things seem to be headed downhill rapidly, don't they? Unfortunately, she's not done yet. You flip back through some earlier letters. Nowhere did you come out and directly say she hides behind 'Looney'. It sounds like her conscious is getting to her.
Since you are obviously too busy for little old me, I figured that I should drop you a quick note to inform you that I may also have to cut back on writing. I had the pleasure of escorting Daddy to St. Mungos, where he has had a bit of a breakdown. So now I am trying to help the managing editor try and decide how to keep the paper running, take care of Daddy and guess what. My permit for the use of common household magic has been rescinded. I can't even use my wand to cook a meal or do the wash. Amazingly enough, the name on the bottom line was Delores Umbridge. I have to go get Mrs. Fawcett to come over if I want something hot to eat.
The reason I say go is strangely enough, our Floo connection has been taken out of service and I am still trying to find out why. I'm told that we are on the list and it should be up soon.
You responded and hoped you could stop this runaway train in its tracks.
I'm sorry I haven't been able to write back. I hope your Dad is getting better. Things have been really hectic around here. I'm helping my friend Karina out. It's not an excuse for neglecting you.
At first I didn't write, because I was concerned that I would write something stupid and upset you further. From Friday to today, I was separated from my belongings. I have only just gotten them and I saw that not writing has upset you even more.
I'm not trying to tell you how to live your life. Be Looney. Have fun. Just know, that around me you don't have to be Looney. You can be Luna. You don't have to be odd or funny, or strange. You don't have to 'entertain' me to be my friend. I don't know if that came out right, but hopefully you know what I mean.
Sadly, I don't think my presence would have done anything about Umbridge. When I gave the interview to your father, I named every Death Eater who came to the graveyard. Did the Ministry do anything about it? Have they done anything since Scrimgeour took over? More than likely, Scrimgeour threw her a bone and now can count on her support and loyalty. She might be making your life miserable now, but I was her personal mission last year. She was one syllable away from using an unforgivable curse on me!
The next day, you are circling the Quidditch pitch on a borrowed broom with a more cheerful Chico on your broom. You try to maintain your mood, but a certain blonde English witch and her journal entries are starting to get to you.
Tomorrow the governess returns with her two other charges. Chico is pretty nervous about seeing his older siblings. Nina had sent them away. Except for your brief reports to Bill and Fleur, your day has been occupied with a precocious five-year old. Parenting isn't your strong suit is it now? Still he's a good kid and once upon a time, you were a goof off. It seems like a long time ago, doesn't it? The menagerie was impressive. Real griffons make Buckbeak look like someone's pet pony.
While looking at them you notice that you were automatically wondering how to stalk one. They're too big for a head on approach. You could come in from the side just over the wing. Yes. That's it. The side is the best approach. The wings would be in the way, but it would also be in the Griffon's way. The one you are looking at gives an angry screech and stares at you as one predator recognizes another. The staring match continues for a minute until the Griffon loses interest and looks away. You'll want to talk with Thundercloud about this more.
Snapping back to the present you land the broom and hoist Chico off of it. You stow the broom in the locker by the pitch. "That's enough for today. Why don't we see what the cook has for us and then go see your mother?"
"Yes, Chico?" Merlin only knows what question he's going to ask now!
"Do you feel bad about killing those people?"
Shit! Now you say something the lemon drop sucker would come up with. Still, you and Karina had both wondered when he was going to want to talk about it. You secretly hoped it would be around his Mum.
"Chico, killing a person is something that should be avoided at all costs. If you and your Mother weren't in danger, I wouldn't have done it. I'm not proud of it. I am proud that I saved you two and your grandfather. Remember that as you get older. Money and power aren't worth hurting someone over." It's a bit of a lie and rather over simplified. You would have killed Paulo anyway, but Chico doesn't have to know that.
"Okay, Mr. Black. Can you turn into a jaguar and let me ride on your back again?" Lessons in morality fade quickly for a young boy, who knows you can do a neat trick. You move slowly across the pitch with the little boy on your back. Soon he is urging you to go faster. You merely pick up the pace to a slow trot enjoying the warmth of the sun and the squeals of childish pleasure coming from the little meat - err boy on your back. He's pulling on your ears, again.
Hours later an exhausted Chico Machado is sleeping. Karina took her sleeping draught as you carried the boy to his room. You're enjoying relaxing in the elegant guest suite. This is living! You're not really sleepy, another possible side affect from your Animagus form being a nocturnal predator. It has a hot tub the size of a small pool in it! Bill and Fleur would probably drain it and fill it with jell-o or something and get down to business. A quick glance with the curse breaking specs shows it is coated with calming and relaxation charms. That set must be for temperature control and that one seems to be the one releasing all the pleasant aromas. It's a mighty fine piece of work! You want one.
Things seem to be on the upswing for you. That alone should be cause for alarm shouldn't it? You slide into the hot tub and open the glowing journal. Is it just you, or is the glowing a bit more intense?
You open the journal to see how your olive branch was received.
It's nice to hear from you. I was considering taking my journal back to the store to have it checked to see if the charms were defective. Thank you so much for responding. I'm a little preoccupied right now. I've been reading the wonderful article in the other paper, detailing my father's stay in St. Mungo's and his history of mental illness. I'd hate to read what they would print if they didn't 'wish him well' on his recovery.
Guess what fun I had today? They finally hooked up the Floo again and I already had a visitor from the Ministry. Mrs. Peterson stopped by to inquire about my home life and whether the Ministry should step in out of consideration for my well-being! I was able to get my Uncle to come over to remind the Ministry that I have relatives, thank you very much.
So, what exactly were you doing for your friend Karina? With anyone else, you mention them by name. Whenever you mention her, she's always 'a friend' or 'my friend Karina'. For example, you say that Maria Sanchez showed you a nifty modification to a rune scheme or Collins showed me how to add more power to my cutting curse. When it comes to her, you say 'I helped ward my friend Karina's house and she showed me how to make some local dishes. We had a nice night.' Care to elaborate? We Ravenclaws tend to notice interesting patterns like this. It's almost like you are hiding something or be intentionally circumspect? So if we are so into mind healing these days how about you explain that one to me?
As for understanding 'what you mean', I am afraid that I do not. I didn't realize that all this time you were humoring me or that I was 'entertaining' you. You did get one thing right though, proving that even a blind niffler can occasionally strike gold - you most certainly aren't going to tell me how to live my life.
Aren't you the one always bitching about how your friends betrayed you? Then in the next letter you're telling me how I should 'drop the act' and make some friends. Exactly how much good has that done you!
Sorry, I don't have the luxury of fleeing the country when life gets too rough.
Apparently, Luna doesn't care for olives or olive branches. From the looks of things, she took said olive branch, lit it on fire, and attempted to stick it ... - well let's not go there. You don't particularly care for your 'punching bag' status. You wonder where her insinuations with Karina are going? Last time you checked, you weren't dating Luna. Almost makes you wish you had never mentioned Karina in that one letter. Since then, you haven't really mentioned her that much. When you finally got a chance to discuss this with Fleur, she seemed to believe that Luna is trying to push you away before you get much closer to her. Fleur's expression softened and she warned you that your situation with Luna is likely to worsen before it gets better.
That fleeing the country crap is out of line and you know it. I'm sorry you're having a rough time of it lately, with the Ministry trying to screw with your life, trust me, I know all about that! Still, why are you taking it out on me? You've got problems too. We both do. Mine have been trying to kill me. I'd go into details, but I'm pretty sure you don't want to read about it and right now I'm in no mood to write about it.
You're reading too much into my letters. You need to calm down and relax.
Yes, I was helping Karina out. She's injured and her son needed looking after. Is that a problem? She's a nice person and her son Chico is a riot. I am also a very good friend of Fleur Delacour.
As for my old friends, we had some good times, but apparently, Dumbledore met their asking price for betraying me. Part of having friends is the willingness to open yourself up to the possibility of being hurt. I've got a few new friends. I didn't let it get to me to the point where I dismiss the possibility of having friends.
I am your friend, but lately it seems like you are just looking for any reason to tear into me. I get that the Ministry is trying to strong-arm your father into cooperating. One of the few things Dumbledore warned me about is that the new Minister would try and 'recruit' me as a spokesperson. What have they ever done for me?
Is it tempting fate to wonder how much worse it will get?
Author's notes - Happy Holidays to you all. I had hoped to finally make it back to chapter 1, but the chapter was slow developing. We'll get there next chapter. Luna is not handling the stress of her life very well and that will be the focus of the next chapter along with Harry's training. Visit my discussion threads at DLP and FFA. ~Jim