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Part 14: June-July, 1992

Sunday, 7th June 1992,
Malfoy Manor, late morning

Dear Mother and Father,

My first year at Hogwarts is almost at an end, and if Slytherin doesn’t win the House Cup this year, it won’t be my fault. Exams were a breeze, and I’m consistently near the top of all my classes 

I wish I could say the same about my private research project, though. My source of inside information decided to grow a spine around Easter, when he found some sort of strange protection spell. I’m more certain than ever that my theory is correct… this practically screams “Fae are involved.”

Don’t worry, Father, I haven’t forgotten our talk about certain popular and beloved wizards. I won’t make any public accusations until I have solid evidence. I’m currently pursuing alternative methods of getting that evidence and I will inform you of my progress when I return home for the holidays.

I’m looking forward to seeing you both again. Crabbe and Goyle are here, of course, but they’re not much for conversation. And the Slytherin dorms are nice enough, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss sleeping in my own bed.

Your devoted son,

PS: I had just finished writing this letter when I heard the latest rumours going around the school: Apparently the Dark Lord has been possessing our Defence teacher, and Potter and Granger managed to fight him off.

Of course I don’t believe any of it. Two first-years wouldn’t stand a chance against even a weakened Dark Lord, even if one of them was Saint Potter. Apparently the Weasleys and some Mudblood girl named Lavender Brown were involved in some way as well, but even then the story is too ludicrous.

But clearly something happened. The Defence teacher is gone, and the Headmaster did award Gryffindor an ungodly amount of House Cup points. (So I’ll just repeat that if Slytherin loses the Cup it won’t be my fault!) 

If this doesn’t have something to do with the Spring Court, I’ll be very surprised.


Lucius Malfoy put the letter down and sighed. When Draco came home for the summer holidays, he’d have to have a little talk with him about what was and was not appropriate to put in a letter.

That post-script worried him, though. It had been more than ten years since the Dark Lord’s fall. Officially, he had been declared dead and gone, even if a lot of wizards privately believed he was still out there and biding his time. Had he truly been possessing a Hogwarts teacher? It was certainly possible.

A little disconcerting, perhaps, that the Dark Lord would choose to go that route rather than contact his loyal Death Eaters for help… but it made a chilling amount of sense. Lord Voldemort was notoriously paranoid and suspicious. So why would he now put his trust in a former Death Eater who had bribed his way out of Azkaban and spent the last decade living a reasonably comfortable life in his master’s absence?

But really, in Lucius’s defence, he hadn’t had a choice. You could certainly admire the steadfastness of someone like Barty Crouch junior, who had stayed loyal to the Dark Lord to the bitter end, even if all that had earned him was a permanent home and later a miserable death in Azkaban… but Lucius had a family to think of. Imagine if Lucius and Narcissa had stood their ground and gone to Azkaban as well. Poor Draco would have grown up without parents; probably be sent to be raised by (shudder) Narcissa’s good-for-nothing, Muggle loving sister and that Mudblood husband of hers.

No. That simply wasn’t an option.

Still. If the Dark Lord really was returning, he was not likely to be understanding of Lucius’s plight. Perhaps a subtle sign that Lucius was still loyal would help…? Something the Dark Lord would understand but nobody else would be able to tie back to Lucius…?

“Dobby!” he called.

With a small pop, the house-elf appeared in front of him. “Yessir?” he said affably.

Lucius had to make an effort not to wince when he saw Dobby’s outfit. You’d think that after all these years, he would have grown used to his servant’s questionable habits. But the lunatic elf somehow managed to keep topping himself. Today he was wearing what could only be described as a chaotic masterpiece of fashion disaster:

Neon pink, polka-dotted stockings, but no shoes or even a shirt. Lime green, chequered shorts that were at least three sizes too big and held up by a large, silver-studded belt. On one hand, a leather driving glove in electric blue; and on the other hand, a fuzzy, hot pink mitten with a pom-pom dangling from the cuff. Completing the ensemble was a fuchsia bowtie adorned with glittering sequins, which sat crookedly around the elf’s neck, and a pair of oversized, heart-shaped sunglasses that covered half his face.

It was quite possibly the biggest eyesore ever to have been seen in Malfoy Manor.

But what could Lucius do? Dobby was the lowest of the low when it came to house-elves; a Courtless nobody that even other house-elves shunned because he was “odd”… but he was still a Fae and needed to be treated with at least a small amount of respect. What was more, he was the only house-elf still willing to work for a household that included Narcissa, a former Black. That meant either living with his eccentricities (such as insisting on wearing ridiculous clothes and working for wages) or not having a house-elf at all.

“Dobby,” Lucius began. He knew it wasn’t going to do any good; they’d had this exact conversation countless times, but… “I know we’ve agreed that you can pick your own work outfits, but would it be too much to ask if you pick those outfits with a little more care?”

Dobby looked down at himself and straightened his bowtie. “Dobby is a fashionable elf, sir!” he said proudly. “Does sir not love Dobby’s sense of style?”

Lucius resisted the urge to grab the elf and shake him. Once again, he had to remind himself that while Dobby was a nuisance and an imbecile, he was still Fae. And the fate of the Blacks was more than enough to show why you don’t needlessly provoke the Fae, even if they are mere house-elves. And so, though he could practically hear his father Abraxas berating him for tolerating this sort of behaviour from a servant, Lucius once again swallowed his pride and said: “Your style is… unique.”

“Dobby knew sir would like it!” the elf beamed. “Will that be all, sir?”

“No, of course that will not be all!” Lucius snapped. “Why would I call for you if all I wanted to do was discuss fashion?”

“Maybe sir wanted a few tips on what to wear for the upcoming season?” said Dobby hopefully. 

Lucius gave up. “Listen, Dobby. I want you to go down into Vault Thirteen, and fetch me the book.”

A hush fell over the room. Dobby’s cheery expression turned into one of dread.

“Dobby may have misheard, sir,” he said softly. “Dobby thought sir was asking him to fetch the book in Vault Thirteen.”

“That is exactly what I said, yes.” 


Lucius looked at him. “Did you just tell me ‘nossir’?!”

“Yessir! Dobby refuses to touch that book, sir! It is evil, sir!” 

“Dobby…” Lucius did his best to keep his voice calm and steady. “I gave you an order.”

Dobby looked defiantly up at him. “Dobby will cook and clean for sir and sir’s family. Dobby will manage sir’s estate and lands, do sir’s laundry, mend sir’s clothes and shoes, as well as bring sir any other item that sir may request of him… but Dobby will not touch that evil book. Now if sir will excuse Dobby, Dobby must go make sir’s dinner.” With that, he took a step to the left and vanished.

Lucius briefly considered calling him back for a stern talking-to, but decided against it. There was absolutely no point. If a Fae didn’t want to do something, you would need either exceptional magic or some cold iron to convince them

“At the very least,” he said to the empty air, “you could stop saying ‘yessir’ and ‘nossir’ in that flippant way. It’s ‘yes, sir’ and ‘no, sir,’ and it’s supposed to be spoken in a proper and respectful tone.”

There was no answer. Lucius sighed — not for the first time and certainly not for the last time that day — and raised himself. He’d just have to go fetch the book himself. And after that, he had a few letters to write.



Sunday, 14th June 1992
The Burrow, around noon.

Ginny Weasley lay in the shade of the tallest tree in the garden, looking up into the crisscross of leaves and branches, feeling bored and sorry for herself.

It wasn’t that she missed her stupid brothers. But the Burrow was awfully quiet without them. Especially since she didn’t have any other children her age around. The Muggle kids of Ottery St Catchpole had their own cliques and weren’t interested in the “weird girl who lived outside the village,” and there weren’t any wizard families around who were willing to let their children spend time with  “filthy Fae-lovers” like the Weasleys.

Ginny was proud of being a wizard and proud of being allied to the Summer Court, but it could get lonely sometimes. And it was an entire week until Ron, Fred, George and Percy returned home for the holidays.

Maybe she should complain to Mum and Dad, and make them feel sorry for her…? No. Mum would just find some more chores for her to do, or give her some dreary maths test to “keep her mind occupied”… or worse, she’d decide this was a perfect time for a “mother-daughter bonding day” and sit Ginny down for another attempt at teaching her how to knit or cook. Even boredom was better than that.

The sun shone down through the leaves of the tree. Ginny yawned and closed her eyes as she thought back to last Christmas, when she’d got to go to Romania to visit Charlie, and meet the dragons in the dragon sanctuary. That had been fun, even if Mum hadn’t allowed her to ride any of the dragons. 

Imagine if she’d lived in Romania and could see dragons whenever she wanted… or maybe in London, with lots of interesting Muggle people and an entire Diagon Alley… Ginny felt herself drift off. Dreamlike images began playing for her inner eyes… dragons, flying over a clear blue sky, children running around and laughing… she could hear the roar of the ocean… somewhere from far away, a song…

She opened her eyes again. Someone was sitting in the grass next to her, someone who hadn’t been there when she closed her eyes.

Ginny slowly sat up to see a girl about her own age. A very pretty girl, with large and soulful grey eyes, a slender figure, tanned skin, and hair so blonde as to be nearly white… hair that reached down to her narrow hips and was decorated with a sunflower almost as large as the girl’s head. She wore a yellow midi dress that left her arms and legs bare, and around her narrow waist she wore an elaborate silver belt.

“Oh, you’re awake,” said the girl. She had a soft voice and a curious accent Ginny couldn’t place. “I hope I didn’t interrupt you in an important nap. But when I found you asleep under this tree, I figured you would be you. If you hadn’t been you, you’d probably have found somewhere else to sleep. Did you have any nice dreams?”

“Huh?” said Ginny, confused and vaguely embarrassed. “I… I wasn’t asleep. I was just… resting my eyes. Er. Who are you, anyway?”

The girl pondered. “That’s a difficult question to answer. I know who I am to me, but who am I to you? We don’t really know each other yet. I could be a close, personal friend, or just a passing acquaintance. I do hope we’ll be friends, though. Mummy and Daddy would be terribly disappointed if we weren’t.”

“Huh?” Ginny repeated. Maybe she really had fallen asleep and this strange girl was just part of a surreal dream. “I meant, what’s your name?”

“Oh, that makes more sense,” said the girl. “But I have many names. True names and fake names and nicknames. It would take a lot of time to list them all. I’m not even certain I remember all of them. And I’m not even supposed to tell just anyone my full name. Names are important, you know.” Then she brightened. “My favourite nickname is ‘Luna.’ That’s what your uncle Billy calls me. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind it if you called me Luna too.”

“Uncle Bill… oh, you mean Uncle Bilius! But he’s in the Summer Lands —” Ginny began. And paused.

Luna’s hair had moved slightly to the side, enough that Ginny could see one of her ears. It was delicate and pointy, almost leaf-shaped. 

Of course. Now it made sense. “You’re Fae, aren’t you?” said Ginny. “Summer Court?”

Luna giggled. “Of course. Where else would I have met your uncle Billy? He’s very popular in the Summer Court, you know. He’s not a very good accountant, but he’s the life of every party. Did you know he has this trick where he pulls flowers out of his —”

“Yeah… he used to do that at family gatherings,” said Ginny, and sat up a little straighter. She was probably perfectly safe… no one from the Summer Court would ever knowingly harm a Weasley… but even so, it always paid to observe the basic rules. Be polite and friendly, but never say “sorry” or “thank you,” never accept food or drink unless you’re certain it doesn’t come from Faerie, never accept gifts or favours you’re not prepared to pay back in kind… and watch your words, because sometimes even well-meaning Fae can interpret the things you say in ways you hadn’t actually meant them.

(One of the classic family stories was about Great Uncle Lionel Weasley, who after a long and tiring hike around the countryside had made the mistake of complaining about his aching feet to a well-meaning Summer pooka… and after that, he floated everywhere he went, his feet never touching the ground again for as long as he lived. He took it surprisingly well, saying that “at least she didn’t decide to fix the problem by removing my feet “)

So Ginny paused to think about her words before she spoke: “Er… Luna.” 

“Yes, hello.”

“Don’t get me wrong, it’s always an honour to have someone from the Summer Court here, but… why are you here? Did… I mean, nobody else has seen the Grim, right? You’re not here to…?”

“Am I here to take someone with me to Faerie, you mean?” Luna shook her head. “Oh, no. It’s the wrong season for the Grim here. That silly beast is Autumn, you know, and the sun hasn’t even turned yet.”

Ginny breathed out in relief. She hadn’t wanted to say goodbye to yet another family member.

“No, I’m just here with my Daddy and his attendants,” Luna went on. “I really hope your family says yes, by the way.” 

Ginny blinked. That had come out of nowhere.  “Er… you really hope my family says yes to what?” she said carefully.

“If we can stay here for a while,” said Luna, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. “Well, not here here. This is a lovely garden and all, but what we were hoping was to borrow your orchard. If we’re going to stay in the mortal realm for seven years, it would be nice if we could stay on allied land.”

“You’re… staying in the mortal realm for seven years?”

“Oh, not just me. Daddy and his entourage too. They’re inside talking to your parents about it right now. Mummy would have come, but she’s not that fond of the mortal realm anymore, and besides she can’t just leave the Court for seven years, even if they’re seven mortal years. But have to do it. The letter was very specific.” 

“Um,” said Ginny. She was no stranger to the Summer Fae and their sometimes odd mindset, but this was like trying to make sense of a book with half its pages missing. “What letter?”

“The letter from Hogwarts, of course,” said Luna. “The school? The place where you go to learn things?” she added, as if uncertain whether Ginny was familiar with the concept of schools.

“…You’re going to Hogwarts?” said Ginny. 

“Oh, not yet,” said Luna. “I don’t begin until September.”

“Oh… but… I thought Fae weren’t allowed at Hogwarts…” said Ginny carefully.

“Normally, your thoughts would be right,” said Luna. “We aren’t allowed at Hogwarts. But it’s also part of the treaty that in some circumstances, we can be. I’m one of those circumstances. See, I’m of the Folk, but I’m also not. Daddy was really happy because it meant I could get an Education.” (She somehow managed to pronounce that last word with a capital E.) “Mummy wasn’t too keen, but then she found out that there’d be Weasleys, and then there’s all the things going on with the Spring Court…”

“Hang on,” said Ginny. Talking to Luna really was like making sense of a book with half the pages missing. At first everything she said seemed like pure nonsense, but the more you listened, the more you realized there was a hidden context behind the words… and in context, Luna actually made perfect sense. “Of course! Of the Folk, but also not! You’re half-Fae!”

Luna nodded. “Yes, I know. Daddy’s a wizard and Mummy’s a High Elf. I don’t know if that makes me a half-elf or a half-wizard, or both.”

“Wizard enough to be allowed at Hogwarts, at least!” said Ginny, feeling very pleased with herself for having worked it out. Half-Fae. No wonder she’d mistaken Luna for a human girl at first. “So your Dad’s a wizard. Who —”

“There you are, Your Highness!” The voice came from across the garden. Ginny and Luna turned to see a goblin come walking towards them. Not one of the banker goblins of Gringotts, Ginny saw at once; this goblin’s colourful attire in red and green marked him as a member of the Summer Court. “Your father requests your presence inside.”

“I’ll be right there, Ragnar.” Luna raised herself. The sunflower in her hair fell off and landed soundlessly on the ground.

“Lady Ginevra,” the goblin, whose name was apparently Ragnar, greeted. “Your parents also request your presence inside. I trust the Princess has not been bothering you.”

“Oh, no, not at all,” said Ginny politely. And then the goblin’s words reached her brain. “Wait… Princess?”  

“Of course.” Ragnar didn’t seem particularly bothered by the outburst. “You are in the presence of Her Royal Highness, Princess Aurora Maluna of the Summer Court, Duchess of Sunhaven, Countess of the Glens of Eternal Light, Mistress of Midsummer’s Splendour and Enchantress of the Luminous Skies — daughter of Crown Princess Solis Pandora of the Summer Court.”

“Aurora Maluna?!” Ginny stared at Luna. Princess?!”

Luna cocked her head. “Should I have opened with that, do you think?”

“That means…” Ginny could have kicked herself for not figuring it out sooner. “That means you’re Princess Pandora’s daughter… you’re Uncle Xeno’s daughter!”



Thursday, 2nd July 1992,
The Snug, around noon

The Snug was an idyllic little seaside cottage. It wasn’t majestic or imposing like Malfoy Manor, nor whimsical and surprising like the Burrow… but with its white-washed, ivy-covered walls, thatched roof and tastefully-decorated garden, not to mention the gentle sound of rolling waves from the nearby beach, it was the sort of place that instantly brought back memories of the summer holidays of a long past childhood.

Even Albus, who as far as he remembered had never spent any childhood summers by the seaside, felt a small wave of nostalgia as he stepped onto the shingled path that led towards the welcoming little cottage.

If Lady Vidia felt anything like the same, she didn’t let on. “I suppose it has a certain rustic charm,” she said, her bare feet making no sound against the path. “Though I can’t imagine what possessed the man to give the place a name like ‘the Snug.’”

“Horace always did enjoy his comforts,” said Albus. “He never cared much about whether things were grand or impressive, as long as they were comfortable. I suspect that’s one reason why he opted for early retirement. Ah… speak of the wizard. Horace, my dear fellow! I hope we’re not interrupting a beach excursion?”

Horace Slughorn had just emerged from behind the cottage, dressed in a striped bathing suit that, as far Albus knew, had not been in fashion for forty years. His broad face lit up in a jovial smile when he saw Albus… and then fell into a disapproving frown as he saw Lady Vidia. 

“It’s hardly an excursion when the beach is a mere two-minute walk away,” he said. ”Always a pleasure to see you, Albus. And Lady Vidia… always an experience to see you. Forgive my attire; I wasn’t expecting company.”

“Nothing to forgive, Horace,” said Albus. “You’re truly a sight for nostalgic eyes. For a moment there, I was back in… what was it our Muggle friends called the period again? Oh yes, the roaring twenties.”

“You wizards have always been so shy about your bodies,” said Lady Vidia with a sigh. “Dressing up to go swimming… whatever is wrong with swimming naked?”

“One has to follow the customs where one is, my dear Lady,” Horace retorted, his politeness veiled with so much frostiness it was a wonder the temperature around them didn’t drop. “Now… given that the Lady has deemed to grace my humble abode with her presence, I assume this isn’t a mere social call?”

“Your assumptions are quite accurate, I’m afraid,” said Albus. “We have a bit of a mystery on our hands, one that I was hoping you could shed some light on.”

“A mystery?” Horace brightened. “Well, that’s different! You know, that is one thing I miss about Hogwarts… the mysteries. Seemed like every year someone was trying to figure out some great mystery or other. I helped solve a fair few of them.”

“I’m afraid this particular mystery goes beyond a few plucky students trying to find out whether the new Defence teacher is evil,” said Albus. “It’s about Tom Riddle.”

The colour drained from Horace’s face, but he composed himself again almost immediately. “I see,” he said. “What about him? I assure you, Albus, I never had anything to do with him after he left school and became… I mean… I always suspected the boy would come to a bad end, but how could I have known he would end up… never in my wildest imagination, I thought…”

“Horace, you can hardly be held responsible for anything Tom Riddle did later in life,” said Albus. “But you were one of his favourite teachers at Hogwarts, and I have reason to believe you may have some information we sorely need. Now… can we speak openly here, or would you prefer if we went inside?”

Horace looked from Albus to Lady Vidia, and then sighed in resignation. “Best to remain outdoors,” he said. “For the Lady’s sake. Iron door frames, you know. But if it’s eavesdroppers you’re worried about, my patio should be safe enough. If you’ll follow me?”


Thursday, 7th July 1992,
Magnolia Crescent, late morning

“So… what d’you wanna do?” 

“Dunno. What do you wanna do?”

Malcolm and Gordon were bored. Summer was usually great; roaming around Little Whinging and getting into mischief with Dudley and Piers and Dennis, chasing Dudley’s stupid cousin around, playing video games, watching TV, reading comics, trying to sneak into the adult-rated movies at the local cinema… but this year was different.

It had been a year since Dudley and Piers had vanished. Just up and vanished, and nobody knew where they’d gone or what had happened to them. There’d been speculations and theories, of course, and for the longest time Malcolm, Gordon and Dennis had held up hope that one day Dudley and Piers would return, with crazy stories about where they had been. But as the months passed, the boys reluctantly had to face the fact that their friends were gone for good.

Then, Dennis had left. He hadn’t vanished, but his parents had sold their house and moved to London, where Dennis was now attending some fancy performing arts school. He’d called a few times, but all he’d wanted to talk about was how amazing it was to live in London and how great his new school was. And that got old very fast.

So now, Malcolm and Gordon were all that remained of what had once been “the most feared gang at St Grogory’s Primary School.” They’d tried to form a new gang at their new school, Stonewall High… but without their friends it didn’t work. At St Grogory’s they’d been the biggest and meanest kids, but at Stonewall they were just insignificant firsties that nobody took seriously. What was more, neither Malcolm nor Gordon were very good at coming up with ideas. Dudley and Dennis had always been the ones with the ideas and suggestions on what to do, and they were gone. Piers sometimes had a few good ideas as well, but he was also gone.. 

“What d’you suppose happened to Dudley and Piers, anyway?” said Gordon, for about the fiftieth time that summer, as they both leant against the playground fence and idly watched the sparse number of people walking by.

Usually when he asked that question, Malcolm just shrugged. But today it just so happened that his family had discussed the matter at the breakfast table. So this time he said: “My Dad says it was probably the crazy cat lady.”

“What, Mrs Prigg or whatever her name was?” said Gordon with a slight frown.

“Yeah, her. Why else would she have vanished around the same time as Dudley and Piers did?”

“She didn’t vanish,” said Gordon. “She just moved away. I saw the movers and everything.”

“Vanished, moved away…same thing,” said Malcolm. “So she kidnaps Dudley and his family, right, while we’re all on holiday. But Piers, who’s not on holiday, happens to see what’s going on. And he’s so shocked that he loses his mind, see, so his parents send him to a hospital. But then the cat lady gets afraid he’ll recover and blab about what he saw, so she sneaks into the hospital and kidnaps him too. And then she moves away to escape the police investigation.” 

To Malcolm’s disappointment, Gordon didn’t gasp in amazement and declare the mystery solved. Instead he just shook his head. “And why’d she kidnap Dudley and his family in the first place, then?”

 “I dunno! I’m not a cat lady, am I? I don’t even like cats!”

“What’s that got to do with anything?”

“Anyone who owns that many cats is clearly a psychopath! That’s what my Dad says!”

“Your Dad’s a nutter, you know that, right?”

Malcolm was just about to respond with some choice sarcasms, but then he happened to glance down the street and saw something that made him forget about the argument. “Hey… who’s that girl with Piers’s Mum?”

“Huh?” said Gordon. “What girl with Piers’s Mum?”

That girl with Piers’s Mum!” Malcolm pointed down the street.

And there was Mrs Polkiss, looking more chipper and cheerful than they’d seen her since before Piers vanished, and practically dragging along a young girl… a girl about Malcolm and Gordon’s age, with long, blonde hair and wearing a plain blue dress.

“Cor,” said Gordon. “Who d’you suppose she is?”

“I just asked you, you wanker!” Malcolm snapped. “Why would I ask you who she was if I knew who she was? Er, morning, Mrs Polkiss!” he added as woman and girl came closer.

“Good morning, boys!” Mrs Polkiss chirped, before turning to the girl. “Lavender, do you remember Piers’s friends, Malcolm and Gordon?”

The girl made a slight grimace. “No, Mrs Polkiss, I told you —”

“Mum,” said Mrs Polkiss gently. “Call me Mum, dear.”

“Right. Mum.” The girl looked far less enthusiastic about this than Mrs Polkiss did. “I don’t remember Piers’s friends Malcolm and Gordon. I told you, I don’t remember anything.”

“Are you certain? Piers spent so much time with those two…”

“That’s just it — Piers did! didn’t!” The girl sighed and looked at Malcolm and Gordon. “Hello. My name’s Lavender.”

“We’ve officially adopted her, my husband and I,” said Mrs Polkiss. “The poor dear has no other family, and the house has been so empty this last year…” She smiled tenderly. “I always did want a daughter.”

“But…” Malcolm couldn’t believe what he heard. “What about Piers?”

“Oh, Piers’ll always be with us, won’t he, Lavender?” said Mrs Polkiss and wrapped her arms around the girl.  “But things change, boys. We have to move with the times or be left behind. Speaking of… come on, Lavender, we have a full day ahead of us!”

With that, she half-led, half-dragged a reluctant Lavender along. 

Malcolm waited until he was certain they were out of earshot before he turned to Gordon again. “That was weird.”

“…huh?” said Gordon distractedly. He was still watching the vanishing forms of Mrs Polkiss and Lavender. “What was weird?”

“Come on! Piers’s family, adopting a girl? And why’d Mrs Polkiss ask her if she remembered us, eh? Where would she remember us from ? I know I’ve never met any Lavenders before.”

But Gordon wasn’t paying attention. “Lavender…” he sighed. “What a pretty name.”

Malcolm punched him in the arm.


Sunday, 19th July 1992,
Heathgate, late morning.

Hermione was in heaven. Or if it wasn’t heaven, it was incredibly close. The pale green of the woman’s skin, the deep green of her hair, the soft elegance of her curves, the look of love in her eyes as they met Hermione’s gaze… Oh, God.

Carefully they touched, their faces moving closer. The sweet scent of honey and spring flowers on her breath, the warmth of her skin, the softness of her lips as they met Hermione’s in a tender kiss —

“Hermione?” The voice tore into Hermione’s mind. “Sweetie, are you all right?”

“Mmmm…” Hermione opened her eyes to see the worried face of her mother stand above her. Slowly the world around her came into focus. She was lying in her bed, in her own room in her Muggle house in Heathgate. The sun was shining in through the window, and the sky was a beautiful blue.

“It’s almost eleven,” said her mother. “Are you ill?”

“Ugh.” Hermione took a deep breath. She felt hot and flustered and vaguely icky… and annoyed that her lovely dream had been interrupted. “I… I’m fine, Mum,” she managed to say.

“You’ve never slept this late before. You’ve always been such a morning person…” Her mother sounded worried, but also a little irritated. “I hope you’re not picking up any bad habits at this magic school of yours. Wizards do understand the concept of a proper bedtime, don’t they?”

“Of course they do, Mum,” said Hermione. “I’m always in bed by ten. Well, except for Wednesdays, that’s when I have Astronomy lessons.”

Her mother looked dubiously at her, but then smiled and brushed a stray lock of hair away from Hermione’s forehead. “Well, I suppose it’s all right since it’s the holidays. You’ve just been sleeping so much since you came home. Your father thinks it’s because you’re becoming a teenager, but I can’t help but wonder if it has something to do with all that magic they have you doing.”

“Doing magic doesn’t make me sleepy,” Hermione protested. “I’m fine, I just… I suppose I needed a bit of extra sleep.” 

“Are you certain you’re not ill?” her mother said again. “You did feel kind of warm.”

“I’m fine, Mum.” Hermione tried to smile. Somehow, she didn’t think it quite appropriate to share her dream with her mother.  “I’ll get up, I promise.”

“All right. Come down and have breakfast then.” Her mother walked towards the door. “Or should we say elevenses?”

Hermione flopped back on her bed. What a dream. It had been so vivid, too. Hermione didn’t often remember her dreams, but this one was strong and clear in her head, and even now made her heard beat just a little faster. Lady Vidia… the perfect vision of feminine beauty…

Hermione pulled herself together. “I’m not in love with her,” she admonished herself. “I barely even know her. I just… I just have a crush. A silly schoolgirl crush. It’s very common for girls my age to develop a crush on some older person, that’s why they call it a schoolgirl crush. It’s just hormones. It doesn’t mean anything.” 

She felt a little better after saying that. She’d probably have felt even better if the speech had been in any way convincing.

“And I’m Fae-touched too,” she added as another thought fell into her head. “That probably makes my mind even more confused, especially since I’m not used to being Fae-touched. And so I think I’m in love with her, but I’m really not. I’m just… I’m just a girl of almost thirteen whose body is going through a lot of changes and —”

“Hermione?” her mother called from downstairs. “You’re not going back to sleep, are you?”

“No, Mum!” Hermione called back, pushing back the slight irritation she felt. Honestly, couldn’t she stay in bed for half a minute before it warranted nagging? 

“Good, because you have a phone call! It’s that Lavender girl!”

“Lavender?” Hermione sat up. She had given Lavender her telephone number, since the girl was going to be spending the summer holidays in the Muggle world, and none of their other friends even had a telephone… but she hadn’t even heard the phone ring. 

Still in her pyjamas, she hurried downstairs, rushed up to the phone and picked up the receiver. “Hello? Lavender?”

“Hermione!” Lavender’s voice sounded from the earpiece. “Thank goodness! You’ve got to help me! I’m stuck here in Little Whinging, and I’m dying!”

Hermione blinked. “Dying?! Lavender —!”

“I’m dying of boredom!” said Lavender dramatically. “Little Whinging’s the most boring place in the world! And Piers’s parents won’t let me out of their sight! They won’t even let me go to Birmingham to visit Parvati and Padma! I’m stuck in this stupid little town, Hermione!”

Hermione wasn’t even certain how to answer that. She’d grown rather fond of Lavender, but the girl could be such a drama queen, “At least they’ve accepted you, right?” she said, trying to focus on the bright side. “They believe that you used to be their lost son.”

“After Dumbledore and my godmother convinced them, yes.” Lavender sighed. “But now they just want to have me around all the time. They say I’m the daughter they always wanted. It’s terrible!”

Hermione sighed. “Lavender… please tell me you realize how ridiculous you’re sounding right now.”

“But I’m so bored!” Lavender whined. “How do you do it? How do you live for several weeks without using magic or seeing your friends?”

“You’ve lived in the Muggle world before,” Hermione pointed out.

“How many times?!” Lavender sounded annoyed. “Piers lived in the Muggle world! I didn’t!”

“No,” said Hermione patiently. “I meant after you became Lavender. You lived at that Muggle hotel in Somerset for almost a month before you even came to Hogwarts, remember?”

“Oh. That,” said Lavender, calming down.

“Yes! So you should know —”

“But I didn’t!” said Lavender. “Back then then I didn’t know anything! I didn’t know who I was, I didn’t know who anyone else were, I didn’t… I didn’t know what it was like to live in a place that wasn’t boring! I didn’t know what it was like to live! Not what it was like to have friends, or what it was like to have things to do. I didn’t know what I was missing, and everything was so new and interesting. Now I do know what I’m missing… and everything is just… dull and awful.”

“Oh,” said Hermione. She tried to feel sympathetic — and she did, really. Lavender may technically be as bright as any twelve year old girl, but she only had about a year’s worth of actual memories. And most of them involved magic or Fae to some degree. She had never learned how to cope with boredom and wasn’t used to the concept of living a mundane life. To her, her current life really had to seem like the most awful thing ever. Still, it was hard not to just scoff and tell the girl to pull herself together and stop complaining about having loving parents and a nice home.

“I don’t know what to do, Hermione,” said Lavender helplessly. “I’ll go mad if I can’t get away from here before Hogwarts starts again! You’re so smart… don’t you have any ideas?”

Hermione thought. “You could always get a hobby or something?”

“A hobby?”

“Yes! You know, something you can do to occupy your time. Something you enjoy doing. Something that can make your life less boring.”

“Oh!” said Lavender. “Like Parvati and her fashion magazines! Or Ron and his chess! Or Harry and his Quidditch!”

“I — yes, exactly!” Hermione wasn’t sure if Harry would appreciate hearing Quidditch be referred to as a mere hobby, but she let it pass. “Just pick something you can do in the Muggle world! Like… reading! Why don’t you get your parents to take you down to the local library?”

“Library?” said Lavender slowly. “Reading? I don’t know, Hermione… I’m not much for books.”

“There are many kinds of books, Lavender,” said Hermione encouragingly. “If you just look, I’m certain you’ll find something you enjoy. Maybe something by Ursula Le Guin,” she hazarded.

“Well… maybe.” Lavender didn’t sound completely convinced.

“Give it a try, at least! And then you can call me to tell me how it went,” said Hermione. “And, you know, maybe I can talk my parents into taking me to Surrey one of these days, so I can come visit you.”

“I’d like that.”

“Hopefully we’ll see each other soon then. And chin up, Lavender. Boredom isn’t the end of the world. You know what they say… the intelligent man is never bored.”

There was a brief pause. “Who says that?” said Lavender.

“Well… Isaac Asimov said it!” said Hermione. “It’s a very famous quote!”

“If you say so.” Lavender paused again. “I don’t see what it has to do with me, though.”


Wednesday, 20th July 1992,
Azkaban Island, shortly after midnight

Sirius awoke, and — as he felt the bone-chilling, icy gloom in the air immediately descend upon him and wrap around him like a heavy blanket — wished that he hadn’t.

He usually slept in dog form these days. The cold, quiet despair of Azkaban didn’t vanish entirely when he was a dog, but it was reduced to a soft murmur in the back of his head, a murmur that vanished almost entirely when he was asleep. Sleeping as a human meant nightmares; sleeping as a dog meant blissful unconsciousness. But it also meant waking up was like being hit with a bucket of ice water that simultaneously made it impossible to go back to sleep and drained his energy and will so that it was almost impossible to do anything else.

With tremendous effort, he lifted his head and sniffed out in the air. It was the middle of the night… he could just about see the darkened clouds through the dirty cell windows, and his sharp canine ears could hear the sound of angry waves attacking the rocky shoes of the island. Nothing out of the ordinary. So what on Earth had woken him up?

And then he felt it. A sensation very different from the angst and hopelessness that came with being around Dementors. This was something more primal; the dog in him was sensing that something dangerous was approaching. Not Dementors; he was used to their presence now. Something else… something different.

He raised himself and swiftly turned back into his human form, just in time to see that he was no longer alone in his cell. A figure was standing there, obscured by the shadows and leaning nonchalantly against the wall.

“Sirius Black, I presume,” it said, in a rich, deep and silky smooth baritone.

Sirius tensed… but managed to keep himself under control. He’d survived life in Azkaban for this long; he’d be damned if he let some shadowy stranger intimidate him that easily… though he couldn’t help but notice how rough and hoarse his own voice sounded in comparison to the stranger’s as he spoke: “That’s me. And who are you?”

“Oh, I have many names…”

“You don’t say,” Sirius rasped. Suddenly the feeling of approaching danger he’d felt as a dog made a lot more sense. “Spirit, Fae or dramatic poser?”

The stranger looked at him… or at least his head was turned in the right direction. “I don’t quite follow?”

“Nobody says ‘I have many names’ like that unless they’re some kind of spirit or Fae. Or a dramatic poser who thinks it makes them sound cool and mysterious. Which it doesn’t, by the way.”

The stranger chuckled. It was the first time Sirius had heard anyone laugh since he had been locked up here, so he may have forgotten what laughter was supposed to sound like… but somehow the laughter felt off. 

“I’m impressed, Mr Black,” he said. “For a mortal who has spent so much time in the company of my children, you’re surprisingly coherent. Not many in your situation would still be capable of mockery.”

“Your… children?”

“Please, Mr Black. I admire your spirit, but do refrain from asking more questions until I’m done answering your current one. I get that you have been in prison for a decade, but that’s no excuse to forget your manners.” The man stepped a little closer, and now Sirius could see him a little more clearly. 

He was a handsome man, that had to be admitted, with slanted eyes and a narrow, symmetrical face… but there was something cold and unnatural about his good looks. His long hair was snowy white, his skin seemed to have an odd blue tint, and his ears…

“I knew it,” said Sirius, rather pleased to hear how good his hoarse voice was at conveying utter contempt. “Fae.”

“Quite astute, Mr Black. Winter Court, to be exact.” If the stranger noticed Sirius’s contempt, he didn’t show it. “If you feel you must have a name to call me by, then I have always been partial to ‘Lord Acheron.’ But really, you can simply think of me as a friend.”

“I don’t have any friends. Not anymore,” Sirius growled. “And even if I did, none of them would be Fae.

“Then it pleases me to be the first exception to that rule,” said Lord Acheron calmly. “If you will forgive a somewhat crass expression… I’m here to take you away from all this.” 

Sirius looked at him in disbelief. “What do you mean, you’re here to take me away from all of this?”

Lord Acheron shook his head. “Mr Black, please don’t make me regret praising you for your astuteness. I meant exactly what I said: I am here to take you away from this place. In other words, I’m here for what you might call an old-fashioned jail break. I think you and I could make a very productive alliance.” 

“That’s what I thought you said.” Sirius had to take a few deep breaths. This entire conversation was taking a toll on him.  “No deal. This place is Hell on Earth, but at least it doesn’t require me to make deals with Fae.”

 “No deal?!” Lord Acheron repeated. “Are you serious, Mr Black? You would truly stay here in misery, rather than follow me to freedom?”

“I’d rather take my chances breaking out myself if I had to!” Sirius sat down on his bed, mostly because he was getting too exhausted to keep standing, but hopefully it looked like a defiant gesture as well.

“You truly believe you could?” Lord Acheron looked curiously at him. “Well, perhaps you could, at that. It’s not often I see someone still possessing such an amount of willpower after even a few days in the company of my children… you’ve lived with them for years, by mortal reckoning. Yes… perhaps you would be able to break out on your own. If given the proper motivation.” 

“That’s the second time you’ve mentioned your children.” Sirius glowered at Lord Acheron as realization dawned on him. “Are you saying the Dementors are your children?!”

“Oh, yes. Well, in a metaphorical sense, if nothing else. They are creatures of the Winter Court, didn’t you know? We created them a few centuries ago… myself and a few other Winter Fae… we wanted to create a being that embodied the coldness, the despair, the living death of the coldest winter. The hopelessness, the complete lack of anything resembling warmth, light and happiness…  isn’t it beautiful?”

“You created the Dementors,” Sirius spat. “You bastard.”

“I don’t see how my heritage features into this, Mr Black, but I can assure you it is well-documented and beyond question,” said Lord Acheron. “But yes… I won’t take the sole credit for the Dementors, as you call them, but I was heavily involved in their creation. It’s why I can come and go as I please, and liberate any prisoner I might want to. The Dementors won’t act against one of their creators, after all. They’re wasted here, in their role as prison guards… but a treaty is a treaty.”

If Sirius had been slightly less drained by years in Azkaban, he would have charged the Fae there and then. As it was, he could only repeat: “You bastard.”

“Again with the implications of my heritage,” said Lord Acheron. “There may be some cultural implications I’m missing here. In any case, I think you are making a mistake by turning me down. If your reluctance has to do with your family’s little spat with the Spring Court, you needn’t worry.  In fact, if things go right, our partnership will deal a significant blow against the Spring Court.”

Sirius’s breathed heavily. “I’m not going with the creator of the fucking Dementors to be a pawn in some twisted Fae political game!” 

“Well, I prefer the term ‘instrument in a great planned-out symphony,’ but let’s not argue over definitions,” said Lord Acheron. “But why not? Lady Vidia of the Spring Court is using your godson in much the same way.”

“My godson…?” Sirius blinked. And then he remembered. “Harry!”

“Oh, that got your attention, I see.” Lord Acheron smiled. “Yes, I believe that is his name. Harry Potter.”

“I’d almost forgotten him…” Sirius said, feeling the despair seep over him again. “After years in Azkaban, I’d almost forgotten… my God, I don’t even remember what he looks like… fuck, he must be old enough to have started Hogwarts by now… and I missed his childhood… I wasn’t there for him when he needed me… all because I didn’t listen to Hagrid and come along to the safehaven… I could have explained, I could have set things right…  if I hadn’t been such an idiot…” He sank down on the bed, clutching his chest.

“Now now, Mr Black,” said Lord Acheron. “Try not to focus too much on your godson. He is no doubt a happy memory, and happy memories always lead to despair. If I were you, I would focus more on revenge.”

“Revenge?” Sirius swallowed a sob that threatened to escape. “On… on the Spring Court?”

“Oh no… they would destroy you utterly if you tried that. At least without my help.” Lord Acheron grinned. “I was saving this as a surprise, but… What would you say if I told you I could help you get your hands on a certain traitorous rat?”

Sirius sat up on his bed. The white-hot rage that surged through him had momentarily driven the despair and weariness away. ”Wormtail!”

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