Chapter 14. Invenies in Tenebris (August 15-16, 1995)
Ginny leaped up from the drawing room chesterfield. “What is it, Sirius?”
Sirius stood in the doorway, looking unusually grave. “Hey mates. Granger's in a bit of a state — do you suppose you two can come look in on her for a while; help her get settled for the night? I have to get myself to the meeting upstairs, and all the other adults are already there.”
Harry frowned worriedly. “Sure, we'll help.” He crossed the drawing room and extinguished several of the lamps in the otherwise vacated room. “So what's the matter? What happened to her?”
“Errr…” Sirius glanced uneasily about the corridor and stairwell. “Let's talk when we're downstairs.”
Ginny and Harry both nodded their assent and followed Sirius. Entering the girls' bedroom on the first floor, they found Hermione in the manner that Sirius had left her — curled in a fetal position on her bed; still dressed, partially covered by a blanket, but nonetheless shivering despite the stuffy August evening.
Ginny settled herself on Hermione's bed and put her hand on the older girl's shoulder. “'Mione, are you all right? What happened?”
Hermione cracked open her eyelids slightly. She glanced from Ginny to Harry, then over to Sirius. She closed her eyes again and shook her head slightly.
Sirius shrugged. “All I know is that she had a run-in with the Dumbledore. She's not likely to say much more with me around.”
Harry and Ginny exchanged nervous glances as the room descended into a state of uncomfortable silence. Sirius raised an eyebrow and scrunched his face appraisingly. “Tense lot, eh? I'll reckon that this problem of anomalous magic in the houses involves all three of you?”
Ginny chewed on her lower lip, her actress instincts wearing a bit thin.
“Eh well.” Sirius scratched his head. “Nobody likes to be the odd man out, but I can't exactly rag at you over it. If I recall rightly, I asked you to fill me in if there was anything dodgy enough to run to Albus about, but I never actually said anything about mischief you might be trying to conceal even from him.”
Harry shuffled nervously, running a hand through his hair. “Uh, yes. About that…”
Sirius pinned him with a raised eyebrow for a long moment… then barked out in laughter, slapping his knee in merriment. “Har! Don't sweat it, pup — the best secrets work best if they stay secret. Whenever I see you lot skulking about on your toes, I'm reminded of some sort of mad Hippogriff scheme you and Granger cooked up a couple of years ago. If a Potter keeps a secret, he's liable to have his reasons, eh?”
Harry and Ginny blinked.
Sirius straightened up, his eyes sparkling rebelliously. “To be honest I was a bit hacked off when Remus told me that Dumbledore had asked us to spy on you, so I'm not about to bloody pry. If you reckless Marauder-Juniors get us all killed, I may get tetchy about you not asking for help, but otherwise I'll stay out of your hair.”
Ginny cocked an eyebrow. “Errr, you mean you're…?”
“Leaving you to your own devices? Aye, luv.” Sirius grinned and began to move toward the door. “If at any point, you three contrivers decide you to avail yourselves of my calm, even-handed, sagacity to steer you clear of the rocks, you'll know where to find me and my bottle.” He winked and took hold of the knob but paused before turning it. “One practical detail though. Seeing as how I'm obliged to moulder my night away in that bloody meeting upstairs, did you have any requests? Want me to lay a smoke screen? Whisper a few red Plimpies? Slip the Headmaster some belch powder?”
“I, uh, don't know.” Ginny gazed at him worriedly for a moment then turned to Harry. “What do you think?”
Harry shook his head. “Thanks, but we can't think of anything in particular. Maybe watch and listen for us, please?”
“Oi!” Ginny's hand shot up. “Sirius, if Professor Dumbledore needs any help trying to get us under control, it would be wonderful if you could, uhh, volunteer?”
Sirius winked his wily assent and made his merry way out of the room, leaving the three teens to glance around at each in silence as his footsteps receded.
Finally Hermione pulled herself, somewhat haltingly, to a sitting position. She glanced at the others, then focused uncomfortably on the floor. “I don't know how much he learned...”
Harry frowned. “He? As in, Dumbledore?”
Hermione nodded. “I don't know what he's going to do. I don't know anything.”
Ginny gave her a squeeze. “'S'okay 'Mione.”
Harry nodded. “Right. Some sort of confrontation was inevitable and, as far as I can tell, you helped hold him off longer than if he'd chased straight after the first bee in his bonnet.”
Ginny chewed her lip. “I suppose it's too much to hope that he'll lay off the brooch for another couple days? I think that's all we need to finish off this bloody nightmare once and for all.”
Hermione's eyes went wide. “You think so?”
Both Ginny and Harry nodded.
Hermione rubbed her temples. “Well, if I was correctly interpreting what Professor Dumbledore said to me, I'd say he expects Sirius to work with me and deliver the brooch to him soon — as a proof of our loyalty.”
Ginny gazed at her. “Soon? Like, say, tomorrow?”
Hermione nodded. “Yes, I'd imagine that waiting any longer would invite his direct intervention.”
Ginny locked eyes with Harry and pursed her lips. “So how much do you think we can get done tonight, Harry?”
Harry sighed and glanced at his watch. “Merlin knows, Gin'! But it's nearly ten o'clock, so I suppose it's high time we start to find out."
After ten minutes of walking, the scent of camp fires had become adorned by the aroma of roasting meat. The mid-evening sounds of chirping birds and buzzing insects had been overwhelmed by the undulating hum of thousands of human voices. The princess and Publican had set aside their disillusionment charm and now strode the road freely. Their exploits at Camulodunum were well known and it seemed unlikely that any of the Britons would waylay them en route to the queen.
By the time they reached the edge of the camp, they had indeed picked up an entourage of curious Celts. Several youths — a pair of girls and three boys, all roughly in their mid-teens, volunteered to escort them to the queen, all the while regaling them with stories of yesterday's distinctly one-sided battle along the road to Camboricum. The princess and Publican listened closely for any exploits that sounded magical, but after a few tales, it became obvious that the youths were likely part of the exclusively non-magical rear guard, and their knowledge was limited to the rout in which (by the Publican's estimate) as many as thirty thousand angry Britons had overwhelmed several ill-prepared cohorts of the Spanish Ninth Legion. According to the teens, the only Romans known to have escaped were in a small cavalry detachment escorting the Legion's top officers.
Although the Publican knew very few soldiers in the Spanish Ninth, he was glad to not have witnessed their debacle. With a grim face, he turned the princess. “I dread to wonder how much more blood may be shed in this travesty.”
She shook her head in dismay; her voice emerged as little more than a whisper. “Far too much.””
The Publican gazed around as they passed a wooded area and emerged into wide lowlands lying to the east of a Roman bridge over the River Rom. A graven milestone informed that they were nine leagues from the gates of Londinium.
In the distance, the Publican's eyes fell upon a huge mass of humanity, looking for all the world much more like a bustling borough than a grain field. Just like a city, there was an obvious central square, at the far edge of which (near the river) he could see an obvious display of magical prowess — a wooden long house so large and tall; so opulently augmented with beautiful beech trees and gardens, that it resembled a palace.
The Publican smirked wryly. “Would you say your mother has her magic back?”
Gazing about with offended sensibilities, LanossŽa shook her head, in vexation rather than denial. The Britons had apparently plundered farms along their way and were feasting so lavishly that she almost wondered if the entire horde had been encouraged to celebrate their midsummer's festival four days early. Either way, there was little about the atmosphere to suggest a stolid and staid military campaign.
Finally the princess sighed. “Magic and manic, Terna. Such ostentation bodes ill.”
The Publican's wry eyebrow made it clear that he shared her assessment. “This cannot rest well with either your gods or mine, Lano. Yet, there must be at least fifty thousand people gathered here now. From such numbers I surmise that, for tomorrow at least, your mother's confidence will prove valid. What events shall soon befall Londinium may be inscribed in Roman annals of infamy.”
The princess nodded grimly. She turned to their young guides. “Thank you so kindly for having brought us this far. It shall not be difficult to find my mother from this point."
The five young warriors bowed deferentially and turned about to return to their clan's camp.
LanossŽa led the way through the magical gardens, continuing to shake her head in disbelief as she went. They came to the arch of the huge long house and saw two Iceni warriors, now bearing Roman weapons that had likely been plundered in the previous battle.
The two tall warriors had been speaking to each other casually when one turned and noticed the pair of visitors. “Great Camulos!” He gaped, dropping to his knee. “Princess! You are well! You have returned to us!”
“I am and I have!” She smiled at the man. “Well met, Andras. Could you please inform the queen that we have come?”
Andras rose and bowed, then quickly entered into the long house. He was gone less than a minute before returning to lead them inside.
As their eyes adjusted inside the building to a low light, dimmer than the gathering dusk of sundown, they discerned rows of stern Iceni and Trinovante guards lining the long path toward the throne. Along the way to the queen, they identified numerous chieftains and other important leaders from the southern half of England, now including representatives from the Catuvellauni, Dobunni and Atrebates — tribes that had maintained tenuous (often strained or ambiguous) relations with the Romans. At Andras's bidding, these nobles stepped to the side to leave them a clear path to the queen. Even Diras made way, his dark eyes following their approach, glittering in the lamplight with some sort of inscrutable fascination.
The queen rose up from a massive gilded chair. Even without the raised wooden platform, her sheer majesty would have towered over the assembly, but a combination of her natural height and a magically amplified sense of presence made her seem particularly ominous. She watched her two guests until they had approached within forty feet, then she lifted her staff in the manner of some ancient prophet. “All hail Princess LanossŽa of the Iceni, and every Briton's friend — Peuerellius, most courageous of all Romans!”
“Hail!” Dozens of voices rose in solemn greeting.
The Publican slowed his pace to let the princess advance ahead. LanosssŽa gazed at the faces, quickly scrutinising any close enough and sufficiently illuminated to discern in the darkness. “Hail mother. Hail Diras. Hail Mererid and Llwyd; may our peoples always join in friendship. Hail sister Heanua, our protector and healer.”
The queen's stony formality wavered for a moment. She glanced at her eldest daughter who stood in the shadows off to the left. “Protector and Healer? Heanua, is this true? Did you bear LanossŽa and Peuerellius away from the cold stones of Camulodunum?”
Heanua stood by, quiet and unresponsive.
The hall fell silent for a moment, waiting with uncertain deference for some sort of reply.
Heanua remained steadfastly passive. The Publican assessed her furtively, briefly caught her eye, then stepped forward. “Perhaps we are in error, your majesty. Some woman did indeed bear us away from the battle to heal our wounds, but our mysterious saviour departed before we had the wits to speak and identify her. Perhaps it was someone other than Heanua.”
“Ah, I see.” The queen nodded. “Yes, I believe you must have been mistaken. As you can tell, my eldest daughter is in no mind to deliver to you such care.”
Boadicea paused for a moment to collect her thoughts, then shook her head. “Ah well. None of that is important. What we must all recognize is the joy and hope filling all of our souls with the sight of you both, healthy and whole. Have you returned to join us in our march to destiny?”
The princess stood as tall as her stature would allow. “We have come, Mother, for a private audience. We would offer you our counsel.”
The queen looked past LanossŽa, gazing instead to the Publican who stood ten feet back. “Peuerellius, have you come to offer your wisdom in the customs and wiles of the Romans?”
The Publican equivocated. “Your majesty, to the best of my capacity I will answer whichever questions you put to me, yet the matters of greatest import come from your daughter.”
The queen gave LanossŽa a skeptical glance then resumed her scrutiny of the Publican. “And what counsel would my daughter bear to me? She who has never seen true battle, nor bartered lives and lands with kings and Proconsuls? ”
The Publican stepped forward to stand with the princess, drawing the queen's eyes back to her own daughter. He fixed Boadicea with a dispassionate gaze. “Your daughter sees that which you and I do not, your highness. Just as was your mother before you, Princess LanossŽa seems to be blessed with the eye of Scathach.”
A sudden buzz of whispers erupted throughout the long house. The Publican furtively cast a muffling spell to privately project his voice over the low din, then refocused on the queen. “Your daughter can read the battles that you have before you and the outcomes thereof. It is she whom you must now heed — in private audience.”
The queen stared, first at the Publican and then at the princess. After a long moment, she rose to her feet. Boadicea's eyes glanced briefly toward Diras, but both the princess and Publican shook their heads subtly and the queen nodded her assent. She turned and gestured them forward, past the wooden seat of power and into the darkness in the farthest reaches of the long house.
As they stepped into the dim recesses, the Publican became aware of a slight motion — two guards standing quietly in the dark moving to open a door through which emerged a low torchlight. The queen strode through the door; the Publican and LanossŽa also crossed into the chamber, followed silently by Heanua.
They found themselves in simple living quarters — far more modest than the large meeting space of the long house yet also more comfortable than the field quarters of most warring leaders. The queen gestured toward seats at a small table lit by a single lamp. The Publican and LanossŽa took seats, as the queen continued forward, stopping to stand in front of them. The Publican glanced back at a slight noise, noticing that Heanua had followed them into the private quarters and was hovering silently in the background.
The queen fixed her younger daughter with an expectant stare. “So. How long have you possessed second sight, LanossŽa?”
LanossŽa met her mother's eyes unflinchingly. “My first experience with it was on the day the Romans attacked our village. I cannot know everything that is to come, but some things are shown to me with clarity. Voices have led me to you with great accuracy; I know both where you have gone, whither you will lead your forces, and when. We have followed you thus to Camulodunum and from thence to your last battle on the marshes by River Stour. We have tracked you over bracken and fen and onto this road, now within striking distance of Londinium. We might even choose to accompany you thence on your march to Verulamium and finally to…”
The queen raised her hand. “No, I bid you say no more. I believe you, my daughter. Diras and I have indeed crafted our plans to raze Londinium and Verulamium, yet beyond that point we have cast no lots. If you say more now, it may displease Adraste and unsettle the winds of Amaethon.”
LanossŽa nodded tacitly.
Boadicea stood, gazing pensively at the flickering flame of the lamp. She exhaled slowly and turned away from her guests, speaking into the darkness. “You, LanossŽa, are the daughter that my own mother might have wished for. To her, I was ever the gnarled pine on a stony ridge — bending ever away from the stone from which I sprang. My mother was a maven of peace. She taught so many Iceni girls the magic of nurturing and healing; she instructed them in the gentle arts of perceiving and nurturing the world around us. It pleased her little, but I was always more nearly a son of Scavo, having no use for the quiet lore of plants and birds, of clouds, stars and dreams.”
The queen grasped the back of a chair with her hardened hands; sinewy muscles rippled in her forearms as she cast her gaze upon the Publican. “Yes. My place was always among the boys, learning to wrestle and hunt; among men, learning to fight, kill and rule. In my youth, I could best any boy or man my age in contests of bow or blade or bare hand, yet when my blood spilled after a fierce fight, I would also have to seek some girl or woman to cleanse and heal the wound.”
The queen turned back to LanossŽa. “It may be shameful to admit this to you, my daughter, but I am uncertain I ever loved your grandmother, and I appreciated her magic even less. The eye of Scathach I regarded as the magic of cowardice. To declare that a fight is lost even before the first horn sounds and a blade is drawn? That, LanossŽa, I believed to be pure weakness, unworthy of the courage of Adraste and the might of Camulos. Yet you, my valiant princess, although a great healer and now a seer, shall never be a coward. Thus I know, looking in your eyes, that you shall not attempt to sway me from my chosen course.”
Rising to her feet, the princess lifted her gaze to her mother's. Despite lacking more than seven inches of her mother's height, LanossŽa stood tall and unbowed. “You are correct, mother. I will not sway you from any just course toward, nor push you to any compromise that you might view as timorous.”
The queen's eyes shone in satisfaction. She opened her mouth to speak, but her daughter had not yet finished. “Yea mother, plan your course as you will. By Amaethon, may you you choose it with the wisdom of Scavo and the composure of Prasutagus. But whatever path you deign to follow, never forget the honour of an Iceni! Do not prey upon the weak; do not raise arms against those who have none; do not tread upon those who cannot stand.”
“Why, that is…!!” The queen glared a LanossŽa, incensed by the advice, then she took a deep breath and turned away. “The mere suggestion that any Iceni would stoop thus is an affront beyond measure. If I did not owe you my life and liberty, I would throw you from my presence and rub your insolent nose in the dirt.”
LanossŽa's eyes remained locked upon her mother, fiercely enough to break the queen's pique. The princess shook her head. “So you say, mother, yet thousands of innocents and elderly died at Camulodunum.”
Boadicea trembled in partially restrained anger. “If that is true, then they died at Trinovante hands.”
The Publican stepped forward. “That may be true your highness, yet history judges leaders by the deeds of the led. Future generations may not recall Diras, Mererid and Llwyd, for the name whispered around the hushed circle will be 'Boadicea'. Speak truthfully, your majesty. Will they tell the tale of a Great Queen of the Iceni? Or a terrible rapacious fiend?”
The Publican stood at the princess's side, facing the powerful queen with neither fear nor humility. His tone softened. “Your highness, civilians in Londinium and Verulamium outnumber soldiers by nearly twenty to one. What will become of these simple colonists in the face of an avenging army? Very few of those rising up in your name have the discipline and training that comes of life-long service of the sword. These are woodsmen and farmers. Many are angry and unprincipled. Will you be able to control these hordes of furious Trinovantes, Catuvellauni, Dobunni and Atrebates who are licensed to tear and slash in your name? Can you protect your own legacy from endless cuts and bludgeons when the blood of merchants, priests, women, children and pensioners spills over cold stone?”
Her anger diffusing somewhat under the measured words, the queen gave the Publican a brief glance and nodded. “Your advice is duly noted, Peuerellius.”
Boadicea turned to the side and picked up the staff of Scavo from where it rested against the wall, and cradled the copper head thoughtfully for a moment. The Publican gazed it it curiously — the hideous gargoyle was gone, and a noble horse head once again graced the staff, but he was not completely certain the object was completely cured of all evil that the Legate might have inflicted upon it.
Heedless to any risk from a defiled object, the queen leaned heavily on the staff, deriving comfort from its great strength and power. Equilibrating quickly from her barely-suppressed rage of minutes ago, she turned to face her daughter and the Publican. “Thank you both for your candid words — too few are those wise enough and brave enough to risk the wrath of a monarch. Noble Peuerellius, have you ever uttered advice that I did not, at the very least, eventually wish I had heeded? And my sweet LanossŽa, so valiantly restraining her tongue in the presence of her idiot mother — may you be someday blessed and vexed with humbling advice from your own wise and willful daughter.”
For the barest, fleeting second, the princess saw the ghost of a wry smile grace her mother's lips before it was subsumed by the usual disciplined severity. The queen's gaze brusquely swept their faces. “So, have you anything else to say?”
The princess met her eyes. “Yes, I do.”
The queen nodded.
“The Coritani wand, Mother — have you returned it to its maker? The bargain with the old Druid was to use it only until you no longer had need of it.” LanossŽa glanced at the staff in the queen's grasp. “It appears clear to me that the wand has fulfilled its duty to you.”
Boadicea's eyes flickered in momentary discomfort. “I… No daughter, I have not returned it. I must admit that… although the wand has been of almost no use to me… I was hoping to offer it to you.”
“Me?!” The princess's skin felt prickly; she found herself paling in the dim light. “I have no wish to touch that fiendish thing!”
The queen shifted uncomfortably. “It is an object of great power, LanossŽa, and for reasons I do not grasp, it has chosen you. I believe that in your hands that wand might produce magic as prodigious as any that I have with the staff. To be truthful, I had hoped...” She looked down and away, unable to meet her guests' alarmed eyes. “I had hoped that we could revisit my offer from Camulodunum — that, together perhaps, we could rise in power, blending with our differing strengths the wisdom of Peuerellius. None in all Britannia would stand against us in our just rule, and we could drive out the foreigners forever.”
The princess stared at her, agape. “Are you mad, Mother?”
The queen said nothing for a moment. Just as she was raising her head and opening her mouth to speak, her daughter's voice cut across hers. “Such wands may bewilder and manipulate, just as may the Coritani who make them. It was Coritani poison that felled my father and your king! Are you prepared to risk some other form of fell power by breaking a Coritani contract?”
The queen gazed at her quizzically. “Do you believe that the wand is cursed?”
LanossŽa glared. “It may well be. I would not touch it to find out.”
Boadicea exhaled slowly. She reached into her shift and withdrew the ornate stick, weighing it in her hands. Finally she nodded. “As much as I loath to part with such a great weapon in times of war, I shall heed your warning, daughter. I will dispatch a runner to return this wand to the Druid in the north.”
“Thank you Mother.”
The queen made no reply. Rather than escort her visitors back through the main meeting hall of the long house she retreated deeper into the dim recesses of the back chamber and unlatched a second door that opened directly to the dusky night air outside. Leading them past the two guards stationed outside, she stood in the moonlight, seeming slightly less tall and powerful than LanossŽa had always remembered her.
“So Peuerellius.” The queen turned one final time to face them. “Shall you and your esteemed princess remain as my special guests as we march tomorrow into Londinium?”
Lest his face betray a flickering of consternation, the Publican bowed his head deferentially. “Thank you, your highness, but no. Your daughter and I have other business to attend to.”
The queen cocked an eyebrow. “Oh? And might I inquire as to the nature of this business?”
The princess nodded. “We go unto our own battle. It is time for us to seek out the true enemy of us all; the Roman whom even Romans despise.”
Without waiting for the queen to respond, LanossŽa took the Publican's arm and began leading him away into the night. Avoiding tents and people, they made their way quietly past sodden tickets, down to the smooth, clattery stones beside the River Rom. They paused for a moment beneath a tall alder tree; the breeze rustling their hair. The princess turned to the Publican. “Do you think my mother will truly return the wand?”
The Publican sighed. “There is a part of her that apprehends our logic, but I know not whether that good fragment is strong enough to outweigh the hand of destiny.”
“Or the hand of her own stubborn will.” The princess frowned and clenched her fist. “May we find the means to avert disaster, in spite of her thick skull.”
The Publican nodded. “Yes. And may we find the Legate before it is too late.”
With a flick of wands, the pair disappeared into the night air. The faintest rattle of stones descended from beneath the alder, heading down toward the river and they departed — marked by nobody, except for the silent willowy blond woman who had been listening to them so intently.
The moon and the stars, the breeze in her hair, and obscure conversations of Coritani wands and Legates swirled disorientingly in Hermione's mind. Still drained from her recent trial by Legilimency, she found herself teetering on the uneven ground. Catching some loose stones the wrong way, she lurched abruptly forward, past her balance point. She plunged forward, thrust out her hands, and bracing blindly for…
The world was suddenly bathed in daylight — albeit of a dim and grey variety, filtered through the overhead branches of tall elms and poplars. She rose to her knees and began brushing the grime and moist plant matter off her hands and anorak.
“Oh dear! Are you all right?”
She jumped and gaped in alarm to see a stooped, cloaked man emerge from the shadows, making his way toward her. With his hood pulled low in the mist, Hermione couldn't see the man's eyes… but his mouth showed genuine, non-threatening concern. He reached down to her. “Would you like a hand, little girl?”
She leaped to her feet; her chest puffed out indignantly. “I'm not a little girl, sir. I'm eight years and seven months old, and I'm already studying Secondary 1 Literacy and Maths!”
“Oho!” The man's lips twitched slightly. “Bright as a brass button, eh? So, you will not be needing my assistance, young lady? ”
Hermione smiled at what she considered to be a more suitable appellation, but her smile faded as she gazed around herself at the tall trees, the bright spring bluebells and the peculiar saw-toothed rock formation half covered in ivy. She found it all incredibly peaceful… but distressingly unfamiliar.
Her smile devolving into vague anxiety, Hermione turned back to the cloaked old man who stood by, leaning patiently on his walking stick. “I'm sorry sir, but I may have gotten myself turned around. By any chance, would you know the way to my grandmother's house?”
“Perhaps. Would you recall your grandmother's address, milady?”
“Farthingstone Road,” she proclaimed smartly. “My dad and mum bring us out here nearly every Sunday. We follow the A45 into Weedon Bec, take a short jog left onto Bridge Street past the red brick wall, veer onto Farthingstone Road, then nigh on two and a quarter miles out of town!”
The man grinned at the highly specific detail. He raised his gnarled old hand to point past Hermione. “You've gone a hundred feet off the dirt path — it's off yonder a bit. Turn right, and you'll be back to the road in five minutes… but tell me, milady, what's that resting down there by your foot?”
Hermione looked down to see a clod of lush moss that had seemingly overturned in her tumble. Embedded within it was a glimmer of something winglike, the silver glinting against the rich, dark humus.
“Oh! Now what would this be?” Hermione knelt down and pulled it gingerly from the earth. “Is it an old clasp, perhaps? Rather striking isn't it? But what's this? Writing?”
She began to carefully wipe away the dirt with her sleeve, then paused and squinted. “It has an inscription... Invenies in Tenebris? Invenies in… Darkness… You will f… You will be found in the darkness?”
The man shook his head slightly. “Active not passive conjugation, milady. Invenies in Tenebris. You will find in the darkness.”
Hermione's eyes brightened, but then she frowned. “But what does it… mean? You will find in the darkness? Find what?”
“Hmmm? Strength, friendship, compassion?” A pleased smile on his face, the old man shrugged. “In the darkness, you will find hope, perhaps? Put it in your pocket — keep it very safe and secret until the time comes when it is needed.”
“Keep it?” Hermione bit her lip. “But wouldn't that be… stealing?”
He shook his head. “Nay, not at all. It has waited such a very long time to find you.” He stooped beside her and wrapped his papery-skinned hand around hers, closing her fingers around the brooch, and guiding both her hand and brooch into the pocket of her anorak.
Straining on his walking stick, the old man straightened up and smiled. “Now, it is time for me to bid you farewell, young lady. I believe your parents are calling you.”
She sprang up, cocking a hand around her ear. “Are you certain? I don't hear any…”
“… Hermione dear! It's time to go!”
Hermione's eyes flashed wide. “Coming Mum!” She paused a moment. “Sir, would you care to come along and meet my…”
Hermione gaped in astonishment, and glanced frantically about herself.
She was all alone.
“Hermione, can you hear us? We're out here on the path.”
“Just a moment, Daddy!” Hermione glanced all around again — at the tall silent trees, at the damp bluebells shining brightly against the misty late April gloom, and at those curious jagged rocks in the distance. She felt the weight of something even more curious, lodged safely and secretly in her pouch… then, with the tingling sensation of mystery creeping down her spine, she turned away to join her parents on the path.
In the sultry shade of a tall elm tree, with his feet resting in the pool of a brook, the Publican's head swayed, drooped… and he startled awake.
The princess looked up from her herb gathering. “You should rest Terna. You let me sleep earlier; it is your turn now.”
He yawned. “You are right, Lano, but I cannot stop myself from dwelling upon the Legate; fretting over what his scheme may be; wondering whether we've come the right road. I wish those voices could tell us where he is. I still worry that we should have returned to Camboricum, to whence we knew he last fled.”
The princess frowned. “It is unlikely that he would remain there. He is on the move, and our best reckoning is that he will seek to intercept Mother's campaign at its position of greatest weakness.”
“The voices believe the Romans will make a stand somewhere north of Lactodurum?”
LanossŽa stood and stretched her legs. “Yes, and likely south of Tripontium.”
The Publican exhaled slowly. “Jupiter, Lano, I need not the voices to read your mother's fate. Proconsul Paulinus must be marching down from northern Wales; the queen will march her army straight into his teeth. Would that I had warned her to not judge all Romans on the basis of her success against the imbeciles she has faced thus far. Decianus is the simplest of crooked dolts. By contrast, I fear that Paulinus will, in his spirit of professional efficiency, tear her horde to quivering shreds.”
The princess knelt by him and took his hand. “You have done your diligence, Terna. You counseled her months ago to appeal to Paulinus. I stood with you in that camp above the Ouse, and loved you for your wise words, and my heart quailed with yours when my mother declined. You have tried to help my people, and may history record your virtues, but the time has come now for Amaethon or Jupiter to lay their hands upon the earth and shape it as they must.”
The Publican sighed and stared into the swirling stream for a moment… then he tensed again and scowled. “Jupiter or Amaethon may lay their hands about us as they see fit, but damn the Legate and his meddlesome ways! I shall not let him play god with our fate, or that of our unborn child! A pox on his shriveled, devious little mind and it's foul plans!”
“I commiserate, my love.” The princess stroked his hand. “I wish I could offer some insight but, as I understand it, the voices can tell us only what people of our own time have recorded in their histories. The voices have read many details of Mother's final days, yet no tales offer any mention of the Legate.”
“Perhaps because the man is very secretive.” The Publican closed his eyes for a moment in thought, then reopened them. “I am not certain that even the Romans truly know who he is, or why he should have been assigned to Britannia. He seems to hold the paunchy flab of Procurator Decianus within his vice-like grip, steering him about like like a puppet, but without any real role or mandate of his own.”
LanossŽa gazed into his eyes. “The voices believe that his only real purpose in this life is to destroy ours, Terna, yet history does not register his success or failure in this goal.”
The Publican gazed at her quizzically. “Is that good news or ill?”
“History reflects very little of us.” The princess shrugged. Her face was impassive for a moment before the slightest glimmer of a smirk arose. “This means, Terna, that you and I are every bit as secretive as the Legate. Our fates and his are thus open to our own composing. I take this to mean that we will secretly obliterate his every dream or hope, and drive him whimpering secretly to his trembling knees.”
The Publican found himself, one more time, grinning at the strength and verve of this young woman who had chosen him. He rose to his feet and extended his hand. “Come, my princess. If you have finished gathering herbs, then we must rejoin the road, if we are to make our secretive way past Verulamium tonight.”
The princess gained her feet and raised her hands to the Publican's cheeks, guiding his face toward hers. For a long moment in the sultry shade, standing beside a lazy brook that would someday be known as Tykes Water, two lovers set aside fate, destiny and worldly machinations. What remained to them in that moment was joy.
Leaving their two progenitors to a brief blissful respite from the long tense journey north through the ancient Midlands, Harry and Ginny found themselves dreaming of their own embrace. Beneath a perfect sky, surrounded by verdant gardens and white colonnades, and sheltered from angst and peril, they swirled gently through a shimmery mist in time to slow lilting music. In easy harmony, their feet glided lightly over the same marble tiles they had known from a previous night. Ginny gazed around at the idyll, yet for all that it soothed her mind, she knew what she most desired — to lower her head comfortably onto Harry's chest, letting her eyes to drift shut, while listening to the sound of his heart.
Harry sighed happily. One hand crept upwards from its place on her lower back, toward her face, to gently brushed aside a lock of her hair and caress her cheek.
Ginny's eyes flickered at the touch. “Hmmm?”
His breath tickling her slightly, Harry lowered his face to whisper to her. “There aren't any idiots around this time.”
Ginny pulled back a bit; her eyes were quizzical for a moment then a delighted grin slid across her. “Oh? And was there something you were going to say to me then, Mr. Potter?”
“There is, Miss Weasley.”
She smiled, her eyes alighting on his.
He coughed slightly. “So I know that sometimes it's difficult to say important things. It seems like every word or phrase can have different meanings, and I worry that I'll mean one thing and say another, but… well after all of the nasty scrapes, after being afraid so many times that I'll lose you, or worrying how you'd feel if you lost me, it's seems to me that the worst thing I could do would be to never even try to say…”
Harry's eyes flickered away for a moment, but Ginny's gentle touch refocused them.
“I mean, I guess I have spoken the words before, but only when we're flailing about in the frenzy of battle or something. It really seems important to finally tell you at a time when we can pause and think about what we mean… you know?”
Ginny nodded; she parted her lips slightly, expectantly.
“Ginevra Molly Weasley, I…” Harry inhaled a small breath. “Ginny, I love you, and I know you feel the same way about me…”
Ginny watched in breathless silence, waiting for Harry to continue.
Harry closed his eyes pensively. “I know that a lot of people say things like that, right? But doesn't this somehow seem different? Don't you think that when you and I say something like that it'll be more than just words? That it's a promise over all time — past present and future? Feelings like this are stronger than time, aren't they? Stronger than cause and effect? I mean, once we've created something like this, how could anyone ever take it away?”
Ginny cocked her head reflectively, slowly working her way through the maze of words, not quite certain what Harry truly meant.
A moment of silence passed slowly between them as Harry reorganized his thoughts. Finally, he opened his eyes to meet her curious gaze. “What I'm trying to say, Gin', is that there's no way that the Legate, or Malfoy, or Riddle can ever break this feeling. They might try to kill me or even erase me from history, but you will always have my love. It is, it was and it will be. It's as much a part of this universe as all the stars and the space around them.”
Ginny stared at Harry, peering into him, gradually seeing and understanding. It was difficult to completely believe — a part of her wondered whether her waking self wouldn't pull back a little, self-protectively, from such glowing, sanguine optimism, but…
Ginny smiled. Within this dream there were no more obstacles; there was no more reason to question their faith in each other or set limits on its power. She reached up to caress his chin. “Yes, Harry. Our love for each other will always be. Nobody can take it away.”
Harry nodded ever so slowly. “And, you know what that means, Gin'? If our love will never fail, then neither will we, right?”
“Right.” Ginny pulled herself close to him again, and pressed her face to his chest, nodding softly. “We won't fail, Harry. Who knows how exactly we're going to pull through this mess, but I know we'll work it all out. We'll come out on top.”
The music had stopped, and their feet came to a gradual halt. Still clasping each other with one-armed embraces, Harry's left hand found Ginny's right; their fingers wove together loosely and, instinctively, they extended their hands outward, as if they were both reaching out together to touch something.
In the quiet of the garden, the sky faded past the deep red and lilac hues of twilight, yet in the fading glimmers a new glow arose, enveloping their outstretched hands in a soft, pulsing, white radiance.
Ginny merely nodded, as if greeting an old friend, but Harry stared at the glow quizzically. “What is… it? What is the light, Gin'?”
Ginny looked at him, her eyes sparkling in the reflected incandescence. “It is, Harry.”
Harry blinked. “It is? Is what? What is?”
Ginny equivocated. “I don't know if there are any words for it. It simply is. It's a part of us. We're a part of it. If everything goes dark, it will still be there — something to guide us.”
“Is it magic?”
“Oh, I'm sure it must be.” Ginny pursed her lips thoughtfully. “But I really doubt it's the sort of magic anyone would ever learn at a place like Hogwarts.”
“Is it, uh…” Harry cocked his head to examine the light from another angle. “Is it love?”
Ginny shrugged and smiled. “I bet that's part of it, Harry. But, like I say, it just is.”
Harry shook his head slightly. “I love you, Gin'… but you're a bit mystifying sometimes.”
“You too, Harry.” Ginny grinned. “You too.”
In the pitch black of a starless night, still holding Ginny; still being held by her, Harry continued to gaze at the soft white pulse as everything else around them faded into total black.
“They'll try to drive us apart, Gin'… but we'll hold on. I'll never let go.”
“I'll know, Harry. And I'll always find you.”
The Publican rolled over under his blanket and opened his eyes to the bluish light of the predawn. He sat up and looked around, spotting LanossŽa about fifty feet away, contemplating a fresh pool of the River Ver.
Sensing her partner's awakening, the princess turned and walked back to the campsite. She wore a morning smile of greeting, but the Publican could sense an underlying disappointment. He rose to his feet and gazed toward the water. “So, I am guessing that the waters are not navigable?”
She shook her head. “The Midlands must have been drier than the east, and the terrain is too hilly. The Ver is betimes a merry path, but then threads its way through coarse stones and is wont even to disappear.” She sighed. “We are better off on the road.”
The Publican nodded. The princess had never been this far from her home before, and he himself had only traveled northwest from Londinium twice in the sixteen years he had spent in Britannia, so neither of them knew the terrain or paths well. It seemed somewhat unsettling to spend so much time out in the open, traveling on one of the Romans' busiest roads, but there were no good alternatives.
He reached out to take the collection of dry tinder she had gathered from a mossy tree nearby, and gave her an encouraging smile. “The rivers Tove or Nene may soon well give our aching feet a rest, but even if not, we should be less than two days march from Lactodurum.”
She nodded emotionlessly then gazed southwards. “Did you learn anything interesting in your visit last night to Verulamium?”
Stooping to pack his meager belongings and add the tinder to his bundle, the Publican nodded. “Yes — the street near the basilica was thronged with gossipers out in the warm night air, and I learned a fair bit from them. It seems that the beacon hills were alight in the early evening with news of a great conflagration in Londinium. Then nightfall brought warning of a great horde of Britons camping near the Silk Stream marshlands.”
The princess frowned. “Where is that?”
“Along this very route, several leagues south of where we joined the road early yesterday morning. In any case, supposedly the legionary fort at Sulloniacis was requesting reinforcements from Verulamium, but the local Tribune countermanded the request and demanded that Sulloniacis be abandoned, and the cohort fall back to protect Verulamium.”
LanossŽa sighed. “And indeed Verulamium shall burn next — the beginning of the bitter end. When would you estimate that Mother will reach here? She is a day behind us?”
“Yes, roughly a day. For now, at least.” The Publican handed the princess her pack and they trudged their way up the grade and back onto the road. “I believe her forces will camp south of Verulamium tonight, and attack tomorrow morning. Yet even assuming they prevail efficiently, they are unlikely to pass this point before tomorrow evening, at which time they will be closer to two days behind.”
LanossŽa chewed her lip. “Any news of your Proconsul? The mighty Paulinus?”
“No, not yet. Let us spy a bit more on our way through Durocobrivis and Magiovinto. I suspect that Paulinus is already on the move, but unlike that thundering oaf Decianus, the Proconsul moves like a quiet wolf through the underbrush. We may be nearly upon him before we hear him rustle a twig. We will need to…”
“Look Terna!” The princess paused and grabbed the Publican's arm. “The sun is coming up!” She turned to let the red glow bathe her face and send a coppery sheen rippling through her hair. “Never let pass a fine sunrise without appreciation. We know not how many more we may ever see.”
The long day's march from the banks of the Ver brought observations that seemed initially very contradictory, but ultimately proved subtly and worrisomely logical.
In mid-morning, the princess and Publican had been forced to dash into the bushes to avoid detection by a Century on forced march south to Verulamium. The soldiers had been moving rapidly and without speech, so the Publican had not been able to glean news from them, however he did notice the badge of Durocobrivis on several of the passing men, suggesting that the more northerly fort was sending troops down to bolster Verulamium. This was not particularly strange although the Publican was somewhat curious about the small size of this one force, and the absence of other troop movements through most of the day.
The main contradiction presented itself in early afternoon along the road to Magiovinto, when two whole cohorts swept past them… going north!
Why would some troops from the north be moving south, while those from the south were moving north?
Two hours later, by the time the Publican and princess were making their way under disillusionment charm directly through the heart of Magiovinto, they had determined that the value of news was worth risking a few more discreet inquiries.
The nearby fort was a hive of activity, with the apparent mustering of a mixture of local auxiliaries as well as the Valeria Victrix twentieth Legion; but the local merchants catering to the fort were every bit as busy planning for the mobilization, and the Publican suspected that they would be more open to sharing news with strangers. Leaving the (disillusioned) Princess outside, he cast quick spells on himself to banish the dirt and road weariness that covered him, and entered a wooden commercial building just off the via.
He gazed around the busy shop floor, and waved to the best dressed man. “Salve mercatore! How are you?”
The man finished rolling a large barrel onto a wagon. “How am I? Swept off my feet, as you can see!” He dusted off his hands. “What may I help you with?”
The Publican laid a hand on a barrel and began to roll it toward the wagon. “Two weeks ago I was requisitioned to deliver three wagon loads of oats and barley to this fort, but I have heard that supplies are being redirected elsewhere now?”
The merchant nodded, accepting the barrel from the Publican. “This is true, yes. It seems as if the whole country is on the move now.”
“Yes, it does appear that way.” The Publican gazed around at the many wagons in various stages of being loaded. “Unfortunately I have received conflicting instructions of exactly where to direct the shipment, and matters at the fort are too frantic at the moment to get clarification. May I ask where your shipments are headed?”
“North.” The merchant grabbed another barrel and began rolling it toward the wagon. “Nobody is being told a precise destination, but instruct your driver to make for Lactodurum and await further instructions.” He stopped and braced his barrel at the bottom of a ramp. “And do yourself a favour as well, dear fellow. Haste away from this road and any dwellings upon it — an evacuation order has issued for all towns and forts south of Bannaventa, effective tomorrow night.”
A frown of deep consternation on his face, the Publican thanked the merchant and walked quietly out of Magiovinto, seemingly alone, but in fact accompanied by his invisible partner. Over several leagues, they passed quickly into the quiet countryside where the bustling activity of the small military town seemed a distant memory. Near the marshy upper reaches of the Great Ouse, they found a shaded copse off the road where the princess canceled her disillusionment and the pair paused to prepare their evening meal.
The location provided well for them. Reedmace grew plentifully in the shade; they collected a substantial amount of rootstock and fresh leaves to boil over a low fire with some of their dried meat. As the the princess finished chopping the roots and leaves into their cauldron, she turned to the Publican. “You have been very silent, Terna. What did you learn from the merchant?”
The Publican sighed. “I believe, Lano, that I learned what I already knew.”
“Ah yes, but my dearest Publican knows many things, doesn't he? What in particular did the merchant confirm?”
“He confirmed that we are on the right road; tomorrow we shall likely ascertain our final destination.” He turned to LanossŽa with a reticent expression on his face. “I also learned once again that the Proconsul is a fox among fowl. I am beginning to glimpse his plans, Lano. I fear I see the outlines of a brilliant trap.”
Hettie stood in front of the dusty, cracked mirror in Rob's small and sparsely appointed North London flat. She made one last attempt to tame her hair, then huffed quietly to herself. Nonetheless, as Rob entered the room, she turned and faced him gamely. “So where are we meeting this fellow Duff, then?”
“Er, sorry — best for you to not know.” Rob smiled uncomfortably. “Yet another secret, eh?”
Hettie smiled and shrugged; she had given up arguing. “But at least you can verify that we're meeting at four o'clock?”
Rob grinned. “Right. At least I don't have to dodge that.” He glanced at his watch, and the grin faltered. “Reminds me though — there was one last thing I was supposed to talk to you about. We still have some time before leaving, so would you like to grab a seat out on the sofa while I make us some tea?”
She nodded. Stepping out into the drawing room, she settled on the edge of the clean but threadbare seat and listened to the homely clatter from the kitchenette around the corner where Rob was starting a kettle and fetching cups.
Jittering slightly, wondering anxiously what he planned to talk about, Hettie spied an old photo album lying on the coffee table. Having never seen it there before, curiosity got the better of her; she reached for it and began leafing through.
The first photo fascinated her — a rickety-looking, ramshackle, but oddly welcoming stack of mismatched wooden compartments, sporting strange doors and odd windows, all set amidst an eccentric English country garden.
After examining the house picture for a couple of minutes, Hettie turned the page and nearly dropped the book! The picture facing her was of a bright sunny paddock above which two red haired boys were zipping about on broomsticks! She laughed aloud at their animated antics. The younger of the two boys, a precocious fellow of six or seven — was flying one-handed while blithely, cheerily waving at her!
Hettie grinned. Magical moving photographs! Magic!
Hettie knew very little about magic other than that Rob had confirmed her long suspicions that she herself also had unusual, untapped powers. He had otherwise been very circumspect on the topic, and had always been exceptionally discreet when he cast any spells in her presence. Not to be completely denied, she had pressed him about it, extracting from him a bargain that he would begin to teach her some magic when, or if, they completed their current… task.
She fingered the book, wondering what other marvels were out there within her possible grasp. Then she flipped the page.
A family photo!
The man in the centre of the photograph was immediately recognizable as Rob's father — shorter, more stout, with finer, thinner hair, but otherwise a strong family resemblance.
Hettie gazed at the mother. Short and somewhat plump, the woman must have been a beautiful woman in her youth — those high, delicate cheek bones and vibrant eyes were of rare form. Yet here, in this photo, it was obvious that her graces had been poured into producing and raising a family. Six handsome sons!
Within the mother's arms, lay a small sleeping baby whom Hettie somehow guessed to be Rob. Flanking the parents, Hettie recognized the two boys from the previous page's broom flying photo. In this family photo, they were now handsome young lads of perhaps ten and eight; once again the stocky eight year old gave her a cheeky wave, bringing a smile to her face.
Hettie gazed fondly at the three characters in the fore. In the centre front was a tall but frail four year old who, judging by his stiff posture, might have been wearing shorts a couple of sizes too small. What brought the most mirth to Hettie's eyes, however, was a pair of the cutest, naughtiest little ankle biter twins flanking the four year old. Just as Hettie's eyes were flickering over them, two small hands crept furtively upward — the twins giving their unsuspecting older brother two waggling antlers.
Hettie was just stifling a giggle when Rob entered. Carrying the service tray, he gave her a sad smile. “Oh good. You've found what I was about to show you.”
She looked up in surprise. “Really? You were going to show me family pictures.”
“Yes, sort of.” He put the tray down and handed her cup and saucer. “Green. No milk or sugar.”
“Thank you.” She smiled and shifted over to give him room on the sofa.
Rob settled in and helped Hettie hold the book. He turned one page forward. Without speaking a word, his finger traced the caption of a baby picture. It read, 'Gemina M. Weasley, born Aug. 11, 1981.'
Hettie tapped her bottom lip thoughtfully. “Gemina? That's… an interesting name?”
Rob stiffened slightly. Distractedly, he placed his hand part-way over his mouth, and Hettie had to strain to catch his mumbled words. “Er, well, Gemina is like 'Gemini'. You know, as in 'twins'? You see, the twins disappeared just before Gemina was born and, well, Mum thought…”
Rob trailed off and fell silent. His pained expression froze Hettie, and she watched in numb silence as he slowly stirred again and began paging past other photos. She saw the eldest boy standing beside a massive, ancient looking red locomotive. Various other pictures of the other siblings followed. Some pictures included the girl Gemina as she grew, but no more photos ever showed the rascally little twins, and never again was there a full family photo.
As Rob continued to move somewhat robotically through the book, Hettie caught sight of a newspaper article depicting the eldest boy. Her heart sank. It was an obituary.
Rob angled the book away and turned grimly past some more pages. Finally, with his jaw set, Rob spread the album back within Hettie's view, open to an article written in clumsy amateur typeface.
A Heroine's End. By Lucy Lovelace, Quibbler Special Correspondent
It is with the heaviest of hearts that we at the Quibbler find ourselves entrusted with a task of great importance and solemnity. Kind readers, I would ask you to all share this full page memorial dedicated to a final celebration of the life, and a final testament to the loss, of one of British wizarding society's brightest lights.
Last Friday, when most of the school-aged youth in our country were celebrating Halloween with treats and silly costumes, one sixteen year old girl spent the evening on call, prepared (as she so often was) to place her life on the line, safeguarding vulnerable members of our Wizarding community. When a horrific blaze erupted within the residence of a Muggleborn family in the Allesley Old Village, Gemina Marie Wilsey was first on the scene. As usual, she acted with skill and efficiency. She was so prompt, in fact, that she had already guided the family of six safely from the jaws of mortal peril before her partner even arrived in the neighbourhood.
Unfortunately, in the barest of minutes between her successful rescue efforts and the arrival of Gemina's partner, an unthinkable disaster occurred. At 10:52 p.m. on the night of October 31, 1997, Gemina Wilsey was found dead in front of the still-burning building.
So how should we all recognize such a fine young woman, her life of selfless service and her final, ultimate sacrifice? Surely the courage extended in preserving our fine citizens would warrant consideration for prestigious commendation by our Minister of Magic? Should not the Wizengamot now be discussing a nomination for posthumous awarding of the Order of Merlin? Certainly such heroism would feature prominently in all British Wizarding publications, just as the Quibbler has done?
What does it tell us, dear readers, to leaf through the November 1st edition of the Daily Prophet and read not a single mention of the Allesley fire or Miss Wilsey's tragic demise? What should we infer from a newspaper that instead devoted the entire day's coverage to the “glorious education reforms” inflicted upon our Wizarding youth by Mr. Tom Riddle, the self-appointed Headmaster of the Lord Voldemort School of Witchcraft and Wizardry?
Is it possible that these appalling miscarriages of common decency were related to the fact that the Allesley conflagration arose not from accident or natural causes, but rather from a Fiendfyre curse unleashed by operatives of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement? Or perhaps there was some embarrassment on the part of our kakistocratic Ministry of Magic and a cowed wizarding media over the unseemly fact that Gemina was overcome, not by the Fiendfyre (for which she knew suitable protective charms), but rather from a killing curse cast by none other than the head of DMLE himself, Mr. Edouard Yaxley.
What unspeakably foul… ?!!
No kind readers, today I must stay my furious quill. This is not the time to anoint another in a long line of great martyrs rising from the crushing fists of a maniacal dark pogrom. Now is the time to respect the wishes of Gemina Wilsey, who would not want to be remembered that way.
Throughout her life, Miss Wilsey refused to ever admit that she was anything special. Even now, I fear that somewhere she would roll her eyes in embarrassment if I tried to relate to you what a kind, dedicated and brilliant witch she was. With some persuasion, however, I believe she would begrudgingly permit me to describe her extraordinary compassion for the human spirit in all its forms. I am quite certain that she would want me to remind you that compassion triumphs over all prejudice.
Gemina set high ideals for herself and always lived to their rigourous precepts. While many wizards and witches choose their associations based on measures of wealth, power, pedigree and blood status, she saw only humans. Whereas many people wonder first what they might receive, she asked only what she could give… and give she did. Gemina offered anything within her means to everyone in need, whether it was her sympathy, her time, her energy, or even her last Sickle.
The only people disqualified from receiving Miss Wilsey's kindness were those least deserving. She loathed the dark elite and fought against their appalling prejudice with a rare fury. From her first day as a Hogwarts student until the night of her death, she was a constant thorn in the side of bigotry. Yet, despite her stridency, Gemina was admired by people from all walks of life. She received innumerable (distinctly unwelcome) propositions from the heirs of some of the most wealthy blood purist families such as the Malfoys, Notts and Zabinis. That was hardly a surprise to most of us who recognized that such a beautiful and powerful young witch (the seventh child of a seventh child in a pureblood family) could likely have secured a betrothal to even the most privileged Wizarding family. However, neither promises (of wealth or security) nor sordid ultimata (including threats worse than death) could sway her to such denigration.
Yet there was something more than just idealism that kept Miss Wilsey pure. She spurned all disingenuous advances with ease, but she also frequently found herself in the regrettable position of having to turn aside genuine affection from the kind, brave young wizards who fought alongside her. Over time, boys and men in the resistance stopped beseeching her, and instead speculated (admiringly if dejectedly) that Gemina was bound monogamously to her causes; that so long as any persecution and intolerance remained for her to vanquish, she would never accede to whimsical human instincts such as love and romance.
In fact, nothing could be further from the truth, for Gemina Wilsey was secretly in love. She certainly laboured assiduously to hide or deny her feelings, but one late night, immersed in the murky depths of a Firewhisky bottle, she confided to me how her heart belonged to a boy she had never met. He was kind and gentle, blessed with awe inspiring power and sweet modesty. She described to me his sensational green eyes, and the endearing way his tufty hair fell about his face. Gemina didn't actually know his name, and could not prove that he had ever really even existed, but she knew him. She knew that she loved him and he loved her. She knew from her dreams that her lover was the embodiment of our victory — that he would someday emerge, bringing justice to the persecuted, vindication to the good, and peace to the peaceable.
On October 31st 1997, Gemina Marie Wilsey finally found her green-eyed hero. Within his loving embrace, she completed one long harrowing journey, and together they have commenced another. The path that our two noble icons walk is beyond my sight, but I grasp with all my heart that they will return for us, with open arms and helping hands, ready to lead us all home.
Gemina Wilsey is survived by two older brothers, Pierce and Robert.
Rob stood and began to pace. Every so often, he glanced surreptitiously at Hettie as she made her meticulous way through the article; as she paused for a while to gaze mistily at the accompanying picture — the smiling, windswept girl holding a broomstick, framed against the moody background of some barren northern crag.
When Hettie finally looked up, Rob was steeling himself to ask a question. He met Hettie's eyes and nodded toward the article. “I, uhh, I'm supposed to ask you, well… what do you think?”
“Rob...” Hettie bit her bottom lip tremulously. “I can't explain it. It's almost like it was something in a dream…”
Rob nodded, his expression blank as he awaited clarification.
“I've never known her or even seen her, Rob, but in some strange way, I… I find myself saying that she, Gemina, was the... the sister I always wanted.”
Rob blinked in surprise. The grief he had been fighting so valiantly suddenly seemed to recede, replaced by an expression of confusion, curiosity, and perhaps even hope. He cocked his head. For a long moment, he simply gazed at Hettie, then he opened his mouth to speak, saying...
Hermione jolted awake, spilling her pillows onto the dingy floor of the Grimmauld place bedroom. She shook her head in confusion.
“Oi Granger. Rise and shine, sweets!”
Sirius's gravelly voice sounded neither sweet nor particularly shiny. “Bloody watch is broken so I'm not sure what time it is, but there's a bit of light outside, so I reckon you and I ought to get hopping. We need to find that damned thing Albus is looking for before he decides to come back and find it himself.”