Introducing Anna Alongside the stone corridors of Hogwarts stormed a man clad in grey holding a little girl in his

arms. He reached the headmaster’s office door, whispered the password ‘Blibbering Humdinger’ to the stone gargoyle in front of it, and was allowed to step inside. He knocked on yet another door and a faint answer came to him. ‘Come in.’ said Albus Dumbledore to the man. Remus Lupin did as he was beckoned. He was wearing a shabby, patched overcoat and his pale face was gleaming wet. It was raining outside. ‘Hello!’ said the little girl brightly to Dumbledore. Albus, however, answered her by stroking her long hair and smiling kindly, then turned to Lupin instead. ‘Good Lord, Remus. Couldn’t you find an umbrella? Come by the fire.’ ‘It doesn’t matter now.’the man snapped. ‘They’re …dead…Lily and James are dead, Dumbledore.’ ‘I know, but that is no reason for you to die of pneumonia. You’d leave that child with nothing.’ Albus said calmly, pointing at the small girl in Lupin’s arms. In spite of her age, the little girl was very beautiful. She looked no older than two or three, yet there was a certain maturity about her expression. She, like Lupin, had large, vivid grey eyes that rested silently on Dumbledore, bewitched by what he was saying. In order for you to get a clear image of what we are speaking of, you must learn more about this little girl. Anna’s story began long before she was born, in the distant Middle-Earth. Anna is the daughter of Eamane Luthien, sister of Arwen of Rivendell who is the Evenstar of her people. Eamane, unlike her sister, was scared of the threat of evil. She flew from MiddleEarth upon hearing what the gods had in store for her. She landed in London. After shifting form Middle-Earth to London, she joined the Order of Phoenix, hoping to make amends for her cowardice. That did not quite turn out as planned. She got cold feet again and joined Voldemort, became the second female Death Eater, and Voldemort’s main informer. The Order stuck out quite well, they managed to keep their secrets, but one soldier was left disappointed. Before revealing herself as a supporter of the Dark Arts, Eamane managed to trick several people into believing she was the kindest little deer you’ll ever meet. One such person was Remus Lupin, who fell in love with the elf. Or, rather, the idea of Eamane. In fact, Eamane had her own interests at heart, for Harry Potter was not the only one above whose head hung a prophecy. Eamane’s daughter, her first and only child was supposed to be ‘the Tower’, ‘the Beam’ and the element that held the worlds together. The tower of strength and the beam of joy of all souls she touched. Anna’s powers were unlimited and she was a threat to all evil and cowardice. To Eamane. To Voldemort. To Sauron. Naturally, Eamane convinced Remus that their child will not be a werewolf, like him, and so, Anna was born, out of fear that the gods will punish her mother, to oppose cowardice and evil.

Soon after that, Eamane flew form the Order, leaving Remus alone with Anna. Somehow, he managed to work it all out. Anna spent full moons at James and Lily or at Alice and Frank’s. But what now, with James and Lily dead? What now, with Alice and Frank gone loopy? And, more importantly( Remus blamed himself horribly for not thinking of this before): how would Anna grow up beside a werewolf? And so, that loving father made a heart-wrenching decision. He would have to give his beloved daughter to the only man he trusted. He would have to sever all ties with her, save her from shame and damage. He would give her to Dumbledore. And that, my friends, is why he has come to the Headmaster of Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry. ‘Harry - does he live?’ asked Remus. ‘Yes. I have taken him to Lily’s sister-‘ ‘A Muggle’s home? Surely…Will it be safe?’ ‘I trust that Lily’s blood will offer him the protection he needs… for the time being…I do not think Voldemort was thoroughly destroyed.’said Dumbledore with a dismissive wave of his hand but a sad look in his eyes. ‘Nor do I. But neither do I have the time to discuss Voldemort with you, Albus.’ Albus Dumbledore’s intense blue eyes pierced Remus’. The latter, however, did not flinch in his belief that he was doing the right thing. ‘Why then,’ said Albus ‘have you come tonight?’ ‘To ask you, to beg if I have to-‘ Remus Lupin cut off. His vocal cords were not working, his cheeks were wet again, not with rain, but with tears. The simple thought that he had to give away the being he loved most in the world, the being that needed his love and care…It tore him apart as he cursed his condition… But Remus Lupin was not a fool. He knew that the only way for Anna to lead a happy, normal life, would be that she lived it far from him. And he would suffer and cry and yell and be lonely, but she would be happy and sane. Reminding himself of his reasoning, he regained composure. ‘When I asked you to be Anna’s godfather, and when you accepted, I’m quite sure neither of us had this in mind. But now, with James, Lily, Alice and Frank gone, Anna has no one.’ ‘She has you, Remus.’ Dumbledore pointed out. ‘Me?’said Lupin, scowling. ‘ Me, Dumbledore? A werewolf if I ever saw one! Think of the shame she will endure! Think, Dumbledore, of what I may do to her! Kill her, or worse! No, Dumbledore. I cannot put her in such danger. She is my child…’ And he broke off once more, and took to staring at Anna instead, memorising every detail of her face. Her long, dark hair, her wonderful grey eyes and her fair complexion. Her full, red lips that curled in a smile as her father’s eyes met hers. Then, as Lupin was drinking in the image of his daughter, professor Minerva McGonagall came rushing into the Headmaster’s office. Her beady eyes were on fire, her cheeks pink. She had been running. ‘Good evening, Remus, Albus.’she said coolly. ‘Good evening, professor.’said Dumbledore curtly. ‘I suppose it would mean you had good manners if you said ‘hello’, wouldn’t it?’she said coldly to Remus. ‘And I suppose it would have been simply too much to have

announced your visit, wouldn’t it? You chose instead to rouse every single guard and set off every single Intruder-Detection Jinx we set on the school! Professor Flitwick is out of his minds trying to convince the suits of armour that no one dangerous has entered the castle!’ Remus did not move. He hadn’t noticed Minerva come in, and nor did he care. That was the last time he would ever see his daughter. Would she ever remember him? What House will she be in? Who will be her first boyfriend? He will not know. And it was sorrow beyond what he had ever experienced (and he had suffered a great deal, believe me). He tore his gaze from Anna’s and said quickly: ‘Evening, professor McGonagall. It’s best you’re here too…A happy coincidence…’ Minerva McGonagall was evidently preparing her retort, but she caught Dumbledore’s gaze and decided not to snap at Lupin. ‘What I am about to ask of you both is not exactly included in the godfather’s manual.’ said Lupin. He drew breath: ‘I must ask you to take her. Forever.’ ‘What?’said professor McGonagall looking alarmed. ‘Y-You’re giving h-her up?’ ‘Why, yes.’ affirmed Lupin calmly. ‘B-but…why?’ she hesitated. ‘Is the reason not obvious? With James and Lily gone, …she has no one left!’ Lupin grabbed chunks of his hair and started pulling like his life depended upon it. He looked maddened by rage and regret…And Minerva asked no more questions. ‘Minerva,’ said Dumbledore swiftly. ‘take Anna. I would like to talk to Remus.’ Minerva picked Anna up, smiling at her. Anna answered her smile, straightened her back maturely and asked: ‘Where are we going?’ ‘Oh, I’d like to show you something that I think you will like very much.’ ‘Is it a mermaid? Or a centaur? I’ve only seen pictures of them and daddy said there are loads at Hogwarts!’ she said eagerly. ‘No, not exactly.’ Said Minerva with a feeble laugh. With that, the pair stepped out of Dumbledore’s office, leaving behind a grieving father who was smiling to himself and his frowning judge. ‘Remus, that child has made you happier than I have ever seen you. You can’t give up on her. You mustn’t…’ ‘Mustn’t?!’ scowled Lupin. ‘ Dumbledore, have you ever loved someone so much that you’d tear yourself into bits and scatter yourself into the sea just to prevent them form ever, ever being hurt? Because that’s what this is, Albus! It’s not cowardice, and it’s not selfishness! I might kill her! I might bite her! And if I don’t, how will she be able to live with the shame of having me as a father??’ ‘How can you say that? How could any child be ashamed of you?’ said Dumbledore with tears in his eyes. Lupin simply stared at him, unable to speak, unwilling to speak. The tall frame of Albus Dumbledore leaned towards Remus and touched his shoulder gently. ‘I understand. More than you think…She will be safe with us, Remus, do not worry about her health… It’s her heart you should be worrying about…But, if it’s what I can do to help you…both of you, then I will do it.’ he said. ‘Thank you. Thank you. For Anna.’ said Lupin with relief in his voice. ‘I imagine you will keep contact with her-‘ ‘No.’ Remus said strongly. ‘No, Dumbledore…’

‘Oh, Remus…why must you do this to her?’ ‘Because I must.’Lupin said firmly. ‘I would like to say goodbye…’ His voice was trembling. When he got up, his whole body was shaking, his face was pale, but his chin stuck out. He was young, but his face was lined. He looked tired… ‘Alright, they’ll be in Minerva’s office. Come.’ Dumbledore whispered. The walk down the corridors of Hogwarts was silent, except for Remus’ interjections: ‘She likes banana and milk in the morning.’ ‘She wakes up at night sometimes…If she comes into your dormitory at night, don’t yell at her, you’ll have a storm on your hands. She used to yell…Luthien, I mean… before she left. But I can’t bring myself to shout at her. Ever. I don’t want to either…’ ‘She hates pink things, by the way…’ at which Dumbledore simply nodded and smiled sadly, thinking about the broken hearts of the world… When they reached professor McGonagall’s office and knocked, they could hear soft giggling coming from inside. Anna was sitting on a fluffy pillow, gaping at what Minerva was doing with her wand, fascinated by the colourful butterflies, eagles, cats, lions and giraffes that issued from thin air. ‘Anna…’ Lupin called. ‘Daddy, look at that! Isn’t it great? I wish I could do that…’ she said pointing at the purple doves professor McGonagall was conjuring. ‘You will. In just a few years...’ Minerva said reassuringly, Vanishing the last dove and setting her wand on her desk. ‘Anna, look at me.’ said Lupin gravely. Anna’s smile disappeared as she turned gracefully to her father, giving him all of her attention. For a three-year-old to possess such grace was unusual in the least, but Lupin had gotten accustomed to it. ‘Listen, I’ll have to go away for a while… You’ll have to stay with Albus and Minerva till I get back, okay?’ Lupin told her briskly. He feared, one second too late, that she was about to cry. But Anna asked calmly: ‘When will you be back, daddy?’ He had no satisfactory answer…To say ‘never’ would be too cruel…No…He will not answer. ‘Bye, darling. Be careful…I love you…’he said instead. ‘Dad, when are you coming back?’ said Anna tensely. Lupin had turned away from her and hid his stricken face. ‘Daddy,’ she began, a faint note of desperation in her voice. ‘when are you coming back? Daddy? Dad…NO!’ Her shriek rattled Lupin to the core. He wanted to turn around and take her in his arms. He could hear her crying as he walked away silently…Anna never cried…She knew…She knew… And he knew that professor McGonagall was keeping her put, that she tried to rush after him… And tears trickled down his face all the way home… He would never see her again…

II. That horrible night remained in Anna’s past as she grew older. Hogwarts was her home, the only walls she had ever known. Minerva, Albus and Severus Snape were her parents. They taught her everything she knew, they made her the person she was, and, as the prophecy went, Anna changed their lives. ‘Here’s your chance of having Lily back…’ said Dumbledore to Severus the night Anna arrived at Hogwarts. ‘She’s just like her, you know…’ And so Severus shaped her into being similar to his beloved Lily Potter, and Anna shaped him into something nearly human. She soothed his unbelievable pain and he helped her stand up. He taught her to be brave beyond all recognition, to fear nothing and to swordfight. She taught him how to love again, though he did not care admitting it. To Albus, the most powerful wizard in the world, she was a rock. She knew his secret, his deepest desire, and healed his old and battered wounds a little by taking some of the pain away. She knew Albus’ strongest ability, the one that helped him be such a great wizard…love…she taught him that without love and passion you cannot do anything….A detail his old age had erased conveniently from his heart. To Minerva, Anna was the child she had never had. And always wanted. And Minerva was a role-model for Anna…A pillar of strength, self-control and knowledge… Anna knew such secrets….For example, that Severus was in love with Lily Potter. Or that Minerva was in love with Albus and had been all of her life. Or that Albus considered himself too low for Minerva’s love because of the uncertainty that hung above his head…The mystery of his sister’s death… And for her excellent ability to soothe pain and listen to people, Anna was gifted with magical knowledge that surpassed all Hogwarts students’. She was an Animagus, a lioness in the flesh, she could brew any potion and work every single charm in the seventh years’ textbooks. Just before she turned eleven, Dumbledore took her to Diagon Alley to buy her school supplies...He felt proud…Proud! Proud to escort such a miniature goddess, proud to be the one who had raised her, and proud to buy her first wand. Twelve inches long, phoenix feather and cherry wood. An unusual combination, but a very effective one. Then, on the first day of term, when she got sorted, Dumbledore, Minerva and Severus’ hearts soared with joy as she made Gryffindor( though they had never expected otherwise). Yes, even Severus’ heart, for he knew that the Lily part of hermost of her- was a Gryffindor. On her second day of term, she jinxed a fifth-year Slytherin so that he had to take twenty different potions every day for a week! Naturally, everyone was secretly proud, again. The courage in her was unbelievable, but so was the kindness, the thoughtfulness and the wisdom. A goddess by definition… And how did Anna feel about all of this? She loved it! Well, most of it, really.

She knew she possessed quite a few qualities, but no one ever bothered to give her a glimpse of what they really thought about her. No one ever told her how extraordinary she was… But still, she was content. As content as an orphan can be, even if she lives at Hogwarts… She loved Albus, Severus and Minerva with all her heart, but there was still something missing. Parents. Still, Hogwarts was her home. Here were her best friends, and the closest things to parents she ever knew. Speaking of friends, she (a little devil with the look of an angel) befriended Fred and George Weasley, the only ones who were just as crazy as she was. Their pranks were the talk of the school, especially Anna’s ‘baby’… Setting Pansy Parkinson screaming out of the girls’ loo with her underpants on fire. It might sound evil, but she deserved it, honestly! Earlier that very same week, Pansy had called Anna ‘a blabbering idiot who seems to have lost her parents somewhere along the edge of the book she was reading’. Naturally, Anna threw her a horribly scorching look at which Pansy fell into a fit of faint giggles, but silent none the less. As Fred and George had both grabbed her wand arm, she was unable to hex Pansy’s nose off, but got her revenge soon enough. From the first moments of her life, Anna was strong. She stood up for the people she loved, she stood up for what she believed in, and it is that particular quality that she will find the most empowering. Not the courage, not the slight recklessness, but the love and the passion that ran through her veins. She was merely two years older than the person to which she was bound eternally, though she did not know it. While Anna spent her orphan childhood at Hogwarts, another boy was being cruelly treated by his uncle and aunt in a little house in Surrey. Harry Potter and Anna’s destinies were bound tightly together for, though they were oblivious to their liaison, they were Blood Brothers. When Harry was born, with the famous prophecy spoken, he was no longer safe. So, Lily, James and Remus came up with an ingenious method to keep both of the ‘soonto-be-feared-adults’ together, united, stronger. When seven days had passed from Harry’s first full moon, the time had come to act. They pricked Anna and Harry’s tiny hands right in the centre, leaving a mark that will never disappear, yet a mark that was too small for either of them to notice. The two children then joined hands, One Blood flowing through them, each receiving a part of the other, each gaining the power to look through the other’s eyes. Anna and Harry both had, apart form their usual green flash dreams and grey overcoats disappearing from the doorstep, dreams that they were either a girl or a boy, each seeing a part of the other’s life. The only sign of that was that, when Harry accidentally looked through Anna, her eyes turned bright green, and when it happened the other way around, Harry’s eyes turned a vivid, expressive grey. For Harry, that was not much of a problem because the Dursleys never bothered looking him in the eye when they spoke to him, but when Anna’s eyes took the colour of Harry’s and, of course, Lily’s when she spoke to Severus Snape, she could see hope gleaming in his eyes. Hope that he will come to gaze into Lily’s eyes and hear her talk once more…

So Anna came to cry at night not only for her sorrow, but also for the battered boy which she knew existed somewhere and for Albus’s guilt, Minerva’s love and Severus’ grief… All that was about to change, as Harry Potter turned eleven… III. One chilly September morning, Anna came to gaze upon the boy which she had been crying for for years, who was sitting meekly on a shabby chair, with the Sorting hat placed upon his head. She remembered how she felt standing in Harry’s place two years previously. She had felt no fear, she had not felt nervous, but held her head up high and walked serenely from the chair to the table. She had been happy to be in Gryffindor, but had not let herself be much impressed by the moment which other children took so seriously. She knew, somehow, that the world’s grief extended beyond the Sorting Hat and its powers. She also knew that she would willingly choose Slytherin in exchange for a glimpse of her parents… But back to Harry’s Sorting, when Anna recognized the bespectacled boy she had been dreaming of, she gasped and closed her eyes instinctively. She hoped he would be a good person…He seemed so in her dreams…But wait…What name had Minerva uttered before that boy stepped onto the rickety stool? Had it been ‘Harry Potter’? Was it possible she could see through Harry Potter’s eyes? She concentrated harder than she ever had, and in a flash, she felt much shorter. She had magically changed positions, now overlooking the entire Great Hall, a leather hat perched upon her head. She could see through his eyes! She could also hear through his ears…The Sorting Hat was whispering to him… ‘You would do well in Slytherin…’ ‘No…Don’t be a pureblood git…Don’t be a pureblood git…’Anna thought… But Harry was also whispering! ‘Not Slytherin…Not Slytherin…Anything but Slytherin…’ Before either Anna or Harry could think of anything, the Sorting Hat announced triumphantly: ‘GRYFFINDOR!’ Anna’s heart soared! Not only could she see through Harry Potter’s eyes, but the boy was also brave and kind, from what the Sorting said… From what Anna came to learn about Harry the following year, he had become best friends with Ron, Fred and George’s little brother. Anna was once again glad, because she knew(from her own experience) that the last two weeks of summer at the Weasleys’ were all an orphan could wish for, and they will certainly wipe out the image of his tyrannical aunt and uncle from his mind. They did not speak much that year, and nor did Harry recognize Anna from his dreams, though she seemed slightly familiar to him, but their strong connection proved quite useful when it came to rescuing Harry from the dungeons after he had been battling Professor Quirrell and Voldemort once again.

She knew what a battle of that magnitude did to an eleven year old… She had participated in the First War of the elves, men, dwarves and hobbits and witnessed the defeat of Sauron. She had run her sleek sword through orcs and Uruk-hai and dark wizards alike, and hated it, no matter how evil her foe was. She still had nightmares about all those she had killed in that bloody battle…They haunted her soul and scratched at her heart, yet no one noticed the glum look on Anna’s face before her sword fighting lessons. Nor did anyone bother to tell her how evil those she was supposed to be killing were, or what a good job she was doing defending all of those innocent souls from dark creatures. So she kept on dreaming, but dreams did not scare her, for she had no fears. They merely made her insecure about her goal…they made her hate the idea of fighting to kill. But, it had been her duty to fight the war of Middle-Earth and she fulfilled it, though she knew the battle was far from over… At the end of Harry’s second year, she was the one that sent Fawkes to him in the Chamber of Secrets. She wished she could have done more, but Harry’s battles with Voldemort were his own, and not for her to interfere. She knew those battles shaped Harry just as her battles had helped shape her into the person she will be. Harry and Anna were good friends, but they were far from brothers… During her fifth year (OWLs year) at Hogwarts, and Harry’s third, something happened that turned Anna’s world Topsy-Turvy. A new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher arrived at Hogwarts after what she knew to be infinite pleads from Albus. His name was Remus Lupin. IV. Anna first met professor Lupin on the Hogwarts Express, after a Dementor attack. They had both conjured a Patronus Charm at the same time in order to shield Harry from the Dementor. As Anna was a Prefect, she was patrolling the corridors when the Dementors came barging in. She knew, somehow, that they were headed for Harry’s side of the train, for what they would bring out of him would be enough to sustain them for a month. There was another extraordinary thing about Anna…She had absolutely no fear, thanks to Severus’ teachings. So she stormed down the corridor, pointed her wad calmly at the hooded Dementor and shouted clearly: ‘Expecto Patronum!’ The silver lion that appeared out of thin air chased the Dementors away with the help of a formless Patronus. She headed for Harry immediately and saw he had passed out. The moment she appeared in the doorway, Remus knew who she was. His stomach took a plunge. He knew what it would be like seeing her, but no fantasy could compare to this reality. There could be no mistake involving those marvellous grey eyes, or that long, dark hair of hers. He gazed in awe at her. She was more beautiful than her mother had ever been. Anna’s beauty shone from the inside, and only emphasised her graceful features. Anna’s beauty came from her kindness and courage, something which her mother, her illusion of a mother, had never had.

Then, a question popped in the ever-working head of Remus Lupin. Had that majestic lion been her Patronus? Was she, his daughter, a fifteen-year-old witch, able to produce a Patronus? Then she spoke, her voice rang crystal clear in his ears, awakening him… ‘Oh, no… Let’s get him up at least. Does anyone have some chocolate? Wonderful start of term…Dementors…I don’t know what the Ministry’s thinking.’ ‘Anna…was that a Dementor?’ asked a bushy-haired girl. ‘Yes, Hermione. The Ministry’s got them guarding Hogwarts, Albus wrote to me about it a few weeks ago…With Sirius Black on the loose and everything…How’re you feeling?’ ‘Just fine, now that they’re gone…’ said Ron meekly. Anna sighed deeply and turned to Lupin. ‘Professor Lupin, I suppose?’ she said briskly, harshly, taking Lupin aback. ‘Oh, I’m sorry…It’s just so unfair that Harry has to pay for the Ministry’s incompetence… I’m Anna Halfelven.’ she said, smiling sweetly at him and holding out her hand. ‘Yes, I am professor Lupin. Might I ask you, was that your Patronus?’ he said quickly, dazzling even himself with his lucidity. ‘Oh, yes, it was mine…Good Lord, Ginny. Are you alright? You look as though you were about to throw up and then pass out.’ Anna said, blushing slightly. The trembling red-haired girl smiled weakly and took to staring out the window at the pouring rain. ‘You know, Ginny, there is light even in the darkest of places…’ Anna said in a low voice. At that, Ginny’s eyes widened. ‘How d’you-‘she began. ‘I just do.’ said Anna smiling kindly and grabbing Ginny’s arm At that, Ginny’s whole body relaxed. The colour came back into her cheeks, and her beautiful brown eyes were gazing intently into Anna’s intelligent grey ones. ‘I’d better go check on the others. Jesus, being a Prefect sucks…see you at the feast, and someone give him some chocolate when he wakes up. If I still have some in my bag, I’ll bring him a little Revival Potion in a few. Bye.’ Anna said quickly, calmly and sweetly. She rushed along the corridor, her long hair fluttering behind her. She left Lupin dumbstruck. He had noticed the Gryffindor crest on her robe. She was a Gryffindor! His insides soared with pride, though he never thought he’d care about such things. She was a Prefect, too…Just like him… And she could produce a Patronus… She was, obviously, flawless, and he had not expected any less… Anna returned shortly, to give Harry the Revival Potion she had promised. Could she brew a Revival Potion also? Lupin asked himself. But there was no time to dawdle. Anna certainly didn’t…She rushed to Harry and gave him the potion, which took effect in a matter of minutes. When Harry was giving signs of waking up, she started speaking to him and stroking his messy hair. ‘Come on, Harry, dear. Wake up, now. They’re gone, it’s safe…You won’t hear her anymore, Harry…That’s right…’she whispered kindly. ‘What the-‘ Harry said.

‘How are you feeling? Better?’ asked Ron sounding concerned. ‘Yeah.’ growled Harry, glancing quickly towards the door. Anna had heard the same thing that Harry had: Lily’s last scream. She had known Lily and James Potter when she was little. She could remember Lily’s kind smile and green eyes that were so much like Harry’s. She could remember a hint of her perfume and the precision and strength of her spells…She knew Severus loved her… ‘What happened? Where has…that creature…gone? Who was screaming?’ Harry asked. ‘No one was screaming, Harry.’ said Ron, looking even more alarmed. ‘But I heard screaming.’ Lupin acted at once… He reprimanded himself for letting Anna distract him so. He took a piece of chocolate from his suitcase and started breaking it, giving Harry the largest piece. ‘What was that thing?’ Harry asked impatiently. ‘A Dementor. One of the guards of Azkaban. Eat, it’ll help. I’ll go and have a word with the conductor.’ With that, Lupin disappeared. He flew as far away from Anna as he could…To have her sprung on him like that…Everyone would be taken aback…He had not expected to have to deal with meeting his daughter at least until the feast. When Lupin walked out the door, Anna noticed the hem of his grey robes disappear from the doorframe. She winced, then bulged her eyes and stared at the spot where Lupin had stood seconds earlier. It looked exactly like her dream…She shook the thought away. She shook the temptation of asking Lupin if he was her father. It would have been absurd. Her father was dead, she was sure of that. And there were more important things to do in the world outside Anna’s imagination… ‘Has anyone else fainted?’ Harry was enquiring as Anna snapped out of her reverie. ‘No, but that doesn’t make you any weaker than anyone else…Don’t think on it Harry…Dementors are horrible creatures…’Anna said reassuringly. ‘Right…’ affirmed Harry inattentively. Anna felt her stomach squirm, but she was not hungry. It was shame she was feeling. Harry’s shame... ‘I didn’t poison the chocolate, you know.’ said Lupin kindly as he walked in. Right then, someone’s tall, broad-shouldered frame appeared in the doorframe. Soon Harry, along with everyone else, recognized him as Oliver Wood, captain of the Quidditch team. In spite of everything, Anna blushed slightly (something which was quite unlike her). ‘Hey, Ollie.’ she said cheerfully. ‘Hey.’ Oliver said, returning her smile. Harry knew they were good friends, but that still did not explain Anna’s sudden blush, along with a strange sensation in his stomach. Harry watched Hermione with the corner of his eye. She seemed to have caught Ginny’s gaze and the two were smiling serenely. ‘Listen, is everyone okay?’ he asked. They all nodded. ‘Oh, professor, didn’t see you there. Oliver Wood.’ he said seriously, holding out his right hand. Lupin shook it and presented himself with a smile on his lined face.

‘Anna?’ ‘Yeah.’ ‘Um…Fred and George are just about to get into a row with Malfoy and his gorillas. We’ve been trying to restrain them, but that Goyle guy was faster and now Fred’s got a horrible nosebleed and George looks ready to kill Crabbe. Guess you’re the only one who can stop them…we’ve tried everything…Lee tried putting a Body-Binding Curse on George but he counter-jinxed him. We don’t want to hurt either of them, and we wouldn’t mind much if they beat those idiots to a pulp...But seeing as you told us not to get into any kind of fights with the Slytherin gits…’ Anna’s face regained its normal colour. Her gaze turned icy. ‘And you’ve wasted five minutes with good manners when Fred and George could be duelling with those dunces? Honestly, Oliver…’ ‘Well, I…’he started, blushing harder than Anna had. ‘No matter now…Those gits! When I told them to mind their own business…Having a Prefect as a best friend doesn’t always get you out of trouble!’ she muttered angrily as she stepped out … Two seconds after she had vanished, a clear, precise shout was heard, and a flash of red light issued from what was likely to be Anna’s wand. ‘IMPEDIMENTA!’ she had called. A horrible groan came from the end of the corridor. ‘And what, may I ask, are you doing?’ Anna said in a contemptuous manner. ‘Oh, here’s little Miss Perfect in the flesh.’ said a sneering voice. ‘Malfoy.’ whispered Hermione with a gasp. Then, Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny and Neville all faced professor Lupin with broad smiles etched across their faces. ‘Malfoy’s finally going to get what he deserves…’ muttered Ron. ‘He doesn’t stand a chance against Anna!’ said Ginny brightly. ‘Oh, I hope he tries duelling her…He’ll be in the hospital for a month.’ said Oliver both proudly and darkly, leaning against the compartment door, staring dreamily at the conflict aroused merely feet form him. From outside their compartment, they heard the two voices arguing, one getting meeker-Mafoy’s, one rising menacingly-Anna’s. ‘Well, lucky me.’ said Anna coldly. ‘That still doesn’t explain why Fred here is bleeding half-to-death. Nor does it explain why Lee is restraining George. Or why you are such a warty toad.’ People had started sticking their heads out of their compartment doors. So did Harry,Hermione, Ron, Ginny, Neville and Professor Lupin(though timidly). ‘Oh, it doesn’t, does it? Well, neither can I find an explanation for the teachers’ likeness for you…Oooh, wait…it might have something to do with the fact that you’ve been sucking up to them for ages…I can’t imagine why anyone would want to live inside a school…Ugh!...But wait,…you don’t have any parents, do you? Aaah… that must be it! Have you seen the Daily Prophet this summer, Anna? That Rita Skeeter sure got things right about you living of the Ministry’s back, didn’t she? Funny, though. She doesn’t mention a thing about you being a nasty little who-’ ‘Fred, George, NO!’ Anna bellowed. But they were not the only ones who had launched for Malfoy. Oliver, Lee, Neville and Ginny had darted down the corridor, followed by the rest of the Gryffindor Quidditch team: Alicia Spinnet, Katie Bell and Angelina Johnson, who had just emerged form their compartments. ‘STOP, ALL OF YOU! NOW!’ shouted Anna, placing herself in front of Malfoy.

‘But Anna-‘ everyone started protesting. Anna merely stared at all of them, in turn, one eyebrow raised, and they all got the hint. In a millisecond, Anna plunged her hand inside her robes and drew her wand. Malfoy barely had time to gasp. Anna, who was taller than Draco, was towering the slightly smaller blonde boy, with the tip of her wand close to his neck. Malfoy did not dare look her in the eye, and Harry knew her gaze was scorching. ‘Darling,’ Anna said, in a low, menacing voice. ‘you know very well what danger you are in right now…don’t you? I could hex the skin off you…You’re lucky I’m in a good mood today…But listen to this, Malfoy, because it’s a promise: if you ever as much as look in our direction, you’ll be sleeping on you feet, you get that, toady?’ Malfoy made a sound halfway between a grunt and a growl. ‘What’s that, honey?’ Anna said even more menacingly, jabbing her wand against Malfoy chest now, rather than his neck. ‘Alright!’ Malfoy said angrily, half shouting. Harry knew that he had done a capital mistake. ‘Drop the tone! You’re in no position to talk back to me, pinkie. D’you think you impress me? Ooooh, I’m positively mortified by your accusations! The accusations of a boy incapable to perform more than a few jinxes and with two dim-witted trolls at his side. Malfoy, use the little brain you have! How could I feel threatened by someone so thoroughly inferior to me?...Behave, if you know what’s good for you…’ Anna concluded. Or so everyone thought. ‘One more thing. Seeing as how Fred looks wounded while your gorillas look unharmed, I have to assume you guys started the fight, probably caught up with them behind their backs…So I guess some punishment is in order.’ ‘But-‘ Goyle began dumbly. ‘Shut up, git.’ said Malfoy briskly, with a trembling voice. ‘Ah, so I see you’ve learned you lesson…Good… Now, for your two friends here….I guess lines ought to be fine…every night for a week, professor McGonagall’s office. I’ll tell her soon enough, I think she’ll agree with me. Now, you may walk back to your compartments silently and please bear in mind…Keep away from me.’ Everyone was completely dumbfounded. They were gaping at Anna, jaws hanging. As Malfoy and his gorillas headed back humbly to their compartments, everyone started applauding. Harry and Hermione let out an encouraging shout of: ‘WHOO!’ Seamus had started whistling loudly. Anna was not laughing. Not even smiling. Harry thought at first that she was a bit ungrateful. But then, all hell broke loose… A hell that reminded him of….Mrs. Weasley shouting at the twins. ‘YOU IDIOTS!’ she bellowed over the frantic applause which ceased at once. ‘What?’ exclaimed Fred and George indignantly. ‘THAT’S RIGHT, IDIOTS! WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU DOING PICKING A FIGHT WITH THOSE THREE? HADN’T I TOLD YOU TO STEER CLEAR OUT OF TROUBLE WITH SLYTHERINS? HUH?’ The twins, so utterly dismissive of everyone else, had now lowered their heads in a lulling penitence. ‘Get in there.’ said Anna pointing at Harry’s overcrowded compartment. Fred and George did as they were told, and Harry turned on his heels, smiling slightly. As he raised his head, he saw everyone else in the compartment smile blankly,

awkwardly, ashamed to be seen. As they all caught each others’ eyes, their smiles widened, and then turned into hearty grins. Lupin failed to understand their happiness… Fred and George entered the compartment followed by a storming Anna who looked surprisingly cool, in spite of the previous shouting match. ‘I don’t know what you were thinking. I’d told you to keep you noses clean! What did he say that was so upsetting, anyway?’ she spoke to the grim looking twins who sat down staring at Anna. ‘Oh, so now she wants to know what he said…’ said George rolling his eyes. ‘For your information, he managed to insult every single nice person we know in a matter of two minutes.’ said Fred calmly with his eyebrows raised. ‘What?’ said Anna incredulously. ‘That’s right. He called dad a cockroach. He called mum a stuffed pig, Harry a warty attention-seeker, and you a…’ ‘A what?’ asked Anna, the crease between her eyes becoming more and more pronounced. ‘A whore, if you must know.’ said George quickly with a look of deep disgust on his face. ‘And you decided to defend our honour, is that it? Why on Earth do you care what Malfoy says about me? Or Harry? Or you parents, for that matter! You know your parents are great people. You know Harry’s not an attention-seeker, no matter how warty he is!’ exclaimed Anna, the corners of her mouth twitching. ‘Thanks, Anna…’said Harry amusedly… ‘No problem.’ answered Anna merrily. ‘Because it’s damn hard not to care!’ said Fred frowning so that he looked positively fierce (a strange look for him, too). Anna sat down crossing her legs, biting her lip, staring at the floor and frowning. ‘You’re right. I would’ve done the same thing…Oh, I’m sorry…I just hate it when Malfoy gets away with stuff…and he always get away with stuff like that. I just think the only solution is not paying him any attention at all. I’m sorry, guys…’ said Anna, raising tearful eyes to the twins. ‘Not this time he didn’t. You told him off way better than we would have. Oh, you’re not going to cry, now, are you? I would be unexpected happening number two!’ said George. ‘Oh?’ said Anna smiling. ‘And what would be the first?’ ‘Well…’the twins said together. ‘We’d best let you see for yourself…’ ‘Oh, fine…’said Anna, rolling her eyes… ‘Um…professor…I…well…I’m sorry for shouting like that, I…kind of…lost it…’she said turning to Lupin. He, who had not expected this demand of opinion, gathered all of his forces to pull himself together and said heavily: ‘Oh…It’s just fine…After what Fred and George said…I think he deserved it…To tell you the truth, I wish I could’ve shouted at him like that, but he’d report me in a second. Technically, the law does not permit us to call students…What was it?...Oh, right…Warty toads.’ he said with a broad smile on his face. Anna returned his smile and her whole body relaxed. Even though they were extremely cramped in that small compartment, plus they had a teacher with them, Harry never remembered having more fun on the Express…Nor did anyone else…

Lupin drank Anna in silently for the rest of the trip. He felt both depressed and happy. Was that possible?...To him it was. Having that little booger Malfoy shout like that at his daughter…judging her for having no parents…when it was all really his fault… Lupin felt like strangling himself out of sheer guilt…If he had not been bitten…if he had not abandoned her…Then perhaps Malfoy wouldn’t have laughed at her so. That was not true, and Lupin convinced himself of that. If he were to acknowledge Anna as his daughter, she would get twice the rude remarks from Malfoy…Nothing, however, seemed to bother Anna, and Lupin had to admit she handled herself quite extraordinarily … Anna, in her essence, was truly extraordinary. That was the conclusion Lupin had reached after her triumphant fight with Malfoy. How he wished he could tell her how proud he was of her strength and skill! How he loved her for being so brave and intelligent! Alas, he could not…He had to remain silent. ‘For Anna’s own good…’ the voice inside Remus’ head whispered… V. The feast went by quickly, and Gryffindors soon fell asleep in their Tower. Anna included. She had yet another dream of grey hems disappearing, and of a familiar voice telling her that she was loved… Anna woke up feeling happy and serene for apparently no reason. She was looking forward to her first classes and, more importantly, to her third class…Defence Against the Dark Arts with professor Remus John Lupin. To her he seemed a good man, though terribly saddened and prematurely aged. She hoped she could be able to help him that year, as she knew that she had helped Dumbledore… But still, it was her OWL year, a difficult one and a hectic one. She had enough selfconfidence and skill to get her through her OWLs…This year was one big revision for her…She did not-could not- worry about her exams, which then seemed miles away. Her first Transfiguration class of the term was quite light, even with professor McGonagall’s twenty-minute lecture on the importance of OWLs, Anna managed to both Vanish and Conjure her snails on her first attempt, and had moved on to vertebrates of her choice. After Transfiguration, came a nice little Charms class with professor Flitwick. Anna again had no problem with her Summoning Spells and Levitation Charms and was bored half-to-death by the end of the class, having nothing else left to do once she had proved her skill. After these two classes, came the class Anna feared the most. Defence Against the Dark Arts. She feared it not because of the subject itself (she was quite skilled at jinxes and hexes), but because of the teacher. She sincerely hoped that professor Lupin was better at teaching than their previous teachers…one of which had Voldemort sticking out the back of his head. As she entered the dusty classroom alongside Fred and George, she gazed intently at the blackboard. There were two moving silhouettes drawn there. Two wizards duelling.

Beneath the drawing, incantations flowed as the wizards shot spells at each other. Anna smiled. It would be different. It had to be. She quickly read all the incantations on the blackboard and found there would be nothing new to her…All was well. When professor Lupin entered the classroom, everyone- even the Slytherins – fell silent. He, apparently, was taken aback by the respect he seemed to impose. And he spoke: ‘Alright everyone, now that you’re all here, I’d like you to collect you books and schoolbags and set them in a corner of the room – you won’t be needing them today.’ Anna relaxed. A practical lesson at last! Dumbledore had found the perfect teacher! ‘We shall be practising Stunning today. I know it’s more than you’ve been accustomed to do, and it is quite a difficult spell, but it’s sort of a wizard’s bread and butter, really, and very likely to come up in your OWLs. So if you could all please take your wands out.’ Everyone did so, the rustling of robes to a minimum. ‘Now, the incantation is ‘Stupefy!’ and I would like you all to try and Stun…me. In turn, please. Form a line, please.’ He said brightly. Lupin magically conjured some fluffy cushions and glued them to the wall behind them as well as to the floor after magically waving aside all of their desks. Confident that Anna could Stun, everyone pushed her to the front of the line. Lupin gasped when he saw who his first opponent would be. Luckily, he was quite far from everyone else and no one heard him. He braced himself for what he was sure to be the worst Stun of his life. And so it was. Once again, Anna failed to disappoint him. She drew her wand gracefully, pointed it at him and said calmly, quickly and firmly: ‘Stupefy!’ Lupin flew backwards, and did not, as he had expected, hit the wall, he had fallen against something soft. As he tried to get back to his feet, he realised that he had not fallen on the cushions, but was rather comfortably suspended in mid air by an invisible hand. He glanced at his students, out of which only Anna had her wand aloft. ‘Nice Cushioning Charm. Thank you.’ he said amiably. Anna smiled kindly, and Remus was thrilled to discover, at a small scale, of course, yet another of Anna’s qualities: her magnificent kindness. That very same evening, both Remus and Anna were summoned to the Headmaster’s office. Remus arrived earlier and was enjoying a heated discussion about Quidditch with Dumbledore, when a beautiful lioness walked through the door. Her fur was sleek and shining, her head had graceful curves…The lioness reminded Remus of Anna… Lupin gasped in astonishment and rubbed his back-flipping stomach as he watched the lioness’ body straighten and form into Anna’s. ‘Whoa!Um…Professor McGonagall told me it was okay, that it was safe to Transfigure, I didn’t know…I…oh…’she looked mixed up. ‘It’s alright Anna, I sincerely think that professor Lupin won’t report you to the Ministry. Will you, sir?’ said Dumbledore, looking slightly amused. ‘No, naturally I won’t.’ replied Lupin.

‘You may find this funny, Al-…sir, but I don’t much fancy the idea of a cell in Azkaban…’said Anna darkly. ‘You may call me Albus as well…And you can call professor McGonagall ‘Minerva’ if you like. As they say, Remus here is on our side.’ Said Dumbledore playfully. ‘I did not realise we were split into sides, Albus.’ Said Anna seriously. Dumbledore raised his eyebrows and looked ashamed of himself. Lupin had never seen Dumbledore like that…Pride burst inside him once again. ‘Sit, Anna. I have a proposition for you. Both of you.’ ‘Oh?’ said Anna. ‘ Now, listen carefully-‘ ‘When have I ever done otherwise?’ interjected Anna. ‘Listen.’ Emphasised Dumbledore, the corners of his mouth twitching. ‘Our –as you may have noticed- very talented professor Lupin-‘ ‘He certainly is better than Lockhart! Actually, I think he’s the best I’ve ever had!’exclaimed Anna. Lupin’s heart soared! She liked his teaching! ‘Yes, yes, I know. He has a problem that requires your help. Well…he’ll need extensive medical care every month. In the week prior and after the full moon.’ ‘Dumbledore….what?’ scowled Lupin. ‘Oh, don’t worry! I’d be more than happy to help! But just to satisfy my curiosity, what’s wrong with Madam Pomfrey’s help?’ ‘Madam Pomfrey has already got her hands full with the hospital wing. Besides, this caring will require certain …abilities. Potionmaking abilities…’ Lupin muttered silently. “You said something about…the full moon? Surely not…”Anna started. “Dumbledore, no!” warned Lupin as Anna turned to him, looking alarmed. Lupin’s heart sank…How could it be otherwise? Who could love a werewolf? Anna looked frightened…Lupin was sure that her deepest desire now was to run for it… Instead, Anna relaxed her brow and said: “Oh, I’m so sorry…I…blimey…I never thought ...Of course I’ll help!”she said, without any kind of fear of disgust in her voice…maybe pity, but Remus did not mind that. Lupin glared at her. He wanted nothing more than to hug her, to tell her that he was her father…Still, he knew what Dumbledore’s plan was…He would not let himself be part of it… “I cannot put any student in such risk.”Lupin said briskly. “You should have consulted me first, Dumbledore!” “And would you have been more willing to accept my plan, then?” asked Dumbledore, smiling brightly. “Of course not!” “Then, dear Remus, you do see my point…” “Oh, but that endangering talk is just nonsense. I’ve seen people who have a condition similar to yours. Their first impulse is to shut down all of their senses! For many, it’s too late when they finally realise they’ve gone about it all wrong!” said Anna quickly. “Wh-?Bu-?I can hurt you!” “Me?”Anna laughed. “Well, pardon my being immodest, but I’m not exactly your average student, am I?” she said amusedly, then turned to Dumbledore. “By potionmaking, you mean…Wolfsbane?” she asked.

“Yes, that too, professor Snape tells me you’ve mastered it quite well, but it’s mostly Revival Draughts and Strengthening Potions…Maybe Calming Draughts… You’ll have to consult with professor Snape-“ Dumbledore said. “This is mad! I can’t be cared for by a student, no matter how talented! What if I hurt you?” said Lupin angrily. “I’ll take my chances.”said Anna coolly. She seemed quite relaxed by her task and began smiling sweetly to Lupin who, in spite of himself, felt warmer that he had done in years. Something about her gaze was soothing… ‘This is mad!’he said finally. ‘No it’s not! It makes perfect sense! Anna will be able to practice for her Potion and Transfiguration exam, and you will have company and treatment. It’s really quite simple, Remus!’ reasoned Dumbledore. ‘Plus I’d be more than happy to help!’ added Anna, nodding encouragingly. ‘I know what you’re trying to do, Albus. I won’t be part of it.’ Remus said calmly. ‘However conniving he might be, sir, I hardly think Albus has anyone else’s best interests at heart that ours. Trust me, I know him…’contradicted Anna, before Dumbledore could say anything. ‘Listen, I don’t have the strength to fight both of you tonight so-‘ said Lupin tiredly. ‘Then don’t!’ exclaimed Anna and Dumbledore together. Lupin screwed up his face while forfeiting. He knew he would regret it later on, but Anna’s caring did not necessarily imply her knowing that he was her father. ‘Good. Now, Remus, if you wish, you may go. With you, however,’ he turned to Anna. ‘I have a bone to pick. What happened on the Express? Minerva said she’d heard form the Hufflepuff Prefects that you had a row with Draco Malfoy. Is it true?’ ‘It was more like a monologue.’ Lupin interjected on his way out. ‘Oh?’ said Dumbledore raising his eyebrows. ‘Fred and George were ready to pick a fight with him ‘cause he’d said some nasty things about their parents, Harry and me. I stepped in – better me than them, right? Plus it would have given Arthur hell from that Lucius bloke.’ Explained Anna before Lupin could open his mouth. ‘Did any good come out of it?’ asked Dumbledore, seemingly interested. ‘I let off some steam, that’s all. Plus I gave those apes lines for hitting Fred. All in all, it was quite a productive row – Malfoy’s scared to bits of me now! He won’t even look at any of my friends, let alone criticize their relatives!’ said Anna brightly. As Lupin stepped out, he heard one last question and answer: ‘What of Oliver? Has he asked you out yet?’ asked Dumbledore, faint excitement in his voice. ‘I’ve told you, this day wasn’t such a waste.’ Anna said, and Lupin could tell she was grinning. VI. On the week prior to the next full moon, Anna assisted professor Snape while he brewed Lupis and then meekly took the Potion to Lupin’s office, where she spent enough time to make sure he had drunk it. Lupin did not mind Anna’s attention at

all, for it gave him the chance to know her. He realised that he had shortly come to love her not only for being his daughter, but for herself, as he was sure everyone did. Then, Lupin’s happiness was put to a stop, by the arrival of the full moon. Having drunk Lupis, he was now not a danger to other people, but merely wriggled in his bed all night, scratching himself and his sheets. The only thing he had come to look forward to, was the arrival of Anna in the morning. On their first encounter, Anna gasped at the sight of Lupin’s bloody sheets and face, but otherwise was cheerful all morning, humming under her breath and smiling at her tired father. Remus glanced at the clock and saw that it was half past six. He, of course, had been up all night and had an excuse for being awake, yet he could not see why a fifth-year student would wake at the crack of dawn to care for a teacher about whom she knew nothing. Thus, he could only marvel at her perseverance and kindness. ‘Morning!’ she said brightly after trying to conceal her gasp and setting her rather large backpack on the floor of Lupin’s bedroom. ‘Hello…’grunted Lupin weakly. He had no strength to talk. ‘Oh dear, I wonder how you didn’t end up three floors down with all that scratching. Here, I’ve brought some dittany, just turn your face to me so I can pour some on your wounds.’ She said. Lupin turned and her long fingers caressed his tired face gracefully, stroking his hair while his wounds closed painfully. ‘Now, I’m sorry for this, but I’ll have to move you. I need to change those sheets…’she said kindly. Anna conjured an army cot with a wave of her wand, and levitated Lupin onto it. Then, even though she could have removed the sheets magically, she silently tugged at them for a few minutes, and then conjured new ones. When Anna levitated him back to his bed, he could clearly hear the rumbling of her stomach. With whatever strength he had left, he let himself be blown away by Anna’s being, and asked her meekly, as though fearful of triggering the hell Fred and George had on the Hogwarts Express: ‘Why are you doing this?’ Anna, who had not expected him to have strength enough to speak, stared at him for a few seconds, raising one of her eyebrows, then responded: ‘Because I can, and because I want to.’she said strongly. ‘Yes, but you’re hungry…’Lupin said feebly, closing his eyes… ‘And what’s your point? Should I stop helping you then? Besides, I’ve still got one hour till breakfast and I’ve finished my homework, so what else am I supposed to do?’she said calmly. With another ten minutes passed between them, in which Anna had strode to Lupin’s desk and was adding some ingredients to a sweet-smelling potion, Lupin felt the imperious need to ask her more about her childhood. To ask her to skip her classes and stay with him, her soft, clear voice reading to him or just talking about nonsense…about Oliver Wood and the Weasleys, about Quidditch and Transfiguration, but before he could translate his thoughts into words, a clear bell rang, one that announced breakfast. Lupin half-expected Anna to walk away without saying a thing, but alas, she did not. She bent over to him and whispered silently, her long, dark hair brushing against his face.

‘Will you be alright?’ she asked. Lupin merely blinked, but she seemed to understand him. ‘I’ll be back during break, and I’ll bring some food. You’re in no state of eating right now. Just drink what’s in the glass I’ve set on your night table, you’ll feel better.Would you like me to get you anything specific?’she asked kindly. Lupin shook his head, too absorbed in her image to speak. ‘Okay then, try and get some sleep. See you in a bit.’she said, kissing him on the forhead. At that, Lupin felt a warm breeze sweep over his body. He smiled, and she smiled back. Then Lupin fell asleep, with Anna’s perfume still fresh in his nostrils. In time, Anna came to admire Lupin, wishing more than once that her father be like him. Lupin was one of the most intelligent wizards she had ever met, and Anna understood him quite well…Being shut out and humiliated in a crowd had happened to her, and she was sure he was afraid it would happen to him if he revealed his condition. ‘But you’re the best teacher we’ve ever had! No one in their right minds would judge you!’she said stubbornly to him one evening. Lupin simply glared at her, amused by her innocent foolishness. ‘Just because you don’t judge, that doesn’t mean other people don’t.’ he said calmly. ‘Oh, I judge people, don’t you worry.’she said. ‘But only when they deserve it.’ ‘And who, may I ask, deserves judgement in your opinion?’ ‘Bellatrix Lestrange, for example.’ she said at once. Lupin looked puzzled. ‘Oh, come on, how can you be surprised? She tortured Neville’s parents into insanity!...And they always babysat for my parents…And so did Lily and James Potter! Voldemort killed them just so he could get to Harry…’she said heatedly. ‘Well, at least that bit of plan didn’t work out quite like he wanted it to…’ Lupin tried bluffing, pretending (thought he did it quite badly). ‘Um, Anna?’ ‘Yeah.’ ‘ Sorry if I’m being rude, but…Who were your parents?’he said, feeling his stomach giving a terrible growl. Anna’s features sank a little. She looked tired all at once. Lupin made to apologize. ‘Oh, I’m sor-‘ ‘Oh, it’s not your fault! Well…My mother was a lying snitch who only pretended to be against Voldemort so she could get inside information, but you know that, you were in the Order, or so Albus told me. But as for my father…Dumbledore says he doesn’t know who he is, though he’s probably another Death Eater, for all I know. My darling of a mother abandoned me when she joined Voldy for good.’ She said in one breath. Seeing the disgusted look on Lupin’s face, she characteristically raised one eyebrow and said indignantly: ‘Does it bother you? That my parents were Death Eaters, I mean. Because I never knew them, and I hate the idea just as much as you do! And I’m not like that. I’ll never be!’ Then the bell rang, and Anna flew from Lupin’s bedroom with a cold goodbye.

However wrong she might have interpreted Lupin’s expression and felt offended by it, she still returned every break to check on him and bring him all sorts of potions. One morning, Lupin seized his chance: ‘Anna, you know I don’t hold any of it against you.’ ‘Any of what?’asked Anna, pretending not to understand. ‘You know perfectly well what I mean. Your parents being Death Eaters. After all, you are a Gryffindor, and one of the brightest witches I’ve ever met. I never knew Eamane had a daughter, but you are nothing like her, do you hear me? Nothing.’ Said Lupin earnestly. At that, Anna’s face relaxed into a hearty grin and she hurried over to Lupin’s bed and gave him a tight hug. If only she knew… As weeks rolled by, Anna and Remus became good friends, their talks perusing anything from Transfiguration to television sets to Quidditch. The one thing they never seemed to discuss was Sirius Black, the raving murderer that was on the loose. The truth was, neither of them wanted to talk about him… VII. On a cold December morning, Anna was walking alongside the edge of the Forbidden Forest, clutching a large book and looking for a suitable boulder on which to rest. When she finally spotted a large, grey stone, she took out her wand and started producing hot air to heat it. A few feet behind the large stone, there was an even larger bush, with tightly wound branches that obscured a fierce creature. On spotting the girl, the large dog leaped from behind the bush, growling menacingly at her. Anna only seemed taken aback – the dog was rather large – but not in any sense scared. The dog looked positively puzzled at his failure to scare her away. Instead of turning around and walking away, Anna started walking towards the beast. Because of her place in the universe, at the very centre of life, Anna could not be harmed by most hexes and jinxes, and neither by the creatures she had the power to command – animals. So, bold and blazing, the stretched a long-fingered hand towards the dog, who backed away, feeling that it could not be safe near a person such as Anna. Their eyes met, and Anna could spot something nearly human in the dog’s eyes. They were deep and sad. Mind you, not droopy, but tired and worn out by suffering. Upon her touch, the dog’s wet, frozen fur heated, and he felt strangely content, and started wiggling his tail. He was convinced she could not harm him – she glowed with kindness. The dog, too approached the now crouched body of the beautiful girl, his snout close to the girl’s warm chest. The dog was Sirius Black.

If Anna had known that tiny little detail, she would have wrung the dog’s neck. She would have killed Sirius Black without blinking. Since he had entered the castle only a few weeks before the first snow (the same snow that had driven Anna out of the castle towards the large boulder) and had scared the living (it’s just a figure of speech) daylights out of the Fat Lady. Anna, Fred, George and Lee were the first students who saw what Black had done to the portrait. She knew what panic he had caused, she knew he was a murderer and a traitor. Yes. There was no doubt she would have killed him. Alas, she did not know that tiny little detail about the dog’s identity. ‘Are you hungry?’ she asked kindly. Her voice seemed music to the dog’s ears. He only whimpered feebly, strangely humanlike, but Anna understood his message. In a matter of minutes, she returned with a rather large steak and a few bangers, which the dog ate fast, greedily – he had clearly been famished. From that day forward, Anna made a new friend: a dingy dog she named Padfoot. Why ‘Padfoot’, you might ask. The answer is simple. Anna’s fairytales growing up were the ‘Marauders’ Mischief Saga’ as Dumbledore referred to them. The Marauders were a group of friends who were always in trouble at Hogwarts. Dumbledore referred to them by their nicknames: Prongs, Wormtail and Anna’s personal favourites: Moony and Padfoot. The name Padfoot seemed to Anna more appropriate for a dog than Moony, ergo the dub. ‘I guess I’ll have to name you…How d’you like Padfoot?’Anna said brightly. Sirius glared at her, amused and intrigued. He blinked approvingly. ‘Good!’ said Anna, her cheeks red from the cold, snowflakes sparkling in her hair. ‘Hey, Anna, have you been hiding from me?’ said a boy’s voice. Padfoot didn’t really appreciate the interruption and started growling menacingly. ‘No, I haven’t!’ replied Anna, beaming at the boy. ‘Good.’ Said the boy, with his figure now entering Padfoot’s range. ‘Now come over here.’ ‘No, you come.’ Said Anna grinning. He did so, and in approaching the large stone by which Anna and Padfoot stood, Oliver Wood grabbed Anna’s arm, pulled her gently towards him and kissed her softly. ‘Hello.’ Whispered Anna, kissing the boy even more determinedly. Oliver Wood had both hands in her long, dark hair, caressing it gently. Anna’s hands, however, still clutched the large book she had brought. They kissed for ages, ardently, like it was the last chance they had at it. Padfoot lost track of time while gazing silently at the pair. He felt slightly annoyed by the boy’s gall. He had no right to snatch Anna from him like that!...Anna… what a lovely name…It suited her, too. ‘Okay, cut it out…’ said Anna, smiling and ungluing herself from him with what seemed great difficulty. ‘What? It’s my last year at Hogwarts and I finally plucked up the courage of asking you out, I don’t think I want to cut it out…’ said Oliver, planting another kiss on her lips. Anna surrendered to his lips.

It is strange…Padfoot thought… She seemed strong, superior to such things…All he had to do was show her a little bit of affection and she flung herself willingly into his open arms…If only it was that easy with other women… ‘Look who I found…’ said Anna, tearing herself from him and leading him towards Padfoot. Sirius launched himself into the forest before Oliver even had time to look up. He knew it would be dangerous for Oliver to know anything about a mysterious dog that had appeared on the grounds. ‘He was right there….Well…never mind.’ Anna said, puzzled. ‘Come on, you’re shivering.’ Said Oliver. ‘Yeah…sure…’ said Anna, her mind still wondering about that mysterious dog she had befriended. Christmas arrived swiftly at Hogwarts, emptying the school of students. The ones that stayed behind were so few that the Christmas dinner table was composed of only 14 people, including the teachers. Anna, of course, spent her Christmas at Hogwarts, alongside the Weasleys, and, to her surprise, Oliver. ‘I want to stay with you for Christmas.’ He replied to Anna’s questions about why he wasn’t spending Christmas with his family. She could only be happy that she had her friends at her side, in spite of Lupin’s illness that did not permit him to take part in the celebration. She had a plan for Oliver. ‘Wake up, Ollie.’ She whispered sweetly in his ear on the very early first morning of vacation. ‘Why?’ he grunted in response, quite oblivious of the fact that Anna was standing in the boys’ dormitory. ‘I want to show you something. Now come on.’ Oliver did as he was told, quite unwillingly. He needed help every step of the way, and Anna ended up pulling on his sweater – he was extremely sleepy. Once he was up, Anna had the decency of telling him what they were supposed to be up to. ‘Listen, you asked me what my childhood was like, me growing up here, at Hogwarts.’ She said, as they stopped in front of a hideous tapestry depicting a struggle between a house elf and a Blast-Ended Skrewt with the head of a Flobberworm. He could not deny asking her that very same question two days before, and knew at once that he had done a mistake. Anna didn’t like people questioning her about her childhood before she ever befriended Fred and George. Oliver didn’t want to think about it, fearing what his mind would fashion… He nodded. ‘Well, I’m going to give you a taste of my Christmases. How about it?’ Anna said merrily and for the first time that morning, Oliver noticed how beautiful she looked in her red, woollen sweater and dark green jeans, with her silky hair pinned up in a loose bun with a hair-pin that had mistletoe on it. ‘What first?’ Oliver asked, smiling. ‘The feast. We’re going to help the house elves cook! Then we’re going to drive Peeves mad, because that was always what I did before Christmas, you know, as a present to the teachers.’ she said in one large breath that Oliver was surprised could fit in her chest.

As they proceeded to the kitchen, holding hands, Anna hummed dreamily under her breath, something that as neither a carol, nor a song Oliver recognized. ‘What are you singing?’ he asked testily after a few minutes of thinking harder than he had ever thought in his life. ‘It’s a Muggle song.’ Anna replied. ‘I don’t really like wizards’ songs…They’re all about love potions and love spells…Muggles don’t have any of that, and they fall in love with each other without ever having to use them. Their songs – the good ones – are about…well…don’t laugh…bare human emotion. It’s either love or hate or revolt or…I don’t know…They just seem more real to me.’ She said apologetically. Anna had been walking one step in front of Oliver, but at that, he tugged on her arm so hard that she came towards him. He kissed her like he had never done in his life. ‘I love you, Anna.’ He said, also a bit apologetically. But Anna couldn’t reply the same. She had never loved anyone in that way and therefore did not know how it felt. She kissed him back, hoping that would make him understand the smallest part of her feelings. Oliver started humming as well, and continued to do so well into the afternoon. In the elves’ kitchen, into which Oliver had never been, there was such a hustle and bustle that Anna had to shout to be heard by an elf standing only a few feet in front of her. ‘Allie! Hey, Allie!’ ‘Oh, miss Anna! I thought you’d never come!’ said the elf, a wide grin illuminating her tired face. ‘Who’s your friend?’ ‘Allie, this is Oliver. Oliver – Allie.’ Anna said. ‘Nice to meet you! What can we do to help?’ said Oliver, beaming at the elf. ‘You can start peeling off some of those potatoes. I’ve got Ellie and Ruby working on them, but it seems like they’ll never finish before New Year’s Eve.’ said the elf. Oliver nodded – it was much easier than straining your vocal cords in an attempt to make yourself heard. Letting go of each other’s had at the same time, Anna and Oliver both grabbed a peeler and started peeling off potatoes. They cleared boredom away by talking about anything from Quidditch to OWLs to Muggle songs and Sirius Black. Anna soon discovered she had no problem discussing Sirius Black with Oliver, as she had with everyone else. Oliver soon discovered that Anna would be the one for him… The only one… After the humongous stack of potatoes had been peeled, Anna and Oliver started throwing peels at each other, causing a mess and being reprimanded by a houseelf with a bright red nose and rather long fingernails. They proceeded to the next level – that of smashing pumpkins and making pumpkin juice. After three hours’ hard work, they grabbed two Butterbeers out of the refrigerator and relaxed perched ominously upon a wide window-sill. After cooling down form the kitchen steam, they set off running to find Peeves, one tickling the other every step of the way. When they finally found the poltergeist, he was planning on dropping eggs onto the passer-bys’ heads. Anna magically summoned all of the eggs in Peeves’ possession, bombarded him with Oliver’s help so that, covered in egg whites and

yellows, and with a hurt ego, Peeves rushed into the girls’ bathroom on the third floor. There, the troublemaker got an even worse punishment that Anna and Oliver had in store for him – Moaning Myrtle started pulling off the taps and flooding the toilet, shouting at Peeves for disturbing her. Then, she started crying and Peeves was left with nothing else but to console her. Thus being satisfied, Anna and Oliver called it a day, and rushed to the now empty Prefects’ bathroom on the second floor for a nice, warm, bubble bath.

VIII. Christmas Eve was upon them at last, and after a week of helping-out house elves and cleaning the school, Oliver finally had the time to relax. Anna, however, did not seem fatigued, and was as bright as ever, smiling and singing carols at the top of her voice through the Common Room. Waking up that morning, Anna saw that she was alone in the dormitory. She could, however, hear distant laughs and voices that echoed through the stone walls. She quickly got dressed to join her friends, and found them sitting on the Persian carpet in front of the fire with what seemed to be residues of their gifts’ wrapping paper. Half of them were wearing their presents, half of them had laid them on the fluffy armchair they were leaning against. ‘Morning! Happy Christmas!’ they all said brightly and identically when Anna entered the room. ‘Happy Christmas! Hey! How come you’re all up before me?’ she asked. ‘Never mind that, come open your presents!’ said George. Everyone nodded encouragingly. Anna obeyed, and started unwrapping a gift wrapped in brown paper. She discovered another red sweater with the letter ‘A’ embroidered on the chest. She smiled broadly, thinking of the effort and love Mrs Weasley put into knitting those thick, woollen jumpers. ‘What a surprise! I wonder who that one’s from…’ said Fred in a mock pensive voice. Everyone laughed. The next package contained a rather large book, that Anna knew to be from Dumbledore, his narrow writing etched clearly upon the first page in the words: ‘The Merriest of Christmases to the fairest of maidens’ as they always were. Hermione was gazing intently at the large book, like a child who was denied sweets. Anna answered her plead immediately. ‘Don’t worry, Hermione. You’ll be the first I lend it to.’ She said and winked at Hermione, who had turned the faintest shade of pink. The next gift contained something she did not expect receiving. She unwrapped it eagerly, as she had done the rest, and then gazed stupidly at the pair of emerald earrings Oliver had given her. She clearly had not expected jewellery When she met his gaze, he smiled serenely.

‘Thanks.’ Said Anna, her face relaxing into a smile. Oliver merely winked, and Fred and George threw exasperated looks at each other and, to Harry’s astonishment, so did Lee and Ron. Somehow, the present that surprised Anna the most wasn’t Minerva’s miniature, animated cat, or Severus’ bottle of Felix Felicis, but professor Lupin’s old, tattered book, that she handled extremely carefully. There was no note, but Lupin had clumsily drawn an animated orb on a small piece of parchment, and Anna took the hint. The book was a Muggle’s book, by what Anna knew to be a great Muggle writer – Thomas Hardy. Lupin had, after all, guessed what she would have liked the most. Not that she didn’t like any of her other presents, but to mingle her love for books ( and weakness for old books…) with her interest in Muggles’ arts was something neither Oliver, nor Dumbledore had thought of. ‘Oooh, Thomas Hardy! This is one of his best books, too. ‘Tess of the D’Urbervilles’ is marvellous.’ Said Hermione. ‘But who sent it to you?’ ‘No idea,’ lied Anna. ‘but I know how I’m spending tonight.’ There was a pause. ‘Come on, why are we all sitting here? Who fancies a snow-fight?’ said Anna. ‘Hear, hear!’ said Fred and George. Everyone got dressed quickly and rushed into the snow just outside the massive stone steps. Anna, Lee and the twins were displaying the most interesting fight of all, so everyone stopped at one point and watched them interestedly, cheering and applauding when anyone would sustain some kind of injury. Hermione and Ginny took turns glancing sideways at Oliver. He looked neither pleased, nor seemed present in any way. He was simply staring dreamily, greedily and hungrily at Anna, sometimes giving the twins and Lee( who had, in the meantime, turned against Anna and were either covering her with snow or carrying her around) dirty looks. He clearly wanted to be that close to Anna. However, he couldn’t understand the kind of friendship that they had. They weren’t friends anymore – they were brothers, as tightly bound as people can be. Anna would have given anything for them…She could not do the same for Oliver. Hermione guessed instantly, by the look on his face, that it drove him mad. VIII. Christmas passed as it had arrived, and once more, all fifth- and seventh-years were neck deep in books. Anna and Oliver were as close as they had ever been, their relationship frozen in mid-air. The weather was growing warmer and warmer as the students happily embraced their weekends in Hogsmeade. Except for two orphans: Anna and Harry. Being a fifth-year, Anna was almost always occupied with studying in the library, but Harry had nothing to do… Sickened by books and dusty shelves, Anna decided that this weekend of all she would enjoy the fresh air and profit by the other students’ absence. She would call Shadowfax and have a ride through the woods.

As she was walking dreamily along the stone corridors, she met a familiar, thin boy, who was looking thoroughly depressed. Upon seeing her, he lifted his head and stared incredulously at Anna. ‘What are you doing here?’ he asked testily. ‘I suppose I’m allowed to walk the corridors if I want to.’ Answered Anna equally testy. ‘Did you think you were the only student without a pass to Hogsmeade?’ she then said, turning her frown into a smile. ‘But why doesn’t Dumbledore allow you to go?’ he asked. ‘Well-‘she hesitated. She wasn’t sure if she should just pour her heart out to Harry…After all, they weren’t really all that friendly…but there was something special about him… something which hung above the prophecy…the Lily in him was what she trusted. ‘You see, Albus doesn’t know who my father was so he can’t really have proof that he’s dead.’ ‘Why should it matter? He’s Headmaster!’said Harry indignantly. ‘And my godfather! But that doesn’t make him my guardian…’ she said sadly. ‘So he can’t sign the pass…’ Harry’s face relaxed. He was not alone. ‘Fancy a walk?’ he asked merrily. ‘Sure.’Anna replied and beamed at him. They walked out into the crisp early-spring air. As they talked about Quidditch, school, OWLs, Sirius Black, it dawned on Anna that Harry was one of the people she completely trusted, without knowing him well. She felt safe and normal with him. They were both orphans, both doomed to fight and either die or win. Both secretly scared of more important things that Voldemort and Sauron. Scared of more pain and loss than they could bear. ‘Hey, Harry?’ she asked as they reached the edge of the Forbidden Forest. ‘Yeah.’ He answered, staring at Anna, who was gazing dreamily at the horizon. She was superb, he could see that now. Her hair was rustling gently at the touch of the wind; her arms were folded in front of her waist. It occurred to Harry that she seemed to blend in with the trees and grass…She seemed livened by the touch of nature, she seemed eternal… ‘I want to show you something. Actually two things…Late Christmas presents, if you want.’ She wasn’t smiling. ‘Um…okay…’ he said, rather taken aback. ‘Don’t be scared.’ She said, laughing gently. ‘Come on, we need to get a bit further into the forest. Don’t be scared. You’re with me, you’ll see in a bit.’ She said. In truth, he did not feel scared – he was with her, and she glowed for him like a light in a dark tunnel. Her presence meant safety. They walked towards the heart of the Forest. After trampling on an upraised root for the umpteenth time, Harry was brought to a halt by Anna’s hand. She cleared away a thick bush and revealed to Harry what would be the most peaceful place he will have ever travelled to. It was a forest clearing, with a turquoise pond in the middle, crowned with waterlilies and overgrown with willow-trees. The sun seemed warmer and brighter there, and Harry felt completely peaceful. He almost missed the fact that Anna’s

ears were now pointy, that her jersey and jeans had been replaced by a long, darkgreen dress, and that her hair was thicker and longer that Harry had ever seen it. She looked surreal. He had never seen such beauty in a human and, judging by her appearance, Anna had to be something short of a goddess. She led him silently to the edge of the water. ‘Look…’she said, pointing at the surface of the clear water. Harry peered into the lake, and his stomach gave a back flip as he slid into the clear water. He did not feel wet. On the contrary, he felt warm. He landed dizzily on soft ground – sand. After looking round for familiar faces, his brain strangely blank, he saw Anna walking gracefully towards him. He tried to ask her what was happening, and before he could realise that he was underwater; he had his mouth full of water, and felt like someone had smacked him in the head. Anna quickly took his hand in hers, and the pressure at the top of his head disappeared, and he felt comfortable once more. He was surprised at how easily they could walk underwater…Before he could signal Anna for any information, she pressed her finger against her lips and then pointed at a greenish-blue algae. Harry squinted. He could not see a thing. But then – there they were! His parents! The living forms of Lily and James were walking serenely towards him, holding hands and beaming. They nodded appreciatively towards Anna, who waved their thanks down, smiling. After that, they focused exclusively on Harry, drinking him in. ‘Hello, Harry.’ Said Lily, stroking his hair. Harry couldn’t talk, but nor could he find words to do so. He was closer to them than he had been staring at the mirror of Erised. They were real, he was convinced of it. And he had Anna to thank for them. He smiled blankly, stupidly, and then grinned heartily. His father grinned identically at him. ‘Hi, Har.’ He said. There could have been a million words flowing between them, but a mother’s love found just the right ones. ‘We love you, Harry. And we’re very proud.’ She said, her green eyes glowing with pride and affection. ‘Yeah, we do. And we’re always by your side, in everything you do, you know that, don’t you?’ his father said firmly. Harry nodded. He felt love trickling down his whole body, warming him to the tip of his toes. He wanted to hug them. ‘You can, you know. Hug them, I mean.’ Said Anna’s clear voice, though now somewhat distant. Harry rushed to his mother and put his arms around his neck. She was warm. She was alive. He then gripped his father tightly, not wanting to let go. James too seemed alive. Harry could not believe it. They were there, alive, with him. Anna had granted him his most ardent wish – that of having his parents by his side. He was safe and happy underwater…He never wanted to leave… As he loosened the hold on his father and now took turns at staring at his parents, Harry felt as though a strong hand had gripped his shoulder painfully and was now dragging him out of the water forcefully.

‘No…’ Harry said, barely opening his mouth, though he took another large gulp of sweet water. He now stood on the side of the lake, staring at the centre of the ripples he and Anna had formed coming out of the water. Why did they have to go? As he perused through what he had seen and felt, Harry heard a small moan. He turned to see Anna lying on the ground, gripping her sides, her hands wet with a bright red substance. Anna was bleeding. Surprised by the reality of the situation, Harry remained mortified. Had she sacrificed herself so that he could see his parents? Or had she been attacked underwater? Harry woke up from his reverie with a slight jerk, as Anna moaned even louder. He rushed to her side and took hold of her hand. It was warm – she was not dying yet. If he could only take her to the castle…It was his fault… But, suddenly, at his touch, Anna opened her eyes that had previously been screwed up in pain. Suffering seemed to lift from her like a curse, her face becoming serene once more. She smiled at Harry. ‘Thanks.’ She said. ‘Was it alright? That I took you to see them, I mean. It wasn’t like taunting you or whatever, was it? I only took you because I know I would have liked to feel my parents just once if I were you…’ she said. Harry couldn’t talk, but this time it wasn’t the water that was restraining him…He simply could not find the right words to tell Anna what her gift had meant to him. Instead, he placed his arms around her neck and hugged her affectionately, much like he had his mother. And they became brothers at last. Over the next weeks, as the sun grew brighter and the fifth-years’ revision started, Anna took to taking long walks on the grounds, alongside Padfoot, who had become her confident. In a matter of weeks, Anna managed to tell Padfoot everything she had ever thought of, her deepest secrets, her desires, her dreams, her battles and her opinions. She had perused everything from being pureblood or Muggle-born to the War in Middle Earth, and the killings she saw. She ended up giving Padfoot a bath, using her own shampoo, and the dog ended up smelling like strawberry jam. Sirius was extremely grateful to have a friend who would talk to him, in spite of Anna being the reason for his nasty strawberry odour. After twelve years in Azkaban and complete isolation from human warmth, Sirius was glad to have found someone as talkative as Anna…He only wished he could talk to her like she talked to him. He never imagined wanting to share Azkaban with anyone, but he felt the imperious need to transform back into a human one day and simply surprise Anna. Alas, he could not…He knew she would have either killed him (something which seemed more likely then the next option…) or run away from him. Thus to keep his friendship with Anna, he had to maintain this statute of secrecy. Until one very cold day, when he could bare it no more… IX.

As Anna entered Hagrid’s hut, in order to soothe him in some way after the execution of Buckbeak the Hippogriff, she heard a distant voice calling: ‘Scabbers!’ She closed her eyes with a jerk as Hagrid was sobbing into his great palms. She opened them to see a red haired boy whom she recognized as Ron being dragged into a dark tunnel at the foot of the Womping Willow. ‘No…’ she whispered. Hagrid was muttering, thinking Anna was listening to him… ‘’e was such a good Hippogriff…Always cleaned ‘is feathers…Poor thing…’ Hagrid said, in-between hiccoughs. Then he stopped dead. ‘Oh, Anna…It’s nea’ly dark…You should be ‘eadin’ back to the castle…if they find yeh here, they won’t miss the chance of punishin’ yeh…Listen, it was very, very kind ter come ‘ere bu’ now yeh got ter go. It’s dangerous out ‘ere in the dark…’ ‘Hagrid, there’s no need, I can stay!’ Anna protested falsely. In fact, all she wanted to do was rush to Harry, Hermione and Ron’s help. ‘No, no…I can’t have yeh risk so much fer me. I’ll be fine…’ Pretending to be unwilling to do so, Anna said goodbye to Hagrid, kissed him on his large, damp cheek, and watched his tears dry as she did so. She then rushed out of his hut, sprinting towards the large root of the Womping Willow. When she was in the clear range of its branches, she raised her wand, expecting an attack. The monstrous Willow did not move. Slightly surprised, Anna ventured inside the cramp tunnel, fearing the worst for Harry, Ron and Hermione. As she walked, crouched, she turned once again into the magnificent lioness, and was then able to walk swiftly and silently along the tunnel and well into the Shrieking Shack. When she first touched the dusty floor of the abandoned house, Anna heard a precise: ‘No!’ coming from a girl’s mouth. ‘Hermione.’ Anna thought, and sprinted towards the source of the sound. As she reached the second landing, she peered into a decaying room through a door left ajar. Her lioness’ eyes were gleaming in the dark, but otherwise Anna gave no sign of being present. The thin silhouette that was standing a mere five feet from her was that of a familiar man. He suddenly turned his face to her, and Anna saw, with great bewilderment, that it was Sirius Black. She did not have to think. Anna extended her slender body, placing her paws on the man’s chest without knocking him over. One of her paws was near his neck, her claws slightly pricking his skin, her teeth bared. With her weight, she pushed Black against a wall, quite oblivious of the other people in the room Upon seeing Anna, both Lupin and Hermione gasped: ‘Anna…’ Harry and Ron however, looked as though someone had just hit them over the head. First of all Harry could not conceive how a lioness could have gotten, from Africa, to as far as England. Ron’s mouth was open, and he had quite forgotten about the searing pain in his leg. Sirius Black, however, looked calm. He was smiling at the lioness. He was smiling because, finally, after so many months of listening to Anna, she could finally hear his voice for a change.

‘Hello, Anna.’ He said kindly, a broad smile etched across his face. How did he know it was her? Anna did not have time to wonder. She had to act quickly. She transformed back into herself, her long hair loose at her back, her grey eyes on fire with rage. A short, glittering knife with a marvellously carved ivory handle had appeared in a puff of smoke in her hand. She was holding it against Sirius’ neck. ‘Anna…Don’t hurt him…’ Lupin started. Upon recognizing his voice, Anna’s rage deflated from her eyes. She turned her beautiful head to Lupin, her hand firmly holding the knife against Sirius’ throat. ‘You.’ She said, hate clear in her voice. ‘You’re supporting him?! How could you? How-…After everything I’ve-…’ The rage in her eyes had been replaced by a far stronger feeling – that of disappointment – as she looked at Lupin. Remus felt ashamed of himself, though he had not done anything wrong, so his mind told him. Without another look at Lupin, she turned to Sirius, her gaze so penetrating, so furious, so filled with hate, that it made Sirius wince slightly as he looked into her eyes. However, he did not break visual contact. ‘If you think I was going to let you serve the last Potter on a silver platter to Voldemort, you don’t know your ass from your elbow. If you touch one hair of the back of their necks, I’ll kill you. Now-‘ she said menacingly. In spite of knowing she would have killed him, Sirius laughed…It was a harsh, sharp laughter that very much resembled a bark. Anna looked angrier than Harry, Ron, Hermione or Lupin had ever seen her. ‘Anna…’Lupin started again, meekly. ‘He didn’t do it…Look into his eyes, you’ll see the truth, please…’ Unwilling to see whatever Black might have seen, Anna ignored Lupin. ‘Please.’ The latter said pointedly. What if he was right? What if everyone had been hunting the wrong man for twelve years? It seemed likely, but the Ministry workers weren’t exactly the most accurate blokes…What if they had gotten the facts all wrong… It was worth a try… So Anna met Sirius’ gaze once more, this time her eyes clear of rage and prepared for either pity or murder. And she saw. She saw through Sirius’ eyes, as he was walking down a dark street, to meet a short, plump man. ‘Hello, Peter.’ Sirius’ voice spoke, definite hate and weariness in it. ‘Oh, Padfoot, hello.’ Said the short man, his voice trembling. ‘Tell me, was it Voldemort who asked you to tell him about Peter and Lily, or did you go willingly?’ Sirius asked calmly. ‘Oh, my old friend, he tortured me!’ said the plump man falling at Sirius’s feet and grasping his knees. ‘GET AWAY, YOU FILTHY SWINE!’bellowed Sirius, stepping back from him. Pettigrew got up from the ground and took out his wand. ‘YOU KILLED JAMES AND LILY! I’LL KILL YOU! YOU MURDERER! YOU WERE HIS BEST FRIEND!’ Peter shouted audibly and clearly, for everyone who was peering out of their doorsteps to hear. Sirius was simply stunned. He had no words. Pettigrew made a short slashing movement with his wand, and howled in pain as one of his fingers fell to the ground.

‘AAAAARGH! NO, SIRIUS, YOU WON’T HAVE MY LIFE AS WELL!’ Peter shouted. But Sirius did not have his wand pointed at Pettigrew, nor had he spoken any incantation, but was staring dumbfounded at Pettigrew’s act. With a wave of his wand, Pettigrew created a jet of bright green light that left all the eye-witnesses – twelve of them, at least - dead like puppets, nothing more than motionless carcasses on the stone pavement. After that mass murder, Pettigrew started shrinking in his clothes, disappearing into the grass forever… Sirius’ knees gave way. He rested there, on the dark street, for at least half an hour before a few Aurors whose names he did not know, popped into view and escorted him to a dark cell in Azkaban. Anna could feel the cold Sirius felt, and the emptiness. Sirius had given up, overcome by grief, silently pounding at the stone walls that withheld him from seeing the world again. What was there left in the world for him? Nothing much, with his friend now gone…He had no family, no one to love…He was alone in the world. As the Dementors glided along the dark corridors of the stone prison, Sirius held his head in his hands, resigned…But there was no joy in him for them to feed on…No life anymore…And Anna’s eyes stung with tears that were not her own… ‘NO!’ Sirius bellowed as he closed his eyes, in our time and day. It seems that, as Sirius’ vision carried on, Anna had lowered her weapon slowly, so that now, instead of threatening Sirius, she was rather leaning against him. The scene would have looked very romantic, with their powerful gazes and concentrated looks, if not for the rotten curtains that were behind Sirius, or for the silver knife in Anna’s hand, or Sirius’ dreadful shout. As Sirius turned his head as not to have to look at Anna, the latter made the knife disappear in another white puff of smoke and placed one of her long-fingered hands on Sirius’ obscured cheek, turning his head so that she could see him again, and he could see her properly. Sirius expected the look on Anna’s face to be contemptuous, but her eyes swam in tears, her lips curled into a smile. ‘Oh…’ she said as she embraced him tightly. Sirius felt Anna’s warmth sweep through him…He felt happier than he had felt in a very, very long time, and for the first time in twelve years, wished he would have smelled better or had cleaner clothes on. ‘Don’t, Anna, I’m filthy…’ he started. ‘D’you think I care? I’m so sorry… ’ she said, her voice coming out slightly muffled because she had her face buried in Sirius’s shoulder. Slowly, timidly, Sirius’ arms also wrapped gently around Anna’s waist. They stood there for a second or two, with the others gaping at them, until Anna tore herself from Sirius as unwillingly as she had torn herself from Oliver on a distant winter day… Upon seeing this, Sirius’ heart seemed to skip all the way up near his Adam’s apple for no reason at all. Anna’s voice awoke them all. ‘You’re Padfoot?’ she said casually. ‘Yes…’ answered Sirius. ‘Oh –my –Lord…’ gasped Anna in an awed voice. Sirius then turned to Lupin and said:

‘Moony, my old friend, I believe you have just helped me narrowly escape Anna’s wrath.’ He said with a smile. Lupin smiled back. None of that made any sense to Ron, Hermione and Harry, but Anna gaped at Lupin, even more surprised. ‘You’re Moony?!’ she said. ‘Yes.’ Replied Lupin pointedly. ‘Of course! James was Prongs and Pettigrew was Wormtail!’ Anna exclaimed. Lupin and Sirius searched for answers in each other’s gazes, but Anna once again provided the necessary information. ‘I grew up with stories about how mischievous you were! The four Marauders...God, I could hardly think those stories were real! You make Fred and George seem little angels!’ Anna said with respect. ‘Dumbledore would never tell me their real names, but referred to them as Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs. Padfoot and Moony were – are - my favourites!’ At that, Anna stopped, her expression petrified. She glanced at the door. ‘Someone’s coming.’ She said, clearly mortified. Don’t let it be Severus…Anna thought, and it was for the first time in her life that she did not want to see him. Yet, her fears came true, and Snape’s bat like silhouette appeared in the doorframe, sneering alternatively at Lupin and Sirius. His wand was aloft. ‘Well, well, well…’ he said, his sneer becoming more and more pronounced. ‘You’re probably wondering how it is that I’m here…Well, I went to your office, Lupin -seeing as you had forgotten to take your potion and I couldn’t find Anna anywhere, I thought I’d take it to you myself - and lucky that I did so, for me, I mean, because on your desk there was a map which showed me everything I wanted to see. I saw you disappear into the tunnel leading to the Shrieking Shack.’ ‘Severus-‘ Lupin began, but Snape stopped him brutally. ‘I have often warned the headmaster that you were helping an old friend get into the castle and now I have proof! I never imagined you would have the gall to hide him here!’ ‘Severus, you’re wrong, Sirius isn’t here to kill Harry.’ ‘Two more for Azkaban tonight… I should like to hear what Dumbledore has to say of this…He said you’re a trained wolf…’ ‘Don’t call him that!’ said Anna loudly, and Snape turned to her, looking as though he had not noticed her until that point. ‘Step aside, Anna.’ He said firmly. ‘No.’ said Anna strongly, turning to face Snape, her back pressed firmly against Sirius’ chest, her wand out. ‘Don’t be foolish, Anna.’ Severus said, issuing form the tip of his wand thin ropes which wrapped tightly around Lupin. ‘No! Stop it, Severus.’ Anna said firmly as Lupin fell to the floor and lay wriggling. ‘He’s not some animal you can manhandle like that! Let him go!’ ‘Anna, he helped a murderer get into the castle!’ said Snape almost indignantly. ‘Severus, he’s not a murderer…I saw it…I saw it in his eyes…Just like I saw the truth in yours, Severus, a long time ago…Don’t you remember?’ Anna said wearily. Anna started marching towards Snape, lowering her wand and gripping his arm as she did so.

‘Severus, look at me. I know the truth, and Sirius isn’t the one to blame...He wasn’t the snitch…it was Pettigrew…Listen, I know about the prank…No, listen! I know how it felt, but that was a zillion years ago, Severus…Just put it aside for one evening and then you can have your go at them! But now, just think! You’d be sending two innocent men to Azkaban…Think, Severus…’ Snape seemed utterly delusional. Harry was certain he had not heard a word Anna said, but his reply proved the contrary. ‘Do you fear for their lives, Anna?’ he asked with a sneer. ‘Do you know who they are? Why, we’ve got a little family reunion here, don’t we?’ ‘You mean Sirius is Harry’s godfather? I already know that, but that’s hardly enough for a family reunion, unless he’s also my long lost father, or something.’ Anna said. ‘No, not him.’ Snape replied, gazing intently into Anna’s eyes, frowning, trying to make her understand. ‘Wh-Who d’you mean, then?’ Anna asked, her voice shaking, and taking one step back. ‘I mean the wolf…’ said Snape with a touch of satisfaction in his voice as Lupin groaned and Anna froze. Severus seized his chance at pointing his wand at Sirius, rather than at Anna then and signalled Harry and the others to get out. Harry, however, pointed his wand at Snape. ‘EXPELLIARMUS!’ said two voices that were neither Harry’s, not Snape’s. Ron and Hermione had both attacked Snape, and the latter had been thrown off his feet and into the opposite wall by the force of the double spell. Anna continued staring at the same spot on the floor, grinding her teeth absently until Sirius made forward and touched her arm fleetingly as he walked by her to assist Lupin. She awoke form her daydream and turned around swiftly, heading towards Lupin. Other than the frown on her face, she gave no sign that she had just found out who her father was. ‘I’d like to do that.’ She said calmly to Sirius. She freed Lupin from his imprisonment and whispered: ‘Why didn’t you tell me?’ ‘I thought you would hate me…’ said Lupin earnestly. Anna put both her arms around his neck and started crying silently into chest. Lupin looked both relieved and sad, his face pale and his jaw set. After a while, Lupin tore himself from Anna’s arms and helped Sirius prove that Scabbers was, in fact a wizard. Anna remained oblivious to all of that, crying silently in a corner, and looking up only when Pettigrew fell at her feet saying: ‘Beautiful girl, you look just like your mother…She was wise...You’re just as wise, aren’t you…you won’t let them take me, will you?’ At that, Lupin and Sirius both bellowed: ‘GET AWAY FROM HER!’ But Anna got up so that she towered Pettigrew like she had towered Malfoy and said: ‘I’m nothing like my mother.’ Firmly, kicking Pettigrew aside, shifting positions and rejoining the action. ‘What now?’ she said strongly.

‘Well…I think we ought to make one more confession, don’t you, Sirius?’ said Lupin. ‘What do you mean?’ said Sirius looking surprised. ‘Anna,’ Lupin said, addressing her. ‘did you never wonder how you could see through Harry’s eyes?’ he asked. ‘That’s why you seemed familiar!’ Harry said triumphantly and quickly, almost unconscious that he had done so. ‘You were the girl that was sword fighting! You were the girl that was crying…’ he continued sadly. ‘Well? Is there a good explanation?’ Anna asked coldly. Lupin hesitated upon meeting her cold gaze, but continued nevertheless. ‘You’re Blood Brothers, Anna. Lily came with the idea. She said that uniting the two of you – such powerful people - could only help you come to each other’s aid. So it did tonight….Did you never see the scar on your palm, Anna? Or you, Harry?’ Lupin said, and it was almost as he was back in class, teaching. Anna and Harry both checked their right palms, instinctively. All they could see was the tiniest spot – the mark of the tiniest prick. Anna raised her eyebrows in surprise and Harry’s expression became stony. Pettigrew whimpered, which seemed to awake them both, as Anna cut fiercely across him. ‘We’re wasting time. Severus might wake up. Let’s go.’ They tied Pettigrew to Lupin and Ron, Sirius was supporting Snape, Harry was behind him, and Hermione and Anna were bringing up the rear. As they proceeded through the tunnel, Harry and Sirius seemed to be discussing something Anna couldn’t hear, but, at the end of the discussion, Sirius turned his head to Harry. He was smiling heartily, truthfully and Anna saw, for the first time, Sirius’ handsome features, dimmed though they were. The tunnel came to an abrupt end, and the strange party emerged form it, illuminated only by the cold light of the moon. A full moon. Everyone was stopped, knocking into each other, by Sirius’ raised palm. Lupin’s body had become contorted, tense, and he was gazing blankly at the moon. As she forced Harry, Hermione, Ron and the limp body of Severus out of harm’s way, she transfigured into the sleek, strong lioness and crouched near them, awaiting Lupin’s fierce attack. Sirius too had transfigured into the large dog, and was awaiting prudently by Anna’s side, right next to Harry. As Lupin’s body turned into the wolf’s, he plunged towards Anna and Sirius, but they were ready. Anna threw herself at her father with a heavy heart, but with all her force. As Lupin’s claws sank mildly into her back, she let out an angry roar. But she did not have time to hit him back. Sirius had launched himself to the wolf’s neck, sinking his teeth into the wolf’s skin. Lupin’s strength was immense. He threw Sirius against the boulder next to which he had met Anna a few months before. Anna could hear Sirius’ moan as he turned into a human once more. Anna acted quickly. She attacked Lupin behind his back, taking him by surprise and knocking him over. As Lupin was getting ready to strike back, Sirius, as the large dog, launched himself once more towards the wolf’s neck. And was thrown again against the ground. Both the lioness and the dog were fighting half-heartedly. They did not want to hurt the man they cared about so much.

They were saved by the long howl of another lost werewolf, and Lupin headed towards the Forest. Harry speeded after Sirius, who was limping badly. Anna wished she could do the same, but she had to make sure the others were safe. She transformed into herself once more and helped Severus, Ron and Hermione get to the castle safely. With a heart-wrenching pang, she realised that Pettigrew had escaped. She felt like screaming of rage, but, alas, she could not. There were more important things than her feelings at that moment. Ron, Hermione and Severus were quickly taken care of by madam Pomfrey, with Anna’s assistance. After that, Anna sat down on a cot, to rest her legs for a few moments and fell asleep, with damp lion’s blood in her dark hair. She woke up hours later, when Hermione and Harry were mysteriously disappearing from the room, bound by a long necklace which Anna recognized as a Time Turner. ‘Sirius…’ she whispered to no one. She got up quickly, ignoring the sharp pain in her ribs and proceeded to her dormitory. She opened a small trunk, filled with what seemed like worthless jewellery. She took out a silver ring with an emerald stone in the middle. As she blew over it, her breath warming the cold metal, the emerald shined brightly, as though it had understood her message. She then closed her eyes and concentrated hard. She opened them to see Sirius walking out of a window of the Astronomy Tower, and heard the song of what seemed like an eagle. Buckbeak. She rushed to the Tower, and met Sirius, Hermione and Harry. Sirius was mounting Buckbeak. ‘Wait! Sirius, wait!’ she yelled. Sirius dismounted quickly. ‘Take this.’ She said, handing him the ring. ‘It’s Barahir. The Ring of Striders. Listen, if you ever need anything, anyone to talk to, call my name, and I’ll come, okay?’ Sirius looked at her unbelievingly. ‘Trust me.’ Anna said strongly. ‘Now go. Good luck.’ She added, kissing him softly on the cheek and giving Buckbeak a fleeting pat. As she watched Sirius and Buckbeak fly freely into the night, her heart soared for the rider and his beast, two free souls. X. From the distance, we can see, through a stained-glass window, a waist length mane of dark, sleek hair crowning the tall thin silhouette of a girl pacing back and forth. As we approach, we see the body belongs to no other that our Anna and she is pacing in front of the Headmaster’s office. The gargoyle had been throwing her dirty looks for the last half an hour, obviously annoyed by her pacing, but she did not care. If only they’d let me in…she thought.

Dumbledore had protested ardently that she remain outside. Why, Anna could not see…After all, it was her future they were discussing! It was two days after Sirius and Buckbeak’s departure and the full moon. Lupin was not quite whole again, but Dumbledore said he had strength enough for this. Just after Anna’s final OWL – History of Magic, in which she had done reasonably well – Dumbledore called her and Lupin to his office. When Anna had tried to get in, Albus, of all people, snapped at her. ‘Get out, Anna.’ He said briskly. Anna did not reply, but merely raised an eyebrow accusingly. ‘Anna, please…Just wait outside.’Dumbledore had said, his voice softened. ‘But why can’t I stay? After all, it does involve me, doesn’t it?’ she said indignantly. Then, it was Dumbledore’s turn to raise his eyebrows, but, being incapable of raising only one of them (he had always admired Anna for being able to do that), raised both. He was not smiling, and Anna understood the hint. She had been pacing for at least thirty minutes and was getting quite anxious when, all of a sudden, she saw three long, lanky figures walking down the corridor towards her. She forced a smile out as Fred, George and Lee all said together: ‘Hey.’ ‘Hey’ she answered. ‘What are you guys doing here? Haven’t you got anything else to do? You know, OWLs are over…’ she said seriously. ‘Never mind that. What are you doing here?’ Lee asked. ‘Waiting.’ Anna said simply. ‘That’s enough for us. We’ll wait with you, Anna.’ Fred said. ‘You don’t have to, guys. Real-‘ she began protesting. ‘Shut up, Anna. You’re practically our sister…If Lupin is your father, than this is our problem too.’ George interrupted. Anna sighed, but not in sadness, but in relief. She beamed at all of them and they smiled back. Doing that, they all collapsed onto a stony bench outside the office. Those minutes seemed to pass slowly, like time had been reduced to a thick substance that was now flowing gently inside hourglasses. Time seemed to the four as thick as molasses. Inside, however, Dumbledore and Lupin were arguing fiercely, away from the four Gryffindors’ ears. ‘Dumbledore, I said NO.’ Lupin was saying weakly. ‘Remus,’ said Dumbledore turning fiercely to Lupin, looking quite angry at him. ‘I’ve seen that child – that girl – go through what you and I have never even dreamed of! She has fought not a woman’s fight, but a man’s one! You listen to me; you alone in the world have the power to make her whole and happy! Do you think she is happy, Remus? We –that is, Severus and I, because Minerva’s never agreed – have made her not dread fighting, because she has no fear in her blood, but hate it. Don’t you realise that what that bravest of warriors needs is a little peace and quiet? Someone who is definitely her parent, not her teacher! She loves us, I know she does, Remus, but she needs a father!’ ‘And you think I am fit to be her father? Me, Dumbledore? Don’t you remember why I gave her up in the first place?’ Lupin protested. ‘Remus, I have never agreed to that, but I helped you. That girl in there is more than capable of taking on a werewolf! She has confronted worse enemies, trust me! Good, Lord, Remus, she can brew you Lupis, she is an Animagus! What more

do you want from her? She is as ready as she will ever be of living with you! Besides, she has just found out who you are. Do you remember her scream after you the night she left? I was left to see her crying day after day, Remus! It was pain like you and I could never suffer, and I will not let her be hurt like that again, do you hear me? I love her too much to see her heart broken like that again!’ ‘Don’t you talk to me about pain and suffering! I hear that scream every time a Dementor comes near, Dumbledore! I hear it in my sleep every night! I hear it before I transform! How would you like me to-? Where- I don’t have a house! How do you expect of me to support her when I don’t have a job! And no one will hire me, because I am ready to work, you know that, Dumbledore…’ Remus said burying his face in his hands. ‘I would like nothing more than to take her in my arms and tell her how much I love her not for being my daughter, but for being who she is…I’ve come to know her this year and…I’d love to tell her everything will be alright…But I can’t! I tore myself from her to protect her, and I won’t let that sacrifice be in vain!’ ‘And you’re willing to open old wounds now for the sake of what exactly? Remus, your sacrifice has not been in vain! She has grown to be a beautiful, intelligent young woman! You’re right, you could have killed her then, you could have bitten her when she was just a baby, but now….now, Remus she is probably the most skilled student in the school! She can protect herself from a werewolf… She will…Trust me, Remus…For once, let her be the saved one…make her happy, as I know she will…’said Dumbledore, then paused. ‘Oh, I almost forgot…You needn’t worry about the house…I’ve found you a nice little cottage in the country.’ ‘How am I supposed to pa- No, Dumbleodore.’ Said Lupin, looking aghast. ‘Oh, my dear Remus, I think yes…’ said Dumbledore with a satisfied look on his face. She is finally going to be happy…he thought as he opened the door of his office. ‘Well?’ said Anna contemptuously as Lupin and Dumbledore emerges from the spiral stair. ‘Got my future all planned, have you?’ George, who had gripped her palm the moment he saw Lupin, was now pinching her thumb absently, warningly. But the contemptuous look on Anna’s face melted as she saw Dumbledore grin heartily at her, and Lupin staring at her, arms wide open. Without a second thought, she flung herself in Lupin’s arms, whispering, only for him to hear: ‘Hi, Dad.’ Lupin kissed her cheek affectionately. They did not need words. As we distanced ourselves from the party, they were heading towards the Great Hall for lunch, with Fred, George and Lee patting Lupin on the back , cheering and whistling all the way. They were all happy. Alas, this newly created bond could not have been entirely made in Heaven. After the end of term feast, Anna and Oliver were walking together for the last time in the grounds. They both had news; they both knew it could not be the end. ‘Won’t you miss it?’ Anna asked. ‘I’ll miss you more.’ Oliver replied. Whilst the fact that Lupin was Anna’s father had travelled through the school like wind, the fact that Anna would be going home with him did not, nor did she feel

the need of telling anyone except Fred, George and Lee. There would be time, so she told herself. Willingly, Lupin quit his job, and went to see whatever house Dumbledore had bought them. He wrote Anna every week, and she replied lovingly, being impatient to join him where he said was ‘our very own Secret Garden’. Right there and then, Anna decided she could not postpone telling Oliver the news. Neither did the latter. ‘Anna-‘ ‘Ollie-‘ They smiled. ‘You go first.’he said. She drew a long breath and said: ‘Listen, Oliver…It’s by now common knowledge that professor Lupin is my father… What I haven’t told anyone is that I’m going to live with him…This holiday, at least…’ ‘WHAT?’ Oliver said. Anna had clearly not expected that reaction. ‘ANNA, ARE YOU MAD? HE’S A WEREWOLF! YOU CAN’T JUS- I WON’T LET YOU- ‘ ‘Let me? Let me? It’s my own choice, Oliver….I thought you’d be happy for me…’ she said disappointedly. ‘DO YOU REALISE WHAT DANGER YOU’D BE IN? HAVE YOU GIVEN A SECOND THOUGHT AS TO WHAT YOU’RE GOING TO DO ON FULL MOONS?’ bellowed Oliver. The idea seemed to him reckless in the least. There was no way that Anna, skilled though she was ( he knew she was an Animagus), could take on a mature werewolf. ‘Anna…’ he continued, now whispering. ‘he’s a monster…It’s not safe…He could hurt you! Besides, he gave you up in the first place, it’s not like he deserves forgiving!’ ‘You idiot.’ Anna said, her face flushed with rage. ‘He only gave me up in the first place so I’d be safe! I’ve told you all of this before!’ ‘Anna, how could you live with a werewolf?! First of all, he’s dangerous-‘ ‘HE’S NOT DANGEROUS! HE’S NOT A MONSTER! THIS IS EXACTLY WHY HE GAVE ME UP, HE FEARED THAT SAME REACTION FROM EVERYONE! WELL, GUESS WHAT, OLIVER, NOW I’M OLDER AND I GET TO CHOOSE FOR MYSELF! I CHOOSE HIM! Have a nice life!’ said Anna walking away from a seemingly stricken Oliver. ‘NO!’ he bellowed, and rushed after her. ‘I didn’t mean- HE GAVE YOU UP! HOW CAN YOU POSSIBLY LOVE HIM AFTER ALL THAT?’ ‘HE DIDN’T GIVE ME UP BECAUSE HE WANTED TO! IT’S NOT EXACTLY LIKE I HAVE A MOTHER TO FILL IN FOR HIM, IS THERE OLIVER? YOU DON’T KNOW HALF OF WHAT HE’S BEEN THROUGH!’ ‘I KNOW YOU’RE HURT BECAUSE OF HIM! IT’S ENOUGH FOR ME TO HATE HIM!’ ‘I’M NOT HURT BECAUSE OF HIM! I’M HURT BECAUSE HE HAD TO GIVE ME UP THANKS TO THE OH-SO-BROAD-MINDED PEOPLE LIKE YOURSELF WHO DECIDED THEY HAD NO ONE BETTER TO PICK ON THAN HIM! I’m not scared of him, but it sure as hell sounds like you are!’ said Anna storming away from him.

Oliver was left alone, in the sunlit pasture, fiddling with a glittering ring inside his pocket and with his news still unspoken. He thought she’d be happy Puddlemere United had accepted him…He thought she would’ve wanted to marry him… XI. Hundreds of people were teetering on platform nine and three quarters: loving parents awaiting the arrival of the bright red Hogwarts Express. At last, the arrival of the locomotive unclenched the parents’ hearts…They would see their children after a very, very long time…One such parent was Remus Lupin. Displaying the broadest of smiles for no apparent reason, Lupin was conversing with a faintly familiar red haired man about his children. ‘Who do you belong to, if I may say so?’ said the red-haired man as the students strode out of the trains and exchanged last-minute goodbyes. Lupin didn’t have time to answer: four very tall boys followed by a slightly shorter black-haired girl approached the two fathers. ‘Hey, dad.’ Said Fred and George. ‘Hey, Mr Weasley.’ Said Anna and Lee together. ‘Her, dad…’ said Anna timidly, smiling. Arthur Weasley gaped at Lupin, then regained composure quickly. ‘Then we’ll be seeing more of you, won’t we? I do hope you’re coming to the Championship.’ He said brightly. ‘Yeah, maybe…’ said Anna, still smiling. ‘Aren’t you going to say goodbye to Oliver?’ asked Lee half-heartedly. ‘Oliver?’ said Anna, disgust etched clearly in her voice. ‘No, Lee, I’m not going to say goodbye to Oliver…I seem to have a monster for a father who doesn’t deserve forgiving…You wouldn’t mind giving him a little nibble, would you?’ she said turning to Lupin who had turned brick red, then sickly green in a matter of seconds. Seeing the alarmed look on his face, Anna burst into a clear, soft laughter. ‘Oh, come on, you honestly think they care?’ she said, pointing at Fred, George and Lee, who had extremely pleased grins on their faces. ‘And why are you so happy?’ asked Anna indignantly. ‘Well, to tell you the truth…’ George started. ‘…we never thought much of Oliver…’ continued Fred. ‘Yeah…He was a bit too…narrow-minded for you…’ said Lee. ‘That’s putting it lightly.’ Interjected Ron, who had just popped into view alongside Harry, Hermione and Ginny. ‘Wha- You all thought so? Why didn’t you tell me, then?’ said Anna amusedly. Fred, George, Lee and Ron once again exchanged exasperated looks, only now Anna burst into laughter, pushing her long hair out of her face with a fluid, graceful movement. ‘Come on, we should get going.’ Said Mr Weasley, a smile playing around the corners of his mouth. ‘I bet you’d give anything to stay.’ Whispered Anna to Harry as they paced behind everyone. Harry merely glanced at her, and she smiled sympathetically. Inside the station, the three Muggles: Vernon, Dudley and Petunia Dursley, seemed extremely uncomfortable.

‘Hello.’ Said Anna brightly to them. They eyed Anna with strange looks on their face. Petunia’s was astonishment and slight envy, though Harry could not tell why. Vernon’s face was contracted as though he was smelling dung, and Dudley’s was staring stupidly at the nice girl who was talking to him. Anna, looking amused, gazed intently into Harry’s eyes, and he heard her clear voice speak, though her lips didn’t move. ‘Not the liveliest bunch, are they?’ Harry grinned. Anna grinned back. You should see them when they’re trying to strangle me, Harry thought, without meaning Anna to hear, but her expression turned stony, sad, all of a sudden. ‘Bye, Harry, take care…Oh, and remember, I’m overage now so if you need me to hex anyone, just give me a call.’ She said, winking at him. The Dursleys’ strange looks changed into awe mingled with fear when they heard Anna. ‘Sure. Have a nice holiday.’ Said Harry grinning. Anna hugged him, Fred, George, Lee, Hermione and Ginny tightly, and glided alongside Lupin towards the exit. When she reached the exit, Anna turned around, waved at all of them, sending kisses through the air, and then walked out of the busy station, onto a warm sidewalk. Inside, however, the remaining party was left with their hands in the air, a few mouths open. On the sidewalk, Anna was beaming at the shining sun…She was going home. ‘You’re not overage….’ Said Lupin dreamily. ‘Yeah, but they don’t know that, do they?’ said Anna brightly. Lupin grinned and took Anna’s hand. He shoved her quickly into a telephone booth. There, he Disapparated holding Anna’s hand to their cottage in the middle of a green moor. Apart from the Hogwarts grounds, Anna had not seen a more beautiful place. The sun was shining brightly, birds were chirping, hares were running….the place seemed surreal. ‘Where are we?’ Anna asked. ‘Godric’s Hollow.’ Answered Lupin plainly. Again, Lupin pointed at a rather large, Victorian-style house in the middle of the moor. ‘Dumbledore is out of his mind, isn’t he?’ ‘Whoa- that’s our house?’ Anna asked in awe. ‘Yup. From what I understood from the neighbours, Dumbledore used to live here as a child.’ Anna’s stomach gave a very unpleasant lurch. ‘Oh…’ Ariana’s death was the first thing she could think of…Grindelwald’s rise to power was the second…Dumbledore’s ghosts surrounded the house. She could feel everything Dumbledore and Aberforth had after Ariana’s death. She knew it would be hell for her living in that house, but, once again, there were more important things in the world than her feelings.

The house itself was magnificent, strong. It was two stories high, with large, old rooms which gave Anna the feeling that she was small (a feeling she did not get often). Anna and Remus settled down alright, except for Anna’s reluctance of stepping on the exact spot on the rug on which Ariana had died, struck by an anonymous spell. Anna and her father soon found out that they had a lot of work to do inside the house, which had not been inhabited for over forty years, and making it fit for human habitation was a long process. Nevertheless, Anna and Lupin found it fun. It gave them time to talk, to really get to know each other. Every evening Anna would make a fulfilling dinner and they would talk until they couldn’t keep their eyes open. All seemed well. Alas, all was not well. While Anna’s world revolved around her father and the little isolated heaven they lived in, things both in Godric’s Hollow and Middle Earth were heating. For on thing, the otherwise cheerful inhabitants of Godric’s Hollow could not grasp the idea that Remus Lupin was indeed a real human being with feelings and opinions. Whenever Anna or Remus went into town for groceries or the post, people would immediately start whispering, turning their heads away and sliding out of Lupin’s way. Are the rumours true? Is he truly a werewolf? Oh, my! What is such a pretty girl doing with a werewolf? What does she do on full moons? I heard she’s his daughter…Do werewolves breed? Is she one too? Anna bore all of it with patience, for she knew she would meet a thousand other Olivers in her life, and did not mind their prejudice. It only made her love her father more and made her determined to show him just how little the townspeople’s opinions mattered to those who knew Remus Lupin for the kind, brave and intelligent man he was. Lupin, on the other hand, was beginning to think he had truly made a mistake in taking Anna with him. He had received hints of the fact that she did not care, and for all he knew, she did not. But what if it was all just an act? What if Anna concealed her shame from Lupin as not to hurt him even more? ‘Anna, wake up.’ Said Lupin one morning. She did as she was told, sleepily, brushing her teeth in slow-motion, and went downstairs. Lupin was waiting for her near the cellar door. ‘Come, see what I’ve done.’ He said. She went down into the cellar and banged her sleepy head into a steely gate. She opened her eyes thoroughly and saw a massive iron gate separating the cellar from the rest of the house. ‘You’ve got to be kidding.’ She said indignantly, awaking abruptly. ‘No, I’m not. Full moon’s coming and I don’t want you to let me wander round the house!’ ‘If you think I’m going to lock you up like some animal in a zoo, you are very gravely mistaken.’ Said Anna coldly. ‘Anna.’ Said Lupin firmly. ‘Before I transform, you lock me in here so I don’t bite or kill anything and everyone is happy. Have you got a problem with that?’ he said briskly.

‘A few. First, full moon’s not for six days. Second, why do you have to treat yourself like some animal? You’re going to be fine…If you’d only let me brew Wolfsbane for you…’ ‘Anna, you know that the ingredients for Wolfsbane take two months to get here-‘ ‘I could’ve asked Severus to send us what we need.’ Interrupted Anna. ‘Listen. It’s for your protection. Shut up and do as I say.’ He said, kissing Anna’s forehead. CRACK. ‘Did you hear that?’ said Anna. ‘Sh.’said Lupin, taking his wand out of his pocket.’ ‘Ow!’ said a muffled voice from upstairs. ‘That was my foot!’ said a second voice. ‘Wait here.’ Whispered Lupin. ‘No, dad, wait.’ Said Anna grinning. She rushed upstairs to the source of the noise and discovered that the loud crack had come from inside her own bedroom. She flung open the door and found four collapsed bodies desperately trying to untangle their robes. They had seemingly entered through the window. The frantic discussions ceased as Anna entered the room. ‘Oh-my-‘ she said, taken aback. Having untangled themselves and safely placed aside their four broomsticks, Fred, George, Ron and Ginny all stood up, tired, but beaming at a surprised Anna and an even more surprised Lupin who were both standing in the doorframe. ‘Hi.’ They said plainly. ‘What are you all doing here?’ Anna said, rushing to hug them. ‘Social call.’ Said Ginny plainly. ‘This doesn’t have anything to do with the fact that the full moon’s coming, does it?’ said Lupin amusedly, shaking George’s hand. ‘Neah, we just missed Anna.’ Ron said, smiling. At that precise moment, a light swept through the room. It was warm, white and serene…They all looked around, expecting to see someone with their wand aloft. No one was moving. As Ginny, Fred, George, Ron and Lupin glanced at Anna, her head was hanging, her hair covering her face. Her hands were resting on her chest, and a large, flower-shaped ring was resting on her finger. ‘Oh…’ whispered Ginny. The bejewelled silvery ring was the source of the spark, or so they all concluded after seeing Anna. ‘It’s Sirius.’ Anna said abruptly, after what seemed like an eternal silence. ‘He needs my help.’ As she raised her head, her face was slightly whiter and her grey eyes were sparkling. They all knew that look on Anna’s face… ‘I have to go…Look, guys, thanks for coming….I shouldn’t be long…Just make yourselves at home.’ She concluded, grinning towards the end. Lupin nodded. The rest looked positively petrified. As the ring shone once more, Anna disappeared from her bedroom, leaving behind five, quite stunned, wizards. ‘What the bloody hell was that about?’ asked Ron. Lupin sighed. ‘She hasn’t told you, has she?’ he asked.

‘Tell us what?’ asked Ginny pointedly. Lupin hesitated, then said ‘Come down to the kitchen…I’ll explain everything.’ On the sunlit peak of a tall mountain, a strange animal was emerging from a stone cave. Behind him, the tall form of a very thin, very dirty man was peering out of his hiding place. His long hair was flat and greasy. His once handsome features were now fading, making room for something the man dreaded – old age. Sirius Black looked utterly forlorn. He had just woken up from a short, cold sleep, in which he had dreamt of his godson, Harry, of his best friend James. In his dream, there was also an extremely beautiful young girl whose image nowadays haunted him. ‘Anna.’ He had whispered upon waking up. The ring that rested peacefully on his index finger still carried the warmth of Anna’s breath. Upon hearing the word Sirius had spoken after so many weeks of silence, the ring seemed to send a growing warmth through his whole body. Sirius was bedazzled. It felt to him like he was once again the dingy dog, and on a distant spring day, Anna’s long-fingered hands were caressing his wet, mudstrewn fur, healing his deepest wounds. Then, just as he wished he could once again feel her touch, a strange light gleamed in front of his eyes. He picked up a long wand and stepped cautiously towards the entrance of the cave, ready for a fight, thinking Buckbeak would announce the presence of any enemy. As the daylight stung his eyes, that had, in the meantime, grown accustomed to both inner and outer darkness, he straightened his back and followed the large silhouette of Buckbeak. The Hippogriff was heading humbly towards a thinner, smaller figure, dressed in a deep green dress, with a long, dark mane of hair -A girl, Sirius thought. His afterthought was a woman. ‘Anna!’ he said triumphantly. ‘Hey!’ said Anna, grinning and ungluing her eyes from Buckbeak, whose beak she was stroking. ‘Wh-What are you doing here?’ Sirius asked in surprise. ‘Didn’t you say my name?’ she asked, looking mildly puzzled. Sirius’ face turned a little less sallow, but he was far from Anna, and confident she could not see him. Anna’s look of mild surprise turned serious at once. ‘Well?’ she asked impatiently. ‘Yes, I did. But I still can’t understand why you’re here or how you could find me.’ Sirius said firmly, in spite of his pounding heart. ‘The ring, Sirius.’ Said Anna plainly, displaying a serene smile that gave the impression she knew more than she let on. As Anna came closer to Sirius and gave him a tight hug, Buckbeak let out a soft caw and rushed into the forest behind the massive cave, leaving the two alone, with nothing but the wind blowing Anna’s long hair and Sirius’ eyes watching her hungrily. ‘Anna, you look…’ he said, not being able to stop the words coming out of his mouth. ‘…happy?’ Anna finished for him. He had not thought of a particular adjective to end his admiring remark, but happy seemed quite appropriate. Sirius nodded. ‘I’m living with dad.’ She said. ‘What? Anna, but that’s…that’s wonderful!’ Sirius exclaimed.

He was being sincere, too. For as long as he had known Remus Lupin, the poor wolf condemned himself to loneliness, fearing what people might say if they found out about his condition. Sirius and James’ attempts at convincing him people who really loved him did not give a dried-up Doxy dropping that he was a werewolf had remained in vain. Sirius was glad to see that, finally, Moony had opened his arms and heart to such a person as Anna. ‘So,’ Anna said brightly. ‘why have you called me? Did you just need company or is there something I can get you?’ ‘Well, I didn’t mean to call you…’ ‘No, probably not. But the ring gives me signals when you really want to call me, in spite of what you do and don’t do.’ She said. ‘Right…’ said Sirius dreamily, then quickly woke up and seized his chance. ‘Fancy a walk, then?’ ‘Sure.’ Said Anna, beaming at him. As a sleek lioness and a large dog walked towards the clear water of a large lake, three young wizards and one young witch were listening to a fifth’s explanation, story and excuse, somewhere inside a large kitchen, in an old mansion, in the middle of an overgrown moor, just outside a wizard-inhabited village. ‘Listen, have you never seen Anna do strange stuff? Know stuff no one else does? That night on the train, for example, Ginny. She knew what memories those Dementors brought to you, didn’t she?’ Lupin said impatiently. ‘Yes, but I don’t see how that mean she has special powers. I always thought she had a truck-load of common sense, that’s all.’ Ginny said. ‘She does have that, too.’ Lupin agreed, the corners of his mouth twitching. ‘But there’s more to Anna than you know.’ ‘What d’you mean?’ said Ginny indignantly. ‘Anna is just Anna.’ ‘Possibly.’ Said Lupin. ‘But she’s had her destiny planned for her even before she was born.’ He drew a large breath. ‘Anna’s mother was an elf.’ ‘What, like a house elf?’ asked Ron. ‘No, Ron. A real elf, from Middle-Earth. It’s a sort of parallel world. Every few thousand years, a child is born – female – to a Beauty and a Beast. You can guess the rest…This child is what they call a ‘Child of Nature’… Anna has powers beyond recognition…She controls the four elements – she is, in essence, their embodying, animals do not harm her and all living creatures bow to her…’ The four Weasleys gazed in awe at Lupin. Finally, Ron spoke, to everyone’s surprise, with infinite calm. ‘You said she has her destiny planned…There’s more, isn’t it?’ ‘Yes, Ron, there is more.’ Said Lupin grimly. ‘You see, in Middle-Earth, there is a Dark Lord called Sauron. He’s the equivalent of Voldemort, only at a much larger scale. Anna would have the power to defeat them both in the blink of an eye. But there’s a catch…Her body is that of a normal half-elf and it is subject to her extraordinary powers. Killing both Voldemort and Sauron, absorbing such darkness, would tear her apart form the inside…How am I supposed to explain this? Anna’s soul is of such purity that killing two such dark creatures, she will have to absorb their Darkness. That particular amount of Darkness will fight the immense quantity of Light in her soul, tearing her, literally, apart.’ ‘Anna’s strong!’ said George heatedly.

‘Yes, she is very strong. That’s why she only sustains minor injuries when she abuses her powers a little too much. But such a fight inside of her would blow her to bits…Still,’ Lupin said, hope gleaming in his eyes. ‘there is something she can do. She can use less of her powers and more of her skill to, let’s say, cut off the Dark Lords’ right hands. Such a right hand is the Witch King of Angmar, and he’s every bit terrible as Voldemort was…’ ‘Then, what’s the problem? She kills the Which King and comes home, safe and sound!’ said Fred. ‘If only it were so…’ Lupin said bitterly. ‘Anna’s entire life is etched in a few words…The Light born of a Beast and a Beauty will touch all souls. She, the Child of Nature, will have the power of Stars and Planets combined. She shall love the one with the blood of a snake and the heart of a lion. Her child shall bear the marks of tears and her life shall end in fight. Beware of the Child of Nature all those of you who are not prepared to open your hearts and souls to the light. It’s strange, isn’t it? She has the power to defeat them, and she would fight them willingly, die if she must, I know that. But if she dies killed by one of her subjects, the word is Chaos will rule the world, yet she must die fighting.’ ‘Do the Dark Lords know of her power?’ asked Fred. ‘No.’ said Lupin with a wry smile. ‘If they did, I can’t even imagine what danger she’d be in.’ ‘Still, the prophecy doesn’t say when she will die. It’s obvious she dies after having a child, but that might mean her last battle will be when she’s eighty!’ said Ginny. ‘That,’ said Lupin. ‘is what I pray for.’ ‘Can we help in any way?’ said George. ‘I doubt it. You might be able to help Anna, your friend but not Anna the warrior. They’re not two different people, just two versions of a person. Her powers and her soul are one, and become Anna as we know her. The damage done by darkness will be brought to her powers, not her body, but, in time, Anna has become one with her powers, in body, in mind and in soul. That wasn’t supposed to happen. It wouldn’t have happened if she were weaker…Dumbledore did not know this, but by giving her the inner strength to fight, he also gave her inability to fight. You cannot help…It’s her own fight…However, there is someone who can.’ ‘Who?’ asked Ron. ‘Harry.’ Lupin answered plainly. ‘They’re-‘ ‘Blood Brothers, we know. Ron’s told us.’ Said Fred. ‘Yes, that too. But their relationship is much more complex than a silly spell. Anna is very much like-‘ ‘Lily Potter.’ Said Ginny. ‘We know…Mum and Dad always say so.’ ‘For that reason, Harry trusts her…And she trusts him…He is the only one who can heal her wounds…Somehow, nobody seems to care about her wounds…’ ‘We do!’ said Ron. ‘I know you do.’ Said Lupin smiling. ‘I meant the people in Middle-Earth who think she’s a small price to pay for their freedom. They do not see her as a person with real blood flowing in her veins, but rather as a tool they can use to restore peace…I expect Anna and Lily’s similarities are professor Snape’s work. He saw how important it was for our cause that Anna be strong, so he chose a suitable model…Anna was always very fond of the Potters anyway…But there’s something inside her that only belongs to her…I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it’s far from her perfect sword fighting or her flawless aim…You know, she

could have been a Squib. You’d think that adding magic on top of her powers would be too much…’ ‘But that’s just Anna. Strong…’ said George wearily. ‘She’s a lot like you, you know.’ ‘Me?!’ said Lupin amusedly. ‘She isn’t anything like me.’ ‘You’ve got to be joking…She’s smart, brave, and skilled. Don’t you tell me it isn’t in her blood…It doesn’t matter who raised her! If her blood would have been that of a coward, she’d be one now.’ Said Ginny clearly. So, in the kitchen inside the old manor, in the middle of the overgrown moor we leave four astounded adolescents and one adult, looking quite surprised, oblivious of the imminent danger they were in. As we grow further and further away from the scene, two angry mobs –one comprised entirely of humans carrying torches and wands, like in the Old Ages, the other of filthy creatures with dark skins and black blood, carrying sharp, crooked swords – were passing either wrought-iron gates or crystal clear portals between worlds. The threat was growing closer. Not far from Godric’s Hollow, Anna and Sirius were sitting comfortably on a log, near a lake, comparing versions of the Marauders’ tales. Just as they both burst into laughter, the clattering sound of hooves along with the ominous sound of stretched bows and swords pulled off their sheaths perturbed the forest silence. Anna stopped dead, which caused Sirius to do so as well. As at least thirty centaurs emerged from the thicket, Anna straightened her back and stood up, ready to face the centaurs. ‘I wouldn’t do that if I were you.’ Whispered Sirius. Anna dismissed him with a slight wave of her hand. ‘Humans, you have trespassed our territories. You have no right to be here. Unfortunately for you, now you will face the consequences.’ Said a long-haired centaur. ‘I supposed a Queen has the right to walk wherever she may please.’ Said Anna firmly. ‘We do not acknowledge your superiority!’ roared the centaur. ‘Get them!’ Anna waved her hand, and an invisible fist knocked down the centaurs that had plunged to attack them. ‘You will pay for that! You will curse the day you angered the centaurs.’ ‘No, sir. You will curse the day you attacked me and my friend.’ Said Anna calmly. ‘I am Luthien of Lothlorien, daughter of Eamane and Queen to all living creatures.’ she added, pushing her long hair back to reveal now pointy ears. Sirius almost missed the fact that her dress had become white and grey, beaded with shining crystals. ‘Prove it.’ Said the centaur, his eyes slightly narrowed. Anna waved her hand gently and a thread of water rose form the lake carried by the wind. It united magnificently with a wreath of lilac flowers that was suspended in mid-air. It then merged with a red flame that had appeared in Anna’s outstretched palm in a small flash of warm light. A magnificent, bejewelled tiara appeared, placing itself on Anna’s dark hair. She looked otherworldly. The centaur’s long legs bent and he bowed to the imposing silhouette before him. Sirius’ knees gave way as he was watching Anna. She had seemingly become taller. Not taller than him…just taller. ‘Forgive our ignorance, mistress.’

‘Anna will do just fine.’ She said coldly. Sirius had never seen centaurs bow to anyone. His eyes were slightly bulged in surprise and awe. ‘Can we do anything to make amends for our foolish mistake?’ asked the longhaired centaur. ‘Yes, you can. You can stop hunting people down for entering the forest. Fresh air, water and trees are for everyone. And,’ she said glancing sideways at Sirius. ‘you can help my friend here and his Hippogriff. Make sure no person, Muggle or wizard, comes near them. Mind you, try not to kill the trespassers…’she said. The centaur nodded curtly and signalled the others who were just then regaining consciousness. The thirty centaurs then disappeared into the dark thicket, leaving an awestruck Sirius kneeling and Anna who had grabbed hold of her stomach. She had felt a dreadful lurch and instinctively closed her eyes. As she opened them again, she was standing in the middle of an overgrown moor, looking at a large, familiar manor. From the west, there came what seemed to be the entire village of Godric’s Hollow, holding torches and wands, and shouting ‘MONSTER, BEGONE! YOU HAVE NO PLACE HERE, AMONG NORMAL PEOPLE! LEAVE NOW, HAVE MERCY ON OUR CHILDREN!’ From the east, there came an entire legion of orch holding their swords aloft, howling and growling menacingly, evidently preparing for a long battle. ‘No…’ Anna breathed as she came back to the forest. She turned towards Sirius and asked plainly. ‘How good are you with a sword?’ It took several seconds for Sirius to take in the words of her question. ‘Pretty good…Um…I used to take fencing lessons…One of the perks of belonging to a rich, pureblood family.’ Without another word, Anna magically conjured a goblin-wrought sword, sleek and light and threw it to Sirius, who caught it in mid-air. In a puff of white smoke, her own ivory-handle sword appeared, and she grabbed hold of Sirius’ hand. ‘There’s a battle going on. I have to go. Do you want to come? I could use an extra pair of hands…’ ‘Of course.’ Sirius answered at once. As Anna and Sirius stood there, holding hands, the wind started rustling the leaves of the trees and in a flash, they had both disappeared. Somewhere near the village of Godric’s Hollow, inside a dark dormitory with heavy curtains and imposing furniture, the thin forms of Anna and Sirius appeared, materialising out of thin air. ‘How d’you do that?’ asked Sirius conversationally. Anna did not dignify that question with an answer. She had more important things to do, though she would have loved to tell Sirius exactly how she managed to get them form the thick forest to her own bedroom. ‘Listen. Down there are about twenty or thirty orch. They’re foul beasts…cursed elves. They’re fierce fighters. If you’re not feeling up to this –‘ The look on Sirius’ face made her stop talking. His gaze was so intense that she understood everything he wanted to say to her. No magical powers. No mindreading. ‘Alright.’ She said, smiling slightly in spite of herself. Sirius knew she was more worried than she let on.

‘We’ll have to surprise them. What I want you to do is-‘ ‘NOOO!’ came a splitting shriek from downstairs. Anna’s face drained of colour, yet no muscle moved on her face. She kept on talking to Sirius, keeping a determinedly calm voice. ‘I’ll shield dad, Ginny, Ron, Fred and George. Orch can’t be harmed by curses, but you can use spells to inflict damage on them indirectly. Try bewitching things to fly at them or something. I need you to kill as many of them as possible. Are you in or are you out?’ Sirius nodded. ‘Let’s go then.’ She straightened her back, unsheathed her sword and signalled Sirius to follow her. Downstairs, in the large drawing room to which the five hostages had been taken due to lack of space, orch were shouting madly at each other. Anna and Sirius crept down the corridor and managed to hide behind a large, grotesque tapestry. Anna had intended to throw it away that summer and was now glad she hadn’t. Honestly, the tapestry disgusted her. It carried the smell of rot and filth. What was worse was that it depicted the execution of a rather small troll by a pack of werewolves. In truth, the werewolves did not bother Anna as much as the exorbitant amount of blood and guts strewn onto what was supposed to be a forest floor. Fortunately for her and Sirius, Remus had forbidden her any changes to Dumbledore’s house reminding her that it was not her own. Anna now remembered frowning at the time but the memory of her father brought back the slight feeling of panic. Her friends and father were being held hostages a mere few feet in front of her by twenty filthy orch. She could feel Sirius’s breath on her neck and it made the hairs on the back of her neck stand. She mentally slapped herself into consciousness and whispered to Sirius, trying to cover the ghastly roars coming from the orch that were now seemingly mocking the Weasleys’ red hair. ‘When I say, get out from behind the tapestry and stat fighting.’ She said, taking out her own wand. ‘If it gets too dangerous, I want you to Disapparate- ow.’ Sirius had pinched her forearm so hard she turned her frowning face to him. Her body relaxed a bit upon seeing the playful look on Sirius’ face. She drew breath. ‘Now.’ So, the two fighters jumped from behind their hiding place, Anna with her hand in the air, drawing an invisible circle, the other hand holding a wand and a thin sword. Sirius had his wand in one hand, a sword in the other and looked positively fierce. Ginny gave a loud gasp as she saw Sirius, the others remaining quite relaxed, but with their mouths slightly open. A split second later, the five hostages were protected by a tall wall of red, warm flames. The orch needed a minute to realise what was happening. ‘Ah, we meet again.’ Said a rough, rude voice. ‘Luthien, our Queen.’ added the mocking voice. From behind two massive orch, a seemingly old one emerged, bowing low in a mock surrender.

Anna did not hesitate. She cut off the orch’s head, leaving the others quite surprised, but nevertheless angry. They gave a collective howl and launched themselves at Anna and Sirius. Orch bodies started falling limply to the ground, black blood oozing out of their mouths and chests, staining the old carpet. Anna and Sirius’ shiny blades reflected the summer light that came from outside. As long as two glimmers existed, Lupin was relaxed. A moment of inattention permitted an orch sword to cut a long, thin gash on Sirius’ cheek. Anna stabbed the orch in question mercilessly and continued to bewitch ancient vases to fall on orch’s heads. Sirius severed the cords that tied the ugly tapestry to the wall so that it fell on quite a few orch, whose heads he then slit with a satisfied look on his face. When only ten orch remained living, Anna shouted ‘Sirius, STOP!’ Sirius killed the orch he was fighting then cut across the room in his search for Anna. She was standing straight, cornering the remaining orch, her sword in its sheath and her wand pointing at the ground. ‘You will do well to tell your dear master Saruman that it will take more than a few dim-witted orch to kill me.’she said, addressing the thinnest, weakest orch. ‘Sirius,’ she said ‘tell me…how many orch does it take to send a message?’ ‘One.’ Said Sirius plainly. Anna stretched her hand, palm up. She then tensed her long fingers, gazing intently at the group of orch. In a flash of light, eight of the nine orch lay dead upon the floor, the ninth giving a long howl as he disappeared into a suspended whirlwind that closed as soon as Anna lowered her hand. Sirius no longer cared for knowing the source of Anna’s powers. All he needed to know was that they were there, eternal. Outside, the villagers were growing close. Anna put the flames surrounding the five ex-hostages out, beaming tiredly at all of them, who beamed back. ‘Do you hear that?’ asked Ginny, her grin sliding off her face. ‘Oh, no…’ said Anna. ‘Sirius, you have to go, the villagers are on their way.’ ‘What?’ he replied indignantly. ‘Anna, you’ve got to be kidding. What d’you think this is? The Middle Ages?’ By now, clear shouts of ‘MUTANT! MONSTER!’ were audible. A window cracked, the sound echoing through the silent house. ‘Sirius, NOW!’ bellowed Anna. Sirius took her desperation seriously and Disapparated to his hiding place with the faintest pop. The moment Sirius disappeared, Lupin pulled Anna into a tight hug. She hugged him back…He was warm…She did not want to tear herself from his grasp and face the raging townspeople outside their door. But, as she has accustomed us, she felt there were more important things in the world than her feelings. Getting everyone out of there. ‘Come on…Let’s just get away from here…’ she said half-heartedly. ‘But first, there’s something I’ve got to do…’ Having said all of this, she stepped out on the patch of green, neat grass that surrounded the house. The wizards and witches that had gathered there had angry, hungry looks on their faces. ‘WHAT THE HELL DO YOU ALL WANT FROM HIM?’ she bellowed with the last bit of strength she had.

The angry chanting stopped as everyone took to staring at the pretty girl who was shouting. ‘THE MAN YOU’RE AFTER IS MY FATHER AND I LOVE HIM! HE’S A BRAVE, INTELLIGENT PERSON WHO DOES NOT DESERVE THIS! YOU’RE HUNTING HIM DOWN LIKE SOME ANIMAL! YOU’VE GOT NO RIGHT TO CALL HIM A MONSTER OR A MUTANT! HE’S A REAL PERSON, WITH REAL FEELINGS AND I’M NOT GOING TO LET HIM BE HURT FOR THE UMPTEENTH TIME BY A BUNCH OF IDIOTS WHO CANNOT SEE BEYOND HIS DISEASE! WE’RE LEAVING! ARE YOU HAPPY?’ she bellowed then lowered her voice to a quivering one. ‘I hope you never get to suffer like he has. Really, I do.’ With that, she turned to face five very, very surprised people. ‘What?’ she snapped. ‘I was mad. I couldn’t stand the way they all looked at you, like you were some sort of a disease…’ she added wearily. Their surprised looks turned into satisfied smiles, as they all grabbed Lupin’s arm and Disapparated out of the range of the ongoing shouts. Far from the dark house which smelled like death, far from their scars and bleedings to a new beginning… XII. With the Weasleys safely back at home, Anna and her father conveniently Disapparated onto Diagon Alley. Lupin had, in spite of the new anti-werewolf legislation that had just passed, gotten a job in a store, concealing his illness. They both knew it was a lot under his qualifications, but it had to do. They got a room at the Leaky Cauldron. The first time they ever walked inside their small lodging, both Anna and Lupin gasped. Cobwebs were covering the moth-eaten curtains. The bed was practically falling apart. Anna made to lift a pillow and discovered a large, dead cockroach beneath it. Lupin tried to open the window and was left holding its frame, while the actual glass fell outside. In addition to his rage, Lupin now had to watch Anna shiver every five minutes. ‘And they mocked the Weasleys for being poor…’ said Anna amusedly after stepping inside the dodgy room for the first time. ‘Oh, don’t look at me like that. You know very well that I don’t care where we live…You do know, don’t you?’ Lupin nodded then, telling himself all was well, that Anna didn’t care. She was truly amused by such happenings as finding dead cockroaches under dusty pillows, but Lupin couldn’t stop thinking she was blaming him for the poverty in which they lived. In truth, Anna did not care a bit where she slept, as long as she had a proper father. She would have been better off at Hogwarts. Lupin found himself thinking one morning as he was watching Anna sleep. Little did they know that finding the solution to their current problems would cause them much greater ones in the future. ‘Look who I found!’ said Lupin merrily one evening while he was returning from work. He had put a worn-out leash on the neck of a large, black, dingy dog. ‘Siri-‘ Anna started, but then remembered herself as Lupin’s content expression turned into a panicked one. ‘Snuffles!’ she exclaimed. The dog barked merrily, wagging its tail.

‘You do the windows.’ Said Lupin while pointing his wand at the door. ‘Imperturba.’ Anna pulled the moth eaten curtains and waved her hand as to levitate Lupin’s overcoat so that it was placed, arms open, in front of the window, truly obscuring all of the moth-holes. ‘The coast is clear now, Snuffles…’ she said dreamily. As Sirius’ tall, thin form appeared a few feet in front of her, he said: ‘Bet you’ve always wanted to say that.’ With a wide grin. Anna pulled him into a tight hug, also grinning. ‘How’s the wild been?’ she asked. ‘And where on earth have you hidden Buckbeak?’ ‘I’ve been camping out in the forest near the city-‘ ‘That’s a bit reckless, don’t you think? What if anyone finds you?’ she continued. Sirius rolled his eyes and said: ‘You sound like my mum. Well, not really, you don’t. You’re much sweeter. But I can take care of myself, don’t worry.’ He replied, smiling slightly. This time it was Anna’s turn to roll her eyes. ‘I’ve actually been depending on people to have mercy on me and give me some food.’ Sirius continued, pretending not to notice Anna. ‘Anyway, what is this place?’ he said in disgust. Anna threw him a dirty, violent look. She only wanted to stomp hard on his foot. Unfortunately, the chair Sirius had sat in was a bit out of her reach. ‘It’s all I can afford.’ Said Lupin through slightly gritted teeth, sinking on the soft mattress of the bed. ‘Well, you’re lucky I showed up, then. I’ve been watching you for some time… Apparently old Mr. Peterson doesn’t know you’re a werewolf, right?’ ‘Right.’ Said Lupin through even more gritted teeth. ‘Sirius,’snapped Anna. ‘have you got something to say that’s worth hearing or not?’ she said, her eyebrows raised. ‘Actually I have.’ He said, giving the impression that he had not noticed Anna’s tone. ‘I want you two to come live with me.’ ‘What, in a cave or something?’ Anna said, her eyes narrowed. ‘Anna.’ Said Lupin. ‘That’s enough.’ ‘No.’ answered Sirius politely. ‘My house.’ Both Lupin and Anna raised their right eyebrows, something which made them look extremely alike. Sirius now fully appreciated that Anna was his childhood friend’s daughter, something which made him feel extremely old and sad. He pushed the thought away quickly. ‘Dumbledore supposes it’s safe to reclaim my former residence….’ Sirius added with a wave of his hand. ‘Which is?’ asked Lupin in mild interest. ‘Number twelve, Grimmauld Place.’ Said Sirius with disgust. ‘Is anyone going to bother explaining this to me?’ said Anna surveying her fingernails. Lupin smiled and said: ‘Grimmauld Place is where Sirius lived as a child. With his parents…’ he said, emphasising the last three words and looking intently at Anna, whose face seemed to be lit by comprehension. ‘Oh…’ she said, throwing Sirius a look of slight pity.

Remus had told Anna about the complicated relationship between Sirius and his parents and the fact that he had run away. Anna felt sorry for Sirius…Having parents who hate you for who you are is worse than being an orphan… ‘And…you want us come live with you?’ she then said, after a rather awkward pause. ‘Yes.’ Answered Sirius plainly. Anna and Lupin looked at each other for a split second, quite blankly. ‘We can’t.’ said Lupin. ‘Yes you can. It wasn’t exactly a request, Moony.’ ‘No, we can’t.’ added Anna. ‘And why is that?’ They could not find an answer, or, rather, the answer was embarrassing. Coming to live with Sirius was, for both Anna and Remus, accepting the defeat of Lupin’s condition. Accepting the defeat of the moth eaten curtains and dead cockroach. Anna would not surrender. Lupin did. ‘For a silly reason, really.’ Lupin said. ‘Pride.’ Said Sirius. ‘I know you far too well to not tell you this. You’re not the ones being saved here! I am. I’d go crazy in that old house by myself!’ protested Sirius. ‘Lower your voice…’ said Anna warningly. Putting it that way, Sirius believed he had half-convinced them…. ‘Sirius, it’s nice, really, but we’ll manage.’ Said Lupin. ‘Oh, will you drop this?’ said Sirius wearily. ‘I know the both of you, incidentally, and you’re being idiots.’ Anna and Remus raised their left eyebrows this time. Sirius smiled. Then, father and daughter looked at each other, and in their looks, they could see not surrender, but the dawning feeling that maybe, this once, they did not have to fight…That maybe, this once, they could accept the help of a friend… So, the three moved their few possessions to Grimmauld Place for the last three weeks of summer holiday. The man, girl and dog entered the filthy house carefully, timidly. Sirius transformed into a human again right on the doorstep and took Anna’s luggage from her grasp. ‘Straight forward, if I remember…Make sure you don’t wake anything.’ He whispered in her ear. Anna stepped valiantly forward. WHOOSH. CRACK. ‘WHO DISTURBS MY SLEEP? NO MUDBLOOD SHALL ENTER THIS HOUSE AS LONG AS I AM HERE!’ ‘SHUT UP!’ roared Sirius. A heavy bolt had shot from a grandfather clock straight into the picture in front of it that broke with a resounding crack. The bolt had missed Anna by inches, and only because Sirius had immediately dropped whatever he was carrying, grabbed Anna’s wrist and pulled her towards him and down. His body was shielding hers, his nose deep in her sweet-smelling hair. It had been so close…When Mrs. Black’s screams started, Anna’s head rose slowly, in mild surprise, looking up. Her full, red lips were only an inch from Sirius’ who, though he did not realise it, was gazing blankly at her, in awe, thinking that if he’d only crane his neck a bit, he’d

be able to see what Anna’s lips felt like…To let himself be lost in her kiss, warmed by it…He had not kissed anyone in so long…He wondered if she would laugh at him‘WEREWOLVES! MONSTERS AND BLOOD-TRAITORS IN MY HOUSE!’ Sirius had been awoken. ‘Help me shut the curtains!’ he roared over the mounting shrieks to Lupin. So, he rushed to grab the dusty curtain, still thinking of the warmth of Anna’s breath and the smell of her skin… Slowly, day by day, the three got used to living in the unwelcoming house that seemed to fight their intrusion every minute. Anna and Lupin were content, but it was he, Sirius, who felt confused. Sirius had thought that returning to his wretched childhood home would be… displeasing in the least. Alas, he did not feel that displeasure he had been preparing to feel for some time. He could not quite put his finger on it, but the house had never seemed brighter to him, in spite of the thick layer of dust that covered practically everything, in all his life. Anna and Lupin, however, needed adjusting. Not just to dust, but to a house which shut them out completely. Kreacher, the house elf, was worst of all. Neither Anna nor Lupin hated house-elves, nor did they think house-elves were beneath them. Kreacher was a skinny, ugly, prejudicial exception to the rule. But the muttering house-elf wasn’t the only one against them. Curtains trying to strangle Lupin until he managed to use a Severance Charm on them, dressers trying to block Anna inside until she set them on fire with a wave of her hand. But they did not complain, especially to Sirius, who had developed the habit of getting grimmer and grimmer as the holidays came to an end. Both Anna and Remus had decided on giving the impression, to Sirius at least, that they found the ongoing man-house war quite amusing. At least Anna didn’t have to pretend much… She had to pretend, however, on another matter. In the two weeks that she spent in Grimmauld Place, she seemed to have developed a strong friendship with Sirius. Really, Sirius wasn’t all that wound up after twelve years in Azkaban as he might have been. She had noticed the way Sirius looked at her, but she imagined it was simply the prison-years working…It had to be. In truth, Anna had come to appreciate Sirius not as his father’s friend, but as something she could not define. Something which had more power over her… Sure, he could do with a smile on his face every now and then, but that was all a matter of time. One morning, both Sirius and Anna’s eyes opened miraculously. Remus and Sirius were both waiting for Anna to come down for breakfast when Mrs. Black began her shouting match again, for no apparent reason. ‘MUTANTS AND FILTHS IN MY HOUSE! UNNATURAL BEASTS AND FREAKS!’ Remus and Sirius both started towards the hallway to stop the shrieking and were halfway to the portrait when the thin body of Anna appeared on the landing, looking slightly complacent.

‘MONSTERS! WEREWOLVES AND BLOOD TRAITORS IN THE HOUSE ON MY ANCESTORS!’ ‘What happened?’ mouthed Sirius to Anna, who was not paying him any attention. She was staring fixedly at the life-size portrait of Mrs Black, the satisfied look on her face now replaced with impatience and hate. She lifted her right hand a little and, in a puff of white smoke, the ivory-handle knife appeared there. In a millisecond, Anna lifted her hand, aimed at the portrait, and threw the gleaming blade towards it. The portrait’s curtains did not close – they did not have time to. The silver-blade knife pierced the portrait just through the middle of Mrs. Black’s bun; she had gone silent. ‘Shut up,’ said Anna coolly. ‘or next time I won’t be so nice as to aim higher than your loud mouth.’ Sirius and Lupin were staring disbelievingly at her. ‘You can reprimand me if you wish.’ Anna said to her father, raising her eyebrows a little. Lupin frowned. ‘You shouldn’t have done that, Anna.’ ‘Yes she should.’ Said Sirius timidly from what seemed to be a very far corner of the room. ‘I’m quite glad she has, really.’ he continued, regaining proper use of his voice. ‘Well, we could all do with a little less of your mother’s shouting, I agree, but that doesn’t mean she has to use her powers every time someone does something she’s not comfortable with.’ said Lupin. ‘And what would you have done?’ asked Anna conversationally. ‘Take her off the wall. Seeing as you can’t do that, you’ll have to settle for more unconventional methods.’ Lupin capitulated in front of the two. They seemed right, but he was still uncomfortable with Anna using her powers so much… ‘Why were you looking so pleased, anyway?’ Sirius asked after a longish pause. ‘Oh, that.’ Said Anna smiling a little at Sirius who felt the corners of his mouth rising without his volition. ‘I just got my OWLs results back and-‘ ‘Why didn’t you say so?’ said Lupin impatiently, holding out his hand in which Anna placed a parchment envelope. Lupin opened it, oblivious of the fact that Sirius and Anna had exchanged amused looks. He ran his eyes over the parchment once, then twice, his eyebrows travelling higher up his forehead. ‘But Anna, this says-‘ he broke off. ‘Well?’ said Sirius impatiently. ‘Oh, why do you care? What I really wanted to say is that I received a letter from Dum-‘ ‘They’re straight Outstandings.’ Said Lupin in an ethereal voice, much like professor Trelawney’s. ‘Wha-?’ asked Sirius taking the piece of parchment from Lupin’s hands, running his eyes over it, then grinning and saying ‘Our little bookworm’s growing up.’ Anna stuck out her tongue at him, transformed into a lioness, and started chasing after Sirius who had, in a split second, also turned into the large, black dog. Lupin was left standing beside Mrs. Black’s portrait, smiling to himself and letting pride take over his insides.

He could hear distant roars and growls as he was sure Anna and Sirius were fighting and chasing each other through the house’s old rooms. When he could hear nothing else, he scurried into the kitchen to find two bodies of quite different heights on top of each other. When he entered the kitchen, both Anna and Sirius had seemingly regained their normal bodies and remained so, Anna’s long hair covering Sirius’ face, for another minute that seemed like a second. When Lupin slammed the batting door against the wall by mistake, Anna quickly rolled off Sirius with a strange expression on her pink face. Sirius’ brow was pearl white. They were both panting. However, Lupin did not notice this. He was to busy thinking what a great witch Anna was and how it was all her merit and how different she was from him… Don’t worry, my friends, for nothing physical happened before Lupin came into the kitchen. Anna and Sirius simply rolled on top of each other during the chase. But then, as they lay alone for a minute on the kitchen floor, they caught each other’s glances and were not able to break eye contact anymore. Anna had gotten used to Sirius’ intense gazes, but never had they caught her off guard. (The thing about Anna is that she was almost always on guard…)Never had she had her soul open to his gaze. A wind so powerful swept through Anna and she gasped. Her palms were both on Sirius heaving chest, his breath warming her, their noses touching slightly. His blue eyes seemed so honest and beautiful and for the first time in her life, she truly appreciated Sirius for what he was: a man. It was a feeling she couldn’t describe. Sirius had grabbed her forearms with his strong hands. The position was quite uncomfortable, for Anna’s knee had hit a wooden chair and was now throbbing painfully, but she did not care. Somehow, she could only see Sirius’ bright blue eyes. She could see twelve years’ worth of pain and loneliness, yet she did not feel sorry for him…A new feeling had taken her entire heart over…She had no idea what it was, but found herself unable to say anything. How come she had not seen the graceful curve his eyebrows made before? Or his high, rough cheekbones, or the way his hair clouded his forehead that made him look so…She simply could not think anymore… For the first time in her life, Anna felt completely powerless. Not weak, mind you, just powerless, like his gaze had stripped her of the need to fight….Like she was a child who had never fought before… For Sirius, those few seconds alone with Anna were like a rude awakening. He had been numb for twelve years and had awoken now. His senses sprung back to life and feeling was knocked into him. Anna’s long-fingered hands were both on his chest, feeling his every heartbeat. But his heartbeats weren’t separated anymore. His heart was beating so fast it was hard to tell the difference between them. He had felt Anna gasp, her chest inflating and pressing harder on his. The tips of their noses were touching, their breaths warming each other, Anna’s long, sweet-smelling hair around his face. Strawberries… he thought and smiled. Anna didn’t seem to notice. She had turned brick red. Sirius had turned white upon seeing Anna’s set jaw. What am I doing? he thought alarmingly. She’s my best friend’s daughter; I could be her father… Yet these thoughts did not stop his heart hammering.

When Anna tore herself from him, it was like dying. He was cold without her body. He wanted to hurt Lupin….just hurt him for entering when he did…He would have spent another ten years in Azkaban only to feel such warmth again… The remaining week, Anna and Sirius carefully avoided seeing eye to eye. Anna cut across Sirius every time he tried to say something to her. Sirius did not have the guts to face Anna alone. He supposed Azkaban had softened him, but there was just something about Anna…Something he had never seen in other girls - his mind told him, women – his senses screamed. From that strange morning on, Sirius and Anna both realised what had made Grimmauld Place bearable, though neither would admit it… With the last week of holiday setting and Anna packing, Sirius became downright depressed. He simply wanted to perch himself in front of the door and not let her get out. What could possibly happen? How could anyone expect him to live in that old house without Anna’s sweet humming waking him up in the morning, or the best stew he had ever eaten… Anna herself was not happy to return to Hogwarts…She was insecure…She would have wanted to take Grimmauld Place with her...And not the oppressive house, either…Grimmauld Place - the feeling. Grimmauld Place with her father and… (Her stomach gave a back-flip every time she said or thought his name nowadays…) Sirius. Yes, it was a strange feeling she had developed for Sirius…Nowadays she wanted to go everywhere he went…She missed him when they said ‘Goodnight.’ And when she went to the bathroom. What the hell was it that made him so special? Alas, the fatal morning came. Anna and Sirius were as silent as they had been the entire week though they both wanted more…They wanted to talk to each other about what had happened…About where they would go from there… Only the moment of departure could have made them show their fears… ‘Bye, Anna. Have a good term. Are you coming here for Christmas?’ Sirius asked coolly. ‘I don’t know.’ She said dreamily, beseeching him….hoping he would say something real, tangible… He did not. He simply stared into the ground, avoided her gaze…Anna felt like screaming…Instead, she kissed his cheek timidly and whispered in his ear, only for him to hear. ‘The ring still works, you know…’ Sirius felt his body burst into flame and he smiled wearily at her. She did not, this once, return his smile, but stepped out alongside Lupin without another glance at Sirius, her long, dark mane disappearing swiftly, her slender shadow darkening the doorstep for only a millisecond. Sirius was left standing in the dark, touching the spot on his cheek where Anna had kissed him, feeling incomplete… XIII. Lupin took Anna to the station, and for the first time experienced the pride of a parent waving goodbye to his child on platform nine and three quarters. Anna

hated parting with her father. She gave him about three hugs before leaving and once she was inside the train, looked out the window until the station was nothing more than a dot on the horizon. ‘Nice summer, I gather.’ Said Lee grinning. ‘Very nice summer.’ Anna replied. At the feast, Dumbledore announced that they would host the Triwizard Tournament that year. While Fred and George elbowed each other in excitement, Anna smiled incredulously at a booming-voiced Dumbledore, who eyed her from time to time, sending a little smile towards the beaming girl at the Gryffindor table. That night, Anna did not sleep. ‘Blasting Blisters.’ She said firmly to a massive stone gargoyle as the clock struck midnight. ‘Nice night for a walk, isn’t it, Miss Anna?’ the gargoyle replied politely. ‘Yes, I suppose it is. Had a nice summer?’ Said Anna. ‘Quite enjoyable, though the Headmaster’s been a bit sad.’ ‘Oh?’ ‘Well…you really lightened up the spirits…’ said the gargoyle stepping aside. She entered the Headmaster’s office running, rushed over to the chair desk occupied by an ever-working Headmaster. She pulled Albus into a very tight hug, kissing both his cheeks ardently. ‘Hello to you too.’ Said the muffled voice of Albus Dumbledore. ‘Anna you look…’ ‘Happy? People tell me so lately…it must have been the country air…’ said Anna with a grin. ‘Well? Tell me everything.’ Said Dumbledore patiently. So Anna told him everything she had been up to that summer and how well she had gotten along with her father. Dumbledore’s expression changed slowly. Anna noticed the difference and stopped dead. ‘Albus,’ she started with a steady voice. ‘I love all of you, you know that. I just needed to find my roots somewhere…You know he’s really one of the cleverest wizards I’ve ever met…Only if he wasn’t a werewolf...I get really mad about that sometimes, you know? He always puts himself down and always gives up in favour to other ‘better, brighter men’…’ Anna said scathingly. ‘He should try taking credit for something sometimes… He always says I’m not anything like him, that I always get the good grades because my mother was so intelligent herself…But I’m so much like him!’ ‘You are very much alike. You have always been. It’s in your blood, Anna. He’s your blood…You can’t break that.’ ‘No, but you are also my family.’ Dumbledore smiled. ‘So, what of the Triwizard?’ asked Anna cheerfully. ‘Oh, I hope it’s going to be good. Are you planning to-‘ ‘No, Albus, you know me. I don’t care about stuff like that. I’ve already done enough to prove myself; I don’t need a silly competition…’ ‘We’re having a ball. At Christmas.’ Albus said, smiling. Anna’s face remained just as blank as it had been, but her fingernails were biting hard into her calf. Dress robes were expensive.

‘Oh,’ said Albus, noticing her determinedly blank face. ‘I can give you your birthday present early!’ ‘My birthday isn’t for another week! Isn’t it a bit too early?’ asked Anna, her stony expression now changed by the change in subject. ‘Yes, but still…’ insisted Dumbledore and pulled from his desk-drawer a rather large package, wrapped in deep blue paper on which the words ‘Madam Malkin’s Robes’ were etched in gold. ‘You’ve got to be-‘ started Anna. ‘-joking?’ finished Albus for her. ‘Hardly. Happy seventeen, Anna.’ Anna gaped at him, mouth hanging open. Yes! she thought. Dad won’t feel ashamed! He won’t feel poor. Albus had just robbed him of the chance of feeling incapacitated for the umpteenth time in his life. So, she hugged Albus for the second time that night. ‘Thank you. For him.’ Said Anna. On her actual birthday, a week later, Anna received the following: from her father a long, detailed letter of her responsibilities now that she was an adult and a necklace he called the Evenstar. From Minerva – a strange, long necklace which Anna knew to be a Time-Turner. From Severus – a rather large book: Potions for Professionals. From Fred, Lee and George – an extremely adorable purple, furry animal of their own creation. ‘It comes in pink…Yours is purple.’ Said George with a grin. Hermione gave her another large book called ‘The Portrait of Dorian Gray’. ‘Thanks, Hermione. Nice taste.’ She had told her. Hermione beamed at Anna in complacency. ‘Anna, I had no idea it was-‘ Harry had started. ‘Don’t be silly!’ said Anna at once. ‘I’ve got too many presents as it is!’ The last two presents were the most surprising. First was a small package with an ‘O’ scribbled on it. She opened it to find a small, glittering diamond ring and a note. This is what I wanted to talk to you about that day…I still do. Anna’s jaw was hanging open as every single friend she had at Hogwarts snatched the note from the previous one’s hands and read is hastily. Only Hermione and Ginny understood its meaning and were gaping at the ring just like Anna was. In a few seconds, Anna’s paralysed brain sprung back into action. She took the ring and went over to the Slytherin table. ‘Anyone care for a ring? Here, Pansy. From me to you.’ She said coolly. The entire Slytherin table fell silent and remained so while Anna turned on her heel and slid back onto her seat at the Gryffindor table. The next surprising present was a small carton box with two holes punched in it. Anna opened it to find the smallest version of an Irish setter she had ever seen. The dog had a collar on. Inside the medallion, there was a note written in a thin, curved writing Anna did not recognize. Dear Anna, Happy seventeen! I had no idea what to get you, but Moony brought home a stray dog last week. She had pups. Only this one survived – he’s a fighter. I thought Dumbledore is going to let you keep him, seeing as you are his favourite student.

Lost of (he had wanted to write ‘love’) hugs, Snuffles ‘Oh!’ said Anna softly, her stomach giving another back-flip. ‘Snuffles…’ Anna whispered, and the dog gave a whimper. Anna turned to it. It had deep, brave eyes... ‘You like the name, don’t you? Snuffles…’she added, patting the sweet dog. Autumn days had never seemed brighter to Anna… On their way to Transfiguration, Fred and George were chatting animatedly about how unfair it was for Anna – who was a sixth-year – to be an adult. Anna was no longer paying any attention to them. She was simply thinking of the reason why she had started school a year late… The battle, the black orch blood and dying elves and men and dwarves came back to her…As she shuddered in disgust, a distant voice awoke her… ‘Anna. Hey, Anna!’ ‘Oh, hi, Lee.’ She responded. ‘Um…we’re gonna go…’ ‘…find some seats.’ Said the twins. ‘Find what?’ said Anna sharply, but the two red-headed boys had scurried away from Anna and Lee. ‘Um…I was wondering…whether…well…whether you have a date for the Yule Ball.’ Lee said, stuttering. ‘Oh, that. No, I don’t.’ said Anna coolly. ‘Oh, good. I mean…Would you like to go with me, then?’ he said in one breath. ‘Sure.’ She said, smiling at him. Lee grinned and offered Anna his arm in mock curtsy. She threw her head back in a soft, crystal laughter, took his arm and they both entered the classroom where, seated at the teacher’s desk, was a secretively pleased Minerva McGonagall. Anna had accepted Lee’s invitation in knowing that he was one of her best friends. Never did it occur to her that Lee had had a crush on her for six consecutive years…Never did it occur to her that, on Christmas Eve, her life would change forever… The term evaporated as quickly as it had come, with Harry competing in the Triwizard and all. On the 24th of December, however, time seemed to stop. The Yule Ball was upon them at last. Ginny and Hermione were in the Anna’s dormitory, Ginny wheeling Hermione around by the right hand in order to check her hairdo. Hermione was smoothing Ginny’s pale pink dress from time to time. When both girls had had enough of whatever they were doing, Ginny called: ‘Come on, Anna.’ ‘Alright, I’ll come. Just tell me if I look…silly…okay?’ came Anna’s muffled voice from the bathroom. ‘Don’t be thick! Come on out so we can se you!’ said Hermione in a singing voice. Anna emerged from the bathroom, her head held high. Ginny’s jaw dropped and Hermione clasped her hand lightly on her mouth. Anna was wearing a tight, strapless, deep blue dress. Her hands and forearms were shielded by elbow-length gloves. In between her wrists, attached to the white

gloves, was a long, glittering, semi-transparent shawl. Anna’s waist-length hair was curled and tied up in a loose bun. On Anna’s eyelids were shades of glittering blue, bringing out her vivid grey eyes. On her white cleavage, a single jewel hung, shining exaggeratedly. A necklace like neither Hermione nor Ginny had ever seen, one that contained the light of Middle-Earth – the Evenstar. ‘Well?’ said Anna amusedly. ‘Anna, you’re honestly the dumbest person I’ve ever met.’ Said Ginny earnestly, still staring disbelievingly at the surreal silhouette that had appeared in the room. Thus, the three very elegantly paced along the stone corridors towards the Great Hall. There, three very Stunned-looking boys were waiting for them. Viktor and Neville said, in turn to their dates: ‘You look great…’ It was only Lee that whispered in Anna’s ear. ‘It’s really quite unfair to other girls…’ She smiled, but her smile was shallow. His breath, unlike Sirius’, made the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end. His eyes were kind, his voice was the one she had grown familiar with, he was, undoubtedly Lee. But he was not Sirius… After hours and hours of dancing, Anna’s feet felt numb. She peered across the room to see a sulking Harry with a surly Ron next to him. While Lee went to get drinks, she sat down next to them. ‘Aren’t you going to dance?’ she asked them merrily. ‘No.’ they said scathingly. ‘Good.’ She replied coolly. ‘I’m too tired to dance anymore anyway.’ They grinned at her. ‘So, let me guess, you,’ she said, pointing at Harry. ‘are sulking because Cho is with Cedric. And you,’ she said, turning on Ron. ‘are doing so because Hermione is here with Krum when you two thought she didn’t have a date. And you’re slightly jealous. Maybe more than jealous.’ Ron and Harry raised their heads, both with the same surprised expression. Anna waved her hand and threw herself on a puffed chair next to the two. ‘I,’ she started. ‘am sulking because I didn’t want to come with Lee.’ She yawned widely and in that moment of weakness, heard a distinct voice booming in her ears. ‘Anna…’ the voice was calling. The Evenstar on her chest shined strongly. Harry and Ron had turned worried looks at Anna. First, she had accepted Lee’s invitation without actually wanting to, which was unlike her. Second, the elegant jewel on her chest, its shape resembling the outline of an angel with his wings wide open, had blinded them both with a single shine. ‘Oh.’ Anna said in surprise, then smiled widely. ‘I have to go, guys. If Lee asks, tell him I got sick and went to bed…I don’t know….ask Ginny to come up with a lie…tell him anything but the ever-so-ambiguous truth.’ She waved at them from a distance, heading towards the girls’ bathroom. She entered a cubicle and disappeared from Hogwarts and the ball, feeling happy for no apparent reason.

She materialised inside the kitchen of number twelve, Grimmauld Place with a wide smile on her face. It was pitch dark. An odd smell of tobacco was in the air, and Anna heard the distinct sound of a match catching fire. She saw the gleam illuminate Sirius’ face as he lit a cigarette. ‘Hello, Anna.’ He said. There was a strange, eerie coldness in his voice. Anna’s first impulse was to shiver. She suppressed it. ‘Sirius.’ She said in a low voice. ‘The one and only.’ He replied. The only source of light was the tip of Sirius’ cigarette. The air pressed itself on the top of Anna’s head. The smoke issuing from Sirius’ mouth and nostrils filled her lungs. She exhaled quickly as the grandfather clock in the hallway struck midnight. ‘Have a seat.’ He said. Anna did so, and asked: ‘Do you actually have a reason for calling me over here or is it just to get me worried pointlessly?’ ‘Do you worry about me, Anna?’ he said disdainfully. Anna frowned in the darkness. Sirius brought his face close to hers and whispered: ‘Do you even notice I exist?’ His breath, though warm, smelled of stale brandy and cigarette smoke. Anna stood up. ‘You’re drunk.’ She said, turning on her heel. ‘Possibly. But what I am about to say to you has nothing to do with me being drunk.’ Sirius also stood up. He ignited the tip of his wand and stepped twice so that he was right in front of Anna. ‘Do you fear me?’ he said, his eyes narrowed, pushing aside a lock of Anna’s hair from her face with the tip of his wand. Anna straightened her back. ‘No.’ she said firmly, looking into his eyes. They were not blurry, but were fixedly watching her. ‘Good.’ He said, in a low voice, like a growl. ‘What the hell is this about?’ Anna asked testily. ‘It’s about you being honest.’ Sirius said harshly. ‘Tell me, how do you feel about me?’ he said, now whispering in Anna’s ear. His warm breath tickled her to the tips of her toes. He had grabbed her forearm and was restraining her, quite uselessly. She was willingly pressing her body against his. How come she had not seen it before? How come she had not realised it before? She opened her mouth, but before she had time to speak, to tell him all the things which were buried deep in her heart, which had come out then, Sirius muttered: ‘I knew it…’ he said, relinquishing his hold on Anna and pacing to the other end of the room. ‘I knew it…I was such an idiot…How could I possibly think…?’ he said despairingly, letting his head hang and leaning against a wall. Anna took a deep breath and grinned. She rushed over to Sirius, who had, in the meantime, slid to the floor. Anna lifted his head and said: ‘Sirius, I love you…’

His face lit up. He stood up, supporting Anna as well. When they were both on their feet, Sirius took Anna’s sweet face in his strong, long-fingered hands and kissed her like he had never kissed anyone before. Anna felt faint, but did not surrender. She lifted on tiptoe and kissed Sirius back. ‘I am yours…’ Anna said faintly. Sirius pressed his warm, thick lips onto hers even harder, placing one hand in her bun, ruining it, though neither cared. ‘You’re…perfect…’he whispered while in between kisses. Warmth like they had never felt ran through both of them. Sirius was holding Anna in his arms and for the first time, realised how she fit perfectly into them. Anna had her own chest pressed against Sirius’, feeling his heart beat, loving him more with every second…They were both alive, and it was all that mattered. For hours on end, they stood in the kitchen of Sirius’ unfortunate childhood, kissing, and making it the place of Sirius’ ardent love. They would have died for each other, lied for each other, stolen, killed and begged for the other’s happiness. So, two souls became whole. Anna’s – for the first time in her life, Sirius’ – for the first time since James had died. They loved each other. They were happy. It was three in the morning when Sirius and Anna painfully tore apart from each other, leaving one another cold, shivering, and empty. Anna quickly materialised herself into the Hogwarts ground and was, at five past three, running down the deserted corridors towards the Gryffindor Common Room. He cheeks were flushed, her wavy hair was loose and a diamond pin was dangling near her waist. She had a wide smile on her face. She whispered the password to the Fat Lady. ‘They’re inside…’ the Fat Lady said sleepily. She was right. Inside the Common Room, professors Snape, Dumbledore and McGonagall were waiting for her, along with Hermione, Ginny, Lee, Ron and Harry. ‘Where have you been?’ said Minerva, rising from her seat and contracting her eyebrows. Anna’s grin slid off her face, the only sign of her love now being the blinding glow of the Evenstar on her heaving chest. ‘I’ve…I can’t-‘ ‘You’d better explain yourself!’ said Snape in a menacing manner. ‘I-‘ she started again. ‘Well?’ said Dumbledore enquiringly. ‘I CAN’T EXPLAIN MYSELF!’ bellowed Anna angrily. ‘Listen, I’ve been…I can’t possibly…I can’t tell you. I just can’t, okay?’she finished wearily. ‘But you will.’ Said Snape. ‘Anna…you can tell me…’said Minerva. ‘No, I can’t.’ said Anna plainly. Dumbledore made forward and grasped her forearm. ‘Anna. You have gotten about ten people worrying about you. You can’t possibly disappear like that, without letting anyone know. Tell me where you’ve been.’ He said calmly, his blue eyes piercing into hers.

Anna looked at him with a pained expression on her face. She wanted him to read her mind, to use Legilimancy, to see what she had seen, to spare her the pain of telling him in front of all those people… ‘Alright.’ She said after a few seconds. ‘But it’ll be just for your ears to hear. Trust me.’ Dumbledore raised his eyebrows, but did not protest. ‘Everyone – bed. Anna – my office.’ He said. ‘Albus –‘ Minerva started. Albus waved her down. As everyone did as they were told, Anna and Dumbledore went to the Headmaster’s office. When they were alone, inside the stone room, with only Fawkes listening, Albus asked: ‘Well?’ Anna sighed. How could she even begin telling him? She would start with the beginning. ‘I gave Barahir to Sirius.’ ‘You what?’ he asked pointedly. ‘Don’t interrupt. It’s hard enough already. He asked me and dad to come live with him and we did. The last three weeks of summer. I don’t know what happened, we never meant for it to…He called my name at about midnight. I went to Grimmauld Place and…’ ‘Anna…what did he do?’ asked Albus worriedly. ‘Albus don’t even think about that!’ Anna said angrily. ‘Sirius would never take advantage of me, he’s one of the bravest men I’ve ever met! One of the kindest, too! You have no idea how much he’s suffered, you can’t even begin to imagine what state he’s in! His heart is broken, Albus!’ she said heatedly. Albus’ face darkened in comprehension. ‘Oh – my – God…’ he whispered. Anna looked stricken. ‘Do you realise what you’ve done?’ he said. ‘Okay, first of all I haven’t done a thing. Second, why do you think it’s so terribly wrong?’ ‘Anna, he’s exactly the same age your father is. Moreover, Sirius’ his best friend!’ ‘But he’s not my father. He’s…I…’ she broke off. Albus had never seen her so unable to speak. She had always been steady, secure, and certain of what she was saying. This was strange… ‘Anna…’ Albus started. ‘He says he loves me, Albus, and I know he means it. I love him. Why should anything else matter?’ ‘Anna, have you even thought about what you’re getting yourself in?’ he asked calmly. ‘Yes.’ Anna answered quickly and unexpectedly. ‘It’s been somewhere in my mind for a while, but I couldn’t exactly…understand it. Albus, I’ve never felt like this before! I know it’s real. I have to believe it. Please, just believe with me…’ Albus nodded. He couldn’t say a thing. He had just noticed the gleam of the Evenstar. He beamed at Anna, and she rushed to him and gave him a tight hug. ‘Thank you…’ she whispered in his ear.

XIV. The night of the final Triwizard Tournament feat, everyone encouraged Harry, beaming at him. He entered the maze, prepared for whatever he was to face. Just as he reached the centre of the labyrinth and set his eyes on Cedric, Anna closed her eyes. ‘Let’s do it together – it’s only fair.’ Harry was saying. Anna grinned as Harry and Cedric both touched the Cup. ‘He’s got it…’ she whispered to Hermione, who was sitting beside her. Hermione let out a cheer as Anna’s face darkened. Harry – and Anna – were standing in a graveyard, surveying none other that Peter Pettigrew. Anna shared Harry’s pain as Wormtail stabbed his arm with a pleased grin on his face. As Voldemort’s body slowly formed, Anna was left stupidly on a seat, her eyes closed, her face screwed up in a pained way. ‘Fuck…’ she whispered. ‘Fuck, fuck, fuck.’ ‘Anna!’ Ginny said in scandalized tones. Anna opened her eyes. ‘It’s Harry. Voldemort. Fuck.’ She muttered blankly. ‘Listen - tell Dumbledore I’ve gone to help Harry. The Cup was a Portkey.’ She added, waking up and standing. ‘Where are you going?’ yelled Fred after her. She did not answer. She hid under the bleachers and disappeared. As Harry and Voldemort were duelling fiercely, Anna popped into view. She arrived just in time to see Lily, James and Cedric supporting Harry. Anna acted quickly as the surprised Death Eaters gasped in turn, reaching for their wands. Anna lifted her hand and made a fluid movement in front of her. A long crack appeared in the earth. At least five Death Eaters sunk in it, leaving the others flabbergasted. Anna lifted another hand and a fiery circle surrounded the remaining Death Eaters. Inside the circle, Anna made appear a long, thick vine that bound them all, poisoning them, leaving them powerless. Then, Anna closed her eyes and the Evenstar on her chest shined brighter that Harry had ever seen it. From its centre, a mixture of breezes, water, electricity and roots sprung, forming a shield between Harry and Voldemort, blocking both their spells. ‘Get out of here! Just get Cedric’s body, touch the Cup and GO!’ Harry heard a clear voice in his head. He knew it had been Anna’s voice. He did as he was told, leaving Anna behind unwillingly. Harry appeared out of the maze clutching Cedric’s limp body, tears streaking down his cheeks. ‘Anna! She’s still inside! You’ve got to-‘ he broke off. Anna had to be dead; no one stood a chance against Voldemort. Dumbledore’s face, gazing in the distance, turned white. Ginny gasped in the distance. Hagrid grunted. Fred’s knees gave way. Hermione had hid her head in her hands. Harry turned round to see what they were all looking at. It was a girl’s body, no older that twenty.

‘ANNA!’ bellowed Lee behind everyone. Harry could neither see, nor feel anything else. Anna, his sister, his connection to his parents, his friend was dead on the green, moist grass. He felt like throwing up. Anna’s long, sleek hair was spread on the ground, her face was white, but not that healthy, living white. A yellowish-white, a deathly white. A frightening white. To see Anna’s sweet, smiling face now bereft of all emotion and life was too much for all of them. Tears were brightening their cheeks. Harry let his fall to the ground...He yearned not to feel… But then, hope came, like a shining light in the dark… As Harry’s first tear for Anna touched the blades of grass, everyone could hear a strange sound….That of waves washing the shore… There was a collective wince upon the touch of a cold breeze. When everyone opened their eyes again, Anna was wearing a pure-white dress, the Evenstar shining once again on her chest. Dumbledore, Ginny and Hermione stopped sobbing silently, their attention now caught by the extremely peculiar phenomena which was happening right in front of them. Harry had gotten up, feeling a strange force guiding him. He was walking steadily towards Anna’s fallen body. Her once-rosy cheeks were now dead and petrified. He sweet perfume hung in the air. Harry made to touch her hand as everyone gazed mortified at the scene. Harry had barely touched her finger and quickly pulled his hand away, surprised by her coldness. But then, out of the blue, Anna’s chest inflated, faint colour coming back to her cheeks. There was a collective sigh as Anna slightly opened her eyes, looked intently at Harry, with the last bit of strength she had, smiled at him, then fell into a deep sleep. Harry felt like his chest had been chained up to that precise moment, and had now been liberated. He drew a large breath as Hagrid picked Anna’s light body up and took her to the hospital wing, with big tears trickling down his beard and onto Anna’s still pale face. XV. Anna was taken home after that fatal night. A dark feeling had swept over the entire school. Voldemort had returned to power…The little universe that Hogwarts was, was now shattered. Fear and whispering had taken over the happiness and giggling…The war was coming. Naturally, the war could not come by itself. It brought another deathly companion, its correspondent in Middle-Earth, and by far a harder war…The Second War of Men, Elves and Dwarves. With this second foe, came a new responsibility upon Anna’s already weakened shoulders… But the universe of Grimmauld Place remained untouched by the war, luckily for Anna and Sirius. When Lupin first came in, bearing Anna’s limp body in his arms, a grim look on his face, Sirius froze. ‘She is dead.’ He thought first, but then exhaled painfully as he saw her chest moving slightly.

Lupin looked on the verge of tears, his lined face bearing something quite unnatural for him – fear. ‘She needs your love.’ Dumbledore had said to them one evening. Both Sirius and Lupin took it literally. They took turns staying by Anna’s bedside, hoping, praying that she would open her eyes and once again smile at them. She did not. Not for a whole month. While school came to an end, Anna’s body still rested in the large, four-poster bed inside Grimmauld Place, her condition quite the same. In spite of her apparent sleep, Anna was quite aware of what was going on around her. She could distinguish her father’s sobbing, and feel his warm tears wash over her hand. She wanted to leap into his arms, hug him, and tell him everything will be alright… She could clearly make out Sirius’ voice in the middle of the night, telling her how much he loved her, how he couldn’t live without her, how he’d give anything to have her back…She wanted to tell him the same…To kiss his lips and feel his warm breath sweeping over her… But it was not time, and Anna knew it. She was merely resting for the battle ahead, regrouping, gathering her strength. There were things more important than her feelings, more important than her father or Sirius, though she hated admitting so. She had to fulfil her duty, head like a lioness for the kill… The grim morning came some time in late June. Anna opened her eyes serenely to find Sirius kissing her hand and stroking it, and her father sleeping peacefully with his head next to her. She smiled upon seeing both of them, and sighed in relief. She was safe…For now… Sirius heard her sigh and lifted his head. His eyes were bloodshot and he looked unshaved, but his face relaxed into an honest, happy smile. He closed his eyes as though savouring a rare delicacy and mouthed ‘I love you.’ Anna mouthed back ‘I missed you…’, and Sirius lapsed into kissing her longfingered hand silently, as Lupin gave signs of waking up. Anna stroke Lupin’s greying hair as he grunted himself into consciousness. Upon feeling Anna’s warm touch, Lupin gave a jerk, opening his eyes widely. Anna could see his eyes were just as bloodshot as Sirius’, his face too rough and rugged. Anna whispered ‘Hi, dad.’ as Lupin took her head in his hands, kissing every inch of her face, pressing her head onto his chest. He was crying. Anna took her hand from Sirius’ grasp. He let it go willingly, knowing that Lupin’s love was something he dared not mess with, though it was not greater than his own. After silently gazing at each other for about thirty seconds, the three got away from the old bedroom, which smelled of Anna’s illness, sleep and lull. They all had a happy, hearty breakfast, made entirely by Anna, at her own insistence. Sirius and Lupin had, of course, not missed her omelettes, but had missed her cheerful humming and story-telling at breakfast. Anna’s sleep had put Grimmauld Place to sleep. It had brought the smell of death on the hallway and eerie spirits lurking about. It had brought darkness and fear to the already forlorn house. Soon, that darkness will have intensified… After the best French Omelette they had ever had, Anna realised she could not postpone her ultimatum any longer. She took advantage of one moment of awkward silence and said firmly.

‘I will have to fight, you know…’ Lupin frowned. Sirius looked merely surprised. ‘What fight? What are you talking about?’ he asked. ‘Middle-Earth…’ she said. Comprehension dawned on Sirius’ face. James had explained the deal about Anna’s birth and destiny a long time ago to all of his friends…He remembered the slight complacency James had felt…The pride that bloomed inside each and every one of them…What fools they were…Sirius would have given his right hand to keep Anna from fighting yet another battle… At that precise moment, a loud pow echoed through the silent house. Anna’s head jerked up like doe’s…Her jaw line was so graceful, her eyes so vivid, her eyelashes so long – ‘No…’ she whispered. Inside the kitchen of number twelve, Grimmauld Place, a battle-worn man entered, wearing a heavy suit of armour and carrying a glittering sword. Anna was obviously expecting an attack, because she had sprung to her feet, holding the glittering sword in her hand, her hair pulling itself back in a long, sleek braid. When Aragorn banged the door against the wall, both Sirius and Remus took out their wands, ready to fight. The warrior was clearly surprised, for he raised his hands in surrender, as Anna’s sword placed itself just above his jugular. ‘Guys, no!’ Anna said, grinning and lowering her sword. ‘He’s alright!’ ‘You’d think,’ the man said, in harsh tones, smiling darkly. ‘that you’d give your future uncle a better welcome….’ As Remus and Sirius lowered their wands, but did not pocket them. They did not trust the stranger. Anna rushed forward and gave the man named Aragorn a fleeting hug, still grinning. As she relinquished her hold on him, he gazed into her eyes intently, and she deflated. ‘Who?’ she asked, straightening her back. ‘Boromir…and…Gandalf.’ He said timidly. Anna sunk into the nearest chair. She slowly closed her eyes and let her beautiful hair cover her face that she hid in her hands as she lowered her head. Aragorn made to touch her shoulder – she jumped up. ‘What must I do?’ she asked firmly. Aragorn smiled sadly at her and replied steadily. ‘Take this,’ he said, holding out the glittering sword which, Remus and Sirius had only noticed then, had a black handle. ‘and kill him.’ ‘Is it her sword?’ Anna asked, stroking its blade. ‘Yes.’ answered Aragorn plainly. Anna dropped it like it was white-hot. ‘I don’t need her sword.’ She said heatedly, frowning at Aragorn. ‘I have my own and I daresay it’s done its job quite well so far. When must I leave?’ ‘Now.’ Said Aragorn gravely. Anna gave a barely audible sigh, one that Sirius was sure he was the only one to hear. ‘Alright.’ She said dignifiedly, closing her eyes in concentration. In a matter of seconds, Anna grew taller, her hair longer and thicker than in reality, tied in a plait at her back. Her green t-shirt and deep blue jeans turned into a tight,

grey dress, made of a thick but fluid fabric. The dress covered every inch of Anna’s skin…Sirius contracted his eyebrows – she had never looked more mature. Anna pulled a long, iron sword from its sheath, apparently admiring its glow. In it, she caught Sirius’ reflection for what was likely to be the last time. She suppressed the urge of pouting, refusing to fight. ‘The Greater Good’ was what she had to help accomplish. Sirius and her father were not a factor, they were merely part of Anna… Inside the heart of an insignificant soldier… Anna hugged her father tightly and gave Sirius a fleeting wave instead of the kiss she would have wanted to. She disappeared from the dusty kitchen and landed on hard, soft ground. The world’s sweetest smells surrounded her – she was at the edge of a forest, in a field. Rohan was standing tall in the distance. Anna felt relieved, in spite of herself, and whispered. ‘Shadowfax…’ In no time at all, a white horse appeared, saddle-less and graceful, offering itself to her. She mounted quickly and cantered towards the bold city of Rohan, mentally preparing herself for the battle she felt, somehow, she was about to lose… In our time and day, Remus Lupin and Sirius Black were left foolishly standing next to a man about whom they knew nothing and who had the tedious task of explaining Anna’s duty to them…Somehow, Anna’s trust for all three of them seemed to make things much less awkward… XVI. The distant clattering of orch shields, swords and spears made the hairs on the back of Anna’s head stand up, not in fear for herself, but in concern for the future victims. Next to her, were Theoden, the wise, prematurely aged king of Rohan, looking pitiful, and his beloved councillor, Grima Wormtongue, who reminded her terribly of Pettigrew… She knew the king was being poisoned, but Eowyn had told her to wait…Eowyn had told her to keep her nerve, just as she was doing, because help was on the way. Eowyn and Anna, who were almost the same age, had always been great friends but now Anna felt Eowyn was going on a limb with this stillness of hers. Anna felt she had to act, for Theoden and Rohan’s good… Just as she was rethinking all of this, standing beside the window of the castle, she noticed the sun was setting. How Sirius would have loved that sunset! It was just like the freeing sunset he had shown her in the picture that hung above his head in his massive bedroom. Anna closed her eyes and imagined Sirius’ lips on hers once again, just like they had been so many times before...Warm and sweet, taking her breath away…She imagined his voice speaking her name like it had done those warm spring nights in the old kitchen…She revised every detail of Sirius’ face once again: his arched eyebrows, his thin nose, the strength and beauty of his high cheekbones and the grace with which his fringe darkened his visage a little …She shuddered a little as his memory came to her, along with the unnecessary protection it offered, protection she lacked and missed right then. THUMP! The castle’s massive stone doors had opened. In the doorway there stood four men. One was clad in white from head to toe, holding a long staff.

‘Gandalf!’ Anna whispered to herself. The ones that followed closely were, as Anna recognized them all in the sunlight, Legolas, Aragorn and Gimli. So, with the arrival of Gandalf, half of Anna’s problems solved…The MiddleEarth half…The elven half of her problems. The battle-drums sounded harder in Anna’s ears…Sauron was coming! In just a few days, Anna was drowned in the swoosh and slash of the orch swords, stabbing every inch of monster skin she could see, oblivious to the numbness in her arms. ‘Leithya!’ Anna called as the strong walls of the brave city of Rohan gave in to the pounding of the orch. A long, ear-splitting shriek was heard. The orch seemed maddened by it. In no time at all, the whooshing of a dragon’s wings was heard. Leithya landed into sight, exactly on top of a large battalion of orch, squashing them. The green dragoness bellowed fire over whatever foe she could see, then bowed her head towards Theoden. She then swerved out of the way of hundreds of back spears towards Anna’s nearby fight with a massive, fierce-looking orch. As her ivory-handle sword ran through the heart of the monster, Anna grinned at her dear Leithya. She grabbed the end on her tail as the green dragoness flew over her. Anna knew nothing similar to riding a dragon…The freedom the wind that played in her hair brought, Leithya’s fierce but strangely soothing and empowering roar and the sheer joy of feeling Leithya’s warm scales under her palms… ‘Shall I give them a taste of our…displeasure?’ a booming voice said inside Anna’s head. ‘Get them!’ Anna yelled cheerfully. The numbness in her arms had quite disappeared, her tiredness quite evaporated… She felt free… The dragoness, the mighty daughter of Smaug, belched a vivid, mortal flame over the heads of countless powerless orch, burning them all to their death… Before anyone could do anything, Aragorn ran his sword the last time during that battle, Legolas shot his last arrow and Gimli swung his axe towards an orch’s jugular for the last time. The battle of Rohan was won! Anna could now savour her victory, in a world that was part of her, yet one she did not belong to. She came to enjoy her time with her only friends in Middle-Earth, or, better said, she learned to enjoy it. She knew what lay ahead, and did not dread it – she had made peace with death for a very long time…It did not scare her. Though she did not admit having fears, somewhere at the back of her brave heart, lay the fear of loss and end…Yes, Anna did not much care for losing… But, alas, the war takes no mind what the fears of its brave (or not-so-brave) soldiers, but differentiates by skill and talent, not by righteousness or honour…So, Anna drew a large breath, closed her eyes, emptying her mind of all feeling… There would be more, much more, to come… In another month came the battle Anna wanted to avoid. It meant the end of her life and her love…She feared the end of the latter the most…Never being able to see Sirius again, or her father…It tore her apart…She wished she could be at home, in bed or next to Sirius…She wanted to feel warm again…She wanted to feel loved again, away from the battles and the killings she hated… Alas, her destiny begged to differ.

She went into the battle for Gondor with her head held high. She no longer knew if she was alive, but she knew she wanted the killings to stop. Facing the Witch King was a task she knew would be the most difficult she would ever had to face. It required concentration and skill. Anna felt tired… The towering figure came towards her on a black horse. Its sword was in its hands – the Witch King was ready to strike. Anna, on her blazing white horse, showed him no signs of fear, but held her sword with a steady hand, equally prepared for murder. The multitude of collisions between the two blades was so rapid, that the warriors appeared blurred. From a distance, Aragorn watched the fight out of the corner of his eye. The Witch King’s sword pierced Shadowfax’s heart and he lay dead upon the battle field, another innocent victim of Sauron’s wrath. Anna felt anger rise in her. An anger that gave her more strength to fight than anything. In her rant and rave, she lost the concentration that kept her home hidden and felt the earth under her feet disappear: the two were now fighting in mid-air. They landed softly in the inner courtyard of number twelve, Grimmauld Place, still fighting, still raging, still going for the kill. The clattering of the two’s rapid swords alerted Lupin and Sirius, who were having a very silent dinner, fidgeting, playing moodily with their food and worrying about Anna. At a resounding grunt, both men jumped to their feet and headed for the source of the clamour. Their love for Anna opened their hearts and minds so that they could see the people that belonged to Middle-Earth. They could both see Ana’s deadly foe, but it was Sirius who acted. He quickly grasped the fact that the two opponents were equally matched. He had to help Anna. He turned into the large dog and headed for the Witch King’s calf. He sunk his teeth deep into the sour, rotten flesh, and felt a stabbing pain in his temple. He did not let go until the piece of meat on which he hung was tore from the Ninth’s leg – he had to help Anna. Of course, one moment of inattention was all she needed to stab her opponent straight in the heart – or where his heart should have been. The Witch King dematerialised, its body disappearing, but his spirit rising in the air like dust mingled with cigarette smoke. Anna was staring transfixed at the rising cloud of spirit while Sirius, exhausted, had transformed back into himself and was curled up on the grass. The strange could made its way –as though carried by the wind – towards Anna. It taunted her, circled her as she struggled to remain perfectly still. The dark spirit of the Witch King entered Anna’s chest through her sweet mouth, possessing her. Sirius had awoken, and Lupin was kneeling. They were both staring at Anna’s body which was now clad in the deepest black, her hair coarse and thin, her head hung. As she raised her head, the two men could see the sallow, sickly colour of her cheeks and her pitch-black eyeballs. Anna opened her mouth to reveal small, sharp teeth like a shark’s, dirty with a bright red substance that seemed to be blood. Anna cackled. Sirius gasped.

It was like listening to his cousin’s voice. The hysterical cackle turned into an earsplitting shriek as Anna picked up the Witch King’s lost sword and made to stab Sirius. Just as her thin arm was above him, ready to strike a deathly blow, Anna came to the surface. For a split-second, the woman was clad again in grey, had thick, sleek hair and vivid grey eyes. ‘“Tears of pain, tears of joy. One thing nothing can destroy…”’ she sang in her crystal-clear voice. Lupin leapt to his feet and grasped the Bellatrix-Anna by the shoulders. ‘“It’s our pride, deep inside. We are one…”’ he whispered in Anna’s ear. Darkness seemed to sweep from her like wind. The blackness of her eyeballs retreated to the centre. Her hair hung again sleekly and elegantly on her shoulders. Her dress was gleaming white and her Evenstar was shining. Anna was gazing at the starry sky, her cheeks streaked with shining tears, a wide grin on her face. She sighed in relief. She gazed quickly at the tired but happy-looking Sirius in front of her and her heart burst with happiness and love. Lupin’s protective arms were wrapped lovingly around her, Sirius was beaming at her. She was free… XVII. All had ended. What was supposed to be Anna’s final battle had brought to light an unexpected winner. She had fulfilled her duty, she had fulfilled the prophecy. She could start living. Anna felt extremely tired, but found her fluffy pillow a poor companion. It was too silent for her in the old house, her heart and head were too full of feeling and thought for her to be able to sleep. She wanted Sirius… She would have to settle for a glass of water. She climbed silently down the narrow, creaking stairs of the old house towards the cold kitchen. She pushed the swinging door aside and lit her wand. She was startled to find Sirius sitting at the table, wearing a deep-purple robe over what seemed to be his bear chest. He was staring tiredly at the drink in his hand. He looked up solemnly as Anna entered the kitchen. She made towards him, but he gave no other sign of having seen her. Anna stretched her hand to stroke his long, unkempt hair. He pulled away from her. She frowned. After a minute or so, he spoke, his voice hoarse. ‘Anna…I almost lost you tonight…’ Anna sat down beside him. ‘But you didn’t. It should be all that matters…’ ‘And it is.’ He answered quickly, still averting her gaze. ‘But it’s made me feel as though I shouldn’t waste another minute.’ Before Anna could begin her response, Sirius had kissed her full on the mouth. His kiss was long – she could tell he had missed her just as much as she had missed him…She could tell he loved her…She could tell the only thing he feared for at that moment was her safety… Anna pressed her lips harder onto his, and Sirius’ hands lifted from his drink. He placed one at her back, one under her legs and picked her up. He made no effort at

all – she was as light as a phoenix-feather. She coiled her arms around his neck, never once letting his lips part from hers. Sirius carried Anna up the stairs and into his bedroom with his eyes closed. His heart had never felt lighter, his arms never stronger. Anna felt his hand at the back of her thigh and around her waist. One of her hands was now on his bare, strong chest, under his robe, over his pounding heart. Sirius pushed the door of his bedroom open to reveal a crackling fire inside, illuminating the pearly-white sheets and four-poster bed. Anna was slightly disappointed when he put her down in front of the fire, barely having the strength to stand without him as he locked the door and Imperturbed it. As he came up in front of Anna, piercing her with his intense gaze, she whispered: ‘Sirius…’ Before she could go on, he had already pushed his lips onto hers once more, one hand in her soft, plaited hair, one on her lower-back. They were now so close together, only Anna’s thin t-shirt separating her small breasts from his tattooed chest…Before he knew what he was doing, Sirius tore his lips from Anna’s. He turned her around – she seemed to be fluid in his arms… He disentangled her braided hair and ran his fingers through it, drinking in all its smells and love…He pushed it away from her thin, long neck and started kissing her soft skin…The fire was the only source of light in the room...Anna felt like she was going to burst soon… Anna turned around once again, facing Sirius, who had a look of mild surprise on his face. She took his wrists gently - he let himself be guided by her. She placed his strong hands on the hem of her t-shirt and raised her arms innocently. He grasped it and pulled up, removing it from her body. It revealed small, hard breasts. Anna took half a step forward as Sirius let go of the baby-blue t-shirt and stroked the soft skin on Anna’s chest. He dared not touch her breasts… She pressed her bare bosom onto his thin chest. Sirius kissed her once again, his hands now touching her breasts gently, protectively. Anna made his dressing-robe slide of his shoulders with the smallest push. They were alone in the world… So, they lay on the bed, their abdomens pressing together, swaying like branches in the wind, their skins lit only by the dying fire. They were both panting silently, embracing one another, their mouths slightly open…They had become one… Sirius slept better than he had in a very long time that night. Feeling Anna’s warm body next to his, her soft hair spread on the white pillow and hearing her low breath, his arm holding her chest as it rose and sunk. He had felt safe. He woke up several times during the night and watched Anna sleep – it comforted him. Sirius felt her warm beauty sweep over him, letting himself be blown away by her stillness. Yet, when he woke up at dawn for the third time, Anna’s body was no longer in bed. He jumped up, frightened that it had all been a dream, but, then, there she was. Dressed in a long-sleeved, sea-green shirt that he soon recognized to be his, perched on the wide window-sill, gazing dreamily out the window into the foggy sunrise. His heart unclenched as he slid off the thick, burgundy covers and walked across the room towards her. His shirt was evidently too large for her, one of her shoulders popping out as she raised her hand to her lip and started biting her fingernail. ‘Morning.’ Sirius said, beaming at her. Anna seemed to have just noticed him. She grinned and replied:

‘Morning.’ As Anna stood up, Sirius gave her another hug, whispering in her ear. ‘Give me my shirt back…’ he said, his hand making its way to open the shirt. Anna pulled back, her face stern and serious. ‘No.’ she said. Sirius was taken aback by her coldness. His heart sank… ‘Listen,’ she said. ‘we have to talk about this…’ His heart was now below his knees. ‘You don’t know me, you don’t know what you’re getting into…’ she said quickly. Sirius raised his eyebrows. ‘I know you enough to love you.’ He replied defiantly. ‘But I’m not like…this…You don’t know what I’ve…I…’ she was losing grip. She sunk onto the nearby bed, hiding her face in her hands. Sirius rushed to her, crouched in front of her, separating her palms to reveal a stony face. ‘Anna, tell me.’ He said firmly. ‘You can tell me.’ Sirius sat down on the bed, gripping Anna’s side and pushing her back. They both stretched on the bed and Sirius pulled the burgundy covers over them. Anna cuddled beside him, resting her head on his chest. Once again, the sound of Sirius’ heartbeat was soothing, his body warming her shivering one. And she told him. She told him about how scared she really was that the people around her weren’t going to be safe as long as she was with them. About how she wanted her father to feel happy, about how worried she was about Harry. About how ungrateful she felt she was being, about how she was supposed to fight the battle of a world she did not belong to. How she had been forced to kill since she was a child. How everyone kept pushing her. How she felt guilty for Albus, Minerva and Severus’ griefs. How she was nothing more than a killer… Having finished, leaving Sirius in awe, Anna cried in the presence of another person for the first time in her life. Her warm tears were trickling down her cheeks and onto Sirius’ chest. He heaved a sigh and kissed the top of Anna’s head. ‘Talk about inner demons…’ he whispered, and Anna gave a small, weak laughter… He was her home… XVIII. While Anna and Sirius’ romance went on, averted from the others’ eyes, number twelve, Grimmauld Place was filling up with people. ‘We’re here!’ Mrs. Weasley’s audible voice rang through the house as har entire family followed her, each member carrying a large trunk. Mrs. Black did not miss her cue. ‘FILTHS, MONSTERS AND BLOOD-TRAITORS IN MY ANCESTORS’ HOME! BE GONE YOU VERMIN!’ ‘Shut up.’ Said Anna softly, appearing at the top of the stairs. Mrs. Black’s curtains pulled over her, the shouting dying away. Behind Anna, a pleased-looking Sirius appeared, followed closely by a beaming Lupin. Anna rushed down the stairs. ‘I - missed – you – all – so – much.’ She said in between hugs. ‘And you.’ She said, pointing at the strained-looking twins, frowning.

Seeing their dazzled faces, Anna broke into her crystal laughter and ran over to hug them both tightly. Crack. Everyone turned their head towards the source of the noise. Sirius had broken the quill he was holding. ‘Whoops.’ He said softly, looking intently at Anna, who sent him a reproachful look out of the corner of her eye. ‘Welcome.’ He said, grinning and shaking Mr. Weasley’s hand as he climbed down the stairs. Lupin came down last, immediately grabbing the trunks Mrs. Weasley and Ginny were carrying. ‘Hello.’ He smiled at them. In the loud welcomes, and happy hugs, there was one other silhouette no one else noticed. After a few minutes had passed, minutes in which he did not make his presence known, Anna turned her head to the door to see a tall frame wearing a brown set of robes, looking serene. ‘Albus!’ Anna exclaimed, and rushed over to her Headmaster to give him a tight hug. ‘Hello, Anna.’ He whispered, his hooked nose deep in her sweet-smelling hair. As the hand-shaking and welcoming continued, they were all led into their rooms. ‘Ginny, you’re with me in here.’ Anna said as she reached the second landing. ‘Guys, you’re in there.’ She said to Fred and George, pointing at the ajar door of a dark room. ‘And Ron,’ she continued. ‘you’re gonna have to share with Harry – when he’s here, obviously.’ She pointed at the third door on the landing. The four entered their rooms loudly, Fred and George bickering, Ginny going on about her summer to Anna, and Ron, sulking a little. Anna saw this, but did not comment. She would have time to talk to Ron alone. Alas, a new idea sprung into her head. Harry. What was he doing? How was he holding on? Sirius and Remus had not allowed her to write to anyone while they were putting up protective charms. She closed her eyes in worry, and unwillingly opened them to see a very unusual darkness surrounding her. This isn’t Grimmauld Place anymore…she thought. At first, she saw and felt nothing. Then, out of the blue, something hit her head hard. She bellowed in a voice that was not hers. ‘DUDLEY, YOU MORON!’ Harry. Anna tought, her stomach clenching. She was starting to get cold. She could hear a strange sound…the sound of…no… surely not… Minutes later, she was conjuring a stag Patronus to drive away a Dementor. Anna opened her eyes and found that she was still in the old bedroom she had walked into previously. She dropped Ginny’s schoolbag and headed for the front door of the house, ignoring Ginny’s shouts. Halfway, she met Dumbledore. Behind him – Sirius, who had a strange look on his face. Anna did not stop to wonder what troubled Sirius. ‘It’s Harry,’ she said firmly. ‘He’s been attacked by Dementors.’ Sirius’ mouth fell open and Dumbledore closed his eyes… Anna did not wait for their reply, but headed for the front door. Her hand was on the doorknob when Dumbledore grasped it firmly. ‘No, Anna.’ ‘Why on earth not? Let – go – Albus.’ She said, pulling her arm from his grasp.

‘Stay put.’ He said. ‘I’ll get to the Ministry and sort it out. Don’t worry. Don’t go looking for Harry, don’t contact him.’ ‘Why-?’ she began, but Albus silenced her with a wave of his hand. Dumbledore left the house storming. Anna noticed his eyes were full of an uncharacteristic rage, and had stepped out of his way. When Anna turned round, Sirius’ eyes were unfocused, his mouth half open, his eyebrows screwed. Anna felt like killing herself for what she had just done to him. She ran forward and took him into her arms. He collapsed. ‘He produced a Patronus. He’s alright, I saw everything. Oh, Sirius…’ she said and Sirius was shaking in her arms, on his knees on the floor. His head was on her soft chest, her hands were in his unkempt hair, and his feeling of safety collided with the harsh reality of Harry’s attack. Anna kissed the top of Sirius’ head several times, both of them oblivious to the fact that they were completely exposed, sitting there, in the middle of the hallway. The Weasleys and Lupin were just a few steps up, laughing and shouting – getting settled. Any one of them could have simply come down or look down the ladder, and would have seen them there, embraced. One such person did. Ginny was searching for Anna, so she stepped onto the landing and grasped the balustrade, leaning over it. She was ready to lean back when she saw a turquoise light gleam at the bottom of the stairs. She leaned even more and saw the top of Anna’s head, and part of her turquoise t-shirt. More to her right she saw a person wearing a grey suit – Sirius, she thought. Okay, she’s just offering him a bit of support. Ginny thought. But when Sirius started kissing both of Anna’s hands and she started stroking his hair, Ginny frowned. I could not be possible. ‘Are – you – effing – mad?’ Ginny snarled at Anna sometime around midnight, after they both climbed upstairs, having enjoyed a very, very quiet dinner. Anna turned to Ginny halfway through taking her t-shirt off. She had a raised eyebrow. The clenching feeling in her stomach intensified. ‘What do you mean?’ she asked dignifiedly. ‘I mean…you and Sirius.’ She hissed. Anna’s face turned a bit paler in the darkness of the bedroom. The streetlamp was their only source of light, its gleam falling upon Ginny’s intensely red hair and sparkling brown eyes. She looked positively fierce. Anna gasped. ‘What were you thinking?’ she said. ‘Listen, you’re my best friend and I just have to say this…He’s thirty-five!’ Anna’s eyes widened. Ginny’s prejudice should not have come as such a great shock, yet it did. It made her feel even worse than Dumbledore’s judging gaze. ‘Ginny..’ she said. ‘I love him.’ ‘Love him? Love him? You’re seventeen! You have no idea what love implies! Have you slept with him?’ she ranted, a disgusted, contemptuous look on her face. ‘As a matter a fact, I have.’ Anna said, straightening her back, ready for another fight. Ginny’s features sunk. ‘You’re…Anna…He’s…’ she was incoherent. ‘Ginny, look at me.’ Anna said. ‘I really, really love him. And he loves me too. I’ve told him everything, and so has he. You have no idea what he’s been through! He’s so

wound up, I wouldn’t know how to begin describing it. He knows a part of me no one else does. He’s the one, Ginny. I know it. I feel it.’ Ginny’s mouth was open. ‘Anna…sorry, but…don’t you think…well…’ ‘Well what?’ ‘Listen, don’t take this the wrong way, but Sirius has been in Azkaban for twelve years…Wouldn’t you think he’d…well…Men have needs…I don’t think he’s had much in Azkaban…Any normal person would, I don’t know, seize his chance at… getting some?’ ‘What?’ Anna said indignantly. ‘Well…I don’t want him venting off his depression at your expense!’ ‘Ginny,’ Anna said. ‘if you think that’s what this is…’ ‘Then what is it?’ she asked. ‘I need him like I never needed anyone. I know him just as well as I know you or Fred or George. He’s the only person who makes me feel like I don’t have to be strong around him. I don’t have to fight. When we’re together, we are each other’s strength…We don’t feel the need to fight the same old battles because we fight each other’s demons. We love each other in such a way that we make up for one another’s strength…Can you even begin to imagine what that feels like, Ginny?’ ‘I…’ she was speechless. ‘I wish I could feel like that. Or rather, that he felt that for me…’ ‘Harry?’ Anna said, and Ginny winced. She had not realised that she had spoken those words…She had simply thought them aloud…But she wasn’t ashamed, or scared. That was why she liked being around Anna so much. She never judged her, never said her ideas and dreams were foolish. Anna believed in her, and understood how she felt. She nodded. ‘He’ll come round, don’t worry. Just keep believing.’ Anna said. ‘Come on…we should be getting in bed…Oh, and Ginny…Please, please don’t tell anyone. Especially-‘ ‘Fred and George?’ Ginny supplied. ‘How thick do you think I am, Anna?’ They both beamed in the dark, happy for no reason… Not reason at all… Ginny heard the floorboard creak as Anna stepped out that night. She was sure Anna had gone to Sirius, much because of the fact that she did not return until dawn. Ginny was smiling into her pillow… As the Order of the Phoenix held its weekly meetings in Grimmauld Place, the children were much confined to their bedrooms. All, of course, except Anna. When Mrs Weasley had tried to haul her upstairs, Anna had refused to budge, looking over Mrs. Weasley’s shoulder at her father, Dumbledore and McGonagall. ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’ She said. ‘Not at all. Get upstairs.’ Mrs Weasley had replied. Anna paid no mind to her. ‘Well? Are you honestly telling me you’re not letting me in on the meetings?’ she said instead. ‘No! You’re just a child, Anna!’ Mrs. Weasley ploughed on. Anna kept gazing enquiringly at the three silent and bemused adults. ‘The Order is for wizards who have left school.’ Said Dumbledore plainly. ‘Oh?’ said Anna amusedly. Dumbledore smiled, but did not approve her participation.

‘It’s really up to you, Remus.’ He said. ‘Then my answer is no.’ he said firmly. Anna rolled her eyes – she knew a fight was coming. ‘If you really think I can’t be of any use to you, then I’d better go shoot myself. If you think, on the other hand, that it’s dangerous, I say I’ve faced worse than Voldemort. What exactly is your problem?’ she said in a calm, but determinedly low voice. ‘My problem is that I do not want to see you doing Order duty-‘Remus started. ‘Yet you have no apparent problem with me killing orch and dark spirits!’ said Anna raising her palms to the sky. Sirius was standing obscured in the kitchen doorway, next to a closely-listening Snape, smiling serenely. ‘Listen,’ Anna continued. ‘I can actually help the Order without putting myself in danger, if that’s what you’re worried about. You know I can.’ She added seriously. Lupin did not reply. He knew very well that it was not in Anna’s nature to stand aside and let others do the fighting. She belonged in the Order of the Phoenix ever since she was born, not because of the prophecy, or her bond with Harry, but because of who she was. Because of the Lily in her. So Remus stepped aside, letting Anna pass, pointing the way with his right hand. As Anna reached the doorframe where Sirius stood, leaning against the open door, she glared at him. Sirius answered with a fleeting wink and smile. She replied with a cheeky smirk. Though they thought their little scene had gone unnoticed, Severus Snape’s face sunk in grim comprehension of their love. Rage swelled inside him. A desire to hurt them both was brewed in his heart and mind, filling him up. She sat down at the table pushing her hair back to reveal a pair of blue earrings. She had a wide smile on her face as she glanced to see who was part of the Order. Anna waved at Bill, who was yawning widely, smiled in turn at Hestia Jones and Dedalus Diggle and nodded awkwardly at Kingsley Shacklebolt and a witch with bubble-gum pink hair she had never seen before. The rest of the party was familiar to her: Sirius, of course, her father, Dumbledore, McGonagall, Snape, Mrs and Mr Weasley and Sturgis Podmore, who Anna knew to be a friend of Dumbledore’s. Anna’s eyes fell on a wizard she had never seen before and who entered the room as she sat down. Unfortunately, he chose the seat next to her. The droopy-eyed wizard smelled of sweat, drink and cheap tobacco. She wrinkled her nose slightly. When Mundungus Fletcher spoke, she felt like shuddering. She did not. ‘Hello, miss. Wha’ a righ’ nice lookin’ bird we’ve got ‘ere, Dumbledore! Where didja get ‘er from?’ he asked holding out a stubby-fingered hand to Anna. ‘What’s your name, love?’ She took it gently. ‘Anna.’ She said, grimacing. ‘I do ‘ope you’ll be stayin’ for dinner…I could do with a nicer view…’ he said, surveying Anna with a strange look. Anna was preparing her retort when Sirius snapped at Dung. ‘That’s enough, Mundungus.’ ‘Wha’ did I say? Can’t a lad appreciate a pretty dove if ‘e sees one?’ Dung said indignantly. ‘I said it was enough!’ said Sirius menacingly. There was a strange pause. Anna bit her lip. ‘What are you doing here?’ Snape said harshly. Anna’s eyebrows rose, but she did not answer. Snape had asked a silly question…

As the discussion went on, Anna sat in her seat, trying to ignore Mundungus Fletcher’s ghastly looks, paying close mind to the members of the Order. ‘I think we should concentrate on getting Harry out of there.’ Said Sirius. ‘I agree.’ Lupin backed him up. ‘Naturally, Black…what a caring godfather you are…’ Snape said viciously. ‘Oh? You think I’m not much of a godfather, do you?’ Sirius said calmly. ‘No, not much.’ Said Snape, just as calm. ‘Perhaps Potter will grow up to be a felon, just like you. You’re so proud of him, aren’t you?’ he added, smirking. Sirius gripped the table. Anna felt everyone tense up in their seats. Even Dung averted his eyes from her. Anna was sure only she had noticed Sirius’ grip on the wooden table, but was astounded that it did not crack under his arm. ‘It just so happens I am. Any problems?’ he snapped. ‘None whatsoever.’ Replied Snape serenely. ‘Tell me, Black, are you intending to initiate him into the fine arts of cleaning infested households? Because it sounds to me like you could use a few lessons yourself…Though you never actually managed to succeed in doing anything much, did you?’ he said, smirking again. Anna’s face was hot. Sirius’ jaw was set and he looked as he desired nothing more than to bite off Snape’s head. She could not let Sirius risk yet another fight with Snape, right under Dumbledore’s careful nose, nor if she wanted Harry to be alive by the end of the term. ‘Has it not come to your mind, Severus, that Sirius had been in Azkaban for twelve years? That might have left a mark or two, don’t you think? Furthermore, I don’t see how him being wanted by the Ministry has anything to do with his desire to help the Order. Really, Severus, I don’t think you’d rather have been in Azkaban…In case you haven’t noticed, Dementors don’t exactly make the nicest pets.’ she said scornfully. She didn’t like Severus picking on Sirius all the time. He had no right to! If he only knew how much Sirius had suffered…At least the others keep their mouths shut! Why couldn’t Snape do the same? The latter, however, seized his chance at bickering with Anna. He poured his hidden rage on her. The fact that she had stood up for Sirius infuriated him! In his opinion, she had betrayed him… ‘Nowadays I seem to be getting advice from little girls, rather than elder people…’ Anna raised her eyebrows for the second time that night. Little girl? ‘I don’t think you are in a position to give me advice on my morality, really.’ Snape added, relaxing. ‘You’re nothing but a little dictator. You think the world is at your feet and you may do whatever you please. You think there is no greater suffering than yours on earth. You think you are superior to absolutely everyone. Am I not right, Anna? Remember, I know your secret…’ he added, giving a malefic grin. Anna’s mouth opened slightly, but only a few people noticed. The dinner table was watching them fixedly, mortified. No one stopped them. ‘And I yours, Severus.’ She said calmly. ‘But I’d never dream of telling anyone. It’s not mine to tell. If you’d even think of judging me for that then I’ve got nothing more to say to you. If you think that that one murder, be it wrong or right, represents me for who I am, then I think you’ve got the wrong side of things. But you’re entitled to your opinion…I just thought more highly of you…Guess I was wrong.’ In saying this, she got up, and headed for the swinging door that led to the hallway. Anna was halfway out when she stopped in the doorframe. She turned round once more to the astounded people who were bereft of all speech. Her face was flushed. ‘You’ve got such a talent of pushing people who have done nothing to hurt you away, d’you know that?’ she said angrily, pointing an accusing finger at Snape. ‘Yes,

Severus, don’t look at me like that! I’ve never done anything to hurt you! I realise just how much I owe you, and I respect you for who you are. I know the Severus that few people know, but you are doing to me what you did to her. You know who I mean…If I am like her so much, I will be like her in this. I won’t be trampled on by you. See you at school, Professor Snape.’ She said as calmly as though she was talking about a Potion in class. Snape was stricken by her coldness. He turned the same shade of green as the sickening wallpaper behind him. Anna stormed out of the room, leaving them all dumbstruck. Murder? Was what everyone thought. Her? She seemed so nice… ‘I’m not in the mood!’ Anna said to a happy-looking George who was trying to hex her from behind a curtain. ‘I said I’M NOT IN THE MOOD!’ George backed away quickly – it was the wisest thing to do when in presence of a raving Anna. She darted up the stairs and into Walburga Black’s old dormitory. She bowed to Buckbeak and lay down beside him, carefully avoiding the pool of blood oozing from a pile of dead rats. She could not understand Severus’ behaviour…She never would. ‘Anna?’ came Lupin’s voice from outside the door. Anna jerked up. It was dark – she had fallen asleep under Buckbeak’s protective wing. She told Lupin to come in… ‘Are you alright?’ he asked. Anna shrugged. ’He…he didn’t mean it, you know.’ Lupin tried to console her. ‘Yes he did.’ Anna said firmly. ‘I know him, and that look in his eyes…It was downright hate…He meant every word he said. And for what? Just me standing up for Sirius, on whom Snape should stop picking on…Jesus…What’s worse,’ she said with a wry smile. ‘is that he’s right.’ ‘What?’ asked Lupin. ‘If you believe a word he said to you, you definitely have a problem. Anna, everyone knows Snape’s a git! He does it for a living! I know you respect him, but it’s high time you saw his flaws too.’ ‘Dad, he raised me, I owe him the person I am today. You do too! I can’t possibly think badly of him…I’m just….confused. Why would he say such things about me? You know, sometimes these rows bring out a little of the truth, too…’ ‘Shut up. You’re not a bad person, okay?’ Remus said. How could she be bad? Wasn’t it she who had saved him from himself? Wasn’t she the one who could always bring his spirits up? Of course, she was a little complacent sometimes, but she had every reason to be! She sure wasn’t a dictator or whatever Snape had called her. She helped everyone she met. For him, one of the few things in the world that was rock-solid was the constancy of Anna’s kindness. ‘Anna. You are not a bad person. I know you, trust me! If you think of all the kind things you’ve do-‘ Anna placed a hand on her forehead, bowing her head. ‘You don’t know what I’ve done! I killed him! I shouldn’t have, but I did! I did it to protect myself, I wanted him to get off me! I never imagined he’d die!’ she said despairingly. Lupin stared in amazement at Anna, his thoughts scrambled but his opinion quite unchanged. ‘Anna…You can tell me…’ he said sympathetically.

Anna heaved a quavering sigh. ‘My first year at Hogwarts,’ she began with a steady voice, her eyes averted from Lupin’s. ‘there was, naturally, a new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher there. His name was Harold Obscore. He seemed quite nice, really, though he was never as good as you. During the summer holidays, I stayed in school, of course. I’d always be around the teachers, at meals and stuff and we became, not close, but friends. I saw him as a friend. This one night, after dinner, I was going to bed and for some reason, the lights on the corridor were out. I just kept walking, ‘cause it made no difference to me. I knew the castle like the back of my hand…But then I felt this stubby-fingered hand on my neck, pulling me back. Another on my mouth, keeping me from shouting. They pushed me and I backed into a wall. I saw my attacker’s face just then…The yellowish brown eyes of Harold Obscore.’ She broke off, but regained her composure and carried on in a matter of seconds. ‘He grabbed my by the hair, and shoved me into this broom cupboard. He had one hand on my mouth still and the other…you get the rest…I didn’t need to think – I wanted him off, I knew what he was going to do! So, I used my powers. I wanted to push him back, so I hit him full in the face with this water jet. He banged against the cupboard door, pushed it open, but got up again and headed for me – he wasn’t about to quit…So I conjured a sword and tried to threaten him with it. He, of course, pulled out his wand and aimed a Killing Curse at me in rage. I was faster, and cut off his wand hand. But he kept coming at me. I tried to run, but he kept blocking my way. I didn’t mean to kill him, but he ran right into my sword, the idiot…’Anna finished heatedly. Lupin was gaping at her. ‘Right.’ she said bracingly, getting up. ‘I understand if you…well…hate me or something now. I don’t hold any of it against you…I haven’t told anyone this…Just know that it was never my intention to kill him.’ She jumped over a foul-smelling bag of rats and headed towards the bedroom door when Lupin, who had crouched low while she was telling her story, got up. He grabbed her wrist and swung her into a tight hug. ‘I should have been there for you.’ He said. ‘You shouldn’t have had to spend the summer there; it’s my fault, not yours, Anna. Anyway, it doesn’t make you a killer. It makes you a fighter. Snape’s deranged if he thinks you’re a bad person. Don’t think on it, please.’ Anna felt her sorrow lift from her like a veil. Lupin’s warm arms and cheap cologne were her home. No powers, no magic, he made her feel better… XIX. The next day, as the inhabitants of Grimmauld Place welcomed Hermione in their midst, Remus Lupin was preparing to leave. ‘Hello, Hermione!’ he said brightly to the beaming girl. ‘Hi.’ She said, hoisting her trunk up the stairs. Lupin then turned to Anna, who had appeared behind him, alongside Sirius. ‘I have to go. I’m meeting Mad-Eye and the others up the street. We’ll have Harry here by seven the latest. Take care.’ He said, giving Anna a fleeting kiss on her forehead and nodding towards Sirius, who nodded back. As Lupin stepped out the door and Hermione climbed out of sight, Sirius grabbed Anna’s hand in the dark hallway. She turned towards him, took his unkempt hair in her hands, and kissed him. ‘Anna!’ came Mrs. Weasley’s voice from upstairs.

Sirius and Anna’s lips parted. They both had a pained expression on their faces as their hands slid from the other’s touch. Anna climbed up the stairs backwards, looking at Sirius avidly. Sirius had placed his hands in his pockets and lowered his head. ‘Anna, where on earth are you?’ Mrs Weasley called impatiently. ‘Coming.’ Anna said, finally turning around and running up the stairs. ‘Right, there you are.’ Mrs. Weasley said. ‘I want you to help Hermione and Ginny set the table for lunch. We’ll have to eat something quick now and then have a nice dinner when Harry comes. It’s only half past two…He’ll probably be here at about six…’ she added absently. ‘Alright. Do you want me do start cooking something as well?’ Anna asked, equally as absent, thinking of Sirius… ‘Oh, could you really? I’ve got my hands tied with these infested carpets…’ ‘Sure. Anything special?’ ‘Oh, just make some sandwiches or something…Just to keep us going until after the meeting.’ ‘The meeting?’ Anna asked, her mind slipping into the present. ‘Yes, the Order are having another meeting tonight. I wanted to talk to you about that. I really hoped you’d drop this idea with the Order, Anna. Really, you are too young.’ ‘Molly, really, stop this. If you really don’t want me to sit the meetings, then I won’t, okay? Just don’t tell me I’m too young. I have always been old enough to fight. I have always fought. I’m not new to war. I only wanted to join the Order because I thought I could help. I’m obviously causing more trouble, so I’ll simply step aside. Just stop badgering me…’ she said wearily. Mrs Weasley gaped at Anna for a few seconds, and stopped protesting. Anna climbed down the stairs and started cutting slices of bread. She didn’t even wait for Hermione and Ginny to come help her. She was so consumed with Sirius’ grief and her own to care about anything else. Anna was glad she was alone in that house full of people. While she was making quite a business of pouring mayonnaise onto the fried chicken and salad leafs, she absently wiped a tear or two from her cheeks. This is stupid, she thought. Why am I even crying? Harry will be here soon and Sirius will be fine again. I will be fine again. Won’t he? Anna paused, holding a spoon dripping in mayonnaise. Doubt had just made its way into her head. What if Harry’s arrival merely postpones Sirius’ problems? And Harry was unhappy as well… Fresh tears were glittering on her cheeks. She was crying not because she felt sorry, though, of course, she did, but mostly because she felt powerless. For once, she could not help the people she loved the most. Anna had to sit aside and watch Sirius and Harry be hurt, sad and not do a damn thing about it. She was crying out of rage, really. The kitchen door opened. Ginny and Hermione walked in, giggling. ‘Mum told us to come help you.’ Said Ginny brightly, smiling. The smile slid off her face as Anna turned her face from them. Both girls stopped dead. ‘No need, guys, I’m almost finished.’ Anna said quickly and steadily. ‘Anna,’ Hermione began. ‘what’s wrong?’ Before Anna could deny the fact that she had any problem, Ginny spoke. ‘Is it Sirius? Oh, I knew it was. You know, sometimes I really think I was right about him.’ Anna opened her mouth and frowned at Ginny. Noticing her exasperated expression, Ginny quickly added.

‘Oh, come on. D’you actually think Hermione’s going to tell anyone?’ ‘Tell who what? What are you two talking about?’ Hermione asked. ‘Nothing.’ Said Anna fiercely, narrowing her eyes and looking intently at Ginny. ‘It’s not nothing!’ said Ginny heatedly. ‘Anna’s in love with Sirius!’ ‘Ginny!’ said Anna indignantly. ‘You are!’ ‘I don’t need the entire continent alerted, though!’ Ginny rolled her eyes. ‘Um…Anna…but…you know it’s hopeless, right? I mean…he’s your father’s best friend…He’d never fall for you, you know…’ Hermione said timidly. Anna and Ginny both met each other’s gazes and threw their heads back into a loud, ringing laughter. Anna’s rage had quite evaporated, or, rather, was pointed towards Ginny. But she knew there was no real reason to pick a fight with her best friend, so she kept her rage to herself. ‘Hermione,’ Anna said. ‘he loves me too.’ Hermione’s mouth fell open. ‘Anna, but he’s-‘ ‘Not another one!’ Anna said exasperatedly. ‘I know the whole he’s-older-than-youso-stop-whatever-this-is story. Jesus, it’s my own choice!’ she added angrily. Hermione bit her lip, but didn’t say anything else. ‘I still thing he’s using you…’ Ginny said serenely, in a singing voice, closely surveying the sandwiches. ‘Fortunately, Ginny,’ Anna said spitefully. ‘to us it doesn’t matter what you think.’ ‘Oh, don’t be like that! I was merely pointing out the fact that you are crying over him when you should be having fun, laughing…You’re seventeen! You shouldn’t be crying over Sirius’s depression or even going to bed with him! You’re taking on responsibilities you’re not supposed to have!’ Ginny said heatedly. ‘Someone call my name?’ Sirius said, walking in airily, almost by accident. ‘No.’ Anna said a bit too pointedly, still staring at Ginny. Sirius raised his eyebrows. ‘Okay, um…have you been arguing or something?’ he asked. ‘It was a discussion.’ Anna said plainly. ‘Ginny and Hermione here don’t think it’s wise to screw a thirty-five year old man who, incidentally, is your father’s childhood friend. What do you think?’ Sirius’ face was set and pearly-white. ‘A-Anna. A-are you kidding?’ he said. Hermione and Ginny had never seen Sirius so flustered. ‘No, I’m not.’ Anna said plainly. ‘Ginny knows, Hermione knows and so does Dumbledore.’ If possible, Sirius turned whiter. ‘Don’t worry Sirius.’ Ginny said meekly. ‘We won’t tell anyone. We – alright Hermione, I - just wanted to ask you… see, Sirius, Anna’s pretty much taken on your problems as well, and I just think it’s a bit too much for her to handle, especially for a person who does not love her. So be honest – do you love her?’ Ginny said, with quite a lot of nerve. Sirius’ gaze was fixed upon Anna, whose cheeks were still gleaming from the tears. ‘With every bit of my heart.’ He said firmly. Ginny and Hermione’s faces turned pink.

‘Right.’ Hermione said. ‘We’d better take these upstairs…people are probably getting hungry…’ With that, they rushed out of the kitchen, leaving Anna and Sirius alone. Sirius wrapped his arms round Anna and started kissing the top of her head. ‘You are the silliest person I know…If you ever cry for me again, I swear…’ Anna tightened her hug. ‘I just want you to be happy, Sirius.’ ‘Don’t you see? I’m happy when the people I love are happy. How am I supposed to be happy if you are so damn miserable? What I want the most right now, is for you and Harry to be happy. That’s enough for me. Please, don’t mind my problems…I love you too much to see you do this to yourself…’ ‘But you never tell me all of this!’ Anna said impatiently. ‘You never talk to me like I talk to you…I don’t have nearly as many secrets from you as you do from me…’ ‘So you do have secrets?’ Sirius said with a grin. Anna rolled her eyes. ‘You’re missing the point.’ She said. ‘Which is?’ ‘That I only know the Sirius inside that old bedroom! I don’t know your secrets! I don’t know your dreams, but you know mine! It’s a little unfair, isn’t it?’ she said heatedly. Sirius’ grin faded. ‘Fine.’ He said. ‘I’ve never told anyone any of this…But you’re a part of me now…’he said, forcing both himself and Anna into two of the wooden chairs surrounding the table. ‘Where should I begin?’ ‘Your parents.’ She said simply. ‘They hated me.’ Sirius blurted before he could stop himself. ‘They wanted me dead, just because I wasn’t anti-Muggle-borns. It’s so stupid… I wasn’t going to join Voldemort and kill innocent people just for their approval! I ran away…I crashed at James’ …You see, for me, he was my family. When he and Lily died, it was like I’d lost my entire family in one night. I realised I was alone in the world…Pettigrew had taken my life away…He had taken everything I held dear in the world. Everything I lived for. You saw what happened. I wanted to kill him. I wanted to hurt him, even though I could never cause him as much damage as he had caused me! You know, I thought revenge would liberate me…I got chucked in Azkaban instead…For his murder! After I came out, I realised just how much Pettigrew had taken away from me. Not only my family, but also myself. I’d become less than a shadow…But something brought me back to life, Anna. You did…When I fell for you, it was like I’d never felt the coldness of the Dementors’ breaths, or heard the inmates’ terrible shrieks and mutterings at night. It was like twelve years of pain and darkness had vanished from me. Anna, you gave me back my soul…’ The hours until Harry’s arrival went by like minutes. Sirius told Anna everything he had kept inside, not for twelve, or fourteen years, but for thirty-five…All his stories and thoughts, all his feelings and opinions, all his desires and failures… Anna had slowly slid off her chair. She was at Sirius’ feet, one hand on his knee, listening harder than she ever had. For Sirius, love had found him his way to the light. For Anna, love had found her the way to life… They were each other’s strength and love. They were not simply Anna and Sirius anymore, but Anna for Sirius and Sirius for Anna. They lived not for the world, but for each other…

‘Harry, you’re here!’ Anna said brightly, hugging him. ‘Hi.’ Harry said grimly. Anna frowned, still hugging him. Her Evenstar shined, and Harry’s anger evaporated miraculously. ‘Hey, thanks.’ He said in an awed but relieved voice. ‘No problem.’ She answered, winking at him. She then nodded towards the end of the corridor. ‘There’s someone who’s been waiting for a long time to see you. Go.’ Sirius gave Harry a tight hug, clapping him on the back. Though not quite illuminated, Sirius’ face brightened a little, and the knot Anna did not know she had in her stomach relaxed. After everyone stuffed themselves full of Mrs Weasley’s excellent stew, and the dinner table fell silent in the digesting process, Sirius spoke. ‘You know, I’m surprised at you. I thought the first thing you’d do when you got here would be to start asking questions about Voldemort.’ Almost everyone shuddered, except for Harry, Sirius, Lupin and Anna. ‘I did!’ said Harry indignantly. ‘I asked Ron and Hermione but they said we’re not allowed in the Order, so-‘ ‘And they’re quite right. You’re too young.’ Anna mentally rolled her eyes and bit back her retort about how Voldemort did not research his victims’ time and date of birth. ‘You let Anna in on meetings…’ George mumbled angrily. Anna, who was sitting in between the twins, muttered just as angrily. ‘And look what good that’s done.’ ‘Anna is older and more skilled than you are.’ Mrs Weasley said, sitting straight in her chair, apparently being sprung back into life. ‘Since when did someone have to be in the Order of the Phoenix to ask questions?’ asked Sirius. ‘Harry’s been trapped in that Muggle house for a month. He’s got the right to know what’s been happen-‘ ‘Hang on!’ interrupted George. ‘How come Harry gets his questions answered?’ said Fred. ‘We’ve been trying to get stuff out of you for a month and you haven’t told us a single stinking thing!’ continued George. ‘“You’re too young, you’re not allowed in the Order.”’ Said Fred, in an impressive imitation of his mother’s voice. ‘Harry’s not even of age!’ ‘It’s not my fault you haven’t been told what the Order’s doing.’ Sirius replied calmly. ‘That’s your parents’ decision. Harry, on the other hand –‘ ‘It’s not down to you to decide what’s good for Harry!’ said Mrs Weasley sharply. Anna sat bolt upright in her seat, surveying Mrs Weasley attentively. ‘You haven’t forgotten what Dumbledore said, I suppose?’ Molly insisted. ‘Which bit?’ Sirius asked politely. ‘The bit about not telling Harry more than he needs to know.’ Said Mrs Weasley. ‘I don’t intend to tell him more than he needs to know, Molly.’ Said Sirius. ‘But as he was the one who saw Voldemort come back, he has more right than most to-‘ ‘He’s not a member of the Order! He’s only fifteen and-‘ began Mrs Weasley heatedly. ‘And he’s dealt with as much as most in the Order. And more than some.’ Said Sirius calmly. ‘No one’s denying what he’s done! But he’s still-‘ ‘He’s not a child!’ said Sirius.

‘He’s not an adult either.’ Said Mrs Weasley, looking flushed. ‘He’s not James, Sirius!’ ‘I’m perfectly clear who he is, thanks, Molly.’ Sirius said, with an eerie coldness. Anna breathed a soft uh-oh only for Fred and George, on whom she was now leaning, to hear. She then elbowed them so that the three stood upright in their seats at once, with Lupin glaring at them. ‘I’m not sure you are!’ said Molly. ‘Sometimes, the way you talk about him, it’s as though you think you’ve got your best friend back!’ ‘What’s wrong with that?’ said Harry. ‘What’s wrong, Harry, it that you are not your father, however much you might look like him!’ Molly said heatedly, still looking intently at Sirius. ‘You’re still at school and adults responsible for you should not forget it!’ ‘Meaning I’m an irresponsible godfather?’ enquired Sirius a bit louder. ‘Meaning you’ve been known to act rashly, Sirius, which is why Dumbledore keeps reminding you to stay at home and –‘ ‘We’ll leave my instructions from Dumbledore out of this, if you please!’ Sirius said even more loudly. Anna frowned. Sirius glanced at her but did not care about her disapproval. When both Lupin and Arthur launched themselves into a rather peaceful overruling of Molly, she forfeited…Sort of… ‘He’s not your son.’ Sirius said quietly. ‘He’s as good as. Who else has he got?’ she said. ‘He’s got me!’ ‘Yes.’ Said Mrs Weasley, her lip curling. ‘the thing is, it’s been rather difficult for you to look after him while you’ve been locked up in Azkaban, hasn’t it?’ ‘Molly!’ Anna exclaimed. ‘Sirius, sit down!’ said Lupin, gripping Sirius’ forearm. ‘Jesus…’ Anna sighed. ‘You two are doing exactly what Voldemort expects you to do, you do realise that, don’t you? This is the precise thing he wants us to do! Does divide and conquer ring a bell? You should know better than to accuse Sirius for being convicted for a crime he did not commit and you should learn not to vent you anger at Dumbledore on other people. Don’t you realise that alone we have no chance? We’ve got to stop arguing like this…Bickering won’t do us any good, and it certainly won’t do Harry any good.’ Anna concluded, leaning back in her chair. Molly set her jaw. Sirius was shooting Anna not the soppy gazes he had accustomed her to, but fierce ones. ‘Hate me all you want. You know I’m right.’ She said, rising from her seat and collecting empty plates as she headed towards the sink. Anna fell silent as she washed the dishes, leaving the party surrounding the table explaining the children – except Ginny, who had been hauled off to bed – what Voldemort was up to. As Mrs. Weasley finally put a stop to their explanations, Anna followed suit, holding two very small onions which she wanted to return to their rightful place – the pantry. The pantry was just down the hallway, in front of the staircase. It was the smallest room ever built, in Anna’s opinion. It was always dark and smelled of rotten garlic. Anna lit the tip of her wand and pushed the door open. She took one step iniside, and one hand grabbed her arm, throwing her against the old wooden shelves. ‘Does it seem to you like I need much protection?’ Sirius hissed in her face. ‘What?’ said Anna sharply.

‘Seeing as how I’ve managed to keep myself alive for the past thirty-five years, I should think you should stop trying to save me, really.’ He whispered malevolently. ‘I wasn’t trying to save you. If that’s what you saw, then I’m sorry. I was trying to back you up, you idiot. But, if I’m so dispensable, then I won’t bother you again.’ Anna placed the two onions on the nearest shelf, and stormed out of the pantry. Sirius was left in the dark, foul-smelling pantry, a tall, thin, dumbstruck figure that felt like banging his head against the sickly-green walls. As the other inhabitants of Grimmauld Place – the ones with no real occupation – headed towards the dingy drawing room in order to do a bit of cleaning, Sirius was nowhere in sight. ‘The git!’ Anna had said that night. ‘Anna…’ Hermione had started. ‘I know I got myself into this, but why does he have to fight everyone every single step of the way? I can understand him fighting Snape, because the moron actually gives him reasons, but me?’ she had interrupted. Ginny was remembering Anna’s reasoning as she stepped into the dusty lounge. She winced slightly as her mother jabbed a bottle of Doxycide under her nose, telling her to spray. ‘Oh, you’ve started.’ Sirius said, walking in. Anna gave him a very mean look. Sirius grabbed a bottle and started spraying, a cloth covering his mouth and nose. The de-Doxyfying took them hours. When Mrs Weasley returned with some sandwiches, they all ate silently, as though they had nothing better to do. Kreacher weaved in and out of the room, being thrown out by Sirius each and every time he started muttering under his breath. Anna’s brain was quite blank, her eyes avoiding to catch a glimpse of Sirius. She was really spraying mechanically… ‘This is fuuun…’ Sirius said under his breath. Anna hadn’t noticed him being next to her. Her face remained quite implacable as the rest grinned into their cloths. ‘Hey, how about some music?’ Sirius said tentatively, stealing a glance at Anna, who did not bother return it. ‘Oh, Sirius, I really don’t think…’ Molly started. ‘Don’t be silly, it’ll be just fine. I’m sure we’ll still be able to hear the Doxys. It’s just that we’ve been at it for hours and it’s getting rather boring.’ ‘It was so enthralling before…’ Ginny said, so that only Anna and Sirius heard. ‘Very well…’ Molly said wearily. Sirius summoned a weird-looking radio that came zooming peacefully through the door. It started making odd, brain-scratching noises as Sirius turned it on with a wave of his wand. The song was clearly a Muggle one. During the last three lines – the only ones they could hear – there was no mention of any love-potion, wand, spell, hex or fantastic beast. ‘Who wants to dance?’ Sirius said merrily. ‘Anna…’ Hermione and Ginny whispered, looking at each other. ‘No she doesn’t!’ Anna scowled. ‘Why not?’ Ron asked. ‘You’re the only one here without two left feet!’ ‘What’s that supposed to mean?’ said Ginny amusedly. ‘Well…she can dance better than we can!’ Fred protested.

Anna rolled her eyes. It was getting to be a habit those days. ‘Come on, Anna.’ Molly said politely. ‘Sirius, you were quite the dancer, I remember…’ she added tentatively. ‘Go on, Anna!’ George said. Anna surrendered. What could happen? They were in a room full of people…What could Sirius possibly do? She extended her arm. Sirius pulled her a bit too hard into a spin she did not expect. Her long hair hit Sirius in the face. She was glad it had, but Sirius gave no sign of that ever happening. He continued to smile kindly and politely as if he had never even met her before. Rage swelled inside Anna, and she frowned. If it’s dancing you want, she thought, it’s dancing you’ll get. She shot a sharp look towards the radio. The song that began was of her liking. Sirius and Anna had to spin so fast they appeared blurred to the amazed viewers. As the song ended, two panting silhouettes appeared out of the blur, holding hands. They shot reproachful looks at each other. Before they had any time to think, another song – though slower this time – began. ‘Beauty queen of only eighteen, she Had some trouble with herself… He was always there to help her She always belonged to someone else… I drove for miles and miles And wound up at your door I’ve had you so many times but Somehow I want more…’ ‘I do, you know…’ Sirius whispered in Anna’s ear as her pulled her into his arms. ‘I don’t mind spending every day Out on your corner in the pouring rain…’ ‘I’d do anything for you…’ ‘Look for the girl with a broken smile Ask her is she wants to stay awhile And she will be loved…’ ‘I’m sorry…’ Anna tore herself from Sirius’ arms and stormed out of the room. Sirius ran after her, leaving everyone bemused. Only Hermione and Ginny exchanged dark looks. ‘In!’ she told Sirius as they reached the door of his bedroom. Sirius obeyed. ‘It doesn’t work like that, Sirius!’ she said, closing the door. ‘You can’t possibly dismiss me one day and say you’re sorry the next, and expect everything to fix itself. I can’t work like that. I’ll have to fit your mould every single minute, and you can’t ask me to do that!’ she added heatedly. ‘No, I can’t.’ he said plainly. ‘But I can tell you that I love you and you can always be sure of that. Don’t you realise that I’ve never felt like this in my life?’ ‘Join the club!’ interjected Anna. ‘Alright, you haven’t either, but you still remember what it’s like to be around someone you feel something for! I don’t!’ he said despairingly.

Anna couldn’t contradict that argument. After all, wasn’t it she who told everyone how difficult it had been for him in Azkaban? She exhaled and closed her eyes. ‘You should have told me all of this before I ever got a chance to be mad at you, Sirius.’ ‘And now you can’t forgive me? Is that it?’ ‘What? No. Far from it. But you need to tell me…don’t let me assume things anymore, okay?’ she said, a faint smile etched across her face. Sirius grinned back at her, grabbing her hand on his way out. In front of his bedroom, an army awaited. ‘What was that about?’ Molly said, her arms on her hips. ‘Nothing.’ Grinned Anna. ‘Absolutely nothing.’ Ginny and Hermione exhaled, smiling. Ginny gave Anna and Sirius the thumbs up behind the rest of her family’s back. Both Anna and Sirius gave her the same loving, happy grin. In time, there grew a world outside Anna and Sirius’ bedroom. The world outside had Voldemort, Harry’s hearing at the Ministry and Snape’s taunts. Inside their bedroom, however, they were protected and happy. Most of the time they would just talk for hours on end, sharing each other’s dreams… But the world outside did not tolerate their love. Darkness was taking over, fear was waiting… After a cheerful party – for Ron and Hermione, the new Hogwarts Prefects – Molly surrendered to her tiredness and went to bed. But first, she had to tackle with the nasty Boggart in the drawing room. As the creature took the form of each of the members of the Weasley family dead on the carpet, Molly sobbed harder and harder. Harry was lazily making his way up the creaking stairs when he became intrigued by the sobbing and entered the lounge to see Ron’s body lying flat on his back, eyes staring at nothing. He frowned. Downstairs, in the kitchen, Anna blinked, only to open her eyes again and see what Harry saw at the time. Her expression turned stony as she was gazing upon the dead bodies of the twins. She got up and rushed up the stairs. Behind her, the entire dinner table party followed, each sporting a worried look on their faces. ‘Mrs. Weasley?’ Harry croaked. ‘R-r-riddikulus!’ came the sobbing voice. Ron’s body turned into Bill’s, a fine thread of blood trickling down his forehead. ‘Riddikulus! Oh…’ Molly sobbed again. Arthur’s body replaced Bill’s, his glasses on the floor, his eyes staring without seeing, his kind face now bereft of all life. ‘NO!’ Molly said despairingly. ‘R-ridikulus!’ she said again, pointing her wand quite uselessly at the Boggart, which transformed into Percy’s limp body, then Harry and Anna’s at the same time. ‘Mrs Weasley, just get out of here! Just let someone else – ‘ Harry pleaded, his voice hoarse. ‘What’s going on?’ Lupin had walked into the room, accompanied by Sirius and Anna. The rest were far behind them.

‘Anna, take care of the Boggart.’ Lupin whispered. ‘You know I can’t.’ she whispered back, her grey eyes watching Molly intensely. ‘Right.’ Lupin said bracingly. ‘Riddikulus!’ he said, pointing his wand at the Boggart which had transformed into a bright orb. Molly broke out in tears, hiding her head in her hands. ‘Molly, don’t…’Lupin tried to console her. ‘It was just a Boggart, a stupid Boggart…’ Molly now had her head on Lupin’s shoulder, and was sobbing harder than ever. ‘I s - see them d - dead all the time!’ Molly moaned into his shoulder. ‘All the t – time! I d – d – dream about it…’ Anna was standing next to Sirius, who was absently staring at the spot where, minutes earlier, Harry and Anna’s dead bodies had been. Anna elbowed Sirius gently, but he kept swaying on the spot. Lupin’s head gave a jerk. He beckoned Anna, who at once crouched next to Molly, taking her head in her warm hands. Anna raised Molly’s chin up, and her tears dried on her cheeks. ‘Listen, Molly,’ Anna began steadily. ‘Look at me.’ Molly raised her eyes so that her gaze met Anna’s. Molly exhaled…It felt like the pressure at the top of her chest had disappeared. ‘Your family will not fall apart.’ Anna said kindly, almost in a whisper. Sirius’ head turned. He too was listening. ‘H-how c-can you p-possibly know that?’ Molly sobbed, fresh tears on her cheeks. ‘H-half the f-family’s in the Order, it’ll b-be a miracle if we all come through this… and Percy’s not talking to us…what if something d-dreadful happens and we’ve never made it up with h-him? And what’s going to happen if Arthur and I get killed? Who’s g-going to look after Ron and Ginny?’ ‘Molly, that’s enough.’ Lupin said firmly. ‘This isn’t like the last time. The Order are better prepared, we’ve got a head start, we know what Voldemort is up to. And it’s about time you got used to hearing his name – look, I can’t promise no one’s going to get hurt, nobody can promise that, but we’re much better off than we were last time. You weren’t in the Order then, you don’t understand. Last time we were outnumbered twenty to one by the Death Eaters and they were picking us off one by one…’ ‘Don’t worry about Percy. He’ll come round.’ Sirius said abruptly, making Anna’s head turn. ‘It’s only a matter before Voldemort moves into the open; once he does, the whole Ministry’s going to be begging us to forgive them. And I’m not so sure I’ll be accepting their apology.’ He concluded bitterly. ‘Molly,’ Anna began again. ‘I know your family won’t fall apart. I just do.’ ‘H-how come?’ ‘You won’t let it.’ Anna said, straightening her back. ‘And neither will I.’ Molly sighed, offering Anna a crooked smile and wiping her tears away. It was nice of Anna to offer to protect her family, but she was only a child after all… How could she possibly protect them? But still, it had been Anna’s certainty that helped her the most. There was something about her…something soothing about the way she talked, and the warmth of her touch…Molly could swear her tears had dried off when Anna had touched her face…Strange… ‘Being silly.’ Molly muttered, standing up and giving Anna small squeeze. Behind Molly’s back, Anna and Lupin exchanged both incredulous and dark looks. One by one, the guests went home, and the inhabitants of number twelve, Grimmauld Place went to their dormitories. Anna and Harry’s were on the same floor. They both walked silently up the stairs, and said ‘goodnight’ in small, croaked voices. They both had the same things on their minds…Moody’s picture and the Boggart…

A firm, long-fingered hand tugged on Anna’s forearm hard, shoving her into an old, dusty room. Someone’s lips pressed hard against hers, and her body relaxed. There could be no mistake involving Sirius’ kiss. She knew his soft lips better than she knew her own. After a few seconds’ kissing, Sirius released Anna and sat down on the floor. Quite prudent of him, too – the old armchairs were far dirtier than the floor. Anna crouched beside him. Sirius’ head was buried in his hands, which Anna took in hers, forcing him to reveal his face. It was white and seemingly stricken. ‘Sirius,’ she said. ‘what’s the matter?’ ‘It’s too fast…It’s coming too fast!’ ‘Sirius don’t be a child!’ Anna exclaimed before thinking. ‘Did you think it was going to come at a convenient time, or something?’ ‘What I meant was,’ Sirius said, regaining his calm. ‘I got far too little time with you and Harry. I found myself wishing, hoping against hope that they will expel him! I’m going to go crazy in here, Anna, without knowing what you and Harry are doing! It’s beyond missing you! It’s plain worry! I know what Molly feels like, and … I’m scared for you! Both of you!’ Anna kissed and stroked his forehead affectionately, taking his head in her arms, against her warm chest. Sirius exhaled, much like Molly had. Sirius was scared for her… ‘Listen, you can’t go weak on me right now, ok? The war hasn’t even started yet…’ she said, maintaining a firm grip on his strong palms. After the tiniest pause, she continued. ‘And don’t you know that I’m never away from you? Don’t you know that my heart and soul are always with you?’ she whispered, kissing every inch of his face she could. ‘Please don’t do this to yourself…’ Sirius raised his head and gazed into her worried eyes. She loved him, he could tell. That thought alone made his heart lighter. He kissed her, and she cuddled in his arms, becoming smaller than in real life, seemingly tailored to fit into them. After half an hour or so, she finally spoke. ‘Sirius,’ she began in a low voice. ‘I want to tell Harry.’ Sirius stared at her incredulously. In the dim light, her beauty shone like a beacon. The yellow light that came from the streetlamp fell in rays on her dark, smooth hair which had, in the last few months, curled at its ends. Her grey eyes were his home, partly because of their beauty, partly because they reminded him of the happiest time of his life. Her grey eyes were just like Remus’ before the world had made its impression upon him…Her eyes made him feel like he was back at Hogwarts, and James had never died and Peter had never betrayed them… Even so, in the dark, Sirius saw her beauty and grace and felt like he had fallen in love with her all over again… ‘Well?’ she said impatiently. Sirius was unpleasantly awakened, and it took him a great deal of brain-power to concentrate. ‘Sorry, I was just – Why do you want to tell him?’ Anna sighed. ‘Because you and Molly aren’t the only ones who are scared of what’s coming.’ She said, looking him straight in the eye. In the dark, Sirius raised an eyebrow. ‘Don’t look at me like that!’ she said. ‘It’s worse when you love someone…A day doesn’t go by I don’t think about what would happen if you cracked and went outside once everyone’s gone. Or if Voldemort gets to Harry somehow and…Dad…what if

something happens and I don’t get to tell everyone how much I love them? And don’t give me that crap about how everyone already knows –‘ ‘I wasn’t going to.’ Interjected Sirius. ‘-because it would be so much easier if people knew…That would mean we would never have to tell each other anything…’ she sighed. ‘I just think we’re running out of time…Harry’s your son now, Sirius. If I were him, I’d like to know what my godfather’s up to, really. It’d just be worse if he found out for himself…’ ‘Are you saying there’s a chance he won’t approve of this?’ Sirius asked seriously. ‘I don’t know. We shouldn’t lie to him pointlessly. Like you said, it’s coming too soon…I don’t know how much time I’ve got with you or any of the people I love, really! It’s – Our entire future is marked by uncertainty and it’s driving me mad! I just worry so much…’ ‘Anna, you don’t have to worry!’ Sirius protested. ‘Don’t have to?! Sirius you of all people must know that I have no choice! I love you, and dad, and Harry, and the Weasleys, and Albus, and…’she let her voice trail away, screwing up her face, trying to make Sirius understand… He, on the other hand, was smiling rudely at her. She frowned. ‘Why on earth are you smiling?’ she asked. ‘I’m pleased.’ He answered simply. ‘Why?’ Anna asked pointedly, now raising her eyebrows. Sirius’ smile broadened. He was downright grinning. Anna frowned again, and Sirius actually let a soft laughter escape his lips. He was, in fact, laughing at many things. One was Anna’s quick succession of expressions in such a short time. The other was his own foolishness. How could he have ever believed that Anna did not let love get to her heart? How could he have ever believed that Anna was so utterly implacable and impassable? He, who had spent so much time – more than her father – with her, and discovered her warmth like no one else had? He, who loved her? He actually thought love would not bring fear along…He actually thought Anna’s strength was constant. He now found he had misjudged the person he loved most in the world. Anna’s strength wasn’t her impenetrability to fear. Quite the opposite, actually. Her strength was her love. Her strength was her fear for the ones she loved. That gave her the speed of wind and precision of Swiss clockwork. ‘BECAUSE YOU’VE FINALLY SHOWN SOME FEAR. I’VE BEEN WAITING FOR YOU TO SHOW THAT YOU’RE HUMAN…AND YOU HAVE…JUST NOW.’ HE ADDED, GRINNING. ANNA’S MOUTH WAS SLIGHTLY OPEN. SHE MADE NO REPLY, BUT BURIED HER HEAD DEEP IN SIRIUS’ CHEST. SHE WASN’T CRYING, JUST ENJOYING THE TIME SHE HAD THEN AND THERE WITH THE ONLY MAN SHE WILL EVER LOVE. SHE BATHED IN THE SMELL OF HIS COLOGNE MIXED WITH SWEET-SMELLING TOBACCO. NOT LIKE MUNDUNGUS’ TOBACCO…NO…SIRIUS’ SMELL WAS HIS OWN, SWEET AND CLEAN. SIRIUS’ ARMS WERE WARM, EVEN THOUGH HE HAD BEEN SITTING ON THE FLOOR FOR AT LEAST AN HOUR. WITH SIRIUS’ ARMS WRAPPED AROUND HER, SHE FELT PEACEFUL… SIRIUS HAD HIS HEAD BURIED DEEP IN HER HAIR, ABSENTLY KISSING THE TOP OF HER HEAD. ANNA’S STEADY BREATH WAS MUSIC TO HIS EARS…HE TOO FELT PEACEFUL, OBLIVIOUS AT THAT MOMENT, OF

WHATEVER WARS AND GRIEFS WERE OUTSIDE THEIR EMBRACE. HE LIVED FOR TWO PEOPLE…HARRY AND ANNA… SUMMER RAIN WAS SLOWLY RAPPING AGAINST THE WINDOWS OF NUMBER TWELVE, GRIMMAULD PLACE After an hour or so, Anna muttered lucidly. ‘I still want to tell Harry…’ she said. ‘And I want to tell everyone.’ Sirius whispered back. Anna straightened her back and unglued her head from Sirius’ chest. Her eyes were piercing his, one eyebrow characteristically raised. ‘Why?’ she asked calmly. ‘Because our very own Statute of Secrecy is starting to annoy me, really.’ He said plainly. ‘I see no reason why we couldn’t simply tell everyone we’re in love and I could get to kiss and hug you when I feel like it, not just wink and smile across the table. You wouldn’t have to sneak into my room every time you want to talk and I hardly think anyone is going to care that we are doing this. We’re not that important.’ He added quite bitterly. ‘Are you serious?’ Anna asked. ‘You actually think nobody is going to care? As in dad won’t want to ring your neck if he finds out you’ve so much as brushed up against me, or what? Or Molly – won’t she give us a lecture on responsibilities or something? People are going to care, Sirius. And they’ll do more than protest. Plus they’ll say it’s a bit reckless to fall in love at this time – especially for you.’ ‘I know, I know.’ He snapped. ‘I still want to tell them, though.’ They caught each other’s eye and grinned. Just outside the doorframe of the dusty room, the floorboard creaked. Anna’s grin dissolved and her lioness’ head jerked up, listening attentively. Sirius once again gaped at her beauty, forgetting all about the mysterious creak… Maybe it’s just Snuffles… Anna found herself thinking. But through the small crack between the doorframe and the actual door, a bespectacled boy was peering at the two. He had heard every bit of the conversation… ‘Harry, wait!’ Anna whispered in the dark, but Harry had skidded off, leaving her in the doorstep, reaching out to grab his arm. Harry had his hand extended…He wanted to get as far away from the pair as possible, feeling that he had intruded mercilessly upon the two. It should have been their time alone, their secret… Out of the dark, the lioness jumped in front of him, teeth bared, growling menacingly, only for him to hear. Harry leapt back in surprise while the amber lioness raised her strong, padded paw and pointed at the door he had run away from merely a few seconds before. As Harry looked over his shoulder towards the place she was pointing at, he noticed his godfather, Sirius’ silhouette appear. He too beckoned Harry nearer to him. Harry entered the room a bit unwillingly, but entered nevertheless. As Sirius shut the door behind him and the lioness who had now regained her much less menacing human form, Harry turned round, facing them both. Sirius came forward and put his arm round Anna’s shoulders. They both had the same look on their faces: that of children being caught while misbehaving who were now waiting their penalty. ‘Harry, Anna and I have something to tell you.’ Sirius said after an awkward pause from the three of them.

‘You don’t say.’ interjected Harry and Anna gave a small, almost indistinguishable snort. ‘We…well, we’re…how do I put this?’ Sirius ploughed on ineffectively and insecurely. ‘Help?’ he besought Anna. ‘I think you’ve got it covered.’ Anna answered with a grin. ‘Right.’ Sirius replied. ‘Thanks. Listen, Harry, Anna and I are in love, ok?’ he said quickly, as though it hurt him to say it. Anna peered at him from somewhere below his jugular. ‘Um…uh…er..’ Harry staggered. What could he possibly reply? ‘Glad to know you’re so comfortable with saying it, really.’ Anna spared him. ‘It’s not that.’ Said Sirius gazing at Harry, and Anna understood. It wasn’t the actual information, but rather the person he was informing. ‘Well?’ Sirius said apologetically. Harry glanced for a moment at Anna, thinking he couldn’t tell her how he felt about her and Sirius, that it’d be to awkward. ‘I think I’ll just go to bed.’ She said, yawning widely, falsely. ‘Night.’ She then smiled at them both. She made to slide from under Sirius’ arm, and did so successfully, heading towards the door. Sirius did not let her go peacefully, but pulled her into his arms, whispering in her ear. ‘Good night.’ Anna grinned and winked at him, then nodded towards Harry. She then left the room quietly, waving at both of them. Sirius’ gaze then turned on Harry, eyebrows raised expectantly. Harry’s brain sprung into action, manners first. ‘You’re asking my…opinion?’ he said. Sirius nodded gravely. So Harry thought. He thought hard for what must have been five minutes, during which Sirius watched him patiently. What did he feel about them? He had to admit he felt relief. Both Sirius and Anna – if they truly loved each other – could find comfort in their love, comfort neither Harry nor Lupin could offer them. Their love was a chance for Sirius at being happy; Harry could not disapprove of that. ‘I think it’s great, really.’ He said earnestly. Sirius exhaled so that he seemed to deflate. His worn out face relaxed into a grin as he clapped Harry on the back and led him to the door. ‘Thank you.’ He breathed in Harry’s ear. Harry grinned as he turned the doorknob. He opened the door to find a teetering Anna with her back to them. She turned as she heard the door creak, revealing an anxious look – she was biting her fingernails. ‘Well?’ she besought Sirius and Harry. They made no reply, Harry’s grin still on his face, and Sirius tipping her an enormous wink, at which she relaxed, lowering her hand. She started rubbing her upper arms with a shiver, still looking affectionately at Harry. ‘You’re cold.’ Sirius said. ‘Yeah, well…Kreacher brings a chill…’ she said, signalling towards the staircase on which her gaze had fallen seconds before. Harry and Sirius turned to see Kreacher and his loincloth climbing down the stairs, muttering as usual. The three remained silent as Kreacher walked in his usual slowmotion past them, muttering frantically, as usual.

‘Nasty brats in my mistress’ house, her own son – a blood traitor. She would never have stood for it…And the girl,’ he said, raising his head to look at Anna, who had stopped moving and was now looking at the house-elf as though she’d have liked nothing better than to strangle him. ‘Kreacher feels she is powerful, yes…She has more power than anyone in my mistress’ house, yet she befriends Mudbloods and blood-traitors alike…If only my mistress knew, she’d try to persuade her, to teach her that there is no nobility in being a Mudblood – she’d be such an asset to my mistress’ cause…But something good might come out of this, yes…My mistress’ son seems to have developed a likeness’ for her… Each night he dreams of her, Kreacher knows… He mutters her name in his sleep, yes…And Kreacher has heard them whisper and has seen them do shameful things, yes…If only the others knew what foul things go on in the old bedrooms…Kreacher might tell them one day, what a nasty brat she is, and what a corrupted man he is, yes, Kreacher knows…’ Anna’s jaw was set, her similarity to Lupin so poignant that Harry was startled at first. Sirius looked both flabbergasted and angry. ‘If you ever insult her again, I’ll ring your neck.’ He whispered menacingly. ‘Sirius, don’t.’ Anna said, placing one hand distractedly on his chest, as though to stop him from walking. She then turned to Kreacher. ‘I’ll have you know that we have done nothing wrong.’ She hissed and the house-elf threw his arms over his head in protection. ‘I won’t hit you. It’s exactly what you want and expect – one more reason to complain about how we treat you here.’ She said, her eyes narrowed so that she looked very much like a lioness. ‘If you ever repeat what you know, then you will have much cause to fear me. Really fear me, Kreacher.’ She added menacingly. Kreacher took on step back, looking wary and meek. ‘One more thing.’ She added. ‘If you ever insult anyone for being Muggle-born or a blood-traitor,’ she said loathingly. ‘I – that is to say, we – will kick you out without a second thought, do you understand?’ Kreacher nodded and turned away. Sirius and Harry were as dumbfounded as Kreacher had been. Anna turned to them, her cheeks pink. ‘But he won’t listen to what you say.’ Sirius said disappointedly. ‘Oh, I have a feeling he will.’ Anna added darkly. Harry and Sirius were given no other clarification, and dropped the matter. Harry said goodnight, and so did Sirius. The only difference was that Sirius actually kissed Anna full on the mouth before doing so. Harry quickly turned his head, pretending to open the door to his own bedroom. Before averting his eyes from the scene, however, he caught a glimpse of Sirius pulling Anna’s arm and planting his lips on hers. It later occurred to Harry, as he had trouble sleeping that night, that their two bodies connected, seemed to complete each other gracefully, like they were two ingredients of a potion, both fluid, both merging. He could swear he saw Anna’s hair twinge at its ends and quickly pushed the thought away – the idea reminded him too much of Medusa and her ever-moving hair. ‘He looked genuinely pleased.’ Anna told Sirius as they stood together, talking for the last night before school started. ‘Yeah…’ Sirius said distractedly. Anna thought it best to put her finger right on the matter. After all, they had very little time left together. ‘Sirius, I won’t just abandon you, you know. The ring still works.’ She said bleatingly.

Sirius averted his eyes from the wet window of his bedroom so that they were piercing Anna’s. ‘It won’t be the same once you’re gone.’ He said resignedly, his eyebrows raised. ‘Yes it will!’ Anna protested. ‘I’ll still love you just as much!’ Sirius gave a shaky laugh, at which Anna’s expression turned stony. ‘You don’t have faith in me, do you?’ she asked in a low but steady voice. Sirius merely glanced at her for a split second, but she could see the insecurity in his eyes. She knew him all too well. ‘You listen to me,’ she said bracingly. ‘if you don’t trust me of all people, what point is there of doing this anymore?’ ‘This? You can’t even name it, can you?’ ‘Neither can you.’ She replied calmly. ‘Because it’s indefinite.’ ‘No argument there.’ He said scathingly, childishly. ‘Then, let’s make it definite!’ she said determinedly, making Sirius glare at her in surprise. ‘Let’s barge into a chapel, shall we!’ he said after a small pause. ‘Don’t be silly.’ She retorted quickly. ‘You’re the most wanted man in the country, obviously we can’t do that. But there’s something else we can do. Get up.’ she concluded brightly. Sirius was reluctant to do so, and Anna quickly took his hand in hers. He raised his eyebrows once again at her warm touch. She led him to the middle of his bedroom and turned to him. ‘Let’s make a vow.’ She said plainly. ‘An Unbreakable Vow.’ ‘What?’ Sirius asked sharply. ‘Frankly, Sirius, I don’t think I’m ever going to love anyone else but you. Ever. If you feel the same way, than we should do something about it, shouldn’t we?’ she said calmly. It took Sirius a while to take in all of her words, and managed a heavy ‘Yes.’ after about thirty seconds. ‘Then, you do feel the same way?’ she asked eagerly. He nodded. ‘Good.’ She said, smiling and throwing back her hair in order to make the bond. ‘An Unbreakable Vow, you say?’ ‘Yeah.’ ‘But who will be our Bonder?’ ‘Oh, I think I can arrange that.’ She said snapping her fingers. The tall form of possibly the most beautiful woman – apart from Anna, naturally – Sirius had ever seen appeared next to them. She had a very long blonde hair that crowned her face. She had penetrating, electric blue eyes, long, curved eyebrows and a dazzlingly white skin. She was wearing a long, light grey dress. Her attire was simple, except for a large ring that rested on her right hand. Her features were graceful, even her pointy ears. Every cell she possessed screamed nobility. Sirius, who had been dumbfounded before by Anna’s proposal, was now gaping quite rudely at the stranger. Anna did not seem surprised by the sudden apparition, but smiled politely at the woman. It wasn’t until the tall silhouette stood up to her full height did Anna approach her. She did so with her arms open, hugging the tall woman. ‘Hello.’ Anna said brightly.

‘Mae govannen.’ Answered the woman. He voice was deep and grave. Her hello had not been as bright as Anna’s, but cold and testy. Anna had felt the irk in her voice and replied brightly. ‘No need to feel unnerved, milady. I daresay we’ll be done soon.’ The tall woman raised her eyebrows about a millimetre, but made no reply. Anna thought it was time for an introduction. ‘Sirius, close your mouth.’ She said, smiling faintly. ‘This is Lady Galadriel of Lorien.’ She then looked intently at the woman, who nodded. ‘My grandmother.’ Anna sighed. ‘You wh-?’ Sirius started. ‘Milady, this is Sirius. I doubt you do not know who he is, but I still had to humour my manners.’ Anna continued. Sirius felt something strange in her tone. It was extremely formal, her gaze stern, her back straight. He could not see why she would talk in such a cold way with her – had he heard right? – grandmother. ‘Anna how can sh-?’ ‘I’ll explain everything later, I promise.’ She said, her voice kind, sweet. ‘Now, we’ve got a bit of work to do. I presume you have been watching me?’ she asked Galadriel. ‘Naturally.’ She said coolly. ‘And you know why I have summoned you here?’ ‘I have a shrewd idea. Pray explain.’ The woman snapped. ‘I have a favour to ask.’ Anna ploughed on, determinedly calm. ‘I must ask you to bear witness to our Unbreakable Vow.’ The woman’s stony, austere expression softened. ‘Don’t be a child, Luthien. You have no idea how such a Vow encages you.’ She said condescendingly. ‘I know very well what I am doing, thank you.’ Anna smiled politely. ‘Are you both willing?’ Galadriel asked. ‘Yes.’ Answered Sirius loudly before Anna could open her mouth. She grinned. ‘Even you, who are supposed to be older and wiser than she is?’ asked the lady in mild interest. ‘Listen, I don’t know who you are, but if you’re suggesting that we’re taking this lightly, let me just clear things for you.’ Sirius snapped. ‘She’s the person I want to spend the rest of my life with. It’s her children I want to have and it’s next to her that I want to wake up every morning. Without her, I don’t exist. I don’t want to exist. So will everyone stop with the are-you-sure thing? Because I am more certain of this than anything. We both are. We have to be.’ He said heatedly, half-shouting and jabbing his forefinger against his chest. For merely a second, the two looked at him blankly, jaws dropped. He kept staring at Anna, hungry for some kind of reply, panting and scowling. Anna closed her mouth after some time, shook her head and ran to him, giving him the warmest, most loving hug in his life, her head in his shoulder, her thin, strong arms coiled around his neck. The elven queen was left stupidly alone and cold as Sirius finally realised what made Anna the most beautiful woman in the world: her warmth. Galadriel was breathtaking, no argument there. But she had a cold, explicit beauty. A type of beauty Sirius had grown tired of. When Anna finally let go of Sirius, Lady Galadriel whispered kindly. ‘Let’s begin, shall we?’

They nodded, and joined right hands softly, gently, keeping one another’s hand in a protective, warm shield. ‘Do you, Sirius, vow to love only Anna for the rest of your life? Let nothing come between you and your love, never betray your love, and be prepared to suffer the consequences of your love?’ Galadriel’s strong voice rang through the room’s silence. ‘I do.’ Sirius said. ‘Do you, Anna, vow to love Sirius until the day you die? To fight for your love, never let it wither and always stand up for it, whatever the costs?’ she asked again. ‘I do.’ Anna beamed at Sirius. ‘Then united you shall be, forever, indestructible.’ Galadriel said firmly, placing her right hand a few inches above Anna and Sirius’ united ones. The finest thread united the two long fingered hands. Both long-fingered, one with a soft, silky skin, the other covered in old scars, their clasps tightening at the appearance of the thread. Water, fire, wind and leaves united their hands in a fluid, snakelike movement. Shortly(or so it seemed to the two) the thread disappeared. Thus, with their hands still together, they thanked a smiling Galadriel and, once she returned to her home, far, in Middle-Earth, did they kiss. United, strong, unbeatable in essence, but fearful and knowing that they would not be safe for long… XX. As a large, black dog stepped outside number twelve, Grimmauld Place we see him being closely followed by Harry and Anna. Bringing up the rear was Mrs Weasley, accompanied by Mad-Eye. ‘…on your head be it!’ Mrs Weasley was saying. ‘Sirius…’ Anna pleaded under her breath. Harry understood her concern, but could not share it. He knew she was worried, but to see Sirius so happy meant more to him. He was actually chasing his tale, snapping his jaw at pigeons and chasing cats. Harry laughed. Anna merely giggled faintly and looked up warily every twenty seconds. As they emerged onto platform nine and three-quarters, Anna’s precaution doubled. She eyed the Slytherins and their parents closely, almost rudely, if anyone had noticed her. When the train puffed into motion, and students said their last goodbyes, Sirius had put his large, strong paws on Harry’s chest, looking him straight in the eye. As Anna let go of her father’s neck unwillingly (Lupin was actually rubbing the back of his head – the hug had been tight), Mrs Weasley hissed something menacingly in the dog’s direction. Sirius sat on all fours again, with Anna gazing at him apprehensively. Sirius gave a merry bark as Anna bent down, patting him slowly on the head. ‘Be careful.’ She whispered to the now still dog. The dog gave a strange, human-like whimper as Anna kissed the top of his head. As Harry and Anna watched King’s Cross – and Sirius – grow smaller, a strange, sinking feeling swept over the both of them. They were going home, but a part of them rested with Sirius…Anna felt cold all of a sudden. Anna joined Harry in a compartment, alongside Neville, Ginny and a strange girl, whom she knew remotely – Luna Lovegood. Anna’s thoughts were far away, when a greenish-yellow substance splattered the front of her robes, her face, and the top of her head. ‘What the hell is this? Stinksap or what?’ she asked testily.

Neville seemed taken aback by the rapidity of her reaction, particularly because she had not spoken more than ten words from the beginning of their trip. ‘Yeah. It’s Stinksap.’ He said apologetically. Anna seemed to suppress the urge of rolling her eyes with extremely great difficulty. She then pointed her own wand at her face, and the horribly-smelling Stinksap disappeared. ‘Whoa –‘ Neville said. ‘Y-you can do non-verbal spells?’ he asked in awe. ‘Er, yeah, I suppose I can.’ ‘Wow.’ Neville said softly. At that precise moment, Malfoy entered the compartment. Anna paid no mind to him, only his last phrase reaching her ears. ‘…because I’ll be dogging your footsteps in case you step out of line.’ Anna’s brain set into motion. She snapped back to reality, though she would have liked to dwell on her daydream of Sirius’ kisses. Her dream collided with the reality of Sirius’ bane. ‘Malfoy, my dear friend.’ She said scathingly, her lip curling. ‘How’s your dad?’ she added, a look of deep disgust on her face. ‘Never better.’ Malfoy sneered back at her. ‘I should think so, now that his guru’s back in town.’ She replied disdainfully. ‘What about your charm of a dad? If you can call a monster that.’ He said. He had gone too far. Harry, Ginny and Anna all stood up. ‘My father is a million time the man yours will ever be. You’re not fit to lick his boots clean. Anyway, you seem to be forgetting that I, as opposed to you, posses a fair talent at hexing. Whereas, my dear Malfoy, you are just a joke of a wizard.’ Neville beamed fondly at Anna, whose tone was calm and serene, though her grey eyes were sparkling with fury. ‘Not much pain you can cause me now, though. I’m a Prefect.’ Malfoy gleamed proudly at them, tapping the silvery medal on his chest. Anna wore an expression of mock pride as she, too stroked the badge on his chest. ‘Ah, but you are forgetting one tiny little detail.’ She said, than bent down so that her nose was inches from his. ‘I’m Head Girl.’ She grinned. ‘Goodbye, Malfoy.’ Malfoy opened his mouth to retaliate as Anna turned round. Harry thought she must have Moody’s eye, because before Malfoy could make a single sound, she turned again, wand out in half the blink of an eye. ‘Goodbye, Malfoy.’ She said through gritted teeth, and, before she could finish the sentence, the compartment door swung closed with a clunk. After what seemed like hours from Malfoy and Anna’s little chat, the students of Hogwarts sat down at their House tables. At the Gryffindors’ table, the seating was thus: Lee, George, Fred, Anna, Ginny on one side and Ron, Hermione, Harry(face to face with Anna) and Neville on the other. After the short start-of-term notices Dumbledore made, only that referring the Defence Against the Dark Arts class was interesting, if one may say so. Heir new teacher would be none other than Dolores Umbridge, Senior Undersecretary to the Minister for Magic, and the very person responsible for Lupin’s unemployment. At the sight of her new teacher, Anna’s jaw set on command. ‘Werewolf hater.’ She muttered angrily through tightly gritted teeth, her eyes slightly narrowed, at the sight of the squat, toad-like woman. Ginny turned her head warily towards Anna.

‘She passed the anti-werewolf legislation. Dad’s been unemployed for years and with nine ‘Outstanding’ N.E.W.T.S. as well. It means war.’ She muttered angrily, loud enough for Harry, Hermione and Fred to hear as well, all of which smiled incredulously (Fred even patted Anna on her shoulder gently, in mock concern). That was before everything… Dolores Umbridge held her speech, alright, though Fred and Ginny could barely hear it due to Anna’s teeth grinding. What they did hear was her refusal to believe Voldemort had returned and what both Anna and Hermione deducted, thus illuminating their friends after exchanging dark looks, was that the Ministry was interfering at Hogwarts. They sighed deeply as they fell hungrily on the pies and steaks that had popped into view in front of them, hoping for the best. Their – meaning, Anna, Fred, George and Lee’s - first lesson on Monday morning was Defence Against the Dark Arts with their obviously pink-loving, Ministry-working Dolores Umbridge. As the four seated themselves right in front of Umbridge (at Anna’s request) and were enjoying a heated discussion about the Weasleys’ Wizarding Wheezes’ location on Diagon Alley as opposed to Hogsmeade, they heard the fake cough of their new teacher as they had the previous night. ‘Hem – hem.’ Umbridge had speared smiling in the classroom doorstep. Anna saw her standing there, towering over the class and thought, a reasonable amount of hate rising in her, that her father had occupied the same post only two years previously. How unfair it all was! Sighing, Anna chanted dully alongside her friends, ‘Good morning, Professor Umbridge.’ as a pink shadow sat herself down at her father’s desk, sitting on her father’s chair. Anna clenched her fist in her lap without meaning to. ‘Anything the matter, dear?’ Umbridge said in a sweet voice. Anna thought she might throw up. Instead, she managed a grimace, saying ‘No, nothing at all.’ through tightly gritted teeth. Umbridge smiled incredulously at her, as though she were some five-year old trying to pretend she was braver than in reality. Anna narrowed her eyes, but, to Anna’s disappointment, Umbridge had already averted hers. ‘Now,’ Umbridge began pleasantly. ‘You will find written a few course aims on the blackboard, if you will please copy them three times and we shall be ready to begin our lesson.’ Anna wrote her course aims grudgingly, her thin, neat writing appearing blotched, her parchment the only one which rustled in the classroom, something which caused Umbridge to eye her apprehensively. ‘Are you sure nothing is hurting, dear?’ she asked, a look of concern on her face. ‘Yes, I’m alright, Professor.’ She said. ‘Calm down.’ Fred breathed as she bent over her parchment once more to finish writing Umbridge’s silly course aims. She realised then, relaxing, that she had not taken in one word if them. 1. The art of avoiding a conflict, or using magic as the ultimate resort in a quarrel.

2. The acquirement of information on dangers involving the improper use of defensive spells. 3. Knowing the history of defensive spells, opinions of great thinkers and following a Ministry-approved curriculum that will strengthen the knowledge necessary for your N.E.W.T.S. She did not need to think. Her hand shot up into the air. ‘Yes, dear, do you want to be excused?’ Umbridge asked sweetly. ‘No, Professor. I have an enquiry about your course aims.’ ‘Oh?’ Umbridge replied softly, marching up to Anna’s desk. Fred and George exchanged wary looks. ‘Well, I wanted to ask you whether it wouldn’t be wiser – ‘ she paused for a millisecond, deciding to approach Umbridge peacefully and respectfully to begin with. ‘- for us to learn about counter-jinxes and hexes as well as defensive spells?’ Umbridge smiled blankly at her, again as if she were a five-year old. ‘Now, dear, it is not for you to decide what is wise and what is not.’ Umbridge said, laughing softly afterwards. Anna could feel her temper going up: it was war. She kept her cool, however, knowing it would drive Umbridge mad in the end. ‘But we –‘she began. ‘Kindly continue to copy your course aims and I shall deal with queries towards the end of the class.’ Umbridge said loudly. Anna smiled serenely at her, pulled out her wand and tapped her parchment lightly with it. ‘What are you doing, miss?’ Umbridge said, in scandalized tones. ‘Copying the course aims.’ Anna answered serenely. She tapped her parchment once again and, having already copied the aims once, hey multiplied twice, in thin, neat writing. ‘Have I told you to use magic?’ asked Umbridge politely. ‘No, you have not.’ replied Anna coolly . ‘But surely the purpose was retention and I believe I have memorised your course aims.’ ‘Oh, have you, really?’ Umbridge raised her eyebrows. ‘Yes. The art of avoiding a conflict, or using magic as the ultimate resort in a quarrel; the acquirement of information on dangers involving the improper use of defensive spells and knowing the history of defensive spells, opinions of great thinkers and following a Ministry-approved curriculum that will strengthen the knowledge necessary for your N.E.W.T.S.’ Anna said in one large breath, her eyes resting on Umbridge’s who was right in front of her, obscuring the blackboard. Umbridge’s look became stony. She had been impressed against her will. She pressed her lips together and walked amongst the students, a look of stony contempt on her face. Fred and George both gave Anna identical grins, though she did not as much as smile. The lioness had spotted her prey. ‘I think you ought to be finished by now.’ Umbrige said in a singing voice. ‘I would like you all to open your books at chapter one and begin reading.’ Everyone did so, except Anna, who was now eyed by the twins and a few surrounding classmates. She had her hand up, her back straight and was staring at Umbridge. After a few minutes, the latter decided she could not ignore Anna and walked up to her, bending low and whispering gently. ‘What is it now?’

‘Well, professor, I was wondering if I could ask you a few other things about our course aims.’ ‘Certainly they are clear. They seem so to me.’ ‘Well, I have to disagree. First of all there isn’t any mentioning of any kind of practical work. There is, after all, a practical bit in our N.E.W.T., and your aims seem to disregard it com-‘she began explaining herself. ‘My dear, why would you need to practice the spells? So that you may inflict damage upon your classmates with a misaim? Or yourself? If you will have studied the theory hard enough, there will be no need for wands in my class.’ ‘We’re not doing magic?’ Lee asked bemusedly. ‘Apparently not.’ Answered Anna before Umbridge could open her mouth. ‘What I don’t understand, professor, is why the Ministry is inflicting this curriculum upon us now, when-‘ ‘Well,’ Umbridge laughed sweetly, engrossingly. ‘let’s just say that professor Dumbledore’s choice of teachers for this subject has been…unfortunate in the least. You have had one teacher who has lost his memory, one with a dangerous condition and one who performed illegal curses in front of you and, from what I was told, on you-‘ ‘Pardon my interrupting, but the Headmaster’s choice of teachers is not the issue here! I was merely asking why this is all happening now, when we know Lord Voldemort is at large once again!’Anna said quickly, before Umbridge could interrupt her again. Umbridge’s eyes widened as she stared at Anna in disbelief. ‘I want you all to listen to me very, very clearly.’ She started, her appalled expression a bit softened. ‘You have been told that a certain dark wizard is alive. It is a lie.’ ‘It’s NOT a lie! I saw him! And so has Har-‘Anna started heatedly. ‘It is a lie.’ Umbridge repeated, covering Anna. ‘Now, if anyone troubles you with any such stories, I want you to come to me. I am here to help you.’ She added sweetly. ‘Now, back to the problem of teachers. The only one who seemed to follow any Ministry-approved curriculum was Professor Quirrel-‘ ‘Yeah, he was fantastic!’ Anna said loudly. ‘Except for him being possessed by Voldemort every other Sunday he was a blast to be around.’ She added malevolently. Umbridge had evidently decided to ignore her, because she continued speaking calmly to the rest of the students as though Anna were demented. ‘You have been taught by known to be delusional ex-Aurors-‘ ‘Who happen to be brilliant!’ Anna blurted. ‘-and, not to mention, very dangerous half-breeds-‘ Anna stood up steadily. ‘Excuse me, professor?’ she said in a surprised voice. Umbridge actually stopped walking and turned round to face Anna, clicking her tongue impatiently. She was obviously under the impression that Anna did not know about one of her teachers being a werewolf. ‘Who do you mean? Which of our teachers was a – a – ‘Anna said, permitting Umbridge her fantasy that she had discovered a kindred spirit. ‘Surely you must know.’ Umbridge said impatiently, as though it was the latest piece of gossip and she couldn’t wait to tell spread it around. Anna’s face retained the horrified expression she had before, Fred, George and Lee all biting their lips behind her, evidently waiting for her to retaliate. ‘The werewolf, dear. The Lupin fellow. You must know how the Ministry has classified such half-breeds as highly dangerous.’ Umbridge said, looking tired and relieved, as though she had struggled with an impulse to laugh maniacally.

Anna’s jaw tightened. Her nostrils flared. ‘I hardly think he should be called something as insulting as that!’ she said calmly. ‘It is, after all, a condition he cannot help! He was the best teacher we’ve ever had and nothing will take that away!’ she added fiercely. ‘Hear, hear.’ Said Lee behind her. Umbridge had noticed her tone and was eyeing her in slight surprise. ‘What is your name, dear?’ she said, giving her characteristically sweet little laugh. Fred gave the smallest shiver and Lee raised his eyebrows upon seeing Umbridge’s small, pointed teeth. ‘Anna Lupin.’ She replied, her teeth so gritted, it was surprising any sound had made its way out. ‘Ah.’ Umbridge breathed softly in comprehension. She approached her desk and beckoned Anna. ‘Come here, dear.’ Anna made her way proudly to Umbridge’s desk and bent a little to hear her whisper. ‘I would like to ask you a few questions.’ She said kindly. ‘Are you Remus Lupin’s daughter?’ ‘Yes.’ Anna said loudly, straightening her back. ‘And proud to be so.’ Umbridge merely chuckled incredulously as Anna frowned. ‘Do you, say, believe he should have remained the Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher in spite of his condition?’ she then asked sweetly. ‘It depends.’ Anna said wisely. ‘If he was fired for being a werewolf without any other occurrence, say, student injuries and so on then yes, he should have stayed. If you mean –‘ ‘That will do.’ Umbridge said curtly, scribbling something on a piece of paper as Anna bit back a venomous retort. As she raised her mousy-brown-topped head, grinning broadly at Anna, Umbridge asked. ‘Do you believe He Who Must Not Be Named is once again amongst us?’ she asked. ‘I know so. You see, I saw him. I went after Harry in the maze – Harry saw him too, by the way. I fought him and his Death Eaters.’ She said coolly. Umbridge save a ringing laughter that echoed through the quiet room. Everyone was craning their necks and cupping their hands over their ears to hear their conversation and, however low Umbridge’s whispers were, they could still hear every bit of what she was saying. She finished writing on a pink, foully sweet-smelling piece of paper and handed it over to Anna. ‘Take this to Professor McGonagall, dear.’ She said tartly, coldly. She had clearly been annoyed and scandalized. ‘Gladly.’ Anna answered coldly. ‘Now?’ ‘Now, Professor.’ Umbridge corrected her. ‘Yes, now.’ ‘Alright.’ Anna said, turning on her heels, gathering her things and storming out of the classroom with a barely audible ‘goodbye’, then slamming the door shut. Umbridge pig-headedly pretended nothing had happened, making the remaining students feel like lunatics for pretending to have heard their polite quarrel. Anna stormed into Professor McGonagall’s office and found it empty. She placed her schoolbag beside a chair, sitting on the latter, her legs crossed and her arms folded, a look of utmost contempt on her face.

She waited for three hours for Professor McGonagall (luckily they were free hours and she did not miss any classes) until she finally showed up majestically, her green robes fluttering behind her. As Anna told her story, her eyebrows contracted. Just when Anna was handing over the pink note as if it were covered in acid, another shouting student entered the office. ‘Potter, what on earth are you shouting about?’ Minerva asked testily. Harry mumbled something like ‘I’ve been sent to see you.’ before freezing, his foot in midair, staring at Anna. ‘You too, huh?’ she rolled her eyes. ‘Umbridge?’ he asked scathingly. Anna nodded. ‘Sit down, Potter.’ Minerva said briskly. ‘Have a biscuit.’ ‘A what?’ Harry asked blankly. ‘A biscuit.’ emphasised Minerva. She read both their notes with her thin eyebrows travelling further and further up her forehead. In the end, she sighed and turned a faintly concerned face towards them. Harry and Anna had been expecting a whiplash, not concern… ‘I hope you both know what you’re up against.’ ‘The Ministry.’ Anna answered plainly. ‘Exactly.’ Minerva said. ‘It’d be wiser to keep your mouths shut in Dolores Umbridge’s classes. Especially about He Who Must Not Be Named. Says here she’s given you detentions every night this week-‘ ‘Does it say why?’ Anna asked loathingly. ‘Does it say she called him a ‘very dangerous half-breed’? I thought not. What was I supposed to do? Just sit back, relax, read her textbook like I was two and let her just insult my father? You know I won’t do that! She called Moody delusional and Quirrel was the best because he played by the Ministry’s rules! Was I supposed to just let her go on like that?’ ‘Yes.’ McGonagall said. ‘Your battles with Dolores Umbridge have no value! Who do you think cares what she’s called your father or Moody? This is not about the truth anymore! It’s about keeping your mouth shut, you included Potter!’ ‘But I was telling the truth! Voldemort’s come back and all she can do about it is not let us use any kind of magic! How does that make sense?’ Harry said heatedly. ‘It doesn’t, Harry.’ Anna said. ‘But the Ministry thinks Dumbledore is forming his mini-wizard army here. This entire school would fight for him, you know that. Fudge is all-too-comfortable with his job to see it occupied by Dumbledore who, incidentally, has five hundred times more sense, brains and talent.’ Anna said breathlessly. Minerva gazed intently at her. ‘Anna, though you may be more intelligent than Dolores Umbridge, I should think it unwise for you to battle her. If only because she knows you have a history here, at Hogwarts, and are, therefore, likely to support whatever action Albus might take against the Ministry.’ She said flatly. ‘You’re saying I – we – should keep our heads down? To do her bidding like we were some sort of trained monkeys? You know I won’t do so, Minerva!’ Anna snapped. ‘For heaven’s sake, Anna! Fudge would have to be mentally retarded not to suspect Dumbledore has things in motion, and whether they are against him or He Who Must Not Be Named or himself, he won’t care! He won’t miss the chance of dirtying Dumbledore’s name even more than he is doing now! And he won’t miss the chance of purging the Order’s headquarters! Think of what damage your pride might cause! You too, Potter!’ She said menacingly, and then lowered her voice to a whisper.

‘Black might be forced to go back to Azkaban! Remus will face the same charge for helping a fugitive! There are some things more important than your feelings.’ She concluded tartly. Anna’s face turned slightly paler, and Harry was hit by a horrible sinking feeling that was certainly not his. Harry knew she was thinking of Sirius... ‘Alright. Fine.’ Anna shrugged. Minerva did not look completely appeased, but said nothing else. ‘Professor,’ Harry began meekly. ‘er – it’s Quidditch on Friday and I was wondering if you could – ‘ ‘No, I couldn’t.’ he was answered briskly. ‘She has the right to give you as many detentions as she wishes. Now, go to your classes and stay out of trouble.’ Anna picked up her backpack and walked swiftly away from Harry, her head up, her eyes closed. Harry was hit by a feeling that he had been very stupid to have opposed Umbridge, though a mere moment ago he had felt nothing but anger towards that woman. This new, meek feeling did not suit him, but neither did it suit Anna. This, above all, worried Harry. Detention with Umbridge was one of the foulest experiences Anna ever had to endure. Not because of the physical pain, for she had endured worse, but because Dolores’ behaviour was dreadful. From the start of her detention, she let no word escape her lips, but merely sat down at her desk and glanced from time to time at Anna with a terribly satisfied expression as bright red blood poured onto the yellow parchment. In spite of the sharp pain she felt as the blood gushed down her wrist, Anna’s thoughts were miles away… Somewhere in London, Sirius was sitting alone at a dining table, a glass of deep red wine in front of him. He had not touched it yet, but was staring at the rippling shadows in the glass. He had had the impression of seeing Anna’s sweet, smiling face in the liquid and was now staring hungrily at his glass, mentally begging for another glimpse of her. He did not, however, receive it. He stood up, picked up the glass and surveyed it with mild interest for a second or two before – CRACK! He threw it against the opposite wall of the dimly lit room. It smashed into the finest dust, with the wine trickling down the wall and onto the many dirty pots and pans in the sink. Since Anna had gone, there had been no point in cleaning up… What would it be if he’d just go to Hogwarts? What could possibly happen? He’d just hang around in Hogsmeade until it’s time for another trip and, well…At least he’d get to see her…and Harry. So what if anyone saw him? Life with Kreacher was as bad as Azkaban anyway… He sat down again, his head in his hands. He could just throw caution to the winds and go, but Anna needed him safe, Harry needed him alive…So he kept thinking about what it would be like for him to come to see her and how nice Hogsmeade is in the fall, but did not put a toe beyond the threshold. Back in Umbridge’s sickly pink office (Anna already felt like throwing up, and she had a Healer’s stomach), Anna having written ‘Laws and rules are made by wiser men than I and I must obey them.’ at least a hundred times already, paused to glance at the small pool of blood on the strange writing desk. It was a deep, vibrant red, yet it

glowed with a strange shadow…Anna had quite forgotten where she was: she thought she had spotted the face she so much loved in that ghastly pool of blood. She gasped the smallest gasp ever to exist, yet Umbridge tilted her head. ‘It is painful, isn’t it?’ she asked, her sympathy poorly-acted. ‘No, not quite.’ Anna said disdainfully. ‘But there is quite a lot of blood and it’s dripping onto the floor. Shall I clean it?’ ‘No!’ snapped Umbridge. ‘I will. Scourgify!’ she said, pointing her short wand at Anna’s hand, missing the pool of blood by an inch or two. ‘Professor, really-‘ ‘Be quiet!’ Umbridge said, standing up. Her face was a blotchy red, her already bulged eyes seemed about ready to pop out of their sockets. ‘Scourgify!’ she shrieked once again, missing the pool of blood and hitting the tip of the pointed black quill Anna was holding. ‘Scourgify!’ she repeated uselessly. Her wand seemed out of control. Her spell hit one of the ugly kittens behind Anna, the porcelain plate shining brightly as a very small layer of dust evaporated. Anna was about ready to burst into laughter, but mastered her emotion. Instead, she pulled out her wand and, her eyes fixed on Umbridge, made the pool of her own blood disappear. ‘Professor?’ Anna asked firmly but quietly, as though afraid Umbridge might be sleeping. Her eyes were staring at a spot over Anna’s shoulder. ‘You,’ she said after a long, dreary, eerie minute of silence. ‘are a very strange girl.’ Anna hesitated, the smallest smile playing around her mouth. Umbridge had understood. ‘I’ve never seen anyone like you.’ Dolores Umbridge continued in an awed voice. ‘You can do magic without speaking,’ she ploughed on stupidly, he dull eyes now boring into Anna’s shining ones. ‘you stand up to me with such confidence…’ Anna raised one of her eyebrows half an inch before surveying her from head to toe. Underneath her wooden desk, Anna could see pink, frilled shoes. ‘Your point being?’ she asked loudly, awakening Umbridge from her reverie. Her brain now springing back to life, Umbridge regained steadiness in her voice. ‘I want you on my side.’ She said. ‘Your…side?’ Anna asked scathingly. ‘I never realised we were fighting each other.’ Umbridge gave her soft laughter, annoying Anna so that she narrowed her eyes while listening to what her teacher had to say next. ‘I am no fool, Miss Lupin. I know that my…say, interfering with the Hogwarts’ rules to which you have been used for so long - ‘ ‘Hundreds of years they have worked, really.’ Anna put in firmly. ‘- will not be taken lightly by the students and teachers. You have grown up here-‘ ‘- “Off the Ministry’s back.” is what you said two years ago – ‘ ‘- and have a special relationship with the possibly mutinous people who reside within these walls –‘ ‘Let me get this straight.’ Anna interrupted rudely, loudly, stepping forward. ‘You want me to tell everyone what a nice person you are? And how this new regime is much better than the rules that wiser men have made before you?’ ‘Well, when you put it like that…’ Umbridge started. ‘There is no other way to put it.’ Anna said calmly. ‘My answer is no, professor. I cannot understand why you would want to have a half-breed’s daughter who is, incidentally, Dumbledore’s goddaughter.’

‘You see, things are, I believe, about to change for Dumbledore…’ Umbridge said with immense satisfaction. It was Anna’s turn to treat her like a five-year old. ‘Oh, really? What makes you think that?’ Anna smiled. ‘Let’s just say the Ministry know what he’s up to and who he’s hiding…’ Umbridge concluded, staring dreamily out the window, as though in hope of the perfect dawn to accompany what she thought was a triumphant ending. It was midnight, anyway… As Umbridge had momentarily tore her gaze from Anna, the latter’s face went just a shade paler. Sirius… ‘Ah, you know who I am speaking of…’ Umbridge muttered, her eyes still on the stubborn moon outside. Anna glanced quickly at it – half-moon – and exhaled. Checking the moon’s phases was now a second nature. ‘It’s only half-moon, your father is in no danger…’Umbridge muttered again, as Anna scowled. She wasn’t using Legilimency, yet she knew…Maybe Anna wasn’t as unpredictable as she thought…Not when it concerned Sirius and Remus. Anna opened her mouth to snap at her – yes, her brain was quite placid. ‘Not in a million years.’ She said, her frown turning into a sneer. ‘Thought you might say so.’ Umbridge replied serenely, unnervingly eyeing the glittering stars outside. ‘So, you’re refusing to answer any questions, are you?’ ‘About whatever illicit actions Dumbledore is up to, yes, because I do not know anything about such things.’ She replied calmly. ‘Good…’ Umbridge muttered in satisfaction. ‘And, for instance, if I forced you to take Veritaserum-‘ ‘Please do so, Professor. You shall hear for yourself than I truly know nothing.’ She interrupted calmly. ‘The problem is,’ Umbridge said louder, turning around. ‘I think you do know. I must now believe that a child who has spent more than half her life around Dumbledore has not acquired the least bit of knowledge from him? Or that he does not trust to you more secrets than he would trust the average student? I do not forget, nor does anyone else, I am sure, the fact that you went after Mr Potter in the maze… How did you manage to find out what was happening?’ ‘I just might have more common sense than…others.’ She jeered. ‘Hardly.’ Umbridge snarled. ‘Have a cup of tea, dear.’ She added all of a sudden, flicking her wand so that a cup appeared on her desk, just next to Anna’s hand. The Veritaserum. Anna took the cup and pretended to sip, her stomach giving a lurch…If a mere drop touched her tongue… But, just like that, Sirus came into her head. This thought made her put her best foot forward. She lowered the cup onto the saucer once again and placed her right hand over her Evenstar to hide its glow. The other hand covered the cup like a lid. With no visible gleam from the jewel around her neck, she had successfully vanished the tea in the pink and purple cup. Anna smiled broadly at Umbridge, who had not noticed a thing and merely thought Anna was fiddling with the jewel out of anxiousness. ‘Well now…are you ready to tell me about Sirius Black?’ she asked. ‘Er – who?’ Anna asked blankly, the knot in her stomach loosening. ‘The – mass – murderer.’ Umbridge choked.

‘Well, he’s been on the run, hasn’t he? Nobody knows where he is, or at least, that’s what I know. Whatever you might suspect, Professor…’Anna said with what she knew to be maddening innocence. ‘You listen to me, girl! I don’t know how you managed to dodge the effect of the Veritaserum, but I know you know! I just do!’ Umbridge hissed. Anna was rather taken aback at how much she sounded like Voldemort. She thought it would be nice of her to point that out. ‘You know, when you put your mind to it, you sound an awful lot like Voldemort. Funny thing, I’ve got recent memories, me seeing him last June in the maze-‘ ‘CRUCIO!’ ‘Aaa-‘ ‘Silencio! No one will hear you, my sweet…Think…we’ve got hours and hours alone and no-bo-dy to question your whereabouts.’ ‘You won’t get away with this!’ Anna said, but no sound came out. Umbridge was downright grinning in front of her. Anna’s knees gave way. Funnily enough, it was not the Cruciatus Curse that was harming her. Her powers sprung into action instinctively, protecting her. But the pressure caused by those powers could have hurt her ten times more than the Curse. There was no stopping her powers, because they were merely keeping her unharmed for battle, as she was destined to fight…The only thing to do was not give in to her powers. The thing that was keeping her alive was killing her as well…Strange… As Anna lay on her knees, concentrating, she could find no hope for herself…Yet, there was something in the air of Umbridge’s pink office….a smell of tobacco…She lifted her head to see the tip of a cigarette illuminating the bulged eyes of Dolores Umbridge. Uncannily enough, the image of Sirius burst clearly into her mind as she inhaled the grey smoke…Sirius… ‘Now that does hurt, doesn’t it?’ Umbridge said, once again sounding completely satisfied… Hour went by with no one to disturb the silent torture Umbridge, the silent executioner was inflicting upon Anna, whose love was her shield this time, a shield that tore her apart…She would have preferred the pain to this weakness induced by the weight of her immense powers… That night, Anna staggered along the deserted corridors, one hand on the walls of the old school, one clutching her chest. After resisting to two and a half hours of constant, silent torture, she felt she had the right to a little support, even if it came from a cold stone wall… In her head, however, the Lupin-inherited brain was working. What had she seen in the puddle of her own blood? Had it been Sirius’ face? Of course it had, she had recognized him instantly. But why had she seen him? And why did he have his head in his hands? And why was there a bottle of wine but no glass on the table? Filled with questions, Anna limped up the stone staircase leading to the girls’ dormitory, her right hand the least blood-stained part of her body… As she slowly pulled the covers over her, trying very hard not to think about what had occurred in the past four or five hours, the only other place to where her heart and mind wandered off, was Grimmauld Place…Apart from being intrigued by her vision, she genuinely missed Sirius. She tried imagining his arms around her, his warm lips onto hers, his heartbeat singing her to sleep. All she could think of was a cold-handed

Sirius, clutching his hair in the dark, damp kitchen, quarrelling with Kreacher, being taunted by Snape or drinking himself to oblivion… Anna’s four-poster was exactly next to a window. She was extremely tired, but she dragged her feet off the bed and stepped onto the cold stone. Her body wanted to shiver. She did not care. She wanted to see the moon and the stars, and remember what Sirius’ voice sounded like. The moon was up, shining serenely, unaware of any of the things happening at her feet. Anna closed her eyes and pictured Grimmauld Place…The kitchen, the pots, the pans, the glasses, the wallpaper, the elf(yes, even the elf) and Sirius… A single, diamond tear streaked down her cheek as she opened her eyes. She opened them again to dusty shelves, filled with dustier crystal glasses. Behind the wooden cupboard was a very, very familiar puke-green wallpaper… Anna gasped and lowered her gaze to see a wooden table surrounded by chairs, with the remains of a brief meal on it. And a bottle of wine…She turned her head to see the sink, where a heap of dishes laid, a confused fly buzzing unnervingly in the silence. On the wall, there seemed to be something other than the usual decades’ accumulated filth…Anna tried hard not to think blood…But the reddish substance trickled with a lightness uncannily attributed to blood….No….it had to be something else….Wine… In a matter of seconds, it dawned on Anna, that she was in Grimmauld Place and that what she had seen in her blood had actually happened. She sighed in relief, realising that she had held her breath until that point. Without having to think much, she wrenched open the door that led into the hallway. ‘Sirius!’ she said, her voice echoing in the silence of the house. ‘SIRIUS!’ she yelled merrily to nothing but cold, biting air. Her gin slid of her face. She ran up the stairs and straight into Sirius bedroom. She found him kneeling in front of the fire, his glassy eyes squinting into the fire with the carelessness of a worn-out soul. When Anna opened the door, Sirius made no movement, gave no hint that he had seen her, but continued staring. ‘Sirius?’ she asked stupidly. ‘Go away.’ He said coldly, blankly. ‘You’re not real.’ Anna felt like shouting at him, shaking him. She did not. ‘Yes, I am…’ she said kindly. Sirius turned his head towards her with the uncharacteristic speed of a dizzy snail. He blinked lazily, in the same, unnerving slow-motion, surveying Anna. ‘You’re nothing but a ghost.’ He said wearily. Anna tightened her jaw, and rushed to Sirius’ side. She placed her hand over his eyes, obscuring his view. They stood so for the better part of a minute, and then Anna lowered her hand. Sirius’ eyes were once again their vibrating blue, for which Anna felt grateful. ‘A-Anna?’ he asked awkwardly. ‘No, Auntie Marge.’ She said seriously. ‘Yes, it’s Anna!’ He made no reply, but stared at her incredulously. Anna, however, was not about to question the authenticity of their meeting. ‘Aren’t you happy I-‘ she started after a minute of unnoticed and otherwise awkward silence. She did not finish her sentence. Her lips had become Sirius’, or the other way around, she did not know. She felt the cherry smell of his tobacco and inhaled, after pressing

her ear against his chest. She was simply listening, praying to fall into an everlasting sleep there, in his warm arms, with his steady heartbeat and kisses to soothe her. Only the great, imposing clock somewhere upstairs gave the pair any sense of time… Hour went by with them in front of the fire, Anna and Sirius more silent than they had ever been. They had only been apart for one day, but it felt like a year… Anna’s painless wounds did not come into notice until several hours later when, unwillingly enough, Sirius relinquished his firm hold on Anna’s shoulders to feel his hands wet, and see them blotched by a fiery-red substance. ‘Anna, are you bleeding?’ Anna did not think kindly of the awakening, but she answered, nevertheless. Her voice was slow and tired and Sirius’ gaze turned stony. ‘Yes…’ she said wearily, lifting her head from his chest and meeting his eye. ‘Who?’ he asked, his jaw set and his eyes alight with anger. ‘Who did this to you?’ Anna averted her eyes by turning her head. She did not want to tell him, mainly because she knew he would want to tear Umbridge apart limb by limb, but there was also a small part of her who felt slightly ashamed for being caught unawares by the curse, a small part that told her it was her own fault she was bleeding… Anna felt a twinge in her right hand. The scars produced by Umbridge’s quill now throbbed. Surprised enough by the sharp pain in her hand, which had not existed until then, Anna covered it with her left palm, to feel not the dry blood, but smooth skin and the tip of a wand. ‘What are you-?’ ‘If you won’t tell me who’s Cruciated you, the least I could do is dress the wounds. However,’ Sirius said patiently. ‘these scars are not exactly typical Cruciatus Curse ones.’ Anna was getting impatient. She wasn’t sure if she should be annoyed by Sirius’ patience or be comforted by the absence of his desire to know who her torturer had been. ‘I-it’s Umbridge.’ She muttered before stopping herself. ‘And those,’ she said, pointing at the words etched across the back of her hand in her own writing. ‘are the results of her detention.’ ‘What?’ he asked a bit too loudly for Anna’s headache to bear. ‘What I said. She’s got this sharp quill and makes us do lines. Obviously, there had to be a catch. You don’t just argue with her and get away with it by doing lines…’ she added bitterly. ‘Argue?’ Sirius asked interestedly, his face illuminating at the thought that Anna had squabbled with Dolores Umbridge, the werewolf-hater (For how could he remain unaware of the fact that the cause for Remus’ unemployment had been Dolores’ help to pass the anti-werewolf legislation?) ‘Yes. Argue. I told her that her “Ministry-approved curriculum”,’ she imitated Umbridge’s formal, respectful tone of voice that she adopted whenever she spoke of the Ministry. ‘was a load of crap, really. And that her not permitting us to use magic when Voldemort is back again was madness. Oh, and Moody is not delusional, nor was Quirrel the only teacher who taught us sense…’ she said, and Sirius snorted. ‘All in all, it’s just the usual impertinence you’d expect to get from someone who works for Fudge, Anna.’ He said amusedly. ‘It’s no reason for the Cruciatus.’ He added, his tone stern, his voice cold, his jaw clenched. ‘I’m getting there. What landed me in detention was her saying that we’d been taught by “very, very dangerous half-breeds”, and me pretending not to know who she was talking about. “The werewolf”, “the Lupin fellow” was what she explained. She

called me to her desk and asked me several things. She asked whether I believed Voldemort was back – I told her I’d seen him and fought his Death Eaters in June. Then she asked me if I believed that dad should’ve stayed on as teacher, to which I started explaining that if there’d been no incidents to render him dangerous to the students, then, yes, I believed he should have stayed. That’s about all I got to say in the matter when she interrupted me and sent me to Minerva with a note. Minerva told me to keep my head down, not bicker with her again, the logical rubbish. And I got detention with Dolores every night this week. Somehow, I think she won’t limit herself to supervising me while I’m doing lines.’ ‘But why did she-?’ ‘I told her she sounded like Voldemort.’ Anna said plainly. ‘You what?’ ‘She was hissing!’ Anna said indignantly. ‘You wouldn’t have stood for it either! She told me to come to her side and tell everyone how much better the new system is. She said things for Albus are going downhill because the Ministry know what he’s doing and…who he’s hiding.’ She ended sadly. ‘And you, once again, felt like protecting me, is that it?’ ‘You’re going to have to deal with the fact that we can stand up for each other, Sirius, and no, I wasn’t protecting you. She wanted me to drink Veritaserum and I obviously couldn’t, but she wouldn’t back off! I only pretended to do so, but she was certain I was hiding something, or, rather, dodging the effect of the potion. I told her she sounded like Voldemort, she Cruciated me, then Silenced me. She tortured me for two and a half hours, Sirius, during which the only think that kept me going was you.’ Anna said earnestly. ‘Listen to me.’ She said, now looking him straight in the eye. ‘I can’t be harmed by any kind of living creature; I can’t be harmed by anything natural. Umbridge can’t hurt me with her curses because my powers protect me. However deep these gashes on my skin look, they don’t hurt. But this protection comes at a high price. Fatigue. Every time I overuse my powers, it shows on my own body. The powers have been bestowed upon me, I wasn’t born with them. They don’t influence me in any way: take away my powers, you will still have me. Take away me, and you have no powers. So my powers protect me instinctively, but, in doing so, they drain me of my energy. It is they who depend on me, not the other way around. Now, not that I mean to brag, but I can undergo more than most people without my powers so, naturally, they do not weaken me so. But after two hours of resisting the Cruciatus Curse – which, incidentally, is harder to bear than the Imperius and harder to thwart than the Avada Kedavra – I tend to get a bit weak, really.’ She ended, gasping audibly for breath. ‘But you, Sirius, you were what helped me get through the most of it.’ He did not reply. There was really no point. XXI. ‘High Inquisitor?’ Fred asked bemusedly one morning. ‘What the hell is that supposed to be?’ Anna’s brain had sprung into action at that. It was a month or two after her very first detention with Umbridge, and Anna’s scars – both Cruciatus induced ones and quillcut – had not closed completely, in spite of Sirius’ efforts to heal them. With her detentions, Anna had discovered a new power she had. She could materialise anywhere there was one of the four elements of nature. Either a glass of water on the table, an open window, a roaring fire or the dirt in a pot, it permitted Anna to Apparate (a very, very special type of Apparition, too) there, beside it. So, naturally, Sirius

immediately placed a pot plant in his bedroom and, every night after detentions, she popped into view for a few hours in which they’d simply catch up, Anna’s hand soaked in Murtlap essence, the cuts on her back being tenderly cared for by Sirius’ hands. Sometimes, Anna would be so tired, she’d barely have the strength to talk. So Sirius would take her in his arms and place her on the white-sheeted bed, watching over her in her sleep, his fingertips tracing every strand of hair on her head. Their meetings halted, however, after Umbridge started asking Anna snappy questions about why she was always late for her morning classes and that horrible night when Sirius had appeared in the fire to talk to Harry. Anna was simply looking for her Transfiguration homework that night and had gone down the stairs into the Common Room. Her gaze immediately fell on the three students huddled together in front of the crackling fire, her ears hearing a very sweet, familiar voice… ‘Sirius!’ she said, smiling and rushing over to the fireplace. Sirius’ head beamed at her. ‘But it’s really dangerous to do this, why didn’t you ask me to-‘she started saying, her smile turned into a worried expression as Sirius frowned her silent. Anna sat there quietly, eyeing Sirius’ head apprehensively. She gave an audible gasp, her face white, at the sight of Umbridge’s short-fingered hand groping for Sirius’ head in the fireplace. ‘I can’t come anymore, Sirius!’ she cried despairingly to a stubborn Sirius a night after the mishap. ‘Are you crazy?’ he said earnestly, making Anna smile slightly as she replied. ‘No, I’m not. Listen, she knows it was you, and she’s been asking us all sorts of questions! If she finds out you’ve been hiding in London, especially after Malfoy’s tip-off-‘ ‘I don’t care! I’d rather risk it!’ he scowled. ‘I’d rather you didn’t.’ Anna replied quickly. ‘If anything happened to you…’ ‘It’s not like she’s on to anything, Anna! She’s just guessing! Besides, it’s half the fun!’ he said, poorly hiding his excitement. Anna frowned at this. She did not like the sound of it. ‘Sirius,’ she began. ‘is this some…adventure to you?’ ‘What?’ he asked sharply. ‘Well, you’re all sunshine and daisies because she almost caught you in the fire! I can’t believe you’re actually considering reappearing in the Common Room again! Do you honestly think I’d warn you unnecessarily? I don’t know if the latest news has reached you ear, but I love you and I want you to be safe! So does Harry! I know it’s hard to be alone here with Kreacher, but just consider the consequences, for once, Sirius! If you get chucked back in Azkaban because of Umbridge…’ she left her sentence hanging, but Sirius got the message and lay low from then on, venting his depression somewhere else. ‘Don’t think this is easy for me, but I’d rather miss a Sirius in Grimmauld Place than one in Azkaban!’ she added before giving him a soft kiss, then smiling and disappearing out of the bedroom, leaving behind a silent Sirius who was oblivious to the fact that the fire in his room was dying, and he was shivering. ‘What?’ Anna asked Fred. She quickly ran her eyes over the announcement written in large, black letters. Her teeth clenched.

‘She’s trying to take over the entire school.’ She said. ‘Let’s just go to class, guys. There’s nothing we can do.’ She added weakly. Fred and George exchanged worried looks. They knew about Umbridge’s unusual punishments, having themselves tasted the bitter detentions, but nothing about the regular Cruciatus sessions she had in the middle of the night with Anna. Therefore, Anna’s rapid forfeit in front of another decree was worrying. As they walked and talked, three tall figures on the corridors, they hardly noticed the scrawny first-year girl they knocked over. Fred held out a hand for the blonde, darkeyed girl, but she pushed it away. As she stood up independently, the silver-and-green embroidery on her chest came into Anna’s notice. The small girl held out a piece of rolled parchment for her. ‘Anna Lupin? I was told to give you this.’ She said briskly, and then walked away. ‘Harsh.’ Anna said out of the little girl’s earshot. ‘I’ve seen warmer stones.’ ‘What does it say?’ George asked interestedly. Anna opened it and was surprised to see Severus Snape’s minuscule, cramped writing on the piece of parchment. Anna, Meet me in my office at eight o’clock tonight. I would like to talk to you. S. S. ‘It’s…Snape.’ She whispered to the twins. Recovering from the slight surprise, she shrugged. ‘Maybe he wants to apologize. I’m going anyway…Umbridge is going to be surprised – I can’t make her detention.’ ‘What?’ asked Fred. ‘You’re still doing detention?’ George asked. ‘Yeah. She met me in the hallway yesterday when I was talking to Peeves. She asked me what business I had with him. I told her I was planning her assassination. She gave me detention.’ She said serenely, dodging a few loud fourth-years. ‘Anna, there’s a time to get a smart mouth.’ George said. ‘Oh? That, coming from you?’ she retorted, smiling cheekily at them. ‘I forgot to mention she asked me how Dad is, how he’s recovering from the full moon, how many children he bit last night and what rat hole he lives in, being unemployed and everything.’ Fred and George stared at her, jaws hanging. ‘Oh, don’t act so surprised! She’s got a serious half-breeds problem, you know that!’ she snapped, and they were not so thick as to insist. Their first class that day was Herbology. The first cold rays of sunlight stung the eyes of the students, who were already exasperated by the fact that they would be smelling of dung all day long. To admit, the prospect of trimming a highly dangerous species of Fanged Geranium – one that Professor Sprout took great pride in breeding, and which caused Professor Sprout to repeat the not-so-fascinating story about how she smuggled it from Saudi Arabia under her skirt (and describing the wounds in very great detail) – was not what Anna considered uplifting, but she saw that one hour in the greenhouse as a sort of getaway from Umbridge and her polluting demeanour. As the students each picked an Arabian Fanged Geranium to trim, Professor Sprout asking them difficult questions that none of them could answer then turning towards

Anna, who answered them mechanically, still eyeing her Geranium, a distant cough silenced the room. Anna’s hands tightened on her pair of scissors. ‘Hem-hem.’ Professor Umbridge made her presence known. The robust Professor Sprout turned round to face the source of the noise, and quickly turned her stricken expression into what she wanted to be a hearty grin. ‘Ah, Professor, welcome!’ she said in a too-cheery-to-be-true voice. ‘Good morning.’ Umbridge said sweetly. ‘Good morning, Professor Umbridge.’ The class chanted wearily. ‘I take it you have received my note?’ Umbridge asked. ‘Yes, yes.’ Professor Sprout said distractedly, closely eyeing Lee’s scarlet geranium, which had begun to purr. Umbridge scribbled something on her pink clipboard and spoke. ‘Take no notice o me, Professor. Just keep teaching as usual, and I will be observing and asking some of the students questions.’ She said placidly. Professor Sprout smiled and nodded, and Umbridge headed towards a loud group of Ravenclaws and asked them their opinion on how Venomous Pods were useful in antidotes. As they all managed to answer correctly, a disappointed Umbridge approached Anna, Fred, George and Lee’s table. As Fred was trying to shake off a particularly stubborn and sharp-teethed Geranium, Professor Umbridge scribbled again on her clipboard and turned to Anna. ‘You missed a dried leaf.’ She said coldly, scribbling again. ‘No, I haven’t.’ Anna replied, maintaining a firm grip on her Geranium, but her eyes piercing Umbridge, who was beaming with excitement at correcting Anna. ‘Yes, dear, you have. Look, this leaf is dry, here, at the back – you weren’t paying attention.’ ‘Which leaf, Professor?’ Anna said, a bit more worriedly now, surveying her plant. ‘This one, girl, look!’ Umbridge said, extending a stubby finger and pointing at a yellowish leaf. The leaf, who was, apparently, dead, split in the middle to form a mouth loaded with two shark-like rows of deadly-sharp teeth which bit Umbridge’s fingertip. ‘OW!’ she exclaimed furiously. ‘Oh, that leaf…’ Anna said, smiling at a red-faced Umbridge who was swelling with rage. ‘You see, Professor, that’s exactly what Professor Sprout is trying to teach us: the difference between dead leaves and Snap-leaves. I’m sure you knew that the leaves of the Arabian Fanged Geranium bit! After all, it’s one of the differences between the common-garden Fanged Geranium and this species! It’s what makes it so difficult to handle, see, or else we would have already studied it in our fifth year, along with all the other species. And you might want to do something about that bite. The venom spreads in fifteen minutes and you’ll be paralysed before you know it. Though the leaves’ venom isn’t all that effective…’ Anna said in one large breath, ignoring Umbridge’s slight groaning, that was inaudible in the commotion. ‘Pity…’ George whispered behind Anna, his words barely perceptible. Anna’s voice, however, had reached Professor Sprout’s ears and she turned to face her student, beaming. ‘Right you are, Miss Lupin! Well done, fifteen points to Gryffindor! But what-?’ ‘I’m bleeding!’ Umbridge said. ‘Yes, we can see that.’ Anna muttered coldly. ‘Not much of a wound, though.’ Umbridge straightened her previously curved back and stared Anna in the face. ‘Another week of detention, I think, will solve your problem.’ She added malevolently, a light of indecent pleasure streaming over her sagged features.

As Professor Umbridge’s health was fully restored by Madam Pomfrey, after a little tantrum from Umbridge that disrupted every single class, Anna, Fred, George and Lee were enjoying a free hour in which they found nothing better to do then sit under the great beech tree in the courtyard. ‘…did you see her face when she got bitten?’ Lee was saying. ‘She looked constipated.’ Anna answered calmly, her head buried deep in Experts in Arithmancy. Fred gave a ringing laughter, but George and Lee were still eyeing Anna. Surprised by the silence, Anna lifted her head and glared at the three. ‘What?’ she asked. ‘You don’t look very pleased with yourself.’ Lee frowned at her. ‘Aren’t you happy she got bit?’ Fred asked earnestly. ‘Aren’t you happy you annoyed her?’ George beamed at her. ‘It’s beyond annoying her that I want to do.’ She said darkly. ‘She’s just given me another week of detention on top of the three I’d already collected! I-‘ she began, wanting to tell them about the torture Umbridge was inflicting upon her, then changed her mind quickly, for a reason that remained hidden to her as well. ‘I just hate being around that foul, twisted, old gargoyle for four hours every day!’ ‘We know, Anna, but we’ve got detention too!’ Lee said. ‘Yeah, well, she doesn’t go on about how monstrous your parents are!’ Anna retorted. ‘True. We should do something about that woman…’ Fred said pensively. ‘Yeah, would be fun…’ George added. ‘No, you shouldn’t!’ Anna blurted. ‘Why not?’ Lee asked. ‘She could expel you, that’s why!’ Anna said heatedly. ‘So?’ the three boys said together. ‘What do you mean ‘so?’ ? Don’t be thick! Voldemort is alive again – you need the best knowledge of spells you can get! You can’t possibly give up your education now that you actually need it to survive!’ ‘We don’t learn much with her, now, do we?’ Fred said. ‘No, but you could learn it yourselves! Or better yet, we could-‘ Anna stopped dead. An idea had just popped into her head. They could do it themselves. ‘Go on. What were you going to say?’ Lee egged her on. ‘I was going to say that we should practise Defence Against the Dark Arts by ourselves. It’s a good idea, isn’t it? If she refuses to teach us, we’ll just do so ourselves.’ ‘Anna-‘ Fred said. ‘ – we love – ‘George followed. ‘ – you – ‘ Lee concluded. Anna laughed, but the idea was fixed in her head. Did she really have a choice? That night, at eight o’clock, having already dodged Umbridge’s detention, Anna headed into Snape’s office. For what, she had no idea. She knocked twice, and the cold voice of Severus Snape answered. ‘Come in.’ Anna did so, and inhaled for the first time in a very long time, the strange, familiar scents that hung in the office of her first sword fighting lessons. She felt appeased by them in a strange way… ‘You wanted to see me, Professor?’ she said stressing the last word after remembering their row in the summer.

‘Yes. Close the door and come here.’ He said, his eyes still on a long piece of parchment her was writing on. Anna did as she was told and marched forward so that the front of her robes touched the margin on Snape’s wooden, overloaded desk. ‘I wanted to talk to you,‘ he said, finally lifting his eyes from the parchment. ‘about what happened in the Common Room.’ ‘What would that be, sir?’ she asked coldly, though she knew what he was referring to. ‘Stop it. You know very well I mean Black’s head in the fire. Umbridge almost caught him, Anna.’ ‘I know, sir. What will you have me do?’ ‘I have called you here tonight to answer a few of my questions. And…to ask for forgiveness.’ He said slowly. Anna’s jaw fell. Severus Snape was apologizing? ‘Y-you’re apologizing?’ ‘It seems so.’ He said airily. ‘I was wrong, very wrong indeed to insult you this summer. I daresay I have…’ he paused and swallowed, as though what he was about to say were very difficult. ‘…missed your company.’ He sighed. ‘You were right. I do push people away. I am sorry.’ Anna quickly savoured these words, and grinned at him, reaching across the desk and hugging him tightly. That she knocked a bottle of Acromantula eyes, she did not care. Once she let him go, she had her own questions to ask. ‘Severus,’ she said, and he gave her a good attempt at a smile. ‘I have my own questions to ask. I know you won’t take kindly of this, but I have to ask. Why do you always pick on Sirius?’ she sighed. Snape’s face turned a shade pinker. ‘Because I cannot forget.’ He answered simply. ‘Don’t you think he’s been through enough, Severus?’ she said, hoping to appeal to his better nature. ‘Yes, but I have gone through my fair share of difficulties. He’ll live.’ He answered, his voice growing colder with every syllable. ‘But Severus, your taunts aren’t really helping, are they? They’re urging him to go out of the house! He’s even thinking about coming to Hogsmeade! Severus, he’ll land himself in Azkaban! Can’t you please stop bickering with him?’ she pleaded, her hand on Severus’. He pulled his hand away. ‘Why, aren’t you protecting him? Has he run out of excuses and asked you to reason with me, or what?’ ‘Don’t be like that! I – he’s just my – ‘ ‘Friend?’ Snape said scathingly. ‘Hardly. I know what you too are doing.’ he said, a look of deep disgust on his face. Anna frowned, her features white. ‘H-how long have you known?’ ‘Since our fight in the summer.’ He said calmly. Anna’s face regained its normal colour. So that was the reason for the fight. Jealousy… ‘And that’s why you decided to fight with me? Jesus, Severus, I’d have thought you had more brains that that! You know, I feel sorry for you. You’ve spent your entire life loving a woman who married the man you hated most in the world. She died, and I came into your life. Now I’ve fallen in love with the man you hate most in the world.

What did you expect? That we’ll all wait around for you to show your affection?’ she said heatedly. ‘No.’ Snape said, his face even sallower than usual. Anna had read right through him. ‘I expected you all not to betray me!’ he snapped. ‘This isn’t betrayal, Severus!’ she said quickly. ‘Loving Sirius doesn’t make me love you less! I have to thank you for my life, and I’ll never forget that! Can’t you just be happy for me?’ ‘Not as long as I have to be happy for him!’ he snapped again. Anna drew herself up to her full height. ‘I’m sorry you feel that way. I actually thought we could make peace. Guess not. Goodbye.’ She said, turning on her heel and disappearing from the dim-lit office, with Severus Snape sitting at his desk, feeling like strangling himself. Anna paced quickly along the corridors. She found the nearest bathroom and got into a cubicle. There, she let no more and no less than two sparkling tears escape from her eyes. She washed her face and returned to the Common Room, telling only Ginny and Hermione what had happened that horrible evening. Two weeks after that, rain and cold settled in. The sunlit pastures were now dark and damp. Students dirtied themselves head-to-toe in mud each time they went into the greenhouses nowadays, and the rain that was rapping against the windows. A cold, biting rain that was foreshadowing the close coming of snow. ‘Anna! OI, ANNA!’ Harry bellowed during one particularly noisy break. Anna turned her head with a grace that did not seem to blend with the rest of the crowd. Her hair fell fluidly on her back from her long ponytail. With her hair pulled back like that, not only was her beauty enhanced, but so was her imposing allure. She smiled as her gaze fell on him. ‘Hi, Harry.’ She said, once he was near enough to hear her. ‘Hi.’ He said breathlessly, still panting. He really did not know what he wanted to tell her. Anna was such a comforting sight, that he had called for her out of sheer reflex. Deep down, however, he wanted to ask her… ‘Can I talk to you? It’s important.’ he said. ‘Do you need to ask?’ she smiled, nodding towards the entrance to a deserted corridor. Harry followed her halfway down the hallway. She had stopped in front of a grotesquely embroidered tapestry and had turned to face him. ‘Give me your hand.’ She said, and Harry obeyed. They were standing very close to the strong stone wall, their shoulders inches from the tapestry, their hands tightly clasped together. Without any notice, Anna leaned against the wall, seemingly sliding through it, pulling a befuddled Harry with her. Harry felt a strange swooping sensation, opening his eyes to see, only for a second, with his right eye – the corridor, and with his left – Anna. The swooping sensation soon left him, and he found himself standing in the middle of a small clearing, Anna now dressed like she had been once before in his presence…in what seemed like a dream… Harry could see a dark forest stretching beyond the boundaries of the clearing, the grass beneath him crisp and green, the appeasing Anna let go of Harry’s hand, placing it under his chin and closing his open mouth. ‘Well?’ she said, her voice ringing clearly in his ears, as she surveyed him over her shoulder.

Harry, who was admiring that uncanny landscape of the interior of a wall, had not noticed the fact that Anna had trailed away from him only a few steps, carefully avoiding the edge of the clearing. ‘Where are we?’ he asked, whispering, though he had not meant to. ‘Inside the wall, of course.’ Anna answered, tugging at a vibrant green leaf that was inches in front of her, stubbornly attached to a branch. ‘We are, if you wish, in the very heart of Hogwarts.’ She added, turning her head towards him and smiling. Harry felt warm. ‘You’ve still got a lot to learn, Harry.’ She said. ‘Malfoy and Montague were listening to every word you were saying. I’d be surprised if they didn’t follow us. But anyway, my powers are unplottable. If I want the corridor to be out of bounds to them, it will be. Pretty cool, huh?’ ‘Yeah,’ Harry grinned. ‘very cool.’ ‘Now. What is it you wanted to say?’ she asked. ‘How much time have we got?’ he said, suddenly fearful (his next class was with Snape) and anxious. ‘All the time in the world.’ She smiled. ‘Hogwarts doesn’t know time.’ Before gaping for a second or two at her, his mind blank, he simply decided it was part of Anna’s strange capacities and that he would squash his brains with it later, maybe asking Hermione’s help. ‘Right…Look, Ron and Hermione have come up with this idea…that I should teach them Defence Against the Dark Arts.’ He said, as Anna frowned. ‘And, they want to ask a few people – just friends – to com if they wanted. It’s not like I think you need extra lessons, it’s just I thought you might come for – ‘ ‘I’ll be there, Harry.’ She said kindly. ‘If it’s against Dolores Umbridge, I’ll do it.’ She added bitterly. ‘Besides, if you guys are going to be there, why should I get left out? But, Harry, are you sure about asking “only a few people”? Seems everyone should get a fair chance at defending themselves.’ ‘Who’d want to be taught by me?’ Harry blurted. ‘I’m a nutter, remember?’ ‘You’d be surprised.’she said earnestly. Silence fell, but neither seemed to notice. Anna’s eyes averted Harry’s – she knew he would read her mind without any Occlumency. ‘Anna, has Umbridge, you know…given you any more detention?’ he asked. Anna blinked lazily. ‘Yes, she has, as a matter of fact.’ She said, raising both her hands and pushing her hair back. Funnily enough, in this world, Anna’s hair was loose, pressed against her face by the wind… But Harry’s attention was drawn towards something else. The sleeves of Anna’s dark green dress had slid higher up her forearm, revealing three long, intertwining gashes on her skin. The cuts glowed scarlet, the skin around them dazzlingly white. The wounds were not fresh. ‘Anna, where’d you get those?’ he said before he could stop himself. One hand in her hair, Anna widened her eyes just a little bit before answering calmly. ‘Bite. One of Professor Sprout’s Geraniums.’ She said. ‘But, aren’t those venomous?’ said Harry, who, like every single respectable student had heard of Umbridge’s little mishap during the Herbology inspection. Anna met Harry’s eye. ‘Yes, but Madam Pomfrey gave me the antidote,’ she said coolly. As Harry looked her in the eye, he could tell she was lying. That look in her grey eyes was that of a caged beast, too tired to fight anymore, but firmly standing her ground.

He had this vision of Anna on her knees, holding a long, thin sword with a weary hand and a pleading look in her eyes. Harry shuddered. ‘Anna, are you sure?’ he asked loudly. Anna’s head jerked up like a lioness’. A lioness who had heard the feeble sound of an enemy. ‘Of course I am sure!’ she snapped. ‘Anna, what gave you those cuts?’ he asked calmly, serenely. Anna’s pink cheeks were growing redder by the minute. ‘Harry, read my lips: Fanged Geraniums!’ ‘I don’t believe you.’ He retorted quickly. ‘Suit yourself.’ She said, walking past him. He grabbed her upper arm, and she stopped dead in her tracks. The cuts under her dress had begun to bleed anew, so that large droplets of blood stained the deep-green fabric. Those were definitely not Geranium bites. ‘Anna, your Herbology lesson with the Geraniums was three weeks ago. The cuts would have healed by now, really.’ He said calmly, in spite of his slightly racing voice. ‘Where did you get these cuts?’ Anna turned around, so that blood was dripping down her arm. Harry told himself once again that they were definitely not a plant’s bites. He had seen neither Fred nor George bleeding like this and he was certain Anna was a much more skilled herbologyst than they were. The grey eyes once again met the green ones, and Harry could see, in flashes, a short woman, her short wand aloft and….the body of a girl, crouching on the floor, apparently convulsing. The girl tilted her bowed head and Anna’s deer-like head illuminated the room, a twisted expression on her face as though she was in deep concentration. ‘CRUCIO!’ he heard Umbridge’s echoing shrill and closed his eyes. He did not want to see Anna being tortured anymore. Harry opened them again to Anna’s face which was now bearing a kind expression. Rage swelled inside him. ‘SHE’S TORTURING YOU? SHE’S TORTURING YOU AND YOU’RE KEEPING EVERYTHING QUIET! ARE YOU MENTAL?’ he shouted accusingly. Anna’s expression remained kind, but she could not hide the slight stiffness in her tone. ‘I’ve got perfectly good reasons for doing so and-‘ ‘DOES SIRIUS EVEN KNOW ABOUT THIS? DOES LUPIN KNOW?’ he kept on bellowing, his hatred for Umbdrige reaching its climax. ‘Sirius does. And he shouldn’t have, either! It’s made him want to come here and deal with it, but I told him to pipe down! And Dad couldn’t do anything! He’s busy enough with the Order without having me to look after! I’m not going to complicate his life anymore! In case you haven’t noticed, I haven’t received a letter from him since September! I’m more worried about him not being alive than Umbridge torturing me, really!’ she said quickly, heatedly. Harry opened his mouth to mention Dumbledore and the rest of the teachers, but Anna spoke before he had a chance of making a sound. ‘And if you’re about to mention Dumbledore, he’s got enough on his plate without me! As for the other teachers, Umbridge’d sack them without blinking! Don’t you know? She’s the Hogwarts High Inquisitor now…’ she said bitterly. ‘But Anna, that doesn’t leave much place for you in the world…’ he said bleakly. ‘If you’re not going to let anyone protect you-‘

‘I can protect myself.’ She snapped. ‘I don’t need anyone as much as I want them, okay, Harry? Don’t act the preacher with me, because I’d have already thought through anything you’d possibly say. No, come on, let’s get to class.’ Without a word, they emerged onto the deserted corridor again, the scene around them standing perfectly still. ‘I will be there, Harry, don’t worry. You’re doing the right thing. Dolores Umbridge is no teacher – she’s a tyrant,’ she said, and then smiled. ‘Besides, a bit of rebellion never hurt anyone, right? You’ve got your father’s blood, it’s only natural. Well, see you, Harry.’ ‘Bye,’ He whispered, and Anna waved her hand. The scene was livened: students were moving along the corridors once more, and their shouts clearly audible. Classroom doors were banging shut, suits of armour were being knocked down, white pigeons had escaped from the Charms classroom and the portraits’ inhabitants were talking amongst themselves once more. Hogwarts had sprung into life with just a wave of Anna’s hand… She winked at Harry and walked down the corridor to Transfiguration. ‘Don’t tell anyone about the torture, Harry, really. Don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine…’ a clear voice said in Harry’s mind. He was standing in the middle of the corridor, holding his textbook, notebook and quill, his mind blank, his heart struggling under the pressure of two very strong feelings: hatred and pity. Anna had reached the end of the corridor and, before losing herself amidst the crowd, she turned her head to Harry - who was still rooted on the spot - one last time, smiling affectionately at him. So, against Umbridge they fought. Against her silly Decrees, against her persecutions, they rebelled to survive. Even though she disbanded student organisations, even though she was still torturing Anna every other day, the DA ploughed on with their classes, Harry being an excellent teacher, of whom Anna was secretly proud. But things at Hogwarts were changing…

XXII. Soon, Quidditch was the only thing that remained untarnished by Dolores Umbridge’s tyranny. Alongside hundreds of students, Anna sat down in the hard wooden chairs, awaiting the arrival of the players on the pitch. The game – a foreign language to Anna in spite of Fred, George and Lee’s long speeches about its importance and complexity – passed quickly, thanks to an entertaining interlocutor for Anna – Hermione. They perused the tedious subject of Ancient Runes for they knew it would supply them enough material to go on as long as the match lasted. Stopping only to cheer for the players and once or twice due to annoying Parvati Patil, Hermione and Anna jabbered away for about half an hour. When he game was halted by Madam Hooch’s whistle, Anna and Hermione hurried to cheer for their team. But Anna noticed at once that there was something wrong. Harry, Fred and George were heading, stone-faced, towards Malfoy, who was laughing.

‘IMPEDIMENTA!’ she yelled, pointing her wand at Fred, who had drawn his own menacingly. Fred was thrown backwards by the spell and then restrained by his team-mates. Harry and George, however, were punching, biting and scratching at every bit of Malfoy they could see and reach. Naturally, Umbridge seized the chance of hurting Harry and the mischievous twins as a payback for the energy of their hostility. They were banned. ‘I can’t believe that hag!’ Anna was supporting a sulking Fred. ‘She banned you when you hadn’t done a thing! Anyway, George and Fred were right to have a go at Malfoy! He’s nothing but a prat!’ But it did not improve their mood. However, something did. ‘Hagrid’s back,’ Hermione said, leaning against the window-sill of the Common Room and observing the spirals of smoke rising from Hagrid’s cabin. A couple of weeks passed by, filled with Umbridge’s inspections and homework pressure. All in all, Anna didn’t have any time to miss Sirius, nor did she have time to think about him. She no longer let her thoughts linger upon the image of Sirius anymore. Whenever she felt like she couldn’t take anymore of the world, she would close her eyes and imagine Sirius beside her. Inhaling, she felt empowered, and it was all she needed. She knew that if she permitted her mind to dwell on distant dreams, she would go insane. Small, diet-like portions of dreams kept her alive. One night, just before Christmas, Anna was simply staring at the ceiling, unable and unwilling to sleep. The perpetual detentions she had with Umbridge drained her of all force, so that her body was worn out, but her mind was burning with hate. Just as her grey eyes stared at the ceiling, and Anna was imagining ways in which to kill Umbridge (and she showed a great deal of creativity, too; she had already planned in great detail, strangling her, poisoning her, torturing her, poking her, pinching her, scratching her, biting her, impaling her, feeding her to a murderous pack of werewolves – which she fancied the most – and watching, cutting her throat, stabbing her eyes out, just stabbing her, pulling on her mousy-coloured hair until she gets scalped and many others, the majority of them involving fire and beasts and being too gruesome to be retold here), she blinked. A blue, glittering light danced in front of her eyes, her body seemingly fluid and limbless. A million scents were in the air, and though her nose was inches from the ground, she felt every fragrance with her tongue…Her eyelids couldn’t move, and she lowered her head. The dark surface she was gliding on was smooth and shining. When she lifted her head again, a tall, redhaired man was standing in front of her. ‘ARTHUR!’ Anna yelled, clutching her blanket and opening her eyes. She felt beads of sweat on her forehead. Angelina was surveying her with an expression of sleeping worry, sitting bolt upright in her bed. Anna got out of bed swiftly, tapped her own body with her wand. As her day-clothes replaced her pale green pyjamas, she was halfway out of the dormitory. ‘Albus! Albus!’ she stormed into Dumbledore’s office. Inside, he towered over the room, leaning calmly in his chair, his fingers entwined, his dome-shaped glasses perched precariously on the very tip of his crooked nose, but Anna knew they were safe there: in 14 years, Dumbledore’s glasses had never slid from his nose.

‘It’s Arthur! I saw him! He’s been attacked by this giant-‘ He had waved her down, pointing into a far corner of his office. There, with worried looks on their faces, were Ginny, Ron, the twins and Harry. ‘You saw it too?’ Harry asked. ‘Yes,’ she said briskly, turning on Albus again.‘He’s injured, Albus! Just let me go and help him! Please!’ she pleaded. ‘No.’ he answered plainly. ‘I have already arranged for them to go to Grimmauld Place.’ Anna clenched her teeth. ‘HOW CAN YOU BE SO CALM? I DON’T CARE WHAT YOU SAY: I’M GOING TO HELP HIM! I CAN’T JUST STAND ASIDE WHILE HE-‘ ‘Lower your voice, Anna,’ he requested magisterially. ‘Do not suggest that I have disregarded Arthur’s well being. Now, I am more concerned about yours. You will not be able to join the others in Grimmauld Place. However, school ends tomorrow and you shall take the Knight Bus alongside Miss Granger. Now go to bed and put it out of your mind.’ ‘No.’ she said, drawing herself up to her full height. ‘Whatever I shall do, going to bed is not an option.’ She turned on her heel and sped away from the Headmaster’s office, without a second glance at the five eager faces who expected some kind of comfort from Anna. Anna, who was always there, with a comforting thought and kind smile. Anna, who could, with a mere touch, take their fear away and fight their anger. But this sight, of an angry, warrior Anna, was not in the least comforting, but imposed on them more fear than they had before. If Anna was angry, then it had to be bad… Hours trailed away, and the five teenagers were now silently resting in the armchairs inside number twelve Grimmauld Place, their expressions frozen. The only sounds clearly audible in the tomb-like silence were the soft pic-pics of a few stray water drops which hit the resounding metal of the kitchen sink every few seconds. Ginny was staring, wide-eyed, into the dancing fire. Fred had his red head in his hands, George was staring intently at the fly on his Butterbeer bottle and Ron was absently biting his lower lip. Harry and Sirius, however, were tense and jumpy. Their eyes moved across the room constantly, meeting every twenty seconds or so. Harry and Sirius felt out of place amidst the worried Weasleys. Not that they weren’t worried as well, but they simply felt they were intruding upon a grief that was not supposed to belong to them… BANG! Everyone looked up. Sirius actually stood up, his wand out and pointed at the door of the kitchen. ‘Who’s there?’ he called loudly. But no answer came. ‘Molly?’ he asked again, even more loudly. The silence pressed upon them all, harder than before. To Harry it seemed a silence that foretold the coming of imminent danger… The door swung open swiftly, and Harry was eager to see who the intruder was. Sirius, however, did not wait. The instant the shadow of a body fell upon the door, he aimed a jinx at the trespasser. ‘Protego!’ shouted a very familiar voice. Anna’s slender figure appeared in the doorway, her look bold and blazing, her hair swaying slightly.

She shot one slightly reproachful look towards Sirius and headed proudly towards Fred and George, who had stood up. ‘Oh, guys, are you alright?’ she said worriedly, her arms tightly around Fred’s neck. George grunted from behind Fred, and Anna flung her arms around his neck as well, hands in his hair. George laid his head on Anna’s shoulder as though to rest. ‘Alright, Ginny? Ron?’ she asked. They made no reply, but merely stared at her and she sighed deeply. Sirius looked as though he had lockjaw. As they all sat down once again, crashing on the puffed armchairs, Anna remained standing. ‘Harry, Sirius, I want to talk to you,’ she said, signalling towards the hallway. The three, entirely unnoticed by the Weasleys, entered the dark hallway. Anna stopped at the foot of the stairs and turned around swiftly, putting her arms around Sirius, who, for a moment, returned the embrace, but then pushed her away. ‘What’s the idea?’ she said, her face still white from the shock of the vision. ‘Oh, now you think I’m alive?’ he snapped back venomously, as Anna’s white face turned from shock to puzzlement. She apparently decided to ignore him, and turned towards Harry instead, as Sirius hid his face from them both, leaning against the railing. ‘Harry, you saw it too?’ she asked calmly. ‘Y-yes.’ Harry said in a hoarse voice. ‘Listen to me. Under no circumstances are you to believe you are in any way responsible for this, do you hear me?’ she said, the alarm in her voice rising. ‘Wh-Ho-?’ he stuttered. ‘It’s enough that I know. You did not attack Arthur tonight! You merely witnessed his attack, luckily enough! Don’t take responsibility for something you merely saw! I saw it too, remember?’ ‘But Anna, that’s probably just because of the Blood Broth-‘ ‘It could have been the other way around!’ she said impatiently. ‘You did not attack Arthur, Harry! I’d have felt it if you did!’ she said. Harry felt as though he had swallowed a cold, wet stone. She had merely felt his innocence…there was no real evidence of it…Yet, Anna’s assumptions, like Dumbledore’s, were accurate…But he had felt like the snake…. Harry was torn, there, on the spot, between believing Anna – the only person he could ever believe entirely without having to think before – or judging by the facts, that showed he had indeed attacked Arthur Weasley. ‘Harry,’ she said. ‘just don’t, okay?’ But it did not convince him. The feeling that he had been the snake was too powerful. The warm gush of blood that he had felt was too real; the guilt was too deeply etched on his brain to let Anna’s words reach him. Though he wanted with all his might to believe her, cold logic told him that Anna, even Anna, might be wrong tonight. Anna, however, had more urgent matter to be dealing with. Sirius was gazing at them contemptuously, arms folded in front of him. Anna turned on him, her face hardened. ‘And what, if I may ask, is your problem?’ she said. ‘It’s standing right in front of me,’ he snapped as he walked away from them, brushing against Anna’s shoulder and entering the kitchen to join the motionless scene of worry. ‘I swear, Albus is trying to keep him alive, but I’m going to kill him one of these days…’ Anna said serenely from somewhere behind Harry, who turned around. ‘Don’t you two fight!’ he said warily.

‘Haven’t you noticed? We just snap; we don’t fight. I don’t think he’d win if we’d fight. Pitiable, really,’ she whispered spitefully as not to wake up Mrs Black. Harry could not muster the energy to talk to her. He normally would have tried to mollify her, but tonight he felt uncannily weary. ‘You don’t have to do anything, Harry. We’ll work it out,’ she smiled at him, placing one arm round his neck and leading him towards the kitchen. Her bare wrist brushed up against the back of is head in the move, and Harry felt, from that exact spot, the warmth of ten suns spreading inside of him. He heaved a great sigh and entered the kitchen, following everyone else’s lead and keeping as quiet as possible. It was very early when Mrs Weasley came beaming into the kitchen, announcing merrily that Arthur was going to be fine. Anna hugged everyone tightly, winked at Harry and waved coldly at Sirius, who, seemingly very much against his will, offered to lead her to the door. Once outside the kitchen, Sirius grabbed Anna’s arm gently, wheeling her around. ‘Not so testy in the morning, are we?’ she enquired, her eyebrows slightly higher than usual. ‘Don’t give me that.’ Sirius snapped. ‘You come in here and hug Fred and George like…You know they told me I’m not risking as much as everyone else cooped up in here. I told them there are things worth dying for, you know…I hate this! Everyone thinks I’m a coward just because I can’t put a toe beyond that threshold,’ Anna took his head in her hands. ‘You’ve got issues!’ she said, stepping out the door swiftly into a feeble morning sun. The moment she saw the grey winter sky, a sinking feeling struck her. Sirius hadn’t seen a patch of sky in seven months…She immediately regretted snapping at him like that, and made to return. However, the car that passed by made her realise how very far from Hogwarts she was. She took a deep breath and, with a stroke of the wind, was gone from London…. Inside number twelve, Grimmauld Place, the happily relieved Weasleys were cooking breakfast collectively. Sirius, however, had a ruthless expression. Even Anna, whom he hoped to be able to trust blindly for the rest of his life, was now under the impression that he was a hoax. A good-for-nothing lump, a waste of space and breath a‘Sirius, where are you?’ Molly’s voice said. ‘I’m coming,’ he said quietly, carelessly, his mind still dwelling on what he thought was treason from Anna. Inside the Forbidden Forest, a very strange, out-of-place creature was running. She ducked a few centaurs’ arrows and headed towards the clear light at the brim of the thicket. The lioness had realised that she was late. Very late. The sun was up and students were already having breakfast. She strained to find a way in which she could enter the Great Hall unnoticed. She drew to a halt before exiting the actual forest and looked back. Nothing had followed her. She quickly regained her human form and started running again towards the stone castle. The grass was still moist with sweet morning dew. The air was cool, pressing her very long hair against her face as she ran. Her robes were fluttering wildly behind her, but she was used to moving around in dresses. Her speed was not her best, but for a person who had not gotten practically any sleep the night before, it was remarkable.

She reached the large wooden doors and found them shut. Panting only slightly, she raised her wand and aimed a spell directly at the crack between the massive doors. They opened slowly, roaring and growling like a pack of hungry lions. Anna resumed her running up the hall towards the dormitory. This time, her freedom was cut short. No grass under her feet, not the slightest bit of Hogwarts remained in the halls. Umbridge and her wide, slack smile were waiting for Anna at the foot of the marble stairs. ‘Hello, Miss Lupin,’ she said, baring her pointed, bat-like teeth. ‘Good morning, Professor,’ Anna said coolly. ‘Well?’ Umbridge asked. ‘Well what?’ ‘I’ve got her room secured, Professor,’ said a wheezy, excited voice behind Umbridge. Mr Filch, the slightly sadistic caretaker, had limped into sight, looking as though Christmas had come a week earlier. ‘Whose room?’ Anna asked, as coldly as ever. Umbridge eyed Anna satisfactorily and downright laughed in her face. ‘Why, my dear, your room,’ she beamed as rage swelled inside Anna. ‘If you refuse to cooperate, that is.’ ‘But, Professor, I’ll be going home today. There’s no need to secure my room…There won’t be anything to keep inside.’ She reasoned calmly, readying herself for anything. ‘Oh, but I think you will find there will,’ Umbridge squealed, again flaunting her excitement. ‘As I said, it all depends on if you cooperate or not. Seize her, Argus,’ ‘NO!’ Anna bellowed and took out her wand before Filch had even moved a muscle, pointing it squarely at his chest. ‘If you lay one finger on me, I swear, I will hex you so that you wished-‘ ‘Silencio!’shrieked Umbridge, pointing her wand at Anna. But Anna had never been worried about Filch. She was pretending to threaten him, who, as a Squib, stood no chance against her. In truth, she was just ready for Umbridge. A sliver shield had sprouted from the tip of Anna’s wand just before the jet of silver light had hit her. She was not the one silenced. Umbridge was gaping at her, a mad expression on her face. She was panting, in spite of the fact that it had been Anna who had made the real effort of running. ‘Where have you been?’ she hissed, red sparks flying out the tip of her wand. ‘Walking,’ Anna said, her eyes boring into Umbridge, x-raying her much like Dumbledore’s eyes did. ‘All night?!’ Umbridge snarled, the red sparks flying so that they landed at Anna’s feet. ‘Yes,’ she answered coolly, clearly not impressed by Umbridge’s little fit. ‘Very well, Miss Lupin. If you expect me to believe that a seventh-year would simply wander in the grounds all night without actually going anywhere outside them, than you are gravely mistaken. Mr Malfoy, Miss Parkinson, take her to the dormitory, please.’ Umbridge commanded. Anna threw her head back and laughed. She laughed because she knew it would make Umdridge’s blood boil. ‘Malfoy? Parkinson?’ Anna said in-between fits of laughter. ‘Who do you think I am? They can’t take me! I would have understood a seventh-year, someone with more bulk, hardly two fifth-years who can’t even aim properly! Anyways, the Gryffindor Common Room doesn’t even open to them!’ she said amusedly. Umbridge let out a girlish laughter.

Then, the many things happened. Something hit Anna hard on the back of the head and she collapsed, but remained conscious. She was now at Umbridge’s feet, her hands on the stone floor. She threw Umbridge a contemptuous glance and turned so that she was sprawled on her back now. Her attacker was merely Crabbe, the dolt. Her wand, however, had flown from her hand and was a few feet to her right. She had no time to reach it and at the same time duck the four potential curses Malfoy, Pansy, Umbridge and Goyle (the latter not worrying her so much, though) would aim at her if she moved even a fraction of an inch to the right. ‘Imobulus!’ chanted Umbridge dully, but Anna stood up at once, the spell ricocheting off the floor and into an old vase, which toppled and shattered. The downside was that Anna was now facing Crabbe, who was holding a Bludger-bat and had a smug expression plastered across his broad, stupid face. He stretched out his arm in slow-motion, as though it had taken his brain a long time to process the command, and tried to grab Anna. She was too fast for him. She had long since aimed a kick between his legs, so that, with his hand stretched, Crabbe fell to his knees in pain. Anna was darting towards the exit, when Pansy charmed the door shut. ‘There’s really no use trying to escape, dear. Every single student is in the Great Hall having breakfast. They won’t hear you screaming. Don’t fight us, darling,’ Umbridge said, pacing towards Anna and drawing her face so close to hers that Anna could taste venom in her breath. ‘you’ll lose,’ she said satisfactorily. ‘Professor Dumbledore will never agree to this.’ Anna sneered. ‘You won’t be able to keep me locked up in here.’ ‘On the contrary, dear. Professor Dumbledore is not here at the moment.’ ‘Professor McGonagall, then,’ Anna said calmly. ‘She’s the Headmistress when Professor Dumbledore is gone.’ Umbridge merely laughed softly, and turned her back on Anna, signalling Malfoy and Goyle. They both grabbed Anna’s forearms strongly, though she did not wince. They dragged her off forcibly towards the Gryffindor Common Room. Meanwhile, Anna struggled with herself. She did not know whether she should scream or not, if she should use her powers or not. She soon decided the latter was out of the question, but she could scream if she wanted to…With no want, she could not have thrown both Malfoy and Goyle off her. ‘Give the password,’ Umbridge said briskly, as the Fat Lady yawned widely, eyeing Anna with little interest. ‘Help!’ Anna said despairingly. ‘Wrong password,’ said the Fat Lady. Malfoy shoved Anna forwards, poking her in the ribs and squeezing her arm so tightly it was going numb. ‘HELP!’ she yelled, but the Fat Lady shook her head. ‘Ah! Cowardly scum! Unhand that fair maiden! How dare you?! I challenge you to a duel!’ Sir Cadogan rushed into sight, pointing his sword at Malfoy, who laughed in his face. ‘SIR, HELP!’ bellowed Anna, as Malfoy pushed her to her knees right in front of Umbridge. Anna lowered her head. She had been in far worse situations, and had always found a way out. Anyways, she was determined on spending Christmas with her father, and Umbridge couldn’t stop that. She had no right of depriving Anna of her holiday, but it

could be days and days until her father actually reached Hogwarts. That would give Umbridge time to torture her. And if her father found her wounded, he would find out about the torture, and – ‘Look up!’ Malfoy snapped, putting his hand in her hair and pulling her head up. Her look was unforgiving. Pansy was circling Anna, touching her face with the tip of her own cherry-wood, phoenix-feather wand merrily, baring her yellowish teeth, her strong, violent perfume filling Anna’s nostrils. Crabbe was sniggering behind them, his pain not quite evaporated, but his glee obvious. Goyle was still holding Anna’s forearm so that one of her arms was up in the air. Malfoy had kneeled next to her. ‘No one is here to save you know. Bet you wished you hadn’t been so conceited before!’ he whispered in her ear. ‘No, I don’t,’ she answered coldly. ‘I don’t regret calling you stupid. Not for one minute,’ He pulled on her long hair even harder so that she was now squinting at the ceiling. Sir Nick was passing by, his head wobbling. Dangling on his arm was The Grey Lady of Ravenclaw. ‘HELP!’ Anna bellowed to the two ghosts, but they did not pay any kind of attention to her. What was the matter with them? No one seemed to think that she was in danger! She was being pinned to the floor for crying out loud! Malfoy was practically scalping her, Umbridge was threatening to keep her locked up for the holidays and yet no one cared. She was alone. That particular feeling did not arouse any kind of rage inside Anna. Her mind was blank. She could not fight them, she could not duel them, she could not use her powers, and no one was going to save her. She had become resigned with the fact that she would be spending the holidays at Hogwarts, which wasn’t a bad thing after all, but being Cruciated on Christmas Eve was not exactly her dream. Did no one notice her absence? Not Lee? Not Angelina? Not Minerva? Not Hermione? She sighed and blinked lazily. ‘The password, dear,’ Umbridge said impatiently. ‘No,’ Anna answered. She knew it would incense Umbridge and, in any case, she couldn’t torture her in the middle of a hallway. ‘YOU STUPID GIRL! GIVE ME THE PASSWORD!’ she shrieked. ‘No,’ Anna said determinedly looking at her with nothing but hate. ‘Very well. Mr Malfoy, Miss Parkinson, it’s your job to make her tell you the password. I’ll be in the Great Hall. Come get me as soon as she has confessed,’ ‘Yes, Professor,’ Pansy squeaked excitedly. Umbridge made to walk away from Anna and the group, but stopped dead in her tracks. ‘Hello, Professor,’ said a calm voice. ‘And who are you?’ Umbridge asked testily. Anna elbowed Malfoy hard in the ribs. He was taken aback by the blow and let go of Anna, who pushed Goyle so hard that he fell down two flights of stairs. Now free to do as she pleased, Anna ran down the stairs towards the source of the voice. A voice she knew all too well. Umbridge aimed a curse at her, but missed by a foot. Pansy tried to Stun her, but she missed by a landslide, hitting a suit of armour several flights down.

Anna neither knew nor did she care who was watching. She ran and put her arms tightly around her father’s waist, pressing her head against his chest. He stroked her head affectionately, giving her a fleeting kiss on the top of her head. ‘I would appreciate it if you wouldn’t harass my daughter so, Professor Umbridge,’ Remus Lupin said coldly. ‘Your daughter refuses to give me crucial information-‘ ‘Information she does not have!’ he said, sounding angry. He took Anna’s hand in his and walked up one flight of stairs to face Umbridge, who had become very small as she saw the werewolf approach. ‘You haven’t got permission to be here!’ she squeaked. ‘On the contrary, Professor McGonagall has given me permission. Now listen,’ he said menacingly, drawing his wand. ‘if you ever touch my daughter again, I will deal with you personally, do you hear me?’ ‘Are you threatening me, sir?’ she said. ‘Yes, I am,’ he said, frowning at her. ‘Now, if you please, that’s my daughter’s wand and I’ll have it back, miss,’ he told Pansy, who held it out reluctantly. ‘You filthy half-breed!’ shrieked Umbridge, her face swollen. ‘You should know that I am Senior-‘ ‘DON’T YOU CALL HIM THAT!’ bellowed Anna angrily. ‘You may be able to have your gorillas restrain and insult me, but if you ever call him a half-breed again-‘ ‘Anna, stop,’ Remus said calmly. ‘It’s my turn to defend you,’ his voice sounded clearly in Anna’s head. ‘Leave my daughter alone, or else. Remember, Professor, the full moon is always prompt,’ he told Umbridge, who now resembled a female Uncle Vernon (her face a very deep purple) and turned away firmly, dragging Anna along with him to the exit, past the gates and into London. They both entered the headquarters with great precaution. Anna stepped warily inside the basement kitchen, only to raise her head and see a heartily-smiling welcoming party waiting for her. ‘Oh, Anna!’ Molly exclaimed, hugging her tightly. Anna was rooted on the spot. Everyone shot excuses at her for not noticing anything, and offering to tend to her wounds, asking her to recount the story, that Anna soon became dizzy. She then realised that the only person who had not spoken to her was Sirius. He was leaning against the wall, hands in his pockets, his eyes boring into Anna. They did not speak that day. Nor the next, until, the first Monday of vacation, Anna grew weary of the silence. She got up at the crack of dawn and went to his room silently. She knew he wasn’t awake – he never slept past three. Anna did not bother to knock, but entered, Imperturbed the door and imposed her presence upon him before he could say a word. ‘Shut up, it’s my turn to talk,’ she said briskly. ‘Now I don’t know what you problem is, but I’m growing tired of this. Either we talk this through like normal human beings or we spend the rest of our lives pretending we don’t live in the same house! Now, what I wanted to say was I don’t think that what Fred and George said last night was true-‘ ‘How do you know?’ he asked, his voice hoarse. ‘Harry,’ she breathed, and he understood. ‘Point is, I don’t think you’re a coward for not being able to go out of the house! I know better than, probably, anyone what you went through! What you’re still going through!’ ‘I know you know!’

‘Then what is your problem?’ she asked angrily. ‘Umbridge has been Cruciating me for the last three months because I refused to give her information about you, Sirius! Do you honestly think I wouldn’t have told her where the Headquarters were if you weren’t hiding inside?! What do I care about the Headquarters?! Albus is perfectly capable of finding-‘ ‘You didn’t do it for me!’ Sirius said, rising to his feet. ‘You did it for the Order! You did it so that we could stand a chance against Voldemort!’ ‘Albus is perfectly capable of finding the Order a place for meetings, Sirius! My priority was you!’ Sirius’ face fell. He had been trying to persuade himself of the exact contrary of what Anna was now saying for the past three months. ‘I did it for you, Sirius. And it’s high time you got used to the fact that I will keep on standing up for you. However, my sympathy is limited when you complain about how rude Fred and George are to you. For one thing, they didn’t mean it. Second, there were so much more important things going on at the time, you can’t have expected me to offer you support first!’ she said convincingly. ‘You’re wasting yourself, Anna,’ he said wearily. ‘What?’ ‘You’re wasting your love and kindness on other people! Even you can’t solve everyone’s problems!’ ‘I’m supposed to solve everyone’s problems, Sirius,’ she said coldly. ‘And you’re the one person I can tell to give me a rest!’ ‘But that’s the point! I can’t give you a rest, Anna! I’m just as worthy of your attention as anyone else-‘ ‘And you have it! But don’t expect my pity! I thought you were too proud for pity anyway…’she snapped. ‘I’m not talking about pity, Anna. I’m talking about attention! I wouldn’t go as far as affection ‘cause you’d have a right little tantrum-‘ ‘Oh, don’t give me that! I’m not the one who was surly and all of a sudden more friendly towards Buckbeak just because Harry got cleared at the hearing! You wouldn’t talk to me for days afterwards! And did I say anything? Did you hear me complaining? No, Sirius, because I knew life inside this place is more difficult for you than it would be for someone else. But you don’t seem to get anything anymore…’ Sirius opened his mouth to retaliate, but flashes of the past six months appeared in his head. Harry’s hearing, his head in the fire, Snape asking him how the cleaning was going, Anna fighting Snape, a large black dog being patted by a dark-haired girl, a happy-looking Anna wearing an expression he had not seen for a long time ...She was right, he was going mad inside that house. But it was her love which pulled him back on the surface. And Anna smiled again that morning. Even Sirius had abandoned his usually grim mood in exchange for the largest doze of happiness and cheerfulness anyone had ever received. He was singing carols at the top of his voice which rang through the rooms, thoroughly annoying Mrs Black (who, fortunately, did not have the nerve to scream with Anna and her knife in the house). Anna and Harry were equally delighted by the upcoming holidays (and mostly by Sirius’ joy) and were almost always busy with decorating and cooking. Sirius’ birthday was, incidentally, on Christmas Eve. ‘Happy birthday, Sirius!’ Bill beamed at him that morning. ‘It’s your birthday?’ exclaimed Fred and George together.

‘Yeah…’ Sirius said grimly. Anna had been the first to wish him a happy birthday, but that wasn’t all she was going to do… ‘Happy birthday!’ Hermione waltzed in, handing Sirius a neatly-wrapped package. ‘Thanks, Hermione.’ Said Sirius embarrassedly. One by one, everyone relieved their bags of different gifts for Sirius, who smiled fondly at all of them. Anna merely winked at him in between Harry and Mr Weasley’s present. After a great dinner – which included a strange, pink fudge cake with 13 candles (the maximum Mrs Weasley could produce on such short notice) – Anna finally spoke to Sirius. ‘Well, now it’s time for my present.’ She said bracingly. Sirius raised his eyebrows. ‘You didn’t have to get me-‘ ‘I didn’t.’ she interrupted. ‘Look, I’ve been working on this for a while, so be gentle on me, ok?’ she said. Sirius kept his eyebrows up. ‘Get up. Give me your hand,’ Anna said briskly. Sirius did so. Anna closed her eyes, and Sirius merely caught a glimpse of her transforming into the elven princess before wincing himself. He felt wings sprouting at his back. His feet lifted form the stone floor of Grimmauld Place… When he once again felt soft ground, Sirius did not open his eyes, but feasted on the smells and sounds he could feel. His nostrils inflated under the caress of freshly-cut grass’ scent. His ears feasted on the crystal song of the birds…He breathed the clean, fresh air…It wasn’t London anymore… ‘Open you eyes.’ Anna whispered lovingly, pressing her lips softly against his forehead. Sirius obeyed once again. His eyes fell first upon Anna, and her unnatural beauty. Her hair was longer than in real life, and even smoother (if that was possible). Her grey eyes were even more expressive, her lips redder. Her perfume ten times enhanced, and her touch ten times warmer. Only her smile stayed the same: kind, loving, caring and perennial. ‘Welcome,’ she whispered. ‘to Middle-Earth.’ Sirius looked round. He was surrounded by the tallest trees he had ever seen and he thought he could hear distant voices singing… ‘What is this place?’ he asked in awe. ‘Lothlorien. The place where I was born.’ She said plainly. Just as Sirius opened his mouth to say something, Anna pressed her finger to her lips. ‘Don’t let go of my hand. We’ll be meeting the guards soon…’she then whispered, drawing a long, curved sword from its sheath. They started walking, wind in their hair, with Sirius drinking in every moment of his journey…he had not been out in months… Soon, just as Anna predicted, the gentle rustling of the leaves became more and more pronounced. He thought he could hear a bow tighten and a sword dragged off its sheath. Anna tightened the grip on his hand, raising her sword in front if her eyes, looking round slowly…

‘Im Luthien, tinu en' i' gaur, arwen en' i' sul! Lye tysti tullo’ i’ palurin en’ istar, ohta ar’ gurtha!’(I am Luthien, daughter of the werewolf, lady of the wind! We come from the world of wizards, war and death!) she shouted, her voice steady and firm. An arrow whooshed past Sirius’ head and would not have missed if Anna had not pulled him closer to her only a few heartbeats before. ‘Ile ier il creoso sinome, Edan!’(You are not welcomed here, human!)shouted a voice from somewhere to their right. Sirius was being slightly unnerved by this exchange of gibberish. What on earth were they saying and why were they not speaking plain English? ‘Haldir, don’t fight me!’ Anna said, in English this time, her grip on Sirius’ hand tightening. ‘You are a bearer of bad tidings, daughter of the werewolf,’ the voice said again. ‘Our lady Galadriel has gone – you no longer have her protection!’ ‘It’s my forest as much as yours!’ Anna said angrily. ‘I am Galadriel’s granddaughter, Haldir! That makes me the Lady of this Forest in my grandmother’s absence! Let us pass!’ ‘We do not acknowledge your superiority, Edan!’ another voice said. All these voices, despite the obvious mutiny in them, were as clear and firm as Anna’s. And she seemed completely unruffled by their resistance, but embraced it – she had been expecting it. ‘I am Half-Elven, Haldir! Much like your Lord Elrond!’ she shouted. Then, two elves appeared, one holding his bow and pointing the arrow at Anna’s heart, the other walking towards them so lightly that he seemed to glide… The second elf was unarmed, and approached Anna with a slightly mocking smile on his face. ‘Haldir…’ Anna said, nodding. ‘Lady…’ he said, taking a ridiculously low bow and rising with his lip curled. ‘What will you have us do?’ he asked. ‘Let us pass,’ Anna said through tightly gritted teeth. ‘You see, milady, I cannot. Not until you have proved-‘ ‘You know me, Haldir. You have known me since I was a child! You’ve seen me fight! You’ve fought alongside me!’ Anna reasoned earnestly. ‘But I have never seen you as my Queen, nor will I ever do so!’ Haldir said. ‘To me it matters not what you think!’ she said. ‘What of the others?’ she added, turning round, her sword still in one hand, Sirius’ palm still in the other. A low rustling of laves recommenced, and in a few seconds, about five grey-clad elves were walking up to Anna. Anna looked straight into the youngest one’s eyes. He had clear blue eyes and the sad look of a mistreated dog, scared and worried. ‘Valandil…’ Anna breathed, clearly mortified, and held out a hand, letting Sirius go. The split second she did that, Haldir drew his sword, making slashing movements towards Sirius’ head. His arms were out of control, causing Sirius to duck and swerve until, out of breath and patience, he hit Haldir hard on the back of the head, and he collapsed. Strangely enough, none of the elves came to Haldir’s help. They stared dreamily into space. ‘Anna,’ Sirius whispered. ‘don’t laugh at this, but they look Imperiused.’ ‘I know,’ she whispered back. Again, none of the others seemed to hear them. The distant singing had stopped. ‘Sirius, grab my sword-arm and don’t let go,’ she whispered.

Sirius did as he was told. Anna raised her hand and made a slashing movement in front of the elves, barely touching the tips of their noses. This had an immediate effect. The elves’ eyes seemed to clear, like a shadow had lifted from them. They shone blue and green once again, but none were grey, none were like Anna’s… The six elves in front of them changed their blank expressions into relieved and pleased ones. ‘Milady…’ muttered Valandil, kneeling and putting his bow and arrow away. The rest of the elves followed suit, kneeling in front of Anna, who bid them rise with a small jerk of her head. Behind them, Haldir was stirring. Anna sheathed her sword and walked up to the mumbling body. Haldir was sprawled on the ground, face pressed against the soft grass. Ann turned him over and it looked like an electric wave had passed him. He rose, hands groping for Anna’s thin neck, eyes dark and hungry, teeth clenched and bared. He looked like an orch, his blond hair now ruffled and dirty. Anna grabbed his forearm just as he had found her neck and was now strangling her. Sirius had made to come to Anna’ aid, but at her touch, all evil seemed to fade from him, and he deflated much like Anna had once before…The blackness in his eyes retreated to his pupil, his hair turned a silver blond once again and his hand had slid from Anna’s neck and settled comfortably on her white chest. Sirius felt the imperious need to clear his throat. He did so, and Haldir awoke. His blue eyes sought Anna and found her soon enough. ‘Anna…’ he said, and she smiled fondly at him. ‘Mae govannen, my friend,’ she beamed at him. Sirius noticed he had been the only elf to call her by her real name, her first name. He felt a chill rising in him with no apparent reason. Anna got up, supporting Haldir. ‘There will be more, Anna. They will not let you be…’ Haldir said anxiously. ‘Let them come,’ Anna said. ‘I have more power than them, anyhow. Let them try and defeat me.’ ‘We shall fight alongside you!’ Valandil said, receiving approving nods from the other elves. ‘You will not fight anything!’ Anna said urgently. ‘There has been enough fighting in your lands, Valandil. It is my battle, and –‘ ‘But elves are doomed! We shall diminish soon! Let us serve our Lady once more before we die!’ he protested. ‘Your Lady wishes that you remain here. I shall return to my world. But now, I have more urgent matters at hand,’ she said, quickly glancing at Sirius, who had forgotten that he existed. ‘Elrohir, Mablung, Valandil, Haldir, Huor, Finrod and Gildor, this is Sirius Black.’ They all bowed slightly and awkwardly and Sirius smiled back politely, placing his arms in his pockets characteristically, and therefore receiving scrutinizing looks from the etiquette-loving elves. ‘He hasn’t been out in a while, and Middle-Earth is the only safe place for him. I’m taking him to Cerin Amroth for a bit of fresh air,’ she said merrily, then turned grave at seeing the elves exchange worried, “she-must-be-crazy” kind of glances. ‘There will be enough time for grief and wars. I want your welfare, and you are now protected by my powers – you shall not be possessed again by them. Don’t worry

about me…When all this is over – both wars, both worlds in peace – I will come to you. I promise,’ she paused, and then grinned. ‘my brothers…’ Anna and Sirius spent two whole days in Middle-Earth, the time in our world being no more than two minutes; they came home in time for Christmas, happy and ready to face “the world outside the bedroom” once more. The clatter of plates, forks, knives and spoons drowned Crookshanks’ meow and Snuffles’ bark. The loud conversations drowned even the portraits’ voices (all because Mrs Black, their crowned leader, had not made an appearance). The peculiar part? It was only Christmas breakfast… They were visiting Arthur in the hospital that day and, for the first time, Anna had joined them. As Harry, Anna, Hermione, Ginny and Ron had trailed from Arthur’s bed and were now wandering the corridors of St Mungo’s, a familiar face greeted them. That of Professor Lockhart. ‘Hello!’ he said. ‘You’ve come for my autograph, I know you have!’ he added merrily. As they entered the long-term residents ward, Anna was conversing feverishly with Hermione about the advantages of being a Healer and how she was considering the career herself after she finished school. In a distant corner of the room, the plump face of Neville stared at the entering party. Next to him, waving goodbye to her son, stood Augusta Longbottom, looking forbidding. ‘Neville! Hey, Neville!’ Ron had greeted before anyone could stop him. Neville looked as though someone had hit him over the head. Anna and Harry exchanged the smallest but most meaningful of looks. ‘Oh, friends of yours, Neville, dear?’ Augusta asked. ‘Yes! Hi, Neville!’ Anna stepped forwards, giving Neville a fleeting hug. Augusta, who had not looked properly at Anna, had now turned to the others, naming them all in turn according to their families and Neville’s stories. When Anna and Neville had once again joined the crowd, Augusta pointed a long, claw-like finger at her, eyes widened. ‘You…you…you!’ she shrilled. ‘Grandma, don’t…’ Neville began feebly. ‘You’re hers! You’re that – that – that traitor’s daughter! You have her face, her hair!’ she shrilled even louder. Anna’s face was white. They all knew that Anna hated being compared to her mother. ‘She- She was the reason that woman caught them unawares! She betrayed them!’ Augusta ploughed on, finger extended, mad expression still on her face. Harry hoped with all his heart that Anna would not retaliate violently, for she looked positively ready to burst. Somewhere, something at the back of his mind told him it was not Anna’s plan. ‘The woman you are referring to has a name. Her name is Eamane and she – ‘ Anna broke of only slightly, but Harry and Ginny caught wind of it. ‘ – she was not my mother as far as I am concerned. The only close relative I have is my father, Remus Lupin,’ she said, now her voice hardened. ‘a werewolf. I understand you for judging my mother and know that I also do so. More harshly than you, perhaps. But the only relative for whom I am to be judged and pinned against the wall for is my father. Besides, I owe Alice and Frank a great favour and I am – ‘ ‘I know where I knew you from!’ a loud, wheezy voice interrupted from behind them. ‘You always came here the day after Christmas! You visited them!’ Healer Moore said, pointing at the far corner of the room, where the Longbottoms slept. ‘Y-you?!’ Augusta said in even more surprise. ‘You were the one who left the lilies?’

Anna nodded. ‘Than you must be a good a person as your father, dear,’ she said, her tone now mollified and kind. ‘My father?’ Anna asked, her eyebrows raised. ‘You know my father?’ ‘Well, he was in the Order, wasn’t he?’ she asked, beaming at her. ‘Y-yes, he was,’ Anna answered bemusedly. ‘Oh, I’ve been keeping track of Remus Lupin’s daughter…’ she said satisfactorily. ‘But I never knew you were her child as well.’ ‘I’m not! Minerva and Molly are the closest things to a mother I’ve ever known, and I’d ring my own mother’s neck too if I saw her!’ she said heatedly. Augusta beamed at her and so did two very similar plump faces from behind her. ‘A-Anna…’ said a hoarse voice which sounded like it had not been used in ages. ‘Alice, dear?’ Augusta asked, eyes widened once more, while Neville’s jaw hung open. Alice had risen from her bed behind the curtains and approached the seven people that were standing so very near to her and her husband. ‘Anna!’ Alice exclaimed loudly and triumphantly. ‘Hello, Alice…’ Anna said kindly. Alice Longbottom extended her hand, seemingly searching for Anna’s. Anna quickly took Alice’s thin hand in hers, and they all watched as the lines on the woman’s face ebbed, her eyes regaining their sparkle, the corners of her mouth lifting into a proud smile. ‘You’ve grown…’ Alice whispered. Anna smiled and said, ‘So has Neville.’ ‘N-Neville? He-he’s here?’ Alice asked. She had, apparently, seen no other than Anna standing there. Neville moved a step forwards, thus entering Alice’s field. ‘I’m here, Mum,’ he said bleatingly. Alice turned her slightly less worn out face to her son, love etched in every single feature she had. She used her Anna-free hand in stroking her son’s hair, her eyes watching him hungrily, as though she’d never be able to see enough of him, exactly like Lily had watched Harry. A very sharp intake of breath from Anna made everyone but Neville and Alice look round. Anna was clutching her stomach with her Alice-free hand, still not letting go of her. A fine trickle of blood was running from underneath her robes and along her arm – Umbridge’s cuts were bleeding anew. Harry made to touch her arm, but Anna breathed ‘No! Not yet!’ and he backed away. This scene passed in utmost silence, until Harry could bear the sight of Anna’s blood no more, and grabbed her arm. The blood stopped pouring out of Anna’s wounds and her painful expression disappeared, but so did the awareness in Alice’s eyes. Her face grew lined once more, her eyes dull and lifeless. The magic had faded away… She mumbled something unintelligible and walked away, leaving Neville looking stricken. However hard it would be for them in the future, that one moment inside a hospital, with Lockhart offering autographs and Boderick Bode prodding at his new pot-plant, Neville made up his mind. He would give his life for the one who had given him his mother back… A mere few hours later, Anna had been revived by one of Mrs. Weasley’s lunches and was now enjoying a prosaically bounteous Christmas dinner with all her loved ones

(or, at least, everyone was in the top twenty) gathered round a table. That day, the world “inside the bedroom” had spread by definition to the entire house. Everyone was singing carols loudly hoping to speed up the digesting process a little bit. Anna thought it lucky the house was Imperturbed or else the racket would have kept the entire street up. What was supposed to be a normal, average Christmas, however, turned into a nightmare in a matter of seconds. You’ll see what I mean… Right during the chorus of ‘Oh come, all ye faithful’, with Anna singing leading voice and Hermione and Ginny doing the backup of what sounded to Sirius very much like the song of the elves that he had heard in Lorien, our lead-singer stopped dead. She was sitting opposite Ron and in between Fred and George, as usual, when she left her verse unfinished. Her gaze, alight and merry, was now fixed upon a distant corner of the basement kitchen. Her eyes were slightly narrowed, and her back straightened. She was outwardly under the impression that there was another person in the room, another creature that had made a noise. This seemed to Harry absurd – there was no one else in the room; they would have seen him! ‘Anna, what’s-‘ Lupin began, but was halted by Anna’s raised hand. Anna then pressed her forefinger against her lips, looking round at everyone so that they understood the message. Still squinting, she transformed into the great lioness, stepping neatly onto the table. ‘Now, really!’ Molly gasped in scandalized tones as Anna narrowly missed a goblet of wine in her way. But she did not mind. She took a step towards the corner, then another and on her third step, leaped, claws out, into thin air. Harry could almost laugh – there was nothing there! But Anna did not stop there. She had seemingly missed her target and flung herself at the cupboard, landing on top of it, and knocking down a vase. Lupin ducked, and the vase fell inches behind him, shattering. ‘Anna, what is the meaning of this?!’ he shouted, but Anna replied with a deafening roar, knocking over plates and goblets as she mounted every cupboard in pursuit of her prey. She had even dug her claws deep into the wallpaper, hanging for a moment or two either from the ceiling or from the wall. There was one memorable jump in which Anna landed on the crystal chandelier that was just above the table. It swung portentously and Anna fell from it, landing with a crash right next to the table. Everyone thought she would quit – she seemed injured (Harry thought he heard the loud crack of a bone, and Ginny had flinched when the loud sound had come). Harry could see Sirius’ chest heaving. He could also see that Lupin had turned pallid. This hunt for thin air lasted for about five minutes during which everyone present stared at Anna’s futile chase with jaws hanging, not daring to speak or nudge each other. Their eyes were following Anna, the only party of the chase they could see, moving so fast that they appeared blurred. After the first few minutes, it occurred to several people that Anna might be growing tired. She had darted past Harry twice, once actually stopping in front of him, back turned and growling menacingly. ‘There’s only one…’ Harry heard Hermione whisper. One of what? What on earth was Anna chasing?! She seemed to be after smoke, shade, air! It seemed impossible that such a rational person as Anna could have lost her head so as to chase nothingness with such conviction. After five very long minutes (or so: Harry had stopped glancing at his watch), Anna stopped clinging to the walls and chandelier and pranced neatly (considering her

broken leg – or, at least, everyone hoped it was merely her leg) next to the table, eyes staring fixedly at the opposite wall, teeth bared, rumbling threateningly. She transformed unexpectedly into herself once more. ‘Murtagh…’ she smiled mockingly, bowing her head almost imperceptibly. ‘Oh, I see Gandalf has taught you manners…’ came a high, cold voice so like Voldemort’s that Harry’s hair stood on end. Sirius shuddered only slightly, Lupin gripped the table for support, Fred, George and Ron gasped. Ginny was white-faced, Hermione’s eyes were wide open. Anna conjured the ivory-handle sword faster than anyone had ever seen her. She prepared her blow and again cut the thin air, stopping with a metallic clink in front of her. Then, something very strange indeed happened. From the place in which the two swords collided, a black, dirty blade began to form. It was supported by two gloved hands that were attached to a thin body, crowned by a small head. Everyone could see that it was a man duelling Anna. His skin was sallow and droopy. His hair was so greasy that it gave him the permanent look of someone who had just stepped out of the shower. The room had grown cold. ‘Who are they, Uuvanimo Ravenne (monster lioness)?’ asked the voice coldly. ‘I’leofa, Murtagh…(The beloved, Murtagh)’ she responded just as glacially as her clear, warm voice permitted. There was a collective shudder round the table: none of them had ever heard Anna speak to anyone like that. Soon, a real battle started. Blades were gleaming in the candle light, the black, opaque one searching Anna’s heart. The silver, beaming one was smarter than that and aimed for the other’s sword arm, attempting once or twice to cut it off. As opposed to her foe, Anna actually managed severing her enemy’s skin, but it had resealed painlessly and quickly. Anna seemed not at all surprised by this, but continued to cut at her opponent until his pitch black clothes were stained with what everyone suspected to be very cold blood. Anna’s face now bore a long, fine scratch on it. Her clothes were stained with her enemy’s black blood. After what seemed like hours of fighting, Anna’s opponent dematerialised, his particles regrouping near Sirius and Harry. Harry felt a cold, stubby-fingered hand stroking his hair. The creature’s touch felt like a cold shade had swooped over him…a Shade… Anna let out a jeering laughter, and Harry froze. ‘You cannot harm them!’ she exclaimed. ‘Oh?’ the Shade named Murtagh said. ‘Not even this…dil ravenne (lioness’ lover)?’ he said, tugging on Sirius’ long, unkempt hair. ‘Not even-‘ he swooped next to Lupin. ‘this…dammar ravenne(lioness’ father)?’ he swooped back next to Harry. ‘or this… serke gwan (blood brother)?’ he whispered in each and every possible victim’s ear. Anna’s expression hardened. The Shade joined the fight in the middle of the room again, having rested enough. After a few minutes’ intense fighting, Anna’s sword was knocked out of her hand and she backed away, hitting a wall. The Shade used the tip of his sword to caress her jugular, leaving black traces like dirty tattoos. ‘Well, well, well…’ he said. ‘i’lumenn’ dungortheb rakte ter’i’ ravenne(the hour of dreadful death has arrived for the lioness)’ he hissed in her ear, but, in the silence that hung in the room, everyone heard his whisper. ‘Your tongue dirties the noble speech of the elves-‘ she said, as Murtagh pressed the tip of his sword against her jugular so that she understood the message.

‘And yours,’ he grinned satisfactorily, his greasy hair in his eyes. ‘which is supposed to be the silver tongue of elves? Yours which is supposed to have healing powers, when it is nothing more than an Edain’s tongue!’ he murmured, the look on his face mad, his bloodshot eyes boring into Anna, who stared back at him unabashedly. ‘You call yourself our Lady…You are nothing compared to Eamane! You think the elves of Lorien can be ruled by mercy and compassion? Ha! We, the Shades, have rebelled because of your great-grandmother’s regime! In our lands, ravenne, trespassers really do get whipped! And our lady Eamane tortures the spies like you would never believe…’ he said satisfactorily, as the look of disgust on Anna’s face was more and more pronounced. ‘And we have these wizards to thank for that... Cruciatus Curse…’ Anna made to break free from his grasp, but failed and was pinned back against a wall. ‘You believe Edains are kings, don’t you? You and your filthy father… And the prophecy, dear lady…Do you remember the prophecy?’ he continued hissing. ‘Stop it!’ Ginny squealed. Murtagh turned his head towards Ginny. ‘Stop what, little one?’ he asked disdainfully. ‘This?’ He put one hand firmly round Anna’s neck, squeezing and pushing. Anna was being strangled with a mighty force. She was gasping for air, her hands making wild movements in the air. ‘If you want to kill her, you’ll have to kill us too!’ Sirius said, standing up at the same time as Lupin and Harry. ‘Oh, undoubtedly I shall…’ Murtagh hissed. ‘And she will watch…Yes, I think her mother would like her to see…’ ‘My mother –‘ Anna began, grasping Murtagh’s arm with such strength that he slackened the grip on her neck. No one could have foreseen this sudden change. ‘ – is dead.’ Murtagh laughed in her face, but she did not move a muscle. Murtagh’s hand had been torn from her neck, and Harry knew he was laughing just to show Anna that he had self-confidence. In truth, beads of sweat had appeared on his forehead, almost indistinguishable due to the fact that they were pressed against a marble-white forehead. ‘And you, thule…You were not so different from me, once, were you?’ Anna asked firmly, her hand still enclosed upon Murtagh’s wrist. ‘An elf with no extraordinary powers but an arduous desire for power…Where is your dragon, Murtagh? Where is Khelek?’ she said, her voice sagging with odium. Her words seemed to have such an impact upon the Shade, so that he turned an uncertain colour of puke. ‘It was my mother who killed him, Murtagh…Or, if I were to call you by your real name – Nandor…And you decided to join her – ‘she shoved him against a wall and he seemed to have no strength left in his body so that he slid down, as though bowing to Anna. ‘– out of fear,’ she concluded disdainfully. The Shade got up, his face gleaming with sweat, his expression panicked. He had lost his mind. Harry saw that he was avoiding Anna’s gaze. ‘You can’t even look me in the eye, can you?’ she asked. ‘Well, I will make you look,’ she said, extending a hand, palm upwards and contracting her fingers like she had once before. But then, she had tortured orch… ‘Look!’ she said commandingly. Murtagh tried desperately not to do so. He feared the truth in her eyes, but her powers were too great. Pain shot through every inch of his body if he stood so, eyes closed. He had to open them… He simply had to!

When the droopy, watery eyes of the Shade found the grey ones, they met there not hatred, but pity and kindness. A kindness that had ruled the forest of Lothlorien for Ages…The kindness his Lady Eamane wanted to stop. The kindness his potential killer wanted to stop. The kindness that he found utterly useless… ‘NO!’ Murtagh bellowed, as flashes of Khelek’s murder passed before his eyes. He looked away determinedly. ‘Nandor, we can help you…I can help you…Go to Valandil, Nandor…Go to your brother…’ Anna said kindly, lending him a helping hand up, for he had fallen to the floor again in his attempt to resist Anna’s luring. He howled, ‘NO!’ once again, pushing Anna’s hand brutally away and standing up, panting. He dematerialised quickly next to Lupin – then Harry – then Molly, who shivered uncontrollably – then Sirius, from whom he cut a lock of hair – then Ginny, whom he kissed on the top of the head mockingly – then Fred and George, appearing right where Anna had sat before, in between them, and putting his cold arms round their shoulders – then circled Hermione, who tried to squeal but could not do so, wrapped in the darkness of the Shade – then in front of Anna again, looking manic. ‘You see, nesse kuruni(young witch)? I can touch them, embrace them – ‘ he stepped closer to Anna. ‘kiss them, scratch them – ‘ he kept pacing. ‘stab them, pierce them –‘ he kept adding conversationally, as though it was what he did every day. ‘torture them, maim them – ‘ he had his nose inches from Anna’s now. ‘kill them, elle dulin(little bird),’ he spat in her face. His breath carried the smell of death. ‘What will you have me do?’ she asked loudly. ‘Die, ancalima…(great light giver)’ he hissed once more, the heavy stench of his breath filling Anna’s nostrils. ‘Elves do not die, Murtagh…And neither do Shades…’ Anna said firmly. Harry’s heart sunk at that. How could she beat him then? ‘…but with a little help, all beings become mortal…’ she added satisfactorily, raising the arm she had concealed behind her back. She was armed with the ivory-handle knife, its blade high in the air. The Shade was unprepared for this, but did what he knew best. Murtagh turned into smoke once more, perching himself behind Sirius, ducking and swerving inexistent blows. ‘Go ahead, aim,’ he egged Anna on with a wide grin on his face. ‘kill him…Pierce his pretty little forehead with that knife…You wouldn’t even have that weapon if it were not for your mother’s inheritance!’ he said in despise, still changing position every two seconds. He wasn’t planning on giving Anna a chance to aim at his heart – his one vulnerable spot, but she had been, after all, raised by Snape… She lowered her weapon and sighed heavily. Everyone round the table shifted slightly in their eats and exchanged worried looks. Anna was quitting? Anna’s face contorted in a pained expression, as though what she was doing caused her great revulsion. ‘Go ahead,’ she said, tilting her head slightly back to reveal her neck. ‘Kill me. Get it over and done with,’ she said firmly. ‘Aah…’ Murtagh said softly, stopping his duck and swerve motion.

He turned his back to Anna in the bliss of the newly-won fight, forgetting the fact that she was still holding the silver knife. Murtagh spread his arms as though waiting for the dinner table to applaud. ‘You see what love does?’ he asked softly, with the air of a man preparing himself for a long acceptance speech. ‘Her love for you has brought about her death…’ he said, then sighed deeply in mock concern. ‘But a new dawn has come, and we, the Shades of Alagaesia, have you to thank for our supremacy,’ he said, his nose in the air, back straight, an elegant dignity about him. At that exact moment, Sirius lowered his head from behind Murtagh, and his back was bared. A thin silver knife pierced the Shade exactly where his heart was. A long, high-pitched sound wrung through the room. The cry of a dragon… And the Shade was blown into golden pieces of Dust, an echo of his charcoal dragon’s cry stealing through the worlds… Anna stood in the debris of her murder, tears on her red cheeks, a look of woe on her beautiful face. ‘You told me they’d be safe…’ she whispered. ‘Anna, I couldn’t have known – ‘ Lupin started, but Anna cut across him. ‘You promised…’ she sobbed, falling to her knees. In a flash of warm light, the tall figure of a thin man appeared. He was completely clad in white, his long beard and hair identically gleaming. He was clutching a long staff, his look forbidding. Harry was about to exclaim, ‘Professor Dumbledore!’ before he took a better look. The wise old man was not Albus Dumbledore. ‘Anna…’ he whispered, holding out a hand and attempting to pat her back. She shook him away, standing up again. ‘I want nothing more to do with your fight!’ she exclaimed accusatorily in his face. ‘It is part of you, Anna,’ he said wearily. ‘So are they!’ she retaliated, pointing at those around the dinner table. ‘And you promised to keep them safe!’ ‘Anna, all that I told you was that I knew they would be safe,’ said the man calmly. ‘I knew so because they were with you, in your presence, and that you would protect them.’ ‘Are – you – mad, - Gandalf?!’ she hissed. ‘They could have gotten killed! I could have gotten killed first! What then? She kills for fun, Gandalf!’ ‘Then all hope would have been lost, telella!(elven child) And they would have been killed sooner or later!’ the old man said feverishly, raising his eyebrows. ‘You have chosen to lead this fight alone, in not accepting the elves’ help-‘ ‘Elves?! Seven elves, Mithrandir. That’s all that’s left of my kingdom and I will not be the one responsible for its destruction, or for further killings!’ she reasoned. ‘You are forgetting their purpose! Their race is fading – they have stayed to help you!’ ‘And I refuse their help if it leads to my brothers’ death!’ Anna retorted. ‘What will you have me do?’ Gandalf asked calmly. Anna was, for a moment, at a loss for words. He could not have done more than admit his mistake. ‘I want you to promise to keep them away. Keep the battle away from them, Gandalf. They have enough death here as it is…’ Gandalf bowed, and put his hand on her head, smiling kindly. ‘Well done, Hin a Seorsa,’ he said, than seemed to fade away, becoming increasingly paler until nothing stood in front of Harry and the rest.

After a moment of silence, Lupin stood up and embraced his daughter, who did not return his hug, but pushed him away. ‘I have to go,’ she said serenely, as though she had only just realised it. ‘Go? Where?’ asked Fred loudly. ‘Away,’ she answered plainly, turning, but being pulled back by the wrist. ‘You’re not going anywhere,’ her father said firmly. ‘You’re going to sit down and eat you dinner. We’ll have to get used to battles now that this world’s in war as well, you’re just educating us. Sit down-‘ ‘But you’re all in danger!’ Anna interrupted feverishly. ‘What a news flash!’ Sirius interjected ironically. ‘We have been in danger ever since Voldemort was born, Anna,’ he smiled at her, and she frowned. ‘Not like this. Not because of me,’ she said weakly. ‘We’d rather have you than comfort!’ Molly said distantly, as everyone turned their heads towards the far end of the table. ‘Sit. Eat,’ Remus said, smiling at her and attempting to hug her once more. This time she surrendered to that false feeling of safety. But even Anna sometimes needed the illusion of safety. Even she needed a hug from time to time, in spite of the imminent danger of the surrounding world. Back at Hogwarts, thing really were changing for the students as well as the teachers. Hitherto, Umbridge had not had the nerve of sacking any teacher. Note the stress on the word “hitherto”, please. The entire school had seemingly stopped in time that one misty morning. Every single breath was being held, every single eye was widened as Trelawney stood in the middle of the Entrance Hall with her multiple trunks beside her, the last one being thrown unceremoniously by Filch from the top of the stairs just as Anna, Fred and George got to the front of the crowd to get a better look. Anna’s gaze fell on a very familiar, squat, pink-clad figure. Umbridge was smiling satisfactorily. ‘…kindly remove yourself from the Hall. You are embarrassing us,’ she was saying. ‘I don’t know who she’s embarrassing, but it’s not me!’ Anna said loudly, making a single step forwards, thus separating herself from the crowd of onlookers whose gazes fell wildly upon her at once. Umbridge’s smile widened indecently. Fred whispered a hasty ‘You’ll get expelled!’ behind Anna, but she did not care. She knew Trelawney could only be the beginning. ‘Do you have any complaints, Miss Lupin?’ she asked sweetly. ‘A few,’ Anna answered as loudly as she could, over the sobs of her Divination teacher. ‘Why are you doing this?’ ‘I have every right to dismiss a teacher, and I thought you of all people would have checked the rules of this school. Of course, living here, at Hogwarts, might not always prove to be such an advantage,’ Umbridge replied, her face quite immobile. ‘Not always an advantage?’ Anna smiled incredulously. ‘My mother is dead; my father was forced to give me up. It’s not at all an advantage to be an orphan, Professor.’ ‘Yes, you are right,’ Umbridge said coldly. ‘Now kindly step back. I have to see Professor – oh, I’m sorry – former Professor Trelawney out.’ ‘I will not step back and watch you humble her, Professor,’ Anna said calmly. ‘Then you will step out, dear,’ Umbridge said in a very sweet tone.

‘Gladly,’ Anna said, turning her back firmly to Umbridge, handing George her heavy Transfiguration textbook and advancing towards a stricken-looking Professor Trelawney, loosening the knot on her red-and-gold tie. ‘So you are dropping out?’ Umbridge asked, excitement appearing in her voice. ‘Oh, yes,’ Anna said serenely. ‘If she’s quitting, so are we!’ Fred said loudly, loosening the knot on his tie as he and his brother dropped the heavy books that they were holding and stepped forwards to join the two self-proclaimed outcasts. ‘So am I!’ said Lee, appearing from somewhere behind Harry, and joining the new exiled people. ‘And I!’ a seventh-year Ravenclaw said loudly, stepping forwards. ‘And I!’ announced a blonde sixth-year who actually threw her red-and-gold tie on the stone floor. Soon, the cold Hall was filled with invariable shouts of ‘And I!’ as every single nonSlytherin student formed a tight circle around Trelawney, with mutinous looks on their faces. ‘We’re gonna get hell for this,’ Anna whispered, smiling, to Lee, who grinned back at her. Harry, Hermione, Ginny and Ron had also joined the crowd, grinning. Umbridge couldn’t expel the entire school! She simply stood there, bulging eyes widened so that she appeared to have exophthalmia. Then, quite unexpectedly, a tall, thin figure appeared at the top of the marble stairs. ‘Professor McGonagall, please escort Sybil back to her quarters,’ he said calmly. ‘With pleasure,’ Minerva said, beaming from his side as she made forth and put her arm round Sybil’s shoulders, guiding her from amidst the hundreds of students who had just begun their protest. ‘Now, Dumbledore,’ Umbridge began hastily. ‘I will have you know that as High Inquisitor I have the authority to dismiss teachers!’ ‘Yes, you do. But you do not have the authority to chase them away, Dolores,’ he answered, smiling, and sending the smallest look towards Anna, who beamed fondly at his poorly-hidden pride. ‘That power resides with the Headmaster, and the Headmaster alone.’ ‘For now,’ Umbridge replied in a squeaky voice, but after a small pause. ‘Yes, for now,’ smiled Dumbledore. ‘Nothing lasts forever.’ ‘Expecto Patronum!’ Anna was demonstrating a Patronus Charm alongside Harry in front of the entire DA gathering. A large, silvery hound erupted from the tip of her wand. Fred and George frowned. ‘Wasn’t Anna’s Patronus a lion?’ Fred whispered. George nodded. Ron finally frowned. Harry gaped at Anna’s Patronus from behind his own silver stag. Hermione and Ginny beamed at Anna. Anna turned slightly pink from behind her great silver dog, but luckily enough, no one noticed. Everyone tried, in turn, to conjure a Patronus. Hermione’s otter intertwined with Ginny’s horses and ran into Luna’s hare. Seamus’ wand produced something fuzzy and unclear. Fred and George’s identical lionesses were surreptitiously eyeing the other Patronuses, squatting adoringly next to their conjurers. Harry was eyeing Cho Chang’s swan with polite interest, taking one step forwards.

‘Dobby!’ he exclaimed, nearly stepping on the creature’s head as he was walking but still eyeing Cho and her swan. The room grew cold and silent at once. The elf was mumbling something. His breath was constricted, his speech altered. He had clearly come against his orders. ‘Harry – Potter – she - is – coming!’ he was saying. ‘Who? Who is coming, Dobby?’ Harry was asking. ‘Is it Umbridge?’ Anna said loudly. The elf nodded, his eyes swimming with tears. ‘Dobby, don’t tell anyone about this! If she asks you if you warned us – lie to her! And I forbid you to hurt yourself!’ Harry shouted, rushing to the door alongside Anna. The rest were transfixed, staring perplexedly at the two running figures. They seemed to have sprouted roots. ‘What are you waiting for?!’ Harry yelled despairingly. ‘Didn’t you hear him?!’ Something seemed to slide in place in the DA members’ brains. They exited the room silently, running towards the stairs all the way back to their Common Rooms, library, empty classrooms and the likes. Harry, Ron, Hermione and Anna stayed behind. ‘We can’t all fit under the cloak!’ Hermione said worriedly. ‘I don’t need a cloak to become invisible…’ Anna said, averting their eyes and peering down the corridor. ‘You go on ahead and I’ll stay behind.’ ‘Anna - ‘ Harry started, but she cut across him. Harry darted down the corridor hastily – he had no time to lose. He glanced back at Anna who merely waved her hand. That was the last he saw of her. She had become air. Just then, he tripped. It was like something had caught his legs. He plunged forwards spectacularly, falling flat on his stomach. A very familiar voice was sniggering behind him. ‘Ha! Trip Jinx, Potter! Professor, I got one!’ he shouted. Umbridge ran into sight, panting, face flushed. ‘Very good, Mr Malfoy,’ she breathed. ‘Take him to the Headmaster’s office,’ she added satisfactorily. ‘Professor!’ Pansy shrieked from the other end of the corridor. ‘Professor, look what I’ve got!’ Harry’s heart sank at the sight of the little piece of parchment in the pug-faced girl’s hand. The list… The road to the Headmaster’s office seemed longer than in real life that evening. Everything seemed ethereal – nothing mattered. The reality of Umbridge’s discovery had not yet hit Harry. But it had hit Anna. Inside Dumbledore’s office, he found his Headmaster sitting on his armchair, a serene look on his face. When Harry took a step into his office, he stood up with a feline grace about him. Harry’s eyes circled the room. Fudge was standing near the fireplace, an excited look on his face. Next to him, the broad-shouldered Kingsley crowned the room. Next to him stood a man wearing a ridiculously large overcoat over his wizard robes – Harry had never seen him, but Anna was almost certain he was Dawlish, the Auror. Behind the three stood a thin, red-haired young man. ‘Percy!’ Anna exclaimed from behind Harry. ‘Anna!’ Harry blurted. ‘Harry?’ she asked.

Dumbledore smiled serenely, eyeing the newcomers with polite interest. ‘Anna!’ Percy gasped from behind Fudge. His gasp was barely audible, but Anna eyed him with great dislike as a bulky seventh-year Slytherin shoved her forwards. Fudge was so red in the face that he did not even hear Percy’s whisper, though the latter was merely inches from him. Anna, how did you get yourself into this? Harry found himself thinking desperately. Anna turned a kind look towards him. I tried to cut her off, Harry. Don’t worry, we’ll be fine, Harry heard a voice ring in his head. He calmed down only slightly. His brain was fuzzy, like he had not gotten enough sleep the previous night. When Fudge stared interrogating him, he roused. His brain received a shockwave. ‘No, I don’t know why I am here,’ he said calmly. The dialogue went on. Everyone seemed to ignore Anna thoroughly. She was annoyed. Her mood was so that if Umbridge would have made the stupidity of even glancing at her, she would have snapped, cracked, yelled and told everyone everything they needed to know. Simple as that. ‘Now, for Miss Lupin, on the other hand,’ Umbridge was saying. Anna heard her name and looked up from the ground. ‘I strongly recommend her being expelled at once. She has caused me a great deal of trouble and I have received a great deal of resistance from her,’ she continued breathlessly. Anna frowned. ‘Resistance caused merely by your oppression,’ she said calmly. Umbridge let out an annoyingly sweet laugh, clasping her hands neatly in front of her and turning a smiling face to Fudge. ‘Minister, surely you do not believe the words of –‘ ‘A werewolf’s daughter?’ Anna supplied coldly. ‘Yes, probably not – ‘ ‘How dare you interrupt a teacher?’ Fudge asked in scandalized tones. ‘I dare!’ Anna said, a bit more loudly than before. ‘I dare because I will not stand – ‘ ‘Enough!’ Dumbledore commanded in a firm voice. His electric blue eyes besought Anna’s, and she returned the gaze. She fell silent – it was not the time, the place or audience for a fight. Dumbledore lapsed into explaining the innocence of both Harry and Anna in a calm, warm voice. How the meeting at Hog’s Head took place a day before the Ministry’s Decree therefore they had not broken any school rules; how Marietta (Anna thought she saw Kingsley’s spell hit Marietta, who shuddered slightly as the invisible jet hit her squarely in her left temple) inexplicably refused to account anymore meetings since the one in the Hog’s Head saying that she did not remember anything; how Dumbledore started blaming himself, and only himself for what Harry and the rest of the DA had done – it all passed within the hour. Yet, Harry could not let him take all the blame. It was too much information given all at once, too much injustice for him to bear. Anna, however, having caught Dumbledore’s gaze and thoughts some time before all his explanations, knew his plan. ‘Harry, be quiet!’ she whispered, moving her mouth as little as possible. With a wave of his wand, Dumbledore left all motionless. Anna had pulled Harry into a protective hug, pushing his head down as to shield him with her own body. He pushed her hand away minutes after the ear-splitting sound of the spell that left

Fudge, Umbridge and the two Aurors immobile on the ground had rung through the room. Anna gave him, for the first time, a look of slight condescension. Harry felt his cheeks grow hot and red and, at the same time, an imperious need to apologize. He merely shrugged, and Anna changed her stern, dignified look into a smile. She rolled her eyes and proceeded towards Dumbledore. He told Harry to keep studying Occlumency in a whisper. He shot a look at Anna. Protect them, she heard in her head. Anna winked and smiled, receiving an identical response from Albus’ lined face. He then disappeared – Fawkes and all – for the time being, leaving the fate of Hogwarts in another’s hands… The very next day, Anna, Fred and George were enjoying a warm evening beside their Common Room fire. Anna was clutching a large book, reading and leaning on George, who was throwing a Fanged Frisbee at Fred. Fred was sitting on a foot-stool, his back to the fire. He threw the Frisbee back. George caught it inches from Anna’s head, though she did not stir. He threw it back at Fred who flung it back at him, but aimed poorly. The Fanged Frisbee brushed against the back of Anna’s head, leaving a large bald patch where its teeth had made contact with her skin. Big chunks of Anna’s dark, smooth hair fell to the floor. She raised her head in surprise, and caught a glimpse of a lime-green object zooming past a second-year’s head. She drew her wand quickly. ‘Diffindo,’ she said calmly. The lime-green disc was cut in half, and fell to the floor. From it centre, a saffroncoloured liquid was dripping onto the thick rugs. ‘Scourgify,’ she muttered again, and the liquid disappeared. Fred and George exchanged rueful looks. Anna tore her gaze from the tattered old book, and pierced Fred with her bright grey eyes. ‘I thought you were supposed to be careful with that. It’s why I let you keep it, you know. It is against the rules to have one,’ she said firmly. ‘Apologize!’ ‘S-sorry,’ said Fred. George snorted at Fred’s obedience, but his amusement faded when Anna threw a scorching look in his direction. Anna tapped the back of her head lightly with her wand. Her hair began growing; Fred and George began deflating in relief. They exchanged a meaningful look: now was a good a time as any, they thought. ‘Anna,’ Fred began. ‘we want to tell you something.’ ‘Oh?’ she said, closing the book on her knees and sitting up straight. ‘We’ve been thinking – ‘ ‘ – and we’ve come to the conclusion – ‘ ‘ – that without Quidditch and Dumbledore around – ‘ ‘ – this life isn’t really worth living.’ ‘And you’ve decided to kill yourselves, or what?’ she asked amusedly. ‘No, but we’ve decided to leave,’ George said. ‘Leave?! Leave what? When?’she asked, her slightly amused expression turning into an alarmed one. ‘Drop out of school,’ Fred supplied. ‘What?!’ Anna asked sharply. ‘And start a joke shop, is that it?!’ ‘Pretty much, yeah,’ George said, leaning back and rubbing his eyes.

‘With all due respect to your mother, who was moderately sane children, are you mad?!’ she asked. They smiled. ‘Nope, not mad. Just sick of Umbridge. Besides, we don’t really need out NEWTs, now, do we?’ Fred said. ‘You think this is about NEWTs?! You guys, this is about protecting youselves!’ she protested. ‘We already know how to protect ourselves, remember?’ George said. ‘The DA?’ he whispered. Anna rolled her eyes. It was too long an explanation that the DA couldn’t provide every bit of knowledge they need. But another thought occurred to her. What knowledge was Umbridge really providing? The constant perusing of a useless textbook during classes did not get them far. ‘Are you sure this is what you really want?’ she asked calmly. ‘I mean it might just be the aftermath of the fireworks and everything.’ They both nodded. ‘It’s what we’ve always wanted, Anna,’ Fred said, shrugging. Anna heaved a barely audible sigh. ‘Alright. If it’s what you want, then I’m behind you. I’m just not all that sure it’s wise…’ she said. Fred and George grinned. ‘ “To know when to be generous then firm – that is wisdom.”’ Fred recited dignifiedly. Anna’s mouth curled into a smile. ‘Have you been reading my Muggle books, boys?’ she asked amusedly. ‘Nah. Just peered over your shoulder when you were reading the other day…I think it was…’ ‘Elbert Hubbard,’ Anna smiled. ‘Yeah, something like that…’Fred said. ‘Ooh, good. I am getting to you,’ she beamed. Fred and George exchanged a meaningful look as Anna leaned back and started reading again. * Anna happened to find herself on her own that morning. Her palms were sweating and her face was whiter than usual. Harry was in Umbridge’s office, trying to talk to Sirius about his father. ‘I have to do this myself,’ Anna remembered him telling her the previous evening. ‘But why? This is insane – I could talk to him for you!’ she protested. ‘I can’t tell anyone, Anna. I just can’t. Please, don’t try to talk me out of this,’ he said earnestly. Anna’s eyes found Harry’s. She thought she saw a flicker of insecurity in them. Her eyes narrowed, she took a deep breath… ‘You saw Severus’ memory, didn’t you?’ she whispered. ‘How d’you-‘ ‘I had the same look after seeing it,’ she said briskly. ‘I can understand not wanting to talk about it to anyone, and I’ll try and help Fred and George create a diversion if you promise me you’ll try and be safe. There’s no secret in this world worth risking your neck, okay?’ she said seriously.

Harry nodded and swallowed with great difficulty. Anna oozed strength – it was hard not to feel compelled to bow when in the same room with her. Her jaw line – not unlike her father’s – had such a graceful curve to it; her eyes were so alive and her gaze so intense that Harry thought even Voldemort himself would stop and gaze at her if given the chance; her dark, silky hair was the purest cashmere to any touch and when she turned on her heel, winking at Harry, a sweet smell of strawberries – real strawberries, not the engrossing sugary smell that most perfumes have – and cinnamon bathed his nostrils. Anna, Harry later thought, was of a different kind of beauty. One that it seemed to have weathered the ages of this world like a stone in the waves – becoming increasingly refined by the millennium. It took not a connoisseur to see such beauty, but a certain purity of the heart and mind. So, Harry changed his mind. Voldemort would not stop and gaze at her – Anna showed her beauty only to those worthy of it. The Evenstar, though Harry did not know, the starlight in her, shined only for those who had open eyes. ‘OI, ANNA!’ Lee was yelling as to cover the hubbub of the recess. Anna turned round, white-faced. Lee caught up with her, a grin etched on his face. ‘Anna, you’re not scared or anything, are you?’ he said amusedly. ‘Oh, shut up,’ she snapped. ‘If Umbridge decides not to expel them, they’re going to have hell from her!’ ‘Anna, they’ve unleashed a Portable Swamp up there!’ Lee exclaimed indignantly, stopping in his tracks and frantically waving his hand. ‘There’s no way she’ll let them stay!’ Sure as that, Anna and Lee were already part of an unsuspecting group. They were headed towards the literally swamped hall along with at least half the school. Fred and George – the two wrongdoers, caught in the act – were standing in the middle of an artificially created hoop. They were surrounded by students, but no one dared step inside the inexistent hoop. They oozed trouble. Umbridge had an accusing finger pointed at the twins. Fred and George, however inappropriately, wore expressions of blameless victory. Filch came limping into view, holding two lashing leather whips, his face contorted in what Anna supposed was a smile. His eyes were alight with an eagerness Anna had never seen in him. She pushed her aside gruffly so that she had to lean on Lee’s arm. He supported her strongly and frowned at Filch. ‘Hey! What’s she done to you?’ he said loudly, but Anna shushed him. Harry was coming up in Filch’s wake, a conspicuous student – possibly the only student who had not rushed to the Entrance Hall for the grand show – drawing too much attention for his own safety. ‘How dare you?!’ Anna said loudly, and every head turned to her. Filch eyed her with great dislike. ‘How dare you push me?! You are not allowed to push me!’ she said indignantly, clearly overreacting as Harry surreptitiously joined the crowd. ‘Maybe so, but I’m allowed to whip you,’ he said, grinning a filthy smile. His rotted teeth made Anna think of toothpaste…Sweet, fresh, cleaning toothpaste… His breath made Anna think of Mint Mice and made her grateful for having friends who wash… ‘Well, you’re not touching me, Stink-breath!’ she said loudly. ‘Detention, Miss Lupin,’ Umbridge said calmly and coldly. ‘with Mr Filch, this time. It’s time to get those whips cracking, isn’t it?’ she asked sweetly.

‘Oh, yes,’ he said, eyeing Fred and George with the same indecent pleasure that Umbridge sometimes had in her eyes. Anna glanced sideways out of the corners of her eyes. Fred and George were going anyway, no one was getting whipped. She recoiled swiftly, and jumped when she felt a sharp pain in her upper arm. ‘What’s the idea?’ she hissed to Lee, rubbing the throbbing spot where Lee had pinched her. ‘Why’d’you shush me?’ he asked indignantly. ‘Can’t stand someone else leading your battles, huh?’ Lee snapped venomously. ‘You idiot, I was trying to get Umbridge’s attention! Harry was behind us, didn’t you see?’ she said. Lee rolled his eyes before giving her a you-still-enjoy-your-independence-no-matterwhat-you-say look that earned him the evil eye from Anna. When Anna and Lee redirected their attention to their friends, they were standing straighter than ever, wands pointing at the ceiling. ‘Accio brooms!’ they said together. A loud bang echoed through the silent halls. As the “audience” waited – breath held and everything – a strange, metallic noise scratched relentlessly at their eardrums like a beast longing for freedom. Soon enough, two Comets Two-Sixty zoomed into sight, each dragging a heavy ball and chain. They flew past a few students’ heads (the people in question having to duck in order to avoid the massive iron spheres) and landed next to Fred and George. ‘We won’t be seeing you,’ Fred said. ‘Yeah, don’t bother keeping in touch,’ George interjected. As the two lifted from the ground and were drifting just above Umbridge, Anna (who had begun grinning a few minutes before with no apparent reason) lifted her wand and yelled at the top of her voice, ‘Diffindo!’ The heavy balls were cut off their chains and landed – to everyone’s disappointment – in the gap left between Umbridge and Filch. Anna was patted on the back by everyone and eyed Umbridge, who was turning scarlet, with arrogance. ‘You-‘Anna thought. ‘Give her hell from us, Peeves!’ Fred said, as he and his brother flew majestically out of the large castle. ‘- will never –‘ ‘WHOO!’ yelled Lee from next to her. ‘ – ever – ‘ ‘Filch! Filch, do something!’ Umbridge was shrieking. ‘- break us,’ she thought, a wry and mocking smile appearing on her face. Anna knew that Umbridge was watching her, and no one else. She returned the gaze, mutiny inside her and disdain etched in every graceful feature she had. XXIII. Days turned into weeks, which turned into months and with the departure of Fred and George somewhat behind her, Anna turned to face the real world: NEWTs. It was late June that her exams arrived. But what happened before her very first examination was to decide all her future ones. It would decide her fate: her happiness and sorrow, her love and hate, her friends and foes. It would eventually decide her death – an untimely one though it was. It would place a fine boundary between dream

and reality. It would be her rebirth, it would be her bane. It is her one and only weakness… White sheets strangled her body. The warm bedsprings moaned under her writhing form. Icy sweat stained her pale blue t-shirt: our lady is asleep. What’s worse, our lady is dreaming a very strange dream. Her stomach is clenched, her hands tense, gripping her ruby-red covers. Her eyebrows are contracted, her face screwed up in pain. Her hair – hitherto braided – is now loose and untidy. She looks mad, yet she is only asleep, and dreaming a cold nightmare. ‘That’s all,’ Angelina whispers to herself. ‘Just a bad dream…’She, along with Diane Nicholson, Alia Sinai and Helen McLaughlin were leaning against the wooden pillars of Anna’s four-poster, in grave doubt. Should they wake her up? After all, it’s only a dream, Angelina thought…She isn’t making any noise. There would be no point in waking up a – ‘AAAAAARGH!’ came the shriek. The four girls that stood beside the bed had the same reaction: they jumped two feet apart, shivering and breathing heavily from the shock. Angelina’s face was white, but she was the first one to move forwards and try to soothe Anna. Anna – what an interesting thought! Yes, our lady had woken up. Face gleaming with sweat, eyes bloodshot so that she looked like a feminine Mundungus, hands shaking, she sat bolt upright on her bed, panting in the aftermath of her scream. ‘Anna, are you alright? Come on, lie down, it was just a bad dream…’ Angelina said kindly. ‘No!’ Anna snapped, pushing her helping hand away. ‘It wasn’t a dream. I need to see McGonagall! Now!’ ‘Anna you can’t just walk into – ‘ ‘Yes I can!’ Anna protested, putting on a sweatshirt. ‘And I will!’ she stormed out of the bedroom, leaving the four girls looking quite stricken. Halfway down the corridor it occurred to Anna that she might be safer if her footsteps were soundless and her senses more alert: she needed to be the lioness. But for all her will, she could not muster up the concentration to transform. She had only one name on her mind – a name that only fit one person: Sirius… ‘He’s in danger!’ she said, pushing the wooden door that led to Minerva’s office. Taken aback by the sudden entrance, she stood up from her chair. Minerva had been sitting behind her desk, writing passionately – a habit Dumbledore had managed to force into her routine. Such was the silence in the castle, that Anna’s coming made her jump, her glasses slightly lopsided now. ‘You should be in bed,’ she said briskly, regaining control faster than Anna imagined she would. ‘He’s in danger!’ Anna cried despairingly; it was all she could manage to say. ‘Who is in danger, Anna?’ she asked patiently. ‘Siri – Snuffles,’ she whispered. ‘Now, really, Anna. Snuffles is at home, perfectly safe. There’s nothing – ‘ Minerva began in an annoyingly patient voice. ‘I saw him!’ Anna whimpered again. ‘He was d-dying, Minerva!’ ‘He is perfectly fine!’ ‘NO HE IS NOT!’ Anna bellowed before she could stop herself. ‘Anna,’ Minerva said after a slight pause. ‘listen to me. Sirius is perfectly fine. There is nothing to worry about. No matter what you might have dreamed or imagined – ‘

‘Are you being serious, Minerva?!’ Anna hissed. ‘Tell me when I have failed to give you accurate information? When have I proved myself unworthy of trust? I did not imagine it! I saw it!’ ‘Now you listen to me, Anna. I want you to go back to your dormitory – ‘ ‘HOW CAN YOU ASK THAT OF ME WHEN THE MAN I LOVE MIGHT AS WELL BE DYING?!’ she roared, as red in the face as she was white earlier, waving one hand frantically. ‘Because, unlike you, I can think rationally right now. There is nothing wrong with Sirius. In fact, I spoke to him earlier this evening.’ ‘A million things could’ve happened since,’ Anna said coldly. ‘Well, they haven’t. Anna, I assure you – ‘ ‘I’m not a child, Minerva. There reassurances mean nothing to me and if you won’t help me then I’m going to do this by myself,’ she said dignifiedly. ‘Do what?’ Minerva asked somewhat warily. ‘Go to him. See for myself that he’s alive and whole, Minerva.’ ‘Anna, no. I forbid it. Do you not understand the risks involved? The Order – ‘ ‘What do I care about the stupid Order?!’ Anna interrupted Minerva for the fifth time that night. ‘None of this is worth anything without him…Minerva,’ she said, her voice so weak that it thoroughly horrified Minerva. ‘don’t you remember what it’s like? You’ve felt like this yourself, I know it – it’s in your eyes. Why are you doing this?’ Minerva drew breath, ‘Because my love has caused me more damage than anything else in the world. I endangered everything for it and it proved to be in vain. I sacrificed myself only to receive bitterness and coldness in return and I will not have that happen to you, Anna.’ ‘But it won’t happen to me! Sirius loves me and I love him! We’ve – ‘ she broke off. She realised that she had almost told Minerva of the Vow they had both made. What would she think of it? Nevertheless it seemed a good argument at the time. ‘ – made the Unbreakable Vow,’ she said, releasing a large quantity of air. Minerva’s face turned white. Her features contracted. ‘HOW COULD YOU BE SO COMPLETELY IRRATIONAL?!’ she bellowed. ‘HAVE YOU LEARNT NOTHING?! HAVE YOU LOST YOU MIND?!’ ‘I haven’t lost anything, thank you very much. I’ve gained more than I can describe in words, Minerva. He’s saved me…Now let me save him!’ ‘OUT!’ the forbidding teacher yelled. ‘OUT! OUT! OUT!’ she repeated, pointing a long forefinger at the door. Anna’s expression hardened. As Professor McGonagall’s deep-green gown rippled around her thin body, Anna drew herself up to her full height, her gaze icy. ‘Fine, then. As I said, I’ll help myself. I’ve never really needed anyone, have I?’ she said calmly and stepped out, narrow-eyed, onto the dark corridor. In a moment she was walking in the dark, with a million ideas of what to do, but not enough strength to decide on only one, the other, she thought of Severus. He, Severus, knew how it was to lose the person you love. He would help her save Sirius. Sirius… Anna thought and all the excitement of a perfect plan evaporated. Severus hated Sirius… Then I’m just on my own again. No big surprise! she thought, waving an airy hand and disappearing from within the stone walls…

A thin, long-haired girl appeared exactly at the foot of the stairs inside number twelve, Grimmauld Place. The house seemed deserted to her, but then she remembered: it was past midnight. She had no time for manners. ‘SIRIUS!’ she yelled as loudly as she could. No answer came. ‘SIRIUS! SIRIUS!’ she kept repeating. The silence in the house pressed upon her like an invisible hand. Before she knew it, tears – hot, painful tears of blood – were dripping down her cheeks. She was running up the stairs, her tears staining her clothes: little rubies of blood. She had always known that her tears for Sirius would be tears of blood. Anna always knew that Sirius would bring out her soul, her life…if anything happened to him… ‘SIRIUS!’ ‘Hello, mistress…’ a hoarse voice came. Anna turned her blood-stained face to the source of the sound. ‘Kreacher! Kreacher, where’s Sirius? Where is he?’ she asked desperately, grabbing the house-elf’s small arms and shaking him as though he were a puppet. The moment of silence between Anna’s question and the answer given to it seemed to her like an eternity. A millennium of grief and uncertainty, of blood and tears…Of living without Sirius… Her breath was constricted, her head hurt, her arms were numb, yet she felt nothing. The only thing she felt was the sudden chill of a possibility of a world without Sirius in it… ‘I’m here, Anna,’ a voice tore open the silence. Anna, who had been crouched until that very moment and had had her back to the top of the staircase, facing Kreacher, lifted her head. The sound of Sirius’ voice was music to her ears, yet she could not bring herself to believe what she had just heard. She stood up with her back towards Sirius and, taking a very deep breath, asked, in a shaking voice, ‘Are y-you a ghost?’ Sirius let out his familiar bark-like laughter, tightening the knot on his robe and starting his descent towards Anna. She turned in the blink of an eye, and Sirius’ grin faded. Her face was covered in the dry blood of her tears, fresh ones trickling down her face. Her grey eyes, which used to light at seeing him, were now tired and frightened. She was wearing a pale blue, short-sleeved t-shirt, a pair of gleaming white, knee-high pants and an old, faded-red sweatshirt. The pristine blue of her t-shirt was smeared in droplets of poignantly burgundy blood. Sirius frowned, ‘What’s the matter with you?’ Anna buried her face in her hands, and then wrapped her arms tightly around Sirius’s waist. It was only that which stopped her bitter tears from flowing: Sirius’ warmth. To Sirius, despite the oddity of having a blood-crying person appear in your house in the middle of the night and calling your name (not that he was complaining much), he was happy to see Anna. She had once again tailored her strong, fighter frame to fit into his arms. If anyone would have seen them from a distance, they would have believed that what they were seeing was a statue – two bodies wound together, born out of the same gleaming brass, united forever by their shared mould. ‘I h-had this vision,’ Anna said, her voice muffled due to the fact that she had her face pressed against Sirius’ chest (again: not that he was complaining much). ‘that you were lost in the mist, and you couldn’t remember my name. And I tried calling yours, but I couldn’t remember it either. And I felt that you were dying and that you wanted to call for me – that you needed me. But you tried and tried remembering my name

and I tried so hard to remember yours…’ her voice trailed away as fresh tears stained her face again. ‘Anna…’ Sirius tried stopping her recounting the vision, but she began speaking again. ‘No! I need to tell you,’ she said, squeezing him even tighter. ‘I heard nothing but distant wails and moans and I knew it was you. I started running through the fog – the weeps were coming from every direction and I got confused, I-I couldn’t find you. Everything was growing dark, I was growing cold and the sounds were growing faint. And I knew that if I could just call your name, I’d find you…’ – at which point she nearly collapsed into his arms; Sirius instinctively pulled her towards him, breaking her fall – now the statue changed its form: at the foot of the stairs, a man was holding the frail body of a child who clung to him as thought clinging to life itself – ‘And then everything grew dark. I couldn’t feel anything anymore and the wails d-died away… I knew that that person was d-dead too…Sirius, I knew you were d-dead!’ she cried. Sirius gazed in amazement at her face. Anna seemed all of a sudden weak and dull. She was not the person who enchanted him so; the one who had the strength of mountains. Anna was a little more than a schoolgirl: a scared baby weeping in his arms. He became uncannily frightened by what this possible, unlikely, inconsistent death of his had done to her ‘Anna, it was just a silly little dream…’ he whispered, stroking her hair. ‘No, it wasn’t!’ Anna said, at once regaining her composure. Her face became bold and blazing once more, and the deluge of tears stopped. Anna became herself again – all fear and insecurity lost. ‘Sirius, it wasn’t a dream!’ she said warily. ‘Listen to me, I’m half-elf – ‘ ‘You don’t say!’ Sirius interjected. ‘ – and my grandfather is Elrond Halfelven. He was given the choice of race and he chose to be an elf. Point is, Sirius, he can see the future. And he doesn’t see the future clearly – it’s shown to him in visions like this. Ambiguous and interpretable!’ ‘Anna, it was just a dream! As you can see, I’m alive and kicking. Really, now…’ he said worriedly. ‘I’m fine! But you’re not…’ ‘Of course I’m n-not!’ she wailed. ‘I dreamed about you dying!’ ‘Anna! Stop it!’ he said, shaking her like she had shaken Kreacher before. ‘I’m not going to die on you!’ Anna paused. She was suspended in mid air by Sirius. His grip on her upper arms was tight, despite her lightness. Sirius’ blue eyes were piercing the grey ones. Anna held her breath for a very long second, then exhaled, her eyes gleaming. ‘Do you promise never to leave me?’ she whispered. ‘You know I will never do anything like that to you,’ he said, taking her into his arms once more. ‘And even if we’re apart, I’ll always be here. In your memories, in your heart… ‘And even if I do die – ‘ ‘Sirius, don’t!’ Anna cried. ‘No, listen. If I do die, I’ll live in you. I’ll live in our love, Anna… And as long as you love me, nothing will ever keep me from coming to you. Nothing will keep you from feeling my presence…’ When he finished, Anna was staring at him wide-eyed. It took her a second to digest everything. ‘Promise me,’ she said. ‘Promise what?’

‘What you said. That nothing will keep us apart even – ‘she paused to inhale as though every word meant pain. ‘– even in death.’ Sirius never blinked. ‘Yes, I promise,’ he said firmly. ‘But now you have to do the same for me.’ ‘What?’ she asked wearily. ‘I need you to promise me that if anything happens to me –‘ ‘Sirius, stop saying that!’ she protested, but Sirius carried on. ‘ – you’ll live for me as well.’ ‘What do you mean?’ she asked, now more confused than worried. ‘I mean that I want you to keep on seeing the stars. I want you to keep on singing to yourself. Live my life as well…’ ‘Sirius, you’re making it sound as though – ‘ ‘Anna, let’s face the facts,’ he cut across her. ‘I’m nearly twenty years older than you: sooner or later I will die – ‘ ‘I’d rather it were later,’ Anna interjected grimly. ‘Oh, and I have a powerful wish to die, I assure you,’ he said as Anna rolled her eyes, in reality suppressing a shudder. ‘But of we are to face the truth, it is very likely that I die before you do – ‘ ‘Well, that’s stupid,’ she blurted. ‘Oh? You don’t see my predisposition to bad luck, do you?’ ‘Oh, I see it. I also see that you have been locked up for the past year, with no chance whatsoever to get hurt. Besides, our bad luck’s evenly matched, I should say.’ ‘How so?’ he asked with an annoyingly polite interest; Anna’s temper was slowly rising. ‘Well, let’s think,’ she said in a mock-pensive voice. ‘I have spent a total of three years of my life – that is to say thirty in elven-years – fighting in a war which could have easily killed me. I get attacked by Shades who are trying to kill me every other day because I’m the one thing that keeps my mother from taking over Middle-Earth in Sauron’s place. I have been – until very recently – tortured regularly by a madwoman and am currently risking a lifelong detention for disobeying Minerva, not to mention breaking about ten school-rules, all of which would very likely get me expelled. All in all, Sirius, right now I’m the one with the run of bad luck,’ she said calmly. ‘And my life has been a constant Sunday brunch, is that it?’ he asked fiercely. ‘Heavens, no!’ Anna dismissed his accusation airily. ‘All I’m saying is: stop believing that you’ll be the first one to die. With Voldemort on top of Sauron and Galbatorix I’m likely to snuff it anytime soo – oon,’ she said, yawning widely. ‘Fine,’ Sirius shrugged, frowning. ‘Then humour me. Promise you’ll live!’ They looked at each other for a moment. Anna did not want to understand what was hidden in his eyes. ‘Alright,’ she breathed, but every word came as clear as a shout in the cold silence. ‘I promise.’ Sirius kissed her forehead lightly. Anna lowered her head onto his chest once more. He was all she wanted right then. No magic. No elf-blood. Just him, as he was. For her, as she would never be again… No matter: that night, she lived for Sirius. ‘Anna, what’s the matter?’ Professor Flitwick asked before handing her the exam sheet. ‘Bad sleep, Professor, but I’ll be fine. You know me, can’t part with a good book,’ she said, smiling as broadly as she could.

True, her energy was limited – she had been up almost all night, but her brain simply couldn’t stop working. It never did. She bent down and started writing. Her father’s genes kicked in and she wrote at least five inches for every answer with time to spare. Lee was a row to her right, yawning widely. From what she saw, he gave back his answer sheet half-empty. She shook her head. ‘What was that about?’ she asked him while they were heading for a quick revision under the oh-so-famous birch tree in the castle courtyard. ‘No inspiration,’ he said airily. ‘Lee, this is your future – ‘ ‘My future?!’ he asked incredulously. ‘I’m not you, Anna. I belong elsewhere – I’ve made up my mind. I’m either going to help Fred and George or be a – ‘ ‘ – a news anchor…’ she sighed, her eyes on the lake. That particular morning was sunny and bright, yet Anna felt detached from it in a strange way. She realised that morning that she had never been truly separated from nature, but she considered her nightly adventure a reasonable excuse. Charms, Transfiguration, Potions, Herbology, Arithmancy and Defence Against the Dark Arts – it all whirled inside Anna’s head those two weeks. With her exams, she acquired a strange feeling: her stomach was clenched, her palms were sweaty, and every spare moment she had, she used to think of Sirius. ‘It’s only the exams, Lee…’ she answered when asked what she found to terribly interesting in the pumpkin juice-stain on the carpet inside the Common Room which made her stare at it for twenty very silent minutes. But no exam would ever frighten Anna… That final exam-day came as a relief. History of Magic was a bore for Harry and the rest of the fifth-years, but Potions were in Anna’s blood by now. Had she not been trained by the best there was? During Harry’s theoretical exam, Anna held her practical one. The potion in question was one of her favourites. She had mastered Amortentia sometime during her fourth-year and had come to enjoy making it only to feel the sweet, rotting smell of old books, the strong fragrance of the pale niphredil, and the sad aroma of the simbelmyne. Entangled in such smells, there lay another, potent yet discreet. It was that one which tickled Anna’s senses most: the unique smell of theworld-inside-the-bedroom. Detergent and ashes; dust and rot; cologne and tobacco; glue from the pictures above Sirius’ bed and the new parchment in which Sirius had once placed a ring. ‘For when we’ll be free…’ he had said. Anna had not asked him how he had procured the ring. The gleaming diamond that was perched upon a thin mithril band shaped like the tiniest seashell you will ever see fit her finger as though she had been born with it attached. Anna suspected Galadriel having some involvement, but did not press further on. The ring was promised to her, as was a life with Sirius. It seemed enough. She thought of all this in an instant, taking a deep breath before reaching across the table for her silver knife and athelas root. Ingredients fell into her second-hand cauldron with rapidity. Her hand stirred in a clockwise motion, then anti-clockwise, then in triangles. She waited the optimum period of time before adding another ingredient, treating the potion as if it were molten gold. Within the hour, flowers-and-bedrooms filled Anna’s nostrils once more.

‘Oh, very good, my dear!’ the examiner boomed, clapping in excitement. He was a short, plump man who looked strangely Kreacher-like with dazzlingly long white hairs sprouting out of his ears and nose. Anna suppressed the urge to pull a few of them as he was passing by. His glassed were precariously placed on the very tip of his nose, and almost fell as he tittered merrily. ‘Wonderful, wonderful! You are free to go, dear,’ he said, ushering her out of the room, and lowered his voice to a whisper. ‘but tell me: where did you acquire such skills?’ Anna drew breath to answer hastily. She wanted to get away from the hairs as soon as possible, but made a mistake in closing her eyes in acceptance of Professor Garrow’s compliment. A strange room appeared in front of her. This isn’t Hogwarts anymore… she thought hastily, immediately recognizing the room immersed deep in the ground. The Hall of Prophecy lay at her feet, gleaming floor and dancing blue lights alike. She looked round, feeling the steely touch of a pair of glasses on her nose. Glasses? I’ll be damned if an elf has ever worn glasses! she thought. However, in her vision she remained silent. There was no sound in the room; the air was still and cold. Worry crept into both Harry and Anna’s minds. ‘You’ll have to kill me…’ said a very familiar voice. ‘Oh, I shall. But first, you will fetch it for me…’ came another high tone. Anna felt the hairs on the back of Harry’s neck stand. Voldemort. ‘Never,’ Sirius said calmly. Voldemort merely laughed in his cold, brutal voice. ‘Think, Black…We have hours and hours ahead of us, with no one to hear your screams…Crucio!’ ‘AAAARGH!’ yelled Sirius, Anna and Harry. ‘Dear, calm down, it’s alright,’ came a sweet voice. Anna opened her grey eyes to see the annoyingly white hospital wing at her feet. Madam Pomfrey was pushing her back, for she had leaned forwards, screaming. ‘Now, dear, you need to rest. You’ve overworked yourself these days…’ she said, shaking her head. ‘I swear, these exams do you more harm than good…’ Anna pulled herself together. ‘Madam Pomfrey, what’s the time?’ she asked quickly. ‘Half past three, dear. Why do you want to know?’ ‘How long have I been out?’ she asked, her tone increasingly alarmed. ‘About twenty minutes –‘ she paused to glance at Anna, who was halfway out of bed. ‘- and you will stay in bed.’ ‘You don’t understand, I have to go! I have to get out of here!’ she protested. ‘Sit down!’ Madam Pomfrey commanded. Anna sunk back on the bed. ‘You’re not going anywhere until you answer some of my questions,’ she continued harshly, pulling the curtains around the bed. ‘Now,’ Madan Pomfrey turned an excited face towards Anna. ‘I’m a bit surprised by this, but I can’t help being happy.’ ‘Er – what?!’ Anna said. ‘You know…’ Madam Pomfrey beamed, nodding in direction of Anna’s belly. ‘No, I don’t,’ Anna said impatiently.

‘The… baby…’ the nurse whispered, her face flushed. ‘Oh, we haven’t had a young mother at Hogwarts in over twenty years!’ Anna’s jaw dropped. This couldn’t be right. Her brain froze inexplicably, and her eyes flashed green for a moment. ‘Listen, I’m not pregnant, okay? I have to go now,’ she said, once again trying to pull the covers and get out of bed. ‘Get up, Anna. You most certainly are pregnant. And you’re not going anywhere. Nothing is more important than taking care of yourself right now.’ Anna stopped trying to untangle her legs from the covers while trying to shake off Madam Pomfrey’s grip. She turned her head slowly towards the nurse’s sweet, lined face and said in a choked, quavering voice, ‘This child’s father is in mortal danger, and only two people know it. Either I get up and help him, or stay here and let him die. Madam Pomfrey, let me go!’ Her last three words had such an impact upon Madam Pomfrey that her face turned white. Anna was not a child. She had trained Anna herself, helped her understand the basic principles of Healing. Anna had always been a delight of a child to work with and now, here she was: pregnant! Suddenly, Madam Pomfrey let go of the idea that Anna was a child. She was a woman. Madam Pomfrey patted Anna’s cheek affectionately and let go of her arm. She wiped a tear as Anna rushed to the exit, her long hair dancing behind her. ‘I’ll be fine, don’t worry!’ she yelled from the doorstep, and was gone to face her future. As she was running, pain shooting through an inexistent scar on her forehead, Anna realised that her footsteps were taking here nowhere. She did not know where to go. Her brain was fuzzy so that, for the first time in her life, she could not concentrate on her task. Sirius is in danger. Sirius is in danger. Sirius is in danger. Those four words revolved continuously in Anna’s head. She did not see, smell or hear anything else. The fresh mountain air smelled to her of death. In front of her eyes lay the fictional image of Sirius collapsed – she tried very hard not to think ‘dead’ – on the dark, shining floor. ‘Hello, Anna!’ Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington said cheerfully, waving a translucent hand as he glided past her. Anna jumped for what must have been three feet. So immersed in her thoughts, she had not realised that she had reached the Entrance Hall. ‘Are you in or are you out?’ he asked, a broad smile etched on his transparent face. ‘Oh, I’m in. I’m neck deep in this,’ Anna muttered, her eyes on the strangely bloody sun outside. ‘Are you quite alright? Can I help you?’ Sir Nick asked, his head wobbling as he leaned forwards to see Anna better. ‘No, I can do this…It seems like I’ve done everything else in the world…’ she mumbled as mysteriously as before. But then, something clicked! He could help! ‘Wait!’ she cried after the ghost, who was already halfway up to the Common Room. He returned in a flash, and sat patiently beside her, floating an inch or two above her head. ‘I need you to find Harry for me – Harry Potter. Where he is and what he’s doing or saying. Can you please do that for me?’ she pleaded.

‘There will be no need. Harry Potter is in the Hospital Wing,’ Sir Nicholas said calmly. ‘Whatever for!?’ Anna asked, frowning. ‘Apparently he fainted during his History of Magic written – Hey, where are you going? I haven’t finished!’ he said indignantly, as Anna sprinted past portraits and suits of armour to the Hospital Wing… …to find it empty. She swore out loud: Sir Nick had indeed found a most inopportune moment to be inaccurate. She closed her eyes and tried, with the little strength she had, to see through Harry’s eyes. All was dark. She felt dizzy… ‘This can’t be happening!’ she wailed with her eyes shut and one hand on her forehead. But her desperation seemed to no avail. Harry’s mind would not open to her – or was it the other way around? She did not wonder; nor did she care. She remained so, with her eyes closed and her face white. Leaning against a bed in the middle of a gleaming white ward, she concentrated so hard that her knees felt week and she lost all sense of time and space… The clock struck a quarter-to-five, and Anna opened her eyes. She saw Hermione’s desperate expression, no longer hearing the chimes of the clock, but her pleads for Anna’s reason: ‘…please, we have to establish is Sirius has left Headquarters – please!’ ‘Wait!’ Anna cried, but her wail echoed through the empty room, bouncing off the white walls and marble floors, into loneliness… So she ran again to the Common Room, thanking all existent gods for exams and classes and solitude. Her footsteps echoed as well, their constant sound becoming a steady rhythm for Anna to sustain. In the silence, there was balance, and grief. The Common Room was as silent as Anna had ever witnessed. She felt abandoned and alone. ‘AAAAAAAARRGH!’ she yelled in fury and kicked aside a wooden chair. The thump caused by the chair echoed through the rooms. Everything was silent and dead. The crack of the firewood made Anna’s head turn. Flames of copper and gold danced merrily, oblivious of the world’s problems…Sirius’ head had once appeared in that very same fireplace… So, in the dead silence, Anna found a light. She felt strength swell inside her once more, and the feeling of abandonment withered. She was once again a lioness. She closed her eyes; her brain was working at an alarming rate. She opened them to see a large mane of bushy hair in front of her. A neck, then torso, then legs appeared, and Hermione was walking literally five inches in front of her, holding her hand tightly. ‘How much further?’ an immensely hated voice scratched at Anna’s eardrums. ‘Not far,’ she heard Hermione say. ‘Where are we going?’ Anna heard herself whisper in Harry’s voice. Harry looked round, and, inevitably, so did Anna. She saw her beloved Forbidden Forest stretching far and wide. The darkness above Harry’s head was pressing upon him. The darkness under his feet wasn’t helping. Harry felt compressed by the damp, dark forest.

But Anna breathed slowly. The Forbidden Forest, albeit forbidden for a healthy number of good reasons, was never vindictive out of pleasure. It was nothing to fear. Not for Harry, at least. Anna knew where Hermione was heading, and it was both a good and a bad idea. The centaurs would certainly drive the Pink Terror away, but they would not necessarily show hospitality to two humans. Forsaking all precaution, Anna opened her eyes again and in a flash of light, disappeared from the Common Room. At the very brim of the Forbidden Forest, a lady clad in the colours of the sea was holding her palm upraised. Her dress was slithering on the ground, the grey velvet of her cape shining in the setting sun. When the lady turned round to gaze at the increasingly bloody sun, light fell upon her grey pupils. Her eyes seemed to shine, as did her midnight-dark hair. A wreath of the smallest flowers lay on her head – the finest crown. The pure white of her dress shone even in the semidarkness. A peculiar jewel lay on her chest, gleaming from the inside. Anna’s eyes were alight. ‘Shadowfax…’ the wind whispered, carrying the words throughout all of the worlds. ‘I need your help, King of Mearas…’ Within the minute, a soft neigh came dancing on a gust of warm wind. You’re probably wondering how come Shadowfax – a listed victim of the war of Middle-Earth – has appeared in the grounds. The answer is somewhat complicated, but I’ll indulge you: Shadowfax was given to Anna even before she was born, taking a silent oath to be by her side at all times and always answer her call. Following the example of house-elves, whose masters’ word was above all laws, Shadowfax’s spirit was always near Anna and only she could call him by his real name. The lady’s smile broadened as she stretched a hand to comfort the dazzlingly white horse. Anna patted the horse’s muzzle as he, not unlike a black dog a few years back, bathed in her warmth. ‘Shall we ride?’ Anna said sweetly, bowing slightly. The horse gave an eager nod as Anna mounted gracefully onto his back. ‘Run, Shadowfax. Run like the wind,’ Anna said, a definite graveness in her voice. So Shadowfax, this King of all horses galloped across the dark Forest, to the territory of centaurs. However, Anna and Shadowfax were not the only intruders. A woman dressed in pink and two adolescents were also trespassing surreptitiously – or so they thought – knowing that they would have to expect an attack sooner or later… It came sooner. Rider and horse were one, like no others before them. The weight of the world pressed upon both of them: they were the last of their kind, rulers of a crumbling kingdom. Both the Meara and the lady flew with the wind, a dazzlingly white shadow in the thick darkness of the forest. Branches tore Anna’s cape, which resealed itself after seconds. They scratched at her face and the cuts healed. They smeared the horse’s white coat with tiny specks of blood, which disappeared. No harm could come near Anna. The sounds of the Forbidden Forest were enough to scare anyone, but to Anna they were like music. She had no alternative but to love the howls of werewolves and clattering of centaurs’ hooves. Birds’ cries echoed coldly round Anna and Shadowfax’s ears, giving the impression of loneliness and despair…

As Anna was galloping towards the centaurs’ territories, her body bent down and her eyes narrowed in an attempt to keep as still as possible on horseback in spite of her disobedient hair which jumped, twitched and danced behind her, no less than one hundred armed centaurs were cornering three very scared-looking humans. ‘What is your business here, human?’ a centaur roared. ‘See here, half-breed, I am Dolores Umbridge, Senior Undersecretary to the Minister – ‘ a wheezy and impertinent voice said. And it was all it took. Centaurs drove her away then rounded on the two adolescents. ‘And what shall we do with them?’ Bane asked, bending as to look into Harry’s eyes. ‘They are children – ‘Rowan said. ‘This one is nearing manhood, they are not so young,’ another replied, eyeing Harry condescendingly. ‘Very well, then. Take them,’ Rowan commanded. Four long-legged centaurs were making their way towards Harry and Hermione with eager looks on their face, when a resounding boom sent them flying backwards. A white shadow lit their visages for a split-second, and then disappeared again. The shadow then reappeared to their right, all centaurs turning round to get a clear aim, one or two braver ones even shooting silly ricocheting arrows at the inconsistent intruder. Then, all heads turned left, then up, then right again. Harry felt his neck crick painfully, but followed the figure wherever it swept, until, in a magnificent leap, a slender horse the colour of the moon landed in the middle of the procession. On his back was a very familiar, saving figure. ‘You shall not touch them,’ Anna said, holding her curved sword high. Her gaze was cold, bold and blazing. ‘And who are you, human – ‘ asked a younger but more rugged-looking centaur. ‘I am not human!’ Anna exclaimed. ‘Your leaders know very well who I am, and if they have the slightest bit of sense, they will command you to lower your weapons!’ Rowan gave the herd a fleeting look, and they lowered their bows with surprisingly little noise. ‘Now I will have you know – ‘ Rowan began. ‘Yes, yes – you do not accept orders from others, I know all too well,’ Anna said disdainfully. ‘But I should like to think that you have made a pact – you have an agreement with Dumbledore, do you not?’ ‘Agreement?!’ exclaimed Bane, marching in front of Anna and pointing his bow at her. The tip of his arrow almost touched the tip of her nose. She smiled. ‘Bane, I hope you do not live under the impression that you rule humans…’ she said. Bane’s expression hardened and his fingers tightened around his bow. ‘Probably not,’ Bane said through tightly clenched teeth. ‘but neither do you rule us!’ ‘As a matter of fact, you depend upon me, Bane,’ Anna said, still smiling. ‘You are not a fool – you know the tales of my inheritance…Will you risk chaos in exchange for revenge?’ Bane seemed to consider chaos for a moment, then exhaled and lowered his weapon, retreating with a violent look in his eyes. Anna rounded on Rowan. ‘Now, Dumbledore has tried to maintain nothing but the best of relationships with you. He asked only one thing of you: that you not hurt any of the students. Do you think there is pride in your threats? Do you think that two underage wizards stand a chance against a herd of murderous centaurs?’ Anna reasoned. Rowan blinked. An apologetic silence hung in the air.

‘HAGGER!’ came a booming voice from above the gathering. Anna looked round to find the source of the noise. The earth was trembling under their feet and hooves, and Anna acted quickly. She dismounted. ‘Harry, take Hermione on Shadowfax and run! Grawp’s coming! Meet me at the edge of the forest!’ she yelled, waving goodbye to them and joining the fight. Centaurs were being thrashed around by a frightened Grawp. ‘HAGGER!’ he kept saying as he accidentally stepped on bows and centaurs alike. Everyone was running like mad, trying to escape the feet. As she was hiding behind a huge pine tree which only reached Grawp’s elbow, Anna came up with the perfect plan. The perfectly hazardous plan, that is. As Grawp pulled on the tree, Anna stabbed it with her sword. When Grawp eventually pulled the tree up, up went Anna, clinging to her sword. She landed on Grawp’s right shoulder, right next to his fireplace-sized ear. ‘Armies have conquered and fallen in the end, Kingdoms have risen then buried by sand The Earth is our mother She gives and she takes She puts us to sleep In her light we’ll awake We’ll all be forgotten There’s no endless fame But everything we do is never in vain We’re part of a story Part of a tale We’re all on this journey No one’s to stay Wherever it’s going Where is the way? ’ As Anna sang in her sweet, elven voice, the forest grew silent. Centaurs and giants, birds and vampires: all stopped to listen to her song. Both the saddest song and the happiest in the world. Both despairing and reassuring. Both kind and rough. Though she had not meant to do so, Anna poured her heart into that song. Grawp lowered his eyelids slowly, bending his knees. Forgetting that he had Anna on his shoulder, the giant laid his head on the forest floor, falling into a very deep sleep. As Grawp sat down on the ground, rubbing his eyes with sleep, Anna ended her verse. As he rested his head on the soft, leaf-covered round, she stroked his giant head, filling him with the warmth he would have gotten from Hagrid. She waved her wand, and silver lines tied Grawp gently to the nearby fir trees. His calm breath was like the sound of waves hitting rocks; Anna’s dress flew everywhere as though she was caught in a thunderstorm. That image of great peace calmed Anna. Her brain remained in limbo for a few seconds, thinking about how much different Grawp’s affection really was from hers… ‘Retreat!’ yelled Rowan after a few moments of heavy silence. The centaurs, who had until then been gazing at the sky with dreamy eyes, stolen by Anna’s voice, jumped in surprise, and began their retreat. The nature seemed

mollified by Anna’s song. The wind was slightly warmer, the branches did not scratch so anymore, and the sun was not yet setting upon Anna… Along with the centaurs, Anna’s head jerked. She took a shy step towards the edge of the forest. She could see the filtered light through the trees – Harry and Hermione were not far. She took another step, this time slightly more certain of her goal. Steps followed steps and Anna was soon running. Her elven feet were kind to the forest floor. They took her to the brim of the forest where not two, but six companions were waiting for invisible beasts to appear. ‘Anna!’ Ginny exclaimed. ‘What are you doing here?’ ‘Later, Ginny,’ Anna cut across her. ‘Have you managed to find any Thestrals? And where is Shadowfax?’ ‘Shadowfax?’ Neville and Harry asked together. ‘The horse, Harry,’ Anna said wearily, seemingly on the verge of tears. ‘It….faded away…’ Hermione answered. ‘It what?!’ Ron asked, but no one paid him any mind. Anna knew what Hermione had meant. Shadowfax had come with the wind and he had left with it. Simple. ‘Ooh, look!’ Luna said, pointing over Anna’s shoulder. Anna turned round, and saw the dark, leathery body of a Thestral approaching. ‘Good!’ she said. ‘You can see them too?’ Neville asked. Anna did not answer immediately, but continued to squint at the thicket behind her. She could have easily been thinking of an elegant answer for Neville’s question… ‘The number of people I’ve seen die…’ she said darkly, never facing Neville. Soon, enough Thestrals for all of them appeared, and Anna made forward to try and touch the nearest. ‘Come on! If we take the Thestrals we can get there on time!’ she said to Harry. ‘Okay, first of all, we aren’t doing anything. And second, I’ve never ridden a Thestral in - ‘ ‘I want to come!’ Ginny said fiercely. ‘Me too!’ said Neville. ‘Well, too bad because you’re not!’ Anna said. ‘This is mine and Harry’s business and no one else’s!’ ‘We care what happens to Sirius just as much as you do!’ the others protested. Harry’s scar gave a painful twinge, and Anna placed a hand on her forehead. ‘It’s hurting isn’t it?’ she asked Harry worriedly. He nodded. ‘Come on then! We haven’t got time to spare!’ Anna said, mounting a Thestral gracefully. ‘Anna, there’s no way you’re going!’ Harry said in spite of himself. Anna shot him an almost painful-to-sustain look, but he would not let her risk two lives… ‘Anna, you’re in no state – ‘ ‘Harry James Potter, if you think this is the right time to boss me around, then – ‘ ‘YOU HAVE A CONDITION!’ Harry bellowed, having lost his patience, placing one hand on his forehead in hope to stop his scar from throbbing. Anna’s gaze suddenly turned icy. ‘I saw everything! I heard every word Madam Pomfrey told you!’ Harry explained then turned to face Ginny and Hermione who were standing close to one another. ‘She’s pregnant!’ he cried.

Ginny and Hermione gasped and clasped both their hands over their mouths. ‘A bit louder, Harry! I don’t think they heard you in London!’ Anna said coldly. ‘It’s not a joke, you’re not coming!’ he replied. ‘Anna, it’s best that you don’t risk – ‘Hermione began bleatingly. Anna, who had previously lowered her gaze and was getting acquainted with her Thestral, suddenly lifted her head, and cut across them. When she spoke, her voice was weak – she was on the verge of tears. ‘Are you seriously telling me that six teenagers are going to stop me from saving the man that – ‘ she broke off into an unexpected sob, one hand over her eyes. ‘I’m out of my minds, Harry, ‘she said, beseeching, imploring him. ‘Let’s just go, okay?’ ‘Right,’ Harry said, coughing awkwardly. ‘Whoever’s coming is doing so at their own expense, okay? It’ll be dangerous…’ ‘We’ll handle it,’ Ginny said flatly. ‘Then let’s move,’ Harry said bracingly, mounting his Thestral. When everyone had mounted their “vehicle”, the seven – eight, if you count Anna’s baby, though – flew into the sunset, towards London, and war… Throughout their journey, Anna’s Thestral invariably led the way. Harry did not know whether it had anything to do with Anna’s powers, but his best guess was that it had everything to do with her love. They landed in London, girls dismounting rather more gracefully than the boys, but all face stricken – except for Anna’s. ‘Come on, we have to get inside!’ she said bracingly, entering the dirty telephone booth and dialling six-two-four-four-two with the speed of lightning. She retrieved a badge and descended before anyone else had gotten a chance to look around. The telephone booth took her down, below the earth. She felt the weight of the soil pressing upon her lungs. Glass buildings, cars and millions of people humming above her – it was not home! She felt uneasy…Yet something kept her going. She closed her eyes and recounted her vision slowly. Anna saw dusty, prophecy-laden shelves. Two men, one grovelling at the other’s feet in what looked like a silent seizure. ‘The Hall of Prophecy!’ she cried triumphantly. Her cry echoed in the empty lobby, giving her the distinct feeling that she was alone. She was inhaling bracingly, when a warm hand touched hers. ‘The Hall of Prophecy,’ Ginny breathed in her ear. ‘We’re here, Anna.’ The seven proceeded, funnily enough, to the seventh floor of the building, expecting to find the worse, hoping to find life. ‘Harry, stop,’ Anna said as they were about to push open the dark door that led into the Hall. She had risen a palm up in the air and Harry saw, for the first time, a small ring glittering there. ‘I can’t be seen.’ ‘What?!’ Neville said indignantly. ‘You’re not fighting along with us?!’ ‘Don’t be thick, of course she is!’ Ginny retaliated fiercely. ‘Be quiet, both of you!’ Anna whispered hoarsely. ‘Keep quiet in the Hall. You mustn’t be seen or heard by the wrong people,’ she said, looking at Harry and emphasising the last two words; he nodded. ‘Now, the fact that I can’t be seen does not mean that I cannot fight. I will be beside each and every one of you…’ Harry and Anna both closed their eyes at the same time – pain shot through their heads as though someone was smearing acid on their forehead. ‘We haven’t got time!’ Anna said throatily. ‘Let’s move!’ she said.

Anna took a step, and her body turned fluid. There was no way she could keep standing and so the water that had become her body fell with a splash, droplets spraying everyone. In the instant that the droplets of clear water touched the dark floor of the Ministry, the water turned into seven deep blue butterflies. One rested on each of the young wizards’ right shoulders. One butterfly remained just in front of them, leading the way. After a moment, they were all gone, but every right shoulder in the room had become comfortably warm, every mind somewhat more illuminated and set to the task. There was no doubt that Anna was still with them, in every fibre of their being… The six teenagers continued their search, from room mysterious room to mysterious room until they opened what seemed like the hundredth door that day, and their eyes were forced shut by the blinding blue light. All the right shoulders grew white-hot. As though they had been signalled to do so, the six teenagers let out identical gasps of pain and touched their shoulders, trying to brush Anna off. A light outshone those spread by the prophecies, and Anna’s slender body appeared right in front of Harry, like a lioness leading her pack. ‘What about not being seen?’ Harry whispered. ‘Never mind that now!’ she hissed. ‘Right. It’s row ninety-seven,’ he said gruffly. It felt as though a wave of electricity had passed through Anna’s body. She broke into a trot, her hair flying behind her. They reached row ninety-seven and, with a pang, Harry realised that Sirius was not there. ‘He can’t be d – ‘ Anna whispered, her voice shaking. ‘No! There’s no sign of a struggle,’ Harry said, his words echoing through the tall room. ‘Wait here!’ Anna whispered, and turned into the lioness. She took a step right and was swiftly gone from their sight. While the others remained in row ninety-seven, poring over the mysterious prophecy, Anna searched her heart out. From row number one to row number one hundred and fifty, she hoped for a glance of Sirius’ unkempt hair or tall frame. She remained as silent as possible, straining to hear anything helpful. Anna was just walking in row seventy-seven when a cold gust of wind made the hairs on her back stand. She retransformed and grabbed her wand, holding it aloft. Her elven eyes helped her see farther and better in the dark than humans. She took advantage of that, and immediately traced the source of the movement of the air. Durza! she thought anxiously. I haven’t got enough strength to fight him right now! Another gust of cold wind blew her hair as she felt another body – this time solid – pass her by. Faint whispers, movements of the air and bodily warmth – Anna felt all of these in turn. Someone was there. ‘Homenum revelio!’ called a woman’s voice. The air was still, and Anna grinned in the dark. She could not help it. No spell could reveal an elf! No charm had effects upon her! How very daft of the grand Bellatrix Lestrange! Or, perhaps, she was misinformed. In that split second, it all revolved in Anna’s head. The Shades and monstrosities her mother ruled were too haughty to believe that any other gene except for the elven one

could survive the years. They refused to consider the possibility that she – a parthuman – could possess powers worthy of only the purest of breeds. So, in their prejudice, they continued to believe that the fact that she was half-Edain worked in her disadvantage. Half capable of the deeds that only men are capable of. Completely incapable of the deeds one would associate with elves. ‘Stupefy!’ yelled a hoarse voice from behind her. She ducked, and the spell missed her, dissolving into thin air. ‘There’s nothing ‘ere, Mulciber! Stop wasting breath and time!’ croaked another Death Eater. Anna stilled her breath. She had to calm down and keep a cool head. Wish I could be like smoke, she thought angrily, then grinned again in the dark. What am I? Stupid? God, I can be smoke! Then, she did the most amazing thing with her body. She arched her back, and her body disappeared. In the darkness, you could see nothing. In light, all you could see was a smoky sketch of what Anna’s body was. Only the outline remained visible: curved lines of translucent smoke, carried by the seemingly still air in the room. She tilted her head back, and her body lifted itself a few inches off the ground. Thus, with her arms spread, she looked like an angel, an illusion hovering a foot above the stone floor. Then, quite unexpectedly, she soared higher than ever, above the shelves and prophecies, a barely visible, good-natured Shade… Meanwhile, Harry and the others were being cornered by two dozen Death Eaters, back in row ninety-seven. ‘Hand me the prophecy, Potter, or she dies,’ Lucius Malfoy was saying as Bellatrix Lestrange restrained Ginny. ‘Wanna bet?’ Anna’s clear voice came, yet her body did not show. ‘Who ssspoke?’ a red-teethed, blood-haired man with a skin paler than Snape’s hissed. ‘Three choices,’ came Anna’s voice again. The man grunted. ‘Wrong answer,’ the voice said again. ‘Witch!’ the man said, baring his darkened teeth with an expression of utter madness. ‘One last chance,’ Anna said. ‘Brisingr!’ hissed the man. Thin smoke issued from thin air, forming Anna’s tall body. She was laughing in his face. ‘Magic? Against me, Durza?’ she giggled sweetly. ‘Surely my mother has not misinformed you so…’ The man groaned as though he had done a soon-to-be-painful mistake. His mad expression changed into desperation as Anna uttered one soft word that left him speechless forever. ‘Unquale!’ Anna breathed. (Death!) The man started choking and rolling his eyes. Slowly, not unlike a certain Professor Quirrel a few years back, he began to dissolve into black Dust. The air was still, yet the small particles moved on the floor, making a horrible slithering sound. ‘Avada Kedavra!’ Bellatrix Lestrange said. The jet of green light hit Anna on the shoulder, but she gave no sign of having been hit by a Killing Curse. She turned her head slowly towards Bellatrix, who had widened her eyes and was staring at Anna in disbelief. ‘Aw, bad luck, Bella,’ she said, winking at her.

She was placed so that her body shielded Harry. ‘Imperio!’ hissed Malfoy. ‘Impressive,’ Anna smiled mockingly. ‘Guess you’ve never heard of such a thing as Vare-Yar, have you? (Blood – Protection)’ ‘When I say –‘ Harry whispered from behind Anna. ‘Well, you won’t be hearing about it soon – ‘ ‘ – smash shelves…’ ‘ – not if I can help it anyway,’ she said, as calmly and pleasantly as though she was teaching. Harry guessed it was Lupin’s calm that she had inherited. ‘NOW!’ ‘Stupefy!’ yelled all teenage voices except Anna’s. She had Stunned the shelves non-verbally, still boring into Lucius and Bellatrix’s cold eyes. The seven broke into a run, smashing prophecies on top of whatever head they met. They got separated, then reunited. They protected each other and themselves in turn. People were running, footsteps were echoing coldly. No sign of Sirius. Harry had led them straight into a trap. Panic froze their brains. Anna was nowhere in sight. When Anna was near, there was still some hope of survival. Without her, however, Harry felt insecure. After half an hour of running and duelling, six very tired teenagers felt a buzz spread through them. They no longer felt the biting cold of the Hall of Prophecy, but a strange warmth coming from their left shoulders. When they glanced sideways to see if they had been hit by a curse, all six saw a glittering, bright-blue butterfly slowly batting his wings. Anna was with them, nearer than she had ever been. When they met once again, all six – butterflies-attached – decided to flee from their pursuers by entering yet another mysterious room. It was circular, with a stone dais in the middle. On the old dais lay a thin, crumbling archway. The room was silent, and in the silence, they could hear distinct elven voices singing as Anna’s body reformed in front of them ‘Sirius?’ she whispered. The door flew open. Death Eaters came in, one by one: all had faces gleaming in sweat, but wore gleeful expressions on their brutal faces. ‘Look at this…’ Lucius Malfoy said, tracing Anna’s jaw line with the tip of his wand as five other Death Eaters restrained Ginny, Hermione, Ron, Luna and Neville, leaving Harry free. ‘Our very own princess – cornered!’ ‘To hell she is cornered!’ Harry said loudly, unable to stop himself. ‘Now, now Mr Potter…You wouldn’t want anything to happen to your friends, now, would you?’ he asked malevolently, lowering his wand and jabbing it against Anna’s white neck. Her eyes were narrowed in hate and disgust. Harry could tell she wanted nothing more than a fair chance to duel him: she knew she would have won. As death eaters tugged at the girls’ hairs and struck Ron and Neville brutally, Anna and Harry remained in the middle of the gathering. ‘Now, hand over the prophecy, Potter, or she dies,’ Malfoy said. ‘That is if we can forget the fact that she is immortal,’ Anna said flatly. ‘No matter,’ Malfoy sniggered. ‘They can die,’ he added, indicating the others. Harry’s stomach took a plunge. It felt empty. He was trembling.

Two feet in front of him, Anna remained as composed as ever, her eyes following every movement Malfoy senior made. ‘I should hardly think you could beat me, though,’ Anna said calmly after a moment of silence. Lucius rounded upon her fiercely. ‘You, outsmart me?!’ he exclaimed, his silvery-blond head shaking in rage. ‘Yes, probably so,’ she replied disdainfully. ‘Why, you little – ‘ Harry! Anna’s voice echoed inside Harry’s head; his eyes immediately fixed themselves upon her. Help is on the way. We need to stall Malfoy and the others so that they don’t attack before the Order gets here! ‘ – toerag!’ Malfoy ranted. ‘How dare you insult my status as a Death Eater? We, I assure you, have skills that far surpass yours. You couldn’t have imagined that little children – ‘- Bellatrix giggled at this – ‘ – could ever beat us?’ ‘Oh, I don’t know about little children. But they will certainly beat you,’ Anna said. In that precise moment, the door flung open and Lupin, Tonks, Mad-Eye, Sirius and Kingsley entered the scene. ‘Sirius!’ Anna and Harry cried over the hullabaloo generated by the Order’s arrival. They barely had time to exchange a glance with him for Anna came to her senses and grabbed Harry’s wrist, forcing his head low. Then, he felt her touch no more. A strange mist had surrounded him. Wait a minute! Mist isn’t warm! he thought, in an extraordinarily coherent manner. This is Anna! And he was right. Anna had once again turned into thin air and surrounded him with her warmth, shielding him from all spells. Moreover, she was guiding him. He felt as though a strong wind was moving him forwards. Stone was disappearing from beneath his feet, and he was falling from the dais. He stumbled and rolled on the floor, until he felt wood underneath his hands. He stood up: the mist had disappeared, but a strong hand had grabbed his arm and shoved him behind a large rock. ‘Anna! We have to – ‘ he began. ‘Shut it!’ She drew her wand and eyed the nearby duellers apprehensively. ‘Little elf!’ a horrible, mock-baby voice called for Anna; the latter turned round fiercely. ‘Aw, that’s so sweet! You’re protecting little baby Potter…Too bad you’re going to die, juuuuust like his mummy. You know you remind me of – ‘ Bellatrix did not finish her sentence. A jet of red light hit her squarely in the chest, and she toppled back a few steps, having muttered a protective charm a second too late for it to work to the full. ‘Oh, the little elf has learned her lessons well…How are the books treating you these days, Eamane?’ Bellatrix mocked her. ‘Lovely,’ Anna replied calmly, throwing another jet of blue light at her. ‘Oh, no you’re not!’ Bellatrix cackled and ducked, sending a Killing Curse in Anna’s direction. Anna took a slow step to the side, and the Killing Curse hit the rock behind which Harry was hiding. ‘Stop taking me seriously, Bella. You might actually have a chance at killing me if you do,’ Anna said, smiling at Bellatrix, whose face was growing red. ‘Crucio!’ she hissed. ‘You have to be kidding me,’ Anna said as she took a step back to where she had stood before. The curse missed her again.

‘Anna, stop it!’ yelled Sirius with his eyebrows contracted and a desperate expression on his face. ‘Stupefy!’ yelled Belatrix triumphantly as Anna was still eyeing Sirius with her arms hanging limply beside her body. The jet of red light hit Anna, but had no effect upon her. When the light made contact with her skin, Anna frowned and turned her head to see who had cast the spell. She had apparently forgotten where she was. Anna raised her wand and a silver shield surrounded her and Harry. ‘Dumbledore’s pet, aren’t you, dear?’ Bella said, in what she wanted to be a mocking voice but her confidence had visibly faded; her face was now white and she was gasping for breath while Anna was as placid as ever. ‘ANNA GET THE OTHERS AND GO!’ yelled Lupin as he darted past the duel. ‘Dad,’ gasped Anna. ‘Come on, Harry. Grab my hand and don’t let go until I say so.’ Harry did as he was told, one hand on the warm prophecy, another on Anna’s unusually warm forearm. ‘Bye bye, Bella,’ Anna smiled, deactivating the shield and quickly Stunning Bellatrix to the head. As the limp Death Eater was thrown against the opposite wall, Anna and Harry ran as they had never done in their lives. Past Lupin-and-Dolohov, past Sirius-and-Avery, past Kingsley-and-Crabbe-and-Malfoy and out the door that led into he circular door. Ginny, Luna and Neville were already there. ‘Are you okay, Ginny?’ Anna asked kindly. ‘I think her ankle’s broken,’ Luna said dreamily. ‘I’m fine! Go! Go, Anna! You belong in there!’ Ginny protested, pointing at the door white-faced from the pain. Anna glanced quickly at the door she had just closed. ‘Ferula!’ she said, pointing her wand at Ginny’s broken ankle. ‘Go!’ the possessor of a freshly healed ankle pleaded. Anna pressed her lips together and Harry could tell she wanted to join the fight as bad as she wanted to see them safe. A crease appeared between her arched eyebrows. She was squinting, apparently looking through Harry and the door behind him. Past shelves and rooms and walls way into the street. ‘That’s the door. You need to get through that, and just follow Harry’s gut through the rest, okay? You’ll get out if you do, trust me,’ she said, the crease disappearing. ‘How d’you know?’ Neville asked blankly. ‘Elf eyes,’ Hermione answered for her, and Anna sent her a small, quick smile. ‘Whatever you do, don’t get separated. And keep your wands at the ready, okay? There might be a Death Eater or two lurking behind a corner. Be safe,’ Anna said, grabbing Harry by the back of the neck and pulling him into a hug. But she wasn’t hugging him for the hell of it. She kissed his forehead, and Harry saw the path to the Hall. The way out! ‘Go,’ Anna whispered and winked. The six stepped out, wands in their hands. Harry glanced back, and saw Anna touching the doorknob. She was entering the room with the dais, and yet another battle. ‘Anna!’ Neville yelled. ‘Jesus, Neville!’ she turned, her expression stony. ‘Keep quiet!’ ‘Take care, okay?’ he said timidly. She smiled, seeming mollified by Neville’s innocent concerns.

‘Don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine. Now get yourselves out!’ So they went, leaving her behind. But they weren’t really leaving her behind, were they? Six warm shoulders made their way out of the Ministry – a seventh blue butterfly was making her way to war and death. ‘Hey, blondie!’ Anna called. Malfoy turned round, a look of disgust etched on his face. Anna shot him with a Stunning Spell which he deflected. He flicked his wand and a jet of purple light hit a silver shield that Anna had conjured. When the spell ricocheted off the shield, all heads jerked upwards because of the low gong that toured the room. ‘Anna!’ Lupin and Sirius shouted together. Anna Stunned Malfoy for good, taking advantage of the fact that he had turned his head to look at the people who had shouted Anna’s name. He was sprawled onto his back, his usually neat blond hair now looking ragged and messy. Anna was sprinting towards the stone archway in the middle of the room. She had nothing to fear from death – if anything, it was the one certainty in her life. From the middle of the room – next to the archway – she could see the entire room and search for Sirius and her father. ‘Hello, pretty,’ Mulciber bared his black, rotted teeth at Anna, grabbing her ankle. Anna had hardly noticed he was alive before he spoke to her – he had been lying on the floor, his hair covering his face, a puddle of dark red blood next to him. ‘Get off!’ Anna said, forgetting that she could do magic, that she was pregnant, that she was shaking her leg like mad, a half-exasperated, half-annoyed expression on her face. ‘You’re not going anywhere!’ he panted, pulling her on top of him. They rolled violently, biting, scratching, punching and hitting each other with all their strength. They had both lost their wands – Mulciber in a duel, Anna when he had grabbed her ankle – and now relied on strength alone to finish each other. ‘Get – off – you – little – ‘ ‘Easy, Mulciber,’ Sirius’s voice said. Anna exhaled and simply bent her knee. Mulciber was right on top of her, pinning her to the ground. In spite of Sirius speaking, he had not slackened his grip at all, but all Anna needed was his inattention. Her knee was perfectly positioned in between his legs. His face tensed and beads of sweat appeared on his forehead – his freshly red-in-pain forehead. Anna pushed him off her and stood up. Mulciber was hunchbacked on the floor, rolling in pain. She kicked him hard between the ribs. He tried grabbing her legs, but she stepped on his fingers ruthlessly, stepping away from him, deliberately keeping barely out of his reach to incense him. ‘Anna, cut it,’ Sirius said, pulling her nearer to him and Petrifying Mulciber. ‘Come.’ He gave her her wand back – she felt safer with the cherry and phoenix feather in between her fingers, even though she had no particular reason to; he pulled her wrist, and she wanted to pull back. She didn’t. Sirius started running, dragging a docile Anna behind him. He was heading towards the exit – wait! Anna could not leave them! All of them! Sirius, her father, Tonks, Mad-Eye, even Kingsley with whom she hadn’t conversed for more than ten minutes in her life – they were all fighting and she had to fight along with them.

She pulled back, her desire to help and see everyone safe stronger than her urge to obey Sirius. ‘Wait!’ she exclaimed. ‘I’m not going anywhere!’ ‘Yes you are! You’re getting yourself out and you’re catching up with Harry and the others!’ Sirius protested, tugging on her arm much like he had pulled at the bars of his prison-cell a few years back. Unlike the bars, Anna did not bend. ‘Anna, just GO!’ Lupin yelled, darting past them to catch up with Avery. ‘NO!’ she yelled at Sirius. ‘I’ve fought worse battles,’ she said in a lower voice. ‘and I can handle this. Besides, I have news – news that can’t wait.’ ‘Well, it’s going to have to wait because you’re getting yourself out!’ he retorted, frowning at her. ‘Sirius, I’m pregnant,’ Anna said in a matter-of-factly tone. His frown disappeared at once, along with the Ministry that surrounded them, and the battle inside it. He was grinning at Anna. ‘A – a baby?’ he stammered disbelievingly. ‘I – I’m going to be a d-dad?’ ‘Yes, you are,’ Anna smiled lovingly, and also with slight relief: she had been secretly fearing Sirius’ reaction. He took her aback then, she had to admit it. He was still holding her hand, and pulled her nearer to him. Their noses were touching; their lips were a breath away from each other. He placed one hand in her loose hair and kissed her like he never had before, amidst the fighting and shouting of warriors. ‘WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING, SIRIUS?!’ Lupin’s otherwise calm voice shouted, but they did not stop. Anna kissed him back, fully aware of the danger they were in, but something strange happened. Anna’s immunity to curses and hexes seemed to flow into Sirius as well. The two, united at the lips, seemed surrounded by an invisible, protective aura. Killing Curses rebounded off them; Stunning Spells did not harm them. That evening was the only one in the history of magic during which the old and soggy underground walls of the Ministry grew warm with the touch of the most powerful force in the world… ‘Hey!’ Lupin said, pushing Sirius away from Anna. ‘Get off!’ ‘Dad, no!’ Anna stepped between them, shaking her head and grabbing her father’s arm. She had never seen him so. His kind, thin face was filled with rage. He looked as though he would have liked nothing better than to clout Sirius. ‘But, Anna, he was – ‘ Lupin began. ‘Protego!’ Anna shouted unexpectedly, deflecting Bellatrix and Dolohov’s Stunning Spell and Killing Curse. ‘Look, this isn’t the time or place. Let’s just get through this and we can…talk about this like rational human beings?’ she added quickly, and the two acquiesced silently and looking somewhat mutinous. ‘Stupefy!’ yelled Avery behind them. Lupin turned round in a flash and repelled the Stunning Spell with a flick of his wand, then ran off to continue the duel. Sirius grabbed Anna’s hand. ‘You’re getting out,’ he said. ‘Now,’ he emphasised. ‘No way!’ Anna protested, her wand raised, the silver light of a magical shield issuing from it. ‘Anna, you’re pregnant!’ he said exasperatedly. ‘I need you to get out of here and catch up with Harry!’ ‘Harry is fine! I’m fine!’

‘GET OUT!’ Sirius screamed after kissing her forehead fleetingly and dashing forward to meet Bellatrix. ‘Now it’s just you and me, bird,’ grinned Crabbe from behind Anna. She stopped watching Sirius laughing at Bellatrix and turned round in the blink of an eye. ‘Oh, don’t try my patience,’ she smiled sardonically at him. ‘Crucio!’ he hissed, but Anna was more than ready for him. She stepped aside, letting the jet of red light miss its target stupidly, then Stunned her rival squarely in the chest. ‘Where do you think you’re going?’ Goyle called as she was preparing to leave the scene in search for a new opponent. As she began her duel with Goyle, six others were already walking with a heavy heart towards the exit. Harry was leading the group, who were walking behind him quietly and alertly. They all felt strange, leaving everyone else behind, fighting, yet no one said a thing. That is, until… ‘We shouldn’t have left her!’ Neville said in a relatively normal tone of voice. However, the silence made his voice echo strangely in the tall room. ‘She wanted us to, Neville…’ Hermione said. ‘That doesn’t make it right!’ he retorted. ‘Everyone’s back there trying to fix our mess. We should be helping them, not running away!’ Something slid into place in Harry’s head. ‘He’s right. They’re fixing my mess – I should be helping!’ he said after a moment’s silence. ‘Harry – ‘ Ron and Ginny began. ‘No!’ he snapped. ‘You know the way out, don’t you? I’m going back!’ ‘If you’re going then we’re coming with you!’ Ginny said. ‘Lower your voice…’ said Hermione. ‘I’m not asking any of you to come!’ Harry said. ‘Get yourselves out!’ ‘Harry, we want to come. Honest!’ Ron nodded reassuringly, then was mimicked by everyone else, including dreamy Luna. ‘Fine!’ Harry said irritably, turning on his heel. ‘Come! It’s your funeral!’ he said as he opened the door that led them back to the fight. ‘Sirius, be careful!’ Anna said as she shielded him from Bellatrix’s fifth Killing Curse. ‘Oh, come on, Anna!’ he grinned back at her. ‘If she doesn’t kill you, I will!’ Anna yelled back as she rushed forwards to head Macnair off. Spells and curses missed her as she rushed towards her soon-to-be victim. Macnair turned his scarred face towards her, shooting her with an Impediment Jinx from under his sleeve. She swerved and the jinx missed her; she shot Macnair with a Disarming charm which hit target: Macnair’s wand flew five feet from him. He rounded upon her with a mad expression on his face. Suddenly, he stopped dead with his face white and set. He was eyeing a point over Anna’s shoulder with immense horror. ‘D – D – D – ‘ he stuttered. Anna turned round, hoping for the best. ‘Albus!’ she exclaimed.

Before Anna had even blinked, Albus Dumbledore had Apparated and immobilised all Death Eaters present…all except one. Anna ran forwards to meet Albus and stopped next to him. ‘Hi,’ she grinned, and he smiled at her. Albus rounded up all the Death Eaters in the middle of the room, next to the stone dais…almost all Death Eaters… ‘Come on, Bella, you can do better than that!’ Sirius was saying with a broad smile on his face. ‘Sirius, NO!’ Anna yelled without meaning to, fearing what would happen…But he paid no mind to her, and kept on laughing at Bellatrix. A door opened behind Anna, but no one heard anything… Her spell hit him squarely in the chest. He took one step back, losing his balance. His eyes were enlarged, his grin still etched on every figure he had, yet his gaze panicked and startled. Anna felt limply onto her knees. She hit the floor silently, one arm held up by Dumbeldore’s reliable fingers. Sirius’ body defied the laws of gravity, taking a very long time to fall. The veil behind him fluttered as his frame protruded it. The veil fluttered in the monumental aftermath of Sirius’ disappearance. He was gone from Anna’s life as he had come – quickly, painlessly…That’s a lie. He went in hanging silence and humiliation. One thing that haunted Anna’s dreams forever, the one thing that appeased her as well as wound her up was Sirius’ look before he died. He was pushed back by the spell, but his final act was to look at Anna. Anna, who was kneeling on the floor. Anna, who was sheet-faced. Anna, who was trembling, chilled by her own coldness. His blue eyes found Anna’s and, for that one moment between life and death, they looked at her with more love and happiness than they ever had. All Azkaban was erased, and in that moment of heaven, all of Sirius – the bitter part, the loving part, the kind part, the Slytherin part and the once-not-bitter-and-happily-young part – loved Anna, who was whole and came to him just as she was. A moment, then he was gone, leaving behind nothing but the smallest, coldest person you will ever meet. Anna had grown ice-cold, yet Dumbledore held on to her faithfully. She was trembling. She was not alive. She was dreaming, and nothing was real. She would go to Grimmauld Place and call for him like she had done before. And he would dutifully come and wipe her tears away… Tears that, for years, she would not be able to cry in front of anyone except the punctual, damp darkness… Tears that burnt, stung and ate at her heart until she would be nothing more than a shadow, her light being too much for her weakened, embittered heart to bare. ‘SIRIUS!’ Harry was yelling, but nothing would ever wake Anna up entirely… ‘Aw, has daddy gone and weft you all awone?’ Bellatrix mocked. ‘SIRIUS! SIRIUS!’ Harry kept crying desperately, with no one to answer his call, and only Lupin to restrain him. ‘Did you love him, baby Potter?’ she asked. At the word “love”, Anna’s brain sprung into action. Though her heart was barely beating of shock, her brain received a shockwave. The word “love” on Bellatrix’s lips sounded like “blood”, like “death”. She, who had been accustomed to Dumbledore, Minerva, Lupin and, above all, Sirius’ voices saying that word, could not stand for any higher injustice. Anna tried to move, but her feet were numb.

For S – no! She could not bring herself to think his name. But she could bring herself to think of Harry. For Harry, she thought, and got to her feet tremulously. She tried to take a step forwards, but something was restraining her. ‘A-Albus, if you don’t let me go, I’ll kill you instead of her,’ she said in a low, faint voice. Dumbledore gasped as he released her, and she turned into the beautiful lioness, her head hanging. As Anna moved forwards to face Bellatrix, she reached the spot where Sirius had stood minutes before. Sirius had stood there, breathed there, blinked there, and existed there. He had spread warmth from that very spot, a warmth neither Anna, nor Harry, nor an anonymous, fatherless child will ever feel. The lioness felt hate rise inside of her: though not quite as strong the draining pain that had taken over her, hate gave Anna the strength to move. While Bellatrix cackled gleefully in the distance, Harry liberated himself from Lupin’s clutch – - and the lioness was running after a heavily-lidded cousin of hers - and the bespectacled boy was on her tail – - and the lioness reached the hall , stopping in the silence filled only by the soft trickling of the sprouting water from the Fountain of Magical Brethren… and the boy was right behind her, wand aloft. ‘Come and get me, dear!’ the witch called, her mad voice echoing through the tall room. Whilst Harry insisted on conversing blindly with Bellatrix, Anna used her keen sense of smell to track down her would-have-been-if-S…(she still could not think his name)-had-been-alive-and-had-not-died-by-her-hand cousin. The lioness hid behind a massive, black marble pillar, silently observing Bellatrix who was pacing obliviously in front of her… slowly pacing towards Anna’s mutilating revenge… ‘What’s the matter, baby Potter? My dear old cousin not here to protect you?’ she jeered unknowingly. As Harry’s face grew red-hot, the thin body of a lioness landed on top of Bellatrix’s chest, pushing her forwards and out of her hiding place. Harry could see her as well now… ‘Master, I tried!’ Bella cried after Harry told her about how the prophecy had smashed. ‘Save your breath! He can’t hear you!’ Harry laughed. At that point, Anna’s revenge lost its patience: it had to happen. ‘Remember me, Bella…’ the lioness growled with her paws on Bella’s cheeks. As four deep, identical gashes – gashes that would never fade, or heal, thus keeping Anna in Bella’s memory for a painful amount of time – appeared on each of Bella’s cheeks: the poisoned gashes of revenge, Harry heard a cold voice whisper in his ear. ‘Can’t I, Harry…?’ Voldemort said, stretching his wand arm in front of Harry and muttering a silly but ancient-sounding incantation: to Harry it had no meaning, but for Anna it did the worst. She was already weak, and the ancient spell – one not of this earth – caused her to lose not her powers, but the elven as well as human vitality. Without bodily support, her powers could not protect her.

Such were her powers that they had their own life and defensive mechanism. When chosen to attack both Anna and her powers as a whole, nothing would harm them. Attacking them separately could only mean the destruction of the weaker: Anna’s destruction. She would normally have defended herself, but nothing really mattered anymore… So, when Voldemort uttered the ancient words that meant “Dissolve the soul”, Anna fainted in exhaustion. You would have expected her to die, but, I ask: can you kill the dead? Voldemort, who knew nothing of love or mourning, did not know that there were more powerful things in the world than any spell he could mutter. Anna’s soul did not dissolve, because all her soul was, was already thin smoke…A smoke time would not thicken…Until… But I shan’t get ahead of my story. Let us exchange the darkness of the Ministry for the almost unbearable whiteness of a certain ward in St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries. There, in a corner of “Spell damage: the Augusta St. John Ward” we see that the curtains have been drawn round a bed. Using our magnificently versatile eye we peer through an opening the size of a moth… On the snowy bed lies a young woman – roughly in her twenties, no older than twenty-five – whose beauty would make even the fairest of us, earthlings, shrivel in envy. We follow the graceful traces of her chin, that round nicely into a dazzlingly white neck. We see two arched eyebrows crowning her round eyes. Looking as though they could brush us all, her eyelashes curve innocently. Her cheekbones are high and her nose thin. A black sea of hair vehemently opposes the clouds of puffy whiteness on which her head rests. In spite of all the beauty we see, there is something wrong with the picture. First of all, the calendar behind Anna announces the arrival of June the 1st. Could we have missed so much? It is, after all, a fortnight after a certain battle… Second, the clock behind her heralds the steady arrival of noon. Yet, on this particularly sunny Sunday, no visitors have pushed open the curtains… Also, the young woman’s face is strange, now that the light of day clears our view. Her skin is extremely pale, and even in this state of sleeping grace, she seems ready to cry. Hark! We hear voices! ‘I will not permit you to disrupt her!’ wheezed a squeaky voice. ‘I’ll live without your permission!’ snapped Remus Lupin. ‘But she mustn’t be bothered!’ ‘I’d like to see him try and stop us, George!’ ‘Me too, Fred!’ ‘B – but we still haven’t found a cure to her condition! She might be contagious!’ wheezed the voice again. ‘We’ll risk it,’ said a female’s voice flatly. ‘B – b – but you don’t understand – ‘ Who we can only assume was a hospital employee never got to finish his sentence, and his lecture was stopped by a ‘Garruff,’, as though someone had pushed him aside with enough strength to knock him over.

The curtains were pushed! Loneliness has been chased away and Anna jerked awake, in a horrifying scream. ‘AAAAARGH!’ she yelled, sitting up in her bed. Her hair flew in every direction and she was panting heavily. Her beautiful grey eyes wore the heavy mark of defeat… Suddenly, her body relaxed, falling limply back onto the pillow in a conscious faint – but Lupin was faster. He grabbed her shoulders and leaned her frail body against his chest. ‘H – he’s dead!’ she wailed. ‘G – gone!’ He held her tight in his arms and she held on to him much like she was clinging to sanity in those moments… ‘Anna…’ George whispered, as Mrs Weasley let out a deep sigh. ‘Anna, stop this!’ Minerva’s voice came as sharp as a blade. Everyone turned resentful looks towards her, but she eyed no one but Anna. Professor McGonagall rushed stiffly to the bed and looked straight into Anna’s eyes, gritting her teeth. Anna let go of her father and was sustaining Minerva’s look with dryly red eyes. ‘Stop this?!’ she blurted, her expression stony. At that point, the onlookers realised that Anna’s eyes were dead. ‘Yes! Stop this circus!’ Minerva insisted rigidly, but Anna saw the desperation hid behind the stone; she replied after a pause in which Anna seemed to try very hard not to break anyone’s neck – or cry… it was very hard to tell the difference. ‘I’m…not…you…’ she said with what seemed like superhuman effort. ‘But you’re just as strong, Anna…’ Minerva pleaded, taking the hand that Anna had rested on her knee in hers. Anna, who had fixed her eyes upon Molly’s left foot, jumped a mile high and pulled her arm out of her teacher’s grasp. With a shaking voice, she said, ‘Don’t you even dare…’ she stopped for breath, ‘…to tell me how to handle this…’ she panted, ‘…you have no idea…wha – h – ‘ she buried her face in her hands. She wasn’t crying: the pain was beyond tears, but the scene rendered Molly in tears. ‘Stop it!’ Lupin hissed, and Minerva took a step back, grinding her teeth in an effort not to cry. ‘Now, on a more cheerful note!’ he boomed, throwing his arms wide and trying to sound merry. ‘You’re going to be spending the summer at Arthur and Molly’s,’ he smiled at her. She raised her head, eyes fixed upon the floor. ‘Do you know what it’s like?’ she asked in the same quivering voice. Fred gripped George’s arm in warning. ‘What what’s like, dear?’ Molly said in a too-cheery-to-be-real voice. ‘Death,’ Anna whispered, her eyes empty. ‘I…died…’ ‘Anna, don’t you ever joke about anything like that!’ Molly exclaimed. ‘Joke?’ Anna laughed feebly. ‘That’s what this is...a joke…Nothing but a silly dream and I’m supposed to wake up and – ‘ she gasped, ‘ – and he’ll be there. Like b – ‘ she stopped again, ‘ – like before.’ Lupin frowned, remembering a kiss that he was hoping to have been a figment of his imagination. ‘What do you mean?’ he asked gently, stroking her hair. ‘I can’t even begin to explain,’ she answered quickly, hoarsely. ‘I wonder how come nobody noticed…But I guess war takes everything else off people’s minds. It was better that way, really…’ Molly’s expression of worry deepened.

‘Anna?’ she asked, urging her to go one, despite the fact that her flat tone horrified everyone. ‘He loved me…’ she said. ‘God, he loved me!’ she wailed yet again, burying her face in her hands once again, but regaining composure after a few dry sobs. ‘A – and I loved him…and we…y – you see…’ she addressed Lupin, tilting her head towards him a little, but still not facing his view. ‘I – I’m…going to have a b – baby.’ Lupin’s pale face went white so that is was hard to distinguish between him and the white walls behind him. He stood up, hands visibly shaking, and muttered quickly but surprisingly calmly, ‘I’m going to see the Healer.’ There was no fury in his voice, and Anna noticed and, for the first time, truly appreciated her father’s calm. ‘You’re not mad?’ she asked interestedly, shifting her view: she was looking him in the eye for the first time that day. ‘Just get well, Anna…’ he said wearily, leaving her question hanging. He made to kiss her forehead. She grabbed his arm with unnervingly strong fingers for a convalescent pregnant woman. ‘Answer me,’ she said harshly, all faintness disappearing, pulling him towards her so that their faces were an inch apart. ‘And if you think you can judge me, or punish me for something that made me happier than I ever was, you’re mistaken. You know what it’s like, dad. Loving and losing: but the difference is mum left. Sirius never intended to leave! He got taken away, and that hurts more than anything! And I’m not even going to say that I wish I were dead because, - guess what? -, I am dead.’ She let go of his hand and leaned back, her once sweet face now aged in an uncanny display of every single wound she had spared others from. Sirius’ death was not simply his death. It was the death of a past, of a possibility, of a future. And so, Anna did the logical thing. She died, seeing no other point in life… That is, until…But…

XXIV. Yes, I know, I keep you in suspense (or I wish it to be the case). But I cannot resist the temptation of going ahead of my story and sparing Anna the sadness. However, pain has its purpose, and in Anna’s tale, it won several wars. After a week longer in the hospital, Anna moved into the Burrow. Welcoming arms welcomed her, smiling faces smiled. But none could fill the black hole inside her: a terrible black hole which was spreading, and would never make revenge its purpose. No, not even revenge would ever dissolve the void in Anna…Only… Again I find myself within temptation… ‘Dinner, everyone!’ Molly yelled at the top of her voice. Children – who will always be children for Molly – entered the warm kitchen in no particular order: Fred, Ginny, George, Ron and Hermione. As they sat down, Mrs Weasley asked impatiently, ‘Where are those two?’ Everyone shrugged at the queue – except Hermione. ‘I tried to stop her…’ ‘WILL YOU PLEASE GET OUT OF MY ROOM, FLEUR?’ Anna shouted audibly, and everyone except Bill smirked. Fleur’s probably meek reply was not heard, but she rushed moments later into the kitchen with her blond hair flying and slightly short of breath.

‘Anything the matter, Fleur?’ Bill asked interestedly, rising slightly from his chair as she sat down: Fred and Ginny rolled their eyes. ‘Of course not,’ she dismissed him in a shaky voice in which it was hard to distinguish her usually poignant French accent. ‘Isn’t Anna coming?’ Ron asked Fleur after a few minutes’ awkward silence. Fleur shrugged, avoiding Ron’s look. Even more looks were exchanged – the occupants of the dinner table were moving their eyes excessively to complement their lack of conversation – and Anna finally came into the kitchen, looking as depressed and depressing as ever. ‘Sorry everyone,’ she said, clearing her throat. Her voice came out hoarse, as though she had been crying for a long time. Her eyes were red and her cheeks were white. Mrs Weasley shook her head in disapproval: Anna had not been out of the house in three days, and the isolation from nature was starting to show. The pot plant Mrs Weasley had put on her nightstand had shrivelled up and died in merely a few hours, and, for three very long days, the summer sky had been as grey as Anna’s eyes. The inhabitants of the Burrow were just realising how contagious Anna’s sadness was. They were all testy and sullen, almost always silent or otherwise deploring the bad weather. As they passed parsnips, potatoes, leeks and roast round the table, nothing could be heard except for the gentle tap of an occasional drop of rain on the windows. The silence was pressing upon the tops of their heads and the fellow eaters were all feeling the slow approach of nine monstrous headaches. ‘Ah, what eh lovely ring you’re wearing, Anna!’ Fleur exclaimed after a stray ray of sunlight was reflected in the adamant-in-mithril-seashell on Anna’s finger. ‘ ‘Oo gave it too you?’ she asked interestedly. The eight waited tensely for the explosion. Anna had stopped eating – or, rather, playing with her food like she always was, in a vehement refusal to eat or live – and was staring at her palm, turning the ring in between her fingers. The small adamant sphere was a part of the Silmarilli which was given to Galadriel to keep in Lothlorien. The thin mithril sliver was perfectly embracing her finger, and in every speck of light and colour, Anna saw a distant face… ‘J’ai ete sa femme…’ (I was his.) she said, the smallest crease appearing between her eyebrows, as though she was making an effort not to cry. ‘Et qu’est-ce que s’est passé avec il?’ (And what happened to him?) Fleur asked immediately, as though she had been feverishly waiting for the moment in which she could find out more about Anna’s love life. ‘Il est mort…’ (He is dead.) Anna said, and her sentence hung heavily in the air, suspended by their nine incipient headaches, nine slowly beating hearts. ‘When d’you learn how to speak French?’ Ron frowned, breaking the silence so that everyone jerked awake. ‘Oh!’ Anna sighed softly – no one but Hermione, who was sitting next to her, heard it – before replying. ‘D – Dumbledore taught me a few years back,’ she said, trying to cut the sentence as short as she could. Anna did not much fancy talking these days – COME TO USSSSS! At the sound, Anna’s head jerked up, her eyes still dull, but slightly wired by the possibility of danger. ‘D’you hear that?’ George whispered, but Anna’s palm rose, silencing him. The adamant was glittering in the sunlight, causing George to squint when looking at it. Silence pressed upon them again, now dragging along an obvious feeling of fear.

Anna got up slowly, and started moving towards the back door. She reached for the doorknob and, as the tip of her finger touched the cold metal, a lugubrious light flashed before her eyes: she blinked. When she opened them again, she was standing upon a hilltop, with rain pouring over her, drenching sorrow as well as hair. Before her, lay three small gravestones which read: Sirius Orion Black - died because of you – Sirius John Black - will die because of you Alia Sairalinde Black - will never live because of you Upon each of the three marble gravestones lay a wreath of dried flowers – possibly roses, but Anna could not tell. A torn ribbon was wrapped clumsily around each of them, baring the inscription: Never united in Death. Anna stared at the letters in turn, having lost their meaning upon the second reading. She fell to her knees, splattering mud around. She did not feel the soft earth under her knees anymore. She simply did not feel anything else but despair. She raised her eyes, expecting to see clear skies, suns and smiling faces – what we all expect to see when we tilt our heads back. Instead, she saw three figures, comprised of particles of golden Dust, standing gloomy-faced in front of her. Their heads were hanging above the tombstones, and they all had an untouchable trait in common… They emanated warmth, and Anna stretched her hand. Anna’s hand was an inch in front of the closest of them, when she gasped in horror. The silhouette she had been about to touch was a little girl’s. She had dark hair and incredible grey eyes. Without knowing who she was looking at, Anna felt a little disconcerted by regarding what seemingly was a reflection of her seven-year-old self. The little girl raised her head, all gloominess disappearing. When their eyes met, the girl whispered bitterly, in a harsh voice, ‘You never let me live,’ she said, the warm, golden light around her dissolving. The girl’s previously healthy-looking skin turned incredibly sallow and dehydrated. She was shrivelling at an alarming rate, eyeing Anna with more hate than anyone ever had. Anna stood up and made forward to touch the girl. As Anna’s still silky hair was getting soaked by the rain, the girl’s equally dark one was hanging in thick snakes like a curtain across her face. Such an Inferi-look the girl had upon her that Anna felt unease creep into her heart, but knew all the same. Anna knew who the little girl was. As Anna’s icy fingers touched the girl’s mermaid-like skin, she felt like acid had been spilled on her hand. With a mad cackle, the child’s body dissolved, Dust disappearing amidst raindrops, leaving Anna dumbstruck. She pressed on, however, to the little boy. He met her gaze, and his eyes were as blue as his father’s had been and his hair equally as unkempt. He raised his head and smiled: he was warm, and Anna was thankful. His smile turned into a grin to which Anna responded merrily. As the boy bared his teeth, a thick, black liquid started dripping from between them, down down down his neck and shirt and onto the cold, wet mud. The boy tilted his head back, letting three sharp words escape his lips, ‘You

killed me…’ he croaked spookily, letting large amounts of black orch-blood spill out of his mouth, carrying his soul with them as the rain diluted their dark composition. Dust met raindrops and vanished again. One last silhouette remained, leaning against Sirius Orion Black’s tombstone. As Anna fearfully approached the pale man, she saw that he was wearing a suit not unlike Sirius’s, and knew once again… The man lifted his head and his lifeless eyes bored into Anna’s with neither dislike nor love, but with a dull indifference. The corners of his mouth raised into a mocking grin which bore bloody, red, pointed teeth. Anna turned on her heel as to run away, feeling shot stabbed burnt sick nauseous all at once, but met an obstacle. ‘Hello, darling…’ a dark-haired woman said to her, smiling in what she wanted to be an affectionate way. Anna gasped. Rain was pouring down the face chest arms legs and her body had grown cold. She was shivering in the middle of an uncannily silent storm. The woman looked very much like her. She had a white skin, but looked unhealthy, like plant which had lain in poor light for a long time. Her eyes were blue – turquoise, actually - , but dull and bloodshot. Her thick, waist-length hair was as dark as Anna’s, but it had lost the shine her daughter’s had. Seeing the two sitting face-to-face was like seeing ice and steam at the same time. They were both alike – meaning that they had common features – but ice was repulsive, cold and biting. Ice had been robbed of its pure beauty by hate, greediness, slyness and all manner of ill behaviours. Steam was warm, young and beautiful, in spite of its present smoky quality – on a normal day, Anna would have been boiling water. Steam was a soothing sight, in its opposition to ice. Ice was growing steadily more compact at the sight of warmth…quite an unexpected reaction. Her mother’s snakelike voice hissed in her ears, and Anna toughened. Upon seeing her angry expression, Luthien made an odd disapproving noise. For a moment, Anna came back, and hate rose in her. Hate against everything that her mother stood for. She straightened her back condescendingly, in outright disapproval of her mother’s presumptuousness. ‘Hello, mummy…’ she said. ‘No need for that tone, dear. I’m only here to help,’ Luthien said kindly. Anna felt reluctance in believing her. She kept on talking, but slid her hand gracefully in her back pocket, and held onto the firm cherry wand that had so many times saved her life. ‘Help?!’ Anna blurted. ‘Help me what? Rid the world of evil?’ ‘Yes, very funny, darling. You’ve grown quite cold lately, haven’t you?’ ‘What?!’ Ana said sharply. ‘Oh, don’t tell me you haven’t looked yourself in the mirror so many nights, thinking how it would have felt to be dead – ‘ Anna gasped again, but the rain drowned all panic. How did she know? ‘ – and don’t tell me you don’t see him everywhere you go….Just yesterday you ran after that man in the square, didn’t you?’ Luthien smiled slyly. ‘It is, after all, a free world – or so you would think it to be,’ Anna said. ‘Don’t patronize me – I am offering my help, you know…’Luthien interjected. ‘A first, I have to admit. Are you sure you’re feeling well? You wouldn’t want to help your daughter, now, that would be unacceptable…’ Anna said. ‘You see? This is the bitterness of which I speak…It does hurt, doesn’t it?’ Luthien said sweetly.

‘And I am sure you care,’ Anna said, feeling hate’s warming waves inside her. ‘Listen, I can help you – save you from the life of the three graves, Anna…’she said. ‘I don’t need saving,’ Anna said, turning on her heel. A force so immense stopped her that she almost fell to her knees – but Anna was growing stronger by the minute. ‘Since Sirius’s – ‘ ‘Shut up! You – You have no right to – ‘ Anna hissed. Hearing Sirius’s name uttered by that snake-tongue made her feel vomit, and the clasp on her wand tightened. ‘Tut, tut, tut…Anna you really must let go of all this anger…You know I can bring him back to you…’ Luthien said slowly. ‘How?’ Anna asked at once, a wave of electricity passing through her spine. ‘If all the Riders unite their Magic, they can bring back not one, but a million men, I am sure!’ Luthien said. ‘Riders? You mean Galbatorix? Morzan? No thank you – ‘ ‘Listen to me! They’re your one chance at getting the life you’ve always dreamed of! They’re your one chance at getting Sirius back!’ Luthien hissed. ‘Traitors? Murderers? Tyrants bring him back?’ Anna yelled – the rain had grown louder as Luthien’s anger swelled. ‘Me, indebted to them? Never!’ ‘You silly little girl! Won’t you save yourself for once?’ Luthien yelled back. ‘Why can’t you see what’s good for yourself for once?’ ‘Because I can’t possibly crash an entire world for my comfort!’ Anna retorted. Luthien grinned. ‘It would not be a crash of worlds if you listened to my proposal…’ she smiled surreptitiously. ‘Oh? A crash of universes, then?’ Anna said. ‘No, dear. You see, we give you Sirius back – and a normal life. And you help us,’ Luthien kept on smiling. ‘How?’ Anna asked warily, sensing a not-so-noble vibration coming from her mother. ‘You help us create the Middle-Earth your grandfather always dreamed of.’ ‘Meaning a peaceful one?’ ‘Yes. A life in peace for the humans,’ Luthien smiled. Anna let go of her wand. Was it possible that her mother, who had once set out to continue the war Sauron had lost, had now reformed? Was it possible that she, who saw elves as by far the noblest creatures and considered humans to be vermin, was now planning on treating them kindly? Anna had to admit that Dumbledore’s habit of seeing the good in people had gotten to her…And her hand hung limply by her side. ‘How can I stop the wars?’ Anna asked. ‘Oh, my dear, it’s really nothing for you. All you have to do is come and help us enter Minas Tirith for good and then you’ll have your Sirius – ‘ ‘I knew it!’ Anna shook her head. ‘It’s always tyranny with you! Always oppression of the humans! Can’t you see that you’re no better than they are? Can’t you see that they have already fought enough wars? The time of elves has gone, mother! Just let it go! Neither revenge nor power will bring you any satisfaction!’ Anna said. ‘To hell it won’t!’ Luthien shrieked, looking like she had been holding in that line for a long time. She started panting and reddening. ‘Listen to me, there are other ways in which – ‘

‘No!’ Luthien interrupted. ‘You don’t know what it’s like! You’ve never felt weak! Arwen was always the noble one, the one Elrond cared for and I was left with nothing to cling to – ‘ ‘You had dad!’ Anna cried. ‘You had him and you left him! You left us both to chase shadows! You’ll never break the Edains! Purely because they stand strong from within, unlike you, who haven’t the courage to make any allegiances! No, you want the power all for yourself – do you honestly think you’ll be happier with power? Ruler of dying, unhappy, mutinous people? Just think about it!’ ‘Shut up!’ Luthien hissed. ‘You’re just like her, with your ideals of peace and happiness. Happiness doesn’t exist, and it’s love that dies first! I learned that a long time ago and it’s high time you learned it too!’ ‘I don’t have to do anything I don’t see fit to,’ Anna said calmly. ‘And I will not help you, in spite of what you offer.’ ‘You dare refuse me?’ Luthien said. ‘Oh, I dare, though it is not a question of gall,’ Anna replied. ‘You little – ‘ Luthien said, pulling out her sword. Its black blade was like an abyss of pain. It simply did not reflect light, but rejected it. Anna had often wondered – during her previous battles with her mother – if the darkness of her blade was dried up orch blood or just a spell. Anna wasn’t ready, but her reflexes were sharp: she drew the silver knife and inserted its entire blade in her mother’s jugular. Luthien retained a surprised expression for a moment, then cackled madly and dissolved into black Dust. In front of Anna now lay a large, coiled snake, its mouth wide open, fangs and forked tongue bared. It hissed as madly as her mother had cackled, then burst into flame and withered: her mother’s daemon, Searwen. Anna stared amazedly at her crime. She had apparently killed her own mother, and the fact would have been believable if not for the strange, distracting noises growing louder and louder in her ears… ‘AAARGH!’ someone screamed and the high-pitched sound took Anna by such surprise that she covered her ears with her hands, shutting her eyes rapidly. She opened them again to overlook the Burrow’s kitchen, seven stricken faces eyeing her and a short, red-headed opponent in front of her, a silver-bladed, ivory-handled knife in her jugular. Anna had stabbed not her mother, who had once more proved to be nothing more except the illusion of a mother, but Ginny. The two were united by the short knife, Anna’s tensed arm holding the dagger, Ginny’s pained expression imploring Anna to stop, and her small, thin hand holding Anna’s wrist. A fine trickle of blood ran down Ginny’s cleavage, incredibly dark against her whitened skin…And Anna withdrew her knife with a searing gasp, and in doing so let Ginny’s body fall limply to the floor. ‘Ginny!’ Mrs Weasley shrieked, as the seven gathered round in a circle around the girl’s body: Ginny was no longer breathing. ‘Anna, do something!’ Hermione cried, with three perfect tears on her cheeks. Anna, do something? She, who no longer had the power to live for herself, give life to another? But Anna that had come back upon the hilltop had not completely disappeared, and Ginny was her sister, and it had been her fault, all of it… ‘Bill, get out of the way,’ Anna said with unnerving calm, pushing Bill away gently and crouching next to Ginny’s contorted body.

She extended her hand, placing her long fingers an inch above Ginny’s stab, her face screwed up in an effort to summon the magic she had once possessed… Tears of pain and frustration came to her eyes, but the little of Anna that was left inside her, the little pride the lioness had, would not let them leave the confines of her eyelids. ‘You can do it, Anna…’ Fleur whispered. Fleur did not know the half of it! She did not know how Anna had suffered, how she was still suffering…But neither did Fleur know what powers Anna had. Anna felt heartened. In spite of her not knowing anything about Anna, Fleur believed in her. It used to be enough once… Her necklace, which had grown dull since Sirius’s death, lit a light so powerful that Molly remembers her Auntie Muriel – who lived several hilltops north – questioning her about it, years later. Ginny’s face slowly regained its healthy colour, breath installing itself back into her lungs in searing gasps. As everyone did their best to have Ginny feel as comfortable as possible – to the point of Fleur asking her if she wanted a cup of tea – Anna withdrew in a corner, crouching on the floor, with tears waiting to burst from behind her hidden eyelids. ‘Anna?’ Fred had leaned to speak to her. ‘Are you alright?’ George asked. Anna lowered her hands which had been covering her face. ‘I close my eyes and I see three graves: my children and Sirius. Their talking bodies are leaning against the gravestones accusing me of having robbed their lives. My mother turns up and tells me to – ‘ she stopped; it did not feel prudent telling about it to anyone. ‘ – never mind that. I open my eyes and instead of having stabbed my mother, who had attacked me, I’d stabbed Ginny!’ Anna said, emphasising the last word so that the room grew silent and all heads turned to her. ‘They’re trying to drive me mad! She’s toying with my brain!’ she wailed, her hands in her hair. ‘Who is?’ Molly asked timidly. Anna did not answer: she could not speak her mother’s name…She could not speak that vile name which she had inherited…And to think that the first Luthien of the world was of such purity…She rose, shaking and went to the door once more, this time not touching its doorknob, but making to push it. She felt a strong hand grabbing her elbow and turning her around. She acquiesced, and found herself face-to-face with Bill. ‘Don’t you – ‘ he started, but seemed instantly ashamed of what he wanted to say. ‘Don’t what?’ Anna asked wearily. ‘…do anything to…well…’ he continued. ‘Well?’ ‘Don’t hurt yourself, okay?’ Bill said at a loss for words. Anna tugged firmly on her own arm, releasing herself from Bill’s hold. ‘Hurt myself?’ she asked. ‘Hurt myself, you say?’ she said more loudly this time, grabbing the pointy knife Molly used to cut vegetables with from the nearby table. She extended her arm, showing an unexpectedly white forearm, and, with the knife, made a long stab – at least ten inches long and one deep – from which blood began to pour. Her blood was as shocking against her skin as Ginny’s had been, only Anna’s eyelids were shaking – she was, once more, holding back tears. ‘I can’t even hurt myself!’ Anna cried, tears rolling down her cheeks, as the wound resealed neatly, leaving neither scar, nor blood behind. ‘Even if I w – wanted to, I couldn’t hurt myself! I have to live!’ she said, bursting out into the meanwhile pouring rain.

Anna stormed out, and the moment she set foot on the damp earth, the rain stopped. It was a radical change, yet Anna noticed nothing. She had her goal set: to get as far away as possible from anyone who would or could question her – she had had enough of the world. Anna kept walking for a long time. She entered the patch of forest behind the Burrow and found that it did not end as soon as she expected. The little forest had grown as large as Fangorn, and she never wanted to get out. Branches brushed gently against her shoulders, her hair got tangled in spikes and thorns so that anyone would have been able to retrace her steps by searching for her long locks of hair. In spite of the rainy weather, the air in the forest was as dry as Anna’s face, but considerably colder. Anna felt like she had walked into another world… Soon, Anna reached the forest’s brim, stepping out into the strange light of a setting sun. It couldn’t be sunset; the sun was dry, the weather warm and every smell more pungent. Her senses felt soothed…As the wind played with her long hair, she realised that this was no longer her world… While England remained her country, Middle Earth was a part of her that she could not shake: in her soul, she kept that world, associating it with all manners of strong feelings – happiness, grief, despair, sadness and nostalgia all brought Middle Earth to her. Anna took a few more steps and saw that the grass abruptly became air as the hilltop upon which she was standing died into a deep gorge. A single, white, stray simblemyne was at her feet, and Anna kneeled. She lay on the soft grass with her face pressed against the earth, drinking in its essence, hoping to absorb some of its powers, for hers had withered. The virginal petals of the simblemyne caressed her cheek, drinking in a salty raindrop… Anna rose to her knees once more, not even bothering to wipe away the abundance of tears now flowing down her cheeks. The warm light of the peaceful sunset bathed her features: even in grief, she was beautiful. Her cheeks had grown slightly pink because of the previous strut. Her eyes were wide open, looking like the grey sea when it reflects the shine of twilight. Anna’s hair encased her like a fluid cage: in all its darkness, it looked like an aura. Behold! Her cheeks are made of crystal! Tears – the raindrops of years’ worth of teeth-clenching – were glittering on her face, her slightly whiter than usual lips opening to speech… (Memories / Bittersweet) ‘See Sirius?’ she yelled, throwing her arms wide, a triumphant expression on her face. ‘I’m singing – it’s what you wanted, isn’t it?’ Little did she know that a certain defeated soldier was watching her from behind an old oak, his fingernails digging deep into the bark in his attempt to keep his rage and pain as silent as possible. Fred was fiercely clutching a thin twig watching Anna kick out at the world, when a crack broke the silence and he lost support, stumbling into Anna’s alert view. He felt exposed and ashamedly tried to back away, but Anna’s thin hand grabbed his and turned him round. ‘Don’t run…’she whispered and he knew nothing better than to take her in his arms – she pushed him gently away. ‘Don’t…if you do, I’ll throw the mother of all crying fits…Where’s George?’ ‘Looking for you!’ Fred said, slightly confused by Anna’s new sensitivity.

‘Me?’ she asked. ‘Yeah, Mum made us. But we would have gone anyway.’ Fred explained, then began again after a slight pause, ‘You will have to come back to life eventually, you know…’ ‘I know, but that doesn’t mean that I have the strength to do it now…’ Fred took a deep breath, and tried to change the subject as well as find out what he really wanted to, ‘What happened back there anyway? Stabbing Ginny and everything…Renewed personal vendetta?’ ‘No,’ Anna said seriously. ‘But the explanation is long and boring – ‘ ‘I’ve got time and a rested brain: tell me,’ Fred persuaded her. ‘Fine, you asked for it…How much do you know?’ she asked. ‘Lupin told me about the prophecy and powers, but that’s it,’ he said. ‘It’s a good basis,’ Anna sighed, realising that she would have to start from scratch, and straightened her back. ‘I’m not from this place – this world. My mother was an elf. She was the daughter of Elrond Halfelven, from who I have inherited the ability to foresee all major…events.’ Fred sat down, realising himself that it was going to be a long story. Anna followed: the grass was moist and cool. ‘So, I’m partly from Middle Earth. And in Middle Earth, the war for domination has been going on for about three Ages. The last-but-one warlord who opposed the elves, men and dwarves – that’s our side – was Sauron. He forged for himself a magical ring with a life of its own, who gave the wearer power. But in his greed, he tied his fate to the ring, and the ring was destroyed by a hobbit during the last war, twenty years ago – two years ago for us.’ Anna said, much like a teacher to the class. ‘Now, my mother and her sister are complete opposites. My grandfather is a noble man, really. I’ve met him once or twice and he seems intelligent and kind. My aunt, Arwen, is the same. But my mother was…shall we say the wrong sort. She always was a bit of a rebel – the bad way – and she fell in love with a man named Galbatorix, who served Sauron dearly. My mother followed him into Mordor – that’s where Sauron and his loyal subjects live – and became one of them. Since Sauron was destroyed in the last great War, his right hand, Galbatorix, has taken charge of the movement, probably promising my mother a place beside him on the throne of Middle Earth.’ ‘Well, are they all that evil?’ Fred asked. ‘They all think there is none better than the elf, and therefore oppress all humans and dwarves. The bad news is all the elves have fled to the Grey Havens after the second war, and now the land that Galbatorix and my mother are after is populated by subjects they hate, and will most certainly punish severely for merely existing,’ Anna explained. ‘They have armies consisting entirely of orch – and I mean millions are being created everyday.’ ‘And what can we do to help?’ Fred asked. ‘You?! This is not your war! The thing is that while they keep on fighting over there, we inevitably fight over here: the two worlds are connected, you see?’ ‘But you said you played an important part – or your dad said something like that,’ Fred said. ‘I’m getting there. Now, you know the prophecy, how I’m supposed to die fighting and oppress all evil and all that, right?’ she asked and Fred nodded. ‘In short, you know as much as Dad does. Problem is, no one has ever had the heart to tell him the real meaning of the prophecy – you see, he wasn’t there when it was made. Arwen made it, and it has various interpretations, but only she can tell us what she meant by it. I cannot be murdered by anything that is a part of nature and of me, but when the

laws of nature are broken, the ones who broke them become outsiders: they live outside of nature. It is in a mother’s nature to love her daughter, and I, who was born to kill her, am naturally in her bottom ten favourite people. When a mother hates her daughter with such strength, she goes against ancient laws and magic not even elves are supposed to tamper with. She can kill me. She’s the only one who can and probably the one who ultimately will.’ Fred’s jaw was hanging. ‘Don’t look so shaken!’ Anna said indignantly. ‘I haven’t told you the best part! I’m not exactly unprotected. Because no one except my mother can defeat me, the entire inhabitants of Middle Earth offer me their protection. Night and day kings and queens and soldiers and normal people work to thwart all of Galbatorix’s plans to open Portals – oh, but you don’t know what a portal is!’ Anna said. Fred shook his head, looking bemused. ‘It’s not exactly normal for people to slide from world to world. Portals are opened with great difficulty, and only I – as far as we know – open them freely. Everyone else has limitations – for example, if the distance you cross between worlds is too big you can fall in the Abyss, which is a big black void. The ability to open portals is given by the three perfect jewels of the First Age: the Silmarilli. With a mere fragment – even powder would do – of one of the jewels, you can channel your powers so as to open Portals. One Silmarilli is in Lothlorien – the forest where I was born, which my greatgrandmother rules, making it her purpose to guard the jewel in every minute – one is in Minas Tirith, the capital of Edains – meaning men, and the third…’ Anna said, her voice trailing away. ‘…No one knows where the third is. We believe that Sauron had it and broke it into four pieces and shared him amongst his most beloved servants: Morzan, Galbatorix, my mother and Durza.’ ‘Can I just say that I see no silver lining?’ Fred said. ‘But there is,’ Anna smiled faintly. ‘Firstly, we have two of the three jewels and they are under such guard that no one will ever get them. Besides, mean people have always been a bit insane, haven’t they? Look at Voldemort – you can’t tell me he’s got all his marbles! Sauron was no different. In spite of him being skilled enough to create the One Ring, he had a bit of a greed problem. He broke the Silmarilli he had in hope of keeping it safe: he could only lose one piece at a time, couldn’t he? But the Silmarilli’s great strength lies in their perfection, and if you ruin that…Let’s just say you’d get lost easier in Galbatorix’s portal than in mine. What’s more, the four who had the pieces were inane enough to use the jewels for crowns, necklaces, swords and all sorts of useless, gaudy things.’ ‘Meaning they can’t get to you?’ he asked. ‘Meaning they have a hard time getting to me,’ Anna said coolly. ‘Well that’s not much of a guarantee!’ Fred said indignantly. ‘No, but the Riders are,’ Anna said. ‘Riders?’ ‘Yes…’Anna said. ‘Perhaps I’d better show you,’ she said, getting up and taking a step forwards. After a moment’s pause, she called, ‘Leithya!’ Nothing happened for quite some time, and then Fred felt the gentle touch of a gust of wind – then stillness of the air – then another gust of wind, followed by stillness. He turned his head to look over his shoulder, and saw an immense, dark-green dragon land right next to him. His jaw hanging, he noticed the fine texture of her scales, the strength of her muscles and the wisdom in her blue eyes.

‘Leithya, meet Fred. Fred, this is my dragon, Leithya,’ Anna said, indicating the magnificently poised beast with an extended palm. On her hand, a strange spiral shined brightly, like a diamond in the light. Fred frowned worriedly, but Anna explained at once, ‘It’s gedwey ignasia. It’s the Riders’ Mark. I am a Shur’tugal. A Dragon Rider.’ Leithya threw her head back and gave a small roar, baring her teeth and extending her wings. ‘She hasn’t flown in a long time…Not for real…’ Anna sighed, then made forward to stroke Leithya’s strong neck. Fred took a step back as the dragon closed her eyes peacefully, purring slightly as Anna’s fingers traced her scales. Anna smiled broadly for the first time since Sirius died. ‘Don’t be afraid – come closer!’ she urged Fred, but he hesitated. ‘Why is he so afraid?’ the great dragon asked. ‘They’re not used to dragons here, Leithya. Most of them are mean-spirited in this world,’ Anna told her. Leithya softly hit the ground with her tail, making it quiver, and Anna frown. ‘I’m not some beast he can judge. Have him ride me, and tell the difference,’ Leithya growled. ‘Are you sure? He’s not exactly experienced, you need to be careful,’ Anna told her. The green dragon’s great turquoise eye blinked, meeting Anna’s grey one. They needed no more. ‘Fred, come here!’ Anna said loudly. ‘Wha-?’ he said. ‘I’m not getting anywhere near her! She’ll bite my head off!’ ‘Will you just get here, please?’ Anna demanded impatiently. ‘She won’t hurt you! Not if I tell her not to! Not if you give her no reason to!’ Fred moved shyly forwards, arriving next to Anna; Leithya lowered her massive body and Fred saw a leather saddle on her back. ‘Get on!’ Anna commanded firmly. ‘No way!’ Fred refused. ‘I’ll come with you! How many times will you be given the chance of riding a dragon? Besides, the feeling is remarkable! You’ll see, just get on, please!’ Anna insisted. Seeing her press on with the matter, Fred perched himself onto the saddle, taking hold of the reins. Anna cleared her throat. ‘You wouldn’t be able to command a dragon to save your life, Fred,’ Anna said amusedly, placing her weight on one foot. Sunset had not quite died behind her, and the orange light of the fire-ball was filtered through her dark hair. It outlined her strong, thin frame and, for the first time, Fred saw a slight bulge in her lower abdomen – the baby in her womb was an inevitable constant. Anna mounted the dragon gracefully, with a fluid movement that showed she had done it thousands of times. ‘Hold on!’ she said warningly, and Fred put his arms on either side of her waist. Leithya took a step forward and, extending her strong wings, took flight. She flew for a second or two into the direct sunlight and, just as Fred was thinking how annoying it all really was, she changed direction, flying towards the Burrow. The cool night air was blowing Anna’s sweet smelling hair against his face. The stars had started shining, and the moon was a blurry orb in the dim light of the setting sun. Fred straightened his back to drink in the experience. He spread his arms, looking like

a bird wanting to fly away. His chest heaved under the pressure of his great breaths, his eyes were closed. The evening dew was in the air – and Anna was in everything. She belonged there, Fred thought. She was a Dragon Rider, a Child of Nature, a witch, an elf, but mostly she was just Anna. And it was Anna who was his friend, and it was Anna who was hurt. Meanwhile, Anna was enjoying a well-awaited, well-deserved ride…and conversation. ‘You’re still hurting, Shahla…’ Leithya’s calm, motherly voice spoke inside Anna’s head. ‘What did you expect?’ Anna answered pointedly. ‘I loved him, and I am carrying his child.’ ‘But you’re still so young – ‘ ‘That’s where you’re wrong…Leithya, I’m older than half the people I meet!’ ‘No! It’s you who is wrong! In spite of all you’ve been through, you’re young. It’s your one great quality – if you let go of your youth then you have nothing to hold on to!’ ‘But I feel old…I’m having a baby, for goodness’ sake!’ ‘There will be other loves, other children, other battles. There is still more to live, Anna!’ ‘Possibly. But there will be no more loves and no more children…You know that too, deep down…’ Leithya let out a thread of smoke – a sigh. She then swerved majestically to land upon the Weasleys’ lawn. Molly ran out of the house, but stopped dead at the sight of the great green dragon. Her hair was blown by the wind caused by Leithya’s landing. The hem of her robe had risen slightly. Ginny, Hermione and Fleur followed, white-faced. Bill came sprinting out of the forest behind the house, dismissing the great dragon behind Anna and Fred, who had dismounted merrily. Bill grabbed Anna’s upper arms and turned her round, shaking her into sense. ‘What were you thinking?!’ he spat at her. ‘We’ve been looking for you for four hours!’ at which Leithya let out a deafening roar, grabbing Bill and holding him up by the ankle, head down. ‘Leithya, let go of him!’ Anna said desperately, finding no excuse for the amount of trouble she was causing the Weasleys. ‘No one touches my Rider…’ Leithya growled. ‘He was trying to protect me! Let go of him!’ Anna yelled. Bill was dropped from a height with a small crack onto the moist night air. ‘My leg!’ he exclaimed, grabbing hold of the member in question. ‘Oh-my-God!’ Anna gasped, seeing the small tip of a white bone emerging from Bill’s reddened skin. ‘I’m so sorry,’ she muttered, touching the white part of the sharp bone with the tip of her middle finger. Her Evenstar glowed coldly, and Bill gasped as the fragment of bone protruding his skin was slowly retreating, the stab caused by its sharp tip healing. Anna stood up slowly, her gaze misty. She turned round, bowing her head, and entered the house. Inside, she climbed the stairs, opened the door to her bedroom and, in her day-clothes, got into bed, trying to feel warm again… She cried and cried, but never fell asleep. Her facial muscles were no longer working, and her tears were simply inundating her cheeks unstoppably. The silence was once again dead, and Anna needed to see Sirius… She closed her eyes and took a deep breath…

A pair of grey eyes opened to see the ceiling of a forgotten bedroom in number twelve, Grimmauld Place. Anna was snug in the covers that felt so cold now. But the small geranium Sirius had placed on his window sill had not died, much like her love. The red pout of the flower looked like she was sending a reproach towards Anna’s lazy grief…And nature was one thing Anna could not ignore. Feeling incapable of sustaining the geranium’s accusatory looks, Anna pushed the covers aside, rising from her bed and turning to haunt the dusty house instead. As she met walls, dust, carpets and paintings, Anna realised that Grimmauld Place was the dirtiest, ugliest house she had ever been in, and that it had never been otherwise. Something else had made it bearable… The silence in the house was ethereal…Such was Anna’s conviction that she was alone, that even she jumped upon seeing her own reflection in a grimy mirror on the second floor – a miracle in itself, for Kreacher had seemingly gone on a holiday to celebrate Sirius’s death. Nothing was left inside that house, both literally, and for Anna. In the kitchen, dust had settled everywhere. Dishes lay pell-mell in the sink, sycophantically being wet by droning drops of water leaking from the faucet. On the table lay a stone-dry piece of bread, a ruffled napkin and another dirty plate. Anna took a step further, reaching the far end of the table, opposite the mess of Sirius’ last meal. On that table corner, Anna saw a crystal glass half-filled with an emerald liquid. Anna raised the glass to her lips, wishing, much like Juliet, that it were the poison on Sirius’ last breath. She sniffed the drink and wrinkled her nose – absinthe! Anna tightened her grip on the glass, her very thin wrist looking improper on the crystal brandy-glass. With all the might she had, letting go of all the anger she had held inside, Anna threw the glass against the wall. Absinthe was splattered everywhere in tiny, autumn-rain-like droplets, and the glass shattered into millions of particles of fine crystal. The glittering dust was spread at Anna’s feet, much resembling her broken heart. Anna’s cry had stabbed the silence inside the old house, giving it feeling for the first time since it had last been inhabited. Anna turned round, and walked into the hallway, defeated. She was going home with the same sadness in her heart, and was just realising that that sadness will become part of her slowly, never fading away entirely. ‘Homenum revelio!’ a clear yet weary sounding voice said, from the darkness. Anna acted on instinct, choosing the fastest and safest way and throwing her weight into the wall opposite her, entering it wholly, becoming one with the – ‘Jesus!’ Anna exclaimed, her immaterial hands pressing upon the first layer of mould. The greenish-blue substance smelled like sweat and rotten flesh combined. It was the filth that centuries had dragged in, that bitterness had kept and that sloppiness had covered with a grotesque wallpaper. Anna did not enter the wall after all, but pushed hard against its soft, filthy cover of mould and bounced back into the hallway. Anna, who had never thus far had morning-sickness, felt sick. The smell of death, grief and grime hung in her perfectly rounded nostrils like a stone in the arms of a weak child. It crushed her till she could bear no longer, and bent over, throwing up into the hollow troll-leg that constituted an umbrella-stand. After rising again, her breath coming our in searing gasps, Anna remembered herself. She stilled her breath, the infinite calm she possessed seeming somewhat quotidian. What more harm could anyone bring to her? More suffering would surely end in death, and death was the only thing she embraced nowadays…

Yet, in spite of not being certain of another wizard’s presence in the house, Anna could be certain of the presence of at least one other person. A person who had yet no voice, nor power, but who deserved a chance. That very same person was inside her, a trace of Sirius upon this earth, her child, who wanted to smile. Her child! If she refused to protect herself, thus denying him or her protection, and possibly life, would she not be as bad a mother as Luthien had been? What would make her different? She was letting go of her child as well, probably not even acknowledging his presence. She was, in a way, abandoning her child to the mercy of fate, and a dark attacker. So, alight with a new kind of flame, Anna slid her hand sleekly into her back pocket having forgotten for a moment about her sadness which had selfishly become her universe: out with the cherry-covered phoenix feather! Anna maintained complete silence, and so did the intruder. As the “enemy” shifted weight from one foot to another, a small groan let by the old wooden floors let Anna know that her adversary was about three feet to her right. She Stunned the exact spot from where the sound had issued, and the stranger gave a flat grunt as the powerful spell bounced soundly off their Shield Charms. ‘Who’s here?’ Anna said loudly. ‘Anna?’ ‘Tonks?’ ‘Lumos!’ the not-so-much-of-an-intruder said. As the grey eyes met the black ones, in a moment of surprise, both women saw something completely missing in the other’s eyes. In spite of everyone already knowing Anna’s motive, Tonks’ remained virtually unidentified. ‘W – what happened to you?’ Anna asked blankly, unplanned, the words seemingly sprouting a will of their own and tumbling out of her mouth. Tonks cleared her throat and said, shrugging, ‘Nothing. You’re the one to talk!’ Anna raised an eyebrow, ‘What is that supposed to mean?’ ‘Nothing.’ ‘…or everything. You don’t think I’m handling this the right way, well get in line if you’ve got anything to reproach!’ Anna snapped. ‘I – I never said I – ‘ Tonks stuttered, her look suddenly becoming desperate and pleading. Anna frowned at seeing the defeat in her eyes, and sustained her look in a scrutinizing manner. While doing so, Anna used her powers to see beyond Nymphadora Tonks’ dark, sparkling pupils. She saw memories… Memories of a pink-haired young woman crying in front of a mirror. Memories of an angry head of department with the Ministry of Magic emblem on his chest shouting at a cowering Tonks. A plump, grey-haired woman touching a white arm drenched in tears, saying ‘He’ll come round, dear…’ Jumping from memory to memory, Anna never rested more than a few seconds in one place in her search for Tonks’ sadness. Until, finally, she found it. Anna’s mind opened to show a crowded, well lit hall. The walls were white, the floor was white, the ceiling was white – the incongruous purity of all confused Anna. A single door – white as well – was in Anna’s field, a white bench just outside it. On the door, sat a normally grey-clad silhouette for which Anna’s eyeballs were thankful – not even elves stand that much white! The man had a pair of greying pants on, ending in ragged-looking shoes. On his wrist – the one he supported his head with – was a navy-blue string bracelet, looking exactly like the one Anna had given her father some time back.

Remus Lupin raised his head and looked fixedly at a point over Anna’s shoulder, giving the impression that he had just woken up. ‘Hi,’ said Tonks, making Anna glance over her shoulder. The incoming Tonks was considerably less depressing to look at, Anna thought. Her hair was still bright-pink, her eyes were still alight and eager. Nowadays, she always had a dull and defeated look about her. She had lost interest – there was no other way to put it. He rudely decided not to answer her hello, and buried his head in his hands. Tonks drew up to him, placing a hand on his back in consolation. ‘She’ll be alright, Remus…’ ‘How do you know?’ he snapped loudly, his retort echoing ghostly. ‘Nobody knows what’s wrong with her! Nobody knows what spell shot her, not even Dumbledore! Actually, he might know, but keeps on saying she’ll work things out in her own time!’ he said, giving a humourless laugh. ‘Exactly. She’s strong enough to get through anything, and she’ll get through this…’ But he shook his head, saying, ‘I haven’t told you the best part! She – They – Sirius and her – ‘ ‘I know,’ Tonks said, sitting down next to him. ‘It…showed. A bit.’ ‘Did it?’ he asked, staring into space. ‘I never saw…You know, sometimes I feel like the whole world is somehow against everything I do. And I make it my job to fight everything out there – when there’s nothing to fight, I simply don’t notice its existence…Anna never fought with me, and I went blind.’ He turned a stricken face to Tonks, who smiled slightly and said, ‘Don’t fight now, don’t fight shadows…’ and put his arms around him in an embrace. Lupin did not know at first what to do with this display of affection, and stared into space for a second or two, before timidly and only slightly placing his hands on her back. The scene dissolved once more, and Anna arrived in Grimmauld Place, but the thinness of the dust and the mourning-looking house gave her the impression that the date was a while back. Past her brushed her father, hurrying upstairs. Behind him, Tonks was following like an eye-pup. Anna, naturally, followed suit, and realised they were headed towards Sirius’ bedroom. The wooden door was open – Anna felt a strange sense of intrusion – and inside, the three found nothing more than what they knew to be there. ‘What do you expect to find?’ asked Tonks meekly, but Lupin only gave his answer fleetingly, after circling the room once or twice. ‘Something…some idea…some…proof…’ he said mysteriously. ‘Of what?’ she asked, but this time her question echoed in a lonely manner. Lupin violently opened and closed drawers, searching relentlessly for… ‘Look…’ Tonks said, pointing at the picture of the Marauders that was glued permanently to Sirius’ headboard. As Lupin turned round, his eyes fell upon an encrusted case that was hid in the small space between the headboard and the actual wall. He leaped forward and tried pulling it out, but could not. When Tonks finally took pity in him, and Summoned the box, he turned the palest shade of pink – he had forgotten that he could use magic. She smiled wisely, nevertheless, and handed him the case, unopened. He hesitated for a moment in opening it, as though by doing so he would somehow ruin the magic of its magnificent carving. The box was wrought in something that looked more precious than silver, and Remus remembered the word mithril…It was

encrusted with a variety of precious stones, from lapis lazuli to the smallest rubies, forming a pattern of water lilies. He opened it after both he and Tonks gazed silently at it for some time. She smiled; he frowned upon seeing its contents. Lain in dark green velvet were small tokens of Sirius’ love. A lock of hair, held together by a thin thread of wool, a picture of a smiling Anna wearing a light blue shirt that was a few sizes too large for her and, underneath it all, two small, thin bands of white gold. Tonks couldn’t help herself and picked up one of the two – the one that seemed smaller, and found the word “Forever” engraved on its inside. ‘There’s your proof…He loved her, Remus,’ she said calmly, still admiring the ring. Remus took a deep breath, urging her silently to put the ring back into the box. They both felt like they had intruded noisily upon a quiet proceeding: the love they were witnessing was not theirs to witness. ‘We shouldn’t have done this…’ he whispered. ‘Do you think it matters any?’ Tonks asked, placing the box back where it had come from. ‘He’s dead, and she will never know we’ve been here,’ she continued in a choked voice. ‘But we’re alive, and we’ll know…’ he said, desolately sitting down on the bed. ‘Are we alive?’ she asked, softly sitting down next to him and staring him insistently in the face. He returned her look and, for a moment, seemed ready to mutter a reply. Whatever he was about to say was stifled by the press of Tonks’ lips upon his. Anna’s mouth, though invisible to the two, was hanging open in a surprised half-smile. The kiss must have lasted half a minute, and would have gone on if not for Lupin pushing her away unexpectedly, violently, as though he himself needed great force to tear away. ‘Are you insane?!’ he spat at her, white-faced. ‘What on earth do you think you’re doing?’ Tonks seemed lost and confused. She turned bright pink, mumbling in her search for words. ‘Well?’ he demanded. ‘What was so wrong?’ she said innocently. ‘Do you actually need me to make a list? Isn’t it a bit obvious?’ ‘What is?’ ‘Maybe the fact that I’m a werewolf, for starters. I’m about ten years older than you, seconds!’ ‘You’re a werewolf once a month, not everyday,’ she said coldly. ‘And age has no importance, look at Anna and Siri –‘ ‘Sirius is dead! Age does matter!’ he cried. ‘He’s dead because of Bellatrix, not because of age,’ Tonks replied coldly, like Anna had never seen her before. She mover forwards, coming very close to Lupin. ‘You’re being a bit of an idiot, you know,’ she said. He grabbed her wrist to stop her from moving forwards and said a clear and brutal ‘No,’ turning on his heel and walking out of the room. He left her alone, standing there with a ghostly Anna next to her who was thinking about how the world-of-the-bedroom had spread its tentacles – or rather, focused its attention elsewhere, having found no interest in a young, pregnant widow. Anna blinked heavily and found a teary-eyed Tonks in front of her. ‘You couldn’t have just asked, could you?’ she demanded. ‘I didn’t mean to…’ Anna apologized. ‘Tonks…’ ‘No! I don’t need pity. Now you know, you can go throw a party.’

‘He is a bit of an idiot…’ ‘So I’ve noticed.’ ‘But…’ Anna started. ‘What?’ ‘At least he’s alive…’ Anna said meekly, shrugging. The simplicity and the obviousness of the sentence had not occurred to Tonks. Was Anna’s situation not worse, with her dead lover? ‘It’d be easier if her were dead… I wouldn’t hate him and love him at the same time!’ ‘Don’t you ever say that!’ Anna retorted fiercely. ‘Loss it the worst – Don’t you envy me, you have – Don’t!’ she said incoherently. ‘I – I’m sorry, Anna. I – I forgot,’ Tonks muttered ashamedly. ‘…if only I could…’ Anna whispered for herself, but her words filled the room. ‘But that’s just my point! When life could be so short for either one of us, why does he make everything so much more difficult?’ ‘He’s just used to difficult…’ ‘But so are you! Still, you embrace life!’ ‘But he’s never felt accepted! Sure, he had his friends and parents, but everyone else…Besides, in sixteen years, since he lost James, Sirius and Peter in one night, he’s never been anything but isolated.’ Anna reasoned. Silence rested. Nothing happened for some time, no words were said. Anna stared at the same spot on the floor that Tonks had fixed. When they lifted their eyes, they did so at the same time. ‘I’m pregnant,’ Anna shrugged. ‘I know…’Tonks said, giving Anna a tight hug. Anna returned the hug and felt Tonks almost collapsing in her arms. However, something held her up, and it was not Anna’s grip, although it helped. ‘Let’s get you home, okay?’ Tonks said, stepping back to let Anna Disapparate first, and then following her to the Burrow. XXV Bill, Fred, George, Fleur, Ginny, Ron, Hermione and Molly were tensely awaiting in the silence. ‘She’s been up there for three hours…’ George was keeping count of the hours. ‘We know,’ Ginny said impatiently. Suddenly, the eight jumped at the cue. A small knock reverberated through the silent room, and a gloomy Tonks entered. From behind the party, the door to the living-room opened, and Anna emerged, a sad and impersonal smile plastered across her face. ‘Hi, Tonks,’ she said flatly. ‘Hello, everyone,’ Nymphadora answered wearily and crashed soundly onto the nearest chair. ‘I don’t think I can take much longer…’ she was saying as Mrs Weasley was setting a large mug of dark coffee in front of her, along with a muffin. The house had sprung into action at Anna and Tonks’ arrival: the energy everyone had built up was now spilling over. Ginny was chasing Crookshanks, Hermione was bickering with Ron, Fred and George were charming their water glasses into racing each other, Molly had begun cooking all of a sudden, Fleur and Bill were feeding each other cookie crumbs and Anna and Tonks had nothing left to do but stare at each other dejectedly, and in muffled envy.

The large coffee mug between them let out a blur of steam, slightly obscuring Tonks and Anna’s faces. But the grey eyes beseeched the black, hanging on to their gaze as though their light depended upon it. The dark eyes sustained the look, with equal sadness in their eyes, but without that dull look – Tonks’ eyes were merely permanently filled with tears. Hours passed, so did discussions and subjects and the clock chimed the arrival of midnight in the Burrow. Molly clapped her hands once, saying, ‘That’s it for you lot. Off to bed.’ The underage breathers acquiesced and dragged their tired bodies upstairs. ‘You too,’ Molly nodded in direction of Fred and George, who opened their mouths to protest but were silenced by Bill and Fleur’s attempt at getting upstairs. ‘We’re beat,’ Bill yawned. ‘Yes, we’re going opstairs to get some zlip,’ she said, the rest taking a moment or two in weighing her words, uncertain of their literary meaning. So, Fred, George, Bill and Fleur went to bed, and a quiet sleep. ‘Aren’t you going?’ Tonks asked, tracing the brim of her cup with the tips of her fingers. ‘To what?’ Anna asked, letting out a small and mirthless laughter. Molly stiffened and Tonks lifted her eyes. ‘To dreams of a living – ‘ she broke off, clutching the salt shaker absently. ‘Point is,’ she said, regaining her coherence. ‘I don’t want to dream. It gives me too much hope, and waking up is like losing him all over again,’ she smiled weakly. Tonks opened her mouth to heave a sigh and a comfort, but it was Molly who spoke, banging the spoon against the edge of the sink in indignation. ‘You listen to me, Anna,’ she said fiercely, and Anna straightened her back, putting on a surprised expression. ‘That child of yours needs you more than he does! He’s dead, but you’re not! And your child, bless him, won’t be, either! All I’m saying is you mourn all you want, but you can’t make him mourn for a father he’s never met! It’s just not fair to endanger him as well as yourself for someone who, frankly, is pulling jokes with the angels and doesn’t know anything about how much you’re hurt!’ she ended, panting. Anna had stood up sometime during Molly’s lecture. Her eyelids were trembling slightly, yet her voice was clear – clearly broken. ‘And where will you have me be in that happy universe, Molly?’ she asked tremulously, her tears receding. ‘Again bottling everything up so I don’t hurt anyone around me? Keeping every single tear inside so that the ground doesn’t get wet? For once in my life I don’t care that someone’s just mopped the floor clean – I’m crying because I have no other choice!’ Molly opened her mouth, as Tonks stood up slightly in her chair, readying herself for anything. Outside, a gust of wind rustled the grass, and two sets of wizards’ robes. Though neither Molly nor Tonks perceived the sound, Anna and Crookshanks, who was yawning lazily on top of the infamous clock that showed the position and state of each member of the Weasley family, both heard something, jerkily looking in direction of the front door. As Albus Dumbledore’s thin-fingered hand opened the door, the cool summer breeze swept Anna’s hair and hauled a green, crisp leaf inside. As the leaf floated lazily in mid-air, Anna’s face relaxed into a smile, and a thin, bespectacled boy followed in Albus’ wake into the kitchen. ‘Harry, dear!’ Molly cried excitedly, pulling him into a tight hug.

Next came Anna’s hug, tighter than Harry had ever received. She stepped back to admire him, and shook her head, saying, ‘You have, naturally, lost weight. Nothing like a month here to come back amongst the solid, eh?’ Harry smiled. Under normal circumstances, he would have said something, but he was all too bemused by Anna’s morose, depressing look. He looked closely at Anna for a few seconds. The abandoned image of what was once a tall and proud house came to his mind. Her eyes, though not as bloodshot as they had been, were tired and meeker. A glimmer of her light was visible somewhere beyond all grey, but it was too far away to matter. Her long hair brushed against Harry’s face and he felt the soft warm and reassuring smell of freshly cut grass. She had not only lost weight, but diminished entirely. Her frame was crooked and her cheeks were an unhealthy shade of pale. For all her sadness, Anna was still beautiful, but she was no longer glowing. However, to him, she would always glow and be the light amongst the clouds of darkness. Sisters were like that, he thought, bound to be. Anna had given Harry a relieved squeeze, pressing her thin chest against his. Next to him, Dumbledore’s expression stiffened. From behind his still pupils, worry grew in his eyes. Anna had become ordinary. She was no longer being given the chance to show her wits. No battles were left for her to fight; no love for her to give. She had lost purpose, entirely by her own will. It enraged him. He signalled her to speak to him outside, and they stepped out the back door, Dumbledore tall, proud and wizened, Anna shorter, thinner, with a faltering step and steel in her grey eyes. ‘I wanted to talk to you…’ he said. ‘Well that’s solved all my dilemmas. You want to talk, wouldn’t have figured that out for myself,’ she said sardonically, bitingly. Dumbledore turned round. Her arms were folded in front of her thin waist, her t-shirt taking the shape of her diminished body, revealing the small, vulnerable pregnancy. Anna had a cold, dull look. It was the first time he saw her since Sirius’ death, and he could clearly see that the effect of it all had been disastrous. That was not the Anna he had become used to – the one who matched her powers, who could talk to him for hours to prove her point, whose sounding laughter always lightened the gloomy dungeons. A shadow of Anna stood there, facing the great wizard and it was that which scared him after so many years of living beyond fear. No more light. Ever. Darkness. ‘You’re lost,’ he whispered. ‘I’m sad,’ she murmured back. The smallest crease appeared between Dumbledore’s eyebrows. ;You shouldn’t be…’ he said. Anna rounded fiercely upon him, and he recoiled. ‘I mean…there’s the baby to think of…and Sirius wouldn’t have wanted you to…..’ ‘What the hell is wrong with you people?!” she hissed. ‘Everyone keeps telling me what Sirius would have wanted and what the baby needs! Will you give it a rest?! Don’t you think I’ve told myself these things a million times? But this I can’t get out of. I’m stuck here for some time. I know it’s annoying, I know I’m being selfish but, for once in my life, I’ve stopped caring about other people. And it feels like…’ she stopped, short of breath.

Dumbledore moved forward and grabbed her wrist, nodding once. She needn’t say more. ‘Good,’ Anna sighed, wiping a tear from her cheek. ‘Any news?’ she asked. ‘Is Severus still…’ ‘Yes,’ he answered hurriedly. Anna sighed, as her gaze and Dumbledore’s met. ‘A-and…’ she asked, averting her eyes and stuttering in concern. ‘…Dad?’ She was terrified of losing him as well; Dumbledore knew. ‘He’s alright, Anna.’ ‘Good,’ she exhaled. ‘Anna,’ he addressed her after he had watched her avoid his gaze for a few seconds. ‘I want you to listen very carefully.’ She opened her mouth to protest against another lecture, but Dumbledore’s long fingers placed themselves on her lips; she was quiet. ‘I have this…’he said, pulling out a piece of paper from his pocket. ‘Now, I know you’re not ready – and I understand. But there will be a day when you’ll want to face this life again. For when you do – ‘ He shoved a sheet of paper under her nose. Anna took it and, in the dim light from her Evenstar, read only the heading. Capital, gold-and-green letters spelled: ST. MUNGO’S HOSPITAL for magical maladies and injuries HEALER TRAINING APPLICATION FORM ‘Thank you,’ Anna breathed, and felt Dumbledore smile in the dark. They both want inside and found Tonks on her way out. ‘…Remus is coming as well…’ Molly was saying. Anna looked warily at Tonks, who dismissed Molly’s invitation as wearily as ever. Dumbledore cleared his throat; Tonks stepped out. Silence. ‘Breakfast, Harry?’ Molly asked. ‘Erm, yeah, thanks,’ he smiled. ‘I should be on my way,’ Dumbledore said loudly. ‘Good night everyone,’ he added, waving at Harry and taking his hat off in front of Molly. Her nightstand clock ticked the arrival of the sixth hour of the day. Anna’s eyes were wide open, staring at the uncannily thin piece of parchment on her table. “Healer Training”…It sounded so serious, so real…Anna wasn’t so sure she could handle real anymore. She pulled the covers and stood up. She placed her feet on the ground; the floorboards creaked slightly under her weight. She got up, pulled a woollen sweater on, took the form, a quill and went to the kitchen. Summer rain was rapping gently on the windows, welcoming a budding, cold sun. Anna poured herself a glass of lemonade and sipped – it was warm and biting, yet it gave her the necessary buzz.

She sat down and placed the form in front of her. Anna stood there for about five minutes, staring at the golden-and-green form. Name……………………………………………………………………………….. Anna frowned and raised her quill. Name………………….Anna Black………………………………………………… Address……………………………………………………………………………… “Completely astray” was what Anna wanted to write, but only scribbled “Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry”. That was where the useful information she had ended. Anna had not yet gotten the results from her NEWTS back. Neither did she have recommendations from her teachers – that would take a trip to Hogwarts. She felt like pulling her hair. Her belly gave a twitch, and she started. She did not want to leave that house. Time rolled horribly by, with it coming fall, and the beginning of a new school-year for Harry. Things were changing… XXV. Dear Anna, I got some time during lunch and I thought I’d write, seeing as you told me to. You wanted to know how the school year began, seeing as how Voldemort is back, and I can tell you this: things are definitely different. First of all, the Ministry is smothering us a bit. Filch is checking everything going in and out of school – including the students. Our new DADA teacher is – hold on tight – Snape. I know you respect him and everything, but he’s giving me a hard time on Non-Verbal Spells. Just yesterday I earned detention. In truth, I did cheek him, but to me he always deserves cheek. Replacing Snape in Potions is Horace Slughorn. I don’t know if you know him, if not – the adults at the Burrow can probably tell you more. As for the fishy part of the tale, I have a hunch Draco Malfoy might be up to something. I wish I could talk more to you about this, seeing as how Ron and Hermione reject every single theory I come up with. He’s been poking his nose around Borgin and Burke’s and acting very mysterious ever since we got back at Hogwarts. I can’t really tell you the whole story – you know what Moody says – but I wish I could. Hope you’re okay, and the baby. McGonagall told Hermione something about you starting Healer training. Is it true? If it is, good luck! If it’s half as hard as the torture they’re submitting us to here (and it’s bound to be), you have our sympathy. Give everyone a hug from us. (Luna and Neville too – they’re watching me write.) Hugs, Harry The reply came four days after Anna had received the letter.

Dear Harry, Fist and foremost, give my kisses to everyone and tell Neville not to mind his grandmother – Herbology is tough, and so is Charms. She doesn’t like Charms because she failed her own OWL. (You didn’t hear that from me, though.) Sixth year is a tough one, even without Voldemort being on the loose. Albus has already told me about the Hogsmeade visits – especially how Filch keeps poking his nose and Dark Magic Detector everywhere. My only advice is this: don’t wander, don’t go near the Shrieking Shack and always stay together. However, remember, if you get into trouble, I’m presently unemployed and available to help you, if you catch my drift. Oh, by the way, tell Hermione to relax, okay? She sent me this blotchy, angry letter about how your schedule is too tight and everything. Tell her sixth year is just relaxing for seventh – please, do yourself a favour! Albus also told me about the new staff appointments. I have known Horace Slughorn for a long time, really. He’s only an acquaintance, but my impression of him was that he is a brilliant Potions Master, with excellent people skills. Watch out, though. He only met me once, but he mentioned wanting me to be a part of his Slug Club (whatever that is). He praised the self-founded organisation like it was St. Mungo’s, really. He looks like a veritable gold-digger to me. He likes having connections, but never being the frontman… As for Snape, you know he’s always wanted to be DADA teacher…Dumbledore must know what he’s doing, and I have a slight hunch myself, but I can’t really tell you anything definite. You’ve had him as a teacher before, and you know he’s a tough one to please, but DADA is your best subject and I don’t think you’ll have as much trouble with it as with Potions. By the way, the trick with NV spells is this: when you want to cast, say, Rictusempra, you need to follow three steps (which Snape should have told you to use at first, but never mind). First, picture the receiver. Then, make the spell sound in your head. Finally, visualise its effect. Try to do this with all your brainpower, and don’t let Snape discourage you. You know he’s rooting for you to take a wrong turn. You can use the three steps at first – you’ll see you’ll get used to NVs in no time. Now, for the most important part of the letter: Draco. Well, it’s hard to think he’d stay put with his dear old dad in Azkaban and Voldemort back. If he’s fiddling with Dark Arts more than usual, it’s bound to be something strange. I say you relax, don’t get ahead of yourself, but know I support your theory. I’ve talked to Arthur, whom I know you filled in at the train station, and he searched Malfoy Manor through and through. In spite of the fact that he found nothing, I still think you should be careful. I can’t really tell you everything I’ve thought about in this letter, but just clear your mind tonight at midnight. I know you were never an expert in Occlumency, but I only need a bit of space to contact you, don’t worry. (if you find you can’t clear your head, just set a glass of water on your night table – you’ll see what I mean) Anyways, I really have to talk to you. Everyone here sends their love to you guys, and they’re all okay. As for me, I’m still alive. You heard right, I’m starting Healer training next week, and it’s supposed to be tough, but I think I need a little waking up. The baby is just fine – growing by the minute. I positively look like a fat cow (make sure to tell Hermione and Ginny, so they can contradict you and I can feel better about it), but otherwise I’m okay.

I feel like an owl myself – everyone keeps repeating the “send our love” song. So: everyone here sends kisses, love, hugs and any other display of affection you can think of. Hope you’re okay, and see you tonight. Kisses, Anna The letters should give you some idea of Anna’s life. She was Harry’s sister as much as she was his godmother. Anna had taken on Sirius’ role in the business as well, so that, in addition to her own child and assiduous training, she had adopted Harry. Not to say she wasn’t satisfied with the situation, or anything. She had a purpose, a goal and a meaning. She was not happy – that she will never completely be, until… - but she had been saved from madness. In his white sheets, Harry was fidgeting. ‘Stop already!’ Ron hissed. ‘You’re driving me crazy!’ ‘I can’t sleep!’ Harry retorted angrily. ‘You don’t say!’ Ron said mockingly, pulling the covers over his head. Harry, obviously, could not sleep. He could not clear his mind, and neither could he think of anything else but – inexplicably enough – Ginny. He rose from his bed and stared out his window. He glanced at the clock – five minutes to midnight. Harry conjured a glass on his night table, pointing his wand at it and murmuring, ‘Aguamenti.’ Clear, crisp water filled the glass, as Harry waited…and waited…and waited… “Harry!” Anna’s voice rang in his head. “Either clear your head or get some natural water! Magically conjured one isn’t going to help.” Harry had no idea where to get water – Wait! The vase of flowers in the common room! He rushed inside the red-and-golden decorated room, and filled his glass with greenish water from the vase in which some small lavender flowers resided. ‘What now?’ he thought involuntarily. ‘Now, we talk,’ Anna contacted his thoughts. Somehow, when she spoke inside his head, he did not feel the torture and intrusion he did during his Occlumency lessons. He would simply hear her clear, kind voice and let himself be guided by it… He blinked lazily, rubbing his eyes – he was tired. When Harry opened his eyes again, Anna was standing in front of him, clear as daylight, with a small smile on her face. ‘Hello,’ she said, and he started. ‘What’s the matter?’ she asked worriedly. ‘N – Nothing. It’s just I didn’t expect you to actually come here, that’s all. You caught me unawares…’ ‘What did you think?’ she asked, her smile broadening. ‘I’d just talk to you through Occlumency, or something?’ ‘Something like that, yeah,’ he said. ‘Well, let’s get on with the talking – we haven’t much time. We both need sleep and they’ll notice our absences before long,’ she said, slouching onto a fluffy armchair beside the dying fire and pushing her hair back. ‘Right,’ Harry said, sitting on the couch.

Anna was so thin, in spite of the ever-growing baby, that Harry felt fat. Through her tshirt, Harry could count her ribs and vertebrae – he couldn’t help himself. ‘Anna, you need to eat…’ he said sympathetically. ‘Elves have fast metabolisms,’ she cut across him fiercely. ‘Now, of Slughorn I can only say that he will suck up to anyone who has any potential or any important relatives. He adored your mum, and you’re the Chosen One – he’s bound to be interested in you. Just be careful and remember not to leave anyone out,’ she said, looking at him intently. Harry nodded. ‘Naturally,’ he said. ‘Now, Draco,’ she said, her face suddenly tensing and becoming reasonably more serious. ‘What do you think he’s up to?’ ‘Well,’ Harry wired up, given the opportunity of talking about the thing that was haunting him. ‘He went into Borgin and Burke’s and showed Borgin something we couldn’t see and which frightened him very much. It made him show Draco very much respect. I’m guessing it was the – ‘ ‘ – Dark Mark?’ Anna asked, and he nodded. ‘But Harry, why would Voldemort risk branding an irresponsible teenager? What if anyone here sees the Mark? Say… Dumbledore? Or McGonagall? Or one of his friends, in the locker room. People – even Slytherins – are spooked by Voldemort. They’d report anything suspicious, I’m sure.’ Harry opened his mouth to retaliate, but Anna continued. ‘On the other hand…Draco could be paying dear old Lucius’ debt…I’ll have to look into that…’ she concluded mysteriously. ‘What do you mean? What are you going to do?’ Harry panicked at the thought of Anna putting herself in danger for the sake of his theories. ‘Don’t you worry about that,’ she said, staring him down. ‘Anna, there’s one more thing…On the Express, he was bragging about not coming back next year…About moving on to “bigger and better things”…those were his words.’ Anna surveyed him gravely. ‘It’s like Draco to brag, but this…is serious. He might just be planning on stepping in his father’s footsteps as a fantasy, a plan…but he might also have Voldemort’s guarantee. I doubt he hasn’t tried to contact Narcissa and her son since Lucius has been imprisoned. Listen, don’t go chasing Draco obsessively – if he is a Death Eater that will just give him the chance to get you all by yourself or something. Like I said, I’ll look into it, and rest assured, I have my methods, and they’re far better than an Invisibility Cloak and a disability to cast Non-Verbal Spells,’ she ended, smiling slightly; Harry turned the faintest shade of pink, as she quickly changed the subject. ‘What of the others?’ she asked interestedly. ‘Ron, Hermione? Ginny? Who’s she going out with now?’ Anna laughed. Harry raised his head, and she caught his eye, falling silent and serious. ‘Oh – my…’ she said, looking dumbstruck. ‘You like her, don’t you?’ Harry remained silent. ‘You do,’ she concluded, leaning back in relaxation and amazement. After a few seconds’ silence, Harry opened his mouth to speak in hope of obliterating the awkwardness; Anna was first. ‘You do know she’s waited forever for you to come to our senses, right?’ she asked, and Harry closed his mouth. ‘Hermione and I told her to see other boys, to live her life and be herself. Luckily enough, she listened. But now, when she seems alright and all, you wake up. I swear, men have the worst timing…for everything,’ she said. ‘Including dying?’ Harry asked, meeting her eye.

Harry knew, and she could not pretend. Although she tried to sound unaffected in the letter and casual now, there was still grief that hung above her in the air. She was not herself, not yet, not even close. Anna shot him a look that lasted only a millisecond. Harry felt pain grip on his insides, like someone was turning his guts round. Stinging and biting exploded in his heart and every bit of his body felt numb and throbbing. Millions of needles were poking on his limbs; he gasped for air and searing pain pierced his lungs. He could not breathe. Yet it was something he knew. He had felt it before, only not so poignantly. It was pain he was feeling, but Anna had meant no harm. She quickly covered her eyes with her hand, realizing what she had done. ‘I’m sorry,’ she sobbed, one hand over her eyes. ‘I didn’t want to make you feel that… I’m sorry.’ ‘What?’ gasped Harry. ‘Feel what? What was it?’ ‘Pain,’ Anna said simply, still not daring to meet his eye. ‘I feel more pain that the usual person, Harry. I’m supposed to carry the world,’ she sighed. ‘And that’s what you feel?’ he asked, feeling his lips going numb in relaxation – the aftermath of pain. She nodded, intensely staring down a spot on the rug. A few seconds passed in silence, neither daring to break it by uttering a single syllable. In those moments of intense silence and thought, Anna came to think how her weakness was starting to damage the ones around. She had, in a moment of inattention, permitted Harry to share her body and soul. He had felt the enormous pain she did, physical as well as ethereal. She, who literally carried the world upon her shoulders, was now being crushed under the weight of it all. And it was starting to show. The cracks had begun to form, and her weakness spilled into all life on earth. It was that evening when Anna decided to begin healing. She had such a will, that she knew her heart would only be mended by it. It was logical, natural, and she had known it before. The suffering she had endured, had existed only because she had permitted it to. But no more. Her pain now attacked Harry, and that affected her as well as the world. It damaged the cause and what Sirius had suffered for for years. Harry was entirely her responsibility now, and she had to own up to it. No more. She had begun to build the barriers between her and her suffering, forever shutting it out. Never, however, healing the scars. ‘I have to go,’ she said, eyeing the thick darkness outside the window pensively and standing up suddenly. Harry had to admit she had an uncanny agility for a pregnant woman. Her moves were cursive and graceful. She had her normal rhythm of thinking and moving, and the baby seemed as attached to her as her clothes were: just natural. Probably because she’s an elf. Then again, it might be just because she was Anna. ‘Anna, you can’t keep doing this to your – ‘ Harry began. Anna shot him a look full of reproach. Harry felt guilt creep into the back of his head, but pushed the thought away, pressing on. ‘I know how you feel – I miss him too,’ he said. Anna was silent. ‘But he died for our happiness, just like others before him! Like Mum and Dad and Cedric.’

Anna stood up, her appearance steely. She looked positively dragon-like, having abandoned her lioness look. ‘I have to talk to Dumbledore,’ she said, a little louder than necessary. ‘I don’t think he’s here,’ Harry said dismissively. ‘What?!’ Anna said sharply. ‘Does he leave the school often?’ ‘Quite. To prepare for our lessons.’ ‘Ah, yes. He’s mentioned those,’ Anna said darkly, eyeing the dark and damp world outside the window. ‘Back to Sirius – ‘he began fruitlessly. ‘Look!’ Anna said, pointing. ‘Thestrals!’ Anna said, a smile appearing on her face. ‘He’s back!’ Harry squinted in an attempt to see what Anna did. He must have looked so comical, that Anna let out a small trill of feeble laughter. ‘I can see because of my elf-eyes, don’t worry. I’ll go talk to him about the Order and everything,’ she said, approaching him, and kissing the top of his head once. ‘Take care, okay?’ she smiled. Harry rose from the couch and gave her a hug. ‘Bye,’ he said, smiling sleepily. She stepped out of the Common Room, leaning against the Fat Lady’s frame the second she was out of Harry’s range. She took a deep breath, and let it out slowly. The baby gave a small, vigorous kick and she placed a thin hand on her own belly. She did not, like Harry, like talking about Sirius if she could avoid it. Anna went into the headmaster’s office as fast as her condition permitted. She periodically saluted gargoyles and paintings, meeting no one on the dark corridors. When Anna reached the stone gargoyle in front of the office, she realised that she did not know the password. She stood there at a loss for words for a few seconds. ‘Gummed worms,’ said a deep, familiar voice behind her. Anna turned round with a smile on her face. ‘Hello,’ she said merrily. Dumbledore smiled at her painfully, and Anna knew something was wrong. She immediately rushed forward to support him and they both entered the office somewhat heavily. ‘What happened?’ Anna asked as she sat Dumbledore down and pulled up a chair herself. ‘I tried…to…get this…memory…’ he panted, placing his injured hand on the desk. ‘Whose?’ Anna asked, turning his face in her hands to examine a number of cuts and bruises he had obtained. ‘Never mind…’ he said. Anna took her hands off him in a moment. ‘What’s you favourite type of jam?’ she asked harshly. ‘Raspberry,’ Dumbledore said simply, closing his eyes and wiping beads of sweat from his forehead with his good hand. ‘Then it is you,’ Anna said briskly. ‘Well, then? Why won’t you tell me where you’re been?’ she asked. ‘Because it concerns you very little,’ Dumbledore panted. ‘In that, you are wrong. Am I not part of the Order?’ she asked, waving her wand as to get little bottles of coloured liquid out of the glass cabinet in the corner of the room. ‘It has nothing to do with the Order,’ he said, steadying his breath somewhat. ‘Well, then, hasn’t it something to do with Harry?’ she asked slyly. ‘…Yes,’ Dumbledore hesitated, seeing where she wanted to reach.

‘I’m the closest family he’s got now. I’m practically his godmother, and his Blood Sister,’ she said, pouring essence of Murtlap into a bowl and prodding it with the tip of her wand before dropping a violently purple gemstone in the bowl, making the liquid acquire the consistency and appearance of unicorn blood. Dumbledore sighed. ‘I tried to get a memory from a part-centaur who’s said to have dealt with Voldemort right before he died. He supposedly bargained his freedom for his soul.’ ‘Wait…part-centaur?! Aren’t they supposed to be unstable?’ she asked, then immediately realised how and why Dumbledore had got those wounds. ‘And what’s that about freedom for his soul?’ she then asked, trying not to sound as worried as she was. ‘It was really nothing. I was thinking more on the lines of him pledging his life – and body – to Voldemort. But it’s nothing like that. Centaur’s dead, herd nearly wiped out, no pledge, no memory, no Horcrux that belongs to the centaur, don’t worry,’ he said quickly, the relief in his voice obvious – Anna had healed his cuts and bruises. ‘Good,’ Anna sighed in relief, pressing Dumbledore’s right side with her long fingers. There was an intake of breath and a frown that indicated pain. ‘You’ve got a broken rib,’ she said calmly. ‘You don’t say,’ he said gruffly, slightly massaging his side. ‘Get your hand out of the way. I can do it the painful, magical way, or the non-painful. Which do you prefer?’ she asked. ‘Non-painful, please. You know me a coward,’ he said, and she smiled. ‘Didn’t want you to think I wasn’t keeping up with my studies,’ she smirked. ‘Healer Training going well, I gather?’ he asked interestedly. ‘Oh, very,’ she rolled her eyes. ‘Madam Pomfrey – ‘ ‘…taught you all those things years ago, I know. But you just have to sit those classes for two years, and then you can do some real work.’ ‘I know,’ she sighed as she placed a hand on his ribs and held her breath; her Evenstar shined and Dumbledore’s face relaxed. The pain was gone. ‘Thank you,’ he said. ‘Don’t mention it. Have you heard anything about Dad?’ she asked, wanting to seem careless. Dumbledore raised his eyes, and so did Anna. Their gazes met, and Anna understood. ‘No news at all?’ she asked, but his eyes said it all… It was a week before Christmas when they came. The weather had grown quite cold, and at the Burrow all inhabitants had on thick, woollen sweaters. Anna’s pregnancy was larger than ever, especially now since she was washing the heap of dishes that had piled up, and her belly pressed only slightly on the brim of the sink. Had she been more faint of heart, she would not have been there washing those dishes then. Molly had fiercely insisted that she rest, but the repetitive scrubbing of plates gave her time to think…gave her peace. The kitchen was silent, and Anna had her hands covered in hot foam. The dishes were almost ready. A small sound – perhaps only a pop – was made, coming to Anna from the distance. Had she not had her elven ears, she would not have heard a thing. Her spine curved alertly as much as her belly permitted. Anna slowly turned the tap and wiped her hands free of soap. She took her thin wand, which she had laid on the kitchen-table. She maintained a tight grip on the cherry-wood all through pacing out the back door and on the path behind the house. Anna squinted for a view of the intruder – for she

knew for sure that the sound she had heard had been that of a person Apparating – and concentrated hard as to identify his or her allegiance and…race… ‘Who’s there?’ she called, her voice smaller than usual beneath those heaps of snow around her. Silence. ‘Hello?’ ‘Anna?’ said a familiar voice. Silence. Anna’s brain froze. Her hand, though still firmly glued to her wand, was numb. She knew that voice. It was a sad and – until quite recently – a lonely one. The intruder had suffered until very recently. She knew him so well that she felt the weariness in his voice, despite his cheery tone. She had not seen her father in almost six months… ‘Dad?’ she asked, suddenly coming to her senses. ‘No, a jellyfish,’ came the dimmed reply from behind a mound of snow. Anna grinned, unaware of the fact that she was slightly shaking – not from the cold, but from the excitement – and reached forwards, curving her fingers. The white vastness that hid her father’s thin frame melted away by her powers, and she saw him, grinning widely back. ‘Hello,’ he managed to say, for she had already thrown herself into his arms with small, sparkling tears nestling in the corners of her eyes. The rest of the inhabitants of the bent Burrow had huddled behind Anna, watching the scene with happy, welcoming expressions. Before he knew it, Lupin was being dragged into the house and set behind a large bowl of hot soup. He was being asked questions which he answered mechanically, by a crowd that uncannily excluded Anna. She was watching him intently and silently. He could not help but be astonished by the growth rate of her children – he had had Anna for so little, that he still saw her as a child, therefore as a person who was not fit to raise children of her own. He was less ready for the child to arrive than she was. Just as Lupin was drawing breath, having thus far recounted most of his mission, and was pushing a small piece of bread into his mouth, Anna jerked. She stood up alertly, a panicked expression on her face. The adults who had learned to take Anna’s hunches seriously drew their wands. Suddenly, as Anna stood in front of it with a sword in hand, the back door was blown open. In came a blinding white light, that emanated such a warmth as Anna’s presence once did. Anna held one hand above her eyes, trying to catch a glimpse of the newly stated intruder, but she could not. Despite this, all her senses screamed that it could not be anyone evil. ‘Lower your weapons,’ a sharp, clear voice said. No one did so. But Anna’s face grew tense. She turned round, indicating to all that they lower their wands, and proceeded to welcome the guest. ‘Welcome, Luthien…’ Anna said coldly, nodding. Lupin winced. That name had more meaning to him than anyone else in that room and he feared and loathed the person who might have walked in. Such relaxation he found when he saw that the Luthien who had entered was nothing like Anna’s mother, that his sigh turned a few heads, including the stately elf’s. The elf – rendered thus by her pointed ears – was extremely beautiful. Her features were noble, set against a soft mane of dark hair. Her brow was crowned by eyes of deep green. Her clothes were tight round her slim body, and a green, hooded cape

drowned her shoulders. The emerald-encrusted handle of her sword protruded slightly through the cloak, that being the only detail that frightened the onlookers. The elf nodded curtly and politely at the rest, then rounded upon Anna, who seemed to try to appear as proud as ever. She managed. Her gaze was steely and harsh. She was planning on playing whatever game by her own rules. Lupin thought then how she was exquisite, beautiful and bold as brass. How everything seemed natural about her, and how wisdom seemed not to age Anna, but impose on everyone else more respect and admiration. ‘So, you have forgotten us entirely, I gather,’ Luthien said. ‘I have simply played my part in your war,’ Anna replied. ‘Not even close. We’re still fighting, Anna,’ Luthien retorted. ‘But you seem to have forgotten that.’ ‘What is that supposed to mean?’ Anna asked with the air of one ready to fight. ‘Morwen,’ Luthien said pensively, vaguely, addressing no one. ‘Black lady?’ Anna chuckled, making a collective shudder pass round the room. ‘Just because I won’t subject my children to more wars than necessary? Because I refuse to sacrifice them for your world?’ ‘Our world,’ Luthien corrected. ‘No,’ Anna said seriously. ‘I have no home.’ ‘Anna…’ came a reprimanding whisper from Lupin, to which Anna replied with a harsh and brief look. ‘Will you not come?’ the elf insisted. ‘No,’ Anna replied, straightening her back. The ones round the table now saw, in comparison to Anna, how alive Luthien was. Her skin had the radiance Anna’s once had, her eyes the young sparkle and her hair the soft quality. Anna, in comparison to the elf, seemed nothing more than a dried-up flower, for all her will to heal. ‘You know,’ Luthien said. ‘Arwen has seen the future of your children…Upon you lies the sign of prophecy – it weighs down on you and the ones you love,’ the elf said calmly, as though merely pointing out the logic of it all. ‘My aunt greatly exaggerates her gift,’ Anna said dismissively, though a dark shadow appeared in her tired grey eyes. ‘Do not deny the truth!’ Luthien said briskly, shooting Anna a scorching look. The latter narrowed her eyes, returning the look. The tension between the two seemed almost solid, engulfing everyone in the room, suffocating them. ‘You have seen it, yet you deny the truth! Anna, such knowledge is being offered to you, yet you refuse it! Such life is at your feet yet you choose dying. What happened to my cousin?’ Luthien pleaded. ‘What happened to the warrior?’ ‘The warrior has had enough!’ Anna cried, unable to control herself anymore, knowing that Luthien would and could have gone on. ‘You broke all contact with Leithya! Do you know what that’s done to her? Anna, being a Dragon-Rider means being privileged,’ Luthien said, a hint of envy and disapproval in her tone. ‘Do not squander what is freely given to you.’ ‘What will you have me do?’ Anna asked calmly. ‘Be happy? Be the one you taught how to sing? Be your childhood friend again, and forget that thousands have died around me? That my children will grow up without a father and the menace of their own grandmother over their heads?’ ‘Anna…But the prophecy…’ Luthien whispered, a smile appearing in the corners of her mouth.

‘What of it? It showed a Dragon-Rider, triumphantly emerging from a battle, it has nothing to do…with…’ Anna stopped, realising as she spoke, to whom the prophecy referred. Luthien nodded. ‘Exactly,’ she said approvingly, as Anna sunk onto a chair, one hand in her hair and a white face. ‘So, however much I try to keep them away from it, it’s going to haunt them forever, isn’t it?’ Anna whispered. ‘No. It will never haunt them. Anna, don’t you see? Until now, you and Oromis were the only Riders. Now, the time has come for a new generation to live! Hidden deep in the Palancar Valley, we have news of a boy – Eragon, we think he is called – who found the egg Arya lost. Right now I’m on my way to Miss Muffin’s house to get Matt – a boy who is believed to be the next Dragon-Rider. Anna, with your son, we have more dragons and Riders than Galbatorix will ever have! We might have a chance at winning this! Don’t you see? John’s life won’t be shadowed by war! It will be crowned by victory!’ Luthien reasoned heartily. ‘But with what price?’ Anna asked in that same strange tone. ‘Price?’ came Lupin’s voice from the distance. ‘Anna, what kind of talk is that? If one man’s injury means the life of countless others, than it is not your duty, but your only choice to forfeit your son!’ ‘How can you say that?’ Anna asked wearily. ‘We all must…’ Lupin said, placing a sympathetic hand on her back. After a second or two in which a frowning Anna seemed to weigh the idea, she stood up suddenly, sighing. ‘I will come -,’ there was a collective cheer round the table. ‘- to Ellesmera, but under one condition.’ ‘Name it.’ ‘That she heals me,’ Anna said. Luthien paused. ‘Anna…Arwen can’t – actually no magic can – heal cuts that deep, you know it.’ ‘What has she ever done for me?’ Anna retaliated fiercely. ‘What have I ever asked of her? I saved your life that night, I saved Aragorn’s and Larien’s lives and what have I ever asked in return? I’m not asking you to do anything unnatural, I just want to get out of this. I have a strange feeling…that it’s not entirely his death that has to do with this strange state I’m in…’ Anna said mysteriously. ‘That’s where you’re wrong. There’s no Dark magic involved…I would have seen it. Emotional involvement makes it all the more difficult to heal, but I promise you we shall try – all of us, not just mother.’ Luthien guaranteed, nodding. ‘Thank you,’ Anna breathed. Luthien stretched out a hand, ‘Shall we?’ ‘Just let me say goodbye,’ Anna smiled. ‘Whatever for? You’ll be seeing her in no time – you know how our time is longer than yours! One of your hours is a century for us!’ Luthien said. ‘The goodbye is more for me…’ Anna smiled as she embraced Molly with a twinkle in her eyes that no one had seen in a long time. So Anna said goodbye, and used her magic to open a portal to Middle-Earth. Stepping into the warm, blinding light, the two women felt relieved. One, because she had fulfilled her mission, the other because she knew she was heading for her healing.

The portal closed, leaving behind an entire waving family – for the war had made them all a family – feeling somewhat strange…In what way, they couldn’t tell themselves. XXVI. A bright light shone, and the Portal gently transported Anna and the elf into Lothlorien, the capital of elves. They had to land in the forest, because they couldn’t risk directly appearing in Ellesmera. It would be as impertinent and dangerous as trespassing into Mordor. They landed softly on the healthy grass, and Anna looked round. The forest was thick, unlike anything she would ever see back home. Somehow, she knew Lothlorien would always be the place for her to heal, the place she would always come back to. The green grass was the only thing she would ever permit her soles to touch, the soft rustling of the leaves was the only thing she would let be her music. Lothlorien – the place where she was born – was the only thing she let in right now. ‘Come on, Anna,’ Luthien’s voice awoke her. She started, and her eyes started taking in as much of the surrounding universe as possible. She looked down, expecting to find her large belly clothed in her woollen sweater and jeans. Instead, she saw that the thick, winter clothes had been replaced by a long, soft, beaded dress. The hem of her green dress touched the grass like the wind… Anna blended in…. ‘Right…’ she breathed, and hurried to join Luthien, who was a few steps in front of her. ‘I’ll call Altarien once we get closer. I can’t risk it now….By the way, where is your sword?’ Luthien asked. ‘I don’t have one…’ Anna asked, and they both fell silent. Luthien would have reprimanded her, but kept silent. The look on Anna’s face killed all attempts at conversation. The latter was warily looking round, with a look that inspired pity and sadness. The two walked for hours in silence – they really were far from Ellesmera. Suddenly, as the two reached Cerin Amroth, Anna burst out crying, falling heavily on her knees. The hill where Arwen and Aragorn had sworn love to each other, and Anna had taken Sirius brought back such memories of undying love to her, that her heart burst open. ‘Anna,’ Luthien said worriedly, kneeling next to her and putting a hand round her shoulders. ‘What’s the matter?’ Anna suppressed a mighty sob and sniffed. ‘He’s dead,’ she said, a tear wetting her cheek. ‘Who? Who is dead, Anna?’ Luthien asked, pushing back her long, dark hair. ‘You don’t know him,’ Anna said briskly, starting and then standing up. She smoothed her dress and carried on walking with firm steps, leaving Luthien behind. ‘Anna!’ the latter called, but she would not respond. There was nothing left for them to do except walk on to Ellesmera. They reached a clearing amidst tall, proud trees. Warm sun bathed Anna’s face and shoulders, which she straightened imperially. She saw the town walls ahead of her. Luthien caught up with her, breathing somewhat heavily. ‘Well, there it is,’ Anna said coldly.

‘Yet…Our home,’ Luthien added fondly. ‘We’ll see…’ They approached the stone walls and, a good fifty feet from them, an arrow landed at Anna’s feet, piercing the land in front of her. She frowned and strained her ears. She heard archers preparing their bows and arrows, and the soft woosh they made through the air. With Luthien right next to her, she stretched her hand and made a circular movement, creating a strong barrier between them and the attack. The shield she created was instantly showered with at least two dozen arrows, but gave no sound of having been hit. As archers raised their heads, Anna dissolved the shield. ‘Who goes there?’ called a voice from the distance. ‘It is I, Luthien!’ the elf called back, taking Anna by surprise. ‘Is this what it’s come to, Arya? Now you turn your weapons against your own kind?’ ‘I know no Luthien!’ Arya called, sending another arrow towards the two, which Anna instantly repelled, using the silver, luminous shield she had before. ‘Then perhaps you know a certain Anna,’ the witch said disdainfully. The air tensed alongside Arya and the other archers. Anna was not a common name amongst elves or any creatures in Middle Earth, really. Arya’s slender body appeared from behind a massive broom shrub. She had her dark hair pinned back. Her green eyes sparkled with envy and malevolence. Neither Anna nor Luthien had ever liked Arya much. ‘Good evening,’ Arya said with a wry smile. ‘Not unless you were just attacked by your own cousin,’ Anna retaliated fiercely. ‘I can’t help it,’ Arya dismissed her airily. ‘Orders, you know.’ ‘Surely my grandmother doesn’t force you to attack anyone who comes near Ellesmera,’ Anna said, smiling because she knew it would incense her a bit. ‘No,’ Arya smiled back, revealing small, white teeth. ‘But she did say strike anyone who looks suspicious.’ ‘I do believe a pregnant woman and an elf look positively mistrustful,’ Luthien cut across her, stepping forward and deliberately rubbing Arya’s shoulder. ‘Luthien herself was also pregnant when she first asked asylum, you know. Look how that turned out. She’s Galbatorix’s wife now,’ Arya said bitingly. Anna’s blood started boiling in her veins, but she kept a deliberately calm face. It was not what she would have done under normal circumstances, but pregnancy and near-marriage to a Marauder had taught her better. ‘Tell me, Arya, can you keep a statistic?’ she asked sweetly, much like Umbridge, only to a better avail. ‘…Yes,’ the elf replied. ‘Then tell me, of all the pregnant women who have ever approached Ellesmera, exactly how many have turned against the elf-kind?’ Anna pressed on calmly, absently rubbing her belly. ‘One,’ Arya replied, red in the face. ‘That proves my point,’ Anna smiled. ‘You had no reason to order an attack on two elves, one of which pregnant, especially if you were expecting us. That clears it, and I will report you,’ she said, walking away from a red and frowning Arya. ‘Open the gates!’ Arya’s clear voice called from far behind the two proud-looking women. Like I said, they never liked Arya much.

The drop-gate opened without the slightest sound and revealed a majestic world inside. The marble city of Ellesmera was overcrowded with falling shrubs of Arctic Beauty, small necklaces of Bittersweet around the pillars, honeysuckle, ground ivy, lianas, morning glory, water spinach, magnolia trees, cherry trees and ultimately, the flower Anna loved most, Niphredil. Ellesmera was a truly marvellous city, she thought then. Green enveloped the white trunks of mallorn trees upon which the elves had built their houses. The forest inside the forest was surrounded by a perfect circle of three rows of magically enhanced stone, with a radius of ten miles. A jewel fit to be the house of the Silmarilli. Anna and Luthien bore smiles of a strange triumph as they entered the city, but soon, Anna’s smile faded. Luthien had gotten used to the battle-worn aspect of the city, but to Anna it came as a wee bit of a shock. Most elves were passing them by without lifting their heads or bearing a smile. They had on grey attire, befitting a war. The city itself was not in anyway damaged, but it looked as though its spirit had been broken. There was no more of that atmosphere of peace that Anna knew, in spite of it being the most serene place Anna had visited in a long time. Amongst the sea of blond and bowed heads, Anna saw a familiar proud figure walking from her left to right, taking no notice of the new arrivals. Oromis held his head high, showing his ageless, determined face. His back was straight and his steps were soft, but strong and unwavering. ‘Oromis!’ Anna called, and his head twitched, looking to his right but not quite catching the source of the noise. ‘Oromis!’ she called again, raising a hand. Upon seeing her, Oromis’ face relaxed into a happy smile. Welcome bloomed in his weary eyes, and his fair hair gleamed in the filtered sunlight. Anna would have normally thrown herself in his arms – he was, after all, her teacher – but being pregnant had some limitations which she had to admit, however unwillingly she did so. ‘Mae govannen!’ Oromis said merrily. ‘Mae govannen, Oromis-elda!’ Anna answered, putting her arms round his shoulders. Luthien and Oromis saluted each other formally, almost glacially. Anna wondered what was the matter with them, for they had been friends all her life, but they did not give her time to worry about that. ‘Come!’ Oromis said. ‘You must see Galadriel!’ Anna smiled and nodded, but she felt as though Oromis had made her swallow a rock of some sort. Galadriel had known Sirius… They walked slowly down the wide paths inside Ellesmera, and Anna once again got acquainted to her home town. She gradually grew fond again of the soft singing of the elves and the dim light in the city. It became her home again. Oromis, Luthien and Anna reached the oldest and strongest mallorn tree in the forest, which Anna recognized immediately as her grandparents’ home-tree. Deep in the tree’s sea of silver leaves and branches laid a castle of exquisite build – the cradle of her grandmother’s throne. They climbed the wide interior ladder and soon reached a door opening into a Hall greater than the one at Hogwarts. The floors were made of marble; the stained windows were painted pale blue and lilac, and the ceiling was made of the finest adamant, wrought so thin that one could see through it, but so strong that it could hold a good number of oliphants and not break. The throne room was indeed refined, Anna thought. But to her it all seemed surreal. Somehow, elves never had anything to do with wars and the world outside their own.

Ellesmera seemed cut out from little stars and placed on earth, while the rest of the world was just blood-stained, tired and sad dirt. It wasn’t right, this contrast, Anna thought. Suddenly, something – elf, she figured – attacked her mind fiercely. Instead of fighting him off, Anna opened her mind exactly the right amount as to find out where and who her attacker was. ‘Larien, it’s only me!’ Anna said, chuckling. From behind a massive adamant pillar came a young and fresh-looking elf. She had wavy hair of such darkness that it seemed positively abyssal. Her eyes were no match for her hair – two dark, infinite skies of ebony. Her skin was – as any elf’s – dazzlingly white, and her slim body seemed to glide towards the three. Laughing widely, she hugged Anna and Luthien, respectfully nodding in Oromis’ direction. From an emerald door behind her, emerged Galadirel and Celeborn, both looking as stony as the floor and ceiling above them. Two fierce angels rounded on Anna, completely disregarding the others, who actually bothered to bow. ‘You,’ fired Celeborn, narrowing his eyes. ‘I,’ said Anna proudly, as the baby kicked almost soundly. ‘You have the nerve to show your face here, in this place! You and your child out of… wedlock!’ Celeborn said indignantly, letting go of Galadriel’s arm. ‘I don’t expect you to welcome me,’ Anna smiled. ‘It is you who need me, not the other way around. While you’re at it, you might ask your wife to teach you a little more about diplomacy.’ ‘Look who’s talking! The uneducated half-elf with a passion for witchcraft!’ retaliated Celeborn. Anna couldn’t help inwardly criticising her grandmother’s choice of a husband, but quickly drew her wand and pointed it between her grandfather’s eyebrows. He grew paler than ever, and she smiled malevolently. ‘Apparently magic’s given you some headaches, hasn’t it, Lord Celeborn?’ she said. ‘I suggest you pay more respect to people who are able to do things you cannot. Who knows, maybe your rash way of insulting people will get the better of you one day…’ As Celeborn opened his mouth to speak, Galadriel placed herself between grandfather and granddaughter, with her long fingers in the air, imposing silence. ‘Enough! You know this will be our end!’ she said fiercely, piercing them both with her suffocating blue look. ‘…like Troy…’ Anna whispered pensively. ‘What was that?’ Galadriel asked patiently. ‘Nothing,’ Anna said, still thinking of when she had reprimanded Molly for picking a fight with Sirius… From behind her, a long-haired, slender elf brushed her shoulder. Legolas passed Anna wordlessly and went behind Larien, placing his hands lovingly on her shoulders. She gave him a fleeting and loving look which he returned happily. Anna, far from feeling sad for Sirius’ death, raised a mischievous eyebrow at Larien, and she responded with a cheeky smile, placing her own hand on top of Legolas’. Anna saw a small, glittering ring there, and gave the pair a sincere, relieved grin. ‘Anna, are you listening?’ Galadriel asked forbiddingly. ‘Her name is not Anna…’ Celeborn said under his breath. ‘Yes it is!’ Larien, Luthien and Anna snapped together. ‘Her name is beside the question,’ Galadriel dismissed them with a wave of her hand.

‘Her name is exactly the question. Once people like my own great-grandfather here start accepting me as their equal, only from another world, then will be the time for me to act. Then will my powers reach their climax, and then will I be able to save this world,’ Anna reasoned passionately. ‘What is so difficult for you to accept? That I am part human? That my father is a werewolf? That I’m pregnant? That I’m her daughter? What? What is it about me that is so wrong, you will not accept my help?’ she concluded, half-shouting. Celeborn fixed her with a cold gaze. All around Anna, the elves shifted uncomfortably. She knew she was right, yet she felt entirely out of place in that calm, still place. It was the same thing as it was with the Muggle-borns. She was a human in demand of their leadership, and it did not please Celeborn. He was the kind of person who let the meeker live, as long as they did not show their faces much. Evil was alright, as long as it did not bother him. Anna would and could not stand for it. As she thought all this, feeling the blood boiling in her veins, a pain shot through her entire body. It wasn’t the strongest pain she had ever felt, but it took her by surprise. She leaned on Oromis and Luthien, while Larien, Legolas and Galadriel eyed her with shocked expressions. ‘I….I think I’m having the baby…’ she said. At that, Galadriel gave a quick order to have her taken to her dormitory. She was quickly placed on the snow-white sheets, which she soon stained with the blood of the next Shur’tugal. Sirius John Black was born hurriedly – he was ready, and had been ready for some time, to live. ‘There you go,’ a kindly woman said, giving her the small, crying baby. Anna was glad the woman was human, and not an elf. That way, the first hands that touched Sirius’ son would be warm and loving. The moment she touched John’s frail little body, Anna’s heart exploded, filled with love. Later, the ones present told her that colour came back to her cheeks, and that was the moment of her healing. The small fruit of her love cuddled in her arms and quietened. ‘You have a little time to rest before the next one, dear,’ the woman said. Anna felt as though she had been hit by one of Arya’s arrows. A cold, electrical arrow drove its way through her head. ‘Excuse me?’ she said. ‘I think she means the next baby,’ Galadriel said serenely. Though Anna was glad to see her grandmother so happy and full of emotion, all she could really think of was her vision of the three graves… It had been her mother’s trick, hadn’t it? None of it was true! They would not die, would they? Soon, Alia Sairalinde Black came into the world, and was placed in the warm and protective arms of her newly healed and rejuvenated mother. In that moment, Anna became herself, ten times enhanced. She did not only protect Middle Earth, or the wizarding world, or any other world filled with self-sufficient adults. She, from now on, had to protect the world in which her children lived, her small, frail, vulnerable children. The small people she had made were her responsibility. Seeing Anna’s expression, Larien and Luthien elbowed each other at the exact same time, bumping their elbows and jumping two feet apart in an attempt at keeping their

pain silent. Rubbing their elbows with grimaces spread on their faces, they jerked their heads, signalling each other as to look at Anna. Luckily, Galadriel’s wide, swimmer back concealed them. ‘Sauron and his buddies should look twice before sitting down now…Anna might be waiting on the chair with an upraised knife in her lap…’ Larien said in a muffled voice. Luthien burst out laughing at the sweet absurdity of slicing open Sauron’s rear end, and Galadriel turned upon her like a large, white-clad bat. ‘I should just make sure it’s not the toilet seat they’re about to sit on…It’s simply unhealthy to wait for a Lord of Evil amongst poo,’ Anna smiled at the two, and even Galadriel relaxed, managing to squeeze a smile through her lips. The three young women were cousins: Larien was Arwen and Aragorn’s daughter, and rightful princess of Minas Tirith. Luthien was Celebrian’s daughter, which made her Larien’s aunt, practically. But the fact that they had been born so rapidly one after the other made them consider each other best friends, cousins…sisters. The three sharp, crystal, ringing shrills of laughter travelled throughout the palace, making scribes and librarians lift their heads from the dry, dusty parchments, and squeeze the same mangled smile Galadriel had Nevertheless, they smiled. With the birth of her children, Anna found herself. She found her prior energy, life and will. She was miraculously healed, and could now start worrying about the world outside her formerly broken self. The first thing she did that night, while her two jewels were sound asleep and she was watching over them, was call Leithya. From the fragile balcony of the twins’ room, which she had leaned over, she called the mighty dragon. Leithya, I’m healed! She heard a deafening roar from nowhere in sight then saw the red and orange flame of triumph – Leithya was celebrating. Soon after, the great green dragon flew close to her extended hand. “How about a ride?” the great dragon asked. “Leya, the babies!” Anna said worriedly. “Let’s think…” Leithya said in a mock thoughtful voice. “They’re newborn royalty in the best-guarded town of the land, surrounded by elves who happen to be the best archers and fighters in the world…I’ve just come from above the forest, as you know, and no army is in sight. We have no news of any attacker, if any can get past the sentinels at the gates. They search your mind, and nobody can last against them, you know that…To tell you the truth, your children do seem to be in real danger…” “Shut up, Leya,” Anna said, frowning. “You would be just as paranoid if they were your children!” She got on, and only then did Leithya say, “They are, remember? We are one…” “I’m sorry…We are one, you’re right,” Anna apologized. “Now let’s have some well-deserved fun!” Leithya said excitedly, soaring into the air with Anna on her back who had her arms extended. They had not flown in so long, that the Lothlorien sky seemed a virgin territory to them. Anna and Leithya flew to the stars and back, with the wind caressing their limbs, giving them a unique sensation of freedom.

To be free, with the entire world in front of you, was an experience one could only acquire while riding a dragon, as his or her Rider. To become one with the flying beast was something not even the most skilled horse-riders fully accomplished. To ride your dragon was like being born again. Anna awoke the next morning to find herself wiser, stronger and happier than she had been in a long time. She sprung to her feet, feeling a terrible amount of energy in her body. She rushed to her children’s quarters merrily humming under her breath. Just before entering the room, the great door slammed shut in front of her, actually pulling a few of her hairs out. ‘What is this?’ she asked loudly. ‘Anna, you know our tradition…’ Arya came up from behind her with a pleased look on her face. She had a strange way of walking, swinging her hips complacently and pushing her long hair back from time to time. Arya struck Anna as extremely artificial, and selfabsorbed. She had always loved, as long as Anna, Luthien or Larien were near, to act as though nothing mattered to her. Everything was unimportant, and her terrible fights with her mother, Islanzadi, were mere trifles to her. ‘Your tradition?’ Anna asked carelessly. ‘The palace guards are to isolate the royal newborns for seven days after the birth. It’s got to do with acquiring magic, Anna…’ Arya said haughtily. Blood once again boiled in Anna’s veins. ‘Let me see my children,’ she commanded coldly. ‘I cannot,’ said Arya, smiling. ‘Open the doors,’ Anna insisted, eyeing Arya with such acid hate that she was surprised the elf did not dissolve. ‘No,’ came Arya’s cold voice, all attempts as sweetness thrown away. ‘I could knock this door down with a wave of my hand,’ Anna said fiercely, walking up to Arya so that the two women’s faces were inches apart. ‘I could kill you with another. I don’t care how many wars you’ve been through. I don’t care how esteemed you are, and I don’t give a damn about you and your mother’s social status. All I know is that if you don’t open those doors now and let me see my children, you’ll get a taste of my hate, and you don’t want that. I’ve had a bone to pick with you, Arya, for a long time, and I won’t quit now, because you happen to be more popular amongst the elves,’ Anna said calmly, yet Arya backed away. ‘It’s beyond my power to open that door,’ she said in a smaller voice. ‘Then in who’s power is it?’ Anna inquired testily. ‘Mine,’ said Galadriel in her deep voice, entering the hall magisterially, with elegant steps and proud demeanour. ‘Well?’ Anna asked, after a few moments’ silence. ‘I will not,’ Galadriel said airily. ‘Excuse me?’ Anna asked indignantly. ‘I have the right to see my children, I should think.’ ‘Not for another six days, by our laws,’ Arya intervened. ‘You shut up,’ Anna cut across her. ‘She’s right, you know…’ Galadriel said. ‘You’re telling me that now I have to abide by your laws, when you have done nothing but ignore my existence for almost twenty years?’ Anna asked, a crazy grin appearing on her face.

‘I’m telling you that you must obey me, your Queen and grandmother. I’m telling you to play by my rules as long as you are in my house,’ came Galadriel’s retort. ‘To hell with your laws, I want to see my children! And I don’t remember you doing me any favour which I have not paid back ten times over!’ Anna said. ‘This is crazy! They’re my children!’ ‘No,’ Galadriel refused stubbornly, with no sign of pity on her porcelain-like face. ‘Fine,’ Anna said, straightening her back and walking up to the door. She placed her long-fingered palms in the exact centre of the stars carved deep in the white wood. Before she had time to muster any kind of energy to knock down the doors, a cold knife was placed on her bear throat. Its blade spread a thousand chills in her body. ‘Just walk away, Lady Anna...’ whispered a sweet, boyish voice in her ear. ‘You’re no good to your children dead, and they will kill you.’ ‘Alright,’ Anna said loudly, recognizing the voice. The knife unglued itself from her skin and Anna turned hastily round to see Valandil and another guard, Vanir, behind her. ‘Fine, you win,’ Anna said to her grandmother. ‘But don’t think I love you for this.’ As she was walking out, escorted by the two soldiers, Galadriel said, ‘Perhaps you ought to start seeing yourself as one of us, before we start seeing you as such.’ Anna stopped short for a moment, but kept on going. Her grandmother wasn’t right, but she was not in the mood for a fight. ‘I’m going out,’ she said loudly. ‘Valandil, Vanir, escort her,’ her grandmother’s sound voice echoed in the silent hall. Anna took no notice of the two. She walked determinedly on, across the city of elves, heading towards her teacher. Dumbledore was not there to soothe her – Oromis would have to do. Just before placing her foot on the path leading to the great teacher’s house, Anna stopped short, turning round. ‘Valandil,’ she muttered, beseeching him. ‘I’m sorry…’ ‘Milady, whatever for?’ he asked, his blue eyes sparkling. Anna had forgotten how much the beauty of a pure elf could stun one. Valandil’s blond, soft hair was hanging loosely on his shoulders. His clear blue eyes were alive and intelligent. His white cheek gleamed in the setting light of the sun. Anna smiled as she replied. ‘For forgetting to greet you properly, and thank you,’ she said. He bowed slightly. ‘Don’t be silly,’ he smiled back, revealing gleaming teeth. Anna gave him a small hug, which he returned. ‘How come you’re here?’ she asked, taking a step towards Oromis’ house. ‘I was sent here to serve Queen Galadriel by Lord Elrond. Last time we met, - ‘ Anna’s stomach compressed itself to the size of a walnut as she remembered bringing Sirius to Lothlorien. ‘– he had sent me to do the same, but quickly ordered me back. Now he says I am to stay for good,’ Valandil rolled his eyes. ‘How is Elrond these days?’ she asked. ‘Morosely living in Rivendell. He regrets ever letting Lady Arwen marry King Aragorn, but heaven forbid he should show it…’ he smiled slyly. Anna grinned. Valandil was the most humane elf she knew, which was the reason for her to find such a great friend in him.

‘Oh, dear,’ Anna cried, remembering herself. ‘But I’ve ignored you!’ she added with a smile to Vanir. He bowed coldly in reply. ‘My name is Vanir, milady. At your service,’ he said dignifiedly. ‘And I’m Anna,’ she smiled. ‘Are you part of the Queen’s official guard?’ ‘No, Lady Anna. I’m a guard for your children, reassigned from the army.’ he said. ‘Oh,’ she breathed. ‘And were you born here? Or do you come from Rivendell, like Valandil?’ ‘Born and raised in Ellesmera, milady,’ Vanir said, smiling complacently. ‘If I may ask, milady,’ Valandil said after a small pause from the party. ‘Go ahead, Valandil,’ Anna smiled. ‘The Edan you were here with last time…His name is Sirius, I think?’ Valandil said. Anna felt faint, and allowed a second or two of silence before answering. ‘Yes, you’re right. His name was…Sirius…’ she said breathily. ‘There is talk amongst the elves that he is dead, milady,’ Valandil said. ‘And why do elves care what happens to humans out of their world?’ Anna asked. ‘Haldir says he still has remnants from that blow at the back of the head he gave him,’ Valandil sniggered. ‘Whatever happened to him? We thought…you know…because you took him to Cerin Amroth and all…Besides, we all agreed on the fact that there really was something special in the way he looked at you…’ ‘What do you really want to ask, Valandil?’ Anna said harshly, her expression stony. She did not need anyone reminding her that Sirius was still very much in love with her when he died. ‘Is he the father?’ Valandil said quickly. ‘He’s dead,’ Anna cut across him, finally looking him in the eye. ‘And yes, he is the father.’ There was a pause longer and more painful that anything Valandil had ever felt. Vanir, however, was enjoying himself gleefully watching the two from behind. ‘Listen to me, Valandil,’ Anna said harshly. ‘I don’t care who you tell. I don’t care who finds out, but I think it was presumptuous in the least to ask me such a thing. My life doesn’t concern you, or anyone else,’ ‘I apologize, milady,’ Valandil said, bowing in sincere regret. ‘I know you meant no harm. I would have been just as curious if I were you,’ Anna said. ‘He died a few months ago, in a battle. Don’t think you’re the only ones fighting, dying and losing, Valandil.’ Oromis’s house was a few feet in front of them, when Vanir spoke. ‘Milady, I must proceed with training the new Rider…I apologize for parting with you here,’ Vanir said. ‘The new Rider!’ Anna exclaimed. ‘He’s here! And you didn’t tell me, Valandil!’ Anna cried with a playful smile in her eyes. ‘I apologize, Lady Anna,’ Valandil smiled back. ‘What are you helping him train with?’ Ann asked. ‘Swords, milady,’ Vanir said with a mocking smile. Anna perceived his glee… ‘Not a brilliant one, is he?’ she asked. ‘Not exactly, no, milady,’ Vanir replied, his glee increasingly obvious. ‘Maybe I’ll come and watch…Even duel with him if you permit it,’ Anna said sweetly. ‘By all means, milady. I must go now...’ Vanir said apologetically. ‘Go, go,’ Anna smiled. ‘Namarie!’

‘Namarie!’ Vanir bowed out of sight. Anna and Valandil proceeded up the stairs to Oromis’ lair. It just so happened that he was training the new Rider. The young man was handsome, Anna could see. He was strong-built, but rather shorter than you would have expected. Still, he was a fine man…But there was still his dragon to see… ‘Mae govannen, Oromis-elda!’ she greeted, and the two started. The Rider, who was doing push-ups at the time, fell clumsily sideways and lifted his face. Anna could tell from his gestures and face – a kind human this was. ‘Mae govannen, Anna!’ Oromis greeted and his agelessly tired face relaxed into a smile. ‘Mae govannen!’ said the Rider and Valandil at the same time, which brought a small laughter to Anna’s lips. ‘I believe this is your new Rider,’ Anna said kindly. ‘Yes, milady,’ Eragon replied, taking Oromis by surprise with his boldness. ‘I’m Anna,’ she smiled. ‘I’m Eragon,’ he said, mesmerised by her beauty. He was eyeing her features attentively. Her high cheekbones, her dark hair and fair skin…Her strange grey eyes, and her full, red lips. She was more beautiful than any elf he had ever seen. ‘Eragon!’ Oromis scolded. ‘Don’t stare,’ he added, more pleasantly. ‘Never mind, Oromis,’ Anna said, ‘It is, ultimately, a compliment. Or so I hope,’ she smiled, and then winked furtively at him. Etiquette doesn’t work with me, Rider, Eragon heard a clear, sweet voice ring in his head. ‘Who are you?’ Eragon asked. He had not felt any pain or attempt at invading his mind. Her voice had simply spoken inside his mind. ‘A person,’ Anna replied, ‘It’s all you really need to know.’ ‘Come, Eragon! Stand not amazed!’ Oromis said, barely concealing a chuckle. ‘Your opponent is waiting in the arena. I am afraid you have a poor timing, Anna. Eragon is heading to his sword fighting lessons. Only afterwards will you have time to talk to him. Unless if you want to come to his training, that is…’ ‘I was hoping to have a moment with you, Oromis. Then I will join our young Rider in the battle arena…Merely to test his skills…’Anna said pleasantly. Eragon was on his way, with a heavy heart. He felt warm and at home with Anna in the room…It was strange… Revulsion rose inside him as he stepped into the arena. A few more hours with Vanir were not his dream of a perfect morning. But he was going to see Anna again, and it was quite a comforting thought. Soon, his good mood evaporated. Vanir was humiliating him so, that he now hoped Anna would not come. Eragon dreaded making a fool of himself in front of Anna, who seemed incapable of being either humiliated or easily impressed. Meanwhile, Oromis and Anna were talking…Just talking… ‘I have come here for your advice,’ Anna said coldly. ‘Sit down,’ the elf said. ‘You too, Valandil.’ The two did as they were told, and only then did Oromis ask, ‘Why are you not with your children?’ ‘…They wouldn’t let me see them,’ Anna said painfully. ‘What?!’ Oromis cried in surprise.

‘The doors were locked shut, with guards in front. Arya and Galadriel both said it was elven tradition for a mother not to see her children for seven days after their birth, but I’m no fool. They want them to touch the egg today…’ Anna said morosely. ‘The egg?’ Oromis asked interestedly. ‘Yes…The dragon egg…John is a Rider, Oromis…Both Arwen and I have had the same premonition…’ Anna said sadly. ‘You do not approve of it, I suppose?’ Oromis asked. ‘A baby in war, Oromis-elda?’ Anna smiled humourlessly. ‘No, I do not approve of it… I had hoped to raise my children away from battles…’ ‘Still, if they bring about the salvation of their world…it is all to good avail, Anna,’ Oromis reasoned. ‘I have lost John’s father for the same silly reason, Oromis,’ Anna said, her face stiff. ‘In a battle?’ Oromis asked interestedly. ‘Yes, a duel,’ Anna said indifferently. ‘I couldn’t stand losing him as well. I’d go insane…’ ‘But Nessa said the prophecy showed a young man emerging victoriously from a battle,’ Oromis reasoned. Anna sighed, ‘John will fight more than one battle,’ she said, then paused. ‘All I hoped for, all Sirius died for was a peaceful world for our followers. It makes my heart cringe, this certainty that their lives will be lived in war as well. Besides, my great-grandmother has no mercy. She’s locked them both to touch the egg today, on their first day in this world. Their training and transformation begin today…War begins today…’ She looked away from Oromis, deep in thought. In truth, her insides ached with weariness and sadness. ‘Anna,’ Oromis said brusquely. ‘They will live. They will live in a perfect world of their own making. A world where Galbatorix does not exist and all grandmothers are kind. Where fathers live to see their children have children – ‘– he stood up and took both of Anna’s hands in his – ‘– and where you, my dear, are happy. The time for your happiness will come. When all evil is eradicated, only then will your love bloom over all this earth. Over all worlds will your heart come to blossom, and all love will you take in. Your children will live, and you along with them. There will be no more death because, in such a world of love, death comes to its pitiful end. Have faith in this dream, and it will become true.’ ‘There is no perfection,’ Anna said coldly, taking her hands from Oromis’. ‘And I have not asked for it. All I ever wanted was life! Life is all we need – anything else we can work out! I know that now, and I always have! It’s the only thing these blasted wars have taught me, that to live is the beginning of all possibility! You can achieve anything – purity, happiness, love – in life! But there’s so much death around us, that life becomes the meeker, the oppressed! How, with so much death around, can the rest live?’ she said heatedly, her face flushed. ‘That is exactly what I was telling you!’ Oromis pleaded. ‘You must dream on, for that is the way to purity of land and life!’ Anna rounded fiercely upon him. ‘Dream? What can one who has known nothing but war dream of?’ Anna asked. ‘I dream of the world of my past, but it is as bad a world as this! Lovers have to hide; innocent men are tortured for half their lives – blamed for crimes they did not commit! Brave men who happen to be ill are looked upon with fear and disgust! Mothers lose their children! We send them to war! Children in war, Oromis! I know what that’s like and I don’t want my children to have to fight! I don’t want them to

know death! Call me a bad mother, but I plan on protecting them from the bad part of life as much as I can!’ ‘But there is perfection, Anna!’ Oromis said. ‘And maybe none of us can attain it, but it certainly is around you! The very essence of life is perfection! Children are perfection! Trees and leaves are perfection! The roar of a dragon, a lion – that is perfection!’ ‘No, Oromis! It used to be perfection! Now we kill dragons and lions! Now we ruin children with war! You might have lived in a world of no war, but I haven’t! And I’m not saying that no one should make a stand, you know I’m the fighter type, but I’m simply saying that no one sees what we have done to this world! What was once perfect in its peace and roundness is now sharp, edgy and biting! It is a world made to destroy integrity! We all must side with evil to avoid pain, or die!’ Anna said fiercely. ‘Yes, I agree! This world kills all honour, but you and your children can help make a world that preserves such values! You are the ones who can help recreate the past which only survives in fairytales and songs!’ Oromis said. ‘Anna, your generation is the cornerstone for this new civilisation you can build! Leaves you have planted will unfurl again! Birds will sing, and lions will roar! But these are the symptoms of our illness: it must be worse before it can get better, Anna! In spite of never having known a perfect world, Anna, heed the words of a wise old man: there will be a home for your love in that world. You shan’t be forgotten, Ithilwen! I have faith in you and your strength – the world you build will be young and beautiful, like yourself. Fear not, milady. This war asks no tribute! Give it none willingly! Your heart will be enough to take you through this.’ Oromis concluded reassuringly. Anna was watching him intently, with her grey eyes swimming with tears. A silver thread of her sparkling relief trickled down her cheek. Oromis had known how to soothe her – the teachers of her life were like rocks, she thought. Oromis gave her a soft kiss on her forehead – people did that a lot to Anna. She smiled in gratification, and both Oromis and Valandil sat mesmerised by the phenomenon which had taken place in her. The light in her Evenstar shined brightly, and a weight seemed to be completely lifted off her. Her face regained that full, shining splendour it had before anything had taken her soul away. Anna’s courage and heart had been magnified by her children’s birth, but it was her mind and soul who had found warmth again now. She was complete and pure, whole as she was born, and her breaths were deep again. Nothing hung upon her shoulders, except desire for a world of love. The ideal of peace had become her own, and she was now the happy, living creature that everyone had come to know. Sirius was now the only love of her life, a fulfilling experience instead of a saddening reality of death. Her children were specks of light instead of memories of a past of pain. The sky was open to her and her dreams once more. She had found herself. Completely and irrevocably, this time. ‘Come, let’s watch his training. I’ll leave word with Glaedr to bring Saphira to the arena. Come,’ Oromis said. ‘I’ll tell Leithya to come as well. It’s high time they met, don’t you think?’ Anna said merrily. ‘Quite,’ Oromis said, on his way down the stairs of his house. The three reached the fighting arena, and Oromis stepped aside to let Anna enter first. The first pair of fighters they met was formed of two elves, beautifully and gracefully arching their backs in elegant strikes. But it interested them not, and they pressed on. ‘You’re dead,’ Anna heard Vanir say. ‘You know, Shur’tugal, you should really stop trying to defend yourself – a mere human cannot beat an elf!’

Anna raised an eyebrow, surveying Vanir magisterially. Pain, though already evaporated, had given her haughtiness and wisdom. She was entitled to condescend, not that not having the right had ever stopped her. The three newcomers remained silent, following Anna’s lead. ‘Must you really be so inelegant? God knows how humans become Riders!’ Vanir said loudly, as Eragon was picking himself up from the forest floor for the third time. ‘If I were an elf, or you a human, you would not beat me!’ he said angrily. ‘Perhaps not,’ Vanir said smugly. ‘But the situation is as such, and any other foe will be three times as harsh with you. No use weeping over the injustices of life.’ ‘No, but I cannot be more that my form permits me,’ Eragon said calmly. ‘Your form,’ Vanir mocked, poking Eragon in the ribs with the blunted tip of his sword. ‘Your lowly, degrading, human form. You are not fit to wipe our boots, human.’ Rage swelled inside Anna. Vanir was no better than any of Galbatorix’s supporters, in his ignorant prejudice. Anna drew her sword silently, approaching Vanir, who had his back to her. Behind her, Oromis and Valandil exchanged the shortest of amused looks. In front of her, Eragon, who had fallen once again, became brick red. ‘Vanir-vodhr, will you not duel with me?’ Anna asked. He started, turning around with a malevolent look in his eyes. ‘If milady wishes…’ he bowed slightly, facing her and readying himself for battle. ‘No magic, by the way,’ Anna said sweetly. ‘Never intended using any,’ Vanir smiled back. There was something smug and proud even in this smile, which privately incensed Anna, but she let none of it show. He charged first, pirouetting and swiftly driving his blow from below her. She defended herself neatly, still smiling to him. Her loose hair danced on her side, but never impeded her in fight. It seemed to flow with her, like water, shining in the light. Vanir’s rage swelled at this. Seeing her beautiful, lordly and knowing she was only a half-elf made him angry and envious. It was her turn to charge now. She faked a blow from the right, and changed her direction at the last moment, raising her sword up high and aiming toward his dark head. He defended himself heavily, at the last moment. He was breathing heavily from the excitement, yet she kept a cold, mocking smile on her face. Before he had time to regroup, she struck again, this time from the left. Taken by surprise, Vanir let his sword slip from between his fingers. His arm hung limply by his side, his brow was sweaty and his expression panicked. Anna’s cold, curved blade rested upon his jugular. ‘You’re dead,’ she said indifferently. ‘A human can and does in many ways surpass an elf. An elf can surpass a human. Dwarves can surpass all other creatures. It is not, in the least, a question of race, but a question of spirit. And, I must sincerely say, all spirits surpass yours. Vanir-vodhr, prejudice is the ugliest form that subculture can take. You have reached the climax of duplicity, sir. Vanir, you fight with us, for the ideal of a world without racial oppression, yet you enviously humiliate Eragon. Eragon, who, unlike you, was chosen by a dragon to be her Rider. For all your magic and skill, your heart is not noble. Pity, but it should give you some thought,’ Anna ended, shoving the tip of her sword a bit further into his freshly-shaved jugular. He broke into a feverish sweat, turning tomato-red. ‘I beg,’ he panted. ‘I beg your apology, milady.’ ‘It is not mine you need to beg,’ she said quite superbly.

Anna took her sword away and gave Vanir her hand. He took it and hoisted himself up. Vanir nodded and turned towards Eragon, giving him a loud, proud apology, although grudgingly. After Vanir had left with the attitude of a beaten dog, Anna challenged Eragon. ‘How about a real duel now?’ she said brightly. Eragon grinned, but before he had time to utter a reply, a strong wind drew their attention. The three mighty dragons were rapidly landing on the arena, raising the thin dust that had settled beneath the warriors. Anna’s dress and hair flew in all directions, and Eragon lay there, charmed by her blazing look. He had never felt so in a while. Anna emanated warmth, and what he perceived was a homely feeling. He was not in love, no. That could never happen. But his admiration and esteem for her were immeasurable. Somehow, a feeling that he would willingly pledge his life for her to preserve this condition of bliss she seemed to be in came upon him. This surety was born of a desire to save the world he lived in. It came to him that the reason for which he liked Anna so was that she was the image of the dream-world he was struggling to preserve. Anna was the World. “Little one, what is on your mind?” Saphira asked, but she knew all the same. ‘Leya!’ Anna exclaimed lovingly as her dark green dragon approached her with graceful moves. When Saphira beat her wings as to land, and Eragon turned a smiling face towards her. ‘She’s beautiful!’ Anna said in awe, and Eragon felt Saphira wire up. “I like her already,” she spoke to Eragon pleasantly. ‘To hell with the duel!’ Anna said. ‘How about a flight?’ she dared Eragon. ‘Shall we, Saphira?’ he asked happily. “Of course,” she replied calmly, wisely, as an adult watching over an excited child. “How about it, Leityha?” Anna asked. “You feel like flying?” “For my Rider– anything!” Leithya said majestically, throwing her head back into a small, proud roar. Love burst inside Anna. ‘Bu are you alright to ride, milady?’ Valandil asked. ‘After all, you’ve just given birth.’ ‘I’ve had a child, Valandil, I’m not crippled. Besides, you know me,’ Anna said, eyeing him and Oromis intently, as though they knew something Eragon did not. ‘I’m a get-up-and-go kind of person,’ she concluded. Oromis nodded gravely, but Valandil’s face tensed in worry. “I’ll be alright, Valandil…”Anna spoke inside his head, but his worry did not evaporate. ‘Shall we race?’ asked Eragon merrily, voicing Saphira’s request. ‘Alright, but we need to wager on something!’ Anna called, mounting Leithya gracefully. ‘Say we answer one another’s questions,’ Eragon said. ‘…depending on who wins.’ Anna paused to consider this claim. The pledge required her sincerity as well as his. If he was ready to surrender his secrets, did that mean she was obliged to do the same? ‘…Fine,’ she said finally. ‘If I win, I get to question you.’ ‘…or I you,’ Eragon grinned. ‘We’ll see,’ Anna smirked, as Leithya abruptly batted her wings and lifted off. Eragon and Saphira swiftly followed, and the two dragons were soon soaring between clouds. They circled each other, in smug attempt at impressing the Riders as well as one another. Leithya had a tad more skill, but nothing that a little education could not

correct. The dragons were evenly matched in their youth and splendour, and they both reached the previously established finish line at the same time. Leithya touched down with far more grace than Saphira, due to the fact that she had more experience. Saphira tripped – if a dragon can trip, that is – and instead of landing on her own four feet, she landed sideways, falling painfully on her shoulder. ‘Saphira!’ Eragon called aloud, holding on to his own shoulder, feeling her pain. Anna quickly dismounted and came near Eragon. She lay a hand on Saphira’s strong neck and from that exact spot, both the dragon and the Rider felt a pleasant warmth spread through their bodies, fighting their pain. ‘Thank you!’ Eragon said in relief and awe. ‘No problem,’ Anna smiled at him, rendering him numb with her grey gaze. ‘As for the race – let’s call it a tie, shall we?’ Eragon nodded, then kept silent. Anna added genially, ‘That means you can ask your questions.’ ‘Right,’ Eragon said breathily, turning slightly pink. After a reasonable and polite pause, Eragon said, ‘Who are you?’ There was a painful pause – painful for Eragon. Anna seemed only to consider the question. She was eyeing the setting sun from the mountain peak they had come to rest. Fir trees surrounded them, spreading a sweet, warm smell. The wind was blowing slightly, playing around in Anna’s magnificent long hair. Eragon had never seen such hair…Soft, yet strong and unyielding. It was as black as the night, and he cowered at the thought of getting lost inside the darkness. Eragon was standing beside Anna, considering her profile. Her lips were soft and pink, as were her cheeks. Her skin was dazzlingly white, without attaining an unhealthy pallor. Her grey eyes seemed thrice enlarged since Eragon had last looked upon them. There was something strangely human in those grey eyes, though Anna’s pointy ears begged to differ. She looked as though all the sadness a world can bear was mustered heavily in that brilliant grey. Before Eragon knew it, he was lost. Suddenly, Anna rounded on him. She was startled to see such ignorant, straightforward affection coming from him. She was scared. ‘How can you look at me like that, knowing that I am her daughter?’ she asked softly, in a small and slightly broken voice. ‘Whose daughter?’ Eragon asked, smitten. ‘Oh,’ she sighed, and comprehension dawned on her face, darkening her beautiful features. “Don’t frown,” Eragon thought, groaning. ‘You don’t know,’ she said. ‘You don’t know anything.’ ‘Tell me,’ he breathed back. She was afraid to. How could she willingly throw caution to the winds and play with his trust? After all, once he found out she was Galbatorix’s stepdaughter, there was no turning back – he would not trust her completely. She was almost entirely sure of that. ‘I am,’ she took a deep breath. ‘I am Luthien’s daughter.’ ‘What?!’ Eragon asked, appalled. ‘Luthien?! King Aragorn’s daughter?’ She would have smirked, maybe even laughed if it were not such a delicate subject. ‘No, Eragon. Galbatorix has a wife…And I am her daughter…’ Anna said morosely. Eragon’s brain took some time to adjust, but when the information finally slid into place, he found his heart more or less the same. ‘So are you Galbatorix’s daughter?’ he asked indifferently, yet alertly.

‘No,’ Anna said with a sigh. ‘My father is a human from another world, where I grew up. He…’ Anna stopped for a moment, on the verge of mentioning Lupin’s condition. ‘…he’s a very brave and kind man. And him I love.’ It mattered not, ultimately, that he was a werewolf. Not to her, and not to Eragon. ‘But Luthien?’ Eragon asked tentatively. ‘Her…Her I hate with all my might,’ Anna said passionately; her passion was incongruous, in that place of peace, yet it pleased Eragon. ‘She is not my mother – she abandoned me, she abandoned my father, and she betrayed us all.’ She said, placing a bitter anger in each of her words. Eragon’s eyes shined. ‘And Galbatorix is worse to me. He’s a murderer, much like his wife. While I still have a breath left in my body, he will not reign,’ she said. ‘Well, then, why should you think I could judge you?’ he asked with a smile on his face. ‘Everyone else does,’ she said plainly. They rested on the mountaintop in silence for a few minutes. There was no awkwardness, for they had the same rhythm, and both enjoyed the magnificent world at their feet. Eragon longed to know more, but he thought it unwise to stir Anna’s emotions. She was eyeing the horizon with an absorbed air and a scrutinizing look, as though expecting a great enemy to come from the setting sun. ‘What do you fear?’ Eragon asked to himself, and only for Saphira to hear. But Anna turned round fiercely, angrily, making Eragon shift closer to his mighty dragon. Anna seemed ready to lash out at him, but she choked on her words, letting out a relieved breath filled with regret. ‘I used to think I feared nothing…’ she said pensively, softening her look. ‘But no living creature may boast with such an advantage. ‘I fear both love and loss, Eragon. And they’re the only things worth fearing. I can ease pain, bear it if I must. But there is one wound which I cannot heal, which nobody can. And loss stays with you forever, as does the lost one…’ She closed her eyes to hide her incoming tears and took a deep breath to stifle the monster that grew inside her chest – the grip of bitter cries. Anna turned her face to the last rays of sun, feeling a whisper of a name of the soft breeze… Sirius… ‘He died, didn’t he? The father…’ Eragon asked, straightening his back and taking a daring step forward. Saphira issued a low growl to stop him, and Leithya pierced him with a look as hot as her flame. Anna was the only one who did not seem to mind. She closed her eyes heavily, restraining the imminent gush of tears and opened them once again to reveal her blurry, red vision. ‘Yes,’ she said loudly, straightening her back. ‘He is dead.’ ‘How did he die?’ Eragon ventured, ignoring the angry – and respectively pleading – looks from the dragons. ‘He was killed. In a duel,’ she said calmly, then turned to him. ‘The one thing Oromis did not teach you, Eragon, and that no one ever will for none have experienced it, is that your world is not alone,’ Anna said in a stately manner, assuming the poise of a very dear, bespectacled, talented teacher she had left back home.

Eragon felt compelled to sit down, and Anna followed, gesticulating as she explained to him the rules of a world where magic was done with a wooden stick and far less words. But soon, cold, biting raindrops started falling, and Eragon headed for cover under Saphira’s wing. Anna, however, stood stock still. She would have to show him in order to make him understand… Rain was soon pouring heavily, and Anna thought it was time to act. She raised her hands and, in a sweeping motion, chased the cold, unwelcoming clouds away. Another motion brought the sun to the sky. ‘Who are you?’ Eragon asked again, smitten by the relaxedness with which she controlled the weather. Anna turned a wise face towards him. ‘Tell me, have you ever heard of such a thing called Light of Nature?’ she asked, and he shrugged, shaking his head slightly. ‘The earth has a life of its own, Eragon. And every living being has a soul, which appears as a bright light. The earth’s soul is pure and shining light, and it rarely – very rarely – pours into a blessed person, giving him or her the power of uniting themselves with the earth, the world. I am such a person, you see. I am one with the world – I feel everything the world feels, and can control anything that happens.’ No virtual reaction came from Eragon. He could do nothing but gape at her, astounded. ‘I can control nature, I embody light, I …I am the key for this war, alongside the Riders,’ she said, lifting her gaze and having the amber sun reflect in her grey eyes. “It’s truly extraordinary,” Saphira thought, her thought spilling into Eragon, filling him. He felt the same bewilderment. “Such power in such a small person…Such power standing right before us, yet it’s killing her. I can see it,” Saphira added. ‘Anna,’ Eragon said, voicing Saphira’s own opinion. ‘is it too much for you?’ ‘Eragon,’ she answered breathily, giving him a fleetingly scorching look. ‘Eragon, my powers have a purpose. They must bring peace, and use me only as a liaison to the bodily world. My powers depend on physical support, on my body. And I’ve borne as much as I could for the past twenty years, but the weight of these powers is beginning to be…My powers, my light, they protect themselves, at my expense. If someone will attack us separately, we both lose. They have no body and I have not the physical strength to fight spells or enchantments,’ she said coldly, as a lesson she had grown weary of telling. She explained the lot to Eragon, and whilst she did so he watched her silently. Only after many wars did Anna come to realise how much education had changed Eragon… That evening between them was created a strange, frail bond. But a bond of such depth, that nothing would ever reach it to destroy – it lived in them, their dragons and followers. They headed back to the castle, side by side. Anna and Eragon talked about a great deal of things, including the world that Anna came from. Eragon seemed particularly interested in wand-magic and the wizarding world back home, which was soothing to Anna. She was, at last, able to talk freely about her home, about the people whom she loved more than anything.

Next chapter. As they said goodbye to their dragons, Anna felt an awful sinking feeling. She felt her stomach squirm not in hunger, but in a feeling not unlike fear. With Leithya away, she was no longer at home, she thought. But Eragon’s voice came to her from a distance, both waking and soothing her. ‘Anna?’ he asked gently. Anna nodded and followed him past the gates of the palace. As her feet made contact with the stone floor, her stomach clenched even more tightly. Something was wrong, and she knew it – yet from the marble walls naught transpired. Anna grey wary, for she had learned to trust her instincts, and Eragon soon abandoned all attempts at having a civil conversation. ‘Something’s wrong,’ she whispered, and his eyebrows shot up. As the two reached a pair of glass doors leading into Anna’s chambers, she realised her children would not be there. Nothing was waiting for her, and she had an impulse to grab Eragon by the elbow and run out of the stuffy castle. Alas, before she ever got a chance to do so, a small, carved wooden door opened in a corner, and two children came into the drawing room in which Anna and Eragon had arrived. The boy was chasing the girl with a wide grin on his face, his brilliant grey eyes alight with excitement. Locks of dark hair were gracefully falling on his brow, not darkening it in the slightest. His grin had such a sweetly tempestuous quality that Anna could not be mistaken. Sirius’ child-ghost had come to haunt her. The girl had large blue eyes, with long lashes. Her skin was white, but her cheeks were almost red because of the effort she had made in eluding her brother. She had a long, wavy mane of pitch-black hair, hanging in a thick braid at her back. Anna saw something in the little girl’s eyes which she had not seen in the boy’s. A little something that reminded her of her own father. The children were brothers, there was no doubt. As they rand around the two bystanders, they stuck their tongues at each other, mimicked and mocked one another. Galadriel appeared suddenly and magisterially in the small doorway. ‘Children! Enough!’ she exclaimed, clapping once, soundly. The two stopped running and stood shoulder-to-shoulder, facing the elven Queen and drawing breath in heavy gasps. ‘What sort of impression do you think your mother will have of you?’ Galadriel added angrily. She had clearly not thought much before, and spoken rashly. But Anna’s mind filled suddenly with long formulas of Growing and Aging Potions. She immediately imagined her small babies growing rapidly, their disproportioned limbs as the transformation proceeded, their cries of help and bitter tears of helplessness. Her face grew white in shock, and Eragon caught her just in time, for her knees gave. Anna had uttered a yelp so pitiable that both the children, who had been facing the doorway, turned round to see her. As their gazes met, the three comprehended their bond. The children slowly approached their quivering mother who, upon seeing them so stricken, turned red in the face, straightening her form. Anger had taken hold of her, and also something more powerful, in her bosom, like a monster capable of love and murder at the same time. Galadriel recoiled quickly, as Anna signalled her children to step aside. ‘What have you done?’ Anna asked, stressing every syllable.

Anna explains, Eragon explains, they head back to castle, babies grown, Anna fit.