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Not Alone



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  #1  
Old December 3rd, 2006, 12:49 am
Anyanka  Female.gif Anyanka is offline
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Not Alone

A/N this fic is the sequel to Family Ties. If you haven't read it, I would recommend doing so, as much of this story won't make sense unless you do This fic is not recommended for people under fifteen years old due to occasional violence and mild sexual content.
__________________________________________________ ______
Prologue

Dear Mr Thomas

I regret to inform you that Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry will not be reopening this year or for the foreseeable future. As a student with O.W.L.s already, you may be able to apply for various jobs or internships; many places need new recruits during these dark times. You may contact me for any references you need.

I wish you all the best for the future, and hope that we may see you again at Hogwarts someday.

Sincerely
Professor M McGonagall

Dear Mr Thomas

It might be possible to get you into a new programme being introduced at St Mungo’s Healing College. As you can imagine, there is an urgent call for healing staff thanks to the victims of Dark Arts being practiced. They are going to accept students educated below N.E.W.T. level, though they are specifying the O.W.L.s required, at Exceeds Expectations. It will help that you have a year of N.E.W.T. level study of the appropriate subjects under your belt already. Fortunately, I am on good terms with Cayenne Willows who heads up the college, and I will send her an owl of reference for you; she taught your father when he was there. He was well known and liked and this will also count in your favour.

Best Wishes
Professor H Slughorn

Dear Mr Thomas

I am pleased to inform you that you have been accepted into the early admissions training at St Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries. You have been assigned a room in the training level of the hospital.

Term begins on the first of August. You may arrive by Floo powder, Apparition or through the visitor’s entrance through Purge and Dowse Ltd. Proceed to the seventh floor where there will be someone to show you to your room.

Please find enclosed a list of equipment and books required.
We hope you will be an asset to the hospital in these dark times.

Sincerely
Madam C Willows
Chief Healer.


__________________
"I don't go looking for trouble, trouble usually finds me!
"When two Neptunes appear in the sky, it is a sure sign that a midget in glasses is being born, Harry..."
"It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be."

Not Alone - the sequel to Family Ties
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Last edited by Anyanka; January 15th, 2007 at 6:52 pm.
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  #2  
Old December 3rd, 2006, 1:11 am
Anyanka  Female.gif Anyanka is offline
Second Year
 
Joined: 5229 days
Location: Northern Ireland
Age: 37
Posts: 136
Re: Not Alone

Chapter 1 – The Passage to St Mungo’s

On the morning of July twenty-ninth, Dean Thomas woke up to the familiar sound of flapping wings, followed by the thump of something landing on his stomach. He felt a nip on his finger and heard a low hoot that Dean knew by now meant: “Get up, or next time it will be harder.”

Dean blinked blearily in the sunlight shining in through his skylight and reached out to stroke his owl, Helios. He gave him a vole flavoured owl treat from the bag he kept on his bedside table for him; Helios always liked to have a treat after he’d brought the newspaper. The owl blinked his large eyes at him and gave a muffled hoot of thanks before taking off for his perch.

Dean unrolled his copy of the Daily Prophet with some trepidation. since Lord Voldemort had had Albus Dumbledore killed, there had been no incidents of attacks on anyone or any Death Eater activity.

Today, was no different. The headline was about the Minister for Magic having donated 2000 galleons to a fund who helped witches and wizards who had been affected by the war. War… no one has heard anything about him since Dumbledore died… He rose and dressed quickly; he had a lot to get through today, and knew he’d have to fight with his mother first.

* ~ *

“I have to go, Mum! I have to get everything I need to start the course.”

His mother looked at him, her large brown eyes misted with tears. “Isn’t there anyone who could go with you?”

“None of my friends are entering this programme. Besides, I’ll be on my own a lot when I start the course.”

“At least then you’ll be in a busy hospital.” She sighed deeply. “All right, just do me a favour and try to be back by four, will you?”

She kissed him on the cheek. “I’ll try, Mum. I’ll see you later.”

He turned to the huge new fireplace his mum had had installed last summer. He took a small packet from his pocket, emptied its contents into his hand, and then threw it into the flames. He watched the flames turn green and leap up; looking frightening if you didn’t know that was what was supposed to happen. He ducked down slightly to step in and yelled, “Diagon Alley!”

* ~ *

Dean had always loved this method of travel; it was warm and he loved the swooping feeling he got in his stomach and the adrenaline rush. He stepped out of the fireplace into the Leaky Cauldron, which was empty but for Tom the barman and a woman sitting at the bar. She had her back to him and all he could see was long, brown hair with dark gold and copper highlights that fell all the way to her waist in loose curls. With a nod of acknowledgement to Tom, Dean headed out the back door to the concealed entrance to Diagon Alley.

The street was very quiet, almost deserted. The few people who were there were moving quickly in packs, talking little and looking frightened. He was the only one who was alone, and people looked at him suspiciously.

Dean consulted his list and headed towards Flourish and Blotts to get his books: A Beginners Guide to Healing Charms, Advanced Antidotes, Advanced Reverse Transfiguration, Defensive Magic Against Bodily Harm and Magical Healing Plants and Their Properties. He paid for his purchases with the last of his Wizarding money, and arranged to pick the books up later in the afternoon as they were very heavy. He headed for Gringotts, keeping his head down and not making eye contact with any passing groups.

A painful hour later, Dean re-emerged from Gringotts, clutching a large bag of gold he’d exchanged from Muggle money. Wincing as he walked, he headed for Madam Malkin’s for the green robes he was required to wear.

Madam Malkin seemed very glad for the custom, even if she was not her usual cheerful self. He bought four sets of the green robes, and paid to have her attach the St Mungo’s emblem to the chest of each one. Next, he replenished his basic potions kit in the apothecary, adding several ingredients he’d never used before to his stock on the advice of the assistant when he told him that he was joining St Mungo’s. These new materials included phoenix blood and tears, Murtlap growths, Ramora eggs, and powdered unicorn horn.

After buying himself a stack of new parchment, six new quills and a dozen bottles of ink, he stopped by Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes in the hope that Lee might be around. His cousin, Lee, often spent his days off from his job in the Department for Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures with the Weasley twins, whom he’d been close friends with at Hogwarts. Of all the quiet shops on the street, the Weasleys’ was the busiest. People needed a reason to laugh these days, and the Weasleys’ had also developed a range of defensive objects, such as Shield Hats and Shield Cloaks.

Lee was talking to who Dean thought was Fred behind the counter. George was demonstrating a daydream charm to two teenage girls. As Dean approached the counter, Lee looked up and smiled.

“Hey mate, whatcha up to?”

“Getting everything ready to start St Mungo’s.”

Lee nodded. “Mum told me you got in; good for you. She said Uncle Gary always wanted to be a Healer.”

Dean smiled sadly. “I know. This isn’t how I imagined getting in, though.”

“How many extra years is this new course?”

“It depends on how much you know already. One of Slughorn’s letters said something about a test to gauge your knowledge. They must set out individual courses of study or something.”

“Hey Dean, what can we do you for?”

Dean turned to see George standing behind him. While the twins were still reasonably friendly toward Dean, they hadn’t been quite the same since Dean had split with their little sister Ginny just over a year ago.

“Just called in to see if you guys had any Shield Cloaks left?”

“Let me check in the back, there might be one or two.”

George headed for the back room, and Fred followed him. Lee sat down on the stool Fred had vacated behind the counter. Dean leaned against the counter, a bit more relaxed now the twins had left.

“So, how is Gina anyway?” Dean asked.

“Tense, like everyone. She hates me going out alone, but Fred and George have had the fireplace in the back room connected to the Floo Network, so she’s a bit happier that I come straight here, then back again. Looking forward to starting at St Mungo’s?”

“I suppose so; it’s going to be hard, that much I know.”

Lee nodded, “Mum still has some of Uncle Gary’s old tests and notes and stuff, it looked complicated enough when you had your N.E.W.T.s. Maybe I’ll ask her if you can have them.”

“That would be great, thanks.” Dean glanced at his watch. “I’d better head back; I’ve got to pick up my books at Flourish and Blotts.”

“All right. FRED!” Lee called.

Fred stuck his head through the curtain that led to the back room.

“What?”

“Is it all right if Dean uses your fireplace to get home?”

Fred regarded Dean coolly. “I suppose so.”

Dean felt a brief flash of anger. “You know, she dumped me! It’s not like I broke her heart or something!”

Fred narrowed his eyes and withdrew his head. Lee looked a little startled; Dean rarely got angry enough to raise his voice.

“Sorry, Lee. I’ll be back as soon as I’ve got the books.”

Flourish and Blotts was still deserted when he got there. He picked up his books and was reaching awkwardly for the door handle when it was pushed open. Adjusting the large package of books, Dean was able to make out Ernie MacMillan, a Hufflepuff who’d been a member of the D.A. in fifth year with Dean.

“Hey Ernie, didn’t expect to see you here.”

“You too! What are you doing here?” Ernie regarded the hastily wrapped books Dean was balancing in his arms. “Advanced Antidotes?” Ernie looked at a piece of parchment in his hand. “Are you doing the early admissions course at St Mungo’s?”

Dean was stunned. “Yeah, are you?”

“Yeah! I got Outstandings in all my O.W.L.s but Transfiguration, and a reference from Professor McGonagall settled the rest. How did you get in? I didn’t know you did so well on your O.W.L.s?”

“Slughorn got me in.”

Ernie raised his eyebrows. “I didn’t know you were a Slughorn favourite.”

“I wasn’t, but my father was. I think that helped a bit.”

Ernie nodded. “Well, it’s good that I’ll know someone else there. I’ll see you on Friday then.”

Ernie held the door open for him, and Dean said his thanks as he passed, barely holding on to the books now. The chat with Ernie meant he’d been holding the heavy books longer than his arms liked.

When he got back to the Weasleys’ joke shop, George had a Shield Cloak ready for him. “Thanks, George. Oh, I nearly forgot! It’s Neville’s birthday tomorrow. Got any cards or good birthday gifts?”

__________________________________________________ _____________________
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"I don't go looking for trouble, trouble usually finds me!
"When two Neptunes appear in the sky, it is a sure sign that a midget in glasses is being born, Harry..."
"It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be."

Not Alone - the sequel to Family Ties
Please leave Feedback for Not Alone!

Last edited by Anyanka; December 3rd, 2006 at 1:22 am.
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  #3  
Old December 4th, 2006, 1:36 am
Anyanka  Female.gif Anyanka is offline
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Re: Not Alone

Chapter 2 – Level Seven

Dean sent Helios to Neville as soon as he got home, so that Helios could be back by the time he had to leave for St Mungo’s. Students could arrive on Thursday or Friday, so Dean decided to go earlier to avoid a crowd.

The whole family ate together that night, most of them happy and chatting, telling Dean to have a great time. His mother, however, looked very anxious and when she laughed it sounded forced and often stopped quickly. He didn’t know how to reassure her he would be all right, especially as there were no guarantees in this world anymore.

When he opened his eyes the next morning to the familiar sound of Helios bringing him the newspaper, he sent up a silent prayer that his mother would manage to control herself and not make an emotional scene. He didn’t want to leave her in tears.

The morning paper brought more stories of disappearances and a smattering of deaths, though he recognised none of the names. He checked to be sure he had packed everything he needed, and then put Helios into his cage. Helios glared at him with his large amber eyes, not liking being kept in a cage again after the freedom of being able to fly in and out as he pleased. Dean wondered what facilities there were for students’ pets; it didn’t say anything about what kinds of pets were allowed on the letter. He worried that maybe he wouldn’t be allowed to keep Helios with him at St Mungo’s. He’ll go into a proper huff with me if I have to send him home!

He decided to worry about it when he got there. He took out his wand, pointed it at the heavy trunk, and said, “Locomotor trunks!” The trunks rose into the air, and followed the direction of his wand. Dean picked up Helios’ cage in his other hand and guided the trunk downstairs to the living room, where the whole family was waiting for him to say goodbye. He could tell his mother had been crying, but he tactfully refrained from mentioning it.

Vicky gave him a hug and made him promise to send her more Sleekeazy’s Hair Potion at first opportunity; he had bought her some two Christmases ago, and she loved the stuff. Aaron gave him a brotherly punch on the arm, but didn’t say anything. Mark gave him an envelope full of money, which Dean was expecting. He had learned from long experience that there was no use arguing about it.

He turned to his mother. She gave him a weak smile and wrapped him into a tight hug. She whispered in his ear in a throaty voice, “You be careful, you hear? And write at least once a week.”

“I will, Mum, and the Daily Prophet will come to you once a day; I took out a subscription for you.”

She patted him on the back and stepped back, keeping her hands on his shoulders, looking at him.

Despite her fear, he could see the pride in her eyes. “My little Dean, off to college on his own.”

“Aw Mum, stop it.”

Her arms dropped, “I’ll be proud of you, whether you like it or not.”

His mouth twitched in a smile. “Okay, Mum. I gotta go.”

He took some Floo Powder out of his pocket and threw it into the empty fireplace. Instantly, green flames leapt up and obscured the whole fireplace. He carefully levitated his trunk into the fire, secured his grip on Helios’ cage, and stepped into the flames.

“St Mungo’s!” he yelled. He got one last fleeting glance of his family before he was swept away.

* ~ *

He landed and hastily stepped out of the fire, dragging the trunk after him. He found himself in a very busy reception area. It was crowded with people who had all kinds of problems; obscene growths from transfiguration spells gone wrong; a woman who had dancing flames for hair; a small child whose left leg was swollen to three times its normal size. Several were making strange noises – among the cacophony were owl hoots, the roar of a lion and a shrill whistling he couldn’t identify. He could see several witches and wizards in the same green robes he himself had stored in his trunk.

A witch in pale blue robes with the St Mungo’s emblem on the chest approached him, carrying a clipboard. “Hello, you’re hear to start at the college?”

“Yes.”

“What’s your name?”

“Dean Thomas.”

She checked her list, found his name and marked it with a blue coloured quill, the type of which Dean had never seen before.

“All right, you’re all checked in.”

“Cool. Er, where do I go now?”

She led him to a quieter corridor, and pointed to a stretch of blank, white wall. “Take out your wand, tap the space right there where that finger mark is, and say ‘latenscendi’. There will be someone upstairs to direct you further.”

With that, she swept away back to the waiting room. Dean regarded the wall suspiciously. As a Hogwarts student, he was used to secret passageways and even hidden entrances, but none he had encountered needed a password. Glancing around to make sure he was alone, he took out his wand, pressed the tip to the black fingerprint and said, “Latenscendi!”

A large button melted out of the wall. Dean pressed it. A door that was completely invisible slid to the side, revealing a lift. Dean was stunned; in all his years in the Wizarding world, he had never seen a lift. It didn’t fit in with the magic of the world, even if it was invisible.

He stepped inside and the door slid back soundlessly. The room seemed to be waiting. He reached into his pocket and took out the letter he had been sent by the hospital. It said to proceed to the seventh floor. Another look around told Dean there was, as he’d first suspected, no buttons to press. He decided to try speaking out loud. “Er… Level Seven.” Instantly, the door opened again, but it wasn’t the same corridor.

He stepped out into a large area, which was the centre of a crossroads of corridors that seemed to stretch forever in either direction. It reminded Dean of all hospitals – white and sterile, though without the medicinal smell Muggle hospitals had. St Mungo’s had a scent that reminded Dean simultaneously of the greenhouses and Potions classroom at Hogwarts. I hope the dorms aren’t like this.

Despite being a day earlier than most students were expected, the whole area was swarming with people. He spotted a booth manned by a harassed looking witch. There was a queue of people twenty feet long and a large sign over her booth that read: “Accommodation.” Dean shrugged and got into the queue. He was British, queuing was something he was used to and was good at.

He stood his trunk on its end and set Helios’ cage on top of it. The owl was sound asleep with his head under his wing. Dean took the time to look around him. He saw large signs pointing down the corridors, listing which classes were taken there. The North wing was dedicated to Potions, the West to Charms, the South to Herbology and Dark Arts Retaliation, and the East to Transfiguration.

There were lots of other students, new by the look of it; some of them in the black robes Dean recognised from Hogwarts, their faces vaguely familiar. Others were dressed in pale blue robes and some in grass green. All looked as nervous and harassed as Dean felt. He wondered if his own nervousness was as evident.

When he finally reached the front of the queue, the witch running the booth looked no less fraught.

“Name?” she snapped.

“Dean Thomas.”

She scanned her list, “Early admission student, Hogwarts, 6th year completed?”

“Yeah, that’s me.” He tried smiling to put her at her ease, but she wasn’t even looking at him, she was riffling through a box full of folders.

“Here you go, the student accommodation floor is Level Six, and you’re in the East wing – room 127. Before you head down, I’d advise you to go and see the admissions desk over there.”

She pointed diagonally across the square – there was an admissions desk which looked a lot less busy than the accommodation desk.

“Most people are ignoring my advice; they’ll pay for it with a long wait later on.”

“Thanks, I’ll go now.”

She managed a real smile beneath her stressed expression. Dean realised she was actually very pretty, her hair was a shade of red that reminded him of his ex-girlfriend Ginny.

“I’m Kaitlyn Close. I teach Healing Charms. I’ll look forward to seeing you in classes on Friday.”

Dean was halfway across the busy square before he realised who he had been talking to. He stopped, a confused look on his face and glanced back. She looked so different from the only picture he had ever seen of her; now she was twenty years older, a lot more stressed, and a lot less smiley. That’s Katie Close… the Gryffindor girl Gary liked…

* ~ *

The admissions desk took his name and room number and handed him a huge, thick parchment envelope. The wizard running it was wearing plain black robes with a high collar. He had hair every bit as dark as the robes and bright blue eyes. There was no one else behind Dean, so he had the time to explain how the whole early admissions idea was going to work.

“In that envelope is a kind of test to gauge how much you know already know. From this we will develop your programme of learning and decide how many years training you will need.”

He fixed Dean with a stern look, “Do not cheat. We will know and you’ll get kicked out with no second chances. On Friday, you will have an introductory class in each subject. After that, they’ll be spaced out. You’ll be helping the Healers on the wards a lot of the time, learning by example. When you’re ready, you’ll be learning by doing.”

Dean lifted the flap of the envelope; he saw a thick sheaf of parchment inside, which he supposed was the test, along with a green sheet that contained a blank timetable for classes. A low, sleepy hoot from just behind him told him that Helios had finally been disturbed by the noise in the hall. He turned back to the man who was helping him.

“Is there somewhere for owls here?”

“There’s an Owlery on the roof, level nine.”

“Thanks, Mr....?”

“Professor Freeman. I teach Herbology. Your advisor of studies is Professor Close; she’s running the Accommodation desk over there.”

“Yes, I’ve met her.” And I’m glad I’ve got her over you

It had to be some kind of record to meet a teacher you were sure you wouldn’t like before you’d even started classes.

* ~ *

Room 127… Dean found the room about three hundred meters down the east wing corridor, and was surprised to see a name plate as well as a number on the door. Maybe I’ll go look for Ernie later…

Dean pushed open the door to his new room, and was surprised to see it was a single. I was sure we’d be sharing rooms, especially since they’re recruiting more people this year…

He wasn’t going to argue. He lugged his trunk in and hoisted Helios’ cage onto the large desk in the corner. The owl looked at Dean sleepily, and seemed to look pointedly at the lock on the door of the cage. “Sorry mate, this is a hospital. I’ll take you up to the Owlery soon.”

Dean stepped back and looked around the room. It looked cosy, much better than the sterile environment upstairs. The walls were half wood panelled; the top half was painted a soft cream and the floor had a thick dark blue carpet. A huge four-poster bed occupied the space opposite the door, and a mahogany bedside table stood beside it. The desk Dean had set Helios’ cage on was also mahogany, and the chair with it was comfortable. There were also plush cushions strewn around the bed and the floor beside it.

Dean stepped around an old fashioned screen that separated the corner to the right of his bed and found a sink and a large bay window, with more cushions on it. Dean looked out and was startled to see a lush green countryside. He took a step back and one to the left, yet the perspective didn’t change. This window doesn’t show the view outside…

From around the screen came an indignant hoot, and Dean decided he’d better take Helios up to the Owlery before unpacking. He picked up Helios’ cage and headed back towards the lift.

The lift wasn’t hidden this time; it must just be hidden on the hospital floors. He stepped out the open door directly on to the roof. Helios shot out of the cage the instant it was opened, hooting happily as he flew around the various perches. There was a tall wooden fence surrounding the perimeter of the building’s roof, but there was nothing covering the owls’ enclosure. The morning was very bright and cloudless, but after a couple of laps around the enclosure, Helios picked out a perch in the shade near the floor and settled down to sleep.

There weren’t very many owls up here yet; there were maybe a dozen or so, but there were hundreds of perches. The enclosure must have been the size of the whole entrance hall on the student floor. He saw a flash of white near where Helios had settled and thought immediately of his former classmate Harry Potter’s owl, Hedwig, but he knew it couldn’t be her. On closer inspection it was a barn owl, which was mostly white from the front anyway.

He stooped down to stroke Helios before he went back downstairs. “I’ll come back tonight. You can take a letter to Mum.” Helios hooted softly and nibbled his finger before closing his eyes again.

* ~ *

Dean spent the rest of the afternoon unpacking. His uniform and dress robes took up only about a quarter of the huge wardrobe, so he stood his trunk in there too. The shelf above the desk was now loaded with textbooks, ink, parchment and quills. He also found a box of everlasting candles in the drawer and stood a few on the desk and the others on the bedside table.

He sat down and wrote a letter to his mum, telling her he was fine and would write to her at the weekend when he’d taken some classes. He sealed it with some wax and a seal that Seamus had had made for him for the previous Christmas with his initials in it.

He stepped out onto the roof into a beautiful evening. The sun was going down, streaking the sky with pinks and lilacs. He heard a fluttering and felt a weight on his shoulder. Dean never saw Helios flying towards him, only felt him landing. It was almost as if the owl always knew when he was coming. “Had a good sleep have you?”

The owl hooted in acknowledgement, and nipped him on the ear. Helios held out his leg for Dean to attach the letter. He had no sooner tied it on than the owl took off, clearly full of energy. Dean laughed to see him swooping around, apparently checking out his new home before heading west towards the setting sun.

He suddenly realised he wasn’t alone on the roof. A girl with soft brown hair framing her face was on his right, with the barn owl he had seen earlier on her arm. He gave her a warm smile, “Hi!”

“Hi. Nice owl you have there, it was a tawney right?”

Immediately, Dean liked her accent. It was similar to his best friend Seamus’ and his old Transfiguration teacher’s.

“Yeah, his name is Helios. Is that your barn owl?”

“Yup, her name is Faith.” The owl regarded Dean stoically. Dean walked over to them, and reached out to stroke the owl on the head. She blinked her large amber eyes at him, but allowed him to pet her.

“That’s weird, she normally bites any stranger who tries to pet her.” The owl hooted softly and took off, flying in the same direction Helios had left. The girl turned to look at him. In the dying sunlight, he could see she had large hazel eyes.

“I’m Elizabeth McKeown.” Dean shook the cool hand she offered him.

“Dean Thomas. What part of Ireland are you from?”

“Northern Ireland, not too far from the border. You’re from London right?”

“Yeah, I didn’t have to come far. Where did you go to school? I never saw you at Hogwarts.”

“I went to Draíochta, in Ireland.”

Dean frowned, puzzled, “My best friend from Hogwarts was Irish, why didn’t he go there?”

“You can go to any European school you want, if you want to go away from your nearest, you have to apply I think.”

“Cool.” Dean realised it was getting quite dark, and he hadn’t eaten since breakfast, “Where do we go to eat around here?”

* ~ *

They found a dining hall on the eighth floor, and Dean spent a happy hour and a half making his first friend at St Mungo’s. Elizabeth, or Beth as she liked to be called, had been in the year above him and was qualified to start regular training.

Not that she was much older than him; her birthday was in May, while Dean’s was in November. She was a half blood who loved both worlds; she was very fond of Muggle music and films. She loved Transfiguration, and was studying to become an Animagus. She didn’t seem to care that Dean was one of the early admissions, as Dean had worried some of the older students might resent it.

They talked about what the classes were going to be like, and wondered how many other students were like Dean, and how the qualified students would treat them. “Do you know anyone else here?”

“Yeah, there’s another Hogwarts student from my year, he was a Hufflepuff though.”

“Hufflepuff?”

“Oh yeah, Hogwarts had four houses they Sorted us into. They were kind of like our family; we lived in separate places and we competed for the House Cup and played inter-house Quidditch and stuff.”

Beth looked a little shocked, “We didn’t have anything like that, it sounds like there was a lot of segregation in your school. Didn’t the houses fight?”

Dean felt slightly uncomfortable. “Well, only with Slytherin, because they were prejudiced against anyone who wasn’t a ‘pure blood’. Plus there’s been a rivalry between Slytherin and my house, Gryffindor, for centuries.”

“That’s not a healthy atmosphere to learn in.”

“Hey, we did all right!”

“So, this Hufflepuff boy, you and he get on all right?”

“Yeah, Hufflepuff never had a problem with us… Well, except when Harry got into the Triwizard Tournament.”

“Harry Potter? You’re friends with Harry Potter?”

Beth had, of course, grown up with the story along with every other child in the Wizarding world. She was shocked to find out that Dean knew him.

“Well, we were never close friends, but he was in my year, and we were dorm mates of course.”

“I bet you get pestered for information about him all the time. Tell me more about your Irish friend.”

Dean was pleasantly surprised when Beth changed the subject; she was right, he had been questioned by other students about Harry more times than he could count, yet Beth wanted to know about him. He felt something warm stir in the pit of his stomach, a feeling he recognised from two years ago… God, I think I like her!

“I guess I should head back,” Dean said. “I have to take that test before tomorrow morning. I suppose you don’t have to do that?”

“No, what test?”

Dean explained as he walked Beth back downstairs to her room, number 116, not too far from his. Feeling as though there was something squirming in his stomach, Dean forced himself to speak, “So, want to have breakfast with me tomorrow morning?”

Beth smiled. Dean loved how it seemed to bring out the gold flecks in her eyes.

“Yeah, thanks,” she answered.

They stood awkwardly for a moment outside her door before she said, “Well, goodnight.”

Dean watched her open the door and step inside. “Yeah… Goodnight.”


__________________
"I don't go looking for trouble, trouble usually finds me!
"When two Neptunes appear in the sky, it is a sure sign that a midget in glasses is being born, Harry..."
"It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be."

Not Alone - the sequel to Family Ties
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  #4  
Old December 4th, 2006, 5:42 pm
Anyanka  Female.gif Anyanka is offline
Second Year
 
Joined: 5229 days
Location: Northern Ireland
Age: 37
Posts: 136
Re: Not Alone

Chapter 3 – Irish Rose

The next morning Dean awoke with a nervous fluttering in his stomach; less like butterflies, more like bats. He sat up and looked at the sealed envelope containing his completed admissions test and wondered how he had done. He dressed quickly and picked up the envelope, intending to go and find Kaitlyn Close to give it to her.

He stepped out of his room into total chaos. If it had been busy yesterday, today was hell unleashed. There were people everywhere; the noise was incredible and the booths were much bigger and had much longer lines than yesterday.

He realised he was incredibly hungry, and then remembered he had asked Beth to have breakfast with him. His stomach clenched uncomfortably even while his heart soared. He wound his way through the crowds to her door and rapped on the door. She answered quickly; wrenching the door open and looking angry, startling Dean. Her features melted into a warm smile when she saw who it was.

“Sorry if I scared you; people have been banging on my door all morning.”

“That’s okay. Are you ready to go?”

“Sure.” She closed the door behind her and tapped the handle with her wand before turning back to him. “Let’s go.”

They weaved their way down the corridor, darting around little huddles of students who were talking amongst themselves. Dean heard Beth call out from behind him, “Dean! Wait!”

She pushed her way past one group and reached out to grab the hand he offered her. Her touch sent little tingles all the way up his arm as he pulled her through the crowd. When she was back beside him, he waited a moment before letting go. They smiled at each other sheepishly.

“Come on,” she said. “Let’s go eat.”

* ~ *

The dining hall was not nearly as busy as Dean expected it to be; then again most students were probably choosing to eat before they left home. They sat down at a table beside a window and placed their orders with the plates sitting there.

They talked some more about their ambitions.

“I’d like to specialise in Spell Damage, I think. My aunt did that for twenty years and loved it,” Beth told him as she buttered her toast.

“I think I’d like to go into the potion research side of Healing. I wasn’t that good at Potions while my first Potions teacher, Snape, was teaching, but the last one, Slughorn, really brought out the best in me. He said I had a natural grasp of what ingredients can do; thought I could invent some of my own some day.”

“That’s great, my Transfiguration teacher Professor Gibson told me I had an excellent chance of becoming an Animagus. I wonder what the teachers here will be like? Have you met any yet? When I got here yesterday there was a snappy bloke running the admissions desk and an American woman running the accommodation one.”

“I didn’t meet the American woman, but I know the bloke you’re talking about – Freeman right? Takes Herbology?”

“Yep – with eyes like ice. The American woman seemed nice; she teaches Dark Arts Retaliation. Her name was September Falls.”

“Cool name. The woman I met teaches charms: Kaitlyn Close.” Dean smiled a little. “My Dad had a crush on her at school.”

Beth laughed. “How do you know that?”

Suddenly, Dean found himself telling her the whole story--at least the lighter parts first. He explained how he had found his father’s yearbooks at Hogwarts and saw Kaitlyn’s entry with the hearts. But Beth was too perceptive for him; when they were done laughing about the fact that Dean was going to be taking classes from the woman his Dad had a crush on, she came back to the subject.

“What were your Dad’s yearbooks doing at the school?”

Dean hesitated, and Beth saw he wasn’t comfortable.

“You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to talk about it.”

Dean felt a warm glow in his stomach. This girl is perfect.

“It’s not that I don’t want to… but it’s a long story, and I have to go see Miss Close now with that test.”

Beth smiled at him. “Okay, let’s go then. I’ve had enough.”

The crowd in the hallway had thinned out a little as people went to set up their rooms, though there were still long lines at both of the desks. Dean saw a wizard he hadn’t met yet running the Admissions desk, and still another the Accommodation desk.

When they reached Beth’s room, she turned to him after unlocking it. “So… want to go get a drink when you’re done at the meeting?”

Dean noticed her cheeks had turned quite pink and felt the heat rise in his own face. “Um… yeah, that’d be great.”

She smiled, looking relieved. “Okay, come and get me when you’re done.”

Dean just about managed to bite back the words “it’s a date,” knowing he’d probably pass out of embarrassment if they got out.

“Cool, I’ll see you later Beth.”

* ~ *

“Come in!”

Dean pushed open the door to a cosy office. Candles floated in mid air like at Hogwarts, casting a warm glow on the pine panelled walls and richly carpeted floor. Kaitlyn Close was sitting behind a large pine desk. She smiled at him and gestured to the seat in front of the desk. “Dean, isn’t it? Sit down.”

Dean sat down and handed her the envelope.

“Well, you’re certainly keen; we weren’t expecting them until tomorrow.”

Dean smiled, “Figured I’d beat the crowd.”

“Well, I’ll get to marking this now, and I can plan out your programme of learning after that. You’ll know later tonight; I’ll send you an owl. Now, I need to tell you a few more basic things about the school. I’m sure by now you’ve found the dining hall. I’m sorry you had to go looking on your own; it’s been chaos here since they brought in extra students. Don’t you have an owl?”

“Yes, his name is Helios.”

“Did you find the Owlery?” Dean nodded. “Well did you notice that the perches all have boxes up there?”

“No, were there? I wasn’t paying much attention.”

“Well, they’re post boxes. Once Helios has chosen his spot, he will deliver all your mail into that box, which will have your name on it. You may have noticed that your bedroom windows don’t open.

“All the introductory classes will take place in room 314 on level seven. Tomorrow, your first class will be Potions with Professor Willoughby. The second class is Transfiguration with Professor Holmes; then Charms with me; then Herbology with Professor Freeman, and finally Dark Arts Reversal with Professor Falls.

“There is a Professor who’s in charge of all the student activity and she’ll be your supervisor when you’re helping out in the hospital wards. Her name is Healer Faith Kelly. She’ll probably ask you to call her Faith; she doesn’t like being called ‘Healer’ all the time. I feel the same way; call me Katie. I’ll never get used to being called ‘Professor’.”

She flashed Dean a warm smile, which he returned nervously. I’ll never get used to calling teachers by their first name. I hope they don’t all do that. His mind went back to Professor Freeman. He definitely won’t.

Katie sat down again on her side of the desk. She picked up the envelope containing his test. The first page of the test had been a questionnaire about his basic education, and standard contact information. She appeared to be studying his name.

“You know, you look so familiar to me, but I don’t recognise your name. You don’t have any relatives in St Mungo’s, do you?”

Dean’s stomach contracted, knowing she was recognising his father in him. “No, I was raised by my mum and stepdad; didn’t know I was a Wizard until I got my Hogwarts letter.”

He felt guilty for not telling her, but he hadn’t lied.

“All right, Dean, I’ll send you your programme of study later tonight. This is the only test I’ve gotten so far. I think you’re the first early admission student to arrive.”

Dean left still feeling the guilt burning, but he had had no desire to explain to her how he recognised her. He also didn’t want to have to tell the story of finding out about his real father to a woman on whom his father had once had a crush.


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"When two Neptunes appear in the sky, it is a sure sign that a midget in glasses is being born, Harry..."
"It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be."

Not Alone - the sequel to Family Ties
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  #5  
Old December 13th, 2006, 8:44 pm
Anyanka  Female.gif Anyanka is offline
Second Year
 
Joined: 5229 days
Location: Northern Ireland
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Posts: 136
Re: Not Alone

Dean and Beth found a little quiet pub down the street from St Mungo’s called The Dragons Claw; it was the unofficial St Mungo’s student pub, and looked like it. The upholstery was worn and the carpet had deep grooves in it between the tables and the bar. When Dean asked for two Butterbeers, the barman raised his eyebrows at him, but gave him the drinks.

Beth was laughing softly as they sat down.“I guess he doesn’t get asked for Butterbeer very often, students tend to go for stronger stuff.”

“I guess… I just don’t feel up to it at eleven in the morning.”

Beth laughed again; Dean loved how her eyes shone when she did.

“So, how did your meeting with Professor Close go?” she asked.

“Well for one thing she wants us to call her Katie, which is going to feel very weird to me. And for another – she recognised me.”

Beth looked up sharply. “What? She knows who you are?”

“No, but I look familiar to her…”

Dean explained what Katie had said to him about looking familiar and that he would find out about his programme of study by that night.

“I’m still not too sure how this is going to work with some of us more behind than others. How are they going to teach us?” Dean wondered.

“I don’t know, maybe they’ll teach you one on one? Or maybe they’ll split you into age groups – like put you in with your friend Ernie and anyone else from your year group?”

“You’re lucky you’ve got the right qualifications.”

“Actually, I don’t. I wouldn’t have gotten in if it wasn’t for the early admissions programme. I only got an Acceptable in Charms, and I was only about two points off getting an A in Herbology. They’re not being that fussy anymore, they can’t afford to. They need the help in the hospital.”

Dean felt an awkward question coming, but couldn’t stop himself.

“What’s the war like in Northern Ireland?”

Beth lowered her head, “Not much different than here; disappearances, deaths, torture. The only thing is the Ministry has an easier job covering up; not all the stuff reported in the Muggle news is related to the Troubles.”

She looked up at him again. “You were going to tell me about your father, I think?”

Dean noticed the abrupt change of subject, but didn’t press the matter. Instead, he found himself telling her all about how he had discovered the truth about his father two years ago, without quite knowing why he would tell someone he hardly knew about something so personal. Beth listened attentively while he explained how he had realised who Gary Heaton was through photographs and documents in the Room of Requirement at Hogwarts.

“And you had no idea?” Beth asked, looking stunned.

“None. I thought Mark was my dad.”

“Must have been a hell of a shock.”

“Oh it was. But I feel better for knowing the truth. Mark is my dad in every way that matters, and Gary is someone I have to thank for the life I have in the magical world and for giving me the idea of going to St Mungo’s. It was his ambition, but then the first war started and he became an Auror.” Dean lowered his eyes. “He never got the chance to go back.”

Beth put a hand on his arm and he was reminded strongly of Ginny. It made him a little uncomfortable. He wasn’t sure if he was ready to take the risk of being hurt like that again. He pulled away slightly and she lifted her hand to reach for her Butterbeer.

“So, you said you were a half-blood too? Was it your mother or your father?”

“Me da, he didn’t have any idea me ma was a witch until long after they were married. They didn’t think I was a witch until I started doing uncontrolled magic. He accidentally cut my roses one day when I was seven. I cried a lot, sitting there at the flowerbed. When I reached out and touched them they grew again straight away. Nearly gave him a heart attack!”

“Why didn’t your mum tell him?”

“She didn’t want to until she’d seen if I was a witch or a squib. Don’t know why she thought I wouldn’t be a witch; Squibs are really rare. Still, it’s great to grow up in both worlds, makes taking Muggle Studies so much easier.”

“I didn’t take it at all, didn’t see the point.”

Beth raised her eyebrows, “It was an elective at Hogwarts? We had to take it; it’s part of the core curriculum. It ensures that all the students who leave know how to behave in the Muggle world. You leave knowing how to dress, work with Muggle money, and all about electricity. At N.E.W.T. level, you pick a foreign language to learn, too.”

“You speak a foreign language?”

“Nope, didn’t take the N.E.W.T., took the subjects I needed for Healer school. My best friend did; she’s studying at a language school in Wales this year. She’s learning to speak Muggle languages like Spanish and French, and magical languages. I think she said one of them was Gobbledegook.” Beth glanced at her watch. “She was supposed to write to me today. I wonder if the post has come yet.”

“Let’s head back. I’ll probably have a letter from my mum.”

* ~ *

The roof of the hospital was bathed in hot August sunlight. There were a lot more owls now than there had been yesterday, all crowded near the bottom perches to avoid the sun. Lots of them were asleep, including Helios. Under his perch was a small wooden box that now had Dean’s name stamped in gold on it. He reached into it and found three envelopes. He stroked the owl’s sleeping head. “You’ve been busy.”

The owl opened one sleepy eye and hooted very softly. Dean looked at the envelopes. He saw that one was indeed from his mother, another from Seamus, and one from Lee. He looked over at Beth and saw her clutching a few letters, too. She waved at him. “I’m gonna sit up here and read these. See you at dinner?”

“Cool, I’ll see you up there later. I’m gonna go look for Ernie soon.”

He waved goodbye to her and headed back to the lift.

* ~ *


__________________
"I don't go looking for trouble, trouble usually finds me!
"When two Neptunes appear in the sky, it is a sure sign that a midget in glasses is being born, Harry..."
"It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be."

Not Alone - the sequel to Family Ties
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  #6  
Old December 14th, 2006, 7:11 pm
Anyanka  Female.gif Anyanka is offline
Second Year
 
Joined: 5229 days
Location: Northern Ireland
Age: 37
Posts: 136
Re: Not Alone

Back in the privacy of his room, he opened the letters one by one. The one from his mother told him to write again at the weekend, but nothing really informative. The letter from Lee brought good news:

Dear Dean,

Guess what? Just got a job at the Ministry! Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. It’s an intern thing, so they’ll probably shunt me between offices. Just as long as they don’t send me to the Centaur Liaison office!
Mum’s going mental., She never thought I’d get a proper job; she thought I’d be helping Fred and George forever.

We’ll have to meet up sometime. Is there a pub anywhere near you there?

Talk soon,
Lee


Dean quickly wrote a congratulatory reply and told him about the Dragon’s Claw down the street. He moved on to Seamus’ letter. Seamus had been working at the Ministry since June in the Department of Magical Transportation. His mother had not been happy with his decision to live in London, especially alone.

Hey Dean,

Doing anything on Saturday? Got a rare day off and thought you might like to meet up for a drink. How does the Leaky Cauldron sound to you?

Seamus


Well, short and sweet as always. Seamus never wrote long letters. Dean doubted he’d ever get a long letter from Seamus, even if they hadn’t seen each other in a year. Dean wrote Seamus a quick note telling him he’d see him in the Leaky Cauldron around midday. The last envelope, the large one, was from Katie Close. It was his plan of study.

Dear Dean,

Enclosed are the details of how we’re going to get you through this course without your N.E.W.T.s.

Your grades were such in your sixth year that I think we can get you through your Healing qualifications in four years. It will mean a lot of hard work this year. You will need to work on your own a lot with help from a personal tutor; in your case, me.

Your Potions grade and cover letter from Professor Slughorn are very promising, and the recommendations from your other teachers are excellent.
I look forward to working with you. I will see you in classes tomorrow.

Sincerely,
Katie.


Dean found a timetable for the next day in the envelope. Each introductory class lasted for an hour; Potions was first, followed by Transfiguration, Herbology, Charms, and finally Dark Arts Retaliation. On Monday, they would be starting to work in the hospital. There would be a rota in the reception area to show which floor they’d be covering. There was a class and a shift of ward work lasting three hours per day; the rest of the time they’d be studying on their own. Dean had the feeling he’d be using every single spare minute catching up on the work he should have been doing at N.E.W.T. level, while trying to keep up with first year Healing coursework.

Someone knocked on his door, jarring him out of the creeping sense of fear about the work ahead.

“Come in.”

The door opened, and there stood Ernie MacMillan and another girl who looked vaguely familiar.

“Hey Dean, you remember Su Li? She was a Ravenclaw in our year.”

“No, but hi anyway!” Dean stood up and shook her hand, then clapped Ernie on the shoulder. “When did you get here?”

“Just got through the queues and unpacked, met Su in the line. You?”

“Yesterday. Did my test, got my study programme and everything.”

“I have to do that tonight. Got time for a quick bite to eat?”

“Sure, you know where the dining hall is?”

Ernie looked at him quizzically. “Dining hall? Don’t you use the kitchen?”

“Kitchen?”

* ~ *

“Wow… I had no idea!”

Ernie had taken him to one of many communal kitchens in the East Wing. “This is closest to me too, I’m in 125. We’re supposed to share between about ten of us.”

“Cool! Oh wait, ****; does that mean I have to learn how to cook?”

Ernie and Su laughed. “Never learn the cooking charms, Dean?” asked Su.

“Nope, no interest. My wand just doesn’t like it. I’ll have to tell Beth we don’t have to go up to the dining hall every day.”

Ernie looked puzzled, “Who’s Beth?”

“Oh, she’s starting here this year. She went to school in Ireland. Did you know there was a magic school in Ireland?”

“Yeah. Draíochta, right?”

“Yeah, I had no idea. I should go tell her; we were going to meet up for dinner.”

Dean made his way down the corridor and knocked on Beth’s door. She opened it almost immediately, quill in hand.

“Hi! Just finishing off replies to those letters, you’re very early.”

“Did you know there were kitchens for us to share?”

“No… Really? I’ll have to try to cook sometime. I can’t be bothered tonight, though.”

Ernie and Su approached them, having gone to their rooms to collect letters to send.

“You must be Ernie; Dean told me he had a school friend here. I’m Beth. I’m just finishing up a letter. Give me a minute and we’ll go send these, then get something to eat.

* ~ *

Dean couldn’t remember enjoying a dinner so much since the leaving feast in third year at school. The former Hogwarts students swapped stories with Beth about Hogwarts. Ernie and Dean told stories about the D.A. from fifth year, leaving Su bitterly disappointed that she had not been a part of anything that made “that miserable old ***** angry.” They told Beth about some of the legendary things that happened during their days; about the Philosophers Stone, the Chamber of Secrets, Sirius Black getting into the school, the Triwizard Tournament, the Ministry invasion, and the Weasley twins’ flight to freedom.

Ernie was laughing uproariously. “That was incredible, that one. I’m sure they were heroes in the Gryffindor common room.”

Dean wiped a tear of laughter from his eye, “Yeah, most of us were just disappointed we didn’t get to go with them!”

“You’re lucky they went. Didn’t you start going out with Ginny at the end of that year? I’m sure it was bad enough with Ron’s older brother bit.”

Dean’s eyes met Beth’s briefly; he felt distinctly uncomfortable talking about Ginny in front of her. “Yeah, but Ron didn’t find out until the train home. I only got the older brother bit at King’s Cross. He never really said anything to me about it, though.”

They also told her about the Death Eater break in. The atmosphere became much more subdued as they spoke about the death of their headmaster. Even Beth had heard of Dumbledore, such was his renown.

“Wasn’t it a teacher who killed him?” she asked.

Dean answered darkly, “Yeah. Why do you think the school is closed now?”

Dean felt depression sinking in. Being at Healer College was something he had been looking forward to since fifth year. But he missed the castle and the dorm he shared with his friends, whom he missed terribly. He couldn’t believe he’d never be there again. Beth seemed to notice the air of depression and changed the subject.

“Hey, you guys looking forward to classes tomorrow?”


__________________
"I don't go looking for trouble, trouble usually finds me!
"When two Neptunes appear in the sky, it is a sure sign that a midget in glasses is being born, Harry..."
"It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be."

Not Alone - the sequel to Family Ties
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  #7  
Old December 17th, 2006, 11:53 pm
Anyanka  Female.gif Anyanka is offline
Second Year
 
Joined: 5229 days
Location: Northern Ireland
Age: 37
Posts: 136
Re: Not Alone

Chapter 4 – The Dragon’s Claw

The teachers of Dean’s introductory classes outlined all the work they had to get through that year. He had never been more scared of a workload in his life. They’re expecting me to do two years’ work in a year – and those are two hard years’ work! He felt very bad for the students who had only just completed their O.W.L.s.

He had to learn antidote ingredients by heart , and know how to brew an antidote for any basic sickness, bite, or anything that had to be undone by a potion. Some of this went hand in hand with Herbology, since a lot of the ingredients were magical plants. Some were even Muggle plants Dean had known when he was young.

Professor Freeman was every bit as cold and indifferent as he had been on Dean’s first meeting with him. Well, he’s still better than Snape or Umbridge… Transfiguration was going to be about learning how to distinguish what had been changed on a person and return it to what it had been normally, without knowing how he or she looked before. It sounded complicated, and Dean had no doubt he would struggle with it. It had taken an obscene amount of hard work and study to get the Transfiguration O.W.L grade he had needed to study it at N.E.W.T. level.

Katie was easily the nicest of the teachers; she was relaxed and easy, but warned the class she would not tolerate misbehaviour, or any students not applying themselves to the work. The new charms they would be learning would repair broken bones, heal cuts and abrasions, and help flesh to heal itself, among many other things.

The Dark Arts Retaliation teacher Beth had told him about was somewhat of a shock. American, just like she’d said, but with a beautiful name like September Falls, Dean had expected a woman much like Katie. Instead, he was reminded strongly of Professor McGonagall, with Snape’s unpleasant personality. She was very stern and took her subject very seriously. She gave them a lengthy speech about how important retaliation against Dark Magic was in these times, as if any of them didn’t know. The subject would basically teach them how to combine the skills they were learning in their other subjects to decide the best course to take when faced with the effects of Dark Magic.

After the last class, Dean headed straight for the library on level eight to grab a couple of extra Transfiguration books with which to get started over the weekend. He knew it was going to be his worst subject and would need all the information he could get. He had watched Hermione Granger excel in every subject for six years because she never had her nose out of a book, so he figured he’d try it.

* ~ *

After spending the best part of Friday evening in the library, Dean headed downstairs with a feeling of dread. He was going to attempt to cook for himself.

He was devoutly thankful that he had spent so long in the library that the communal kitchen was now empty. He’d quickly looked at a cookery book in the library upstairs and decided to start small by having a go at soup.

He set one of the small, battered looking saucepans on the stove, took out his wand, and concentrated. Liquid poured out the end of his wand, splattering into the pan. He lit the ring below the saucepan and continued to stir until the soup was bubbling. He put the fire out and gingerly inserted a spoon into it. Hesitating slightly, he put the spoon into his mouth. He spat the entire mouthful back into the pot, hearing roars of laughter behind him.

Beth, Ernie, and Su were all watching him from the doorway, howling with laughter.

He felt his face grow hot, but laughed with them anyway. “Guess I’ll just have to pay to use the dining hall after all!”

Su wiped a tear of mirth from her eye. “Come on, there’s a Chinese takeout down the street.”

* ~ *

Of course, to get to the Chinese takeout, they had to pass the Dragon’s Claw, and since neither magical nor Muggle students can pass a pub on a Friday night without going in…

Dean had no idea that such a variety of drinks existed; all he’d heard of in his time at Hogwarts was Butterbeer, Firewhisky and Gillywater. Dean looked at his drink sceptically. It was a vivid electric blue and fizzed constantly.

“What the hell is this stuff?”

Su laughed and slapped him on the shoulder. “It’s a Billywigger! Just drink it!”

He shrugged. Well, college is supposed to be about experimenting. He drank the whole lot in one go. It was very fizzy and sweet, and it tasted slightly of raspberries. Dean turned to tell Su he quite liked it and found himself looking farther down at her than he should have been. He started in fright as he realised he was floating a foot off the ground. As soon as he realised he was levitating, he fell to the ground, his knees buckling.

Woah… what else have they got?” he asked in amazement.

Dean had seen cocktails at parties his parents threw, and even had a taste of some of them when they hadn’t been looking. But these were no margaritas; he had a Jobberknoll Juice and found himself talking garbage rapidly for several minutes before it wore off. He had a Dragon’s Blood that made him exhale a huge fireball and scorched a patch on the ceiling, which then repaired itself. He had a Screaming Banshee with the others that caused them all to screech loudly for about ten seconds before it tapered off into hysterical laugher.

The bar was packed wall to wall with witches and wizards, and Dean guessed that they, like his own group, were having a night out before the workload crippled them and put a stop to most of their fun. Dean had been watching Beth surreptitiously since they had gotten there. She was matching the rest of them drink for drink, but was staying pretty quiet unless what she had drank had a magical effect.

The novelty of the cocktails soon wore off and Dean settled on a drink he liked; Firewhiskey and Gillywater. To Dean’s untrained senses, it tasted rather like whiskey and lemonade, except the Firewhisky made the drink bright red and it was hotter than normal whiskey. Gillywater tasted almost exactly like Muggle lemonade.

Dean noticed a shower of purple and silver sparks emerge from the crowd at the back of the room. It was Beth attracting their attention; she had found seats. She was perched on a stool at a small round table for four people. Dean grabbed the stool nearest her; feeling like his brain was floating around the inside of his skull. His eyes didn’t seem to be working too well. “How’d’d you manaage to get a table?”

She looked at him with her serious face and laughing brown eyes. “I had to hex a bloke. He wasn’t happy.”

Dean laughed, hoping she was joking. Ernie fought his way to them and sat down just as Dean was asking Beth, “Don’ they have any mushic in this place?” He frowned slightly, moving his tongue around inside his mouth, trying to figure out what was wrong with it.

Ernie twisted around and pointed to a poster on the wall. It appeared to have brilliantly coloured swirls moving around on it, but Dean wasn’t sure if it was because of this new problem with his eyes or because it really was moving. Ernie spoke as he pointed to a point about a foot to one side of the poster, “Yeah, they’re having a Muggle music night.”

Ernie’s voice was croakier than usual, and his speech slower. We haven’t drank that much; we couldn’t possibly be drunk.

“Oh good! We can show you guysh what proper music is like!” He turned to Beth. “You like Muggle music don’tcha? What do you listen to?”

He spent several happy, dizzy minutes discussing various Muggle bands with Beth. She had similar taste to his sister, which was not necessarily a good thing. She listened to Alanis Morrisette and the Spice Girls. Dean shuddered and tried not to show it, not realising his every move was exaggerated, thanks to the copious amounts of alcohol in his bloodstream. Beth hit him on the shoulder, or at least tried to; she caught him a glancing blow and he laughed.

“Like anything half decent?” he asked.

“Well, Mr Cool, what do you call ‘half decent?’?”

“Well, The Smashing Pumpkins, older Blur stuff, maybe even a little Oasis.”

“Oasis? They’re has-beens, they’ll never last!”

They debated right up until the music started, when making themselves heard became impossible. Dean looked around blearily, wondering how Muggle music could be played without electricity. He saw what looked like Muggle D.J. in a raised area in the corner. He had a very glazed expression and Dean decided he was a Muggle under a Memory Charm. There mustn’t be enough background magic to affect the electricity around here.

The first song he put on was one of Dean’s favourites, and for some reason he was seized with the urge to dance. I need more drinks before I try that…

He asked the others if they wanted anything, but Ernie insisted he was going. Dean watched him go to the bar where he squeezed in beside Su. Dean smiled to himself; maybe Ernie was nursing a crush on Su already. He was hardly one to talk.

He felt a cool hand on his wrist. Beth was leaning in close to make herself heard; he could smell her musky perfume. “Want to dance?” she yelled in his ear.

He glanced at the middle of the room that had been cleared for dancing. Where moments ago there had been quite a bit of open space, there were now people dancing enthusiastically. Oh well, at least I won’t be conspicuous. He nodded at Beth and took her hand so as not to lose her in the crowd. They didn’t stray too far from the table for fear of losing it to other people.

The song changed to one of Dean’s favourites from a couple of years back, so he stayed where he was, moving awkwardly on the dance floor, getting elbowed in the back by the dancers around him. He didn’t leave the dance floor until Ernie returned with the drinks. Instead of the Firewhisky and Gillywater he’d ordered, he had a glass full of glittering silver liquid with a matching shimmering mist on the surface. It looked very like the Draught of Peace.

Ernie laughed at the scandalised look on his face. “Just drink it mate; you’ll like it.”

Dean was still sceptical, so he left it where it was for now and got himself a real drink.

They sat for another half an hour, occasionally getting up to dance to songs they liked. Ernie and Su even admitted they quite liked some of it. Dean had four more Firewhisky and Gillywaters in that half an hour and was starting to feel quite sleepy, as well as light-headed. So this is what being drunk feels like… like you’ve got a head full of cotton wool and your feet are only loosely attached to your legs…

When his favourite song from the summer after fourth year (Supergrass’ Alright) came on, he jumped up and insisted they all dance. Before they took to the floor, he lifted the glass of liquid silver Ernie had brought him and drained it in one swallow.

By the time the song had hit its first chorus, a feeling of complete and utter joy swept through Dean, making him feel like his very blood was fizzing. He couldn’t imagine being any happier than he was at that moment. He was among friends; he had a girl with him he liked a lot; he was in Healing College when he had been sure there was no hope; and there was great music playing.

When the song ended, Dean became aware that the D.J. was doing the clichéd bit of putting in a section of slow dancing songs that every D.J. insisted on doing. In his euphoria, he stretched out a hand to Beth, despite a little voice from the back of his brain reminding him that he hated this particular song.

Beth grinned at him, took his hand and put her other arm around his neck. She was leaning on him quite heavily and he was nervous he’d fall over, but kept his feet nevertheless. He saw Ernie over his shoulder waltzing with Su, who looked highly amused at the stiff way Ernie was dancing. Dean threw back his head and laughed.

When he looked down again he found himself looking straight into Beth’s eyes. She had looked up to see what he was laughing at. Their noses were bare millimetres from touching. All laughter left Dean and the sound and air seemed to vanish from the room. The world consisted of the two of them. For what felt like several long hours, he stared into her eyes…

Then some drunken idiot behind her fell over and poked an elbow hard into her back as he fell. Beth lurched forward and banged her head hard against Dean’s nose. Eyes burning, he still managed to hold on to her to keep her from falling. The moment lost, they made their way back to their seats.

* ~ *

Dean finally got some Chinese food when they left the Dragon’s Claw at half past eleven. The night air had intensified the effects of the alcohol, and he felt just enough to know that he was going to be bloody sorry he had drank so much in the morning.

They wandered back to St Mungo’s, staggering occasionally. Dean was eating spring rolls out of a bag and the others had just opted for chips. They fell through the window of Purge and Dowse, the feeling of stepping through a sheet of cold water giving Dean an unpleasant jolt in his cozy alcoholic haze.

It took Beth several tries to touch her wand to the right place on the wall to open the lift, but she did get it eventually. Dean and Beth left Su and Ernie at their rooms, and Dean walked Beth on to her own door. Again, she had trouble pointing her wand right. Dean took out his own wand and unlocked the door. She smiled at him gratefully and leaned close to him, gripping his arm in both hands and giggling. “I’ve never been this drunk! I can’t handle alcehol, never could.”

Dean looked at her, surprised. “Then why did you drink so much tonight?”

She shrugged. “Didn’t want to look like a sad cow.”

Dean shook his head wonderingly. “You didn’t need to do that. I wouldn’t have cared if you couldn’t keep up with us drink for drink!”

She tilted her head and looked up at him. “Really?”

He grinned at her. “Yeah. I have a feeling I’ll be swearing off it myself tomorrow.” He winced, touching his temple with his free hand. “At least no one had a camera to get pictures of us making fools of ourselves.”

“Oh, there were moments I’d like pictures of.”

“Like what? The two of us teaching the whole room the Macarena?”

She giggled. “No… more like us dancing to ‘I Swear’.”

Dean’s mouth was suddenly very dry. He swallowed hard. “Does your back hurt where that guy hit you?”

“No, I hardly felt it.”

She was standing on her tiptoes, bringing herself up almost to his height. “I was just ****** he spoiled the mood.”

Dean took the hint. He kissed her. Her warm mouth was all he was aware of until he felt her arms slide around his neck. He wrapped his own arms around her waist and held her close.

He had no idea how much time passed before he pulled away. She was running her hands through the hair on the back of his head. He loved the feeling of her fingers on his skin.

She let her arms slide down until she had both palms on his chest. “I’m meeting Ciara tomorrow, my friend who’s studying languages. Want to come with me?”

Dean’s heart sank a little, “I’d love to, but I’m meeting Seamus and Lee tomorrow.”

She smiled sadly. “Well, maybe we could all meet up for dinner later. I think we’re allowed to bring guests in here.”

“That would be cool.”

He leaned down and kissed her again on the lips, feeling very giddy and happy. “I’ll see you in the morning.”

When Dean finally crawled into bed he was sure he would be able to sleep when the room stopped spinning.

*~*


__________________
"I don't go looking for trouble, trouble usually finds me!
"When two Neptunes appear in the sky, it is a sure sign that a midget in glasses is being born, Harry..."
"It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be."

Not Alone - the sequel to Family Ties
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  #8  
Old December 21st, 2006, 12:53 am
Anyanka  Female.gif Anyanka is offline
Second Year
 
Joined: 5229 days
Location: Northern Ireland
Age: 37
Posts: 136
Re: Not Alone

Chapter 5 – The Reunion of the DA

When Dean returned to consciousness the next morning, he kept his eyes shut tight, buried his face in his pillow, and moaned. His head was throbbing even more horribly than when he’d once taken a Bludger to the head. His stomach seemed to think he was at sea in a storm, and something horrible had crawled into his mouth and apparently died. It was no comfort to realise this was his tongue. I’m not going to do that again… I’m never touching a drink again…

He kept his eyes shut tight and turned over, his stomach protesting at the movement. He opened his eyes with difficulty, wincing in the sunlight streaming through the window. He wrenched his arm into a position to see his watch. It was half past ten. ****, I have to meet Seamus in an hour and a half.

He dragged himself out of bed when he’d much rather lie in there and wait for the hangover to pass. I wonder if there’s a hangover cure…

He hauled himself upright and headed out for a quick shower. When he came back, the first thing he did was reach for his potions book to look up a cure for hangovers. It looked simple enough; armadillo bile, mandrake leaves and dittany. Trouble was, it needed to mature over three days. Dean groaned louder and cradled his aching head in his hands. He vowed that as soon as he found Seamus, he was going to Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes to see if they stocked hangover solution. I bet it was a student who invented that…

Knowing fine well he wasn’t going to eat breakfast feeling the way he was, he left to get the lift down to the Apparition point downstairs. At the lift, he met Ernie, who was a pale shade of green and had red-rimmed eyes.

“You look like death, mate!”

Ernie started to grin but it turned into a grimace. “I don’t feel as bad as you look, at least! Where are you heading?”

“I’m meeting Seamus at the Leaky Cauldron, you?”

Ernie pulled out a piece of parchment from his pocket. “Got half a dozen books I’m gonna get in Flourish and Blotts; extra reading for Potions and Herbology.”

“Cool. Maybe you could meet up with us later.”

Ernie grimaced again. “As long as there’s no alcohol involved…”

* ~ *

“Dean! You look like death warmed up, mate. What the hell happened to you?”

“Shut up.” Dean took a seat beside Seamus, waving goodbye to Ernie who waved and yelled hello to Seamus.

“He looks like hell, too. What were you two up to?”

Dean winced and touched his head, it having just given a painful throb. “Ernie introduced me to Wizarding cocktails.”

Seamus laughed uproariously and clapped him on the back, causing a wave of nausea and another flash of pain in his head. “Ah you’ve got a lot to learn, Dean! You don’t know what a drinkin’ session is ‘til you’ve been out with the Irish!”

“I think I’ll pass for now. And there was someone Irish there, or Northern Irish anyway.”

Seamus roared with laughter. “I bet he drank you under the table!”

“Actually she doesn’t drink that much.”

Seamus looked stunned. “She doesn’t drink much? Sure she’s Irish?”

Dean told him about Beth, keeping it short and sweet. The last thing he wanted was Seamus asking awkward questions. Unfortunately, Seamus knew him too well. “Is she cute?”

Dean felt a wave of heat sweep his body, concentrated in his face. “Uh, yeah?”

Seamus looked at him suspiciously. “You’re all embarrassed! You fancy this girl!”

Dean looked away. “I want to go to Fred and George’s. I need a hangover cure.”

Seamus laughed more uproariously than ever, but followed him, nevertheless. “Guess who’s working with me in the Floo Network office? Justin Finch-Fletchley. I think he’s knocking about today; I told him I’d see him around.”

They stopped outside Fred and George’s technicolour storefront.

“Cool. Get in there; I need something to stop the pain!” Dean said.

Seamus pushed open the door and went in. “What you need is a nice greasy fry – perk you right up.”

Dean held his stomach and groaned. Lee was sitting behind the counter, watching the curtain that lead into the back with trepidation. Assorted bangs and muffled laughter could be heard. He looked up at them as they entered.

Dean cocked his head towards the curtain. “What’s going on in there?”

“Don’t really know; they’re inventing something new.”

There was a sudden outburst of laughter and a voice. “It’s not funny! That dose is definitely high enough. Now how do we make it stop?”

The response was choked with laughter. “Dunno yet; you’ll just have to put up with it for now!”

“I can’t go out in public like this!”

The curtain swept aside and one of the twins fell through, clutching his sides and gasping for breath laughing. The other emerged and Dean decided that it was Fred who was laughing and George who’d been the lab rat. He was covered from head to toe in a raw, red rash. It was evidently itchy; George couldn’t stop scratching long enough to look at the book they were using. They didn’t notice Dean and Seamus standing there. Lee was joining Fred in laughing at George. George managed to lift his wand and point it at Lee. “Silencio!”

Lee’s laughter stopped and he looked furious, gesturing furiously at George, evidently yelling at him. Fred cuffed George around the head and restored Lee’s voice. “- promised you’d stop bloody doing that! It’s funny you know!”

“Not if you’re the one with the bloody rash that can’t be fixed yet.”

“You know, essence of Murtlap and unicorn horn will clear that right up.” The words were out of Dean's mouth before he'd realised he was going to say it.

The twins looked over at Dean; they looked suspicious, but the Healer in Dean couldn’t stand to see George suffer like that.

George looked suspicious. “How’d you know that?”

“Was reading about skin complaints in my Potions textbook yesterday. It’s a common cure; the Murtlap will help the skin look less inflamed straight away.”

The twins looked at each other incredulously. “Well, it’s worth a go. Have we got any unicorn horn about?”

Fred nodded, “There should be some in the top cupboard above the sink. Bind it with some Murtlap essence and stick it in the chew maker.”

George went back through the curtain, still scratching his neck idly. Fred clapped his hands and stepped around the counter. “Well, what can we do for you?”

“Got any hangover cures?”

Fred grinned evilly. “Maybe… How much are you willing to pay for one?”

Dean was a bit unnerved by Fred’s glee at his discomfort, but joked back anyway, “Right now? Just about anything.”

Fred laughed. “I think we’ve got some in the back; I’ll check.”

While Fred went looking and Seamus browsed through the joke wands, Dean went to talk to Lee.

“How’s the job going?”

“Ah, it’s all right. Mostly dealing with house-elves at the moment. Everyone in that department got promoted ‘cause they’re trying to deal with the Dementor breeding problem.”

Dean looked puzzled, “They’re still breeding? Why is the mist all gone?”

“They’re doing it in secret; they found a nest in some mountains in Wales last week.”

Dean felt very nervous about the thought of the Dementors breeding again, but decided he didn’t want to know details. “So you’re relocating house-elves?”

“Yeah, mostly Hogwarts ones. Did you know there were about a hundred of them? And it’s not like every family can afford a house-elf! Oh, and before I forget…”

Lee ducked down behind the counter, and then straightened up and set a large bundle down on the counter with a heavy sounding thump. “That’s all Uncle Gary’s first year notes. I tried to send them to you with Helios, but he bit me when I tried to tie it to his leg.”

Dean picked up the package and felt a muscle in his arm complain about the weight. “I’m not surprised! I can barely lift it!”

Struck with sudden inspiration, he took out his wand and pointed it at the package. “Agitabili!”

The package now weighed almost nothing. “Wish I’d remembered that the day I picked up my books!”

They laughed just as the beaded curtain swung aside again and both twins entered. George was now rash free. “Brilliant, Dean! It would have taken us weeks to try that combination for ourselves.”

George clapped Dean on the shoulder, starting another wave of nausea. His head gave another painful throb. “Ah, don’t, mate. I’m hung over!”

George produced a bottle full of black potion from his pocket. “I know, but get this down you and you’ll be ready for another round in no time.”

Dean groaned, “No way, I’m never drinking again.”

Seamus let out a cry of protest. “I’m not having a best mate who doesn’t drink! We’re having a few with Justin later!”

“Bloody sure I’m not…”

Dean uncorked the bottle and drank it down in one gulp. It tasted like liquorice which made Dean even more nauseous; he hated liquorice. He’d just set the empty bottle down on the counter when he suddenly felt a relief sweep through his whole body; it felt like a whole body sneeze. The nausea and headache vanished.

“Woah, that stuff is gold!”

“Yeah, we’re expecting to sell it to a lot of the boozed up students who pass through these doors. Take a supply; after that tip, we’re not charging you. Here, have five more.”

Dean took the little bottles. “Cool! How much are they normally?”

“Eight Sickles a portion bottle. We were thinking of marketing a litre sized bottle soon, we’ll see how these go.”

Dean laughed. “Bargain! They’ll walk out the door themselves, they will. I’m definitely going to tell the others who were out with me about them.”

Fred laughed and clapped him on the shoulder again. “They as bad off as you?”

“Dunno, didn’t see anyone else but Ernie this morning, and he was definitely worse for wear.”

“Ernie Macmillan? Surely the DA’s resident pompous git didn’t get drunk?”

Dean chuckled. “Better than that; he was even buying me weird drinks.”

Fred put on a look of shocked indignity. “Ernie? Getting drunk? Oh, how the world changes.”

Fred’s eyes were wide open, and he simulated dancing like he had a poker somewhere it didn’t belong. It was so accurate to what Dean had seen last night that he laughed until his sides hurt. “Oh, don’t! When did you see him dancing anyway?”

Fred went and sat down on a stool in front of the counter. “At the Yule ball, with Hannah Abbott. Where did you go drinking anyway? You weren’t in the Leaky Cauldron.”

“The Dragon’s Claw, just down the road from St Mungo’s.”

George choked from behind him. Dean looked and saw him clutching a stitch in his side that he had gotten from laughing so much. “Oh ho! That explains a lot! On the cocktails, were you?”

Dean raised his eyebrows. “Yeah… How-?”

Fred spoke up grimly from his seat, “Oh we’ve been… The Dragon’s Claw is famous for their cocktails. Tell me you at least didn’t have a Unicorn Ride?”

Dean scanned his memory for the ones he’d ordered. “Not that I can remember. What does it look like? What does it do?”

Fred regarded him darkly. “It induces euphoria, makes you feel like you’re on top of the world for the night, then it brings you down with a bump. Even one of those will cause a bloody nightmare of a hangover.”

Dean’s stomach turned over. “Oh ****; is it silver?”

“Yeah.”

“I’m going to KILL Ernie!”

* ~ *

They found Justin and Ernie in Dervish and Banges, buying parchment and quills. Ernie had a heavy looking package wrapped in Flourish and Blotts paper.

“You found the books then?”

“Yep, and they weigh a ton!”

“Use the Weightlessness Charm; that’s what I did with this,” Dean said, holding up the package of notes.

“Oh, yeah. You look a lot better. Did they have a hangover cure, then?”

“Yeah.” Dean thought about how miserable he’d felt half an hour ago, and then added, “I got the last of it, though. You’ll just have to suffer. Do you know that you fed me a cocktail that causes the worst hangovers known to mankind?”

Ernie guffawed shortly, breaking off clutching his head and wincing. “You looked like you needed a kick in the right direction.”

Dean’s stomach clenched; was it that obvious? “What are you talking about?”

“Beth – pity that drunk fell on her and messed it up.”

Dean felt the heat rise in his face, worse than it had in all the times in the last few days. “Shut up; we’re just friends.”

Ernie chuckled. “Yeah, right!”

Dean turned pointedly away from him. “How are you, Justin? Long time no see.”

Justin smiled, looking bemused at Ernie’s mirth. “Doing great, how’re you?”

Dean socked Ernie on the arm to shut him up. “Was going to say ‘can’t complain’ but with friends like this, I think I can!”

Justin laughed, and exchanged greetings with Seamus. Seamus looked at Dean pointedly. “Shall we go for a drink, then?”

“You can if you want, but I’m NOT drinking!”

Seamus sighed as if Dean had just personally offended him, “All right. Shall we go and see if Fred, George, and Lee want to come? Make it a bit of a DA reunion?”

Dean smiled. “That’d be great! We should try to get the whole group together sometime. Well, maybe not Smith, but the others, yeah!”

Ernie looked at him, confused. “Even Ginny?”

Dean felt a needle stab in his heart. “Well… Yeah, I suppose so. She was a member and it’s not like I hate her or anything.”

Ernie looked sceptical. “Well, maybe some time. I think we’ll be pretty busy soon, though.”

They dropped in on the twins and Lee, who decided they would come. Before they closed the door, though, Fred turned to Ernie, who wasn’t looking much better than he had when Dean had seen him that morning. “The other cocktail drinker! You don’t want a hangover potion?”

Fred produced a bottle from inside his robes. Ernie shot daggers at Dean. “You said you got the last of it!”

“I lied; that’s what you get for feeding me Unicorn Ride!”

* ~ *


__________________
"I don't go looking for trouble, trouble usually finds me!
"When two Neptunes appear in the sky, it is a sure sign that a midget in glasses is being born, Harry..."
"It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be."

Not Alone - the sequel to Family Ties
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  #9  
Old December 23rd, 2006, 11:12 pm
Anyanka  Female.gif Anyanka is offline
Second Year
 
Joined: 5229 days
Location: Northern Ireland
Age: 37
Posts: 136
Re: Not Alone

The twins wanted to make a quick stop in the apothecary for more unicorn horn, as it was on the way to the Leaky Cauldron. While they looked for supplies, another familiar face came in the door. Ernie greeted her happily, “Hannah! How have you been, girl?”

Hannah had lost a lot of weight since Dean had last seen her in November, when she had lost her mother to Death Eaters and left Hogwarts. The loss still haunted her features, but when she smiled, it was genuine enough. She hugged Ernie tightly; they had been best friends at Hogwarts. “I’m doing okay, Ernie. How are you? You’ve started at St Mungo's, right?”

“Yeah, I came here to get extra books. I met all these guys here. We’re going to get some lunch in a minute, would you like to join us?”

Hannah’s eyes swept the group. She smiled warmly. “Yeah I would. All DA members, huh? Quite a little reunion.”

“Sure is,” Ernie told her. “Dean is at St Mungo's with me now; the twins still have the shop and Justin is in the Department of Magical Transport.” He looked at Seamus. “Sorry, mate, I didn’t ask you what you were doing now.”

“I’m in the same department as Justin, and Lee there is in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures.”

A smile flickered across Hannah’s face. “That’s great. I’m starting in a Herbology centre in North Wales next month. Neville Longbottom is working there already.”

“We Hogwarts drop outs have done well for ourselves.” Fred and George came back then, each with a large paper bag. “Are we ready to go?”

* ~ *

They had lunch in the Leaky Cauldron; talking and laughing as if they’d never left Hogwarts. Justin was asking Fred and George a lot of questions about their joke wands. “I’m definitely going to buy a couple; my little brother is forever picking mine up and poking things to make them explode. It’s time he learned a lesson!”

Dean turned to him. “I didn’t know you had a little brother, mate?”

“Oh yeah, he’s nine. We’re not sure if he’s got magic in him; he hasn’t done anything strange yet. But I wonder if he could make things explode using a wand if he wasn’t magical?”

“My sister Vicky did,” replied Dean, “She pinched mine once and it shot stars out and set her curtains on fire. I got a warning from the Ministry about it.”

“Really? No one has sent us any owls about Jordan.”

Hannah spoke up from her seat on Dean’s left side. “My little sister did something like that once. She got into my trunk and was playing astronauts with my cauldron. There must have been some swelling solution residue in it; her nose ballooned up so badly! We had to take her to St Mungo's because I wouldn’t have been allowed to mix up a Deflating Draught at home.”

Dean was laughing uproariously as Hannah imitated her little sister blundering around with her nose four times its usual size, when he saw Beth walk in the front door with a smaller blonde girl. She saw him and stopped short, her eyes wide and her expression unreadable. She gave him a short wave and sat down at a table on the other side of the room. Dean stopped laughing abruptly, his heart sinking even faster than it had leapt when she came in. She’s regretting it; she’s sorry she kissed me.

Nothing anyone said after that made Dean laugh. Twelve hours ago, he had been on top of the world; he’d thought that Beth liked him and that maybe something could have happened between them. He picked at his food, talking little. No one else seemed to notice Dean’s abrupt mood change because everyone else was talking and laughing so exuberantly. Fred and George were describing a new range of glamour potions they were getting ready to sell. “They’re mostly for girls; they change your hair colour or eye colour. They can even alter the appearance of your nose or whatever.”

“Those sound great guys; they’re not dangerous are they?” Ernie asked, sounding concerned.

“No, they’re not dangerous! Here, watch!”

George took a small bottle of purple potion out of his pocket and gave it to Lee. Lee uncorked it and swallowed it in one go. He screwed up his face as if he was trying to figure something out, then his dreadlocks abruptly turned white blonde. With his dark skin it looked really strange, and when he opened his eyes, they had also changed to a bright piercing blue. While everyone else fell around laughing, Dean laughed half heartedly, lost in his misery.

Seamus was apparently still hell bent on having a night of hard drinking. Fred and Ernie appeared to be on the same ‘snowball’s chance in hell’ wavelength as Dean, but everyone else was happy enough to start ordering drinks after the food was gone. Seamus had a penchant for mulled mead with a shot of Firewhisky in it; Lee was drinking rum and Gillywater; Hannah was sticking with Butterbeer, having been regaled by Ernie about their exploits in the Dragon’s Claw; and George was drinking blackberry gin and Gillywater. Justin was trying Dean’s own drink of choice – Firewhisky and Gillywater.

Dean stared into his glass of pumpkin juice, swirling it idly. He kept stealing glances over at the table where Beth was sitting. She was similarly staring into a small glass of something reddish coloured. She hadn’t taken so much as a sip yet. Her friend prodded her in the arm a few times, and then Beth lifted the glass and drained it in one gulp, grimacing wildly and looking very much like she’d like to have spat it out. Wow… clearly she hasn’t got a hangover like the rest of us if she’s drinking something like that.

Another hour passed with no one really noticing how quiet Dean was being; they were all to busy catching up on one another’s lives.

Dean continued to watch Beth surreptitiously while she chatted with her friend. He knew he should be enjoying this time with his friends, some of whom he had not talked to properly in months, but he could not concentrate with her sitting across the room acting like he wasn’t there. He did try – he talked more to Justin about his Quidditch team, the Montrose Magpies, and football. Justin was Muggle-born and knew all about football. It was something of a novelty for Dean to find someone in the Wizarding world to talk to about football. It even distracted his attention from Beth for five whole minutes.

Eventually, Beth got up to get another drink while her friend disappeared to the toilets in the back. She gave her order to Tom and then caught Dean’s eye. He grinned at her nervously, terrified she’d blank him. She smiled back at him falteringly and he saw her gaze slide to Hannah beside him. Encouraged by the smile, however faltering, he excused himself to Justin and stood to go and speak to her.

The walk to the bar seemed to take forever. His peripheral vision was very blurry; all he could see clearly was Beth standing there, turning to look at him in slow motion. Her mouth twitched into another faltering smile and there was a trace of sadness in her eyes. Dean couldn’t for the life of him understand why she looked so upset to see him. Was the kiss bad? Felt great to me…

It became clear that she wasn’t going to speak, so Dean decided to take the first step himself. “Hi.”

She was looking at her hands. “Hi.”

The seconds stretched out. Dean was horribly aware that the table he had left was getting quieter by the second. He felt eyes boring into the back of his head. I don’t want to do this here, not like this, not with them watching…

“So… how did you feel this morning?”

“Like someone hit me in the head with a silk-wrapped brick. You?”

Why won’t she look at me? What did I do to deserve this??

“Pretty much the same,” he replied quietly. “Want some hangover potion?”

He took one of the bottles George had given him out of his pocket and offered it to her. Her eyes strayed briefly from her hands to the bottle.

“No thanks, I’ve had a Prairie Oyster to sort me out.”

Dean became aware that the table behind him was completely silent. You are not listening to this. He turned his head and glared at them until conversation broke out again. He turned back to Beth and let several more awkward seconds go by.

“Um… Er… do you want to take a walk?”

“I can’t just leave Ciara.” Beth still wouldn’t look at him.

Dean’s stomach contracted and his heart sank down to sit on top of it. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Ciara return to their table, eyeing them suspiciously. With his infamous sense of timing, Seamus took the opportunity to join them. He ordered another mead and Gillywater from Tom before turning to Dean and Beth. “How ya doin? I’m Seamus. You’re Beth, right?”

Beth looked taken aback that one of his friends knew her name. “Yes. So you’re his Irish friend?”

“That’s me! Say, who’s your friend?”

Understanding dawned in Dean. He felt a rush of gratitude and affection for Seamus. He heard her say she wouldn’t leave her friend alone. Beth was answering Seamus, still sounding stunned. “That’s Ciara. We’ve been friends since we were eleven.”

“I think I’ll go talk to her. What does she drink?”

“Red currant rum and Gillywater.”

Seamus bought the drink and went to sit down with a surprised-looking Ciara. Dean turned back to Beth and was unable to help but smile at her as she watched Seamus with a bewildered expression on her face. Seamus’ upfront attitude sometimes took people like that. He spoke up to attract her attention. “So, how about that walk?”

* ~ *

Dean led Beth back into Diagon Alley and into a little coffee shop on the right just inside the arch. They ordered coffees which were abruptly conjured up. Several minutes went by in which no one spoke; they just sipped their coffees. Dean had no clue how to broach the subject of their kiss last night; he’d never done anything like this before. What if she just tells me to get lost? Or that she made a mistake?

He risked a glance at her, and though her head was still bowed, he could see her eyes shining brightly, because they were brimming with tears. What? What’s going on? Dean had never dealt with a crying girl before and he did not know what to do. So he reacted on instinct.

He put an arm around her shoulders and felt a wave of relief and a tinge of happiness sweep through him when she rested her head on his shoulder, her small frame shaking occasionally with silent sobs. He rested his face on top of her head, breathing in a vaguely flowery smell from her hair. “What’s wrong, Beth? Why won’t you look at me? Are you sorry we-” He bit the sentence off, afraid of the answer.

Beth took a hitching breath and sat up. “No! Not at all! But you were in there all pally and laughing with that other girl and I thought-”

“Oh, Beth! I went to school with her! She’s one of the DA! Her name is Hannah, but I don’t- you thought I fancied her?”

“Well, yeah! It’s not like you waved me over or came over to speak to me-”

“You acted like you didn’t want me to!”

“Well, you still could’ve-”

Beth’s rant was cut off as Dean kissed her. He was so relieved that she did actually like him; she wasn’t sorry she kissed him. He felt tingles that reached all the way to the fingertips he had tangled in her hair. He felt her cool fingers on the back of his neck and something in his heart purred.

She pulled away slowly and, it seemed to Dean, somewhat reluctantly. “We’d better go back.”

“Yeah, let’s go and see if Seamus has proposed to your friend yet.”

* ~ *


__________________
"I don't go looking for trouble, trouble usually finds me!
"When two Neptunes appear in the sky, it is a sure sign that a midget in glasses is being born, Harry..."
"It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be."

Not Alone - the sequel to Family Ties
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  #10  
Old December 28th, 2006, 7:20 pm
Anyanka  Female.gif Anyanka is offline
Second Year
 
Joined: 5229 days
Location: Northern Ireland
Age: 37
Posts: 136
Re: Not Alone

When they got back to the Leaky Cauldron, Seamus had worked his trademark charm on Ciara and she had joined them at the table. Now that he hadn’t the distraction of Beth ignoring him, he was able to look at Ciara properly. She was very petite, thin and wiry looking with shoulder length blonde hair and sparkling blue eyes. He saw Seamus stealing appreciative glances at her when she wasn’t looking.

Dean sat down at the end of the table, beside Hannah again and introduced Beth to her. The girls chatted happily for a few minutes, getting each other’s background information, while Dean caught Seamus’ eye and mouthed ‘thank you’ at him. Seamus winked at him and engaged Ciara in conversation again.

Hannah and Beth were talking about the college course. “So, Dean, is there anyone else from Hogwarts there, apart from you and Ernie?”

Dean looked around at Hannah; he’d been watching Seamus and Ciara with a smile on his face. “Oh… yeah, there’s a Ravenclaw girl, Su.”

Hannah’s head snapped up. “Su? Su Li?” She burst out laughing, whipping her head room to look past Justin at Ernie, who was determinately not looking at her. “Hey, Ernie! You didn’t tell me Su was in class with you!”

“What’s so funny about that?”

“He had such a crush on her – tried to ask her to the Yule Ball but bottled out and took me instead.”

Hannah’s face was flushed with laughter. Dean knew it was probably the first time she’d laughed in a while. He was glad this little reunion was helping her have a little fun. He decided to tell Hannah all about the night before--his version, not Ernie’s edited version that left out his attempts to dance with Su

Lee came over to sit down and talk to him. They talked about their jobs for a while and about the lack of attacks when they were supposed to be at war. Lee tried to get him to talk about Beth, which he was uncomfortable doing when she was sitting a foot away, so he refused to talk.

Soon, Seamus began teasing Ernie about his status as a lightweight. “… I mean these cocktails can’t be that bad.”

“Oh they are,” said Fred darkly. “I’ve been there.”

Beside him, George suppressed a laugh with difficulty and tried to rearrange his face so that it did not look too amused.

“When did you guys go drinking in the Dragon’s Claw?” asked Dean.

“When we fled Hogwarts… a celebration drink.” Fred clutched his head, as though remembering the headache. “I think I tried every cocktail they had.”

“Not me, though, I had the sense to stick to good old Firewhisky.” George slapped Fred on the back as he talked. Fred groaned at the memory.

“It was hell. I spent our first day in Diagon Alley with a severe hangover. Why do you think we stock cures now?”

Dean laughed with the rest. Seamus eyed them incredulously. “I always thought you were tough, Fred, never thought you’d buckle from a little hangover-“

“Little hangover??” Fred looked up angrily. “That’s it, you cheeky little git. C’mon! We’re going to the Dragon’s Claw to teach this kid what hangovers REALLY are!”

* ~ *

Under no circumstances was Dean touching anything remotely alcoholic, even in the Dragon’s Claw. He stuck to pumpkin juice and watched Fred line up one of each of the wide range of cocktails the Dragon’s Claw offered.

A dozen drinks later, Seamus was singing old Irish folk music at the top of his lungs, so exuberantly that several Irish students in the corner joined in. Dean laughed until he was in tears at the sight, but felt vaguely guilty since he knew Seamus would wake up the following morning feeling like he’d slipped into the seventh circle of hell. While Seamus sang and conducted the other Irish guys in the corner, Dean took a bottle of Fred and George’s potion and slipped it into Seamus’ pocket.

Some young, depressed-looking girls in a corner were hogging the magical jukebox and getting it to pump out endless Celestina Warbeck tracks, which Seamus and his newfound friends were drowning out with “The Leprechaun and his Fairy.” A girl with long bright green hair with silver streaks kept shooting him dirty looks and pointing her wand at the box to turn up the volume. Beth was looking between the two like she was watching a tennis match. She looked very amused.

Fred and George were watching her with distaste. “We get enough of that **** at home. Our mum is daft about that shill old wench.”

Beth moved her gaze to the twins. “Really? So is mine! Must be one of those archetypal things with mothers.”

“Yeah, thank God it’s not all girls. Ginny at least didn’t have her blaring out of her room. She likes the Weird Sisters like a normal girl.”

Beth tilted her head curiously. “Ginny?”

“Our little sister.”

Something cold flickered in Beth’s eyes for a moment, then she broke into a wide smile. “Oh, you must be the famous Weasleys who left the school so spectacularly.”

“You’ve heard of us, then?”

Dean broke in before they could get into full bragging stride. “Oh yeah, you guys are legends there now, and you well know it.”

The singing across the room had changed into out and out yelling to cover Celestina’s “Asphodel Nights.” The girls in the corner were starting to look mutinous, and when Dean saw the green haired girl start to point her wand in Seamus’ direction, he got to his feet quickly. “Time to go!”

He hurried over with Justin at his side. As one, they each got an arm around one of Seamus’ and dragged him bodily out the door. The others followed.

As soon as he was out in the evening air, Seamus drooped, like someone had pulled out a plug that had been keeping him going.

Dean turned to Fred. “If we give him food, will it help the hangover at all?”

Fred shook his head. “Nope, only creates more to be sick with.”

Dean winced. “Let’s just get him home then.”

“If someone helps me, I can take him. He lives in the same building as me.” Justin was panting under Seamus’ dead weight.

“I’ll go,” Dean managed to say. “I hope it’s not far.”

Ernie and Beth volunteered to go with them. They said goodbye to Hannah, Fred, George, and Lee and promised they’d all meet up again soon. Lee promised to tell his mother hello from Dean before he clapped Dean on the shoulder and Disapparated.

When they dumped a fully unconscious Seamus in his own flat, Justin asked them in for a drink before they went home. They had all sat down with glasses of pumpkin juice when Justin started back onto the topic of football.

“Are you going to any games this year, Dean?”

“Nah, probably going to be too busy with college. My dad is taking my brother to the Sunderland match next month.”

“You guys like football?” Beth looked almost surprised.

“Yeah… so?” Dean hadn’t meant to sound so defensive, and he registered the brief hurt look on her face.

“So… my dad is a Muggle, and a Muggle who’s daft about football at that. What team do you support?”

Dean was stunned. Never in his entire life had he met a girl who liked football. He didn’t think they existed. “You… like football?”

“Of course I like football! I’m a total Daddy’s girl. I grew up watching all the Newcastle matches!”

The three of them talked about football for about ten minutes before they noticed that Ernie had fallen asleep out of sheer boredom. They shook him awake and decided it was high time they got back to the college.

“Promise me you’ll write tomorrow morning and let me know what kind of state Seamus is in. If possible, take pictures.” Dean grinned at Justin. “Oh, and there’s a bottle of Fred and George’s antidote in his pocket… But don’t tell him for an hour or two.”

Justin threw back his head and laughed. “Sure thing; see you soon.”


__________________
"I don't go looking for trouble, trouble usually finds me!
"When two Neptunes appear in the sky, it is a sure sign that a midget in glasses is being born, Harry..."
"It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be."

Not Alone - the sequel to Family Ties
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  #11  
Old December 30th, 2006, 3:02 am
Anyanka  Female.gif Anyanka is offline
Second Year
 
Joined: 5229 days
Location: Northern Ireland
Age: 37
Posts: 136
Re: Not Alone

Chapter 6 – Learning the Hard Way

On Sunday morning, Dean had a leisurely breakfast with Beth, Ernie, and Su before they all headed up to the roof to collect their post. The morning was bright and dazzling and the owls were hiding in whatever shade they could find.

Helios had chosen his spot well that first day; it stayed in the shade no matter what time it was. Dean put his hand into the box and brought out a scarlet envelope. He laughed out loud, recognising the handwriting. “Hey Ernie, Beth, come here, I think this might be for all of us…”

The envelope was smoking at the corners by the time they got over to him. “Wait for it…” Dean prised open the back of the envelope then dropped it, clapping his hands to his ears.

“WHAT THE BLOODY HELL DID YOU LOT FEED ME LAST NIGHT?? Thanks for the potion, though…”

They laughed uproariously as the envelope curled into ashes at their feet.

* ~ *

Dean spent Sunday quietly browsing through his new potions textbook, worrying about trying to produce some of the complicated-looking antidotes. He even had a try at making his own hangover potion, but since it had to mature over three days and he had no intention of ever drinking again, he had no way to test it yet. He wasn’t that confident it would work; for some reason, he’d instinctively added a dash of Kelpie blood to the mix before leaving it to stew.

He also borrowed one of the kitchens cauldrons to attempt an Invigoration Draught. He was pleasantly surprised to find it was easy to do; he had it made in about ten minutes, and he’d only needed to read the instructions once.

He had an early dinner alone and headed back to his room to get an early night; he had a feeling the first day of working in the hospital was going to be hell. As he put his hand on the doorknob of his bedroom door, he heard a voice call his name. He turned to see Ernie coming up the hall towards him. “Hey Dean, have you already eaten?”

“Yeah, just came back.”

“Oh… Well, I was gonna go ask Su and Beth if they wanted to come with us, but-”

“But what, Ernie? Just go ask Su if she wants to join you. You don’t always need us there.” Dean lifted his hand off the door handle and put it on Ernie’s shoulder. “If you want to get to know her better, it might help not to ask all of us to come.”

Ernie flushed to the roots of his hair. “Er. Um. Okay, I guess.” Ernie walked away towards the diamond looking thoughtful. Dean rolled his eyes and stepped into his room.

* ~ *

Monday morning brought with it a good luck card from his mother for his first day and a letter from Lee informing him that he had not been the only one to get a howler from a hungover Seamus – Fred and George had received one that had been much more colourful than Dean’s. The amusement he got from this news lasted until the door closed in the Transfiguration classroom.

As Dean had predicted, Transfiguration was going to be his worst subject. It had nearly been his downfall at O.W.L. level, though Professor McGonagall had assured him he was capable of getting the N.E.W.T. required for St Mungo's. Now, however, he was trying to cope with two years of work and he was terrified he was going to fail miserably. The Professor, Geoff Holmes, had Katie’s approach and treated them all as friends; he was approachable but had an aura that warned against any kind of fooling around.

He took them through a couple of case studies of minor cases that had involved botched transfiguration: a woman who had managed to give herself ears and whiskers like a cat, a child who’d gotten a hold of her mother’s wand and developed feet like a duck, and another man who had transplanted an elephant’s trunk somewhere it didn’t belong. The class howled with laughter at that one.

Dean had trouble working out the Switching Spells, even for such minor cases; he simply couldn’t make the connection between what the person should look like and the equations used to construct the spell. He saw Beth, two seats over, get all hers done before he was even half way through the first.

At the end of the class, Geoff collected all their equations just as the door opened and a tall, dark-haired woman walked in. She gave off the impression that she was very busy, though her smile and face were warm and welcoming. “Ah yes, class this is Faith Kelly. She’s the student overseer while you are down in the hospital. If you have any problems, she’s the one you see.”

Faith Kelly gave him a nod of acknowledgement. “Thanks, Geoff. Now, the class will be split into two shifts. One starts an hour from now. In this shift, I have Quentin Jones, Su Li, Elizabeth McKeown, Ernest Macmillan, Danielle Scott and Dean Thomas. I will meet you in the reception area of St Mungo’s main hospital an hour from now. The rest of you, your shift starts at six o’clock and I will meet you at the same place. I’ll see you all soon.” And with that, she swept out the door.

The six in the first shift had lunch together quickly. Quentin was a quiet, bookish type with a font of knowledge and statistics; he was tall and thickset with close, cropped red hair. He didn’t really talk much until he spouted out statistics related to anything they were talking about, which Dean found a little odd. Danielle was even quieter; she jumped when anyone talked to her, as if she was expecting them to hurt her. She was small and dainty already and her stature made her seem even more so. She had shoulder-length, spun sugar blonde curls which she twirled around her fingers nervously and her blue eyes appeared much too large for her small face. Dean was sure she’d have a pretty smile if she dared to try it.

They ate hurriedly, talking a little about Healer Kelly, wondering what she would be like. Her first impression had been so fast they weren’t at all sure what to expect when they got down there. They certainly weren’t expecting her to hand a baby who was breathing fire to Danielle, who shook so much she almost dropped it and who hastily passed it on to Su. Su rocked the baby gently while leaning her head back in fear of her hair catching on fire.

“Okay… what is wrong with this baby?”

Beth was looking completely stunned. “Er. It’s breathing fire?”

“Thank you McKeown. Anyone care to venture a guess as to why?”

No one spoke; they all just shuffled their feet and averted their eyes. Finally, Quentin appeared to find his voice and spoke very fast. “Several things can cause fire breathing; severe Dragon Pox, badly made Pepper-up Potion, eating Salamander eggs, incorrectly applied fire charms, partial transfiguration-“

“Dragon’s blood…” joked Su.

“I certainly hope this child has not been fed a cocktail, Miss Li. Though, anything is possible. Let’s ask the parents, shall we?”

They talked to the parents and found out that they had given the baby a spoonful of Pepper-up Potion that was a little past its use by date. “Okay Li, where do you take the baby?”

Su looked thoughtful, straining to remember the hospital layout. “Third floor? Isn’t that where potion poisoning is?”

“Correct, Li. I’ll leave you to take these people up there. The witch in charge is Darla Jameson. You can stay with her for your shift. Good luck.”

Su looked nervous, but took the baby and her parents to the lift across the hall.

“Okay, the rest of you I’ve assigned you floors to work on. Jones, you’ll be staying down here helping with admissions; Macmillan, first floor – Creature-Induced injuries; Scott go up to second - Magical Bugs; McKeown and Thomas – Spell Damage. They’re short staffed in the long-term resident ward so one of you go there and the other can work in the short term ward.”

The students looked at each other furtively. Dean decided he’d better speak up. “Er… we just had our first lesson. What do you expect us to do?”

“Oh don’t worry; we don’t expect you to start healing straight away. It’ll be mostly observation, changing bandages, that kind of thing. If you have any problems, you can page me from a Floo station – just speak my name into the lamp and where you are.” She smiled at them all reassuringly. “It’s all right, we won’t bite you. Go, learn! From now on, your shifts will be posted on that board over there.”

She pointed to a board on the wall behind Dean, next to the front desk where there was a queue of people waiting. When they turned back to thank Hr Kelly, she was gone. “All right, I guess we just go then.” Ernie led the way to the lifts, Danielle scuttling along in their wake like a frightened kitten.

On the fourth floor, Dean and Beth found themselves in a long corridor. There was a little booth just opposite the lift doors with a sign over it saying:

Spell Damage
Unliftable jinxes, hexes, incorrectly applied charms, etc
Wizard in charge: Andrew Langston.

The wizard behind the desk stood up and came out to meet them. “Hi there, I’m Andrew, are you the new students?” They nodded simultaneously. “Don’t worry, you’ll do fine. Who wants to go to the long-term resident ward?”

Neither of them answered, they just looked at each other fearfully. “Okay then, how about you, dear?” He gestured Beth towards a door at the end of the corridor. “Just knock on the door and someone will let you in.”

Beth looked up at him fearfully. “It’s locked?”

“Yes.” He caught the terror in her face. “They’re not dangerous or anything, it’s just to stop them wandering around where they might hurt themselves accidentally.”

Beth nodded, looking very pale and set off towards the door. Andrew turned to Dean. “I’ll take you up to the other ward, find you something to do.”

Dean spent the rest of the day with a newly qualified Healer called Jenna Hall, helping her change the dressings on some nasty injuries and watching her apply healing charms. By the time six o’clock came, he was exhausted, but surprised at how fast the day had gone. He met Beth at the lift and they decided to go straight to the dining hall.

“So, how was your day?” Dean asked her. Beth was still as white as she had been when he left her and now had dark circles under her eyes too.

“Those people… it’s awful… what people do to each other! There are people in there who can’t talk – who don’t have a clue who they are. And there’s a couple who just stare at the walls all day… they tell me they were tortured ‘til they lost their minds…”

Dean’s stomach clenched. He had a feeling he knew who this couple was. “Frank and Alice Longbottom?”

Beth looked up at him surprised. “How did you know that?”

“I went to school with their son, Neville. He’s one of the DA. If you ever meet him, don’t bring it up, it’ll only really upset him.”

“Of course. Have you ever met them?”

“No. I suppose being here I will sometime, though.”

They stepped out of the lift and headed straight over to the others who were slumped in front of their food, looking as exhausted as Dean felt. Dean fell into a seat and asked for pizza. When it appeared on the plate, he found he didn’t have the energy to eat. He groaned. “Does anyone have a recipe for an energy boosting potion?”

“I think there’s one in our textbook,” mumbled Su, staring at her plate like she could levitate the food into her mouth.

“I’m going to try to make it. I really need something if every day is going to be like this.”

“We’ll just not do the night out at the weekend too often,” muttered Ernie, who was propping his head up with his hand.

“Where’s the fun in that?” asked Beth. She still looked very pale, but she wasn’t slumped in her chair like the rest of them.

“Where do you get your energy, Beth?” Dean asked her. He felt something slide up the inside of his leg and suddenly wasn’t tired at all. Beth grinned at him playfully.

“There are ways, my dear, there are ways.”

Something clicked in Dean’s head. “You already made the potion, didn’t you?”

Beth held up her finger and thumb, a quarter of an inch apart. “Little bit.”

They all laughed at her and held out a hand each. “Share the wealth!”

* ~ *


__________________
"I don't go looking for trouble, trouble usually finds me!
"When two Neptunes appear in the sky, it is a sure sign that a midget in glasses is being born, Harry..."
"It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be."

Not Alone - the sequel to Family Ties
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  #12  
Old December 30th, 2006, 11:30 pm
Anyanka  Female.gif Anyanka is offline
Second Year
 
Joined: 5229 days
Location: Northern Ireland
Age: 37
Posts: 136
Re: Not Alone

The rest of the week passed similarly, except that all of them were now brewing copious amounts of Vitality Potion at every opportunity. Dean was finding his Charms and Potions classes simple enough to understand. The Dark Arts Retaliation teacher was indeed an American woman with flowing, bright red, wavy hair. Seen from the back you would think she was a teenager, but when you saw her face she appeared at least as old as Professor McGonagall.

With a name like September Falls, Dean had expected someone calm and warm, but she was a lot more like Professor McGonagall herself. She was strict and expected a hundred and ten percent out of all of them. She had already driven poor Danielle almost to tears when she forgot the chant to combat magical slash wounds.

Professor Ryan Freeman was just as cold and off-putting as he had been on Dean’s first day. He insisted on being called Professor, just like Professor Falls, and he expected them to memorise the entire ‘A’ letter section of their textbook by the following class, and he was going to test them on the plants and flowers that day too.

During the week, Dean worked on other wards. Magical Bugs was interesting as he’d never seen any of the illnesses before. It was necessary to use a Bubble-Head Charm the entire time he was in the ward to avoid infection. He saw what Dragon pox was like in varying degrees of seriousness; Vanishing Sickness was nauseating to see - sometimes patients were skinless, other times limbs would be missing. He got the fright of his life when he went to give one patient a dose of the rematerializing potion and pulled back the covers to find nothing but a mouth and a pair of eyeballs.

The Artifact Accidents ward was pretty straight forward; people with scalds and effects from exploding potions, and some broken bones and things from broomstick accidents. There were also occasional injures from dodgy protective amulets and spells that were being sold by low life scum to frightened people who thought they were buying something that would protect them from attack.

He spent Thursday on the Potions Poisoning ward seeing some truly horrific cases. People who were all the colours of the rainbow, others who were covered in horrible skin conditions, some who had fingers and other appendages rotting away. It was like something out of a zombie film.

On Friday, he was back on the Spell Damage ward with Quentin. This time, to accept the inevitable, he took the long-term resident ward. It took him an hour even to get to the Longbottoms. He got waylaid by Professor Lockhart who insisted on giving him a dozen signed pictures and briefly seemed to recognise him; even know his name before he lapsed back into silence, staring at the wall.

Dean approached the Longbottoms cautiously and full of apprehension. He recognised Alice as Neville’s mother straight away. She didn’t have Neville’s build--Dean supposed she didn’t eat much or anything--but Neville was still the image of his mother. Her hair was like straw and very unkempt. She seemed to be muttering to herself under her breath.

Dean left the Healer to coax Alice into eating something while Dean moved on to Frank. Neville had inherited his father’s dark hair and his height. Frank himself lay flat on his back staring blankly at the ceiling, not blinking, not moving. It seemed almost as if he was carved of ice lying there, and it chilled Dean to his core.

Oh Neville, how can you stand it? He knew that Neville must come and see his parents sometimes, and he couldn’t imagine the courage it must take to sit there beside these shells of people and talk to them like nothing was wrong. To perhaps take his mother’s hand and have her look at him, but not know who he was.

Dean managed to get Frank propped up enough to get him to eat something, but it was slow, thankless work. Frank’s eyes didn’t focus at all; he was completely unaware of where he was and what was going on.

By the time he finished his shift at six o’clock, Dean knew he was going to break his ‘never drinking again’ promise. After the week he’d had, he was going for a stiff Firewhisky.

He found the others in the communal kitchen nearest his room, with their books spread out in front of them, starting a study session. “Have you guys eaten yet?”

Beth shivered. “After what I saw today, I don’t know if I’ll ever eat again.”

Dean looked at her pointedly. “Been on the Magical Bugs ward, have you?”

She nodded miserably.

“How’s the guy in bed four?” Dean asked her, wondering if the pair of eyeballs and the mouth had gotten any better.

She closed her eyes and shivered again. “The guy who’s just a skull, eyes and mouth?”

“Oh, he’s got a skull now, that’s progress.” Dean pulled up a seat and rubbed his temples. He felt a cool hand on his forehead which soothed his headache considerably.

“Have you got a headache?” Beth’s voice was as soothing as her hand.

“Yeah. I just need food of some kind.”

“We could go out for Chinese?” Su spoke up from across the table.

“Yeah, cause that worked so well the last time.” Dean looked up smiling.

“I’ll go. I’m not drinking tonight; we’ve got a lot of work tonight.” Ernie was looking furtively at Su as if hoping she’d volunteer to go with him. Su continued to flick through her copy of Magical Healing Plants and their Properties. After a moment, Ernie’s eyes fell.

Dean spoke up. “I’ll go with you, if you want.”

“So will I.” Beth’s hand fell to rest on top of Dean’s on his knee.

Ernie looked at them. “Nah, I’ll stay here, you two go. Three’s a crowd and all that.”

* ~ *

“One drink, I swear, Beth, that’s all I’m gonna have. We deserve it after the week we’ve had.”

Beth gave him an incredulous look, which softened when he put on his ‘pweese’ face. “Oh, all right. Just one, though; we need to go get the food.”

They found the bar a lot quieter than it had been the previous week. They took seats at a small table in the corner and settled down with a Firewhisky and Gillywater each. They talked about the week they’d had. They had only seen each other in the morning class and at meal times.

“That Professor Freeman scares me ****less. I’m useless at Herbology! I’ll never pass that test on Wednesday.”

Dean pressed her hand. “You’ll do fine. You’ve got a really good memory, haven’t you?”

“Yeah, but fear can clear it quicker than a unicorn at full gallop.” She took a sip of her drink, grimacing. “This is definitely not going to be my drink of choice. I think I’ll stick to Butterbeer in the future.”

She set it back down with a thump. “So what about you? What do you think of the classes so far?”

Dean looked into his glass, swirling it to clink the ice cubes against the sides. “Transfiguration is going to be my downfall, I think. I just can’t get the equations right.”

“I can help you with that; Transfiguration is my best subject. The trick is to get a clear picture in your mind of what the person should look like and work from there.”

Dean laughed. “You’d think that an artist could do that well enough, wouldn’t you?”

Beth turned in her seat to look at him. “You’re an artist? What kind?”

Dean felt uncomfortable by her focused attention, but answered her anyway. “I sketch mostly. I don’t paint much anymore.”

“I’d like to see some of it sometime, if that’s all right?”

Dean’s insides squirmed and he didn’t understand why. He knew his work was good, he didn’t know why he didn’t want Beth to see it. “Sure… why not?”

He drained the rest of his glass in one go. “Shall we go get the food?”

* ~ *

When they got back to the kitchen Danielle and Quentin had gone. “Library. They said they’d be coming back, though,” Su told them, reaching for her chow mein and grabbing a pair of chopsticks. “And I knew you couldn’t resist the lure of the Dragon’s Claw.”

Dean’s head snapped up. “What? We didn’t-”

“Don’t lie to me, Dean. I can tell Beth has been drinking; she’s got the glow going on. Either she’s had a drink or she’s had sex, and we’re not getting into that.”

Beth blushed furiously. “We had a drink! Just one!”

Su laughed at her outburst.

Dean was feeling distinctly warm around the face. too, but Beth was so flustered that they just laughed at her while Dean kept his head down and tried to keep the smile off his face.

While everyone ate, they read through the chapter on ‘A’ letter plants. Su was trying to teach them all to use chopsticks, but it wasn’t until one of Beth’s spring rolls flew out of hers and whacked Su between the eyes that she relented and let them get forks.

When they were done with the food, they took turns picking out random plants and seeing who could list the properties. Ernie appeared to have eaten a copy of the textbook because he jumped in so quickly every time that they eventually told him to shut up and let them have a chance.

Dean was pretty spotty; there were some he could remember, but others had such similar names that it was easy to get confused. He kept mixing up Alihosty and Allium which would not be good to mix up when concocting potions as Alihosty caused hysteria and Allium was used in Pepper-up Potion.

“I wonder if we have to sketch them, or match the names to the pictures,” Beth whispered, looking a little pale with a hand clapped over her forehead, staring at the page in front of her.

“No idea… why?” Dean asked her, feeling a little worried at how scared she looked.

“They all look the same… green. Sometimes they’re long, sometimes they’re short, but they all… look… the bloody SAME.” She shoved the book away from her in disgust. Su closed hers over with a snap.

“It’s late; we’re too tired to take it all in. Well, most of us are.” She poked Ernie in the ribs, who jumped a mile.

“Hey! I just have a good memory!”

At that moment, Danielle and Quentin re-entered the room. Danielle looked a little less timid than she had before, but she still seemed to hunch as she walked. as if trying to diminish herself from view. Quentin’s gaze was unfocused as he gazed at the floor. Su looked at him curiously. “Hey, Quentin, what’s Astragalus used for?”

“Chinese healing herb. Stimulates the immune system; used in Blood-Replenishing Potions, Skelegrow and Hair Regrowth treatments.”

“Ah. That explains a lot.” Su settled back in her chair.

“So, Quentin, you’ve got a photographic memory?” Dean asked, leaning forward and resting his elbows on his knees.

“Yes. Once I read something it stays in my head.”

“Well, that must be useful at exam time.”

“I have never scored beneath one hundred percent. I am a genius.” Quentin answered in a matter of fact, emotionless voice.

Dean looked at Beth uneasily. Quentin seemed nice enough, but there was something a bit odd about him. He didn’t seem very approachable. Danielle seemed to have taken to him. He never talks, that’s probably why. Any time one of us has spoken to her she’s jumped a mile.

“I’m going to bed, guys, I’m going to get up in the morning and try to memorise this section.”

They all bade Dean good night as he rose, gathered up his stuff and left. Beth caught up with him in the hall just before he got to his room.

“Hey… I’m sorry about that; I just got frustrated. I hate Herbology.”

Dean looked up at her anxious face. “If you can do Transfiguration, you can do anything – it’s the most difficult subject there is.”

Beth looked down at her feet. “I suppose it depends on the person. I just seem to understand how it works. But plants, they all look the same to me when they’re in the ground. I’d rather just go and buy them in an apothecary.”

Dean chuckled. “Well, we mostly do that in London, anyway.”

She smiled slightly. “Well, I’ll see you tomorrow sometime. I’m gonna cram as much as I can.”

She stood on her toes and kissed him quickly on the cheek before she started to walk away. Slightly confused, he watched her walk to her door and go inside. Why didn’t she kiss me properly?

* ~ *


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"I don't go looking for trouble, trouble usually finds me!
"When two Neptunes appear in the sky, it is a sure sign that a midget in glasses is being born, Harry..."
"It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be."

Not Alone - the sequel to Family Ties
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  #13  
Old December 31st, 2006, 3:23 pm
Anyanka  Female.gif Anyanka is offline
Second Year
 
Joined: 5229 days
Location: Northern Ireland
Age: 37
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Re: Not Alone

For the rest of the weekend, Dean didn’t see much of Beth. The six of them often saw each other at mealtimes, but the rest of the time they were studying. Dean spent his Sunday morning working with potions – they had been asked to prepare a sample of Blood Replenishing Potion which he did with relative ease, and he also brewed up some Vitality Potion, just in case he needed it. His hangover cure looked exactly like it was supposed to; all he needed was a hangover to test it on. It’ll be a long time before I’m going to need it…

He spent the rest of Sunday going over the Transfiguration equations they had done the previous Monday, trying to see any sense in them. He failed miserably, even with the extra books he got out from the library.

He went for a late dinner and found Beth sitting alone playing with a plate of spaghetti that looked otherwise untouched.

“Hi. What’s wrong?”

She looked up and tried to smile. “Nothing. You’re eating late.”

“You’re not eating at all.” he replied, taking a seat opposite her.

She stared down at the fork she was twisting a strand of spaghetti around. “Not really hungry. Keep picturing my mother’s face when I fail my first test.”

“How can you be so sure you’ll fail?”

She looked up at him, her big hazel eyes glassy. “Because. I can’t do Herbology, I never could. I failed my N.E.W.T. I nearly failed my O.W.L. The information just does not stay in my head.”

“Well, we’ll find a way.” He smiled at her reassuringly and was glad when she smiled back at him.

“How about a Memory Potion? You seem to be good at the potions, you made the Vitality Potion before any of us did.” At these words Beth blushed scarlet and dropped her gaze again. Dean raised his eyebrows. “What?”

“I.. um… I… bought that potion,” she stammered.

“You what? Why?”

“I hate making potions – seems so pointless when you can just buy them ready made.”

Dean was shocked to the core – he stared at her red face. “Beth we have to learn to make them! This one is on our syllabus!”

She looked up at him, appalled. “I know that! I can make them, and I do make them. I just didn’t have time to make it and I needed it, so I bought it. Where’s the harm?”

“Have you bought any more?”

“No. I’ve started making my own. The effects don’t last as long.”

“It’ll get better with practice. And we’re going to try a Memory Potion to help you with this test. Just let me find something to eat first.”

When they got back to Beth’s room, Dean helped her brew the potion using the instructions in his Potions textbook from the year before. Then while it was maturing for the hour required, Dean tested her on what she knew so far.

“Astringessa.”

“Helps stop bleeding?”

“Yes. Artemisia.”

“Erm… is that the cooling stuff used in the Fever-Killing Potion?”

“No… that’s artichoke. Artemisia is used as an aid to Divination. Allium.”

“That’s the heat thing isn’t it? Pepper-up potion?”

“Yes… your memory isn’t that bad.”

“I only read it an hour ago. It’s doing it in a class, with him watching me. It’ll make my mind go blank – I guarantee it.”

Dean was worried that her lack of confidence would affect her performance. He didn’t know what else to do but to try to reassure her. He leaned over and took her hand. “You can do it, Beth, I know you can.”

She looked a little startled, but smiled genuinely for the first time that night. “We’ll see, won’t we?”

* ~ *

The following evening during his shift something happened that put all thoughts of the test out of Dean’s mind. At seven o’clock, working in the Magical Bugs ward, a familiar face was admitted with a severe case of Dragon Pox. He was so hot that sweat was cascading off him like a waterfall; angry red lumps stood out all over his body and steam was issuing from his nostrils, mouth and ears.

“Weasley, Percival. Thomas, go and fetch some Fever-Killing Potion and some Murtlap ointment.”

It wasn’t the fact that Percy was ill that got to Dean; it was the fact that he was alone. No one came in with him at all. They managed to get his temperature down to a less dangerous level; though it was certainly not ideal, at least he wasn’t soaking the sheets right through in an hour. The sores on his skin were a little less painful-looking near the end of Dean’s shift, but he was still leaking steam from his nose and ears. When Dean was nearly ready to leave for the night, Percy woke up long enough to talk to Hr Kelly.

“Where am I?” Percy asked.

“You’re in St Mungo's, Mr Weasley. You have a nasty case of Dragon Pox. Do you have any idea how you contracted it?”

Percy coughed violently, turning away from Hr Kelly and finding himself looking across two beds at Dean. “Someone in the office had it; I guess I got it from her.”

“Do you have any family you wish me to contact for you?”

“No.” Percy didn’t look away from Dean, glaring at him as if daring him to contradict this claim.

I guess he hasn’t made up with the family yet.

Dean swept out of the ward past Percy without looking at him again.

* ~ *

Dean spent Tuesday afternoon on the Spell Damage ward and the evening in his room with the others, sprawled wherever they could, cramming for the Herbology test. Beth had arrived first with a small vial of the Memory Potion they had brewed the night before, drinking it before the others arrived. They were already testing each other; sitting side by side on the bed leaning against the wall when Su arrived, knocking on the partially open door with a shifty grin on her face.

“Not interrupting am I?”

Dean laughed at her. “No, come in; pull up a patch of floor.”

Beth kicked off her shoes and drew her feet up underneath her robes so Su could lean against the bed at her feet. Moments later, Danielle and Quentin arrived. Danielle kept shooting covert looks at Quentin and chose a spot where she could sit closest to him. When Ernie arrived, he sat in Dean’s desk chair, and Su immediately started firing plant names at him, trying to catch him off guard. This didn’t work at all as Ernie really knew his stuff.

As the night wore on, Dean watched Beth get more and more nervous, even though the Memory Potion was working and she could remember almost all of the plants and their properties, only confusing one or two similar sounding names. She kept leaning over to look at the book herself, as if she thought Dean was lying to her about her right answers.

“Beth, I’d tell you if you were wrong! I wouldn’t want you to go in thinking the wrong names!”

“I know… I’m just checking.” She leaned over again, bending over the book balanced on his knees. Her hair brushed his cheek and he felt a thrill run through him. He closed his eyes and smelled the musky flowery scent of her shampoo.

“Okay, it’s your turn,” she said. “Give me the book.”

Dean managed to remember more than half of the plants listed. He wasn’t too worried; it was only the first test and he could remember most of them when he thought hard enough. Beth’s presence was a distraction and he made a mental note to not sit beside her during the test.

When the others left around midnight, Beth lagged behind. Dean noticed she was shaking as she lifted her book and bag and he put a hand on her shoulder. She turned and leaned into him without lifting her head. She was mumbling into his shoulder. “I don’t think I can do this.”

“Yes you can. Get some rest, take the potion and don’t look at Freeman.” He took her by the shoulders gently. She looked up at him with more fear in her eyes than he could understand. If it was our finals, I’d understand, but it’s just a class test! Instead of saying this to her, he kissed her. She clung to him like he was the only thing keeping her standing. He walked her to her room. He couldn’t understand why she was so worked up about a stupid little test. It’s not like they’ll kick her out if she fails one little class test.

The next morning Dean could tell Beth hadn’t slept a wink. She was as white as a sheet and had large, dark circles under her eyes. He was with her when she took two small bottles out of her bag when they were walking down after breakfast; the blood red Vitality Potion and the pearly white of the Memory Boosting Draught. Then she took out the book and started reading it while she was walking, leaving Dean worrying that she would fall and break something; but they made it to the Herbology room without incident. Beth was reading so fast she could hardly be taking it in.

When Freeman set the test in front of him, Dean relaxed. There were pictures of the plants and their names – and multiple choice answers pertaining to their properties. We all should walk this…

He glanced across the room at Beth, who was staring at her test with a slightly unfocused look. He kept watching her as she loaded her quill with ink and started writing. Dean mentally shook himself and turned his attention to his own test.

The test took half an hour out of the class, and after Freeman had collected the tests, he led them to the elevator and out on to the roof. Dean had never noticed before that the Owlery didn’t cover the entire roof; there was a door in the side of it that led to a stretch of the roof that looked like it had a huge soap bubble on it. It was a greenhouse that appeared to have been magically expanded, as it was much larger on the inside than it looked from the outside.

Freeman led them to a clump near the back. “These are the plants you have just been tested on, inside the yellow lines.” He indicated the lines drawn on the floor.
“Collect a sample of each and label it correctly and bring it to me. Sample books and press are on the table behind you. You have an hour.”

Dean lifted a book for himself and opened it. On each page, there were two envelopes large enough for a pressed sample of a plant, with space beside it to write the name of the sample. Dean busied himself looking for the right plants and cutting samples. When he had only two left to collect, he glanced around to see how Beth was doing. She had a smudge of dirt on her nose and a feverish expression as she hunted through the plants with her hands.

By the end of the test, Dean had found all the plants he needed and hoped that he had them right. Ernie looked very pleased with himself and Su was perched on an upturned bucket using her wand to remove the dirt from under her nails. Quentin had been finished for ten minutes and was standing near the door with Danielle at his side, as usual. She had finished at the same time as he and Dean was beginning to suspect that she had cheated. Had she followed him the whole time to get the right samples?

When they left the greenhouse, they broke into conversation about the test.

“I didn’t know there was going to be a practical part! How can he expect us to recognise all the plants when we’ve only ever seen pictures of them?” Beth was looking quite panicky. Her hands were frozen into claws at her sides.

“I think it was to see how well we could cope under pressure and how well we had read the book.” Su tossed her hair. “Well, I don’t know about you, but I need a long shower before we start our hospital shift.”

“I think we all do.”

Dean got to the lift after his shower to find Beth waiting for it too, and looking much more cheerful than she had been.

“So, how did you find it?” he asked her.

She slipped a cool hand into his. “I suppose it could have been worse, without your help.”

She looked up at him, smiling. “Thanks.”

She stood on her tiptoes and kissed him quickly as the lift doors open. After a hasty lunch where no one talked about the test at all, they all headed downstairs to Reception to see what wards they would be working on.

“Damn, Magical Bugs again. Guess I won’t be eating-“

Beth’s complaint was cut off by a piercing scream that ripped through the room, making everyone jump a mile. Dean spun around looking for the source and saw two Mediwizards in their green and yellow striped robes carrying a woman between them. She was screaming at the top of her lungs, her magnified eyes wide and staring at something they couldn’t see, which was obviously causing her terrible anguish. Her usual shawls were hanging off her as she squirmed and writhed in the grip of the two Healers supporting her.

Dean’s heart missed a beat. He’d never liked this particular teacher that much - she had seemed like a real fake Seer – but no one deserved whatever was happening to her.

Healer Kelly rushed past them towards Professor Trelawney, her wand out in front of her. “Stupefy!”

Trelawney went limp, her screams dying. As they were carrying her past the students to the lift, Hr Kelly stopped with them. “Which of you is working in Spell Damage today?”

Dean stepped forward. “I am.”

“Come with me, Thomas.”

Dean threw a look at Su and Ernie as he hurried away after her. They looked as shocked and confused as he was. Dean couldn’t imagine what had happened to Trelawney to have caused such a reaction. When they got up to Spell Damage they hurried Trelawney into a bed and used the Incarcerous Charm to secure her to it.

Dean hung back; unsure of what they expected him to do. Kelly leaned over her, asking questions of the Mediwizards who brought her in. “Where was she?”

“The Hog’s Head in Hogsmeade.”

“Was she alone?”

“As near as we can tell.”

“Do we have any clue what happened?”

“No. The barman called for us through the Floo Network. He found her like this in a room upstairs. She didn’t rent a room and he has no idea how she got there.”

“Well, something sure as hell happen-OH MERCIFUL MERLIN!”

Dean jumped and hurried forward to see what had scared Kelly. She had brushed Trelawney’s hair off her forehead as she was searching for injuries and saw something that froze Dean’s blood in his veins and stopped all thought.

The Dark Mark, blazing red and moving in the middle of her forehead, glowing with its own disquieting light.

“Right over her third eye…” muttered Kelly, her fist pressed against her mouth and her eyes wide and horrified.

Dean wrenched his gaze away from Trelawney. “Third eye?”

“It’s the mythical seat of Divinative power. The Dark Mark is right over it.”

Dean looked down at Trelawney. What did they do to her?

“She is… I mean she was, the Divination teacher at Hogwarts.”

Kelly looked at him, lowering her fist from her mouth. “She’s a Seer?”

“Well, I don’t know about that. I doubt she’s ever made an accurate prediction in her entire life, but it seems like a bit of a coincidence.”

Kelly stepped up to Trelawney’s side again, looking down at the squirming Dark Mark. She spoke just above a whisper. “I remember… when I was a student… reading a case study about a horrendous torture method used on Seers… it opens the Seer’s Inner Eye to all the suffering in the world. Everyone who is in pain; everyone who is suffering. It must be horrifying for her to see.”

Dean felt dizzy. The horror of what was happening to his former teacher weighing on him, almost physically dragging him down. Oh God… Oh God… Are we going to be able to help her?

“What...? Is there…? Can we do anything for her?”

“I don’t know. I don’t remember anything about a cure. We’ll have to keep her in an enchanted sleep until we figure out what we can do for her.”

Dean was very quiet at dinner that evening. He, of course, had to tell Su, Ernie and the others what was wrong with Trelawney, but had left it to the other Hogwarts survivors to tell Beth, Quentin and Danielle who she was.

“… It’ll be all over the Daily Prophet tomorrow, just you wait.”

Beth looked at Ernie inquisitively. “What makes you say that?”

“The Dark Mark. It must have been Death Eaters.”

“But why, though?” Everyone looked at Dean. It was the first time he’d spoken in close to half an hour. “Why did they do it? What danger was a dotty old fraud to You-Know-Who?”


__________________
"I don't go looking for trouble, trouble usually finds me!
"When two Neptunes appear in the sky, it is a sure sign that a midget in glasses is being born, Harry..."
"It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be."

Not Alone - the sequel to Family Ties
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  #14  
Old January 2nd, 2007, 9:58 pm
Anyanka  Female.gif Anyanka is offline
Second Year
 
Joined: 5229 days
Location: Northern Ireland
Age: 37
Posts: 136
Re: Not Alone

Chapter 7 – First Impressions

With two patients he knew in the hospital, Dean was starting to realise how painful this job could become. What if something happened to one of his friends? Could he actually Heal someone he loved?

The next few weeks were a blur of classes and working. The classes were getting steadily more difficult. There was a test a week in a different subject. Dean had of course been prepared for this as he’d seen the reams of test papers his father had sat in the one year he had studied here; the others hadn’t realised how frequently testing happened at St Mungo's. Beth, in particular, was starting to show signs of strain, except in Transfiguration and Potions. She had been right when she said she could brew them, she just hated to do it.

Dean was getting very fond of her; she spent most of her free time with him, trying to keep him afloat in Transfiguration, while he helped her with Herbology. Her Charm work was improving under Katie, who had a gentle teaching technique that took the pressure off her. Nerves seemed to be Beth’s biggest weakness; her Herbology was staying quite bad. She had just about passed the first test with fifty-two percent and the last two hadn’t been any better. Professor Freeman and his cold manner and disapproving looks were the source of this, Dean was sure. Beth did much better when they were testing each other before the real tests.

As if to disprove Dean’s theory that Danielle was using Quentin to cheat, he was achieving a perfect score on every test while she wavered in the mid eighties. Su and Ernie were both averaging around ninety in all subjects.

Dean was pleased with his own grades; with the exception of Transfiguration, he was averaging around eighty. He had also discovered somewhat of an instinctive gift for Healing Potions. He only had to read instructions once and he had it down, and occasionally felt a need to add something to a potion, or not add a listed ingredient and it always seemed to work better.

They were working on a Burn-Healing Ointment, and when he had finished with the instructions on the page, he searched through his ingredients and found a phoenix feather. He took out his silver knife and cut a sliver off the end of it and dropped it into the potion. It emitted red and gold sparks for a few seconds, and then settled down. There was a faint red and gold sheen to the surface of the potion now, while everyone else’s remained black with green highlights. The Professor, Smith, stopped beside him and gazed into his cauldron bemusedly. “Well, Thomas, what did you decide to do differently today?”

Feeling uncomfortable at the stares of the rest of the class, Dean muttered his response quietly. “I added a sliver of phoenix feather root.”

“I see. And why?”

Dean stared at his potion, looking at the rippling surface. “I don’t know.”

“Well, let’s go and see if it works, shall we?”

Feeling like he was standing alone on a brightly lit stage, Dean watched Professor Smith scoop up some of his potion into a vial. The rest of the class did the same and they headed down to Creature Induced Injuries. They were always brought to a ward to test out their potion on a patient, as long as they were happy with it.
Professor Smith led them to a bed where a wizard was lying with his whole right side wrapped in bandages. “This man took part in a failed experiment involving some Salamanders and Muggle Fireworks. Let us see these potions at work.”

He unwrapped the man’s arm from the bandages. Dean saw that his skin was blistered and red, even black in places. He made the others step forward first and apply some of their potion to the arm using a cloth. Everyone’s potion made some improvement – Su’s in particular reduced the redness by a significant amount. Dean began to feel a little panicky, as he did every time they tested a potion he had instinctively decided to alter. He lived in fear that sometime soon he would cause someone more harm but he could not stop himself – he had to try these things.

When he stepped forward and poured his potion onto a cloth, his hands were shaking. He tried not to look at the man’s face as he applied to the cloth to his arm. He rubbed the potion on gently and heard the man gasp. He recoiled and wrenched his hand away and saw, to his great surprise, that the burn was almost completely gone where he had been rubbing it. There was still some redness and a few blisters, but the peeled skin and black scorch marks had gone.

“It’s gone! The pain is gone! What did you do?”

Dean stepped back so the man could see his arm. The man howled and grabbed for the cloth in Dean’s hand. Professor Smith stepped forward and gripped the man’s wrist. “That will do, Mr Milligan. I’ll have your Healer look at this before she approves its use on the rest of your injuries.”

Smith led them back to the classroom, stopping only to hand Dean’s potion to the Healer in charge and whispering something to her. She gave Dean a startled look before taking the small bottle from Smith.

When the rest of the students had packed up, Smith asked Dean to remain behind. Dean was worried he was going to get yelled at, even though his potion had worked better than intended.

“Why did you decide to add phoenix feather to the potion, Thomas?”

Dean shuffled his feet. “I just had a feeling it was right.” How am I supposed to explain instinct?

“No one has ever tried using phoenix feather in a burn curing potion before. There once was a master potion brewer who added phoenix blood to a potion which caused the burns to get worse, and of course the tears work almost instantaneously, but they are very rare to find. Since phoenixes burst into flames when they die, it was thought that the feathers would have the same effect as the blood, when in fact, it seems to be the regenerative properties that have been awakened in this potion.”

Smith rose and came around the table to stand in front of Dean. He looked down at him with a touch of what Dean thought might have been pride. “Professor Slughorn wrote to me when you got accepted into this programme, as you hadn’t got the O.W.L. grade we required for potions. He said he thought you had suffered under the hands of a teacher who had prejudice against your house.”

Dean nodded. Snape had certainly never encouraged any of the Gryffindors.

“Well, Slughorn did tell me that you seemed to have a great aptitude for potions when he taught you privately last year. You have an instinctive grasp of what works and what doesn’t. Keep up the good work. You should think about specialising in Potions in fourth year.”

* ~ *

Dean had come to dread the days he spent in Magical Bugs and Spell Damage. Trelawney had been moved to the long term residents ward and was kept secured to the bed and sedated. Percy Weasley was improving very slowly. The Dragon Pox had been so severe that it had damaged several internal organs and they were now healing these injuries as well as fighting the Pox.

Percy was distant with Dean when he had to give him potions, which was fine with Dean. He remembered how distraught Ginny had been when he had broken ties with the family. She had hated to see her mother so upset. Eventually, though, Dean cracked. One day in mid October, he spoke to him. “Why don’t you let me send an owl to your mother? She’d want to know you’re in here.”

Percy looked up at him then turned his head away. “My mother would only fuss. And the rest don’t want to see me any more than I want to see them.”

“But you were all so close not too long ago… why can’t you just?-”

“Apologise? For what? For getting a great job? For siding with my boss against an apparently mad old man and an unstable teenager? Yes, You-Know-Who is back, but they owe me an apology as much as I owe them. They didn’t believe I could get this job because of talent.” Percy turned his head back to Dean’s disbelieving face. “I don’t need them, they don’t need me. I do not want them here.”

Dean decided not to press the matter. He gave Percy his Strengthening Solution and left to check on the other patients.

* ~ *

Hr Kelly had brought in a specialist from Bulgaria to help with Professor Trelawney. After weeks of magical tests, he concluded that Hr Kelly had been right – the Death Eaters had indeed cursed her to open her Inner Eye permanently.

“Is there anything to cure it?” Dean overheard Kelly asking him while he was trying to get Lockhart to eat something instead of constantly signing photographs.

“Zey did manage to cure it a couple of times. It takes a very long time. Also I believe ze last patient affected relied on a daily Suppressant Potion the rest of zere life.”

Dean’s spirits sank. They’ll probably never be able to help her. No one deserves that. He felt something cold and ugly rising in him, a hatred for people who could do this to others. We’re all human beings – none of us better than the others!

He felt a need to do something, anything to stop them, knowing full well that he couldn’t. All he could do was be there to pick up the pieces. He was beginning to understand how Gary had felt; Healing was all very well and noble, but Dean was itching to be out there, catching people who did things like this. All the pain in the world, she feels it all...

He was very distracted at dinner that night; he wasn’t paying attention to the others conversation planning a Halloween party.

“What do you think Dean?”

Dean raised his head to see Ernie looking at him. “What?”

Ernie rolled his eyes. “A Halloween party, here. Apparently each wing holds one. There’s food in every kitchen and people just wander around mingling.”

“Sounds cool to me.”

He dropped his eyes back to his roast chicken dinner. Beth put her hand on his knee under the table. “Are you all right?” she whispered.

He half shook his head, not really wanting to talk about it. Su was as perceptive as Beth, however, and called him on it. “What’s on your mind, mate?”

He took a deep breath and looked at his fellow Hogwarts classmates. “What’s wrong with Professor Trelawney… it’s really difficult to cure. I don’t know if they’ll ever be able to help her.”

Silence fell over the table. Quentin was, as usual, staring into space and Danielle was there, staring at Dean with something like incredulity. “But you said she was a useless old fraud. Why do you care?”

Dean turned to look at her slowly. He was aware of the cold hatred rising in him again. She almost recoiled from his gaze. “You think anyone deserves what’s happening to her? You think anyone EVER deserves feeling the pain and suffering of the whole world? You think any of us DON’T care that someone we know is stuck that way forever?” With that, Dean pushed his plate away in disgust, rose and left the table without another look.

* ~ *

For the next few days, Danielle gave Dean a wide berth whenever she saw him. She and Quentin stopped eating with them and avoided them at the start of the hospital shifts, which suited Dean fine. He couldn’t understand what attracted either of them to the profession of Healing – neither of them seemed particularly interested in helping people at all, especially Danielle after making such a callous comment about Trelawney’s condition.

Approaching Halloween, the most talked about subject among all the Healing students was the huge party planned, which seemed to be encompassing the entire student floor. Dean had just found out that each of the Healing years had their own wing – the East wing was where the first year students lived, the North was for second years, the South for third years, and the West for the speciality study year. He had also just found out that Halloween was a public holiday in the Wizarding world and that there would be no classes or hospital shifts for the students on Halloween itself or the day after.

“I bet they added that extra day knowing how badly they performed with massive hangovers,” Su joked when she saw the notice that Wednesday was to be a free day.

The first years, of which there were many as there were four shifts of classes and work shifts, seemed especially excited. At any rate, most of them seemed to be making magical decorations for the corridors, their rooms, and the kitchens. On Monday, Dean was laughed at by an evil-looking pumpkin, attacked by a black and orange paper chain that tried to hang him before tearing in two, and a statue of a black cat spat an Acid Pop at him as he passed by it.

Dean spent Tuesday sketching ghosts, mummies, banshees, and various other creatures on the wall outside his room and in their shared kitchen. When he was finished, he took out his wand, touched each of them in turn muttering “Ambiguusaum.” The pictures came alive, slouching and capering up and down the corridor for about fifty feet from where they started.

Beth was hugely impressed by these moving drawings and asked to see more of his work. Feeling a bit uncomfortable, as no one had ever seen his sketchbook before, Dean handed it over for her to look at as he worked on a burn healing paste that had to be submitted before the break. He tried not to be distracted by the sound of turning pages, though it was difficult.

Eventually, just as he was adding Astragalus to the paste, Beth spoke up. “Who’s this girl? There are half a dozen sketches of her here.”

Dean’s heart sank to the pit of his stomach and turned to ice there. Oh ****, I forgot about the pictures of Ginny! With an intense feeling of dread, he got up and went to sit beside her. She was looking at the last one he drew of her, about a month before they’d split up. She had sat for it after a Quidditch practice and her hair was windblown and wild-looking, the way he’d liked it best, her eyes were bright and alive and she had a glow in her cheeks from the wind. The picture was moving ever so slightly; he’d used the Ambiguusaum Charm to make her hair look like it was blowing in a breeze. He took a deep breath. “That’s Ginny.”

He watched Beth take a breath and flick back through the pages at the other drawings. “She’s pretty.”

“I suppose so. She was.”

“What..? What… happened with her?”

Dean sighed deeply and leaned back against the wall. “Do you really want to know?”

Beth leaned back against the wall beside him, her eyes closed as if steeling herself. “Yeah. I do.”

Dean took a deep breath, finding he couldn’t look at her. “She found me right after I’d experienced my father’s death in a Memory Glass in June and comforted me. We were together for a year and I thought we were pretty okay until around Christmas. She seemed distant when we got back, started snapping at me a lot and I found things that I used to love about her grated on my nerves. It happened pretty slowly – we grew apart, I was jealous of the attention she got from other boys. Like you said, she was pretty. I was almost relieved when we finally had a blazing row and split up in April. I didn’t expect how much it would hurt when she started going out with Harry a couple of weeks later.”

He finally opened his eyes to look at her. She was looking at him with a mixture of pity and anger. “She didn’t know what she had, did she? What’s Harry got that you don’t?”

Dean was quite startled. Harry was someone who was famous worldwide, and Beth considered him equal, even better than Dean? “Well, he was her brother’s best friend. I’d always thought there was something there… she talked to him a lot; I sometimes caught her staring at him. I never thought he was interested in her ‘til he kissed her in the crowded common room after our last Quidditch match of the season.”

“Ouch! Insensitive much? They kissed in front of you when you’d just split up?”

“Yep. It bothered me at the time; it doesn’t now.”

“Did..? Were you..? Did you love her?”

Dean was not happy with the way the conversation was going. He did not want to talk to his current girlfriend about his ex. Stalling for time, he looked down at the sketch at which Beth had stopped. It was one of the first – he’d sketched it during a Quidditch match when she was playing Seeker. “I don’t know. I have nothing to compare it to, but I don’t think so. Wouldn’t it have taken me longer to get over it if I had loved her?”

He took the sketchbook out of her hands. “Did you look at all these?”

“The last one I saw was the moving one of her.”

Dean flipped past the sketches of Ginny, determined to show Beth that Ginny was behind him. He’d glimpsed her jealous streak and didn’t want her to have even the ghost of a thought that he still wanted Ginny. He handed the sketchbook back to her, showing her the only drawing he had had time to do since he had started at St Mungo's. It was a re-creation of their first meeting on the roof. It was a profile, her long hair blowing around her in the breeze, her barn owl on her wrist with its wings outstretched and looking at her. The sunlight on her face gave her an inner glow as she smiled softly, offering the owl a treat in her left hand.

“When did you draw this?”

Dean heard the catch in her voice and answered without really looking at her, afraid that she might be crying. “About two days after we met.”

“And that’s..? How I look to you?”

Dean felt the heat rising in his facel he was beginning to feel sorry he had started this. “Yes.”

Beth set the sketchpad down and turned towards him. She took his face in both her hands and kissed him passionately. He could taste the saltiness of the tears she had shed and wondered why a little sketch that had taken him an hour at most had moved her so much. He slipped an arm around her, drawing her closer and tangled the other hand in her hair. One of her hands slid around his neck, playing with the hair on the back of his neck and sending a pleasant tingling sensation down his back.

Rising from the very depths of his soul were feelings he’d never felt with Ginny – he wanted to do a lot more than kiss Beth, he wanted all of her; heart, body and soul. It’s too soon… and she’s so emotional. I’d be taking advantage.

Reluctantly he drew back, his fingers trailing out of her hair. Her hands were still on his face and neck, her face was glowing and her eyes were shining with happiness. He simply couldn’t understand what was going on in her head. Surely she knew I liked her before she saw that?

“I… I’d better get that paste finished or Smith will have me working in the morning.”

She smiled contentedly. “Of course. I’ll see you tonight.” She stood up, allowing her hand to stay on his face for a moment as she gazed down at him. “I don’t know what I did to deserve you, but I’m glad for whatever it was.”

Dean stared at her. “What you did to deserve me? What did I do to deserve you?”

He stood up and kissed her again, trying to keep his hormones in control so he would be able to do his homework without messing it up.

* ~ *


__________________
"I don't go looking for trouble, trouble usually finds me!
"When two Neptunes appear in the sky, it is a sure sign that a midget in glasses is being born, Harry..."
"It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be."

Not Alone - the sequel to Family Ties
Please leave Feedback for Not Alone!

Last edited by Anyanka; January 12th, 2007 at 10:14 pm.
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  #15  
Old January 7th, 2007, 3:34 pm
Anyanka  Female.gif Anyanka is offline
Second Year
 
Joined: 5229 days
Location: Northern Ireland
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Re: Not Alone

Come six o’clock, every Healing student in the building was to be found prowling the corridors with bottles of drinks Dean had never heard of before: Icewhisky Plus, Malaclaw Mead and Allusternt Juice. Giving in to the inevitable, he grabbed an Allusternt Juice from the table in the square between the wings. He scanned around for someone he knew, but there were just throngs of people he’d never seen before in his life.

Bored, he finished the drink in about three minutes and decided to go look in their kitchen. He found a large punch bowl full of some unidentifiable vivid pink liquid which he suspected Su was responsible for. He lifted a cupful and sniffed it carefully; the fumes almost knocked him out and he set it down again hastily.

“Not trying my punch, Dean?” He turned around to find Su behind him, pink-cheeked and incredibly cheerful-looking.

“What’s in it?”

“Everything I could get my hands on, and pomegranate juice to colour.” She grinned mischievously.

“Then no, thanks.”

Su lifted the cup he’d just set down. “Oh, go on, you know you want to!”

He took it reluctantly, vowing to put it down at the first opportunity. He moved a few steps to his right to the refreshments and lifted a Pumpkin Pasty to his mouth and took a big bite. He choked on it and spluttered to Su, “God, who made these?”

“I did,” said a small voice behind him. Dean froze, knowing he’d hurt her feelings, and tried to cover it by swallowing the piece and cramming the rest of it in.

He swallowed it with difficulty, turned and said, “’Cause they’re great! They’re quite tart; how much sugar did you use?”

Beth raised an eyebrow at him. “Sugar?”

Ah, that explains a lot… He decided to keep silent, Su, however, was not so tactful. “You didn’t put sugar in them? You nut! They’re supposed to be sweet!”

Beth flushed. “Okay, okay, baking is not my strong point. Not by magic anyway –my Grandma taught me to bake the Muggle way.”

She turned to Dean. “Did you eat that just to please me?”

Dean flushed. “Yeah…”

She stood on her tiptoes and kissed him on the cheek. “You’re the best.”

He grinned while Su rolled her eyes. A moment later, Ernie stumbled in with a paper cup in his hand, looking very red in the face. “Dean! Mate! How are ya? Whatcha drinkin?”

“Nothing much yet, mate.” Dean told him, grabbing him under the shoulder to stop him falling over. “How much have you had?”

Ernie held up the cup which was more than half full. “About a half of a third of this punch.”

Dean looked at Su. “Tell me again what’s in this stuff?”

Su just laughed and propped Ernie up from the other side. “I hope you’ve still got some of that Hangover Cure!”

They made their way out of the kitchen, Dean and Su supporting Ernie the whole way.

“You really can’t hold your alcohol, Ernie. Don’t worry, I will educate you.” Su was struggling under his weight. “Oh, to hell with this.”

She reached into her pocket and drew out what looked like a large toffee. She fed it to Ernie and ten seconds later he was perfectly lucid again.

“What the hell was that thing, Su?” Dean asked her.

“An antidote to alcohol. It’s a triple W product.”

“A what?”

“Short for Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes. Ernie, stay away from my punch. It’s too much for you.”

She walked away towards another table laden with drinks. Ernie was an interesting shade of scarlet and looked deeply ashamed of himself.

“What did you drink that stuff for?” Dean asked.

“She asked.”

They spent the next half hour just chatting and drinking normal drinks as opposed to mind blowing cocktails. Ernie kept craning his neck scanning the crowd, presumably looking for Su. “Just go look for her if you want.”

“No, it’s okay. What were you saying?”

Just then Su materialised behind Ernie, poking him in the back. “Hey. I said I’d meet some people in the Dragon’s Claw, do you lot want to come?”

Looking around at the throng of people he had never seen before, Dean shrugged. “All right, anything to get out of here. I doubt half of these people are Healing students.”

The street outside was deserted. Seeing as the department store that was the front for St Mungo's was nowhere near a residential area or any pubs that Muggles could see, there was nothing in the area to attract anyone on Halloween night. There was a fine chilly mist that came up to their knees that gave Dean the disconcerting feeling that he was walking on clouds. The chill air seemed to be helping the alcohol flow through all of them, as two minutes up the street, Su got the giggles, Ernie clutched his head and Beth started skipping. Dean himself felt suddenly very giddy and inexplicably cheerful. He suppressed an urge to skip after Beth with difficulty, knowing he’d never live it down if he gave in.

Before they got to the Dragon’s Claw, it started to rain. Dean groaned and drew his wand. He tapped himself on the head and said “Impervius.”

Beth turned back upon hearing him. “What are you doing?”

“Stopping myself from getting soaked!” he answered her as Su and Ernie caught them up and passed by, deep in conversation.

“Haven’t you ever danced in the rain?” She asked him, her head tilted quizzically.

“No. Why would I do that?”

She grinned at him, walking backwards and holding her hands out encouraging him to follow. They were only about twenty feet from the Dragon’s Claw and could heard the music pouring out the open windows. When he caught her up she drew her wand and tapped him on the head saying “Finite!”

Dean immediately felt the drops of rain running down his scalp. “Beth, come on, let’s go inside.”

She shook her head. “Nuh uh. Dance with me.”

“What?” Is she serious? She wants to dance in the middle of the street in pouring rain?

“Dance with me.” She held out her hands to him and he took them reluctantly. She stepped closer to him, leaning up to look at him. Their lips were millimetres apart. She spun away, and keeping hold of one of his hands, stepped back, twirling under his arm. He started to laugh and started waltzing with her, imitating Ernie from their last trip to the Dragon’s Claw. Her tinkling laugh was infectious and he loosened up, dancing in circles with her, oblivious to the rain soaking him through.

She twirled close to him and stumbled, he caught her still laughing aloud. He set her back on her feet. She was dripping wet – her hair hanging in damp strings around her. She had patches of colour in her cheeks and her eyes were sparkling, alive and joyous. “Isn’t it fun? We’re sopping wet and we don’t give a damn!”

Dean threw back his head and laughed. “You’re a strange girlfriend.”

Beth stopped laughing abruptly, suddenly serious and still. “I’m a girlfriend?”

Dean was a bit taken aback at this sudden change of mood. “Well, yeah, I thought-“

Beth grinned and kissed him, running her hands through his wet hair. Though he was soaking and a moment ago had been shivering he felt a wave of pure heat wash over him. He sank his hands deep into her hair, running his fingers over the nape of her neck. She tilted her head back, eyes closed against the rain, her lips parted.

A wave of light spilled over them as the door to the pub opened, blinded by the sudden brightness they heard Ernie’s voice saying, “What’s keeping you tw-oh… sorry.” The door shut again and they burst out laughing.

“This place is really good at killing romantic moments, isn’t it?” Beth asked him.

“So far, just ours it seems.”

They stepped into the overcrowded pub and fought their way to the bar where Su and Ernie were still trying to get served. “Hey, you two, I’m getting the drinks. See if you can find somewhere to stand. Beth, see if you can get us seats again, you’re good at that!”

Beth and Dean fought their way through the crowd. The DJ box was swamped with people, most likely trying to get their favourite songs played and every single seat in the place was occupied, sometimes by two or three people.

They fought their way back to the bar where Su presented them each with a shot glass full of blue smoking liquid and a bottle of Allustrent. “What the hell is this stuff?” Dean yelled to her, over the loud music.

“Just drink it and shut up!” she yelled back, grinning wickedly. She held it aloft and the others copied her. “To half-term breaks!”

Dean followed the others in throwing the drink to the back of his throat and swallowing. He could have sworn he felt it sear the lining on his throat all the way down to his stomach. “Woaaaaaah, what the hell is that stuff?” he managed to croak before taking a great swig of his Allustrent to cool down his throat.

“Junsip! Good, strong shot!”

“Su!” Dean turned to see a man who looked vaguely familiar to him about three feet away from them, with two other guys Dean recognised from the DA – Terry Boot and Anthony Goldstein. The one who had called out to Su was holding out a hand over a crowd of people towards her.

“Kevin! There you are!” Su took the hand offered to her and fought her way past Dean, almost knocking him into the person behind him and throwing her arms around Kevin. “I wasn’t sure you were here yet! I only just got here!” She drew back after yelling this in his ear and kissed him.

Oops. Dean snuck a look at Ernie and saw a look that made Dean feel awful for him. I didn’t know… she never mentioned him. Su broke apart from Kevin and turned to them.

“I don’t know if you know my boyfriend, Ernie, Dean. This is Kevin Entwistle. He was a Ravenclaw in my year.”

“Sure. Hi.” Ernie muttered. Dean followed his gaze to their entwined fingers. Ernie turned abruptly back to the bar and ordered another Junsip. Dean felt Beth’s cool hand in his and looked down at her. Her eyes were shining for a different reason than they had been ten minutes ago.

“How awful,” she whispered to him.

“She didn’t say anything to you about a boyfriend?”

Beth shook her head. “No, nothing. The subject never came up.”

Ernie’s mood put a definite damper on the evening; he hardly talked and drank steadily more and more Junsip without it having much of a visible effect. He grew more and more sullen watching Su dance with Kevin and his friends, and merely grunted when Dean told him that he and Beth were going up to dance.

Beth seemed very uncomfortable dancing with him on the dance floor. Dean wondered if she, like Dean, was aware that Ernie was staring at them, probably hating them for being a couple. Midnight came and went, Beth and Dean enjoying it less and less and Su completely oblivious to the atmosphere she had inadvertently created.

When they all spilled out into the street at the end of the night, it was still raining. Just being out in the chill air and rain cheered Dean up, remembering his earlier experience of dancing in it for the first time. Su said goodbye to her boyfriend, verbally and not so verbally. Ernie scowl deepened and he walked on without them, dragging his feet and kicking stones. Dean and Beth followed him at a distance. When Ernie turned a street corner ahead of them, Dean gave into temptation and took Beth’s hand. I know he’s disappointed, but I’m not going to feel guilty for holding my girlfriend’s hand.

Su caught up, walking with a bounce in her step that Dean had never seen before. “Hey. What’s wrong with Ernie? He was really knocking them back; is he sick?”

Beth turned on her, looking angry. “Yeah he’s sick, but it’s got nothing to do with alcohol!”

Su looked very startled. “What?”

“You! You never told any of us you had a boyfriend! Why didn’t you say something?”

“What does it matter to you if I have a boyfriend?”

“’Cause Ernie likes you! Are you bloody blind, Su? Couldn’t you see it?”

Su jumped back from the ferocity of Beth’s look. “We’re just friends. We’ve been friends for months now! What the hell gave you the idea that he fancies me?”

Beth flailed a hand in her face. “Oh you are bloody blind! Why do you think he kept asking you to go with him up to dinner? Why do you think he always sat beside you in classes? Switched shifts so you’d both be working in Spell Damage when you got assigned to it?”

Su blinked rapidly. “Okay. So I didn’t notice that he liked me. Why is it bugging you so much that I have a boyfriend? I’m sorry we can’t be a big happy couply group, but I’ve been with Kevin for two years. I thought Ernie knew that.”

With that she walked away and left them.

Dean took Beth’s shoulders in his hands. She was crying freely and leaned into his chest, sobbing.

What did you do that for?

“Beth, come on, it’s all right. Ernie will get over it.”

Beth gasped for breath to speak to him. “But she’s right! I hoped we were going to be a big happy family group, I thought it was just a matter of time!”

“It’s all right. We can all still be friends.”

Beth sniffed. “I hope so. If she’ll ever speak to me again after that little tantrum. Why can’t I control my bloody temper?”

Dean smiled, wiping tears from her cheek with his thumb. “She’ll be fine. She’s pretty easy going, our Su. And it might sound like a cliché but you’re very pretty when you’re angry.”

Beth laughed feebly. “Wait ‘til it’s you I’m angry at.”

When they got back into the reception area of St Mungo's, Beth suddenly became very dizzy. By the time they got up to the dormitory floor she was having trouble walking. Dean helped her down the East wing. They were about six feet from Dean’s door when she staggered. She placed a hand on the wall to steady herself. “Woah, what’s going on?”

“I don’t know, you didn’t drink that much.”

“What..? What was that thing Su gave us? What colour was it?”

“Blue – it was Junsip she said.”

“Oh, damn, I thought it was black. Junsip is the Wizarding version of Tequilla! Didn’t I ever tell you that Junsip makes me hyper for a few hours, then I pass –“

Dean caught her as she slumped into his arms, out cold. Feeling exhausted and a little drunk himself, he heaved her up into his arms and managed to open his door with his elbow. He staggered in and laid her on his bed, pulling the covers over her. He conjured a pillow and quilt for himself and collapsed into a deep sleep on the floor before he’d even managed to kick off his shoes.


__________________
"I don't go looking for trouble, trouble usually finds me!
"When two Neptunes appear in the sky, it is a sure sign that a midget in glasses is being born, Harry..."
"It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be."

Not Alone - the sequel to Family Ties
Please leave Feedback for Not Alone!

Last edited by Anyanka; January 8th, 2007 at 7:22 pm.
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  #16  
Old January 8th, 2007, 7:22 pm
Anyanka  Female.gif Anyanka is offline
Second Year
 
Joined: 5229 days
Location: Northern Ireland
Age: 37
Posts: 136
Re: Not Alone

When Dean drifted awake the next morning he could hear Beth’s deep, even breathing. She was still sleeping soundly, one arm hanging over the edge of the bed, her dark eyelashes lying on her cheeks. She still had dark circles under her eyes, like she had the last time they had gone out drinking. She almost looked like she was pouting. Dean rose silently and changed into fresh robes behind the screen then went to the shelf above his desk and took down two of the little bottles full of jet black potion he had sitting there.

He sat down on the edge of the bed gingerly and stroked Beth’s face, trying to wake her up without shaking her. She took a deep breath and her eyes flickered open. She buried her face in her arm and he heard her yawn. She blinked confusedly at her surroundings then up at Dean. “Did I drink Junsip?”

He smiled at her. “Yep.”

“Did I collapse on you?”

He laughed a little. “Yep.”

She rolled over and pressed a hand over her eyes. “Do I remember fighting with Su?”

Dean’s good humour vanished. “Yeah.”

Beth pulled a pillow over her head. “I don’t want to get out of bed.”

Dean lifted the pillow and threw it across the room. “You’re getting up. The longer you leave it the worse it’ll be. I’m going to go and give Ernie an antidote – he’ll have a monster hangover after all he drank – you go and find Su and I’ll meet you upstairs for breakfast.”

Beth scowled, but got up anyway. She took a swig of the bottle he offered her and he saw an immediate effect. The colour returned to her face and the dark circles disappeared from under her eyes. “Woah. That stuff is much better than Prairie Oysters. All right, I’ll go wash up and apologise to Su.”

She gave him a quick kiss on the lips and headed out the door.

Dean took Ernie a bottle full of his Hangover Potion which seemed to make him feel better. They sat in awkward silence for several minutes until Dean finally said. “You all right?”

“Yeah. At least now I know.” He drank the last mouthful of the potion and threw the bottle towards his wastepaper basket. “Now. Breakfast.”

When they got upstairs they found Beth and Su deep in conversation which stopped as the boys got to the table. Dean reached for a box of cereal, giving Beth a questioning look as he did so. She beamed at him and nodded almost imperceptibly.

Su talked to Ernie quite happily, apparently having decided to act like she had no idea she knew Ernie liked her. Since Dean had had the sense not to tell Ernie Beth had let the cat out of the bag, he hoped the friendship would carry on as normal.

They spent the morning and early afternoon in Diagon Alley, stopping in at Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. The shop’s shelves were nearly empty and Fred and George both looked exhausted. “We never seem to have enough stock to keep us going over Halloween, no matter how much we make!” Exclaimed George, who was sprawled in a comfy armchair he had conjured to take a break.

Lee was perched on the arm of George’s, grinning meaningful at Dean who was perched on the edge of another chair, in which Beth was sitting. He was leaning his elbow on the back of the chair, his hand on the back of her neck. His foot was resting on the chair beside her and she was cupping his ankle in her hand. Catching Lee’s amused look, Dean just shrugged and grinned at him shiftily. Lee leaned forward and stretched out a hand to her. “Hi. I’m Lee Jordan – Dean’s cousin.”

Beth took his hand, smiling at him warmly. “I’m Beth McKeown – his girlfriend.”

“Girlfriend?” Dean’s head swivelled to see Fred looking at him strangely. “Didn’t take you long to get over our Ginny did it?”

“Didn’t take her long to get over me either – or didn’t you know she took up with Harry a fortnight after we split up?”

Fred looked scandalised. “She never did!”

“Oh yes she did – in front of the whole of Gryffindor house at that! Right after we won the Quidditch cup.”

Fred looked at George. “Did Ron tell you?”

“Bloody sure he didn’t! Little git, we’ll get him for that!”

“Next time we see him, which could be months. Where did his last owl say he was?”

“Bulgaria I think.”

What the hell is Ron doing in Bulgaria? Knowing he’d be told to mind his own business, he said “Well you can ask Ginny when you next see her.”

“She’s gone to stay with Demelza Robbins for a while. They’re doing a Kwikspell course together for a N.E.W.T in Charms.”

Dean could feel Beth’s tension at the subject and wound his fingers into the hair at the top of her neck. She shuddered slightly, her eyes closed and stroked his bare leg under the jeans he was wearing. The hairs on his leg stood on end, his skin becoming extra sensitive to her touch.

They spent a happy hour in Fred and Georges shop chatting among themselves. Beth seemed to get on pretty well with Lee, at any rate they spent twenty minutes deep in conversation about their Quidditch team the Ballycastle Bats, who were based in Northern Ireland. When Beth steered the discussion towards football, Dean interjected. “No point Beth, I’ve been trying for two years now to get him interested in football. He won’t hear of it.”

Beth let out a tinkling laugh that sent a throb of sweetness through him centred in his chest. “Oh well, it was worth a shot. So, what do you do, Lee?”

“I work in the Ministry. Magical Creatures department. Were you part of the early admissions programme into St Mungo's?”

“Oh no, I’ve got my N.E.W.T.s. Well, most of them anyway.”

“Ah so you’re older than Dean?” Lee winked at him in a way that made his insides squirm uncomfortably.

“I guess so. But I’m young for my age group, my birthday is in May. I’d only just turned eighteen when we started there.”

“Dean’s eighteenth is this month. His mum wants to make a big deal of it, but-“

“But I can’t really take the time out of school. We’ll be well into revising for our exams by then.”

“What date is it?”

“The seventeenth.” Lee told her. Beth squeezed Dean’s ankle briefly.

“Well, if nothing else we can take a break from studying and go and get a drink.”

Before they headed back to St Mungo's they went to get more supplies for various classes. Dean went to the apothecary to collect various stones and crystals. He had been reading a library book about their various uses in potions. He got an ounce of powdered opal (it was too expensive to get any more), quartz, tiger’s eye, obsidian, jasper and amethyst. Beth stopped at Flourish and Blots to get a new book on becoming an Animagus; Ernie bought a new book on Healing Charms and a new pile of parchment and Su also bought parchment and a copy of The Dark Arts Rebounded.

While Dean stopped in to say goodbye to Lee, Beth sneaked off to a potion shop two doors up. When she got back she didn’t appear to have bought anything but did appear flustered. When he gave her a questioning look, she just shrugged. “Ready to head back?”


__________________
"I don't go looking for trouble, trouble usually finds me!
"When two Neptunes appear in the sky, it is a sure sign that a midget in glasses is being born, Harry..."
"It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be."

Not Alone - the sequel to Family Ties
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  #17  
Old January 12th, 2007, 10:13 pm
Anyanka  Female.gif Anyanka is offline
Second Year
 
Joined: 5229 days
Location: Northern Ireland
Age: 37
Posts: 136
Re: Not Alone

Chapter 8 – The Key to the Door

The following Monday, Professor Falls gave them the details of their end of term exams. “The examinations begin on the twenty-fourth of November. They will take place in your regular classrooms at the regular times and in the same order as your weekly classes. The week before these exams you will have no shift work to do in the hospital to allow you the study time that you need. Are there any questions?”

Danielle raised her hand. “How much of our final grade for the year do these exams count for?”

“If you had bothered to read your admissions pack, Miss Scott, you would have known that these particular exams make up thirty percent of your mark. The examinations in June account for forty percent, your coursework is worth fifteen and your work in the wards is worth fifteen. Any more questions?”

No one moved.

“All right, best of luck to you all. For the next two weeks we will be reviewing what we have learned in the last three months…”

All the classes were the same. Dean was reminded strongly of Professor Snape when Freeman warned them he would be most displeased if any of them failed his subject. Dean could have shaken him for looking at Beth as he said it, especially when her eyes filled with tears and she looked down from his gaze. You can do it, Beth; you know you can if he would just leave you alone.

This was what prompted him to ask whether the teachers would be supervising their own exams the next time he saw Professor Falls in the corridors. “Certainly not; favouritism has been shown in the past to star pupils. So do not expect preferential treatment in your Potions exam.” She stalked past leaving him standing there scandalized. The cheeky old cow!

As Dean had predicted, Ernie and Su’s friendship returned to normal following the revelation of Su’s boyfriend. They still spent a lot of time together; the four of them lounged around the kitchen and various bedrooms; firing revision questions at each other and swapping books, struggling to cram as much information into their heads as possible.

Beth’s Herbology grade had improved by leaps and bounds since the four of them had started the study sessions near the start of term. Ernie was a master of it. having had the teacher of Herbology as his Head of House at Hogwarts. Not that having the Transfiguration teacher as his Head of House had helped Dean’s Transfiguration grade at all.

Dean’s worst fear was that Professor Falls would be supervising Herbology as she had an aura that was expecting failure from all of them, and having someone with that attitude supervising Herbology or Charms might put Beth off enough for her to make stupid mistakes.

When the timetable was posted on the twelfth, Dean breathed a huge sigh of relief.

Day Subject Supervisor

Monday Transfiguration Prof Ryan Freeman
Tuesday Charms Prof Martin Smith
Wednesday Herbology Prof Katie Close
Thursday Dark Arts Retaliation Prof Geoff Holmes
Friday Potions Prof September Falls

Dean spent Saturday taking a break from studying and decided to go home for the day to see his family before his birthday. He spent the entire week trying to decide whether or not to ask Beth if she wanted to come with him, and finally brought it up with her on Friday evening when they were leaving Spell Damage together.

“Um, Beth? What were you planning to do tomorrow?”

She sighed. “I was going to ask for an extra shift in Spell Damage – practice Healing Charms. Why?”

Dean shifted from foot to foot uncomfortably, unable to meet her eyes. “Well… I, um, I’m going to go home for the day to see my family before my birthday, ‘cause we’ll be too busy next week. Um… do you want to come with me?”

There was about five seconds of silence while the lift took them up to level six. “You… you want me to come and meet your family?”

Dean’s heart skipped a beat. “That’s okay, I understand if you don’t want to-“

“Of course I’ll come.” She slipped her hand into his, her cool fingers entwining with his. “I just hope they like me.”

Dean squeezed her hand briefly. “They’ll love you.” After all, I do. The thought came completely unbidden and out of the blue. I do?

* ~ *

Dean stepped out of the fire and was immediately swept into a bone-crushing hug from his mother. “Mum, ease up. I need to breathe.” She let him go and stepped back, looking into his face appraisingly.

“Are you getting enough sleep? Are you eating properly?”

He rolled his eyes. “Yes, Mum. Now, before she gets here… I asked my girlfriend to come with me.”

The fire flared green again behind him and he heard Beth step out. He reached an arm out behind him and she stepped forward allowing his arm to wrap around her. “Mum, this is Beth McKeown.”

Beth smiled nervously and held out her hand. Dean’s mother smiled warmly at her, ignored the extended hand and instead swept her into a hug. “It’s great to meet you, Beth. I’ve heard a lot about you.”

“All good, I hope.” Beth giggled nervously. Dean put his arm around her again and hugged her to his side.

“I wouldn’t know how else to make you.” Dean looked around at the empty living room. “Where is everybody?”

“They’ll be back in a minute; you’re early.”

Dean checked his watch. It was ten to twelve. “Not really… what have you planned?”

“Nothing! They’ve just gone to pick up your presents; we didn’t expect to see you today.”

She ruffled his hair affectionately; Dean stepped out of her reach. “Cut it out, Mum.”

She laughed at his discomfiture and turned back to Beth. “You’re from Northern Ireland, right?”

“Yes. Just outside Belfast, actually. Have you ever been there?”

“No, never. Always meant to go, I always wanted to visit the Giant’s Causeway.”

“If you ever go, wear something warm.” Beth giggled a little. Her discomfort was very evident.

Dean heard the front door bang open. Beth stiffened. Then the door flew open and Dean’s stepfather, brother and sister fell into the room, laden down with presents. They stopped short when they saw Beth, who was almost huddled into Dean like she was trying to hide.

Aaron s******ed into his hand and Dean gave him a condescending look. He remembered being twelve himself – the idea of kissing girls had been hilarious. His sixteen year old sister, however, gave Beth a big smile and started gushing about Beth’s hair. Vicky was obsessed with hair and Dean knew from half listening to her long winded complaints to her friends on the phone that Beth’s long, careless waves were something Vicky would dearly love to have.

Beth looked a little abashed at the vehement exclamations about her hair, but stayed still when Vicky started stroking it.

Dean was mortified. Please don’t judge me by my family!

“Leave the girl’s hair alone, Vicky. Hi, I’m Mark. You must be Beth?”

“Yes. It’s nice to meet you, Mark.” Beth shook his hand, smiling nervously.

“The one giggling like an idiot is my little brother, Aaron.” Dean cuffed his brother around the head, trying to get him to shut up. He was definitely not making Beth feeling any more comfortable, even though Dean knew Aaron was just being a kid; girlfriends are funny when someone’s too young to have them.

Dean spent an enjoyable afternoon opening presents and chatting with his family. Beth stayed very close to him, yet eventually relaxed enough to have long conversations with his mother and sister. Dean did notice, however, that she seemed very apprehensive when expressing her opinion on anything. His suspicions really went up when he heard her dodge a question about her own family. She never talks about her family… I don’t even know if she’s got any brothers or sisters.

He made a mental note to ask her when they got back to St Mungo's. His mother had given him the traditional tacky plastic ‘key to the door’ she had warned him she would buy him. He rolled his eyes at her. “I thought you were joking.”

“You only come of age once, dear.”

“Nope, twice. I came of age last year, mum!”

“Not to me you didn’t.”

The real present from his mum and step dad was a solid gold watch, engraved with his date of birth on the back and the words ‘love, Mum and Dad.’ For some reason, seeing it engraved there, Dean felt his eyes fill with tears and resisted them with everything he had. He excused himself and went upstairs to the bathroom to compose himself. He wished his real father could be there for this moment, his eighteenth birthday. He would have made a bigger deal over last years… but I still wish he was here…

It felt insane to miss someone he had never really known, but Dean had learned a great deal about his father in his last two years at Hogwarts. He had lived his memories, felt how he felt. He left the bathroom but didn’t go back downstairs. He paused, hearing his father start up a discussion about why West Ham was better than Beth’s team, Sheffield. He went into his room and opened his wardrobe, rummaging in a box at the bottom. From inside it he lifted the heavy stack of yearbooks that had belonged to his father. He dumped them onto his bed and opened the seventh year one. The year he was the same age I am now…

He flicked through it, searching for Gary’s entry. There he was – grinning shiftily up out of the picture, occasionally rubbing at his right eyebrow, a gesture Dean often found himself doing. He smiled sadly, looking at the face that resembled his own a great deal. He had inherited the shape of Gary’s face, the shape of his eyes and his smile. He had his mother’s nose and ears, and it looked like he’d gotten his manageable hair from her, too.

A soft knock at the door brought him out of his reverie; Beth was at the door, looking apprehensive. “Are you all right?”

He realised his eyes were wet and dropped his gaze. “Yeah.”

She wasn’t fooled for a second. She came over and sat down beside him. “What’s this?” He let her take the book from him. He didn’t even have to tell her what it was, or who he had been looking at. She touched the picture. “You look a lot like him.”

“I know.” He answered her quietly.

“He’d be proud of you… you do know that?”

Dean shrugged. He didn’t know if he wanted to talk about his father or not. He was afraid he’d crack and start crying. Not again… never again in front of anyone.

To distract Beth, he reached over and started turning pages back again. He was looking for the Quidditch pages. “My Dad played Beater on the Ravenclaw team, let me see if I can find the picture.” He was past Hufflepuff students and into Gryffindor when a picture caught his eye. It was a tiny first year girl with green eyes that were startlingly familiar to him. She kept ducking out of frame and coming back in again to smile shyly. Who’s she? Why are her eyes familiar?

He glanced down at the name beneath the picture. “Lily Evans…” he whispered. Evans! Suddenly in his minds eye he was back in the Room of Requirement, with an open criminal case file in his hands… the file that had his father’s murderers arrest in it. The witch… the witch whose Muggle sister was abducted… Petunia Evans… this is her sister…

Dean stared at the picture, oblivious to Beth’s questions about what was wrong. There was a roaring sound in his ears, as his mind played ‘connect the dots’ at top speed. Lily Evans… green eyes… Harry… this is Harry’s mother. Dean lifted the yearbook out of Beth’s hands and rifled through the Gryffindor entries until he found ‘Potter, James’. The face looking up at Dean was almost exactly the same as his classmates, except that James didn’t have a scar on his forehead, and the eyes were not the startling green that Harry had clearly inherited from his mother.

Dean’s mind was racing, combing quickly through years of conversations with Harry. He could remember complaints about his aunt and uncle’s aversion to magic, how they treated him at home. Does he know? Does he know his aunt was once tortured by a wizard?

Normal senses began to return as the shock wore off. The entire revelation had taken only about thirty seconds. Beth was shaking him by the shoulder. “WHAT? Dean what is it?”

“Harry… Harry Potter. This is his Dad and this…” Dean turned the pages back, “is his mum.” Beth looked at the pictures

“So what? They died when he was one, right?”

“Yes, but his Aunt… his Aunt was abducted by my father’s killer… she was there when they caught him.” Dean looked down again at the young, shy Lily Evans. “This must be why Harry’s aunt is so anti-magic. She’s a Muggle – of course she would hate it if all she’d ever known was the use of it for evil!”

With a growing sense of sadness, Dean closed the yearbook, wondering vaguely how many more of the students in there were dead. Gary… James… Lily… and I suppose Sirius Black must be in there, too.


__________________
"I don't go looking for trouble, trouble usually finds me!
"When two Neptunes appear in the sky, it is a sure sign that a midget in glasses is being born, Harry..."
"It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be."

Not Alone - the sequel to Family Ties
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  #18  
Old January 15th, 2007, 6:48 pm
Anyanka  Female.gif Anyanka is offline
Second Year
 
Joined: 5229 days
Location: Northern Ireland
Age: 37
Posts: 136
Re: Not Alone

“So Harry grew up with relatives that hated him? That’s awful! Why didn’t he get taken in my some Wizarding family?”

“Dunno. Good thing he didn’t though – he’d probably have been spoiled rotten by any Wizarding family – being The Boy Who Lived and all.”

They were sitting in Beth’s room, side by side on her bed. Her legs were curled up under her and her knees were pressing against his thigh. The heat coming from the spot was distracting him from his Conjuring revision, despite the fact that she was supposed to be helping him with it.

He gave himself a mental shake and concentrated hard on the Transfiguration book he got out of the library which was currently sitting on his desk. He flicked his wand and a heavy book materialised in the air, where he caught it before it fell. It was the wrong book, but it was progress nonetheless.

“You did it! Well done!” She kissed him softly on the neck, her breath stirring the hairs on the nape of his neck. He closed his eyes, every nerve ending in his body tingling. He swallowed hard and spoke with a croaky voice.

“Er… it would have… been better… if had been the book I wanted…”

“So what?” she breathed in his ear, “You still conjured something.” Her hand slid on to his leg as she kissed his earlobe. A low moan escaped his throat as he turned to kiss her properly –

BANG

“Dean, have you got that – Oh **** sorry!”

Ernie looked absolutely mortified, and turned to beat a hasty retreat. “What is it Ernie?” asked Dean in a tense voice.

“Er, Madam Bochwyrm said you had Conjuring in Emergencies?”

“It’s in my room, I’ll go get it for you.” He felt as disappointed as Beth looked as he stood up, her hand trailing off his leg. Ernie had already left the room. Dean leaned over and gave Beth a long and lingering kiss goodbye. “I’d better get some work done. I’ll see you in the morning.”

He could have happily choked Ernie, instead he gave him the library book and took Modern Conjuring Techniques from him to keep studying.

The next morning dawned overcast, though little could put a dampener on Dean’s mood. He dressed quickly and hurried up to the Owlery to collect a thick wad of envelopes from under Helios’ perch. Dean had never figured out exactly how he knew, but his owl always knew when it was his birthday and brought him a ‘gift’ usually of a dead mouse or vole. This morning, it was a baby rabbit that Dean vowed to get rid of before Beth saw it, somehow he knew it would upset her.

He speed back down to his room to tear open the envelopes and parcels, finding cards from his mother and father, sister, brother, Lee, Seamus, Neville and somewhat to his surprise – Fred and George. Neville had sent him a handful of a rare South American plant leaves with powerful healing properties; Fred and George had sent him a Decoy Detonator but when he opened the cards and gift from Lee and Gina, his eyes filled with tears.

Dear Dean
This is a Skeleton Key that belonged to your father. It will open any door, even if it is bewitched not to respond to Alohomora.

I thought about sending it last year, but I thought I’d wait until you’re an adult in both worlds, since keys are a traditional eighteenth birthday gift. I hope you like it.
Love Gina


He swallowed hard, stood up and put everything onto his desk. Then trying hard to put it out of his mind, he bolted out the door for room 105. Beth was tousle-haired and sleepy looking when she answered, but brightened up a little when she saw him. “Come in.” She said, stifling a yawn. He perched on the unmade bed while she changed behind the screen. “So, do you feel any older?”

“Nope. Just wish I had time for a party or something. Why couldn’t they have the exams in December?”

“Because then we wouldn’t get home for Christmas so early. We do get finished on December twelfth.”

She came around the screen, in pale green robes that set off the green in her eyes. She still hadn’t brushed her hair and she still had sleep in her eyes, but Dean thought she looked gorgeous. His frustration was reaching breaking point; every time they came close to sleeping together something got in the way, it was driving him mad. She was searching her desk for a brush, swearing under her breath when she couldn’t find one. Unable to control himself, he stood and ran his hands through her hair. It was so soft the tangles came out immediately and she sighed, straightening up and leaning into him.

“Breakfast hon, I need food before I’m even half awake.”

“Okay.” He answered, moving her hair aside to kiss the sensitive spot on her neck then stepping away.

They had breakfast upstairs with Su and Ernie, who both handed over cards. Dean raised his eyebrows at them. “How did you know it was my birthday?”

Su stared at him and laughed. “You haven’t been down to level seven yet have you?”

Dean’s heart turned over. “Oh no, what’s down there?”

When they emerged from the lift it was obvious how everyone had known his birthday. A huge banner was rippling in the air currents from hundreds of passing students, midnight blue and flashing with silver writing. Happy 18th Birthday Dean Thomas. Dean moaned and buried his face in his hands. “Beth. Did you do this?”

He looked out from between his fingers, Beth looked as shocked as he felt. “No… who else knows it’s your birthday?”

“Out of all the people here, just you. I never told anyone else my birthday.”

At that moment, a huge laughing weight hit him from behind. Hysterical laughter rang in his ears. “Didn’t think I’d let you get away with not telling people your birthday? As soon as Beth admitted she didn’t know I knew you’d told nobody!”

Lee was clutching his sides, laughing his head off at the look of humiliation on Dean’s face. “Well, gotta get to work, just wanted to see the look on your face!”

Dean moaned loudly. “Great… so much for a quiet birthday to study. I’m going to the library, time to get started on more Transfiguration revision.”

“I wish I could join you, but I asked to have a Spell Damage shift today, I need practice at the Anti-Dark Arts charms we’ve learned.”

Dean felt a stab of melancholy. He knew because of the timing that he wasn’t going to have a fun day, but he’d thought he’d at least get to spend the day with Beth, even if all they did was revise. But she’d volunteered to work…

“All right, I’ll meet you at lunchtime?”

“Maybe – you know what shifts are like, I might not get lunch until really late.” She stood on her tiptoes to kiss him on the cheek. “We’ll go out for dinner tonight, I hear the Dragon’s Claw does brilliant food before the drinking rush starts.”

His spirits lifted slightly. “Okay, see you later.”

She squeezed his hand briefly then got into the lift. Dean turned to Ernie and Su. “Are either of you going to the library?”

“Er, I’m not. I have a whole stack of notes to go through in my room.” Ernie hurried off. Dean wondered if he felt awkward about walking in on him and Beth the night before.

“I’m going up there, Dean, but I’m revising Potions.”

They found an empty table near the Potions section, which pleased Su a lot since she wouldn’t have to go far for any books she needed. Dean however, had to walk to the other side of the room to get a stack of Transfiguration books. He worked for hours on reversing the effects of badly performed Switching Spells, incorporating all the varying species that had been accidentally Switched. Beth’s tutoring had helped him hone his artistic skills into his Transfiguration; which had assisted him imagining the end result and all the in between stages. It made it so much simpler to figure out the equations that were needed to perform the spell.

Dean rubbed his eyes wearily, having just worked out the reversing spell for switching limbs from a human to a dog. He looked at his watch and saw it was twelve thirty already. He waited for Su, who was packing up the books and going to practice brewing the Potions she had been revising all morning.

Dean took a lot longer than was strictly necessary when eating his cottage pie, he had been hoping Beth would put in an appearance but she was nowhere to be seen. With a slightly heavy heart, he headed back to the library to revise the basic Conjuring Spells they’d be tested on.

Four hours later, he was half asleep, one hand propping up his head as he stared blearily at the complicated Conjuring Spells when a pair of cool hands slid around his neck then down to rub his shoulders. “Long day sweetie?”

“God yeah. I remember birthdays being a lot more fun.”

“It’ll get better. Come on, lets get you out of here. I’m going to go have a shower, so are you then in an hours time, we’ll be having a great dinner.”

“Sounds too good to be true.” He snapped the book shut and stacked them on the returns trolley, grabbed his bag and notebooks, took Beth’s hand and walked out of the library without so much as a backwards glance.

Half an hour later he was knocking on Beth’s door, she answered with a make up brush in her hand. “I’ll only be a minute.”

Dean sighed dramatically. “Women and their make up, you’ll be hours!”

“What makes you say that?” She asked him, grabbing him by the arm and pulling him in. She pushed him down on to the bed and turned to the mirror again.

“I have a sixteen year old sister. It takes her two hours to get ready to go out the door.”

“Ah yes, but she can’t do magic.” Beth set down the brush and picked up her wand. She curled her eyelashes around it and rubbed its tip on her lips, which glistened. She picked up a brush again to sweep green eyeshadow on, then turned to him. “How do I look?”

“Gorgeous.”

A slight flush lit up her face and neck and she smiled. “Thanks. Ready to go?”

He grinned at her mischievously. “Well, I don’t know.”

She gave him a knowing look. “I booked us a table, if we’re late they’ll give it away, and I don’t know about you but I’m hungry.”

“So am I.”

She sighed. “It’s not that I don’t want do pet, I just think we should go eat something first.”

He put on an exaggerated pout. “Okay then.” She grabbed his protruding lip giggling at him.

“Stop pouting, it’s your birthday! Let’s go.”

They walked to the Dragon’s Claw hand in hand. Dean had never realised how big the pub was – there was a section in the back that was closed off at night. It was littered with tables of all shapes and sizes, lit by floating candles. All the tables were occupied but Beth walked past them and headed for a door in the back. “We’re in here, I asked when I phoned in the booking.”

She opened the door and ushered him forward. The room was dark. Giving her a puzzled look he stepped inside, and the world exploded in his face.


__________________
"I don't go looking for trouble, trouble usually finds me!
"When two Neptunes appear in the sky, it is a sure sign that a midget in glasses is being born, Harry..."
"It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be."

Not Alone - the sequel to Family Ties
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  #19  
Old January 21st, 2007, 11:27 pm
Anyanka  Female.gif Anyanka is offline
Second Year
 
Joined: 5229 days
Location: Northern Ireland
Age: 37
Posts: 136
Re: Not Alone

Chapter 9 – First Time For Everything.

The world had not in fact exploded, it just felt that way. A thousand candles lit themselves, and with a bang like a cannon the room exploded in a shower of scarlet, gold and blue stars. “SURPRISE!” yelled a room full of people and Dean staggered backwards in shock.

“What? How? What?”

“Excellent questions my good man, please direct them to your girlfriend.” Fred told him, prodding at another black, cylindrical object with his wand.

Dean looked at Beth who looked simultaneously scared, happy and excited. At that exact moment Dean understood how Harry had felt that day when he’d kissed Ginny. He did not give a damn that a room full of his friends was watching him; he swept Beth up into his arms and kissed her, to an outbreak of cheering and whistling.

With another bang, the thing Fred had been prodding exploded, and a huge golden lion erupted from it. “Gryffindor pride!” yelled George, slapping Fred so hard on the back that he nearly fell over. George was looking distinctly red around the face and had a glass of something bright yellow and fizzing in his hand.

Setting Beth back on her feet, Dean asked her, “So how did you plan all this? And when?”

“Well, since Lee told me when it was… I knew we’d all need a break from studying so I thought a party would be a good thing. Then I just sent owls to all the friends of yours that I’ve met. I believe they-” Beth pointed out Neville Longbottom and Luna Lovegood “--were invited by Hannah. She said they were friends of yours, too.”

“Neville was a Gryffindor in my year. Luna was a Ravenclaw; she’s a year younger, I think.”

Dean looked around, taking in the room properly for the first time. Through the mist of magical fireworks, there was a table set for a dozen people, which Dean was delighted to see, as he really was quite hungry. He saw Ernie and Su deep in conversation with Hannah Abbott in the corner, Lee, George and Fred taking more fireworks out of a box, and Justin Finch-Fetchley, Neville and Luna seated at a table laden with drinks. Seamus and Beth’s friend, Ciara, were standing against a wall; Seamus was talking in her ear while she giggled. Dean shook his head. Sure didn’t take you long to get over Anna, either…

Beth slipped an arm around his waist, her hand resting on his hip. “You like?”

He wrapped his arm around her shoulders, drawing her in close. “I love it. You little sneak!” He brought his right hand around to tickle her and she dodged away giggling. Seamus and Ciara came over to join them.

“So, you had no idea, mate?”

Dean punched him playfully on the arm. “None, you sneaky git.”

The door opened and a witch in red robes with a large silver talon embossed on to the front stepped in.

“Are you ready to eat?”

“Uh, yeah, I guess so.” Beth answered her. Seamus came over beside her, cupped his hands around his mouth and yelled, “Oi! Grub’s up!”

The rumours had been true – the food was amazing. Dean had half a roasted pheasant with potatoes and vegetables. Afterwards, they brought out a huge chocolate birthday cake with candles that fizzed and sparked, and refused to be blown out. Once they had finished with dinner, Su pointed her wand at the CD player in the corner, which started pumping out music, albeit a tiny bit distorted thanks to the magic the twins had used to set off their fireworks. Fred and Hannah got to their feet first and hurried over to look at the music available. The tables were cleared and vanished by the staff and smaller round tables were conjured around the edges of the room.

Dean couldn’t remember ever having more fun at a birthday party, even his own. The music was a fantastic mixture of Muggle and magical bands, everyone was drinking and having fun and Dean never even bought a single drink. Every time he looked up from his seat, there was another one sitting there. He had no clue what he was drinking and was very glad he had his own supply of Hangover Potion now. He actually felt fine until he stood up to dance with Beth and nearly fell over; his legs did not seem to be attached to the rest of him. Beth put a steadying hand on his back. “Woah! Are you all right?”

“Yep! Gonna dance even if I’m lying down!”

They joined George, Hannah, Seamus, Ciara and Justin dancing in the space their table had been sitting earlier. George, whom Dean suspected had been well on his way to being drunk when they had arrived, was now dancing so wildly that Hannah was forced to step further and further back. Seamus was pointing at his back and roaring with laughter, while Justin looked bemused by it all. Dean was laughing his head off at George, too, not realising he looked just as stupid leaning heavily on Beth just to remain upright.

After ‘dancing’ for ten minutes, Beth convinced him to sit down again and tactfully removed several glasses from the array in front of him when she did. Soon he was joined by Hannah and Justin, who were both nursing sore spots from George’s flailing arms. Justin engaged Dean in conversation about the misunderstandings that can happen at home when you’re the only magical member of your family. “Jordan managed to set fire to our curtains again last week; I think I’ll have to stop taking my wand when I go there.”

“Bad idea, mate, spechally since we’re suppossebly at war y’know.”

“I know. It’s been very quiet on the Death Eater front since Dumbledore died. It’s strange, isn’t it? You’d think all hell would have broken loose when the most powerful wizard on our side was killed.”

“’Ave they sheen anysing of Schnape?”

“Nope, not so much as a glimpse in six months. Got a friend up in Magical Law Enforcement, all their sources say both Snape and Voldemort aren’t even in the country anymore.”

“Oh really? Spose it makes sense of a short – but who’d they be runnin from?”

“Dunno – Harry maybe?”

Dean snorted into his drink. Hannah was talking to Beth, but Dean couldn’t hear what about. They were both giggling and Hannah was gesturing wildly. She may well have been repeating the story she had told Dean that had gotten him in trouble with Beth back in August.

Neville came over to talk to him about various Healing plants as soon as there was an empty seat beside him, but Dean soon turned the conversation to Quidditch, or the lack of it. “’’Ey don’ sheem ter be playin’ as mush as ‘ey usedta,” Dean slurred to Neville.

“Well, they’re scared something big like that would be attacked by Death Eaters, I suppose.”

Neville got back on to the topic of his work in the research centre, and not even feeling a twinge of guilt through the alcoholic haze, Dean tuned him out, though he was still looking at him and nodding periodically. His mind wandered to happy little daydreams about what he’d do to Beth when he got her home.

As the evening wore on and Fred caught up with his twin’s consumption of alcohol, dancing became much too treacherous and they all just collapsed into chairs, some too far gone to even talk. Seamus was slumped back in his chair, practically lying on top of Ciara, who either didn’t notice or didn’t care – she was nodding off where she sat.

Beth was still reasonably lucid, despite putting away quite a few drinks herself. It was she who called time somewhere near one o’clock in the morning. She suggested wisely that they take the Floo Network home, though she had underestimated how clearly some of them could state their destinations. Especially since the twins had a particularly difficult place to name. After the Floo powder had failed a third time, they decided to Apparate and hope for the best. Usually Dean would have seen the error in this, but in his current state, he thought it was a great idea. Besides, he didn’t want to use the Floo powder.

“I wanna walk! Is—is--isss it rainin?”

Su craned around to look out the window. “Not at the moment – it has been though.”

“Right! Walkin’! Who wants to come?”

Beth looked exasperated, but hooked an arm around his waist and placed his around her neck. “I suppose I have to. Any chance you could help me out, Ernie?”

“All right. What on Earth has he been drinking?”

“Anything that was put in front of him.” Beth giggled.

“No’ fer long! Got me iccle black Potion to fix me right up!”

He had gotten to the phase of a drinking night where he was sober enough to realise he was absolutely plastered, and making a right *** of himself. The cold air will help… I hope.

“Su? Don’ suppose you’ve got any more of thosh toffees?”

“No – ate the last one myself an hour ago.”

“Ah bugger. Right, less go! Bye, everyboody!”

Taking careful steps, he walked out the door with Beth supporting him on one side and Ernie staying close to the other in case he collapsed. “’M all right, Ernie. Can walk meself.”

“Yeah, you look like it, mate.” He laughed at him.

The night air was heaven on his flushed face and neck, and with the effects of all the alcohol in his system very slowly ebbing away, he felt increasingly embarrassed about his current condition. “’M sorry.” He muttered to Beth.

“Did you enjoy yourself?”

“Yep.”

“Then don’t apologise. That was the point. I don’t care if I have to carry you home.”

“You’re great, d’you know that?”

“Yeah I’m the best, pet. Let’s just get you home and into bed.”

Dean arranged his face into what he thought was a playful grin. “Oh really?”

“Yes, you need sleep,” she told him, catching his eye.

When they finally staggered through the fake department store window, Beth was starting to buckle under Dean’s weight, but he was recovered enough to be able to totter on his own. By no means in straight lines, but he was upright of his own volition. When they got to level six, Ernie guided him by a hand clamped tightly around his upper arm into his room where Beth pushed him gently into bed and drew the covers around him. She leaned down to kiss him on the forehead. “Happy birthday, Dean, hope you had fun.”

“I did. You’re the best girlfriend in the world.”

She laughed softly. “I’ll see you in the morning.”

In the dark he could see movement as she went over to his desk and came back again with something in her hand. She set it down beside him with a glassy chink. A bottle of the potion. He felt a great rush of affection for her. I think I love her… I do, I love her. He tried to find his voice to tell her but heard the door close softly before he could form the words.

* ~ *


__________________
"I don't go looking for trouble, trouble usually finds me!
"When two Neptunes appear in the sky, it is a sure sign that a midget in glasses is being born, Harry..."
"It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be."

Not Alone - the sequel to Family Ties
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  #20  
Old March 5th, 2007, 12:37 am
Anyanka  Female.gif Anyanka is offline
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Re: Not Alone

He drifted awake the next morning, knowing before he even knew why that he felt like hell. His head was under his pillow and his eyes were still closed, but the sunlight streaming through the window still stabbed painfully into both eyes. Then he felt the rush of nausea and the thumping headache that brought flashes of the previous night back to him. Oh Christ – I made such an arse of myself – did I tell Beth I loved her?

He struggled to think through the pain and failed. What he did remember was Beth setting down a little bottle beside him before she left. Still not opening his eyes, he reached out from under the covers where his questing hand found a small glass bottle. Thumbing out the cork, he dragged it upright under the covers, took his head out from under his pillow and swallowed it in one gulp.

He immediately felt better physically, but he still felt a right idiot for how he’d acted. Now he could remember realising that he loved Beth and trying to tell her before she’d left but not being able to . Feeling some relief that he hadn’t said it to her while he was drunk, he cautiously opened his eyes to peer blearily at the clock on his bedside table. It was ten-thirty. If he wanted breakfast, he had to get up – fast.

He was swinging his long legs out from under the covers when there was a gentle knock at the door.

“Dean? Are you awake yet?”

His stomach flooded with shame and, at the same time, excitement as he recognised Beth’s voice. “Yeah – come in if you want.”

The door opened slowly, cautiously and she stuck her head around. Her gaze took in the empty bottle on the table and his upright form. She smiled at him warmly. “Feeling better, then?”

“I’m feeling fine. How are you?”

“Little bit throbby when I woke up, but I’m fine now. Fancy a spot of breakfast?”

“Cool. Hang on a mo’.”

Dean stood up and Beth laughed uproariously. He looked down and couldn’t help but laugh at himself. He hadn’t changed out of the robes he’d been wearing the night before, and they were now twisted around him like a huge bandage and had wrinkles so deep they could be used as pockets. “Er – I’ll just change first.”

* ~ *

The dining hall was nearly empty when he got up to it. Su and Ernie were just finishing their breakfast but waited for them before having something to eat. Ernie clapped him on the shoulder while Su grinned at him. “How are you this morning, mate?”

“Thinking I should track down the man who invented the Hangover Potion and give him every penny I have.”

They laughed easily and some of the residual shame at his behaviour dissolved, especially when Su started filling in some of the blanks in his memory for him. “George is really quite an extrovert when you get some drink in him – he nearly gave Justin a black eye just dancing! Justin said he’d send some of the pictures by owl-“

Dean dropped his cutlery with a clatter. “Pictures? Someone had a camera?”

Su giggled. “Yeah – Justin. Took quite a lot of photos, actually. They’ll probably be here this evening.”

Dean buried his face in his hands and moaned. “Oh, God. I’m never drinking again.”

Ernie laughed even more uproariously than he had been doing. “I’ve heard that before! Hell, I’ve said that before!”

“I mean it… or at least I’m going to make sure no one has a camera beforehand. Did I do anything stupid in front of it?”

Beth put a comforting hand on his leg. “I don’t think so. There’s at least one I’m quite anxious to see.”

“Oh no. What?”

“No, no, it should be a nice one. What are we going to do today?”

“My revision timetable says Herbology, what about you?” he asked her, hoping she was doing the same.

“Yeah, Herbology.” She rolled her eyes. “Not that I want to – but I do need to pass it.”

“I’m revising basic Healing Charms today. You’re doing Transfiguration, aren’t you, Ernie?”

“Yep. Let’s go get a table before they’re all gone.”

However, when they got to the library, the only table left was an eight seater, and Danielle and Quentin were sitting at one end of it. Danielle put her nose in the air and pretended not to see them; Quentin probably didn’t even notice they were there. Dean had never met someone so detached from the world. He hadn’t spoken a word to her since they’d had that row in the dining hall, and it didn’t bother him a bit that she didn’t speak to any of them.

They dumped their stuff and headed off in three different directions to gather books. By lunchtime, between the two of them, Dean and Beth had read: The A – Z of Healing Fungi, Magical Flora of the Amazon Rainforest, and A Compendium of Australian Medicinal Shrubs. Dean’s eyes itched with tiredness, yet he knew he had to keep going. Instead of eating a proper lunch, he bolted down a bar of Honeydukes chocolate and two gulps of Vitality Potion, to which he’d recently started adding Obsidian, which seemed to prolong the effects.

By the time he went to bed that night, he was sure he’d be dreaming about being attacked by plants, having memorised so many of them and their properties. The rest of the week was the same – a haze of tiredness and book after book committed to memory. He began to feel that if he turned his head too fast, some of it would slosh out of his ears.

Last thing on Sunday evening, all four of them were sprawled in Dean’s room, completely exhausted and not one of them upright, doing some last minute cramming for their first exam: Transfiguration.

“Please tell me someone’s got a stock of Vitality Potion; I’m going to need some in the morning.” Ernie was rubbing at his eyes, fighting to stay awake.

“I do, I think.” Dean peered up at the collection of bottles on his shelf. “There it is. Accio Vitality Potion!” The bottle shot off the shelf and into Dean’s outstretched hand. The bottle was half full – enough for all four of them. “I’ll have to brew some more tomorrow. Has everyone got a bottle for this?”

He distributed the potion amongst the four of them and Ernie and Su dragged themselves to their feet. “Well, we’ll see you at breakfast. Mind no one sleeps in!” Ernie warned them before heading out the door.

Beth turned to Dean, her lovely eyes half closed with fatigue. “Mind if I just sleep here? I can’t be bothered going back to my own room.”

Dean’s stomach gave a funny lurch. “Sure, I’ll just get the spare quilt again.”

She smiled wearily. “You don’t have to. You’re far too tired yourself to take advantage of me anyway.”

They crawled up the bed til they were lying side by side. Dean had waited for this moment for months, yet she was right. His weariness had carried him off to sleep moments after he had kissed her goodnight.

* ~ *

When he woke up the next morning, Beth was curled up on her side, snuggled under his arm, deeply asleep. For a few minutes, he just lay there, hardly daring to breathe in case he woke her, just watching her sleep. She looked so beautiful like that, so peaceful and content. Almost as if she sensed him watching her, her eyelids fluttered, then she blinked her big eyes at him and smiled. “Morning.”

“Morning. Sleep well?”

“Yeah. Feel loads better now. We’re going to pass all these exams you know.”

He squeezed her against his side. “That’s the attitude. Okay, let’s do this.”

The Transfiguration exam wasn’t quite the hell Dean had imagined it to be, even with Freeman looking down his nose at him. He swore to himself that he was going to buy Beth something very pretty or expensive or both when the exams were over; her help was mostly what had got him through the test.

Charms was a walk in the park for all of them; Katie’s unique style of teaching had them feeling no pressure. Every one of them carried out the Charms faultlessly and was able to recall all the incantations for the written test.

On Wednesday, Dean was so worried about Beth that it took all his powers of concentration to make sure he did everything right. Beth looked anxious, yet she was not nearly as skittish as she had been during that first test. Freeman’s frequent class tests seemed to have helped her deal with the pressure.

The Dark Arts Retaliation exam on Thursday went reasonably well. He remembered all the Counter Charms and Potions though he picked the wrong answer for the best and fastest way to fix half-completed Transfigurations – he had selected a Counter Charm instead of a Mandrake Draught.

Potions was another test Dean felt sure he had passed with flying colours. He knew the methods for most of the Potions by heart now and whipped up a Blood-Replenishing Potion, Mandrake Draught, Murtlap cream and Bruise Banisher with half an hour to spare. The written part seemed easy to him, too – it was a kind of wordsearch; about a hundred Potion ingredients were listed, and he had to pick out the ones that went in the listed Potions. None of the ingredients could be used twice.

The students had planned out a huge post exams party that was supposed to last the entire weekend. However, an emergency at the Ministry on Saturday morning squashed all such plans.

“All students to the Waiting Room immediately. Bubble Head Charms are mandatory.”

Beth looked confused and a little scared. “What’s going on?”

Ernie and Su came running up the corridor to join them at the lift. “Didn’t you hear? Someone found a Nundu cub in a box on a desk in the Ministry. Just sitting there!”

Dean felt stupid for being the only one not to know – judging by the looks of terror in everyone elses faces, they knew what a Nundu was. “What’s a Nundu?”

Beth took his hand; he could feel the fine tremors running through it. “Nundu’s are East African – they kind of look like leopards but they breathe out a disease that can wipe out whole cities in a day. They’re incredibly dangerous. I don’t know how someone managed to get one into the Ministry.”

The lift arrived and they all performed the Bubble Head Charm before getting in. It wasn’t until the lift was moving that it suddenly hit Dean like a punch in the stomach… Lee!

When they got out into the Waiting Room, it was so crowded Dean couldn’t see two feet in front of him. It seemed the entire department had been brought in for decontamination. Hr Kelly hurried over to them with a tray of tubs in front of her. “Here you two – Thomas, McKeown – take a tub each. Rub a little onto bare skin. If it turns pink, they’re infected and send them up to Magical Bugs; if it stays white, they’re fine, send them home. Li, Macmillan – get up to Magical Bugs and be ready. If it really was a Nundu, they’ll be swamped up there before long.”

Dean had tested twenty people before the paste turned anything but white. Then he had to crane his neck to yell at Hr Kelly who was fifteen feet away, testing patients herself. “Healer Kelly? What if it turns blue?”

“Then they’ve got the Dragon Pox virus in their system; send them up to Magical Bugs to get Vaccine Potion.”

He had tested a hundred people by three o’clock, found two more cases of Dragon Pox and someone carrying the scrofungulus bug, but had found no cases of Nundu Disease.

He stumbled upon Lee at around seven, when he was tired, hungry and starting to get worried about him. Lee smiled up at him wanly, looking supremely bored by the proceedings. “All right, mate? Do they have any magazines that were published this decade that I could read?”

“Oh shut up and hold out your hand.” Dean told him, trying hard to hide his anxiety. He scooped out a blob of what was his fifth tub of Tester, rubbed it on Lee’s wrist and waited. A minute later, the paste was still resolutely white and Dean felt something tight unwind in his chest and he felt able to breathe properly for the first time in hours. “You’re all clear. Go home and enjoy the rest of the day off.”

“Day off? I was supposed to finish work four hours ago!” Lee stood up creakily and stretched. “All right, see you soon.” He slapped Dean on the back on his way past him to the front doors.

Dean went to bed that night at midnight, having tested more than a hundred and twenty people for Nundu Disease and having not found a single case. It has to be some kind of miracle. He was physically and emotionally worn out and felt a confusing mixture of relief that his cousin was all right and frustration at the timing. A well-earned night of fun and relaxation with Beth had been thwarted. I suppose this is what it is to be a Healer – your time is never your own.

With that depressing thought, he slipped into a deep sleep.

* ~ *


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Not Alone - the sequel to Family Ties
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