The Way Forward: Chapter Two

Aberforth perched on the thick trunk of a tree that had fallen along the river bank, the contents of his pack spread out on the rough bark beside him: Wizard’s gold, Muggle money, several tunics, pants, a patchwork hat, a broad thick towel, a tin cup and plate, a flask, a sharp knife and a small pan. He had kept this bag packed and ready for years, ever since You-Know-Who had first re-awakened. He was a Dumbledore, after all, and knew the Death Eaters might, at any moment target him.

So he had kept this bag handy, ready to take to the wilderness at a moment’s notice. In war, he had never needed it. In peace, however, it gave him the freedom simply to walk away, to leave his former life behind and seek out a new path.

It held everything he would need for a new start.

He smiled to himself, nodded to a jay that sat whistling in a nearby bush, then began to pack his belongings back into the bag. He checked to make sure his wand still nestled in his hip pocket, accessible at any moment. Then he jumped down from the tree trunk and set out.

He had left Hogsmeade the morning before with no plan, no itinerary. The only thing he knew was that, at the end of his wanderings, he’d find himself sitting in London, talking to Tom the barman at the Leaky Cauldron, savouring a glass of mead.

But his wanderings so far had been filled with memories of his childhood, of his father and mother, his darling sister, his elder brother, all now dead. And that’s why, as he struck out into the woods along the river, he added two stops to his journey: Mould-on-the-Wold first, then Godric’s Hollow.

In Mould, he would retrace the early path of his life, the time almost before memory, where he had been (and he smiled at this thought) wild but sometimes happy. He would try to find some trace, some echo of the snatches of happiness he had once felt, to see if perhaps he could be find them again.

Aberforth feared, however, that he would only find anger and anguish in Mould-on-the-Wold, since it was there, after all, that his dear sister, Ariana, had been attacked by the three young Muggles and suffered the emotional and psychological damage that would plague her for the rest of her short life.

And it was in Mould, too, that his father had tracked down the attackers and set upon them, a crime for which he was sentenced to Azkaban, where he eventually died.
So the journey was not without risk to Aberforth. But, he thought, better to be burned up by his rage and desolation than to continue this slow, agonizing death.

At Godric’s Hollow, the tragedy of his life took on its full form. His mother had moved the family there after his father was sent to Azkaban, a new life, a new beginning. It was at Godric’s Hollow that Aberforth’s mother and dear sister had died and were buried.

Aberforth had left the Hollow shortly after Ariana’s death and had not returned since.

Yes, he thought to himself, to be able to move on he would have to go back. And so he finally had a plan.

The river flowed south and he followed it, picking his way along its bank at a comfortable speed. He wasn’t sure if he should force himself to think things through or just let the day take him, lead his mind wherever it felt like going.

It didn’t take long before he realized he hadn’t the energy to force himself to do anything in particular but wander. He turned off that part of the mind that guides conscious thought and let what ideas or memories came to him hold sway.

He found himself thinking mostly of his boyhood and realised, with no small amount of surprise, that he remembered very little of his life before the attack, before his father had gone to prison, before his mother moved the family to Godric’s Hollow. He had been seven when they moved, Albus ten and Ariana six, and he remembered the feeling of strangeness of that new town.

He and Albus had never gotten along particularly well but, being new to the town, they were as close in the first few years at Godric’s Hollow as they had ever been. Aberforth remembered his brother as a driven, serious, clever person, a boy who spent much of his time in his room with his books.

Ariana, on the other hand, suffered greatly in those years. What few memories Aberforth had of Ariana as a little girl, before the three Muggle boys had set upon her and damaged her so badly, were vague and foggy. She had been a happy child, he believed, carefree, trusting, sweet. After the attack, however, everything changed and she was, though still sweet and sometimes happy, filled with fear and torment, tortured by the memories of the attack, fearful of what she was.

He had been, Aberforth realized, the darker child of the three, the one who was not, by natural disposition, bright and cheerful. He did not know what chemical his siblings had been granted that made them so happy and carefree – he only knew that he had none of it.

“Dear Ab,” his mother would say to him as he sat in his chair, glaring out at the world, “why do you torture yourself so. Why can’t you be happy like your sister?”

And he would shake his head, sometimes even growl at her. He was who he was and he wanted only her love and acceptance.

And it was only Ariana who could make him feel even the slightest tingle of happiness. He took care of her, calmed her when she raged, played with her when she was bright and happy. Ariana’s condition gave Aberforth a noble purpose in life, a reason for living.

Then came the second accident. He had been there, in the dining room, when he heard the familiar wail from his sister. He was standing at the window, watching two jays quarrelling with a crow, and decided, this one time, to leave his upset sister to his mother’s care. He heard his mother’s gentle voice admonishing Ariana to be calm, to be quiet, to let go of the torment that raged in her mind.

Then he heard the crack and he bolted toward the door. The shriek came next, followed by a hollow, dreadful thud and, when he reached the kitchen, his mother lay motionless on the floor while his sister shrieked silently through her own hands, her eyes wide, her mouth open, tears running down her face.

Aberforth could do nothing for his mother. The spell, the curse, the tendril of powerful magic that burst from his sister, had killed her instantly. When Albus returned from London in response to Aberforth’s frantic owl, he found Aberforth clutching Ariana, still trying to calm her, still trying to calm himself.

And finally, the third incident. No accident but the end of Aberforth’s world instead. Albus and his monstrous friend. Harsh words, threats and finally curses flying. Aberforth tried to shield Ariana from them but his power was no match for either of theirs. Grindelwald’s stunning spell caught Aberforth full force and sent him reeling. By the time he recovered himself, Ariana lay dead and Grindelwald had fled.

Albus said he didn’t know whose curse had killed their sister but Aberforth believed he was lying, protecting his friend. According to the Potter boy, Albus was tormented to his dying day by guilt over the death of his sister and fear that he, himself, had cast the killing spell.

Aberforth wasn’t sure he was buying that. And it did little to assuage his desolation at the loss of his darling sister, nor his overwhelming anger at his brother for allowing her to die.
It was night fall. The air grew cool and stars sprinkled the clear, darkening sky. He did not know how far he had walked as he recalled the tragic events from Godric’s Hollow but he now felt hunger and thirst.

Aberforth walked a short distance further along the river until he found a small, flat clearing on the bank. He set his pack down and drew out his wand, casting a series of simple spells to keep all forms of being away from his camp.

That done, he took the tin cup from his pack and dipped it in the flow of the river. He tapped the now full cup with his wand to purify the water, then drank deeply. It was lovely, cold and crisp.

He caught, cooked and ate a fish from the river and was starting to settle in for the night when he heard a distinctive pop.

Someone had apparated nearby.

He waited, wand at the ready. Thanks to his enchantments, whoever it was should not be able to find him. In fact, they should not even know he was there. He lay back with his head comfortably on his traveling bag, his cloak serving as a blanket, and listened for the sounds of the unwanted guest moving away.

He heard footsteps rustling in the pine needles and the dried leaves on the ground nearby. He stayed very still, his right hand resting on his wand, listening.

Another footstep. Then a cough. A cough he thought he recognized. He didn’t know whether to be relieved that it was not an enemy or annoyed that she had somehow followed him here.

He thought about staying silent, trusting his enchantments to keep her from finding him. But the cough came again and, with it, a realization that he had not spoken to another soul in more than 48 hours. He murmured a counter enchantment, then sat up.

“Minerva?” he said into the gathering darkness.

The cough came a third time, this time mixed with a self-conscious laugh. “I have found you, then, have I, Aberforth?”

He got to his feet and walked in the direction of her voice. She stood less than 10 feet from where he had made his camp, her wandlight illuminating the trees that surrounded her. When she saw him emerge from the branches, she lowered her wand and offered him a tentative smile.

“I don’t mean to intrude,” she began, caution in her voice, “but I…”

“How did you find me? My enchantments should have obscured me from your search.” Aberforth allowed his voice to remain gruff, unhappy.

“Oh, but they did, they did,” she said, a cackling smile now on her sharply lined face, “but you don’t use your enchantments during daylight!”

“You’ve been following me, Minerva?” This time, the anger was real.

She shook her head. “Of course not! Of course not! I simply sent an owl to find you near day’s end. I then apparated to the owl, knowing you would be somewhere nearby.”

Aberforth shook his head in wonder. “You must have wanted very badly to find me.” He finally offered a smile and waved her forward. “Come, we may as well sit by the fire while you tell me…”

A look of relief flitted across her face, then she hurried to follow him to the clearing where his bag and cloak still lay. With a flick of his wand, he freshened the fire and set himself down on a log nearby.

Minerva surveyed the clearing, then sat down lightly beside him.

“So why track me down?” His bright blue eyes pinned her in a familiar way, almost as if they could see past her skin and into her mind.

For the first time since he had met her, Aberforth saw that Minerva was nervous, anxious. Her fine long fingers twisted in front of her.

“I’m not sure, really,” she said after a moment, gazing at him. “I am busy at the school, finding new teachers, preparing for the summer session. I have been asked to serve on the Committee for Cooperation Among Magical Races, a high honour indeed, but it comes with an expectation that I will have done my homework.”

Aberforth smiled. “But?”

“Do I have to say it, Aberforth?”

He nodded.

“Alright, I’ll say it. I’m lonely.” Her eyes were bright with tears as she spoke.

“The school has many, many inhabitants, Minerva, surely…”

“But none my age,” she cried. “It is a young person’s world and I am long since young.”

He stood, his mouth hanging open, watching her with his bright blue eyes.

“We are hiring new teachers who are three generations younger than I.” She gazed at him, intense. “Three generations, can you imagine? And even the teachers who are now retiring, moving on to other things, are younger than I am. I had never stopped to think about it, really, until the war ended but….”

He saw fear in her face, hesitation as if saying the next sentence risked losing him.

“Your brother was really the only friend I had who was, well, my age.”

Aberforth offered a gentle smile, his lashes closing over his deep blue eyes. “But, as I have told you several times before, I am…”

“Not your brother,” she finished for him. “I know. I’m not expecting you to be. But we have been friends in the past, haven’t we?”

He was surprised by how much need he saw in her eyes when she said this, how desperate was her plea.

“I suppose,” he said after a moment.

“I just need a friend right now, Aberforth,” she said, her voice quiet now. “Someone to talk to, someone who knows.”

“Someone who’s old, you mean?”

She laughed heavily. “Yes, someone who’s old.” Then she smiled. “Like me.”

“Are you asking to join me on my journey?” he asked, keeping the teasing out of his expression.

“No,” she said, her eyes searching his, “not to join it, just to be allowed to visit from time to time.”

He smiled now. “With your tricky little owl, I’m not sure I can refuse.”

“So that’s a yes?”

“Yes. Fine. You can come and go as you please, then, Minerva, as long as you don’t get in the way,” he said. He poked at the fire with a stick, then turned again to face her. “And as long as you don’t start thinking you can tell me where to go or what to do next!”

She nodded, a true smile now etched on her face. “It’s a deal.”

George left Bill and Fleur in the back office at Weasleys, the books and records spread out on the table before them. The staff had kept the shop running while he was away and, in the celebrations of the previous three days, most of their stock had been sold out.

Leaving Bill to get production started again, he wandered out into the street in Diagon Alley, not quite ready yet to face the apartment above the shop.

Most of the other regular shops had re-opened since the triumph over He Who Must Not Be Named. The shady little places that had sprung up to offer dark arts products and artefacts had already disappeared or scuttled back into Knockturn Alley. The sun beamed down on the happy crowds that once again filled the street to do their shopping.

He walked slowly up the street, keeping to the side, nearest the buildings, away from curious eyes. His red hair made him conspicuous and he wished he had a cap. He'd been growing it long of late, ever since Snape's spell had robbed him of his ear, but now the long, red locks made him stand out.

He found himself in front of Ollivander's, the wand shop, the windows now boarded, the broken glass long since cleared away. He felt a tug of sadness, wondering what young witches and wizards would do for wands, remember the special challenge he and Fred had presented to the wise old wandmaker when they had turned eleven and entered the shop for their wands.

His reverie was interrupted, however, by a noise from within the shop itself. Another came, and then another, sounds that created a picture of someone inside, rebuilding.

George went to the door, saw that it was standing slightly ajar. He pushed it open further and stepped softly into the darkness within.

A tall, slim man with long, white-blond hair looked up at him, startled. The man turned, his wand in his hand, but his face bland.

“Can I help, young lad?” the man said.

“Mr. Lovegood,” George said, holding his hands away from his sides, “it's me, George Weasley. Arthur Weasley’s son, Ron's brother.”

Xenophilius Lovegood looked him up and down for a moment, his light eyes finally settling on George's long, red hair. Then he nodded.

“Aye, I remember you now, lad,” he said. “You're doing a great business, Mr. Weasley, up the road.”

George nodded, glanced around the dimly lit shop, then heard light footsteps approaching from the back.

“Daddy?” The soft voice arrived ahead of the slim, white-blonde girl in bright red robes, bits of orange fruit floating at her ears.

“Oh,” Luna said when she saw George. “Hello George,” she added. “It is lovely to see you again.”

George smiled, wishing he hadn't walked into the shop.

Luna nodded. “But this must be hard,” she said, her voice lyrical, “to be among people again. Don't mind Daddy and me if you feel you need to leave.”

She turned to her father, who watched him still. “Daddy, there's a lovely nest of something in the back room in the basement. Perhaps you could go and tell me what it is?”

Mr. Lovegood smiled down at his daughter, nodded, to George and padded out of the room.

Luna, her eyes wide, soft and light, glanced at her guest once again. “Would you like some tea, George Weasley?” she asked. “I've just made a pot in the back, if you'd like some.”

George shook his head. “I just heard sounds,” he said. “I thought Mr. Ollivander had given it up for good.”

Luna nodded, her hair shimmering in the line of light from the street. “Oh, Mr. Ollivander had indeed decided it was time to retire,” she said, “but he's been kind enough to offer to apprentice me in the art of wandmaking before he dies.”

George's eyes widened too. The girl stood, smiling at him, her penchant for honesty still strong.

“That's great, Luna, really great.”

Luna took a step toward him, her eyes misty. “I'm sorry about your twin brother,” she said in a soft voice. “My mum died when I was eight and I still miss her sometimes. I would think that losing your twin would be much harder to face.”

George felt the tears begin to flow. He stared at the girl, who watched the individual tears on his cheek with bright interest.

“I expect you'll want to take some time away,” she said after a moment. “To miss him, really, without people asking about it all the time?”

George almost laughed. How did this girl always know?

He nodded.

“Harry Potter once told me that the only place he could really escape being famous was in the muggle world,” she said, her voice regaining its brilliant vacancy.

George nodded again. Offered a tired smile, then turned and left her to her work.

He wandered back out into the street, among the crowds. He felt the eyes taking him in, heard some of the mutters as people gaped at him. Misery as a spectator sport, he thought, his brain numb, his head bowed.

Without a real plan and with no wish to join in the revelry that seemed to have taken hold of the entire magical community, he stood briefly at the street corner outside Madame Malkins robe shop, wondering what to do.

Then his gaze settled on Gringotts, recalled Luna's words, and he knew. He made his way to the huge white edifice, nodded to the two goblins who stood watch at the entrance, and walked into the main business hall.

He dreaded finding someone in the line with whom he might feel obliged to speak but was relieved to find a group of relative strangers waiting patiently for service. He ignored the excited buzz of conversation around him, tried to tune out the stories that were being swapped of the war and its end, and finally found himself in front of wicket, wherein a wizened old goblin stood, glaring down at him.

He produced the tiny key from his pocket, handed it to the goblin and said, “I’d like to make a withdrawal and convert it into Muggle currency.”

The goblin tore his beady eyes from the key and peered down at him from his perch. “Muggle currency?” he said in a scratchy voice. “Another request for Muggle currency, eh?”

George’s eyes widened. “Are lots of people…?”

The goblin nodded once. “It is since the end of You Know Who. Many wand-carriers are suddenly very interested in understanding more about your human brothers.”

George considered that thought for a moment.

“How much would you wish to convert?” the goblin asked, ignoring his hesitation.

“Dunno,” George said, realizing he had no clue what something might cost in the Muggle world. “What’s a good amount?”

The goblin eyed him, his black tongue running across his thin lips. “That depends,” came the scratchy voice. “Are you visiting the Muggles for a period of time or do you have a specific item you wish to purchase?”

George hesitated. “I’m not sure, really,” he admitted. “Let’s say I’ll spend a day in London.” He looked up at the small being. “What do you think?”

“I am paid to calculate, not to think,” the goblin said. “However, I would suggest that one hundred Muggle pounds should be more than ample for your needs.”

George nodded. He had no idea what one hundred pounds was, nor how much he would have to hand over in wizard money to obtain it. He watched as the Goblin performed a series of calculations, scribbled something on a piece of parchment and handed it to him.

“If you obtain that amount from your vault, I shall exchange it for the Muggle currency,” the goblin croaked, already jumping down to the floor and leading George through a nearby door.

Moments later, George stood on the street outside Gringotts, his drawstring bag heavy with golden galleons and silver sickles, and a new, odd item in the pocket of his robe: something made of leather which the goblin called a “wallet”, in which sat a series of slips of strange parchment with numbers and pictures of Muggles on them.

“100 pounds,” the goblin had said as he handed George the wallet, “in 20, 10 and five pound increments.”

George wandered back down Diagon Alley once again, surprised to find that the crowds of shoppers had swelled even in the short time he was in the bank. He saw several faces he recognized from school but managed to avoid them all.


“George!” came a shout and Alicia Spinnett emerged from the crowd, her face a mix of joy and sorrow. “It is you!”

George found himself gathered up in to a massive hug by the tall, attractive brunette who had played with him on the Gryffindor quidditch team for several years.

He stepped back from her and tried to respond with a smile. “Hi Allie,” he said, his voice quiet.

“How are you doing?” she asked, eyeing him carefully.

“I’m alright,” he said, forcing a touch of lightness into his voice, “how ‘bout you?”

She glanced back at an older couple standing watching them, concerned looks on their faces. “I’m out for a bit of shop with mum, dad and little brother, wherever he’s got to!” She turned back to him, brown eyes wide. “Haven’t really been to Diagon Alley since it all started, you know. So glad to be back.”

George nodded, barely listening. He recalled feeling a yearning of attraction for Alicia at one point in time; he wondered if feelings like that would ever come back.

“What about you? Back to work?” She nodded in the direction of the shop.

He shook his head. “Naw. Can’t face it, really.”

He saw something move in her face at this almost mention of Fred and her smile fell.

“I’m so sorry,” she whispered. “I’m so so sorry, George.”

He felt like running away and hiding, anything but deal with this. He could deal with anger, fear, suspicion, anything but sympathy right now.

“I’ve got to go,” he said suddenly and ducked into the crowd, leaving her standing there, watching him leave.

He made it back to Weasley’s with some relief, only to find it packed from door to window with excited customers. His staff circulated among the throng, answering questions here, taking payment there. They smiled at him again as he pushed his way through to the back where Bill and Fleur still sat, working on his accounts.

Bill looked up when George walked into the office and let out a loud laugh. “Why, this is amazing, Georgie!” he exclaimed. “Weasley’s is literally raking in the galleons!”

George nodded and pushed past his brother, taking refuge in the storeroom. He slammed the door behind him and cursed out loud, tears streaming down his cheeks. “Damn,” he whispered. “Damn.”

He slumped down onto a box and buried his head in his hands. After untold minutes, a hesitant knock came at the door.

“George,” it was Fleur, “are you seek? Do you need a healer?”

George cursed again and stood up as the door drifted open. He rubbed his eyes with his sleeve and turned to face his lovely sister-in-law.

She saw his face and blushed. “I am so sorree,” she said. Then she looked at him again and closed the door behind her. “Eet must be veree difficult for you right now,” she whispered.

He nodded.

“Did you see zomebody you know?”

He nodded again.

“I am sorry.”

“I think I need to be away for a while,” he said after a moment. “I’m going to duck out into the Muggle world, take a break.”

This time, she nodded. “Eet is a wise idea,” she said. “Take zome time for yourself.”

An uncomfortable pause. “Ees there anyzing I can do to help?” she asked.

“No,” he said, “thanks.”

He stepped past her and out of the storeroom. Then, ignoring Bill’s questioning face, he opened the rear door to the building and disappeared into the world.

Minverva flicked her wand to add another log to the fire, her lined face soft in the flickering light.

“The official history is to be written,” she said in a quiet voice, her words almost lost in the crackling of the fire.

“Of what?” Aberforth didn’t take his eyes from the flames but he could feel Minerva stiffen at his gruff question.

“Of what is now becoming known as the ‘Potter era’, or the ‘Potter/Voldemort period’.”

He settled back onto the log, not having realized he had suddenly sat up. “So, not…”

“No, Ab,” she said, a smile now in her voice, but some sadness too. “Not your brother’s story, no. They don’t write official histories of Hogwarts Headmasters.”

He harrumphed once. Sensing her tension, he asked: “Who is to be?”

Minerva turned to look at him, to watch his reaction as she delivered the punchline. “A Muggle.”

She got her money’s worth. His jaw dropped beneath his thin beard, his eyes widened and his entire body convulsed. “A Muggle?” It was more of a bark than a question.

“Aye, that’s how I reacted when I heard.”

“But, a Muggle, why?”

She shrugged, satisfied with his reaction, and turned her gaze back to the fire. “Kingsley and the selection committee didn’t feel that any member of our community, the magical community, could be trusted to be absolutely unbiased in recording the events.”

“Aye, he may be right,” Aberforth sighed. “The ‘Potter/Voldemort Period’ did indeed split our people in half, didn’t it?”

Minerva nodded, then said: “Rita Skeeter is beside herself.”

Aberforth glanced across at the woman and could not help but see the delight evident in her face at the thought of the celebrated, though much-detested, journalist being passed over for this honour. He laughed out loud. He wasn’t too fond of Miss Skeeter either, not since she had savaged his entire family in her effort to write the book on his brother.

“Serves her right,” he said finally.

“But poor Bathilda Bagshot must be rolling over in her grave,” Minerva replied. “Imagine, perhaps the most important period in our modern history and we hand the honour of recording it for posterity to a, a a Muggle.”

The two sat in silence, listening to the crackle of the fire, thinking their own thoughts at this astounding news.

Then Aberforth said, “So, who is this Muggle, anyway?”

Minerva shrugged. “I don’t know much about her, really,” she said, her voice once again quiet. “Joanne Something. Kinglsey made her acquaintance, quite by accident he says, while he was placed in the office of the Muggle Prime Minister. It seems he met her in a coffee store!”

“A coffee shop,” Aberforth corrected her gently.

She nodded. “That’s right, that’s right, a coffee shop.” She sat for a moment, then said: “It seems she plans to write the story in separate volumes, one for each year Potter spent at Hogwarts, as stories for children!”

Aberforth listened to the horror in his friend’s voice and smiled. She was, he remembered, after all a teacher. The idea of the greatest story of the modern magical age told as children’s tales must surely appal her. He, himself, was delighted.

The book with the most influence on his young life, and the lives of many young children of magical families, was Tales of Beedle the Bard, a collection of ancient fairy tales that, unbeknownst to the children who read them, wove valuable moral lessons into each tale. If his people were to learn from the lessons of the Potter/Voldemort Era, Aberforth thought, how better than if they were made popular through children’s stories!

“Come to think of it, Minerva,” he said, cautious for once, “children's stories might not be such a bad idea.”

She turned on him, her face sour. “How so? I mean, really!”

“Well,” he continued, refusing to be cowed by her challenging look, “we must learn from this situation, important lessons, to be sure. And how better to teach future generations than to…”

Her jaw dropped. She glared at him for a moment before turning back to the fire. Then her shoulders dropped once again. “Maybe so, Ab, maybe so. The decision’s been made, to be sure, and there’s no going back. This Muggle has already met with Harry Potter, Miss Granger and the Weasley boy and they are all in agreement. I’ve even been told to cooperate with her myself, and to give her access to Albus’ portrait in the Headmaster’s Study at Hogwarts. Even Albus’ memories themselves, the ones he left behind!”

Aberforth listened to the absolute disdain in her voice and wondered what he himself would do if he were to be given access to his brother’s portrait, his memories. He felt anger rising deep inside but also a taste of fascination. If this Muggle were able to maintain her objectivity and write a ripping tale, these books of hers might just be worth reading.

"There's a lot there to work with, though, isn't there?" he said, his mind still racing.

"What?" she replied, startled, "in the Potter story, you mean? Aye, I guess there is."

"Parents murdered but the child survives. The whole Boy Who Lived thing."

She nodded. "And each year at Hogwarts, another deadly challenge. The Stone, the Chamber, the whole horror of discovering Peter Pettigrew was still alive!"

"And that's just the first three years," Aberforth added. "Then you've got that dastardly plot by the junior Crouch, the whole prophesy fiasco that cost him his god father, and then, then..."

She reached over and patted his arm. "Then the terrible final two years that made the first five seem like walks in the park," she said.

"If she does'em up right, they should be a helluva collection of books," Aberforth said, his mind spinning at the thought.

"I guess so," Minerva replied. "And we can always go back and try again, I guess, if she's unsuccessful."

Aberforth smiled. "Maybe Rita Skeeter would get a chance at it then," he chuckled. "What do you think?"

"Merlin forbid," she spat, then she glanced at him, the twinkle in his eye, and chuckled too.

"I don't know," he said after a moment's pause, "Now that I think on it, I'm quite looking forward to the first book."

She scowled at him, then the two sat for a few more silent moments.

Finally, Minerva got to her feet. “I guess I’d best be going,” she said, brushing the bits of bark from her robes.

“You won’t be staying then, for the night?” he asked gruffly, already making his way toward his pack and cloak to settle in.

She laughed. “No, Ab,” she said. “I’m too old to go lying around on the hard ground, exposed to the elements.” She raised her wand. “Especially when a warm, soft bed is waiting for me, just an apparition away.”

With that, she spun on the spot and, with a crack, disappeared. Aberforth grunted to himself, resurrected the protective charms he’d removed when she first appeared, then set himself down to sleep.

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