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Chapter the Eighth

The typical day didn’t leave Alice a lot of time for reflection. In a short amount of time she’d been burned out of her husband’s ancestral home, lost her husband to a violent death, given up her job, moved to an estate run by a pack of werewolves, and then become the mother to twin boys. When she did have time to reflect, she pegged the defining event of the before and after as the day that Remus Lupin came to visit her at Longbottom Hall. All the days after that were marked with change and chaos.

Today had been another long, tiring day. She went to bed, alone and exhausted, but all things considered, reasonably content. It was in these twilight moments between being awake and falling asleep that she fiercely missed Frank. She missed the solid comfort of rolling over in bed to slip an arm around his chest, to feel the heat and comfort radiating off of his body. She missed the time that they’d talk together before falling asleep. She missed the last kiss he’d give her before he’d stretch out and be almost instantly asleep.

She was now the mother to two boys. The boys were inseparable, and most people outside of the pack assumed that they were fraternal twins. Harry wasn’t born to her, but he was so much part of her heart that she had trouble remembering what it had been like to have only one son.

Life at the lodge was a work in progress. They’d had their first successful hunt, hosting an event with Tiberius Ogden as the star patron. He’d invited three other families to a late summer hunt, collectively bagging pheasant, deer, and a surprising amount of fish from the river that ran along the eastern border of the estate. They had gone from obscurity to notoriety in the course of a long weekend.

That hunt had led to two more in quick succession, and they now had at least one booking for each of the next six months. Tiberius had suggested that they convert one of the lesser halls in the manor house into a conservatory suitable for music and dancing, as many of the toffs in his social circle considered chamber music and ballroom dancing to be an appropriate counterpoint to riding, hunting, and fishing. Remus had brought the suggestion to Sirius, who laughed and said, “Why not?”

Alice had reached out to the handful of music conservatories between Swansea and Cardiff and found a surprising number of musicians who were more than eager to book an engagement for an evening. The inauguration of the conservatory was a concert for the pack and members of the surrounding village. The concert was opened by a string quartet from Swansea, with the main performance by a chamber group from Cardiff, and closed by some folk musicians from the village. After the concert the pastor of a Methodist congregation on the far side of the village inquired if the conservatory might be available for a choral concert in the Christmas season, which introduced Alice to the entirely different experience of Welsh choral music.

Alice was slowly working her way out of tutoring. The adult members of the pack capable of wand magic had by now all earned at least one OWL apiece and the right to carry a wand in magical society. Daisy had not surprisingly earned Outstanding OWLs in Charms and Transfiguration. She’d proposed demonstrating her self-transfiguration as a wolf for the examiners, certain that she’d earn a NEWT on the spot. Thankfully she’d been dissuaded from this plan by Sirius, who convinced her that she didn’t want to get quite that much attention from the Ministry of Magic as she would then be forced to register as an Animagus.

Daisy had kept up her relationship with Julia, who was now figuratively a skip away as a day student at Swansea University. Julia was licensed for cross-channel Apparation and would frequently pop onto the estate with no notice. She’d even convinced Daisy to accompany her on a double-date in Swansea, which took some convincing, as the boys in question were fraternity brothers at the University. The evening had worked out reasonably well until one of the boys touched Daisy in a place and manner she found unbecoming, and the boy ended up nursing a very sore hand for the balance of the evening. She confided to Alice afterwards that she was “done” with dating. Alice had her own opinion on that topic. There was something going on between the energetic, powerful young witch and the brooding bachelor wizard named Sirius Black, but no one could quite put a name to it.

After being cleared by the Wizengamot, Sirius had tracked down a birth certificate for Daisy, but Daisy’s birth mother had either died or emigrated away from Britain, as she was nowhere to be found in the UK. Daisy had thanked him for the effort, but other than the birth certificate providing a start for establishing a muggle identity as Clarissa Beckman , a name she outright rejected, the only things it added to Daisy’s life were a birthday (September 20th) and an age (now sixteen). She was Daisy Fletcher as far as she was concerned, and that was that.

Two anniversaries loomed for Alice, neither particularly pleasant. Samhain marked the anniversary of the betrayal and murder of James and Lily Potter. Less than a month after that Alice would mark the death of her husband. Augusta suggested that after her year of mourning ended that she donate her “widow’s weeds” to charity, which made sense symbolically, but truth be told, Alice liked black; it was easy to accessorize.

The night of Samhain started quietly enough, until Harry awoke with a night terror. His brother Neville was wailing supportively along with him. It took Alice close to an hour to calm the two boys, and by that time she decided that she wasn’t going to chance putting them back in their toddler beds, instead she brought them to her bed.

Augusta rarely slept through the night, and went to check on things at 4:00 AM. Alice was sleeping on her back, Harry was nestled into one side of her, and Neville nestled into the other. Harry and Neville were holding hands across their mother’s belly. Augusta wasn’t much for photography, but at that moment, she wished that she had a camera.

In November two different werewolf packs, one in Scotland, one in northern England, reached out to Charlie Fletcher to discuss some sort of confederation. Charlie, Daisy, and Remus spent several days with each pack, teaching techniques for embracing the wolf, allowing voluntary transformation. By the end of November, all the adult members of both packs were able to transform at will, and Remus began placing them in jobs in what Sirius called “Lupin Incorporated.” There was no formal confederation, but the face of lycanthropy in Great Britain began to change.

With December came the Christmas concert, and the choir mistress of the Methodist church. There was an instant chemistry between the reserved choir mistress and Sirius Black. This connection was noticed by everyone who had eyes, especially Daisy, who spent almost two weeks in wolf form, refusing to enter the manor house when Sirius or ‘ that woman ’ were present. Alice sought out Remus one evening after dinner.

“Remus, might I have a moment of your time?” Alice asked.

Remus looked up from his ever-present notebook. “Here, or in my office?”

“The office, I think,” Alice said.

They settled down in the office, closing the door.

“What’s on your mind?” Remus asked.

“Does someone need to intervene with Daisy?” Alice began.

“Do you think the choir mistress is in danger?” Remus countered.

“I don’t think so,” Alice said.

“Then no,” Remus said. “You might want to share with Daisy how frustrated you were when Frank Longbottom was beguiled by that tall girl from Ravenclaw.”

“How did you know about that?” Alice asked.

Remus tapped his temple. “Someone told me the story one day, I don’t recall who at the moment.”

“You’re not worried?” Alice asked.

“Sirius likes girls, but thus far hasn’t clicked with anyone for anything resembling long-term. You know it is difficult for any magical to have an intimate relationship with a Muggle without violating the Statute of Secrecy. Sirius, as much as he would deny it, is a mover and shaker in Magical society, which will make anything other than a brief flirtation with a Muggle almost impossible,” Remus explained. “Besides, Daisy has an advantage.”

“Oh, what’s that?” Alice asked.

“She’s probably carrying a chunk of his soul,” Remus said.

There was a long period of silence.

“You’re not going to explain that comment?” Alice asked with some frustration.

“Not unless you’re going to insist on an explanation.”

“Consider yourself insisted.”

“When Maud and Daisy were rescuing Sirius from Azkaban, he was caught by three Dementors on the shore,” Remus began.

“I’ve heard that,” Alice said.

“The part of the story that doesn’t get told is that one of the Dementors kissed Sirius – or at least began the process,” Remus said.

“What happened?”

“Daisy pulled the Dementor off of Sirius and started choking the Dementor, who eventually coughed up what he’d sucked from Sirius. I borrowed a Pensieve from Gringotts and watched the memory many times. Long story short, most of the soul returned to Sirius, but when the Dementor tried to keep some snippet of his soul, Daisy pulled it from his mouth,” Remus said.

“How?” Alice asked.

When the Dementor tried to keep the last little bit of Sirius’s soul, Daisy bit his face. By that time Maud had pulled Sirius into the boat and set the third Dementor on fire with a flare gun. Daisy tossed the Dementor she’d been wrestling and jumped into the boat. I don’t know how souls are measured, but Sirius has about 99% of what he’s supposed to have. The rest of it is somewhere in Daisy, I think,” Remus explained.

“What does all that mean?” Alice asked.

“Hanged if I know,” Remus said. “Daisy feels possessive of Sirius, which is why watching him flirt with the choir mistress is so painful for her. If you asked Sirius to his face if he was interested in Daisy, he’d probably say something about her being too young, but I think he’s waiting for her to come of age; which means Daisy has to hang in there for another year.”

“So we just have to keep her from smacking the choir mistress until then?” Alice asked.

“Pretty much. You up for the task?”

“I guess,” Alice said. “Changing the subject, not that I’m complaining, but you’re around a lot more these days.”

“I’m trying to work myself out of a job,” Remus explained. “Sirius jokes about ‘Lupin Incorporated’ but between three different packs, and all the business of the Black family, and my own business, there’s more to be done each day than I can possibly do without going mad. Besides, I want to be involved in Harry’s life, and I can’t do that if I’m out and about all the time.”

“You’re more than welcome any day to read to the boys before bed,” Alice offered. “I love them dearly, but by the end of the day I can’t wait for them to go to sleep.”

“I seem to remember a number of mothers saying that,” Remus replied. “I’ll write myself a note.”

+=+

Narcissa Malfoy pled guilty to being an accessory to the botched attempted kidnapping of the Minister of Magic. Her solicitor negotiated a very favorable plea agreement with DMLE which resulted in a substantial fine, forfeiture of a number of dark magic artifacts in her late husband’s possession, and a very detailed Veritaserum interrogation that focused on her late husband’s activities and contacts as a Death Eater.

With sentencing statements from Alice Longbottom and Madam Bones, she was sentenced to one year confinement in Azkaban with credit for time served. The balance of the year’s confinement was commuted to house arrest, which she served at the residence of Andromeda and Theodore Tonks. During the course of her house arrest, she discreetly arranged for the sale of Malfoy Manor and applied for admission to the Healer Training Program at Saint Mungo’s. She was admitted to the program, with matriculation deferred until her house arrest had been served in full. She was never charged with the death of ThorfinnRowle, which was quietly closed as an accidental death.

+=+

Daisy waited patiently and was rewarded by the rather public immolation of the relationship between Sirius Black and the choir mistress, who choose New Year’s Eve to gloriously dump him as her beau. Pack members noticed that by mid-January Daisy was almost always seated next to Sirius at the family style meals, but these same observant pack members had the good sense to say nothing about it.

Alice continued to tutor Daisy who hoped in time to sit for her NEWT exams in Charms and Runes. Rather than meeting five days a week, the tutoring sessions occurred on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

“I’m here, Miss Alice, ready to learn,” Daisy announced as she pushed the door open to the classroom.

“You look particularly chipper,” Alice said.

“Can you keep a secret?” Daisy asked.

Alice lifted one eyebrow. “Probably,” she said.

“I’m not going to be the baby of the pack anymore,” Daisy said. “Maud’s got a bun in the oven!”

“That’s fantastic,” Alice gushed.

“Isn’t it?” Daisy said. “Us wolves have a hard time getting knocked up.”

“I think the proper sentence would be ‘we weres have difficulty conceiving,’” Alice corrected.

“Isn’t that what I said?” Daisy said with a wink. “She’s just beginning to show, she’s finishing her first semester.”

“That’s ‘trimester’ dear,” Alice corrected.

“Oh? Julia’s always saying ‘semester.’”

“A ‘semester’ is an academic term, ‘trimester’ refers to the first three months of a woman’s pregnancy,” Alice said.

“She’s going to be knocked up for nine whole months?” Daisy said.

Alice began to rub her temples. “Do we need to have the talk ?”

“You mean the gross one that Maud gave about periods and getting knocked up? I was pretty young when Maud told me all that. Bessie had just died, otherwise she’da told me. I thought menstruation was pretty gross, so when my first period came I turned into a wolf,” Daisy said.

“What does that do?” Alice asked.

“Kinda resets things,” Daisy said. “When I’m human again the period’s done. One of the many ways that wolves are superior to people, I guess.”

“So how long is your period?”

“It’s measured in minutes,” Daisy said. “Soon as it arrives, bam, I’m a lady wolf, no more problem.”

“That would be convenient,” Alice said.

“See, superior by design,” Daisy said.

“I suppose so,” Alice said.

+=+

Remus began to delegate more and more duties, both for the businesses under ‘Lupin Incorporated’ and the Black family holdings. He’d closed out his flat in England, converting it to a full time office, staffed by four new hires. Wednesdays and Friday afternoons were freed up to spend with ‘the boys’ and whenever he was on the grounds of the estate, he read to the boys before bed.

Initially, on Wednesdays and Fridays, Alice would use the opportunity when Remus was playing with the boys to be child free for an afternoon, but that slowly changed as she enjoyed the time with all of them together. She wondered if Frank would have been as attentive, or if he would have spent more time being an Auror than a father, only to be wracked with guilt for even contemplating the question.

+=+

In July, Maud gave birth to a healthy baby boy. Although neither Maud nor Tony had darkened the door of a church for decades, they scheduled a private naming ceremony with the pack and then a public baptism for their new son. The baptism was attended by the entire pack, many people from the village, and representatives of five other werewolf packs, including two from France. Remus made a discreet inquiry to Minerva McGonnagall, who confirmed that the boy’s name had appeared in the Hogwarts Registry, confirming his status as a magical. Realizing that he was setting tradition in place, Sirius quietly established a trust fund for the lad, pre-paying his tuition.

The end of July saw the double-birthday, which was celebrated on Neville’s birthday, July 30th, as Alice insisted that there were not going to be two birthday parties back-to-back.

“That’s final, Sirius,” Alice said, resisting the urge to stamp her foot. Sirius had a fine talent for being exasperating.

“When the boys are older, Sirius,” Remus said, “you can offer to take them out separately, but I think they think that they’re twins, so they probably wouldn’t appreciate depriving their other half.”

“Poor Sirius,” Daisy sighed. “If you absolutely must spend your hardly earned Galleons on cake and ice cream, you can send me and Julia into Swansea to visit Llanfae’s Dairy.”

“Is that the one with the apple-blackberry crumble?” Sirius asked.

“Exactly,” Daisy said, smiling as she nodded.

“Can we go right now?” Sirius asked.

“I’ll go call Julia to see if she’s free,” Daisy said. Sirius went off to find his wallet.

“He’s easy to distract,” Daisy whispered to Remus and Alice.

+=+

August blended into September, the busy season for the hunting lodge. They were booked every weekend through the middle of November. The pack had cheered when Remus announced that the lodge had turned a small profit, after expenses and salaries, at the end of August. Remus had run various “what if” exercises in his ledgers and his estimation had been that the lodge wouldn’t be profitable for two more years. He was very glad to be wrong.

As Samhain approached, Alice worried that Harry would experience his night terror again, but the only thing concerning Harry was whether or not he and Neville would be allowed to carve turnips in the Welsh fashion to celebrate the end of the Celtic year. When Alice woke up the day after Samhain, she was thankful that the prior night had been peaceful.

Remus caught her eye at breakfast that morning.

“Peaceful night?” he asked.

“Very,” Alice said thankfully.

“I’m glad,” he said, ruffling Neville and Harry’s hair before he went off to inspect a new parcel of land. He’d had the Black commercial solicitor quietly buy up parcels of land adjoining the existing estate in Wales. The last three land purchases had doubled the size of the estate, including some orchards that had been ignored for the past few years, and he wanted to see how the old trees had turned out after pruning, as well as seeing how the new stock planted in the spring had fared over the summer. He got back late to the estate, walking as quietly as he could once he got upstairs, hoping to not wake the boys.

He’d finished washing his face when he heard a gentle knock at the door.

Wiping his hands and face, he rushed to the door to open it.

“I’m up,” he said to Alice.

Alice was dressed in a dark blue short sleeved night dress. The hem fell below her knees, but the fabric was soft enough that it draped nicely.

“What’s wrong?” he asked Alice after she sat down next to his bed.

“I’m worried,” Alice said.

“About what?”

“The boys.”

Remus held his tongue. He knew that if he were silent long enough that whatever was bothering Alice would spill out.

“Augusta doesn’t want to rebuild Longbottom Hall,” Alice finally said.

“And why is that bothering you this fine November night?” Remus said.

“The boys need a father,” Alice said plaintively. “Living here is wonderful, but it’s like being surrounded by Aunts and Uncles.”

“What’s so bad about that?” Remus asked.

“They need a mother and a father,” Alice said. “What was your understanding with Marlene McKinnon?”

“That’s a bit of an abrupt transition,” Remus said.

“I’m sorry, I’m a mum, my attention span is shot,” Alice said.

“Well, Marlene and I thought we loved each other,” Remus said.

“Did you?”

“Did we what?”

“Did you love each other?”

“I think so,” Remus said. “Marlene was in the healer program at St. Mungo’s, and I was going to earn Masteries in Charms and Transfiguration.”

“Then what?”

“I suppose we were going to leave England, get married, and emigrate to Canada or Australia, although not necessarily in that order. She’d be a healer, and I’d be teaching somewhere.”

“You could still teach,” Alice said.

“I’m busy here,” Remus said.

“Are you happy here?” Alice asked. She fiddled with the ribbon at her neckline.

“I’m reasonably content; I’m doing good things, I’m making a difference in people’s lives, and Harry has a home,” Remus said.

“What about family?”

“Well, I’m the last of my family,” Remus said. “I do have some distant relatives who made it quite clear to my late mum and dad that they wanted nothing to do with me, so I’m fairly certain that they don’t count.”

“Would you like one?” Alice whispered.

Remus smiled, and then saw that Alice was expecting an answer. “Yes, I would love to have a family.”

“Marry me,” Alice whispered.

“I beg your pardon,” Remus said.

“Marry me,” Alice said, a little more confidently.

“Is that a question or a statement?” Remus asked.

“Yes,” Alice answered.

Remus began to speak and then stopped.

“Are you asking me to marry you?” Remus asked.

“I thought I was being fairly clear,” Alice said. “You think I’m attractive, you love the boys, you’re a great friend, and I can’t think of a finer person to be father to my two boys.”

“What about being a husband?”

“I think that goes without saying,” Alice said.

“I’m not certain it does,” Remus said.

Alice got up from the chair. Remus thought she was going to walk out of the room, but she crossed the room instead and plopped into his lap. She put her hands on either side of his head and kissed him, pulling back to look into his eyes, and then she kissed him again, soundly.

“Do I need to say it again?” Alice asked.

“No, I agree, that was quite clear,” Remus said.

“Well?”

“Well what?”

“Remus, don’t play games with me. I’m feeling very naked and exposed here,” Alice said.

“You’re quite clothed,” Remus replied.

“You know what I mean,” Alice growled.

“I think the idea has merit,” Remus said.

“That’s all you have to say on the topic?” Alice asked.

“I wasn’t expecting that I would be solicited for marriage this evening, please forgive me if I’m neither prepared nor articulate,” Remus said.

Alice moved his hand to the small of her back and then kissed him again. She then got up and walked to the door. She turned before she walked through the doorway. “I’ll take that as a yes,” she said.

“A very reasonable conclusion, Mrs. Longbottom,” Remus replied. “We will work out the details tomorrow.”

“I look forward to it,” Alice said.

+=+

In the hallway Alice passed Daisy, who flinched as she approached.

“Jeepers, Miss Alice, give me some warning next time,” Daisy complained, waving her hand in front of her face.

“I’m sorry, what do you mean?” Alice asked.

“You’re putting out some strong fairy moans and you’re drenched with Lupin’s scent,” Daisy said.

“Is that a bad thing?” Alice asked.

“No, I love how Remus smells, I always have. It’s just that given how you smell, and the scent he’s putting off tonight, it’s a wonder that you aren’t in his room making babies right now,” Daisy explained.

“Thank you, Daisy,” Alice said thoughtfully. “You’ve been most helpful.”

“You’re welcome, Miss Alice,” Daisy said.

“Wait, what are you doing on this hallway?” Alice asked.

“Returning something to our Lord Black,” Daisy said smugly. “And now I’m going back to my own little room, alone, chaste, untouched, unkissed.”

“I’m not sure ‘unkissed’ is a word, but that’s a discussion for another day. Good night, Daisy,” Alice said.

“Good night, Miss Alice,” Daisy replied.

+=+

Thus ends the tale Steward of the House of Black

Extended Author’s note: After finishing By Right of Conquest I started working on a different story, only to have it run into a dead end. I then started working on what became this story, which was driven by a number of different things, which I categorize as the essential fan fiction “what ifs.”

What if Remus didn’t disappear after James and Lily died?

What if someone had managed to rescue Harry from the Dursleys while he was still an infant?

What if Sirius had been able to get a trial?

This of course puts me at odds with most of canon, and presents a number of different problems to be solved:

1) How can Remus find work?

2) How can Sirius get out of Azkaban?

3) How can Sirius get a trial without getting kissed or otherwise assassinated by Death Eaters, minions of Dumbledore, or the Ministry?

Along the way I had two primary objectives, make life better for Neville, and give Harry a family.

The characters of Julia and Daisy kind of sprang up as I sat down to write. I find that happens a lot to me when I start writing a scene. For lack of a better locale, I put the opening scene on the Isle of Man, which necessitated some historical research into the Viking contributions to the history of the Isle of Man, which then led to the whole Danish connection when I figured out that my version of Azkaban Island is close to the Faroe Islands (which are more or less a part of Denmark).

Any number of people have written about Lycanthropy as a disease that is somehow worse than Original Sin, changing a somewhat normal human being into an evil, devouring beast. This of course is absolute nonsense. Wolves are social canines that don’t particularly care for the company of humans. They hunt economically, involving the whole pack. They play, they have a social structure, they mate for life, and they don’t do any number of things for which they are usually blamed. In most ways, I find the character of wolves to be superior to many of the people I meet. So, that led me to an additional “what if” for the story regarding Lycanthropy. What if the violent nature of lycanthropy as depicted in canon is actually caused by a thinking being’s resistance to an involuntary transformation? What if the thinking being learned how to control the transformation? Would they be contagious if voluntarily transformed? (My answer is no.) Would they lose their marbles if they were already transformed when the full moon arrives? (Again, my answer is no.)

So, what happens next after this point in the story?

Remus and Alice get married by the New Year. Neville and Harry are raised in an intact family, with the pack serving as a very interesting extended family. In the normal course of events, additional Lupin children are born, providing a brother and sister for Neville and Harry to look out for in the future.

The dance between Daisy and Sirius takes quite a while to work out. Eventually Daisy becomes Lady Black, and the de facto Head of the House of Black. Daisy has much more affinity for the Black family magic than Sirius ever had, so she ends up wearing the ring on a daily basis.

The spare bit of Sirius’s soul in Daisy? That eventually gets worked out, but the mechanics of how aren’t particularly interesting. What is interesting is that the diagnostic used to determine that Daisy is indeed carrying more souls than the usual allotment is also used on Harry, revealing the presence of a Horcrux. This is dealt with in a sensible, non-suicidal manner.

Narcissa Malfoy completes the healer training program, and eventually emigrates to Canada with Draco to obtain a fresh start. She remarries and Draco eventually gets siblings. She keeps in contact with her no-longer-estranged sister Andromeda, and comes to visit from time to time as the mysterious Aunt Narcissa from Saskatchewan, which if you’re a young Nymphadora Tonks is really cool. Bellatrix Lestrange oddly never appears again in this alternate universe.

Dumbledore tries repeatedly to have Harry placed back with the Dursleys, which pretty much erodes any good will and poisons the relationships he has with Remus, Sirius and Alice. These maneuverings also cost him his political positions as Chief Warlock and Supreme Mugwump.

Amos Diggory becomes Minister of Magic succeeding Millicent Bagnold, with a slightly more efficient and less corrupt Ministry of Magic than under the Bagnold administration.

The dark artifacts surrendered by Widow Malfoy to the Department of Magical Law Enforcement include the diary of Tom Riddle, which is turned over to Subject Matter Experts in the Department of Mysteries, who correctly identify it as a Horcrux. By the time the shade of Voldemort begins to possess Professor Quirrell, the Ministry of Magic is forewarned, and the second rise of the pretender Voldemort is much less destructive than in canon.

Harry and Neville do end up at Hogwarts, but the possessed Professor Quirrell never steps foot in the classroom, there is no diary to open the Chamber of Secrets, and there is no Sirius Black to escape from Azkaban, so the events of the first three books pretty much don’t happen. Harry and Neville are confident, likable, friendly, curious boys who soak up instruction with gusto. Neville is sorted into Gryffindor, while Harry is sorted (over his objections) into Hufflepuff. Harry doesn’t object to being in the House of the Badger, he objects to being separated from his brother Neville.

There is a Triwizard Tournament in Neville and Harry’s fourth year, but without Barty Crouch Senior to facilitate things, there is no escape from Azkaban for Barty Crouch Junior, so Mad Eye Moody is not the Professor of Defense Against the Dark Arts, giving fourth year (Goblet of Fire) a very different trajectory. The Triwizard Tournament does give cause for some interference at Hogwarts from Lady Black, however.

+=+

“Am I in trouble?” Hermione Granger asked her favorite professor.

“Not at all, Miss Granger,” Professor McGonnagall said soothingly.

The Deputy Headmistress led Hermione into her office. Sitting behind the desk was a strikingly beautiful woman, long blonde hair cascading down her back, a bright contrast to the dark brocade of her jacket.

The women looked up as they entered.

“Thank you, Minerva, I think I can take it from here,” the woman said. “Please sit down, Miss Granger.”

“Begging your pardon, Ma’am, but who are you?”

“Ah, direct, I like that,” the woman said. “In Magical society I am the Lady Black, but Neville calls me ‘Aunt Daisy.’”

“Are you the Daisy Black who wrote the article in last month’s Transfiguration Today ?” Hermione asked excitedly.

“I was one of the authors,” Daisy said. “My name was listed first because B comes before K and M.”

“How should I address you, Ma’am?” Hermione asked politely.

“That depends on how this conversation goes,” Daisy Black said. “There will be a ball this year, a Yule Ball.”

“How exciting,” Hermione said politely.

“If Neville knows what is good for him, he will be asking you to the Ball,” Daisy said.

“Okay,” Hermione said noncommittally.

“He might need a nudge to do that,” Daisy suggested.

“Oh, I see,” Hermione said, her cheeks coloring. “I’d like that.”

“Very good,” Daisy said.

“What about Harry?” Hermione asked.

“I had a similar conversation earlier this morning with one of your classmates, a Miss Susan Bones,” Daisy answered.

“And what is she calling you today?” Hermione asked.

“She’s calling me ‘Aunt Daisy’,” Daisy replied.

“Will there be anything else, Aunt Daisy?” Hermione asked, perched on the edge of her seat.

“Not for the moment,” Daisy said with a smile. “Assuming that my nephews don’t both step in it between now and Yule, you can expect to receive an invitation for you and your family to New Longbottom Hall for New Year’s Eve.”

“I’d like that; Neville and Harry have told me so much about it. Is it true that everyone who works there is a werewolf?”

“No, hardly not, about a quarter of the staff are totally unable to transform into wolves, it’s quite sad really. They feel quite left out of things once a month, but someone has to keep things running,” Daisy said.

+=+

The End (Probably)

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Author Notes:

Thanks as always to the usual suspects, including Garden Girl, who appreciates her high mileage mom.

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