DISCLAIMER: The Harry Potter series and all the characters associated with it are the property solely of J. K. Rowling, her agents and publishers. No infringement of any rights is intended from the creation of this story. Nor is any money being made from it.


Circles of Power

Part Twenty-Three - Arcana

By Mad Martha

       

"How do you know this will work?" Draco wanted to know.

"I don't," Ron replied absently, sorting his bits and pieces fussily. "It's worth a try though. Harry and I were going to have a go anyway."

Draco looked across at Harry, who was sitting to one side of the low table, hugging his knees to his chest and clearly trying to stay out of the discussion. "And was Harry aware of this?"

"Yep."

The blond youth studied Harry's unhappy body language and his lips twitched. "I see. I'm beginning to get an idea who wears the trousers in this relationship."

Harry's expression became wry, but he still declined to comment. Ron, on the other hand, smiled as he touched his wand tip to the wick of the single candle in the centre of the table. It was a peculiarly wicked little expression that made him look unnervingly like his brothers, George and Fred.

"Well, of course," he commented. "You didn't honestly think Harry was in charge, did you? There'd be four poster beds all over the place if I let that happen."

This roused Harry to mild indignation. "Hey!"

Ron gave him a sweet smile that was somehow even more disturbing than the evil smirk. He pushed a rosewood box across the table to his partner. "Do me a favour and sort out the Major Arcana cards, would you?"

"Do I have to?" Harry eyes the box with barely concealed dislike. "These damn cards of yours give me the creeps."

"Don't be a baby." Ron began to crush a selection of powerfully-scented herbs in a small mortar pilfered from the potions lab. "I'm not suggesting we make a full pack - we'd be here all week doing that. There are twenty-two cards in the Major Arcana, though. Seven each for you two, and eight for me, shouldn't be too tasking."

"Not too tasking he says," Draco muttered. "I hope you've taken into account the fact that I can't draw."

"You don't have to be able to, that's the beauty of this. It's a bit like spirit writing."

The blond youth regarded him with horror. "No way! I am not getting involved in anything that involves possession - "

"It's not possession!" Ron said, exasperated. "Will you stop jumping to conclusions and just shut up for a minute? Honestly ."

Harry separated out the Major Arcana cards and put the rest of the pack, wrapped in their silk shroud, back into the box. "What do you want me to do with these?"

"Shuffle them up a bit and deal them out into three piles. I think that's the fairest way to divide them up. We'll be using these as a base pack, which is a bit risky, but I don't have any of my other cards with me."

"Why don't you borrow a set from Trelawney's classroom?"

"Because she's still here, remember? She never leaves Hogwarts. And you can't have forgotten how much she likes me - as in not at all. I'm not asking to borrow anything of hers."

Ron finished pounding the herbs and tipped the powder into the top of a large oil burner. Then he added water.

"Okay, Harry, dish the cards out."

Harry handed one small stack to Draco, one to Ron and kept the third in front of himself. Draco fingered his hesitantly, but didn't turn them over to look.

"Don't you have to have the Sight for this?" he asked.

"You do have the Sight," Ron told him impatiently. "You could never dream true if you didn't have at least a little of it. You have enough for this, anyway."

"What do we have to do?" Harry asked quietly.

"Well ... I could tell you how I did it, but that would take too much time and there's no guaranteeing it would work if we all tried separately. I suggest the three of us link together, and I take you two under with me."

"And then what do we do?" Draco wanted to know.

"You'll find out when we get there. We just need to make sure we have everything to hand first, because we won't consciously be making the cards." Ron handed each of them a set of cardboard 'blanks', a calligrapher's pen and ink. Then he picked up his wand and looked at them. "Everyone ready?"

"No," Draco muttered, but he took his wand out and the three of them touched wand tip to wand tip.

With his free hand Ron lit the candle in the oil burner, then picked up a leftover pinch of the powdered herbs and sprinkled it into the flame of the tall candle in the middle of the table.

Almost at once they were enveloped in a thick, heavily-scented cloud of fumes. Harry gasped as the smell hit the back of his throat and felt himself becoming light-headed. His vision blurred unpleasantly and the floor seemed to tilt underneath him.

"Just try to breathe normally, Harry," Ron's voice said from a great distance.

Harry wasn't at all sure he wanted to breathe any more of the stuff. The room was fading out on him, and his last thought before it winked out altogether was that it would be just his luck if he passed out and ruined the entire experiment.

       

"Ow!"

He batted away pinching fingers and opened his eyes to find that he was sitting in the middle of a dirt track. To either side of him was rolling moorland - scrubby grass, patches of heather and occasional gorse bushes, interspersed with rocky outcroppings.

"Are you with us?"

He squinted up and saw Ron bending over him. "Where are we?"

"Where we intended to be." Ron offered him a hand and pulled him to his feet.

Draco was standing a few feet away, looking around him with a disgruntled expression. "This is bleak - the kind of place Lord Voldemort likes," he commented.

Harry had to agree with him. It looked pretty barren and abandoned to him. "So where is 'here', anyway?" he wanted to know.

Ron shrugged. "I think it's an aspect of the Astral Plane, but don't quote me on that."

"And what do we do now that we're here?" Draco asked.

"We walk. Believe me, it won't stay like this forever. Oh - and we'd better get our wands out, just in case."

They started walking.

"This place reminds me of Dartmoor," Harry commented after a few minutes' silence. "Remember trekking across the moor with your dad and Sirius a couple of years ago, Ron? The mist came down so fast ...."

"Muggles have died on Dartmoor," Ron replied. "They do this thing every year where groups of them trek across all ten of the Tors and camp out. Dad told me that a group of Muggle kids died of exposure trying to do that once. But that was years ago."

"Why on earth would anyone want to walk across a place like this?" Draco demanded. "The Muggles must be mad."

"It's a challenge," Harry said, with a shrug.

"We did it because Dad and Sirius had been asked to look over a stone circle that had popped up in the middle of nowhere," Ron added. "We couldn't fly or Apparate there because of all the Muggle tourists wandering about. Dad had the time of his life, but it was pretty scary when the mist suddenly rolled in because we weren't sure where we were, even with the Four Point Spell. We could have kept walking, but that's the sure way to end up in a bog."

"And did the stone circle just pop up out of nowhere?"

"Nah, it was some Muggles messing around. It was pretty good for a fake, mind you, but nothing magical."

"I don't know why you bothered."

"There was always the possibility that it was Death Eater work," Harry pointed out.

Draco snorted. "The Dark Lord and his followers are quite happy to use the stone circles already in existence, Harry, without wasting time building more."

"Heads up, people," Ron said abruptly. "Here we go ."

"Where the hell did that come from?" Draco demanded.

Looming out of the landscape in front of them was a decrepit stone building that had certainly not been there a matter of moments before. The dirt road they were walking on petered out, and the ground started to rise on a gentle slope. It was growing darker as well, the sky filling with heavy grey clouds that seemed to be attracted to the derelict monument.

"What on earth is that?" Harry breathed, staring up at the building which seemed to grow more and more massive as the minutes passed.

Ron sounded apprehensive. "It's the Falling Tower."

"But it's not falling," said Draco, rather foolishly.

The sudden bolt of lightening made the three of them nearly leap out of their skins. It hit the ramparts of the tower like the crack of doom, shattering the already fragmented stonework. A crumbling gargoyle that had been perched precariously on the ramparts broke loose and tumbled to the ground in a hail of masonry.

There was a dramatic roll of thunder and the lightning struck again. More stonework broke loose and a whole corner of the tower developed a crack that rent it from top to bottom.

"We might want to get out of here!" Ron shouted over the thunder. Sudden wind howled, tearing at his robes and whipping his words away.

"How?" Harry shouted back.

Great chunks of rock were breaking free from the building now, and rolling down the hill. The three of them stumbled backwards hastily, clutching at each other to keep their balance and trying to avoid the debris that was falling from the rapidly collapsing tower.

"Run!" Ron yelled and took to his heels.

Not stopping to question or argue, the other two followed.

       

In the Gryffindor Common Room, the only sound to be heard was the ticking of the ancient clock above the mantelpiece and the whispering of Draco's pen over the first of his card blanks.

No sign of their extraordinary adventure showed on any of the three young wizards' tranquil faces.

       

Events were moving apace now.

"You could have warned us it would be like this," Draco grumbled, as his rubbed his shoulder.

Racing from the Falling Tower, they had promptly found the Chariot standing in the road, which had been useful for they'd been able to hop inside and take a ride for a while. Unfortunately, it had taken them to a grassy arena where they'd encountered Strength - not in its usual Tarot form of a man taming a lion, but instead as an athlete practising lifting rocks. Draco had been challenged to do something similar, which wasn't nearly as amusing as it sounded.

"Three down," Harry sighed, as they walked along. It was getting extremely hot all of a sudden.

"Four," Ron replied. "Don't look up - we're being tested by the Sun."

"Charming," Draco muttered, easing the neck of his robe with a finger.

"So what's next?" wondered Harry.

"Whatever that is up ahead," Ron replied, pointing to something that seemed to be sprouting out of the grass.

It was a stone circle.

"Do I want to know what this is?" Draco asked uneasily, as they hesitated outside it.

"Um the Wheel of Fortune?" Harry suggested uncertainly. The stones were quite low, barely knee-height; he stooped to peer at one and jumped back with an exclamation when the carving on it - a grotesque face - twisted to glare at him.

"They're all the same," Ron said, walking around the edge of the circle. "I think - I think they're people. Or were. Don't go inside it."

"Okay ."

They all skirted around the edge of the circle and hurried on, not wanting to take too close a look at it.

"That's five," Draco said, very quietly.

The day wore on, and the three of them began to grow hot, sticky and tired. There seemed to be long periods where they walked and nothing happened to them, then two or more of the cards' subjects would appear at once.

Twice they were caught in traps. Harry accidentally stepped off the edge of a cliff that had appeared from nowhere and landed in one pan of a giant pair of scales below (Justice), which forced Ron and Draco to think creatively in order to counterbalance the scales and get him out. The second time Ron stepped into a hidden loop of rope hanging from a tree and found himself dangling upside down by one foot (the Hanged Man).

By the time they encountered the Lovers - represented, oddly, by a pair frolicking Peacocks in a leafy garden - they were more interested in stopping to quench their thirst at a pretty fountain, sculpted to look like a young girl pouring water from a Greek vase. (Much to Harry's amusement, she looked remarkably like Hermione.) Draco was all for staying there a while, but Ron urged them to keep moving.

"What I want to know," Harry commented, as they reluctantly stepped back onto the path that would lead them out of the garden, "is how on earth you managed to do this on your own before - and for a whole Tarot deck."

"I was young and stupid," Ron said, but his grin was as tired as he was. "By the way, I think that was Temperance we just saw."

"Temperance?"

"The girl with the urn and the water. Classic depiction of Temperance."

"Oh good," Draco responded, without enthusiasm. "How many have we covered now?"

They kept walking.

       

They passed other cards now almost incidentally ... Judgement (an elderly man with a mischievous twinkle in his eye who was the image of Professor Dumbledore), the Fool (Fred Weasley at his most manic), the Empress (a motherly woman who looked just like Molly Weasley), the Hierophant (alarmingly, a man who looked a lot like Professor Snape), and the High Priestess (Professor McGonagall, looking benign). Meanwhile, the day was starting to draw to a close. As night fell and the Moon rose above, a curiously unpleasant chill swept over them.

"The Moon's not a positive card," Ron explained, seeing the unease on Harry and Draco's faces. "What you're feeling is a reflection of what the card represents. It'll probably pass when the Star appears."

But long before then the next trial appeared.

Looming out of the darkness came a long, crook-backed, stone wall, over eight feet in height and damaged in places. In the middle of it was a tall gateway built out of a massive skeleton. The bones were hunched over to form part of the archway and the figure seemed to lean upon the handle of a huge, wicked-looking scythe to complete the arch. There was no gate, only the tattered remains of a cloak hanging from the skeletal shoulders to block the entrance.

"Oh Death," Ron said, rather unnecessarily.

"Am I right in thinking the Death card only represents alterations in circumstances?" asked Draco, studying the skeletal gate nervously.

"As in an abrupt and radical change," Ron agreed.

"Then walking through that gateway shouldn't be too dangerous, should it?"

"You want to go first?" Harry asked him dryly.

That gave the blond youth a pause.

Harry smiled and shook his head. "Come on, let's get it over with," he said.

He stepped up to the gate and - a little reluctantly - reached out to push the filthy, ragged cloak aside. To his surprise it moved of its own accord and, still hesitant, he stepped across the threshold emerging into a stone room lit by a heavy iron candelabra hanging from the low ceiling. In front of him a figure in heavy, concealing robes stood with its back to him.

And without warning icy cold fire flared in his scar, making him cry out and double up with the pain, clasping at his forehead.

       

In his seat at the low table in the Gryffindor Common Room, opposite Ron, Harry's body jolted and his eyes flew open, staring blindly ahead of him. For several moments his hands, so busy in their unthinking work, stilled upon the cards in front of him.

Unknown to him, the lightning-shaped scar on his forehead grew red and inflamed, standing out on his brow like a brand.

       

"Harry!"

Identical gasps of alarm; two pairs of hands grabbing his arms and supporting him.

"Harry, what's the matter? "

"What happened?"

It was hard to draw breath, and even harder to gather his wits, but somehow he did both. "We have to get out of here - go back - "

"We can't go back." That was Draco, calm and precise, although his eyes were fixed upon the figure before them who had still not moved. "The gateway's gone."

"Oh God ."

The cloaked figure let out a low, hair-raising chuckle, beginning to turn, and the three of them became very still.

"Not quite God yet." it said. The voice was high, cold and slightly sibilant.

When it finally faced them, Harry could taste the bile rising up in his throat. For he knew that bone-white face with its flattened nose and red, cat-pupilled eyes. It was the face that haunted a thousand of his dreams, the face of a figure that had dogged his footsteps, silent and invisible, for twenty years. This was the form of the creature who had lured his father's friend into betrayal, murdered his parents, sanctioned the deaths of Cedric Diggory and Pansy Parkinson, and held the wizarding world in the grip of terror for the better part of half a century.

It was Voldemort.

Harry could tell just by the frantic grip on his arm that, however calm he might look, Draco was terrified. Ron's grasp was no less tight, but the look on his face was more one of anger and loathing. Of course, of the three of them only Ron had never yet had a personal encounter with the Dark Lord and consequently had no experiences to base his reactions upon. Harry hoped this wouldn't drive him to do or say anything foolhardy.

The dark wizard smiled, a horrifying twist of the lips. "Well, well, well," he murmured. "Harry Potter and friends. How delightful. Would you, by any chance, be looking for this?"

He held up one bony, white hand clasping a gold circlet studded with gems. Harry stared uncomprehendingly.

"What is it?" he asked.

"The Emperor's diadem," Ron said, before Voldemort could reply.

"Why would I want that?"

Voldemort's smile stretched even wider. "Why indeed?"

Ron glared at him. "Look at yourself, Harry - look at all of us."

Harry glanced down at himself - and did a double-take. His plain, buff-coloured Auror's robe was gone, replaced by a heavy robe of purple velvet trimmed with ermine. By contrast, Draco wore an almost monk-like robe of plain brown cloth with a cowled neck, while Ron's was black velvet stitched all over with esoteric symbols in silver thread.

"The Hermit," the redhead explained, gesturing to Draco, "and the Magician. You're the Emperor."

"Not quite," Voldemort said, still smiling that ghastly smile, "not quite. The Emperor can hardly rule without his crown, can he?"

Harry studied his nemesis for a moment or two, wondering what the significance of this exchange was. He had lost count of the cards they had passed and couldn't think what this must represent.

"Alright," he said finally, "I'll bite. May I have the crown, please?" He held out his hand.

Voldemort smiled, turning the heavy band of gold between his fingers. "What will you give me in return?"

Harry blinked. "You expect me to pay you for it?"

"Of course. Nothing in this life comes without a price, Harry. So what will you give me for your crown?"

He shrugged, bemused. "I don't know. What's it worth to you?"

"More to the point," the older wizard replied with ominous gentleness, "what is it worth to you?"

"Harry," Ron interposed, "don't bargain with him."

Harry looked at his friend. "Why not?"

"Because it's a bad idea to do deals with the Devil."

And the pieces of the puzzle fell into place. Harry had somehow forgotten the Devil card in the Tarot, despite it turning up regularly in his own spreads over the past three or four years. Of course it would be Voldemort; no other card would suit him quite so well.

Ron was right; doing deals with the Devil or with Voldemort was a bad idea.

On the other hand, he wasn't sure he saw another way out of this current impasse.

Harry folded his arms and regarded the dark wizard thoughtfully. "I assume there's something particular you want from me."

The smile on Voldemort's lips did not reach his eyes. It never had. "Just your life, Harry. Just your life. Is this " he held up the diadem, "worth such a price?"

His first instinct was to say that no crown, no piece of jewellery or decoration, was worth a man's life. But the words stuck in Harry's throat. After all, this wasn't reality, this was the Tarot. The diadem could never just be a piece of decoration. Uncertain, he turned to look at Ron and Draco.

"What does it mean?" he asked Ron in an urgent undertone. "What does the crown mean to the Emperor?"

The redhead looked worried. "The Emperor is the card of worldly authority and knowledge," he said softly. "It's leadership, wisdom and judgement. It's the power card, the one that says you're a big success in life, the one everyone looks to to lead them. So the crown is symbolic. In history, a monarch who lost his crown was an exile at best and dead at worst. Look at Charles the First Louis the Sixteenth they had their power taken away and their heads chopped off. Their people turned on them when they failed as rulers. And when the card of the Emperor is inverted, it symbolises weakness and failure."

"In other words, if you let Lord Voldemort keep the diadem, you're giving in to him and admitting that he's the greater man," Draco added, equally softly. "You're giving him power your power."

"But isn't giving him my life the same thing?" Harry whispered back.

"Depends on what he means by life," Draco began, but Ron interrupted him furiously.

"No, Harry! Don't you realise how dangerous this is? I don't know what this place is, but it shares a lot of characteristics with the Astral Plane. And if you die on the Astral Plane, you're stuck in a limbo. You can't go back to your body because you're dead, but you can't move on either because your body's still alive!"

"Life might not mean physical life, though!" Draco put in sharply. "Giving someone your life can also mean giving them service look, when Death Eaters pledge themselves to the Dark Lord, they pledge their lives in his service, to do his will. Harry, if you do that, you're never your own man again. It could be worse than dying or giving up the crown."

Harry stared at the two of them helplessly. "Where's a good dictionary when you need one?" he muttered. "I think I need a definition of 'life' here."

He turned back to Voldemort. "What do you mean by 'life'?" he demanded.

The wizard smiled, shrugging slightly. "The breath in your lungs. The blood in your veins. The fire in your heart ...."

Harry wrinkled his nose that the lyrical phrasing ... and suddenly paused, thinking furiously. Something about the words sounded a chord inside him.

The blood in your veins .... What was it about blood and Voldemort?

Realisation hit, and with it a surge of triumph.

Harry raised his head, eyes ablaze. "In that case, you've already had my life!" he exclaimed. "Wormtail took blood from my veins to restore you, when I was fourteen." He held out his hand triumphantly. "Give me the crown!"

For a moment Voldemort stared at him in disbelief, and Harry could feel the equally astonished stares of Ron and Draco on his back.

Then the body of the dark wizard seemed to tremble and crack, crumbling into swiftly dust. The crown fell to the ground and rolled to Harry's feet. After a second or two he stooped to pick it up, but, uncomfortable with the idea of it, he did not put it on.

When he straightened up again the stone room was fading away, leaving the three of them standing on the brink of another cliff. It was still dark, but high up in the sky a single brilliant Star was shining.

"I think we've made it," Ron said, after a moment. His voice was wobbly with relief as he gestured out over the edge of the cliff and said, "Look ...."

The land spread out like a patchwork below them was distant but brilliantly detailed. Harry could see Hogwarts in the distance and the village of Hogsmeade and, closer to them, the lights of Diagon Alley.

"And this is?" Draco prompted wearily.

"The World," Ron replied. "The final missing card. That's it we've done it."

And the world of the Tarot dissolved into mist around them.

       

Pain.White hot, searing pain.

Harry groaned and lifted his head from the table. His temples were pounding like a drum. Squinting a little, he could just make out that the candles had burned themselves out and that daylight was pouring through tiny gaps in the curtains at the great, long windows of the Gryffindor Common Room.

Before him on the table were scattered tarot cards Ron's own set, mixed with the twenty-two cards of the new pack they had created. Empty bottles of ink were clustered in the centre of the table; dried-up quills had tumbled to the floor. Two other heads still rested uncomfortably amid the mess; Ron's pillowed on one arm, the other dangling limply to the floor, and Draco's simply resting on the bare board, one lock of his white-blond hair black and spiky where it had somehow dipped into the ink.

Harry felt like death warmed over and he would have liked nothing more than to put his own head down on the table and go back to sleep. Common sense told him that this was not a good idea. Though the mere idea nearly killed him, somehow he dragged himself to his feet and over to the others. Waking them was almost as impossible as getting himself upright, but he couldn't face having to transfer them to bed magically.

Draco was more responsive than Ron. Harry bullied him into getting up and between the two of them they somehow hoisted the redhead up between them and staggered slowly, painfully up the stairs to their rooms.

When they entered their little common room, the first things they saw were three cups in the centre of the table, with a note propped up against them. It was an extra effort, but Harry stopped and read the note aloud. It was in Dumbledore's handwriting:

Harry,

The cups contain a potion to restore the three of you. Please drink it and rest. I should very much like to talk to you all later.

Albus Dumbledore

"Hm." He read it again, shrugged a little and handed one of the cups to Draco. "Drink that."

It tasted foul. The two of them swallowed it down as quickly as they could, screwing up their faces against the taste, then Harry pinched Ron's nose while Draco tipped most of the potion down his throat. The redhead spluttered and protested incoherently but drank it.

Making a final, supreme effort, the three of them lurched through the door into Harry and Ron's bedroom, although by that time it was hard to say who was supporting whom.

Never had a bed looked more inviting. Harry and Draco heaved Ron onto it, and Harry took a moment to pull his friend's trainers off. Then he flopped out bonelessly beside him.

And slept ....

 

End Part 23/30

 

Beth Ann - I'm not too sure of my characterisation of Snape - he's another of those difficult ones to write. But I'm glad it worked for you. As for filling the world with my fic well the Hagrid/Giant Squid shippers would be very disappointed *grin*

Quoth the Raven - Sirius's speech about prejudice in Chapter 22 was something I felt quite strongly about, because wizarding society really isn't at all enlightened. By our society's standards, the treatment of Remus Lupin, the prejudice against Hagrid, and the casual use of the word "Mudblood", are all pretty appalling. But they're not in the wizarding world - in fact, you've got a short-sighted Minister who expresses these prejudices quite freely himself. If the man at the top is like that, what does it say about the people who put him there? In order to stop repeating mistakes like Voldemort, wizarding society needs to break free of these prejudices. Incidentally, this is why I personally think that gay marriage would be unlikely to be legal in the wizarding world. It's a small, insular and old-fashioned society. Somehow I don't see it being tolerant of sexual behaviours outside the norm. And I'll just get off my soap-box now *grin* As for Ron, Harry and Draco getting drunk that was my original idea, but I couldn't get it to work. So I ended up going with this chapter instead.

SparkySparkles - I'm afraid they don't get drunk (this time, anyway!) but I hope this isn't too much of a disappointment.

Sally - I haven't seen "Chasing Amy" but I think I get the idea what happened! Oddly enough, there was a point where I nearly went with that idea. Fortunately, Beth Ann and I discussed it and we couldn't see it working. That was early on in the fic, though - by the time I got to this point, it was obvious it would never have worked! As for seeing Draco drunk - hm. I should think he'd be a maudlin drunk.

PotterBrother - Sirius showed the woman in Pontypridd the photo to establish if Nick Curtis was the wizard seen with Ron on the day he was abducted, at the beginning of the story. More Harry/Ron? Well, of course!

TheSeer - Well, like I said above, one of the bond-strengthening exercises I considered was a quick threesome, but I ruled it out. I just wouldn't work! If you want bad dialogue, there's a series of books by Simon Green (Hawk and Fisher, I think they're called) that look like a very average thriller writer has been asked to write fantasy fiction by a money-grabbing, desperate publisher. Terrible dialogue, just terrible. Regarding Draco, generally speaking I have to agree with you *smile* And replying to reviews seems polite to me. If you can take the time to write and tell me what you think of my story, then it's only right that I should take the time to respond *smile* The only problem with the review process at FF.net is that there's no simple way of replying to reviews on a single chapter story.

Jen - Do I have theories on the Snape/Sirius thing? Hm. Yes. Probably not as exciting as you might hope, though! I do love Sirius as a character, though I can't put my finger on why.

Rainyday - *waves* Hello! I'm glad it's all working for you so far. I love Ron too *smile* Ageing the characters up is fun, because as kids they're still only semi-formed as people, but as adults you can give them all sorts of interesting problems to solve. Regarding Harry and Ron's falling out in seventh year, you'll hear a little more about it, but not a lot. I didn't go into it in great detail because it wasn't really relevant to this story.

PoisonSnakey I really wasn't able to make the 'drunk scene' work, although I did try! Draco just wasn't cooperating well, that's typical of him *grin*

Ice Lupus Most stories I write tend to have common themes, regardless of the genre, and law and government are two that interest me, particularly in 'fantasy' fiction. I work in local government and consequently see the political process from the 'middle' position I deal with politicians, local government officers and the public every day. It was inevitable that some of what I see would spill over into the story *smile* Regarding animosity between Snape and the Marauders, I would point out that you've only seen it between Snape and Sirius. And it was only Sirius who looked like he might make it physical violence for a moment or two. I don't think the pair of them have simmered down at all over the years if they've held a grudge this long (and they obviously have, according to The Goblet of Fire) it's only going to get better over time. I speak as someone who holds a very fine grudge on occasion *grin* Bonding chats during the night? I wouldn't know; I was never in a position to do that. As for cliffhangers ... heh heh! Prepare for your cliff to be hung, that's all I'll say.

Harmoni Hopefully the situation with Sirius/Snape will be explained (this is my way of saying that I'm still editing the epilogue) although I don't know how you'll feel about it *smile*


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