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People of the Goddess by Meadowsweet

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Chapter Notes: The quote from canon dialogue is bracketed for citation. DH first U.S. Edition, 2007, Arthur A Leving Books, Scholastic. Page 341. All belongs to J.K. Rowling.

XI

Ice crystals had already formed on the pond after Theophany’s morning swim. Her plunge into its icy murk might look impressive, if one missed the Thawing Spell she cast beforehand. If anyone noticed her rigour in exercise and work over the past few days, they didn’t comment. No matter how vigorously she worked, she still felt weakened and listless.

The truth was Theophany’s skin was itching with impatience. She wanted desperately to be doing something. Not that she was idle, her own work continued. Work both legal (the distribution of potions) and illegal (the distribution of Muggle-borns). Ike, always a blessing, was needed more than ever to take over the housework. Mr. Knapp and Boniface saw to the farm; Merryn would look in to help with bookkeeping. And Silyn came and went as the wind. Tonight he would be coming, and with guests.

The Fidelius Charm on the valley was generations deep, one of the longtime homes of the Tuatha De Danann. When the Dagda needed a place to meet, The Mill was ideal. Shortly Maeven would arrive with Broughton Drake and the Onwudiwe siblings. Otho Aubuchon was usually late.

Theophany realized that Maeven was likely still angry with her. Otho would probably pretend they had never met, and she’d never spoken to Drake before. She was doubly glad, then, when Zuri Onwudiwe arrived first.

The Nigerian witch strode up the path through the snow and slush looking as she always did. Impeccable, elegant. Theophany, a great deal shorter and unkempt, felt all thumbs around Zuri. It didn’t help she was covered in Goddard’s Degreaser and wearing an old apron of her father’s. Zuri took both of Theophany’s hands in hers, ignoring the degreaser.

“Oh, no, here use the dish towel.”

But Zuri didn’t let go.

“Theophany, I haven’t seen you in months. How are you?”

“Really, I’m alright.”

“Silyn told me about the attack. But you continued working after losing your memory; I expected no less.”

Zuri didn’t gush. She simply spoke and her words sank into you. Theophany noticed she didn’t ask for details about the attack or the current state of Theophany’s memories. Zuri had worked in the Department of Mysteries before transferring to Magical Law Enforcement for reasons she never volunteered. She, of all people, would understand why some questions shouldn’t be asked.

“I’m so glad you’re here today. I’m rather afraid Maeven’s washed his hands of me.”

Zuri grinned slyly.

“You are too valuable for him to do that. And too important to the valley. Yes, I heard Maeven wasn’t pleased with events in Durham. He wished to discuss it today, I believe.”

Theophany’s heart sank. She busied herself washing her hands at the kitchen sink.

“Well, that’s me sorted then. I won’t be on duty again for the duration of the war, I suppose.”

“Hardly.” Zuri moved comfortably about the kitchen getting tea. “I told you you're too useful. Besides Maeven doesn't have the only vote. Sipho and Aubuchon know your potential, as do I.”

“Thanks.”

“Besides,” Zuri winked, “I think Broughton likes you, or looking at you, at least. I think you scare him a little. We’ll use that. So get rid of that apron and let your hair down.”

Theophany sputtered. Zuri was sly again.

“I speak both figuratively and literally. Relax, be yourself. But also, wear your hair down. You look lovely, and that won’t hurt.”

Theophany looked at her hands, scrubbed pink. “I’ll go make myself decent, shall I?”

“I can handle them until you’re ready.”

It was true. If Maeven thought her incompetent, then she had best present herself well. But “letting her hair down” for Broughton Drake? Zuri had to be joking. Nevertheless Theophany untied her hair and let it fall to her waist. Flyaway waves like her mother’s, but so much darker.

They were gathered at the kitchen. Ike was passing around a plate of hot buns. Zuri was pouring the tea. Theophany said good morning and sat down. Otho Aubuchon returned her greeting politely, Broughton Drake nodded with his usual sobriety, and Maven jerked his chin.

Zuri must surely have been joking about Drake. Theophany cast her an annoyed glance and accepted marmalade from Ike. Silyn and Sipho arrived minutes apart, and the meeting commenced.

Once Theophany reported the number of fugitives Frog’s Hollow was sustaining, supplies required, and declared any necessary steps for security or resources, her part was done. As Secret-Keeper, the immediate concerns of the valley were her job. Aubuchon had reports concerning the “Muggle-born Relocation Camps.” Silyn and Maeven reported Death Eater movements in areas of higher security and interest.

“We’ve noticed the rate of random sweeps has grown, and many locations are reporting multiple sweeps.” Silyn hesitated for a moment. “It’s theorized that they’re looking for something. Or someone.”

There was a brief silence. After the fall of the Ministry every one wondered what the next move would be, but instead the world had become stagnant under a puppet regime. The darkest wizard of their time must have something else planned. Theophany looked hard at her tea leaves. We’re all waiting for the other shoe to drop.

“It might be multiple persons,” Maeven said at last. “The Prophet’s list of most wanted individuals is no surprise, mostly associated with Hogwarts or Albus Dumbledore in some way. They could simply be...cleaning up.”

“Then why not simply torch whole communities? Mass executions until they give themselves up?” Theophany asked bluntly. “There has to be something for them to lose, or they wouldn’t be moving so cautiously. Or secretly.”

Maeven might have argued the point, but Silyn spoke up.

“There’s something still in play.”

They all looked at him. He was staring at his plate. When he glanced up, he started sheepishly, “Just my opinion, sorry. No vision or anything.”

Zuri laughed, and the moment passed. In the subsequent refilling of tea cups Otho Aubuchon said casually, “Speaking of areas of concentrated Death Eater presence, I’ve noticed for some time an interesting focus.” He accepted his tea from Zuri, but Theophany felt he was addressing her. “Godric’s Hollow.”

Now the silence was profound. That place meant too much to be taken lightly. Otho raised an eyebrow at Theophany.

“You look a little alarmed.”

Was this a test? A challenge? With Otho one couldn’t be sure.

“I only thought...” Theophany replied carefully, “That is, I’m aware many Dark spells and concoctions exist that require the “ the remains of an enemy.”

She’d effectively killed the mood. Drake was looking at her with a kind of horror, Maeven bristling with impatience.

“Has there been some activity in Godric’s Hollow?” she asked Otho.

He smiled. “No, that’s just it. But over the past few months there has been a great deal of activity around it. The village was the first to be emptied of Muggle-borns, rather a strange priority, don’t you think? A one-pub village in the west country?”

“A one-pub village with famous significance,” Theophany interjected.

“Historic significance,” Maeven emphasized. “It’s no threat now. What will the Death Eaters do? Deface the Potter monument?”

“Why do you bring this up now?” Sipho leaned forward. “If there’s been no change in activity?”

Otho shrugged. “Merely an anomaly I wished to share; no action need be taken. After all,” he said innocently, “I don’t know for certain. We don’t have an agent there. And, besides, we have other matters to discuss–”

Sipho shook his head. “But we should see what state the village is in. If every Muggle-born was “relocated”, it could be deserted, used by the enemy for some purpose.”

“That’s speculation! And we don’t have the resources to post someone in every hamlet!” Maeven pointed out.

“Not permanently, no. But surely we can send someone to reconnoiter?”

“We have no one capable available.”

“Miss Knapp seems fully capable,” Drake said at last. “Surely her duties do not tie her here?”

“Miss Knapp,” Maeven said stiffly, “has not been proven capable of active duty.”

“Well, it’s on the agenda, so we might as well discuss it now. Frankly I don’t see cause for concern. Miss Knapp, how many Eaters did you handle in Durham? On your own, yes?”

Counting the one I fraternized with? Theophany wondered. Aloud she answered, “I’m not sure.”

“She’s not sure,” Maeven repeated. “Just as she’s not sure how long it took Isha Korrapati to evacuate Oglethorpe, or how long after that they were attacked, or how long she searched for Korrapati after he regained consciousness. We cannot send someone incapable of forming a clear report on a reconnaissance mission.”

Theophany wanted to disappear, but instead she forced herself to look at each of them in turn. Silyn was wisely holding his tongue; the others seemed deep in thought. Everyone except Zuri, who winked at her, and Otho, who looked only mildly interested. What was his motive for pushing this?

“What was Korrapati’s report?” Sipho asked.

“He was able to report what time he delivered the professor to the safe house.”

“But that’s all?” Sipho pressed. “He couldn’t guess how long he’d been unconscious, or how long he searched the area before reporting in?”

“He couldn’t say,” Maeven said stiffly.

“Well, I don’t blame him,” Otho cut in. “He was attacked, and the whole operation was a fiasco. Why that many Death Eaters turned up in the first place is a mystery, plus having only three operatives watching the house at the time our main force was attacked–”

“Our patrols were scattered and were to report in and be redirected to strategic points surrounding–”

“But Miss Knapp and Mr. Korrapati were sent ahead,” Otho continued smoothly, “because you wanted Miss Knapp to carry a message, a directive, to her brother. That, I believe, is the true matter at hand. Asking Miss Knapp to guard her brother, without backup, or safety protocols. The real question is should Silyn utilize the Sight in the field?”

Theophany nailed him to the back of his chair with a look. None of this was Silyn’s fault. Unfortunately, Otho had the placidity of office paste and seemed unaffected by her glare. The only other person at ease seemed to be Silyn.

“It’s true my trance was of greater depth and duration than usual,” he said pleasantly, “but I can’t pretend it hasn’t happened before.”

Theophany kept her face neutral. This was news to her.

“It’s infrequent and unpredictable. It doesn't seem to be brought on by my physical condition or surroundings. I simply take longer to come to. I am certain, however, that my state endangered both Theophany and Isha.”

“But,” Maeven said softly, “it did give us the professor’s location, and not a moment too soon.”

Silyn bowed in his direction slightly.

“Yes, while I can’t predict the future – like the Death Eaters turning up – I can let my mind wander and see things that are happening.”

“I don’t suppose,” Drake said hesitantly, “you can, er, do it long distance? Keep you safely back, as it were, and have you, um, look from there?”

Broughton Drake, Theophany decided, was an idiot, valued member of the Dagda or not.

“Unless I had a kind of second sight antenna, no.”

Theophany, Maeven and Drake were the only ones to laugh.

“What’s an antenna?” Sipho whispered to Zuri. “Does he mean like an insect?”

“No, er, like a Muggle device – you know. Reception I think it’s called?” Drake tried to explain. “Anyway, without proper protocols in place for protecting Silyn, I think Theophany and Isha did a bang-up job in a sticky situation.”

Honestly, Theophany wondered, was it the way Drake spoke or simply the idea he found her attractive that made him so annoying? There was a chorus of murmurs around the table, and Otho swiftly stepped in and closed the deal.

“In that case, I move that the question of Miss Knapp’s actions should be removed from the agenda and Silyn’s use in the field discussed in its place–”

“Seconded,” murmured Drake.

“Thank you. So,” Otho continued blandly, as if his original subject hadn’t changed, “I think at least three days' surveillance is merited, given the significance of the location. Miss Knapp, how soon can you be ready to leave for Godric’s Hollow?”

Theophany thought for a moment. It felt more like punishment than vindication, and it was probably Otho’s grunt work she was accepting. There was always work to do, but no new refugees had claimed asylum; everyone was for the most part settled.

“Tonight,” she said firmly.



There was less to prepare than she had expected. Zuri had generously offered to help, but Theophany had insisted it hardly needed two to pack a single bag. Now she stared at the bag sitting on her bed. Silyn knocked on the door jam.

“Alright?”

“Hm? Yes. It’s just...everything seemed so complicated a few days ago. Not enough time for anything. Now everything I need is in this bag. Silyn, am I a terrible guardian? Should I be staying here and not running off trying to feel useful?”

“Don’t pretend this is for your own gratification. You hate surveillance.”


“Still, should I stay? Instead of contingency plans for Boniface and the twins, I should stay here and make sure those plans aren’t needed. I feel I’ve been coming and going. Mostly going.”

Silyn puffed out his cheeks.

“Theophany, I don’t know what to say. But please stop talking like you’re useless and have to try to be of help. The only reason we have any network of information is because of your wolfsbane. Also you’re protecting not just the family but the community by being Secret-Keeper. The fact that you can do all that and still take an active part in the resistance isn’t a bad thing.”

“What about you? Will you be allowed to continue to help in your own way?”

Silyn picked at the wall.

“That’s not up to me. Under discussion until further notice, it seems. So,” he shrugged, “who are you going to be?”

Theophany placed the carefully wrapped bottle of Polyjuice Potion in the carpet bag.

“A maiden aunt visiting relatives. Good thing it’s nearly Christmas.”


The woman whose hair provided the Polyjuice Potion was named Elaine Boergenpoeffer, and she bred Kneazle crossbreeds some miles from Frog’s Hollow. She was ramrod straight with weathered skin and hair gone mostly gray. Theophany completed the look with a giant shawl wrapped tightly up to her nose, the perfect country aunt. No one worth noticing.

A Muggle house right in the center of Godric’s Hollow advertised a room to let, and there Theophany knocked. The view was perfect — she could see from the church down to the pub. Watching her host’s eyes glaze, Theophany had explained at length that, “With the house overfull of relatives visiting for the holidays it only made sense for someone to stay nearby, and with the bus it was only minutes away…”

There would be no further questions about her stay. Her host’s wife however seemed eager to chat and, with one eye watching passersby on the street, Theophany exchanged home remedies for cough and bad backs, for bread pudding and cordial recipes. She retired early, making herself some hot milk with fussy precision.

The Polyjuice would wear off shortly. In the meantime she sat in the dark, waiting for the village to go to sleep. Godric’s Hollow wasn’t a busy place at the best of times; now in the dead of winter it barely woke at all. The only activity after dinner was the straggling line of visitors to the pub. About ten o’clock they came back out again, talking in groups kept close against the cold, determinedly homeward bound through the snow.

Hardly a ghost town, but the next thing to it. Everyone was very old. Many of the houses had no lights. A village where young people grew up to leave the old behind. Then the war had started and the population thinned further.

Everyone walking beneath her window had, legitimately or otherwise, met the Ministry’s new standards for magical citizenship. Either that or they were Muggles, confused as to why so many of their neighbors had suddenly “moved away.” Muggle-born relocation camps. None of the Dagda had seen inside one, security was too high, but Theophany could just imagine.

After midnight she slipped out her window and descended to the street by way of the woodshed and some dustbins. The snow was deep and made it easy to erase her footprints as she went. First a systematic patrol of the village, thorough enough to make Maeven proud. Working from the outer edge, she walked in a tightening spiral, fixing streets and places in her head. What houses looked inhabited, or not. She reached the graveyard without finding anything unusual.

In the wee hours she would find a place to watch, before returning to her room at dawn. For now it only seemed fitting to pay her respects.

The statue felt impersonal, a little too public. Rather she turned aside and looked for the house. She had never come to the site before, and now, watching it unfold from the Concealing Charm, she shuddered.

The house was burnt out. Over a decade of disuse couldn’t hide the initial damage. It must have been blown open before its occupants were murdered. So much hate and violence to destroy even the Potter’s hiding place.

Theophany stood in the road, trying to imagine. What if this was The Mill? What would it do to her to find her loved ones like this? The house torn open, their death certain before she even found their bodies. Who had discovered the Potters? Not a loved one, she hoped.

The plaque on the garden gate was nearly obscured by scrawled names and initials, Theophilus + Anna, The Katchick Family, Much love, Never forget.

Before returning to her room she walked once through the graveyard. It was old so it meandered around the back of the church, hardly a straight row to be found. Many graves were worn clean of inscriptions but she spotted many famous names. At last she stopped before the Potters. It hadn’t felt right to not see it, after viewing the house, but now that she was here she could hardly find anything to say, much less think. Theophany looked up at the old tree, nearly growing sideways over the graves.

I suppose the greatest thing, to me anyway, is that you only did what you could. You were just protecting your kid, you didn’t know he would survive. Without knowing the consequences you did what you could.

Snow dripped from the branches overhead. She knelt and said a prayer before leaving. She wouldn’t try and drum up some emotion. This place was sacred for the love that was buried there, but it could only be felt by those who had lost them.

Back in her room Theophany caught a few hours sleep before rising early. She left a note saying she’d skip breakfast to take the early bus to her “family’s” house. Without the Polyjuice she’d be a stranger again, so she could wander the streets in daytime without being asked. Today she would explore the surrounding area further, in case Godric’s Hollow wasn’t the main target.

Theophany hadn’t needed Silyn’s reminder she hated surveillance. It was boring and tense at the same time, and she hated Otho Aubuchon before the day was over. The surrounding areas of Godric’s Hollow revealed nothing as there weren’t any surrounding areas. The bus connected some rural stops to each other, but not much else. For some twenty miles this village was the metropolis.

The third day she ate breakfast in her maiden aunt form, chatting with the hosts for any local gossip. As before, she kept an eye out the window but was beginning to think the village had been well and truly deserted, by Muggle-borns and Death Eaters alike. The local Muggles seemed pretty unaware of anything unusual and carried on their lives normally. From her hosts she learned the names of people who had “moved away” unexpectedly in the last six months.

“I suppose people will always be looking for greener grass,” Theophany quavered, “but surely new people must be moving in? The country is so beautiful in these parts.”

“No, no one new. We hoped some of the nicer old places wouldn’t be left abandoned, but nothing yet. Of course it takes some time, and the market’s been slow...”

“Oh, let’s not talk economics,” his wife cut in. “It’s not all bad. We have a good amount of old families holding onto their homes. There’s an old dear who lives across the green, still independent at her age and keeping up the house.”

“You mean old Bathilda? Yes, she’s still sharp. Won’t even let the historical society help out with the house. Haven’t seen her for a bit though. We should probably drop by sometime, be sure she’s not ailing.”

Theophany made sympathetic noises and finished her meal. She’d be up all night anyway, at least she had a house in particular to watch, though it was a slim enough chance to be worthwhile. Chances were this Bathilda was just gone for the holiday.

Before the Polyjuice wore off, she did some last minute day-before-Christmas shopping in the village. Everything was decorated for the holiday; lights in every window turned the icicles into prisms and bathed everyone in a golden glow. She was missing the preparations at home, but she could trust Dad and Ike to put up the tree. They would make it merry for the twins and Merryn’s girls. Somehow. Tomorrow. It would all be done tomorrow. Today she had only to watch, once more.

After making a show of catching the bus she Disapparated back to the village and cast a Disillusionment Charm. St Clementine’s was a beautiful little church, well kept. The steps to the roof, though dusty from disuse, were in good repair. With a non-burning flame in a bottle under her cloak, Theophany was warm enough atop the square bell tower. She could overlook the square, and all roads converged here.

Not that trouble would necessarily come by road. But, if they cared to preserve the Secrecy Act, it was a possibility. It had bothered her and the rest of the resistance. Why, now that You-Know-Who was in power, was the Ministry still preserving the Act? Everyone had expected mass terror towards Muggles, supremacy of the wizarding race and all that. Why wasn’t he furthering his victory? What was he waiting for? Theophany found she was holding her breath and sighed. And why was Severus Snape acting like time had run out? What event was he waiting for?

Theophany worked these questions over until she ran out of possible explanations. Then she recited every poem, song, prayer, and potion she could recall from memory. She then started trying to figure out a way of reducing Doxy Venom for potency without rendering it unstable. Flobberworm mucus would thicken it quickly but would also dilute the mixture. This problem occupied her until lunch.

Theophany descended to the street before lifting the Disillusionment Charm long enough to buy a meat pie and an orange. The Polyjuice had worn off, so no chance of her being recognized as she made her way back to the belltower.

After lunch it was only a short time until dusk. It was fully dark a little after four o’clock, and she was able to move about more freely. Theophany occupied herself running in place and stretching until the carol service started. Singing under her breath, she joined the congregation and fell silent with them when the school choir took over, voices impossibly young and strong. In the crystalline night the children’s voices, starlight, and drifting snow became one.

Afterwards she watched the congregation leave the church in small groups, trailing home or to the pub. Theophany sighed and jogged in place a little, her limbs feeling cold and heavy. By the time they trailed – full of cheer – out of the pub again she was leaning on the parapet counting fence posts surrounding the graveyard.

It was dinnertime on Christmas Eve, and the little village of Godric’s Hollow was officially closed for business. Anyone outside now would have to be a suspicious character. Except them. The middle-aged couple in the graveyard. They couldn't be more normal. There wasn’t anyone else about though, and it was a bit dark for visiting a grave. It could easily be a relative who’d died on Christmas, Theophany chided herself, don’t be overly suspicious. The couple stayed there for a bit; it was too far away to see, but they were definitely spending time at a particular grave. Theophany watched them more from idleness than anything else.

Below, a door opened and shut, probably someone letting the dog out. The couple in the graveyard moved away from the church towards the road and then disappeared.

Theophany nearly fell from the parapet. They hadn’t Disapparated; it wasn’t a Disillusionment Charm either. Something had simply passed over them and they were gone. She’d never seen anything like it.

Theophany ran around the parapet, scanning all sides. No sign of them. There was an old woman shuffling down the road, but no one else. Theophany quickly cast a Disillusionment Charm on herself and hurried down the stairs.

Outside she moved across to the graveyard and paused to listen. The old woman had reached the ruins of the Potter house. She stood there for a moment, then turned around and started shuffling back. She hadn’t even glanced at the house, but she was quite old. A bit confused perhaps?

Theophany breathed softly. If her targets were invisible, they could still be in the graveyard, or nearby. Across from her the old woman had shuffled to the front steps of her own cottage. She took a moment with her keys. Maybe not so absent-minded from age, then. The woman opened the door, entered, and then stepped aside. Theophany leaned forward, wand ready, as the woman held the door open for a moment, standing politely to the side. She was letting someone in.

The door shut and Theophany ran across the road to the cottage. Pressing her ear against the door, she could make out voices but little else. A man was speaking, but it was a young man. Where were the invisible old couple?

Theophany moved from the door to the window. A heavy curtain covered it, the same at the next and at the back. All garden level windows were covered. Theophany returned to the cottage front. Should she try and get in? A light flickered in an upstairs window. There was no way she could learn what was happening from down here.

Ascendio,” she whispered.

It was no harder than the train had been, really. She had only a few seconds to target and cushion her fall. She landed by the chimney and hooked an arm around it; her foot clattered against the gutter, and for a moment she froze. Nothing.

There was a voice inside, the young man again. Theophany moved forward on her stomach towards the edge. If she dangled a little she could get close to the window. There was movement inside, a crash and a shout. A struggle? Over the noise she heard the young man again.

[“He’s coming!”]

Theophany jerked back as something hit the window. There was the sound of running footsteps. Some struggle was happening in the room beneath her. If they weren't on the same side, why enter the house so easily? If reinforcements were coming, best not be in the open.

She slid off the roof and dangled by her hands before she tumbled into the overgrown snowy garden. There had once been fragrant herbs here; also visible were the rotted carcasses of vegetables and gourds. It looked oddly neglected. There was a loud crack of Apparation from the street.

Careful of thorns and broken trellis, Theophany pulled back a little brown foliage to look through the fence into the street. A wizard stood there, straining forward as if listening for something. His head jerked up and his hood fell back.

Theophany froze. Her body screamed at her to burrow for cover, but she didn’t dare move. It wasn’t a human face. Red eyes slid beneath lashless eyes in a bone-white face, the snake-like nostrils quivering. Theophany could believe she was seeing a demon.

His gaze seemed to look through everything around him. She could feel her legs quivering and bit her tongue. Not a move. Not a sound. With a predatory hiss he sprang forward, feet barely touching the ground. The front door burst open for him, falling crazily from its hinges. Theophany fell back into the garden, clamping her hands over her mouth, tasting blood…He was here.

Her body was frozen, but she should be moving. Quickly. From the house came the crack of Disapparation and a scream; a scream of inhuman rage. Theophany threw herself from the garden bed, legs shaking, and scrambled through the fence to the street. She had to see what happened. Back to the church.

The howls of rage continued. Disapparating would be heard. Damn it that she’d promised not to fly, but having seen You-Know-Who’s unearthly glide, she wasn’t sure she could ever stomach flying again.

Theophany only made it as far as the church doors before Death Eaters Apparated in the street. She was surprised to see only two. She pushed herself into the wall of the narthex, but they seemed more eager to join their master and hurried towards the cottage.

Theophany’s mind started to move again. If the other party had escaped and that was the Disapparation crack she had heard earlier, then the Eaters would be sent to search, no matter how futile. For her own safety she had to leave. There was nothing more she could do here.

Theophany peered into the street. It was oddly mute. Were they using a Silencing Spell? As she watched, a pale figure exited the house. Theophany’s knees started trembling, but she kept watching as the darkest wizard of the age flicked his wrist and the cottage broke open like an egg. Out of the broken roof leapt dark flames, opening in a maw and snapping at the sky. From the windows fiery serpents writhed and melted the casements. Fiendfyre? She’d never seen it before. Theophany felt sure she was seeing a repeat of the Potter house, the ruins of which were only a few blocks down. With only a glance at his handiwork, the Dark Lord Disapparated, and the street was silent except for the cracks and groans of the burning house.

Theophany forced her jellied limbs to move. The other Death Eaters had to have Disapparated from inside before the fire was set. She had minutes to see whatever evidence had survived. The front door was the mouth of a furnace. Theophany covered her face and yelled, “Partis Temporis!

Fiendfyre though it may be, it still parted under her wand. Even so, the heat was blinding. She had only moments to decide where to look. The struggle had taken place upstairs, so she cleared the way and ran up the cracking, swaying, staircase. The window she’d listened at had been in front, by the chimney. Accordingly she raced down the hallway, wand before her.

The smoke too parted under the Dispersing Spell, but the heat made everything hazy, and she stumbled over the corpse before she saw him. A Death Eater. So they hadn’t left the house. Why had he summoned them at all? Theophany proceeded carefully. There should be two more. One was halfway inside the room itself, the second was slumped against the wall where he’d presumably been thrown. The bodies were already charring and the smell was making her dry eyes sting. But there was something else on the ground.

Theophany moved towards the window, squinting. It couldn’t be a fourth corpse, it looked like a cast off pair of clothes or...Theophany retched and stumbled back. She tried to catch her breath but the airless room only made her head spin. Holding her sleeve over her mouth and nose, she crept closer to the thing. It was skin, and hair, and even teeth. It had once been a person.

The house trembled, and the remaining pane of glass in the window shattered. Theophany took a glance around, but everything not currently burning was already ashes. There would be no clues for her here. She Disapparated as she heard a great crash from below, the stairs collapsing, she guessed.

The cold winter night hit her like an ice bath, and her eyes started streaming. Her first thought had been home, and that’s where she had Apparated, just at the edge of the wood at the end of the path to The Mill. Should she have reported to Maeven first? Floo would be adequate to contact him. For now, she wanted desperately to be sick.

Theophany’s stomach heaved, a combination of smoke and disgust. Even though her skin felt scorched, she was shivering. Shock? Best to hurry home. The lights were on at The Mill, and she was reminded that it wasn’t yet ten o’clock; time seemed to have flowed differently for her today. If the twins were still up, it would be best they didn’t see her looking like this.

Theophany let herself in and peered cautiously into the parlor. Lissy, her sister-in-law, was kneeling in front of an enthusiastically decorated tree. Her hands were full of yellow tinsel which she dropped when Theophany hissed at her, “Lissy! Are the twins upstairs?”

“Wha– oh gosh...” Lissy’s violet eyes grew huge with shock. “Theophany!

“Shh! I just need to get cleaned up before they see me.”

“Here, let me take you.”

Lissy, in her flowered apron and smelling pleasantly of chocolate and cinnamon, took Theophany’s smoke-soaked cloak and herded her upstairs to her room. Moving surprisingly silently and swiftly for a mother in her second trimester, she smuggled out the rest of Theophany’s clothing, most of it scorched or smudged with ash, and left her to wash and get dressed, promising not to say a word. Merryn had married such a practical person. Lissy had never not been capable of dealing with the Knapps, no matter how wildly they behaved.

Theophany toweled her hair somewhat dry and left it hanging, its cool dampness pleasant on her still hot skin. She lit a fire in her small bedroom hearth and tried making contact with Maeven by Floo, but no one seemed present, even when she called out. The best she could do was send him an owl. She woke Hero and sent the disgruntled owl with a brief note, no details; how would she even begin to put it in writing?

Theophany heard the twins race down the stairs, chasing the girls. Merryn and Lissy’s daughters were nine and six. Young enough to believe the adults were capable of handling everything, that nothing bad could happen on Christmas. Probably everyone was in the kitchen, toasting in the fireplace and sharing eggnog. She had planned on joining them, but could she manage it?

The sudden change in atmosphere from peril to home was unbalancing, and her knees were starting to shake again. She had seen him, and she doubted she could explain that terror to anyone else. What was so important for him to come personally? Who were the two old people who had disappeared in the graveyard? And what was that thing, that empty sack she’d found coiled on the floor? He’d killed his own followers, in anger or punishment, so it was likely the only people who knew what had happened that night were You-Know-Who and Theophany Knapp. Theophany, who had no idea what to do with this information beyond report it.

She stood up. Someone else should know. Someone with more knowledge than she. Again she unrolled a piece of parchment and addressed it Severus Snape. How to even begin to explain? Just stick with the facts. Try to be brief. She longed to disclose all her fear and incredulity, to examine her actions, but that wouldn’t be helpful.

She hurried down the stairs and out the front door to avoid the kitchen. Walking around the house to the back, she entered the barn and climbed to the loft. Roosted cosily in the rafters were two owls, Tabor and Phyllis, Phyllis being another victim of Mr. Knapp’s penchant for names. Tabor woke to Theophany’s whistle and gamely held onto her shoulder as they descended from the loft.

Outside in the clear night Theophany paused to listen. The light from the kitchen fell over the path to the barn and the workshop. Voices could be heard softly. She hesitated over the rolled letter. Should she charm it to reveal its message at touch? Or his eyes only? Finally she decided on a humble, yet somewhat arcane charm. She trusted he could figure it out. She scribbled the destination and tied it to Tabor’s proffered leg. She could feel the owl’s scratchy feathers against her cheek.

“I can’t give you any directions. Good luck.”

With a modest hoot Tabor unhooked her talons from Theophany’s robes and leapt into the air.

“Theophany.”

Maeven was standing in the open kitchen door. He must have been nearby for Hero to find him so quickly.

“Tell me where that owl is going.”

Theophany turned back to the sky; Tabor was a fluttering shadow in the distance.

“No,” she said gently.

Maeven sighed. “Theophany Knapp, you must tell me where that owl is going. Who are you contacting?”

Tabor was out of sight. Theophany turned back and looked at Maeven . In the light from the kitchen window his face was deeply creased but he didn’t seem angry.

“I can’t, Maeven. I’m sorry.”

“Then I have no choice.”

“I know. First come inside and have something to drink. It’s Christmas Eve.”

They crunched through the new snow towards the kitchen. The children’s voices could be heard buzzing with excitement. Theophany, still a little sick and trembly, stumbled a little on the path. Maeven put out a hand and took Theophany’s arm.

“Slippery here,” he said gruffly.

Theophany thanked him. It was good to know, even though she would never again be allowed to be a member of the Dagda, she wouldn’t lose this friend.
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