22 June 2017

SEHE; Chapter 25

Draco sent his owl to his mother after my conversation with Charlie. She sent a response right away and after making sure everything was secured with Cheyenne, we apparated to Malfoy Manor to help Mrs Malfoy fix up the manor. When I see the manor and what they classify as needing "fixed up" I can't help but laugh to myself. My entire house could fit in their lounging room.

It took less than a day to make sure the manor is suitable for a baby. Mrs Malfoy, or Narcissa as she insists I call her, has been very welcoming and open. I expected some latent hostility or anger at Draco picking a muggleborn as his partner, but she's nothing but friendly. She is beyond excited to meet Cheyenne and has already gotten everything she could possibly ever need. "I've spared no expense!" she's exclaimed happily.

I wanted to bring Cheyenne here right away but my mum said she wants to take her to my aunt's house for the weekend. She'd already packed when I arrived at home and I was very annoyed that she'd overstepped me. Charlie told me she just wanted to spend time with Cheyenne before she was whisked off, never to be seen again. While I understand the thought behind it, I'm thoroughly pissed off that she didn't ask me first.

I stopped by Phoebe's to explain everything to her. She wasn't impressed by any of it but understood and is being supportive. She asked when she's allowed to see my new home and I told her soon while fully within the knowledge that she probably never will. Narcissa's hospitality likely only extends so far.

Now I'm currently packing up my stuff. Mum, Charlie, Cheyenne and the younger boys left yesterday. Jordan opted to stay home and Nate is busy finding his own place with Becca. "How are you getting all this stuff to Draco's house?" Jordan and Draco are watching as I pack the things I want to keep into boxes.

"I thought perhaps my purse would do." Jordan's eyebrows raise and I grin. "I've put an extension charm on it. I'll shrink everything though that's not entirely necessary and it will all fit in my bag."

"Is that legal?" I grin as I shrink a box labelled Toiletries.

"No, not really. This charm is under strict supervision and control of the Ministry but what they don't know won't hurt them. I'm doing this to move my things, not conceal anything dangerous."

"Have you always been such a rebel?" Draco snorts before I can reply and I throw him a wink.

"No, actually. I don't think I ever skipped a class or got a detention."

"Are you forgetting that one detention in our 5th year with Snape?" He knows I remember by the slight blush that creeps along my cheeks.

Jordan sits a little straighter. "Whoa, I have got to hear this." I glare at Draco and he just gives me an innocent expression. I sit back against the wall and sigh.

"It wasn't that bad, really. Snape is just a grumpy bastard." Another snort from Draco and I roll my eyes. "Fine, fine. I didn't agree with his assessment of my potion so I called him a codger. He didn't take kindly to that and gave me a detention. Nothing special." It gets a laugh out of Jordan.

"Nothing special? People talked about it for weeks when we made fun of Snape behind his back." The phone rings downstairs and Jordan gets up to answer it.

"No funny business, you two." I roll my eyes as Draco sits on the floor beside me.

"It's as if he doesn't think we can control ourselves. Ridiculous." Draco chuckles.

"Your family is all coming back tomorrow," I nod. "and we're bringing Cheyenne to the Manor." I nod again, a thought suddenly occurring to me.

"How exactly are we getting her there?"

"Floo would be the most efficient."

"I've never traveled by Floo."

"You'll be fine, love. There's no risk. We transport children and elderly this way." I nod and look around my room.

"Yes, I know. I've read about it." I catch Draco's grin and smile lightly. He pushes the bits of hair that have escaped my ponytail behind my ear and traces his thumb over my cheek.

"Hey Bell, mum called and- Oh come on. I was gone for five minutes, tops. You two need muzzles." Draco drops his hand quickly as I roll my eyes at Jordan.

"What's mum want?"

"To talk with you. She's on the line." I get up off the floor and ruffle Draco's hair a little before heading down to the kitchen and the phone.

"Hi mum."

"Oh, hey honey! How are things going?" I sit on the counter and swing my feet.

"They're fine. I'm just packing. Draco and I are going to move everything to his house today and I'll meet you back here tomorrow."

"That's why I called. Auntie Rose and Uncle Davis are going to their cottage tomorrow. They've invited us all to come, you and the older boys as well. If you decide not to, that's fine, but I want to bring Chey either way." I sigh deeply.

"Are you ever going to bring her back?"

"Of course I will."

"When, next weekend? Or will you find somewhere else to take her?"

"Bell, come on. You're taking her away from me. I just want to spend time with her before you do."

"I'm not taking her away from you, mum. I'm moving, that's all. I can visit every weekend if that's what you'd like. Draco's mother has mentioned wanting to meet you. We could do lunch or something."

"I'm not ready for that yet, Bell." I hear her mumble something to someone. "I'm sorry, hon, I've got to go. I'll call tomorrow morning and you'll let us know if you're coming, okay?"

"Yeah. Bye, mum."

"Bye, sweetheart." I hang up and knock my head against the wall a few times. I don't understand her hang up with Draco. I've explained that he had absolutely nothing to do with the war but she just refuses to see reason.

"All right, love?" I twist around and smile at Draco, though I feel anything but happy. He approaches me and I lean against his chest, his arms wrapping around my shoulders into a warm hug. "Your brother had some words for me."

"Oh gods. What did he say?"

"He said that he can see how much I care for you and for Cheyenne. He's happy you've found someone on your level. And if I ever hurt you he and Nathan will make sure my body is never found." I snicker.

"I'd love to see that. He's just being protective big brother. I think they both feel bad that things with Keelan went so fantastically wrong."

"I know. It's sweet, really. They love you and want the best for you." I close my eyes and sigh contentedly. "Have you heard from him? Richards, I mean?"

"No." Draco doesn't continue so I pull away to look up at him. "What do you know, Draco?" He pulls me back to his chest and I frown.

"He's dead, Bell." I close my eyes and shudder out a sigh. "Do you want.. to know what happened?"

"How do you know this?"

"I just do." I think for a minute. Do I really want to know? Keelan was a Death Eater. He was probably murdered by someone. Will it help me to know who did it? Probably not. Will it help Draco to share in this knowledge with me?

"Okay. Tell me."

"I did it." I pull away from Draco and look at him sharply.

"What?" He runs his hand through his hair then crosses his arms against his chest, obviously nervous.

"It was an accident. I was pulled into the final battle by my father." Draco pauses while he paces the kitchen. "I didn't want to be there. I'm not proud but I hid a lot of the time. I couldn't fight with my father but I couldn't put my wand against him either." He stops walking and turns to face me, his hands in his pockets. "Richards found and cornered me with a few.. friends. He started taunting me, telling me that I've gotten his sloppy seconds, and 'how does it feel to know that little brat will never be yours'. Plus some other equally nonsensical drivel."

I can tell he's stalling. "Get on with it."

"Short version is they attacked me. I retaliated and knocked a large portion of the castle loose. Before they could react it fell on them."

"That's it?" I close my eyes and pinch the bridge of my nose between my fingers.

"I didn't.. it wasn't supposed.. I just. I'm sorry." I've never heard him so tongue tied before, so unsure of his words and thoughts.

I don't know how I feel about Keelan's death. I had no notions that he would suddenly see reason months or years from now and want to be the father he was supposed to be, but it wasn't supposed to happen this way. And a small part of me mourns for him, for who he was and who he could have been had this all turned out differently.

I take a few breaths before I open my eyes and look at Draco. "For whatever reason, I'm not angry. I feel like I should be but really I'm just tired and sad. I'm annoyed that you've been back with me for four days and we still haven't had much in the way of conversation about what happened. I've been patient because it's only been a week and I know you need to process, but there are some things I should have been told right away."

"You're right, I'm-" I cut Draco off with a flick of my hand.

"I don't care about being right. I just want you to talk to me. Let me help you through this." Drago suddenly crosses the kitchen and practically runs into me, where I'm still sitting in the counter. He takes my face between his hands and pulls me into a deep, hard, heated kiss. He lets out his grief and everything else he hasn't been able to say.

+++

Draco and I decide to spend the night at my family's house instead of returning to The Manor and then coming back in the morning. Nate is staying with Becca and Jordan usually goes out Saturday nights so Draco and I are completely alone for the entire night.

It's pretty intimidating, finally having that alone time with no one to accidentally interrupt us. I'm not exactly ripe with experience myself, only having gone 'all the way' a few times, and only with Keelan obviously. There were rumors around school about Draco and his.. conquests, but I know first hand how false a rumor can be.

"How many people have you slept with?" I blurt this out without thinking and Draco cocks an eyebrow at me. Until now we'd been reading quietly in my bedroom. He places a bookmark to mark his place, closes the book, and folds his hands over it on his lap.

"Is the number important to you?" This question immediately makes my skin flush. It shouldn't matter. If I hadn't been with Keelan for as long as I was who knows what mine would be. Draco never expressed details about any girlfriends during our years at school but that's obviously not something one needs for a sexual partner. "You're thinking too much." I blush again and Draco gives me a small smile.

"I'm conflicted. It doesn't matter, truly. But then what if it's like a hundred? That's 100 people I'm going to compa-" Draco silences me with a hand to my lips.

"Let me stop you right there, you lovely, jealous creature. It isn't 100 but it isn't zero. And even if it was 500 I can assure you that I have never loved any of them as I do you. I haven't desired anyone else nor have I felt the need to rush into it all with you. I am perfectly happy to go at your pace." He runs his thumb along my jaw line. "I'm with you, Bell. Don't worry yourself over girls that don't matter." I smile a little, not completely satisfied but definitely feeling better than I had 10 minutes ago. "All right?"

"All right."

03 June 2017

SEHE; Chapter 24

Dearest Bell,

It's impossible to explain through a letter. Know that I'll see you soon and tell you everything. I'm at home for now, I'm safe.

It's over.

Love, Lena


I hug the letter to my chest, half of the knot of tension easing in my stomach. As I read the letter over, committing it to memory a sudden tap at my window startles me and my legs almost give out at the sight of the owl on the other side of my window. I scramble to the window, wrench it open, and take the letter from the great eagle owl, giving him a pat before he lands on Hector's perch. In my haste to get the letter open I almost rip it in half.

What are you doing?

I turn it over. It's blank. "That's it?" Confused, I scribble a short Nothing. on the other side and give it to Bubo. I scream with frustration as I watch him fly off. All these weeks and I finally get something and he bloody well asks what I'm doing? The prat! I look up as Bubo flies back into my room, landing again beside Hector. I take the small piece of parchment from him.

Fancy a visit? What? A soft knock at my bedroom door has me spinning around, my eyes landing on Draco standing beside the foot of my bed. My legs have stopped working and all I seem to be able to do is stare at him. He's here, standing in my bedroom, in my house, and my brain hasn't yet caught up with my eyes. "Bell.." His voice is what finally breaks through and I stand up quickly, practically run and throw myself at him. He wraps his arms around me tightly and I squeeze him as hard as I can.

"You're alive. You're okay. You're here." I say these things to myself, hoping if I say them enough I'll start to believe it. Even though Draco is here and I am touching him it doesn't yet seem real. After a minute he brings his hands to my face and lowers his to claim me in a kiss that sets my toes on fire. It's full of need and desperation and love and everything we haven't had the chance to say. I've never experienced a kiss so full.

He mumbles things against my lips that I can't quite catch but he doesn't break our contact long enough to say them clearer. I decide they're for his benefit, not mine, and lose myself in him instead. When I've finally convinced myself that he's real do I finally pull away just enough to look at him. He's thinner, paler, and his eyes aren't as bright. He's been through something. He pulls me into another tight hug that lasts for several minutes. "I love you, Bell." I squeeze my eyes tight and breathe him in.

"I love you." A rustle in Cheyenne's crib catches my attention and I let Draco go slowly, going to the baby that's just woken up. I pick her up and smile at Draco. "Cheyenne, your daddy is here." A smile lights Draco's face and my heart melts.

"Merlin, she's so big, Bell! And beautiful. Your muggle pictures haven't done her justice. May I?" I gently place Cheyenne in his arms, explaining the proper baby holding technique. She's begun to support her upper body while being held so she's a little wiggly and unstable.

"We just got her first big belly laugh last week. It took us weeks to get it out of her. It was fantastic." Draco smiles warmly and holds one of her small hands with his fingers. She stares at him and then shrieks loudly, her legs kicking and then lets out the biggest laugh I've heard from her yet. I clap my hands together and suddenly feel like crying. You expect pregnancy hormones but no one ever tells you about post-pregnancy ones that make you deliriously happy at the sound of a baby laughing. "How did you get here?"

"I'll tell you everything but I just can't yet. I need to remind myself that I can be happy, that I am happy, before going through it all." I nod and give him a one armed hug. "Being with you, being with Cheyenne, it helps more than you can imagine."

"Don't rush yourself. We've got all the time in the world now." He smiles at me before kissing my forehead. Cheyenne laughs again and breaks the moment in the sweetest way possible.

+++

"He can't stay here? Even for a couple days?" My mum shares a look with Charlie before shaking her head.

"No, I'm sorry, hon." I've asked them if Draco can stay for a day or two and without even considering it mum has said no. I suspect they're scared of him. Or mum is, in any case.

"Then I'm going to stay with him at his house."

"Absolutely not." I raise an eyebrow.

"I'm an adult, mum. I don't need your permission." Her cheeks flush red and her lips form a hard line. "I would very much like your acceptance, though. Despite what Draco's family has done I will not cast him out of my life."

"I give neither my acceptance or my civility. He is not welcome here." I blink my eyes in shock.

"Then nor am I. I'll be packing my things and leaving." I walk out of the kitchen and stomp my way up the stairs. The audacity! The sheer ignorance! I'm fuming by the time I reach my bedroom and Draco looks up when I enter, alarmed at the expression on my face. I hold up a hand before he can ask and sit on my bed. At the sound of a giggle I look over at him. He's sitting on the floor with Cheyenne, holding her up so her feet touch the floor. She looks like she's quite enjoying herself.

"Bell?" I run my hands over my face a few times, willing my pulse to slow down.

"I'm leaving. Today."

"You're what?" I slide down to the floor and rest my head against the bed.

"I asked my mum if she'd mind you staying a day or two. She flat refused. When I told her I'm an adult and don't need permission she said you're not welcome here at all. So I'm leaving."

"Oh, Bell, don't do this on my account." I shake my head and smile at Cheyenne when she looks at me.

"You aren't to blame here. I had to leave some time, this was just the tipping point for me."

"I would bring you to the manor but it isn't safe there yet."

"I'm going to ring Phoebe. I doubt very much she'd mind."

"I'll owl mother and see about getting the manor fixed up. It shouldn't take long." He sets Cheyenne on the floor and goes to my desk, rummaging around a little before looking at me. I hide a grin with my hand.

"Yes?"

"You have no quills." I raise my eyebrows in mock surprise.

"No? You're sure?" Draco rolls his eyes and I laugh before getting up to assist him. "This is a pen. It has ink in a chamber inside the pen so you don't have to dip it." I hand him one of the pens on my desk.

"Fascinating. How does it work?" He twirls it around his fingers.

"There's a tiny ball at the end, hence ballpoint pen, that rolls when you write with it, dispensing the ink. It's much more convenient than a quill."

"I'm surprised with how easy your muggle trinkets make your lives."

"Well without magic it needs to be done some way. I guess this is our own magic of sorts."

"You know I thought that the first time I came here, when you explained to me your ell- elec- tristy?" The uncertain look on Draco's face makes me smile.

"Electricity, yes. It's wonderful watching you learn about my muggle world and the things within it."

"I find it all so intriguing. Did you learn things the same way as well?" I glance over at Cheyenne and she looks content, laying on her playmat, so I sit on the bed while Draco sits on my desk chair.

"Some things, yes. Most things I grew up seeing, like the lights or doing the dishes. Things need correction or direction, of course, but overall it's a lot of watching and mimicking. You'll see that with Cheyenne. She already does some things, mostly facial expressions."

Draco looks at my pen thoughtfully. "You don't mind me asking you these questions? About how things work? I know you don't always know the answers." I trace lines across his knee in what I'm hoping is a comforting gesture.

"Not at all. I love helping and watching you learn. And maybe it will be good practice for when Cheyenne starts asking questions." Draco takes my hand from his knee and kisses my finger tips. My heart stutters a little and I feel a warmth spread across my chest. I'm about to pull him to me when there's a quiet knock at my door. I take my hand back. "Yes?" My mum opens the door slowly.

"I had thought I would take Chey to visit Phyllis. Is that okay?"

"Yes. Her bag is beside the wardrobe." She gathers the bag and the baby in silence, leaving my door open a little after she leaves the room. "So what are you going to tell your mother?"

"The truth. That you've decided to move out and she needs to make sure the manor is presentable for an infant." He pauses and I can tell there's something he would like to say. Probably a lot of somethings, but I know we'll get to those in time. "My father is dead." I'm about to offer my condolences when he stops me. "It was his own doing. After my refusal to follow him and join the Death Eaters, mother said Voldemort was very angry and punished him by giving him outrageous missions and tasks. Instead of admitting lack of capability, he failed one too many and Voldemort killed him. I'm sad for my mother but I feel nothing about it myself."

I suspect that's a load of crap but keep my thoughts to myself. He'll have to sort that out for himself in his own time. "Mother had me leave school and go into hiding to ensure my safety. The manor was being used as a headquarters of sorts. I didn't wish to know much about it." I don't know why but a thought pops into my head.

"Nate is getting married. We've been invited to attend." Draco smiles a little but it doesn't reach his eyes so I keep yammering to distract him. "It's in Thailand, next month though I can't remember the exact date. It's on my calendar. Phoebe has said she'll watch Cheyenne so we'll be alone, relatively speaking." At that his interest peaks a little.

"Alone you say." I hide a grin.

"Indeed. I thought we could go hiking and explore and just stay outside all day." A smirk graces Draco's face as he gets up off the chair and pushes me back onto the bed, then climbs over me while keeping the majority of his weight off me.

"We could. There are a couple other things I think we could do since we'll be entirely alone for the first time ever." I wrap my arms around his waist.

"Hm, like what?" Instead of answering he brings his face down to mine and brings me into a deep kiss, his fingers threading through my hair. I press my body up into his and feel more than hear him groan into my mouth.

"Oh, gross, we do not need any more babies." Draco jumps off me, back into the desk chair, breathing a little heavily. I sit up to see Jordan standing at my door with an amused smile on his face. "Charlie wants a word, Bell." I sigh and get up, walking past Jordan to go downstairs where Charlie is waiting in the kitchen.

"You wanted to see me?" He holds up a finger to finish writing something down. When he's done he pushes aside the pen and paper and motions to the chair across from him. I sit.

"Yes. First I wanted to say that I'm sorry for the way Claire reacted earlier. She's been worried about you and seeing Draco in the house brought up a lot of feelings." I cross my arms and nod to show I'm listening. "After some discussion she's agreed to let Draco stay here for a couple days. Nate is at Bec's so he can use his room. She knows this doesn't and won't fix anything but she wants you to know that she's sorry she overreacted." I snort.

"No kidding." I think for a minute and nod, having made up my mind. "She's right, it doesn't fix anything. But even if it did I can't stay here anymore. It's time for me to go." Charlie nods.

"I figured that's what you might say. She said that's fine if you feel the need to leave but doesn't want Cheyenne caught up in anything so she's welcome to stay here until you secure a permanent living arrangement." I open my mouth to argue, to guarantee that making sure of that won't be a problem, but I can't.

It could take a day to clean up the manor or it could take a month. Phoebe can't possibly have us there for more than a few days, maybe a week. And I don't honestly have any other options. I manage to get out a 'fine' before getting up and leaving the kitchen, so I can cry without any witnesses.

28 May 2017

SEHE; Chapter 23

"Another unexplained death has surfaced this morning. Investigators suspect it's linked to the other random deaths popping up throughout the country but there have been no leads or links between any of them. Further-" I shut the radio off, shaking slightly.

"Bell, we were listening to that." A sudden anger fills me and I stand before I realize what I'm doing.

"No! I refuse to have these deaths reported to me when I know what's going on and who's doing it. These could be people I know, mum. People I went to school with! Don't you realize that? These may not be strangers to me." I pause while Charlie and my mum sit, staring at me as I break down. I can feel it yet don't know how to stop it. "One of my teachers was killed simply because of the subject she taught. She was a great teacher and a lovely woman and she was murdered!" I sink to the floor, my legs unable to hold me up.

"Draco's family is in the middle of this. He refused to join them and was branded a coward and is now in hiding until it's over. I haven't gotten a letter in weeks. I don't know if he's dead or alive and have no way of finding out. My friends at school are being beaten and tortured. An insane maniacal bastard has taken over the government all while I sit at home, safe and sound, listening to their deaths on the damned radio. No." I start crying then. Big, hard tears that fall from my eyes onto the floor. I feel my mom's hand on my shoulder and close my eyes.

"Sweetheart, I'm sorry. I didn't realize how close to home this is for you. I'm glad you're home though, honey. If not then I'd be one of those worried parents, wondering if you're okay." My anger has been waning at her words but it resurfaces now. I break from her hand and stand roughly while she looks at me in shock.

"You don't get it. The only reason I'm home is because I was stupid enough to get pregnant. I could just as easily be there with them. You may not worry about me but I'm sick with fear for what's happening to each of them. I could tell you what they're going through but I don't want to give you nightmares, too." I turn and stalk out of the living room, almost running into Jordan, who is descending the stairs, and slam the back door on my way out. I think briefly of Cheyenne but know she's fine with everyone at the house. I need a few moments to get myself under control so I decide a walk is a good idea.

About halfway down the block I hear footsteps behind me and turn to see Jordan jogging to catch up. When he stops in front of me a fresh surge of tears make their way down my face and I lean into him as he wraps his arms around me. "What's going on, baby sister?" I just shake my head, knowing I wouldn't be able to explain right now if I wanted to. So we stand on the sidewalk in silence for a long amount of time while I cry out my worries, frustrations, fears and grief. When the tears stop Jordan falls beside me and we make our way back to the house. "I told her to just let you be when you come back." I nod and smile up at my brother.

It's quiet inside the house, save for Cheyenne making noises at Nate. She's been close to giving her first real belly laugh for a few days now and everyone has been trying to get it out of her. I have a feeling it's going to be Mark that does it. Nate looks up as I come into the living room and sit beside him on the floor. Cheyenne is in her little bouncy chair and wiggles when she sees me, letting out a big shriek. I laugh and press her tiny feet to my cheeks. Her presence is calming and I feel a hundred times better than I did an hour ago. Jordan sits beside Nate and I on the floor and smiles at his niece. I sigh, knowing it's time to explain now.

"Did you guys hear any of what I'd said?" They glance at each other and then both nod. "From what Lena has told me, some crazy wackos have taken over the school and are using the torture curse on the students in detentions. There are three unforgivable curses; this being one of them. Another is a mind control curse. While under it you do exactly as the castor wills you to do, no matter what it is. The last one is the killing curse. That one is pretty self explanatory. I'm telling you this to tell you just how horrid this all is. The torture curse used against children! It's disgusting! Cheyenne accidentally hits herself in the face and I smile a little despite the topic of conversation.

"If it wasn't for her, I would be there right along with them all. The fact that I'm not does nothing to make me feel better. It makes me feel worse because I can't support and comfort anyone. All of their parents and loved ones worry themselves to death while mum sits here feeling happy that I'm not one of them. She doesn't understand it. All of the people that are being killed, I know at least a few of them. My own teacher was one because she taught Muggle Studies." I pause, collecting my thoughts.

"And Draco is in hiding. I don't know when I'll hear from him again, if I even do. Cheyenne might grow up without her dad because he was brave enough to stand up for what he believes in. She may never know him and it kills me." Since I'd cried myself out earlier no tears fall this time. I suspect I'm too tired to cry anymore. "She just doesn't get it" I lean against Jordan's shoulder and Nate takes my hand. To distract myself from my own life I look at Nate and motion my head toward Jordan. "Does he know?" It takes him a second but he understands and nods.

"Yes." A genuine smile lights my face.

"When is it, have you decided?"

"June, I think. Her granddad's birthday was in June and she wants to honour him since he can't be there."

"That's quick." Nate nods and shrugs.

"It is, but we love each other, so why not now? Everything we've watched you go through, Bell, has just confirmed that we shouldn't wait."

Jordan has been quiet thus far but pipes up, "And where are we going?"

"We finally decided on Thailand. Better brush up on your Thai." I sit up straight.

"You are absolutely kidding." When Nate shakes his head I tackle him into a hug. "No way! This is amazing!" Nate and Jordan both laugh as I sit up.

"The other two places we considered were Turkey and Spain. Thailand won out by a slim margin. And don't worry about the money, either of you. We've got it all covered. Ticket are bought, hotels are booked, everything is going along great."

"Are we allowed a plus one?" I glance over at Jordan before looking back at Nate.

"I'll ask Bec about that. We want it to be very small and intimate for the ceremony. We'll have a big reception for everyone else later on."

"Oh, I'm so honoured that you've chosen me." Nate smiles at me and Jordan.

"Of course you're coming. I wouldn't get married without you two there."

"Is Cheyenne coming?" Nate shrugs.

"That's up to you, I suppose. We don't care if she comes. She'd look way too adorable in a little flower girl dress though." I smile and look down at her. Apparently the lack of attention has bored her enough to fall asleep.

"I'll bet Phoebe would love to spend a few days with her. I'll ring her and ask." I get up and head to the kitchen, grabbing the handset and dialing Phoebe's number. Her mum answers. "Hi Marge, is Phoeb there?"

"Sure hang on." A minute later Phoebe is on the line.

"Hey Bellie." I roll my eyes and chuckle.

"When are you going to let that ridiculous nickname go?"

She cackles. "Never! So what's up? How's my baby?" I sit on a kitchen chair and tuck my feet under my bum.

"Your baby is perfectly fine. She's going to laugh any day now, I can just feel it."

"I miss her. When are you coming by?" I look at the calendar on the fridge and the clock on the wall.

"Tonight? We could order dinner and pretend we're teenagers."

"Gabe is coming tonight. Is that okay?"

"When do you ever ask?" We both chuckle. "I had a question for you so that works out great."

"What type of question?"

"I'll explain and ask you later. Cheyenne's just fallen asleep but probably won't nap for long. How's 3 o'clock?"

"That sounds good. I'm just finishing up an essay and I'm all yours for the evening. I'll have Gabe bring crisps and soft drinks."

"Okay, see you soon."

+++

"So what was your question, Bell?" Cheyenne, Phoebe, Gabe and I are in Phoeb's living room. She's holding Cheyenne and I'm spread out on the floor.

"Oh Gods I almost forgot. Nate and Becca are getting married and-" Before I can finish Phoebe lets out a squeal. "And. They're eloping in Thailand in June."

"Wow, that's quick!" I look over at her as Gabe chuckles.

"Can I finish?" Phoebe makes a show of locking her mouth shut. "They've asked me and Jordan to be there for the ceremony. Jord asked if we're allowed to bring someone so I think we'll finally get to meet his mysterious lady friend. I asked if Cheyenne is coming and they don't care either way. So I thought I would ask you first if you'd like to spend some time with your baby."

"You asked me first?" I nod and smile up at her.

"Of course I did, you dunderhead. Nate said the 29th, it's a Monday."

"I'll make it work. Oh, I'm so happy." She gives Gabe a sly glance and I laugh.

"No babies for you two. For a long time." Phoebe grins at me.

"Don't worry there. No immediate plans for any of that."

"Good. They're cute but a hell of a lot of work. I'm exhausted."

"This trip will be good for you then. Rest, get lots of sleep. Is Draco going with you?" I hesitate, not knowing how to answer. I haven't told her the extent of what's going on in the wizarding world. It isn't her burden to bare and I don't want to worry her.

"I'm not sure. I suppose it depends on what his plans are after the term ends." She gives me an odd look.

"Surely he would come right to see you. When did you last see him?"

"After Cheyenne was born."

"I can't imagine he would want to wait."

"His family may want to do something. I don't know." She doesn't push, and for that I am grateful. As expected I haven't gotten any word from Draco. Lena has sent me two letters, both short, both just to let me know they're all fine. I've sent more pictures, hoping to brighten their day a little bit at least.

Suddenly Gabe stands up. "Okay, whose for pizza?"

SEHE; Chapter 22

After dinner is cleared off the table, but before dessert is served, mum places wine glasses in front of those old enough to drink. She pours red wine into each of the glasses and sits down, smiling at Nate and Becca. Nate takes Becca's hand and they smile at each other. "Bec and I have something to announce." He pauses for dramatic effect. "We're engaged." Mum raises her glass and motions for the rest of us to do the same.

"Let's toast their engagement! Cheers!" I pick my glass up and clink it against everyone else's, taking a sip of the bitter wine. I don't prefer red but it isn't too bad. Congratulations ensue. "Any idea on a date yet, hon?"

"Not yet. We're still considering our options." I notice a significant glance between the newly engaged couple and make a note to ask Nate about it later.

"Very smart. Are you going to plan your own wedding or have someone else help?" Becca sighs a little.

"My mum will probably help out."

"Well don't hesitate to ask me. I know a thing or two about weddings." I cringe internally. I know mum means well but her approach can be a little off sometimes. "How about dessert then?" Mum gets up and serves everyone dessert. It's my favourite cheesecake with a raspberry swirl and gingersnap crust. I take a bite and savour the taste.

The table seems a little awkward after that. The young boys finish up their slices and leave the table, going downstairs to play. I hear Cheyenne through the baby monitor and Jordan stands up before I can put my fork down. "I'll get her." He leaves the table and a minute later he can be heard through the monitor, speaking gently to Cheyenne who makes baby noises at him. I take my time and finish my cheesecake while mum and Charlie gather the dessert dishes and retreat to the kitchen.

I set my fork down and stare at Nate until he looks at me. "So, I saw that look." I can tell he's thinking about playing dumb but thinks better of it.

"We're eloping." My eyes widen. "We're not telling mum and neither are you."

"When? Where?" Becca clasps her hands on top of the table.

"Probably this summer. As for where, we haven't quite decided yet. I want Egypt but your stubborn brother is fighting me on it."

"Why? What's wrong with Egypt?" Nate shrugs.

"I just don't want to get married there. As a vacation, sure. Wedding, no." I roll my eyes and Becca chuckles.

"See! Completely unreasonable. So right now we have no idea where." Becca pauses and glances at Nate before continuing. "I don't have any siblings and I know we don't know each other, but Nathan and I both want you there." I sit back in my chair, feeling kind of shocked.

"You're serious?" They both nod. "Of course I will!" Becca's face splits into a grin.

"That's wonderful, thank you. I'm so happy to be gaining a sister in all of this." I realize now for the first time that as each of my brother's gets married, I'm going to get a sister as well. Maybe only sister-in-law, but a sister nonetheless. Finally. Before I can tell her how happy I am about it mum walks back into the dining room with some work papers and sits at the table. I remove myself from the room and go upstairs to check on Jordan and the baby. To my surprise they have both fallen asleep on the rocking chair in my room. I quietly collect my camera and snap a photo before leaving them alone.

+++

"Give me my baby." I roll my eyes but smile as Phoebe goes straight for Cheyenne and hardly even notices me. I've come to learn that's how it is as a mother with a baby. Phoebe hugs Cheyenne close and grins at me. She's entirely in her element while caring for children and I wouldn't be surprised if she and Gabe have ten kids.

"Well hello to you too." Phoebe leads me upstairs after I sling Cheyenne's bag over my shoulder. We're at her house as mine is feeling a tad cramped lately. Becca has been staying at our house a lot and Jordan has apparently decided to become a hermit. It's nice and quiet during the day but absolutely crowded after school and working hours. Phoebe offered for us to stay at her place for a few days. "You're sure Dillon and Margaret are good with this?" Phoebe nudges her door open with her foot and it swings open.

"Are you kidding? You probably won't see Chey the entire time you're here because they'll hog her. Be prepared for a kidnapping." I chuckle and set the bag on the floor beside Phoebe's bed then sit down heavily.

"Well be prepared to not sleep for the next few days. She's been very grumpy."

"So you sleep while I take her out." I shake my head and start to protest but she cuts me off. "Don't give me that. You have no say in this matter. She's my godbaby and I want to show her off." I sigh, knowing I've been overruled.

"Fine, fine, take my baby while I selfishly indulge in sleep." Phoebe grins and nods.

"Exactly. Rest up and we'll be back later." She collects Cheyenne's bag and leaves the room, shutting the door behind her. A few minutes later I hear the front door close as they leave the house. I look around and wonder what to do with myself. Even when Cheyenne sleeps during the day I find it hard to shut my brain down to do the same.

I look at Phoebe's selection of books and pick one, making myself comfy on her bed to start in on it. Halfway through the 5th chapter there's a tapping at the window. I look up to see a strange owl and get up to open the window and let him in. After I retrieve my letter the owl flies off into the chilly afternoon. I close the window and tear the envelope open, sitting on the bed while I read it.

I apologize in advance for the briefness of my letter. I'm not supposed to be writing anyone at all but I couldn't leave you in the dark.

Obviously I cannot go into detail so all I can say is that you are not to worry about me. I am safe, no matter what you may read in the papers.

I'm also sorry that I cannot write to you again for a while and please do not write to me. Do not put yourself in unnecessary danger.

I love you.


There's no signature but I know who sent it. I'd know the graceful, careful script anywhere. I shudder out a sigh and read the letter over a second and third time. His words were meant to sooth but they do the opposite and I can't help the ball of worry and fear that lodges itself into my stomach. And I suspect it won't go away until I hear word from Draco again.

I search Phoebe's desk for a pen and paper to write Lena. I need information and I know she can give me at least something. Hopefully enough to lessen the tightness in my chest. Before I'm even done I hear another tap at the window and look up to see Hector. I open it quickly and he flies in. Tears suddenly well up behind my eyes and I stroke his wings as he nudges my arm, his eyes closed. "Smart, wonderful bird. Good boy." He hoots softly and flies over to Phoebe's dresser, landing on the top, presumably to let me finish my letter. After I finish it and Hector flies off I decide on some tea, knowing sleep will never come if I don't calm myself a little.

Being best friends with someone for roughly 12 years means I'm well acquainted with the inner workings of their house. I locate the fixings for tea well enough and am just pouring myself a cup when Dillon, Phoebe's dad, walks into the house. "Hey there, Bell. Phoebe mentioned you'd be here." I smile as I wrap my fingers around the warm cup.

"I hope that's all right." He waves a hand while setting a briefcase on the table.

"Nonsense, you know you're always welcome here, hon. Where are Phoebe and that charming young lady?"

"Phoebe kidnapped her and left a ransom note. A trillion pounds and we get to see her on weekends." Dillon laughs as he pours himself some tea. "Home for lunch?"

"Yes. Sorry, I've just remembered a phone call I forgot to make before leaving the office. Please excuse me." He takes his briefcase and tea into his office and shuts the door behind him. I finish my own cup and rinse it out before going back to Phoebe's room. I lay down, not expecting to fall asleep but exhaustion wins out in the end.

+++

Dearest Bee,

He didn't tell me anything really. He's safe and will contact you when he's able.

Take care of yourself and your family. It's scary out there.

We're all coping here. It's difficult and I'm glad you aren't here, as much as I miss you.

18 May 2017

SEHE; Chapter 21

Having my own owl has been a wonderful gift. I've been able to correspond with Lena and Draco at regular intervals and don't feel so disconnected. I finally got an explanation about Keelan's letter from Draco. He asked around Slytherin's inner circle and discovered that Keelan has, in fact, become a Death Eater. Or rather is on the path to become one. I'm simply astounded and have no idea what to think. Currently I'm sitting in the kitchen while Cheyenne naps in her bassinet beside me, talking with mum about that particular situation.

"Can you get a wizarding lawyer? How does that work?" I shake my head and look down at Draco's letter.

"It doesn't work that way there, exactly. I don't even pretend to understand how it all works. It makes no sensible logic that a wizard with no relation to a child can decide to leave a baby on the doorstep of his muggle family without consulting someone." My mum gives me an odd look. "It happened to a boy in my year. His parents were both killed, he had no wizarding relatives, so the headmaster left him with his muggle aunt. It doesn't make any sense."

"We'll figure something out."

"If he comes for her I may kill him."

"Who are we killing?" I jump as Jordan and Nate enter the kitchen, noisily sitting down at the table.

"No one. No one. I'm just.. going to the loo." I get up and leave the room, lean against the wall in the hallway and close my eyes. If he comes for her, how am I to protect her? I'm smart and know my share of spells but against a Death Eater taught specific dark magics I'd never dream to know? I don't know how to compete with that. During my inner breakdown I feel a pair of arms wrap me in a hug. I can tell it's Nate by his smell and height.

"No one's going to take her, Bell." Tears leak out of my eyes and wet his shirt. He can't begin to understand the potential threat. "Alright?" After a few minutes I hear Cheyenne start to fuss and pull away from Nate while I rub my hand over my face and go back into the kitchen. To my surprise Jordan has picked her up and is moving her through the air. Mum has left to somewhere else in the house. I lean against the door frame and smile.

I really wasn't sure how Jordan would handle having a baby in the house. He never enjoyed having baby siblings and has never expressed a desire to have children of his own. But he's been a pretty great uncle so far. He turns, spots me watching him and gives me an awkward smile before resuming his movements. Deciding that I'm not needed just yet I grab Draco's letter off the table and retreat to my room to send him some type of response.

+++

"Oh, Becca, it's wonderful to finally meet you!" My mum practically shoves Nate out of the way to get in for a hug. Nate has finally decided to let us meet Becca for dinner tonight. I feel a great swell of pity and amusement for the poor girl. We are a big family and it can be very overwhelming, especially for someone that's an only child, as Becca is.

"Thank you for having me, Claire. I've heard nothing but wonderful things about you all." I raise an eyebrow at Nate and he shrugs his shoulders, grinning shyly. After the introductions are out of the way the younger boys run off to play, Jordan goes to his room, and Cheyenne decides she's hungry so I sit in the living room with a book while I feed her. I only half read as I attempt to eavesdrop on the conversation in the kitchen. I don't make out much but suddenly my mother squeals and I hear her blubber about something. I shake my head and give my full attention to the hungry infant and my book.

After Cheyenne is fed and contently sleeping again I wander into the kitchen to see mum preparing dinner. I sit at the table and watch her for a few minutes. "Where'd everyone go?" She gives me a spoon to sample the pasta sauce.

"Charlie took the littles to get dessert from Norris, I don't know where Jordan went to, and Nate and Becca are in the basement."

"Ooh, I love Norris. What are they getting?" She shrugs while taking the spoon from me.

"Not a clue. I told them to pick something yummy." Norris is a bakery halfway across town. Their pumpkin tarts are amazing and I look forward to them every year for Christmas.

"What was all the yelling about earlier?"

"Not to worry about that, sweetheart. Can you grab the eggs from the fridge?" I roll my eyes but do as she asks, handing her the eggs and mustard because I know she'll want that later. "Thanks, hon." I watch as she moves about the kitchen until Charlie and the boys gather themselves back into the house. Very noisily. I'm about to scold them but before I can Cheyenne screams loudly from the living room. I sigh and make my way to her.

"Sorry, Bell." I ruffle Mark's hair as I walk by.

"No worries, bud. Want to hold her?" Mark hasn't yet held his little niece. I think he's scared of her. "Come on, once I settle her I'll just set her on your lap, yeah?" He's hesitant but nods and situates himself on the couch. "Stick a pillow under your left arm, yep, and hold your arms like you're going to catch a football. Great, here you go." I gently place her down and Mark looks as if he might throw up all over her. I sit beside them and pat his shoulder. "Nothing to it, eh?"

"She's really little." He touches one of her tiny fists with a finger and she blinks up at him.

"You were this small once. Crazy, huh?" His eyes widen and I smile.

"Bell, Bell, Bell I want a turn, too!" Leon skids into the room and nearly runs into the bassinet.

"You will, sport." Mark shifts and I quickly pick her up before he can fully disengage from the baby. Leon takes Mark's place on the couch and happily holds her for a full five minutes before he grows bored and asks to leave. "Freddy, want a turn, too?" Freddy is standing in the doorway with a peculiar look on his face. When I acknowledge him he quickly shakes his head and runs off to the stairs. Before I have a chance to wonder about that Jordan, Nate and Becca enter the living room and sit on the various furniture. Never a quiet moment here. Truthfully I love the chaos that comes with 5 siblings. There's always someone to talk to.

Becca sits beside me and asks me questions about Cheyenne and the pregnancy. I'd already asked Nate what information he's told Becca about me; namely, if I'm a witch. He hasn't and said it isn't up to him to tell her. As such, I have to be careful about what I tell her. It's strange having to censor my life. She's very lovely and I'm happy that she and Nate found each other. She asks to hold Cheyenne and her face just glows while she holds her. I wink at Nate and he smiles awkwardly. "How old is she, Bell?" I look back to Becca.

"Just over one month now."

"Wow. It's truly incredible. Nathan said she was early?"

"4 weeks. Not terribly early, but too early for my liking. I actually had some pretty serious pre-term labour contractions around 30 weeks. Thankfully they stopped and she got to bake for a while longer."

"Amazing. How did you choose her name?"

"Nothing exciting, really. Draco and I wrote a list of names we both liked and we chose from those. Mostly we agreed on her middle name, Lillian, and I got top pick for her first. He said we'll have to completely agree for any other kids." I roll my eyes and get a smile out of Becca.

"And you're engaged, that's wonderful! Any ideas on a wedding date yet?" I lean back into the couch and tuck my feet under my bum.

"Not really. I want a fall wedding but it definitely isn't happening this year. I need to graduate school and don't want to plan a wedding while caring for an infant." Becca makes a noise of agreement.

"Nathan told me not to say anything," She grins "but I can't not, seeing as I'm a wedding planner. I want to gift you my planning services and help you." I stare at her in shock. I had looked into a planner but they can be quite expensive. Hold on..

"Rebecca Masterson?" Becca nods. "No way! I went by your office last week. I had no idea it was you." I throw Nate a mock glare. "That's fantastic, thank you!"

"Don't even worry about it. I would love to help you." Cheyenne starts fussing then and Becca hands her back to me. I decide to feed her quickly before dinner and carry her up to my room. I also want to write to Draco and tell him that we don't need to worry about finding a wedding planner afterall.

Of course he's told me, repeatedly I might add, not to worry about how much anything costs when looking into everything. I balk at his insistence that money is no object. I never lived that way and don't fancy myself someone that suddenly gets lavish just because her fiance's family has money. His mother has apparently written up a guest list and he said there are over 500 names on it. I had to put the letter down and walk away from it before hyperventilating. Absolutely not.

I write Draco a quick letter, also sending more pictures (he insists I send some every week), and send Hector on his way. Despite his mother's insistence, I very much want to do this wedding the muggle way. I can compromise, of course, but certainly not to 500 guests. I also don't want to count on his money to pay for things. I have my own savings, meager as it may be. He tells me I'm being silly.

Once Cheyenne is settled I tuck her into her crib and join my family for dinner.