Happy September 1st!
I'm posting this chapter today for two reasons. One: it's September 1st, I couldn't just not post a chapter today.
Two: today marks one year since I posted chapter one of House of Courage. That's right, it's officially been one year since I started posting this trilogy! And look how far we've come!
Also a quick warning for this chapter. Anna has a mild flashback of what Flint did. But then there's a bunch of FredXAnna fluffiness to make up for it! And SiriusXAnna father/daughter fluffiness.
Make sure to review and let me know what you all think of this chapter!
Annabelle was shaken awake early the next morning by Hermione. She dressed in old, worn clothes and headed down for breakfast with the other two girls.
"So, what's the plan for today again?" she asked tiredly, serving herself some tea and eggs.
"We're cleaning the drawing room. There's a bunch of doxies in there." Fred answered as he sat next to her. Leaning down so his lips were near her ear, he added in a whisper, "George and I were thinking of pocketing a couple so we can experiment with the venom."
Anna nodded, remembering a conversation a few weeks prior about possibly using doxy venom in their Skiving Snackboxes.
"George, why don't you go wake up Harry and Ron?" Molly suggested as she placed a heaping plate of pancakes on the table.
George sighed before disappearing with a pop. Anna rolled her eyes. He acted like it was a huge chore, when all he had to do is disappear and reappear in Harry and Ron's room.
Sure enough, George reappeared about fifteen seconds later and sat next to Fred. "They're up." he announced, serving himself some breakfast.
Harry and Ron joined them about fifteen minutes later and started eating their own breakfast before everyone met up in the drawing room. It was a long room with a high ceiling. The walls were an olive-green and covered in dirty tapestries. With every step anyone took, little clouds of dust rose from the carpet. Finally, the moss-green curtains were buzzing loudly, a sound Anna recognized from one of her Care of Magical Creatures lessons. Molly was waiting by one of the sets of curtains. Everyone joined her and she passed out cloths, telling them to tie them around their mouths and noses.
Anna did as instructed, like the other kids, tying the cloth behind her head so her mouth and nose were covered. Molly then handed them each a large bottle of black liquid with a spray nozzle on the end, which she explained was Doxycide to get rid of the Doxy infestation.
Harry and Ron were the last to join them, and Molly quickly told them what to do.
Anna sat on the big sofa with her own bottle to wait for further instructions.
Her father showed up and looked over the writing desk, confirming that it was most likely a boggart that was making it shake.
The familiar loud, clanging sound of the doorbell sounded downstairs, causing several of the portraits to start screeching.
"I keep telling them not to ring the doorbell!" Sirius sighed in aggravation, hurrying from the room and down the stairs. Anna and the twins turned to look out the open door, curious as to who it might be as Walburga Black's screeches echoed up the stairs.
"Close the door, please, Harry." Molly told him, as he was closest to the door.
Harry obviously took as much time as possible to close the door to the drawing room. Molly was staring at the back of his head, so he slowly closed the door, probably to keep her from getting angry at him.
When he rejoined them, Molly was bent over one of Gilderoy Lockhart's old books lying open on the couch next to Anna.
"Right, you lot, you need to be careful, because doxies bite and their teeth are poisonous . I've got a bottle of antidote here, but I'd rather nobody need it."
She straightened up, positioned herself squarely in front of the curtains, and beckoned them all forward. Anna stood up and joined everyone in a semicircle around the older witch.
"When I say the word, start spraying immediately." she ordered. "They'll come flying out at us, I expect, but it says on the sprays one good squirt will paralyze them. When they're immobilized, just throw them in this bucket."
Everyone raised their spray bottles and Molly stepped out of the way so they had a clear shot.
They all began spraying the curtain, and within a few seconds a full-grown doxy came flying out of the curtains. It had shiny, beetle-like wings, tiny, needle-sharp teeth bared angrily, it's tiny body covered in thick, black hair, and four miniscule fists clenched. Harry managed to get it right in the face, so that it froze in midair and fell to the floor.
On Anna's other side, Fred managed to snag a doxy from the air without spraying it and was now holding it by the fur between his thumb and forefinger.
"Fred, what are you doing?" Molly asked sharply. "Spray that at once and throw it away!"
"Right-o." Fred said brightly, quickly spraying the doxy in the face. When Molly turned away, he stuffed it in his pocket, winking at Anna.
George whispered to Harry their plans for the doxy venom, which lead to Harry asking what Skiving Snackboxes were, so George and Fred quietly explained that, too, while keeping a wary eye on their mother's back.
"But they still need a bit of work." Fred was whispering as Anna joined them, also pocketing a doxy she sprayed. "At the moment our testers are having a bit of trouble stopping puking long enough to swallow the purple end."
Anna shuddered just at the memory. She'd tested the puking pastilles once and only once. It wasn't a pleasant experience in the slightest.
"Testers?" Harry asked worriedly.
"Us." Fred answered. "Me, George, and Anna. We take it in turns. Anna did the Fainting Fancies, and me and George tried the Nosebleed Nougat-"
"Mum thought we'd been dueling." George added.
"Joke shop still on, then?" Harry asked quietly, pretending to fix the nozzle on his spray bottle.
"Well, we haven't had a chance to get premises yet," Fred explained, his voice even lower as he kept an eye on his mother, "so we're running it as a mail-order service at the moment. We put advertisements in the Daily Prophet last week."
"All thanks to you, mate." George added. "But don't worry…Mum hasn't got a clue. She won't read the Daily Prophet anymore, 'cause of it telling lies about you and Dumbledore."
Spraying the curtains and getting rid of the doxies took most of the morning. Molly finally let them all take a break a little while after midday, so they could remove the protective cloths from their mouths and noses. The unconscious doxies were crammed into the bucket by the door, next to a bowl of their black eggs that they'd gathered. Anna guessed the twins were considering taking those, too, as they were eyeing them longingly.
"I think we'll tackle those after lunch." Molly decided aloud, pointing at the dusty, glass-fronted cabinets on either side of the mantelpiece.
The doorbell clanged loudly again from downstairs and all the kids turned to look at Molly.
"Stay here." she told them firmly as Mrs. Black's portrait began shrieking again. "I'll bring up some sandwiches."
She left the room, closing the door carefully behind her. As soon as it clicked shut, everyone raced over to the window to look down at the doorsteps below. All they could see was the top of an unkempt ginger head and a stack of precariously balanced cauldrons.
"Mundungus!" Hermione said. "What's he brought all those cauldrons for?"
"Probably looking for a safe place to keep them." Harry guessed. "Isn't that what he was doing the night he was supposed to be tailing me? Picking up dodgy cauldrons?"
"Yeah, you're right!" Fred agreed just as the front door opened. Mundungus heaved his load into the house, disappearing from their view. "Blimey, Mum won't like that…"
Him and George left the window and hurried over to the door. Anna followed and the three stood near it to try and listen. Mrs. Black's portrait had gone quiet again.
"Mundungus is talking to Sirius and Kingsley." Fred murmured, frowning with concentration. "Can't hear properly…d'you reckon we can risk the Extendable Ears?" he asked, glancing at George and Anna.
"Might be worth it." George admitted while Anna shrugged. "I could sneak upstairs and get a pair-"
Anna was thinking of saying she was surprised they didn't always have one on hand when a sudden explosion of noise made getting one unnecessary. Molly Weasley seemed to be screaming at the top of her lungs.
"WE ARE NOT RUNNING A HIDEOUT FOR STOLEN GOODS!"
"I love hearing Mum shouting at someone else." Fred sighed, a satisfied smile on his face as he opened the door an inch or two to hear a little better. "It makes such a nice change."
"-COMPLETELY IRRESPONSIBLE, AS IF WE HAVEN'T GOT ENOUGH TO WORRY ABOUT WITHOUT YOU DRAGGING STOLEN CAULDRONS INTO THE HOUSE-"
"The idiots are letting her get into her stride." said George, shaking his head as if they should know better. "You've got to head her off early, otherwise she builds up a head of steam and goes on for hours. And she's been dying to have a go at Mundungus ever since he sneaked off when he was supposed to be following you, Harry-and there goes Sirius's mum again-"
Anna winced and stepped away from the door as her grandmother's shrieks joined Molly's, making a deafening racket that made her head throb. Then all the other portraits started screaming. George made to close the door, but then Kreacher pushed his way into the room.
He shuffled around, not taking any notice of everyone in the room and muttering under his breath, "…smells like a drain and a criminal to boot, but she's not better, nasty old blood traitor with her brats messing up my Mistress's house, oh my poor Mistress, if she knew, if she knew the scum they've let in her house, what would she say to old Kreacher, oh the shame of it. Mudbloods and werewolves and traitors and thieves, poor old Kreacher, what can he do…"
"Hello, Kreacher." Fred greeted very loudly, closing the door with a snap. Anna rested a hand on his forearm, silently telling him to calm down.
Kreacher froze in his tracks, stopped muttering, and gave a very obvious and fake jerk of surprise.
"Kreacher did not see Young Master " he said, turning around and bowing to Fred. With his nose inches from the carpet, he added audibly, "Nasty little brat of a blood traitor it is."
"Sorry?" George asked just as loudly as his twin. "Didn't catch that last bit."
"Kreacher said nothing," the elf said, turning and bowing to George and adding in a clear mutter, "and there's its twin, unnatural little beasts they are."
Anna bit her lip, glancing around at the others as the elf continued muttering to himself. Harry looked very conflicted, as if unsure whether to laugh or not.
"This is Harry, Kreacher." Hermione spoke tentatively, since the elf had just been calling her a Mudblood under his breath. "Harry Potter."
Kreacher's pale eyes went wide and he began muttering furiously under his breath. "The Mudblood is talking to Kreacher as though she is my friend, if Kreacher's Mistress saw him in such company, oh what would she say-"
"Don't call her a Mudblood!" Ron and Ginny shouted angrily together.
"It doesn't matter," Hermione whispered, "he's not in his right mind, he doesn't know what he's-"
"Don't kid yourself, Hermione, he knows exactly what he's saying." Fred told her, eyeing the house-elf with near-hatred.
"Is it true?" Kreacher continued muttering to himself, "Is it Harry Potter? Kreacher can see the scar, it must be true, that's the boy who stopped the Dark Lord. Kreacher wonders how he did it-"
"Don't we all, Kreacher?" Fred asked.
"What do you want anyway?" George asked.
"Kreacher is cleaning." he answered evasively, his eyes darting to George once.
"A likely story." a familiar voice spoke from behind Anna. She turned around to see that her father had returned and opened the door without any of them noticing. He was glowering at the elf, and Anna finally noticed that the noise in the hall had quieted.
At the sight of his Master, Kreacher threw himself in a bow to low, his nose flattened to the floor.
"Stand up straight." Sirius ordered impatiently. "Now, what are you up to?"
"Kreacher is cleaning." the house elf repeated. "Kreacher lives to serve the noble house of Black-"
"And it's getting blacker every day, it's filthy." Sirius interrupted.
"Master always liked his little joke." said Kreacher, bowing again and muttering to himself, "Master was a nasty ungrateful swine who broke his mother's heart-"
"My mother didn't have a heart, Kreacher." Sirius snapped. "She kept herself alive out of pure spite."
Anna sighed silently, moving away from the twins and her father to cross the room. She didn't want to deal with anymore conflict in this house.
She stopped in front of the worn tapestry containing the Black family tree. There were spots that looked as though some of the doxies had nibbled away at it. The gold thread it was embroidered with glinted brightly as it showed the Black family going back centuries. At the very top in large letters, it read,
THE NOBLE AND MOST ANCIENT HOUSE OF BLACK
Anna lazily let her eyes scan the large tapestry. Even though she hated her father's side of her family, she found it somewhat interesting to see who she was related to and how. She'd found herself scanning the tapestry at least a few times during the summer.
There were a few little burn marks to show where people had been disowned and blasted off the family tree. She could see what she supposed was her father's burn mark, and Andromeda's a little to the side, between the names Bellatrix and Narcissa. Her nose scrunched up in dislike when she saw Narcissa's linked to Lucius Malfoy, and their son Draco just below them.
After a few minutes, she felt several people around her. Looking up, she found her father standing next to her, looking at the tapestry. Harry was on his other side, and the others were grouped around them. Fred and George stood at Anna's other side, Fred taking her hand subtly in his.
"You're not on here!" Harry said after a few moments, his eyes scanning the bottom of the tapestry.
"I used to be there." Sirius explained, pointing at the burn Anna had already guessed was his. "My sweet old mother blasted me off after I ran away from home-Kreacher's quite fond of muttering the story under his breath."
"You ran away from home?" Harry asked.
"When I was about sixteen." Sirius nodded. "I'd had enough."
"Where did you go?" Harry asked, staring up at him.
"Your dad's place." Sirius answered. "Your grandparents were really good about it; they sort of adopted me as a second son. Yeah. I camped out at your dad's during the school holidays, and then when I was seventeen I got a place of my own, my Uncle Alphard had left me a decent bit of gold-he's been wiped off here too, that's probably why-anyway, after that I looked after myself. Of course, after graduation Wren and I bought our cottage so we'd have a better home for our daughter. We were always welcome at Mr. and Mrs. Potter's for Sunday lunch, though."
"But…why did you…?"
"Leave?" Sirius smiled bitterly and ran a hair through his long hair. "Because I hated the whole lot of them: my parents, with their pure-blood mania, convinced that to be a Black made you practically royal…my idiot brother, soft enough to believe them…that's him."
Anna's eyes moved to where her father jabbed his finger at the bottom of the tree, at the name Regulus Black. His date of death was about fifteen years ago.
"He was younger than me," Sirius explained, "and a much better son, as I was constantly reminded."
"But he died." said Harry while Anna fixed her eyes on her father's face. He'd never told her anything about his brother. She'd known he had one, but he never talked about his family.
"Yeah. Stupid idiot…he joined the Death Eaters."
"You're kidding!" Harry exclaimed in shock. Anna felt mildly surprised, but not very much. It made sense, given how her father and his brother seemed to have been raised.
"Come on, Harry, haven't you seen enough of this house to tell what kind of wizards my family were?" Sirius asked impatiently.
"Were-were your parents Death Eaters as well?"
"No, no, but believe me, they thought Voldemort had the right idea, they were all for the purification of the Wizarding race, getting rid of Muggle-borns and having purebloods in charge. They weren't alone either, there were quite a few people, before Voldemort showed his true colors, who thought he had the right idea about things…They got cold feet when they saw what he was prepared to do to get power, though. But I bet my parents thought Regulus was a right little hero for joining up at first."
"Was he killed by an Auror?" Harry asked tentatively.
"Oh no." Sirius answered, much to Anna's surprise. She would've thought that was how he died. "No, he was murdered by Voldemort. Or on Voldemort's orders, more likely, I doubt Regulus was ever important enough to be killed by Voldemort in person. From what I found out after he died, he got in so far, then panicked about what he was being asked to do and tried to back out. Well, you don't just hand in your resignation to Voldemort. It's a lifetime of service or death."
"Lunch." Molly's voice sounded behind them, making Anna jump slightly. She'd been so focused on her father's story, her eyes never leaving his expressions, that she hadn't noticed the older witch reenter the drawing room. Looking over her shoulder, Anna saw Molly holding her wand high in front of her, balancing a huge tray loaded with sandwiches and cake on its tip. She was very red in the face and still very angry-looking.
Most everyone turned and hurried over to her, eager for some food. Anna hesitated, but followed after them, glancing back only once to see Harry was staying with her father, who was still studying the tapestry.
Anna sat slowly on the couch next to Fred. All the others had already grabbed a sandwich and were gobbling them down, Ron appeared to be on his second.
"You okay?" Fred asked quietly, grabbing a sandwich off the tray and handing it to her.
"He never told me about his brother." she admitted quietly before nibbling a bit of her sandwich. She suddenly wasn't feeling very hungry. He'd been quick to tell Harry about his family, but he'd hardly ever told her anything, just that he hated it here and he hated his family. He'd told her so many stories the previous summer, but they'd mainly been Hogwarts-related, stories about the Marauders and her mum.
She'd never really allowed herself to feel any jealously towards Harry, after all, his childhood seemed to have been a thousand times more horrible than hers. He deserved some fun and happiness now to make up for it, and she genuinely liked him as a person. But now she couldn't help pondering over everything. He'd been allowed on the Quidditch team his first year, while she wasn't. Everyone in school had been quick to want to be his friend, while everyone started out hating her. Her father broke out of Azkaban to protect Harry, not her. Both her parents had readily agreed to letting Harry find out what the Order was doing his first night at Headquarters, while she'd been allowed by default. Overall, her father seemed to care more about Harry than her, and it made her chest physically ache.
Seeming to guess why she was upset, Fred wrapped his arm around her shoulders and pulled her into his side, his thumb stroking her shoulder.
"I temporarily forgot you were related to the Malfoys." Ginny noted aloud, looking across the table at Anna.
"Mm. Don't remind me." Anna muttered halfheartedly, resting her head on her boyfriend's shoulder.
Conversation continued around her, but Anna kept to herself, and for once the twins let her be. They comforted her silently. Fred kept his arm around her, and either rubbed her arm or back or played with her hair. George made sure she ate by giving her another sandwich and eventually giving her a slice of cake. She appreciated their effort immensely.
She glanced over her shoulder and saw her father turn away from the tapestry, his hands shoved deep into his pockets He looked forlorn as he gazed around the drawing room. He looked completely miserable. He and Harry were still talking quietly, but Anna didn't feel up to eavesdropping for the first time since entering this house.
Turning to face forward again, Anna continued nibbling on her food.
After several minutes, Molly called Harry and Sirius over to eat, and Anna tried to not tense up as she focused on her food. Her father took a seat in an armchair near her, and when she glanced over at him, she managed to catch a glimpse of him glowering at Fred's arm around her shoulders.
Sighing, Anna rolled her eyes to herself and focused on her food.
After eating lunch, they focused on cleaning the glass cabinets. It would've been an easy job, except that several of the objects were reluctant to leave. Her father even got bitten by a silver snuffbox. When he deduced there had been Wartcap powder in it, which resulted in his hand developing a crusty covering, Anna and the twins agreed with a mere glance to pocket the object. So, when no one was looking, George wrapped his hand in a cloth for protection and snuck the box into his pocket, which was still filled with doxies.
Kreacher tried to smuggle things from the room in his loin cloth on numerous occasions, but they managed to catch him several times.
They worked on the drawing room again the next day, cleaning and sweeping and dusting as well as decontaminating the room of anything Molly deemed 'undesirable'.
The doorbell rang several times over those couple days, which always lead to Anna's grandmother's portrait shrieking every time. The kids all tried to eavesdrop every time until Molly forced them back to work. Snape came and went a few times, but they hardly ever caught more than a glimpse of him, and McGonagall appeared a couple times.
They finished for the day a couple hours before dinner, so Anna, Ginny, and Hermione took turns taking showers in the bathroom on their floor. After Anna was showered, she changed into clean, comfy clothes and headed straight for the twins' room. They'd planned to meet up there after cleaning to try and get some work done on their joke products.
Knocking three times, Anna pushed the door open. Fred and George were both sitting on Fred's bed, looking like they were counting several of their sweets. They looked up at her and grinned at her as she approached.
"How goes inventory?" she asked, plopping down on George's bed.
"Pretty good." George answered. "We've got 47 Nosebleed Nougats and 51 Fainting Fancies."
"We can probably run another ad in the Prophet tomorrow or something." Fred added, moving the counted sweets into separate boxes.
"Sounds good, though maybe we should consider running ads other places, too, you know? Broaden our audience and all. Plus, I'm fairly sure some Order members still read the Daily Prophet, and I'm pretty sure Remus has seen at least a couple of our ads."
"Good point. We'll have to look into other places to put ads." George nodded thoughtfully.
Anna sighed, leaning back on her hands on the bed. It was nice to just sit and relax after cleaning nearly all day. Her whole body was aching. "We're finishing up the drawing room tomorrow, right?"
Fred groaned loudly, putting the lid on the box and ducking down to slip it under his bed. "Don't mention cleaning. If I never clean a room again, it'll be too soon."
"Tell me about it." George agreed with a grimace. "This has to be one of our worst summers ever, simply because of the cleaning."
"You mean you didn't enjoy wrestling that goblet from the cabinet yesterday?" Anna teased.
"That thing took almost ten minutes to wrestle out of there!" George complained in a whining voice. "And it tried to bite me!"
"Aw, you poor baby." Anna cooed, pouting mockingly at him.
"That's it." George growled playfully, launching himself off the bed and toward her. Anna squealed and leapt from the bed, landing lightly on her feet and running toward the other side of the room. "Fred, grab her!" George exclaimed.
When Anna neared the other bed, Fred stretched an arm out and snagged her around the waist, yanking her down onto the bed. Anna squeaked in surprise when her back hit the mattress. Before she could try to escape, Fred grabbed both her wrists in one hand and pinned them above her head, using his free hand to tickle her ribs.
"Ah!" she squealed, trying to wiggle away from him. "Fred, no! Stop it! Don't!"
Fred and George merely laughed at her, George watching the whole thing with endless amusement while Fred continued his assault on her ribs.
"Hey kids, dinner's-" Sirius's voice cut off when he froze in the doorway.
Fred stopped tickling Anna, still chuckling as he turned to look up at the older man.
"Hey, Sirius." George greeted him casually. "Dinner ready?"
Sirius stared at Fred and Anna, who were still in the same position. Fred was leaning over her on the bed, her wrists pinned in his hand. Realizing how it looked, Anna blushed and yanked on her hands to try and get free. Getting the message, Fred released her and sat back, letting her sit up on the bed.
Sirius cleared his throat. "Um, yes, dinner's ready." He seemed to struggle for a moment before he added, "And I don't want to see that kind of behavior again, Fred."
Fred and Anna's mouths fell open slightly as Sirius turned and left the room. George burst out laughing while Fred's cheeks turned a slight red color. Closing his mouth, he reached up and scratched the back of his neck awkwardly.
"Well,…that was awkward." he muttered, glancing over at Anna.
"I can't believe him." she muttered, growing frustrated. "Did he honestly think we were doing anything less than innocent with your twin brother sitting on the other bed, watching us?"
"Maybe he thinks you're into that kinky stuff." George joked.
Anna grabbed the pillow from behind Fred and chucked it at George, managing to smack him in the face.
Fred sighed, scooting around so his feet could touch the floor and he could stand up. "Let's just go down to dinner. I doubt your dad's mad or anything. It was just a misunderstanding."
Anna huffed, standing up as well and following her boyfriend from the room, George behind her. "Yeah, well, if he keeps up this whole…anti-boyfriend attitude I might just curse him or something."
The twins chuckled quietly as the three of them made their way down the stairs.
Anna greeted her mother with a quick hug, not wanting to give Wren the chance to notice she was still upset. She then helped set the table before taking a seat between Fred and Tonks.
Anna tried having normal conversations with the other girls, but she could feel her father's eyes burning into her every time he looked at her, and it was making her awkward and twitchy.
When they started passing the food around, Fred handed Anna a bowl of mashed potatoes, quietly whispering, "Relax."
Anna smiled in silent thanks. He could always tell what she was feeling, and she greatly appreciated it. Leaning over, she briefly kissed his cheek before starting to serve herself potatoes.
"Any chance you two could cut back on the PDA?" a voice asked, tight and sarcastic.
Anna blinked as every eye at the table turned to look at her father. He was staring right at her and Fred, though, which lead to everyone else turning to stare at them, as well.
"Wh-we didn't-" Anna stuttered, uncomfortable being the center of attention.
"You're too young to be doing those things, and the things you were doing when I walked into Fred's room earlier." Sirius told her sternly.
Anna gaped at him and turned red as a couple people's mouths fell open.
"We weren't doing anything like th-"
"Either way, you were on top of my daughter in bed." Sirius cut Fred off when he tried to defend himself and Anna. "And I won't be allowing that kind of behavior. I know what teenagers do, and my daughter isn't ready for that."
Anna felt her eyes prick with embarrassed tears as people continued to stare at her, but she also felt the roots of her hair beginning to turn red as anger flooded her veins.
Her hands hit the tabletop with a loud BANG.
"Of course I'm not ready for that." she snapped. "Fred and I haven't hardly been dating for seven months! And we've spent all that time in Hogwarts and this bloody house. It's not like we have time to sneak off and snog around here. We're always either cleaning, eating, or sleeping if we're not hanging out with George. And despite your opinion, we don't snog in front of George. And in case you've forgotten, I was raped at fourteen. I'm not exactly going to rush into having sex."
"Anna-" Wren tried to talk, but Anna swept on.
"So you don't have to worry about that, Dad. Fred and I aren't going to end up like you and Mum, pregnant our seventh year!"
With that, Anna spun on her heel and stormed from the room and up the stairs.
The room was left in awkward, tense silence. Several people glanced around the table, unsure if they should talk. The first person to move was Fred. He stood up.
"I'm gonna go talk to her." he muttered to everyone, scooping some beans and a slice of beef onto Anna's plate before waving his wand so both his and her plates would float after him.
"I don't think-" Sirius started to argue.
"Oh, Sirius, stop it!" Wren snapped, her eyes watering as she glared at her husband. "Fred cares about Anna, he's not going to push her into doing anything. Just let him go talk to her!"
Sirius swallowed thickly and nodded to his wife, wrapping his arm around her to rub her back. Fred gave Wren a grateful smile before leaving the room. He walked up the stairs until he came to the girls' bedroom. He knocked on the door, and when no one answered, he pushed the door open and peaked inside.
Anna was sitting on the edge of her bed, her elbows on her knees and her face in her hands.
Fred shut the door behind him and waved his wand so both plates came to rest on the bedside table that sat between Anna's bed and Ginny's.
"Hey." he whispered, sitting on the bed next to her and resting his hand on her back.
"Are they all talking about how crazy I am?" she mumbled into her hands.
"Um, well, no, no, actually no one talked for a while after you left." he admitted.
"I ruined dinner." she groaned.
"No, you didn't." Fred assured her, pulling her into his side. "You got sick of your dad being weird about us. Anyone would. You just…couldn't take it anymore. Or something."
"I snapped." she muttered, sitting up and leaning into his side. "I went insane and embarrassed myself in front of both our families and several Order members."
"Well,…technically it was just family and extended family if you think about it." Fred pointed out. Anna turned and looked up at him with a dull expression, not appreciating the comment. Fred merely leaned down and pecked a short, sweet kiss to her lips.
"What's going through your head right now?" he asked quietly.
"I just…I don't know. I feel bad for some of the things I said…Merlin, I can't believe I said that about my mum!" she groaned, her hands going back up to cover her face.
"Hey, come on. We can worry about that later." Fred assured her, using his own hands to pull hers from her face. "What else? Talk to me, Anna."
Anna sniffed, looking up at him. "I still feel angry at him." she admitted. "I mean, all summer he's been frustrating, always having to watch us. But today…what he said to you in your guys' room, and then calling us out at the dinner table in front of everyone…I'm just so mad at him. I mean, does he honestly think we'd…I mean, in this house? With both our families in every room?"
"He's just protective of you." Fred whispered, tucking some of her hair behind her ear.
"This is way more than being protective." she retorted. "This is going too far. It's like he can't trust me."
"I'm sure that's not it. More likely, it's probably me he doesn't trust." Fred told her.
"And he has no reason not to!" she exclaimed. "You've known me for years, you've been there for me, protected me. Mum even said you and George are a lot like him and the Marauders when they were in school."
"Maybe that's part of the problem." Fred shrugged.
"What do you mean?" Anna asked, confused.
"Well, apart from being a huge troublemaker and prankster, he did get your mum pregnant at seventeen, as you pointed out." Fred reminded her. "Maybe that's what he's worried about."
Anna groaned, turning to face forward, staring across the room. "I hate it when you have a point." she muttered.
"I know." Fred grinned proudly, wrapping his arm around her shoulders.
"I'm still mad at him." she admitted.
"Well, how about we eat our dinner up here, then. I brought it up with me." Fred suggested, pointing to where their plates were.
Anna stared at the plates for several moments. She noticed her plate had her favorites of the food served that night. And it had the perfect servings for her. She knew she hadn't done more than serve herself some potatoes, so Fred must've put the beans and beef on it for her. It didn't seem like much, probably just instinct to him, but it was so sweet of him.
And just like that, Anna turned around to face Fred, cupped his cheeks in her hands, and planted her lips firmly on his. She felt him start in shock before he cupped her head in one hand, his other going to the small of her back.
Anna pulled herself closer to him, one hand moving to the back of his neck. Her fist instinctively clenched around the short strands of hair, causing Fred to groan. Both his hands moved to her waist and pulled her onto his lap.
When her chest started burning from lack of oxygen, Anna reluctantly pulled away. She gasped in shock when she felt Fred's warm, soft lips on her neck, pressing open-mouthed kisses up her neck to the spot under her jaw. Anna swallowed down a whimper, her fist pulling more on Fred's hair.
Fred's hands suddenly moved to under her thighs and she was lifted up as he stood. He then turned them and suddenly, Anna's back was on the bed.
She watched Fred slowly crawl over her, one of his hands sliding into her hair. He pulled her head up so they could kiss again and Anna's arms wrapped around his neck. Fred's hand slid down to brush her neck and shoulder at the same moment he shifted and his hips brushed hers.
Anna flinched and tensed, her body preparing for searing pain as voices and images flashed through her mind.
Her body being pinned to the ground.
Flint's evil smirk from his position between her legs.
Then searing, tearing pain deep inside her very core as her voice screamed in agony.
"Anna. Anna!" a familiar voice echoed through the haze of Anna's mind, a familiar, gentle touch on her cheek.
Blinking her eyes open, unsure when she'd closed them in the first place, Anna found herself looking up at Fred's worried face.
"You're okay, Anna. I'm sorry. You're safe, I'd never hurt you." he assured her, his thumb still stroking her cheek.
Anna swallowed thickly, glancing around the room. Realization seeped in and she quickly covered her face with her hands.
"No, Anna, don't do that." Fred told her gently, trying to pry her hands from her face.
"I'm sorry. I don't-I didn't-"
"I know, I know. You're okay." Fred told her, one hand stroking the top of her head. "Can I hold you?" he asked gently.
Despite her humiliation, being held by Fred sounded really nice. So, Anna nodded twice before feeling herself being lifted gently off the bed with one arm under her back and another under her legs. A couple seconds later, she was sitting sideways on Fred's lap and leaning into his chest.
"I'm sorry." she mumbled, snuggling her head into his chest.
"Don't be." Fred mumbled into the top of her head, kissing her hair.
"I just…I think my brain and my body think that…if someone's on top of me I should be ready for pain." she whispered. "Because of Flint…you know."
"I know. I should've thought of that, I'm sorry." Fred told her guiltily.
"No, it's not your fault." she told him, shaking her head.
"I know, but still. I want to protect you and I can't protect you from your memories, and I hate it." Fred told her, tightening his arms around her slightly. "I love you so much, and I hate seeing you like that."
Anna's breath caught in her throat, her hands slowly pulling away from her face. She hesitantly turned her face up to look up at him. When she did, he looked down at her and kissed her forehead.
"Did you just say…?"
Fred looked confused before realization flashed in his eyes. He smiled sheepishly. "Oh, right. I probably should've found a better time to say it, but…yeah. I love you. I told you I'd tell you when I did."
"I know that, but…"
"You don't have to say it back, remember? I won't make you-"
"But I do." she interrupted. "I mean, I do love you. I love you." she continued hurriedly, stumbling over her words. She hadn't completely realized her feelings for Fred had evolved to that extent until that second, but it was true. She did love him.
Fred must've heard her sincerity, because he grinned at her and peppered kisses to her cheek, making her small smile grow. She quickly leaned up and placed a soft kiss against his smiling lips.
After a few moments, he groaned and pulled away. "We should really start eating our dinner. I mean, you did kinda swear to everyone at the table that we don't sneak off and snog. If they walk in, they'll know what a liar you are." he added teasingly.
Anna laughed, sliding off his lap and onto the edge of the bed. "Good point."
She grabbed their plates and handed Fred's to him and they scooted around so they could eat leaning back against Anna's pillow. After about fifteen minutes, they'd both eaten their food and Anna was just sitting there, glancing between her empty plate and her closed door. Fred noticed this and, after watching her for a few minutes, spoke.
"You nervous about going down there?" he asked gently.
"Only…a lot." she admitted with a nervous chuckle.
"You'll be fine. If you want, we can avoid everyone else and just go straight to the kitchen to drop off our plates. But I really think you should talk to your mom." Fred told her quietly.
Anna sighed, looking back down at her plate again. "I know. I guess…I'm just afraid she's angry at me for what I said. Or worse; hurt. I couldn't live with myself knowing I'd hurt her."
"Everybody says things they don't mean sometimes." Fred assured her, slipping his arm around her shoulders. "The important thing is that you make sure she knows you didn't mean it, and you make it up to her."
Anna smiled sadly, looking over at him. "When'd you get so wise?" she asked lightly.
"When I was born." Fred answered seriously before cracking a smirk.
Anna laughed, shaking her head before sitting up. "Well, no point putting it off. The sooner we take our dishes down, the sooner we can meet up with George and work on those Puking Pastilles."
"And that's why I love you." Fred teased, leaning up to kiss the side of her head before climbing off the bed. "I'll walk ahead of you and make sure we don't run into anyone you want to avoid. Sound good?"
"Thanks." Anna smiled guiltily as she, too, stood up and headed toward the door.
Fred walked a few paces ahead of her, and they luckily didn't run into anyone. It seemed like everyone had congregated in other rooms. She'd caught a glimpse of several people in the drawing room as they were leaving her bedroom. When they reached the ground floor, Anna waited while Fred went down into the kitchen.
He returned not even a second later. "It's just our moms. You could talk to Wren now, if you'd like." he told her cautiously.
Taking a deep breath to steel herself, Anna nodded and followed him down the stairs.
The kitchen was mostly empty when they reached the foot of the stairs. Her mum was sitting at the dinner table, talking to Molly over what looked like tea, and the dishes were washing themselves in the sink.
Her throat closed for a moment before she swallowed and then cleared her throat. The two witches at the table turned to look at her. They both gave her small smiles.
Taking another breath, Anna stepped closer until she stopped next to the table. "Mum,…I'm sorry for what happened. And I'm really sorry for what I said about you. I didn't mean it and I didn't mean to drag you into it."
Wren smiled softly up at her before standing up from her seat. It was a bit of a struggle with her big belly, but Fred quickly offered her a hand to help steady her.
"Thank you, Fred." she told him with a smile before turning to her daughter. "And Anna, I get it. From what I've heard, your father's been acting a bit…harsh toward you and Fred this summer." she said, leaning down and hugging Anna tightly for a moment before pulling away, her hands on her daughter's shoulders. "I wish I'd known about it sooner. I would've spoken to him. But don't worry too much, okay? Remus is talking to him in the drawing room right now, convincing him to come home with me for the night. I'll talk to him then, okay?"
"Okay." Anna nodded. "Thanks, Mum."
The next morning, after a quick breakfast, Molly had them begin cleaning the dining room, since all that needed to be done in the drawing room was for Moody to check the writing desk. When they got around to cleaning the dresser in the dining room, they found spiders the size of saucers. Ron hurriedly left the room to make a cup of tea, and Anna was half tempted to follow him.
Sirius returned to 12 Grimmauld Place as Molly was serving lunch in the kitchen. He carefully glanced around the room before meeting Anna's eyes as she glanced up at him. He looked very uncomfortable, rocking back and forth on his feet with his hands shoved deep in his pockets. Finally, he jerked his head, silently gesturing for her to follow him.
Anna struggled to swallow past the lump in her throat as she stood and followed her father from the room. They went up the stairs and Anna soon found herself entering the drawing room.
Sirius crossed the room and sat stiffly on one of the couches. Anna hesitated for a second before following him and sitting next to him, her back ramrod straight as she sat tensely.
After a few moments, her father leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees, his hands linked in front of him.
"So," he finally spoke after several long moments of tense silence, "your mother and I talked last night."
"Really." Anna murmured, looking at the floor.
"About a few things…Like your relationship with Fred,…and how I've been acting lately."
Anna risked a glance over at her father, who was staring thoughtfully ahead of him. It almost looked like a night away from his childhood house had done him some good. He had a little color in his cheeks and the bags under his eyes had diminished.
"Oh?" she finally asked when he went silent again.
He finally sighed, closing his eyes and running a hand through his long hair.
"I'm sorry for how I've been acting." he said sincerely, finally looking over at her. "I do really like Fred. Him and George have been one of the few sources of comic relief in this hellhole. And I can see that he genuinely cares about you. Not only from the stories I've heard, but from the way I've personally seen him treat you. I have nothing against him. If anyone were to…date you," he added with mild dislike, "I'd prefer it be him."
Anna nodded slowly, giving him a small smile.
"I guess," he continued, "the main reason I didn't like you having a boyfriend is…well, I missed twelve years of your life. I know you're of age, but to me…I'm still catching up. You're still my little girl."
Anna's smile widened the tiniest bit as she scooted closer on the couch. Sirius lifted his arm and wrapped it around her shoulders, pulling her into his side. Anna tucked her feet up under her so she could snuggle into her father's side.
"I don't mind being your little girl." she told him, resting her head on his shoulder. "But you can trust Fred. He's my best friend. And I don't have to tell you everything he's done for me, because I've done it dozens of times. But the last thing you need to worry about is, well…Fred pressuring me for anything." Her cheeks flared up at the topic, but she needed her dad to understand.
Sirius sighed, turning to kiss the top of her head. "I know. I do trust the both of you. It's just…hard to think about sometimes. That you're grown up. I mean, as you pointed out, you're only months away from the age your mother was when I got her pregnant. I just can't imagine you in that position so soon."
Anna blushed again. "You have nothing to worry about, Dad. I can't see myself being in that situation any time soon. It's not physically possible."
Sirius cleared his throat uncomfortably. "Good. Good." he muttered. They were quiet for a moment before Sirius turned to look down at her again. "Is there anything else you'd like to talk about while we're here?" he asked gently.
Anna chewed her lip nervously, resting her head on his shoulder. She wasn't sure if she wanted to talk about all the things bothering her. She didn't want to upset him, but she also would like to have things out in the open.
"Belle?" he asked gently, tilting his head to look down at her.
Anna sighed. "I just…I don't want to upset you or anything. It's not that big of a deal, and you've already got a lot on your mind."
"Anna, that doesn't mean I don't have time for you." Sirius told her gently. "You're my daughter. I want you to talk to me. I'll admit, we haven't done a lot of that lately, but I want to. Please."
Anna sighed again, but this time in defeat. "Okay. Um,…well, I suppose to start…I might be kinda,…sorta,…a little bit…jealous…" she muttered.
Sirius's brows furrowed in confusion as he looked down at her. "Jealous? What could you possibly be jealous of?"
Anna continued chewing on her lip, peaking up at her father from under her eyelashes. Finally, she mumbled something unintelligible.
"Come again?" Sirius asked in confusion.
"Harry." she finally whispered.
"You're jealous of Harry?" Sirius repeated in surprise. "But-"
"I know! I know!" she exclaimed, covering her face with her hands for a moment before they fell to her lap again. "Harry's been through so many horrible things that I really have no reason to be jealous. But it's just…"
Sirius waited for her to speak again, but she seemed hesitant to do so. Tightening his arm around her shoulders, his kissed the top of her head. "What, Anna?" he asked gently.
"You like him better than me." she whispered quietly, almost hoping he wouldn't hear.
"What?" he laughed in disbelief. "That's ridiculous!"
Anna ducked her head slightly so he couldn't see her face and Sirius's slight smile fell. He used his free hand to tilt her chin up so he could look into her glistening gray eyes.
"Anna…I don't like Harry better than you. I care about him, yes, but I care about you differently. You're my daughter. I love you. When I was in Hogwarts, I wasn't even sure I wanted a family or children, because I was scared I'd end up like my parents. But when your mother told me we were having a baby…I already knew I loved you. I knew I could never treat you the way my parents treated me. I loved you before you were even born, and the first time I held you in my arms was the best day of my life."
Anna smiled shyly, her head lowered as she leaned her head on his shoulder again.
"You have no reason to be jealous, Darling. I love you. What even made you think I loved Harry more?"
"Well,…you treat him better. You let him ask questions about the Order his first night here, and you told him about your brother but you didn't tell me."
Sirius sighed heavily, nodding his head. "I guess…I guess I have given Harry some special treatment. I guess it's more because…well, Molly was onto something that night at dinner. When I see Harry, I see James. I suppose I think he can handle more than he really can. But you're my daughter, so I'm much more protective of you."
Anna rolled her eyes, smiling as she nudged her elbow against his ribs. He laughed loudly, making her smile widen.
"And I didn't tell you about my brother, or any of my family, really, because you never asked. I would've told you if you asked, I just never thought you'd want to hear about all that."
"I guess I didn't think of that." Anna admitted. "So,…could you tell me now?"
"About Regulus, or my childhood in general?"
"Hmm. Both." Anna decided after thinking about it.
"Alright. Well, Regulus was born a couple years after me…"