Cho Chang/Harry Potter Original Female Witch/Ron Weasley
Harry Potter Original Female Witch Original Male Wizard
Action Suspense
Children of Characters in the HP novels
Published: 04/12/2003
Updated: 05/05/2003
Words: 178,786
Chapters: 22
Hits: 20,126

Presents from the Past

Horst Pollmann

Story Summary:
Thirteen years after Hogwarts. Eight years have passed since the last time we saw our heroes. The number of children walking or crawling through the scene has grown from three to more than a dozen. And some of them are in the focus of attention - this way or the other ... Harry and Cho moved from California to Ireland. One of the reasons was to have the same time zone as Paris, where some other people are found, and some other children. However, it's their old place where the first dark clouds appear ...``A fic most of the characters known from the previous one - well, except for all these shorties somewhere between ten months and eleven years ...

Chapter 22 - Castle Children

Chapter Summary:
This chapter ends the story of the presents from the past - for example by showing how some creatures find a new place, appearing there like presents themselves ...

22 - Castle Children

Carl Seeger raised his glass and looked to the woman who was sitting opposite him at the table. He said, "To better times than we had recently."

A short twist ran through the woman's face. "That sounds as if I should reply something about good cooperation ..."

Knowing exactly what she meant, Carl felt like protesting.

"... which isn't wrong, in some sense, only that for the moment, I'll restrict myself and say, to this evening - cheers, Carl."

He nodded gratefully. "Cheers, Laila."

Putting down the glass, he looked around, glanced over the tables, not a single one left empty. "It's a small miracle that we got these seats, at such a short notice, and I'm more than glad about that - at this occasion, I didn't want to be anywhere else, while I couldn't muster any more patience either."

Laila smiled, pleased and without any teasing, as straightforward as Carl had learned to know her, in their few encounters so far. She said, "The first part is easy to explain, while the rest is easy to guess, although I wouldn't mind hearing it explained." Slightly more solemn, she added, "Not at all, actually."

Which fit ever so nicely, because Carl felt ready to use some more words for what was crossing his mind. Before he could start though, Laila asked, "You've been here with Harry, haven't you?"

"Yes, and - ah, that's why ..." Carl nodded, remembering how Harry had introduced him to Luiz Pereira, the host with the good memory for important names. "And that's also why it had to be here - he's the one who introduced me to you."

Laila looked at him expectantly, as if the explanation wasn't finished yet.

Which was true. "And I really wanted to know how you look in civil clothes. Just in case I didn't tell you yet - it's breathtaking."

"Thank you."

So far, Carl had seen her only in battle dresses, as Laila certainly remembered. Had to, considering the occasions, only that right now her eyes were sparkling as if to hint at still another alternative.

Which, in its own way, had some breathtaking effect toward him as well. Right now, he wished there was a menu card, or a wine card - something to look into and fill his hands, only he had left the selection to their host, following the habit used at his first time in this restaurant.

"For a detective in civvies, it's harder to differentiate, so just in order to leave the job behind quickly - is it correct to say the story is over?"

"As good as." Laila's expression hardened for an instant. "There's still some activity underneath, and this might cause another bit of - er, clean-up, let's say, only what's still going on is beyond our saying, because it plays in Goblin territory." She looked grim. "And playing would be the wrong term for sure."

Then she grinned. "But so what. Not our problem."

Carl was interrupted by the waitress with their hors d'oeuvres. When they were alone again, he said, "Let me ask you just one more question - I promise, afterwards I'll change the subject at once, and this one's mainly for my good relationships with Lieutenant McIlroy. What jurisdiction was it exactly where - er, where we lost all traces that might have led to the main suspect in the Garcia case?"

Laila beamed at him. "I like it how you put your words, Carl - lost all traces, that's cute. While for the jurisdiction, that's really an interesting question."

For a moment, Carl thought Laila was trying to match his sarcasm, only her expression told him that her words weren't intended as a joke at all.

"The final took place on Irish ground. With a woman who might have been registered in France, while natively English. But the major problem is something different. When it started, she was a witch, and this court was what you might call the Supreme Court of the wizarding world ..."

Carl stared at her, again wondering if she was putting him on.

"... only, when it ended, she was no longer a witch. She was a Muggle at that moment, so I guess some ordinary law would have applied to her, be it Irish or English or whatever." Laila smiled again. "Only that this law for sure didn't apply to the one who sent her to the ultimate court."

"A Supreme Court?" Carl stared at Laila with suspicion in his face. "And the judge was the executioner himself?"

"Not him - her. She calls herself the High Priestess."

From Laila's words, Carl would have sworn she was having fun of him. Except her expression didn't fit, not her voice either.

"High Priestess, huh?"

"Yes. Her real name's Aram'chee. She's the one who made me a witch."

"And this is no fairytale?"

"No, Carl." Laila looked in his eyes with seriousness. "Not the least bit. And since it isn't hard to imagine that you'd like hearing more about her - I'm ready to tell you, only something else needs to be discussed first."

"Well - yes, sure, except that I had something more personal in mind, as the topic of our conversation."

"Oh, that might all come together." The sparkling was back in Laila's eyes, making Carl quite expectant to hear more. But first, they were interrupted by the waitress who removed some dishes, then brought others.

Working with knife and fork, Laila said, "It's a shame how we neglect this food, it's really delicious, only there's a ...

"Why?" he interrupted her. "I'm not treating it with disrespect, I can eat while listening." Carl filled his mouth and chewed, for proof.

"Can you?"

It took him a few seconds before realizing that he could listen only to someone talking, and the only likely candidate had started emptying her dish in silence and with seriousness. Beaten with his own argument, he said, "Okay, so my curiosity will suffer a bit ..."

This was a lie - his curiosity suffered considerably, and Laila's expression told him she knew, from watching his face.

"... but otherwise, what might be so complicated that it can't be outlined while emptying a glass after this food?"

Laila showed some amusement. "It's not complicated at all. Still, I'd rate the chances pretty high that we'll agree upon two reasons why you'll be sorry, not having taken your share of the blame."

Watching Laila's face, Carl could imagine one reason, hardly suited to be expressed right now. Otherwise, he felt at a loss to follow her thought. But then, he wasn't exactly famous for the slow celebration of foodwork, registered with appreciation that Laila didn't waste time either, and therefore the time span was acceptable after which he said, "Well, any dessert nonwithstanding - I'm ready to listen."

"Are you?" Laila chewed - last bites, thank God.

"Yes, I am. What were you going to say when I interrupted you?"

"Oh - something about a tradition." Laila signaled the waiter for the desserts card.

"A tradition?"

"Yes." Laila scanned the card, found the brandy cherries quite appealing, found the brandy without cherries still more appealing and told the waiter so. Then she smiled at Carl. "With this restaurant, and some people from Groucho, and some police lieutenants. Ramon Garcia was hired here."


Several answers crossed Carl's mind in rapid succession, each of them dismissed instantly. This topic could only be rated difficult in general and a mine field with Laila in particular.

When he hadn't replied after a moment, Laila said, "Since Ramon's gone, the CEO's seat is vacant."

"But you were his assistant, so it's only natural that you will follow, isn't that so? And I don't think the recent activities ..." Registering that he had stepped right onto one of these mines, Carl hurried on, "You didn't disappoint them, I mean. So isn't the job waiting for you?"

"Yes, it is."

"Then where's the problem? Or should I ask, where's the point?"

"I won't take it."

Carl couldn't follow. "Why not?"

"I'm not made for the boss woman," explained Laila. "I figured it out recently, although I guess that I knew already before. Cho said, that's fine with her, she's not going to force anyone to some personal luck, or the absence of it, except of course she sees it as my responsibility to come up with another candidate."

"Yeah, naturally so." Carl knew Cho mostly from hearsay, however this description fit exactly what he'd heard.

Laila stared at him. "So?"

"So what?"

"Say, do you need a diagram for what we're talking about? That's hardly a recommendation." Laila's face didn't match the reproach in her words - instead it showed expectancy and anxiousness.

No, Carl didn't need a diagram. He had understood, and for this reason, he seemed in need of a bit more air than currently was passing his throat. Then he became aware that it couldn't be. Then he registered - it had to be, considering Laila's look.

"Erm - this tradition you mentioned, do I have to take it a bit more literally than expected?"


"But ..." Carl tried to find words, this couldn't be a joke, only she couldn't be serious either, while quite obviously she was.

"That's nonsense," he said eventually. "It's never going to work. You picked me just because you don't know any other candidate - "

"That's true," said Laila, surprising him almost as much as a moment before.

"Then ..." Lieutenant Carl Seeger watched another sequence of replies passing his mind, none of them finding approval. Yes, they were all correct, expressed his feelings at this moment, what he'd like to say about such attacks right after some delicious food - except that all of them seemed so useless, in a way. The woman opposite him was only interested in yes or no - not quite true, she was only interested in a yes ...

"You've scared me," he said.

Laila looked joyful, almost beaming. "Why should you score better than the others, Carl? That's what I said, some time ago, that's what Ramon said, some time ago - you've passed the test. When can you start?"

"I didn't ..." He stopped himself - he hadn't said yes, true, only he hadn't said no either, by some accident he'd said the same as some other people. Then another thought struck him. "And you? ... Do you want to continue as before?"

"Well, not quite - "

"Don't tell me you're going to quit that company! How should I ever get my feet onto ground without - "

"If you'll ever let me finish my sentences, you'll find out!" Laila stared at him, again her expression not matching her words. "Yes, I have the intention to be assistant as before - only with a certain difference."

"Yes, of course - I'm not Ramon."


Watching her, Carl asked, "Well, aside from this obvious fact, and my lack of experience, is there still any other difference?"


He waited an instant, not hearing more. As a result, his own voice came a bit louder than really necessary. "Would you please have the courtesy to tell me about this difference? Short and understandable - I wouldn't even mind a diagram in ..."


Yes, this was short indeed. So much so that Carl inspected this explanation from all sides, in his mind, time and again failing to find any interpretation other than the obvious one.

Just when he knew he had to answer something, and that these words would sound awfully wrong, Laila said, "I told you - didn't I? Two reasons why this news should have come a few minutes earlier."

"Yes, you did. Although - try as I might, I see just one - because it's the same person that has to recover."

Laila nodded. "Sure - only that someone else might be quite interested to see you - er, sufficiently recovered."

Should there have been any doubt left in him, this remark pushed it off. Carl exhaled. "Did I tell you that I have a strong sense of priority? I learned to shift tomorrow's problems to the back of my mind - actually, works best at a quiet place, less people around ..."

"It just so happens," interrupted Laila, "I know such a place, found it while preparing for this evening. It's famous for a certain specialty."

"Specialty?" Somewhat carefully, Carl asked, "And you're sure the amount of novelties for today isn't enough yet?"

Laila grinned. "It's not that bad. I'm talking about real coffee - what people offer as coffee here around really turns me off."

* * *

Opening the door, Ron found just one figure waiting to enter - that of his adopted brother Harry. Which was only a minor surprise, in particular since the quietness outside had told Ron already seconds before - this could hardly be the rest of his family.

Harry, on the other side, looked more surprised. "You here?"

"Well, I mean sorry for the inconvenience, but you know, I'm at home here." Quite satisfied with his reply, Ron escorted his guest into the living room. "Janine had some shopping in mind," he said by way of explanation, "so I took a day off to tend the twins."

"Ah, I see." Apparently eager to return the favour, Harry said, "And because the weather was just too good, you sent her shopping with them, am I right?"

"Not at all," grinned Ron. "They do a mini shopping beforehand - if you'd been a bit louder outside, I would have thought it would be them. Anyway, they should be back in a few minutes. And you? Some weeks ago, I would have said, you come to let Janine breathe free for a while, but now, with some shorties in the castle - "

"That's exactly why I'm here," said Harry. "To fetch Carole and Diane - you know, the more the simpler." Then he grinned, somewhat maliciously. "And now you're torn between the alternatives - join me and be a good father, or join Janine and be a good husband - "

"Or stay at home and be a lazybag." Ron laughed. "That's no question at all; Janine's quite concerned to shake off her entire family for a few hours, and unless you tell me you can't manage alone, my choice is clear."

Of course, Harry didn't say that, while he knew from his own experience that these two devilish girls could drive a saint into early retirement, so Ron felt no reason for some bad conscience. Thinking about the situation in the Irish castle, he asked, "How's the legal state with Carlos and Esmeralda?"

"Awful," replied Harry. "A real mess."

"But I thought you had a deal with this lieutenant, what's his name ..."

"McIlroy?" Harry snorted. "I had, and he kept to his part. It's not him to blame; I even got a call from him because he's pissed off with his own administration. Know what they said? They refuse to release Marie-Christine's corpse as long as we don't deliver the children to court's custody."

Ron stared at his friend, just barely avoiding to ask, Really? It didn't strike him as a suitable comment right now. After some seconds, he asked, "So what are you going to do?"

"Did already." Harry sounded grim. "I spoke with Spinbottle. He said this needs a local expert, only he didn't know any. Then we heard around, and - well, it was Kathleen Miller who knew whom to contact. Since then - "

"Wait, wait! Who's Kathleen Miller?"

"Oh." Harry looked astonished, then grinned. "For a while, she's been a hard competition to our sister, if you get my drift."

"Really?" This time, Ron couldn't avoid the remark, but now it seemed perfectly well in place.

"In a way, yes, while in another, she was chanceless, didn't intend to either, for all I heard. Anyway, she gave us a contact, and since then, a certain Mr Garuthers is giving them hell."

"What's your guess?"

"My guess?" Harry looked at Ron in disbelief. "The only interesting question is whether we have to blackmail the county of Santa Monica by threatening to move Groucho to some other place. Aside from that - of course they'll stay with us." Harry hesitated a moment. "We try desperately to avoid remarks like family and new parents and so, in particular because of Esmeralda, but" - he smiled - "it doesn't matter; that's in good hands."

"Could it be these hands can be seen holding a flute, just in-between?"

Harry looked pleased. "And during, before, and after. She's crazy about music - Gabriel told me we should come with some castagnettes, so she can dance and play her own part, without the feeling she would challenge him."

Ron nodded. "That's good to hear. Three sets of parents in two years ..." Then he grinned. "So you and Cho, you have managed to come on a par with us, huh?"

"And even without ..." Harry stopped himself, wrinkled his face. "Sorry, that joke wasn't needed."

"Ah, come on." Ron gave him a push. "The sooner you finish sentences like that, the better. At least, can nobody say you won't be in step with us."

"What?" For an instant, Harry looked confused. "Oh, you mean two at once? Yes."

Ron's mind was racing to find something that would pull his friend out of this mood. "You know," he said, "that reminds me of the year when we had our O.W.L.s. Remember? For quite a while, it looked as if you were lagging behind me, and then, all of a sudden, you came up with the missing one."

Harry looked at him. "That's a weird picture, Ron." After a moment, however, he started to grin. "And besides, it's totally wrong, because then, Hermione was far ahead, and now - there's just Sophia."

Ron shook his head. "Never underestimate Hermione - and Viktor, for that matter. Believe me - they've only just begun."

* * *

Coming home, Gabriel found the castle empty - well, not counting Dobby and Winky. However, what he could sense told him some people weren't far away, and the direction from where these signals arrived told him he should come with a swimsuit when joining them.

So he changed from school clothes to swimsuit, jeans, and T-shirt, then he jumped to the beach. And here they were - Ireen with Tanitha some steps aside, as a kind of security zone between her and the battle scene ...

... because this was the proper term, as Gabriel could notice at once: Harry and Carlos under tight siege by the two Weasley girls, Carole and Diane alternating between these targets, and Esmeralda, who watched the two whirlwinds with some brooding desperation.

Until she saw him. Her face lighted up and her mood jumped from jealous to joyful. "Gabriel! Do you have your flute with you?"

He grinned. "Claro està, Esmeralda."

Hearing this answer, she beamed at him - but only for a short moment, because next instant, the two Weasley girls changed tack at once.

Carole. "What did you say, Gabriel?"

Diane. "Are you going to play for us, Gabriel?"

He could feel it - any second now, probably the moment these two redheads would touch him, a screaming Mexican hellcat was going to reveal in full public which competition was running underneath. Instinctively, Gabriel grabbed Esmeralda and put his arms around the thin body, her back to him, so she could face the French invasion.

His father's voice. "To hear music, you two must negotiate with Esmeralda."

"Huh?" Two young faces turned around and stared at Harry in disbelief ... No, three, except the third one didn't need much turning.

"Yes," said Harry, "because since recently, Esmeralda is Gabriel's agent, when it's about music." He looked at Gabriel plus girl. "Am I right?"

Even without the gentle message in his mind, Gabriel would have kept his silence, to wait until this severely baffled agent felt ready to answer. After another second, in which the Weasley twins had turned again, the head in Gabriel's view nodded, and a very determined voice said, "Yes."

Without hesitation, Carole and Diane closed in on Gabriel's agent and started talking, touching, arguing, convincing, pulling forward - no doubt pulling this unexperienced agent over some table which wasn't there, only such a concern would miss the point entirely.

Gabriel watched as his father talked with Carlos in a low voice. At the first moment, the boy had made preparations to help his sister, seeing her under this devilish siege, while apparently Harry could convince him not to spoil the opportunity for some ground-breaking girls' talk.

And Gabriel could feel how the level of common spirit was growing.

Moments later, the three girls stood before him. With great seriousness in her face, his agent told him that they had found an agreement. Assuming he would play long enough, each of them had a wish free, and he himself too, something to surprise them.

Gabriel asked, "And who's going to start?"

As it turned out, the wicked Weasleys had foreseen even that, had offered a truly neutral measure - just in order of alphabet, which meant Carole first, Diane then, Esmeralda afterwards - yes, and Gabriel himself at the end, what with his coming late in the alphabet.

His audience settled in a half cirle in front of him. About to ask Carole for her song of choice, Gabriel stopped and turned.

Down the path from the castle came two figures. One of them was human and female - Rahewa, in her left hand a leash, and at the end of the leash the second figure: doggish, black and yellow, and obviously a bit scared, considering how the dog's tail hung almost between the hind legs.

Rahewa reached them and stopped. "Hi. Mind some company?" Not waiting for an answer, she knelt down.

The dog, a German shepherd, quickly sat down as well.

Rahewa released the leash and came up. Se reached in her pocket and dropped something in the circle between Gabriel and the girls. "Here - he likes hunting that."

Gabriel had just time to recognize the thing - a tennis ball - when he saw the dog, which had followed Rahewa's movements, turn around and jump after the ball.

Next momwent, he stopped again, just outside the circle, and retreated a step, tail now definitely tucked between the legs. Maybe it had been the circle of unknown people, small as they were, while the double shriek from the twins at the dog's jump hadn't sounded like an encouragement for coming closer.

Esmeralda reacted first. She took the tennis ball and made a few steps toward the dog, then offered the ball in her hand.

The dog looked a bit timid, otherwise quite expectant.

"Throw it," called Rahewa, who had passed Harry and was on her way to say hello to Ireen and Tanitha.

Esmeralda threw the ball - a fair distance, considering her age. The ball sailed through the air and landed in the wet sand close to the waterline.

The dog raced after the ball, reached it, and grabbed it with its fang. Just at this moment, the last runner of a wave lapped between his legs. The dog jumped in surprise and dropped the ball, which was carried forward a few feet. The dog stared at the fading wave, stared at the next one closing in on his feet, and barked - twice, rather wimpishly.

Esmeralda went to the dog and spoke with him. Then she took the ball and threw it landward.

The dog raced after the ball, grabbed it, and returned to Esmeralda. He sat down, ball between his teeth, quite obviously waiting for the next throw.

Esmeralda took the ball and threw it again. A moment later, Gabriel could watch how two French girls approached the scene carefully, to lose their reluctance pretty quickly - and to learn soon afterwards that the difference in age, just one year, was quite significant when it came to throwing balls.

The dog, gaining confidence by the second, just didn't take them seriously. Yes, he went after their throws, only to return each ball to Esmeralda.

Gabriel stood up and walked over to the group consisting of his father, Rahewa, and Carlos. He asked, "Say, what dog is this?"

"I found him outside a French castle," replied Rahewa. "His former owner - well, we could say she abandoned him."

So it had been Lady Malfoy's dog. Gabriel examined the dog again, not seeing any trace that might indicate this former ownership. He turned back to Rahewa. "What's his name?"

"Good question." Rahewa grinned. "We weren't introduced then, and - well, somehow, I failed to ask in time."

Harry said, "Madame Pouilly might know."

"Probably," answered Rahewa, "but then, why not have them find a new name?" Her head tilted toward the group to which Carlos was walking over.

Harry asked, "What do you mean, have them find a new name?"

Considering the unmistakable implication, also from what he could sense in his father, Gabriel felt sure this question was fairly rhetoric.

Rahewa, somewhat more restricted in her sensory system, looked a bit self-conscious. "Well, you know, I really had the intention to keep him, but there's a problem."

Harry asked, "With Clemens?"

"No, not with him. It's me."

"You." Harry started to chuckle, and Gabriel felt the same - Rahewa, dog animagus in pursuit of her adopted parents' example, couldn't get along with a German shepherd?

"Don't make fun of me - it's sad enough!" Rahewa looked reproachful. "Lady Malfoy probably wasn't the nicest owner, and this dog takes me as her successor, somehow. But the worst - he saw me turn into a dog, actually I did it several times, because I thought it might help ..."

Gabriel and his father were trembling in suppressed laughter.

"... so, to make it short, he's scared shitless from someone alternating between a human and a dog."

Father and son were almost rolling in the sand.

Rahewa stood up and started to drop her clothes, revealing a swimsuit. She said, "It's not the least bit funny!"

Father and son lost all contenance.

"Insensible pack," snorted Rahewa and marched into the water.

Recovering, Harry glanced over to the group with a genuine dog in the center, then turned to Gabriel. "Clever girl, huh?"

It took Gabriel a second to register - his father was talking about Rahewa, rather than Esmeralda.

"And I bet, she'll be gone by the time someone has to break the news to Cho."

Gabriel kept silent. He knew as well as his father, there was someone perfectly suited to the task. Coming home this evening, his mother would realize that some fate had put a girl and a dog together, never to separate again - not farther than a tennis ball could be thrown.

He felt some expectancy in himself to get in touch with the dog. He would give them some more minutes, then he would take his flute and start playing. And for sure - girls and dog would gather, would listen, would forget that tennis ball for a while. It was just a question of the right tune.

* * *

Frédéric gave his grandmother a proper welcome, then watched as Sandra shook hands with Madame Pouilly. While this wasn't a common habit among English people, Sandra had adapted enough French custom in Beauxbatons, hadn't found it difficult anyway after her years in California.

And besides - Frédéric could imagine a time when her welcome to his grandmother wouldn't be much different from his own.

"Thank you for your coming," said Madame Pouilly. "While I'll appreciate it always, very much so, today there's a special reason" - she looked at the girl - "in particular for your visit, Sandra."

So much Frédéric had known already before, after his grandmother's question whether he could visit her together with Sandra. He had some idea what the reason for this invitation might be, and in a moment, he would find out whether he was right.

"There's someone in this household," explained Madame Pouilly, "who is extremely unhappy, almost desperate - a house-elf."

Frédéric nodded inwardly toward himself. Right he'd been.

"His name is Birdy," said Madame Pouilly to Sandra. "He was Lucinda's - Lady Malfoy's servant. And now that she's gone, he's waiting to meet his new owner."

Sandra looked astonished. "His new owner? But there isn't a new owner, is there?"

"There must be, from his perspective." Madame Pouilly's face showed a mix of amusement, sadness, and embarrassment. "Lady Malfoy didn't free him, before ... I mean, she had no intention anyway, so there's no reason to pretend. And for a house-elf, that means he must be passed over to a new owner."

"Well, then - isn't that you?"

"No, my dear, certainly not - not from his perspective, and not from mine either, because I have all servants I need. Birdy says, his new owner must be the one who - well, who is responsible for the loss of his former owner."

Frédéric would have found simpler words for that, and from what he could watch in Sandra's face, he wasn't alone with this thought. But then, Lady Malfoy had been his grandmother's friend for quite a while.

"That would be Aram'chee," said Sandra. "But she won't take him; she wouldn't know what to do with a house-elf."

Madame Pouilly nodded. "Yes, obviously so. And I explained that to Birdy - actually, it was upsetting him quite a lot. Then we discussed it a bit more, and ..."

Frédéric knew already what was coming and started to grin.

"... he said, then it must be someone somehow related to her. And the only person of whom I know some relationship to her - that's you, Sandra."


"Yes. You are the heir of the High Priestess."

Sandra stared at Madame Pouilly. Then she giggled, but stopped after a moment.

Madame Pouilly asked, "Shall I call him?"

"Er - wait a second." Sandra looked startled. "He's the one who's been with Carlos and Esmeralda, right?"

Frédéric's grandmother nodded. "Yes, unfortunately so."

"Well, that settles it." Sandra shook her head. "I mean, we have enough with Dobby and Winky for sure, and I wonder how Dobby and Birdy might have worked together, but ... No, I don't think we should remind them of each other."

Madame Pouilly looked relieved, and appreciating. "I had the same feeling, also with respect to Birdy - these events have unsettled him considerably. But then, what to do with him?"

"That's simple," said Sandra. "I'm going to set him free."

Madame Pouilly smiled. "Yes, my dear, that's pretty much what I expected. However, before doing that, you must know that the freedom will unsettle him even more - at least right now. Birdy is as much traumatized as the two children. Sending him off - that would be horrible for him. In a while, maybe."

Sandra looked at Frédéric. Feeling sure she was thinking the same, Frédéric nodded. "Yes, I think that's the best idea."

His grandmother asked, "May I hear this idea? Pardon for not following that quickly."

Sandra grinned. "The Weasleys - Fleur, Héloise, Michel, Ismène - and Bill, of course." She grinned broader. "Madame, we could turn it so that he comes from you - for a house-elf, Fleur would balance out a lot, if you know what I mean."

Madame Pouilly knew quite well, however protested at once, "Oh no, certainly not - he isn't mine, that would be pretense, and besides, I still have some confidence to find a way with your aunt."

Frédéric grinned too. "Definitely, and aside from that - sooner or later she'd find out ..." He stopped in mid-sentence, seeing his grandmother's glance, although not losing his grin.

Sandra couldn't imagine any reason why Fleur should not accept the offer, only Madame Pouilly recommended to ask her in advance, mentioning that most people would consider this normal. So Sandra got her phony, called her aunt, and asked whether Fleur could do with a house-elf, Birdy his name.

Frédéric could listen only to this side of the conversation, but he could watch Sandra's face, and of course he could imagine what Héloise's mother would say.

Just then Sandra explained that Birdy would be found in the Pouilly castle - yes, right, Malfoy inheritance, so far like Dobby, only totally different, and he didn't know yet, only Sandra wanted to be sure ...

A squeak of excitement from the other side reached even Frédéric's ear.

And something else, inaudible again, made Sandra look pleased. She pressed the Off button and looked at Madame Pouilly. "Yes, it's d'accord for her, so if Birdy agrees too ..."

"He will, Sandra," interrupted Madame Pouilly. "I take it you are used to an independent spirit as Dobby, about whom I had the opportunity to hear some stories ..."

Frédéric's grandmother wrinkled her nose, while the two guests found the good sense to save their remarks at this obviously painful reference to past months.

Then Madame Pouilly continued, "... that's why I was concerned to find a smooth transit for this poor sod. Maybe you'd like to take him with you, at the end of this visit?"

Frédéric found this a very good idea. He liked his Grand-Maman, in some way even more than before, but a visit in the Weasley house would outperform the current visit for sure.

To his disappointment, Sandra shook her head. "No, Madame, first because I have to do another - er, visit soon, but most of all - Fleur said, she would like to come over and fetch him, and - er, she said, she'd prefer if, at that time, we'd be out of the way."

"So, did she?" Madame Pouilly looked a bit startled, however also expectant. "In this case, you should talk with him now."

"I'm going to fetch him," said Frédéric, who suddenly saw a chance for another visit of which he didn't even know the destination. Madame Weasley in a four-eyes talk with his grandmother - well, he still could drop through all grids and find himself deposited in Beauxbatons.

The tiny figure looked terrified, raising pity in Frédéric. "Don't worry," he said, "she's nice, and I heard about quite an exciting order for you."

Unfortunatley, this remark seemed the worst he could have found. Birdy had performed more than his share of exciting orders in the recent months, started wailing and sobbing, while the other house-elves stared at him with uneasiness, anxious not to come closer.

Frédéric grabbed the thin arm and marched back to the living room. He found neither the skill in him nor the patience for consoling this trembling figure any further, but then, he didn't search in earnest.

Entering the living room, pushing the house-elf forward, Frédéric had to fight a laugh. He stopped in front of Sandra. "May I introduce - Birdy - Sandra Potter."

The house-elf mustered some contenance, apparently from bad experience in the past, and bowed deeply several times. "Missus Potter, this Birdy is a servant of yours, Missy, and him will do so at your ever satisfaction."

Frédéric, feeling a gentle blow in his mind, understood at once. Standing behind Birdy, he had already started trembling too, only from suppressed laughter, and therefore fully in Sandra's view. Thanks to her support, he could steady and walk to his chair.

Sandra said, "Good evening, Birdy. Er, yes, I'm sure you will, and the first thing I need is something from your former missus - actually, a pair of socks."

"Yes, Missy Potter, Missus, of course ..." The creature was almost flying, barely avoided hitting the doorframe, and was back in record time.

Sandra accepted the shapeless roll, only to offer it back at once. "Here, take them."

Birdy obeyed, then stood there, staring dumbstruck at the socks in his hands.

"This is a piece of garment," explaind Sandra. "You got it from me, it belonged to your former missus, and that means you're free. Right?"

"Am I?" The house-elf seemed at a loss to cope with this unexpected fate.

"Yes. That's the rule; you may ask other house-elves. And to know you in good care, and also some people in your own care, Birdy, I've found a place for you. It's my aunt, she has three children ..."

At this keyword, Birdy twisted in uneasiness, however looked quite interested.

"... Héloise is a classmate of Frédéric and myself, her brother Michel is a classmate of my brother Gabriel, and Ismène is still a baby. My aunt Fleur will pay you a salary ..."

This keyword seemed to destroy all balance Birdy had regained.

"... only that, for a while, you will pass this salary over to two other children. You know them already, a boy and a girl, their names are Carlos and Esmeralda."

Birdy started to tremble, close to another wailing.

Which made Sandra explain quickly, "So this is your compensation for them, that you were in the house where they've been held. For them it's pocket money - and in due time, when they come and tell you that from now on you can keep that salary, then you'll know they have forgiven you."

Birdy stopped his trembling, stared at Sandra, started another trembling, only this time from luck beyond grasp. "Oh, Missy, this you have given Birdy so great a favour, me your house-elf is not knowing how to tell his Missy of him the gratefulness of this Birdy has ... Yes, that will this Birdy do right!"

Close to her limits, Sandra gasped, "Fine, great - and now get your things packed, my aunt Fleur will be here in a while ..."

"Yes, Missy Potter, sure, this happy Birdy will do as his Missy said ..." Retreating, bowing, otherwise with remarkable speed, the house-elf disappeared through the open door.

Frédéric found the politeness to wait still a second, giving Birdy time to hurry out of earshot, before he relieved his almost cramped stomach in a fit of laughter. Recovering, he glanced at Sandra. "That was brilliant - her own socks, from you - that's kind of waterproof for a house-elf, isn't it?"

"Yes," replied Sandra, "only it wasn't my idea - your grandmother told me."

Which answered the question how Sandra had known about Lady Malfoy's socks still lying around somewhere in this castle. Madame Pouilly didn't hesitate to return the compliment. "But the idea with the salary was yours, Sandra, and I'm very impressed. Such an elegant solution!"

"Well ..." Sandra seemed quite embarrassed. "You know, that wasn't really my own idea either - my father did something similar once, for his younger sister, only she wasn't his real sister, and here it's the same between me and the two, Carlos and Esmeralda."

Frédéric recorded this detail in his memory - something he hadn't heard yet, and of course it couldn't be found in the public Potter files.

"And by the way, he did something else, when he came to the Weasleys - er, it has to do with names." Sandra blushed, astonishing Frédéric as well as his grandmother, then continued, "The way he called - er, he called her Ma Weasley, and that's why for me she's of course Grandma Weasley, except most of the time I make it shorter, and ... I thought, maybe ..."

Sandra's voice had trailed off, in contrast to the blushing which had deepened, for compensation. Frédéric turned, to watch his grandmother, who had coloured a bit by herself, who now said, somewhat breathlessly, "Did I understand that right? You - you would like to call me Grandma Pouilly?"

Not looking up, Sandra said, "Yes - er, except I thought of Grand-Maman, because it should be French, shouldn't it?"

"Oh, but yes, Sandra, definitely, that's ..."

Frédéric realized that his guess about French welcomes between Sandra and his grandmother had been badly wrong, however only regarding the time frame, because he could watch them right now, and with pleasure - after all, the confrontation with his parents would take place some time soon, and there was no ally like an ally in your own family.

Recovering from some emotion, Madame Pouilly said, "Well, Sandra, as you mentioned another visit, and since I can expect some other visitor the moment you two are off" - she smiled - "thanks to the new terms between us, I really can say, thank you for your visit and don't wait too long for the next, only now it's time, right?"

"Yes, er - Grand-Maman Pouilly." Sandra did the French goodbye, which had a strong similarity to the French welcome. Then she said, "You know - er, it might have taken me some more time, but I thought - when Fleur comes along, and you can tell her ..."

Madame Pouilly hugged her new half-equivalent of a granddaughter. "Thank you so much, ma chère, I will, while I'm confident I won't need it as ammunition."

Regarding this point, Frédéric had his doubts. For what he'd seen and heard, the Weasleys in general and Veela in particular were a bit slower in forgiving than some other people. Except it was a futile thought, as he knew - about the outcome there was litte doubt, while the details would probably be kept private. But then again, maybe he knew a channel - starting at Benoît, from there to Héloise, maybe then first to Michel ...

Sandra grabbed him. "Let's go - you weren't listed in my initial planning for this visit, but I can't just drop you in Beauxbatons, can I?"

Frédéric lost no time in shuddering from this barely avoided fate. Instead, his mind was speculating - would his guess be right?

* * *

There wasn't a thing so bad, you still could find some benefit in it for yourself ... Sandra had heard these words, or others to the same extent, more than once, from her father as well as from Aram'chee. And to her slight amazement, she found this wisdom confirmed in an unexpected constellation.

Lady Malfoy's plotting had brought a house-elf into the Weasley residence - more exactly the one in the Goblin quarter of Paris. While this was nice and certainly a benefit for Fleur, Sandra herself took profit from another aspect in this sequence of events. The Malfoy trial in the castle had made the High Priestess public - at least as public as Sandra was concerned. As a result, she could talk with Frédéric about this topic. And based on that, she could take him along when fetching Aram'chee.

This was a very pleasurable feeling. Of course, Frédéric had no place in the private conversations between herself and the High Priestess, only today something else was on schedule, and Sandra felt sure not to find disapproval when arriving with him.

At the Crusader castle, Frédéric glanced around, and jumped a bit when suddenly Aram'chee stood before him. Sandra said, "Good evening, Aram'chee. This is Frédéric Pouilly - you saw him in the court room, and today - er, I didn't feel like shaking him off first."

The High Priestess smiled. "Oh, really? Then I shouldn't do that either, hm?" She turned to a boy who seemed quite impressed while not surprised. "Good evening, Frédéric Pouilly. I was looking forward to meeting the one who might find my bond with Sandra quite objectionable."

"Er - no, er - good evening, High Priestess."

Sandra felt slightly surprised by herself. She hadn't expected to hear Aram'chee addressing a possible conflict in some future so directly. Still more, she didn't know why - except that the High Priestess was hardly famous for accidental remarks. And she seemed amused, somehow.

"Today, I'm just Aram'chee - well, except for a short moment." The High Priestess smiled more. "And I will call you just Frédéric - for what I heard, the name Pouilly is not entirely free of mixed feelings."

Frédéric nodded. "Yes, er - Aram'chee."

Sandra hurried to say, "But we're working on that, and with quite some success. Let's go, then I have to tell it only once."

"So you don't need my help in defending your decisions? That's even better." Toward a gaping Frédéric, Aram'chee explained, "When Sandra tells me first about something, normally it means I should give her arguments to convince her mother."

Sandra felt little risk to need this kind of help today, felt satisfied seeing Frédéric's reaction - for him, arguments within the family were routine work. Then Aram'chee nodded, and all three of them apparated into the dining room of Carron Lough.

This raised some more twisting. Frédéric hadn't known where they would come out. Sandra's parents hadn't known that he would join the party. Ireen hadn't known anything, and the exact moment of their arrival had of course been unknown to everybody - usually no affair, except that they were almost late, and quite some chairs around the table were already occupied.

But perhaps the biggest surpise was Sandra's own, when she saw a very unexpected member of this circle, although not sitting on a chair. A dog - he had twisted too, had even barked once, which was followed by some whimpering.

Sandra watched as Esmeralda patted the dog's head. The girl said something to the dog, unfortunately in Spanish, then stared at Aram'chee with some hostility.

However, only for a moment. The High Priestess reached the united forces of upset girl and timid dog and said something to Esmeralda, maybe also using Spanish. Then she bent down to the dog, and when she patted the dog by herself and received a licking of her hands after a second, the fire in the girl's eyes faded.

They sat down; the dinner could start. To Sandra's displeasure, she had to tell her own news first, before she could hear the story of that dog. Then she had to wait more because her mother asked some questions, although Cho seemed to temper herself in the presence of Aram'chee and Frédéric. At least, Sandra found approval, and when Carlos and Esmeralda heard that this house-elf would pay them compensation, she received a beaming from the boy and a thoughtful stare from the girl.

Then she could satisfy her own curiosity. It was mostly Gabriel who told her the story about dog lost dog - or left behind. Glancing over to her mother, Sandra could notice something rare; hadn't it been Cho, Sandra would have called it helpless humility. She turned to Esmeralda. "Did you give him a name already?"


Very literal, that girl. "Which one?"


Bolo, as Sandra learned, was Spanish and meant skittle or bowling pin, this name because one could send the dog flying and rolling over by throwing a ball.

Esmeralda looked proud, having found this name. Next moment, she looked somewhat embarrassed when Aram'chee laughed and said, "Yes, but bolo also means fool, doesn't it?"

Yes it did, but that was okay, according to Esmeralda, because the dog was indeed a bit foolish, had to learn a lot, probably - except that Esmeralda herself wouldn't have revealed this meaning.

Cho turned to the High Priestess. "How come you know Spanish?"

In a perfect imitation of business slang, Aram'chee replied, "That goes with the job, you know - the Spaniards were global players when English was considered provincial and inferior."

Some people had fun - Ireen, for example, while Cho's amusement seemed limited. As a native Chinese, she could live with this verdict, might even consider English as inferior by herself, only she would have grinned more if someone else had received this answer.

Then the dinner reached the state where all people had finished eating. Aram'chee stood up and walked to Ireen's place. There she said, "Ireen Chee, I was told you have the strong desire of being a witch. Is this true?"

Ireen, temporarily short on words, nodded.

"So be it." The High Priestess returned to her seat, sat down, and turned to Frédéric. "That's been the official moment I mentioned. Now I'm off duty again."

Ireen didn't know how to look, and what to say. She borrowed a wand - Sandra's - produced some sparkles and got excited. Checking the time, Harry said, "I guess Mr Ollivander's is still open. What do you think, Ireen, is this the right time for your wand?"

Oh yes, very much so.

Sandra could feel the conflict in her mother. Cho wanted to join them, no doubt - only she wasn't going to leave her guests alone in this room. Sandra said quickly, "We'd like to sit at the beach for a while, Mum. What about you - Ollivander or beach?"

Cho sent a pleased glance to her daughter, and an apologetic one to Aram'chee. "If you don't mind?"

No, the High Priestess didn't. Sitting close to the waterline, watching some children and a dog, she said, "A thought was running through my mind. I had considered the idea already before, but the recent trial brought it up again. And today, sitting with you two ..." She looked at Frédéric, then turned to Sandra. "There's a question you didn't ask, right?"

Was there?

"You felt surprise about my remark to Frédéric." Aram'chee smiled. "Probably you would have asked later, or some other day, but there's no need. I said it on purpose ..."

Hardly news for Sandra, while the purpose itself would be more interesting.

"... because I face another question, and seeing you two makes finding the answer more urgent than before."

The High Priestess had Frédéric's full attention.

"In a world with all people magical," she said, "the question is, what should be the duty of the High Priestess? Originally, this duty was established with the focus on a minority among humankind. While today - a few years from now, magical power will be the norm. The implication raises a conflict. The High Priestess is not supposed to be the ruler of all humankind."

Sandra stared at the woman she had expected to replace.

"So it might well be that there's one final task - to finish the duty, to end the role of the High Priestess. Maybe after a transit period in which this person has to do the opposite, guarding and protecting the last Muggles on earth."

Aram'chee looked almost apologetic. "You will understand that the thought is somehow frightening for myself. Taking this decision - I have to admit, I still shy off from that. But I have found a clear mind, unbiased enough, and possibly challenged enough to reach a normal life soon."

She smiled at Frédéric, then at Sandra. "We still have years to go. However, you are young, so there is time to grow with this in mind. I feel confident you will be reckless enough, I also feel confident this won't be a selfish decision, this way or the other. In the meantime, both of you can enjoy your precious youth with a bearable burden."

For Sandra, the thought - at this moment - felt more like a shock than a relief. However, glancing to her side, she saw someone beaming at the High Priestess, and for all she knew, the mind behind this shining face had to be rated as quick.

* * *

Harry examined the small group with the three youngest residents of the Carron Lough castle. Two of them counted five years, the third something around two, according to Rahewa's guess. However, the sleepiness was pretty much the same in all three of them. He asked, "Where are you going to sleep today?"

"My room," said Esmeralda, as tired as determined.

The reason for Harry's question could be found in the delicate organization of children rooms. Yes, of course both Carlos and Esmeralda had rooms of their own, established not long after their arrival in the castle. Only - they refused to separate during the night. More exactly, Esmeralda refused.

Taking this into account, Harry had replaced the original beds by larger ones - French beds, actually, offering more room than a normal one while not wasting as much space as a double bed. And each evening, the two shorties had the choice between Carlos' room and Esmeralda's room.

During the last days, it had looked as if a first night of sleeping alone might be within reach. However, with today's four-legged enhancement of the castle crew, this event seemed shifted to an unknown future - there was no question for Harry where the dog would sleep.

For Cho, there was. "And the dog?"

"My room," said Esmeralda, not quite as determined as before while suddenly more awake, and somewhat startled.

Cho sighed. "Yes, of course - where else?"

Harry followed the group upstairs and watched the bedtime chores in the bathroom, his hands simultaneously stroking and holding the dog. Young Bolo would have followed into the bathroom, only Harry thought better of it. While Carlos and Esmeralda didn't mind peeing with someone else in the room, Harry couldn't see an improvement from a dog joining the party in addition. At least the door stayed open, so Bolo found no reason to start worrying again.

Teeth cleaned, bladders emptied, pyjamas donned, the multi-legged convoi reached Esmeralda's room. The children had just climbed the bed when another figure appeared in the door - Cho, a quilt in her hands.

"Here," she said, "I thought Bolo should have a bed of his own. And tomorrow we'll go for a basket, so he knows where - " Cho stopped and corrected herself, "No, I guess we'll need three baskets. One for this room, one for Carlos' room, and one for downstairs."

"Downstairs?" Esmeralda eyed her suspiciously. "Why downstairs?"

"Well, for noontime," replied Cho. "Dogs do a napping in the afternoon, while you don't, and we can't send Bolo upstairs while you're not, can we?"

Esmeralda beamed, then watched as Cho placed the quilt on the rug. After Cho's inviting pat on the thick and smooth fabric, Bolo found the courage to lay down directly within this woman's reach. Although his eyes didn't turn from the bed in which Esmeralda was lying, this could be rated as quite some success.

The girl seemed to think the same. When Cho bent down for a good-night kiss, Esmeralda said, "I can't wait seeing these baskets. But you must come with us."

"You're right," said Cho. "If we'd leave that to Harry, for sure he'd pick the wrong size."

Carlos smiled at once, while Esmeralda had to send an uncertain glance first before she could join the pleasure about this funny joke.

Bolo, by now, didn't care this way or the other. For all Harry could sense, the dog was already sound asleep.

After dimming the light darker than ever before, to Esmeralda's full agreement because poor Bolo certainly preferred darkness for sleeping, Harry waited for Cho to follow, then closed the door. Reaching the staircase, he stopped her, turned her around, and hugged her. "That was clever," he said, "coming with that quilt."

"Why clever? I just had the dog in mind." But her eyes were sparkling.

"Definitely," he replied. "And this nice short cut to a certain girl's heart is just a side-effect, right?"

"Yes, entirely by coincidence." Growing more serious, Cho said, "I was thinking about a sabbatical, to have more time for them ..."

Harry suppressed the shout of disbelief that had tried to find its way into his mouth.

"... at least in the next year, until they're going to start school. And maybe not completely, only half days." Cho scanned his face, not learning much, then confessed, "I spoke with Ireen, asked her whether she's interested in a job as an assistant."

"And Chrissy?"

"Chrissy?" Cho grinned as though the question had been quite stupid. "Chrissy will be the one taking over my job, and then she needs her own assistant - and this might be Ireen."

Harry kept silent.

Guessing right about his lack of comment, Cho said, "And with Ireen here in the castle, that's quite convenient, don't you think so?" Then she grinned. "Maybe I should send her around a bit, to get in touch with men, only that's not the most urgent problem."

Harry laughed. "You're building a tribe, rather than a family. And with quite some success, I have to admit."

Smiling archly, Cho asked, "Do you mind?"

"Mind? Maybe we should ask Ron and Janine to move over here, then it won't look quite as suspicious as now."

Cho stared in disbelief. "Don't tell me that'd bother you." Next moment, she looked thoughtful. "Although, that might be quite an idea - are you aware that we use hardly half of this castle?"

Turning serious himself, Harry said, "Fine with me. The more children around and together, the better for them."

"Yes," agreed Cho. "Making the borderlines between families fade, that's quite a Chinese habit." Coming closer to Harry, hugging him again, she said, "Although - these two, they already feel like my own, only in the simple version - you know, without this super magic."

Harry chuckled.

"Hold still," chided Cho. "I know they were Marie-Christine's, but there's nothing wrong with this thought, quite the opposite."

"And what about a certain former Mexican?"

"Oh, that ..." Cho shook her head, ignoring her own advice. "That's so long ago - and besides, look at yourself, nobody has second thoughts when you're called Ma Weasley's son."

"True." Harry grinned, suppressed another chuckle with some effort. "Then maybe that's the solution."

"What solution?"

"For Esmeralda. She doesn't want new parents, as she said, because they have a tendency to get lost. But following some examples, she might call you Ma Potter."

Cho's head retreated, stared at him with reproach. "Now really! I'm way too young for that. Cho's fine."

Harry put her head back at his chest. "Wait a few weeks. Carlos will be the first to call you Mum by accident. And Esmeralda will follow soon."

"You think so?"

"Absolutely. Unless this dog might still needs some other things, and you take care to do the shopping with her, because then it'll slip Esmeralda's tongue still before her brother does."

Cho released herself, looking energetic. "Then let's go."

"To do what?"

"Something convincing to Ireen, or with her, so she'll accept that job." Cho's smile turned wicked. "She had some funny ideas, what to do with her new wand, might well be we need an experienced wizard to prevent the worst."

---------- The End ----------