Having Both is a Blessing


Story Summary:
Anna's year at Hogwarts is ending, in a most peculiar way; Secret keepers, hiding places, changes of attitude and loyalty. Who is in jeopardy? Who will die? New lives, old memories, shifting priorities and deadly miscalculations are coming to light in the bright summer sunshine. Will Harry, Neville, Hermione, Ron, Draco and the rest survive the next year? Will Hogwarts, itself, still be standing? When they return, are they walking into a trap ... to their deaths? Will everything they've learned from Anna be enough to save them and the school? And who will save Anna?

Chapter 10 - Chapter 09: Practice, plans and more practice

Chapter Summary:
XoXoXoXoX.....Harry and Draco get started on training, and Severus asks for an explanation of some puzzling events in the past. Potions are bubbling and Neville is spreading his wings, a bit. Life at the Burrow in the late summer is about to change…drastically.....XoXoXoXoX

Chapter 9

Practice, plans and more practice

Dearest Mother,

Harry returned to Hogwarts yesterday and he was very friendly with me, and even kidded with me a bit. I think he is trying to put all the bad feelings we had toward each other behind us and I'll try really hard not to slip back into my old habits. It was easy being a prat, but it takes work to keep my tongue from automatically saying stupid things. Did I just say that? I guess I really have turned over a new leaf, huh?

He will be showing me some of the DA stuff (that's short for Defense Association or as it is more commonly called, Dumbledore's Army) but I've got a lot to learn to catch up. I can see where this will be of help when Voldemort attacks. I'm not too far behind, but I'm glad to have this time with Harry, to learn as much as I can.

Oh, I almost forgot. Harry said something that got me thinking. Where are you going to have the baby? Do you have someone to help you? Remember, Dumbledore offered you sanctuary here at Hogwarts. I'm a little anxious about this although Harry said you've probably had it all planned out for ages. But let me know what you are going to do so I'll not worry, ok?

Harry and I are going out and do some Quidditch practice before dinner, so I'll close and drop this at the owlery on the way to the Pitch.

Love and hugs,

You son,



Harry, Draco, Severus Snape and Albus Dumbledore sat facing Christopher's portrait, waiting patiently.

"This is weird," whispered Draco.

"It is, a bit," agreed Harry. "But, leave it to Anna to figure out a way of keeping us on our toes."

"Shhhh!" hissed Severus.

The boys grinned at each other and then looked up suddenly, as Christopher appeared at the edge of his frame. He sat down in his favorite chair and consulted a piece of paper he was carrying.

"Ok, here are your instructions: Draco and Harry; use the targeting board for spell practice when you feel like it, as you both seem to have targeting and speed skills up to snuff, according to Severus. However, Draco, you will be receiving a package from Weasleys' Wizarding Wheezes, with your DA equipment. Harry will show you how to use them and then practice with the board, again, until you feel confident with you new skill. Severus, Anna will send you the spell needed to finalize the sunglasses. There will be a pair for you, also, Anna said."

"Excuse me?" asked Severus. "Finalize?"

"I'll explain it all, Professor. But you two have to promise not to get mad when you finally understand how we did the ribbon bit last spring." Harry grinned at them both. "Well, let me re-phrase that; you can get mad, just no paybacks. Ok?"

"Potter, I'm being sent a pair of these sunglasses and a spell, so your request is a moot point. However, I agree; no paybacks. All I'm really interested in knowing is exactly how you and Longbottom managed to avoid all of us. Professor Twigg-Jones would not reveal anything at the time, so this should be quite informative."

"I agree," Draco added. "That's bugged me for six months, now, that has. I just want to know how."

"Ah, but you must remember, Draco, that what is being shown and taught to you is to be used only for defense, at this time. This equipment is unusual, for Wizards, and it must be kept secret. Harry and the DA have not abused their knowledge or misused or betrayed my, and Anna's, trust in them. I expect the same code of silence and conduct from you, as the newest member of the DA."

"Yes, sir." Draco was suddenly very aware of the seriousness of what he was being made privy to.

"Draco, wait until you hear what Fred and George had in mind for the sunglasses."


Harry whispered in Draco's ear and Draco's eyes got wide. He looked at Harry and mouthed 'no!' Harry nodded and grinned. Draco shook his head.

Christopher laughed. "Yes, well, those two rascals and their devious minds not withstanding, let me continue...Ah...oh, yes, Harry, Anna wants you to get cracking on agility drills with Draco. Use the cube, the balls will increase speed automatically to match his progress. Don't push him too fast and do some practicing yourself."

"Right." Harry nodded.


"Yes, Christopher?"

"You, too."

"Too what?"

"Agility practice. Anna wants you to join in. She says you're not as quick as you used to be."

"Not as...how dare she? You can tell her that I..."

"Now, now, don't kill the messenger. I'm just relaying her suggestions." Christopher held up his hands defensively. "She said you'd protest, but to remind you of your failure to elude her flying tackle....and I, personally, would love to hear the details about that encounter."

"I'll tell you later, Christopher. You, too, Harry," volunteered Draco, who then gave in to a fit of giggles at the look he was getting from Severus. Harry was looking intrigued and Albus was studying the ceiling with great interest. Severus shot them all evil glares, then crossed his arms. He looked up at Christopher, who winked. Severus shook his head in resignation and snorted.

"Humph! Very well, if she thinks it would be of benefit to our plans, I will take her suggestion."

"Excellent; she'll be pleased. Now, Albus..."


"You have an assignment, also. Well, a suggested activity, actually."

"Splendid! What would that be?" The Headmaster sat up straight, rubbing his hands together, eagerly anticipating Anna's idea for his involvement.

"She wants you to consider the question of Draco's safety when the Slytherins return. If...and she thinks this is highly probable...one or all of his dorm roommates are under an 'Imperious' curse, how do we protect him without letting them know we're aware of their plans? How could we discern what those plans would be and what precautions can we take to insure Draco's wellbeing?"

"I'd like to know that, myself," Draco whispered to Harry, under his breath.

"Silence," Severus hissed.

"I see. Tell Anna I agree with her concern and assumptions and that I have been studying the problem, briefly, already." Albus smiled. "Great minds move in similar circles, it would seem."

"She said you would have thought about this, but wanted to mention it to you, just the same."

"Knows me too well, our Anna." Dumbledore chuckled.

"Do you really think they'll try something?" Harry blurted out and then slapped his forehead. "What a dumb thing to ask. Sorry."

"Not dumb, you just beat me to it." Draco laughed. Looking from Albus to Christopher, he added, "It's not a matter of if, is it, but when? And what or how?"

"I shall be putting my mind to this task and study all of the possible situations. I will try to come up with a plan and/or a solution before term starts. Tell Anna that I accept my assignment."

Severus shook his head.

"The woman has no shame; bullying the lot of us from her hiding place. She never ceases to amaze, does she?"

"I agree, Professor. Can you imagine the bullying she'd be doing if she was here in person!?!" Harry ran his fingers through his hair. "Regular Sergeant Major, that one!"

"She can't be that bad, can she?" asked Draco, looking from one to the other. As a group, they all nodded. "Blimey!" He glanced up at Christopher. "Don't tell her that last bit, Ok?"

Christopher crossed his heart. "Sacred, I assure you." He stopped, winced and then standing, leaned part way out of the frame. "What my dear? Oh, nothing...just guy stuff." He came back into the frame. "Her hearing is too good, by half," he whispered.

Albus chuckled, Harry nodded, Draco snorted and Severus shook his head. But there was a gleam in his eyes and a slight smile on his face.

"Well, if that's all then, Christopher?" Albus asked.

"Yes." Checking his list, he turned and smiled at them. "That covers everything I had written down."

"Splendid. Harry, why don't you take Draco up to the seventh floor and show him the cube Anna mentioned."

"Sure. Come on, Draco. You're going to love this."

The two boys left the office, chatting, clattering down the spiral stairs, the door closing behind them.


Albus turned to the portrait and asked, "Christopher, is Anna alone right now, talking to you?"

"Yes, Gwen's outside, sunbathing, I believe. Winky is somewhere in the house, but I'm not sure where."

"Good. Severus, I think it's time we let Christopher and Anna know what we have hidden here at Hogwarts. I think it will help them to know that all is not as bleak for Draco as it appears. It might help Anna in her thought processes, too, if this one misconception was corrected."

"And help her to shake her feelings of guilt, so she can concentrate on other problems," Severus added.

"Exactly." Albus looked up at the man in the portrait. "Christopher, Pansy Parkinson is not dead; she was given a potion, the 'Draught of the Living Death' by Voldemort. In the hopes, we've surmised, that we would be the ones to accidentally kill her; either by burying her alive or burning her alive, if cremation had been the family preference. She's hidden in the hospital wing. Draco, Minerva and Hagrid had their memories altered to make their grief genuine to everyone and to perpetuate the assumption that she had died with her parents and is now buried in our cemetery."

"Good Lord. But, how will you awaken her. I remember reading about that potion, Severus, and I'm assuming you don't have an antidote or you would have administered it, correct?"

"Correct." Severus nodded. "Voldemort never orders the antidote."


"Christopher," Albus interrupted, holding up his hand. "She will awaken when Voldemort dies, if all goes well and Harry is successful. That is why we are working so hard to prepare him, although, ultimately, it is his destiny to face Voldemort alone, in what will be a fight to the death. When he succeeds in ridding our world of Voldemort and if he's still alive himself, there will be even more cause for celebration; when Pansy awakens and she and Draco are reunited."

"I see. Well, I'd better go and tell Anna a good news secret, eh?"

"Exactly," Albus replied, smiling at Christopher. "But, I don't think it should go any farther, do you?"

"No, I suppose not. It doesn't concern Gwen, at this point, but I'll leave that up to Anna. Agreed?"

"Agreed; talk it over with her."

"Wait!" Christopher stopped and looked at Albus. "What happened, exactly; you know Anna will want the details."

Christopher leaned forward and listened intently as Albus related the events in the hospital wing. As the story unfolded, Severus found himself wishing he could be the one to tell Anna the news. At least he had the satisfaction of knowing her heart would be a little lighter, with the burden of guilt over the incident lifted. Christopher finally left to talk with Anna and Severus excused himself to go to the fifth floor and see what Harry and Draco we doing.


'Not as quick as I used to be? That cheeky little...wife of mine has a lot of nerve,' Severus thought, as he climbed the stairs. 'But, it wouldn't hurt to stay in shape, I suppose. Which is just what she wants, the conniving wench.' He smiled to himself, shaking his head. 'I wonder if her changing shape is responsible for the sudden interest in mine?'


All thoughts of Anna left his brain when he entered the Room of Requirement and had his first look at the "cube".

"Merlin's Beard."

"It sure is something, isn't it, Professor?"

"It is something, but what that something might be, I'm not quite sure, Mr. Malfoy."

They stood and watched as Harry ducked and dodged the half dozen tennis balls that were zooming around the inside of the cube, bouncing off of the walls and ceiling and careening in every direction.

He easily avoided being hit, and then caught and dropped the balls in the box by the door as he exited.

"See, Draco, that's how fast you'll be moving in, oh, a month or two. Hi, Professor."


"Harry, I almost got knocked unconscious with two balls in there, there's no way..."

"Draco, we all said that when Anna first showed us and she had crates and chairs as obstacles, too."

"Very inventive, your Professor Twigg-Jones," Snape observed, as he walked around the cube, running his hand over the surface. "What is this? It doesn't feel like glass."

"It's Plexiglas; plastic, heavy duty plastic. Muggles use it instead of glass, less chance of breakage. They don't have 'Reparo' to use, remember."

"Ah, true." He rapped the wall with his knuckles. "Humph, seems resilient enough."

"And very hard when you run into it, which happens to everyone, a time or two, while you're practicing," Harry added.

"Don't I know it," agreed Draco, rubbing his elbow.

"Give it a go, Professor?" Harry looked at Severus and tilted his head, reminding Snape all too readily of his bride's favorite way of looking at people. "How about starting slow, like Draco; just two tennis balls, but at spell speed?"

"Very well, Potter, I think I can manage not to embarrass myself too badly, if you take pity on an old man like myself and start me off with the minimum." Severus replied as he took off his coat and stepped through the door into the cube. "Time limit?"

"Two minutes."


Harry tossed two of the neon green tennis balls into the cube and shut the door. He and Draco watched as Severus spun and ducked and avoided been struck, with a close call or two until the time was up. Snape caught the careening tennis balls and dropped them into the storage box as he exited the cube.

"Quite an ingenious training method, Potter; I must send word to Anastasia that I didn't make a fool of myself, as she thought was going to happen."

"Want to try with the crates and six balls?" Harry asked innocently.

"Perhaps I should work up to that, with Mr. Malfoy. I don't think I could do quite as well if I tried too much too soon. After all, I'm considered 'out of shape' remember?"

"I don't think you're out of shape, Professor," said Draco, hand on his chest. "But, maybe a 'refresher course' of training might be just the ticket, hum?"

"Exactly, Mr. Malfoy, a refresher course," agreed Severus. Turning to Harry, he conjured three chairs. "Now, Mr. Potter, I think you owe Mr. Malfoy and me an explanation about the sunglasses. Have a seat, won't you?"

Indicating the chairs, he sat down, leaned back and crossed his arms.

"Yeah," said Draco, plopping down and facing Harry. "I'd like to hear that one, myself."

"Right. But, remember, you promised, no pay backs."


"And your spell missed Neville by this much," Harry explained, holding his fingers about eight inches apart. "So, your hunch was correct, Professor, but so was mine and I acted on it first and, as it turned out, just in time."

"So it would seem." Severus was inwardly laughing at how Slytherin-like Potter's thought processes were at times. "Thankfully, we are now all on the same side, as I see that you're becoming a rather formidable opponent, Potter. All of the D.A. is, if they've kept pace with your training."

"Thank Anna, it's her instruction that's fine tuned the D.A."


"I'm in big trouble, if you think I can learn all that stuff in two months." Draco looked at Harry, slightly bewildered.

"You'll do just fine, Draco. We started out in the cube at slow speed, but I chucked you in there with spell speed and you didn't have any trouble. Being a Quidditch player seems to be an advantage; quicker reflexes. You're ahead of the game already, so relax, enjoy, work your way up and then, like Anna says, it becomes second nature."

"I'm still a little anxious about the D.A. accepting me."

"Not to worry; they're a good bunch and I'll set them right if they have any doubts."

"Your fellow Slytherins are what is concerning me, Draco. Crabbe and Goyle especially, as Voldemort would not hesitate to use them, with the promise that they could redeem their family names, in a plot to eliminate you."

"I figured the same thing, sir, but what can I do?"

"Move out, to separate quarters; maybe there's a guest room somewhere in the castle?" Harry suggested.

Draco shook his head. "I can't move out of Slytherin; that would show we're expecting something to happen. But I'm going to be awfully damn vulnerable down there alone in our dorm room with those two and Theo and Blaze."

"Not necessarily. I believe the more it looks as though you aren't suspicious of them, Draco, the more likely they are to slip up and reveal some hint of their plans."

"Not without a good dose of Veritaserum," snorted Harry.

"It's illegal for the faculty to administer that to students, as you well know, Potter." Snape rubbed his eyes, trying to think. "Pity, too."

"Does the law say anything about fellow students slipping a drop or two into their mates' food or drink?" Harry asked, with one eyebrow cocked.

Draco turned and looked at him, mouth agape. "Harry, are you sure you weren't supposed to be in Slytherin?"

"Loopholes, Draco, always look for loopholes. They're small but if you can just ... squueeeezze ... through, you might find the solution to your problem." Harry beamed.

Severus stared at Harry with undisguised wonder. Then he shook his head.

"You've been hanging out with Anastasia entirely too much, Potter, if your thought patterns are getting that devious." A smile played across his face. "I always suspected she was contagious."

"Would Professor Dumbledore agree to something as underhanded as giving them Veritaserum?" Draco wondered. "I don't want to get expelled. I'd be dead before I made it through Hogsmeade."

"We'll have to wait and see what solution the Headmaster has thought up and then we can offer our suggestion. But why don't you two talk over the how and when, until we're told it's not allowed, hum?" Severus looked back and forth between the two. "Who knows, it might be our only option. We are in a war, after all."

"Right." "Yes, Professor."


Dearest Draco,

Received your owl this morning and am happy to hear about Harry's arrival. I'm so glad you two are getting on so famously, as I know you were a bit anxious on that score. Don't worry about your 'old' habits; they will diminish as you interact with the other members of the DA this fall term.

Now, to answer your question; yes, I have everything under control for the birth of your sister. I have had excellent pre-natal care since I went into hiding, and I know you'll rest easy, knowing I'm well looked after.

Now...are you sitting down? It's been decided you should know, not where I'm hiding, but with whom. Yes, you read correctly, I said with whom. I'm staying with my secret keeper and her step-daughter. Ironically they are in hiding from Voldemort, too.

I'm with Anna and Gwen. Dobby and Winky are here, too, taking good care of all of us. So, the cat's out of the bag. HOWEVER, this is our secret! You can't tell Harry or Severus or Professor Dumbledore that you know. Just tell Harry you heard from me and that I'm being looked after and that everything is in order for the birth. It's about six weeks away, you realize, and then you'll be a big brother! I hope she's as good a baby as you were. We'll let you know as soon as it happens, ok?

I want to get this back to you as soon as possible, so I'll close now.

Love and kisses,


P.S. Christopher has been told that you know, so, in an emergency you can go to him to contact me.




"A good hunt?"

"Yes, Master. Bella and I did indeed satisfy our...requirements for the evening."

"Splendid." Voldemort turned and began to walk through the woods. "Come. Walk with me."

"Certainly, Master."

"We will talk of the plans I have for ridding us of the last of the Prewetts."

"Ah...my dear Molly."


Dear Harry,

Just a quick note to tell you the news: Ron and I got letters today from Hogwarts and we're Head Boy and Head Girl this year! Isn't that terrific! Ron is so surprised and Mrs. Weasley is over the moon, with a third Head Boy in the family.

And Ginny is the new Gryffindor Girls' Prefect! We haven't heard who the new Boys' Prefect is, but I'm betting Colin.

Hope you and Draco are getting along ok. Send us some news when you get a chance, or I'll just see you at Bill's wedding, huh?

Your friend,



Ron and Ginny say Hi! too!


"Did you find what you were looking for, young sir?" inquired the clerk.

"Oh, yes, yes, I did, thank you." Neville Longbottom glanced up from the book he was leafing through. "This was the last one on my school list."

"Excellent. Would you like me to ring these up for you?"

"Yes, thank you. I'm just going to look for one other book and then I'll be right over to pay you."

"Take your time, sir; I'll just hold these for you at the counter."

It was relatively quiet in Flourish and Blotts. The crowds of students and their parents, shopping for the new school books they'd need at start of term, wouldn't be invading the shop until this coming weekend and the following week.

Neville had decided to do his school shopping on his own, as he was of age and had undertaken the trip a bit early to avoid the crowds. It was a birthday treat to himself and he was going to splurge his birthday money on a particular reference book on Herbology that Professor Sprout had recommended.

His Gran had agreed he was old enough and responsible enough to go to Diagon Alley on his own. And, to tell the truth, he was having to time of his life. He'd wandered past the different shops, stopped in to say Hi! to Fred and George Weasley at Weasleys' Wizarding Wheezes and had managed to escape without incident.

Now he was exploring the bookshop, puttering along the shelves, occasionally pulling a book out to give it a quick peek. However, he was looking for a specific edition, a pocket field guide: Magical Plants of Great Britain and Ireland. It should be right about....'Yes! Here it is,' he thought triumphantly as he reached up and plucked the slim volume from the next to top shelf. 'Perfect!' Neville was pleased he found it at last.

He paid for his purchases, arranging for his school books to be delivered to his Gran's house. Turning left after exiting Flourish and Blotts, Neville started walking along Diagon Alley toward the Leaky Cauldron for an early lunch. He had his head down, turning the pages of his new field guide when he heard someone call his name.

Spinning around, he looked up to see Luna Lovegood coming toward him.

"Luna!" He gave her a quick kiss on the cheek. "What are you doing here?"

"Popped into Dad's office...he forgot his lunch and I saw you from the window, coming out of the bookstore." She pointed back down Diagon Alley to an upper story of one of the shops. "Thought I'd come and say Hi...Hi!" She smiled at him.

"Hi yourself!" Neville grinned. "Come with me and have some lunch, won't you?"

"Oh...Ok, sure."

He held open the door of the Leaky Cauldron and they found a table in the corner of the busy inn.


"Now, stir it slowly, counterclockwise, for ten complete circles. Stop. Count to ten and then stir three times clockwise," Eileen Snape instructed, from her perch on the high stool next to the fireplace.

"Are you sure that my being a Muggle won't mess this up?" questioned Gwen, a large spoon poised over the small cauldron.

"The cauldron won't know or care who is fiddling with its contents and I'm going to view your inexperience as a teaching opportunity, so, stir away, dear."

"Okie dokie."

Gwen concentrated on counting as she stirred the slowly bubbling mixture, just as Eileen had told her.

"There, now what?"

"We wait three weeks and add this mixture to the large cauldron. There's a final brewing period after which some last minute ingredients are added, mostly to make the flavor palatable, and then we bottle it."

"Cool. Do we know the dosages?"

"Yes; it's all written down in that potions book on the table. Finding enough vials is going to be the tricky bit. It's going to be a goodly number if my calculations are correct"

"Let me work on that. I just need to know the dosage sizes to match up with some containers that I have in mind. I'm thinking that maybe bottles or vials aren't the solution. I know you can do charms on them to make them unbreakable but, they could still clink together and make too much noise. SO, maybe we should look for a Muggle solution to this magical problem. I'll do some checking on my next shopping trip. I'll bring back several samples and we'll see which ones would work best."

Eileen smiled and nodded.

"Yes, I agree, we should have this planned out as soon as possible, one less thing to worry about. It wouldn't do to let it sit for too long, without being bottled after brewing is done, come to that."


Gwen?" Narcissa called down from the kitchen. "Lunchtime."

"Be right there, Cissa." Gwen looked up the stairs. "Outside or in?"

"In, I'm afraid; it's raining and even with the umbrella, the wind is blowing a bit too much."

"Oh, well, in it is. Be right up." Gwen turned to the ghost, who was checking the flame under the simmering cauldrons. "See you later, Eileen and thanks for letting me help this morning."

"My pleasure. Perhaps being a Potions teacher runs in the family, eh?"

"Indeed; now we know where Severus got his teaching genes, don't we?"

"My dear, I don't think Severus would be caught dead in blue jeans! And what do his clothes have to do with teaching?"

"No, no," Gwen replied, laughing. "I was using a Muggle term, g-e-n-e; it means he inherited the love of potions from you."

"Oh, I see. You had me worried for a minute. But, yes, I see what you mean. Couldn't keep him away from my cauldrons; always wanting to stir something or chop ingredients, just mucking about, in the way, underfoot, until I'd let him do something, anything to keep him busy."

"He'd have made a great research scientist, if he'd been born a Muggle."

"Merlin's Beard! What a dreadful thought!"

"I suppose it is rather frightening, isn't it?"

They both giggled and then Gwen went up the stairs for lunch, as Eileen drifted up the chimney.


Ginny, Hermione and Ron came running down the stairs and headed for the door.

"And just where are you three off to then?" Molly Weasley stood, hands on hips, eyeing the teens.

"We're going to the orchard, for a bit of target practice before lunch, Mum." Ginny skidded to a halt and turned to answer her mother.

"Oh, alright then, but keep an ear cocked, as your brother Bill and father will be home for lunch soon. I'll give you a shout."

"Splendid, Mother dear," said Ron, as he grabbed his mother and spun her around, then ducked out the door before she could swat at him with her tea towel. He nearly collided with Fleur, who was carrying in a basket filled with fresh vegetables. "Oh, sorry. Here," he gasped, taking hold of the door and swinging it wide open.

"Merci, Ronald," she replied, smiling, heedless of the effect that still had on him. It wouldn't matter who his other brothers ever married, Fleur was always going to be his favorite sister -in -law.

"Come on Ron," Hermione sighed, taking his hand and gently pulling him away from the door, shaking her head, a smile on her face. Ginny giggled.


Fleur was helping Molly set the table on the brick terrace beside the house, where the family liked to eat lunch on hot summer days. It was shady and caught what little breeze there was, wafting through the trees surrounding the Burrow. As they worked, the conversation centered on the impending wedding; only days away, now, and approaching fast.

"I am so glad we are having ze small wedding, It iz too much, with ze 'grand celebration'. I am 'appy to just have our two families."

"It will be lovely, though, dear. You and Bill have been very through in your planning and we'll have a grand time, small wedding or not," Molly assured her, smiling.

"Did I hear my name being tossed about?" Bill Weasley appeared around the corner of the house, with a rose in each hand for the ladies.

"Oh, Bill, how pretty." Molly took hers and standing on tip toe, planted a kiss on his cheek.

"Bill...cheri...how sweet!" Fleur hugged him and lifted her lips to his.

"I couldn't come to lunch without something for the two prettiest ladies in my life."

"What about Ginny and Hermione?" Molly asked.

"Teenaged girls don't count, but don't tell them I said that." Bill looked around. "Where are they and Ron, anyway?"

"Out in the orchard, target practicing."

"Oh. I think I'll wander over there and see how they're doing. And get out of your way."

Bill reached across the table and grabbed some carrot sticks, narrowly avoiding a slap on his hand from Fleur."

"You'll spoil your appetite," chorused Molly and Fleur, who then looked at each other and giggled.

"I'll keep that in mind," Bill answered, waving over his shoulder as he wandered toward the end of the yard and the opening in the hedgerow that led to the orchard.


What he saw when he entered the orchard amazed him. Ron, Ginny and Hermione were systematically shooting at and hitting a row of apples that had been lined up on a long horizontal branch of one of the oldest trees. Not only were they hitting the apples, they weren't standing still and aiming, but were walking, spinning, passing and circling each other and taking just a split second to aim and shoot. Ron spotted his brother and grinned.

"Hey, Bill!"

"Hey, yourself. What are you three doing, then?"

"Target practice; its part of Anna's plan. Muggle tools for Magical defense."

Bill just shook his head.

"Here, try it." Ron handed his slingshot to his eldest brother. "It is an acquired skill, though."

Bill took aim and let fly. He missed the apple he had aimed at by a good three feet.

"Humph! Give me another one," Bill growled, putting out his hand.


Ginny and Hermione were watching, smiles on their faces. Bill shot again...and missed.


He put out his hand and Ron silently handed him another ball, not saying a word. Bill aimed, carefully and...missed, but only by inches.

"There you go, Bill. Another dozen or so and you might actually, probably, maybe hit something, that you were sort of, kinda aiming at."

"Shut it, baby brother."

"You're no worse than we were when we first started practicing," Ginny reassured him, grinning. "Ok, maybe a bit worse."

That smart remark earned her an evil look and growl, and then Bill threw back his head and laughed.

"Ok, smarty, show me your technique."

He handed Ron back his slingshot and folded his arms, preparing to watch the show.

"Well, Anna told us..."

A piercing scream tore through the air.


Bill spun and ran to the edge of the orchard, the trio right behind him. What they saw froze their blood.