Vulnerability

"To share your weakness is to make yourself vulnerable; to make yourself vulnerable is to show your strength." Phoenix Lancaster is just as extraordinary as she appears, she is a muggle-born metamorphmagus, and she has never had a quiet life. Thanks to her courageous and troublesome best friends, Fred and George Weasley.

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19. Boys Will Be Boisterous

As November passed into December, the weather outside became colder. Snow now covered the castle and it grounds, making Hogwarts look more magnificent. The lake had also frozen over and most weekends students spent zooming around on the lake on make-shift ice skates.

The weather was not the only thing that became colder however. Angelina Johnson had turned, even stonier and colder to Fred Weasley than she usually was. Phoenix was completely dumfounded as to why Angelina could possibly be upset with Fred.

"Why are you so mad at him?" Phoenix asked during a Transfiguration lesson where they were supposed to be transfiguring their eyebrows to a different colour, but Phoenix, being a Metamorphmagus, simply wiggled her eyebrows and they flashed different colours.

"Because…" Angelina began, raising a shockingly blonde eyebrow, "…he has snogged me twice–"

"Didn't you snog him first?"

"Yeah but that's beside the point!" She snapped and Phoenix raised an eyebrow that was currently a bright green, "Anyway, he's snogged me twice and he still hasn't at least tried to talk to me about it…"

"Then you talk to him about it," Phoenix advised, "since when we were one to think that boys have to make the first move? Just go up to him and slap some sense into that moron!"

"But it would be nice if he made the first move…" Angelina said in a helpless sort of voice. Phoenix felt like saying that it would also be nice to slap Fred but stopped herself.

"Come on Angelina, you always go on about girl power and how girls can take control. He was going to talk to you anyway after I threw that jam tart at him but you… ran off…"

"I didn't run off… I walked…"

"Ha bloody ha! Funny Angelina! Really witty!" Phoenix gave a fake laugh and turned her head round to look across the room at Fred and Lee. Fred looked at Phoenix expectantly but Phoenix shook her head and Fred sighed, tapping his wand on his head so that his hair turned a jet black so that he looked like a bizarre relative of Harry's – freckles, flaming red eyebrows and black hair should never mix.

At the end of the lesson, when all of the mirrors were put away safely back into Professor McGonagall's desk drawer (all apart from Lee's who had smashed his in shock when his eyebrows had turned a furious shade of pink), the Head of Gryffindor house stood in front of her desk and surveyed her students before she cleared her throat. "I have an announcement to make to you all," she said in her sharp voice.

"The Yule Ball is approaching," whispers immediately broke around the classroom, Ava and Arista both giggled into the sleeves of their robes and Warrington and David Dayson began a hushed conversation at the very back of the room. Professor McGonagall gave a sharp cough and continued, "The Yule Ball is a tradition part of the Triwizard Tournament and it is an opportunity for everybody to socialise with our foreign guests–"

Alicia gave Phoenix a significant look and Phoenix knew exactly what she was thinking about – Jerome – and Phoenix had to refrain from rolling her eyes.

"The ball will be open to only fourth years and above – although you may invite a young student if you wish–"

Phoenix heard Lee whisper something to Fred along the lines of 'Hogwarts cougars.' Professor McGonagall looked as though she was steading herself not to throttle him as she continued once again.

"Dress robes will be worn; the ball will start at eight o'clock on Christmas Day, finishing at midnight in the Great Hall."

More chatter broke around the class and Phoenix distinctively heard girls already giggling about Cedric Diggory and Viktor Krum.

"The Yule Ball is a chance for us to all… let loose a little…" Her tone was rather disapproving and Phoenix had to stifle a laugh, she could not imagine any of the Hogwarts staff 'letting loose', expect maybe Hagrid.

"But that does NOT mean that the staff will be relaxing or lowering the standards of behaviour that we expect from our students," Phoenix and Angelina now turned in their chairs and looked directly at Lee who winked back at them and gave, certainly what he believed to be a seductive purr. "I will be most disappointed if any student from my house embarrasses the school in any childish manner," Her eyes were now staring directly at Fred Weasley; she was clearly remembering the food fight that they had started only a few weeks ago.

"A ball?" George gasped after Phoenix and Fred had informed him about McGonagall's announcement when they had sat down for lunch. George, who did not take Transfiguration, had appeared not to have heard about the Yule Ball during his free period.

"Yep," said Fred, popping the 'p' at the end of the sentence and throwing a grape into his mouth. "A ball. We can bring dates, who are you going to ask?"

George shrugged and rubbed the back of his neck, "Dunno… You should probably ask Angelina before she murders you,"

At this suggestion, Fred also shrugged before he turned to Phoenix, "what about you Nix?"

"Uhm… well… I don't think anybody would want to go with me," she said, her cheeks and hair flushing pink, "I'm not really the girliest of girls,"

"Doesn't matter if you're girly or not," said Fred encouragingly, "Don't take this the wrong way Nix, but you're a catch."

"Yeah," agreed George. "You won't have any problem finding a date,"

"I'd rather just go on my own," she murmured and both Fred and George stared at her, shocked, "I would much rather not have to worry about a silly date,"

"A silly date?" Fred mimicked, "There is no such thing as a silly date if it means you could have a decent snog in a broom cupboard for half an hour,"

At this, George laughed loudly but Phoenix rolled her eyes.

By the last week of term, the entire school was alert and gossiping about the Yule Ball. In fact, it seemed the only topic of conversation that could be heard was about the ball. Phoenix could not go anywhere without barging into a gaggle of giggling girls who were either giggling about their dresses or boys. Phoenix had predicted that of course girls would be riveting about the Yule Ball; even Angelina Johnson had been caught shrieking with girlish laughter about her dress with Katie Bell. But Phoenix would have never guessed that the boys would be acting any differently. On several occasions, she had seen boys talking in hushed voices about girls and their dress robes, most of them trying to find colours to suit to their dates.

Three people had already asked Phoenix to be their date. One of them, much to Fred and George's great amusement, was a Ravenclaw third year boy. Phoenix had politely said no and then promptly hit the twins on the head for laughing at how Phoenix was now apparently a 'Hogwarts cougar'. Cormac McLaggen had also asked her, Phoenix had plainly refused to his offer and of course, Lee had asked her.

The decorations that went around the castle were the best and the most stunning Christmas decorations that Phoenix had ever seen, even better than her next-door neighbours multi-coloured Christmas lights that surrounded their entire house. Everlasting icicles were attached to the banisters of the marble staircase. Twelve large Christmas trees lined the Great Hall, decorated with holly berries, golden owls swooped down from them. The suits of armour in the corridors had been bewitched so that they sang carols whenever anyone passed; it had surprised Phoenix at first when a suit of armour had bellowed 'Silent Night' at her. Peeves had taken it upon himself to hide inside the armour and make up his own creations to the carols, which were all rather funny, though very, very rude.

Fred and George had found it heartedly funny to also create several rumours about the Yule Ball – for instance that the house elves would be waiters and would be dressed in suits and bow ties for the occasion. This rumour, to their complete surprise, was not favoured by Hermione Granger. The only rumour that seemed to be true however was Dumbledore had booked the Weird Sisters. This had sent Alicia into a frenzy as she greatly fancied Myron Wagtail, the lead singer.

"Guess who just asked the ball?" said Lee when he, Phoenix, Fred, and George were all grouped around the fire in the Gryffindor common room.

"Who? The giant squid?" Phoenix asked as she starched Crookshanks, Hermione's cat, behind the ears.

"Nope," said Lee, beaming,

"Did you ask Neddy?" Neddy, or Arachnid, was Lee's pet tarantula. Phoenix only called it Neddy to annoy Lee; he believed it was not 'manly' enough for a tarantula.

"It's Arachnid and no I'm not taking him to the ball,"

"Well then…" said Fred, with a large grin on his face, "…who did you ask?"

"Ava,"

"Did she–"

"She said yes…"

"You're taking a prefect?" Fred scoffed, staring at Lee as though he had gone mad.

Lee smirked and tugged at his collar, "It's always the good girls you have to watch out for,"

Phoenix turned her head to look at Lee. She scoffed loudly when she saw, rather visibly on his neck, a small, bright red bruise. "Nice love bite Lee,"

"Thanks! I was hoping somebody would notice it," Lee replied smugly which made Phoenix roll her eyes.

"It's not that hard to miss," Phoenix muttered as Crookshanks meowed loudly, as if agreeing with her.

Lee left shortly after, no doubt to go into a broom cupboard with his 'secret bad girl' (as Lee liked to put it), Angelina and Alicia replaced him, Alicia looking as if she was on cloud nine.

"Phoenix! You'll never guess who just asked me to the ball!" Alicia squealed excitedly.

"If you girls are going to talk about the ball…" George groaned as he clambered to his feet.

"We're going to see a boy about an owl," said Fred, winking at Phoenix and inclining his head over to Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Understanding that they needed Pigwidgeon to most probably write to Bagman, Phoenix nodded and turned her attention back to Alicia.

"Who asked you then?"

"Jason Genadiev,"

"Who?"

"He's from Durmstrang," Alicia said in a far-away sort of voice, "He's really mysterious… like a dark horse–" Phoenix and Angelina rolled their eyes, trying to stop the corners of their mouths twitching, "–But he's really attractive, even more attractive than Jerome… Oh! Speaking of Jerome, has he asked you yet Phoenix?"

Phoenix could feel herself blushing, her hair was now pink. Now that she thought about it, she was confused as to why Jerome had not approached her about the ball, not that she wanted to go with him or wanted him to ask her. She was just confused why Jerome, who usually never missed a chance to talk to her, hadn't spoken to her since the ball had been announced. Maybe, she thought, she actually missed talking to him. Maybe she actually wanted Jerome to ask her and maybe she did actually want to go with him or just not go alone.

"He hasn't asked me yet, why?"

"Because I thought that–"

"Oi! Angelina!"

Angelina, along with Phoenix and Alicia, all turned in the direction of Fred's voice. She raised an eyebrow before she called back, "What?"

"Want to come to the ball with me?"

"Subtle Fred," Phoenix laughed, watching Fred's rather smug face as he waited for Angelina to reply, she seemed to be considering Fred. Phoenix looked at George, who also grinning, he winked at Phoenix and she winked back, both of them evidently thinking the same thing – how tremendously idiotic Fred Weasley was.

"All right, then," Angelina said, shrugging her shoulders before she turned back to Phoenix and Alicia, a rather big smile on her face.

"Back to Jerome," said Alicia, who was also smiling, "I thought he liked you! I made a bet with Lee that he was going to ask you by the end of term! I owe him five Sickles now!"

"Well if he hasn't me yet and the ball is less than a week away, then I assume that he just doesn't want to ask me," Phoenix shrugged.

"You do realise that both myself and Alicia have dates now?" Angelina told her, "And you don't,"

Again, Phoenix shrugged, "I'm sure that I won't be the only without a date… if I'm desperate I'll take the giant squid,"

"Why don't you ask someone?" Alicia suggested.

"I–"

"The giant squid isn't a suitable partner for the Yule Ball," Angelina cut across, giving Phoenix an amused look.

"You don't know that," Phoenix muttered, "I need to go to the Owlery, Anastasia said that she had a doctor's appointment today,"

Reluctantly, Angelina and Alicia let Phoenix go. She knew that they both wanted to convince Phoenix to ask somebody to the ball. As she made her way to the Owlery, cutting through short cuts that she knew so to avoid all the giggling girls who filled up the corridors.

Phoenix didn't necessarily know why she was so reluctant to asking someone to the ball. She supposed that she feared being rejected by whoever she asked. But then she thought, who would she ask? There was nobody she liked. She didn't like Jerome, she enjoyed their conversations but that wasn't enough.

She pushed open the Owlery door, shaking snowflakes from her lilac coloured hair. She let out a gasp of surprise as she saw Fred and George beside Phoenix's handsome Tawny owl.

"Oh it's you," said Fred, grinning at her before he leaned down again, his quill starching against a piece of parchment, "Hope you don't mind we're using Silvano,"

Phoenix frowned as she approached them, "I was going to write to Anastasia, she had her first doctor's appointment today… why don't you use one of the school owls?"

"But Silvano loves us," said George as Silvano gave his finger an affection nibble.

"But I want to know how my future step-niece or nephew is doing!" Phoenix interjected, pouting her lips and staring at George. She knew that George was much easier to crack than Fred when she used, what Lee liked to call, her puppy dog face.

"We could just use one of the school owls Fred," said George slowly and Phoenix gave him a thankful smile.

Fred simply rolled his eyes as he finished signing the piece of parchment and rolling it up, "No matter how cute little Nix may be George, you are a Weasley, and most importantly my twin brother! You shouldn't crack under her peer pressure,"

"It's not peer pressure!" Phoenix argued. "If your brother Bill was having a baby–"

"I would be most concerned as to how my eldest brother would ever be pregnant–"

Phoenix had chosen to ignore Fred's rather amusing interruption and continued, "Wouldn't you want to know how you future niece or nephew is doing?"

"Alright, alright... we'll use one of the school owls," Fred waved a hand before he turned to the school owls.

George handed Phoenix a spare piece of parchment and the quill Fred had used. She thanked him and began to scribble a quick note to Anastasia, asking how her appointment was, how Cecilia was feeling about it all, how Anastasia's job was doing and asking how everyone was in general.

"So…" Phoenix began as she tied the cord around Silvano's legs, "Were you writing to Bagman?"

"Yeah," said Fred, kicking aside a skeleton of a mouse that an owl had just throw down, "We were asking to meet him again… doubt he'll reply though,"

Phoenix bit her lip as Silvano nibbled her ear affectionately before he took off, soaring out of the Owlery window. "He will probably be at the ball anyhow. But there is something really suspicious about Bagman… I suggest that you should tell somebody about it, I'm sure that if–" But Phoenix stopped suddenly. She could footsteps from the other side of the door.

Not wanting to seem as though they were just hanging around, Phoenix immediately pretended to be looking round at the school owls and Fred and George mimicked her just as the door opened.

"Oh it's you three," It was Warrington.

Fred and George immediately turned to glare at Warrington; they had still not forgotten that he had called Phoenix a 'Know-It-All Mudblood'.

"What are you doing here?" He asked with a rather dumbed expression on his face.

"We were just admiring the lovely shit-covered floor," said Fred, gesturing around at the owl droppings all over the floor.

"Sending an owl… what else do you do in a bloody Owlery?" George spat.

"Oh…" Phoenix sniggered before she too turned around, Warrington, who Lee often said resembled an ape, looked rather dumfounded, "I'm sending a letter too…"

"That's nice Cassius," Fred said dismissively. Warrington glared at Fred, the Gryffindors and Slytherins only called one another by their last names. Only when they really wanted to annoy one another would they use each other's first names and Fred and George Weasley thrive in annoying any member of Slytherin house.

Phoenix nudged both Fred and George's arms, signalling that they should leave. Fred and George glared at Warrington before they followed her out of the Owlery door.

"Wait," Warrington called.

They all turned round, Warrington looked a little flustered as he looked at Phoenix, who immediately tried to hide behind Fred's back.

"What?" asked Fred, his tone bitter and Phoenix knew that he was preparing himself to throw every hex he knew at Warrington.

"I want to talk to Lancaster," Warrington replied, pointing a stubby finger at Phoenix.

"Why?" George asked immediately.

To all their great surprise, Warrington began to blush ever so slightly. His face turned a horrid bright pink and he began to shutter, "I–I just–"

Intrigued as to why Warrington would want to talk to Phoenix and why he appeared to be nervous about it, Phoenix turned to Fred and George and said, "You two go ahead, you have a detention to go to. I'll see you both later,"

"But–" George began, glaring at Warrington before he looked down at Phoenix.

"I can take care of myself," Phoenix whispered, "I'll tell you what he wants later."

She had to push both of them so they would leave her alone. She glared at them before they finally walked away.

"So…." Phoenix turned to Warrington, the Owlery door slamming shut behind her, "…What is it that you wanted to talk to me about?"

"I–"

"Did you want to hex me for being a Know-It-All or did you just want to call me a Mudblood again?"

Warrington looked as though he was stealing himself as he stared at Phoenix, "Do you want to go to the ball with me?"

Phoenix's mouth fell open. She stared at him, completely lost for words. Had she entered some sort of parallel universe? Warrington, a pureblood Slytherin who never missed a chance to tell her how filthy her blood was, had just asked her to go to the Yule Ball with him.

"What?"

"Do you want to go to the ball with me?" he repeated, his expression was now rather blank, he no longer looked embarrassed or flustered, instead he looked rather rigid.

"Why the blood hell are you asking me?" Phoenix didn't know whether to be angry or confused. But at that very moment, it was the latter.

Warrington simply shrugged and continued to stare at her, "So… will you go with me?"

"Uhm… I…uhm… Thanks but no… I don't practically want to go with somebody who has called me a Mudblood," she said definitely, crossing her arms over her chest.

At this, she had expected Warrington at look at least a little upset, but he simply shrugged his large shoulders again, "Alright then… I got dared to ask you anyway,"

Phoenix raised an eyebrow at him, "What a terrible dare that you were given. What was it? I bet I can guess… I dare you to ask a Mudblood to the ball, was that it?"

The corners of Warrington's mouth twitched before he simply shrugged and Phoenix had to bit her tongue to not yell every hex she knew at him, "I have an owl to send now… Could you leave, I don't want a Mudblood breathing down my neck."

Instantly, Phoenix's hair turned a deep red and her eyes flashed crimson. She glared at him so harshly that it was surprising that Warrington had not turned to stone. Her hands curled into fits and the Owlery door flew open with a bang and several owls squawked and took flight out of the window. "Pillock," she muttered, loud enough so that Warrington could hear her.

She stormed out of the Owlery, but just as she crossed the threshold, she turned around and raised her wand. 'Mutatio Skullus' she murmured, her wand pointing right at Warrington's back. A flash of brilliant pink shot out of her wand, it hit Warrington squarely between the shoulder blades. The door slammed shut, but not before Phoenix had caught a glimpse of three extra heads growing from shoulder.

"Bloody hell Nix," Fred greeted her when she entered the common room after taking a very long walk around the castle. Her hair and eyes were both still so violently red that they were clashing with the red drapes on the walls. Phoenix glared at Fred and sat down beside Angelina, crossing her arms tightly over her chest, "What did that gorilla want?"

"He asked me to the ball," she muttered, but over the crackling of the fire and a rather loud squawk from Lavender Brown, who had just turned into a Canary, nobody could hear what Phoenix had said.

"What?"

"That pile of dragon dung just asked me to ball that's what!"

"What?" Fred asked, looking torn between amusement and confusion, a look that was shared with Angelina. Both Lee and Alicia burst into laughter and George's mouth fell open into a perfect 'O' shape, "Why?"

"It was for a dare!" Phoenix spat angrily, "A bloody dare! To ask a ruddy Mudblood to the ball–"

"Don't call yourself that," George told her in the same voice that Mrs. Weasley used when she was scolding Fred and George for annoying Percy.

"What did you say?" Alicia questioned.

"I said no obviously," Phoenix replied, "Then I hexed him, he's probably still in the Owlery crying over his three extra ugly heads,"

They all roared with laughter and Phoenix could feel herself becoming less angry. After a few minutes of calling Warrington several names, Phoenix's hair was now back to its natural mousy brown and her eyes were back to their normal blue.

"Do you think anybody has found Warrington yet?" Alicia wondered, "He could have grown ten heads by now!"

"Let's not get our hopes yet Leesh," Angelina grinned.

By the following morning, the news that Warrington had seemed to spontaneously grow several extra heads had spread across the entire castle. Though luckily nobody had suspected that Phoenix was the reason that he was now lying in the hospital wing. It seemed as though the staff had been convinced that Warrington had been trying to use a Beauty spell on himself but it had gone, rather horribly, wrong. It was a very believable story as many students were now being emitted into the hospital wing for incorrectly using spells in preparation for the Yule Ball. In fact, Phoenix had to use a Severing Charm on Katie Bell after she had tried to grow her eyelashes, but had ended up in them growing so fast that they had reached her elbows before she would let Phoenix cut them.

Several students, which included Phoenix and Angelina, had managed to make a small profit from selling various beauty products from nail polish to hair potions. Even Fred and George had been seen selling makeup, much to Phoenix's amusement, but as they were natural businessmen they had managed to make an awful lot of money.

"I'm actually glad you are making money," Phoenix admitted when she, Fred, and George were all sat in the school kitchens after curfew, three days before the Yule Ball was due to take place, "You'll be able to get all the gold you lost from Bagman back in no time,"

"We're almost all out of lip gloss," said Fred with a large grin on his face. Phoenix snorted with laughter; she would never imagine in her wildest dreams Fred Weasley saying that he and George were almost out of lip gloss.

"Very mature Pixy," said George, nudging her arm just as two house elves approached them, one holding three steaming mugs of hot chocolate, the other with a plate laden with cakes and biscuits.

"Thank you Rosey," Rosey beamed and rushed over to the other Hogwarts house-elves, who looked as though they were beginning to cook breakfast, "thank you Dobby,"

Dobby was a new house-elf; he had large, tennis-ball-like green eyes and long, bat-like ears. On the night when she, and both Fred and George had gone to the kitchens to get hot chocolate and see two new elves in their mist, it had surprised them. In all the years they had been sneaking into the kitchens never had they seen a new elf. He had arrived less than a month ago, along with another house-elf called Winky (Fred and George had tried their very best not to laugh at her name when Dobby had introduced her). He was the friendliest elf in the kitchen, not like the Hogwarts house-elves were not kind but the elves never really talked to them, apart from introducing themselves. Dobby on the other hand, seemed as though he could talk for days on end.

Winky on the other hand, spent her time sobbing over her last master, who was in fact Percy's boss, Mr. Crouch. Fred and George had reframed from asking her whether Mr. Crouch had ever told her about 'Weatherby'.

"It is no problem sir!" said Dobby delightedly; he bowed before he too rushed away in Rosey's direction.

"So Fred," Phoenix began, stirring her hot chocolate with her wand absentmindedly, "Are you excited to take Angelina to the ball?"

For a fleeting second, Fred almost smiled. He grabbed a large slice of Victoria sponge as he said casually, "Well… yeah… you know…" Fred stuffed the piece of cake in his mouth to cover his mild embarrassment. Phoenix and George looked at each other before they had to turn away to stifle their laughter, "On the subject of the ball, are you two going with anyone?"

"No," Phoenix and George said at the same time.

"I understand why you haven't got a date still Nix, being an independent woman and all–"

"Ah, funny,"

"–But Georgie, my dear twin, why haven't you managed to bag yourself a date,"

George simply shrugged and the starched the back of his neck, "I'm not really that bothered."

Fred almost chocked on his cake, staring at his twin with an incredulous look upon his face, "Not bothered?" Fred exclaimed, his hand dangerously close to knocking over his mug of hot chocolate, "Are you my twin or not?"

"If George wants to go to the ball on his own then he can Fred," Phoenix said in a tone that strongly sounded like Mrs. Weasley, "And it's not like he will be the only person without a date,"

"Yeah Neville will probably–"

"Neville's going with Ginny," Phoenix told a surprised looking Fred, "But that's a different matter, the point is that if George wants to go to the ball without a girl then he can, I'm sure once he is at the ball he can find someone to dance with,"

Suddenly, Fred and George both gave a shudder. Phoenix raised an eyebrow.

"I am not looking forward to dancing," Fred admitted.

"How do you think I feel? I have to dance in heels," Phoenix stressed, "I can't even walk in them, if I make it through the night without seriously injuring myself I will be greatly surprised,"

"Being a girl must be so difficult," said George, his expression feigned sympathy.

"Shut up," Phoenix muttered, picking up a piece of carrot cake.

Christmas Eve was the day before the Yule Ball and in Phoenix's opinion, it was unbearable. Girls were giggling in every corner of the castle; boys were becoming shifty and nervous. Couples were now almost impossible to escape; Lee and Ava seemed as though they were glued by the lips, the only time they seemed to be separated was when she was on prefect duty. Alicia and Jason were mostly always spending time together in the library 'studying'. Fred and Angelina were being the most normal however, in fact Phoenix sometimes forgotten that they were going to the ball together in the first place. The only time they talked about the ball was when the subject was brought up, Phoenix and George were both thankful for this because they didn't think that they could handle Angelina calling Fred her 'honey bunny'.

Phoenix couldn't sleep. At first, she thought it was because of the simple fact that it would be Christmas within a few hours but then her mind drifted to the briefcase Tonks had given her that was sitting at the bottom of her school trunk. She had barely looked in it since George had found her with Moody's letter for the reason that she was terrified as to what she would find out.

Wearily, Phoenix tiptoed around to her trunk and as quietly as she could, opened it. Alicia gave a rather loud snore as the trunk creaked. She rummaged around the very bottom of her trunk, her hands brushing over her beloved broomstick and an old bottle of rather large nail varnish that Phoenix was sure Fred had brought her. Her fingers found the handle of the leathery briefcase and she let out a sigh of relief, pulling it out of the trunk. There was a loud snap as the trunk closed. Alicia murmured something that sounded suspiciously like 'No… no… not the yellow one…'.

Phoenix climbed back into bed, grabbing her wand from her bedside table. Flicking her wand, the curtains around her four-poster bed closed silently. "Lumos," she whispered and her wand ignited with a flash of light at the very tip of her wand. The briefcase lay on her bed; she stared at it for a moment, dreading what else she would find inside of it. Her hands shook as she fiddled with the clasp before she finally opened the case.

Suddenly Alicia gave another loud snore and Phoenix dropped the case in surprise, pieces of papers flew out and onto her duvet.

"Bloody hell Alicia," she muttered, shaking her head as she rifled through the papers. She caught sight of a drawing. It looked as though it had been drawn by a toddler. The picture was of a woman. The drawing made the hairs on the back of Phoenix's neck stand up. The woman was dressed all in black. Her hair was jet black, thick, so messy and matted that it looked as if it had not been brushed in years. She appeared to have no face, no nose, and no mouth. But her eyes… her eyes made Phoenix's lips go dry. There were no whites to her eyes; it was only blackness that filled. Even though she knew it was simply a drawing, Phoenix felt scared to look into those eyes. It reminded her of something…

"Death eaters," she whispered, setting the drawing aside and searching through the other pieces of paper. She couldn't shake the image of that woman's eyes… they were so terrifyingly familiar.

She scowled when she saw Moody's letter, almost ripping as she stuffed it into the briefcase. Before she closed the case however, she noticed a piece of crumpled up paper at the very bottom. Curious, she ran her hands over the paper to get the creases out before she read.

Dear Ministry of Magic – whoever runs the 'magical' establishment,
I sadly have not been able to visit Phoenix daily in whatever the ruddy hell the magical hospital is called as I have been making plans for Jane's funeral, her belongings and meetings with several lawyers. As this hospital doesn't have a phone number that I can call, I would request that somebody could send me daily updates on my daughter's progress.

Her therapist is sending me letters of her sessions and he suggests that I should try and get her doing more things, like taking her on daily days out, to the zoo or to the park, but I simply have no time. He did tell me about something that Healers often consider when dealing with young child whom suffer from the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which is getting her memory modified so that she has no recollection of what happened. I was writing to you, whoever is in charge of this situation I mean, to get your professional opinion on this.

I have just lost my wife and now I am scared to lose my only daughter. Healers have told me that Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder can affect her health in later life; she could get problems with her heart and much more. She is not living like a child should be. I do not remember the last time I saw her smile. She cries, she screams all the time. She draws these horrible drawings of people without faces and she's more scared of the non-existent monsters under her bed than she was when she was two. It kills me to see my three year old daughter like this.

Please reply urgently – the 'Muggle' way.

Yours sincerely,
Andrei Lancaster.

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