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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33. Life and Death


Being seventeen was not all what it was cracked up to be. Phoenix spent the morning of her birthday stood outside of Lavender Cottage's kitchen with Tonks while the screams and groans of Anastasia entertained them.

"Does she have to give birth on my birthday?" Phoenix mumbled, cupping her cold hands around her mug of tea, "Honestly, typically Ana."

Tonks giggled just as Anastasia shouted 'fuck!' and Cecilia scolded her for her fowl language.

"Where the fuck is Felipe?!"

"Don't swear Will!" Phoenix warned, thumping her drowsy sibling as he met the two witches at the door to the kitchen. "That baby coming out can probably hear you!"

"Felipe is in America you dunderhead," Tonks replied, wincing as Anastasia gave yet another painful shriek from behind the door. "Andrei is trying to refer her to a Muggle hospital but I don't think Cecilia really trusts them and their… well lack of magical remedies."

"Happy birthday, Bud." Will grinned at Phoenix before engulfing her in a hug. She could feel his stubble brush her forehead and she recoiled.

"Haven't you heard of a shave?"

The kitchen door suddenly burst open, revealing a crazed looking Cecilia, her blonde hair spilling from her ponytail and her makeup half done. Phoenix had a brief moment of amusement at her startling resemblance to the Divination teacher, Professor Trelawney.

"William! Get the car ready now!"

"I much would prefer it if you said pleas–"

"NOW!"

Will did not need telling twice. Cecilia's crazed appearance made her look strikingly like her sister Narcissa and even Tonks jumped away in fear of being scolded.

Phoenix peered around Cecilia's shoulder to see a gasping Anastasia, red faced and clearly in masses amount of pain. Her knuckles were white as she gripped a chair, Phoenix's father placing a comforting hand on her back and instructing Anastasia on her breathing.

"So are you going to the Muggle hospital?"

"Of course not!" Cecilia scoffed, "Andrei will have to drive her to London and to St. Mungo's. She's in far too much pain to Apparate or Floo. EDMUND! GET DOWN HERE NOW!"

"What if you don't make it too St. Mungo's in time? Is she just going to give birth in a Mini Cooper?"

Cecilia gave Phoenix piercing look that Phoenix was not at all phased by, in fact it rather amused her, just as Edmund came running down the stairs, tripping over a pair of trainers elegantly.

"Happy birthday N–"

"We don't have time for that! Ed! Send a message to Felipe immediately!"

"Merlin's pants," Ed mumbled, he rolled his eyes and did as his mother instructed. He waved his wand and from its tip burst a large, slivery bear. Phoenix watched the Patronus in awe as it moved through the open front door and vanished with a wisp of white smoke behind the rose bushes.

Phoenix's father had managed to get Anastasia out of the kitchen, she was mumbling in pain, clutching her heavy bump and swearing that she'd curse Felipe as soon as she saw him.

"Sorry about stealing your birthday thunder Nix," Anastasia said through teeth that were gritted in pain. "But this baby is ready to burst out of my AH!"

"It's okay Ana," Phoenix chuckled, giving Anastasia a quick but comforting hug, "Now go and get that baby out!"

Andrei Lancaster, along with his tense and nervous wife and step-daughter who was swearing and letting out moans of pain, reversed from the cottage's long driveway and sped away. Phoenix was quite pleased that she didn't have to hear Anastasia's cries of pain or Cecilia's yells of 'STEADY BREATHING ANA!'. It had been an eventful morning to say the least. Phoenix had woken up, much earlier than usual, since Tonks had burst into her room shouting her birthday wishes for Phoenix. After ducking a pillow Phoenix had thrown at her, Tonks had then informed Phoenix of Anastasia's water breaking and thus chaos had ensued.

"You should have seen it!" Tonks had roared with laughter. "Ana thought she pissed herself!"

It had been the most eventful morning of her birthday yet. Tonks and Phoenix had proceeded to try and comfort Anastasia but were both quickly ushered out by a harassed looking Cecilia. Phoenix had yet to hear a 'happy birthday' from Cecilia and her father and was quite sure they had forgotten, given the circumstances.

"I suppose the birth of a grandchild overrules your seventeenth," sighed Tonks. "Sorry pet."

Andromeda apparated alongside a dazed looking Ted Tonks only a few hours later. They greeted Phoenix warmly, handing her a handful of birthday gifts before Ted began making them a mouth-watering breakfast. The table appeared to struggle under the weight of plates of bacon, sausages, eggs, pancakes, croissants and toast and stomachs groaned as the tucked into a most delicious breakfast.

"Phoenix comes of age and the arrival of a baby," Andromeda exclaimed excitedly. "What a brilliant day in the Black family!"

"Have you done your first piece of magic yet Phoenix?" Ted asked of his niece, eyeing the wand that rested upon the table beside her.

"No, in fact, I haven't," said Phoenix, picking up the wand and twirling it between her fingers. "It's between turning Will's hair a retched green or charming that stupid goatee off of Edmund's face."

"I much prefer the latter," smiled Will, winking at Ed who looked bitterly across at Phoenix. "I remember when I turned seventeen–"

"I think we all do," chuckled Phoenix. "William was an incredibly lazy teenager. He couldn't even be bothered to flush the toilet so decided to use a bit of magic and before you knew it, upstairs was completely flooded! The smell remained there for roughly three da–"

"So my advice," Will spoke loudly so Phoenix's story was drowned out. "Is to use magic wisely."

"I always do, William."

At around midday, Andromeda along with her daughter and her husband disapparated (no doubt to the headquarters of the Order) and both Will and Ed left for work. This left Phoenix very much alone at Lavender Cottage. Instead of wallowing in loneliness, she sat in front of Andrei's television in the cosy living room. She searched through their collection of DVDs, finally finding her beloved Jurassic Park.

She got comfortable on the sofa, wrapping a soft blanket around herself and a cup of tea beside her. She bit her lip before she waved her wand and a warm fire lit up in the fireplace. It was odd to use magic outside of school but at the same time, oddly freeing. She couldn't blame Fred, George and Lee for abusing their right to use magic outside of Hogwarts.

With the warmth of the fire and the comfortable position in which she lay, it wasn't long till she fell asleep.

"Asleep on your birthday? Merlin Phoenix, are you seventeen or seventy?"

"Fuck!"

In three seconds, Phoenix had rolled off of the sofa, scrambled for her wand, upsetting her cup of tea and swearing profusely at the burning sensation in her hand. In a panic of not having her wand, she swung her fist and she felt it connect with flesh.

"Already smacking your boyfriend?" A familiar and amused voice laughed.

"Fred? George?"

"Yeah," came George's slightly muffled voice. "You have an iron fist. Merlin Pixy."

Light suddenly illuminated the living room. Phoenix had to blink several times in order to make out her companions. Fred Weasley was grinning at her, his hair much shorter than it had been when she last seen him at Kings Cross (though still as red as she remembered) and apparently slightly taller. Beside him stood George, whose freckled nose was spilling with specks of blood.

"Oh shit," Phoenix cursed, rushing towards her boyfriend with a nervous expression. "I'm sorry George, I didn't mean to punch you."

"I didn't think that was your intention," George replied with a smile as Phoenix careful dabbed at his lightly bleeding nose. Phoenix was blushing, she didn't imagine that the first time she would see George since the journey back from Hogwarts included her punching his nose.

"Anyway, happy birthday Phoenix!"

Fred and George's presents were nothing sort but excellent. Fred had presented her with a 'special' package of Weasley's Wizard Wheezes products and her favourite Muggle chocolates that he had no doubt had to fight Arthur Weasley over. George had thankfully not given Phoenix anything remotely romantic (they had only been together for less than two weeks, after all) though it was still thoughtful at the very least. She smiled at the novels in her hands, a mixture of both Muggle and Wizarding.

After eating their way through the cake they had brought from Mrs Weasley, Fred begged Phoenix to play the 'thing on the telly' again. She obliged, restarting the disc to much sarcastic 'ohhs' and 'ahhs' from the twins. Watching Jurassic Park with two wizards was definitely the highlight of her birthday. Fred actually let out a scream at the sight of the tyrannosaurus rex and George used Phoenix to cower behind.

"You two are such babies," she said with a snort of laughter, not wanting to admit she did indeed enjoy posing as George's cover. Her back was pressed against him so she could feel his heart racing on her shoulder blade. His arms could not be any tighter around her body, every now and then she would feel goosebumps erupt as he breathed down her neck. She missed the electric feeling she felt being so close to George. She had missed him in the past two weeks and was glad to be close to him again.

"Do Muggles make many of these?" Fred asked, his eyes wide while the credits rolled down the screen.

"What, films?" Phoenix nodded, stretching her arms as releasing herself from George. "Yeah there are thousands. The film industry is massive in the Muggle world."

Fred looked both excited and apprehensive. "Are there any more like that? Any… scary ones?"

Phoenix only smirked in reply. She didn't hesitate in leaving the comfort of the sofa, and George, in a search of a film that was sure to have Fred and George screaming all night, Candyman. Phoenix was not disappointed. She was not fazed by the events playing on the TV and instead entertained herself by watching Fred and George as they writhed in fear. It was always something when wizards (who rarely came into contact with anything from the Muggle word, especially something as trivial as films) watched anything on the TV, believing that it was real and not fully understanding that films, were in fact fake and acted out. But Phoenix decided to keep this fact away from the twins, it was after all her birthday.

"I truly regret requesting for a scary film," Fred said nervously when the film had finally ended and he and George had moved so close to Phoenix she could hardly breathe.

"Oh come on," Phoenix giggled, releasing herself from George who complained loudly about the loss of contact. "It's just a film. Nothing is going to hurt you. Unless…"

"Unless what?" said George sharply, extending his hands so to try and grab Phoenix's hips, but she moved away with a wry smile on her face.

"Unless you look in the mirror," Phoenix whispered softly with a dark look on her face, her eyes almost black and her hair turning a midnight blue. "And see… Candyman."

The reactions from each twin was all Phoenix could ask for on her birthday. The looks of horror on their faces was something she was not going to forgot in a hurry. After a few more minutes of teasing (that Phoenix spent smiling widely while the twins were no doubt close to tears), Phoenix decided that they had had their torture.

"Do you both want to stay over?" Phoenix asked hopefully as she and the twins collected the duvets and blankets and brought them back to Phoenix's untidy mess she called her bedroom.

The twins agreed and Fred left for a few moments in order to travel by Floo to inform Mr and Mrs Weasley of them staying at Lavender Cottage. This left Phoenix and George very much alone together, which in fact was the first time they had been alone since their kiss on the Hogwarts Express.

"Happy Birthday Pixy," George said softly, his arms acting as a home around her body before he left a lingering kiss on her lips. They lay on her bed, propping up against the handful of mismatched pillows Phoenix had occupied over the years, which George had complained about loudly before Phoenix had roughly pulled him onto her bed. "Have you had a good day?"

"Apart from Ana and that blasted baby stealing my spotlight," grinned Phoenix. "I've had a brilliant day. It's been cosy. We'll have to organise something with Angelina, Lee and Alicia. Perhaps involving some Firewhiskey, terrible dancing and Lee being inappropriate."

"Isn't he always?"

"Indeed," Phoenix smiled, resting her head against George's shoulder comfortably. "He got me a camera for my birthday with a note suggesting for me to send him a photograph of me in my birthday suit."

"He's a menace."

"Aside from that, it was actually a lovely present."

George looked down at his girlfriend with an awed expression. Phoenix looked back at him with a raised brow, titling her head so to get a better look at him. "Why are you looking at me like that?"

"I'm trying to come up with some raw romantic speech to say right now as an excuse to kiss you right now," said George, his finger tracing her lower lip gently so to make her heart race at an incredible speed and a blush crept against her cheeks. "But all I can thinking about is kissing you Phoenix Lancaster."

She smiled in return, moving closer so that their lips were very nearly touching but not just yet, "It's a shame I actually despise kissing you. Nothing is more torturous to me."

"You know how to woo a man Phoenix."

"I don't need to woo anybody. You, George, are evidently infatuated by me."

"Let's not get too cocky now, love," George replied softly, his fingers ghosting over the soft skin of her face to hook around her neck gently. "Now shut up and let me kiss you."

She didn't need to be told twice and her heart thumped loudly once their lips met. Her heart beat a little bit faster as his hands danced across her skin, down from her neck, over her collar and finally taking residence on her hips. Her hands left the bed and found their way to his hair, they wound into the fiery redness as George gently pushed Phoenix backwards so her back was pressed against the mattress.

"A little bit dominant Georgie," Phoenix commented with a playful wink, slightly out of breath as her heart rate attempted to return to its normal speed.

"Shut up," George replied, his lips descending upon her once again and Phoenix felt lost in his kisses that were intoxicating. She had missed George, there was no use in her denying that. She blushed when she felt his tongue slowly trace the silhouette of her lower lip. She had missed his wisecracking sense of humour, his teasing ways and she had missed the comfort of his lips.

"Mum said it's fine as long as you two don't get up to anythi– Oh Merlin! My eyes, my innocent eyes!"

Phoenix almost ripped George from her. Their chests were heaving and Phoenix's hair had turned pink in embarrassment while George had a rather triumphant smile on his face.

"Innocent eyes?" George recounted, shaking his head at his brother and getting to his feet, completely unfazed by being caught by his twin. "From what endeavours I've heard about yourself and Angelina, I dare say there is not an innocent bone in your body."

"What myself and my girlfriend do in waves of passion is our secret–"

"Oh come on," Phoenix said with a snort that made Fred glance over at her with a raised brow, "You couldn't wait to tell myself and George all about what you and Angelina got up to in that unused classroom."

"You two have all of this to come," Fred hummed, his eyes fixing on Phoenix whose hair had just turned a shade darker. "Running off in between classes together to have a quick snog, trying to sneak in the prefect's bathroom to have a sensual bath or even meeting at two in the morning to have session in any unused classrooms and having to bribe Peeves into keeping whatever he may have saw a secret."

"What?" Phoenix gasped with great difficulty, her hair now the most impressive shade of pink. "I don't imagine – I mean it's, uh–" She looked towards George for support but he preoccupied with holding in his laughter. "You both are terrible."

"She knows what we like to hear."

Will returned home, looking worn and exhausted. He entered the kitchen to see Phoenix, alongside the Weasley twins, all tucking into an Indian takeaway Pheonix had ordered (which Fred and George never even tasted before – much to Phoenix's astonishment).

"Fancy some korma?" Phoenix asked Will with a wry smile, branding some naan bread his way.

Will gladly took a seat to Fred's side, taking the tin of Phoenix's korma and pilling a generous amount onto his plate. Fred immorality whisked Will into a conversation about the Order, in an attempt to find out more, and Phoenix rolled her eyes, choosing to ignore this particular conversation.

"I'm not telling you two anything," Will declared after a few minutes of smugly listening to Fred and George's pleas of what exactly their 'meetings' were about. "Molly Weasley is most determined to keep her children's noses away from the Order."

Fred and George both huffed, George slumped in his chair and Phoenix bit back a laugh at their evident disappointment.

"Do you think she's going to stop us once we've finished school?" Fred asked, displeasure lacing his voice.

"I don't see why she would," shrugged Will. "Both Bill and Charlie are a part of the Order, though she wasn't all for them joining in the first place. Cecilia doesn't see any problem with allowing Phoenix to join once she has completed her last year."

"I cannot wait," Phoenix stated dryly, though her stomach bubbled in excitement. She was eager to fight back, having lost one of her parents to Lord Voldermort's cause of Muggle killings. She wouldn't mind seeing him six feet under and pay a mammoth amount of Galleons to see Bellatrix Lestrange join the headless hunt.

Will opened his mouth to reply but was stopped as an sliver shark appeared quite suddenly, it's tail swimming through the air, twisting and turning. It opened its mouth, revealing sharp teeth as it spoke with Cecilia's voice; "Ana is well. And the baby… she's beautiful–"

Phoenix and Will both grinned at one another, they both had been convinced that it would be a girl.

"–she's exactly six pounds, born at eighteen minutes past eight this evening. Felipe and Ana have named her Marie-Athenè Berube and, as I said, she's gorgeous. She has Ana's big brown eyes, oh, just wait till you all see her! We'll return in an hour or so, also, happy birthday Phoenix!"

"Odd name," commented Fred with a large grin.

"Just because you have such a common name Fred," said Phoenix.

"'Common' name?!" Fred retorted, "Did you hear that George? Your girlfriend has the cheek to say–"

"I think you should know by now Fred," Interrupted George, with a glance at Phoenix, "that Phoenix's cheek is somewhat of a penchant of hers."

"Oh George," Phoenix smiled, twirling her wand in a nonchalant sort of way, "You know me too well."

Funerals were hardly an enjoyable affair. Susan Bones, whom Phoenix had sat beside while Amos Diggory gave a speech about having Cedric as a son, had dissolved into tears. Phoenix had kindly offered her some tissues, though Susan had appeared to have misheard her offer, instead using Phoenix's sleeve to wipe he wet eyes and running nose.

"–Ced, he–he… he never missed a chance to jump on his broom and practise Quidditch until he was sweating profusely onto poor Caroline's carpets, trailing mud everywhere–" Amos chuckled, though it was hollow and Amos soon stopped laughing, the silence instead filed with Caroline Diggory's sobs.

After Amos' speech and several attempts for Susan to use a tissue instead of Phoenix's robes the ceremony had very nearly ended. A Ministry official, who Phoenix recognised to be Phoebus Penrose, made several odd movements with his wand and onlookers watched as bright, white flames had suddenly erupted beside Cedric's body; the flames rising higher and higher as the body was obscured. Phoenix watched, almost in awe, as white smoke began to spin and twist in the air, producing peculiar shapes. Just as Phoenix was beginning to rather be amazed by the whole flames show, they vanished. Cedric's body had also disappeared, in its place lay a marble grey tomb.

Phoenix, her hair a dark raven and her eyes a forest green, surveyed the room at large as Cedric's friends and family all spoke sombrely to one another, reminiscing about the memories they shared with Cedric.

"Not socialising I see."

Phoenix looked up at her step-brother, Edmund, with a rather bemused expression.

"Myself and socialising don't really go hand in hand," Phoenix said, her eyes looking in the direction of Cho Chang who was clinging onto her friend Marietta Edgecombe as she sobbed, "especially in the circumstances. I don't really feel like talking about how much I miss Cedric at the present and I feel rude talking of anything but Cedric."

Edmund nodded understandably and Phoenix watched him, noticing how much he really needed to shave. He looked, exhausted. Ed had said he had been lucky to get time off work for the funeral. Since the beginning of July, Edmund had been called in overtime for work in the Department of Mysteries for reasons that were of course kept a mystery from his family. He had acquired dark, purple circles under his eyes and his tanned skin had paled incredibly so he had the rather unwelcoming appearance of a vampire.

"When is your Apparition test?"

Phoenix's arms folded across her chest with an amused expression on her face, "A week ago, Ed."

"How did I miss that?!"

"All that overtime big bro."

"And how is that boyfriend of yours?"

Phoenix's face flushed ever so slightly, though she regained composer quickly, her hair colour barely changing hue, "He's good. Molly has been giving him plenty of chats regarding our relationship."

Edmund smiled in a satisfied sort of way, "I can imagine he is hearing no end of those conversations. Especially in light of recent events–"

"Ed! Shut up! Not here, Dumbledore would be furious if he heard you shouting your mouth off about it!"

Since the end of Phoenix's sixth year at Hogwarts and the rather abrupt return of Voldemort, Dumbledore had been (as Tonks had so casually phrased it) 'getting the gang back together'. The Order of The Phoenix had been a secret organisation, originally formed during the first Wizarding War against Lord Voldemort. Most of its original members had been murdered by Voldemort's followers or in some cases, Voldemort himself. The Weasley family had of course been first to join ranks and within the first week of the holidays they had left the comfort of the Burrow and took up residence in the Order's secret location, to which Phoenix had yet to visit.

Phoenix had only been told the basics of the Order, after spending a long hour questioning Tonks till she was blue in the face. Tonks only told her that they were a resistance against Voldemort and that Phoenix, along with Ron, Ginny, Fred and George, were not allowed to be involved or included in the Order's actions against Voldemort. Phoenix could have imagined the reaction from the four youngest Weasley children – Ginny had apparently very nearly left Molly in tears.

The rest of the funeral past with Phoenix talking to Amos Diggory (who had been the one to extend Phoenix the invitation in the first place) about having Cedric as a friend and then, when she felt as though she couldn't take the atmosphere, she took a stroll around the perimeter of the graveyard.

It was now she thought of Cedric. She thought of their first meeting in Charms, when Cedric had levitated Phoenix's school bag instead of the feathers they were supposed to be practising on. She remembered Cedric apologising profusely, Fred and George roaring with laughter and Phoenix dismissing Cedric's apology with a friendly smile. She remembered their very first Quidditch match against one another, how Cedric had smiled nervously and Phoenix had sent the Hufflepuff an encouraging wink before Oliver Wood had instructed his team to take off. She thought of the Yule Ball, where Cedric had approached her for a dance and she was surprised at just how good at dancing he was and he was amused by just how terrible Phoenix was at dancing.

The raven haired witch sighed, taking a seat on a nearby bench and watching as two of Cedric's younger cousins ran by, blissfully oblivious to the death of Cedric and what it meant to the world they were about to grow up in.

"Pixy?"

"Merlin's bollocks!"

"Colourful language, love."

Having passed his Apparition test only last week, it was evident that George Weasley was taking every opportunity he had to Apparate and Disapparate whether he pleased.

"What are you doing here?" Phoenix stood up quickly, brushing down her black dress before her eyes met George's.

"Dad's around here somewhere," George explained, he leaning against a trunk of a tree, looking nonchalant and at ease. "I also wanted to make sure that you were okay today."

Phoenix shrugged in reply, fiddling with the sleeve of her dress that thankfully did not have a trace of Susan Bones' running nose. "I'm as okay as one can be at a funeral," she said, surveying the large group of wizards all dressed in black, saying their goodbyes and best wishes to the Diggory's. "I haven't cried if that is what you are suggesting."

George eyed his girlfriend as she took tentative towards him. Their hands found each other with ease and Phoenix stood in front of him, his figure towering over hers so she peered up at him.

"How are things in Headquarters?" She asked with a grin, noticing how he rolled his eyes while his arms encircled themselves around her waist.

"I think you mean, how is the cleaning going?"

"You and Fred are cleaning?!" Phoenix laughed, she couldn't imagine them cleaning, especially since the twins were now of age and itching at any opportunity to use magic.

"You wait until you come and visit," George said with a smirk, pulling Phoenix closer to him. "Personally, I cannot wait to see you join in the de-Doxying."

"Tonks hinted that Dumbledore will allow me to visit in a few days," Phoenix smiled as George leaned down to place a sweet kiss on her lips. "She said somebody wants to meet me…"

George's expression change ever so slightly, she noticed how the corners of his mouth twitched. Phoenix cocked her head to the side, watching him closely with a raised brow. "Do you know who it is?"

"Of course not!" George replied in the most teasing way which made Phoenix groan in annoyance. George loved having something over Phoenix (his height being one of them), knowing something she was unaware of. "Don't worry, you're going to get on like a house on fire."

"Sounds positive."

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