A/N: Holly and her grandmother are original characters from my story, Lee Jordan, Tour Guide, which was written after OotP. I like to think Lee's comment to "Keep each other safe: keep faith," was directed at them. The passages in italics are from pages 355-60, UK edition. Thanks to Sherry for the beta.
Holly Jordan picked up her smallest brush, dipped it quickly in black paint and daubed her initials in the corner of the completed canvas.
H.K. March, 1998.
She couldn't write 'H.J.' since she was still known in Hogsmeade as Holly Kirke, pureblood, sister of Andrew Kirke, now in his fifth year at Hogwarts. She was still Andrew's sister and a pureblood of course, but she was also Holly Jordan, wife of Lee Jordan, the one called River who was the announcer on Potterwatch. Her last name alone could get her killed, or sent to Azkaban, at the very least. It was also Lee's fate and one he didn't want her to share. She sighed.
"Decided you're finished with the portrait, are you?" Gran asked from behind her sewing machine.
"Yes." She couldn't stand looking at Alecto Carrow's face for one more minute. "Hopefully she won't Crucio me for not flattering her."
"Dinna kin how you could make a pretty picture of one such as that." Gran shrugged. "If she's ever looked in a mirror, she'll know it's a good likeness."
Holly glanced with distaste at the crooked shoulder, the flashing eyes, and the angry sneer she had painted. No matter how she had tried to make her hand obey, she couldn't bring herself to erase or even mitigate the physical flaws of Alecto Carrow. What she had done, though, was to paint Hogwarts as an elaborate backdrop. Hopefully, Alecto would see the grey towers and battlements that loomed over her head as a reference to her reign over the school. Holly looked with satisfaction at the gleaming white tomb, just visible over Alecto's deformed shoulder. It was a note from the artist; a little reminder that death was coming for her someday.
"Is it too much to hope that she'll pay you for it?" Gran asked as she flicked her wand at the machine. The needle began to slowly work its way through the thick green and black brocade that had been picked out for the new draperies in the Hogwarts' staffroom.
Holly winced. She didn't care about the money but she probably should, since gold was thin on the ground these days. No one was buying art during the war. Lee had gone into hiding with Fred and George and couldn't work. Even Gran's tailoring business was drying up, since only Death Eaters had money and they weren't exactly fashion forward. "I don't know, Gran."
The luminous white tomb was the only beautiful, pure thing in a picture that was full of grey-greens and brown, Holly realized. She hadn't meant to put so much of herself so much of her own hopeless state of mind after hearing that Lee, Fred and George had narrowly escaped from Death Eaters last month into the backdrop. She sighed again and started to clean her brushes.
"Let's see if we can find that foolish program," Gran suggested as she stiffly rose from her seat behind the thrumming sewing machine. "What did you say the password was?"
Her heart lifted a little at the thought that maybe she would hear Lee's voice tonight. Just to know he was all right just to be in the same moment with him no matter what the distance that would be everything. "Albus," she replied eagerly.
She watched her grandmother tap the old Wireless with her wand. Gran was really showing her age these days, Holly thought worriedly. Having Dementors in such close contact hadn't been good for either of them, but Gran's entire body seemed to have bent under the strain of it all.
"Let me try "
" now found ourselves another secure location, and I'm pleased to tell you that two of our regular contributors have joined me here this evening. Evening, boys!"
It was Lee! A warm flush ran through her entire body at hearing his cheerful voice. Secure location thank God.
"Merciful Merlin," her grandmother whispered, clutching the wooden cabinet of the Wireless.
Holly hurried to her side and conjured a chair. "Sit down, Gran."
"If Dean is listening, or if anyone has any knowledge of his whereabouts, his parents and sisters are desperate for news."
Gran sat heavily in the chair and snorted. "We're a bit desperate for news on this end, too, Mr. Jordan."
Holly had to smile in spite of the fact that Lee was announcing such horrible things. Gran loved Lee like a third grandchild and scolding was the way she showed it.
" the remains of Bathilda Bagshot have been discovered in Godric's Hollow."
"Oh! Batty died." Gran shook her head and folded her gnarled hands in her lap. "I used to sew for her."
" unmistakable signs of injuries inflicted by Dark Magic."
Holly put a comforting hand on her grandmother's shoulder as Lee asked for a moment of silence. It was in that silence that Holly heard the unmistakable sound of an Apparition pop. With all of their Security Charms and the Caterwauling Charm on Hogsmeade itself, no one could Apparate directly into the house, except for
Her heart in her mouth, she whirled around. "Lee?" The room was spinning so, she could barely focus on his familiar smile or the way his hair bounced merrily as he approached her. "How can you be here?"
As if from a long distance she heard him say, "And now we turn to regular contributor, Royal, for an update on how the new wizarding order is affecting the Muggle world."
But Lee was right in front of her, pulling her into his arms. "Holly," he said in a low voice.
Her nose brushed against his damp cloak. He smelled like the outdoors and wood smoke.
"And what would you say, Royal, to those listeners who reply that in these dangerous times, it should be wizards first?"
Lee took his wand and pointed it at the Wireless, lowering the volume. Kingsley Shacklebolt's answer faded into the background. Then he put his arms around her again.
"It was George's idea. We used Echo Charms and three Pandora Boxes to capture the interviews we did this morning. Then tonight we separated and opened the Boxes. The broadcast is coming from three different locations. This first part up to Lupin talking is what was in my box."
"I thought I was listening to you in the moment!" She started to tremble. He was really here.
"We thought it was the safest way to throw everyone off. We didn't want to go through another encounter with Death Eaters."
She pulled back and looked him over anxiously. "You're all right, aren't you? I couldn't believe it when I heard the news whilst painting Alecto Carrow's portrait. Her brother was practically crowing over the fact that he had you lot cornered."
Lee snorted and looked over her head at Gran. "He didn't have us cornered, now, did he? We got away and lived to broadcast another edition of Potterwatch for you and Stacy to listen to."
Gran tutted at being called Stacy again, but Holly couldn't laugh. She was still remembering the horror she felt at overhearing the news about her husband and friends.
"He said that the other twin lost his nose this time and that the 'snake-haired one' had the smile wiped right off his face."
Lee hugged her as the tears welled up in her eyes. "Nah. Fred has his nose and I'm still smiling. He's full it like most of those Death Eaters."
She looked at him doubtfully.
"They can't admit that someone got away unscathed otherwise, it's a nice session of Crucio for them."
"You can check me over if you like." He waggled his eyebrows and smiled invitingly at her.
Finally she laughed. Lee did look healthy, if a little thin. "I think I'll take you up on that." She ran one finger across his jaw and up to his lips.
Gran cleared her throat as if reminding them that she was still there. "I'm thinking the lad is hungry, Holly."
She felt the tip of his tongue on her finger, and shivered. He pulled her hand away from his mouth and then opened her palm. "I am hungry." His lips brushed the hollow in her hand.
Merlin, so was she.
"I'll heat some soup," Gran said, getting to her feet.
The spell on the volume lifted and she heard either Fred or George talking. "Maybe he is and maybe he isn't, but the fact remains he can move faster than Severus Snape confronted with shampoo when he wants to, so don't count on him being a long way away if you're planning on taking any risks. I never thought I'd hear myself say it, but safety first."
Holly's mouth dropped open at that last bit.
"Seems you boys are developing some sense," Gran said with a sniff.
The Lee on the radio was continuing: "Listeners, that brings us to the end of another Potterwatch. We don't know when it will be possible to broadcast again, but you can be sure we'll be back. Keep twiddling those dials: the next password will be 'Mad-Eye.' Keep each other safe: keep faith. Goodnight."
Holly closed her eyes. Both the gravity of their situation and the courage that was carrying them through were in Lee's voice. It was hard to believe that these were the same carefree boys she had known in school.
She opened her eyes and stared into Lee's. "What happened today?" she whispered so Gran wouldn't hear. "To make you sound like that?"
"Nothing," he murmured, rubbing his thumb along her palm. "To us, anyway. We were supposed to have Charlie Weasley on the program, but he never showed up. Fred and George were worried about him ready to go to Romania, they were."
She remembered happy-go-lucky Quidditch captain Charlie Weasley, who could dive twenty feet on a broom without turning a hair. "Is he I mean, did you hear from him?"
"He caught up with us tonight." Lee sighed. "He got confused about time zones and showed up two hours late. He's the one whose been keeping us apprised of You-Know-Who's movements."
"Oh." Some of the tension in her shoulders eased.
"Come to the table," Gran called from the other end of the room. "Your soup is getting cold."
Lee sat at the table and raised his eyebrows at the portrait of Alecto Carrow. "Not much of a looker, is she?"
"I won't flatter that old hag!" Holly declared, crossing her arms in front of herself.
He continued to study the portrait and then smiled. "So she's going to die, is she?"
There used to be a time when she would have to explain her paintings to Lee, but now he knew her so well. "Okay, it's a little passive-aggressive," she admitted.
He laughed and dipped his spoon into the thick, creamy leek soup. "Just a little? You might as well have made that tomb finger-shaped."
Gran snorted. "Show him the other one, Holly."
Holly reached under the table and brought out the secret portrait she had done of Alecto with her brother, fellow torturer Amycus Carrow.. "I did this one so Alecto's portrait would visit our house. Hopefully we'll hear some news that will be of help to the Order." She wrinkled her nose at the lopsided smirk of the short, lumpy man. "We're going to hang them in the spare room so we don't have to look at those faces."
"Those faces?" Lee crowed. "Passive-aggressive doesn't begin to describe painting a male Death Eater in a frilly pink dress."
"Oh, but he does wear dresses," Gran assured him with a twinkle in her eye. "I made that one in the portrait. He said it was for his mum and that they were the same size so he played mannequin."
"It's so horribly horrible," Lee said staring in awe at the hairy chest rising above the low ruffled neckline.
"Alecto tells her brother everything," Holly said. "So I'm hoping her portrait will feel the same way." She shrugged. "I know for a fact the other paintings at Hogwarts won't talk to her, so she'll have to come here."
"Do you think she knows her brother is a cross-dresser?"
Holly waved that away. "Of course. Their quarters are right next to each other in the castle and he kept popping in during her sitting. They're a very strange pair." She shook her head. "Did you know he breeds Boggarts?"
"Why would he do that?"
"To better know how to torture people if he knows their deepest fears?" Holly guessed. "I don't know, but Andrew says Boggarts are all over the castle. He and Jack Sloper and some of the older Gryffindors who know Riddikulus have eliminated them in Gryffindor tower at least."
"Just show the Boggarts that picture of Amycus," Lee said, pushing his empty bowl away. "An ugly bloke in a pink dress is ridiculous enough to destroy them on the first try."
Gran sighed. "Poor Andrew. I don't know how the lad can find things to laugh about but he does."
"He was at the Support Harry Potter party," Holly explained, wincing as she remembered the shock of seeing those ugly red scars on her bother's back.
"Good for him!" Lee said. "I would have gone, too."
Gran slowly stood up. "Now there's the Mr. Lee Jordan I remember."
"And you love me for it," Lee said cheekily.
Gran didn't smile back. "Aye, I do." She put her hands on either side of his face and kissed his forehead. "You be safe, dinna kin? We can't be losing you."
Lee's dark eyes gleamed with emotion and then he nodded.
"I'm going to bed," Gran said, the briskness back in her voice. "We'll hem those draperies tomorrow, Holly. The light will be better anyway."
Lee stood up. "I probably won't see you again before I leave."
Holly's stomach dropped. How much time did she have with him?
"Aye. I thought not." Gran let Lee embrace her and then she pulled away. "You best be looking him over for injuries then, Holly." She winked and then started up the stairs.
When they heard Gran's door close, Holly turned to Lee. "What time do you have to leave?"
Her heart sank. Four hours. She tried to smile seductively as she held out her hand, but it probably looked more needy than anything. "Let's go to bed."
"Holly, we should talk. We don't have to "
She rounded on him. "If you think I'm going to waste four hours' time talking about tactics and the state of the wizarding world " She stopped because he was smiling. Her brogue was surfacing like it always did when she was emotional.
"I wanted to talk about how you're doing." His smile was gone. "How you're feeling." He looked down at their clasped hands. "Professor Lupin was telling me how he regretted leaving Tonks, and how they've had to spend a lot of time talking now that they're together again. But in the long run it's been good for them "
"I don't need to talk about my feelings." She tugged on his hands and started walking backwards until she felt the first tread of the stairs. "I can show you my feelings."
"I don't want to talk about Lupin and Tonks," she announced as she let go of one of his hands and turned to mount the stairs. "Even though I'm fascinated when men discuss relationships."
"I don't want to talk about them," he retorted. "I just don't want you to resent me for taking risks and spending all of my time with Fred and George."
They were half way up the stairs. She just had to keep pulling on his hand. "I will resent you if you don't live up to your husbandly duties."
He stopped one step below her. "Holly "
She turned and looked down into his eyes. "I don't resent you, Lee. I resent You-Know-Who and the Death Eaters and all the people who are too cowardly to fight tooth-and-nail for what they believe is right. I'm proud of you for doing what you're doing. I'm afraid for you if you're caught. But most of all, I'm glad thrilled excited " Her voice was rising and she could feel the heat in her face, but the words were tumbling out and she couldn't stop. " thatFred and George were clever enough to find a way for you to visit since I've missed you more than I can possibly say. Now, that's how I'm feeling. Is that enough ?"
He reached for her and pulled her on to the step with him. Then he kissed her in a way that told her she had said just the right thing. "Glad," he whispered as he found the clasp on her robe. "Thrilled." He kissed her exposed collarbone and the hollow of her shoulder.
"What was the other word?" he asked her as her robes slid off of her shoulders.
"Excited," she answered breathlessly.
"Merlin, yes, excited." He picked her up and carried her the rest of the way up the stairs.
Faint moonlight barely revealed the rumpled clothes strewn on the floor. Holly watched Lee hunt in the dark for his shirt.
"You have to go?"
"Yes." He stood up. "Now that my husbandly duties are done."
She laughed. He was going to tease her about that for the rest of their lives. "Your duties will never be done."
"I hope not." He kissed her briefly. "We're meeting in Hagrid's cave to brainstorm ways Hogwarts can fight back if it comes to that. McGonagall's going to be there."
"Give her my love," Holly said.
"I will." He shrugged his t-shirt over his head. "Then we're going to the Hebrides."
"You don't have to tell me."
He pulled on his jeans. "Mum and Dad are supposed to be with Eppie."
"They'll be so happy to see you!" Lee's parents had been on the run longer than Lee.
He sat on the bed to pull on his socks. "Yeah." He sounded weary.
She got on her knees, so she could lean against his warm back and put her arms around his neck. "It won't always be like this," she said, resting her cheek against his. "All these hellos and goodbyes."
"I know." They stayed melded together for several heartbeats.
"I love you," he whispered.
"I love you, too."
There was nothing left to say. Lee finished dressing, kissed her one last time as she clung to him and then with a final, sad smile, he Disapparated.
Holly pulled on her dressing gown and belted it tightly. Even though she was tired, she couldn't sleep. She would start hemming those draperies. The trick was to stay busy.
When she flicked on the kitchen torches with her wand, the first thing her eye gravitated to was the portrait of Alecto Carrow. She looked at it critically. The white tomb shone with a special radiance. Passive-aggressive or not, did she really want to convey that death was the only answer?
Ways Hogwarts can fight back, Lee had said.
Tapping her chin, she stared at the gloomy castle she had painted. Then she reached for a brush.
"Ach, you're feeling better," Gran said that morning as she entered the kitchen. Holly had stayed up the rest of the night, altering the painting. Now the stones of the castle glistened with the warm light of a scarlet sunrise.
"Red sky at morning, Death Eater's warning," Holly murmured, rubbing her tired eyes with paint-stained fingers.
Gran laughed. "You're a stubborn Gryffindor lass."
"I am," Holly agreed, sitting up as straight and proud as the towers of Hogwarts. They were going to win in the end she just knew it. "Keep Faith," she said with her chin up.
Gran peered at the hopeful dawn she had painted. "Aye."