So... I'm obvously updating. That does not mean I will continue doing so without more reviews! Please!

"So, young Valera," Mr Scrimgeour said genially, "beginning Hogwarts this autumn, are you?"

Valera condescended herself to answer him with a nod. Having called that afternoon at her uncle William's (so she called him, although he was more like a father) place about some business thing, Mr Scrimgeour was waiting with her in the formal livingroom.

Mr Scrimgeour was her uncle's boss, but actually they were more fast friends. Even though Valera knew him quite well, she couldn't muster any particular warm feelings for him.

He had been one of the aurors who had captured her mother.

Straightening her white-blonde hair, she settled better into her couch, fixing her dark eyes on the ancient clock on the wall. It showed the William Rutherford-arrow still standing resolutely on travelling.

Still bravely trying to keep a conversation going, Mr Scrimgeour said:

"Any idea what house you'll enter? I know your uncle was in Gryffindor."

Having decided that ignoring him was no longer an option, Valera revealed her thoughts.

"I am not certain. As you say, my uncle was a Gryffindor, and he did, after all, raise me. However, he tells me my mother favoured Slytherin! So here, I am totally confused. Perhaps I shall end up in the middle? Hufflepuff sounds a good option!"

The older man smiled, amused at her forthrightness and quick wit.

But deep down, her intelligence troubled him. Valera Gerane had, for a time, been a much debated subject at the ministry.

Her mother, Zaphira, had been the last offspring of an old and honourable pure-blood family. Zaphira's father, having succumbed to the dark arts, died in Azkaban during The War, and strange events, culminating in the disappearance of twenty aurors at the Gerane mansion, led to Zaphira's disappearance at the end of The War.

The ministry searched for her on and of, until her appearance four years later, now with her three year old infant in tow.

She was captured and sent to Azkaban after denying any death eater connections, and was still there, as far as he knew. Her cousin had graciously taken the child, and raised her as his own, and to this day no-one knew who her father was, Zaphira having refused to tell, even to the child itself.

The thought of Azkaban brought with it his reason for being here, waiting for head auror Rutherford. Just as his stomach constricted, the double doors of the livingroom swung inwards, and William appeared.

Wearing his usual black robes, he strode towards Mr Scrimgeour with a edgy expression on his face.

"What is this, Rufus? My house-elf tells me it's urgent!"

Scrimgeour looked around anxiously, but they were as alone as he could hope to be; the room was deserted except for Valera, who watched the encounter with interest.

"It's Sirius Black…He has escaped!"

This bit of news caused an interesting reaction in the faces of its two receptants. Uncle William sat down rather abruptly on the couch, suddenly white in the face, while Valera's eyes narrowed thoughtfully.

William was in a state of shock. Azkaban had been thought fool-proof for centuries. This was the first escape ever!

Valera, on the other hand, was jubilant. If Sirius Black had managed to get out, so could her mother!

Gathering his thoughts, which had run helter-skelter for a moment, William asked his superior how he could help.

"Well," Mr. Scrimgeour said, "I had hoped you would join with me to debrief the ministry and head the search. There is, after all, no auror who has more experience than you at –ehm- finding dark wizards."

He shot a glance at Valera, who was listening in on the conversation avidly. Following his gaze and thoughts, William signed for his foster-daughter to leave the room. But she did not.

Having been raised a lonely child by her rich and above all overindulgent guardian, Valera was used to getting things her way. Her uncle loved her very much, and though her manners were impeccable, he had not been overly harsh in her upbringing.

Thus, when Valera's uncle did not want her to partake in a probably very interesting discussion about Black, his whereabouts and the general inner workings of the ministry, she balked.

Upon seeing her reaction, William's face turned uncharacteristically harsh, and with a few well-chosen words he sent her running for the safety of her rooms.

Once inside the confines of her chamber, she vented her anger at the missed information by kicking a puffy chair, and succeeded in giving herself a sharp pain in her left foot.

Jumping up and down clutching it, her eyes fell upon the velvet draperies that covered the huge arched window. Through it she heard the softly hissing voice of her true confidant and long time friend, the diamond patterned snake, Zadin.

As long as she could remember Valera had been able to speak with snakes. Denying every norm she had never told her uncle. It gave her a sense of power, of knowing something not even her uncle knew.

When she, as a six-year old, overheard someone talking about "parseltongue" in hushed voices, she was grateful nobody knew. She certainly did not wish to be stamped as dark.

There was enough gossip already!

Because she had noticed the whispers, the sly glances, the sneering faces. At every family gathering and pure-blood get-together, when she was introduced, people stared. Certain folks, with Lucius Malfoy at the front, were reluctant to even speak to her.

It was not her mothers open allegiance to the dark, or her spending the last seven years in Azkaban that was frowned upon, but Valera's uncertain parentage.

Besides the fact that her great-grandmother was a Veela, and therefore not entirely human, nobody knew who Valera's father was, and therefore many were reluctant to accede to her the status of a pure-blood.

In the fanatic pure-blood upper-class society, this was an extreme social problem. Valera therefore had more than one reason to look forward to her sorting. She was hoping the sorting-hat's decision would tell her once and for all which world she belonged in.

In the meantime, however, she did not consider it beneath her to get answers of her father's identity elsewhere.

With a few hisses and snarls, Valera answered the snake's curious query as to where she had been, and gave him her orders. Collapsing in her bed with a book on wizard genealogy she had wheedled out of young Nott with a little help from her Veela magic, Valera watched Zadin vanish down the wall to spy on the conversation downstairs. She did not enjoy others concealing information.

Slamming the book shut on the extinct Gaunt-family, Valera exited the room, scooping Zadin into a pocket of her robe on the way out. It was the evening before she was to leave for Hogwarts, and the House-elves were quickly losing it trying to pack every trinket and article of clothing Valera wanted to bring along. Her uncle was probably already beginning to miss her, because he tried to keep her by his side as much as possible.

Exited as she was, Valera could not help but feel she was the only sane person left in the building- she would return at Christmas, after all, and there was always the underestimated communication-device of letters.

Diagon alley had been visited the day before, and a wand (phoenix core), robes, ingredients for potions, a cauldron, parchments and quills had all been purchased. Her uncle had even bought a black owl for her, so they could keep in touch.

It was currently perched on the top of the banister, watching in a detached kind of way the havoc downstairs. One of the house-elves, Gada by name, caught sight of the young mistress petting her owl, which had been named Artemis, at the top of the stairs.

As it squealed her name, the witch sighed.

Her uncle, who seemed to have suddenly remembered a dictionary's worth of knowledge about Hogwarts that he wanted to pass on to his young charge, had not let her out of his sight the entire day, and Valera had had to fake a sudden stomach-ache to be able to retreat to the quiet of her rooms.

No doubt, he now wished for her presence during more long-winded preparation.

But as her feet brought her into the proximity of William, she noticed an ominous air in his face, a feeling of dread that had not previously been there.

"Child," he said in a sad voice as she approached, "I fear your year at Hogwarts will be rather different from mine. The ministry has decided to place Dementors around the school grounds, to guard the students."

A shudder coursed its way down Valera's spine.


The very name was enough to reduce grown men to whimpering babies. Guardians of the menacing wizarding gaol Azkaban, peace and justice were still not quite the words associated with the living wraiths.

Valera herself had seen first-hand the dark influence they gained over the souls unfortunate enough to come under their thrall.

On her yearly visits to her mother, only allowed because of her uncle's high standing in the ministry, Zaphira's reaction to them was painfully evident. Eyes hidden in the dark shadows cast by her emaciated forehead, she would speak only in a hoarse whisper, and collapsed whenever a dementor passed outside her high-security cell.

That gaunt slip of a creature had created and hardened Valera's resolve to find a way, no matter the means, to free her mother.

Could their presence at her first year of school somehow impede her efforts?

Face concealing her reactions, Valera retreated quickly to her chamber, shutting out her uncle's empty platitudes and unhelpful comforts.

Zadin and Artemis, who had formed an uneasy alliance, watched from their respective perches as she fell into an uneasy sleep.