Dean craned his neck in front of the mirror, carefully inspecting every inch of his scalp. He had never seen anything like this, the precision, the symmetry, the perfectly balanced curves, each line feeding into the next to perfectly frame his face. Gently tracing the surface of his freshly shorn hair he finally smiled. It didn’t escape his notice that even his dimples — always a source of minor embarrassment — now felt distinguished and even a bit suave.
”Brilliant!” He turned to Lee, who had been anxiously waiting just outside the bathroom, and flashed a thumbs up.
“’Course it is. You let me do it didn’t ya?” the gregarious Mr. Jordan clapped Dean on the back. “It’s about time you had a proper cut.”
At this, Dean had to chuckle. Lee had been after Dean’s barber duties since first year, claiming he was in dire need. While he had often been tempted, if for no other reason than curiosity, Seamus had begged help with his hair and it only seemed right to return the favor for his roommate and keep it in the family.
Roommate. The word came to him with a pang as it did every time he was forced to think about his best friend. He should have been at Hogwarts now, eyes glazing over N.E.W.T. coursework. He should have been with Seamus. He had just gotten them both tickets to see Rio Ferdinand and Frank Lampard at West Ham when he was forced to flee from home. Instead of worrying about graduating, he was mourning the lives of friends, and cursing a wizarding world that left him feeling just as excluded as the Muggle one had.
Shaking himself out of the funk, he managed a begrudging smirk. “Mate, do you know how hard it is to stay moisturized on the run? We’ll see how good you look when you can’t head to Diagon Alley or hit up Aberforth’s secret stash of oils.” Dean knew better than to give Lee a swelled head, especially not when he was about to record.
Lee shrugged, “If I hadn’t, we wouldn’t have found a spot for tonight now would we?” Nodding in agreement, Dean turned again to the mirror. If he was going to see her tonight he wanted everything to be perfect, and this was just the confidence boost he needed.
“Oh, are we ready then?” Luna asked expectantly as she appeared behind Lee in the hallway. Her mismatched socks always seemed to glide on the hardwood, barely making a sound. “You cut your hair! It looks quite lovely,” she added dreamily.
“Almost,” Lee was bobbing back and forth in the door frame, deep in thought. “You two need code names. Luna you could be…”
“Serena!” Dean interjected with a Cheshire grin.
He had gotten to know Luna quite well over the past few months, and while he had always respected the Ravenclaw as a talented witch from their days in Dumbledore’s Army, he never appreciated how tough she was. It had been anything but fun being trapped in the Malfoy’s cellar, then holed up in Shell Cottage, and now bouncing from safe house to safe house, yet her personality remained a constant. He had seen her with a smile on her face fighting evil by moonlight, and never running from a real fight. The name just came to him and it certainly seemed to fit.
“Oooh, I quite like that. It makes me sound so calm and peaceful. Sort of like your brain when Wrackspurts are around,” Luna was now looking at the ceiling and turning her head as if on the lookout for the invisible creatures.
“Uhh, yeah. And Dean, your name should be Littlefoot.”
Dean suspected he knew why Lee chose that name, and subconsciously grabbed at his neck while nervously twisting. “I think we can do a little better.” Flashing through all the jeering nicknames he had endured in primary school before coming to Hogwarts, he suddenly remembered what his youngest sister, Annalise, used to call him when she was a toddler.
“What about Tank?”
Lee lifted his bottom lip, deliberated for a few seconds and nodded in acquiescence.
“Well if that’s settled, are you both ready?” At this, Luna grabbed Lee’s outstretched palm. Dean stole one last steadying look at himself in the mirror and completed the link. Holding tight, they turned on the spot and with a familiar tug at their navels found themselves Apparating into a well-appointed flat.
“Whoa! Where are we now?” he whistled.
“Edinburgh, but the Tutshill banners are for the Tornados,” said Cho Chang, emerging from her study. She gleefully ran to embrace her friends and the quartet of Dumbledore’s Army members for a moment appeared to be a singular mass of flowing hair.
“I’ve missed you guys!”
“Don’t be silly, we’ve missed you too,” Dean reassured her, refusing to let any of them go from the embrace. He could feel their warmth flowing through each other like a Patronus. It was Lee who came up first for air.
“And you’re sure you don’t mind us doing it here? We don’t want to cause you any trouble. Potterwatch isn’t exactly high on the list of Ministry approved shows you know.”
Cho fiercely shook her head as though the question offended her. “My grandparents moved to Scotland because of the racism and persecution they dealt with in America. I can’t just sit back and let it happen here.” She paused, “Well, again anyway. Besides, what good is it having a home if you don’t protect it, you know?” They all nodded.
“Besides, we were in the D.A. right?” Cho added brightly, “This is like a Room of Requirement reunion.”
Dean shared a knowing look with Lee, but pressed on. Cho’s words had re-lit the spark in his heart. After months on the run, the fear, frustration, and loss had all mingled into a feeling just short of resignation. He always knew he would keep up the fight as long as he had to, that was just who the Gryffindor was, but after struggling so long just to stay alive he had almost lost hold of what he was fighting for.
It wasn’t simply for Harry Potter, even though he considered him a dear friend. It surely wasn’t for jolly old England or the wizarding world. Instead his thoughts were with his mother and sisters and doing everything he could to make sure they didn’t grow up in a world where they would have to wonder about their safety and acceptance based on blood status or genealogy. The BSU came to his mind, and he knew he’d willingly die for any one of the members, but what they all had hoped for would be a world where that wasn’t the only option for salvation. That meant playing whatever small role in casting off the thrall not only of dark wizards, but the creeping prejudices and detachments that let them fester openly as part of society.
“Alright you lot, now that we’re all sure I’ll grab the redheads. We’ll set up the protections as soon as I get back.” Lee Disapparated with a slightly noticeable pop that was drowned out by the wireless currently blasting Barbie Girl in the corner.
The mention of the Weasleys caught Dean wrong-footed. Less than an hour ago, his primary worry had not been re-telling his story of escape and being hunted, but making sure he looked his Sunday best in the presence of his ex. The time apart and perspective had made it clear that they were never a great match. Hadn’t they always fought because she thought he was too chivalrous and didn’t respect her independence? He respected her stance and tried to be mindful of her expressions of love, but it had been hard for him to shake a lifetime of being taught to be over polite to the point of deference.
It took Blaise of all people to make him laugh, pointing out the time she ordered porridge at the jerk chicken spot. Even if he no longer had feelings for Ginny romantically, that didn’t mean he’d be all that upset if she took a second look at what she missed out on. Faintly listening to Cho and Luna catch up on the sofa however, he realized her reaction was the furthest thing on his mind now.
Turning back to his friends he noticed Luna was actually consoling Cho. “I’m sure Marietta will be alright. They arrested my father too, but we’ll just have to stay strong for them until we can get them out.”
Cho noticed his approach and returned his solemn gaze. They all had risked so much and lost even more, no one could blame the other for quitting. Yet here they all were, fighting their own personal battles in the war. As sobering as the thought was, being together somehow made him feel a bit better. Harry may have been the general, destined to win the grand finale, but they were all making sacrifices that would have to endure as long in peace as it had in turmoil. Dean had left his mother and sisters alone, just as his father had, breaking the only promise that had ever mattered to him.
Balling his fist, he knew he’d never be able to forgive himself if he didn’t give everything he had to protect them and families just like them, Muggle and magical alike. He owed it to them. He owed it to Ted Tonks, Gornuk, and Dirk Cresswell. Remembering his friends this war had already taken, he sat next to Cho, resolved that no one else would have to carry that burden alone.
“Luna’s right, we’re not giving up until ever — ahh!”
Dean leapt from the couch as quickly as he had plopped down, as if something had bit him. Groping around, to make sure his buttocks was still in one piece and not on fire, he saw Cho and Luna make identical movements to take coins out of their bags.
“Of course!” Dean slapped himself in the head with his right hand, while retrieving his Dumbledore’s Army fake galleon with the left. Luna had filled him in on all the subversive activity she, Ginny, and Neville had been up to this year. With her sitting in front of him, and Ginny on the way from her Aunt Muriel’s, it had to be Neville calling them back for an emergency. Either that or…
“Do you reckon it could be Harry?” Cho excitedly held her coin aloft, inquiring to anyone who would answer. At first it seemed ridiculous, but what if? Was now the moment to rise up? He knew Hermione, Harry, and Ron had been planning a major strike against You-Know-Who when they were huddled together with Griphook. The rumors had spread of a daring escape from Gringotts and even a dragon. What if this was the time?
Before he could calm himself, he heard a loud crack that signaled Lee bringing Fred, George, and Ginny into the living room.
“You lot got the message too?” They were now all buzzing as breathlessly as though they were in the Great Hall just before a Quidditch match.
“Well what are we standing around here for?” asked Fred.
George joked in response, “I can’t hear a single good excuse.”
Lee took charge. “You three go first and warn Aberforth about what’s happening, I’ll get on the horn with Royal and Romulus to let the rest of the Order know.”
“You two go, I’ll just grab my wand and catch up,” Cho hesitated and she darted to the bathroom. Dean took Luna’s hand.
He smiled to himself, his excitement overcoming his nerves, “I forgot I don’t have a wand either. I knew I should have asked Ollivander if he could make me a replacement. Oh well, I guess the Muggle way will have to work for a while anyway.”
Destination, Determination, Deliberation! For the first time in a long time, Dean had all three, and as fate would have it, each centered on his return to Hogwarts. The Battle was on. And now, surrounded by people who had helped keep him going, he knew better than ever why he would never stop fighting.