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A Time to Live by ladymblack
Chapter 12 : Chapter 12: Nighttime Wanderings
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 26


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Chapter 12: Nighttime Wanderings

It was Harry’s turn to get up that morning when Teddy let up his usual morning wail.

“Come on, Ted, can’t you let a man get some sleep?” Harry asked the baby as he got out of bed, approaching the crib at the foot.  Then again, maybe the morning bottle was better than having to get up in the middle of the night as Ginny had done, he thought.

After feeding and changing Teddy, Harry looked down at his watch.  Breakfast should just be starting.  He called over to Ginny, “You ready for breakfast?”

He heard some mumbling from the bed and watched her sink further under the covers.

“I guess it’s just you and me, mate,” Harry said to Teddy.  Harry left the dormitory and headed down to the Great Hall to see what sort of food had been laid out for weekend breakfast.  Seeing that Dudley was already up and eating hungrily at the head table, Harry had a sudden notion.

He walked up to the teachers’ table and asked Dudley, “So, did Susan tell you anything about Quidditch?”

“What? Oh, yeah, she did.  Why?” Dudley asked.

“Well, we’re not really having a game today, it’s just a practice.  You’re welcome to come if you want to though,” Harry told him.

“Wow!  That would be really cool.  What time are you guys starting?”

“I dunno, as soon as everyone’s up, but I’ll let you know,” Harry said before having a notion.  “I’ll see you later.  We’re going out tonight, right?”



Dudley nodded and Harry turned away to head over to the Hufflepuff table where he could see Ernie and Susan eating their breakfast.

He sat down next to Ernie as there wasn’t anyone yet sitting at the Gryffindor table.  “Hi, Harry.  Hey, Teddy,” Ernie said, taking the baby’s hand into his.  “What’s up?”

“Any of you feel like some Quidditch today?  I booked the pitch and I was just thinking of having some practice, but I thought it might be fun to have anyone from the D.A., who was interested in joining in, play,” Harry said.

“That would be awesome,” Ernie replied.  “I think there are some people that might really enjoy that.”

Susan piped in, “Did you just invite Dudley to watch?  He’s been dying to see a game ever since Ernie was trying to describe it to him the other day after class.”

She was beaming as she spoke, so Harry said, “I did ask him if he wanted to come.  He can’t wait.”

As they sat, slowly eating their breakfast and drinking coffee, Ron and Hermione entered.  They looked a bit confused at seeing Harry at the Hufflepuff table, but joined him there.

“So, are we ready for our practice today?” Ron asked excitedly.

“Well, it’s not quite a practice anymore, Ron,” Harry said.  Ron’s jaw dropped and he turned a nasty shade of green.

“What do you mean it’s not a practice?” Ron asked, “We don’t actually have a game, do we?  Did I miss something?”

Harry tried not to laugh as he said, “No, I just asked if any of the Hufflepuffs would care to play in a friendly game.”

“Oh, okay,” Ron said, with a sigh of relief.

Ginny then came in with a scowl on her face.  Harry felt a certain amount of fear.  Had he done something wrong?  There wasn’t anything that he could think of, but who could really tell?

“Harry James Potter!” she said, quietly, but deadly.  “Where on earth have you been?  I’ve been looking for you everywhere!”

Harry now knew better than to laugh, so fought the urge.  He finally said, “I asked you if you wanted to come down to breakfast.  You mumbled something and then went back to sleep, remember?”

She looked confused for a moment and then said, “No, I think I told you that I’d be right there.”

Harry wasn’t sure of what to say to this and looked to Hermione for help.  She just shrugged at him, indicating to him that he was on his own.  So he replied, “Well, I couldn’t understand what you said and since you rolled over and went back to sleep, I just figured that you didn’t want to get up yet.  I’m sorry.”

Her expression softened and she sat down next to him as Ernie had made room for her on the bench.  She said, “No, I’m sorry, I just sort of panicked when I didn’t see you or Teddy there.  Then Ron and Hermione were gone too and I didn’t know what to do.”

Harry breathed a sigh of relief and decided to ask, “So, how about some Quidditch this afternoon?”

Her eyes shone with excitement as she squealed, “Yes!  Was that the surprise?”

Harry nodded back at her, smiling at her obvious glee.  He then said, “So you were captain last year, right?  Why don’t you go see if any of the rest of the team wants to play?  Ernie said that they can put a team together, so we can have an unofficial match.”

She ran off to the Gryffindor table to gather together some of the classmates she’d chosen as team members the year before.  The morning passed with everyone stopping over to chat amiably.  None of the Gryffindors seemed to be upset that they happened to be sitting at the Hufflepuff table and even when Draco came in he had little problem sitting down there.  Harry knew he wouldn’t feel comfortable at a table that Harry wasn’t sitting at, but Draco didn’t seem uncomfortable with the Hufflepuffs either.  The people around them were all Harry’s friends and members of the D.A.  They now knew about everything that had gone on with Draco as those sorts of things spread like wildfire within the close-knit group.

After they’d all changed and eaten lunch, half of the school marched down to the Quidditch pitch for the impromptu game.  Even some of the staff joined the crowd.

“We don’t have a commentator,” Ron pointed out.  He shouted up to the stands, “Luna!  Hey, Luna!  Won’t you announce the game?”

There were some cheers in the crowd from the D.A.  “LUNA! LUNA! LUNA!”

She looked shocked, but walked over to the commentator booth anyway.  The crowd cheered.

Harry and Ginny brought out their newly reunited team to thunderous applause, while Ernie brought out his team.

Harry thought it best to remind his team, “This is a friendly game.  I would like to win, but let’s remember that most of them don’t usually play Quidditch.”

They all nodded and understood.  They would treat this more like a practice than an actual game.  Ginny made a quick and easy first score.

“Oh, Ginny scores!  She’s so nice.  She’s a really good fighter too!” Luna shouted.

The game continued, with scores on each end.  Luna no longer lost interest in the game however.  She wasn’t bringing everyone’s attention to interesting cloud formations this time.  She did however comment quite loudly anytime that Dean made a good play.

When Dean scored three times in a row, to Ernie’s keeping, Luna said dreamily, “Yes, I do think that Ernie might be suffering from Loser’s Lurgy.”

This caused both teams to almost collapse from their brooms in fits of laughter, but they didn’t care.  The game continued, and finally Harry spotted the snitch and ended the game.

He flew over to where Hermione was sitting in the stands amid the D.A. and put his hands out for Teddy.

“I don’t know, Harry.  Are you sure?” she asked.

“Hermione, if I can handle him apparating and everything else, I can handle him flying,” Harry said.  She reluctantly handed him the baby, shaking her head.

Harry gently rode around the pitch with Teddy tucked securely under his arm.  He didn’t seem to mind it at all and even seemed to enjoy the sensation.  Harry didn’t want to really chance the baby spitting up his afternoon meal though and landed shortly thereafter with Ginny right behind him.

She laughed, “You really are determined to get him flying as soon as possible, aren’t you!”

“I guess so!” Harry replied.

“He seemed to like it,” she said with a grin.  She looked serious for a moment and asked, “Did Lupin play Quidditch?”

This caught Harry off-guard and he said, “I don’t really know!  I don’t even know if Sirius ever did.  Maybe we should find out.  I mean, I’ll still get him on a broom at the first possible chance, but I’m very curious.  There might be something in those letters.”

Ginny stopped and asked nonchalantly, “So what did you do with them?”

“I asked your mother to read them,” he said, not looking at her.

She touched his arm and said, “That was probably a good idea.  My parents will help you get through that.”

He nodded and they headed back up to the school after taking turns in the showers.  They met Minerva in the entrance hall.  She said to Harry, “That was quite a marvelous idea and quite a bit of fun for everyone.  If you want to have another spontaneous game I wouldn’t say ‘no’ to watching it.”

“Do you know, I think I’ve seen her smile more in the last few months than in all the years I’ve known her?” Harry commented to no one in particular, watching Minerva’s retreating form.  Ginny just laughed as they walked in for dinner.

Susan came over to them and asked, “So, where do we want to go tonight?”

“I’m thinking not the Three Broomsticks, personally,” Harry said, remembering the crowd in the Leaky Cauldron.  “Why don’t we go to the Hog’s Head?  I’m sure Aberforth wouldn’t mind seeing us.”

She nodded earnestly and went off to the head table to talk to Dudley.  They’d already agreed to a quiet night, so they didn’t tell anyone where they were going.  Neville and Parvati said they’d take care of Teddy until Harry and Ginny returned.

“Okay, so I’ve written down when to feed him and the warming spell and everything,” Ginny told Parvati.

“Don’t worry, Ginny.  I paid attention when Mrs. Weasley and Mrs. Longbottom were explaining everything.  We’ll be fine,” Parvati said.

“You remember how to produce a talking Patronus, right, Neville?” Ginny asked worriedly.  Neville nodded with a small smile.

“Ginny, he’ll be okay,” Harry said, taking her arm to lead her out of his dormitory.  She looked back one more time and he said, “They’ll let us know if there’s a problem and we can be back here in a minute.”

“Have fun, you two,” Neville said as they departed.

Meeting Ron and Hermione in the common room, they headed down to the village without Teddy.  Harry had asked Minerva for special permission for Ginny to come with them.  Seventh years were allowed to go out on the weekends, but usually sixth years weren’t.  Minerva had just rolled her eyes and relented.

They walked into the Hog’s Head to find the bar completely empty, not something unexpected.

“Hi, Aberforth,” Harry said as they approached the bar.

“Trying to avoid the crowds, Harry?” Aberforth asked with his Albus-like gaze.

“Yeah, it was kind of annoying the last time we went to the Leaky Cauldron,” Harry admitted.  “Besides, I’d rather give you the business.  You were a very essential piece to the resistance.”

Harry stopped there and leaned across the bar, “Even if you tried to convince me not to continue.”

Aberforth too leaned over and said, “Well, I just wanted to know how serious you were.  For all I knew, you kids were just out there causing havoc for the sake of it.”  He nodded knowingly and said, “Also, I knew my brother.  He could have led you on a wild goose chase.”

Harry conceded and said, “He sort of did.  In the end though, he was right.  I wouldn’t be alive without him.”

“He always was right,” Aberforth said on a sigh, without too much animosity.  He straightened up and asked, “So, what can I get for everyone?”

“Can muggles handle firewhiskey?” Harry asked Hermione.  She shrugged and then nodded.

“Muggles?  We have muggles in here?” Aberforth asked, looking around.

Harry indicated Dudley and said, “Yeah, this is my cousin.  He’s a muggle.”

Aberforth’s eyes widened and he said, “He’s one of them Dursleys is he?”  He frowned menacingly and said, “We’re really not supposed to have muggles in Hogsmeade, you know.”

Ginny intervened and said, “He’s the new Muggle Studies Professor.  He understands us now and has made his peace with Harry.”

Aberforth looked her in the eye for a moment before nodding and pouring out the firewhiskey and pulling out a handful of Butterbeers.  The three couples sat down at the largest table and discussed their week.

“So, Dudley, how exactly did they get you into Hogwarts?” Hermione asked, curiously.

“I’m not exactly sure, to be honest.  Professor McGonagall brought me close to the town, but I kept telling her that I had other places I needed to be.  Then she said a bunch of words that I didn’t understand and I no longer felt the need to leave and we entered the village.  Then she said some more incantations and instead of the old ruin I had been looking at, I saw the normal castle that you all see.  I couldn’t quite believe it and it took me at least a week to not get scared seeing the pictures and statues and everything,” Dudley replied, still pondering the question.  “I mean, I’ve gotten rather used to some of the things, such as that horrible feeling of apparating.  I’ve seen weird things all of my life; like seeing Harry somehow jumping on top of the school or making his hair grow back.  Then I lived for the past year with wizards and Susan.  I really thought I’d seen everything, but Hogwarts itself is something beyond anyone’s imagination.”

They all laughed.  Ron finally said, “Yeah, everyone describes Hogwarts to you when you’re little, in the Wizarding World anyway.  But it always surpasses what everyone tells you.”

They all reminisced briefly of their first glimpses of the castle.  Looking at Hermione, Harry asked, “What about you?  You’d read all about it.  Were you surprised at all?”

“Perhaps surprised wouldn’t be the right word.  I knew what to expect, but it went beyond my expectations, I suppose,” she said.

“So what else have you learned this week, Dudley?” Ginny asked.

“Well, all of the other professors have been really helpful, because I can’t figure out the changing staircases and everything.  I don’t that I will every really be able to.  Perhaps you have to actually be a wizard to know?” Dudley said, looking a bit concerned.

The rest of them turned to Hermione for an answer.  She had an unsure look on her face and responded, “I don’t really know.  Have you talked to Minerva about it?”

Dudley shook his head and said, “Maybe I should just ask her.  Right now, they’ve all been taking it in turns to direct me between the Great Hall, my classroom and my quarters.”

Dismissing the topic he said, “Otherwise it seems to be going pretty well.  I still can’t believe some of the things your sort of people don’t understand!  It’s just kind of weird, and sometimes it’s pretty difficult to explain it.  I was trying to tell my fourth years about computers and I felt…weird.  They had absolutely no idea what one even was!”

Ron looked perplexed and asked, “Well, on that note, what exactly is a cormpurter?”

The rest of them laughed.  Hermione just said, “I’ll explain it later.”

Ron sulked for a few moments before they turned the discussion to other things that were going on at school.

Harry was curious about something else though and finally asked, “So, what about your parents, Dudley?”

Dudley got a resigned look on his face before answering, “Well, they weren’t thrilled, to be honest.  They weren’t very happy to begin with when I started going out with Susan.”  Dudley stopped for a moment before considering what he wanted to say, “Actually, I should say that my father was really upset.  My mother seemed to have realized what was happening with us while we were in hiding.  I don’t know if she fully approves, but she hasn’t said anything negative either.  You know her, though.  Most of the time, she just obeys Dad.  As for me coming here, she was…more…intrigued than anything, I think.  My father tried to disinherit me when I told him that I’d accepted this teaching position.  You know how he goes purple in the face and that vein in his forehead throbs?”

Harry laughed, “Yeah, I know that one.  It was a look from him that I got rather used to.  So what happened then?” 

Dudley rolled his eyes and said, “He just went on and on about how horrible their lives have been for having known wizards and why would I want to be involved with them.  I tried to explain to him that I really like Susan and want to learn more about her world so that we can be together.  Then I reminded him that I’d seen first hand what can happen when you have wizards around and that, in the end, they’re really not so different from us.  I don’t know if Dad was about to have a heart attack at that point, he’d gotten so angry.  Mum intervened though, and told him that if this is the sort of career I want to pursue that they should let me do what would make me happy.”

Dudley paused again, looking at Harry curiously, before saying “You know, my parents always spoiled me and gave me everything I’d ever wanted.  But this was different; it was like they were trying to keep me away from something they saw as dangerous.  I don’t know.  But the night before I left to come here, my mother came into my room to talk to me.  She told me all about when she was a little girl and Aunt Lily leaving to come here.  Aunt Lily!  She actually referred to her that way, as my ‘Aunt Lily.’  It was strange because she’d always acted like you just came from nowhere.”

Harry held his emotions in check and just indicated for Dudley to continue.

Dudley seemed to understand and said, “I’ve never seen Mum so upset.  She muttered something about Aunt Lily not forgiving her.  I don’t know that I really understood, but I let her cry into my shoulder because I didn’t know what to do or say.  The only time she ever mentioned your mum, Harry, was when she ranted that time we met Hagrid.  Do you know anything about that, my mum and yours?”

Harry nodded and said, “Yes, did she mention Severus?”

Dudley replied, “She did.  She said that he was this greasy-haired kid from down the street that sometimes tormented her.  I learned that he was the person she’d learned about the dementors from.  I told her that she should tell you everything because you deserved to know.  You had explained to me that Mrs. Figg might have an owl.  So I told Mum about it and that if she wanted to tell you that she should go to Mrs. Figg.  Don’t be too surprised if you get a strange owl sometime.”

Harry was a bit surprised that Aunt Petunia had finally told Dudley all of that, but she’d always loved her son and wanted the best for him.  It dawned on Harry then, that she’d loved her sister as well.  That had to have been the reason she took him in.  He and Dudley shared a look of understanding after this exchange and moved onto other topics.

They finally left to return to the castle after Aberforth had gotten into their Quidditch discussion.  Dudley had quickly gotten into the game.  Like Dean, he had likened it to soccer and was vastly intrigued with what he’d seen earlier that day.  He hung onto every word of that conversation.

As they were walking into the Entrance Hall, Filch caught them.  It was eleven and well past the normal curfew.  He smirked, “We are in trouble, aren’t we?”

Dudley, however, pulled himself up and said, “They’re with me, aren’t they?”

“That don’ mean nothin’,” Filch growled.

“I’m a professor and we were out…discussing class.  If Professor McGonagall has a problem with it you can tell her to come see me,” Dudley said in his old tone of voice.  It was as though he’d gone back to the bully he had once been, but instead he was protecting his cousin.  Of all of the things Dudley had said and done over the last few weeks this was still the last thing that Harry would have expected.  Dudley walked them up to Gryffindor tower and then left to take Susan back to her own dormitory.

Monday morning brought a reply to the missive that Harry had sent to Kingsley about fighting dementors.

Harry,

I’ve done my best to talk to people who claim that they are experts on dealing with dementors.  Although there have been a few wizards who have been able to fight dementors with Occlumency, they are few and far between.  Dumbledore, Snape, Crouch Sr. and Fudge seem to be the only wizards that we officially know of that could do so.  That’s not to say that there aren’t others, but it would suggest a possibility that you are among that small group.  I didn’t mention you, as you had asked me not to, but to my knowledge you are probably one of the few alive in this country that possess that capability.

Kingsley

Harry passed the note to the other three, still wondering.  He didn’t really care to test this in all reality.  It was one thing with a boggart.  He knew it wasn’t a dementor.

A few days later, they approached the empty wall, making sure that no one was watching, and Hermione slipped her card into the slot.  Unless you knew the slot was there it would be virtually impossible to find it, Harry thought. 

“Albus,” she said, when the door appeared.  It swung open to admit them and they entered to find almost half of the D.A. already sitting on the couches talking.  They then began their second D.A. meeting, again with Dumbledore himself in attendance looking on approvingly.  Harry, Ron and Hermione took care of inducting the new members that people had brought with them.  They made the new members fully aware that by signing their names that they were truly committing themselves.

One young boy named Gideon asked, “So what if I didn’t want to sign the parchment?” 

Hermione replied, “Then we would remove your memory of any contact with us.  We would make you forget anything you’ve heard.  This is not something to take on lightly.  If you have any doubts as to whether or not you wish to join then I would suggest that you not do so.”

They all looked at the boy politely, waiting.  He thought for a few moments, looking around him.  Dumbledore finally spoke from Ariana’s portrait and asked, “If evil were to come into this castle would you want to fight it?”

Gideon nodded.  Dumbledore continued, “Can you keep a secret if it is necessary to keep others alive?”

Gideon nodded again.  Dumbledore finished with, “And are you willing to allow yourself to be cursed if you break your vow?”

The boy nodded once again and said, “Yes, I wished to fight last year.  They wouldn’t let me, but I tried.  I would do that again.  There’s nothing to fight right now, but maybe there will be something again sometime.”

He put his quill to the parchment and signed with a flourish.  Harry felt slightly uneasy.  He wasn’t sure why, but something about the situation didn’t seem right.  They inducted the rest of their five new members without a problem.  He asked everyone to leave as the meeting concluded, including his friends and fiancée.

“Why?” Ginny asked. 

“I think I need to talk to Dumbledore and this is the only private place I can do that,” Harry told her.  Before she could protest he said, “I’ll explain later.”

Ron and Hermione had also waited with Ginny, but they took his request to talk to Dumbledore as a private thing and left without protest.  Ginny looked at him and saw the promise of later disclosure in his eyes.  She too exited the room. 

Once the room was totally empty, Harry sat in a chair directly in front of Ariana’s portrait.  Dumbledore sat on the couch onto which Ariana had been painted.  Harry suddenly felt as though they were right back where they’d begun in Dumbledore’s office.

“Professor, I’m curious about something,” Harry said to his mentor.

“First of all, Harry, like I said before, it’s time for you to call me Albus,” Albus’ picture said. 

Harry winced and said, “Yes, I know…Albus…but calling you that is a bit like calling Professor McGonagall Minerva.  It takes some getting used to, and really not at all the same either.”

Albus smiled knowingly.  “I know.  It took her many years to finally call me Albus.  Hagrid was never able to, no matter how many times I invited him to.  It’s sometimes difficult when you get to old age and no one calls you by your first name anymore.” 

Harry had a sudden thought.  “Is that why Minerva asked me to call her by her first name?”

“I would imagine so, partially at least,” Dumbledore said, looking at Harry closely.  “It’s sometimes hard to see her affection.  She’s been a teacher for so long that she tends to be strict even when she doesn’t mean to be.”

Harry smiled at this and said, “Yeah, sometimes you can see the smile on her face even if she doesn’t actually smile, especially when she’s defying someone.”

They shared a small laugh and Harry finally asked, "You seem like more than just a painting.  Why is that?  I mean, when I asked you about the Hallows without actually stating what they were you knew what I meant.  And you seem to have emotions that the other portraits don't have.  They're like real emotions."

Dumbledore hesitated for a moment before considering his answer.  Harry could see that he considered hiding the truth.  Finally Albus said, “Yes, Harry, I’m slightly more than a painting.  There is a small piece of myself here.”

Harry bounded out of his seat and shouted, “No!  You could not have made a horcrux!  You couldn’t!  You wouldn’t!”

Albus sighed and said, “No, Harry, I did NOT create a horcrux!  In all honesty, I’m not quite certain as to how it happened.  It may have been a bit of old magic that was put into effect when Severus killed me out of mercy.  That’s what makes old magic difficult to understand and control.  We really don’t know enough about it to be able to use it correctly and safely.”

Harry knew it would be of no use to argue and could see the truth in Albus’ eyes as he looked up at his former teacher.  On the occasions when Albus wouldn’t or couldn’t give him the truth Albus had been forthright and honest about it, telling him that he would understand in time.  “So, can you go back and forth between the two worlds?” Harry asked in wonder, sitting back down.

“I’m sorry, Harry, but no.  Most of me is there, and I’m sure I had to fight fiercely to be able to see you at your point of crossing over.  I don’t really know what I had to do or sacrifice to do so, but I knew that regardless I would have to do it.  There were things that I couldn’t tell you until certain times, as I’m sure you have figured out.”

Harry nodded and said finally, “Yes, I don’t know if I could have done what I did knowing for certain that I would die.  I always assumed I would die, but there was that slight glimmer of hope that I might survive that kept me going.”

Harry and Albus sat in silence for a few moments before Harry’s curiosity overrode everything in his head.  “Did you perhaps feel the need to put yourself into the portrait just because of Professor Snape or because you thought I might need you?  Maybe that’s why a part of you is here.”

Albus had a thoughtful look on his face as he contemplated the possibility and replied, “It could be for both reasons.  I couldn’t be sure of what would happen once I was gone and it was essential that the pieces of the puzzle fall into place at the proper moments.  Perhaps my desire to live in the afterlife as well as my desire to simply see the end of a horrible regime is what allowed this to happen.  Admittedly, if I could have found a way to kill Riddle, but allow you to live it would have been a difficult thing to pass up.  You, more than most men, deserve a chance to live a full life.”

Harry stood up and walked up to the portrait.  “So, you did this for me?  You are stuck here, just for me?” Harry asked angrily.

”Possibly,” Albus replied.  “Harry, I am still able to enjoy the next great adventure, shall we say.  I have not damaged my soul by leaving a bit of it behind.  As we discussed earlier, I am not a horcrux.  For the most part, I am very like all of the other portraits in this building and many others.  It was, I suppose, essential that a part of my conscious mind remain available for yours and/or Severus’ advisement.  What if you had asked my portrait about what to do with the Stone or the Wand?  Without that part of me I couldn’t have given you an honest answer.  All the portraits are able to do is what they’re meant to do.  They’re there to give advice in general circumstances.  But there’s something else that’s bothering you, Harry.”

“I’m just really sorry, and I can’t let go of that,” Harry said, falling back into his seat.  Then he pleaded, “They all keep telling me not to feel guilty, but how does that feeling go away?  I know I was too young to do anything for my parents.  But then there’s Cedric, there’s Sirius, there’s Dobby, there’s Fred and Remus and Tonks and…even Professor Snape…I just can’t take it anymore,” Harry tried to say.  He wasn’t sure if Albus could even understand him at that point, but it didn’t matter.

“I know,” Albus said quietly.  Harry looked up to see Albus looking down at the sleeping form of his sister.

“So what do I do?” Harry asked.  “Where do I go from here?  I’ve been talking with a healer from St. Mungo’s which seems to be helping a bit, but I don’t think it will ever rid me of all the guilt I feel.  They keep telling me I need to stop feeling guilty.”

By ‘they,’ he meant Ginny, Ron, Hermione, Molly and everyone else.  Harry shook his head as though to shake off the possibility of ever relieving the guilt.  He looked back up at Albus, who said, “That’s not an easy thing to do.  I’m not sure it’s even fully possible.  Those of us that love always feel an inordinate amount of guilt when in comes to the death of a loved one.  As you may have guessed, Ariana accidentally killed our mother during one of her fits of magic.  The fact that neither Aberforth nor I were there that day certainly ate at our souls.  I’m assuming you also got the details of my sister’s death when we last saw each other during your time in between the world of the living and the afterlife?”

Harry nodded tentatively, waiting for Albus to continue.  Albus then said softly, “So I fell in love with the wrong person.  Do you remember me telling you that there is a room in the Department of Mysteries that is always locked?”  Harry nodded, so Albus continued, “The power of love, as you have now experienced in all ways, can be wonderful and horrible at the same time.  There are different kinds of love out there.  I was possessive, even fearful.  I was also excited by this new friendship and by the concepts that he presented and I let it go on, at all costs.  There can truly be no greater regret.”

“No, Pro…Albus….if you could overcome all of that…doesn’t that make you the greater man?” Harry asked, watching a single tear run down his former headmaster’s cheek.

Albus pulled himself back together with difficulty.  He looked flustered and finally said, “I don’t know.  The one romantic love I found killed my family.  Not only was my sister…dead…but my own brother would no longer even talk to me.”  Albus closed his eyes as though to block out the pain of those memories.  His shoulders shook with his grief.

Harry stood up and rushed to the portrait, wishing that he could put a comforting hand on his mentor’s arm.  He felt a resolve to stay strong.  Harry’s eyes welled anyway, remembering Ginny waiting for him in his room.

Harry called out then, “Albus, we can’t control what others do.”  Harry gathered his courage and said, “Even if it was your own hand, you were only trying to protect your family.”

“I was trying to protect everyone,” Albus finally said, trying to come back into himself.   He looked at Harry then with a knowing glance and, rising, said, “You should take your own advice.”

When Harry still looked confused, Albus said “I don’t remember you ever killing anyone, even Voldemort.  You even tried to give him a chance to redeem his soul.  There aren’t many out there who would be willing to do such a thing."

He looked at Harry with his customary gaze over his half-moon glasses.  Harry wasn’t sure how to react to this.  It was one thing to hear this from a healer and quite another to hear it from someone who probably felt himself not only responsible for the deaths of his family members, but countless others by both Grindelwald and Voldemort.  The healer could never fully understand that, no matter how adept he was at his business.  Albus, on the other hand, could understand because he’d been there.  Once again he wished he could just touch his mentor’s hand, but settled for touching the armrest of the sofa that his sister had been painted in with the tips of his fingers.

“Thanks, Pro…Albus…I’ll try to remember that.  Perhaps some of those nightmares will go away,” Harry said to his friend.

Harry felt like he’d had another insight into the one person that he’d trusted all of his life and was reluctant to let it go.  But, like the Mirror of Erised, it was just a piece of Albus Dumbledore.  It wouldn’t do to dwell on dreams.  He turned away, trying to push everything from his mind.

“Harry, just remember that the dreams that we have throughout our lives are to keep us from forgetting what we should never forget and they get us to the places we wish to go,” Albus told Harry as he left the room.




Harry walked numbly, back to Gryffindor tower.  He couldn’t get Albus’ words out of his head.  Coming from Albus Dumbledore himself, they seemed much more real to him than hearing them from anyone else.  As Harry climbed the stairs to his room a smile began to play on his face.  When he got into his bed beside Ginny, who was already asleep, he decided to try to take Albus’ words to heart.  It was too late right then to explain everything to Ginny and he didn’t care to wake her.  He simply let his mind wander to everything he’d learned that night.  Whether or not she knew it, she leaned into him and he let her pull him to her.

“Damn it, Ginny!” Harry swore.  “Will there ever be a time when I forget for even a minute?”

She shook her head and, her mind finally awakening, looked up at him.  “So, why did you need to talk to Dumbledore?”

Harry suddenly looked sheepish and said, “I don’t really remember.  I’ll think about it tomorrow.  We just talked about the same things you and I talk about all the time.”

Fully awakened at that, she looked at him, concern pooling in her dark brown eyes.  She asked warily, “What sorts of things can you talk about with a portrait?”

“You’d be surprised.  But Prof….Albus’ portrait is a little different.  It has a bit of him in it,” Harry said.  At Ginny’s look of fear, that Harry was sure he’d had on his own face a short while ago, he said “No, not that way.  He did admit though that he probably had to give something up in order to see me at King’s Cross. Ah!”

“That was his choice, Harry!  It wasn’t yours!  That is what he chose to do!” Ginny retorted.

“I know,” Harry said.  He gave a disheartened chuckle and told her their entire conversation as it was obvious that she wasn’t going to go to sleep without it.

She too looked saddened as they talked about the lost love and how it would have broken a lesser man.  Instead of drawing into himself or distrusting love, Albus Dumbledore encouraged that emotion more than any other.  He had come to know all of the facets of love, letting Harry and Ginny find each other.  He’d known, certainly of their relationship as Harry grew into his manhood, and never once discouraged it.  As Harry and Ginny knew, from their experience and their discussions with the former Headmaster, Albus had watched Harry very closely from the moment that he’d entered Hogwarts.  It was frightening and comforting all at the same time.  They felt as though they had his blessing as well.

“Harry, if you’d been truly dead in that moment, I really don’t know if I could have continued living,” Ginny confessed to him, reliving the time that she’d thought him dead.

Harry thought about it for a brief period, knowing that they would probably have this same conversation numerous times through the years.  He said, “I know, but ultimately life is for the living.  If you hadn’t been here, there was a damn good chance that I would just have gone on.”

“You would have come back anyway,” Ginny said confidently.

He shrugged his shoulders.  After some contemplation he nodded and said, “Yes, I might have.  But I have to admit that there was an inexplicable pull to continue on; to simply meet up with my parents, Sirius, Remus, Fred and everyone.  But I still felt a pull here too.  I thought of you.  And, no, you weren’t the only person that I loved in this castle.  There were Ron and Hermione.  There was your family, that I’d felt as though I’d betrayed by letting Fred die.  There were all of the….students….almost every order member….that had died fighting him.  But there were still people there ready to fight and I knew that I was one of the few people that truly didn’t fear him.  Well, I didn’t fear him personally.  I was never afraid of what he could do to me, but more of what he could do to others.  He could torture me and try to kill me.  But he couldn’t really kill me and I’d found a way to trick him into killing himself.  I couldn’t let anyone else suffer another loss.  I know we lost some more good people in that last fight, but….”

“BUT,” Ginny said loudly, “In the end, you did what you had to do.  You did what you were destined to do.  You need to leave it at that.”

Harry nodded and said, “I know, and I can talk to Albus about the repercussions and how to deal with them.”

She started to open her mouth with a retort, but realized that Professor Dumbledore could probably help him in a way that a healer never could.  If Harry needed that comfort and that method to move on then she would help him to utilize it.

The next afternoon found Harry meeting with Healer Johnson in the Hospital Wing in a private room that Madam Pomfrey had set up.  She had given them a portion of her office to allow Harry to continue with his appointments.

Harry approached the healer and ran his hand through his hair, not quite knowing how to explain what he wanted to say.  In the end he decided to simply be honest because Johnson had already been sworn to secrecy anyway and he didn’t doubt Hermione’s contractual abilities.

“I don’t know that we really need to continue our appointments,” Harry confessed.

The healer looked a bit affronted and said, “But, we’ve been making such progress!”

“We have?” Harry asked.  He hadn’t found much comfort or use for his discussions with the healer except to lay out his burdens, which he could do with Ginny, Ron and Hermione.

“Yes, I feel like we are delving into your deepest fears and needs,” Healer Johnson said, not understanding what was taking place.  They’d been having these meetings a few times a week for over a month.

“I guess we are delving into that, so to speak.  I just don’t think that you can ever really understand what’s happened though,” Harry said.

“I lived through that war,” Johnson said indignantly.  “I know exactly what happened.”

Harry closed his eyes momentarily and said, “I know that everyone went through an extremely difficult time….and that’s part of the problem!  But it’s a bit different when you feel responsible for the entire thing.”

“I would like to understand it and help you to deal with it.  I would imagine that it would be very difficult to hold the key to everyone’s survival.  It will simply take time to come to terms with everything,” Johnson said.

“May I ask how many people you’ve seen die?  I know it’s a very personal question, but I think I ought to know how you think you know how to handle this,” Harry responded.

“Well, I’ve seen many people die in St. Mungo’s,” Johnson responded.

Harry closed his eyes and asked, “How many people have died because you’ve been careless or reckless?  How many people have died because they believed in your cause or YOU so much that they put themselves in harm’s way?”

Healer Johnson looked at the young man in front of him.  The agony in the young man’s eyes was almost unbearable to see.

“No, but as a physician I have seen many horrific deaths.  Sometimes you feel responsible for them.  If you’d gotten there sooner, or used a different technique, you might have been able to save the person.  But, in reality, I just think that you need to unleash all of this guilt.  You need to let go of all that you are holding in,” the man said, rather matter-of-factly.

Harry looked at him briefly before saying, “So you really have no idea of how I’m feeling.”

“Of course I do,” the healer said, in very placating tone.

Although Harry had always found the healer to be very understanding and consoling, he suddenly saw a man who didn’t really care either way.  He just wanted to either earn his salary or be able to get the “full story.”

With a cold voice, Harry told the man, “I think that’s all we need to talk about.”

“So, this is the end?  You’re firing me?” Johnson asked.

Harry looked at him askance and said, “Well, I don’t need your services anymore, but I don’t know that it constitutes as being ‘fired’ as you put it.  I’ve found someone who has been through this sort of thing and can help me to deal with it.”

Johnson looked a bit uncomfortable as he said, “Well, physical love is very important, but it doesn’t actually solve problems.”





Harry finally rolled his eyes at this and said, “This has nothing to do with my fiancée.  As great as your advice has been, I don’t think that you can give me any real world experience.  You can’t tell me what it feels like and what it is to live with it.”

The healer seemed to consider this and finally said, “But…I’ve studied this thing for so long.  To actually be able to deal with such a case is absolutely amazing.”

“Amazing?” Harry asked.  “You think this is amazing?  It’s like you’re looking at this as a case-study, something to go down in the books.  I’m sorry, but this is anything but amazing.  It’s horrific and heart-breaking, but to look at it as something interesting to be studied…no…and I don’t know what you thought this was going to be.  But, really, I don’t think you have anything that even resembles a point of reference.”

They looked at each other for a few moments before the healer’s face turned black and he said, “So, you’re never going to finish it?  I’ll never know how all of this turned out?”

Harry turned back to Healer Johnson and said, “You know how it turns out.  We’re living and Voldemort is dead.  There’s really nothing else to discuss.”

The man turned to leave the room but turned back briefly and said, “Well, what I do have I think I’ll go ahead and give to the Prophet.”

Harry laughed and said, “You go right ahead.”

Johnson turned back with a confused look on his face and Harry reminded him, “Didn’t you sign a contract?  Didn’t it say that you wouldn’t reveal any of the information you’d learned from me?  Trust me, we’ll know if you break that contract.  Hermione Granger wrote that contract, and if you don’t know of her jinxing capabilities I would suggest you look up Marietta Edgecombe.  She broke a contract with Hermione and she will regret it for the rest of her days.  My friend’s curses aren’t something to be meddled with.”

“How could you associate yourself with such a person?” Johnson asked in an affronted voice.

“Oh, she only curses those who are really deserving, such as traitors,” Harry said, passing his former healer.  He looked over his shoulder and said, “By the way, YOUR healers couldn’t even find a countercurse to hers so, I wouldn’t try it if I were you.”

The next morning, Draco sidled over, sitting across from Harry and said, “You know, I had an idea about finding the rest of the Death Eaters last night.”

Harry looked rather impressed as Draco continued, “Well, Professor Dursley mentioned this thing called the ‘imernet?’  I’m not exactly sure what it is, but you can look up just about anything on it!  Even though it’s only generally used by muggles, it could be a way to try to find pictures or whereabouts of wizards.  They consider us to be strange, right?  So he said that they tend to put all of that sort of thing on the imernet, cause they find it exciting, right, Ginny?”

“Well, yes, it could be possible I suppose,” she admitted.  Amending her statement she said, “But, remember it’s the in-ter-net, not the imernet.”

Harry thought that this would be a long-shot though, the more he contemplated it.  Ron and Hermione joined the table just at the end of the conversation.  Hermione immediately had to know what the conversation was and Draco was so interested in his idea that he explained it to her in detail.

Hermione thought about it for a moment and said, “You know, I don’t think it’s a half-bad idea!  Sometimes muggles see things that we don’t.  That’s why we always inform the muggle Prime Minister if there’s a problem.  It’s so that they can be on the lookout as well.  They would just see something weird going on.  I think it’s worth looking into.”

“And how, exactly, are we going to get onto this intermet?” Ron asked, rolling his eyes.

“We could go to one of those cybercafes that have computers for people to use.  You pay a small fee and you can use them for a certain amount of time.  We could ask Dudley to take us,” Hermione suggested.

They discussed the possibilities as Neville and everyone else joined in.  Meanwhile a decrepit old owl landed clumsily in front of Harry.

“Don’t pick it up!” Ginny cried.  “The owl has obviously been intercepted.”

But Harry recognized his aunt’s handwriting and said, “No, I don’t think so.  I think this is either a school owl that Dudley sent to my aunt or Mrs. Figg’s owl.”

The owl took off as he opened the envelope.

Harry,

I know that you and Dudley have made your peace.  Vernon may not be pleased with that, but I think that I learned more in the last year than I probably ever have.  I wanted you to know that there is something that I haven’t told either Vernon or Dudley.  Dudley probably didn’t notice because he was so caught up in Susan, but I just somehow knew you were dead the night of that battle.  The last piece of my sister was really gone!  I cried and just hoped that it wasn’t really true.  Hestia and Dedalus came back and Dudley finally found his voice to ask about you.  Neither of us had actually talked about it, but I think that he knew that I needed to know.  Did I give you sanctuary in my home only to have you be killed practically the moment you left my house?  That’s all I could think.   I’m sure you know why you lived in my house to begin with.  I don’t think I can write anymore right now.  I ask that you come to see me sometime.  There are a few things we need to talk about and a few things I think you should have.

Aunt Petunia

Harry just continued to look at the letter in a daze.  Dudley was one thing.  He was raised in the beliefs that his parents had instilled in him, but was able to overcome them when adversity presented itself.  Petunia was the catalyst of that.  He knew it was jealousy that ruled his aunt, but he never imagined that she….but Petunia did still send her sister a Christmas present, he thought.  She insisted that Harry stay, knowing that it was the place where he had the best protection in the world.  He wondered if because of Dumble..Albus’ charms on the house the bond between them might have been strengthened.

Ginny started pulling on his robes to get his attention.  He looked at her with a startled expression on his face as she grabbed the letter from his hand.  As her eyes perused the letter she looked at him briefly for permission to hand it to Ron and Hermione.  At his nod they read it.

“Is she joking?” Ron said, disgusted.  “It’s one thing for Dudley.  A person can’t help how they’re raised…look at Sirius.  But it’s quite another to be an adult and to neglect an innocent child!”

Harry was still looking at the note in Ron’s hand.  He suddenly rose from the table and walked out of the Great Hall without a word.

Ron looked to Ginny and Hermione with a look of incomprehension and fear.  He wasn’t sure what he’d said wrong, but he knew it must have been something.

Ginny whispered desperately, “So, is he upset that he was neglected? Or is he upset because he feels like he’s neglecting Teddy?”

Hermione didn’t have an answer.  Ginny could see it in her eyes.  They all watched Dudley run out of the Great Hall after Harry then.

“I don’t know, but I think the answer just presented itself,” Hermione said.  “No one can truly explain….Petunia’s…actions besides herself, but I think we all know that her son feels himself responsible for how he acted all of those years.”

Her voice had been flat and she just looked around.  She finally found her voice again and said, “You know, we all get caught up in our grief and forget about the rest of it sometimes.”

Ginny interrupted her and said, “I don’t know that he ever will forget.”

By the time that Harry met up with Ron and Hermione for class he had gotten himself back together.  But he didn’t like the strange looks they were giving him.

“Mate, you’re going to have to talk about it sooner or later, so why put it off?” Ron asked, looking at his best friend with a fearful expression.

Harry took a breath and said, “It’s not quite so easy as that.”

“Maybe you shouldn’t have dismissed the healer,” Hermione said.

“He just wanted to learn the whole story.  Besides, he could never understand everything.  It’s kind of hard if you’ve never been through it or anything like it,” Harry responded.  He was started to get irritated.

Ron and Hermione shared their usual look when Harry started to go into a subject they thought wasn’t right, which wasn’t lost on him.

“I’d told him almost everything!  But he hasn’t helped me at all.  I’m still taking that damned potion and I can’t take it forever,” Harry had started shouting, but wound up whispering.

“Ginny didn’t tell me that,” Hermione said calmly.

Harry looked at her in horror and asked, “What did she tell you?”

“Just that you were still having nightmares occasionally,” Hermione admitted.  She knew that trying to lie to him would be a bit silly.

Harry nodded briefly before saying, “I think dinner’s ready.”  They had arrived at the Great Hall.  Ron and Hermione shared another exasperated look and followed him.  They watched his face lift at the sight of Ginny sitting at the table as he sat beside her, greeting her with a kiss.

The week passed rather smoothly.  Their Defense Against the Dark Arts Class was interesting as Harry had finally helped Narcissa to perfect her Patronus.  She asked him to help her work with the students to produce the required results.  At the next class she asked him if they could use the same scenario that they had used in her office to use the Patronus Charm to actually repel a dementor.  Once again Harry found himself fighting against the Boggart while his classmates attempted to use their Patronuses against it.  They were draining lessons and he was relieved when they were done.

Friday afternoon Harry and Ron went to retrieve Teddy right on schedule.  They again found Molly and Andromeda sharing a cup of tea in the kitchen as they fell out of the fireplace.

Molly ran towards them immediately.  “I think one of you needs to talk to George,” she said in greeting.  Her fear was evident on her face.

Harry and Ron looked at each other briefly before Ron began to climb the stairs to his brothers’ room…no his brother’s room.  Ron looked back briefly for reassurance before knocking on George’s door.

Harry gave himself up to Teddy, who was standing up in Andromeda’s arms.  She smiled at him as he took the child.  But his ears were straining, to find out what was going on upstairs.

Then Harry saw something that he never thought he’d see in his life.  Molly was holding the end of an extendable ear.  If he hadn’t been so concerned about George he might have been amused.

“What’s going on?” he finally asked.

“We’ve been trying to convince him to get the shop up and running again,” Molly said, her voice full of emotion.  “He has to.  We’ve been trying to get him out of this grieving stage of his for a long time.  We just haven’t been successful.  He needs to face that demon that will be his savior in the long run.”

Harry looked at the steps and could now hear a few bangs here and there.  He knew that Ron was fighting George, but he also knew that George was just getting his anger out again.

An owl fluttered in through the window.  Harry recognized it as being Hermes, Percy’s owl.  It sat down in front of him.

Ron and Harry,

I know you’re unaccustomed to receiving correspondence from me, but I’m not sure of the best way to deal with this situation.  I’ve offered to help George get his store open again, but he absolutely refuses.  Even though he and Fred were my ‘little’ brothers, they were always more knowledgeable, if you know what I mean.  I knew Fred when he was still little.  He’d want this store to continue.   If I have a part in keeping that part of him alive just by encouraging the two of you to help George then that’s enough for me.  I don’t have a knack for that sort of thing, but you two do.  If you need someone to help with organization or anything I hope you will let me know.  Anyway, I just think that George getting to terms with his store and his future will help him.

Percy

Harry tried to think of Albus’ words to him just a few days previous, but he missed Fred anyhow.  He was curious however about how the conversation between Ron and George was going, so he went and grabbed another earpiece sitting on the floor from the extendable ear.  Molly just looked at him appreciatively and put her arm around his shoulder.

He could hear Ron’s angry voice say, “Look, George, Fred’s not coming back.  What are you going to do?”

“I don’t know,” George replied.

“So you’re just going to let your dream die?” Ron asked.

“What dream?”

“The joke shop!”

“It won’t die, you and Harry will run it just fine.”

“Me and Harry?  We don’t know the first thing about creating jokes!  We can help you, but we really haven’t had your experience,” Ron said.  Harry could tell that he was trying not to mention the fact that they both had occupations apart from the shop.

“That’s just it, though, Fred was the instigator of all our schemes.  I don’t have any ideas of my own.”

“Who came up with the extendable ears?” Ron asked jokingly.

“YOU DON’T GET IT, RON!  I AM ALONE!  FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE I’M ALONE!  GET OUT!”

Molly rushed up the stairs as Ron was pushed forcibly from the room and helped him down the stairs.  Harry wasn’t sure what to do, with Teddy in his arms, but automatically handed the baby back to Andromeda.  She just looked on the scene with the same sort of pain in her eyes.

“No,” Harry finally said, fighting his own tears as Ron and Molly cried into each other’s shoulders.  “I’ll take care of George.”

He climbed the stairs, which, despite all of the improvements that Kreacher had seen to, were the ones he knew well. 

He stormed into George’s room.  This was no time to be polite.

“Damn it, George,” he began.

George looked up in surprise, so Harry said, “We all loved…no we love Fred.  But Fred would really die if we didn’t keep his dream alive.”

George was in such a foul mood that he scowled at Harry and said, “What dream?  That we would have a wonderful shop and make lots of money?  Well, perhaps that came true, but at what cost?”

George looked at Harry as though he held the secrets to the universe and asked, “How can you be sure that that’s what he would want?”

Harry drew into himself to stop his own grief from spilling out and said, “Because I knew Fred.  You knew him better than any of us.  But I knew enough of him to know that if your shop….your shop…died he would really die.  You keep him alive by providing students with objects sure to cause mayhem.”

George gave a watery laugh.  He looked at Harry and said, “So you’re probably thinking that one Weasley twin is as good as another, right?”

Harry looked at him oddly.  Suddenly he realized that perhaps George felt as though he was the side-kick to the operation.  Harry decided that truth was the best way here and so said, “No, you and Fred were very different.  You looked alike, yes, but you each had your own personality.  I remember Fred as the wonderful friend who would make me laugh while I was being called Slytherin’s heir.”

George gave another watery laugh and said, “Well, there was just no way you were!  Anyone who knew you could see that, so it was just funny.  I came up with the ‘fanged servant’ part.”

He had a wry look of amusement on his face at the memory.  Harry took his opportunity and said, “You were the brains of the operation.  You were what made it work.  He gave the two of you the drive, but you made it happen.”

George looked down at his hands and gave a hollow laugh.  “I could never run that shop though.  I don’t have half of his strength or brains.”

Harry pulled George’s face up to look into his and said, “How do you think the three of us survived all of these years.  Ron’s just as big of a mischief-maker as Fred….No…don’t scoff.” Harry had interrupted the expected objection.  “It was his humor and his ability to look at things in a positive light that let us all live.  He learned that from you.  Ron kept us laughing, even when there was nothing to laugh about.  He learned that from you, I think more you than Fred, personally.  Fred had his serious side and it showed in times when it was warranted.”

Harry wasn’t really sure about how to continue but wound up saying, “You and Fred were different and alike all at once.  But it didn’t take long before I knew whether I was looking at Fred or George.  I knew more based on your facial expressions and how you presented yourselves which twin I was talking to.  None of us can ever really understand what you’ve lost or what you’re going through, but we love George just as much as we loved Fred.  Right now we miss George.  Mum is getting desperate because there are no explosions coming out of this room and Percy is hounding Ron and me because you don’t want to reopen the shop!”

Harry said the last with so much sarcasm that George looked at him as though he’d never seen him.  Harry knew that he’d gotten through, but he said with authority, “I need to go get my godson, but I’ll see you tomorrow.  I also expect to see you at the shop the day after our exams.  There’s a month break between the tests and the beginning of the semester.  A lot of young people will want to have their pranks ready and waiting.”

Harry didn’t know if he could do anything more for George and headed for the door.  A voice rang out, “We wouldn’t want to disappoint McGonagall, would we?”

Harry looked back and saw the ‘real’ George looking back at him.  Harry smiled enormously as he said, “I should hope not!”

As Harry walked back down the stairs he started to feel the heavy weight lay itself back onto his heart, but he ignored it.  Everyone got up as he got to the kitchen.

“I think he’ll be okay.  We’ve got Quidditch tomorrow,” Harry said.

“As much as you kids scare me by playing Quidditch; that may just be the thing to take him out of this.  Then again, it may have the opposite effect,” Molly said.  Harry was only an arms-length from her and he had been having the same thoughts so he embraced her briefly.

“No, we need to look at this positively,” Harry said.

Ron was idly playing with Teddy while looking at Harry with that strange expression that he’d adopted occasionally since Fred had died.

“Bye, Andromeda,” Harry said.  He gave Molly and Teddy’s gran a hug before ushering Ron into the fireplace.

The women fell silent as they watched the young men leave with the baby, both looking at Teddy lovingly.  Each took a deep breath and then looked at each other.  Ordinarily they would have laughed at the sight, but all they were able to manage was a sympathetic smile.

“I’m sorry, ‘Dromeda, I know that you don’t like to part with him, but I think he needs a male influence.  God only knows how Harry turned out the way he did, it’s like a miracle,” Molly finally said.

“Oh, I know that.  I don’t begrudge Harry spending time with the boy, but we’re going to have to have rules.  You saw how he spoiled all of us, and we’re just old ladies,” Andromeda said.

“That’s a bit different.  You know the whole story of his upbringing now.  He’s not about to let his godson be spoiled!  That’s one thing you won’t have to worry about, I can tell you,” Molly said.

Andromeda smiled and said, “Yeah?  Do you have any idea how many gifts he’s given to the child?  And he insists on paying for everything, from education to robes to books.”

Molly thought about it and said, “Is it really spoiling him?  I know we haven’t always been able to give our children everything they want, but they’re happy and they’re good people.  Then again, we gave our children everything we had.  We just loved them.”

Andromeda broke down at that, making Molly feel almost silly.  George came down the stairs to the scene, and joined them.

“What’s wrong?” George asked.  Molly just shook her head at him, but he sat down next to Andromeda.  He felt like he’d been hit with a ton of bricks when he remembered Andromeda’s situation and just held her in his arms letting his own grief spill out.

Back at Hogwarts Harry and Ron arrived in the Headmaster’s office with Teddy once again.

“Good Afternoon, Albus,” Harry greeted his friend.

“This is Teddy?” Albus asked.

Harry brought the child up to the portrait so that Albus could see him better.  Harry looked at Teddy for a minute, who was giggling, and then up at Albus.  Teddy’s face always looked like Remus, but his eyes and hair changed rather randomly according to who was holding him or who he was thinking about.  Now, however, as Harry held him, he squirmed and his entire appearance became his father, eyes and all.

“Albus, I’ve never seen him change his eye color since I’ve seen him,” Harry admitted with a worry in his voice.

Ron ran over to look and said, “Yeah, he’s had your green eyes for like a month or so now.  I wonder what they look like when he’s at Mum’s.”

“We should find out,” Harry said with interest.  “Sorry Prof…Albus…but we’d probably better get going before Ginny wonders where we are,” Harry said.  He waved Teddy’s little hand at Albus’ portrait.  The old man waved back with a smile.

Just as the week before, Ginny ran at them at full speed.

“My baby!” she cried, grabbing him from Harry, who just smiled happily.

They were all dressed for Slughorn’s party.  “Do we really have to go?” Harry asked.  He thought it might be nice to just relax for the evening.

“We said we’d go,” Ginny reminded him sternly.  Harry wondered if she was taking lessons from Hermione and Molly at the same time.  It was easier to just do what she suggested.  She was usually right anyway.   She continued, “Besides, I thought you wanted to talk to that author.”

They walked into the room to meet Slughorn’s massive figure.  “Ah, Harry!  My dear boy, come on in.”

Harry allowed himself to be ushered in with Ginny, Ron and Hermione following in his wake.  He was pulled from person to person, and then kindly reminded Slughorn that he wished to speak with the author that he’d met a few years previously.

Harry finally met up with Eldred Worple, trying to keep Ginny at his side.  The party was rather large however and it became difficult as they were trying to find a quiet corner and everyone else was trying to talk to them.

“I’ll meet up with you later, dear,” she said, pointedly.  Ginny turned away to try to draw the crowd away from them.  Teddy was steadily chomping on Harry’s shoulder, his drool soaking Harry’s robes.

Harry closed his eyes briefly and said, “So you mentioned a while back that you might be interested in helping me write an autobiography.  How exactly would that work?”

Eldred was rather forthright and said, “Basically all you have to do is give me what you know to be true and I’ll put it down on parchment.  Well, not like Skeeter, of course.  I would imagine a good book about Harry Potter should be true to life and not a fantasy created by someone’s mind, don’t you think?”

Harry already liked the man based on this comment and asked, “So, you don’t like Rita Skeeter?”

“Good Heavens no!  And I never believed a word she ever said, well except perhaps that piece she did for the Quibbler.  That really seemed to be genuine.  I don’t know why, but I feel like she actually reported the truth and told it in a way that was easy to read,” Eldred replied.

Harry laughed and said, “Well, we made her tell the truth, and she’s a pretty good reporter when she does her job correctly.  It’s when she makes things up that aren’t true that’s….well, to put it politely, annoying.”

Eldred laughed and said, “Oh, and that rubbish she published about Dumbledore!  Of all the people to try to pick on!”

Harry’s laughter stopped.  Although Rita had picked up on some of Dumbledore’s early life, she had used her usual twist and turned it into something it wasn’t.  Harry wasn’t ready to reveal neither Dumbledore’s secrets nor Snape’s, he thought.  Those were things that he was privileged to know, but not things for him to share with everyone else.

His emotions and thoughts must have played on his face because Eldred said, “You don’t necessarily have to give all of your secrets away to make everyone happy.  You just need to give the outline.”

Harry finally said, “I have to bow to better judgment than mine, in other words Hermione’s, and so I would like to work with you to get this book done.  If it lessens the crowds even a little bit it will be worth it.”

“You really hate it then?  The fact that we all respect you?” Eldred asked.

Harry laughed ruefully and said, “Respect is earned. People are placing a reverence on me that isn’t necessary or earned.  I didn’t get rid of Voldemort with great power or wisdom, but by luck and a prophecy that he placed enough importance on that it was inevitable that one would die at the hand of the other.”  Harry laughed again at his own words and said, “Well, I guess it’s a bit more complicated than that, but it’s not really something that we can really tell everyone about.”

Harry could see the man hanging on his every word as though it was the last.  Eldred finally said, “This is exactly what people want.  Your own words, your own emotions and feelings as you…dealt with your destiny.  I’ve heard that you faced it head-on too, you just walked in there with your head held high.  I think that that is something that everyone needs to know and understand.”

Harry thought about that and decided that perhaps they should know and understand.  What if it helped someone to make a similar decision someday?

“So, you’re really interested in writing this story with me?” Harry asked, tentatively.

Eldred smiled widely and they began discussing the beginning of the story before Teddy started crying rather loudly.  Harry tried to rock him up and down.  That usually soothed him right back into his usual slumber.

“Excuse me a moment,” Harry said as he tried to calm the infant.  But Teddy seemed to be inconsolable. Ginny had run over as soon as she heard his cry and took him.

Teddy didn’t stop crying for her either.  Harry and Ginny shared a look.  There hadn’t been a time yet that he hadn’t been content with one of them.

“I’ll take him upstairs, Harry.  Finish what you’re doing,” Ginny said.  She practically ran from the room.  Hermione chased her out of the room urging Ron to help Harry finish his deal with the author.  Harry performed a quick cleaning and drying spell on his shoulder to clear away the drool-spot that had been left by Teddy.

“What if I could have helped?” Ron asked, feeling like Hermione didn’t trust him.

Harry raised his eyebrows and asked, “What were you going to do?  I have a bit more experience with the baby, and I wasn’t getting anywhere.”

Ron just nodded and looked back at the interviewer, who seemed very interested in the exchange.

“So we were talking about how the actual truth will be written I believe?” Harry said to the interviewer.

“Oh, yes, well, I will take what you tell me and put it into story-form, as opposed to an interview.”

It took awhile to fully work out the details, but eventually Harry and Ron were satisfied.  Just as they stood up to leave they saw Hermione’s otter Patronus come bounding into the room.

“Come to Gryffindor Tower, both of you,” the patronus said in Hermione’s urgent voice.

They rushed back to the Gryffindor Common room.  They could hear Teddy still crying through the wall.  Harry shouted the password and threw himself through the portrait-hole looking for Ginny.

“They’re probably in your room, Harry,” Ron pointed out.   It took a split second for both men to start racing up the stairs to Harry’s dorm.

Entering they found Ginny nearly in tears as she tried to console the distraught child.  Now she was furious and screamed, “Where were you?”

Harry was already rushing over to her and Teddy.  “What’s going on?  Why’s he still crying?”

“I don’t know!” Ginny yelled.

“We’ve tried everything.  We’ve fed him, burped him, changed him; we’ve done everything we can think of for him.  We’ve tried putting him down or walking him around and there’s nothing we can do,” Hermione explained in a panicked voice.

Harry reached his arms out to take his godson, knowing that he could usually calm the baby even when the rest couldn’t.  But Teddy still cried.  Harry put the Muffliato Charm on the door so that they wouldn’t continue disturbing the entire house.  A few hours passed as they each tried to hold the baby and figure out what was wrong before Hermione said, “You know, he feels kind of warm.  Could he have a fever?”

Harry, Ginny and Ron all ran over to her.

“He does feel a bit warm,” Ginny said.

“That’s it,” Harry said.  He’d been debating taking the baby down to Hospital Wing.  He put his hands out to Teddy, who dove into his godfather’s arms as though that was the only safe place to be.  Harry looked into Teddy’s eyes, which had a feral appearance, and said, “Don’t worry, buddy, we’ll get this all fixed.  I won’t ever let anything bad happen to you.”

The foursome headed down to the Hospital Wing even though it was well past curfew.  Filch approached them.

“Don’t even try it,” Harry said menacingly, Teddy still crying in his arms.

“I’ll call the headmistress,” he threatened.

“Good idea,” Harry said.  He hadn’t broken pace nor had the others stopped their race to the Hospital Wing.  Filch was still trying to block his way.  Harry had no patience and yelled, “Get out of the way or I’ll curse you.  Go find Minerva!”

“Harry!” Hermione exclaimed, fearfully.

“We don’t have time for this nonsense,” he snapped, pushing past Filch to continue on his way.

As they rushed into the familiar Hospital Wing, Madam Pomfrey woke groggily from her room.

“Good God, Potter, can’t you find a better time to use your bed?” she asked.

“No, it’s my godson.  Something’s not right!” he cried to her.  She ran over, throwing lights on with her wand as she approached him.

“I’ll have to look at him.  You all wait here,” she said.  Harry made to follow her, but she scolded him saying, “No, you wait here.”

Harry was shaking, Ginny joined him, and he just put his arm around her.

“What could possibly be wrong that I can’t be there?” Harry asked, fearfully.

Ginny looked at him with her mouth open and he looked back at her incredulously.  Ginny then realized that he was usually the one being taken care of, not the one waiting.

“That’s the way they do it,” she said gently.  She squeezed her arms around him a little to soften the blow.  Minerva came running into the room, tying her dressing gown around her.

“What’s going on?  Filch said something about you disturbing everyone in the hallway,” she said.  As she heard the crying emanating from the other room she asked, her voice full of concern, “Is that Teddy?  What’s wrong with him?”

“We don’t know.  We think he may have a fever,” Hermione said, choking on a sob.

Minerva sank into one of the chairs that sat around Harry’s usual bed with her eyes closed and her brows knitted.

Ron and Hermione were quivering on the other side of the room when Ron suddenly whipped around and shouted, “Have you seen the sky tonight?”

"The sky?" Ginny asked.  Suddenly she was menacing and screamed, "What do you mean, the sky?"

A/N: Apparently I'm cut-and-paste-challenged and repeated a section, so this is just a revision.  Next chapter will be up as soon as possible.


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