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A Time to Live by ladymblack
Chapter 23 : Chapter 23: William Weevil
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 16

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Chapter 23: William Weevil

Hermione swung the door closed the moment they were inside the shop and threw a few spells at it.  They could hear the crowd on the other side and looked around warily, expecting another mass of people.  The shop was luckily empty although the proprietor looked scandalized.  He ran around the counter and admonished, “What’d you do to my door?”

“I’m sorry, but we were being attacked by a horde of overzealous fans,” Hermione said, as though this was perfectly obvious.  Harry thought that it should have been apparent as well considering the fact that there were still all sorts of shouts coming through the door and front windows.

“We would like to see your wares, please,” Harry added, still slightly out of breath.

The shopkeeper finally looked at the two of them as more than just random people and nearly gasped.  “Of course, Mr….excuse me…Auror Potter, your business is always welcome,” Valdis finally said, taking in Harry’s scarlet robes.  He’d helped Harry to create the watch that he’d bought for Ginny’s birthday and had been in just as much awe then.

Valdis looked back at the door and shook his head.  “I’m just worried that I might be losing some business this way.”

“We’ll make it worth your while,” Hermione promised, without thinking.  “We just can’t make a decent purchase with a huge crowd around us.”

Harry thought this seemed plausible and considering the amount he had spent for Ginny’s watch he thought it ought to have been enough.  He wasn’t wrong and Valdis relaxed, asking, “What would you like to look at?”

Hermione shrugged and looked at Harry.  They approached the glass case and began to look at the jewelry displays.

They discussed a few of the pieces but Hermione said, “I don’t think jewelry is the way to go, Harry.  You’ve already given her the Potter Family gems.  Maybe we ought to go with something that’s a bit more thoughtful.”

Harry thought this had merit and said in a low tone, “Then pick something you want, because we all but promised to make a purchase.”

“Harry, you can’t just give me expensive jewelry,” Hermione argued.

“Why not?  You didn’t object to the stuff I gave you out of my vault.  Just pick something nice,” he said, trying to convey his wish to leave.  He could see that the crowd had dissipated, but he didn’t want to think about it reassembling when they returned.

He picked up each of the necklaces that she’d been eyeing, putting each of them against her neckline.  The first was obviously goblin-made gold inset with sapphires.  The gems seemed to sparkle against her skin when he held it up.  The second was a combination of silver and topaz that seemed to highlight her hair.

“Take the sapphires,” Harry advised.

“Do you think so?” she asked.  “I think I would be better off with the duller topaz.”

“Don’t be silly.  It might go well with your hair, but the sapphires really glow against your skin.”

“I had no idea you knew anything about jewelry, Harry.”

“I don’t,” he replied with a shrug.  “I know you, though.  I think you look better in the sapphires.”

“Do you think Ro…er…guys will find it attractive?” she asked.

He knew she had been about to ask if Ron might like it, but didn’t press it.  “Yes, I think that men will adore you in it.”

He tried to say ‘men’ so that she understood that he meant it to refer Ron.

She bit her lip and said, “I don’t know, Harry.  It’s goblin-made; it’s not going to be cheap.”

“Eh, it doesn’t really matter,” Harry said, indicating to Valdis that he wanted to buy the necklace.

“If you don’t mind my saying so, Miss Granger, the necklace will be absolutely lovely on you,” Valdis told her, chattering away about how he managed to get a hold of it.

Hermione suddenly frowned and said, “Is it a good idea to be purchasing something that the goblins might consider stolen?”

“You heard the man, Hermione.  It was rightfully purchased from its owners.  I don’t think even Griphook can deny truth of ownership anymore; not after what happened with Gryffindor’s sword,” Harry said.  She breathed a sigh of relief and he turned back to the shopkeeper, “So do you have any other way out of here?  I’m thinking flowers or candy might be the best thing to give Ginny, so if we could get to another shop that would be useful.”

“Not to worry,” Valdis replied, as he finished wrapping up Hermione’s necklace and handing it to her.  He led them to a back room and indicated a fireplace.  “This will take you to any of the other shops in Hogsmeade, but no farther.”

He handed each of them a handful of powder and told them where to go for fresh flowers.  Hermione told Harry to go first so that she could remove the charms from the front door.

“Don’t worry about it, dearie,” the shopkeeper said, “I’m sure I can figure them out.”

“I doubt it,” Harry said, “They’re modified spells, and even I’m not entirely sure of what she used.  It would be best to let her do it.”

He shrugged and indicated for Harry to step into the fireplace.  Harry arrived a few seconds later into what was certainly a flower shop, Hermione following him almost immediately.

They walked around for a few minutes before Harry came upon a spray of flowers that reminded him of Ginny’s scent.  He indicated to the woman behind the counter that he wished to purchase a bouquet of them.

“Sir, wouldn’t you rather get something a bit more costly for your lady?” she asked, not looking up from the magazine she was reading, but pointing at Hermione.

“Er…I think I’d rather get her something she can appreciate and that has some meaning,” Harry replied.

“Oh, very well, sir,” she said doubtfully, hopping off of her stool half-heartedly.  She stopped as she reached them and said, “Oh, my!  Mr. Potter, if you’re getting flowers for your girlfriend shouldn’t you ask her what she wants?”

“That wouldn’t make any sense,” Hermione replied for him.  “If he’s to surprise her with flowers, why would he ask her first?”

“Never mind,” Harry said quickly.  “Can you just make a bouquet with these for me?”

He had figured out that the woman thought that Hermione was his girlfriend.  The woman snatched a bunch of the flowers and stalked off to the back room.

She returned a few minutes later and thrust the package at him.  He held it over to Hermione who took a sniff.

“I think she’ll like it.  It smells a lot like that soap she loves,” Hermione told him.

“I know,” Harry replied with a smile.  “I could smell it in Amortentia in Slughorn’s class.”

Hermione’s eyes widened and she looked highly amused, but she said nothing.

“Two sickles,” the florist said absently.  She was very disgruntled that she hadn’t gotten a better sale out of the famous Harry Potter and made no effort to hide it.

It didn’t stop him from asking to use her fireplace to get to Honeydukes however.  She seemed to think about it for a moment, perhaps wondering if he might become a regular customer, and told them to help themselves.  Falling out of that grate, they could see that the store was quite crowded.

“Harry, your cloak,” Hermione whispered, deliberately standing in front of him.  He fumbled around for the correct pocket of his robes until his hand came into contact with the familiar fluid, silky feel of the Invisibility Cloak.  He wasted no time in throwing it over himself.  “Stay here.  I know what she would probably like and it’ll be faster this way.”

Hermione walked away from him and ducked through the crowds.  He watched as she quickly grabbed the merchandise and approached the cash register, hunching over and pulling her hair around her to hide her face.  She whispered something discreetly to the shopkeeper.  Within moments she was back at his side and said, “Come on; he said we could Apparate out.”

He put an arm around her shoulders and led them away from the shop.  He was laughing by the time they arrived on the steps of Grimmauld Place.  Hermione had probably looked strange to the people they’d left behind them, partially invisible before she disappeared.

Ginny had only just returned home as well and was already seated at the table in the basement kitchen, Kreacher handing her a cup of tea.  Harry made a split-second decision and banished the box of Honeyduke’s best chocolate to the wardrobe in the bedroom, holding the flowers in front of him as he approached Ginny.

She looked pleasantly surprised as a smile lit her face.  “Are these for me?”

“Nah, I got them for Kreacher,” he joked as he handed them to her.  Kreacher looked utterly confused.

She chuckled back at him and reached out for the flowers, taking a whiff of their light scent.  “My favorite, Harry, how did you know?” she asked.

“Ah, Master Harry, tis been a long time since we had flowers in the house,” said Kreacher, shaking his head ruefully as he got the joke.  He bustled into the pantry. “Kreacher will find a vase for these, Mistress.”

Ginny’s smile turned to a frown and she began to look at Harry suspiciously.  He looked around desperately for Hermione, but it would seem that she had decided to give them some privacy.

“You’ve never given me flowers before.  I remember thinking about how thoughtful it was of Ron to give some to Hermione when they had that big row over Malfoy.  But it was to placate her, wasn’t it?” Ginny asked.

Harry knew he was caught in a very clever snare.  He suspected that no matter what he said, he would be damned for it.  “Well, I think he did it to try to make her happy,” Harry said carefully.

“And is there something I ought to feel upset about?  Is there a reason you wish to…cheer me up?” she asked very quietly.

“I…I…I…uh…well….see,” Harry stammered.  “Hmm, maybe we should talk about this someplace else.”

He grabbed her hand and began climbing the stairs.  He steered her to the drawing room, wishing to avoid the library, where he knew Albus would be waiting for him.  He preferred not to have this conversation overheard, not even by Albus.  Harry and Ginny sank into the loveseat situated in front of the hearth, where Ginny started a fire with her wand.  She had not relinquished his hand and Harry thought it might be easier to explain everything to her if he wasn’t looking directly at her.  He knelt at her feet, resting his head in her lap and began the tale just as he had told it to Hermione.  Ginny seemed to know better than to interrupt him once he’d gotten started.  He could feel her fingers clenching his hair during parts and thought he felt a few hot tears trickle down to him but he refused to look up at her and have to see her face locked in terror, anger or worse, fear.

“Ginny, I’m sorry.  I broke my promise to you.  I don’t know if I would have gone through with it even if Albus hadn’t been there.  I would probably have been too cowardly and I would have been selfish, wanting to stay here with you,” he finished lamely.

Her arms came around him as she leaned down, covering his head with her own.  “Harry, I won’t deny that what you nearly did makes me furious, not to mention frightened, but I think I can understand how you felt.  We really need to talk about these things every day.  I don’t want you to ever have to come to this kind of despair ever again.”

“It makes me angry sometimes.  I feel that you ought to have a better life.  I wonder if you wouldn’t be happier with someone who isn’t so broken and defeated.  I don’t deserve the sort of love and understanding that you always give me so generously.”

She pulled back and forced him upright.  He couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen her so furious, and certainly not for that ire to be directed at him.  “Don’t you EVER say that again!  I’m happier with you than I could possibly be with anyone else.  I don’t love anyone else, and I doubt I could.  You are what makes my life complete.  If you think that I don’t understand what it would be like without you, then you’re somehow forgetting that I know exactly how it feels to think you’re dead.  There was nothing left worth living for once you were gone.  Something inside of me broke when I saw you in Hagrid’s arms and I no longer cared if I lived or died.  I didn’t even go after Bellatrix Lestrange for revenge, but because I figured if I fought her or Voldemort I would be killed for certain.  I wanted to die for you as you had died for me.  All I wanted to do was join you, wherever you were.”

Harry shivered, picturing the jet of green light that had indeed nearly killed her.  Although he now felt extremely angry with her, he realized that they had both been in such similar situations that it wouldn’t be fair to act on that anger.  Instead, he sat next to her, pulling her into his lap.  She leaned her head onto his shoulder and said, “I’m sorry, Harry.  I never used to cry until around the time we started going out.  Hermione seems to think that’s perfectly normal, but I know you don’t care for crying females.”

“It’s okay, Gin; it’s okay to cry sometimes.  The last few years have been really difficult for all of us.  I just don’t like to see you upset; especially knowing that I’m the one to cause most of your tears,” he replied.

“It’s okay, Harry; I know you don’t mean to.  But you need to stop thinking that you’re broken or defeated.  You’ve been through so much more than most men and I think it’s only natural for you to have difficulties adjusting to everything.  I’ll convince you of that if it takes the rest of my life.”

They sat curled up on the sofa, losing track of time, until Kreacher called out that dinner would be ready shortly.  They joined Hermione in the kitchen where they enjoyed roast leg-of-lamb served in a red wine gravy and enough side dishes to feed a small army.  There had indeed been a vase buried in the pantry.  It had been so long since Orion had given Walburga Black any flowers that no matter how hard Kreacher scrubbed it still looked filthy.  Hermione finally suggested that he use magic to get it clean. 

She offered her wand to Kreacher, holding it out to him.

“Elves doesn’t need wands to do magic,” Kreacher scoffed, giving Hermione a funny look.

So the crystal vase sparkled with a bit of help from Hermione and Kreacher in the center of the table, the flowers artfully arranged.  Ron had sent a message saying that he wouldn’t be home until quite late and so they ate without him, which seemed to make Hermione a bit nervous.

After dinner, they headed into the library.  This room had become a sort of refuge to all of them.  It was comfortable and cozy, decorated in red, gold, green and silver.  Harry had insisted that they include Slytherin colors as well as the traditional Gryffindor.  He felt as though he owed it to himself to recognize his relationship to the house he’d hated for so long and he thought that it was a nice tribute to Kreacher as well.  Books upon books lined most of the walls, with the occasional painting that Hermione and Ginny had purchased before they’d all gone back to school.  On the mantle were an assortment of framed pictures; mostly depicting the four of them, but Ginny had managed to have a few from Harry’s photo album of his parents enlarged and they now held places of honor in the center.  There were a few of Sirius that Kreacher had found in the attic for them, including some of him as a young boy along with his brother Regulus.  Ginny had mounted all of their awards from Hogwarts over the mantle, despite Harry’s protests.  Dumbledore’s portrait hung directly across from the fireplace, lit with magical lights that automatically turned on as Albus entered the frame.  A large oak desk dominated one of the shorter ends of the room, backed by the large bay window that overlooked the tiny courtyard behind the house.  The Sneakoscope as well as some smaller pictures littered the desk.  The Foe glass sat in one corner beside the desk while a playpen was in the other. 

Right now Dobby was sleeping in the playpen, at Harry’s insistence, while Kreacher and Winky sat before the fire on one of the damask sofas chatting happily.  They both had tried to protest vehemently that it was inappropriate for them to spend time with the ‘family’ in the evening until Harry had made it an order, earning him a reproving look from Hermione.

Harry and Ginny were playing a game of chess at a table designated for the game in a corner opposite from the desk, behind which Hermione sat quietly chatting with Dumbledore’s portrait.  Harry couldn’t help but be a bit annoyed as they both looked over at him with some frequency.  He knew they were only concerned and so tried to ignore it.

“Do you think I can see exactly what you’ve done with Teddy’s room on our way to bed later?” Harry asked Ginny.

She looked thoughtful for a moment and said, “I don’t think so.  I think I’ll let it be a surprise.”

“Shouldn’t it be a surprise for Teddy?  It’s not going to be my room,” Harry pointed out.

“Maybe if he was older I would agree, but since he won’t really understand what’s going on I’ve decided to surprise you instead,” she said, clearly taking the mickey out of him.  Then much more seriously she said, “It’s important to keep your man guessing, you know.”

“I didn’t know that, but if you say so I’ll believe you,” Harry said with a laugh.  “I’m coming to realize that I’ll never know what to expect from you.  It’s fine with me, so long as the surprises are always good.”

Ron still hadn’t returned by the time that they all retired for the night.  Hermione looked forlornly down the stairs towards the door as they went to their separate rooms.  Harry thought he could understand as he didn’t know what had kept Ron so long, although he’d sent them another Patronus to let them know not to wait up for him and that he and George were just working on a few things.

It was going to be another long day, Harry thought as he arose the next morning.  Even if they got out early, he and Hermione were going in early to get Stan settled into his new job.  Ron and Ginny were both still abed as they entered the fireplace in the kitchen after a hearty breakfast.

Stan was bouncing back and forth on the balls of his feet in front of the Post Service, looking extremely nervous when he saw Harry and Hermione.  They smiled at him and Stan seemed to try to reciprocate, but it looked more like a grimace.  “Good morning; are you ready to start your new job?” Harry asked.  He pulled out a small moneybag.  He gave it to Stan, who didn’t move a muscle after he’d held out his hand, and said, “I thought I’d pay you at the beginning of each week.  I know you’re only really working one day this week, but I wanted to start you out right away.”

Stan nodded and replied, “Yes, sir.”

Hermione led them through the door and spoke to one of the tellers behind the long desk in front of the wall of owls of all shapes and sizes.  She explained what she was there for and the teller pointed out a door on the other side of the room.  Above the door a sign read ‘Perilous Post.’  They were then taken into yet another smaller room where a wizard was already sorting through what looked to be a mountain of letters, all addressed to Harry.

“Blimey,” Hermione exclaimed.  “This is worse than I thought it would be!”

They explained to the security wizard, whose name was Calder Ulbrecht, that they’d hired Stan to help him.  He seemed remarkably relieved by this information and smiled up at them.  Ulbrecht began explaining to Stan what sorts of spells they used to check for curses or deadly materials that could be imbedded in the letters.  Harry and Hermione listened raptly as well, trying out the spells just as Stan was doing.  Many of them were recognizable from their classes and Harry was pleased to see that Stan was performing them with ease.

“So, there are a few other parts to this, Stan, and they’re really a bit more important.  I’m not really worried about any curses that may get through; we’ve dealt with that sort of thing before.  However, I’m hoping that we may learn some important information from some of the letters that may contain curses and such.  Mr. Ulbrecht, what exactly do you do with those letters?” Harry said, addressing both men.

“I’ve been disposing of them for you, Auror Potter.  I didn’t think you’d want to have to deal with them.  I hope you enjoyed your birthday greetings, sir.  I made sure to come in extra early that morning so that I could have them sent to you as quickly as possible,” Ulbrecht explained.

Harry shared a brief look of guilt with Hermione before clearing his throat.  “Um, sure, they were great, thanks!”

“Well, we’d prefer it if we could have everything sorted out a little better,” Hermione said, trying to cover the awkward moment.  “Part of Stan’s job will be to actually reply to most of the letters.  I’ve made up a few examples of what sorts of responses would be appropriate.  Most people tend to ask the same sorts of questions, so it shouldn’t be too difficult.”

“If there’s something you’re unsure of, you should ask me, Hermione or Ron about it,” Harry added.

“Exactly; so once you’ve written out a response to the letters, all Harry needs to do is sign them,” said Hermione.  She pulled out a handful of letters from her beaded bag and laid them out on the desk, showing Stan what sort of answers she’d plotted out for him.

“We would really like to know who is sending cursed post to me.  We’re hoping it might give us a few leads, so I think it would be best if you could pass those on with a note explaining that we have to break a spell if you can’t do it yourself,” Harry said.

Stan nodded his head, but he looked as though he was on information overload.  Hermione gave him a knowing look and said, “I’ve written everything out here for you, so that you won’t forget what we’ve told you.  There’s also a list of owls, detailing their descriptions and names, which should be sent on to Harry immediately.”

The list consisted of the owls belonging mostly to members of the Order as well as the D.A.  Although they generally used other means of communication, there would be times when a message was too long or too dangerous to use a Patronus.  Draco Malfoy’s owl was also on the list, especially since he was only to contact Harry or Ron using his Patronus in the event of an emergency.

Ulbrecht suggested that rather than having the replies all sent to Harry for his signature that he have a stamp made up so that Stan could sign his name for him.  But both Hermione and Stan looked skeptical.

“I dunno, Harry, that seems like an awful lot of responsibility.  What if I accidentally signed your name to something you don’t want me to?” Stan said weakly.

“It’s really rather a risk, isn’t it?  A stamp might be nice, so that you don’t have to actually sign your name, but I think you ought to keep it with you, Harry,” Hermione suggested.

It was a complicated process to have the stamp made.  Harry had to fill out a mountain of paperwork before he could even be allowed into the stamping room.  Then he had to basically prove, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that he was indeed Harry Potter.  His finger was pricked; his blood forging a magical contract.  He supposed that this would prevent someone else from having a stamp made that bore his signature.  It also ensured that, at the moment, only he could use the stamp without being cursed.  If he wished to allow someone else to do so, they would have to come back with him to add their blood to the pact.  Without thought he asked that Hermione be included, since she was already there with him.  Perhaps Ron and/or Ginny could be added sometime later.

Once the ritual was completed, Harry asked Ulbrecht if would be okay to come and check on their progress in the afternoon.  Gaining the wizard’s approval, Harry and Hermione left for the Auror Department.  She grabbed a Daily Prophet from the pile near the door of the Post Service, since they’d left too early to read the one that would be sent to their home, and asked if they could stop at her desk so that she could get her own in-trays to bring with them.

Getting Stan settled in hadn’t taken nearly as long as expected so there was still over half an hour left before the business day would begin when Harry and Hermione entered the Auror Department.  Hermione volunteered to get them some tea and Harry pushed open the door to the office they’d been using.  He was a bit surprised to find about a dozen Aurors already sitting at their tables.  They’d been talking animatedly until catching sight of Harry, falling into an awkward silence.

Perfectly used to this sort of behavior, Harry only sighed as he wished them all a good morning.  He sat behind the desk and realized that he could do nothing until Hermione returned since she had the files and took to asking his coworkers how their evenings had been.  There was little surprise when many of the new Order members began filing through the door.  They’d been separated for nearly a week now that school had ended and naturally saw this as a prime opportunity to gossip.

Dean led the group, followed closely by Seamus and Lavender who were holding hands, Michael Corner and Cho Change, who seemed to be reluctantly holding Michael’s hand, Parvati, whose eyes were red and puffy, Padma Patil, Ernie Macmillan and Neville, who had a grim yet resigned look on his face.

“Hey, Harry,” Neville said in greeting, the rest waving.  “Oh, hello, Professor.”

Dumbledore, who had obviously decided to join them again, smiled back and said, “Hello, Neville.  I’m really not supposed to be talking to people.”

Dumbledore put a finger to his lips to indicate his silence and Neville looked perplexed.  Harry ignored this and said, “Thanks for coming, all of you.  I really appreciate your help.”

Most of them smiled back expectantly, but Harry couldn’t help noticing Cho and Parvati looking determinedly away or Michael glaring at him.  He had no chance to ask after the problem as Hermione came through the doorway with two steaming mugs of tea, one of which she handed to Harry.  Their comrades all greeted her pleasantly and she smiled as she sat beside Harry.

He took a grateful sip of the excellent tea, inwardly admiring the fact that Hermione always added cream and sugar in perfect amounts, and said, “Perhaps it would be best if you all sat together.”

There wasn’t much room in which to maneuver and so Hermione pointed this out to Harry.  She performed a few incantations to get the room to expand and it did slightly but stopped much too quickly.  She frowned and said, “I think this is as big as it can get in here.”

He sighed and nodded, trying to figure out a better way to organize the desks.  Then she frowned and said, “Maybe you should try it.”

He raised an eyebrow, but did as she suggested.  To his amazement, the room enlarged dramatically.  They were then able to move the smaller tables farther out to the perimeter and expand the one in front.  Harry indicated for his friends to sit down.  He couldn’t help but notice that Neville and Parvati quite determinedly chose seats at opposite ends, but was a bit surprised to see Cho and Michael do the same.  Michael didn’t seem at all happy with the situation and glared at Harry again, as though to blame him.  Harry guessed that Neville had finally broken up with Parvati, but he couldn’t imagine what might have happened with Cho and Michael, especially since the latter seemed to think that Harry was at fault for his predicament.

Michael screwed his face up in anger and frustration, moving between Cho and Lavender, who immediately slid her chair closer to Seamus to give Michael room.  “Look, I’m sorry I got upset.  It’s just that I was usurped by Harry once before and now I feel like it’s happening again,” Michael said, pleading with Cho.

She pierced him with a fierce snarl and said, “That’s just as ridiculous now as when you said it earlier.”

She folded her arms across her chest and didn’t meet his eyes.  He got angry as well and retorted, “Well, how would you expect me to feel?  We all saw you eagerly offer to help him find the lost diadem.  I suppose you were hoping you’d get a nice snog out of it!”

If she’d seemed angry before she now exuded absolute fury as she replied, “We were in the middle of a war; he was trying to find a way to kill Voldemort.  I offered to help him, and you think it was so that he might kiss me?!!  You’ve lost your mind, you have, Michael.  I didn’t see you volunteering to show him what it looked like so that he could find it.  You know how much it meant to me to see Voldemort defeated.”

She’d said the last sentence much more quietly and her face softened.  Harry looked away; he knew she was talking about Cedric again and didn’t wish to intrude.  Michael’s voice became much less harsh and he said, “I know, Cho.  I’m sorry I reacted the way I did.  Can you forgive me?”

Harry was confused about why they hadn’t discussed this so much sooner.  The events they were arguing over had happened months ago. 

He didn’t have to worry about it much longer as Hermione sprayed a bunch of tea all over the desk, simultaneously breathing in some of it.  Harry whacked her on the back as she coughed and spluttered.  “Merlin’s pants!” she choked out, her eyes smarting from the unexpected inhalation of hot liquid.

 “What’d I do now?” Harry asked lightly, amused by her language.  She didn’t respond but to flatten the paper so both of them could read the front-page article.


Our Savior: The Player?

By William Weevil

Just how many witches does it take to satisfy Potter’s craving?

It went on to describe Harry’s love life in nauseating detail, nearly all of it false.  There were five pictures in full color, the article and accompanying illustrations taking up nearly the entire page.  There were two of him and Hermione; one of them hugging at the gates to the Shrieking Shack and another of him pulling her by the hand into the jewelry shop, both obviously taken the previous day.  The caption read: Potter and the love of his life?  Rarely seen out of company, this couple seems the most likely to work out.  Although we are certain that they made a purchase at Valdis’s jewelry shop in Hogsmeade, this author wasn’t able to discern exactly what they bought.  One would think, however, that Potter would wish to surprise the woman he loves with an engagement gift, rather than buying it in her presence.

Another was clearly taken during the Yule Ball; of Harry and Parvati as they entered the Great Hall.  Below it were the words: Potter and Miss Patil attended the traditional ball during the Triwizard Tournament.  It is yet uncertain as to their precise relationship, but Miss Patil attended most classes with Potter and is a confirmed member of the illicit group known as Dumbledore’s Army.

The picture of Cho, wearing her silver robes with the blue Ravenclaw eagle during the ceremony after the Battle of Hogwarts, was accompanied by: Cho also seems to be a likely candidate for Potter’s affections.  Rumors abound that he had an interest in her even before Mr. Diggory’s death, which apparently occurred during Voldemort’s resurrection.  Perhaps Potter didn’t bother to defend the young man who lost his life so that he could have a better chance with Miss Chang.  It’s a little known fact that Potter and Chang were involved with one another during his fifth year; not even a year after Diggory’s death.  She may still be hoping to be the next Mrs. Potter.

The last was of Harry and Ginny kissing after the last Quidditch match that was the beginning of their romantic relationship.  The snippet after this one read: There are many Hogwarts students who remember this couple dating at the end of his last official year at that school.  Few seem to take this situation seriously however as Miss Weasley has strung along a number of boys in the last few years both before and after her brief relationship with Potter.  It’s a bit odd that she should happen to be the sister of his best friend, Mr. Ronald Weasley.

He knew now why Cho and Michael were upset, although he didn’t know how to reassure them.  He too had wondered if she’d wanted to renew their relationship with her offer to take him to Ravenclaw Tower.  He couldn’t figure out how this would have really affected Neville and Parvati however, since even the article made it clear that a relationship between Harry and Parvati was unlikely.

“Are you really just reading this for the first time, Harry?” Parvati finally asked him, coldly.  If she hadn’t been particularly friendly to him in the immediate wake of the Yule Ball, she’d gone back to normal rather quickly and had never held their disastrous date against him.

He hadn’t quite finished it, but was only able to nod.  “How could you do this to me?” she asked.

“I didn’t do anything!” he retorted.  “Hermione and I happened to go to Hogsmeade yesterday and we happened to hug.  How was I to know it would make the front page of the Prophet or that they’d go digging for every witch I’ve ever had contact with?”

He felt a bit sick as he read through the quotes over and over again.  There was indeed a mention of nearly every witch in his own year as well as a few in years above and below him.  Speculation was rife regarding all female members of his Quidditch team, which was exacerbated by the fact that all were also known participants of the D.A..

Romilda Vane had given a few statements, the most notable being, “Oh yes, there are a few of us who have been lucky enough to see the delightful Hungarian Horntail tattooed on his very masculine chest.  It’s quite life-like and he didn’t mind replaying his defeat of the dragon during the Triwizard Tournament when he showed it to me.”

“Well, for your information, Neville dumped me because of this article, so forgive me if I’m really quite upset with you,” Parvati said, tears sparkling in her eyes.

Neville blew out a frustrated breath and said, “I told you…”

“But I don’t understand why, Nevvy, if you didn’t believe all of this!  I think you knew about it before it came out!  You didn’t want to be associated with one of Harry’s supposed whores.”

Harry didn’t understand how she could be so cruel to herself, Ginny, Hermione and Cho.  But as he perused the article again, he realized that the way the reporter had written it made it seem as though they were all easy women willing to bask in his glory. 

Neville, on the other hand, rolled his eyes and said, “Obviously I knew about the ball; I was there!  And I told you earlier that it had nothing to do with why we shouldn’t be dating.  It’s just not going to work between us.  We got together under stressful circumstances.  I’m grateful for that time, but in the light of day we don’t really have anything in common.”

Parvati didn’t respond, but cried into Lavender’s shoulder.  Perhaps she’d thought that she could talk him around if it had only been about an article regarding things that were long in the past and had no bearing on the present.  Neville looked pained and just shook his head, gazing at Harry instead of Parvati.

Harry forestalled anything from Cho or Michael by saying, “I never said anything about Cho to anyone, although…a reporter did hear her name once.”

They weren’t inclined to question him about the wheres or whys this had happened, so Harry volunteered no new information.

He then looked at Hermione, whose eyes were swimming in angry tears.  “You’ve got to fix this, Harry.  People still think I’m your girlfriend when you’re really going to marry Ginny.  She shouldn’t have to deal with everyone thinking that you’re cheating on her with me,” she said.

“Should I tell her and the press that I think you’re ugly?” Harry asked flippantly.

Her tears continued, but they were now borne of laughter.  “That might have worked with Cho, but I don’t think it will in this case.”

“What might have worked with me?” Cho asked indignantly.

Harry still thought it was a ridiculous ploy but said, “Would it have made a difference to you if I’d said that I thought Hermione was ugly when you were jealous of her at that coffee shop?”

She looked thoughtful for a moment before replying with a wry expression, “I doubt it.  I think I would still have felt like you were sharing things with her and Ron that you weren’t with me.  I couldn’t have dealt with that.”

She stopped again, seeming to come to a conclusion, and continued, “No, it wouldn’t have mattered.  We could never have worked out.  I realize that now.  I had liked you for quite awhile before you asked me out the first time…but…well…you know what happened.  I mean, I was still attracted to you and all and I felt incredibly close to you.  I guess I just figured you would understand what I was going through better than anyone else.”

Harry nodded his head, knowing that Cedric had asked her to the ball first.  Then he remembered the part of the article indicating that he’d simply let Cedric be killed so that he wouldn’t have any competition.  He unconsciously looked back down at those words.  He looked at her pleadingly and said, “You don’t think….”

She looked panicked and the tears sprung to her eyes.  “No…no…of course not!” she cried, immediately catching on to his meaning.  “You would never do anything like that.  I know it.”

Although he had no desire to renew whatever relationship they’d had together, he didn’t want her to think that he had ever hoped for Cedric to die.  Michael conjured himself a chair and pulled Cho close to him.  He looked up at Harry and Harry was suddenly apprehensive.  But Michael nodded his head, telling Harry that he supported Cho’s conclusions.  Harry felt relieved for a few minutes.

“Ginny,” Harry then muttered under his breath.  He knew that she already had all of the facts about his relationship with Hermione, but she was still likely to be upset by the words of this William Weevil who had made some very sweeping conclusions regarding Harry’s involvement with women.  Checking his watch, he realized that it was almost nine.  She should be awake at that point, likely having gotten the morning paper, and so he sent her a Patronus to assure her that they would try to fix all of this.

More people began trickling in by the time Dean said, “You know, Michael, I’m not sure why you’re so upset about Ginny dumping you.  Obviously you figured out just as quickly as I did that she was too much in love with Harry to pay anyone else much notice, but at least he wasn’t looking back at her when you were dating.  When I was with her, I couldn’t look up without seeing Harry either glaring at me or glancing away from her as quickly as he could.”

Harry laughed and added, “Did I ever thank you blokes for giving her enough confidence so that I could get to know her?”

Dean gave Harry an annoyed look but Michael seemed to be too afraid of Cho to give any outward sign of animosity.  Instead Michael said, “It doesn’t bother me anymore since I’m a lot happier with Cho than I ever was with Ginny, but it always pissed me off that she refused to say anything about what she did over the summer and was extremely tight-lipped about what was going on with Harry, Ron and Hermione.”

“Tell me about it,” said Dean, in a commiserating tone.  “She spent most of her summer break and all of Christmas with Harry.  When I asked if I could stop by to see her she said that she wasn’t supposed to be inviting anyone over.  She had the nerve to tell me it was none of my business and that all of the information was ‘top secret.’  I mean, I know why now, but it made me really angry at the time.”

Harry said nothing and did his best to keep his face expressionless.  He was inordinately proud of Ginny’s sense of loyalty before they’d even begun going out.

Hermione cleared her throat when Dean and Michael showed no signs of ceasing their discussion.  She said, “I think you both need to prepare yourselves for what will happen when it does become public knowledge that Harry and Ginny are engaged.  No matter what, it’s safe to say that there will be a great deal of digging to find out who her ex-boyfriends are.”

Dean snorted and Michael scowled.  Michael had a very determined look on his face and said, “Just let them try to get anything out of me.”

He was fingering his wand inside the pocket of his robes, cherishing the thought of someone interrogating him about his relationship with Ginny.

Seamus frowned at the paper as he looked over Lavender’s shoulder.  He said, “What I’m curious about is who they think Ginny was dating while Harry was gone.  I never saw her with anyone.  She always pretended, in public, like she hated Harry for dumping her, but within the D.A. she always assured us about Harry’s survival.  She never let any of us forget that every little thing we did could help him in the end.”

Neville nodded his head and said, “I never heard any rumors about anyone going out with her and I would have known it if she had.  I was with her all the time and there’s no way she would have had the opportunity to date anyone.”

Ernie looked pained and with the air of someone trying to deliver bad news quickly said, “Well, that’s sort of the point, Neville.  We did our best to keep it from Gryffindor ears, but there was quite a lot of talk about you and Ginny because you were always together.”

“But it’s not like it was anything new!” Neville said incredulously.  “We’ve been friends for a long time…”

Michael, who pointed out the obvious, cut him off. “We know, Neville.  No one who’s ever been in a room with Harry and Ginny, when they were together, could imagine one of them with anyone else.  But it took quite a bit of convincing on our parts,” he said, indicating the non-Gryffindors around the table, “to quash those rumors.”

Seamus shook his head mournfully and said, “I think you have to accept that you’ll be added to the list of wizards who went out with Ginny.  I doubt it will help that you took her to the Yule Ball.  Don’t get me wrong, we’ll all defend Ginny with everything we have.”

He said the last to Harry, who had no doubt that Seamus was correct.  Harry took an enormous amount of comfort from the knowledge that no one would allow Ginny’s name to be slandered if they could help it.  He acknowledged Seamus with a grateful nod.

Everyone seemed to be lost in thought.  Neville, determined to provide a distraction, said, “I’ve got a bit of a treat for everyone.  Mr. Lovegood gave me a few advance copies yesterday.”

He pulled out a handful of Quibblers from the breast pocket of his robes, tossing them onto the table.  Squeals of delight poured forth from many mouths as people grasped for the magazines.  Harry and Hermione joined the crowd to look at the front cover.  It was very simple.

Dumbledore’s Army
The truth behind the legend

A photograph of the original group they’d started took up the rest of the page.  The only person missing was Colin Creevey, who had taken the picture.  Rather than giving credit to the photographer later in the issue as was standard, his name was proclaimed in large lettering below it.

Harry could only guess that this was the doing of Neville and Luna, who would have wanted it to be well-known that Colin was a part of the group even though he wasn’t pictured.

The article, which took up much of the magazine in various forms, had been fully sanctioned by Harry, Ron and Hermione.  It described much of what they had done, leaving out parts about the Room of Requirement.  Their activities were generally public knowledge thanks to Umbridge and Marietta, so there was little use in pretending as though it had never happened.  There was nothing about it that indicated that the group still existed.

There were some excited mutterings from the new Order as they happily perused the articles that gave a basic overview of the D.A.’s activities that first year as well as its origins.  Harry and Hermione took one of the issues back to the desk, even though they’d both taken out subscriptions and would therefore have their own copies the following day.

The Aurors in the room were exchanging looks that clearly indicated their wariness.  Harry thought he knew why.  Generally, people who read the Quibbler were seen as weirdoes by the general wizarding public.  Until he’d gotten to know Luna better, he probably would have agreed with them with full support from Hermione.

It was she however who said, in a loud and carrying voice, “Thank goodness most wizards remember that the Quibbler was the only publication telling the truth all along, ever since you gave your interview about Voldemort’s return.  Now people know if they want the real facts about how Voldemort was defeated they can go to the Quibbler.”

Harry chanced a glance over to the Aurors as Hermione pulled files out of her bag.  Their expressions ranged from confusion to acknowledgement to disgust.  Conversation had gone back to the many relationships that various members of the Order were involved in, and so Harry announced, “Okay, I think that’s quite enough about all of our tangled love-lives.  We’re here to deal with Death Eaters.”

All talking ceased and Harry’s friends looked up at him, apologetic and eager as they waited for instructions.

“I’m going to leave it up to you to explain what I need to anyone else who comes in,” Harry continued.

They all nodded solemnly.  “I first want everyone’s experience dueling the Death Eaters during the Battle of Hogwarts.  Then I would like to know as much about the Carrows as possible.”

He was asking a great deal of them.  He knew it; it wouldn’t make for easy reading either.

There was more nodding and they began to separate into groups according to where they had been stationed during the first part of the battle.

“Shouldn’t someone be in charge of security?” asked Dean, as a few Aurors came through the door.  It was almost nine and people were trickling in much faster than before.

“Impressive, Dean, and you’re right,” Harry said.  He put Dean in charge of security, reminding him of the necessary spells and giving him a few questions that he could pose to the Aurors entering that he wouldn’t know.

So Dean conjured a small desk and set himself up next to the door.

Meanwhile, Hermione’s inbox teemed with letters.  They all fell into the slot labeled ‘Out-of Office.’  Remembering the last time there had been a major story about them Harry stopped her hand as she reached for one.  Instead he opened it with magic and held it aloft the same way, so that they could read it.

I remember the last time you played him falsely.  This is just a warning so that you don’t do it again.

“Do you think it’s the same whacko from last time?” Hermione asked.

Harry leaned forward and sniffed the letter.  He nodded and said, “Yeah, it’s definitely bubotuber puss.  Can’t he come up with anything new?”

Without so much as another thought he stood.  He whispered to Hermione, “I’ll be right back.  There’s only a few minutes until nine, so if I’m not back, hand out the files to the Aurors.”

Down at the Post Service he explained to Stan and Ulbrecht that he also wanted Hermione, Ron and Ginny’s mail monitored.  He thought he ought to have found out whether or not Parvati and Cho also wished to have the same sort of protection, but he didn’t want to give that kind of order without their approval.

On a whim he said, “Stan, do you have any friends who are trustworthy that might want to work with you?”

He brightened and said, “Plenty; there’re some that I wouldn’t trust as far as I could throw them, but there’re some that are very loyal but…well…poor.”

Harry realized that he still didn’t understand the poorer community that existed in the Wizarding World.  Although the Weasleys couldn’t afford the best, they always had enough to at least send their children to school.  The people that Stan was talking about might not have been able to have their children educated formally and so had done so at home as much as possible.

“To me, loyalty is more important than anything else.  If they’re also willing to learn, then they have a job here,” Harry told Stan.

“Yes, sir…how many people do you think I ought to hire?” he asked.

Harry was considering the question with no real response when Ulbrecht said, “Now, see here, Auror Potter, you can’t just hire people for this department.  The Minister has made it very clear that we have to make due with the number of people we have.  I understand that he approved your appointment of Mr. Shunpike, but I don’t think that he’s going to approve any more additions.  We’ve asked for help already.”

“The Minister will approve it; especially since I’m paying these people out of my own pocket, not the Ministry’s.  It can’t take up that much of the Ministry’s building to give these people a place to work,” Harry said.

He hadn’t bothered to use the authoritative tone that he’d developed over the last year, but the man accepted it regardless.  Harry turned then to Stan and said, “You can tell these loyal friends of yours that I am willing to pay them 15 galleons a week for their work.  You will be in charge of things once you’ve learned everything you can from Mr. Ulbrecht.”

“Sure, Harry, anything you want,” Stan said.  For the first time a smile lit his face.  “I was a bit afraid to work for you, but I think it’s gonna be fun.”

“Thanks; I just want my friends to be protected and I appreciate your help,” Harry admitted.

“No problem, Harry,” Stan replied proudly.  “I won’t let nothing harm them.”

“I would also appreciate it if you could help me deal with people when I go out in public.  If you’ve read the Daily Prophet this morning then you know I can’t even make a simple appearance in Hogsmeade without attracting undue attention.  I’m not sure exactly what a press agent does, but perhaps you could to talk to someone who’s dealt with this sort of thing, either in the Wizarding community or the muggle one.”

“My pleasure, sir,” Stan said, eyeing a copy of the paper that sat on the edge of Ulbrecht’s desk.


Harry felt content as he left and explained what he had done to Hermione.  She sighed and said, “Yes, I suppose that’s the best course of action.”

She seemed resigned to the fact that she would always be linked with him and Harry commented, “It could be worse.”

“How on earth could it be worse?” she asked him, looking as though he’d lost his mind.

“Well, they could have implied things that we would really rather keep secret,” Harry pointed out.

“That’s true,” she sighed, “At least it’s only your love life and not the stuff to do with Voldemort; which could be potentially harming to others.”

Cho seemed to be stifling a laugh as she asked, “Harry, do you really have a Hungarian Horntail tattoo?”

Everyone’s heads swiveled to face Harry, including Hermione, who scoffed, “Of course he doesn’t!  That’s just some stupid rumor Romilda Vane started last year.”

“How do you know?” asked Lavender, curiously.

Harry knew the answer and glanced sideways at a red-faced Hermione.  “It’s not what you think!  He was ill.  Slytherin’s locket had fused to Harry’s chest after our encounter with Voldemort.  I had to get it off.  Ron wasn’t there and Harry was out cold, so what else was I supposed to do?”

Indignation had returned Hermione’s normal coloring.  “You should have known it wouldn’t actually be anything juicy, Lavender,” Parvati said, joining in the laughter that was ringing throughout the room.

Harry decided that giving any input at that point would be tantamount to adding fuel to the fire and so remained silent.  The older Order members were led through the door by Hestia, followed closely by Molly, who made a beeline for Harry.  She knelt beside him, her expression one of undisguised concern.  She clasped Harry’s cheeks between her palms, looking into his eyes.  “Are you okay, dear?” she asked quietly.

Feeling awkward and slightly embarrassed, Harry tried to throw her off.  “I’m fine,” he said gruffly.

He didn’t need a reminder of his breakdown the previous day.  He wished he could go back and be more discreet about how he had gone to talk to Dumbledore.  It was likely that the entire Ministry knew of the debacle now.  Harry usually enjoyed it when Molly coddled him, but he could practically feel his cheeks turning red.

“Arthur talked me out of going to your house last night, but I still wish that I could have been able to help you yesterday when you really needed it,” Molly said.  “Ginny swore everything was fine when I called on her this morning, but I needed to check for myself.”

He said nothing as he felt her kiss him on the forehead before moving off to sit with her companions.  She seemed to watch him more than she usually did however.  Harry tried to ignore her as he half-listened to the conversations around the room.

Harry heard Dean say, “Okay, so Professor Lupin led us into the grounds, right?  Then we ran into about, what, a dozen Death Eaters?”

“Yeah, and remember the horrible things they were saying?” Parvati replied.  “That one bloke said, ‘aren’t you ashamed to be taking orders from a werewolf?”

“I said something like, ‘he was the best professor we’ve ever had,” added Dean.

“Oh, and then Blakely screamed that he wasn’t even a man,” said Parvati, putting a hand up to cover her eyes.

“I was under Kingsley’s command, a fair distance away.  I didn’t hear what the Death Eater said, but I think everyone on the grounds heard your reply, Parvati,” Ernie said loudly from across the room.  “Didn’t you shout back that Professor Lupin was a hundred times the man than the Death Eater was and stun him so hard that he flew half-way to the Forbidden Forest?  I had to jump to avoid being hit by the body.”

“Oh, I’d forgotten about that.  Professor Lupin was dueling both Dolohov and Travers while he gave the rest of us instructions.  Then more Death Eaters converged on us.  I think that if Mrs. Lupin hadn’t shown up when she did we all would have been killed.  She and Professor Lupin managed to take out quite a few of them before they…before they…” Parvati said, but she couldn’t go on.  Everyone looked away as a few tears spattered the parchment she’d been writing on.

“We should have killed Dolohov, Dean!  We should have killed him for everything he did.  He killed nearly our entire unit!  But that was the one curse the Carrows didn’t teach us,” she added fiercely.

“Parvati, you should not have killed him.  You couldn’t have used the killing curse with those sentiments anyway.  If the Carrows taught you nothing I’m sure they did tell you that you have to really mean what you’re doing and enjoy it in order to perform an Unforgivable Curse.  Righteous indignation won’t get you very far with them.  You did the right thing though, in the end.  It is always better to injure and capture if at all possible,” Harry said, in a carrying voice.  He had considered taking Parvati aside to tell her this, but thought that it ought to benefit everyone in the room.

“So you’re not disappointed in me?” she asked quietly.


“Of course not; I’m actually quite proud of what you did.  I think that your defense of Remus just before he was killed was a wonderful thing to do.  It wasn’t often that he heard such praise from anyone outside of the Order,” Harry said kindly and he meant it.  It touched Harry as well, that Lupin’s students had not forgotten his excellent classes.  They had obviously not held his lycanthropy against him.

She smiled back at him and returned to her work with Dean.

Harry looked over to see what Hermione was doing and asked exasperatedly, “Are you still working on that bitch?”

She nodded and began to say something before Molly shouted, “Harry James Potter, I can’t believe I just heard that word from your mouth!”

“But…we’re talking about--” Harry began to explain himself.

“I don’t care whom you’re talking about!” she said angrily.  “I would think I raised you better than to use such language.”

“It’s Bellatrix we’re talking about and if I recall correctly…”

“I don’t care what you may or may not have heard me say in the heat of battle, Harry.  That doesn’t mean that it’s okay for you to do the same.  If I ever hear you use that word again, I shall Scourgify your mouth until you can’t taste for a week…do you understand me?”

“Sorry, Mum,” Harry said lamely.  She nodded at him smartly and returned to her work.  Harry looked up at the portrait on the wall to find Dumbledore beaming at him fondly.  It was a bit embarrassing to be rebuked by Molly, but it secretly pleased him that she treated him just as she would any of her other children.  His friends were all laughing uproariously, heedless of Harry’s attempt to scowl them into silence.

“Don’t feel bad, Harry, me mam would have done the same thing to me,” guffawed Seamus.

“Anyway, did we get a reply about who might have visited Bellatrix?” Hermione asked.

Harry shook his head, remembering the memo he’d gotten from Draco Malfoy.  “None of them went to see her and Narcissa said that although they’d considered it, they thought it would be too dangerous.”

Hermione was reluctant to put Bellatrix’s file aside, and Harry could understand why.  It had too many mysteries involved with it to deny.  He handed her Travers’s file to work on instead.  They would worry about Bellatrix’s problems later. 

Dean took his duties as security guard quite seriously and was conducting rigorous interrogations.  This included every person who simply returned from the bathroom, which began to cause some arguments.  Dean put them down by saying that anyone could assault someone in a bathroom and use their hair to assume another’s identity.  No one in the Order seemed to find this to be amiss, but the Aurors were very obviously frustrated.  Harry didn’t know how to make it better.  He wondered how they made sure whom each person was when they were on a mission.  If a couple of second years at Hogwarts could make Polyjuice Potion it would be an easy thing for conspirators to do.  The only advantage against it was that it took a month to brew, but it wouldn’t be a problem if one had a month in which to plan or simply kept a supply of it.

In the end he decided that he didn’t care if some of the Aurors felt inconvenienced.  They needed to understand the reasons for security.

Aberforth Dumbledore came in by himself.  He passed Dean’s barrier with no problem and approached Harry for instructions.  He stopped as he saw Albus in the portrait on the wall.

“What are you doing here, Al?” Aberforth asked.

“Not that it’s any of your business, Aberforth, but I’m observing Harry’s work.  If that’s okay with you, of course…” Albus said in a sarcastic tone that Harry had never heard him use before.

Aberforth snorted and looked at Albus with venom.  “Just as you looked out for him before, I suppose,” Aberforth responded.  “You should have told the boy to run, Albus.  I still can’t believe you didn’t!  What is wrong with you that you would send a child to his death??!”

Before Albus could respond Aberforth looked away angrily and said, “I don’t suppose it matters, does it?  It never mattered to you who died and who didn’t!  The ends always justified the means to you.”

Albus didn’t deny these accusations and Harry spoke up instead.  “I had to die.  If we wanted Voldemort to die, then I had to give my life.  This isn’t something that we can argue over.  If I had destroyed all of Voldemort’s…things, but not given myself to him then he would still be here.  He would live as long as I did otherwise.”

Harry looked directly at his mentor, but spoke to Aberforth quite plainly, “If he’d done what you suggest, Aberforth, then we’d still be under Voldemort’s rule.  I needed to do what I did and when I did it for the best of everyone.”

“And what about you, boy?” Aberforth growled.  “How many times did my brother make you go through things that no child should.  He distanced himself from you, didn’t he?”

Harry thought about that and didn’t look at either of them for a few moments.  “Wouldn’t you?  Why would you want to get close to someone that you know will have to die?”

He drew into all of his knowledge of Dumbledore and then remembered that moment in his office when Albus had had a glint in his eye, just after Voldemort had regained human form, that Harry thought seemed triumphant, but had quickly dismissed and then forgotten.  Had Dumbledore always intended to sacrifice Harry’s life in order to kill Voldemort?  Of course he had, Harry realized.  How could he have done anything less?

“No, not me.  I would have protected the boy as best I could,” came Aberforth’s gruff voice through the silent communication between Harry and Albus.

“Something you don’t seem to realize is that Harry is not a child and hasn’t been for quite a long time.  It’s no longer appropriate to refer to him as a boy,” said Albus quietly, not addressing the actual question.

Harry’s eyes still didn’t move from Albus as he said, “He only distanced himself the once and that was because he wasn’t sure whether or not it was a two-way channel between Voldemort and me.  Can you blame him for that?  If his theories were right then I could have given Voldemort very important information.  He could have tried to use me to manipulate Albus.”

Even as he said it he regretted his words.  He wasn’t wrong as Aberforth said, “You never learned anything, did you, Al?”

“I did what was necessary, Aberforth,” Albus said, not flinching yet not denying his failures.

“Where did you keep going all of those years?” Aberforth asked in a mutinous tone.  “Where were you when you should have been taking care of your school?”

“I will tell you the same thing that I told Harry when he suggested that I left the school unprotected.  I did my best to ensure my students’ safety and regardless of how you and I may have disagreed through the years, you know they were my first priority.  As for where I went; I was trying to find the means to destroy Voldemort,” said Albus, in clipped tones.

Aberforth seemed to shrink into a chair beside Neville, who put a hand onto the arm of the older man.  “It killed you, didn’t it?” Aberforth asked baldly.

There were tears in Albus’s eyes as he nodded.  Harry guessed they were not for him or Aberforth, but for the foolishness that had led Albus to try to activate the Resurrection Stone.  “I’m sorry, Ab, I didn’t wish to leave you alone.  I daresay my time would have come within the year regardless.  Voldemort needed me out of the way.”

“You could have told me.”

“There was nothing you could have done and I believe it was for the best.”

“Even so, I could have…”

“…there’s nothing you could have done.”

“...but I could have tried...”

“If there was nothing Severus or I could have done, there was no hope.”  Albus seemed to be lost in a daydream.  He asked, timidly, “Did you come?”

“To your funeral?” Aberforth asked.  He nodded, with his eyes closed.  “How could I not?”

Eons seemed to pass before Aberforth said gruffly, “I miss you.  Never thought I’d hear myself say that, but there you have it.”

“Probably told Grindelwald, he did,” Aberforth then muttered under his breath.

“I only saw Gellert the once in all the time since he went to prison, Aberforth, and that was to make sure that he could not escape, shortly after I left him there,” Albus replied.

Aberforth looked skeptical and said, “Right.  You never saw your lover when you had the opportunity?  Bah!”

Then he added spitefully, to Elphias, “Did you know he cheated on you, Doge?  That’s right; the whole time you were gone on your little jaunt he was home panting after Grindel…”

He was cut off by Albus mildly saying, “At least they were human.”

Harry noticed that Albus didn’t deny the accusations although he knew full well that the relationship between Dumbledore and Grindelwald had never become physical.

“That was no more than a childhood fancy and we remained good friends for the rest of our lives.  So, I’ll thank you to leave me out of this, Aberforth,” put in Doge.

Both brothers were opening their mouths angrily but Harry beat them.  “That’s enough!  No one would guess that either of you was over a hundred years old.  You sound worse than a couple of school kids.  Aberforth, I realize I have no authority over you, but I’d like to see you in my library Sunday afternoon.  Albus, I fear I must ask you to leave.  Your presence is now too much of a distraction for me to allow you to stay.  Please go home.”

Albus sighed and said, “I’m sorry.  He always did bring out the worst in me.  I’ll see you later.”

Aberforth gave a gruff apology as well, watching his brother sidle out of the frame. 

He turned to Neville to see what he was doing. Harry shared a glance with Neville, who quickly gave Aberforth a few files that needed additional input.

“Wow, did you see that?  Harry gave Dumbledore an order and he just obeyed!” someone whispered.

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