That night was the first time Harry had dreamed since the battle. He was running through a forest. Someone was following him, about to catch him. Faster and faster Harry ran, but his follower just increased his speed as Harry did. Harry turned to look back, and tripped. His follower had caught him. Harry glimpsed his attacker's face: His eyes were red and looked uncannily like a snake's. His face was as pale as a ghost. He grinned triumphantly, and laughed a high pitched, cold laugh–
With a start Harry woke up, sweating and panting, and looked around frantically. Gradually his breathing slowed and he lay down again. He had been stupid to think that a couple of nights nightmare free meant that he had rid himself of the dreams for good. After a while it became clear to him that he wasn't going to fall asleep again, so he got up, grabbed his cloak, and tiptoed out of the room, careful not to wake a snoring Ron.
The sun had barely risen by the time Harry made his way out of the Burrow's kitchen door and towards Padfoot, who was eagerly awaiting him with his tail wagging furiously. Harry dug his wand out of his pocket and conjured a red rubber ball and threw it, and Padfoot bounded out after it. It felt good to engage in such a simple activity, allowing Harry's brain to keep from mulling over the battle.
He had been out there for about an hour when the screen door slammed. Harry looked around and saw Ginny walking towards him, fully dressed and carrying a cup of tea. She stopped when she saw Harry, but then continued on and sat down between him and Padfoot, who was panting with his tongue hanging out.
“Hey,” she said quietly.
“Hey,” said Harry, just as quietly. He turned to look at her, and inhaled the flowery perfume that he loved. She was smiling slightly and watching Padfoot as he panted in the grass beside her.
“He's cute,” she said. “What did you name him?”
“Padfoot,” said Harry. “'Cause he looks like Sirius did in his Animagus form– ”
“I know,” said Ginny, striking Harry silent. She sighed, and patted Padfoot absentmindedly.
“Why are you out here so early?” Harry asked, cursing himself and his awkwardness.
“Couldn't sleep,” she shrugged. “You?”
“Same,” said Harry.
The silence between them was thick, like mud, and Harry stared at the Burrow as if it would somehow provide him with the right words to say. Even the kiss when Harry was in the hospital wing hadn't broken the awkwardness between them; the bad memories of the past year and when Harry had broken their relationship off. The brief time that Harry and Ginny had been together had been some of the happiest months of Harry’s life, but after he had broken it off with Ginny, they had never been as close. Harry hoped that he and Ginny could put this behind them and regain the relationship they had once shared.
“Ginny, look,” he said, trying to ignore his dry throat and the awkwardness that seemed to blow in the wind. “I'm really sorry about all of last year, and leaving you, and everything...”
Beside him she stiffened and stopped patting Padfoot, who let out an indignant bark.
“You're too damn noble,” said Ginny, after she had resumed patting Padfoot. Harry looked at her, confused. “Of course you had to take off and save the Wizarding world. Of course. I don't blame you for that.” She paused, and looked at the Burrow, but Harry could tell that she wasn't really seeing it. “Last year was hard, Harry. You have no idea... I mean, you and Ron and Hermione escaped Voldemort and got captured and tortured and starved yourselves and everything, but you don't know what it was like at Hogwarts. We saw three different Death Eaters everyday! We lived with them! They targeted me because some stupid Slytherin told them that I used to be your girlfriend! You stopped that by killing Voldemort. We could still be there, if it wasn't for you. I don't blame you. It's just hard.” She stopped, almost as if she was astonished at herself for laying her heart out on the table. But Harry was sure she had known what she had been doing, for Ginny looked at him expectantly, and he at her.
Before they knew what they were doing, they leaned into each other over Padfoot. He was looking at her face and her lips, and she at his. Their faces were barely an inch apart now, and their lips met. He was kissing her with a vigor, and she responded with enthusiasm.
Then the door of the Burrow banged open.
“Oi!” shouted Ron. He had come running outside and had a look of absolute fury on his face. “You!” he said, and pulled his wand out. “Get your hands off my sister! You said that you'd leave her alone!”
“Now listen here!” said Ginny furiously, and scrambled upright to her feet. “Harry left me so that I would be safe! So that Voldemort wouldn't target me! And now Voldemort's dead, so you can stop sticking your filthy nose into my business, and let me figure it out!”
“I know what's best for my sister!” Ron shouted! “So it's up to me to help you when you don't know what's good for you!”
“Oh, that's rich, Ronald,” snarled Ginny, and she pulled her wand out as well. “Hermione has been pining over you for years and you haven't noticed her until this year! How do you know what's good for me if you don't know what's good for yourself? For the friend that you've known for years!”
“Don't. You. Go. There,” hissed Ron, trying to push past Ginny so he could turn his wand on Harry.
Ginny laughed a manic laugh, and then she said, “Have you ever considered that this is your so called 'best mate'? Or that he's the one who got us out of that hell we were living in? And he's the one who is going to hurt your 'precious, sweet, weak sister'! Get your facts right, Ronald. If Harry isn’t good enough for me, well, according to you, nobody is going to be good enough for me!” She pocketed her wand and shoved Ron to the ground, and then entered the house, the door slamming behind her.
Ron got to his feet unsteadily and turned to face Harry with a scowl on his face, who had also risen.
“Ron – ” he said, but Ron held up his and Harry fell silent.
“I don't want to hear it. But if I ever find out that you've left her again, or hurt her in any way, I'll curse you all the way to next year. You got that?”
Harry nodded, and Ron turned back to the house, also slamming the door behind him.
It was Hermione who broke the news to him.
“Harry,” she said gently, just as he had pushed his breakfast plate away, “Remus and Tonks's funerals are today.”
Harry froze as his stomach lurched and wished he hadn't eaten so much for breakfast.
“Andromeda only owled us yesterday afternoon, and we forgot to mention it to you,” said Mrs. Weasley by way of explanation.
Harry nodded sadly.
“Harry,” said Hermione again, this time even more gently, and he looked up startled. What could be worse than a funeral? “They're holding the funeral at Godric's Hollow. Apparently in Remus's will it said that he wanted to be buried with your dad.”
Everyone seated around the table looked up quickly to gauge Harry's reaction. It seemed as if no one had forgotten the scene of Voldemort's burial.
He merely gave a quick nod and said, “When is it to be held?”
“In about an hour, so we should get ready,” said Hermione. She gave Harry another concerned look. “Are you sure that you're all right, Harry? You've been quiet.”
“I'm fine,” said Harry quickly. He wasn't sure that any of the Weasleys other than Ron had known that he and Ginny had previously dated, but he couldn't get the fight out of his head. Throughout the whole meal Ron and Ginny hadn't spoken a single word to each other.
So an hour later the Weasley family and Harry and Hermione Apparated to a point just beyond the neighborhood of Godric's Hollow in order to not be seen by Muggles. They walked past Harry's demolished house, the others pausing to read the plaque but Harry determinedly not looking at it, and to the graveyard, which was already full of members of the Order and Aurors alike; most likely colleagues of Tonks.
A woman holding a baby stood alone among the graves. Once in awhile people would go up to her, and Harry was startled to recognize the woman whose house he had stayed in after his removal from Privet Drive the last summer. The group slowly made their way up to Andromeda Tonks, whose face was pale and deeply lined as if she had aged over twenty years in the past year alone. But Harry remembered it was not only a daughter and son-in-law that she had lost, but her husband as well.
He reached her first. “I'm so sorry, Mrs. Tonks.”
She turned to face him, and he wondered if she remembered that when he had first met her he had accused her of being her sister, Bellatrix. A sad smile graced her lips and she said, “It isn't your fault, Mr. Potter. From what Molly tells me you tend to take the weight of the world upon your shoulders.” Harry stood there stunned as Molly Weasley stepped forward and the two women embraced.
“And this can't be Ted!” Molly exclaimed, referring to the baby in Andromeda's arms.
“Yes, this is Teddy,” said Andromeda vacantly, before she burst into tears and allowed herself to be pulled into another hug by Molly.
“There there, dear,” Molly soothed as Andromeda tried to pull herself together. Molly took Teddy out of Andromeda's arms and cooed at him while Andromeda wiped her eyes and turned to Harry.
“Harry, this is your godson,” she said in a shaky voice. Harry stared at her. After all that had happened, it had completely slipped his mind that Remus had made him Teddy's godfather, and he wondered with a jolt if this simple act of forgetting was a sign that he was the complete wrong person for the job.
“Oh, that’s right!” exclaimed Molly with delight. She turned to Harry, who was standing behind her and said, “Here, Harry. Hold him.”
Harry stared at her with no small amount of trepidation, and then at Teddy, who was sleeping peacefully in Molly’s arms. Reluctantly he held his hands out, and Molly passed the baby to him with instructions to support the head.
Teddy couldn’t have been more than a month old. However as he shifted arms his eyes blinked open and he started to wail, and Harry bounced him up and down, unsure of what to do. Molly and Andromeda beamed at him. After a few minutes Teddy began to calm down. Harry felt oddly relieved.
Teddy blinked at him and Harry nearly dropped the kid in shock when he screwed his face up and his hair turned black and his eyes green. Andromeda merely chortled and said, “He does that to anyone he likes, Mr. Potter. Think of it as a compliment.” She sighed forlornly. “It seems that Remus and Nymphadora knew what they were doing when they named you his godfather. I must admit that I was against the idea. Too reckless. Though it looks like you’ve shaped up just fine.” She sniffed and they stood there for a couple more minutes, until the people who had congregated in the graveyard started to take their seats in the rows of chairs that had been set up.
Harry quickly passed Teddy back to his grandmother and took a seat next to Ginny, who was also beaming at him. “He’s a little sweetheart, isn’t he?” she whispered, and Harry nodded and allowed himself a brief smile, before he turned his attention back to the front where the two coffins were. After a while a man stood up to speak, and with a pang Harry realized that it was the same man who had presided over Dumbledore’s funeral and Bill and Fleur’s wedding.
He didn’t really pay attention to the words that the man was saying, but from what Harry did hear didn’t seem to do justice to the lives that Lupin and Tonks had led. There were many tears surrounding them, but Harry did not cry. He could feel himself breaking inside but he did not cry. He felt as if he had already said his goodbye when he had used the Resurrection Stone. After a while the man stopped speaking and Kingsley stood up, and Harry looked at him and gave him his full attention.
Kingsley spoke of the love that Lupin and Tonks had found even in times of trouble and prejudice, their sacrifice in the hopes of creating a better world to live in, and the son that they had left behind. Then Kingsley sat down, and the caskets were lowered into the ground. It was then that the screams and wails of Teddy could be heard.
Harry stayed in his seat for a while before he rose and made his way throughout the graveyard, searching for his parent’s graves. No one intercepted him as he made his way through the stones; it was as if they knew what he was doing and didn’t want to interrupt him in his grief.
Even though Harry had been to the graveyard once before it took him awhile to find the graves, as his visit had been almost six months before and in the dark. When he at last located the brilliant marble with the words JAMES POTTER and LILY POTTER engraved into it, he was surprised to see that there were already flowers at the base of the stone. He guessed that someone had taken advantage of the funeral to visit the Potters. Harry pulled his own wand out and moved it in a circular motion and a bouquet of lilies fell into his hands, and he carefully placed them next to the other flowers, which were daffodils.
Then he stood and made his way out of the graveyard. Hermione and Ginny were waiting for him at the gate. “Are you okay, Harry?” asked Hermione anxiously.
“Yeah,” said Harry.
Hermione looked at him in concern, and then said, “Well anyway. Mrs. Weasley is looking for you.” Harry nodded and followed her and Ginny to where Molly was talking with Minerva McGonagall and Kingsley Shacklebolt.
“You were looking for me?” he asked.
“Oh, yes dear, of course,” she said. “Kingsley and Minerva wanted to talk to you.”
Harry turned his gaze to the witch and wizard standing before him, who were both scrutinizing him as if they’d never seen his face before.
Professor McGonagall broke the silence first. “We’ve made some changes with the following year,” she said. Harry raised his eyebrows. “After a meeting with the school board, it has been decided that all students in fourth year or above will retake this past year over the summer in a three-month course. First through third year will just have to retake the year again.”
“Sorry, Professor, but why is it so important that I know?” asked Harry. It seemed a little ridiculous to pull him aside just to tell him the change in school plans, even if he was Harry Potter. Kingsley chose to answer this time.
“Well, Harry, if you're half as powerful as Molly says you are, then it would extremely ridiculous for you to complete a complete year at Hogwarts. The course work would be simply too easy for you. And I must say, if the school board hadn't come up with the change I would have suggested it.”
Harry idly wondered if he should feel perturbed that Molly was telling people about his new found abilities, but then he brushed the thought aside. After all, he did trust Kingsley and Professor McGonagall. He knew that Mrs. Weasley wouldn’t tell anyone that didn’t need to know.
“You and your fellow seventh years can complete their N.E.W.T.s during the summer, Potter,” said Professor McGonagall. “But I must confess that I am curious. Would you care to demonstrate your abilities?” Harry gave her a rueful smile as he once again lifted his wand and the silver stag flew out of it. “Impressive,” said Professor McGonagall at last. “It usually takes years of training before wizards can do a corporeal patronus, much less one that was produced nonverbally.”
“That was an extraordinary piece of magic, Mr. Potter,” said a new voice who had come up behind him. Harry turned around to see the man who had spoken. He was of the same build as Kingsley, with brown hair and a beard that was streaked with gray, and wore a friendly smile.
“Gawain!” exclaimed Kingsley. He turned to Harry. “Harry, I'd like to introduce you to a friend and colleague of mine and the head of the Auror office, Gawain Robards. Gawain, as I'm sure you already know, this is Harry Potter.”
“I did know that bit of information,” laughed Robards as he stuck his hand out for Harry to shake. He seemed like the friendly and likeable sort, although Harry didn’t like the mention of his fame. “Now Mr. Potter, Kingsley told me that you might be interested in becoming an Auror. Does the career path still appeal to you?”
“Er...” said Harry, caught by surprise, but Gawain merely laughed again and said,
“Well, I'd be rather impressed if you had made your career decision already. But I would like you to know that the Auror office would be open to you at all times, as it would be to your friends Miss Granger and Mr. Weasley. But I would highly encourage you to attend this summer program at Hogwarts to get the needed N.E.W.T.s so you can qualify. Just send me an owl once you've made your decision.”
“Thank you, sir,” said Harry earnestly as he shook Robard's hand again. “It means a lot to me.”
“Think nothing of it,” laughed Gawain. He tipped his hat at the three of them and said, “Nice to be seeing all of you. But I really must be going. Don't forget to owl me your decision, Mr. Potter!”
Harry waited until he was out of sight before he turned back to Kingsley and Professor McGonagall. “Is he always like that?” he asked weakly.
Kingsley chortled. “I'm afraid so, Harry. But you couldn't find a man who knew more about the dark arts and defensive spells then he does. He's the perfect man for the job, even if he doesn't seem like the likely type.”
Harry wasn’t quite sure if he liked Gawain Robard’s persona, but as the man was most likely going to be his new boss, he would just have to get used to it.
A/N: Hello to my wonderful readers! Even though the general consensus was for shorter chapters, they all seem to be getting longer and longer. I apologize for the delay, and as always, please review!
Edited and updated January 20, 2013. Thanks to Magapple for her efforts.
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