Chapter 44 : Chapter 44 Catch Up
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There had been no objection when Tonks had settled the little baby into Harry’s arms, no moment of hesitation where he feared that he would cry, or that he didn’t know how to hold him. Even with a new splint on his swollen and broken arm, holding Teddy came easily to Harry, and to his great relief, Teddy made little fuss of the new person he had been passed to. Sinking down onto the couch, Harry had laid down with the baby across his chest, Tonks helping to settle him by tempting him with his thumb. Ginny had hovered nearby, watching him with a smile until she sat down on the end of the couch and watched the two of them.
“He’s so tiny,” Harry commented, observing his tiny finger nails and his petite little fingers.
“Why don’t you say that to Tonks?” Ginny dared, rubbing his ankle gently, her other hand holding an ice pack over the healed wound on his thigh.
Harry smiled at this, not daring to laugh too hard lest he disturb Ted’s tranquil little world. Checking the edges of the knitted blanket, he ensured that no cold draught would get through, finally relaxing back against the arm of the couch. His body squirming in effort to get comfortable, Ted’s eyes flickered closed a few times as he yawned around his thumb. Seeing this, Harry automatically began to yawn, and he began to feel drowsy again, the renewed dose of pain potion beginning to fully set in. With Ted content on his chest and Ginny rubbing his ankle, Harry began to fall asleep again, perhaps even getting a few minutes of rest before something woke him.
There was a hearty rumble from Ted’s lower half, and upon looking at him, Harry couldn’t help but chuckle at the intense look of concentration on his face. He could both hear and feel the subsequent squelch that came from Ted’s nappy, and the pungent smell that followed confirmed Harry’s suspicions. Seeing his look of distaste, Ginny snickered at him.
“Err…Tonks?” Harry called over the back of his couch. “We have a situation here.”
“I heard the situation,” Tonks replied, her chair scraping loudly as she pushed back from the kitchen table.
She wandered into the lounge room, twirling her wand around in her fingers before throwing back the knitted blanket that was keeping her son warm. They all pulled a face, the smell of the full nappy hitting them with full force before Tonks vanished the mess. Checking his clothing, Tonks gave Ted a quick pat on his rear before replacing the blanket, looking at him fondly.
“Tell me when you’re sick of him,” she said, wandering back into the kitchen. “Looks like I’ll be putting him back to bed.”
“That’s okay,” Harry said, watching as Ted spat out his thumb and smacked his lips together. He closed his eyes, his freed fist clenching into Harry’s shirt as he too closed his eyes. “Don’t let me fall asleep,” he instructed Ginny, gently stroking Teddy’s blonde hair. When Ginny had told him of Teddy’s brilliant blonde hair, he had initially feared he would resemble the Malfoys. He was quickly relieved of this fear though, his button nose and full cheeks clearly resembling Tonks.
“I won’t,” she said offhand, though she too appeared somewhat tired as her hand stilled on his ankle.
“Tired?” he asked in concern. It was only mid-morning. At least he had potions he could blame.
“Hmmm,” she murmured, blushing as she stretched out alongside him on the couch, her feet coming to rest by his hips. “Some bloke kept me up all night.”
“Must have been some bloke,” he grinned, somewhat grateful that his face was shielded by Teddy. He closed his eyes, just for a moment.
Ginny chuckled, poking him in the side with her foot before they both settled again. “Don’t go to sleep.”
“I’m not,” he denied, opening his eyes again. He could sense her rolling her eyes from the other end of the couch, and too tired to tease her some more, he closed his eyes again, conceding defeat to the sedative qualities of the pain potion. He could hear her talking to him, berating him for going to sleep, but the warm weight on his chest only pushed him closer to sleep.
When he awoke, it was to the sound of discontent from the baby across his chest, Teddy wriggling in his arms. He gave a soft cry, his face screwed up before emitting a louder one. Alarmed, Harry carefully sat up, cradling Teddy and looking to Ginny for help.
“What’s wrong with him?” Harry asked quickly, instinctively patting him on the back. Still not content, Teddy wriggled in his arms, his tiny fists clawing at Harry’s shirt.
“It’s alright,” Remus soothed, appearing out of nowhere and taking one look at the baby. “He’s just hungry, I think.”
“Oh, right,” Harry said, sitting up straight and looking at Remus pointedly. Getting the hint, Remus gladly took the baby from him, allowing Harry to breath in relief. He didn’t want his godson to go hungry, even for a few moments.
Teddy continued fussing as Remus began to cradle him in his arms, ticking the corner of his mouth with his little finger. “I’m afraid you’ll have to do with some formula,” he told him, giving a short nod when Ted hungrily took his finger in his mouth.
“Where’s Tonks?” Ginny asked, she too sitting up. She and Harry exchanged a worried glance.
“She’s just ducked out for a little while,” Remus answered as he and Teddy wandered into the kitchen. “Go back to sleep, Harry. I’ll wake you before the Order arrives.”
Remus didn’t sound deceptive in his explanation, and so Harry reluctantly lay back down on the couch, pleased when Ginny got up and came to lay by his side. Pulling the blanket from the top of the couch onto them, Harry pressed up against the back of the couch to make more room for Ginny, who settled her head on his shoulder. Beneath the blanket, she touched the place on his chest where Teddy had been laying.
“He’s very warm, isn’t he,” she commented, careful not to touch him too firmly.
Harry nodded in agreement, checking her watch to find that it was still only mid-morning. Slipping his arm around her properly, Harry stroked the exposed skin on the back of her neck, feeling her slipping away to sleep as fast as he was. For the first time in recent days, Harry began to dream again, despite Ginny who slept right beside him, despite the potions that had led him to sleep in the first place.
He was cold, sitting at Kings Cross station once again, and he knew in the back of his mind that the voices and screams for help would start any minute. Until then he sat restlessly, strumming his fingers against his knees as he tried not to think about what had happened, about how cold the water was that he was continually plunged into. It was colder now than it was then, and Harry shivered violently. The screaming began, as he knew it would. Ginny was calling for him, begging him to help her, and for a moment Harry wanted to pretend it wasn’t happening. He would never find her anyway…he never did. The expected cries of a baby soon joined the chorus, and for the first time Harry recognised the cries as belonging to Teddy.
“Harry.” Ginny’s soothing voice came through the chorus, immediately pulling him from his dream and abruptly dumping him back into reality.
“Harry,” she whispered, propped up on her elbow beside him and gently shaking his shoulder. “Wake up, you’re just dreaming.”
“I know,” Harry murmured, opening his eyes and seeking her out.
She looked at him in concern, but didn’t press the issue. Instead she raised her hand towards him and pressed her fingers against his lips. “Shhh,” she said, looking towards the kitchen before she lay back down beside him. “Listen.”
Surprised by her strange words, Harry allowed her to settle back against his shoulder, his heart rate slowing as he tried to catch his breath. Following her instructions, he listened intently, a moment later hearing hushed voices. Tonks had returned, and she and Remus were engaged in what sounded like an argument, though their voices were hushed. Harry struggled to listen, and he carefully adjusted his position to allow him to sit up a little. Seeing only the back of the couch, Remus and Tonks were unaware that they had an audience.
“…I know how he’ll react, but we need to do this sooner, rather than later,” Tonks insisted.
Remus’ reply was softer, unintelligible, but Tonks responded to it forcefully.
“He needs to confront this now. He needs to figure out where he stands, how he feels. The longer we put this off, the harder it will be for him.”
There was the soft chink of a mug against the table, and Harry could picture Remus putting it down. “Dora, we constantly underestimate the horrors that Harry has experienced from that man. Just because you are rational enough to see all sides of an argument, doesn’t mean that he is.”
“I don’t completely trust him either,” Tonks was quick to reply. “And I haven’t forgotten what Harry has been through, I saw it first hand, remember? But Snape has been helping him, he can’t deny that.”
“Harry won’t see it like that, and I wouldn’t expect him to. From what Harry knows, this is the man who betrayed and murdered Albus, right in front of him. He took Harry from his home, he tortured him, and who helped track and capture him. We cannot deny that we owe Harry’s life to him for saving him from Malfoy, but one act alone is not going to erase all of what Harry knows. Snape needs to prove himself to Harry.”
“That’s what I’m saying!” Tonks whispered loudly, her frustration growing. “They need to see each other, and soon.”
“No,” Remus said firmly. “You didn’t see how he reacted when he saw Snape when he first awoke. For Merlin’s sake, Harry hasn’t even recovered yet! He’s had a cup of coffee since he’s been awake, he’s got a broken arm and he’s in pain. It’s too soon to force this confrontation on him now.”
There was a long silence, Harry’s embrace on Ginny tighter from listening to that conversation. They both held their breath, waiting for them to continue. Tonks began to say something, her words too soft to hear until Remus cut her off.
“I said no, that’s final. Let him get through today, with seeing the Order, and we’ll talk to him tonight. You need to tell Severus to stay away.”
There was another long silence. Harry and Ginny were painfully still, trying to hear what else was going to be said, but neither Tonks nor Remus said anything for the longest time. Waiting, Harry tried to relax, but the prospect of what Tonks expected was too much to push to the back of his mind. He was confused, now more so than ever, and he found himself screwing up his eyes against Ginny’s hair as he tried to think. The dreams about Snape were strange enough as it were, but to hear Tonks say that he had been helping him sent his head spinning. What did she mean? Did Snape claim to have helped him before what had happened at the Malfoys?
“You alright?” Ginny whispered to him, gently placing her hand over his.
He realised that he was holding her a little tightly, and so he relaxed his grip and gave a short nod. Still trying to pay attention to Remus and Tonks, he indicated to her that she should stay quiet, and together they continued to listen.
There was the sound of scraping chairs, both Remus and Tonks getting to their feet. Harry listened as they bustled around the kitchen, not saying a word to each other. Did they suspect that he and Ginny were awake and listening?
“I should get going, then,” Tonks said quietly, and she sounded reluctant.
“Yes,” Remus agreed tersely, softening a moment later. “Don’t be too long. We’ve already got people arriving.”
Harry curiosity was aroused by that last remark, but he stayed still and listened as Remus and Tonks farewelled each other, sharing a kiss and a promise to be safe. He suspected she was going to see Snape, to warn him to stay away as per her husband’s instructions. The front door opened, but it didn’t close, and in the reflection from a cabinet Harry could just make out the silhouette of Remus who stood by the door. He waved to Tonks, but did not close the door, still waiting for someone outside.
Beside him, Ginny too was watching Remus’ reflection in the cabinet, both of them holding their breath as two figures appeared outside before him. There was a quiet discussion before Remus allowed the two figures inside, and as they stepped over the threshold Ginny violently tore herself away from Harry’s embrace, climbing over him in her rush to get up.
“Forge!” she exclaimed, seeing her two brothers and bounding towards them.
Fred and George’s voices were unmistakable, even after not hearing from them for months, and their arrival brought Harry straight to his feet. He stared at the twins in utter disbelief, watching as they hugged Ginny tightly, planting big wet kisses on each of her cheeks as she tried to squirm away and hold on at the same time.
“Stop it,” she gasped, still trying to hug them both at once. “Just let me say hello!”
They both released her, stepping back and grinning at her widely. Even though they were still joking around, Harry could see their relief at finally seeing their sister again, and he wondered exactly what rumours they had heard about her.
“Hullo, Sis,” they said in unison.
“What’s this we hear about you and Neville Longbottom?” Fred asked, looking her up and down.
“Really?” Ginny asked, raising her eye brows. “Eight months, and that’s what you ask me?”
“It’s a very disturbing rumour, wouldn’t you agree, Harry?” George piped up, looking over Ginny’s shoulders to where Harry stood.
Harry glanced at Remus, who was closing the door and smiling at him, almost apologetically. Shrugging, Harry turned back to the twins. “Can’t say I’ve heard a thing,” he replied, coming closer to them. “How are you guys?”
“Better than you,” George smiled, and knowing that he was injured, he hugged him gently.
“Yeah mate,” Fred agreed, hugging him also. “You look terrible, not quite your glamorous self anymore.”
“We brought you something,” George remarked.
“Despite the state our shop is in.”
“Quite a mess you made.”
“Pygmy Puffs freed…”
“Magic 8 Balls smashed…”
“That’s seven years bad luck…”
“Anyone would think-”
“That you were up to no good,” they finished together, grinning cheekily as they presented him with a shiny white toilet seat.
Harry stared at the toilet seat open mouth, having forgotten their strange sense of humour after so long. This wasn’t the first toilet seat he had been presented with, and so he chuckled and accepted the seat. “Wow, it’s still warm,” Harry commented, watching as Ginny looked to and from them with a wide smile. He hadn’t seen her this pleased in so long.
“A personal touch.”
“A very personal touch,” Harry laughed, holding the toilet seat at arm’s length. “And I didn’t get you guys anything.”
“So where’s this kid, Remus?” George asked, clapping his hands together.
“He’s just woken up,” Remus smiled, fortunately taking the attention away from Harry. “I’ll get him, shall I?”
Fred and George smirked as he left, producing another toilet seat and holding it to scrutiny. “What do you reckon?” they said simultaneously. “His name? Or a teddy bear?”
Ginny laughed. “A teddy bear, definitely.”
“A teddy bear it is,” Fred declared, tapping the toilet seat. A picture of half a dozen teddy bears appeared, each of them dancing across the seat. “Let’s just hope they don’t tickle his tush.”
Harry slipped away, heading into the kitchen and turning back around to look at Fred and George from a distance. Like he suspected most people would, they looked far older than their young age, though it was still impossible to distinguish the two of them from one another. They looked tired too, almost as tired as Harry still felt, and the desire to interrogate them flared in his belly. He wanted to know what they had been up to, where they had been and what had aged them so much. Despite this desire, he held off, knowing that they would likely enquire about what he had been doing.
Shaking his head to himself, Harry filled the kettle with water, uncomfortably aware of how much he missed his wand. The Order would be there soon, Kingsley and Mad-Eye, Sirius for sure. They would all want to know what had happened, what he had been doing that warranted them to arrange a full scale rescue. Now more than ever, he wished Ron and Hermione would turn up, so that he could consult them, could ramble aimlessly at them until everything made sense again. So much was going on….Snape the most pressing issue. It was clear now that Tonks trusted him enough to allow him inside the home where her newborn child was, that she wanted Harry to share that trust, but he was grateful Remus had put a stop to Snape’s impending visit.
Harry didn’t want to see him, not in the slightest. There was no denying that he owed a great deal to Snape, possibly even his life, but that didn’t change how he felt about him. If he never had to see that man again, he would sleep well at night. What would Harry even say to him? And in turn, what would Snape have to say? What would be his reason? His excuse for what he had done? Murder, kidnap, torture…then rescue? It made no sense to Harry at all. For a moment there was a flicker of anticipation, these questions floating through his mind unanswered. What would Snape say to him?
“You alright?” Ginny asked, startling him when she placed her hand on his waist.
He jumped at her touch, whirling his head around to look at her. “Yeah,” he said quickly, glancing back into the lounge room where Remus was holding Teddy. He offered the baby to Fred and George, who immediately backed away, waving their hands in front of themselves.
“Okay,” Ginny said patiently, trying to get his attention. “Well, the kettle’s full.”
He hastily looked back to the sink, where the kettle was full of water, the excess gushing into the sink and down the drain. Muttering under his breath at his inattentiveness, he turned off the water and tipped a little more down the sink, finally setting it on the stove to boil. Ginny offered him her wand that she could not use, for fear of her magic being traced, and he gratefully took it, tapping the kettle and setting it to boil.
“Coffee?” he offered her.
“Tea, please,” she said, slipping away to fetch some milk. “Are you hungry? I’ll make you something to eat.”
“No thanks,” he said, forcing a smile at her. He didn’t think he would manage the coffee he was making, not really wanting it.
“You haven’t eaten since you got here,” she said in concern, coming back with the milk. She stood by his side, putting her hand gently on his back in a gesture of care. “You haven’t eaten since Monday…now it’s Saturday. You should really eat.”
“I don’t want anything,” he said firmly, looking her in the eye. He softened under her gaze, turning back to the tea and coffee. “I’ve been drinking those potions, I’m fine.”
She hesitated, not wanting to nag him, but Harry could sense her preparing to say something else. She moved her hand down from his waist to his hip, pressing firmly. He flinched, recoiling away from her as he felt pain. He knew there was no bruise visible on his skin, but her touch hurt like hell.
“I can feel your bones, Harry,” she said, her eyes displaying her shock at his pain. “You look thinner than me.”
“Ginny…” Harry said patiently, focusing his attention elsewhere and stirring her tea with a little more force than necessary. He took a deep breath, knowing that she only spoke out of concern. In the back of his mind he agreed with her, the dramatic change in his weight had shocked him also. “I’ll have something later, okay?”
There was a long pause, neither of them looking at each other as Harry pushed her mug of tea across the bench to her. She thanked him softly, taking a sip. When her shoulders relaxed, Harry knew she was letting it go.
Touching her arm, he stepped closer and kissed her gently. She kissed him back, sighing against his lips before resting her head against his neck. Forgetting about his coffee all together, Harry pulled her close to him and closed his eyes, not even caring that Fred, George and Remus were likely watching them. They stood there for a few minutes, their tea and coffee abandoned in favour of each other, and they didn’t part until their solitude was broken by another arrival.
The Order meeting was being held there that day, Kingsley, Mad-Eye and Hestia Jones arriving first off and approaching Harry straight away. From the tight expression on Mad-Eye’s face, Harry could tell that he wanted to interrogate him, to find out what had happened and why he was in so much trouble, but Kingsley’s sharp gaze kept Mad-Eye at bay. As more members arrived and greeted him, Harry began to stick to the kitchen, where he and Ginny could watch the dynamics of the group without having to be involved. Like Mad-Eye, Harry was keen for answers, and the more people that arrived, the more questions he had.
By the time Tonks quietly returned home, over two dozen members of the Order were crowded around the living room, and the sanctuary the kitchen had provided was gone as the overflow of members flocked there, the newer ones introducing themselves to Harry while the others tried to find a quiet place for conversation. As Tonks arrived, she caught Remus’ gaze and gave a short nod, and he nodded back to her in approval.
“You look just mighty fine with a babe in arm,” Hestia Jones crooned at him, smiling as she stroked the top of Teddy’s head.
“What?” Harry said abruptly, paying attention again and glancing at Teddy in his arms. He had been passed around to various members, and had inevitably ended up in Harry’s arms where he had fallen asleep. Harry couldn’t bear to put him down, to put him into his lonely crib in the main bedroom, and so cradled him as best he could in his uninjured arm. Although Teddy was tiny in his arms, he was just the right weight to leave his arms feeling empty when he left, not quite heavy enough to be a burden yet.
Hestia smiled at him. “You’ll make a fine Godfather,” she replied, winking conspiringly at Ginny.
“Oh, thanks,” he said in distraction, casting his eyes around the room again. Everyone seemed to be flocking back to the living room, where they gathered around the coffee table and the edges of the room. Was this all the members they were expecting? Sirius had yet to make an appearance. Was something holding him up? Harry wondered to himself. Remus had thought he would come round rather early.
He turned his attention back to Ginny, who was now resting her head on his shoulder, looking down at Teddy. “What?” he asked suspiciously.
“When is it my turn?” she grumbled.
He glared at her, tightening his grip on Teddy. “Get your own baby.”
She laughed at this, raising her hand and touching Teddy’s foot, tracing his miniature little toes. Looking back to the lounge room, Harry waited impatiently for them to start, moving forward with Ginny when Remus ushered them over. They stood together at the edge of the room, relieved when Remus approached them.
“We’re about to start,” Remus told them quietly. “There’s a lot to discuss, so just listen for now.”
Harry nodded. “Sirius?”
“He’s coming,” Remus reassured him. “He shouldn’t be much longer.”
“What about Ron and Hermione?” Ginny asked in worry.
Remus nodded. “Kingsley will start with them,” he replied, coming to stand by Harry’s side properly.
As he spoke, a hush came over the room, and to his discomfort, most people began casting their eyes to Harry. Fortunately Kingsley came to his rescue, clearing his throat and gaining the attention of everyone in the room. Breathing a sigh of relief, Harry shared a glance with Ginny, who appeared as nervous to hear what was coming as he did.
“Thank you for coming, everyone,” Kingsley began, his slow rumbling voice commanding the focused attention of all. The room was silent. “The last few months since we have met have been particularly difficult for all, none more so than Dedalus and Gertie Diggle, whose son Kirk, was killed last month in an attack on a Muggle community.”
Harry swore under his breath. He didn’t even know Dedalus had a son. Looking around the room, Dedalus and his wife were nowhere to be seen. After a respectful silence, Kingsley began to speak again.
“Currently, our main priority is determining where Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger are. They’re not in direct danger, but they need to be told that Harry is safe again. If they’re not made aware of this soon, they could put themselves in harm as they look for him. Clark?”
“They’re not in Surrey, or anywhere in the vicinity,” the witch named Clark replied, glancing at Harry nervously. “David is still at Privet Drive on watch.”
“The Burrow is still empty,” George said solemnly.
“The Ghoul’s lonely, he’s seeking female company,” added Fred.
“Terry and I checked on the Granger house,” another wizard said. “And the grandparents in Devon, Hermione hasn’t been there, or contacted any of them.”
“What about Muriel Weasley in Scotland?” Kingsley asked.
“Haven’t been there either,” said a third wizard, sporting a thick European accent.
“Did you actually go in?” Kingsley confirmed.
“No,” the wizard said uncomfortably. “She wasn’t very forthcoming.”
“It’s not your fault,” George said with a smirk. “Aunty Muriel doesn’t like Italians.”
Kingsley nodded at this, masking his impatience very well. Perhaps Harry could learn something from him. “Go back there tonight, take Fred and George with you. If Ron and Hermione are there, there’s a possibility that they wouldn’t let you in, just on the fact that they don’t recognise you. Who was in Hogsmeade?”
“That was myself,” Mad-Eye said gruffly. “Smythe is still there watching. No sign of them.”
Kingsley nodded again, addressing the entire room now. “Finding Ron and Hermione are our main priority. We’ll need to expand our watches, keep them round the clock and in more places. Can those already in a team organise extra members?”
“They won’t be stupid in looking for me,” Harry whispered to Remus, swaying Teddy who was awakening in his arms. “Why are they so worried about them?”
Remus pursed his lips, unsure of whether or not he should answer. “They are genuinely concerned that they might endanger themselves while looking for you.”
“They know you won’t tell them what happened to you, without first consulting Ron and Hermione.”
“Oh,” Harry said, understanding completely. “I thought Mad-Eye was trying to restrain himself.”
“They don’t want to put too much pressure on you. Everyone trusts that you know what you’re doing, but to be honest, not many positive things have happened recently. The death of Kirk Diggle hit everyone hard…they just want to know what to do next.”
Shifting uncomfortably, Harry turned his focus to Teddy and trying to readjust him on his arms. His left arm began to smart, and he knew that Tonks would not heal the broken bone until the swelling subsided.
“Want your turn?” he whispered to Ginny.
“Yes,” she said, carefully taking Teddy and turning him in her arms. He rested with his back against her shoulder, watching the entire room in her embrace as she sucked on the back of his hand, content with his new view. “Isn’t that better,” she whispered to him.
Slipping his good arm around her waist, Harry moved to be closer to her, needing her close by as they listened to the rest of the Order meeting. Invariably, his eyes kept darting up to the front door, expectantly looking for Sirius. Remus had said he wouldn’t be much longer.
“How have we handled the Blasko family?” Kingsley asked a fair haired wizard standing by the door.
“They’ve been relocated, confirmed yesterday. They’ve all got new identities.”
“Florence, for now.”
“And the daughter?”
“We’re still working on her,” he replied, looking somewhat frustrated. “Aberforth is losing his patience, and security in the school is getting tighter at night.”
“What are they talking about?” Harry asked Remus.
“Kate Blasko, she’s a second year. Her father was being used by the Death Eaters to spy on us. We caught him and have relocated his family to Europe, now we’re-”
“No, what did they say about Hogwarts?” Harry interrupted him, trying to listen to both Remus and Kingsley as the same time.
“There’s a secret passage between Aberforth Dumbledore’s pub to Hogwarts. They’ve been trying to get Kate Blasko out through there…half a dozen other students have been removed that way.”
Already Harry wasn’t paying attention, trying to wrap his head around the name Aberforth Dumbledore. “Dumbledore had a brother?” he whispered. Even as he said this, he began to recall. “Right there in Hogsmeade?”
“Yes,” Remus said to him in concern. “He owns the Hog’s Head.”
Harry looked away from Remus, not wanting to show him how shocked he was. Sadness crept up inside him, and he felt a familiar pang of regret. Dumbledore had a brother living right there in Hogsmeade, and Harry had no idea. He hardly knew anything about Dumbledore. Removing his hand from Ginny’s waist, Harry left the living room and slipped out the kitchen door, not looking back to see if anyone was watching.
As he stepped outside he gave a great sigh of relief, relishing in the cool afternoon and brushing his hand through his hair. With his hands in his pockets, he wandered around the immediate area, eventually seating himself on a close by bench in the garden. Glancing back to the kitchen door, he was relieved that no one had followed him out, wanting to be alone for a while. He was beginning to feel sore again, and to his great frustration, pangs of hunger were beginning to seize his stomach, yet the very thought of food made him want to retch. Instead he put his head back against the wall behind him, closing his eyes and allowing the quiet surroundings to soothe his confusion.
It was only a few minutes until Harry heard the back door opening, and he knew who it was before he sat up and opened his eyes.
“Merlin,” Ginny muttered, coming to sit beside him. In her hands she carried a bowl of what smelled like warm chicken soup, which made Harry want to retch again. “I couldn’t stand it much longer either…the things they were talking about.”
“Like what?” Harry asked, reluctantly picking up one of the two spoons that Ginny had brought out.
“Apparently they’ve managed to prevent several attacks on Muggles, that’s how Dedalus’ son died. But they’ve been talking about informants and undercover, and the giants not cooperating. The Carrows are using students at Hogwarts to blackmail and coerce their parents and Merlin…it sounds like one hell of a mess. I was glad to get out of there.”
“Yeah, me too,” Harry muttered, fiddling with the spoon until Ginny prompted him to begin eating. The flavour was nice, but Harry held it in his mouth and breathed through his nose, stemming the immediate nausea until he managed to swallow.
Watching her, he could tell that Ginny was deliberately eating slowly, not wanting to eat it all for him, not that it mattered anyway. Harry managed a few mouthfuls before leaving his spoon in the bowl. She didn’t hassle him any further, for which he was grateful, and they sat there together until they could tell that the Order meeting was finished. Through the glass in the kitchen door they watched as Tonks entered the kitchen and glanced out at them, nodding and beckoning them inside. Taking the now empty soup bowl, Harry and Ginny went back inside, relieved to see that only Remus and Tonks remained.
“That was a pretty poor meeting,” Tonks commented understandingly. “Lots of talk about where we’re failing, and not much about what good we’re doing.”
Harry nodded, not wanting to dwell. “Where’s Ted?” he asked, his arms missing him already.
“Sleeping,” Tonks said gratefully, her shoulders sagging as she rubbed her eyes. “I think I could do with a snooze also.”
She soon turned in to her room for some sleep, while Remus set about bustling around the kitchen, preparing an evening meal. None of them spoke any further about the Order meeting, or about the fact that Sirius was yet to make an appearance. When they served dinner a few hours later and Tonks emerged from her room, the four of them sat down together in almost complete silence, making only small talk. Without discussing the Order meeting or the war, there wasn’t much left to discuss, aside from Teddy of course, who was still sleeping soundly.
There seemed to be a silent conversation going on between Remus and Tonks, sitting beside each other and exchanging meaningful glances and shrugs of the shoulder. Harry tried not to pay attention to them, taking peeking glances at Ginny from the corner of his eye in between his slow mouthfuls of food. She was looking far better than she had three weeks ago when they had rescued her from Hogwarts. Remus’ cooking had done her well, and she no longer looked skinny and stressed, and she looked happy enough to be there. Perhaps the arrival of Fred and George had relit the spark in her, for when she caught him peeking, she smiled at him suggestively.
Looking away before they were caught, Harry’s heart leapt as Teddy began to cry from the other room. Remus and Tonks’ shoulders sagged, and they looked at one another, their silent conversation continuing. Tonks sighed and rested her elbow on the table, looking pathetically tired for her husband, who appeared to be taking the hint. Remus put down his knife and fork, and began to push his chair back from the table.
“I’ll get him,” Harry rushed to say, beating Remus to his feet. “Is that alright?”
“Be my guest,” Remus said gratefully, sitting back down and winking at Tonks.
Leaving his plate unfinished, Harry rounded the table and slipped down the hallway, opening the bedroom door slowly. There was a soft light in the room, casting Ted into a light glow as he lay in his crib, his face screwed up and his fists flailing. The moment Harry stepped inside, he could smell what had awoken Ted, and for a moment he regretted his determination to attend to him. Steeling himself, he entered the room and stood by the crib, reaching in and touching Teddy’s chest.
“Hey Ted,” he whispered, feeling a little silly. “Did you have a good sleep?”
Teddy responded with another low cry, his mouth opening and closing around the sound before Harry lowered the edge of the crib and picked him up. He settled against his shoulder, his soft cries settling into a whimper as Harry stood on the spot and lightly bounced, mimicking what he had seen Tonks doing. Ted appeared to approve, for a moment later he was sucking noisily on the back of his hand again, making Harry suspect that he was hungry.
The full nappy Ted wore smelt even worse up close, and for a very brief moment Harry considered changing it the Muggle way, but quickly dismissed the idea. Wandering back out to the kitchen, he caught Tonks’ gaze.
“There’s another situation,” he smiled, gesturing to Teddy’s behind.
They chuckled at him, Tonks shaking her head before flicking her wand towards her son. An instant later the nappy was fresh, and Teddy squirmed with what must have been a very strange sensation.
“Here, I’ll take him for you,” Tonks said, reluctantly putting down her knife and fork. “He looks hungry.”
“No he’s okay,” Harry insisted, not wanting to give him up. Ted was still happily sucking on the back of his hand, looking over Harry’s shoulder. “You can have him when he starts to cry. Finish your dinner.”
“Alright,” Tonks agreed, shaking her head and turning back to her plate. She muttered something to Ginny, who laughed loudly, but Harry ignored them both.
Rubbing Teddy’s back, Harry moved into the lounge room and began to pace back and forth, dictated by Teddy who wouldn’t let him stand still. His shoulder began to feel wet from how Teddy was sucking, but it didn’t bother him, and so he kissed the side of the baby’s head gently.
“You smell really nice,” he commented softly, smiling when Teddy seemed to respond to his rumbling chest. “Maybe even nicer than Ginny.”
It was ten minutes before Teddy realised that Harry couldn’t give him exactly what he wanted, and he suddenly arched his back and cried for his mother, making Harry’s heart leap into his throat.
“Your turn,” he announced to Tonks, who had finished her dinner in peace.
“That’s right,” she teased, taking Ted and moving to sit down in the lounge room. “Give back the toy as soon as it misbehaves.”
“That’s right,” he agreed, gathering up the plates on the table and helping Ginny to wash up.
“Here,” she said, kissing him on the cheek and passing him her wand. “Can you wash?”
“Sure,” he agreed, and the kitchen was cleaned within minutes, allowing them all to move into the lounge room where Tonks sat nursing Teddy.
Ginny sat down and leant against Harry’s side, her eyes drooping despite the early hour of the evening. He suspected that she hadn’t slept much for the last few nights, and was more than happy to wrap his arm around her and make her comfortable. Behind them in the kitchen, Remus was bustling around, opening and closing the cupboards before he reappeared beside Harry.
“Would you like a drink?” he asked kindly, offering Harry an empty glass and showing him a bottle of Firewhiskey.
“Yes, thanks,” Harry replied after consideration. He didn’t need the qualities of the alcohol to find peace and quiet, Voldemort had not bothered him in days, and holding Ginny close would definitely help him sleep. Nevertheless, he accepted the drink with thanks. Ginny refused Remus’ offer, and so he poured himself and Harry a glass.
“Cheers,” he said, clinking his glass against Harry’s.
“To Ted,” Harry smiled.
“Yes, of course,” Remus replied, clinking their glasses again. “To Ted.”
The taste of the whiskey surprised Harry at his first taste, having grown complacent with the softer Muggle scotch his uncle stocked, though he quickly reaccustomed himself with the familiar burn. The four of them sat in a comfortable silence, Tonks nursing Ted as they listened to the music playing over the wireless. When the news came on, it didn’t say much of note, reaffirming Harry’s suspicion that the media was heavily influenced by the Death Eaters.
“Does the Daily Prophet say much these days?” Harry asked Remus. It had been a while since they had the time to nick a newspaper from Diagon Alley.
“No, not much,” Remus commented, getting to his feet and pouring them both another drink. “Very much like the wireless, very quiet on Death Eater activity, even though everyone knows that it’s happening daily. The Ministry has great control these days.”
“They’re still in the Ministry?”
“Oh yes. There has been a great reshuffle since the last time that you were there. More decent witches and wizards have lost jobs, many of them have been imprisoned for making a fuss. Worst of all, the wrong people have been promoted to replace them.”
“What do you mean, the wrong people?”
“Well,” Remus began, looking to Tonks for inspiration. “You’ve heard of the Snatchers, have you?”
Harry gave a low laugh, glancing down at Ginny. She appeared to be fast falling asleep. “Yeah, we’ve met a group of them.”
Remus nodded. “Well, the people I mean when I say the wrong people, are somewhat similar to the Snatchers. They aren’t Death Eaters, but they are extremists. They’re attracted to power, and to the notion of a Pureblood society. These are the witches and wizards who are promoted into higher powered jobs, where they can influence their departments and prioritise the ideals of the Death Eaters, and that’s who they report to.”
“But they’re not actually Death Eaters?”
“No, not technically.”
“You could almost say that they’re like Draco Malfoy,” Tonks began, turning Ted around nurse from her other breast.
“How so?” Harry asked, his stomach squirming uncomfortably. For the first time, it really hit him that he had allowed Malfoy to escape them.
“Well, he’s known to report directly to You-Know-Who. He’s known to commit and plot atrocious acts…but if he were ever really confronted about it, he can claim coercion. That’s the scary thing about these witches and wizards, when-”
“When this is all over, they don’t have to answer for what they’ve done,” Harry finished angrily.
“Exactly. They can go about their lives as if they did nothing wrong.”
The thought wasn’t comforting, that even after the war was over, witches and wizards who had helped Death Eaters would not be held accountable. With that in the back of their minds, they fell into silence again and continued listening to the radio. An hour or so later, Ginny finally roused and sat up, kissing Harry on the cheek before slipping off to bed. When Teddy had also settled, Tonks sat beside Harry on the couch and carefully removed the splint on his arm, inspecting it carefully.
“The swelling has reduced enough. Sorry,” she apologised, turning his arm over in her lap and making him flinch. “I’ve got to make sure it’s straight, that’s all.”
Satisfied, she healed his broken arm as effectively as she had healed his broken nose so long ago. It felt strange enough, but when he raised his arm and clenched his fist, it felt strong and pain free.
“Thanks,” he said gratefully, trying to pull down his sleeve before she took his arm again.
“That’s so curious,” she said, holding his forearm up to the light and inspecting the tattoo. “I would have never expected glass to penetrate this.”
“What do you mean?” he asked, looking at the dozen or so white marks that he bore up and down his arm. A few cuts had penetrated the skin which was tattooed with the Dark Mark, the small white scars making it look like the skull was smiling.
“Well,” Tonks began very carefully, giving him back his arm. “Many Death Eaters have tried to remove their Dark Mark before….nothing has ever made any difference. It’s just strange that yours seems to have been altered.”
“Do you think it might come off one day?” Harry asked nonchalantly, not wanting to get his hopes up.
“Maybe,” she pondered curiously. “Perhaps a Healer could perform a skin graft. Come on now, show me the cut on your leg.”
He allowed her to inspect his leg, which had healed well without further infection, though it was still sore to walk on. Feeling happier, he allowed her to inspect the reopened cuts on his chest and back, to poke and prod them as she began to remove the tape from a few of them.
“I’ve got something I want to try on these cuts,” she said tentatively, summoning a medium sized jar from the kitchen. It contained a golden gel like substance, and by the label and hand writing on the bottle, Harry could tell who had made it. “I’m told it should work quite well.”
Allowing her to smooth the gel over the cuts on his back, Harry tried to ignore the soothing sensation he experienced. “If it works so well, why didn’t he prescribe this eight months ago?”
He could hear Tonks’ sharp intake of breath, and he could tell that she hadn’t expected him to ask her this. She carried on, smoothing the gel across another wound when she answered. “It contains mainly Phoenix tears and Unicorn blood…very difficult ingredients to source.”
“Right,” he said dismissively, effectively ending their conversation.
“I need to ask,” Tonks said after a long time, having already moved on to the cuts on his front. “Do you want to see him? Surely you must have questions for him?”
Harry considered this, knowing that as much as he desperately never wanted to set eyes on Severus Snape again, he had a multitude of questions for him. “I do,” he said slowly, looking to the front door and avoiding her eyes. “But not yet.”
“I understand,” she replied, finishing up with the last cut and replacing the dressing. “There, all done.”
“Thanks,” he said sincerely, slipping his shirt back on.
She stood up, replacing the lid on the jar and wandering back into the kitchen to wash her hands. “You’re welcome. I’m turning in now,” she continued, meandering back to the lounge where he sat. “Remus has already turned in, but I’m sure he’ll be awake all night. You should turn in too.”
With a short nod, Harry unconsciously glanced to the front door, praying for Sirius to walk through it at that very moment.
Seeing his gaze, Tonks added, “Knowing him, he’ll turn up in the middle of the night, just to haul us out of our warm beds. You should go to bed.”
“I will,” he promised her, settling back against the couch despite this.
She rolled her eyes, squeezing his shoulder in farewell. “Remus has left some more clothing in your room for you. Good night.”
“Thanks,” he responded. As soon as she had left, he poured himself a little more of Remus’ scotch before screwing the cap on tightly, using Ginny’s wand to banish it back to the kitchen where he could not finish the rest of it.
Curling up on the couch, Harry tried not to close his eyes, wishing he could stay awake all night and wait for Sirius. In the back of his mind, he knew it was useless. Sirius was supposed to have arrived early that morning, Remus had said so himself. Something must have happened, and with all the talk that the Order had been discussing, Harry feared that it was something terrible. As soon as he reached the bottom of his glass, Harry hauled himself to his feet and wandered towards the front door, looking outside through the glass.
Turning away with a sigh, Harry extinguished all but a few of the candles burning, and a few minutes later he was slipping into bed beside Ginny. She was fast asleep, but the moment he touched the mattress she began to rouse, turning over and reaching out of him.
“Mmm,” she mumbled, nuzzling her face into his neck. “You smell really good. I’ve missed you.”
“I missed you too,” Harry replied, even though she was already asleep as soon as she had finished speaking.
Pulling the blankets high over them, Harry noted with approval that Ginny only wore a tee-shirt and her knickers, and so carefully stroked the back of her thigh where he could feel the remnants of three long cuts. They appeared to have healed now, no longer covered in bandages or dressings. Had Snape prescribed the same treatment for her as he had for him? Ignoring this thought, Harry very gently hitched her leg over his and settled her body against his, kissing the corner of her mouth as he too began to fall asleep.
A/N Chapter 45 coming in the next few days, and more soon after that. Thanks to my beta readers who being so quick in getting these back to me, couldn’t do it without you guys.
Currently working on the final chapter, (chapter 55) which I’m very exciting to get out to you. Please review.
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