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Harry Potter and the Heart of the Hero by jeograph
Chapter 20 : Chapter 19 - Mayhem, Mourning and Memories
 
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Chapter Nineteen
Mayhem, Mourning and Memories


Dudley Dursley leaned against the back wall of the kennel at his Aunt Marge's home and took a long drag from his second cigarette. He "shushed" the dogs that barked at his movements. Fortunately they knew him well enough to settle down, even as he remained where he was. He didn't much like being here. They were supposed to be leaving in the morning, but from the look of things he thought they would probably have to stay at least one more day.

His parents and Aunt Marge had eaten a huge, late evening meal, and now they were getting quite pissed on expensive brandy. Not that any of them could really tell the difference, but his father believed that if he had bought the most expensive bottle, it had to be the best. He looked at his watch; it was already a quarter past eleven.

The moon was nearly full and a heavy ground fog was rolling in. He pulled his new leather jacket a bit tighter. He had sat at dinner for as long as he could stand, listening to his father prattle on about how all of his investments had paid off in a grand windfall. It was a load of codswallop. Dudley knew he could be a bit thick at times but he was certain his father had never invested a penny in his life, and the money they had recently received could only have come from one source, Harry.

Dudley still couldn't figure why Harry had given them so much money just before he'd disappeared. His parents wouldn't talk about it. In fact his father had gone on and on about how pleasant it was to be rid of Harry once and for all. Dudley had been caught up in the excitement of the spending spree for most of the summer and it had not even occurred to him that Harry was gone until his father had announced that they had found a buyer for the house on Privet Drive.

He had asked his mother about it but she hadn't said much, instead trying to placate him with food. All he had been able to glean from her answers was that Harry had said it would be safer if they left Privet Drive before his birthday. Well, it was Harry's birthday and they had indeed left Privet Drive. Now they were here with his bint of an Aunt, waiting to move in to a new, much grander, house closer to London.

Dudley crushed out his second cigarette and lit a third. His parents would be furious if they caught him smoking, but he didn't care right now, and they would be too rat-arsed to notice.

The truth was, as hard as it was to admit, Dudley missed Harry and not just because he wasn't there to pick on. There was something else, something much deeper. He'd felt safer when Harry was around, and now that he had left, Dudley had been a bit of a wreck. It was the damn things he had started seeing. After Harry had saved him from, what had Harry called them? Demontaters, or something like that. It had begun gradually, so gradually, in fact that for the first year he had never believed he had really seen anything, just very short wispy glimpses of what might have been ghosts, or fairies.

Then during the last school year he had actually seen a full fledged ghost. And, it had talked to him. Dudley had been frightened of it at first, but as it kept coming around he realized it was not out to hurt him in any way, just mostly eager for someone to talk to. It turned out that it was the ghost of a former teacher at Smeltings who had unfortunately died from cancer. The man had been quite all alone in life, and found himself remaining at the school.

Dudley had tried to tell a few people that he was seeing things, but realized quickly that it was getting him nowhere. As he didn't want to be carted off to the loony bin he had quickly shut up about it.

Not quickly enough however, to prevent becoming the butt of pranks and jokes and turning into a bit of a social outcast. Not even his success at boxing had gotten him back in to social prominence. Sometime during the year he had begun to wonder if this was what it was like for Harry, being constantly picked on and ridiculed. It hadn't been all bad though, as he began to see more things, fairies and other magical creatures, at least the ghost had been able to explain what he was seeing, and informed him that he was, what the Magical world referred to as a Squib. It hadn't hurt his marks any to have a teacher constantly looking over his shoulder, explaining things and really taking the time to make sure he understood.

Dudley had intended to talk to Harry this summer, explain what was happening to him and see if Harry could offer more information. There was a lot Dudley felt bad about that had gone between him and Harry over the years. He didn't intend to apologize or anything ridiculous like that, but he felt some regret that the opportunity had been missed.

He wondered where Harry was now and he hoped that it was a good place wherever it was. After all was said and done Harry was still his cousin and he had come to the point that Dudley wished him well. "Happy Birthday Harry," he said as he glanced up at the moon.

Dudley dropped his fag end and stepped it into the dirt, figuring it was time he should be getting back in. He didn't relish the idea of listening to more of his Aunt's going on about her stupid, ugly, Bulldogs, but he seriously doubted it could be avoided.

He was about to turn back to the house when he heard something, It sounded like voices; one female, though low and harsh, and the other a raspy, growling male voice. He couldn't make out what had been said but he turned and feeling suddenly frightened he flattened himself against the kennel wall peering into the fog in the direction he thought he heard the voices from.

In a moment he was able to make out two figures entering the back garden from the field beyond the property line. They were both cloaked and hooded. As he watched intently the larger figure seemed to be removing its cloak, handing it to the other. Then to Dudley's amazement and horror, the figure dropped to the ground on all fours and began to transform into something inhuman, something Dudley could only describe as... a werewolf. He gasped, and clasped his hand over his mouth, fairly certain that he could not be heard over the whining and growling coming from the massive creature. He inched his way toward the far end of the kennel as he heard the woman speak.

"They are all yours, Greyback," the woman said cackling.

The creature howled; which set the dogs to barking wildly.

"Do as you will" she shouted over the howling, "Now go!"

The creature bounded toward the house and as Dudley turned around the corner of the kennel he saw the thing crash through the back garden door and leap upon his screaming mother.

Dudley froze with fright, he wanted to go to her aid, but more, he wanted to run. He turned quickly, and there was the woman, standing right behind him. She said a word Dudley did not recognize and there was a flash from something in her hand. Dudley found himself writhing in pain on the ground.

She grabbed him roughly by the jacket collar and pulled him up, the piercing pain in his limbs made it impossible for him to resist her.

"You must be Dudley," she said to his horror, as she dragged him, staggering, toward the house.

He could hear screaming coming from inside, the sounds of crashing and breaking furniture and the sickening sounds of tearing fabric, and flesh.

They reached the back door and standing there Dudley could see blood splattered everywhere. The body of his Mother lay torn and broken in a bloody heap on the dining room floor. The dining table was split and splintered, bits of food and broken stoneware scattered everywhere.

Gasping hard he realized that he could see parts of his dismembered father in at least four places strewn through the dining room and in to the sitting room, where beyond the overturned sofa the snarling beast was biting into and tearing chunks of flesh from the bloody mass that could only be his Aunt Marge.

The woman laughed in a sadistic and completely terrifying way as she took in the scene before them.

The creature turned, flesh in its teeth, its muzzle dripping with blood, focusing its unearthly yellow eyes, cruel with blood lust as it snarled at him. For a moment Dudley thought it would spring at him and he felt a warm wetness trailing down his right leg, soaking into his sock and boot.

The woman released his jacket collar, leaving him paralyzed with fear in the doorway.

"Scared the piss out of this one, Greyback." She laughed.

The woman stepped casually through the carnage toward the sitting room, as the beast continued to eye Dudley with intense appetite. But, it did not charge.

The woman flashed her wand at the sitting room wall and all the many framed pictures and small shelves of dog trophies and little ceramic bulldogs went crashing to the floor.

In that moment, Dudley had the absurd thought that he had always hated the ghastly felted, striped, salmon colored wallpaper in his Aunt's house.

The woman bent down and dragged the tip of her wand through a large pool of blood and raising it sent streams splattering to the wall forming letters. It read Many happy returns, and was ended by some sort of symbol that looked like a skull with a snake slithering from it's mouth.

Dudley felt command of his legs and as the beast shifted its head away, Dudley turned and ran from the house. The woman screamed something after him and he burst into flames. Intense heat took him beyond pain as he fell to the damp ground.

The snarling beast leapt over him and crashed into the kennel, followed by the woman who stepped past him, laughing.

Dudley heard intense screaming ringing in his ears. The sound seemed far away, but he realized, in his final moment of clarity that the screams were his own.

*** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***


Harry was beside himself. He paced furiously in front of the sitting room grate. He had not been able to sleep the entire night. Not being allowed to fight was weighing heavily on him. He was angry. He wanted to wade in to battle wand flashing and bring Tom Riddle to justice. He wanted to make it right!

He glanced over at Ginny who had finally succumbed to sleep on a sofa near the fireplace. And then to Ron and Hermione who were curled together asleep on a matching sofa. He wanted to keep them all safe. If that meant he had to stay out of the fighting, for now, so be it. He did not have to like it. He promised himself that one day; Riddle would face his righteous fury.

It was the quiet and the sense of helplessness that was infuriating him. He needed news. He needed to know what was happening.

Less than an hour after everyone had departed Jarvy had reactivated the Portis Omnibus and through it had come Hagrid, carrying a wounded and bleeding Helena Burgestikoff, followed by a confused, but determined looking Poppy Pomfrey, and Fleur Delacour. They had not wasted time on explanations, Harry had the Elves Apparate them all to Helena's suite and then left the healer to do her work with instructions for Winky to provide whatever Madam Pomfrey needed from the stores at the Manor.

Hagrid had said only that there were still attacks going on and he needed to get back to Hogwarts to watch the gates. He bolted back through the open portal and was gone.

Molly Weasley had come through briefly with tight hugs for all of them and explained that there had been an attack at the Burrow. She said that the wards had held and The Burrow itself was fine, but something in her voice made Harry believe there had been casualties beyond Helena. She assured her two youngest children that the family was all alive and so far unharmed. She and Arthur were remaining at The Burrow to rebuild the wards and insure its safety, while their brothers and the members of the Order along with a squad of Aurors had dispersed to other skirmish sites. That was all the news they'd been given.

Now it was early morning, the sun was beginning to rise and still there had been nothing else.

Fleur and Madam Pomfrey entered the room, both looking crisp and clean. It was Fleur's bearing and demeanor that told Harry that Helena's injuries had been severe. Madam Pomfrey assured them that Helena would make a full recovery.

Jarvy appeared and opened the Portis Omnibus, Fred, George, Bill and Charlie practically fell in to the room, their clothing was singed and covered in soot. They appeared to be unharmed and they were actually laughing.

"Cor, that Death-eater he'll not be sitting down again... for ever!" Fred said, laughing and slapping George on the back.

"Yeah, George," Bill chimed in, "Whatever made you think, in the middle of battle, with spells flying all around, to cast such a specific slashing spell on his arse?" he continued laughing.

"Dunno really," George replied, "I just kept thinking the lot were a bunch of arses, and that wanker's bum was such an easy target." He dropped heavily in to one of the nearby chairs.

Charlie had already found Madam Pomfrey with questions about Helena. They quickly left the room together.

Bill crossed the room to Fleur and pulled her in to a deep embrace. They seemed to be sharing some quiet words together when suddenly the two of them appeared to glow golden for an instant. It went unnoticed by the others as the twins were still laughing about the Death Eater's bum. Harry suspected he had just witnessed the moment of bonding between them, and he smiled at them both as they looked up with giddy expressions of wonder.

Not wanting to draw attention to them, as they seemed to suddenly be in their own little world, Harry turned to Fred and George, "so, what happened?" he asked.

Ron and Hermione, waking together on the couch, sat up and focused on the conversation. Ginny too, was rousing at the sound.

"Oh, after the skirmish at The Burrow, the Aurors said that one of the attacks was in Diagon Alley, so the four of us, and some Aurors apparated there to help out," George replied.

"The place was a right mess," Fred continued. There were a couple dozen Death-Eaters and they were smashing everything in sight, busting shop windows and setting fire to the buildings."

"There were a bunch of Aurors already there, and some of Scrimgeour's new Army recruits," George put in.

"We arrived just outside our shop, and found ourselves right on top of the Death Eaters," Fred continued. "George was brilliant! First thing he summons our supply of Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder from inside the shop and dropped the whole lot right on top of the Death Eaters. They were firing blind and we were able to get them pinned down in a crossfire."

"The buggers were persistent though, they kept right on firing at the store fronts and set most of the west end of the Alley ablaze," George finished.

"Was anyone hurt?" Hermione asked.

"Nah, just a few scrapes and scratches and most of that was from fighting the fires after the Death Eaters were contained," Bill responded. "I think the Aurors captured nine or ten of them, the rest finally Disapparated away."

"Is the shop okay?" Ginny asked.

"Oh," Fred responded, "total loss unfortunately."

"But, when the fireworks went up it was truly spectacular," George said. They both laughed.

"Yeah, completely distracted the Death Eaters, and helped us put a quick end to the fighting," Fred said, leaning on the back of George's chair.

"What! You mean the shop was destroyed?" Ron asked, concerned.

"Completely," Fred and George responded again in unison, "including our flat, above."

"What will you do?" Hermione asked.

"Oh, I guess we'll bunk at The Burrow for a while. Mum and Dad won't mind," Fred said.

"That's not what she meant, and you know it," Ginny interjected, "What will you do about the shop?"

"Rebuild of course," the twins answered together.

"The shop has been doing really well, and we've got quite a bit of savings," George said.

"Plus, we can still do Owl orders," Fred continued, "We might even expand."

Harry was relieved that the twins were taking their loss so well, but he was still troubled by the attacks and upset that he had not been able to join the fighting. Ginny crossed to him and took his hand. He smiled wanly at her.

"What about the other attacks?" Harry asked.

Bill stepped forward. "We really don't know much yet, Harry," he said, "After the Death Eaters were gone we spent most of the night dealing with the fires. We do know that there was an attack in Hogsmeade, and on a couple of Muggle locations, but we won't know any details until Moody comes back."

Harry took a deep calming breath and let it out slowly. "Fine," he said, visibly upset. "Why don't you all get cleaned up, and maybe have a quick kip. I'll tell Jarvy to have breakfast for everyone a bit later." He looked at the twins. "You can use one of the guest rooms to clean up and I'll have Dobby see what he can do about your clothes."

"Brilliant, Harry. Thanks," George said, getting up from the chair he was sitting in.

Dobby appeared and bid the twins follow him. With a snap of his fingers the soot was banished from the chair where George had been sitting.

Ginny took Harry's other hand and looked up into his emerald eyes. "It's all going to be alright Harry," she said with deep concern. "You need to sleep a bit yourself, c'mon." She turned and pulled him toward the door. He followed still clearly upset by the night's events. "Hermione, could you send Dobby to wake us when we start getting actual news?"

Hermione smiled and nodded, as they left the room.

Ron turned to her looking a bit perturbed, "Ginny shouldn't be going to Harry's room with him." He frowned.

Hermione frowned back at him, "They were alone together all yesterday afternoon and you are worried about it now?" she said in a slightly scolding voice. "Quit being an overprotective brother for a minute and just be a friend."

Ron nodded, a little ashamed.

Hermione took his hand, "besides we could use a bit more sleep ourselves." She tugged at him and he followed. "We'll tell Dobby to wake us too."

*** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***


Harry stirred at the sound of Dobby entering the room. He was obviously trying to be quiet but the soft click of the door was enough to alert Harry to his presence. He raised his head slightly and smiled at the elf.

"Master, Dobby is come to wake you as requested," Dobby whispered. "The Moody man has returned and Mistress's parents are asking after you two."

"Thank you Dobby, we will be down in a minute," Harry replied.

Dobby smiled, seeming to consider fondly the occupants of the bed, and turned quietly, leaving the room as he had come.

Harry found himself on the bed with Ginny, her arm draped over his chest, her right leg across his right thigh, her head tucked into his shoulder. He smiled thinking how easily he could get used to this. He wished that he had been able to get some sleep. He knew he would not be able to until he heard news of what had happened during the night. He shifted slightly wrapping his arm around Ginny's shoulder and pulling her tight.

"Ginny, time to get up," Harry whispered shaking her a little.

Ginny's eyes opened and focused drearily on Harry. "Already?" she hugged herself to him, "I don't wanna," she pouted.

"Okay," Harry said, enjoying the feel and smell of her next to him, "but you get to explain when your Mum and Dad burst in here looking for us." He chuckled.

Ginny sat up suddenly, looking around the room. "Damn, you're right. I'm up." After a second she seemed more awake. She leaned down and kissed Harry deeply. "We should really do this more often," She whispered.

"I don't disagree," Harry said, "I just wish it were possible."

Ginny gave him a bright and, he thought, rather sexy smile, as she climbed from the bed. Harry watched her appreciatively as he got up and straightened his clothes.

A few moments later they were meeting Hermione and a rather bleary looking Ron at the stairs. They had also obviously decided on a nap, and apparently together as well, as they were both coming from the direction of Hermione's room.

They made their way down to the sitting room where a number of people had gathered. It wasn't everyone from the party. Hagrid had not returned, neither had Wood, Tonks, or Shacklebolt. It was quite obvious that it had been a very long night for all of them.

Seeing them enter the room, Moody called the room to order.

"As we all know there were several Death Eater attacks last night," Moody growled. "The main attacks have been reported at, The Burrow, Diagon Alley, Hogsmeade, and..." Moody paused, looking directly at Harry, "number four Privet Drive, in Surrey. All of these attacks were accompanied by the Dark Mark. I have spent much of the morning at the Ministry debriefing with the Aurors. We are awaiting any other information on associated attacks within Muggle communities, but no other Dark Marks have been reported."

"The Dursleys?" Harry asked rather emotionlessly.

"The house at Privet Drive was empty Harry," Moody assured him. "Your Aunt and Uncle had moved from the property," he paused, "the house was burned to the ground. The implanted cover for the Muggles is that there was an electrical fire caused by faulty wiring. The present welfare of your Aunt, Uncle and cousin is unknown. My agents indicated yesterday that they were leaving Privet Drive for an undisclosed location. Diggle and Cranbrooke, who are currently assigned to the Dursleys, have not checked in. This in itself is not unusual as watching the Dursleys is a rather..." he paused, "dull assignment," he paused again, waiting for Harry to nod his understanding. "Unfortunately there was one casualty associated with this attack. Miss Arabella Figg, a former member of the Order, was found dead in her home, victim of the Avada Kadavra. Most likely, she was tortured for information and, assuming that she had no information to give, she was killed simply because she was a Squib."

Harry moved to a couch and sat heavily. Ginny sat with him and squeezed his hand reassuringly.

Moody continued, "The attack on Diagon Alley was thwarted by Aurors and members of the Ministry's Army, along with Bill, Charlie, Fred and George Weasley. I am pleased to report that there we suffered no casualties in this attack, though there was significant property damage. The whole of the west end was destroyed by fire from the entrance to Knockturn Alley, right up to Weasley's Wizard Wheezes. The fires were contained early this morning, and clean up is already under way. The Ministry has ten Death Eaters in custody from this altercation."

There was a brief applause and the Twins couldn't help but stand and bow.

"The attack in Hogsmeade was thwarted by Aurors, members of the Army, a few local residents, Alex, Kingsley, Remus, Tonks and me. Several stores were destroyed along the high street and there were a number of casualties. Two Aurors and eight young Army recruits were killed in the battle. I will have a list of the names of these brave men and women later today. To their credit and that of all the combatants no less than eighteen Death Eaters were killed, and a dozen more are now in custody with the Ministry."

There was no applause accompanying this report.

Moody continued, "Upon leaving here last night we entered into an altercation at The Burrow. The wards were still holding when we exited the house. There were at least two dozen Death Eaters attacking the wards. As we confronted them a group of ten Aurors arrived behind them. Clearly they did not anticipate so many would be present at The Burrow, and it was the strength of our numbers that ended the altercation quickly. Regrettably, Helena Burgestikoff was badly wounded in the battle, and I am personally saddened to report the death of Oliver Wood."

Harry sank deeper into the couch; Ginny could feel the anger building in him.

"Madam Pomfrey," Moody said, "Would you be kind enough to tell us Helena's condition?"

"Certainly, Mr. Moody," she stepped forward a little and cleared her throat. "Miss Burgestikoff was the victim of at least two slashing curses. The slashing damage was confined mostly to her front torso and left side. It would then appear that she turned to protect her injuries and took a blasting curse to her right side, which extensively damaged her right arm, shoulder and ribs. If not for Miss Delacour's quick actions, she would surely have died."

Charlie sobbed lightly, and was immediately comforted by Mrs. Weasley with a firm half hug, and by Alex with a hand on his shoulder.

"It was a very good decision to bring her here rather than returning to Hogwarts as was my instinct. Wherever here is, and I am not asking, it is apparently as well stocked with medicinals, potions and surgical equipment as any place I have ever visited short of St. Mungos," Madam Pomfrey, paused for a moment.

Harry caught Moody's eyes during the pause and he winked with his natural eye, nodding slightly.

"With the assistance of Miss Delacour, and a very efficient Elf, I was able to de-curse and knit her internal injuries. Her bones have all been reset with the exception of her right Humerus, Radius and Scapula, which were so extensively shattered that it was easier to banish them and repair the tissue damage. She was given a blood replenisher potion as well as a number of potions for pain, healing and sleep. Right now she is in an induced sleep that should last at least seventy-two hours, at which time I shall return and commence treatment to re-grow her missing bones. If all goes accordingly she should be completely healed in four or five days."

"Thank you, Madam Pomfrey," Moody said sincerely, "your services to the Order have been, as always, exemplary."

Madam Pomfrey, bowed lightly, and stepped back.

"That is everything we know at present about the events of the night," Moody continued. "There were also a few incidents of magic use in Muggle areas, but as no indication of the Dark mark was present, these were made low priority and are being investigated as we speak. Such events are not unusual and may be unassociated with the Death Eater attacks. The Minister has promised a full report as soon as the Aurors have finished their investigations. I will provide information on any services for Mr. Wood, and Miss Figg, once the next of kin have been contacted. Thank you everyone for all your efforts. While we mourn our losses, I would ask you to remember that all things considered these skirmishes should be regarded as a victory for the Ministry and the Order."

There was a short round of half-hearted applause.

"For now, I suggest that we avail ourselves of the hospitality and safety provided here at the Manor, and then retire to our individual homes to catch up on much needed rest. Thank you everyone," Moody finished.

The subdued group moved a bit slowly, but eventually gathered around the provided breakfast buffet.

The mood of the room seemed to lighten a little as people formed small groups at the tables. Harry picked at his food, still trying to manage his building anger.

A few minutes later Shacklebolt and Tonks entered the room. Tonks went to Lupin and began speaking with him in a whisper, as Kingsley went directly to Moody and handed him what looked like a Muggle newspaper and a sheaf of parchment. Moody examined the parchment and then opened the paper, looking at it with an unreadable expression. He immediately approached the table where Harry, Ginny, Hermione and most of the Weasleys were seated. Lupin and Tonks approached as well.

"Miss Granger," Moody addressed Hermione. At the sound of her name she paled. "We have received word that one of the Muggle sites where magic was used was in Brentwood, outside of London."

Hermione heart leaped in to her throat at Moody's words.

"It appears that your parent's home was targeted. The house was turned over but there is no indication of a fight of any sort. Your parents have not been located. Have you any Muggle means of contacting them?"

Hermione seemed frozen with fear for a moment, but it passed quickly and she burst into action opening her small handbag and digging through it frantically. She pulled out a small rectangular bit of something, obviously Muggle made with numbers on it. "Yes," she said, a bit too loudly, "my mobile!" she was tapping at the numbers, and pressed the thing to her ear. "Damn!" she said, "no signal!" She looked slightly panicked.

"It must be the wards," Ron put in. "let's go to the Burrow where we can get outside of them quickly. He was already standing and offering his hand to Hermione. Hermione looked at her boyfriend in amazement; she took his hand and they left at a run.

"Fred, George," Arthur Weasley said suddenly, "please go with them for safety."

The Twins did as their father asked without hesitation.

"Harry," Moody turned to him. "The other attack was at a country cottage outside Shrewsbury." Harry gave no indication of understanding. "It was your Aunt Marge's home."

Harry suddenly understood, inhaling deeply. "The Dursleys," he asked, "are they dead?"

"I am sorry, lad," Moody said, as he set the paper down in front of Harry. "I am afraid the Muggle authorities beat us to the site."

Harry looked at the large front page photograph of the Shrewsbury Gazette, under the bold banner which read, "MURDER IN QUIET COUNTRY COTTAGE." The picture was of the wall of his Aunt Marge's sitting room and the bloody message left there. "Many happy returns," Harry read out loud as he noticed the dark mark following the scrawled words.

Ginny gasped next to him, also seeing the eerily unmoving Muggle photograph.

Harry began scanning the article.

"The Ministry has dispatched a team to deal with the matter. We recovered the bodies of Diggle and Cranbrooke, but, the Dursleys... well, it complicates things when the Muggle authorities have already gotten involved," Kingsley said.

Harry stood up, "Well it serves them right I suppose," he said angrily. No one believed that he actually felt that way.

Molly Weasley got up from her chair and pulled Harry in to a hug, as tears began to run down his face. Ginny stood and wrapped an arm around his shoulders.

"I didn't want them dead," Harry said unable to control his quiet sobs.

"I know, dear," Molly soothed, stroking his back.

"It's not them," he said, "it's everything; my parents, Sirius, Riddle has taken them all and left me alone in the world."

Molly held Harry by the shoulders at arms length and with tear filled eyes said; sternly, "Now you listen to me young man. You are not alone in this world. We are your family, and I don't want to ever hear you say such a thing again."

Harry's tear filled eyes widened and he nodded slightly. Mrs. Weasley pulled him back into a hug.

After a minute Harry pulled himself from Molly's grip and practically collapsed against Ginny. She supported him as he sobbed against her shoulder.

"I am so sorry Harry," Ginny whispered in his ear.

"Take me out of here, please," Harry whispered back.

Supporting Harry, Ginny lead him toward the door. Madam Pomfrey followed, but Moody asked everyone else to remain in their places.

Ginny, and Madam Pomfrey, lead Harry to his room where Dobby was waiting. They brought him to his bed where Ginny began to undress him and tucked him in bed. Madam Pomfrey raised an eyebrow as she observed Ginny, but said nothing. She gave some instruction to Dobby who popped away, and returned a moment later with a vial of potion.

"This is a draft of dreamless sleep, Mr. Potter," Madam Pomfrey said in her direct, no-nonsense manner, "I want you to take it now and get some sleep."

Harry nodded and took the vial, draining the liquid without complaint. He laid his head on his pillow and was instantly, deeply asleep.

Ginny's instinct was to crawl in with him, but she knew she couldn't do so with her parents in the house and Madam Pomfrey standing there. She bent down and kissed his forehead, whispering, "you will never be alone, my love."

"He will sleep now," Madam Pomfrey said. "It's best we leave him, his Elf will remain and watch over him."

"Do not worry Mistress," Dobby said addressing Ginny, "Dobby will watch over Master Harry, Dobby will always protect Harry Potter."

"Thank you, Dobby," Ginny said kneeling to address the faithful Elf, "Harry is very lucky to have you."

Dobby blushed furiously at the complement and turned to take a seat in a nearby chair.

Madam Pomfrey again with her eyebrow raised, placed her hand gently on Ginny's shoulder and turned her to leave the room. As they crossed the attached sitting room toward the hall she said, "It appears that Mr. Potter has had an eventful summer. It is obvious that this house and the three Elves I have met here belong to him."

Ginny nodded in response.

"I have noticed that the Elves refer to you as Mistress, Miss Weasley. Do you know why that is?"

"I thought it was because I am Harry's girlfriend," Ginny said uncertainly.

"That alone would not be enough for the Elves to address you so, my dear." She took Ginny's hand, chuckling slightly as Ginny looked up at her with wide eyes. "I think perhaps we should have a talk, you and I. Is there a quiet place we can sit comfortably?"

Ginny smiled and lead the kindly matron toward a comfortable seating area on the third floor landing opposite the main stairs. As they climbed the stairs Madam Pomfrey spoke again. "I think perhaps I should have a talk with Miss Granger as well before I return to Hogwarts."

Ginny smiled, and nodded.

*** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***


The remaining members of the order gathered around a single table in the sitting room. The night had taken its toll and they all looked quite worn.

"We were very lucky, weren't we?" Arthur Weasley addressed the table at large.

"We could have been better prepared," Moody replied, "we need greater communication between the Order and the Aurors. The Ministry's new Army is still in its infancy and a bit of an unknown. I will speak with Scrimgeour about better coordination. All-in-all, I was pleased with our response time and our success."

"Will attacks be more frequent now?" asked Molly.

Kingsley Shacklebolt looked at Moody for a moment and receiving a nod spoke in answer. "We think that these attacks were mostly about Harry. The events in the Alley, The Burrow and at Hogsmeade, served no real strategic purpose, other than to show that the Dark Lord's forces could reach such sites within England. They were a distraction and intended to spread fear. Still, they were very costly to he who shall not be named, given the numbers of Death Eaters we captured. We think the real goal was the attack on Harry's family. Sadly, we did not think that the Dark Lord would bother with Harry's Muggle relations, and we have to accept that our own attitudes perhaps are to blame for an insufficient effort to protect them. I personally will offer my apologies to Harry for this. Given what is happening in Eastern Europe, we think these attacks were in response to Harry's birthday and do not believe that they mark a true attack on Wizarding England, just yet."

"Poor Harry," Molly said, "He has experienced so much loss."

"Yes, he has," Moody growled, "And he is sure to experience more before this war is at an end. We must do our best to minimize further losses directly associated with him, but we are hampered somewhat by the fact that he was given a mission by Dumbledore before his death, a mission Harry will not reveal to us. All we can do is focus on the larger campaign and help however we can to ensure Harry's success."

"Oh, that Dumbledore," Molly exclaimed with frustration, "Why did he have to leave us all in such ignorance and focus so much on Harry? Harry is still so young, it's just not fair. If Albus was still with us, I'd give him a piece of my mind!"

The sound of a familiar voice clearing its throat cut through the room.

"Of that, I have no doubt Molly," came the voice from the Chocolate Frog Card, still in the base on the mantle. "And I would listen patiently, but it would not alter the fact that Harry remains central to this entire conflict."

In stunned silence everyone was looking around the room to locate the source of the voice.

"Albus?" Moody asked out loud.

"Yes, old friend, over here on the mantle," Dumbledore replied.

Lupin crossed to the mantle and retrieved the base and card, bringing it to the center of the table.

"Albus Dumbledore? How is dis possible?" Alex asked, as Lupin set the base down.

"Ah, Madam Burgestikoff, your reputation is well known to me, I am pleased to have you among us." Dumbledore replied. "In answer to your question, it was a surprisingly simple bit of magic," Dumbledore paused. "In anticipation of my impending death from a curse, I imbued this vessel with the contents of my mind. A copy, if you will. I then prepared it to temporarily receive my soul upon the passing of my physical body. I am surprised and delighted that it worked, as I felt that I had not yet given Harry all the information I have to give."

"Such a thing has only been accomplished through dark Magic!" Alex exclaimed.

The Dumbledore card chuckled, "Yes, well, it is certainly unprecedented, but I do not believe it is dark magic. I have no desire to cheat death, or alter the natural order, I simply wished a bit more time to properly fulfill what I feel is an obligation to Harry, and all of the Wizarding world. Eventually, if not interrupted, this magic will desperse allowing my soul to continue its final journey, I wanted only more time with Harry, time to help him prepare."

"You do seem vell intentioned, but I am skeptical that such a thing could be accomplished vithout the dark arts." Alex responded.

"Alex," Moody interrupted, "You have not known Albus as we have. I am inclined to believe him in this, and I detect no darkness here."

"I trust you Alastor, but this still goes against my understanding." Alex replied.

"As a teacher," Dumbledore added, "I welcome your skepticism, and find it refreshing. I encourage any examination you might wish to apply to the matter."

Alex nodded.

The room was contemplatively silent as Hermione, Ron and the twins returned. Hermione looked quite relieved as she announced that her parents were alright, and she had successfully contacted her mother. "As it turns out, they had gone to spend a few days with family friends, Ian and Barbara Chesterton. They have agreed to remain there for now, and I told them I would contact them again soon," Hermione said.

Hermione was clearly not finished, but Ron cut her off. He was pointing at the card and base at the center of the table. "That's Harry's, why is it off the mantle?" Ron demanded.

"It is quite all right Mr. Weasley," Dumbledore said, "please join us, and let's all have a nice chat shall we?"

*** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***


Harry was walking around the Quidditch pitch glad of the quiet and the solitude. The last couple of days had gone by in a blur and he was still feeling rather lost. He couldn't believe that the deaths of the Dursleys had affected him so deeply. It wasn't so much that they were killed, as the whole situation; all of the death that had surrounded him his whole life, all because of a stupid prophecy.

When he had woken from the induced sleep a few days before it was as if all his anger had left him and he just felt sad. Ron, Hermione and Ginny had all tried to talk to him, but nothing seemed to help. The Manor had gotten very busy with the arrival of Fleur's family, but Harry had for the most part been avoiding everyone. He hadn't been doing his morning meditations with Dumbledore, and he hadn't looked at the memories his Grandfather had left him. He had just been walking around the grounds like a ghost.

He knew people were worried about him, but it was as if he didn't have the energy to care. He was glad in a way that everyone was so busy with wedding preparations and looking after Helena.

Ginny had been tasked by her mother to help keep Gabrielle and her cousins busy until the wedding so even though Harry knew she was worried about him, she had not had much time to spend with him. He was okay with that as he was aware that his mood was sullen and he had not been very good company for anyone in the past few days. He needed to find a way to get past his current mood.

As he rounded the far end of the pitch he heard what sounded like the popping burst of a blasting curse on the other side of a thick hedgerow. His mind seemed to suddenly clear a bit and he drew his wand as he walked to the edge of the row.

To his mild surprise he found Alex Burgestikoff there, casting offensive spells at a number of hay bale targets. She lowered her wand upon seeing him. "Ah, hello Mr. Potter, it is good to see you out enjoying the day."

Harry stepped closer, "please," he said, "call me Harry." He moved behind her to better see the targets she was firing at. There were four stacks of hay bales at a distance of about ten meters.

"It is adwisable to get in a little practice vhen you can. Besides, it is alvays fun to blow thing up," Alex said, "I hope I vas not disturbing your valk, Harry."

"No, not at all," Harry responded, still eyeing the targets.

"Vould you like to give it a try?" Alex took a few steps back allowing Harry a clear field of vision.

Harry raised his wand and carefully aimed at the first target, "Confringo" he yelled, there was a slight trail of red light and the bottom right side of the stacked bails blew apart spectacularly.

"Very good, Harry, again." Alex urged.

Harry eyed the next target and repeated "Confringo." This time the upper left corner of the target blew apart in a hail of dust and flashing straw.

"It feels good, does it not?" Alex asked.

"Yes it does," Harry replied. He shouted twice more in rapid succession, his first spell just missing the third bale, and the last striking squarely and sending the final bale apart in all directions. Harry turned his wand in his hand, working his grip. It did feel good, perhaps it was just what he had needed.

Alex was applauding quietly next to him. "You have a lot of power in your casting for one so young, Harry," she praised him. "If it is not too presumptuous of me, I vould enjoy vorking with you, so that you can do it like dis." She stepped forward and extended her wand arm almost casually. Without a word there were three bursts of wand fire in rapid succession. Harry watched as the trails of light seemed to spiral and curve in the air, each striking the remaining bales squarely, blasting them apart completely.

It was Harry's turn to applaud. "That is marvelous!" Harry exclaimed, "could you teach me to do that?"

"Of course," Alex smiled, genuinely pleased. "Ve must talk about aim, Harry," she said, "casting a spell is magic. It is not like shooting an arrow, or firing a Muggle gun. You do not need to aim your vand and send your spell in a straight line. Your vand is an extension of yourself. It is your concentration and intent that will find your target, not your aim."

Harry puzzled over this for a moment. No one had ever said anything like this to him in all his years at Hogwarts. Going by example, he had always tried to aim his spells by visually aligning his wand to whatever he was casting at. But, Alex's statement made sense to him. He nodded.

Dobby trotted out from a nearby hedgerow and snapping his fingers restored the bale targets and smiling broadly at Harry, trotted back to cover. Harry laughed, as he realized that the little Elf was wearing a WWI doughboy helmet.

"Now," Alex said, refocusing Harry and gesturing toward the fresh bales, "dis time, do not vorry about vhere your vand is pointing so much. Instead, focus on the targets you vish to strike."

Harry, turned and raised his wand, he shouted four rapid spells. Despite himself he noticed that he was still moving his arm, pointing at each target. The spells each struck their intended bale, but none was a square hit.

Dobby quickly ran out again to restore the bales.

"Very good, Harry," Alex said, "I am impressed. It takes time to change habits."

Harry smiled. He took his stance again to give it a second go.

Alex interrupted, "vhy don't ve try something to help you focus your mind. Concentrate on the first target, Harry. Fix it in your mind." She gave him a moment before reaching up and gently tapping his glasses with her wand. The lenses turned opaque.

"But, now I can't see the target at all," Harry protested.

"You do not need to see it. You already know vhere it is. Now, vhen you are ready, picture the target and cast your spell."

Harry imagined the target before him. He concentrated on its center. He raised his arm and cast the spell. Immediately he could hear the sound of the blast and he knew that he had hit something. Alex applauded. She tapped his glasses again, allowing him to see that he had obliterated the target.

"Vonderful Harry," Alex praised, "you are a natural."

They continued to practice for about an hour, by which time Harry found that he was consistently hitting the targets. Alex, he thought, was a wonderful teacher, giving him easy to understand instruction, constructive criticism, and genuine praise.

As they walked back to the house, Harry realized that he felt quite himself again, the practice had helped him focus on something else and he was not feeling lost or sad anymore.

"Thank you. Mrs. Burgestikoff," he said genuinely.

"Not at all, Harry, I quite enjoyed vorking with you," Alex replied, her smile brightening, "but please, call me Alex."

"I mean, thank you, for more than just the practice," Harry said.

Alex nodded knowingly.

"So, Alex, would you be willing to teach me more?" he asked.

"Of course, Harry, I vould like that very much," she said, "Vhat things would you like to vork on?" Harry could see that her mind was already forming an instruction strategy.

"I would like to learn more offensive spells, fighting techniques, and to cast silently."

Alex nodded, "Dese are all things I think I could help you vith, yes. Vhy don't we set a regular time each day, and you can inwite, Ron, Hermione and Ginny to join us. Ve vill make it a regular class," she smiled.

"That sounds wonderful!" Harry exclaimed, "I'll go ask them right away." They reached the door and Harry started off toward the Library.

He turned, "Alex," he paused, "thanks again."

Alex nodded with a smile.

*** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***


Later that evening, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley and the twins came for dinner and they all enjoyed a wonderful meal in the main dining room. Harry, had instructed Jarvy to approach Fleur about meal menus during her family's visit. At the time it was really because he did not want to be bothered with it, but he recalled now, how during his fourth year, many of the Beauxbaton students had complained about the food at Hogwarts.

Fleur had been completely and pleasantly surprised that whatever she asked Jarvy to prepare he produced without the slightest hint of confusion or apparent extra effort. On this particular occasion they had enjoyed Blanquette de veau followed by a dessert of Tarte Tatin. Harry was very pleased, not only with the French food, but also that Monsieur Delacour, proclaimed it the finest example of the dishes he had ever eaten.

Everyone was in very high spirits as they retired to the sitting room after dinner. It had been a good day all around. Harry was himself again after target practice with Alex. He was especially pleased that they would be practicing again in the morning. He had asked Ginny, Ron and Hermione to join them and they had all responded enthusiastically. As he looked around the room he decided that he might invite Fleur's sister Gabrielle, and their cousins to join them as well.

Fleur had spent the day with her parents, shopping and going for a dress fitting.

Helena had woken up and Madam Pomfrey had returned to examine her and administer the treatment to re-grow her bones. Harry knew from experience that she was in for a restless and painful night, but she was expected to be up and around in the morning.

Hermione, who had been spending all her time in the Library, had found some interesting information on treatments using variations on the Wolfsbane potion and after showing her research to Lupin and Madam Pomfrey they had devised a new treatment for Bill that was showing wonderful progress in healing his scars.

Lupin, who often seemed a bit lost while Tonks was at work, had also discovered the Library and was embroiled in some researches of his own.

Ginny, had spent her time showing Gabrielle and her cousins around the Burrow, and the Manor, they had even ventured in to Ottery St. Catchpole. As Harry's shipment had arrived from QQS, she had promised to show them the Quidditch pitch in the morning, and let them each have a go with a professional quality Quidditch broom.

Ron, the twins, Bill and Charlie, had spent most of the last few days at Diagon Alley sorting through the rubble of the Twin's shop. They had been pleased to recover far more than they originally thought they could. With the clean up nearly finished, the Twins were busy planning the rebuilding.

Of course, on top of everything else, wedding planning had moved in to high gear and there were lots of things that had to be done before the wedding could take place in just a week's time.

Harry had a wedding project he had to see to with the twins, but it was on track and there was no need to rush the Twins now that they were excited about rebuilding the shop.

With everyone relaxed after a good meal the room settled in to comfortable conversations. The younger adults were all gathered in one seating area with Alex, Tonks and Lupin, while Molly and Arthur were getting to know the Delacours.

The Delacours had arrived late in the day on August first, international travel having been delayed by the events of that night. Their party consisted of Fleur's parents and younger sister Gabrielle, her Aunt, Uncle and their four children, JeanBaptiste, Jacquelyne, Josephina and Jerard.

Ron and Hermione had engaged the younger guests in a spirited game of Exploding Snap to pass the evening. Hermione was not normally one to play, but she was rather keen to practice her French with the guests. Ginny was hovering around the card game at the crowded table. Harry waited until she glanced up and he raised his eyebrow. She smiled knowingly in return.

Harry wandered over to Lupin and told him that he had some things he wanted to review in his Grandfather's study, so no one should worry if they noticed his absence. Lupin, thanked him for letting them know. Harry slipped out of the room and headed down the hall toward the Library.

He arrived at the study a little surprised that Ginny had not yet caught him up, but he unlocked the door and entered the comfortable room. He waited a step beyond the closed door and began counting down from ten. He got to six before there was a knock at the door. He turned, opened the door and pulled Ginny in to the room, greeting her with a hug and kiss.

"Did you sneak away, just so that we could have a snog, Mr. Potter?" Ginny teased.

"No, sorry," Harry replied, "I actually have something else in mind, but I don't mind a bit of a snog now that you mention it." Harry pushed the door shut and it clicked locked. He continued kissing Ginny for a few minutes. "I am sorry I have been out of sorts the last few days," he said finally.

"Harry, you don't have to apologize," Ginny said smiling, "everyone understands." She kissed him again hugging him close. "Now, as much as I would be content to snog you silly for the rest of the evening. If that is what you intended we would not be in your study. So, what did we really come here for?" Ginny released him, stealing one final quick kiss.

"I wanted to look at some memories," Harry confessed. He turned and went to the desk, unlocking the drawer and retrieving the small lock box.

"Do you want to do that alone, Harry?" Ginny asked concernedly. "They could be rather private."

Harry looked at her with a slightly confused expression, as though he was about to state the obvious. "No, Ginny, I want you to see them too." He said matter-of-factly, "there can be nothing here too private to share with you."

Ginny beamed.

"Have you ever used a pensieve?" Harry asked.

"No, never," Ginny said hesitantly.

"Well, it is very easy," Harry smiled. He began setting the vials out from the lock box lining them up on the desk. He pointed to a wide drawer below the bookcase behind Ginny. "I am guessing that my Grandfather kept one in there. Would you mind?"

Ginny turned to the drawer and slid it open, inside was a wide stone basin with runes carved all around the base. Ginny thought that it resembled a mirrored bird bath. Next to it in the drawer was a wax sealed jar filled with crystal clear liquid. She could see her reflection in the polished surface. "This looks like it, Harry." She reached in and pulled it out, it was quite heavy, but not unmanageably so.

As she turned, Harry flicked his wand and said "Wingardium Leviosa" levitating the pensieve from her grasp over to the desk. She retrieved the jar and carried it across the room.

After opening the jar and adding the liquid to the basin, Harry sat in the desk chair and looked at the line of vials. He carefully read each of the tags. "I think these are a set of memories from each of my ancestors for six generations," he said, "the names are all Potters, and the last two are my parents." Harry showed Ginny the last two vials. The first tag read 'James Potter, April 1978 - Destiny.' and the second, 'Lily Evans-Potter, June 1978 -Wedding.'

"Do you suppose your Grandfather kept a family tree somewhere?" Ginny asked.

"I would think he did, and I'll bet it is somewhere in this room," Harry agreed. They began rummaging through drawers and looking around the room. "Hang on," Harry said after a minute, "let me try," he flicked his wand, "Accio, family tree." At once there was a soft knocking in a low drawer across the room. Ginny went to it and slipped the drawer open. A scroll popped up from the drawer and floated across the room to Harry.

Harry unrolled the parchment scroll and laid it out across one end of the desk. The parchment was elaborately illustrated with a beautiful tree. At the base of the trunk were the names, Caractacus Potter (856 - 1170) and Armes Weasley-Potter (1048 -1171). Moving up the trunk were the names of the rest of Harry's family. Each name corresponded to a tag on one of the memory vials. Harry unrolled the top of the scroll to reveal an end to the illustrated tree where the names of his parents should have been listed.

"This scroll must have been locked away here in the Manor before my father was born," Harry said.

Ginny nodded agreement. "Your Grandparents must have kept this lock box with them until later in order to include memories from your parents," Ginny concluded.

It was Harry's turn to nod agreement.

Harry pulled open the center desk drawer and began searching through it. He pulled out an inkwell and quill. Carefully flattening the scroll he dipped the quill in the ink and very carefully began adding his parent's names to the family tree. As he did so the illustrated tree began to grow further up the scroll around them. A space grew up further where Harry added his own name. He was monetarily tempted to just write in Ginny's name in the space that appeared next to his, but thinking that was a bit premature, he ignored the impulse.

"Well, that's one mystery solved," Harry said, smiling at his handiwork. "Now the question is do I start with the earliest memory and work forward, or start with the most recent and move back?"

Ginny smiled and leaned forward giving Harry a quick kiss. "Why don't you start at the beginning," she said. She picked up the first vial marked 'Caractacus Potter, c. 900 - Potter curse' and handed it to Harry.

Harry read the tag with a bit of apprehension, but then removed the wax sealed stopper and holding it over the pensieve poured the contents out. The heavy memory seemed to settle into the bottom of the basin. Harry stirred the surface with his wand as he had seen Dumbledore do in the past. The memory swirled and clouded across the pensieve surface.

"Ready?" Harry asked Ginny.

"What do we do?" Ginny said with a hint of excitement.

"In the past I have always leaned my face to the surface, but I don't think that is strictly necessary. Dumbledore always just dipped a hand in," Harry said as he leaned forward and took Ginny's hand in his.

Together they reached their free hands to the surface and at once their perceptions swirled as they were drawn in to the memory.

____________________________ ___________
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Chapter Twenty
The Potter Curse


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Harry Potter and the Heart of the Hero: Chapter 19 - Mayhem, Mourning and Memories

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