When Harry awoke the next morning, his first urge was to pull his pillow over his head and leave it there. He knew he ought to be feeling glad about his new guardians, but somehow he couldn't summon any enthusiasm at all. Instead, he just felt guilty.
Was he replacing Sirius, finding new guardians so soon after his death? Was he betraying his parents' wishes by going to the Weasleys instead of Lupin? Lupin had told them briefly the previous night that he had signed a legal contract giving him and Sirius joint guardianship of Harry, but that it had been lost when Godric's Hollow had been destroyed. Lupin did not seem bitter about the fact that his claim as Harry's guardian was impossible, but then Lupin never seemed bitter about anything.
Feeling utterly confused, Harry sat up in bed. Ron was still asleep, sprawled on his back with his mouth slightly open. Harry watched him for a minute, wondering how Ron would react to the previous night's events. Would he be pleased, or horrified that he now had yet another 'brother' to compete against?
Harry made his way down to the kitchen, hoping that it would be empty so that he could eat his breakfast alone. However, as he drew near the doorway, he could hear hushed voices inside. He entered rather reluctantly, and was surprised to see Lupin and Moody in their travelling cloaks, surrounded by Tonks and Mr and Mrs Weasley, who were all wearing very anxious expressions.
"Oh...good morning, Harry dear," said Mrs Weasley distractedly. "Sit down, I won't be a minute..."
She turned back to Lupin and Moody. Moody checked the clock on the wall.
"We'd better be off," he growled. "Dumbledore said hurry."
"What time will you be back?" whispered Tonks, who looked positively terrified.
"We don't know," said Lupin gently. "It's not even a definate lead. Dumbledore had it from Snape, who was in a great hurry when he reported and didn't give details."
"Oh, I hope Dumbledore was right," said Mr Weasley earnestly, shaking both of their hands vigourously. "I really hope you catch him."
"Good luck," added Mrs Weasley, who was clutching the back of a chair so hard that her knuckles had gone white.
"See you...see you later," said Tonks, her voice trembling.
Lupin and Moody disapparated.
Harry felt a horrible, ice-cold chill run down his spine. He was remembering what Hermione had said on the day after he had arrived-We can tell they're doing something really dangerous, because of the looks on everyone's faces when either of them leaves the house...It's like...everybody's scared that they might never come back...
"Where are they going?" Harry blurted out. Tonks, Mrs Weasley and Mr Weasley looked at each other.
"Tell him," said Mr Weasley, sitting down. "He- he ought to know."
"We had a message from Dumbledore this morning," said Tonks miserably, picking up a plate from the side and promptly dropping it. "Oops...sorry..." She stooped to pick it up. "He said that Snape contacted him last night to give him news of Pettigrew's whereabouts. That's where Remus and Alastor have gone- to see if they can catch Pettigrew."
Harry felt sick. "Is that what they do, then?" he asked dully. "Catch Death Eaters?"
"Trail them," said Mr Weasley wearily. "They're lucky if they can get close enough to catch them. It's an Auror's job really, but the ministry's got a tight control over all the official Aurors."
"We have to follow orders," said Tonks, staring at her toast but not touching it. "They hardly ever have us doing anything useful..."
"Breakfast, Harry," said Mrs Weasley briskly, putting a plate of sausage and egg in front of him. But Harry, like Tonks, looked at his food with considerable lack of enthusiasm.
Pettigrew. They'd gone to catch Pettigrew....Harry's hatred of the man who had betrayed his parents and landed Sirius in Azkaban seemed to bubble up inside him. Please let them catch him, he willed silently. Don't let them be hurt, and let them catch Pettigrew. Please.
Several hours later, after Tonks and Mr Weasley had gone to work, Mrs Weasley too left the house. She had told them that she was going to Diagon Alley, and though she did not say why, Harry could guess. She had gone to sort out the legal side of her guardianship.
The twins watched her go with angelic expressions on their faces.
"Isn't it nice to feel trusted?" said George. "Fancy leaving us in the house on our own..."
"I doubt we'll be on our own for long," said Hermione, looking suspiciously at the twins. "There are always Order members coming in and out."
"All the more reason to seize the oppurtunity," said Fred innocently. "George and I are going to do some...exploring."
They both disapparated. Hermione shook her head, tutting, before turning to Harry, Ron and Ginny. "Well, what are we going to do with ourselves, then?" she asked brightly.
"Holiday homework," said Ginny gloomily. "I've got loads." She trudged off up the stairs, leaving Harry, Ron and Hermione in the hall.
For a minute, the three of them stood awkwardly, not looking at each other. It was the first time the three of them had been alone together since the evening Harry had arrived, and they were suddenly all lost for words.
"Shall I make a cup of tea?" suggested Ron finally. The others agreed, and they made their way into the kitchen.
"Where did Moody and Lupin go?" asked Hermione, sitting down at the wooden table. "I thought Lupin was supposed to be off duty this week."
"He was," said Harry gloomily. His stomach had given an unpleasent jolt at the mention of Moody and Lupin. "But they got a message from Dumbledore, and now they've gone to try and catch Wormtail."
There was a shocked silence. Then:
"Blimey," said Ron weakly. "If they catch Wormtail, he can give evidence and they can get a pardon for S-"
He broke off suddenly, looking at Harry with a slightly anxious expression on his face. Hermione was looking at Harry too, biting her lip.
Harry felt suddenly immensely weary, as if he was too full of feelings to carry them all with him any more. The numb hole inside him that Sirius had left, the pain he had managed to ignore for weeks, was suddenly aching again.
Sirius had once sat in this chair. Sirius had used that cup, stood by that window, paced this floor in his frustration....
Harry screwed up his eyes very tightly to stop the images of Sirius coming, and buried his face in his hands. He had to stop this sudden flood of memories before he drowned, suffocated in unbearable sadness...
"Harry," whispered Hermione, her eyes very bright. "You have to think about it some time, you know. It's not going to go away. Please, Harry, just talk to us about it, it might help... we miss him too..."
"I know," said Harry through gritted teeth.
There was another silence. Harry knew that Ron and Hermione were holding their breaths, willing him to say something, anything, about how he was feeling.
"Your-your parents are my Guardians now," said Harry finally, to Ron. He tried to keep his voice brisk. "Your Mum's gone to sort it out today."
Ron's face was unreadable. He swallowed, and nodded.
"Didn't Lupin want to be your Guardian?" asked Hermione timidly, as though afraid Harry might be angry with her for asking.
"Yes," said Harry dully. "But he can't. I have to be guarded all the time, and Lupin can't do that."
He still couldn't find the words to tell Hermione and Ron about the prophecy. Another time, he thought, pushing it to the back of his mind. I'll tell them another time. He wondered suddenly if Mr and Mrs Weasley, or, indeed, Lupin, knew about the prophecy.
"He really cares about you, Harry," said Hermione quietly. "Lupin, I mean. I think sometimes he found it hard..." she gulped as though summoning the courage to carry on, "...found it hard that it was Sirius who you always went to. I heard him talking to Sirius once last year, and I think he sometimes felt a bit left out of Sirius and James' friendship. I mean, he was very different to them in school..."
Harry remembered what he had seen in the pensieve, and the photographs Lupin had shown him the night that he arrived. Sirius and Harry's father had obviously been very close, whereas Lupin had always been different, a little apart from the others. And now they were both dead, leaving Lupin behind once more...
Harry looked very hard at the floor. All his thoughts seemed to be swirling inside him, building into a whirlpool, a torrent of misery. The memories that he had been fighting for a month were surfacing, uncontrollable this time...
That first glimpse of Sirius in the shadows near Privet Drive...Sirius lying on the floor at Harry's mercy, Crookshanks on his chest...Sirius embracing Lupin as they were reunited after thirteen years...
Harry stared at the ceiling, and suddenly found he had only once thing to say.
"I never said sorry to him." he mumbled, his throat painfully tight. "I never said sorry for getting him killed."
"Oh, Harry..." said Hermione, whose eyes were now overbright.
"It was my fault," said Harry, still looking hard at the ceiling, "And I never said sorry."
"You didn't need to," said Ron roughly. Harry looked up, surprised. "You didn't need to, Harry, 'cos Sirius would have done anything for you, mate. I don't reckon he was scared of dying. He just saw it as...I dunno. Like all the Order do. Like maybe sometimes it's a sacrifice worth making."
Harry found himself remembering something Dumbledore had said, back when Harry was in his first year. Then, the words had seemed confusing, incomprehendable. But now, they seemed to ease the ache in Harry's chest, even as he felt the tears he'd have given anything to stop running down his face.
To the well-organised mind, death is but the next great adventure.
And suddenly, almost as though he had planned to do it all along, Harry found himself telling Ron and Hermione about the prophecy. They didn't say a word as he explained it, and he couldn't bring himself to look at them.
"So that's it," he finished, unable to stop his voice trembling. "I either have to kill Voldemort or be killed by him, there's no way round it, it's what I was born to do."
He looked up almost defiantly, feeling the tears on his eyelashes prickle in the light.
Then, in a rush, Hermione got up and put her arms around Harry. Ron grabbed Harry's shoulder, and, after slight hesitation, put the other arm around Hermione. For a long time, the three of them sat there, saying nothing but all in complete understanding of each other.
Finally, Hermione said, very quietly, her voice shaking, "Oh, Harry, you must be so, so scared..."
"I am," whispered Harry. He could feel tears on his face again. "I'm terrified."
Ron squeezed his shoulder very tightly, and Harry suddenly felt, inexplicably, as though something had come unblocked inside him.
Something occured to him, as he looked at them- Hermione, tearstained but already fiercely wiping her eyes, and Ron, his face very white but set with determination, watching Harry intently. Even as Harry felt the fear and grief inside him, he knew it was true.
It wasn't just phoenix tears that had healing powers.
Author's note: Just one more chapter to go, I think! Don't worry, all will be revealed. Nearly done now. I will miss writing this fic...pleeze, reviews, guys!!! Having no reviews 4 days is so depressing.