Disclaimer: Harry Potter, his friends, his enemies, and the lovely world they live in all belong to JK Rowling.
Chapters Posted: 23
Words Posted: 158,525
Thanks: badgerlady and crescent did an amazing job beta reading this chapter. Thanks!
Continued from Chapter 23, Part 1
Family Time (Part 2)
Dinner at the Weasleys’
When Harry Apparated to the Burrow that evening, two figures converged on him and grabbed him in a hug. Hermione’s hair tickled his nose, and Ron’s arm thumped against his back a bit harder than he would have liked, but he was glad to see them.
“Hermione! The Ministry keeping you busy?” It was odd, not to see her every day. He hoped that adulthood would not lead the three of them apart. With all three of them able to Apparate, there was really no excuse for them to go for weeks without seeing each other.
“It’s been great. I have something to tell you both... later. After dinner, okay?”
The three pushed through the front door to the Burrow, and Harry was subjected to another hug, this time from Molly Weasley. He loved that feeling of family he always got from coming here.
It was strange. Andromeda actually was family, which in itself would have been hard to wrap his head around if he didn’t have the chorus in the back of it sending him the definite feeling that it was true, but visiting her was like... trying. They were working at it, but it was still awkward at times, and he didn’t want to say the wrong thing. She was acting as his teacher, and he was the Head of her family, and they had family in common... it would come. The Weasleys, though, felt like family.
“Arthur will be here shortly, and Bill is here as well.” Mrs Weasley sounded happier than when Harry was last here. It made him glad that things seemed to be coming back to normal.
He noticed that the Burrow was cleaner than usual. The wood floors had been washed and polished, and gleamed a warm honey colour. All the rugs seemed as if they had recently been washed, and the sofa cushions were plumped, with an afghan knitted with bright wool thrown over the back of the sofa. Perhaps Mrs Weasley had been cleaning to keep her mind off things. Harry smiled. Even clean, the Burrow was clearly a well used home, but it was bright and cheery, its shabbiness only adding to its charm.
He looked around, and noticed the family clock. It had been draped with a dark cloth, and Fred’s hand seemed to be gone. It made him sad. He wondered what would be worse: to see the hand on the clock, a constant reminder that they were missing one of their own, or to see the clock without it. He suspected that, with or without the hand, the clock would always be a reminder. Fred’s absence would always make itself felt. The twins’ energy was large and exuberant. Harry had noticed that Fred seemed to be the ringleader of their personal circus, more often than not.
Mrs Weasley sent then outside to enjoy the evening, while she finished dinner. She said she didn’t need any help cooking for her family, thank you very much.
When they finally all settled in for dinner on the long wooden benches, after the passing of dishes and serving of roast, vegetables, potatoes, and salad, Mr Weasley caught them all up on the doings at the Ministry.
“We’ve finally cleared out the Minister’s office, much to Kingsley’s pleasure. He was stuck in a room too small for all of the parchments he has to review and sign, much less himself and any people who came to meet him. We were practically on top of each other.”
“Why not use an Expanding Charm?”
“The Ministry has so many various structural charms already in place it would not be safe to add more.”
Hermione nodded, and Harry saw the enthusiasm about the history of a building about to burst forth in a torrent of facts. Fortunately, Molly spoke.
“How are the trials progressing?”
“Well, we’ve worked our way though some of the lower-level Death Eaters, and cleared those Ministry workers who still work there. About a fifth of them are in cells for crimes committed, and another thirty percent, while not actually having committed crimes, had not been doing the jobs they were tasked to do, sometimes for years. I suspect that students leaving Hogwarts—with their NEWTs,” he added, giving Ron a pointed look, “will have more opportunities in the Ministry than has been the case for quite some time.”
Hermione smiled at this. Percy, on the other hand, looked down at his plate, avoiding everyone’s eyes. Percy had had one of those opportunities, but had made all the wrong choices, until the end. Harry wondered if Percy needed someone to talk to. The few times Harry was at the Burrow, Percy seemed withdrawn, and he wasn’t the kind of person to unburden himself. Maybe Harry was reading too much into Percy’s expression.
“Getting through the trials is going to be a long slog,” Mr Weasley continued. “There are so many people who served that regime, either through fear or because they actually believed in what You Know Who stood for. We have to evaluate all of them. There will be no one cast aside without a trial, this time,” he gave Harry a sympathetic look, “but Kingsley won’t allow Death Eaters, or frankly, anyone who has committed a crime whether they have the Dark Mark branded on their arms or not, to go free to wreak havoc yet again.”
“Good,” Harry said, his voice quiet but emphatic.
“Frankly, it’s going to take all summer to get through them all. The higher profile Death Eaters are being held until the end, so we can clear those who may not have committed any crimes first.”
Harry thought of the Malfoys, all sitting in their room waiting for their trials. It was interesting that Pansy Parkinson’s father had already had a trial. Harry would have thought that he would have been one of the ones where they were sure of their guilt. When he asked about it, Ron snorted.
“You’d certainly think the whole family’d be Death Eaters. Look at Pansy Parkinson. She was a piece of work.”
“We can’t judge a person by their family. That kind of thinking is what got Sirius Black sent to Azkaban without trial,” Mr Weasley reminded them. “The Parkinsons have long been allied with the Malfoys, and they are old-style purebloods, but I hope we have learnt not to assume.”
Harry remembered Pansy Parkinson as a vicious, angry girl who took delight in the torment of others. She had to have learnt that from somewhere.
“So, Harry, Ron tells me you’ve been working to repair Hogwarts. How is it coming?”
Harry accepted the change of subject. “It’s been slow.” He hesitated. He wasn’t sure he wanted to tell the Weasleys about the magical residue, and how dangerous it was. They’d had a hard enough time without worrying about him, and he knew that they would. “We’re all working in teams; some teams are cleaning up debris, and others are repairing the walls.”
Ron looked at Harry.
“Tell them what you’re doing, Harry.”
Harry gave Ron a bit of a glare, but continued. “I’ve been assigned to work with the team that is cleansing the castle of the magic left behind from all the dark spells that were cast.”
Hermione took up the discussion. “I’ve been researching it a bit since you told me about it. The Aurors have an agreement with the Unspeakables to investigate any place where there was a battle with dark wizards. Most of the time it’s okay, but sometimes, when the battle happened in a particular type of location, the magic left behind is dangerous. The Unspeakables who clean it are the ones that research dark magic.”
“I always thought that the Unspeakables have a bit too much of a free pass on doing dark magic. If they say it is in conjunction with their job, they can get away with spells that would send others to Azkaban,” Mrs Weasley commented.
“Including the Unforgivables?” Harry asked. Did they ever forgive the unforgivable? Harry had been trying not to think about that, but he had cast two of the three.
“No. Not even the Unspeakables are allowed to do those. Although, in the first war, Aurors were authorised their use against Death Eaters, so there might be a department within the Unspeakables that are researching even those dark spells,” Mr Weasley said.
Harry didn’t think he’d ever tell the Weasleys that he had cast those spells. He wished he didn’t remember casting them: the heady, powerful feeling of controlling someone against their will, and the vindictive anger that had sent pain through his wand.
At least it was only the first, failed attempt that had passed through his holly wand. Perhaps that was why he was so glad he could use it again. It had not participated in the darkest things he had done. He wondered if Malfoy would mind a few more curses sent through his wand. Considering what Harry had seen in the fragments of visions he had had, Malfoy had used them himself. Harry had never seen Malfoy casting an AK, but he had witnessed too many instances of the Cruciatus coming through that wand. The look on Malfoy’s face, trying its best to be cold and unfeeling but not quite succeeding, would be with Harry for a long time.
“So, why aren’t the Unspeakables cleaning up at Hogwarts?”
“I don’t know,” Harry answered. “They are having a crew of Slytherin purebloods doing the cleansing. Most of them are students from our year, but I’m not sure about all of them.”
“They’re what?” Mrs Weasley shouted. “They’re having children do the work? Didn’t you just say it’s dangerous? What are they thinking?”
“Malfoy seems to think that only he knows how to do it right.”
Mr Weasley looked thoughtful. “He might be right.”
The shock on Ron’s face mirrored his own.
“I’m not saying that the Unspeakables are anything other than highly capable...” Mr Weasley hastened to add, “but the Dark families have spent their entire lives dealing with the results of such magic.”
Harry was impressed that Mr Weasley managed to say that with only a small amount of disgust.
“My mother was raised in one of those families,” Mr Weasley continued.”
Cedrella. The name settled in his mind with a certainty. Harry wondered how he knew the name. It sounded vaguely familiar.
“She wanted to teach us the cleansing charms when we were very young... when I was seven or so. It was one of the only times I remember my parents shouting.”
“But your father held firm,” Mrs Weasley said with approval.
“My father held to his beliefs, and my mother held to hers. She kept to her ways in secret. I saw her sometimes, late at night, especially on the holidays.”
“You never said...” Mrs Weasley looked unhappy, but her voice was gentle toward her husband.
“It never came up. It’s beside the point, though. The rituals that would be needed are learned by the children in those families early on, and are so well practiced they’d almost be like... knitting is for you, Molly. Aurors and Unspeakables have learned to clean up after dark magic as a job skill, unless they came from one of the Dark families—and most of those are awaiting trial or are already in Azkaban. I also doubt they have ever needed to do it in a place like Hogwarts.”
“I still don’t like it.”
Harry suspected none of the Weasleys did, but he was finding he didn’t mind as much as he would have thought.
* * *
When dinner was over, Mr Weasley turned to his wife. “That was delicious, Molly.”
“I always do better when there are more people to feed. The larger audience gives me just the right motivation to do my very best,” she replied. “Harry, that reminds me. Why haven’t we seen you for three weeks? I know you and Ron have your Apparation licenses.”
“I’ve been working at Hogwarts, Mrs Weasley, you know that.”
“Not in the evenings, and certainly not on the weekends. I expect you to come to the family dinner every Sunday, now that you can get about. No excuses.”
Ron grinned. “You better do as she says, Harry. When she gets that tone of voice, there is no fighting it.”
Harry grinned. Family dinner. Between the Weasleys and Andromeda and Teddy, It seems as if Sundays would be family day. A feeling of warmth rose in him and threatened to burst out. He had family. There were two families that wanted to include him in their midst.
When he could say the words without choking, he gave her a smile and said, “Yes, Ma’am.”
“Good boy.” She rose and started the dishes, and George grinned at Harry.
“Yes, good boy!” he snickered. Everyone stared at George.
Ron laughed as well. “Good boy!” He started laughing hysterically, and Harry let him. He couldn’t find it in himself to take offence, when the Weasleys had had so little cause for mirth these past few weeks. Hermione smiled indulgently, and Mr Weasley gave Mrs Weasley a hug.
“Oh, you!” she commented, but smiled, looking at George with a smile that said the Weasley family would be okay.
After dinner, Hermione, Ron and Harry went out into the garden. Harry sat in the swing hanging from a large oak tree, swinging gently back and forth. Ron sprawled against the trunk, but Hermione remained standing, picking at her fingers nervously.
“Come on, Hermione, sit down. It can’t be as bad as that.”
“Well, you know when I said I had sent my parents away, that I had charmed their memories so they don’t remember me?”
Both boys nodded.
“Well, I sort of implanted a suggestion that they go to Australia.”
Harry nodded, but Ron looked distressed. “Hermione, those are illegal for anyone to do who is not part of the Ministry Obliviation Squad.”
“I know that, but do you think they’d have gone if I just removed their memories of me? They still had a practice, they had friends. Friends who I’m sure are wondering why the Doctors Granger suddenly picked up and left town, but it was the only way that I could think of to keep them safe! Besides, don’t you think breaking into Gringotts is illegal? Do you think that anything we did last year qualified as legal?”
Ron shook his head. “I just don’t want you to get into trouble for anything you did. Those laws are taken seriously, because memory charms cover up for so many crimes.”
Hermione started to get more and more agitated, so Harry added, “Let’s leave the legalities aside. It was war. We did what we had to do. All of us!” Harry thought of the Imperius Curses he had cast, each of which could land him in Azkaban. Those at least had been for a good reason, and necessary. Worse, he thought, his stomach twisting with guilt, were the two Cruciatus Curses. Those had not been necessary, although at the time, they seemed to cry out with necessity. With Bellatrix taunting him after Sirius died, he had been so angry he had needed to lash out. But with Carrow... he had told himself that he was defending McGonagall’s honour, but what honour was it to use the tools of the enemy? He almost regretted eating so much of Mrs Weasley’s cooking, as his stomach soured at the thought.
“Let’s just get back to what Hermione wanted to tell us.” He would deal with those thoughts another day.
“My parents didn’t go where I suggested they go. I’ve been searching all over for records. I’ve tracked down Muggle relatives for lots of families, and I’m glad about that, but either they aren’t using the names I gave them, which is unlikely, as I created documentation to go with those names, or they aren’t in Sydney, or they aren’t practicing dentistry, or some combination of that.”
“I can’t find them!” Hermione exclaimed, distraught.
“You will, Hermione, give it time.” Ron moved closer to her and gave her an awkward pat. Hermione smiled at his attempt and leaned against him.
Harry understood what she must be feeling. He knew what it was like to lose his parents because Voldemort was targeting him, and he knew what it felt like to lose someone because he had done or not done something. He was sure Hermione was thinking about all of the things she could have done differently, just as he still wished he had only used Sirius’ mirror to check on him, rather than going to the Ministry that night. So many things had changed that night... He knew that it had also caused Voldemort to be seen, and people stopped thinking he was crazy, but he would rather have people thinking he was crazy and have Sirius in his life.
Hermione, at least, knew her parents were somewhere out there. She had a chance to find them. His parents, and Sirius, and Remus—his family was dead.
It felt different with Andromeda and Teddy. Even though Andromeda was older, and even though she was his teacher in the ways of the Black Family, there was some inner sense thrumming through him that said he was responsible for them, instead of the other way around. He was the Head of the Family. Sirius, his parents, they would have looked out for him. Now he was an adult, and he would never have that. He never had, but for one brief shining moment, he had thought it was possible. When Sirius died, he knew that when it came to a family, he was on his own.
Except he wasn’t. He had the Weasleys, he had Andromeda and Teddy, and Hermione felt like a sister. A sister he should be listening to, instead of dwelling on all that he had lost.
“So, what are you going to do?” He knew Hermione. She always had a plan. She didn’t disappoint him this time.
“There is a spell I found. It’s like a very powerful version of the Point Me spell. Regular finding spells work on magical signatures, which would not work for them, as they are Muggles. The fact that they have changed their names, and even their memories, removes some other options. This one can work despite those limitations, because it uses a part of them. I gathered hair from the house. Mum left her brush behind.”
“Are you sure it is hers?” Harry grinned.
It had the desired effect. Hermione grinned. They don’t have a cat, and it is not the colour of Crookshanks’ fur.”
Harry remembered that Mrs Granger had dark brown hair, and Crookshanks was a pale marmalade cat... well, half-kneazle.
“I also found some of Dad’s toenail clippings in the wastepaper basket. They won’t be as strong as if they were recently clipped, or were something more intrinsic such as blood, but I think it will do. I searched the house all over for anything of theirs that might resonate to them, and that’s the best I could find. The only thing is, I can’t cast the spell from here.”
“So you have to go to Australia.” Ron slumped, looking at her unhappily. They had all known it was likely, at least if they had considered it.
“When are you going? The exams end after the first week in July.” Harry knew that Hermione would never choose to miss exams.
“That’s just it! The spell has to be done within one turn of the seasons, one year from when I last saw them. I have to leave right away, if I want a chance to track them down. I’ve booked the first spot on the international Floo that I can find, which is June eighth. I have to find them by July twenty-first.
“Why is it taking so long?” Ron asked. “I remember when we all went to Egypt, we were able to book fairly soon.”
“We’re still putting the Ministry back together. The critical departments, such as the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, and local travel are getting first priority. It is still a bit of a madhouse there.”
“The Ministry has always been a bit of a madhouse, if you ask me,” Ron commented.
“Well, mostly I’m holed away in the records office, sorting search requests for Muggle and Muggle-born relatives and figuring out what to do with the records that Voldemort’s people found necessary to keep. Most of them are heinous. They were so casual about killing and torture, although they had other words for it, or course.”
“Ugh. Better you than me.”
“Hermione, if you go on June eighth, will you be back in time to take the NEWTs?”
“I don’t know. I want to! How often do you have chance to take exams like that, such critical exams, on a practice basis? I mean, we’ll all be returning to school—thanks, Harry, for letting us know about that—but we’d know how NEWTs are formatted, and what kinds of questions they ask. Besides, we might pass some, and then we could take more advanced classes next year!”
Harry grinned. “Will you be back in time for Progress testing?”
“Oh, Harry, I hope so.”
Ron had started to fidget. Harry recognised the look on his face, as if he had something that he knew they wouldn’t like but he was planning to do it anyway.
Hermione noticed it too. “What is it, Ron?”
“I was thinking of not going back to school. George needs my help at the shop, and...”
“Ronald Weasley, you are not thinking about skipping your last year at school! Your whole future rests on how you do at Hogwarts!”
Hermione looked as if she was building up a serious head of steam, so Harry interrupted, “So, how many NEWTs do you think you’ll pass?”
Ron looked up from studying his fingers. “What do you mean, NEWTs?”
“Well, if you aren’t returning, then you’ll have to take the NEWTs this June. How many do you think you can pass?” Harry knew that Ron could just leave school, as the twins had done. He had his OWLs. He was counting on Ron not remembering that. He really wanted one last year with the three of them at Hogwarts.
“If you come back, you can spend all year with Hermione and me. We’ll be back on the Quidditch team, I think. And just think! Snape won’t be there!”
“And you’ll have a whole year to study for your NEWTs,” added Hermione, trying to be helpful.
“Which means you won’t have to take them in a few weeks!” Harry chimed in.
“It will be the first year that we won’t have something dangerous happening at the end of the year!” Hermione added.
“Now you’ve jinxed it,” Ron said.
“But you’ll come back, won’t you? It won’t be the same without you!”
Ron sighed heavily, still looking at his fingers. Then he nodded.
Gryffindor tower looked odd. It was dark, and murky. The furniture was dark leather, and the rug was an expensive one, one that you could sink your toes into, of a rich emerald. He climbed the short stairway and headed down the long corridor to his dorm room. In the room were rows upon rows of beds, stretching out into the distance. The further away they were, the older they were. In the middle distance, they got luxurious and further back still they were plain, handmade things.
This is our home, he thought, not even bothering to consider who else was included in the ‘our’.
He sat on one of the beds, tired as if he had run a long way and studied for days to learn something, both at the same time. He sank into the soft bedclothes, emerald with grey trim, falling further and further into them. It felt as if he were sinking though clouds, until he hit dirt. Grass, actually, but not a manicured lawn. He sat up and, in the distance, he saw an estate. It was stately and proud, with garden mazes close in, fertile gardens that would have made Neville jealous on one side, and thick forests in the distance.
This is our home as well, he thought. He had never been here. Home was Hogwarts, home was Ron and Hermione. Home was… he stretched. Home was people. Certain people. Home was magic, flying a broom, catching a snitch. Home was everything that could make his Patronus bright and solid.
You have been here. We welcomed you.
The thoughts echoed and, suddenly, he was in a small room with a basin. We welcomed you. When will you welcome us in?
The room expanded, and he saw the house again, and recognised it: the Black estate as it should have been, proud, extensive, demonstrably superior. Then the walls broke away from him and he was surrounded by people. After a moment he recognised them as the Wizengamot. As he stood there, their numbers grew and shrank, but always, always, there was family present, Ancient and Noble.
When the people stopped their dizzying rushing about, and their numbers stabilised, he saw an empty seat. It waited. He could see the words on the back of the chair, carved in, Toujours Pur. Recoiling, he threw himself away and smashed the back of his head on something hard.
It hurt. The room was dark, but he was relieved to see the familiar bed hangings of Gryffindor Tower, red and gold. His head hurt where he had banged it on the headboard.
He got up and looked out the narrow window. The sight of the Hogwarts grounds, glowing in the moonlight, reassured him.
The voices had been mostly quiescent these past several days. Harry had assumed that they were bound to the Black Estate, where he had first heard them. The feelings he’d been getting recently were mostly from those familiar to him, or at least not antagonistic. In his envisioning, those would be the voices that he would awaken with his research into the Black history. He should have known better. Nothing in his life ever stayed in its proper place. How had he ever thought he would have a chance to be normal?
When would he ever have his mind to himself, without Slytherin intruders?
He made his way out, through the dorm, down the circular stairway, down into the deserted common room. The fire guttered low in the fireplace. Even as late in the spring as it was, Hogwarts still got cold, with its stone walls and floors and its drafts.
He sat on the squashy chair facing the fireplace, remembering Sirius’ face, remembering studying, talking with Ron and Hermione. Six years he’d spent with this room to retreat to. Mostly. This was the best home he’d ever known. A flash of the rows of green and grey beds flickered through his mind, drawing him to them as if they were the roots where he got his strength. For a moment, he felt as if he would disappear in the cool echoes, drown in the history of ancestors. A fond warmth came alongside him in his mind, and he felt strengthened with the reminder of who he was. He was Gryffindor. McGonagall’s words to them as they were first entering the castle ran through his mind. Your House will be your family.
Just how much family did one person need?
All of it.
On to the Next Chapter