Chapters Posted: 26
Words Posted: 175,073
Disclaimer: Harry Potter, his friends, his enemies, and the lovely world they live in all belong to JK Rowling.
Notes: Hurrah! Another chapter. I really do have most of the rest of this story written, it is just getting some problem characters to behave so I can write their scenes. (I'm looking at you, Severus! Though he won't be in this chapter.)
Thanks: You have Badgerlady to thank for catching my punctuation and capitalization errors (I spent too long in Germany, and have difficulty remembering not to capitalize all my nouns). Badgerlady and Crescent both gave thoughtful comments, which helped with both this chapter and will help with upcoming ones. THANK YOU.
Continued from Chapter 25
Chapter 26: Friends and Family
Sunday Brunch with Andromeda Tonks
June 7th, 1998
“I expect you'll have been to the Black family vault by now?” Andromeda asked as she selected a scone and spread a bit of butter on it, followed by a daub of cherry preserves. “Was my mother's Pensieve in it? That would come in useful for the next part of your studies.”
“There's a Black vault?”
“Of course there is! Every one of the old families has at least one. Surely it was mentioned in Sirius’ will. Typically, the family vault is accessible only to the current Head of the family. If the Head is unavailable, there are methods for others to gain access, but only with the aid of the goblins.
Harry thought back to the way they gained access to the Lestrange vault. He hadn't realized that they would never have been able to succeed without Griphook's help. He still felt guilty for deceiving the goblin, even after Griphook betrayed them. Would Griphook have done so if they had followed through on their promise? Could he have read their intention to deceive? He’d felt uneasy about it at the time, and it seems his unease had been borne out.
“I take it then that you haven't been to our family's vault?”
Harry had not been back to Gringotts since that disastrous break-in. He didn't want to think of what the goblins would do to him if they got him in their power. The three of them had broken in, stolen something from an old pureblood family’s vault, betrayed a goblin, set a chained dragon free, broken the ornate doors of the main Gringotts hall... for a moment Harry found himself reliving the terrifying climb through the passages of the vault caverns, clinging to rough dragon scales, Hermione casting spell after spell to carve the way so they would not be ripped from the dragon's back by encroaching walls, hearing the goblins’ cries of anger and pain as they passed.
“I think the goblins aren't happy with me... with any of us. We needed something from the Lestrange vault...” He proceeded to tell her the story, leaving out his multiple uses of the Imperius curse.
He couldn't quite read the expression on her face. Was she disappointed with him? Angry?
“Well, this won't do. We cannot have the head of the Black family afraid to enter Gringotts. We will make an appointment with the goblins to discuss reparations.”
Reparations? “What if they want to... won't they just want to throw me into Azkaban?”
“Merlin, no! You are the Head of a family, a very important one at that. Goblins do not have the jurisdiction to send a wizard to Azkaban. They can only refer you to the Wizengamot, and do you honestly expect the Wizengamot to send the defeater of Voldemort to Azkaban for a crime—and I’m not denying that it was a crime—that was required for Voldemort's defeat? Now, when everyone is celebrating your name?”
“They were willing to break my wand three years ago, when I defended myself from dementors. I don't know what the Wizengamot is willing to do.”
“Those were different circumstances. Now, you are the Head of a family, and that carries some weight. Beyond that, you defeated Voldemort in plain sight of a large number of witches and wizards. The Prophet hails your heroism. They will see that what you did was necessary. No, what we need to avoid is the goblins taking private revenge. We need to go to them, and to offer to make it right. Once we have a contract with the goblins, they’ll abide by it. It’s one reason wizards trust them with their money and valuables. So far, the only thing that affects the situation is the section of the general contract which says that goblins have the right to defend the treasures placed in the bank’s depths. However, they have their reputation to protect, and they are a proud people.
“You will find that goblins value two things: money and pride. They protect their reputations with all that they have, and part of that reputation is their ability to protect their wealth, or the wealth entrusted to them. In stealing from their vaults, you injured their pride. In return, we will offer them money.”
Harry thought of all the damage they had done during their escape. At the time, it had not seemed as important as getting out. “Do we have enough?”
“The Black family is old and wealthy. Not only do we have enough, we also have the fact that they have the honour of housing our wealth. That will matter to them.”
Andromeda promised to arrange a visit to the bank for Wednesday afternoon, and to let Harry know if there were any changes.
After brunch, Andromeda and Harry went to sit on the sofa, Teddy wrapped in soft blankets in a basket between them. Harry held out a finger for Teddy to grab, which he did, holding on tightly, looking at Harry with not-quite-focussed eyes.
“How have you been coming along with the biographies?”
Harry kept his eyes on Teddy, rather than looking at Andromeda’s questioning face. Truthfully, after reading the first batch of names, including Sirius’, he been so caught up with the magic he’d been seeing ever since Malfoy showed him how, he hadn’t really spent much time reading the biographies.
“Something happened the other day,” he said in a low voice.
“Malfoy—Draco Malfoy, that is—asked a favour. He asked me as Head of the family.”
Andromeda was suddenly still. “And what did you answer?”
He looked up at her, surprised to see her face clouded with worry. “Aren’t you curious about what he asked?”
“If he asked you as Head of the family, the matter is between the two of you.”
“I don’t think it’s secret or anything. I was all set to turn him down. He wanted to know the status of the other Slytherins, the ones who were not on the cleansing team.”
“You thought that was an unreasonable request?” Her voice was a bit brittle.
“I didn’t know what he’d do with the information. He always seems to have plans within plans these days.”
“Perhaps he just wished to know which of his friends had survived? Would you have denied me the right to know that I had lost someone?”
“No! That’s not it at all. He’s... he’s so Slytherin!”
“As am I.”
Harry shook his head. “That’s not the point, anyway!”
“It is to me. I think I would like to know what kind of man heads my family.”
Her words made Harry feel small, of a sudden. “I wouldn’t have denied him, I don’t think, not once I’d thought about it. It wouldn’t have been right. But before I could even make that choice, something happened.”
“Ah? The entire history of Black ancestors started clamouring in my head, and all you can say is ‘Ah’? Did you know that would happen?”
“I knew if you ignored them, they would find a way to make themselves known. That is why I have been giving you the readings, giving you a chance to learn of our family, to learn of our ancestors. The more you know of them, the more you will be able to meet them on an even footing, or even take the leadership, as you should. If they sensed that you were even considering denying a reasonable request by a descendent of Black, they would certainly have taken that as good reason to break through.”
“Well, they did. It was...excruciating.”
“Did they help you make up your mind?”
“It was mostly Remus. He has that effect on me.” Harry paused. “Tonks was there.”
“They are together.”
Andromeda was silent for a moment, her neck bent to gaze at her hands, clasped in her lap. “I know what you hear are only echoes, but it does my heart good to hear that. I’ve always believed that the echoes are a fairly good representation.”
“I just wish... I’m glad Remus and Tonks are there. If I have to have generations of pureblood bigots in my head, at least I also have them. I just wish Sirius were there as well.”
“I know you do, child. I know you do.”
June 7th, 1998
Harry was starting to like the tradition of dinner at the Weasleys’ every Sunday. It was a guaranteed chance to see Hermione, Ron and the rest of the Weasley family. Hermione was so busy at the Ministry during the day, making it possible for Muggleborn families who fled or were captured to reunite, and getting ready for her trip to Australia in the evenings, that the Sunday gatherings were the only time each week that they were in the same room.
Harry’s own work with the Slytherin team (and related excursions), as well as the research and exercises that Andromeda had assigned him, were keeping him busy. He knew he could Apparate to the Burrow or even to the Ministry entrance at any time, but whenever it occurred to him, he was in the midst of something else. On Sundays, he didn’t let anything get in the way.
Dinner that evening was Mrs Weasley’s savoury chicken, asparagus and potato pie, along with a radish salad, homemade bread, and some sort of creamy cake with rhubarb sauce for dessert. That was another reason why Sundays at the Burrow was starting to be one of Harry’s favourite traditions.
He also enjoyed hearing about what was happening at the Ministry, even if it sometimes made him angry to learn how bad it had become. It seemed they really were trying to clean up after the mess that Voldemort and his followers had left, both in terms of sabotage when they left and the laws passed while Voldemort was in power.
“We could do more, but there have been some really insidious laws passed, not just recently, but over the past fifty years and more. We’ll get the worst of the ones passed last year struck down, but some are built on other laws, and thus are really entrenched.”
“Like the werewolf laws,” Harry said. Warm affection from the back of his thoughts kept the sadness in check.
“Those are bad, but at least it is clear how they affect the werewolf population. Some of the more insidious ones look like a good idea on the surface.
“There’s one that all Muggleborn witches and wizards have to be given an introductory booklet about the Wizarding world, prior to entrance to Hogwarts.”
“That sounds like a good thing,” Harry commented. “I probably could have used one.”
“I did get one,” Hermione said. “It was not merely useless, it was misleading.”
“Why don’t they update it?”
“The law states that a particular group is responsible for creating and updating a suitable book,” Mr Weasley said. “That group is made up of old-guard purebloods. They seem to have made it a goal to limit the information available to Muggleborn students.”
“If I hadn’t cross referenced with other sources, I’d have made so many mistakes,” Hermione said.
“I can’t see Dumbledore allowing that. Wasn’t McGonagall the one who came to tell you about Hogwarts? I certainly can’t see her giving those out.”
“It was owled directly from the Ministry, shortly after McGonagall came,” Hermione explained. “Besides, it was nothing too obvious. It was just enough that if you didn’t already know what it meant, it could be misinterpreted. It could be that the writers were all pureblood, and didn’t know how to explain things, but even so, it should have at least one Muggleborn as a reviewer, if nothing else. If they used only the book, Muggleborn witches and wizards wouldn’t know how to get access to certain resources, or would make mistakes that would set them apart.”
“But you learned what you needed to know, anyway,” Ron said, his pride in her evident.
“There are still areas that I am not familiar with,” she grumbled. “Oh, here’s another one. You know the laws about misuse of Muggle artefacts?”
“Dad’s department,” Ron commented.
“Well, I looked up what constituted misuse of Muggle artefacts.”
“It’s enchanting Muggle tecknowledgy to do things to Muggles, right?” Ron commented.
“Not exactly.” Hermione grimaced a bit at Ron’s pronunciation but let it go. “That is how the law is mostly enforced, but it could be enforced otherwise. The law states that misuse of Muggle artefacts is ‘altering an object of Muggle origin with the use of magic.’”
“Harry, when we met on the train, what was the first thing I did?”
“You asked about Neville’s toad,” Harry said.
“You repaired Harry’s glasses!” Ron got this strange, almost awestruck look on his face. “Hermione, you broke the law!”
“We all did many times last year.”
“But that was last year, when the Death Eaters were in charge. This was in your very first year!”
“Anytime a Muggleborn casts a warming charm on their clothes, or repairs something they brought from home, they are breaking the law,” Hermione said. “Even if it the law is not enforced as written, it means they can choose to enforce it, if they need something against someone. In this case, most likely a Muggleborn.”
“There were laws passed shortly after the Statute of Secrecy that made it illegal to tell Muggleborn witches and wizards certain things,” Mr Weasley commented.
“What?” Hermione was outraged. “What kind of things?”
Mr Weasley shook his head. “The idea was that Muggleborns would tell their families, and that would endanger our world. Unfortunately, that law led to entire branches of knowledge being sequestered within families. Wizarding culture has lost knowledge because of it.”
“That might be the root of the information Malfoy plans to share with you, Harry,” Hermione said. “Information known only to pureblood families.”
“I’m not sure about that,” Harry started. Was Malfoy teaching him secrets?
“What does she mean, that Malfoy is teaching you?” Mrs Weasley had an edge to her voice, and even Mr Weasley looked concerned. “I thought he was locked away! How dare they let him out, after all he’s done!”
Harry looked at her, startled. “Oh! Hermione means Draco Malfoy, not his father.”
Mrs Weasley’s outrage subsided, but she still looked concerned.
“I’m helping cleanse the castle from the after-effects of the dark magic from the final battle, and from last year,” Harry explained. “I’m sure I told you that.”
“I knew you were helping, but Harry, are you sure that’s safe?”
“They, the Slytherins, I mean, know what they’re doing. I guess they do it every year, or something. And I’m learning. I’m being very careful.” Well, he was now. He mentally cringed at the thought of the risk he had put everyone in.
“But how can you trust them? How do you know they won’t teach you something dark?”
“Do you trust me?” Harry asked.
“Of course we do, Harry! We know you’d never do anything dark on purpose! It’s only--their type have confused many a good person.”
Harry thought of the spells he had cast. Cruciatus. Imperius. What would Mr and Mrs Weasley think if they knew? He pushed the thought aside and said, “I’ve seen dark. I’ve felt dark. In the war, I felt more than I’d like of it. I think I have a good sense of what it feels like.”
He even knew how it felt to cast dark magic, Unforgivables, even. He hoped he’d never have to do that again. The worst part of it was they had not felt different than any other spell. Other dark magic felt wrong, and the Horcruxes felt malevolent, but the Unforgivables used your own needs. They felt like a part of your own will. That made them the most insidious of all.
“Just be careful, Harry.”
Harry nodded. “Of course I will.”
There was a moment of silence, then Mr Weasley spoke up. “They’ve finally cleared all of the trip-curses on that horrible statue in the Atrium of the Ministry.”
Harry glanced around the table as Mr Weasley told of the various curses and traps that had been layered on the statue, and how they were finally able to remove it. Hermione listened intently, with a satisfied smile. Ron concentrated on his potatoes and chicken, shoving the asparagus to the side, until Hermione turned his plate a bit so the vegetables were right in front of him. Ron sighed and stabbed a spear with his fork, and made a show of taking a bite. Hermione smiled.
Percy was silent, listening, but not voicing an opinion as he would have done a year before. The final stages of the war had been good for Percy, Harry thought. Harry only wished Percy hadn’t had to lose a brother in the process.
When Harry’s gaze fell on George, he was surprised. A secret smirk played across George’s face, almost as if he was listening to something funny. He didn’t laugh, but Harry had seen that look before, when the twins were planning something. George was paying attention, Harry thought, but not to his father.
When George saw him looking, he gave a grin and a quick shake of his head. Harry had seen that too. Don’t say anything, the gesture said. Harry was just happy to see the grin. He hadn’t seen George grin like that since... yeah.
After dinner, with just a nod and a glance, Harry, Ron and Hermione agreed to head outside to the orchard.
“Are you looking forward to seeing your parents?”
Hermione shook her head. “Well, of course I am, but… what if they’re angry with me? What if they don’t want to talk to me?”
Harry didn’t know what to say about that. She had taken their memories, had taken their choices away from them, even if it was to keep them safe. How many times had people told him the same thing? He didn’t think they would have made it though if it hadn’t been for Hermione’s planning. How could he judge her for doing what she thought necessary, so that she could support him as she had?
“You’ll figure it out. They’re your parents, Hermione. They’ll understand.”
“I hope so,” she said doubtfully.
“Just look at Percy,” Ron added. “He was a great git for the whole war, but he figured it out in the end.”
“But that’s just it. He figured it out before it was over. He left it to the last minute, but he still figured it out. I’m going to them now that I’ve done what I meant to. That’s different. I can’t tell them I would have done it differently, because I would do exactly the same thing if the situation came up again! They didn’t have enough information, not really. There was no way that I could have convinced them. If I figured out how to make them understand how bad it was, they’d have insisted I go with them!”
Harry wished he could say something useful, but he couldn’t. He couldn’t imagine sacrificing Sirius’ memory of him, for example. Sirius was the closest thing Harry had to someone who could have been family, and Harry could not have borne it to see Sirius looking at him without recognizing him. Mr and Mrs Granger were Hermione’s parents. She had known them her entire life. How much worse would it be to see them looking at her as if she were a stranger?
“So, how are you getting there?” he asked instead.
“Kingsley is providing a chain of international Portkeys to Sydney.”
“You wouldn’t want to do it all in one go.”
Harry couldn’t decide which would be worse: having to go such a long distance, or having to take another Portkey right after finishing the first one. Still, at least it would be fast. “That’s good. Do you know how long you’ll be gone?”
“I ... I don’t know how long it will take. I just hope I can get back by the time they hold the NEWTs.”
“You can always take them next year, with the rest of us,” Ron commented. “You have to work it out with your parents. That’s important!”
“I know. But... taking the NEWTs is important. They are the foundation for any job we might want. I hate to give up a chance to take them early, and get either another try next year, or even better, learn something new.”
Harry grinned. Her priorities had not changed. At least she was willing to risk missing this year’s NEWTs for the sake of reconnecting with her parents. He would give almost anything to have his own in his life. She was in this situation because she chose to support him over the last year. It wouldn’t be right if she lost them over that.
“Hermione, you were already taking all the electives you could. Unless you want to start back up with Divination.”
Hermione gave an exaggerated shudder. “I could use the free time to get a more thorough grounding in Latin or Wizarding history. Or both. I am so envious of what Malfoy offered to teach you, Harry. How is that going?”
“I’ve learned a little. So far, I’m mostly learning about how to scribe runes in the air, and...”
Harry paused, wondering if he wanted to share this. He wanted to understand what he saw, and to talk about it with someone else who saw magic, who could help him understand... maybe even Malfoy. Until then, it was something that had hit him deeply, and he almost wanted to keep it to himself for a bit. But these were his best friends. “I’ve also learned how to see magic, which is amaz—”
“You’ve learned what?”
Harry looked at his two friends, startled. They had spoken completely in unison. “Now, that’s freaky.”
“What?” Ron asked.
“You and Hermione having the same reaction to anything vaguely academic.”
“It’s not academic. Seeing magic is rare!”
“It can’t be that rare. I mean, it’s new to me, but I think the entire Slytherin team can do it.”
“Are you sure?”
“How else would they be able to cast the runes so smoothly? They have to engage the ambient magic without... I’m no good at explaining it. But I can’t see being able to do the cleansing as well as they do without knowing what’s there.”
“Maybe they just have lots and lots of practice,” Ron said.
Hermione took out a book Harry recognized as her study planner, and made a note.
At his look, she said, “I have to see if there are any books about that. There have to be!”
Harry smiled. Maybe there were. Maybe Hermione could explain the theory of what he saw, of those dark and light flows of raw, primal beauty. He almost hoped she couldn’t. It was as if defining the flow of magic would somehow constrain it, making it something less. He wanted to understand it, but not to pigeonhole it. What he had seen was too magnificent for that.
He lay back onto the grass and looked at the wispy clouds scudding by against the sky, which was starting to gather the colours of sunset, listening to the buzz of insects, and feeling the warmth of the sun on his skin.
This was what life was supposed to be like.
“Ron, tell Harry what you’ve been doing.”
Harry felt boneless, sprawled on the grass, but after a few moments pushed himself up to rest on one elbow to look at the other two. Hermione was seated, leaning back on her arms and Ron had his head in her lap. He had a long blade of grass that he was spinning between two fingers, watching it curve outward at the top as he spun it. He lifted his head enough to look at Harry.
“I’d planned to tell you this evening. George has opened their shop back up.”
“Is he ready for that? I mean, the two of them worked there together.” There would have to be so many memories. Harry couldn’t imagine how George could handle that.
“He seems okay, I guess. He said he’d better go back and keep it open, if he wanted to make the rent for next month. It’d be horrible if their dream just… ended, you know?
“It was strange, though. The first day, I went with him. Mum looked so proud when I offered; you’d think I had won the war.”
“Well, you certainly helped,” Harry commented dryly.
“Anyway, I didn’t want him to sit there alone, with all those reminders, you know? So I went to help out.” Hermione stared at Ron with bright eyes, then leaned to one side so she could free a hand to give his arm a squeeze.
“George kept losing track, staring at nothing, even when there were customers. I had to help them, and you know how I am with numbers. Anyway, after that first day, George just started to act as if nothing was wrong. Like nothing had changed. I mean, he wasn’t pranking and joking, but he wasn’t quite so sad. He seemed… focused. Day before yesterday, he even pranked me. Git rigged the Pygmy Puffs to follow me around. All sodding day!”
Harry choked on his laughter, imagining a whole little furry rainbow trailing after Ron. Ron game him a half-hearted glare, then snorted. “I don’t mind. I never thought I’d miss their pranks, you know?
“So, I’ve been there this week. I don’t think I ever want to be a shop clerk, not long term, though! I figure I’ll help out for the rest of the summer, or at least until George kicks me out for giving too much change or something.”
Hermione smiled a supportive smile. “It’s really good of you, Ron. I’m sure George appreciates it.”
“He’d better,” Ron commented, without heat.
The return of the beaded bag
They fell into silence for a bit, when Hermione exclaimed, “Oh! I have things for you both! I’ve been meaning to give yours to you, Ron, but I keep forgetting when I see you! Now I can give them to both of you at the same time.” She reached into the pocket of the summer-weight jacket she wore, and pulled out a small, sparkling but ragged bag.
“Is that your beaded bag? Why is it so small?” Harry asked.
“Where’s it been?” Ron asked, almost at the same time.
“Filch had it.” Hermione answered Ron first. “I only found it when I stopped by earlier this week to see you, Harry.”
“I never saw you!”
“I didn’t know where you were working that day, so I was told to ask Filch. He said you were busy and couldn’t be disturbed.” Hermione’s voice had a bit of frustration, and something else. “I know you are working, and that’s good Harry, but it seems we only see you on Sundays!”
“I hate to agree with Filch, but he was right. If I was working, it would have been dangerous to interrupt. I learnt that the hard way.” He grimaced.
“I’ll want to hear that story later, Harry.” Harry ducked his head.
“The size is mostly due to your dad,” she said to Ron. “He was, well, he was a bit proud of us, and he said something about my bag to some of Kingsley’s crowd. When I started carrying it again this past week, people kept stopping me in the hall wanting to see it. I’m starting to have a better appreciation for how annoying that is, Harry, when they do that with your scar. It’s like they think my purse has magical powers, since it was with us on our trip.”
“Hermione, it does have magical powers,” Ron commented with a grin. “How many enchantments do you have on it?”
“That’s not what I mean, and you know it!” she huffed.
Ron and Harry grinned at each other.
“Well, anyway, I didn’t feel like having people poking in my purse on a regular basis, so I found a way to make it still smaller, and still have all the expansion charms work. I couldn’t use a regular shrinking charm, as that would have interfered, but I looked at the arithmantic calculations behind the two spells…”
Ron’s snort stopped Hermione’s explanation before she could get too much into it. “One of these days, I’ll find someone who’s interested in the finer details of magic. Fine. You want the short version? I made it small enough to fit in a pocket. And now I won’t lose it again.”
“But how do you get your hand in?”
“It’s exactly the size of my hand, which makes it the size of my pockets, too. But I can also make it revert to the original size if I want.” She tapped it with her wand.
The familiar beaded bag appeared, back at its original size. Hermione reached in and pulled a bundle out. “Harry, I think I’ve got everything of yours here. Let me know if you are missing anything. And Ron, here are your things.”
Harry unwrapped his bundle to find his clothes and a few other things that Hermione had packed for him. On top were three books. “The History of the Sacred Twenty-Eight?” he asked about one of them.
“I had packed it to know what we were up against. The twenty-eight purest of pureblood families. I thought you might like to see what they say about the Blacks.”
“Maybe you can find something in there to use against Malfoy,” Ron added, grinning at the thought.
“It would be good to know more about them. All of them, I mean. I sometimes think they know more about the Potters than I do.”
“That sort grow up knowing about the alliances between families,” Ron commented, “who owes what and that sort of thing.”
“Hey, Ron, your family’s in here!”
“Don’t remind me!” Then Ron suddenly grinned. “If they ever do a revision, I bet we won’t be!”
Harry just smiled. “Thanks, Hermione. I’ll have to look into it. It would be nice to understand what they are talking about to each other.”
“Mate, if they’re Slytherins, you’ll never understand them, and you wouldn’t want to.”
Harry didn’t say anything.
Later that evening, Harry tracked Percy down, as he headed up the twisted stairs to his room. “I suppose it’s too late to weed the garden, but do you want to go out and talk?” Harry hoped that the mention of the afternoon of a shared task, in which they actually seemed to get along, would help.
“Why?” Percy’s face clouded with suspicion.
“You just looked like you could use an ear.” Harry had a brief mental image of what George would do with that comment, but this was Percy.
“Why do you care?”
Harry almost shrugged; the words “never mind” hovered just unsaid. He stopped himself. "You just looked as if you were feeling left out earlier. I know how that feels."
"How do you know how that feels?" A bit of the old Percy emerged with his bitterness.
"We all make choices we wish we could unmake. Even more, I know that how other people see you, for good or ill, can make it hard to be the person you want to be."
Percy considered that. "The bench by dad's shed is more comfortable than it looks."
Harry knew that. It was made of old, weathered wood, shaped by years of Weasleys sitting on it. Surrounding it were wildflowers. In the height of summer, bees flew from flower to flower, but the bench itself had been spelled so that they ignored anyone sitting on it.
Percy sat on it, not in his usual erect posture, but hunched over, as if he didn't believe in himself anymore. Harry had never seen Percy slump until his world came crashing down on him in that final battle, where he discovered the man he had been following was being controlled by Death Eaters. Harry knew he could have learned it earlier, when it became clear that his boss during the Tri-Wizard tournament was likewise being controlled... Percy hadn't wanted to see it then. At least he did now.
"Ever since I was small, I wanted to work in the Ministry. They make the important decisions, they make the rules the rest of us follow. I thought I could work my way up, and eventually make rules that I believed in."
Harry restrained a shudder at the thought of a world run by Prefect Percy.
"When I was young, I idolized Dad, thinking that he must be important, to work in the Ministry. I was so proud that he was my dad."
"Did you ever tell him that?"
"Yes. I was six. His eyes shone as if I had just given him the best present ever. I remember him hugging me so tight it hurt."
Harry just waited. He suspected Percy had never told anyone this. Who would have listened? Maybe Bill and Charlie, if they had still been home. Certainly not the twins, and not Ron. Ginny had probably been too young for someone as proud as Percy to confide in. Even if he had, it was likely that revealing how he felt would have roused that famous Weasley temper. It was obvious that Percy had become disappointed somewhere along the line, and any of his brothers would have been upset with Percy for insulting their father. It sounded as if Percy had been bottling it up for a long time.
Harry remembered what it had been like when he was young. He had built images up in his mind of who his parents were. Even before he knew the truth, he had never let the image of “his parents the drunks” taint his fantasy parents, who loved him and would one day come for him. He knew it wasn't true, but he'd held onto that fantasy for years.
"One day, I heard some of the older students at Hogwarts say that the Department of the Misuse of Muggle Artefacts was a joke of a department. I didn't want to believe it. But the next time I went in to the Ministry with him, I started noticing how people looked at him. Lucius Malfoy strode around the halls as if he owned the place, and people backed away to give him room when he walked."
"I think that might have been fear."
"All I saw was that he was affluent and respected. Dad... People didn't get out of his way when he walked. The ones that greeted him were just every day workers, not the people that I thought mattered. They treated him like just another worker, not someone important."
"I suspect that your father encouraged that. He likes people, and people can tell that."
Percy sighed. "Maybe I should have been trying to be like him after all."
"Well, now you know. I don't think most of the people who worked at the Ministry over the years know that."
"That's the thing. I don't think I can go back and work there. I think I'd get caught up in it again. I've always had that dream, to be powerful and respected... to be able to shape the world. If I went back there, I think I'd lose myself in it again."
"You don't have to work there, you know."
"What else could I do? It's all I ever imagined for myself!"
"You know what I imagined for myself?" Harry said quietly.
Percy thought. "Something important. You like Quidditch, right? Did you want to play Quidditch? Or become an Auror? That's what people said you'd want."
"I don't mean what I want, I mean what I expected. With Voldemort coming after me over and over again, I never really expected to survive."
Percy stared at him. "You always seemed so arrogant. The rules never seemed to apply to you. I'd have assumed that you thought death itself would bend the rules for you."
It did. Harry didn't say that thought aloud.
"So, now I have to imagine a different future. We're in the same boat, I think."
"You've been thinking about this a lot?"
"It's a bit hard not to. Everyone's making suggestions. How I should use my power, change things for the better. I sort of just want to have an ordinary year... maybe even an ordinary life."
Percy stared at him. “I’ve always only wanted to prove myself better.”
“To do that, you have to prove other people worse.”
Percy nodded slowly.
“Let’s both of us just figure out what we would enjoy, without worrying about what anyone else thinks of it, okay?” Harry said.
It was a nice thought.