Summary: Harry is gravely ill, and a friend takes drastic measures to save
Disclaimer: The characters and setting belong to JKR--I'm just borrowing
Rating: PG, for themes.
Time Frame: About a month after the events of "Harry Potter and The Order
of the Phoenix." (spoilers)
Archiving: Be my guest, but e-mail me (email@example.com) to let me
know. . .I like to know where stuff I write ends up and I might want to see
what else you've got.
Vernon Dursley leaned back in his chair and watched the evening news,
snickering quietly at the latest misadventures of the Royal Family. It had
been a good summer--quiet, uneventful. . .no sign of disturbing abnormal
behavior from that ungrateful nephew of his--
RATATATATAT! The harsh sound came from the direction of the front door,
and Vernon frowned as he realized that the sound was from someone banging
on the entrance with a walking stick. He stood, bristled, and stalked to
the door, snarling as he opened it: "Now see here, abusing my front door
with a stick is behavior that I simply am not going to--" He blinked, and
a low sound of distress came from deep in his chest before he managed to
compose himself and say simply: "Ah, hello."
Mad Eye Moody--his bowler hat jammed down low over his magic eye--stood
there glaring at him, his walking stick still clutched in his hand. Vernon
involuntarily gave ground, and Moody barged past him into the house,
followed by Tonks (who had assumed the same appearance she had worn when
last meeting Harry's uncle to avoid confusing him) and Remus Lupin, who was
wearing a simple, well-worn grey business suit. Vernon closed the door
behind them and used the real outrage he was feeling to tamp down the
equally real terror he felt before demanding, "What's the matter? Have you
come to take the boy away early this year? You could have called--I would
have told him and had him ready."
Moody looked murderous, and Tonks glared at Vernon. Lupin--regretting that
he was obviously going to have to be the rational member of the group--
locked eyes with Vernon and said simply, "We haven't heard from Harry for
four days--is he all right?"
Vernon blinked in surprise and shrugged. "As far as I know, he's upstairs.
We came to an understanding last month when we brought him back--he takes
all his meals in his room, doesn't disturb us when we have company, and
otherwise he's free to do as he wishes--as long as he keeps sending those
bloody owls to keep you lot away." He scowled and muttered, "Looks like he
hasn't been living up to his end of the bargain."
Tonks started to open her mouth, only to be silenced by a look by Lupin.
Lupin looked back at Vernon and asked, "May we go up and see him, then?"
Vernon knew it wasn't a request. "Might as well--damage is done and all
that. Make sure that boy sends word from now on that he's being treated
well." He gestured to the stairs, and Lupin, Tonks and Moody ascended and
went to Harry's door, which was closed. Lupin knocked once and called out,
"Harry? It's Lupin, Tonks, and Moody--we wanted to make sure you were all
right." He waited, but there was no answer. Suddenly, he noticed a faint
but unpleasant odor coming from behind the door. He blinked, turned and
snarled, "Dursley--get up here!"
Vernon walked up the stairs, visibly nervous--but noting that the pink-
haired woman and the crazy man with the bizarre false eye looked puzzled,
while the thin man who had been so polite earlier had a look of barely
contained rage on his face. He swallowed hard. "What's the matter?"
"You've been leaving meals outside Harry's door?" Lupin snapped. Vernon
nodded, and the former Hogwarts professor pressed on: "And he returns the
Vernon shrugged. "I guess--that's Petunia's department, you know."
Tonks' eyes widened--she saw where Lupin was going, and she asked, "How
long has it been since he returned any dishes? How long has it been since
you actually saw his face, Dursley?"
Vernon had an impulse to take a step back from the angry young woman, but
any retreat would take him in the direction of someone who was--to all
appearances--equally brassed off at him. He thought for a moment, and
replied, "Three days."
Lupin cursed and tried to open the door--only to find it locked. He pulled
out his wand and shouted, "Alohomora!" The door opened, and Lupin stepped
into Harry's room, stopped, and stared in horror.
A pile of dishes was sitting on Harry's small desk--all of them containing
food that he had apparently not touched. Some of the ones near the bottom
had gone rather bad, explaining the odor that Lupin had detected.
Harry himself was lying on his bed, pale and unmoving. Lupin moved over to
him and checked his pulse--it was weak, but there. The others moved into
the room: Tonks gasped, Moody snarled, and Vernon stared at the dishes and
bellowed, "Bloody hell! We'll never get the stench out of the walls--" He
stopped in mid-sentence and squeaked as six eyes focused on him with the
promise of violent, painful death if he finished his thought. He
backpedaled and muttered, "Well, I'll let you handle the situation," before
fleeing and locking himself in his bedroom and pulling the covers over his
Moody glared after the departed muggle with contempt, then turned to Tonks.
"Use the portkey for Professor Dumbledore's office. We need to evacuate
Harry to headquarters, along with his things." Tonks nodded and quickly
vanished. The retired Auror looked at the spot where she had been, then
down at the gravely ill young man on the bed as he whispered, "He's not
coming back here ever again."
* * * * *
Forty-eight hours later, the entire membership of the Order of the Phoenix
had assembled at Number 12 Grimmauld Place--along with a few interested
spectators who had demanded to be let in. Hermione--who had immediately
left her parents in Florida when she heard the news about Harry--was
sitting next to Ron, who was holding her hand and giving it a comforting
squeeze occasionally. Neville sat between Ginny and Luna in a corner.
Fred and George--who were due to be sworn into the Order later that summer--
sat near Ron and Hermione, looking unnaturally somber. Professor
Dumbledore glanced over at each of them for a moment, his expression grave
yet comforting, then cleared his throat and announced, "Very well, then.
This emergency meeting is called to order. I don't believe I need to be
too elaborate about our reason for meeting tonight--Remus, Alastor, and
Tonks went to visit Harry at his aunt and uncle's home two days ago after
he ceased sending messages to the Order about his well-being, and they
found that he had fallen ill without alerting the attention or interest of
the Dursleys--not that this is a great revelation to any of us."
Dumbledore noted the near-unanimous expressions of disgust on the faces of
the occupants of the room, though the expression on the face of Sevarus
Snape was closer to contempt. He decided to change the subject, turning to
the dignified-looking witch wearing a green shawl and a somber expression:
"Emmeline, what can you tell us about Harry's condition?"
Emmeline Vance--the member of the Order with the most expertise as a healer-
-stood up and replied, "As nearly as I can tell, Harry hadn't eaten or
taken any liquids for about eighty hours before he was found. He was badly
dehydrated and had lost about three kilos in that time--and he was too
bloody thin before that, if you ask me." Dumbledore looked at her
reprovingly, and Vance flushed slightly and continued, "We cast the usual
maintenance spells and got his fluid level back to a more tolerable point,
and we forced a few potions into him, but--"
"That should get him back to health, right?" Hermione burst out, getting
to her feet and looking pleadingly at Vance. "He wasn't that far gone--
muggles survive similar deprivation all the time and bounce right back!"
Dumbledore noted that Snape was about to admonish Hermione for speaking up,
and silenced him with a glance. He looked over at the young witch and said
softly, "Miss Granger, there are times that we forget that you are not an
expert in everything magical--at least not yet." Hermione would have
ordinarily flushed at the implied compliment, but her concern for Harry
left her expression pale and grim, and Dumbledore hastened to make his
point: "Harry stopped eating because he was in what muggles would call a
state of deep depression. They have come up with various drugs and
therapies to treat people who are in such a condition; unfortunately, such
remedies do not work on wizards and witches--their internal magic disrupts
the effect on the mind that they need to operate properly. Fortunately,
magical remedies do work for us, but there is a catch--Emmeline, I fear I
am out of my depth after this point: will you proceed with the
"Of course, Albus." Vance smiled, then turned to Hermione and continued in
a tone that somehow blended a professor's lecture with a doctor's bedside
manner: "Hermione, magical cures work on a single basic principle--that
the patient wants to get better and when given the resources to defeat
whatever ailment they have been victimized by, they will want it to work.
A healing potion has a certain amount of intrinsic power, but the greater
part of its potency is its ability to focus the internal magic of the
wizard or witch to the purpose of healing the specific problem they have.
Most of the time, this works very well and produces results that are far
beyond anything that muggle methods have come up with--but in the rare
cases where the patient does not want to get better, it creates a problem."
Hermione gasped in comprehension, and Vance nodded sadly and elaborated,
"Right now, Harry doesn't want to get better."
"He wants to die?" Ron asked quietly, getting to his feet and reflexively
hugging Hermione while locking eyes with Vance. "I don't believe it--Harry
wouldn't want to die."
"If he actually wanted to be dead, Mr. Weasley, he would be." Snape's
voice startled Ron, and he was about to snap at his Potions professor
before he noted the atypically gentle expression on his face. He remained
silent, and Snape continued, "A wizard or witch can easily will themselves
to die, if they are not constrained as far as the exercise of their powers
goes. A rather nasty irony of Azkaban when it was under the control of the
dementors was that the deaths that many prisoners had were far more
lingering than they would have been if they had command of their powers--
the ones who die do so more or less as muggles do--though simple starvation
and loss of will to live." He shook his head and added, "I suspect that
Mr. Potter has simply withdrawn from the weight of events, and is unwilling
to come back to reality. Unfortunately, it can be hard to bring someone
out of that state--as the experience of Mr. Longbottom's parents has
demonstrated." Neville cringed at the mention of his parents by his
longtime tormentor, but Snape turned to him and concluded in a soft voice,
"When one has experienced an extreme trauma, the survival instinct can
sometimes take the form of complete withdrawal from existence, regardless
of the harm that it does to oneself, or to those they may hold dear--
although they would never act in such a way if they were in their right
mind." Neville swallowed hard, and nodded at Snape, who turned to Hermione
and said simply, "If Mr. Potter is to be saved, he has to want to be
Ginny blinked, then turned to Dumbledore and asked bluntly, "Why is this
happening now? Harry was sad and angry after Sirius died, but he hadn't
withdrawn from the world--what changed?"
Dumbledore felt a tingle of affection for the youngest Weasley. * Right
to the point, this one is * He looked at Ginny and replied, "The last
five years have been difficult for everyone in this room, but Harry has
been the focal point of Lord Voldemort's malice during that time. The link
between the two of them has been a strain on Harry's psyche, in spite of
our efforts to alleviate it. Also. . .Sirius' death convinced me that
Harry had the right to know the nature of what the true connection was
between himself and Lord Voldemort, and that withholding the information
from him would only make him more bitter and run the risk of another
disaster due to his ignorance of the truth. The knowledge seemed to
diminish his anger and allow him to go on, but I fear that it may have
gnawed at him over the weeks, without even the active malice of the
Dursleys to distract him as it would have in previous years. A rather
bitter lesson as to the unintended consequences that can result from our
most benevolent intentions."
"Albus--what exactly was in that prophecy that could have hit Harry so
hard?" Kingsley Shacklebolt looked over at Dumbledore, his eyebrows
knitting in intense thought as he continued: "He's endured so much and
come through it with remarkable composure--why was this the straw that
broke the camel's back?"
Dumbledore sighed and looked back at the Auror before replying, "Kingsley--
Lord Voldemort is not privy to the entire contents of the prophecy in
question, and I believe that the results of his doing so would be
disastrous. As all of us in this room are at threat for being the subject
of his attentions--including the possibility of abduction and extraction of
information by torture or spell--I have decided to not pass it on to any of
you at this time. Suffice it to say that protecting Harry from Voldemort--
or from himself, if need be--is to be considered as important a duty of the
Order as thwarting the goals of Voldemort."
"What can we do to save him from himself, then?" Luna Lovegood sounded
more somber and rational than anyone could remember hearing her be as she
stood up and looked over at Dumbledore. "How can we help Harry,
Dumbledore saw the look in the young Ravenclaw's eyes, and saw it mirrored
in the eyes of the other occupants of the room--the emotion he felt was
pride, tempered by continued concern. He looked around the room and said,
"Harry is in no immediate mortal danger--bringing him back is going to be a
gradual effort, and will depend largely on our ability to convince him that
fighting is better than withdrawing for all concerned. I encourage you to
go about your daily duties and otherwise maintain the appearance that all
is well--Voldemort will surely know that Harry is not well, but we must not
hint at the degree of the problem. I would ask that each of you sit with
him when you can, and speak to him--the company of those who care for him
cannot help but do some good. I hope that it will be enough." He stood
and said quietly, "Meeting adjourned. For those who can stay, Molly
Weasley has been kind enough to arrange refreshments in the living room."
The others stood and began to file out of the room, some in silence, others
whispering back and forth. The last person hesitated, then turned and
walked back to the table. Dumbledore--who was gathering papers and placing
them in a battered briefcase--smiled at the Order member and commented, "I
noticed you were being uncharacteristically reticent in the meeting--do you
have a plan that you wish me to consider?"
The Order member nodded, and spoke for three minutes. Dumbledore listened,
nodded occasionally during the explanation, and smiled when it was
completed. "A well-thought out course of action. I suspect you will need
some assistance to pull it off properly." He named two other members of
the Order, and suggested how they could assist in the plan. "Best keep it
among the three of you--you will need to avoid premature revelation of the
nature of your actions to Harry, and a secret is always harder to keep
among twenty than among four." The Order member nodded again, and turned
to leave, only to be stopped by Dumbledore's comment: "You may save Harry
with this plan--but he may not thank you for it."
The Order member blinked, then turned back to Dumbledore and replied
simply, "So be it," before turning again and leaving the room without
another word. Dumbledore smiled sadly, finished gathering the papers, and
left the room.
* * * * *
Harry drifted in and out of consciousness. He was aware that the gnawing
pain on hunger in his stomach had vanished, and the occasional glimpses of
his surroundings told him that he was no longer in the little house on
Privet Drive, but on each occasion that he felt himself coming to full
awareness, the waves of anguish overwhelmed him, and his mind shrank away,
pulling him into the comforting embrace of oblivion. He had the impression
that someone--different someones--were sitting next to his bed, but he
only got brief impressions: Hermione's bushy hair and sad eyes--Kingsley
Shacklebolt's composed, concerned face--Luna watching him sadly and reading
the Quibbler to him. . .after a time, they blended together, and he could
not distinguish individual faces or names.
Somewhat later, Harry perceived that the lights in the room had been
lowered, and that the chair next to his bed was empty. He blinked--he
sensed that he was not alone. He turned his head to the left--and saw the
figure standing in front of the closed door. His glasses were not within
reach, and he squinted as the figure walked over to the bed.
He saw that the visitor was surrounded by a faint silver glow, which caused
him to squint harder to discern his features. He felt a shock of
recognition, and he blinked and recoiled momentarily--by the time he had
recovered, the visitor was standing next to his bed. Harry stared at the
dark eyes and long black hair, and the robes he had worn when Harry had
last seen him. The black mood which had ruled him for weeks tried to draw
him away from the obvious conclusion, but he shook it off and whispered:
The man nodded, and Harry sat up in bed as if someone had slipped a noose
around his neck and yanked him up. Harry felt a moment of sheer bliss, and
the despair of the last month fell away like cobwebs in a hurricane as he
blinked and asked simply: "How?"
Sirius shrugged. "Does it matter? You needed me, and I came." Harry
noted that Sirius seemed a lot more calm and composed than he had been
before, and that the aura of suffering that he had worn since his escape
from Azkaban seemed to have departed--leaving him looking far younger than
Harry had ever seen him. Sirius noted Harry's study of his appearance and
added, "I can't stay long, Harry--there are limitations to this sort of
Harry nodded, and Sirius continued, "Harry--you know it wasn't your fault,
right? Dumbledore kept you in the dark, and Vol--Voldemort tricked you
using knowledge that a traitor gave him. I knew the risks, and I died
fighting the good fight. It's a lot better deal than I had been given for
the past fourteen years of my life." The older wizard looked downcast,
then whispered, "I'm just sorry I won't be at your side for what is to
come, Harry--you need all of the help you can get."
Harry felt a burst of anger. "Yeah--I should seek out everyone I can to
fight at my side, so they can be murdered by monsters and left for me to
cry over while the bastards who killed them run off to plan to kill more
people I care about!" He glared at his godfather and snapped, "Better that
I lie in this bed for eternity and rot--no one else will die to protect
Harry was shocked to see Sirius glare at him. "You've got it all figured
out, don't you? Just run away from the world, and no one will suffer, or
die, or EXIST with you gone! Harry, for someone who obviously cares
greatly about his fellow human beings, you can be an insufferably arrogant
Harry blinked in shock, but the outrage he was feeling allowed him to snap
back, "You can't understand--I've got a damned prophecy hanging over my
head! Either Voldemort dies or I do, which means I get to either be a
corpse or a murderer--with the fate of the whole bloody world hanging in
the balance! Not to mention that until I learn Occlumency I have to worry
about Voldemort reading my mind and figuring it out, which will make him
want to kill me and everyone around me even more than he does now! I'm a
bloody menace, Sirius--we'd have all been better off if I had died when
Voldemort had that Avada Kedavra blow up in his face."
Sirius seemed to pale momentarily beneath the silver radiance surrounding
him, and it was a few moments before he replied, "Harry--being in Azkaban
kept me out of the loop for a long time, but that bastard would have been
back a long time ago if you hadn't been around to stop him. It might have
been the Sorcerer's Stone, or Ginny dying in the Chamber of Secrets, or
maybe he just would have kidnapped an Auror and used her blood to cast that
spell to bring him back, with no one the wiser. He was always going to
come back, Harry--it was just a matter of who was going to stand against
him when he did. For the past five years, you've been one of those people,
and a whole lot of people--wizards, witches and muggles--are bloody well
better off because you did. I'd still be in Azkaban or drooling in a
corner somewhere without a soul if you hadn't been around--do you really
think I'd rather have had that happen than be dead two years later? Ask
Remus or Dumbledore--they know me well enough to give you a straight answer
to that question--better two years knowing my godson than a lifetime of
misery or a fate worse than death."
Harry looked away, knowing that Sirius was being honest with him but not
wanting to admit it. He heard Sirius sigh, and looked back to see him
watching Harry sadly. Sirius shook his head and whispered, "Harry, anyone
in this house--well, except for Kreacher--would gladly face death with you.
It's their fight too--he's threatening their lives and happiness. .
.everything they believe in. I would have been there all along if I hadn't
been in prison. It's a fight worth having, Harry--but they can't do it if
you give up and hand that bastard a win that he'd have the fight of his
life getting without your help." He turned away and walked toward the
door. Harry reached out, but Sirius was too far away to touch. Sirius
looked back over his shoulder and called out softly, "Rest now, Harry--and
think about what I've said." There was a silent flash of silver light, and
he was gone.
Harry stared at the spot where Sirius had been, and tears flowed down his
cheeks for a few moments before the despair that had been absent during the
encounter returned with a vengeance, and he knew no more.
* * * * *
Harry was more aware of his surroundings, but he remained withdrawn as his
friends continued to take turns sitting by his bed and keeping him company.
Ron talked about Quidditch--joking that he'd duel Harry over who would be
the captain of the Gryffindor team for the upcoming year. Tonks showed up
and spent her time changing her face into the most outrageously funny
appearances she could muster--Harry closed his eyes to avoid laughing and
noticed that she smelled like lilacs. Molly Weasley sat silently,
occasionally mopping Harry's brow with a damp cloth and sighing
occasionally. Harry blinked, and drifted off to sleep.
When his eyes opened again, it was as it had been the night before--the
room was dark, and the chair was empty. With a sense of certainty, Harry
looked over to the door and saw the dark figure surrounded with the silver
glow. He squinted and called out, "Sirius?"
The figure shook its head, then stepped forward. Harry saw the medium
length auburn hair first, then the emerald gaze that mirrored his own. He
stopped breathing, and could not speak for several moments. The visitor
watched him with an expression that blended deep concern with infinite
pride, and Harry spent several seconds composing himself sufficiently to
utter the one word that he needed to confirm the evidence of his eyes:
Lily Potter nodded once, and replied quietly, "Yes, Harry--it's me." Her
voice was calm, and Harry thought that she sounded younger than she had in
the moments he had heard her voice before. He frowned, then remembered
that he had only heard her voice in life or death moments--his memories of
Voldemort's attack on his parents, and her spectral message to him the
night that Voldemort returned: it was hardly surprising that she would
sound a bit less haggard in this moment.
Harry shook his head in disbelief and whispered, "Mom, why have you come to
me now? I've been in greater danger than this before."
Lily shook her head. "Harry--you could not face a more dangerous opponent
than the one you have chosen for yourself." Harry frowned in confusion,
and Lily elaborated, "Harry--your courage is becoming a legend in the
wizarding world: you've stood against things that would have frozen the
souls of a lot of good, brave people--and you've faced them down. The
Patronus Charm isn't just a matter of raw magical power--it's a
manifestation of the bravery of the wizard who casts it, and you've
mastered it to a level that most adult wizards never do. I am very, very
proud of you for that." Harry blinked, and tears filled his eyes as Lily
continued, "But no one is brave enough to face the demons released when one
unleashes one's own worst fears and refuses to face them, Harry--once you
have done that, the battle is over. Harry--Remus taught you how to defeat
a boggart in your third year: what is the secret?"
"Use the Riddikulus charm to make the boggart look absurd as it assumes the
form of your worst fear, and repeat until it dies," Harry replied
automatically, feeling very strange indeed to be quizzed by his dead mother
about school lessons from three years ago. He looked at Lily and asked,
"Why do you ask?"
"Harry--if you were locked in a room with twenty boggarts and without your
wand, with each of the boggarts assuming the form of a different fear you
had, how long do you think you would be able to stand it?" Lily asked
calmly, sounding a lot like Professor McGonagall describing a particularly
involved Transfiguration procedure.
"Not very long." Harry could see where his mother was going, and wasn't
sure he liked it. "But--"
"That's what you're doing to yourself, Harry." Lily interrupted, and
locked eyes with him--letting Harry see the depth of the worry she was
feeling. "You've shut your feelings away in a little place in the back of
your head, and all you're letting yourself feel is every horrible thing
that could possibly happen to people you care about if you don't lock
yourself away from the rest of the human race. If they could make
criminals do to themselves what you're doing to yourself, Harry. . .there
would never have been a need for Azkaban, or dementors. Your friends all
know what is happening to you--what do you think this is doing to them? Do
they deserve this?"
Harry blinked, and found he could not look at his mother. "No."
Lily sighed, and Harry shivered as he heard her quiet words: "Harry--
Professor Dumbledore has told you what happened the night your father and I
died, and I know the memories of it are part of the burden you carry. What
you have to understand is this: the hardest part of what I did was not
dying in order to save you--it was knowing that I would be leaving you
alone to face whatever dangers your life would present you, whether it was
He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named or some other evil that I could have only imagined
in that moment. I made the choice, and I'll never regret it--but it was
the leaving, not the dying that made it the worst." Harry turned back to
Lily, and she nodded at the comprehension in his eyes as she continued,
"Harry--it takes a brave person to face death and do what needs to be done.
. .but it can take even more courage to allow those we care about to do the
same. You are a born leader, but you must be able to learn this lesson
before you can serve in that function and help your friends defeat the
monster you face. It is a hard thing to love and cherish someone, and to
watch them die in a cause they believe in--but it is something that you
must accept, even as you struggle to stop it from happening. By doing
this, you give them a better chance for survival than they would have had--
that's all anyone can do." She smiled lovingly at him and whispered, "It's
what I tried to do for you, Harry."
Lily blinked, and a tear fell free as she stepped back and said quietly, "I
have to go, Harry."
Harry sat up--the horrid sense of despair that had ruled him for weeks had
departed, replaced by simple exhaustion. He reached for Lily and
whispered, "Please don't go. . .could you just sit quietly with me for a
Lily hesitated, then nodded, moving over to the chair and pulling it just
out of Harry's reach before sitting down. Harry turned his head on the
pillow and looked at the smiling face of his mother. An overwhelming sense
of peace and comfort filled him, and his eyes closed after a few seconds.
He didn't see his visitor stand up, lean over and kiss him gently on the
forehead, and vanish from the room in a faint flash of silver light.
* * * * *
Ginny watched Harry sleep. She noticed that he seemed less pale than the
day before, and his chest rose and fell evenly as he breathed. He had not
reacted to either of her prior visits, but she wasn't about to let him
discourage her--she would come back until the house fell down if that's
what it took. She frowned thoughtfully. * What to talk about today? Oh
well, might as well follow Ron's lead * She leaned over and spoke softly:
"You know, Harry--with you stuck in this bed, Ron's going to end up as
team captain and I'll be Seeker again. Should be fun--I can knock Malfoy
off of his broom, make Cho cry again--"
"Ginny, it's *my* job to make Cho cry--I've gotten bloody good at it. As
for Malfoy--I'd suggest trying out for one of the Beater positions if you
want to knock him around--though I'd rather see you playing Chaser. The
Seeker job is taken."
Ginny blinked, and turned her head slightly to see Harry's green eyes
sparkling with the same humor she had just heard in his voice. * Stay
calm. Stay calm *
The squeal that echoed through the room quickly brought Vance, Moody, and
Lupin running through the doorway and up to the bed. They saw Ginny
energetically hugging Harry and whispering, "You're awake, you're awake,
you're awake." Harry's expression was a combination of embarrassment and
affection, and the others watched for a moment--with even Moody not
bothering to hide his relief.
After about thirty seconds, Harry had reached for his glasses and put them
on--only to look at Ginny and see that her expression looked a great deal
like an approaching storm front. He swallowed hard and asked nervously,
"Ah, Ginny--are you all right?"
Ginny's eyes flashed angrily, and she was about to open her mouth when
Lupin swooped in and grabbed Ginny by the arms, lifting her off the bed and
carrying her out of the room. Ginny looked furious, and Harry heard his
old professor whisper urgently to the young woman, "Not now, Ginny--but
later I might want a turn myself."
Harry shivered, then looked at Moody, who looked amused as he commented,
"Remus has a fair amount of experience with the hazards presented by an
angry redhead." Harry chuckled, and the retired Auror pulled up a chair
and asked quietly, "Are you fit, Potter?"
Harry sat up and shrugged. "You mean am I ready to face all of my friends
and admit I was being an idiot? As ready as I'm ever going to be--except
that I had some odd visions while I was out. They weren't like anything
that I've had when Voldemort was trying to influence me, but Healer Vance
should probably examine me to make sure nothing is wrong."
Moody frowned. "You shouldn't have had any visions, Potter. Dumbledore
put a rather powerful ward around the bed you're in--no mental emanations
can get either way through it. Not practical for you on an everyday basis,
but he figured you'd recover better without your scar paining you or
Voldemort trying to feed you more balderdash. Must have just been a
dream, whatever it was."
"Maybe." Harry frowned, then looked up at Moody and asked, "Could you let
everyone know I'm going to be all right, and tell Professor Dumbledore know
that I'm ready to throw myself to the mercy of the court at his
convenience?" Moody nodded and turned away, but Harry wasn't finished:
"Oh, and if Hermione's around, could you let her know that I'd like to see
her right away--without any sharp objects in her hands or a curse on her
Moody chuckled and departed. Harry glanced over to Emmeline Vance--who was
bringing a restorative potion over to him--and thought very hard indeed.
* * * * *
"You've all got a right to be furious with me, and I don't blame you for
it. All I can say is that I've put the time to good use, and I'm ready to
face things again--even though I'm not kidding myself--things are probably
going to get pretty bad from here on in. I'm going to have to deal with
the fact that people I care about are going to be in mortal peril a lot,
and that some of you might not. . .might not make it. But I'm going to do
my best to stop that from happening, and I'm terribly grateful to know that
you'll be doing the same for me--and for each other." Harry smiled weakly,
then whispered, "Thank you."
There was a moment of silence, then Ginny walked up to him, glared for a
moment, then reached out and hugged him gently as she whispered in his ear,
"I'm still going to give you a pummeling the next time we're out on the
"Looking forward to it," Harry replied. Ginny smiled and withdrew, and the
others crowded around him, welcoming him back, making humorously
disparaging remarks, and otherwise letting him know that they weren't *too*
mad at him. Harry smiled, managed a few verbal jabs of his own, and waited
for the room to calm down.
Professor Dumbledore noticed Harry's expression, and he called out, "I
believe that Harry has had enough excitement for today, and there is no
further business before the Order. I hereby declare this meeting
adjourned, and wish all of you a safe journey home."
The occupants of the room started to file out, and Harry waited until most
had left before calling out the name of one of the members of the Order,
who turned as Harry added, "Could I talk to you for a moment?" The Order
member nodded and pulled up a chair, and Harry looked at Professor
Dumbledore and requested, "Sir, I had a few questions for you, too--if
you're not urgently needed elsewhere."
"Of course, Harry--what can I do for you?" The three of them were alone in
the meeting room, and Dumbledore closed the door and mumbled a Silencing
Charm at it. Dumbledore turned back to Harry, pulled up a seat, and
"Professor--Moody told me that you had warded my bed against mental
intrusion--that would have stopped any visions or other manifestations of
the Sight, right?" Harry asked quietly, looking at the silent Order member
as he did so.
"Yes I did, Harry--and yes it would," Dumbledore replied, his eyes
twinkling. "If you could spend your life in a small hospital bed, it would
solve many of your problems. Hardly worth it in the long run, though."
Harry laughed involuntarily, then continued, "Professor--Hermione told me
that a ghost or other similar manifestation would be subject to the effects
of the Fidelius Charm as much as a living being. Is she correct?"
Dumbledore raised an eyebrow. "Even more so--there's a subtle nuance that
is not in any of the standard texts, which is undoubtedly why our clever
Miss Granger was not aware of it. A ghost of someone who previously had
access to a place protected by the Charm loses such access until and unless
the Secret Keeper entrusts them with the information again. It's a
safeguard against a person in the know being murdered and transformed into
a malevolent undead creature, then used to attack the location protected by
Harry nodded. "Very sensible. By any chance, did you give the spirits of
Sirius and my mother access to 12 Grimmauld Place?"
Dumbledore shook his head, and his gaze fell on the visibly squirming
member of the Order with a touch of sympathy in his eyes. "I would never
take such a step without consulting the rest of the Order, even in the
unlikely event that their spirits visited me."
"No, I didn't think you would, Professor. Thanks." Harry smiled and
added, "That's all I wanted to ask you--could I have some time alone with--
"Of course, Harry." Professor Dumbledore stood up and noted the faintly
pleading expression on the face of the member of the Order. The ancient
wizard smiled faintly, whispered, "I *did* warn you, you know," and left
Harry looked over and inclined his head at the Order member, indicating
that she should sit beside him. She stood and stumbled over the chair she
had been sitting in before taking a moment to straighten herself and
carefully move over to the chair next to Harry, where she managed to sit
down without incident. After a moment, Tonks sighed and asked quietly,
"All right, Harry--what gave me away?"
"Just a few things--you heard me ask Professor Dumbledore about some of
them," Harry replied, watching the Auror with a carefully neutral
expression. "If it wasn't a vision, and Sirius' and Mom's ghosts couldn't
have gotten in--that pretty much leaves someone assuming their identities,
and that doesn't leave many people who could have pulled it off. A couple
of other things--Sirius never had any trouble saying 'Voldemort', but you
stuttered when you said it, then avoided it for the rest of the
conversation. Mom seemed to be avoiding it too--and I have a hunch that
she never would have called him 'He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.' Oh, and I
thought it was strange that Sirius, Mom, and you all smelled like lilacs--
though it took me a bit of thinking to remember they had: you had me
pretty thoroughly distracted." Tonks swallowed hard, and Harry concluded,
"Now--who helped you?"
Tonks frowned and asked, "What do you mean, Harry?"
"I'm pretty sure I knew Sirius better than you did, Tonks--but except for
those little slips I would have had no idea that it wasn't really him."
Harry spoke softly, his eyes carefully studying Tonks as he continued, "I'm
pretty sure you never knew my mom--you're only six years older than I am,
but you got her pretty much perfect, from the little glimpses I've gotten
from memories and visions over the years. The voices, the mannerisms--you
got them dead on. You're good at what you do, but I don't think you're
*that* good. I assume that Professor Dumbledore helped you--who else was
in on it?"
Tonks watched him silently for a moment, then sighed. "I needed memories
of your mother and Sirius to do an effective job of impersonation, and a
way to absorb the memories thoroughly enough to use them to improve the
quality of the change--particularly their voices. Professor Dumbledore was
kind enough to loan us his pensieve, and he and Remus provided memories of
Sirius and your mom which were exactly what I needed."
Tonks paused, but Harry pressed: "And who helped you absorb the borrowed
memories--not to mention the impressive special effects that made you glowy
and hid the sounds of your Apparating?"
Tonks locked eyes with Harry, and she replied quietly, "I'm sorry, Harry--
the other person swore me to secrecy regarding their involvement. If you
are angry at them, you'll have to take it out on me."
Tonks was surprised to see Harry smile--though there was a touch of
bitterness in the smile. He sighed and responded quietly, "No need for
that--there's plenty of hostility between me and that person to let this
one go without challenge. Someday I'm going to have to properly thank him
for the things he's done for me, so I can be appropriately brassed off at
all of the nasty things that git has said to me over the years."
Tonks blinked: something about that last sentence hadn't sounded right.
She looked at him and asked, "So--does this mean you're not about to scream
at me for lying to you and manipulating you and generally jerking you
around like a trout on a hook?"
Harry smiled at her and replied, "I was disappointed when I realized that
it couldn't really be Mom and Sirius. . .but you made it seem as if they
had been there. Professor Lupin knew them better than anyone still alive--
if you went to him for the memories, I know it's pretty close to what they
would have said. They looked younger and happier--made me feel better
about seeing them." Tonks blinked again, and her eyes were moist. Harry
noticed and pressed on: "Tonks--I know it had to be done, and I really
don't want to still be in that bed trying to hide from existence--and I
appreciate the lengths you went to--including saying what had to be said no
matter how harsh it sounded--so that I would be ready to come back. I do
have one request, though."
Tonks felt a moment of relief, followed by curiosity: "Of course, Harry:
what is it?"
"I want to see what you really look like, Tonks. The door's closed, we're
all alone, and I won't tell anyone if it's not something you want to
share." Harry saw a flash of fear cross Tonks' face, and he added gently,
"I'm not demanding it--I'd just like to see, and I'll explain why
Tonks hesitated, then swallowed hard and nodded. She closed her eyes and
concentrated, and her appearance--which had featured violet hair and
scarlet eyes--began to flow and change. The color seemed to vanish from
her eyes before they turned a light, silvery blue. Her face remained more
or less the shape he was accustomed to seeing her with, but the cheekbones
became more pronounced and the skin grew more pale. Her height increased
slightly--Harry guessed that she was about three inches taller than her.
Last to change was her hair: it lengthened substantially, flowing down to
her shoulders in long waves that shone gold in the lights of the room.
Harry studied her for a moment--the family resemblance was quite obvious.
Tonks was looking at him quietly, with a hesitant smile on her face. Harry
smiled back at her and commented, "You look a lot more like Mrs. Malfoy
than you do that bitch Bellatrix: that face is a lot prettier when it
isn't accompanied with an expression that looks like you smelled something
Tonks looked down, surprised by the compliment, then looked back up and
asked quietly, "So why did you want to want to see me like this?" She was
startled into paralysis when Harry leaned forward and up and kissed Tonks
very softly on the lips. He held the kiss for a moment: Tonks noted that
it was a dry kiss, though he also reached out with his right arm and pulled
her slightly closer to him before releasing her and leaning back, watching
for her reaction.
Tonks was silent for a moment, and Harry whispered, "I wanted to deliver my
thanks to you, not to one of your masks--as much as I enjoy those masks."
Tonks blinked again, and Harry added, "You went out of your way to help me
with a good plan, and you let me feel as if I had a chance to say good-bye
to them--it's more than I ever had before. Thanks, Tonks." He grinned at
her, and Tonks shivered--for once he seemed like an ordinary sixteen year
old boy without a care in the world.
Tonks drew back from him and changed form--her hair turned brown and her
eyes black, though her skin remained as it had been. She stood up and
looked down at him, and her voice was quiet and thoughtful as she
commented, "Harry--after we kick You--after we kick Voldemort's arse into
eternity, and after you finish school, you'll be reporting for Auror
training and you're going to need a mentor. I'd suggest that you start
thinking about who you want to ask to serve in that capacity."
Harry shrugged. "I'll give it some thought--any reason it shouldn't be
Tonks grinned wickedly, and Harry saw a twinkle in her dark eyes as she
leaned down and whispered in his ear: "Ask me that question again in a
couple of years, Harry." She moved slightly, and the tip of her nose
brushed his before she kissed him in much the way he had just kissed her,
except for lingering slightly longer at the end of it, and brushing his
cheek gently with her hand before turning away and leaving the room without
Harry smiled to himself. * Well, at least she's not crying * He stood
up, deep in thought, and was completely oblivious to his surroundings until
the bucket floating over the door came tumbling down on top of him. Harry
sputtered and discovered that he was covered in a sticky goo that was
changing colors by the second. He heard two familiar laughs and didn't
bother to turn before yelling: "FRED! GEORGE!"
There was more laughter, and Harry turned, only to see about a dozen
familiar faces holding balloons that appeared to be full of some liquid.
He had only an instant to squeak before he was hit with the barrage of soft
missiles and started flashing in an even wider variety of colors. He stood
there dripping, and he heard Fred say, "I think that the Multi-Color
Missiles have proven themselves worthy of entry onto the merchandise list
of Weasleys' Wizarding Wheezes, don't you?" There was a general cheer, and
Fred added, "Let's have a nice hand for our test subject and silent partner
Harry Potter, shall we?"
The applause came, and Harry felt only slightly ambivalent about being
applauded by his oldest and dearest friends while he was dripping glowing
colored goo on the floor and blushing crimson. Of course, he would come up
with a truly epic means of retaliation.
But not today.
As always, comments are welcomed and desired.