Well, folks. . . as promised, here is Fate, Love and Parenthood Chapter 15. Just got it back from Erica and all the necessary corrections are made. Don't forget to feed the starving author. Now, sit back and enjoy. . .
Harry watched as yet another book was levitated off the crowded shelf and flipped open. A beam of golden light shot from the first page of the text and enveloped the still body of Alexander Snape. It had been four days since the beginning of the Rapidamente Impari spell and, as promised, Harry had visited Xander for several hours everyday.
Whenever he spent time in the private hospital room he was sure not to utter a word. The headmaster had informed Harry that speaking would cause a disruption in the process. Luckily he was able to hold Xander's hand or he might go crazy from the lack of movement in that oh-so-still body.
Harry thought back to four days prior and his reaction to seeing Xander's chest cease to rise and fall with his breath. Sirius had needed to hold him back as he went into hysterics thinking the other boy was dying. Finally, Snape had pulled a calming draught from Madame Pomphrey's stores and forced it down his throat. Once it had taken effect, he had been told that it was all a part of the stasis Xander's body was in. He would not breathe, his heart would not beat, digestion would stop and his cells would remain the same until the spell was complete and Xander was allowed to slip into natural sleep.
After brushing a kiss to Xander's hand, Harry stood and made his way back into the main hospital ward. He glanced at his watch and immediately ran out making his way to the entrance hall. He was late meeting the Weasleys and Hermione.
Harry skidded to a halt half way to his destination at the sound of Hermione's voice. It appeared that everyone had already headed up to the Gryffindor Tower and his best friends had been searching for him.
"Hey, guys," he said as he hugged Hermione and shook Ron's hand. "How long have you been here?"
"Not long," Ron replied. "Dumbledore met us at the front doors and sent us up to the tower. He said you'd want us all together because you had some news to share. Is it the thing you mentioned in your letter?"
"Yeah, but I really would like to tell you all at the same time so let's head back up, okay?"
"Sure, Harry," Hermione said with a worried expression on her face. "Everything's alright isn't it?"
"Everything is great, actually." Harry smiled at his friends to reassure them that all was well and led the way to the Gryffindor common room.
Once there, after all the necessary greetings were out of the way, Harry stood facing his surrogate family trying to figure out how to tell them what had happened over the past week.
"Harry dear, you know you can tell us anything," Molly Weasley said with an encouraging smile. "Whatever it is we are all here to support you. Now, go on. . . tell us what's going on."
Harry smiled at the only mother figure he'd ever known and knew that she was right. He could tell them anything. They'd been there for him for five years and would likely be there for fifty more.
"Okay," Harry began as he wiped his suddenly wet palms against his jeans. "Dumbledore told you about my floo accident, right? Well, did he tell you where I ended up?"
After seeing them all shake their heads, Harry told them of his extraordinarily long floo ride and landing in a closed fireplace. He spoke of meeting the Vampire Slayer and her watcher. He described Dumbledore's reaction when he met Alexander Harris.
He stopped his story for a moment to gather his courage to tell them the rest.
"So, Xander's here now and he's been sorted into Gryffindor."
"So where is the boy?" Arthur asked. "Off spending time with his long lost father, no doubt."
"Actually, no. He's in the hospital wing." Harry hurriedly added, "He's not hurt or anything! He's under a spell right now to catch him up to our year. That way he'll be ready when. . ." Harry stopped suddenly, gathering the courage he would need to continue.
"When what, Harry," Ron asked. "Are you sure you're alright, mate?"
"Yeah. . . yeah, I'm fine. It's just that the rest is a bit of a shock, is all." Harry ducked his head and fought the blush rising in his cheeks.
"Come on, old boy," said Fred cheerily. "Whatever it is. . ."
". . . we'll work it out," finished George.
He looked up from his study of the carpet and looked upon the faces before him. Almost everyone was waiting patiently but with obvious expressions of anticipation. Everyone except Hermione. She had a small frown on her face and her brows were drawn together as if waiting to hear something she'd rather not. Harry wasn't sure what to make of that.
"Well," Harry said, intent on getting everything out in the open, "you see, there was a prophecy told during the last war before I was born. It spoke of what happened then and what is going on now. It tells how to finally defeat Vold- sorry- You Know Who once and for all."
Exclamations and cheering went up in the common room. Harry waited for everyone to settle down before continuing.
"There's more. Apparently there was no way that I could beat him alone." Harry held up a hand to forestall the objections. "I know you stand beside me and would have faced him in battle. What I mean is, the only way for him to die is for the two specific people. . .soul mates. . . mentioned in the prophecy to bring him down together."
Everyone turned to face the source of the objection.
"Don't you see what he's saying?" Hermione asked the Weasleys. "No wonder he was so nervous about telling us what's going on! Apparently this long lost wizard has been cast in the role of Harry's soul mate! Harry's gone and gotten himself a boyfriend!"
None of the Weasleys noticed the bitterness behind Hermione's words. They all looked at Harry with joy.
"Oh, Harry! How absolutely wonderful!"
"Good for you, lad!"
"See, Harry, I told you'd find someone!"
"Of course we'll have to meet the fellow. . .
". . . and make sure he's suitable for our Harry."
Hermione flew out of her seat and stalked into the center of the excited family.
"What is wrong with you people," she shouted. "Didn't you hear what I said?! A BOYFRIEND!! How can you all sit there and act as if Harry just told you he's won the Order of Merlin, First Class?"
"Whatever is the matter, Hermione?" Molly asked.
"What's the matter?! I'll tell you what! It's disgusting, that's what! It's unnatural! An abomination! And you all sit here as if it's alright! Soul mate, indeed! That's nothing more than romanticized rubbish! How can you even stand to look at him? My God, the Dursleys were right about him all along! He really is a freak!"
"No, Ron. . . it's wrong and I'll have no part of it. And if you know what's good for you, you'll walk away as well!"
"You don't mean-"
"Yes, that's exactly what I mean. If you insist upon fraternizing with this piece of filth, this. . .this QUEER, it's over! Until you decide, I'll leave you to it. I'll request a portkey home from Professor Dumbledore."
With that, Hermione picked up her bag and stormed out.
Harry laid his head down on the bed beside Xander and allowed his silent tears to soak the sheets. He didn't know what to do. Hermione was his best friend. He loved her. She'd always been there for him; even when Ron had turned his back on Harry during their fourth year, Hermione had been there supporting him. And now she wasn't. The happiest he had been since learning that he was a wizard and she vehemently protested. She'd called him disgusting, an abomination and filth.
The Weasleys had endeavored to comfort him after her departure but there was no solace to be found. And what scared Harry was that, while Ron was reassuring him, he seemed preoccupied with Hermione's exit. It was clear that they had finally gotten together over the summer. And it appeared that Ron was taking Hermione's threat seriously.
Sitting up and wiping his eyes, Harry stared at the face of his soul mate. He knew that what they felt was real. How could it be unnatural? He gently stroked Xander's face and bid a silent farewell and left the ward.
He wasn't sure where he should go. He really didn't want to go back to the tower and be swarmed by well wishing Weasleys again. So with no destination in mind, Harry set off in an aimless walk through the castle.
Having no idea how much time had passed, or even which part of the castle he had stumbled across, Harry once again wiped tears from his eyes and turned yet another corner. He didn't realize there were bodies in front of him before he'd nearly collided with them.
"Hello, Harry! What are you doing down here? I thought you'd be. . ." Remus fell silent when the boy looked up. "Dear Merlin! What's happened?"
Harry heard a whine near the floor and felt the lapping of a dog's tongue on his fingers. Breaking into sobs, he dropped to the floor and threw his arms around his Godfather. He immediately felt the man shift from canine to human and was wrapped in a warm embrace.
"Harry love, what's got you so upset? Nothing's happened to Xander, has it?" Sirius asked as he tried to calm the boy.
"No, he's fine," Harry whispered. "C-can we go someplace to talk? Please?"
"Of course! Do you want to head up to Gryffindor? I'm sure Ron and Hermione will want to-"
"NO! No, not there. Anywhere but there."
Sirius and Remus shared a concerned look over Harry's head before helping him to stand. They lead him through several deserted hallways and gave the password to the portrait protecting their rooms. Soon they were settled on the couch, each with a cup of tea.
Harry leaned against his Godfather who had again pulled him into his arms. He took another sip of tea knowing that he was only delaying the inevitable. He was grateful to both men for the time to get his words together so that they might be able to help him. That is if he could be helped. He had his doubts.
"I went to the common room and told everyone what has been happening the past few days," he said. "I'm not sure what happened. I was just about to tell them of my bond to Xander but Hermione had already figured out what I was about to say. You know how very smart she is. Brilliant, really. She's always the first one to find the logical conclusion in any situation. She's. . ."
Harry had to stop when he felt his throat closing up again. He closed his eyes and moaned at the overwhelming grief he felt. The tears started to fall once more and a despairing cry tore from his throat.
Remus stood and quickly made a firecall.
Within moments Severus Snape stepped out of the green flames clutching a potion vial in his hand. After having spent a fair amount of time in the past few days getting to really know Harry, he had finally seen him for the strong young man he was and to find him in such a state was disconcerting.
Snape kneeled before the keening boy and gently brushed the fringe away from his reddened eyes. After uncorking the vial with his teeth, he shushed Harry as he fed him the calming draught and whispered encouragement as it was swallowed.
Hearing the hitching breaths as Harry calmed down, the three men settled back to hear what had happened.
"She said the Dursleys were right; that I am a freak. She called me an abomination and a queer. I'm not, am I? I'm not unnatural, right? Please tell me she's wrong!" Harry begged.
"Of course she's wrong, Harry!" Sirius replied. "How could you even think she was right?"
"Because she's always right!"
"Who said these things to you, Harry?" Severus asked.
"Her-Hermione did. And she told Ron that he'd better leave me too, or she'd break up with him. He's been in love with her for so long that I know he'll follow her. They're my best friends and I've lost them!"
Severus felt a rage building in him that he hadn't felt in years. He'd always known the Granger girl to be intelligent but to hear of the bigoted filth she'd spewed toward Harry killed any grudging respect he'd held for her. He would find her and she would know his wrath.