Chapter Six


Harry arrived at the Ministry for an early morning meeting with Kingsley Shacklebolt. He hurried through the Atrium before anyone recognized him. He was uncomfortable with all the strangers who continued to approach him and congratulate him for what he'd done.

Strangers had even started sending him letters and gifts. He found it bizarre.

What was worse, however, was the press. They'd somehow got wind that Harry had been visiting the Ministry, and they'd been launching themselves at him each day. He couldn't understand why they wanted to talk to him so much. There had been hundreds of people at the battle who'd already told them what happened. What more did they want him to say?

Kingsley had told him he'd have to get used to it, but Harry wasn't prepared to accept that yet. They'd agreed not to mention anything about Horcruxes, and so far, that strategy had worked.

Harry reached the lift - which was thankfully empty - and quickly made his way to the office of the Minister. The reception desk was empty, so he walked right up to the door and knocked.

Kingsley's rich booming voice echoed through the door, "Come in, Harry. It's open."

The Minister sat at his desk, which was covered in scattered papers. He appeared tired, and Harry wondered how long he'd been here.

"Morning, sir," Harry said.

"Good morning. Thank you for coming in so early. I find my schedule is so tightly booked there's no time for an emergency," the bald man said.

"Is there an emergency?" Harry asked, alarmed.

"No, no. I apologize. I was just expressing my concern if there was one," he answered reassuringly. "There's also no time to do what I want to do. My wife is growing extremely cranky with the long hours."

"What do we need to work on today?" Harry asked, not knowing what to say about a cranky wife. "Have you caught any of the missing Death Eaters yet?"

"Unfortunately, no. They've gone well underground, but they'll surface eventually. They always do. Honestly, the fact they've burrowed in gives us time to get the Auror Department functional again," Kingsley said.

"About that, sir. I think I'd like to take you up on your offer," Harry said. "Ron wants to join, as well, but he's got to go to Australia first."

Harry had never seriously considered another career. His mind flashed on Professor McGonagall promising to do everything in her power to help him achieve his dream. And she had. He felt an upsurge of affection for his former Head of House.

"I'm delighted to hear it," Kingsley said, grinning, his ivory teeth shining brightly in his dark face. "However, I was serious when I said I wanted you to take some time for yourself first."

Harry shifted uncomfortably. "I know, but with so much to do…"

"It will all get done whether you are here or not. Reconstruction takes time, and that's just the way it is. I'll have some paperwork drawn up, and you'll have to get your Apparition license to make it official."

Harry knew Kingsley was aware that Harry had been Apparating all over the country for the past year, but he was obviously prepared to overlook it, so Harry did as well, grinning slightly.

"Yes, sir," he said.

"And of course you'll have to have a medical exam before you start," the Minister added casually.

Harry's eyes opened wide. This was something he hadn't expected.

"Standard procedure," Kingsley assured him. "Ron will have to have one, as well."

Harry shifted uneasily. "Okay."

The Minister paused a moment, seemingly waiting for something. Harry wasn't certain what he wanted, so he just sat there uncomfortably.

"Arthur tells me you currently have an injury that needs attending," the Minister said finally.

"Oh," Harry replied, realizing the man had been giving him the chance to come forward on his own. Harry was hoping to avoid the whole thing. Obviously Mr. Weasley had followed through on his promise to alert the Minister.

"When we're finished here, I'll walk you down," Kingsley said inflexibly. "I can pick up the paperwork for your entrance examination once I'm there.

Harry's cheeks reddened. The Minister hadn't left him any room to argue. "It's nothing urgent."

Kingsley laughed. "I see that you more than just look like your father, Harry."

Harry was caught off guard. When Remus died, Harry felt as if he'd lost his last link to his parents. He'd forgotten that when Kingsley picked him from Privet Drive before his fifth year, he'd mentioned something about Harry's resemblance to James. Everyone always said that, so it had slipped his mind.

"You knew my father," he said, almost accusingly.

Kingsley nodded. "Not well, but I did know him. He was several years ahead of me at Hogwarts, but I remember him being Head Boy. There was a massive epidemic of a stomach virus that year, and he and I were in the hospital wing at the same time. He was not a very good patient, but he was kind to me," the Minister said, smiling gently.

Harry felt as if he'd been punched in the gut. Unexpected mentions of his parents had always done that to him. He decided to tuck that bit of information away to examine privately.

He cleared his throat. "What did you need to see me about today, sir?" Harry asked, wanting to steer the conversation to more comfortable ground.

The Minister accepted his deflection with grace. "I think our missing Death Eater list is complete. We can always adjust it as necessary. Your assistance has been invaluable. Our next phase will be the trials. You'll be called in to testify."

"I'd expected that," Harry said.

"I wanted to warn you that some deals were made with some of the lower-ranking Death Eaters for their corroborating testimony," Kingsley said solemnly.

"Draco Malfoy?" Harry asked instantly.

"He's one of them, yes," Kingsley replied, forthright.

Harry appreciated the honesty. "What about his parents?"

"Narcissa will be given a full pardon for her role in Voldemort's defeat," Kingsley assured him.

Harry had told the Minister about what happened in the Forest and how Narcissa Malfoy had aided him in his deception.

"She was trying to protect her son," Harry said. "They both were."

"Lucius is another matter. Technically, he's an escaped prisoner, so he will be returned to Azkaban to finish his original term. We're not adding any additional time, but a good portion of his funds and property has been seized in fines for his involvement with the Dark Lord."

"That must have gone over well," Harry said, exceedingly glad he didn't have to deliver that news to the arrogant family.

"Not really," the Minister said, rolling his eyes.

"Are they losing their house?" Harry asked.

"Yes. Malfoy Manor served as Headquarters for the Death Eaters over the past year. There's a lot that has to be examined and will be used as evidence," Kingsley replied.

"There are dungeons in the lowest level," Harry said.

"We'll have them thoroughly searched," the Minister assured. "The trials aren't expected to begin for several more weeks, but I'll let you know if anything changes or we need any additional information."

"You know where to find me," Harry replied.

"There's also the matter of your relatives," the Minister said.

"My rel… what? What about them?" Harry asked. He honestly hadn't given the Dursleys a thought since leaving Privet Drive.

"Hestia Jones and Dedalus Diggle have been keeping watch over them in a safe house for the duration of the war. They've been informed that they're now free to return to Surrey, but they've decided to stay where they are for another month in order for your cousin to finish his year at school.

"Your uncle is worried about his job, despite our reassurances that we'd simply convince his boss that he's been away on business. I even considered Confunding his employer to believe that your uncle did a good job while he was away, but I decided against it. He doesn't deserve it."

Harry smiled his gratitude before a thought occurred to him. "Did the house on Privet Drive survive intact?"

"There was some damage. Death Eaters returned to the house after your escape. We believe they were looking for any clues where you might have gone," Kingsley replied.

"I wouldn't have left it there," Harry said distastefully.

"I'll have a Magical Reversal Squad set it all to rights before your relatives return," Kingsley assured.

"Uhm… d'you think you could have a house-elf tidy up afterwards? No one's idea of clean is clean enough for Aunt Petunia," Harry said, knowing his aunt would be displeased no matter what he did.

"That can be arranged," Kingsley said, wincing in sympathy.

Harry slipped his hands under his glasses to rub his eyes. He could feel a headache building. The Dursleys always gave him a headache.

"How are you holding up, Harry?" the Minster asked softly. "Honestly."

"I'm all right. Hasn't really sunk in yet that's it over," he admitted.

"Are you sleeping okay?" Kingsley asked.

Harry knew the purple bags beneath his eyes would contradict him if he lied, so he just shrugged.

"When we see the Mediwitch, you can ask her for a Sleeping Potion," Kingsley offered.

Harry desperately wracked his thoughts for something else to talk about, anything else to talk about. His sluggish brain finally landed on the owl he'd received the previous day.

"Have you dealt with the goblins at all since taking over?" he asked.

"The goblins?" the Minister asked blankly. "I have a meeting set up with them later this week. Why?"

"I got an owl yesterday from Gringotts telling me my accounts have been confiscated, and they want me to come to a Summons about damage that was caused when we stole the Horcrux," Harry said. He still didn't know what he was going to do about it.

"Confiscated your accounts," the Minister repeated. "Do you mean to tell me you've been living without any access to your gold since the Battle?"

"Yeah. I haven't really needed it, but… I do want to get some new clothes before I start work, and I can't keep living off the Weasleys without contributing," Harry said.

"What did Bill say?" the Minister asked.

"Bill?" Harry asked blankly.

"He works for Gringotts. I think he'd be able to help, and I'll certainly do whatever you need," Kingsley said.

"I forgot," Harry said, kicking himself for being so obtuse.

"Let me take care of this for you, Harry. It's the least I can do," Kingsley offered.

"Thanks," Harry said, embarrassed.

"If there's nothing else, why don't we walk down and see that Mediwitch," the Minister said, standing.

Harry had been hoping he'd forget about it.


Hermione stood in Ginny's room, frazzled, as she sorted and re-sorted her belongings, trying to decide what she needed to take. She had a travel case open on her camp bed with her belongings scattered around it. She planned to place both her and Ron's travel cases in her trusty beaded bag. It would make travel so much easier.

Hermione was incredibly nervous. She wanted to see her parents so badly, and she wanted everything to be okay.

Suddenly realizing she'd left her toothbrush in the bathroom, she hurried into the hall and was brought up short by Charlie emerging from the bathroom wearing nothing but a towel.

Hermione dropped her bag and froze. He was nothing but burns and muscle. She knew she was staring, but she couldn't get her mind to work properly.

"Hello, Hermione," Charlie said.

He seemed much more amused than embarrassed, and it finally unstuck her. She squeaked and turned around.

"Sorry," she said, her voice sounding extremely high to her own ears.

"You didn't seem all that sorry," Charlie said lazily.

He was teasing her! Fleetingly, Hermione thought of the twins. They'd have reacted the same way as Charlie.

Hermione turned back around and looked straight at Charlie who seemed surprised.

"Oh, hello, Mrs. Weasley," Hermione said pleasantly, staring over his shoulder.

Charlie spun around nearly dropping the towel but there was no one there.

"Nice, Hermione," he said, nodding his approval.

"What's going on?" Ron asked, bounding up the stairs and stopping short. "Charlie, put some clothes on!"

"Hey, Ron. I think your girlfriend can hold her own with this family," Charlie said before turning and heading up the stairs.

Hermione blushed, oddly pleased.

"What was that all about?" Ron asked, picking up Hermione's dropped bag.

"He tried to fluster me, and I imagined what would stop the twi… er… what would stop George in a prank gone too far," Hermione said, cringing over her blunder. She didn't want to make Ron feel worse than he already did.

"What did you do?" he asked.

"I relied on your mum," she said, smiling.

"That'd do it," Ron replied, nodding fervently. "Are you packed?"

"No," Hermione moaned, her anxiety returning.

"You're not?" Ron asked, stunned. Apparently that wasn't what he'd expected.

"I can't decide what to take. It'll be getting colder there," she said. "Are you?"

"Yeah," Ron said.

"You are?" Hermione asked, surprised. That wasn't what she'd been expecting, either.

"Always the tone of surprise," Ron said, shaking his head. He grinned, and suddenly everything seemed better. "Come on, I'll help. It's not like the Horcrux hunt, Hermione. This should be a good trip."

He took her hand and led her back into Ginny's room.

"The Portkey takes us through Germany since a direct trip all that way would cause some travel sickness. I have my Muggle documents, and Cibby Seekum had some prepared for you," Hermione said.

"Well, those are the important things. If you forget anything else, you can always get it there," Ron said, reassuringly.

Hermione was touched. She loved the fact he was watching out for the details this time since her brain didn't want to cooperate.

"Oh!" she gasped. "My toothbrush. That's what I was getting when I bumped into Charlie."

Hermione dashed into the bathroom to grab it.

"Ah," Ron said. His ears had suddenly turned very red, and he scuffed his foot on the ground. "Er… I mean, we'll need…erm… d'you have any of your savings left?" he asked quickly.

Hermione had been thinking about that, too. She knew money was always such a sticky subject with Ron. "Not much," she said. "I think I'm going to ask Harry if we can borrow some."

Before Ron could say anything, a voice behind them said, "You don't have to do that. I can help you out."

Hermione spun around to find George on the landing. Again, she thought she detected the faint smell of alcohol, and his eyes were bloodshot. He was steady on his feet, however, and looking intently at both of them.

"We… I have money from the shop. Let me send an owl to Gringotts," George said. "You said you'd help me get the place open again, so you can consider it an advance."

He was looking at Ron when he said the last part, and Hermione sighed in relief. George knew how touchy Ron was, as well, and she knew he'd take the loan much easier from George than he would Harry.

"Thanks, George," Ron said gruffly.

"Of course, that means I get to treat you as my slave without a guilty conscience," George said, a glimmer of mischief in his eyes.

"As if you'd ever had a conscience," Ron said.

George shrugged his shoulders. "I'll send that owl," he said and continued down the stairs.

"Well, that solves that," Hermione said. "I can't believe we're really going. I can't wait to see them."

"D'you think Harry will be all right?" Ron asked.

Ron had been extremely protective of Harry since the battle, but Hermione really couldn't blame him. The image of Hagrid carrying his dead body from the Forest and that gut-clenching feeling that followed were forever seared in her mind.

"I think Ginny and your dad are keeping an eye on him. He hasn't had a nightmare in the past few nights," Hermione said, knowing she couldn't fully say that Harry was all right.

"He has," Ron sighed. "He's putting a Silencing Charm around his bed, but he thinks I don't know. I saw him thrashing about last night but couldn't hear a thing."

"Oh, no. You have to tell someone before we go," Hermione implored.

"I will," Ron agreed.

"Then I guess we're ready," Hermione said, feeling both anxious and excited at the same time.


Keeping his Invisibility Cloak tucked firmly around him, Harry solemnly pressed the doorbell of the Tonks' home. He'd sent Errol ahead to announce his visit – as Mrs. Weasley had suggested – and warned her that he'd be arriving under the Cloak. The press had been following him relentlessly, and it wouldn't do to alert them he was visiting. Harry didn't want to put his godson in any danger by advertising their relationship.

Harry felt so overwhelmed by the media circus surrounding him that he had the intense need to do something he could control. Anything. So, he'd focused his attentions on his godson. Remus had entrusted Harry to look out for his son, and Harry had every intention of upholding that responsibility. If Kingsley was able to help him get his vaults back, he'd have more than enough to take care of his godson properly – and he thought Sirius would approve of the Black family inheritance being used to care for Teddy.

Harry would be the godfather Sirius had wanted to be.

When the door opened, Harry quickly stepped inside and removed his Invisibility Cloak. His breath caught, and he took an involuntary step back from Andromeda Tonks. He hadn't meant to do it, but her dark hair and eyes so resembled the sister Harry hated that he couldn't help himself. Andromeda eyed him coolly, but she was gracious enough not to comment on his blatant flinch.

"Hello, Harry," she said, and it was then he noticed how pale and drawn she appeared. A wave of compassion washed over him, and he felt stupid for his momentary apprehension. She wasn't her sister, and she'd lost as much in this war as anyone.

"Hello, Mrs. Tonks," he replied. "How are you?"

He cringed. She obviously wasn't well.

"You might as well get used to calling me Andromeda," she said. "Teddy's in the sitting room."

Harry's eyes roamed the hallway as he followed her. There were baby toys scattered about, and he could see a pile of laundry sitting in a basket. A crumpled up blanket was shoved in the corner of the sofa. He reckoned that Andromeda had been napping there with Teddy.

"There you are," Andromeda cooed, picking up a bundle of blue blankets. Harry noticed her voice became much warmer and friendlier when she talked to the baby. Perhaps a grandmother was different than an aunt.

"Harry, meet your godson," Andromeda said, striding forward and firmly placing the pile of blankets in Harry's arms. He could just make out a tuft of blue hair sticking out the top.

Harry blanched.

"All right?" Andromeda asked, her eyes sparkling slightly.

"Err… yeah. I think so," Harry replied. It occurred to him that this was the first time in his life that he'd actually been this close to a baby, never mind held one.

Maybe he wasn't as capable of taking care of Teddy as he'd thought.

The baby looked up at him intently. Harry felt as if those blue eyes could see into his soul. Remus had often made him feel that way, and Harry was suddenly overcome with a deep sense of loss.

"Gaa," the baby said, startling him. He wiggled a bit, and Harry panicked that he was going to drop him. He gripped Teddy more tightly and pulled him closer to his chest, causing the baby to squirm and begin to fuss.

"Not so tight, Harry," Andromeda said, gently touching his hand in an attempt to loosen his grip on the baby.

Harry immediately complied and swallowed nervously, feeling a thin line of sweat dripping down his back. Teddy must have sensed his unease for his fussing increased, and he soon began to wail.

"Just rock back and forth a bit while you talk to him. I'll get a nappy. He just woke up, so he probably needs to be changed," Andromeda said, leaving Harry alone with the baby.

Harry wanted to yell for her not to go. How could she have just left Teddy alone with him? He obviously had no clue what to do with him. He awkwardly began rocking his arms from side to side.

"Shh, don't cry," he said, feeling completely out of his depth. His rocking took on a frantic quality, and Teddy's cries increased in pitch.

"D'you like Quidditch? You probably don't know what Quidditch is yet, do you? What do you do, anyway?" he asked, feeling even more stupid. What did babies do?

Teddy continued to wail.

"Here we are," Andromeda said, thrusting the nappy toward Harry. "Would you mind changing him while I grab a new set of clothes?"

Frazzled, Harry had the distinct impression Andromeda was enjoying herself.

"Err… yeah," he replied, grasping the nappy with a finger and moving toward the couch. He'd just dueled with the Darkest wizard in a century – and lived. He certainly could manage to change a nappy.

"There's a pad in the corner that I usually use," Andromeda called as she again left Harry alone with his fretting godson.

As soon as he laid the baby on the mat, Teddy settled down a bit and his eyes once again began roaming around the room. He gazed at Harry curiously as Harry tried to work out how to get the outfit off in order to reach the nappy.

Since he'd never held a baby, he'd obviously never changed a nappy, but he knew the general idea of the thing.

"You don't like to be confined, either, do you?" he distractedly asked the baby as he struggled to remove his garments. "Can't say as I blame you there."

"Gaa," Teddy said again, although it sounded much happier this time. He began chewing the sleeve of his shirt.

Triumphantly, Harry unhooked the buttons on Teddy's trousers and after a few more snaps, found the nappy underneath. He unhooked the sides, and with extreme distaste, pulled the sopping fabric away from the baby. Frantically searching for somewhere to put it, he'd barely glanced at a now-bared Teddy.

"I'd cover him up if I were you," Andromeda, who'd just returned with a new set of clothes, had barely uttered the words before Harry felt a suspicious warmth spreading across his chest and hands.

Recoiling, he stared in shock at a cooing Teddy.

"It's the boys that get you every time, I'm told," Andromeda said, calmly laying a spare flannel over Teddy's exposed parts. "I don't remember Dora ever doing that so much."

Harry mutely stared at her, horrified.

She expertly finished with the nappy and dressed Teddy in his new clothes while Harry cast a quick, "Scourgify," over his own damp shirt.

"Would you like to feed him?" Andromeda asked.

"Err… " Harry said, his confidence gone.

Andromeda finally took pity upon him. "Here, it's not hard. Just sit in the chair and cradle him loosely. All you have to do is hold the bottle steady; he'll do the rest."

Harry took a deep breath and did as he was told. Teddy greedily sucked on the bottle, intently watching Harry's face as he did.

Then a strange thing happened. As he sat there watching his godson eat, Harry felt a fierce protectiveness grow in his chest that hadn't been there before. He was confused how this feeling could grow so quickly, but he knew without hesitation that he'd give everything he had to ensure this small child's happiness.

He'd make certain Teddy knew everything Harry could tell him about his parents and how wonderful they were. His thoughts turned to Snape and how he had shattered Harry's image of James. That image was all Harry had, and he was devastated when it was gone. Then and there he vowed that he'd make Ron and Hermione take an Unbreakable Vow before he let them tell Teddy that Remus had once considered abandoning him. There was no reason Teddy ever had to know.

Andromeda had been watching him closely.

"I'm glad he has you," she said softly, and Harry looked up to see her eyes were glistening. "I think it's important for every young man to have another man in his life he can go to so he can talk about things he doesn't want to talk about with his grandmother."

Harry nodded, his throat burning. He found he couldn't quite meet Andromeda's gaze.

"In him, I have another chance to do something for my Dora, and you have another chance with Remus. We can't take the place of his parents, but I think he'll be all right," Andromeda said, delicately wiping her nose with a handkerchief.

She was right. He wasn't capable of taking care of this baby alone. This afternoon had certainly proved that, but together he and Andromeda could ensure that Teddy would at least always have people to rely on. Harry knew without a doubt how important that was.

"Babies are a lot of work," he said, a new idea forming in his mind.

"Yes, they are, and I'm not as young as I was the first time. We'll manage though," Andromeda replied.

"How do you feel about house-elves?" Harry asked. Kreacher was still at Hogwarts since Grimmauld Place has sustained so much damage, and he hadn't yet figured out what to do with him. Perhaps Kreacher could not only help Andromeda, but also let Harry do something for his godson.