A/N: thank you for your patience on this work. Life got in the way the last 3 months and hopefully this summer I can write more rather than travelling like a social blogger monetizing their social media channels. - DG
When I take you home, we'll discuss it with Arthur and Bill. I don't think Molly will be in any shape to add to that discussion right now."
"You're probably right. She's been upset for weeks now, I reckon."
"Wouldn't you if one of your children died?"
"Well, yeah, I reckon so. But I don't understand how it can go on for so long."
Kingsley sat down on a stool in the room. It was the only way he could look Harry in the eyes since he was so tall, as tall as Ron was. "Grief has no timetable, Harry. What do you know about Gideon and Fabian Prewett, Mrs. Weasley's younger brothers?"
"Ron told me a little, that they were fighting for the Order in the first war and they died. I don't know much else about them."
"They were a couple of years older than I was which means they were a little older than your parents, along with Sirius Black, Remus, and the rat Pettigrew. Andromeda dealt with them quite a bit her last year at Hogwarts. They blew in like Fred and George, so Molly told me. They couldn't stay still and had a mischievous streak a mile wide. McGonagall had them for detention so much that I'm surprised that she didn't name two chairs after them. But while they were consummate pranksters they were also bloody brilliant and so capable with a wand. They got outstanding marks on their OWLS and NEWTS and were accepted into the Auror apprentice program right out of Hogwarts. They learned fast and were already full Aurors when Hemera and I were accepted. They had Moody as a mentor along with Gawain and while they still had a silly streak, they also did their jobs well.
"Well, that was also when Voldemort was first gathering followers and also blatantly open about his goals. The Minister at the time, Eugenia Jenkins, said that he wasn't a threat and that he was nothing but full of bluster and his threats were, well, impotent. So Robards tells it, she called him a cuckold and a Eunuch. But it turns out that she was the one full of hot air.
"Quite frankly, she was an idiot. She refused to call strange happenings anything but accidents and thinly veiled incidents. She absolutely refused to say in public that it was the start of Voldemort's reign of terror. She justified it as Muggleborn accidents or other such rubbish. But she was a bureaucrat and kept our wands tied for six months on kidnapping and murders before the Wizengamot intervened. By then we were four steps behind him the entire time.
"She came up for a required vote, as the laws demand, and she was voted out and replaced by a hard-liner, much like Barty Crouch Sr. That was Harold Minchum. Minchum, as dedicated as he was, couldn't contain Voldemort's epoch rise. We were months behind on anything that happened. All of us in the department were working countless hours and we couldn't get a break. He refused to admit that Voldemort was a threat, said he was nothing more than an upstart and Shadow Minister, at best. He proved ineffective and was voted out after the Wizengamot called a vote of no confidence. Millicent Bagnold was installed as Minister. She'd been on the job four whole months, coming over from International Confederation of Wizards.
"And then July 12th happened. You ask Robards and he won't talk 'til he has half a bottle of Firewhiskey in him. I sure as hell hate remembering that night, too. The details are dodgy because the only witnesses were the Death Eaters and those who died. Supposedly no one else saw or heard a thing even if it took place in a section of Peckham known for potions and human smuggling.
"A report came in about intercepting a shipment of Polyjuice from the Continent, for the Death Eater's use, so they went to check it out and arrest anyone involved. Anyway, it seems from the rest that it was a trap, an ambush. There was no illegal shipment. There was no smuggling that night and there never was again at that particular location. The Prewett brothers were on scene first. They were set upon immediately. By the time the Aurors showed up, Gideon was dead and Fabian was almost dead. It had been maybe five minutes if that. We only know how many by his hand signal.
"Carlyle Mulciber was dead, along with Evan Fitzhughes and another name I can't recall at the moment.
"The Prewitt Brothers were excellent duelists, probably as good as Hemera and Finneas Flitwick. So for them to both perish they had to be significantly outnumbered.
"I personally think that there were six, but I can say with certainty that one in particular involved was Antonin Dolohov. I eventually realized he was involved because of Hermione Granger's injury during the little excursion you took into the Department of Mysteries. Gideon had the same mark on his body that Miss Granger, so I was informed, had on her chest. We think Gideon died instantly since his was at the throat. I also suspect that the Lestrange Brothers were involved, too. It's the only thing that makes sense, especially since they killed 3 in the process."
"So you are saying what about Mrs. Weasley?"
"I'm saying that she's gone through this before and was a right mess for a long time because of it. Arthur told me that she nearly lost Ginny because of the trauma of her brother's murder. So this is just as bad, if not worse. She's lost so many who are dear to her that she is having trouble coping with what happened. And that doesn't include killing Bellatrix in self-defense. Murder, even as justifiable and in self-defense of others tears the soul. She will need time to heal from that too, even if I sleep easier knowing that Bellatrix Lestrange is dead."
"What about the others, like Andromeda Tonks? I heard her husband was killed back in the winter. Was she told about him, too?"
"She knows. She told me when I spoke with her regarding the arrangements for Tonks and Lupin. She was informed rather rudely by that sod Yaxley. He's fortunate to have lived through the encounter. Andromeda is a formidable witch, too, much like her sister. But Andromeda has compassion and empathy where Bellatrix had none."
"And the others?"
"I saw to them. But the ones in the last memory are troubling. When we finish with this particular memory, I'll have to return to the Ministry and do wellness checks on the others."
"It's my fault. If I'd figured everything out sooner, so many people wouldn't have died. It's all my fault." Harry stared off into the distance, recalling all of the faces he knew, as well as so many he didn't, who stood up on his behalf. "Why did I live when so many others didn't, like Remus and Tonks, and Colin Creevy?" His voice was flat, emotionless. "I should have – "
"Bollocks. You didn't kill those in Voldemort's way. He did, or he commanded it. You aren't responsible for his actions. You never were. The only thing you are responsible for is continuing to live."
Harry stifled a sob. "50 died at Hogwarts when I went there." His voice grew brittle and shrill. "I thought that having additional people would help as a rallying point. Instead, they had no qualms killing kids like Colin Creevy. They killed kids, Kingsley!"
"Harry, it's not your fault."
"But I – "
"Harry, it's not your fault." Kingsley opened his arms slightly and Harry fell into his embrace. Tears marred the jacket while Harry sobbed silently. Kingsley held the young man firmly, holding him while he shuddered and shook in his arms. "So much was asked of you, Harry. You don't deserve the burden of what Voldemort was responsible for. He chose his path, dragging you with him. You aren't the reason those people are dead. He is." Kingsley nattered on for a time, letting the words wash over Harry. If asked, the Minister would tell you he couldn't remember what he said. Then again, maybe he really didn't remember.
Harry pulled back after a few minutes and wiped his face haphazardly. "Sorry," he muttered. "Looks like a ponce, crying over such things."
"Where did you get the idea that having feelings is being a ponce? Who taught you that?"
"Well, there is that whole stiff upper lip and all."
"You think that Aurors are steel and unfeeling? That's far from the truth. The reputation comes from the fact that we can't share what we go through outside of the Aurors, because most can't understand the hardships we choose to go through or the evil we face in protecting witches and wizards or bring those who do harm in for justice.
"Do you think Mrs. Weasley would like to know that I had to kill people to escape the Ministry last year? Do you think that Arthur will truly understand how frightened I was facing that red-eyed monster but I had to stand in his way to protect others? Can Miss Granger comprehend self-sacrifice to protect people she doesn't love and care about?"
"Hermione does and has. She proved that at Malfoy Manor."
"Then Ginny Weasley, perhaps?"
"I think she would but I'm not sure. I know from Neville that the year at Hogwarts was terrible."
"My point is that this is a very grotty job. Sure there are mountains of parchment to fill out and then moments of sheer terror where you have to have the courage and face it and not run from it. You've demonstrated that over and over again. But you're also reckless, refusing to heed warnings or think things through. You take huge risks to save people without considering the consequences. You can't continue to do that. That behavior will get Aurors killed. Merlin knows we can't spare anymore since the ranks were decimated."
"I understand, sir. At least I think I do."
"All right, pluck up another. It'll be the last one before I take you back to the burrow."
Harry put the previous vial back in the rack and collected the one next to it. It swirled a vivid shade of metallic pink. "Sir, I reckon this one is contaminated. But it might also be important."
Kingsley pointed his wand and did non-verbal magic to verify the vial and the contents. Seconds passed while Kingsley did multiple spells before lowering his wand. "It's safe, as safe as the others. We might as well view it and call it a day. It doesn't look like an extensive memory like the last one."
Harry tipped the vial into the Pensieve and watched it swirl like a clear sunset over the Scottish Highland Mountains of the only place that he truly called home. "Here goes nothing," he muttered before falling in.
Harry landed in the memory and felt the immediate need to wretch.
"Harry? Where is this?"
Acid bubbled up in his throat. "It's my parent's home in Godric's Hollow. Dear Merlin, I don't think I can stomach this."
"If you don't I'll understand."
Harry took a few gulping breaths.
"It's the last one of the day. Let's do this and I'll deal with the consequences."
"The sooner we get through it, the sooner I can have you out of here. We'll drop in at Andromeda Tonk's residence. She keeps some particular potions to help alleviate some memories and has Honeyduke's chocolates. Between those two, I think that will help with this particular memory.
Kingsley motioned his wand again and the memory started up again.
A pale hand pushed open the remnants of the door to the Potter residence at Godric's Hollow. The memory, along with the hand, shook violently. Harry knew this home, having visited there, but not inside. No, he could only imagine from what he saw outside, the remnants 16 years prior.
Each step taken was soft, quiet, and almost slipper-like. And yet each room scanned only took a moment before Professor Snape rushed to the next room. Wand light lit up the narrow staircase to the second floor, presumably where the bedrooms were. It wasn't like the cottage was large.
Professor Snape stopped in the stairwell. He peered down at James Potter, his nemesis, his tormentor, his bully. He was dead, cursed into oblivion, frozen in one shocking moment without a wand to put any kind of resistance. Snape stayed there, peering at the young man whom he loathed passionately, loathed him to the depths of his soul, for existing, for daring to draw Lily's eyes away from him, for diverting her and their possibilities. Potter was the one sod who dared to make her change her mind.
The memory moved on after a moment to the first room. He peered in a saw a made bed, a wardrobe, and a bedside table. It was tidy, as he expected from Lily.
He went to the second room and stopped. The vision went black and a large thud echoed through the memory. A howl erupted.
"I can't see this," He groaned. Kingsley stopped the memory and threw Harry out of the memory. Harry landed with a thud on the floor and was immediately sick. The image before him and the one conjured in his mind at potentially seeing his mum like that tore his heart.
"Dad," he groaned, fighting nausea. Fat ugly sobs racked his throat. The warring images in his mind, from seeing his parents, along with Sirus and Remus, whole and healed, even if they were spirits or ghosts, to what he saw in the memory, along with the casual apathy displayed.
"How could you leave him there?" He choked out. "You could have at least – "
"Harry," A baritone voice interrupted his racing thoughts. "Harry, it's OK."
"No, it's not. He left him there. He didn't care. He only cared for Mum."
"That's true. But would you mourn someone you despised, say, Draco Malfoy, if you saw him dead?"
"Yes, even if he is a git. I risked my life to save his once already."
"Well, you aren't Severus, and all of us are thankful for that."
"Was I there?" He choked out.
"No, you weren't. I'm presuming that since there was a faint light of sunrise coming through the upper windows that it was the 1st and you were already at your Aunt's residence."
"Did... did you see her, my Mom?"
"Was she…" Harry couldn't finish his thought.
"Whatever I witnessed, I will not tell you. You've had enough for a lifetime, seeing your father like that. Seeing your Mum, too, would probably be too much. So, for now, trust me when I say that Severus treated her respectfully."