A/N: Wow. Between holidays and illness, time flew. I do hope to get on a more consistent posting schedule for the next few months. - DG
"So that will be my senior once we're finished with these memories?"
"That's my idea. My hands are tied by the small number of people left alive after the coup. She was right in that I am too busy rebuilding the Ministry and other bureaucratic nightmares to go hunt the rogue Death Eaters except in my spare time. And while she has the time to go track them down and bring them in one way or another, she has greater duties elsewhere shortly."
The lift doors opened and Kingsley tapped his wand on the blank touch plate. It moved and they were heading back down to the Department of Mysteries to catalogue more.
"You said she was going to be on station at Hogwarts. Will I be there with her too, shadowing her?"
"You'll find that Hemera rarely stops. Even if you're shadowing her at Hogwarts, she'll also drag you out for another four hours to go investigate something else. And if you are with her at Hogwarts, you're not there for a tickle and a leg over with Miss Weasley. You're there to work so you're going to be under charms to be invisible to the students. And when you do get to "visit" it will be limited hours and with a purpose, not for a session of how's your father."
"You will have the occasional furlough and liberty but this job is mostly on duty or available for duty, at least for the time being. It's a hard life and harder on families who don't understand your obligations to the job. It's not glamourous and certainly can't share the grotty details with anyone except spouses and even that's limited. Most spouses aren't interested in knowing after they hear about how rotten our job is at times."
"Then it's probably a good thing that we don't have one, right, sir?"
"It's the opposite, as I've found. Even if we can't share all the details with our spouses, having a reason to live, keep going, and a reason for doing this job besides noble yet empty reasons is why we get out of bed in the morning. Having someone to go home to means so much when you're out in the field, cold and wet and missing someone. It keeps you from being a liability, but as an asset."
Kingsley pushed the door open to the department and wound his way back to the Pensieve Memory analysis department. Sure enough, his dome wasn't tampered with. He pulled his wand from his robes before Harry put his arm across his chest. "Are you sure it's safe? I mean, that could be a similar bit of magic by someone else."
"Good call, Potter. I'll verify it." Kingsley did a complicated bit of magic, of which Harry picked up the movements but not the verbal incantation. It glowed faintly red before turning cloud grey again. "You were right. Someone did tamper with it. But it was innocuous and would only result in a case of the giggles. It's probably someone in the department playing a prank."
Harry motioned his wand and erected a shield charm. "Now do it, sir. I rather be safe than otherwise."
Kingsley removed the protection spells and felt the prank release, covering the room in innocuous magic. He stifled the giggles crashing into him but heard Harry erupting. "Potter!"
"Can't help it, sir." He kept giggling. "The shield wasn't large enough."
"Did you shield yourself too?"
"No, sir," he bit out one word at a time. Kingsley pointed his wand at Harry and did the counter charm and Harry quit giggling. "No matter what, always protect yourself first. No more martyr business, understand?"
Harry was bent over, trying to catch his breath. "Yes, sir. Understood."
Kingsley removed the other protection, giving Harry time to recompose himself. He finally did, looking sheepish. "Lesson understood, sir. For such a harmless spell, my ribs are still aching."
"It only seems innocent. There's a list of witches and wizards who have died from that particular spell. You need a second person to cancel it because the wizard afflicted can't stop it. It's not a pleasant way to perish."
"Yes, sir. I'll keep that in mind."
"Now, let's see what we see next. Pick one, Harry."
Harry selected the next unsealed vial, looking grey and black swirls inside the tempered glass. "Better this one than anything else." He broke the wax on the cork and dumped the contents into the Pensieve. The cloudy memories swirled and raged some.
Harry stuck his face inside the Pensieve and fell in and landed hard on a wooden bench at the Hogwarts Quidditch Pitch. The skies were grey and the wind blew hard. While he was inside of Professor Snape's memory, he pulled his cloak closer, imaging the wind and chill blowing through him.
"When are we, Harry?"
A maroon and gold shape flashed across his vision, followed by a Green and silver blur. He looked up into the swirling cloudy skies and saw a small glint of light reflect a considerable distance up in the skies.
"Sir, this might be from my first year, if I'm guessing. It might not be a memory worth watching."
"Nonsense, we'll watch it and then have it finished. We won't miss much for spending five to ten minutes watching Gryffindor and Slytherin match skills on the Quidditch pitch."
"Move your bum, Johnson!" Wood's voice echoed through time and Harry smiled. "You're better than that!"
"Sir, it's my first year. I remember this match. It's the first one I ever played in. I had a broom and Wood gave me simple instructions: find the snitch. I was matched against some bloke named Higgs out there, flying so high and I tried so hard to ignore how bitterly cold it was and how brilliant it was, being that high up on a broom. It was magical, sir."
Repetitive chanting broke into the memory, along with Snape's intense focus on Harry, flying high up in the skies.
"What happened here, Harry?"
"I remember that I was flying, shadowing Higgs up above the pitch, and then I thought I saw the Snitch. I took off after it and was close before that sod Flint crashed into me. So I went back to circling the pitch when my broom lurched. I didn't realize that Quirrell was controlling it. I only knew that it was trying to throw me off. There for a while, the three of us thought that Snape was trying to curse my broom. But right then, I was terrified of losing my grip on the broom."
Harry tried to look at Snape's hands and saw they were white-knuckled, holding his wand in a death grip, not realizing that the culprit was sitting in front of him, using dark magic to try and throw him from his broom, all those cold years ago.
Harry watched the stands in front of him and saw Hermione knock Quirrell over, breaking his eye contact with Harry and the wobbling of his broom stopped. Harry laughed slightly, knowing what was about to happen.
"What's funny?" Kingsley asked.
"It's only Hermione's about to set Snape on fire. I dunno if he ever realized who did that to him. Then again maybe he did, considering how cruel he was to her after that day." Harry watched as Snape's cloak hem was on fire and he danced away from it, not seeing that Hermione had scooped the fire from him and encased it in a jam jar in her cloak.
"She was a frightening witch, even then, Kingsley. I'd have soiled myself even thinking of setting a professor on fire, as much as I wanted to do it to Snape for those years."
"So who was it who cursed your broom?"
"The bloke in the turban. He was the Defense against Dark Arts professor that year. It seems Snape didn't trust him and kept an eye on him. Too bad that Quirrell manipulated things, courtesy of Voldemort, to get down to the chamber where Dumbledore had brilliantly hidden the Philosopher's stone. Bastard manipulated everything to get me to fetch it, trying to be reborn again via good magic."
Harry pulled his head out of the memory, smiling at it. "I wonder if Snape realized about that particular snitch."
"What about the snitch, Harry?"
"Oh, I caught it, but with my mouth. Nearly swallowed it and that's how Dumbledore used that Snitch with their flesh memories to hide – " Harry broke off what he was going to say, knowing it lead to darker things he wasn't quite ready to discuss with anyone.
"Hide? Hide what?"
"Nothing, sir. Forget I mentioned it." He used his wand to suck up the memory into the vial and marked it as viewed.
"Harry," Kingsley's voice dropped timbre and sounded authoritarian. "What was hiding in the snitch?"
"Sir, you wouldn't believe me if I told you."
Kingsley stepped in front of Harry, attempting to look imposing. "Try me."
"I can't, sir. It's too dangerous."
Kingsley deflated. "You don't trust me. That's fine. But I hope you do tell me someday, even if I'm on my deathbed."
"I dunno if I'll ever tell anyone," he said to himself. 'How can I explain I willingly went to my death, guided by my parents, Godfather, and their best friend?' he thought with considerable melancholy.
"You do realize you will have to learn to trust people again, right? No man can go through life by himself, not without dying entirely too early from being absolutely miserable."
"I do trust people, sir. But the list is very short, maybe not distinguished, and certainly requires things that most people lack." Harry looked up at the older wizard before him, knowing what Kingsley was fishing for. "Too many in my life wanted me for their own reasons, and so many have used me to get it or get out of things. I don't have the patience now for anyone who might betray me. I can't do it anymore."
"I will earn your trust, harry."
"Sir, it's not like you can put galleons on a scale and at a point, it balances out. It's not like that at all,' Harry felt his throat itching and his eyes stinging. "Ron gave me his sandwich when I first met him. Sure we have our moments but he's always been there. Hermione lied for me to keep me out of trouble, sir, invoking McGonagall's ire. Neville's stood up to me as often as he's stood up for me. Luna? Luna's stood next to me when no adults were there to believe me." Harry rubbed his face across his robes. "And you want to walk in, after a month, and expect me to trust you, when I don't know you, only from what Remus and Dumbledore have said about you? I'm sorry, sir, but that's not good enough, not yet at least."
"We have time, Potter."
"I've died twice," he whispered before turning back to the collection of memories and plucking another vial out. "How many died to give me borrowed time?"