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Chapter Fifty-Two—Outlasting

"Hello, Madam Macmillan." Harry smiles at the woman who sits down at his bedside and peers at him with her sharp eyes. Harry's starting to think that Madam Pomfrey, Snape, and Sirius are all ridiculous. They insist on him staying in bed even though his burns are mostly healed and Harry no longer gets dizzy when he stands up. But it's not worth the fuss trying to slip out and meet Madam Macmillan in the entrance hall or something. "Thank you for coming."

"You look horrible, Mr. Potter."

"That's the burns on my face, I suppose. I know it's lucky they missed my eye."

"I'm not talking about physical wounds. I'm talking about spiritual ones. What did you suffer since I last saw you?"

Harry sighs a little. Does he wear his emotions on his face that much? He supposes that he'll have to work harder on Occlumency and lying. "I settled my choice of guardian. But it was hard."

"And Black?"

"I've persuaded him to see a real Mind-Healer. My secondary guardian is going to be Professor Snape."

Madam Macmillan grunts skeptically and settles her cane between her legs while she stares off into the distance, contemplating something Harry can only guess at. Then she turns back to him. "You called me because you want me to manage the press campaign for you?"

"Yes, please," Harry says. "I know lots of people don't like Professor Snape, and some people still think Sirius is insane and guilty."

"Of one thing, at least, he is."

Harry holds his breath for a second, then releases it and just goes on. That's effective sometimes with Blaise and Theo, to ignore what they said when it's stupid and pretend that they never said it. "So them working together will make it seem even more mental. Can you explain to the papers that this is the way I want it? Use whatever words you need. I can give an interview if you think I need to."

"Not right now," Madam Macmillan says slowly. "Your injuries could explain that, and it will give the press time to come to terms with you engaging them in your own way. But in a few weeks, it might be necessary."

"Okay. If you could tell me what I ought to do before then, I'd be—grateful." The shape of the words is strange in his mouth, but it's still true.

"I will." Madam Macmillan settles back, but somehow her back is still straight. "We'll have to work on elocution and posture. Right now, it won't be important for more than the minutes that you're in front of the press, but you'll need more lessons later."

"Why?"

"Because this is only a beginning, Mr. Potter. And because someday you'll want to manage your own press. No one should control it for you forever. You only have three years—give or take a few months—until you're an adult. Then you can have done with these guardians of yours forever if you wish."

"I don't think I'd want them out of my life forever," Harry says lightly, although the back of his neck aches when he remembers Sirius and the way he kept the information about Snape secret. He turns his head, because someone is moving at the door and he thinks it might be one of his friends. But it's Remus, hovering. He starts badly when he realizes Harry's noticed him.

"Who is that?"

"Oh, his name is Remus Lupin. He's a friend of my godfather's." Harry keeps his voice light and neutral again, and he nods to Madam Macmillan. "Do you want to come meet Madam Macmillan, Remus? She's been kind to me."

Remus shuffles inside as if all the sheets on all the beds are going to jump off and strangle him. Harry distracts himself for a second by wondering if he could make them do that, and if it would be Transfiguration or Charms if he did.

"Hello, Gwendolyn," Remus says. Harry blinks. Huh. They must know each other.

"Mr. Lupin." Madam Macmillan inclines her head without taking her eyes from Remus. "I understand that you have not attempted to restrain Sirius Black from his irresponsible actions?"

Harry groans aloud. The adults both glance at him. Harry slumps a little over in his bed. He isn't above milking his injuries to avoid an argument. He used to do it all the time at the Dursleys' to avoid chores. "Sorry," he says, and covers his mouth and winces as though he's holding back another groan. "Hurts."

"I shouldn't tax your good health by sitting here." Madam Macmillan stands up in a swirl of robes. "I'll write up a list of what I intend to do, including the announcement I'll send to the papers, and send it to for your approval, Mr. Potter. You deserve to have at least some people respect your wishes." She gives Remus a cool look and walks out of the room.

"Oh, wait, Madam!" Harry calls after her. She turns back at the door. "I wanted to ask you. Who sent you the letter that told you about me being injured?"

"There was actually no name on it," Madam Macmillan says, frowning thoughtfully. "There was a seal on it that is only used by Light families when they want to tell each other the truth, however. The sketch was perfect. I assume that one of your friends, or someone else in the school concerned for you, wanted to alert me and some of the other Light witches and wizards of political power without revealing themselves."

"What? Why would they keep it secret?"

"Considering your desire to keep your godfather free," Madam Macmillan says, gaze leveled on him, "they might have been afraid you would react badly."

And she turns and leaves. Harry blinks and slumps against the pillow. That's even stranger. Not just her, but several other people? He thought it was Ernie before, but now he supposes it's not. And anyway, Ernie probably would have just told Madam Macmillan directly if he wanted to.

"I want to talk to you about—different things, Harry."

Harry looks back at Remus. "Are you going to do it without running away this time?"

Remus flinches all over like a kicked dog, but after a moment, he nods and gives a strained smile. "I suppose I deserve that. So, Harry. I know that you might not realize it, but Dumbledore and Sirius want the best for you."

"How was having Sirius work with a Mind-Healer who raped one of her patients the best thing for me?"

Remus's mouth falls open. Harry at least thinks his shock is genuine. "That didn't happen!"

"Professor Snape found out it did. She wasn't the right Healer for him. I don't care if she was a Gryffindor. Are you going to tell me that I should have let Sirius work with her?"

Remus rubs the back of his wrist across his mouth. "No…no," he says slowly. "I suppose that, given that perspective, I can admit they made a mistake."

"But not with anything else? Professor Dumbledore was the one who put me with the Dursleys in the first place, Remus. And Sirius needs help, but I think that means he doesn't know the best thing for me. I'm the one who has to take care of him."

"Both of you have a powerful friend. If you just listened to me."

"I talked to Madam Pomfrey, you know. She said that you only came to visit when I was asleep, but that was better than Professor Dumbledore. He hasn't visited at all. Do you think he really cares about me, Remus?"

"He's a very busy man," Remus says, a little helplessly. "But I know that he's done great things, Harry. You heard about his defeat of Grindelwald? And he let me attend school here. Most people wouldn't have done that. I'm the very first student werewolf in the school's history."

"I know that he's done great things. But him defeating Grindelwald doesn't mean much when it comes to him putting me with the Dursleys. And he should have protected you better and Snape better and the secret of you being a werewolf better. How come my dad and Sirius and Pettigrew all got to turn into Animagi and run around with you and no one ever found out?"

Remus looks down at his hands. Then he finally looks up again and says, "I'm not going to stop being loyal to Albus no matter what you say, Harry."

Harry sighs and looks up at the ceiling for a second. Then he says, "Okay."

"That's all?"

"You can be loyal to him all you want. You're not one of my guardians. Sirius is the primary one, and Professor Snape is the secondary one. You can visit, but you're not going to get custody of me because you're a werewolf. What you think doesn't have to matter that much to me."

Remus shivers. "Harry, I was one of your father's dearest friends."

"And I never knew about you until this year! I know Sirius was in Azkaban and no one wanted to tell me about that. Or they all thought I knew that already. But what was keeping you from contacting me?"

"I'm a werewolf. I would have been dangerous to you—"

"So you would be dangerous if you were my guardian." Harry sighs. He doesn't hate Remus, but he's tired of him. He has to take care of Sirius because Sirius loves him as much as he can love anybody, and Harry's starting to think the same is true of Snape. But Remus doesn't, and Harry doesn't have to give a shit what he feels. "Go away, please, Remus. I want to go back to sleep. My burns do hurt."

"I know it was manipulation, what you did to get rid of Madam Macmillan. You shouldn't do that, Harry. She's a political rival of Albus's, you know. You shouldn't listen to her."

"I'm going to listen to her partially because she is his political rival and he can't manipulate her. But that's not the only reason."

"What's the other one?"

"She speaks to me like I matter."

Remus recoils, and looks at Harry as if he slapped him. Then he stands up and walks out of the room without another word.

Harry closes his eyes. Yes, he's tired. Yes, he'll rest. And he'll wait for the day when he has to take care of Remus, too, when he apologizes and stops acting as though the future rests in Dumbledore's hands.

I have to take care of so many people. It's tiring. But on the other hand, if I didn't do it, who would? Dumbledore seems like he thinks things will just take care of themselves, and that's not how it works.

Harry doesn't fall asleep for a long time, because the thought is revolving in his head. Before, it would have made him more tired. Of course he has to do what nobody else can do, just like he's the one who always has to rescue people from basilisks and Voldemort and possession and themselves.

But maybe…

Maybe he can make it a source of power, too. His Slytherin friends are always acting like he'll become a leader someday. Harry doesn't like the idea of becoming a leader like Lucius Malfoy or Tarquinius Nott, all smiles and good manners and being cruel to their children.

But maybe he can become a leader who saves people. And if other people see that and follow him, the way Blaise and Theo do, then he'll have others to share the responsibility. Others who won't take Dumbledore seriously. People who want to help him.

It's a tempting thought.


"Severus, my boy, what are you doing?"

Severus turns around. He just came back from a visit to a house that he's virtually sure is going to be the one he ends up buying for himself and Harry. Visions of the future are buzzing in his blood, and he doesn't want to deal with Albus right now.

"Walking to the hospital wing," Severus says, because it's true.

Albus sighs sadly. "I don't mean that, of course. I mean, why are you championing Mr. Potter's absurd thoughts? He's too young to be on his own."

"How will he be on his own when he will have two guardians? I'm afraid that I don't understand your concern, Albus."

"He is imposing his own ideas on my own and on Sirius's health. I don't think he should be doing that, but you seem to be encouraging him."

Severus settles himself against the wave of reproach that he can feel flowing towards him from those bright blue eyes. He knew he would be facing this when he chose Harry's side. "The Mind-Healer that you had hired behaved inappropriately with one of her patients—"

"She was a Gryffindor. That is what Sirius needs right now."

"Given that he's agreed to seek out someone who is not disgraced, I think Black would disagree with you there, Albus."

"He only agreed because Harry gave him an ultimatum. I think you should realize the detrimental effects it will have on Sirius's health to be thwarted in that way, Severus. And by the child that he is helping to raise! It is very unhealthy for the both of them."

Severus can't help himself. He takes a step towards Albus and lowers his voice. "Unhealthy for whom, Albus? For their respect for you and your plans? Perhaps. But Harry is making the free choice for the first time. You never gave him a choice when you put him with those bloody Muggles. Now he has one. And you're claiming that it's unhealthy?"

"Severus…"

"Maybe you did do what you thought was best." Severus steps back and smoothes a hand down his robes while he pretends to consider it. In truth, he thinks Albus can no longer recognize the difference between what is best and what is merely what he wishes. "It doesn't matter. Harry is doing what he thinks is best, now. And Black is going to go along with him, because he loves his godson."

"He hates you."

"We will work around that."

Albus looks truly baffled, and Severus would feel a stir of pity somewhere down the bottom of his soul if he was still in touch with that part of himself. As it is, he can look politely baffled himself when Albus says slowly, "I know the kind of hatred that you and Sirius share. It is not to be conquered by time or forgiveness."

He truly thinks there is so much difference between a Gryffindor and Slytherin that forgiveness is impossible. Now, Severus has to acknowledge to himself that he doesn't think he can forgive Black, more for injuring Harry than for the ancient wounds of his schooldays, but he doesn't think it's impossible. Unlikely, only.

And Albus thinks me invested in the hatreds between Houses.

Severus only raises his brows a little and says, "This compromise is acceptable to all of us, or Black would not have agreed to it."

"He only did it because he thought he would lose Harry otherwise!"

"Well, he should be concerned about that after what he did to Harry."

"He didn't mean to—"

"This song and dance again," Severus says, and openly rolls his eyes. "Just as he probably didn't mean to kill me when he led me into a werewolf's open mouth? It doesn't matter, Headmaster. These are legal matters that Black has the power to reject or accept, and he's chosen to accept them. If part of that comes from fear of losing his godson, well, that's his affair, isn't it?"

"But Harry should have forgiven him."

"Weren't you saying a minute ago that forgiveness between Gryffindors and Slytherins doesn't happen?"

"I did not mean it that way."

"Of course," Severus murmurs. "No one in Gryffindor House ever means anything. Excuse me, Headmaster. I bring news that I think Harry will be glad to hear." He turns away, and finds himself spinning into a crouch out of instinct when he sees movement from the corner of his eye. Albus pulls his hand back from reaching for Severus's arm, looking vaguely hurt.

"I thought—I thought you would want to know what I really thought of Harry. I didn't mean that he could never forgive. Only that he should."

Severus looks at Albus, and although he can't send his Legilimency past the Headmaster's defenses, he thinks he finally understands. Albus is confounded by Harry. It explains why he has held back for the past few days while Harry recovered. He was waiting to see what Harry would do. Harry is a Slytherin, but he was Sorted Gryffindor first. He can apparently forgive Death Eaters and associate with their children, but he's forcing Black into this position. He lived with the Dursleys but didn't mourn their deaths.

Severus feels a rush of power that makes him smile involuntarily. It's a heady thing, to know that he understands the Boy-Who-Lived better than Albus Dumbledore.

"So," he says. "I will pass your message on to Harry."

"Tell him that I would like to see him when he is better."

"Of course, Headmaster."

And Severus goes to the hospital wing, where he has time to see the article on the front page of the Prophet before Harry puts it aside to ask about the house he found.

HARRY POTTER SEEKS PRIVACY, MADAM MACMILLAN SAYS!

Severus smiles to himself, and begins to help Harry turn towards the future.