Standard disclaimer: It all belongs to JKR. Except where I might use some song lyrics which I will call out at the time and give proper credit. Thank you JKR for letting us play with your toys.
Also, if you have not read my stories, Harry Potter and the Muggles' Daughter and Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, you are going to be lost. They are the prequels to this. But hey, if you haven't, BONUS! You've got two whole stories you can go read before coming back here!
Also, I've picked up a Beta, so you should be seeing an improvement in spelling, grammar and punctuation from this point onward. Thank you Wolf's Scream.
HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS
Better off Dead: Part III
Harry was going mad. Whatever this was he wanted out. Before this… Nothing, he'd read a series by an American author named Tom Clancy. One of the books used a torture technique called Sensory Deprivation. Supposedly it was very effective. Harry didn't know how long he'd been like this but he knew one thing, Sensory Deprivation was horrifying. It made you question everything. You wondered if you had ever even been alive. Had you ever spoken or read a book or tasted strawberries? He was desperate to taste a strawberry and he couldn't even be sure he actually ever had. Was anything real?
Even pain would be welcome. He remembered pain; just the same as he remembered the taste of strawberries. At least he thought he did. Pain was just as horrifying as strawberries were wonderful. But he would welcome it. He'd take whatever pain came with getting out of wherever here was; whipped with poison-soaked leather, burns that exposed the white of his bones, occlumency attacks that left his nose bleeding and his head throbbing so badly he couldn't see straight, the bite of a basilisk and poison that left him feeling like every vein, down to the smallest capillaries in his brain, was filled with acid, give it to him! Anything would be better than this… Nothing.
Basilisk… Ginny! Hermione…! His mum! The son of a bitch was going to kill his mum!
He had to get out of here!
And the pain hit. It was indescribable; going from endless moments of nothing to everything. Light burned red through his closed eyes. The soft whisper of someone breathing was like a foghorn in his ears. Smell invaded his mind. Even saliva had taste. It all hit at once. Every sense came to life in a moment and pain engulfed him. He hurt. Sweet mother he hurt. All the way down to his toenails. It was almost more than he could stand… and yet it was the most wonderful thing… Ever.
He had toes; and fingers and arms and his head lolled to the side. It felt like his head was being torn from his body. He forced his eyes open. Merciful Goddess it hurt. It hurt to move his eyelids and it hurt when light assailed his pupils but he could see! Silent tears accompanied his silent laugh. He was free. He could feel. He was alive!
Movement. He detected movement. His mum materialized in front of him. "Harry?" she breathed.
"Mum," he said. He frowned. He was sure he'd spoken.
"Shush," she soothed. "You're going to be fine. I promise. You've been hurt very badly." She palmed his cheek gently. Harry flinched. "Sorry. Does it hurt? Don't talk. Blink. Once for yes, twice for no."
Harry blinked twice. She gently reached for his cheek again. It hurt like hell, but it was bliss and she wouldn't touch him again if he told her it hurt.
"You've given me quite the scare, Buster." Harry's lip twitched into a small smile. A tear slid down her cheek. It hurt. By the Goddess it hurt, but he managed to raise his hand and wipe her tear away. His hand fell like dead weight once he had. "Now stop over-exerting yourself."
Harry smiled. But then more thoughts pushed past the pain. "Ginny?" he asked. Again, no sound actually came from him.
"She's safe. And Hermione is awake, Luna too. Everyone is safe." Harry's eyes drifted closed. Safe. Everyone was safe. Mum kissed his crown. "Rest, Baby."
A week later Harry was still struggling. Snape and matron Pomfrey had estimated he'd been injected with enough venom to kill a fully-grown dragon. And not a little Peruvian Vipertooth either, nope; he'd been injected with enough to do in a great Ukrainian Iron Belly. Or, if that didn't paint a picture for you, he'd been injected with enough venom to kill every student, professor and member of staff of Hogwarts.
But he was getting better. Matron Pomfrey had finally healed the tracheotomy Professor McGonagall had performed on him. He was under strict orders not to talk for at least two days yet. The all-encompassing pain in his body was diminishing. By the second day he had begun to miss his time spent being deprived of his senses. But it had eased enough now that he could stand to be awake without begging for Pain Potion every ten minutes.
He was quite concerned about his leg. There just hadn't been enough magic in him to deal with it as fast and as quickly as they would have liked. It was healing now, but the new flesh wasn't filling in like it should. One week should have seen his leg good as new. It wasn't. Though he would always have a nasty scar, the skin was healed over. But the muscle underneath looked like a big bite had been taken out of it. Of everything, it hurt the worst now. He'd been hooked up to a contraption that constantly bent and straightened his leg and flexed and pointed his foot to help stimulate the muscle to grow and to make certain it grew back with a minimal amount of scar tissue.
It wasn't fun. Not – At – All.
But he would endure it for however long it took because he was going to be able to run and practice his judo again! If not, well, Tom Marvolo Fucking Riddle was still out there and he was going to put the son of a bitch down!
With the improvement in his health his mind was starting to really function again and he was noticing that things were nowhere near as rosy as people would like him to believe. He had an awful lot of questions he wanted to ask but the inability to talk was making it difficult. The most pressing was Ginny. Hermione and Neville were near constant presences. One or the other was almost always about when he was awake. Luna was also a frequent visitor. Ginny though, even though he knew she was still in hospital and only a few beds over, he'd only seen her twice. Everyone assured him she was fine, but Harry was anything but stupid. She was not fine and he knew it.
He wanted to see her. He'd just gotten her back – sort of – before she had suffered the fit in Defense. His world had felt closer to right than it had since getting off the train in London at the end of first-year. They'd held hands and it still tingled and felt really good. Though they hadn't said anything about it, it seemed there was unspoken agreement they both still liked each other as more than just friends and were just being cautious after such a rough year. He wanted to see her. He'd even go so far as to say he needed to see her.
"Hello, Love," Mrs Tonks said, coming around the screen. Harry smiled. If not Ginny, Mrs Tonks was second on his list. Well maybe third. His mum was always first. She sat down beside him and reached for his chin. "May I?" Harry tipped his head back so she could see his neck better. She turned his head back and forth. "Matron Pomfrey is quite gifted. I believe you shall have only the faintest scar."
Harry made a motion with his hand that was normally done to indicate you were keeping your eyes on someone. He hoped she understood what he was asking.
"In your dreamscape?" she asked. Harry beamed and nodded.
She frowned. "No. Your magic is still far to week for you to be using it for things you don't need." Harry glared at her. "Don't give me that, young man. You're barely off your deathbed. I'll not be responsible for putting you back in it. She pulled a notebook and pen from her bag and handed it to him.
Harry grabbed them. I'm fine! Easier if we could talk!
"No," she answered after reading it.
Harry glared at her again. I'm going to scream.
"You will damage your vocal chords and risk never being able to sing again. And if you try it I shall seal your mouth shut."
Harry sighed. There was no bluffing her. There never was. I know Ginny isn't fine. What's wrong? Please!
Mrs Tonks sighed. "There is no easy or short answer to that."
Not going anywhere.
"Very well. Physically, Ginny is fine. She suffered no physical injuries other than magical exhaustion; from which she simply needs time. As of now, she's probably recovered about half her strength. So despite the fact she feels weak, she is still more powerful than any other witch in the school.
"Mentally though she is in a very bad place. You're a skilled Occlumens and Legilimens, Harry. We have talked many times about the kind of crimes Legilimens are capable of committing. Ginny has most likely suffered them all." Harry blanched. "Ah!" she warned. "No talking."
"I fear so."
What can I do?
"Be patient, Harry. She does not trust herself, which means she trusts no one. And you, I fear you have the capability to hurt her more than anyone else. You will need to be patient like you have never been before. And when you are ready to give up, be patient again."
Harry took a deep breath. I would never hurt her!
"But you already did. Look at what happened this year. Yes, most of it was due to misunderstandings, but you both hurt each other. And the damage Tom Riddle did to her. She does not know who she is anymore. Honestly, Harry, she may never regain enough trust in herself to ever truly trust anyone again."
Harry scowled. I WILL NEVER GIVE UP ON HER! SHE'S MINE!
Mrs Tonks cocked her head before reaching for the notebook. She tore the page from it and tossed it in the fire. "I understand what you mean. But you need to understand that Ginny was possessed, Harry. Making any kind of claim on her like that right now would be the biggest mistake you could possibly make. Be patient, Harry, listen and don't push her."
Harry frowned while he tried to wrap his mind around what Mrs Tonks was telling him. He looked up sharply as a thought hit him. He grabbed the notebook back. She fears a cage?
Mrs Tonks quirked a brow. "An interesting way of putting things."
It was the last thing Kaa said to me before she died. She said it was clear to her and that I had to remember Ginny feared a cage. If I didn't, she would never be mine.
Mrs Tonks nodded slowly. "Ginny's mother has tried to 'cage' her, her whole life. Tom Riddle possessed her. In essence, he caged her. So yes, I see what Kaa meant. I consider Ted to be mine. But he is mine by his choice, not because I demand it. Ginny's will has been taken from her. You must be sure she knows she has a choice in your relationship and that you, no matter what choice she makes, will respect that choice. It is an apt metaphor, Love, and you would do well to remember it."
Harry balled the page up and tossed it in the fire. When she was ready, he'd be there. Till then, he wasn't going to do anything to scare her off. Will you ask her to come see me?
Mrs Tonks smiled. "Of course, Love."
Ginny's eyes widened. Of all the people to come around her curtains Daphne Greengrass was one of the last she would have expected. "Hi," Daphne said.
Ginny gave her a small smile.
"Is it alright if I visit?"
Ginny nodded and motioned for the chair.
Daphne sat. "I won't stay long. I just wanted to see how you were doing."
Ginny frowned. She grabbed her notebook and pen. She'd resisted using them but was tired of having to play twenty questions as people tried to guess what she was trying to communicate. Why?
"Well, I kind of thought we were getting to be friends."
Friends who don't talk outside our room?
"I'm here now, aren't I?"
Ginny frowned. That had been a bit rude. It definitely sounded like her Tom voice.
Sorry. Thanks for coming. I'm very bored.
"I missed talking with you at night. Did something happen to your voice? Is that why you're writing everything?"
Ginny shrugged. She took a deep breath, opened her mouth and got stuck, demonstrating. Get stuck. It's like I forgot how. Can't even scream.
"But there's nothing wrong, correct?"
Ginny shrugged. She knew perfectly well what was wrong. She just didn't know what to do about it. Sorry. I'm not very talkative, I guess.
Daphne read her latest and fixed her with a sardonic smile. "Wouldn't that be writeative?"
Ginny stared at the blonde girl. Despite herself her lip twitched into a small smile. She wadded up a piece of paper and threw it at Daphne.
"Alright, Mr Potter," the Matron said. "Let's get you up and moving about, shall we?"
Harry beamed like he'd been told Snape had fallen down the stairs, hit his head and couldn't remember how to brew. A person could dream, couldn't they? "Bril," he said. His voice was raspy and weak yet, but he'd only been given permission to talk just yesterday. He swung his legs off the bed and planted his feet on the floor.
"Get your balance first," the matron warned.
Hermione moved to help him but he waved her off. "'M fine," he wheezed. He straightened and nearly went down.
Hermione caught him. "You were saying?" Harry glowered at her.
"Just go slow," the matron said. She moved to his other side and took a firm hold on his elbow. Harry set off haltingly. He really couldn't believe how weak he was. He was used to running five miles a day and by the time he made it to the matron's office even his good leg felt like it was going to give out. His bad leg, it felt like it was on fire. "Do you want to rest for a minute?" the matron asked.
Harry shook his head. He did not need to rest after walking twenty steps! Determinedly he turned around and headed back. As he neared the curtains around Ginny's bed he heard a sharp gasp. Ginny was watching him. She'd come and sat with him both days since Mrs Tonks had visited him. Neither of them had been able to talk so they'd passed a few notes back and forth. He could tell she was very upset yet; she had trouble looking at him. So mostly they just sat with their books. But she was alive, and near, and for Harry that had been enough. Right now though, she was shaking and looked like she was going to burst into tears. Harry met her eyes. "Not your fault," he wheezed.
"Hello, Ginny," Mrs Tonks said. Ginny glared at her. Mrs Tonks ignored her and sat down. She smiled and simply held Ginny's eyes while the girl continued to glare. The battle of wills was lost when Ginny suddenly grabbed her notebook and threw it at her. Mrs Tonks ducked, then bent to retrieve it. She picked the pen up from the table. I was not using Legilimency on you. She passed the notebook back, calmly holding it till Ginny finally broke eye contact and read it.
Ginny grabbed it. I don't believe you!
"I know. Your trust has been broken. You know you do not possess the skill to stop or even detect me if I wished to attack you so you assume the worst." Ginny scowled and looked at the wall. Mrs Tonks reached for her bag. She pulled a large, shallow stone basin carved with dozens of runes from it and set it on the bedside table. "Do you know what this is?"
Despite herself Ginny's eyes widened. She'd only ever seen pictures of one. Pensieve?
"Indeed," Mrs Tonks answered. She withdrew her wand and placed it at her temple. A few seconds later she pulled it away again. A long, silvery strand of material stretched between her temple and the tip of her wand before it broke free from her temple and floated on a nonexistent breeze. She moved her wand over the pensieve and deposited the strand. It pooled in the bowl like liquid mercury. "It's quite simple, really. You think solely of the memory you want and pull your wand away. It doesn't really remove the memory from your mind, but it does dull the details. For instance, the memory I placed in the bowl is of our first meeting. I remember that clearly, but not the details of what we spoke of. Do you understand?"
"Good." She used her wand to pick the memory from the bowl. Moving her wand back to her temple she replaced the memory in her mind. She sighed and smiled. "Much better. Pensieves are useful tools, but I find I do not like the blanks they leave in my mind. Especially when the memory in question is a happy one." Ginny frowned. Blanks in her mind sounded very similar to what Tom had done to her. "Ginny, can you think why I might have brought this?" Ginny shook her head. Mrs Tonks leaned forward slightly.
"It is very important for you to confront what has happened to you. It is also important that we know just what was done to you." Ginny blanched. "Previously, you would have trusted me. You would have spoken with me and allowed me to enter your mind. I could have helped you sift through the crimes committed against you and I could have determined what was important for others to know and what you did not need to go beyond you and me. The pensieve gives you control. You can share without fear that someone is invading your mind or possessing you."
Ginny stared at the pensieve. She'd been mostly left alone regarding what had happened. There had been questions of course, but her inability to speak hampered things greatly.
"Ginny," Mrs Tonks said gently. "I know you are scared. But I promise, you will not be punished for what happened to you. And you must know, Tom Riddle is not gone. It is very important we learn as much as possible from these events. There may be clues in what happened to you that will help us to stop him once and for all."
Ginny looked down, twisting her hands in her lap. How could she possibly show people what Tom had done to her. It was bad enough, answering questions. They'll hate you, Ginevra. Remember when you wanted to tie Harry and Hermione to an anthill and pour honey on them?
I didn't though!
But you wanted to. You wanted to trick Hermione into coming down to the common room alone and leave her with Draco. You were going to kiss Draco.
I would never have done that!
"Ginny," Mrs Tonks said, gently placing her hand on hers. Ginny focused on her. "He took away your ability to fight back. Don't you want to make him pay for that?"
You can't fight him, Ginevra. You're weak and pathetic. Ginny's head slowly began to shake. Pathetic little Ginevra thinks Harry's in love with her. She pressed her palms into her eyes, the rage in her, always so close to the surface now, built. Boiling in her veins till she felt like a pressure cooker ready to blow. You're not good enough, Ginevra. Ginny began to rock back and forth. Murderer, her/Tom's voice hissed insidiously. Little Ginevra's a murderer.
"SHUT UP!" Ginny erupted, "JUST SHUT UP!" She clapped her hands over her mouth.
Mrs Tonks recoiled back from her. Shock slowly turned to a smile. "What was that, Luv?"
Ginny's eyes were wide as saucers. "I talked," she whispered, fearfully.
"Yes you did."
"A–and you can understand me? It's not P–Parseltongue."
Mrs Tonks beamed at her. "No, Luv, it's not.
"I can go?" Harry asked. His voice was still a bit raspy yet, but his only restriction was to avoid straining his vocal chords for another few days. His leg was a bit more of a concern. It was about ninety percent right now. He would have to return to the hospital for an hour a day yet till the end of term in three weeks for therapy and another dose of Flesh Regenerative but he was walking with only a small limp now. As long as he followed the instructions Matron Pomfrey had given him, she was confident he would regain at or near a hundred percent function. It may just take well into the summer to achieve and he needed to expect it would tire faster than his good leg for a very long time yet. Harry was determined to make a full recovery and with Mr Granger to help devise a strength program he was confident he would surprise her come the start of fall term.
"Yes you may. But I expect you here at four o'clock sharp tomorrow young man," the matron said sharply.
"I swear, Ma'am. I'll be early even." Harry was pretty certain he would pledge his first-born to her if it would get him out of hospital. He was going barmy!
The matron gave him a rare smile. She'd grown rather fond of him over the last three weeks. Sure he complained about being there, but he'd followed her instructions to the letter during his bid to get better. Like everyone else, she was ashamed to admit, she'd been wary of him. Prejudice was prolific in the wizarding world. But he'd won her over. Yes he had a mouth on him. Yes he had a chip on his shoulder. But if she was honest with herself, he probably had reason for that chip and if his disdain was being directed at you, then it was probably earned. It basically came down to, if you gave him a chance, then he'd give you one. And if you earned his trust, well, frankly, he'd die for you.
"Don't you dare, young man. I've had more than enough of you to be going on with."
He smirked. "You know, now I think about it, this bed is far nicer than the one in my dormitory. I think I'll stay."
She pursed her lips. The boy spent far too much time with his godfather. "Out, Potter. Or I'll put you back in the leg flexor."
"I'm going. I'm going." Harry hopped off the bed. He took a second to be sure of his balance before smiling at her. "Thank you, Madam Pomfrey."
She returned his smile. "Go on, your friends are waiting."
"Bril," Harry said. He stepped around the curtains.
Hermione beamed at him. "Finally done flirting, are you?"
Harry blushed. "Jealous?"
Neville rolled his eyes. "You ready, Mate?"
"I've never been more ready for anything in my life."
"You're in a good mood, Harry," Luna observed.
Harry stepped close and hugged her. "Aren't you?" he asked. "We're finally all friends again."
Luna returned his hug. "Oh, I missed your hugs."
"Me too, Luna. Me too." He let her go and focused on Ginny. She had gotten out of hospital only just yesterday and was hanging back from the others with her roommate Daphne. He was actually less surprised to see Daphne than Ginny. If it weren't for Mrs Tonks, he would have been really upset at the state of their relationship. "Not sure I ever thanked you for helping me that day in Defense," Harry said.
"You're welcome," Daphne answered. "I'm glad you're better."
"You have no idea," Harry said. Ginny cringed, causing Harry to silently curse himself. He reached for her hand. Just like the last two times he'd taken her hand she stiffened. Mrs Tonks had warned him to be patient, but he needed her to know he didn't hate her and holding her hand had been integral to their relationship before. He rather thought giving her too much space would be just as bad or even worse than not giving her enough. He locked eyes with her. "Not your fault." She tried to pull her hand away but he held tight. "Not your fault," he said again. He gave her hand a squeeze and let go. She watched him for another few moments before giving him a small smile. Harry grinned. "Come on."
Keen as he'd been to get out of hospital, Harry found he was already beginning to limp by the time they'd reached the Great Hall. He stopped outside the doors, gathering himself. He was not looking forward to this at all and he was sure as hell not going to show even the slightest sign of weakness in front of the rest of the school. "Alright, Harry?" Hermione asked.
"Fine," Harry said and pushed ahead. It took about five seconds for the hall to go silent as they made their way to their accustomed place at the Ravenclaw table. Added to his return was the fact that Daphne had joined the small group. Setting his jaw, Harry ignored the looks and whispers and forced himself to walk without limping to his seat. He sat down with Hermione on his left. Neville sat across from him with Luna and Daphne on either side of him. Ginny hesitated a second before slipping into the spot on Harry's right.
Luna frowned. "No. This won't do at all. Hermione, you need to switch sides with Daphne. Neville, you need to move down so she's between us."
"W–what?" Neville asked.
"But I want to sit next to Harry."
"You can't. You're messing up the energy. Up you get. You too, Daphne."
"The energy has been wrong all year, Hermione," Luna said with all seriousness. "And look what it got us. Do you really want to start our first night as One again with bad energy."
Harry began to chuckle softly. "Luna, you have no idea how much I've missed you."
"Somewhat less than you've missed Ginevra I would venture." Harry blushed while Ginny just looked down. "Now, up you get you two."
"But—" Hermione protested. Luna gave her a pointed look.
Harry wrapped an arm around Hermione's shoulder and gave her a squeeze. "I, for one, have no interest in messing up our energy. I think we should listen to her."
"Exactly," Luna said. "Come on. Come on."
Hermione rolled her eyes. "Fine." She got up and switched sides with a very confused Daphne.
"No, Neville, you move down," Luna said. "Hermione you're between us." Wordlessly Neville slid down so he was across from Daphne and Hermione took his place. Luna grabbed her hand and reached across the table to Ginny. "There, now everyone take hands."
"Wh–what?" Neville squeaked.
"Best do it, Neville," Harry said. He took Ginny's hand in one and Daphne's in the other. Daphne reached across the table to Neville. Hermione took his other hand while Ginny took Luna's, completing the circle. Luna sighed and closed her eyes, beaming a happy smile. "There," she said. "That's how it should be." She dropped Ginny and Hermione's hands. "Harry can you please pass the fish?"
Harry reached for it. "Sure."
"Lovely. Here you are, Ginevra." Luna handed her the platter.
Ginny took it from her. "Thank you," she said quietly.
"You're quite welcome." Luna took a piece of chicken and passed the platter to Daphne. Daphne just stared at the other girl. "You did want chicken, didn't you?"
"I can give you the fish if you prefer."
"N–No thank — thank you." Daphne failed to take the chicken though. Harry saved her by taking it and setting it in front of her.
"Thank you, Harry," Luna said. "Neville, Harry would like the roast if you don't mind."
"The roast, Mate, can I have the roast please?"
"S–sure." Neville handed it to him. Harry took it, piled some on his plate and passed it back.
"You two going to eat?" Harry asked.
"Oh," Daphne said startled out of staring at Luna. "Yes." She picked out a chicken breast and set it on her plate. Soon they were all eating with Luna occasionally directing a dish to be passed to someone who wanted it but hadn't asked yet.
Daphne leaned close to Harry. "Is she always like this?" she whispered.
Harry glanced at Luna, she seemed not to have heard and was reaching for a tray of tarts that she told Hermione to pass to Neville. "No, this is new," he hissed back.
"It's rather disturbing."
"Naw," Harry countered. "It's brilliant." Just then Luna placed a bowl of strawberries in front of him. Harry grinned at Daphne. "See."
Bill sipped from the cup of tea. "Thanks, Auntie," he sighed. He leaned back on the couch in the sitting area of her private quarters.
Minerva sat stiffly in her chair. "You're welcome, William." She sipped her tea and waited for him to begin.
Eventually he sat up and focused on her. "I assume you're fully up to date on the situation with my mother?"
"Would you agree with me that she can't be allowed anywhere near Ginny?"
"Till such time as she can accept the truth of the situation, I would not let her within five miles of Ginevra. Further, I'm not certain it is safe for the rest of your brothers to be under her supervision either. She has always had a difficult relationship with the twins and as they are in support of yourself and Ginevra, they will be targets for her. As you well know, Ronald is barely above Troll in all of his classes and if he goes through another year like the last I am certain he will end up repeating it. She is enabling him and frankly, right now, he is a disgrace to his father's legacy. Percy, his marks, are, of course, more than satisfactory. However, he is hardly of good moral character. I am quite concerned for both of them. Though one cannot say Percy has not earned the perks afforded one who has done well in school, he is no less guilty than Ronald of feeling certain things are due him that he has not earned."
Bill nodded. "Pretty much my thoughts exactly. I don't know what to do to get through to Percy. I'd have thought losing his prefect badge would have woken him up but he just blames Ginny, and Mum has fanned those flames. I'm not having any luck with Ron either. Frankly, because we're upsetting the apple cart, all three of them, Mum, Ron and Percy see Charlie and me as the enemy."
"What are your plans? I assume you have something in mind?"
Bill set his cup down. "My first thought is to move home and send Ginny to stay with Charlie. But I'm worried about giving Ginny the impression I don't want to be around her or that I blame her in any way for what happened."
"A legitimate concern."
"But I can't stick Charlie at home and stay with Ginny myself either. Charlie and I are in full agreement, but his temperament would be a disaster bigger than mixing myself with Mum, Percy and Ron right now."
"Really, Ginny is easy," Bill said. "She stays with me and Charlie whenever we aren't working."
"And when you are?"
Bill considered her for a second. "I've got options."
"Options you'll be learning about next week."
"You've a meeting with Harry's godfather, yes?"
"How do you know about that?"
"Let's just say you stepped in it when you went down in the Chamber with Harry and leave it at that for right now." Her eyes narrowed. "Really, I'm not at liberty to say anything more, Auntie. I promise, answers are coming though."
She let out a small huff. "I see. Would my answers have anything to do with your decision to give up your position at Gringotts and return to England?"
Bill grinned. "Next week, Auntie."
"Sorry. As I said, I'm not at liberty to say anything more."
"Very well. Is there a reason your solution for Ginevra won't work for your other siblings?"
Bill rocked his head back and forth. "It's possible it could for the twins. The big issue is the flat is in a Muggle area. That, and even if I can get them to behave for more than a day it's only got two bedrooms. I'm not sure my solution for when Charlie and I are at work for Ginny will work for the twins either. I know Ginny will be welcome. I'm not sure the twins will. I'm going to ask because honestly, even if I can't have the twins staying in the flat, I'd like to get them out of the Burrow as much as I can. I'd like to get Ron and Percy out of there some too, but I know they won't be welcomed. Even if they were, they wouldn't want to go."
"You intend for Ginevra to spend her days with Harry and possibly Hermione, yes?"
"No one ever said you were slow, Auntie."
She gave him a small smile. "I think you have the beginnings. I think you are correct that your flat is not a good spot for the twins and that the Burrow is not a good spot for either you or Charles. I think something needs to be done to help Ronald, and Percy as well if it is not too late. It is also my opinion, that while Ginevra should not spend time with Molly without you, Charles or myself present, it would be detrimental to remove all contact with her children from Molly. I have a suggestion that might work if you would be willing to entertain it."
"By all means," Bill said.
"Ginevra will stay with you and Charles. She will have no contact with your mother till such time as your mother accepts the truth. The rest of your siblings will stay at the Burrow with your mother and myself."
Bill stared back at her. "You're really willing to take that on?"
Minerva sighed. "I am. Frankly, I fear the consequences of not involving myself. Since your father died something has changed in your mother. She was always headstrong, but her refusal to accept the truth concerns me greatly. Further, she is simply never going to accept that her son knows better than she does. I, on the other hand, as an accepted authority figure to her may be able make her see sense."
Bill stood, reached across the table and hauled her up. "Thank you, Auntie," he said fiercely while hugging her tight.
The last weeks of school flew by and before Harry knew it they were boarding the train for the ride home for the summer. Harry had dutifully reported to madam Pomfrey each day for therapy and his dose of Flesh Regenerative and his leg was much stronger. He hadn't limped at all in over a week and she had finally cleared him to start running again. He could hardly wait for tomorrow morning, he, Hermione and Ginny were all going to run around the Bourton town square.
Ginny was not good at all. Her skin was far paler than her normal milky white, even her freckles seemed to have lost their prominence and she sported dark circles under her eyes. Daphne had told him she suffered nightmares every night. And that she would often leave their room at night to spend hours sitting in the common room staring into the dying embers of the fire. Harry had taken to setting an alarm and checking the Marauders map to see if she was up or not. He'd gone to sit with her twice but tried not to crowd her too much beyond that. He hoped that getting out of the school and a change of scenery would help her begin to truly recover.
The good news was she was not going to be anywhere near her mother. Harry didn't think he'd ever been more glad of anything than to hear Ginny would be staying with Bill and Charlie at their flat in London and would spend days with him and Hermione at the Briar Patch while her brothers were at work. Ginny's mother was crazy. In Harry's opinion, there was just no other way round it. Supposedly Mrs Tonks had broken most of the Memory Charms placed on Ginny's mother. But the woman refused to believe it. She refused to accept that someone could make her do the things she had and was accusing Mrs Tonks of planting the memories. Which if you thought about it made no sense at all because if Mrs Tonks could plant the memories, then someone else could have used Compulsion and Memory Charms on her as well.
Luna would once again be traveling with her father for the summer, but only for the first month. She would be back in time for Harry's birthday and he'd already invited her to the, yet to be planned, party. Of course he hoped to have her visiting much more than for just his birthday.
Neville too was being assimilated into their group. He was on the bench opposite he and Hermione and had his face mashed against the window as he slept. Harry had forgiven him everything after he had stood up for Hermione during the fight in Gryffindor tower. The fact his friend had followed him into the Chamber of Secrets served to cement his place in Harry's good graces. The changes in Neville from the beginning of the year to now had become more pronounced after the events in the Chamber of Secrets. He was much more confident and at times his stammer was gone completely. Fears his gran would be upset with him had proved unfounded. She'd never been more proud of her grandson and had taken him to purchase a new wand that had drastically improved his performance in classes. Harry had a sneaking suspicion Neville was a bit more powerful than the 45th percentile he'd been told he was and was eager to have Sirius perform a reading on him this summer.
But despite their growing friendship, they were still a bit unsure what to do with each other at times. Harry had never had a bloke for a friend. And he was realizing he maybe behaved differently than most blokes because of it. Truthfully, everyone Harry was really close with was female. His mum, Mali, Mrs Tonks, Tonks, Hermione, Ginny, Luna, were all girls. Going even further, he got on better with the girls on the quidditch team and of his professors it was McGonagall, Sprout and Grubbly-Plank he preferred.
He supposed Daphne could be added as well, though she was still somewhat outside the core group. She was more Ginny's friend than his or any of the others. Other than that one meal when he first left the hospital wing, Daphne still sat at the Slytherin table with her group of friends. But she had made clear she was friendly with Ginny, Harry and the others and for the last three weeks of term Harry had been able to count on friendly faces from her and the rest of her friends. Probably the most difficult thing for Harry in regards to Daphne was that Ginny had taken to spending more and more time with Daphne and her friends than himself and the others.
He was somewhat surprised she had chosen to sit with him and the rest today. She was sat between the wall and Luna. He tried not to watch her too closely but right now she seemed engaged in a battle with Luna to not hold her hand as the blonde girl kept retaking it every time Ginny let go. If it looked familiar it was. Ginny wouldn't hold his hand for longer than a few seconds before she would be shrinking away from him. But where Harry was giving her that space, Luna wasn't. She and Ginny had always held hands and she wasn't letting Ginny shrink away from her. He could tell Ginny was getting frustrated and he wanted to do something before she decided to leave and go sit with Daphne instead.
"Snap?" he asked.
"What?" Hermione asked.
"Do you wanna play Exploding Snap?"
"Oh, yes," Luna said, "let's! We haven't played since the train home last year." She scooted off the bench to the floor. "Come on." She grabbed Hermione by the leg and pulled her down.
"Hey!" Hermione protested. Her cry woke Neville.
"Was'sat?" he mumbled.
Harry laughed and held up a deck of cards. "Snap, Mate, we're gonna play. You in?"
Neville scrubbed at his eyes. "Yeah, s–sure."
"Cool. Ginny?" Harry asked. She hesitated. "You don't have to," he said, at the same time trying to tell her with his eyes he really hoped she would.
"Alright," Ginny agreed softly.
"Bril!" Harry slid to the floor and quickly dealt the cards around.
Author's notes: So that's it for year two of my Slytherin Harry. My writing has slowed a bit, but I still have all of year three done and am well into year four. I will begin posting year three next week and you can continue to expect regular updates from me for the foreseeable future. Though I may have to go to once every two weeks if the muse doesn't pick it up a bit.
As always, thank you to those who have reviewed for me. Reviews are how you thank Fan Fiction author's and I do appreciate hearing from readers. So once again, thank you and we'll see you next week.