Chapter Thirty-Two: Family

Friday, 21st April 2000.

"Everyone aboard?" A voice called out as Aurora took her seat in the surprisingly comfortable space. She admired how the group had managed to extend the insides to be larger than they seemed from the outside, but it wasn't so big as to be nonsensical. Which was a good thing as they would have been quite cramped without the extra space.

"That's everyone," Hermione said from in front of her, guiding Summer to a seat before she walked to the front of the small ship.

"Excellent. Hatch closing." Harry said tweaking the controls that Aurora could barely see from her position.

She looked back as she heard the ramp they had walked up shut on the small ship, closing them inside and she once more thanked the fact she had long since gotten over her childhood claustrophobia.

"Hold on," Harry instructed as she noticed the view through the windows shift.

Aurora was giddy. Not only were they about to travel off-world, but this was her first time in a spaceship as well. As a muggleborn, she was well aware of the history of spaceflight on Earth, and being inside of an actual real spaceship was a thrill in and of itself.

Harry seemed to be a natural at flying the ship as she barely noticed the movement as he brought it down in front of the large ring that she was now aware was the device they used to travel off-world. She had thought her amazement couldn't grow higher, but when Hermione tapped a command into her remote and the device activated, she was proven wrong once more.

"That's incredible." Summer said quietly from the seat to her left and Aurora found herself nodding.

"You haven't seen anything yet," Neville said, turning his chair in place and smiling at them both.

Aurora wanted to say something in response, but Harry pushed the ship forward and they zipped into the shimmering blue energy field. It was quite the experience, seeing the front of the ship disappearing suddenly as the energy swept towards her. Washing rapidly over those before her, its shimmering vertical water-like surface rushing at her face. Her brain was confused, torn between the need to scream and the need to take a deep breath before the plunge. Before she could sort her brain out and do either, the experience was over and she was now looking out over a beautiful green landscape stretching away in all directions.

She turned and looked out the narrow see-thru strip that ran around almost the entire ship, looking at what was slowly sinking into her mind as an alien landscape. A landscape that if she stuck to her decision to join the group, would soon be her home.

"There it is," Luna said. "Coming along nicely.

Aurora turned to face forwards and her breath caught in her chest. In front of the now hovering ship was a sight she would never forget.

A wide table mountain lay before them with a much larger mountain range off in the distance. There was a purple-tinted moon in the sky slowly making its way towards the horizon. And everything in between the mountains was a stunning mix of wide green plains intercut with winding blue ribbons of rivers and streams.

"Wow." She whispered.

"Amazing." Aurora turned to the second voice, as did several others.

None of them could recall saying that word to Cyla before, yet she had used it now, and definitely in the proper context. Cyla seemed to notice her audience and she blushed. Aurora smiled at her and nodded her agreement.

"Don't worry. It's going to get even better." Padma said with a knowing smile.

"It gets better than that?" Summer asked, still dumbfounded by the sight before them.

"Well, we haven't seen it yet, but if our math is right, it stands to be quite interesting in about half an hour," Hermione explained, staring absently into the sky as she spoke.

It was then that Aurora noticed the odd flashes of light occurring periodically over the surface of the nearby mountain. Upon closer inspection, she saw the beginnings of structures coming into existence before her very eyes. This was the new capital that they were building. She could see why the location had been chosen.

"What happens then?"

"Can't spoil the surprise," Natalie said as Harry lowered the vessel and angled the ship towards the shimmering standalone mountain.

As they approached, Hermione tapped a few more commands into the console and the white lights stopped. She could now see that the surface was still being built up, but within there were already corridors and other building foundations being laid in.

"That is so incredible. How far along is it?" She asked, turning to Luna.

"Not very far. The mountain still has about fifty metres of mass to go. And each new piece has to fuse into the material around it as it is integrated. Then the real fine work begins. It will be the first time we've constructed towers like this. And some of them will be tall. So we're taking our time to ensure there are no structural weak points."

"How much longer should it take?" Summer enquired as the ship came to rest amongst the constructions and Harry powered it down.

"Another month or so." He said, standing up and triggering the ramp. "Come on, we can talk about it outside. We don't want to miss this."

He quickly passed the group and disappeared from view for a moment as he walked around the ship. Hermione followed closely, fishing something out of a small bag in her hand. Aurora shrugged at their vagueness but followed regardless. These would be her first steps on an alien world, and she was having trouble hiding her excitement.

The ground was almost unnaturally level, and given it was being artificially created, she figured that made sense. Glancing up, she noted that the view in the other direction was just as amazing. The mountain range continued around the right, almost closing back in on the open plain before it descended into the treeline of the plain itself. A dense jungle hemmed in the plains in the distance and she could see the small grey ring of the astria porta on the open expanse between the mountain and the trees.

The sun here was quite high in the sky and she noticed that it seemed larger than Earth's. Aurora wondered if that was because it was physically bigger or if this planet was simply closer to it.

"Clear the exit," Neville said cheekily as he slipped past her and Aurora turned, following him as he walked past the ship.

Harry and Hermione were already assembling a picnic it seemed, complete with a large blanket. But she paused for a second when Harry levitated an entire table out of the bag Hermione was holding open. She smiled at the sight. She'd only known of magic for fifteen years, and it was amazing how often it still surprised her at what it could do.

"Grab the chairs, Nev," Harry said as the two approached and Neville drew his own wand, summoning several chairs out of the bag and arranging them on the near side of the table.

"So, it's something over there then," Aurora asked, stepping closer as Neville arrayed all the chairs on the near side of the table.

Hermione gave her a smirk. "You'll see."

The remaining preparations went in silence as the other council member moved forwards and soon had a rather large meal arrayed on the table. The purple moon was approaching the upper reaches of the mountain range when Harry spoke again.

"Everyone grab a seat. It should start any moment now."

He sat at the end of the table, Hermione taking the chair next to him. Aurora was close enough that she took the next chair with Carson to her right.

"So, any ideas what this mysterious event is meant to be?" He asked her as he grabbed a sandwich from the platter in front of him.

She shook her head in response, taking some grapes for herself as she did.

"Any moment," Hermione said quietly as Harry shuffled closer and wrapped an arm about her shoulder.

Aurora glanced at the pair but Hermione just gave her a soft smile and nodded towards the mountains. She turned back to see what was so incredible and her jaw dropped.

Just as the purple moon was approaching the peaks of the range, she realized that one of the peaks had been growing taller. It wasn't a mountain peak at all but the long arm of the rings around a second much larger moon that was rising over the same mountains. It was a deep mottled orange colour and was several degrees further over compared to the descending purple moon.

"What is that?" She asked.

"Verda has three moons. Two that orbit with the planet and one, that one," Parvati said, pointing at the purple one, "that rotates in the opposite direction. We think Verda captured it about four thousand years ago. It's still moving ridiculously fast compared to the other two."

"Today is the first time since we found it that all three will be in alignment like this over these mountains," Harry added. "We thought it would make the perfect backdrop for our little party."

It was then that Aurora noticed a third moon peeking out from the far right peaks of the mountain range. This one looked more like Earth's moon with a pale grey surface, almost the same colour as the ring behind them, though it lacked the obvious signs of meteor impacts of the one she knew from back home. The three combined in the sky made for quite the sight and Aurora was very glad she had agreed to come.

"Merlin is still crunching the numbers, but we think it should happen somewhat regularly," Hermione explained. "At least as far as celestial events go. Because the two prograde moons orbit at such different rates. But it will still be a while before it happens again. We didn't want to miss it."

"Just think," Natalie said from the far end of the table. "The next time it happens, we'll be watching from inside this structure."

That was a humbling thought. Six months earlier, Aurora had been gradually working her way through the ranks at St Mungo's. She was intelligent and creative, yet those traits seemed to be holding her back there. They preferred to follow the instructions to the letter, rather than experimenting and growing their craft. It had been one of the reasons she had accepted Hermione's offer. A chance to stretch her skills as it were.

Now she was all in. She was going to join this group and not only continue to grow her own craft, but learn new ones as well. All while being based on a beautiful alien world in a city built by, and filled with, incredible technology and magic.

"I suppose that now is as good a time as any. A toast." Richard said and everyone joined him in raising a drink. "To our clever friends, for finding the cure to something that once drove our ancestors out of this galaxy entirely. And a welcome to all who will be joining us on this journey. Happy Easter to us all."

"Here here." Natalie agreed and the group all took a drink together.

United in their goal of building the Aetherial into something incredible. Which, with the view she had right now, Aurora figured was going to be a lot of fun.


Sunday, 23rd April 2000.

Harry blinked away the residual glare in his eyes, careful not to move in the pitch darkness they now found themselves in. Even in the twilight of the Antarctic autumn, where they had beamed from had been far brighter than the complete absence of light around them now.

As Harry continued blinking, he reached for his wand in his left sleeve when he heard a crash sound from behind him. Lighting the tip of his wand silently, he turned and noted that Neville was now splayed out over the floor, having tripped on a raised beam on the floor in the darkness.

He extended his hand, helping his fallen friend back to his feet as Dobby snapped his fingers and a bright fire began to hover above the wee elf's head.

"Nice one, Dobby." He said, garnering a bright smile from his small friend who now appeared to be wearing a crown of flame.

"Miss Luna helped me with it," Dobby replied, turning his head side to side, the flames remaining constant above him.

"Well, she did a good job. That looks wicked. You right, Nev?" Harry asked, turning his attention back to the man beside him, who was busy brushing copious amounts of dust off of his outfit.

"Yeah," Neville replied, blushing as Harry waved his wand and cleared away all the dust in an instant. Neville pulled his own wand, firing a light spell into the air above them and turning resolutely the other way.

"What is this place?" Neville said softly, his voice slightly stifled by the bubble charm of the space suits they were wearing, but carrying through the air Merlin had beamed inside. After Carson and Cyla's short trip down here the other day, they weren't taking any chances.

"Looks like a storage room of some sort," Harry replied, carefully walking towards a set of nearby shelves against a wall. Whatever had been stored on them had long since turned into the dust that Neville had been coated in. Entropy was the only truly unstoppable force in the universe, and millions of years was a very long time for it to work.

Swinging back around, Harry noted the beam he had seen was actually the raised edge of the porta mundas that Carson and Cyla had appeared within. Kneeling down, he noted that it looked very different to the ones he was familiar with.

"Neville, Dobby. Check this out. What do you think?" He said, gesturing his wandering companions back over towards the porta mundas.

"That looks weird," Neville replied.

Harry smirked at the correct but brief analysis.

"It's very different to the one in Glastonbury," Dobby said, still struggling slightly with the long complex name. Even with all their discoveries of late, the house-elves still tended towards briefer forms of speech. Something Harry assumed their self-important masters had ingrained into them over centuries, so that they might feel even more superior.

"I wonder why," Harry said, standing and rotating on the spot, using the light from his wand to try and find the door to the room they were in.

"Here it is," Neville noted, from the far wall as Harry's light approached. Neville triggered the door control, a squat rectangle with a curved top that bore a large dome-shaped button on the front side with two curved lights above it. One of which glowed a dull green as the button was depressed.

The door whined in the thin atmosphere that Merlin had been able to beam inside the room, before all of that air rushed out through the door as it slid apart.

"Good thing we wore these," Neville said, tapping his suit.

Harry nodded, following Neville out into a hallway. "What is this place?"

It was oddly shaped, with floor, walls and roof in the normal orientation, but with deeply bevelled corners dipping down towards pale lighting on the floor. Every few metres a ring was visible jutting out from the walls, some sort of reinforcement through which the bare pipes and wiring of the structure ran.

"Doesn't look like any Alteran facility we've come across before," Neville noted, staring the other way down the hall. "Door here."

Harry turned from the long tunnel ahead of him and gestured for Neville to activate the door.

This time it opened silently, due to the absence of air between them. Their voices were only audible to one another thanks to Hermione's radio device, clipped behind their respective ears. Beyond the opening was a slightly larger space that still seemed to stretch away from them like a hall. Harry silently fired off another ball of light and it zoomed forwards, illuminating the large space as it moved, right until it hit the far wall and stopped.

Harry's attention, however, was immediately drawn to the three large rings over by the nearest wall to his left. He walked forwards, angling around so that he was front on to the large devices and he let more magic flow into his Lumos spell. Before him were three Astria Porta. But none of them were like the ones he'd personally used before.

The closest was the correct size and had several chevrons equally spaced for if there were two hidden below the floor in which they were all embedded. And it bore a series of symbols evenly spaced around the ring. It differed, though, in that it was a single piece, much like the new models they'd install on the planets of the Lal Ring. There was no sign of any moving parts in the ring itself, though there was a significant gap around the ring where it entered the floor, unlike in Aether. The symbols were not constellations but lines, dots and circles of varying lengths and arrangement. And the chevrons themselves looked very different to the style he was familiar with.

His eye drifted to the next one along. This was much smaller, only about two and a half metres in diameter on the inner edge. At a second glance, Harry was sure that if he could free it from the floor, this porta could have fit inside of the far left unit. While it had the typical arrangement of chevrons, a mix of the styles on the porta on either side of it centred around the top, it bore no other markings between the chevrons at all. Harry had no idea how someone was supposed to operate this model, but given the ones on either side, he guessed this was the infamous second-generation model that had nearly convinced the High Council of the time to abandon the technology before they ever reached Avalon.

The last he was sure was an Astria Porta as well, but mostly only due to its placement with the ones to its left. It bore almost no resemblance at all to the ones he had seen before. It was the same size as the unit to its immediate left, but Harry was certain that this one lacked any additional components below the floor level. With only the seven chevrons, sharp triangular mechanical shapes that covered the entire thickness of the ring, poking out past the edge by a few inches. Each one labelled with the Alteran numbers one through seven, starting at the bottom left and working clockwise around the ring.

There were no symbols between the chevrons here either. The spans instead were covered in multicoloured wiring wrapped around them, almost like a transformer winding. And it was directly connected via a thick cable to a small pedestal computer terminal that was now laying on its side, tucked behind the ring itself.

It looked like someone had taken the concept of an astria porta and assembled it from whatever parts they could find or manufacture on the go. And Harry was willing to bet travel through either of the two on the right would be rough, if not outright hazardous to the traveller's health.

"Are those what I think they are?" Dobby asked, standing at Harry's left thigh.

"I think so. Guess our collection is almost complete. Is this some kind of museum?" Harry asked, more to himself than the others.

"Don't think so," Neville said, Harry turned to see where the other man was looking only to find him missing entirely.

"Where are you, Neville?"

"Take the door on the left wall at the end of that hall. Three doors down on the right. You'll wanna see this." Neville replied, and Dobby fell into step with Harry as he followed the directions.

A few moments later, he and Dobby stepped into a room that was more familiar than what they had seen so far, but also recontextualized the rooms they had seen previously. Dozens of chairs stationed in front of terminals, all facing a singular direction. That far wall being made of transparent material that currently looked out onto dark, blank sandstone. This was a bridge.

"How the hell did they get this in here!?" Harry asked, clearly exasperated as he realized what the structure now was.

"Beats me, but that plaque there confirms it. This is Exodium." Neville replied, using the light at the tip of his wand to indicate a plate on the right-hand wall that bore the name of the ship.

The very same ship that the Alterans had once used to escape from the Ori, and then spent centuries or longer travelling the stars. It explained the presence of the pre-Avalon porta in the cargo hold nearby as well. That was probably the very room in which they had been developed. And those were probably the original prototypes of each model as well.

Harry dropped heavily into a nearby chair, overwhelmed with the significance of the find, and baffled beyond belief that the Alterans had somehow embedded the vessel, intact, inside a rock formation that came about almost half a billion years before they ever left Origin. Without any obvious signs of damage to Uluru itself.

It was no wonder that Merlin had been unable to scan the insides properly. The ship must be shielded against all kinds of interference and stellar phenomena.

"I'm trying to get one of these terminals working," Neville said, breaking Harry from his thoughts. "The lights in the hallways suggest this thing still has power."

Harry turned and looked properly at the terminal he was seated at. It was definitely Alteran, but of a truly Ancient design. While there were multiple buttons similar to the ones on the terminals in Aether, these weren't labelled or laid out in the configuration he was familiar with. In the centre of the terminal was an angled screen that was currently dark.

He took a deep breath and pressed a button in the top right corner of the leftmost panel of buttons. The terminal beeped and the screen slowly brightened. The buttons showed Alteran symbols projected on their surface from underneath as the terminal slowly came to life.

"Top right button, on the left, Neville," Harry said, and he heard another beep from where he knew Neville was working.

Harry had to pause and recheck as he read the information being displayed on the screen due to the old dialect being used by the operating system, but he managed to bring up a basic diagnostic screen. Life support on the ship was non-existent, which was to be expected after millions of years encased in sandstone. Power was still functional, but the level of energy in the reactor was low.

"Looks like we might need to tie in some new power if we want to get anywhere significant," Harry said aloud.

Neville swung on his chair to look back at Harry. "Well, we figured out what it is at least. And we've an idea of what we need to get her working. Maybe we call it a day for now. Come back again when we're ready."

Harry leaned back in his chair and sighed. It was somewhat overwhelming, to have discovered something so fundamental to the Alteran presence in this galaxy. But Neville was right. They didn't have what they needed to properly assess Exodium right now.

"Sure. Let's go home for now. I'll just set this diagnostic running for the moment."

He carefully triggered the runtime in the console and stood as it beeped a confirmation. The ship, whose name had clearly influenced the words of the Greek and Latin descendant languages, would keep for now. As she had for millennia already.


Tuesday, 25th April 2000.

"Ok then," Hermione said, breathing out heavily as she adjusted the controls.

Cyla watched her closely as she worked and it was making Hermione somewhat nervous. To have one of the progenitors of the technology she was using watch her work felt like being back in a tough practical exam all over again.

But the very purpose of this test was to try and see if they could figure out just what was causing Cyla's difficulty with recollection. Meaning she was simply watching out of curiosity, not judgement.

"Er, Carson?" She said uncertainly, turning to the man who was rubbing his forehead.

"Yes, dear?" He said, looking up.

"Are you ok?"

"Aye. Just have a bit of a headache still from that Mirror thingy. Nothing to worry about. How can I help?"

She smiled at the amiable man. He had somewhat moved into Aether, deciding that fully moving could wait until they shifted to Verda. Last night he'd used the Mirror device to access the languages and medical knowledge of the database, so that he would be up to snuff with continuing his role amongst the group.

In fact, the tests they were about to run were partially to see if it would be safe for Cyla to use the Mirror herself. They certainly hoped they at least would be able to accelerate her grasp of communication and speech.

"Can you calibrate the scanner head? Needs to be done in conjunction."

"Aye. Just a moment. Scootch back a smidgen there, Cyla." He said, walking to the far side of the bed and pulling the scanner bar from the wall.

The pair worked in unison for a few minutes as they calibrated the device for what they knew of Alteran physiology, given to this point they had only ever been used on humans and furlings.

"I think that we're ready," Hermione said, turning to Cyla who was still looking at her curiously. "If you lay back, we can get started."

Despite her difficulty grasping regular speech and remembering anything prior to waking up in Aether, Cyla had no trouble understanding them. She smiled back at Hermione and laid back on the bed, tucking her long red hair under her shoulders and getting comfortable.

"Ok. Ready?" Hermione asked Carson, who nodded in return.

With another deep breath, Hermione triggered the sequence and the bar came to life. Blue rays of light swept over her feet and gradually moved higher as the scanner worked. Hermione watched the screen as the information was parsed through the system. So far everything appeared to be as expected, however, once the scanner reached Cyla's head, several anomalies were noted in the scan.

"Well, this might take a few minutes to properly figure out." She said, more to herself than the other two present.

She scrolled through the results, noting a slight warp in Cyla's right tibia that they could correct using a potion. Otherwise, her skeletal structure was as good as could be expected. The body's circulatory and nervous systems were both just as good. And she had proven to have a picture-perfect digestive tract with a ravenous appetite.

"Apart from one bone with slight warping, your body is in perfect health. So, good job again Carson."

"I was but one of many." He replied and Cyla placed her hand on his own on the bed. He smiled down at her for a moment before redirecting his attention back to Hermione. "I sense a but."

"But, the readings on the brain are all over the place. The system expected the denser sections of neurons we saw in the scan downstairs. But they're far denser than that showed. And active even now. It seems possible that this mutation is using more of the energy getting to the brain than usual, causing other areas to suffer as a result."

"You're saying the sections that give her a healing ability are parasitic. Stealing nutrients from areas like memory and speech?" Carson summarised.

"I think that's an accurate summation. Do you want to take a look? You have a lot more experience than I do at reading this stuff."

"Aye, just a moment." He said, patting Cyla's hand and circling the bed.

He spent a few moments reading through the results, double-checking certain aspects before he spoke. "Your assessment seems to be correct. We'll need to see if we can find a way to correct that behaviour. I wouldn't feel it safe to use the Mirror device until that is altered. It could actually damage the memory pathways in the brain if they're under-prepared for such activity."

"I agree. For the moment, we'll have to try things the old-fashioned way." Hermione said.

"Aye. Though I don't mind helping our patient out with that." He said, smiling at Cyla who returned the gesture.

Hermione found the woman fascinating. Despite her inability to recall her life before they found her, she was ravenously curious. A trait Hermione herself treasured. She was eager to learn, and nothing that she had learned since her awakening seemed to be diminishing, so the issue was only affecting long-term memory.

And she appeared to have taken a liking to Carson. Not that Hermione blamed her. He was amiable and charming.

"I'll have a talk with Aurora," He said, "see if she has any thoughts on ways to correct the imbalance. Mind you, taking a look at how thorough these results are, I might have to take a trip through this machine myself. See if there are any improvements I can make to my own health."

He tapped a few more commands on the screen, sending copies of the scan data to his personal terminal for further study, along with Aurora's terminal so they could assess it together. Hermione was pleased that everyone seemed to be slotting into the group well.

"I might leave the two experts to it then. Padma was asking for some help with a few of the artefact scans. And Luna was looking forward to recovering some things from a small shipwreck off the coast of the United States."

"Do what you must, love. We'll handle this for now. There is no immediate danger to our dear patient here. No need to rush."

"Thanks, Carson. I'm glad you decided to join us."

"Me too." He said back with a warm smile.


Saturday, 29th April 2000.

Harry sat quietly watching as the Weasley family talked and laughed, everyone eating a lovely lunch made by Molly as the whole family was together for the first time in months. The Twins were seated together as usual, sharing anecdotes from work as they continued to expand the business, adding to the already substantial piles of gold Harry had in his vaults.

Bill and Charlie sat opposite the two, with Charlie somehow outdoing Bill's mighty tan. A surprise given the Weasley family's complexion as a whole. Harry knew that Ron just burned if exposed to the sun for too long. As much as his friend wanted to tan. Harry had plans to talk to Bill a little bit later on now that he was back in Egypt, as the group had some questions about how the goblins had missed all of the histories they were now uncovering.

Molly sat at the end of the table, with Ron and Ginny on either hand, and she too was watching happily as her family chattered away. Harry knew that she was immensely proud of every single one of them, though she missed them greatly being out of the house now that they were all grown and doing their own thing.

Ron was laughing heartily at the Twins' latest gag product, especially how they had arranged a deal with the Ministry to use the incarcerated Death Eaters as test subjects in exchange for slightly diminished sentences. Given most had garnered multiple life sentences for their many uses of the Unforgivable curses, in practical terms, he doubted any would ever actually see release, so Harry had quickly agreed it wasn't a bad idea per se. And it had garnered significant popularity amongst the inmates as a way to beat the mind-numbing isolation of the island without the Dementors making them relive their memories. Harry also knew that the Twins still tested everything personally before involving others, so there was no risk of true harm.

The story they were currently telling explained how Draco Malfoy had gone from his current three Unforgivable life sentences to two and sixty years. And all it had taken was the application of three new products, one which had apparently rendered him permanently bald by accident. Not even spells or potions to encourage hair growth had reversed the effect.

"I will admit," Molly said as the laughter died down slightly. "They were awful people, but should you really be testing products on prisoners? It seems wrong."

"Mum, we run a joke shop. Not an apothecary. Everything we test is thoroughly researched. We know fairly accurately what to expect." Fred defended.

"Besides, we worked out that it wasn't our fault. It's the two decades of using those hair products the Malfoys were obsessed with that made his hair fall out." George added with a chuckle.

"Still, I'm going to need a photograph of it," Ron said, coming down from his laughing fit.

"You want a photo of Draco Malfoy to keep on your bedside table?" Ginny asked, looking down the table at Harry with a smirk he easily returned as Ron's face dropped.

"What? No!" Harry couldn't help it as he let out a laugh at his friend's expense and the other boy turned and frowned at him. "Traitor."

"What, Ron? It's funny." Harry shrugged as Ron soon brightened back up.

Harry found his eyes drifting back to Ginny as she took up the reins of the conversation, explaining her latest trip to Italy with the Harpies. They were well on track to make the finals. She too was rocking a slight tan, though not as impressive as the two eldest.

Harry was glad to see her happy again. She had not taken their continued split as well as he had hoped when he had explained that after all he'd been through, he wasn't ready to just jump back into dating. Yet before he knew it, the two of them were talking again and firm friends. But the spark between them was gone. Harry's experience in the war had somehow destroyed it and now he felt no more for her than he did any of the Weasleys.

Which led him back to the revelation he'd had a week prior. The reason he had finally accepted Molly's invite after so long of hiding from those he had once considered family.

His habit of taking the blame for everything had become so ingrained by the end of the war, Harry actually blamed himself for the loss of just about everyone who died. Had he done his job faster, taken out Voldemort sooner, perhaps some of them would still be alive.

It had taken months of talking it out with Hermione, and the new clarity on his life he had achieved thanks to the memory training suite they were constantly running that had allowed him to view it all in the proper context. To realize that for almost his entire life he was the victim of other people's plans and movements. None of what had happened was his fault, and he was finally coming to truly accept that.

"Harry, dear. Are you alright?" Molly said, perched beside him all of a sudden and Harry realized everyone was looking at him.

"Yes. Sorry." He said softly, wiping his eyes when he realized that tears were seeping out of their own accord.

"What's wrong?" Charlie asked him quietly.

Harry took a deep breath, centring himself. He had planned to talk to them about this, but he hadn't expected it to suddenly come up like this, with him the centre of focus.

"I, er… have been thinking about things. A lot lately. And I've come to realize that I owe you all an apology."

"What? There is nothing you need to apologize for, dear." Molly said, running her fingers calmingly through his messy hair.

"I know, not for the things I used to blame myself for. For my actions lately. You've been nothing but kind to me, and I've been unintentionally avoiding you all for so long, without even realizing I was doing it. I felt guilty about the war and my role in it. Blamed myself for all the bad things that happened when they were not my fault but things done to me and others.

"I want to apologize for that behaviour. I've come to understand myself so much better of late. And it's helped me see a few flaws I want to fix up in myself. Starting with all of you."

"Harry, family doesn't have to apologize for being off from time to time," Fred said.

"Exactly." George echoed. "We all had a rough time afterwards, trying to accept all that happened. Wondering if we could have done anything differently. You're definitely not alone in that."

"None of us blames you for what happened, Harry," Molly said, pulling him into a firm hug. A feeling he'd missed terribly without even realizing it.

His time with the Grangers was different to the Weasleys, but this was no less cathartic. Harry realized he needed them both now. They were all his family, through and through.

"Thank you. And I'm sorry for messing up the family lunch with heavy topics."

"Nonsense, dear. That's what family is for." Molly said as she pulled away. "And you are family, make no mistake of that."

Her eyes did flick longingly to her daughter and Harry noticed Ginny smiled a little too fakely. He guessed that she still had feelings for him, but Harry knew he could no longer return them. And that Ginny was definitely strong and independent enough to find her way to getting over him truly.

He gave her a knowing smile as Molly returned to her seat at the far end of the table. "So," George said, drawing attention. "Are you lot ready to talk about your secret mission now?"

Harry smiled at the man as George gave him a knowing wink. "Actually, the mission was finished before you even learned about it."

"Really? You have been doing something else this whole time?" Ron asked, stunned that Harry had not included him, yet his brothers seemed to know.

"Well, yes." Harry looked at the expectant faces and decided there was no reason not to share. "It started with accidentally finding an ancient lab belonging to an alien."

Harry smiled as the others looked surprised by that revelation and he began to enlighten them all as to exactly what he had been doing for the past year. And how, if things went well, he might not be around much for a while for a completely different reason.


"I can't believe you kept all of that secret from me," Ron said, staring at Harry as the two sat on the beds in Ron's old room.

"I'm sorry. A lot of it just sort of happened. And then you were married and busy with the Cannons. And…"

"It's alright," Ron said, smiling as he gestured for Harry to relax. "I'm not saying I want in. I've had enough excitement to last me forever. Plus, it sounds like there is a lot of learning involved, and you know how I feel about tests and studying."

Harry and Ron laughed together at the comment. Neither of them had been particularly good students at Hogwarts, despite coming away with ok grades.

"And with Hermione, Padma, and Luna. Not to mention Hermione's parents… Do you get any time to yourself?"

"I get a lot, actually. It is great, Ron. I love it." Harry said, a glow to his face as he said it and Ron considered what his friend was off doing. It was way more responsibility than he'd ever want for himself. Dealing with alien and robot invasions and attacks... The war he'd experienced was more than enough life experience for Ronald Weasley. He was perfectly happy being regular old Ron, husband, son and Quidditch Keeper.

"I'm glad for you then. For all of it. Hermione too."

"Really?" Harry asked, looking a bit like he expected an explosion.

"Mate. We tried dating. It was horrible. By halfway through the second one, we knew it was never going to work. I chalk it up to teenage hormones and constant proximity. I love her, but more like the way that I love Ginny. Or you. I care about what happens to her, and I'll kick your arse if you hurt her, but…"

"I think the thing I hate myself for the most about this last year is you. You've changed so much Ron, and I missed it all."

"Eh," Ron said, waving the comment away. "Maybe being alone for a change was exactly what I needed."

"I hate that you had to lose so much."

"Hey, I thought you said you were done blaming yourself?" Ron said, kicking Harry gently in the shin.

"You're right. Sorry."

A knock at the door drew both eyes to where Ginny was quietly standing, watching them both. "May I come in?"

Ron glanced at Harry who turned to him, given it was Ron's room, Harry was ceding full authority to him.


She walked quickly over to the beds and paused for a moment. Ron knew she was debating something in her mind before she sat beside him on his bed. She was wringing her hands slightly as the two boys sat in silence, waiting for her to speak.

Eventually, Harry seemed uncomfortable in the silence. "Ginny…"

"I'm seeing someone." She blurted out suddenly.

Ron felt the usual urge to find that someone and give them a good bollocking, but he quickly squashed it down and turned to Harry, noticing the surprise on his face.

"Does he make you happy?" Harry asked softly.

"Yes. Very."

Ron paused, feeling slightly uncomfortable at such a discussion happening in front of him. He also remembered the face Ginny had pulled when their mother had called Harry family earlier. He'd thought she was still pining after Harry, and that was why she'd made that face.

"And I'm really happy that you and Hermione figured things out too."

"Really?" Harry asked, clearly taken aback.

Ginny smiled at his confusion. "Of course. She is my friend. I am glad she's found herself a good man. I am over you, so you can deflate your big head a bit." She said, poking her tongue out in jest. "Sure, it hurt at first, but I understood pretty quickly. If you hadn't been hiding from us for so long, I'd have gladly told you so."

"Oh," Harry replied, looking embarrassed at having so misread her.

Ginny paused again and the two boys looked at each other worried at the look she now had. As though she was about to blurt out a huge secret.

"Also… it's not a he." Ginny said, her face going very red.

Harry seemed to filter that information fastest and nodded. "Good for you, Ginny."

"I already told mum. She was proud of me for finding someone. And I still like guys."

"Wait, you're dating a girl?" Ron asked, finding he didn't care in the slightest beyond whether she was happy with that person or not.

"Yes, Ron. I happen to like both boys and girls." She said with a smug smirk on her face.

"Right, then like Harry said. Good for you, Gin. Er, when do we get to meet... her?"

"You don't care?"

"Why would we? As long as you're happy, that's what is important." Ron said confidently, Harry nodding his agreement.

Ginny almost collapsed in on herself in relief and Ron put his arm around her shoulder. He could see her whole demeanour had changed and she was her usual bright and bubbly self once more. Ron realized this was what had been bothering her all day. She was worried about coming out to her family. Not still pining over Harry.

"While we're confessing things. I have something for you both. It's a communicator." Harry said, handing them both a small grey rectangle with a small button in the centre. "As I said at lunch, we're going to be off-world a lot soon. So if you need to get in touch, push the button and speak your message. Merlin will see to it that we get it as soon as possible."

Ginny shook her head. "I still can't believe you actually found the real living Merlin."

"Sometimes, neither can I," Harry admitted.

"Just promise me that you'll keep in touch too, not just wait for us to call," Ron said, tucking the device into his pocket.

"Of course, we will. And once Aedis is finished you'll all be coming to my place for a family lunch." Harry said with a big smirk.

"Good to know," Ron said, smiling at his sister as she mirrored his delight. "I can't wait."