The next in were the twins. They plopped down in the chairs on either side of his bed. At the same moment, the two reached over and hugged Harry. Harry tensed at the touch, then forcing himself to relax, mentally berating himself for constantly freaking at the unexpected physical touch thing. The twins broke away, ruffling his hair with a laugh. They each had to wipe a quick tear away from their cheeks. Harry smiled at the similarities of their actions. Some things would never change.
"Harry, mate, we're going to need to have a serious conversation about this whole 'save the world at any cost' thing you've got going on," Fred said with a grin.
George's tone was more serious. "Yeah, Harry, you don't know what it was like when you…" he trailed off, not able to say the word.
"Died?" Harry offered quietly. George nodded with a shiver.
"Harry, it was like losing one of the family," Fred added solemnly.
"You can't let us go through something like that again, it was too horrible," said George seriously.
"So no more dangerous stuff, okay?" said Fred.
"Does that include accepting sweets from you two?" Harry joked, trying to lighten the mood. The twins gave slight smiles, but their expressions immediately turned back to serious.
"Harry, we're serious. Please, you can't do something like that again," said Fred.
"We couldn't handle it."
Harry blushed a bit. "Never thought I'd be getting the serious talk from you two," he said with a smile. "I mean are you guys all right?" he asked worriedly. He didn't know what to make of serious Weasley twins.
"Well, we haven't been in the past week…" started George.
"…but we will be now," finished Fred. "Promise there will be no more self-sacrifices?"
Fred and George each held out their hands for Harry to shake to seal the promise. Harry grinned and crossed his arms, right over left, to shake their hands.
"Promise," he said firmly.
"All right, enough seriousness. We developed a new prank," George said excitedly.
"You know those two sidekicks of Malfoy's? The big ugly ones?"
"Crab-face and Gargoyle or something?" George said waving a hand dismissively. Harry laughed and nodded.
"Well, they ate some very interesting cupcakes and the strangest thing happened," said Fred thoughtfully.
"Yeah, their tongues fell right out of their mouths. Really bizarre," George added. Harry's jaw dropped.
"Caused a bit of a ruckus at the Slytherin table."
"Screaming, panic, and other sorts of mayhem."
"They sort of had to carry their tongues to the Hospital Wing."
"Quite disgusting really."
Harry was laughing now. "I can't believe I missed that! I think we need a repeat performance, just to make sure my investment's going to good use and all."
"Oh of course. Purely a business thing," said George in mock-seriousness.
"A purely professional prank," Fred piped in.
"Well, best be off."
"Mum's next and she's ready to rip off the door with her teeth to get in to see you if we make her wait any longer."
"I doubt even Madam Pomfrey could hold her off," George mused. "She's a bit scary sometimes."
"We'll see you soon since we're going to force you to come over so much you'll get sick of us."
Harry chuckled. "I don't think that's possible," he said truthfully.
"Tell that to Percy. Why do you think he moved out?" George asked. The twins spouted identical evil grins.
The twins said their rather dramatic farewells and opened the door. Harry couldn't see out into the halls, but could hear Mrs. Weasley screaming, "What took you so long?!" before racing in, followed by a much calmer Mr. Weasley.
She ran over to the bed and once again pulled Harry to her in a motherly embrace, once again crying into his hair. She kissed his forehead and petted his hair with one of her hands.
"Oh Harry, never do that to me again! Do you hear me?" She took his face in both of her hands and studied him. She then began speaking at a very quick pace. "Oh dear, you look peaky. Have you eaten yet? Are you warm enough?" Harry nodded at each of her inquiries. "Oh, you come over to the Burrow soon and I'm going to cook you a huge meal. We need to start you eating more, you're far too thin! Oh thank Merlin you're back, dear! And what were you thinking not telling us that you were ill?! Merlin's beard! Well Dumbledore said you don't have that anymore, right?" she asked worriedly.
"Yeah, Professor Snape cured me. Madam Pomfrey says my immune system won't ever work the same, but no more cancer," Harry said with a grin. He still couldn't believe his good fortune.
"What do you mean about your immune system?" Mr. Weasley asked with concern.
"Oh, it's no big deal, it just can't fight off things as well anymore so I'll probably get sick a lot, like colds and stuff. But it's much better than the alternative," he explained.
"Oh dear, well whenever you're sick, I'll make sure to make you my special chicken soup. It'll make you feel better!" she insisted.
"Oh you don't have to…"Harry started uncomfortably. He doubted he would ever get used to people fussing over him.
"Of course I don't have to. I want to, dear," she said warmly.
Harry smiled shyly. "Er…well, thanks."
Mrs. Weasley grinned happily, but Mr. Weasley looked oddly saddened.
"Molly, I need a few minutes alone with Harry," he said gently. His wife looked at him in confusion, but nodded. Harry was perplexed himself.
Mrs. Weasley hugged him goodbye and left the room, shutting the door behind herself.
Mr. Weasley sat down in the chair next to Harry and looked at him sadly.
"Harry, when you…er…died," he said cautiously, "I went to tell the Dursleys about it."
Harry gave a bitter laugh. "I'm sure they were devastated," he said sarcastically.
"Harry, why didn't you ever tell us what was happening with your relatives?" he asked seriously.
In two seconds flat, the blood had drained out of Harry's face. His eyes grew wide and he drew back as if he had been slapped. He forced himself to calm down. After all, Mr. Weasley couldn't mean that. The Dursleys were far too careful about that sort of stuff, well, except for around the Stensons, though they did seem to be slipping a bit lately.
"I don't know what you mean," he said, trying to pull off clueless. Mr. Weasley looked at him sympathetically.
"How long was your bedroom that cupboard?" he asked bluntly.
Harry inwardly sighed with relief. Mr. Weasley had only discovered his cramped living conditions rather than the worse aspects of his home life. Harry looked down at his lap and twisted the sheet nervously. "Um…until I got my Hogwarts letter and then just for a few days last Christmas. It's not as bad as it seems though. I don't need a lot of room," he said quietly, hoping that this would be the last of their discussion.
"And how long has the abuse been going on?" he asked, now with a tint of anger to his voice that he was unsuccessfully trying to conceal.
Harry's heart stopped. "I don't…I don't know what you're talking about." Had Ron told? Maybe he could play it off that there had just been a misunderstanding.
"Harry, I know. I found your shirt. The one that's covered in blood," he said calmly.
"I—I…it was from a fight with Dudley!"
"Your aunt and uncle told me. They started accusing each other and blurted out all the despicable things they've done to you." Harry tried to interrupt with another excuse but Mr. Weasley stopped him. "I talked to Mr. Stenson about it as well. He told me everything. I'm sorry if that was a violation of your trust, but under the certain circumstances…"
Harry started shivering violently. He hadn't wanted this. "It wasn't bad. Really, it wasn't."
"Harry, they starved you…" Mr. Weasley reminded him.
"No, they put Dudley on a diet too!"
"They made you do all the housework."
"It was just chores!"
"Your uncle threw you through a glass table!"
"It was an accident!"
"He stabbed you!"
"He was drunk, he didn't mean to, really!" Harry insisted in a pleading tone. He had no earthly idea why he was protecting his relatives. It just didn't feel like protecting the Dursleys, but instead, it felt as if he were protecting himself. A part of him desperately wanted to believe his words. Deep down, maybe he had always believed them.
Mr. Weasley grabbed his shoulders, causing Harry to nearly jump out of his skin. His body went rigid and he winced out of pure reflex. Mr. Weasley looked into Harry's eyes.
"Don't worry, Harry, I'm not going to hurt you," he said reassuringly. Harry looked down, ashamed. Mr. Weasley placed a finger under Harry's chin and gently raised it until Harry was looking at him. "Harry, I would never hurt you. You have people who love you now, people who would never hurt you. I don't know how to make you understand that you are part of our family. You have so many people that would adopt you in a second. If Sirius and Remus weren't here, I have a feeling that we'd be battling over custody of you with the Stensons. But Harry, what I really want you to understand is that if you ever have a problem, you can always come to me or Molly. We'll always be there for you, no matter what. There will always be room for you at the Burrow, for any length of time and for any reason. Do you understand that, Harry?"
Harry nodded numbly. He lowered his head once again. "Does everybody know?" he asked quietly.
"I haven't told anyone…"
Harry looked up hopefully.
"…but I'm going to tell my wife. And once the ministry calms down, I'm going to report it and make sure your uncle is punished," said Mr. Weasley resolutely.
"No please, you can't! It'll get to all the newspapers. They jump all over anything."
"Okay, I'll talk to the headmaster and your godfather and we'll figure something out, but still going to have to tell Molly."
"But…" Harry pleaded.
"Harry," Mr. Weasley interrupted, "why don't you want her to know?"
There was a long pause while Harry thought about the question. There were a ton of reasons: it was embarrassing, she would pity him, she'd know he was weak, he'd have one more person to always feel slightly ashamed around. Yet he couldn't tell Mr. Weasley any of those. "I don't know," he muttered, looking down at his lap once again.
"Harry," Mr. Weasley said gently, "don't feel ashamed. It's your uncle who's responsible for what he did, not you. You did nothing wrong."
Harry didn't say anything. What could he say? The man who sat next to him now seemed completely different, just by knowing Harry's secret. Harry couldn't be sure what Mr. Weasley was thinking, and that made him very nervous.
"Well, I'm sure you want to get on with seeing your friends. We'll talk about this later," he said kindly.
Harry nodded numbly. Mr. Weasley put a comforting hand on Harry's shoulder, but Harry merely stiffened under the touch. The redheaded man sighed and left the room, letting Ron and Hermione in.
The two sat next to his bed and smiled at him through their tears. Hermione took Harry's hand in her own and kissed it, then resting it against her cheek. Ron was still shaking slightly, but looked better than before.
"You're really back," Hermione said, squeezing a few more tears out of her eyes.
"Couldn't break up the trio, now could I?" he said with a grin that was slightly forced, as he tried to push his conversation with Mr. Weasley out of his mind. "We haven't gotten into nearly enough trouble yet."
"And now that 'Mione's blossoming into a nice little troublemaker herself, the fun's just getting started," Ron said with a smile, wiping at his cheeks again. "Harry, it was worse than I had ever imagined," he added quietly.
Hermione nodded solemnly. "It was awful. I felt like I was surrounded by Dementors; like I would never be happy again." She shuddered
Harry stared at the two, not knowing what to say.
"I'm so happy you're back, mate. It hurt not to have you there," Ron said truthfully. He wanted Harry to realize how much he was cared about, since Harry had so much trouble believing that anyone could truly care about him.
"Harry, what You-Kno—Voldemort said to you, about us not caring. That you were nothing more to us than a scar…that couldn't be further from the truth. We love you so much, and it has nothing to do with you being famous or Voldemort or anything like that," Hermione said seriously.
"I know, 'Mione," Harry said quietly. "You two are the best friends ever."
"He called you worthless," Ron said bluntly. "He's either a bloody liar or the dumbest person to ever walk the earth. You can't even understand how much you're worth, Harry. To us. To Sirius and Lupin. To the whole school. Even the whole bloody wizarding world! You should have seen what your…erm…death…did to everyone. Tomorrow, when you're allowed out of here, you'll have to go see the Quidditch field, where Dumbledore let all the visitors put all their flowers and stuff. But of course you mean the most to the people who knew you, like us, and….yeah," he finished lamely.
Hermione turned toward her boyfriend with a fond smile. "Ron, I love you dearly, but listening to you try to string together a coherent thought is sometimes painful." Harry chuckled as Ron glared at her. Hermione turned back to Harry. "But, if you managed to make sense of Ron's little jumbling rant there, he said some really smart things."
Harry grinned, blushing slightly. "Er…thanks guys," he said, embarrassed.
The trio talked until Madam Pomfrey told them that it was time to leave, and no, they could not stay the night this time. Harry needed his sleep.
Harry's two friends stood. Hermione kissed him on the forehead and told him to get some rest. Ron hugged Harry once more.
"I guess you still get to calm me down on my wedding day," he said quietly, reminding Harry of their conversation months before. Harry grinned.
"And you at mine. How horrifying," he joked. The two chuckled.
Hermione and Ron were just out of the door, when Hermione ran back, calling to Ron that she had forgotten something. She ran up to Harry and slid a rolled up piece of parchment out of her pocket, under the top of his covers, making sure Madam Pomfrey didn't see. Harry recognized it as the Maurader's Map.
"I forgot to give it to Professor McGonagall. I was planning on using it to find Ginny at some point. I don't think I'll manage to find her tonight though," she said quietly with a meaningful look. "Don't get caught." She winked at him and ran out the door after Ron.
Harry chuckled a bit, thinking that Hermione had become a bad influence on him. Madam Pomfrey looked at him suspiciously, but he just shot her an innocent look.
"How are you feeling?" she asked accusingly, as if he had let his friends run amok in the Hospital Wing.
"I'm feeling fine, thank you," he said, for once feeling truly grateful for her concern. He didn't know why, but it seemed to mean a lot at the moment.
"All right, then, let's get you on a nice sleeping potion," she said turning toward her shelves of potions.
"Actually, I don't think I'll need one," Harry said, faking a yawn and sliding down into a laying position. "I'm about to fall asleep."
Madam Pomfrey shot him a suspicious look, but Harry faked another yawn and acted like he was having trouble keeping his eyes open. It wasn't too hard as he was a bit tired, but he couldn't go to sleep just yet.
"All right then. Get some rest. I'll know if you haven't been sleeping tomorrow, and if you want to be out in time for the feast, you better be very well rested," she said sternly. Harry nodded tiredly, and closed his eyes.
Madam Pomfrey went through her office into her chambers. Harry waited about ten minutes to make sure she was gone. She checked on him after three minutes to make sure he was still in bed, but he was pretending to be asleep. She shook her head and left again, muttering to herself about being paranoid.
Once the ten minutes had gone by, Harry looked at the map in the moonlight. The dot that said "Virginia Weasley" was sitting out by the lake. Harry quietly slid out of bed. He looked around for a school robe, but to his utter dismay, there were none. He'd have to go in the hospital wing pajamas. Even knowing he looked like a prat, he quietly tiptoed to the door, silently opened it, slipped out, and closed it without the slightest sound.
The halls were all dark, as it was well passed curfew. Hermione had told him that Ginny had occasionally disappeared, coming back in the middle of the night. They had let her be, knowing that she needed to be alone at those times.
Harry felt very exposed breaking the curfew without his invisibility cloak, but refused to turn back.
Harry followed the Maurader's Map outside, nearing the spot where the dot sat. As he neared the lake and looked up, squinting through the darkness as his eyes began to adjust. The water's surface was smooth and reflected the stars. A large tentacle, belonging to the Giant Squid, lazily lifted out of the water and slid back under. He saw nothing besides the lake, confirming that Ginny must be under his invisibility cloak. As he got right near the dot, he tentatively spoke.
There was a rustling sound and then a gasp. Ginny's stunned, frozen face came into view as she shakily pulled the cloak off, letting it pool around her knees. Harry's breath caught as he realized that he could only describe her as beautiful.
She closed her eyes and let a few teardrops trickle out as she silently chanted, "It's not real. It's not real."
Harry sat down in front of her. He gently took her hand, causing her to shriek. With wide eyes, she looked from her hand, which lay in Harry's, and Harry's eyes.
"Ginny, everyone's been trying to find you all night. Snape found a way to bring me back and get rid of the cancer that I had. It's a long explanation, but I'm back. I'm alive. I'm real," he said with a shy smile.
Ginny slowly reached up and tentatively touched his cheek with her fingertips. When she felt that Harry was both solid and real, she let out a shuddering sob and flung her arms around his neck.
"Oh please don't let this be a dream," she whispered.
"It's not, I promise," Harry whispered into her hair.
She took his face in her hands and gently kissed him on the forehead. Somehow it seemed a lot different than when Mrs. Weasley or Hermione did it.
They both let their eyes rest closed as she rested her forehead against his, tears trickling down her face. "Then it's a miracle," she whispered.
Harry thought about it for a second. "Yeah. It is," he said seriously.
Ginny pulled her face away from Harry's and looked into his eyes with a smile. Harry smiled back and wiped away the tears on her cheeks with his thumbs.
"Harry, I…" Ginny started but was interrupted.
"Who's there?" asked a suspicious voice. Ginny and Harry raised their heads toward the voice, just as Fang pounced on Harry, knocking him flat on his back, and began licking his face excitedly.
"Fang!" Harry sputtered. "Off Fang!"
"Ginny? What are yeh doin' down 'ere? It's nigh'! Who's tha'?" he asked. His voice sounded full of miserably, as if he was two seconds away from tears. "Fang, off! Come 'ere boy!" Hagrid whistled and Fang happily got off of Harry and walked over to Hagrids side.
Harry wiped his sticky, wet face off on his sleeve with a snort of disgust. He sat up and heard Hagrid gasp.
"HARRY? No yer dead!" he said in shock. He took a frightened step back, nearly trodding on Fang's tail. Harry felt immediately guilty. Dumbledore had told Harry that he would refrain from informing Hagrid until Harry was a little better healed, since the half-giant could be a bit overwhelming at times.
"Hagrid, it's really me, I swear. Professor Snape brought me back, it's a long story. I was never completely dead, you see, and—oomph!"
He was interrupted as Hagrid bounded over and seized him into a hug, lifting his feet straight off the ground. Hagrid wailed as he hugged Harry to him. Harry winced slightly, since he was still a bit sore from the Cruciatus Curse. Nobody else noticed though, and he found that Hagrid's happiness made the pain easier to deal with.
"Oh Harry, thank Merlin! Yer alive! I though', I though'…" Hagrid couldn't seem to finish his sentence. His chin wobbled dangerously before he burst out into more hysterical sobs. He hugged Harry even tighter, like a teddy bear. Ginny giggled and at the half-giant's display of emotions. Fang barked happily and ran around them in circles.
"Hagrid," he gasped. "I can't breathe."
Hagrid immediately placed Harry's feet back on the ground. Harry gulped in air.
"Sorry there, Harry," he said, wiping away some tears and blowing his nose into his sleeve. "I'm jus' so happy that yer back."
"That's fine Hagrid. I'm glad to be back."
"Don' you ever go doin' tha' again, yeh hear?"
"All right, Hagrid, I'll work on it," Harry said smiling. Hagrid eyed Harry's clothes and bare-feet, causing the raven-haired boy to blush slightly.
"Harry, are yeh s'pose ter be in the Hospital Win'?" he asked in a light, accusing tone.
"Er…" he trailed off, choosing to move his eyes away from Hagrid's.
"I'll take tha' as a yes," Hagrid said with a shaky chuckle, wiping away the streams of tears on his face away with his sleeve. "Come on, yeh two. Le's get yeh back before Madam Pomfrey pitches a fit. She can be a frightenin' woman."
He led them inside, walking Ginny to the common room first, where she and Harry gave each other a shy "Goodnight," before Ginny slipped through the portal, carrying Harry's cloak under her arm.
Hagrid and Harry walked through the darkened, silent halls.
"So Harry, wha' were yeh doin' down there with Ginny Weasley?" Hagrid asked knowingly. "Is there summat yeh wanna tell me?"
"No," Harry said indignantly. "I was just talking to her."
"Oh is tha' all?" he said cheerily, in a tone that implied that he didn't believe it for one second. "Are yeh sure the whole 'Boy-Who-Lived now the Boy-In-Love' thin' isn' finally true?"
Harry scowled at him. "Of course not!"
"Really? Because yer eyes tell a differnt story." Harry glared at him and Hagrid chuckled. "O' course. You littl'uns never like such serious words like love."
"Little? I'm nearly sixteen, thank you," Harry cried indignantly.
Hagrid whirled around and grabbed his shoulders, causing Harry to start. "Harry, wha' abou' the sickness you had? Dumbledore told me an'…"
"Hagrid!" Harry interrupted. "Don't worry, it's cured. I'm fine."
"Oh thank Merlin," Hagrid said with relief, continuing to walk along with Harry.
As they neared the Hospital Wing, Hagrid decided to turn back so Madam Pomfrey didn't hear his loud footsteps.
"If she lets yeh out tomorrow, come see me for a cuppa tea, all righ'?" he whispered.
Harry promised he would if he was let out in time, but warned him Madam Pomfrey was getting a bit immune to his puppy-dog faces and begging.
After the half-giant walked off, Harry silently slipped back into the Hospital Wing and into his bed. He sighed in relief when Madam Pomfrey didn't come out screaming at him.
He quickly fell into a deep sleep.
The Leaving Feast had a solemn air about it, similar to that of the previous year. Harry and his friends had convinced Dumbledore not to make an announcement and had planned, with some helpful ideas from the twins, the most amusing way to make Harry's return to the living known.
Everyone filed in and sat at their respective tables, all grim and gloomy, though some were mourning different deaths. Nobody really looked up as the last of the stragglers entered and made their ways to their tables, though as Harry walked in, he shot a quick grin up at the head table. Dumbledore's eyes twinkled merrily. Hagrid and Professor Lupin shook their heads with amusement. Even Professor McGonagall seemed to be fighting a grin. Harry sort of wished Snape would have been there to see it. He thought the man would've found some amusement in the situation.
Harry slid down at the table between Ron and Hermione who both bit back grins. The whole table began to eat and Harry casually piled food onto his plate. It took a few moments for anyone to notice him, but soon Dean Thomas looked over and froze. His jaw dropped and his eyes went wide. Harry waved at him and Dean blinked hard. Ron and Hermione were having a hard time concealing their laughter.
Dean dumbly poked Seamus, not tearing his eyes from Harry.
"What is it De…" Seamus trailed off as he followed Dean's gaze and saw Harry. Seamus looked like he had swallowed a flobberworm.
"What's up with you two?" Padma Patil asked. She leaned forward and followed their gaze. When she saw Harry, she screamed and fell backwards off the bench. This caught a lot of the Gryffindor's attentions, and soon everyone had seen Harry, either screaming or freezing in shock. Many were pointing or falling off the seats. Ron and the twins all lost it and doubled over with laughter. Harry, Hermione, and Neville were all laughing as well, though, Hermione kept informing them how mean this was.
Now the commotion had got the attention of the rest of the houses, but as so many Gryffindors were standing now, none of them could really see. Everyone was talking now, their eyes on the Gryffindor table.
"What's the matter with them?"
"Can you see anything?"
"They're pointing but I can't see!"
The Gryffindors were gaping from Harry's laughing friends to Harry, trying to make sense of it all.
"All right," Dumbledore's cheery voice boomed. "I think that is enough fun for now. May our mystery guest please come up here?" He chuckled merrily.
Harry climbed out of the bench and walked up to where Dumbledore was standing and bashfully turned to face the Great Hall.
Every jaw in the sea of students dropped.
"I assure you all that this is the real Harry Potter. He is very much alive, thanks to the skills of our wonderful potions master, who unfortunately isn't here right now. No, we haven't found anything to bring back the dead, Harry was a special case where his life energy was in a sort of limbo. If anyone would like a better explanation, please feel free to come to my office after the feast."
The hall was silent except for the sniggers from Harry's friends. Everyone gaped at him and Harry felt himself start to go red. He began to walk back to the Gryffindor table when he heard a small, "Harry?"
Harry looked up and saw a blur before someone much smaller collided with him, wrapping his arms around Harry's middle.
"Hey Charles," Harry said with a small chuckle.
The older Crabbe looked as if he would like nothing better than to pound his little brother into a pancake as the other loyal-to-Voldemort Slytherins glared at him.
"Harry, I'm really good at defending myself now! I wanted to tell you so bad that I even used that Expelliarmus spell on Vincent, when he was picking on Draco, and this other spell I learned. Now, Vincent's scared of me," he said quietly. The hall was now buzzing with noise, so there was no way the older Crabbe could have heard, thankfully. Somehow, Harry wasn't quite convinced that the older Crabbe, who looked like a freight train, was that scared of the younger one who more resembled a licorice stick. Harry flattered Charles though and told him how excellent that was.
"How's Malfoy doing though?" he asked quietly so no one could hear. That didn't seem right that Crabbe had been picking on Malfoy.
"Well, he's not a Malfoy anymore since he got disowned by his whole family. He's not doing all that well I guess being that all his friends hate him so much now. I'm not really sure though since I haven't been seeing him around," he said with a shrug. This gave Harry some food for thought as Charles ran back to his friends, ignoring the menacing looks he was getting from some of the older Slytherins.
Harry finally returned to the Gryffindor table, where he was bombarded with people shaking his hand or hugging him, expressing their relief to have him back.
"I realize," Professor Dumbledore began again with a smile, "that Mr. Potter is attempting to shy his way out of the spotlight, but I refuse to let him escape with properly thanking him and acknowledging what he has done."
Harry's face turned crimson with embarrassment.
"We have all known Harry Potter, personally or by reputation, throughout our time together at this school. Harry sacrificed his life for every person in this school and more, stopping someone who you all saw had no qualms about taking the lives of whomever he chose. He bravely faced the Dark Lord, even with the knowledge that he would not make it out alive. He saved our school and he saved our lives and the lives of many more. For this, I honor him," Dumbledore said raising his glass for a toast. Nearly every other person in the hall did the same, except those who weren't so excited about Harry's return to the living. "To Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Lives-Again," he said with a smile. Harry grinned at the play on his nickname as everyone followed suit.
"To Harry Potter!" the Weasley twins shouted.
"To Harry Potter," Ron and Hermione said loudly raising their glasses and smiling broadly at him.
Harry's face burned with bashfulness as everyone drank to him.
"All right Harry, I'll stop harassing you now and let you eat, as everyone else should do as well," Dumbledore said with a laugh before sitting down next to Professor McGonagall who was wiping away tears despite her genuine smile.
Harry loaded food on his plate as millions of questions and comments were shot his way.
"Wow, Harry, thank Merlin you're back."
"I can't believe you actually defeated the Dark Lord!"
"What was it like, being er…like you were the last few days?" asked Seamus.
"You mean dead?" Harry asked.
Seamus nodded sheepishly and everyone around them looked at him in expectation. Harry's expression turned grim.
"It was horrible."
"What do you mean?" Lavender Brown breathed.
"Well, I murdered someone, didn't I? Even if it was a Dark Lord, there's only one place to go after that." He pointed down. "Unless you want to spend eternity in extreme suffering, I suggest none of you ever kill anyone," he said gravely.
"Ex-extreme suffering?" Neville stuttered apprehensively.
"Yes. I'm sure you've all heard of it. The flames, the endless labor, the decaying slave masters, you know."
Hermione and Ginny rolled their eyes, but it seemed that most were more gullible than them.
Everyone around him was silent, most staring at him in absolute horror with their jaws hanging open. Many, including Ron, had gone ghastly pale and looked as if they were about to faint. Harry looked around at them grimly. Then the corners of his mouth began to twitch and curve slightly upwards.
"Harry, you prat!" Ron yelled, punching him on the arm. Harry burst out laughing and everyone breathed a sigh of relief.
"Merlin, you guys are easy. I actually can't remember a thing. It was just like being in a dreamless sleep for the last few days. I feel like yesterday was when Voldemort attacked," he said, still grinning at the panic he had arisen.
"Hey Harry," Hermione said quietly, "take a look at Cho."
Harry followed her gaze to find Cho Chang, glaring daggers at her plate with a very large bandage over her nose. Harry looked back at Hermione curiously.
"What happened to her?" he asked rather unsympathetically.
"Ginny happened to her. Cho was trying to start up some of the old rumors again, and Ginny defended your honor," Hermione said with a chuckle. They looked over at the redhead who was laughing with her brothers. "Us and redheads, eh?" she commented quietly.
"I always knew we had good taste," Harry said with a smile.
"I don't know about good taste," Hermione said quietly nodding her head toward Ron who was talking with his mouth totally stuffed. Harry laughed. Hermione sighed, looking at her boyfriend fondly. "He is quite a catch though," she said sincerely with a smile.
Harry chuckled. "He sure is," he said, as Ron shoveled more food into his mouth.
The next morning, Snape was packing up the last of his things, thanking Merlin he would be leaving the castle soon. A long vacation was definitely in order. Snape sighed as he passed through his living room to his bedroom, seeing Draco staring into the fire with the same depressed look he'd had for the past week. The boy had lost both his family and his friends because of his decision. All of his old friends had been children of Death Eaters and refused to associate with a "traitor." Now the boy was utterly alone during such a hard time, with no one except for a snarky potions master for company.
Yet, though Dumbledore had insisted that he was the best person to take Draco in, he didn't know what to do to cheer up the boy. He wasn't exactly a cheery person himself. It would be wonderful if Draco could be friends with Harry Potter, but Snape knew that that would be impossible. All he could hope for now was a bit of a miracle.
As he was packing the last of his potions into a box, there was a hesitant knock at the door. Snape came out of his private lab and glanced at Draco, who was still staring numbly into the fire, before opening the door to reveal none other than Harry Potter.
"Harry," he said quietly with a nod, taking the young Gryffindor by pleasant surprise that he had decided to continue calling Harry by his first name, at least when nobody else was around. "It's good to see you're feeling well, but this really is a bad time. I'll see you next year," he said, beginning to close the door. He didn't want to agitate Draco anymore by inviting his worst enemy in.
"Wait!" Harry said, catching the door before it closed. "Actually, the reason I came down here was really because some of the Slytherins said that Malfoy might be down here."
Snape froze and raised an eyebrow.
"And why would that interest you?" he asked.
"I really want to talk to him, so if he's here I can stop begging Slytherins for their password and searching the school."
Snape looked over at Draco who was now looking curiously over the back of the couch with interest.
"Let him in, Sev," he said quietly as he rose from the couch.
Harry hesitantly stepped through the door and passed the potion's professor. Snape went back into his lab to give the boys the sense of privacy, despite the fact that he would, of course, be eavesdropping.
Back in the living room, Draco crossed his arms and sneered at Harry with a significant lack of conviction. "What do you want, Potter?"
"I wanted to say thank you for what you did. That was the bravest thing I've ever seen anyone do, standing up to your father like that."
"Well, I just got disowned by my entire family for it, but I'm glad it pleased you, Potter," he said with cold sarcasm. Harry did notice a slight softening of Malfoy's scowl, though.
"Don't call me that, Potter. I'm not part of that family anymore," he said, trying to sound cold, but Harry could detect the sadness in the Slytherin's voice and expression.
"Oh. Okay. So, um…Draco," he said , the name feeling strange to say. "I know you probably won't want to, and will probably laugh in my face when I ask you, but I was wondering if you wanted to come over this summer," Harry asked awkwardly, soon smirking at the shocked look on Draco's face.
"Is that a joke? Why would you want me to come over to your house?" he asked incredulously.
"Well, I know if it was me staying with a professor all summer, I might get bored. And I'm staying with an adult all summer so I'll probably get bored too. And we're building a Quidditch pitch out back, so we could play if you came over," he explained, not really sure himself why he was inviting his sworn enemy over. "Basically, I just don't think you're as bad as you like to pretend you are."
"What does the Weasel think about this lovely idea?" Draco asked, examining his fingernails with an airy façade.
"I haven't talked to him about it. It doesn't really matter to me what he thinks about it since I'm inviting you over to my house, not his. I don't think he's really against you or anything anymore though, after what you did," he said with a shrug.
"Hmm…well I don't know, Potter, I have a very busy schedule this summer and I don't know if I can fit in hanging around with an arrogant Gryffindor," Draco said haughtily. Harry sighed.
"All right, well, I'll owl you to see if you change your mind. I better go finish getting packed," Harry said, starting for the door.
"Wait!" Draco called almost desperately, dropping his princely act. Harry turned around curiously. Draco suddenly looked nervous. "Er…I was wondering, well, you know, thinking and stuff and it just seems that, well, um…" He struggled to find the right words. "Did your relatives ever…because sometimes my father, he, um…when Madam Pomfrey said the thing about your uncle and broken ribs, I thought maybe…and since you're living with your godfather now instead, I thought…"
The two boys stared at each other for a few moments, both looking equally anxious. Harry forced his customary response of "I don't know what you're talking about" down and made one of the hardest decisions of life.
"You mean, er, did my uncle ever abuse me?"
Draco nodded. Harry sighed and looked down at his hands.
"Well, yeah. He did."
"Are you just saying that?" Draco asked suspiciously.
He lifted up his shirt and showed the blonde-haired Slytherin his scar. "That's where my uncle stabbed me," he said nervously before pulling his shirt back down. "And you heard correctly. My uncle broke my ribs."
"Did he, er, do that kind of stuff a lot?" Draco asked cautiously.
Harry reminded himself that Draco obviously didn't have a great home life either and forced himself to speak. "Er, well, not that intense usually, but with the general child abuse thing, yeah," he said with a dry laugh.
Draco looked away into the fire. "My dad, he used to get mad when I wasn't into the whole Death Eater thing like he was and he would definitely show it. He never stabbed me or anything, but…you know…"
"He hit you?" Harry asked in an understanding tone that put Draco at ease. The blonde nodded. "Bastard," Harry spat in reference to Lucius Malfoy, shivering slightly at the thought.
Draco looked up at him with a curious gaze, not ever having met someone who could understand. The few people who knew about his father had either told him to buck up and take it (those being his lovely family) or gave him blind sympathy as if he were an animal in a cage to gawk at. They'd feel sorry for him but never truly know why. They didn't understand. In reality, they had no idea what his life was like on the other side of the bars. Somehow, Harry's one, understanding "Bastard" was much more comforting than any other words of commiseration he had received. It somehow made him see that he wasn't pathetic to be scared of his father.
"No shit," he said with a smirk.
"Well, I figure that just because they happen to share your blood doesn't really make them family. Nobody can help who they're related to, and sometimes, you get stuck with assholes."
"Tell me about it."
"Well, I have to go. The train's leaving soon. I'll owl you soon I guess, just in case you change your mind about coming over. Feel free to stop by anytime, especially if you feel like getting your ass kicked in Quidditch," Harry said with a smirk.
"Dream on, Potter," Malfoy smirked back.
"If I'm calling you by your first name, you have to call me by mine, deal?"
Draco made a face. "That's going to be almost as weird as hearing you say my first name."
"Well apparently hell has frozen over," Harry said with a shrug. "See you later Ma…Draco."
"In your dreams, er…Harry," Draco said with a smirk as Harry rolled his eyes and left.
Snape opened the door of his lab and leaned against the doorway crossing his arms casually.
"So, what was that all about?" he asked amusedly.
"Potter just invited me round his house this summer, as if you didn't already know from your eavesdropping," Draco said as he sat back down on the couch.
"Are you going to go?" he asked curiously.
"Hang out with a dorky Gryff? Yeah right," he scoffed. He paused. "Am I allowed? You know, just in case I have nothing better to do than go and annoy him," he asked casually.
"Yes. In fact, I definitely think you should go. Give him a chance. He'd make a good friend," Snape said sincerely.
Draco looked up questioningly and snorted. "You think it's a good idea to hang out with Potter?"
"Yes, as a matter of fact. I think it would do you both some good. You two aren't all that different, really. You both have had hard lives and are surrounded by people who can't really relate. If you can get nothing else from each other, you could at least get understanding. Besides, I happen to have had a change of opinion about him."
"Oh really? That's something I thought I'd never hear," Draco said with amusement.
"Well, I never thought you and Potter would arrange a play date either, so I guess things are changing," he teased. Draco sneered at him.
"Play date, humph," he scoffed in an annoyed tone. "Can you believe he invited me over though? It must be some sort of weird trick or sympathy thing. Maybe just trying to make himself feel better after what happened. Like he could make me actually believe he'd invite me over for the hell of it." He crossed his arms angrily and sank back in the couch, staring once again toward the fire. Snape walked over and sat down in a chair facing in the direction of the couch.
"Draco, look at me. I know you haven't known very many worthy people in your life. They've deceived you, treated you like scum, tried to form you into another groveling minion of evil against your will, and have made you feel horrible about yourself. I know you don't feel like anyone could ever truly like you or want to be around you. But, you must believe me that that's not true. I know you better than anyone and I know that you are a good person. You just need to work on your people skills a bit," Snape suggested with a smirk.
"You're one to talk," Draco grumbled.
"My point is that I know Potter. He feels much of the same things you do. He's a little lost, as you are, and he's lied to a hell of a lot of people throughout this past year to keep his secrets. But I can tell when people are lying and when they're not. Potter has obviously gotten a glimpse of what you're really like, and though he is a…Gryffindor," he said the word with a bit of a shudder that caused Draco to have to fight a smile from his face, "I truly think he wants a chance to be your friend. I suggest you take it. It's very difficult to find people you can count on in this world. You can count on Har—Potter."
"Merlin, if you'd have told me we'd be having a conversation like this a year ago, I would have committed you to St. Mungo's," Draco mused.
Snape rose to finish packing his things. "Just consider it Draco," he said as he patted the boy on the shoulder.
The Slytherin went back to staring at the fire, but now with a significantly more cheerful look than before. It only took a few minutes for the blonde to begin rifling through his bags for his Quidditch books, murmuring something about showing that Gryffindor who would kick whose ass.
Snape went back to packing up his potions ingredients with a smile. Harry Potter was definitely one of the few on his good side.
The next day's train ride went a lot smoother than usual. He shared a compartment with Hermione, Ron, Neville, Eloise, and Ginny. They told Harry about the candlelight ceremony and other things that he missed. Harry's face burned as they told the story, surprised and slightly embarrassed that everyone came together in honor of him, even after they reminded him that he saved the school.
They finally reached King's Cross Station. He had already wrote the Stensons to tell them that they didn't have to worry about sneaking him away from the station and hiding him at their house. He promised to have them over at some point that summer to show Kota what Quidditch was.
They crossed the barrier, Harry being the last one through, to find Hermione's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, and Sirius, all waiting together. Harry had never felt happier. He began walking over to Sirius when someone roughly grabbed his arm and began dragging him away.
Harry looked up in horror, finding himself staring into the glaring face of his uncle who was wearing a hat that covered even his ears. He smelled strongly of alcohol.
"Let's go, boy. You're coming with me," he growled, eyeing the Weasleys nervously. He obviously hoped to get Harry out of there without alerting their attention. At the moment, he was succeeding as nobody had yet noticed him being pulled away.
"I'm never going back to your house," Harry spat, attempting and failing to rip his arm away. "I'm living with my godfather now."
"That's what you think. You're coming with me and you're going to take off these damn ears and tails," Uncle Vernon sneered quietly.
"Ears and tails? I don't know what you're talking about! Sirius!" Harry yelled, but over the din of the station, his calls weren't enough to capture the attention of his godfather, who seemed to be in a deep conversation with Mr. Weasley.
"Shut it boy or you'll be living in a nightmare this summer." He pulled at the struggling Harry harder, trying to escape with him quickly.
"Sirius!" he yelled louder. Instead of catching Sirius's attention, he alerted another of the three people there who knew the seriousness of the situation.
"Sirius!" Ron yelled as he raced passed him up to Harry. "Let him go you great git!" he screamed trying to pry Uncle Vernon's fingers off of Harry's arm. With his free hand, Uncle Vernon grabbed Ron by the hair and flung him into Harry's trolley.
"Don't touch my friends!" Harry yelled, kicking his uncle in the leg. Uncle Vernon's face grew purple, contorting into a look of rage. He released Harry's arm, only to use the hand to punch Harry in the side of the face, sending him crashing to the ground.
"How dare you, you damn little brat. After all I've done for you! Now come on!" he growled ferociously advancing on his nephew.
At this point, several people had stopped to stare, but nobody was doing anything.
Harry scooted backwards, but was not as quick as his uncle.
"Stop making a scene, or the last time you visited will look like a holiday," Uncle Vernon growled. He made to grab Harry again, but someone stepped in between the two.
It was Sirius, with a look on his face that could convince anyone that he was indeed a murderer. He twisted his body back and then punched Uncle Vernon's face with all his might. Uncle Vernon grabbed his nose, which was pouring out blood. There was no question that it was broken.
"You will never touch my godson or his friends again. You will never get within a hundred yards of Harry. If I ever see you in the same vicinity as my godson again, I will not hesitate to rip you apart, limb by limb. Do you understand me?" Sirius said in a murderous tone. He moved aside his Muggle jacket enough for Vernon to see his wand protruding from his pocket.
"I know what's going on!" Uncle Vernon shouted drunkenly. "You!" he yelled pointing a shaking finger at Harry, who was still on the floor, a hand over the quickly forming bruise on his cheek. "I warned you about telling lies!" He turned to a murderous looking Sirius and took a step back. "Whatever he said was a lie!" In seeing the obvious look of fury on Sirius's face, he turned to Mrs. Weasley. "If he told you I beat him, he's lying! He's lying about it all. I never touched him. I never stabbed him. He's a bloody liar!"
Harry's face burned with shame as he avoided the gazes of all the stunned Weasleys and Grangers. Sirius ran up to Uncle Vernon and seized him by the collar, slamming him up against the barrier between Platforms 8 and 9.
"How dare you! You are the liar, you bastard! I saw what you did to Harry. You almost killed him! He almost DIED you bastard!" Sirius screamed as he threw another punch into Vernon's face. The Weasleys and Grangers all looked at Harry in astonishment, as he scrambled to his feet. He avoided their gazes. He ran up to Sirius, who was trying to get in as many punches to Uncle Vernon as possible, as the fat man tried to hit him back.
"Sirius, stop it! Let's just leave!" Harry begged. Sirius met his eyes and nodded, stepping back, but Uncle Vernon tried launching himself toward Harry again and Sirius had to push the drunken man back. Mr. Weasley ran up to Harry and pulled him back, away from the fray.
Next thing they knew, policemen were pushing their way through the crowd, people in the surrounding crowd frantically telling them what was happening.
One of them put a hand on Sirius's shoulder. "We'll take it from here, sir," he said abruptly as the others wrestled Uncle Vernon into handcuffs.
Harry's jaw dropped. His uncle was being arrested! He was more shocked than anything else.
As the police dragged him away, he spat, "Fine, take the little brat. He's your burden now!"
The police wanted to ask Harry a few questions, but Sirius wouldn't allow it, telling them to contact the Stensons if they needed further information.
Thankfully, the crowd quickly died and the police left.
"Ron, are you okay?" he asked worriedly, finally meeting his friend's eye.
"Fine," he groaned, rubbing his arm where it had slammed into Harry's trunk. "But you're bleeding." He pointed at Harry's cheek. Harry wiped it quickly on his sleeve.
"I'm fine, really," he said truthfully. He was happy knowing that Sirius and Ron had both cared enough to stand up for him. He turned around to see the Weasleys and the Grangers looking shocked.
Hermione marched up to Harry and pulled him into a hug. "Your uncle's a moron," she whispered in his ear, "you'll never be a burden. We all love you." Harry blushed and smiled, wondering how Hermione knew the part of the whole ordeal that had hit him the hardest.
Sirius came over once Hermione had let go of Harry and put an arm around his godson's shoulders. "What do you say we get out of here, Harry?"
Harry smiled at him gratefully. "Yeah, I can't wait to see my room!" he said enthusiastically. He picked his things up with help from George, who was looking at him searchingly, trying to identify how he felt about what just happened.
"Harry?" he whispered worriedly.
"I'm fine, George, really I am," he said quietly back.
"Fred and I have been developing some stuff that can be sent by post. If we can send mail to prison, we'll make that bastard wish he was never born. If not, it can still go to the other two," George solemnly promised. Harry couldn't help but smile.
"Remember, we're having you all over this summer for a good old Quidditch match and some of my cooking," Sirius announced to all of them. Harry, who was standing slightly behind Sirius made silent gagging gestures at the mention of his cooking just to tease him, having never actually tried his cooking. Everyone laughed as Sirius caught him in the act. Harry stopped abruptly and put on an innocent face, but Sirius had already seen.
"I'll have you know my cooking is very good!"
"Oh I'm sure," Harry said sarcastically. "I'll see you all soon!" he called cheerfully to his friends and turned to leave with Sirius to what promised to be a new beginning to a much more hopeful future.
And thus ends the 293 page story that is Recnac Transfaerso, or is it the end? Well, apparently not. You see, a month or two ago, I had a wonderful epiphany for what the sequel could be. Before, I had select scenes in my mind that I'd like to put in a sequel, but no plot to connect it, so a sequel seemed out of the question. But now, oh, I know what I'm doing and have outlined it.
Yet for me to write a story, I must have at least a rough draft done to begin posting. So I take my leave of a month or so to write.
Now for my thank you's. Thanks to Senri for the helping me with the H/G lake scene idea. Thank you to Terence for being my confidante and friend during this story and hopefully, for long after. Thank you to my faithful and wonderful reviewers. I honestly feel as if I've gotten to know many of you and hope you continue to read and review my stories. Wiccan PussyKat thank you for all your wonderful support and nudging me to update. You're probably the main one to thank for the speediness of updates for a long time. You didn't let me get lazy. Dadaiiro and ckat44 for being there practically since the beginning and for being so faithful with your wonderful reviews. Disassembly of Reason though I haven't heard from you in forever, I still deeply appreciate the in depth looks you took at this fic. Myr Halcyon, Thundering Lights, Bulldogchik05, Lady Abbey Bartlet, ParanoiaIn2005, BratPrincess-187, Chibi-Bex (loved our kidnapping the twins ideas), and others I know I'm forgetting to put down and will feel miserable about later. Catiechan for the Sirius scenes you inspired. I feel like I'm accepting an Oscar or something lol. There's many more I know I haven't put down who deserve to be recognized, but I love you all, and this fic would have never come this far without all the wonderful reviews.
One last plea: PLEASE REVIEW! Even if you don't like reviewing or if it's a thousand years after I originally posted, please review. I would love to hear from you, even if it's a word-long review.
Well, see you all soon—ish. *waves and disapparates*