Chapter 15 — Sweep the Cobwebs Off of the Sky

Harry took his son's arm and the air blasted Arthur's ears as the pub faded and their living room appeared. Arthur exhaled loudly as he relaxed, although he still felt shaky and jumpy. Harry turned him by the shoulders to face him.

"Are you hurt at all?" Harry asked him.

Arthur held up his tattered jumper sleeve. "Just scratched from climbing," he replied.

"Come on then and get a shower. We'll fix you up after: plaster, spell, whichever you prefer," Harry said, pushing him to the hallway. Arthur could hear an unsteadiness in his father's voice that was not normally there.

Clean, but with a lot of scrapes stinging, Arthur stepped out of the shower and wrapped himself in a large towel. His pyjamas were stacked neatly on the sink. His dad must have put them there, because he had forgotten to grab them. He put on his bottoms and stepped out with the towel wrapped around him like a cloak. He found his father sitting at the dining room table writing out a note. A strange owl sat on the chairback, waiting. Harry gave the note to the owl and stood up.

Harry steered Arthur back to the toilet. Arthur sat on the closed seat while Harry took out the plasters. "Magic is okay," Arthur insisted. Indeed, the long scratches were very irritated and just having them gone sounded very nice.

Harry looked sideways at him. "You're certain?"

Arthur nodded. Harry took out his wand and examined the underside of Arthur's hand. He quickly healed all but two of them. "Those are too deep for this spell. I can owl a Healer or just put on plasters."

Arthur nodded at the plasters. Harry did Arthur's other arm, which was not nearly as bad. "You haven't asked what happened," Arthur observed.

"I've been afraid to," Harry said as he put a gauze over one exceptionally bad scratch and tapped it in place. The next few took the normal peel and stick kind. With his cuts covered or healed, Arthur slipped into his pyjama top. He pressed down the large plaster on his palm to make it stick better.

"Why don't you get some sleep. Tonks will want to talk to you tomorrow," Harry said. "We won't put you through your story more times than we have to. It's nearly one in the morning." He stood and urged Arthur to follow to his bedroom.

Arthur slid into bed and let the covers be adjusted over him. The pillow was cold. Harry stood and hit the light switch before hovering in the doorway.

"Dad?" Arthur said suddenly.

"Right here," Harry said.

"Can you stay a little while?" Arthur asked as unease descended on him.

"Of course." The bed tilted at that. Arthur closed his eyes and tried to relax into sleep.

Long minutes of exhaustion and panic alternated for Arthur until the sound of someone Apparating made him start badly. Harry stood up and went to the hallway. Arthur heard voices. "It's just Severus," Harry said, returning to Arthur's room.

Arthur looked at the figure silhouetted in the doorway. "How are you, Arthur?" Snape's voice asked.

"Fine, sir."

Harry sat back on the edge of the bed, head bent with fatigue.

"Why don't you rest, Potter?" Snape asked.

"He's uneasy," Harry explained.

Snape stepped into the room. "Stress and lack of sleep are not a good combination for you," he stated sternly. "A relapse is not impossible to bring about. Go to your bed. I will stay with the boy if he is in need of a guard."

Harry stood up unsteadily and with one backward glance, left the room. Arthur, up on his elbows, watched him go with concern. Snape went to the dining room and brought back a chair which he placed beside the bed. He sat on it and crossed his arms. "Sleep, Arthur. From what I have heard, you are most certainly in need of it."

Arthur curled up on his side and tried to drift off. He awoke with a start several times to find his guard still sitting patiently beside the bed, still very alert. Arthur must have eventually fallen more deeply asleep because he woke up to harsh whispering outside his room and the chair beside the bed was empty.

He leapt up, grabbed his dressing gown, and went out to the hall beside the living room. He tied his gown against the cool air and watched two figures moving in the dim light. One of them took the overstuffed chair near the doorway, nearly falling into it. Curious and a little alarmed, Arthur went in.

Snape looked up sharply at him then returned to berating the occupant of the chair.

"Came back and found a note," Lupin interrupted to explain.

"He is back, safe," Snape informed him.

Arthur turned up one of the oil lamps since the Muggle electric one would be too bright. He started when he noticed the thick hair on Lupin's arm and hand. It was the full moon, Arthur considered with further alarm. He stepped a little closer since the man was clearly concerned about Arthur himself. Lupin looked up as he approached; his brown eyes seemed larger than normal and his nails were slightly pointed.

"Arthur," Lupin breathed in concern.

Arthur froze, thinking of Little Red Riding Hood and long, wolf-like teeth. He forced himself beyond it. "Sir," he said evenly.

"You look all right," Lupin said in relief.

"You shouldn't be here," Snape growled at the half-changed wizard.

Lupin looked at his hands with a pained expression. "It was cloudy early in the night," he said in a rambling way. "That makes it go away slowly too." Arthur, now feeling much more sympathy than fear, stepped over beside him. "What happened, Arthur?" Lupin asked.

Arthur tried to keep his eyes on the man's own rather than his very sharp teeth. "Malfoy showed up. Right here," Arthur pointed behind him. "I don't know exactly what happened after he pulled out his wand, but he took me away."

Lupin reached out a hand and held up Arthur's with the plaster on it, clearly used to avoiding scratching things with his claw-like fingernails. He pulled his hand back suddenly. "Did he hurt you badly?" he asked a little shakily. He started to reach out and again appeared to force himself to pull back.

Arthur bolstered himself and took a seat with Lupin, on his lap. A rough hand touched his arm tentatively before it wrapped around him loosely. Arthur started to tell him about waking up at Malfoy Manor. Snape stood suddenly and strode across the hall. He jerked open the drapes in Arthur's room and propped open his door. With almost angry purpose, he came back in and pulled the chair they were in back a meter. The early morning spreading light began to suffuse the room and them.

"Thank you, Severus," Lupin murmured.

Snape returned to the couch and rested his fingertips on his forehead. Arthur waited to see if he would say anything before he went on with his story. As he was describing finding the flue would open, he noticed Lupin's hands were normal again. He told of climbing out of the loop in the forest by using a tall tree, prompting Lupin to say, "You have definitely inherited your father's penchant for cleverness in the face of bad odds."

"It was like a video game with only one life," Arthur said.

"How many does a game normally give you?" Snape asked a little derisively.

"Three or five. You can earn more by solving puzzles or making it through difficult spots faster." Arthur rested his head back on Lupin's chest, feeling exhausted.

Lupin placed an arm around him again. "I'm glad you escaped, Arthur. There was a lot of concern here, I expect, given that note I can see on the table there."

Snape picked it up and tossed it back down. "What is it?" Arthur asked.

"It is written in blood. Yours to be precise," Snape commented.

"What was the point?" Arthur asked.

Snape stood up. "Frightening your father, I am certain, was one goal. A kind of revenge in itself. The un-identified abductors looked to be planning a long merry chase of ransom and blackmail without much real hope for a safe conclusion."

"I don't feel safe here anymore," he said quietly.

Lupin said, "I'll help your father spell the house, Arthur, so anyone coming in that you don't approve will be incapacitated if they come in directly. Maybe Severus will help, even."

Snape nodded.

"Is my dad going to be all right?" Arthur asked him.

Snape replied with a faint sigh, "I expect. This kind of thing is not good for him. At worst he will only lose a little. We can re-treat him if necessary. It is good that this concluded as fast as it did."

"What are you on about?" Lupin asked.

"Professor Snape said Dad could relapse if he were stressed and didn't sleep. He did look too much like his old self when he was convinced to go to bed before. Could barely walk," Arthur explained in a worried voice.

"We can re-treat him," Snape repeated.

"I don't want to start again," Arthur whined.

"You will if you have to," Snape insisted firmly. "I am going to make tea," he then said before stepping from the room.

Arthur gratefully rested his head on Lupin's chest again and closed his eyes. With his tutor's arms loosely around him and the knowledge that two powerful wizards were on guard, he slipped into comforting darkness.

Snape returned with a teapot and cups. He set them on the table. "Boy Merlin is asleep?" he asked as he poured out a cup and handed it over.

"Yes," Lupin replied. Quietly, he said, "It is just as well I'm not an Auror." At Snape's questioning look, he explained, "I wouldn't have bothered arresting them."

Snape sat down with his tea and did not respond. A moment later, he stood and said, "I must contact Minerva, explain what has happened and ask her to have my morning classes covered." He took Floo powder from the container on the mantel and contacted Hogwarts. After a moment, a floating head in a sleeping cap appeared.

"Is there any news?" she asked immediately upon seeing Snape.

"Arthur is recovering behind me. Same luck as his father, apparently."

"Thank Merlin," she said in relief.

"Remus and I are going to stay and put some protection on the house, which currently has none. Can you manage to cover my classes this morning?"

"Certainly. I will have Grubbly-Plank cover them. If you need a fourth, please let me know, and please stay the day if it will help." She smiled then, looking like it had not happened in a while. "Thank you for keeping me informed, Severus." Her head pulled back out of the flames.

Harry finally woke up as the morning grew bright. Awkwardly rubbing his eyes while putting on his glasses, he came into the living room. He stopped at the sight of Arthur asleep with Lupin. He glanced at Snape and asked quietly, "Don't you have classes?"

"They are being covered."

Harry blinked at him. "Thank you, Severus," he said. He stepped over to the overstuffed chair and brushed Arthur's hair back. Arthur came awake at that and looked up at him, his expression going very hopeful as awareness settled in.

"Want to help make breakfast?"

"Yeah." Carefully, so as to not wake Lupin, Arthur climbed out of the chair and followed his father to the kitchen. Arthur made toast as Harry fried bacon and eggs. As they heaped them onto plates, Harry made one with four eggs and double bacon. Arthur looked doubtfully at it.

"For Remus. He'll be hungry after a full moon. I'm surprised he's here," Harry commented.

"He said he found your note and was worried." Arthur intentionally failed to mention the state he had arrived in.

"I should have remembered," Harry said. "I wasn't at my best last night," he said a little chagrined. Harry set down the two plates he held and gave Arthur a firm hug. "Thank you for being resourceful."

"Yeah, no problem," Arthur stated quietly, trying for extra casual.

They carried the plates into the dining room. Lupin sat at the table, looking very haggard.

"Where is Severus?" Harry asked.

Lupin raised his head ever so slightly. "He went to fetch a potion for me."

"Have some breakfast," Harry said gently, setting the piled plate in front of him along with a tall cup of coffee.

"No coffee, please," Lupin said. Harry picked it back up and asked, "Juice?"

"Please."

"I'll get it," Arthur said quickly.

He brought four glasses and the bottle from the fridge. He poured out two glasses and set one before his tutor, who really did look unwell. It occurred to Arthur now that he normally only saw him days later after what was apparently significant recovery.

Harry sat down. "I forgot about the full phase last night when I owled. I shouldn't have worried you."

Lupin took up the glass unsteadily and drank half of it. As Arthur topped it up, Lupin said groggily, "I would prefer to know you need help, even if I am limited in providing it." He watched Arthur reseal the juice bottle. "I certainly didn't come with the intent of making you take care of me," he added in a self-inveighing manner.

Harry took a bite of his toast. "Don't worry yourself," he said, glancing at Arthur who was hovering nearby to see if anything else was needed. "I think you are taking Arthur's mind off things." He gestured for his son to take a seat.

Arthur put the juice aside and sat down. His plate had grown cold. He waved a heating charm at it and started eating. Had he looked up, he would have seen Lupin wink at his father.

"Are you going to be ready to talk to Tonks after breakfast, tell her what happened?" Harry asked Arthur. "I'm curious myself."

Arthur nodded while Lupin interjected, "He's already told us." At Harry's questioning look, he added, "Not nearly as hard to take as any of your stories," Lupin teased.

"I was thinking about that as I was walking," Arthur said quietly.

"That you had it good?" Harry teased darkly.

"That I had someone waiting. That when I found you, everything would be all right." Arthur shrugged. "You didn't have anyone."

Any response Harry might have made was interrupted by Snape returning. He placed a smoking stone cup beside Lupin and took his seat. Lupin thanked him and sipped it with a grimace as Snape began eating. Harry, on the other hand, was paused with his fork over his plate. Arthur ducked his head and wished he had not said anything.

- 888 -

"Ready?" Harry asked his son.

"What? To ring someone?" Arthur asked in mild sarcasm, gesturing at the battered old phone in the booth they were standing in.

"Essentially," Harry replied with a smile. He picked up the receiver and pressed a few buttons before saying he had a meeting with Nymphadora Tonks in the Auror's office. Arthur grabbed Harry's cloak as the phone booth floor descended into the ground.

They stepped out into the Ministry atrium. Arthur looked all around them as they passed the fountain, which had an abstract sculpture in limestone in the center of it. At the reception desk, Harry handed over his wand for registration. The man behind the desk stuttered in surprise when he asked if they needed directions.

"No, we're good," Harry replied in a friendly tone. "Come on, Arthur." Harry led him across the wide floor with an arm around his shoulder. Everyone who passed them stopped and gawked or ran over to them to say hello and shake hands in emotional ways, very glad to see Harry. Harry introduced Arthur each time so that by the time they reached the lifts, Arthur's hand was hurting from everyone's excited grip.

As the gate on the lift closed, Arthur said, "It's even worse here." Harry patted him on the shoulder. The lift opened at the next level and a flock of paper airplanes got on and fluttered above them. Arthur watched them circling. "Should I ask what those are?"

"Memos."

"Okay," Arthur breathed. The lifts opened at their floor and as they stepped out into the corridor, Harry hesitated.

"This where it happened?" Arthur guessed. Harry nodded. Arthur looked around them for any danger, but nothing seemed to be happening.

"Come on," Harry urged and led the way to an office around the corner.

"Harry, Arthur, how are my two favorite blokes doing?" Tonks asked affectionately when they stepped up to her doorway. "Have a seat, both of you." She pulled out a parchment and a quill, which she let loose to write on its own. It began scratching out the date and the names of those present.

"Can we get one of those?" Arthur eagerly asked his father.

"Sure," Harry chuckled.

Tonks leaned toward them attentively. Arthur started the story with his returning from school. He glanced over at his dad, who stared at the palms of his hands while rubbing his thumbs over them. Arthur paused before saying to his dad, "Remember what Professor Snape said."

"I do, Arthur," Harry returned with a small embarrassed frown.

"What's this?" Tonks asked.

"Dad's not supposed to be stressed—it could make him sick again."

Tonks grabbed the quill and sat back. "You can leave us for the interview, Harry."

"I do want to hear this, at least once," Harry insisted. "My imagination is doing me more harm at the moment."

"Oh, and like you didn't go through hell every few months when you were his age," Tonks said.

Harry looked over at his son. "It's different when it's him."

"But of course," Tonks said with a hint of teasing condescension. She restarted the quill. "You were telling us Draco had appeared . . . "

Arthur went through the whole story yet again, careful to seem like he had everything under control through all of it. At the end Tonks canceled the quill, stamped the bottom of the parchment with some kind of sparkling ink stamp, efficiently rolled it up, and stashed it in one of several boxes of parchments lined up along the wall of the office.

Harry said, "You did really well, Arthur."

Arthur swallowed, hoping he had not made himself out to have handled things too well. "I didn't know what else to do."

Harry's hand gripped his shoulder. "I'm sorry you had to go through that. He's an old enemy of mine—he should have come after me directly."

Arthur bit his lip and considered that he would not have preferred that, really.

"You guys have time for ice cream?" Tonks asked with a smile when she had cleared her desk.

"Sounds good," Harry replied. "Diagon Alley?"

She stood and collected a satchel from behind her desk. Arthur stood as well and, without complaint, accepted the hand his dad held out.

At Fortescue's, Florean led them to a table inside the small shop since it was too cool to be outside, even though it was sunny. "So good to see you," he bubbled to the group. Leaning over Arthur, he asked solicitously, "And Arthur, my favorite customer, what can I get you?"

"Chocolate flavor with extra chocolate sauce."

"Mine as well," Harry said when Florean looked his way.

"Just a scoop of strawberry," Tonks said, sounding alarmed at that much chocolate.

Presently, their treats arrived. "So, Harry," Tonks prompted between bites. "What do you plan to do with yourself? You know, besides chase down this boy of yours when he gets into trouble?"

"Hey!" Arthur began, holding back on a bite to wait for a response.

"She's only joking, Arthur," Harry insisted, patting him on the leg. Tonks gave Arthur an unapologetic, mischievous look. "To answer your question, though . . ." Harry closed his lips on a big spoonful, dripping with sauce. Voice thick with ice cream, he said, "I'm thinking of writing a book."

"Really?" she returned, sounding like she was afraid he was teasing her and she might look the fool believing it.

"It would force me to get everything straight in my own mind."

"It might make you more famous," Arthur pointed out negatively, spoon poised with an entire half scoop which dripped on the metal table.

Tonks leaned over to him with a laugh. "He can't get any more so," she whispered. "Don't worry about that."

Arthur sighed in a suffering way before stuffing the whole bite in his mouth, which made her laugh more.

Back in Little Whinging, Pollux made a fuss from his cage when they came in the door: his usual welcome. Arthur stepped down to the dining room and let the owl out for a flight to stretch his wings.

"I'll ring your school and see what assignments you missed this morning," Harry said.

While he was on the telephone, the front door chimed. Arthur walked to it without thought, then hesitated with his hand on the door handle. He glanced back down the hallway toward where his dad's voice emanated. Harry stepped into the hall just at the moment, waving that it was all right to open the door as he held the telephone to his ear with his shoulder. Arthur made himself open the door and smiled when he saw his dad's school chum Mrs. Davies on the porch.

"Arthur," she said in an emotional tone. "How are you doing?"

"Okay," Arthur replied with a shrug as he invited her in with a sweep of his hand. "Come on in."

"I brought you some cookies." She handed him an alfoil-covered tray. "Chocolate-chocolate chip and those ginger ones you ate so many of at the Halloween party."

"Thanks."

She patted his shoulder and took off her jacket. "Geesh, your dad was always in it all the time too," she commented quietly and shook her head.

"So I've been told."

"Hermione," Harry said in welcome, apparently finished on the telephone.

"Heard what happened. Glad to see everyone's all right." She gave Harry a quick hug.

They sat down in the living room to hot butterbeers and cookies. "Dad's writing a book," Arthur began. "Talk him out of it."

Hermione laughed, quite hard. "Sorry, Harry," she finally managed to say. "It's just that after Lockhart, I can't see it."

"I think I can avoid doing that badly," Harry said in a miffed tone before a long swig of butterbeer.

Hermione leaned over to Arthur and said conspiratorially, "He does need something to do."

"I suppose," Arthur reluctantly conceded.

"So, Arthur," Hermione said with a hint of challenge, "what are you planning to do with yourself?"

"I want to do game design."

"And that is?" Hermione prompted, eyes darting between the two of them.

"Designing games for computers. You know what those are?"

She frowned. "Yes, Arthur. I was raised a Muggle—I do know what a computer is." She finished off a ginger cookie. "I guess I didn't think about people making games for them for a living."

"People wave wands for a living," Arthur pointed out in a derisive tone.

Hermione covered her mouth as she laughed. More seriously she said, "Just because you don't need one, I hear. Don't get down on the rest of us."

Harry set his empty bottle on the floor beside his chair before heating another one with his wand. "That isn't it—it's the wizarding world he doesn't accept in general."

Hermione said to Arthur, "I hear your magic is pretty good."

"You hear a lot," Arthur returned.

"Wizards and witches talk a lot. Or owl a lot," she explained matter-of-factly. "They have to or they lose touch very easily. News is hard to get when the community you are in doesn't really exist."

Arthur considered that and let his distaste with people talking about him ease. The fact that he liked Mrs. Davies made it hard to be annoyed with her for long.

"Thinking of going to Hogwarts next year?" Hermione asked after a quiet time of cookie nibbling.

"No," Arthur replied firmly.

In a kind tone she said, "I think you would end up liking it. I sure did."

Arthur glanced at his dad for help. Harry leaned back with his full bottle of butterbeer and said, "You have to realize, Hermione, that Arthur's a Muggle." At the doubtful look she gave them both, he went on, "This magic of his is just a computer game he is figuring out. Nothing more."

She looked even more doubtful then. "He's a hand caster, Harry. Or is that a rumor?"

Casually, Harry said, "No, that's true. Good thing, too, because that way Draco couldn't take his wand away."

Hermione turned to Arthur. "Do you know how rare that is?" she asked adamantly.

"People keep telling me," Arthur returned stiffly.

"It's all right, Arthur," Harry said reassuring. "I understand, maybe better than you realize." When Arthur gave him a hopeful look, Harry explained, "I found out one day that this scar on my head meant a whole lot to just about everyone but me." He shrugged, gaze far away. "Took a long time to really understand everyone else's regard."

Arthur reached for another cookie even though he wasn't hungry. They were super chocolaty, which kept him eating them. He really hoped his dad understood because he didn't like it that people kept telling him he was confused about things.

The doorbell chimed. Harry got up and went to open it, and his voice carried from the hallway. "Remus, you should be resting."

"Couldn't resist checking on how you were doing." His eyes brightened as he took in the room. "Hermione, good to see you!"

"You have to stay for dinner, then," Harry insisted. "Have a seat." Lupin had a very large book under his arm, which he placed beside him on the floor.

"What's that?" Arthur asked. He was glad to see his tutor looked as though he must have rested some, because he looked much better compared to that morning.

Lupin set down the bottle he had just accepted from Harry. "Well, good news, I think." He hefted the book into his lap and flipped it open, which was harder than with most books that didn't have covers made of metal. "This is Trafalgar's Taxonomy of Magical Skills," he explained. "And here . . ." He flipped a few pages from where a silver clipped bookmark held the page open. " . . . she classifies Animagical Transformation as a subset of Transmogrifying which is a subset of. . ." His finger moved over the page as he read.

Hermione was leaning so far over the coffee table to look at the book, she almost knocked Arthur's butterbeer over. He rescued it and offered to change seats.

"No, no," she insisted and stood up to sit on the arm of Lupin's chair instead.

Lupin said, "Well, in any event, it looks likely you can manage to be an Animagus should you choose." He tapped the bookmark and it zipped to a different page, making Arthur blink in surprise. Lupin opened the book at that spot and said, "More importantly, she insists that Apparation is a Masspatial Transformation."

"Really?" Hermione asked in surprise, leaning farther over the book, which Lupin held at an angle for her. "I wouldn't have thought so."

"What it means is Apparition might not be out of reach for you either, Arthur," Lupin said.

"You want to learn to Apparate?" Hermione teased.

"Apparating is very cool," Harry said in a falsely knowledgeable tone.

Hermione grinned, then asked, "Are you allowed to teach him that?"

Lupin finished his bottle and placed it carefully beside Harry's empty one, which he had to lean way over to do. "We have a dispensation from the Ministry to teach him anything not forbidden in general. Not everyone goes to Hogwarts and those that don't, need some training."

"So, why would it be out of reach?" she then asked, clearly not understanding.

"He can only do things that are similar to Transfiguration," Harry supplied.

"Really?" She sounded very surprised. "Why?"

They both shrugged. "We don't know," Lupin said.

Her brow furrowed. "Headmistress McGonagall woke his magic, right? Maybe it's because that's her strength."

Harry and Lupin blinked at her, nonplused. "I hadn't even thought of that," Harry said, deep in thought.

Lupin handed the heavy book up to Hermione and stood up. Standing before Arthur, he said, "What precise spell did she use to unfold your magic, Arthur? She gave you a temporary charm of some kind, to do a Lumos, correct?"

Arthur placed his hands on the arms of the chair and gripped them. Uncertain and insistent, he said, "I know what you are thinking. I don't want any more spells done on me."

Lupin glanced back at Harry, who gestured that he should leave it be. In an unusually serious tone, Harry said, "It's all right, Arthur. You ever want to try waking more magic, you can let us know. I don't want you to feel you need to be what other people expect you to be. That was how I spent my life and I don't want that for you." He set his half-full bottle back on the table and leaned forward with an earnest expression. "You want to design Muggle computer games, that's fine with me. Change your mind tomorrow and decide to take over the Wizengamot, that's fine too."

Lupin covered his mouth to hold in a laugh. "Not really that funny," he commented quickly, trying to sound sober and serious. "Get Hermione here who is equally good at everything to repeat that temporary spell charm and Merlin knows what we'd end up with." He looked Arthur over with sad affection. "Just as well you don't want it. Too much responsibility."

"I do want to learn to Apparate," Arthur said eagerly.

"I'll try my best to teach you, then," Lupin said with a shrug. "We'll see what happens."

"In the meantime, game designer it is." Harry toasted him with his bottle. Sounding relaxed like he had drunk more than butterbeer, he said, "Anything you need for that, let me know."

Arthur bit his lip and said, "There's an emulator I'd like to play around with that is a little expensive." He paused, waiting for a response that wasn't more than the scrutiny of his father's bright green eyes. He gave up waiting and suggested hopefully, "There's a computer camp in Dublin for two weeks over summer holiday."

Harry smiled. "I asked, didn't I?"

"I heard you," Hermione said, amused.

"I have great ideas for games," Arthur said sounding fervent.

"Such as?" Harry asked.

"Voldemort I: The Dark Lord Rises," Arthur said with a gleefully dark expression. Everyone stiffened, but he went on, "No, it would be great," he insisted, sliding forward nearly to the edge of his chair in an effort to explain. "You'd have to figure out in the first part of the game who was likely to be a follower or not, a Death Eater, and there would be magic amulets to collect and . . ."

Gesturing before him, Harry interrupted to ask, "Who would the little, uh, hero character be?"

Arthur straightened and looked at each of them. "Well, you usually get to choose when you start the game. There would be five or six characters to choose from. You know some boy characters, some girls." He gestured at Hermione who looked about to break out in laughter at the thought. "Maybe some mythical creatures like that centaur teacher you had."

"Really?" Harry verified.

"Yeah." Arthur went on, "It lets you chose your strengths and weaknesses, basically, by picking a character, which makes different parts of the game harder and easier. And for multi-player you have to have that option."

"Ah," Lupin said. "It would be much easier with multiple people playing, right?"

Arthur looked at him as though he could not possibly get it. "No. The evil side is much harder to beat in multi-player mode. Almost impossible, actually." At Lupin's confused look, Arthur said authoritatively, "Usually you have to get someone playing for the bad side to secretly help you out. Because the computer doesn't pick up on it, that works really well."

Harry sat back with a crooked grin. "No wonder you and Snape get along so well."

Defensively, Arthur said, "I really like Professor Snape."

Hermione picked her purse up and hitched it on her shoulder. "You may be the only one in this room, I think, Arthur."

"Really?" he asked in surprise. Lupin nodded soberly, his dad however gave a small smile. Arthur said, "Oh."

"I have to get going," Hermione said. She patted Arthur on the head before leaning over and kissing him on the top of it.

"Hey," he complained. "I'm a little old for that."

"No, you aren't," she countered with a sly grin.

Harry saw her out and returned to his seat. "Dinner time?" he asked.

"Can we go out?" Arthur pleaded. "In Muggle London?" he remembered to add.

Harry glanced at their guest, and said firmly, "If Remus is up for it."

"I think I am. Severus has gotten rather good at that potion; I should get him to make it more often. And perhaps I should try to learn to like him . . ." he added under his breath.

"Muggle London?" Harry confirmed doubtfully with his son.

"Yes," Arthur forcefully replied, then added in a pleading tone, perhaps too childish, "Please?"

—8888— The End —8888—

There was an old woman tossed up in a basket
Ninety times as high as the moon
Where she was going I couldn't but ask her
For in her hand she carried a broom

"Old woman old woman old woman" quoth I
"Whither O whither O whither so high?
"To sweep the cobwebs off the sky"
"Shall I go with you?"
"Aye by-and-by"

—Mother Goose (Old Edition found in Germany)