Dumbledore looked at the battered and bruised boy standing before him. Though cleaned up from the previous days trials, there were still half healed cuts and scrapes on the child's face and forearms. And that was only what was visible. The marks seemed to clash with the bright yet determined smile that lit the boy's face. It was only understandable though. They boy had, after all, defeated the world's greatest Dark Lord, and he'd lived to tell about it. Harry Potter certainly deserved to look pleased with himself.
Not a boy any longer, Albus had to correct himself. Though he was substantially older than the dark haired man, anyone who went through what Harry had didn't deserve to be called a child.
Resting his hands in front of him on the desk, the Headmaster leaned forward and smiled at the young man, his eyes twinkling. "To what do I owe this unexpected visit? I would have thought you'd be celebrating with your friends in the Great Hall. It isn't every day the world is purged of such a great threat."
Harry's face fell slightly at the mention of his defeat of Voldemort, and of all the celebrations going on. He'd heard several people declare quite loudly that the day should be declared Harry Potter Day, and he'd heard more than a few second the motion with loud cheers. Even his closest friends were caught up in the celebrations. "That's part of why I'm here. It wasn't just me who took the bastard down. They should be receiving as much credit as I am…"
Harry trailed off, and the Headmaster looked at him quizzically. "If you feel this way, then surely you could make a public statement to the effect."
Harry scoffed. "I could hardly do that. They would just think I was being modest, or that other people were putting me up to it. I defeated the Dark Lord, but I couldn't possibly be able to speak my own mind without someone else pulling the strings."
"And you feel my telling the people that their Saviour had help would make them more inclined to take it as truth?"
"Yes… I think maybe…" Harry sank gracelessly into the chair across the desk. "I honestly don't know. I don't like this attention. Everyone is watching my every move. I feel like I can't breathe, they're all so close. I just want to relax and fade into the woodwork. I'm so… tired now."
Dumbledore's eyes softened as he looked at his young protégé. He reached across the desk and took the boy's hand in his own, in what he hoped was a comforting manor. "I understand, Harry, I truly do. But you have to remember what your actions mean to others. You've given them a reason to celebrate for the first time in four years. Surely you can't begrudge them that."
Letting his chin drop to his chest, Harry pulled his hands back to his lap and stared at them. "Did you mean what you said last year, sir?"
It took the Headmaster some time to recall what the young man was talking about. So many things had happened in the last year that it seemed to meld together, even for someone with his impeccable memory. In all honesty he was surprised Harry even remembered it. The boy had been half conscious in the hospital wing when he'd said it…
…Albus looked down at the pale figure on the bed, looking small and frail against the stark white sheets. The only colour was the angry red scars running up both the boy's forearms, still tender despite the extensive healing magic Poppy had cast on the boy.
He took one of Harry's hands in his own and squeezed it gently. "I'm so sorry, Harry. If only I'd noticed sooner what we were doing to you."
He should have known the stress would be too much. No one person could possibly hold up under that amount of stress. Just one thing piling on top of another on the boy's already strained shoulders. It certainly started with Sirius' death, but the final straw was when the young Syltherin, Eric Lejza, had been killed on a Hogsmead trip for trying to defend one of his classmates. Irrational as it was, most of the school had blamed Harry for not being there to save him. It was enough to through even the sanest person over the edge.
How fortunate they were that Harry had been scheduled to train with Severus that morning, and when the boy hadn't shown he'd gone to see what the problem was. Upon finding the boy, even the Head of Slytherin house was able to feel sympathetic. It was obvious that it hadn't simply been a cry for attention. The boy knew what he was doing. Most people would simple slash across the wrists. It was slow and nearly painless, and it also gave someone a chance to find them. Harry had cut vertically, along the vein, and deeply too. He didn't want anyone to find him before it was too late.
It was also obvious that the boy would have those scars for the rest of his life, despite Poppy's superb healing.
"I'm so sorry," he repeated, a single tear cascading down his wrinkled face. Suddenly the boy's eyes opened, just to slits, but the piercing green still showed. The boy was awake, if only for a little while. Albus squeezed his hand more tightly and offered a small smile. "I know this is hard, but ust stick this out until the end. If not for me, then for your friends. It will be hard, but you cannot let him win. Ignore what people think. Do this for yourself. To be free. When this is all over I promise you, I will give you anything you might desire…"
Albus remembered seeing Harry smile at the statement, before closing his eyes again and falling back to sleep.
"Does the offer still stand?" the dark haired man asked, pulling the Headmaster out of his reverie. There was a faint smile on the young man's face, though it was a little hesitant. Albus could tell Harry had thought a lot about this, but that he wasn't quite sure his mentor would follow through on his promise. Too many people had let him down in the past.
But it was Albus' turn to try and make it up to him. "Yes, Harry. Anything that is in my power to do I will grant to you."
Harry's face broke out into an outright grin, and Albus felt his heart warm. It had been too long since he'd seen anyone this happy.
"In that case, I want to go to university… in America."
Harry was grinning wildly as he shuffled into the elevator, his arms full with a box of his personal possessions and a suitcase slung over his shoulders. Remus was able to squeeze on with him, his arms also full with another box containing books, CDs, and random stationary. There was another family on as well: a mother carrying several plastic bags with what appeared to be food, and a father and son struggling with a small refrigerator.
Harry Potter was moving into residence. His wish had been granted, and for the next eight months he was going to be living with other people his age, Muggles from Canada and around the world. Normal people, who didn't know about his scar, and his famous triumph over Tom Riddle. Normal people, and he was going to fit right in with them… or as well as any foreign student could.
When the elevator halted with a small lurch, Harry smiled at the other guy and stepped off, Remus trailing behind him, seeming to struggle with his possessions. "Come on, Lupin, it's not that heavy. Surely you can keep up."
"Not that heavy my arse," Remus muttered, more to himself than anyone else. "If you'd just let me place a simple…"
"Ah, Remus, you remember our deal," Harry cut him off. Though he didn't turn around he was able to puff up his chest, and he declared in his best impression of Vernon Dursley, "There will be no funny business within these walls, do you hear."
Despite himself, the werewolf couldn't restrain a deep-chested chuckle. He almost dropped several things in the process, but quickly caught himself. He was pleased that Harry could laugh about his family like that. While he'd never been abused physically aside from the bullying inflicted by Dudley in their youth, the years of neglect could have turned him bitter. In all honesty it was surprising that Harry had turned out so well balanced despite of, or perhaps in spite of, everything he'd had to deal with.
He just wished that his godson had agreed to live with him in the small house he'd purchased not to far from the campus instead of in one of the residence. It wasn't that the place wasn't nice. In fact, it had once been an old hotel, so each room had its own washroom, and many had balconies. He just didn't want to let the boy out of his sight for too long. With everything that had happened, it was understandable to worry.
Then again, Harry was nineteen now, and was perfectly capable of taking care of himself. When Remus had been that age, he was already fending for himself, trying to make a living despite his curse, and Harry had already proven himself quite capable of taking care of himself.
"So, what room number are we again?"
Harry looked over his shoulder as he answered. "512, I think. It's a double room. I'm really lucky to get in. Dumbledore had to pull quite a few strings to get me admitted, and I assume quite a few more to bump me up on the waiting list for a room. I guess my 'extenuating circumstances' were really compelling."
Harry chuckled as he set down his belongings to unlock the door. He was immediately bombarded with the sound of heavy rock music, and the sight of his roommate dancing around as he put stuff away. The other man immediately stopped when he turned around and saw Harry standing there with an amused smile. He immediately rushed to turn off the music and was full of apologies.
"I'm really sorry you had to witness that. It must have been awful. And if you don't like the music I can wear headphones," the other young man mumbled, reminding Harry of a slightly more articulate Neville.
Harry smiled more genuinely. He'd actually found it almost endearing to see the slight, brown haired boy moving around without a care in the world. Or perhaps endearing wasn't the best word… "Don't worry about it. I promise I won't tell anyone what I saw, as long as you don't mention any of my embarrassing little quirks. And I'll assure you, there's plenty."
Harry could almost feel Remus smiling behind him, and chose to ignore it. Remus had been one of the few people to know about the relationship he'd been in before he'd moved to Canada for school, and he was certain that his Godfather was assuming that he was moving on now that he was in a new country.
His thoughts were cut off when his roommate exclaimed, "You're from England! That's so sweet!"
Harry felt his face flush. "Yeah, I'm from England. My name's Harry Potter."
His roommate extended a hand and Harry shook it. "I'm Tori Sundell, and I again apologize for my horrendous dancing. I promise you I'm not normally that eccentric."
Harry grinned this time. "Don't worry about it. I'm an art student," he replied, explaining everything.
Tori grinned back, as Harry turned to pick up his things and move them into the room. Remus followed, and suddenly Harry felt very stupid. "I completely forgot. This is my Godfather, Remus. I hope you don't mind if he drops in every once in a while. We're pretty close."
"It's nice that you finally remembered me," the werewolf replied, ruffling his godson's hair.
"I don't mind, as long as he doesn't mind my dancing."
Laughing, Harry put his things on the unoccupied bed. There was a fine line between making fun of yourself and being self depreciative, and it seemed that his roommate had found it.
Harry bid goodbye to his roommate and he and Remus went back down to grab another load of boxes. Neither wanted to tackle the fridge quite yet.
Harry still couldn't contain his grin.
He was going to have a lot of fun in university this year.
AN: On a serious hiatus. Perhaps in the distant future it might get picked up again.