Original story material is the property of the fanfic author; other material of Rowling et al. falls under the usual disclaimer. Song lyrics are from You Make Me Feel Brand New (Thom Bell and Linda Creed), c1973.


Precious friend,
with you I'll always have a friend,
you're someone who I can depend
to walk a path that sometimes bends.

It was a Saturday, and the last chance for students to shop before Christmas came to Hogwarts. Late in the afternoon, the bell tinkled as the bookshop door opened. Katy Noonan, the weekend clerk, looked up from her book and recognized a familiar bespectacled figure, slouching up the aisle with hands in his pockets. "Harry Potter! And what brings yer glum self to Hogsmeade this sunny day?"

"Hi, Mrs. Noonan," said the teenager, forcing a smile. "Just... shopping around."

"Anythin' in particular? New? Second-hand? Or have yer books been eatin' each other agin?"

Harry had to chuckle. She had seen what his Monster Book of Monsters had done to his copy of Fantastic Beasts. "No, nothing like that. I'm.... I'm just feeling a little down, and wanted to take my mind off it."

"Och, aye! I know the feelin'. And thir's a lot of troubles to get ye down at yer age. Just remember I'm here, if thir's anythin' ye want to talk to yer Aunt Katy about."

"I know. Hermione says you two have those little chats once in a while, and she feels better afterwards. With me, it's not anything in particular... it's everything that's coming down on me. Sometimes I can say, 'I'm ready for it!' Other times I feel so helpless and unprepared that I wish it would all just go away. Even when nothing's happening to me, I'm scared."

She smiled. "I could talk ye through it, handsome, but maybe ye're at the wrong shop. Thir's another door down the street for yer problem."

"Sweets or butterbeer won't really help this, Mrs. Noonan."

"None o' thot. This chap's really good at it. Bin in the business for years. No charge, and he helps a goodly number of folk when they're feelin' low... tho not nearly enough in this town are thinkin' to stop by and talk to 'im when they need advice, if ye ask me!"

"So, you think he'd do me good?"

"Can't hurt. And he'll understand ye. Speak to 'im; tell 'im I sent ye. He's the proprietor at Number 3."

"Okay, Mrs. Noonan. I'll give it a try."

Harry waved good-by, and went out. The proprietor at Number 3? He hadn't gone that far down the cobblestone street in a while, and couldn't remember what Number 3 might be.

Do they have shrinks in Hogsmeade? Is that where she's sending me?

Or some pep-potion pusher?

Or is it some uncle-type like her, full of kindly advice? That's not exactly what I need.

As he passed Number 5, Harry looked ahead, and realised where he was going.

He stopped, slumped a bit and almost turned around to leave. Oh, for pity's sake, is that where she sent me...

Still, he dragged himself forward, halting by the tablet displayed in front of Number 3, one of the few remaining buildings in town from the time of Hengist of Woodcroft, thus every bit as old as Hogwarts itself. The crude fieldstone carving was still readable, despite its age:

HENGSMOED
CIRCE
CMLXXXVI

Oh, Mrs. Noonan! Why would you send me to Hogsmeade Chapel?

Don't I have enough guilt and fear already?

He sighed. Well, I said I'd give it a try.

The tall wooden doors opened inward, to the creaking of incredibly old wrought-iron hinges. Harry's steps echoed, as they did in the school halls. He walked across the lobby and through the inner doors.

He was all alone in the peaceful chapel. There's no minister here to talk to, anyway!

Then, he understood. Oh, wait. She wanted me to talk to the proprietor...

If that's who she meant, I wish I knew how I do this proper. I don't belong here! Oh, maybe I should sit down. Or kneel down? I'm not even sure how he's supposed to answer back.

Harry entered a back pew. There was a kneeling bench for those who wanted it; he figured out how to lower it, and knelt. No bright shaft of light from heaven resulted, nor stately organ playing, nor booming voice from above the altar. There was no flapping of angelic wings, no glow of haloes. On the other hand, there was no lightning bolt zotting an infidel for violating the inner sanctum.

Now what do I do?

Talk, I guess. He should hear me even if I don't talk aloud...

Sir, my name is Harry Potter, and I'm a bit scared.

Mrs. Noonan thought you could help me. I'm sorry if I haven't spoken to you before. My aunt and uncle weren't the kind to go to a church unless there was an important business funeral or something, and they would lock me in my cubbyhole while they went.

I think I might have been baptised, since I had a godfather, but I'm not sure. Sorry, I should know these things.

I've heard of the commandments, and sorry, I don't know but a few. I probably know those 'cos I've broken them.

I stole food from the kitchen when the Dursleys starved me. If that was wrong, I'm sorry.

I don't think I ever lied to get anyone else in trouble, but I've lied to get myself or my friends out of it. Lots of times! I've lied to good people, like Professor Dumbledore, and that hurts when I think about it, 'cos they expected I would grow up to be one of the good ones, and I've disappointed them already, and I feel bad for that. Lying always seemed the only way out. I think that's what Dumbledore talked to me about, when he told me not to do what seemed easier instead of what's right. Part of it, anyway. I don't know if I can fix it, but I'll try.

What else... oh, 'love thy neighbour.' I dislike a lot of people who have been rotten to me for no reason. If that's unfair, it's because I don't know how I can like them. I love my friends, some more than others, and some a lot... you know the ones I mean, right? But even that doesn't always turn out the way I'd like. I'm too young, or too stupid, to know what to say or do, and I get clumsy and say the wrong thing, and instead of their loving me and being happy, they don't care.... or worse, they cry, and I kick myself when that happens.

As for killing anybody, or trying to, I'd guess you know my life. You don't give magical powers to everyone. I've got them, and I'd be glad to use them for good, and I could handle that. But it seems I have to fight evil too, and there's some sort of prophecy that I'm going to kill the evilest guy or he's going to kill me. Just thinking about it is scary.

Sir, why me?

Don't misunderstand, sir. If you need me, really need me to go through this, I'll.... I'll do it. But it's a lot for a kid, and I'm having trouble coping with it.

It makes me angry sometimes that I've been singled out for this. I was raised all wrong, and reckoned this magic life would be better. Instead, I have to be a killer.

I've been mean to my friends, yelling at them as though it's all their fault, and it's not; it's my life, my lot.

But who am I to be a hero? Sir, are you sure you didn't mix me up with someone else? I feel so helpless at times. I'm small, I'm not really strong, and I can't hardly see without my glasses. I'm supposed to fight this great army of really evil adults, and any one of them could beat the snot out of me... uh, sorry.

Maybe you couldn't make me bigger, or stronger. I suppose you made me brave enough; it would have helped if you had made me smarter, yeah, so I would think before I do something brave but stupid, and get myself or someone else killed.

But that's wishful thinking. I'll have to get by with what I've got.

He wondered what else there was to say, and looked around the chapel for any inspiration. His eyes stopped at a large inscription arched over the altar:

GREATER LOVE HATH NO MAN THAN THIS -
THAT HE LAY DOWN HIS LIFE FOR HIS FRIENDS.

That reminds me... about my godfather. He's not here, sir, and I don't know if he's where you are, or still here. Either way is okay, just.... well, I hope he's all right.

I know my petty little problems are not your fault. You shan't be expected to spend all day worrying over my life, or to make things easier for me. You have lots of people to watch over who need you more than I do. I don't know how I'll get through it all, and I'll be terrified, but if you think I'm doing the proper thing, then I'll keep doing it. Remind me when I do something wrong.

That's about all, sir. Sorry to take up your time.

-o-

Katy Noonan was about to close the shop when the bell rang over the door.

"Back again, are ye, Harry? Did ye make thot stop I suggested?"

"Yeah. At first I figured it would be a waste of time."

"And did ye chat with the proprietor?"

"Yes...though I did all the talking."

"Don't be so sure. Do ye feel better?"

"Yes, thanks."

"Then maybe he did have somethin' to say to ye, after all. He talks to yer heart, not yer ears. When ye feel better in yer heart, thot's good news! Ye be havin' a Merry Christmas now, handsome."