Disclaimer - I don't own them, but if they're looking for a good home they can stay with me!
Warnings - none. Ron Harry pairing of course, but nothing explicit…
The Power of Love
Famously messy hair and well-known brilliant green eyes sat across from the Minister. It was nothing he hadn't seen before, though he had to admit it was somewhat disconcerting to have them in two different places, rather than combined as one person. This was the reason that he'd been so reluctant to announce You-Know-Who's return - or that was what he was going to tell the press in about twenty minutes time. He just hoped that his treatment of their famous son wouldn't be held against him. He was already working on the reasons behind that, and would introduce them when the time was right. Everyone knew that the Potter boy had been known to stretch the truth on occasion, and his reasoning would be something along those lines. The fact that they'd reappeared on the anniversary of their 'death', which was several months after he'd been forced to confirm that the Potter boy hadn't been lying, would be easily overlooked in the excitement that was sure to follow.
"Minister," the voice was an adult version of the voice of the Boy-Who-Lived, and Fudge wondered what the once orphaned teen would make of it all. With a bit of luck the shock would keep the brat out of his way.
"Just a few more hours," Fudge answered the question inherent in the tone with the ease of long practice. After all, the one thing this pair had asked for time and time again was their son, and as much as he'd have liked to just hand the brat over he'd have looked a real fool doing it only to have them murder the Boy-Who-Lived.
"We'll have to announce what has happened, and the Unspeakables must vouch for you, else you'll be attacked by the first Witch or Wizard that sees you. We also needed yesterday to get you those new wands. Can't have you going about undefended, now, can we? Not Lily and James Potter," he soothed, and the Boy-Who-Lived's mother shifted restlessly. Ollivander had given them such a strange look and said barely anything at all, simply fitting them with new wands and then touching Lily's cheek and James wrist in gentle sympathy.
"Please, we just want to see our son," she said softly, the famous green eyes sheening over with tears, "After all this time…"
"A few more hours won't hurt, he's perfectly safe at school," Fudge replied, and James made an impatient gesture before taking his wife in his arms and comforting her. They were a devoted couple, and had been ever since the containment spell at Godrics Hollow had broken, leaving them in the ruin of their former home, where the Unspeakables, who had been alerted by a prediction from one of their Seers that this was about to happen, had captured them. As far as the Unspeakables could tell, the Potters had been sealed away in time capsules just before they died. Avada Kedavra had only struck them a glancing blow, one that would have killed them slowly had they not been sealed away by someone in this other space for fifteen years, giving their magic a chance to heal their bodies and recoup their strength. The magical signature on that time capsule spell had belonged to the infant son that had then gone on to somehow almost destroy You-Know-Who, destroying his parent's house in the process.
Fudge was not unaware of the fact that he had called a Wizard more powerful than that old interfering dingbat Dumbledore names in the Daily Prophet. He had vigorously denied the Potter boy's recount of the final task of the Tri-Wizard tournament, and though he had not gone so far as to accuse him of Cedric Diggory's death he had implied that there was more to the tragedy than met the eye. It was going to take all his not inconsiderable skill to get the media to gloss over that fact.
Fudge had leaked the news late yesterday afternoon that he was personally investigating the return of a couple that claimed to be James and Lily Potter, and had called for a press conference before lunch. The papers this morning had been full of rumours, and his assistant confirmed that the Wizarding Wireless Network was going to carry his words live, while the papers sent reporters and photographers from far and wide. There would be a portkey made available to the Potter's after the conference to take them to Hogsmeade. Fudge intended to delay things enough for the Press to catch up to witness the reunion, provided he could keep control of the situation.
He was not surprised when his assistant started shouting at someone and the door swung open to reveal the Headmaster of Hogwarts. He was surprised by the look on Dumbledore's face, such anger and cool implacable dislike that the famous twinkle might as well have never existed. Dumbledore was known for his congenial manner and easy temper. The events about to take place had obviously shocked him and Fudge was maliciously glad of the fact.
"Albus!" the Potters leapt up, and then froze as the Headmasters wand targeted them with cool certainty. It was all Fudge could do not to rub his hands together in glee - things were getting better and better.
"Cornelius, what do you think you are playing at?" Albus asked coolly, his eyes never leaving the rapidly angering Potters. Fudge nearly crowed in delight. He needed the Potters to accept his side of things and surely the old fools actions now would count against him. From what he'd heard, the Potter boy had smashed the Headmasters office before the holidays, and would surely be more willing in the light of this breach to accept Fudge's version of things. The return of the Potters would restore his shaking credibility, and he needed control of them to maintain his control of the Ministry.
"Albus, it's us," James Potter said softly, "Please don't…"
"James my boy, if it really is you, you'll forgive an old man his protective instincts," Dumbledore didn't even look at them, and Fudge felt even better.
"The Unspeakables have run test after spell after ritual over them, Dumbledore," Fudge smirked; "This is James and Lily Potter, without a doubt."
The Unspeakables were not subject to Ministry influence, even if they did share quarters with the Ministry. Their reputation was impeccable, and it hadn't taken the entire month that Fudge had insisted upon to ascertain the identity of the couple. He wanted to delay the announcement until the end of November, because he would be up for re-election in December, and the return of the Potters, as announced by him, would stick in the publics mind. Never mind the fact that their sixteen month old son had saved them with a stunning piece of instinctive magic, it was Fudge's role in the announcement that would serve him the best.
Dumbledore lowered his wand and looked the pair over carefully. They didn't look a day older, and the way they held hands, their ring and little fingers linked together, was typical of the loving couple that he knew.
"Sir," Lily whispered, "How's Harry?"
"Distressed," the word was reluctant, but honest, "The papers this morning were full of rumours and lies. I assured him that I would get to the bottom of it."
"The Minister was going to announce that we were alive and then we're free to go," James offered and Fudge shifted nervously under the look the Headmaster shot him, "We want to see Harry right away."
"That will not be possible," Dumbledore replied, a note of regret in his voice, "Until I know for certain how you escaped the Killing Curse."
"Well then, I suggest you come with me, and find out!" Fudge rubbed his hands together and got up heading for the door and ushering the Potters ahead of him. He put them in a small antechamber, and then pointedly ushered Dumbledore out through the other door and into the waiting arms of the Press. With the old coot having to listen to find out what was going on, and therefore unable to interrupt, his mere presence would add to the weight of Fudges announcement. Things couldn't be going better if he'd planned them himself!
When everyone eating breakfast in the Great Hall stopped talking and turned to stare at Harry he just knew that there was something about him in the papers again. The Daily Prophet had published a series of sentimentally inaccurate articles about him over the summer as if to make up for calling him a nutter last year, and once he'd started school there had been one or two pieces about his 'noble bravery' in facing his peers after 'being ridiculed and outcast for so long'. The paper seemed to have forgotten that a lot of the ridicule had come from its own articles and Harry had been very tempted to send them a Howler, telling them to sod off out of his life. He hadn't, deciding to take Hermione's advice and just ignore it all.
"Uh oh," Ron said from beside him, "What did you do now?"
Harry chuckled and tried to think up a suitable reply, grateful that over the summer he and his friends had sat down and hashed things out in detail. They'd agreed to hex common sense into him as needed and take him down a peg or two when he got angry for no reason, and he'd promised to do better by them both. He'd already killed an innocent man, he couldn't bear to lose them as well.
"That's not funny, Ron," Hermione said from behind, and they headed to the Gryffindor table, every eye following them. Several people even stood up to get a better look at his face as he sat down and accepted the paper that Colin Creevey was holding out to him. He unfolded the paper and took a deep breath, his eyes skimming the headlines. The words didn't make sense for a moment, and Harry had to read them again before he understood.
'Potters escape the Death Curse - is the Boy-Who-Lived no longer an orphan?'
It was like a punch to the gut and he gasped, his face paling, fingers, ears, scalp and toes tingling and then going numb as his hands began to shake wildly and all blood drained from his face. Ron's warm and sturdy arms wrapped around him and Hermione's body leaned into him, taking the paper away and scanning the article beneath the photo of Fudge that was smirking up at them all.
"It says that there was a strong and unusual magical spell discharged at Godrics Hollow and the Unspeakables found them there. They've been at the Ministry undergoing examination and testing," Hermione summed up, discarding the paper and wrapping her arms around Harry as well. It was hard to hear her over the roaring in his ears, and he didn't hear the arrival of McGonagall and the Headmaster at all.
He got up when Ron tugged at him and stumbled along in the redhead's arms, clinging to his friend's strength as his mind tried to process the memories the Dementors had stirred within him in the light of this new knowledge. Madam Pomfrey's gentle but implacable strength fed him a potion that had him back in his body and aware in seconds, his stomach rebelling uncomfortably over the taste in his mouth. The school Matron hadn't been able to get Ron to let go, and Harry didn't even try, clutching the hand that rested on his hip with both his own as he focussed on his worried Head of House and the grave face of the Headmaster.
"If this is one of Fudge's tricks I'll hex him," Harry's shaky statement seemed to reassure Professor Dumbledore, and it looked like Professor McGonagall was hiding a smile of her own.
"I'll look into it at once, dear boy," Albus Dumbledore's voice was strong yet calm, something that Harry could cling to as an anchor, "Harry… if it is true… I would still feel better about checking things myself before I allow them to see you."
"When will you know?" Harry asked urgently. He wanted them to be alive, he wanted them to be real. He wanted to be able to introduce them to Ron and Hermione and tell them how brave and kind and important Sirius had been to him. He wanted Moony to have a Marauder to talk to now that Harry had killed his godfather with his stupidity. He wanted Sirius' name cleared in public by his parents too.
"If all is well, you will see them tomorrow," Dumbledore murmured. Harry nodded, controlling the urge to beg for it to be sooner. The Headmaster took his leave, heading for the Ministry with a steely glint in his eyes. Harry felt oddly reassured that twinkle that most people preferred to see in Dumbledore's eyes was missing - this was a man that would get to the bottom of things as quickly as it was safe to do so.
"Mr Potter, there will be coverage of the announcement on WWN just before lunch," Professor McGonagall murmured, "I will have a wireless sent to the common room. You may go there to listen. Classes will carry on as usual, though I will be speaking to your teachers. I am sure they will forgive you for sitting quietly in class for the morning."
"Thanks Professor," Harry smiled, forcing himself to concentrate on her instead of mentally following Dumbledore to London. It was probably for the best, he didn't think he could concentrate in class and didn't want to injure anyone in his distraction. Ron got them up off the bed and Hermione led the way to the first class of the day, which was Charms. It took him the entire lesson to copy the notes from the board, while the class practiced whatever it was he was writing about. In Herbology Professor Sprout had them draw some kind of plant, which Harry did with painstaking detail, though he didn't know what it was, or how to label it. Transfiguration was the last lesson before lunch, and again he spent the entire time copying down the writing on the board, which might as well have been Ancient Runes for all the sense it made while Hermione and Ron practiced the actual magic. They were released from class ten minutes early and Harry wasn't really aware that the entire House accompanied him to the common room where he was seated on a couch between his friends; who he clutched with shaking hands as the wireless warmed up and a seventh year tuned it to the proper station.
As he stood behind Fudge and to one side, Albus Dumbledore prayed silently that this would not further destroy the teen that he thought of as a grandchild. Harry's summer had been one of revelations to him, not the least the errors he'd made that had led to placing Harry in an untenable position. He knew full well that Sirius death was his fault, though he could not get Harry to accept that fact. The letters that the Order had requested of Harry came like clockwork every second day, each one a copy of the last, until Albus had been so uneasy that he'd gone to Privet Drive personally. Arthur Weasley had explained that the Dursley's didn't want attention drawn to their house, so he'd entered through the back door only to come face to face with all three Muggles at the dinner table. Instead of the expected shouting and accusations, Vernon Dursley had pointed silently upstairs and then taken his family out.
Harry had refused to look at him when he entered the boy's threadbare room. The Boy-Who-Lived was pale and gaunt, huddled on the end of the lumpy narrow bed, and when Dumbledore finally got the boy to look at him, Harry had whimpered his godfathers name softly and burst into huge wracking sobs. Horrified, Albus had hugged him, rocking them both as tears ran down his own aged cheeks. Words had eventually followed the storm of grief, and between the two of them they had gone over the entire year. Albus had finally admitted to Harry the place the boy held in his heart when he learned that the child hadn't known that he was loved, that there was family there for him even if the Muggles had rejected him and his godfather had died. They had spent three days in that little room, talking, weeping, and finally recovering.
Albus had secretly visited Harry several more times that summer, and the last time Harry had called him Grandfather - a gift more precious than anything else the world could provide. With Albus, Harry could be the child that even Molly Weasley could not coax free, and with Harry Albus could be the man that he no longer showed to the world at large. Harry had snuck up to his office the first night of school to say goodnight to his grandfather, and Albus had been relieved to see a little more of the strength of character that he knew Harry possessed.
If the Unspeakables had indeed cleared the two people in the room behind him of any wrong doing or trickery, then Albus would be willing to accept that with only a few checks of his own. They would have to be introduced to their son carefully, as he was sure Fudge hadn't told them the whole of Harry's history, or his remarkable accomplishments. Harry would have to be watched carefully too, lest he become overwhelmed by the enormity of this situation. This was a joyous occasion, but even joy could be a devastating emotion.
Albus listened carefully as Fudge laid out the circumstances of the Unspeakables discovery of the Potters, and then in pure astonishment as the Minister detailed the method of their survival. Harry was more powerful than even he had suspected, and the part of him that ran the Order was fuming that Fudge was announcing this power to the public at large. Any information that could aid the Death Eaters and Voldemort should be carefully conserved, not blurted out the moment a reporter asked a question.
There was nothing he could do about that, and his control of his facial expressions was too good to allow anyone to see his disquiet. The Unspeakables that had been in charge of the Potters case were the top operatives in their Department, and Albus allowed himself to be satisfied to some extent that every precaution had been taken thus far. A dose of Veritaserum and a quiet chat would establish their credentials, and Minerva McGonagall would have to be present for both as she was the most skilled interrogator the Order had - better even than Moody. The Unspeakables finished detailing the spells, rituals and tests that had been run and their results, and Fudge went and retrieved the Potters.
The moment the press caught sight of them it was bedlam, with hasty and alarming questions thrown at the couple. Bewildered, Lily clung to her husband, who flushed and tried to make some sense of what was being said to them. Albus was uncomfortably aware that pieces of Harry's past were being shouted in the worst possible terms, and when Lily's eyes brimmed with tears he pulled out his wand, transfigured the collapsible fishing rod in his pocket into a portkey and took the Potters out of there, praying that Minerva was either with Harry or waiting in his office with Severus. He had a feeling that any delay that prevented the Potters from reaching their son had better be brief before James exploded and started hexing people to get to his child.
The world came sharply into focus for Harry the moment Fudge started his speech. The news that he had somehow protected his parents with a really powerful spell was as much a surprise to him as it was to the rest of the House, and there were a few awed looks sent his way, though no one spoke. He appreciated their silence - he didn't want to lose a word of what was being said.
The reporter had described the scene for them clearly before Fudge started speaking, and Harry was relieved to hear that the Headmaster was there. Their reconciliation had been hard won over the summer, but in the end Harry had gained a grandfather and the Headmaster a grandson. It had helped to know that there was someone he could trust, especially in the wake of Sirius death.
Harry held his breath when the reporter said that the Minister was opening the door behind him and beckoning to someone else. The description of his parents matched so closely the few photos he had of them that his heart soared only to be dashed a moment later when the reporters started shouting their questions.
"James! How does it feel to know that your son has fought You-Know-Who more times than you have?"
"Lily, is it true that your son was raised in a cupboard?"
"What is your reaction to hearing that your son first duelled You-Know-Who when he was only eleven?"
"Mr Potter! Is Parselmouth a common trait in your family? And how do you feel about your son using that ability to find and fight a basilisk?"
"Mrs Potter, are you proud that your son was selected as a school Champion for the Tri-Wizard Tournament?"
"Lily, James, will you be there for the capture of the criminal Sirius Black? How does it feel to have been betrayed by the man you chose as your sons godfather?"
"It's well known that Harry was tortured by Death Eaters during the final task of the Tournament - will you be pushing for their capture?"
"I'm going to be sick," Ron muttered in horror and Harry nodded, hiding his face in Ron's shoulder as the final question was shouted before the Headmaster got his parents out of there.
"How do you think your son survived the duel with You-Know-Who in the Ministry last term?"
There was a click as the wireless was switched off, and Harry could feel the presence of his House even though they were silent. Ron was warm and comfortable, and Hermione's hand on his back felt good too, and Harry just let himself float, not thinking about anything in particular.
"Looks like you've got some explaining to do," Ron muttered after a moment, and Hermione clucked under her breath in exasperation. The cryptic comment had caught Harry's attention and he sat up enough to look at Ron, though he didn't move out of the hug the redhead had him wrapped in.
"What, Hermione? He's been getting away with murder since he was eleven. Trust me Harry mate, you'll be grounded at least," Ron's arms tightened in a friendly squeeze and there was a moment of outraged silence before Gryffindor laughed, Harry laughing with them, hands reaching out to hug and pat him, people shaking his hands and ruffling his hair in congratulations, passing him around before depositing him back between Ron and Hermione, the latter kissing his cheek and hugging him close.
Dobby appeared with a pop and handed a note to Hermione, who announced it was from their Head of House telling them to get some lunch before class started again. She handed the note to Harry, which had a postscript saying that she was with the Headmaster now, and Harry was to wait in the Tower for the rest of the day. Ron and Hermione could stay with him, and after some discussion Ron decided to stay and Hermione decided to go, intending to take notes for them both.
Once the Tower was empty Dobby returned with a tray and very wide eyes. He hugged Harry fiercely and then headed back to the kitchens while Ron urged Harry to eat something. When the plate of sandwiches was finally finished, Harry aired something that had been on his mind a lot since he'd first read the paper this morning.
"What if they're disappointed in me?" the question burst from him without preamble, and Ron looked so astonished that Harry almost laughed.
"Are you thick in the head? Harry, mum and dad are proud of the things I've done at your side, and I usually wasn't there at the end when things got really sticky. Your mum and dad will be so proud they'll burst," the redhead took Harry in his arms and Harry went willingly. This was a new thing for them, and they weren't sure where it was going. They'd even kissed once or twice, hiding in the dorm behind closed curtains. Harry had woken Ron from a nightmare the first night of school, and the redhead had blurted out his fears of losing Harry, along with an awkward confession that he fancied his best friend. Harry had been startled but more than willing to start this new aspect of their friendship. The attraction was there, and the hormones as well, they just weren't entirely sure what to do with each other.
"You're the one with all the experience with parents," Harry muttered after a nice warm while, "I'll take your word for it."
"Good," Ron kissed his cheek, and Harry turned his head to shyly peck at Ron's lips. Ron tasted good to Harry, and they spent a few minutes indulging in simple kisses before breaking it off and simply sitting close.
"You might want to think what you're going to tell them," Ron suggested after a bit of silence, "If there's one thing I've noticed about parents, they want to hear the full story from you, not a teacher. And … there's no telling what nonsense Fudge has been pushing into their heads."
"I'm not telling them anything without you and Hermione," Harry said firmly, "You two have been there for it all, and there's no way I'm going to be able to tell the whole thing without you."
He didn't mention that he was terrified of meeting the James and Lily Potter, two people who had always been larger than life to him; remote, impossible strangers that he loved and longed for.
Minerva McGonagall had to admit that she was appalled by the behaviour of the reporters, and the way they had blurted such impertinent and sensational questions at the bewildered Potters. It seemed that every day the press had less and less manners, and she had half a mind to send a few Howlers to some of her former students.
Fawkes trilled and she turned to face the hearth as the portkey deposited the Potters and Albus in front of it. They looked exactly as she remembered, though someone had thought to give them a set of plain robes unlike their usual style. James wore unaccustomed grey, and Lily a pale shimmering green that looked rather lovely on her. Both looked extremely shocked, and no wonder. That was no way to find out that your son made a habit of duelling Dark Lords.
"Professor!" James Potter exclaimed and she nodded to him briefly as Severus Snape swept into the room, a vial of Veritaserum in his hand. As much as she would like to see the Potter's reunited with their son immediately, there was no way she was going to risk young Harry with an unproven couple. Neither would Albus, which was why their resident Potions Master had hurried to the Headmasters office the moment the wireless in the staff room relayed their departure from the debacle arranged by Fudge.
"I assume you will be needing this, Headmaster," Severus ignored the couple, and handed the vial over with aplomb.
"Severus!" Lily exclaimed and Minerva remembered that she had stuck up for the Slytherin in school before he managed to drive her away with his blind prejudices. Those prejudices had died an ugly death, and it had been his warning that had prompted Albus to send the couple into hiding with their son.
"What is he doing here?" James was never one to let go of a grudge easily, and when he found out how Severus had been treating young Harry there would be hell to pay.
"I am the Potions Master of Hogwarts, and Head of Slytherin House," Severus snapped, "I am here to ensure that you are who you claim to be lest you murder Potter in his sleep. We all know what a tragedy that would be."
That was a loaded statement if Minerva had ever heard one, and she watched as James took the bait, opening his mouth to shout, to snark, to continue the childhood hatred of old. Albus prevented that by letting off a whistle with his wand and everyone turned to face the Headmaster.
"If you're quite finished," he murmured, "We have more important business to attend to."
"Professor, is Harry…" Lily trailed off and Minerva gave her a small smile.
"His House listened to the press conference with him, and he has friends with him now. He will be quite alright until tomorrow," she said neutrally, and Lily nodded, sitting on a couch and looking up at her husband with imploring eyes. James sat beside her immediately, blanking Severus completely and waiting for the Headmaster to make the next move.
It did not take long to administer the Veritaserum and establish beyond all doubt that the Potters were who they claimed to be. Severus assisted with a cleansing and revealing rite that would have removed any glamour's or residual spells and then she worked over their clothes and jewellery. Albus looked tired but triumphant by the time it was all over and the clock on the mantle chimed two. Severus swept off to bed and after some negotiation Minerva headed for her House with the Headmaster and the Potters in tow. Albus had agreed to allow the anxious parents a glimpse of Harry now and in the morning she would bring him to the Headmaster's office to meet his parents for the first time.
They paused at the bottom of the revolving stairs and Albus cast a disillusionment spell on them all before leading the way to Gryffindor Tower where Minerva coaxed the Fat Lady to open. Harry's dorm was peaceful and the Headmaster's adopted grandson - anyone with one eye open could see how those two felt about each other - lay with the curtains open, sleeping a little fitfully, lying on his stomach. Albus would later tell her how he had watched carefully as the invisible couple drew closer, Lily stooping to brush a finger over the famous scar that was glowing faintly in the moonlight. As it was, from Minerva's point of view everything was quiet until there was movement at the door and young Mr Weasley shuffled in from the direction of the toilets, climbing into bed with Harry and snuggling close.
"Cold feet," Harry mumbled in complaint, not even properly awake, and got a soft grunt in response from his bed mate. This was a ritual played out by couples the world over and Minerva was delighted to see it here. It meant that whatever was between the two boys was founded on their friendship, not their hormones, and was therefore likely to survive.
"Curtains," Ron muttered and Harry squirmed around to cuddle into the redheaded teen, waving one hand as he did. The curtains closed themselves tightly in a rare demonstration of wandless magic and all was still again. Minerva smiled in satisfaction - she'd long hoped that Harry would find comfort and love in the friends around him, in an uncharacteristic fit of romantic sensibility, and young Mr Weasley was an excellent person. She drew the Potters away from their sons bed, guiding them back out of the Tower and into the corridor, where Albus cancelled the spell and led the way to his chambers and into a guest room connected to his own personal suite. The Potters would stay there, and hopefully get a good nights sleep, as Minerva had a feeling that tomorrow would be hectic.
Harry looked up when his Head of House approached him at the end of breakfast and smiled at her hopefully. She nodded and he jumped up to a chorus of 'good luck Harry' from his House and a hug from Ron and Hermione. He walked at her side sedately, not saying a word as she led the way to the Headmaster's office, his insides a seething cauldron of anxiety, anticipation and uncertainty.
"Professor," he stopped her from saying the password, "They… they were alright, weren't they?"
He wasn't sure what he was asking exactly, but his Head of House seemed to understand. She put her hand on his shoulder and cupped his face with her other hand, a thumb brushing over his cheek.
"They're just fine, Mr Potter. Just fine," her voice was tender and Harry nodded, taking a deep breath and straightening his shoulders. He brushed his robes clean of crumbs as they stepped into the staircase and brushed futilely at his hair, wishing it would lie flat. He usually looked like he'd just stepped in from a gale and it normally didn't bother him but at the moment he wanted everything to be right for his parents.
The door opened and two people jumped up from the couch where they'd been sitting. A glance showed that his adopted grandfather was standing by the hearth and he shot him a smile before looking at the grown up version of himself and the beautiful woman beside him. Lily Potter looked strained and when he stepped further into the office she put her arms out. It was easy to fall into them, hugging the willowy body gently and hiding in the smooth red hair. Her scent was familiar and some long forgotten instinct prompted him to lift a hand and gently twine a finger around one long lock, tugging at it gently.
"Don't even think about it young, man," Lily's voice was very unsteady but she sounded happy that he'd half remembered his old trick of tangling himself in her hair, and he tugged once more before disentangling from her and offering her a smile. A hand on his shoulder had him looking into a familiar face and he turned to hug his father as well, squeaking when James tried to crush his ribs. This was also familiar - his memory stirred enough to tell him that his father's hugs were always strong, and he grinned when James let go.
"Hullo, I'm Harry," he mumbled, uneasy with the silence that seemed to expect something of him, and James grinned, pulling him to sit between them on the couch, each holding a hand though Lily was crying happy tears. He knew they were happy but it made him uncomfortable to see it and he tried to put an arm around her awkwardly.
"Don't cry," the words were soft, "It's alright."
"That's my line," she protested soggily but let go and blew her nose, mopping her face and smiling for him instead. She looked awful, all blotchy and tearstained, but he knew better than to mention that after an incident with Hermione.
"The last time we saw you, you were just starting to talk and toddle about," James marvelled, "Now look at you. We've missed so much! You have to tell us everything…"
Harry shifted uneasily. There were some things he had no intention of ever telling them, mainly stuff to do with the Dursley's. Even as a little boy he'd known that the way they treated him wasn't right, but he had no intention of telling anyone about that.
"I wouldn't know where to start," he mumbled, blushing, and Lily's hand tightened in his.
"Torture, Harry?" the question was gently asked, but there was a hint in her tone that she wouldn't let this go until she had the truth.
"Not really," Harry sighed, "I mean, it wasn't nice, but… and I'm here now, with no harm done."
Apart from night terrors and the occasional crippling pang of guilt. Professor McGonagall slipped away and Harry started telling the tale of his fourth year, edited a little for the ears of two very worried parents, something he'd never expected to have to deal with.
His adopted grandson was starting to look a little dazed and overwhelmed by lunch, so Albus stepped in with a suggestion that Harry retire to the Gryffindor common room and inform his team captain if he was playing in the afternoon match. This suggestion brought a spark of enthusiasm from the boy, just as Albus had hoped it would.
"Can I? They can manage without me but it's the first match of the season and the reserve Chaser needs more practice, and Malfoy is a real beast so he'll probably target Ginny with all his dirty tricks…" the run on sentence had Lily and James scrambling to keep up, but to Albus' relief they agreed to let the boy play and Harry hugged them on impulse before whirling to hug his Headmaster as well, warming his heart with a whispered,
The teen was out the door and down the stairs before they could recover, and Albus turned a faintly inquiring eye on his guests.
"I take it you will be attending the match?" he asked dryly and James laughed in response, looking faintly disappointed but eager to see his son fly. Harry's description of his flight to lure the dragon away from her golden egg had been abbreviated, none of the young man's skill or daring coming out in the brief sketch that he presented his parents with. It seemed to Albus that Harry had decided to tone down his fantastic achievements; possibly to avoid worrying his newly returned parents, but certainly to avoid any accusations of boasting or big noting himself. It had taken an entire morning to tell the story of the Tri-Wizard Tournament, and Albus had lunch served there in his office.
As he led the way out to the Quidditch pitch, more than one student stopped to stare at the Potters, and whispered comments followed them along the corridors. Lily was uneasy with this turn of events and Albus remembered she had been a quiet student who preferred to stay out of the spotlight, the opposite of her attention-seeking husband. They reached the stands without incident and Albus seated the Potters between himself and Minerva. A Ravenclaw student had taken over the role of commentator when Lee Jordan resigned it, and so it fell to Filius to supervise and edit the young lady's comments. Seeing Harry's Head of House sitting there, Albus decided to have a bit of fun.
"You seem disappointed, James," Albus said loud enough for Minerva to hear, "Is there something wrong?"
"Not wrong," was that a blush on his cheeks, "It's just… I'd hoped he would be a bit more experienced in playing Quidditch."
"More experience?" Minerva spluttered, "Why I had him signed up for the house team before he'd even touched ground after his very first flying lesson! Harry is the youngest Seeker we've had in a century, he was on the team in his first year!"
Albus chuckled and James spluttered, finally repeating what Harry had said. The incoherent nature of the speech could be forgiven as the reason for the confusion, though Albus had done nothing to dispel that confusion. Minerva gave him a cross look and began extolling Harry's virtues as a flier to his now excited father. She remembered to avoid discussing the boy's many Quidditch related injuries, and didn't mention the Dementors at all. That was not a year Albus was looking forward to reliving, and he suspected that it was not one that Harry wanted to retell. Although it allowed him to find his godfather, it also brought him into contact with the Dementors and all the attendant side effects they brought. It would not be easy to tell the Potters that their son remembered their last moments when brought into proximity with a Dementor.
His thoughts were interrupted by the announcers voice, and out of the corner of his eye he saw both Lily and James lean forward as first Slytherin and then Gryffindor burst onto the pitch, sweeping around for a quick lap before assuming their usual positions. Harry didn't so much as glance at the stands, though young Mr Weasley did, his eyes widening when he spotted Harry's parents. The captains badge gleamed on the Keepers robes and Albus recalled Harry's refusal of the badge and Minerva's astonishment.
The quaffle was released and the chasers immediately formed a scrum, squabbling for possession. Harry barged through in a heart-stopping move that Albus quickly spotted as part of a coordinated play that let Gryffindor emerge with possession and Slytherin in disarray. Feint over; Harry assumed his usual stationary position to one side of the field, his head turning this way and that as he sought the Snitch.
Lily had squeaked and even James had gasped at the sight of their son deliberately putting himself in harms way to help his team gain possession, though Minerva cheered loudly and waved her tartan muff at the successful ploy, used to such antics. Slytherin roared in triumph as their Keeper blocked the shot in goal then booed when Ginny successfully tackled the Slytherin chaser, emerging with possession of the Quaffle and streaking back down the field to try again.
"Come on Ginerva!" Minerva shouted and actually leapt to her feet when Ginny scored to Slytherin's boos and hisses. She ducked a bludger and took up the chase again, not even pausing to savour her victory.
"We'll have the cup again this year!" Minerva was nearly dancing in her seat, her usually staid behaviour cast aside. Now that she didn't have to be a model of propriety and chaperone the commentator she could show her enthusiasm for the game she had once played. James looked astonished and Albus had to swallow a laugh. People tended to forget that Minerva was a flesh and blood woman with strong likes and dislikes.
"Look!" Lily shouted and Albus watched as Harry exploded into motion, swerving around the Chasers in pursuit of the Snitch. Moments later both the Potters were shouting in outrage as Draco Malfoy slammed into their son, the unexpected impact from the heavier boy driving Harry sideways across the sky before he regained control and sent his broom into overdrive. Albus was glad that he wore robes with very long sleeves, which hid the fact that his hands were clenched in worry and excitement. Gryffindor were still shouting their outrage when Harry drew level with Malfoy once more, their course taking them across the line of sight of the Slytherin Beaters.
Before anyone could draw breath a bludger was howling directly towards Harry, heading for his ribcage. Albus almost stood with alarm and Lily grabbed his and James' arm in a tight grip. A quick glance showed that Harry was aware of the danger, and even as people were shouting useless warnings and advice, Harry hopped onto his broom, his toes on the twigs and his fingers upon the handle, making an arch for the bludger to barrel through, passing between his bowed body and his broom. Alerted by his opponent's unusual antics Malfoy broke off his pursuit of the snitch to avoid the bludger and the small golden ball was once again lost to the Seekers.
"Did you see that!" James shrieked, "Lils did you see that!"
"Oh sweet Merlin!" Lily gasped, jumping up and down with her husband and cheering. Albus watched his adopted grandson once more take his station, not even glancing at the stands to see if his parents approved. Harry was focussed completely on the match, which was what Albus had hoped. This would be a break from the unaccustomed attention that his parents were lavishing on him, and also a chance to show Harry's character without words. His parents were getting a glimpse of the Slytherin aspects of their son's personality, as well as his Gryffindor traits. This would be necessary for the tale of the second year, when Harry's dual nature began to show itself.
"Not again!" Lily groaned as Malfoy once more whipped his broom around and charged into the fray, his whole body screaming 'snitch'. Albus glanced at Harry to see where he was, and was surprised to see the green eyed teen pulling his broom up, squinting along Malfoy's flight path and then turning his head to glance off to the side. Moments later his broom was in motion, heading in the opposite direction, his body close to the handle, his robes streaming behind him. To the Headmasters well-concealed delight Malfoy abandoned his feint and turned to chase Harry, who was weaving in and out of the players in an effort to keep up with his snitch. Once more the blonde chose to soar above the field of play and swoop down, intending to barge into Harry one more time.
The noise from the crowd was deafening, and unintelligible, but some instinct prompted Harry to once more hop his feet onto the tail twigs and yank the broom sharply upright. Malfoy missed him completely and charged across the sky, out of control and trying desperately to brake and turn around. Meanwhile, Harry continued to pull back on the broom handle until he was upside down, skidding to a stop and reversing direction, twisting his weight so he could corkscrew upright and reaching out to grasp the snitch that had abruptly changed direction, grinning to himself as his broom leapt forward in hot pursuit. The stadiums exploded with noise as his hand closed around the golden ball and a glance to the left showed the Potters leaping up and down and cheering in excitement, Minerva beside them and just as enthused. Harry ducked a bludger and skidded to a stop, a wide grin on his face, eyes sparkling with life the way Albus preferred to see them. Then his team mates were surrounding him and he was momentarily lost from view.
Harry was relieved to find Ginny and Ron closest to him when the team finally stopped trying to knock him enthusiastically off his broom. He grabbed them both to keep them close and called over the short distance that he wanted to fetch Hermione from the stands and then have them meet his parents. He had every intention that his parents would acknowledge the most important people in Harry's life, and that meant acknowledging the family he'd created in his heart.
Hermione was understandably nervous about hopping onto a broom with him after his acrobatics on the field. The memory of their last ride together didn't help either, though Harry had really enjoyed riding Buckbeak. Ron and Ginny had to swear that they'd ride either side of him and stop him from pulling any stunts, and once Harry realised that she was actually shaking with fear he'd flown very slowly and sedately back towards his parents. He hovered over a seat to let her off and then jumped down himself, taking her hand and grinning when Ginny grabbed her other and Ron took the one that was holding his broom. He dragged them all forward eagerly, stopping in the row in front of the Headmaster and his parents, who had apparently decided to wait there for him.
"Mum, Dad, I'd like you to meet my best friends," he beamed proudly, "The girl with red hair is Ginny - she's the youngest Weasley, and this is her brother Ron. He's in my dorm. And this is Hermione Granger."
"There was an Arthur Weasley a few years ahead of us," his dad commented, and Harry felt Ron beam at the recognition. This was all pureblood stuff of course, they liked it when another family recognised theirs.
"That's our dad," Ron confirmed, and Ginny piped up from beside Hermione with the information that he'd married Molly Prewett, another name his parents recognised.
"I've never heard of the Granger family," James Potter smiled at Hermione, who stiffened, expecting an insult.
"Hermione is the first Witch in her family, like mum," Harry said quickly, "She's top of the year in practically everything, though. She's definitely the brain of this outfit."
"And you're the brawn," Hermione shot back, though she relaxed when no mention of mud bloods came her way. Harry hadn't been worried though, his mum was a Muggle born and his dad would never even consider calling another Muggle born witch or wizard such a foul name.
"How did you become friends?" Lily asked and Harry blushed. They hadn't all been friends until after Halloween in their first year, and he wasn't sure he was ready to tell the tale of Professor Quirrell and the Philosophers Stone. The start of his friendship with Ron was just as complex, though it seemed innocuous on the surface. Malfoy's offer of guardianship would have been accepted if Harry had been sitting by himself for his first trip to Hogwarts, because a part of him was desperately worried that if he turned out to be really rubbish at magic he'd get sent back to his Aunt and Uncles.
"We locked Hermione in the girls loo with a troll by accident on our first Halloween," Ron saved the day with that laconic statement, and things suddenly got a lot easier.
"We didn't get along at first," Hermione explained, "In fact we pretty much loathed each other on sight."
"Hermione was studying machine, and bossy," Ron grinned and Harry was nearly knocked over when she tried to go through him to get to Ron.
"Professor Quirrell let a troll into the dungeon at Halloween to distract the teachers, and Hermione didn't know it was there because she was in the girls lav," Harry panted, holding them apart with the ease of practice while Ginny laughed herself sick instead of helping him like a good friend would. He made a mental note to talk to her about that later.
"Ron had been a perfect beast to me, and Harry felt guilty about it so he persuaded Ron to go and get me while the rest of the school went to be locked up in the dorms," Hermione glared at the redhead, daring him to take offence. Ron knew better than to contest that statement though and took up the tale in a slightly sulky voice.
"We spotted the stupid thing wandering around the corridors and locked into the first room it strayed into. Unfortunately that was Hermione's lav, and when we realised that she was in there we went back in to get her out."
"How on earth did you manage that?" James looked fascinated and Harry laughed, remembering their struggles, though at the time it had been too scary for laughter.
"I stuck my wand up its nose and climbed on its back," he contributed. Both Lily and James eyes widened in horror, but before Harry could panic and blurt the rest of the story out his friends who were used to having parents stepped in and made things all better.
"I ran away from it screaming," Hermione grinned, squeezing Harry's hand. Time and more recent experiences helped to put a kind of perspective on the whole thing and his father relaxed a little, his eyes starting to twinkle.
"And I levitated its club, then dropped it on the Troll's head before it could splat Harry," Ron finished up.
"And I took points off for all the chaos and mayhem," Professor McGonagall said from behind them, making them jump. Harry was glad for the distraction as both of his parents were looking like they wanted to start lecturing after the fact.
"I'm chaos, he's mayhem," Harry jerked his head at Ron and laughed at his friends outraged splutters. The fingers still curled around his squeezed warmly though, and the delighted giggles from Hermione and Ginny only added to his happiness.
James watched from under the Invisibility Cloak as Harry filed into the classroom of his childhood nemesis. The Headmaster had been distracted by a rather massive hex war between Slytherin first year and Hufflepuff, so James had taken the opportunity to take the cloak and sneak off to follow Harry to class. Sunday had been spent in Hogsmeade with his son, replacing the watch that Harry had drowned at the Tournament. People had stared and pointed, whispering comments and showing an unhealthy amount of interest in the Potter family, but Harry had taken it all in his stride, ignoring it with the ease that spoke of long practice. There was something disturbing about that - James knew that at Harry's age he could only cope with that sort of attention if he'd pulled off a spectacular prank, his son seemed to take it in his stride. The fact that Harry did nothing to encourage that attention, and was in fact good at avoiding exciting further comment, was not lost on James; his boy might have looked like him but was almost a polar opposite in this department.
They'd walked around the lake with Hagrid that afternoon, and the Care of Magical Creatures Professor had shared a few choice moments in Harry's schooling. The ride on the Hippogriff sounded especially wicked, though Lily hadn't been too sure about the whole thing.
Harry took a seat up the back with his friends, and pulled out his quill and parchment. The door slammed open suddenly and James jumped, though none of the students seemed to be surprised by Snape's sudden entrance.
In a cold and precise voice, Snape took the roll, snapped out a few choice comments about the incompetence of the homework that had been turned in, glaring at Harry and his friends rather pointedly while he did, and then instructed them on the potion of the day, which happened to be a healing salve that had to pass through two separate stages of brewing, the first of which was highly volatile.
With what looked like a well-ingrained routine, the Granger girl went to gather ingredients, the Weasley boy started clearing the table, and Harry set up three cauldrons and burners. Preparation was done separately, as was the actual brewing, and James thought that Harry was doing rather well when his old childhood nemesis stalked over to his son and inspected the potion.
"This is far too weak, Potter," Snape sneered, "Why you bothered I will never know."
"Yes sir," Harry said through gritted teeth and James itched to hex the greasy git. He couldn't in a classroom full of children, and contented himself with planning to do it later.
"I didn't expect to see you today, Potter," Snape continued, "I thought you'd still be making up to mummy and daddy. They've got fifteen years of nappy changing to make up for after all."
"yes sir," the response was almost inaudible, but Snape smirked and swept off. James watched with a heavy heart as his son closed his eyes and tried to get his shaking hands under control. This was something that Harry must have done often - he didn't even turn to look for the comfort of his friends, the habit of self-reliance was so ingrained.
After a few moments his son returned to the task of brewing his potion, paying slow and careful attention to what he was doing, determination in his every movement. James spotted one or two mistakes, mainly related to his technique that could have been corrected had the teacher spent half as much time with his son as he did the Slytherin's. Harry seemed competent though, and was able to correct those mistakes as soon as he realised he'd made them, which spoke more about his son's ability to think on his feet than Snape's teaching methods.
Toward the end, Harry turned to double check the final distilling instructions, and the blonde prat from Slytherin flicked a ball of something into Ron Weasley's cauldron. The potion in it immediately began to seethe about, as it was still in its most volatile stage, and therefore unstable. James started forward, hoping to get to the ingredients by the Granger girls cauldron in time, and maybe neutralise whatever it was that had gone in and was even now turning the potion a violent red colour, instead of the pale blue it had been.
"What the…" Ron swore loudly, "Professor!"
Even as he was grateful that the redhead knew when to call for help, even from a teacher he didn't like, James was pulling his wand and trying to remember the strongest containment spell he could think of. The thin liquid was swelling and thickening, and there was a faint glow to the cauldrons sides, as if it was becoming super heated.
"Everyone out!" Snape roared even as he pointed his own wand and started a containment spell that would have no hope of containing the vicious explosion that was building in the small cauldron. Caution was thrown to the winds as he swept the cloak off and joined his efforts to his former enemies, even as the students nearest the door headed for it at a run. The potion drew in on itself and then seethed forward even as the spell took hold, and James despaired that they wouldn't be able to save the students at all as his wards failed along with Snape's.
There was a loud hum just as the cauldron exploded and the potion assumed a roiling ball shape as it was contained in the strongest spell that James had ever seen. A glance to the left showed Harry standing white faced, his wand held straight out in a grip that shook with strain. Sweat beaded on his brow and then literally poured off him in waves as he struggled to contain an explosion that could have levelled the castle. His face was set with a cold determination that gave James a very clear idea of how the hell his son had survived the events he'd told his parents about. Even as he watched the potion receded, vanishing as the spell contracted around itself to disappear with a faint pop.
There was a moment of dead silence. Even Snape stared in awe at the teen, and Harry lowered his wand shakily to his side. This seemed to be a trigger because Weasley leapt forward with arms outstretched and caught Harry as he fell, saving him from hitting his head. Harry shuddered and twitched, and Weasley once more seemed to understand what that meant because he twisted the teen in his arms to the side and supported him as he retched.
"He's overloaded," Snape glanced at James, "Get him to Poppy."
He didn't have to tell James twice.
The moment his father put him on the bed, Harry had curled into a little ball. While James Potter shouted for the Matron Hermione and Ron took up station either side of their friend. Hermione had read about overloads before - in fact the worst one she'd ever heard about had been suffered by the headmaster himself in reaction to the casting he'd done to defeat Grindlewald. When a Witch or Wizards magic overloaded, they became disoriented and confused. They suffered crippling cramps and spasms, and often were unable to keep anything down for days. The best way to treat an overload was to keep them calm until they could be dosed with a very powerful sleeping draught. The potion would let them sleep the overload off in relative comfort, and as the dose was often strong enough to last for a week the overload had passed by the time they woke.
Harry whimpered and shook as James tried to uncurl him and Madam Pomfrey ran her spells over him.
"I'll get the draught, keep him calm!" the Matron snapped and James nodded, struggling with Harry. Hermione watched in horror as her best friend writhed and keened beneath his fathers touch, finally managing to lash out with a lucky blow to the jaw that had James stumbling back even as Harry once more curled into a little ball on the now hopelessly rumpled bed.
Ron shot Hermione a look and she nodded stepping forward and bending over Harry as the redhead did, wrapping their arms protectively over him and adding the warmth of their body to his cold one. Harry trembled but didn't pull away and after a few moments Hermione found an ice-cold hand creeping into hers. A glance showed that Harry's other hand was firmly enclosed in Ron's and that the redhead was whispering in Harry's ear while the Boy Who Lived burrowed under the best friend blanket that Ron and Hermione had made of their bodies. It felt good to know that Harry trusted them enough in his overload to allow them to protect him from what surely was a confusing world at the moment, trust that was tested a moment later as the doors to the infirmary burst open and Lily Potter ran in.
Hermione watched closely as her best friends mother skidded to a halt and demanded an explanation from her husband. Professor Dumbledore was only a scant step behind her, and together the new arrivals listened as James described the incident in Potions, along with a highly recognisable description of Malfoy. She couldn't understand how the Slytherin prefect had made such a stupid mistake. He was one of the best potions students in the year, and should have known better than to sabotage Ron's potion when it was in its most volatile state.
When Hermione glanced down to see how Harry was, and if he minded that her attention had wandered, she realised that her attention to the adults had been reassuring not insulting to the overloaded Wizard. Harry trusted her to look after the three of them while Ron concentrated on Harry. The redhead was still whispering, and whatever he said was helping Harry to concentrate. The green-eyed teens whimpers had quietened and though he was still panting in pain, his eyes were half open and seemed lucid.
"Good," Madam Pomfrey bustled towards them, "Weasley, Granger, he needs to sit up enough to drink all of this. If we can get it down him in one go his stomach will hold it long enough for the potion to work. By the time the cramps hit he'll be out and too relaxed for them to take real hold."
"Harry," Hermione whispered softly, "You need to drink your potion."
Ron altered his grip on Harry and Hermione did the same; together the two friends straightened up enough to lift Harry into a partially upright position, his fingers spasming in theirs with pain. Madam Pomfrey had the goblet to his lips and was forcing the dose on him before he had a chance to do more than mewl in protest and moments later he was slumping in their arms, his head lolling on Hermione's shoulder as the potion knocked him out cold.
"Thank you," Lily looked at Hermione closely and she smiled in reply, blushing a little pink as Madam Pomfrey took charge once more, changing Harry's robes to pyjamas and whisking the blankets out from under him, then back over. Between the two of them she and Ron got Harry settled and then stepped back to let the Potters' tuck their son in, smoothing rumpled hair and gently removing his glasses.
"Madam Pomfrey!" Zabini squeaked from the doors, "Madam Pomfrey, Professor Snape has driven Draco to hysterics! We need you in the dungeon!"
The school Matron was gone so fast Hermione half expected to see loose objects blown about in her wake, and the Headmaster followed quickly. The doors had barely shut behind them when they opened again and a very faded, grey head peeked around them.
"Professor Lupin!" Ron exclaimed and Hermione looked nervously at the Potters, hoping they would be able to welcome their old friend back. It had been a full moon since Friday, and Professor Lupin looked especially shabby as a result. She knew that Harry was a little worried about this, as his parents hadn't aged at all, while their friends had.
James and Lily were staring in outright horror at the prematurely old man wearing a friends face. Lupin hadn't been in Gryffindor for nothing, though. He walked into the Hospital Wing with his head held high, his eyes devouring the sight of his living friends, like a man that had been starving for far too long.
"What happened to Harry?" the gold coloured eyes rested on the sleeping teen with concern, and Ron put a proprietary hand on Harry's foot. Hermione had also found it hard over the last three days to share Harry with his parents, and hated herself because of it. She'd been glad this morning that Harry was coming to class with them where they'd have him to themselves. They weren't used to sharing Harry with other family, and it was all very confusing. Merlin knew how Molly Weasley would manage it; after all she was the closest thing Harry had to a mother for some time.
"Moony, what's happened to you?" James blurted before Hermione could reassure the former Professor that Harry would be all right. She winced and saw Lupin flinch a little too; gathering his shabby and patched robes closer about him, his dignity a lot more regal than the raggedy clothes he wore. He'd never had much money, and Harry had said that as Sirius' sole heir Lupin could now afford the wolfsbane potion to ease his transformations. Harry had also said that Lupin had decided to only use the money for that, which explained why his newfound wealth hadn't changed his wardrobe.
"I got old, Prongs," there was a slightly mournful note in his voice, and even Ron shifted uncomfortably, "You both look just as I remember you."
"Remus," Lily made a choked noise and then threw herself into his arms, joined a moment later by James. Hermione felt her eyes sting with unexpected tears and looked away, swallowing hard. Harry slumbered on, unaware of the reunion taking place a few yards away, and Hermione envied him that ignorance.
Harry was relieved to be out of the Hospital Wing, relieved enough not to mind the renewed stares and whispers that accompanied his less than vigorous progress down the corridor. A five-day sleep had seen the worst of the overload abated, and he would be taking a muscle relaxant potion once a day for the next week to help banish the last aches and pains.
Professor Lupin had been sitting with him when he first woke, and explained that Harry had overloaded his magic containing an explosion that could have destroyed Hogsmeade. When Harry had exclaimed that the town was miles away, Lupin told him that Snape had made some calculations based on Ron's account of what he'd done with his potions, and what was missing from Malfoy's preparation table. Those calculations enabled them to estimate that the blast from that potion would have vaporised the castle, evaporated most of the lake and flattened most of the Forbidden Forest and Hogsmeade. Snape had to perform those calculations because the blonde Slytherin wasn't up to answering questions about the incident after his Head of House had verbally flayed him alive. He'd been in such a state that Madam Pomfrey had to keep him sedated to keep him calm, and there was talk that he'd be sent to St Mungo's if his condition failed to improve.
Harry had already decided not to go after the Slytherin prefect for his stupidity, and had spoken to Ron and Hermione about it as well when they visited last night. Ron said that Malfoy was 'really pathetic', which was as close to sympathy as Ron would ever get for their adversary, and Hermione had looked relieved that Harry wasn't going to be hurling hexes at an enemy that couldn't defend himself. As it was the weekend already - Ron had made some crack about some people having all the luck, sleeping away an entire school week, which had earned him a smack from Hermione - Harry was heading to a late breakfast, where he'd meet his friends.
His parents were apparently out looking for a place to live, and he was planning on asking his friends what made good Christmas presents for parents in their absence, because he'd never even given one to his Aunt, and the small gifts he sent to Molly Weasley were based on his knowledge of her likes and dislikes. For example, he and Ron had gone in together this year to get her three subscriptions to magazines that Ron knew she liked to read but waited to borrow from the library as she didn't like the expense of buying her own. He'd gone in with Ginny to get Mr Weasley a subscription to some Muggle magazines as well, but these were ones that explained how various scientific principles worked, as well as some DIY repair books. The rest of the family had been just as easy, because after six years of experience, not to mention a solid foundation of friendly advice, Harry had mostly figured them all out.
It occurred to him as he entered the Great Hall that his parents were actually better off than he was in this department, as all they had to do was ask the people around Harry what he liked. Even the Daily Prophet might get that question right. His attention was brought back to the Hall when someone asked him a question, drawing him out of his thoughts.
"Alright, Harry?" Colin Creevey sounded anxious and Harry smiled at the tiny teen, patting his shoulder in reassurance and hiding a wince as his shoulder muscles protested the inordinate weight of his hand. He was glad he wasn't expected to play Quidditch any time soon; in fact he was banned from all sports and magical exertion for the next week.
"Alright," he confirmed and stepped away to sit in the spot reserved for him between Hermione and Ron. He got a one armed hug from them each and leaned into Ron's touch gratefully. He liked getting hugs from Ron; they made him feel all warm and agreeable.
"Uh, Harry," Ginny said from opposite him, "Mum sent a letter last night that she and dad would be around today to see you."
Harry beamed in pleasure, and Ginny relaxed. He loved the Weasley's and he loved having them come to visit him, no matter what the circumstances. Ron slid a plate with his usual breakfast on it in front of him, and Harry tucked in eagerly. Hermione gave him an approving pat on the arm when he cleared the plate of its contents and Ron squeezed his hand under the table.
A disturbance at the door heralded the arrival of the Weasley parents and Harry waited his turn for the usual hugs and hellos. Mrs Weasley was a little cautious about hugging him, which was explained by her first question,
"How are you feeling dear?"
"Fine, Mrs Weasley, just a few little aches and pains," Harry confessed straight away, knowing that there was a good chance that she'd be seeing Madam Pomfrey today as well. Mr Weasley said his name in the solemn, funny way he usually did and they shook hands together. Harry loved this little ritual, as it was the first sign of acceptance into Arthur Weasley's family that he'd had. Mrs Weasley hugged everyone, but Mr Weasley rarely shook hands.
"Are your parents here?" Mrs Weasley looked around and Harry shook his head. They'd left to go house hunting on Friday morning, and weren't expected back until after lunch today. The potion that Madam Pomfrey had given him was supposed to wear off then, but she said that most potions had a tendency to work for shorter periods on him, and now she knew why. Harry figured his magic was breaking the potion down faster than normal but didn't enquire too deeply.
"They'll be back after lunch. Will you be able to stay? I'd really like you to meet them," Harry looked from one to the other anxiously and relaxed when Molly smiled and nodded. She ran a sharp eye over him and suggested they move to a more comfortable location. Moments later he and Ron were sharing a sofa in the small room off the Great Hall where the Champions had gathered after their names were pulled out of the Goblet of Fire.
They spent a quiet day there, for which Harry was glad, as he was definitely feeling stiffer as the day wore on. Ron rubbed his hands and wrists after lunch, and Molly Weasley watched them with a glint in her eye, sharing a look with her husband that Harry caught on the edge of his vision. He was enjoying the hand massage too much to really pay attention, because not only was Ron making him feel better, he was allowed to indulge in some quiet touching with his best friend.
"Is there something two want to tell us?" Molly's question caught him by surprise, and Harry blushed as brightly as Ron. Ginny was staring at them with a fascinated look and Hermione rolled her eyes, which told Harry that she'd already figured it out.
"We're together," Ron stated with quiet dignity and Harry nodded, making sure to meet Mr and Mrs Weasley's eyes. He was greeted with warm smiles and nods, and a part of him that had been tensed for a blow, for confrontation and outrage, relaxed.
"I thought you might be," Mrs Weasley nodded and changed the subject back to the original topic of Transfiguration course work, which she and Hermione were discussing avidly while Arthur put in the occasional comment. Apparently both the Weasley's were adept at Transfiguration, which made sense when you thought about the sheer number of things a family their size might need transfigured.
Dobby was putting afternoon tea on the table when Lily and James hurried in, exclaiming over Harry and hugging him anxiously. He did his best to hide the stiffness, and grinned when his dad messed up already wild hair.
"Mum, Dad, I'd like you to meet my adopted parents Molly and Arthur Weasley," Harry said quietly, trying to make his point clear. He wasn't letting go of the Weasley's just because his parents were back, and this was the best way he could think of to make his point. His dad stiffened a little, but mum was hugging Molly and there was a lot of motherly sniffling going on, followed by a hug to Mr Weasley that made him turn a little pink. His dad shook hands with them both and Ron gave up his spot on the sofa to Harry's parents.
"I'm sorry we weren't here when you woke, son," James murmured gently, as if he thought Harry was upset, "We'd have come back straight away if you'd asked for us."
"You were busy," Harry shrugged, "Its ok, I'm fine."
It had never occurred to him to call his parents back from their errand. Self-reliance was too ingrained, and their absence was something he was accustomed to. It was their presence he found odd, and he hated himself for it a little, knowing that it would take a while for him to remember that they were alive and available to him. Ron grinned from where he was on the floor with Ginny, who was packing away one of the board games they'd all been playing. She scolded him into helping and Harry leaned back on the couch, wondering if he'd manage to talk Ron into a cuddle tonight.
James settled on the couch beside his wife and watched his son talk to Dumbledore's familiar. They were obviously familiar with each other - no pun intended - and Harry seemed to know exactly where to stroke the Phoenix to make it happy. A glance at the Headmaster showed a look of fond indulgence on the old mans face, and James looked at his son a little more closely. Harry was talking to the Phoenix, but including his Headmaster with little glances and occasional comments.
"James, are you sure that we should take Harry to this meeting of the Order?" Lily's sweet voice interrupted his musings and James looked down at his wife, gathering her hand in his tenderly. Lily had wept when she realised what Harry had been introducing them to on Saturday. The Weasley's were as much Harry's family as they were, and Harry had implied that he would not be giving them up. James had never imagined that he would be sharing his son in this manner until the boy got married.
"Molly and Arthur, not to mention Albus all insisted he come," James reminded her, "And Harry himself…"
"We're his parents," Lily reminded him, "Surely…"
"Lils, as much as I hate to admit it, what we know about Harry would have to be described as very little," James interrupted tenderly, "It's been fifteen years. He's all grown up and there's so much we don't know about his life."
"I know he's unhappy at home," Lily muttered, "He's never once mentioned Petunia or Vernon, and neither has anyone else. In fact he'll only talk about school, and even then I don't think he's telling us the half of it."
"Did you tell your parents everything?" James kissed the hand he still held and Lily blushed a little. She certainly had not, especially in seventh year when she'd finally fallen in love with her husband to be. Their wedding night had occurred a more than year before the wedding, and as they were married a year out of school…
They were drawn back into the room when Dumbledore announced that it was time to go, and Fawkes swept into the air, hovering in front of them all with his tail fanned. Harry grasped a feather readily and waited for his parents, not protesting when James and Lily bracketed him protectively. There was a brilliant flash, and moments later they were in the dingy front hall of Sirius house.
It was cold and dark, and James felt Harry shiver, reacting at the same time as Lily to pull him closer and frankly cuddle him. Their teenage son wriggled a little but didn't break free, seeming to give in with a resigned air as Albus led them along the corridor to the kitchen.
"I hate this house," Harry whispered as they entered the well lit room, "It was a prison."
"I know," Remus comforted from where he leaned beside the range and Harry went to hug his Professor, eyes raking over the thin form with undisguised worry.
"He's inherited your mother hen gene, Prongs," Moony smiled across at James, who laughed while his son blushed and turned to slide up onto the countertop beside the werewolf, sitting casually close without any recognition of the fact that he was lounging beside someone infected with a lethal disease. James couldn't have been more proud of the trust offered his old friend by his son, and from the look in Remus' eyes the werewolf was grateful for it too. Sirius had that same casual air, though it had been hard won at first.
People filtered in, the Weasley's among them, and James found himself and Lily at the centre of attention, with old friends coming out of nowhere, aged fifteen years older but still recognisable. Moody was a shock as he had changed the most, and when Snape slid in through the door it was all James could do to restrain himself from hexing the git. The fact that the Gryffindor part of him admired the spy's bravery didn't help.
"Very well, if we're all here," Albus murmured after Minerva McGonagall arrived, nodding to the Headmaster once as she took the only empty seat available, which happened to be beside Snape. The few conversations around them died and James watched his son straighten out of the slump he'd assumed while talking to Moony.
"Severus has some information for us," Albus looked at the spy, and James watched in weary amusement as Mad Eye Moody snarled wordlessly at Snape, who looked worried for the barest fraction of a second.
"The Dark Lord has gotten wind of Potter's overload," Snape announced, "He is planning to overload Potter himself, before destroying him and most of Hogsmeade. He plans to do this on the Hogsmeade weekend before Christmas, three weeks hence."
"How?" McGonagall's voice rose above the others, and James shot a worried look at his son, who was watching the greasy git closely.
"Through a similar accident, this time arranged in the village itself," Snape revealed reluctantly, "He already has me working on the potion that will destroy the village. There will be little chance to sabotage it, as I am the best brewer in Britain and any errors would be viewed with extreme suspicion."
"What I want to know is how he heard about the whole thing," Moody spoke up, and Minerva clucked her tongue in exasperation.
"It's all over the school, Alastor," she retorted, "I'm only surprised it didn't make the Prophet."
"I bet you used it to your advantage, though, Snape," Moody didn't let McGonagall's logic deter him from his grudge, "Maybe even claimed credit for it."
"Of course he did," Harry's voice cut across the room before anyone else could make their point of view known. His next words stunned his father into silence, "Malfoy is in no shape to report to his father, so Snape can say he put the twat up to it, and that Malfoy's bottle went when he realised how badly he miscalculated. Professor Snape probably sold Voldemort some line about trying to measure my potential, and lets face it, the ploy worked. We wouldn't have this intel if the Professor hadn't been believed."
"One might almost think you were intelligent, Potter," Snape drawled, "That is quite close to the truth."
"Watch it Snivellus," James warned, "I'm here now, and I won't have you bullying him. Your beef is with me."
"I haven't forgotten," the Potions Master positively purred and Albus stirred, intervening before things could get more heated than they already were.
"There is a counter solution to this potion, which Professor Snape will brew for us," Dumbledore murmured, "And we will have to decide how best to counteract this plot. Fortunately we have three weeks before the potion will be ready which will allow us a little lead in time."
James let the subject drop, storing it away for the future. Snape was on his list now, and James was looking forward to crossing him off. Besides he had much more important things to deal with, like Harry's impression that he would be allowed to take part in the coming action.
Ron looked sideways at the fuming teens beside him and bit his lip before glancing at Harry. His friend was vibrating like a tuning fork, which was a dangerous thing right now. Harry needed to be calm and in control, not worried that his troubles with his parents was deep and permanent. After three weeks of argument, Lily and James had finally been allowed to attend the Hogsmeade weekend in Ginny and Hermione's place through the use of polyjuice potion, from a store that had been brewed by Snape. This was a decision that made Ron and Harry happy, as it meant the girls would be safely hidden away at Hogwarts and not in the centre of the battle. In fact several Order members were attending under similar guises, though a few would have legitimate business in the village today, which would explain their presence. The Christmas holidays meant that the number of students in Hogsmeade were less than usual, as most people had gone home for Christmas.
Ron's problem now was that Harry was expected to be in the village, else the plan wouldn't work. Ron had informed his own parents that he was going, that there was no way he'd let Harry go unprotected, and they had eventually agreed. James and Lily Potter had not. They felt that someone else should go in Harry's place, using some of his hair and the polyjuice potion to disguise them and there had been a spectacular series of rows about it. The Headmaster was here as well, disguised as an adult, which precluded him from taking Harry's place.
"If you two don't ease up you'll ruin the day," Ron decided to say something after all. He needed Harry focussed on what he was about to do, not what his parents were thinking. His comment was generic enough to avoid rousing the suspicions of Malfoy as he and his gang swept past, sneering. Harry shot him a grateful look though and that only firmed the redhead's resolve.
"I hardly think that's any of your business," Hermione/James snapped back and Ron grabbed her arm and dragged her away from the wide-eyed Harry.
"He can't concentrate if he thinks he's about to be disowned," Ron hissed, "You're scaring him! Harry doesn't understand parents!"
Hermione/James blinked at him in utter astonishment and then looked at Harry who was desperately trying to appear casual as he window-shopped in the Apothecary. Ron had noted this before, and it seemed that the Potters had not; too caught up in their own dreams and wishes they had been unable to see Harry's unease. Hermione/James made a noise under her breath and went to hug Harry, whispering rapidly in his ear. Harry looked very startled for a moment and then relaxed, hugging his father back with grateful fervour. Hermione/James passed Harry to Ginny/Lily, and then Ron had to make a fuss about not getting a hug too, beaming into Harry's collar when the green eyed teen hugged him in front of half the village. To maintain appearances he complained lightly when Harry let go, but from the grin on his best mates face he could tell that Harry knew he wasn't being serious.
They spent the morning mooching about the village, keeping a sharp watch over the movements of other people in the village. At one point Ginny/Lily spotted Lestrange lurking in an alley and it was obvious to Ron that Harry was restraining himself rather sharply. As the day wore on Ron almost began to wish that the attack would just start already, so they could get it over with. The waiting was getting on his nerves, and if he didn't have faith in the Headmasters statement that the Death Eaters hadn't caught wind of the Orders plan he'd have thought they were delaying on purpose. Snape had been ordered by Voldemort to stay away, and had taken Polyjuice potion to defy the Dark Lord, going in the place of Professor McGonagall, who would arrive by portkey the moment the signal was given. James and Lily were to join forces with her in transforming students clothes into port keys to get them to safety while Snape was given cover by the rest of the Order to get the counter solution into Voldemort's cauldron of liquid explosive.
They had lunch at the Three Broomsticks and Hermione/James insisted on paying for them. McGonagall/Snape appeared as they were preparing to go out and jerked her head at the street.
"They're here," the simple statement sent a jolt through Ron's body and he found his wand in his hand without remembering telling his hand to draw it. Harry was just as tense and ready, and didn't even blink when Hermione/James turned and told them to stay put before stepping out into the street with Ginny/Lily.
"Give them a count of five," Harry muttered and Ron nodded, counting silently. He reached five and Harry opened the door just as the first Death Eaters began firing spells. He had enough time to see the large cauldron of bubbling liquid appear in the centre of the village square before Harry blocked his view.
"Death Eaters!" Ron called over his shoulder to the pub patrons, some of which were fellow students, "Get down! Rosemerta, call the Aurors!"
He was a step behind Harry as they plunged forward into the street taking shelter behind a bench and firing leg locking and stunning curses at the nearest grey robed enemies. He caught a glimpse of Hermione duelling fiercely, James' style so unlike her own that it gave him a moment of shock. Harry pulling him out of the way of a cutting curse snapped him back into action and he sent a full body bind in the direction the curse had come from. Professor McGonagall appeared behind Ginny/Lily and together the two women started transfiguring the robes of the students while Hermione/James defended them.
"Oh no!" Harry exclaimed and Ron followed his friend's line of sight. Snape's Polyjuice potion was wearing off, and the Death Eater nearest him was staring in astonishment. Harry and Ron both managed to stun him but the damage was done as a second Death Eater started the cry of 'Traitor!'
Ron and Harry burst from their cover and sprinted for Snape, casting spells wildly about. They hit him at the same time, the impact carrying them all to the shelter of an old horses trough. Harry took the brunt of the impact deliberately, and Ron wondered why until he remembered the vial of counter solution Snape had in his pocket. Moments later McGonagall, James and Lily joined them in the shelter of the trough.
Severus Snape did not enjoy owing people favours at the best of times, but when the Weasley and Potter brats actually protected him from his former comrades, and then protected the vial from impacting on the stone trough he felt physically ill. He hated being beholden to the Potter family, and owing a debt to the son was even more galling than owing one to the father. He didn't have time to do more than glare at them as Rotter senior, Lily and Minerva arrived breathlessly behind their shelter. The polyjuice potion was just wearing off, and watching the not-so-brainless Misses Granger and Weasley turn into a man he hated and that mans lovely young wife was a little off putting.
"Harry! We told you to stay inside!" James didn't even spare him a glance, which was fine with Snape. Now was not the time for a family spat, and from the look on Potter's face the brat knew it at least.
"You can spank him later," Snape butted in, "We have a job to do, or had you forgotten?"
James looked livid, which was a marvellous result as far as Snape was concerned, and his assertion was reinforced only moments later when a particularly nasty hex sent stone chips flying about them.
"We've got to get to that cauldron!" Harry pointed while Weasley sent a retaliatory hex flying into the confusion.
"I'll need cover," Snape informed Minerva, who nodded grimly, her eyes taking in the situation like the master chess player that she was. It was no coincidence that she'd chosen a chess set to defend the Philosophers Stone so many years ago. Weasley had the same calculating look while the brat covered for his friend, laying down a blistering fire of hexes to gain them some time.
"We'll provide you with cover, but you'll need someone to create a diversion," Minerva gestured at the adult Potters.
"Ron and I can do that," Harry twisted his head to look at Snape, and for a moment the spy could see the man this boy would grow into - provided he was given a chance to do so. Weasley nodded his agreement, also looking older than his years and Snape nodded acceptance of the offer to them both before looking at Minerva for approval. Her mouth was pressed together in a thin line but she added her approval to his and silenced Rotter senior with a glare that could melt a cauldron. A flash of light caught Snape's attention and he swallowed hard as he realised that the Dark Lord himself had arrived.
"We can't afford to lose two good fighters, and as much as I wish it otherwise, Harry and Ron have the requisite experience," Minerva stated, "You'll be careful, won't you boys?"
"As careful as we can," Harry nodded, which showed Snape that the teen was well aware of the dangers of the situation. There wasn't time for further discussion as a second curse crumbled part of their shelter. Snape hurled himself to his feet and was immediately bracketed by the teens, who matched him pace for pace, blistering the air with their spells. They ran hard, barely able to draw breath as they followed the old maxim of 'a best defence is a strong offence'.
Weasley cannoned into him, knocking him out of the way of a well aimed severing curse that would have taken his head off, and Snape shouted in horror as the vial in his hand went flying forward. Alerted by the shout the Potter brat turned and shot his hand out, snatching the tumbling crystal container from the air with the certainty of a Seeker. Even as Snape rolled to a stop tangled hopelessly in the lanky redhead, Potter darted forward, flicking the stopper from the vial and reaching the glowing cauldron, ducking to the left instinctively to avoid another severing curse. Snape actually held his breath, praying to every deity he could think of that Potter didn't simply dump the vial into the cauldron and render the entire plan null and void. Granger must have been coaching him again.
Fortunately for Snape's continued existence the brat poured the vial in an anti-clockwise direction, mumbling under his breath. The contents of the potion turned blue and the bright red glow left the iron sides, and Snape started breathing again, even as he erected a shield to deflect a spell heading for him and Weasley, who was lying prone and firing hexes at a Death Eater behind Potter.
"No!" Voldemort's high-pitched voice silenced the battle as if a switch had been killed, "Kill the boy!"
Before Snape or Weasley could do more than shake apart from each other the Dark Lord had sent the Killing Curse straight at Harry, followed by four other Death Eaters. All five curses hit the teen in the chest, the impact driving him backwards two steps, his wand falling to the ground. Even as the teen's parents screamed in horrified denial, and Weasley whispered the brats name, Harry keened; a hair-raising sound that chilled the blood of all who heard it.
The Dark Lords satisfied smirk disappeared as Potter's head snapped up and his arms flung themselves out, horizontal to the ground. Even as the snakelike man stepped back in shock, Potter levitated under the force of the spells, and his head tipped back, the keen rising and falling in eerie testament to the agony of the killing curse. His head snapped up and the curse poured out of him in a solid sheet of hateful green light, striking the Dark Lord squarely. All present clearly saw the Dark Lord's body crumble into dust, followed by the man's spirit and lastly his magic, all three outlines hanging in the air for a long moment and then vaporising entirely with the last of the green pouring from the transfigured teen.
Potter hit the ground with a dull thud and all was silent.
Harry woke to hands. Four separate sets rested on him, and he found the weight of them warming, soothing him and his tired body. Something was wrapped tightly around his chest, and there was a bit of pain on the left side, but nothing nasty - he didn't need a potion or anything. This awakening was very different to the one he could vaguely remember from his first night at the Dursley's - there he had woken cold and alone in a dark place that he eventauuly came to know as his cupboard. His cries for his mother had brought his Aunt but no comfort. Now Harry didn't have to cry, as the hands that rested on him spoke of family and love and safety, the very things he'd always craved. One of the hands was in his hair, the long fingers tangled lightly in the messy strands. There was a set of hands on his left shoulder, accompanied by a weight that felt suspiciously like Ron's head. This wouldn't be the first time the redhead had fallen asleep on his shoulder, and Harry cherished the trust that Ron showed in that action. A woman was holding his right hand in his, and a man had hold of his right knee, though the grips were quite lax, which made Harry think they were asleep.
He had a fair idea of who was holding onto him, and once his eyes were open that guess was confirmed. His adopted grandfather was the only one awake, and Harry smiled sleepily at him before tilting his head to rub a cheek on Ron's warm hair. Dumbledore rubbed the redheads back and Ron woke, taking a slow deep breath and shifting cautiously. When he saw Harry's eyes were open a beautiful smile crossed his face and he leant forward to press his forehead to Harry's, then pulling back to rub his nose against Harry's gently and finally giving Harry a soft kiss as well; Harry smiled in contentment, relieved that Ron wasn't ashamed to show the status of their relationship in front of the Headmaster.
"Lily, James," Dumbledore called quietly, and James woke, his hand tightening on Harry's knee as he did.
"Wake up mum," Harry squeezed her hand gently, "Did I miss Christmas?"
"No," Ron snorted, "It's Christmas Eve."
Harry's parents fussed over him, scooping him up into a hug while his mother smoothed his hair and his dad held his right hand in both of his. Ron was still muttering in disbelief over Harry's question while Dumbledore twinkled at them all as Lily settled him back on his pillows as if he was made of glass.
"Hey, if it's Christmas Eve, I've only been asleep for a day!" Harry realised and Ron shook his head.
"Harry, there are more important things than Christmas!" the redhead retorted, a statement so shocking that Harry stared at him in disbelief.
"Is this the same Ron that carries on like a three year old every Christmas over his presents and the Feast?" he wondered out loud and Ron laughed with the others. Harry looked around at them all and asked the inevitable question.
"Did he die this time?"
"Yes, Harry," Lily promised, "There's no doubt about it, Voldemort is dead."
"Good, because I don't think I could do that again," Harry confessed, "In fact, I don't even know how I did it at all."
That was a lie, Harry had a fairly good idea how he'd managed to deflect the killing curse, but he didn't want to discuss it, theorise about it, or even think about it if he could help it - it certainly wasn't knowledge he was planning to share. Madam Pomfrey saved him from further questions by bustling into sight and sending everyone away. As soon as she finished her scans, Harry asked to be let up, and managed to convince her that he was fine. She let him have a quick wash with a basin of warm water and a flannel, avoiding the bandages she'd bound tightly over his heart; then he pulled on the school robes that Dobby fetched for him, thanking the elf warmly and wishing him a merry Christmas.
The rest of the Weasley family were waiting outside the hospital wing with Hermione and his parents, and Harry was surprised to see Bill and Charlie there too. He didn't have more than a moment to take this in because Mrs Weasley had him in a sobbing hug, and he was passed from one person to the next hugging back in surprise when even Charlie and Bill wrapped him in their arms.
"How are you feeling Harry?" Hermione asked when she'd let go, and Harry's stomach rumbled loudly as if to answer her. Everyone laughed, and then stared when the Headmaster's stomach rumbled in reply. People tended to forget that the Headmaster of Hogwarts was as human as the next man, and this solid reminder had Harry and Ron giggling.
"The school is sitting down to dinner," there was definitely a blush on the other man's face, "But I fear they would forget to eat if you took dinner with them, Harry."
"Lets raid the kitchens!" Harry suggested, moving to his grandfathers side, and the old man nodded, a wide smile on his face. He looked years younger, and Harry realised how much a strain the Order and Voldemort had been putting on the other man. On impulse he hugged the Headmaster again and then turned to his father who was beaming at him.
"Come on," he beckoned and James grinned leading the way down to the lower passage that house the portrait with the giggling pear. The elves were happy to see them and in no time a table was set up and they were making a lot of noise over the handing around of plates and generally celebrating that they were all together and safe once more. There were still things to be done, but for right now, Harry had his family around him and everything was perfect.