A/N: Sorry about the long delay, but I had written myself to a corner, and my previous and unpublished version of chapter 10 sucked, so I had to go back and rewrite chapter 9. I suggest that you go back and read it, before reading this one here. And thanks for the wait. Reviews are welcome, and this time I won't take too long to write chapter 11.
10- Opening up, one portkey at a time.
The taxi drive was tense, after all Harry was the most wanted man by a group of wizard terrorists. Dudley did know only parts of it, so he was riding shotgun, amiably chatting with the driver about football and the best players nowadays. The wizards' currently in the cab were only hoping that Voldemort wasn't a man - or whatever he was nowadays - prone to quick plans and fast attacks. Everything with him was convoluted and cunning.
Plans within plans.
"What?" Hermione, sitting at his side, asked.
He almost replied an automatic "nothing", but Hermione was his best friend, and the biggest brain that he knew. So, he repeated his thought, this time loud enough that she could hear.
"Plans within plans."
"Vol... You mean Tom?"
He nodded. She entered the state that Harry personally named 'SuperBrain at Work', eyes scrunched and unfocused. After a few moments, she focused back on him.
"I keep wondering what Draco did to him to warrant such a reaction."
"Probably forgot who he was talking to and called him a Mudblood," Harry replied, winning a snort of laughter from her. He noticed that she was still in a pensive mood, and decided to press on. "What's the problem, Mione?"
She sighed, and looked him straight in the eyes.
"You know I'm your friend, right?"
"No, you're not."
She gasped, indignantly.
"You're my best friend. Big difference there," he completed with a wicked smile, gaining a small slap in his arm.
"You git. I'm trying to be serious here!"
"Me too. Did I say something funny?"
Hermione chose to ignore him this time, otherwise she would lose the courage to say what she needed to say.
"I did something that I don't know if you will approve."
Harry's good mood vanished in a flash. "You told Dumbledore about my letter?" he asked darkly.
"Of course not, Harry! I would never betray your trust like that, especially when you asked me specifically not to tell him a thing. Who do you think I am?" she ranted, crossed her arms and scowled at him angrily.
He looked down and stammered an apology. "I-I'm sorry, Hermione. I-it's just that something happened after the Ministry, and I don't know if I can trust in him all that much anymore."
The bushy-haired witch uncrossed her arms, surprise etched in her face. Imogen, sitting to the other side of Harry, sported a similar look.
"What happened between the two of you?" his friend asked.
"I'd like to know that, as well," his lawyer continued.
"I'll tell as soon as I can, but not right now," Harry replied to the two women. "And sorry if I jumped to conclusions. Now, what did you do?"
"I told my parents about us," she said in a small voice. Harry's reaction was not what she expected, he dissolved in a fit of laughter.
"What?" she inquired indignantly.
"Sorry, Mione," he replied between giggles, "but unless we're having a torrid sexual affair that I'm not aware of, how can I not approve you telling your parents about us?"
"When I've never told them exactly what has been happening to us those last five years?"
That sobered the young wizard immediately. "Oh."
"They reacted better than I expected, given the circumstances, and then I told them about you. That's why Mum came over last night."
"I'm still alive and you're here with me. So I guess they're not planning my gruesome demise."
The girl snorted, glad that he was at least taking it all in stride.
"No, quite the contrary. They want to help you out."
"How?" he asked, really curious at this point.
"Well, first you've got to understand something, with all that has been happening those past few years, something was bound to happen. In your case, it's called PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder."
"Post what?" he asked, and continued. "I feel fine."
"No, you don't," Imogen replied, instead of Hermione. "I figured out the same, myself, and I was thinking about broaching the subject with you, but apparently Hermione beat me to it."
"What is this thing?"
"It's something that happens with people that suffered some traumatic experiences during their lives, like war veterans, victims of abuse, natural disasters and things like that. In most cases, it goes away with time and a bit of help, however, your life has been a traumatic experience behind the other. You don't know what it is to have a normal life, or a good night of sleep," Hermione said.
"I've been living like that my whole life, what chance do I have?" Harry asked, for the first time in his life opening up to another person. "And your parents are dentists, Hermione, how they can help me?"
"Yes, they are. But my Uncle Alex isn't."
"Who is he?"
"Uncle Alex is my godfather, he was with the military until some time ago. He got hurt during a mission and had to leave the service. He had a diploma in Psychology, so he decided to use it, and specialized in PTSD. Useful, when you used to share the experiences of the patient being treated. Gives you a better understanding of the problem."
Harry nodded. "And about our…unique conditions?" he asked. The driver was focused in the traffic and his conversation with Dudley, but better be discreet and safe.
"He knows. My Aunt Helena does as well, and I think she'll be a great help as well."
"She's the closest to us as you can get and not be one of us, if you get my meaning," Hermione replied.
Harry didn't, but anything else would have to wait to be discussed among only them. "And why were you worried about me not approving of it?"
"Harry, I know one thing that you hate the most is people using you and taking the decisions out of your hands. And I think I did that."
Harry smirked. "Did you force them upon me?"
"No, you didn't even meet them yet."
"Were you planning on hiding this up until the last possible minute, or even later?" he pressed on.
"Of course not. I waited for us to be alone. Or close to it, anyway," the young witch replied, her hands moving as if to encompass the cab. Harry chuckled.
"Can I say no, and will you respect my wishes if I do so?"
Hermione got way more serious, but nodded. "I won't like it, but it's your life in the end. Please accept help, Harry," she asked, as a friend, and Harry was pleased that she didn't use psychological pressure to make him answer positively.
"I'll think about it, but why can't one of you guys do this?"
"If I may, Hermione?" Imogen asked, to what the bushy-haired witch replied with a nod. "First we wouldn't know how to approach it, and for the treatment to be effective, you have to have a detachment to the person being treated. You cannot help if you start judging. Anyone close enough would probably do more bad than good."
"How do you know that?" Harry asked, curious.
"I had a great interest in Forensic Psychology during my years in Oxford."
"You did?" Hermione asked, and from there on, they embarked on a long conversation about studies and Oxford, to which Harry lost interest in no time.
He had questions and answers, but none could be given right now.
They arrived back at Privet Drive, Imogen paid the fare, and they walked into a full house, complete with screeching Aunt and interfering Headmasters. As soon as Harry crossed the door's threshold, his Aunt stopped screaming to Tonks, Lupin, Mac, Moody and Dumbledore, and walked out, mumbling under her breath. The Headmaster approached, but Harry lifted a hand.
"I won't talk with you right now, Headmaster. I still have my issues with what we argued about at the end of term, and I don't think we need to open those wounds again, so soon."
"Harry, I just came here because I'm worried about your well being," the elderly wizard started.
"Headmaster, please. What part of 'I won't talk with you right now' didn't you understand?" he repeated, voice even, to the surprise of a few of the involved.
"I learned about what happened in the Alley, I just wanted to know…"
"If your weapon is all right? It is. Now, I suggest you leave, right now, while I'm being polite and patient. Otherwise, I'll start saying things we'll both regret a lot, later on."
Dumbledore tried to press on, but this time, Imogen was the one who spoke.
"Dumbledore, you have a minute to leave, otherwise, I'm going to start digging a lot deeper than I already have, and I know that a certain gossip reporter from a certain wizarding journal will be delighted to know how a prominent wizard from the side of the Light broke a lot of laws so that a young man could be left to live with people who treated him as a slave for eleven years."
That shut him up, but he still wore his most kindly smile.
"If that's what you wish, Harry, I'll take my leave. However, you're wrong in thinking that I think of you as a weapon. I do really care for you, a lot more than you can possibly conceive," he said.
"I used to believe in that, sir. But each passing moment, this illusion is shattered a bit more."
Dumbledore nodded, a bit saddened by the young wizard's actions, but walked out, Moody following him a few steps behind. He stopped a moment by Harry's side.
"Stupid, lad. Stupid, but well done," the old Auror said, to his surprise. Whether he was talking about Dumbledore or his actions at the Alley, Harry never knew.
Tonks, surprisingly, stayed behind.
Harry started trembling with pent up emotions, and every eye in the room was checking him out. When things started shaking by their own volition, Hermione took action and held his arm slightly. It had an almost instantaneous effect of calming him down enough so his magic got back in control.
"Sorry about that," he addressed the room.
"Harry, it's the second time I hear you talking about being Dumbledore's weapon. What is this about?" Remus asked, coming forward.
"I can't tell you right now, Moony. I wish I could, but I can't. And Tonks, why are you still here?" he asked, curious.
The pink haired Auror looked to him, surprised.
"I can't be here? Wot? I should pick a side, now? You or Dumbledore?" she asked, irritated, her hair changing to a deep red in a flash.
"No, nothing like that. I won't ask any of you to choose a side, because we're all on the same side, regardless of my problems with the Headmaster. All that I ask is that what is said in here is as much a secret as an Order of the Phoenix meeting. So, please, I consider you all my friends, but I don't want to be backstabbed by a spy. If any of you guys have a problem with that, please leave now, and we'll still be friends."
"The opposite is true as well, I won't talk about Order business with you, unless Dumbledore tells me to do so," Tonks said, and Harry nodded. Her hair returned to the previous bubblegum pink, and she returned to smile.
With that out of the way, Harry turned to Hermione.
"After what happened, I think it's time to come clear with what I can with all of you. Will your mother take too long to return?" he asked.
"I don't know, but I can call her back. Any phone I could use?"
"My room, there's a mobile charging in the outlet near the wall. You can use it," he said, and she walked upstairs to talk with her mother.
While she was gone, they talked about what had happened at the Alley, Tonks getting a full account of what had happened.
"So, let me get this straight, you went to Gringotts with the old wolf here to reclaim your inheritance, and you end up saving Lucius' spawn?"
"Did anyone cast a weird luck charm in him?" she asked to the assembled group of wizards and witches, winning a few laughs among them.
Hermione finally appeared downstairs, sporting a smile.
"My mom won't be able to come back early, but my Uncle should be here any minute now," she said to him.
The doorbell chose that exact moment to ring. Harry, as more or less host for the day, opened it up, the people at his back with wands hidden but ready.
What he saw surprised him. The man was big, six feet three, muscled but tending towards lean, with a white eyepatch covering his left eye, a scar going almost to his hairline and about an inch below his eye. His other eye was icy blue, and his hair was cut a bit longer than military fashion, as black as Harry's own. He was one scary looking bloke, if it wasn't for the smile he sported as soon as he looked behind Harry.
"Uncle Alex," Hermione said, walking around Harry, and she was engulfed in a big hug.
"Hermione. Oh, my God, how you've grown," he said, the smile growing bigger by the second. His voice was strong, the timbre of one accustomed to give orders and have them followed.
The young witch blushed badly, until a voice was heard from behind him.
"Alex, stop. You're making her blush."
While the man's voice was powerful in a commanding sort of way, hers was even more. It sounded almost…magical, hypnotic. And it was calm and controlled, something that Harry found comforting. The man moved to a side, and he finally had the opportunity to see the woman who had spoken. She was short, about Hermione's height, her skin an interesting shade of red, easily identifying her as a Native American. Her black hair was long, ending almost at her waist, and her features were graceful and exotic, if not downright beautiful. She moved, stretching her hand to Harry.
"Sorry about my husband. He can be so non-English sometimes it surprises even me. I'm Helena Granger and this is my husband Alexander, or Alex, and you must be Harry Potter, right?"
Harry grabbed the offered hand and shook it. "Yes, a pleasure to meet you, ma'am," he replied politely.
"It's enough that I have to suffer with this 'ma'am' bit from Alex's old comrades. It's just Helena," she corrected with a smile.
The small woman smiled, and Alex finally let go of Hermione, who turned and hugged her aunt, albeit in a more sedate way. "Harry," the man said, extending his own hand. "Call me Alex."
Harry shook it. "Sir."
"Alex," the big man corrected.
"Alex," Harry acquiesced with a nod.
"Can we come in?" Helena asked.
Harry smiled. "Sure. Where are my manners? Please, it's kind of crowded right now, but I think I'll solve this problem in a little bit."
They entered the living room, and after introductions were made, Harry turned to the arriving couple.
"Okay, I know this might sound a bit sudden of an introduction to magic, but I think we need to relocate to a better place to talk. Dudley, want to come?"
"No, I had too many emotions for the day. Bloody hell, for the year, even," the big boy replied.
Hermione scolded him for the use of language, and Harry almost fell down laughing when his cousin squirmed under her glare. In the end, only the wizards and Hermione's uncle and aunt were holding onto him, before he activated the portkey to his ancestral manor.
"I must warn you, a portkey might be a little disconcerting for the first time, and I don't know how you guys will react. So, hold on, we'll help you out on the other side, okay?" he warned the Grangers.
They both nodded, and grabbed on tighter, holding each other out.
Harry activated the portkey, and it was probably one of the worst experiences of his life regarding magical transportation.
It was a well known fact that Harry couldn't land on his feet after a portkey or floo travel. The group apparently forgot about it, or they were affected by whatever happened with him, so when they reappeared in the ancestral halls of Potter Manor, the group fell down in a jumble of bodies. The two muggles with them had an even worse experience, somehow the travel made them extremely sick, and two puddles of vomit graced the marble floor.
They all stood up, Lupin and Immie helping the couple up, and a cleaning charm later the vomit had disappeared. Two conjured glasses of water later, and Helena was looking to her husband, while asking the group.
"What was that?"
"Portkey. It's a form of magical transportation, but I never knew it could be so bad to muggles," Remus replied, while the rest of them checked the surroundings. "Harry here has a tradition of not being able to finish one trip standing up, but I never thought it was contagious."
Tonks and Mac chuckled, while the rest smiled.
"What a weird experience. I never felt so disconnected my entire life," Helena said, finally able to stand up right without support.
"Disconnected?" Hermione asked, her curious mind working furiously.
"I have a link to the Great Spirit, this link was severely shook up with this…portkey travel."
"And I guess that having just one eye doesn't help much with it, as well," Alex pointed out, having recovered faster than his wife.
"I'm sorry about this, I…" Harry started apologizing, but Alex's big hand in his shoulder stopped his diatribe.
"You knew about it?" Alex asked, and Harry shook his head no. "Any other way that we could have used to arrive here?"
"No," Remus interceded. "Unplottable area, and also heavily warded against any sort of invaders. All the old ancestral homes are more or less like this. Only Harry could bring us here, using the portkey."
"Then, no harm no foul," the man said, smiling. Harry relaxed, but some of the unwarranted guilt remained behind.
After a few more moments so people could gather their wits, Harry cleaned his throat.
"Sorry about the bumpy road, but I needed some place secure enough for we to talk. I don't trust my relatives, and nowadays my relationship with Headmaster Dumbledore is a bit shook up."
Tonks snorted with the understatement, but remained silent. He approached Remus.
"Any place where we can have a long conversation? And not the library, otherwise either you or Hermione won't pay attention to a word I'll say," he pointed out. The werewolf chuckled, but led them to a big living room with a fireplace large enough to cook an adult hippogriff with room to spare. Above the mantelpiece hung a wizarding painting of a man dressed in ancient warrior fatigues.
"Who comes to this Ancestral and Noble Home, after all this time?" the picture asked.
Lupin nudged Harry forward, and the young man looked sheepishly to him. "Come on, introduce yourself. I think you'll like him," Remus said, with a slight smile on his face.
"My name is Harry, sir. Harry Potter," the young wizard said to the painting. Both Alex and Helena were fairly impressed with the magical painting, but remained silent.
"You are young James' son? What happened to your father, young man?" the painting asked again.
"Yes, I am, sir. And he died, fifteen years ago," Harry replied.
"What a pity. Allow me to introduce myself. I'm Godric of Gryffindor."