Chapter 10

White Plaster Ceilings

Disclaimer: I own nothing but the enjoyment that I get from writing about J.K. Rowling's characters.

Harry opened his eyes to a white ceiling yet again. But this time there was something different about this ceiling. It wasn't quite the same as the one Harry was so familiar with. The ceiling of the hospital wing at Hogwarts was made of wood that had been painted white. Harry had spent so much time there that he had counted all the knots in the wood. 237 last time he checked. But there weren't any knots in the ceiling currently above Harry's head. It was made of some sort of plaster. Harry blinked, trying to figure out where he was when a sea of red and orange came into view.

"Mate! You're awake!" Ron sounded relieved and Harry wondered why. He didn't even remember what happened. One minute he was joking with Tonks and the next he was waking up to white plaster ceilings.

"Yeah." Harry croaked out and then frowned. Since when did his voice 'croak'? Harry blinked and stared at Ron mystified. Ron looked different somehow… It was like he had more freckles or something, or maybe Harry could just see more freckles.

"What's the matter mate?" Ron asked. "D'you want your glasses? I'm not quite sure what the nurse did with them." Ron said and started rummaging around looking underneath the piles of colorful candy boxes and the mountain of Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes merchandise. Harry, meanwhile, put his hand to his face as if expecting his glasses to already be there. He had realized what was different. Everything was in perfect focus. Better than perfectly actually.

"Ron-" The boy in question looked up. "Stop. It's okay, I don't need them." Harry said to his friend.

"What? But you're blinder than a Niffler without your glasses. I should know too after-"

"Nah, it's weird, but I don't need them anymore." Harry said, shrugging his shoulders.

"But… oh… the Healer said you might be a little different. I guess she was right."

"Wait. Healer? Are we at-?"

"St. Mungo's. Yeah." Ron was suddenly suspicious. "Don't you remember?"

"No. The last thing I can think of was walking with Tonks. Then I woke up here."

"Blimey Mate. You really don't remember. I suppose not though. Tonks said you were out cold. She thought you'd died or something."

"Really?"

"Yeah, one minute you're talking and the next you're lying on a heap on the floor, Tonks was near hysterical, Charlie said. They practically had to sedate her too so they could get you here before the amsbulence made it to that Muggle hospitable." Harry felt an urge to laugh at Ron's version of events. He was starting to agree with Hermione that they should have forced him into taking Muggle Studies. But he'd let it slide for now.

"Charlie?"

"Yeah, he's home for the summer. He and Kingsley went and got you and brought you here."

"Oh…" Harry fell silent to ponder something now that the mystery of his arrival was settled. "Hey Ron?"

"Yeah?"

"How long was I out?"

"Err… Two days, I think. Dumbledore was starting to get worried. Neville woke up ages ago."

"Wait! Neville's here?"

"Yeah, one room over. He'll be glad to know you're awake. He was pretty worried when you didn't wake up right away."

"Why is Neville here?" Harry asked, still mystified.

"Oh… Well he just collapsed around the same time you did. Right in the middle of Ollivander's. McGonagall said that's the only time she's ever seen Mr. Ollivander surprised like that. But she didn't look too good herself, according to Charlie. He said she was almost as bad as Tonks when they couldn't figure out what was wrong with you and Neville."

"So they don't know what happened to us?" Harry asked, a little bit concerned now.

"Well, not officially, but I think Dumbledore does. He was talking to this old guy out in the hallway when I got here yesterday about some Schwartzgoft Clock thingy. D'you have any idea what that even is?" Ron asked, but it looked like he didn't expect Harry to know anything about it either.

"The Schwarshoff Block?"

"The what?" Ron looked confused but Harry was excited.

"The Schwarshoff Block, Ron." Harry said, and suddenly realized that this was what Hermione must feel like whenever she had to explain things to him and Ron. Harry made a quick mental promise to start paying more attention to her. "When me and Neville were little, our mums gave us this potion called the Schwarshoff Block. It puts most of your magical power under this block thing. Well anyway, it's meant to be taken off slowly- like a little at a time to give the person more control over their magic. But our mums died –"

"Before they told anyone." Comprehension was dawning on Ron's face. Sometime Harry thought Ron was smarter than he and Hermione gave him credit for. "Wait- but why's it coming off now? Did you and Neville take some potion or something to make it come off?"

"Nah, there's a fail safe built into the potion. Fifteen years after you take it, the remainder of the block will come off."

"Oh..." Ron nodded. "So what's this mean?" Harry was about to reply, but then hesitated and thought for a second.

"I …uh… don't really know." Ron gave him a blank look. "Well this has really only happened once before."

"Oh?" Ron raised an eyebrow, and Harry hid his face.

"Err… Yeah." Ron was starting to get suspicious.

"So what happened to the other guy?"

"Well, he, err… died."

"What?" Ron's voice was almost too quiet.

"You know… He went kaput, or bang… I think the Americans say 'kicked the bucket' or some nonsense like that… he just sort of blew up." Harry looked at his friend who was staring at him as if he was mad.

"What do you mean 'Blew up'?" Ron said, but stopped when he heard his voice echoing in the hallway. Except that it wasn't his voice, it was louder and higher and more feminine.

"Now Molly-" They heard Dumbledore try to reason with her, and realized that Ron's mother must have found out what happened to the other case of the Schwarshoff Block.

"What next Albus? The boy lost his parents, his Godfather and now he's got some life-threatening situation hanging over his head. Wait, not just life threatening. I forgot. He's in danger of 'BLOWING UP'!" Mrs. Weasley's voice had gotten progressively louder until it reached new heights that even Ron was shaking his head at.

"Come now Molly, its not as bad as all that." Harry could hear Nick trying to reason with her.

"I wasn't finished!" She said sharply. "What are you going to tell me next? That he's suddenly decided to go live out on the streets?"

"Well not exactly the streets." Dumbledore said cautiously. Ron threw Harry a questioning glance, but Harry shrugged it off just before Mrs. Weasley exploded.

"What do you mean 'not exactly'? You can't mean to tell me that a fifteen year old boy is living alone!"

"Almost sixteen…" Harry said under his breath, idly wondering why people such as Mrs. Weasley liked to treat him as a child.

"Well not alone." A voice in the hall said. Harry couldn't tell if it was Nick or Dumbledore by this point.

"If it's not with an adult than it certainly is alone!"

"Calm down." Harry recognized the cool voice of Wolf. "Let him have some freedom. He's more responsible than you make him out to be."

"Responsibility?" Molly repeated incredulously. "He's fifteen! What can he know about responsibility? And 'freedom'? Oh yes… freedom." The sarcasm in her voice could rival Snape's any day of the week.

"A little freedom never hurt anybody." Wolf said coolly and Ron winced in anticipation.

"Now he's done it," said Ron and Harry nodded.

"Never hurt anybody? Oh, well I suppose you're an expert? Yes, you who I suppose had plenty of freedom growing up." Harry could just imagine Wolf cowering as Mrs. Weasley jabbed her finger into him. "Well now look at you. Some dirty low life who probably spends half his time waiting tables in the Hogshead." Harry started to grin and he imagined Nick and Dumbledore doing the same. 'If only she knew how right she was' he thought. "I will NOT have that for Harry. He bloody will be better than that." Ron was frozen in shock at hearing his mother cuss, but someone out in the hall coughed to hide a chuckle. Harry imagined it was probably Nick. The man did always seem to have a death wish.

"Think this is funny do you? Well its not. This is a living, breathing, fifteen year old boy for Merlin's sake. I won't have you treating his life like its some kind of joke."

"Molly, now wait a minute. Surely you don't know who this is?"

"I know bloody well who it is, thank you Albus. Nicolas Flamel-"

"Wait, isn't he supposed to be dead?" Ron whispered. Harry shook his head and put his finger to his lips. He wanted to hear the rest.

"-it must be nice being that old." The sarcasm was falling off Molly's voice in droves now. "Everyone treats you like you're so full of wisdom and knowledge. But I know better. Under that wizened façade, you're no better than Him, putting countless children in danger, and not to mention almost killing three eleven year olds, all to protect your selfish little stone. You're despicable. I –"

"Eh-hem," A gruff voice interrupted. "I hate to break up this little argument," Harry and Ron recognized the voice as Moody's. "But I thought you should know- Potter's awake."

There was a brief silence in the hallway and then a mad race for the door. Mrs. Weasley was of course, the first one in, followed closely by Dumbledore with Nick and Wolf in a distant third and fourth respectively. The two looked to be staying as far away from Molly as possible.

"Oh Harry." Mrs. Weasley sighed and practically ran to his bedside. "Are you okay? Do you hurt anywhere?" Harry mentally rolled his eyes as Ron snickered. The display out in the hall was touching, but really now. He was almost sixteen. Mrs. Weasley could be a little overprotective at times. Harry looked around to find Dumbledore's bright blue eyes twinkling extra bright at Harry.

"Ah, Harry, my boy. I was wondering when you would awake. Lemon drop?" Harry almost laughed. Old habits die hard.

"No thank you si-" Harry paused, as if waging a huge mental war within his mind. Then he grinned. "Actually, don't mind if I do." Harry said taking the offered candy. The rest of the room eyed him warily as Dumbledore grinned proudly. Coincidentally, all of them were having the same thought. 'Just how much had Harry Potter changed?'

"Oh, Harry dear, here are your glasses. Tonks had me fix them after they broke when you fell." Mrs. Weasley said taking a familiar set of spectacles out of her handbag, but Harry shook his head.

"No, it's alight Mrs. Weasley. I don't need them anymore." Harry and Ron were the only two in the room who weren't wide-eyed and slack-jawed.

"Harry, my boy, do you mind standing up for me?" Dumbledore said, as he was the first one to recover. He was eyeing Harry rather curiously now.

"What?" Harry looked bewildered.

"Just curiosity my boy." Harry shrugged and got to his feet, only to fall right back on to the bed.

"That's weird." Harry said, sitting on the bed. "I couldn't balance at all."

"Here, try it again mate." Ron said, offering an arm. Harry slowly got to his feet. This time Harry noticed the room's reactions. Mrs. Weasley frowned, Dumbledore twinkled all the brighter, and Nick raised an eyebrow. Wolf, as always, appeared indifferent. Ron was even looking at him strangely.

"What?" Harry asked, feeling a little weird by all the staring.

"Well, uh, mate, you're, uh, tall." Ron said in kind of awe.

"Tall? What do you mean tall?" Harry asked, but looking around, he knew. Before he had barely reached Ron's nose, but now they stood eye to eye. Dumbledore no longer seemed gastronomically tall, and Mrs. Weasley looked to be on the verge of short. Well at least that explained his sudden lack of grace. Growing five inches overnight will do that to a person.

"Why, Mr. Potter! I must protest!" A middle aged blonde healer stood in the doorway. "What are you doing out of bed?"

"I…was…uh…" Harry was at a loss for words. The healer bore a remarkable resemblance to Madame Pomfrey with a decidedly sterner look in her eye. Harry gathered that she was not one to cross.

"Madame Healer, he was merely satisfying our collective curiosity." Nick said charmingly, rising out of his chair. The healer threw him a sharp look.

"Curiosity killed the cat, Mr.-"

"Flamel, Nicolas Flamel." He said with a smile, hoping to get a rise out of her, but was awarded with no more than a raised eyebrow. It seemed that nothing could shake this woman.

"Very well. Curiosity killed the car, Mr. Flamel, but it will not claim young Mr. Potter here. At least not on my watch it won't. Mr. Potter is recovering from serious magical trauma. It would do you all well to remember that. That said, I must ask you all to leave." She was met with outrage and shock on every face in the room. Evidently, the room's occupants were not used to being told what to do by someone half their age, or half the age of Albus, Wolf and Nick. She gave them all a stern look worthy of McGonagall, but Harry saw a sparkling bit of mischief in her eye. But as quick as it came, it was gone again.

"Mr. Potter needs his rest; something I highly doubt will be happening if I allow you all to stay."

"But, but!" Again there was resistance. However, all were silenced by another look from the Healer. Molly Weasley looked as though she'd much rather give the Healer a piece of her mind, but was reluctantly pushed out into the hall after Wolf and Nick by Ron, who kept looking back with sympathy. Obviously, Ron was happy not to be in Harry's shoes at the moment. It appeared that Ron would rather face the wrath of his mother than the wrath of an irate healer. Not that Harry would blame him. He'd take Molly Weasley over an incensed Madame Pomfrey any day of the week. The only one who had not vacated the room in favor of safer waters was Professor Dumbledore, who very much looked like he wanted to put his two cents in. But Madame Healer wasn't about to let him.

"When I said everyone, I meant everyone, Headmaster Dumbledore. There will be plenty of time to visit Mr. Potter later. For now, you must trust St. Mungo's with his care." The healer did not look happy. Dumbledore looked to be having an internal debate. It looked iffy there for a moment, but eventually his logical side won out.

"Of course, Madame -?"

"Tondora." The healer supplied, and Harry noticed the glint again, but again it disappeared after a couple of seconds.

"I will of course be taking my leave, Madame Tondora. I merely wished to inform Mr. Potter of myself and Mr. Flamel's intent to visit at a later time. Perhaps when Mr. Potter is feeling more up to visitors?"

"We'll see." Madame Tondora said through clenched teeth, but Harry nodded. Dumbledore made a beeline for the door, and the Healer shut it firmly behind him. Turning to face Harry, the mischievous glint was back.

"Wotcher Harry."

Harry's mouth dropped open. Of all the things he had been expecting, well this certainly wasn't one of them. Merlin, this didn't even make the list.

"Tonks?" Harry asked dumbly.

"A.K.A. Madame Tondora." She replied and morphed into her usual looks. Her hair changed shades rapidly before settling with a bright magenta. Removing the lime green Healer's robes that clashed horribly with her hair revealed an orange dress that clashed just as bad. "I nicked these from the supply closet. It's one of my better aliases actually, even managed to fool Dumbledore. Now if that ain't talent, then I don't know what is."

"Why are you here?"

"Mad-Eye thought you were looking a bit overrun. Said you looked like you needed some peace and quiet. That's where I came in. I flooed over, put on my best impression of Madame Pomfrey, minus the blonde hair of course, and rushed in to save the day. Did it work?" She asked, a little apprehensive that her and Mad-Eye's master plan wasn't needed or appreciated. Harry grinned at her though.

"What? The Pomfrey impersonation or the saving the day thing?"

"Both."

"Yeah…It was great. I wish you hadn't kicked Ron out though. I never get to see him during the summer."

"Well I couldn't let him stay without it looking suspicious."

"I suppose." Harry said and Tonks sat down on the edge of the bed.

"How you feeling, kid?"

"I don't know… It's hard to describe. Different. More alive, you know what I mean?"

"Sort-of…" Tonks said quietly. "So I noticed you're without your glasses. Does this mean the boy-wonder can finally see?" She teased and ruffled his hair. Harry grinned up at her.

"It's amazing Tonks! My eyesight is ten times better! And did you see how tall I was? No more looking up to Ron, that's for sure." Tonks chuckled as Harry started to frown.

"What's the matter Harry?" Tonks asked noticing the mood swing.

"Oh, nothing." He said, but relented after a stern look. "Ok, so I was just thinking that all those clothes we bought wouldn't fit anymore. Sorry for wasting your day." Harry said as Tonks threw back her head and laughed.

"Is that all?" She asked and Harry's expression flashed a moment of hurt. "Harry, I was going to have you take all your clothes to a wizard tailor anyways in Diagon Alley."

"Wizard tailor?" Harry was confused.

"Yeah. You didn't think that the entirety of wizarding Britain depended on Madame Malkin's for robes did you?" Harry scowled, and Tonks laughed. "Well you're a boy, so I guess it's alright. But anyways, a wizard tailor custom makes robes and clothes. It's a lot longer process than Madame Malkin's and much more expensive too. I was going to have you get dress robes from him. But anyways, he has this nifty little charm for clothes. He can attune clothes to a person's magic so that they will always grow or shrink to fit. I have to get that charm for my wardrobe otherwise my clothes would be inconvenient during-"

Tonks was cut off quickly by the sound of a soft knock followed by the door opening quietly. Both Harry and Tonks stared at the door. Framed by the door was the person both desperately wanted to see, yet couldn't stand at the same time. The person in question looked uncomfortable under their gaze, but still stood tall, as if exuding confidence that he didn't have. Standing in the doorframe was Remus Lupin.

"Harry…" Remus said as his gaze led him face to face with Tonks. "Tonks… I didn't know you'd be here." Remus looked generally surprised to see Tonks.

"Trust me Lupin; if I'd known you'd be here, I wouldn't have bothered to show up. No offense Harry." Tonks flashed sympathy to Harry, but her gaze was like ice when it turned to Remus.

"Tonks, please. We need to talk. Please I didn't –" Remus said softly taking a step towards her, but her eyes flashed dangerously.

"No, Remus. Not now. I'm not ready to listen. –And even if I was, I don't think I'd want to hear it." Tonks looked deep into Remus, almost as if her icy eyes could see right through him. The werewolf looked hesitant, but concern and regret were clearly etched on his face. Harry eyed the pair with confusion. He didn't know that the two were on the outs. Harry wasn't too ecstatic with Remus right now either, but he wondered what had happened to get the two so far apart. Last he had heard they seemed pretty close. But the present situation suggested otherwise. As Tonks turned to face Harry, her icy glare softened.

"Sorry Harry, but I can't stay. I have… uh… I have to help Mad-Eye wash his eyeball. He's been complaining about it rubbing lately." Harry could tell Tonks was trying to break the tension she had created in the room, but it wasn't working. No one was laughing. "I just have to go Harry. I'll be back later. Wotcher."

As Tonks turned, her icy eyes came back into focus.

"Tonks- wait." Remus reached out a hang to touch her shoulder, but she shrugged it off.

"Leave me alone." She said, not even bothering to look back as she left the room. Remus's hand was left hanging. He could only stare at the door she had left through.

"So…" Remus almost jumped at Harry's voice. "What happened to you two?" Remus thought quietly before replying.

"We, uh, had a disagreement." Remus said evasively. Harry raised an eyebrow.

"Well that's obvious. What about?" Remus looked down at Harry and almost cringed. He hung his head in shame. He didn't want to tell Harry that he was part of it, but neither did he want to lie. There was something about those somber green eyes that just made you want to tell the truth. Remus decided to settle for the truth, well part of the truth.

"Tonks doesn't think I've been handling Sirius's death well." Remus said quietly.

"Have you?" Harry asked, looking Remus in the eye. Remus tried to look away, but found that he couldn't.

"No. She's right Harry. I haven't been myself since it… it happened." Harry said nothing and looked out the window. After a moment he spoke so softly that Remus had to strain his ears to listen.

"For a while, I wasn't either." Harry said softly. Remus sat down on the edge of Harry's bed. Looking downtrodden, Remus took Harry's hand.

"I'm sorry cub."

"For what?" Harry looked taken aback/

"For everything. I should've been there. I should've helped you through it. Instead all I did was send you a stupid howler, filled with stuff I didn't mean."

"Why?" It was the only question that Harry wanted answers to. It was a fair question. Remus sighed before answering.

"I was scared."

"Of what?" Harry didn't understand.

"Of losing more people. It's one of my greatest fears. I see a moon in my boggart because that's why people alienate me. I'm even more scared of losing those that don't judge me for being a werewolf. It almost killed me when your parents died. Lately I've been thinking that if I'm not close to anyone, then I won't have to feel the pain again."

"But you're here… So what made you stop?"

"Something your father told me once." Harry leaned forward, interested to hear anything and everything about his father.

"It was in our sixth year after a particularly violent shouting match with Lily. He asked her out and she threw a vase at his head. I think that was one of the only times that Lily ever got detention…" Remus trailed off, as if being absorbed by the memory. "But anyways, I was sitting with James in the hospital wing as Madame Pomfrey patched him up. 'Why do you even bother James?' I asked and he looked at me incredulously. 'Well I'm in love,' he said. 'You have to fight for what you love.' I couldn't believe what he was saying. 'But you're losing the fight!' I protested. 'But when I win, the victory will be better.' He said it like it was the most obvious thing in the world, and really it is. You have to fight for what you love."

From her vantage point in the hall, Tonks smiled. Maybe there was hope for Remus after all.

"Excuse me, Miss?" Tonks turned around when a woman tapped her shoulder.

"Yes?" Tonks arched an eyebrow. She didn't have any patience for hospital stricken Quidditch mums looking for the gift shop.

"I'm sorry, I don't usually do this, but do you know which room is Neville Longbottom's?"

"That one." Tonks pointed across the hall from the door she was currently eavesdropping at.

"Thanks." The woman whispered and turned to place her hand on the doorknob.

"Wait." Tonks said. "You might not want to do that. Neville's been at it with his grandmother for the past half hour."

"Oh, I guess I'll wait then." Losing all soccer-momish dignity, the woman leaned on the wall and slumped to the floor. Tonks suppressed the urge to roll her eyes and went back to listened at the door. Unfortunately, Remus and Harry weren't speaking very loudly.

"Thanks by the way." The woman said, but Tonks waved her off. Honestly, hadn't she already said thanks?

"I wouldn't have wanted to get in the way of Nora Longbottom… So who's in there?" The woman was craning her neck to get a look. Tonks turned to face her, effectively blocking the door.

"Harry Potter." The woman's face lit up, but Tonks eyed her suspiciously. "Why? You know him?"

"Well yes, err, no. Sort-of, I suppose, more like I know of him." She said and Tonks hid a laugh.

"Most everyone 'knows of' Harry Potter. Well at least everyone in England anyway." Tonks said making no effort to hide her sarcasm. To her surprise the woman threw back her head and laughed.

"Oh no. That's not what I meant. You see, I knew Harry back before he got the scar, although he wouldn't remember me. I was great friends with his mother at Hogwarts." The woman smiled wistfully. "Me, Lily, and Alice." She gestured to Neville's room. "I haven't seen Harry since before Lily and James went into hiding. I used to baby-sit him all the time. These days I read about him in the paper. Do you know Harry, Ms.?" The woman gave Tonks a questioning smile.

"Tonks. Nymphadora Tonks. But I prefer Tonks. I know Harr-"

"Wait. Tonks like Andromeda Tonks?" The young auror nodded at the woman. "Tonks like Sirius's cousin Tonks?" She nodded again.

"You know me, Ms…?" Tonks queried.

"Jones. Well, I only sort-of know of you, never really met you before now I guess. But Sirius used to talk about your family all the time. Oh and how rude of me. I'm Hestia –"

"Jones? Hestia Jones!"

"Remus?! Moony!" Hestia looked a lot more thrilled than Tonks to see the old werewolf. "Where have you been, you ol' scoundrel?"

"Well here and there, I suppose. So you here to see Neville or…" Remus trailed off as he pointed to the room behind him. Tonks used the distraction to back away into a corner where she could still here the conversation.

"I wanted to pay Neville a visit and see if I could snag an introduction with Harry. I haven't seen him since well… umm…" Hestia's cheerfulness suddenly evaporated. Remus gave her a sad smile.

"That's kind of what seeing Harry is like. Well for me at last. I can't help but see Lily and James in him, Sirius sometimes too. But you have to focus on the good memories. You sure you want to meet him?" Remus gave her an appraising look, which Hestia pondered.

"Yes. It's like you said, right? You have to remember the good. But first, I want to hear about you. We haven't chatted in forever. Tell me, how is your fabulous love life?" Hestia asked and Tonks heard Remus hesitate.

"Well, I, uh, I'm not sure I have one. Actually I don't." Tonks blinked furiously to hold back tears, as Remus's voice took on a teasing tone. "And you Ms. Jones? What men are deserving of your attention these days?" Tonks could picture him smiling as Hestia laughed.

"Oh, Remus, you know you're the only one for me." She said and laughed again.

Tonks couldn't believe her ears. Sure, she and Remus hadn't announced their relationship to the world, but that didn't mean it wasn't there, right? Wrong. Hestia's laugh filled the hallway again. Very wrong. It wasn't fair that Hestia got to laugh with Remus when all Tonks could do was glare. It wasn't supposed to be this way. This was only supposed to be a rough patch. They were supposed to pull through this. Things hadn't been great since Sirius died with her and Remus, but they weren't this bad. It wasn't fair that he could just brush them off like it hadn't ever happened. Did this mean they were broken up? Could you even be 'broken up' if you hadn't been officially dating to begin with? Somewhere, Tonks was sure, someone, maybe Fate or Cupid, was laughing at her dismal attempts at love. Tonks couldn't get the sound out of her head. Oddly enough, Cupid's laugh sounded like Hestia Jones. The woman who shouldn't exist. The woman who shouldn't be in Remus's or even Harry's lives. The woman who despite having a full nine years on Tonks could rival her any day of the week. The woman who had history that Tonks desperately lacked. The woman who sounded intelligent and funny. The woman with the annoyingly perfect laugh. The "other" woman, Tonks realized with a gasp. The woman who was going to steal Remus, and she had a bloody, perfect laugh. Sometimes Tonks wished Fate and Cupid would quit laughing at her expense.

"So you've made your choice." Nora Longbottom said simply, staring her grandson in the eye.

"I have." Neville looked her back in the eye. He tried to look stern and responsible. He didn't want to meet any more resistance. He had spent the better part of the last hour telling his Gran all about how he wasn't Frank, and about how he and Harry could manage themselves. His Grandmother had hardly said a word. She had listened instead. It was almost frightening how unnaturally calm she was. Neville was sure the blow up was imminent. He braced himself for the impact, but was pleasantly surprised when it didn't happen. Instead he watched his stone faced grandmother smile.

"Good." She said and reached for her red hand bag, and prepared to leave. "Very well. I'll be going now."

"Wait." Neville said and his grandmother responded with a curious look. "Is that all you're going to say? Just 'good'? Don't you have some long tirade about how we're too young or inexperienced? Or about how I should be more like my dad?" Neville asked, blinking and Nora looked her grandson in the eye.

"No." She said simply.

"You-You don't?" Neville asked, looking as if he was just barely holding back tears.

"No. I've finally admitted to myself what you seem to have known all along."

"And what's that?" Neville asked curiously, and his grandmother closed her eyes and sighed as she sank back into her chair.

"You're not my son, Neville. You're not Frank. I've pretended, or rather, I've tried, but you're not. You're not even Alice. I see flashes sometimes, little glimpses of them in you. But you're not them- and its time I realized it. You're better off without me Neville." She said softly and Neville looked at her as if analyzing her very soul.

"But you're my grandmother." He said. Nora wrinkled her forehead in confusion. "I'm your grandson. I'm not your child, but it still gives you a right to care." Nora closed her eyes again.

"Let's not kid ourselves Neville. If I stay in your life, all we'll ever do is argue. You and I are too stubborn to agree on anything. It won't matter what I say, because you'll do it anyway." She turned her head to view the fake scenery out the window. For a moment she looked far older than her years- practically ancient. But then she smiled. It was the same kind of smile that had graced her grandson's face not too long ago. It was a smile of hope.

"I don't want to fight anymore Neville. I'm getting old Neville. My bones creak and even though I don't look it," Mrs. Longbottom gestured to her 'hip' stuffed vulture hat. "I'm getting on in years. I'd say it's about damn time to get to know my grandson. If it's from afar than so be it. Besides," Neville's grandmother winked at him. "How many of the girls can brag that their grandsons are holed up in a shack somewhere with Harry Potter? None of them- that's who." She and Neville both chuckled. And as their laughter died, Neville smiled. For once, things were looking up.

-Sarak

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