Chapter 7 – The Marauders' Playground
"Headmaster!" James said jovially, a smile lighting up his face as the elderly man stepped into the room. "Welcome to our humble abode. You've been here before, haven't you?" he asked politely, and not waiting for Dumbledore to reply, he immediately gestured to the seat at the foot of the table. "Come in, come in, have a seat!"
Dumbledore, wrapped in midnight blue robes with sparkling golden and silver threads running through the fabric, moved carefully to the seat to which he was directed, watching James warily. "Good evening, James, Lily, Harry, Remus," he said politely, before nodding in greeting to the others. Lily and Harry moved back to their seats at the table silently, and it did not escape Dumbledore's notice that Harry was avoiding his eyes.
"Dumbledore," Remus replied evenly, smiling at Harry as the boy sat. The werewolf looked up at Dumbledore with expressionless eyes, and he gestured lightly to the chair by which Dumbledore stood, ignoring the man's uncertainty as he looked warily down the table. "Please. Have a seat."
And though he had only humored James, Remus had made it clear that he would not be argued with. So accepting the inevitable, Dumbledore sat.
"The roast is all finished," Lily said brightly, smiling at the occupants of the room. "Winky, would you help me, please?" she asked the house-elf kindly, and Winky beamed as she moved several of the platters to the table with a flick of her wrist. "Thank you, Winky," Lily smiled, and tears filled the house-elf's eyes. Seeing his friend about to break down in hysterics, Dobby moved in quickly, pulling Winky from the room.
"Help yourselves, everyone," Lily said quietly, gesturing at the food, before pulling back her chair beside Hermione and sitting down. Though Dumbledore gazed anxiously at the red-headed woman, he picked up his knife and fork, accepted the platter that Charlie passed his way, and hesitantly began to eat.
"This is wonderful, Lily," Dumbledore said eventually, as he reached for a second helping of the roast.
"Thank you," Lily smiled at him, pausing. "I had a great deal of time to perfect the recipe, so I'm quite delighted that it came out well."
As one, Ron and Neville sucked in a breath, and Dumbledore froze with his hand halfway to the platter, a stricken look on his face. When Lily just smiled and returned to her food, and James and Remus did not even look up, Dumbledore released a breath shakily and continued on with his meal.
But none of the students were eating – Ron and Neville were watching anxiously as Hermione tried to get Harry to eat something, speaking to the black-haired boy in low, anxious tones, and Ginny, Fred and George were looking nervously back and forth between Dumbledore and Lily, James, Remus and their father.
Whatever they had expected, this stilted, uncomfortable meal had not been it.
For her part, Hermione was impressed as she finally convinced Harry to take a slice of roast. She had not expected Lily and James to begin with psychological warfare, so to speak, though she might have expected it from Remus. But the look on Harry's face was getting more and more pained by the second, and as the mostly-quiet dinner progressed, she found herself wishing someone would say something – anything….
"I can't do this," Harry said roughly, slamming his knife down on the table, and Hermione whipped around to stare at him, Luna cutting off her one-way conversation with Kingsley Shacklebolt, as Lily, James, Remus and all of the other adults set their utensils down. Across the table, Neville, Ginny and the twins smiled slightly, and Ron winced. This was not going to be pretty.
"What's wrong, Harry?" Lily asked softly, and Hermione's eyes flashed – hadn't they had enough yet?
"I can't stand this… this uncomfortable silence," Harry said angrily. "I grew up with this! I'm tired of waiting."
"Very well," Remus said quietly. "After all, it is you who deserves an explanation the most." The werewolf Marauder turned to Dumbledore with an expectant air, smiling inside at the headmaster's deer-in-the-headlights look. "Well?"
Slowly, the headmaster set down his fork, his hands trembling slightly. Harry watched him with sad eyes, feeling a veil of exhaustion drop over him. In the rather large kitchen, the air felt uncomfortably heavy – though that might just be the mood in the room.
"I don't know what you want me to say," Dumbledore began softly. "I did what was best – I tried to do what was best–"
"Start by explaining why you lied to us all," Lily replied, and Dumbledore looked a bit startled – the bright, cheery voice from before was gone, along with the smile.
"I can't – the prophecy," Dumbledore stuttered, and Lily shook her head.
"Explain yourself. What did you neglect to tell us about the prophecy, Headmaster?"
"It is very – complicated, Lily," Dumbledore replied hesitantly, but Lily didn't budge.
"Then un-complicate it, Albus," James demanded immediately, and Dumbledore sighed.
"I'm afraid I cannot speak of this around so many people," the headmaster began. "Sensitive information–"
"We all know the prophecy, Headmaster," Tonks spoke up flatly, and Dumbledore blinked at her in surprise.
"That – that's impossible," the headmaster stuttered. "The danger – it's far too dangerous for you all to–"
"It's done," Lily spoke up harshly. "And it will not be undone. Do you understand me?"
"I – yes," Dumbledore sighed tiredly, his face falling. "Yes, I understand."
"Good," Lily said calmly. "Now, explain."
"What would you do," Dumbledore asked mournfully, "if you were faced with a child whom you loved as your own grandson, yet you know that to allow this child a happy childhood would be to damn the entire world?"
"I don't know," Lily replied evenly. "This was your dilemma, then? Did you leave something out fifteen years ago, Albus?"
"Yes," he agreed. "Yes, I did."
"Tell us," James said quietly, his eyes never leaving Albus's face. "All of it."
A long silence followed as Harry stared at the headmaster blankly – he couldn't follow the man's logic at all. He loved Harry like a grandson and, because of that, chose to leave him to suffer for ten years? He couldn't reconcile the two ideas in his mind….
"The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches. Born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies. And the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not. And forged in the fires of adversity, he will be the One to vanquish the Dark Lord…The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies…"
Dumbledore's voice trailed off at the end of the prophecy and he closed his eyes tiredly.
"So you – you sent me there to fulfill the prophecy?" Harry asked shakily, staring at the elderly wizard, but before Dumbledore could reply, Remus cut in.
"Quite brilliant, actually," he said evenly. "That single line practically guarantees victory should Harry suffer in childhood… It was quite the gamble…"
A startled silence followed as nearly the entire table stared at Remus with absolute shock in their eyes. Something flashed across Tonks's face and she shot to her feet, moving to Remus's side with more grace than anyone had ever seen from her before, but too late –
"HOW COULD YOU?" Remus screamed. "HOW COULD YOU DO THIS TO HIM, TO US? HOW COULD YOU GAMBLE FIVE LIVES FOR YOUR SO-CALLED GREATER GOOD? FOR A PROPHECY?"
"Remus," Tonks began slowly, grabbing his arm. "Remus, calm–"
"I am calm," he ground out angrily, a vein throbbing in his neck, and Tonks rolled her eyes.
"Yeah, you're the picture of serenity," she replied dryly. "Sit down, Remus."
Grumbling angrily, Remus did just that, taking the time to glare at Dumbledore as he did so.
"I'm afraid I see no sense in your contradictory actions, Headmaster," James spoke up calmly. "You claim to love Harry, yet told Lily and I that he was dead, that Sirius was dead and that Remus was dead. You told everyone that we were dead, and then you locked us away – for the express point of making Harry have a horrible childhood?"
"That was the means," Dumbledore murmured. "Not the purpose."
"And I suppose the ends justify the means?" Remus sneered, and Dumbledore straightened up, gazing at Remus sadly.
"No," he replied. "Never. But some things must be done, with or without justification of any sort."
"If this is how you treat people you love," Ginny said venomously, "I'd hate to see how you treat your enemies."
Dumbledore flinched. "I did what I thought was best–" He cut himself off, sighing heavily, before turning to look at Harry. "I never meant to hurt you. You have been kinder, stronger, better than I could ever have imagined," he said hoarsely. "But when I looked at you as a baby, and when I heard that prophecy, I saw a child who would one day bear a heavy burden no matter what I did. I had to choose between two different kinds of pain for you –suffering at the hands of your relatives for your entire childhood, or suffering for your entire life with the knowledge that we could have won the war, saved hundreds, maybe even thousands of lives, had you lived with the Dursleys. And that knowledge would have destroyed you, Harry. It's just the way you are.
"Of the two," Dumbledore continued, clearing his throat nervously, "I felt that you would more easily recover from the former than the latter."
"I understand your reasoning," Harry said quietly, and Hermione spun around to glare at him as Ron raised his eyebrows. "And if – if I'd been able to make the choice, that's – I hope that's what I would have chosen. But Headmaster, I didn't make the choice. You made it for me, and took away–"
"I understand," the elderly man said quietly, and it seemed to Hermione, glancing back at the man, that he had aged more than thirty years before her very eyes. "I do not presume to ask for forgiveness, Harry."
This time, Harry smiled. "Try again in a few months, sir," he said softly, and Dumbledore's head shot up, the elderly man staring at Harry incredulously.
"I'm tired," Harry said quietly, looking at his parents and Remus. "May I be excused?"
Lily, James and Remus nodded. "Go ahead, all of you," James gestured at them, and Hermione sprang to her feet beside Harry, the trio quickly leaving the room, followed by Neville, Ginny and Luna. When the kitchen door had shut behind them, Lily smiled and James leaned forward, rolling his shirtsleeves up with one hand.
"Now," James began, "let's talk about how this school year is going to go, Headmaster…"
It was a very anxious Harry Potter that paced up and down in the Black family parlor, his friends sitting in chairs all around him. None of them had spoken since they had left the kitchen, and they were all anxiously awaiting the moment when Harry revealed what was on his mind. It was obvious to anyone who knew him that Harry was deep in thought about something – all that remained was to find out what.
"Do you know what this means?" he asked abruptly, and Hermione sat up.
"No," she said quietly, "what does it mean?"
Suddenly, Harry smiled. "It means I can win."
"We already knew that," Neville and Ron said as one, and Harry's smile widened.
"Yes," he replied, "perhaps. But I didn't."
The next morning at breakfast, Lily Evans Potter leaned back in her chair, watching Dobby carefully. She had received an owl a moment earlier which she had found amusing, but desperately needed confirmation. However, out of courtesy to her husband, she waited until he, along with Remus, Tonks and Harry, was seated at the table before speaking up.
"Dobby?" she spoke slowly, and the house-elf immediately appeared at her side.
"Yes, Mistress Lily?" the excitable house-elf asked.
"I received some interesting news from Hogwarts this morning," she said calmly, lifting up her letter, "from Professor Flitwick. He told me something about Professor Snape."
At this, Harry, Remus and James immediately looked up hopefully, gazing at Dobby with expectant faces.
"Dobby, why was Professor Snape found dangling from the Quidditch posts early this morning?"
Harry choked, setting down the glass of orange juice he had just picked up, and quickly, Remus and James both patted him roughly on the back. After a few seconds, Harry settled down and the three men returned to watching Dobby hopefully.
"Because, Mistress Lily," Dobby replied earnestly, "no one is going out to the Quidditch Pitch last night. Professor Snapey is having to wait to be found."
"I see," Lily replied slowly. "And why was Professor Snape dangling from the Quidditch posts last night?"
"Because Dobby had to move Professor Snapey quickly or Professor Snapey would get hurt," Dobby answered.
"When he was in the kitchen?" Remus questioned, and Dobby nodded. "That was days ago!"
"Only two," James replied, grinning broadly. "How is it, Dobby, that Snapey wasn't found in that time?"
This time, the house-elf had the grace to be ashamed. "Dobby makes Snapey invisible, he does," Dobby said in low tones. "Dobby is hiding Snapey, so he won't be found, he is…"
"Why?" Lily asked tiredly as a smile blossomed on Remus's face. "And when?"
"Dobby is making Professor Snapey invisible when Master Harry Potter and his friends go looking for Mistress Lily and Master James," Dobby replied, bouncing on the balls of his feet. "And Dobby must be getting Snapey back to Hoggywarts for Snapey's own protection, and must be going quickly. Dobby is hearing that Hoggywarts looks pretty from up there, Mistress. Dobby is merely wanting to share and protect." The house-elf smiled. "Professor Snapey is not appreciating. Is saying vile things, he is."
"Is Snapey?" Remus grinned yet again. "Dobby, I could kiss you."
The house-elf looked horrified. "Oh no, Master Remus, that is not being proper!"
"He was kidding, Dobby," Harry quickly assured the house-elf. "But Dobby – thank you."
The house-elf's eyes quickly filled with tears. "Harry Potter is thanking Dobby! Dobby is not deserving – Harry Potter is good and brave and noble and kind and–"
"So are you," Harry replied with a grin, and Dobby froze mid-sentence, gaping at the black-haired wizard.
"My goodness, he made the little guy stop talking," Tonks breathed in shock, and moments later, Dobby burst into joyful tears.
"No, Dobby, get off – Dobby, I need that leg – Dobby! Mum – Dad – Remus – Tonks – anyone – help!"
Chuckling, all four rose and left Harry to Dobby's mercies.
They appeared directly in Bones's office, wands at the ready even as they landed. A quick sweep of the room showed no one hiding and no recording or eavesdropping devices of any kind. Letting out a sigh of relief, Remus dropped into a nearby chair and covered his hands. "This isn't going to be pretty," he murmured tiredly, and Lily knelt beside him.
"It will be fine, Remus," Lily soothed, taking his hand, "Amelia Bones does not allow prejudices to affect her work. Not in things like this."
"I certainly hope not," James muttered darkly, "or we'll have to pull Harry out of Hogwarts, and somehow convince the Grangers, Weasleys, Augusta Longbottom and Otto Lovegood to do the same. I don't look forward to that conversation…"
"We could easily tutor them or hire tutors effective enough," Lily replied with an absent wave of her hand. "Their educations would likely be better than what they'll receive at Hogwarts."
"You could just go without me–"
"NO!" Lily and James both shouted immediately, and James, his face flushed, calmed first.
"We're not leaving you behind, Remus, even if you have Tonks now," James said quietly. "We just got you both back. Don't ask us to give you up."
Remus gazed at him as the door opened and a woman with a monocle walked in.
"Ah, good, you're here. The Portkey worked, I assume?" Without waiting for an answer, the woman dug a vial from her pocket. "I must verify your identities, as I'm certain you understand."
Lily and James stiffened but nodded even as Remus straightened up, rising form his chair.
"We'll start with you, sir," Amelia Bones gestured to James, who immediately dropped into the chair Remus had vacated. A moment later, three drops of Veritaserum had been placed on James's tongue and Bones leaned against her desk with her arms folded, her eyes never once leaving James as two Aurors filed in to the room.
"Auror Tonks, Auror Shacklebolt," Bones commanded in a deep, booming voice, "please restrain Mrs. Potter and Mr. Lupin." The two Aurors nodded immediately, Tonks taking Lily's arm and Kingsley taking Remus's. The moment Bones turned away, Tonks grinned at Remus and winked. Lily and Remus barely bit back exasperated sighs.
"What is your name?" Bones asked James sternly.
"James Harold Potter IV," James replied in a robotic voice, and Bones blinked.
"Where have you been for the past fifteen years?" she continued, and Lily flinched.
A long silence followed before James replied, "I cannot say."
"I cannot say."
"Were you in the service of the Dark Lord, Voldemort?"
"Have you ever served the Dark Lord Voldemort?"
"Have you ever knowingly aided the Dark Lord Voldemort?"
Straightening up, Bones glared at Lily. "I suppose you cannot say, either?"
"Yes, Madam Bones," Lily agreed before taking a seat next to her husband. A moment later, Bones recited the same list of questions, received the same answers save the name of Lily Marie Evans Potter, and reacted in the same manner.
"Lupin! Or whoever you are," Bones boomed, "you're next."
James stirred in his seat as Remus's expression changed to one of panic. "Madam Bones, you mustn't!" James pleaded. "He's allergic to–"
"Ah, that's right," Bones murmured softly, her mouth twisting in a grimace. "I had forgotten. Veritaserum is toxic to your kind, is it not?"
Remus nodded grimly even as Lily, beginning to recover from the serum, spluttered in indignation at Bones's phrasing.
"Pity," Bones murmured, blinking rapidly. "Very well, Mr. and Mrs. Potter; how would you like to approach your return to the Wizarding World?"
"We have a reporter friend we can speak to," Lily replied, still glaring at Madam Bones. "She'll see to it that we're announced."
"Very well, then," Madam Bones agreed as a sly smile slid across James's face. "Enjoy your day, Mr. and Mrs. Potter." Completely ignoring Remus, she rose to her feet. "Shacklebolt, escort them out. Auror Tonks," she added harshly, "stay a minute."
Kingsley glanced at Tonks worriedly before leading the Potters and Remus from the room. Tonks didn't look up, her gaze firmly fixed on her boss's face, and Bones stared steadily back at Tonks. Neither one noticed the messy, black-haired head that poked back around the door, nor the sparkling hazel eyes that smirked at the older woman. Satisfied for now, James and Remus ambled away, James idly blowing imaginary smoke off his wand as they sauntered after Lily and Kingsley.
"Auror Tonks," Bones began icily. "If you think I did not notice the way you looked at Lupin, you are many times the fool."
"I was not aware, Director," Tonks replied evenly, "that my personal life is any of your business."
"It is when you're lowering yourself to such–" Bones exploded, but Tonks cut her off.
"Lowering myself to what?" she demanded angrily. "Madam Bones, I am not consorting with a Death Eater! Anything more than that is none of your concern!"
"He's a Lycanthrope!" Bones snarled.
"I know what he is!" Tonks shouted. "But more than that, I know who he is! And he's worth it!"
"Is he really?" Bones replied sarcastically. "I certainly hope so, Auror Tonks. You know the penalty if you choose to marry that – that–"
She froze, her face flushed, breathing heavily, and stared at Tonks. Suddenly, she began blinking, her eyes watering, and shuddered. Something flashed in her eyes – rage, Tonks assumed – then immediately disappeared.
"That what?" Tonks asked in a deadly quiet voice. "Say it. Go on."
"I-if you marry that beast," Bones spat, "your contract will be forfeit."
Tonks closed her eyes, her outrage slowly dissipating into exhaustion. "Madam Bones, the world would be a much better place if there were no bigots holding public office."
"You will hold your tongue, Auror!" Bones shouted. "One more comment from you and you'll be on suspension!"
Slowly opening her eyes, Tonks gazed at the woman steadily. "Is that all, ma'am?" she asked lightly, and Bones growled.
"Go," the woman ordered, and Tonks nodded in acknowledgement and turned on her heel.
"Oh and, Auror," Bones began as Tonks reached for the door, "if I find out that Lupin is living with the Potter boy, I'll have the werewolf and Potter's parents hauled in for neglect and child endangerment charges. After fifteen years of abandonment, it would certainly be easy enough. And if I find out you know about it, I'll toss you in Azkaban with all three of them."
Immediately, Tonks forced down her rage. "I don't know where Remus lives, ma'am," she smiled sweetly. "We only ever spend the night at my place."
With that, she left the office, smiling in fierce pleasure at Bones's outraged spluttering. A moment later, Kingsley and Hestia Jones emerged from a nearby office.
"Come on," Hestia said softly, taking Tonks's arm and steering her down the hall. "I have this old lamp my aunt gave me last Christmas – honestly, I gave it to her for her birthday five years ago! You can take your frustration out on it."
The three Aurors ducked into Hestia's office, Kingsley chuckling all the while, and moment's later, the unmistakable sounds of a Blasting Hex echoed off the walls.
"James! Lily!" Rita Skeeter exclaimed, rushing up to the front doors, and she stood there, beaming at them, as the couple made their way up the steps. "What an absolute honor to meet you! I've met your son several times, you know; such a brave boy, he never once shed a tear during our interview back during the Tournament, though I could tell he was close. Come in, come in! We can talk in my office!"
Lily and James were quickly ushered up three flights of stairs and into the back corner. As soon as the door had shut behind them, Rita smiled and settled happily behind her desk.
"Your son got this for me," Skeeter smiled. "Cushy corner office, my own secretary – media's a stormy business, my friends, your luck can change in a heartbeat. We're all lucky that your son knew he could trust me."
"Because his best friend discovered that you're an illegal Animagus," James pointed out, sititng in a chair across from Skeeter's desk.
The reporter's brilliant smile dimmed for a moment before she laughed, waving her hand absently. "Details, details!" she exclaimed. "Whatever his reasons, Harry came to me after the interview he had with me the year before. Obviously, he knew he was getting the best." Neither James nor Lily replied. "And such a brave dear, giving up his parents like that so they could fight for the greater good, having to pretend all the while that they were dead–"
"Yes, well, Harry's a strong boy," Lily replied impatiently. "Could we get to the interview, please, madam? Harry, James and I have a great deal of catching up to do."
"Of course, of course!" Skeeter replied, wiping crocodile tears from her eyes. "What a beautiful reunion you must have had – it warms my heart to see things finally going right for the boy."
She sniffled dramatically before riffling through her crocodile skin handbag, quickly extracting a lurid green quill. "Now," she smiled brightly, "where do we begin?"
"We begin," James said, eyeing the quill dubiously, "by putting that away." He reached into his robe pockets and withdrew a phoenix feather quill. "And using this. A gift," he added, smiling at the woman, "for all you've done for Harry."
Skeeter frowned momentarily before regaining her bright smile, carefully taking the quill from James. "Thank you!" she exclaimed quickly. "You shouldn't have. Is it genuine?" she asked, fingering the gold tip of the quill.
"Of course," Lily replied evenly.
"It's a lovely gift," Skeeter murmured. "Just lovely." Clearing her throat, she straightened up, the phoenix feather quill held carefully in her hand. "Now," she smiled brightly, "tell me everything."
An hour later, the Potters left the Daily Prophet building, walking down Diagon Alley in broad daylight without any disguise.
"Okay, Potter," Lily said sternly as people gasped and veered quickly out of their way, screaming about ghosts, "out with it. What did you do to that quill?"
Smirking, James looked down at his wife and replied, "Absolutely nothing. It's a political situation, you see – an even better prank. Skeeter will have to use that quill now, or we'll be ever so upset, you see. Not to mention, phoenix feather quills are extremely rare – a phoenix has to give up the feathers for a quill willingly, so there are no stores which sell them. There aren't any phoenixes which will be willing to hang around and be plucked to make quills, you see. So not only will she have to use it, but she'll have to use it in public, where she can brag about the quill and from whom it was a gift. Which means," James grinned broadly, "she won't be able to use that Quick Quotes Quill of hers all the time. A few of her articles may actually be factual every now and again."
Pausing midstep, Lily turned to stare at her husband. "And you did all this without a single spell?" James nodded, and she smiled sweetly. "Mr. Potter, I absolutely love the way you think."
"Really?" James waggled his eyebrows. "Well in that case, why don't we just–"
"I have a date tonight, James," Lily said calmly, and James stared at her.
"With our son," she continued before turning on her heel and walking off.
"Oh. Hey, I'm coming too, aren't I? Lily? Lily!"
Smiling serenely, Lily led her flustered husband to Ollivander's shop.
Prongs: 0, Evans: 1.
They perched on the edge of his bed, watching him carefully as he leaned back against the wall.
"We don't know what to say, Harry," Lily murmured finally.
Though only two days had passed since Lily and James had visited Harry's memories, the two had felt it was better to have a heart-to-heart with their son sooner rather than later. But somehow, they were finding that that was easier said than done.
"We didn't know," James said tightly, and Harry looked up at him. "You're aware that we didn't know, aren't you?"
Harry nodded, smiling slightly for a moment. "It was a bit obvious," he murmured, and Lily choked out a laugh.
An uncomfortable silence followed, and Lily and James looked nervously from their son to each other. "I hate this!" Lily burst out suddenly, and her son and husband jumped. "We're tip-toeing around each other like absolute strangers! I hate it!"
"Technically speaking, Lily, we are strangers," James pointed out sadly. "It's only been two days."
Lily ignored him. "We saw your memories," she said shrilly. "Why won't you talk to us? Have you talked to your friends about the – the – about my sister?"
Harry looked away. "A – A bit," he said softly, and Lily glared at him.
"That means no," she replied angrily. "Harry, you need to open up to somebody. If it's not us, at least talk to Hermione, but please, Harry," she whispered. "We want to help you."
For several minutes, Harry didn't reply. Instead, he stared at the wall opposite them, the flickering in his eyes showing that he was reliving things long passed.
"I remember when I was three," he said finally, "the – the Dursleys started making me do the weeding in the garden then – they said I was big enough. One day when I came inside, I accidentally tracked dirt, and there was this worm that fell out of my clothes – A Petunia hit me with a skillet and tossed me into the cupboard. That is, she literally picked me up and threw me."
Hesitantly, James reached out and placed an arm around Harry's shoulder, and smiled as the boy leaned into him. Heartened by her husband's success, Lily scooted across the bed and began playing with Harry's hair as she leaned against the wall beside him.
"I'm – I'm glad they're dead," Harry said, swallowing convulsively. "They hurt me so much, but worst of all, they made me think that I deserved it, for a while. They – they should have loved me, and they didn't. And I'm glad they're dead. What does that make me?"
"Human," Lily replied. "It makes you human. Listen to me!" she said roughly as Harry
looked away, and moving forward on the bed, she seized his shoulders and turned him so that he was facing her. "Your father and I are glad they're dead. We want them dead. What does that make us? When we heard that you'd been living with them, our first thoughts were about how to repay them for their treatment of you. Dudley's fate is a sad one, because he was a product of his environment. His parents made him what he was – they took advantage of his gullibility, of his ignorance and of his age to make him into the bully you knew. But as for Vernon and Petunia, they got what they deserved."
"It's only natural to be grateful that they can never hurt you again, son," James said quietly, squeezing Harry's shoulder. "It's certainly nothing to be ashamed of."
Silently, Harry squeezed his eyes shut and flinched. "I miss Sirius," he whispered, and Lily's heart broke.
"Oh, Harry," she murmured, gathering him into his arms, and finally, for the first time since the night of Sirius's death, he began to weep.
A soft thud sounded outside the door, and slowly, James rose to his feet. "Did Tonks go to her apartment?" he asked, and Lily nodded. Taking a deep breath, James opened the door and looked down.
There Remus stood, his tail wagging uncertainly as he gazed up at his only true living friend. The werewolf looked passed James to Harry, whimpering softly, and James smiled.
"Have you taken your Wolfsbane, old boy?" he asked, and Remus barked in agreement. Chuckling slightly, he pulled the door open and Remus padded in, leaping up onto the bed. The werewolf settled himself beside Harry, whining softly, and rested his head on Harry's legs. James climbed back up onto the bed, sitting down beside his friend, and wrapped an arm around Harry's shoulders again.
Hours later, Harry finally drifted off to sleep, his head pillowed in Lily's lap. The Marauders' Queen – as Peter had once called her, to his immediate dismay – idly ran her fingers through Harry's hair and leaned back against her husband, her eyes closed. Remus licked Harry's face three times before curling up at the foot of the bed, his ears down and relaxed but his gaze steady and alert. Eventually, all of the Potters had fallen asleep, and Remus rose to his feet, leaping off the bed, and went to nudge the bedroom door shut. He sat by the door, guarding his sleeping family, with every intent of slipping back to his own room before dawn.
They couldn't see – especially Harry. He wouldn't allow it.
Arthur Weasley watched his wife nervously as they readied for bed. He had been observing her bubbling cheer for hours that day – from the time the children had returned from visiting Harry, she had been exuding happiness and energy. But Arthur knew his wife, and he knew when she was hiding something. Molly knew there was something going on, and she was none too happy about being kept in the dark.
Nor, he realized, was she happy about their daughter's new relationship. Ginny and Neville had announced that they were dating at dinner that evening – Neville with a panicked glance at Ginny's five brothers in attendance at the meal – and though Molly had acted as though she were happy for them, Arthur had seen it in her eyes.
Neville wasn't Harry. And in Molly's mind, that meant he wasn't good enough for their daughter.
What he had to tell her was not going to help her mood any, but he could not delay any longer.
"Molly, dear?" Arthur began anxiously, and she turned around and smiled at him. "Er… I have something to tell you. And you – may not like it."
His wife's expression immediately darkened. "Is it about that new secretary in your office?" she spat angrily, her face turning red, and Arthur stared at her.
"Molly, I wish you would not be so insecure," he said heavily after a moment. "I would never do that to you."
His wife's face fell. "I'm sorry, Arthur," she sniffled. "I'm just so–"
"I know," he said gently, "just please, Molly, think better of me." When his wife continued to sniffle, he continued. "It's about Harry, and it's a very good thing, for him. Unfortunately, it means that our relationship with him may change."
"What?" Molly straightened up immediately, her face paling. "What is it, Arthur? What's happened?"
Arthur stood for several moments in silent contemplation before, finally, choosing to use Hermione's – rather blunt – approach. "We found his parents."
"Oh, the poor dear!" Molly cried. "His parents' bodies? Had they been dug up? Did You-Know-Who turn them into Inferi? Oh, how dreadful!"
"No, no, Molly, that's not it!" Arthur cut in quickly, and he grabbed his wife's arm, stilling her frantic pacing. "Molly, we found his parents. They never died."
"No," Molly said tremulously. "No, Arthur, the Potters are dead. They died heroically, saving that poor dear from You-Know-Who, and Harry is an orphan. I won't have you confusing him like this. I won't have it, do you hear me?"
"They're at Grimmauld Place right now," Arthur continued, ignoring the blow his wife had just struck at him. "Amelia Bones confirmed their identities using Veritaserum. It's real, Molly. They're alive."
"A-alive?" Molly whispered, rocking back on her heels, and Arthur watched her anxiously. "HOW DARE THEY?" she erupted suddenly, and Arthur stepped back in shock. "Why, I'll tear them apart! I'll bathe in their blood! I'll–"
"MOLLY!" Arthur shouted, and his wife fell into startled silence. "They didn't know."
"What do you mean, they–"
"They weren't killed fighting V-voldemort," Arthur swallowed, "protecting Harry. But they were knocked unconscious. And when they awoke, Dumbledore told them that Harry was dead, and Remus and Sirius as well – he sent them away and trapped them in Godric's Hollow, surrounded by wards layered with memory charms. And he told everyone else–"
"That the Potters had died," Molly whispered, stricken. "Oh lord, Arthur, why?"
Arthur swallowed convulsively. This was the hardest part…
"You remember that I was guarding something on occasion last year, Molly?" When his wife nodded, Arthur continued, "It was a prophecy. About Harry and V-voldemort. It says that Harry has to kill Voldemort, and that no one else can do it. And it says that if Harry doesn't kill V-voldemort, then V-voldemort will kill him. This is top secret, Molly. No one must know. Now, apparently, there was another line… which practically guaranteed Harry's victory if he were raised in an… unpleasant home."
"The Dursleys," Molly murmured, and Arthur nodded. "I don't know what to think. Oh, that poor, poor boy."
Smiling sadly, Arthur climbed into the bed and pulled his wife into his arms.
She wept half the night.
Severus Snape paced restlessly in his rooms, glaring through the darkness. His arms and behind were still horribly sore, and glancing down, he could still see the red marks on his palms from clinging to the goal posts. Hesitantly, he rubbed his thumb over the marks on one palm and winced – they still stung.
But not quite as much as his pride.
In less than two days, he was taken down by first a house-elf, then Evans.
Snapey is staying here, the foul creature's voice echoed in his mind. Snapey is being found… eventually. But Snapey is not leaving until Snapey is found. Dobby makes certain.
Pitiful. Clear your mind.
Her voice rang through his mind, again and again, judging him, finding him wanting – casting him aside without a second thought. Making a ruthless attack upon his mind – the only thing left sacred for him. The only thing he still controlled in his life.
Clearly, the Mudblood thought she was getting vengeance for her son.
An eye for an eye, he remembered her saying once. She had denounced the idea, as a child, without a second thought.
As a woman, evidently, she relished it.
An eye for an eye, he thought again, and her voice whispered across his mind.
Pitiful. Clear your mind.
He sneered. Alright, Evans, he thought coldly, if that's the way you want to play it…
She'd wounded him for her son. That maniac elf had wounded him for her blasted son.
An eye for an eye indeed.
He ran before he could change his mind, racing through the halls of Hogwarts and out onto the grounds. Moving swiftly, he disappeared into the Forbidden Forest and Disapparated with a quiet pop.
He appeared again at the base of a hill, beside a sign that read "Little Hangleton". His robes billowing around his body, he strode up the hill and knocked o the door of an old, rotting mansion. A moment later, the door was pulled open and Snape stepped through the doorway, sneering at the man before him.
"Tell our Master that I bring news," he drawled, and the man hurried off. Not two minutes later, he returned, gesturing for Snape to follow him.
They stopped before a door on the second floor, and nervously, Snape pushed the door open with a creak. Inside, he could see a large chair silhouetted against the flickering flames of the hearth against the opposite wall. A tall, thin frame emerged from the chair and turned to face him, and Snape gazed at the Dark Lord.
"Severussss…," Voldemort hissed. "Welcome. Avery says you have news for me?"
"Yes, my Lord," Snape replied immediately. "The Mudblood girl's parents are traveling in Greece – on a second honeymoon," he sneered. "They are unprotected."
Voldemort's eyes gleamed. "Sit, Severus," he ordered, and with a wave of his wand, he summoned a chair from the opposite side of the room.
Nearly trembling in relief, Snape did as ordered.
A/N: Several things. First of all, I'm very sorry that updating took me such a long time. Suffice it to say that school was very difficult in the last month, and I barely had time to breathe, let alone write. Second, I'm sorry it took so long to get this up today - as some of you may know, the Document Manager has a very long temper tantrum.
Finally, to everybody who is going to review telling me that Amelia Bones is out of character - because I know some of you will - don't. If you see her as out of character and cannot figure out why, go back and reread that scene. Carefully. Pay more attention to her actions than her words - I will give you no more hint than that. The clues are there, folks. Find them.
As always, review if you have something to say. Thank you all very much for your patience.