The Makeshift Nursery
This is the third and final one shot in The Reading Room arc.
In Order of one-shots: The Reading Room, The Broom Cupboard, and The Makeshift Nursery.
I don't own Harry Potter, JKR does.
After Fred's funeral, the rest of Ginny Weasley's day wore on at the slowest pace possible. She helped clear up the living room after Fred's Wake to keep her occupied, distracting her from feelings of her brother's loss, which had begun to creep back like the deadly tendrils of a predatory plant.
Almost everyone had left the Burrow; Harry and Hermione had retreated back to Andromeda Tonks's house. Ginny thought of the injuries Harry sustained the night before, after a Death Eater, who had been trapped at Hogwarts for days after the final battle, had attacked him. Neville had also left. He returned to Hogwarts to help with the rebuild, while Luna went back to her home. There were only a few stragglers who remained, sitting at the kitchen table with her father and brothers. All of them were getting rather tipsy on Firewiskey. No, in fact they were more than tipsy; they were pissed.
Her mother huffed contemptuously as she cleaned the dishes with a swipe of her wand. She shot glares at the now drunken boys, men and girls as they sung to Fred's memory, sloshing their alcohol over their clothes and floor.
"Honestly, you're like a bunch of children!" mum yelled, "Just look at the mess you're all making. It smells like a pub in here!"
Percy, Bill and Ron, Lee Jordan and Katie Bell laughed into their glasses. Fleur rolled her eyes, being the only sober one on the table besides Ginny. Professor Flitwick almost toppled off his chair.
Flitwick had joined the little after party as he had always been impressed with the twin's talent with charms and jokes. The twins, in turn, thought Flitwick as their favourite teacher and mentor at Hogwarts.
Ginny's dad sheepishly looked at his wife. "Mollywobbles," he said affectionately, "How about I pour you one?" He hiccupped as he uncorked another bottle of Firewhiskey, throwing the cork over his shoulder.
"Not until night time." She blushed. "Do you really need to be so drunk?"
Ginny hadn't seen a smile on George's face since the Battle. He rose his glass to his mother, golden liquid spilling onto the table. "Fred and I made a pact, mum." George burped. "If anything was to happen to either one of us, we'd toast to their life and get grunk til we, er, got stoopid. Or was it grunk til we. Ahh I can't remember—DRUNK- that's the worrrrrd! Annnn' what else what I going to say? Ahh yes… TO FRED!"
"TO FRED…" they all yelled, raining more alcohol onto the floor. The mop in the kitchen, was working especially hard to magically clean up after them.
"Freddie boy, where ever you are, I just want to say that I miss you… you were always the better half of me…" a tear escaped George's eye and he suddenly became very quiet. He stared into his glass. No one spoke. "But… I was always the better looking one."
They all laughed.
"Mum," Ginny said above the raucous singing that had started again.
Her mother's tender smile wore off as she turned to her daughter. Her eyes were glossy with tears that threatened to fall. "I'm going to stay with Hermione and Harry tonight. I've been invited over."
She didn't ask her mum if she could go, she knew she'd say no, but decided to declare that she was going. Ginny added Hermione in her speech so her mother thought it wasn't just Harry's company she sought out for, making sure she didn't give her mum any wrong ideas.
"Oh," she said surprised. "Well… have dinner first, before you go." Her nostrils flared a bit.
"Is everything all right?"
"Nothing… I just don't- Mrs Tonks and I don't see eye to eye, especially with domestic issues. I've never liked that witch much."
"I knew her at Hogwarts, love. Slytherin traits die hard."
"You don't trust her, even though she was a member of the Order of the Phoenix and she helped Harry? She married a Muggle-born for God's sake, mum!"
"She may be a nice witch, Ginny, but can you really trust her with Harry so soon after the war? He shouldn't have gone to stay with her. He should've stayed here with his family." She patted her daughter on the cheek. "You are still too young."
"Mum! I think you can't get over the fact Harry chose to stay with her over us," Ginny protested.
She turned her back on her mother and left the kitchen and its rowdy occupants. Her mother was jealous, Ginny realised, at the fact that Harry was staying with Mrs Tonks.
At seven, Ginny filled her rucksack and pushed Ron's snoring face with her foot as he slept spread-eagled on the couch.
"Whazzupp? Stooophitme," Ron swatted her foot away.
Ginny tsked in frustration. "Well, I take it that means you're not coming with me to Mrs Tonk's house?"
Ron's loud snore was his only reply.
Ginny threw the Floo powder into the grate and followed the usual procedure. "Andromeda Tonk's house," she said. The whirling of green tickling flames made her dizzy but it only lasted seconds. She stepped out of the grate in a nicely furnished living room, and dusted herself off on the welcome mat in front of her. All the flecks of ash from her cloak seemed to magically gravitate towards the mat and vanish within.
"Hello, Ginny," Hermione beamed, playing with little Teddy who was sprawled on the blanket covered floor with plush toys.
It looked like a normal Muggle house, complete with a telephone and a CD stereo. She recognised them after doing Muggle Studies at Hogwarts. Well that was before the Currows had decided to take over the subject and teach students that Muggles were filthy disgusting scum who belonged beneath the hierarchy of wizards.
"—Hermione, I asked a friend of mine if she had any books on mind alteration and she gave me—Oh, good evening Ginny, you missed dinner."
Ginny blushed, "Sorry Mrs Tonks, my mother insisted I have dinner before I go." She crouched on the floor, feeling Teddy's soft skin on his little foot, and watching his hair change colour to a lovely mauve.
Mrs Tonks's eyes narrowed, but she softened up a second later. "No worries, sweetheart. I have some shepherd's pie left over if you feel a little peckish later on. You can tell me if your mother's is better than mine." She dropped the books besides Hermione, letting her mousy brown hair cascade down her front as she touched Teddy's hand. "Harry's sleeping in the spare bedroom if you'd like to see him now… at least he was sleeping when I checked on him five minutes ago."
"I'll show her where it is." Hermione got up and Ginny followed. "I'm so glad you came. Talk about the tension between Mrs Tonks and your mum, Ginny. Wow!"
"I don't want to get involved, but Harry might better watch out. He's right in the middle of this," Ginny snorted, "Anyways, I'm glad I came. I needed to get out of the house. I haven't seen you and Harry for so long. How is he?" Ginny asked as she climbed the stairs.
Hermione bit her lip, brushing her bushy brown hair behind her ear. "He spiked a temperature this morning after we left the funeral and his wounds cracked open, hence the blood you saw. He didn't want to sleep- He hasn't been sleeping well."
"None of us have."
Hermione nodded. "But he's exhausted! Andromeda spiked his cup of tea with a sedative."
Ginny could see why her mother had some misgivings.
"He really needs to take it easy now, but he refuses too - rather he keeps himself busy helping Hogwarts with the rebuild, speaking with the Aurors, trying to find Death Eaters. I've never seen him so obsessed with getting as much done as possible. I think he just can't keep still for the moment. It's like he needs to be busy, like he's afraid of..."
They stopped right outside of the bedroom.
"Afraid of what?" Ginny asked.
Hermione sighed. "I think he feels lost… and he's not sure how he'd cope with a world without Voldemort. He doesn't want to talk about it. I told him that after all he's been through, it's good just to get everything off his chest and talk to someone."
A part of Ginny felt a sense of empowerment over Harry's relationship with Hermione, because Harry had told her how he felt in the Broom Cupboard.
"He told me how he felt this morning," Ginny said slowly, relishing this bit of information.
"Oh?" Hermione raised her eyebrows. "Well…ah, how does he feel?"
"As you've guessed."
Hermione looked at her sadly. "And just because the enemy is dead, doesn't mean its dead in our hearts and minds. It lives on in a changed form. And when I say the enemy, I don't just mean Voldemort. I'm talking more about experiences, memories, dreams…"
"So he not sleeping because of the nightmares," Ginny said, "I have them. Mum has them. George wakes up screaming every night. Ron too…"
"Ron has them?" Hermione asked very surprised.
"He hasn't told you?" Now it was Ginny turn to raise her eyebrows in amazement. Hermione shook her head; she seemed a little worried now. Ginny continued, "He keeps yelling out your name and Harry's."
Hermione let go of the bedroom doorknob, whispering, "I take Dreamless Sleep Potion every other night. Some say if you drink it too often and suddenly stop the dreams would come back a hundred fold more terrifying."
"Yeah, I've heard that happens."
"Harry drank some, though he chose to stop two days ago. The dreams still broke through the effects of the potion…"
"Are you ok?" Ginny asked, seeing how teary Hermione was. Teary-ness seemed to be a contagious disease affecting a lot of people these days.
"Yes I'm fine, thank you." Hermione closed her eyes. "It's just when I sleep, I see Harry dead in Hagrid's arms- only this time he really is dead. Then Ron comes into my dream dead… I-I scream when Bellatrix slashes my throat, and I-I-I drown in my own blood. And-and my parents… they hate me. They yell that I'm not their daughter and they don't want to have anything to do with me…"
Hermione burst into tears, covering her face with both hands so Ginny could not see. Ginny pulled her friend into a hug, letting her cry on her shoulder.
"It's funny… I-I thought I would feel better again after it all ended. Like I could relax, get my parents back and continue where I left off with school and life… but it's so different. I'm having trouble adjusting."
Ginny nodded, she felt exactly the same way. Harry felt this way. "It's changed everyone, but I think we've just got to just got to take it on the chin and continue on."
The bedroom door flung opened and Harry stepped out, wand raised, as though ready to fight. "I heard crying- are we being attacked?" His hair was dishevelled and sticking up everywhere, his glassless eyes heavy with sleep. He wore blue tartan pyjama bottoms with no top. Instead his torso was covered in thick bandaging and a thin film of sweat coated his thin arms and shoulders.
"No attack. Everyone's fine, Harry…" Ginny smiled, she was slightly amused with Harry's appearance. "We were just having a little girl talk."
Harry relaxed, dropping his wand arm. "Does girl talk always involve crying?" He rolled his eyes, walked back into his room and Ginny saw three thick ribbons of red blood staining the bandage on his back and side. She almost gasped.
Harry flopped onto his bed. Hermione wiped her tears away as they followed him in.
"How are you feeling?" Ginny asked, dropping her rucksack on a fold up bed near the window. Hermione's single bed was opposite to Harry's. It looked like she had been sleeping in the same room. Ginny was a little put off by this. Jealous are we?
"Cold, hot…" Harry answered, fluffing up his pillow and he curled up into a ball. "And I'm bored and sleepy."
Ginny sat on the edge of his bed, trying to smooth a bit of fringe over his scar. He looked up at her and touched her arm. "You have to learn to do nothing. It's nice sometimes."
"That's easier said than done." Harry pulled his hand away. "Ron didn't come with you?"
Ginny shook her head. "He's too drunk. Sorry."
"Yes, he did tell me about their plans to drink to Fred's memory," Hermione said disapprovingly as she sat crossed legged on her own bed, nose already in a book. Downstairs, Teddy began to cry. She smiled. "Ginny you should see Teddy's hair change colour according to his mood and needs."
"It makes things a little easier to understand, though," Harry mumbled, stifling a yawn. "I'm still don't know what to do with babies, though. I still feel like I'm going to break him every time I pick him up."
Ginny smiled. "What do the colour changes mean?"
"Blue hair means his hungry. Pink, he's tired. Green means he needs his nappy changed. The list goes on," Hermione explained. "Teddy loves Harry- his hair turns into a bright purple."
"That's so adorable," Ginny cooed, gazing down at Harry. "I think you'll make a wonderful father one day."
Harry smiled, "I hope so. Teddy can be my practice run." His green eyes twinkled, catching her eye.
Ginny's heart fluttered.
"Honestly," Hermione rolled her eyes, snapping the book shut and picking up another.
"So, um, how long will it be until you will recover from the Sectumsempra Curse?"
Harry shrugged, "I didn't ask Pomfrey… I was too busy trying to figure out how to escape the hospital wing without her knowing I'd left."
"It will be a couple of weeks until he's as good as normal," Hermione said curtly, flipping a page, eyeing Harry reproachfully.
"What?" Harry asked innocently. "You helped me by distracting Pomfrey!"
"I never said it was a good idea! Headmistress McGonagall was furious with me this morning at the funeral."
"Ahh," Harry turned to Ginny, sheepishly. "She's upset because McGonagall is angry with her. Not at the fact that I almost bled to death-"
"Harry! Please, enough about death." Hermione's brow crinkled, not looking up at them.
They fell silent for awhile.
"So, um, what's it like here? It looks like a nice place," Ginny observed, slicing the quiet. The bedroom was light and airy, the lace curtains that hung over the large open windows waved gently in the warm breeze. "How's Andromeda dealing with everything that's happened to her?"
"She's been through a lot," Hermione started. "She's lost most her family and when Harry and I saw her in the chamber at Hogwarts, holding Tonk's hand, she was asking her daughter how she was going to cope. She didn't know how to look after Teddy without them."
"Yeah we saw." Again Mrs Tonk's cries ripped through her mind, making Ginny shiver.
"So I, we, offered a hand for awhile, until we got back on our feet. She accepted straight away," Hermione continued.
"And it suited us well, since we have no place to go." Harry pulled his eyelids open in an effort to remain awake. "I have no home to go to and Hermione's house could be booby-trapped."
"But you do have a home! You have the Burrow," Ginny said indignantly.
"I know, but, at the moment I just need something… unfamiliar. I need new surroundings. I just feel that if I went back to the Burrow, I wouldn't know what to do with myself…I don't know… everything feels strange and uncomfortable."
Harry fell into silence. And Ginny sensed that his feelings were confused. She frowned, watching Harry deep in thought.
He had spent his entire life waiting for evil to strike him down; ready to die with courage, instead he watched it kill off the people he loved around him. For many years, Harry knew nothing but fighting, preparation and constant vigilance. Now that the evil that threatened him was gone, he couldn't recognise the world without it. He felt lost and confused and the path ahead for him looked rather hazy.
"It'll get better, Harry. It's hard for everyone at the moment, but I'm sure in a few weeks you'll start feeling better again," Hermione said soothingly.
"I hope so. Kingsley said the same thing and so did Madam Pomfrey. Andromeda keeps suggesting potions for me to try to help me feel brighter."
"Oh. Really?" Ginny spat, she sounded rather judgingly. She could hear her mother's voice ringing in her head. That woman can't be trusted… she'll poison him!
"What?" Harry asked suspiciously.
"Mum doesn't like her much; she thinks Andromeda shouldn't be trusted."
Harry snorted in derisive laughter. "Andromeda is lovely woman and kind-hearted too... when she's not crying, that is. She and Hermione get along really well. She's really organised and a clean freak at times."
Ginny did notice how tidy and neat the house was, even their room was spotless.
"Actually she's like the magical version of my Aunt Petunia, but nicer." Across the room Hermione nodded in agreement. "Besides, we're not stupid. We sleep with our wands under our pillows in case anything happens. The war might be over, but we're not out of the woods yet when it comes to the Death Eaters who are still out there!
"But really, Ginny, do you honestly think that Andromeda would do something stupid, with a small baby- her only family- in the house?"
Harry had a point.
"All right then, but you need to explain this to my mum. She's the one who really needs to be told," Ginny replied, moving over to her foldable bed and sitting down gingerly to test the strength of the mattress.
The rest of the evening involved chess and Exploding Snap. Ginny brought over Chocolate Frogs and Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans to keep them amused. Andromeda later brought up tea and cake and several potions for Harry to drink.
"Bloody hell, it's only five days since Voldemort snuffed it and I already have a card?" Harry scowled when he discovered a Chocolate Frog card of him. Meanwhile his chocolate frog had hopped out of the window.
"Well, you can drink up your misery." Ginny grinned slyly to Harry, pulling out a bottle of Firewhiskey from a secret compartment in her bag.
Hermione uncorked the bottle, pouring the golden liquid into their teacups. She didn't even mention to Ginny the fact that she was underage. However Ginny did notice that Hermione had poured in a very tiny amount into her teacup compared to what she gave herself and Harry.
The next morning they arose at nine for breakfast. Harry had gone to sleep at eleven, but his night was plagued with a couple of nightmares. He awoke, scrambling out of bed, pointing his wand at an imaginary enemy to the foot of his bed, sparks flying from his wand.
Ginny and Hermione stayed up til four in the morning talking about everything and anything: the Battle, Fred and George, the funerals. The distressing hug Harry gave Ginny and their talk also weaved into their conversation. They spoke of Hogwarts and going back to school. Then there was the love: Harry and Ginny, Ron and Hermione, kissing and girl stuff. It was stuff they would not ever tell Harry or Ron about.
Ginny jumped down the last four steps of the landing and walked quietly into the pristine kitchen with a black marble bench top.
Andromeda has been sniffling in the corner. She quickly hid her handkerchief when Ginny saw her.
Ginny averted her eyes, choosing to stare at the oak table laden with toast, bacon, sausages and eggs. There were beautiful chintz tea cups glinted in the light, waiting to be filled with tea and coffee. Various spreads and cereals in different flavours lay waiting in their boxes on the counter top.
Hermione followed behind, keeping a close eye on Harry as he wobbled into the kitchen in a daze, partly due to his condition and partly due to his hangover. He was wearing a dressing gown that had belonged to Mr Tonks.
"You should be in bed, Harry. I was about to bring up some food and your potions."
Harry waved her off, still sleepy and slightly grumpy. "I don't want to be up there."
They ate quietly and the food was delicious. Ginny would not even dare to tell her mother that Mrs Tonk's scrambled eggs were much nicer than hers, unless she wanted to suffer her mother's wrath.
However, Mrs Tonks seemed to give Harry furtive glances. She looked quite tense and several times she seemed on the edge of saying something to him. Otherwise her conversation with all of them was polite.
As they finished their breakfast, Andromeda finally spoke. "I couldn't sleep at all last night, Harry. I was thinking a lot about you and Teddy and the future."
Harry swallowed his cereal. "And?" Hesitation was in his voice.
Ginny sat up straighter in her chair.
"I know that you have been an integral part in defeating You-Know-Who and that you are the Chosen One and that you have a good heart…"
"But," Harry started.
"I have my concerns." Andromeda stood up went to the pantry bookshelf filled with books, retrieving a book Ginny thought she recognised. "What Mrs Muriel Weasley had touched upon yesterday got me asking questions..."
Andromeda placed the book on the table and moved it towards Harry.
Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore
by Rita Skeeter
Ginny groaned, Hermione squirmed uncomfortably in her seat, and Harry just crinkled his brow.
"You've got to be kidding?" He spat.
"Harry, I've lost my husband, my daughter and son-in-law… I have no one except Teddy and a sister who's disowned me. I have to protect Teddy. He's all I have left. He's an innocent little child. Please forgive me, but I need to know who his godfather really is. What you've been through will shape Teddy for the rest of his life." She tapped the book in front of Harry.
He was outraged and Ginny was angry that Andromeda would think that Harry would hurt anyone intentionally.
"She manipulated people for their memories of Dumbledore, you do realise that?" Hermione said defiantly, placing a hand on Harry's shoulder.
Andromeda sighed sadly. "I've read and loved Rita Skeeter's work for many years, and yes, I do know she can exaggerate sometimes—"
Harry scoffed, "That's an understatement…"
"Have you read the chapter on you and Dumbledore?"
"Yes," Harry spat out. Ginny hadn't seen him this angry since his fifth year. "I read that chapter and I don't ever want to ever again! It's disgusting and vile!"
"So you deny everything she's stated." Andromeda nodded, bowing her head for a moment.
Harry got up, his chair almost falling back. "Mrs Tonks, Rita Skeeter takes the truth, she rips it to shreds and she fabricates an entirely new story from it. Yes there may be some truth in the book about Dumbledore, but what she says happens between me and Dumbledore is disgusting and completely untrue. What she says about my childhood is malicious and most of it never happened."
Upstairs Teddy began to cry. Nobody moved, focusing on Harry, and Harry focusing on Mrs Tonks with hurt written into every inch of him.
"What is true about it then?" Andromeda asked, not unkindly, but with genuine interest and compassion.
Harry clenched and unclenched his fists. He then raised the back of his right hand so that Andromeda could see the white scars on it.
"I. Must. Not. Tell. Lies…" Harry seethed. "I fought for Dumbledore - he was my mentor and he taught me how to beat Voldemort. He may have done things I still find trouble understanding, but he cared for me. I fought for freedom, for my friends, for a happy life. It's just sad that I have to deal with this now."
"I know, but your Muggle relatives-"
"Mrs Tonks, yes, my childhood was a horrible one... but to even suggest or hint that the way I had been treated as a child would be inflicted onto Teddy is unforgivable! I would never hurt Teddy in any shape or form! I'd protect him and I'd bloody well make sure he'll have everything that I never had."
Andromeda rushed on, "I don't know you well like your friends do. I have to make sure-"
"How do I know that you will love him and protect him better than my own relatives had with me?"
Harry stormed out of the kitchen.
Ginny and Hermione looked at each other as Andromeda burst out crying.
"I'm s-sorry. I'm so sorry, but I had to ask… my p-poor little Teddy…"
Hermione stood up, comforting Mrs Tonks as she sobbed. "Go after Harry," Hermione mouthed silently to Ginny, "I'll deal with her."
It didn't take long to discover which room Harry had hidden himself in.
Ginny, tentatively walked into Teddy's makeshift little nursery. It had always been used as a study, by the looks of it. The walls were an ugly grey, filled with Muggle artworks and a desk. Boxes of toys lay strewn on the floor ready to go onto shelves. A baby themed wallpaper roll stood against the wall, ready for Andromeda to put up once things had settled. A mobile lay waiting to be assembled. On the desk, pictures of Remus and Tonks were waiting to be placed into frames for Teddy to see first thing in the morning, and the last thing he would see before he went to sleep.
Harry watched Teddy, who was now wide awake.
"Are you ok?" Ginny asked, deciding to stand at the opposite side of the cot, looking down at the curious baby.
Harry nodded. "I read that chapter at Shell Cottage a few weeks back, in a stupid moment of boredom when I couldn't sleep. Wish I hadn't…"
"I've read it too. In fact I was forced to read that book to my Great Aunt Muriel."
"I guessed… Skeeter's a vile bitch, Ginny." He shook his head. "To think that she wrote that Dumbledore and I were in that sort of relationship made me sick. It's sad that people actually believed it."
"But a lot of people didn't." Ginny did not want to say that she sat on the fence; not knowing what was true and what wasn't.
Then suddenly the million questions that had swirled around her mind as she had read the chapter, Dumbledore's Protégé: the Boy who Lived, to her great aunt, came back to her, roaring like a freight train.
Ginny sensed that Harry knew she had questions she wanted answers for.
"Go on, ask me. Let's get this all over with," Harry said with melancholy.
She couldn't help herself. "She wrote that you slept in the cupboard under the stairs…" Ginny scoffed, thinking it was ridiculous. "I knew your Muggle relatives were bad, but they wound's be that bad, would they?"
She was hoping that Harry would say Rita was wrong about that. Instead he looked stonily back at her.
He sighed, "I'm afraid she's right about that. Yes I did sleep in the cupboard until I was ten."
Shocked, she dropped her jaw. "Harry…"
"I never told Ron and Hermione about that. I mean they knew they were horrible, and that they treated me like I was worse than scum, but I never went into to much detail. What's the point of that? I had to go back there ever year."
"I don't understand why Dumbledore left you there? Why didn't the Muggle neighbours and school teachers ever notice and helped you?"
Harry laughed cruelly. "The neighbours thought I was a terrible delinquent. I dressed badly. I looked like a waif and my cousin and his gang would spread rumours that I would steal, lie, bite, and punch and say that I was a freaky weird kid.
"The teachers didn't notice much: if I had bruises, they'd automatically assumed it had been Dudley who caused them and that was mostly the case, anyway. My aunt and uncle rarely beat me. I mean, there were a few extreme occasions and once Uncle Vernon knocked me unconscious when I was six, but he never did that again. I just learnt enough to know when not to get in their line of fire... Or I just ducked very quickly and ran for it. If I got hurt, well, that was my own stupid fault for not being quick enough."
Ginny felt that Harry was almost defending them.
"That's just horrible! Why did Dumbledore leave you with them?"
"Blood ties," Harry explained with a wry smile, "When my mum sacrificed herself for me, it created a sort of ancient magic that protected me from the evil that had tried to kill me: Voldemort. He couldn't touch me for years because of the love my mother entrusted in me. That blood magic was in her sister too. So Dumbledore placed me in her care, knowing that until I was of age, I'd be protected. That was even though the Dursleys hated me."
"But he would've known—"
"He knew how they treated me." Harry looked down at Teddy, who had let out a cute little sound and began tugging on Harry's dressing gown sleeve. "I wish he did intervene sooner. I spent ten years of my life thinking that I was a worthless piece of rubbish that nobody wanted. I was silenced. And I watched Dudley grow up into a fat bully who terrorised me and other kids. His parents thought he was the greatest thing in the world."
"Oh Harry…" Ginny moved over to his side of the cot.
"If I knew that I was a wizard sooner, If I knew I would be going to a school like Hogwarts earlier, maybe everything would've been a whole lot easier to deal with. But I suppose Dumbledore would've thought what the Durlseys put me through was character building-"
"I doubt Dumbledore would've thought th—"
"Ginny," Harry interjected, darkly, eyes peering above his spectacles, "Dumbledore raised me, knowing full well that I would have to die to kill Voldemort. Even Snape had been shocked-"
"What?" Ginny gasped, confused and surprised.
"I will tell you everything that happened. Especially regarding Snape and what Dumbledore was preparing me for in order to defeat Voldemort, but not now, I don't have the energy to talk about the war and my year on the run with Ron and Hermione."
Fair enough, thought Ginny. "What about that Muggle boy Piers talking about that assault on you by that Muggle teacher in the boy's bathroom?"
Anger flashed in his green eyes. "Lies! None of that ever happened. I have no idea if Piers was making that shit up or if Rita did. I was never hurt by that teacher, ever."
Ginny was relieved, she felt as though a weight had been lifted.
"His name is Mr Dodds. And I remember that day well. Dudley and his friends just stuck me in the toilet. Mr Dodds came in and started telling me off, like I had intentionally put myself in the toilet to get some attention. I denied it, pleading to him not to get me into trouble, because I knew that my aunt and uncle would find out and I'd be in a lot of shit. He never hurt me. I went to class late, because I sat in the sun drying my pants. I wasn't going to tell my teacher what had happened to me, because she wouldn't believe me anyway."
"So what happened to Mr Dodds? In the book it says he never returned to teach. Apparently his hands were burnt."
Harry rolled his eyes in frustration. "That had been his final day at school before starting a new job as a Principal at a different primary school."
Ginny was stunned. "I honestly can't believe Rita would write such lies…"
"I've been saying that for years."
"So you were never hurt like that… you were never taken advantage of then?"
Harry closed his eyes, silent. Ginny knew he was keeping something from her.
He sighed, opened his eyes and smoothed Teddy's now red spiky fridge away.
"There was a childless couple who rented a few doors up. Aunt Petunia thought they were the respectable sort… "
Ginny's chest constricted.
"One day Dudley was chasing me through the street and I hid in their front yard. The man… er… he invited me into his house…" Harry couldn't finish his words. His Adam's apple bobbed up and down.
"He didn't!" Ginny said outraged.
"Not at first, no. But looking back, I realise now that he had befriended me in order to gain my trust and use me. He knew that I was a disadvantaged kid and that nobody cared about me. He saw me as an easy target." Harry whispered these words, perhaps shielding Teddy from the horrors of the world, protecting innocence, as though the baby could understand their conversation.
"Oh God, Harry, I'm so sorry—"
"Don't!" Harry said quickly. "I don't need pity. It was the only time in my life, before Hogwarts, that I felt so wanted… that meant a lot to me then. I had no one, and for a few days he made me feel like I was somebody special, and I had finally had a friend.
"We played chess and board games or just watch TV when he's wife went out. He even ordered pizza. I was eight, and that was the first time I had ever eaten pizza. Then things got pear-shaped… but I let him." He shook his head, his face screwed up with hurt. "I-I let him… because I was afraid that I would lose a person who I thought then, had finally cared about me."
Ginny cringed, she could feel the shame Harry was emanating and it upset her so much. "H-Harry, if you don't want to talk about that, then don't… I don't want to force you to if you're not ready."
"No I don't want to!" he retaliated. Teddy cried out in dismay. Harry backed away from the cot.
She recoiled. "I-I just don't understand why you never told anyone about this."
Harry furrowed his brow. "Would anyone have believed me? My relatives would've locked me in the cupboard for a month."
"I mean why didn't you say anything about this at Hogwarts? People would've believed you there. They would've done something about it."
"Dumbledore knew about my relatives treating me like shit for years. He had his own reasons for doing what he did and I understand that. But what's he going to do with a Muggle who likes little kids a bit too much?"
"But Harry someone should've intervened—"
"Too be honest, I locked that memory away in my mind. It happened, just deal with it, I thought... It was our little secret, he said... And like I said it was the only time I felt like I really mattered to anyone. It's bad I know, and I felt horrible afterwards. I never went near that house again, until their lease was up and they left Privet Drive. I was relieved, happier after. I moved on."
"It wasn't your fault."
"I know." Harry turned away from Teddy, picking up a soft giant snitch from the floor that had fallen out of the crib. He looked at it intently, its fluffy wings fluttering feebly. "When I found out I was a wizard, it was a new beginning. It was the best thing that ever happened to me. I found friends. I found a true home and people who believed in me and loved me. I found you."
Ginny let out a breath that felt as though a tonne of weight within her heart had expelled from her body. I found you.
"I only started remembering what that neighbour did, when Occlumency began to pluck out memories I forgot even existed. Sometimes, stupid memories would come to me in dreams. This particular memory came later, during the summer before sixth year… I looked out of my bedroom window one morning, saw the house and I remembered it." Harry realised that he was squeezing the toy and relaxed.
Ginny placed a hand on top of his. Harry talking about his childhood was distressing him, she knew, but he was talking so fast about everything now, it was like a tap had been opened and the water was gushing out with no way to turn it off.
Harry placed his free hand over hers and smiled coldly, looking into her eyes. "What's the use of telling people, Ginny, when I've had bigger things to worry about? Voldemort was on top of my list. I've seen people die in front of my very eyes. I've been tortured. I heard Hermione being tortured. Every person you speak to, you wonder if they can be trusted. Every day I wondered who he was going to kill next. Having the fear that another person I love would be killed is so destructive; it invades every cell of your body.
"Knowing… if I don't do exactly as Dumbledore had instructed, Voldemort would not be defeated for good. Always thinking, when will it be my turn…"
Ginny squeezed his shoulders. "It's over."
He nodded solemnly.
"Have you told Hermione and Ron what you're telling me?"
"Nothing, but the bare essentials…" Harry shook his head. "Hermione knows the chapter is mostly untrue. She suspects that there would be elements of the story that would be true, though. I mean, most the stuff Rita wrote about on Dumbledore was right. She stole the memories, but they're all real. Ron wouldn't read it."
"Ron wouldn't read anything unless it involved Quidditch or comics." Ginny rolled her eyes. Her words then darkened. "You've had so much of a burden to carry, Harry. Nobody should have to go through what you did and to keep it silent all these years!"
"I'm alright, really." Harry scooped up Teddy into his arms, though still unconfident on how the procedure on picking up babies should go. Ginny placed a hand under the baby's head, like her motherly genes had kicked in.
"Really, I am!" Harry repeated.
Ginny looked into his eyes. He was telling the truth and was resolutely determined to move beyond his dark past and the experiences he had suffered through his childhood and the war. Resilience… was a beautiful thing.
"But I will tell Hermione what I've told you. I don't think I can bear to tell Andromeda… yet. Please don't say anything to anyone else. When I'm an Auror, I'll discreetly deal with this with the Muggle police. I won't do anything with the Dursleys... I don't hate them. I just pity them. But I hope one day, Dudley will change."
"I understand," Ginny responded, watching Teddy poke out his tongue. "Um, are you going to say anything to Rita about this book?"
Harry thought for a moment, a smile playing ruefully on his lips. "I won't say anything to her, but I know what I'm going to do about it."
"Care to elaborate?"
"You'll find out eventually." Teddy cooed in his arms, his hair turning purple and curly. Harry laughed. "Would you like to hold my godson?"
"I'd love too," she said.
Harry handed him over very slowly making sure he was close as possible to Ginny. She could feel Harry's body heat on her skin. Teddy's hair turned wavy in her arms, and remained purple. She blew him raspberries and told him how cute he was.
There was no doubt in her mind that Teddy was the luckiest child on earth to have Harry as his godfather. Teddy will grow up nourished and loved and innocent. All the things Harry never had. And through Teddy, Harry would have a second chance to experience a childhood he never had because of Voldemort.
Ginny drank her coffee from her favourite chipped mug. She was getting over her jetlag, flying back from Australia. She didn't know how Muggles did it, flying on aeroplanes. The concept of a twenty-four journey in a small seat irked her. She'll need to drink a Greenwich Potion to set her bodily clock right.
Hermione's parents were still sleeping upstairs in Bill's old bedroom. They were unsurprisingly shocked and angry with what Hermione had done to them. A few of their memories would take a while to come back, but they were back with their daughter, and they still loved her, to Hermione's great relief.
Ginny bit into a buttered toast when Ron spat out his coffee in a spray, which rained on George.
George patted his brow, "Oh thanks, Ron, I was meant to have a shower—"
"Look at this!" Ron yelled, waving the Daily Prophet in one hand. "Hermione did you do this?"
"What are you talking about? How can I do anything? We only got back last night!" Hermione walked over as Ron flattened the Prophet on the table for everyone to see the front page, the headline in bold black writing.
The news was so big, it pushed back Harry Potter Stories, Hermione's parents and their recent Australian holiday bringing them back, the second War stories, Death Eater prosecutions and Muggle-born horror stories to the second and third page of the newspaper. But this News was special…
Famous Journalist Rita Skeeter Arrested: Unregistered Animagus.
There was a picture beneath the headline with a blonde witch, shielding her face from the camera.
Hermione, Ginny both looked over to Harry. Ron realised as well.
Harry was leaning casually against the kitchen countertop, looking rather natural and relaxed as he sipped his coffee.
He had recovered from the Sectumsempra Curse, and his mood was much better, Ginny noticed.
They all seemed to be moving on now. Their little adventure in Australia helping retrieve Hermione's parents had boosted all their morale.
"Revenge, a dish best served cold," Hermione observed with bright eyes.
Harry smiled knowingly and gave Ginny a cheeky wink.
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