Author's Note: In four parts – more detailed notes at the end. Many thanks to ladybug and under_crisis for betaing.Part 1: After the Battle
Harry had sometimes wondered whether it was worth asking his aunt if she had his birth certificate. He suspected it might show his middle name was in fact 'Trouble', not 'James'.
It would certainly have been apt. Once the Battle of Hogwarts was finally over, he had hopes of being left alone to decide what he wanted to do next, but they were rapidly dashed. After the first euphoria of victory had faded and wizarding Britain began to count the costs, absolutely everyone wanted to meet the Chosen One – to offer him relieved thanks, press him for exclusive interviews, ask him to speak words of wisdom he didn't have, or sign him up to endorse their products. The Daily Prophet was going through another phase of printing fulsome eulogies to the Boy Who Lived on their front page (and often several interior pages as well), but Harry would have preferred that it didn't. It made him feel both angry and guilty when he thought of the dozens of other people who had not made it through the war.
At least residence at The Burrow shielded him from the worst of it. Both he and Hermione had been uncertain whether the Weasleys might prefer to grieve for Fred alone – the last thing either wanted was to intrude – but Molly had insisted, in a manner that brooked no argument, that they stay there until everything settled down. Nor would they let them remain at the back out of sight at the funeral – Ron looked pointedly at an empty space next to himself, while George simply grabbed their hands and pulled them forwards to sit with the family. For one uncomfortable moment Harry thought he would be sitting next to Ginny, but to his relief found himself between Ron and Percy. Ginny herself would have been far too distracting despite the circumstances, and it was definitely neither the time nor the place.
Harry's gut twisted every time he thought about Fred, but on the whole he felt relieved to be at The Burrow. There was nowhere else he would have felt so much at home. The current shattered state of Hogwarts was painful to behold, and his house in Grimmauld Place was a far from welcoming prospect, although Kreacher was doing his best to redecorate in a style less reminiscent of what Hermione had dubbed 'Dark Nouveau'. (Harry had yet to think of a tactful way to suggest to the elf that his relatives' heads might be displayed in some less prominent location.) Most of The Burrow's wartime security charms were still in place, and that was sufficient to keep out Rita Skeeter and other people he didn't want to see. And best of all, the house contained the people whose company he most desired.
Ron and Hermione in particular had been there for him almost continually ever since the battle. That was why he was surprised, and rather disconcerted, to hear that they planned to leave shortly after they had all attended the funeral for Lupin and Tonks.
"Where are you going?" he asked, a little testily.
"Australia," answered Hermione. In response to what must have been a look of astonishment on his face, she explained, "To try to find Mum and Dad. I can't bear to leave them there not … not knowing they have a daughter." Her lip trembled, and Harry felt a great rush of sympathy for her.
"Yeah, of course," he said. "They need you more than anyone at the moment. Ron's going with you, then?"
Ron nodded. "For a bit of moral support."
"I didn't want to go on my own," said Hermione with a shudder. "I keep wanting to cry every time I think of them. It must be reaction setting in. All this doesn't come naturally to me the way it does to you, Harry."
He raised his eyebrows, remembering the many times she'd saved his life over the past year. "Rubbish," he told her firmly. "You've been brilliant." She smiled, obviously pleased. "How will you get there, anyway?"
"One of those airyplane things," answered Ron, with a look of deep foreboding. "Hermione thinks it would be safer to act like Muggles."
Harry grinned. Evidently Ron had not inherited his father's love of Muggle technology, but he couldn't find it in his heart to tease him on the subject. Instead, he turned to Hermione; he didn't know how much tickets to Australia and hotel bills for a stay of unknown length might cost, but he was fairly certain they wouldn't come cheap. "Have you got enough to pay for all this?"
Hermione had the worried look she usually wore when unsure of her facts. "I think so. Just about. If we're careful …"
He shook his head. This was something he could do for them. "No. I'm paying." He overrode their predictable protests. "Come on, what kind of friend would I be if I didn't? You took out all your building society money to help me last year, and I know you spent a lot of it on food and stuff while we were away. You need this, and you wouldn't have had to enchant your parents in the first place if you hadn't been coming with me. No arguments, all right?"
"Well …" Hermione and Ron exchanged questioning glances, and then slowly nodded. Both looked most uncomfortable (and Hermione rather doubtful, as if she wasn't sure he'd have the money), but it was a pleasant surprise to see them accept help, given how stubborn they usually were on the point. Harry managed to suppress a smile. Now he thought about it, he reckoned that some time alone together – away from him, indeed away from Britain entirely – might do them a power of good. He hadn't forgotten the kiss that had caused them to drop armfuls of Basilisk fangs in the middle of a battle.
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The service for Lupin and Tonks was a sombre affair, even for a funeral. Andromeda Tonks was at the front, looking blankly at the coffins, and clutching baby Teddy to her as if the sky might collapse around them if she let him go. Harry realised with a guilty start that he'd given barely a thought to his godson since Lupin had asked him to be godfather, and he made a point of seeking out Mrs Tonks afterwards to offer what awkward condolences he could for the fact that she had lost husband, daughter and son-in-law within the space of a few short weeks. He tried to say all the usual things, but somehow the words got stuck behind a lump in his throat and refused to emerge. She seemed to understand, though, and nodded stiffly when he told her – and meant it – that he hoped she would rely on him for any help she or Teddy might need.
He hadn't been sure who would deliver the eulogy – he'd vaguely imagined that it would be the tufty-haired man who, yet again, was officiating – but was glad to see that Kingsley Shacklebolt himself was the one who stood up to address the mourners. The new interim Minister talked with evident sincerity and fondness of Lupin and Tonks as caring friends and brave colleagues in the Order of the Phoenix, and of Tonks as a fellow Auror. One or two of his entourage seemed ill-at-ease when he spoke of how proud he was that they had married, and how important that was as a stand against bigotry, but nobody dared to argue.
It surprised him even more when Kingsley sought him out after the service.
"Good to see you again, Harry."
"You too." Harry grinned at him; it was nice to have the chance. "What's it like being Minister?"
"It has its good and bad points. I waste even more time on paperwork than I did as an Auror, but I get the chance to do some good in the world too. Incidentally, I think we've managed to solve your goblin problem for you."
"Oh … thanks." Harry looked at him uncertainly; he hadn't been aware that he had a goblin problem. He'd assumed they would be as pleased as the wizards were to be rid of Voldemort, but now he thought about it, he remembered it was a point of pride for them to remain neutral -- in which case, they could hardly have been expected to take kindly to the Gringotts break-in. "Um, what did they want?"
"The usual. Terrible punishments for the wizards and witch who disrespected goblin rights. Threats of rebellion, refusal to co-operate, calling-in of loans, all that sort of thing. Hermione was asking me about it earlier."
"What?" Harry didn't like the sound of that. "How did you 'solve' the problem?"
Kingsley chuckled. "Creative thinking. They were quoting old Gringotts charters at us – well, two can play that game. There are dozens of half-forgotten laws and agreements in the archives of the Ministry that are technically still in force, if anyone cares to dig them out. And since I have a number of thoroughly appalling people left on staff that I haven't been able to get rid of yet – you know the type, never actually Death Eaters, but approved wholeheartedly of their views on wizarding blood – I set the worst of them the tedious task of searching through the records to find something we could use."
"And did they?"
"Yes, as a matter of fact. There was an agreement with the Ministry signed back in 1750 which said that the goblins would not accept weapons or other enchanted objects for safekeeping, if by so doing it could 'give a critical advantage to one of the sides in a wizarding war'. They're trying to argue that a Horcrux doesn't count – I'm afraid that's a bit of an open secret since you mentioned it during your face-off with Voldemort – but happily the sword of Gryffindor unquestionably does, even if it wasn't until you broke in that they got their hands on the real one. Once I pointed that out they became much more reasonable."
"Really?" Harry was sceptical; he hadn't forgotten Griphook's attitudes. On the other hand, he couldn't remember everything he'd told Voldemort; he had an uneasy feeling he might have said too much, but then again he'd been rather distracted at the time.
"Really. Most goblins are actually strongly in favour of binding agreements between themselves and us. They'll treat them like a law of the Medes and Persians that cannot be changed, just so long as wizards do the same. The problems have tended to come when we haven't."
"So they just let it drop?" He couldn't believe his luck.
"Welllll … not exactly. They eventually agreed to consider it the fortunes of war – 'collateral damage', as the Muggles say – provided they were compensated in full for the necessary repairs. Fortunately, that dragon didn't actually kill anyone. It's going to cost the Ministry a small fortune, but it's worth every Knut to be rid of Voldemort."
Harry felt a great sense of relief, not to mention gratitude, towards his unknown benefactor – whatever their views might be. "That's brilliant. Thank whoever it was for me, will you?"
"Oh, I'm not sure that thanks are in order. It was a convenient way to get her out from under my feet while giving the impression of approval of her views. I thought I might as well get something good out of the Ministry's prejudice against non-humans for a change, while I took stock of what I had left to work with. The place has always had its problems, but this last year it's been seriously compromised. And that's what I wanted to talk to you about, actually."
"Yes, you. Albus always said you had an ambition to be an Auror. It just so happens that I'm sorely in need of them, now the war has gutted the Department. Will you help me, Harry?"
Harry gaped at him. He was being handed his dream job on a plate without having even asked for it … and yet as soon as he considered the offer, he found he suddenly lacked all enthusiasm for the idea. "What about the training?" he asked to buy time. "I'm not even eighteen yet."
Kingsley shrugged. "You've faced more and worse Dark magic already than most wizards ever do, even Aurors. I'll need to fill you in on the way we work, but frankly standard operating procedures are all but irrelevant at the moment. We're pretty much starting from scratch – of the Aurors we had before the takeover, a fifth are dead, a quarter have fled, and many of the rest decided to put job security ahead of actually fighting Dark wizards. And you're a hero, Harry. The hero. You can be whatever you want, and people will fall over themselves to let you. I don't think they're going to worry about a little training."
"But I don't want to!" Harry hadn't realised just how true that was until he heard the vehemence in his own voice, but when he actually thought about what it would entail, the idea repulsed him. "I'm fed up of fighting. I'm fed up with being treated as special because of what happened with me and Voldemort. I just want a break from all that!"
Kingsley looked at him for a minute, then nodded slowly and reluctantly. "All right, Harry. I can understand that. But will you at least think about it?"
"I suppose so," he muttered, feeling wary. The last time someone had asked him a similar open-ended question, he had found himself teaching the DA a few weeks later.
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The Burrow had survived the war surprisingly well, despite having been abandoned for a month – the Death Eaters hadn't bothered to wreck the place once they saw it was empty. (Indeed, George told him bitterly that one of their captives from the battle had sneered that vandalising it would have been an improvement.) Being back there would almost have been like old times – if it hadn't been for the gaping hole left by the absence of Fred.
Actually, Harry reflected, it wasn't solely that – not with Ron and Hermione away too. Naturally, Arthur had been delighted to hear that they proposed to travel by plane, begging Ron to find out how they stayed up. Ron himself had looked less than enthusiastic to have the point raised. Hermione had patiently offered to research aerodynamics on her return, and to hold Ron's hand throughout the flight if he was nervous. Harry thought her ulterior motives fairly obvious, and apparently so did Ron, who raised no objection to this as a slur on his courage. Harry was just glad no-one had informed him of Australia's reputation for poisonous spiders.
On the other hand, the absence of his best friends was quite convenient, as he had ulterior motives of his own. In the fortnight or so since the Battle of Hogwarts, he'd barely been able to snatch more than five minutes alone with Ginny without interruption, and both of them had found it difficult to know where to start. He had a sneaking suspicion that she hadn't entirely forgiven him for playing dead during the battle, despite stating volubly that she understood when he'd repeated his explanation of what he'd learnt in the Pensieve for the benefit of the rest of the Weasleys and the surviving members of the Order. Of course, he now had ample time to peruse his copy of Twelve Fail-Safe Ways to Charm Witches, but unfortunately the author had omitted to include any advice on this particular subject.
So one evening, when George was absent at his shop stocktaking, Arthur had retired to his shed, and Molly was in the kitchen baking to take her mind off things, it suddenly dawned on him that Ginny was in the living-room all by herself. He stood for a moment in the doorway, watching her lying curled up like a cat on the sofa, and then she looked up and saw him. He smiled nervously, and to his great relief she smiled back.
"Sit with me?" she said, holding his gaze. Harry didn't need asking twice. He shot across the room as if she had Summoned him and dropped onto the sofa next to her.
"Er – we haven't had much chance to talk, Ginny," he began.
"No, we haven't really, have we?"
There was an awkward silence.
"I didn't want us to split up, you know," he said desperately, kicking himself for not being able to work up to the subject by means of smooth small talk.
Silence set in again.
"I really missed you."
The conversation ground to a halt once more.
"I needed you to be safe --"
Something flared in her eyes. "Yeah, I noticed. Go back to Aunt Muriel's, Ginny. Do what your Mum says. Stay at home like a good little girl while everyone you care about are fighting for their lives, just like Lupin said to Tonks! Well, she couldn't bear that, and neither could I, Harry!"
"And it got her killed and left her kid an orphan!" He cringed as soon as he'd said the words; they didn't seem likely to help.
"And she probably saved half-a-dozen kids by keeping Bellatrix Lestrange occupied during the fight!" Ginny looked as though she might have cried in frustration if she'd been a different kind of girl. "You didn't exactly stay safe, did you?" Harry's retort never got beyond opening his mouth as Ginny added in a desperate voice, "I thought you were dead, Harry! I thought you'd got yourself killed for some stupid, pointless reason and I just couldn't bear it and … and I wanted to strike back at them so much, I didn't care if I got myself killed too!"
Harry listened to this, aghast. He'd been right, but on this occasion would have preferred to be wrong. "I … look, I'm sorry, Ginny, but … I had to, I thought I had to die to stop Voldemort …"
"I know," she said quietly, her flare of anger suddenly spent. "I know. It was the only possible thing to do. I see that now I know why you did it. But if you'd told me beforehand, Harry, I … well, I reckon I'd have been able to handle it better. I wouldn't have tried to stop you."
"No?" said Harry sceptically.
"No! Why do you think I like you as much as I do in the first place? It would have torn my heart into a million pieces, but I'd have known it was what you had to do and I'd have gone with you, so you didn't have to walk into that Forest to face it all alone!"
"I didn't!" Harry winced at her curious expression. He hadn't even told Ron and Hermione about using the Resurrection Stone, and in fact he wasn't sure the experience was one he would ever want to share with anyone at all, with the possible exception of Dumbledore's portrait. He hastily brought the subject back to Ginny herself. "And I didn't want you to do anything like that and get yourself killed too --"
"I wouldn't. I'd have stopped, taken your Cloak if you insisted – I'd have had a chance to say goodbye, Harry! If you'd let me, that is. I know you like me – and come on, you know damn well how much I like you – but I can't handle being someone you don't trust."
He tamped down his own frustration. "You're not. That's not how I think of you. I just didn't want …" He turned away, feeling a lump in his throat; but once again found that for some reason it was easier to confess his fears to Ginny than to anyone else. "Look. It was all I could do to walk in there. I didn't need anything that would make it harder! I wouldn't have been strong enough to do it with you there, that's a fact, and then what would have happened? I've got too many people I care about killed! I know what it's like to grow up without parents like Lupin's kid, all right? I couldn't have stood it if there'd been anyone with me who …" Harry bit back the words 'wasn't already dead'. He didn't know how to express everything he wanted to say, but when he risked meeting Ginny's eyes again there was slowly dawning compassion there, and he knew that, miraculously, she'd understood.
"Right." They stared for a moment, and then suddenly, their arms were around each other. He could feel her shaking (though there still weren't any tears), but then again, he too was trembling. It wasn't an embrace so much as a source of comfort. "I thought I'd lost you as well as Fred, Harry," she said, her voice muffled against his shoulder. "I thought we'd lost. It was the worst I've ever felt. And you know I've had bad times."
"Yeah, I'm sorry …" He held her slightly away from him, to say what he wanted to say without the distraction of feeling her body pressed against his. "Look, I don't suppose we can go straight back to where we were, but we've got time to give it a proper try, now, so … er, can we? Because I really, really want to."
She leaned back a little, but took his hands in hers. "After all this?" she said with a shaky laugh. "Oh, you bet, Harry. Now we've got the chance, it's about time we really tried. What will you do with yourself now, eh?" she added, only half-joking. "A desk job at the Ministry must seem a bit tame after being out there saving the wizarding world."
"Tame sounds good," said Harry fervently. "I always wanted to be an Auror, but now … I dunno, it feels like I've had more than enough of all that to be going on with." Career choices hadn't been high on the list of topics he had wanted to discuss with Ginny, but as a start anything that wasn't an awkward silence or a row was just fine with him.
"Any Quidditch team in the country would sign you up as a Seeker, you know. Well, except the Harpies," she corrected herself with a grin. "That's who I'd like to play for." She looked at him shrewdly. "Would you be happy just playing Quidditch, Harry? Or do you want to keep chasing Dark wizards? You deserve to do what you want to."
Harry ran a hand through his hair. "I don't know. I've hardly even sat on a broom for more than a year. I don't want to go looking for trouble, Ginny, but that's basically what an Auror does, isn't it? Anyway, trouble seems to be my middle name. It looks for me --"
Both Harry and Ginny started violently at the sudden noise from the end of the garden, then with one accord they jumped up, drew their wands, and charged out into the yard. Harry felt his jaw drop when he saw the white-faced figure standing by the garden gate. Ginny's face registered utter horror; he realised she'd probably never seen their visitor at such close range except in passing at the funeral, and was as misled by the family resemblance as he'd once been.
"Mrs Tonks?" he said uncertainly. "Er … you'd better come in?"
He glanced at Ginny, who nodded mutely, and waved his wand to release the charms around the gate. Andromeda Tonks stumbled into the garden, and as she did, Harry saw she was carrying a small bundle with a canary-yellow blur sticking out one end. Ginny gently took her arm. "Come on, Madam Tonks. Is that Teddy?"
Andromeda needed several deep steadying breaths before she could speak. "They want to take him!"
"Teddy! They want to take Teddy from me! Please, Mr Potter, I need your help …"
"Who wants to take him?" asked Harry, confused.
"That'd be me, Mr Potter."
Harry spun around to see a man with short grizzled hair coming in through the gate. It only took a moment or two to recognise him as Dawlish, the Auror who had tried to arrest Dumbledore – and Neville's gran, in neither case with any great success. He was regarding them with a mixture of challenge and trepidation, and Harry glared at him in dislike. "On what grounds?" he snapped.
Dawlish produced an official-looking piece of parchment from his pocket. "According to the International Werewolf Agreement of 1741 –" Harry, puzzled, turned to Ginny, who shrugged "– be it hereby decreed by the will of Wizardkind expressed in the proceedings of the most noble International Confederation of Wizards that … er, anyway, the gist of it, werewolves can't marry or have kids unless the Ministry agrees. Since the Ministry certainly never approved a marriage for the parents of this –" he looked at Teddy with distaste "– it's to be taken into custody and placed in a secure facility for half-werewolves. It'll be safer there anyway. There's many people who'd want to see it quietly smothered before it has a chance to grow up."
Harry was suddenly so angry that it almost choked him. "I don't think so." His wand was pointing at the Auror before he realised what he was doing, and he was glad to see that Ginny's wand was right there with it.
"Now come on, Mr Potter, there's no need for this. I can use force if I have to --"
"Yeah, great idea," said Harry sarcastically. "I beat Voldemort in the last duel I had –" he was pleased to see Dawlish wince at the name "– so you're welcome to try your luck if you want to step into his shoes. There's a vacancy going for someone to persecute innocent people." Harry chanced a glance at Andromeda; to his surprise, she didn't look in any fit condition to help. Her eyes had glazed over and she was swaying slightly. "How did you get in here, anyway?"
Dawlish shrugged. "You left the defences down after you let her in. It was reported that she –" he nodded to Andromeda "– helped you out before. She's got nowhere else to go, so I just tried my luck. And I've got a warrant from the Ministry to take the brat."
"Oh yeah? On whose authority?" Harry felt sure that Kingsley Shacklebolt wouldn't have signed anything of the sort. Dawlish held it up and Harry saw red at the girlish looping signature on the bottom. "Umbridge?" he spat. "You've got to be kidding."
"Hasn't she been thrown out of the Ministry yet?" asked Ginny, looking disgusted
"Dolores Umbridge has been helping the interim Minister clear the backlog of paperwork and conduct matters of research," said Dawlish smugly. "Now please move aside, Mr Potter, or war hero or not I will have to put you under arrest for resisting an Auror in the course of his duty."
"Just try it," snarled Harry, raising his wand higher.
"Oh, and remember he's got an unbeatable wand," said Ginny brightly. "Don't you read the papers?" Harry winced – that particular article had made him think he'd definitely said too much to Voldemort – but he didn't see the need to correct any misapprehensions Dawlish might have at this juncture, and the man visibly hesitated.
"What's going on here?"
Arthur Weasley's voice cut through the tense tableau as he ran across the yard from the direction of the shed. He listened grimly as everyone except Andromeda Tonks started to talk. Harry glanced at her again; she was shivering and looked as if she might collapse at any moment, but was holding onto her grandson the way she had at the funeral, as if she would never let him go.
"All right, let's calm down." Mr Weasley sounded as if the multiple explanations had failed to make the situation any clearer to him. "Everybody, please put your wands away. We've had enough curses flying around recently. This looks like a bureaucratic mistake to me, let's try to get it sorted out. Dawlish, you can wait with us in the house while I get a ruling from the Minister."
As he spoke, he raised his wand, and a silver weasel erupted from the end and flew away into the evening light. Ginny took that as a sign to take Andromeda Tonks gently by the arm and lead her into The Burrow, with Dawlish at their heels; he stood in the living-room doorway with a hand held loosely next to his wand, and Harry found himself seething. A very stiff silence ensued while they waited, broken only by Andromeda (who had refused even to look at the Auror) comforting a crying Teddy in tones that sounded to Harry as if they had more than a touch of desperation.
Fortunately, it was only about five minutes before there was another noise outside, and Kingsley Shacklebolt walked in. He listened grimly to Dawlish's explanation, then without a word, held out his hand for the parchment Umbridge had signed and read through it.
"Very well," he said eventually. "I want to talk to Madam Tonks. Dawlish, wait outside." He cut his protests off with a raised hand. "That's an order. Go and watch the gnomes or something."
Dawlish left with a resentful look, and while Harry cast a prudent Muffliato Ginny and Arthur immediately started talking. Kingsley cut through them. "Whoa, wait a minute. Now you listen to me – we have a problem here." He held up a hand again to forestall their protests. "I might have known Umbridge would do something like this. I agree this is most unfair and Andromeda here has …" He trailed off as he glanced at her; Harry, following his gaze, could see why. She hadn't said a word to anyone except Teddy since her initial panic at the gate, and was still sitting there pale-faced, clutching him and staring into space.
"Does that mean you're not going to do anything?" he asked, disgusted.
"No, it doesn't!" replied Kingsley sharply. "Teddy Lupin is the son of two people I had the greatest respect for. What it means is that I'm in a cleft stick. I've been making grand speeches about how we need to re-establish a culture of respect for the Ministry and its laws by making them fair and uniform, so we don't punish people for no good reason, or have them wriggle out of trouble because their great-uncle is on the Wizengamot. If we don't start as we mean to go on, that's never going to take. If I'm seen to be interfering in a case for the sake of one of my friends, it'll put us back to square one."
"Laws can be changed," said Harry bluntly, remembering something Fudge had once said.
"Not this one. As far as I can see, it's based on an International Confederation of Wizards rule, and that ties my hands. It's another law of the Medes and Persians – we signed up for it, and now we're stuck with it."
"So what are you going to do?"
"You mean, what are you going to do?" Harry stared at him. "I really don't have the time to deal with this, Harry, and I've never had cause to have any specialised knowledge of werewolf law – the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures usually deal with those cases, not the Auror Office. But if you were to take charge of things and speak out – you're the godfather, after all – well, I imagine that would be a great advantage. Since you haven't joined the Ministry, not yet, anyway –" Harry wasn't sure he liked the sound of that not yet – "your influence isn't official influence, so no-one can complain."
Harry threw his hands up. "Like I told you, I don't want people doing things for me just because I'm the 'Chosen One'!"
"Maybe not, but they're going to offer whether you like it or not," said Kingsley, with a shrug. "You might as well do something useful with it." Arthur and Ginny nodded, and Harry realised he was outnumbered.
"Oh, all right," he said, trying not to sound sulky. He gestured to Dawlish, who was standing as close to the door as he dared and obviously straining to hear a discussion that must seem like unidentifiable mumbling. "What are you going to tell him? And how come you've still got Aurors throwing their weight about anyway?" he added, anger flaring again.
Kingsley looked oddly shamefaced. "Like I told you, we're having to rebuild the Auror Office from the ground up. The ones who stayed all through the war were mostly time-servers – or worse, the ones who liked throwing their weight about, regardless of the laws. And in this particular case –-" again, he seemed embarrassed "– well, you have to take into account the people concerned."
"What does that mean?" asked Ginny, bristling, although Arthur nodded sadly.
"Both Tonks and I were … less than popular with some influential Aurors. They thought we were turnrobes for going against the Ministry when we joined the Order after Voldemort returned. And as for Tonks … well, when on top of that she became openly involved with a werewolf, they just wanted her out even before the Ministry fell. They're probably glad she's dead."
Harry jumped as Andromeda Tonks spoke. Animation had returned to her face – indeed, she looked positively fierce. "Er, Mrs Tonks --"
"Glad she's dead? My daughter?" She raised her wand as if to send a curse in the direction of the Auror outside, and Arthur hastily grabbed her wrist. "My Nymphadora … she's … dead …"
She suddenly collapsed onto the sofa and began to cry without restraint, still holding onto the baby, who added his own wails to the barrage of noise. A grim-faced Ginny sat down beside her and patted her on the shoulder, clearly nervous that anything she might say could produce an even worse reaction, Arthur watched his daughter, tight-lipped, and Harry knew he must be thinking of Fred. And then after a few moments Molly Weasley appeared at the door carrying a cake; evidently Harry's Muffliato had left her unaware of what was happening, and she regarded the scene in front of her with open astonishment.
Harry exchanged helpless looks with Kingsley. "So what are you going to tell them?" he asked to ease his discomfort.
Kingsley seized upon the question with relief. "I'm going to rule that Andromeda can keep Teddy Lupin for the time being, until the case comes to a hearing. I can't see why they would declare he had to be taken from her and sent to some home for half-werewolves anyway – we don't even have one in this country."
"Umbridge stirring up trouble again," said Harry bitterly. He gritted his teeth and asked the obvious question. "Was she one of the people you had looking through old records?"
"I'm afraid so," Kingsley said in apology. "But if I remember rightly, that's a standard warrant -- I don't think she found anything important in the records of the Department other than goblin laws."
"Why didn't you sack her? Her of all people!"
"Reasons." Before Harry could react to this cryptic statement, he added, "It might be a good idea if you kept Andromeda and Teddy here, where it's secure – or at least it will be when you put those damn charms back in place! I walked right in when I got here without even a password." He turned to Arthur Weasley with raised eyebrows, and the older man nodded.
"She can stay as long as necessary," he said gruffly. "Least we can do. Er … I'll see to the security while you tell Dawlish."
"I'll help," said Harry quickly, feeling exasperated with Kingsley Shacklebolt and glad of an excuse to escape the tense situation. He followed Arthur across the yard in silence, which was broken shortly afterwards by outraged yells from Dawlish. The Auror stomped out a few minutes later and Disapparated as soon as he was beyond the boundaries of The Burrow, with no more than a curt nod to his hosts.
Kingsley followed them at a more sedate pace. "You'll take on the responsibility for this, Harry?"
He nodded wearily. "I could get Hermione to help when she gets back," he suggested as an idea struck him. "She loves researching things like this."
"Excellent." Kingsley's mouth twitched. "Well, I'd better get back to the office. I seem to spend most of my time as Minister talking to other governments. I saw the Muggle Prime Minister this afternoon, I have an overseas trip to prepare for, and a meeting with the goblins tomorrow morning."
"I thought that had been fixed?" said Harry suspiciously.
Kingsley chuckled. "It has. More or less. But we still have to settle the details. I'm not saying you'll necessarily be their most favoured customer in future, but Bill tells me that once we sign an agreement, they'll regard the matter as closed as long as we keep to it – which I intend to make sure we do. See you, Harry, Arthur."
He too Disapparated, and shortly afterwards Ginny joined them at the gate. "Mum's looking after her," she announced. "She's cooing over Teddy, that seemed to help. Did Hermione leave you a way to get in touch with them, Harry?"
Arthur smiled at his daughter. "Great minds think alike, then."
"Yeah," said Harry, pleased. "She left me the number of their hotel in Sydney. I suppose I'd better go down to the phone box in the village and let her know …"
"Can I help?" asked Arthur, almost eagerly.
"Not now, Dad," said Ginny, sounding astonishingly like her mother. "See you later, Harry."
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
As it happened, Harry was rather glad that Arthur hadn't accompanied him, as it took him three tries to get the hang of international direct dialling. Unfortunately, Hermione and Ron were out; so when the receptionist asked if he wished to leave a message, he was forced to try to explain the situation as best he could without making any kind of reference to werewolves, or indeed magic in general. He eventually settled for saying that Teddy was threatened with being taken into care in a secure centre, in case he showed the same incurably criminal tendencies as his father (this might be the first time Uncle Vernon had ever proved useful). Seven years in the wizarding world seemed to have left him rusty about the Muggle one, but the receptionist didn't seem to think his story implausible – although the irritatingly snooty tone in which he read back the message for confirmation suggested that Harry had just trashed the reputation of his best friends by association.
By the time he made it back to The Burrow, the Weasleys had managed to calm Mrs Tonks down, and she had even consented to let Molly tuck up Teddy Lupin in an old crib. There was still a dull, faraway look in her eye, however, mixed with an undercurrent of terror; it seemed to be a more fully realised version of the way she'd reacted during their brief meeting in her house, and Harry's heart sank. He managed to draw Arthur Weasley aside. "Is she going to be all right?" he whispered.
Arthur glanced back uneasily. "I hope so. She looks to me like a woman who's on the edge from one shock too many in a short space of time. Molly's offering her tea and sympathy, that's about all we can do. I don't blame her in the slightest for feeling like that. I know what it's like to lose a child," he finished flatly.
Harry found he couldn't meet Mr Weasley's eye. "Look, you know I'm sorry, I never …"
"I know, Harry." said Arthur gently. "No-one blames you."
"Maybe they should," mumbled Harry. He had been unable to offer more than a few choked words at Fred's funeral, and had avoided the subject ever since. Fortunately George had seldom been at The Burrow, having thrown himself into the task of setting the Diagon Alley shop to rights with a kind of desperate zeal – although his attempted joke about only really needing to move the apostrophe had a hollow ring to it.
Arthur shook his head. "No, they shouldn't. Harry. Because of what you did, and my children did, and Hermione did, this family has a future again." His voice was firm. "I hate what happened, but … well, Fred knew what he was getting into and accepted the risks – cheerfully –" he swallowed "– and I'm sure that he wouldn't have blamed anyone other than You-Kn-- than Voldemort for what you had to do. You're all heroes, Harry."
"It doesn't feel that way," said Harry uncomfortably.
"It doesn't matter whether it does or not. You've all got a chance to have normal lives now." Arthur glanced at his daughter, opened his mouth to say something, then seemed to think better of it and awkwardly clapped Harry on the shoulder.
"Is there anyone at the Ministry you can get to help?" asked Harry, wanting to change the subject as quickly as possible. He knew Mr Weasley had resumed some sort of role there under Kingsley's leadership, but wasn't entirely sure what it involved.
"Perhaps. I'm covering three people's jobs at the moment – it's a case of just doing whatever needs to be done – but there are still people I know left in the Magical Creatures department. I can probably use a bit of pull to get someone sensible assigned to hear the case. But it's all rather complicated there at the moment," finished Arthur, leaving Harry puzzled. "Oh damn, I haven't told Molly they'll be staying here. I'm sure she won't mind, though. Er, Molly," he called, raising his voice. "I said Andromeda and Teddy could stay until the hearing, they can have Bill's old room --"
"Molly?" Andromeda Tonks suddenly sat up. "You're Molly Weasley?" It was the first coherent thing she'd said for some time.
"You were the one who killed my sister."
Harry put his head in his hands. This was a complication he should probably have foreseen. Molly turned white. "I … I had no choice," she stammered. "She … she tried to kill my Ginny … I'm sorry …"
"I'm not," interrupted Andromeda. She had an ugly look on her face. "Thank you, Molly Weasley. That twisted bitch –" she spat the word with venom enough to destroy a Horcrux "– hated me from the moment I married Ted, and killed my daughter because of who she married! I hope she rots in hell. I only wish I could have done it myself!" She looked up from a hugely relieved Molly and caught sight of Harry; her face was deathly pale, but her fury at Bellatrix seemed to have focused her on her surroundings again. "Harry Potter. Nymphadora wanted you to be godfather to Teddy."
"Er … yes," replied Harry, nonplussed by her sudden changes in attitude. "And Lupin too."
Andromeda Tonks stiffened very slightly, then nodded. "Yes. I'm sorry for troubling you like this, Mr Potter," she said, with what seemed a shaky but creditable attempt at the hauteur she'd shown on the first occasion she'd spoken to him, a year before in what seemed like another life. "But I knew they moved you here after we met so briefly, and I thought you would probably be staying here again, and, well … when that man came I couldn't think of anyone else who might be willing and able to help us." She shuddered.
"It's no trouble," muttered Harry. "Least I can do. We'll get this sorted out at the Ministry."
"You'll stay here, of course, er – Andromeda?" asked Molly tentatively, looking heartened when she nodded. "Oh good. I'll show you to your room, then. Follow me," she said with a sudden return to her usual brisk manner. "Arthur, bring that dear little boy, would you?"
Mr Weasley exchanged rueful grins with Harry and Ginny as his wife shepherded Andromeda Tonks upstairs. He gently lifted Teddy's crib and followed them, leaving a sudden silence behind him. Ginny watched him go. "Wow," she said as he disappeared around the corner of the stairs. That seemed to cover the situation. "What are you going to do?" she added after a moment.
"Talk to whoever runs this stupid tribunal, I suppose," said Harry, running his fingers through his hair in frustration. "I don't believe they're still letting Umbridge run around loose!"
"Me neither. I can't imagine what Kingsley's thinking. They should lock her up in Azkaban and Vanish the key. We'll have to go and look up the werewolf laws, won't we?"
"You'll help?" asked Harry. The prospect of having a good excuse to monopolise Ginny's company for the next few days was appealing, even if the circumstances that provided the opportunity weren't. For some reason it was hard to feel guilty about this.
"Of course I will," said Ginny staunchly. "We could do with a bit of expert assistance though. Did you get Hermione on that fellytone thing?"
"Telephone," corrected Harry absently. "No, they were out … agh!"
Both Harry and Ginny jumped as a silver streak flew across the yard and into the kitchen. It coalesced into an otter that looked up at them in a mildly smug manner, twitched its whiskers, and spoke in Hermione's voice.
"Got your message. Ron hit roof. Mum and Dad fine. All coming home soonest."
"Say what you like about Hermione," said Ginny as it faded, "but she's got great timing."