Authors Note: Obligatory denial of ownership. Rowling owns Harry and Friends. Heinlein's estate owns a cat named Pixel. I own a computer and a small dementor statue named Bob.
So, in the words of Chris DeBurgh, "don't pay the ferryman."
Someone to Love
Each morning I get up, I die a little
Can't barely stand on my feet
Take a look in the mirror and cry
"Lord what you're doing to me?"
Chapter 1: Not a Dry Eye in the House
Your every line had the sweetest sound.
Your every touch turned my world around.
But then the light came up and my world crashed down.
End of show - it's over.
It was over.
Nobody actually came out and said those words, but that was the sentiment in the castle. It was over. The fear. The death. Over, gone, done with. Fire-whisky and mead and mulled wine flowed like the millennium had turned early and water was out of style. Goblets were raised and toasts were called with increasing volume. The names of the dead were recited, with respect for those on our side, with contempt for those on the other.
Dead was dead. It didn't matter if you were magical or muggle, free or slave, rich or poor, you were all the same. Death, the great equalizer.
They'd opened up Hogwarts Great Hall, put me up on the high table. The same seat were Professor Dumbledore had sat. Where Severus had.
Odd that. I'd spent so many years hating him, loathing his existence as much as he loathed mine. Was it an act? I couldn't tell. Right now I'd say probably not, that he despised me because I was just one more example where James Potter had gone one up on him…and because of me the one thing he cared anything about was killed. Didn't mean he wasn't brave, just that he was a rotten bastard to everyone around him.
Even now I couldn't call him 'Professor' Snape. Too many bad memories, petty torments, and detentions between us. I still hate the memory of who he was, but it's hard to hate a person who's dying in front of you, dying for you, all so that the two of you can have a slice of revenge.
Who was it that said revenge was best served cold? I don't know. Don't particularly care. They were wrong. Revenge is best served hot, the temperature of freely flowing blood, the temperature of spilled intestines and a just-dead corpse.
Fleur had suggested getting a pike to 'display 'ez 'ead properly'.
People forget what's under her surface. Forget that veela glamour and the pretty witch are only skin deep. There's a reason why she was chosen by the Goblet of Fire. Beneath the French designer clothes and pretty face was a Warrior Queen out of an old bard's tale with more dueling tournament titles than Gilderoy Lockheart had 'most charming smile' awards.
I told her to leave him where he lay. Plenty of time in the morning to begin documenting everything (on Shacklebolt's insistence) and cleaning up.
Let the dead bury the dead.
Only the dead have seen the end of war.
All the little trite phrases we've come up with. Right now I'm partial to 'there's nothing more terrible than a battle won, except a battle lost'.
I was so damned tired of it. I wanted to go and sleep, but knew that even if I managed that all I'd get were nightmares. I thought about going to Madam Pomfrey for a dreamless sleep potion, but she's the only one who isn't down here celebrating…well, her and those too badly injured to come down but not so bad off that they were transferred to St. Mungo's.
Besides, one dreamless night once in a while isn't a problem. But I can feel so many nightmares crowding at the edges of my mind that one night wouldn't be enough. Would never be enough.
Bad things come to those that abuse dreamless sleep potions.
Someone tries to press a goblet of mead into my hand. I hold up a goblet (the golden one they insist I use, the same one Dumbledore used) filled with pumpkin juice that I charmed to look like fire whisky. It's enough to get them to leave me alone as someone, Vance?—no, Vance is dead, maybe a sister—proposes another toast to the departed.
I pretend to drink. I pretend out of respect. I don't drink because even pumpkin juice tastes foul and bitter on my tongue.
The tables have been pushed away from one of the big hearths that line the walls, and the Centaurs are clustered around it with barrels of their forest-brewed beer set on their flat sides and the other opened so that you can just dip right in. A couple have drums, and one a reed flute, and four more have actual bag-pipes and they get into another song as soon as the toast was over. McGonagall already had them do Scotland, the Brave, and led everyone in the school song to it (twice).
"Flowers of the Forest."
I turn to find Shacklebolt sitting next to me.
"I'm leading the Provisional Ministry until we can get everything reorganized. Elections a year from today."
"Good for you," I manage. He looks like the only other person here who isn't well on their way to being completely smashed.
"I want you."
Maybe not. I had my obligatory sip of fire whisky when I turned seventeen. Even had one earlier when the party started. The Durslys, especially Vernon and Marge, made me a firm believer in the evils of alcohol at an early age. Aside from teaching me how to run really fast, it's one of the few lessons that I'm actually thankful of them for.
"You didn't wait long before moving in, did you?" I asked coldly.
He frowned, "What do you mean?"
"Ginny just died," I said, managing not to grind my teeth.
Shacklebolt blinked, then shook his head. "Sorry, I meant I want you as part of my Provisional Ministry."
"No chance." I didn't even need to think about it.
"If you tell me it's what Dumbledore, or Ginny, or anyone else would have wanted, I'm going to curse you."
"I can't do this job alone, Harry," he said.
"I already have someone for DMLE," he continued.
"I just need you to run one little sub-department," he said. "That Weasley boy, Perce-something? He's already agreed to handle the admin side so you'll have minimal paperwork."
"In the Department of Law Enforcement," I said.
He nodded happily.
"Who's the head?" I asked.
"Connie Hammer," he said. "She was an Auror, transferred to the Law Enforcement Patrol, ended up running their Recon unit."
"You had a unit called LEPRecon?" I asked.
He nodded, "They're to the LEP what the Hit-wizards are to the Aurors."
"So you want me to have her old job?" I asked.
He nodded happily.
"You tried that already," I pointed out.
"What else are you going to do, Harry?" he asked. "Sit alone in that big house all day."
"There's an idea," I said. "Seamus!"
Finnegan looked up at me from where he'd been getting ready to sing again.
"Four times is enough, give Danny Boy a break."
He frowned and tried to count on his fingers. Most of the hall was half-wasted. Seamus was well-past half-way.
"This'll be the last time," I sighed.
"Oh, right then. Oh Danny Boy, the pipes the pipes…"
I tuned it out before I could hear the pipes again. Shacklebolt had a point, as much as I didn't want to admit it. And, hell, Percy had practically lived at the Ministry. There was probably so much crap to muck out that I wouldn't have to even bother with sleep.
The idea had merit.
"All right," I said.
"Good," Shacklebolt said. He plopped a leather folder down in front of me. The kind that muggle detectives carry their badges around in.
I opened it. "Chief Auror?" I growled.
"Connie was a Senior Auror. Since I'm moving out, that makes you the ranking Auror," he smirked. "Have fun with your department, Chief." He turned and sauntered away.
I wanted to leave. Wanted to be anywhere but here. But the people needed their damned hero.
"Winky," I said.
The house-elf popped into existence next to me. She looked…better than I had seen her last. Mostly cleaned up of the butterbeer addiction, but Dobby's death had hit her hard. Dobby's death had hit everyone hard.
"I need food," I said. "Something simple that I can eat with my hands. Meat pastries or something." I didn't want to eat but the Dursleys had taught me that you don't eat when you want, you eat when you can or you won't have energy to run later.
She nodded and started to pop away, but I put my hand on her shoulder and stopped her. "Professor Snape's quarters, do they have a guest room or a study that doesn't have anything powerfully magical or dangerous? I'm going to be staying there at least tonight and there will be an infant staying as well."
Winky nodded. "Professor Snape was liking his privacy, Master Harry Potter Sir, but yes, there is a room like that."
"Good," I said. "I need one room, or a couch if need be, to sleep in myself, one crib or bassinet for a baby, and a room with a bed for one intoxicated Auror who is likely not going to take well to waking up someplace strange. That room should have immediate access to a lav, she's had a lot to drink."
Winky nodded. "What else, sir?"
"What time is it now?"
"Nearly two in the morning, Master Harry Potter Sir."
"Wake up call for eight," I said, gritting my teeth. "Have hot food ready, lots of it. Coffee for Tonks, hot cocoa for me." I'd come to heartily despise the illusion of energy caffeine gave. Theobromine—and wasn't Hermione wonderful for teaching me that word—was a much more civilized stimulant but the Aurors, I knew, ran on the stuff. "Have a bottle and baby things ready, warming charm on the bottle, whatever else you think appropriate.
"Next," I continued. "I need you to go to Number 12 Grimmauld Place. Kreacher, who worked in the kitchens here year before last, should be there. Tell him that I want the house cleaned thoroughly, top to bottom. I want all of the dark artifacts and books, all of the portraits, stripped from one floor, tell him to pick which one. I want one room set up for an infant. Crib, changing table, rocking chair, and the like. Would he be able to enchant the ceiling?"
Winky shook her head. "Wes cannot be doing magic like that, Master Harry Potter Sir."
"Fine," I said. "Leave it for now. I want two bedrooms on that floor. At least one should have an inner door that connects to the nursery. If there is such a set of suitable rooms on one floor that he doesn't need to make changes that'd be excellent, but safety from dark objects comes first."
"Okay, um, tell him he can access my vaults to buy anything he needs to accomplish my directives. I want the kitchen stocked with non-perishables, but only the basics for the perishable items. Tell Kreacher we're going to have a talk in the future about coloring schemes and the like, as well as what to do with the more questionable items. Also tell him that sooner or later my Godson is going to end up staying there and the portrait of Sirius' mother is going to behave. If she can't I'll get rid of her. I'll remove the entire wall she's anchored to and replace it if I have to. Also let him know that I won't be moving back permanently until the security issues can be addressed.
"Are you bound to Hogwarts, or are you still a free elf?"
The abrupt question took her by surprise.
"Winky is bound to Hogwarts now, Master Harry Potter Sir," she admitted.
"Fine, would you be interested in being bound to me?" As much as I trusted Kreacher, I didn't trust him just as much. Plus, if I remembered right, Winky was around when Barty Jr. was young. That made her useful. Also, since I was going to be directing the Aurors, having a house-elf I trusted may prove very useful.
"Oh," her eyes were so wide that I thought they were going to fall out. "Oh yes," she said. "Oh yes, Master Harry Potter Sir, Winky would like that more than anything."
"Fine, consider it done. We'll talk with the Headmistress and get everything done nice and formal later.
"One rule," I held up a finger.
Her wide eyes went wider, in fear this time, but I ignored it.
"You are limited to two names when you address me. I don't much care for 'master' anything, but 'Master Harry' is fine. Pick what you want."
"Good, go on and get to work. I'm going to try getting Tonks down to Professor Snape's quarters in a bit, so bring me food, and then start down there."
She nodded and popped out.
If I could have I'd have gotten Tonks started down already. Merlin knows how Teddy was managing to sleep through this. One of the Hufflepuffs who had decided to stay behind and help Madam Pomfrey had brought him down just before the party started. Unfortunately Tonks didn't look near to the point yet where she'd stumble along as I directed without asking any questions.
A moment later a dozen meat rolls appeared before me, along with three fruit-filled pastries.
The party was finally starting to die down. People were struggling through floos. Those who couldn't floo were being shown the direction of vacant guest rooms and unused staff quarters. Those who were still students were struggling to house dormitories not caring of House.
If it had been a couple of years ago the Sorting Hat would have torn itself a new one. Apparently alcohol was another Great Equalizer.
Alcohol and Death.
I was pretty sure there was something thought-provoking and profound in that but I couldn't quite put my finger on it.
I finally was able to escape from the Siege Perilous (another thing to thank the Dursleys for, I guess. Dudley's bookcase in his second bedroom, complete with unread books).
Teddy was just starting to wake up when I got to them.
Do I carry the cute Godson? Or do I carry the passed-out-drunk/grieving-widow/quasi-aunt/friend/future-colleague?
I know which one I wanted to carry. Unfortunately it was easier to charm the levitating porta-crib to follow along ahead of me and put feather-light charms on the aforementioned auror than it was to carry the levitating porta-crib and charm the auror to float along behind me.
I know, charm the auror. Bad taste in words even if the closest thing I had to an uncle (her husband) hadn't just been killed. Sue me, I'm tired. That's why I resorted to magic in the first place instead of carrying her down without it.
It'd been a long day. I united the damned Hollows for the first time in ever. For thirty seconds I'd been the Master of Death. I'd been hit with the killing curse (again) and lived (again), and let me tell you, getting hit with that spell takes a lot out of you. I'd just been subjected to hours of partying for something that I felt there was damn little reason to celebrate about.
Oh sure, there was a great sigh of relief when I realized that at least that was over. That there was no way that bastard was coming back. Was it worth it? If he'd offered to let me and Ginny go as long as we never opposed him, would I have done it? I didn't want to answer that question right now. If I did, well… Maybe in the future I could say that yes, it was worth it. Right now it just hurt, and I was tired.
I trudged down the stone stairs into the dungeons. I'd never been in this part of them. I knew where the Slytherin Commons were, where the different potion labs were. But I'd never been near Severus Snape's private apartments before. I hadn't need to. My feet took me right there.
There was a painting there. Of a woman with red hair in a white gown. Draped across her shoulders and wrapped around her so that its head hovered above her upturned right hand was a serpent.
I spoke the password even before the painting had a chance to address me.
It was amazing what learning a few things about someone you hate's motivation. Lessons with Dumbledore where I thought I learned nothing, I'd learned the basic fundamentals of Tom Riddle's psyche that drove him to do what he did. Learning a few things about Severus turned him from a cold, sarcastic, coward into one of the bravest (though no less cold or sarcastic) men I'd ever met.
It begs the question of what would have happened if I'd let the Hat put me in his house. Would I have recognized what was going on inside him seven years sooner? (Probably not, given that he played Voldemort for a fool and even Dumbledore, I suspect, never realized the true depths of his feelings). Would he have managed what he'd never done in this life and recognize the parts of me that were so much the same as him?
So very similar, the two of us: Vernon and Tobias, Eileen and Petunia. And yet so different as well. He had a friend who he lost, whereas I. I never had a friend, and found them.
I'd never seen his apartments, and yet, they seemed to fit the man perfectly. Not the cold bat-like figured that lurked over a cauldron, but the man. Warm reds (not the eye-searing scarlet of Gryffindor) and earth-tone browns predominated. Crystal spheres produced a gentle, soothing light. A wireless collected dust in one corner, the walls were paneled with some dark wood—where they weren't lined with bookcases. Thick rugs covered the stone floors, and even the ceiling was charmed. The only stone was the red brick chimney of a magnificent fireplace on the wall opposite a battered, but comfortable-looking, brown leather couch.
Winky was waiting and she took the porta-crib and the fussing Ted.
"Just a moment," I told him. "Let me get your Mum in bed first."
Winky hummed something and one of her long ears dipped towards a door that was already open.
The room was spartan, but well decorated. Green and browns predominated. The wall paneling matched the wood of the four-poster, chest of drawers, bedside cabinet, and wardrobe. There was a painting at the head of the bed, a winter scene in a forest of pine-trees where a pack of wolves has just pulled down a stag. The green comforter and the bed-hangings matched the trees, a rug on the floor, like an abstract stained glass window caught the scarlet-blood in the painting.
I laid Tonks on the bed, pull off her boots and pulled the comforter over her before turning to the painting. It isn't a wizarding painting. The wolves and stag are perfectly still. How long did Severus stare at it. How many nights did he come in here. The whole room was designed around it. A room that he never intended for use, a room that never was used. A room that was no more than an excuse to get a muggle painting.
It said things about him that he'd furnish a room so well simply so that the woods matched the wood-tones from the paintings. The bed-clothes matched the greens of the trees. And that solitary rug by the bed pulled out the midnight-blue of the winter sky, the white of the snow, the green and brown of the trees, the red of the blood…
I opened the door to the attached lavatory and a tap of the wand makes the globular lights glow gently. I had to see about getting some of my own. Gas lights are all well and good, but they still leave me feeling trapped in a muggle museum. I wanted either electric lights, or something magical that didn't look and feel so…dated. I left the door to the lav cracked open so that she could find it when she woke, and left the door to the living room open so that she knew she wasn't trapped.
Winky had set up a crib in Severus' office. It was neat and tidy, as I expected of him. The walls were lined with more bookcases, filled with potion texts and resources. A row of filing cabinets clearly labeled by year and alphabetically. I tried to imagine the dour Potion Master as I changed my godson for the first time on his desk under the supervision of a recovering-alcoholic house-elf.
She could have done it just as well, a point she had made sure she had let 'Master Harry Sir' know. Since I'd managed to wean her off one word I wasn't going to press tonight. I'd refused. Refused to even use magic. Some things are just too important to trivialize with a swish of a wand and a word. At least the first time you do them.
Besides, I was so tired of everything that there was no way I was going to risk using a new piece of magic. I don't care how safe and fool-proof anyone insisted it was.
The short of it is, Teddy made a mess. I cleaned it up while he grinned and gurgled. Winky held him and cooed while I vanished the mess and cleaned my hands. Some things are too smelly not to use magic on.
Winky had a bottle all ready for me when I reached for it. Teddy's hair went Chudley Cannon orange as he drained the bottle with indecent hast. When he finished he belched loudly, curled up in my arms, and began snoring as his hair changed to a soft buttery-yellow. I set him in the crib and the empty bottle was easily transfigured into a plush werewolf. Teddy grabbed it instinctively and began slurping on the tufted tail.
Baby and transfigured toy went in the crib.
I headed for the door, only to pause when I noticed two shelves lacked books.
"I was putting them in a different room, Master Harry Sir," Winky said. "Thems not being books yous be wanting around a baby."
I nodded my thanks and left the room, leaving the door open, and headed for the couch. Then I stopped, there was one last thing I had to do, though it was already so late in the night, or early, depending on your way of thinking, that I hesitated to do so. A simple wood fire, some floo powder, and an address and I found myself staring into a dimly lit room.
"Hello?" I asked softly. I didn't want to wake anyone if I didn't have to.
A figure shifted on a chair. Andromeda Tonks had been curled around an end-pillow and an afghan was draped around her shoulders, but dim light and a tear-streaked face didn't hide the same beauty her sisters had possessed.
"Harry?" she asked.
"It's over," I said. "He, Voldemort, is dead."
"You're sure?" she asked.
"There's a body this time," I said. "He's dead, and he's not coming back."
"Good," she said tightly. "How…how bad was it?"
I sighed, "Bad."
"Is…are Nymphadora and Remus…"
"Tonks is fine," I said. "Remus…Remus is dead."
She gave a soft, dry sob. "I'm sorry," she said after a moment. "I know you were…close."
"Is Nymphadora coming here, or are…" she hesitated. "Has she made other arraignments?"
"She's staying at Hogwarts," I said. "There was something of a victory bash and I was only just now able to get away from it," I fudged slightly. "She got pretty wasted. I have her and Teddy sleeping in the most secure quarters I know of, and I'm on the couch so if someone does try again they'll have to go through me first."
She nodded gratefully. "What happened?"
"Voldemort is dead, so is Remus," I repeated. "Severus Snape was working against him all the time, he gave me what I needed to finish the job, but he's dead too. Fred Weasley is dead, as is Ginny and…"
I stopped, I couldn't say more.
"Oh Harry," she said softly. "I'm so sorry. I didn't know her well, but Tonks and I spoke often enough to know that she was special."
"Are," she hesitated. "Cissy and Bella, are they…"
"Bellatrix is dead," I said.
She flinched but didn't say anything. No love lost there, but they'd been sisters, at least once upon a time. Some things are too hard to forget, no matter how hard you deny them.
"Narcissa…requires a little explaining, I think," I said.
She looked at me sharply.
"Kingsley is going to be interim Ministry for an emergency period. One year and one day from today will be elections. Until then we're under martial law."
"Expected, of course, what with the corruption in the Ministry and Wizengamot," she said. Her voice was a rasp but she forced it into a calm that was impressive as hell. We might have just as well been discussing the weather.
"He's put me in charge of the Auror office," I said. "I cut a deal with the Malfoy's during the battle. I'm not going to prosecute them for any actions taken as Death Eaters. I'm not talking about them using an Imperius defense, I mean not prosecuting at all. They don't know it yet but the second part is that they're going to have to come clean, totally. If I catch one illegal act, one restricted item. One hint of corruption or extortion or blackmail. I will come down on them like a thunderbolt from Zeus, I am not kidding. I will raze Malfoy Manor to the ground, water the ground with their blood, and plow salt into their fields.
"Since there won't be a Wizengamot for a year, and the courts are going to be tribunals, I have a whole year to politically castrate them. By the time I'm done, assuming they keep on the straight and narrow, they'll be lucky to keep their fortune."
"Very well," she said, rising to her feet. "Thank you, Harry Potter."
"Not a problem at all," I said.
"I can only imagine the work you have ahead of you," she paused. "Just remember, Teddy does have a grandmother."
"We'll remember that," I said, then pulled my head out of the fireplace.
I turned to the couch. I was too exhausted for the nightmares.