A/N – Blue Raine – Nice suggestion...read on... ;-)
When Harry next opened his eyes it was to find wide hazel ones blinking at him.
Ginny lay beside him, her head resting on the pillow and the little snake curled around her neck snoring.
'Hiya,' she said softly. 'Did I wake you?'
Harry smiled. 'Hi yourself. If you did, I'm glad. What are you doing here?'
Ginny snuggled closer, laying an arm across his waist. 'We are all staying here for a few weeks. Me, Ron, the twins and mum and dad.'
Harry's grin widened and then abruptly disappeared into a frown. 'This isn't because I've been ill is it.'
Ginny snorted. 'Of course it is! Mum's downstairs driving Sirius bats even as we speak. Prepare for full-on Weasley nursing. It's almost worse than the illness itself.'
Harry groaned and pulled the covers over his head, ignoring Ginny's laughter and the snakes amusement radiating through him.
'Is Hermione here too?' he asked, muffled by the blankets and Ginny rubbed his arm in sympathy.
'Yep, and her parents are joining us this evening. Sirius decided that if we were all going to invade then we might as well make an event of it. He has Fred and George tidying up the garden and Charlie is going to come and put some weather charms on the wards. We are planning to pretend this is a proper summer holiday and all spend a few weeks together.'
Harry threw back the covers dramatically and pulled himself into a sitting position.
'That doesn't sound so bad. I'm sorry to cause drama again.'
Ginny snuggled into his side and lay her head on his shoulder.
'To be honest I think mum and dad are a bit relieved to have something to focus on. This trying to pretend everything's fine and we haven't all been through three years of hell is taking it's strain.'
Harry nodded thoughtfully as his snake slithered over from Ginny's neck to his.
'Don't they all have to go to work?'
Ginny shook her head. 'Dad has taken two weeks leave and the twins have left their staff in charge of the shop. Remus is coming over tomorrow and Hermione's parents have to work this weekend but are then closing the practice for a few weeks. Even Charlie and Bill are going to see if they can join us next week.'
Harry smiled. 'This could be fun. Do you think Sirius could make a pretend beach in the back garden?'
'For you kid, anything!' Sirius announced as he strode in with a tray of food for them. He lay the tray on the bedside table and sat on the edge of the bed, looking at Harry critically.
'You look much better, do you need anything?'
Harry smiled. 'Nope, I feel great actually. Can I get up?'
'As soon as Severus checks you over. He should be here in about an hour. Did Ginny tell you what's happening?'
Harry grimaced. 'Yes, this isn't all because of me is it?'
Sirius squeezed his knee. 'I think we are just realising how much more healing we all need. A chance to be together like this is too good to pass up. Minerva and Poppy are coming too, I spoke to them by floo a few minutes ago.'
Harry laughed. 'Do we have room for everyone?'
'Pretty much. Arthur and Remus are transfiguring the loft into four more bedrooms and three bathrooms and we have Kreacher cleaning all of the spare rooms. That will make fourteen guest bedrooms in total. There will likely be a bit of doubling up but that's ok.' Sirius rubbed his chin in thought. 'We will have to use the formal dining room.'
Harry's eyebrows rose. 'We have a formal dining room?'
'Have you not explored this house at all child? Of course we have a dining room! It's directly above the kitchen and can seat fifty six; more with some space charms but I doubt we will need them.'
'We will need more house elves,' Harry said in jest and Sirius frowned thoughtfully.
'I really should get more. Most manors have a staff of eight or nine. I wonder where the best place to get them is?'
Sirius stood and walked away, clearly off to plot and Harry shouted after him.
'Make sure you ask Kreacher first so we don't hurt his feelings. Make him head elf or something.'
Sirius turned and looked back at Harry, his expression softening into a fond smile.
'You really are a great kid Harry.' He pulled the door gently too, to give them privacy, adding just before it closed. 'You two better behave. I don't want to have to make ground rules.'
Ginny giggled and rolled over to face Harry. 'I really like Sirius, it must be great living here.'
'Yeah, it is. It's better than I dreamt of and Sirius seems really calm now. I think the healer he has been seeing has helped a lot.'
There was a moments quiet and then Ginny asked softly. 'What's wrong with your hand Harry?'
Harry froze, feeling a sharp retort on his tongue when his snake inserted herself forcefully into his thoughts.
'I can feel your love for this girl and hers for you. Why in heaven would you hide your pain from her little one?'
Harry sighed heavily and then lifted his hands so that he could peel of the tape holding the bandages in place. He unveiled the gnarled hand with a shudder. The little finger was completely missing, as was the joint beneath it. The stump had healed but the skin was puckered and red and covered in lines.
Ginny gently ran a finger over the red lines and then moved over so she could wrap her arms around his upper body and press her face into his neck.
'I'm so sorry Harry,' she whispered tearfully. 'I hate that that woman hurt you so badly. Please don't hide this from us.'
Harry knew that she was talking about the rest of the Weasleys and Hermione and he nodded silently, his throat chocked up.
He felt a wave of approval and love from the snake and lifted a hand so he could include her in their embrace. Ginny settled on his chest, her finger running over the snakes scales.
'She's so beautiful. Have you thought of a name for her yet?'
Harry sighed. 'I can't think of one that does her justice although after the last few days I thought of 'biter.''
'Ha, ha, very funny,' the snake muttered. 'Try that and I will assume you are making a request every time you say it.'
Harry chuckled. 'She's not so keen on that.'
Ginny smiled at them both fondly. 'Her scales remind me of rain puddles. They are so reflective. Such a pretty blue.'
'Mmm, how about Blue Rain?'
Ginny nodded. 'That's pretty. If you add an e to the Rain you can call her Raine for short.'
'What do you think?' Harry asked the snake, speaking the parsel tongue aloud so that Ginny knew they were considering her suggestion.
'I like it,' the snake hissed. 'Raine is very regal.'
'Blue Raine it is,' Harry declared in English and Ginny grinned.
They lay snuggled together for over an hour, helping themselves to the tea and toast that Sirius had brought whilst Ginny caught him up on all the Weasley family gossip.
'I'm glad the twins are here,' Harry said between gulps of hot tea. 'They asked me to pop into the shop yesterday and I never got the chance. It must be chaos down there!'
Ginny laughed. 'It's pretty busy. This place is starting to look good though. Almost cheerful.'
'Yeah, we're getting there. Remus said that Dark Magic can only be driven out by light magic; hate by love ect. He thinks the longer we live here the better the place will be. I think Sirius would still like to sell the place and start again though.'
'I can understand that.'
A knock on the door announced the arrival of Professor Snape and Harry pulled himself up straighter as Ginny slid off the bed.
'I'll be back in a bit,' she said gently, dropping a kiss on his forehead and quietly leaving the room.
'Potter, you look better.'
'I am Sir thank you and thanks for all your help.'
Severus grunted and ran his wand down the young man, glancing at the parchment before moving to check Harry's dressing.
'The venom has now fully dissipated and you seem to be well recovered but your side is a mess. You will have to start taking a daily potion against the infection. Poppy and I are no closer to a solution but we are still trying, as are the labs at St Mungo's.' He paused and sighed. 'You will have to be very careful Harry. I'm tempted to confine you to bed rest.'
Harry shot the man an alarmed look and Severus held up a hand to stop the barrage of arguments he knew were coming.
'I know, it would be a pointless exercise. You would never comply. However, you must understand. The wound is slowly deepening and nothing we are doing is reversing that. At best we are slowing it down. Any further damage you cause from running around will not be undone by our treatment.'
Harry nodded soberly to show he understood. 'The snake said that this will kill me if it is not healed?'
Snape rubbed the bridge of his nose and took a seat beside the bed. 'She is not wrong, but we are a long way off from that. The danger of any open wound is infection. If that gets into the bloodstream then it can cause further damage to your organs. You are far from recovered from your ordeal at Bella's hands so will be particularly vulnerable to this. Can the snake not help with it? She seems to have done a remarkable job on your hip.'
Harry reached for his mug of tea again before answering. 'Raine says there is wild magic in the wound that she doesn't recognise and that it fights her attempt to heal.'
Severus frowned and reached for his notebook. 'That sounds almost sentient. Are you sure you can remember nothing of the spell that did it?'
Harry blushed, embarrassed. 'I'm sorry, no. I've thought and thought but really can't remember when it happened. I might even have been unconscious.'
Snape let out a frustrated breath. 'Alright then.' He placed a bottle on the night stand. 'This is the new potion to use on your dressing changes. I have removed the pain killer from the mix. This means it will hurt more, I'm afraid. It also means you are likely to be more careful of how you move.'
Harry grimaced but didn't argue, understanding this was the alternative to forced bed rest. He would rather be a bit sore than stuck in bed for weeks whilst they found a solution.
Once Snape had finished redressing his side, he slid out of bed and padded over to his wardrobe to pull out some jeans and sweatshirt.
'Thanks again Sir,' Harry offered as he disappeared into the bathroom and Snape grunted, turning to gather his supplies back together. This wound was frustrating him enormously. If the boy ended up dying of an infection after all of his care, he would be most displeased.
He was just about to leave the room when Harry stuck a head out of the bathroom door, a large red towel wrapped around his still too thin hips.
'Are you joining us as well Sir? For our little pretend holiday I mean?'
Snape's lip curled up in annoyance. 'I wasn't planning to and it has only been mentioned to me in the vaguest of terms.'
Harry smiled to himself, recognising the Professor's unspoken 'I haven't been invited' for what it was.
He straightened and walked back into the room.
'I think a few of the staff from Hogwarts and the Weasleys and...well, the whole gang I guess are planning on staying here for a few weeks to have a break. It would be great if you could come.'
Severus frowned. 'I have a great deal of potions work to do before the new term so that my replacement is not too overloaded.'
Harry's eyebrows rose at that. 'You're not coming back to teach Sir?'
'I was only ever there at Albus's request. There will be a new Professor in September.'
Harry frowned, unsure what to say. He had grown rather fond of the man after their three days stuck with Kreacher in the cave but it would be an outright lie to say he would miss the man's teaching.
'We have a potions lab here,' Harry blurted out and the man rose an eyebrow in question as if to say 'so.'
'It's in the basement,' Harry continued. 'but it hasn't been used in years and really needs restocking. 'Maybe you could work from here and help me get it sorted. I think Sirius was planning to pay one of the apothecaries to come and stock it out. If you fancied the job then we could pay you instead?'
Severus resisted the urge to snap at the boys obvious attempts to get him to join their little summer lovefest, his sarcastic reply cut off by Harry's sincere finish.
'I really would like you to join us Sir.'
'I will consider it,' he answered neutrally and the boy smiled and disappeared back into the bathroom.
'Bloody Gryffindors,' he muttered to himself and left before anyone else stopped to ask him something irritating.
Harry wandered down the stairs to the kitchen and paused at the door, leaning against the door frame to watch the chaos inside. The long table was completely covered in food and supplies which Molly, Ginny and Remus were packing away into various cupboards.
Arthur and the twins were pouring over some plans laid out on the worktop and downing large glasses of lemonade. By their dirt stained and sweaty appearance they had clearly been working hard.
Sirius glanced up and spotted him in the doorway, his smile breaking into a grin.
'Cleared for mayhem kid?' he asked, drawing everyone's attention to where Harry stood and he nodded shyly.
'Yeah, so long as I'm careful.'
'Oh Harry!' Molly bustled over for her customary hug and few moments of fussing which he drowned out by sharing a grin with the twins.
'Sorry we didn't get to talk yesterday.'
Fred wandered over and swatted his mother away. 'Leave it off ma, he'll be running back to bed to hide if you don't stop.'
Molly huffed and stalked away after one last pat of Harry's arm whilst Fred plopped himself down in one of the armchairs near the fire.
'Don't worry Harrikins, we can catch up with later. Confidential stuff to talk about you know.'
'Yeah, stuff we don't want all the old fogies to...,' George trailed off, his face falling and Harry realised with a jolt he was staring at Harry's left hand.
The twins exchanged a glance and seeing what had happened, Sirius hurried over and put his arm around Harry, steering him to the back door.
'Come on kid, come and see what we have done with the back garden. It's looking great.'
Harry threw his godfather a grateful look, trying to ignore Molly's distressed squeak and the way she had buried her face in her hands. His relief quickly fled as he realised that the garden was packed with people.
Ron, Hermione and Arthur were lounging on the newly created deck whilst what looked like half of the staff of Hogwarts were charming, stretching or otherwise faffing around with the remaining space. At the very bottom of the lawn, Hagrid stood with a large hosepipe, slowly filling a half moon shaped pond.
Harry glanced sideways at Sirius, realising that he had never shown his godfather the injury either. Obviously reading the apology in Harry's stricken gaze, he squeezed Harry's shoulder.
'It's ok kid. I've already seen it. I've been nursing you through all those nightmares and fever's, remember? It's ok.' He pulled the boy into a hug. 'I'm very glad you have stopped hiding it. Just ignore it and everyone else will take their cue from you.'
Harry nodded numbly and let Sirius lead him over to the Morrocan styled deck furniture his friends were lounged on.
'Hey guys, look who got released from solitary.'
'Harry!' Hermione jumped up to give him a hug and make a space for him between her and Ron. He saw both of his friends gazes flick down to his hand and then quickly away but neither seemed to react, leaving Harry wondering if they had already known as well.
'Do you want some butterbeer mate?' Ron asked cheerfully. 'Professor McGonagall brought half a dozen crates over this morning.'
Harry nodded eagerly and turned to watch all the activity in amazement.
'This looks brilliant! Did Charlie do the weather charms already?'
The sun was beating down on the small garden, bathing the area in afternoon heat.
'Nope, not yet,' Ron answered cheerfully. 'It's actually sunny for once; who'd have thought it?'
Harry grinned and accepted the bottle that Arthur passed him.
'You are looking well Harry. Have you fully recovered?'
'Mostly, just got to take it easy for a while.'
They all settled back to watch the chaos in the garden and Ginny came through with Remus to join the group around the table. Harry was dizzy with the sheer number of people coming and going over the next few hours. Everyone arrived with arms full of supplies for the kitchen and all had a contribution to make to the cleaning and charm work going on.
'Did Sirius tell you about the party plans?' Arthur asked as they settled down to their fourth glass of the mildly alcoholic drink.
Harry looked questioningly between the adults. 'A party? Really?'
Sirius grinned. 'We thought we would have a joint birthday party for all of you youngsters that didn't get the chance to celebrate your special days over the last year or so.'
'That's a brilliant idea,' Harry enthused. 'Are we doing gifts?'
'If you want to Harry, but only for those eighteen and under. This is for you youngsters, not us old farts.' Sirius Accioed a magazine rack out from the kitchen and put it down beside his godson. 'This has a load of catalogues in it if you wanted to order anything. I don't really want you out shopping right now.'
'When are we doing the party?' Hermione asked, reaching for the book catalogues.
'We thought Monday afternoon. Everyone who is coming should be here by then and it gives us the weekend to finish getting the house and garden ready. Once Hagrid has filled the pond, we are going to add some sand around the edges.'
'A beach!' Ron exclaimed. 'Wicked!'
'That was my idea?' Harry said proudly and the adults exchanged an amused look at his childish delight. Arthur gave Sirius an approving nod. For the first time Harry was acting like the teenager he really was; It was a delight to see.
Remus lay his arm around Harry's shoulder as Arthur did the same with Ron and Ginny, who had sat herself down next to her dad.
'I think,' Remus said softly. 'That we should have some sort of game or competition at the party.'
'..or a play!' Ron interjected excitably.
'How about an open mic spot?' Hermione suggested and Harry grinned as the others exchanged confused looks.
'That's a great idea,' Harry enthused.
'What the hell's an open Michael?' Ron asked and Harry laughed.
'An open mic Ron,' Hermione corrected, moving into lecture tone. 'It's when you have a stage and anyone can get up and do something; sing a song, read a poem, tell a joke...anything.'
'Well now, that sounds interesting, doesn't it?' Arthur asked with a smile at his kids. 'I bet Fred and George could come up with something interesting.'
'Did we hear...'
'Someone using our name in vain?'
The twins appeared out of nowhere and sat down cross legged on the floor beside the magical enlarged sofa's.
'What did you want of us?'
Sirius watched all the mayhem from the kitchen door, smiling at his godson as he leant against Remus and tried to explain the concept of an open mic event to the two Weasley twins.
Harry was laughing so hard he was almost crying as the twins deliberately misunderstood and came back with more and more outrageous questions. He felt rather than saw as Minerva came to stand beside him.
'I had almost forgotten what is what like to see normal teenage interactions,' she said softly and Sirius sighed in response.
'I know; isn't it great? You will get to see much more of this come the next school year.'
'Mmm, I heard a rumour that Harry is considering returning for his 7th year?' she asked hopefully and Sirius turned with a smile.
'Yep, you are getting all three of them! They decided together on our outing the other day.'
Minerva's eyebrows rose in surprise. 'I must admit I didn't think a pack of werewolves could herd young Mr Weasley back into a classroom voluntarily.'
'Did someone need a pack of werewolves? Give me half an hour and I will see what I can do.'
Sirius turned and grinned at Remus who had extracted himself from the giggling teens and snuck up on them.
'On this occasion all that was needed was a persuasive girlfriend,' Sirius answered with a grin. 'No slobbering werewolves required.'
'It will be lovely to teach the three of them again,' Minerva said fondly and the three adults turned back to watch the scene before them.
Dusk was falling and the candles were jumping into flame in hundreds of Morrocan lanterns that had been scattered around the deck.
Charlie Weasley was at the bottom of the garden putting the finishing touches on the weather charms meaning the air was slowly getting warmer, instead of colder as the evening came.
'This was an excellent idea Sirius,' Remus declared, patting his friend on the back. 'two weeks of this will make a huge difference to all of them.'
'..and us,' Minerva added causing Sirius to wrap an arm around her waist and smile at her gently.
'How are you Minnie? Are you fully recovered?'
She sighed heavily. 'I think so. It's hard to tell where old age meets the injuries to be honest. I feel fully recovered so that's good. I'm a bit overwhelmed at all that needs to be done at Hogwarts. I can't help thinking that Severus was much better suited to this role than I am.'
Remus frowned. 'Was he not interested in the job?'
'He didn't think the parents would stand for it, with all that happened last year.'
'But he protected the students,' Sirius answered with confusion. 'That has been widely publicized. Surely that stands for something?
Minerva shook her head sadly. 'I think he just doesn't have any fight left in him any more. He didn't expect to survive this war and I worry that on some level he didn't want to.'
'Is he joining us for the holiday?' Remus asked his friend and Sirius's eyes widened in alarm.
'Bloody hell Remy, I didn't think to ask him!'
At his two companions stern looks he hurried into the kitchen to dig some parchment out of a drawer.
'Moony, will you sign this as well? I think it will mean more then. I don't want him thinking I am just being polite.'
Sirius hurriedly scribbled out an invitation to his childhood nemesis and then handed it to his friend to sign. A few minutes later it was tied to Remus's owl and heading off across the London sky.
The group sat on the deck until late into the night, both Harry and Ginny falling asleep on the sofa in a puddle of blankets and cushions. Once midnight came, the adults shooed the teenagers up to their various rooms and Remus walked a half asleep Harry up to his bed. The last pain potion had worn off and Harry grimaced as he climbed the stairs.
'Severus told us you would be much sorer on the new potion. Do you need anything?' Remus asked softly and Harry sighed.
'No, I just need to get used to it I guess. He is right that it is making me move more carefully. Hopefully, they will find a fix for this soon.
Harry fell into bed and was breathing deeply before Remus had finished closing the curtains. He smiled fondly, at the boy, reset Sirius's monitoring charms and slipped from the room before heading to the small room and study at the back of the house that had been allocated to him.
Remus paused at the door as something caught his eye. His heart jumped into his throat as he saw the small brass plaque that had been permanently attached to the large oak frame.
Remus John Lupin
Below the name a small engraved wolf wandered around the plague, stopping every so often to silently howl into the air. Remus chuckled, greatly touched by the gesture. Only Black family members had their name on the doors and in doing this Sirius was making a statement about his place amongst them.
As he turned the doorknob, he discovered another addition. Hanging from the brass handle was a muggle cartoon sign,
Beware of the wolf, he bites!
A wry smile fled across Remus's face as he shook his head in amusement.
Cheeky bastard,he thought fondly.
He shuffled into the room and looked at his boxes piled against the far corner with a smile. He was used to living out of a suitcase and a few trunks but maybe tomorrow he would actually unpack? It appeared he had found himself a home.
Remus settled into a shabby armchair near the fire and smiled contentedly. If they could just get Harry healthy again, things would truly be perfect.
A floor below him, Harry tossed restlessly as his familiar cycle of nightmares started again. This time however, things were a little different. A small, sarcastic little snake was accompanying him on his nightly trip to Bellatrix's lair and it was amazing how much easier the whole thing was to cope with, when a little voice in your ear spent the whole time ridiculing Bella's hair, dental work and general insanity.
Harry jolted awake at two in the morning, drenched in sweat and breathing heavily. This time though, he settled quickly and after a chat with Raine drifted slowly back to sleep.
'Progress,' the little snake thought with satisfaction. 'Small progress, but progress all the same.'
For once Harry was awake before the rest of the house and Sirius came down to breakfast after his first non interrupted sleep in months. He found Harry sipping coffee and reading the paper whilst Raine scurried up and down the table trying to catch a butterfly that had become trapped in the kitchen.
'Give you indigestion,' Sirius muttered to the snake before dropping a kiss on Harry's messy hair.
'Ready for a weekend of partying kid.'
'Hell yeah!,' Harry said with a grin.