A/N: Whew, sorry for the wait. Rae (our chief writer) had her last quarter of college this Fall. Now she is free to write without bothersome homework, so hopefully we can get chapters up more frequently.
This chapter is a little bit uneventful, but DON'T WORRY. Things are about to get veeeerry interesting for you Voldemort fans ,:L
It was easy to go to bed early. The Burrow was still, with no noise to keep Harry or Ron awake except the occasional moan from the ghoul in the attic. Hours later, Harry found himself staring at Ron's ceiling in the dawn's creeping light. He felt like he had been awake all night. Every time he closed his eyes, images began to wheel through his mind as across a dark theater screen: Voldemort rising from the cauldron; Voldemort's body in the Great Hall; his parents speaking to him; Cedric lying dead; Colin snapping pictures; Sirius throwing bones to Buckbeak; the basilisk; Ginny at Dumbledore's funeral; Dumbledore conjuring an armchair in the dungeon of the Ministry; Bellatrix and Sirius dueling; Ron attacked by brains—but Voldemort, always returning to Voldemort's cruel, triumphant face, his hungry red eyes fixed on a locket, on the Elder Wand, on Harry….
The hands on Harry's watch seemed to move excruciatingly slowly. He tried to focus on them, to slow his mind's maddening spin; the next thing he knew, he was out of bed, dressed, and seated at the kitchen table. A bleary-eyed, dressing-gowned Mrs. Weasley tried to force six sausages onto his plate but Harry could not make it more than halfway through one. Finally, Harry stood before a newly lit fire in the fireplace, and Mr. Weasley was holding out the pot of Floo Powder with a weak smile.
"Nice and simple. Just say 'The Ministry of Magic.'"
A moment later, Harry emerged without incident onto the polished wood floor of the Atrium. Mr. Weasley bumped into his back and together they made their way toward the lifts on the other side. The hall was different from the last time Harry had seen it—then, he had been disguised as a very large and intimidating wizard, and there had been a grotesque statue of a witch and wizard sitting on thrones made from the naked bodies of muggles. This statue was gone, replaced by a roped-off area and a sign that read: "Renovation in Progress".
"Do I need to check my wand in like last time?" Harry asked.
"I don't imagine so," Mr. Weasley said, but nevertheless looked around uncertainly. Suddenly, a tall and nearly bald, middle-aged wizard called out. "Arthur! Mr. Potter!"
"Ah, here we are," said Mr. Weasley, as the man approached. "Harry, this is Dorian Cooper."
"Very pleased to meet you, Mr. Potter," the man beamed. His face-splitting grin and enthusiastic handshake reminded Harry instantly of Ludo Bagman. "I'll be escorting you down to the, ah… the event." In a sidelong whisper he added: "Not exactly sure what we're calling it, the memo just said 'the disposal of the bodies' or some such like."
"I'll see you later, then, Harry," said Mr. Weasley. "I'd better be getting to the office."
Mr. Cooper shook Mr. Weasley's hand and then turned back to Harry. "Well then, shall we head down? I'm sure you're quite as anxious as anyone to see this happen, after everything you went through to defeat them all—"
"I didn't defeat them all," Harry said. "Just Voldem—er, You-Know-Who." He barely stopped himself, thinking what a disaster it would be to summon some ill fortune in the middle of the Ministry Atrium.
"Well that's all that really matters, isn't it?"
They joined the line waiting for the lifts.
"But I didn't really kill him," Harry said, "and I couldn't have even done what I did if other people hadn't been fighting his Death Eaters and everything."
"You're as modest as the rumors say, Mr. Potter," Mr. Cooper said with a winning smile. Harry stuffed his hands into his pockets. Mr. Cooper's behavior was too cheerful to make Harry feel anything but annoyed in light of the imminent threat. He busied himself with looking around at the others gathered in front of the lifts—not a single Death Eater among them.
They stepped into the next lift with a couple of witches who were squabbling over an issue of the Daily Prophet.
"Excuse me, ladies, but we're going down," Mr. Cooper said pleasantly, and they both swung their heads around to look at him.
"Oh, sorry," said the one, while the other gasped and said, "Harry Potter!"
"Yeah," Harry said warily.
"My goodness, it's an honor—"
"We really have to be going," Mr. Cooper insisted. "Urgent business, can't keep the Minister waiting."
"Oh," said the enthusiastic witch, with a meaningful look at her friend. "Right, sorry, carry on then!" And she dragged the other out of the lift.
"We're going down?" Harry asked. "To the Department of Mysteries?"
"Yes," said Mr. Cooper, suddenly solemn.
The lift clattered downward in eerie silence. Harry felt the first nervous flutterings in his rock-like stomach, though he told himself that after his last experience with the Department of Mysteries, there should be nothing frightening about this visit.
Several people were waiting for them when the lift opened into the cold, flickering torchlight. One of them was Kingsley Shacklebolt, wand drawn at his side.
"Severus Snape was to tell you about the last Horcrux—" Kingsley's voice slowed to emphasize those words slightly "—only after something changed between He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and a special servant of his. Who was it?"
For a moment Harry was too taken aback by this abrupt hello to understand the riddle Kingsley was posing, but then after a moment's struggle he understood.
"Nagini," he said. "He started keeping her closer… he was worried about losing her."
Kingsley nodded and his stern expression relaxed a little. "It would be a shame for us to let an imposter in after guarding his body so heavily this whole time, wouldn't it? Mr. Cooper—"
While Kingsley affirmed the identity of Mr. Cooper, a few of the other people motioned to Harry to follow them down the hall. Harry assumed they must be Unspeakables, for they led the way confidently through the door which had haunted Harry's dreams his entire fifth year. Then they crossed the shining black floor of the circular room, and opened one of the many identical doors into a place Harry had never thought he'd see again.
The descending rectangles of stone benches led his eyes irresistibly downward, to the raised stone dais and crumbling, ancient archway in the middle of the room. He immediately noticed the bodies covered in dark cloths, arranged in rows on the floor. A few people sat uneasily on the lower benches, McGonagall among them. Kingsley's voice came from behind Harry.
"Only two more coming… they should be here shortly. Take a seat."
As Harry, stiff-kneed, approached the dais, he braced himself to feel another layer of loss at the reminder of Sirius's last moments, but the only thing he felt as he approached was fascination. Just on the other side of that tantalizing curtain, if he was not mistaken, was a place like where he had met Dumbledore. The mangled remains of the Horcrux which had been inside Harry could still be lying there beneath the seats, and a train could take Harry on to where Fred and Sirius were.
A hand eased onto his shoulder and suddenly he realized that the archway had become only a few paces away. A short, stern-looking Unspeakable steered him away toward where McGonagall was sitting.
"Good morning, Harry," she said without enthusiasm. Her eyes were fixed on the cloth-covered forms. "This should not take very long."
He sat down beside her and looked up at the entrance; the last two witnesses were coming to take their seats. Kingsley positioned himself next to a small three-legged table and faced the solemn spectators.
"This meeting has been called to witness the destruction of bodies belonging to He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and his deceased followers. As witnesses, all must give a written affirmation of what you see here, and before that, a written confirmation of your identity. To ensure that this is so, every person will write a statement of their identity using this quill."
Kingsley held up a rather plain black quill, pulled out a small piece of parchment, and wrote something on it in large letters. The parchment instantly began to smoke. When he held it up for the others to see, the ink had a cracked and oozing look, barely legible in spelling out the words: Albus Dumbledore.
"As you can see, it will be obvious if anyone among us is telling a falsehood about their identity, or about what they see here. Please form an orderly line and proceed to write down who you are." Kingsley turned to a much larger piece of parchment and wrote something, then turned to begin ushering those nearest him to follow suit. The rustle of parchment and the scratch of the quill echoed around the silent room.
When the quill was passed to Harry, he looked at the neat rows of names beginning with Kingsley Shacklebolt, Minister of Magic, and added his own: Harry Potter.
Once they all took their seats again, Kingsley and a few Unspeakables reviewed the list, and then moved to uncover the first of the bodies. The calm which had earlier descended upon Harry shattered at the sight of Voldemort's bloodless face. A noise like a brief gust of wind came from the other witnesses as some inhaled sharply.
He could not look away. The snakelike nose, the waxy skin—as someone shifted in front of Harry, he slid to the edge of his seat. The body was being levitated toward the archway by Kingsley. Harry felt ill with panic—the body must not go through the archway! Or if it did, he must go with it, guard it! He rose to his feet.
"—ry! Harry Potter."
He will help me.
Harry wrestled forward as hands wrapped around his arms. The lifeless face was being licked by wisps of the ragged veil rippling in a nonexistent wind—
The face was gone first, yet it was suddenly clear in Harry's mind—he tried to move toward it but he was rooted to the spot—the face loomed large in front of his own face, the red eyes opened—
"Mister Potter!" Kingsley's voice seemed to echo in Harry's skull, and the face suddenly vanished, giving way to Kingsley's. "Are you alright?"
"The body," said a voice, and Harry realized it was issuing from his mouth. "What have you done with the body?"
"It's gone. It went through the veil. You saw it."
An intense, savage spasm of euphoria went through Harry and he only just kept himself from laughing wildly. The euphoria was instantly drowned by terror that if he had let it out, that laugh would have been familiar, high, and cold.
The thin hands gripping his arms were Professor McGonagall's. He turned his head to see her face, chalky and thin-lipped. Behind her, the witnesses in the stands were staring at him.
"You saw it, didn't you, Harry?" Professor McGonagall whispered.
"Yes," said Harry. The room was coming back into focus, and he remembered watching the last inches of Voldemort's body disappear.
"Is there any reason to believe that this was not his body, or that it is not destroyed?" Kingsley asked seriously.
Slowly, Harry shook his head.
"Is there anything else you can tell us?" Kingsley added in an undertone.
Harry shook his head again.
Kingsley let Harry sit back down on the bench, then walked back to the table and pulled out another piece of parchment as if nothing had happened. "Before we proceed with the other bodies, I believe we should all verify that we have seen the body of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and witnessed that it was destroyed."
A murmur of uneasy assent went around the room, most eyes still on Harry. They were each instructed to copy the original sentence on the parchment and insert their own name. As Harry wrote it out, some part of him half-expected the ink to start smoking and cracking, showing that he had lied or was mistaken. I, Harry Potter, bear solemn testimony that I personally witnessed the corpse of Lord Voldemortbeing held in possession of the Ministry of Magic, and also witnessed in person that it was disposed of and destroyed.
But the shaky letters dried on the parchment. The other bodies were uncovered and levitated through the archway without incident. Harry tried to summon some sense of satisfaction about seeing the body of Bellatrix Lestrange passing through the same veil she'd pushed Sirius through, but he felt only disorientation and fear.
He signed the last paper, verifying the disposal of the Death Eaters. It was almost a relief when McGonagall and Kingsley pulled him into an empty courtroom once they had reached the torch-lit corridor. He did not want to be singled out by the other witnesses.
"What happened?" McGonagall demanded. "Did you hear him? His voice?"
"I… I think so, but I'm not sure," said Harry. "And I definitely felt something… and I… I might have seen something."
"You were moving toward the archway very quickly," Kingsley said. There was a slight sheen of sweat on his otherwise composed face. "Why?"
"The archway exercises a considerable influence over certain people, isn't that true?" McGonagall's voice was brittle and sharp. "But was that all it was?"
"I've been drawn to the veil before," Harry confessed impatiently. "But this was different. When I saw his face, and his body was being moved toward the archway, I had to stop the body from going through, or else go through with it. I felt desperate. And then I saw his face in my mind—his eyes were open—and it felt like he had grabbed me. But once the body was through, he—I—felt… really happy, for just a split second. And then—"
Kingsley and McGonagall exchanged alarmed looks.
"Do you believe you were feeling his emotions?" McGonagall asked.
"I don't know. I must have. Why would I feel desperate to keep his body from being destroyed?" As Harry said this, he felt another irrational lurch of panic that he had let the body go without following it through.
McGonagall interrupted his thoughts. "So when you felt happy after his body was gone, we can assume those weren't his feelings about it?"
"I don't know," said Harry numbly. "It wasn't like how I normally feel. It was more like him. For a minute, I thought maybe…."
He didn't want to finish, but Kingsley prompted him. "Yes?"
Harry took a deep breath. "I thought maybe he was going to try to possess me. But I don't think that's possible anymore." Even as he said it, ice water seemed to trickle down into his lungs and stomach. How could he know what was possible or not? If he could hear and feel Voldemort through whatever link they still shared, anything was possible.
"Did all of this occur before the body was disposed of?" asked Kingsley.
"Some of it was after. When I asked you what you did with the body, it was right after that—that was when I felt excited. Before that I still saw his face, and was trying to get to the archway."
"I came to you only seconds after the body passed through the veil," Kingsley said. "Perhaps those were only residual effects and the link is gone."
"I don't think so," Harry said. "And we'd better hope it hasn't or else there's no way we'll be able to keep ahead of him."
"But who is to say," McGonagall broke in, "that these feelings weren't exactly what he wanted you to feel? There would have been no other way for him to know what was going on except by reading your mind, and how else do you explain your urge to prevent the destruction of the body? If that is true, he is aware of the connection and could use it against you."
Kingsley shook his head. "It seems to me that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named either wanted Harry to be locked up for interfering with this operation, or else killed by following the body through the veil. Failing that, he must not be depending on the survival of the body—perhaps the thrill Mr. Potter felt was because He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named believes people will be off their guard now that he can no longer regain his old physical form."
"Or he's just trying to confuse me," Harry muttered, thinking that if that were the case, Voldemort was doing a good job. "I need to talk to Dumbledore's portrait."
McGonagall nodded. "Very well. We'll leave for Hogwarts immediately."
The walk across the grounds, the greetings of one or two people he knew, the long explanation to Dumbledore's portrait of all that had occurred—all of this passed in a long blur. Finally, after going over the incident at the ministry again, Harry sat back in the chair across the desk and waited, hoping for an answer which would make sense of everything and show him the next step he should take.
The portrait-Dumbledore frowned at his own long-fingered hands, his blue eyes deeply troubled behind his half-moon spectacles. He turned his keen gaze back on Harry and said, "This is something I must confess I had not foreseen. Of course I always knew it was possible that Voldemort might have found other ways, perhaps even darker than Horcruxes—as impossible as that may sound. But was it probable? I hardly thought so."
"Do you think he just made an extra Horcrux or two we didn't know about?"
The portrait shook its head. "He was obsessed with the idea of six, if you remember, so that his soul would be in seven parts—seven being the most magically powerful number."
"But he made Nagini into a Horcrux," Harry pointed out.
"Ah, but at that point he knew that one of his Horcruxes had already been destroyed." The portrait smiled sadly. "The diary. Making Nagini into a Horcrux would have, to his mind, restored the balance to seven."
"But isn't an extra Horcrux the most likely explanation?" Harry insisted. "What if he realized we'd destroyed the ring, or the locket, and he made an extra Horcrux after that?"
The portrait was already shaking its head. "Again, possible, but improbable. There is nothing to suggest that Voldemort knew his Horcruxes were in danger until the last moment… unless there is something you have not told me, Harry?"
It came back to Harry then, the vision he'd had of Voldemort's shock and rage at the news that Gringotts had been broken into, and his precious cup stolen. The fear and disbelief that anyone could possibly know about his Horcruxes.
"No, sir, but couldn't he have made one after that point? All he had to do was kill someone. That's not exactly hard for him. He could have even done it when he killed Snape! How else could he have survived?"
Dumbledore's portrait paused in thought for a moment. "Perhaps you are correct, and he made one or more last-minute Horcruxes, or else he found some other method of keeping himself alive even as a broken and bodiless fraction of a soul. In the very worst case, your connection with him may have something to do with it. I'm afraid I was utterly convinced that there would be no connection once the Horcrux inside you was destroyed."
"You must know something!" Harry burst. He had been counting on Dumbledore's wisdom. "Even just a clue about what other ways there might be for him to stay alive, or why I can still hear his thoughts!"
The portrait spread its hands helplessly, and yet the gesture was almost like a motion of deference to Harry—those blue eyes were twinkling. "You have come to a point where your knowledge on this subject may even exceed my own."
"You must remember, Harry; I am but an echo of myself. As such my knowledge and capacity for judging new situations is somewhat, shall we say… incomplete. All I can give you is advice on how to proceed."
Harry looked up at the portrait, feeling his strength drain from him. He had been so sure that Dumbledore would know something, some odd fact he had not thought important until recent events sparked some long-forgotten thought. But perhaps that sort of leap of memory and imagination was only possible for living, breathing people.
"What advice can you give me, sir?" Harry asked. He was suddenly so exhausted that the words came out slow and quiet.
"Only to do as I have always done. Look back on everything you know of him. Look for connections. I think I've known you long enough and well enough to say you have a knack for this. Perhaps once you find some, we can speak again, and I can be more helpful to you."
Harry sat, waiting for as long as he dared. If he could say just the right thing, give the portrait the proper clue, maybe then—but the one thing he hadn't said was also the thing he did not want to consider. Besides, McGonagall was still in the room, and had been listening from the beginning.
He stood and tried to inject some confidence into his voice. "I'll do that. Thanks."
"Good luck, Harry," the portrait said solemnly.
After returning to the Burrow, and answering several rounds of questions about how his trip to the ministry had gone, Harry tried to follow Dumbledore's advice. He spent every spare moment torturously reliving his memories of the last seven years, consulting Hermione for details which might or might not have been important. Who knew whether Tom Riddle's deranged ancestry held any hints about unknown ways to cheat death? Who knew whether his status as Slytherin's heir was any advantage to him beyond giving him command of the Basilisk? And how could anyone tell whether the origins of his horrible infantile form prior to Cedric's death, or the brief attempt at possession in Harry's fifth year, had anything to do with being able to hear Voldemort's thoughts now that Voldemort no longer had that body?
"All I can think," Ron groaned with his face in a book two days later, "and this is totally mad—is that he had two bodies. No, listen!" Hermione had groaned in turn. "He had one body, the one with Harry's blood in it, and then an extra body! And he could move between the two, so when Harry killed his extra one he went back into the first one. That would explain why they're still connected."
"Ron," Hermione sighed with forced patience. "But the whole point of having Harry's blood was so that he would be stronger, so he could kill Harry! Why would he have sent his weaker body out to the battle?"
"It was a decoy," Ron sniffed. "He meant it to die!"
"No," Harry said slowly, feeling the hollow of his elbow where Wormtail had cut him. "I don't think he could have made a second body he could possess without using my blood for that too. It was part of the spell."
"So he made two then," Ron said. "Both with Harry's blood."
"And where would he have gotten more of Harry's blood?" Hermione asked.
"I don't know!" Ron snapped. "But if you would stop shooting down my ideas—"
"Wait," Harry interrupted. "Maybe Ron's right." He pressed on past Hermione's skeptical look. "Or close enough. You-Know-Who could control Inferi. What if he did have a decoy at the battle, something he created to look like himself? Is there much difference between that and controlling an Inferi?"
Hermione instantly began rummaging in her bag. "There is a difference, but it's true, I'm sure I've read about something like that before, at least in theory."
"But no," Harry's heart sank in disappointment. "I just remembered. The Ministry would have done all kinds of tests on the body, wouldn't they? Or at least examined it. If it was made of something unnatural they would have known."
"I'm not so sure." Hermione was still up to her elbow in the bag, causing bumping and clanking noises from within its recesses. "First of all, they might have expected it to be unusual, since it's not as if it was his original human body. In a sense he wasn't human at all really. And besides, I'm not sure if transfiguration is always easily detectable. This is You-Know-Who we're talking about—I'm sure he would know what he was doing if he did decide to make some sort of puppet to control in his fight with you. Oh, where is it? It's not in there!" She withdrew her arm with a defeated sigh. "I really have to reorganize this…."
"We could be on the completely wrong track, anyway," Harry muttered.
"But it's important to look into any leads we have." Hermione's brow furrowed and Harry realized he was rubbing his forehead again, even though it didn't sting. He quickly put his hand down. He did feel a bit of a headache coming on in his temples.
"What d'you mean?" Ron asked Harry. "Did you think of something that makes more sense? Because honestly this is all insane rubbish… too bad it's probably all possible for someone like him."
"Not really," Harry said, and it felt like a lie even though in his opinion none of this situation made any sense at all.
The next few weeks seemed unbelievably long and drawn out, and as each sleepless night transitioned into the next dark early morning amid muddled dreams and memories, each of Harry's days were full of much the same kinds of images and anxieties as haunted him at night. He quickly grew tired of his long, circular conversations with Hermione and Ron.
When he could, he tried to steal away with Ginny to take a turn about the yard or down the long drive, and often she gave him the silence he desperately needed. But just as often—and perhaps more as time went on—he found he was unable to focus on how her presence comforted him. And then, one morning he was totally oblivious to the fact that George was making a bit of fried egg dance rather vigorously with Percy's napkin, until a laughing Ron accidentally spilled orange juice in his lap.
"Sorry!" Ron gasped, and Harry didn't grin, reach for a napkin, and say "Forget it," until Ron's own grin faded and Harry realized his blank face probably made him seem angry.
"You alright, mate?" Ron mumbled from the outside of the bedroom door while Harry changed his pants.
"Yeah, sorry. I'm fine."
Harry could hear the way Ron's voice had changed, and knew it meant that he was about to hear something Ron had been silently rehearsing.
"I was just thinking about Lupin and Tonks," Harry interrupted. They had been on his mind ever since he'd woken that morning, aching with the memory of Lupin's ecstatic visit to Shell Cottage announcing Teddy's birth. "I've… been thinking, I need to go visit Teddy and Mrs. Tonks. I am his godfather and all…so…."
He opened the door.
Ron stepped back quickly. "Yeah. Right. Good idea." He shuffled his feet a little. "Uh, so are you going today then?"
"Yeah," Harry said, before he could hesitate. Once he had said it, he felt some relief at the idea of getting out of the house, but also a sense of dread. He tried to ignore it.
"Alright then," Ron mumbled and headed down the stairs.
"I'll be going straight away," Harry added numbly, and took out his wand. With a pang of remembrance—the first and last time he had been to her home was just after the attack which had killed Hedwig and Moody—he turned on the spot and found himself before Mrs. Tonks' front door.
The building seemed untouched. Harry wondered what sorts of protections Andromeda might still be keeping upon the house. Suddenly, he felt stupid for dropping in unannounced, but there was nothing for it—he went up to the door and knocked.
No one answered. Harry glanced around the deserted street with a feeling of mild panic, and knocked again, harder. "Mrs. Tonks?" he called. "It's me, Harry Potter."
Had someone taken them away, unnoticed? Or had they simply gone to stay somewhere safer now that the threat of Voldemort had returned?
"Mrs. Tonks!" He hammered at the door, trying not to give in to the morbid images flashing across his vision. The vengeance of Voldemort's followers would not spare infants. He remembered the children of the campground host at the Quidditch World Cup, being dangled and tossed through the air by laughing Death Eaters, their heads lolling sickly.
An unfamiliarly sharp voice erupted as the door knob began to speak. "What feature did Teddy inherit from his father?" it demanded.
Harry stared at the knob, wondering whether he should reply.
"I don't know," he fumbled. "It's hard to tell with a metamorphmagus isn't it? Er, I know he was glad that Teddy didn't seem to have any … werewolf… he wasn't a werewolf… he said so when he came to tell us that Teddy was born." He tightened his hand around the wand in his pocket, just in case the voice belonged to a Death Eater.
The door opened slowly, a tiny crack, and the sound of a baby crying came from somewhere deeper within the house. A familiar face framed by long, dark hair passed behind the crack, one eye showing, and for a second Harry could hardly resist drawing his wand before remembering just how much Andromeda looked like her sister Bellatrix at first glance.
"It's me," he said. "I thought I should come see you and Teddy."
After a long pause, the door opened fully.
"Come in," Andromeda said, and beckoned him inside.
She looked older than when he'd last seen her, perhaps due to the tortures she'd had to endure when the Death Eaters had come to her for leads on Harry's whereabouts. Perhaps it was because of the recent loss of her daughter, husband, and son-in-law.
"I'll just grab Teddy, I had to put him in his crib when I answered the door…."
She hurried away down the hall, leaving Harry to stand by the door unable to think of anything to say but "I'm sorry," for all she had lost because of him. The house was clean and orderly, and bore no sign that anything was amiss except for a certain sense of emptiness.
Andromeda came back out with Teddy to usher him into the kitchen. Teddy's hair had become curly and auburn and he was still very small to Harry's eyes. He whimpered softly and waved a pink, clenched fist as she bounced him in her arms. It seemed incredible that such a fragile little person had survived even a month in this world when his parents had not. Harry could not help but wonder if that kind of luck would last.
"How have you been?" Andromeda asked Harry. "Sit down, please."
He sat in the chair she pulled out for him. "I'm sorry. I should have told you I was coming—"
"It's alright. You're Teddy's godfather. You're family." She gave him a tired smile. "Would you like to hold him?"
"Me?" Harry stared at her face, so much kinder than her sister's. "Oh… I…well, I haven't—"
"Go on, just mind his head," she said softly as she held Teddy out to him.
"No, I really shouldn't, I have no idea how to—"
Teddy began to fuss and Andromeda drew him back toward herself, patting his back as she laid him against her shoulder. Harry watched helplessly.
"He's just tired," she reassured him. "How are Arthur and Molly? I'm sure it's still very hard for the family…."
"Oh… yeah. They're getting on alright," Harry said. "As well as can be expected. I… actually, I came to ask if there's anything I can do. I know you just had a private funeral for... them, but I just wanted to ask."
"That's very kind of you, Harry," Andromeda said. "But you are already doing the most important thing. I'm sure you have a lot on your mind now that it's obvious the war isn't over. I heard you and McGonagall and the new minister are going to be working together, is that true?"
"Well, yes, but…." Harry trailed off, unable to bear the confidence in her eyes. "I meant—is there anything I can do as Teddy's godfather?"
Teddy had stopped fussing and lay peacefully blinking at Harry from Andromeda's shoulder.
"You're welcome to come and visit any time of course," she said, "but right now, it's enough that you're protecting everyone."
For a moment Harry felt a searing anger, a hot gush of disgust in his chest at how wrong she was; he hadn't protected everyone—he hadn't protected anyone in her family from death!
"You're the one who protected me," he said stiffly to the smooth table top.
"Because I knew you were our best hope at defeating him. You still are. Besides, I'm not one to give in to a Death Eater or any other fool."
Harry barely heard the last sentence. He got to his feet. "Are you sure there's nothing else I can do?" He tried to keep the desperate edge from his voice.
"Nothing else? Harry, what you're doing is everything."
She looked up at him with serene strength, and he reluctantly steeled himself to return to the world he had hoped to escape.
"You're right." He swallowed. "I'd better get back to it then." Back to the endless dead-end questions.
"Thank you for coming by, Harry. Teddy's usually a cheerful boy… next time, you'll have to come earlier in the morning and hold him."
"Sure. Thanks Mrs. Tonks," Harry said, submitting to her awkward one-armed embrace before he turned to leave. He glanced back before closing the door, and saw Andromeda holding Teddy's arm and waving goodbye to Harry with it.
A/N: Thanks for reading! Don't forget to review!