Disclaimer: Harry Potter is owned and copyrighted by JK Rowling.
A/N: ah a lot of questions. Some will be answered here, others I won't be able to until later in the story. But I don't think I misused the word "recall". But do congratulate yourselves those of you who've noticed coz i tend to cheat. in ch 5 of my other fanfic, menat, there's an ellipsis i removed and a paragraph that should've been broken in 2 but i didn't. and if u've read it, u know why. ;D
"What have you got in there, Tonks? A kennel?"
Harry gaped open-mouthed at Tonks's swollen belly. He knew she was carrying quadruplets, but he didn't expect her to be as big as the Knight Bus. Tonks tried to look offended, but ended up beaming at him instead. They were standing in the kitchen of the Lupins' home, a five bedroom period country house in the Eden Valley with gardens and amenity woodland at the back accessible to no one but Remus. It also had an apartment garage separate from the main house where Andromeda lived.
"Harry!" Tonks said, hugging him, unmindful of the ashes on his shoulders. He was one of the few allowed Floo access into the Lupins' home.
Harry had never seen Tonks look so happy. She was positively glowing, her hair a tear-inducing sunburst yellow. He must admit the hug was a bit awkward. He was afraid he might hurt her – she could barely walk.
"We couldn't believe it when Kingsley told us that you'll be coming back. And now you're finally here!" she said, tugging him towards the back of the house. "And just in time! It's Teddy's birthday!"
"I know. I remembered," said Harry. "Where is he anyway?" Harry said, looking around. The house was abuzz with activity. Several guests had already arrived and a few children were screaming and running all over the place.
"Still asleep," said Tonks. "I told him that if he didn't take his afternoon nap, I would cancel his party. Kreacher's looking after him."
"I hope you're not overworking my house-elf," said Harry in jest.
"He'll be much happier now that you two are living in the same country," said Tonks, glancing back at him. "I suppose he's going back to live with you at Grimmauld now?"
"No, it's okay. Looks like you're going to need all the help you can get once those babies come out," he said. Tonks beamed up at him again, hugging his arm close to her.
She led him through the morning room, and out into the conservatory, where Remus had taken refuge from the kids' noises, reading a magazine. With its floor to ceiling glass sliding doors, the room had a clear view of the back garden where Teddy's party would be held. Harry could see Andromeda over at the buffet table, supervising the food.
"Harry!" Remus stood up as soon as Harry and Tonks walked into the room. The two men shook hands and then hugged each other. Whereas before the grey hairs and fine lines on Remus's face made him look prematurely old, now they gave him a certain gravitas. Harry was extremely pleased, to finally see his dad's old friend – his friend – happy and content.
Tonks started to sit down into the wicker sofa, and Remus rushed to help his wife, with Harry assisting.
Tonks was laughing. "You two make me feel like such an invalid," she complained.
"I assure you it's for the chair's benefit," joked Harry while Remus merely tussled her hair affectionately.
Remus then gestured for Harry to take a seat before sitting back down himself. There was a pitcher of fresh orange juice on the center table. Tonks poured Harry a glass and offered it to him.
"So the prodigal son has finally returned," said Remus, watching Harry drink his juice. "I hope it's permanent?" he asked, cocking Harry an eyebrow.
Harry shrugged, not sure himself what his eventual plans would be.
"Well, he has no choice," said Tonks confidently. "I heard Kingsley basically issued Harry a direct order. 'Come home, soldier!'" she said, affecting a rough manner.
Harry smiled. Tonks's bubbliness was spilling over. He glanced around at the room. Like the rest of the house, the conservatory was thoughtfully decorated with light comfortable rattan furniture set to take advantage of the outside views. "You've got a nice place here," he said, loving the openness of the house and the surrounding landscape.
"Thanks to you," said Remus. "If it weren't for you commissioning that book, I wouldn't have been able to afford this place." Though Kingsley had given him a job as liaison officer at the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures soon after the war, the expensive cost of the Wolfsbane Potion made a huge dent at his monthly salary. Then just a year before, Harry had asked Remus to write the story of the Marauders and Sirius. Since the idea for the book had long been percolating in his mind, Remus finished writing it in no time flat. Within six months after Harry had approached him, the book was launched. It became an instant worldwide bestseller and was now in its fourth printing. It basically launched Remus's writing career.
"I wanted your story to be told. I want Sirius's story to be told," said Harry simply.
"My wife loves you very much now," said Remus.
Harry glanced at Tonks, an eyebrow cocked. "I hope not too much. I find the men Tonks love tend to look a little bit worse for the wear."
Tonks tried to make a face at Harry and failing anew. It seemed there was nothing he could say that could ruin her mood. Just then, they heard excited screaming coming from outside. They all turned their heads towards the source of the commotion.
Tonks's face brightened even more. "That would be Ginny! I'd better go and meet her before the kids clobber her." She struggled to get up. Remus was at her side at once, helping her.
"Ginny who?" Harry asked, puzzled.
"Weasley! Who else? How many Ginnies do you know?" Tonks said, aggrieved that no one should know who Ginny was instantly. She would have the same reaction if someone said 'Potter who?'
"Why are they all screaming?" Harry asked, genuinely surprised.
"She's famous now," said Remus mildly. "She's the Holyhead Harpies' star Chaser."
"Oh," said Harry. He hadn't been following a lot of news from England, wouldn't even read a newspaper or magazine. He didn't even like seeing the twins' advertisements, which they even posted in the American wizarding papers. These things tended to remind him of more unpleasant memories.
"Aren't you going to say hello?" Tonks demanded. She knew Harry had a falling out with Ron. But whatever his problem with his former bestmate was, Tonks didn't believe that Harry should take it out on the rest of the family.
"I think some other time," said Harry. And just like that the levity of earlier had gone. Harry had withdrawn back into his shell. He and Ginny weren't really that close anyway. They weren't even friends, come to think of it. They barely talked to each other back in Hogwarts or even at the Burrow. He vaguely remembered her finally relaxing enough to speak when he was around, but by that time he had too many things to think about – or try not to think about – , too busy preparing himself for his eventual confrontation with Voldemort, for him to notice everything that was going on around him. In any case, he didn't know her that well. He wasn't sure if she would start asking questions. Some people just don't have boundaries. Talking to her now might just lead to one awkward conversation. He didn't want to mar his first day back in England.
"Harry – " began Tonks, but Remus caught her eye and shook his head.
Harry noticed but didn't say a word. He placed his now empty glass on the table and stood up as well.
"I think I'll head off now. Will you please give Teddy my gift?" he said, pulling out from inside his robes a kiddie version of the Blue Streak Magnanimous, the fastest professional Quidditch broomstick around. It was supposed to be named after him, although Harry could not fathom how anybody could come up with such a ridiculous name or that such appellation could be ascribable to him. But he must say, that design- and performance-wise, it was the best broomstick he'd ever held in his hands, better than even his Firebolt. He particularly loved the way the blue color had been worked into the broom handle, and yet somehow retained its original brown color, showing its beautiful wood grain. He was glad to see too that with plenty of space in the Lupins' place and few Muggles around, Teddy would have a good use of his gift. He then handed the broomstick over to Lupin. "I'll be back tomorrow," he said. He shook Remus's hand again, and gave Tonks a kiss on the cheek. Then he walked over to the glass sliding doors of the conservatory without a backward glance and, as soon as he stepped a foot through the threshold, promptly disappeared.
Harry Apparated in a Muggle park near the Grangers' new house but realized at once that it was the last place he wanted to be in at the moment.
The Grangers had moved into a three storey terraced house in Oxfordshire – four storey, if you count the basement. They were lucky to find the house which the previous owner already had converted into rental flats. It was one of Harry's stipulations for his return to England: that the Ministry facilitated the Grangers getting a house. After all, he felt largely responsible for them leaving the UK. Hermione's parents would be occupying the two bedroom flat on the ground floor that opened onto a back garden, while Hermione would live temporarily in the loft apartment until she found a place of her own.
With Hermione being just as OC with house decorations – everything should be in its proper place arranged just so – as with her studies, Harry didn't particularly relish the thought of helping her arrange books and furniture. So he decided instead to head to the Ministry to report for work. He wasn't expected until the next Monday but he figured he might use the time anyway. But when he presented himself to Proudfoot, the current head of the Auror Department, the man was at a loss as to how to deal with him. Proudfoot had no idea what responsibilities or case to assign to the famous Auror. And he didn't think assigning him the Ginny Weasley case – the only "hot" item in their plate right now – would be a good idea, given Harry's history with Ron Weasley.
Harry watched as Padfoot pitifully rummaged through his files, trying to find a case that would match the famous Auror's abilities and status. In the end, he looked back up at Harry, but had to clear his throat several times before he could speak. He'd read parts of Harry's file. He couldn't say that he wasn't the least bit intimidated, if not awed.
"Uhm, Mr. Potter, have you been to see the Minister?" he finally asked. When Harry shook his head, he looked relieved. "Ah well, then," he said, becoming sprightlier, shuffling the papers in his hand, "why don't you go head on up to his office, and ask the Minister what your current duties are?" And then, since he thought he ought to say something useful, Proudfoot told Harry the office that he would be using.
So Harry did as he was told, boarding the lift again up to Kingsley's office – only to meet with a bigger disappointment.
"You have got to be kidding me," said Harry. "You ordered me back to England for this?" He was holding a wizard gossip magazine with Ginny Weasley, her face in profile, her shoulders bare, on the cover. It looked like a stolen shot. Its headlines screamed it had more pictures of her inside in only her undies. The magazine was still covered in a transparent wrap. Harry didn't know why, but he was holding it by the tip of its edge as if it was an explosive thing about to blow.
"I'm sorry I can't dig up a Dark Wizard bent on world domination for you to feel justified coming back to serve your own country," said Kingsley, annoyed.
"But Kingsley – "
"It's not as simple a matter as you might think," said Kingsley. "The pictures inside should not have been. There was no way the photographs could have been taken, given the security at the site."
Harry frowned and gave the cover another look. He still hadn't opened the magazine to look inside. "Why is it magically sealed?"
"It's the only remaining copy," said Kingsley. "As soon as the things were sent out, they started disappearing, the press used to print the magazines melted, and all the materials used in that edition disappeared as well. Which is another thing that shouldn't have happened."
Harry whistled. "A mass Vanishing Charm? That's quite difficult to pull off. Not to mention illegal," said Harry. "Let me guess, Bill Weasley?"
Kingsley shrugged. "Bill, Percy, the twins – take your pick. Miss Weasley has a lot of brothers."
"But what has it got to do with me?" cried Harry in frustration, unable to keep the whining tone in his voice.
"I told you, the matter is not as simple as it looks," said Kingsley impatiently. "What you don't understand is that Ms. Weasley has become a big commodity in Wizarding Britain. Everyone is out to get a piece of her, using whatever means they think is necessary. Consequently, the violations against her privacy have been increasing, and that isn't something her brothers would let easily pass, not even Miss Weasley herself. And I think they're starting to fight back, though no one can find proof of it."
"When you say 'fight back', what exactly do you mean?"
"Oh just this and that. Give it a month or so and you'll see what I mean. The problem is, someone or some people are also retaliating back."
At Harry's questioning look, Kingsley elaborated. "In the recent Harpies game, the Aurors I sent to check security at the venue detected magic under the Quidditch pitch, just an hour before the game started. It was a magic arresting spell. If it hadn't been discovered, all the players would have plummeted to the ground during the game. There's no other conclusion but that Miss Weasley had been the target."
"A magic arresting spell? That's even more illegal," said Harry, frowning. "Cast during a Quidditch game, that's tantamount to attempted murder. Do you have any suspects?"
"Absolutely none," said Kingsley. "And that's where you come in."
"Kingsley - " Harry tried to object.
"I know, Harry, you don't have to say anything. But who else could I give the job to?"
"But Kingsley, this is hardly a job for an Auror."
Kingsley raised his eyebrows. "I hardly think you're one to put such fine distinctions."
Harry was appropriately shamed. But still...
"What about Williamson? Or Savage?" he insisted. He didn't bother mentioning Ron. For all he knew, Ron was under investigation himself. Besides, there was nothing that could possibly induce him to mention Ron's name aloud.
"You think I didn't send any Aurors to investigate the matter? I sent Williamson."
"He came back Obliviated and Confunded."
Harry sighed. On top of everything, he'd have to investigate who assaulted an Auror as well, which carried a stiff penalty. And if it turned out that a Weasley did it? Would he be able to turn him - or her - over, knowing it was a sure stint in Azkaban? Was he capable of breaking Molly's heart that way? After everything they had done for him?
"You have to do this Potter. There's no one else. And all this tit for tat hostilities between the press and Miss Weasley's camp are starting to escalate. I feel like I'm sitting on a volcano about to blow up soon."
"I don't know, Kingsley," said Harry, still doubtful. The last thing he wanted was to get entangled with the Weasleys and here Kingsley was, throwing him directly into their path.
But Kingsley was starting to lose his patience. "Look Potter, you have to take the case. If you don't, I'll send you to guard detail at the Malfoy Manor." Although the Malfoys escaped a prison sentence, the backlash from the Wizarding public was such that the Malfoys had been forced to stay in their house, twenty-four hours of the day, living in virtual house arrest. The Ministry kept them under tight security watch – but more for their safety than the other way around. Kingsley paused, as an idea occurred to him. "You'll have a new title," he said, starting to laugh. He air-outlined an imaginary sign with his hand: "The Great Harry Potter: Security Guard Extraordinaire."
Harry stared at Kingsley furiously, who was laughing wheezily he nearly choked on his own saliva.