Chapter 1: Five Years Gone

First time in a while.

Disclaimer: I own nothing of the source material with which this story and characters are based upon.

Author's Note: This was a concept I had written down a while back and needed to get out. It turns out that it was not just a stray plot running around in my head, so I followed it.

This will only be three to six chapters long, and somewhere in between 40,000-60,000 words long. That of course depends on how much I feel fits each chapter.

This will not be something updated regularly. In fact don't be surprised if I wait to finish the rest of the story before uploading.

Fair Warning!: THIS WILL BE A HARRY/HERMIONE/GINNY PAIRED STORY. That will not happen until later. But it will contain the three of them in a relationship. So no one gets to complain about that now. Also I should point out the rating on this story. Subject matter is the reason for the rating. Sensitive issues will be talked about, language will get heavy, and somewhere down the line a man, a woman, and another woman will be making love. It won't be explicit, but it will be talked about.

7/27/2014: Chapter has been edited and re-written.

Part 1: Five Years Gone.

It had been five years.

Harry's days had become simple in his time at the little cottage: He woke up, showered, cooked his breakfast, ate his breakfast, wrote his daily letter to Teddy, sent the letter with Copernicus, he read, he took walks through the wooded area around the Loch, he returned to his cottage, made his lunch, ate his lunch, read more, he would spend an unspecified amount of time sorting through his emotions, he then spent an unspecified amount of time hating himself for leaving, he cooked his dinner, he ate his dinner, drank one glass of fire whiskey, and then he read until he fell asleep.

When he woke up one particular morning in mid fall of his fifth year in his self-imposed exile he expected his schedule to remain the same.

As Harry placed a second rasher of bacon onto the pan he felt the wards outside the cabin shift. His wand was out of its holster and he was at the door before the person on the other side had time to knock. Harry wretched the door open and began to point his wand he took in the features of his only visitor for five years. She was tall, regal, and normally emanated a sense of caring and warmth that contrasted her late sister's natural disposition. At that moment though Harry could only see the tired and wetness in her eyes, a sight he hoped to not see again.

"What's happened?," Harry asked in a hurry ushering the woman into the cabin, "Where is he? Andi?"

"He's caught a nasty case of Dragon Pox," Andromeda replied, "he's been asking for you." Harry felt a bit unsettled as she looked into his eyes with pleading tears. "He needs you," she paused to grip his arm as her voice took on a little ice, "You can come back to your hiding hole after he is better, but you WILL be there for my grandson."

"Andi..." Harry started.

"No." Her grip on his arm had begun to be painful, "I don't give a damn about your fears. Your godson is sick and scared. Sitting in an uncomfortable bed. In St. Mungos." She pulled him to meet her eyes, whatever it is that you have been hiding from here is no longer your main concern. You. Will. Be. There." She ground out between her teeth. "That portkey may have only been good for one use, but I know what this land looks like now." Harry almost had to take a step back as she gave him a feral smile, "Northern Scotland isn't it. From the looks of it not to far from Loch Lomond. I'm sure I can find my way back easily." She let go of his arm, "You do not want me to have to come back Harry..." Her eyes softened a bit, "Come back even if it's just until our boy is back to health...he wants to do more than write to you every day..." Her eyes moistened, "and there are so many other who want to see you Harry."

Harry was frozen as he watched her turn and walk to the door.

"Andi?" He managed to croak out to her as she turned the knob.

"You have two hours to clean yourself up and get to St. Mungos." She looked back at him and smiled , "I expect you to be clean shaven young man...I will not have you looking like that the first time my grandson sees his godfather in person...two hours." She finished and stepped out the door with the sound of apparition following soon after.

His hand shook as flicked is wand to turn off the burner where his bacon was now quite thoroughly blackened. He walked over and threw the remains in the rubbish before he moved to his room. Inside of his closet he began to slowly pull down fresher, nicer clothes than the flannel and denim that had become his de-facto outfit. His body had begun to move by itself as he walked to his shower and stepped inside, he could not remember the last time he had scrubbed himself so hard. When he stepped in front of the mirror afterwards he took note that his skin had become a light pink. He looked to the small razor he kept and then looked back to the mirror.

He knew he would need to trim the scraggly beard he had grown since the last time he shaved before he even considered using the razor. His hair, on the other hand, was a lost cause. He only went into the small village to get a haircut every few months, but he had not been able to go the week before due to a nasty storm that had come into the valley. He sighed as he conjured a small pair of scissors and began to cut the beard down.

Harry had to sit in his tiny living room for a while after he had felt he had made himself presentable. The farthest he had gone from the cabin since he left had been to the village. And even then his exposure to others had been limited to the people at the shops he visited and the barber. They had all been cordial enough, but he knew they always talked after he left. No doubt they wondered about the young man who lived outside of the village.

A weight settled onto his shoulder. Copernicus. The owl that had found him before his wards were finished. Hermione had sent him. Tiny Barn Owl that he was. He had been a gift...and a guilt-inducing one at that. She had sent him in hopes that Harry would at least communicate with them. But he had never sent them letters, only Teddy.

He had only started owling Teddy two years ago. To be honest he was surprised the boy had owled back. Teddy had learned to write a whole year early just for him.

Harry let out a huff.

"I can do this." He said resolutely to himself.

"Hoo!" Copernicus hooted in what Harry took as encouragement.

"Yeah mate...hoo." Harry said as he stood. The bird flew to his perch. Harry walked to the door and then stepped out into the crisp mid-Autumn chill. He let out a visible breath as he apparated outside of is comfort zone for the first time in five years.

"Umm...Teddy Remus Lupin." Harry softly answered the receptionist's question of who he was there to see.

"Relationship to the patient and name." The monotone and lack of eye contact the woman held as she droned out the command was almost welcome to Harry.

He leaned in and whispered.

"I'm his Potter." As soon as he said his name he watched the almost comical halt in the woman's action. Gone were the files she had been holding. Gone was the cup of tea she had been getting ready to sip from.

"Oh!...Well...right Mr. Potter." Harry ducked his head on instinct when she said his name. Her co-workers though looked to be sending glances his direction now. "Go on through." She said now leaning forward. "He's in room 219...up one floor and to your right..." She leaned in further and gave him a smile that made him feel uncomfortable, "if you get lost...feel free to come back." She winked at him.

As Harry walked through the pristine white halls, up the stairwell, and then stepped into the children's ward of the Magical Bugs and Diseases floor his worry began to increase tenfold. His memories of everyone else he had ever known to spend time in the hospital started to weigh on him. Neville Longbottom's Parents, Gilderoy Lockhart, Katie Bell, Arthur Weasley, Bill Weasley. His steps quickly became a light jog as his thoughts began to play back his own memories of times he had found himself in pain. His own times sick, and locked in a closet came flashing by as his jog became a sprint.

Then he was at the door of room 219. His Godson's room. He pushed the door to the room opens. Inside Andromeda stood on the other side of Teddy's bed with a terry cloth as she wet the sleeping boy's head.

Harry felt stuck as he looked at the boy. He was big...well bigger than Harry had imagined him to be. His skin had a green hue to it and there were tiny bumps covering his face, but he was beautiful to Harry. Remus and Tonk's son, his godson.

Andromeda looked up to him, and he could physically feel the smile she gave him. It was not a normal sort of was as if something was floating over his head and he had no clue. She motioned him over and pulled a chair next to the bed for him.

"Come…sit." She said lightly as he felt her hands touch his back and move him to the chair.

And so he did as she said. Harry sat in the chair and looked at his Godson. His beautiful, sick Godson. He Andromeda's hands on his back shift and rub as she said something about letting him have his time.

Harry sat…and sat. He watched the slight hitch that labored Teddy's breathing every few seconds. After a time he found himself reaching out and laying his larger hand over the boy's. His first real human contact in so long. Some part of his mind registered that he had begun crying, but he could not have cared less at that moment. He felt himself lose connection to everything that was not his Godson.

His attention should have been broken when others entered the room and moved to Teddy, but it did not. It did not break when a person started to gently applying a salve to Teddy's chest, neck, and face. It did not break when the person conjured a chair next to him. But it did break when a hand lay on his shoulder and he heard his name.

"Harry my boy?" The voice asked. Harry turned and found an unexpected sight.

"Prof…Professor?" Harry asked as he goggled a bit at the man before him.

"Oh…my boy," Horace Slughorn laughed, "I haven't been your Professor for quite a while now. Horace will do…or Slughorn if my first name makes you uncomfortable." The man smiled.

"Oh…um…How about Sir…for now." Harry said. He looked at the man before asking, "Sir, not that it's not good to see you…but..."

"Oh yes, sorry to interrupt your time with your Godson my boy, but I've been helping with the sudden rash of Dragon Pox…Minerva thought it best if I came out and helped for a few days in the potions lab here." The man smiled again. "Luckily it hasn't reached out past Wales and Lower Britain, so Hogwarts is safe from the epidemic." He moved over to look at the progress of Teddy. "Yes, young Mr. Lupin is doing much better. Given his heritage I've been personally making the batch of salve for him…tricky bit of work it is. He is a bit sensitive to certain ingredients being applied topically, but it was only a few extra bit of hours to get it just right." The man nodded his head. "And the boy is much like you…a natural fighter." Slughorn smiled.

"Yeah..." Harry said slightly as he finally felt enough sense of self to wipe the tracks left from his tears.

"Oh now…no need for embarrassment my boy." Slughorn said consolingly. "Given this is the first time you've seen him in quite a while it's perfectly understandable to be a little emotional." The man gave a small smile.

"Yeah… my fault that is." Harry said softly.

"Harry…there is no need…" Slughorn started.

"I left everyone I've ever really cared about sir…bloody brave person I am right? Coward. I'm a bloody coward." Harry said with a harsh whisper. He felt himself get ready to say more, but the sound of chuckling drew him back to look at Slughorn.

"Oh dear my boy…you call yourself a coward." The old man shook his head. "Harry…" Slughorn put his hand back to Harry's shoulder, "In my life I have known bravery…and cowardice." He let go of Harry's shoulder. "They are not mutually exclusive ideas…they are…two sides of the same knut." He smiled back to Harry again. "When you and Albus found me close to eight years ago was I not in my own exile? Was I not a man who hid from the world?" His questions were weighted and hit home, but Harry couldn't draw the conclusions.

"Voldemort was still alive though…there was reason for fear…and…" Harry began.

"Guilt…my boy…" The old man paused and looked to Harry with kind eyes. "I won't pretend to know why you left…but I will say that if after five years you have not figured out…maybe, just maybe the answer isn't going to be found by yourself." The old man rose and banished his conjured chair. "Take it from me my boy…Time is something best not wasted in recesses of guilt and loneliness." Slughorn drew himself up to his full (five foot) height and gave a small bow. "You my boy, I hope to see more often. If you need to speak on anything…feel free to come and find me. I owe that much to you…and your mother." He smiled before he left the room.

Harry sat for a while after Slughorn had left in silence and let his mind run from stray thought to stray thought. Each thought about someone different. The most though were of the different Weasley's, Professors, friends, Ron, Hermione, Ginny, those he had lost, and most of all himself. Of what he had done to himself. He had given up so much. Thrown away so much because he couldn't handle himself at a time when everyone else just wanted to help him.

"Hello?" A tiny voice, hoarse with sleep and sickness brought his attention back to the bed. Teddy had woken up sometime during his introspective thoughts. The boy still had a bit of salve that hadn't made its way into his skin, and his hair had turned from the brown it had been to a light pink. His pale blue eyes, so much like his fathers, combined with that hair color taunted Harry. His parents it seemed had found a way past the grave to remind him of his failures.

"Hey mate." Harry choked out as he fought the sob that had begun to build. "You know…you look just like your parents." Harry did not bother to stop the watery laugh that escaped him. "I'm so happy you're okay."

"Oh…where's my grandmother?" Teddy asked in a timid voice. His eyes shifted to the door and held a nervous energy.

'He's scared,' Harry thought to himself. 'He's scared of me...of course he's bloody scared of me...he doesn't know me.'

"Oh…um she went to go rest…she wanted to give us time to talk." Harry said as he worked a smile onto his face.

"Oh…okay." Teddy supplied as he shifted uncomfortably and a silence settle over the room.

Harry observed the small way the boy kept himself guarded and kept looking anywhere but Hary.

"I'm sorry I didn't come sooner…and that I've…never….I should have known something was wrong when you didn't write back…but…" Harry began.

"Harry?" Teddy's question was a whisper. The boy's eyes were as round as saucers and his Hair shifted to a tumbled mess of black. A smile broke out on his face. Then Harry saw the glint of change shift the eyes of the boy's father to Harry's own green hue. "Harry!" the boy screamed as he began to try and move out of the bed.

Harry moved fast, almost as fast as he used to during quidditch matches. He was on the edge of the bed pushing Teddy to lie back down before he knew what was happening. The boy had his arms around Harry's middle and was not letting go. Teddy was smiling up at him. A perfect little copy of Harry except for the green tint to his skin and the bumps on his face and neck.

"You came!" Teddy said smiling. "You came to see me!" The boy was so happy to see him.

"Yeah mate." Harry managed to get out as he stared down at Teddy. Harry raised his hand and pulled the boy closer to his chest as he placed his chin atop the boys head. He felt something akin to joy for the first time in years and something dropped inside him. The words were out of his mouth before he could think on them too much, "And you best get used to me. I'm not leaving anytime soon Teddy…." His eyes began to blur with tears as the boy's grip tightened even more. "I've missed too much already…" He felt himself smile as his chin wavered. "I've got so much to tell you about." He felt the boy begin to sob slightly and Harry allowed his own tears to fall finally.

They sat like that for a while. Harry's body would sway a bit on instinct when the boy would let out harder sobs. After a time Harry looked over at the sound of the door opening. Andromeda stood there smiling with a young woman in healer robes. Harry felt Teddy lean back. He turned and saw that the young metamorphmagus had kept Harry's hair and eyes.

"You're really staying?" The question was small and hopeful.

"Yes." Harry said instantly with a watery smile. "I've…I've got a good many things I'm going to have to clear up…and quite a few people are going to be very upset with me, but I want you to know what you have done for me mate." Harry kept his smile and put his hands on the boy's shoulders. Teddy stared up at him with a wide-eyed expression. "You've given me back something I lost a long time ago…I can face my failures because of you…when you're older I'll explain it better, but…now…I just want you to know that the smile you gave me earlier is all I need." Harry leaned forward and gave the boy another hug. "I'm guessing your Gran and the healer need to speak with you." Harry looked over to Andromeda and the young woman. The young healer was unabashedly dabbing her eyes with a handkerchief and Andromeda looked to be fighting to maintain her own dry eyes.

"Yes…" Andromeda said in a strained voice. "Teddy knows what time it is. They put the salve on just a little over ninety minutes ago young man."

Harry watched as the young healer moved over to the table next to the bed and Teddy's shoulders slumped.

"Sponge bath." Teddy said dejectedly as Harry stood from the bed.

"Theodore Lupin!" Andromeda said tightly.

"You know young Mr. Lupin, I have to fight off quite a few advances from other patients trying to get me to give them a sponge bath…but you seem set on hurting my self-esteem by rebuffing me every time." The young woman said smiling. "Oh…well. It's always the good ones who want nothing to do with me and my sponge." She joked and Teddy shyly blushed. "You know young man the best way to get rid of that green color and those pox is the mixture in this water…but if you don't want it…" She turned as if to leave and Harry watched as Teddy quickly turned to her.

"No…I'm sorry Miss…I won't make a fuss anymore…I promise." Teddy said thoroughly guilted.

Harry watched the young woman turn back and walk to the small container of potion-water. She winked at Harry as she leaned down to Teddy.

"You're lucky you're so cute…looking like that and all." She said to a brightly blushing through the green skin Teddy.

"Yes…well Harry and I will step outside for a while…behave Teddy." Andromeda said not taking her eyes off Harry. She turned and left.

Harry looked over to Teddy and sent him a small smile before he followed.

As they sat outside Harry felt the need to express his sincerity to the woman.

"I meant it." He said catching her eye. "I'm not leaving again…I'm…"

"I know." She replied with an easy expression. "I wasn't lying when I told you I would let you leave…but I didn't tell you that if you left again I would burn every letter you sent before he saw them." She said flippantly as she looked around the hallway. "I wouldn't let him build up hope on someone who hid from the world."

Harry stared at her for a moment before nodding.

"I…I…" He began.

"But I knew the moment you stepped into that room that you wouldn't leave. And just to make sure I sent Horace in to…encourage you." She smiled. "I knew the man would go running to help you if I told him you were in such a tough position, you who defeated Voldemort. I bet he's not two steps into Hogwarts before he's bragging to Headmistress McGonagall." She laughed.

Harry could feel himself gape like a fish.

"Oh don't look so surprised dear." She smirked. "I was a Slytherin in my school years." She turned and sat in the chair next to the door and motioned for him to do the same in the other. As he sat she said, "I've seen that look on a man's face before." She looked off to the distance. "Yes, Ted had that same look when he saw Nymphadora…a man finding his reason."

She laughed to herself for a few moments as Harry watched her.

"The man you are now is not the young man I visited in his secluded hiding hole this morning." She turned back to him. "I may not have gotten the chance to know you that well Harry, but I do know you from the people you've been hiding from." Harry tried to look down as she said this, but she gripped his chin and forced him to meet her eyes. "I know you from Hermione, Ginevra, Ronald, Molly, Arthur, Kingsley, Minerva, and quite a few others…and of course…I know you from Remus…and my daughter…and through them my dear cousin Sirius." She smiled at him. "I see that young man now. I saw him in that room clinging to my grandson and promising to face the hell he has built for himself…all to make my grandson happy." Her eyes took on a misty quality as she finished, "For that you have earned my forgiveness for leaving. But I expect you at every birthday, Christmas, Easter, and major event from this point forward."

Harry sat there as she released his chin. He had expected something from her, but that was not it. He had been expecting some form of anger or in the very least a cold, detached aloofness until she asked him to leave.

"I'm easy to please…at least when it comes to my grandson." She said drawing Harry from his thoughts. Her look downturned as she warned him, "Others will not be too pleased…they may not show it at first, but you know it's an uphill battle from here right?"

"I know…I can take their anger." Harry said resolutely.

"It's not just the anger I'm talking about Harry." Andromeda said softly. "Life is different for most of your friends. They've changed…can you handle that?" She asked.

Harry thought on her question. He understood things would change. People would change. He had decided early on not to question Teddy about his friends in their letters. Back then the changes were what would scare him most. But now he could face them. Even the ones he may have caused.

Harry looked back to Andromeda to answer but as he lifted his head his eyes caught the pairs of two others. Two people were staring intently at him unblinkingly. His surrogate parents.

"Harry?" Molly Weasley's whispered plea cut through the silence of the hallway. She began to walk towards him at an exponential speed.

He stood in time to feel her arms grip him in a bruising hug. He could feel her giving a few silent sobs as his eyes met Mr. Weasley's. The older man stood in his place with a small smile gracing his features and eyes that gave the tell-tale sign of nearing tears. Then all of a sudden Molly was holding him at arm's length.

"Just stop in for a visit then?" Her eyes were wet, but her voice held a heavy tinge of vitriol.

Harry felt himself stiffen under her gaze. The look of betrayal was overwhelming in her eyes. He felt nowhere nears his twenty-four years of age in that moment. He looked between the three of them.

"No…Mrs. Weasley." He started as he dropped his head to his chest. "I…I…" He tried to get out a thought, but felt her fingers pull his chin up. Her face was set hard. "I'm done…I'm done running…hiding…" He thought back to the look on Teddy's face. "I'm here…I'm not going back. On my life and magic I swear it." He felt his face turn hard and watched a smile bloom on Mr. Weasley's face. Andromeda allowed a smile onto her face as well. Mrs. Weasley kept her face stony for a second more as she searched his eyes. Then she reached a hand to his shaggy hair.

"This needs to go then. I don't like this…too long." She sniffed slightly.

Harry watched her for a second.

"Mrs. Weasley?" He began. Then Mr. Weasley was there. His arm wrapped around Harry's shoulders.

"Expect a talking to from the both of us Harry." The man said with a voice Harry had only heard when the man spoke to the Twins. "We have quite a few things we will need to talk about." The man let the hard tone go in the next words. "The important thing to us is that you will be here to talk."

Mrs. Weasley pulled his attention back to her.

"Whatever reason you left…did you figure it out…whatever it was?" She asked him.

Harry felt himself tearing up the instant her hand cupped his cheek. He shook his head.

"No…Ma'am…" He began.

She stopped him from saying anything else with a shush.

"We would forgive out children the world if they took it…" She kept his eyes. "Did you learn why it did nothing to leave like you did?...Why it only hurt everyone?" She asked.

He nodded. He couldn't speak. He felt the tears sliding faster down his face as her fingers met them in a wiping motion.

She smiled to him.

"Then our talk won't have to be too terse…You've learned your lesson…and despite how others are going to react you're planning to face the consequences of your actions." She wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled his head to her shoulder. "That is all we ask of our children…You're making us proud."

As soon as she said it, he felt the dam break. He let himself sob into her shoulder. Arthur had them both in his own covering hug.

His good cry had been interrupted by the young healer as she stepped from Teddy's room. After a few moments of regaining his wits he had rejoined the others in sitting with his Godson. Teddy had spent the entire time rapidly asking him question after question over all topics. Harry had tried to answer all the personal questions, but he saw the looks that would pass the others when he would sidestep a question or two.

It was early in the afternoon when he had just reached out to ruffle Teddy's hair that the door had swung open and the sound of four people filtered into the room. Even with his back to them he knew who three of them were. He could feel them…smell them.

Apples and polish…Ginny.

Peppermint and parchment…Hermione.

Sweets and Bacon…Ron.

Harry closed his eyes as he felt Teddy begin swat his hand away.

"Uncle Ron!...Aunt Ginny!…Aunt Hermione!…Look Harry came!...Oh hey Aunty Lav!" Harry felt the boy grip his wrist and hold it up as proof. "I told you he would!"

Harry noticed the quick hush that came over the new occupants of the room. Then as Harry opened his eyes he watched the smile fade from Teddy's face as the boy began to look between them.

"What's wrong….Look he's here…I told you…Harry?" Teddy looked up to him.

Harry let out a shaky breath as he kept Teddy's eyes.

"Teddy…you remember how earlier I told you people would be angry with me…" He waited until the boy nodded. "Well your Uncle and Aunts are some of the people I hurt the most when I left…and I expect that it will be hard for them to be in the same room with me. And they have every right to feel that way." Harry stopped and gave the boy a tight smile.

"But they always talk about you…they always ask me how you are….they…" Teddy, for all of being six years old, seemed to understand the emotions in the room given the his desperate back-and-forth looks to the people over Harry's shoulder. "You're back…you said that you're not leaving…so they should be happy…I'm happy!" The boy's voice had quickly begun to tremble.

Harry pulled Teddy to him in a hug.

"I'm not leaving….I swear to you that I am not leaving…" Harry pulled back and held Teddy's shoulder while he met the boy's eyes. "But you see…I did one of the worst things a person can do…when I left them…I didn't give them a proper goodbye…I just left a note and went away." Harry made sure Teddy kept eye contact with him. "But I want you to remember what I thanked you for earlier…do you remember." Harry saw him nod. "Good…because I'm going to need that in the next few days…so just keep giving me those smiles Teddy." Harry leaned forward for one more quick hug before looking to Andromeda and the Weasley parents. "I'm going to go and grab a cup of tea upstairs." He let out a shaky breath. "I stay up there for a while."

Harry turned slowly and caught his first glimpse in five years of the most important people in his life. In the quick moments of him viewing them he noticed the changes in each of them immediately.

Ron stood taller than he had five years ago. He had also filled out. No longer was he a complete string bean. His shoulders were wide set. His hair was surprisingly short on his head. Most surprising was the arm around Lavender Brown and the ring on the hand hanging from said shoulder.

Hermione stood shorter than he remembered, but he had grown a few inches in the first year he had left. Her hair was shorter as well, only hanging just to her shoulders. The curliness was still there, but was slightly muted by the pins that held her bangs from her face. Her eyes were wide and disbelieving, still the warm golden-flecked brown. Her small upturned nose had developed a few more small freckles along its ridge. She had also filled out slightly. There was a more feminine set to her stance, no longer hindered from hours of lugging a bag laden with books. What surprised Harry was the ring she also wore…and the hand that held hers…Ginny's.

Ginny had changed the most. Like Hermione her Hair now only hung to her shoulders. She had grown to stand at height with Hermione as well. Before she had held a willowy frame…coltish is the word Hermione had once used. Now though, she had filled in her frame with subtle curves. Her freckles had multiplied as well. Her eyes were the first to harden at the sight of him, but they were still the same deep, inviting brown. She too wore a small ring on her hand.

As Harry began to walk the moment he noticed Hermione and Ron's eyes tighten as well. He weaved around them walking past Lavender, whose eyes actually gave him the feeling of sympathy.

He walked. He walked as fast as he could. He could have easily used the lift, but the stairs seemed to be the fastest way. He found himself on the fifth floor in an empty tearoom sitting at a table. An elf popped in next to him and took his order of a strong Earl Grey. When she delivered the tea she waited a few minutes and met his eyes. He watched the recognition wash over the elf's face, and then he watched as she bowed to him with a smile. She said it was an 'honor' to serve the 'Great Harry Potter' before she popped out.

He sat and inhaled the heady aroma of the builder's tea before sipping. He waited one hour and then a second. In total he ordered three more cups. Then the door opened and he knew without looking the three people who had just entered the room. He felt a ward go up and then two more. They obviously meant to speak to him at that moment, and did not want him to leave.

"Harry?" He heard the soft alto of Hermione's voice and relished the warm memories that sound brought back.

He turned and stood to face them. He took in the defensive set of both girl's shoulders and the way Ron was eyeing him.

"I'm not going to run." Harry said simply. "I…"

"Yeah…well have to be sure now, don't we…" Ron spat out. "Don't want you to go disappearing again before we say our peace."

"Ronald…we agreed to try and be civil." Hermione said putting a hand on the taller man's shoulder.

"You and Ron agreed to be civil…I have nothing to say to…him." Ginny's voice was hard and spiteful.

"Gin…" Hermione said softly as she took Ginny's hand. Harry watched the tenderness in Hermione's eyes as she pleaded with Ginny. "Please?"

"Fine." Ginny said with no venom.

"I'm sorry. I don't know what else I can say." Harry supplied before he could stop himself.

He watched as Ron rolled his eyes and Ginny scoffed. Hermione though stared straight through him.

"We didn't come to hear your apologies Harry." Hermione said. "We want answers." She moved herself and Ginny to the table he had vacated. "Now…we will all try to remain adults during this conversation." She motioned to Ron. The man moved around Harry and sat in the seat opposite his sister. "Harry, please sit." He looked to Hermione and moved to sit in the seat facing her.

"Okay…I…I'll try to answer your questions." Harry said and watched Hermione nod slightly as her eyes gave a hint of approaching wetness.

"Thank you." She said before moving to the first question. "Where have you been for the past five years?" Harry knew she was starting easy. She wanted to ease him into answering harder questions. The same way she used to handle him.

"Scotland." He started, "To be specific: in a cabin a few kilometers away from Loch Lomond." He watched as the three shared a glance.

"Okay." Hermione said. "What have you been doing for the past five years?" Harry eyed her. She had made a list of questions. 'Of course she had made a list,' he chastised himself mentally.

"Uh…well…" Harry tried to find a way to explain it. "To be honest…not much. I read. I think…and mostly I sit."

Harry watched as they digested his answer. Ginny looked upset. Hermione looked contemplative. But as he moved his attention to Ron, the other man exploded.

"Oh bloody brilliant!" Ron spat. "He runs away and…sits." He snarled at Harry. "You make us all go batty with worry and all you do is sit?...go bugger yourself Harry." Ron stood so fast his chair overturned and he began to pace.

"Ronald!" Hermione said sharply.

"No Hermione." Ron defended himself. "He owes us a better answer than that." Ron stopped and roughly pulled the chair back up and spun it to face Harry as he sat. "So what is it mate…huh…discover some sort of merry band of Dark Lords to keep watch on?…Discover the cure for Lycanthropy?...Make a habitat for Blibbering Humdingers?...huh…what?" Ron pointed to him. "Because it had better have been something a hell of a lot better than sitting and thinking." Ron looked over to the side, and Harry watched as his jaw worked tightly. "How about we skip to the real questions?" Ron whipped his head to ask Hermione this, "He doesn't deserve this kind and easy shite you're giving him." Ron scooted closer as he put his face inches from Harry's. "So why the hell did you leave us?...was it that you thought what the hell Ron and his family already lost one what's a second?" Harry began to feel his tenuous grip on his emotions slip as Ron barreled onto the next question. "You figure 'Hey, I already shagged Ginny might as well take my leave'?" Ron's voice had taken on a disgusted quality. "Maybe you figured you didn't need us…Hell what did we ever know about poor Harry anyway…It's not like any of us ever had to watch your dead body being carried by Hagrid…It's not like any of us felt like we had lost a piece of us already."

"Ron! stop it!" Hermione cried.

Harry felt his teeth grind and his own jaw muscles clench as he began to fight feelings he had long ago pushed down.

"No Hermione…I want to hear his answers." Ginny's voice was clear and her face was blank of emotion.

"I…I'm…" Harry tried.

"No…don't say you're bloody sorry!" Ron gripped Harry's shirt and pulled him to stand. "Hermione said answers…so you tell us why you abandoned us…What…poor us…never good nuff for Harry Potter."

"Ron…Please…" Harry tried again. Ron just shook him by his collar.

"No…answer…huh…Was it that…" Ron had just started to ask another damned question when Harry felt it. It was that same feeling he had the day he left. It was the same feeling he had for most of his first few months there…in his place.

"You want to know!" Harry screamed as he grabbed Ron's collar in retaliation. "I wasn't supposed to bloody live!...I wasn't supposed to walk away from that godsdamned forest!"

Harry watched as Ron's face slackened with shock. "Huh…you want the truth?" Harry asked as saw Ron fall back into his seat. He turned and met the girl's eyes. "I was supposed to die! I was never supposed to come back...and not because of that damned prophecy...I just...I..." He knew began to sound insane by the way they watched him.

"I wasn't supposed to come back…" His voice cracked. "I wasn't supposed to have a future! yes… I ran…" He fell back into his seat and brought his hand to push his glasses from his eyes. He rubbed the worn-from-tears orbs.

"When we went to get your parents…that's when it started." He said as he looked to Hermione. "I…I started to see them…everyone...we would pass by someone and all of a sudden they would be Fred...Tonks…I even saw Cedric a few times." He looked to them and saw tears in both Hermione and Ginny's eyes. "I felt them, heard them in every damn crowd,…and everything started becoming my fault." He looked away.

"You two broke up." He pointed to Ron and Hermione. "And I could barely talk with you." He motioned towards Ginny. "And then I started getting sensitive to everything…every little sound and I jumped…every time I rounded a corner and a smell hit me...I froze or damn near pissed myself." He shook his head.

"I couldn't sleep without seeing everyone…and then I would see him…Riddle…he would stand there and he would tell me my part was over…I had lived my purpose...that I could have my rest." Harry lifted his head to the ceiling and let out a breath. "And then I was angry…so bloody angry for no reason…and then I was afraid of the anger." He looked back to them. "Then there was nothing…I wasn't angry…or sad…afraid…nothing…I felt numb or serene…it was like the last time I spoke with Dumbledore…that's when I left."

Harry breathed a sigh. He had not expected this to be such a cathartic release. He had spent so much time dealing with those problems internally, but saying them aloud with these people felt so much better. He almost felt like laughing.

"And the will?" His head snapped to Hermione as she asked this.

"What will?" Ginny and Ron asked in unison as they looked between Harry and Hermione..

"Hermione." Harry shook his head slightly as a plea for her not to pursue that question.

"The will you had drawn up the day you left Harry…why did you do that?" She asked. "Don't bother trying to avoid it Harry. I know…You put my name as executor of the Potter account."

"Hermione…I…" Harry began, but dropped his head as he let out a huff. He then looked up and saw Ginny's steadfast look, Ron shaking his head to Harry in denial, and finally Hermione's warm eyes. "You know why."

In the silence that followed he allowed himself to go back to that day.

He had woken up early. The day before he had sat down with Grimsnap, his account manager, and drawn up a will. He had given Teddy the Black family vault. The Potter vault would go to Hermione, Ginny, Ron, and the rest of the Weasleys. He had broken up with Ginny more than a month earlier.

He had slipped past Hermione's room, then Ron's, and finally past Teddy's. He should have felt something as he walked past, but he hadn't. He hadn't felt anything for weeks.

It was early enough to not have to worry about Hermione getting ready to Floo to Hogwarts for classes.

When he apparated he half-hoped he would end up splinched, considering he had not planned his destination. But he found himself in a small glen.

He had known he was in Scotland by the drop in temperature. He stood as the sun rose over the hills and shined over a Loch.

He had held his wand to his throat for close to twenty minutes. Every time he would begin an incantation though, his voice would crack. He had begun to try and force a spell through the wand by sheer force, but only a spark would come.

He eventually began to fire every destructive spell he could think of on the trees and brush around him.

An hour later the clearing looked as if a dragon had torn through it. And Harry. Harry had found himself kneeling on a patch of grass, crying. His breathing was labored and his voice was hoarse.

He had given up. He considered just sitting there and letting the elements take him with time. Then he saw them.

It was some sort of sprite. A group of tiny glowing creatures began to fix the damage he had caused.

One had come to him and hovered for a few seconds before flying over to the grassy knoll that had gone untouched by him. It glowed bright for a moment before joining the others.

Without knowledge of his own plans Harry had stood and apparated. He had found himself outside the door of Gringotts. He walked in and moved to the teller stand to…

"No…" Ginny's voice broke Harry's memory. "Harry…" Her eyes pleaded with him. It looked as if they were asking him to say 'Gotcha'.

Harry just looked down to his hands.

"Git." Ron's voice cut loud through the room. "Bloody selfish bastard." Harry heard the chair squeak on the floor as he felt hands grab his collar again. "You…stupid…cock-arsed…Prick!" Ron was hunched over and glaring down at him.

"Ron…" Harry said.

"No…" Ron roughly ground out as Harry felt the hands on him loosen slightly. "No you don't get to sit there and…" Ron chin quivered and Harry noticed the flood of tears start. "You don't get to play this off." Ron's voice broke. "You staying away for five years…we'll talk about that…but this…you don't get a pass Harry."

"Ron…I…I…" Harry tried to look down, but Ron gripped his head on both sides.

"Talk to us now…like you should have then." Ron said. "Please Harry."

Harry nodded. He looked to the other two when Ron let go of him. Hermione's face was tear stained, but welcoming. Ginny looked distraught. Their hands were intertwined.

"I didn't try again after that." Harry started. "I thought about it…but I didn't try it." He lifted his hand to wipe a tear away. "Those first few months I barely did anything…I didn't eat…I barely slept." He paused and took a breath. "I started to think about everyone who died…really think about them…and I read the letters." Harry smiled. "Those were what stopped me from thinking about it." He saw them look between one another. "When Hermione sent me Copernicus…I tried…I tried to write. Then the letters stopped." Harry turned to look at the wall to his right. "I started so many letters…when I got angry at myself I would walk outside…I would stand at the edge of my wards and think about leaving…coming back…and then I could feel it. This looming…this feeling. I was supposed to die…and I had." Harry shifted in his chair. "Teddy was just a baby when I left…he didn't know me…he could live without me…" He shook his head. "By that point three years had gone by…and I finally got a new letter. Teddy." He smiled. "His handwriting is as bad as mine…and it had a picture of him and Andromeda."

Harry felt himself tear up.

"I had just gotten groceries when the owl found me." His voice broke as he let out a small sob. "I stood there for Merlin knows how long looking at that paper." He wiped a hand over each cheek. "After that I was…back, well as close to being back as I had been in a long time." Harry allowed his eyes to close. "I started to want something again…and then I started to think about each of you…and life…living wasn't so foreign…I thought about…so much…" He smiled to them. "And then Andi shows up this morning…and…and now."

He smiled.

They sat for a long time with silence before anyone spoke. Harry was thankful when they turned the subject to his days at the cabin and what his plans were given the circumstances.

"Okay…listen…mate." Ron began. "You and I? Well I'm not over this…by a long shot." Ron smiled. "But I am happy you're alive and here for me to be pissed at." Ron pulled him up and into a hug. "I know you're going to be staying at Grimmauld…I'll be by to talk…now I need to run downstairs and get my wife home before she gets too attached to that little sprog and starts talking about how she wants one of her own." Ron said with a grin as he moved to the door and the wards fell.

Harry watched Ron leave with his head reeling over the confirmation of his suspicions from earlier. Ron was married to Lavender.

"We should be leaving as well." Hermione's voice drew him back to the other two. "All of us. Visiting hours will be over soon…and my parents are expecting me…and Ginny." Hermione finished in a light voice as she laid a hand on Ginny's shoulder.

Ginny moved forward and stopped in front of Harry. She placed a hand on either side of his face and met his eyes. They stood like that for a minute until Ginny had found whatever she had been looking for. She pulled him down into a hug.

"So many things have changed Harry." She whispered into his ear. "But I see you…I see the real you now." She pulled back and touched her forehead to his…and he felt something. "You don't leave us again…You do that to her…" She motioned to Hermione. "Or me again and I'll find you." She kissed his cheek before she moved to the door leaving a white hot flame in the spot her lips had touched.

As Harry turned from watching Ginny, he caught Hermione's eye. Her eyes were still wet.

"Her…" He started to say her name, but found himself cut off. Within the blink of an eye, arms were around him and he was knocked back slightly as he felt something he had not in a long time. His heart, he was pretty sure, both skipped a beat, and pumped twice in the same instance. Unconditional love. He had forgotten what it felt like. Hermione had always been the person who gave it to him.

His own arms wound around her as he felt himself drown in that peppermint smell. They stood like that for few minutes. His nose in her hair. Each of them tightening their grips ever so slightly. He had never needed words with her. Not really.

Then for the seconds before she finally let up he felt it. That same small tug that he had when he had hugged Ginny. Only slightly stronger.

Harry found himself outside the cabin.

He had left soon after Hermione and Ginny had each kissed Teddy goodbye. Molly and Arthur had stayed and given him hugs as well. Teddy had wanted him to stay, but he explained that if he was going to stay he would need his things. The boy had been on the verge of tears. Harry, in the end, had pulled off the watch that had once belonged to Fabian Prewitt and told Teddy that he had not taken that watch off for nearly seven years. And that he expected it back the moment he saw Teddy the next day. The boy had smiled and gripped the watch tight.

The cabin was packed up. All his belonging already shrunk and placed in the boxes next to him. Copernicus was in flight to Grimmauld. The building was actually only the size of half of his living room, but with the plethora of expansion charms on the structure Harry had lived in grandeur that was too much for one person. The Goblins had really outdone themselves when they had it made for him.

He lifted his wand and sent a incendio to it, and watched as the wards began to shift. Soon the building folded into self and Harry heard the wards strain. Then all that was in front of him was a large pile of ash, smoking lightly.

Harry bent down and stacked the three boxes on top of one another and apparated away with them.

From the Author: Hope you've enjoyed this first chapter. What are your thoughts?

~A Vagrant Boy~