Disclaimer: I neither own, nor claim to own the source material that this fanfiction is based to those that do.
7/27/2014: Edited and Re-written.
First Time in a While:
Part 2: Change Over Time
Section 1: A Week Gone By
The first week back in the world for Harry was one of extreme anxiety. The first two days were nothing less than absolute terrors as he sat next to Teddy's bed in St. Mungo's. Most of the time the boy was asleep, and Harry would mentally berate himself for his haste in burning down his quiet haven. He was also sure that the next time he stepped into Gringotts the Goblin's would be a bit miffed at his treatment of one of their best works.
He had refused to go to Grimmauld place until Teddy was well enough to be released into Andromeda's care. He had a feeling that Andromeda knew that he was afraid of leaving the hospital, mainly due to the fact that the press was barred from climbing higher than the first floor.
Arthur and Molly had spent time with him and Teddy as well, but they were the only ones to visit during the last phase of Teddy's illness. The Weasley parents had been forced to comfort Teddy when it was explained that his "Tori" would not be visiting him. The pout the boy had developed (slightly over-exaggerated thanks to his heritage) had nearly killed Harry.
The one problem Harry had been forced to put up with at St. Mungo's was the constant stream of female (and a surprising number of male) Healers and Medi-witches passing by the room with lingering stares in his direction. Andromeda had been vocal in her amusement over the situation.
His temporary shield from stepping away from the hospital had been ripped away when Teddy was cleared to leave the hospital with only a few warnings about watching for sparks during sneezes and not picking at the few raised pox marks left on his cheeks.
Harry's entrance into Grimmauld Place was more horizontal than he would have liked, but he considered it better than he honestly should have expected given the amount of time it had been since he had Floo'd anywhere. Teddy had laughed as he had quite simply followed Andromeda through without even a slight pause in his walk.
The one glaring thing that Harry had forgotten about this re-entry into Grimmauld was the very hard, glaring face of Kreacher. The elf had treated Harry with a remarkable cold shoulder for the first two days of Harry's stay in Grimmauld.
For the first two days the old house was quiet, and allowed Harry time to slowly walk through the home that had at one point been Sirius' second prison. Though Harry was happy to note that Andromeda had really taken to heart his request that she make it a real home.
The entire house no longer bore any dark shades of black or grey. In their place were warm and light blues, creams, splashes of red, and a few greens depending on what floor someone was on at the time. The walls held pictures of events Harry had missed. Teddy growing up, Teddy resting in Andromeda's arms next to Bill and Fleur as they held their young daughter, Hermione holding Teddy with Ginny next to her making faces at Teddy, Ron lifting Teddy over his head much to the discomfort of the women in the background. But as he pushed past his guilt Harry saw the joy in all their faces. In all, Harry enjoyed the light airy-ness that completed the house now.
In a fitting change, Teddy's room was Sirius' old one. Copernicus had set himself on a perch on the opposite side of the door. In the place of the old pin-ups were banners and posters for the Holyhead Harpies (one containing Ginny), the Cannons (Teddy said that was a gift from Ron), and a few of Puddlemere United. On his small desk were piles of letters in neat stacks piled up against the backing board. Every letter Harry had sent looked to be lovingly handled and read multiple times. Harry had nearly lost it when Teddy had smiled and put the ones Harry had sent while the boy was stuck in the hospital on the top of the smallest stack. The boy had smiled and taken Harry on a tour of the rest of the house making sure to show Harry the library that had been re-modeled and frequented by Hermione on many occasions according to Teddy.
Harry had luckily avoided being spotted by the Prophet the few days he was there, but he did notice the headlines all questioning if he had really returned. He also noticed that everyone he had been friends with and a few he had not been on good terms with had been contacted, but had not answered the reporters' questions.
On the third day of his stay at Grimmauld, his sixth since the morning Andromeda had found him, Ron showed up for the talk he had promised.
Andromeda had pulled Teddy from the sitting room to give them time to talk, but neither he nor Ron had said a single word as Kreacher set down a tray of tea and biscuits on the table next to them. A chess set lay between them on the small table where Harry had been focusing his gaze.
"Thank you Kreacher." Harry said to the elf, and to his surprise he received acknowledgement in the form of a nod with a small smile from Kreacher.
"Thanks mate." Ron said to Kreacher as he reached for a biscuit. Kreacher nodded to Ron before popping from the room softly.
"So…" Harry tried to start.
"I'm sorry for how I said what I said…and for some of what I said." Ron quickly interrupted before Harry could finish his thought.
"Ron…I mean…you weren't wrong on some it." Harry supplied.
"Maybe…but I am by no means the person to say what I said to you…" Ron hung his head slightly as he said this. "I had no right to say some of those things…I just…some of it was my own anger, but the rest…" Ron ran his hand over his face. "Look after you left…Ginny…Hermione…they were a mess…Mum and Dad were fretting every time I saw them." Ron paused and poured himself a cup as breathed slowly. "I was fine…for the most part. I knew I had no room to judge you for running away. I just sort of threw myself into working at the shop and helping George, but the rest of them."
The silence hung for a while. Ron set the pieces up on the board, and a slow game of chess started.
Ron laughed when Harry moved his rook to cover Ron's knight.
"You're better than you used to be." Ron said with a small grin.
"Yeah." Harry said.
They continued to play working their way around the pieces on the board and around the conversation that was building.
"So you and Lavender?" Harry questioned.
"Yeah, me and Lav…though don't ask how it started." Ron gave a smile. "If I took the chance for her to tell the story, I would be sleeping in the shop for a few nights." Ron laughed at his joke slightly, "But I will tell you that she is the reason I'm so calm now…after…well after, she and I just…fit…you know. Hermione calls her my natural calming draught."
Harry watched as Ron analyzed the board. The other man was still guarded in his posture. His shoulders were stiff and his normally expressive face was set in a mask of focus.
"You know Mum expects you at Roast on Sunday?" Ron asked as he took Harry's pawn.
"Yeah…she told me…and Andromeda told me…and Teddy told me." Harry exhaled.
"Well…I wouldn't worry much…" Ron paused and breathed out, "well worry a little. Merlin knows how many tears you're going to have to swim through…mainly Mum's and probably some of Fleur's…she's pregnant again. George is taking bets on if it's another girl."
"Oh…well. Cheers for Bill and Fleur. And you, you get to be an uncle again." Harry supplied with as chipper a voice as he could.
"Yeah, yay for me…the moment Fleur goes and has that sprog, I'm going to have to deal with Lavender giving me those bloody eyes…shoulda seen her after Angie and George had Fred…a bloody nightmare that was." Ron said as he sipped his tea.
Harry hesitated in the middle of moving his remaining knight to cover his queen. "Yeah, Teddy wrote me about that." He exhaled loudly as he set the piece down and slumped into the back of his chair. "I…bloody piss…I've missed so much." He let his head fall against the resting back of the chair.
"Yeah…you have." Harry looked back as Ron said the words. "Look mate, I've had a lot of time…and a lot of different speeches for the next time I saw you…but…after what Hermione said…after what you said…well all my petty anger seem a bit stupid now."
"Ron…look don't…" Harry began.
"No, let me say this…I've been working on this one since our last talk, Lavender's helped me a bit with it." Ron set his shoulders. "I've never been the best friend to you…I've been a petty git and a jealous prat. But after you left. I really started to see…I started to see what I had. My family. All of them. What I grew up with, and what I never had to live without." Ron overtook his defense and began to bare down on his queen. "I mean I knew what I had before, but I never really understood. That's why I was fine when you left…well fine might not be the best way to say it. I was…what's the word Hermione would use…contemplative…yeah contemplative about it."
Ron moved his knight into position. "I thought about how if I didn't have everyone…and if I couldn't…well…" Ron met Harry's eyes. "I don't know everything…about you…about the Dursley's." Harry dropped his head and felt a bit of old shame creep up. "But I do know what we all expect…and if it's half as bad as that…I could understand why you didn't come to us when you started having problems."
Ron took Harry's queen. "Then I got together with Lav, and I had someone to really talk to about everything. She helped me through most of it." Ron moved his own queen into a flank of Harry's king. "I went through fits when I'd be angry at you, then myself for being angry at you, then I would feel like shite because I couldn't talk to you. I nearly drank myself blind on your birthday two years ago. Hermione and Ginny found me at the Hog's Head, Lavender wasn't too happy about that." Ron paused and ran his hand through his hair. "Things haven't been right…for so long. They've been okay…but when the family is together…we're missing Fred…and you." Ron put his last rook in position and Harry found himself in checkmate. "Then you're here again…and I wanted to throttle you, but then you drop 'that' on us." Ron moved his hand toward Harry. "Hermione obviously knew…she always knew more when you were involved." Ron shook his head at Harry. "Then I started to really remember you for those last months before you left."
Ron put his head into his hands as he leaned over. "I'm sorry I didn't notice…that I was too much in my own world." Ron lifted his head back towards Harry. "It may take five years…it may take ten…but you and me…we're going to get back there Harry…and then we're going to get better than we were mate…I promise you. It won't be just you…I've got a lot of things to fix between us. But all that guilt you've been carrying. That look on your face when I walked in…that goes now. You and me mate. I'm standing next to you, and I swear I will never step out on our friendship again. And when Lav eventually decides she actually wants a kid, I expect you standing next to me in Mungo's making sure I don't sodding faint. All right?"
Harry couldn't do anything but stare for a few minutes at Ron. He was pretty sure Ron had never spoken that long for that many consecutive sentences in their entire time knowing each other. After he was finally able to regain his wits over the situation he simply nodded to Ron.
Ron smiled and nodded towards the board. "You need to work on your defense a bit more, but you have gotten better."
"Ron, I…thanks." Harry said lamely.
"Well, Mum and Dad have already forgiven you…Andromeda is obviously okay with everything…so that's all I need…well that and the fact that I know you're going to have to deal with Hermione and Ginny." Ron said with a grimace.
Harry himself could not help but match Ron's expression. Ron then looked down to his watch.
"Okay mate, I should be getting to the shop…best not to leave George there by himself for too long." Ron said as he stood. "We'll see you at Roast, okay?"
Harry nodded to Ron. "Of course." He said as he shook Ron's hand.
Ron's face then took on a feral grin, "You know there is one thing I expect Mum will make you do, but I'll leave that a surprise for you on Sunday…just expect an early roosting that day." Was all Ron said before he disappeared into the Floo.
The remaining part of the week for Harry was both amazing and frightening in that Harry enjoyed the constant high that Teddy seemed to be on and that Harry kept feeling a tug at odd intervals. His worry was at its height before he went to sleep on Saturday night.
Sunday morning though he found himself in a truly terrifying position.
Section 2: Lavender Weasley nee Brown, With The Scissors, In Arthur's Study
Harry was quite apprehensive about his current position.
Molly had pulled him from his bed at Grimmauld early in the morning and shoved him through the Floo as soon as he had showered and dressed in the clothes she had put in his hands. He had been made to sit opposite Helen Granger as Molly placed a plate piled high with bacon, eggs, tomatoes, toast, and beans in front of him. He then had been made to finish the entire plate as Molly and Helen tutted over his appearance, all the while acting as if he was not in the room. As soon as he had finished Molly had hoisted him from his seat and forced him into Arthur's study. Inside the study he was faced with the sight of Lavender Brown…now Weasley holding a pair of scissors and standing next to a chair.
"Well dear, as I have said…Andi and Helen agree. We do not like the length that your hair has grown to." Molly said from behind him. "So my lovely daughter-in-law has agreed to fix the problem." She took his face in her hands and forced him to meet her eyes. "Now sit and don't come out until Lavender has made this mop into something respectable."
With her peace said Molly hurriedly made her way back to the kitchen, closing the door to the study in the process.
Harry turned to Lavender who had conjured a mirror to stand in front of the chair.
"Oh no need to look so scared Harry, it's just a nice trim. " She said and as if to emphasize her point she quickly snipped the air between the scissors in quick succession.
"Yeah…right." Harry said before he took a deep breath and moved to sit in the chair.
"Well, let me have a proper look at you then." Lavender said as she pulled a stool in front of him and sat down. She reached up and brushed his fringe away from his face.
"I understand now…" she smiled at him, "why you always kept your hair like you did." She motioned to the scar that crept along her neck.
Harry took a good look at the scars that still looked fresh and felt a bit of guilt creep up.
"None of that." Lavender said as she tapped the crown of his head lightly, "This was hardly your fault…Greyback was the only one who I could blame for this."
At the wording of her statement he looked up. "Was?"
"Oh yeah…he apparently didn't like the thought of his former pack, yes he had a pack outside of the ones who were at the battle, they were younger…mostly children…" she tilted her head to the side and pushed some of his hair behind his ear, "well they decided to turn themselves into the ministry…they all ended up being taken care of. Most of them went to a new program for afflicted youth, Hermione set it up of course, and the others went to families willing to take them in." She smiled. "The bastard got so angry he attempted to break out of his cell…his cell that was coated completely in silver with protruding barbs." Lavender leaned back and seemed to be judging her needed work. "Bill and I celebrated that night. Turns out there were a few others that Greyback had hurt…and well we have a sort of…support group now. Once again Hermione set that up of course." She shook her head.
Harry wasn't exactly sure how he was supposed to respond. He more than happy to admit a certain amount of glee hearing that Greyback was dead. The werewolf that had given Remus his affliction was dead, the man that had harmed both Lavender and Bill was now dead…he was more than happy about that.
"Enough of that unpleasant talk." Lavender said as she slapped her lap and stood. "What are we thinking Harry?" She moved around him and met his eyes in the mirror. "How short do you want to go?" She waggled her eyebrows and Harry couldn't help but laugh.
"I'm not sure." Harry replied. "It's been a while since I've had it cut obviously, but I don't know." He kept her eyes as she tilted her head and gave him a smile. Harry felt odd. He and Lavender had never been particularly friendly before, but now, for an inexplicable reason, he actually felt comfortable around her. "Maybe I should just leave it up to you."
"Really?" She asked with a wide smile stretching across her face. "Well then…," she tapped her forefinger against her chin, "how about we wash it properly first…because whatever it is you've been using is absolutely wrong. Then we can cut it to one length and if you feel up to it we can go shorter." She said rapidly all the while combing her fingers through his hair.
"Sounds good to me." He smiled and enjoyed when she gave him a satisfied grin.
He watched her through the mirror as she took out her wand and conjured something behind him. Then he felt the chair he was in lean back and suddenly his head was in the groove of a porcelain basin. She pulled the glasses from his face and set them on the edge of Arthur's desk.
"Well then," She began as she started to use a silent augmenti to wet his hair, "Let's catch you up shall we…I'm working at Witch Weekly now...junior fashion editor. Ronald, as you know, is still working at the shop, but he's actually part of the invention process now." Harry had a hard time paying attention because whatever Lavender was using to wash his hair was tingling slightly, but in a very relaxing way. "He and George are actually working on a new chess set…but they aren't talking to me or Angelina about it too much yet." He felt her hands stop, and as he opened his eyes he saw her shaking her head with a smile. "No falling asleep on me…Ronald falls asleep whenever I do this, but you don't get to."
"Yes ma'am." Harry replied instinctively and felt a small smile wind its way onto his face. Then he remembered what Ron had told him. "You and Ron?"
"Yes, me and Ron." She smiled and looked back to his eyes. "He likes to act all big and tough, but you know he took you leaving hard right?" Her smile didn't leave, but Harry could see the sincerity of the question.
"Yeah…I know…I" Harry tried to start.
"It's okay." She smiled. "You're back now and won't be allowed to leave again." Her voice held no room for question. Then she stilled her hands again for a moment before restarting her ministrations. "I know something else happened…something that Ron, Ginny and Hermione know, but aren't telling the rest of us." She paused and looked at him. "Whatever it was I'm just glad you're here to receive your punishing haircut." She murmured a spell under her breath and Harry felt his hair stand on end for a moment before settling.
"Oh yes, me and Ron-Ron." She continued with a smile. "Well it was three and a half years ago. Vati and I were in Diagon doing a bit of shopping. I was finally getting over my problems with crowds thanks to Bill. There I was enjoying a nice outing, when out of nowhere I run into Ronald…he hadn't been seen much outside of the shop and at Ginny's games. But we ran into each other and he was so cute with his red face and stammering." She giggled, "I mean really, he and I spent a good part of sixth year snogging and there he was blushing like a schoolboy." Her face took a faraway look for a moment. "Well Vati decided that she really needed to get back to work at that moment and made sure that Ronald would accompany me to lunch…and the rest is history." She laughed. "It took a year for him to propose, but we've been happy ever since."
Harry took in the smile she was wearing, thought back to the way they stood with each other, and the way Ron had been during their visit. "You're good for each other…I'm happy for the both you." Harry said softly.
Lavender surprisingly blushed. "Yes, we are." She shook her head. "Don't get me wrong we do fight. That man is stubborn as all can be, but I love him." She gave him a grin, "And due to my temperamental nature the make-ups are thankfully quite good." She laughed.
Harry felt himself blush slightly, but couldn't hold back the bark of laughter that seemed to come straight from his stomach. He let the belly-shaking laugh die down into a light chuckle for a few moments before he noticed that Lavender was looking at him softly. "What?" He asked slightly self-conscious.
She shook her head and put a towel behind his head. "I didn't expect you to laugh…none of us ever really got to see you laugh." She smiled and had a bit of mist in her eyes. "I'm just happy you're okay." She made him sit up as she banished the basin and stepped behind him. "I was a young girl not ready for the reality of the world when you, Ron and Hermione left after Dumbledore passed. And I had no real idea as to who you were other than a target of all the gossip at Hogwarts. Now though, I'm me and you are someone I am personally looking forward to really getting to know." She patted his shoulder and then conjured a brush to run through his shaggy hair. "Let's get you caught up on everyone else first though."
"I'm looking forward to getting to know you too Lavender." He smiled, "Start with anyone you want."
She smiled and began to run the brush through his messy locks. "Well, Neville has become quite the story of success." She giggled, "The poor lad is dealing with the adoring eyes of schoolgirls year round. He's Professor Sprout's apprentice, and will be taking over as Herbology instructor at the end of this year." She moved the brush slowly past all of his kinks. "He is also husband to one Hannah Abbott. They actually started dating right after you left. Vati made the robes for their wedding."
She stepped around him and picked up the scissors. "I guess that brings us to Vati," she moved back around him and began pulling up bits of his hair and gauged the length before cutting, "She is actually a tailor and designer for Madame Malkin's now, and…well as my best friend and a brilliant designer, she gets highlights in every few issues of Witch Weekly." She smiled conspiratorially as she said this, "To my absolute horror she has been single for quite a while now." She huffed, "No interesting or sordid tales for her married friend." She rolled her eyes in exasperation.
"Now Padma on the other hand…there is a minx of a girl with all kinds of juicy gossip about her." Lavender grinned feral. "Let's just say Vati has on more than one occasion gone to Padma's apartment and found a certain former Ravenclaw of the male persuasion doing just the most…naughty things to her sister." Harry felt his eyes bulge and heard Lavender's laugh at his look. "Well it would be one thing if it wasn't straight laced Terry Boot, but they also happen to be co-workers in the international liaison office at the ministry."
She stayed quiet for a moment before continuing, "Luna's doing quite well. She and her father still put out the Quibbler." She moved in front of him and began to cut his bangs. "She technically works at the ministry for the Department of Magical Creatures, but I think she only started there to get their travel expenses to fund her trips." She smiled down at him. "Let's see, Dean is doing quite well. He actually owns a gallery in Diagon, and has a studio set up inside. He teaches and paints there. He, of course, is enjoying a bachelor's life for the moment." She gives her head a shake. "You would be surprised at how many witches fall for the whole artist looking for a muse drivel he spouts at the open house exhibits he hosts." Her face then took a frown.
"Seamus is doing better...there was a problem a few years back for him. Dreamless-sleep draught and a few others. Luckily when he didn't show up for drinks with Dean and a few others they went to his flat." She gave a grimace to Harry as she snipped his hair on the sides, "No one knew he was taking so many or that he was having problems. He was one of the ones that the Carrows loved to single out. But luckily St. Mungo's has a really good program for that, and he's doing much better like I said." She smiled slightly, "He's even dating Susan Bones. Quite the pair they are…loud is actually a better description. Shy Miss Susan Bones is actually quite...vocal. If you know what I mean" Lavender gave him a significant look. "Let's just say they are very passionate people and have no problem resolving their issues in the back room of a pub…or in the restroom of a public place with the door locked or unlocked."
Harry once again laughed. Lavender placed her hands on his shoulders. "Well the preliminary cut is done. But we both know it will need to be much, much shorter for Molly to be happy."
Harry turned his head and gauged the length. With his hair still touching the nape of his neck and his bangs still covering the tops of his eyes he agreed. "Shorter then."
"Okay…" She moved the hair from his forehead revealing the now faint scar. "How about I catch you up on the Weasley family gossip then?" she smiled and let his hair fall back into place. With her scissors cutting once again she began.
"Well as you know, Arthur and Molly are fine. Especially with little Teddy, Tori, and Fred to spoil." She smiled, "Now that Fleur is expecting again Molly is even happier…don't tell anyone but I'm pretty sure Angelina is going to be announcing again soon. She's had that glow about her." Lavender whispered the last part. "George and Angie are doing fine. They've always been good for one another…well actually more it's her keeping him in line, but they play off each other well."
"Percy, while technically single, has been very quiet for the past few Roasts. I'm putting my money on him bringing a date very soon." She shrugged, "Well I also happen to have seen him with a pretty little blonde out around Knightsbridge a few weeks ago when I was with Vati doing our monthly muggle clothing window shopping trip. They were all snuggled into each other…cozy-like and staring at one of the window displays."
Lavender began cutting longer strands at a time.
"Oh…I know the tidbit you haven't been told." She once again gave him that smile, "Charlie is being pressured by Molly to propose to his girlfriend of two years…" Lavender let the sentence hang as she snipped a few stray strands, "Daphne Greengrass." Harry felt his jaw drop. "Oh I know right!" She lightly slapped his shoulder and Harry snapped his mouth shut in embarrassment. "That's what I did when they showed up together to Roast a year and a half ago." She shook her head, "Turns out though, she is quite lovely. Hermione and Ginny actually introduced them." She laughed to herself for a moment. "Daphne is the one who stepped in and saved Charlie's bill on preservations in Britain from a few opponents in the Wizengamot. And according to her, he was very…appreciative." Lavender chuckled.
"And of course I have to tell you about the quintessential couple." She rolled her eyes as she said this. "Bill and Fleur…ugh! I swear if I didn't know and love them, I would hate them." She brushed away some of the hair that had fallen on his shoulders. "They can be nauseating around each other…especially with Fleur pregnant again. I swear when Bill was helping me through my first few full moons I nearly vomited from the goofy smile he wore when she would pass by…and now nearly six years later it's the same." She sighed in exasperation and then set the scissors back down as she brushed his hair.
He stared at himself in the mirror and actually enjoyed the look of his hair. It was much nicer than what it had looked like before…actually it looked better than his hair had ever looked. But still…it didn't feel right. Neither his hair nor her catch-up was done quite yet.
Lavender caught his eye and smirked. "Let's see…did I forget anything Harry?"
He stopped himself from saying something snarky, and merely spun the chair to face her. He simply watched her for a few moments. He felt the tug again. "How are 'they'?" he asked her.
"Picked up on the fact that they are a 'they' did you?" Lavender gave him a sincere smile. "They are good…very good actually." Her head tilted as he felt her give him a judging look. "Do you have a problem that they are 'they'?" she asked with a defensive edge to her voice.
"If they're happy why would I have a problem?" he said without having to think.
"Just making sure. Good answer." She smiled at him as she leaned against Arthur's desk. "It's not like the muggle world. We've always been more open to freedom of love without it having to be just a man and a woman, but there are still a few people who make a fuss." She must have noticed the scowl that sprouted on his face when she mentioned people making a fuss. "Zacharias…Smith. He worked for the Prophet when they got together…He apparently felt it was his business to be in theirs."
"Ruddy little bastard…" Harry felt his ire rise.
"Oh don't worry…he no longer works at the Prophet…and he longer feels the need to pry into other people's lives." She smiled at him. "You didn't forget that this is Hermione and Ginny we're talking about did you?" She moved over and ran her hand through his hair again. "Normally I wouldn't gossip about those two…but considering it is you…I'll risk it."
She gave him a sad smile, "They took you leaving really hard…much harder than anyone else." Lavender pulled the stool back around to sit. "They both isolated themselves for a while…well emotionally that is." Harry made to let his head fall, but Lavender caught his chin. "Hey, just listen okay." He nodded, "Ginny got picked up as a reserve chaser for the Harpies…she did well too, but a year into her playing she had to sub in for another player against the Tornadoes. She ended up taking a bludger to her right hip."
Harry felt his stomach drop. He knew she was fine. She was up and walking a week ago, but still.
"She needed someone to help her after the incident, and though Molly insistently tried to offer her help, Ginny didn't want to be coddled. Poor girl couldn't walk properly for three months and needed someone to stay with her." She smiled as she tilted her head.
"Hermionehad just decided move out of her parents' house and offered to stay with Ginny in Holyhead. She said that with work only a Floo trip away it would be perfect. To be honest we all knew they just wanted to be away from the looks and the reporters." Lavender shifted on the stool. "Hermione was in the middle of making the law that would set up the Lycanthropy Afflicted Treaty in the Wizengamot and…well there was a lot of speculation about them that year, but I don't think any of us were surprised when they came to one of the Roasts and announced that they were going to have a simple bonding ceremony in lieu of a big wedding the next week." She smiled. "I was one of Hermione's Bridesmaids. It was a lovely ritual. They are brilliant together." Lavender then stood and moved towards the door. "I'm going to go check in with Molly real fast…do you want anything."
He watched her leave as he shook his head in reply. Then he turned the chair back to the mirror and put his glasses back on. He wished that the object, though conjured, would be the long lost other half of the Mirror of Erised to show him his heart's desire. The tug felt as if were nearly pulling him from the chair. He reached up and rubbed the area above his heart. He watched his reflection in the mirror. The haircut really was nice. Inside his head he felt a high tide of thoughts crashing against something he had long ago quarantined. He wasn't sure if the mental shields he had built were strong enough to constrain his feelings at this point. Harry's heart both ached and felt full for the first time in so long. His loved ones were happy, but he had missed out on so much.
He tried to imagine himself as part of the many pictures hanging in Grimmauld Place and the few he had noticed lining the walls of Arthur's study. But it felt wrong to him. It was fake, and even in his imagination his superimposed image in the photos was not welcomed.
Harry shook his head. The time for his guilt and self-induced isolation was over. He had made a decision and he was not going to back out of it.
Inside the mindscape he had created a little over three years ago he found the small box he had long sealed up. It was simple in looks; wood and brass. It actually bore a slight resemblance to the old tea box that he had once seen at Mrs. Figgs house.
He had been long apprehensive about approaching the box again. It was always easier to just accept the fact that he would never have the chance to have a full life. He was not sure if he held the blame for that or if it was shouldered by the ghost of Tom Riddle…or possibly Dumbledore.
Harry took a fruitless breath in anticipation for a long session of pondering the implications of possible actions.
But at that moment, Harry did what he was once known for the most. He went with his impulse. He reached out and pulled the latch open. Nothing major, but a start.
In his mind the box sat eerily still. It was him and the box on its pedestal. Nothing else to ruin the aesthetics of the off-white walls of the small space. But in, what should have been a serene moment, a flash of something far off hit him harder than any bludger ever had, and he felt something akin to…
Lavender was standing next to him again and smiling when he opened his eyes.
"Everyone else will be arriving soon. There's another half an hour before we sit down for Roast though…It's Fleur's week to bring desert; so expect something a bit fancy…and with butterscotch…she eats that in droves now, with Victoire it was Herring...so I'm guessing we should be happy its butterscotch." She smiled, but caught the look on his face. "You…we can stay in here though until then if you'd like. You don't have to…"
"No." Harry interrupted her. "We're not done." He kept his own gaze in the mirror for a moment before he looked up to Lavender. "Shorter." He smiled a smile that he was sure was a bit on manic side.
"Yeah?" Lavender asked with hesitance in her voice.
"Yeah." Harry nodded. "Scars are just scars. No reason to hide them, right?" He chuckled.
He watched her flick her own hair away from the marred side of her neck with a certain amount of confidence. "Right then...let's go shorter."
They stayed quiet for the next twenty minutes as she used her wand to trim the hair on the back of his head and the sides much shorter than he had ever had them. Then he watched through the mirror as she snipped more and more of the hair from the top of his head until finally she was done. She conjured a clear bag and made all the hair that had fallen around him jump into the bag.
He then saw her give him an appraising eye before she stepped forward and ruffled the now short hair on top of his head.
"Good." She said, "Much, much better." She smiled as she stepped around him and met his eyes in the mirror. "Much more handsome without that hair hiding your face." Harry felt himself blush slightly, but he met her eyes again at her next statement. "You really are one of the bravest people I've ever met Harry…not because of all those things you've done. But because here you are ready to fight for your friends again…this time though you don't need to." He arched a brow to her. "Harry this time it's you…no dark lord…you are the enemy. You turned yourself into the enemy you have to face, but you're not that person…you never were." She rested her hands on his shoulders. "You were never one for Divination were you?"
"Considering my experience with the subject usually ended with me being told of my impending death…no. I can't say I put much stock in it." He glanced at her in the mirror.
"Well." She started and smiled. "When Vati and I were holed up in the Room of Requirements we had a lot of time to think about the subject…and what it really counts for." She picked at a stray piece of hair that had fallen onto his shoulder. "We decided that being a seer…telling prophecies…that's not the real lessons of the subject."
"They're not?" Harry couldn't help the slightly sardonic tone of his voice.
"No." She replied with a shake of her head. "Reading tea leaves, trying to discern the messages in the stars…all the attempts to predict the future…they're scrambling efforts to explain something, but they do an absolute piss-poor job of giving us anything. Especially since you can't be taught how to be a seer, you either are or you're not." She fixed her own hair in the mirror. "What Vati and I decided was that we would much rather attempt to see and be open to the possibilities of the future instead of predicting it…if you know that something is going to happen…it makes life boring. We decided that picturing all possibilities was much better…because then it's up to you to figure it out."
Harry thought about this for a moment as he watched Lavender fluff her hair and pat her cheeks. He liked the idea, but at the same time the logic itself seemed faulty.
"I know what you're going to say…you should have seen Hermione's reaction when I explained that to her… 'illogical reasoning and flawed premise'…I believe were her exact words. Ginny wasn't much better." Lavender smiled at him. "But it doesn't have to be completely true…Divination never really is, even the true seer's are cryptic as can be…but I have a feeling you're going to adopt this idea of possibilities."
"You have a feeling?" He quipped out as his voice broke and he chuckled slightly as he wondered when Lavender Brown had become a well of insight.
"Yeah…I have a feeling." She smiled as she moved towards the door. "Everyone out there loves you, Harry. You're a friend to all of them, a Godfather, a brother to my husband, and most importantly you're Harry." She reached for the door. "I really am looking forward to meeting the real Harry…his hair is much better now-a-days. Make sure to show off my work." She laughed as she walked out leaving the door askew.
He had to laugh as he met his eyes in the mirror. With a nod of his head, he stood and made his way out of Arthur's study.
Section 3: Extremely Loud Conversations and Incredibly Close Friends
His first step out of Arthur's study into the hallway reminded him just how many charms the man must have put on the small room to cordon it off from the sounds of the rest of the house. The wall of chatter hit him like the Hogwarts Express at full speed.
He could make out the distinct voices through the din. Fleur's accent was lighter from the sound of it. Teddy was excitedly telling a story to someone. Ron and what sounded like either George or Charlie were laughing. Hermione and Ginny's voices floated by him and he closed his eyes and felt that pull.
For a moment it felt like he was back there…when...without Voldemort, without everything else. If only there were a few more voices and a few less worries. In a made up time when things had not been so skewed by…his life.
"Oh…that is so much better." Harry opened his eyes at Helen Granger's statement. He found her smiling at him softly, a big turn from her attitude towards him earlier that morning. "I always thought you would look better without that fringe hanging over your face." She reached up, but paused to allow him time to step closer as permission for her to touch him. She and her husband, Richard, had been good about that before he left. He assumed it was because Hermione speculated with them on his treatment at the Dursley's. But he did step forward and he enjoyed the way she ran her hand over his hair in an effort to straighten the tips that had undoubtedly popped up since Lavender finished.
"Thank you…Mrs. Granger." Harry said softly to her.
"Harry." She said sternly and made him looked down to meet her eyes. "I believe we cleared up what Richard and I expect you to call us well over five years ago." The corner of her lips gave away her enjoyment of treating him like a child.
"Yes…yes we did…Helen." Harry couldn't help but smile to her. The woman had, over the small time before he left, made herself known to him as the ideal mother. He loved Mrs. Weasley, but she was not his mother…and neither was Helen. But if he had to imagine what Lily Potter would have been like as a mum…it would be more like Helen Granger. She was amazing in every way. She encouraged where sometimes Molly ordered, she allowed her hugs to be more subtle and intimate rather than the overwhelming enthusiasm that Molly showed at times, and most importantly she understood him…without ever actually knowing him. He had to guess was something that she had passed down to Hermione, but either way the woman read him much better than anyone else ever had.
And as if she had heard his thoughts she pulled him into an embrace. It was light, but firm. One of her hands rested on the nape of his neck and the other ran counterclockwise in a long oval over his mid-back.
"I'm glad to see you back again Harry." She said softly. "For everyone's sake…including mine and Richard's." Harry could not stop himself from tightening his grip and enjoying the comfort she offered him. She smelled, in part, like her daughter. That same crisp peppermint, but without the parchment undertone.
"I've a lot of apologies to make…but you and Richard will be near the top. I…" Harry started, but was stopped when Helen pulled his head from resting on her shoulder.
"I have no anger towards you Harry." She said as she put her hands on either side of his face. "I'm sad that no one noticed whatever it was you were going through…but I'm not angry at you." She smiled. "I expect you to make a promise that you will seek help if it ever gets bad again…you can come to me and I'll help you find someone if you're uncomfortable talking to anyone in that room."
Harry just nodded his assent; he could not trust his voice fully.
"Good…now it might take a bit longer for Richard to come to terms with you." She gave him a sad sort of smile. "He may have gotten his hopes up when you were spending all that time with us…he always wanted a boy that he could go to Football matches with…and you made that promise to take him to quidditch match." Harry let his eyes fall in shame. "He's been to quite a few at this point, but everyone else has a hard time explaining what's happening to him. That and he said the game is a bit dizzying. I think going with you in particular was something he secretly wanted."
"I'll take him…to as many as he wants. Him and Teddy." Harry said with as much conviction as he muster through a cracking voice.
"I know you will." She gave him a wide smile. "Now…I won't threaten you about the possibility of you leaving…I believe you know the consequences of that." She looped her arm through his and pulled him the long way around to the den of the Burrow. "George was apparently conspiring to prank you…but Angelina has him cowed I believe; so no worries."
Harry smiled, and though he did not voice it, he felt like George pranking him would have been a proper event to happen that night. Helen stopped them right before they reached the corner leading into the den.
"This is where I leave you and let you make your grand entrance." She said with wry grin as she stepped ahead of him and disappeared into the carnival of sound coming from the room on the other side of the wall.
Harry shook his head slightly before pulling whatever was left of his supposed Gryffindor courage and took the step around.
"Harry!" Teddy's voice rung out as the little boy flew to Harry's waist and hugged as hard as he could.
"Hey mate." Harry said softly.
The room had ceased in its thrum of usual energy and gave way to one Harry was used to…tense anticipation.
He allowed himself the opportunity to meet the many eyes surrounding him as the silence continued. Fleur and Angelina were looking at him with welcoming smiles and warm eyes. Bill was impassive, but Harry did see a small gesture from the man…he would need to talk to him later. Charlie, Percy, Daphne, and little Fred were giving him curious looks. The entire older crowd was smiling; except for Richard Granger…the man looked conflicted about how he should feel. Lavender was giving him a wry grin, as was Ron. Hermione and Ginny were giving him looks of surprise before looking at one another…he guessed because of the new hair. The most interesting look was the one he was receiving from a miniature Fleur…someone he postulated must be the now five and a half year old Victoire Weasley.
The tiny silver-blonde haired girl was shyly standing next to Andromeda and peering at him with trepidation.
"Auntie Lavender cut all of your hair Harry!" Teddy's voice was loud and brought the tension down as everyone laughed at the boy's enthusiasm.
"Yes, she most certainly did…and a fine job of it too dear." Molly said with a smile to her daughter-in-law.
"Thanks Mum." Lavender said with a sing-song voice.
From that point until directly after the meal Harry was enveloped in the closest thing to being-part-of-a-family he had ever felt. Sure there had been a few lulls in the conversation, and a few long looks from people. But Molly, Andromeda, and Helen looked to have them all under control…or at least restrained enough to not make the night the disaster it could have been.
He had already started to make the rounds with Teddy not leaving his side. The fact that Teddy was so firmly rooted to him did not endear Harry to one Victoire Weasley.
The fact was the girl looked at him with nothing less than contempt…and from what Harry could tell it made her parents nearly giddy with amusement.
Teddy, though, was oblivious to Victoire's mood, and again that seemed to be another factor in the girl's ire. Harry figured the situation would need to be resolved sooner rather than later, and set for to make amends to the one-eighth Veela girl.
"Teddy?" He called to his godson. "How is it that you've been going on about your favorite person this past week, and you've yet to properly introduce me to her yet…" Harry watched as Victoire's face thawed a bit and she shifted from where she stood next to her mother, "I mean it was left to her parents to say her name mate!" Harry smiled as Teddy blushed and quickly moved to the now-smirking girl.
"Harry." Teddy started, "This is my best friend in the whole world…Tori."
"Well then, Tori, if I may call you that," Harry was happy he received a nod of acceptance from her; "It is most certainly a pleasure to meet you. And you are most certainly growing up to be a beautiful young woman…the last time I saw you, you were still in your nappies." He smiled when she blushed, and hoped it was from him complimenting her than embarrassment from the mention of nappies. He smiled even more at what she did next.
"Thank you very much sir!" Completing the cherub-like image of rosy cheeks and light blonde hair; her voice was simply angelic. Her smile turned a bit mischievous before she continued, "It's okay, Teddy has a bad way of forgetting his manners…I'll be sure to fix that sir." The laughter that followed that statement did nothing to cool the blush of his Godson. It was easy to see why his Godson was so smitten with her; like her mother she had a fiery side at only five and a half years old.
"I'm quite sure you will Tori…and you are more than welcome to call me Harry." He smiled as the girl gave a tiny curtsey and dragged her now-cowed best friend off as her spoils.
Harry looked to the girl's parents, "You two seem to have your work cut out with her." He smiled and pointed to Fleur's heavy stomach, "That one doing well?"
Bill and Fleur both smiled and nodded. As they spoke about the pregnancy, Harry's eyes migrated to the other side of the room where little Fred was being held by Hermione and Ginny was making faces at the little one. The boy's eyes would light up as Ginny shook her head and Hermione cooed in his ear. Feeling an odd sensation at the sight Harry quickly returned himself to the conversation in front of him.
"…and zhankfully Beel here, has been amazing about my hungers for zhe butterscotch." Fleur's smile was wide as she looked at her husband.
Bill kissed Fleur lightly on the head as he whispered something to her. She then smiled and moved to hug Harry. With her pregnant and Veela, her allure was a bit stronger and it caused Harry to feel a bit flush as she kissed each of his cheeks. He felt a bit confused as she walked away from him and Bill, and even more-so when Bill pulled him over to the entranceway of the house.
"Bill?" Harry began only to be silenced by a raised hand from Bill.
"We need to talk Harry." Bill said in an odd voice.
Harry nodded his head and waited.
"Not here though. Some of the things we need to talk about are sensitive and require an audience of a different kind…" Bill tilted his head and gave Harry a significant look.
Harry understood and to be honest he expected a summons to Gringotts. He was happy that they had used Bill as their medium of contact instead of some of their more interesting methods.
"Of course…I had…" Harry tried to come up with something to say.
"It's okay Harry, I know this has to be a bit overwhelming…which is why I didn't say anything when you were zoning out during Fleur's telling you how much she enjoys the lengths I will go to, to keep her happy during her pregnancy." Bill smiled again with a hint of smirk in the background.
"Oh…noticed that did you…sorry Bill." Harry grimaced.
"Not worries mate. A lot of things have changed…I can see how you would get distracted." Bill gave Harry a sad smile as he looked in the direction of the family. "Just take things at your own pace here Harry. We're happy you're back, but don't worry yourself over everything. I'll see you this week, just send me an owl the day of…alright?"
Harry nodded and then watched as Bill joined his wife and Andi. And then he let his eyes rove over everyone again.
George, Angelina, and Little Fred had left the room, as had Ron and Charlie. Lavender was with Molly and Helen talking on the couch next to the Floo. Percy was talking with Daphne Greengrass. Teddy and Victoire were sat on either lap of Arthur Weasley and Richard Granger telling an animated tale with similarly animated hand gestures. Once again he felt a pang of regret for his actions, 'How could I have left them?' he thought.
Then Harry looked to Hermione and Ginny, sitting close on the large armchair close to the kitchen. 'How could I have left them?' the question reverberated enough times that his head began to throb and that small tug on his core became a large yank. 'I need air.' His thought was frantic as he shifted his footing and began to walk to the side entrance of the kitchen.
Inside the kitchen he saw Ron hunched over the leftover butterscotch and pecan custard Fleur had brought. "Need to grab a bit of air mate." He said as Ron caught his eye. "Don't worry." He continued as Ron made to stand up, "I'll not go further than the orchard." He chuckled as Ron took a moment to judge Harry's words before sitting back down for his extra filling.
His chuckle died slightly as he took another glance at his once-best-mate before the door closed. 'How could I have given this up?' he thought.
Outside the door he considered going to see Fred's grave next the large tree by the pond. Then he caught sight of the forms lit by wand standing next to the grave and he understood where George, Angelina, and Little Fred had gone.
As he pondered on which route to take to 'get some air' he let the sharp chill overtake him. He had grown accustomed to the cold at the cottage. It made sense to use a warming charm, but he grew to like the small shivers that his body would develop after prolonged exposure. In his mind he debated on if it was a way to remind himself that he had not made a horrible mistake in that little glen that first day or if it was actually a form of penance for his running away.
Before he began to get too far into that thought another light caught his eye. It was not from a wand, that was easy to tell, as the glow was more orange and the halo from the glow too small. As he walked towards the light, which he now sourced as coming from Arthur's shed, he could tell whoever it was began to walk towards the door of the small building.
"Come on in Harry." Came the thick voice of Charlie Weasley. The man had a small cigarette dangling from his lips as he gave a hurried motion with his hand. "A wizard could freeze his bollocks off out there this time of year." The man gave him a smirk.
"Yeah…I'd noticed." Harry said as he shuffled over to the worktable overladen with knobs.
"Haha." Charlie chuckled slightly as he took a long drag of the cigarette before putting it out in a small bowl on the opposite table. "I'm not supposed to be having any more of these…and mum is to never know. But after a big meal like that…I can't help but have one. Besides it's only dried nettle and mint." Charlie gave him a big smile as he moved over to an oddly shaped object covered by a tarp.
As Harry watched the man he ran through every conversation he had taken part of with Charlie Weasley. And he found himself wanting in the familiarity department. He just did not know the second oldest Weasley son as much as he did the others. He even knew Percy more that he did Charlie.
"I know it can be hard getting back into the swing of things…after being gone for so long. I mean I was in Romania for the better part of the 90's." Charlie laughed slightly as he pulled the tarp from what was revealed to be Sirius' old motorbike fully refurbished. "I'll leave you two alone for a minute…though you should probably head in soon. Mum'll go spare if she doesn't know where everyone is for longer than thirty minutes at a time."
Harry nodded slightly and managed to get out a 'thanks Charlie' before the man closed the door behind him.
Standing with the bike that had been instrumental in many of the bigger moments of his life was odd. He knew he should have treated it with reverence, but at the same time the bike looked different. The last time he had seen it, it was a mangled piece of scrap. Now every inch of the old thing was polished and maintained.
He sat there for a good few minutes contemplating the memories of the bike before he could hear a small voice calling his name.
After he had covered the bike back up with the tarp and closed the door to the shed, he could see the tiny, bundled form of Teddy running towards him. As the boy got closer he made a running leap into Harry's arms…and some small part of Harry's thoughts had a flash of that box in his mindscape and its contents as he caught Teddy.
"Harry! Its story time! You have to come in…Auntie Hermione is the best! And Grandpa Richard does the sounds…It's the best!" Harry caught sight of Hermione and Ginny standing in the doorway with Victoire standing between them.
As he looked back to his Godson he nodded his head. "Alright mate…" Harry smiled as he noticed George, Angelina, and little Fred had made their way in as well, "I'll be sure to get a good seat then."
"No Harry! You sit next to me and Tori! It's better than the best!" Teddy's toothy grin was a quick fix to the cold outside.
"Sounds good Teddy." Harry said as he walked them inside.
His night continued to make Harry teeter on the edge of remorse and warmth. All throughout 'story-time', the good-byes, the promises to speak soon, the looks, putting an already sleeping Teddy into bed, receiving a small Fire-whiskey from Kreacher, and finally the 'good night' from Andi, Harry was washed of any distinct emotion. He found himself in the small chair of his room in Grimmauld staring out the window towards where he could just see the divide between the buildings where the Thames flowed.
Author's note: If you spot mistakes please notify me.
~A Vagrant Boy~