I suck. Yes, I know it well. In my defense, though, I've had this story written three different times, and every time it was taken from me. Blame the universe, or whoever. I had the USB drive taken from me, my hard drive and new USB suffered from RansomWare (evil person that sent that to me should be punished harshly), and the final time it vanished. No idea what the f*ck happened to it. It just vanished.
Add in medical issues and the stress of RL, and I said 'screw it, this story is going on hiatus for a while'. I thought about posting an Authors Note on a new chapter to let you all know, but my boyfriend thought it would be too much of a tease, and to just update when I could.
So, here is the long awaited next installment of We Stand United. I will attempt to get back onto some type of regular posting schedule, but will make no such promises. All I can promise is that, as I've said before, I will never fully abandon this story. I only hope that the monster that its become will one day be finished.
Waking was not a sudden awareness, a jump into reality that was normal. For Harry, waking was slow. Painful. He could never quite figure out if he was awake or asleep as all of his dreams seemed real. His actual periods of consciousness never lasted more than a minute or so.
The dreams, though, had him reliving the miserable 24 hours and 2 battles. Or he dreamt that he woke up and spoke with different people. The last time, he had spoken with Hagrid.
After what felt like an eternity, he pried his eyelids open and grimaced. There was crust that was nearly fusing his eyes shut. His mouth tasted absolutely foul. His head ached, along with a few major muscles. He looked around, and was surprised to find himself in his own bedroom.
There was no one in the room, which was clear by the pervasive silence. Gently easing off the covers, Harry realized that someone had taken off his blood soaked robe and trainers, which he was grateful for, but hadn't undressed him further. He took a couple deep breaths at the brown stains caked on his trousers.
Alright, a shower was first on the list.
Then his stomach growled, protesting its enforced fast. A meal would be second, he decided quickly.
As he pulled off his stained clothes, vowing to burn them rather than even contemplate wearing them again, he wondered how long he'd been asleep. It was late afternoon, he could tell by the limited light that had been in his bedroom. However, he had the strange feeling that it had been more than a few hours since he'd passed out on the hospital couch next to Hermione.
The shower was the exact temperature that he needed, hot enough to ease the aches and pains, but still within human limits, if only slightly. He grabbed the bar of soap and started lathering it up, happy to get rid of the dried sweat and grim off of him. After a moment, he looked down, and saw that the suds were red. The water swirling down the drain was red. Slowly, he looked at his hands. They were red. Blood red.
In one, long, dreadful moment everything came back to him. His fight with Sirius and Remus. The attack on Diagon Alley. Remus's blood pouring out of him from snake bites. Harry killing Nagini. The vision about Privet Drive. Voldemort and his Death Eaters. Dementors. Dudley's unseeing eyes.
Harry slid down to his knees, ignoring the pelting water of the shower, gripping his hair with both hands. He took deep, wracking breathes as he yanked on his own hair, trying to keep the memories and tears at bay. He shook violently as he fought against his own mind. He tried, and failed, to keep himself in the present, to know that he was safe now.
It was only when the water began to run cold that he jerked slightly, finally aware of his surroundings. With trembling fingers, he turned off the water and wrapped a towel around himself. It took longer than usual for him to dress himself, but he did manage it. Mostly.
He was grateful, though confused, that no one was around to witness his breakdown. He would have figured that Sirius would have been there. Then he wanted to smack himself. His father was likely at the hospital with Remus.
Feeling lightheaded with hunger, he ran the towel through his hair as he padded to the kitchen. It was only when he was near the door to that room that he realized something was off. Sounds and smells that someone was cooking wafted through the house. Normally, that would be one thing, but his keen nose smelled ginger. Sirius hated ginger, and Harry didn't even think they had any in the house.
Just as Harry was beginning to have a mild panic attack, kicking himself for not bringing his wand down, a familiar voice called out.
"Come on in, Mr. Potter, I'm sure you're hungry."
Now slightly bemused, Harry took a deep breath and pushed open the kitchen door. The sight that greeted him made him wonder if he was still dreaming.
Albus Dumbledore was standing at the stove, cooking stir fry and wearing a flowery apron. Harry idly wondered where the apron came from, because he was positive that Sirius would never allow that monstrosity in their home!
He sat down at the table, trying to not stare at the incredulous sight. "Good afternoon, sir," Harry said, still confused.
Without turning from the skillet, his Headmaster spoke. "Sirius is at the hospital with Remus. When he is not here, he asked that another member of the Order be with you, regardless of the wards."
Harry felt a warm sensation in his stomach at that, but also felt slightly embarrassed that people had been put out because of him. "Sir, how long have I…"
"You fell asleep at the hospital nearly three days ago," Dumbledore answered Harry's unfinished question. He turned slightly, and chuckled at Harry's dumfounded expression. "I am going to assume that you took at least one Invigoration Draught that day?" When Harry nodded silently, he continued. "The amount of adrenaline that you expended, plus that potion, means that your body needs to pay back that debt at some point. As this was your first time taking that potion, your body did not know how to process everything. Though I would not wish for you to have to take it again, I would say that the next time you do so, it will be easier."
Nodding again, Harry realized how many questions he had about everything that had been going one while he was… asleep? Unconscious? First, though, he needed to get something to drink. He filled a glass with water, then shrugged and grabbed another for Dumbledore.
When he took the first sip, he realized just how thirsty he really was, and finished it in a few gulps. Without waiting, he filled it up again, just as Dumbledore took the skillet off the fire. The man deftly divided the food between two plates.
"Sir, how is Remus doing? Is everyone alright… after the battles? What about…"
"Tell you what, Mr. Potter. You must be famished, so you eat while I talk. Alright?" Harry nodded once more, so Dumbledore continued. "Remus is doing better, though he still has not regained consciousness. Like you, there is always someone from the Order with him. There were a few fatalities from the two battles combined, which is not surprising. I know you never took Muggle Studies, but Professor Burbage passed away during the battle at Diagon Alley."
Harry just nodded at that, having already seen her body.
"There were many other casualties, which will be discussed during the next Order meeting, which will be tomorrow evening. I would have preferred to have it sooner, but it's been rather… chaotic."
"I understand, sir," Harry said quietly, swallowing his food. He stood to get yet another glass of water while Dumbledore took a few bites of his meal.
"I was wondering if there was something that you could clear up for me, however."
"What is that?" Harry asked.
Dumbledore seemed to choose his next words carefully. "I spoke with the Unspeakables, regarding the remains of the dementors. What do you remember about that? How did you do that?"
Harry also considered his words, thinking through what he remembered from that night. He took a bite of the stir fry, chewing slowly to give himself time to think. "I just remember being angry. No, it wasn't really anger, now that I think about it. Blinding rage, is more like it. I couldn't think. About anything, really, just how furious I was at everything that happened." He took a drink of his water as calmly as he could. "Back in third year, when Lupin was teaching me the Patronus, I did a lot of research into dementors. I figured I should learn all I could about them. I found that, before the Patornus Charm was invented, wizards used fire to drive them back. So, I guess I didn't really think about the spell that I used. I think I tried to dual cast fire and a patronus; kind of a 'two birds, one stone' thing. My magic must have fused the two together."
Dumbledore had laid down his fork during the explanation, and had steepled his fingers contemplatively. "That makes quite a bit of sense, my boy. Magic is, as you know, based largely on intent. Thank you for that."
Harry opened his mouth to reply, when there was a loud CRACK. Harry's heart raced for a moment, but then he saw his father. "Sirius," he breathed, relieved.
Sirius looked at him, shocked. "You're awake," he stated, and pulled Harry into a rough hug. It seemed to convey all of his emotions.
Harry hugged him back for a moment. They had a lot to talk about, but neither were willing to do so in front of the Headmaster.
"How long have you been awake?" the older wizard inquired as he saw the half eaten plate, wrinkling his nose slightly at the smell.
Chuckling at that, Harry told him that it hadn't been very long. "How is Remus?" he asked quickly.
Sirius sighed. "Still unconscious. They're not really sure, and with what happened the night of the full moon, it has us rather concerned."
Harry's brow furrowed at that tidbit. "What do you mean? What happened that night?"
Sirius shrugged before sitting down. "I'll explain in a moment. There's actually something else that I needed to talk to you about."
"Alright?" Harry said, and it came out more as a question than a statement.
"The goblins sent us a letter," Sirius said. "They want to meet with us as soon as possible. I tried to go there today, which is where I've been since my shift at the hospital ended. They won't speak with me alone, though. They said that you need to be there as well."
Harry's mind spun with that information. "What do you think they want to see me about?" he asked, slightly apprehensive.
"I'm not entirely sure," Sirius hedged. When Harry gave him an expectant look, he sighed once more. "I have a feeling it has to do with the fact that you healed a couple of goblins during the battle."
Biting his lip, Harry was unsure what to think. He had read enough about the goblin race to know that they did not like wizards, and they certainly did not like wizards using magic towards them. "Well, I think we could go tomorrow?"
Sirius just nodded, and Dumbledore stood. "I think I'll take my leave now," he said gently. "Who is on shift now?"
"Tonks," he answered. "Arthur is going to take over for her in the morning."
Dumbledore just nodded and made his way towards the Floo. "I'll see you both at Headquarters tomorrow, then. Have a good night, Mr. Potter."
Harry thanked him, and the sound of the Floo activating told him that he and his father were alone. He found that he was now unable to look at Sirius.
The older wizard could see the conflict on his son's face, so he stood as well. "Let's talk in the sitting room," he offered, and frowned when Harry still would not look at him, but obeyed nonetheless. As soon as they were both seated, he decided to start off the conversation with something else. "You asked a moment ago about Remus?"
Harry raised his head slightly, but still found himself unable to look him in the eyes. "Is he alright? You sounded a bit… upset when I asked."
Sirius nodded. "It's a mystery, to everyone, actually. As you know, the full moon was the other night. I had Molly take you back here to get some rest in the morning, because we couldn't wake you up. The Healers told us that it was just extreme exhaustion from both the adrenaline and the potion."
"Yeah, Dumbledore told me as much."
"Well, I stayed that day, and transformed as soon as the moon rose. I figured that Moony would feel better if Padfoot was there. That's the strange part, though." Sirius paused, still worried for his oldest friend. "He never fully transformed."
Harry knew that his jaw was slightly unhinged at that news. "What does that mean?" he asked cautiously.
"We're not sure," Sirius said, rubbing his face tiredly. "Nagini's poison is fairly unique, the healers don't have a lot of records on it. As far as they know, there hasn't been a record of a werewolf being bitten with that venom and living. Then they had also given him the antidote, and a few doses of the Wolfsbane potion. He, well, the healers called it 'flickered'. He transformed back and forth a few times, never making the full transformation. They said the closest that they had seen of something similar was when an Animagus struggles with staying in their animal form."
The teen took a few deep breaths, trying to sort through all of the information. He didn't really know a whole lot about werewolves, he was ashamed to admit. Granted, he had done some research on it, but not a whole lot. So he didn't know all of the differences between werewolves and Animagi, besides the fact that the former was involuntary and the latter had to be learned. "Do they think that he's cured?" he managed.
Sirius had been expecting that question, as he'd asked the healers that himself. "They don't know. As I said, this is kind of a first. They're going to be doing a lot of tests on him the next couple of weeks, and he'll probably be taken back to the hospital for his next transformation or two."
The two of them sat in silence for a moment, each thinking their own thoughts. Finally, Harry couldn't take it any longer. "I'm sorry," he blurted out. When he saw Sirius open his mouth to say something, he barreled on. "I know that I was angry, and the connection with Voldemort made it worse, but I shouldn't have said any of that to you. You or Remus. I…" he trailed off, not knowing what to say.
Sirius gave him a sad smile. "I get it, Harry." When the teen was still looking at his hands, he continued. "I do, I promise. You saw us talking about you as a sort of betrayal. We were concerned, but we could have talked to you about it together. I was worried about you, so I went to Remus. We both screwed up, so don't beat yourself up about it."
Harry tried to think of something to say, but couldn't form words, so he just looked his father in the eyes, and nodded. "Thanks, dad," he whispered.
A small laugh came from Sirius, who bumped his shoulder with his own. He knew that Harry would continue calling him Sirius, but it was nice to hear Harry call him dad, other than in a sarcastic tone. As he remembered more about that confrontation, he became serious again. "I wanted to apologize, though. I shouldn't have laid my hands on you like that. I swore that I would never become your uncle like that…"
"You aren't!" Harry protested immediately. "You aren't Vernon. That was an odd day all around, and I don't think that you'll start being like him."
Harry's immediate and earnest defense helped, but Sirius did still feel guilty. Harry had the excuse that his connection with Voldemort made him angrier than he actually was, but Sirius had no such excuse for his own behavior. He would let it go for now though. If he ever did it again… "I know that things were crazy that day, but I do think we need to talk about what was going on with you the past week or two," he hedged.
Harry sighed, and continued playing with the hem of his shirt. "Brianna's been telling me for a while that I needed to talk to you about this, but I just couldn't." He didn't see Sirius bite his lip to keep from interrupting him. "Starting at the end of term, I was having these dreams. I didn't think anything of them at first. They were just about the Dursleys, and how it would feel if I went back there."
Sirius really had to fight to keep from asking questions, but he waited for Harry to continue.
"Then the past few weeks they started to get worse. I was feeling all sorts of things when I was sleeping, and when I first woke up. How much I hated everything that they did to me, and how I wanted revenge against them. I wanted to make them suffer. I wanted to kill them," he said, his voice lowering until he was barely whispering. He looked up, green eyes pleading. "The first fight you and I had was when I wanted to kill Malfoy. How was I supposed to tell you that I wanted to kill my relatives?"
Sirius raked a hand across his face, and then through his black hair as he considered what to say. Just as he opened his mouth, Harry barreled on.
"After the first attack, after I had that vision? Then I realized that I hadn't been dreaming, or thinking those things. That it was Voldemort. It must have been just like the dreams I had about the Department of Mysteries, right?" he demanded.
That was a good point, but still. Sirius took a moment to consider his words. "Considering the attack must have been planned for quite some time, I agree. But Harry, you went through hell with your relatives," they had always avoided calling them his family, "and there's no shame in working through all of that. You've handled it better than I would have expected. I'm glad to hear you've thought about it, because trying to ignore it can't be healthy."
Harry nodded glumly. He hated talking about the Dursleys, but it was true that he did think about them on occasion. "So you don't think I'm awful?" he said, it coming out more as a question than he had intended.
A chuckle came out of Sirius before he could help it. "No, kiddo, I don't. You do need to start talking to me about this kind of thing before it gets to this point, though. I had no idea what was going on, and had no way of figuring it out. I know you're still a teen, and Merlin knows I'm fumbling my way through this whole parenting thing. Let's just try to be a bit more open with each other, to avoid this kind of thing in the future, alright?"
Harry nodded quickly. He knew that Sirius wasn't going to let this go forever, and he figured that there would be a conversation about all of this at a later time, but they were both pretty wiped.
"So, what were you thinking about for today?" Sirius asked, wanting to change the subject.
Harry thought about that. He was still pretty tired, but did not want to go back to his bedroom any time soon. "Are the Weasley's busy today, do you know?"
Sirius sighed. "They are, actually. No one finished their shopping, due to the attack. The twins are trying to salvage everything from the shop, and the others are helping out, and getting the last of their school things. I gave them some money, and they'll get yours, too."
He hadn't thought about that, and was a bit disappointed, though he did understand. He just wanted to relax with his friends today. Then another thought hit him. "Can Brianna come over here? I'm pretty tired, but I'd love the company."
"That sounds like a good idea," Sirius told him, grinning. "I'll Floo over there and ask. I've spoken with them twice since you've been out, and she's been chomping at the bit to come over here."
Ten minutes later, Harry was tackled in a massive hug as his girlfriend wrapped herself around him. He held her tightly as Sirius discreetly left them alone.
"Are you alright?" a small voice came from his chest, worried.
Harry smoothed a hand down her hair, drinking in the scent of her. "I'll be alright. It was just exhaustion, don't worry so much."
She pulled back and gave him an incredulous look. "You were in two battles in about 12 hours and were unconscious for almost three days! And you tell me not to worry?"
Harry shushed her, smiling at the concern. "Well, I'm right here, so I don't think you need to be as worried," he said, and chuckled as she rolled her eyes at him. "Should we head outside? I don't know about you, but I would love some sunshine."
She agreed, and they walked awkwardly outside, as Brianna refused to let him go. They laid down in the grass and continued cuddling. The grass was a bit damp, so Harry figured it must have rained while he was unconscious.
Brianna could tell that Harry really wasn't up to any type of serious discussion, so she launched into stories about her family and friends. Harry had a lot of questions, but wasn't entirely with the conversation.
Sirius called them in for dinner, which was another meal cooked by Mrs. Weasley and simply reheated. Sirius laughed, and told them that their entire fridge was filled with meals from the matriarch, so they wouldn't have to worry about cooking for a while.
By the end of the meal, Harry couldn't stop yawning, so the young pair retired to the couch as Sirius went to his own room.
"I really am glad you're alright," Brianna said, snuggled on Harry's chest with his arm around her. She felt so safe like that, and never wanted them to move again.
Harry smiled sleepily, and hugged her tightly to him. "Me, too."
They laid in silence for a while, and it was clear that Harry nodded off fairly quickly. That was alright with Brianna, who was just glad for her boyfriend to be with her. She'd been working on her studies, and they'd had the funeral for Brian, so things were starting to get back to normal. She would never forget the utter terror she had felt when she saw the Daily Prophet and the headline about the attack on the Alley.
Then for Sirius to Floo over to her house and tell them about the attack on Harry's family and the death of his cousin? She was going to have heart problems at this rate! She glanced at the clock, and sighed, knowing that she was going to have to get home soon.
As gently as she could, she extracted herself from Harry's embrace, and spotted a knitted afghan not far away. She lovingly laid it over him, smiling as he scrunched up his face in displeasure at her absence. Kneeling next to the couch, she moved some of the hair out of his face, and opened her heart. "I love you, Harry," she whispered.
A noise behind her made her jump to her feet. It was just Sirius, and it was clear that he had heard her.
"I've got to get back home, but I didn't want to wake him up," she whispered, and he just nodded once. She sighed. "I'm not ready to tell him yet, you know?"
Sirius did remember being that age, and offered her a kind smile. "I know, trust me. Just don't put it off for too long, Brianna. Don't live with regrets."
She agreed, and quickly Flooed home. There was quite a bit to think about until she saw Harry again.
"Lord Potter, Lord Black, please have a seat," Ragnok offered, gesturing to the comfortable looking chairs in front of his desk.
Harry and Sirius sat gracefully, dressed in their formal robes. They still weren't sure what was going on, but it would be best to find out quickly.
Ragnok turned Harry. "Lord Potter, the day of the attack, I understand that you healed two of my goblins, is that correct?"
Harry, who had figured that this was going to be the conversation, nodded slowly. "That is true, sir. There were two goblins that were seriously injured, so I healed them to the best of my abilities."
"Why?" the goblin asked simply, but staring at Harry with an intensity that Harry usually associated with Dumbledore.
Harry thought through his response before he said a word, but his tone was no less convinced. "Because they deserved to be healed," he said firmly. "I won't pretend to understand the prejudices that come from being raised in the Wizarding world, but I will not allow someone to suffer and die just because they might be different than I am."
Ragnok's eyebrows rose at Harry's passionate speech. "Interesting," he muttered, folding his hands on the desk. "Tell me, Lord Potter, what do you know about goblins?"
Harry froze, and wished that he could turn to Sirius for a cue, but that wasn't really an option. He cleared his suddenly dry throat before speaking. "I know that you care about mining and creating with precious metals; you have your own magic, but that the Ministry will not allow you to purchase wands. I know that goblins are renowned as great warriors, but there have not been wars between goblins and wizards for centuries."
Nodding slowly as Harry spoke, Ragnok regarded him seriously. "Not the worst description I have heard," he murmured. "Goblins have clans, much like many other peoples. The Gringotts clan has been around since well before I was conceived. I am their leader, for now. Not just the head of this bank, but of my clan. The goblins that work here are my people; my family."
Sirius and Harry were both getting nervous, but were able to keep their expressions of calm interest firmly in place. Neither were going to speak just yet, and would wait. Ragnok had asked them to come, and so he would be leading the discussion.
He didn't bother wasting time, though. It was clear that he had a point, and was not going to make them wait. "You did something that no unsworn wizard has done before when you healed two members of the Gringotts clan. Therefore I, as head of the clan, am indebted to you."
Keeping from letting out a sigh of relief that this was the way things had turned out, rather than swearing vengeance for him using magic towards a goblin, Harry considered. This was important, even more important than when the ICW had told him that he could have a say in Malfoy's sentencing.
He breathed deeply, making sure to stay calm and not let his emotions show. "That is… unexpected, Director Ragnok."
The goblin grinned, showing off his white teeth as he did so. "I agree, Lord Potter, and this situation, as I stated, is unprecedented. My people mean much to me, and you saved two of them. Therefore, you have two boons that you may ask of me."
"I see," Harry said, feeling his heart pound in his chest. He thought as quickly as he could, knowing how serious this was. "For one, I understand that my father here has been attempting to secure a visit to his cousin's vault from when she was of his House. I would like you to grant him permission as soon as possible."
Ragnok's brows rose at that. He slowly folded his hands as he considered the young man's words. "Very well, Lord Potter. Lord Black, please make an appointment before you leave in order to visit Madam LeStrange's vault."
Sirius wondered if Harry had just wasted one of the favors. The lack of fight from the goblin made him wonder if the request would have gone through regardless. However, during this war, time was of the essence, and so he wasn't going to be upset if this simply sped things up for them. "Thank you, Director," he said simply, inclining his head slightly.
Ragnok returned the nod and then turned back to Harry. "And for the second? Or would you prefer time to consider?" Thought it was typical of goblins to use any advantage that they had over wizards, this was not the typical meeting. He was aware that both of his goblins, and therefore his relations, would have perished without this wizard. That was enough to change how he handled things for the moment.
Pleased with the offer, Harry agreed that more time would be welcome.
Ragnok stood, indicating the end of the meeting. "When you wish to discuss this further, simply return. I will be waiting."
Harry and Sirius stood, and bade the goblin farewell in his own language, which caused a small start from the surprised director. They both turned quickly, and walked smoothly towards the Floo to go on their second errand of the day.
Harry slowly inched inside the hospital room before cautiously sitting in the chair next to the bed. His eyes stung slightly as he took in the ashen face of his godfather on the bed. Sirius had agreed that the younger wizard could take the rest of the shift until that evening. He had told Harry what to do in case on an emergency, and to be home in time for supper. Other than that, he was going to give his son some time alone with Remus.
The two of them had gone home long enough to change out of the formal robes that they wore to Gringotts and into something much more comfortable, if he was going to be sitting here for several hours. He also pulled out a book that he'd received for his birthday. It was not a textbook for the following year, but a Muggle novel that Thom had sent him. He normally wasn't into that sort of thing, but there was no way he would be able to think too strenuously at the moment.
He laid the book, unopened, in his lap, and stared at his godfather. Although Remus had lived so much of his life stressed, Harry had never seen him in this bad of a state. It was clear that he was in pain, even in sleep, but potions did nothing to ease it.
The antidote was working, and the wounds almost healed, but he still had yet to show signs of waking. They all wished they knew why this was, but they would have someone here until he did. Harry knew that he would happily take shifts until he was required to return to school shortly.
After nearly an hour of staring at the man, Harry shook himself free of his gloomy thoughts and turned his attention to the book in his lap. The plot sounded decent enough, and he hoped that it would keep him occupied for a while.
Finally, though, it was time to leave. He had promised to be home in time for dinner, and there was the meeting afterwards, which he was going to attend. Fred and George arrived to relieve him. They spoke briefly before Harry squeezed Remus' hand and quickly walked out.
When he arrived home, he saw Sirius setting the table with another dish prepared by Molly. Sirius looked up, muted hope in his eyes.
"No change," Harry said softly, taking off his robe and hanging it up by the door.
Sirius just nodded, expression downcast. "Have a seat. We'll head to the school in an hour."
Their meal was quiet, with neither having much to say. Harry was playing back his meeting with Ragnok, and also thinking about the upcoming Order meeting.
Within an hour, they were seated at the staff room at Hogwarts. Most everyone was already present, bar those who were injured or dead. As the hour struck, Dumbledore and Snape walked in together. The potions master looked furious, but was keeping it under control.
Once everyone was seated, the headmaster started. He listed the four members of the Order that had perished in the two battles, and the eleven who were in St. Mungo's for now. He had barely finished when a voice spoke up.
"Did you know?" A wizard that Harry didn't know was glaring daggers at Snape.
Taking a breath to keep calm, Severus spoke. "Gordon, I knew that there were plans for both attacks, but I am not given a timeline. I've been warning you about an attack on the Alley for months, but we never knew when it was going to take place."
"You knew that Privet Drive was a target?" Harry asked harshly, not looking at his professor.
Dumbledore fielded that question. "We knew that he was considering it," he told his student. "Ever since you left and became adopted, it was a possibility that we had to consider. That, in particular, was one plan to which Severus was never privy, lest I learn of it."
Harry was furious that the information had been kept from him, but would not let it show. "Where else are possibilities?"
Severus rolled his eyes. "The Alley and Hogsmeade, though they have already been attacked are always prime targets. Hogwarts must, at some point, be attacked, though it will likely not be for some time. The Ministry, of course, as well as St. Mungo's. The private residence of any member of the Order and their families. And there are always Muggle targets that are not just for strategy, but also for fun. Would you like me to enumerate those as well?"
"Enough," Dumbledore stated firmly, able to see that Harry was about to launch into his own tirade. "Janet, how goes the recruitment in St. Mungo's?"
The meeting lasted for several hours. They discussed the various places that were attempting to recruit, what was likely to happen during the election and what outcome would be best, as well as schedules for shifts on the Order members at St. Mungo's. At the end, Dumbledore brought up one topic that Harry hadn't even considered.
"As you all know, Dudley Dursley was one of the casualties at Privet Drive. His funeral is next week. Although he was a Muggle, there must be a number of us in attendance, in case the Death Eaters chose to attack. I would like at least eight volunteers, and should no one volunteer, I will assign individuals. Please let me know by tomorrow." Dumbledore stood, clearly ending the meeting.
Harry sat in his seat, numb. He had barely given a thought to his cousin, and hadn't even considered a funeral for him. Should he attend? He knew that his aunt and uncle would as soon spit on him, but still. He turned to Sirius, who seemed to read his mind.
"Whether you go or not, there will still be Order members present, in case they go after Petunia or Vernon," Sirius murmured. "There are five days until the funeral, as there was a minor investigation and an autopsy had to be performed. Take your time to decide."
A few days later found Harry, Hermione, and Ron at Black Abode practicing their Occlumency/Legilimency Hermione was focusing more on learning Legilimency, while Ron and Harry were going over the redirection method. Harry had read up on it, but figured it would be good to get the perspective of someone who was becoming proficient in it.
It was a bit more difficult for Harry, it seemed. After a year of his own blocking method, he found creating and altering memories to be more challenging, just as challenging as Ron found the blocking method.
Still, the three worked hard on it until Brianna, Ica, and Thom came over. The six of them had planned to spend the day playing Quidditch and relaxing. Though it was the first time that Ica had been introduced to Harry's friends, she fit in well. Harry also hoped that being around two sets of couples would be the kick in the pants that Ron and Hermione seemed to need.
At first, they played a few rounds of Hogwarts trio vs. homeschool trio. Then it was boys vs. girls. Both ways it was fairly evenly matched, as Hermione wasn't comfortable in the air, nor was Thom. So as long as those two were never on the same team, it worked well.
No one really kept score, either. It was more about letting go of all of the drama and pain of the past while. They played through past lunch, and it was nearly dinner time before they flew down. Sirius set up a table and chairs outside for them, and ate inside with Albus, who had come over to speak with him.
Harry couldn't remember the last time he'd smiled this much. Spending time with his best friends and his girlfriend, playing Quidditch, and relaxing in the fresh air seemed to be everything he hadn't known he'd needed.
When the sun finally began to disappear on the horizon, he walked them all to the Floo. They each got a hug from him, and Brianna, of course, received a kiss and a much longer hug.
They all made it safely through the Floo, and Harry turned to head back into the kitchen. Sirius, as expected, was waiting for him with two cups of tea.
"So, have a good day?" Sirius asked, setting down his quill to dry, and moving the parchment away from the tea.
Harry smiled at him as he stirred his mug. "Yeah. Haven't had a day that good in a while." He gently blew on the drink before taking a short sip. "So what did Dumbledore need?" he asked, curious.
"There were a few things," Sirius told him. "Remus is starting to improve. His breathing has improved, and so has his circulation. He doesn't look like he's in pain any longer. The healers are hopeful that he'll wake up soon."
"Thank Merlin," Harry breathed, shakily lowering his mug. Though he hadn't dared to word it, he'd started to wonder. He took a few deep breaths to steady himself. "Anything else?"
"Well, how would you feel about having me at Hogwarts this year?"
As always, I know where I am going with this. Feel free to guess, but I'm already working on how it's going to play out.
I said it above, but I am sorry for the wait. I won't promise to have the next update done in x amount of time, but will have it up when I am able. Thank you, to those that are sticking with me and with this story.