Disclaimer: I own nothing of the Harry Potter characters.
Vengeance from the Grave
Chapter Sixteen: Reality sets in
He stood there drying the dishes, staring out absently into the darkening night outside the kitchen window. Moonlight glistened off a blanket of fresh fallen snow. It would have been a lovely evening for curling up in front of the fire, snuggling with someone you cared about. He'd managed that at least, although the ones he'd snuggled with had been eight and six respectively and they had been more in need of comfort than actually comfortable.
He ran a list of responsibilities through his head, hoping he'd covered as many bases as possible so that Jenny wouldn't have anything more to worry over than she already had.
He'd helped the children with their homework; Jenny deciding that they should get it out of the way before the Christmas break.
As soon as she'd mentioned Christmas, fresh tears poured from already too swollen, red eyes.
This would be the family's first Christmas without; the children without their father and Jenny without her husband.
Griffon,.. Christopher…. was dead. Griffon team had lost its leader. The day had started routine enough: training in the morning followed by an hour's briefing on the state of affairs in the British Isles.
Then the call came in. MI-6 had placed a call for magical support in dealing with a terrorist threat wherein the use of magic was suspected.
It hadn't been, at least not in that the terrorist had used magical means to affect their ends. They had used a plain old fashion- explosive device.
A simple vanishing spell had made short work of the device. It was the armed standoff that ensued that had claimed the lives of two MI-6 agents and one of their own. They'd either captured or eliminated some eighteen terrorists, but the price for their success had been high, too damned high! That's how Dragon and the rest of the Unspeakables saw it.
Imagine coming through the war against Voldemort and his Death Eaters unscathed, only to fall victim to an everyday muggle firearm in the hands of some zealot fool.
They'd had the drop on the vermin from the get go. Within moments the terror cell, in its entirety, was dead, disabled, or captured. Magic trumps muggle almost every time in a straight up fight.
Griffon was issuing final orders as his team and MI-6 were mopping up any evidence of magical assistance when a suspect wrestled away a pistol from one of the British agents, intent only upon dying a fanatic and taking as many government agents with him as inhumanely possible. The number was three before he fell beneath a hail of both wand and gunfire.
The bastard's soul was probably in hell before his body hit the floor. They'd worked feverishly on the two agents, but both had chest and or head wounds and there was little magic could do to prevent the finality of such horrific circumstances. They had died without pain, however, surrounded by friends and comrades who honored their courage and sacrifice.
Griffon had been another matter. He had been shot in the head and was likely killed instantly. Despite that, and the fact that the rest of his team knew without doubt the finality of this.. Harry was not so easily convinced.
No magic can bring back the dead. Everyone knows this from the time they first walk through Hogwarts until the day they, themselves, die.
He heard that. Lord knows Dumbledore had ingrained it within him enough times, but like all powerful mages; sometimes what is and what isn't possible seems to blur.
That, for want of a better word is exactly what seemed to happen… things became blurred.
In Harry's shocked and horrific grief; he brought his power to bear.
"GRIFFON!" Harry screamed in horror as his friend and commanding officer pitched to the side and fell, blood oozing from a wound near his left temple, his eyes rolling up in his head and his mouth locked in a silent gasp of surprise.
Harry's hands were a blur as they set about cauterizing the wound with a wave of his wand whilst the other searched for a pulse that wasn't there.
His team, though mostly in shock, were beginning to nod dolefully to each other, knowing instinctively that their leader was past caring and had already moved on.
Undaunted despite the cold reality of the situation that was as evident as the corpse cooling beneath his fingers; Harry began administering muggle CPR.
Feverishly he pumped Griffon's chest and paused to administer rescue breaths. Seconds seemed to stretch into hours as the rest of Griffon Team watched in varying degrees of remorse, sympathy and despondency as Harry willed life to return to his friend.
Magic crackled in the air as Harry poured more and more of himself into the dread task until eldritch fire erupted from his eyes and traveled down his arms and into the his dead friend. Each compression sent a pulse of magical energy into Griffon's chest as Harry called out into the either, demanding he return to the plane of the living.
"Come on, Griff…Come on.." Harry gasped out each word in unison with each compression. "Come on…Griff…Don't.. let.. the.. bastard.. take.. you!"
Doleful eyes of his teammates turned to reverent; near terror stricken as reaching hands intent upon stopping him suddenly pulled back in both shock and awe.
The ground trembled beneath their feet as if the very building was collapsing from an earthquake. The air became thick with magic that swirled and eddied until a shape began to form at the center, hovering just above Harry's administrations.
Dozer and Cam starred in abject wonder, their eyes shifting back and forth between Harry and the image that was forming just above him.
"Merlin above…!" Raven gasped as he dropped to a knee in supplication, Stalker's hand supportively at his shoulder. He needed the reassuring contact for himself as much as his friend.
The image solidified into a distinct form, though not a tangible one, but not a ghost either.
Ethereal hands reached out to stay Harry's working arms. A sweat soaked brow lifted tremulously to look into the kind eyes of his once, no,.. his current friend.
"It's alright, Harry. Let it go…Let me go…" Griffon's spirit beseeched his younger friend.
Tear filled eyes closed as his head shook back and forth defiantly. "No I ..I've got to save you.." he gasped.
"You already have and more times than I can count, Harry." His dead friend returned kindly with complete conviction. His eyes only held kindness and profound gratitude for his young friend.
"Let it go..my body is done and it's time for me to pass." Griffon reassured.
Harry hands began to falter in their administrations…"We could get you another body like me, maybe..?" he ventured, his voice already cracking, sensing the impending finality.
Griffon shook his head in wan appreciation. "Yours was a special circumstance, Harry. You needed a second chance, deserved one even. I've had my time and am content with what I have to show for it. "
"But..Jenny,.. Neil and Mary…?" Cam reminded his friend's spirit of his wife and children's needs.
"…Will be fine… won't they?'' he asked knowingly, his otherworldly eyes scanning his fellows who nodded their reassurances that his family would always be taken care of.
With a last kind smile and instructions to: "Take care of each other." Griffon faded into the ether and was gone.
Unlike with Luna Lovegood, Harry did not cry after that as the rest of his fellows did. He had remained strangely strong and composed throughout, even when he and the rest of the team had gone to break the dire news to Griffon's wife.
He realized that what he'd done had not been, for Chris but for himself. Chris was okay, he and all his companions were the ones that needed to heal.
It had been terrible. There was no other way to describe it. The look on Jenny Clemmons face as one after another of Griffon team tried and failed to say the words that bring her way of life to a screeching halt.
Harry had been the only one to find the words; in fact, he had been rather eloquent; praising his commander's actions, reassuring the grieving widow, making real overtures that she and her children would want for nothing-ever.
The Unspeakables took care of their own. They always had and always would. It was a matter of intense pride and diligence between them. An unwritten law, that wasn't in their eyes a law, but a privilege.
Jenny was currently getting some much needed rest with the aid of a dreamless sleep potion.
The children were tucked in for the night, though Harry had no illusions that their night would be restful, thus he would nap on the couch in the lounge near their rooms to be available when they needed him.
He stopped his drying of the plate in his hands, noticing his reflection, in the window, for the first time. He was surprised by how calm he appeared. He was even more surprised to realize that he did in fact feel-calm.
Despite his and so many others' intense grief, he felt the strangest sense of closure and abruptly he noticed his reflection's look of consternation when he realized why he felt that way.
He was a fool and had been playing the fool. Pitting one witch against the other in some childish battle to win his affections was a meaningless diversion that he'd used to hide from his feelings. He'd stalled for time rather than sucking it up and calling on his much vaunted, but strategically absent courage to do what he knew his heart demanded he do.
It had been fun-sure, but it was time to grow up and face the music.
With that in mind he made a floo call.
A pinch of floo powder and a quick calming breath later, he called into the green flames that showed a hazy view of Cho Chang's living room.
"Cho?" he called out, hoping that it wasn't too late and that he was waking her from much needed sleep.
"Harry?" a rotund Cho asked, waddling into view with a surprised look on her face.
"Hey.." he returned with a half-smile of appreciation. "I know it's late but I wanted to give you a call and apologize."
"Harry it's alright, we know you were hurting and trying to do what you thought was right, but Chris is at peace now and we all have to stick together and help each other as best we can."
"No, not that." He corrected. "But I do agree that we need each other more than ever, but what I'm talking about is you and me and…"
Cho's face took on a wan smile of disappointment as she finished his thought for him. "and we're not working, at least not as a couple, I know. We're friends Harry, we haven't always been, but we are now. We're very close, but despite that I have to admit that there just isn't the spark there that I was hoping for."
Harry sighed in his own disappointment at that. "I know." He murmured apologetically. "I like you, you're a terrific and extremely attractive witch, but my heart just isn't cooperating like I'd hoped it would."
"So you were stalling, hmm?" She surmised, flashing him a knowing smile.
"Yeah, I guess. I'd hoped that somewhere along the way I'd feel that pull that everyone keeps talking about, but it's not there, at least not with you if I'm honest. It's more like we're bro…"
"Brother and sister." Cho finished his thought, obviously agreeing with him. "I feel that way too though I really, really wish I didn't." she threw in pointedly. Harry was a terrific man and she really wished she would've, could've felt that special way about him, but she just never felt that pull .
"Susan huh?" she surmised, fixing him with a knowing grin.
"I guess." He confided, nervously running a hand through his raven locks. She was and wasn't making this easy for him.
"You better do more than guess, Harry."she reprimanded.
"I know. I've got a lot to make up for and from you too." He promised.
"What about, Hermione?"
"Hell no!" he barked a laugh. "She needs to loosen up and I'm just the man to do it." He snapped his fingers in revelation, adding. "Say that gives me an idea..loosen up. Do you know where I can lay my hands on a drum of axel grease?"
Cho pulled a face of disgusted outrage. "Just what're you thinking in that fevered little mind of yours, axel grease?" Cho scoffed, crossing her arms and shaking a finger at her friend.
"Er,… um.." Harry toed the carpet nervously. "Nothing really. Say, look at the time. I better check on Chris' kids."
Cho's face immediately softened. "You're a good man, Harry Potter. Even though things didn't work out that way between us, I'm still expecting you to be my baby's godfather, yeah?" she asked sheepishly.
Harry googled at that but managed to stammer out: "I-I'd be honored, t-thank you."
"No,.. thank you, Harry". We still on for lunch Thursday?"
"Give Neil and Mary a kiss from me" she ventured.
Harry nodded he would.
"And don't be too hard on Hermione. She loves you ya know… very much."she reminded him pointedly.
Harry nodded again. "I'm damned lucky and I know it. I've got two of the smartest and prettiest witches around for sisters." he readily included her in that compliment.
"And don't you forget it. Night, Harry and thank you."
"For what?" he asked puzzled.
"Just for calling and being you. You're noble soul, Harry Potter, and though it behooves me to say it; Susan's a lucky girl, not that you won't make her crazy just because you can."
"Thanks, I think. Hey, if well,.. when we get around to the whole intimacy thing, do you think we could have another one of your talks, you know.. just to go over the logistics?" he asked, seeming sincere.
Cho shot him a withering glare. "Good night-Harry." She finished tersely, abruptly ending the floo call before he could take the mickey further.
Harry snickered and decided to go for broke as he was on a roll. That and he was afraid he'd be all week getting up the courage otherwise.
He threw another pinch of floo powder in the fireplace and called out. "Susan?"
He was just about to call out again when a puffy eyed Susan Bones stepped into view.
Seeing that she'd been crying, he balked. "Sorry, I guess this is a bad time… I'll call back some other ti…"
"No,.. it's alright, really." Susan half begged, reaching out toward the floo to warn him off from terminating the call. "I'm sorry to hear about your team leader. He seemed like a very nice man." She offered sympathetically.
"He was." Harry confirmed. "I'm staying here tonight to help his wife with the kids and the arrangements and such, but I.. that is…"
"Yes,…?" Susan asked hopefully, her hands plastered to their sides to try and keep them from fidgeting.
Stalling though no less concerned he asked carefully. "Have you been crying?"
"I,.. yeah. Aunt Amy told me what happened and I just felt really bad, for you."she clarified. "You just never seem to get a break, I mean. It's just one bad thing after another." She crossed her arms under her breasts, trying to keep them from shaking as she tried not to break down again, or worse, reach through the floo and hug the daylights out of him.
More proof to the pudding, Harry. He chastised himself.
"This didn't have anything to do with me or my fate or anything. Tragic though it is, it's about Chris's family and their fate. I guess I'm finally starting to get it and maybe grow up a little at the same time, maybe?" He chuckled nervously, trying to ease her conscious as he prepared himself to say what he'd called to say. Though, he had no idea what exactly to say or how to say it.
Susan had her head cocked to the side and seemed half amused and half waiting expectantly. If he didn't know any better he'd almost have thought she was enjoying his discomfort.
"Susan, I… that is… well, I'm sorry. I'm sorry for endlessly pranking you."
"Not that I don't appreciate the apology, but why have you been pranking me,.. honestly?" she demanded, her icy blue eyes seemed to be brightening as her nose crinkled in amusement.
Harry tugged at his collar thinking the floo was exceedingly warm, despite the emerald flames giving off no heat to speak of.
"Honestly?" he balked, pulling an uncertain face.
"Honestly" she insisted.
"I've been stalling, maybe trying to feel something for Cho that wasn't there, so that I wouldn't have to face my feelings for you."
YES! Susan had to fight the urge not to jump through the floo and not only hug, but kiss the daylights out of him.
Hermione would be proud of her as she pressed her advantage. "Just what are your feelings for me, Harry?" she asked doe eyed and pretentiously.
"Uh,.. that is…." Harry's hands worried through his hair in frustration almost as fast as he twirled his wands when he was bored.
"I.. care a great deal for you and I… look do we have to do this over the floo?" he pleaded nervously at the same time cursing himself for losing his nerve and only copping to 'caring' for her..
Knowing what there was between them and knowing what she wanted there to be in the future, Susan found more courage than she'd thought she'd had.
"I'm sorry, Harry."
"Oh,. Er.. I see." He said dejectedly, misunderstanding her reference, thinking she did not return his affections.
His hand went to deactivate the floo.
"No wait!" Susan barked in alarm, just barely stopping him before he disconnected the call. "You don't understand…" she pressed emphatically. "I'm sorry for hurting you. All I could think about was my own pain and my own loss, back on the tower. I had no idea what you'd lost and I should have. I should have known especially given how very much I'd cared about you then and how much more so I do now. It was like the answer to a prayer, when I'd finally learned you were alive, but at the same time it was so confusing. We just always seemed to be at odds with one another and now, in retrospect,.. I get it. You weren't just stalling me and you weren't just having a bit of fun, though that's part of it. Part of it was vindictive though, wasn't it, Harry?"
He nodded dolefully, ashamedly.
Susan's face fell slightly, but she pressed on, wanting to make sure she really understood what she thought she did.
"I'd hurt you, hurt you terribly, I know that and that's not to say that I didn't deserve it, but… Harry,.. none of the things you did really hurt me. Aggravated, annoyed, even infuriated, but didn't hurt per say. And while I admit that they were undoubtedly funny, at least from your point of view, why did you do it all if you weren't really hurting me, and I think you know that you weren't?"
"I didn't want to hurt you, but that isn't to say I wasn't still mad at you and wanted subconsciously to pay you back a bit."he admitted, with a wounded expression.
"But why, Harry. Why didn't you just slap me, or at least yell at me. I deserved that much and a lot more for what I did."
"Why, Harry, please be honest?" Susan begged, leaning toward the floo.
"I guess because despite everything, I .. have f-feelings for you." Harry confessed, almost vibrating in his nervousness.
"What kind of feelings, exactly?" she pressed for clarification though her eyes were already shining in fevered expectation.
"I don't know." His much vaunted courage failed him at last.
"You don't know?" Susan railed in disbelief.
"How should I know? I don't have any experience with this sort of thing. I've only ever gone out on a single date and everyone and their grandma knows what a train wreck that was. I always thought I'd meet someone once everything was all over, if I lived that is? I thought I'd fall in love, but how do I even really know what love is? I mean I love my friends and all but that's not in a romantic sense." Harry's arms flailed about as he tried to make himself understood. He was completely oblivious to the way Susan hung on his every word expectantly, waiting for an opportunity to present itself.
"How do I know what I feel is love when I look at someone and I can't get their smile out of my head or the way their nose crinkles up in amusement.. kinda like the way yours is right now." He flattered, chancing a look in her direction.
"Or the way your hair bounces when you move and when the sunset catches it just right and it lights up like it's on fire. How about the way you look when you danced in that shimmering blue dress that brought out your eyes- mesmerizing that. How can I possible describe how I long to hear your soft voice say my name or see the shy looks that we used to cast each other's way back in school before this whole mess started. How do I know that when you cry and all I want to do is hold you and try to make it better, how do I know what that is? I'm lost here, Sue. I don't even know how to talk to a girl, not really. How do you tell someone that they're all you think about from the time you wake until the time you fall back asleep and even then you still dream about them. I don't know anything.I wish I did though." He finished dolefully before apologizing and abruptly ending the call to avoid further embarrassment.
Susan gasped at the loss of contact, falling back into the sofa behind her and staring wide eyed at the floo, her face filled with hope and wonder. If anything she realized one thing.. that Harry Potter knew better than most to say how he loved someone. He may not know the words, but he certainly knows the meaning.
Susan began crying again, only now it wasn't it sadness, but for the first time in a long time she shed tears of abject joy and renewed faith.
Once collected she made a hurried call of her own before it got any later.
"Hermione I've got to talk to you before I explode." Susan gasped excitedly, not noticing the way her friend was hurriedly tying her dressing gown closed and shushing someone to her side as she slapped reaching hands back.
Finally catching on and flushing, Susan asked knowingly, "Am I interrupting something..?'
"No it's alright, it's.. stop that, Ron!" she snapped slapping a pair of amorous hands back out of sight.
"S-Sorry." Susan stammered apologetically, her blush deepening.
"Well I'm for a shower, then. " Ron's voice called out indignantly, fading in the background. Hermione's own face looking abruptly disappointed at that.
"W-What's going on?" Hermione asked, trying to fight down a blush of her own as the cat was definitely out of the proverbial bag.
"Sorry" Susan apologized again, but Hermione waved her off impatiently, urging her to continue with the reason for her call.
"I just talked to Harry. Really talked." She stressed the really, nearly bouncing in her excitement.
"And?" Hermione found herself leaning toward the floo in anticipation.
"I..I think he was trying to tell me that he loved me."
"Trying?" Hermione asked puzzled, given how excited her friend was.
"He said he didn't know what love is or how to say it, but Hermione, he.. he just.. well,.. he said it in every way you possibly can without actually saying the words.
"Tell me what he said, what he said exactly… tell me everything." Hermione demanded herself growing more excited by the minute.
A few minutes later, Hermione leaned back away from the floo with a shocked expression. "Whoa" she blinked in surprise, stunned by Harry's actions.
"Whoa good or whoa bad?" Susan asked skeptically.
"Whoa good as in whoa- this is Harry Potter we're talking about here?!" Hermione all but cheered.
"Are you still on the floo, what's going on?" Ron huffed from Hermione's side.
He asked so Hermione told him.
"Whoa!" Ron gasped… "Who could sleep after a bombshell like that?" he returned incredulously.
"Who could?" Hermione echoed, giggly meaningfully.
"Good night, Sue." Hermione sing-songed, reaching for her wand to end the call.
"But, what about me and Harry?" Susan whined desperately.
"You're doing just fine, Susan. Just fine." With that the call ended as Hermione growled and reached for her fiancé.
Susan shook her head in exasperation realizing herself that she wouldn't be able to sleep either.
She wasn't the only one as Harry Potter was pacing the floor grumbling to himself just now.
The snow fell gently down around a sea of mourners, Harry's arm, clutched supportively around Jenny Clemmons waist as she cried into his already damp shoulder, his other arm rubbing circles on her daughter's back whilst every once in a while his fingers ghosted over and patted Neil's shoulder supportively.
Night dark uniforms littered the landscape as grim faced Unspeakables watched the proceedings in varying degrees of grief and regret. The rest Griffon team stood at attention to the other side of Chris Clemmon's coffin, directly across from Harry and their deceased team leader's distraught family.
Dozer was the first to break, wiping at his eyes surreptitiously until finally full out sobs took him as he vented his immense grief. Harry was reminded of how his friend Hagrid mourned his lost pet spider and absently thought that this was probably the norm for such gentle giants of men.
Raven and Stalker were rubbing Dozer's back supportively, themselves wiping at their own eyes, whilst Chameleon stood rigidly at attention, tear tracks marring his quivering cheeks as he struggled to suppress sobs of his own.
Harry though, Harry appeared calm, serene even. He didn't know why, but he felt as if a great weight had been removed from his shoulders as it had never done before. Even when Voldemort had died and the weight of the world's freedom was removed from his too young shoulders, he never felt this at peace with himself. Part of him realized at one point that he had even let Luna finally go as he hadn't before. He thought maybe he should feel guilty at that, but he just couldn't.
Perhaps this is what's called: acceptance. Some part of him seemed to be finally able to come to terms with the fact that he couldn't save everyone. He realized that no matter how powerful a wizard that all one could do was the best they could do.
He'd done that.
He'd done that for Luna, and he'd done that for Chris. Sometimes you got lucky and were able to save people, other times you couldn't no matter how hard you tried. And yes, those times would hurt and you would feel grief, but guilt…? No,…if you did the best you could then there was no reason to beat yourself up over how things turned out.
He'd spent the better part of his life second guessing his mistakes, but had never given much thought to his successes, and there were successes, many successes.
For the first time in like- FOREVER… Harry Potter was proud of his accomplishments. He was proud to serve with his friend's on Griffon team. He was proud just to be standing here and doing what he could for his dead friend's family. It wasn't enough, by any stretch of the imagination, as nothing could replace a husband and father, but,.. it was what he could do and he was proud to do it.
His children's education was already guaranteed by the Unspeakables, his life insurance and full retirement benefits were already paid to his widow, anything else she or her children would ever need would be provided for without question.
And they would all be proud to do it.
Susan watched Harry Potter with a puzzled expression on her face. She would have never expected to see this sort of reaction from him, not in a million years. Whilst he looked sad, he did not appear despondent as the rest of his friends did.
If anything, he seemed at peace. He was being extraordinarily compassionate toward his dead friend's family, carefully administering to and supporting them during their time of abject grief, but there was something else. There was something in the way he carried himself. The way his chin held up and his chest stuck out, the way his eyes gleamed in calm resolve … he almost seemed proud?
The Unspeakable's stood in their dress uniforms with many a chest gleaming with their nation's highest citations for gallantry and valor. Harry too wore his dress uniform and Susan couldn't believe how sparse his was by comparison to the rest. Sure, he was one of their youngest members, but hadn't he too distinguished himself many times in battle?
There was one noted acceptation, however. Harry wore Britain's highest honor around his neck- the Order of Merlin-First Class. He was the youngest to have ever received such an honor in their ancient history.
Somehow Susan was of the suspicion that this would not be the last such Order of Merlin he would ever receive.
He was a hero.
Some men are born artists, scholars, and the like. But, Harry Potter was the rarest of the rare; a born hero.
He saves people, that's just what he does. It's why he was born. Many women would be scared to death to even consider a relationship with a man like Harry Potter. They would be scared for themselves in that such men often attracted violence, or they might fret and worry that one day he would not come home. These were real concerns to be sure, but for all of that; Susan Bones was not frightened.
If anything she was excited to the roots of her soul at the possibilities. There was no downside in loving someone like Harry as she saw it. Harry was the sort of man that would give all his heart and soul to someone he cared for. How could anyone ever see a downside in that.
They could be together no more than five minutes, a handful of days, a few precious years… but no matter the length of time; she would know what it is to love and be loved as no other woman could more proudly boast. Any children, whether they grew up knowing their father or no, would be a blessing both to her and to the countless lives his children would undoubtedly touch.
As far as the element of danger: The safest place in the world was by Harry Potter's side.
Susan shook her head to clear away the cobwebs of romantically philosophical musings to try and concentrate on the proceedings that were being held to lay a brave man to rest. She almost snorted at that passing thought that Hermione was rubbing off on her more and more every day.
As terribly tragic as this whole scene was there was still an overwhelming sense of both pride and respect throughout the proceedings. She couldn't help, but marvel at how strong Harry was being for the deceased family. He'd truly grown into the man so many always thought he would be.
Now the only question she needed to prove both to him and herself; was whether or not she'd grown up to be the sort of woman that was worthy of someone like Harry deserved to have.
She wanted to be, of that she had no doubt.
The funeral ending with Harry all but carrying a distraught Jenny Clemons forward so that she could lay a single rose on her husband's casket before it was lowered into the ground.
His team mates raised their wands to the sky and set off twenty-one total bursts of sparks, in salute, that filled the overcast sky with green starbursts. Susan's aunt stepped forward and placed a medal of meritorious service around the neck of Christopher's son and shook each member of his family's hand pledging that her office would do all in its power to see that any needs they may have were met with all experiences, to which Jenny nodded her appreciation despite her sobs of despair.
The Dragon followed in the minister's wake pledging the same. He was followed by scores of Unspeakables who all lined up and paid their individual respects to their fallen comrade's grieving family.
Susan watched in utter awe, not that they showed such deference, but because they truly meant their individual pledges.
Once the procession concluded, Harry guided the Clemmons' to a waiting car that would see them home. Just before he stepped into the back of the limousine his eyes scanned the graveyard until finding Susan's own eyes that were watching him in return. Held her gaze for mere moments but even then she could feel her breath hitch in her chest. There was such a profound look of both longing for her and gratitude that she had made the effort to come and honor one of their own.
Harry nodded his head ever so slightly before entering the car and driving off.
She took that nod many ways, but mostly she took it as a good sign in that he was acknowledging he'd see her again soon.
Susan went to the manse's door, wonder who could possibly be knocking as most everyone they knew either floo called first or just apparated into the mansion's apparition point.
It had been two days since the funeral of Christopher Clemmons and while Susan still kept out hope that she would hear from Harry in some fashion, she knew it would most likely not occur for several days yet.
She opened the door and gasped in surprise when the object of her constant day dreaming was standing on the stoop with a bouquet of white roses and greens in his hands.
"F-For me?" Susan stammered reaching forward to accept the beautiful bouquet, but her hands faltered in disappointment when Harry immediately inquired if her aunt was in, pulling the flowers back from her reaching hands as he did so.
Susan's cheeks pinked in embarrassment as she struggled to recover herself and led their guest to her aunt's private study were her aunt gushed and glowed over the sentiment, directing Susan to ..
"Be a dear and put these in water." That said her aunt closed her study's door in Susan's face, leaving the poor girl near tears that would soon turn to irritation.
Despite her sound rebuff and growing irritation, Susan waited near the study both in curiosity and concern over what the two could possibly be discussing.
She was further surprised, and not a little worried, when the door opened and Harry took her aunt's hand, kissing the back of it whilst her aunt fawned appreciatively.
Of all the dirty,.. he's not really going to …? Susan seethed thinking Harry was making a play for her aunt now and rubbing her face in it.
"Susan" Harry acknowledged in passing as he left without further word as her aunt beamed in his wake whilst Susan glowered at his retreating back.
"Susan, join me won't you?" Her aunt directed in a tone that stated she wasn't really asking, just being polite.
Susan fidgeted in her chair while her aunt sipped at a tumbler of brandy seeming to enjoy her niece's discomfort as she kept her waiting on pins and needles.
"Just say it and get it over with." Susan grumbled dejectedly assuming the worst.
"Alright I will." Her aunt accepted, putting her drink aside and smiling indulgently at her daughter in all, but blood.
She picked up a small scroll from the top of her desk which she unfurled and read to her waiting Niece.
"To the Matron of House Bones from the last scion of House Potter. I hereby request formally and respectfully the right to court Susan Bones in accordance with the party of first part's blessing to proceed and the party of the second part's positive wishes in the matter.
Respectfully and hopefully yours, Harold James Potter, scion House Potter.
"Huh?" Susan gapped stupidly asking her aunt to read the proposal again which did with no little amusement of her part.
"What does that.. um..?" Susan gapped and stammered wide eyed as her aunt chuckled indulgently.
"It means that Harry Potter has asked my formal permission and blessing to date you." Her aunt explained, doing her best not to laugh at the gob smacked appearance on her niece's face.
"He did?" Susan asked again hopefully.
Her aunt nodded, smiling brilliantly.
"But then why didn't he ask me out or anything,..waitaminute…you didn't say no,..d-did you Aunt Amy?" Susan began to despair.
Taking pity despite how much she'd like to toy with her niece just for posterity's sake as it would make a fond remembrance or an amusing toast to pass around at their future nuptials, her aunt reassured the girl.
"Well of course I said yes." Her aunt chided, taking pleasure in the way her niece immediately brightened up.
"Then why didn't he ask me out?" she blurted almost immediately, becoming self-conscious again despite the terrific news.
"Because I asked him to wait a day to give us a chance to talk things through and send official word of your acceptance or no." he aunt confided.
"Yes, I want to go out with him, er that is.. he can court me and um… er…?"
"Quite" Her aunt chuckled at Susan's blushing remarks as her mind drifted over the possibilities
"Before we send your, er …tentative acceptance," she chuckled again at the irony. "We need to make a few things clear?"
Susan gulped expectantly at that.
"Harry Potter is an Unspeakable and he has decided to remain so for the foreseeable future. If that particular decision's ramification's is in anyway unclear to you than let me spell things out so that there are no misunderstandings. The funeral you attended could very well be Harry's the next time around. Griffon was an exceptional Unspeakable by all accounts and I would certainly place Harry in that same category, but for all that, even the best of men can fall by accident or devise." Her Aunt pointed out what she herself had considered many times, most recently at the same funeral in question.
"I-I know." She acknowledged haltingly. "I was thinking the same thing and I realized that I would rather be sitting at his funeral than to never have taken the chance to follow my heart."
"I'm proud of you." Her aunt smiled in admiration for her niece. "The best things in life often come at a risk, though all life is a risk to a certain extent. You have learned what some of us never do in that without risk there is no reward, very wise, Susan."
There was a brief silence between them as both considered the other, finally, Amelia was the first to bridge the gap. "There are other considerations you need to take into account if you are going to date Harry Potter. Though date isn't quite the right definition of courtship as with courtship is more in keeping with marriage being the final stage in the process. One such consideration is that: Harry Potter is an exasperating stubborn young man who will ultimately do what he wants to do."
"Don't I know it?" Susan agreed rolling her eyes.
"That being said he is selflessly gallant, generous and forgiving to a fault, except…" here she paused to hold her niece's gaze meaningfully… "..where you are concerned."
Susan's face fell despondently at that, her joy from moments ago all but forgotten.
Her aunt pointedly continued. "I believe, though he hasn't said anything regarding the incident that I can recall, that he still harbors some animosity regarding your words atop the Astronomy tower prior to his tragic reaction to so many hardships, rejections and losses."
Amelia Bones came around her desk and grabbed up her niece's trembling hands supportively.
"You've yet to broach the subject and I believe it is or has become a matter of some contention between you. I believe he has already forgiven you, but for all of that, there is a part of him that still bears some resentment and it is this part that has been taking the mickey and playing so many pranks at your expense. That and, Merlin help us, he enjoys it."
Susan chuckled despite her tear wrought eyes as they shared a cleaning laugh at that.
"You think that's why he's been taking the mickey, then?" she tried to reconfirm what she herself had considered.
Amelia nodded, as she brushed her niece's hair to one side lovingly. "I believe so, though whether he is consciously aware of it I really can't say? I believe he's still hurting and despite however much he may want to move on and as much as I believe he truly cares for you.. I don't think he can until this matter is resolved between you. Now, while granted he has given you little opportunity to do so, you need to broach the subject and make amends and you need to do it sooner rather than later. You've avoided this, and while I can understand your trepidation, the issue has festered and is in danger of becoming malignant. Should that happen I believe you will lose the opportunity you now have and if that happens…woe onto you, Susan."
Though she chuckled at her own dramatics, Amelia Bones was quite serious in that Susan would suffer the continued wrath of a true marauder.
Susan nodded her head worriedly in understanding.
"Find you courage Susan and talk to him, help him to finally, fully heal from his past ills that still haunt his present peace of mind. For all his good humor and bravado, he's still unsettled." Amelia lectured with no little concern etched in her facial features.
At this, Susan did finally release the flood gates and begin to cry. Her aunt, while gentle, pulled away and left her to sort through her own faults and feelings on the matter as she felt it was past time that Susan own up to her responsibilities and make amends if possible. If not,.. then any relationship between the two was doomed before it even started.
It was nearing four o'clock in the afternoon and Susan Bones was a nervous wreck. She kept checking and re-checking her appearance in the hall mirror, each time debating if she should have worn makeup or have gone with a different color jumper, maybe curled her hair, ect..?
The makeup was the easiest choice as she was afraid she'd cry at some point, who was she kidding? She would cry. Anyway, once that happened, her tears would have made her make up run and made a bad situation worse.
The blue jumper was probably the way to go as it matched the color of her eyes and she had it on good authority,( Hermione Granger), that her eye color was something that Harry found quite attractive, though how her friend knew that she wouldn't say as apparently Harry's confidence was more important to her than Susan's as she'd even played the 'witch's solidarity' card and had been soundly rebuffed for her trouble.
Harry had said for her to keep it simple in his note. So that's what she had done-simple. Jeans, blue jumper, no makeup, hair short and parted with just a little bounce to let the sunlight catch the highlights,( a girl needs some advantage), and a pair of tan boots that gave her just a bit more height so that he wouldn't have to reach so far down to try and kiss her. Any obstacle removed that allowed for easier accessibility to lips- she was all for.
And yes,.. she wanted to be kissed- very much!
The clock struck four simultaneously with the front door knocker clacking four times in unison.
He would be perfectly on time. Susan nervously lamented, wondering if there wasn't anything he didn't do good and proper. She knew for a fact that his pranking skills were top notch, now she only hoped his romantic skills were on the same par. Somehow she suspected that wouldn't suffer by comparison as she was more worried about her own end. Hermione had reassured her that Harry had been and remained wholly inexperienced. While she, herself had dated, she was by no means experienced, but at least she had some advantage.
Boy, was Hermione wrong.
There he stood with flowers in hand and grin on his face looking, for all the world, absolutely gorgeous.
Like her he was dressed in jeans and jumper, but his hair was styled in a modern cut that highlighted his strong jaw and piercing emerald eyes.
"You look nice." The first thing he did was compliment her own appearance without the slightest hint of nervousness-damn his soul!
The second thing he did was hand her the bouquet of flowers casually, seemingly, by brushing his warm hands over her trembling ones and proceed to walk around her casting an appraising eye over her from all angles. When he paused behind her to murmur "Very nice" she thought she might run squealing from the room, but managed to remain in one spot blushing like a first year that just discovered boys were fancy-able.
In a show of concern for her state of anxiety, he offered.. "Here, let me get those for you?" taking her flowers and whisking them off to the kitchen to place in a vase with water.
He returned and without the slightest pause he wandlessly summoned her coat and held it for her like the gentleman he was. Then without further preamble he wrapped her hand over his arm and escorted her out the door.
The chill December weather had her shivering, though if she were honest with herself it was all Harry. Either way he cast a wandless warming charm over her, bathing Susan in a gentle warmth that to his disappointment "Took away the charming pink of her cheeks."
She, of course, started blushing again to which he chuckled appreciatively, even having the audacity of thanking her for affording him such a marvelous view.
This is how the entire date went.
Harry had her head turned to the breaking point. He took her to elegant French restaurant-in France! They walked along the streets window shopping with his commenting every now and again that she would look incredible in some gorgeous dress or another. He even managed to apparate them to the observation deck of the Eiffel Tower just as the lights were lit, where he boldly cupped her cheeks and softly kissed her pouring out a depth of longing and passion into the kiss that had her swooning like a prom date with her first crush.
The next thing Susan knew he was walking her to her door and kissing her reverently in parting, promising to owl her first thing to beg an encore.
Susan stumbled into the Bones' mansion wide eyed and gapping where she passed her anxiously waiting aunt who enquired.. "Did you have a nice time, dear?" To which she dumbly nodded as she dropped her coat on the floor and drifted off to her bedroom staring vacantly.
"Oh well done, Mr. Potter. Well done indeed." Amelia complimented, clapping her hands together and rubbing them in expectation as she hurried off to owl a few curiously concerned parties."
It was during one such call to her counterpart and own love interest that she heard the first shriek of frustration…
"What was that?' Lewis Croaker asked in concern.
Amelia pursed her lips fighting down a laugh as she tapped a finger to her chin in contemplation. "I'd wager that she just came to her senses and realized that our Mr. Potter has her completely off her game."
At that they both erupted in snickers as Susan raged upstairs.
The next day, Susan Bones was hurriedly floo calling for emergency advice.
"Hermione?!... Hermione?! Susan yelled into the floo.
"Susan what..?" Hermione came into view, hurriedly pulling a housecoat on over a rather revealing nightgown, her face pink and hair mussed. "How was your date?" Hermione instantly catching up as always.
"My date?..My Date!" Susna nearly screamed in exasperation. "Do you know what he did?" she scathed.
"N-No…?"Hermione answered uncertainly fearing g the answer.
Susan reiterated the entire evening verbatim to which Hermione clapped her hands and squealed. "That sounds wonderful."
"It was wonderful. It was beyond wonderful. It was ..it was…amazing!" Susan gasped, falling back into an armchair as she cupped her face and tried valiantly not to cry.
"What on earth are you so glum about?" Hermione asked, clearly puzzled by her friend's reaction to the sort of fantasy date that most women dreamed of but seldom experienced.
"Oh,..Hermione, I must've looked like an absolute idiot. I was so overwhelmed that I never even realized until after that I hadn't utter a single intelligible word the whole evening, not one sensible word!" Susan grumbled disappointedly. "I had this whole apology all planned out after which I was going to throw myself at his mercy and beg for a chance to show him how much I cared."
"So are you lamenting not getting the chance or the fact that he beat you to it?"
"Both, neither,.. I don't kn…"
"What's going on" Ron asked from the background to which Hermione smiled evilly and answered. "Harry kissed, Susan."
"Oh, is that all… wait..What?" Ron barked in surprised disbelief.
Hermione turned the knife. "Harry kissed Susan atop the Eiffel Tower just as they turned the lights on."
"Ouch" Ron visibly winced at that, cursing the name Potter silently in behalf of all men everywhere.
Susan clapped a hand to her forehead as if trying to ward of a head ache.
"Did she kiss him back?" Ron asked curiously.
"Well I'm sure she did." Hermione vouched, but Susan cut her off.
"Actually I'm not sure, I was so stunned by all the emotions I was feeling and drowning in the passion of the kiss that I don't think I even registered returning it." Susan's face paled as she shook her head and rubbed worryingly at her forehead.
"Ouch" Ron reiterated, although this time he was the one smiling evilly as Hermione looked pained.
"What am I gonna do?" Susan lamented.
"Well the first thing that comes to mind is give him a .."
"Ronald?!" Hermione barked in warning.
"…kiss in return." Ron finished cocking an eyebrow at his fiancé who blushed in embarrassment, cinching up the color of her robe with a trembling hand.
"Always misunderstood." Ron walked away complaining over his lot. "It's not like I was going to tell her to get down on her knees and…"
"Ronald Bilius Weasley!" Hermione scathed in warning.
"..beg his forgiveness-He-He-He!." Ron snickered as he walked off leaving his fiancé fuming in exasperation.
Once collected, Hermione asked supportively. "While I don't necessarily share Ronald's opinion, he does make a point, veiled though it is…" At this she paused and narrowed her eyes in Ron's direction. "That maybe you need to take matters , er,.. in hand and take control of the situation. When are you seeing him again?"
Susan perked up at that but it was more so in heightened anxiety. "Today… He's coming at noon to pick me up."
"Well-well-well,.. our Mr. Potter seems quite eager so obviously you made a good impression even if not intentionally so. Have you any idea where he's taking you?'' Susan shook her head, but held up the note she had clutched in death grip within her shaking hand.
"He just said to dress..er, warm"
Hermione smiled predatorily and instructed…'Alright, then here's what we'll do."
As usual the clock struck twelve and the knocker clacked sharply announcing Harry's arrival.
Susan met him in a curve hugging light blue snow suit that brought out her eyes beneath a soft white cotton cap, her hair curling out of at the edges.
Harry was stunned speechless.
"Do you like it?" Susan twirled in place given him an ample few of the snug fit over her posterior.
"It's,.. ah, very nice, but I think there's been a misunderstanding?"
"Huh?" Susan paused, puzzled by his look of concern.
"I said to dress for warm, you know,.. like the beach?"
"The beach?!" Susan gasped, gapping stupidly.
"Well at least the color works." Harry offered supportively. He snapped his fingers instantly transfiguring her snow suit into a blue bikini and the hat morphed into a white cotton wrap.
"Wheww-Whooo!" Harry wolf whistled as Susan tired and failed to cover her modesty as there was just too much flesh falling out of too many places.
"Now that's what I'm talking about?" he cheered gleefully as he shrugged out of his coat revealing a magnificently toned physique in swim shorts,(in emerald green-of course), and white cotton shirt, strategically left open to afford her the vision of his well-muscled stomach.
He shoved a portkey into her hand and she instantly felt the pull behind her navel as they transported away arriving several minutes later on a sandy beach beneath a blazing sun overhead.
"Welcome to Bermuda!" Harry sang out, grabbing her up in a searing kiss, the warm flesh of his chest tantalizingly brushing against her own. The need for air was just starting to register when he pulled away and ran off into the surf laughing manically whilst she stammered and stumbled about trying to orient herself.
Once she finally had regained her bearings she growled low in her throat wanting a repeat of that kiss now that she was prepared and especially; wanting it.
Either Harry was reading her thoughts or he was just that good at juggling an itinerary as she never did get the chance for more intimate contact the rest of the date. Oh, it had been fun, sure; the sunset cruise had been especially romantic, but for all of that she would have much rather been snogging his brains out in the warm surf than sharing a meal by candle light as the stars reflected off the sea around their boat.
Then, when the man had walked her to her door and she readied herself to give him the kiss of his life, he deftly circumvented her aspirations by kissing her hand softly, reverently, as he thanked her for a wonderful day and pledged to contact her soon just before abruptly apparating away before she could even think to take the initiative to pounce on the poor sod and kiss the daylights out of him.
On it went, one mind blowing date after another and then when she was beyond smitten, things took a turn for the serious, heart wrenchingly so.
"Wh-Hogwarts?" Susan gulped in surprise, finding herself not only somewhere she hadn't expected for the life of her, but also in the one place she had never wanted to revisit: The Astronomy Tower.
Susan fidgeted nervously as Harry took her trembling hand and guided her to the edge of the parapet.
"This is a place of beginnings and endings for us. I'd always known I'd have to bring you here eventually, even though it was perhaps the last place that either of us would care to revisit." Harry began to explain.
"I..mmphhhh" Susan hand covering his lips stifled what he was about to say as she found more courage than she knew she had.
"I'm s-sorry." She murmured before finding the words which began to pour from her like a torrent. "You'll n-never believe how sorry I am. I was young and stupid and callous to anyone's needs, but my own and I hurt you. I hurt you terribly and there'll never be enough apologies to make it right between us, but I swear I'll spend a life time trying to make it up to you,..if you'll l-let me?" her voice caught at that last and uncertainty filled her soft blue eyes that were rapidly filling with tears.
It was a long while before he answered, spending it looking out across the grounds, lost in his own thoughts.
When he finally did answer it wasn't what she'd expected to hear. She'd expected anger, rage even, either that or intense anguish and regret for which she was the sole author.
"You were but one anguished voice among many and I can no more blame you than I can the rest of the world. Bottom line is that it was my decision. I chose what happened. My actions dictated my future or lack thereof which was a very real certainty at the time. There was a time when I blamed you- hated you even."
Susan sobbed at this, but Harry quickly talked over it to distract her long enough to dispel her unnecessary anguish.
"It was wrong for me to do so. We are all, each of us, responsible for our own actions or inactions. While yes, what you said was devastatingly hurtful at the time, I could have just as easily had let my temper get the better of me and punched you in the nose, rather than do what I did- jump.
Jumping, was a very selfish and cowardly thing to do. It is something I'm now, deeply ashamed both for myself, but also for the pain my actions caused you as well."
He turned to her at that last and she could see the truth of his words reflected in his eyes. There was so much shame and uncertainty that her heart broke for it and she did the only thing she could think of; she grabbed him and pulled his trembling form into a rib cracking hug as she cried and pleaded with him to forgive her and give her the chance to make him happy.
"You already do."he answered softly startling her.
Susan pulled back searching his beautiful eyes and found only honesty shinning with in them.
"Then why have you…?" her words trialed off as she blushed embarrassedly and turned her eyes downward, afraid to meet his gaze.
"Not let you take things to the next level?"he suggested diplomatically, to which she nodded agreement, still not meeting his eyes.
Harry gently raised her chin until her moist eyes met his. "Because I wanted this, whatever this is, settled between us. That and I wanted to show you what life with me is going to be like. It's going to be chaotic and adventurous. I want to see everything and do everything."
"Everything?" she asked coyly, looking up at him from beneath her eyelashes, her cheeks coloring again.
Harry nodded, adding. "Everything and some things more than once,.. a lot more."
Susan blushed prettily at that. She might have tried to flirt a bit more, but her lips were otherwise occupied after that.
The next day...
"Harry?"…. "Harry?" Hermione called out over the floo.
Finally, a disheveled Harry Potter strolled into view trying to wake himself up over a cup of steaming coffee.
Despite his bedraggled appearance he looked for all the world rather smug and self-satisfied.
Hermione picked up on this and snarked pointedly. "Well, someone looks guite pleased with himself this morning. I take it your date with Susan went well then?"
"Ask her yourself?" Harry suggested with a knowing smirk.
"I tried to, but she didn't answer her floo. She must be having a bit of a lie in."
"Must be" Harry agreed, covering his grin with taking a sip of his coffee. "I had her up a bit late last night, or early this morning more accurately."
Hermione quirked an amused eyebrow at that; "And just what were you doing out so late?" she asked intrigued by the noticeable change in his demeanor.
"Who said we were out?" he returned without missing a beat. He laughed smugly and ended the floo call leaving Hermione wide eyed and stammering.