"Loss touches us all in different ways. It stays with us and fades, but never truly leaves. I can only say thank you, Harry, for helping me find some measure of peace with my sister. You are a good friend." -Albus Dumbledore to Harry Potter, following what amounted to a gross overuse of the resurrection stone by an enthusiastic elder brother.
Interlude: The Other Side, Pt. 2
Preface: Apologies for the double upload, there was a glaring spelling error I wanted to fix and some reviews commented that the lack of certainty about where this takes place was confusing. No harm in doing that here, so this is it. This Interlude takes place days before Harry breaks into Gringotts.
~ Chapter 30: Just a Little More ~
Harry coughed as he pushed himself to his feet, using the low wall for support. Looking around, there wasn't really any immediate way of telling it had worked. At the very least he knew he wasn't where he'd started. Surrounding him was the very obvious "offness" of a room where everything was shifted half a foot from where it was before. But was he actually there or had he simply ended up somewhere… else?
"Only one way to find out…" he muttered, pulling the invisibility cloak around him. Without even a whisper his image rippled into nothingness, not appearing again until he was well outside of the Ministry building and away from prying eyes. As little attention as he was wanting to give to the place, he picked up at least some useful information. It was roughly the same date as where he'd just come from, putting his visit roughly a year since his last, and the Ministry still hadn't buckled under Voldemort and his terrorists, though they certainly were an ever present threat. Wanted posters and safety bulletins lined the walls of the busy atrium he'd managed to navigate through with some difficulty.
It wasn't long before Harry found himself standing outside the gates of Hogwarts. Given a host of options, Dumbledore was the best by a large margin. If Harry was truly where he wanted to be, then the headmaster could help him out better than anyone. If he wasn't… then absolutely nothing changed that fact. The teen was hard pressed to think of a scenario where the old wizard wasn't already one of the most useful people to involve in his impulsive plans. Even if they were complete strangers, the old man was a good enough person to want to help someone he'd just met.
Pulling his wand, Harry tapped the gate with it twice to seemingly no effect. Even if they could see the looming castle in the distance, a Muggle would have likely looked on in confusion at the patiently waiting teen. Hitting a gate lightly with a small stick when the front door was something of a walk up the path likely looked nothing short of silly, particularly with the very obvious waiting pose he'd taken up immediately after. Fortunately, wizards had long since figured out how to "ring the doorbell" without all the racket, though admittedly some people enjoyed the Muggle novelty. It also beat throwing spells at the outer wards to get what would most certainly be classified as the wrong type of attention.
Sure enough, it didn't take long before a familiar figure cut his way across the grounds from the direction of the lake. The dog at his side looked small, but that was really only because the man was actually so large.
"Morning, Hagrid," Harry said shortly, considering and rejecting the idea of hiding who he was in a heartbeat. His identity was precisely the reason he'd even done this in the first place.
"Potter? What're you doin' outside the gate?" Hagrid said, pulling up short as he squinted down in confusion.
"I was at the Ministry," Harry replied, giving not-Fang a hand to sniff by the bars. The dog took a deep inhale before shaking his head and plopping down at their feet. At least that was consistent with what Harry expected.
"Ruddy lump… at least try to be threatening." Hagrid muttered, sighing exasperatedly at his dog. The gate was suddenly pulled open slightly, leaving enough room for him to cross the threshold. "Well get back in then. Why didn' ya take the floo?"
Harry spared a glance for the gate as he mentally stretched, adjusting to the feeling of being under the castle's wards, before falling into a half jog next to his minder. Hagrid walked at what he'd have no doubt called a leisurely pace.
"Not my favorite way to travel," he admitted, knowing full well that Hagrid agreed with him, though for different reasons. "I didn't get permission either, to be honest."
Hagrid just shrugged, leading the rest of the way to the front doors in a silence Harry was happy to share.
"Thanks, Hagrid," he said as the man turned to leave, getting a wave in return. "Now, I'm sure he's waiting for me."
The halls were empty, which made sense given the time. It was mid morning, so nearly everyone would have been in class. Anyone free would either be in their common room or the library, studying for the upcoming finals, or perhaps looking for a secluded place in the castle to spend time with someone. Not even Filch bothered him as he walked the halls, though who knew if the crazy man was even here. Eventually, Harry reached the stone gargoyle, asking it politely for entry to speak to the headmaster. It didn't take long for it to move aside, releasing the ever rising spiral staircase.
Opening the door revealed a room he'd never seen before, and yet one he knew quite well. It almost sparkled, the morning light highlighting a number of small devices that moved minutely in their places scattered about the room. Fawkes slumbered on his perch, his feathers a healthy gleaming assortment of red and oranges. It would be a long time until he had another burning. And there in the center of it all, looking politely surprised, was his friend.
In all their time spent together, had Albus Dumbledore ever looked so feeble?
It was jarring to see the old man like that, and Harry found himself in front of the desk barely a second later.
"What happened?" The question was given in a low voice but it did little to lessen the urgency in it. Dumbledore seemed… more shocked than anything, but that shifted into a soft amusement and curiosity as recognition crossed his features. It brought a spark to his eyes that hasn't been there a moment before.
"So, it is you. I had wondered, but-"
"Albus!" Harry let out a steadying breath as he gripped his frustration tightly. The response was all he needed to fully confirm that he was where he'd visited before. The world where Neville Longbottom was the Boy-Who-Lived and the Potters were a healthy and whole family. But those facts seemed insignificant in the face of the Headmaster playing down something obviously very wrong. "What. Happened."
Dumbledore paused for a moment before sighing, moving his left hand from beneath his robes and laying it on the desk. Harry's eyes could not have gotten any wider from the act.
The hand was blackened, as if it were an old charred husk waiting for the smallest amount of force to cause it to snap. The curse, and it must have been a curse, stopped fairly neatly around the wrist. And there, resting on his pointer finger, was the unmistakable ring that housed the resurrection stone.
Albus Dumbledore was wearing a horcrux.
"Fuck… You went alone, didn't you?" Harry said finally, guilt pooling in his gut. There was no reason for it, he quite literally had no connection to the events here, but it hurt all the same that he'd been unable to be there for him.
"It is as you say."
A wave of his wand brought Harry a chair, which he sat in heavily. Another brought a bottle and glasses from a nearby shelf which busied themselves with serving the two.
"Your eyes have aged quite a bit since we last met, Harry. Won't you tell me your story?"
Stars twinkled brightly through the office window, showing just how long the two had spoken for.
"Sure. That's one way to put it."
"You contain within you the assimilated fragments of no less than four horcruxes of Lord Voldemort. I don't believe there are other ways to put it. Forgive me for saying so, but you should most certainly be dead."
Harry let out a short puff of air in amusement. For all that he was on death's doorstep, Dumbledore was in remarkably good spirits.
"Flamel said the same thing. Not like I'll be alive much longer anyway. Sorry I can't help you with Neville." Perhaps if he was more stable he'd have risked it, despite being a soul fragment from an entirely different Voldemort, but it seemed almost certain that the next one he touched would mean his death.
And this place… this couldn't be where he fell.
"Think nothing of it. We will come up with something."
"You know, I'm surprised you still have that hand," he said suddenly, changing the subject. The black appendage was highly distracting. "You didn't try cutting it off?"
"Perhaps not the first method I went to, but definitely in the top ten," Dumbledore agreed. "Alas, it didn't work. In the end it was Severus who was able to restrict the curse to my hand, we managed to confine it just before it completely overtook my arm before restricting it to the hand alone."
"But you…" again his face fell. "You look like you're dying."
"I am, Harry," Dumbledore confirmed. "It is unlikely I will see the new school year begin."
"That's not fair." The words were almost enough to make him laugh, so childish did they sound in from his mouth, but for once he couldn't help it.
"I could very much say the same regarding your situation," Dumbledore said solemnly. "I, at least, have lived a very long time. I am not eager to go, but I have accepted it all the same. You though…"
Silence stretched between them. What else was there to say, really? The situation was what it was. Instead Dumbledore began afresh.
"Last time you ended up here it was an accident, but that is clearly not the case at present. What did you want to accomplish here? Surely more than us having this conversation. Is there any way that I can help you?"
"I…" Harry trailed off as he thought about his answer. Many reasons came to mind but felt unsuited for describing his feelings.
"Did you want to stay?"
"What? No, it's not that. I…" Harry took a deep breath, letting go of the tension that seemed to grip him ever so fiercely these days. The idea was roughly formed from the outset, but he'd acted on such a fierce desire that there was no stopping himself from jumping back through the black pool. "When I get back we're going to try and destroy the last horcrux. No matter what happens, I don't have long. We haven't heard back from Flamel recently and…" He sighed heavily. "I wanted to experience this dream one more time."
"I see." Dumbledore was sad, certainly, but there was an understanding in his eyes that could not be faked. "Who did you want to spend time with? Your- the Potters, I imagine, but were there others?"
Harry spoke and the Headmaster paused, caught off guard.
"Only… are you sure?" he asked in confusion.
Whatever Dumbledore thought about his choice he kept it to himself.
"Very well. I'll send the message now." Dumbledore paused before adding, "You know, you never did give me a definitive answer about which Dumbledore had the better beard…"
"Dumbledore wants me to do what?"
Tonks lowered her half raised tumbler of firewhisky to give Remus a dry look over the kitchen table. Grimmauld Place was a pretty gloomy place for a headquarters, but the Black's cellar never failed to live up to its name. Dark, depressing, and filled with a fortune of well aged booze.
"Spend some time with Harry Potter," he repeated, frowning at the mostly empty bottle that sat in front of the young woman. She wasn't an alcoholic by any stretch of the word, but he did see her more frequently with a glass or two these days. The boisterous metamorph that he'd once been entertaining more than a passing attraction for hadn't been seen anywhere for some time now. The war certainly affected all of them in different ways.
"Why? I barely know the kid," she said, throwing the shot back with a small wince. A short burst of fire streamed through her nostrils. "Merlin, this stuff has a kick. I swear it's not like this at the Cauldron and I'm there all the time."
"Of course not, Tom waters your drink down if you're a woman under thirty."
"What?! That son of a-"
"And I'm not talking about James's kid," Remus continued over her cursing and swearing to never enter the pub again. "The other one that fought with us in the Ministry last year."
Tonks stopped reaching for the bottle as memories of a very frustrating teen entered her mind.
"Hang on, he's here? I thought he went back to his… home? Reality?"
"That's what I thought, but apparently he's back for a short time."
"And Dumbledore wants me to entertain him? Tell me another one," the metamorph scoffed, pouring herself another shot. Remus just smirked, knowing that she wasn't going to like what he said next.
"Dumbledore said you'd react like that. He also said he'd make it an order if he needed to."
The sound of the heavy glass hitting the oak table was a solid one. Much lighter ones swiftly followed as amber liquid splashed a bit of the table, causing it to sizzle slightly.
"You're shitting me."
"I would never."
"The heck am I being forced to spend time with someone? I'm an Auror, not a damn babysitter."
"You can ask him tomorrow when you go to pick up Harry," Remus said with a shrug. It sounded like the kid just needed an Order minder for some time. Better her than him. He'd already made plans with James and Sirius anyway. "He's at Hogwarts."
Tonks growled at the spilled drink.
"I'll do more than that..."
"Harry, are you sure you want to do this?"
"It is a horrible idea," the teen said from his seat in Dumbledore's office. It was midmorning, Harry had slept on a conjured cot, freshening up with magic. "It really is. But I couldn't leave without seeing her. Not when I had the opportunity."
"As I understand it you were rather antagonistic to each other last time."
His shoulders slumped a bit.
"Yeah, I remember."
"And she will no doubt fight this."
"I figured as much."
"Albus." Dumbledore cut off as Harry's eyes met his own. "If you could spend a day with Arianna even though she wasn't your sister, could you really bring yourself to say no?"
And just like that the fight left the man.
They waited for the next twenty minutes in silence when Harry suddenly sat up, looking over his shoulder at a seemingly random place on the wall, before returning his gaze to his lap. Dumbledore caught the faintest of unintelligible whispers from the teen as he spoke to himself in what was likely an attempt to calm himself.
This was definitely not a good idea.
Nymphadora Tonks was barely a foot in the door before she started speaking, hair a few shades closer to red than usual. Incensed was probably the nicest way to put it.
"Dumbledore, you can't just threaten me to spend time with him!" she shot at the headmaster, pointed finger the only indication she'd even recognized Harry's presence in the first place.
"You threatened her?" Harry said with a frown, also looking at the old man.
"Merely impressed upon her the importance of the request."
"All Order missions are volunteer, and I'm sure as hell not volunteering to spend time with him." She turned to Harry with a scowl. "You want a metamorph, go back to your own."
The Gryffindor immediately looked like the wind had been taken from his sails. Dumbledore, as anyone would have expected, was completely unphased by the woman's anger.
"Tonks," she shot at once.
"Forgive me, Tonks," the headmaster corrected. "Harry will be returning home today but I would like a member of the Order to accompany him until then for safety. He requested you-"
"And I agreed," the man continued smoothly. "Though…" He looked between the two other people in his office with a measure of confusion. "I'm aware that last year you were at odds for whatever reason, but as to why that is I'm afraid you have me at a loss."
Tonks scowled as she and Harry's eyes met.
"Are you kidding me? It's obvious she…she…"
"Slept with me?"
"Slept with him!" Suddenly the woman looked at him in horror. "Wait, she actually slept with you?! I thought she just let you see her naked for some crazy reason! Merlin, that's a thousand times worse!"
Anger bubbled up from within him, but it went nowhere. He could only maintain his indifference for so long. He couldn't bare his aggression at the person who wore her face.
"This was a mistake… I'll just be…" he motioned vaguely to the door, walking back through it a moment later where it snapped shut on a now silent office.
Harry absently thumped the base of his fist into the wall next to the gargoyle.
"This is stupid. She's not her. What she says doesn't matter."
Spoken aloud to assure himself more, the lie did little to change his mood. The gargoyle suddenly stepped aside to let Nymphadora by. She paused just beyond it, meeting his gaze neutrally.
"I'll be honest, I'm kind of disgusted with myself. She didn't force herself on you or anything, did she?"
"Of course not, you're not that kind of a person," Harry returned automatically, affronted by the thought.
"You don't know anything about me," she said, her voice clipped.
"And you don't know anything about her," Harry shot back, pushing away the ache in his chest. "Look I said it was a mistake, you can leave. Just stop being so…" He didn't finish the sentence. He couldn't find the words.
Silence stretched as he stared at his hands, but there was no sound of retreating footsteps.
"Were you dating?"
Harry looked over at the woman in confusion. She was leaning next to the gargoyle, clearly waiting for an answer to her question.
"No. I… don't know what we were to each other. We were more than friends, though."
"And you two, what, stopped seeing each other or something?"
"That's one way of putting it."
There was no ignoring the sadness in his voice.
Nymphadora let out a sigh, rubbing her head with the heel of her hand.
"Look, I don't mean to be that rude about it. I just don't like being forced to do things. Dumbledore was out of line."
"He shouldn't have pushed you, no," Harry agreed. "But he was just trying to help me out."
"Yeah, he's always working for some kind of do-good goal. I can't stay mad at him," the metamorph complained, much to Harry's amusement. He knew exactly what she was talking about. "He explained a bit better, but not really well. You came back to get away from it all, right?"
"Basically, yeah," he confirmed.
"So why me? Dumbledore said you only asked to spend time with me. Wouldn't it make way more sense to spend time with the Potters? You realize I'm not your Tonks, right?"
Her unsaid statement was more than clear.
"Whatever kind of interest she has in you I don't share it in the slightest."
She said it anyway.
"I still want to see you," he said simply, allowing his honest desire to come through. "And talk to you. There are things that..." He cut off, looking at the ground. "It's just been a long time, Nym."
Nymphadora watched him in silence. Eventually she turned, beckoning for him to follow.
"C'mon, let's get a drink."
"This… isn't what I expected," Harry said after a few seconds, watching his companion in concern. Nymphadora rubbed her throat absently as she waited for a refill of her now empty glass of firewhiskey.
"I said a drink. What else could I have been talking about?" she said with a raised eyebrow.
"Figured you'd take me to the Three Broomsticks," he said honestly. Upon leaving the castle grounds she'd side-alonged them to Hogsmeade. It seemed like the obvious destination.
But she'd walked right past it without even a glance, leading them to a dusty bar that he'd only been in once before. It was filled with shifty looking cloaked patrons despite the early hour. Someone at a back table seemed to be selling tiny vials of something to the people nearby and almost everyone seemed to be staring at the two odd ones out sitting at the bar. His companion however didn't seem bothered in the slightest.
"Not a chance, Rosmerta's too pushy about my business," Nymphadora said with a disgruntled expression. "And she'd never let me get you one of these either. You telling me you've never had one before?"
Her now refilled glass was accompanied by another smaller one that she pushed in front of him, joining the untouched butterbeer he'd ordered automatically when they sat down. Harry gave the old bartender a raised eyebrow, the man regarding him with oddly familiar blue eyes.
"Eyes like that could use a good drink," he said, voice dark and dusty like everything else in the bar. "They're old as I am."
Harry snorted with humorless amusement, grabbing the glass and draining it in one go. He felt the flames building in his gut, bubbling up rapidly, but reflexively squashed them by flexing his magic through his body like he was rolling his shoulders. Wisps of smoke came up instead, exiting through his nostrils.
Those watching, which was practically every person in the pub considering that who everyone assumed was a Hogwarts student had just taken a shot trying to look tough in front of a woman, blinked in surprise.
"Holy… that was cool," Nymphadora said, wide eyed.
Harry grinned in smugness but almost immediately sobered, looking down into the empty glass. Nym had begged him to teach her when she found out he could do that. They'd never gotten around to it.
"It's not hard when you figure out how to do it," he said absently, now staring at the empty glass, flipping it over so that it wouldn't be refilled.
"That's it for you? I'll get you another you know," Nymphadora said with a smirk, draining hers with a controlled follow up exhale of flames.
"I don't want it," Harry said. Already he felt the alcohol moving through his system, magical drinks were always something to be wary of. Even butterbeer after a while. "Why are you drinking so much, anyway?" She was now on her third. "It's not even noon."
"What're you, my mother?" Nymphadora retorted. "It's my day off. Quotes on that one. Besides, you're miserable aren't you? I'm your company."
"What are you miserable about?" he asked, frowning.
"Why do I need to be miserable to drink?"
"That's not how the saying goes…"
"Fine. Lots of stuff. We're at war aren't we? Can't trust anyone. A death a day, usually more. Families left out to rot in the sun. Most of my friends are gone. Death Eaters running around killing and raping as they like. The Ministry's done nothing but pretend like everything is under control. The Order is barely any better, we're just busier. Only a matter of time before Voldemort takes over and then I can probably legally get murdered."
Harry blinked as Tonks aired her frustrations, no doubt aided somewhat by the drink. For all her insistence that she was not the Nymphadora that he knew, she was still undoubtedly herself.
"But hey, this is the world we live in isn't it? Apart from you I guess," she added with a laugh. "What a fucking joke."
They turned to find a hooded man standing close by, ashen face framed by a thick beard. He was giving her an intense gaze.
"What's it to ya?"
A wand tip pressed into her neck from behind, causing her to go still. Another cloaked wizard had flanked them. Harry cursed at his inattention, too focused on her entirely to be aware of his surroundings, another mental curse at the shot he'd taken. He was half way out of his seat when a hand suddenly grabbed the back of his shirt and he was pulled off the barstool, falling to the ground roughly where he was met with a third cloaked figure, looking down at him over his shoulder.
"Beat it, kid. We've got business with the lady."
That business made itself known as there was a surge of movement and scuffling, resulting in a grunt of pain, a couple shattered glasses, and the sound of a woman having her face forcefully pushed into a counter.
"Get off of me!" Nymphadora snapped at the man holding her down. Harry could see he had one hand on the back of her head and the other holding her wrist. A wand was still held at her back.
Then she started screaming and his mind went blank.
Nymphadora gasped in air as the pain went from sharp and agonizing to a dull throbbing that permeated her body.
"Is that all you've got?" she snarled at the Death Eaters, her eyes taking in everything at lightning speed from her held position despite the sluggishness she felt from the drinks. None of the patrons she could see in her peripheral had moved at all, either too afraid or not caring. The bartender was nowhere to be seen. She couldn't see what had happened to Harry at all.
"This is what happens when you oppose the Dark Lord so brazenly," one of her assailants said coldly.
The wand pressed into her back, the words were said, and she knew this was it.
The man to her left, the one she had a clear view of due to how she was being held, suddenly dropped like a puppet with its strings cut. Standing behind him with his wand held aloft was Harry.
Dead silence struck the room.
"Why'd you stop? You looked like you were enjoying it."
Nymphadora suppressed a shiver at the lack of inflection in his voice.
"You're dead you litt-"
The flash of green from Harry's wand caused a wave of ice to spread through the young Auror's body. Two people. He'd just killed two people without hesitation. Without emotion.
The third immediately turned on the teen and shot a point blank curse at his chest which was impossibly deflected away from the bar and into the still seated patrons who scrambled out of the way as best they could, but there was no chance for the heavily robed woman who took the spell in the face. She barely got out a scream before she began choking on her own blood, falling into the man next to her. All through this Harry was unperturbed, eyes locked on his attacker.
"You could have picked anyone else and I-"
Another spell, deflected this time into the ceiling with a snapping of wood.
"-wouldn't have cared. Crucio."
He screamed. He screamed, and screamed, and screamed.
Nymphadora watched in numb stupefaction.
Eventually he collapsed and Harry considered him briefly before, for the third time, lighting up the pub with a flash of green. No one moved. No one breathed. Everyone watched the silent teen and his terrifying black and red wand.
She gave a small start, tearing her eyes away from the bodies in the floor.
"Are you okay? I'm sorry, I should have acted faster."
"I- that was-"
"Can you stand?"
Automatically she tried to obey, only to collapse as her legs would not support her weight. He caught her easily, supporting her with his left while keeping the wand in his right free.
"I'm fine, I- you just… we need to go," she finally managed, tearing her eyes away from the bodies and moving about the room. Everyone stared at them. Many had wands out, but no one was stupid enough to raise one even a hair. The bartender caught her gaze with oddly intense eyes.
"Aurors will be here soon," he said in a low voice. Instantly she understood. Many places had some sort of panic button that sent a distress message to the DMLE. She'd responded herself to some of those calls. Now though… "Take the floo."
"Fireplace," Nymphadora said to Harry, and he moved them close so that she could take some powder and throw it. "Come on," she said impatiently, pulling them into the emerald flames as she called their destination.
The flames consumed her vision, her only awareness being the twisting and the unwavering pressure at her side.
"Why are we here?"
The moment they stumbled through the floo, Harry was looking around in confusion. She'd said 'home' and he'd instantly assumed they were being brought to her apartment. This however was very clearly a larger home of some kind. It honestly reminded him a bit of the large sitting room in Grimmauld Place.
"My parent's house. It's way safer than my place," Nymphadora said, still leaning into him for support. "The floo only lets me through like that in case of an emergency. The wards are good too, way better than my place. Didn't want to risk running into more people. Get me to that chair. Merlin, my head… Do you know the sobering charm?"
"No, why would I?" he asked, setting her in the chair before taking a position a bit away from her as she steadied herself. The woman muttered something before pulling her wand and pointing it at herself, sighing in relief a few seconds later. She'd been roughed up but otherwise she looked okay…
She let her form fall with a tired breath. A second later and her usual bright haired appearance was gone, black and curly hair in its place framing the iconic visage Harry recognized so well. Even more so now that he'd assimilated memories of Bellatrix from Rodolphus Lestrange.
Nymphadora looked as beautiful and cold as ever, closed off to everything around her with dark brown eyes that could have been mistaken as black.
"Why?" Harry asked. This was all he said, but somehow the metamorph understood exactly what he'd been querying. Why he was so confused by the action.
"Even if I like my masks, I have to take them off sometimes," she said simply, looking at her somewhat paler skin tone before meeting his eyes once more. "And you're…"
The word jumped across his thoughts, unbidden.
To her obvious surprise, Harry grinned in amusement. The mood of the room lifted significantly.
"Yeah, I guess that does fit, doesn't it?" He looked at the ceiling distantly. It really was quite appropriate. "Won't be long before I'm gone."
An older woman with striking resemblance to another very important person in his life suddenly entered the room. Andromeda Black was the eldest of the Black sisters and looked the part. A severe expression matching sharp features that age did nothing to diminish. She was only a handful of years older than Narcissa or Bellatrix, but as was usual with witches, age tended to show less with more power. If her sisters were anything to go by, Andromeda was a force to be reckoned with.
The woman instantly took in Harry and her daughter, freezing on the latter as her eyes narrowed marginally.
"Don't look at her like that."
Shocked gazes turned to their guest who was currently radiating anger. In three steps he'd positioned himself between mother and daughter, staring the former down unflinchingly. The older woman was clearly taken aback by the sudden interruption. The adrenaline that had just begun to dissipate was suddenly back up to full.
"Excuse me?" she said indignantly. "Just who- Potter's boy?" Andromeda's expression was a mix of confusion and irritation. "While I don't know what you are doing here, I don't think I need to remind you whose home you are in."
"Don't care," said Harry, not moving an inch in any direction. "Don't look at Nymphadora like that."
"What are you on about?" Andromeda said curtly, eyes narrowing in suspicion.
"She's not your sister."
The temperature of the room dropped perceptibly. Andromeda's expression became steely while Nymphadora's shadowed, hidden behind the teen's back.
"Do not speak about something that you know nothing of," Andromeda said coldly, moving forward so that she more sharply looked down on him. "Nor is it any of your business. Take the floo and go back to your home."
If she believed that he would be intimidated she was sorely mistaken.
"Just because you regret being related to her doesn't mean you can just push it all off on your-"
Harry cut off abruptly as Andromeda's hand caught him clean across the side of his face.
"Keep speaking and I will use my wand next, consequences be damned. James Potter has another son to continue the line. Don't think he won't be hearing about this regardless."
"You should treasure her." Harry continued without pause, ignoring the stinging on his cheek. Just another reminder that this was all real. A memory of another woman with the same face, broken and crying while her husband held her close. His voice became bleak. "You still have her here."
Still looking up at the teen's back, Nymphadora suddenly felt cold.
He'd never said it directly, but in that moment it was clear that he couldn't. That he didn't want to say it. He'd come back here simply to see her. Not the family he apparently never had. He'd quite literally killed for her. And this whole time she'd just...
"I… she died, didn't she?"
The impact was automatic. His entire body seemed to come under a heavy weight, pulling everything down including his gaze. Her mother blacked up slightly at the complete shift in demeanor, and Harry glanced back over his shoulder. There was a distant pain in his eyes that she felt in her chest.
Now her mother was even more confused, half going for her wand out of habit. No doubt this had exceeded her feeling of unarmed discomfort. Harry didn't even seem to notice, finally allowing himself to move from between the two women as he walked aimlessly in a direction, out of the room. Andromeda seemed to have stalled out a bit, but automatically made to follow the boy.
"Mum, don't. I'll explain in a bit, just… let me..."
Nymphadora pushed herself up and after the teen, finding him almost at once looking at a framed photo of her on a shelf among others.
"Sorry, Nym… I need to go."
"...Sure, keep going that way. It's the front door."
Nymphadora followed him to the door and opened it for him, pausing as he crossed the threshold into the mild outdoor air.
"Did you see me die?" she asked, unable to resist the question.
Harry closed his eyes, turning away.
"No, I felt it." He was referencing his sensing. She remembered it well from when they'd first met. "One second she was there in the building, the next she was gone. Burned away."
Harry simply looked at her. Took her in from top to bottom. And when he finally did speak, she knew he wasn't talking to her.
"Me too. Bye, Nym."
With that he walked away, vanishing after a couple of steps with nothing more than a whisper of the wind.
Nymphadora let out a harsh breath, tension falling from her shoulders that she didn't know was there. She embraced the few seconds of stillness she could find in the moment before moving back inside and shutting the door with a snap. Now she needed to explain what had happened to her mother. Everything.
A lock of curly black hair fell before her eyes and she considered it briefly before tucking it behind an ear. It did not change back to pink. Her face merely shifted expressions as opposed to structure.
Honestly she just didn't feel like hiding today.
Author's Note: When I first started writing this I had actually planned a full week with Harry interacting with different people each day. It was fun and entertaining, fairly lighthearted overall, and included characters that never got screen time during the first interlude. Then as time went on and I gave myself more opportunities to think about what I was actually writing, I realized that Harry would probably want none of what I was planning. In reality, he'd just want a chance to get back something that he lost. And so this was all he wanted in the end. It was never meant to make him happy. He never expected to get closure from it. He just wanted more of a thing that he couldn't have again. I think we can all relate to at least the sentiment.
SOMETHING REALLY COOL HAPPEND!
I've just come from being a guest on a podcast run by TheBlack'sResurgence who started up one called Writer's Block where he chats with writers from the site. It was great fun and I'm quite excited to do it again if I get the chance. He's also done some others so far and they are super interesting to listen to. It's nice to hear the voice behind the words, particularly as one of those writers. So if you're interested go check out his profile page and follow your nose from there. To be clear: He does have a and other ways to support him, as do many other writers on this site, and I'm not telling you to go support him that way. (You do what you want with your money and TBR will agree with me). A lot of readers are really jaded about that whole business, and that's not what this is about. I do genuinely think that the series he's doing is awesome and a great way to build our community up. So if this sounds interesting to you go show some support and take a listen. They're quite interesting, and in a couple weeks the episode that I just did will be there too. We talk a lot about The Merging and what it went through, among other stuff.
Anyway, in the works for me is here:
The Other Side: Final Part (one final, post main story foray into the Other Side, this time with two companions. Can you guess who they are?)
The After Years 1: Morgan (Picks up one month after voldemort's defeat, basically it's an actual chapter 30. Might be exceptionally long, I am really trying to avoid writing a sequel here, there's just not enough for it)
The Crux of the Matter (A short discussion on how I make sense of horcruxes, followed by what I like to hope happened in Harry's soul right after he beat voldemort. Pure humor)
I am also looking for some inspiration about what to make my next Not-The Merging HP project will be. I do want to start brainstorming, and I've never really asked what my readers would be interested in seeing from me in terms of fresh material, so I'd love to know your thoughts! Pairings, genre/themes, whatever. Super niche or really general? Just know that I'm looking for something different than what I've done.
As always, thank you all for the support and I'll see you next time =)