Disclaimer: As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man, with JK Rowling owning Harry Potter.
A/N: This is the final chapter of The Accidental Animagus, but it leads into not one, but two new stories. The World of The Accidental Animagus is an interlude that introduces magical cultures from around the world. "Chapter 1: Quodpot, Mom and Apple Pie" is now posted on my profile page. I will post a new chapter covering a different part of the world every day for the next week, culminating in the first chapter of the sequel to The Accidental Animagus, titled Animagus at War, which will be posted next Saturday.
Thanks to everyone for reading. And now… the stunning conclusion of The Accidental Animagus!
When Harry awoke the second time, there was sunlight streaming in the window. He was still aching, but he felt warm and comfortable where he lay. He knew at once that he had shifted to cat form again because he felt large fingers gently scratching him behind his ears. He looked up and saw his mum sitting beside him with dark circles around her eyes. She hadn't slept.
"Good morning, Harry," she said softly. "How are you feeling?"
He rolled over and shifted to human, and he was pleased to find he could sit up under his own power. "Better," he said. "Physically, at least." Once it fully sunk in, he thought he might be spending a lot of time in cat form to cope.
"We're sorry, Harry. You shouldn't have to go through this. Especially not after everything else that's happened. I still almost can't believe it. And we were the ones who were supposed to protect you…"
"You did all you could, Mum," he assured her. "We all did. We just have to…learn from it and keep going, I guess."
She hugged him. "You're growing up so fast, Harry. Too fast. You should be able to stay a kid at your age."
"I'll be okay, Mum…" he said, hoping it was true. "I'll be okay. I just need time."
Now that he was awake, within a few minutes, his family was assembled in the Infirmary—his adoptive parents, Hermione, Sirius, and Remus, plus Dumbledore. "I asked Miss Lovegood to wait a little while," Dumbledore told him. "Remember that she does not know Occlumency, so if you have anything to say that she ought not to know…"
"Right…" he said, making a mental note that Luna should probably learn Occlumency if they were going to stay together. He took a deep breath. Might as well get this out of the way first. "You knew I was a horcrux, Professor?"
"WHAT?!" the Grangers shouted. They stared at him in horror. Then, they turned Dumbledore, who looked shocked.
"Harry, what…what…what are you saying?" Emma stuttered.
But Dumbledore, despite the glares being directed at him, was more pragmatic: "'Was'? Harry…are you saying it's…gone?"
"Yes, sir, it's gone."
To their surprise, Dumbledore broke into a wide smile. "You have no idea how relieved I am to hear that," he said. "That is the best news I've heard in nearly a year."
"Dumbledore, what…what is this about?" Dan said.
Harry explained: "When Voldemort hit me with the Killing Curse, I woke up in…Limbo, I guess—someplace, you know, In Between. I thought I was dead, but I…wasn't quite. But when I was there…I met my parents…I met James and Lily."
"James and Lily?" Sirius whispered. "You saw them?"
"Yeah, I did. We…time didn't work the same way there, so we, er, talked for a while. But there was something else there—some kind of creature. Mum and Dad told me it was a horcrux. When Voldemort tried to kill me when I was a baby, a piece of his soul broke off and attached to me. But they told me it's gone, now. They…they weren't exactly sure why, but when he hit me last night, the Killing Curse killed it instead of me. The 'connection' I had with him—why I could speak Parseltongue and got visions from him—it was the horcrux."
"And it's gone now?" Dan asked again, just to be sure. Harry nodded. Dan then wheeled on Dumbledore. "And you knew?" he demanded.
Dumbledore nodded sadly. "Please understand, Mr. Granger, I did not know for certain until a little over a year ago, and since then, I have been searching for a way to remove the horcrux from Harry safely. Normally, the only way to destroy a horcrux is to destroy the vessel, you see. I wanted to find an alternative before I told you. I did not want to lay that burden on you, Harry, after everything else that has been foisted upon you.
"And I did search. I searched through all the ancient lore I could find. I asked Professor Grayson to see if he could do anything. He knows Aboriginal healing chants over ten thousand years old, but none were suitable. I contacted cursebreakers in Egypt, magical Kabbalists in Israel, Siberian shamans expert in astral projection, even the small Jain magical community in India with its strong commitment to non-violence. None of them were able to provide a method to remove the horcrux safely. I hope you will forgive me this, Harry. I merely wanted to spare you the pain until I was certain it could not be avoided."
"You did all that?" Harry said. "Wow, Mum said you were looking, but I had no idea. I—thank you for going to such lengths for me, Professor. I'm not sure I agree with what you did, but she told me you were doing it for me…I forgive you, sir."
Dan and Emma stared at Harry in surprise. It was a big shock to them to hear their son speak about his birth mother like that—the mother he'd apparently, impossibly, met last night. It was nearly as shocking to hear him forgive Dumbledore so easily, although it seemed that the old wizard really had gone to extraordinary lengths to help him.
Dan next turned on Sirius and Remus, though. "Did you know about this?" he demanded.
"We suspected," Sirius admitted, "but Albus never told us for sure, and we didn't want to tell you until we were sure. We would have told you right away if we knew, but we thought it was better not to while we were uncertain."
"Well, I guess that's not so bad," he admitted.
"At least we don't have to worry about it anymore," Harry said. "I guess it's good we got that Parseltongue Dictionary done, eh, Mione?"
His sister rolled her eyes and ruffled his hair. "I think I've been a bad influence on you, Harry."
"Nah, that was all Lily," Sirius countered. "So what else did you talk about with your parents? It better not've all been this dark stuff."
Harry grinned: "I found out Mum's as big a Doctor Who fan as I am."
The Grangers laughed loudly. "Oh, Harry, that's wonderful!" Hermione said. "It's so nice that you have something in common."
"Yeah, I know. And they told me how proud they are of me and everything, of course. And they said…" He hesitated to say it. "They said that I had a choice—that I could Go On with them if I wanted…but they said I shouldn't give up everything I had here for them—" He was cut off as he was mobbed by hugs from Hermione and Sirius, quickly followed by the rest of his family.
"So…yeah, we had a nice, long talk, and they said they knew all along that I would want to come back in the end," he said. "But the main thing was, they gave me messages they wanted me to bring back with me. And…and could we get Luna in here now, Professor?"
"Of course, Harry." He motioned to Madam Pomfrey who let out a put-upon sigh and let Luna in from where she clearly waiting out in the corridor. She rushed to Harry's bedside. She didn't quite run, but she did look more hurried than Harry could remember seeing her—and more worried. He gave her an encouraging smile, and she bent down to kiss him whilst running both her hands through his hair.
Sirius waited till the count of five before he gave a wolf-whistle, and they broke apart, blushing.
"It's very good to see you awake again, Harry," Luna said. She crouched down so that they were eye to eye. "I was here for a little while before curfew last night, but Madam Pomfrey said I shouldn't wake you. I was worried about you, though—when I saw you were injured in the task and that…that Cedric was dead." Her calm facade cracked a little bit, which Harry knew for her meant she was in rather a lot of distress. He pulled her closer so he could hug her to him.
"I'll be alright," he said. "Eventually. I got cursed pretty badly."
"I know that wasn't your only trouble, Harry," she said. "You even showed everyone your Animagus form. That was brave of you. It might cause you some trouble, but I think it will be nice that you don't have to hide it. Don't you?" Luna gave him a slow blink at that, as she had always done, but this time, she smiled, and he knew she was doing it purposefully. Harry grinned back and leaned into her a little more. She had wound up sitting on the edge of the bad from the hug, and she laid an arm across his back and reached up to scratch him behind the ears. Hermione giggled at them, but he let her continue and soon began humming to himself softly.
Luna giggled, too. "Are you purring, Harry?" she said.
"Oh, Harry's done that for years, Luna," Hermione said. "It's just that people don't often notice."
"It's natural to me," he said. "I'm surprised no one's ever caught Professor McGonagall doing it."
"Actually, we did once," Sirius spoke up.
"I remember that…" Remus said. "That night ended with our largest single point loss that wasn't Snape-related."
Harry stared at them and shook his head.
Dumbledore could tell the Grangers were getting anxious, so he took control of the situation: "Harry was just telling us what happened last night, Miss Lovegood, and he thought you should hear it, too."
"That's very kind of you, Harry," she said.
"Well, I had to tell you. And you deserve to know." He quickly gave her an abridged version of the story he had told the Ministry officials last night. He left out the horcruxes and the details of the ritual; he didn't know how Luna would react to La Pantera killing a unicorn, and he wasn't keen to find out. Even as stoic as she was, he could feel her squeezing his hand anxiously at several points, and she hugged him tightly when he mentioned being hit with the Cruciatus Curse.
"I guess he didn't read the fine print on the ritual, though, because between what it did and the connection I had with him, the Killing Curse didn't actually kill me. It broke the connection instead."
She nodded solemnly. "But it nearly did, didn't it? You went Elsewhere, didn't you?"
Harry wasn't at all surprised that Luna worked that out. "Yeah. I woke up someplace In Between…and I saw my parents there."
He tried to handle it delicately, knowing how Luna had lost her own mother, but she seemed delighted: "You're very fortunate. It's extremely rare to be able to speak to your loved ones on the Other Side before you pass on. You talked to them for a while, didn't you?"
"Of course I did. They told me what was going on—or what they thought was going on—and how proud they were of me. They've been watching over me—of course, I knew that, but I didn't really know it. I mean…my dad quoted The Princess Bride." He laughed a little.
The wizards were confused by that, but the Grangers' jaws dropped. None of them could quite decide what to say to that until Hermione burst out, "INCONCEIVABLE!"
Harry, Dan, and Emma laughed, which only caused further confusion. "It's a muggle film," Harry told the others. "It's really good. We'll have to show you sometime. It's exactly the kind of film Dad would've—would like. And I guess I have Mum's taste in television. So anyway, Luna, they said I had a choice to go with them…but they also told me I should come back. That I had too much here to give up."
Luna blushed and kissed him on the cheek. "I'm glad you did, Harry," she said.
"Me too. But they…they told me some things to tell you…all of you."
Everyone in the room was waiting breathlessly. Not knowing what else to do, Harry dived right in and repeated the message James and Lily had given him for Dan, Emma, and Hermione. Unsurprisingly, that led to a lot of tears of joy and hugs and incoherent thanks, which was only compounded when he repeated his parents' message to Sirius and Remus.
"Just like those two," Sirius said. "Lily always saw the best in people, and James refused to ever let you feel sorry for yourself."
"We could tell," Emma said. "Even before we met you two, we could tell from Harry. He's so much like them…We've always tried to be a family for him who could live up to them, but we never thought we'd be able to hear them say it."
"You've been given a great gift," Dumbledore said. Even he looked misty-eyed. "I could tell easily from your care and dedication over the years that James and Lily would have approved of all of you as Harry's family, but of course, it will mean much more to hear it directly."
It took some time after this for them to settle down and collect themselves enough for Luna to get back to Harry. She had patiently waited off to the side, knowing this was a moment for family. "I'm surprised you included me in this, Harry," she said. "It seems very private, although it's very nice that you did."
Harry wondered a bit about that. He never would have included Cho in a moment like this, but Luna seemed to understand the situation perfectly—or maybe it was that she understood him. "Well, I asked you here partly because they had a message for you, too."
He had told her that already, but Luna's eyes were still wide, and she blushed a little when Sirius smirked and said, "Oh, and what did Mr. and Mrs. Potter have to say about their little boy's girlfriend?"
"They like her," Harry said smugly, although he knew Sirius wouldn't have a problem with that. He turned back to said girlfriend and continued, "They really like you, Luna. Dad said you're loyal, smart, and funny in a good way, and they…they hope you'll stand by me." He suddenly felt a little uncomfortable, but he set it aside. "Oh, and Dad thinks you should dye your hair red, but I think it looks better the way it is," he added.
Sirius barked with laughter. "Potter men know what they like, eh Moony?"
Remus rolled his eyes: "As we learnt in excruciating detail for six and a half years, yes. He would have said that about any girl you dated, you know."
Luna giggled at their antics. "Perhaps I'll try it anyway. It could be an interesting change."
Harry smiled weakly. He had a sudden desire to talk to her privately, as much as he wanted to be with his family right now. Emma seemed to recognise his discomfort because she elbowed Dan and made to get up. "We'll give you two a little time alone," she said. "Luna, the train leaves in an hour. Harry, Hermione, we'll be Flooing home so Harry has more time to recover."
"Besides, everyone would mob you if they saw you now," Hermione said. "You know how Hogwarts is. They mobbed me, and I wasn't even there with you. Professor Dumbledore announced you were recovering at breakfast, and that's it."
"Alright. Thanks, guys," Harry said. "Can you ask the Diggorys and Cho to come by before they leave? I need to talk to them, too."
"Of course," Dan said. "They should still be here."
"Great. Oh, and Professor, Mum and Dad had a message for you, too."
"Yes, Harry?" Dumbledore said.
"Dad said there was secret room on the seventh floor across from the tapestry of the dancing trolls. I was wondering if you knew about it."
"How interesting. I did, indeed, find a room full of chamberpots in that very corridor a few days ago, but it was gone when I returned to the spot."
Despite James's assurances, Harry was a little surprised to find out the room was real. "Wow. Er, he said you have to walk past it three times to open it. And it can turn into different rooms, too."
"I shall have to look into it, then. And what was the message from your mother?"
"Er, could you come a little closer, Professor?
Dumbledore was puzzled, but he supposed perhaps it was meant to be his ears only, so he stepped beside the bed and turned his ear to Harry.
He smacked Dumbledore in back of his head so hard that his hat fell off. His family looked scandalised, though it quickly turned to snickers for Sirius and Remus. Dumbledore summoned his hat back wandlessly and put it on his head. "Yes, well…I suppose I deserved that," he said. "Good day, Harry. I do hope you will soon feel better."
The rest of them left, leaving Harry alone with Luna (and Madam Pomfrey hovering in the back). This was the awkward part, he thought as he gazed into her eyes. She would stand by him if he asked—easily—but now that the threat was real…No, he wasn't going to dump her to try to protect her, but he couldn't in good conscience let her stay with him without giving her an out. "Voldemort's gonna be after me even more now, you know," he said.
"I know," Luna said with fire in her eyes. "But I suspect he'll be after me too before long. The Quibbler was very vocal against him in the last war, and we will be again if I have anything to say about it."
Harry felt a warm feeling in his chest that threated to overflow and bring tears to his eyes. He couldn't believe even after knowing her for so long that she had that in her…or maybe he could. He'd learnt to expect the unexpected with Luna. He smiled and kissed her softly. "Whatever I did to deserve you," he whispered, "it couldn't have been enough."
The meeting with Mr. and Mrs. Diggory and Cho was the most difficult part of the morning—almost more painful than the lingering aches from the Cruciatus Curse. Mr. Diggory and Cho were both beside themselves with tears the whole time, and while Mrs. Diggory was more collected, her eyes were red enough that Harry was sure she'd cried herself to exhaustion last night. Even so, when he explained to them what had happened in the maze, they didn't blame him. He'd given Cedric as much warning as he reasonably could, and Cedric had chosen to face the danger, and that for Harry's sake. It was hard not to feel guilty about that, but they didn't blame him.
"He did it for a good cause, then. It was always in his nature to stand up to protect others," Mrs. Diggory said, no doubt remembering how Cedric had fought Greyback last year. "And just when he'd won the Tournament. He must have been happy. Ambassador Grayson said he would have suffered little from the knife…as awful as it looked…We've set the funeral for Tuesday, Harry. The cemetery in Ottery St. Catchpole."
"Yes, he'll…he'll be buried with…full honours of state," Mr. Diggory managed to get out. "Fudge is arranging it…and providing an Auror guard."
Probably to save face, Harry thought, but he nodded.
"We hope you'll come," Mrs. Diggory said. "The Creeveys and the Robinses are coming. Professors Dumbledore and Lupin. Most of the people who were involved with the Tournament. Even that nice little McDonald girl who was with Demelza offered to play the violin for it."
"You should accept," Harry said. "She'd very good."
"If you say so, we believe you."
The other of issue was the gold. The thousand galleons for winning the Tournament would have been split between them, but Harry had never wanted it, and, while Cedric may have had other plans for it, they quickly agreed that it should go to the Cor Humanum Formation, which had supported Cedric and the other werewolves over the past year and was continuing to do good work under Sirius's and Remus's management. It was what Harry would have done anyway, so that suited him fine.
"There was one other thing," Harry said. "Something I'd prefer you'd keep private. You can ask Professor Dumbledore if you want to know more, but in the graveyard, Voldemort hit me with the Killing Curse."
All three of them gasped, and Cho stuttered, "Y-y-you m-mean you s-survived—again?"
"Yes, we don't want it widely known because it was a weird fluke involving the ritual, and it probably won't work again. I'm certainly not gonna try it. But anyway, instead of dying like I should have, I wound up someplace In Between…and I saw Cedric there."
"Y-you saw him?" Mrs. Diggory whispered.
"As he was passing through, yes. He just wanted me to tell you that he loves you. And Cho, he said he wishes you could have had more time together."
Cho sobbed and wrapped her arms tight around Harry. He was glad Luna wasn't there to see it. He awkwardly patted her on the head. "It's not fair…" she cried.
"No, it's not," Harry agreed. "He did care for you, though. And I know you really liked him, too. It's awful, what happened, but he'll be alright where he is now. My parents were with him, and they'll see to it he's alright." He couldn't imagine what she was going through. He'd never lost anyone really close to him besides his parents when he was too young to remember. He thought he'd lost Hermione a couple of times, and that had been bad enough. He could tell it was a struggle for her just to be here.
"I still can't believe that…that foreign…It wasn't even You-Know-Who! It wasn't even one of his…She was just some witch he brought in…?"
Harry nodded. "From Mexico, I guess. But Grayson said she's as bad as Voldemort himself."
Cho flinched. "I just keep seeing him…lying there…with the knife, and…and…" Suddenly, Cho gasped and thrust herself away from Harry. To his horror, she went rigid, her eyes glazed over, and for a moment, Harry thought she'd gone into shock from anguish, but then, her voice came out with a strange, harsh, sound:
"The Weird Sisters will be reunited before the summer dies. The Dark Lord regathers his forces, more terrible than ever before. The one who thrice defied him stands before a high mountain to oppose him. But before the leaves begin to turn, the weird sisters will gather together once more in his aid, and he will call new allies to his side, for Mars will reign over Europe. The Weird Sisters will unite before summer dies."
She stopped, and Harry and the Diggorys stared at her in shock.
"Wha—what happened?" she said, looking between them in confusion. "Did someone say something?"
"Well…" Harry said, "that changes things."
Harry knew enough to tell Mr. And Mrs. Diggory to take Cho straight to Dumbledore, but for himself, Madam Pomfrey didn't let him out until after lunch. His parents returned and asked if he was ready to leave, but he said he had one last thing to do first, so he wandered through the castle until he came to the dungeons, and more specifically, to Snape's office.
"Excuse me, Professor Snape?" he called.
He found Snape organising his potions for the end of the year. The man spared him an annoyed glance. "Yes, Potter," he said. "Have you not seen fit to return home rather than continue to subject us to your presence?"
Harry suppressed his annoyance and said, "I needed to talk to you before I left, sir."
Snape raised an eyebrow. "And?"
"Er, did Professor Dumbledore tell you what we discussed this morning?"
"You may rest assured that the Headmaster is not in the habit of divulging his personal conversations with his students—even yours, Potter. He did mention that a horcrux within you was destroyed and that he was very relieved by this development, but he did not give details."
"Oh. Well, you see, when it happened, sir…I wound up in…Limbo, I guess. And I saw my parents there."
Snape suddenly went very still in what Harry realised after the fact was probably a reflex to keep from dropping his potions. He carefully set down the phials he was organising and turned his full attention on Harry. "You saw Lily?" he said softly, his expression inscrutable.
"Yes, Professor. And James, but…I knew you had been friends once…She said she had a message for the Half-Blood Prince."
Snape was reportedly a great Occlumens, but even he betrayed his shock slightly with a sharp intake of breath and a widening of his eyes, and it took a visible effort to speak without stuttering, all of which Harry picked up on with interest. "That is correct, Potter," he said without elaborating.
"Good. She, er, she wanted me to tell you that she knows there's still good in you, and she's sorry she didn't see that before…but she also said you need to quit living in the past because spending your life feeling sorry for yourself doesn't become you."
That was apparently too much for him. He turned away and leaned over his workbench. Harry thought he could see a slight trembling in his shoulders, but he might have imagined it. This was getting way too private for him. "If that'll be all, sir—" he said, and he turned to leave.
"Wait," Snape stopped him. It took him a couple of deep breaths to work up the strength to say, "A moment, Potter," and several more to calm himself enough to face him again. Harry couldn't imagine what this was about, but Snape finally said, "There is something you need to see. This must not leave this room, and it especially must not reach the ears of anyone who does not know Occlumency."
Harry nodded. Snape drew his wand, and Harry tensed up, ready to draw his own. Had his mum miscalculated somehow? He tensed even more when Snape closed the door and locked it with a flick of his wand, but then, he said, "Expecto Patronum." A silver shape flowed out of his wand like water, but where Harry had expected a snake or a bat or something similar, he was stunned when it formed itself into the shape of a doe. Harry had never cast the Patronus Charm himself (maybe he should learn it, he thought), but he had seen Remus do it, and he knew the doe was his mother's Patronus.
"Thank you for bringing that message to me, Harry," Snape said. "It means more to me than I can safely tell you. I know we have not generally been on good terms, especially this year. I find your antics tiring, and it is not a secret that I strongly dislike certain of your extended family. However, I want you to know where I stand, for I believe you will need to know. This war may take some very dark turns, and it is more than likely that I will be involved. Therefore, I want you to know that no matter what seems to happen, no matter what you may see or hear about me…I am on your side."
The silver doe vanished, but the import of it remained. It wasn't that it was impossible to lie whilst casting the Patronus Charm. It wasn't even that it was impossible for a dark or wicked witch or wizard to cast it. It was a complicated spell, Remus had explained. The truly, irredeemably evil were unable to cast it, with records of their wands producing unpredictable and dangerous backfire effects if they tried to force it. But there were also records of wizards who did very bad things and were still able to cast a Patronus because they genuinely believed they were working towards the Greater Good. The important thing, Remus had said, was that it was impossible to speak maliciously whilst casting it (by one's own estimation, of course). If Snape said he was on Harry's side (and used his first name, no less!), then he truly meant it for Harry's benefit.
"Thank you Professor," Harry said, and he left silently. After seeing that, he didn't have the heart to tell him to get a girlfriend and run for it, like he'd originally planned.
"Well, here we are," Dan said as they pulled the car up. "Are you sure you want to do this, Harry?"
"Yes, Dad. I have to."
"You don't think there will be any trouble?" Hermione checked.
"No, Uncle Vernon was always the violent one, and we can do enough magic wandlessly to handle anything she tries. Let's go."
The Grangers climbed out of their car and walked up to the apartment door in Cokeworth. With magic on their side, pulling some strings to find out where Petunia Evans (Harry was surprised that her surname had changed in the interim) had gone was alarmingly easy. Her parents' house had been sold long ago, but she was living in a cheap apartment in the town where she'd grown up. Harry wondered if Dumbledore could do the same thing for her that he had for them to make her magically Untraceable while still being reachable in the muggle world. She might need it.
Harry knocked on the door. A minute later, it opened a short way, then swung wider as Petunia jumped backwards with a gasp of horror and clutched her chest. "You!" she moaned. "No! No, it can't be! Y-you're dead!"
"Dead? What—? Oh." Harry realised what she meant. "Eyes, Aunt Petunia." He pointed at his glasses for emphasis.
Petunia cautiously leaned forward and examined him closely. When she saw the bright green, her own eyes nearly popped out of her head. "H-H-Harry?" she whispered.
"Yes, it's me. May we come in?"
Her face hardened—not angry, really, but determined. Harry could tell she still didn't want anything to do with him or magic in general. "I would've thought you never wanted to see me again," she said.
"Honestly, I didn't—" he started.
"Then don't bother." She started to close the door.
"My Mum said you could've done better than Vernon," he said quickly.
Petunia stopped and slowly opened the door again. "What did you say?" she said shakily.
"My Mum," he said. "I saw her…I met her." He realised that might not be the best thing to say to her, so he added, "And no, that's not something you can normally do with magic, but I got whammied by an improvised dark ritual, and it just sort of…happened."
His aunt slumped and said, "Come in, then."
Now that Harry got a good look at her, he saw that Petunia was not looking well. Her nine years in prison had aged her at least twice that much, and though she wasn't yet forty, she looked a good deal older. Always thin and bony, she now appeared unhealthy and world-weary, and she no longer had that sharp, gossipy gleam in her eye.
There was no place to seat five in the apartment—neither the in living room nor at the kitchen table. The Dursleys wouldn't have been caught dead in that situation when Harry was living with them, but he could guess she wasn't entertaining guests frequently these days. She pulled two chairs from the kitchen table into the living room in a highly undignified fashion.
"They told me you were adopted," she said, motioning to the Grangers. "Are these…?"
"Yes, these are my adoptive parents, Daniel and Emma Granger," Harry said. "They're dentists. And this is my sister, Hermione." Petunia shook their hands while she raised an eyebrow at Harry. He guessed her question and added, "Hermione's like Mum was. She's a muggle-born witch."
To his surprise, his aunt didn't flinch at the word, and to his much greater surprise, she told Hermione, "You're very lucky, then…Please, have a seat."
They sat down and stared uncomfortably at one another. Petunia couldn't seem to bring herself to ask any questions, and none the Grangers had much to say. It was hard to believe this was the same woman who had locked a much younger Harry in a cupboard. Finally, Harry cleared his throat and repeated his abridged version of the story of what happened to him in the graveyard and afterwards. His aunt paled so much when he said Voldemort was back that he thought she might faint.
"I don't think he'll bother coming after you," he tried to assure her. "Not after all these years. But I thought you should know, just in case. Er, I'll ask Professor Dumbledore if there's anything he can do to protect you, but it's probably best if you don't draw too much attention to yourself."
"Won't be too much trouble," she muttered to herself. "But how did you meet Lily?"
He told her, and he was surprised once again that his answer elicited a brief look of wide-eyed wonder.
"She asked me to tell you that she never stopped wanting her sister back, and that it's not too late for you to be a better person."
Petunia broke down in tears at this point. The Grangers watched uncomfortably as she sobbed into a tissue. None of them were keen to reach out to her, but they couldn't really do anything else. Eventually, though, her tears slowed, and she started to speak again. "They…they…they m-made me t-take counselling…in the prison," she said as she dried her eyes. "They said I was irrational because I blamed you for everything. Ha!" she laughed bitterly. "But I did. And they made me go back and look at my life, and they made me realise that I was jealous of Lily. And of course, I was. I even wrote to Dumbledore and begged him to let me come to Hogwarts, and when he said no, I convinced myself that they were all freaks, and Lily was a freak, and I never wanted to go anyway.
"Oh, I couldn't tell the counsellors about magic. I…I considered saying it and getting myself transferred to a mental hospital, but I figured your kind would find out eventually. But I told them Lily got to go to a school for the gifted, and I didn't, and…yes, I was jealous. It took a while, but I understood how much I'd shut her out myself. And how badly I was raising both you and my own son…And they also showed me how, even though I was wrong, Vernon was making me worse. That was when I got the divorce…The last time I saw him, he still only regretted beating you, not any of the rest of it."
Harry was amazed. His mum had told him she had been watching over her sister, but he hadn't imagined she'd seen a transformation like this. His aunt was almost a different woman. "Well, I'm…I'm glad you got the help you needed," he said. They all sat silently for several minutes, no one having anything to say.
Finally, he asked, "How's Dudley."
Petunia smiled. "Dudley's fine," she said. "He's taken up boxing. He's very good at it…I worry about his turning out like his father; Vernon was a boxer, too, in his day, but Marge seems to have whipped him into shape."
Harry flinched a bit.
"Not literally, I mean. She's actually come around some, if you can believe it."
"I was worried about Dudley—growing up without his mummy. And Marge blamed me for everything for a long time. But I think after the divorce, she lost that excuse for how awful her brother was. It think he might've had time added for fighting in prison by now. Anyway, she's been civil with me since I got out, and she's let me visit. And she insists that Dudley hasn't received any cautions for bullying in years, so I'm still hopeful he'll turn out better than we did."
"Well…I hope he does, too."
They sat a while longer and exchanged a few very forced pleasantries. Petunia made a few token enquiries about the Granger's lives, but she pointedly did not any questions about magic or Hogwarts or Harry's and Hermione's education or accomplishments. Her guests soon excused themselves, anyway, and she seemed happy to see them go.
Although, just as they left, her "Thank you for coming, Harry," sounded reasonably sincere.
The funeral of Cedric Diggory was held in the evening of the twenty-seventh of June on the green fields by the cemetery in Ottery St. Catchpole. The sky was clear, and a warm summer breeze was blowing in from the ocean, giving the whole village a calm and peaceful feel to it.
It was well attended by the standards of the small wizarding world. The other three wizarding families in the village, the Weasleys, the Lovegoods, and the Fawcetts, were of course in attendance. Luna stood by Harry, holding his hand, with his entire family there as well. The Creeveys and the Robinses paid their respects, as did the families of Gabriel Truman and Ellen Towler, the now-graduated prefects who were also bitten in Greyback's attack. A few friends of friends, including Neville Longbottom and Natalie McDonald, also came in solidarity. Then, there were the Ministry officials: Dumbledore, Fudge, Grayson, the real David Monroe, looking very awkward about the whole thing and with a Healer by his side, Catriona McCormack, Ludo Bagman, and a full complement of Aurors.
And finally, besides a few family friends, there were Cedric's and Harry's fellow champions: Fleur Delacour and Viktor Krum, who were determined to give Cedric a champion's sendoff. Madame Maxime was also there, though not Karkaroff, who had fled as soon as Harry shouted Voldemort's return.
"It is terrible to see Tournament end like this," Viktor told Harry. "And more terrible to see good friendship end like this."
"We can still write each other," Harry told him. "All three of us," he added to Fleur. "I have a feeling we're going to need all the friends we can get very soon."
"Da. Ve cannot allow dark vizards to stop our friendship," he agreed. "And you have made good start on that."
"I hope so."
"You have, Harry. You did good vork to bring schools together vhen ve expected only competition, and your game, Ricochet, is, how do you say? Idea whose time has come. I vill be sure to introduce it in Bulgaria."
"And we will een France," Fleur agreed.
Harry smiled weakly. "At least some good came of it," he agreed. "But it's not my game. It's Cedric's. He and Cho played the first match. It should be their legacy."
"Da. That is good thought. Keep flying, Harry Potter. I look forvard to rematch someday."
Harry shook Viktor's hand. "So do I, Viktor Krum. I'm sorry I won't be able to face you in "98. I'm sure you understand, if there's a war coming, it'll need my undivided attention. But God willing, I'll be available in 2002."
He nodded and continued, "You know, if it had been fair tournament, Cedric vould have von, you in second, and Fleur in third. You all had better strategy than I did even before I attacked all of you."
"No, Viktor," Harry corrected, "if it had been a fair tournament, it would have been Cedric in first, Fleur in second, you in third, and me sitting happily on the sidelines."
Viktor's family had already gone back to Bulgaria, but Fleur's had come with her, and Monsieur Delacour spoke up now: "We do not blame you for what you did, Monsieur Krum. Eet ees a tragedie on all accounts. Lord Potter, we want you to know zat you 'ave our support, such as eet ees. Our influence in France ees not great, but we will be seeking to increase it to aid Britain. I 'ave friends in zee French Ministry."
"Thank you, Monsieur Delacour," Harry said. "We really appreciate that."
"Fixed or not, your performance in zee Tournament was very good, 'Arry," Fleur spoke up. "You showed skill and power even I 'ad not expected, and not just by being an animagus."
Harry shrugged awkwardly. "It had nothing to do with the Tournament. That's happens when you grow up with a psychopath after your head. And I never would have made it through the tasks if I weren't an animagus and a Parselmouth."
"Hmm, perhaps," she said cryptically.
"'Arry! 'Arry!" Gabrielle whispered by her sister's side. Harry bent down closer to her. "Zat must 'ave been very scary. Eet was very brave of you to bring Cedric back to his parents," she said, and she stood on her toes and kissed him on the cheek.
Harry blushed bright red. He hadn't really had much choice in the matter.
Gabrielle then crossed her arms and looked Luna up and down critically, which looked rather silly coming from an eight-year-old. Finally, she pointed at Harry and said, "You take good care of him."
"Don't worry, Gabrielle. I will," Luna replied.
Feeling rather confused, Harry escorted Luna and his own family to their seats. However, before he could sit down, there was a commotion at the back of the seating area as people began turning around, shouting, and pointing at a lone figure coming over the hill. The Aurors all drew their wands, and Harry immediately tensed. The man was filthy, dressed in rags. His teeth, they could see, were pointed, his eyes were yellow, and he was unnaturally hairy all over. But no one moved yet, as he was waving a white cloth back and forth above his head.
"Merlin's beard, that's Samuel Lateran," Remus said softly.
"Who?" Hermione asked.
"Feral werewolf. He's the alpha—or they think he's the alpha—of what's left of Greyback's pack. Not sure if he's wanted for anything, but for him to be here…I should talk to him." Remus broke from the ranks and approached the feral man."
"Lupin," he said hoarsely.
"Lateran," Remus greeted him. "I'm surprised to see you showing yourself in public, especially in front of Aurors."
"Why so surprised, Lupin? We heard rumours of a werewolf being buried with full Ministry honours. We had to check it out, see if it was true, pay our respects. If the Aurors want to haul me in, I won't stop them, but my pack would appreciate it if you respected the truce." He held up the white cloth again.
"The rumour's true," Remus confirmed. "Diggory's getting full honours. I can't promise anything about the Aurors."
"It's worth it to hear this news. Diggory's done more for our cause than Greyback did in his entire life. Pity he had to die for it. Of course, you're no slacker in that department, either. And I can't believe I'm actually saying that about a domestic. But even I can admit the Cor Humanum Foundation is doing some good…You're a pet, maybe, but not slacker." He laughed hoarsely.
Remus scowled. Didn't feral wolves at least remember basic etiquette? "I'll go talk to them," he said. He marched over the nearest Auror and, after a conversation that seemed quite heated, Lateran was allowed to attend the funeral in peace, albeit with one Auror guarding him on either side.
The officiant was a little old wizard in plain black priest's robes. Harry had never seen a wizard priest before, but it stood to reason there must be at least a few. He didn't know if this was the priest at the Diggorys' church, or if they even went to church, or maybe the only all-wizard churches were in Hogsmeade, but it didn't matter much. He gave a speech that was generic and mercifully short before he called up the mourners to speak.
Fudge was first, since he had an official function, though it was one that most of the audience didn't know about. "Believe it or not, I don't intend to keep you long," he said, to a bit of laughter. "This is a day for friends and family. I do want to read an announcement that the Wizengamot approved this morning: Cedric Diggory distinguished himself magically and in other skills in the Tetrawizard Tournament, achieving the position of first place. Upon reaching the end of the third task, he was informed of a credible threat of danger in taking the Tetrawizard Cup by his fellow champion and friend, Lord Harry Potter. Upon hearing of this threat and being given the choice either to avoid it or to disregard the warning and claim sole victory, he instead resolved to stand beside Lord Potter and face the unknown danger together. In doing so, he was attacked and murdered by a servant of the Dark Lord, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named." Well, it was too much to expect him to use Voldemort's name. "For this selfless and courageous act in defence of a friend and ally, the Wizengamot is pleased to award Cedric Diggory with the Order of Merlin, Third Class."
Fudge stepped up to the casket and pinned the bronze Order of Merlin medal to Cedric's robes. This was in large part a political act—an act of defiance against Voldemort, though few would say so out loud. Instead of sitting down, he returned to the lectern and said, "At this time, I would like to invite Lord Potter, if he wishes, to come forward and say a few words."
Harry had expected one of Cedric's parents to speak next, but he supposed it wasn't unreasonable since he was named in the citation, so he stepped forward and looked out uncomfortably at the audience. Checking the cue cards he had prepared for his speech, he said, "I didn't know Cedric very well before Greyback's attack last year. He was a Quidditch rival, and I thought he was a fair flier, but honestly, I didn't think he was extraordinary. After the attack, I learnt a lot more. I learnt he was amazingly principled, really smart, and a brilliant duellist. I wanted to support him because of the attack, but as I got to know him better, I was proud to call him my friend, and the true Hogwarts Champion.
"I want everyone to know today that I didn't deserve that Tetrawizard Cup any more than the Man in the Moon. I wasn't supposed to be in it. I didn't want to be in it. Cedric won that Tournament by his own power and wits, despite Voldemort fixing it in my favour. He deserved better than to have to share that honour, and he so much more deserved better than to be murdered just because he was in the way.
"I had a lot to thank him for because of what he did for his fellow werewolves, for helping us design Ricochet, for supporting me all the way through the Tournament when the spotlight should have been on him, and for standing by me at the end…Cedric was brave, he was loyal, and he never hesitated to stand up for what he believed in, and I thank Minister Fudge and the Wizengamot for giving him the recognition he deserves."
He sat down, then, and others stood to speak, though they started to blur together after a while. Mr. and Mrs. Diggory told about how much they loved Cedric and how proud they were of him. Dumbledore spoke about the choice between doing what is right and what is easy. Cho said she would treasure his memory forever. Demelza went up and talked about how much she looked up to Cedric for helping make a better life for werewolves. Samuel Lateran did not speak, but Harry could guess he shared the sentiment.
Finally, all the speakers were done, and it was time for the burial. The officiant called forward four pallbearers, but not the four whom most people expected. While Cedric's parents came forward to stand by the casket, the pallbearers were Dumbledore, Grayson, Harry, and Hermione.
This had come from an offhand remark Harry had made, that it didn't seem quite proper to bury Cedric by magic—that it seemed too easy—that to really pay tribute to his memory, they ought to do the hard work of digging his grave by hand. Remus had said that this was an opinion of some wizards, but most felt it was an unfitting tribute to a wizard not to use magic. Sirius, however, with his rejection of pureblood culture, was intrigued by the notion, and he spoke to the Diggorys about it. They thought it was a nice thought despite holding to the opposing view, and after some discussion, it was decided that it would be a purer tribute, and more universal in symbolism, if the burial was done without wands. It was also fitting because Cedric had learnt a fair bit of wandless magic himself from Grayson's lessons.
However, there were only four wandless magic users on hand who were strong enough to help with the task. Dumbledore and Grayson each could have done it on his own easily, but they called up all four to make it close to a complete half-dozen. Dumbledore closed the casket with a wave of his hand, and Harry and Hermione took their places at Cedric's feet, and the four of them carefully lifted the casket into the air.
Natalie McDonald, who had played the processional at the beginning of the service, now took up her violin again and began playing a slow, mournful rendition of Abide with Me, and the pallbearers levitated the casket towards a large headstone that read:
CEDRIC WILFRID DIGGORY
1 OCTOBER 1977 — 24 JUNE 1995
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.
Most of those eyes that had run dry moistened again as they lowered the casket into the ground. Demelza, no longer able to cry on her friend's shoulder, clung to her mother. Colin and Ginny looked like they were each keeping each other from falling over. Cho collapsed by the graveside and had to be helped up by Mrs. Diggory. Natalie kept playing, but tears were streaming down her face. Samuel Lateran actually knelt before the grave.
When the casket was at the bottom of the grave, the pallbearers—though mostly Dumbledore and Grayson—began to move the mound of dirt that had been placed a tasteful distance away and Disillusioned during the service to fill in the grave. It was more difficult than most of the wandless magic Harry and Hermione had tried. The best way they could find to focus on it was to move their hands as if they were trying to paddle through molasses to push small mounds into the grave. It wasn't as fast as using wands, but with the professors' help, they filled it in a few minutes. When they were done, Dumbledore waved his hand and cleaned up all the stray dirt while Grayson chanted a spell that caused grass to grow over the fresh plot and red poppies to grow around the gravestone.
Natalie took up the strain again for the recessional, and the mourners departed in silence. They were finished for the day. There was nothing more to be done. Today, they buried their dead and mourned their loss. Tomorrow, their work would begin.