Finding a Place to Call Home
Moon: Hello everyone, I'm back! I do apologize for the fact that this is a) later then usual and b) shorter then the last chapter, but I haven't been having the greatest week, culminating in getting hit by a car (thankfully I didn't get seriously hurt, but it was a bad shock) but I managed to throw this together. Meeting up with Remus and Sirius again, also meeting Jane Pritchard and her son Graham, who will be somewhat plot-important. I do not own Harry Potter.
Chapter 6: Meeting Up With Remus
Harry woke up slowly the next day. It was late and he knew it, but he couldn't help it. His dreams had been undisturbed by nightmares; in fact he had some of the most pleasant dreams ever last night. He couldn't remember the last time he had slept so well. It wasn't just the spirit in his head that was helping him sleep better, though that was certainly a factor. He almost couldn't remember a time when his dreams weren't rent by nightmares, either of Voldemort doing something or of dark memories of the cupboard under the stairwell where he had spent his nights. So the sleep without these troubles was glorious.
That was just one factor, of course. The other thing was obvious as well. It was the bigger bed and the person next to him.
He turned his head slightly to see Astoria's blonde hair splashed over her face and the pillow, one arm around Harry, her chest rising and falling softly with her breathing. She looked like an angel asleep, a ray of heaven's light. Her hair was glowing slightly in the mid morning light. She's beautiful, he thought. How'd I ever end up with someone like her?
Harry looked up at the ceiling of their hotel and smiled to himself. Warmth had sprung up in his chest like a well that had been filled to the point of overflowing. The feeling of bliss had followed him persistently after he lost the darkness of his old life and he intended to ride that wave for as long as he could. Harry had come to realize it wasn't just the change of scenery that had changed him. It was putting behind him the things that had held him down.
He was at peace with himself and that was reacting with his magic. He felt stronger and more fulfilled then ever before. Having shaken off all the abuse he had suffered for so long, it was like being born all over again.
I'm almost a normal boy now, Harry thought with some amusement. Normal. There was a word that he thought he'd never be able to associate with himself. And yet here he was.
Well, not completely normal, perhaps. Most normal boys couldn't take round the world trips, nor did many find love as assuredly as the the sun rising in the morning before they became men. But he could finally stop wondering when Voldemort or one of his followers was going to jump out from around the corner and try to kill him, or if one of the people he cared about and trusted was going to turn on him and call him attention-seeking, crazy or dangerous. He could just do his homework, see sights and learn new things without people staring at his forehead or expecting him to be something he wasn't.
He could stay with the one who now held his heart, and would treasure it and cradle it as if it were made of glass. She would not break it or torment it the way everyone else had, but she would return his feelings with equal affection.
And there was the whole thing with his godfather's trial, which was coming up very soon.
It was almost surreal, having a life as a normal boy. Harry found that he had trouble sitting with his back to a closed door sometimes, as if he was still expecting someone from his old life to catch up with him. Despite the fact that he followed news from Britain to make sure that they weren't being followed, he kept thinking that something would come crashing down and take away the happiness he had been given.
He was thinking about going up the mountains to sight see, like they had been over the past few weeks. Switzerland was one hell of a pretty country, he had decided. The only place that could possibly beat it out was New Zeland, which they would be seeing after Germany and Japan.
There was a tapping at the window. Harry looked up from Astoria and saw Hedwig at the window, a letter in her beak. Smiling, Harry got up carefully as not to disturb the sleeping girl next to him. He ran a hand through his messy hair and walked over to the window, letting the snowy owl in. "Hey there girl," He said warmly. Hedwig chirped and brushed against his hand.
Harry took the letter and opened it.
I understand you might not have planned to move onto your next stop yet, but as you know Sirius's trial is fast approaching. The trial itself is less then a week and Sirius would like you to be here for it. I promise that it will be completely safe for you here – minimum press coverage at my flat and no one will try and take you back to Britain. We'd like to meet Astoria, as well. I understand the two of you are getting closer, according to the letters you've been sending. Sirius approves, by the way. I knew her parents in passing when we were at school, and I know that they were never involved with Voldemort's crowd. Her father is coming here for the trial, though Astoria has the call on whether or not she wants to meet up with him.
Jane's currently fighting to get your custody moved back to Sirius. It was meant to be there in the first place and the Dursleys have been declared unsuitable. It probably won't take her that long. The woman's got a spine of steel and I think the envoys from Britain are terrified of her by this point. She's a tough witch. Married young, lost her husband not long after they were married. I think Sirius is starting to fancy her, personally. Would do him some good, to have normal interactions with someone after spending years in Azkaban and then with the Order. It'll be an interesting watch, she seems immune to his usual charms.
Her son Graham was starting his first year at Hogwarts but she pulled him out when she found out about its history looking through your files. He's a very serious boy, startlingly intelligent. It's the way he applies it that can be a bit unsettling. The first time I met him he told me half my life story just looking at the way I was dressed, the way I walked and the way I held myself. He seems rather lonely, though, possibly because of this.
Also, I'm starting to date. Her name's Beverly Cavil, she's an expert Potions Master. She's a lovely young woman and I hope you'll like her.
Harry did his best to restrain his glee. Remus was dating! He was so pleased. Remus's life was definitely taking a positive turn and he was glad of it. He also liked the sounds of Sirius possibly getting involved with Jane Pritchard; anyone who put Albus I-know-what's-best-for-you Dumbledore on probation was good enough for his eyes.
Harry's only real quandary was how to address the issue of Astoria's father and sister. Judging from the letter he sent last time he was genuinely sorry for what he had done, but Harry didn't think he'd be able to forgive the man for how lonely, threatened and alienated he had made Astoria feel for the years since her mother's death. How the man had tried to put out the light that had saved him.
However, he also understood how his wife's death could have affected him and Daphne as well. Maybe in time he'd be able to forgive him. Either way, Astoria had the final decision on the matter. He wouldn't make it for her.
He scribbled the beginnings of his reply on a paper and then turned his attention back to Astoria.
Harry leaned over and nipped at Astoria's ear lightly. "Wake up, Tori," he said lightly.
Astoria giggled and blinked her eyes open a few times. She smiled up at him. "Hi Harry. I think I like waking up that way."
Harry smiled at her, "You're welcome. I enjoy waking you up like that."
Astoria gave him one of her bright smiles that never failed to illuminate his heart and whatever room they were in. "It's not fair that you have such a pretty smile," He said sadly, "You could brainwash me with it. I only wish I had a weapon like that,"
Astoria laughed outright at this, "A weapon, me? Hardly. You're the knight in shinning armor and we both know it. My smile is hardly the most dangerous thing you've ever faced. You've sat through Granger's study hours! That takes a hardy spine."
Harry chuckled. "I suppose it does."
His angel pushed herself into a sitting position, still giggling, and said, "Oh, Hedwig's back. What's the scene?"
Harry smirked, "Remus got himself a girlfriend."
Astoria clapped. "Wonderful! Muggle or magical?"
"Magical. Potion's Master." Harry said. "You know Sirius's trial is in a week. Well, Remus was rather hoping we'd come early and be there for it. I know it means leaving her a little earlier then we intended, but I hoped you wouldn't mind."
Astoria shook her head, causing her hair to fall in front of her eyes, "Harry I know how important Sirius is to you. Of course we can go."
"There's more," Harry said, sitting down next to her again. He showed her the point in the letter where it said that her father was coming to see it. "What do you think, Tori?"
Astoria paused for the longest moment. Then she smiled, more slightly this time, and said, "I'm ready to forgive papa. He was scared for our future. After he lost mama, he lost his light. We all did. Its like trying to find your way on a moonless night. He was scrambling for a path and hit the first hard-worn one that presented itself to him. Before he really realized where it lead to." She turned and smiled at him. "But when he did he and Daph have chosen me over that path. That's more then the other girls parents would have done."
Harry just watched Astoria for a second, causing her to blink at him. "What?"
He smiled wryly and shook his head. "You still surprise me, Tori. But I think I believe you."
Astoria looked beseechingly at Harry. "You'll give them a chance, won't you Harry? Daddy and Daphne. I know Daphne might not have been very nice to you but she'll be different now. I promise."
Harry took a deep breath and met Astoria's green eyes steadily. "Of course I will. It's just a bit to take in, alright? I'm not sure how I feel about your dad just yet. I will meet him, with you."
Relief filled those pretty green eyes. Astoria leaned over and kissed Harry on the cheek. "Thank you Harry for giving him a chance. Now, when do we have to be there?"
"Any point during today."
Sirius and Remus's Flat, two blocks away from the German Ministry of Magic
Remus smiled warmly at his now-girlfriend Beverly Cavil, the sunlight was catching on her heather colored hair as she moved about in the kitchen, preparing lunch for him, the kids, Sirius and Jane. The young woman was in her late twenties, which made Remus think that he might be too old for her but when he brought this up she wasn't having any of it. Beverly had told him in no uncertain terms when he tried to protest that he was the one who deserved better, and she would love no better then to be that person for him. Humbled, Remus forwent any further objections and began to see her on a regular basis.
Beverly was a perfect contrast to Jane Pritchard, Sirius's lawyer and potential girlfriend. Beverly was gentle, kind, thoughtful, and patient. Jane was hot tempered, snarky, wickedly intelligent in law, had no tolerance for stupidity and no time for those who fancied themselves something lofty. Beverly often had to sooth the other woman's temper when she stormed into the flat, cursing out Albus Dumbledore or the British Envoys or the Magical Britian in general, or whoever else had the misfortune of setting her off. Which was quite frequent these days.
Beverly was a calming presence, and a good help to Graham whenever he stayed over at the flat, which was becoming increasingly common. Remus couldn't help the feeling the Graham was trying to grow up to fast. Perhaps it was simply that his mind matured to quickly, sort of like Hermione, though decidedly more reserved and pointed then the abrasive bushy haired Gryffindor. A number of times either Beverly, Jane or Remus had found Graham asleep on a table past his bedtime with huge stacks of books sitting on either side of him.
"I don't know what to do with him," Jane had complained one day. "He can hardly interact with other children these days, and when I talk to him it's like dealing with a stranger. Graham is so smart, but he can't be bothered to study and he says that it will forever be impossible for him to make friends. He's becoming so moody and I have so little time to help him."
"He just hasn't found his niche yet, Jane." Beverly said soothingly, putting a hand on the attorney's shoulder. "Besides, with all this news I really don't think Hogwarts is best equipped to handle a child who's different in the way Graham is. Really, with their history I'm surprised he's been doing as well as he has. I bet he'll do better in a different environment."
"You got that right," Jane said belligerently. "I can't imagine what I was thinking, enrolling him there. Must have been some bad firewhiskey! Glad I pulled him out after this Tri-Wizard nonsense, greatest wizarding school there is indeed! With the way they treat children who dare to be gifted. Ugh. I do need to find him a new school..."
"Maybe Drumstrang?" Beverly suggested.
"That bloody school was the third involved with that disaster of a tournament, over my dead body...besides, I wouldn't trust that Headmaster as far as I could kick him..." Jane grumbled, starting to sort through the various papers regarding Sirius's trial and very likely release while Beverly continued to calm her down.
Sirius actually agreed with Jane later that day, which would continue to be a source of marvel to Remus. He couldn't imagine the younger Sirius he had once known hearing a single bad word about the school that had taken him away from his fanatic family or its headmaster. Then again, himself, Sirius and James hadn't been the brightest young boys around, however clever they had thought themselves to be. If they had been a bit brighter, James and Lily wouldn't have died due to a knife in the back from the last place they were expecting and none of this would have happened.
Shaking the memory off, Remus glanced over at Graham, who was sitting on the couch reading, dirty blonde hair framing his young face and storm grey eyes. The boy put up a good show, especially whenever he was in public, but Remus knew that he was lonely.
Harry had a knack for bringing together lost souls, making friends in unlikely places. If anyone could help the young Pritchard, he could.
There was a knock on the door. Graham looked up from his book and said casually, "They must be here now, Remus, Beverly."
Remus found a grin spreading across his face even before he strode over to the door and swung it open to reveal his friend's son and nephew in all but blood Harry Potter standing on the doorway, smiling. Standing next to him was a smiling blonde girl who could only be Astoria Greengrass. There was a warmth to her eyes that Remus never would have associated with a girl of pureblood upbringing these days.
"Professor Lupin!" Harry said happily, throwing himself into the older werewolf's arms. Remus let out a woof and then smiled affectionately down at the boy with messy dark hair. Astoria trailed in behind him, watching Lupin with a nervous smile.
"Just Remus now, Harry. I'm not your Professor now. Just family," Remus said warmly, rubbing Harry's back. Harry let him go and grinned up at him. Remus then turned his attention to Astoria, "And this is Astoria Greengrass. I remember you; you were a good student despite some of your classmates obvious contempt for my classes."
Astoria blushed, "I didn't understand why Draco was so determined to throw away his first year with a competent teacher just because you couldn't afford good robes. It's not very fair of him either, but he doesn't understand that. Not when he's born with a silver spoon in his mouth."
"You seem to have escaped that noose," Remus remarked. "Makes you stronger then him."
Astoria blushed harder, and Harry put an arm on her shoulder. "Is Sirius here?" He asked hopefully, he had missed his godfather a good deal over the summer holidays.
"Not yet," Beverly said, emerging from the kitchen and walking over to where everyone was standing. "He and Jane were sitting through some more things regarding his trial and whatever connections to Britain have to be filed. Personally, I think it's almost guaranteed that he'll get acquitted. Poor Jane almost had an aneurysm over the blatant miscarriage of justice that had occurred in Britain that no one could be bothered to correct."
Harry smiled hesitantly at her, "You're Beverly Cavil?"
"Yes, I am," Beverly confirmed, offering Harry her hand. "It's nice to finally meet you Harry."
Harry shook, his smile growing more confident. "This is Astoria."
"Charmed," Beverly said warmly. "I don't know if the two of you know, but Jane's son Graham will be staying with us for the time being. He will have just started his first year at school." She turned her attention to the couch. "Graham, come and say hello."
Graham, who had been watching Harry and Astoria's entrance with unfathomable dark eyes sat up and very deliberately marked his place in the book. He stood up slowly and walked over. He was slight and almost waif-like in size, slender and lean. But there was a hardness and a silent intelligence behind eyes the color of a raging storm. His dirty blonde hair was carefully brushed and fell down the sides of his face in slight waves. "Hello Harry," He said calmly. "Astoria Greengrass."
"Hello Graham." Harry said with the most sincere warmth he could without sounding phony or condescending. He'd had good experience with both, so he must have done something right because a flash of surprise went past Graham's eyes.
"We're working on dinner now," Remus said, "How about you help them get settled, Graham?"
"Alright," Graham's response was crisp and unemotional, and he nodded to indicate the stairwell before walking off in that direction. Astoria shot Harry a curious look, the younger boy's behavior was obviously somewhat unnerving. "Let's give him a chance," Harry said softly. She nodded and they followed him up the stairs.
Graham was waiting for them at the top, Harry said, "So you're Graham Pritchard, I saw you sorted into Slytherin this year," Internally he winced, not much of a conversation starter. Probably made it look like he was being forced into this conversation as well.
Graham paused, and after a moment he looked at Harry and said without preamble, "Going to ask my mother to add abuse of a minor to Dumbledore's obstruction of justice charges?"
Harry was so taken aback he took a step backwards. Whatever he'd been expecting Graham to say or do when meeting the boy-who-lived, this certainly wasn't it. "What?"
"After the Tournament? I would have sued beforehand," Graham continued, gazing unblinkingly at him. "With Hogwarts having been a death trap ever since you entered it, I'm surprised it took you as long as you did to make a break for it."
"I-how?" Astoria stammered, blinking.
Graham looked them up and down. "It's obvious, isn't it, if you're looking carefully enough?" He gestured at Harry and then started to talk, "I saw you once in passing on the train to Hogwarts. You were already wearing you Hogwarts robes despite almost everyone else waiting until they got much closer to the school before putting them on, most people find them uncomfortable but you looked quite happy to be changing into them. You were putting a shirt in your suitcase, but it was three times your size, could have been a hand-me down from another relative but your lip was curled in disgust as you put it away. Factoring that in with what came out in the muggle papers and its clear you've never been bought anything your own size until the uniform, this also makes sense with several passing comments in the halls that you're often seeing wearing a Weasley Jumper despite the youngest boy's constant complaints that they were embarrassing. Likely they were once warn by your cousin, the added bonus being that they covered you so completely the muggles didn't notice the number of bruises on your body. The nurse's more advanced healing eliminated most of the scars, however the healing magic she uses is yet to be perfected so your fingers and some of your skin are slightly crooked and off colour, they've been broken multiple times and never seen to properly prior to this."
Graham pointed a finger at Harry's neck. "Yes, despite the school nurse having you visit her wings with frankly alarming frequency no one thought it was odd that you had arrived at school looking as though someone had tried to strangle you. By the size of the bruises it was likely your uncle's fault. Along with that was the consideration that whenever you spoke to someone you didn't know, or someone who was taller or higher in authority you go tense at the shoulders but keep your leg muscles relaxed, I saw that both with the students of the other schools when your name was called during the selection and when you just spoke with Beverly."
He paused, and then continued heedless to Harry's dumbstruck stare, "Now another muggleborn in your place would have probably been taken aside to ask what was hurting them, but not you. This, of course, is the crucial point that sends you under the radar. You're the boy-who-lived, so most people already had a pre-existing image of you and seemed prepared to factor out whatever reality their faced with to meet this image. This covers most people in the school but there are several people at the head table who were old enough to have known and taught your parents, most noticeably Albus Dumbledore. Now, your very first year here and something is moved from Gringotts to Hogwarts itself? And Albus [happens] to be away the night you investigate it? This was his way of testing the waters to see what you were capable of, the defenses were downgraded to the talents of the two groupies he'd assigned you-"
"Assigned me?" Harry interrupted, startled, "How could you possibly know about that?"
Graham blinked and raised an eyebrow, "It's obvious, isn't it? I heard the story, out of an entire train of nearly six hundred students and the first person you meet is the latest son of a family of Dumbledore's most prominent supporters? Now, this could seem innocuous since the rest of the family treats you normally, but you apparently felt compelled to remain friends with someone who was constantly trying to undermine you and grabbed at your fame? And the Granger girl, oh so talented, determined to become the best, slowly degenerating into a pushy harpy – with them as the closest thing you had to friends you wouldn't notice the things happening to you were out of line. Second year, a man who had seen the Chamber opened last time apparently didn't think to evacuate the school despite the fact that the last opening ended in murder; he wanted to see you kill the beast and take another step closer to the hero he wanted you to be. Ignoring the fact that most twelve year old boys in that situation would have been devoured or turned to stone. Third year, actually allows Dementors to be near a school full of energetic children who pour vitality and life, after living on a diet of a few good thoughts a year from insane prisoners? And then the Tournament, meant for adults, somehow getting you enrolled and are completely isolated from the general student populace and any teacher who might have helped you otherwise. Dumbledore has everything to gain from this, you would depend on him for support of any kind which you would undoubtedly see as the generosity of a man who could see you for who you really are. Couldn't you see his body language when he took the fourth paper? He was expecting it. Hoped for it. You would be forced to grow more powerful and closer to whatever he wanted you to be, and he remains under suspicion."
Graham drew his monologue to a close and looked expectantly at Harry and Astoria. After a minute Astoria was the one who regained her voice, "You were only at Hogwarts for a few months. How could you learn all this?"
Graham smirked slightly with no humor. "As the benefits of a good Slytherin, unlike Malfoy who's more of a Gryffindor then anything else, I waited, watched, listened, and observed. Everything else I could piece together by virtue of what I knew happened and what I had just learned. Unfortunately, it seems that most people can't be bothered to pay attention to what happens right in front of them."
He snorted and tossed his hair over one shoulder. "Adults claim to know what's best, but we're constantly handed obstructive lies, manipulations and half-truths as they bumble their way through situations they can only escape feet first. Getting them out of the way when you need something done can be so cumbersome." Graham said this as though it was a fact of life. Snarky. Arrogant. Indifferent.
Harry watched Graham for another long moment. "That was amazing." He said flatly.
Graham blinked and took a startled step backwards. "It was?" He blurted out, loosing his casual tone.
Astoria grinned at the young boy, the wheels in her brain already turning. "Can I go next?"
Graham shook his head slightly, "that's not what people usually say."
Harry raised an eyebrow. "What do people usually say?"
Graham shifted on one foot. "Get lost, runt." He said uneasily.
Harry understood in a moment. He'd guessed from Remus's letter and from the way he had greeted him that Graham was...different, and people in his experience often resented such people. Graham had thought they were talking down at him, or expected something of him that he wasn't, and this was obviously a sore point for him. So he showed off what he could do, expecting them to get angry and defensive or to shun him. Whatever he had just said about expectations, he had clearly had his own about how Harry would act around him, and he had just disproved them. "Is it that easy for you? You can just look at someone and guess half their life story?"
"Well, not just a look," Graham said, uncertainty now plain in his tone. "It takes a bit longer then that." His eyes flashed again, clearly angry he had admitted such, and then that cool cockiness was back in his voice. "But people can't hide their thoughts from me for long, no matter how strong their mental magic is. It's a matter of observation."
"I've never seen anyone do that," Astoria said admiringly.
Graham looked up at her and Harry, and there was a ray of hope creeping into his eyes. Harry felt sympathy, here was another young boy who had spent who knew how long certain that he would never be accepted, being offered kindness and genuine friendliness. "Thank you," He said softly.
Now Astoria's smile was becoming predatory. "I think you can help me with something Graham. I mean, if you don't mind."
Harry repressed a shiver. Astoria may be the light in his life, but she was still a Slytherin, and she had no love of Albus Dumbledore. He could only wonder what she was planning now.
I freely admit that the character of Graham walked into my head after I watched the first season of Sherlock, though Graham is not meant to be a carbon copy of the famous detective. He's just a too-intelligent for his age boy (in a different way from Hermione) who can see more then most. I promise more hard examination of the failings of magical Britain next chapter, but I wanted to write something lower-key while I walk of the shock of my accident. However, next chapter will deal with Sirius's trial and there will be plenty of blame to go around on a certain too-perfect-to-be-true professor and his groupies.
Read and Review please!