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SIYE Time:22:13 on 18th November 2017


These Cuts I Have
By melindaleo

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Category: Post-DH/AB
Characters:All
Genres: Drama
Warnings: Mild Language, Mild Sexual Situations, Negative Alcohol Use
Story is Complete
Rating: PG-13
Reviews: 475
Summary: The war has been won, yet the aftershocks continue. The scattered survivors are left to pick up the pieces and find ways to move on. Join the various members of the extended Weasley family as they struggle to rebuild and cope with the consequences. And of course there are still Death Eaters left to find.
Hitcount: Story Total: 86632; Chapter Total: 3265
Awards: View Trophy Room




Author's Notes:
Well, there you have it! To those of you who suspected Harry’s chest cold was something more ominous – you were right!

There were quite a few of you who were exasperated with Harry for not calling attention to it sooner, but I think that’s also a symptom of how he’s been raised. I can’t imagine Petunia ever treating a cold or flu with anything but annoyance and irritation that it was inconveniencing her. Harry would’ve learned from a very young age that he had to take care of himself because no one else would. It’s another “cut” that won’t heal overnight. He’s getting there, though.




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Chapter Twenty-Four
Past Poisons



Once again, Ginny sat in a waiting room at St. Mungo’s Hospital. This was becoming a bad habit. Images of Harry gasping for breath flashed through her mind, making her hands shake. It had been chaos in the courtroom once he’d collapsed. Kingsley had managed to block the press from re-entering, but a number of reporters had parked themselves in the lobby of the hospital awaiting news.

They were all awaiting news.

Harry had looked extremely unwell when the Mediwitch used a Portkey to transport him to the hospital. His skin had a grey pallor, and his breathing was labored and erratic. Ginny had seen Harry hurt before, but never sick, and she found it disconcerting. The cracking sound of his head hitting the floor made her skin crawl, and she couldn’t shake it.

“He really didn’t look well,” she said again, as she paced in the waiting room. Her muddled brain couldn’t seem to focus on anything else.

She, Ron and Hermione were the only ones there at the moment. There had been no word from a Healer since their arrival.

“I’ve been wondering about that, too,” Hermione said. “Are there any side effects from taking too much Pepper-Up Potion?”

Ginny shrugged. “Not that I know of. Why? D’you think he took too much?”

“I don’t know. I suspected he took some before he testified, and I know he was taking it over the weekend,” Hermione replied.

“I’ve never heard of anyone taking too much,” Ginny said, frowning. Now that she thought about it, she’d never been ill enough to need more than a few doses.

“Ron,” Hermione said suddenly, “did you learn how to do Glamour Charms in your training?”

Ron’s eyes widened. “Yeah, that was part of our Concealment class. How did you know?”

“Because I think Harry was using a Glamour, so we wouldn’t know how sick he was. It must have collapsed after he passed out,” Hermione said, shaking her head.

“He wouldn’t have wanted to look weak in front of the Wizengamot,” Ginny said. It was very like Harry to do such a thing, but it made her want to throttle him.

At that moment, her mum and dad burst through the waiting room door.

“How is he?” her mum asked frantically.

“Mum! Dad!” Ron said. “How did you know we were here? It’s not in the paper already, is it?”

“No, we got an owl. Apparently Harry listed us as next of kin,” her father said tiredly.

“Oh, yeah. Forgot about that,” Ron said.

“I never knew,” her mum said, sniffling.

Dad wrapped his arm around her and squeezed gently. “I’m glad he did,” he said heavily.

“How is he?” her mum repeated. Her hair was untidy, and Ginny suspected she’d been tugging on it.

“We don’t know. They haven’t told us anything,” Hermione replied.

“Why don’t you tell us what happened?” Dad asked calmly.

“You know that Harry has been unwell all weekend,” Hermione began.

“More than just the weekend, he was congested all last week,” Ron added.

“It started even before that,” Ginny said, wondering why she hadn’t really thought about how long he’d been battling this cold.

“Right,” Hermione said. “Is there any downside to taking too much Pepper-Up? I don’t really know how often he was taking it.”

Mum shook her head. “There shouldn’t be, but it should have cured a cold by now,” she said worriedly.

“He was all right when he testified, but Hermione thought he might have taken a dose of Pepper-Up beforehand,” Ginny said.

“Does Kingsley know Harry’s here?” Dad asked.

“Yeah, he personally okayed the Portkey,” Ron said. “He said he’d be here after he finished with Umbridge.”

“Did they say when they’d be able to tell us anything?” Mum asked, worrying the apron she still wore.

“No, we haven’t seen anyone,” Hermione said. “It seems to be taking a long time.”

As she spoke, the door opened, admitting Kingsley along with the Healer who had treated Harry when he’d been at St. Mungo’s for the Cutting Curse.

“I saw Healer Larkin in the corridor,” Kingsley explained, taking a seat beside Mum and Dad.

“What can you tell us?” Dad asked.

“How ill is he?” Mum asked at the same time.

Healer Larkin’s brow furrowed, and she pursed her lips. “Why don’t you all sit down?” she said.

Ginny’s heart leapt into her throat. That didn’t sound good. She complied, but only perched on the edge of her chair, ready to bolt. “Tell us what you know,” she said.

“I did a Diagnostic Spell, and I can see he’s been taking Pepper-Up Potion for an extended period. If this were a normal illness, it would’ve been cured by now,” Healer Larkin said slowly.

“Yeah, we’d worked that out already, thanks,” Ginny said impatiently.

“Ginny!” her mother scolded.

Ginny didn’t care. She wanted answers.

“So eliminating the common maladies,” Healer Larkin said, ignoring Ginny completely, “I looked more closely at his symptoms. The problem appears focused in his lungs, but it’s spread to some of his other organs.”

“What’s spread?” Dad asked urgently.

“What’s wrong with his lungs?” Hermione asked, chewing her lip.

“His lungs are the most problematic. They are incredibly constricted. In fact, if he hadn’t been brought in, one — if not both — of his lungs would’ve collapsed. It’s as if something is crushing them. His liver and kidneys are also beginning to show the signs of pressure,” the Healer said.

“What? What illness could do that?” Dad asked.

“It’s not an illness, not a natural one, anyway. I believe Mr. Potter has been poisoned,” Healer Larkin said gravely.

A chorus of protests erupted in the room. Everyone fired questions at the Healer at once, until Kingsley put his fingers in his mouth and whistled sharply, causing everyone to cringe.

“I think we need to let Healer Larkin finish,” he said sternly.

“I don’t have any concrete evidence. He has no bite wounds or unexplained injuries. Nothing in his stomach contents show any trace of poison, and the fact his stomach hasn’t yet been affected leads me to believe the poison was administered through an inhalant. There are traces of deterioration in his throat and naval cavities. What I can’t understand is how this has worked so quickly. Poisons are rarely administered through an inhalant because it is notoriously slow-acting, except in children. The amount of damage in Mr. Potter’s lungs is inconsistent with any poison I’ve ever seen,” Healer Larkin said, obviously perturbed.

“So, do you know how to treat him?” Mum asked. “Is there anything you can do for him without knowing what poison was used?”

“What do you mean except in children?” Hermione asked, her face chalk white.

“Children can’t handle adult doses of potions. They’re too strong for them, but that’s only in young children. Mr. Potter is well past the age it would be a factor,” the Healer said dismissively.

Hermione whimpered. “Except, he wasn’t,” she said, looking at the Minister.

Kingsley’s eyes opened wide, and he let out an audible gasp. “Merlin’s balls! Mr. Potter stumbled upon a De-Ageing Potion left behind by some Death Eaters,” he said.

“That was also left as an inhalant,” Hermione said faintly.

The Healer turned sharply, her expression grim. “Do you still have this De-Ageing Potion?” she asked.

“My daughter-in-law developed an antidote. I can ask her, but I don’t know why she would have saved the potion residue once Harry was reversed,” Dad said.

“Would a full-strength Sleeping Draught have any effect on this? I gave him a Sleeping Draught,” Hermione said, her eyes wild.
Healer Larkin shook her head, placing a hand on Hermione’s arm to calm her. “No. This has nothing to do with a simple Sleeping Draught. That would just knock him out for an extended period. This is something far more lethal.”

“What about the drapes?” Hermione asked, still breathing very fast. “Minister, your team took the drapes from Grimmauld Place. Do you know who has them?”

“They’re still in a box at the Ministry. We haven’t had time to get them tested, but I’ll make it a top priority,” Kingsley said.

“But what can you do for Harry now?” Ginny asked, biting her lip.

“I’ve healed the concussion he sustained in his fall, but I can’t cure him without more research into what he was given. I do think I can stabilize him, however. I’ve got more to go on now, anyway. I’ll let you know when you can see him,” Healer Larkin said, quickly leaving the room.

“I’m going back to the Ministry. I’ll get our investigators working on those drapes. With any luck, there will be some trace of what was in the poison. Keep me informed,” Kingsley said in his deep, calming voice. He squeezed Mum’s shoulder and nodded to Dad as he left the waiting room.

“Harry knew just leaving a De-Ageing Potion was weird. I didn’t pay enough attention,” Ron said hollowly.

He was very pale, and his freckles stood out darkly on his bloodless face. He hung his head, grasping his hair in his hands.

“It’s not your fault, Ron,” Ginny said dully. “None of us thought beyond the De-Ageing Potion.”

“Harry did. He asked me point blank why they would simply de-age him when knocking him out would’ve accomplished the same thing. I told him they succeeded in humiliating him,” Ron moaned.

“Blaming yourself won’t help Harry now,” Dad said firmly.

“Well, he’s not here to do it, so I think someone ought to,” Ron said.

“We need to find out if Fleur saved any of the residue,” Hermione said.

“I’ll go do that,” Dad said. “Molly?”

“I’m going to stay until we find out how Harry is,” Mum said, slumping back in her chair.

“I’ll be back as soon as I can,” Dad said.



It was several more hours before Healer Larkin returned to the waiting room. Ron sat dozing in his chair with his head resting on Hermione’s shoulder. Hermione was absorbed in a Potions book. Dad had returned from Shell Cottage disappointed. Fleur hadn’t saved any of the powdery substance she’d used to develop the antidote to the De-Ageing Potion.

Ginny really hadn’t expected it, but she was discouraged nonetheless. Why was it always Harry? She was too wound in knots to sleep, and her mother had to stop her twice from hunting down the Healer for some information. The only thing that stopped her was the fact she could potentially hurt Harry with a delay.

When the door finally swung open revealing the Healer, Ginny jumped to her feet and strode across the room to meet her.

“How is he?” she demanded.

Hermione sat up, knocking Ron from her shoulder. He barely stopped himself from landing on her lap, but his eyes became alert when he saw the Healer, and he shook his head to clear it.

“He’s awake and stable for the moment,” Healer Larkin said slowly. “We managed to reduce the pressure on his lungs, but we can’t eliminate it. The poison will continue to progress. We can treat the symptoms and relieve some of his pain, but I’m afraid that’s the best we can do. The damage is extensive, and his health will continue to decline until we can find an antidote. I’ve told him that I recommend he remain here on a bedrest regimen, but he’s steadfastly refusing to do so.”

Ginny could tell the Healer was annoyed. She didn’t know if it was Harry’s refusal to remain in hospital, or her inability to cure him. Perhaps a little of both.

“What do you mean he’s refusing? That’s ridiculous,” Mum said, her face growing red.

Uh-oh, Harry was about to run into Mum in full-out mother-mode. If Ginny wasn’t so worried, she might have laughed at the thought. In this instance, she was on her mum’s side.

“I agree. If he remains in bed, we can slow the poison and have more time to work out an antidote. His magic is working full-time in a vain attempt to heal. Further use of magic will only weaken him,” Healer Larkin said grimly.

“Can we see him?” Dad asked.

“Please do. See if you can convince him to see reason,” she said, indicating they should follow her.

When they entered his room, Harry sat upright in his bed looking exceedingly tired and pale. Pain dulled his bright green eyes, and his breath rattled alarmingly in his chest.

“Hey,” he wheezed.

Mum walked directly to him, kissing him on the head before sitting on the edge of the bed beside him. “What’s this nonsense about not staying in bed, Harry dear? You need your strength to recover.”

Harry signed wearily, but Ginny could already tell he wasn’t going to be swayed. He smiled gently at her mum.

“I’m not going to recover, Mrs. Weasley,” he said, bringing Ginny’s heart to her throat. “Not unless we can find out what poison they used.”

His voice sounded scratchy and strained.

“But, Harry, we can look into that. You need to save your strength,” Hermione said tearfully.

“I’ll drive myself spare in bed, you know that. I need to feel like I’m doing something to fight back. I can’t just lie here and wait. That’s like letting them win,” Harry said, struggling to find the right words.

“You listen to me, Harry James. If the Healer tells you to stay in bed, you’re staying in bed,” Mum said, the color rising alarmingly on her face. Ginny shook her head, knowing the secret to mum was not letting her build up her rant. Harry hadn’t been on the receiving end enough to know that.

He took mum’s hand in his and squeezed in gently, derailing Mum instantly. It was rare that Harry instigated physical contact, and Ginny could read her mum’s disconcertion.

“I promise to take care of myself and see the Healer when I need to, but I can’t stay in bed, Mrs. Weasley. I know, for me, that will only make the poison work faster,” Harry said quietly.

Mum stifled a sob, and Dad immediately put his hands on her shoulders, squeezing reassuringly.

Perhaps Harry had learned more about handling mum than Ginny had given him credit for.

“I spoke to Kingsley. He said our best hope to draw out whoever left this poison is to make it appear you’re all right,” Dad said. “The fact you used a Glamour while testifying helps that illusion. Kingsley believes our culprit will be eager for information on Harry’s health.”

“We’re not using him as bait,” her mum snarled. “He needs rest. He needs to put his own health first for a change.”

“I’m not suggesting we don’t put his health first, Molly dear, but I agree with the Minister. Giving the illusion that Harry is perfectly fine will help draw out the culprits,” Dad said gently. “That doesn’t mean when he’s safe at The Burrow that we can’t ensure he’s resting.”

Dad looked at Harry sternly when he said the last bit.

“How do we even know whoever left the poison is still alive though?” Ron asked miserably.

“Harry!” Andromeda Tonks said, bursting into the room. Her hair was un-customarily disheveled. “I was listening to the trial results on the Wireless, and they said you’d collapsed. What happened?”

“I’m sorry you heard that way, Andromeda,” Mum said tearfully. “We would’ve sent you an owl, but they just let us in. We’re trying to convince Harry to stay in bed.”

“What’s happened?” Andromeda repeated.

“Apparently, there was more than just a De-Ageing Potion left behind at Grimmauld Place. We’re looking at some sort of poison, but we need to keep that information quiet,” Dad said.

“They want to draw out whichever Death Eater left the poison behind in order to discover what we need for an antidote,” Hermione said.

“Why a poison if Voldemort wanted me alive, though?” Harry asked, wheezing.

Andromeda cringed at hearing the weakness in his voice. “Bella always had a contingency plan,” she said forebodingly.

“You think it was your barmy sister? But she’s dead,” Ron said, sounding unhinged.

“Quite,” Andromeda said shortly, and Mum scowled at Ron. “But her husband, Rodolphus, is very much alive, and as I remember from Hogwarts, he was quite talented at Potions.”

“But the Potions Masters here at the hospital and the Investigators at the Ministry are all looking for a remedy. Certainly they’ll be able to find something,” Hermione said, pleading.

“Because the Ministry’s never failed us before,” Harry said.

Ginny moved to the other side of his bed, running her fingers through his hair. He leaned into her touch, his chest rattling as he breathed. He wasn’t nearly as unfazed as he was trying to appear. Ginny vowed she would be strong for both of them.

“We need a Death Eater who knows how they worked,” Ron said. “Someone who knows more about Dark potions. We need Snape.”

Ron looked as if the words tasted bitter in his mouth.

“Er… I agree Snape would be very helpful here, Ron. But the problem is, he’s dead,” Harry said wryly.

“But what about his portrait?” Ron asked. “Don’t all the former Headmasters have portraits at Hogwarts?”

Harry’s eyebrows raised speculatively.

“That’s a good idea, Ron. I’m certain Professor McGonagall would let us speak to him,” Hermione said, her mind beginning to turn.

“Let’s go, then,” Harry said, attempting to pull himself up.

Ginny pushed him down firmly. “It’s too late, now. We’ll go in the morning. You’ll give us one night of rest in this bed,” she said, inflexibly.

Harry looked as if he would argue, but the combined glares of Ginny, her mum, and Andromeda appeared to cow him.

“All right,” he agreed sullenly.

“You get a good night’s sleep, and the four of us will go to Hogwarts tomorrow,” Hermione said, indicating the teens.

The idea of returning to Hogwarts was unsettling. None of them had been back since the battle, and Ginny could see apprehension in all of their eyes. She felt Harry shudder beneath her hand, and she rubbed his head reassuringly.

Going to Hogwarts would be hard, but if it would help Harry, it’s what needed to be done.


*****


They arrived in Hogsmeade at noon. Harry had been asleep when Ginny arrived to get him out of hospital, and she thought it best to let him sleep. Ron didn’t mind the extra lie-in, anyway. Harry didn’t look good. He was even paler than usual, and he leaned on Ginny as they approached the gate.

Ron and Hermione had Side-Along Apparated Harry and Ginny to the train station in Hogsmeade. They’d agreed to keep Harry from using magic whenever possible. Ginny told them that the Healer said she’d cast a spell to expand Harry’s lungs, but it would need to be recast every few days, more often as the poison progressed. Harry would also get sicker as his kidneys began to fail.

They had to find whoever did this. Ron’s fingers itched to hex someone. Again, Harry had been hurt right under his nose. What good was watching him doing if his enemies continued to find ways to get to him? Ron hated feeling so powerless. It brought back too many memories, and Ron slept very poorly.

“Are you doing okay, Harry?” Hermione asked, concerned.

“I’m only walking, Hermione,” Harry said a bit impatiently. He had never handled mollycoddling well.

“Well, to be fair, you were poisoned,” Ron said reasonably.

“Thanks. I’d forgotten,” Harry quipped.

Ginny smiled slightly, squeezing his waist. Harry returned the gesture, briefly placing his head on top of Ginny’s. It was weird to see Harry so openly affectionate. That was definitely new. Ron opened his mouth to take the piss out of him, but clamped it shut again. Harry didn’t always know how to handle teasing about Ginny, and Ron thought he needed her right now.

He could always tease him later, after they found an antidote.

When they reached the gate, they stopped, all lost in their own thoughts as they looked up at the castle. Hagrid stood there waiting for them, Fang at his heels.

“‘ello there, you lot,” he greeted, opening the gate. “How are yeh?”

Fang bolted from beside Hagrid and ran to Harry, his tail wagging so hard his entire body shook. He nearly knocked Harry over, but his friend managed to stay on his feet as the dog licked his hand.

“Hello, Hagrid,” Hermione said, hugging him. The top of her head barely reached his chest.

“Hi, Fang,” Harry said, laughing.

“’e’s happy ta see yeh,” Hagrid said, beaming.

“How is the reconstruction coming, Hagrid?” Ginny asked. “Will it be ready on September first?”

Ron looked up at the castle. The outside certainly looked repaired. There were no broken windows or gaping holes as there’d been in May.

“O’ course we will,” Hagrid boomed. “Looking forward to you an’ Hermione coming over fer tea.”

“It looks wonderful,” Hermione said as they walked toward the castle. “Better than I’d expected.”

Ron’s eyes were drawn to the spot Fenrir Greyback had attacked Lavender Brown. It looked perfectly normal and unscarred. Ron felt as if there should be some sort of sign of what happened here. He noticed Harry’s troubled eyes roaming the ground, as well.

“I heard there was going to be a Memorial,” Ginny said quietly.

“Yeah. Professor McGonagall is workin’ on it,” Hagrid said.

They’d reached the massive front door. Memories were washing over Ron in waves.

“You all right, Harry? Yeh look kinda pale,” Hagrid said.

“M’fine,” Harry mumbled, looking at the ground. His arm was still around Ginny.

Ron shook his head. Harry had never been comfortable lying to Hagrid. He’d never mastered the art of misdirection.

“We had a rough night, last night, Hagrid. Harry is still feeling the effects,” Ron said, grinning.

Hagrid returned the grin. “Well, it’s good to see you enjoying life,” he said.

Harry shot Ron a grateful look. They did have a rough night. Hagrid assuming they were out in a pub rather than St. Mungo’s let them off the hook.

Hagrid left them in the entranceway, and they began their silent trek up to the Headmaster’s… or rather, Headmistress’ office. Ron didn’t want to walk by the spot where Fred had died. He wondered how Ginny would cope with that when she was back here in September. He suddenly had a new appreciation for how difficult his sister’s seventh year would be.

All four of them were disquieted by their memories as they walked along the stone passageways. The debris had been cleared, but Ron could detect chipped marks in the stone where a spell had gone awry. He took Hermione’s hand, feeling better by touching her as they walked.

Hermione uttered the password Professor McGonagall had given her, and they rode the circular staircase up to her office.

“Come in,” Professor McGonagall called when Hermione knocked. She strode across the room to greet each of them with a hug.

“I daresay, it seems familiar to have you all here together again,” Professor McGonagall said, a touch of fondness in her voice. “I understand you need to speak to the portraits.”

“Yes, thank you, Professor,” Hermione said. “Would it be possible to speak to them alone?”

Her cheeks reddened, but she held the Professor’s gaze.

“Naturally. I’m going down to the Great Hall for lunch and shall return in about an hour. You’re all welcome to come down for a bite when you’re finished,” she said graciously before leaving them in her office.

“That was brave, Hermione,” Ron said, impressed. “I wouldn’t have had the nerve to kick her out of her own office.”

“I didn’t kick her out, Ronald. I merely asked for some privacy. Kingsley wants us to keep Harry’s illness quiet,” Hermione said crossly.

“Looked like kicking her out to me,” Ron muttered to Harry, who nodded.

The walls of the circular office were covered with various past Headmasters, most of whom were looking at them curiously. Professor Dumbledore smiled at them fondly.

“It is good to see you again, Harry,” he said, his eyes twinkling merrily. He nodded at each as he said their name, “Miss. Granger, Mr. and Miss Weasley. To what do I owe the pleasure? Somehow, your urgency suggests more than a social call.”

“Hello, Professor,” Harry said quietly, and Ron thought he detected a catch in Harry’s voice. “We’re in need of some information about a missing Death Eater. We were hoping Professor Snape might be able to help. Is his portrait here?”

“As observant as ever, I see,” came a caustic voice Ron knew only too well.

They all spun around to see their greasy-haired, hook-nosed Potions Professor staring down at them from a small portrait set further back than most of the others. It didn’t surprise Ron at all. In life, Snape had never held much regard for other people, why should it be any different in death?

Snape’s portrait was much smaller than Dumbledore’s. In fact, all the portraits were of varying sizes. Ron wondered if the length of time served as Headmaster had something to do with it.

“Professor Snape!” Hermione said, surprised. “You’re here.”

“Obviously,” Snape said with a scowl.

“We need your help,” Hermione said, refusing to be deterred.

“And why, pray tell, should I want to help you? You bothered me enough when I had to teach you,” Snape said.

“Severus, why don’t we at least hear them out?” Dumbledore scolded gently.

“As you wish,” Snape said with a sigh.

Ron really didn’t miss the git.

“Professor, we need your help with a potion,” Harry said.

“And?” Snape asked impatiently, but Ron had to give Harry credit. He’d said the one word that could always draw Snape’s interest.

“We came across a potion, a De-Ageing Potion, but we believe there was some other inhalant mixed with it. Does that sound familiar at all?” Harry asked evenly.

Ron was impressed. He never remembered Harry using such a polite tone when talking to Snape at school. Of course, Snape was usually criticizing Harry, and he hadn’t done that yet, either.

“Inhalants aren’t common. They’re too slow-acting for most Death Eaters’ needs. They also leave a residue behind. Death Eaters don’t like evidence,” Snape said disdainfully.

“This potion was left at Grimmauld Place,” Harry said shortly.

“Idiot boy!” Snape snapped. “Have you been poisoned?”

And there was the Snape they all knew.

“After all I did to save your worthless hide, you go and get yourself poisoned a mere month after the war ended?” Snape asked scathingly. “Perhaps you do have a death wish, after all.”

“I didn’t get poisoned on purpose, you know,” Harry said hotly.

“Harry, why don’t you start from the beginning?” Dumbledore said, sitting forward in his frame, his eyes alert. His trademark twinkle had dimmed considerably.

Harry sighed, and Ron could detect a wheeze in his chest. “There were traps left at Grimmauld Place. The Ministry cleared them out, but I stumbled across the De-Ageing Potion,” Harry began to cough deeply, running out of breath.

Ginny put her hand to his back and led him to a chair. “Fleur developed an antidote to the De-Ageing Potion,” she continued for him, “but Harry began showing cold symptoms shortly after. Healers have discovered he has damage to his lungs and some other organs. We believe there was another potion.”

She rubbed Harry’s back as she spoke. Ron was alarmed by the fact Harry let her. He must be feeling worse than he was admitting.

“Obviously, since there is no evidence of a De-Ageing Potion causing that kind of damage,” Snape replied.

Ginny’s lips thinned. “For once, could you just drop the attitude and help us?” she snapped.

“Ginny,” Hermione warned.

Snape ran a finger over his lips calculatingly. “Bellatrix Lestrange was furious that the Order had used her family home as Headquarters. She never would’ve doubted the Dark Lord’s success, but she always had a back-up plan. You’d got lucky in the past, Potter. She would have wanted to ensure that luck ran out eventually.”

“The potion has caused a lot of damage to Harry’s lungs. Does that sound like anything you’ve come across?” Hermione asked.

“It could be the Intrudunter Elixir. It went out of fashion because of the residue remains, but I do know the Dark Lord used it on occasion. I wouldn’t count on a straight forward potion, however. Rodolphus Lestrange enjoyed experimenting. He tested his results on Muggles,” Snape replied.

“It’s a place to start, though. I’ll tell Healer Larkin to look into the Intrudunter Elixir,” Hermione said, her mind obviously racing.

Ron had no doubt Hermione would immerse herself in her Potions books upon their return, researching everything she could find. Ron would put his gold on her over the Healers any day.

“How are you feeling, Harry?” Professor Dumbledore asked kindly.

“I’m fine,” Harry said, and his voice did sound stronger. Ginny still stood over him protectively.

“Naturally,” Dumbledore said, smiling. “How long do we have to find an answer?”

Harry shrugged. “They’ve given me something to strengthen my lungs while we look. The Healer said she’ll have to keep re-administering it.”

“So we’re on a time clock,” Hermione said. “Professor Snape, do you know of any other places besides Malfoy Manor where the Death Eaters hid?” Hermione asked.

“I would look into properties owned by the Lestrange family,” Snape said.

“But their manor was confiscated after they went to Azkaban the first time,” Ron said. They’d learned about that in training.

“Yes, but the Lestranges owned more than one property, and deals were easy to make with our former government,” Snape said sourly.

“Draco Malfoy might know. He wanted to make some kind of deal with the Ministry,” Harry said suddenly.

“Yeah, at the cost of letting his bloody father off. No way!” Ron said hotly. Remembering where he was, he looked over at Professor Dumbledore sheepishly. “Sorry, sir.”

“Quite all right, Mr. Weasley. As I’m no longer Headmaster, and you’re no longer a student, I think we can let it go.”

“Yes, but Ron, Rodolphus Lestrange is the bigger threat, and if it can help Harry, we have to consider it,” Hermione said.

“Or you could just torture the information out of him,” Ginny said darkly.

“There’s always that,” Ron agreed.

“Ginny! That’s not funny,” Hermione said, scandalized. She scowled at both of them, but Ron noticed Harry covering a smirk.

“The Ministry wants to keep this quiet,” Harry said. “They’re hoping to draw out whomever did the poisoning by indicating it hasn’t worked.”

“We will endeavor to practice the utmost discretion, then,” Professor Dumbledore said.

“It’s not a bad idea,” Snape replied slowly. “Death Eaters aren’t known for their patience.”

“Please keep us informed, and above all else, be well, Harry,” Professor Dumbledore said sincerely.

Harry nodded, and the four turned to leave the castle. It hadn’t been a wasted trip at all.


*****


Harry arrived at the Minister’s office later that same afternoon. He was embarrassed to admit how worn down he felt, but he was determined to speak with Kingsley. Being seen strolling the corridors didn’t hurt his cause, either. He forced himself not to slump or show any sign of the weakness he was feeling.

When he entered the Minister’s office, he was surprised to find his boss, Gawain Robards, was also there.

“Good afternoon, Harry. How are you feeling?” the Minister asked.

“I’m fine, sir,” Harry said, nodding to Robards.

“I’ve filled in Gawain on your situation,” Kingsley said without preamble. “We have a team examining the drapes found at Grimmauld Place as we speak.”

Harry nodded again. “I went to Hogwarts this morning and spoke to Professor Snape’s portrait. He suggested a potion called the Intrudunter Elixir. He also suggested looking into other properties owned by the Lestrange family. Only, they’re most likely undetectable,” Harry said.

Gawain Robards wrote something in his notebook.

“The Fidelius Charm is supposed to be registered at the Ministry, but obviously that’s unlikely. Still, there are ways for us to detect traces of its use,” Kingsley said.

“I suggest talking to Draco Malfoy,” Harry said.

“You think he knows where these properties might be?” Kingsley asked.

“He knows something, and he is related to the Lestranges through his mother,” Harry said.

“I’ll have him brought in for questioning,” Robards said.

“I’d like to be there for that,” Harry said.

Robards looked at him piercingly. “You’re not an Auror yet, Potter,” he said.

“I know that, sir, but I was the one Malfoy approached at the re-opening of Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. I think he wanted to tell me something,” Harry said calmly. “We have a long-standing… acquaintance.”

“That’s an interesting way of putting it. Didn’t the fact you disarmed him lead to the destruction of Voldemort?” Kingsley asked, amused.

“In a roundabout way,” Harry said modestly.

“All right. I’ll let you know a time for the meeting,” Robards said. “The raid in Greenwich didn’t lead to anything, so this is the best tip we’ve got at the moment.”

Something about the raid tickled the edge of Harry’s consciousness. He shut his eyes, trying to let the pieces come together.

“Harry?” the Minister asked, concerned.

“The potion residue!” Harry said suddenly. “Snape said it’s Inhalants that leave a residue behind. What happened to the residue we found in Greenwich?”

“We tested it for Dark substances hoping it would lead to a trail, but we didn’t have any luck. I’ll have the list of ingredients forwarded to your Healer at St. Mungo’s,” Robards said quickly. “Perhaps some good can still come out of that raid.”

“Snape also said Lestrange used to test his new potions on Muggles. Do we have a way of monitoring unexplained Muggle illnesses?” Harry asked.

“We can detect magic, but not potions. I’ll put someone on it,” Kingsley said.

“Let’s take a walk down to the Department of Mysteries where they’re doing the testing,” Robards said. “We can fill them in on the Intrudunter Elixir while we’re there.”

The three men walked to the lifts. They kept Harry between them as they walked through the Atrium, so no one approached him. Harry was satisfied to see several reporters taking note of his appearance. He put his shoulders back and a stern look on his face, attempting to show no sign of illness.

As they wended their way toward the Department of Mysteries, they passed two Aurors escorting a prisoner. He was a burly bloke with tattoos covering what was visible of his arms and neck. When he caught sight of Harry, he smirked, showing a mouthful of crooked teeth.

“How are you feeling, Potter?” he leered.

“Fine, thanks,” Harry said, narrowing his eyes. Something about him was familiar…

“You won’t be fine for long,” the prisoner replied, grinning.

“Hold up, please,” Kingsley said to the guards. “Was that a threat, MacCullity?”

“Just talkin’,” he replied.

His voice was familiar. Harry had heard it coming from the woods once before.

“You were one of the Death Eaters who attacked The Burrow,” he accused. “You wanted me to come outside the wards.”

“Prove it,” MacCullity sneered.

“I don’t think that will be difficult,” Robards said. “This is Doogin MacCullity, and we’ve got his wand’s signature on record.”

“What was the point?” Harry asked the question that had plagued him since that day. “You didn’t get through the wards.”

“Scared you, though, didn’t it?” MacCullity leered. “Wanted to protect those gingers you’re so fond of.”

“Take him away,” Robards said to the guards. “Keep him under tight security.”

Once the guards had led him away, the Minister turned to Harry. “Perhaps their purpose wasn’t to capture you at all. The Burrow was too heavily warded, they wanted you somewhere they could get to you.”

“Like with the traps left at Grimmauld Place,” Harry said, realization dawning. They knew he’d run to protect the Weasleys, and he’d done exactly what they’d wanted him to do. “I walked right into it. I was safer at The Burrow.”

He’d thought he’d left to protect the Weasleys, but he hadn’t been protecting them at all. They’d been protecting him.



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