|SIYE Time:2:20 on 25th September 2017|
These Cuts I Have
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Warnings: Mild Language, Mild Sexual Situations, Negative Alcohol Use
Story is Complete
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: 84987; Chapter Total: 3114
Awards: View Trophy Room
A few of you questioned what I thought about Harry’s reasoning for naming Albus Severus. While I still don’t like the name, I do agree it sounds very much like something Harry would do. The bit about neither of them having anyone to carry on their name would’ve been particularly important for Harry to rectify. I liked Dumbledore, despite some of his more questionable decisions. I’ll never be a Snape fan, but I’m okay with that, too. I can respect what he did without liking him as a person.
I was far more intrigued by her reveal that the deaths at the battle haunted Harry forever. That was part of my reasoning for coming back to this story so many times since the end, so I was thrilled to hear it.
As usual, my never-ending gratitude to Sherry for her beta work. Also to Ryan, Danielle, Claire and Sue for reading this ahead and pointing out any inconsistencies ahead of time. Your enthusiasm has been epic.
Toil and Temper
Ginny Weasley was not in a good mood. It had started when she ran out of soap in the shower that morning, and the day had grown increasingly irritating. Ginny didn’t consider herself a particularly “girly” girl, but being the only female in a house full of brothers, she did have a few things she liked to think of as strictly her own. One of those things was a special soap her mum had made for her since she was young. It was definitely floral, and on those stray occasions when one of her brothers had grabbed her soap accidently, the fragrant scent was enough to convince them not to let it happen again.
Ginny liked her soap, but she hadn’t realized she was out until she was already in the shower. It was enough to start her day on the wrong foot. Add to it being late to breakfast and finding Ron had eaten the last of the bacon — far more than his share — plus an annoying case of what her mum referred to as ‘the dropsies,’ and Ginny was ready to go back to bed.
If it wasn’t for plans with Harry that afternoon, she would have done so. She, Ron and Hermione arrived at the Leaky Cauldron on a drizzly Saturday afternoon. Harry met them there shortly after their arrival. Each of the four had various errands they needed to run, so they’d decided to make an afternoon of it. The pub was nearly empty when they arrived, and they’d managed to sneak out the back and into Diagon Alley without attracting a lot of attention. That in itself was a feat.
The press had been hounding Ginny relentlessly for an interview. It seemed everyone wanted to get ‘the scoop’ on Harry’s witch. At first, Ginny had been amused by the daily owls and requests. After a while, the nonsense they wanted to talk about — on top of a difficulty in getting her name right — became annoying. Now, she just wanted to hex someone. She had a newfound sympathy for Harry’s irritation with the press.
There had been a photo of Ginny sneaking through the woods, and the article questioned if she was two-timing the Chosen One. In actuality, she’d been on her way to visit Luna, and she’d never seen the photographer watching her. That thought made her skin crawl. They wanted to vilify her no matter what she did, so she decided she simply wouldn’t care. They could all go fly into a brick wall.
Harry had spent the morning at St. Mungo’s having another treatment, and Ginny was concerned to note that he still looked tired. Usually, he was his old, energetic self after a treatment, but he was definitely dragging his feet now. The wheezing had stopped, but she caught him struggling to take a deep breath several times already. They needed to find a cure, now.
“So, where do we want to go first?” Hermione asked, already leaning in the direction of Flourish and Blotts.
“Quidditch shop,” both Ron and Harry answered simultaneously.
They grinned at one another while Hermione blew upwards in exasperation, causing her hair to ruffle.
“We don’t even have our book lists yet, Hermione,” Ginny said, unreasonably irritated. As she went to tuck her wand into her pocket, she again dropped it on the ground, and groaned in frustration. Perhaps she should’ve chosen to go back to bed.
“I know, but I want to look. I missed an entire year,” Hermione said eagerly.
“What’s wrong with you today?” Ron asked as Ginny bent over to pick up her wand.
“Nothing is wrong with me,” she snapped. “I just dropped my wand.”
“Not like you can use it, anyway,” Ron said, teasing.
Ginny was less than two weeks from her seventeenth birthday, and Ron was taking inordinate glee in tormenting her that she couldn’t quite use magic yet. She was so close, she could taste it, and the first thing she was going to do was hex her brother.
“I need to get some owl treats for Zeus,” Harry said, derailing the coming spat between the siblings.
He’d named the owl after awakening the morning after his birthday to find the owl perched on the window sill, peering down at him imperiously. He preened when Harry had tried out the name, so Ginny thought he approved.
“The Magical Menagerie is right here,” Ginny said pointing at the shop directly in front of them. “Why don’t we start there?”
It stalled having to go into the book shop, and they all wanted something for their pets, so they agreed. Ginny saw Hermione staring longingly at Flourish and Blotts for a moment, but decided Crookshanks deserved a treat. Ginny didn’t want to think about Hogwarts today. Today was about summer. They’d get their book lists shortly and would have to focus on school then.
She walked over to the shelf that held the owl treats with Harry, and glanced into the various cages as he looked for the treats he wanted. There were several kittens in a glass container walking all over each other. Ginny grinned at one small grey one, who arched its back before plopping right back down and returning to sleep.
“See something you like?” Harry asked, leaning over her shoulder. His breath was warm on her neck, sending a delicious tingle down her spine.
Ginny forgot all about the kittens. She leaned back into him, eyeing him appraisingly. “Oh, I definitely see something I like.”
Harry grinned, nuzzling her neck. “Me, too,” he whispered.
Perhaps the bookshop wasn’t a bad idea. There were many hidden nooks and crannies…
“Oi, Harry! Can you grab me a pack of those treats for Pig, too?” Ron called from the front of the shop.
Harry sighed heavily. “Are you certain you want him to come live at Grimmauld Place with me?” he asked.
Ginny giggled. She didn’t want Harry to be alone, but perhaps she hadn’t thought this through enough. Of course, they had to find a cure for this poison before he could even think about moving.
Harry must’ve noticed her change in mood, because he nudged her hip gently. “Don’t worry. I know some good — and thorough — privacy charms,” he said, leering.
He grabbed another box of owl treats and began moving toward the counter. He stopped sharply in front of another glass case. Ginny turned to see what had caught his attention and saw a small, black snake curled up in the corner of its tank. It flicked its tail against the glass repeatedly.
Harry took a deep breath, seeming to prepare himself for something. “Hello,” he said.
The snake flicked its tail again, but otherwise didn’t move.
Harry’s brow furrowed. “Can you hear me?” he asked.
“Of course it can hear you, you’re right next to the tank,” Ginny said, uncertain what interested him so. She certainly hoped he didn’t want a snake. She had nothing against the creatures, but she was afraid it might eat her Pygmy Puff, Arnold.
“It can’t understand me,” he said, his eyes wide.
Oh. Parseltongue. Right.
“It’s been so long, I’d sort of forgotten you could do that,” she whispered, feeling as if she’d been punched in the gut. The fact Harry could speak to snakes brought back all sorts of unpleasant memories from her second year. Memories she’d rather forget.
She really hated that Tom still had that kind of power over her. She’d worked so hard to regain control, but every once in a while, something would sneak up and blindside her.
“I don’t think I can, anymore,” Harry said.
“Pardon?” Ginny asked, forcing her thoughts back to the present.
“You understood what I said to the snake, but the snake didn’t. At least, I don’t think so,” Harry said, still staring in consternation at the placid snake.
“Were you trying to speak Parseltongue? I heard English,” Ginny said, her heart thudding. “Try again.”
He focused on the snake. “Can you understand what I’m saying?” he asked, glancing over at Ginny for confirmation.
“English,” she said.
“It doesn’t work anymore,” Harry said, swallowing.
“It must have been the Horcrux that was able to do that,” Ginny said, watching Harry intently. She wasn’t certain if he was happy it was gone, or just uncomfortable with another reminder it had been there.
He nodded, giving away nothing.
“What’s taking you two so long?” Hermione asked, joining them at the snake tank, Ron right behind her.
“Having a chat, mate?” Ron asked. “How does the snake population feel about Voldemort’s demise?”
Ginny scowled at her brother. He certainly had a talent for putting his foot right in it. Git. “Parseltongue isn’t working,” she said shortly.
“What?” Hermione asked curiously.
Harry swallowed again. “I can’t do it,” he said. “It’s gone.”
“Really? That’s interesting,” Hermione said thoughtfully, her forehead knitted.
“Well, that’s good then, innit? Ron asked. “One less thing for people to talk about.”
“Yeah,” Harry said, still looking a bit dazed. “It wasn’t really me.”
Ginny knew he was still struggling with what had happened to him, but she was really thankful he hadn’t discovered the loss of Parseltongue before he’d come clean about the Horcrux. She slipped her hand into his, squeezing reassuringly.
“Are you sorry it’s gone?” she asked.
“Dunno,” he said, shrugging. “It’s not like I used it a lot. I didn’t even know it was gone, and it’s been months.”
Ginny squeezed his hand again, pleased that he seemed to be taking it in stride. Perhaps Harry was finally coming to terms with what had happened to him.
They each made their purchases and wandered through several more shops, including the book shop. Ron had followed them instead of browsing with Hermione, so Ginny was once again put out. She was hoping to drag Harry into a quiet, shadowy reading nook.
Ron really was a prat.
When they finally made it to Quality Quidditch Supplies, Ginny was entranced by the displays of racing brooms at the front of the shop. Ginny hadn’t made Prefect, so she was still using Charlie’s hand-me-down broom. She knew she could take Fred’s if she wanted this year, but so far, she hadn’t been able to really consider it.
“Harry, you just bought a new broom a few weeks ago. What could you possibly need here now?” Hermione asked, sounding irritated. She’d always hated this shop… perhaps as much as Ron hated Flourish and Blotts.
“As if you don’t already have enough books,” Harry replied, rolling his eyes.
Ginny grinned, silently cheering.
Hermione snapped her mouth shut. “There certainly are a lot of racing brooms,” she said. “Do that many witches and wizards really play Quidditch?”
Ron gritted his teeth. Ginny would bet they’d been over this conversation many times before. “Flying isn’t just for Quidditch. Loads of people don’t like to Apparate, so they fly instead. It’s illegal to fly inside Diagon Alley, though. You have to leave brooms at the Leaky Cauldron, or else it’d be chaos in this cramped space.”
“So… they just fly to work?” Hermione asked.
“There are also loads of illegal racing clubs around the country. Lots of blokes buy brooms just to compete,” Ron said.
Harry looked up, intrigued. “You never mentioned that.”
Ron shrugged. “I forget you don’t just know stuff. Charlie got busted for racing once, and had to pay a fine to the Ministry. Mum had a fit.”
“How do you find where they race?” Harry asked, obviously interested.
“Harry, it’s illegal,” Hermione snapped. “You can’t break the law if you’re supposed to be enforcing it.”
She’d obviously read Harry’s interest the same way Ginny had. It’s true, when he was an Auror there was no question he could ever get caught racing. But technically, he wasn’t an Auror… yet.
Ginny suspected Harry’s thoughts mirrored her own. She caught his eye, and there was a sparkle in that lovely emerald color. If he was going to race, she was going with him. Harry grinned.
“Harry!” Hermione repeated.
“What? I’m just asking,” Harry said, ducking his head.
Oh, Harry. He really wasn’t a very good liar. Hermione would be all over him like stains on a cauldron bottom.
“You interested in trying it?” Ron asked speculatively.
“I wouldn’t mind watching,” Harry said.
“Is it illegal to watch, Ron?” he asked. Ginny suspected it was more for Hermione’s benefit. He’d never set much stock in rules.
“Nah, I think it’s just to race. You can ask George. I bet he’s been to a few,” Ron said.
“Ron! You’re not helping. I can’t believe you two. You’re supposed to enforce the laws. Tell them, Ginny,” Hermione said, looking for some support.
“I’d like to watch one, too,” Ginny said.
“Honestly,” Hermione said, walking away.
Chuckling, they wended their way back to the Leaky Cauldron. They were so caught up in needling Hermione, none of them noticed the reporters until a camera flash went off right in their faces.
“Mr. Potter, you’ve been spending a lot of time at the Ministry. Do you feel the current Administration is doing all it can to capture the missing Death Eaters?”
“Just look this way, Harry!”
“Miss Weasley, how do you feel about dating Britain’s most eligible bachelor?” another reporter shouted, holding his notepad right in Ginny’s face.
Harry put his arm around her shoulder, pulling her toward the Apparition point. The reporters had thought out their ambush, because they were stationed all around it, so she and Harry would have to go through them to get there. They continued to shout questions and snap photographs, adding to the confusion.
Ginny was furious. Why did they always have to ruin every moment she got to spend with Harry outside The Burrow? Why did they think that had the right to know every move Harry made? Poking around Diagon Alley certainly wasn’t newsworthy. Her relationship with Harry was none of their business.
Ginny’s temper only grew as Harry tried to steer her out the front door and into Muggle London, dodging both the quills and the reporters that attempted to hinder their progress.
“This way,” Hermione said urgently, holding the front door open.
Ron, Harry, and Ginny followed her through. Hermione cast a quick charm to seal the door as they sprinted down the street. Ginny felt her ankle twinge painfully just as the reporters burst from the Leaky Cauldron.
She’d had enough. She whirled back around, raising her wand, her expression fierce.
“Ginny, no!” Harry shouted, but she didn’t care.
“Muca Vespertilio,” she snarled.
The reporter in the lead fell to his knees as a swarm of winged creatures attacked his nose. He batted at them feebly. Those behind him stopped warily.
“Oh, no,” Hermione moaned, as Harry urged them all forward.
They ducked into an alley.
“Ginny, you’re underage,” Ron said stupidly.
“Not now,” Harry snarled. “Get out of here before they regroup.”
He wrapped his arm around Ginny’s waist, and she felt the familiar — yet unpleasant — constriction of Apparition.
They landed in the garden at The Burrow. Ginny wasn’t sorry. The bloke deserved it. She tilted her chin, staring up at Harry defiantly.
Ron and Hermione Apparated right beside them.
“Ginny, what were you thinking?” Hermione asked, obviously frazzled.
“I was thinking the git deserved it,” Ginny said rebelliously.
“Ginny! You’re underage. You’re going to be in so much trouble,” Ron said.
“I don’t care,” Ginny replied mulishly.
“What’s done is done,” Harry sighed wearily, and this time, there was a definite wheeze in his voice.
Ginny looked up to see a Ministry owl swooping into the kitchen window. Her stomach dropped.
Her worried eyes caught Harry’s. She saw both concern and compassion there. He wrapped his arm around her consolingly.
“We’ll deal with it together,” he said bracingly.
Ginny felt slightly bolstered until her mother’s sharp voice rang from the kitchen doorway. “Ginevra Weasley!”
Ron sat in class listening to Instructor Pierce lecture on the highpoints of Fenrir Greyback’s capture. He’d already sat through the actual trial, going over each detail the Ministry had used to convict the werewolf seemed monotonous. Ron was very glad Greyback had got his due, but he thought he ought to be excused from this particular class since he was there for the real thing.
Pierce thought otherwise, and wanted them to pay attention to procedures so no future perpetrators would escape due to procedural gaffes.
Harry was scribbling notes attentively. He’d sat through the trial, as well — even offered his own testimony — so Ron had no idea what kind of notes his friend was taking. He was dismayed to notice Harry’s hand shaking. Although Harry never complained, Ron knew him well enough to know he felt miserable. Ron was positive that he’d heard him throwing up his breakfast that morning.
That meant the poison had spread.
According to the Minister, he had a team waiting to move in as soon as they knew a location for the upcoming Death Eater meeting. Ron hoped some of the interns would be allowed to tag-along again. Ron felt the need to offer some payback.
He tried to squash the anxiety he felt over being unable to help Harry. Would he ever be able to get there in time to stop something happening to his mate? Glancing over at him again, he had to hand it to Harry. As of yet, no one in class had caught on to the fact there was something wrong. Ron knew it was because Harry was used to covering any weakness. That trait had driven Ron spare in the past, but it was certainly proving useful now.
The Death Eaters who were awaiting any sign of the symptoms from the poison must be going out of their minds with anxiety by now. Ron hoped they’d make a mistake soon. A big one.
As if sensing he was being watched, Harry glanced up from his notes and caught Ron’s eye. He raised his eyebrows in question, but Ron shook his head, forcing his own eyes back to his paper. It wasn’t as if Harry could make anything happen quicker just because Ron was agitated. Before his mind had any further time to wander, Pierce began wrapping up for the day.
“I want you all to read the chapter on Patronuses. The Dementors will have to be rounded up sooner rather than later, and it’s something that only those who can cast a Patronus will be able to participate,” Pierce said, his icy blue eyes boring into Harry. “Everyone will be tested by me before I give any clearances.”
Harry held the instructor’s gaze unwaveringly. Ron felt bolstered. He, too, could conjure a Patronus. He didn’t relish the idea of tracking down any Dementors, though. He’d never had to conjure one under that kind of pressure.
“Are we going to begin practicing tomorrow?” Duncan Tate asked.
Ron thought the dark-skinned wizard looked rather worried. Maybe Beauxbatons hadn’t covered Patronuses.
“Yes,” Pierce said shortly. “Come to class prepared and fully understanding the theory. We’ll begin the practical in the morning. Class dismissed.”
None of the students were in a hurry to leave on this particular afternoon. They began gathering their belongings slowly. Ron saw Duncan and Violet share perplexed frowns.
“So, yet again something you can sail through, eh, Potter?” Cormac McLaggan asked, scowling as he viciously stashed his books into his bag.
Harry rolled his eyes. “That’s right, McLaggan. I learned just because I knew it would come up in this class one day once the Dementors had abandoned Azkaban. It was the perfect opportunity to show you up,” he said scathingly.
Ron snorted, and McLaggan turned his glare towards him.
“Ever the sidekick, right, Weasley?” Cormac snarled.
“You can cast a Patronus already?” Violet asked, staring at Harry.
“He can,” Susan said. “I’ve seen it. He taught the entire DA back in our fifth year, although I still only get mist.”
“Yours is corporeal?” Lisa asked.
Harry nodded. “Ron can cast one, as well.”
“You taught other students in your fifth year? How old were you when you learned?” Violet asked.
“Third year,” Harry said.
“Impressive,” Violet replied, raising her eyebrows. “I don’t suppose you’d be willing to give us all a crash course, would you?”
“Could you?” Duncan asked, looking relieved. “I’ve never even attempted a Patronus. We could go down to the training room. It should be empty.”
Ron watched Harry glance around at the other students. Even Rory MacDonald was listening. Admittedly, he was leaning against the wall with his arms folded across his chest, but he was still listening.
Ron knew Harry felt sick and must be exhausted. Recently, he’d been taking a kip as soon as they were released from class. But before his friend had even nodded his consent, Ron knew that Harry would try to help them. When had he ever refused to help?
Harry rubbed his eyes tiredly, the first outward sign Ron had seen. “All right. You have to understand that none of you are going to be able to cast one after a single lesson, but we can begin working on it,” Harry said.
“How long did it take you?” Rory asked, speaking at last.
“It took a while, and I was highly motivated,” Harry said. “We should go get started.”
He led them out the classroom door and began walking down the hall toward the training room.
“You had trouble with the Dementors that were stationed at school in third year, didn’t you?” Lisa asked, frowning as she attempted to recall.
Harry rubbed his hand along the back of his neck. “Yeah,” he said shortly.
“What kind of trouble?” Duncan asked.
“You kept passing out when they got near you, right?” Cormac asked. “I remember now. You fell off your broom during a Quidditch match when they came onto the pitch.”
Ron thought McLaggan looked rather gleeful revealing that little fact. He really didn’t like that git.
Harry looked extremely uncomfortable, and naturally Rory latched onto it instantly.
“Why did you pass out? Do you do that a lot?” Rory asked.
Ron was about to tell him off when, surprisingly, Lisa Turpin spoke up. “Didn’t you even glance at the chapter on Dementors, Rory? Anyone with trauma in their past would struggle with them more than someone with an easier life. We’re here to learn how to conjure a Patronus, not to pry into past history.”
Both Ron and Harry looked up, impressed. Lisa rarely stood up to Rory, and it was great to see it.
Rory scowled, but before he could speak, Harry interrupted. “Look, d’you want to learn this or not, because I have other things I could be doing.”
“I want to learn,” Violet said at once.
“Me, too, or else I’m screwed,” Duncan added.
Ron and his classmates took seats on the mats scattered on the floor, whilst Harry stood in front of them. Ron was vividly brought back to the DA. The training room even resembled the Room of Requirement. He wondered if that room was still there after the disaster with the Fiendfyre. He’d have to ask Hermione to check once she was back at Hogwarts.
“You’ll still need to read the full theory tonight, but basically, a Dementor is one of the foulest creatures that walk the earth. They feed off positive human emotions and happiness. It gets tricky because the way to fight them is using that happiness before the Dementor can completely suck it away,” Harry said in full teacher-mode.
“How do you mean ‘use it’?” Violet asked.
“The way to conjure a Patronus is to concentrate on a happy thought. A really happy thought. Something that brings your insides alive with good feelings. The incantation is Expecto Patronum, but it’s the happy thought that is key. I don’t know how Pierce will test us, but conjuring one without the torment of a Dementor is easier, so you’ll have to practice as much as possible before you even consider going after a real Dementor,” Harry said.
“How is it different with a real Dementor?” Duncan asked.
Harry swallowed. “The Dementor will also use the strength of that positive feeling to target you. It’s much harder to concentrate on happiness with them around. They drain that happiness, leaving you only with despair. It’s why so many have gone mad in Azkaban.”
“Delightful,” Rory said, attempting to sound cavalier, but Ron could see a thin line of sweat on his brow. It made him wonder what was in Rory’s past that he was worried about.
“Just show them, Harry. You know they’re all dying to see,” Susan said, sounding rather bored.
Most of their classmates nodded in agreement.
Harry brandished his wand and bellowed, “Expecto Patronum!”
Prongs burst forth from Harry’s wand, the brightness causing several of the others to squint and shield their eyes. Prongs cantered around the room once before returning to Harry and bowing its head before it disappeared.
“Oh, it’s lovely,” Violet said, enthralled.
“A stag, Potter?” Cormac asked derisively.
“Yours’ll probably be a hyena, McLaggan,” Ron said bitingly.
“You won’t know what form your Patronus will take until you can cast one. There’s some evidence of a link between a Patronus and an Animagus form, if any of you happen to be Animagi,” Harry said.
Duncan snorted. “Yeah, did I forget to mention,” he said jokingly.
“Your Patronus can also change form if there is a significant change in your life,” Harry said.
“How do you mean?” Lisa asked curiously.
Harry ran his hand along the back of his neck again. “I’ve known several people whose forms matched their significant other.”
“Has yours changed?” Susan asked, her eyes narrowing.
“No. Mine has always been a stag,” Harry answered. “Why don’t you spread into opposite sections of the room and begin working on your happy thought. I’ll walk around to see how you’re doing. Ron, want to help me?”
Ron nodded, pleased.
“What’s your Patronus, Weasley?” Rory asked.
“Show them, Ron,” Harry said. It was then that Ron noticed that Harry had paled considerably, and his hands were shaking. He wondered if casting the Patronus had drained him. That was worrying.
“Expecto Patronum!” Ron shouted, and his Jack Russell terrier burst forth, wagging its tail enthusiastically and trotting around the room. His Patronus wasn’t nearly as bright as Harry’s, but Ron was quite fond of him nonetheless.
“Nicely done, Ron,” Harry said, grinning.
“Oh, I hope mine is cute, too,” Violet said.
Harry looked annoyed. “It doesn’t matter how cute it is, what matters is how strong it is. It will need to defend you from a Dementor.”
“Way to kill a good mood, sunshine,” Violet said, frowning. “I hope mine is cute and strong, then. Better?” She batted her eyes at Harry flirtatiously, and predictably, he turned away.
Ron saw Violet smirk. She really did enjoy winding Harry up. Then again, it wasn’t that hard to do.
“Choose your thoughts. Something that makes you happier than you’ve ever been. You’ve got to really feel it,” Harry said, returning to his lecture.
“I think I’ll go with the first time I had sex,” Violet said, staring directly at Harry.
Ron saw color flush his friend’s cheeks as he cleared his throat.
“Er… whatever works best for you,” Harry mumbled.
Susan, Lisa and Duncan all tried to cover their laughter.
“I think I’ll try the thought of sex with you, too, Violet,” Duncan said, eyes sparkling.
“Keep dreaming, Romeo,” Violet said, scoffing.
“Ouch!” Duncan said. “Positive, happy thoughts here, remember? You’re not supposed to crush a bloke for trying.”
“Very well, then. I won’t take away your dreams,” Violet replied.
“All right!” Harry shouted, flustered. “Let’s get on with this, shall we?”
Ron suddenly wondered what Harry had used as his happy thought. He really didn’t want to know if it had anything to do with his sister. Ew.
Harry sat on the floor in The Burrow’s sitting room with Teddy lying on a blanket in front of him. The baby had just mastered rolling over, and Harry was fascinated watching his effort. Once on his stomach, Teddy would rise on his forearms and squeal as if he’d just won the Quidditch cup.
“Good job, mate! You’re a pro,” Harry said, smiling as he patted the baby on his nappy-clad bum.
Andromeda had dropped by unexpectedly, looking exhausted, so Harry offered to watch Teddy while she and Mrs. Weasley went out to a late lunch. Ginny was working at George’s shop, and there were no classes that afternoon. He’d barely had any time to spend with Ginny over the past several days. After her Ministry warning about using underage magic, Ginny was grounded. Harry suspected she’d agreed to work with George today simply to get away from her mum’s chores.
She was bitterly irritated since she was so close to her birthday. Hermione had compared it to a Muggle driving license — no matter how close you were to getting it, until you had it, you’d be in trouble if you were caught driving. Ginny hadn’t spoken to Hermione since.
Harry missed spending time with her. She’d filled an empty spot that he hadn’t even been aware he had, and he wanted her punishment to end nearly as badly as she did. Particularly since he had a free afternoon.
He was grateful for the time off. He had to admit — if only to himself — that he felt wretched. His chest felt as if an elephant had taken up residence on top of it. Sleeping was difficult because it worsened whenever he lay down. His stomach had been rejecting anything he tried to put in it, so he was virtually on a liquid diet. He hadn’t outright said anything, but he’d noticed Mrs. Weasley had recently begun keeping a stock of broth in the cold cupboard.
Something had to give soon.
Though Teddy had managed rolling to his stomach, he was stuck once he got there and couldn’t yet roll back. He began to squawk his displeasure. Harry picked him up and placed him on his back, and the exercise would play out again.
Harry really enjoyed his time with his godson, but he was getting worried. The longer it took to find any leads on the poison ravaging his body, the more he began to fear that his life might be coming to an end after all. What would happen to Teddy then?
He’d never even remember Harry, and Harry would never be able to make the boy’s life any easier.
That, above all else, really hacked Harry off. These damn Death Eaters were messing with his godson’s future, and Teddy had lost enough already. Harry had already been to see the goblins and arranged a will, splitting everything he had between Teddy, the Weasleys, and Hermione. At least they’d never struggle financially.
If they were unable to find a cure in time, he was certain that Ginny, Ron, and Hermione would always look after Teddy in his stead.
But it wasn’t fair!
Teddy raised himself on his arms once again, cooing at Harry. Harry’s scowl melted from his face. It was impossible to stay angry when his godson was looking at him that way. He picked the baby up, cradling him to his chest and kissing the soft, downy hair that was currently a shade of magenta that his mother had once favored.
Teddy squirmed and began to fuss. Glancing at the clock, Harry realized it was past his feeding time. He walked into the kitchen carrying the boy, and expertly maneuvered a bottle from the cold cupboard. He used his wand to warm it up.
“You’ve got really good at that,” Hermione said entering the kitchen from the garden and dropping a bag of books and parchment on the table.
“Where have you been?” Harry asked. He hadn’t seen her all afternoon.
“The bookshop. I had to do a little research,” Hermione said vaguely. “Hello, Teddy.”
Teddy was far more interested in the bottle Harry held in front of him than the new arrival. Harry returned to the sitting room, sinking into Mrs. Weasley’s rocking chair while Teddy began to eat. He knew Hermione had been spending all her free time researching poisons, and he appreciated her more than she’d ever know.
He didn’t want to ask her how it went though, for he’d already guessed the answer judging by the slump in her shoulders. His body sagged wearily, while Teddy greedily consumed his bottle.
“Where is everyone?” Hermione asked.
“If you mean Ron, he went over to see Lee a while ago and hasn’t returned,” Harry said, grinning.
“Ha ha. They’re very excited about their wireless invention,” Hermione said.
“Yeah. They’ve almost finished the one they’re going to put at Grimmauld Place. We invited Neville, Dean and Seamus to come for the match,” Harry replied, refusing to dwell on whether or not he’d be able to watch with them.
Hermione’s eyes caught his, and he knew she was worried about the same thing. “How are you feeling, Harry?” she asked.
Harry hugged Teddy closer. “Today hasn’t been so bad.”
“That’s not really an answer, and I’m not going to accept your diversionary tactics any longer,” Hermione said, her voice firm.
“Diversionary tactics, huh?” he asked, amused. She’d been spending an awful lot of time with Ron.
“We’re going to find a cure, you know. Don’t give up on me,” Hermione said earnestly.
“Hermione, how could I ever give up on you?” Harry asked fondly.
Hermione sniffled. “Just be honest with how you’re feeling. Any new symptoms might help me narrow the search on what Rodolphus Lestrange added to the Intrudunter Elixir,” she said. “I’ve got Neville compiling me a list of any Dark substances that can be found in Diagon Alley that might induce these symptoms, and I’ve bought some absolutely horrible books on Dark potions from Flourish and Blotts. I wish they hadn’t trashed the library at Grimmauld Place. There might have been something useful in there.”
Hermione had been more distraught over what the Death Eaters had done to the bookshelves at Grimmauld Place than Harry had been over the entire house.
“Does it have to be something Dark?” Harry asked suddenly.
“What do you mean?” Hermione asked.
“I mean, the Intrudunter Elixir itself is Dark, but what if they added something they already had at Grimmauld Place?” Harry asked.
Hermione pursed her lips thoughtfully. “I suppose, but even if it was something already there, most everything hidden away at Grimmauld Place was Dark to begin with.”
Harry nodded. She had a point. The empty bottle dropped from Teddy’s mouth. The baby was fast asleep, snuggled into Harry’s chest. He smiled fondly at the sleeping child.
“He’s lucky to have you,” Hermione whispered.
“I’m lucky to have him,” Harry replied easily.
“I wish you’d had someone when you were small,” Hermione said, her eyes glistening.
Harry looked away. Hermione had done an impressive job in not confronting him about all that had been revealed at Privet Drive. He’d known it couldn’t last forever, though. She was simply too curious for that.
“Why didn’t you ever tell us, Harry?” Hermione asked, agonized.
“It wasn’t that bad,” Harry said, burying his face in Teddy’s soft hair, which had changed back to a dull brown after he’d fallen asleep.
“Don’t you bloody dare try to excuse them,” Hermione snapped fiercely.
Harry looked up, stunned. Hermione very rarely swore.
“I’m not excusing them,” Harry said, watching her warily. “I could handle it.”
“I didn’t ask if you could handle it — and that’s debatable, anyway — I asked why you didn’t tell us?” Hermione said, her eyes never leaving his face.
It made Harry uncomfortable.
“There was no point,” he said, nettled. “There was nothing you could’ve done.”
“That’s rubbish. We all would’ve done something if we knew. Ron and I would’ve had you come stay with one of us,” Hermione insisted, her eyes tearing again.
“Fine! It’s my fault for not sharing. Can we drop this now?” Harry asked, raising his voice enough that Teddy stirred restlessly. Harry forced himself to calm down so as to not wake the baby. His chest was beginning to really hurt.
“Oh, Harry! No! I’m not saying it was your fault. None of this was ever your fault. I’m just trying to understand why you didn’t trust us,” Hermione choked.
“It’s not that I didn’t trust you, Hermione. I’ve always trusted you. You and Ron knew far more than anyone else,” Harry said wearily.
“We would’ve helped,” Hermione said, sniffling.
“You did help, more than you’ll ever know. Your letters and food packets kept me going and reminded me that I’d be back with you. I had to stay because of the blood wards.”
“Screw the blood wards,” Hermione said heatedly.
“I mean it. What good were blood wards that were supposed to protect you if it was your own blood that was hurting you?” Hermione hissed.
Harry struggled to take a deep breath. The pressure in his chest was agonizing, and Teddy’s weight on top was no longer comforting.
Harry gasped, trying to argue, but he couldn’t get the words out. Hermione finally recognized his distress. She reached over and took the sleeping baby from him, resting her other hand on his shoulder.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you. Catch your breath, I’m going to make some tea,” she said worriedly.
Harry didn’t have the strength to argue with her. He shut his eyes, rubbing his chest absently and trying to steady his breathing. Healer Larkin had given him some breathing exercises to use if he needed to calm down, and surprisingly, they did work.
He could hear Hermione making the tea, but the sounds faded as his breathing evened out and sleep claimed him.
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