|SIYE Time:14:37 on 30th July 2021|
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Category: Alternate Universe
Warnings: Mental Abuse, Mild Language, Violence/Physical Abuse
Summary: When Harry goes missing from Privet Drive without a single personal possession, the worst is assumed by the Order of the Phoenix and the magical community of Britain at large. Upon his rescue, Ginny and the others find that everything they thought they knew from the moment Harry returned from the maze with Cedric's body in his arms must be called into question. Will Harry be able to heal from a traumatic ordeal that has left scars too deep to see?
Hitcount: Story Total: 9193; Chapter Total: 463
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This past week was Spring Break, so I forced myself to do some long-overdue housework and got a good chunk of writing and planning in! This chapter picks up where chapter 10 left off; Sirius is going to learn that his newfound freedom isn't quite all its cracked up to be. Enjoy!
Oh, I've been working on a side story that goes more into everything that happened at the Ministry starting from when Tonks and Kingsley take Crouch Jr in. Interested? Let me know in the comments!
Chapter Twelve: Forgiveness
Remus sat at Harry’s bedside that night following Kingsley’s incredible news. Sirius was meeting with the Order to discuss his impending freedom come morning, while Harry lay in bed, quietly staring at nothing as Remus read the Evening Prophet. Ginny had already turned in for the night, determined to be up bright and early before Sirius left for the Ministry.
“Yes, Harry?” Remus asked, looking up from the paper.
“It isn’t a trick?”
Remus didn’t have to ask what Harry meant.
“Dumbledore will be there with other Order members to ensure it isn’t,” he answered.
Harry nodded. “Do – do the others know?”
Remus nodded. “They do.”
Harry nodded again, green eyes subdued. “Miss them,” he whispered, as if ashamed.
Remus set the newspaper aside completely. “It’s perfectly acceptable to miss the people you care about when they hurt you,” he said, “intentionally or not.”
Harry appeared to be thinking hard about this before he spoke again. “Hermione wants to come up, doesn’t she?”
“She does,” Remus admitted. “It has been difficult for her to give you the space you require. I expect she’s used to always being there when you’re struggling.”
“Yeah,” sighed Harry. “Her and Ron were always there when –” He broke off, that frustrated look when he wanted to say something that required a personal pronoun overtaking him, and Remus felt his heart pang in sympathy.
“They were always there when you needed them the most,” he murmured for Harry.
Harry nodded a bit, eyes downcast as he sat up. “Would you forgive them?”
Remus carefully considered Harry’s question, thinking of how best to answer.
“Sirius almost turned me into a murderer when we were sixteen,” he finally said. “His antagonistic attitude towards Severus was very nearly the undoing of our friendship. If James hadn’t shown up when he had…” He trailed off and sighed. “I was incredibly hurt by what Sirius did. He hadn’t meant any harm to come to Severus, but it very well could have. I don’t know that I could have lived with myself had I bitten or even killed Severus that night.”
Harry was watching him now, clearly hanging onto his every word.
“Sirius knew full well how much I despised myself,” he went on slowly. “His desire to put Severus in his place, to keep him out of our business, well… it became more important to him than every precaution put in place to keep the students at Hogwarts safe.”
“But you forgave him,” said Harry.
Remus nodded. “I did. What I had to realize for myself was that one mistake that could have been worse than it was… well, Sirius was beating himself up over it in ways my own anger and heartache could ever do.” He allowed himself a sad smile. “We are all rather idiotic when we are young, Harry. We think we know everything, can do anything, but the reality is that we are still children. We are prone to mistakes, and adults can still do much harm to us.”
He leant forward now and placed his hands on Harry’s. “Voldemort wanted to hurt you, Harry,” he said intently. “He wanted to break your trust in those who matter to you. By all rights, you ought to have lost the ability to trust anyone after what you have been through.”
Harry’s gaze dropped. “Know that,” he admitted softly. “But it – it still hurts.”
“It may hurt for a long time, yes, but you’ve got to remember that this was what Voldemort wanted.” Remus squeezed Harry’s hands gently. “The question is whether you are going to continue to allow his actions to influence your choices going forward, or take back what’s yours.”
Harry frowned thoughtfully.
“Now, that’s not to say your friends will never hurt you again,” Remus went on carefully, “because we are all human and prone to mistakes.”
“Ron would try harder,” said Harry softly. “Hermione might push more.”
“She does have a tendency to prefer having all the information,” agreed Remus quietly. “Is it worth giving her a chance to prove herself? And again, it doesn’t have to be right away. You could start with just Ron, if you prefer it. Or both. It’s up to you as to who you try to trust again and when.”
There was a long moment of silence as Harry considered before meeting Remus’s eyes.
Ginny knew something, Ron was certain of it. As he watched Sirius step out of Grimmauld Place with Kingsley and Tonks to finally gain his freedom, he couldn’t help but notice the odd gleam in his sister’s eyes. He knew she was happy for Sirius, and assumed Harry must be as well, but she had been… increasingly secretive and quiet around the rest of them. All her time was spent with Harry, Sirius, and Remus. What could she possibly know outside of the little that had already been revealed?
The moment the door shut, Ginny turned to him and Hermione. “Harry wants to speak to you both,” she said. “Now.”
Ron blinked. “Right now?” said Hermione. “Are you sure?”
“I wouldn’t be saying this if I wasn’t,” snapped Ginny. “Now c’mon, let’s get this over with.”
Ron exchanged a bewildered look with Hermione before following his sister to the top of the house. She held up a hand when they reached Sirius’s bedroom door and he stopped and waited as she opened the door, Hermione at his side.
“They’re here,” Ginny said, poking her head into the bedroom beyond. “Are you positive you want to talk to them?”
Ron didn’t hear a response, but Ginny sighed and turned to face him and Hermione once more. “Ground rules,” she said, tone brooking no arguments. “One: you do not ask him what happened. Sirius, Remus, and I know, and that is enough for him right now. Two: you can apologize or whatever, but don’t expect automatic forgiveness. He’s really hurt by everything that happened.” She swallowed. “Three: if he tells you to leave, you leave. End of story.” She shot a hard look in particular at Hermione. “Can you accept these rules? If not, you’d best head back downstairs now.”
“I’ll follow the rules,” said Ron quickly, desperate enough to finally see Harry with his own eyes to put up with Ginny’s attitude and demands.
“I will do the same,” said Hermione somberly. “I promise.”
Ginny looked skeptical, but nodded and opened the door. “Come in, then,” she said, and Ron followed her into the bedroom.
Remus was in there, reading a book in the chair next to the bed. And upon the bed sat his best friend.
Ron remembered what Harry had looked like before he’d started the Third Task. Before everything changed. That was not the same Harry sitting before him now.
This Harry was incredibly pale; wild hair uneven through the right side of his scalp; he had lost a great deal of weight as well, which was saying something because Harry had never been much more than thin as it was; his eyes were filled with trepidation the likes of which Ron had never seen before.
He was nervous.
Truth be told, so was Ron.
Ginny immediately crawled onto the bed until she was seated right next to Harry and firmly clasped his hands in her own. Remus shut his book and Conjured two more chairs. “Please, sit,” he offered quietly. Ron obliged, Hermione slowly following suit.
“Hi, Harry,” she said softly.
Harry looked at her and Ron before nodding and dropping his gaze. “Hey,” he finally whispered. Ron could see him tightly gripping Ginny’s hands, and he realized he had no idea what to say.
“We missed you,” said Hermione timidly. “It – it was so scary, not knowing where you were. We just wanted you to be safe.”
Ron thought he saw Harry’s lips quirk ever so slightly. He carefully leaned forward.
“It’s been right boring without you around,” he said. “Hermione’s been driving me barmy.”
Harry lifted his head and met his gaze. “Why couldn’t you see?” he asked.
Ron didn’t have to ask what he meant. He swallowed hard and looked down as he picked at a loose thread in his jeans.
“I’ve been asking myself the same question the last two weeks,” he said. “We – we all have, and I –” He broke off and rubbed at his face. “I don’t know,” he admitted, forcing himself to meet Harry’s eyes. “I don’t know how I didn’t see it, but you’ve got to know how sorry I am for it.”
“We’re both sorry,” whispered Hermione, and Ron could see her brown eyes welling with tears. “I never thought anyone could imitate my best friend so perfectly that I couldn’t see what was really going on, but it happened! It’s been tearing me up inside that you weren’t there and I didn’t realize.” She grabbed Ron’s hand tightly. “I am so sorry that I failed you, Harry.”
Harry looked at her for a long moment before nodding. “It hurts,” he said. “Want – want it to stop hurting.”
“The pain will ease with time,” said Remus gently, “but also with forgiveness. I suppose the real question here is whether or not you are ready to forgive your best friends.”
Harry glanced at Remus. “It doesn’t have to be right now,” said Ginny quickly. “You can take all the time you need.”
Ron felt as though his sister was prepared to fully hex him and Hermione out of the room if that’s what Harry wanted. He couldn’t help but admire her fiercely protective nature in this moment, but it was up to Harry what happened next.
“If you want us to go, we will,” he said, ignoring how Hermione stiffened next to him. “Mate, we are here for you however you want us.”
Harry met his eyes, and he somehow knew what Harry was going to say before he opened his mouth.
Hermione let out a harsh sob and buried her face in her hands. Ron reached out to pat her on the back, feeling a bit awkward in Harry’s presence, but Harry’s face broke into the first smile he’d seen since before the maze, and he knew in that moment that they were going to be okay.
Then Harry scooted to the edge of the bed and carefully reached out to take Hermione’s hands in his own. “C’mere,” he said quietly, and Hermione immediately flung her arms around him, sobbing into his shoulder. Harry smiled a bit and wrapped his arms around her. Ron met Ginny’s eyes and saw she was rather teary-eyed herself.
He knew it was foolish to think the pain was gone, but he had been forgiven. He’d take what he could if it meant Harry was alive and healing. And watching as Hermione clung to their friend, he knew they would be okay.
Sirius returned to find that Harry had followed through in speaking with his best friends just as they’d discussed that morning. Judging by the way they were playing Exploding Snap on his bedroom floor with Harry and Ginny, Harry had forgiven them.
His godson wasn’t whole without his best friends. There was much healing still to come, but this was a step in the right direction.
“So you’re free!” said Ron brightly. “How’s that feel, Sirius?”
Meeting Harry’s eyes, Sirius allowed himself a wide grin. “Better than Firewhiskey,” he said. Remus chuckled as Harry grinned right back at him.
Of course, with freedom came new challenges Sirius ought to have expected, yet found himself caught off-guard by. Minister Fudge sent daily summons demanding that Sirius bring Harry to the Ministry for evaluation of his physical and mental health since he had been officially declared Harry’s legal guardian.
Sirius, of course, had no intentions of complying with these demands.
So long as Peter Pettigrew remains at large, I cannot trust that my godson will be safe anywhere but where he is currently located, he took great pleasure in writing before sending Hedwig off with his response. She was looking quite lovely again now that she had fully recovered from two weeks in places unknown.
Perhaps she had also been trying to find Harry, he mused to himself.
But no matter. The fact was that the Ministry would not be getting anywhere near Harry as far as he was concerned, and he knew Hedwig was more than happy to do her part in making sure of this. “Fudge can stuff it for all I care,” he told Remus, who coughed to hide a chuckle.
The day after Harry forgave Ron and Hermione, he allowed Fred and George to visit. They entered the bedroom behind Ginny, uncharacteristically somber. “Hey, mate,” said George when it looked like Fred wasn’t going to speak. “We wanted to say how sorry we are for not seeing what was going on.”
There was a moment of silence.
“Why did he give us the winnings from the tournament?” Fred asked abruptly. “I keep thinking it over – it was a barmy move, even for you.”
Harry looked down at his hands, which Ginny had tangled with hers. “It was – the idea…” He trailed off, suddenly looking frustrated, and Sirius thought he must be struggling to explain without the use of personal pronouns. He still hadn’t used a single one the entire time he’d been at Grimmauld Place.
“Whose idea was it?” Ginny asked him, seeming to understand. Harry untangled one hand and pointed at himself.
“Wanted to do it,” he said, “and he used the thoughts and words the – the boy had to convince you both.”
“The boy?” asked George curiously. Harry flushed.
“F-felt like Harry in his mind,” he said. “It’s how he referred to –” He broke off and gestured to himself. “To the body back in the cellar,” he finally finished.
The twins frowned in confusion, and Ginny’s face was stony. As awful as this was to hear, Sirius found he wasn’t totally surprised. Snape had already said that Voldemort frequently referred to Harry as “the boy” rather than by name in his meetings with the Dark Lord. What tore at his heart was the full understanding of why Harry had lost the ability to refer to himself directly in any verbal sense. His memories were incredibly twisted up in what Voldemort had been doing to him, to his mind; his thoughts had been Harry’s thoughts, his actions Harry’s actions. Harry himself had been nothing in the other man’s eyes, and it clearly reflected in Harry’s continued struggles to speak about himself.
"Do you want to stop talking about it?" Ginny asked quietly. "They don't need to know, they can leave right now if that's what you want."
Harry looked at Ginny for a long moment before shaking his head. "Tell them," he said.
And so she did, explaining about the potion, being stuck in Voldemort's mind, everything they knew for certain. The twins bore horror-struck expressions on their faces through the whole thing.
“We never should’ve accepted the gold,” said Fred, shaking his head when Ginny finished. “We’ll give you back what we didn’t use and –” But Harry was shaking his head now.
“Wanted you to have it when you told everyone about Bagman cheating you out of your winnings from the World Cup,” he said, looking stubborn. “Don’t care that he followed through. Keep it. Everything he said came from –” He broke off again and pointed to himself. He couldn’t say the word, but Fred and George seemed to understand, regardless.
“All right, Harry,” said George, smiling a bit. “We’ll keep it. The world needs more laughter, right?”
Harry smiled and nodded.
The next day, he talked with Arthur, but when asked about Molly, Bill, and Albus, he simply shook his head and changed the subject.
Hermione was clearly trying her best to follow the rules Ginny had set out, but there were a couple of times that her curiosity and desire for answers won out and she pushed hard enough to cause Harry to close off and send Ginny into a towering rage.
“I told you not to push for information he isn’t ready to share!” she barked out angrily, wand in Hermione’s face as the older girl paled. Sirius had had to intervene to ensure no one was physically injured.
Hermione hadn’t been allowed back in to see Harry for two days after the first incident, and another full day after the second. After the second time, it seemed she finally learned her lesson, because she stopped asking questions when something was said that didn’t make full sense to her.
Sirius had to wonder if she had a bloody tongue from all the times she must have had to bite it to keep from pushing for answers.
Meanwhile, Harry was having nightmares almost every night, though Sirius was easily able to calm him. Once Harry was strong enough to physically take care of himself, he moved into Regulus’s old room, but this seemed only to increase the nightmares he suffered, so Sirius found himself losing a great deal of rest. Harry’s moans and cries had him up and crossing to the other bedroom in seconds where he would gather his godson in his arms and whisper to him reassuringly until he calmed and either fell back asleep, or revealed in stuttered whispers what he had been dreaming about. Or simply sat, leaning against Sirius without speaking, as though Sirius’s presence was comfort enough.
The last one happened the most out of the three outcomes.
“Do you want to talk about it?” Sirius tried asking once.
“No,” was the quiet response.
Sirius hadn’t asked again. If Harry wanted him to know, he would tell him. It had to be enough that he was there for him regardless.
Harry grew stronger with every passing day, but a week before term was due to start, Sirius was faced with a new dilemma: Harry wasn’t ready to go back to Hogwarts. He was still easily winded despite Madam Pomfrey’s quick cure for the pneumonia that settled in his lungs during his captivity, and even though he had regained most of the weight he’d lost in the Death Eater’s so-called “care,” it wasn’t enough.
“I can’t send him back like this,” he said at that evening’s Order meeting. Harry’s friends were sitting with him upstairs to keep him company while Sirius and Remus were in the kitchen. “He’s not strong enough to handle more than a couple flights of stairs, he’s still underweight, the nightmares are getting worse – he still has yet to use a single personal pronoun.”
“I have to agree with Black,” said Snape unexpectedly. “Potter has made progress, but not enough to successfully navigate Hogwarts in his current state.”
“What do you propose, Sirius?” asked Albus, looking at him over his half-moon spectacles.
“I think he needs at least another month,” said Sirius, “focusing mainly on regaining his lost weight and strength, but I also propose he have a private tutor.”
“A private tutor sounds like an excellent idea to me,” said Minerva McGonagall. “It’s Potter’s O.W.L. year, so the coursework will be accelerated, and the workload will increase. I would hate for him to fall behind in any of his classes.”
“Even Divination?” Sirius asked her with a smirk. He knew how much she despised the subject.
Minerva narrowed her eyes. “Even Divination,” she said tartly.
“So we need to find someone we can trust to be around Harry for hours at a time,” said Remus. “Any suggestions?”
In reality, Sirius knew exactly who he wanted to pay to teach his godson, but he waited to see if there were any other suggestions of people who might be able to tutor his godson. The Order members discussed friends they knew, retired teachers, contacts abroad, but none of those witches or wizards were to Sirius’s satisfaction. There was something a bit exhilarating in having the freedom to decide who (and what) was best for his charge.
“Well, who would you suggest, then?” Molly finally asked him after a dozen names had been proposed and discarded.
Sirius smiled and pointed to Remus sitting beside him.
“Me?” said Remus, surprised.
“You’ve taught Harry before,” said Sirius. “He knows and trusts you. We know and trust you. We’ve proven he can handle complete strangers after introducing him to Tonks and Kingsley, but this is his education we’re talking about. I want him with someone he’ll easily work with, and that’s Remus.”
“You’re just looking for an excuse to shower me with your gold,” Remus mumbled, and Sirius barked out a loud laugh as Tonks giggled from his other side. She reached out and patted Remus’s shoulder consolingly.
“I can’t think of a better way to insult our ancestors than to use their gold on someone they’d disapprove of,” she said brightly. Many in the room chuckled at this.
“So will you do it?” Sirius asked Remus. His best friend sighed and nodded.
“It would be my honor,” he said softly. Sirius clapped him jovially on the shoulder.
“Well, that settles that!” he proclaimed.
“You planned on choosing Remus the entire time, didn’t you?” asked Arthur with a knowing glint in his eye. Sirius shrugged and didn’t answer, but he knew the older man could see right through him.
“Then Harry will be in excellent hands until he is ready to return to Hogwarts,” said Albus merrily. “I know you’ll have Defense Against the Dark Arts well in hand, Remus, but I will have the other professors put together a syllabus for the month as a guideline so Harry stays on track with his fellow fifth-years.”
And so it was decided.
Ginny held Harry’s hand as Sirius and Remus explained their decision to keep Harry at Grimmauld Place for at least another month while he regained his strength, with Remus as his tutor so he wouldn’t fall behind in any of his classes.
“Even Divination?” asked Ron skeptically. “Load of rubbish, that class is.”
Remus smiled mildly. “Every subject Harry has been taking, yes,” he said. “The headmaster will have his teachers send me a syllabus of what they will be covering in September with the expectation that Harry will return by the first of October.”
“But what about Herbology and Care of Magical Creatures?” asked Hermione. “The practical, hands-on application of those subjects won’t work well here.”
“We will do what we can with what we have,” said Remus evenly. “Are you alright with this arrangement, Harry?”
Harry nodded quickly and smiled. “You’re a good teacher,” he said.
“Best Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher we’ve ever had,” said Ron, and Ginny nodded in agreement, heart sinking.
A month without Harry.
A whole month.
She still wasn’t sleeping well, but had long accepted this as the new normal. Her mind drifted over the few times she had woken up from yet another peaceful nap on Harry’s bed (it was unintentional, she reminded herself), and seeing those green eyes first thing every time… well, it had done nothing to quell Ginny’s feelings for him, which was leaving her to face a harsh truth:
She couldn’t stay in a relationship with Michael and keep pining after Harry in secret. Harry trusted her, relied on her as a friend, as support – there was nothing else to it, and there never would be. She needed to focus her attention where it belonged, and that was her perfectly kind and sweet boyfriend.
“It’ll be strange not to be together, though,” said Hermione quietly, drawing Ginny’s attention back to the conversation at hand. “It’s not Hogwarts without Harry.”
Ginny smiled as Harry ducked his head, cheeks pink. She knew he was embarrassed, but also secretly pleased by Hermione’s words.
“It’s just one month,” Ron said bracingly. “Harry’ll be back with us before you know it!”
“Exactly,” agreed Ginny. “Then you three can go getting up to all sorts of mischief together again while the rest of us carry on like normal.”
Harry frowned a bit, but said nothing. Sirius wrapped up the conversation and sent them all off to bed. Ginny returned to the bedroom she shared with Hermione, silently wondering where she fit in. There was no denying that she and Harry had something special now, but they were in different years. Would he even need her at all after a month away?
Really, though, why would he? Ginny hadn’t needed him after her first year. He’d been as kind as ever, but not really there, either. She had relied on her family, the trip to Egypt, and her own determination to put herself back together and move forward. She hadn’t needed any one person, so why would Harry?
But why had she always been real?
Knowing Harry’s reasoning still didn’t mean she fully grasped what made her so different. The reality was that Ginny had not been able to piece the clues together quickly enough to see what was happening, and Harry had almost died as a result. How had he been able to look at her and see someone worth trusting? Would she ever fully grasp what it was that seemed to set her apart in his eyes?
“Are you alright?” Hermione asked, and Ginny blinked back into reality, finding she’d been staring at her pajamas for several minutes without touching them.
“Just tired,” she lied quickly. “I’m not looking forward to another night of tossing and turning.”
“You’re not sleeping at all?” Hermione looked alarmed.
“I mean, I’m still awake a lot, but I’m starting to sleep more,” said Ginny. “I’m sure I’ll be back to normal soon enough.”
Hermione nodded. “It can be hard,” she said, “turning off all the things on your mind. I’ve struggled with it.”
Ginny hesitated then asked, “How do you manage it?”
Hermione looked up from turning down the bedsheets on her bed. “Meditating,” she said. “Careful, controlled breathing for ten minutes to settle my mind so I can sleep.”
“Oh.” Ginny turned away to change into her pajamas, thinking. “I’m sorry for how I’ve treated you since Harry came back,” she said to her bed. “I – I reckon it’s all too easy to become overprotective of Harry.”
“It really is,” said Hermione softly. Ginny pulled on her pajama top and turned to see Hermione watching her, eyes soft. “Ron and I have been pretty much all he’s had for the last few years,” she said. “We’re the ones he’s turned to in a crisis, every time, so this – the way he didn’t trust us – Ginny, we’ve been through a lot together, and all I’ve ever wanted for Harry was to be his friend, but I’ve also been his support.”
“I’m accustomed to Ron and myself being the ones he turns to when there’s trouble,” Hermione continued. “He sent Hedwig to us last summer to ask for extra food so he wouldn’t go hungry while his cousin was on his abysmal diet, and each obstacle he’s faced – it’s always been me and Ron.”
“And then this happened,” said Ginny softly.
Hermione nodded. “I pushed because it’s always been the three of us,” she sighed. “Having the dynamics change so drastically was horrible for me, and – well, I didn’t handle it very well, did I?”
Ginny crossed the small room and threw her arms around Hermione. “We’re going to be okay,” she said. “And so is Harry.”
Hermione hugged her tightly in return, and Ginny knew that all was forgiven. That night, for the first time in a long time, Ginny slept peacefully.
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