Closure

Sat. 22 June

Ginny waited next to the floo passing time by watching the mantle clock. It was 20:30 in the evening. She had been assigned the duty of greeting the attendees to Sirius’s wake and Ginny couldn’t help but think it had something to do with the fact that she was the girl. The twins weren’t expected to play hostess.

“Wotcher, Ginny.”

Remus Lupin had just arrived in the company of Nymphadora Tonks. They looked nice despite their motley ensemble.

“Wotcher, Tonks. Professor Lupin.”

“Please, Ginny, I am not a professor any longer. Remus will do just fine.”

“You are the only defence professor worth anything that I’ve had, so everyone else is in the next room—Professor.”

Remus gave an artificial look of disapproval and guided Tonks into the next room.

They were so good together—odd—but good.

The flames flared and Ginny returned her attention to her duty. This time Lady Augusta Longbottom stepped out of the green flames with a young man in tow.

Harry.

Ginny gave Harry a hug and shook Lady Augusta’s hand.

“Welcome, the others are in the next room.”

Harry turned to Augusta.

“I’ll be in in a minute.”

“Of course, dear. Take your time.”

Lady Augusta walked off into the next room leaving Ginny and Harry alone. Ginny felt her heart rate increase as she noted how Harry was nervously looking at her.

“Hi.”

He remained standing looking unsure of what to say or do next. Ginny’s heart stretched at the silent vulnerability that hung between them. Her emotions were quick but her mind was slow.

How could she make it better?

“Hi.”

Ginny stepped forward closing the last foot of space between them pulling Harry into a longer gentler hug. Ginny was putting on a strong face but inside she felt like fragile glass. One rough shake or tap could bring the pane down. The soft warmth of Harry’s chest and arms held a steadiness that filled the cracks in her soul. She felt guilty at taking strength from him whilst at his most vulnerable.

No—Harry needed her more. The guests could find their own way from the floo to the party.

Ginny took Harry’s hand and led him into the adjacent room. Mum was definitely in the kitchen and Dad was presumably avoiding the social environment by inventing work that needed to be done in the garden. The pair circled the room greeting attendees all of whom took a special interest in Harry. Tonks waved the couple over to the couch where Ginny could read Lupin’s condolences on his face.

“Hi, Harry. I know this must be hard. Sirius was a loyal friend and a good man. I may not have much to offer but I want you to know that you can always come to me for help.”

Before Harry could inject a polite reply the imposing and significantly intoxicated form of Alastor Moody shifted into place across from the quartet.

“What is with the long faces? It’s a wake, boy.”

Moody took a long draught on what must have been highly alcoholic liquor.

“Come on, Lupin. You must have some womping stories about... hic... what was it...?”

Moody swooned slightly. Ginny was shocked that Moody would ever submit to intoxication. What happened to ‘ever vigilant’?

“Prongs!” Moody finally ejaculated. “That was it. Give us a story about prongs.”

As Lupin gathered his thoughts, Ginny leaned over to Harry.

“I’ll be right back.”

Ginny got up and headed toward the stairs to the upper levels. Hermione had not wanted to join the festivities but she would want to see Harry.

* * *

Hermione sat on her bed which was actually Ginny’s bed. Molly had offered to clean up the twins room and make them sleep in Ron’s room, but Hermione felt it was too much to ask of the twins and she needed the company anyway. It had been so hard. The doctors wouldn’t make any guesses. Ronald wasn’t stable, but he wasn’t deteriorating either. It was living in a film on pause: unable to move forward but impossible to go back.

Hermione’s thoughts were interrupted by a knock on the bedroom door which gently opened to reveal Ginny.

“Hi.”

“Hi.”

It had been like this since the two had left the hospital. Neither really wanted to talk about it, but there was an unspoken agreement that they would just be together and share the worry and regret between them.

“I just wanted you to know that Harry is here. He came over a few minutes ago. Lupin is with him, but I thought you might want to know.”

Hermione sighed inwardly. Harry was never going to forgive himself. Why did he insist on carrying all his burdens alone? It wasn’t his fault, but Hermione couldn’t shake a small piece of resentment that if Harry had listened to her then they would have been safe and Sirius and Dumbledore would be alive.

But it was not his fault.

“Yeah, I’ll come down.”

Hermione stood up and quickly inspected herself in the mirror. It’s a sad state of affairs when one must primp before attending a funeral. She could never get her hair to sit quite right, but Ginny could always work wonders with it. Hermione pulled her unruly tresses back into a simple pony tail and twisted the band into place. As she descended the stairs following Ginny, voices echoed from the front room.

“And that’s when Sirius stumbled into the bank of flasks that Snape was working on. The whole thing came crashing down. All of the potions broke simultaneously. It was a consumate mess. I must say, the infirmary had quite a job getting that set right.”

Hermione recognized Lupin’s voice as he finishing what sounded to be an amusing anecdote. She didn’t see how humour was at all appropriate.

Then Snape, “That’s not how it happened.”

“Hey, hic, who is telling this story?”

As Lupin concluded, Hermione reached the last doorway dividing her from the gathering. As she scanned the room, she remarked silently on how much grace Harry showed. Whatever Sirius meant to the others, it couldn’t compare to Harry. To him, Sirius had been a home when he had never had one before. It was family. It was love. He had never been loved like that.

And despite Harry’s lost childhood, he sat in the midst of adults that would leave and return to their normal lives. Would go back home. Would see their family and loved ones. Yet Harry smiled and laughed. Hermione could not understand where that came from. She had two loving parents and an intact family and still this was just so hard.

Harry looked up from his glass of what better well be apple juice and saw her. The bright smile that reached his eyes but not quite his lips brought a warmth to Hermione that she had already missed even in these past three days.

He stood up and walked over to her.

“Hey.”

“Hey.”

“Lupin was just telling us about a time when Sirius tried to prank Snape.”

She didn’t really want to talk to Harry in front of everyone, but honestly the truth was the truth.

“I heard. I just don’t get it—wakes. Everyone pretends to be happy when everyone is just sad.”

Moody had clearly picked up on her sensitivity.

“So you want something more solemn, hic, respectful. Well sit down and let me share a story I once heard at good right-thinking funeral.”

The sarcasm was thick, but Hermione complied sitting down followed closely by Harry and on his other side Ginny.

“Now this is a story by some fella I don’t remember. Lupin! You remember the name of the bloke who wrote the story about the boats and the horizon and whatnot.”

Lupin rolled his eyes, but took a moment and did come up with what Moody was failing to describe.

“Yes. I think you mean Henry Van Dyke. Gone From My Sight.”

Moody pointed expressively at Lupin.

“Right. So there’s this mate standing by the sea. And a ship just leaving dock is spreading her sails which flutter in the morning breeze. She heads out onto a bright blue ocean. She’s a beauty. Strong and tall. This observer watches as that ship shrinks across the horizon until the ship is just a speck where the sea reaches up to the descending sky. Next to this man another remarks ‘There she goes.’”

Moody paused for effect.

“Goes where? Out of sight is all. That ship, she is just as tall and proud of mast and hull as she was when she left from port. She still carries her load to destination. Her diminished size is in you, not in her. And just when some bloke says ‘There she goes,’ there are more eyes watching from a distant unseeable shore waiting to call out with joy ‘Here she comes!’”

Hermione looked over to Harry to see tears rolling down his face, falling with accusatory impunity. Harry didn’t need to be in front of all these people for this. Hermione took Harry by the hand and led him out of room and back upstairs. As they left, Hermione could just make out Molly—or was it Ginny—lighting into Moody for being an insensitive clod.

Hermione opened the door to Ginny’s room ahead of Harry and sat him down on the bed. She sat down next to him and placed her hand on his back running it up and down. How do you comfort a friend when they have lost so much?

But it was Harry who took the initiative.

“I just don’t know what to think. The worst thing, Hermione— the worst thing is that he lived his last days trapped in that horrible house. Essentially alone. I miss him so much.”

Hermione’s heart broke for her friend’s sorrow.

It might have been the story. It might have been Hermione’s warm hand. It might have just been time. Harry finally broke down. He released all the grief and pain that he’d bottled up from the night Sirius died until this moment. The sobs crescendoed until they racked his body and Hermione just held on to him waiting for the tide of emotion to ebb. Hermione tried but failed to hold back her own feelings. She cried for her friend’s pain and for the pain Ron was going through and for the memory of other family she had lost.

Neither knew just how long they sat like that. It might have been five minutes or twenty, but finally when both were spent of their tears, they felt the indescribable sense of emptiness that follows loss. A hollow place where the noise of the world melts away and the inner self can for a moment take off all of its masks. Harry gently lay his head down on Hermione’s shoulder and in seconds was soundly asleep.

* * *

Harry woke. He was not in his room. He was not in the guest room of Longbottom manor either. This was the Burrow. This was Ron’s room. He remembered the previous day. He remembered breaking down in front of everyone. He remembered the embarrassment at being unable to control himself. He was supposed to be staying at Longbottom Manor. He was supposed to be staying out of the their lives. And here he was imposing upon them again.

It was obviously early in the morning, maybe one or two o’clock, but Harry could not sleep. He got up and started down the stairs to make a cup of tea. At the landing he stopped. Was that crying? Harry sidled up next to the door, which was Ginny’s, and listened.

“It’s okay...”

That was Hermione which meant that it would be Ginny who was crying. So that was it. She was putting on a strong front, but Ron’s condition and the accumulated stress and danger were of course weighing down upon her. Harry kicked himself for not realizing how much she would be hurting. He debated with himself the ethics of entering a girl’s room in the middle of the night, but Hermione was there.

Harry lightly knocked on the door and entered. Ginny and Hermione sat on the floor with Ginny’s head lying in Hermione’s lap. Ginny was clearly upset but Hermione’s face was wet too.

“Oh, Harry, it’s you.”

At hearing Hermione identify the interloper, Ginny sniffed and made an effort to stem her crying, but gave up when another sob racked her body. Hermione looked at Harry and mouthed the word ‘Ron’. Yeah—of course. Harry nodded a quick acknowledgement. How could he be so insensitive?

Harry sat down across from the pair and placed his hand on Ginny’s upper-arm.

“I need to be strong—for Mum and Dad.”

Ginny paused here to pull a ragged breath through her runny nose.

“The boys are being strong. I have to be strong.”

Harry recognized himself in Ginny’s complaint. If there was one thing Harry hated, it was being weak in front of others. The need to rely upon others was frightening not least of all because so few people had ever been there for him. But that wasn’t true for Ginny. She had a family who loved and supported her from her earliest days. Still, vulnerability was a scary road to face, and maybe growing up among six brothers had inculcated an emotional distance that she was finding difficult to breach.

“Ginny, we all have to be weak sometimes. That’s why we have each other. I spent this entire evening being weak.” Harry smiled at this. “You saw it. There was much manly sobbing.”

Ginny chuckled briefly, but it didn’t stem the tide. Hermione jumped in.

“We all deal with grief in different ways. Your parents are keeping busy to stay distracted and the twins are spending all of their time at their new shop. You don’t have any of that, and even if you did it’s okay to cry. Harry and I will always be here for you.”

Harry nodded and set his other hand on Hermione’s shoulder in a show of support closing the triangle of contact.

“Harry, you probably shouldn’t be in here. Mum doesn’t like boys in my room—even now—even you.”

Surely Molly wouldn’t actually care, but Harry got up anyway. He had an idea that would both resolve Ginny’s concern, no matter how real, and also help everyone get back to sleep.

“Okay. Let’s all go downstairs then. I’ll make some chamomile tea.”

Hermione helped Ginny up and the three went downstairs trying not to wake anyone else and Harry started making tea.

“So how did I end up staying here?”

“Molly had a conversation with Lady Longbottom. They agreed that since you were already asleep you could stay here and that you could go with us to Dumbledore’s funeral tomorrow—today, I mean—and that she would meet you there. Oh, Harry, Professor McGonagall asked me to speak at the ceremony tomorrow, and she hoped that you would be willing sit on stage as well. You don’t have to say anything if you don’t want to. Everything kind of blew up before she had a chance to ask. She says you can just play it by ear if you want.”

The funeral. Everyone who had depended on Dumbledore would be there. Harry had killed Dumbledore as surely as if he had issued a curse himself. But he should face those people. They deserved to see him shoulder the shame of it.

“Sure.”

Harry finished making tea and served it.

“You know, I wish Augusta had woken me. I can’t continue to be a burden on your parents, Ginny—particularly now. I almost didn’t come yesterday, because I am just a reminder of why Ron’s hurt.”

Harry hadn’t really intended to start a fight, but this was what he was going to get.

“Stop it!” Ginny exploded on Harry. “It was war. No matter what anyone said. It was a war and it was already killing people and now it is over. It’s over because you naïvely went to save your godfather. The details don’t matter. People get hurt in war and now it’s over.”

Ginny’s anger had easily overpowered her grief and worry, and Hermione was leaning back like she was trying to clear the blast radius, but Harry wasn’t going to back down.

“Ron didn’t need to be there. Either that or I should have been. If I hadn’t abandoned him—I could have saved him, but I wasn’t there when he needed someone to watch his back. He’s hurt because of me. Your Dad nearly died because of me. I track death and destruction around behind me and I am not going to inflict it upon the only family that ever really loved me.”

Harry locked his jaw and flared his eyes daring Ginny to respond and Ginny was moments from doing so when she stopped short looking back to Hermione who was quietly crying, eyes directed down to the table. Harry quickly replayed the conversation looking for what had happened or been said. ‘He needed someone to watch his back.’ Hermione would read that as an indictment of her inability to stop the attack that injured Ron.

“Hermione, I didn’t mean...”

But this was all he was allowed before Hermione was up and out of her seat and trailing tears up the stairs. Stupid. It confirmed what Harry already knew. All he did was hurt the people around him. Ginny’s eyes could have boiled from the fire now inhabiting them. Her words previously filled with such rage now smouldered with frustration.

“Some of us just want to help you. I want you to be part of my family. And so do Mum and Dad. Stop pushing everyone away. We all chose to go with you to the Ministry to save Sirius because we wanted to, because we needed to, because we chose to. You give yourself far too much credit.”

And then Harry was alone. The last two people Harry would want to hurt had departed the room leaving an emptiness that leaked into Harry’s marrow.

‘I sometimes need help. People want to help me. People get hurt when they help me. I sometimes hurt people.’

This mantra looped in circles. Harry quietly cleaned up the kitchen and returned to bed. To Ron’s room.

‘I sometimes hurt people.’

* * *

Sun 23 June

“… to his last hour, as willing to stretch out a hand to a small boy with dragon pox as he was on the day I met him.”

Elphias Doge ended his eulogy of the man he worshipped in death nearly as much as in life. Minerva rose from her seat and stood behind the lectern that had just been vacated.

“Thank you, Elphias, that was... quite touching. Miss Granger?”

Hermione stood up. She proceeded to the lectern provided atop a small podium. The sun was situated at a angle that brightly lit the side of Hermione that was nearest Harry casting shadows back and down. A slight breeze insinuated itself among the threads of Hermione’s hair. When her voice broke the fast of silence, it was collected and steady.

An old man going a lone highway,

Came at the evening, cold and grey,

To a chasm, vast, and deep and wide,

Through which was flowing a sullen tide.

The old man crossed in the twilight dim;

The sullen stream had no fear for him;

But he turned, when safe on the other side,

And built a bridge to span the tide.

‘Old man,’ said a fellow pilgrim, near,

‘You are wasting strength with building here;

Your journey will end with the ending day;

You never again will pass this way;

You’ve crossed the chasm, deep and wide-

Why build you this bridge at the evening tide?’

The builder lifted his old grey head:

‘Good friend, in the path I have come,’ he said,

‘There followeth after me today,

A youth, whose feet must pass this way.

This chasm, that has been naught to me,

To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be.

He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;

Good friend, I am building this bridge for him.

—The Bridge Builder

Will Allen Dromgoole

 

With the delivery of the closing line Hermione turned and looked Harry straight in the eye. Of course. She was reminding Harry that he wasn’t truly alone. That even in death Dumbledore continued to look out for him. And it wasn’t just the former headmaster. Sirius and even his parents were the same. Each had come to obstacles in their lives and each had met and overcome them, not only for their own sake, but to secure the path for any that followed. For Harry. For Hermione. For the students. For all wizards. Harry looked out into the crowd and saw himself reflected in the faces of more than a hundred people. And in that reflection Harry saw words that cried out to be said.

“I have something to say…”

Harry awkwardly stood up, speaking before he’d reached the podium. Hermione graciously yielded to him.

“I don’t know if there is an afterlife.”

He had no idea where this was going.

“I guess we each have to figure that out for ourselves. But I see everyone here and I think I finally understand something. Each person here, student or teacher, witch or wizard, magical or not, has been touched by Dumbledore’s life.”

Harry didn’t know where these words were coming from but instead of the normal anxiety of public speaking he had tapped a source of peaceful reflection that now flowed from him.

”He charted a course that has directed all of us on a journey that we never even knew we were taking. And so we each carry within ourselves a part of Dumbledore. A piece of his legacy that carries on. A responsibility to continue where he left off. And that can’t die. So, I don’t know if there is an afterlife. But Dumbledore will continue if only as we live on in his name. We...”

And Harry gestured with a hand passing across the entire audience.

“We are all Dumbledore. The professor sought to bring light into the world with every step he took. And so I will carry that gift within me and shine it wherever I go.”

Harry raised his wand and almost silently incanted.

“Lumos.”

“Will you join me?”

He was never sure who was first. He had just convinced himself that this was a stupid idea. The guilty burn of embarrassment had begun to build. But one-by-one wands began to light. Hermione joined. Minerva. Elphias. Even Snape lifted his wand for the only man it seemed he’d ever respected. In the morning light the audience of attendees took on the appearance of the sun reflecting on the gentle lapping wave of the seaside. And Harry thought back to the night before with Hermione and the tale from a seemingly very drunk Mad-Eye.

“There he goes.”

This time Harry’s voice was quiet, but Hermione heard him. As she gently took Harry’s hand and escorted him back to their seats, there came a call from the direction of Hogwarts. He tracked the sky and being a trained seeker was one of the first to spot the flame colored avian streaking through the sky.

Fawkes began a song. A terrible and beautiful song of woe and sorrow that melted Harry’s heart. Fawkes screamed his last lament for his bonded master and the melody emerged not from his beak but from the centre of every living soul. The catharsis welled up within them reaching the brim of every conscious mind.

And then Fawkes was gone—off to his private grief and to preparations for his final burning day as Albus Dumbledore’s familiar.

* * *

As the melancholic residue from Fawkes’s lament faded into the air, Daphne Greengrass allowed her light to dim and then go out. Regardless of what anyone said, Harry Potter had a leadership quality to him. Either that display was planned or not, and Daphne was leaning towards not. Even so, it was damn effective.

But the weirdest thing was that Daphne had seen the next person to light her wand. And that had been Pansy Parkinson. That was odd behaviour for Pansy. Sure she would partake of a gesture such as this for social reasons—to not be seen as callous however callous she might in truth be. But Harry had gone out on a limb and Pansy had followed with little hesitation. That eagerness didn’t fit the social calculus with which Pansy was expertly familiar.

Daphne couldn’t call Pansy her friend, not truly, and honestly few Slytherins could maintain a loyal friendship. But Pansy had been different for months. Even at the end of the Triwizard, Pansy had been reserved and ever since she had withdrawn from the endless triangulation that marked her typical social discourse. Pansy was Slytherin royalty and that required constant management. Daphne resolved to investigate at their next meet up.

* * *

Minerva gave a benediction to the memorial service and the attendees began recessing out. Harry was reseated with Hermione, Ginny, and the rest of the Weasley family who to Harry’s amazement continued to tolerate his presence despite the obvious connection between him and Ron’s condition. Harry was still reeling from the emotions brought on from Hermione’s selected reading, his extemporaneous speech, and the audience’s response. Ginny took Harry’s arm.

“Come on, Harry. I think I see Lady Longbottom.”

Ginny and Harry were about half way to Augusta when they found themselves confronted by the Slytherin ‘ice queen’ herself Pansy Parkinson. Her face was hard, but her eyes were red as if she had been crying.

“Potter, I need to talk to you—it’s important.”

Before Harry could reply Ginny stepped forward and took the matter into her own hands.

“Whatever foul plot your mind is concocting, it can wait. Can’t you see this is a funeral?”

Pansy looked stricken.

“I just need to talk to you.”

“Ginny, if she just needs to talk...”

Harry tried and failed to rein in Ginny who had history with Pansy. Well honestly everyone had history with Pansy. Ginny waved Harry off and got right in Pansy’s face who to her credit didn’t flinch.

“It is people like you that caused this all to happen. Evil courses in your veins like every Slytherin from your sacred twenty-eight.”

Ginny spat the word ‘sacred’ demonstrating her feelings on the particular institution before continuing.

“You hold on so tight to a world that no longer exists where you held all the power and could just crush anyone who tried to have what you had. The time of the death eaters has passed. Your dark lord is dead and gone and it is time for you to shrink back into your caves.”

Pansy didn’t budge. She had a steady visage of defiance carved upon the rock of her set jaw.

“My father is not a death eater.”

“Don’t pretend to be naïve, we all know who you and your family are. Now step aside before I make you.”

While Ginny’s expression was all fire and rage, Pansy’s was carefully sculpted neutral and devoid of the typical contemptuous sneer. She turned her face to Harry ignoring Ginny.

“The names Prewett and Weasley are among the scrolls of the sacred twenty-eight. What makes her better than me?”

And then Pansy took her leave walking steadily away in the direction she had come. Harry wasn’t sure but he thought that Pansy’s lower lip had pouted and her eyes tightened just before she turned away. It seemed unnecessarily cruel even if it was Pansy.

Harry turned back to Ginny as Pansy disappeared into the dispersing crowd.

“Was that really necessary?”

“Yes, definitely. Harry, you’ve dealt with Pansy before. She might play nice sometimes but she is a manipulative viper and she will get what she wants regardless of the body count she leaves behind. She doesn’t have a heart.”

Ginny pulled Harry further on though his gaze lingered wondering if that could be true. Pansy was callous and manipulative—that was proven true. But heartless? Harry’s musing was interrupted as they ran into Augusta about half way farther from where Pansy had interrupted them.

“My, what a large throng of people we have here. Harry, that was a singularly spectacular speech. Truly worthy of Dumbledore’s memory. If you speak even half as movingly in front of the Wizengamot, we may get you emancipated yet.”

Ginny gave Harry a questioning look.

“Apparently, who serves as my legal guardian is a matter for the state.”

Ginny nodded, but appeared to still have questions.

“I am sorry Harry, but this is too much excitement for my antiquated muscles and bones. If you don’t too greatly mind, I would like to return home.”

“Sure, of course.”

Harry turned to Ginny.

“I have to go.”

“When are you going to come visit?”

“Not for a while. Your family and Hermione need to focus on each other and Ron. I’ll be fine without you for a couple weeks, but I’ll try to come visit after we get all the guardianship nonsense out of the way.”

“Harry, you can’t still be blaming yourself for what happened to Ron. We talked about this. Your not to blame and Hermione isn’t either.”

“It just isn’t that easy.”

“It could be.”

Ginny pouted.

“Let us help you.”

Harry’s eyes began to water as his guilt got the better of him.

“You have no business helping me. You have no reason to help me. I only bring your family pain!”

“That’s not true and you know it! You say you endangered Dad; you saved Dad’s life! You saved me in the chamber! We owe you more than anything, but that doesn’t really have anything to do with it! We want to stand by you.”

“Maybe it would be better if you didn’t!”

“Harry!”

I love you, damn it!

Ginny held Harry’s eyes for a second and then turned and stalked away.

* * *

Harry lay down on his bed in Longbottom Manor. Despite everything from the funeral earlier today to the wake yesterday, Harry was not tired. He knew he should rest, should sleep and allow his brain to work through all the emotions of the past couple days, but Harry simply was not sleepy. After about half an hour of failure, Harry gave up and began to look for something to do. He was just about to leave the bedroom when he saw ‘Occlumency’ sitting on the dresser.

Harry picked up the book thinking to get a head start since, as far as he knew, Susan was still planning to study with him tomorrow. Harry opened to chapter one. In reading Harry came to four conclusions.

First, Snape had no idea how to teach Occlumency. The book was very clear that practising intrusion was a step that should only be attempted once the basics of centring and shielding were understood. Otherwise, intruding into an unshielded mind would largely teach that mind to continue leaking thoughts—like repeatedly opening a wound.

Second, there were two types of Occlumency. Passive Occlumency, by far the more common, relied on emptying the mind and shielding memory. A mind employing passive Occlumency would appear blank or empty to the attacker. This form was easier by far to learn, but it was simple to detect when it was in use. As such it was less desirable than the other form, active Occlumency. When employing active Occlumency the target would project within his mind a simulation of his own thoughts. This was incredibly difficult, but tactically speaking was useful in countless ways. The attacker would have no idea that Occlumency was in use and the target could pass very convincing misinformation to the attacker. Unfortunately, active Occlumency had only been observed in a rare percentage of the population that came by it naturally and in carefully controlled situations in which the target could concentrate fully on the simulated mind.

Third, there were two types of Occlumens—natural and learned. The natural Occlumens required no training and protected her mind without much conscious thought. The learned Occlumens had to actively train her brain to block intrusion. It occurred to Harry that Snape might be a natural Occlumens and therefore would not understand Harry’s inability to learn intuitively. It would also explain Snape’s ability to defeat the Legilimency of both Dumbledore and Voldemort.

Forth, the first step to learning Occlumency was to learn the basics of meditation, centring, and internal focus. Simple breathing exercises along with concentration practice, would form the first section—probably weeks—of training.

Susan was going to get so bored of this. But Harry didn’t see any way around it. This was one of those areas where magic simply required hard work.

* * *

Harry was finishing dinner when Lady Augusta finally emerged from her rest. Harry had the table set and ready thanks to the assistance of the magical footman. Lady Augusta observed that Harry had created a simpler meal this time. She and Harry sat down to eat.

“So, Harry, have you decided to join us tomorrow on our trip to the Wizengamot.”

“I would like to, but I promised Susan I would study Occlumency with her and I am eager to get started.”

“Hmm. Susan is coming to the Wizengamot tomorrow. She must have intended for you to work together there. We’ll head out at eleven o’clock and the session doesn’t start until two o’clock, so you’ll have time to work on your Occlumency after lunch.”

“Oh. Well, then yes, I would like to come along. What will I have to do?”

“Nothing unusual this time. You, Susan, and Hannah will be sitting in the guest section of the chamber and you will be observing the procedures and politics. We’ll get together during breaks and for dinner after the session and discuss what all happened and why.”

“Okay.”

“Be sure to bring parchment and a quill. Or one of those abominable ball-point things.”

“Is there anything new about Neville?”

“Not yet. The doctors talk without saying much of anything so we still just have to wait.”

“What about Ron?”

“I asked after Mr. Weasley, but the answer was the same. His condition is unchanged and he’s still in critical condition.”

Harry went silent after this for several minutes.

“Harry, I know you probably just want time to be normal and grieve, but there is another event of which you should be made aware. Last week after what happened in the Ministry, the Wizengamot voted to hold a public memorial service for Dumbledore. Minister Fudge will be overseeing that service on Tuesday and he has been hopping out of his breeches to get me to ask you to attend. He says you can be as involved or uninvolved as you choose, but that it would be of great significance to the public to see you supporting Dumbledore.”

“To see me supporting Minister Fudge… right?”

“Yes, Harry, it is the nature of politics that the most manipulative will rise to the top.”

“You can tell Fudge that I’ll be there, that I’m doing it for Dumbledore, and I couldn’t care less if he gets thrown under the bus—a literal bus if necessary. Tell him that I have something I want to say.” Harry thought for a moment. “Do you have a Bible?”

“Yes, Harry, the Longbottom family owns a number of rather old and special Bibles. They’re in the library.”

“There’s a library?”

“A small one—more of a large study really. Would you like to see it after dinner?”

“Yes, I would.”

* * *

Mon. 24 June

Susan Bones had just finished putting on her outfit. She checked herself over in the mirror over her bedroom vanity. The simple green jewel neck top accentuated her complexion rather well. For the Wizengamot session she would be wearing a simple overrobe as that is standard for official ministry proceedings, but she wanted to look nice during the pre- and post-sessions.

“Susan.”

Auntie was calling from the front room and was probably getting impatient. Susan had taken a little longer than normal to get dressed.

“Yes, Auntie.”

As Susan emerged from her room Amelia handed her an official envelope complete with a soul-seal. This was some kind of official business and it was very unusual for Amelia to trust Susan with that kind of correspondence. Not that she couldn’t be trusted but there were designated channels for the transmission of that kind of message.

“Can you take a message to Lady Longbottom?”

“Sure.”

So Susan was playing courier. The curiosity ate at her but this was clearly important and probably none of Susan’s business.

“Now, don’t you need to be going?”

“Yeah, goodbye, Auntie Em.”

“Goodbye, Susie Q. I’ll see you after the session; we’re going to have dinner back here.”

This pet name game had gone on for years ever since Susan had first seen a stage production of the Wizard of Oz. Susan popped some powder in the hearth and stepped through emerging inside Longbottom Manor. Hannah and Harry were already waiting.

“Hi, Susan.”

“Hi, Harry. It’s good to see you.”

“It’s good to see you, too.”

Susan felt a slight flush at his sentiment and then immediately schooled herself. She was being ridiculous and the nervous school girl routine was not something Harry would be interested in.

“Lady Augusta says we’ll have time between lunch and the Wizengamot session. Did you still want to study Occlumency?”

Susan smiled.

“Yeah!”

“Hannah, you could always join us.”

Susan directed all her willpower toward communicating telepathically with her best friend. Hannah put her hands on her hips.

“Are you kidding? I don’t study in the summer like some kind of Ravenclaw.”

Yes. Thank you, Hannah!

Lady Augusta stepped into the sitting room.

“It looks like you are all ready to go. Let’s get an early start then. I have a reservation at the Black Cat Café. I hope you don’t have any special dietary needs you haven’t informed me of.”

“No ma’am. Anything is good for me.”

“Oh! Lady Longbottom. Auntie Em gave me a letter for you. I almost forgot about it.”

Susan held out the letter to Augusta.

She took the letter and broke the seal with practised ease. Susan noticed the slightest expression of surprise as Augusta read the letter in full. But whatever was in it was apparently only for Augusta as she refolded the letter and directed everyone back through the hearth.

* * *

Lunch had been a unique affair for Harry. The Black Cat Café had an extensive menu but apparently specialized in ‘enhanced’ burgers. It was the most unusual burger from the most unusual café Harry had ever had. Magic couldn’t create nutritious food but it could change the flavour or texture or, in Harry’s case, add a bubbling zest to his burger’s cheese. It wasn’t bad per-say but it wasn’t what Harry had expected either.

“So, how was yours Hannah?”

Hannah looked up from her barely eaten burger.

“Strawberry accented beef is not nearly as good as you would think.”

Susan coughed back a laugh.

“I told you to order the regular burger. Some things are just better as classics.”

Harry looked at the empty place in front of Augusta.

“Lady Augusta, why didn’t you eat anything?”

“Well, dear, when you reach my age you find that the body requires less frequent sustenance. I ate breakfast this morning, and the way you’ve been feeding me I may need to start watching my weight for the first time in decades.”

Harry started looking around the café.

“Where would be a good place to study before the Wizengamot starts? Ideally it would be quiet and allow concentration.”

“Well, you are welcome to use one of the public work offices off the atrium. There are dozens of them so at least one should be empty. The session starts at two o’clock, but I would like you back by one-thirty at the latest so I can get you situated before tapping in to my seat.”

Susan, Hannah, and Harry all nodded and got up from the table. Finding a room was not difficult. The first one they found was occupied by wizards discussing restrictions on magical creatures—specifically on where the jurisdiction over veela lay—but the second was available for use. It had a simple table and chairs and little else, but it would do.

Hannah took a glance at the room and then turned to leave.

“I am going to check out the parchment shop to see if there are any new special designs. I’ll see you guys at the Wizengamot. Don’t have too much fun.”

Hannah winked suggestively at Susan and left for a shop some ways down the atrium.

“Okay. The first part of this might be a little dull.”

Harry slipped back into his role as D.A. instructor and began explaining to Susan what they were going to do. The first step would just be practising breathing.

Harry and Susan moved the table to one side of the room and sat on the floor cross-legged and facing each other.

“Okay, the idea is to empty your mind by focusing visually on a single point and listening to your breathing.”

Harry took out his wand.

“Lumos.”

He set it down between them.

“So three steps. One, look and focus on the light. Two, listen and focus on your breathing. Three, allow your mind to empty. It should happen naturally and there is no value in trying to force it.”

Susan nodded and looked down at Harry’s lighted wand. Harry, for his part, tried to focus on the gentle glow and his own breathing, but found himself instead distracted by the slight controlled rise and fall of Susan’s chest as she centred herself. Harry now also found himself distracted by the thumping of his heartbeat.

Harry chastised himself. There was no call for being a pervert. He was here to learn Occlumency and Susan had been good enough to help. She deserved far better then to be reduced to an object of sexual desire. But the more Harry thought about not thinking the more he thought.

Damn it.

Harry clamped down hard on his thoughts that were quickly becoming inappropriate. This kind of love was not for Harry—not now at least. Harry successfully locked his gaze on the gentle light of Lumos and emptied his mind. Each thought that entered was gently swept away, absorbed in the rise and fall of Harry’s breath until all that remained was a black mental void—and then colourless. Concrete form gave way to abstract. Harry felt the void collapse inward growing ever smaller until his last thought came.

Ow.

Harry jolted back to awareness and took in his surroundings. He was laying flat on his back facing the ceiling. His head throbbed and he correctly extrapolated that he had fallen over and hit his head. As he started to sit up, the form of Susan appeared over him a visage of concern.

“Are you okay, Harry? I didn’t see you fall, but I heard the smack.”

“I think I’m fine. I think I fell asleep.”

“Yeah, I was starting to have trouble myself.”

“Maybe we should sit against the wall when we try again.”

“Yeah, but do you have any idea what time it is? I think I saw a time-piece on the wall outside the room.”

Susan got up and left the room briefly. Harry wasn’t worried; they’d only been practising a couple of minutes. When she returned she was frantic.

“Harry! It’s a quarter-to-two!”

* * *

“You’re late. Where have you been?”

Lady Augusta Longbottom levelled a stern scowl at Harry and Susan as they ran up the corridor outside the Wizengamot chamber. Harry and Susan were both out of breath.

“I... we... were...”

Susan began to answer but Augusta cut her off.

“We’ll talk later. We don’t have time for this now.”

Hannah peeked out from just behind and sent a questioning look directly at Susan. She gave the slightest shake of her head communicating to Hannah that this was not something to explore right now.

Augusta appeared to relax, her conundrum now solved. She led the youth further down the corridor to a set of double doors labelled ‘Wizengamot Gallery’.

“Susan and Hannah have been here before, but for your benefit Harry... You’ll be seated in the gallery. You are not permitted to speak or participate in the proceedings in any way. No talking, no clapping, no wild gestures. You are here to observe the highest chamber of law in magical Britain. Come now, young members-in-waiting, it is time to do the people’s business.”

With this Augusta opened the double doors with a slight flourish and ushered Hannah, Susan, and Harry to a set of open seats in the front row of the gallery.

“I must now take my leave or the session will begin without me.”

And Augusta left. Susan turned to Harry.

“Have you ever seen such a place?”

Susan was always enamoured with the austere but grand architecture of the Wizengamot chamber. It’s ancient majesty was an experience that could only be had in person.

“They say the chamber pre-dates the Ministry and even the Wizengamot itself.”

“Just last summer I had a trial before the Wizengamot after using my patronus to ward off dementors.”

Again Susan filed an inconsistency for later analysis. The Wizengamot did not meet in full for simple judicial proceedings. Susan saw that Harry was looking around the chamber for something—or perhaps someone.

Hannah leaned over to Susan.

“So, what happened? Did you guys...?”

Hannah let her question, along with the implication, hang in the air. Susan took a moment to process what Hannah was saying.

“What? No! You know me better than that.”

Susan’s perturbed whisper carried a little farther than she wanted, but Harry was still busy examining the members of the chamber.

“I know you kissed Justin before you’d even been introduced.”

“That was first year. We were eleven. And it was a dare.”

Hannah was clearly enjoying Susan’s discomfort but the conversation was cut short as the speaker called the chamber to order.

“Order! The chamber will be in order.”

It appeared that Elphias Doge was now serving as chief warlock and therefore speaker of the Wizengamot. His voice had a sharp gravel to it that had not been present at Dumbledore’s funeral but did have the quality of cutting through the din of the chamber.

“Noble and honourable colleagues. This session of the Wizengamot is finally coming to a close. With the passing of our dearest friend and chief warlock Albus Dumbledore, it stands before this body that a new chief warlock must be elected. As truly honoured as I have been to serve as acting speaker, I am old, tired, and do not relish continuing in this capacity. The new chief will begin with the next session starting on this eighth of July. So at this time the floor stands open for nominations.”

Susan had never seen an internal Wizengamot nomination and election process and so she watched closely as several members stood and were recognized.

“Lady Arianna Greengrass.”

The speaker recognized the first nominator.

“Thank you. I stand to nominate the Honourable Lord Aster Parkinson for speaker and chief warlock.”

As Lady Greengrass sat down, the chamber echoed with the familiar parliamentary sounds of approval and disapproval.

“The Honourable Earnest Forthright.”

As Mister Forthright made his nomination, Susan turned to look at Harry who was glaring up into the Wizengamot chamber with a malice Susan had rarely seen matched. She leaned over and whispered.

“Is everything okay?”

Harry responded quietly.

“No, it isn’t. How can he still sit in this chamber? Proud and arrogant, like nothing happened.”

Susan followed Harry’s gaze up toward the stadium benches where the members sat. She couldn’t quite figure out who Harry was referring to until the man stood up. The speaker noticed as well.

“Lord Lucius Malfoy.”

“Friends. A word...”

“The honourable member is reminded that this time is reserved for nominations and not lectures. Please make your statement brief.”

Elphias was obviously on a schedule.

“Of course. This body has been much in need of new leadership. The current administration has run this society into ruin by openly accepting muggle blood into our family lines and eroding the traditions that separate us from savages. It will only be through strong traditional values that magical society will restore its lost grandeur and power. And no other could be as qualified to lead that revolution as Lord Abelsted Nott, whom I hereby nominate for speakership.”

Again the chamber roared with approval and disapproval, but Susan was too focused on Harry. She could see the rage roiling within him threatening to breach the surface. She knew some of the animosity between Draco and Harry, but why he felt so strongly about Draco’s father Susan had no idea.

Susan was about to give Harry an awkward side-hug when Hannah physically pulled Susan over and pointed. Lady Augusta was standing.

“Lady Augusta Longbottom”

“Honourable friends...”

The speaker sighed noticeably.

“My Lady, please, a name.”

“I will be brief. What this chamber needs is a steady hand with rock solid judgement. This body does not need a wild revolution nor can it continue to run with its eyes closed to the future. The future is here now and we must face it with intelligence, strength, and resolve. Those very qualities exist within Lady and Director of Law Enforcement Amelia Bones who I nominate for speaker and chief warlock.”

Susan’s mouth dropped open, dumbfounded amidst the comparably mixed uproar that resulted from this nomination. Auntie Amelia was on the list for Chief Warlock. Why hadn’t she told her? She looked up into the terraced seating attempting to gain the attention of her aunt. She was in her usual spot. After a few seconds of watching, Amelia turned and made eye contact with Susan. The slightest nod acknowledged that she would tell Susan all about it this evening.

“Order. Order. There will be order in the chamber.”

Susan was settling back in to listen to the rest of the session when she realized that Harry was no longer sitting next to her. He was gone. Susan got Hannah’s attention and indicated the empty seat and then the door. Hannah nodded her understanding and Susan quietly exited the gallery.

Where would Harry go? There was a men’s lavatory across the otherwise empty corridor. Susan went over and listened at the entryway. She could hear what she thought was crying, so she gently knocked on the wall outside the entrance.

“Harry?”

A few seconds passed and the sounds of crying lessened.

“Susan?”

Oh screw it. Susan walked tentatively into the men’s lavatory to find Harry standing over a sink with his eyes red and wet. He was obviously upset and unable to get control of himself.

Susan came up beside him and looked at him in the mirror.

“He was at the Ministry wasn’t he—Lord Malfoy—he was one of the death eaters at the Ministry?”

“He led the damn attack! He was responsible for the whole thing. He’s why Neville’s in hospital recovering. He’s why Ron’s...”

If Lucius had been at the ministry then the assault on the department of mysteries had been high-level. Sure it was common knowledge that Lord Malfoy was a death eater, but he rarely acted on his own preferring instead to issue directives to subordinates. But if Voldemort had been at the ministry then the order probably came direct and left Lucius little choice.

“Auntie wouldn’t tell me much in terms of details, but if he was involved why isn’t he being investigated.”

Harry shook his head and looked down at his hand.

I must not tell lies.

The rage subsided and Harry sighed.

“Because we can’t tell anyone that Voldemort successfully returned to life and by extension we cannot explain why the death eaters were active again. Shit!”

Harry pounded his fist against the porcelain sink.

“Come on, Susan. Let’s get out of here.”

* * *

Amelia sat down at her dining table. Harry, Susan, and Hannah were seated around the circular table. Amelia had just finished serving the last of the food. Amelia wasn’t much of a cook and usually relied on her house elf Greny, but Greny was off today, and so she had managed a simple meal of spaghetti in sauce.

Amelia began serving the pasta onto plates for her guests when Susan chose to start the conversation.

“So spill! When did you and Augusta hatch this plan? And why so top secret?”

“Actually I hadn’t really decided until this morning. That letter I gave you to give Augusta was my agreeing to her plan to nominate me. We’ve been discussing it for a few days.”

“But why so secret?”

“I honestly didn’t know if she still wanted to go through with it and I thought getting you excited would be cruel if it all came to nothing. And it would be politically damaging if it got out and I wasn’t nominated. Needless to say it’s still a long shot.”

“Lady Bones?”

Harry seemed insistent upon being formal.

“‘Amelia’ please. I don’t like the Lady and Lord nonsense when I can avoid it. If you must be formal, you may call me Director as that is my work and passion. And if you hang around Susie Q enough you’ll probably end up calling me Em.”

“Sorry, Director, how can Lucius Malfoy still be part of the Wizengamot? Isn’t he a confirmed death eater? Even without confirming Voldemort’s return we could still oust Lord Malfoy as a death eater.”

“There isn’t enough proof that doesn’t raise other questions. If we are to hide Voldemort’s return, then we have to let Lucius be free—for now. But we are watching him closely. If his influence steps outside of the political arena, we’ll be there and he will be brought to justice...”

Amelia’s normally neutral face softened.

“I’m sorry, Harry. I know you wanted justice and this is a rude way to learn about the reality of justice in magical Britain.”

“I think I understand.”

Amelia nodded and turned to Susan with a wry smile.

“So, Susan, Augusta tells me that I may need to talk to you about impropriety and behaviour around boys.”

Susan blushed a beet red colour.

“It was nothing really. Harry and I just ran late. We were studying.”

Amelia’s smile did not diminish, but she did continue.

“Look, I trust your judgement and Harry seems a nice enough chap, but you need to be mindful of how things look to other people. No harm was done in this case because it was just Hannah and Augusta and they also trust you, but rumours can get started in the dumbest of ways, and rumours can affect important things, even your marriage prospects.”

Susan looked more embarrassed than chastened.

“I understand.”

“You were studying—in June?”

Susan perked back up at the opportunity to change subjects.

“Yes, Harry wants to learn Occlumency and I thought it would be easier to study with a partner. Currently we’re working on breathing exercises.”

“Really. Occlumency is a valuable skill to those who want to become Aurors someday. Is that still your goal, Harry?”

Harry looked up from his food.

“Yeah, I think so. There isn’t enough justice in the world.”

“That there isn’t.”

Amelia was impressed with the young man.

“Harry, you said you would be going to the Wizengamot sessions with Hannah and Susan. Why don’t you come here to study? That way we don’t have to concern ourselves with impropriety, which I don’t actually care about as much as I let on, and perhaps I can help the two of you. Occlumency is one of those subjects that is often taught incorrectly. What resources are you using?”

Harry excused himself and retrieved ‘Occlumency’ from his pack in the entryway. He set the book in front of Amelia.

“Huh, no author, no publisher.”

Amelia skimmed the first few pages.

“Well, yeah, this seems like a good guide. Did you get it from Augusta? She has such a well-appointed library.”

Harry and Susan each shook their head.

“No, it came from a muggle book store.”

Amelia’s brow furrowed and she took out her wand indicating that she wanted to use a spell on the book.

“Do you mind?”

“No, please.”

“Revelio.”

Amelia then put her wand back down and instead hovered her palm over the book for a few seconds more. She felt for the telltale signs of embedded wards or curse weaving ultimately finding nothing.

“Sorry, that’s the detective in me. It looks okay. It came through the Ministry wards, so it seems safe. So... would you like to study here starting tomorrow?”

“Actually, I am going to be participating in Fudge’s memorial for Dumbledore tomorrow morning so I probably won’t be able to come to study or to attend the Wizengamot. But Wednesday sounds good.”

“Yes, of course, I forgot about the memorial. The Wizengamot will be recessed for that reason. What are you going to be doing at the ceremony?”

“There’s a passage I want to read. Actually, do you have any Bibles? Lady Augusta has some in her library but they are old translations and I was hoping for something more modern.”

“Actually I think Ms. Abbott gave me something recently. All of my other Bibles would be traditional like Augusta’s.”

Hannah who found Amelia intimidating had eaten quietly up until this point.

“It’s probably ‘The Message’. Mum’s obsessed with that. It’s just the New Testament though. What passage are you looking for?”

“I don’t remember the chapter and verse, but I could find it.”

Amelia got up from the table.

“Just a second. Let me see if I can find it.”

She left down the hall for a second and then came back.

“Yes, here it is.”

Harry accepted the book and looked at the cover. ‘The Message: New Testament’. Harry started looking for the verse he wanted.

“You can keep it if you want.”

Amelia wasn’t devout by any means but a good King James would do her fine.

* * *

Tue. 25 June

“... and let us hope that Dumbledore found the peace in death that he never was able to achieve in life.”

Harry sat trying not to appear sulky as Minister Cornelius Fudge completed his speech. The Minister’s statement had been kind but ultimately self-serving. With Dumbledore now dead it would do no good to display the daylight between the two of them. Minister Fudge wanted Dumbledore’s support even though he was dead.

“And now Professor Minerva McGonagall, close friend to Albus and newly instated Headmistress of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, has something to share. Please, professor.”

Minerva stood up behind the lectern and cleared her throat.

“I’ve never been much for giving speeches. So I’ll keep this short.”

Harry smirked since he recalled some rather epic speeches delivered on his own behalf.

“Albus was a good friend and a great leader. Hogwarts was always safe when he was around. I cannot promise to be half the headteacher he was, but his example will always serve as my guide. He will be missed by all. Thank you.”

Minerva stepped down. Boy that was short. Harry recognized his cue. He was very nervous never really wanting the attention he was given. He stepped to the lectern. Harry gathered his thoughts. He pulled out the bible Amelia had gifted him and began to read his selected section.

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, ‘Jump,’ and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

—1 Corinthians 13:1-7

The Message

Harry let the passage hang for a moment to let the crowd tune in to what he would say next. Harry began slowly, projecting only enough to be picked up by Fudge’s wand which had been mounted on the lectern and was acting as an amplifier of sorts.

“It’s hard to talk about the professor. Dumbledore kept his own council. He never told anybody everything. He was secretive. He was manipulative. He controlled my life almost from birth.”

Harry smiled inside at the discomfort he could sense in Minister Fudge at the unexpected turn. Speaking ill of the dead was a political faux pas.

Harry continued quietly almost confessionally.

“I used to resent him for lying to me. But now, I think this careful parcelling of knowledge... he did it with purpose. It was strategically designed to bring people together. To make us realize how much we need each other. I believe Albus knew he was going to die. Maybe not last week. But he was preparing us for the day when he could no longer shoulder the burden on our behalf.”

Harry paused here. Among the crowd you could have heard a wand drop.

“That day has come. And now we must stand together to hold the banner of the light and stand against the onslaught of dark that, for now beaten, is sure to return. The divisions that divide us are far smaller and less significant than the bonds that join us together.”

“Finally, on a personal note, Dumbledore tried to teach me about love. I didn’t understand, then. How could love be a weapon when wielded against a wand? I think I may begin to understand now.”

* * *

The memorial service lasted another hour, but soon enough the statements and poems and whatnot stopped. Harry was helping himself down from the stage where he’d been seated when he saw Augusta hurry up to him—as much as Augusta ever hurried.

“Harry! I have news about Neville. The doctors sent a courier; Neville is awake. We are going to head right over there.”

“Yes, of course!”

Harry waved goodbye to Professor McGonagall and hurried off with Augusta to go to St. Mungo’s. The last thing Harry saw before being dragged through a Ministry atrium floo was Pansy Parkinson running after him trying to get his attention. What could she possibly want?

* * *

Harry and Augusta emerged in the St. Mungo’s lobby and were in short order up the lift and standing inside Neville’s room. He was sitting up in bed, and if Harry had not seen him mere days before, he would have assumed Neville to be in perfect health.

“Hi, Neville.”

“Hi, Harry. Hi, Gran.”

Augusta sat down at the foot of Neville’s bed.

“How are you feeling?”

“Everything hurts, a lot. But it seems to be getting better now.”

“Don’t get too comfortable. You’re on full neuro-suppression charm, and it will be a long road with a lot of pain to get off of that.”

Wow, Augusta really didn’t hold punches. What would one say to that? Neville turned to Harry who had sat in one of the guest chairs and changed the subject.

“Harry, no one will talk to me. Is everyone okay?”

Harry took a deep breath. It was appropriate that he deliver this news.

“Most of us are fine. Ron is in worse shape than you. He took a truly nasty curse head on. He is still in critical condition, but he doesn’t seem to be declining. He hasn’t woken up at all. Other than that... Dumbledore and Sirius are both dead. So is Voldemort.”

“Oh.”

Neville’s face fell a little.

“How are you holding up?”

Harry chuckled.

“You’re the one in the hospital bed. No, I am fine. I am working through it now. The Weasleys put on a wake for Sirius—it seemed appropriate. Ginny, Hermione, and Luna made it out fine.”

“So, Gran, when am I getting out of here. I hurt, but I can take these soothing potions at home.”

“Ah, dear. Like I said, you need to come off of the charms before you can come home. Right now we hope to get you out of here on Saturday.”

Neville looked disappointed.

“Oh. Okay. Honestly, I’m really bored.”

“Oh, my dear. I would like nothing better than to sit with you all day long, but as usual politics will wait for no one. Harry told you that Dumbledore died.”

Neville’s eyes lit with understanding.

“So who’s the new chief warlock?”

“Still being decided. I nominated Madam Bones for the position. Created quite a stir it seems.”

“No way! Lady Amelia would never agree to step down as Director and she’d almost have to.”

“She actually agreed to it ahead of time. I think she’s confident enough in Auror Shacklebolt to leave it in his hands. But all this means that I have to be in the Wizengamot for the rest of the week. I can still come by each morning though.”

“Thanks. That would be nice Gran, but don’t go to any trouble.”

“Neville, you are nothing but trouble.”

Neville grinned sheepishly.

“Yes, Gran.”

“Now rest. That’s an order.”