The 1-Year Memorial - Part I
"I had such a lovely time, Severus," Hermione said as she followed him through the floo, into the parlor at Grimmauld Place. "I must get to sleep, though. I've left some revising for tomorrow's class to the last minute, so I'll be having an early morning."
"Off you go, then," Severus said. He smiled at her and bowed over her hand, which for some reason made her giggle.
"Good night," she said with her sweet smile that showed her dimples, and was gone in a literal flash a second later.
Severus stared at the fire for a few minutes, thinking about the pleasant ending to a remarkable day. He even included the tremendous agitation he'd suffered while at the Ministry in his overview. That had all resolved exceptionally quickly, once Arthur had intervened, and Severus hadn't had a moment to pull Harry aside to see for himself what kind of emotional damage the experience had done to the boy. Hermione had confessed over coffee that she would expect this to cause a setback for Harry. But the boy had seemed to rally pretty well as they'd had lunch. And then, lo and behold, the little brat had stunned Severus to the core with his casual I love you, and he'd been completely unfooted in the hours since. The surge of paternal joy that had nearly choked him was still with him now. He'd been particularly loquacious with Hermione tonight to offset his mind's desire to relive the shocking moment, and with it, the flood of happiness- no, giddiness, that had swelled through his chest. It was something he'd treasure forever.
He had come to care for Harry nearly instantaneously upon his return to Wizarding Britain mere weeks prior, but had not yet come close to disclosing his sentiments to the boy. Those powerful words did not come easily to Severus. His mother had told him she loved him once or twice when he was very little, but never again as he got older, and he'd never said the words to anyone out loud in his life. He'd nearly told Lily he loved her in fifth year, but had lost his nerve, and only days later had called her a mudblood, and that had ended the only close friendship he'd ever had until these past weeks. The fact that he'd heard those words from her son was unbelievably touching.
Wondering if Harry was home yet, he took the stairs two at a time to the third floor and tapped softly on the boy's door. When there was no answer, he turned the knob and looked into the room. The overhead light was off, and he could barely make out the shape of a body under the covers. Severus cast a lumos and shined it into the room so that he could see that indeed the boy was in heavy slumber. He sensed Harry's magic as he crossed back over the threshold, and wondered what kind of spell had been cast in the room as he quietly closed the door. He returned to the parlor, only to have the floo flash in green flame and Hermione come stepping through, wearing pajamas and dressing gown, and looking frightened.
"Something quite unsettling just occurred," she said in response to his look of surprise. "I was climbing into bed when there was a loud knock on my front door," she told him shakily, gathering her robe around herself as if to ward off her discomfort, and Severus could see her body was trembling as much as her voice. "I looked through the peephole, and it was Harry. Or, rather, it was someone pretending to be Harry, because Harry has never used my front door. He always floo's through."
"Harry's asleep upstairs. I've just seen for myself," Severus said in alarm. He gestured for her to sit on the sofa and sat beside her. "There is no question, is there, that trouble is in the making?" He could not suppress the grim tone of his voice. "I had hoped that it would have been reserved for those of us who'd dabbled on the dark side." He faced her as she tried to calm herself, to no avail. "You will agree to stay here, from now on, until the culprits are caught?"
Hermione sighed. "I probably wouldn't be able to sleep at my place, so yes, I'll stay here…. It's not like he could have gotten in, but since I nearly opened the door because it was Harry, it's clear that someone has been paying attention to us, and they know who we trust." She took a couple of calming breaths and finally smiled tremulously at him. "I'll wait until daylight to go get some of my things." She shook her head as she reflected. "It's been a while since I've had to worry about what's at play in the world around me."
Severus watched her grab a throw pillow and hug it to her chest as she leaned back into the sofa cushions. "You are quite safe, Miss Granger," he said gently. She nodded again, but kept her thoughts to herself. He nearly acted on the urge to put his arms around her, but cautioned himself against indulging his healthy male instinct to touch her, which was quite different from the paternal ones that drove him to show protective affection to Harry. There may come a time when such a gesture from him would be appropriate, but it was not yet here. That did not mean, however, he couldn't set out to put her at ease. "Chamomile tea?" he asked. "Perhaps a splash of brandy to enhance its effects?"
"That sounds divine," Hermione said gratefully. She gave him another smile. "Thank you, Severus. And I do know I'm safe. Especially now."
Severus knocked on Harry's door the following morning. When the boy answered, he was dressed, but did not appear to be inclined to leave his room. One look at his face and Severus knew he was in a horrible mood.
"That's quite a scowl you're greeting the day with, Mr. Potter," he said. When Harry backed up and sat heavily on his bed, Severus followed him in and stood a few feet away, watching for several moments as the teen glowered at nothing in particular. "Hermione will be staying here indefinitely for her own safety. Someone showed up at her flat last night impersonating you," Severus told him.
Harry's eyes shot up to meet his in shock. "She didn't let them in, did she?" he asked.
"No, she came here instead," Severus said. "And you went to bed early. Were you ill?"
"Yeah," Harry said tightly. He was glaring at the floor now.
"Do you want to talk about what's bothering you?" Severus asked. When the boy shook his head, Severus inquired, "Is it something between you and I?" Again, the boy shook his head. "Is this a Weasley matter?"
Harry stood up quickly. "If I want to have an appetite for breakfast, we should just go eat. I'll try to tell you about it later," he said, skirting around Severus and pounding down the stairs, leaving Severus to follow with an annoyed frown at a more leisurely pace.
When Severus had caught up with Harry, he found the boy somewhat startled at the sight of both Draco and Hermione in the kitchen. Hermione, of course, was trying to get Kreacher to let her help with some aspect of the meal. Draco was wisely holding his tongue, and Harry ignored the exchange altogether. Severus sat in his usual place across from Harry and went about serving himself. He glanced at Hermione and saw that she still seemed off kilter as well.
Harry loaded a plate with toast and eggs as he addressed the two guests, "So what's going on today?" His tone was still not particularly warm.
"I came by to spend the day brewing with Severus," Draco said, helping himself to food. "I just finished convincing Granger to stay and join us. Now that we're not in school, I don't have to try to show her up."
Harry looked over at Hermione in surprise. "Wow, Hermione. You must be really bothered by your uninvited visitor, if you're skipping class," he said.
Hermione gave him an assessing look. "I guess I am," she said. "It's pretty awful timing, is all. Nearly a year to the day since we've had to deal with any of that lot. Just enough time to forget how terrible it feels."
"Yeah," Harry agreed softly, his appetite draining completely away. He and Hermione shared a look of commiseration for a long moment. He broke it first, looking down at his plate. Tomorrow was the one year anniversary of all of the deaths of so many people who'd mattered so much to him, and who had died because of that lot. He cleared his throat. "What exactly happened last night, Hermione?"
"Well, I'd only just gotten home, and was ready for bed, when there was a loud, urgent pounding on the front door of my flat. It completely startled me. I rushed over and saw you through the peephole and immediately thought there must be some kind of emergency. But thankfully, at the last possible second, I just knew it was not you," she told him. Draco and Severus were listening with frowns. "Whomever it was must have used Polyjuice, because their disguise was flawless."
"Huh," Harry said. "How'd they get hair from me then?"
"Maybe one of them really is an animagus, Potter," Draco said. "A bird. He could have blended right in with the flock that comes after you to snatch some of that mess you call hair for their nests."
Harry scowled at Draco. "I'm serious. How would anyone have gotten some of my hair?"
"We'll likely never know," Severus said. He could see that Harry could not bring himself to eat. Having just witnessed the silent exchange of shared horrors between the two Trio members, he completely understood Harry's loss of appetite. He conjured a calming draught from the pantry and placed it beside Harry's plate. When the tense teen looked at him, he raised his eyebrows in challenge.
Harry gulped down the draught and forced himself to clean his plate. But the calming effect was only marginal, leaving him needing to get away from the others as soon as possible. He crammed the last bite of toast into his mouth. "I'll be out in the back," he told them, still chewing as he left the table. "See you at lunch, I guess." He bolted out the back door and into the yard, where he stood struggling to get a grip on himself.
Now instead of angry, he felt despondent. Last night, he'd dreamt battle-era memories all night, only in these dreams, he'd been unable to cry out or express anything verbally. There had been a voice that sounded like Voldemort's, telling him throughout each scenario that he did not get to have a say in anything that had happened. The disdainful voice had told him his needs didn't matter, his feelings didn't matter, and that people had left him because he did not matter.
Now that he was awake, rather than try to rationally sort through the dreams, he could only try to fend off thoughts that brought on surges of agonizing dread to his stomach and chest. Fred had died. Remus had died. Tonks had died. They'd thought Severus had died. And today, the ones that he'd not been able to find room in his brain to feel loss over, like Lavender, and Colin, were weighing heavily over him as well. He felt tears fill his eyes as a rush of rage and desperation rose up in him, and he just knew more bad things were due to happen. More people he loved were going to be taken away from him.
Or, they are going to walk away from me, he thought, remembering the way Ginny had acted towards him the previous evening.
Either way, Harry needed to be ready.
"Kreacher?" he called out.
The weathered old elf popped into view beside Harry. "Yes, Master Harry?" he asked attentively.
"I was wondering if you could help me," Harry said. He explained his needs to the elf and was pleased to hear that Kreacher could easily help him set up a sort of arena that would withstand his angry magic.
Severus stood watching Harry practice a particularly powerful blasting hex, over and over on a massive dueling dummy he'd somehow brought outside with him. There was a magical backdrop behind the dummy that absorbed the scattered spell energy that missed its target, which Harry had to have gotten some help setting up. The teen was casting silently, but experimenting with the ways that different movements of each hand affected his magic. Severus did not recognize the spell, and assumed it was yet another example of Harry developing his own, which continued to impress the older wizard. He felt a camaraderie with Harry in that regard, which he'd had with few others. Spell development was not a common talent, and it usually manifested itself in more practical terms, especially transfiguration, to which Minerva McGonagall could attest.
Harry seemed to finally get the result he was seeking as he held his left arm stretched outward in front of him, palm down, fingers seeming to be directing his power forward, and brought his wand hand up, smacking his wrists together as he cast, which produced a forceful thrust of magic that sped forward and bashed into the dummy's chest, knocking it flat on its back. Harry levitated the dummy back upright and repeated the spell ten times, each time appearing to create the exact same event.
Apparently satisfied enough to stop, Harry cast a freshening charm on himself to cool off, then conjured a glass for his aguamenti, and had a long drink. He was breathing heavily from the level of magic he'd been expending, and turned when he heard Severus approach.
"Whomever is to be on the receiving end of that rather forceful magical shove is going to be put out of commission quite effectively," Severus told the boy as he walked over to him. Harry grimly nodded his agreement. Severus could see he was a bit better, but still not himself yet. He took the boy's chin and tilted his face up so that their eyes met. "You've been assaulting that dummy for two solid hours," he chided softly. "What's bothering you, Harry?" The gloom returned to Harry's expression as he clenched his jaw and pulled his face from Severus' grasp. He stood looking up at his former professor with a troubled expression for a few short moments before his eyes filled. A second later he had thrown his arms around Severus' middle and buried his face in his jumper. Severus cupped the back of the boy's head and draped a heavy arm down his back to pull him close.
"Something's wrong, Severus," Harry finally said brokenly. "Something bad's going to happen. It's been a year, but that feeling is coming back, like it was never really over."
"Can you tell me what brought this feeling on?" Severus asked.
"It started yesterday with that whole bunch of bollocks at the Ministry, and I thought I'd gotten past it, but…. I just feel this kind of heaviness. That's what Lucius and Narcissa call it, anyway. That's exactly what it's like and it's just hard to breathe right now."
"I know what you're referring to, Harry. It's been sneaking up on me, as well," Severus said. He carded his fingers through Harry's hair. "I imagine this time of year will always bring up some difficult memories, probably for the rest of our lives. And I have heard that the first-year anniversary of a tragedy is often surreal, and that the anticipation of the return of full-scale grief is actually harder than the event itself. The same cannot be said for the second anniversary. That one apparently is nearly as difficult as the original event itself."
"Maybe that's part of it, then. Things were weird at the Weasleys last night," Harry finally admitted. "Even Ron sort of made me feel like an intruder. Ginny avoided me all night. It was like she couldn't even look at me." He paused for a moment, leaning into Severus' embrace and receiving a tight squeeze in return. "I felt like I should go, and no one tried to stop me. It was the first time ever that I felt like I didn't belong there. I don't know what that's from. I was sick to my stomach when I got back. I'll never eat Croak Miss-yer again. It sat in my stomach, all that time, and came right up when I got home."
"Good lord," Severus said in concern. "I'm sorry I wasn't around when you got back. We might have been able to talk it out and spare you the upset."
Harry shrugged. "Ron's my oldest friend, after Hagrid. I don't really think he meant for me to feel badly, and I know the whole family is messed up about Fred… It's just that things kind of shifted pretty fast, these past few days. I was so chuffed at how much fun we've had lately with dueling, and hanging out more often."
"In another week or so, you'll probably be able to pick that right back up, Harry," Severus said wisely. "And it's Croque Monsier."
"Blech, don't say it anymore," Harry warned, "or I'll sick up eggs and toast all over your boots."
Severus smiled his amusement, feeling that paternal swell in his heart again. "I love you as well, Harry," he said softly, pressing a kiss to Harry's temple. "Quite fiercely." He felt the sob that rippled through the boy's chest in reaction to his words, and now it was his turn to feel that wonderful feeling that came from reciprocating deep caring. He rubbed Harry's back as he continued to hold him, reflecting. He was glad to be here, with this wonderful child, during this heavy time, and was finding great comfort for himself in their bond. The growing familiarity with Hermione, Ronald, and George, as well Arthur and Molly was an added benefit. Reuniting with Lucius, Narcissa, and his godson had brought a new dimension to their old friendship very quickly. He had a new best friend in Lucius. There were many shoulders to share this load of grief with. This was his first experience in grieving with friends, and that was an enormously wonderful blessing to be salvaged from the tragic pain of surviving where others had perished. He'd previously suffered his worst losses completely alone. "We will get through the next two days together," he told Harry firmly.
By the time they reconvened at the table for lunch, Harry had mastered that same spell without using his wand. Severus had not witnessed this, as he'd returned to the lab and rejoined the mad potion brewing the rest of them had continued to do. Harry was about to share, when Draco distracted him with more important matters.
"Harry, I've got a Gladrags catalog with me," Draco told him. "I'm ordering some trainers. You could add some clothes into my order and they'll be delivered together. We can ask for an express owl delivery."
Harry had a funny look on his face. "I'd completely forgot about that option. Let's have it, then," he said. He allowed all present to vote on his choices of clothes and shoes, and ended up getting himself a decent selection, including a formal pair of black trousers and a dark gray dress shirt to wear to the 1-Year Memorial of the Battle of Hogwarts on Friday. For Fred's memorial tomorrow, he'd gotten some brown corduroys, a soft green shirt and an embroidered vest. He added a new pair of boots, and also a pair of trainers that looked nothing like the ones Draco had selected, and his order was complete. The best part was that everything was charmed to resize itself as he grew, so he would be set for clothes for some time now. Draco insisted on handling the bank draft, since Harry hadn't had time to request gold from Gringotts and had to sign drafts from his vault in person, in front of the vendor he was doing business with, due to the ongoing bank restrictions that had been placed on him.
The Gringotts problem was still unresolved for Harry. For some reason, the bank hadn't tried to hold either Ron or Hermione accountable for break-in. Harry was fine with that, but he had no idea how he was going to fix things with the angry goblins.
Severus floo'd back from the Weasleys late Thursday night, feeling emotionally spent. That had been harder than he'd imagined. The family had a large hole in its collective heart where Fred used to be, in spite of their own individual progress in moving on with their lives. As a family, they were hurting on this first year anniversary. The tribute to the fallen twin of George had been heartfelt and wonderful, and of course full of humor. But Severus felt deep sadness, and had seen that Harry had been equally affected by the depth of shared emotion in the crowd. It had been distressing to watch Harry attempt to speak with Ginevra again, and though Severus had no knowledge of how far they'd previously taken their relationship, it was clear that a large barrier had been erected between them. Severus had taken some extra time to talk to George, who was wearing the new prosthetic ear he'd built for himself. The younger man had excitedly informed Severus that he had made some progress with the cubic pensieve, as they were calling it, just that day, and it had been a pleasant, if brief, segue from the sadness behind the reunion.
He stepped into the parlor at Grimmauld Place to find that Harry had already returned and was settled down on the floor with his back to the sofa.
"That was horrible," Harry said softly.
Severus sat on the sofa beside Harry and carded his fingers through the boy's hair for a moment. He leaned back with a sigh. "It was difficult."
"It seems like there will never be enough time to say everything that should be said," Harry added after a stretch of silence. "I need to speak at the ceremony tomorrow, don't I?" Harry asked.
"I think it is time for both of us to address the public."