A Friend in Deed
At first, Harry didn't know what to say or think or do. It was all so absurd. How could anyone think he'd tried to kill his own relatives? Preposterous! First of all he'd been in the car with them…why would he ever—
But then he recalled all of the important things Ginny had been saying, which, at the time had seemed completely insignificant. So that was why she had been so painstakingly explaining things…asked for a minimum of interruptions but tolerated all of his outbursts anyway—she'd wanted him to understand. Knew he needed to.
Three different Charms performed illegally near the vehicle…which indicated it had to be an underage wizard…Harry had been the only one nearby…but then, what had the Dursleys told the court? Would they ever have agreed to go to the Ministry of Magic? If it meant the oddball among them got a conviction…
Shaking his head, Harry already thought he knew the answer. He turned to Ginny and asked the morbid question.
"And what did my relatives tell the court about me, if anything?" he tried steeling himself for the reply.
"Actually, your aunt and uncle were still unconscious at the time of trial. It was Dudley's statements which were instrumental to the prosecution."
"Let me guess," Harry growled darkly. "He told them all how I climbed in the car and used my wand, which was in my shirt—with Hedwig on my lap—to turn us and the car invisible in a green flash of light."
"Something like that," Ginny half-confirmed. "He actually said how very angry you were—how you'd yelled and cursed at his father after he'd demanded to know where the green flash came from."
"How could they believe him?" Harry asked, getting upset again. "Everyone knows how the Dursleys and I never got along, and they hate anything to do with magic. It was particularly difficult to deal with their rubbish being so close to…to Black's death…" blinked Harry painfully.
"That's the thing," Ginny responded quickly. "At first, nobody would believe him at all. His claims were too outrageous, especially given your personal background. It was even brought up how you'd saved him last year with your Patronus Charm. But after Madam Adonna had given her deposition and statements, general attitudes changed. It was like Ministry after the Triwizard Tournament, all over again. Proceedings were closed to anyone but necessary personnel and witnesses, and they couldn't seem to get through deliberations fast enough."
"What happened then?" asked Harry, perplexed.
"Apparently, new things had come to light. The Tribunal thought they could move you to St. Mungo's after having severed the Gemini Stasis Charm, but Madam Adonna forbade it, and would not give her reasons for doing so to the court."
"Oh yes…" recalled Harry again, "she said she'd put us in Muggle hospital anyway, because St. Mungo's was too dangerous, or something."
Ginny nodded agreement and continued. "Of course they tried to supercede her recommendation, but the ultimate decision for what happened to you was out of their hands as well. The Dursleys were, logically, unreachable—as was Black—so your Aunt Marge was next in line to decide your fate," she looked at him and bit her bottom lip.
Harry felt his head spin and stomach drop. Dear Godric…not Aunt Marge…after he'd blown her up in a fit of rage that one summer…she'd probably pulled the plug herself. He faced Ginny with a horrified expression. "What did she do with me?"
"Luckily for all involved, she'd wanted nothing to do with you after listening to Dudley's poison comments. She signed over medical responsibility of you straightaway, and Dumbledore was standing by with your other associates whilst she did so. They of course, were only too happy to fill that vacancy. And you of course, stayed right where you were," she assured him.
Closing his eyes, Harry pinched the bridge of his nose under his glasses. He thought it odd that even ghosts could get tension headaches. "So Dumbledore and all the others were there. That's good to know someone I trust was looking after my well-being," he said half-heartedly. This was really getting exhausting, but he knew Ginny had more to tell.
Looking at him for confirmation, Ginny went on. "The Ministry was tipped off by your association with Sirius Black—how he was your godfather and how he'd died defending you recently to the Death Eaters. That fact was independently confirmed through the D.E. trials the Court held before the convicts were sent to Azkaban."
Harry screwed up his face. "And from that, the court got…what?"
"Ministry had a holiday with that one. How consorting with a dangerous, murdering fugitive had brainwashed your way of thinking. And that Sirius Black had fuelled and reversed the rage you felt toward him for betraying your parents, back onto the Dursleys instead," she glanced up at Harry, looking positively nauseated. She held a hand to her stomach and swallowed.
Harry stared at her. This was crazy and unfathomable.
She plunged on. "They also said your altered appearance was irrefutable proof of the fact you were concentrating all thought on Sirius that night, sometime before you passed out," she said, looking even more ill, as if saying these words caused her sickness.
"Yes, that's certainly true—" he began.
"Sirius," repeated Ginny loudly over the top of him, "the man whom you'd watched die in front of your very eyes. Your own godfather. The prosecution said that you were so fraught with guilt over his death, you became homicidally revengeful toward your actual relatives, whom you hated anyway due to his evil influence." She closed her eyes tight shut and finished croakingly, "They'd said how killing the Dursleys was your way of…'evening your score with life." Ginny faded into sickened silence and looked down whilst cradling her middle.
Knowing he should probably voice more righteous anger toward the Ministry for their horrible unfounded accusations, Harry stewed silently instead. What good would shouting do anyway? Obviously the time for swaying decisions had passed. The court proceedings Ginny had described were so…typical…of the Ministry's ever-present vendetta they had against him. Upon further reflection, he realised nothing about them truly surprised him anymore. Not after his trial last year.
Besides, Ginny didn't look like she could take much more outbursts at the moment. He watched as she fought with her rebelling insides and lost the battle on the ground opposite them.
"Sorry," she apologised weakly when she was through. "I've…I've just…never been able to bring myself to say that wretched stuff out loud before. It was difficult enough thinking about all the horrible lies they said about you and Sirius…" she paused, looking as if she were fighting it again.
Harry felt for her. Best thing for it was a distraction. "It's quite all right," he replied, rescuing her from explanation. "I've felt the same way for similar reasons—a reaction that never really seems to leave you, I'm afraid. Perhaps it would've done me some good if I'd been able to toss my lunch and be done with it." He tilted his head at her. "Maybe I could've won some more Quidditch matches that way," he quirked a half-smile at her encouragingly.
Ginny tried to acknowledge his cheer-up with a smile, but managed only a grimace instead. "You're taking the latest news of the Ministry rather well," she observed.
"I suppose," Harry contemplated, "all of my surprise circuits concerning them have just been jammed to the 'on' position." He tossed her a rueful look. "Can't feel any less about their track record concerning me if I tried, I'll wager."
Wrinkling her nose, Ginny warned, "Don't be too sure of that."
Harry replied with a shaking head, "Whenever you're ready to tell it, go straight ahead." Squinting, he added, "I think it rather odd they could come to a decision without speaking to me, however."
"That's another weird thing," Ginny agreed, "all of the court proceedings—from charges to sentencing—which obviously didn't matter after all—were finished before you had even…died," finished Ginny quietly.
"What?" Harry's voice rose again, "But how long was I in hospital?"
"A week? That's ridiculous! A case that large would require loads of evidence to back it up, and they hadn't even spoken to the accused—"
"Besides the fact Ministry jumped at their last chance to call you the fraud and not themselves, a critical piece of evidence went missing," Ginny cut in his tirade.
"'Critical piece'?" he repeated darkly, "and what would that be?"
"It was the one thing that would've answered all questions; the one thing that would've cleared your name," she said. "Your wand, Harry."
He scowled at Ginny in concentration. Harry knew vaguely what she was referring to, after watching previous spell echoes be recalled from wands before.
"You mean they would've known by my wand? Performing Priori Incantatem? How could they do that when the wand is broken?"
"The wooden part of wands is mostly used as a protective sheath for the magical core inside—like a conductor and a grounder in one," said Ginny, making sure he followed. Harry nodded once.
"The broken part of your wand was luckily not splintered, it just halved in two along a seam, so it could still be used…somewhat. The crucial element was the phoenix feather inside your wand—which was a bit damaged—and that's what holds the majority of the wand's magic as well as the spell memory," she looked over at him. Rivetted, Harry watched her.
"All they needed to finish conducting the Priori Incantatem was three drops of its owner's living blood. Applying it to the wooden parts of the wand would've reestablished the magical connection. That would've been sufficient to draw out the previous spells and exonerate you," said Ginny.
"That explains why I couldn't get it to work until after I spat on it," Harry spoke up.
"You what?" responded Ginny curiously.
He lifted an eyebrow. "The first time I tried the wand, it was covered in dried blood, but it still wouldn't work. So for reasons I still can't explain, I slimed the thing with my…saliva," he shrugged unapologetically.
She looked askance at him. "Well, as long as it worked, I suppose," answered Ginny simply.
Shaking his head, Harry said in a resigned voice, "So the wand goes missing and the gavel went bang. Typical."
"Yes, but you said the thing about the Death Eaters," she replied excitedly, "and the case should be reopened…" Ginny trailed off.
"To what end?" he said, and looked down. "It's obvious everybody needs to get on with their lives. No use wasting time and energy defending somebody who's already dead," said Harry quietly, and closed his eyes.
"Now you listen to me," Ginny said sternly. "There is not one single person on the other side of this headstone—" she jabbed a finger at the slab of granite—"who wouldn't go to the ends of this earth to prove your innocence, even if it means posthumously. We know you died after saving the Dursleys, not trying to murder them. The Ministry should pay for the slanderous propaganda and lies they've spread about you and your godfather. Sirius Black and Harry James Potter are innocent!" she cried and thrust her arm into the air.
Harry was floored and heartened by Ginny's passionate declaration. She obviously meant every word she said. It also reminded him of something else he'd heard her say earlier…
"When I first saw you, you said that all of you—even Percy—knew of my innocence," he paused waiting for her confirmation, "but what did you mean by the 'dying with a…burden of guilt' and 'being the one to tell me' comments?" he asked uncertainly.
At this, all the sparkle in Ginny's eyes fizzled out and she stared at the ground. "Surely you know the answer to that, Harry?" she asked in a saddened whisper.
"Nick told me that he'd explained to you…"
"You converse with Nick?" Harry asked, nonplussed.
"He came and found me at the feast, and said he was worried about you because you demanded to know about Sirius," she answered and held a hand up to silence Harry. "And he knew you wouldn't want the teachers involved, or anybody else who was too close—like Ron and Hermione," added Ginny helpfully.
Harry just blinked at her. Nick was worried about him? So he told Ginny?
"Nick told me that he'd explained to you the reason many ghosts exist in the first place. That something about their living existence prevented them from allowing themselves to die." She looked at him solemnly.
"The reason or reasons enough had to be so huge—and make them so upset, scared, or unhappy—as to interrupt their whole way of thinking and living even before they died, however." She reached out a hand as if to touch him, but her hand halted midair. Comprehension began filling Harry's mind.
"Think, Harry," she encouraged gently, "why would you be a ghost in the first place? What is it, in your life, that could've made you so unhappy that you couldn't possibly allow yourself to go on, even after death?"
Staring at her in shock, Harry took a step back. Then another. And another; finally answering Ginny in an awed whisper.
"Yes Harry. Sirius. You were even wearing a partial visage of him when they found you, remember? Your guilt and blaming yourself over his death has evidently prevented you from passing on…that's why I wanted to tell you…that we knew, that I understood why you felt how you did. Also not to blame yourself for the Dursleys. We didn't know how much you'd remember from the accident, if you ever woke up. Obviously, I never got the chance to tell you…" she bit her bottom lip hard and closed her eyes, "and nobody regretted not telling you more than me."
Harry shook his head and answered, "But…how…how could you know? I never told anyone. How could you know I was feeling…that much…that badly…for Black, Ginny?"
"How could I know?" she echoed. "Because it was the same thing I had felt when we looked at each other in the Chamber of Secrets and knew you were going to die. Shame at having been saved, only to watch my rescuer dying as a result of my foolish action. The worst kind of feeling—survivor guilt, Harry. I know how you'd feel, because I've felt it myself, she finished deliberately.
Ginny had done it again. She'd pointed out to him the mystery behind not only why he felt so terrible for Sirius, but something Harry hadn't even begun to think on. Why he was a ghost to begin with…guilt was a very powerful thing, evidently…
Folding her arms and looking away, Ginny allowed Harry a few moments of contemplation on his existence. But he couldn't really think on it any more. Instead, he found his eyes had come to rest on the bright gift box in Ginny's lap.
"Could…could I…?" as Harry reached for the box, Ginny placed it in his trembling hands.
Or she would have; the colourful object merely passed straight through him. Why can't I hold the box now? Ginny had an answer for that too.
"Apparently, you haven't quite got the hang of 'spectral manipulation' yet," she supplied knowingly.
Harry lashed out at her. "Has anyone told you that at times you appear to be channelling Hermione Granger?" he said crossly. He hadn't meant to; his anger was for something else entirely—like not being able to hold the box, for starters. But it had just so happened Ginny got caught in the crossfire.
Folding her arms, she intoned quietly, "And has anyone ever told you to read the library books or revise your textbooks? The term 'spectral manipulation' is explained first year. Mostly the subject is revised to keep the youngest students from getting scared out of their wits about the house ghosts—Peeves, in particular—who is a master of it. They even touch on it in 'Hogwarts, A History.'"
"Oh." Daunted, Harry again realised in a difficult way how being dead was different. It was also intensely strange to think that he was in any way similar to beings like Peeves, Nearly Headless Nick, or… he shuddered…the Bloody Baron.
He narrowed his eyes and contemplated what Ginny said about reading more books. Granted he should've studied a bit more in life. Being dead, he could undoubtedly do something to remedy his neglectful ignorance, however. He had nothing but time now. Maybe he could even haunt the Hogwarts library, scaring the living daylights out of Mr. Filch and his foul feline, Mrs. Norris. Oh yes, Ginny was waiting.
"Sorry, but what is 'spectral manipulation'?" Harry ventured repentantly.
"It is the ability of a spiritual entity to interact physically with the people and objects around them," she answered. "And it evidently requires much practise and thought; not all ghosts have equal talent for it. Studies indicate ability tends to be related to how powerful a person's mind was while they were still living, as well."
Then her eyes sparkled. "The text also told us how very moody souls can be, and how to deal with them—if at all. In fact, they used Moaning Myrtle as a prime example."
Moaning Myrtle and Howling Harry, chanted a maniacal little voice inside his head, Hogwarts Hopelessly Hapless Pathetic Poltergeist Pair! A loo and a library? Harry answered the voice back. Myrtle would be beside herself with glee if he showed up in present form. Harry shook himself forcefully and determined to try and focus on what he'd been doing. It wasn't easy.
"Anything in your reading about a ghost's lack of concentration?" he asked her, "or inability to think straight?"
"Most certainly," replied Ginny and furrowed her brow. "In fact, it says that's what can most often cause moody behaviour of spirits in the first place. Thoughts for individuals become more and more sporadic after they've died. Their experiences—living and dead—eventually jumble together and it can become near-impossible to sort out." She leaned forward a bit and continued.
"Speculation has it the reason for this is there is nowhere solid for their thoughts to be organised or contained. No way for the spirit in question to hold in all those thoughts—like they did in body. Only the strongest and most stubborn of souls can survive for any appreciable amount of time in this state. So cheers for you, Harry," she finished without a trace of sarcasm.
"You got all of that information from textbooks?" he demanded of her.
"Most certainly not," she answered in a huff. "A lot of it I got from Divination lessons at school—the séance chapters were loads of help."
"Don't tell me all of that rubbish Trelawney says is true!" he shouted in a surprised voice.
"That sounds extremely narrow-minded, coming from a ghost such as yourself," Ginny admonished as her eyebrow rose. "Besides, the correct principles of the class are all there, it's only the method of delivery which is complete bunk." She lifted the other eyebrow. "And apparently I'm quite adept at some parts of Divination. I can quite often stump the teacher, much to her chagrin." She grinned broadly.
Shaking his head, Harry contemplated the fact that anything about his education as an afterlife denizen would have anything to do with Sybill Trelawney. Weird, weird, weird.
Resigning himself, Harry turned to Ginny again and asked, "Did Trelawney teach you anything about how…ghosts can…move things around?" he mumbled hopefully.
"Sort of," she added, "it told of the basic theory…but not much more. Basically, you just have to…visualise yourself in mind doing what you want to in spirit. You have to want it to happen." She gestured him to stand up with her as she rose.
Holding out the arm containing the box she said, "Now, start with something simpler than picking the box up. Picture yourself removing the lid. Just hit the corner, and it'll fly off—I'll hold onto the bottom half tightly so it won't go with it. Give it a go," she nodded encouragingly, hands tightening on her half of the box.
Harry closed his eyes to collect his thoughts. I have to want it to happen, he chanted, want it to happen…want…it…to…happen…. wantit..tohappen…wantittohappen.…
He felt his arm fly out and rush passed the ribbons across the top of the box. Opening his eyes, he looked at Ginny's face.
"No go," she said apologetically. "Try it again—only watch your aim this time."
Keeping his eyes open, Harry chanted to himself again, Want…it… to… happen…want…itto…happen…wantitto…happen… wantittohappen…wantittohappen…
His fingertips grazed one end of the box that time. It was a bit less daunting to try again now. Ginny merely nodded to show readiness for him to try once more.
Staring in almost mad concentration at the top of the box, he focussed yet again, and started his internal mantra, Want…it… to… happen….want…itto…happen…wantitto…happen… wantittohappen…
wantittohappen…at the last second, he had a flash of Sirius pop into his mind.
Reaching out his arm again, Harry watched as his hand squarely caught the edge of the bright box and the lid flew off of it. Hedwig alighted in indignation, apparently having almost been struck by the flying lid.
"Sorry, Hedwig!" Harry called exultantly, "I forgot you were there!"
He and Ginny grinned hugely at each other. "I knew you could do it!" she shouted happily. "What did you do different that last time though?" she asked.
"I suppose I just…thought of something that…helped me focus better," he answered breathlessly and grinned again. He held a fist to the air and let out a whoop.
"Now, I assume you wanted a look at these," reminded Ginny, stepping forward to him. She pulled her wand from her robes.
"Since it's dark–-LUMOS!—here's a bit of light," she held the wand out for him as they looked into the box together.
He saw his name again, atop the first cert sheet, and Ginny pulled it away to reveal subsequent papers underneath it for him. At last they came to the signature page. This was the one Harry truly wanted to hold in his hands; Ginny could tell by looking in his face. Setting the box on the ground, she left the extra papers in it and removed the signed one and held it out to him delicately.
"Close your eyes this time, Harry."
He obediently did as she said.
"Imagine the texture of the parchment, the way its rough surface slides over your skin, the heavier weight of it in your hands…"
As she spoke, he saw the paper in his mind's eye, and could picture himself holding on to it. Ginny's description was so realistic, it felt as if the page was right in his hands.
"Harry, open your eyes," said Ginny in a barely contained whisper.
Slowly opening his eyes, Harry looked down. The parchment was in his hands! Ginny had slipped the paper through his fingers, and he hadn't noticed. But he'd done it! The feelings of accomplishment he now felt rivalled his winning the Quidditch Cup.
Ginny looked up and beamed at him. She knew how important this was, and let him revel in the moment. Suddenly he realised he couldn't read the paper very well, as Ginny's wandlight was shining through the back of it.
Concentrating hard, Harry dropped a supporting hand from the parchment and held his breath. He began slowly reaching into the front of his robes for his wand. It was as if he were balancing a delicate glass globe in his hand instead of holding onto a simple piece of parchment. The wand was at last unsheathed; he held it up carefully and said, "LUMOS!" The wand sparked to life in an eerie greenish glow.
Studying Harry's black wand, Ginny's eyes grew huge with comprehension. And fear. "Is…that…what…I…thinkitis?" she finished in a rush. "I mean, how can you hold a wand?"
Harry attempted a shrug. "I honestly couldn't tell you. It's just a wand my father gave me for my…Death-day party," he ended, not wanting to explain himself further.
"Oh, all right," Ginny answered, appearing none-too-assured. "Erm, there's another paper in the box you haven't seen," she went on unsteadily. "But it's sort of…sort of morbid." She was flicking glances at him out of the corner of her eye now.
"Very well," said Harry, wanting to change the subject, "let's see it."
Walking over to the box, Ginny rifled through the papers and came away with a small half-sheet, which had a seal near the bottom. She walked over and held it out saying, "It's your death certificate, actually."
"Oh," Harry answered dully. Any subject but that one.
Ginny came and stood by him, and held out the smaller piece of parchment for his inspection. It was odd seeing his name on an adoption cert and death cert side by side. Very odd. In spite of himself, he swished his wand over it to get a better look. Something very strange happened as he did. Spider-web thin outlines flashed across both sheets of paper; it flickered so briefly he wasn't even sure he'd seen it.
"Did you see that?" Ginny and Harry both turned to each other and asked simultaneously.
"Maybe it's because of the papers' proximity together," offered Ginny.
Harry glanced at her sharply. "Why, has this happened before?" he asked, knowing the answer would be no. Ginny only shook her head.
"My guess would be it's the two different kinds of light," he ventured, and flicked his wand again. "LUMOS MAXIMA!" His wand burned brighter emerald.
This time, the gossamer lines on the two papers no longer flickered—they stayed lit under the bright green light of Harry's wand.
Next to the wizard's signatures were tiny silvery icons; one to represent each magical person's signature. This meant Petunia's and Vernon's had no icons. One of the witnesses' names had a tiny glittering cat next to it. The other one had a small crown, and Sirius's name of course had a paw print by it. Harry noticed his icon was very special; it was the only one that moved. He watched as it transformed from a letter "m", to an "h", then to "j", and finally to "p", and back to "m" again to restart the process.
"Metamorphmagus Harry James Potter," murmured Ginny wonderingly, just as entranced as he was by his icon.
"I'd wager this is some sort of security measure," said Harry softly, still staring at the small pretty pictures, "to prove the authenticity of the documents. To show that they're genuine and not faked."
"Yes, it would seem so," agreed Ginny, "but look what happened to the death cert."
Instead of seeing his name and the time and date of death, all of those lines were completely blank. Curious. Harry tried something. "Nox." His wand went out, the icons disappeared, and the missing writing was back on the death certificate.
Lighting his wand again, he peered studiously at the smaller piece of paper. Something appeared to be flashing through from the other side. Evidently, Ginny noticed it too and she flipped the parchment over.
In the left-hand corner of the back, was a small crown-shaped icon blinking on and off ever so delicately.
He and Ginny looked at one another intently.
"Could you…?" he asked, and held the adoption cert out to Ginny. She swapped papers with him carefully and put the larger one back in the box and quickly walked back over.
"Any ideas?" she asked curiously, looking at Harry who was staring at the flashing little crown.
"One," he answered, "but I'm not sure if I can do the spell—I've only seen it done once."
Tapping his wand tip to the parchment surface, he canted, "Reveal your secret."
Ginny gasped in surprise as flowing black ink spidered over the paper. When it stopped, five small pictures were revealed across the middle of the page. They were immediately recognisable.
"The Four Marauders signs!" Harry exclaimed. "Mssrs. Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs!"
"And there's you," Ginny shouted, pointing to the fifth picture, "Mr. M.M.M.!"
Shaking and breathing hard now, Harry glanced at Ginny and said, "Here goes nothing." Placing his wand to his icon, he chanted, "I do solemnly swear that I am up to no good."
Immediately the five icons vanished, to be replaced by silvery threads of glittering calligraphy. The words were shimmering as dew on a spider web and looked almost alive.
Harry and Ginny read them aloud together:
must not tell lies," a young wizard once wrote;
Act easy, none told in this complex note.
Midst horrors now experienced, through deeds done or said
The one thing to know is that wizard's not dead—
"What is this, some sort of cruel joke?" demanded Harry. "Somebody who wanted to mess with my friend's minds? How can I not be dead?"