The Search for Life and Death

The Plan

THE SEARCH FOR LIFE AND DEATH

VII

The Plan

Albus Dumbledore sat alone in his office for the first time since Harry had been brought to Hogwarts. The solitude, as momentary as it was, offered him a small relief from the position he constantly had to play. Alone in his office but for the crimson bird sitting quietly in the corner, the headmaster of Hogwarts leaned forward in his chair and groaned as he buried his face in his hands.

It was almost impossible to believe that he'd been complaining the previous week of having too much to do. Compared to this week, those tasks had been a cakewalk. Now, on top of trying to convince the Minister of Magic that Voldemort had returned, fighting off reporters that were constantly begging for his comments, and preparing for a new school year (which included finding a new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor), he had a swath of new chores. He needed to find an appropriate place for Sirius and Remus to live with Harry, talk to Elena about signing as Harry's secondary guardian, search for cures for Harry's unfortunate loss of hearing and speech, and make adjustments to the school to accommodate these problems.

At least finding a new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor is no longer a problem, Dumbledore thought, though he wasn't particularly pleased about the choice that had been made. Extremely displeased with how Dumbledore continued to try and convince him of Voldemort's return, Cornelius Fudge had stepped in and assigned Hogwarts a new professor. Dolores Umbridge. Dumbledore had the unfortunate experience of having met the woman some time ago. To this day he rather loathed the color pink.

"There's nothing for it, I suppose." Dumbledore leaned back in his chair and gazed at the phoenix in the corner as the large bird cleaned his feathers. "You're quite lucky, my dear friend. You need only sit on your perch and relax as the rest of us rush around, searching for ways to salvage what's left of the world."

Fawkes raised his head from his preening and stared at Dumbledore with keen eyes. The phoenix let out a trill that sounded much more like a scoff than anything and turned on his perch until his back was facing Dumbledore, as though he had found the comment insulting. Dumbledore raised his eyebrows in surprise, but Fawkes gave him no mind and turned back to preening himself.

Dumbledore was left in a moment of startled confusion, before he turned slowly back to the papers on his desk. He had received another letter from the goblins at Gringotts that stated, in no uncertain terms, that he was to shut up about the Black Family mansion. According to Walburga Black's will, the Black Family Mansion was to go to Regulus Black or, should he be unable to take it, to the descendents of either him or Sirius Black. Regulus had, of course, died some years ago and had left no children, and Walburga had left nothing to Sirius, as he had been wiped off of the family tree. If Sirius were legally and officially Harry's guardian, there would be no issue, because Harry would be considered a descendent of Sirius even though they weren't related by blood. However, Sirius was a fugitive and because he could not claim Harry, the mansion was unavailable for their use. Dumbledore had been trying to convince the goblins, but he had apparently overstepped his boundaries and insulted them, which had been the least of his intentions. He would not attempt to convince them again. Goblins could be ruthless and Dumbledore did not want to anger the creatures that the Wizarding World so often relied upon.

He was reluctant to admit it, but it seemed that his only choice in the matter would be to allow Sirius, Remus, and Harry to live at 12 Grimmauld Place. He had been trying to avoid this for two reasons. The first, of course, was because Sirius was a wanted criminal and not all members of the Order of the Phoenix knew about his innocence. If they lived at Grimmauld Place, Sirius would be forced to hide within his own home during Order meetings.

The second reason was because Dumbledore knew how much Sirius hated Grimmauld Place and how he despised being confined in the home that had been such a painful place as a child. He had wanted to try and make up for his recent (and not so recent) mistakes by giving him the pleasure of being away from that memory, but it appears he would fail at yet another thing in this life.

Sighing wearily, Dumbledore massaged his temples and winced at he pressed too hard against a drooping boil over his left eye. He wondered if Sirius would hex him again when he told him the bad news.

Feeling the greenish-yellow pus gush suddenly out of a shivering boil on the tip of his nose, Dumbledore desperately hoped not.

Ginny sighed for what was probably the third time in two minutes and tried to focus on the book she was reading. She was sitting cross-egged in the grass near the pond at the edge of their property, with Ron's fourth year Potions book resting in her lap. Beside her, a blonde-haired girl lay on her back in the tall grass, eyes gazing with unfocused attention up at the sky.

"You really should tell him you like him, you know."

Ginny startled, turning to look at her friend. The girl's blue eyes were still staring up at the sky. She had one hand lying on her stomach, while the other twirled a few strands of grass between her fingers. Ginny swallowed before speaking. "Tell who?" she managed to squeak.

"Harry Potter." It wasn't spoken in an exasperated tone or a sarcastic drawl, as one might expect. Rather, the blonde said it in a manner that suggested she expected Ginny did not know that she liked Harry Potter, and this young girl was doing her a favor by letting her know that she did.

"Why do you think I like him?" Ginny asked nervously, forgetting about the book in her lap. Her attention was completely focused on Luna, who continued to study the clouds as if there were nothing more interesting in the world.

"Since we have stopped talking about him, you've been staring ahead as though you're not thinking. I might have thought that a colony of Wrackspurts have made a nest in your head, but I don't sense any around, so you must be thinking of Harry Potter." The young girl blinked as a cloud above her was blown into a new form by the wind and lost interest in it. She turned her head to look at Ginny curiously.

Ginny shrugged, though she refused to look at Luna, the blush that arched across her cheeks reaching to the tips of her ears. "I don't really see the point in saying anything. He wouldn't like me like that."

Ginny waited for a reply, but after a while, it became apparent that Luna wasn't going to say anything. Ginny returned to the book in her lap and didn't pay much attention as Luna got to her feet and looked across the pond, humming lightly and singing too low for the words to be clear. Not a moment later, Ginny looked up when Mrs. Weasley called from the house.

"Ginny, dear! I need you to come inside!"

"I'll be right there, Mum!" Ginny turned back to her companion. "Do you want to come inside, Luna? I'm sure Mum would love to have you for dinner."

"No. Dad wouldn't like it very much if I let myself get eaten by your mum."

Ginny blinked at her for a moment, before pursing her lips in an attempt to not laugh. Instead, she smiled at Luna. "Okay, Luna. Well, I'll see you later, then."

"Oh yes," Luna said, and smiled wistfully. Turning, she skipped across the grass toward the road, only to stop after a few feet and turn around. Ginny's attention was still focused on the unusual blonde-haired girl. "You should tell Harry Potter that you like him," Luna said abruptly, and Ginny was surprised to see that her normally-clouded blue eyes were quite clear. "He's going to need you soon."

Luna blinked then, and the clouds seemed to return to obscure her eyes. She offered Ginny a wistful smile as she turned and continued skipping back toward the road and home.

After watching her for a moment, Ginny headed up toward the house to see what Mrs. Weasley wanted. She was surprised to step into the house to find Fred, George, Ron, and her parents standing in the living room, along with the Deputy Headmistress of Hogwarts.

"Ah, Ginny, there you are, dear." Mrs. Weasley hurried over to smooth Ginny's hair. She hugged the girl tight, as though offering comfort.

Ginny looked to her professor, finding that the woman's face was grave. "Professor McGonagall?" she asked quietly.

"Hello, Miss Weasley. I was just asking your mother to get everyone together. I have something I need to talk to you about."

Ginny frowned at the woman. Professor McGonagall always looked stern, but right now, that was overshadowed by a grim expression that made Ginny feel unwell. She glanced over at her brothers to find Fred and George muttering over a parchment, and Ron sitting on the couch beside them, looking at McGonagall as though she'd just told him that Pidwidgeon was eaten by a giant spider.

Mr. Weasley came into the room, moving over to put his arm around his wife's waist, and McGonagall nodded to note that they were all present. "Very well, then. Arthur, you recently spoke to the headmaster about Mr. Potter."

Arthur nodded, his face going grim at the memory being brought up. "I did. Ron here," he motioned toward Ron, "had a very distressing nightmare and I knew I'd feel better to know that Harry had been checked on, just in case. He's like one of the family, you know."

McGonagall nodded. "The headmaster did send someone to check on Harry. They've recovered him from his relatives' home and brought him to Hogwarts."

"Is Harry all right, Professor?" Ginny asked, looking at McGonagall. She had been staring at Ron's face, which had gone very pale. The boy's hands had clenched into fists around the cloth of his pants and he was staring wide-eyed at some point in front of him.

"Mr. Potter is… in the Hospital Wing, Miss Weasley. Madam Pomfrey is taking care of him."

"The Hospital Wing? Oh, is the poor dear all right? What happened?"

McGonagall looked uncomfortable. "I'm afraid Harry was injured when he was discovered at the Dursleys', Molly. His injuries were rather severe." McGonagall refused to admit how severe. There was no way she wanted to be the one to break that bombshell open for Molly Weasley. "He has been under constant supervision since, but he's spent most of his time unconscious."

"Can we see him?"

The question cut the end off of McGonagall's words, and she turned to Ron in surprise. Molly opened her mouth to rebuke her son for interrupting his professor, but Arthur put his hand on her shoulder to stop her. She closed her mouth slowly.

"I'm not sure if that is well-advised, Mr. Weasley," McGonagall admitted.

Ron still hadn't looked at her, but was staring straight ahead, eyes wide, fists clenched so tightly his knuckles were bloodless. As she watched, he swallowed a few times around a tight jaw, looking as though he was gathering his nerve up about something. He raised his head with a jerky motion, finally meeting her eyes. She was taken aback by his haunted gaze, but didn't say anything.

"I want to see him, Professor," Ron said, sounding like he was forcing the words out around a compulsion for silence. "I need to know that he's – he's okay."

You need to know that he's alive, don't you, Ron? Ginny was looking at her brother again and his eyes scared her. His face scared her and so did his words. He was frightened and she didn't know why. She knew he'd had a nightmare, but not that it was about anything but Harry, and though she wished she knew what it was about, she was very glad she didn't.

She looked away from Ron with some relief and turned her eyes to her professor. "Please, Professor McGonagall?" She bit her lip when her Head of House looked at her. "I'm worried, Professor."

"I know you are, Miss Weasley," McGonagall said softly. "I'll see what I can do."

"Headmaster? Are you there?"

Dumbledore wandered over to the fireplace, where he found the head of Kingsley Shacklebolt poking out of the coals. "Auror Shacklebolt, what a pleasant surprise!" It was quite a surprise, actually, as Dumbledore knew Kingsley was currently working and, therefore, on Ministry time. "Would you like to come through?"

"If you have a moment, Headmaster." Dumbledore stepped away from the fire and a moment later, Kingsley stepped through a burst of green flames. He looked at Dumbledore with a grim face and nodded at the walls. Dumbledore waved his hand and a privacy bubble appeared around the both of them, shielding their conversation from being overhead by anyone.

"What is it, Kingsley?" Dumbledore asked, stepping closer to the agitated man.

The auror sank into a chair and rubbed his face. "I've just come from St. Mungo's, Albus," Kingsley said, and looked up at the headmaster. "Lucius Malfoy did a number on his kid."

"Draco?" Dumbledore asked, raising his eyebrows in surprise. "How bad is he?"

"Bad, Albus." Kingsley shook his head and rubbed his face tiredly. "I'm honestly surprised the damn kid is alive. He didn't seem that bad off at first, but then I got a better look at him. Lucius gave him a lot for being so stubborn, but the boy was brave."

"Tell me what happened, Kingsley."

"None of us are stupid enough to think that Lucius Malfoy isn't on the top of the list of those helping the Dark Lord back into power, so I figured that scoping out his mansion wouldn't be a bad idea. If Fudge questions me about it, I figured I would just tell him I wanted to make sure that one of the Ministry's most prominent figures wasn't in danger from those who believed what you had been saying about the Dark Lord, and remembered that Malfoy had once been a Death Eater, even if he did get off on the Imperius excuse."

Dumbledore nodded, so Kingsley continued. "I sniffed around the property for a bit, but it looked pretty quiet. I figure wherever the Dark Lord is, he isn't using the Malfoy Mansion – at least not yet. I was about to leave when I heard someone screaming, and I went to check it out. It was inside the mansion, of course, but the screams were so loud, I'm not sure I would have been heard if I'd banged on the door."

He shook his head for a moment, gathering himself. "I found Lucius Malfoy casting the Cruciatus – and that's just for starters – on his son. He was casting a bunch of other spells – a severing charm, burning hex, and acid blood spell, once, I think. Draco-" Kingsley rubbed his forehead. "The boy was covering Narcissa with his own body, trying to protect her. She'd already been killed, and mutilated on top of it. Lucius was trying to get to her, to do more, I guess, but Draco was blocking him, so he was taking his frustration out on the boy.

"I stunned Lucius. I thought about killing him, but when it all comes down, I want him there, under Veritaserum, to admit to everything. I don't care if they kill him then, have the Dementors Kiss him, or toss him into that ruddy Veil. Damn it all, I'll kill him myself if I have to, when the time comes, but I want his crimes to come out of his own mouth before this is all through, so I stunned him. I got a good look at Draco then and I couldn't stick around and wait for backup. I incarcerated Lucius and called Tonks, and then I Apparated to St. Mungo's as soon as I was outside the wards."

"And Lucius?"

Kingsley sighed and fell back in the chair. "Escaped. I imagine he had help. Tonks got there less than five minutes after me, but when I talked to her, she said no one was there when she arrived. I've no doubt he's kissing the Dark Lord's boots as we speak. He left his wife's body behind, though. I figure we can do good by her, at least."

Dumbledore nodded, leaning back against his desk with a pensive expression. "Who is with Draco at the moment?"

"I have Tonks watching over him. I don't trust word not to leak out about him being there unless someone's there to keep an eye on things, and even then. Tonks'll make sure he doesn't get any visitors." He studied Dumbledore's pensive expression for a moment. "What'll we do about him?"

"I'll have to let his godfather know, if he hasn't already received a message, though I doubt he has. I don't think Lucius Malfoy could be considered a very good parental figure before this, so I see no reason why a notice should be sent out now. Have the healers revealed anything about his well-being?"

"He's still pretty bad off, but they had him stabilized before I left. I wanted to make sure, before I left Tonks alone. The healers have done a good job, but there are some things they've said they can't fix."

Dumbledore frowned. "His mind…"

"The Cruciatus certainly didn't do him any favors, but they didn't see anything wrong with his mind while diagnosing him. One of the spells Lucius used caught his face, though. He'll be blind in one eye for the rest of his life. They say all of the nerves have been severed beyond repair, and I imagine he'll be badly scarred. I don't know about anything else for certain."

Dumbledore nodded and sighed. "I have a meeting with Snape already, so I'll let him know about Draco in a few moments." He looked at the auror, who was unsurprised by the identity of Draco's godfather. "Thank you, Kingsley."

Kingsley bowed his head slightly and stood. "Of course, Albus." He shook the headmaster's hand. "My shift will be over soon. I'll probably keep an eye on Draco after that. I don't want his dad popping in to finish the job." He grimaced. "Let me know where you'll want him moved. I'll handle it."

"We'll be moving him to Headquarters, actually."

Kingsley did look surprised this time. "I thought our furry inmate was going to be spending his holiday there?"

"He is," Dumbledore admitted, not all that happy at his mind being turned back to Sirius, "and so is Draco's godfather. I promise I'll explain more later," he said, at Kingsley's confused look. "Keep an eye on Draco for me."

"Two eyes," Kingsley said, "and maybe even Moody's, if he's available." He nodded. "Good day, Albus."

"Kingsley." The whoosh of the fireplace pulled Kingsley from the room and Dumbledore sank down into his chair. Fawkes trilled reassuringly from the corner of the room, but Dumbledore merely leaned over the desk and placed his head in his hands.

Harry opened his eyes, the room around him dimmed by the night. He blinked slowly, trying to find something familiar in the blur that was his vision. He could smell the sharp tang of disinfectant and knew he was in the Hospital Wing, just as he had been when he awoke the first time. Like the first time, there was a vacuous sensation around his ears – not silence, but rather, no sound at all penetrated his mind. It was disorienting, but he did not allow it to send him flying into a panic as it had before.

He continued to lie on the bed, his fingers clutching the blanket that covered him, and stared up at the ceiling. There was blurry darkness and he wished he could hear if someone else was breathing nearby, but there was simply nothing.

Harry opened his mouth and tried to speak. He moved his lips and tongue just like he would have to call "Hello." It felt no different from when he usually spoke, except for a lack of vibration in his throat that he had never truly noticed before. He couldn't hear that there was no sound coming from his lips, but then he couldn't hear.

Disorienting. And confusing. He didn't really understand what had happened to leave him in this condition. He hadn't been able to get a lot out of Sirius and Remus. They didn't take the revelation of his loss of hearing and speech very well at all.

Harry glanced down at his fingers as he entwined them over his chest. His hands were shaking still, as they had been the first time that he woke up. Admittedly, he still wasn't feeling very well. He was sore all over, as though he had just played an incredibly grueling game of Quidditch, but his chest ached with a strange ferocity. Harry tried to ignore it and think about other things, like the fact that he was at Hogwarts now and he didn't know the date. Of course, thinking about Hogwarts got him thinking about why he was there and that made him think about how he got there, and then he was back to wondering exactly what had happened to make him ache like he did. Did his uncle really do that much damage?

His quivering fingers tightened over the blankets as he thought about Privet Drive and everything he had left behind. There had been no love lost between him and his relatives when he was taken from that house, he was sure, but his trunk was there, his schoolbooks and invisibility cloak and his wand.

And Hedwig.

Hedwig was probably still in that cage, covered in blood. Harry wasn't concerned about the smell her body might be making or the mess that might have occurred. Hedwig was his second friend and had always been his best friend. She didn't deserve to just lie in the bottom of her cage in his room – a place that had always been without love. She deserved a proper burial, somewhere clear and beautiful – a place filled with love, because he had loved her so very, very much.

Harry couldn't hear himself sniffle, but he could feel the tickling of hot tears as they rolled down over his ears. His throat got thick and his nose stuffy and he clenched his teeth together tightly to try and stifle the tears, but they wouldn't back down.

Hedwig was gone. She was gone, and it was more than that Harry had killed her. That in itself was bad enough, but she was gone and he wasn't quite sure what he would do without her. He loved her and part of him wanted to believe that little lie in the back of his mind that he'd had a nightmare about her and she would fly over to him the next time he stepped into the owlery and nip his ear to admonish him for not visiting her enough. He wanted to believe that little lie, he really did, but he remembered the feel of her going limp in his hands as he buried the knife in her heart. He had tried to free her from the pain of dying one day at a time from starvation and maybe he had succeeded – maybe. But then, he was here, alive, and she was not.

If he had waited just another day, someone could have rescued her, too. She needn't have died.

Harry's sniffed again. He saw a shadow to his left move and figured he had woken someone with his crying. Squeezing his eyes shut, he rolled over onto his side and buried his face into the pillow.

He was at Hogwarts. He'd survived the Dursleys. But now he couldn't speak and he couldn't hear and Hedwig was gone.

It just wasn't right.

Remus sighed as Harry rolled over, away from him. He could tell that the boy was crying, but it was clear that he wanted to do so without the acknowledgment of others, so Remus leaned back in his chair and sighed. It occurred to him that he could sigh as loudly as he wanted and Harry would never hear.

He bit back something at that thought – a sob or a scream, he wasn't sure.

"Moony?"

Remus glanced at the bed across from Harry's, where Sirius was sitting up. He could see the Animagus in the darkness, blinking blearily, his hair tousled wildly. He seemed to be gathering his wits rather quickly, so Remus called back softly, "I'm here, Sirius."

"Is Harry awake?"

"He's sleeping." Remus stood up from his chair and walked over to sit by Sirius on the bed. "How are you feeling?"

"Like someone drugged me." He turned a glare onto Remus. It had a rather diminished effect, him still blinking sleep from his eyes and bearing the wrinkly pattern from the pillow on his left cheek. "You drugged me, Remus."

"Actually, Madam Pomfrey drugged you. I merely held you down." Sirius grunted. "You were out of control, Sirius. I understand your feelings, but I think Dumbledore has really suffered enough today." From the look on Sirius' face, the ex-convict didn't quite agree.

"Harry can't speak," he said, after a pregnant pause.

"No. He can't."

"He can't hear."

"No."

"What are we going to do, Remus?"

The werewolf gave his friend a solemn, serious look. "We're going to take him home," he said calmly. "We're going to love him, and care for him, and be the family that he's been lacking since Lily and James died. We're going to teach him to cast spells silently and to use his other senses. And when he wakes up from nightmares, we're going to be there to hug him, because he's missed out on too many hugs, Padfoot, and you can curl up in bed with him and lick his face until he learns to laugh because life is too short for how serious he is." He matched his friend's gaze. "Does that sound like a plan to you, Padfoot?"

"Yeah," Sirius said, his throat choked up with emotion. "That sounds like a great plan."

Author's Note: I hope you all enjoyed the chapter and will grace me with your ever-lovely reviews. I do enjoy reading them so very much.

Whether or not a chapter is up for New Years will depend entirely on whether I have time to write one or not. These holiday weeks are also the busiest, but here's hoping. Now, there were a few comments and questions I saw fit to reply to...

I have a twisted obsession with abused Harry fics, and although you say it will be a Ginny/Harry fic (I hate Ginny with a passion), I really want to read more!

I also used to hate Ginny with a passion and this fic, in the original version, was actually Harry/Hermione. I was lucky enough, however, to read an incredibly well-written fic that made me fall completely in love with Ginny's character. Do note, however, that I am taking liberties with some of the characters, Ginny included. I never much liked that Ginny was suddenly someone to Harry in sixth year, so I'm making some adjustments. Hopefully, I can change your views of Ginny, as mine were changed. And if not, I'm still glad you enjoy the story.

Snape has a kid? And a cute one, at that. Wouldn't he at least be kind to his own kid?

I think one of the things we can be sure about people is that there is far more to them than there often appears to be, and what one person may consider to be cold about one person may be nothing more than aloof to another. In any case, we have hardly seen to the depths of Severus Snape's personality. Be assured that we will see another side of Snape in the future. Perhaps multiple sides.

Are Remus and Hermione going to be together?

As can be seen on my profile under The Search For Life and Death's information, this is a Harry/Ginny, Remus/Sirius, and Ron/Hermione fic.

HOW THE HELL DO YOU ONLY HAVE 53 REVIEWS? Do people not know what a quality well written story is anymore?

I really appreciate that. Thank you. I'm glad you think the story is so well-written. I do try. Hopefully, in the future, I will be graced with more reviews, as I am quite fond of them.

I wasn't clear on the identity of the child next to Remus who wasn't Harry. Is it Sirius? Someone else? Did I miss something? I probably missed something...

Hypocrite. ;) Yes, it was Sirius whom Remus was referring to as the other child. In a previous chapter, he and Dumbledore were discussing how very similar Sirius is to an eight-year-old child, accidental magic and all.

Cozmic - please send some heat my way!

Author's Note: Well, it looks like that's all for now. I hope to hear from you all soon about the chapter. Comments, questions, and suggestions are always welcome. Constructive criticism is also welcome. Flames will be used to warm me up these cold winter evenings. I hope you all have a great week and it goes by quickly so the next weekend can hurry here and stick around.

I recalled, some time after posting the previous chapter, that I forgot to suggest a fanfic. I was rather distraught by this, as I enjoy my recommendations as much I enjoyed reading the fic to begin with. That being the case, I am suggesting two this evening.

The first is, unfortunately, not on this site. It is on a Harry/Ginny site entitled Sink Into Your Eyes (or SIYE) and is entitled Saving Harry. This fic is by The Seeker and is actually the fanfic that made me like - and chapters into it, love - Ginny Weasley, where before I disliked her character and her romance with Harry.

The second is Harry Potter and the Nightmares of Futures Past, by S'TarKan - a fic about Harry going back in time to change the way things occurred. This fic is still in the process of being written and updated slowly, but each of the chapters is well worth the wait and there are a good number already up to enjoy. I highly recommend this fic, as I pine for the chapters myself and lunge for the computer when they arrive.

I do wonder if people check out my recommendations, so if you happen to read one of these fics and enjoy it, let me know, hey? :D Always makes me happy to know I have revealed another great find to a fellow reader.

Happy reading, my friends and, as always,

Live long. Live well. Write. Read. Dream.

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