Harry emerged from the dusty fireplace in the kitchen at Grimmauld coughing. Kreacher helped Harry into a chair at the long table and was about to begin what Harry assumed was a hearty dinner when Neville appeared in the fireplace. Kreacher scrutinized Neville, looking for something that he could make a remark about. He seemed to recognize Neville from Hogwarts and offered Neville a seat next to Harry.
“Blimey Harry,” Neville said. “How’d you get a house like this?” Harry took a swig of the butterbeer Kreacher handed him.
“It was left to me.” Harry said. “By my godfather.”
“Sirius Black had a house like this?” Neville looked around appreciatively.
“Yeah.” The two of them took a drink. “Hadn’t lived in it for ages though. Was a right mess the first time we moved in.” Kreacher muttered something from the corner of the kitchen. Harry and Neville heard a shuffling upstairs, although they suspected it was Ron with Hermione, Ginny and Luna, on instinct they both drew their wands and faced the entrance. Harry’s hand gripped the holly wand with extreme caution. If it wasn’t Ron…if it was someone else…if he hadn’t really stopped Voldemort…he if was wrong…
“Put it away.” Ron said gruffly, shoving Harry’s arm toward the floor. Neville lowered his arm at the same time ad Harry and the two of them sat back down at the table.
“Sorry.” He muttered. “Force of habit.” Ginny sat down next to Harry and Luna sat down next to Neville, leaving Ron and Hermione to sit down in the last two seats.
“Hello Harry.” Luna said in a dreamy voice.
“Hi Luna.” He said. “Have a nice summer?”
“Oh yes.” Luna said swiftly. “Daddy and I have been rebuilding our house—“ Harry’s hand gripped his bottle of butterbeer tightly. Earlier that year, when he was on the hunt for Horcruxes with Ron and Hermione, they had visited Xenophilius Lovegood briefly however, he betrayed them and Harry wasn’t keen on the idea of discussing him. Harry refocused on what Luna was saying.
“The Crumple-Horned Snorkack horn should have healed by now.” Luna was saying. Hermione tried to stop herself from rolling her eyes; she failed miserably and sighed.
“Luna, I’ve been trying to tell you for months. It was an Eurmpent horn. It tore your house to shreds you’ve seen it yourself.”
Luna refused to believe her.
“Is your dad out of Azkaban then?” Neville asked. Luna took a sip of her butterbeer.
“He got out a few days ago. He was at your brother’s funeral, Ron. He didn’t like it much there.” Luna said. Harry snorted. All eyes on the room turned to him.
“Sorry.” He said. “It’s just…Sirius didn’t like it there either…and it’s a prison. You aren’t supposed to like it are you?”
“Daddy said it was fascinating.” Luna said solemnly. “He says that the Dementors were quite nice. Once you got to know them.”
It was Ron’s turn to snort.
“Dementors?” He asked. “Nice? They suck your soul out through your mouth! But, just get to know them and everything will be fine.”
“Lay off her Ron.” Ginny hissed. Luna seemed completely unaware that Ron had been insulting her and her father and instead began to engage a mildly interested Neville in a conversation about Wrackspurts. It was nearly midnight before Kreacher stumbled into the kitchen and reminded Harry that he had to work tomorrow; he had a job and that job could not be done if he was clambering around the Ministry half-asleep. Ron complained to Harry when Kreacher was out of earshot.
“He’s worse than my mum. Can we get the old one back?” Hermione shoved him rather forcefully and Ron nearly fell out of his chair as he swore at her.
Neville left first, he pulled a small amount of Floo powder out of a pocket in his robes and in a flash of emerald flames, was gone. Hermione offered to do Side-Along Apperation with Luna to Ron’s Auntie Muriel’s where she and her father were staying, but she refused and pulled from her pocket a small amount of Floo powder speckled with lint. She climbed into the first place, just as Neville had and she too disappeared in a flash of emerald. Ginny kissed Harry goodnight and went upstairs to where Ron and Hermione were waiting to leave.
At last Harry was alone. It wasn’t that he minded being with his friends, but there was something about the quite in his own head that he liked. Perhaps it was because he had been sharing his head space with Lord Voldemort for so long…either way he liked the buzzing in his ears as he climbed the stairs to the final landing at Grimmauld Place.
Harry lay awake in Sirius’ bed. Teddy was sleep; he had gone to bed ages ago. This didn’t stop Harry from talking to him.
“Things are finally looking up Teddy.” He said as he drifted off to sleep.
That night Harry dreamed not of the Battles as he had done, but of his family and friends together and safe.
June turned into July and finding Umbridge was not as easy as Ron had suggested. Every day Harry Floo’d into the Ministry and poured over scrolls of parchment that were supposedly filled with leads as to her whereabouts. All Harry had found so far was an empty house and the knowledge that he hated being evaded. Harry was no close catching Umbridge now than he had been to convincing her that Voldemort had returned when he was fifteen. Neville was also hitting a brick wall when it came to finding Lestrange. In fact, Ron was the only one who seemed to be having any luck finding his target. Jugson, it appeared, was the easiest of the perpetrators to catch. Ron had spent the entire day after apprehending Jugson strutting around and dramatically recounting how he had wrestled Jugson to the ground inside the Leaky Cauldron where he was having a drink with Neville and Harry after hours.
So it began. The newly reformed Auror’s Office began to hunt down the followers and supporters of Lord Voldemort, some like Jugson who had hardly been involved, proved themselves to be easy catches. They operated under the assumption that because they weren’t known, they would not be prosecuted. Others cases, like that of the Lestrange brothers began to look more hopeless with each passing day. Harry knew he was close to finding Umbridge, he could feel it in his bones. He was so close to finding her, there was hardly anything else he wanted. Meanwhile, Teddy had turned three months old and Andromeda had stopped by Grimmauld Place unexpectedly. Harry had been eating dinner in Sirius’ room, poring over his file on Umbridge when there was a knock at the door.
“C’min.” Harry mumbled his mouth full of sandwich. Kreacher entered stooped over with an odd expression on his face. “What is it?”
“Master has a visitor.” Kreacher croaked. Harry furrowed his brow.
“Visitor?” Harry asked. “Who?” Kreacher called Ron and Hermione by their first names now. He was comfortable around Neville and Luna. He knew everyone in the Order. As much as he hated every single one of them, he called them by name (in front of Harry anyway). Kreacher muttered under his breath and moved out of the way to reveal the person who had some rudely shown up at Harry’s doorstep unannounced.
“Andromeda.” Harry breathed. Raising his voice he said. “C’min.”
Harry could see why Kreacher was acting oddly. Andromeda used to be a member of the Black family, before she was disowned for marrying the muggle Ted Tonks, for whom her grandson was named. She looked like her sister Bellatrix, a woman who Kreacher adored during her life and a woman who Kreacher had served before his allegiance had shifted to Harry. Harry hadn’t forgotten that it was Kreacher who had told Bellatrix how much Sirius and Harry cared for each other, and she told Voldemort to lure Harry into the Ministry of Magic. He hadn’t forgotten that Bellatrix had killed Sirius. But he tried not to dwell too much on these things because it was in the past and dwelling never seemed to help anyone.
Andromeda seemed tired. Her face was shallow; there were dark circles under her eyes. Harry could tell that she had tried to fix her hair before coming, but it was still tangled. It appeared that she had given up.
“How are you?” Harry asked weakly. Andromeda gave him a sad, small sort of shrug that made Harry’s stomach twist. “That good, eh?”
Andromeda gave him a small smile. “I have been better.”
“I know the feeling.”
There was a long pause. Teddy let out a long strangled cry and before Harry’s brain could tell his legs to move, Andromeda had already left to her feet and crossed the room. She picked up Teddy and cradled him against her chest.
“Does it ever get better?” whispered a watery-eyed Andromeda. A tear dropped on to Teddy’s face but he didn’t seem to mind as he stared up into the eyes of his grandmother.
“Sorry?” Harry asked awkwardly. The skin on the back of his neck prickled, he shifted his weight on the mattress uncomfortably.
“Do you ever stop feeling so sad? So angry?”
Harry thought for a long moment.
Andromeda looked startled. It was clear to Harry that she was expecting him to assure her that she would be feeling back to normal in no time. He had thought about it, lying to her. It seemed to be the easier thing to do, but he wanted to tell her the truth. It was not easy; she was not going to feel like her old self. Everything, absolutely everything, was going to be different.
“It gets easier.” Harry said quietly. “After a while…things get closer to normal. But it never goes back. But it never really goes away.”
“Do you miss them?” Andromeda motioned to the picture of the Marauders on the wall.
“Every day.” Harry said truthfully.” Sirius and Remus more than my dad. I never really knew him…it’s a bit difficult to miss him sometimes.”
“You’re a good man Harry.” The tears were flowing freely down her face now, staining the collar of her robes and wetting Teddy’s turquoise hair. Harry made to comfort her, his hand was on her shoulder, but she shrugged it off. Harry lost track of how long Andromeda had sat on his dead godfather’s bed and sobbed. Because that was what she was doing; sobbing. Cries wracked her body and she nearly collapsed in on herself, the only thing stopping that from happening was Teddy he was the barrier between Andromeda’s chest and knees. There was barely a moment where tears weren’t squeezing out of her eyes.
“Would you like some tea?” Harry asked softly. Andromeda shook her head and wiped the fat tears out of her eyes.
“No.” She said. “No. I should be going. Thank you Harry. For everything.”
Harry muttered ‘no problem’, feeling slightly embarrassed. He stood up to walk her out. She dismissed him with a small shake of the head and handed him Teddy.
“You’re forgetting this was my aunt’s house. I know my way out.”
Teddy gently wiped Andromeda’s tear off of Teddy’s head.
Ron had been less than impressed with this ordeal.
“Why not just give her the kid back?” Ron asked when Harry recounted this to him.
“Well that doesn’t exactly make me a good godfather now does it?”
“You’re missing out mate.” Ron said wisely. “We could be having a lot of fun.”
“I am having fun.” Harry said. “Look at how much fun I am having.” Ron roared with laughter. They had been at the Ministry for a while now; long enough that the employees had stopped whispering and pointing every time either of them walked past. The Auror’s Office was not nearly as quite as it had been the first day Harry, Ron and Neville had shown up for work. Witches and Wizards in robes of all different colors were constantly walking in and out. Some of them were visitors, evident by the silver badges pinned to their chests; some were other Ministry employees who couldn’t be bothered to spend time writing a memo, other still were Witches and Wizards accused of injustice; there to plead their cases or offer information in exchange for a lesser charge. Harry, Ron and Neville were never bothered with these cases. Their sole focus, Proudfoot had explained to them, was to catch the Death Eaters and Ministry officials who had worked closely in Lord Voldemort’s ranks.
Harry was having no luck with Umbridge’s case. There were several other violet folders stacked in the corner of his desk (it appeared that Auror’s were expected to work on more than one case at a time) gathering desk. They had never been opened. Like Neville, Harry felt he had something to prove in catching someone who had made his life miserable. If Harry was having no luck, Neville was moving backward. Whereas Harry had minute clues, Neville had absolutely nothing. The Lestrange family was not exactly open with their neighbors and clues of their whereabouts where hard to come by. Ron, to everyone’s surprise, was the most successful Auror out of the three. Neville had suggested begrudgingly to Harry that Ron was being handed the easier cases.
“Kingsley’s probably told Williamson to give us the cases we have.” Harry said. “Ron hasn’t really got many enemies has he?” Neville remained silent, but cheered considerably told Ron who hadn’t even noticed that Neville had been acting harshly toward him at all.
Harry and Ron were getting ready to leave. Several Auror’s had filed out.
“Potter.” It was Proudfoot, walking toward him. “We’ve found Umbridge.”