Chapter 19: Suitors
Thoughts of Pudding by Brian64.
Chapter 19: Suitors.
Wednesday 26th June, 1996.
Narcissa Malfoy was furious as she followed her arrogant son as he stalked away from Gringotts. Things couldn't have gone any worse.
First there was Draco's ridiculous declaration to Harry Potter. Without knowing anything, he'd instantly responded to Potter's acknowledgement of their distant family relationship by immediately severing that family connection to him. For a Slytherin, Draco was remarkably Gryffindorish in his outbursts and impulse control.
As the will reading eventually progressed to the point that Sirius stated he intended to have Bella, Draco, and even herself cast out of the family, she had unobtrusively readied her wand for the silencing and body bind spells that she expected would be needed.
Then came the words declaring that Harry Potter would be the next Lord Black, and she silently cast Silencio and then Petrificus Totalus on her son. If he'd begun yelling and waving his wand while Ragnok was still talking, then he'd be committing suicide-by-goblin.
Once the will reading had concluded, she'd cancelled her spells and he had, of course, immediately protested; for all the good it had done him.
As they arrived back in Malfoy manner, Draco immediately started yelling at her.
"How dare you silence and bind me! Have you forgotten that I am the current Head of–" he began.
Narcissa stalked over to him and slapped his face. "Do not take that tone with me, Draco! Head of the Malfoy House? You're nothing but a petulant child! If I hadn't bound and silenced you I'd be arranging your funeral now, and some goblin guard would be collecting a bonus from their director."
Draco's face turned red and he made the mistake of reaching for his wand. Narcissa easily took it from him and pocketed it. She made a disgusted sound. "Go to your room, Draco. If you wish to continue acting like a child, then I'll treat you as one. When you're ready to behave as an adult we will have a long talk, you and I."
"When my father–"
Narcissa interrupted him. "Your stupid father is in Azkaban, and is likely to remain there for some time. Unless, of course, he is rescued by his master, in which case he is likely to be tortured extensively for his failure to overcome six children! Tell me, Draco, can you explain how six children managed to hold off twelve inner circle Death Eaters long enough for help to arrive?"
Draco just glared silently at her.
"No, I didn't think so. I suggest you give some serious thought to what that means."
Narcissa then handed him the envelope the goblin had given her with his name on it. "Here, take this with you to your room. Perhaps your cousin left you some good advice? Merlin knows you could use some for a change."
Draco recognised the dismissal and held out his hand for his wand. She waved him off and then turned her back on him, attention now focussed on the envelope she'd been given. She vaguely heard Draco storming off to his room in anger, and wondered which of the house elves would bear the brunt of it this time. Summoning them, she ordered them all to ignore any requests other than for food and drink, and not to punish themselves in any way. Crippled house elves couldn't work after all.
She retired to her ladies parlour, and opened her envelope. She found a letter and another sealed envelope with her name inside it.
In case you were not able to attend the reading, here are the highlights. I've named our cousin, Harry Potter, as the next Lord Black and have left almost everything to him. You, Draco and some others will get some gold as per the Black trust, and I've asked him to bring Andi back into the family and sign the forms to cast out Bella.
As for you and Draco, unless you are prepared to swear Harry an oath that you will not support Lord Voldemort or his followers in any way, and that you have not already taken the dark mark, then you'll both be cast out as well.
Yes, Cissy, that means you'll have to leave Lucius, since he is a follower. I'm sorry, but he gave himself to Voldemort when he was branded, and his loyalty is always going to be to him first. If you stay with him, you'll end up branded, or worse, just as your son will be.
Enclosed is a form to annul your marriage; it will just take your signature and Harry's. You can trust Harry. He will take his responsibilities as Lord Black seriously, including looking after you both. Leave Malfoy. Become a Black again. You know you have a sister that would welcome you back.
Just in case you're hesitating now because you are thinking of following Voldemort yourself, let me ask you something; why would you, or anyone, want to follow him? Do you even know what he is really fighting for? If you said 'blood purity', then you're not even close! Do you want to know why?
Voldemort's father was a Muggle.
That's right; the supposed champion of purebloods is a bloody half-blood himself. He was born Tom Marvolo Riddle, and if you rearrange the letters, they read 'I am Lord Voldemort', the name he gave himself to hide his origins.
The fact remains that any 'pure blood' he had left in him from Slytherin's line is well and truly gone. It was Harry's blood, his Muggle father's bone, and Pettigrew's flesh that he used to restore himself to a body.
So what do you suppose his intentions really are? Do you really think he values purebloods given his own blood status, or is he just using them to achieve his own objectives?
Isn't it far more likely that he considers purebloods to be merely sheep? Yes, sheep that he will fleece of their gold, and then send off to possible slaughter to satisfy his own hatred of everyone and lust for power. Purebloods are just tools to him, and he will spill their blood as easily as he would any Muggle's if they cross him. You know I'm right; just think of all the purebloods he killed the first time around.
Cissy, the choice is yours. I hope you make the right one.
PS. Try to control your son. Sooner or later he is going to do something stupid to one of Harry's friends, and Harry will respond. You might want to remind Draco that Harry has already faced Voldemort several times, and he came out ahead or even every single time.
Narcissa read the letter in shock; trying to deny what she was reading. Reading it a second time didn't make it much easier to accept.
The question that ran through her head was; 'could this all be true?'
After the third reading, the question became; 'what am I going to do now?'
Summoning a house elf to bring her parchment, a quill, and ink, she sat down to write a letter to her estranged sister.
As the door closed, Harry braced himself for the inevitable tirade from Mrs Weasley. He wasn't kept waiting long.
"Harry James Potter! How dare you talk to the headmaster like that? I can't believe you could be so rude to him after all he's done. Well, what do you have to say for yourself, young man?" Molly demanded.
Harry forced himself to stay seated, and closed his eyes, counting backwards from ten in the hope that he could control his anger at her outburst. He must have tensed up because Luna was squeezing his arm a little tighter to offer him her support.
"Well? I'm still waiting!"
It was no use. She obviously could only see him as a naughty child, undeserving of being treated as a young adult. He opened his eyes and looked at her, trying not so show how much her current attitude hurt him.
"Mrs Weasley. I want to thank you. Sirius got it spot-on with what he said, and I really do appreciate everything you've done for me, and how you've cared about me."
Her face softened and she dropped her glare. "You're very welcome dear," she said, before reminding herself that he hadn't answered her questions. "But you still haven't answered–"
Arthur's hand on her arm interrupted her tirade. "Later, Molly," he murmured to her, adding in a whisper "He's just heard Sirius' will."
Molly's eyes started to glisten as she remembered, and she quickly bustled around the table so that she could wrap Harry in another hug. She settled for cradling his head to her as he had remained seated, unable to get up due to the tight grip Luna had on him.
Arthur intervened, putting a hand on Harry's shoulder in silent support before dragging Molly over to Bill, to give their younger children a chance to talk to him before they all had to leave.
Fred and George started a mock-whispered conversation between themselves.
"Do you think we should go over and say hello?" Fred asked his twin.
"I dunno, he's looking all 'lordly' now. I'm scared." George replied, looking over at Harry and immediately turning his head in mock horror at being noticed, and bringing a hand up to hide his face.
"I think he saw you!" Fred hissed to his twin. "You're done for! Caught looking at His presence without permission! You'll be in Azkaban before the day is out!" Fred insisted.
"But I'm too young and good-looking!" George wailed. "Perhaps if I threw myself on his mercy and offered him my virtue he'd let me off with a warning?"
"You could try, I suppose…" Fred said doubtfully. "Come on then."
They got up and walked slowly over to Harry, bowing in ever increasing extravagance as they got closer. Then both dropped to their knees in front of his chair with heads bowed.
"Our most goodly and wise Lord Black…" Fred began.
"Don't forget merciful!" George hissed at him.
"Yes of course, what was I thinking?"
"I don't know, were you thinking?
Fred thought, finger on chin. "Well I think I was, doesn't that count?"
George shook his head "No, I keep telling you to leave the thinking to me, you've never been all that good at it!"
"Are you gits almost finished?" Harry said, laughing at their antics.
Fred turned to his brother and shrugged "Yeah, I'm good; how about you?"
George shrugged back "It's a blow to have to stop now, but we better not keep his lordliness waiting."
The two jumped up from the floor, and then crowded onto his lap, taking a knee each.
"Lord Harrikins that is…"
"Yes, Lord Harrikins…"
"We were wondering…"
"If you'd consider us…"
"For the role of…
"Lady Black!" they said, alternating between themselves until the last, which they said together.
Harry continued laughing. "Sorry guys, but I don't think I could choose between you, and it wouldn't be fair to the other one."
"That's not a problem, Lord Harrikins, I'd be Lady Black…" Fred said.
"And I'd be Lady Pot… No wait! I want to be Lady Black. You can be Lady Potter!"
"Are you mad? Do I look like I could be a Potter with this complexion? I'm clearly meant to be a Black! You on the other hand…"
"Oh, ho! Well isn't that the Potter calling the kettle Black?"
"What does that even mean?"
"I have no idea, but it sounded really good! So we're agreed that I'm going to be Lady Potter then?"
"I thought I was going to be? You can be Lady Black…"
"I changed my mind. Lady George Potter sounds much better…"
"But–" Fred began, before being interrupted.
"If I can steal you away from your suitors for a minute, Harry, I'd like to introduce you to my parents." Tonks said, smirking.
Fred and George hopped off Harry's knees.
"Well, we can see when we're not wanted…"
"What blasphemy is that? We're always wanted!"
"Well, that's true! Wow, smart and good-looking; you're going to make an excellent Lady Potter"
"Alright, Lord Harrikins, we'll negotiate our dowry later."
"Come see us at the shop, we've got lots to discuss!" Fred said, taking on a serious tone for the first time.
Harry nodded at them. "I'll do that as soon as I can. Thanks for the laughs."
"We have no idea what you mean, do we, George?"
"Nope, not a clue, Fred," His brother said, giving Harry a quick wink.
They both walked off, arguing loudly over what should be included in their dowry.
Harry turned to Luna and gestured for her to join him with Tonks. As they stood up and walked over with her to meet Ted and Andromeda, Ron and Ginny joined Hermione.
Ginny gave Hermione a hug and got straight to the point. "So, Harry and Luna huh? They're really together, then?"
Hermione nodded. "Since Monday."
Ginny shook her head. "Two days… She sits next to him Saturday night and eats some of his pudding, and by Monday she's landed him. How the hell did that happen?" she asked her friend.
Hermione shrugged, not knowing what to say. She knew Ginny had had a crush on Harry for years, but had thought she'd gotten over it after she started dating Michael Corner.
Ginny gave her friend a shrewd look. "So how are things with you, Hermione?"
Hermione shrugged again, not really knowing what Ginny was looking for. "Things are fine, I think."
Ron frowned. What do you mean by, 'you think,' Hermione?"
Hermione looked between them. "We've had to be very careful about where we are and what we're doing. We can't afford for Harry to be snatched and forced back to the Dursleys', so we all get obliviated before we leave where we're living. That's why I can't tell you anything, since I don't remember much about what we're currently doing at the moment."
Ron snorted. "You sound as paranoid as old Mad-Eye."
Ginny slapped his arm. "Idiot! Weren't you listening during the will reading, or did you fall asleep during the part where Dumbledore was trying to get Madam Bones to force Harry into Ministry custody?"
Ron was silent, but looked thoughtful.
"What can we do to help?" Ginny asked.
"You should find a way to train up during the holidays. See if you can get together with Neville and the twins, and practice what you learned in the DA."
"Is that what you're doing? Training?" she asked.
"I assume so. We came with Tonks and Professor's McGonagall and Lupin, so I can only assume they're training us. Why else would we be with them?"
Ginny looked thoughtful. "Alright, I'll owl Neville and see if I can't get the other DA members to spend some time practicing over summer as well. How can we get in touch with you if we need to ask you anything?"
"Send a message via Gringotts. We'll check with them from time to time when we can."
Ginny nodded, and studied Hermione for a minute. "I'm sorry, Hermione. I thought sooner or later…"
Hermione nodded. "Look after yourselves, and at least practice your wand movements. Things have started happening again. They blew up a bridge on Monday, and now they've attacked Madam Bones' home. I hope Susan is okay…"
"I'm sure she's fine," Ginny replied. "She didn't look too bad, and… well, it didn't look as though anything had happened to her."
Hermione agreed. The fact that Susan was alive and still dressed was a fair indication that she'd escaped whatever might have happened to her.
Harry and Luna wandered over, having finished meeting Tonks' parents. "Hey," he said, a little awkwardly.
"Hey, Harry." Ginny replied, giving him a mischievous smile. She guessed what he was nervous about, and wasn't about to make it easy for him.
"Umm, I guess you know my girlfriend, Luna…"
Ginny swatted him, "Prat! Of course we know Luna. What we don't know is how you ended up together."
"Well, Luna managed to get rid of the wrackspurts that had been affecting me." Harry said, a small smile appearing as he recalled the memory of asking her to be his girlfriend.
Ron stared at him in disbelief, and then looked accusingly at Luna, before gaping back at Harry, not knowing how to respond.
Ginny just giggled at her brother's reaction. "Brilliant, Harry!"
"But she's turned him as loony as she is!" Ron said accusingly, annoyed at feeling as though everyone was laughing at him.
"Watch it, Ron!" Harry warned him, giving his friend a stern look.
"Sorry, Luna" Ron said shortly. He was still annoyed, but realised he shouldn't have said anything against Harry's girlfriend. That was an unwritten mate's law; you didn't say anything bad like that in case they forgot to stand up for their girl. It'd get your mate in trouble with her and cause problems between them.
"Listen, I hate to cut things short, but I really have to get this other will reading out of the way. I also want to go and check how Susan is doing, and I don't know how long they're going to be at St Mungo's." Harry said.
"Why don't you see her first then? It sounds as though the goblins won't mind waiting." Ron said.
Harry thought about it, and nodded. "I'll ask Ragnok and see what he says. Good idea, Ron. Listen, I'll try and owl you when I can, but I don't really know how easy that's going to be. I don't even know where we are at the moment."
They both nodded their understanding, and Ginny said, "We know, Hermione told us. Ok, take care, you lot. Don't forget about us."
Ginny exchanged hugs with the three easily enough, though Ron was a lot more awkward with both of the girls than he was a few days ago. He was relieved when it was time to shake Harry's hand.
A few minutes later the Weasleys had all left, and it was just the original seven in the conference room, as Tonks' parents had already left after meeting Harry.
Harry told them about wanting to visit Susan to check that she was okay, and Ron's idea of doing it before the Potters' will was read.
Minerva asked the obvious question. "Why don't you ask Fawkes to take you? You could be there and back in only a few minutes."
Tonks interrupted "That's fine, but I'm going with you."
She turned to the blonde witch next to him. "Sorry, Luna, but I need to make sure your boyfriend makes it back without any problems."
Luna smiled at her and gave Harry a kiss before releasing his arm and holding his hand out to Tonks.
Tonks grinned and took it. "C'mon Harry. Let's get this over with. I'm looking forward to getting back to… well, getting my memories back, that's for damn sure."
A few seconds later they appeared in the Dai Llewellyn ward at St Mungo's.
"What are we doing here?" Tonks asked Harry.
"This is the place I remember the most. Mr Weasley was brought here after he was bitten." Harry explained.
"Well, come on, we'll need to check in at the front desk to find out where Susan is. She might have been seen and left already."
They hurried down a flight of stairs and approached the enquiries desk.
"Yes?" The welcome-witch asked with a sigh, sounding bored as she flipped through a battered copy of Witch Weekly.
"We're looking for Susan Bones. She would have arrived not long ago to be checked by a healer." Harry said politely.
"Fourth floor, spell damage," the witch told them without looking up.
"Thank you. Come on Tonks, we'd better hurry. No telling how long they've been–" Harry stopped talking as they suddenly appeared in front of the healer's station on the fourth floor.
"Bloody hell, Harry. I'm amazed that Dumbledore ever bothered to walk anywhere, ever! Thanks, Fawkes." Tonks said, directing the last to the phoenix.
"I guess Fawkes must have been here before…" Harry mused, looking up at the phoenix. He was clearly far more intelligent than any bird had a right to be. Then again, Hedwig was no slouch either.
Focussing back on the task at hand, he addressed the witch behind the desk. "Susan Bones?" Harry asked.
"She's just finishing her exam in room 2. The initial scan looked fine, Mr Potter, so the healer should be out soon."
Harry looked at her amazed. "How did you know who I was?"
The witch gave him a wry grin. "Everyone knows who you are, Mr Potter. Your picture has been in the Prophet ever since the Tri-Wizard Tournament, after all."
"Auror Tonks? Lord Black?" said a voice behind them.
Harry turned around to see that Amelia Bones had come out from behind a screened off examination room.
"I thought I heard your voices. Are you here to see Susan? Yes, of course you are, why else would you be here… Sorry. I'm just a little distracted after the close escape Susan had."
Amelia walked up and gave a very surprised Harry a tight hug.
"Thank you again! Susan said that without the training you gave her, she'd never have been able to hold them off for as long as she did before Fawkes arrived. As it is, she was about to pass out from magical exhaustion." Amelia released Harry and stepped back to look at him. "It doesn't look as though any spells made it through, but she'll be able to tell you that herself in a minute."
She turned to Tonks. "Auror, I understand you are on leave at present?"
"Yes, Madam Bones." Tonks replied, thinking to herself, 'I knew it!'
"Well, I'm afraid I have to recall you to active duty immediately. These are troubled times, and I need your skills as a bodyguard to protect a VIP."
Tonks winced. "Isn't there anyone else you could use? Please, I really need my leave at the moment."
Amelia frowned. "Perhaps I misunderstood. Very well, I'll see if I can find another bodyguard for Lord Black."
"Umm, perhaps if I could have a word with Auror Tonks, I might be able to convince her to return to work and look after me." Harry said with a smile.
"I'm sorry, I thought you wanted me to look after S– someone else" Tonks said sheepishly. "I'd be happy to take on the assignment. Thank you, Madam Bones."
Tonks turned to Harry and whispered something to him. Amelia smiled as she thought she heard her say something about getting him back for being a git.
"You're welcome, Auror Tonks. Do try to stay in touch every now and again if you can. For now, you are indefinitely assigned to Lord Black."
They all turned at the sound of the curtain being drawn aside and then closed again, as an old healer coming out of the exam room. She walked over to Madam Bones. "Your niece is perfectly fine. She's just had a nasty scare, and is suffering from some magical exhaustion. Nothing a good rest won't cure."
"So she's okay?" Amelia said, half question, half statement as though to reassure herself.
The healer chuckled at the reaction she'd seen so many times before, and reaching over, patted Amelia's hands. "She may need a calming draught later, or a dreamless sleep potion tonight, but I'd see how she goes without them. You can leave anytime. Good day to you," she said, smiling at them before she left to continue her rounds.
"Auntie?" Susan called from exam room, before she stepped around the curtain and saw her other visitors. "Harry!" she said, running over to him to give him a tight hug.
"Hey, Susan!" Harry said, trying not to enjoy the hug too much. "I'm glad to hear you're okay."
"Thanks to you I am. If it wasn't for what you taught us in the DA, I'd never have been able to hold out as long as I did. I even managed to stun one of them!" she said, pulling back from the hug.
"You did? That's fantastic! Well done, Susan." Harry congratulated her.
She shrugged. "It didn't do any good, they just rennervated him a few seconds later."
Harry nodded with a slight frown. The same thing had happened during the Ministry battle as well.
Susan looked at him a little shyly. "So, Harry, how long have you had a phoenix?"
"Huh? I don't have one. I mean… this is the headmaster's phoenix, Fawkes. He's been staying with me for a couple of days. I'm not sure how long he's going to stick around for." Harry replied.
"Well, Auntie says you sent him to get me as soon as you heard her call my name, so you saved me."
She stepped back close to him and wrapped her arms around him. "Thank you, Harry," she said seductively, giving him a serious kiss before stepping back and smiling.
"Uh, you're welcome Susan." Harry said, a little dazed and confused before he shook himself out of it.
"Come on, Susan," Amelia said, finishing her conversation with Tonks. "We've got to make some floo calls, and I need to see if Tom has any rooms free at the Leaky Cauldron."
Susan nodded sadly.
Amelia turned to Harry. "It was good to meet you again. Auror Tonks, please look after Lord Black."
Tonks ruffled Harry's hair. "Don't worry; I'll keep him out of trouble. Thanks for the assignment."
Susan put it together. "You're Lord Black now?" she asked, sounding surprised.
Harry nodded. "Yeah, but I really wish people would just call me Harry though," he said, looking at Madam Bones.
"Come on, Harry, time to go!" Tonks said grabbing his hand again.
"Bye Harry. Thank you! Bye Auror Tonks. Bye Fawkes." Susan said. Amelia waved her farewells.
Tonks led him off to the exit out of habit, forgetting that they could just flame back to Gringotts, while Harry was thinking about the recent conversation.
"Hey, Tonks. Why was Madam Bones wondering whether there were rooms available at the Leaky Cauldron?"
"Well, they'll need somewhere to stay, Harry. The Death Eaters probably torched their place. At the very least there'll be a lot of damage from spell fire, and the wards would have been destroyed as well. In any case it wouldn't be safe to live in for a while, even if it is still standing. Who knows what traps those Death Eaters would have left behind?"
"What?" Harry said, stopping dead in his tracks. "So you're saying they've got nowhere to live now?"
As Tonks sadly nodded her agreement, he turned around and jogged back to Amelia and Susan, who looked surprised at his return.
"I've got a place you can stay at if you want," he blurted out. "It was my godfather's house, and I'm not using it. It's got plenty of space. It's even under a Fidelius charm, so you'll be perfectly safe there!"
Amelia just stared at him, then looked to Tonks, who shrugged and then nodded.
"Well then… I'd say you have a couple of houseguests for a while. Thank you, Harry. Who is the Secret Keeper?"
Harry frowned. "I don't know who the Secret Keeper is," he said, then turned to Tonks. "Do you know?"
Tonks shook her head, thought for a moment, and then frowned. "Not only that, I don't even know where the house is myself now! Do you still remember?"
Harry thought about it, and nodded.
Tonks looked surprised for a moment then her eyes widened as something occurred to her. She leaned in closer to him. "Can you whisper the address to me?" she asked.
Harry did so. "My house is located at Number 12, Grimmauld Place."
Tonks laughed. "That's it, I remember again! That means you must be the Secret Keeper, Harry. It must have switched to you after the change of ownership following the will reading. See, those blood quills are good for something after all!"
Harry gave her a wry smile. "Yeah, maybe they are, but don't go buying me a box for Christmas just yet, alright?"
He walked over and whispered the address to both Amelia and Susan in turn.
"Okay, I really need to get back now. Please make yourself at home there."
"Harry, what about Kreacher?" Tonks asked.
"What about him?" Harry said, coldly, frowning at the thought of the horrid House Elf.
"Well, you probably should tell him about the new guests. Just summon him here to you and give him some orders." Tonks told him.
"Alright, Tonks." Harry said, then straightened up and called out angrily. "Kreacher!"
The old house elf appeared, muttering and grumbling about nasty half-bloods, and how he would much rather serve purebloods like Narcissa.
"Be quiet, Kreacher, unless you are asked a question! Do you know who I am?" Harry asked coldly. This old elf was involved in Sirius' death, and he had absolutely no sympathy for him.
"Harry Potter is Kreacher's Master, and Kreacher must obey him even if he is a filthy half-blood."
"That's right, Kreacher. So, from now on, I forbid you to comment on anyone's blood status unless you are directly asked a question about it. That means you are forbidden to ever use the word mudblood, or refer to someone as a blood traitor. Is that clear?"
"Yes, Master Black. Kreacher must obey."
"Good. These ladies here are Amelia Bones, and Susan Bones. They will be staying at the house. You will prepare rooms for them, and assist them with anything they need, including meals. Do you understand?"
"Yes, Master Black. Kreacher understands. Kreacher will be glad to look after Master's guests, such good and noble… witches." Kreacher looked as though he'd mouthed the word 'pureblood', but couldn't disobey his new orders.
Harry ignored his comments. "I also want you to clean the house up when you're not helping them. It was a disgrace the last time I saw it! Are you able to do it yourself, or do you need more elves to help?"
"Master doesn't need other elves, no he doesn't. Kreacher is old but he can still work hard. Kreacher will clean, yes he will–"
"We'll see, Kreacher." Harry said, interrupting the elf as something else occurred to him. "Kreacher, is the portrait of Sirius' mother still on the wall?"
"Yes, Master Black."
"Very well, in that case I am giving her to you as a gift. You are to take the portrait from the wall, and fix it to the wall in your quarters. Do you understand?"
Kreacher began to sob in gratitude as he nodded his agreement.
"Enough, Kreacher. Return to the house now and prepare rooms for my guests. Wait! Is there enough food in the house? Are you able to purchase more when required?"
"Kreacher is a Black family house elf and can buy anything in Master Black's name. Anything Master wants Kreacher can get for him." Kreacher said, bowing low to Harry.
"Very well, Kreacher. I require that my guests are well looked after, and you will purchase anything they need, including clothes, books, potions… anything. Understand?"
"Master is very clear in his orders. Old Kreacher understands."
"Alright, Kreacher, then I think that is all for now. Is there anything that I need to know?"
"Kreacher thinks Master should find another home for the Hippogriff." Kreacher looked alarmed as he said that, and looked around for something to punish himself with. Finding nothing, he prepared to run into the nearest wall for his audacity.
"Kreacher! I forbid you to punish yourself. Now, go and prepare the rooms for my guests. I'll decide what to do about the Hippogriff later. Ensure it is fed and looked after until I do."
The house elf bowed low again before disappearing.
Tonks was looking at him with a concerned look on her face. "Are you okay, Harry? You looked like you wanted to murder that elf at one point."
"It's partly his fault that Sirius is dead." Harry said, miserably. "I tried to contact Sirius that night… Hermione thought I should verify the vision, but when I tried to call him, Kreacher lied to me and told me that Sirius had left. Seeing him again just brought it all back"
"Sorry, Harry. I hadn't heard about that." Tonks said, giving him a hug.
"Not your fault, Tonks." Harry said. "Anyway, we'd better be getting back. We've been gone a lot longer than we thought. I'm almost surprised they haven't sent a search party after us."
He turned to Amelia and Susan who were both still staring at him. "Just get Kreacher to bring you anything you need, okay? I don't know when I'll get a chance to visit, but I expect you can probably order Kreacher to deliver a message to me if you really need me for anything. Well, Tonks and I have to go. Bye for now."
He and Tonks vanished as the phoenix flamed them away.
"Oh, bugger!" Susan exclaimed, shaking herself out of the daze she'd been in. "I didn't even get to give him a goodbye hug."
"Probably just as well, Suse." Amelia replied, amused, after shaking off her own stupor. "From what I could see at Gringotts, he's already got a girlfriend."
"Oh, bugger!" she said again, and let out a resigned sigh. "So Hermione finally woke up, did she? Or did Ginny get tired of waiting for him to notice her?"
"I don't know her name. It was a blonde girl," her aunt replied.
'Blonde?' Susan thought to herself. 'Surely not Lavender? Who else could–' Then she remembered the leaving feast, and seeing the Ravenclaw unexpectedly over at the Gryffindor table. "Luna?"
It was a subdued group that portkeyed back to their camp at Näshultasjön later that afternoon.
After Moody had restored everyone's memories, the new arrivals set about making themselves some sandwiches for lunch. Moody and the Grangers had already had theirs earlier, and Hermione's parents had decided to take a walk by the lake.
As they ate, the others had been filling Moody in on what had happened, including the reported attack on the Bones' residence. He scowled at that.
"What is it, Alastor?" Remus asked.
"You don't think the timing is a little suspicious? Bones has some time off to be with her niece, and would normally be at home – except she gets called to attend a will reading. You tell me, is that coincidence?"
Remus looked thoughtful, as did many others.
Moody continued. "Who do you suppose knew that Bones wouldn't be home?"
"Surely you're not suggesting that Albus would have…" Minerva said. "No. No, I can't believe it."
"Grow up, Minerva!" Moody said shortly. "Like it or not, this is war. Let's suppose for a moment that Snape warned him that Voldemort was going to strike at Bones, since she's the head of the MLE. What does he do about it? If Bones simply goes into hiding, then Voldemort knows that he has a spy."
"So he arranges with Snape for Bones to be attacked during the will reading." Remus said. "That makes sense."
"Makes sense? Are you mad? What about Susan?" Harry yelled angrily.
Remus flinched a little at Harry's tone but replied "I suspect she was meant to visit with some friends, Harry. Look, we're just guessing here. We don't know that Dumbledore had any involvement in the attack."
"Well, this stinks of his involvement, and it sounds exactly like something he'd do 'for the Greater Good', I'm sure! Just like everything else. Just like the bloody Dursleys!" Harry shouted angrily, before jumping up and walking quickly off in the direction of the lake.
Hermione got up and chased after him, catching up to him not long afterwards.
A few heads turned to look at Luna, who just smiled. "Hermione knows what he's been through better than I do. She'll be able to help him best this time."
Moody frowned at the group. "There's more to the story than what you've told me so far. What else happened today?"
Remus and Minerva looked at each other as though trying to work out who would answer, but it was Tonks that replied.
"After we got back from St Mungo's, Ragnok read the Potters' will. It seems nobody ever told Harry that since he was the last Potter, he could have been emancipated years ago, and been living in one of the Potter houses as Lord Potter."
Moody grunted. "Well, that would have got him away from the Dursleys sooner. No wonder he's pissed."
"That's not the half of it. The will listed a whole bunch of people that were supposed to look after him if Sirius couldn't. He was never supposed to go to the Dursleys' house at all." Remus said reluctantly.
Moody growled again. "Stop pissing about and just tell me– No wait, it's obvious isn't it? Dumbledore sent him to the Dursleys', and he could have only done that if the will wasn't read, which means he had it sealed by the Wizengamot. But he wouldn't have known what was in it unless he was a witness to it!"
Remus nodded. "Right, on all counts."
Nobody spoke for a minute, until Tonks broke the silence.
"It gets worse…"
Harry had to get away from the group before he said or did something he shouldn't. He needed to calm down, and a walk around the lake would help.
A hand grabbed his, and he looked in surprise to find it was Hermione's.
She didn't say anything, just walked with him, so he gave her hand a small squeeze in thanks.
After a while, the peaceful surroundings and company had worked their magic on him, and his rapid walking had become a gentler stroll.
"It's not fair," he said softly.
"No, Harry, it's not."
"I could have grown up with Tonks, you know. Can you imagine what that would have been like?" he said, a smile appearing on his face.
"She'd have been a lot of fun, I expect." Hermione said, a ghost of a smile working its way onto her face as well. "If you'd ended up with Neville, you'd have grown up with a brother, or if it was Madam Bones, then Susan would have been like a sister."
Harry looked embarrassed. "She kissed me," he blurted out.
Hermione couldn't help herself and laughed at him. "I can't imagine why! After all, you only saved her life."
Harry smiled back. "Yeah, I guess. I'm just not really used to it, you know?"
"I know, Harry." Hermione replied. Then she got a sly grin on her face. "I wouldn't go telling the twins that Susan kissed you though, they might get jealous!"
Harry laughed, and then got a sly look of his own. "Really, Parv and Pad jealous? Hmm… interesting…"
Hermione bumped him with her shoulder. "Funny guy. You don't fool me. I know you're mad keen on Luna."
Harry smiled at her for a minute and then his smile dropped and they walked in silence for a few minutes.
"Luna is great…" Harry began.
"Yes, she is." Hermione agreed.
They walked on in silence a little longer.
"You know, Sirius was a real prankster." Harry began again, taking a different approach.
Hermione smiled. "Yes he was; a real marauder."
"His will really cracked me up, you know. I can just imagine him arguing with a quill like that, can't you?" Harry asked, smiling again.
Hermione nodded. "I think he did it on purpose though, just to cheer you up."
"You're probably right. Either way, it was brilliant. He was brilliant. I should have been able to grow up with him."
Hermione nodded in agreement, and squeezed his hand.
"He really liked you, you know." Harry said.
Hermione wasn't sure how to respond. "I liked him too, Harry. I know he adored you."
Harry nodded. "You know… at the end of the will… he was talking about you." Harry was looking ahead now, not game to look at Hermione if he wanted to get this out.
Hermione held her breath for a minute, and when Harry didn't say anything else she broke the silence. "Are you sure he wasn't talking about Ginny?" she asked him.
She watched as Harry shook his head.
"No, he knew I didn't have those kinds of feelings for her. Don't you remember what he wrote?" he asked, looking at her now.
Hermione thought back to the will reading. "Something about her 'black haired brother not having any other sisters to look after'?" she asked.
"Yep, that's it." Harry said, waiting for her to form the conclusion.
Hermione nearly stumbled when she reached it. If Harry had feelings for her that weren't brotherly, then didn't that mean they were romantic? It was one thing for Luna to tell her Harry loved her, but quite another for Harry himself to be holding her hand, walking with her and hinting at it.
"S-so. Sirius thought you had romantic feelings for me then?" she asked.
"No, he didn't think that." Harry said softly.
Hermione's heart felt like it had just skipped a beat.
"He knew I had those feelings for you. He was the one that explained it to me." Harry said.
Hermione couldn't help herself, and pulled Harry around and wrapped her arms tightly around him. Harry's own arms wrapped around her, and she relished the feeling. They'd hugged before as friends, but this felt different somehow. She was holding her man, and he was holding her.
"I'm sorry I didn't say anything sooner. I… I really messed this up," he said, whispering to her.
"Shush, Harry. It doesn't matter," she said, trying to shut him up so she could just enjoy the feeling. She knew it wouldn't last long.
No! It's too soon,' she thought
"Hermione… I don't know what to do. I really care for you, but I'm with Luna now, and I have feelings for her as well. Sometimes I think she's the only one that really understands me," he said apologetically, and released his grip on her.
He looked at her as she released her grip as well and stepped back. "But there are parts of me that only you know as well."
She was torn between wanting to support his desire to stay faithful to Luna, and wanting to kiss him senseless and make him choose her. She reached up to him and kissed his cheek.
"I'll always be your friend, Harry, no matter what. But, if you ever want me as more than a friend… you can talk to me about it."
'I wonder if his friendship will be enough now that I know?' she wondered.
After he nodded, she took his hand again and they kept walking, lost in their thoughts.
A little while later, she felt Harry tense up, and he stopped moving. He drew his wand, and she released his hand so she could take her own.
She looked around cautiously, trying to work out what had alerted him. Then she thought she heard a sound herself coming from somewhere up ahead. They crept towards the sound, alert for trouble, when all of a sudden they heard her mother's voice quite clearly cry out. "Oh, Dan!"
Her tone left no doubt what her parents were doing in the bushes.
Harry turned bright red, and he quickly sent a silencing charm off in the direction of the voice so that they couldn't hear any more. Then they both quietly moved away, heading back to camp a lot faster than they had approached.
"If anyone asks, we took the other path, okay?" he said eventually, once they'd put some distance between themselves and Hermione's parents. When he didn't get a reply, he looked over at Hermione to find her shaking.
"What is it?" he asked her, worried.
She looked at him, and then started laughing loudly, unable to keep it in any longer. That set Harry off, and he laughed along with her as they continued their walk back to the camp.