Ginny sat for a long time in front of the blank paper musing to herself. It had been a long time since she'd seen Harry–he'd always been too busy dashing off somewhere to talk much lately. She idly wondered when the last time he'd had a proper meal was, then smiled with a bit of shock. She was turning into her Mum!
Harry had seemed shocked that she was the one Dumbledore used for work like this, but that meant she was kept safe, which was considerably important. She had been alternating between the Burrow and Grimmauld Place, and her cover at Madam Malkin's was easily accepted. It was an easy job, low pay, but something she loved to do. With a jolt, Ginny stopped her mind's rambling and looked to the paper again. She needed designs for Winter, since Autumn was just beginning, and if she didn't get started, the shop would never have enough to supply the Yule rush.
Pulling out swatches of fabric, she laid them out across the desk, trying to pick a color for her first design. Her hand automatically roved to a green swatch, and she pushed the thought of Harry's eyes out of her mind, sternly telling herself it was for the holidays. Quickly jotting some notes on the paper, she reflected how Harry's rambling Victorian house had given her inspiration. It was beautiful, and it reminded her of the Burrow a bit, since it seemed to spread every which way. Shaking her head in frustration, she was shocked to find how quickly he took over her thoughts again. It would do her no good to listen to the voice that taunted her, nor the one that built romantic castles in the air. They were friends, nothing more.
Harry woke early, the sun in his eyes, and a crick in his neck. "Bugger," he muttered to himself, massaging it and blinking his eyes at the brightness of the room. Glancing at his watch, he scowled at the figures marking half-past six, and marched over to the shower in a decidedly foul mood. The combination of the house and shower left him feeling more relaxed, and just looking around left him more than grateful. After eating the last of the toast – the only thing he'd brought was a loaf of bread– Harry realized that he'd have to eventually make his way to the grocers. I should stop in Hogsmeade before work, he thought.
The store was packed with aisles of food that he didn't even know existed, and spices he had no idea how to use, Muggle or magical. Trying not to gape, he hurriedly loaded the necessities into his basket and paid just as fast. It hadn't occurred to him before how little he knew of everyday wizarding life. Killing time, he looked at the clock as he fed Hedwig, and sighed. He wasn't due until nine, and not having anything to do was killing him. Deciding to write to Ron and Hermione, he pulled out some parchment with a grin. Though he was seeing less of them these days, he was extremely happy for them.
Hope everything is well with the new flat. The house – The Lighthouse – is absolutely fabulous! It's huge! You could come live here (I'm serious), and we'd still hardly ever run into each other. It's this bright color of yellow that will eventually make me blind, but I love it already.
Congratulations, Ron, on your promotion. Maybe I'll need you to "write a report" or something and visit you in Magical Games and Sports. Hermione, I hope you're doing well on your research....You have gotten over that withdrawal from Hogwarts library, right? The tremors have stopped? Ha ha.
Don't let her work too hard, Ron. I'm going to the Burrow next Sunday for dinner, hope to see you two there, and we'll talk more once we're in person.
He tied the letter to Hedwig's leg and sent her off, then readied himself for work. Grabbing his Firebolt, he glanced at the fireplace. It would be so much easier to Floo, but it would jeopardize his safety. So he flew, rain and shine, on the most boring broomstick flight he'd ever taken. Well, unless you counted the time he almost flew into a plane... With a grin, he took off towards the apparation point about 5 miles from the house, fingers crossed for the day.
As he entered the Auror's division, Harry was pleasantly surprised to find that it was fairly quiet. Nodding to Linda, the secretary, he went to his cubicle to fill out the necessary paperwork from the fight two days ago. They'd managed to get Bellatrix Lestrange, Crabbe Jr., Goyle Jr., and Nott, which was a satisfying feeling for him at least. Only two Death Eaters had managed to escape, and the Aurors hadn't faced any casualties.
All in all, Harry reflected, it had been a good raid. They'd gotten to the scene before the Dark Mark was launched, and the Muggles were only stunned. Still, the two escapees left Harry with mounds of paperwork to identify, conjecture locations, and other bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo he'd rather avoid.
"Wotcher, Harry. Brought you some lunch. Ready to come up for air?" Tonks startled him, holding a brown paper bag, and a sisterly air.
He smiled. "You bet. Not bloody likely they'll stop all this paperwork, but a guy can hope."
Tonks leaned over to ruffle his hair. "That's the spirit. Or, you could just get promoted like me, and get a secretary," she added impishly.
"I like Field Officer just fine. How's your stuff been going?"
"We've got ‘em on the run! This is the beginning of the end, I can tell," she said confidently.
Harry's brows wrinkled in concern, thinking about the prophecy. "Well, I hope so," he said slowly, knowing it would eventually come down to him and Voldemort. "I mean, he's bound to run out of ideas soon."
Tonks grinned widely. "He already has. Intelligence reports have him plotting to run, and he's starting to doubt the loyalty of his Death Eaters. Long as he doesn't catch our spies, he's going to be toasted really soon."
"Unless he's running to cause chaos somewhere else," Harry added darkly.
"Oh cheer up, Harry," Tonks replied. "I'm just trying to make your day better."
Harry forced a half-smile to his lips. "I know. I've just got other stuff on my mind." He then managed a real smile, thinking how she always tried to look after him. "Thanks for trying, and thanks for the lunch. I really have to finish this paperwork though..."he trailed off.
Tonks laughed. "I know, I know. Duty calls. Just make sure to eat, we can't lose our best Field Agent, can we?" she asked, leaving his cubicle.
The day seemed like it would never end. Every time Harry looked at the clock, he was disappointed by the time. Not that he had anything to go home to, but he was eager to leave all the same. With a sigh, he finished his paperwork, and puttered around the desk, waiting for the day to end. When the clock finally hit five, he let out a sigh of relief and grabbed his broom. The Lighthouse was calm and serene. He may not have much to do, but home was infinitely better than the mounds of paperwork at the Ministry. He realized that he should probably go through the paintings, but brushed that idea away as fast as it came. I'll do that later.
He was just sitting down to eat when a tawny owl arrived who he didn't recognize. Pulling the parchment off, he regarded it with open curiosity. Opening the letter, Harry was even more puzzled by the childish scrawl.
Dear Harry Potter,
This is my owl Snoop. I got to give him away but I'm sending you a letter first. See my parents were killed by You Know Who just like yours. I hid under the bed, and they forgot about me and then you and the other Aurors showed up. The bad guys ran away and you found me. I'm staying with the Becketts and they said you wouldn't remember me but I bet you would. My name is Miranda and I'm 9 years old.I was wondering. Could you write me a letter before I go to the orphanage? The Becketts can't keep me, and it's a Muggle orphanage! I don't get to keep my toy broomstick either! But I'd like a letter from you, cause I could keep that while I wait to go to Hogwarts. And since you're an orphan too, I figured you'd understand.
Harry's face was unreadable as he finished the letter. He did remember the girl, and his heart ached for her even more now than it did that night. He was surprised how easily he had pushed that fight out of his mind, but with everything going at breakneck pace, he understood how it happened.
Her father had been a journalist that wrote an article that displeased the Death Eaters, and they had come for him the night the paper came out. It was a miracle Miranda had survived. He found her under the bed, a pillow shoved over her mouth to keep from making noise and totally hysterical.
She'd had to listen to the sounds of her parents under the Cruciatus Curse, and it made him ache. She had gone to a neighbor to live, but by the sounds of it, she was being carted off to a Muggle orphanage. His heart contracted. He knew too well what it was like as an orphan. Setting her letter down, he decided to pay a visit to Dumbledore before replying.
The tunnel made quick work of getting there, but it was guessing the password to the office that Harry found took too much time. After a long time guessing every type of sweet there was, he finally hit gold with Canary Cream. Rolling his eyes, Harry entered. The Weasley twins had definitely managed to leave their mark everywhere they went.
Sitting himself down, he waited as patiently as he could for Dumbledore to arrive. Since school had started, he was sure there were a lot of things the Headmaster had to do, but he couldn't help but feel that this was genuinely pressing.
Dumbledore entered with a benign smile. "Good evening, Harry. I had a feeling someone needed me. What can I do for you?"
Harry cleared his throat. "Well, I'm not sure, really." He paused. "Do they have wizarding orphanages?" he blurted out.
"Not very many. It's hard for a wizarding child to end up there, unless they've started Hogwarts, what with the overcrowding they're facing. Unfortunately, since there are so few orphanages, and not many spots, many children go to Muggle orphanages. Is there a particular reason for this?" Dumbledore asked.
"Yes, this girl..." Harry fidgeted. "She's nine. She wrote me a letter. I was with the group of Aurors who rescued her last week. She's being sent off to a Muggle orphanage because the neighbors can't keep her. But… she's nine. She's been brought up as a wizard. And now she has to give it all up. And the chances of being adopted at that age aren't so good either. And I thought," Harry said slowly, as if thinking out loud.
Dumbledore straightened his eyeglasses. "Ah. You want to take this child in? Is that it?"
"Im not sure," Harry confessed. "I'm busy during the day. I don't know anything about parenting. But...I want her to be happy. And I think it'd be the right thing. I just need someone who I trust to tell me their opinion."
"I think you'll make an excellent father, Harry," Dumbledore said quietly. "If this decision is right for you, which I believe it is, then, you'll be just fine at raising this girl. You have to start somewhere, better a nine year old than an infant."
Harry smiled ruefully. "I suppose you're right. Now, how would I go about all of this? I'd like to talk to Miranda first, but if she's willing, I'd like it to be legal, just in case."
"I've got just the thing..."
Harry's reply to Miranda didn't mention his conversation with Dumbledore. Instead, it simply talked about how he was sure she was strong, and that he knew how she felt. At the end, he asked if he could meet her. With an extra pat, he sent Snoop off again and hoped Hedwig would be back soon with the reply from Ron and Hermione.
His stomach growled, and Harry was startled to realize that he'd forgotten to eat. Grabbing some lunchmeat and fixing a sandwich, he ate quickly. It had been an unusual day for him, and the full weight of what he was deciding came crashing down on him. What if I'm not good enough? I don't know anything about kids! What if...what if I get killed as well? Am I making the right decision?
A tapping sound jolted him back to reality, and Harry realized that Snoop was back again, and rather quickly. He'd forgotten that they lived so close. The note from Miranda was short, but said she could meet him tonight, if he would like. Sending Snoop back with an owl treat, Harry grabbed his broomstick and flew towards the tiny village. It was a short flight, and infinitely better than the bleary-eyed flight from the morning.
Kicking down when he saw the small cottage, he kept his eyes away from the burnt house down the lane where Miranda's parents had been killed. He felt sick; she'd had to see that every day. Knocking on the front door, he shifted his weight impatiently, willing the door to open.
A stout woman answered the door, and she reminded him a bit of Molly Weasley. She had a friendly face, but there were worry lines around her face, and more than her fair share of gray hairs on her head. "Harry Potter?" she questioned. "Miranda's been aw up in knots abit ye wantin' tae see ‘er. It's mighty braw ay ye."
Harry tipped his head with embarassment. "Oh, thank you. I mean, it was something I had to do," he said, following her into the tiny front room. The three blonde children chasing each other through the chairs were the Becketts, he assumed, while Miranda sat on the couch tapping her foot and looking up at the clock.
"Miranda? Someain here tae see ye,"Mrs. Beckett told her, before shooing the other children back into the kitchen. "I'll jist lit ye two talk."
Harry took a seat across from her, unsure how to begin. It was the first time he got a good look at her. She had wavy black hair that was tangled and brushing her shoulders, fair skin with a dash of freckles, and light brown eyes that were looking at him with a mixture of awe and seriousness.
Harry decided to get to the point. "Miranda, your letter was very important to me. I do know how you feel, since I'm an orphan too," he paused.
Miranda's eyes lit. "I knew it! I knew you'd know. Mrs. Beckett said it was no use, but I knew better," she interrupted confidently.
Harry grinned at her sass. "Well, your letter made me think. And I was wondering, would you rather go live in an orphanage, or someone else's house?"
Miranda thought for a moment, biting her lip. "Well, it'd depend on who I lived with. Whether they'd be nice to me, and if I could be a wizard instead of pretending to be a Muggle. Why?" she asked, hope starting to shine in her eyes.
"After reading your letter, I talked to some people, and...if you wanted, you could live with me. I'd adopt you and be your guardian. But that's only if you want," he added hastily.
"Live with you? And you'd let me! And I'd be a real wizard! Does this mean I get to keep Snoop and my broom?" she questioned eagerly.
Harry nodded. "I take it that means yes?" he questioned with a smile.
Miranda threw her arms around him ecstatically. "Of course it does!"
Harry felt a bit awkward with the hug, though he was happy, but looked at her seriously. "Now, Miranda, I don't know much about girls, so you've got to be patient with me," he warned her.
Miranda kept her smile, and patted his arm reassuringly. "Don't worry, I'm sure you'll learn fast," she replied mischievously.
Harry laughed. "Okay then. Want to get your stuff together while I talk to Mrs. Beckett?"
Miranda obediently ran off, and he talked to the housewife, who was overjoyed that Miranda had an actual home. "Ye mustn't think bad ay us, Mr. Potter," she pleaded. "It's jist, weel, money's tight, ‘an we've awready got uir three--"
Harry cut her off. "Don't worry, Mrs. Beckett. I understand. And this was something I wanted to do, please don't think that I'm looking down on you. Everyone's just trying to get by in times like these."
"Yoo're a good man. An' if Miranda ever wants tae come visit, feel free tae drap by onie time. It's aye good tae have friends."
"That it is," Harry agreed, taking Miranda's small trunk as she hugged Mrs. Beckett. "Let me know if you need any help around here." Harnessing the trunk to his broomstick, he eyed it critically before helping Miranda on the back. "Hang on tight," he instructed her, then glanced around, taking in the scenery, Moody's voice shouting "constant vigilance!" echoing in his head.
It took some time to show Miranda the house, and even longer for her to decide on the lavender room on the second floor. Harry helped her unpack, explained the secret tunnel to her, and finally got her into bed. It was exhausting. At ten o' clock, he finally sat himself down at the kitchen and wrote a note to Mrs. Weasley asking if he could bring a guest to dinner.
Hedwig still wasn't back, so he sent Snoop with it, then ran his fingers through his hair. It was true. He didn't know anything about girls. Maybe I'll owl Ginny about it tomorrow...
With those thoughts, he dragged himself off to bed, not bothering to put on pyjamas as he flopped onto the bed. It had only been a few hours, and Miranda was already tiring. Harry was starting to wonder just what he'd gotten himself into...