Harry wandered out of the kitchen and headed away from the house. He
didn't know where he was going; he just knew that he needed some space
to breathe. He'd only been at The Burrow for a few days, but already
the cloying attention he was receiving was disturbing him as much as
the Dursleys' indifference.
He knew that everyone meant well, but it was beginning to annoy him. If things carry on like this, he thought, I'm going to be leaving soon. I'd rather take my chances with Voldemort than put up with all this.
consolation was that he was not at number twelve, Grimmauld Place.
Harry shivered at the thought of returning there and trying to deal
with the death of his godfather at the same time. At least Kreacher was
gone. No one knew for certain where he was, although the smart money
was on Malfoy Manor. The former headquarters lay empty as the Order
could no longer be certain of its security. Harry would be quite happy
if the place was burnt to the ground. His one regret would be that
Kreacher wouldn't be in there when it happened, but at least it would
silence Mrs Black forever.
Amongst the despair and
self-loathing, Harry was having to deal with a new emotion; hatred.
Bellatrix Lestrange had taunted him for trying an Unforgivable whilst
not being able to put enough emotion into it to mean it. That was not a
problem that he thought he was going to have the next time. As he had
replayed her taunting over and over in his mind he grew more and more
'Never used an Unforgivable Curse before, have you,
boy?' she yelled. She had abandoned her baby voice now. `You need to
mean them, Potter! You need to really want to cause pain—to enjoy
it—righteous anger won't hurt me for long—I'll show you how it is
done, shall I? I'll give you a lesson—'
Well, next time, Bella, I'll mean it, I promise you.
had been looking for something, some emotion, some strength of will
that was strong enough to pull him out of his abjectness. He needed
something that would help him get ready for the inevitable
confrontation with Voldemort. In his hatred for those who killed
Sirius, tortured Neville's parents, and would kill Muggles like
Hermione for fun, he believed he'd found it.
Voldemort was not the main object of his hatred. He had begun to
develop a cold detachment that allowed him to study his archenemy. His
experiences at the Ministry had taught him that when he was worked up
he acted without thinking. And when that happened he lost control, and
people died. Voldemort was a clever foe and responding to him out of
raw emotion was not the way to deal with him. Harry had decided that he
would never again allow himself to become so vulnerable.
But Bella, ah yes, Bella. He would make sure that she did not survive their next encounter.
emotions, he had decided, were not a luxury that he could afford. The
crippling grief he felt over the death of Sirius was proof of that. He
needed to be getting ready to fight, not moping around lacking the will
even to get out of his bed in the morning. And if people would just
leave him alone for long enough, he would be able to get himself
together. He would be able to channel that hatred into strength and he
could begin to prepare for the next confrontation.
they had to interrupt all the time. Ask him if he wanted to play
Quidditch or Exploding Snap or chess or some other such stupid pastime.
Who had time to play games when the weight of Trelawney's prophecy hung
around your neck like a millstone?
At least he could walk
away from Ron and Ginny. Hermione seem to haunt him; present in spirit
if not in body. Every day he was bombarded with owls from her, letters
full of helpful advice or carrying books. She'd taken to contacting him
by Floo when they were just sitting down to eat in the evening. Heaven
knows what she'd be like when she arrived in a week's time.
he walked past the ancient oak tree that dominated the garden, he
spotted Ginny reading in the dappled shade. Her back was to the tree
and she was sitting cross-legged. A large, battered, leather tome was
resting on her lap and her delicate left hand was fiddling with the
single braid that hung down past her ear. Her face was a picture of
concentration and she bit on her pale lip as her eyes tracked the words
across the page. Her right hand was raised and Harry watched as it
moved through the air in a series of complex patterns.
"It's rude to stare like that, Harry."
voice startled him. He looked down his feet as if they had somehow
betrayed him and then back at Ginny. Her focus remained firmly on the
book on her lap; her hand still attempting to perform its intricate
Unsure as to what to say, he played safe and said
nothing. He continued to stare intrigued by the movements her hand was
making. I wonder what spell she's trying to learn?
your thing is staring, Harry, the zoo is not too far away, only don't
let any snakes out this time." Her voice was a mixture of annoyance and
amusement, but she continued to stare at the book.
stood rooted to the spot unsure as to what to do. There was an
uncomfortable silence for a few minutes whilst Ginny continued with her
studies content to let him stand and gawp. Finally, reluctantly, he
"Aren't you going to ask me how I am?" As he spoke his
gaze switched from Ginny to a blackbird that was hopping along one of
the low branches of the oak tree. His tone was flat, almost
"Now why would I want to do that?" she said
sarcastically. "It's quite obvious that you're raging against the
world, only you're too polite to tell it so."
to stare at the blackbird which had now found a fat, green caterpillar
that wriggled in his yellow beak. The bird was now surveying the area
around him with quick jerky movements of his head. Then in a flurry of
dark feathers he was gone. Harry's eyes returned to Ginny.
he murmured, his voice distant. He shook his head with a hint of
annoyance on his face. "I'm not sure what you mean." His tone was
questioning, as if she had said something completely alien to him.
put the book down on the ground next to her, stretched her petite frame
and then stared at him, her soft brown eyes taking on an intensity that
surprised him. To his astonishment he felt comfortable under her
scrutiny. No one had looked him in the eye like this for a while and in
her gentle eyes he saw something more than pity. Something that said 'I
understand, I've been there, trust me'.
"Oh, I think you do,
Harry." Her mocking tone and her wry smile dared him to contradict her.
"You may be a bit dense at times, but you're not stupid."
Harry's interest was now piqued. At last, he thought, a conversation that treats me as a person and not some pathetic invalid.
mean, aren't you supposed to be treading on eggshells around me, asking
me how I am, telling me it will get better?" He tried, but he couldn't
keep the bitterness out of his voice. He regretted it as soon as he
said it, but Ginny didn't cut him off. For that he was grateful.
Instead she gave him a weak smile. "If you want me to, I'll be happy to oblige, but I'm sure that you're sick of that already."
He let out a long sigh .Finally, he thought, someone who understands what I'm going through.
He allowed himself a few moments to study her, and to remind himself of
all that they had been through together; the Chamber, the Dementors on
the Train and the battle at the Ministry. Perhaps here was someone who
knew what was going on inside his head. Perhaps he could share the
prophecy with her. Perhaps…
"What are you doing?" he asked
moving the conversation on before he started to think of things that he
just wasn't ready to deal with.
"You mean what was I doing
before you so rudely interrupted me? Charms; but this one," she said
turning her attention back to the open book beside her, "is beyond me."
walked towards her to get a better look. For the first time he noticed
the pale yellow dress that she was wearing and thought how well it
"Wouldn't it be easier with your wand?"
she laughed, "but I'd also end up with a warning from the Ministry and
I've had enough of them over the years to fill a Quidditch stadium."
she laughed, Harry noticed the lines around her soft eyes, lines that
weren't supposed to be on the face of a fifteen year old girl. Neither
were the bags under her eyes.
"Don't you think they have
better things to do?" he asked now sitting down beside her. As he did
so their bare arms touched briefly and to Harry's consternation, he
found himself longing for more of the same. He looked down at his feet
trying to regain his composure.
"After all," he continued, "Voldemort has been running amok in the atrium of the Ministry of Magic. Even Fudge saw him."
the innocence of youth," she replied giving him a playful shove. "You
misunderstand the mind of the petty bureaucrat, especially one who has
a file on me as thick as this book." There was a trademark Weasley
twinkle in her eye as she spoke. She obviously enjoyed the notoriety
her past transgressions had earned her.
Harry chuckled despite himself.
don't you use my wand then?" he asked pulling it from his back pocket.
"I'm in enough trouble anyway. One more warning won't make any
"What's this then," she laughed her eyes sparkling as she did so, "more of the famed Potter self-sacrifice?"
let the smooth, warm tones of her laughter wash over him. His world had
been very lonely recently and it felt good to let such a cheerful sound
touch the bleak landscape of his heart. In fact it felt very good to be
in her company.
"I don't think that you are actually in trouble anymore. After all," she teased, "it's been in The Prophet, it must be true."
was obviously comfortable in his company. There was none of the
awkwardness that typified his interactions with the other residents of
The Burrow. And most of all, there was none of the pity that made him
feel like he was a basket case.
As they talked, Harry could
feel the hatred he'd so carefully nurtured begin to dissipate.
The certainty that he'd felt was melting like spring-time snow on the
road side. He sighed inwardly. He was torn. It had taken him so long to
work out a way to get back on an even keel that he wasn't about to give
it up that easily. Not when he was so close to his goal. But something
drew him to her. Something deep inside her called to him. What it was
he didn't know, and although he was drawn to it, the lack of certainty
made him hesitate. He couldn't take a chance that he would make
the wrong choice, he didn't have time to start again. He didn't want
to, but it was time to leave.
Harry shrugged his shoulders,
feigning disinterest. "Well, I mustn't stop you studying. I'm
sure when Hermione arrives she will have the revision timetable for
your OWLs in her hot little hand. You wouldn't want to disappoint her,
would you?" He tried to make his voice seem light and casual but he
wasn't convinced that Ginny had bought the attempted deception. Whether
she did or not she didn't say anything but the fire in her eyes had
He stood up and began to walk away from
her. After he'd gone a few yards he stopped, looked over his
shoulder and smiled briefly at her. "If you wait a fraction of a moment
longer before starting the flick, you'll find that you'll get it. See
"Bye, Harry," she said almost wistfully.
Ginny watched him resume his walk away from the house. At least he was a bit calmer now, she thought.
had been scared by the hatred she felt coming off Harry. It had
unnerved everyone around him, but it had scared her witless. The last
time she had felt that much hatred was in her first year during her
encounter with the sixteen year old Tom Riddle. Was there a chance that
Harry could go the same way as Riddle? Was his hatred strong enough?
She shivered as she recalled the strength of the emotion emanating from
him. She felt unclean, almost defiled from the encounter. Did he kill
Tom Riddle only to become like him? Had Voldemort's link to him allowed
him to inveigle his way into Harry's heart?
For one brief
moment she had felt the darkness lessen as they had talked. A smile had
come to Harry's lips and it had even reached his eyes. For a brief
moment she'd felt him draw close to her. When their arms had brushed
she had felt a thrill go through her and had sworn that Harry had
reacted in a similar way. Throughout his fifth year she'd watched his
anger grow as he'd lashed out at everyone and anything. She'd told
herself then that she was right to move on, that Harry had bigger
things to worry about, but on the train as they'd journeyed home she'd
felt a kinship with him as she'd teased Ron. They'd felt that same
kinship as they'd talked, had she been wrong? Perhaps she had because
as quickly as it had appeared he had pulled back and retreated into the
cocoon in which the new, darker Harry Potter was being reborn.
sank back against the rough bark of the oak, taking comfort from its
solidity. Family tradition stated that it had been planted in Norman
times as a marker designating the land as belonging to their family.
The original sapling had been infused with strengthening charms and
just as magical folk lived longer than Muggles, the tree had outlasted
all the others on their land. Drawing on that strength, she began to
take long, deep breaths, reaching out with her magic towards the centre
of the tree. Her breathing slowed as she touched its magical core and
the darkness that had lingered from her contact with Harry began to
Harry resumed his
wandering around the Weasleys' extended garden, the effect of his
encounter with Ginny slowly dissipating and the hardness of heart that
he'd so carefully nurtured returning.
He could see the wards
in place, marking the borders of the property. He guessed that
somewhere there was an Auror, probably two, watching him, making sure
that he didn't do anything stupid like wander off to fight Riddle on
his own. He stood there for a while watching the changing patterns in
the magic, wondering if the others could see them in the same way that
He reached out and touched the barrier watching the
magic ripple like the surface of a pond as his hand made contact.
Curious to know if he could pass through, he pushed against the surface
and found to his dismay that although it gave a little, he couldn't
They trust me that much, he thought, beginning to hate The Burrow as much as he did Privet Drive.
stood and observed the world beyond the magical barrier, feeling a
kinship with the boa constrictor he'd freed all those years ago. Where was a friendly witch or wizard when you needed one?
he mused. He watched jealously as birds and insects came and went
unhindered. Letting out a long sigh he walked along the perimeter
letting his wand trail against the magical barrier enjoying the trail
of sparks that this caused. No doubt somewhere, someone was reporting
that the wards at The Burrow were being breached.
Let them come, he thought. Let the whole damn circus turn up. The jailers might be nicer and the food more palatable, but, reflected Harry, a prison was a prison whichever way you looked at it.
trudged on lethargically, still brooding over the loss of his godfather
and cursing everyone in the Order, in particular Albus
It took him the whole morning to complete
his tour of the boundaries of his incarceration. When he returned to
the oak tree where Ginny was sitting his mood had not improved at all.
As he approached, she closed her book and stood to greet him.
"Mum's just been out, Harry," she chirped, "lunch is served. Are you coming in?"
"Do I have a choice?" he replied sullenly.
you do," she replied firmly, "but if you've got any sense at all, I
suggest that you come with me and eat as much as you can before mum
starts to force feed you."
"And what if I don't want to eat?
What if I'm just so sick of it all that I'd rather fade away and die?"
He didn't really want to kill himself, but he gained a perverse sense
of pleasure in winding everyone up.
"There are quicker ways of killing yourself, if that's what you really want to do."
how would you know? It's fine for you sitting there with your nose in a
book without a care in the world. You have no idea what I've gone
The world around Harry exploded as Ginny's fist made
contact with his nose. He staggered back, clutching his face, just
narrowly avoiding the haymaker that would have knocked him out if it
Blood was streaming from his face and the pain was indescribable. Harry looked at Ginny incredulously.
"You stupid cow! What did you have to go and do that for? Are you mad or something?"
stood there shaking her hand as she grimaced in pain. His broken nose
had obviously come at a price. Ginny however, hadn't finished.
lucky I don't have my wand on me now, you heartless bastard, because I
reckon that I have enough venom in me to make an Unforgivable work. I
have no idea what you're going through, do I?" Tears of rage were
beginning to run down her face as she continued.
me tell you, Harry I'm-Feeling–Sorry-For-Myself-Potter, the rest of us
are cut up about Sirius, too, you know." She took a step towards him
and he flinched involuntarily. Wary of her intentions he took one pace
"And what about Remus?" she continued. "Has even it
occurred to you that he might be mourning the loss of his best friend?"
Her voice was bitter, her tone venomous, and she hadn't finished with
"Perhaps he'd like someone to talk to; you know, share
happy memories and stuff. He can't very well pop over to Wormtail's
house and chat about the good old days, can he?"
As her onslaught continued, she grew more and more hysterical almost spitting her words at him.
don't start on that 'I've lost my family' crap until you've spoken to
my mother about Gideon and Fabian, or Neville about his mum and dad."
some sense of poise Harry made to grab her. Whether it was to hit her
or just shake her, he couldn't remember afterwards, but all he wanted
her to do was shut up. Every word she spoke wounded him and every
phrase ripped at his heart, exposing his raw emotions. Worse still,
every sentence beat against the solid foundation of hatred he was
building. Each phrase exposed his selfishness. But he wasn't in the
mood to be reasonable, and the fact that he had been found wanting only
made him angry.
He raised his hand to slap her, but before he could bring it down she fled to the house and locked herself in her bedroom.
fallout from their fight lasted for days and despite repeated
questioning from her parents, Ginny had refused to say what had started
it. Harry resisted all attempts from Dumbledore to do the same. Both of
them were put to work by an irate Mrs Weasley.
"As soon as
both of you are prepared to end this silly silence and tell me what has
gone on, then you both will be excused from further work. But until
then you will not do anything except eat, sleep and work."
But even that failed to break the wall of silence.
day as he finished his chores, Harry traipsed wearily back into the
house to shower and eat before retiring to his bed. He had been given
Percy's old room and thus was able to avoid Ron's probing questions. He
had been polite towards the Weasleys but had resisted all attempts to
get him to talk. After a few days of his punishment they stopped their
questions and Harry was left in peace to brood. Except now he found
that he couldn't. The damage to his nose had been repaired almost
immediately by Mrs Weasley but more than Ginny's punch had found its
mark. He fought against it, but he couldn't deny that most if not all
she had said was true.
One night, whilst he was sitting on his
bed, there was a tentative knock on Harry's bedroom door. Although a
week had passed since his fight with Ginny, he was still in no mood to
talk to anyone. He had, however, succeeded in bringing his emotions
under control and thus he did his best to be polite.
"Whoever it is, please go away, I'm trying to get some sleep."
his instructions, the door opened slowly. Harry leapt off his bed ready
to vent his spleen on whomever it was that had dared disturb him. But
he stopped before he had taken more than a few steps shocked at the
sight that greeted him. There, framed in the doorway, was the unkempt,
stooping figure of Remus Lupin.
The former Defence Against
the Dark Arts Professor did not look good. Even when he'd been teaching
Harry, Remus was shabbily dressed, but now he reminded Harry of one of
the vagrants he'd seen as he walked along Charing Cross Road. His hair
was more white than grey and looked like it hadn't been washed since
Harry last saw him. His face, never a picture of health, was pale and
wan; the yellowing skin drawn tight over his gaunt face, his normally
bright eyes dim and lifeless.
"I'm not a pretty sight, am I?" said Remus pausing in the doorway.
Harry stared at the former Hogwarts Professor, unsure as to how to reply.
okay, Harry," he said calmly, "you don't have to answer; I know I'm in
a state. But you could invite me in." For an instant a smile flickered
on his waxen features.
"Oh, sorry," replied Harry. He
had been flummoxed by Remus' arrival and was embarrassed to find that
he was still staring at the older man. "Yes, of course, come in…"
crossed the threshold, closing the bedroom door quietly behind him. He
shuffled across the well-worn carpet over to the bed and stood next to
a nervous Harry.
"Do you mind if we… er…" He motioned to the indentation on the bed where his former pupil had been sitting.
I mean no…er … help yourself." Harry sat down slowly and perched
himself on the edge of the well worn mattress. He watched warily as the
former professor took his place beside him. Harry met his eyes briefly
before looking away quickly, shocked by what he saw. The eyes that had
once been so full of fire and passion, now stared vacantly at the
They sat in silence, neither of them knowing
what to say or even where to begin. Harry could sense that Remus was
agitated by something. The normally calm man who'd spent a lifetime
learning to control his emotions was trembling. Harry watched his
emaciated hand shake and his feet shuffle nervously. The tension
between the two men began to build. Remus obviously wanted to say
something, but was having difficulty in bringing himself to speak. In
the end Harry put him out of his misery.
"I suppose you've
been sent here to get me to apologise to everyone?" Harry said softly.
There was no malice in his voice; there was no need. It was, reasoned Harry, the logical thing to do; send Remus Lupin, Sirius Black's closest friend, lay on the guilt.
Despite his anger he found himself hearing Ginny's words: '"And what
about Remus? Has even it occurred to you that he might be mourning the
loss of his best friend?"' She was right; he could hardly accuse the
man sitting next to him of not knowing what he'd been through.
"Well, actually…" he began, but Harry cut him off.
I'm not," he said angrily, "I'm not going to apologise to
anyone." The two sat in silence, Harry's angry declaration
hanging in the air. "I'm sorry, Remus," he said, softening his tone,
"but you've wasted your time."
"Well, I know that…"
he continued, trying to remain calm, "if I've outstayed my welcome
here, I'm not going to Grimmauld Place. I'd rather go back to Privet
Drive than that place." In truth Harry would rather die than go back to
the Dursleys, but he wouldn't admit to anyone that he was prepared to
go on the run in a similar fashion to the summer before his third year.
"Well actually, Harry," said the werewolf's weary voice, "I've not come to do any of those things."
"No. Far from it. I've come to ask for your help."
was stunned; this was the last thing he expected to hear. It was all he
could do to get himself out of bed in the morning, how could he help
"I'm sorry, Remus; I'm not in a fit state to help anyone. I can barely help myself."
"I know, Harry. I wouldn't bother you, but… but I'm really struggling without him."
was no need to explain to whom he was referring. At the mere mention of
his godfather, Harry felt his eyes begin to moisten. He cursed himself.
Come on Potter, keep it together, don't give up.
so long," continued the older man, "he was lost to me, and then …" A
smile graced his lips and a solitary tear began its slow journey down
his pinched face. "I'd been alone for so long. James and Peter
were gone and Sirius was in Azkaban; I was the last one, you see. That
night in the Shrieking Shack, that all changed. A big part of my life
was returned to me when I found out that he was innocent. But
now… but now he's gone. And this time I know that he's not coming
back…" His words were lost in a flood of tears as his grief overwhelmed
Harry looked at him, unsure as to what to do. His own
grief, no longer under such close control thanks to his encounter with
Ginny, struggled to be freed. His sorrow, so long denied an
outlet, seemed to sense the nearness of another hurting soul and
yearned to be given free reign. All it would take would be for Harry to
put his arms around the last true Marauder and let go.
Harry snaked out an arm towards the weeping man. His heart urged him to
push on but his mind was holding him back. For so long he had schooled
himself against being so exposed. In his first ten years of life, his
survival had depended upon it, and his experience in the Ministry had
reinforced that. He struggled against the conflicting feelings;
he was embarrassed by such a display of raw emotion, until finally he
withdrew his hand and sat quietly, waiting for Remus to finish.
the older man regained his control and pulled a large grey handkerchief
from the pocket of his shabby jacket. He wiped his eyes before standing
and then blowing his nose. Harry sat his eyes staring at the floor,
afraid to make eye contact with the grieving man. Placing the kerchief
back in the same pocket, Remus spoke.
"I'm sorry, Harry. You
shouldn't have had to witness that. I'm old enough, and some would say
ugly enough, to look after myself. I'm sorry to have burdened you." He
offered the teenager a weak smile by way of an apology.
stood up and shuffled back towards the door, his gait if anything more
shambling than before. As he opened the door Harry found his name
rising unbidden to his lips.
"Remus…" he said tentatively.
could hear hope in the other man's voice and watched his shoulders
visibly straighten. A faint smile flashed briefly across his face by
way of encouragement.
"I just wanted to …I mean I thought
that…" The words that he wanted to say, the words that would unlock the
hurt, would not come. And Harry hated himself for it.
Harry?" His voice was less emotional but still encouraging. It reminded
Harry of the time when he had been Professor Lupin, before the joy of
having his best friend returned to him had been snatched away.
"Nothing… sorry… goodbye, Remus."
Lupin closed his eyes and let out a long, painful sigh. Harry saw the
man's shoulders sag and his eyes once again glisten with tears. He gave
Harry one last pleading look before he turned away and slowly shuffled
over the threshold. As the door closed behind him, and Harry lay down
on his bed, Remus Lupin began to cry again. He cried not only for his
lost friend but for the teenage boy whose heart appeared so hardened by
his pain that he was beyond reach.
But that night, for the
first time, Harry gave himself to his grief. As he had done as a
neglected child, he buried his head under his pillow to hide the noise
and wept until exhaustion overtook him and sleep claimed him.