Disclaimer – I do not own nor would I presume to lay claim to anything in any way associated with the wonderful world of Harry Potter. It’s all Jo’s.
While I aim to stick to canon, it is entirely possible that I may be unconsciously influenced by the extraordinary fan fics I’ve come across while feeding my addiction. I assure you that any missteps of that variety, should they exist, are very much unintentional unless clearly stated.
The story starts out with the assumption that the reader knows why Harry is depressed. If said reader is so much in the dark, it does get cleared up during Harry’s first conversation with Remus.
Harry Potter was listlessly staring out the window from his bed in the smallest bedroom of number 4 Privet Drive. It was raining again, which suited his mood just fine. Last summer’s drought was long forgotten by the residents of Little Whinging as they complained about soggy lawns, muddy wellies and a severe lack of sunshine. Harry let a limp sigh escape his lips. For several days he’d felt like this; sort of numb, hollow. He recalled the anger, somewhat sheepishly, that had colored nearly every conversation he’d had in the last year and wondered for a moment where it had gone. Did he spend it all when he trashed Dumbledore’s office? A testament to his mood, he couldn’t work up the energy to feel embarrassed or even remotely satisfied by that incident.
It’s not that he missed being angry; actually, he didn’t like the out of control feeling it had produced not to mention the hurt looks from Ron and Hermione. Ginny was the only one who hadn’t taken any of his guff. He’d been reluctantly surmising at least part of his anger might have been a by-product of his connection with Voldemort. Dumbledore had avoided making direct eye contact with him for a reason. He remembered the snake-like feeling and the barely controlled instinct to attack when he’d been in Dumbledore’s office after the vision of Mr. Weasley’s injury. Whether it was hormones or an evil Dark Lord, the anger was gone now, replaced by this numbness. He wasn’t sure which was worse but he did know that since he’d been back at number 4 there had not been even a twinge from his scar. It hadn’t felt like this since before he’d started Hogwarts. Knowing full well that he hadn’t suddenly become an accomplished Occlumens, he guessed that Voldemort had completely blocked the connection somehow.
The Dursleys had been treating him quite well by comparison to previous summers. That is to say they mostly ignored him, which suited him just fine. They not only allowed him to eat, though he rarely had an appetite, they insisted he eat. They’d even let him talk to Hermione on the phone both times that she called. Although Hermione may have been disappointed in his less-than-talkative attitude, he did appreciate the call and the sentiment behind it. The talk that his welcoming committee had given his relatives – was it only four days ago? – seemed to have made an impression on them.
He’d been dumbfounded to find them all standing there when he’d made his way through the barrier at Platform 9 ¾. The presence of Remus Lupin had been especially surprising. He was so certain that Professor Lupin would hate him for … well, for what he’d done and what he’d failed to do. Don’t think about it. Don’t think about it. Don’t think about it. All of them standing up for him and letting his miserable relatives know there were people who cared about him and his welfare had filled him with a warmth he’d never before experienced. He’d just barely maintained control over the constant threat of tears. As he’d made his good-byes, he’d been grateful that Hermione hadn’t given him her usual hug. It surely would have done him in if she had. Even Ron had seemed to sense something and shook his hand as he and Hermione both promised to see him very soon. He’d held his head high and walked determinedly towards the car leaving the Dursleys scrambling to follow him.
While he was very grateful the Dursleys were leaving him alone, he longed for something to distract him from the lethargy that had taken over his being. Thinking of the events of last summer, he realized it was more than probable that there was an Order guard nearby. If he could get their attention, perhaps he could find out what’s happening outside of Privet Drive. With astounding clarity of thought, he remembered to verify he was fully dressed before making his way downstairs.
The house was quiet as his uncle was still at work and Dudley was apparently out vandalizing something or terrorizing the neighborhood children. He looked around the front garden trying to determine the possible location of the current guard. He called out all the names he could think of-
“Tonks? Moody? Dung? I know someone’s there, show yourself.” Suddenly a thumb appeared in mid-air and jerked toward the back of the house. Harry nodded in understanding and made his way through the house and out the door to the back garden. His Aunt Petunia stopped her endless cleaning long enough to shoot him a strained, disapproving look as he passed through the already spotless kitchen.
The rain was tapering off as Harry looked around the back garden and spotted the shimmering movement of an invisibility cloak being removed.
Remus Lupin stood with a weak smile on his face and said quietly, “Hullo Harry. How are you holding up?”
“Professor Lupin?” He’d been the last person Harry had expected to see and – honestly – the last person he wanted to see. The lethargy was quickly being replaced by waves of painful emotions. He sat down roughly in one of the garden chairs not noticing that it was wet from the rain. Remus pulled out his wand and used a drying charm on the other chair and then on Harry. Sitting with his elbows on his knees and his hands covering his face, Harry tried to control the sudden and unwelcome burst of emotions.
Remus sighed. “Harry please, you don’t have to call me professor anymore. I haven’t been your professor for nearly three years. If you can’t call me Remus how about you call me Moony?”
Harry stared blankly; the tears he’d been fighting all week had finally won and were pouring freely down his face. Remus, who was standing next to Harry’s chair, leaned over and awkwardly hugged him from the side in what seemed to be an effort at comfort, while he shed some tears of his own.
Harry didn’t want comfort, didn’t think he deserved it and this lapse in his tight control had him on the edge of anger – with himself and with Professor Lupin for managing to so easily breach his carefully constructed walls. He used the anger to reel in the traitorous emotions. He took a deep breath, rubbed a hand over his face and replaced his glasses.
When he looked up at Professor Lupin though, the anger was fleeting and quickly replaced by guilt. Professor Lupin had lost Sirius too and it was all Harry’s fault. “How… why are you being so nice to me? I killed Sirius! You shouldn’t be nice to me!”
Remus was dumfounded and sat down heavily in the opposite garden chair. “Harry…whatever in Merlin’s name are you talking about? You didn’t kill anyone. Bellatrix LeStrange did.”
“I might as well have done,” Harry snapped. “It’s my fault Sirius is gone. I didn’t learn Occlumency. If I hadn’t stopped the Occlumency lessons, if I hadn’t failed I never would have had that vision. If I hadn’t forgotten about Snape, if I hadn’t forgotten about the mirror he never would have been there. For that matter I never would have led all my friends into a trap because I have ‘a saving-people-thing’.” He poked himself in the chest punctuating his anguished response.
“Harry, please don’t do this to yourself,” Remus said desperately. “Nobody blames you. As extraordinary as you are, greater wizards than you have been fooled by the likes of Voldemort. It was an elaborate, and if I’m not mistaken, nearly yearlong ruse carefully played out with the help of Kreacher. You did not fail anyone. I’m afraid that we have failed you in so many ways, Harry. You never should have been in the position you were put in. Your vision of Mr. Weasley saved his life. Why would you believe otherwise of the vision you had about Sirius? What would you have done, Harry, if that vision had been true and you’d not gone? Between that Umbridge woman, Kreacher and Snape’s attitude you’d been effectively cut-off. It was a good decision based on bad information. Sirius made the very same decision. To rescue someone he loved from certain peril.”
Harry felt only slightly better hearing his words. At this point he was unable or more likely unwilling to forgive himself. He had forgotten about the two-way mirror after all. Anyway, it was easy to feel guilty and to blame himself. It was easy because if he wasn’t at fault he knew he’d have to be angry with Sirius for leaving the house, for doing the very thing that he’d begged him not to. He couldn’t be mad at Sirius; it was unthinkable. No, he wouldn’t do that. In fact he wouldn’t think about Sirius at all. It’s what he’d been doing since he’d gotten here and it’d been working just fine until he’d seen Remus Lupin. Close the lid on those thoughts and lock it. He’d at least be able to get his emotions under control once again.
A hyper and twittering gray fuzz-ball suddenly landed in Harry’s lap. Pig’s lack of grace was well known but it was a rough landing even for him. The reason became apparent when he noticed that the tiny owl had been carrying not one but three letters for him. He extracted the letters from Pig’s grasp and then placed the exhausted bird on his shoulder where he promptly fell asleep. He recognized Ron’s scrawl and Hermione’s neat handwriting on two of them. The writing on the third was unfamiliar. It was also neat and distinctly feminine. He assumed that since it was Pig who brought it to him, it was from Ginny. For reasons he didn’t want to fully acknowledge, this made his stomach flip-flop and a slight smile play on his lips.
Remus caught the look and asked, “Good news?”
“Ron, Hermione and uh, Ginny, I think”, blushing slightly as he responded. “I’ll read them later.”
“Listen Harry, I’ll let you get to it,” Remus said as he rose to his feet. “I’ve actually been planning a visit with you anyway so I’d like to come back and talk to you again some more. Would that be okay? I’d say that I intend to come back until you’ve completely forgiven yourself but I’m afraid that you’re stubborn enough to make that a life-time commitment on my part.” He smiled kindly as Harry snorted at the unexpected joke. He clapped him on the shoulder and said, “I’ll see you tomorrow. Same time, yeah?”
Harry nodded and said, “Thanks… Moony.” Testing out the name, it didn’t feel entirely natural to call him that yet but he liked it and could tell that Moony did too.
Back in his room, he put the sleeping Pig in with Hedwig who opened one eye and looked haughtily at Harry. “He just needs a bit of rest Hedwig. He’ll be on his way soon enough.”
He turned his attention to the letters. He wanted to know what everyone else was doing and was going to tear into Ron’s first before his curiosity about the other Weasley letter got the best of him. Why had Ginny written to him? He’d realized last summer that he hadn’t actually seen any of the squeaky, timid behavior he associated with her since the summer before his third year. Though that blush could have been attributed more to their experience in the Chamber than anything else. He felt bad for basically ignoring her all that time. The real Ginny Weasley was very different than he thought and much more interesting. She’d continued to surprise him throughout the year but he’d still been so wrapped up in Cho Chang’s exotic if rather shallow beauty that he hadn’t really noticed her until the train ride home.
Okay, that wasn’t entirely true. He’d first noticed her that day in the library when she’d brought him the chocolate. In that moment he’d seen her in a brand new light, one that he wasn’t altogether comfortable with. He’d spent three or four confusing and hormonally charged days during which he’d finally come to the conclusion that he couldn’t mess with Ginny. First of all she had a boyfriend; second she was the youngest member of a family that had practically adopted him and the sister of his best mate; third she’d given up on him anyway. Not to mention that he was an emotional wreck and just might be the product of a loveless marriage between an arrogant berk and the woman he’d somehow forced to marry him. Better for all if he left well enough alone. He’d successfully buried the unexpected feelings. Or so he’d thought.
He conjured an image of her in his mind: bright, warm brown eyes, the smattering of freckles across her nose, her long copper hair, the dimple that appeared in her right cheek when her full, pink lips smiled. Gah! Don’t think about lips! He thought of her dancing in the kitchen with the twins when he’d won at his trial, calling him stupid at Christmas time, suggesting they call the DA – Dumbledore’s Army, her heart-stopping imitation of Umbridge, playing Quidditch, bringing him chocolate in the library then agreeing to help him break into Umbridge’s office, the secret smiles and moments of eye rolling they’d shared behind Ron and Hermione’s backs, the look on her face when Ron had proudly proclaimed her victory with the Bat-Bogey hex on Malfoy and the sideways glance he caught from her on the train while she worked on her Quibbler puzzle. She had Ron’s wicked sarcastic sense of humor, the fearless, mischievous spirit of the twins and the intelligence of each of her former Head Boy brothers. She was just as tough if not tougher than any of her brothers because this was all contained in a rather petite package. It was a combination Harry thought to be both dangerous and intriguing.
The other day on the train had brought it back to him for some reason. He still wasn’t certain what to make of the odd look Ron had sent him when he’d told her to choose better next time. Did it mean that Ron wanted her to choose Harry or was it something else? Not to mention the quick stab of jealousy he’d felt when she’d casually mentioned that she’d already chosen Dean Thomas.
Huh, great job burying those feelings. You’re interested again – still – whatever, and now she’s dating your roommate. Good show, Potter. He sighed. Just as well I guess. At least Dean doesn’t have a buggering murderous prophecy to fulfill or the attention of a nutter megalomaniac whose number one choice for entertainment is devising Harry Potter torture and homicide scenarios. Shaking his head to clear it, he opened her letter first.
I’m hoping that an unexpected letter from me was intriguing enough for you to open mine first. If so then I will be saving you the trouble of opening the other two. I haven’t read them of course but I know that Ron’s will be filled with observations on the weather (mostly sunny), about practicing Quidditch (both of us, obsessively-I’m honing my Chaser skills, he’s determined to be the best Keeper in Gryffindor history), cleaning the poor, neglected Burrow (it’s good to be home) and de-gnoming the garden (it was and still is overrun). Hermione’s will of course be filled with the reading she is currently doing and reminders about your homework and taking care of yourself. Of course we all know that our letters shouldn’t be too newsy anyway but I think in this case what’s not being said is a bit more important than what is.
Harry, I think that Ron and Hermione have finally had or are about to have, ‘the conversation’. (I’m not ashamed to insert a girlish squeal here.) You know the one where Ron confesses his undying love to Hermione and they live happily bickering ever after? Ha! Ron has been mooning around the house with Hermione this, Hermione that, when will Hermione be here? You get the idea. He’s quite mental actually. They’ve been furiously owling for the last week. That’s how her letter got with ours. Poor Pig is probably exhausted. I really am happy for them and for me because I just may have won the Gryffindor wager pool.
So on to other matters. How are you? I’ll have you know right now that I will not accept your standard “fine” so you’d best be working on a decent response to that question. Maybe you’re thinking, “Who does she think she is?” I’d like to think that we’ve become friends but if nothing else, you’re practically a Weasley and you must be treated as such. That means a load of bollocks gets called what it is. Believe me, I’ll know.
How am I, you ask? Well, that’s very thoughtful of you. I’m bored silly as you can probably figure out for yourself. More often than not it’s just me here with Ron all day. Since he’s so preoccupied with Hermione (when he’s not practicing Quidditch, though I can’t say for certain he’s not obsessing about her then too), I’m on my own a lot. Don’t feel put out too soon, I’m not complaining or looking for sympathy since I know you’re far worse off with the Muggles. It’s just that I’m used to so much commotion around here it’s weird for it to be so quiet. I guess this is how Mum feels when we go off to school. Hey, a bit of insight from the teenager! She’d be so proud!
I guess this letter is long enough now. Just so you know if you feel like talking I’m ready to listen. No pressure, just putting it out there for you. Take care.
Harry read the letter twice then once more to be certain. Ron and Hermione? It had been right in front of him of course, for several years really. How did he feel about that? Was he ready for the dynamic of the friendship to change that way? He suddenly felt selfish for wondering how this would affect him. He’d watched them dancing around each other, bickering, pushing each other’s buttons for the last couple of years. Watching them fight, while exasperating in its regularity, was a sight to behold. Everything else seemed to fall away, like they were the only two people in the world. What if they channeled that into other, more positive emotions? I guess I’ll find out soon enough, Harry thought. He decided to be happy for them and the more he thought about it, the better he felt about it.
The news about Ron and Hermione had preoccupied him while reading the letter from Ginny so he read it a fourth time for good measure. He smiled this time. Ginny was a funny girl and he liked the letter because she’d kept it light while still inquiring about him. Not pushing or demanding.
Putting Ginny’s letter aside for now he opened first Ron’s and then Hermione’s letter. He smiled while reading them both: Ginny had been right on the money. Each letter contained exactly what she’d said it would. Later that evening, after several discarded attempts he proofread his response to Ginny one last time to make certain it sounded okay and didn’t give too much away.
Thanks for writing to me. It was a surprise to get your letter and it worked the way you wanted: I opened yours first. I read Ron and Hermione’s letters though and you were spot on with the contents. I don’t know how you did that.
Ron and Hermione huh? Finally! Has either of them said anything to you yet? I wonder when they’ll tell me? It’d be really funny if they thought to keep it a secret. I almost hope they do so we can mess with them a bit.
So you asked me how I am and insisted on honesty so here it is: I can honestly say that I’m not sure. I have not yet achieved ‘fine’. I am doing better though. Professor Lupin was here today. He asked me to call him Moony which I guess is better than Remus but it’s weird calling him anything other than “Professor”. I’ll get used to it. He’s coming back tomorrow to talk again. I didn’t want to see him at first, but I’m glad now that I did. I might just end up being ‘fine’ but don’t go getting your hopes up. The Muggles are behaving themselves thanks to the welcome party at Kings Cross. (How’s that? Did I pass the bollocks-meter?)
Other than being bored silly, how are you? How is Dean doing this summer? I’m sending Hedwig to deliver this letter with Ron’s so that I can send Pig to Hermione. He was knackered just like you thought. He’s still asleep. Anyway, I’ll tell Hedwig to wait for your reply so that you can let Pig rest again when he gets back to you. Hermione really needs to get an owl.
He sealed the letter before he could change it yet again and sent Hedwig off with it and Ron’s letter. He’d told Hedwig to return as soon as Ginny replied: Ron was notoriously slow in replying and would be even more so, now that he was evidently caught up in his correspondence with Hermione. Harry took his glasses off, placed them on the bedside table and turned the light off. He verified that his wand was under his pillow, which he maneuvered into a comfortable lump and lay down with thoughts of Ginny filling his head; he realized he wasn’t numb anymore. Though he wouldn’t say he was happy and he still couldn’t dwell on thoughts of Sirius, he realized that his emotional outburst with Moony was cathartic after all. Ginny’s letter and his own acknowledgement of his interest in her had helped also. Even if he couldn’t pursue anything with her, he certainly would not mind being friends. And who knows maybe it wouldn’t work out with Dean. He felt, cautiously optimistic about it. With that thought, he fell asleep.
For her part, Ginny Weasley was at first very confused and then also, cautiously optimistic.
She’d read Harry’s response and could not for the life of her understand why he’d asked her how Dean Thomas was fairing this summer. When she finally remembered her flip comment on the train ride home, she laughed out loud. Still, why had he asked? Was he being friendly and supportive or was he fishing? She didn’t want to get her hopes up.
She hadn’t lied to Hermione when she told her she gave up on Harry. She’d decided during her second year that she wasn’t going to waste her youth or her Hogwarts experience pining for something she could not have. It had cut her to the core the way her brother had immediately dismissed her on the train to school that year, especially after he’d been so attentive and her constant companion during their trip to Egypt. The trio had closed ranks on her and it had hurt. She and Ron had been close growing up, and she’d lost him not once but twice, once when he went away to school and once again when he’d ordered her away from them on the train. So she set about making the friends that she should have made her first year and lived her own life. Even having a boyfriend or two along the way.
Still, a little part of her felt her destiny was inexorably bound with Harry Potter. She’d felt that way ever since her big brother Bill had told her the story of the Boy Who Lived. The tale had spoken to something deep within her, had awoken something that eagerly anticipated the day they would meet. Of course her little girl’s fairytale-filled heart had assumed he would be the brave and handsome prince to her damsel in distress.
Little did she know at the time how right she would be – and how wrong. There had been nothing at all romantic about the Chamber of Secrets. Although that experience had reinforced in her mind that she was somehow connected to Harry, she’d completely relinquished any romantic notions she’d once entertained.
She did not actively strive to keep that flame of hope alive; it appeared to be fanning itself and it was a right blaze at the moment.
If Harry had never noticed her in all that time, it was not his fault. She had purposely made herself invisible to him in her quest for independence. That their paths had rarely crossed was by design so she wouldn’t have to worry about re-igniting the rather embarrassing crush of her innocent youth. Tom Riddle had used that hero worship against her and nearly killed Harry for it. He’d tainted those innocent feelings, twisting them and filling her head with images and knowledge that no eleven-year-old should have. She came out of the experience with an intimate understanding of the darkest parts of humanity, effectively stealing her childhood. Yet with the loving support of her family and some wise and kind words from Dumbledore himself, she was able to not only overcome that horrific experience but also thrive despite it.
She felt she’d be letting those people down if she somehow slipped into that pining little girl mode again. Harry certainly had enough to worry about without his best mate’s little sister mooning about, memorizing his timetable, starting a fan club with Colin Creevy (she’d long suspected a crush there) and other nonsense all escalating to general stalker-like behavior. She released an un-ladylike snort at the ugly little vignette her mind had just conjured.
She could have killed her idiot brother for clumsily suggesting that Harry take her to the Yule Ball. She was more than happy to inform him she’d already agreed to go with Neville. Ron could be a real oaf sometimes. He got his though when he found out Hermione had gone with his soon-to-be former Quidditch hero Viktor Krum.
That it’d been so easy to be invisible to Harry hurt only a little bit. She couldn’t blame him, as each year seemed to hand him increasingly horrific distractions.
It wasn’t until their confinement at Grimmauld Place where she was in Harry’s presence everyday that she’d realized she could be around him successfully. The little girl feelings were gone. She’d got to know him as Harry rather than the fairy tale Boy Who Lived. What she discovered was, lovely green eyes and somewhat dreamy good looks aside, Harry was troubled, moody, stubborn, often angry and very human. He was also noble, brave, funny, kind and dangerously unaware of his own appeal. Ginny did not suffer his moods and angry lash outs. She’d set him straight about that. Once. That was all it took. He got the idea and didn’t try it again until she’d had to set him straight at Christmas time. All in all he was someone that Ginny was happy to be around. If the occasional wild fantasy popped up she didn’t dwell on it and certainly had not let it interfere in her relationship with Michael Corner. Michael, who had started out lovely, was a disappointment on his own in the end. Cho could have him as Ginny had no use for someone so easily intimidated by her.
Turning her attention back to Harry’s letter, she pulled out a fresh sheet of parchment and began to carefully compose her response. Let’s just see where this is going Mr. Potter
A/N ~ Many thanks to Musings, who is fantastic. And thanks to Kjirstyn of Checkmated.