Remus rediscovers a love from his past and Harry discovers a few things too during the Summer after fifth year. Sequel to Acceptance and Animal Attraction
Disclaimer: This story is based on the stories and characters created by J.K. Rowling and I am in no monetary way profiting from it.
(A/N As always, thank you to my beta Elanor Gamgee who is desperately struggling to keep me in the right tense – and of course, thanks to Baffy, who is apparently desperately struggling to keep her computer alive. She really goes the extra mile to get a beta done – and done quickly!)
Beatrice Bennet tried to tell herself that she was not a coward. She was sorted into Gryffindor, after all. She knew how to go after what she wanted -- to suppress the doubt and insecurities that often plagued her. At least she used to. It was how she had managed to become a Healer even though her Transfiguration O.W.L. had been questionable at best. She had petitioned Professor McGonagall for extra consideration. It had helped that she was a prefect and McGonagall was her head of house. She’d ended up getting top marks in Transfiguration N.E.W.T.s (though it took a lot of study time and every last second of the exam to achieve) and going on to be near the top of her class as a Healer. But going to McGonagall had only been the second bravest thing she had done at Hogwarts. The first had led to a most pleasant fifth year – and probably to her poor Transfiguration work. She and her ‘tutor’ had studied topics alphabetically – very organized, but by the time they got to ‘T’, hormones had usually taken over. Even now, thoughts of frenzied, sometimes clumsy, but always exciting caresses made her cheeks warm. No, she had not been cowardly back then – if anyone had been afraid of something…. Then again, best not to dwell in the past – like telling herself that ever did any good.
It wasn’t her school days’ courage that she questioned, anyway, but her current behavior, or the last year’s anyway. Hopefully, she was about to make amends for all that.
When the Daily Prophet had started denouncing Professor Dumbledore and young Harry Potter’s claims that You-Know-Who had returned, Beatrice had known it was all nonsense. She had felt a dreadful certainty that the He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named had returned – and waited for the wards of St. Mungo’s to fill with dying proof. She had not relished the idea of being a Healer during a war. Perhaps that was why she hadn’t acted until now – now that everyone knew the truth. True, she had bought half a month’s salary’s worth of Quibblers when the article with Harry’s story came out in February. She had spread them all over the hospital waiting rooms, collecting up Daily Prophets and throwing them in bins as she went. How anyone could read that, even in a less than reputable paper like the Quibbler, and not believe or at least be moved, was beyond her. Of course, Beatrice had very personal reasons for being disturbed by the article.
"It wasn’t until after he bound me that I saw it was Wormtail."
When asked who ‘Wormtail’ is, the boy makes an angry face…
But Beatrice didn’t need to ask for clarification. She had spent enough time in his company to know whom the son of James Potter would call ‘Wormtail.’ Still, she had read on, and what Harry had revealed chilled her to her core. Peter Pettigrew was alive and the true betrayer of his parents – meaning Sirius Black was innocent. Even so, it was neither Peter nor Sirius or even Harry to whom her thoughts and heart went. More than fourteen years before, as a young apprentice Healer, she had almost contacted Remus Lupin. She couldn’t even imagine the sort of grief he was experiencing at that time, believing James, Lily and Peter all dead at Sirius’s hands. She had put quill to parchment a number of times, but always stopped herself, afraid of receiving a rebuff in reply, or worse, no reply at all. In the end she had decided she was fooling herself to think he would need her. Just because his closest school friends had been ripped from him in barely more than a night didn’t mean that he didn’t have other friends to comfort him – another woman to comfort him. Finally she had set quill and parchment aside and instead accepted an invitation to an "End of You-Know-Who" party at the Ministry by one of the Ministry liaison staff at St. Mungo’s. For a long time after that she did a pretty decent impression of a woman who left her girlhood dreams behind her. She had taken the charade right up to the point of no return before she realized that she had been kidding herself. Not only had she not moved on, she was practically mired in the past.
And now, it was as if the past fifteen years had not happened. You-Know-Who was back; they were in the middle of a war – the same bloody war. The world had come full circle and her life had followed right along. This time, however, she was no mere schoolgirl. She needed to muster her courage and take action – to do her part to end the war, and to help herself move on. Which was why she had owled her old classmate to meet her for lunch. She was determined now. If there was going to be a war against evil, she was going to do more than just root for the good guys. She was going to be a good guy.
It took her a moment after entering the Leaky Cauldron to locate her luncheon companion. He was at a dark corner table and caught her eye, though he didn’t wave. She stopped at the bar and ordered a butterbeer before working her way over to join him.
"Hello, Kingsley, thank you for meeting me," she said, sitting down. "I know you’re probably very busy these days…"
"Never too busy for a fellow Gryffindor," Kingsley Shacklebolt replied, bringing his butterbeer bottle to his mouth and taking a swig.
"Yes, well – not so Gryffindor-like lately," she said sheepishly.
He raised an eyebrow, but didn’t comment and so Beatrice plunged on, "That’s why I called you, King, I knew whatever was going on, you’d be in the thick of it and I want to know what I can do to help."
He didn’t pretend not to know her meaning, for which she was grateful. "Well, now, it’s really not up to me, Bea," he said.
"Come on, King. You’re telling me you couldn’t use a first-class Healer?"
He grinned. "First class, huh? Not at all modest, are you?"
She rolled her eyes. "Check my records – I’ve earned a little bragging right."
"I’m sure you’re every bit the Healer you say you are," Kingsley said placatingly. "Still, what makes you think we don’t have all the Healers we need?"
She sighed. "Look, I’m not asking you to issue me a membership card. Just tell Dumbledore … or whomever… that I want to help. As much and in whatever capacity I can – and I’m sorry it took me so long."
"All right then," he agreed. "I’m sure Dumbledore…or whomever…will be glad."
Their waitress approached them, shutting down their topic of conversation as they placed their orders. Even after she departed, they started speaking of more trivial and social things. Classmates they had run into recently, Quidditch standings, and – once the food arrived – favorite restaurants and cuisine. When they turned to careers, Beatrice realized she was doing most of the talking and tried to turn the conversation around.
"And what about your work, Kingsley?" she asked pleasantly. "I’m sure there’s a lot you can’t tell me about being an Auror, but do you at least find it rewarding?"
"It’s not all glamour like we imagined in our fifth year," he admitted, "but it is absolutely rewarding – and not as secretive as you might think. It’s not as if I’m an Unspeakable, you know."
"All right then." She smiled. "Why don’t you tell me what you’ve been working on lately?"
He got an odd look and his eyes penetrated her in much the same way her old Healer instructor had before giving her a difficult case.
"Until very recently I was in charge of the hunt for Sirius Black," he said in a neutral tone.
Beatrice dropped her fork. With an effort, she schooled her features into her work mask. It was the face she used when diagnosing a malady she suspected was fatal, but before she was certain enough to approach the patient with the news. Sirius had been a friend and housemate to both of them. The circumstances of his arrest never sat well with her, but the reported facts had seemed irrefutable – until that article.
"That must have been hard." She hesitated before venturing, "I read something in the Quibbler…"
"Harry’s interview?" he asked.
"All true," he confirmed.
"So is that why you’re no longer hunting?" she pressed him.
"No," he answered, his eyes sad.
She frowned in thought. No absolution, no investigation, no capture, or the Ministry would have advertised it… that left only one alternative – and the grim look in Kingsley’s eyes confirmed it.
"Oh, no." She felt tears welling up, but managed to keep them from spilling over. She wasn’t even sure if her reaction would have been different if she didn’t know he was innocent. All she could think of was that the young man she had known at Hogwarts, so full of life, was now gone.
Kingsley’s eyes had softened at her reaction. As if she had passed whatever test he had put her through.
"Look, I can’t go into it just now – but I’ll owl you once I’ve cleared it and let you know when we can meet again. It’ll be good to have a Healer – another Healer – on the team."
After settling the bill, they walked together to the door. Beatrice tried to bring order to the many questions that were cycling through her mind. She knew Kingsley couldn’t answer most of them – except the one she most wanted to ask and was trying hardest to suppress. By the time they reached the street, she was biting her lip. She turned to her old classmate to say goodbye before parting company and returning to St. Mungo’s. She found him grinning at her knowingly.
"Since you made a point of not asking, I’m sure you’ll be glad to know he will be there."
She didn’t bother pretending not to know who he was. Kingsley had been in her house and year. He had witnessed her happy fifth year and her subsequent heartbreak in sixth year. Still, it was awfully astute of him to realize what she was thinking. Probably that damn Auror training.
"You think you’re so bloody smart," she grumbled.
"I am that bloody smart," he countered cheerfully, continuing to grin. "I’ll owl you in a couple of days. Keep next Monday night open if you can."
Beatrice agreed and went back to work, feeling anxious anticipation at the thought of Monday night.
Number Twelve Grimmauld Place had been cleaned up considerably since Harry had first seen it the previous summer. Still, it was twice as depressing for him to be there in many ways. Sirius had left the place to Remus and him as a sort of last prank on his family. He had wanted the Order of the Phoenix to continue to use it, and it certainly saved them from finding a new site and putting the kind of wards on it that already existed here. So, when Harry left Privet Drive, after staying there long enough to consider it his "home," he came back to headquarters.
The agony of being in Sirius’s ancestral home without Sirius had been eased somewhat on his first evening when Remus presented him with a Pensieve that he and Sirius had compiled that spring. It showed how his parents first started going out and, in many ways, Harry found it more intoxicating than the Mirror of Erised had been in his first year. Some nights, it was all he could do not to just submerge his head in the basin and never come up – replaying those happy moments over and over. Only a few things – a few people – kept him from doing just that.
One was Remus Lupin. When he had given Harry the Pensieve, Harry had realized that the older man had lost all the same things, the same people. In Remus he had found a new adult confidant. They had taken to having late-night teas together where Remus would tell him amusing stories about Sirius and his parents. The stories were not as vivid as the living memory of the Pensieve, but Harry found that hearing them enhanced his imagination more than watching the same scene over and over did. He knew the talks helped Lupin, too. The lines and prematurely graying hairs that were telltale signs of the strain of lycanthropy seemed to fade away when he spoke of his youthful exploits. Harry was glad for the bond that was forming between them.
The Weasleys were the other main reason he didn’t drown himself in the silvery memories. Though the wizarding world now knew of Voldemort’s return, the Weasleys had decided to stay at Grimmauld Place rather than ward up the Burrow. He wondered why, since Mrs. Weasley often complained about not being able to find anything in the kitchen and he knew she missed her own home. When he asked Ron why they hadn’t just taken the precautions outlined in the new Ministry Guide to Elementary Home and Personal Defense that had been distributed at the beginning of the summer, the answer had embarrassed him a bit.
"Because of you, I reckon," Ron replied.
"Me?" Harry was surprised.
Ron nodded. "Dumbledore won’t let you leave those Muggles to stay anywhere less protected than here at headquarters – or Hogwarts. I heard Mum and Dad discussing it one night when I was sneaking to the kitchen for some food. Mum was going on and on about how she couldn’t leave ‘those two boys’ alone in ‘that dark depressing house.’"
Harry suppressed a chuckle at Ron’s falsetto impression of his mother and frowned at Ron in puzzlement. "What two boys? Who’s the other boy?"
Here Ron snorted. "Professor Lupin, can you believe it? Mum’s absolutely determined to mother him too."
Harry did chuckle then. "Does she know he’s been of age for almost twenty years?"
Ron shrugged. "You know Mum. She can’t not take care of you – and Lupin’s so shabby and worn looking, she can’t really help herself. She’s already knitting Weasley Christmas jumpers, she’s got so many to do now…"
Harry laughed, but not really to make fun of Mrs. Weasley. He was eternally grateful for Molly Weasley’s need to mother everybody in sight. The comfort he had found in her embrace after the Tri-Wizard Tournament was… well he couldn’t describe what it was. Not to say there weren’t times when he didn’t feel more smothered than mothered – but he knew from his friendship with the Weasley children that it was all part of being in the family.
And it was family that he had always longed for. It took a while for him to get used to the idea of being part of such a big and loving one. At his lowest moments, he had wanted to sever all human connection. He never had a family before -- the Dursleys certainly didn’t count. They were relatives, yes, but not family. The dream of a family was what he had seen in the Mirror of Erised and what was continually yanked away from him whenever he thought it was in his grasp. Why bother trying to have a family at all? If he had to face Voldemort and kill or be killed, wouldn’t it be better not to endanger others? Wouldn’t it be easier not to have something to lose? The answer came from the least likely source.
"I have to apologize to you, Harry," Percy Weasley said to him one evening.
As Ron reported it, Percy had come back to his family shortly after Ginny and Ron had returned from Hogwarts. Mrs. Weasley had, as was expected, welcomed him unquestioningly with tears and mother’s hugs. Ginny had held out until Percy announced his engagement to Penelope Clearwater and Penny asked her to be a bridesmaid. The Weasley men, Mr. Weasley included, were more reserved in their welcome. A mutual love of Mrs. Weasley seemed to keep any accusations or worse from flying, but things were far from normal yet. Harry had his first taste of it a few days after arriving at Grimmauld Place. Charlie had been in town briefly for Order business and Mrs. Weasley had wanted to have a special family dinner – and that included Percy and Penelope.
It had been one of the most uncomfortable dinners Harry had ever attended, including eating with Aunt Marge at the Dursleys. Lupin and Mrs. Weasley had carried the bulk of the conversation with occasional help from Ginny and Bill. Lupin would cast the odd glance at Harry as if to say, ‘You need to try, too,’ but Harry found he was not big enough to forgive the letter Percy had sent Ron advising his younger brother to ‘sever ties’ with Harry.
With the crowd of Weasleys in the house, Harry wasn’t sure how Percy had managed to corner him alone – but it probably had something to do with the fact that he was hovering outside the loo when Harry exited it. It was there in the hallway that Percy issued his apology.
"I put my career above my family, including you. I mean, you saved Ginny’s life back in my sixth year, and you conducted yourself so nobly in the Tri-wizard Tournament. You saved Ron from the lake, not to mention that little French girl, and when you came back from the maze… I saw your face… I shouldn’t have let my ambition influence what I knew of you. I’m truly sorry, Harry."
Harry wasn’t sure what to do with this Percy. The Percy he knew before was pompous, if well meaning. Then there was last year’s Percy, who had been a stranger, but worse. As he had just put it, Percy should have known better. Harry didn’t want to upset Mrs. Weasley any more than her other actual sons – but like them, he couldn’t just smile and tell Percy everything was all right. He frowned and folded his arms, trying to think of something neutral to say.
"I don’t expect you to say anything, really," Percy rushed on, when Harry still said nothing. "No one else except Mum and Ginny can forgive me for being prat. Bill’s trying. He knows what it’s like to want to be your own man. Still, he knew better than to turn his back on his family."
Percy heaved a sigh before continuing. "Penny tried to tell me, you know. I’ve been proposing every month for a year and she kept saying, ‘Not until you make up with your mum.’ She told me about this saying among Muggles that no one ever dies wishing they spent more time at work and less time with their family. Now that we’re in a war, time with our family is even more important. You can’t get through the hard times without the support of your family. Thank Merlin Penny made me see it in time. I hope I can make amends to you and the others before it’s too late. Please just say you’ll let me try."
Harry wasn’t sure what to say, but since he had made plenty of his own mistakes that he needed to make amends for, he decided he couldn’t afford to be less than forgiving to Percy. "Uh, sure, Perce," he agreed.
Percy smiled. "Thank you, Harry. You’re a good man – I should never have said any different." His smile faltered. "I wish my brothers were as easy to talk to. I don’t expect everything to be back the way it was, you know – I’d just like to know it could be. The twins are so mad they’re actually polite to me. They haven’t even called me ‘Bighead Boy’ or ‘Weatherby.’ It seems ridiculous, I know, but I’d give anything for them to prank me with one of their inventions."
He brightened suddenly and Harry was surprised to see pride reflected in his face.
"Their shop is doing booming business, you know. I’ve been a little too ‘persona non grata’ to actually go in, but some of my co-workers have, and they rave about it. I admit I never would have believed it, but they’re incredibly successful in their own way. I always thought they were wasting their obvious intelligence – but I was wrong about that too."
Percy heaved another sigh. "I just wish they would prank me," he repeated under his breath.
Uncomfortable with the entire situation, Harry looked away. A flicker of movement caught his eye and he focused on the spot. A thin, skin-colored line was snaking along the hallway. As he followed Percy back to the sitting room, He wondered who had been at the end of the Extendable Ears, and what they thought of the now contrite Percy.
Whoever it was didn’t seem to be impressed, as the conversation was as uncomfortable and stilted as ever. Percy answered Remus’s questions more and more monosyllabically until Penny shot him a sympathetic look and patted his knee.
"Percy, sweetheart, I’m exhausted. Maybe we should go."
He looked at her gratefully – adoringly, really, if Harry was honest about it. Standing and offering her his hand he said, "If you’re tired, my dear." She took his hand and stood too. Soon, everyone was standing. Mrs. Weasley looked as if she wanted to protest their departure, but Percy cut her off.
"Thank you for a wonderful dinner, Mother," he said. "It’s always good to…" he paused for a moment and his face flickered with the same sad regret that Harry had seen earlier, "…see everyone."
They all made a morose procession as they headed towards the entry hall. As Percy helped Penny with her cloak, Harry glanced over at the twins. They had their hands behind their backs and their faces were the pictures of studied innocence. Except that they were the twins, and they never really looked innocent. Harry whipped his head back to Percy, who was fastening his own cloak and reaching for his hat. When he turned his hat over to put it on his head, his hair and face got showered with a fine, powdery substance.
"What in the name of…?" Percy stopped in mid-sentence and his eyes went wide. Or maybe it was that his whole face went wide - as Harry watched, his head begin to expand like a balloon.
"What do you think, Percy?" George asked. "It’s the first in our line of Bighead Hair Products."
Percy turned on the twins, his face was so puffed up now that Harry couldn’t tell if he was frowning at them or not. When Penny rushed to take off his glasses, before his enlarging head broke them, however, standing tears could be seen in his eyes.
"Fred! George! What have you done?!" Mrs. Weasley bellowed. "Put him back this instant!"
"We can’t, Mum," Fred explained with a shrug. "We haven’t figured out the antidote yet."
"Haven’t…" Mrs. Weasley sputtered.
"But don’t worry, Penny," George was reassuring Percy’s fiancée, who was covering her mouth to hide her amusement. "It wears off between three and twelve hours."
"Three and twelve…?" Mrs. Weasley mumbled faintly.
"Can’t you be more specific than that? I have to work tomorrow!" Percy barked, though if you asked Harry, it lacked edge.
"Best call in sick, then," George suggested with mock sympathy.
"Tell them you’re feeling a little bloated," Fred added helpfully. "That’s how Angelina skives off at the joke shop."
"You’re letting your employees skive off?" Percy asked incredulously.
"It’s just Angelina – it’s not like she’s going to be working there forever anyway, just until she figures out what to do," Fred said defensively.
"Incomplete product lines, employees running rampant – it’s amazing your shop is still standing. That’s no way to run a business! I’d better have a look at your books to make sure you’re not throwing it all away," Percy declared.
"You really don’t have to…" Fred started to protest before George stopped him.
"That’d be great, Perce," George said pleasantly. "Come by tomorrow after your head deflates."
"Enter at your own risk, though," Fred warned mischievously.
Under his ridiculously enormous head, Percy seemed to hesitate for a moment, then said firmly, "I’ll be there!"
"Come on, now, sweetheart." Penelope guided him towards the door with a suppressed giggle. "We’d best get you out of here before you can’t get through the door frame."
"Of course, love," Percy complied, following her out with as much dignity as any young man could muster when his head was more than three times it normal size and bobbling about on his neck.
After the door closed behind Percy and Penelope, Mrs. Weasley reeled on the twins, a scowl on her face.
"You two come here this instant!" she ordered, her hands on her hips.
The twins exchanged a guilty look and shuffled up to their mother. They stood there contritely looking more like eight year olds than eighteen year olds in the face of their mother’s wrath. So no one was more surprised than they when Mrs. Weasley caught them up in a huge bear hug.
"Never been more proud," she croaked out between weeping.
"Aw, Mum." Fred was blushing
"It was nothing," George was saying awkwardly into his mother’s shoulder.
But it was not nothing, Harry realized looking around at the Weasley family. Mr. Weasley clasped Bill’s shoulder. Ron and Charlie pushed each other back and forth playfully with big grins on their faces. Ginny was watching her mother and the twins, her eyes glistening with unshed tears, and her arms wrapped around her as if imagining she was part of the hug. Harry suddenly felt the inexplicable urge to hug her himself. He told himself that he just wanted to be a part of the celebration, and Ginny was the only Weasley all alone, hugging herself. He took a step towards her, still unsure of what to do when Bill saved him from potential embarrassment by breaking away from his father and catching Ginny up in an exuberant embrace. The way he spun her about and she giggled with childish glee, Harry guessed this was a tradition between oldest brother and baby sister. He had been smiling at the family celebration, but suddenly his smile faltered. He loved the Weasleys and thought of them as his family, but they had grown up without him in their midst and he suddenly felt the intruder. His thoughts turned to the Pensieve he kept hidden in his room upstairs. That was all he had of his real family. He was about to turn and go upstairs when Ron gave him a shove. He turned and stared blankly at his grinning friend.
"If the twins can forgive Percy, I reckon we can," Ron said with a shrug.
Harry opened his mouth to respond when Charlie shoved Ron from behind. Unprepared, Ron went stumbling into Harry and they were soon in a laughing heap on the floor. Unfortunately, the noise woke up the screaming portrait of Mrs. Black, which they still couldn’t seem to un-stick from the wall.
"Blood traitors! Filth! Intruders! Usurpers!" she screeched.
For some reason that only made them laugh harder. They struggled to contain themselves as Bill and Charlie ran to close the curtains of the portrait.
Remus bent over Harry and offered him a hand up, while Mr. Weasley did the same for Ron. "All right there, Harry?" he asked, a smile ringing in his hoarse voice.
"All right, Remus," he responded, straightening his glasses, which sat askew on his face.
Mrs. Weasley dislodged herself from the twins and dabbed at the corner of her eyes with her apron. Then she adopted her usual brusque motherly manner. "Well then, this calls for biscuits – I think I have some in a tin in the kitchen. Arthur, dear, would you help me, please?"
"Of course, my dear." Mr. Weasley put an arm around his wife and took her towards the kitchen.
The rest of them followed the elder Weasleys back down to the kitchen. Ginny wormed her way between the twins, her arms about their waists as if taking over her mother’s embrace.
Remus lingered behind and put a hand on Harry’s shoulder so that he did the same. "It’s been a long time since I was any part of a family. We’re lucky men, Harry."
Harry looked down at the family of redheads who had taken him in so thoroughly. "Yeah," he agreed.
So, while everyone was gabbling over biscuits and tea, Harry realized that as long as Lupin and the Weasleys were around, he had a family. If he abandoned them, even for their own protection, he was no better than Percy had been last year. Not to mention the fact that they would never let him. That was the night he knew that the gaping wound in his heart that was the loss of Sirius had started to heal and would eventually become just another scar.