A/N Passages in bolded italics are quoted from canon or make a direct reference to it. They belong to JKR and are not my original ideas.
"Bye, Gin," said Harry Potter gingerly to his fiancé, Ginny Weasley, giving her another tender kiss on the cheek.
For the tenth time that morning, Ginny adopted a look of concern. "Be careful, Harry," she said quietly. "You and I both know how sensitive you are around Dementors."
"I will be careful," Harry repeated exasperatedly as he put on his jet black bowler and threw on his scarlet cloak in preparation to Disapperate from his Hogsmeade cottage. "I'll be okay."
He reached out a loving hand. Ginny took it and squeezed it, trying her best to smile. "I love you, Harry," she said slowly and carefully, stressing every word. Then, she hesitated. "I know you'll be fine. Just . . . just be careful, OK?"
Harry smiled in response and felt Ginny's smooth fingers fall from his hand. Harry screwed up his mind in concentration. Receiving a last supportive smile from Ginny, Harry felt the familiar falling sensation in the pit of his stomach that came with Apparition, and then he appeared abruptly in the Atrium of the Ministry of Magic.
The Atrium was still mostly empty as it was very early yet. Just one of the disadvantages of being Minister, arriving so early, thought Harry.
The New Fountain of Magical Brethren stood gleaming in the middle of the Atrium. It had changed much since Harry had first seen it the summer before his fifth year at school. For one, it no longer bore a house elf; Hermione's department had seen to that. It now only bore three figures — a wizard pointing his long slender wand upward, shooting a spout of water in the air; a merman gracefully spouting water from the tips of his tail, though his head remained submerged; and a ghost, made of transparent stone with a Permanent Levitation Charm upon it, emitting water from some unseen point within it — a being, a beast, and a has-been united together.
As Harry neared the Fountain on the way to the lift on the other side of the Atrium, he reached into his robes and retrieved a Sickle. He dropped it into the Fountain as he passed, as usual. He paused a moment to watch it sink through the crystal-clear water, but as it hit the stone bottom, he heard not the familiar clink, but instead, a nearly inaudible pop of Apparition.
He turned round and found himself face-to-face with the Head of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures and founder of the Department for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare: Hermione Weasley.
"'Morning, Weasley," said Harry in a mock-businesslike manner.
"Good morning, Harry," said Hermione brightly, brushing her bushy brown hair from her face and smiling.
"Now, watch who you're talking to, Weasley," said Harry in a mock-reproachful voice. "I'm the Minister of Magic."
"And I'm your soon-to-be sister-in-law and your friend of eleven years. How long have you been Minister?' said Hermione, playing along.
Harry grinned sheepishly. He mumbled something barely audible to Hermione.
"That's right, only a week," said Hermione. She smiled widely. "Not even, in fact. It'll be six days tomorrow, I think. All things considered, I should be allowed to call you by your first name."
Harry finally laughed out loud. "Of course, Hermione," he said. He turned and continued to the lift, Hermione following along at his heels.
They reached the lift and the doors clanked open noisily. "So," said Harry, "remind me — who did Ron end up Keeping for again?" Harry's other best friend from school and Hermione's husband, Ron Weasley, had recently become a professional Quidditch player, and last Harry had heard, he was trying out for Keeper for the Chudley Cannons.
"The Tornados," said Hermione, smirking and following Harry into the lift. "The Cannons wouldn't take him. He was very grumpy that day." The Cannons had been Ron's Quidditch team all through school.
Harry laughed, though it felt forced, as he was still apprehensive about what he was facing today. "I can imagine," he said, trying to sound happy and light-hearted. "I'd like to be there when Cho Chang finds out that the Tornado-Hater from fifth year is now their star Keeper."
Hermione laughed too. Harry knew that he was only postponing the time when Hermione would talk to him about his Azkaban inspection that day. . . .
As if Hermione could read his mind, she said, "You're inspecting Azkaban today, aren't you Harry?"
Harry nodded, his heart sinking to the depths of his stomach. He didn't need to be warned by Hermione when Ginny had been doing it too all last night. . . .
"You'll need to be careful," warned Hermione.
Blimey, do I lead an ironic life? thought Harry grumpily.
"I know, Hermione," he said as the lift continued to ascend. "Ginny had me up half the night warning me about it." And, as he thought of Ginny along with the thought of Dementors (which he had not had contact with in eight years), his heart sank. He could only imagine what else he must now be forced to experience in addition to his parents' deaths and Lord Voldemort's rebirth. It had been just a year ago when it had happened. . . .
Hermione put a friendly hand on his shoulder, once again as if reading his mind. "You really do love her, don't you?"
Harry nodded. He could still almost hear Ginny screaming in agony. . . . He shuddered and tried to put in from his mind, knowing that he had to be strong.
"Two weeks from today, isn't it?" asked Hermione. "Your wedding?"
"Oh, right," said Harry. He could still hear him laughing shrilly, still feel the bonds on his own arms. "Yeah."
The lift came to a stop. The doors clanked open and the cool female voice said "Level five, Department of International Magical Cooperation, incorporating —"
"Enough," said Harry, and the voice ceased talking.
Harry stepped from the lift, but before the doors could shut again, Hermione said, "Be careful, Harry." And the doors clanked shut.
Harry began walking down the already-familiar corridor leading to his office, staring around at the familiar faces peering out from various offices. Some of them greeted him with a polite, "Good morning, Minister," or a casual "Hello, Potter," and every time, he would respond half-heartedly with "Good morning Benson," or with "Hello, Macmillan."
Harry reached his office door with the already-familiar plaque upon it, reading in shining brass lettering:
Harry James Potter
Minister of Magic
He reached out his hand, closed it around the cool metallic doorknob, and opened the door. He entered his office, cluttered with memos strewn about his mahogany desk. The pictures in frames on his desk featured his parents; Ron and Hermione holding their eight-month-old baby daughter, Tracy; and Ginny; all waving merrily up at him.
Portraits of previous Ministers lined the walls, including, to Harry's disgust, one of Cornelius Fudge, his predecessor. The caption on his portrait read:
Cornelius Oswald Fudge
Minister of Magic 1982 — 2003
Other than that and the law books lining the shelves along the walls, his office was mostly unfurnished. He had, after all, only worked in the Department of International Magical Cooperation for five days. He had previously been employed in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement as an Auror. But after what had happened to Ginny. . . . And he had only been an Auror for a year when he had quit. . . .
Warm sunlight shone through the enchanted window of his office as he removed his scarlet cloak and bowler and hung both on the bronze hat stand in the corner. He made toward the chair behind his desk to begin rifling through the memos that had been patiently waiting for him. When he sat down, the memos began squealing excitedly and sprang to life, each trying to present itself to Harry first.
"Calm down, I'll read each of you eventually," he said to the memos, and they stopped squealing and fighting each other.
The memos now motionless, Harry grabbed one and began reading. Headmaster Snape is still seeking a new Potions teacher. Any assistance is appreciated. . . . He threw it into the wastepaper basket with a snort of disapproval. That old git could find his own Potions teacher. It wasn't his fault that Snape had quit Potions to teach Defence Against the Dark Arts. He picked up another memo. The Daily Prophet requests an interview with you after you Azkaban inspection today. . . . Another one read, Don't forget to attend Mundungus Fletcher's trial tomorrow morning. . . . The usual rubbish. Harry cast aside memo after memo, and after what seemed like hours and just when had begun to make a dent in his immense workload, a knock came on his office door.
"Come in," said Harry, and his door swung open, and his Senior Undersecretary, Heather Gray, stepped inside.
"It's time to go now, Minister," said Mrs. Gray, indicating the two figures standing behind her. Harry nodded and stood up, swallowing the anticipatory lump in his throat and grabbing his bowler and cloak. He put them on and exited his office, shutting the door behind him. Doing so, he took note of the two figures standing behind Mrs. Gray: Nymphadora Tonks ("Wotcher, Harry," she said brightly) and Kingsley Shacklebolt ("Hello, Potter," he said in his deep, slow voice), two Aurors that he had met a few years ago, before he had finished Hogwarts. He had been told previously that they would be accompanying him to Azkaban.
"We need to go down to the Atrium to use the Portkey," said Mrs. Gray. "The Anti-Magical Transport Wards aren't in effect down there, as of course they are up here."
Harry nodded and the four of them began walking down the corridor toward the lift. Harry noted that now it was much more crowded than when he had arrived as it was several hours later. The noise level, too, was much higher as Harry, Kingsley, Tonks, and Mrs. Gray entered the lift.
It was already full with people, and when Harry stepped in, many of them greeted him jovially. Harry nodded in recognition, and the lift doors shut. The lift began to descend, and though it stopped at every level, they reached the Atrium in seemingly no time. They all stepped out of the lift and moved to the centre of the Atrium, next to the New Fountain of Magical Brethren.
"Here's the Portkey," said Mrs. Gray, holding out a golden key to Harry. When he saw it, Harry almost laughed out loud; this was the first Portkey he had seen that was actually a key. He coughed to cover up his laugh.
Mrs. Gray looked curiously at him. "It is also the key that will allow you to access the prison," she explained in a slightly reproachful voice.
"Oh, OK," said Harry, nodding. He took the heavy golden key and held it out to Kingsley and Tonks, who each placed a finger on it.
"Ready?" asked Mrs. Gray.
"Off you go, then," she said. "One, two, three." And Harry, Tonks, and Kingsley were each pulled along with the Portkey through a whirlwind of colour and sound.
After a moment or two, Harry felt his feet hit the ground. Having travelled by Portkey countless times before, he stayed standing upright.
Harry took note of his surroundings. They had arrived on an island way out to sea, so far that Harry could not see any other land masses in any direction. Azkaban Prison stood ominously fifty metres away, surrounded on all sides by tall, cast-iron gates, protected with what Harry knew to be an Imperturbable Charm to prevent prisoners from climbing over.
They had arrived fairly close to the shoreline of the island, and had it not been that the island housed the largest wizarding prison in the world, it would have been a good holiday spot. The beach was covered in the purest white sand Harry had ever seen and the waves on the sea crashed enticingly every few moments. Harry would have enjoyed the sights if it hadn't been for the dark cloud hovering motionlessly over Azkaban Island that blocked out all sun and warmth, or clammy cold that had begun to creep into his lungs. . . .
"Remember," said Kingsley in his deep voice, "You are allowed to cast a Patronus as long as you do not allow it to attack any Dementors."
"R-right," said Harry. He made to retrieve his wand from his robes, but Tonks stopped him.
"Wait until we're inside the gates," she said warningly. Her hair was a dull, spiky grey today, and it reflected Harry's feelings of dread perfectly. He wondered vaguely if she had chosen that particular hairstyle on purpose.
The three of them slowly made their way towards the gates along a stone path. As they walked, Harry's dread deepened. The cold was becoming more pronounced now.
They reached the gates, but there was no door for entry. Harry looked curiously at Tonks, who looked back at him.
"You should know how to access the prison, you were supposed to have read and memorized the procedure," she said impatiently. When Harry looked blankly and helplessly at her, she said, "OK, I'll do it."
She took out her wand and tapped the wall twice, saying, "Introitus," and a door appeared in the gates, sporting a large golden keyhole.
"Remember now?" asked Tonks sarcastically.
Harry nodded and gulped, his anticipation and fear growing steadily. He inserted the key into the keyhole and turned it. He heard a click from inside the door, and it swung open to admit him. He walked through, followed by Tonks and Kingsley, and stopped dead in his tracks.
Two metres to his right stood a tall, black, hooded Dementor. When Harry stepped through the gates, it turned its sightless, faceless head in his direction. He heard the Dementor take a long, rasping, rattling breath. The cold grew more pronounced.
He heard Kingsley's voice from somewhere behind him. "Now, you can produce a Patronus."
Harry heard, but didn't understand. He had begun to hear his mother screaming far away from within his mind.
"Harry," said Tonks's voice, "a Patronus, remember? Expecto Patronum!" and a bright, pure white unicorn burst to life from behind him.
Probably from the appearance of the Patronus, the air seemed to warm a little bit and the sound of Lily screaming dissipated.
Harry heard Kingsley also say "Expecto Patronum!" and produce a blinding white horse bearing a knight who was sporting chain maille and plate armour and bearing a sword. The air seemed to become even less cool as the Dementor closest to them stopped breathing in its surroundings.
Harry seemed to come to his senses. He remembered what he had to do. He took out his wand and thought of when Ginny had accepted his marriage proposal. "Expecto Patronum!" he shouted, and from his wand burst a Patronus. But instead of the stag that he had always produced, a human figure shot out of his wand. Tonks gasped behind him.
His Patronus turned to face him, and he found himself looking into the gorgeous face of his fiancé, Ginny Weasley.
Harry stared at it in utter surprise. Since when did his Patronus take Ginny's form?
"You have a human Patronus, Potter?" said Kingsley from behind him. "Those are really rare."
"That's not just any human Patronus, that's his fiancé!" said Tonks.
Harry turned to look at them. Both of their faces were surprised. "I — er — my Patronus used to be a stag," said Harry, hoping that Tonks or Kingsley would be able to clear up some of his confusion. "This is the first time it's been Ginny."
"Well," said Kingsley, taking a sidelong look at Harry's Patronus, which had just come up beside Harry, "we can figure this all out later. We have a job to do."
"Right," said Harry, though his mind still was trying to understand what had just happened.
The three of them, followed by their Patronuses, slowly made their way up the path from the Azkaban gates to the prison itself, and with every step, the cold intensified, despite the presence of the Patronuses. Harry began to hear his mother screaming again in a distant corner of his brain.
They neared the entrance to the vast building. Harry noticed that there were four Dementors flanking the entrance, and all four of them were pointing their faceless heads in their direction. As they got closer, Harry saw one Dementor creep its deathly grey hand back within the depths of its robes.
"Bow to death, Harry. . . ."
They were at the entrance to the prison. Harry remembered what he had to do. "Minister of Magic, Harry Potter, accompanied by Aurors Nymphadora Tonks and Kingsley Shaklebolt, here to inspect Azkaban Prison," he said in as confident a voice as he could muster.
The Dementor nearest to him took a long, rattling breath, though Harry could make out from within the breath one long word: "Keyyyy. . . ."
The Dementor removed a long, scabbed, grey arm from its robes and held it out to Harry with its dry, bony, ugly palm up.
Harry handed it the Portkey.
The Dementor took it and wrapped its long bony fingers around it. It held it up to the entrance and plunged it straight into the middle of the door, into apparently solid stone. It turned it, and the door swung inward.
The Dementor removed the key from the door and returned it to Harry, who pocketed it.
Harry, Tonks, and Kingsley entered into the prison, followed by their Patronuses.
They were in a stone, dungeon-like hallway, similar to those that led to the Potions classroom at Hogwarts, only that there were no torches lining the corridor. Four more Dementors flanked the inside of the doorway.
"Lumos," said Kingsley beside him and the tip of his wand lit. Tonks and Harry did the same.
The door shut behind them with a soft hiiissssss.
"It will be quick . . . it might even be painless . . . I would not know . . . I have never died. . . ."
"Well," said Kingsley's voice, bringing Harry back to his senses, "shall we get on with it then?"
Harry nodded. They began to walk the length of the corridor.
Cells lined the corridor every few metres. The occupants of most of the cells were silent and shaking. As they passed one cell about halfway down the long corridor, they heard its occupant mutter shakily, "No . . . no, Mum . . . don't go away. . . ." then fall silent again.
"Come out, come out, little Harry! What did you come after me for then? I thought you were here to avenge my dear cousin!"
They were now rounding a corner. Harry saw through a haze of white fog, Willy Widdershins shaking silently in a cell.
They walked further. Now they were walking past Delores Umbridge's cell. She was muttering, "No . . . let me go, you half breeds . . . bloody centaurs . . ."
"Albus Dumbledore was a great wizard in both his life . . . and his death . . ."
Harry was shaking uncontrollably now. He forced himself to keep walking.
"You all right, Harry?" came Tonks's voice from his left.
"Wha — yeah. . . ."
Just on Harry's right now was Peter Pettegrew. On either side of his cell were two Dementors.
"Surrender, Tom," said Dumbledore's voice. "Your fight has been fought. It is time to give in."
"Never shall I give in to you, Dumbledore!" said another voice, though this one was high-pitched and cold. "Avada Kedavra!"
Harry was becoming drenched in cold sweat. He was shaking horribly.
They neared Lucius Malfoy's cell. It was the most heavily guarded of any of the cells thus far. Harry saw through the white fog that was now almost completely obscuring his vision two Dementors on either side of the cell doors, and four more across the corridor facing the cell.
Sirius was laughing. "Come on, you can do better than that!"
Bellatrix's jet of green light had hit him square in the middle of the chest.
Sirius fell backward in a graceful arc toward the veil. He had fallen through it, causing it to flutter as if in a light wind.
"SIRIUS!" Harry was yelling. "SIRIUS!"
"Potter," said Kingsley's voice. "Your Patronus has gone. Concentrate, now."
Harry heard, but didn't understand. It was as if white fog was obscuring his brain as well as his vision.
"Potter, can you hear me?"
He was bound tightly to the wall, his wand lying broken in front of him. Dumbledore lay motionless and white, spread-eagled on the dungeon floor.
Ginny was screaming as she writhed in front of him, a tall figure towering over her. Harry's heart gave a painful wrench.
"Crucio! CRUCIO!" said the tall figure in an amused voice. Voldemort was enjoying this!
"Ginny! Ginny, NO!" He struggled against his bonds, but doing so only forced them to tighten and cut further into his already bleeding arms.
"Enjoying watching your filthy little girlfriend suffer, Potter?" said Voldemort, laughing shrilly.
"You bastard!" Harry shouted at him. "You bloody —"
"Silencio!" shouted Voldemort, and Harry's words were lost in his throat. "I need not your pitiful cries of profanities nor those of help. They will do you no good — Dumbledore is dead.
"Crucio!" said Voldemort again, and Ginny, who had been twitching on the floor in the absence on Voldemort's curse, began writhing and screaming again.
Ginny! thought Harry desperately. GINNY! He struggled with his bonds again.
Voldemort laughed even harder.
"I think," said Voldemort, "that your little girlfriend has had enough suffering. Time to kill her, now."
Ginny, no! Ginny, I'll save you! I'll do anything! "GINNY!"
The last word exploded from his mouth like a volcano erupting.
Voldemort looked at him with those hate-filled slit-like red eyes. "Impressive, Potter. You have always been known for your skills in wandless magic. However," Voldemort paused, savouring the moment, savouring Harry's terror on Ginny's behalf, "wandless magic will do you no assistance today. Your girlfriend is as good as dead. . . ."
Something brown was hovering just above him. Chocolate! He tried to grab it so he could eat it, but his arm felt like lead.
I need chocolate. . . . he thought desperately. Maybe if he opened his eyes properly. . . .
He blinked. It wasn't chocolate at all. It was a pair of eyes. How strange.
He blinked again. The tearful face of his fiancé Ginny Weasley swam into view above him.
"Oh, Harry! You're OK!" Ginny flung herself upon him, obscuring his already blurred vision.
Harry tried to speak, but he couldn't find his voice. He swallowed.
"G — Ginny," he rasped finally.
"Harry! Oh, Harry!" Ginny was shaking as she cried against him.
"Ginny," he said, finally realizing that he was lying down. "Wh — where am I?"
Ginny pulled away from him, and Harry could now make out the walls and curtains of what seemed to be a hospital ward.
"S — St. Mungo's," said Ginny, wiping a tear from her cheek. "You've been here for two days. Mum has been so worried, not to mention how I've been."
"What?" Harry shouted, causing himself to cough dryly. He tried to sit up, but he was still too weak. He fell back on his bed. "Two days?"
Ginny nodded sadly, handing him his glasses from his bedside table. He put them on.
"What about the Ministry? Who's been covering for me?"
Ginny's face was still tear-strewn and her eyes were blotchy.
"The Ministry?" asked Ginny vaguely as if nothing else mattered to her than the well-being of her groom-to-be. "Oh, yeah. Your Senior Undersecretary, Mrs. Gray."
"So everything's just fine? I mean, the inspection and everything?"
"Well, Tonks and Kingsley brought you straight here immediately, so . . ."
Harry sighed heavily. "They're not sending me back, are they?" he asked, hoping to Merlin the answer was no.
Ginny shook her head.
"Thank God," said Harry. He opened his mouth to speak again, but he heard footsteps outside the ward.
A wizard dressed in a Healer's uniform stepped into the ward. Glancing over at Harry's bed, he said, "Oh, good. You're awake, Minister." He began toward Harry and Ginny. "I have some chocolate with me." He pulled from his robes a huge slab of chocolate that would have easily fed thirty people.
Harry accepted the chocolate gratefully.
The Healer spoke again. "My name is Emendo Desanitas. You may be seeing me from time to time in here."
Harry nodded, understanding. He broke a piece of chocolate from the gigantic slab in his lap at ate it. Immediately, warmth seemed to spread through his entire body.
"So," said Harry, already feeling better, "when can I leave?"
"When you've eaten all that," said Emendo, indicating the chocolate in Harry's hands. Harry choked.
"Y — you're not serious, are you?"
Ginny also stared at Emendo in surprise and indignation.
"Of course I'm serious," said Emendo, eyeing Harry calmly. "Take your time, though."
"I'm getting married in twelve days! Can't I bring this —" he indicated the chocolate "— home with me?"
"'Fraid not, Minister. Healer's orders," said Emendo. Then, with one last glance at Harry's indignant face, he turned on his heel and left the ward.
"Can you believe this?" said Harry angrily to Ginny. "I have better things to do than sit in a hospital ward all day eating chocolate!"
"Hey," said Ginny, smiling slightly, "at least we're not being chased away, having books thrown at us this time. You know, like back in your fifth year in the library?" she added at seeing Harry's blank face.
Harry laughed, though it felt forced. For some reason, his mind had snapped back to what had happened at Azkaban.
Ginny seemed to notice the rigidity of his laugh, however, because she said, "What's wrong, Harry?"
Harry sighed. "You remember back at school, er, what my Patronus was?" he asked hesitantly.
Ginny nodded slowly, eyeing him carefully. "A stag."
"Right," said Harry. "Well, that's not what it was at Azkaban. It wasn't a stag."
"That's what I thought," said Harry. "But mine did."
Ginny was lost in thought for a while. "Maybe . . ." she began slowly, "maybe a stag doesn't represent protection to you anymore. Why was it a stag before?"
Harry hesitated again. The waters they were now treading were getting more and more personal. "My dad . . ." he said finally "was an Animagus."
Ginny gasped. "And your dad changed into a stag?" she guessed.
Harry nodded. "But when I was in fifth year, I found out that my dad was basically, well, a prat."
"So your dad doesn't represent protection to you anymore because . . . because you think he's a prat."
Harry was once again pleased at what a wonderful and smart woman he had chosen to spend the rest of his life with.
"So," said Ginny, "if your dad as a stag doesn't represent protection to you anymore, than what does?"
Harry had known this was coming. "Well," he procrastinated, "a better question would be who does."
"You mean . . ." said Ginny in surprise, "you mean you have a human Patronus?"
"Well, who is it?"
Harry cleared his throat. "You are, Ginny," he said.
Ginny put a hand to her chest. "Me?" she gasped.
Harry nodded again. Ginny sat down on a chair beside Harry's bed, breathing heavily, still clutching at her chest.
They were both silent for a long while. Then Ginny spoke from her chair.
"There's something else, isn't there?" she asked.
Harry hesitated. "At Azkaban," he glanced over at Ginny who still looked quite abashed, "the Dementors . . . the Dementors made me see the day . . . the day I defeated Voldemort."
Ginny's face switched abruptly to one of sympathy. "Oh, Harry," she said.
Harry knew what was going on in her head. He knew that she, too, was remembering Voldemort's murdering Dumbledore. He knew that she, too, was remembering Voldemort's torturing her until she gave in. Harry also knew that she, too, dreaded that memory more than any others. . . .
Harry remembered that he had been out of Hogwarts for only four years. He had completed his Auror training and was moving rapidly upwards in the chain of command within the Auror office. Then on that fateful Thursday evening, Harry had come home to where he and Ginny had been living together to find that she wasn't there. He had immediately contacted Dumbledore who, with Harry's assistance, managed to pinpoint Ginny's location to a cave in the mountains where the Giants had once lived. He told Harry that he would accompany him to Ginny's side.
However, when they got to her, they had found themselves face to face with Lord Voldemort. Dumbledore had confronted him, and was killed. Then Harry had taken Dumbledore's place and faced Voldemort, only to have his wand snapped in two as he was bound to the dungeon wall. Voldemort had then proceeded to torture Ginny ruthlessly until she could stand it no longer. Voldemort had just raised his wand to kill her when Harry, by use of an incredible display of wandless magic, burst from his bindings, catching Voldemort off guard. Harry had taken advantage of Voldemort's surprise by taking his wand from his unsuspecting hand and turning it upon its owner once and for all.
Ron, Hermione, Tracy, and Mr. and Mrs. Weasley came to visit Harry the next day, all with words of relief at his recovery (with the exception of Tracy, who, in any case, was asleep in her father's arms). However, of all of them, Mrs. Weasley had been the most anxious.
"Putting you to inspect Azkaban, what were they thinking?" she kept saying indignantly to Harry. "They know very well how traumat — sensitive you are around Dementors!"
"Mrs. Weasley," said Harry exasperatedly for the twenty-third time, "I'm fine. It's not like they tried to kiss me or anything, like last time I was near them."
"Merlin forbid they do this to you!" she ranted on, ignoring Harry. "If Tonks and Kingsley hadn't been there —"
"But they were, Mum," said Ginny defensively on Harry's behalf. "And Harry's going to be just fine. Healer Desanitas says he's free to go once he's eaten all his chocolate."
Ron, who was not contributing to the conversation but holding his sleeping daughter, gazed enviously at the still-huge portion of chocolate on Harry's bedside table.
"Once he — once he's eaten all that?" said Mrs. Weasley. "Your wedding's in eleven days! How on earth will you manage that?"
"Well," said Mr. Weasley, "I know it's kind of cheating, but . . ." He pulled out his wand and pointed it at the chocolate. "Reducio!" he said, and the chocolate shrunk to the size of Galleon.
"Dad!" said Ginny reproachfully, but he ignored her.
"Much easier this way, don't you think, Harry?" he said, winking.
"Arthur," said Hermione, also reproachful, "how's that going to help him get better?"
Mr. Weasley smirked, putting his wand back into his robes. "Seems fine to me at the moment." He looked mischievously at Harry. "Go on, Harry, finish it, now."
And Harry popped the now little piece of chocolate into his mouth.
A/N Thanks to Julie for the absolutely wonderful beta work. J