The alarm continued to ring loudly as Harry blindly groped over the side of the bed for the switch. After a few seconds of not hitting it, he pulled his pillow over his head and ducked under the covers grumbling.
"James, get up!" a voice yelled from the kitchen.
"Fat chance of that," Harry thought as he rolled over again. Suddenly the covers were yanked off him and Harry sat up, momentarily startled, as he pulled his head out from under his pillow.
"Taylor, what the bloody hell are you doing?" Harry yelped. He immediately realised that he was in nothing but his boxers and made a spectacular dive for the covers.
"Wow, James," Taylor giggled. "I didn't realise you could move that fast. You told me to get you up if you couldn't do it yourself. You know that if you're late for work again, you're going to get sacked, and I can't pay the rent by myself. So up you go!" Taylor said as she pulled the covers off Harry again and rushed out the room, taking the blankets with her.
"Damn wretched woman," Harry mumbled as he rubbed his eyes. He looked down at the still wailing alarm clock and immediately bolted out of bed. "Half past eight! Damn it all to the hell, I'm going to be late again!"
Harry grabbed some marginally clean clothes off the floor, shoved them on and rushed out the door. As he ran by, Taylor yelled at him, "James, you have to eat something before you leave…"
"No time, Tay, I've got to go. Thanks for the wake up call."
Laughing to herself, Taylor sat back down at the kitchen table, wondering for the millionth time how lucky she was that James wasn't a creep like some of her other roommates. "And he pays his bills on time," she mused. However, something wasn't quite right with James Potter, and she knew it. We all have secrets I guess, and it's not my place to pry, she thought. All thoughts of Harry James Potter vanished from her mind as she looked at the clock again and rushed out the door to work.
It was well past dark when Ron Apparated into a pouring rain outside the Burrow with a small pop. Sighing, he reached up and wiped the water from his eyes as he began trudging up the steps to the front door. As he reached for the knob, the door opened of its own accord, and he found himself face to face with a redheaded freckled witch.
"Tell me you found him, Ron…"
The pleading desperation in his sister's voice broke Ron's heart.
"I'm sorry, Ginny; there's still no sign."
Ron made his way into the kitchen to find most of his family and Hermione sitting around the table chatting quietly. Ron slipped out of his wet coat and walked around the table to quickly kiss Hermione on the cheek.
"Still no word, love. Still no sign…" he trailed off as he saw his own pain reflected in her eyes.
"The Ministry has done everything they can think of and more, and they still don't have a clue either," Mr. Weasley said quietly. "How they've kept it out of the Prophet until now, I'll never know. I was hoping that we could find Harry before his disappearance became public knowledge; however, tomorrow's edition of the Prophet will be breaking the story. Shacklebolt managed to get a copy." He stopped as he pulled a paper from his satchel on the wall and dropped it on the table.
"HARRY POTTER MISSING," the headline screamed. Ginny quickly grabbed the paper and began reading it.
"Sources close to the Ministry have disclosed that the Boy-Who-Lived has been missing for the past four months. The Prophet has confirmed that Harry Potter has not been seen or heard from since the afternoon of the memorial service following the defeat of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. The Ministry is baffled by his disappearance, and inside leaks confirmed that even his closest friends are clueless about his whereabouts. When asked for a comment, the interim Minister for Magic, Kingsley Shacklebolt, only commented that "Mr. Potter has every right to his privacy, and the Ministry has no reason to suspect foul play or Dark Magic." However, considering Mr. Potter's role in the recent defeat of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, we at the Prophet believe that his sudden disappearance deserves close scrutiny until the facts can be determined."
Ginny sighed to herself as she looked up from the paper. Her mother reached across the table and cupped her hand. "Ginny dear, we will find him, you'll see, and everything will be alright."
Hermione wistfully looked at the people around her. They were her friends, and in many ways her family. They had lost Fred to evil magic; now it seemed they had lost Harry as well, but this time due to their own mistakes. "Oh Harry," she sighed. "Please come back to us."
"POTTER! Hey Potter, come down here for a second," Mr. Smith of Smith and Jones construction yelled. Harry looked around and saw his boss waving him down from the second story scaffolding.
"Oi, mate, looks like you're getting it again," laughed Jeremy. Harry looked at his co-worker and sighed audibly. "Yeah, I wonder what I did this time."
Harry shimmied down to the ground level and cautiously approached his boss.
"Look, Potter, I want to discuss your issues with getting to the site on time."
"Mr. Smith," Harry protested, "I was here on time today, I swear. Ask Lindsey!"
"Potter, James, I know you were. I did talk to Lindsey. She also said you pulled in here at a mad dash wearing the same clothes you had on yesterday. Look, son, what you do with your life is your business, and I'm not going to tell you otherwise. You're one of the best workers I have ever had. You attack the project with ferocity and a work ethic that is amazing… At least when you're here."
"I—well—I've seen a lot of stuff destroyed already in my life. It's nice to be part of building something back. It makes me feel… I don't know… complete, to think that I'm helping build something instead of tearing it down."
Mr. Smith looked at the young man in front of him with a heavy heart, wondering again where he had seen action. Based on his age, Mr. Smith was betting on Afghanistan. He even knew that the other boys on the crew had a bet going on it, but they would never ask. James himself had never mentioned the service, but by looking at him and talking to him, it was plain to see. The boy had seen war, and it had marked him.
"Just get here on time, James. Okay? And look, I know I'm your boss, but if you need an ear, I'm available."
Harry thanked Mr. Smith and went back to up to the second floor thinking to himself.
"The famous Harry Potter—man, you always get away with stuff," Jeremy joked.
"What the bloody hell are you on about?" Harry growled, getting up in his face. "You shut it now, Peirce, or I'll shut it for you, understand? I'm not famous, and I told you not to call me Harry. Understand!" Harry bellowed.
"Yeah, sorry, James. It was a joke; I didn't mean anything by it. I mean, how could you be famous? You're not even twenty yet, and no one knows who you are. I was just playing, I'm sorry."
Harry sat still as Jeremy retreated back to the other workers, and they looked at him strangely. Get a grip,Potter, he thought. He shook himself forcefully and grabbed his hammer. "Just don't think, Harry, just don't think…" He repeated the mantra over and over again as he drove the nails into the frame.
Harry walked into the flat late that night to see Taylor sitting on the couch watching the television.
"Hey, Tay, how was your day?" he asked as he walked into the kitchen.
"Oh, it was rough," she answered, turning toward him. "Some silly tourist was playing around by the chapel at Edinburgh castle and managed to fall off the top rail into the dog cemetery. Cracked his skull, and it took three nurses to deal with the big baby. Then there was the train wreck that filled the emergency room for the rest of the day. Luckily, we didn't lose anyone, but it was pretty intense. How about you?" she asked as he emerged from the kitchen with a glass filled with a brown-red liquid.
"James," she scolded, "have you been to the pub again? I can smell you! What is that, every night for the past month now?"
"Save it, Taylor," Harry said. "You're not my mum, and you're not my girlfriend." He looked at her again and smiled. "Bottoms up!" He drained the contents of the glass and grimaced.
"Taking your medicine again?" Taylor asked softly. "I never did figure out what exactly you're taking, you know."
Harry looked at her intently. "I know. It's my business. It helps with the… Well, it helps."
Harry turned away from her, thinking to himself, Only a few more months of the targeted Obliviate potion and I won't remember any of it anymore. No more death, no more destruction, no more…
Unbidden thoughts of Ginny came to his mind. He again shook his head, trying to clear his mind. "Just no more," he mumbled as he walked into his room.
Taylor watched him leave, frowning deeply. In the four months since she met James, she had come to know him as a gentle and kind person but with a deeply troubled past. She was concerned for him but didn't know what to do. She saw the glass he had left on the table and cautiously took a sniff. Immediately, she whipped her head back in a fit of coughing. Whatever James was taking, it was nothing she had learned about in nursing school. She frowned again and picked up the phone to call her brother.
"Hey John, I know it's probably a breach of police interests or something, but could you have a look at something for me? My roommate is taking some medicine everyday, and I don't know, I think it might be drugs or something. Yeah, I can get you a glass he used tonight. Is this okay? I don't want you to get in any trouble. Thanks, Johnny; I knew I could count on you."
She looked at the door to James's room as she put the glass in a plastic bag like John had told her to. I don't know what you're up to James, she thought to herself, but I am going to help you get through whatever it is, even if you don't like it!
Molly Weasley was briskly working in the kitchen making breakfast when she called out to the charges staying in her house, "Ron, Hermione, Ginny, George, Arthur! Breakfast is ready." She continued putting finishing touches on the morning meal as her family began wandering into the kitchen.
"Have you all finished packing? I think it's grand that Hogwarts is opening again so soon since the battle and that you all will be able to finish your education properly."
Ron and Ginny grimaced and look guiltily at the floor while Hermione looked deeply embarrassed.
"Mrs. Weasley, we're not going back," she said firmly.
Mrs. Weasley clicked her teeth together in frustration. "Of course you are, dears. You all missed your schooling last year, and you need to go back. I'm proud of what you did, but now you need to finish."
"Mum," Ron said, "we're not. We are going to find Harry. No matter how long it takes. He needs us."
Ginny spoke up. "Mum, you know it needs to be us who finds him, and you know why. Of all people, we know why Harry has really gone. We have to find him and make it right." Ginny wiped the tears that had begun forming in her eyes. "I have to tell him, even if he doesn't want to ever see me again—he has to know that… that… I love him."
Harry Apparated from Sirius' old house to the Hogwarts grounds for the memorial ceremony. It had only been a few weeks since the battle, but already the grounds looked better. Hogwarts, it seemed, had magic that allowed the grounds to repair themselves. Harry looked around, trying to find familiar faces. All he wanted to do was talk to Ron, Hermione and Ginny. Ever since the final battle they had all been strangely absent. Harry was having a difficult time dealing with the intense emotional repercussions of the battle and desperately needed to talk with them. As he looked around, he was tapped from behind. He turned and saw Kingsley Shacklebolt and some other members of the Order.
"Harry, I'm so glad you're here. Are you ready for your speech today? I know it won't be easy, but I am glad you consented."
The ceremony wore on, and Harry still had not caught sight of his friends. Finally he heard his name called. As he glanced up, he realised that it was his time to speak. He slowly got up and walked to the front of the podium. He looked around and saw the entire Weasley family, with Hermione, sitting in the far corner.
"Nothing I say can replace what we have lost, both personally and as a society. We let greed, evil, and prejudice poison everything we held dear. The people that we honour here today decided that—that was not the world they wanted to live in, and they took a stand, risking their reputations, their honour, and their very lives to make a difference. They are the true heroes. Let their memory stand forever, here on this hallowed ground, dedicated by the blood of the fallen. Let us never forget their courage, their bravery, and their love."
As Harry sat down he heard an appreciative murmur sweep through the crowd. He didn't hear the rest of the service as all his thoughts were on the grieving family he had seen in the corner. As soon as the service had been dismissed, he began walking toward them but soon was surrounded by reporters and well-wishers. He forced himself through the crowd and caught a glimpse of the Weasley family as they talked with people who were offering words of support and encouragement. Finally he found himself face to face with the family that he had adopted as his own.
"I'm still not sure how we are going to find him if he doesn't want to be found," Ron muttered. "He picked up a lot on how to stay hidden last year."
Hermione only grunted in answer and didn't look up from the book she was deeply engrossed in.
"Ginny, any thoughts on… Ginny, what's wrong?" Ron asked as he looked up and saw tears in her eyes. Hermione put her book down and looked at Ginny expectantly.
"I'm just thinking back to the memorial, when he was standing right there in front of us. I was so horrid to him. I knew in my heart that he wasn't to blame for Fred, but I just wasn't ready; it was too soon." Ginny sobbed again as the thoughts of those few dreadful moments washed over her. The moment when Harry had found out that not only had they had a private memorial for Fred without inviting him, but that even her parents were having trouble accepting Harry as they once had.
Ron looked around guiltily. "I know; I didn't even stop Percy when he asked Harry to leave. I just… I just didn't know what I was thinking." He looked at Hermione for support.
"Ron," she whispered, "it's okay. We're going to find him and make it right."
Ginny burst out sobbing again. "What if he doesn't want to look at me anymore? What will I do!"
The three friends hugged each other as they all shared a moment of grief. As she looked over Ron's shoulder at a sobbing Ginny, Hermione realised how much Harry had completed all of them, how he had embodied the bond, the goodness, and the love that they all felt for each other and how they wouldn't be complete again until they found him and brought him home where he belonged.
A/N: I am very excited to have the chance to post this, my very fist story, on PhoenixSong! I would like to thank my original beta, edenvirg, and my new beta Arnel for awesome input and encouragement. I hope you enjoy the story, and thanks for reading.