“It is the singular strength (and sometimes weakness) of the integrationist to absorb a time and place and make it their own. I’ve found home in a thousand centuries, I’ve slept in pits and palaces. ‘Home’ often implies a house, but any long-term integrationist will tell you the same thing as I — you need to find the heart, not the dwelling. I never could find it on my own, because it wasn’t mine to start with.
— Excerpt from the untitled memoirs of Optio Poitr Lewllyn, Ret.
Harry stood outside Scott’s room and tried not to panic.
It wasn’t that the present situation was so stressful. He was just waiting (again), attempting to find both patience and courage. When he arrived at The Burrow, a time that was fast approaching, that was what he dreaded. Because he knew he was in for it. There was a long list of people he had no doubt upset with his sudden departure from Privet Drive.
There were three formidable females at The Burrow, none of which would be happy about Harry’s impromptu escape. Between Hermione, Ginny, and Mrs. Weasley, Harry reckoned he might as well make his peace. Hopefully Hermione would let him off with a light scolding; she knew that Scott had taken care of things and trusted the Kharadjai enough for that. Ginny would also understand what had taken place, but when it came to Scott… Well, Harry would have to work to smooth that over. So would Scott. And Mrs. Weasley would be the worst of all, because Harry couldn’t tell her the truth (about much of anything, at this point).
The Order would be angry that he had abandoned them. He didn’t care too much about that, though. Their idea of a ‘plan’ had been completely unacceptable and he didn’t regret not going through with it. Moody would be infuriated, probably just because things didn’t go according to his design. He’d get over it. Of all of them, Remus would be the most distressed. Harry’s former professor had taken it upon himself to try and fill in for Sirius, and took the duty of godfather to heart. Harry would have to apologise; Remus deserved that, at least. He might have understood if Harry had been able to explain.
That was the hardest part of the whole mess. Harry couldn’t explain, not to anyone that didn’t already know.
And that was a short list, indeed. Ginny, Ron, Hermione, Neville, Luna, and Harry himself. There would have been one more name, but Dumbledore was gone. Had fate allowed it, there would have been two. Harry wouldn’t have kept anything from Sirius, even if Scott didn’t want him to (though he doubted the Kharadjai would have had any objections — in fact, Harry thought Scott and Sirius would probably have got along well).
That brought the guilty notion that Remus deserved to know, as well. Harry couldn’t imagine a good time for that conversation.
The door to Scott’s room flew open and the occupant in question strolled out with all the swagger and confidence of an affluent man about town. This was directly at odds with his threadbare shirt, baggy jeans, and skinny teen-aged form.
“Ah, the heady vigour of youth…” Scott said enthusiastically, stretching his arms out. “I’m a teen again, hooray! Let me enjoy it for these first few minutes before I remember how much I hate it.”
Harry shrugged, unmoved by Scott’s complaints. “It’s got to be better than ageing up. What if you had to be sixty years old for this mission?”
“Then they’d get an older Kharadjai and I wouldn’t have to deal with this shit,” Scott said cheerfully. “Can’t be done, my clueless friend.”
Harry bristled a bit at the ‘clueless’ part. If he was clueless, it was only because Scott was so full of shite. “Why not?”
“Because I’ve never been sixty before. How can I make myself an age I haven’t been?”
“How do you make yourself younger? I don’t sodding know!” Harry spat out.
“Wow… Relax, man.”
Harry sighed. “…Sorry.”
“You’re all bent out of shape ‘cause of everyone waiting at The Burrow, I know.” Scott walked over towards the kitchen, patting Harry on the back a little too hard to be sympathetic. “Don’t worry! You’re only facing the unbridled wrath and disappointment of everyone in your life who cares about you.”
Harry winced; he couldn’t help himself. Scott had slid neatly back into teenform and being a complete arsehole. Harry’s only consolation was that Scott wouldn’t be walking away untouched. “Some of your Primes aren’t going to be happy with you, either.”
“Yes, which is why I plan on throwing you to the wolves and then hiding.” Scott grabbed a banana off the countertop and stuffed half of it into his mouth. “Thall weh go?” he mumbled through the partially chewed mess.
Harry followed Scott out the door and through the narrow corridor to the stairs down the back. Lila was waiting by the car outside, appearing more than a little impatient. Scott had taken his time while reassuming his teenage form.
“It’s not a good sign when you take longer to get dressed than your sister,” Lila informed Scott as they approached.
“But it is a good sign when that’s because you wear way more clothing than that sister, who dresses like a tramp,” Scott retorted with great cheer.
Lila was wearing a strapped tank top and a pair of jeans that did flatter her form but were hardly revealing. Scott was just getting in his jabs wherever he could, regardless of whether they were fitting.
Oddly enough, it seemed to be working. Lila glared daggers at Scott. “Get in the car and shut up. If I have to play ‘older sister slash guardian’ again, then you’re gonna listen to me.”
Scott opened his mouth for what would have no doubt been a defiant rejoinder, but Harry elbowed him in the side first. “Shut it,” he muttered to the Kharadjai. “I just want to get this over with.”
“‘Things you don’t want to hear during your first sexual encounter’,” Scott quipped, but he must have taken the hint because he left Lila alone during the short car ride to The Burrow. Harry didn’t need Scott pissing Lila off as well. There were enough angry females to be dealt with.
The car was only able to make it halfway up the overgrown path before a newly fallen tree blocked the way. Lila slammed the shift into park with a grumpy expression, eyeballing the dead tree as if it was a personal offence to her. “Hold on,” she said shortly, opening her door.
“Just give us a minute to move this thing, Harry,” Scott said, following Lila out of the vehicle.
Harry was slightly offended that he hadn’t been asked to help. He wasn’t a Kharadjai, sure, but he wasn’t a total weakling either. At the very least he might have moved some of the branches. He crossed his arms and settled in to wait. With the engine shut off, Scott and Lila were close enough that he could easily hear their conversation.
“So is there a reason why you’re especially mad at me today?” Scott asked as he grabbed the side of the trunk opposite of Lila.
“I didn’t say I was mad at you.” Lila heaved upwards, standing a large section of the tree on end. She knocked it back over, off the path, where it made a deep thump and shook the car a little.
“You never do. You just glare at me and expect me to read your mind,” Scott said.
“I do not.”
“…We’re not doing this. I refuse,” Lila stated.
“Fine, then just tell me what’s wrong.”
Lila narrowed her eyes at him. “Maybe it’s that time of the month. You usually love that excuse; you assign it to every little thing.”
Scott shrugged. “Is it?”
“That is none of your business,” Lila told him.
“It is, isn’t it?”
Scott threw up his hands in exasperation. “Then what? You’ve finally realised that you hate me? You’ve discovered a lifetime worth of pent-up resentment because I’m not a sister? You’re a lesbian, but you don’t know how to tell me?”
Lila merely rolled her eyes. “How you come up with this stuff, I really don’t know.”
Scott’s face took on a shrewd look. “You know what I think? I think you’re mad because I’m a teen again. I think you just settled back into being my younger sister and now you’re stuck resuming a role you don’t understand.”
“You should have been a psychologist, Scott, you’re so damn smart,” Lila said scathingly.
“I bet I’m right.”
“Too bad you’ll never know,” Lila said dismissively, and went back to moving the tree.
“Argh!” Scott retreated back to the car, leaving Lila to handle the rest of the roadblock alone. “She must be in a bad mood,” he confided to Harry. “She won’t even tell me if I’m right.”
“Probably because it’s already making you crazy,” Harry said dryly.
“I am right! You’ll see.”
Harry only shrugged in response, far too worried about his own eminent problem to care whether Scott ever received an answer. He was still lacking any ideas as to what he might say to defuse the situation. All he had was the honest answer: he had refused to play along with the Order’s plan to put themselves in harm’s way for him.
That wasn’t a response that would placate anyone.
Lila seemed calmer when she re-entered the vehicle and started it up again. She made no comment regarding Scott’s suppositions, instead speaking to Harry. “It might be better if you talked to Ginny first. She’s been on edge since you took off.”
“I’d guessed as much,” Harry sighed.
The Burrow appeared between the trees as Lila drove down the bumpy path towards the garage. She couldn’t park inside of it, not even with the loss of the old Ford Anglia. Mr. Weasley had expanded his collection of Muggle odds and ends to the point that there was hardl