I'm writing to tell you that Scorpius Malfoy has asked me to go to Hogsmeade with him this coming Saturday! Of course I said yes, but now I'm worried that Dad is going to be upset about whom I'm going with. I mean, I know our houses compete against each other on a regular basis, but it's friendly competition and not like our two houses are at each others' throats all the time as they were when you were at Hogwarts; Scorpius and I are just friends and nothing more. Sure we've been Potions partners all year and regularly share a table in the library with a mixed house group of fourth years, but that's all the contact I have with him on a regular basis. It's not as if we're sneaking off to snog in the broom cupboards like James and Kendra do…
Hermione cringed at this latest bit of information and wondered if Ginny knew her eldest son was continuing to frequent the broom cupboards, even though he'd promised his parents to stay out of them.
Anyway, Hugo told me not to worry because Dad has become friends with Scorpius' dad, but still… I can't help remembering what he said to me four years ago when we started at Hogwarts about beating Scorpius in every class… It's not like that at all between us. Actually, it's more like we're collaborators since we tend to help each other so much.
What should I do, Mum? I like Scorpius so very much and I don't want anything that happened so long ago to get in the way of our being friends and having a good time together on Saturday.
Your loving daughter,
Hermione sighed and let the letter drop into her lap. She couldn't help the smile that was tugging at the corners of her mouth as she glanced across the lounge at Ron, who was snoring on the sofa. Ron, she knew, would take the news in stride because the two of them had talked at length back in January when Rose had first written to them that she wanted to correspond with Scorpius; Hermione supposed her husband had neglected to share this information with their daughter, possibly because he had been so very busy of late, but also because it still rankled a bit that there might be the smallest of possibilities that the two young people would become more than friend…
even she was having trouble adjusting to the fact that their little girl was quickly becoming a woman.
Picking up the letter again, she stood and walked down the passage to her study where she took up quill and parchment and began her letter to Rose.
My dearest Rose,
I am so very happy to have read your news that Scorpius Malfoy has asked you to go with him to Hogsmeade. From what you say in your letter, it sounds as if he asked you because he finds your company pleasant and wants to possibly spend more time getting to know you in a more relaxed environment than that of the library or the Potions classroom. I think you'll have a wonderful time together.
Please don't worry about your father. Hugo is correct that he and Mr Malfoy have patched up their differences, as have Mr Malfoy and Uncle Harry and Aunt Ginny. It's true that your father was the last of our little group to put aside what happened between us and Scorpius' father when we were your age and let bygones be bygones; however, time and circumstances have changed us and it's no longer important for us to maintain our old school rivalries. I realize your father's words were meant to foster the same competitiveness between our families as there was between the five of us so long ago, but I am confident the fact that Scorpius is a Slytherin and you are a Gryffindor is no longer important. Your father knows the atmosphere at Hogwarts is much different now than when we were there, so please do not worry.
My advice… Spend the day exploring the shops with your friend and enjoy his company. I think he will be doing the same.
I'd love to hear about your day, but only if it's something you wish to share with me.
All my love,
Hermione read what she'd written two times before she was satisfied with it. As she rolled the parchment into a tight cylinder and gave it to the school owl that had brought Rose's letter, she marvelled at the fact that so many wonderful changes had come of the Battle of Hogwarts and what she, Ron, Harry and their own friends had fought so long for.
With the owl on its way, it was time to wake Ron for a little chat before bed.
0746 hours, Thursday, 18 March 2021
It took five tries, Silvia, two assistants manning a set of safety ropes which were attached to a ceiling pulley system, a very stiff body harness, a set of twelve-foot long parallel bars, and Ginny cheering him on, but he did it… he stood up for the first time in six months!
Harry decided the hardest part about getting back on his feet was the initial transfer of weight from chair to feet, followed by the interminable moments it took his body to communicate with his brain and inner ear. As he stood there waiting to get his balance, he imagined the conversation going on between his body and head:
Brain: All right, body, we're going to stand up. Inner Ears, it's time to transfer weight. Don't go all wobbly on me.
Inner Ears: Can't you give a bloke a break? We're working overtime here!
Brain: Shut it and stop complaining. You've had it easy the last few months. It's time to go to work. Feet, are you on the floor?
Feet: Yeah, yeah, we're on the floor.
Brain: Legs, get ready to accept body weight.
Legs: Do we have to?
Brain: Yes! Knees, you're going to have to straighten, so work with the bones and muscles like we discussed.
Knees: Right-o! Ready when you are.
Brain: Back and Spinal Cord, stay straight and work with me.
Back: This contraption won't let me bend! I'll stay straight.
Spinal Cord: I'm trying, but it's hard because I'm still tattered in places.
Brain: We know, but you're better than you when he first was hurt. Hands, grab something and hold on!
Hands: Already there, mate!
Brain: Right, then. Everyone, on my count… One… Two… Three! UP!
Harry gripped the parallel bars tightly, willing the various parts of his body just one more time to work together as a unified whole to get him on his feet and then to stay standing for longer than ten seconds. He lunged his upper body forward, pushing, concentrating and then…
"Harry! Look at you!"
Ginny's triumphant exclamation sounded like music in his ears and he couldn't help the grin that threatened to split his face in two. He stood there feeling the harness taking much of his weight and keeping him from falling, even as his arms began shaking from doing the same thing.
"Silvia, step back. I'm determined…" he grunted and concentrated on moving his right foot forward, keeping his weight on his left foot. Muscle and joint struggled to lift the right leg high enough to slide the foot forward and then make it take his weight. He wobbled and Silvia's hands automatically reached for him, but he shook his head.
"Did it," he muttered, and then concentrated on bringing the other foot forward. This movement was successful, too, as were the next two steps and hand transfers. However, when his legs began shaking, he was tempted to sit down in the harness and rest; the next eight feet of bars between him and Ginny could have been the English Channel for all he knew!
"Harry, don't you dare push yourself," Silvia warned.
"Taking too long…" Harry grunted determinedly. He took two more steps, letting the harness take most of his weight.
His right hand began to cramp and he looked down at it, somewhat surprised to see the old scars on the back of his hand— left so long ago by Delores Umbridge's blood quill—vying for lack of colour with his knuckles. He let go of the bar and shook his hand, an action that played havoc with his balance, but somehow—probably because of the harness—he managed to stay upright.
"Steady, there," he heard Silvia caution just as Ginny added, "Not much more to go, Harry."
Harry took a deep breath, let it out and then concentrated on moving his right leg again. He put it down and shifted his weight so he could lift the left. A pattern formed in his head: shift, lift, down, hand, shift, lift, down, hand. He saw Silvia stepping off the mat they were standing on and then a moment later, the bars ended, the mat tilted down a bit, Ginny's arms were hugging his middle and her head was pressed against his chest as he sagged against her, both laughing and crying at the same time.
"Oh, Merlin, Harry, I'm proud of you!" Ginny sobbed.
"How do you feel?" Silvia asked as she knelt beside him and began unbuckling the body harness from his legs.
"Shocked," Harry admitted. He looked down at her frown and added, "I'll let you know in a moment.
"I'll hold you to it," Silvia said, a cautious smile twitching at her mouth as a third assistant brought Harry's wheelchair. He sank into it gratefully.
Five minutes later, he had a verdict for his therapist. "Overall, I'm tired. My arms feel like jelly, more than my legs or back do. My heart's beating double time still, but I think that's the adrenaline rush." He paused as Silvia scowled and mumbled something about extra arm and shoulder exercises. Then he countered, "Don't look at me like that, Silvia. You saw that death grip I had on those bars. I'd locked my elbows, too. I can catch myself safely if I fall, you know that."
Silvia nodded. "I expected as much from you," she said with a shake of her head. "Do you want another go later or have you had enough for one day?"
Harry couldn't help grinning. "If you think I'm ready, let's go for it," he said enthusiastically.
"Very good," Silvia said. "There's a walking rig I'd like you to use that requires only one person to assist you. It allows you more freedom than the parallel bars we used this morning do, and it's a lot easier to manoeuvre. I'll also have the standing station ready so you can do various tasks while practicing standing up. I'll work with you today to get you started and then you'll work with the other assistants during your regular therapy time from tomorrow on. Is that acceptable?"
"It is," Harry replied.
"Good. I'll see you later," Silvia said, now smiling fully at him. Harry could tell she was pleased, mostly because she turned and walked towards the door, whistling tunelessly, as her first patient of the day entered the Physiotherapy Room.
He now turned to Ginny. "Do you have to rush off somewhere any time soon?" he asked.
"No, I've taken the morning off. What do you have in mind?"
"I could go for a celebratory cup of tea. Would you join me?"
"I'd like that very much. You can help me write my report to the children while we're at it."
Harry grinned as he opened the door for her. "I think we'd better write in block lettering 'this is not a prank' somewhere on the letter. Otherwise, James will think we're taking the mickey."
"We can't have that, now, can we?"
"Not if we don't want angry letters from Albus and Lily."
They entered the dining room as Ginny giggled, "Merlin forbid! You think of everything!"
The triumphant yell, as loud as any heard on the Quidditch pitch from a winning team and accompanied by a celebratory fist pumping the air, shattered the tranquil late afternoon stillness of the library. It was followed immediately thereafter by the screech of a very surprised Snowy owl named Snitch and the sound of a chair hitting the floor as its occupant jumped to his feet.
The librarian hurried towards to table and the offending student, intent on finding out what the commotion was all about, but James Potter was already pounding his way out of the room in search of his brother and sister. Even after the door banged shut behind him, the other students in the library could hear him hollering for Lily and Albus as he raced towards Gryffindor Tower.
Once he'd impatiently crawled through the portrait hole, he sped through the common room, ignoring the surprised exclamations of his fellow Gryffindors. He then sprinted up the stairs to the boys' dormitories and finally found them both in Albus' room. Startled by the door banging against the wall as James entered, they jumped up from Albus' bed where they'd been studying broom brochures.
Excitedly, James gasped, "Dad…WALKED… this… morning!" and thrust the letter he clutched in his fist at his siblings.
"He did?" Albus squeaked, a huge grin spreading across his face.
Lily snatched the letter and smoothed it out on top of the brochures she and Albus had abandoned when James burst into the room. "Listen to this," she squealed excitedly. "'It took nearly five minutes, but he walked the full twelve feet with minimal assistance.' Then she wrote in capital letters, 'James, I'm not joking. This is not a prank!'" Lily looked up at him, grinning. "See, James, Mum and Dad know you too well."
James shrugged as Albus urged her to continue.
"Let me find my place…" Lily said scowling at him. "Ah… 'When I left him two hours later, he was having his first go in a special walking rig, assisted by Silvia, who couldn't stop smiling at him.'"
"So… it's for real? Dad's mobile again?" Albus asked, with one eyebrow raised. When Lily nodded, he added, "Brilliant!"
"Looks like it," James confirmed. He just couldn't stop grinning.
Albus peered over Lily's shoulder at the letter. "Does the letter say how far he walked the second time?"
James raised an eyebrow at them as he confessed, "I didn't finish the letter. Is there more?"
Lily said, scowling in concentration at the letter, "Not much, and no, she seems to have left before Dad completed his therapy. She just says she wishes we'd been there to see him and that she'll write more in a few days' time."
James sank down onto his brother's bed. "I wonder whether he'll be walking everywhere by the time school ends," he mused. "It would be brilliant if he could fly with us, too."
"Maybe not walking everywhere, but at least at home…" Lily said realistically. She handed the letter to Albus, who began reading eagerly. "Why couldn't we make sure he'll be able to fly?" she asked James. "We'd need help, but any of our uncles could help us with the charms if we asked, so why not create a flying broom chair for Dad as well as Brian? Albus and I have been studying broom brochures."
James hadn't thought he could smile any wider, but apparently he was wrong. "You told me last week that Brian's parents gave you permission to put together a flying chair for him," he said thoughtfully. "It'd be brilliant if we could make a permanent one for Dad like the temporary one we made at Christmas…"
Albus looked up from the letter. "I can see the wheels turning in your head already, James," he chuckled. "If he's really walking by his birthday, it'd be so much fun if we had the modified broom ready so he could fly by then, too."
James' stomach growled loudly, reminding them all that dinner would be very soon. They laughed as he said, "Let's start planning later tonight."
"Don't you have an OWL revision group tonight, James?" Lily asked. "Kendra told me to tell you she won't be attending because she's behind on her Ancient Runes and Transfiguration homework and needs the time to write her essays."
James groaned. "Bloody exams," he grumbled. "All right. I suppose I could wait to start drawing up plans for the broom chairs until after OWLs are over. But it's bloody brilliant that Dad's walking again."
His sister and brother agreed as Lily held out her hand for their mother's letter. "I want to keep this," she said as Albus handed it to her. "I'll write our reply after dinner. Is that all right with you?"
James smiled at her and then felt the blood drain from his face. "Oh no! I left my books and bag in the library!" he groaned.
"What's wrong with that?" Albus asked.
"Erm, I sort of left in a hurry after attracting a lot of attention. Madam Shannon was hot on my heels when the door banged shut," James said sheepishly as his siblings giggled. "I suppose I'll have detention because I wasn't the quiet, model student she wants in her library."
Lily walked around the bed and tugged him to his feet. "Go get your stuff and get the lecture over with, James. Then meet us in the Great Hall for dinner. We can tell Professor Wolcott and Professor Longbottom before we eat," she said.
James allowed her to lead him to the door. "Fine. See you down there," he said as he began the decent to the common room. However, he didn't go directly to the library. One floor down, he stopped in his room and stood in front of his bedside table holding the photograph of him and his dad in Mum's practice jerseys that he'd brought from home at Christmas. As they had back in November, the two wizards in the photo waved enthusiastically at him. James smiled back and then had to laugh as a single tear dripped down his nose and fell onto his dad's picture: this wasn't the sorrowful tear from five months ago, but one filled with joy. The photographic image laughed and mimed taking a shower as he wiped the splatter from the glass. Both wizards then stood tall again and James closed his eyes and sighed contentedly as he put the photo back on his table. Dad's going to walk again, he thought as he headed for the door. We'll stand together like that again, too… it won't be long…
1727 hours, Saturday, 3 April 2021
"I wish we didn't have to go back to Hogwarts tomorrow," Lily said as she and her mother walked back towards their house from the Quidditch pitch where they'd been tossing a Quaffle together.
Her mum put her arm around Lily's shoulders and squeezed her gently. "Why don't you want to go back to Hogwarts? You've always been so eager to go back to school and see your friends," she said, her voice filled with concern.
Lily smiled, hoping to reassure her mother. "I've had such a good time this holiday, I just don't want to go back," she said.
"I'm glad you've had a good time," Mum replied, smiling back at her. "Is there anything special that made it fun?"
Lily stopped walking and turned to her mother. "We're a family again, Mum. That's what made it so special," she said, voicing the thought that had been bouncing around in her brain the last few days.
"Why do you say that?"
"Well, Dad's been here the entire week except for the afternoons he's gone to work."
"He's gone off to work the last few years during Easter break."
"I know, but this year he wasn't home much because he was hurt. Even when we were all here at Christmas, it didn't feel right, mostly because we were all wishing we were someplace else and not together. It wasn't until you ran away on Christmas Day that our mood changed."
Mum sighed deeply. "I'm sorry, Lily. Christmas this year was such a hard time for me. I was so mixed up."
"I know you were, Mum, but when Uncle George brought you back, something was different. You were smiling a real smile and after we talked that night, things just started to feel more normal." Lily paused, then stepped forward to briefly hug her mother. "This holiday," she said, stepping back, "we've done so many things together. The picnic at that Muggle park was really fun. I love the garden we planted together, and James and Albus had great fun helping Dad set up the exercise equipment in the new building. I heard the three of them talking about muscle building at lunch." She rolled her eyes. "Urgh! Boy talk!" Mum smiled and murmured something Lily didn't catch. Finally, with a sly glance at her mum, she continued, "You're more relaxed and Dad keeps looking at you and smiling that lopsided smile he only smiles for you."
Mum's eyes widened. "He does?"
"Albus noticed it first. James wanted to tease Dad about it, but we talked him out of it."
"I'll have to watch your father, tonight, then," Mum giggled, "mostly because I've been smiling at him, too."
It was Lily's turn to giggle. "I thought I caught you doing that last night! Yes! I win my bet with Albus!" She felt her ears grow hot, so she added, "It's so much nicer when we're giggling like this. I missed it."
They walked a little closer to the house and the area between the garage and the new building that had been marked off for the new swimming pavilion. The sounds of her brothers' and dad's voices counting "reps" from the new therapy room floated towards them on the late afternoon breeze.
"I missed laughing with you, too, Lily," Mum said quietly.
"That's good, because it's nice to have back the mum I know and love most," Lily said around the sudden lump in her throat.
"Oh, Lily, that person never went away," Mum sniffed, making Lily look up. "She was just so very confused that she lost sight of what was important for a while. I'm sorry I let her hurt you and your brothers."
"Apology accepted," Lily said, smiling once again. All seemed right with the world again. She was about to say something more, but the door to the training room burst open and James came tumbling out, soaked in sweat and smelling like he'd rolled in Professor Longbottom's dragon dung pile.
"Hey, Mum, hey, Lily," he greeted them. "I'm hungry. What's for dinner?"
Lily and her mum looked at each other and burst out giggling.
"Leave it to James to only think of his stomach," Lily snickered, holding her nose.
"We're definitely back to normal," Mum said with a grin. "Come on, you two. Come help me decided what to put on the table."
"Don't you want me to shower first? I stink," James grinned.
Mum pointed her wand at James and a moment later his sweaty clothes had dried and he stood before them clean and smelling like Mum's washing powder. "Now you can help us," she said.
James ran a hand through his dry hair. "Let me tell Dad and Albus I'm not coming back," he said, and took off towards the training room.
"What do you think we should make tonight?" Mum asked Lily.
Lily grinned. "Anything that will fill up my brothers' stomachs," she smirked.
With a nod of agreement, the two Potter witches turned towards the house to plan and create one last evening meal together.
A/N: I think this is the chapter you've all been waiting for, the one that answers the burning question I've received many times in the reviews: Will Harry walk again? I hope I have met your expectations.
Many thanks to my pre-beta team of Mutt N Feathers, RSS, RebeccaRipple, Rosina Ferguson and Miz636. Your comments made me smile this week and I'm grateful to you for all the time you've given to this story. To Aggiebell, thank you for taking time out from your trip preparations to beta this chapter. Thanks to everyone who reviewed the last chapter. I look forward to responding to the ones from this one.