(Author's Note: Thanks to MissK and Pooca for betaing)
Harry had gone back to
Privet Drive and collected his things together, piling them haphazardly
into his trunk, while trying to ignore the gnawing feeling in his
stomach whenever he thought of Remus, lying injured in St. Mungo's
Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries.
Not Remus too,
he seethed as he tugged at a sock that had become trapped on the loose
floorboard under the bed. With a yank, it came free, ripping as it did
so, but Harry barely noticed. He flung it into the trunk and moved the
loose board out of the way, delving into the hole beneath for anything
he might have left there. His fingers closed on something cool and
sharp, and he hissed as he felt the edge slice across the tip of his
He sat up, sucking on the
cut and pulling the sharp object from the hole. He knew what it was,
but his stomach still sank even further as he saw it for the first time
since his return to Privet Drive.
appeared, at first glance, to be a shattered mirror. In fact, it had
been a magical mirror that Sirius had given him if he ever wanted to
talk. Harry hadn't used it, hadn't even known about it, the
month before when he had made his trip to the Ministry, but it didn't
stop the mocking feeling he felt when he looked at it.
If I'd just thought, instead of going off half-cocked...
Harry sank back on his haunches, a drop of blood falling from his cut finger onto the shattered glass of the mirror.
he placed the mirror in his trunk, and looked around again. He didn't
seem to be missing anything. He checked his wardrobe once more, but it
was empty. He had clothes, the little bit of money in his bag, his
wand, his broom - although he wasn't sure if his lifetime ban from
Quidditch was still in place or not - and all his textbooks. With all
the free time he'd had on his hands over the summer, he'd taken to
going over all the subjects he'd studied since his first year. It had
proven to be a useful revision tool, as well as a way of blocking out
Dudley's complaints about having to do the jobs that Harry had
previously been forced into doing.
was a thumping on the door, and Harry looked up. Mundungus had arrived,
it seemed. He wasn't sure exactly how they would be traveling to
London, or where they would be going, but going they were.
heard heavy footsteps on the stairs, and there was a sharp rap on the
door. He got to his feet and opened the door to find Uncle Vernon the
other side, glaring up at him.
"Someone for you downstairs," he said, shortly.
"Right," Harry said. "I'll be off then. See you next summer."
"You're going?" Mr. Dursley asked, surprise evident.
"Yeah. I have to go see someone, and I don't know if I'll be coming back."
"Right," Mr. Dursley said, sounding unsure. "And, er, they know about this, do they?"
sure that Moody will hear about it, sooner or later," Harry said. He
noticed the twitch in his uncle's eye and added "It might be later,
rather than sooner. I'm sure you won't mind if he shows up here, will
you? You can explain how I've gone off with my friend Mundungus and I'm
not sure if I'll be back."
turned away and shut his trunk, smiling a small smile as he listened to
his uncle sputtering in the background. He picked up one end of his
trunk and, taking Hedwig's cage in his other hand, pulled the trunk out
of his room, past his uncle and down the stairs. It was tempting to
push his uncle even further over the edge, but he restrained himself.
My dad would have done it,
he thought for a moment, as he heaved his trunk around the turn at the
bottom of the stairs and stood panting in front of Mundungus and, Harry
was only slightly surprised to realise, Mrs. Figg.
to go, then, 'Arry?" Mundungus said, sounding very subdued. Harry
thought he saw the beginnings of a bruise on Mundungus' forehead, and
Mrs. Figg was looking very angry. Harry met her glare with a steady,
even gaze and nodded.
"I am. Let's go."
Mundungus took the other end of Harry's trunk, and they walked down Privet Drive, a most unusual trio. Harry didn't look back.
minutes later, they were standing before Mrs. Figg's fireplace, where a
roaring fire was burning brightly in the grate. Harry was sweating, his
baggy, hand-me-down t-shirt clinging to him as the heat of the stuffy
room made him gasp slightly.
"You first, then, Mundungus," Mrs. Figg snapped.
shuffled sheepishly up to the fire and tossed in a pinch of Floo
Powder. Green flames leapt up to head height and Mundungus stepped into
them, said "Twelve, Grimmauld Place," and was gone.
Mrs. Figg smiled nastily at the look of surprise on Harry's face.
did you think you were going, Harry?" she said. "If you want to go to
St. Mungo's so badly, you'll have to stop off at Headquarters along the
way. It's the way things have to be."
I thought you would have learned to be a little bit smarter, lad," Mrs.
Figg snapped, glaring at him the way she sometimes glared at a cat who
didn't bother to use its litter box. "Bad enough we're chasing around
following every rumour of Death Eater activity, bad enough we lost
Sirius and now someone else has to watch over Headquarters all the
Mrs. Figg stopped, for once
again Harry had drawn his wand. He wasn't pointing it at her, but it
was in his hand, and the gaze which he fixed upon her said quite
clearly that there was only a second between its current neutral
direction and a far more threatening angle.
"You didn't lose Sirius," he said. "Sirius was taken from me.
He was killed, and I didn't stop the murderer. And if you think I give
a damn about the Order, or Dumbledore, or anything right now, then
you're wrong, d'you understand me?"
He stuck his wand back in his pocket.
"Get out of the way, Mrs. Figg. I'm going to see Remus."
Hedwig and his trunk along with him, he took a pinch of Floo Powder and
threw it into the flames. As the flames roared green once more, he
stepped into them and roared "Twelve, Grimmauld Place."
once, Harry didn't stumble as he landed at the other end of a Floo
journey. He came to rest in the kitchen of Sirius' family home, and at
once recognised Mrs. Weasley, Ginny and Professor McGonagall arrayed in
front of him. Mundungus was sitting moodily by the kitchen table,
looking as though he'd received another telling off to add to the one
Mrs. Figg had evidently given him.
shoved his trunk out of the fireplace, feeling the last of the flames
flicker out at his feet as it toppled onto the bare flagstones with a
loud crash. Ginny winced as he stepped off the grate and fixed
McGonagall with the same stare that he had used on Mrs. Figg.
The head of Gryffindor house met Harry's gaze evenly.
"Where is he?" Harry asked.
"Remus has been taken to St. Mungo's, as you know," McGonagall said.
"I want to see him."
can see him tomorrow morning. Visiting hours are long since over, and
in any case, he may not be able to have visitors right now."
you really think that anyone is going to stop me from doing anything I
want, given what everyone's been reading about these last few weeks?"
Harry said hotly. Since the confirmation in the Daily Prophet
that Voldemort had returned, Harry had noticed that most editions of
the paper seemed to refer to him in favourable terms, whether or not
there was any reason to. For the first time in his life, Harry felt a
flickering appreciation of his famed status as The Boy Who Lived.
"I can't speak for anyone else, Mr. Potter, but I certainly will," McGonagall snapped. "Stop acting like a petulant child."
"We're not at school now," Harry hissed. "You can't stop me going to see Remus."
fixed Harry with a level gaze. "Don't be foolish, Potter," she snapped.
"I can certainly stop you moving so much as one centimetre, should I so
"Minerva!" Mrs. Weasley pushed her way in between Harry and his Head of House. "Please!"
Harry and McGonagall glared at one another.
we're concerned about you, and we're not going to let you run off on
your own, do you understand me?" Mrs. Weasley said, struggling to stay
"I understand that you're trying to stop me seeing Remus," Harry said. "No one even wants to tell me how badly he's hurt!"
"Badly, but not critically," McGonagall gritted out. "He will make a full recovery, but cannot receive visitors at the moment, and that includes yourself, Potter."
Harry glared at her, but refrained from making any comments.
we're all rather on edge here. No one is trying to keep you from seeing
Remus, but if the doctors say he can't have visitors now, then there's
nothing we can do," Molly said. "I felt terrible when Arthur was in the
hospital last year, but sometimes you have to wait."
Harry sighed, and ran a hand through his hair. He felt the anger that had driven him through the last hour suddenly fade away.
all right," he said, feeling very tired. "I should get some sleep,
then. I want to be at St. Mungo's first thing tomorrow."
course," McGonagall said, looking a lot less fierce now, but looking
very tired in its place, Harry noticed. "I'll take you myself."
Harry nodded, and looked around.
"Are you hungry, dear? Can I get you a drink or anything?" Mrs. Weasley asked.
"No, no, I'm fine," Harry said. "Just tired is all."
"You can have your old room, if you want," Molly suggested.
Harry said, dully, feeling his eyelids droop. He shook his head, and
looked up. "I mean, thanks. I'll take my trunk up now."
McGonagall said, as he went to pick up his trunk. "You can't stay here,
you know. You have to go back home tomorrow, after you've seen Remus."
Harry looked at her, trying to find the words he needed.
"I am home," he said eventually, his trunk scraping on the flagstones as he dragged it from the kitchen.
caught up with him as he approached the front door, the portrait of
Mrs. Black hanging silently behind its curtain to his right as the
trunk scuffed across the carpet.
"Want a hand?" she asked.
"Yeah, sure," he said, as she took the handle at the other end. Together, they carried the trunk to the foot of the stairs.
"Harry?" Ginny asked, as he set his foot on the first stair.
"Did you mean that? That this is home?"
paused, turning the question over his mind. "I... Yeah, I guess so. I
mean, I like coming to stay at the Burrow, but this is Sirius' house,
and that makes it feel right. I always feel like a guest at yours, you
"Oh," Ginny said. "You know that we don't think of you like that? You're not just Ron's friend, Harry. Not anymore."
shrugged, and began to lead the way up the stairs. He didn't want to
think about it. He wasn't sure why the musty old house had such a tight
hold on him. He hadn't even realised it until McGonagall had mentioned
his returning to the Dursleys. But it didn't take much effort for him
to realise what was so special about the house. Sirius had lived here,
and Sirius had protected Harry. He felt safe here, even if Sirius...
isn't here. It's only safe because Dumbledore is the Order's Secret
Keeper. And Dumbledore said that Privet Drive is safe, because of the
protection from my Mum. But Voldemort has that protection, doesn't he?
What's stopping him just walking up to the Dursleys and killing them?
Then he could kill me, and I couldn't do a thing about it. Well, I
could try and defend myself, and I'd get an owl from Mafalda Hopkirk
about using magic during the holidays, and then I'd get expelled again.
Harry shook his head as he and Ginny carried his trunk up the stairs.
said that Aunt Petunia's blood keeps me safe. I wonder if Uncle Vernon
knows that. Dumbledore said that so long as I call Privet Drive home,
I'm safe. But it's not home. Hogwarts is home, this house is home. Does
that mean that I'm not safe at Privet Drive?
trunk bumped against the floor as Ginny set her end down, and Harry
realised that they were outside the door to the room he had shared with
Ron. He thought, briefly, of sending a letter to Dumbledore, but the
idea made him feel slightly ill. He hadn't spoken to his headmaster
since the night of the battle in the Department of Mysteries.
Are you okay?" Ginny asked, coming around in front of him. He focused
on her face, happy to be rid of thoughts of Dumbledore and Voldemort.
"I'm fine," he said. "How are you?"
Ginny grinned, her eyes sparkling in the meager light. "I'm fine as well. Shall I help you get your trunk into your room?"
"Yeah, okay," Harry said. The two teenagers set the trunk on one of the beds, and Harry fell back onto the other.
"Will you be okay?" Ginny asked, standing by the door.
"Of course," Harry said, staring at the ceiling. "No. I... Ginny, what's been going on this summer?"
"What do you mean?"
mean, just, stuff," he said, looking up at her. "I don't want to think
about the war, or Voldemort, or Sirius or anything. Can you tell me
what's going on in your life? And Ron's? And everyone else's?"
must be bad if hearing about my life is going to cheer you up," she
grinned. He smiled, and made room for her to sit on the bed as well.
she said, making herself comfortable. "Ron's off visiting Hermione at
the moment. He went off this morning, him and Fred on Fred's flying
"Fred has a flying motorbike?" Harry asked.
he's mad about it," Ginny said, rolling her eyes. "Polishes it every
day, takes it everywhere. I swear he'd get it into the bedroom if
George would let him," she grinned, then looked more serious. "Mum's
been busy this summer, too," she said, before looking away.
"The Order?" Harry asked. Ginny nodded, and Harry looked away as well. For a moment, there was silence.
"Ron's visiting Hermione? Is she still at her grandmother's?"
"Yeah," Ginny said, with a smile that Harry felt was a little too bright to be entirely genuine. "Did you get her letters?"
"Er, yeah," Harry said. "I, well..."
This time, Harry looked away first.
What's wrong with me? Why does every conversation I have always end up being about Voldemort, or the Order? Or Sirius?
looked up, and realised that Ginny was staring unblinkingly at him. He
met her gaze, and tried to decipher what she was looking at.
"What?" he asked.
"Did you talk to anyone this summer?" she asked, quietly. He felt trapped by her gaze, unable to look away.
"Of course," he said. "Tonks, and Moody, and Professor Lupin. Dung, too-"
"About Sirius," she interrupted. "I know you didn't write to Ron. I suppose you didn't write to Hermione, either?"
"So?" Harry asked, feeling a flush of anger rising inside him again.
looked away. "You shouldn't keep it all bottled up," she said,
eventually. "You need to talk to someone about what happened. I have. I
talked to Ron, and to Bill. Ron talked to me and Charlie. Harry, none
of us exactly did the right thing that night, did we? But if we blame
ourselves for what happened, then how are we going to cope if it
She turned to look directly at him, her brown eyes flashing as she pinned him to the bed with her stare.
none of us stopped to think that night. We let you walk into Umbridge's
office without a second thought, even though one of us should have
thought to go to Snape first. Even Hermione didn't remember
that, and you and Ron have always said how well she usually keeps her
head in a crisis. We spent a lot of time at the end of last term
talking about that night. She felt awful, and she wanted to talk to
you, but she wouldn't, Harry. She knew that you'd just brush her off,
the way you always do."
Harry opened his mouth to reply, to tell Ginny off for daring to speak to him that way.
tried to talk to someone," he said, blinking at the sound of the words
coming from his mouth. "But I couldn't. Moody and Tonks didn't really
know Sirius, and Professor Lupin..." he tailed off. He could tell from
looking at Ginny that she understood why he hadn't been able to talk to
their old teacher about his best friend's death.
to me, then," she said. "When you want to. I knew Sirius as well, and
if you won't talk to Ron and Hermione, then talk to me. When you want
Harry looked at her, trying to find the words to explain why he couldn't talk to her.
She's not even a friend. She didn't really know Sirius. She doesn't need to hear me whine. She wouldn't understand.
faced Voldemort and walked away. She doesn't flinch when I get angry.
She lived with Sirius last summer. She knows exactly what a git I can
be, and she still wants to talk about this.
"OK," he said.
Ginny smiled slightly, and patted Harry's knee. "I'm going to get some sleep. I'll see you tomorrow?"
Harry nodded, and watched her leave.
great-great-grandson would be proud of you, I imagine," a rather bored
voice announced from the wall. "The lure of emotional distress is often
just too much for women to resist."
any change in his expression, Harry rose and crossed to the portrait of
Phineas Nigellus, former headmaster of Hogwarts and Sirius'
great-great-grandfather. He turned it over, ignoring the offended sound
from the portrait's subject and left it facing the wall.
slightly better, he sank onto the bed and into an unsettled sleep where
dreams of lonely hilltops mingled with splintered memories of the fight
in the Department of Mysteries.
snapped awake, his wand in hand and pointed at the door before his eyes
fully opened. Mrs. Weasley stood in the doorway, eyes wide as she
stared down Harry's wand into his surprised face.
"Sorry," he said, quickly lowering his wand.
Weasley swallowed, and closed her eyes for a second. "Minerva asked me
to wake you," she said. "Visiting hours will begin at ten, and you have
to have something to eat before I'll let you leave this house. At
least," she sniffed, "those relatives of yours have been feeding you
Harry couldn't help but
grin as Mrs. Weasley shut the door behind her. For all her experience
with Dark Magic and the growing war between the Dark and Light forces,
Molly Weasley still believed that the most important thing in the world
was to have a good meal inside you. As he made his own way downstairs
and found a huge breakfast of bacon, sausages, three kinds of eggs,
toast, fried bread, beans, tomatoes, hash browns and black pudding
waiting for him, he decided he wasn't about to argue with her.
breakfast, McGonagall appeared, clad in the same Muggle dress and coat
that she had worn the previous summer when visiting Grimmauld Place and
looking as uncomfortable in them as she had then.
come along, Potter," she said. Her expression had softened slightly
since the previous night but she still didn't look happy about taking
Harry out in public.
"Are we taking
the Underground?" Harry asked. McGonagall nodded once, sharply, before
heading for the front door. Harry trailed after her, steering clear of
Mrs. Black's portrait on the way past.
McGonagall stood at the door, one hand on the handle.
you could just trust us that Remus will be okay," she said, her voice
not possessing its usually brisk, businesslike tone.
have to see him," Harry said, not wanting to offend his teacher, but
not wanting to be talked out of the trip to the hospital either.
"He's... He's my friend, Professor."
McGonagall nodded, her eyes downcast as she opened the door and ushered Harry out into the London sunshine.
trip across London was uneventful, other than the baking heat of the
packed Underground carriage. Harry squeezed himself into a corner and
braced himself against the wall while McGonagall, much to her surprise,
was offered a seat by a young man not much older than Harry. They got
off at the nearest stop to St. Mungo's and made their way through the
streets to the abandoned storefront that masked the entrance to the
wizarding hospital. McGonagall explained the purpose of their visit to
one of the mannequins that stood in the shop window, and it moved aside
to let them pass through the window and into the hospital beyond.
always, the reception area of the hospital was crowded. A small child
was bouncing upside down on her head while her father patted the soles
of her feet like a basketball; a middle-aged witch, who was trying to
keep her face hidden, was trying to explain the presence of the scaly
tail which was poking from under the hem of her robes, and a
white-haired wizard was proclaiming loudly to anyone who would listen
that his new potion was going to revolutionise the pest control
industry, as soon as he dealt with the side-effect that made the user's
hair sprout all over his body.
teaspoonful of shredded cabbage would sort that out," McGonagall
muttered, as they took their place in the queue. "Severus discovered
that several years ago."
Snape looked like that?" Harry asked, grinning at the thought of his
Potions professor entirely covered in his long, greasy black hair.
"Actually, it was Professor Sprout who tested the potion for him," McGonagall said. "Yes, we're here to see Remus Lupin?"
floor, Malfoy ward," the bored looking receptionist said. Harry gave a
start at the word 'Malfoy' but remembered Cornelius Fudge saying once
that Lucius Malfoy, who had been arrested for his role as a Death Eater
in the Department of Mysteries, had donated a great deal of money to
St. Mungo's. Harry supposed it was Lucius' idea of a joke that his
money would be used to build a ward to help those who the Death Eaters
would be hexing and cursing.
made their way in silence up the stairs to the fourth floor. Opening
the door, they were greeted with chaos as mediwizards, nurses and
healers dashed back and forth. There were cries for assistance from all
directions, and McGonagall and Harry had to jump out of the way as a
trio of mediwizards charged from one room to the next, answering the
frantic calls of a young healer who seemed to be in over his head.
Harry looked askance at McGonagall, who shook her head and continued
confidently through the corridors. Harry wondered briefly how many
friends and colleagues she'd seen in St. Mungo's, but he didn't ask,
and she didn't say.
At last they
reached a marginally quieter part of the floor, where a shining silver
sign said 'Malfoy Ward: Head Healer - Augustus Wood'. McGonagall opened
the door and shepherded Harry into the ward.
looking wizards and witches moved from bed to bed, taking notes,
checking pulses and dressings, stopping to yawn and rub their eyes.
this all from Birmingham?" Harry whispered. McGonagall nodded once, but
said nothing. Harry looked a little closer at his teacher, and realised
how pale she looked. He wondered if she had been in Birmingham, dueling
with the Death Eaters alongside Kingsley Shacklebolt, Lupin and the
He looked away, glancing
from patient to patient, seeing burns and gashes, broken bones and
people with no outward signs of injuries, but who stared vacantly about
them, not seeming to see the suffering around them.
"Where's Remus?" Harry asked, feeling queasy from just being in the room. McGonagall looked at him closely.
"Harry, we can go now, if you wish."
Harry said, wanting to leave more than anything. "I have to see him. I
won't have him thinking that no one cares about him."
"He's in here somewhere, then," McGonagall said. "Let's look around."
moved down the ward, which had around fifty beds in it. One or two of
the patients called out to them, but McGonagall kept them swiftly
moving forward. Towards the end of the ward, there were a few empty
beds, and finally one with a curtain pulled around it.
"That must be Remus," McGonagall said. "He'd have wanted privacy."
"It was a full moon three nights ago," McGonagall said curtly.
"And you sent him on a mission?" Harry asked. "He was ill!"
didn't send him, Potter," McGonagall managed to snap, without her voice
rising above a whisper. "Remus went of his own volition. It is very
difficult to prevent someone Apparating, as I would hope you are aware."
fell quiet, but glared at the curtain, willing Remus to be on the other
side, well enough to walk out of St. Mungo's with them.
pulled back the curtain a little, and gestured Harry through. Remus was
lying on the bed, his eyes shut, and a nasty red mark splashed across
the left side of his chest and up onto his neck.
"What happened to him?" Harry asked.
was burned," McGonagall said, looking at his chart. "I suppose that as
it was the first night after the full moon, he was still weak."
stood by the side of Remus' bed, looking down at his former teacher.
His gaze settled on Remus' usually careworn face, now relaxed and much
calmer as he slept.
"The doctor has given him some form of mild sedative. He's due to wake up anytime," McGonagall said.
Harry replied. He sat down, and rested his hands on the mattress. Remus
moved, his fists clenching slightly as his face drew into a frown.
Harry reached out instinctively to take his hand, but stopped, looking
up at McGonagall, who was standing at the foot of the bed.
eyes flickered, and a faint sigh escaped his lips. McGonagall walked
around the bed, standing opposite Harry and watching with concern as
Remus shifted uneasily, slowly awakening to what was clearly a great
deal of pain.
"Remus?" McGonagall asked, brushing his hair out of his eyes. "Can you hear me?"
"Yes. And if you stopped shouting, maybe I wouldn't have a headache," Remus replied.
"I'm not shouting, Remus," McGonagall replied.
"So I can't blame you for this headache?"
"I'm afraid not."
"Worth a try," Remus groaned. "What in Merlin's name happened?"
"What do you remember?" McGonagall asked.
went to Birmingham," he replied. "There were Death Eaters attacking in
the north of the city. I chased one of them... What was I thinking?"
"Remus?" Harry asked, quietly.
Remus saw him for the first time. "What are you doing here? Why aren't
you with your relatives?" He tried to sit up, but dropped back onto his
pillow, his face ashen and sweat beading his forehead.
we'll have none of that, Mr. Lupin," announced one of the mediwizards
as he entered Remus' cubicle. "You took a nasty hit, and you need time
to heal. No exerting yourself, do you hear me?"
Doctor," Remus groaned. He looked down at the red splash across his
chest for a second, before looking up at the white-robed wizard.
"Relashio?" he asked.
the doctor agreed. "Nasty spell that, if it catches you when you're
weak. Not to worry though, we'll have you up on your feet in no time."
"Why can't you just heal him?" Harry asked. "Burning doesn't take much healing, does it?"
The mediwizard looked at Remus, who nodded, and then turned to Harry. He spoke in a very quiet voice.
Lupin here is a werewolf, and still has traces of the Wolfsbane potion
in his bloodstream. These factors make traditional medicines very
unreliable at the best of times and completely ineffectual for several
days after the full moon. He will be up and about next week, about as
quickly as a Muggle would recover from burns of this nature, in fact.
Now, I should really change your dressings, Remus."
"I'll be in to see you every day, Remus," Harry said as he and McGonagall prepared to take their leave.
won't be necessary," Remus said. "It must be a long way to come from
Surrey every day. Better to stay with your relatives, although I do
appreciate you making the effort today."
not staying with them," Harry said, as the mediwizard bustled off to
get a new set of dressings. "I'm staying... Well, you know," he
finished, after a warning look from McGonagall.
"Harry," Lupin began.
"I'm staying there until you're better," Harry cut in. "That isn't open to argument. Do you understand?"
Remus looked wearily at McGonagall, who remained silent and impassive.
"Harry, I'm not worth the trouble."
"There's no trouble, Remus," Harry said. "Why should anyone worry where I spend my summer?"
you're still around when I get out of here," Remus replied, frowning
slightly as the mediwizard returned, "then we'll talk about this again.
Otherwise, I'll see you later, Harry."
"Tomorrow," Harry said firmly.
"Maybe so," Remus said, without batting an eyelid. "I'll certainly try and see you before you go back to school."
and McGonagall left St. Mungo's and made their way back to Grimmauld
Place in silence. No sooner had they entered Sirius' house, though,
then the silence was broken by the sudden appearance of Hermione and
Ron, who cannoned into Harry. The three of them crashed to a heap at
the foot of Mrs. Black's portrait, resulting in a shrieking tirade of
abuse from the crazed old witch.
Filthy mudbloods and blood traitors! Shame, oh shame is on this house!
My worthless progeny has betrayed everything this house once stood for
by bringing such filth into these halls -"
Harry snapped to his feet and was facing the ranting woman in the picture before Ron or Hermione could blink.
"- glorious Dark Lord who wished only to purify -"
"Professor," he hissed, his low tone cutting through Mrs. Black's screams as though they weren't even there.
"- traitorous filth that makes me want to vomit -"
"If I decide to evict Mrs. Black, will anyone object?"
"No, they will not, but many have tried-"
"- Kreacher, faithful Kreacher -"
eyes narrowed into mere slits and his face contorted, a snarl appearing
there and twisting his face in a way that he found almost comfortable
Mrs. Black shrieked as his nails dug into the pain on her canvas.
first swings were wild, clawing movements, doing little more than
superficial damage to the portrait. Mrs. Black screamed, nonetheless,
and out of the corner of his eye Harry could see Ginny, Ron and
Hermione with their hands over their ears. McGonagall watched
impassively as Harry redoubled his efforts.
tore at the painting, eventually drawing his wand and stabbing it into
the centre of the canvas. He tore at the hole, smiling grimly as Mrs.
Black tried to find safe haven in her ever diminishing portrait.
screams moved beyond the audible range open to the human ear, and
instead became a deeply unsettling vibration that seemed to shake
Harry's teeth in their sockets, but still he kept his hands on the
painting, tearing strips from the canvas. His hands were covered in
dried, dusty paint. Panting, he stepped back, his hand falling on his
wand. Mrs. Black cowered in the last, untouched corner of the painting,
and Harry stared into her terrified eyes as he tried to think of a
His mind settled on one, and he took a deep breath.
Harry's wand flew from his hand.
painting is not alive," Albus Dumbledore announced, coming to stand by
Harry's side. "It is a mere enchantment, a trick, a spell, a memory of
someone who has long departed this world. In Mrs. Black's case, she was
not mourned, and her portrait only hung here because no one knew of a
way to remove it. No one, that is, until you, Harry."
turned to look at Dumbledore, and his eyes met his headmaster's for the
first time since the night of Sirius' death. What he found there was
Dumbledore's usual good-natured gaze, tempered with concern, which,
Harry allowed, was probably understandable.
made Sirius' life miserable," Harry said, exhaustion seeping into his
voice even though it was not yet midday. He looked away from his
headmaster, and slumped against the wall. "Before and after she died.
He hated being here, being reminded of her, of the rest of his family.
Professor," he said, shaking his head slightly, "Where's Kreacher?"
voice carried a certain humour. "When Sirius died, certain things were
willed to the Order, in my care. Among those was Kreacher's contract of
"He has a contract?" Hermione asked. "With pay? And -"
"Contract of ownership might be more appropriate," Dumbledore cut in.
start," Harry said, raising one hand in Hermione's direction. "Don't
say anything about Kreacher right now, Hermione. For some reason, I
don't feel very kindly towards him today. Sirius grew up here, and he
was a good man, right? He could have been just like the rest of them,
he'd have been in Slytherin, become a Death Eater like his brother, but
he didn't. Sirius was good, and he's dead because of Kreacher, a foul
little putrid piece of scum who decided he'd rather serve the Malfoy
family than stay loyal to Sirius.
-" Hermione began, but Ron shushed her, whatever she may have had to
say about Sirius, or Kreacher, or Mrs. Black, Ron seemed to know that
Harry wasn't going to be interested at that moment.
"How are you feeling, Harry?" Dumbledore asked.
not surprised," Dumbledore said. "You have just expended a great deal
of energy, even for one as young and healthy as yourself. You should
get some sleep, Harry. You'll feel better when you wake."
nodded, and was about to go upstairs to his room when he realised that
he didn't know why Dumbledore had suddenly appeared at the Order's
"Sir," he began. "Why are you here?"
have announced the candidates for the position of Minister of Magic,"
Dumbledore said. "As I was coming to check on things here anyway, I
thought I would come over immediately after I heard."
"Who's running, Albus?"
Molly Weasley asked, looking away from Harry, he realised, for the
first time since she'd appeared in the doorway to the kitchen.
Amelia Bones is the favourite, apparently," Dumbledore reported. "She
has been the head of Magical Law Enforcement for many years now, and
would be an excellent choice."
was at my hearing," Harry remembered, thinking back to his appearance
before a Ministry council the previous summer. "She seemed to be on my
"She is a great believer in
justice for all," Dumbledore said. "The way Fudge conducted your trial
did not sit well with her or her supporters, Harry."
else is running?" Hermione asked, her cheeks slightly pink from having
been snapped at by Harry, but otherwise resembling in every way the
inquisitive student who excelled in her lessons.
other two candidates are less obvious names," Dumbledore said, frowning
slightly. "Amos Diggory, who was recently made head of the department
for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, and Gladforth
Goyle, father of your contemporary Gregory."
"Cedric's father?" Harry asked, at the same time as Ron asked "Goyle's dad?"
"Indeed," Dumbledore nodded to them both.
"But Goyle's dad's a Death Eater," Ron pointed out.
is no actual proof of that," Dumbledore said. "Merely the belief
springing from Harry's most interesting interview with the Quibbler and, latterly, the Daily Prophet."
"Mr. Goyle can't think he'll win, can he?" Hermione asked.
do not think so," Dumbledore said. "I suspect he has been pushed
forward as a candidate, possibly in an attempt to split the vote and
ensure that no clear winner is found."
"What would happen then?" Ginny asked.
"Re-elections between the two candidates with the highest number of votes.
Another few days without a Minister. It is hardly a masterstroke if
that is the plan. The elections will take place next week, in any case,
and so we will have our answers shortly."
made his way upstairs, barely hearing as the discussion over the
elections and candidacies moved into the kitchen. As he fell back onto
his unmade bed, he wondered briefly if Ron had planned on spending his
summer debating the respective merits of the candidates for the
position of Minister of Magic.
Somehow, he decided as darkness swum about his vision, he thought that it was unlikely.