The cubicle belonging to Brodie Chambers was as cluttered as any other in the Auror Office (except the Head’s, which Harry always kept tidy, even when he was working). It was covered in parchments, with photos tacked to the walls and personal mementos sitting on shelves above the desk alongside the standard Auror manuals. It was also occupied by a very forlorn-looking Auror who was currently staring at a photo of his recently-deceased fiancée, Auror Emily Dawson. The sight went straight to Ron’s heart as he knocked on the divider wall.
Brodie startled, his head whipping round to face Ron. “Sorry, Ron,” he said quickly, as he guiltily stashed the photo under several file folders. “I just was taking a break...”
Ron conjured a straight chair, turned it backwards and straddled it so his arms rested on top of the chair’s back. “Relax, Brodie,” he said calmly and letting his concern for the younger wizard colour his tone. “I’m not angry, although I’m surprised you came back to the office so soon. Didn’t Robards give you the rest of the week off?”
Brodie nodded. “Yeah, he did, but I just couldn’t stand sitting around at home when things are piling up on my desk,” he explained. “Three days was enough.”
Ron smiled. “I know the feeling. I took Tuesday off. I needed it, too, after what happened on Monday,” he said as Brodie pulled the photo out from under his files and put it back in its place. “But when I came back on Wednesday,” Ron continued, “I found a small mountain of reports I needed to go through waiting in the middle of my blotter. I just put the last file in my outbox not three minutes ago.”
“Did the lab find anything we needed to know about from the samples the second forensics team collected?” Brodie asked, sounding simultaneously hopeful and guilty.
“The preliminary reports are saying the potions we found all test positive for the same ingredients. The Evidence wizards are working on word combinations to activate the torture spell Harry reported and also the release of the potions into his system. At the moment, they’re not sure if there are two activation spells or one.”
“What about the footprints we found?”
Ron took great pleasure in telling Brodie, “We don’t have identification yet, but the person who tortured Harry on Sunday evening is the same one who killed Emily and her team the next day.”
Brodie’s body sagged and a fat tear rolled down his cheek. When he looked over at Ron, his expression was hopeful. “Merlin, that’s good news, Ron,” he breathed. “I... I’ll have someone to blame for Emily’s death... someone other than you.”
Ron reached over and squeezed the other wizard’s shoulder. “It’s all right to blame me, Brodie. I blame me, too, even if my wife says I shouldn’t,” he said.
“Does the pain ever lessen?” Brodie asked after a moment.
Breathing deeply, Ron thought back to the first weeks after Fred’s funeral. “It will, eventually,” he said. “The time it takes is different for everybody.”
“That’s what my mother told me,” Brodie said. “She also said keeping busy helps you forget for a time.” He stopped and gazed at his photo. “But I don’t want to forget Emily, not even for a moment! It wouldn’t be fair to her.”
“You’ll never forget her, Brodie. She’ll always be with you in your heart,” Ron said. “My brother died twenty-two years ago fighting at Hogwarts, and to this day there are things that trigger a memory of him or makes me want to share the moment with him.”
“Do you still talk to your brother?”
“I do, especially when it’s something I know he’d have been interested in. It keeps me close to him,” Ron volunteered. He thought a moment and then said, “Harry says that those who have crossed over know when we’re thinking of them and that they watch us, too.”
Brodie closed his eyes, his body relaxing a little. “Thanks for that, Ron. I’d like to think that Emily is watching me from wherever she is.”
“When is her funeral?” Ron asked, hating to have to do so.
“Monday at eleven at St Michael’s Church...” He scrambled amongst the folders on his desk and came up with a piece of yellow parchment. “... in Leeds. The interment is in the graveyard of the church at twelve.”
“I’ll be there,” Ron promised. “Do you want me to speak at either service?”
Brodie shook his head. “No. Em’s parents have already planned everything, but I’d like it if you and any others from the Department would sit with me and her family.”
“I’ll tell Terry, Susan and Garrett.” Ron looked at his watch. Hermione was planning to leave her office at half-four... “Would you like to have dinner with me and Hermione?” he asked, knowing she wouldn’t protest if he brought Brodie home with him as he had done several other times with different colleagues.
“Thanks, but not thanks. I want to stay and finish this report,” Brodie said. “Concentrating on something concrete like that helps...” His voice trailed off and he sniffed as he conjured a handkerchief.
Ron stood and Vanished his chair. “I understand, but you know I’m only a Floo call away if you need to talk,” he said.
Brodie stood up also. “Thanks. Hey, I’m sorry about the other night. I wasn’t very fair to you,” he said, more to their shoes than to Ron himself.
“It’s all right, Brodie,” Ron said as he felt his ears heat up slightly. “No hard feelings. I’ll see you on Monday, then.”
Ron turned and walked slowly back to his cubicle. He was pleased to note the mountain of files had been magically transported to the file room by his outbox. Quickly, he gathered his things and locked his desk. Then, with a last glance back in Brodie’s direction, he left the office in time to meet Hermione outside the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures.
0945, Saturday, 7 November 2020
Excitement prevailed in the Potter household as the Lily and her brothers raced down the stairs to breakfast on Saturday morning. Today they were going to The Burrow to see Grandmum and PopPop Weasley, and then PopPop would drive everyone in his new car to see Daddy. But first, everyone needed to eat... or at least Albus and James insisted on stuffing their faces in preparation for the trip. As they gathered at the table in the sunny kitchen, Lily shook her head, not understanding how her brothers could be hungry all the time.
“How long will we stay at The Burrow?” James asked, as he reached for the bacon platter and piled a small mountain of rashers on his plate.
“If we go immediately after breakfast, you’ll have about two hours with Grandmum and PopPop before visiting hours begin at ten,” Mummy answered as she added a heaping bowl of eggs to the table. Albus grabbed it and put nearly half the eggs on his plate.
He bounced in his seat as he attacked his eggs. “Oh, good! Can I take my broom and go for a fly in the paddock?” he asked, splattering bits of egg across the table.
“You brought your broom?” James asked. “Why didn’t you tell me? I’d have brought mine.”
“You can borrow one from the broom shed when you’re ready to fly, James,” Mummy told him. She flicked her wand at the bits of egg, making them vanish.
James sighed, but said nothing and returned to his breakfast.
“Do you think Grandmum will let me help her bake bread?” Lily asked primly. Although she really wanted to fly and practice her Chasing skills, she had dressed carefully to look nice for her father and didn’t want to ruin her look by riding a wind-blown broom.
“It’s not baking day, love,” Mummy said, “but I think Grandmum might let you help her in some other way.”
Satisfied, Lily returned to her breakfast, pointedly ignoring the mess her brothers were making talking with their mouths full.
Grandmum and PopPop Weasley were waiting for them a little while later when Lily came shooting gracefully out of the Floo. She sidestepped quickly into Grandmum’s embrace so that Albus could follow her; just like Daddy, he’d never mastered the art of landing on his feet when exiting the Floo.
As soon as her brothers and her mum appeared, the boys raced outside to the broom shed to find James a broom. Grandmum laughed, “Those two never change, do they?”
“Unfortunately, no,” Mummy giggled as Lily looked at the hands on Grandmum’s enchanted one-handed kitchen clock. The hand pointed to Time to Make Tea. Then, she went into the lounge and looked at the Grandfather Clock with the family’s hands on it. Daddy’s hand rested at Hospital. Lily wished it rested on Home like her grandparents’ hands did or Work, like Uncle Ron’s and Aunt Hermione’s or Travelling like hers did.
“Lily, would you help me make the tea, please?” Grandmum called. “I need a beautiful young lady to help me serve.”
Lily ran back to the adults and followed her grandmother into the kitchen. In no time, the four of them were seated at the table enjoying scones, clotted cream and homemade raspberry jam.
Finally, Mum suggested, “Lily, please whistle for your brothers.”
Lily hopped off her chair, went out onto the back steps and put two fingers in her mouth. Her whistle was loud and shrill and echoed across her grandparents’ property. Lily waited a slow count of five and then whistled again. This time she heard a return whistle.
“They’re coming,” Lily announced as she took her place at the table again. “Should I get my coat?”
“Not yet,” Grandmum told her. “Wait until your brothers get here.”
Lily sighed and gazed expectantly at the door. Shortly, she was rewarded with the thunder of her brothers’ footsteps on the back stairs. They were arguing heatedly over some Quidditch move as they descended on the table, snatching up the last of the scones and then moving to the kitchen sink for glasses of water.
Mummy gave them a couple of minutes to “water and feed,” as she liked to call it, and then handed Albus and James a comb each. “Up you go. Hands washed, hair combed, down in five minutes,” she directed.
“Do we have to?” Albus whined.
“Yes, or I won’t take you to The Groves to see Dad,” Mummy said sharply.
Lily watched, secretly smiling, as her brothers trooped up the stairs, grumbling as they went. They returned a few minutes later looking tamed enough to satisfy their mother, so everyone trooped out to the garage and climbed into PopPop’s car for the drive to The Groves.
“Is this Daddy’s hospital?” Lily asked, awed by the gleaming modern building as PopPop stopped the car. “It’s beautiful.”
“Yes, it is, love,” Mummy said. She opened the car door and helped Lily out while Albus and James scrambled out the other side. PopPop pointed his key at the car. Lily heard a click as the doors locked themselves and she supposed that PopPop was either using Muggle magic or had somehow enchanted the key to lock the car.
Lily walked beside her mother as she led the group into the building. They stopped at the reception desk and Mummy signed everyone in. “Mrs Vaughn, these are my children, Lily, Albus and James,” she said to the lady behind the desk. “And these are my parents, Arthur and Molly Weasley.”
“I’m so glad to meet you at last. I’ve heard so many good things about you three!” Mrs Vaughn gushed at Lily and her brothers. Lily could feel her ears burning as the receptionist continued, “You’re in for a treat. You’ll find your father in the Physiotherapy Room working with Miss Silvia. Your mother knows where it is and Miss Silvia left instructions for you to come down as soon as you arrive. Have a nice visit.”
“I think ‘physical training’ is the best way to answer that,” Mummy replied as she led them past the library and down another hallway. “Dad has many things to learn about living without the use of his legs and Miss Silvia is coaching him, much like Madam Hooch taught all of you to fly.”
“But we already knew how to fly,” Albus protested. “I thought her flying lessons were a waste of time.”
Mummy smiled at Albus. “I’m sure you did, but I’m also sure there were children in your class who had never been on a broom before. Am I right?”
Albus nodded as they stopped in front of a bank of windows looking into a large room that was filled with metal machines and lots of people in wheelchairs.
“I see Dad,” James exclaimed excitedly, sounding more like a first year than the mature fifth year he always tried to be. He pointed to an area across from the door that was covered by mats. Lily looked in the direction he indicated and found her father lying on his stomach, pulling himself towards a dark-haired woman using only his elbows. “What’s he doing?”
Mummy sighed. “It’s called Commando Crawling. It’s one of those things he needs to know.”
Albus piped up, “That looks like fun. Let’s go in and see if we can join Dad.”
Before Mummy could respond, Albus opened the door and entered the room, making a bee-line for the mats. Lily heard her mother groan, “Oh, dear” as she followed Albus and Lily wondered why this would cause so much consternation.
Daddy stopped his crawling as the group reached the edge of the mat. To Lily’s surprise, his expression was one of dismay and even anger, and she didn’t understand. She also noticed big sweat stains under his arms and at the collar of his Muggle sweat shirt, which seemed to indicate that he’d been doing a fair amount of physical work, whatever that could be.
“Why did you bring them in here, Ginny?” Daddy demanded accusingly, glaring at Mummy.
The dark-haired lady sitting on the mat answered, “I’m sorry, Harry. I thought you’d like to show your family all the progress you’ve made this week. I left instructions at the reception desk for them to come in here.”
“Well, I don’t!” Daddy spat the words at her and Lily and her brothers exchanged startled looks as he added, “You had no right to invite them here. Ginny, give the kids a tour of the place and don’t come to my room for an hour.”
Mummy blinked and looked quite upset as the dark-haired lady said, “I’m sorry you are throwing your family out. It’s important that your children understand your limitations and begin learning to accept them. Seeing you working as hard as you are also gives them the opportunity to learn about what you do here.”
“I don’t care, Silvia. I don’t want them in here,” Daddy nearly exploded.
Scared by his outburst, Lily grabbed her grandmother’s hand and began dragging her towards the door. Mummy stayed behind as PopPop, James and Albus followed them.
“Why is Daddy so angry?” she asked when they were all out in the corridor again. “I don’t understand. I thought he would be happy to see us.” Two fat tears leaked from Lily’s eyes and she fumbled in her pocket for her handkerchief.
Grandmum was quicker. She gently wiped away Lily’s tears and addressed Albus and James, too, as she said, “Your father is going through a grieving period right now. It’s very similar to what our family went through after the Battle of Hogwarts and your Uncle Fred was killed.”
PopPop took up the explanation. “Your Uncle George was a mess emotionally when he lost his brother. Nothing pleased him; he refused to eat with the family, he spent hours hiding in his room at The Burrow weeping into Fred’s pillow and angrily told everyone to leave him alone. Eventually, your Uncle Bill took him to the shop and had a long talk with him. Only after that did Uncle George try to start living again.”
“What does what happened to Uncle George have to do with Dad?” James asked quietly.
“Your dad has lost the ability to use his legs, Jamie,” Grandmum explained gently. James scowled at her nickname, making Lily giggle softly. Albus poked her in the side and she stopped. Grandmum continued, “He can’t walk or run or even stand up. That makes him very angry because someone took those abilities away from him without his permission. He’s angry that he has to work so hard to learn something he never had to think about before. Uncle George was angry at the unknown person who cast the spell that took his brother from him without his permission. That’s how their situations are similar.”
James seemed to accept this explanation, but he didn’t look happy about it.
Lily sniffed, “Will Daddy ever love us again? He sounded so angry.”
“Oh, Lily, your father loves you!” Grandmum exclaimed. “But right now I think he’s embarrassed that you found him on the floor crawling like a baby when what he really wants you to see is him walking towards you.”
“How can I not love Daddy any way I find him?” Lily choked as fresh tears cascaded down her face. “Doesn’t he understand that it doesn’t matter to me whether he walks or rides?”
“How can we let him know it’s what’s inside him that’s most important to us?” Albus asked. “He’s told me that many times in the last couple of years.”
James looked between Lily and Albus. “I think we’re just going to have to tell him like he’s told us: forthright and often,” he said.
Lily caught PopPop and Grandmum exchanging smiles over their heads as she said, “It’s not going to be easy, not with how angry Daddy sounded, but maybe that’s why the Sorting Hat put us all in Gryffindor.”
James cuffed her gently on the shoulder. “I couldn’t have said it better, Lils.” He glanced up as their mum came out into the hallway. She looked upset. “Let’s ask Mum to show us around. Maybe she’ll calm down after she gives us a tour.”
Their mother smiled sadly as she came up to them. “I’m sorry, children, for how your dad is acting,” she murmured.
“It’s all right, Mummy,” Lily said bravely. “Grandmum and PopPop explained to us why Daddy is angry. We’re going to use our Gryffindor courage to let Daddy know that it doesn’t make any difference to us whether he walks or rides.”
To her surprise, Mummy hugged her tightly and Lily felt her shoulder getting wet. “Oh, Lily,” Mummy sobbed, “My brave girl! What would I ever do without you?”
“Hug my brothers instead?” Lily asked as her mother straightened up and gathered Albus and James into a family hug.
“Li-ly!” Albus groaned. Lily giggled.
“All right, you three, come with me and I’ll show you round the facility. Maybe by the time we reach Dad’s room he’ll be in a better mood,” Mummy said a little too enthusiastically.
He wasn’t. When they reached his room, they found him sitting up in bed, his hair still wet from the bath, watching a program on the telly. Lily left her grandfather’s side and clambered up on the bed without thinking, just the way she always did on weekend mornings when she and her brothers were on holiday.
“Morning, Daddy!” Lily leaned forward and gave him her customary hug. He flinched when she embraced him. “I’ve missed greeting you on Saturday mornings since we went back to Hogwarts.”
Her dad didn’t say anything. He didn’t even look at her.
Lily pulled back, stung. He always had a special “hello” for his “sweet pea” and he always returned her hugs. She didn’t understand why he would flinch when she hugged him and it angered her that he refused to acknowledge what she said. Tears threatened to spill from her eyes as she tried one more time.
“Daddy, please look at me,” she begged. “I love you and I miss you.”
Finally he turned his head towards her. “Lily, get off my bed,” he snapped. “You’re too big to be acting like a five-year-old!”
Lily obeyed immediately, going to stand next to PopPop with tears running down her cheeks uncontrollably. She looked up at her grandfather, pleading, “I didn’t hurt him, did I?”
PopPop leaned down and whispered to her, “You did nothing wrong, Lily. Your dad can’t see very well right now which is frustrating to him. Maybe next time you come he’ll have accepted his limitation better and be a bit more cheerful.”
Lily nodded and blew her nose. She’d forgotten about Daddy’s head injury.
Albus, who was standing on the other side of their father’s bed, chided, “Don’t be mean to Lily, Dad. She didn’t mean to scare you.”
Daddy growled, “Well, she did. Now leave me alone, all of you. Ginny, you shouldn’t have let them get out of school yesterday. I don’t want them here. Now go away, all of you!”
James came round the bed and held out his hand to Lily. She took it and as he led her away, James turned at the door. “We’re going, Dad, just like you want,” he stated. His voice sounded hard which told Lily that her oldest brother was just as hurt as she was.
“I’m sorry, Lily,” James said as they stood in the corridor outside Daddy’s room, listening to the adults argue. Their mother’s “Listen here, Harry James Potter!” was the harbinger of the legendary scolding to come.
Lily dried her face. “I... I... I just w-w-want him to be Daddy again,” she shuddered.
James put an arm around her shoulders as Albus ruffled her carefully combed hair. “Albus! Stop that!” she commanded. She reached up to assess the damage and decided she still looked all right. A small smile tugged at the corner of her mouth.
Albus grinned. “Made you smile!” he snickered and Lily couldn’t help but do just that.
“James, Albus, Lily!” a voice called softly from down the corridor. The three Potters looked towards the voice and saw their father’s therapist coming towards them. “How come you aren’t in there talking to your dad?” she asked as she came up to them.
“Hi, Miss Silvia,” Lily said. “Daddy doesn’t want us in his room.” She looked at her brothers and smiled a little. “I think Grandmum and Mummy are giving him a good talking-to.”
Miss Silvia chuckled. “I’ve known many a mother-in-law who has set many of my patients straight one way or another. Anyway, I’ve come to ask if you three want to investigate the Physiotherapy Room to learn more about what your dad does every day. Do you want to come?”
Lily looked at her brothers. “It’d be better than listening to them argue in there,” Albus grumbled. She and James agreed.
“I’ll go tell your parents where you’re going,” Miss Silvia said and a few moments later the group was following the corridors past the Mail Room and the exits to several courtyards. When they reached the P-T Room—as Miss Silvia called it—they all went into the deserted room.
“Hardly anyone comes in here during lunch,” Miss Silvia explained when James asked why no one was working out. “The patients go back to their rooms to rest from their morning activities and the staff usually congregates at their table in the dining room. So...” She swept her arm in a big arc that took in everything in the room. “... what do you want to know or try out or are curious about?”
Albus raised his hand, as if he was in a lesson. “Erm... will our dad ever walk again?” he asked timidly.
Silvia looked sad as she shook her head. “I really can’t answer that,” she said. “It really depends on your father’s attitude and how much he wants to walk.”
“From the looks of it, Dad doesn’t want to do much of anything,” James commented pessimistically.
“Patients do change their minds,” Silvia said, sounding hopeful.
James scowled. “Right, and pigs fly,” he muttered, making Lily giggle as she thought of the winged boars that guarded the Hogwarts gates.
Albus asked, “What was Dad doing when we come in? It looked like fun.”
“It’s called Commando Crawling.”
James commented, “Madam Hooch needs to add that to our sport training.”
“Madam Hooch is still at Hogwarts?” Miss Silvia asked. “I haven’t seen her in years.”
“You’re... you’re a witch?” Lily sputtered, exchanging startled glances with her brothers.
“Why wouldn’t I be?” Miss Silvia asked. “I work with all of Healer Stilwell’s magical patients.”
“Isn’t this supposed to be a mostly Muggle facility?” James asked. “Mum told us not to take out our wands and to try to refrain from talking about anything magical.”
“She’s correct about your wands and the mention of magic, especially in common areas like this one, but the rooms in your father’s wing all house magical patients. By the way, our patients are as normal as your father and as exotic as the Keeper of the Spanish Quidditch team.”
Albus’ eyes lit up. “I remember that,” he exclaimed excitedly. “After he fell off his broom and hit his head on the goal post everyone thought he was done for. He was back the next season and played for another two years before he retired. That’s brilliant that he could get well here.”
“Indeed it is, Albus,” Miss Silvia agreed. “And if he works hard and has your continuous, unfailing support, you dad could very well roll out of here in six months to a year.”
The four of them continued talking easily, with Lily and her brothers learning a whole lot about what their father was learning. Finally, just as they were running out of questions, their mother and grandparents came in followed by a uniformed woman and a young girl on crutches.
“Time to go, I guess,” Al sighed reluctantly.
Lily turned to her mum. “Daddy’s still misbehaving?” she asked, feeling sad again.
Mummy came over and hugged Lily. “He is, but we’ll try again tomorrow if you want,” she replied.
“I’ll think about it.” Lily laid her head on her mother’s shoulder. “I have a lot of homework I need to do for Monday and I could use the time in Daddy’s study to write my essays.”
Mummy murmured her approval and thanked Miss Silvia. Soon the four Potters were back at home and Lily and her brothers went to their rooms, each avowing homework they wouldn’t get started on for a very long time.
Later that night, in the sanctity of his bedroom, James sat at his desk staring at a picture of him and his dad that he held in his hand. In the picture that had been taken last August, the two were standing on the Holyhead Harpies pitch with their arms around each other. Both were wearing his mum’s old Quidditch practice jerseys and each had a hand raised in victory: the Harpies had just won their match and the two had been extremely excited and happy with the result.
As he looked at the picture, James noticed that he was exactly the same height as his father. A lump formed in his throat as he realized that they’d probably never stand like that again. Before he could stop it, a tear rolled down his nose and splashed on his dad’s picture. The photographic Harry looked up reproachfully, dropped his arm from photographic James’ shoulders and walked out of the picture. For some reason, this made James even sadder. Dejectedly, he wiped off the glass, put the photo back on its shelf and climbed into bed. The tears fell silently until he fell asleep.
A/N: I need some help. I’m trying to come up with ideas for the prank James will play on Albus for his birthday in an up-coming chapter and I’m drawing a complete blank. The prank must be genial and tasteful in nature, not mean or spiteful, because it comes at a time when Albus is feeling very low and his spirits need to be lifted; the situation is so serious not even the prospect of turning fifteen has not lightened his mood. James genuinely cares about his brother and wants to try to cheer him without using a Cheering Charm. If you have any ideas that you want to share with me and don’t mind my using, you will be given full credit for the idea in the author’s notes for the chapter. Please write to me through my author page at this website and thank you in advance for your help.
As always, my thanks goes out to my pre-beta readers for all their help and suggestions. Jedi34, RSS, RebeccaRipple, Mutt n Feathers and Rosina Ferguson, you’re the absolute best! And to Aggiebell, I’m so glad your computer problems have been solved. Thanks for soldiering through this and the last chapter on your other computer.