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Broken (Harry Potter fic!) - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Broken (Harry Potter fic!)
You know what? I can do some one-shots. I never did tell the story of how Harry came to live in 12GP, or why it was too small for Teddy to have his own room there. So...


Broken


Harry stood in the kitchen of Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place, stunned and numb.

This wasn't a new state this year. Since the battle, grief kept ambushing him, and it was never a spectacular show of tears or screaming. It was always this. It began with an impact that was almost physical, like being hit by a strong wind, or tugged from the center of his belly like he'd just touched a Portkey.

It had happened first when he went upstairs to Gryffindor Tower, meaning to try and rest. Instead, he'd found half the wall blown away and the rest of the tower largely in ruins. He was still standing there, blinking mutely, when Ron and Hermione found him. Ron had been loudly angry, and Hermione had attempted to cheer him up and suggest other, safer places to rest, but it had all seemed very far away. He remembered thinking of King's Cross then, of the quiet, white light, of the sense that time had simply stopped, and he could come or go as he chose. It was the first, but certainly not the last, time it had occurred to him.

He could have stayed. He'd chosen to come back. He didn't have any right to complain about the consequences of that choice. No one else in the battle had gotten it, after all, unless one counted the new ghosts. Harry wasn't sure whether or not he did. He hadn't investigated them very closely yet. The only one he knew personally was Madam Rosmerta, who'd come in from the Three Broomsticks to join the battle. None of Harry's fallen had chosen to return.

Which was as it should be, he reminded himself.

That first day, he'd just let Ron and Hermione take him somewhere else. Ernie MacMillan had shown up at the bottom of the stairs and led all of them down to Hufflepuff. It was the first time their common room had ever been opened, and remembered, out of the blue, Ernie declaring that "It would seem to behoove us as a house known for its generosity to stop this mad isolationism." Other tired Hufflepuffs were agreeing when Harry finally fell asleep on a yellow sofa, crushed between Justin Finch-Fletchley, who'd apparently come to fight, and Oliver Wood, who was snoring, draped over the armrest. They'd both been gone when he woke up later and found Ginny curled up in Wood's place, and the battle began to fade into something that had happened yesterday.

After that, the sense of being physically stunned had come often enough that it was starting to seem like a familiar, if unwelcome, companion. Going to the Burrow and hearing Mr. and Mrs. Weasley try to hide their tears over Fred so they could be strong for the other children. Visiting George in Diagon Alley, where he was trying to re-build from the mess the Death Eaters had made of the joke shop. Retrieving the Dursleys from their safe house, only to have Dudley, of all people, ask where Lupin was and fly into a rage when he got an answer.

The Lupins' funeral. That, most of all. Andromeda Tonks arriving with the baby in her arms, then the arrival of the circle of ragged werewolf children who had been rescued from Greyback. One girl, with a mangled face, had collapsed at the gate to the churchyard. The oldest, a dark-haired boy with filed teeth, had finally convinced her to come in. Harry had watched all of it with dim incomprehension. Hermione had taken care of the conversation. Harry just kept thinking, I called him a coward. I called Remus Lupin a coward and here are people whose lives he saved and they'll never see him again, and I'll never see him to tell him I'm sorry and how he must hate me, now that he's had a chance to think about it.

It wasn't true, of course. He had seen Lupin, and he knew there wasn't ill will (unless the Stone had created a lie, which Dumbledore seemed to think was possible). But still. He'd never said any of the important things. Someday, maybe, he'd say them to Teddy, but it wasn't the same. Lupin had been his last real link to his father, and he was gone, and there hadn't even been a real goodbye. The business in the forest had been something else.

These thoughts, and others like them, would sneak up out of nowhere and slap at him, and then he would stand like this, swaying for a minute, the world around him no more real than someone else's Pensieve memory. He wasn't mad. He knew that no hand was going to pull him back up to the surface and into any different reality than the one he was living, but when the fits came, he couldn't shake the sense that he was not in the world, that he'd left a part of himself in King's Cross, and he was just watching from there, from the other side of the veil. He couldn't touch anything and he just didn't have the capacity to feel any more pain. He'd considered telling Ron and Hermione about this, but the thought of explaining it was exhausting.

Eventually, something would pull him out of this state. Sometimes it was a task. Sometimes it was just the call of reality, the scent of food or the feel of rain. Most often, it was sitting in the nursery at Andromeda's, feeding Teddy or reading to him or just enjoying the feel of his strong little heartbeat. Whatever it was, it would tingle through Harry's consciousness, a kind of mental pins-and-needles that reminded him of a sleeping limb waking up. Then he would go on until the next Bludger of a thought knocked him off course.

Staring out across the wreckage of the kitchen, the only thing going through his head was, No, it's too much, I can't do it. His wand hand was partway to his side, neither raised nor lowered. His eyes were blinking slowly. There was filth everywhere. Across the table, someone had written, Sirius Black died a fool / Harry Potter, you will, too. Harry didn't care to think what substance had been used to write this. There was more writing on the wall, most of it mean-spirited name-calling that made Mrs. Black's tirades look like nuanced sentiments. There were explicit drawings of what the Death Eaters meant to do to Hermione (identifiable by noticeably bushy hair). There were equally explicit ones of Sirius and Dad (in several of these, Sirius was in dog form). The contents of Kreacher's cupboard had been strewn around the kitchen and befouled. Their versions of Remus and Tonks were too disgusting to even look at for long. But the vandalism wasn't the end of it.

Every dish, chair, and cauldron had been thrown violently across the room. Things that belonged in rooms far above him were here. A headboard from one of the guest rooms was cracked and broken, lying across the hearth. A chandelier that might have been in a grand room on the third floor was scattered in bits of crystal around the room. This wasn't a petty Death Eater tantrum. It was something physical that had happened to the house. Harry couldn't imagine what it was.

This time, what brought him out of the closed circle of his thoughts was the wailing of the house elf, who had just Apparated in with a crack.

"Kreacher," Harry said. "It's…" He started to say, "all right," but that was obviously not true.

"Kreacher's home!" the elf wailed. "Oh, what would my father say, to see the House of Black in such a state? Oh, it's… it's terrible! Kreacher wanted to fight for his house, but Master told him to stay safe…"

"You did the right thing, Kreacher," Harry said, the feeling starting to come up in his chest again, enough so that he could at least identify the emotion that was approaching: Rage. It was a useless kind of rage, since he didn't even know which Death Eaters Yaxley had brought to destroy the place, and he had no good way to direct it, so he let it go. "It's better that you're alive."

"But Master's house!"

"I see it."

"Will Master… " Kreacher sniffed. "Will Master leave it?"

It was the closest Kreacher had come to asking Harry what he meant to do with the house and Harry still didn't know what answer to give him. His notions on the subject changed almost every day. He should sell it. He knew that. Or simply, as Kreacher mentioned, leave it. It wasn't like it was filled with great memories for anyone.

But for a few weeks last year, it had been a real home. Sirius's things were here somewhere. There were the aging pictures of real boys who had once walked the earth together, and the old Christmas decorations that Sirius had put up, and the air that they'd all breathed together. It was the home he might have had, if Sirius hadn't died. A sort of shining potential that Harry didn't like the idea of losing.

But it would always be a frustrated potential.

And the Death Eaters had destroyed it, anyway.

Kreacher looked at him imploringly.

"Why don't we get your things together first?" he suggested. "We can send them to Andromeda's while we're staying there. She'll fix you up a nice place, she said. And then… Then… "

"Master will sell the house? And Kreacher?"

Harry turned and shook his head. "Never Kreacher. I know you don't want your freedom" -- Harry had asked, and Kreacher had recoiled in horror, much like Winky once had -- "but to me, you're not property. You're… you're a friend. An ally. I wouldn't ever give you away or sell you or do whatever it is people did to house elves. You stay as long as you like, under whatever terms you want."

Kreacher sniffed. "Master is kind. But will Master sell the house?"

"I don't know," Harry said. "Kreacher, I really don't. So much happened here."

Kreacher opened his mouth to say something else, but whatever it was stuck in his throat. He began to sob again, falling to his knees, wailing incoherently.

Harry knelt awkwardly beside him and patted his shoulders a bit. He couldn't think of anything else to do. As he waited for the wave to pass, he found himself staring at one of the vile drawings on the wall. This one showed a crowd of redheads around an obscenely fat redheaded woman, all of them…

He raised his wand and hissed, "Scourgify."

The first blast of magic only faded it, so he did the spell again. It still didn't work at all this time.

Beside him, Kreacher had finally quieted. He was looking around with wide eyes now, taking all of it in more thoroughly. His old eyes seemed sunken now.

"Well," Harry said, "whatever comes next, we can't leave it like this. Can you help me clean it, Kreacher?"

Kreacher blinked a few times, then said, "Yes. Yes, Kreacher can clean."

And clean, they did. Kreacher's powerful elf magic took care of most of the clutter. He was able to stack it, shrink it, and send it to the attic with just lazy flick of his hand. The kitchen things flew back to their places as Harry repaired shelves and cupboards.

All the graffiti around the room was magical, and no spells really worked on it. In the end, Harry Conjured a bucket full of hot soapy water and a pair of scrub brushes. He and Kreacher spent most of the afternoon scrubbing the walls, their hands and knees getting red and scraped. Harry's glasses were flicked with spots from soap and dirty water, and Kreacher's long nose was scraped from several bumps against the wall.

But slowly, the images faded. A few were beyond hope; Harry would have to knock out part of the wall and replace it. But when the setting sun cast red light through the narrow, high set windows near the ceiling, the room looked almost as it once had. Harry sat down on the bench at the table and patted the spot beside him for Kreacher. It was a mark of the elf's weariness that he didn't even argue about taking it.

"Sorry, Kreacher," Harry said. "I wasn't expecting such a mess. I can… you don't need to work so hard. You're knackered."

"Kreacher is fine," Kreacher muttered, then put his head down on the table and went to sleep. Harry Healed the scrapes and abrasions of the day's work, then Conjured him a blanket and a pillow. Once he was sure the elf wasn't going to just wake up and find himself alone, he went up the kitchen stairs into the rest of the house.

More clutter had been blown into the entrance hall, and Mrs. Black's portrait began to scream at him immediately for bringing destruction on her house. He ignored her, and re-fixed her curtains. He saw a cracked mirror from the room he and Ron had been in before fifth year. Phineas's portrait had been in there and might have been badly damaged if Hermione hadn't taken it. The old Headmaster wished to be restored as soon as possible, but for now, he had consented to hanging in Teddy's nursery at Andromeda's. Harry didn't believe that he entirely minded this assignment, as he'd come in more than once at night to hear Phineas rambling on to the baby, telling him about the grand deeds of his ancestors.

I can't send him back when there's no one here, Harry thought. He'd wither away from loneliness, I think.

He didn't know if that was possible for portraits or not, and Phineas had his Hogwarts portrait to retreat to when he needed company (if portraits needed anything), but the thought of Phineas wandering through these broken halls, presiding over the ruins of his house…

Harry shuddered. Phineas Nigellus was dead. The portrait was a good likeness with a bit of his memory, but it didn't feel, not really.

The only one he couldn't stand to see wandering through this wasteland alone was himself.

He supposed the first thing he needed to do was get the extent of the damage. If it was fixable, he would fix it, and decide later what to do with the place. If it wasn't fixable…

He didn't know. This wasn't just a piece of property, after all, though even that was pretty complicated. But it was also centuries of a family's life, no matter how unpleasant some members of the family had been. There was even a small burial plot in back. What was he supposed to do with the bodies if he sold the place?

Bill would know. Bill had bought Shell Cottage, and he had learned about real estate while he was in training at Gringotts. There would be time later to ask him.

When he'd finished mourning his brother, of course.

Another wave of depression threatened, but Harry ground his teeth together and didn't let it knock him down. He thought of the kitchen downstairs, of wiping out the images on the wall, of setting it back to rights. He could do this.

He began his tour of Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place.

It was shorter than he expected.

The source of the clutter became clear very quickly when he went upstairs, expecting to find his old room in ruins. He passed the parlor on the first floor, with the family tree still keeping its vigil. It was filled with bric-a-brac and furniture from upper rooms. The second floor was in the same condition, the master bedroom and three smaller ones crammed up with rubbish. But when he took the stairs up to what he expected to be another corridor lined with bedrooms, he found himself in the small upper floor where Sirius's and Regulus's doors faced one another in an eternal standoff. Only the attic was above this.

At least four floors of the house had vanished from existence.

They must have been magical expansions, he realized. The Death Eaters had broken them, and everything that had been in them had blown outward through what remained: the real part of the House of Black, the only part that was physically built. No matter how long he lived in the magical world, he never seemed to think about that sort of thing. He supposed he should have. The house was like a wizarding tent, and it seemed much bigger on the inside than it looked from the outside. But he'd never questioned it.

It wasn't a small house, even now. There was the basement kitchen, the ground floor with the entrance hall and a rather formal sitting room, along with a study. The first floor, with the parlor and two other small rooms whose purpose Harry didn't know. The second floor with the bedrooms. And what was now the third floor, as the house narrowed, with just the two bedrooms. Then the attic. It was narrow, but still rather tall, even with the extra floors removed.

Harry opened Sirius's door.

A swarm of small insects buzzed around him, making him blink. He flailed at them instinctively, but the swarm didn't do much. Chizzpurfles. Hagrid had covered them in a bored way. They infested magical items, and fed on them. He couldn’t remember how to get rid of them. The air in the room was thick with them. They were settled on Sirius's bureau, around a lump of something unidentifiable, and buzzing around the air vents. He supposed the Death Eaters must have released them and given them food, just to defile Sirius's room.

Harry made his way over to the bed, shooing them away from his face, and found the picture of the Marauders. Chizzpurfles crawled around it, but they weren't eating it. He couldn't think how to get rid of the beasts, but he did an Impervius charm, which left a sort of bubble around it. He looked at it for a long time. It had a permanent sticking charm. If he sold the house, he'd have to leave it here.

Or take a chunk of the wall and replace it. He wondered if that would work on Mrs. Black's portrait.

He went across the hall to Regulus's room. Someone had scrawled "TRAITOR" on the door, and inside, most of the room had been befouled.

"Sorry," Harry said. "We should have been more careful."

There was, thankfully, no answer.

He made his way back downstairs to Kreacher, and touched the sleeping elf's shoulder gently. "Kreacher?"

The elf's eyes twitched, then opened. "Yes?"

"There's a lot of damage upstairs. There are… well… it looks like expansion spells broke. We won't be able to fix everything today. We should go…" He started to say "home," but Kreacher didn't think of Andromeda's place as home. Harry wasn't sure he did, either. "We'll go back and see the baby," he said.

This perked Kreacher up a bit. To Harry's surprise, the elf enjoyed helping with Teddy, who he had apparently decided was a continuation of the Black line, through Tonks. He'd had plenty of experience with nappies and bottles, having been something of a nanny to several generations of the family. He was also delighted when Teddy had, with no prompting, suddenly morphed out a pair of elf-ears. (Andromeda had said this spontaneous morphing would likely stop as Teddy grew up, but for now, Harry enjoyed it as much as Kreacher did.)

Kreacher Disapparated with a crack. He'd already be back at Andromeda's. Harry still didn't know why elves had this power to Apparate through barriers, though he was glad no wizard had mastered it. He threw a pinch of Floo powder into the kitchen fireplace -- missed in the destruction by some miracle, or he wouldn't have been able to get in today -- and spun back to Andromeda's parlor.

She was sitting beside the fireplace in an old armchair, feeding Teddy his bottle while she read something in a St. Mungo's medical file that was magically suspended in front of her. She looked up as Harry dusted himself off.

"I heard Kreacher come in," she said. "I offered him a bedroom last week, but he turned it down, so I cleared out a nice nest for him in the broom cupboard off the kitchen today. I think he's found it."

Harry nodded and sat down across from her. "The house… Grimmauld Place… it's…"

"They did number on it, did they?" She picked up her wand and waved the file back into her bag. Teddy's big eyes (which went green as soon as he saw Harry) followed its progress, then he reached out one chubby arm and made a grasping motion in Harry's direction. Andromeda sighed and handed him over. "He's certainly picked a favorite here," she said as Harry took him.

"Oh, no. It's just… just me getting back. I've been out."

"I know. By the way, I'll be out tomorrow morning. Appointments. Will you be in, or shall I ask Molly for help?"

"I'll be in until one. I'm meant to meet Kingsley then about some leads on Umbridge."

"I'll be back by then. I'm still not ready to stay all day."

Andromeda had gone back to work on a part time basis. She was still in mourning and had bereavement leave, but she could no more stay out of the business of healing after the war than Harry could stop tracking down the remaining Death Eaters and war criminals (today had been his first day off in a month). She went to St. Mungo's every other day with a kind of zeal to defeat death that was frightening. Harry had once broached the subject of the tale of the Three Brothers, and what she would do on that bridge. Her answer had been succinct and unambiguous: "I would spit in Death's eye and twist his balls off, then I'd shove his baubles down his throat."

Harry had not brought the subject up again.

She sighed. "I suppose eventually I'll need to go back full time or give up my post. And Auror training is full time as well. We'll need to look into care for Teddy. But I think we can manage between us for a bit longer."

Harry Summoned the bottle and started feeding. "I can take him into the office when it's just a paperwork day. I already cleared that with Kingsley."

"I imagine Dora's friends there would enjoy a chance to dote on him."

Another gust of grief came between them. Harry couldn't answer this in words, but he nodded.

"I'm sorry," Andromeda said. "That was…"

"Was what?" Harry found a smile. "Saying their names should be good."

"I imagine it will be someday." She shook her head. "Speaking of names, I've been trying to teach Teddy to say, 'Granny.'"

"I don't know babies much, but isn't he young?"

"Yes, but he'll get it eventually, if I'm consistent about what he's going to call me. Which brings us to you. What will you be? Just Harry? Some variation on godfather, like… " She grinned. "I can't think of one. Or will you be Uncle Harry?"

"I hadn't given it any thought, really. I always called Sirius by his name. At least I think I did. I don't know if my parents tried to teach me anything else."

Andromeda thought about it. "I think that was the plan. I remember Sirius being very excited when you managed 'Si-si.' I think it was your third word."

Harry looked up, surprised. "You know that?"

"We were on the periphery of the Order," Andromeda said. "But Sirius was my cousin, and he and his friends were always about, checking on us. He liked to brag about his godson." Harry wanted to know more, but years of growing up with the Dursleys made him slow to ask. Andromeda seemed to sense this, and went on without waiting for a question. "You learnt to say 'Da-da' first. Once James finished gloating, he decided to make Lily happy -- always, by the way, one of his primary goals -- and he and the boys got together and spent an evening teaching you to say 'Mum-mum.' As I understand it, they all held up photos of Lily while James drilled you until you got it. Lily was pleased."

"And then I got Sirius. Or 'Si-Si.'" He bit his lip. "Did I ever say Remus's name?"

The grief hovered, but Harry didn't let it in.

"That was a tough one. It's not easy to say 'R' words."

Harry looked down. "Oh."

"But he said you always used to reach up to him. He read you stories. You had smiles for him, if not a name."

He nodded. "I -- I don't know why I wanted to know that."

"Because no one ever told you," Andromeda said. "Of course you wanted to know. You need to know. People pretend embarrassment over old stories like that, but those stories… they're the things that help you build yourself. Don't apologize for asking. And we shall both make an effort to tell stories to Teddy, no matter how embarrassed he pretends to be. Remus wanted to make sure…" She sighed. "He'd charmed memories into his wedding ring." She punched the back of her chair. "Which was bloody lost in the battle." Her face twisted, and Harry saw incipient tears. He moved to get up and comfort her -- this was a job that went back and forth between them -- but she held up a hand. "It's all right. I've got it."

"Are you sure?"

"I'm sure." She blinked rapidly, and a single tear spilled over, but a few deep breaths seemed to chase it off. "At any rate, we were talking about names. I think you should be 'Uncle Harry.'"

"Why not just Harry? If I was just going to use Sirius's name, I mean."

She thought about it. "I think the situation is different. Your parents were both there at the time. Sirius visited and of course he was ready to take over if something happened -- or thought he was, at any rate. But he was still, essentially, a visitor. You aren't, Harry -- due to no fault of yours, before you start in on it -- Teddy… Dora and Remus…" She took a few gulped breaths, then started again. "You're here with the bottles, and walking him around at night when he cries, and changing him, and seeing to care during the days." She sighed. "I'm old-fashioned, I suppose. But I don't think children should call their parental figures by their casual names. I don't think they feel secure when they do. I think those titles -- Dad, Mum, Granny, Uncle -- help somehow."

"I didn't feel all that secure with Uncle Vernon."

"Well, a title doesn’t make up for poor guardianship. But it does help, I think. It makes you an adult, instead of a peer, and children need adults. But it's up to you."

But I'm not an adult! some inner voice tried to wail. Harry wanted to take it seriously, but he couldn't at this point. Not after the battle. Not after years of the conflict. Any chance at some sort of carefree year of adolescence after school had disappeared, if it had ever been there. He kissed Teddy's head. "What do you think, Teddy?" he asked. "Shall I be Uncle Harry? Do you like it?" The words felt strangely good in his mouth, and he said them again. "Uncle Harry?"

Teddy, being three months old, had little to say on the subject, but Harry himself liked it. He would never be a replacement for Teddy's parents, but he could at least be the uncle that Uncle Vernon should have been.

They sat quietly for a while after that. Andromeda Summoned herself a glass of wine, then a second one. Kreacher came out of his little cupboard and began, without fuss, to polish a bannister. Teddy finished his bottle, and Harry Banished it out to the kitchen. Teddy snuggled in and went to sleep. Harry carried him to the nursery -- alive with the gentle drawings Remus had done in the last months of his life -- and laid him in the cot.

When he turned around, Andromeda was standing in the doorway, her third glass of wine balanced in one hand. "The house is a wreck?" she asked. "You started to say it was a wreck, and Kreacher is… unhappy."

Harry nodded and left the nursery, leading Andromeda down the stairs and outside to the pond before he spoke. "Sorry," he said. "Didn't want to wake Teddy again."

"Good thinking." She Conjured a pair of chairs. "How bad is it?" she asked.

Harry told her. He watched what little color there was in her face drain out of it. "I'm sorry," he said.

"Will you stop that? What in bloody hell are you sorry about? It's your house that was destroyed, and my sister's people who did it. Shouldn’t I be the one apologizing?"

"Well, it's your family home."

She waved it off. "What are you going to do about it?"

"Kreacher asked earlier. I don't know."

"Well, you don't have to decide right now. You can stay here as long as you need to. I appreciate the company."

"Me, too."

Andromeda smiled. "Oh, you had plenty of company the Burrow. I imagine you still would."

"Yes, but it turns out to be a bit awkward to date someone while you're living in her parents' house." He looked out across the pond. "But mostly, it's Teddy. I want to be with him for a while. Ginny understands that."

"Are you sure?"

"I'm sure," Harry said. And he was. He'd worried about at first that Ginny was just pretending to be supportive and was actually jealous, but any time he started to hesitate, she nearly frog-marched him out. She invited him to bring the baby along when he came to see her, and, now that he thought about it, she'd already started referring to herself as "Aunt Ginny" with him. Ron and Hermione didn't do that. They remained Ron and Hermione, though it sounded a bit silly when they tried baby talking with him.

"You have good friends," Andromeda said. "I'm glad of that."

"Me, too."

"Are they going back to school?"

"Hermione and Ginny are," Harry said. "Ginny's just going into her seventh year anyway, and Hermione decided that she wanted to do her seventh year after all. Ron's staying in the Aurors with me."

"You could go back," Andromeda said. "Kingsley has no business at all demanding that you help out in the office after everything."

"Kingsley's not demanding it. If he hadn't asked, I'd have insisted. Besides… Teddy."

"I would bring Teddy to visit you at every Hogsmeade weekend. Or I'd quit St. Mungo's and spend the year helping Poppy in the hospital wing, and live in the staff quarters."

"You can't. I mean, the Heads of House have their rooms still, but that third floor corridor is going to be Gryffindor Tower for a while."

"It's not fixed yet?"

Harry shook his head. "It's going to take a long time, according to McGonagall. It got hit with spells… there's so much work that needs doing, on everything. Some of the curses may take years to get past. The whole structure is riddled with them. Big parts of the castle are off-limits. There's still Fiendfyre in the Room of…" He stopped. The Fiendfyre made him think of the Room of Requirement, which was where Tonks was supposed to stay safe, and --

"She wouldn't have stayed," Andromeda said, not so much reading his mind as knowing its turns after a month in the same house. "There was never a chance that she'd have stayed."

"Not with Remus out on the grounds?"

Andromeda looked up at the stars for a long time. Harry imagined she was looking at her own constellation, though he'd never really been able to see them without a map. Finally, she sighed. "I don't think that was it. I mean, she hated that he was there, and I'm sure -- completely sure -- that she was trying to Heal him when…" She swallowed. "She wouldn't have left him to die, certainly. But Dora… It wasn't because Remus was fighting. It was because there were Death Eaters fighting, and she needed to stand up to them. In the end, I'm quite sure that's what it was. No matter how much she loved her husband, it was justice and… and good. It was that she needed to fight."

Harry nodded, understanding perfectly.

"So much left in ruins," Andromeda mused. "For people so fanatically attached to protecting the heritage of wizarding Britain, the Death Eaters certainly made a mess of it. I'm surprised they didn't play dominoes with Stonehenge and blast apart Tintagel while they were at it."

"Isn't Tintagel already a ruin?"

"Not on the wizarding side."

"Oh." Harry sat quietly for a while, then said, "I have my parents' house, too. It's been open to the elements for a while. But Bill says I have a legal right to it. Gringotts owns it technically, but he says that I have a few years to claim it and pay off debts before it reverts to them completely."

"Do you want to live in the Hollow?"

"No. I… I don't know why. It's no worse than Grimmauld Place, is it? I mean, once I fix them up, they'll be about the same. Places where bad things happened."

"You could sell them both. Get yourself a nice, anonymous place. Wizards do live in the suburbs, you know."

"Sure. I'll move in next door to Aunt Petunia in Privet Drive."

Andromeda turned her wine glass in her hand, watching the little bit at the bottom swirl around. "Do you want my opinion? I understand if you don't."

Harry found that he did want it. He nodded. "Yeah. Sure. Can't promise to go by it, but my brain's not exactly coughing up any opinions."

"You need roots, Harry Potter. You need them badly, and you need them now. Remus wanted to give them to you, but something always stopped him. Sirius tried, but… but we lost him. You've spent your life not asking questions you're desperate to have answers to." She stood up and Banished her glass back to the house. "I don't want to push you into being like your parents, or Sirius, or Remus. I couldn't stand to do that, and I intend to make sure it's not done to Teddy. But there's a difference between that and saying that you need to be a part of them, and they of you. You need to know who you were, and who are, to become who you can be. And you need to be secure and grounded. You don't remember the house in the Hollow, and it's become a tourist stop, for God's sake. But Number Twelve…" Harry didn't answer. Andromeda bit her lip. "Have I said too much?"

"No. No, I don't think so. I think… I think I need to think about it."

He did think about it.

He thought about it that night as he sat in the rocking chair in the nursery, watching over Teddy. He thought of it in his dreams. He thought of it as he worked over the next week.

The lead on Umbridge fizzled out, but Rabastan Lestrange was found hiding at St. Michael's Mount, in the lair of long-dead giant. Harry took a morning off the next day, strapping Teddy into a carrier and taking him along for a jaunt around Diagon Alley with Ginny, Luna, and Hermione, while they picked up their school things. (Teddy came off fairly well on the deal, with sweets, toys, and adoring adults filling his day.) Ron talked him into going to a Cannons game. Dudley invited him out on a pub crawl, which he declined, then to a boxing match, which he felt he ought to attend out of good grace. It pleased Dudley, anyway.

He went to Privet Drive after to get a few things he'd left (the damage to the Dursleys' home had been superficial -- though it had looked horrible -- and the Ministry had set it to rights in a trice), and managed a chilly late night tea with Aunt Petunia. Uncle Vernon opted to remain upstairs. He was about to leave, retrieving his jacket from the cupboard where he used to sleep, when Aunt Petunia appeared again, something in her hand. She thrust it at him without saying anything, and disappeared upstairs before he could look.

"What's that?" Dudley asked.

It was a photo. Harry turned it over. It was a color, but of the old sort, where everything had faded just a bit. It was printed on a textured matte. It showed a family posed together in front of a church. He guessed it was Easter, by the bonnets worn by the two little girls, one blond, one red-headed. Aunt Petunia and Mum. He'd have recognized them even if he hadn't seen them in Snape's memories. And the parents… his grandparents. His grandmother had blond hair, piled up in a wild sixties style. She was wearing a miniskirt and had dark mascara. His grandfather was mostly bald (though not at all old in the picture). He had a bushy red beard, though.

"Is that our grandparents?" Dudley asked. "Huh. I know she's got an album upstairs, but I never looked at it. Reckon I look a bit like Gran."

Harry nodded.

You need roots, Harry Potter.

Harry put on his jacket and tucked the picture into the pocket. He started to head for Mrs. Figg's, thinking he'd just Apparate back to Andromeda's from there.

Instead, after duly complimenting her cats, he tossed a pinch of Floo powder into her fireplace and said, "Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place."

He braced himself when he opened his eyes in the kitchen, but he found it completely clean, the last of the horrible images finally blasted off the walls from the look of it.

"Kreacher?" he called.

The elf looked down from the top of the stairs. "Master Harry!" His eyes widened. "Kreacher meant no harm! Mistress Andromeda said I might! Master Teddy is here, Kreacher is watching him while Mistress Andromeda is at St. Mungo's-- "

"It's all right, Kreacher. I just wasn't expecting you."

He looked down. "Kreacher… Kreacher had to. It's Kreacher's home."

Harry nodded. "It's Master's home, too." He started up the stairs. "How far have you got, Kreacher? I'll lend you a hand…."

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Comments
From: (Anonymous) Date: June 27th, 2017 05:49 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you! And happy 20th HP Anniversary. That was a fitting way to celebrate!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 27th, 2017 06:00 am (UTC) (Link)
It seemed a good day to get Potterish. :D
From: (Anonymous) Date: June 27th, 2017 06:32 am (UTC) (Link)
Guh.

I loved all the little shout-outs to comments from older stories in the future. Harry considering getting his Teddy time as a good deal in his favor, Andromeda limiting the comparisons between teddy and his parents, Phineas...

You always manage to capture the tone and emotions of all these different characters in a way that just feels right. I could definitely imagine this as the epilogue to a Safe-ish story.

-Maraudercat
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 28th, 2017 12:55 am (UTC) (Link)
I find I've missed Potterfic. :D

Andromeda seems a little off to me in the first Teddy now, just because of how she evolved, but I'm writing off her absolute refusal to allow comparisons to a bit of Teddy-cam. She wouldn't see it the same way.
shiiki From: shiiki Date: June 27th, 2017 07:48 am (UTC) (Link)
*flails* I love this!

You did a great job capturing the essence of Harry's grief. It really isn't the crying or the emotions that hurt, but the emptiness. You had it spot on, I think.

Loved seeing Harry clean the house manually with Kreacher. It definitely seemed therapeutic (for him, but also for the reader!) to be scrubbing away by hand. Sort of like when he dug Dobby's grave. Magic is all good and well and very useful when there's such a wreck to fix (grr, Death Eaters--their level of pettiness is just astounding, but I think you've got that right, too. They really are a bunch of idiots who never grew up and are still taking out their puerile vengeances on the world), but it does leave one without something concrete to do. I like the idea as well that there are things that magic can't fix, that it isn't the panacea we like to imagine it would be. It's little things like this that make your interpretation of the wizarding world feel so real.

Also, Andromeda and her advice about giving Harry roots. This is definitely the woman who researched and wrote Noble and Most Ancient. I can see the connection and I love it.

I've missed your writing in this 'verse!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 28th, 2017 12:56 am (UTC) (Link)
Sometimes, it's more satisfying to just scrub at something. It would be nice if magic were a panacea, but if the books taught nothing else, they got that across -- there's a lot magic can't do.
From: (Anonymous) Date: June 27th, 2017 07:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've been reading your stories for years. I was talking with a friend last night about Harry Potter and discussing what kind of people we would be without it. I feel the same way about your work, to be honest. Your writing has been so influential in my character development (I'm young--I started reading Shifts when I was maybe 15?). I think the world is a scary place right now. I've got a lot of anxiety about the future, but your writing gives me a glimpse of the light that comes after the darkness. I hope you'll keep writing; the world needs light and hope and courage. These are things Harry Potter and your writing has taught me to value. -Elizabeth
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 28th, 2017 12:56 am (UTC) (Link)
How sweet, thank you! I'm glad you've liked them, and that message is pretty well what I meant to get across.
reannanshaw From: reannanshaw Date: June 27th, 2017 09:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
So happy to see you getting back into Potter fic. As much as I'm a fan of Rowling's HP stories, I think I like your HP stories even more. (For one thing, they make a lot more internal sense.)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 28th, 2017 12:57 am (UTC) (Link)
I've missed Potterfic. The 20th anniversary seemed like a good excuse to at least post something.
chocolatepot From: chocolatepot Date: June 27th, 2017 11:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, this is so lovely! There is nothing like some cathartic angst and closure.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 28th, 2017 12:57 am (UTC) (Link)
Harry definitely needed some kind of closure and connection.
From: (Anonymous) Date: June 28th, 2017 12:40 am (UTC) (Link)
This is wonderful! Thank you. Your HP stories in this verse are wonderful and and add another dimension to my HP world. More stories filling in gaps (especially with Remus/Dora) are always welcome! -Amanda
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 28th, 2017 12:58 am (UTC) (Link)
I do enjoy them. And maybe, if I think one-shots for a while, I can beat my writer's block.
From: (Anonymous) Date: June 29th, 2017 07:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
I just recently discovered your Shifts/Shades and the HP ficlets on this site. If you want to do a challenge call, I have Requests:)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 30th, 2017 03:04 am (UTC) (Link)
I may send one out this weekend, for the anniversary.
From: (Anonymous) Date: June 28th, 2017 03:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
This was downright beautiful. Well worth the wait. Your Harry is a natural extension of the character from the end of the books, and everything feels spot on.

Did we ever actually see that GP has that many extra magical floors?

Shloz
spikewriter From: spikewriter Date: June 28th, 2017 08:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
This was lovely. Thank you for this.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 30th, 2017 03:05 am (UTC) (Link)
You're welcome
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 30th, 2017 03:05 am (UTC) (Link)
No, but I have Harry living there, and Harry said it was too small for everyone to have his own room in the epilogue, so I figured this would be a good way to trash extra space. ;p
mickawber_fics From: mickawber_fics Date: June 28th, 2017 09:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
Beautiful and sad — and always wonderful to see your writing.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 30th, 2017 03:05 am (UTC) (Link)
It's good to actually finish some writing!
mickawber From: mickawber Date: June 30th, 2017 03:16 am (UTC) (Link)
I know exactly what you mean.

:-)
maidenjedi From: maidenjedi Date: June 29th, 2017 01:39 am (UTC) (Link)
I finished Deathly Hallows this afternoon, and came online to find this - what an absolute treat! Very touching, and sad, and hopeful. I love every bit. Thank you for sharing, Fern.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 30th, 2017 03:06 am (UTC) (Link)
You're welcome. I needed some soothing after DH.
From: (Anonymous) Date: June 29th, 2017 03:56 am (UTC) (Link)
I just recommended your Potter fics to someone today and it's totally by chance that I'm here now - I haven't been near LJ in so long - and it seems magical that here this story is, and it's so lovely. I'll probably never reread the HP series again, but I think I'll start poking around at yours again. Welcome back, be it briefly or extendedly. ♥️

(I am tickled by the number of us who are commenting anonymously. Yeah, I'm not sure I remember my login info either... this is Leith. 😉)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 30th, 2017 03:06 am (UTC) (Link)
Enjoy the re-read if you do it!

I'm just old school. I started with LJ, I'll probably go down with the ship.
From: (Anonymous) Date: June 29th, 2017 08:30 am (UTC) (Link)
I've been lurking here for years now without commenting, but just wanted to say how great your writing is. I'd just been re-creating Shifts/Shades/Stray and was really sad to have got to the end of them so seeing you'd written a new bit of potterverse made me so happy! Thank you!
From: (Anonymous) Date: June 29th, 2017 08:32 am (UTC) (Link)
Should be re reading not re creating *facepalm*
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 30th, 2017 03:07 am (UTC) (Link)
Glad to be of service! :D
wendelah1 From: wendelah1 Date: June 29th, 2017 05:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
This was lovely.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 30th, 2017 03:07 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you!
From: (Anonymous) Date: June 29th, 2017 06:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
I loved that - thank you. It was very touching. I've been itching for a recent well-written post-DH fanfic, but didn't know where to look since most of the LJ/DW fandom has died. Until you saved the day!

greenwoodside/Fenny
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 30th, 2017 03:08 am (UTC) (Link)
I need a cape of some sort for the day-saving. ;p

Glad you liked it.
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 4th, 2017 01:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
This was an excellent piece to honor the anniversary with.

Probably just having to do with reading your prior work, but the way Harry was essentially going through the motions that first month was very reminiscent of Haymitch after the war in TNP. Especially with things coming into focus as a purpose is found (and I imagine both cleaning up and actually doing it manually had a positive effect in keeping Harry and Kreacher busy).

It was good to see Andromeda and Teddy again (even if he's just an adorable babby now).
Poignent line about the Death Eaters and heritage.
Real world events past and present indeed have shown that fanatic traditionalists many times end up being the greatest threats to their cultural heritage (granted, a lot of that is related to which segment of history they are claiming to protect). -_-

I recall that Harry does become warm with Aunt Petunia eventually, so this is a nice realistic first step. I suspect there might be a similar interaction between Andromeda and Narcissa?
Also, the photo made me wonder if you've made any one-shots dealing with the Evans and how they interacted with their daughters.

Thanks!

-- FFR
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