Those Who Leave Us
The house was clean of dust. Now instead of being dusty, dark, dreary, and dilapidated it was just dark, dreary and dilapidated.
At least, between the Order's stay and Harry, Ron and Hermione's, Harry was fairly certain that the house wasn't going to suddenly attack him. Even the various curses left for Snape had disappeared.
But Harry knew that wasn't good enough. He needed to make the place more his own.
And the first way to do that was by getting rid of that bitch.
Because never was too soon to hear the words mudblood, blood traitors, or half-breeds hatefully spewed ever again.
So Harry stood, quietly, tapping his wand against his hand, a sledge hammer leaning against his leg, contemplating how best to go about this. First, he wanted to make sure that the ceiling or the floor or the entire wall itself wouldn't collapse if he took out that part of the wall. He did this by expertly tapping on the wall, quietly, as not to wake her, and hearing that it was hollow, so he figured that there weren't any support beams in place.
Then he shrugged, deciding that he didn't care overly, and wanted to take her out regardless of what happened.
Second, he learned a spell that locked portraits in their frames. Smirking, he did it non-verbally. Her curtains remained closed.
He started by doing various cutting charms, equally quietly, around the frame. Slowly bits of wallpaper, plaster, and wood started falling to the floor. Eventually there was a rough square surrounding her portrait. Harry started summoning chunks of the wall, which flew to his hands and he dropped at his feet. Eventually there was a clean, squarish hole in the wall, exposing the spare bedroom on the other side.
But the portrait was still there, hanging in space, not even a little crooked.
Suddenly the curtains pulled back so violently that one side ripped, hanging limply by the corner. She stared down at him, her eyes wide, her face white with fury, her mouth opening and closing, overcome with anger.
"You. You filth. You disgusting half-blood. WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO MY HOUSE?"
Harry laughed, glaring, he felt his head filling with white hot anger. "I hate to break it do you, but this is my house. I own it, my half-blood self, because I rightfully inherited from my godfather. And guess what? I'm going to fill it with mudbloods and blood-traitors and half-breeds. I'm going to fill it with light and happiness and family and there is nothing you can do about it." Harry spoke quietly, his teeth clenched, his anger coming out almost as a hiss.
"You aren't worthy enough to clean the toilets you contamination. I will never give up this house to you! I will never let you and yours pollute what we have built! TOUJOURS PUR!"
Harry hit her with the sledge hammer.
She screamed, dodging towards the edge of the frame and bouncing off the edge. The sledge hammer broke the frame, the frayed edge of the canvas on the right side exposed.
She leaned against the side, gripping the edge of the painting, fighting against sliding down towards the shredded sagging edge of the canvas. She looked at Harry, her wide, bloodshot eyes blinking, panting through her hateful mouth.
Harry, keeping eye contact, raised his hammer and smashed the other side of the frame, taking out another part of the wall with it.
She didn't scream this time, instead she laid crumpled, sobbing, at the top of the now hanging upside-down canvas, twisted so that he could still see her.
She wiped her cheeks and straightened her clothes the best she could. She looked at Harry calmly, speaking softly. "I just want to protect what's left of the family I once cherished, that was torn apart."
Harry set her on fire.
The flames ate away at the canvas, the popping sound of the heated, melting oil paints mixed with sounds of Mrs. Black's terrified screams. As the flames reached the top of the the painting, there was a puff of purple smoke and the frame fell in a burning heap on the ground. Harry doused it with water from his wand, his face blank.
Behind him a soft voice coughed. Harry turned, looking at the painting of Phineas Black, propped up against the wall on the other side of the hallway.
He smiled at Harry grimly, his voice silky. "I suppose, in an effort to make sure you don't destroy the house, I can teach you the counter charm to the famous Black permanent sticking charm. Even Sirius didn't know it."
Two hours later, every one of Sirius unpleasant family portraits, the family tree, and all the dark, depressing art was off of the walls and stacked in neat, silent piles in the attic. None of the portraits spoke a word, frightened that Harry would do the same to them as he had done to Walburga. Only Phineas remained hanging, relocated to the library. The debris and the burnt remnants of the frame where all thrown out, leaving just the lopsided hole in the wall with scorch marks above it, almost reaching the ceiling.
Harry sighed, washing his hands and pulling a comb through his hair, feeling vaguely disturbed.
Shrugging, Harry decided that it was time to go grocery shopping. He could only live so many days on take away pizza and curry. He walked through the neighborhood, his hands stuffed in the pockets of his light jacket. It had been raining earlier.
The neighborhood was a bit rough, people avoiding eye contact and walking quickly. The lawns were unkempt, trash in careless piles in front of the houses, most of which seemed to have been broken up into small, cheap apartments.
But perhaps because he had spent the last year living in a tent, running from the law, and fighting dark wizards, Harry just didn't feel bothered by it, though he wondered if he should. What if Teddy wanted to go outside to play someday? It wasn't like Harry could let him wander around this neighborhood, unsupervised.
Harry's frown deepened as he kicked an empty plastic peppermint schnapps bottle down the sidewalk, thinking that perhaps he should just buy a new house. It's not like he didn't have the money.
Harry entered the store, the air overly conditioned, and aimlessly walked around, picking up ingredients, feeling annoyed that wizards didn't have microwaves and that Hogwarts didn't teach more domestic spells.
Harry was looking at a head of lettuce, contemplating whether it was welted or not, and wondering if wizards had grocery stores. Where did Mrs. Weasley even get all of her food? She couldn't have grown all of it in that small garden, even with magic. What about bread? She doesn't cut the wheat and grind that into flour herself, surely?
Harry put the lettuce down, suddenly hit with how much he didn't know about wizarding society and how odd that was, considering he was supposed to have saved it three months ago.
Somewhere behind him a voice shriek loudly. Harry flinched, his mind flashing to the white of Mrs. Black's rolling eyes as the flames flicked higher. He turned around to look, his hand on his wand in his pocket, but it was just a small girl, crying as her mother carried her away from some brightly wrapped candy.
Harry turned back towards his cart, wanting suddenly, very badly, to leave.
Back at Grimmauld Place, Harry scraped his half eaten plate of spaghetti into the trash, wondering what to do with his evening.
He listened to the WWN, which was full of hopeful, happy chatter about reconstruction and the recovering economy. They covered what shops were opening in Diagon Alley, what was happening at Hogwarts, what laws Kingsley and the largely reorganized Ministry of Magic were putting in place, which Harry was pleased to hear he agreed with. But after a while he started to fidget, making the hole on the couch he was laying on larger. He turned the radio off, staring into space, unsure of what to do with himself.
He woke up, feeling somehow more tired than when he fell asleep.
He was bored.
He didn't want to bother Ginny, who he knew was trying to get through the make up assignments Hogwarts had sent out to all returning students, to help catch everyone up from their, to say the least, lackluster year. Hermione had already finished hers while they were all staying at The Borrow, causing Ginny to turn to look at Hermione hopefully, only later to sag in resignation as Hermione adamantly refused to let her copy.
Harry grinned to himself, imagining her face, her brows furrowed in concentration.
He hoped that Ron and Hermione had arrived safely. He thought about starting a letter to them, but didn't have anything to say or any news from them to respond to yet.
He supposed he could clean the house more, do something about that wall, but, well, he didn't want to.
Maybe he could try to contact some other friends. Neville, Luna, Dean, somebody. But he knew what they would want to talk about and he didn't want to. Not today.
Instead, Harry stood up and went to the fireplace, pinching floo powder in between his fingers then dropping it, then pinching it again.
She did say that he could contact her whenever.
"Andromeda's." Harry stuck his head into the green flames, noticing a couch and a pair of jean clad legs as he reoriented himself.
Andromeda Tonks looked down at him, newspaper held limply in her hand, her mouth opened a little in surprise.
"Mrs. Tonks, I'm sorry to drop in suddenly… I hope this is a good time, I just wanted to see Teddy?"
Mrs. Tonks put down her paper, frowning a little. "First, please call me Andy. Second, I'm afraid that Teddy was just put down for the night, Harry."
Harry felt his face flush. Right, babies went to bed early. "Oh, I'm sorry...Andy. I'll just try some other time…"
Andy shook her head, moving forward. "Why don't you come over for some tea? It would be nice to talk to an adult for awhile."
Harry looked at her hopeful, hesitant face and nodded before concentrating, pulling the rest of his body through the fire in what can only be described as a very strange, slightly nauseating feeling.
He brushed himself off as Mrs. Tonks, Andy, went and got another cup and poured him some tea.
They sat, sipping their tea in an awkward silence. Harry looked around the room, surprised. He hadn't paid too much attention to the interior when he was here last, as he was rather distracted. He had expected, based off the Malfoys' mansion and her own aristocratic air, for Andy's house to be neat and formal. Instead her living room was somehow soft looking, the tables rounded, the carpet thick, the wooden frames of the paintings and photos warm. The chair he was in and the couches were very comfortable, giving just enough for Harry to have to relax into it, despite himself. The windows were open, letting in the early evening breeze.
"I was just reading about you, actually." Andy gestured towards the newspaper.
Harry scoffed, glancing at the picture of his own awkwardly grinning face. "What are they saying about me now?"
"It seems they are mostly trying to piece together what you have been up to this last year, before the battle at Hogwarts."
"Oh? And what was I up to?"
Andy leaned forward, her face openly curious, and looking suddenly, painfully, like Tonks. "They're saying that last year, you and others, I'm guessing Ron and Hermione, infiltrated the Ministry, disguised as random employees, saved a muggleborn, fought dementors, and also attacked Dolores Umbridge."
Harry grinned, nodding. "That one's true."
Andy smiled, pleased. "Then they say there was no sign of you for a long while, though someone claimed they saw you robbing a muggle bank?"
Harry shook his head, frowning. "That's not true."
Andy sat back in her chair, relieved. "Good."
Harry noticed, as she sipped more tea, that she looked tired, older, the lines around her eyes and mouth seemed deeper than he remembered.
"How has it been, looking after Teddy? I...I meant to come around, but…"
Andy looked at him for a long moment. "I don't blame you, you've been running around here and there, funeral after ceremony after funeral. I don't know how you got through it."
Harry broke eye contact, glancing down at his tea. "Well, I don't plan on being that kind of busy again. I felt like the saddest, most sombre show pony to strut across a stage after a while."
Andy laughed, the lines of her face changing, suddenly looking younger.
Harry grinned back. "I...I would like to part of Teddy's life. I mean, a really big part. I want him to have, I don't know, everything, I guess. I just don't want him to feel…"
Andy put her tea down with a sigh. "Without."
Harry nodded, then quickly sat forward, stammering. "I'm not saying, I'm not trying to say that you aren't enough, Mrs. Tonks, I…"
Andy shook her head, frowning. "Andy, Harry, please call me Andy. And I'm not enough."
Harry shook his head frantically, a sinking feeling in his stomach.
Andy reached over and put her hand on his, her expression serious, looking strangely different again, not like any of her relatives. Her face looked all her own, for once.
"I love Teddy. When I wake up in the morning and can't even breath, the darkness of the world in me, holding me down with its suffocating weight, his crying for me is the only thing that will move me. But he isn't, and will never be, Dora. He won't be Ted, he can't and will never fill those holes in my heart." Andy's hands started to shake, tears moving down her face, but she didn't look away. Harry squeezed her hand, swallowing thickly.
"But he can be my grandson, my wonderful little boy, something all his own. So the awful pain, the constant missing of my husband and daughter, the hatred and sadness for my dead sister, exist still, but along side it is my love for Teddy, growing everyday, shining in the darkness, giving me direction."
"And much like he will never be Dora or Ted, I will never be his parents. And neither will you." Harry felt the truth of the statement ring hollowly in his heart, echoing an old pain in his chest. "But! But we, you and I, we can make damn sure that he has everything we can give him; love, protection, security, guidance, a place and people to call his own. In that way, he will never be without family. We can be his family." She let go of his hand, squeezing her own hands togethers, her face passionate.
Harry nodded, his own face showing the determination that was raising from his chest, something powerful starting there.
The conversation after that declaration flowed more easily, but still cautiously, the natural watching out for each other's limits that all acquaintances becoming friends do.
Andy yawned as the clock struck ten. "Oh, I'm sorry, I suppose it is getting late." Harry moved to stand but Andy shot him a look, a skill all mothers seemed to have. Harry sat back down.
"Harry, I'm not going to send you back to that musty old house after all we talked about today. You didn't even get to see Teddy. Unless you have plans or just don't want to, I insist that you stay here for the night."
Harry's heart lifted a little at her suggestion. He didn't really want to go back there yet.
"Thank you Andy, but I don't want you to go to any trouble…"
"Nonsense. I'm doing myself a favor, actually. See, when Teddy wakes up in the morning, tired, grumpy, hungry, and needing his nappy changed, I'll show you what to do and then will promptly go back to sleep."
The next morning, however, he wasn't laughing.
"So you've got the spell to change nappies now, you know how to heat his food, and you can hold him without fear of either one of you dying. I'm going to sleep now." She started to shuffle away, bags under her eyes.
"You-you can't be serious!" Harry stared after her, horrified. "I don't know what I'm doing!"
Andy turned back towards him slowly, one hand on the handle, her expression hard to read. "None of us do, Harry, none of us do."
She closed the door behind her with a soft click.
Teddy started crying.
Five hours later Harry was lying the bed in the guest bedroom, his hair sticking up wildly in every direction, baby toys sprawled across the comforter, dried spit up on the shoulder of his t-shirt. He was lightly patting a dozing black haired Teddy on the back, his tiny baby body laying on his chest and stomach.
Harry thought while he must smell fairly awful, Teddy, who had been the one to generate most of the smells in the first place, smelled really good. He didn't smell like soap or anything else, really. He just smelled like clean human. Harry leaned forward and kissed the top his head, his hair impossibly soft.
Teddy squirmed on his stomach, making gurgling noises. Harry sighed, preparing himself for more crying. But instead Teddy just squirmed a little more, moving his tiny arms and body around until he was sliding off of Harry's chest. Harry moved his arm up, cupping Teddy's legs so that he stopped sliding. Now he was looking up at Harry on his side, his arm waving through the air, a happy smile on his face. His hair turned purple.
Harry chuckled at his hair and smiled at his smile. Teddy hit his godfather in the chest with his fist, giggling brightly. Harry chuckled again, taken in by Teddy's laughter. Harry touched Teddy's hand with his own, marveling at his tiny fingernails.
"Someday you're probably going to be bigger than me and I don't think I'll ever get over it." Harry whispered.
Teddy wrapped his whole hand around Harry's index finger. Harry looked from the small hand to Teddy's happy face, his purple eyes staring at him with such innocence.
Harry was a goner.
Around noon Andy wandered downstairs to the kitchen with a sheepish smile on her face. Harry was standing there with a towel over his shoulder, his eyes closed, humming, patting Teddy's back, waiting for him to burp.
Harry looked at her over Teddy's head, a small smile on his face. "Hello there, sleeping beauty."
Andy laughed a little. "Yes, well, I did sleep a lot longer than I meant to, sorry Harry. That was a long time to handle such a young baby, especially for your first time."
Harry shrugged his other shoulder. "You must have been very tired. I really am sorry, Andy. I will definitely come over a lot more now, help you out. Once I get the house fixed up better, I'll have Teddy over sometimes too, so I'm not always imposing on you."
"You aren't an imposition at all, Harry. Honestly... I was worried at first, when Dora told me that you were made the godfather. I thought, what if he has a big head? What if he expects to be treated like a celebrity. Or, what if you, like most young men your age, just simply don't have any interest in babies or children. I was worried Teddy would feel rejected by you, but, well, I can see very clearly now I needn't have worried at all."
Harry and Andy smiled at each other across the kitchen. Teddy burped.
"Excellent. Good job, Teddy!" Harry said, smiling, holding Teddy out in front of him, bouncing him a little.
Andy reached forward. "I'll take it from Harry, you can go home and change, get some rest."
Harry brought Teddy to his chest, frowning a little. "That's alright Andy, I can watch him a little longer."
Andy smiled at him. "Thank you Harry, but it's really okay. I want Teddy now."
Harry frowned further, glancing down at Teddy's smiling face and sighing. "Fine."
Reluctantly Harry handed him over, Andy eagerly reaching over and pulling Teddy close, rubbing her nose against his. "There's my boy, I missed you, even in my sleep."
Harry was hard pressed at this moment to remember how he thought that she looked anything like her sister at all.
She held Teddy in her arms as she walked him towards the fireplace. "Do you have a lot to get today?" Again she looked vaguely guilty, smiling sheepishly.
"No, though I should probably fix the hole in the wall."
"Hole in the wall?"
Harry sighed. "Yeah. I finally got the awful harpy's painting down but I had to cut down half of the hallway wall and light her on fire, so it's still a bit of a mess."
Andy stilled, her face frozen. Harry realized all at once that that was her aunt he was talking about, and her ancestral home on top of it. Harry felt his face turning red. "I- I'm sorry, I'm not sure how you…"
Slowly Andy smiled, her eyes glinting. She looked, once more, startlingly like her sister. Harry tried to compare her to the woman who rubbed noses with her grandson not minutes before.
"You finally got that cow off of the wall? You lit her on fire? What was it like?" Andy stepped a little closer.
Harry gulped. "Ah, well, she screamed and cried, and the oil and the canvas popped a lot."
Andy nodded, her face transforming once more, looking pleased and mischievous, again like Tonks. "Perfect. God, I've always hated her. I'll feel a lot better about stopping by for visits, now that I know she's not there."
Harry nodded, staring at her, wondering if he was ever going to get use to her face. "Please feel welcome to come over whenever, just fire call."
Andy nodded, smiling lightly. Harry reached out and ran his fingers over Teddy's fine, soft, now green, hair.
He left, spinning out into his cold, dark living room.
His sigh sounded loud in the empty space.