Author's Note: Thanks for your patience everyone! Chapter 4 seemed like a nice, happy, non-cliffhanger spot to leave it for a bit. I didn't want to start updating this story again until I was able to do regular updates, so thank you for your patience. As some of you know I'm EMS and SAR, and with all the COVID stuff going on we've been busy. That being said, updates should be semi-regular moving forward (though Eclipse will still be my priority).
This chapter will be a little bit different, since it's a transition chapter.
Thank you for all the support for this story. Questions some people asked are at the bottom of this chapter, if you're interested in that kind of thing. We also have a discord channel as well, and that link is on my profile page.
Thank you Nauze for beta-reading this!
Happy reading everyone. All logged in reviews will get responded to, and flames will be addressed with cheery sarcasm.
Chapter 5 ~ Let's Escalate This Bitch, Shall We?
"Time was passing like a hand waving from a train I wanted to be on.
I hope you never have to think about anything as much as I think about you."
~ Jonathan Safran Foer
Harry became rather obsessed with weather reports after that.
He bought a Muggle-style radio and kept it tuned to a weather channel. He started subscribing to the London Evening Times, and fuck-it-all he actually read it. He paid attention when tourists around the city made small talk.
About the weather.
That latter part deserved emphasis: Harry Potter, Boy-Who-Lived, the Man-Who-Conquered, Britain's Golden Boy and Wizarding Kind's Reclusive Savior actually sought out Muggle tourists, at local London coffee shops, and made small talk about the weather.
When he skipped his fourth Weasley-family dinner in a row, sans the-Weasley-female-who-shan't-be-named of course, Hermione got fed up.
The irritating witch actually tracked him down.
He should have known better. He really should have. After a year on the run she'd become scarily skilled at that sort of thing.
Hermione found him in Muggle London, in a coffee shop, engaged in a rather serious discussion about the winter 'freeze' anticipated in an area of the United States called New England. Harry'd had his eyes narrowed in firm concentration, mentally taking notes about whether or not these so-called 'ice storms' and their 'deadly icicles' were really as bad as the twenty-something year old American was claiming. They sounded miserable. He'd already mentally concluded that, if this American was correct in his description, that anyone living in the Northeast United States had to be slightly mad to be willing to put up with that sort of weather on even a semi-permanent basis.
He also noted that, for some asinine reason, the American couldn't seem to pronounce the letter 'r'. He half wondered if the frigid sub-zero winters being currently described were to blame; after all, how the hell could someone pronounce the letter 'r' if the tip of their tongue had frozen off?
Hell, Harry was listening so intently that he'd all but forgotten about the over-priced caffeinated tea that the pretty barista had talked him into ordering. Given he'd forgotten about the beverage literally clutched in his fist, it was no surprise that his bushy haired best friend was able to sneak up on him.
Hermione had apparently watched them for a full minute before he'd noticed her.
Unfortunately for him.
By the time he did notice her, Hermione had donned a stunned sort of expression, half-torn between pleased and bemused. She then helped herself to a chair, and proceeded to apologize for interrupting them, saying how nice it was that Harry was finally branching out and making new friends.
And she said this, out loud, in front of witnesses.
Even more unfortunate for him.
That poor, hapless American had just witnessed a glimpse into how socially deficient Harry Potter actually was. The poor bastard had leaned forward with a curious look and asked if Harry had recently been released from some sort of institution.
Another patron overheard, the elderly woman's eyes going quite wide, and had immediately scooted her chair and entire table away by a full meter, before whispering to her grandchild that they needed to leave on account there was some deranged madman fresh out of the psych ward dining too close for their personal well-being.
She was not nearly as discrete as she'd thought.
Half the café overheard.
The American Muggle had looked delighted, while Hermione had simply frowned.
Harry got a lot better at hiding his ongoings from his friends after that.
October changed into November, and November dragged on.
He looked for her. Hell, he even took leave from work, using the little vacation time he had to 'travel' on an extended weekend when a low grade hurricane threatened the Azores. But at the last minute a cold front sent the low level hurricane (a level 1 Hermione had called it) spinning Northwards, where it dissipated at sea. No damage. No flooding. No injuries. No need for any type of clandestine, Statute-of-Secrecy-breaking, Muggle-saving group of wizards and witches to come to the rescue.
It was a mark of how sick and twisted he'd gotten that he was actually disappointed.
As it was, all Harry had done on that little 'venture' was sit on the edge of a cliff on the coast of Flores, watching the storm roll in. It had made the churning sea foam up like Poseidon's sadistic bubble bath a hundred feet below his dangling feet, so at least the view from his precarious perch had been interesting. Hell, there'd even been a lighthouse to keep the 'broken hearts creepy ambience' vibe good and high.
Unfortunately that lighthouse in Ponta do Albernaz had a keeper, who seemed to disagree, and they'd taken issue with the random Brit sitting cliffside in those conditions. The Muggle had stormed out in a bright yellow raincoat and had questioned his sanity – loudly and enthusiastically – in Portuguese.
Harry hadn't understood a bleeding word of it, but judging from the hand gestures and mimed straight-jacket motions, he reckoned the man hadn't been saying anything good.
When Harry had gotten back to England and started researching 'typhoon season' in the Pacific, Ron had openly expressed 'deep damn concern' that their hurricane experience had seriously twisted what he thought of as vacation.
Harry hadn't had the damn balls to tell his ex-girlfriend's brother that he was really just hoping to get laid.
Then again, he didn't even have the balls to admit that it was about far more than that himself.
And Ron, the poor oblivious bastard, had no way of knowing what Harry was actually doing.
Besides, Harry had rather conveniently neglected to tell Ron precisely why Sara had actually been in the middle of that hurricane to begin with. Neither Ron nor Hermione knew that Sara and her little 'group' tracked weather events, engaging in activities of questionable legality, all in the name of helping Muggles in the most sick and twisted roundabout way possible.
But it was still helping.
Sara was helping Muggles, at risk to her own literal life and freedom. She could be arrested if caught, but she did it anyway. She did it anyway because it was the right thing to do, and that…
Well, as the former Undesirable Number One, he could relate.
By mid-November, even Ron had started to eye him shrewdly.
By early December, Ron and Hermione cornered him and flat out asked.
It was one of the few times in Harry's memory that he could recall actively lying to his best friends.
Typhoon Faith struck the Philippines on December 10th. Harry had been stuck on an Auror-training assignment from hell and hadn't even found out about it until the entire affair was over. Across the Philippines 33 people were killed, 30 were wounded and 36 others were listed as missing.
Strangely another 47 had mysteriously wound up on another island, in a safe-haven, with no recollection of how they had gotten there.
When Harry had heard that, fresh off the Auror-training assignment and covered in the cheap perfumes and grime from the seedy bordello he'd been stationed in as an alleged 'bodyguard' for the girls, all in the name of gathering intel on dark wizards (they might hate Muggles, but the hypocritical bastards sure were alright with fucking them), he hadn't even bothered to change.
He was on the next international portkey out of England, having volunteered himself to go help out the Western Pacific Ministry of Magic with their relief efforts.
He spent a week in the Philippines, and while he was there conveniently managed to talk to a few of the Muggles that had mysteriously wound up with amnesia.
Each and every single one of them had lived on the hardest hit of the islands, where the majority of the deaths had occurred.
Each and every single one of them had been unable to evacuate, either due to circumstances or finances.
Each and every single one of them had wound up in a safe zone anyway, with no recollection of how they'd gotten there.
And more importantly, two aid workers recalled speaking with a rather plain looking British girl with dark hair and mismatched eyes.
33 dead, 30 wounded, and 36 still missing but presumed dead.
Harry wondered how many more would have been dead had Sara not been there.
His chest swelled when he thought about it.
When Harry got back, igniting the candles in Grimmauld's front corridor, Ron had been waiting for him. A look of stubborn, Weasley determination was on his face, and before Harry could even fabricate a reason for why he had volunteered for grunt work in yet another disaster zone, his best mate beat him to it.
"You're looking for her, aren't you?"
December 22nd, 1998
It escalated from there.
Harry paced back and forth. His foyer floor groaned and creaked beneath the thick tread of his Auror-issued boots. He tapped his wand into the palm of his hand repeatedly, and every so often he would stop to throw an assessing, determined look at the wall.
The wall where Walburga Black's mouth had been spell-o-taped shut, and covered with glorified post-it-notes.
Something deep in the cellars groaned, the sound drifting up through the floorboards; the candelabras flickered to throw menacing shadows across the walls – for some reason shadows in Grimmauld always resembled skeletal fingers reaching out to strangle him; and outside the harsh December wind sent his doorknocker creaking.
Sixty seconds went by.
The wall, and its silencing-charmed occupant, remained silent.
Harry stared at it with a dark glower, and for the thirtieth time in the past twenty minutes gave up, unleashing a dog-like growl.
He resumed pacing.
Ron Weasley, Auror-trainee and best mate of the obviously deranged, leaned back on the couch, folded his arms behind his head, and grinned.
He grinned widely.
"So, this is what well-adjusted single blokes do to get laid then?"
Harry turned the dark glower on him.
Ron seemed unaffected. The red head just waved a hand at what had rapidly become known as the 'war wall', asking, "This is an attempt to get laid, yeah? Cause if you're putting this much effort into some bird you're just mildly interested in snogging again I might have to question your judgement, mate."
Well, Harry supposed he couldn't blame him there. He considered several terse, caustic-ass responses, all equally dour and crude enough to warrant Hermione's patented look of disapproval if she'd only been there to witness it.
Fortunately she wasn't.
Harry settled on a crude hand gesture and a well-placed question about whether or not Hermione knew about her boyfriend's 'Effort-a-Bloke-Should-Put-In to Prowess-in-the-Sack rating scale.'
Better known as the 'Is it really worth it to do the dishes?' rule.
"Course she does. Got a lecture on that just last week. Pointed out she didn't have anything to worry about in that department, but the damned woman didn't seem to realize I was giving her a compliment."
Harry snorted. "Can't imagine why."
"Dunno. Mione's bloody brilliant, but she's still a bit thick headed in that department. But seriously, you are putting in all this," Ron waved his hand at the wall providing evidence to either Harry's sweet dedication to romance or his future incompetency and Llewlyn-ward-commitment hearing, " effort for more than just a good lay, yeah?"
More than just a good lay…
His stomach twisted, violently. "Yeah." Harry dragged his hands to the top of his head and tugged at his own hair. "Yeah Ron, she's more than just a good lay."
"Hope so. Kingsley see this yet?" Ron tilted his head, closed one eye and studied the wall like he was viewing a crime scene. "Might want to make sure he doesn't. Seriously, he might up your required psychotherapy hours."
"It's not that bad."
Ron raised an eyebrow.
Harry shot him an irritated look, then turned around to give the wall another once over.
The wall of Number 12 Grimmauld Place.
The wall with the shamelessly racist portrait of Walburga Black.
The wall that was now covered in torn up strips of paper, each bearing the name of a witch they'd gone to school with in his hastily scrawled writing, sticking-charms holding them in place.
There was also a lot of string running between various 'connection' points. He'd found Kreacher sulking and picking listlessly at a large ball of twine the other day, but the twine in question had been conveniently wrapped around the house elf's neck.
Kreacher had feigned surprise, as if he hadn't noticed, though Harry suspected the creature had been fantasizing about offing itself.
Naturally, he'd done the only thing he could do: he'd given Kreacher the task of repurposing the twine into something far less…lethal.
Thus, the wall had been born.
School Year; Hogwarts House Affiliation; Current Profession; Known Associations; Last Known Place of Familial Residence: they were all listed in meticulous fashion.
It looked like a serial killer's ode to the women he was stalking.
Ron might actually have a point.
On the side of his wall of insanity was a crudely drawn image of a shack-like house, with bold X's for eyes and triangles for large mauling teeth. Wally had been scrawled in hastily penned letters directly above it, directly on the 'good' wallpaper, in permanent ink.
Harry'd mostly done that to fuck with Walburga.
The spell-o-tape had come out during her eight minute long rant about how he was desecrating her house. It would have been a shorter rant, but summoning charms hadn't worked. The magical adhesive had gotten stuck in an overstuffed drawer that had refused to open, jammed as it was with each and every single thing Ginny had ever gotten him.
Out of sight, out of mind.
Ginny was gone, in America, and Harry was here with an unwanted engagement ring, a house full of dark artefacts that wanted to kill him, and a country full of dark-wizards still on the run who also wanted to kill him.
And lucky him, now he even had a portrait of Sirius' gagged relative and a picture of a carnivorous house on his wall to go with it.
Ron, good friend that he was, stared at it. "Who's Wally?"
"A fucking voyeur."
Ron thudded his own Auror-issued boots up on the rickety coffee table and narrowed his blue eyes at it. "Do I want to know?"
"Probably not," he responded, transparent as ever.
His best mate accepted that at face value, grunted, then shifted his attention back to the war wall. "Why do you only got the witches in our year and the one above it again?"
"She let slip we'd gone to six years of school together." Harry squinted at the names, the things blurring together, all thirty eight of them. "Means she had to of been in either our year or the one above."
Ron leaned forward to snag a can of crisps. "Eh, could have been in Ginny's year if we hadn't ditched," he pointed out.
Inside him something immediately flinched.
"Don't worry about it."
They both fell silent for a long time after that. Neither wanted to point out the obvious: after Ginny had left, Harry had been a hermit. Their little Honduran adventure had changed that. Harry had started leaving the damn house again, willingly, and not just for trivial things like Auror fieldwork or the Ministry-mandated-psychotherapy that went with it. He was seeing the light of day again, and he'd officially advanced from 'vampire pale' to 'no longer hissing at the sun' on these semi-occasional jaunts.
Something warm welled in his stomach.
He had to find her.
He tried to remember her words exactly.
"You're right. It was six. You bailed when ole snake-face-"
"She said seven," Harry blurted, breaking the silence. "She said seven years initially, then corrected herself."
"Corrected?" Ron frowned. "As in 'she can't count' corrected or 'she was trying to throw you off her scent', corrected?"
"As in she remembered we ditched seventh year to go after ole snake face-" Ron snorted and subsequently began to choke on the commandeered crisps, "-so back-tracked. Her words, not mine. But in her defense, we were dealing with an animated building trying to swallow my ass whole. Proper names for raving lunatics of Dark Lords and accurate mathematics weren't exactly priorities."
Ron continued to choke.
"Try not to die," he muttered. "You know I'm crap at that airway clearing charm shit."
There was a dying sound from his couch, so Harry took that as a good sign – Ron was still alive to make them right? – and took a decisive step forward.
Sara had been in his year. He was sure of it.
He flicked his wand and the names of the witches in the year above – Cho, Marietta, Katie, and fourteen others he didn't exactly remember and whom he could now deem irrelevant – peeled off the wall and floated to the right. Then Harry gave a sharp stab of his wand and slammed them all over Walburga's face. Putting them there served a double purpose: first, he didn't lose his initial notes in case he needed them later, and second he wouldn't have to look at the old hag's likeness. He had unofficially declared the portrait the junk pile of this little project.
Harry returned his attention back to the twenty remaining names.
Twenty names were left, and one of them was her.
And she'd given him a way to find her.
That warmth in his stomach practically exploded.
Ron finally hacked something up, and Harry glanced over in time to see his best mate folding something disgusting up in a piece of paper, shoving it casually into his pocket.
As if it were normal.
"And you wonder why Hermione makes you do your own laundry."
Ron shot him a look. "Mind your own."
A mild, out-of-place smirk touched his mouth. He couldn't help it. Despite all the shit that had gone down with Ginny, Ron was still here. He hadn't taken a damn side. He hadn't decked him in a protective fit of big brother syndrome. He hadn't growled about Harry moving on; in fact, he'd encouraged it.
Hell, he was even helping him figure out who the hell Sara actually was. His way. Not the easy way.
In Ginny's mind that was probably tantamount to high treason; her older brother was actively helping her ex try to get laid.
For some reason that put an incredibly large and stupid smile on his face.
He hadn't explained everything to Ron and Hermione. He hadn't told them why Sara had actually been there. He hadn't told them that what she was doing was downright criminal. He hadn't told them a hell of a lot.
But Ron was still here, in his damn living room, after a twelve hour training shift in what Kingsley had dubbed 'the chamber of horrors'. He could have crawled back to his and Hermione's flat to pass out for a well-earned consecutive eight hours of sleep, but was instead helping his sister's ex try to, in Ron's terms, "get some."
So Harry smirked, just a bit. "Sure Ron."
He resumed his pacing, eyeing the names, until a jealous snarl broke the silence.
He stopped. "Yeah?"
"Why the hell is my girlfriend's name still up there?"
Harry's head whipped around to the list of remaining names, spotted Hermione's, and choked on a laugh.
He didn't get a chance to take Hermione's name off. Ron did it for him. More specifically he ripped it off and set it on fire right there on the entry room floor, but hey, that removed one name from the list, so Harry wasn't about to complain about minor things like burn marks and inhaling a bit of ash.
Now only Parvati and Padma Patil, Hannah Abbott, Susan Bones, Mandy Brocklehurst, Lisa Turpin, Pansy Parkinson, Millicent Bulstrode, Daphne Greengrass, Tracey Davis, Sue Li, Isobel MacDougal, Megan Jones, Lily Moon, Sophie Roper, Sally-Anne Perks, someone named Runcorn, and Sally Smith remained.
Ron slumped sulkily back onto the couch, his short-lived career as a post-it-note-arsonist having run its course. The scent of charred floorboard drifted up, slowly overpowering the otherwise ever-present stench of stale dust.
Truth-be-told, Kreacher wasn't exactly the best at house cleaning.
But Harry gave zero fucks about that.
Harry stood in the center of the foyer, directly in front of the war wall, crossed his arms over his chest, and stared at it. She was there. He was sure of it. She might be a criminal. She might have concealed her identity. She might have lied by omission straight up until he'd taken her bloody virginity, but on the things she had said, he trusted that she'd told the truth.
He eyed the wall like it was a detainee suspected of war crimes, and he stayed like that until he remembered something.
"She told Wally to stop trying to eat me," he blurted suddenly, "on account Gryffindors taste awful." He thudded a heavily callused hand on his forearm. "Based on that, I reckon we could eliminate the Gryffindors. What do you think?"
He glanced back at Ron, only to find his best mate with a hand stuck halfway down the can of crisps, utterly gawking at him.
"The voyeur tried to eat you?"
Harry gave a passive shrug. "Well, yeah."
Ron's entire expression went from shocked to bewildered then back to shocked in three seconds flat. He appeared to be mouthing the word Wally to himself.
And then his ears went red.
His best mate leaned forward, entirely forgetting where his hand was stuck, the aluminum can clanking against his knee. And then he gaped at him. Wildly. "You had a devil's threesome and didn't even tell me about it? Bloody hell, Harry! I didn't even know you swung that way!"
Harry's dark eyebrows dipped low over his eyes, and it took him several seconds to realize what Ron meant.
When he did he visibly flinched. "What-no!"
"So you mean you and her didn't, you know, with a guy named Wall-"
Ron frowned, and seemed to be thinking about something very hard.
"So you two just let him watch?"
Walburga let out a muffled scream and rattled her frame, dust flaking off the chandelier and right down into Ron's very, very red hair.
Harry, meanwhile, had started to choke. "We didn't-I mean, technically, but we were trapped. What else-we didn't have much choice!"
Too late he realized what that sounded like.
Ron's mouth flapped. Truth be told, his best mate looked torn between high fiving him and shipping him off to an aberrant-sex-behaviors camp.
Harry shifted uncomfortably.
Walburga shouted through the spell-o-tape.
Ron made an awed sort of sound.
Harry rubbed at his neck and contemplated strangling himself. It seemed like a nice, non-Voldemort-induced way to go.
The aforementioned Black shook her frame so hard the drywall actually cracked. A gentle wooshing was heard, as if that crack had opened a portal to a deep, impenetrable labyrinth, and a few choice words about 'defiiiiilers liiiiiiving in the House of Blaaaack' drifted out.
Harry choked down thirty increasingly disturbing questions about what exactly lived in those walls and how it was sentient and capable of literal speech in favor of sleeping at night.
His best friend continued to stare at him as if he'd just been given a particularly stellar Christmas gift. "You were there," Ron said, sounding awed, "for two days."
Harry grimaced, having a feeling where this was going. "Yeah…"
"And so was Wally."
Green eyes narrowed in clear damn warning.
Ron completely and totally missed it.
"What kind of bloke," the former Keeper pressed, sounding baffled, "watches that kind of sex marathon and doesn't try to bloody well join in?"
Harry hauled off and threw a stinging hex.
It took the better part of the next twenty minutes to get Ron off the topic of threesomes, but inevitably they were back to business, staring at the wall.
Having removed the remaining Gryffindor – Parvati Patil – seventeen remained. Harry's heart leapt in his chest. She was on that list. Sara was there, staring him right in the face. She was so, so close, and yet nowhere near him. Maybe she didn't want to be. She'd refused to give him a name; she'd refused it for a reason. The thought made his stomach do all kinds of things that were anything but good and the witch's words echoed around again and again in his head. "It doesn't matter. Believe me, this has gone bad enough. Let's not make it worse."
Sara didn't want him to know her. Harry wasn't delusional. He grasped that message loud and clear. Yet…
He'd meant something to her. He'd meant something deep and profound, just like she had to him. Harry was certain of it.
He had to see her again; it was all he could think about.
The whole thought process was borderline unhealthy.
Fuck. It'd skipped straight over the border and jumped directly into mentally deranged territory. To make matters worse, that psycho-magic-therapist the Ministry made all trainees see had actually agreed with Hermione. They'd both likened Sara to an addiction, Harry substituting her for all the things now missing from his life.
A relationship, purpose, stability…
Apparently, being 'systematically hunted by a Dark Lord' had given him purpose, and now that Voldemort was good and gone, along with his previously perceived future with Ginny, he was left with nothing better to do than to stare down the long, dark barrel of his rather bleak and lonely future.
That psych-degree-confirmed-assessment had really done a number on his head, given he'd been half-hoping this entire thing had been all about the really great sex.
But it wasn't.
Fuck it really wasn't.
Harry stood there for so long, shifting his weight back and forth, the floorboards creaking beneath him, that even the ghostly voices drifting through the crack in the drywall gave up their quest to creep him out and went to bed.
Ron, good friend that he was, managed to stay awake by conjuring a bunch of beetles and systematically smashing them with his foot. If they looked like Rita Skeeter's animagus, Harry wasn't about to judge. At some point another can of crisps materialized out of nowhere, along with what looked suspiciously like a Muggle energy drink. Harry didn't want to know how Ron'd gotten his hands on one of those and he didn't ask; he just took it when it was handed to him and drank it.
It tasted like liquid ass.
He drank it anyway.
Padma Patil, Hannah Abbott, Susan Bones, Mandy Brocklehurst, Lisa Turpin, Pansy Parkinson, Millicent Bulstrode, Daphne Greengrass, Tracey Davis, Sue Li, Isobel MacDougal, Megan Jones, Lily Moon, Sophie Roper, Sally-Anne Perks, someone named Runcorn, and Sally Smith stared back at him.
Inevitably Harry grunted. "She wasn't a Gryffindor," he said, at long damn last. "She's a pureblood too." The thought of what she'd told him, of what her family had in store for her if she returned to England for any measurable length of time, was enough to make his blood fucking boil. He wanted to hurt someone over it. He wanted to do something, but he didn't know what.
"Phow pho phu pheckon phat?"
Harry shot his best mate a withering look and waited for him to finish chewing.
Ron swallowed the crunchy chips down with an audible and disgusting gulp. "How do you reckon that?" he repeated, much more coherently, though particles of crisps sprayed out all over the floor.
His best mate gave a complacent shrug, while a beetle scuttled over to eat the half-masticated crisp remains. Harry gave his friend credit: at least Ron patiently waited until the Skeeter-look-alike had cleaned up the mess, before stomping on it and smearing its remains into a long, pulpy black streak.
Well, at least he'd tried to clean up.
Harry stared anyway. "It's amazing Hermione hasn't saddled you with a mealtime shock collar."
Now he looked truly baffled. "What makes you think she hasn't?"
Harry's mouth opened and closed several times, as if trying to form words. His mouth had figured out what his brain was still processing. To make matters worse, Ron waggled his eyebrows.
Harry made a dying sound, closed his eyes, and wondered if it were too late to beg an Unspeakable to fashion another timeturner, so he could use it, go back in time, and beg Voldemort to hex him dead there and then. He did not, absolutely did not need any additional images in his head about his two best friends and their bedroom activities. He had enough nightmares as it was about the one time he'd went to visit unannounced.
Too bad Ron had started to provide those in broad, sweeping detail. He'd sniffed out his discomfort like the well-trained bloodhound and certified jackass he was.
Somewhere around, "-and that was what we tried out on page two-" Harry blacked out and went to his happy place. It was dark and dreary and the liquor looked laced with poison, but it kept him from hearing about Hermione moaning and waking up the neighbors.
When Harry eventually opened his eyes, it was to find Ron smirking like a jackal.
"You're a right bastard, you know that?" Harry said in a tone that made it clear he was contemplating the use of Unforgivables.
Ron was unaffected. "You're the one who had my girlfriend's name up there."
Well fuck, Ron actually had a point.
Harry contemplated drowning his brain in acid.
"So?" Ron said conversationally, as if he hadn't just spent the better part of the last twenty minutes torturing him, "how do you know she's a pureblood?"
That traumatized feeling didn't go away, but Harry at least remembered there was the slightest chance he'd not have to become a permanently celibate monk. "Because she told me," he said, only his voice came out like grated sandpaper. "Her family, they've got…expectations for her that she can't meet."
Like marrying to maintain blood purity.
Like having a child.
Like accepting a husband that would take a mistress, at best, and at worst….
Harry felt that familiar pulse rise in his ears, and for a second everything buzzed.
He said nothing else on the matter, and Ron seemed to understand.
At the very least his best mate looked interested in the board again, and less interested in torturing him. "Alright," Ron said, leaning forward and squinting, "if you're sure about that, can take off Hannah, Susan, Bulstrode, Davis, Sue-Li, and Mandy right off the beater's bat. They're all half-bloods. Only ones out of those who might have a family that cared about blood line maintenance anyway would be Bullstrode's and Davis'."
Harry quirked an eyebrow. "They're Slytherins."
"So was Voldemort, mate. Hat didn't care about him either."
Right. Sometimes Harry forgot that Ron was an actual pureblood wizard who'd been taught about the Sacred Twenty Eight and actual pureblood families from a young age. Albeit for different reasons, but he'd still been taught.
"Bloody hell what if she was a Slytherin?"
Harry's entire body tensed, but he couldn't deny his gut. "I think she might have been, actually." He grimaced. "She mentioned Malfoy."
Ron looked appalled.
Harry cast a simple spell, and the other names all moved to the unlikely board, covering the outside of Walburga's frame. It was better than giving Ron a chance to ask how Malfoy's name had come up and Harry having to explain their cheery little post-coital blow out.
That put the list down to Padma Patil, Lisa Turpin, Pansy Parkinson, Daphne Greengrass, Isobel MacDougal, Megan Jones, Lily Moon, Sophie Roper, Sally-Anne Perks, Runcorn, and Sally Smith.
That was a far cry better than nineteen. Problem was, he didn't know a single one of them. Not well. The one he knew the best out of the whole list was friggin' Parkinson, and that was only on account of a mutual deep and abiding hatred.
He couldn't help but think about how she'd been so reluctant to give him her name.
Pug-faced-Parkinson; it was entirely possible that he'd slept with pug-faced Parkinson, and not only that, but he'd liked it.
Between a year on the run, Auror training, and having no outside lives to speak of, he and Ron had been spending too much time together. This got further proven when his best mate gave voice to the same thought.
"Bloody hell, what if it was Parkinson?" the red head blurted. "You could have shagged Malfoy's seconds."
Instantly Harry felt a little less sick and shot Ron a curious look, almost regretting the question but asking anyway. "You mean Malfoy and her…"
Ron looked at him like he was an idiot.
Harry made an impatient gesture.
Ron shuddered, but nodded. "You know, sometimes I forget that you were blind, dumb, deaf and singularly focused on Voldemort and my sister back in school, mate. But word on the pitch was, yeah. Couple months ago even, the witch was right pissed off when he started trying to contract with some other pureblood for marriage rights. Happened as soon as you got him cleared of charges at his trial. They had a big blow out in the Ministry atrium." His friend frowned. "Get how you missed it at school, but how the hell did you not know about that?"
Harry swallowed, and the motion was tense. "Probably heard the name Malfoy and blocked it out," he muttered, debating something. He hadn't told Ron or Hermione much. He sure as hell hadn't shared that Sara had been a virgin, but if Pansy and Malfoy had definitely done, well…that, then it couldn't have been her.
"How sure about this are you?" he asked guardedly.
"Pretty sure. 'Mione and I were running late on account we-"
Ron said something that had Harry contemplate acid to his ears. It'd be alright. He'd heard cochlear implants were nice.
"-and arrived by Floo right in time to hear her demanding a bloody pregnancy test, because she wasn't going to let him off that easily if she were bearing his 'bastard progeny.'" Ron made actual air quotes. "You'd have loved it. Malfoy looked like he'd seen a ghost, so I assume he had reason to think it wasn't a bluff. Witch even hexed him." Ron frowned and continued staring at the board, frowning now. "You know, just in case, you might want to get tested mate. Who knows what kind of diseases Malfoy shared with her."
Harry grunted, and without giving explanation moved Parkinson to the questionable column.
He was down to ten.
Ron looked like he wanted to ask, but didn't. He just eyed him with that shrewd look that was disturbingly like Hermione's, before turning back to the board.
Harry shook his head, frustrated. "She fought at the Battle of Hogwarts. That has to narrow it down somewhat."
His best friend's brow furrowed thoughtfully. "Wouldn't know any more than you do there, Harry. Was with you almost the whole time."
Harry flat out snorted. "Oh? Were you? Didn't realize you'd noticed, what with your face being attached to Hermione's and all."
Out of the corner of his eye Harry saw Ron grin, dazedly. "Yeah, I did that, didn't I?" He sounded awed at his own bravado.
Harry's stomach sunk, watching his best friend with a jealous feel. For the life of him he wanted that. He wanted what Ron and Hermione had. He wanted what he'd thought he and Ginny had back. And Sara…
He had to find her, but he had to do it her way.
He didn't have a plan beyond that.
Ron was still staring at absolutely nothing, wearing that vacant smile so common to the recently lobotomized.
Harry practically rolled his eyes. "Ron."
The Weasley jerked, shaking his head, a bit like a dog just waking up. "Er…yeah. Sorry. Just, you know, figured it was then or never."
Harry wisely chose not to comment on that, and turned his attention back to the post-it-note-covered-wall-from-hell. Ten names left, and one of them was hers.
He didn't know a single one of them. Six years at Hogwarts and he'd never gotten to know a single one. For a fleeting moment he hated himself for being the consummate introvert.
Ron eyed him strangely, glanced at the wall of names, and frowned.
And then his best mate did that creepy thing that proved he'd been mind-morphing with Hermione: he psychoanalyzed exactly what he was thinking. Either that, or his divination skills had really improved.
"Not your fault you didn't know her back at Hogwarts, Harry," he said seriously, before leaning back on the couch. He seemed to think about it a minute, his eyebrows dipping into a V, then added with a shit-eating grin, "I mean, then again, wasn't like you were busy doing anything when we were in school. For Merlin's sake it was only one Dark Lord. The murder attempts were yearly, not every day. All you had to do was slay the snake, outfly a dragon, kill a basilisk, dodge the Ministry, out-wit Death Eaters, escape snatchers, destroy only a few dark artefacts, and ignore all the 'unbalanced' Prophet articles. Reckon you ought to have been able to find the time to play the field proper. Bloody slacker."
Harry very slowly turned around.
Ron was unaffected. "Seriously Potter, get your shit together. You were the bloody Chosen One and didn't even manage to get any tail. My God man, it's like you don't even deserve a penis."
Another stinging hex got shot off, Ron yelping. "Shit man, ever since you took that hex to the head you've gotten bloody violent."
"Chest," he automatically corrected. "Took it to the chest."
"Eh, scars either way. Chicks dig scars, case you forgot."
Harry was not, absolutely not going to think about Sara's fingers tracing his, or the way she'd shuddered beneath him when he'd traced hers.
He spun to face the wall again, his eyes narrowed. "Alright," he said, glaring at the post-it-notes as if they were intentionally hiding something, "she fought, and we don't know which of these witches were actually there. And we might not be able to find out, because not everyone who fought got a commendation."
"Fine bit of Ministry bullshit, that was. 'Specially given some of the Ministry that didn't fight still got awards for 'working against a terrorist to keep the world running in spite of the hostile work environment.'"
Harry grunted agreement.
Ron shifted in his seat. "How do you know she fought, anyway?"
"Scars," he said tonelessly. "She had them."
And Ron…he had nothing to say to that.
They'd been through war; they all knew that the saying about 'your scars making you stronger' was complete bullshit.
Sometime later Ron shook the can of crisps. The crumbs rattled inside, his best mate looking into it forlornly and letting out a weary sigh.
Harry didn't look away from the war wall; he just dryly asked, "Hermione know you're eating those?"
"No." Ron sounded like he was scowling. "Woman's got the entire flat on health lock down. You know after Honduras she started growing kale? As if it's not bad enough it's in our fridge."
"Least we know she's not trying to off you."
"True. Despite Snape's best efforts, woman knows a scary amount about poisons."
"Can you blame her?" Harry asked, far too relaxed for the morbid turn this was taking. "You nearly got removed from the gene pool due to one." Back in sixth year, after Ron had been drugged and nearly killed, Hermione had sequestered herself in the library and hadn't emerged until she'd memorized everything the Hogwarts books had to offer on the topics of poisons and antidotes. Her dedication to preserving Ron even before they'd started snogging had been mildly terrifying.
Ron made a crass comment that wasn't worth repeating, but suffice it to say it had to do with Hermione's divination abilities clearly having 'come into their own' to alert her of the pressing need to preserve her future sex life.
Harry snorted and went back to his list.
Speaking of divination…
Eventually Hermione came looking for them.
The Floo in the study lit up, the dull green-glow visible from the front foyer, and a few moments later she walked in, brushing ash off herself. She was one of precisely three people outside of the Weasley family who had access to his home, the others being Luna and Neville.
Everyone else could frankly just fuck the hell off.
As it was Harry didn't even bother glancing back at her. He just grunted, mildly.
Ron at least gave a casual wave, proving he'd developed some people skills. "Evening luv."
Pity that they did him so little.
Hermione narrowed her eyes at the back of Ron's head, as if trying to burn a hole through it. "It's morning, actually. Something you'd know if you ever bothered to learn how to read a clock, and oh, I don't know, come to bed?"
Her boyfriend brushed this off with another wave of his hand. "Semantics. Time's relative."
"No…" she said wearily, "it's not. And it's two a.m., and we both have work in the morning. There's a physical aptitude and field test." Her deep brown eyes shifted around the front hall, taking it all in, adding, "Something you both have obviously forgotten…"
Her voice trailed off as she looked around, and Harry honestly couldn't blame her. Words had been scrawled all over the frighteningly domesticated 'Black' wallpaper – dead roses were apparently a 'thing' back then – in a disturbingly blood red ink, while post-it notes covered nearly every other available vertical surface. Walburga hovered in her frame looking equal parts 'murdery' and disgusted, while a disturbingly chill breeze wafted out of the new crack in the drywall, voices that promised 'spleen eating of impure blood lines' drifting out. Strangely the whispered threats were rather musical. If you got past their assurances to 'tear out your entrails in your sleep' it was even almost soothing.
Hermione took it all in stride, like the normal Tuesday it was.
"Harry, I see you've been…redecorating," she noted with a small frown. Her eyes flickered to him, and Harry 'hrmed' in all the right spots so she'd think he was listening.
He wasn't. He was debating which one of the remaining names seemed like a hurricane-chasing brunette. Lisa and Megan seemed promising: not overly eloquent and straight to the point.
It took the better part of a minute for Hermione to get his attention, and in the end she had to grab him by the literal ear.
Harry absolutely did not yelp. He grunted, like a man, and Ron sniggered. Harry shot off another hex and debated getting new friends.
Hermione ignored them both. She seemed tired, her curly hair piled up on her head in a lazy bun, a thick pair of Gryffindor pajamas on. Despite this she still managed to pull off the patented McGonagall-look-of-disapproval as she released her vice grip on his ear.
"Harry," she asked, in the sort of voice ordinarily reserved for heavily armed escaped psych ward patients, "what exactly did I walk in on?"
Ron shook the empty can. "Starvation."
They both looked at him.
His head shot up. "Oh, yeah," he said, as if remembering to apologize for something. He wiped crumbs off his mouth with his sleeve. "That and Harry's mental breakdown, descent into horcrux-less madness, you know," he waved around the room, "the usual."
Hermione's eyes narrowed onto the can in Ron's hand. "Ron, is that a can of crisps?"
Ron threw them over his shoulder quicker than he'd out-flown fiendfyre, the thing disappearing behind the back of the conjured couch and clattering noisily to the ground. "Crisps?" he repeated, donning a look of such honest innocence he ought to have been running the Ministry's interrogation training drills. "What crisps?"
Had he been facing down a vial of veritaserum, he could not have looked more guiltless.
The can of crisps rolled out into plain sight.
Hermione closed her eyes and sighed, and Harry almost pitied her. "You're wishing you'd picked a different compartment first year, aren't you?" he asked.
She let out a sad sort of whimper. "Yes."
He reached over and patted her on the shoulder, as if to say 'there, there.' Then he resumed his perusal of the previous problem at hand.
"Hey Ron," he said finally, "do you remember what any of them even looked like?"
"Only the hot ones."
Hermione's eyes shot open and if looks could kill Ron would have been reduced to ash.
He looked absolutely bewildered. "What?" he asked. "You had Vickie."
Harry actually winced. "Nice knowing you, mate."
Ron glanced between the two of them, realization seeming to dawn, and grinned. "Yeah, been a nice run hasn't it?"
"Not sure I'd call it all nice…"
"Fair enough. Equal parts nice and horrifying?"
"So you want to know which ones you'd like?" Ron asked, changing the subject with absolutely no subtlety. He leaned forward onto his knees and looked at the remaining names eagerly.
Harry glanced at the wall and thought about it.
Hermione stood there, clad in her comfortable pajamas, looking thunderstruck. "Ron," she said, tiredly rubbing her face, "you can't just go judging women based on looks."
"I'm not," the red head countered, gesturing. "He is."
Harry shot them both a black look. "No, I'm not."
"Besides, we already know Harry's type-"
Hermione's head shot up, a plain look of disbelief written across her face. "Harry's liked a girl of Asian descent and a red headed English girl," she said. "Harry isn't shallow enough to have a type."
Harry noticed how she carefully refused to use their actual names, and wondered when his friends had decided to handle him like an old World War Two warhead that hadn't gone off.
Probably some time between Ginny leaving and him discovering that wizarding pubs all seemed to want to give him booze 'on the house' for having 'killed the Dark Lord, thereby ensuring the lasting integrity of their establishments'.
Apparently Voldemort had burned down a few pubs, stores, villages…
"What's wrong with having a type?" Ron asked.
Hermione was still rubbing her face, but at this she stopped long enough to peer between her fingers. "Because," she said, "it reduces women to their physical appearance and implies that things like intelligence, morals, shared interests, personality, hobbies and accomplishments have nothing to do with-"
"Harry's girls have shared personalities." Ron gestured at him. "They were all insane."
At that Harry actually paused and looked back. "You realize one of those was your sister, right?"
"I think my comment speaks for itself."
Hermione growled a bit, closed her eyes, muttered something about logic and reason, and began counting backwards from pi. Ron sniggered. The crack in the drywall whispered about half-blood suicide to cleanse the family tree, and Harry wondered if exorcists were listed in phone books.
He also started to pace. Partially because he was restless, partially because it helped him think, but mostly because he figured a moving target would be harder to hit if anything came out of that crack in the drywall.
Walburga's portrait glanced sideways at it, and from around the spell-o-tape silencing her gave a malicious smirk.
Well…that couldn't be good.
His ordinarily observant best friend missed it entirely, on account she was still having a minor stroke. Eventually she did join him. "So Harry, what exactly is keeping my boyfriend up so late and out of bed, because we were supposed to get up around seven and-"
She stopped, her statement half-formed, and Godric love her she actually blinked. She blinked a few more times, her mouth opening and closing and opening again, as if finally fully processing what she was seeing.
And then she stared at it.
The wall of post-it notes stared back.
The wall whispered something that sounded suspiciously like mudddblooooood.
It was a mark of how startled she was that she ignored that. She simply wet her lips, looking rather like an abused house elf that had just been told it was free for the first time. "Harry, what exactly…is this?" she asked warily.
"The war wall."
She looked amazed, and not in a good way. "It looks like a stalkers how-to kit."
"No luv," Ron said helpfully, "Harry hasn't gotten to that part yet. Give it a week. Still gotta abuse the whole Auror privilege thing to look up their Floo addresses. Then we'll get around to the stalker part. Right now were still narrowing down the pool."
Hermione's head snapped around so fast it was a marvel she didn't snap her neck then and there. Harry was already ready for it, responding calmly, "Relax. We're not stalking anyone."
"I'll take your word for it," she said, sounding cautiously relieved. But then she paused, frowned, and a curly lock of hair broke free of her bun to hang in her face. "Wait, so if you're not…then what are you doing?"
What the hell was he doing?
His heart flipped, response immediate. "Doing it her way."
Judging from Hermione's expression that didn't clarify enough, so Harry elaborated, ignoring his oddly dry mouth and giving a brief synopsis of how he'd wound up with his entire front foyer repurposed, finishing off with what Sara had implied – that it was okay to find her, so long as he did it her way, without a name.
"See Hermione?" Ron said. "It's not stalking if she's expecting it."
"That's not-he can't- that's not how it works, Ro-"
"You know how you're always harping on at me to read that book about the importance of foreplay?" her boyfriend asked. "Think of it as just a really prolonged game of that."
Hermione made a horrified sound, and Harry flat out laughed.
The brunette looked rather like she'd had enough. "I never should have shown you those."
Ron spoke to her with complete and utter casualness. "Be happy, luv. At least I actually read them. Shows that our year on the run didn't affect my literacy too much."
She let out an exasperated sounding laugh, before turning her attention back to him. Hermione took her time, assessing him with that calm sort of analytical air she always had when working out a particularly complex problem.
Harry could already predict her thought process; she was running through the few facts she had: she knew he'd met Sara; she knew he'd spent two days doing things that – when repeated - made her voice get unnaturally high, while Ron high fived him; she knew he didn't know Sara's actual name; she knew he was law enforcement and had created the same type of 'connections wall' they'd been trained to use when narrowing down suspects for a serial killing spree, only he'd done it with their former classmates in his front hall.
It looked strangely decorated.
"Would think you'd be happy, Hermione," he said as he started pacing. "You're always harping at me to add some color in here." Harry gestured around Grimmauld. "Took your advice."
Ron flat out snorted.
Hermione just pursed her lips. "Harry," she started, in the type of tone ordinarily reserved for lecturing them after they'd done some inadvisable and dangerous activity – like brawling with a lethifold, "why is this so important to you? Be logical about this. You met her once."
Harry couldn't help it: he smirked. "Not sure I'd call what her and I did once, but…"
Hermione visibly shuddered, but was undeterred. "I realize that what you two went through was…intense, Harry, but there have been studies. Relationships born of shared traumatic experiences…they don't last."
Ron swiveled his head away from his girlfriend, donning a mock look of severity. "You hear that, Harry? There's been studies."
The look Hermione shot her boyfriend could only be described as 'you won't see me naked for weeks.'
Harry stopped mid-stride and smirked more. "Oh believe me, there was nothing traumatic about it."
Now she just looked exasperated. "Harry…"
"Look, I get what you're saying, Hermione. But one day…one day with this girl and I felt things I never did with Ginny, and I was ready to marry Ginny. So what's your research got on that?"
Ron raised a hand and shot out with a grin, "That the sex was incredible?"
Harry pointed a hand at him. "Right you are."
Hermione stared, shocked. "You-you what?"
Given that he was no longer fifteen and an idiot, he knew exactly what had reduced the smartest witch of her age to stammering. "Mar-ry," he repeated, sounding the syllables out nice and slow to give her blown neurons a chance to catch up. "I wanted to marry her." He glanced up the dusty stairs with a frown. "Still have the ring in my desk, actually." Ginny had never given him the chance to give it to her, let alone ask.
She'd left. Just like that. After everything.
Hermione seemed to lose all strength in her legs and sat down so fast dust actually plumed up from the couch. Ron frowned and batted the cloud away from his girlfriend's face. "Bloody hell mate, when's the last time Kreacher dusted?"
Harry shrugged. "Dunno. Nineteen forty maybe?"
It was a mark of how shell-shocked she was that Hermione made no comment about the house elf's cleaning duties. She just stared straight ahead and looked dazed. "Merlin Harry," she breathed, "does Ginny even know?"
He let out a scoff so derisive it was a marvel he didn't get hexed then and there. "Yeah, because I'm prone to proposing to witches that ditched me the first time someone waved a bag of galleons at them."
Even Ron frowned at that. Hermione took one look at his face and hissed like a snake. "Harry, that was uncalled for."
It occurred to him just why that was a touch insensitive. The Weasleys had grown up poor, been mocked for it, and here he was implying that money was Ginny's primary motivation for things. It was like slapping the family. Really, the fact that he could even identify that so quickly would have been shocking to him a year ago. As it was, he really ought to send that magi-psychotherapist a thank you note.
He reached up and rubbed at the back of his neck, his lips pressing into a tight line. "Right. Sorry."
Hermione huffed a breath, Harry well aware she wasn't satisfied with that response, but for now was willing to let it go.
Ron eyed him as if torn between slugging him and sympathizing. Ultimately he grimaced, leaning back on the couch and tilting his head towards Hermione. "She's holding back for you mate."
"Don't I know it."
Hermione huffed another one of those breaths that promised hell and damnation, and Harry felt like complete and utter shit.
Ron took one look at him, narrowed his eyes, and with a perceptiveness that would have had Harry checking him for polyjuice potion a year ago leaned forward and patted Hermione's arm, "Chill, luv. He didn't mean anything by it. Reckon he's had a bad go of it, all things Ginny, ya know? Gotta express his deep-seeded emotional hero broodiness somehow."
Harry blinked, mouthing 'deep-seeded emotional hero broodiness', and wondered if hexing Ron in the balls would be out of line.
"Besides," Ron continued, now wearing a shit-eating grin, "reckon he feels bad enough to be the badger next training mission, which conveniently happens to be tomorrow."
'Badger' was the Auror-trainee code word for 'practice dark wizard'. Whoever was the badger in the mock training sessions inevitably got hunted down by a half-dozen Auror trainees and hexed until their bones were twisted and they'd forgotten their own name. Or pissed themselves. Whichever came first.
Hermione, however, seemed to relax a bit, pursing her lips and nodding, so Harry turned back to the war wall and did his best to make every professional stalker in the Greater London area proud. Ron contented himself with getting comfortable on the couch, sprawling out and shamelessly shifting Hermione so she was sitting on him.
The smartest witch of their age actually squeaked, and Harry was gentleman enough to not say anything about it.
The clock ticked well past midnight, Harry still staring at the ten remaining names. Padma Patil, Lisa Turpin, Daphne Greengrass, Isobel MacDougal, Megan Jones, Lily Moon, Sophie Roper, Sally-Anne Perks, Runcorn, and Sally Smith.
If he were honest with himself, the only one he even remotely remembered was Greengrass, and that was simply because she'd been a Slytherin and an alternate for the Quidditch team. He stood there and frowned, trying to conjure up any small bit of information that he might know about her, but came up remarkably blank.
But she'd been a Slytherin, and some deep seeded part of him was fairly positive that Sara was one too.
Something strange twisted in his chest, and with a flick of his wand a glowing green S appeared by her and Runcorn's names. They'd both been in Slytherin. "Hey Ron," he asked, "Runcorn. She a pureblood?"
Ron, who was doing his damn best to actually sleep, grunted and gave a thumb's up.
Harry grunted back his thanks.
Hermione pinched her nose, as if rapidly developing a migraine. "Harry," she said in the sort of voice ordinarily reserved for heavily armed escaped psych ward patients. "I think you may be taking this breakup with Ginny a bit worse than I thought."
He scoffed. "Unlikely."
She cast her brown eyes up at him, waving a hand at the wall. "Don't you think this is a bit…obsessive?"
"No, this is a game."
She remained silent, somehow maintaining a super-serious expression despite how she sat perched on Ron's thighs, while her boyfriend lay sprawled out across the ratty cushions of the couch he'd conjured.
Really, it was a marvel he'd ever passed transfiguration.
Eventually he remained quiet for so long that Hermione's never-ending thirst for information won out.
"Fine, I'll bite. What do you mean by game?"
He gave a complacent shrug. "Easy," he said. "I've got minimal information about her, but want to see her again. She knows that. So," gesturing at the wall, "I've got to figure out who she is, find her, and confirm it's actually her with her hair."
His female best friend paled. "What do you mean," she asked cautiously, as if against her better judgement, "by her hair?"
Ron smirked and didn't even bother to open his eyes. "He's keeping her hair in a tin."
For a second Hermione looked appalled.
Ron's stomach gave a loud rumble.
"It's not a tin," Harry offered weakly, glancing at Hermione. "It's Tupperware."
Hermione's mouth fell slowly open.
Harry had the good grace to wince.
And so the night continued like this for the next hour, and at some point Hermione gave up and decided that the quickest way to return him to sanity was to buckle down and help.
"Well come on then, what do you actually know about her, Harry?" Hermione said encouragingly as the grandfather clock chimed twelve. "We can start simple. What was her hair color?"
"Brown, but I don't think that was real."
"I thought you had her hair in a…" she closed her eyes and seemed to choke on the word, "tin."
"Tupperware," he corrected.
The look she shot him spoke volumes.
"You're right, doesn't matter. Point is, her hair could have been dyed for all I know."
She frowned. "Didn't you run a diagnostic spell?"
He shot her a look. "That would be cheating."
She inclined a questioning eyebrow, but otherwise remained silent. "What about her eyes? What color were they?"
Now she just looked exasperated. "Harry this isn't exactly helping."
"She had on more glamour charms than an undercover Auror, 'Mione. What do you expect?"
Hermione pursed her lips. "I expect the wizard who took down Voldemort to not be so idiotic." He glanced at her, curious, and she rolled her eyes. "Harry, if she gave you her hair then running diagnostic spells on the strands isn't cheating. You could at least find out what her actual hair color is."
"Yeah, but there's not much of it," he pointed out. "Kinda want to save it for a tracking charm if I need to use one as a last resort." Because tracking charms weren't as simple as Muggle films and books made them out to be. They required DNA, at times a surplus of it, and the hair follicles on the ends of the torn out strands wouldn't last long. Harry'd get maybe ten minutes, tops, of tracking using those, and to precisely locate her using just her hair? Well fuck…
He might use every strand she'd given him in one go and still not find her; not unless he already had the geographic region significantly narrowed down first.
"True," the bushy haired brunette conceded, "but wouldn't it be easier to narrow down her location if you could just…remove some of the potential girls from the list?"
"She charmed her eyes in school to hide their actual color, Hermione," he countered. "What if she did the same with her hair?" He frowned at the list. "Not to mention I don't remember what half of these witches look like. Even if I did find them now, what's to say that their current color is their natural one?"
"Phe's phot a phoint," Ron mumbled, half-asleep and barely understandable. "Phicks phye pheir phair."
Hermione frowned, so Harry translated. "He said I've got a point. Chicks dye their hair." All those years sharing a dorm with Ron had done him some good after all.
Hermione nodded slowly, looking deep in thought. "Okay," she said slowly, "but be reasonable, Harry. While you might not remember our classmates, I do. And I can tell you for a fact that every girl on your…" her nose wrinkled, "list had the same color hair at the end of sixth year as they did first. And most eleven year olds aren't prone to dyeing their hair."
"She wasn't most eleven year olds."
"Okay," she said again, "did she tell you why she was using glamour charms on her eyes in the first place?"
That pit deep in his stomach, the one that felt like a rapidly developing ulcer was trying to chew its way out, returned full force. "Yeah," he said, mouth dry, "she did."
Hermione made an impatient hand gesture at him.
"Her eyes are heterochromatic." He gave a rough swallow. "Apparently in pureblood circles that's a sign of ill-breeding, so…her mother taught her to hide the color so she wouldn't be black listed from all the right circles as impure breeding stock."
Hermione's eyes went wide and round, her mouth falling open in a horrified look. "That's positively barbaric."
"That's what I said."
Hermione paused. The walls whispered to come down into the cellar to play. Walburga looked delighted. Harry eyed the crack in the drywall suspiciously.
"Well, if that was the only cause for the glamour, Harry, I think it's reasonable to assume she didn't touch her hair. Not unless it was multi-colored too. So…testing her hair color probably would narrow the list down for us and make it easier."
Harry considered that, tension creeping through him. It was a risk, a gamble. The idea of using her hair to try to find her with a locating charm, only to wind up within a kilometer radius without resolution weighted down his mind, and yet…
Hermione was usually right about things; if he figured out who she was, then he wouldn't need a tracking charm in the first place.
Without a word he reached out a hand and muttered a summoning charm, waiting approximately ten seconds. Then the hair-holding-tupperware whizzed down the stairs and straight past Hermione's head, rustling the loose curls that'd broken free of her bun and flying straight into his outstretched hand.
Harry extracted a single strand then put it carefully on the conjured coffee table in front of Hermione, and gestured at it. "You're better at charms then me," his only explanation.
She managed a wane smile, but did as requested. Harry stared at the strand of hair as he waited, somewhat impatiently, as Hermione cast a series of complicated forms of finite at it, only nothing happened.
He hadn't realized he'd been holding his breath. "So," he finally said, "she's a brunette."
Hermione had leaned forward on Ron's legs, his friend grunting and wrapping an arm around her waist as if she were some kind of animate security blanket trying to escape. "I don't know…" she said, biting down on her lower lip thoughtfully and casting another series of spells in quick succession.
Harry waited, not recognizing a single one of them, but when she was done she leaned back and looked up at him with what he swore to hell was a put-out pout. "She used Muggle dye on it," she said, as if that explained everything.
Naturally she might as well have been speaking Greek.
"And…?" he drew the word out, nice and slow, so she'd remember just what kind of idiot she was working with at one in the morning.
"And what? There's dye on it."
"Gonna have to give me more to work with than that, 'Mione. What's that have to do with not knowing what her hair color is?"
Hermione tiredly rubbed at her eyes, as if the hour were too late to fully berate him for the stupidity he just knew she was accusing him of inside that brilliant head of hers. "Merlin Harry…if she'd used a glamour charm we could simply remove the charm but…Muggle dye permeates the cuticle and changes the melanin within the cortex. That's a permanent change. There's no way to be sure, but…" she glanced down at the strand of hair, the thing rapidly shriveling beneath the strength of so many cast spells, adding, "I think it's safe to say she's not a brunette, and my spells didn't detect any traces of bleach so her hair couldn't be darker than that." With a decisive nod, she concluded, "Her hair has to be lighter than that. That's the best I can do."
Harry's stomach sunk straight down to his toes. A strand of hair, wasted.
There was nothing to be done for it though, so he gave a tight nod and turned back to the wall, nodding at it. "How do you even know those spells anyway?"
"Auror forensics, Harry. You and Ron were there when we covered it back in October."
Right. October. Right around when he'd had his ass unceremoniously dumped. He'd spent the better part of that month alternating between a sleep-deprived or inebriated haze in his off hours. No wonder he hadn't retained shit.
He made a mental note to go back through his notes – scratch that, he'd borrow Hermione's notes – and make sure he hadn't missed anything else that would be useful.
"So which of them," he said, nodding at the wall, "have hair darker than that?"
Hermione gave several waves of her wand, several of the post-it's moving to reside in Harry's 'maybe' section smack dab on Walburga's face.
Lisa Turpin, Daphne Greengrass, Isobel MacDougal, Lily Moon, Sophie Roper, and Runcorn were all that was left.
Hermione's memory fucking astounded him. Back in school he hadn't paid attention to his classmates; he'd been rather preoccupied with that whole 'saving the world and staying alive' thing.
"Wouldn't happen to remember if any of them had an interest in healing, would you?"
Hermione shook her head gently. "I wasn't-I didn't exactly have friends beyond you both, Ginny and Viktor, Harry. I mean…Neville maybe but…"
She trailed off, and Harry understood. Hermione hadn't exactly been popular amongst her classmates.
More time passed, exhaustion starting to crawl through him. They'd narrowed the list of possible witches down from well over thirty to six. For now, that would have to do.
The grandfather clock in the hall struck three a.m.
He dragged a hand over the top of his head and yanked at his hair, yawning loudly.
He glanced backwards, having barely heard her. Ron's snoring had long since overtaken the room. "Yeah?"
"Were you really going to marry, Ginny?"
Hermione was laying on the couch, curled up with Ron, but her half-lidded eyes were focused tiredly on him. She was a good damn friend – the best – and had done her best to stay awake for him.
He appreciated her and Ron more than he could ever fucking say. And still, it took him a moment to answer. Harry stood there, arms crossed over his chest, looking as rigid as a new recruit in a military parade formation, but given the late hour and what they were talking about…
Thinking about Ginny made him feel unwell.
"Yeah Hermione," he finally said, "I was."
And that was all there was left to say.
The Floo call about George came in around four a.m.
George was dying.
Harry had been barely awake when the call came in, slouched in a conjured armchair of questionable stability, whilst Hermione had slept, half-slumped over on Ron. The trio had still been in the front corridor, sleeping right alongside Sirius' bitch mother's portrait and the gaping crack in the wall that apparently led straight to hell itself, if the sweetly whispered threats drifting out of it were anything to go by. It'd spent the better part of the night whispering sweet nothings after all.
He now had it on good authority that the Death Eaters he'd killed wanted his scrotum on a stick.
It'd been Fleur who had shown. The Floo in the study had flared a bright green, and she'd stepped elegantly out without having to brush so much as a stray ash off herself. Her sleep had to have been disturbed, but fuck you'd never be able to tell. Her silver-blonde hair was sleek and shining, her face artfully set. Fuck, even her toes were manicured, her feet bare. She hadn't even bothered to put on fucking shoes. As always, Fleur looked like she'd just stepped off one of those magazine covers that Dudley used to keep under his bed.
The difference was Fleur actually had clothes on.
That was how Harry had been able to tell that she'd been woken up, and rather unceremoniously at that. It was also how he'd known, instantly, that something was very, very wrong.
Fleur Delacour had more class than to show up in a single man's home in nothing more than a skimpy nightie, if it weren't an emergency.
Ron woke up, took one look at his sister-in-law, and about choked.
Hermione had kindly smacked him on the back just a bit harder than necessary.
They'd rushed to St. Mungo's.
It hadn't taken long. Charlie had been waiting for them, the brawny wizard pacing back and forth in front of the hospital's Floo network, lines of his face drawn and shoulders tense. Wordlessly he had turned and walked, and they had followed.
Ron practically bowled over a nurse or three.
They found four heads of red hair in the hall, a Healer speaking in a soft voice. Percy had been slumped against the far wall, staring straight ahead, his horn-rimmed glasses askew. It was one of the few times in Harry's memory where he'd seen the former Prefect look disheveled.
Spotting them, the Healer had looked suddenly weary, resigned. She spoke again, her words heavy. She told them what was happening.
Like he'd said, it hadn't taken long.
Somehow Harry figured it should have; telling you that your friend was dying should take longer.
But it didn't.
A few words about his current condition, what was causing it, what the next twenty four hours looked like, and if he pulled through…
Time passed in a slow blur. Hermione looked stricken, Ron pale. His best mate's face had hardened, his breathing unnaturally controlled as Hermione clung to his hand. Mrs. Weasley was doing the same to Arthur, her warm brown eyes red-rimmed. Dark circles encapsulated Mr. Weasley's eyes, the lines on the man's face so much more pronounced than Harry remembered ever seeing them. At some point Percy had slid down the wall, now on the floor in his otherwise pristine pajamas.
Bill and Charlie simply took it all in with near identical grimaces, as if turning over the options in their heads, trying to work something out.
Harry felt like an interloper.
The heavy weight that always accompanied family settled in on him. As Harry stood there, he was uncomfortably aware that he had no family; that this might have been his, if he'd been with Ginny, but…
And Ginny wasn't there. Fleur showed soon after, saying she'd Floo-ed her a message. The witch he'd wanted to marry was trying to get an emergency portkey home.
Fuck. With everything going on, Ginny was the last person he wanted to see.
Sara had been right: he really was an asshole. George was dying, and he was worried about getting stuck seeing his ex.
Harry leaned against the wall and did nothing. Absolutely nothing. He just waited. A subtle tension began to build deep in his veins, because for once he couldn't do anything. He couldn't do a thing to stop this. Harry knew he was magically powerful – a fact that still made the Boy-Who-Always-Fucking-Lived-While-Everyone-Else-Died uncomfortable as fuck to acknowledge, but he'd long since accepted – but it didn't help. He couldn't do a damn thing to save him. He could have been mother fucking Voldemort or even Albus-I'm-Misguided-Dumbledore and he still would have been powerless, because illness wasn't a palpable threat. It wasn't one that Harry could storm up to and challenge to a fair damn fight, because disease didn't fight fair; it fought dirty.
It fought dirty as fuck.
Clock hands turned.
Wizards and witches in robes moved in and out of George's room. The Weasley family simply stood there.
They were not allowed in.
The entire corridor smelled oddly sterile.
It was quiet. It struck Harry, how different it was, from what he'd expected. The last time Harry'd been in Mungo's Ron's dad had just been bitten by Nagini. There'd been a frenzy of activity then. Not now.
Right now there was no rush. There was no barking of orders like there had been when Ron had been splinched, when they'd been on the run, when Hermione had been frantically trying to stop the bleeding. There was no rush like there had been after the battle, when the war Healers had desperately tried to save as many lives as they could. There was no screaming or loud shouting, no bellowing out orders for medical kits.
Right now it was simply quiet.
He felt ready to explode.
There was a surreal calm about it all. The way the door to George's room would crack open, just long enough for a wizard in a face mask to stick his head out and quietly request something from an orderly. Each and every single time he would offer the Weasleys a weak grimace, then shake his head 'no' to indicate that they could not come in yet. Then that doc would duck back inside, the door would shut behind him, and the shadows through the tinted glass would resume moving in a maddeningly calm way.
Harry could see it right now, and he felt undeniably helpless.
He wanted to blasting hex the entire corridor.
Overhead the illumination charms shone dimly, but at now five in the morning they seemed unnecessarily bright. Every so often Ron would direct a scowl up at them, squint, and fondle his wand. Harry could practically see the wheels turning in his best mate's head: he wanted to hex the things.
Hermione also noticed, the witch casually snatching Ron's wand with uncanny precision. Ron simply gaped, tried to snatch it back, only to get his hand swatted by his own girlfriend.
Percy, spotting this, let out an oddly wet-sounding snort.
Then the former Head Boy had promptly averted his face, under the pretense of polishing his glasses on the hem of his shirt. But Harry saw it; they all did. Percy was wiping his nose clean on his sleeve, trying not to cry, and it was like a blow to the gut.
The ex-Ministry lackey was taking it hard. A bitter part of Harry thought good. Truth be told he'd never quite forgiven the uptight rule-monger for disowning his own family or for suggesting that Ron 'sever ties' with him. But even Harry had to admit that he'd been trying to fix things; he'd fought in the Battle of Hogwarts with them, and hell…he'd even walked right up to Harry and apologized.
But after everything...after Fred…well, Percy and George had gotten close. He had quit the Ministry – a sabbatical, he'd called it – and now spent the majority of his time at the shop.
He hadn't wanted George to be alone. No one did. Harry could respect that, even if he didn't like him.
But now George was dying.
Harry's hands curled into tense fists, then uncurled, almost rhythmically. He paced. He half-wondered if St. Mungo's had a de-stressing blasting hex garden out back. If not, they should make one.
It was a blood curse.
George Weasley had inherited a blood curse, from the Prewitt side of the family.
Harry had figured that last part out from Molly's reaction. As soon as the words "blood curse" had left the Healer's mouth, Mrs. Weasley had let out a soul-wrenching sob.
The words, "This is my fault…" had followed. Arthur had just taken his wife into his arms, looking shaken. Hermione's lips had opened and closed several times, as if trying and failing to formulate a question, but Harry could distinctly see her mouthing the word 'how'. Ron had scowled as if someone had just stolen and snogged Hermione after insulting his mother, and Bill's head had shot up so fast that it was a marvel his neck didn't snap.
Percy had simply frowned from his first class spot on the hospital floor. "That-that's impos- it's impossible." He reached up and adjusted his glasses. "Blood curses begin in childhood. He would have shown- he would have shown signs. He-George does not have a blood curse!"
His words ended on a shout, the loudest Harry had ever heard the wizard get.
Molly's sobs had grown louder.
Charlie's reaction was far more subdued. The dragon keeper had folded his arms over his chest, sucking in a deep breath. It whistled through a small gap in his teeth. The set of his jaw, the way he shifted on his feet and stared straight at the Healer, as if mentally steeling himself…
Harry didn't have to be an Auror to know the dragon keeper hadn't been surprised.
"So," Charlie had finally said, sounding resigned, "the transfusion didn't take then?"
The Healer had fixed him with an apologetic look. "No, Charles, I'm afraid not." The woman removed her face mask, allowing it to hang from between her fingers. "I was hopeful, but from the beginning we disclosed to him-"
Charlie grunted. "I know what we disclosed."
And just like that, everyone knew this wasn't a recent thing.
If Harry had thought the silence was penetrating before, it was nothing compared to the shroud that descended at those words.
Bill stared at him with the stunned sort of look ordinarily reserved for traitors and Voldemort-resurrections. "Charlie, you knew?"
Charlie's warm brown eyes shot towards Bill. His freckled forearms flexed, the keeper clenching his fingers against his folded arms in a betraying sign of stress. "Yes."
Bill shook his head, and the dragon fang earing swung dully. "How the hell did you know?"
That had led to what Harry could only describe as an unbelievably uncomfortable conversation.
It boiled down to this: George had gotten sick when he was around eleven, just after the twins had arrived at Hogwarts. Bill had already graduated, but Charlie hadn't. So naturally the twins, rebellious souls that they were, had gone to him rather than to a professor or Madam Pomfrey when it'd all started.
The treatment for a blood curse…it was expensive. More expensive than all but the richest families could afford.
If you weren't a woman, cursed to morph into an animal later on in life, then a blood curse could do all kinds of truly terrible things to the person. It could slowly congeal the blood until the person formed blood clots, eventually dying of a stroke or something called a pulmonary embolism; it could result in blood platelet reduction, which, according to Hermione who just had to interject on the Healer's explanation, could cause a person to bleed to death from even minor bumps and scrapes, and it didn't respond to platelet transfusions; it could cause the blood cells to mutate, eventually creating magi-cancerous-like cells, similar to what was found in acute forms of Muggle leukemia; or it could simply cause the blood cells to die off, one-by-one, resulting in hemoglobin reduction and eventual oxygen deprivation. The poor bastard could die while still breathing.
Ultimately, it didn't matter which route the blood curse took. In the end, all blood curses were death sentences.
"Perhaps…I'll leave you to explain?" the Healer had postulated, seeking out Charlie's permission.
The Weasley had nodded, grimacing hard as she'd disappeared back into his brother's room.
Instantly eight sets of eyes had swiveled to Charlie, and the wizard had practically winced.
The explanations had continued.
Charlie had been no lax academic. He'd known his brother was going to die. He'd also known there was no way his family could afford the treatments required to help him. So he'd taken matters into his own hands. He'd researched. The twins had helped researched. Fuck, at the age of eleven, the un-studious twins had taken on the insurmountable task of combing through magical medical textbooks they'd nicked out of the restricted section of the library, in hopes of finding a way to reverse, or at the very least stall, the curse.
Charlie, naturally, had a lot to do with that.
They'd come up empty; but no one had ever accused the Weasley twins of knowing when to quit.
They'd combed through other magi-medical texts, and Charlie had been the one to point out that the twins had something that the other blood cursed individuals did not: they had each other.
Being identical twins…it had to mean something.
Eventually they'd settled on an obscure, insane treatment. It hadn't been meant for blood curses, but it had been used in dire cases before. There were some magical diseases that could literally strip the magic from a wizard's bloodstream, and in the nineteenth century there'd been a documented case of identical twins, where only one had wound up afflicted. Typically the magical virus would leave the wizard devoid of magic, forced to live out a life of shame as nothing more than a common Muggle, but in the case of the twins…
A Healer had tried a blood transfusion. He'd taken blood from the healthy twin and transfused it into the sick twin. That, and a myriad of magic-enhancing potions, had been used, and shockingly…
The twin had recovered.
They tried it on George as a last ditch effort. Admittedly learning how to start an IV to do a Muggle-style blood draw and transfusion follow up had been tricky, but they'd managed after sneaking out of Hogwarts and heading into London, where they had confounded a Muggle physician into teaching them. By comparison, making the complicated potions associated with it had been far easier.
And the hell of it was…it worked.
They had tried using Charlie's blood as well, to see if that would quell the symptoms, but in the end…it hadn't. Only Fred's had worked for staving off the symptoms, and it was something Fred had happily done for his brother time and time again, every month.
By the time the twins had finished their first year of Hogwarts, they'd been proficient at brewing blood replenishing potions (for Fred) and at brewing complex medical potions (for George).
They'd formed a pact, to never breathe a word to their parents. It had no longer been necessary to worry them. And the twins had kept the secret, as had Charlie, for years. In fact, the only lingering evidence that George had a bit of a death sentence hanging over him was the overly optimistic attitudes that the two had and their complete and utter disinterest in pursuing anything that didn't fully catch their interests, like their scholastic endeavors. Quidditch, jokes and girls had been far more interesting to them, and given they never were sure how long George actually would have, they pursued them with gusto.
Carpe diem and all that shit.
Charlie had relayed all of this to a rather open mouthed crowd. Ron closely resembled a guppy, his best mate stating, "Bloody hell…" before dragging a hand through his hair and abruptly sitting. Hermione, pink nosed from holding back tears, had looked mildly impressed.
Percy, however, looked like his favorite puppy had just been kicked. "You did all that? They were going through all that, all that time passed, and I…I was always on them to get their marks up…"
Once again Percy Weasley looked like he was greatly regretting almost all of his life decisions.
Harry just grimaced and took it all in silently. From a cold and clinical perspective, that history tracked. They'd learned about psychology in the academy. Hell, they were still learning psychology, profiling, and all the fun tricks to understand your enemy, their motivations, and what it might mean for predicting their future behaviors and actions. In the twins' case, it explained their personalities to a T. Despite being intelligent – they'd had to of been in order to pull off the pranks and products they'd created – the two had only ever cared about jokes and Quidditch back at Hogwarts. And why not? George had always been on borrowed time, and Fred hadn't saw a life for himself without his twin by his side. So have fun and fuck the rest.
The most dangerous men in the world were the ones with nothing to lose, after all.
Mrs. Weasley quietly wept. He could hear quiet, broken pieces of conversation between her and Arthur, and Harry's chest about wrenched in half at the words, "Oh Arthur, not him too."
Hermione rung her hands as Ron got up and began to pace.
At some point Harry had muttered some excuse, something about ice, or coffee. If he were honest he wasn't really sure what he'd suggested, but he had to get away.
He had to get away because he'd realized something, something dark and cold and it felt like a deep black hole had just opened up in the pit of his stomach.
None of this would be happening if it wasn't for him.
George was dying, and it was his fault. Harry-fucking-Potter, the boy wizard that the twins had stood behind and been willing to fucking die for.
It was his fault. It wasn't Voldemort's. It wasn't some random Death Eater's. It was his. Pure and simple. The twins had been targeted because of Potterwatch, because they'd supported him, because they'd tried to dispel the climate of panic and asked wizarding kind to emulate him, to follow his example.
Harry wasn't dumb; during the battle he'd seen how the twins had been targeted by Death Eaters hellbent on ending their lives. Granted, they'd been hellbent on ending a lot of the defenders' lives, but they'd attacked the twins with a particular type of gusto.
And now Fred was dead, George was dying, and there was literally nothing he could do.
When it was all said and done, George wouldn't be dying if Fred was still alive.
Ultimately Harry didn't even know where he'd gone. He hadn't been paying particular attention. He just walked. He didn't remember making his way hastily down the hall. He didn't remember walking past countless empty rooms, only one of them occupied. He didn't even remember ducking into the empty side room, a glorified storage closet.
But he did remember seeing the large, humming metal box.
It stood in the corner, the label 'Robo-Warmer 2000' on the side.
Strangely it reminded him of the thrumming box that had been inside of Wally, the fridge that had contained the out-of-date tuna. The pit in his stomach clenched, the realization of how fucking stupid he'd been all this time.
He'd been bound and determined to find a girl that didn't want to be found, and had spent so much of his time doing it, searching for her, that he'd entirely missed that George was fucking dying.
Twistedly the thrum of the box still managed to calm him. It was a mark of how screwed up his head was.
Harry leaned against it and clenched his gaze shut. In mission debriefs they were encouraged to take a moment to think, to honestly assess their own emotions and physiological responses to whatever had happened. It was important, because if you knew what emotions you were experiencing then you wouldn't be a fucking slave to them, wind up paralyzed by them, get yourself killed by them, if they chose to rear their ugly head at the wrong moment.
So Harry did just that.
He let the knowledge sink in. Soon George would be dead. George would be dead, and it was at least peripherally his fault.
Harry's stomach twisted, like it was trying to tear itself into small pieces. It hurt. It hurt in a way he didn't ever let himself hurt. He'd never allowed it because if he went down that path he didn't know where it might end. All those dead; all those who had been maimed and permanently broken; all those who had fought with him, for him, that he'd led – willingly or not – into a war...they couldn't be fixed, and at the end of the day it was his fault.
He was responsible; it was all on him.
Remus and Tonks. Colin Creevey and Lavender Brown. Dobby and Fred. Dumbledore, Snape and Sirius. His mum and dad.
They were all dead.
They hadn't had to follow him, but they had.
They hadn't had to sacrifice themselves for him but they had.
They hadn't had to die, but they did.
Because of him they were dead.
Harry may not have held the wand, but he was responsible. Anyone who said otherwise was just lying to themselves.
Leaders cared about those who fought with them.
They also cared about what happened as a result.
Harry cared. He cared deeply. George, who had stolen a flying car and broken him out of casa la Dursley; George, who had created a giant swamp as a final act of defiance to Umbridge, right before goading Peeves into creating total anarchy; George, who had been willing to impersonate him to get him to safety before he'd turned seventeen, and lost an ear as a result; George, who had lost his twin for him.
George was his family, in every way that mattered.
And now George was going to die.
Harry wasn't dumb. Even if he hadn't overheard a single word he could have figured out that treatment of a blood curse was expensive. It was chronic. It wasn't just some accidental injury or broken bone that would eventually heal or go away.
And with Fred dead, so was his best chance at living.
A pit welled up, deep and dark, in his stomach.
Harry wanted to collapse, but he didn't. He forced himself to think.
Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes had been rich. But like every other kick to the crotch, the war had taken its toll on the shop, just like it had on every other wizarding business. Half the shops in Diagon Alley were still vacant. Financially the wizarding world had been hit, and it'd been hit hard.
Which meant that George didn't have the money for his own treatment. The Weasleys certainly didn't. Harry would have happily opened his vault and drained it down to the last knut if there was even the slightest hope it would have fixed him, but what he had left wasn't enough. He'd given the Black fortune and a considerable sum of the Potter vault to the goblins as reparations for what he and Ron and Hermione had done to Gringotts. They'd just gotten out of one war, he hadn't wanted to put them on the brink of another with the goblins.
At the time the decision had made sense.
And now George was going to die.
A deep churning nausea sent bile rising up his throat. He could taste it on the back of his tongue. The only comfort was the steady thrumming behind his back. Harry didn't know what it was, or why it was in a magical hospital, but it reminded him – strangely enough – of Wally.
It comforted him.
It also pissed him off.
It pissed him off because Harry knew better; he knew he was latching onto two fucking days with a complete stranger who had lied to him, and he'd been pathetically hanging onto her memory like a literal lifeline. She hadn't wanted to be found; she hadn't even told him her real name.
Then again, should he really be surprised? This kind of behavior was old hat for him. He'd been hung up on Ginny for a year when on the run, and back then he hadn't even gotten laid. And with Sara, well…
He'd definitely gotten a hell of a lot farther than he had in sixth year.
A traitorous voice that he really didn't need reared up, and unhelpfully pointed out that maybe it wasn't illogical, because if Sara really hadn't wanted to be found, then why had she given him her hair?
He hated when he had good points.
He could barely think.
Kingsley was always harping on the recruits to "stop being manly" and ruminate in what they were feeling, because it would clear the mind, allow them to think properly so they wouldn't get their heads blasted off by some dark wizard who had seized their distraction.
And Harry was distracted. He knew he was distracted.
He'd never be able to help George if he stayed that way.
He forcibly shoved thoughts of Sara out of his mind, leaned against pseudo-Wally, closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and let the shroud of unpleasant-ass-emotions swarm him like a hive of disturbed wasps.
Behind his back the 'Robo-Warmer 2000' thrummed like a purring kitten, vibrating up the length of his spine. Overhead cheap fluorescent lighting buzzed, a remnant from the old Muggle building the wizards had fashioned St. Mungo's out of. A strangely chemical-like scent hung in the air, so thick and potent it made him light headed. If he were lucky maybe he'd pass out. Then he wouldn't have to think about any of this.
Harry Potter really hated thinking about his feelings.
A part of him also knew that Kingsley was almost always, annoyingly, right.
He was rather like Hermione that way.
He took a deep breath and gave it a shot.
A weight pressed down on his shoulders; it was guilt; either that or Myrtle had taken her obsession with him a step too far, abandoned her toilet and stalked him to this very spot the second she'd heard that he was single. Harry was going to go with the 'he was feeling guilty' option, if only because the idea of Myrtle 'Harry hunting' him was a bit too disturbing to handle.
Dread filled his stomach.
Harry was bitter, furious. He'd missed that George had been sick. He hadn't even been by to see George in over two months. He'd been too busy going full-fledged creeper on some witch he'd met only once, doing it her way, playing the game by the rules she'd laid out.
He ought to be disgusted, go the hell home and burn every single strand of remaining hair.
The thought was enough to send his stomach coiling into a full-fledged panic.
Harry wanted to think about Sara. To think about Wally. To think about literally anything else but the fact that George was going to die, even if that made him a selfish bastard.
Truth be told, he was sick of losing people.
His parents, Cedric, Sirius, Remus, Tonks, Fred, then Ginny, and now George…
Then again, neither Ginny nor George were dead.
His throat got curiously tight.
No wonder he preferred to think about the unattainable girl he'd met. It was so much easier than anything else. Maybe Hermione and that Auror-trainee-mandated shrink had been right: he was using the memory of Sara as a fucking crutch to avoid the shambles that were his actual, real day-to-day life.
Fuck, if the psychiatrist could only hear him now…
Well…he'd tried it Kingsley's way. He'd thought about his damn feelings, and he'd arrived at one conclusion: he needed to get laid. Obviously. And the one girl he wanted to do that with was unattainable. And despite that, thinking about her was a hell of lot better than staring down the wand shaft of George's quickly looming death.
And it was his fault, because if Fred and George had never known him, if Ron had never known him, then maybe they wouldn't have been targeted the way they had during the battle.
Then maybe Fred would still be alive.
Then maybe George wouldn't be dying.
He was helpless to stop any of it.
Too bad the universe took perverse glee in kicking him in the balls while he was down.
This time quite literally.
"Well, don't you look like shit."
Harry knew that voice. It had the effect of making a bad day worse.
An icy ball plummeted to his stomach, straight down to his balls that had been left on ice since his little Honduran adventure, and he forcibly pried open his eyes.
That cold stone in his stomach settled in and made itself at home.
Just as quickly Harry decided that he really hated Kingsley, and was never partaking in one of his hippy-esque self-reflection exercises again.
She was there, hovering in the glorified storage closet's doorway.
Harry looked at her for a long, long moment. Despite the torrent of emotions coiling beneath the surface, his expression remained unreadable, his jaw set in a rigid line.
Harry'd come a long way from the fumbling boy she'd first had a crush on.
She looked much the same as the last time he'd seen her, months ago. She was still beautiful. Still tall and athletically thin. Her ring, the engagement ring he'd gotten and never had a chance to give to her, still lay in his dresser drawer collecting dust.
Her dark eyes rested on him, irises of a warm, chocolate brown flickering with familiarity beneath her long, dark lashes.
Harry'd always had a thing for dark eyes.
Those dark eyes looked at him as if she were worried.
And still, Harry said nothing.
At the prolonged silence Ginny Weasley took a deep, almost impatient breath. "I mean it, Harry," she said, sounding irritated, "you look like shit."
Ah, there she was. There was that sweet girl he remembered.
Too bad she was blocking his exit; otherwise, he might have made a run for it.
"Gee, thanks," he said, at long last, "it's nice to see you too, Ginny."
Her long, oversized sleeves hung almost past her fingers, her clothes as ill-fitting as they'd been at Hogwarts. Second hand, of course. It was a habit she'd never grown out of. Rather like her hatred of silence.
And for a second, just a second, she looked almost stung.
That brief flicker of hurt was rapidly replaced by a far more familiar one. Ginny hissed a breath, then fixed him with the patented Weasley matriarch look he'd seen so often on her mother every summer, whenever he arrived at the Burrow, fresh from his yearly dose of Dursleys. Mrs. Weasley would study him, every single year, and don that look of worried-upset.
Ginny now wore it.
It suited her well.
"Don't give me that," she said seriously. "You haven't been sleeping, have you?"
St. Mungo's version of "Wally" hummed comfortingly behind his back. Harry bent his knee and propped the flat part of his foot up against it. He tried not to think about how screwed up the situation was. "And that's relevant to you how?"
Perhaps his words were a bit more biting than necessary.
It didn't matter. It didn't seem to bother her either way.
She glanced back into the hall, and apparently seeing no one coming deemed it safe to step into the room with him. Not that he could blame her for looking first. The last time they'd been together stuff had been thrown and Ron had almost lost an eye. At least this time she'd done a preemptive risk assessment for potential innocent bystanders.
Ginny fixed him with that patented Weasley look. "I'm serious, Harry. Are you okay?"
"What's it to you?"
This time she rolled her eyes.
She actually rolled her eyes at him.
"Don't be daft, Harry. I've only been in love with you since I was ten. After that long even you couldn't be dense enough to have not cottoned on."
That icy ball rolled around in his ball sack, igniting a fire in his stomach. He really hated Kingsley right then. If it wasn't for that stupid calming exercise he might have seen her coming and had time to do something drastic, like run, or Avada Kedavra himself.
Harry hadn't seen her in months, and now here she was.
He hadn't missed the present tense of that love statement.
His gut lurched.
Ginny hovered in the doorway, and shot him an exasperated look.
She never had liked silence.
His entire throat was suddenly dry. "My apologies," he said, tone like bitter dry ice, "that whole trans-continental moving thing you did seems to have sent the wrong message."
Her lips parted. "Not this again."
The witch that stood before him balled her fingers up in her oversized sleeves. "Harry-"
The red head now appeared to be growling. Harry silently congratulated himself. It'd taken him only thirty seconds to have her making rabid-like sounds. The last time they'd spoken it'd taken a good thirty minutes of fighting and accidental magical outbursts before she'd been reduced to making sounds like a common diseased house pet.
Good on you, Harry. Good on you.
She said nothing, and neither did he. They both just stood there under the yellow-piss-colored fluorescent lighting, tense, bodies taut as thickly strung wires.
And then he couldn't take it.
His vocal chords vibrated like the traitors they were, his green eyes hard on her face. "You left."
Two words that summed up every bit of damn heartache he'd had when she'd broken up with him.
Then again, technically he'd dumped her.
Funny, how it no longer seemed to matter. Not given the way things stood.
And yet he said it anyway.
Conveniently neither of them mentioned George.
Ginny looked at him as if he'd lost his mind. "I didn't leave you, Harry. I took a job. A dream job. One I thought," she emphasized, "my boyfriend would have been more supportive of."
He stared at her. "You could have played Quidditch here."
"Really? Because the British teams weren't exactly owling."
"Owls fly both ways, Gin."
Brown eyes so expressive he could have drowned stared at him, and when she spoke she sounded hurt. "You think I don't know that?"
"Considering you didn't even try," he said dryly, "I know you don't know that."
She stared at him for a second, rather like he'd been staring at her.
And then she exploded.
"I did, Harry! I bloody well DID! Hermione…she owled Viktor. He got me a tryout with the Bulgarians, but I didn't make even that!"
Her voice carried down the otherwise silent hall, and he swore to fuck he heard a haunting echo.
Some statements required processing.
A lot of processing.
"What?" he said, with the coherency of a toddler.
If Ginny had seemed strangely calm before, she wasn't now. "I said," she informed, drawing her words out nice and slow so her moron of an ex would understand, "that I did owl them. I owled every team in Britain and continental sodding Europe, Harry. Only one let me try out and I didn't-" she sucked in an angered breath and looked away. "I didn't make the cut. Alright?"
It was like a bludger to the stomach. He opened his mouth to say something, but all that came out was a croaked, "When?"
"Just before Halloween, when I went to visit Luna for a few days." She shifted uncomfortably in the doorframe, looking at a crack in the floor as if it were fascinating. "The American league…they had scouts there." She shook her head, and a wisp of brilliant red hair fell in front of her nose. "That's why they owled. They scouted me there and had an opening."
He felt his pulse in his ears.
Months, months of being away from her and he was straight back to where he'd started in seconds.
Harry stared at her, almost numbly.
Ginny looked up from the floor, and for a second Harry saw a glimmer of upset in her eyes.
His mouth went dry. "I had no idea."
"Of course you didn't. You never asked."
"Why didn't you-"
A bitter laugh cut loose. "Tell my perfect hero boyfriend with Quidditch offers from literally every possible league that I didn't make the cut?" She shook her head. "Do you have any idea how embarrassing that would have been for me?"
Her voice carried down the otherwise silent hall.
He wasn't sure what to be more shocked by: that brash, take-the-world-by-the-balls-Ginny was even capable of being embarrassed, or the fact that he'd been the one capable of inspiring that in her.
She'd led the DA, along with Neville, when the incest-loving-Carrows had been at the Death-Eater-run-school. If they'd so much as heard a rumor of what her and Neville had been doing, she'd have been Crucio-cursed into insanity.
And yet she'd persisted. She hadn't flinched. She hadn't backed down. He'd heard the stories.
She'd faced down Bellatrix Lestrange and nearly been taken out by a killing curse.
She'd gone to the Department of Mysteries with him.
She'd survived being possessed by Voldemort himself.
Yet she'd been scared of his reaction to a Quidditch tryout?
His voice came out thick and raspy. "You're joking."
The looks he shot him made it perfectly clear she wasn't.
He couldn't believe he was hearing this. Not now. It was two months too late. His stomach balled into an iron fist and attempted to beat him from the inside out.
He deserved it.
He took a deep breath and looked right at her. "I wish you would have told me."
"I don't think it would have mattered."
"What do you mean?"
Her lips parted, then closed. For a second it looked like she was re-thinking saying something.
But Ginerva Weasley had grown up with six brothers. She'd never been one to pull punches.
She fixed him with a look and dove right in. "I waited for you for over a year, Harry," she said plainly. "Before that I waited five for you to get your head out of your ass. You couldn't even wait for me for a few months." She scuffed the toe of her shoe against the linoleum. "I hardly think we would have worked out. Even if we had, it would have been an awfully one-sided relationship. I'd always have been willing to wait for you, and you….well..." She took a quick, shaken breath, but her voice grew louder, stronger, and every syllable was like a knife to the gut. "I deserve to be someone worth waiting for. I wasn't to you, alright?"
Whatever he'd been about to say died like a flame in a hurricane.
What the hell was he supposed to say to that?
He tried anyway, words rough as gravel. "You didn't ask me to wait, Ginny."
"I shouldn't have had to."
Harry wet his lips, then grimaced, words sharp as flint. "Call me dumb, but pretty sure you were the one always harping at me about the importance of communication." He paused, a flare of anger in him. "Would wager telling me you wanted to stay together should have been high on the list of things you might want to tell me."
"Funny that," she said, sounding more than a little annoyed, "given you'd broken it off before I even had half a chance."
Right. He had done that, hadn't he? "Yeah well, I'm pretty good at moving to acceptance where rejection is concerned."
Her mouth fell open and she flat out stared. "I wasn't rejecting you!"
"Oh yeah? So what message were you trying to send with that whole 'I'm moving to another continent' speech without even talking about it with me first? Seriously Ginny, I might be dense but even I would think a romantic fucking partner ought to be asked to weigh in before I decided to just up and change time zones."
She gave him such an incendiary look it was a wonder he wasn't reduced to ash. "Are you saying I had to ask for your permission to take a job?"
"No. Just that you might have considered that your decisions affected more than just you."
Ginny let out a short, humorless laugh. "That's rich coming from you. Mister Noble 'I have to dump you for your own safety!'"
He gaped. "Ginny, they would have killed you. Voldemor-"
"His name was Riddle, Harry. I'd think of all the people who'd earned the right to call him by his pathetic real name it'd have been you."
He sputtered at her.
Ginny hissed in frustration and spun on her heel, glorious red hair flying out as she paced to the opposite end of the hall, and then back, gesturing at him. "At Dumbledore's funeral, when you pulled that asinine stunt, you asked how I thought you'd feel if it had been my funeral in one breath and in the next told me you were leaving to chase Riddle. Never once did you bother to think how I'd feel if it had been your funeral, Harry."
At some point he'd stopped leaning against the 'Robo-Warmer 2000' and come around to fully face her, every muscle in him strung taut as a wire. "I'm sorry," he said, not sounding sorry at all, "but how the hell did we go from you up and leaving-"
"Dumped, Harry. Say it. You dumped me."
"Of course I dumped you," he said with a forced kind of calm. "I thought you were leaving me to-"
"I was leaving for work, you git! I'm a bloody witch! There's this thing called international portkeys and the Floo Network! I could have come back on weekends-"
She could have come back.
She could have come back.
Inside Harry something snapped.
"Then why the HELL didn't you say that!?"
"Because I wasn't about to beg for you to want me!"
And there it was.
His pulse thundered in his ears, the rush of blood loud and angry.
He stared at her, and she stared at him, their tempers flaring.
Ginny stood there, flushed and breathing hard, her hair a wavy mess. If it'd seen a brush in the last twelve hours he'd have been shocked. She'd clearly left the States in a rush. She stood there, every centimeter of her exposed skin practically trembling with upset and anger and a thousand things he didn't want to think about, and he could only stand there and watch as she closed her eyes, as if steeling herself for something unpleasant.
When she finally spoke, he wished she hadn't.
"You broke up with me once, Harry," she told so quietly that he barely heard her, and something about her voice sounded heart-breakingly off. "I wasn't about to beg for you back when you did it again." Her eyes flickered open. "Not a second time. I might be nothing more than Ron's little sister, but even I have more self-respect than that."
A bludger hit him.
An invisible bludger, and it drove the air right out of him.
In the end he didn't know what to say, and he just stood there like a bloody cad.
"I didn't come find you to argue, Harry." She practically whispered it, every syllable shaking with coiling upset and anger and red-headed fury.
A wiser man might have run. A wiser man should have run. He was dealing with a red head with a mercurial temper that he'd hurt. Her temper was like a simmering fire, the flames smoldering right alongside highly unstable oxygen tanks, bound to explode at any second if blown upon the wrong way. If Ginny truly lost her temper, it'd make what he and Sara had done to that clinic wall look like child's play.
Harry Potter did his absolute best to remind himself that Ginny Weasley was a bitch.
A heinous, soul-stomping, cross-world-moving, heart-tearing-out bitch.
That was the mantra he'd been telling himself for over two months now.
He tried to remind himself of that: that she had left him, but it'd never occurred to him that he'd driven her to it.
He wanted to scream at her. He wanted to shout until she felt as bad as he did.
But he didn't.
The Harry Potter of two years ago wouldn't have even begun to grasp what the problem was. Unfortunately for him, he now grasped it, and grasped it acutely.
He'd made her feel unwanted. He'd made the woman he'd loved, the one that he'd wanted to marry feel unwanted, to the point that she had thought it was better to let him go than actually tell him she didn't want to break up.
Maybe she'd tried; maybe he just hadn't listened.
He closed his eyes and felt like shit. Absolute and complete shit.
Had she caught him at another time, when he hadn't just found out that her brother was dying, he might have had more fight in him. As it was, he didn't.
He looked her dead in the eye, throat viciously tight. "You were worth waiting for," he croaked, and he had to practically dig the words from his throat.
She studied him. "It didn't seem that way."
"Yeah well, have it on good authority I'm an ass."
A red eyebrow shot straight up, disappearing beneath a fringe of bangs. She'd gotten bangs. "Oh? Hermione, Kreacher, or is it Skeeter and her lovely writing skills that dubbed you with that moniker?"
Flat out snorted.
For a second it was almost like her brother wasn't dying right down the hall.
"Neither actually," he admitted. "A witch I met in Hondoras."
Her lips formed a silent 'oh', and instantly Harry realized his mistake. He dropped his leg from where it rested against pseudo-Wally and dragged a hand through his hair, tugging at the roots. "Fuck, it's not- I didn't mean for it-"
Now she rolled her eyes, but he didn't miss the brief flash of pure and unadulterated hurt. "Save it, Harry. Ron already told me."
Now it was his turn to gape like a guppy, his mouth forming a silent 'o'.
He mentally began preparing a list of ways to kill Ron. Did it count as fratricide if he was a surrogate brother?
Ginny's hands balled in her sleeves, and for a second, just a second she looked unsteady. She'd never been weepy; it was one of the things Harry had liked so much about her, but right then she looked like she might be able to cry.
And just as quickly, it was gone. She raked her fingers through her own hair, muttering, "Don't look so surprised, Harry. I asked about you. Ron told me that you…met someone."
She feigned nonchalance, but it didn't reach her eyes.
Right. He was going to fucking kill Ron.
Harry's breathing had become very, very controlled. "Ron doesn't know," he said slowly, "what he's talking about."
Never before had a single word sounded so skeptical, accusatory.
Harry sucked in a breath, teeth gritted. "How'd you talk to him anyway? I thought you'd be," he gestured at her, "busy."
She rolled her eyes. "I moved, Harry. I didn't cut off all communication with friends and family and isolate myself on a different planet. Hell, even Muggles on different continents still manage to talk."
He read between the lines. She had moved; that was it. If he'd kept his head about him two months ago, they might still be together, just long distance. They would have still been able to talk, frequently.
If possible, he felt even more hollow than before.
She scoffed, reading him like she always could. "I don't suspect I'll ever get fully over you, Harry. But I'm done waiting for you, alright? So can we just..." her words trailed off, something dangerous and pleading in them.
His stomach bottomed out.
She looked at him beseechingly, and then he remembered…
She wasn't here for him; she was here for George.
He sucked in a harsh breath. "Yeah, well…no one ever claimed I wasn't an idiot, Ginny."
Now it was his turn to glare. "I was trying to apologize."
"An apology would have been flowers."
He stared at her like she'd grown a second head.
"Daffodils. In November."
It occurred to him in that awful, fucked up moment, standing there in that storage closet of St. Mungo's, that she was telling him in a roundabout way that he still had a chance.
Harry honestly had no idea what to make of that.
So he said nothing, because he was a fucking genius. It was a wonder Hermione hadn't mercy killed him already.
That glint, the last shred of hope in Ginny's eyes, extinguished. She let out a heavy sigh, then looked away, down the corridor. "We should head back," she said flatly. "Mum was asking for you."
Part of him wanted to take three steps, the three steps separating them, and fix it.
Another part of him screamed that it'd be an awful idea.
His eyes flicked in the direction of George's room and he practically winced. "No offense, but I'm not sure that's the best idea."
He half-hoped she'd drop it, let it go.
She didn't. The universe liked taking a piss on him far too much. She shot him a shrewd, calculating look. "Let me guess, you're internalizing this and that noble brain of yours is concocting some new, deluded, and increasingly creative way to think that George being sick is all your fault?"
He met her gaze steadily. "Isn't it?"
"Did you get your hands on a timeturner, go back a century, and hex a blood curse on my family?"
"Did you kill Fred?"
He shot her a withering look.
She didn't back down. "Did you Floo Voldemort's personal hideout and deliver a hand crafted invitation asking him to get one of his lackeys to kill Fred, so George could have a slow, suffering, horrible, lingering death?"
Something in her voice broke at that last part, and Harry's heart lurched as he looked at her. "Gin…"
"No," she snapped, and the coiling emotions she'd been holding back finally leaked out. "No, you don't get to call me that anymore, Harry. You lost that right the second you decided to dump me just because I had to move for work. My brother's dying. My brother! I shouldn't have to prop you up too!"
It was like being slapped.
His mouth was half-open, an answer half-formed, when a door across the hall slammed open, a rather weak sounding voice protesting, calling after someone.
Ginny's glare died, the witch clenching her gaze shut, and he was shocked to see actual tears leaking out of the corners. "I thought," she hissed, "the rooms in this hall were empty."
So had he, but Harry couldn't tear his eyes away from her face. Ginny was crying. His mouth went dry. "Apparently not."
He was so fixated on Ginny's face that he nearly missed it.
The sound of footsteps.
A flash of flaxen hair.
A pair of piercing blue eyes.
A lightly accented voice.
"Look, I don't know what the issue over here actually is, but there are sick patients sleeping. You woke up my sister and if you continue to yell I'm going to have to invite you to take your quarrel elsewhe-"
Her voice died abruptly.
A witch had walked up, a cold intensity in her gaze as she leveled it first on Ginny, and then on him.
And that was when her voice died.
Harry took one look at her, and a piercing bit of familiarity suddenly stirred.
So what did you all think? I'm a bit rusty and I struggle with transitional chapters like this, so feedback is always greatly appreciated. Thank you for all the feedback so far. The next chapter will fortunately be more in my wheelhouse and nice and action packed.
Length of Story: It'll be around 20 to 30 chapters and shall be far, far shorter than Eclipse's million plus word insanity.
Medical Stuff: Were dealing with magical ailments here people. I will be taking fictional liberties. Don't try this shit at home.
Canon Stuff: This will be canon compliant for the most part, but since this is fanfiction I will be taking creative liberties. If there are inconsistencies, it's intentional.
Harry: I find that the portrayal of Harry in most fanfiction to be wholly unrealistic. Harry is not a lady's man, in perfect control of his emotions, some politically savvy mover and shaker, or even remotely well-adjusted. That would be seriously unrealistic given his upbringing and everything he has been through. Harry has trauma, anger issues (for goodness sake he trashed Dumbledore's office once), wasn't the smoothest with women, and it will show.
Realism: In this story magic does not automatically solve all problems. It didn't in the books, and it doesn't here. Wizards are not god-like. They can't magically stop all wind and rain and everything that mother-nature, mankind (war), or disease can throw at them.
Name: No, my name is not Sara. I'm not sure why I keep getting asked that? I frankly think it would be flat out creepy if someone wrote a fanfiction with their own name inserted as an OCs, anywhere. Sara was picked as a name because it is a plain and non-descript name, and it seemed like exactly the kind of thing Daphne would choose to stay under the radar.
I think that answers all the questions I got about the first four chapters and the story so far. Catch you all next time and thank you for reading.