Chapter warning discussion of abuse, rape and adult manipulation of a minor into acts of violence


20th July 1995

"It was war when I met Albus for the first time." Moody stated briskly. He stood proudly behind the lectern in the Great Hall, his magical eye scanning the gathered assembly for the funeral of Albus Dumbledore.

Harry sneaked a glance himself. The funeral seemed to be taking forever. They'd already sat through a speech from Cornelius and one from an aged Chinese wizard who had spoken about Albus's contributions abroad.

There was no evidence of the battle that had waged within Hogwarts' walls, although the grounds and particularly the Quidditch pitch still bore scars. The castle had been repaired though; flagstones gleamed; the walls stood solid and unbroken; priceless tapestries and portraits restored or replaced.

The Great Hall itself looked magnificent. The illusionary sky above reflected the bright Summer's day outside. The banners of the Hogwarts' houses hung suspended by magic in the centre of the room. The windows gleamed, sunlight streaming in to catch the dust motes dancing in the rays.

The usual tables had been removed and a semi-circular seating area arranged facing where the Professors' table would usually be. Only the table was gone and Dumbledore's cherry wood coffin lay upon a covered stand.

Harry and Sirius sat in the centre of the circle in the chairs designated for family. As Dumbledore's magical heir Harry was given the status of an honorary grandson. Aberforth sat beside Sirius. Dumbledore's brother had eschewed any notion of swapping. Aberforth had claimed his brother would have wanted Harry and not himself taking pride of place. Harry had the unsettling feeling that Aberforth spoke truthfully. Harry leaned closer to Sirius taking comfort in the steady presence of his father.

Minerva sat on Harry's other side – her place designated by her role as the Potter Regent Apparent. It also seemed fitting given her years of friendship with the Headmaster.

The seats beyond her were taken up with political figures – Fudge, Croaker and Bones but also figures who had been part of Dumbledore's international stage – Prime Ministers and Ambassadors. Harry had dutifully greeted them all.

The staff of Hogwarts took the row behind the front; the members of the Wizengamot beyond them with their families. Harry felt a pang of unhappiness at being separated by protocol from everyone but Sirius and Minerva. He especially missed Hermione. His hand sneaked up to touch the necklace he wore and his unease dissipated under the flow of love he received.

He gave a quiet sigh but wasn't surprised when Sirius leaned his shoulder against Harry's providing a silent show of loving support.

"Great wizards do great things." Moody continued his eulogy. "I saw Albus take down an entire platoon of magical beasts; I saw him liberate a Polish town from dark forces alone but for a few men who stood with him. I saw him stand tall against the darkest wizard of that time and defeat him with the Light. I saw how much it hurt him to do that; to face his former childhood love and know him as a monster."

Aberforth huffed but he didn't say anything.

"In the years of peace which followed, Albus did his best to never take advantage of the political power he wielded as the victor. He accepted his political positions unwillingly but dutifully. He believed his role there was to keep stability; to maintain a status quo between those who would seek to drive us forward and those who wanted to remain standing in the past. He would say he wanted nothing more than to be a schoolteacher, to impart his knowledge to the next generation; a role he played for many years here at Hogwarts." Moody looked around the room as he paused.

Harry wondered how true that was; had Dumbledore really only wanted to be a teacher?

As though he had heard his thoughts, Moody sighed.

"Great wizards do great things but their mistakes are also greater, and Albus's greatest mistake was to ignore the problem of Tom Marvolo Riddle. Whether Riddle was ever redeemable, ever able to be saved from the darkness within him, we shall never know. But Albus saw the danger of the young powerful Riddle and did nothing."

There was a hushed silence in the room as they all absorbed Moody's blunt observation.

"He neither took the lad under his wing one powerful wizard to another nor did he challenge him." Moody continued. "Was it his place? As a mere schoolteacher perhaps Albus could be forgiven for his lack of action – even though the teachers who excel are those who care for more than simply whether their students' essays and work meet the standards. But even if Albus wanted to be only a schoolteacher he was not. He was a powerful political figure; he was a powerful wizard. He had styled himself as the benevolent wise leader of the Light. Perhaps he had a greater duty."

He stopped as some of the audience shifted uncomfortable with the notion of criticising the dead.

"Or perhaps it was simply Fate. Because how he also acted in regards to the architect of Riddle's downfall was to be another of Albus's mistakes. He mishandled a prophecy and the child of that prophecy. He made decisions which were not his to make; he ignored his duty of care to the child and the child's rightful guardian."

Harry looked down unable to bear Moody's words.

"So his mistakes were as great as his triumphs but in the end this is what I will remember of Albus Dumbledore," Moody's gruff voice echoed roughly in the chamber, thick with grief, "he held the line; he put himself between a horde of dark creatures and this castle to defend his school and her legacy; he held the line. And in the end, he offered his own life for those he had wronged. In this I believe he was redeemed."

Minerva gave a quiet sob beside him and Harry reached over to take her hand, wrapping it in his. She squeezed back gratefully.

"He was never just a schoolteacher." Moody stared out at the assembly. "When we remember Albus Dumbledore we will remember his mistakes and his triumphs, and know he was also a great wizard."

There was a respectful silence as Moody made his way from the lectern to his chair.

Griselda got to her feet. "Those invited to the internment at the lake should follow me. All others should remain in the hall where the elves will see to your comfort." She flicked her wand and the coffin disappeared.

Harry got to his feet and allowed Sirius to chivvy him across the hall, following Griselda through the doors to the back, down the corridor and out of the doors that had welcomed him as a first year. They strolled down the path to the lake, a small troupe of people who Minerva had determined.

Of the official Wizengamot and Ministry party, only Griselda, the Minister, Amelia and Bertie were invited. The Hogwarts' staff were all present, Hagrid blowing noisily into an oversized handkerchief. There were a handful of people from the Order – Snape was included in that number as were the Weasleys. The remainder of the House of Black were at the rear; they were considered family because of their familial relationship with Harry, Dumbledore's heir. In his unwanted role, Harry walked behind Griselda in the procession flanked by Sirius and Aberforth. Minerva had fallen back to lead her staff.

They came to a halt in the small grove by the lake which Minerva had chosen. It was a patch of land which barely held their number comfortably. The Forbidden Forest was to their back; the lake to the front, the water lapping on the steep bank close by. The grave stood ready to receive the coffin, a mound of dirt beside it. A white slab of marble would be placed over it, with a golden plaque engraved simply with Dumbledore's name, and the years of his birth and death. Aberforth had refused any other memorial.

Griselda pointed her wand at the grave and Dumbledore's coffin appeared. She slowly lowered into the grave before turning and silently casting for the dirt to cover it.

"We say goodbye to Albus Dumbledore and return his body to the Earth." Griselda intoned solemnly as they watched the dirt slowly filling the grave. "Bon voyage on your next great adventure, Albus."

Harry was grateful for the heavy weight of Sirius's hand on his shoulder providing him with an anchor. He really was going to miss the old wizard and his throat closed up on a surge of emotion.

Griselda finally lifted the marble stone into place and as it settled into the ground, Harry felt his heart ache with renewed grief at the finality of it. Sirius shifted his hold, sliding his arm around Harry's shoulder and firmly tucking him against his side. Harry felt his eyes sting with the prickle of tears.

Griselda began to lead people away, and Harry was aware of the crowd of mourners slowly thinning. He stayed where he was; rooted to the spot as though his feet had been frozen. He felt Hermione approach on his free side and her hand sought his. He grasped it gratefully, dimly aware there were only a few of them left standing beside the grave.

Minerva stooped and cast a spell. The marble stone was suddenly surrounded by a pretty border of transfigured white roses. She sniffed loudly. "You were the one who taught me that spell, Albus. You were a good teacher." Her Scottish brogue was thick with emotion. "I will miss you."

Aberforth took a weary step forward. "You made things right in the end. Perhaps that's all that should matter. Goodbye, brother." He offered his arm to Minerva who took it and allowed him to escort her away.

Harry was left with Hermione on one side, Sirius on the other, and he sensed Remus just behind them. They stayed there, standing silently together.

Harry stared at the marble stone. He remembered the dream he'd had when he'd been recovering and somehow it eased his grief. Dumbledore was off on his next great adventure and he had sacrificed his life to redeem himself. Harry was never going to regret that he and Sirius were alive instead of the elderly wizard; he was grateful to him.

Hermione gave a loud sniff beside him and he turned to find her with wet cheeks and damp eyes. He shifted to offer her a handkerchief. "Are you alright?"

"Just sad." Hermione said.

Sirius hummed beside them. "It's a sad day. I'm going to miss the old goat."

"Me too." Remus said, joining them.

"We should go back to the hall." Harry said sighing.

Sirius gave his shoulder a squeeze. They slowly turned away from the grave and made their way back up the path.

Hermione hooked her arm around Harry's as they walked. "Harry?"

"Hmmm." Harry said, his attention momentarily snagged by the still shambolic Quidditch pitch they were passing.

"Did you hear Professor McGonagall announce how the Headmaster's portrait had woken up?" Hermione said hesitantly. "She's put him in the antechamber at the back of the hall and said anyone who wanted to talk to him could visit him?"

"You want to visit his portrait?" Harry's heart sank because he suspected it was a situation where as her supportive boyfriend he would have to go along.

"No," Hermione shook her head, her bushy hair bouncing on her shoulders, "I thought you might want to go?"

Harry shook his head. "Not today." It was too soon. He didn't know how wizards handled it. How could you mourn someone properly when they were there in a portrait? He was suddenly glad his parents hadn't had a portrait made. He loved the still depictions that Padfoot had given him. They were enough of a memory. No, he couldn't contemplate ever being ready to speak to the portrait of Albus Dumbledore.

Maybe in the future when he was Headmaster of Hogwarts.


He looked back at the Quidditch pitch. He still couldn't contemplate playing there ever again. He shivered.

"It's still a mess, isn't it?" Hermione murmured.

"Yeah," Harry sighed, "want to bet Ron's going to complain about the pitch again?"

Hermione snorted inelegantly. "No bet. Honestly, it's all he talks about!"

Sirius, Remus and Harry exchanged an amused look and for the first time that day, Harry's sorrow eased into something breathable, liveable.

Life went on even when great wizards died.


Bill quietly excused himself from the rambunctious company of his family and made his way out of the suite of rooms they had been provided with at the Black Estate. He had been fairly surprised his mother had acquiesced to staying with the rest of the alliance but he understood that the ritual had left its mark on her magic.

From the research Bill had begun, Morgana had used the protectiveness, feelings and motivations of all of the women in the ritual to weave a path back to Harry for her own blessing. That magical tapestry was a careful balance of not only Molly Weasley's maternal lioness but also of Griselda's political rationality and Augusta's belief in her vows of fealty. It was a brilliantly woven tapestry and Bill reckoned it was a thread that would bind the women together for as long as the blessing remained. He looked forward to seeing the changes it would evoke.

He made his way out of the wing where the alliance had been housed and into the main part of the house. He was tempted to head to the drawing room. It was one of Harry's favourite places to be and Bill had spent many of the evenings since Harry and Sirius had returned from the States just sitting quietly with Harry and Hermione.

He needed a quiet evening after the events of the day and Dumbledore's funeral. It had been long and draining. The political speeches had seemed to take forever. Thankfully Moody's speech had been short yet it had almost been the most poignant. It had reminded Bill that the venerable wizard had made his own sacrifice to save Sirius and Harry.

It had made the rest of the day almost unbearable.

The hurt of Caro's sacrifice still stung like a fresh burn; hot and unbelievably painful. He grieved for the beautiful woman who had been his partner; his friend. He couldn't begin to fathom how he would live up to the words she had whispered at the end.

"Worth it."

Was he worth it?

Bill hovered in front of the drawing room door. He wanted to go inside, curl up in the same chair he'd curled up in for so many nights and just grieve but life went on.

He lay a hand on the door. Besides, didn't Harry deserve an evening undisturbed with his girlfriend?

Bill turned and walked away from the drawing room and it wasn't long until he realised that his feet were taking him in the direction of Sirius's study.

The door was partially open but Bill knocked on it anyway.

Sirius turned from his contemplation of the portrait hung above the mantel and waved him inside.

Bill closed the door behind him. "Hey, I know this isn't a great day for this but do you have some time?"

Sirius gestured at the chair in front of his desk. "I always have time for you, Bill. What's this about?"

"My service." Bill said simply. He leaned forward in the chair, elbows on his knees, his hands clasped loosely together. "The Wizengamot meets for its usual session in the first week of August. It would be…" he sighed heavily, "it would be an appropriate time to announce the end of service."

"Yes." Sirius agreed, sitting down in the chair behind the desk. "It would." He gazed at Bill thoughtfully. "You've been an asset to the House of Potter, Bill. You'll be missed."

"I'll miss working for you and Harry." Bill said with a sad smile. The past year had been the best of his life and the hardest. "It's been an honour to serve."

"Have you thought about your future?" asked Sirius.

Bill nodded slowly. "I went to Gringotts last week. They have a new assignment starting shortly in Paris. The request from Bertie for the Lumiere document made the French government realise how badly disorganised the archives are and how dangerous. They've requested a team of curse-breakers to go in and get everything sorted out." He paused. "They offered me the chance to lead the team."

"That's great news." Sirius said, breaking into a genuinely pleased smile. "You deserve the opportunity."

"Do I?" asked Bill before he could stop himself. He flushed bright red as Sirius's gaze narrowed on him.

Sirius pressed his lips together briefly. He got to his feet and walked over to a side cabinet where a decanter and glasses stood proudly displayed. He poured them both a drink and walked back over handing Bill one glass. He took the seat next to Bill and offered his glass in a salute.

"To Caro." Sirius said seriously.

Bill's eyes filled with tears he refused to shed. He lifted his glass. "To Caro." He took a sip of the fiery liquid and was almost surprised when he realised it was ordinary Scotch rather than firewhiskey.

"It's a difficult thing when someone gives their life for yours." Sirius said. "It's hard to reconcile knowing that they put your life ahead of their own; that they felt you were worth the sacrifice."

Bill nodded. "I just…I don't…I don't know how to live with it."

"It's not an easy gift to carry."

"You seem to have…accepted Professor Dumbledore's gift." Bill said, striving to keep his voice even and non-accusatory.

Sirius sighed and gave a half-shrug. "Albus wasn't my first experience with someone giving their life to save mine." He paused and shook his head. "And even then, there's a part of me that believes Albus did nothing more than what he owed us, and a part of me who knows that anyone sacrificing their lives for Harry is the right thing to do so why would I rail against it?" He lifted the glass. "It's more complicated than simply someone stepping in front of you in the heat of battle."

Bill flinched at the blunt description of what had happened when Caro had…

Sirius settled back in the chair and took a sip of his drink. "At the beginning of 'eighty-one I was put in charge of a squad of hit wizards; a team of three of us. It was part of a new initiative Moody had suggested; small strike teams. It worked."

His gaze drifted to the fire and Bill realised Sirius was in the past.

"My team – we were close. Ernest Marchbanks and Howard Brady." Sirius smiled sadly. "Two very great blokes. Ernie was engaged to be married to Janet McKinnon; Howie had just graduated school and was fresh out of the boot camp."

"What happened?" prompted Bill gently when Sirius fell silent.

Sirius took another sip of the whiskey. "We had an op go very wrong. It was faulty intelligence but…I was leading the team. We hit a warehouse on the Thames where we believed the Death Eaters were bringing in female muggles from the Continent for sport and torture. It was a set-up."

Bill frowned as he watched Sirius pale as he tossed back the rest of the whiskey. He wanted to tell the other man not to put himself through the reliving of it – not to ease Bill. He opened his mouth to speak…

"Ernie went down straight away to a killing curse. There was nothing any of us could have done." Sirius said tersely. "Howie and I dived for cover and I managed to scramble a plan together. We separated and…and it worked. We managed to get the bastards but…right at the end…Howie had only stunned one of the fuckers and he sprung up…Howie threw himself in front of me before I had a chance to move. He bled out in minutes."

"You got the guy."

Sirius nodded. "Constantine Fecale. He was a nasty piece of work." He refocused on Bill. "I was a mess afterwards. I holed up, drank myself silly on whiskey and wondered why the hell Howie had sacrificed himself for me. It didn't feel like a fair exchange at all. He was young, smart. His parents were great, happily married childhood sweethearts, and he would have gone on to make someone a lovely husband and a great father. He was a real stand-up guy." He gestured. "And there was me; the white sheep of the Black family, someone whose family didn't want him and who wasn't innocent or unflawed. I hated myself for surviving, and I almost hated Howie for saving me."

"How did you…"

"James." Sirius said succinctly. "He…he turned up – him and Lily and Harry. I don't even know how he knew but James turned up and kidnapped me. He and Lily took care of me – forced me into a bath and clean clothing; wrapped me up in a blanket in front of the fire and dumped Harry in my lap. They told me how much they loved me and how grateful they were to Howie for saving my life…and I spent a night sobbing on their shoulders. A few days later, James went with me to the funeral. When it was over he said…he said Howie had given me this wondrous gift of life and I had a duty to take care of that gift; to live my life fully so his sacrifice was never wasted." He stopped and frowned. "I'd forgotten that."

Bill swallowed hard, trying to dislodge the lump of emotion that had settled there. "I loved her, you know? And I think I might…it would have been easy to have fallen in love with her. We'd talked about being partners in the future after my contract with Gringotts was up. She…she had my back all the time. I'm going to miss her so very…" and his voice broke. He lifted his arms to cover his face as he sobbed.

Sirius gently took the glass from his hand and set it aside before tugging Bill into a firm embrace.

Bill couldn't find it in himself to be embarrassed as he wept. He only knew he was grateful that Sirius understood and that there was the comfort of shelter as he gave into the storm of grief.


The fire had burned low by the time Sirius eased back and turned away to call for Dobby and mugs of hot chocolate. He added the remainder of Bill's whiskey to the mug he handed to him but kept his own alcohol free. He sat back down in the chair next to Bill.

He had felt the phantom ache of his own grief as Bill had given into his. But he knew Bill was strong and would weather his pain. Losing Caro would always be something Bill lived with but Bill would live.

Bill gave a sigh as he sipped the hot chocolate. "Thank you." He said simply and Sirius knew he was being thanked for more than the drink.

Sirius nodded. "When do you start in Paris?"

"September, but Gringotts want me to start back once the announcement of my service completion is made. I have a month to spend learning French to the standard they expect the leader of the assignment to have so…" Bill shrugged. "I already speak it reasonably well and apparently there's a new French employee just starting whose sole assignment will be to teach me."

"You're more than welcome to use the Black apartment in Paris." Sirius offered. "It would be an excellent location for you."

"Thank you," Bill said with a smile, "I'd appreciate that." He made a nervous gesture before lowering his mug. "I'd like to return to service once my Gringotts' contract is over."

Sirius smiled warmly. "We would love to have you back. I assume you want to learn the ropes for assuming a political position of your own?"

"Yes." Bill nodded. "I want to work towards the House of Weasley resuming its place in the Wizengamot. It may take some time but I want to contribute to governing our country and ensuring its safety. My magic won't settle for anything less."

"Then we'll see what we can do to help you achieve that." Sirius said firmly.

Bill smiled back at him and for the first time since the Weasley Heir had walked into the study, Sirius could see the grief lift from him and his mind turn to the future. Bill was going to be fine, Sirius determined; maybe not that day or the day after, but there would be a day when his hurt wasn't as sharp and the memory of Caro made him happy rather than sad.

Bill pointed up at the sleeping portrait. "I don't think I've seen that before."

Sirius hummed. He hadn't seen it until his return from the States when he'd found it installed on the wall behind his desk as though it had always been there.

Bloody Moony.

"It's my Grandfather." Sirius said.

Bill's eyes widened in surprise.

"Remus thinks I should wake him up and talk with him." Sirius explained, trying and failing to keep the sulky edge from his voice.

"What do you think?" asked Bill.

Sirius sighed heavily. "I think my relationship with my Grandfather is complicated and…well, complicated." He shook his head. "I'm not sure I'll ever be ready."

Bill nodded slowly. "Mum hustled us all into speaking to Professor Dumbledore but…it's weird, isn't it? I mean, I've never really thought about it before but if someone's died…it's a bit freaky suddenly having them there as a portrait."

"It's not really them." Sirius agreed. It was one of the reasons why he wasn't keen to wake the portrait up.

Bill gave a nod and stood up. "Thank you for everything, Lord Black."

Sirius got to his feet and shook Bill's hand. "Thank you for your service, William of the House of Weasley."

Bill gave a small smile and a nod. He left quietly, the door shutting with a firm click leaving Sirius alone in the room with the portrait.

He sat back down and looked up at the sleeping figure of Arcturus Black.

It wasn't his Grandfather. It was a facsimile of the man who had been his Grandfather with enough of his essence to give the impression of him.

There was no reason to wake up the image. Sirius had reconciled himself to his Grandfather's actions and inactions. He had come to admire the other man and his political nous. He didn't really want to disturb the fragile acceptance he had managed.

But there was a part of Sirius which did want to wake up the portrait, who wanted to talk with his Grandfather; to apologise for his youthful incomprehension of his Grandfather's love and care for him, and yet to yell at his Grandfather for not taking the time to make Sirius understand. And for all that, to confide the past year in his Grandfather; to let him know he'd made a difference and had helped Sirius and Harry win. There was always going to be a part of Sirius who wanted to make his Grandfather proud.

Sirius rubbed a hand over his face and considered the portrait. He got to his feet and walked back behind his desk. He sat down and pulled over his latest correspondence from Simeon – an enthusiastic agreement for Sirius and Harry to visit Australia later in August.

Harry had the right of it, Sirius mused. Portraits were creepy. Life was for the living. Maybe there would be a day he'd talk to his Grandfather's portrait, but that day belonged far in the future.


27th July 1995

Hermione sat down on the uncomfortable bench in the Wizengamot's family tier with a frown. Her eyes were on Harry. Harry sat in the Potter seat as though he belonged there. He had the avatars of the family magic guarding him and Hermione could see how it still freaked some of his fellow Lords and Ladies how comfortable he was with the physical representations of his family magic. Or maybe they were just freaked out at the very visible show of the vast well power Harry commanded. Either way she would have thought they would have reconciled themselves to it after all the sessions that had taken place that month. That afternoon was the final trial; Hannah Abbott's.

Neville fidgeted beside her and she patted his arm absently.

"It'll be fine, Neville." Hermione said in a low voice.

"I'm just dreading seeing her again." Neville answered back in the same low tone.

Blaise leaned in from Neville's other side. "You just have to remember she's not the girl you thought she was; the Hannah who dated you didn't really exist."

Neville's mouth drooped in an unhappy frown but he didn't argue.

Hermione turned to look past Remus sat beside her to a tense looking Susan Bones. Sue sat with her mother sandwiched between Remus and Ted Tonks. Karen Abbott was not present and Hermione couldn't blame her for staying out of the spotlight. Leonard Abbott was in his usual seat; he looked pale but stoic. Richard Bones leaned over to his friend and asked something but Abbott shook his head swiftly.

The doors were sealed and the trial began.

Hermione watched impatiently as the clerk stood. "The Wizengamot calls the prosecution and the defence for Hannah Abbott to the floor!"

Rufus Scrimgeour took the prosecution table but he had a female auror beside him; Hermione thought she looked vaguely familiar. Across from them, Mary Baron and a young female associate took the defence table.

"Bring in the accused, Hannah Abbott!"

Hermione bit her lip as Hannah was brought into the chamber. She looked demure. She was dressed in a plain blue modest robe. Her blonde hair was loose around her shoulders. She looked pale but healthy as she took the chair in the centre of the floor for the accused. Hermione barely heard the list of charges and the plea of not guilty by reason of diminished capacity, as she continued to look at Hannah.

How had they all been taken in by her?

"The prosecution calls Auror Lucinda Mackenzie to the stand."

Hermione suddenly placed her; the young auror was a friend of Dora's and had attended the wedding.

Auror Mackenzie was young but thorough. She gave a good accounting of the evidence they'd found against Hannah; the notes from Barty Crouch, the events of the Yule Ball, and the battle itself. Hannah's magical signature was on Sybill Trelawney's body; her wand had cursed the Creevey brothers into attacking another student; she had assaulted her best friend and left Susan tied up in a school where Hannah would bring vampires and mercenaries. It was damning.

It was George Weasley who was called to the stand next. He recounted the events in the corridor when Hannah had turned on them; their rescue by Sue and how they'd kept Hannah tied up and stunned during the rest of events.

Scrimgeour provided written testimony from the others who had been present rather than call them. The defence conceded the point and confirmed it wouldn't require the prosecution to call the rest of them.

Neville breathed out in relief beside Hermione. She knew he had been worried Hannah's defence was going to force them all to give testimony in person.

The prosecution didn't take much longer and Hermione watched as Mary Baron rose to begin the defence.

"I call Healer Gayle Mellow." Baron said.

Mellow was a matronly lady who took the witness chair with a huff. Her steel grey hair was pulled back into a severe bun. She looked completely no-nonsense.

"Healer Mellow, please state for the Wizengamot your position and your relationship to Hannah Abbott." Baron asked politely.

"I'm a Senior Healer associated with Saint Mungo's. Hannah Abbott has been in my care since the second week of July." Mellow stated briskly.

"The prosecution gave testimony from your colleague Healer Spry that Miss Abbott was mentally competent to stand trial and did not meet the definition of legally insane. What are your findings?" Baron asked.

"Hannah is mentally sound; she is rationally aware of her actions; of right and wrong. She is therefore by definition legally competent. However, she had exposure to suggestion potions and compulsion spells for a period of two months. The trace of them was several weeks old but their impact can still be seen active on her magical core." Mellow began. "In my opinion, she is as emotionally, magically and mentally compromised today as though she was still in thrall of these potions and charms."

"Could you describe for the court how the suggestion potions work on a witch or a wizard's magic and mind?" Baron requested.

"They are insidious." Mellow frowned. "They invoke a state not unlike the effect of alcohol; inhibitions are lowered, responses are impaired, and the ability to make rational good choices is reduced."

"And the compulsion charms?" Baron continued.

"These are in my opinion simply a lesser form of the Imperius curse. The recipient is compelled by the charm to perform an act against their natural will." Mellow stated firmly.

"And it is your testimony that the effects of both the potions and the charms remain active in Hannah Abbott's magic?" Baron asked. "That they still affect her actions and decisions today?"

"It is." Mellow agreed.

Baron nodded. "With this in mind, do you believe she can be held accountable for the acts she perpetrated since she was exposed to the potions and charms?"

"I believe her actions have been beyond Miss Abbott's full ability to control since she was exposed." Mellow agreed.

Baron nodded. "Thank you. You're excused with my thanks, Healer Mellow."

Mellow left the chair and Baron recalled Auror Mackenzie.

Hermione bit her lip. She had some sympathy for the defence's position but she knew most of her peers would be furious.

"Auror, in your testimony you noted the DMLE took possession of a number of letters from Bartemius Crouch Junior to my client. Is this correct?"

"Yes, ma'am." Mackenzie nodded.

Baron handed her a list. "Is this a comprehensive list of the letters?"

Mackenzie nodded, stating a 'yes' for the record.

"What was the date of the first letter on the list?" Baron asked.

"It's August twentieth nineteen-ninety-four." Mackenzie stated.

"Was there a compulsion charm found on the parchment?" Baron stated.

"There were two." Mackenzie said. "One to read it and one to keep it a secret."

"And the second?" Baron asked.

Scrimgeour raised his wand. "The prosecution will concede that the first ten letters have similar compulsion charms and that twenty letters during the month of January and February also have charms which include a third variant to make Miss Abbott believe the content of the letters."

Baron dismissed Mackenzie and an Unspeakable, Lymus Pilchard, was called to the stand. His research was into suggestion potions and he also gave testimony that he did not believe Hannah could act normally while under the influence; that his own studies showed that animals acted under the suggestions for durations which exceeded the potion use by some way. Under Scrimgeour's cross he was forced to concede that there was alternative research which was contradictory to his own view.

Finally, the head of the Hit Wizards was called to the stand.

"Head Hit Wizard Poole, your area of the DMLE specialises in violent and deviant crime. You've studied the case," Baron said, "do you believe that Miss Abbott was the victim of a crime?"

"Undoubtedly." Poole agreed. He was a burly man in his early forties. "Had Bartemius Crouch Junior lived to see charges, he would have been charged with multiple crimes against Hannah Abbott."

"Please elucidate what charges he would have faced." Baron requested.

"Multiple counts of abuse of a minor through application of potions and compulsion charms." Poole stated. "Statutory rape."

Hermione winced. Harry had warned everyone in the alliance but it still shocked Hermione to hear it spoken out loud. Neville tensed beside her. They both wondered for a long moment whether the rest of it would be revealed; Hannah had been confirmed as pregnant two weeks prior.

In the centre of the chamber, Hannah was bright red. Her father sat stone-faced staring down at his daughter.

"If Hannah Abbott had been found to be directly under the influence of a spell or a potion, would she have faced charges for her acts while under such influence?" Baron asked.

"No." Poole said, although everyone could see he was reluctant. "She would not face charges."

Poole was dismissed and Baron rested her case without calling Hannah to the stand.

The Chief Witch called for a brief recess before closing statements. Hannah was led out. Hermione followed Remus down and to the small office Sirius had been allocated. She was relieved when she caught sight of Sue being led into her Aunt's office rather than joining them.

Harry greeted her with a small kiss on her cheek. "Hey." He clasped her hand and drew her further inside, nodding a hello to Neville. "How are you?"

"It's weird." Neville sighed heavily. "I don't know whether to be rooting for her to be found guilty or hoping she'll be found innocent."

Blaise nodded sympathetically. "I think it's an even split which way the Wizengamot will vote."

"Mary Baron's very good." Hermione commented. "She's established that Hannah's own will was compromised by Crouch and that she wouldn't have faced charges if magically she was considered still to be under the potions and charms that were used to subvert her."

"I hadn't realised there was magical research to suggest there was a possibility the effects were long term." Theo said as he and Draco joined their small group and handed out glasses of juice.

"Well, contradictory research." Draco pointed out. "There is a body of evidence that says otherwise."

"I'm surprised they didn't call Hannah." Blaise said.

"I'm not." Neville grimaced. "She'd probably only declare Crouch to be innocent and come across as deluded."

"Exactly." Blaise said. "It would prove she was nuts about him."

"Or it would have just underscored how rational she can be about choosing to believe in him." Harry pointed out.

Neville sighed again, misery written all over his face. "Can we talk about something else?"

Hermione cast a sympathetic glance in his direction and turned to Harry. "Did you speak to Madame Marchbanks about your exams?"

Harry nodded. "I'm due to sit them in two weeks' time."

"That's not an awful lot of time to study." Hermione murmured, worrying at just how little time it was.

"I have the practical side down." Harry said with a shrug. "I just need to brush up on the theory. I was thinking, well, hoping my girlfriend might have some thoughts about a revision plan?"

"Do you two have to be so sickening?" asked Draco bluntly.

Hermione and Harry exchanged an amused look before turning back to Draco and answering in unison. "Yes."

Hermione smiled happily as the others laughed. Draco gave a long suffering sigh and rolled his eyes at them but the sly amusement in his expression gave away his own feelings in the matter.

Hermione tightened her grip on Harry momentarily. She had felt so much more settled about her relationship with Harry since the battle, and if she was truthful, the mind healing she'd had. Realising her own insecurities had made her uncertain about Harry's affections had been a revelation. She was working on her self-esteem. She wasn't going to just assume she and Harry would automatically end at some point and she would lose him. It was a work in progress but Hermione already felt ten times happier and immeasurably more hopeful.

It also helped that she and Harry had been pretty inseparable since his return. He turned to her for comfort and support, and Hermione turned to him. She had a sneaky feeling some of it was Morgana's protection and how she had used Hermione as her avatar. But if the protection was encouraging Harry to turn to her, she wasn't going to complain.

"Has Weasley talked to you about his Quidditch idea?" asked Draco, changing the subject pointedly.

Harry sighed and rubbed a hand over the back of his neck. "Yeah."

Hermione grimaced. Ron's Quidditch idea was the only thing Ron seemed to want to talk about. The idea of playing a memorial pick-up game, similar to the one the school had played at Yule, once the pitch was rebuilt in order to reclaim the ground was a good one. But Hermione could sense how uncomfortable it made Harry.

"And?" prompted Draco impatiently.

"I think it's a good idea." Harry said cautiously.

"So you'll be the other Seeker?" asked Draco.

"Ron's asked but I'm not sure." Harry shrugged. "I didn't play last year because of the tournament and I haven't passed the exams yet to confirm my place in Hogwarts for next year."

As excuses went they weren't bad but Hermione knew the boys around her were well aware that Harry's decision had nothing to do with fairness about who had played the year before and his exams.

"We should head back in." Hermione said before they could get into a protracted discussion about it.

They all trooped back to the chamber and retook their seats.

Scrimgeour rose to the give the closing statement for the prosecution. "Members of the Wizengamot, the prosecution acknowledges that Hannah Abbott was targeted by Bartemius Crouch Junior. She was systematically groomed into being his spy at Hogwarts and we acknowledge that she was subjected to both suggestibility potions and compulsion charms during the period Crouch was uncertain of her loyalty."

Hermione worried her lip.

"Had Miss Abbott been arrested and found to have these potions or charms still being administered, she would have faced a very different past month. However, the potions and charms had not been used for months. On the night Miss Abbott attacked students on her way to perform her miserable mission for Crouch; on the night she attacked and captured Professor Trelawney; on the night she opened the door to the man she believed was her beau and allowed him to bring an invading force of dark creatures and mercenaries into Hogwarts…on that night, she had no suggestibility potion present in her bloodstream nor was she under the sway of any compulsion charm."

Hermione darted a look at Hannah. She looked pale, her head bowed.

"Do these things have long term effects? Perhaps they do and perhaps they don't. The experts seem conflicted. What I know is that the law currently does not acknowledge that there are long term effects; it makes no allowance. You have the potion in your bloodstream and are compromised, or you don't and your actions are your own free will. You either are under the compulsion or you are not."

It was a good legal argument.

Blaise sent Hermione a quick look over Neville's head which told her he thought the same.

"Do I consider Hannah Abbott a victim? Yes, and when we get to sentencing that is where we should consider how she came to make the decisions she made and do the acts she performed. Do I consider her innocent? No. Long after Crouch stopped giving her potions and compelling her to silence, Hannah Abbott chose to stand beside Bartemius Crouch Junior in his criminal acts. People died and suffered injury due to her actions and decisions. They deserve justice. I ask you find her guilty of all charges."

Mary Baron got to her feet and smoothed her green robes. They were high-necked, sleeves down to the wrists, and a tight row of buttons went all the way down the centre. She looked coolly classy and professional. "At the age of fourteen Hannah Abbott received a letter from an admirer, one that was coated in a compulsion charm to read and to keep silent about. She received several more such letters through September and by Yule believed herself to be the true love of her correspondent. She did not know his name at first only that he told her she was sweet and beautiful, and that he trusted no one but her. He coaxed her into a pretend relationship with another student to give their secret relationship cover and convinced her to go along with a ruse to get the young Heir Longbottom alone at the Ball claiming he simply wished to talk with the boy and make amends for past wrongs."

She paced a couple of steps beyond the table.

"When it became clear she had played a part in getting the Longbottom Heir kidnapped by Crouch, she tried to pull out of Crouch's grasp. He subjected her to an increased campaign of flattery and persuasion, of seduction. He used suggestibility potions and compulsions to ensure her compliance and his success. When she was completely under his thrall, he stopped the potions and charms and continued brainwashing her from one belief system to another with the force of his personality, turning her further away from friends and family who he convinced her would not understand and be against her, twisting her world until he was the centre of it and without him she would be alone. By the time of the battle at Hogwarts, Hannah Abbott was nothing more than Crouch's puppet, her acts and decisions nothing more than his pulling of her invisible strings."

Baron was an impassioned speaker and Hermione could feel her own heart ache for Hannah.

"Do I consider Hannah Abbott innocent? Yes. The young fourteen year old girl who found a letter on her bed would never have made the choices or performed the crimes she is charged with. That girl deserves healing and help to regain herself not punishment. Do I consider Hannah Abbott a victim? Yes, but more I consider her a survivor but she will only continue to survive if we help her. The law has a letter and a spirit. I believe I know which should be employed here today."

Baron returned to her desk.

Hermione shook her head. She had no idea which way the Wizengamot would vote.

Griselda got to her feet. "This is perhaps the most difficult of the trials we have faced. Both sides have argued well. We will now take a vote on each charge; raised wands will signify a guilty verdict. Lord Abbott will not be able to cast a vote given his relationship to the accused. Lord Black will hold both the Black and Potter vote as Lord Potter only sits his seat as a courtesy in this procedure. On the charge of conspiracy to kidnap Neville Frances Longbottom, how does the Wizengamot find?"

Hermione's heart sank at the sea of wands. Sirius had raised his as had Augusta Longbottom.

Dullard rose from his seat. "The Wizengamot finds the defendant guilty."

A murmur broke out in the public gallery.

"On the charge of conspiracy to perform a terrorist act?"

Hermione watched as Sirius lowered his wand.

"The Wizengamot finds the defendant not guilty."

A louder murmur erupted and Griselda let off a small bang with her wand.

"Do not make me clear the gallery!" She snapped. She glared everyone into silence and continued. "On the charge of casting an Unforgiveable on Colin and Dennis Creevey?"

Hermione wasn't surprised at the not guilty verdicts that followed on that charge, on the charge of assaulting Susan Bones, on the charge of assaulting Trelawney, on the charge of performing a terrorist act in allowing the invading force into Hogwarts. It was far from unanimous but it was enough to clear her.

"Wow. I guess most went with Baron's argument." Blaise muttered. "I bet they found her guilty of colluding in your kidnapping because she did that before the potions."

Neville's hands were in fists. "I can't believe they found her not guilty of everything at Hogwarts."

"Lavender's going to be furious." Hermione noted. She glanced towards Sue who looked angry enough to spit nails.

Griselda called for order again. "The Wizengamot has found Hannah Abbott guilty of conspiracy to kidnap; all other charges are dismissed. Arguments will be heard in the matter of sentencing on the guilty charge."

Scrimgeour looked unhappy but got to his feet. "The prosecution asks for the maximum sentence to be brought to bear; a ten year stay in Azkaban. Miss Abbott willingly conspired to ensure her young friend was placed in danger. Regardless of whether she knew the end game, she was aware of the dangers that night as all members of the Potter alliance were asked to ensure they were not alone at any time. Her lack of care for what happened to Neville Longbottom, a bright young man who believed he was engaged in a romantic relationship with her, and who she was deceiving is nothing short of heartless."

He gave way to Baron.

"Miss Abbott was under a compulsion to stay quiet about the request to ensure her companion was alone; she was under a false belief that the reason was innocent. After the events, she attempted to break away from Bartemius Crouch Junior so disgusted was she at her involvement. As a result she was subjected to potions and charms which kept her under Crouch's control. I believe she has been punished enough. The minimum sentence should be applied here; a one year remand to the care of Saint Mungo's for mind healing."

Griselda stood. "We'll open this debate up to the floor in a moment. First, as much as it pains me to make this public, the Wizengamot needs to be aware that any sentence will need adjustment to allow for the safe pregnancy and birth of the child Miss Abbott carries."

There was an immediate outbreak of mutterings and Leonard Abbott looked as though he wished the floor would open up and swallow him.

"Bloody hell!" Blaise said.

Neville gave a heavy sigh.

"You knew?!" Blaise hissed.

Neville nodded unhappily. "Harry forewarned me this morning."

Hermione who'd been with Harry when he'd told Neville slid her arm around Neville's in a silent show of support.

"Sue was told as well I think." Neville said.

Hermione glanced down the row and nodded taking in Sue's sour expression, and mutinous glare.

"ENOUGH!" Griselda fired off another bang. "We'll hear from Regent Longbottom."

Augusta stared down at Hannah for a long moment. "Mary Baron spoke well in the trial. I cast my vote because I believe it is important we respect the spirit of the law and there is no doubt Hannah Abbott was twisted by Bartemius Crouch and that deserved to be recognised. The one act she remains guilty of performing is one which is close to me as it concerns the Heir to my House; my grandson, Neville. It's true she lied to him about her interest; about her regard and affection for him. It's true she helped to engineer the circumstances which allowed him to be kidnapped. But I also believe she was horrified at the turn of events and regretted her actions in the immediacy of the event – before Crouch convinced her otherwise with potions and charms. But whether she was naïve or uncaring in going along with the request to ensure Neville was alone that night, she brought harm to the House of Longbottom and while I do not believe the maximum sentence applies here, I would not see the harm done to my House dismissed by the awarding of a minimum sentence."

Hermione nodded. That was fair.

"Lord Abbott?" Griselda recognised him respectfully.

Leonard Abbott rose to his feet. "I know my voice is biased in these proceedings as her father but I thank each of you for your consideration in voting. I know that the daughter I raised would be horrified at her actions at the battle of Hogwarts. Her mother and I are devastated by the harm Crouch has caused Hannah. He has destroyed her as thoroughly as though he threw the Killing curse at her. I offer a third way forward."

Hermione darted a look towards Harry but he appeared as surprised as everyone else.

"Whether she ends up in prison or hospital, Hannah has no future here in Britain. If she responds to the mind healing and returns to her former self, albeit one scared by Crouch, her peers in time may forgive her but they will not forget. Her child will suffer the stigma of being Crouch's Heir and she may come to resent the child as visible evidence of Crouch's crime against her." Abbott gestured down to his daughter. "I propose rather than Saint Mungo's, Hannah be remanded to the care of the Valley clinic; for her to be given the means to remain there but in normal time for the rest of her life; for her parental rights to be legally over-tuned and the custody of her child given to my wife and I." He stopped. "Thank you."

Selwyn was recognised next.

"While we are all tremendously aware of Lord Abbott's personal pain in this, I do not believe we should allow him to argue for what constitutes the minimum sentence with an exile thrown in. If he wishes to exile her, he should exile her; not use this body to do so."

Sirius raised his wand and Griselda nodded at him.

"This is not an easy task before us. Our voting on her innocence and guilt was not unanimous and, despite my own belief that she was twisted by Crouch, I am not prepared for her to remain essentially unpunished in the sentencing of the one act she was found guilty of perpetrating. She did cause harm. I know exactly how much as I was there." Sirius looked around the chamber. "I'm sympathetic to Lord Abbott but I cannot agree with his proposal. Does she deserve as much as ten years in Azkaban? No. But to simply suggest she needs a year of healing…it feels too generous especially when you consider we have already been generous in acknowledging how far Crouch was to blame for her later actions. I actually don't have issue with the exile – I think ultimately it would provide those she hurt space to heal and for her to find a new start once she has served her time."

Selwyn got to his feet in response. "Perhaps we should vote on a variant then of Lord Abbott's proposal? Five years in Azkaban with mind-healing sessions allowed – and obviously enough care in the first nine months to allow for her circumstances. The child to be given into the custody of her parents and her parental rights removed. Thereafter, on her release from prison, exile from the British Isles to the Abbott location of her father's choice."

Augusta stood. "I find myself in agreement with Lord Selwyn. It is an acceptable compromise for the House of Longbottom."

The vote was carried and in short order Hannah was led away to prison.

"Well," Blaise said as the Wizengamot was dismissed, "I'm glad I wasn't taking bets. I think I would have made a massive loss! Who could have predicted that!"

Hermione turned to Neville as they got to their feet. "Are you alright, Neville?"

Neville considered her question for a long moment. He nodded sharply. "It's not perfect but it feels right. I think that's probably all you can ask of justice."


4th August 1995

Harry had found a small walled garden near to the kitchens. It was quiet and perfect for studying and Harry wandered out with his potions texts and a list of required reading Hermione had prepared for him.

She was spending the day at the DOM investigating the whole topic of the ritual, her role as avatar and the potential implications. She'd been incredibly excited and practically vibrating with energy at breakfast. It hadn't stopped her leaving him strict instructions for his study plan.

His lips quirked upwards in amusement. Hermione was determined to make sure he did well and he was happy enough to indulge her. He had insisted on a whole day off on his birthday and he had laid down some ground rules for the rest of the plan too; time off for flying and for his animagus study. He was working on his Grim form. He could easily transition to the lion, wolf and Snitch, but he wanted to share a form with Padfoot.

Harry slowed as he realised someone was already present.

There were only a few members of the alliance outside of the House of Black who were still at the Estate and he wasn't too surprised to find that the other occupant of the garden was Neville. The Longbottoms along with Blaise had decided to stay while Augusta had some renovations done to the Manor. They'd move back when Sirius and Harry left for Australia which was also when Remus intended to bring over a small contingent of his pack.

The other family who had stayed surprisingly had been the Greengrasses. Harry had determined that was politics. Daniel was consolidating his place as Sirius's right hand man since Augusta had a firm role as Sirius's right hand woman. He figured Daniel wouldn't leave until Augusta did.

It had surprisingly worked out. Daphne provided Hermione with some much needed female company to offset the number of boys in the house. Astoria, her younger sister, had struck up something of an odd friendship with Draco. Harry figured his Slytherin cousin was simply waiting to Hogwarts and being out from under the watchful eye of parents before he asked Astoria on a Hogsmeade date.

Harry smiled at Neville who was elbows deep in a flower bed. "Hey, do you mind if I join you?"

Neville shook his head. "So long as you don't mind me digging."

"Go for it." Harry said. "What exactly are you doing anyway?"

"Planting some of the cuttings Sirius wanted. Flowers mainly but there's a prickly pear bush." Neville explained succinctly. "One of the elves was going to do but…" he sighed, "I really miss my greenhouses."

So Neville had co-opted the work.

Harry winced sympathetically as he sat down on a nearby bench. "Not long now until you'll be back in your own place."

Neville nodded. "Don't get me wrong it's been great being here." He looked over his shoulder at Harry and grinned at him. "I think we needed it right after the battle and everything." He turned back to the flowerbed abruptly and Harry figured he was thinking about Hannah again.

"Are you looking forward to the new hot house you got for your birthday?" Harry asked, subtly redirecting Neville back to his favourite topic.

Neville immediately brightened and immediately began waxing lyrical about his plans. As some of Neville's experimentations were for their shared business ventures, Harry listened intently even as he began to organise his books into order.

Neville slowed to a halt and pointed his trowel at the stack of books. "Potions?"

Harry nodded. "I really need to brush up on the theory. Hermione schooled me on the brewing all yesterday but I realised I'd struggle with the essays."

It had felt strange the day before staying home from the Wizengamot and watching Sirius go off alone but it was what would usually happen and Harry had simply been happy to have the time for studying.

Neville grimaced. "Yeah, they were pretty hard in the exam we had."

"Where's Blaise?" asked Harry.

"Over at the Patils." Neville waggled his eyebrows expressively. "Doing homework."

Harry burst into a surprised huff of laughter. "Really?"

"He's pretty taken with Padma." Neville said. "Actually he wanted me to go with him. He thinks Parvati still likes me."

"You're not interested?" asked Harry.

Neville shrugged.

Harry debated for a moment before he sighed. "Not every girl is going to be pretending like Hannah was. Parvati really did have a thing for you at the beginning of the last school year."

"I know I just…" Neville shifted to face Harry. "It's difficult knowing the first girl I kissed was only in it because Crouch was weirdly obsessed with me."

Harry frowned. "Hannah was interested in you before…before he got his hooks into her." It had occurred to Harry that Hannah's interest in Neville might have even increased her worthiness to Crouch.

"Maybe." Neville said. "It doesn't matter. I'm not quite ready to get back on that broom, you know?"

"I can empathise." Harry commented dryly.

Neville sent him a sympathetic grimace in response. "Ron still on at you to do the Quidditch match?"

Harry shrugged. "It is a good idea."

"But you just don't want to go anywhere near the pitch." Neville stated matter-of-factly.

"I know it's stupid…" began Harry.

"It's not stupid, Harry." Neville interrupted him. "I don't really want to go back into the corridor where I killed that snake and where…Caroline saved Bill. I can imagine a little bit how you must feel."

Harry sighed and put his book down. "It's not so much knowing he and Crouch were killed there…" he paused before giving into the urge to confess something he hadn't confessed to anyone outside of Sirius and his healers, "I died there."

"When you saved us from Crouch's bomb." Neville said quietly understanding immediately.

"I died and…and I think I was with my parents but then…" Harry gestured towards the house, "my bond with Sirius brought me back."

Neville got up and moved to sit beside him; a solid comforting presence by his side.

"I haven't really talked about it much." Harry admitted quietly, his fingers playing with the edges of his book.

"Sirius knows." Neville said.

"Yeah," Harry said, "and the healers." He sighed and pushed a hand through his hair. "I was pretty messed up when I woke up. I didn't talk to anyone for weeks. I think mostly it was because I knew I'd have to tell Sirius about dying and I was scared to tell him…" he shook his head, "turned out, he just knew." He had a suspicion that Death hadn't been joking when he'd called them his Grim and his Raven – and who knew what that meant? "A lot of the time at the clinic was me coming to terms with it. I mean, there was a lot of other stuff too but…I didn't even admit it to myself until I started talking."

Neville nudged his shoulder gently with his own. "Most people would have drowned just with the other stuff."

Harry shrugged. "I think I may be in therapy until I'm thirty." He said dryly.

Neville laughed. He poked at his boot laces with a dirt streaked finger. "I think we're all going to be in therapy for a while." He lifted a shoulder at Harry's mildly questioning look. "It's not just Hannah or what happened. I haven't really ever talked about my parents before." He ducked his head down.

Harry placed a comforting hand on Neville's shoulder briefly. He wondered if he should ask but then went ahead anyway knowing Neville would tell him if he was being too nosy. "Is it helping?"

"I think so." Neville said a touch hesitantly. "I mean, I think I get why I am about some things now. I don't think I ever really thought about it before."

Harry nodded in understanding. "The first time I was at the clinic it took a while for me to get how much growing up the way I did affected everything I did." He shook himself loose from the thought. He really didn't want to think about the Dursleys.

"That's just it." Neville said. "I guess I realised I was really stuck on Hannah, on my relationship with her, because you know everyone talks about how my parents were this perfect couple who got together at school and I thought I should have the same."

Harry nodded. He sometimes had wondered the same about himself and Hermione, and he was honest enough to admit that some of his want for them to make the distance was to emulate his own parents.

"I think I was more wrapped up in wanting that dream than wanting that dream specifically with Hannah." Neville continued. "So, then I think why am I so upset at her lying to me?"

"Different thing, Nev." Harry said softly.

Neville shot him a quick sad smile. "Yeah. I know." He sighed heavily. "It's awful what happened to her; awful what he did to her. It's weird thinking I'm never going to see her again."

"I just hope she gets better and starts over new somewhere fresh when she's served her time." Harry said diplomatically. He thought the sentence was a good compromise.

"Anyway," Neville said in a stronger voice, "I think maybe I need to get my head around everything first before dating someone else."

"Sounds like a plan." Harry said supportively.

"And maybe," Neville said darting a look at Harry, "you need to get your head around everything before you can play Quidditch at Hogwarts again."

Harry snorted but he conceded with a sharp nod. "Yeah."

Neville's eyes stayed on him though speculatively, as though he could read Harry's impatience with himself, his shame that it was still a problem. "You said you didn't talk for a while. Maybe this is like that. Maybe you just have to wait and one day you'll be ready."

Harry nodded slowly, agreement and acceptance stealing over him. "Thanks, Nev."

"Hello!" Luna's voice heralded her arrival as she poked her head around the entry to the garden.

"Hey, Luna!" Harry waved her forward. He vaguely remembered Sirius telling him at breakfast there would be reporters over to do an interview about the Estate becoming a werewolf sanctuary. Luna had probably come over with her father.

Neville grinned at him and went back to his gardening with a shy smile of welcome for the bubbly blonde Ravenclaw.

Luna settled into Neville's vacated spot and picked up the text book. "Studying?"

"Potions." Harry made a face. "You want to quiz me?"

Luna nodded and pulled up her legs, sitting cross-legged on the bench. She reached for his first book and opened it up, and tapped the author's name. "Did you know Professor McGonagall convinced Pierre Fume to be our new Potions Professor?"

"She might have crowed about it a bit at dinner last night." Harry said with a laugh. He was just happy it wasn't Snape. He was grateful to the other man for everything he'd done to help defeat Riddle and keep Harry safe in the effort, but he couldn't forget Snape had pointed Riddle at them in the first place.

"I'm going to be the Care of Magical Creatures Professor." Luna said matter-of-factly. "And you'll be the Defence Against the Dark Arts before you become Headmaster."

Harry's lips twitched amused. "What about the others?"

"Draco will be the Charms Professor." Luna said. "He wants a wand subject and Charms is his best. Sue will take over from you. She'll be in the Aurors until then."

"And Ron?" Harry prompted.

"Will help revolutionise physical education." Luna said cheerfully. "He'll take over from Madame Hooch but he's going to introduce lots of new things even though he'll still be obsessed with Quidditch."

Harry felt nothing but a warm contentment at the idea of the future.

"I think I'm a little envious." Neville remarked. "You all have everything planned out." He grimaced and wiped his sweaty brow. "I don't know what I'm going to do."

"Don't be silly, Neville," Luna said dreamily, "you'll take over from Professor Sprout once you're done being Minister of Magic."

Harry and Neville exchanged a shocked look but by the time Harry looked back at Luna she was already blinking and turning to the book.

"Are you ready for your first question?" Luna asked brightly.

Harry stretched exaggeratedly and nodded. "Bring it on." He pushed thoughts of Quidditch and dying to the back of his mind. He had exams to prepare for if he wanted any kind of future.


11th August 1995

Sirius watched as Cornelius revealed the memorial in the Ministry reception hall with a flourish.

It took centre stage, replacing the awful statue of the magical creatures. The main part of the memorial was a wall. It stood eight foot wide by six foot tall, and a foot thick; a solid grey granite speckled through with gold. Etched upon the surface of one of its wider sides were the names of everyone who had lost their lives in the fight against Riddle on the side of the Light. Sirius had requested both his grandfather's and brother's names be included along with the Potters.

On the other side of the wall, the surface was etched with all those who had taken part in the battle on the night of the solstice eve. Every being who'd fought – whether werewolf, elf, wizard or witch was mentioned. They'd insisted much to Cornelius's distress that neither he nor Harry were given any special treatment – just that their names were included with the others. Cornelius had reluctantly agreed. The only thing Harry had requested was the inscription at the top – Where there is love there is life.

Cornelius had also reluctantly agreed to postpone any reward ceremony until much, much, later. Sirius had been firm that everybody needed to heal first before they started congratulating themselves. The award recipients could be told in private to ensure they understood their contributions were being recognised but a public ceremony would wait.

He knew Cornelius wanted to give him and Harry an Order of Merlin. Personally Sirius wasn't fussed about the award and he knew Harry just felt a great deal of distaste at the idea of being rewarded for defeating Riddle. Harry was still recovering emotionally from the battle; he and Ron had argued badly a few days before about the proposed Quidditch match. Ron had apologised the next day – Ron presumably getting a lecture from everyone about not pushing Harry – and Harry had forgiven him as Harry was apt to do with Ron. Sirius suspected Harry had finally confided in Ron about just how much healing Harry still had to do. Ron had certainly been more sensitive about the entire topic since.

Harry shifted beside him, sending him an inquiring glance. Sirius offered him an apologetic grimace. Harry was far too tuned into him. He wondered if the tether had something to do with that. They needed to talk about it at some point but Sirius had put it off, focused on getting Harry through immediate concerns such as his physical recovery, then their return and the trials, and finally Harry's delayed exams which would determine his schooling. But they were going to have to have the discussion some time. Maybe after their Australian vacation and before Harry returned to Hogwarts.

Sirius brightened at the reminder of their imminent trip. They were due to leave later that evening, arriving into Australia in the early hours of the morning. They'd go to bed and aim get up around lunch time. Sirius had a feeling the time difference was going to take some getting used to but it would be worth it.

It would be good to catch-up with Simeon, Anna and Jason. He knew Simeon hadn't been too pleased to have been kept out of the battle but they had needed someone safe in case the battle hadn't gone the way they had wanted. Simeon had requested some time to speak to Sirius one on one, and Sirius had a sneaky suspicion that Simeon was going to tell him that he was planning on transferring back to Britain.

"…and now," Cornelius announced, dragging Sirius's attention back to the memorial, "I'd like to ask Director Bones and Director Croaker to light the Everlasting torches. The flames will never die and their presence will remind us of all who sacrificed and fought for our peace."

Sirius watched as Amelia and Bertie stepped up, one at each end of the wall. The gold holders were simple in shape – almost like oversized candlesticks. They were ornately etched though with beautiful calligraphy which told the story of Riddle and his downfall. Amelia and Bertie raised their wands to the cup part of the torch holder and silently lit them in unison. Two strong flames immediately sprang into life.

It was a fitting memorial.

"With the lighting of our torches, our main ceremony is now concluded." Cornelius said loudly. "I'd like to invite you all to stay. The Ministry ballroom has been opened for refreshments and sitting." He stood down from his lectern and led the way out to the open door just behind him.

Sirius wasn't surprised when Harry lingered in his seat rather than getting up immediately. He finally nudged him into motion and they walked over to the wall. Harry reached out and gently touched his parents' names. Sirius swallowed hard against the lump in his throat.

Bill stood at the other end of the wall. His eyes were pinned to Caroline's name. Sirius was pleased to see that there was more acceptance in Bill's expression than guilt. Bertie moved up to the young Weasley Heir and Sirius let his own gaze drift back to the wall.

There were so many names; so many had given their lives.

Hermione walked up to Harry and took his hand, resting her cheek momentarily on his shoulder. "You OK?" She asked lowly.

"Yeah." Harry sighed. "It's a good memorial; it just doesn't seem enough." It was his turn to nudge Sirius. "Ready to head into the ballroom?"

Sirius cast one final look at the wall and nodded. He glanced back to see the Delacours approaching Bill and wondered what that was about.

"Fleur's teaching him French." Harry explained, making Sirius realise he'd asked the question out loud.

"Really?" Sirius drawled, amused despite himself. "She's the new Gringotts' employee?"

Harry nodded, and a small smile flitted over his lips. "I think Vivien's planning to match-make once they get to France. Apparently it's rare a Veela finds someone who doesn't have a reaction to their allure."

Sirius agreed absently. It would be a good match if Bill allowed himself to fall for the girl. The Delacours were well placed in French society and she would make a great addition to the House of Weasley.

The ballroom was a press of people and Sirius guided them through the crowd to the table Andy had staked out at the back. Theo sat sandwiched between her and Ted. Narcissa was in attendance as the baby had been left in Dobby's capable care. Dora had also insisted on attending despite being very pregnant.

Sirius grimaced. Baby Lupin was due at the end of September and since Narcissa had effectively taken part in the ritual during her last month, Dora had been insistent that attending a memorial was a piece of cake by comparison. Remus hovered at Dora's side as though he was anticipating her going into labour at any moment regardless. It would have been hilarious if Sirius wasn't also a tad nervous about the same thing.

He was really going to miss Reggie during his vacation and on his return when they'd head home to Griffin House. Narcissa and Draco were moving to a newly purchased Black property near to Andromeda. Malfoy Manor was being locked down until Draco was old enough to take ownership. While Lucius was the Head of the House, the wards would allow him to enter freely and Narcissa wasn't prepared to place herself and her children into such a vulnerable position. Draco had accepted the move with surprising equanimity.

He excused himself from the table once Harry was settled – sending his son a sympathetic look as Hermione started to quiz him again on how his final exam had gone the day before – and started to make the rounds.

He had barely said hello to three people before he turned around and found himself face to face with Severus Snape.

"Black." Severus sneered.

"Snape." Sirius drawled back. He raised his glass. "How's your new position?"

Severus inclined his head, his heavy fall of black hair almost obscuring his face. "Acceptable." He glanced around swiftly, eyes landing on Harry. "You do not have to be concerned. I will not approach him."

Sirius sighed. "He doesn't hate you; he just doesn't forgive you."

"Like father like son." Severus stated.

Sirius almost bit his tongue in the effort to stop himself from snapping back. "I haven't had a chance to thank you yet for what you did in the graveyard so: thank you."

Severus looked as though he'd been slapped.

"Our paths may cross in future." Sirius pointed out. "We may still not like each other much but we managed a civil and even grudgingly good working relationship there at the end. I'd like to think we can continue to be adults about this and leave our past in the past."

Severus gave a slow nod. "A reasonable suggestion."

Sirius breathed out slowly.

"I should return to my work." Severus said, looking around with barely hidden horror.

"Shanghaied were you?" Sirius asked, keeping his amusement well hidden.

"Director Croaker is very much like Albus in some ways." Severus admitted dryly. He gave a short bow of his head. "Lord Black."

"Unspeakable Snape." Sirius let him go with some relief. His interactions with Snape were never going to be easy regardless of their mutual attempt to maintain civility. And Snape was right. He was never going to forgive him for telling Riddle the prophecy; his efforts to defeat Riddle, to keep Harry safe – they didn't wipe away that act. He figured Snape rather felt the same himself.

Sirius took a sip of his drink and made for Daniel at the wizard's signal to join his group. It didn't matter in the end. Any of it. Their school-hood angst was buried in the past. Snape's sins – well, he'd answer for those when he met Lily in the afterlife. And while their paths might cross with Snape's new position with Bertie, Snape was gone from Sirius's every-day life, from Harry's.

It was time to move on.