Chapter 27 – One Straw Too Many
. . .
Harry jumped from his Firebolt and shrunk it with a silent spell before slipping it into a pocket for his return trip. The young wizard entered the Lupin Home as quietly as possible so as not to be noticed. The last thing he wanted at the moment was to draw attention to himself. For once luck was with Harry and he managed to reach the stairs without being seen by any of the residents. Quickly ascending the steps, Harry made his way to the suite of rooms he had given Anna, only to see that the door was open.
"I thought I might be seeing you," the young girl greeted him warmly, looking over from the easel she had been focused on.
Harry returned the smile with one of his own as he regarded the small girl with paintbrush in hand. "I heard you were working on a new masterpiece and thought I would come steal a look," Harry teased.
"You know the rules," Anna reminded Harry matter-of-factly. "No looking till I'm finished with it."
"Not even a peek?" Harry whined plaintively.
"Absolutely not!" Anna assured him, having been through this with Harry several times previously.
"Fine," Harry relented reluctantly. Taking a seat on the couch the young wizard watched the small girl work. Anna was once again wearing her necklace which hid her scars behind a glamour. The petite girl's brow was creased in concentration as she worked the brush against the canvas. Given Anna's chestnut eyes, dark brown hair and rather serious continence at the moment, Harry thought she resembled a very young version of Hermione.
"So I guess you heard?" Anna asked a bit nervously after the comfortable silence had gone on for a fair bit. "Miss Susan said she would tell you."
"One of the twins sent me a note," Harry replied. Truth be told the young man was not happy about it in a purely selfish way though. Harry had become more than a little attached to the small girl and it pained him rather deeply to know that she would be leaving. He had thought, more than once, about adopting Anna and had quickly dismissed the notion each time. I can't even go out in public without drawing a crowd, how could I possibly drag her into something like that?There was also the fact that Harry felt far too young to be a parent, especially one with a child Anna's age.
Harry had little doubt what the wizarding world would think about him adopting a child. Given that Anna was a non-magical there would be certain outrage from some, though not all.She would instantly be the target of all manner of foolishness, he had reasoned correctly, recalling what had happened to Hermione after Skeeter's article in the Prophet their fourth year. In the end he had decided it would be better for the girl to have a normal life with normal parents. There's hardly anything normal about my life, Harry mused sadly. The irony of wanting for Anna what Dumbledore had wanted for him did not escape Harry's notice.
Taking in Harry's lack of further response, the small girl became a great deal more worried. "Ar…are you alright with it?" Anna stammered, keeping her eyes on the canvas before her rather than daring to look in Harry's direction and see the possible disapproval upon the man's face. Harry was her knight in shining armor. The very last thing Anna wanted to do was be the cause for his disapproval.
Harry, perhaps catching the worried tone in Anna's voice, forced his lips into a smile for her sake. "I just want you to be happy, Anna," he assured her. "No matter where you go or who you're with, you'll always be my girl."
"You mean that?" Anna asked with a hopeful look in Harry's direction.
"Really. Really," Harry replied with a nod of his head as the young girl hastily set her brush and paint palette aside and rushed across the room to launch herself into his arms. Catching the airborne projectile, Harry hugged her tightly for a long moment before situating Anna in his lap. "So tell me about them."
"The mum is very pretty," Anna said with her head laying on Harry's shoulder. "She tells the most wonderful stories!" the young girl added a bit excitedly. "The dad seemed to be mostly worried about if I was being treated alright or if I needed anything. He gives really great hugs though!"
"So you like them?" Harry asked only to feel Anna's head nod against his shoulder that she did. Anna's words hurt Harry, though that was not her intention he knew. It was his own jealousy that someone else other than himself made her happy in such a manner. While rationally he knew he should be happy for her, and he was, Harry hated the thought of losing her. "Do they have any other children?"
"Not that I know of," Anna replied after a moment of thought. "I think I would like to have a brother or a sister. Maybe I can ask Father Christmas for one?" Anna posed in a hopeful tone.
Harry gave a small chuckle upon hearing her words. "I think even Kris may have a problem with delivering upon that request," he told her with a grin. "You think they will make good parents for you then?"
Again Anna was quiet for a long moment before she finally replied,"I think they'll make the best parents, Harry. You'll come see me off won't you?" Anna asked a bit anxiously.
"Just try and keep me away," Harry replied. "I'll be sure and visit as often as I can," he told her. Anna's new parents must be magical, Harry mused, I doubt non-magicals would have learned of the Lupin Home. "How else am I going to spy on your paintings?" he teased.
"Harry James Potter, don't you dare!" Anna scolded, sitting up and giving the wizard a stern look.
"Alright, alright, I won't," Harry quickly said, raising one hand in surrender as the other was currently holding the girl in his lap."So what would you like to do today?" Harry asked, deciding that a change of topic was in order.
Anna's eyes lit up and Harry knew what was coming even before the words left the petite girl's lips. "Let's go flying!" Ever since Harry had first taken Anna up on his broom the small girl had begged for a ride every chance she got. "Oh please, can we?" she begged excitedly with big brown hopeful eyes.
Knowing that all too soon these opportunities would probably come to an end, Harry wasn't about to disappoint the girl. "It seems that I just can't say no to you," he replied, eliciting a squeal of pure joy from the small child. Harry stood and carried Anna over to the French doors that let out onto one of the few balconies that the Lupin Home had. It wasn't long before Anna's shouts of 'Go Faster' were ringing across the landscape.
The hour was late when Harry finally returned to Westfield Manor. His and Anna's broom ride had alerted the other children to Harry's presence and it wasn't long before a crowd of them had gathered to watch. Each little face stared up at the speeding broom, desperately wishing for their turn to go flying as well. Anna graciously relinquished her seat to allow others to have a chance at flying. This continued for some time till Susan came and called them all in for the evening meal.
Harry gave a wry smile at the recollection of the boisterous meal that had been. A bit different than what I'm used to here, Harry thought as he climbed the stairs and walked into the manor. If anything, meals at the Lupin Home reminded Harry of his time at Hogwarts within the great hall at meal times. Stowing his broom in the cupboard next to the door, Harry noted that the house was fairly quiet. After the meal he had spent time with Anna in her room, finally tucking her in and reading her a story.
The young wizard decided that he wasn't tired just yet and headed for the library to do a bit of reading for himself as was his custom on most nights. Harry slipped through the door only to notice that the library wasn't as empty as he had thought it would be. "Hey," Harry offered with a smile to the witch seated at one of the tables with an assortment of books open before her.
"Hey, yourself," Andi replied with a warm smile looking over the rim of a pair of small reading glasses. "You're home late."
"I didn't know you wore glasses?" Harry stated with a surprised look.
"Normally I don't but if there is a fair amount of reading to do I've found I need them or my eyes grow tired," Andi explained.
"They look good on you," Harry complimented the witch. The glasses gave Andi a sort of sophisticated, studious sort of look that Harry thought was rather fetching with her new hair style. Who doesn't find a smart witch attractive? "Would it disturb you if I did a bit of reading?" Harry asked.
"No, that's fine," Andi assured Harry, pleased by the compliment. Andi was a bit self-conscious about her glasses and wore them in the company of others as little as possible. "I'm just doing some work for my class."
Harry gave a nod of understanding before walking to a nearby bookcase and selecting a book at random. The young man made his way to one of the many couches and dropped onto it, setting the book aside for the moment. Harry felt a bit drained and weary. It had been a rather emotional day and the evening spent with Anna hadn't helped at all. Leaning his head back, Harry closed his eyes and tried to collect his thoughts.
"Want to talk about it?" Andi enquired from her place at the table.
"Am I that obvious?" Harry asked without opening his eyes.
"Well, it is either that or you're preparing for a spelling contest," replied Andi with a hint of amusement in her tone.
Harry rolled his head to the side and cracked open one eye to regard the witch in a curious fashion. Seeing Andi nod toward the book next to him, Harry looked a bit closer at it only to discover it was in fact a dictionary. "Would you believe I'm trying to broaden my vocabulary?" Harry asked in a slightly hopeful, slightly amused, tone as he looked back at the grinning witch.
"Considering you live with some rather intelligent women, that might not be a bad thing," Andi replied playfully.
"There is something about an intelligent woman," Harry commented with an appreciative smile as he rolled his head back and closed his eye once again. "Damn sexy, the lot of you."
Andi could feel her checks blush slightly as Harry had included her in his statement apparently. It was becoming increasingly difficult for the single witch to think of Harry as just her cousin and not as the fine young man he had grown into. It was the young part of that which prevented her from acting on what her heart and nighttime dreams were apparently telling her.
Rising from her place at the table, Andi made her way over and took the seat on the couch beside the resting wizard. "Harry, I hope you know that you can talk to me about anything. We're family after all so we have to be able to depend on each other." Reaching out she took his hand in hers and gave it a reassuring gentle squeeze. "Care to tell me what is bothering you?"
"Anna," Harry finally said after a lengthily pause."There is a couple who have adopted her. They will be here to take her home on the 22nd."
"And that's a good thing, right?" Andi asked hesitantly as Harry's tone had been anything but jovial. Andi could well understand how Harry must be feeling. It was no secret to anyone that Anna held a special place in Harry's heart. This must be terribly hard on him, she thought to herself.
"It is!" Harry exclaimed, frustration slipping into his words as he pulled his hand from Andi's and ran it through his hair. "It is, and yet," Harry sighed heavily, "I don't want her to leave. Does that make me a terrible person?" Harry asked, looking at Andi pleadingly.
"No, Harry, that does not make you a bad person," Andi assured him. "It just means that you love Anna and don't want to lose her," the older witch explained. "It would be no different if it were Teddy, I should imagine."
The thought of losing Teddy sent a shiver down Harry's spine and made him feel a little nauseous. It was the same feeling he got whenever he thought of Anna leaving. Why can't she just stay here, he lamented to himself silently. Just as quickly as he asked the question he answered it as well. She wants a family of her own. Harry stared at the floor a few feet in front of the couch as he recalled everything that had happened with the petite girl.
"Did I ever tell you how we first met?" Harry asked without turning to look at Andi. Catching the witch give a short shake of her head in his peripheral vision, Harry continued. "The Lupin Home had only been open for a week or so. I started to hear about a certain young girl that lived in a cupboard of all places. The elves said that she wouldn't come out, not for anyone, and so they had taken to delivering her meals to her there in the cupboard." Harry could well recall that day and how Anna had come to be a part of his life. With a small smile upon his lips Harry recounted his tale.
"And she won't come out?" Harry asked the elf walking beside him. He had arrived at the newly christened Lupin Home only to once again hear about one of its residents who had taken up in a cupboard. Harry, perhaps better than most, knew just what living in a cupboard was like. The fact that it was a young girl was cause for concern for the wizard.
"We's trying to get her to come out," the clearly upset elf explained, wringing his hands. "Lolly even be removing hers with magic but the young miss put up an awful fuss till she was in the cupboard again, Master Harry Sir. Middy be saying that the poor thing was scared and it be best to leave her be."
"Thank you, Linny," Harry replied to the elf beside him as they arrived at the cupboard on the second floor. The Black family elf gave a brief nod and then disappeared with a small pop. Harry stared at the closed door for a long moment trying to decide what to do. The young man gave a slight shrug before reaching out and knocking on the door. It would be terribly rude if someone just barged into my house without knocking first, he thought.
At first there was no answer. Harry was just reaching out to knock again when a small frightened voice asked, "Who is it?"
"Your landlord," Harry replied, thinking it a fitting answer.
Once again there was a lengthy pause before Harry received a reply. "What's a landlord?"
"A landlord is someone who owns the building you're currently living in," Harry explained rather simply.
"What do you want? I haven't done anything," the voice stated.
"I've come to collect the rent," Harry replied, hoping that if it sounded official enough that maybe the child would comply.
"What's rent?" the voice in the cupboard enquired.
"It's what you pay to the person who owns the property…," Harry started to say before stopping. "Look, can you come out here so that we can have a proper conversation? I feel a bit odd talking to a door."
"I'm not coming out! Not ever!" the voice exclaimed in a frightened tone.
Harry thought for a long moment. He could easily remove the girl from the cupboard, however he didn't want to upset her any more than she already was. "Fine then. Can I at least come in?"
"No one's ever asked that before," the voice in the cupboard stated in a slightly surprised tone after the lengthy pause. After a few seconds the door opened just a crack. When the door didn't open further Harry squatted down and opened it just enough for him to crawl in on his hands and knees. In the light he could see that there were a number of pillows as well as a couple of blankets that the elves had apparently provided for her.
The cupboard was larger than it ought to be on the inside so there was plenty of room for the two of them inside it. I'll have to thank the elves for making certain she is at least comfortable. Closing the door behind himself Harry made his way to the back of the cupboard and sat with his back against the wall. He had seen the girl's feet in the opposite corner, though the rest of her had been covered by one of the blankets. "Hi. I'm Harry. What's your name?"
"Anna," came the slightly muffled reply from the girl.
"It's a pleasure to finally meet you, Anna," Harry replied. "Do you mind if we have a bit of light?"
"No!" yelled Anna, startling Harry a bit as he hadn't been expecting such a strong reaction to his request. "No light!"
"Alright then," Harry assured her. The two sat in silence for a bit before Harry spoke. "Are you scared, Anna? Is that why you stay in here?" Hearing no reply, Harry continued. "You may not know it, but I spent the first eleven years or so of my life living in a cupboard. I didn't really like it much but I did feel safe there. It was home after all."
There was the slight rustling of material, leading Harry to believe that the girl had pulled the blanket covering her down. "I don't have a home now," Anna said sadly.
"Well, this can be your home for as long as you'd like," Harry told Anna softly. "Though I think we can find you a better room than this to sleep in. Even I eventually got my own room."
"Did you really live in a cupboard?" Ann asked.
Harry nodded even though Anna couldn't see it. "A bit narrower than this one, but longer as it was under the stairs. My cousin Dudley used to come down them in the morning and make an awful racket just because he knew I was in there."
"Were you hiding?" Anna enquired. "Was that why you were under the stairs?"
"My relatives who raised me didn't want anyone to know I lived there," Harry explained, "so they kept me under the stairs."
"Why didn't your mum and dad raise you?" Anna asked.
"They died when I was a baby," Harry told her.
"My mum and dad are dead too," Anna said in a sad tone."I don't have a family anymore," the girl added, sounding as if she were on the verge of tears.
Harry raked his brain trying to think of something to say to make the girl feel better but nothing came to mind. Harry knew he wasn't a great orator like Professor Dumbledore had been, a fact he was currently lamenting, certain the grandfatherly wizard would have had just the right phase to use to show the silver lining of the situation to Anna. Slipping his wand from his pocket Harry did the one thing he could think of, "Expecto Patronum."
Whereas before Harry's patronus had been on the overly large size the wizard knew that it wouldn't fit in the cupboard where they currently were. The bright white stag, when it appeared, was no more than a few inches tall and pranced about upon the air as if it were looking for danger. Hearing Anna gasp at the sight of the majestic animal Harry smiled proudly. "This is Prongs, my friend. I named him after my father."
"Your father's name was Prongs?" Anna asked as she inched closer to get a better look at the conjured creature. The light from the prancing stag illuminated Anna's face as it stared in wonder.
Harry only barely managed not to gasp at the scarred visage that his patronus showed. "No, of course not. That would be silly," Harry replied as he plastered a grin upon his face. "His name was James but when he took his Animagus form he was a stag and his name was Prongs."
"Your dad could turn into this?" Anna asked in wonder.
The smile on Harry's face became real for a moment as he began to wonder if Anna would ever run out of questions. "Well, not all white and bright like Prongs here," the wizard tried to explain. "He could turn into a real stag though, just as solid as you and I."
"Can you turn into one?" Anna asked as she watched Prongs walk up to her and brush his lips against her cheek. The sensation filled her with a warmth and for the first time since the attack on her home Anna felt that things might be alright someday. The resplendent stag, filled with Harry's good memories, brought hope to Anna even if she didn't realize it at the time.
"No," Harry admitted. "A rather difficult bit of magic that is," he went on to explain in his own defense.
"Harder than this?" Anna enquired before giggling."He licked me!" the smiling girl exclaimed.
"I think he likes you," Harry told her with a genuine smile. The young wizard recalled Professor Lupin telling him that the Patronus Charm was an exceptionally difficult piece of magic. 'Far beyond Newt level' he recalled the man telling him. Thinking of Remus made Harry a bit sad, and for a moment he wondered what life would be like if he were still there. "I don't rightly know as I've never tried it," the wizard finally answered.
"If I could turn into an animal I would want it to be some sort of a bird so I could fly," Anna confided in Harry. "I think it would be brilliant to be able to soar high above the ground. I would go so high that everyone would look like little ants! Then I bet no one would be able to hurt me."
Harry refrained from telling her that eventually even birds need to come down to eat and rest. "I could fly up and keep you company," he offered instead. "That way you wouldn't be all alone up there."
"You can fly?" Anna asked, her eyes widening in amazement as she looked at Harry.
"Not like a bird, mind you," Harry replied, "but I'm a fair good flier on a broom. I played Seeker on my house Quidditch team at Hogwarts."
"Never heard of Quidditch before," responded Anna matter-of-factly. "What's a Seeker do? Where's Hogwarts at?"
Harry chuckled at the seemingly endless stream of questions Anna was apparently capable of. "Quidditch is a game played by witches and wizards on brooms," he explained none the less. "A Seeker is one of the positions on the team and Hogwarts is in upper Scotland. It's where I went to school to learn to be a wizard."
"Can I be a wizard?" Anna asked in a hopeful tone.
"Wizards are boys, silly," Harry teased, "not pretty girls like yourself. You would be a witch," he told her.
"Would I have to have green skin and a hairy bump on my nose?" Anna asked, making a scrunched up 'eww' face as well.
"That is only in old movies and Halloween decorations," Harry said, setting her straight. "Real witches are no different looking than muggles."
"What's a muggle?" The inquisitive girl asked.
"It's what magical folk call those without magic," Harry replied.
"Am I a muggle?" Anna asked, fearing she already knew the answer.
"Afraid so," Harry answered, wishing it weren't so as he saw the girl's shoulders sag.
"I really wanted to go flying, even if only on a broom," Anna confessed as Prongs nuzzled her cheek in sympathy.
"Well, I can do that much for you," Harry told her."I can take you up on my broom if you want? It will certainly seat the both of us."
"Really?" Anna exclaimed loudly, startling Prongs who spun about looking for danger once again, set to protect the child if need be.
Harry gave a nod. "Certainly, but first I think we need to get out of this cupboard. I doubt there is room to do much flying in here," He added with a grin. Seeing the girl deflate and shrink back into the shadows at his words Harry asked, "Anna? You alright?"
It was a long moment before Anna replied. "You're wrong you know? I'm not a pretty girl. Those bad men saw to that."
Harry instantly realized that Anna wasn't hiding in the cupboard because she was afraid of being attacked again. The young girl was scared how others would react to how she looked. While he was certain that the adults wouldn't say anything Harry knew that kids could sometimes be very cruel."What if," Harry began in a thoughtful tone, formulating a plan in his head as he went. "What if no one could see you?"
"You can do that?" Anna asked in disbelief.
"I'm a wizard, aren't I?" replied Harry rather pompously, eliciting a giggle from Anna, which had been his goal in the first place. "I'm going to use a Disillusionment Charm on you. It won't make you entirely invisible but it will make you blend in to whatever is around you. You'll become a sort of human chameleon I guess. If you stand still no one will even know you're there."
Harry reached out and tapped the girl on the top of her head, eliciting a gasp as it felt like someone had cracked a raw egg on her head and it was running down all over her. In short order the two of them, Anna more hesitantly than Harry, left the confines of the cupboard and walked the short distance to a suite of rooms across the hall.
"Are these your rooms?" Anna asked as she looked about at the spacious room which was far larger than the bedroom she had shared with her sister.
"I was rather hoping they would be your rooms," Harry replied as he closed the door to the sitting room. "There's a bedroom through there," he added with a gesture towards an open door as he walked across the room and opened the large French doors which let out onto a balcony, one of the few Lupin Home had actually. "Now, about that ride," Harry stated as he turned to regard the barely visible girl, pulling his broom from his pocket and restoring it to its proper size.
"It still took a bit of convincing to get her to move out of the cupboard and into the rooms," Harry told Andi. "In the end she said she wanted to paint me," Harry added with a small chuckle at the memory. "I showed up in the old clothes as she asked and she proceeded to do just that, paint /me/. I think I had paint everywhere by the time she was done!"
"I think I remember that time, shortly after Teddy and I moved in here. You came home rather a mess as I recall," Andi stated."I can tell she means a great deal to you, Harry," Andi added sympathetically.
Harry just gave a slight nod. "It wasn't long afterwards that I had a necklace made for her. It has a permanent glamour on it to hide her scars so she isn't so self-conscious of them when she is out of her rooms. I told everyone there that she was 'Harry's Girl' and if they hurt her feelings they would have to deal with me. I guess I shouldn't have worried as everyone adores her," the wizard added with a small chuckle.
Andi decided not to point out that more than likely it was his words that caused the immediate acceptance of the girl. "Teddy will be ever so heartbroken as well I think," Andi said instead. Seeing Harry's questioning look she went on to explain, "Luna has been taking him over to the Lupin Home to play with the other children there. It seems that Anna has taken more than a passing liking to our Teddy and he to her it would seem."
"What's not to like," Harry quipped with a smug godfatherly smile that would have done Sirius proud. "Damn," Harry sighed, realizing he would have to explain Anna's absence to his godson when the time came. "Yet another thing to worry about."
"I heard you had a rather busy day here," Andi asked, deciding to change the subject. As there wasn't anything any of them could do about Anna's impending departure. It was better not to dwell on the matter too much, she reasoned. "Care to tell me what happened?"
Harry sighed heavily. "So it would seem. From what Luna said there was an impromptu exchange of spells in here between her and the others."
"Oh my!" Andi gasped in surprise. "Whatever could have brought that on?" she asked, knowing it had to be because of the wizard seated there beside her.
"Luna, apparently," Harry informed her. "She decided that it was time they all had a talk about a few things. I'm not certain what she meant by that but she did tell them that she and I are married as well. As you can probably imagine, Daphne did not take to that too well."
"I would hope not," Andi said with a slight nod of agreement at the young witch's actions and understanding of Daphne's reaction to the news.
"What?" Harry asked in disbelief, caught mid-step by her comment. It almost sounded as if she was agreeing with Daphne's outburst. "She tried to hex Luna of all things!" Harry pointed out sharply.
"I can't imagine it was any great joy for Daphne to discover that her husband had married another woman," Andi pointed out to Harry in a non-judgmental tone. "You were her husband first after all."
"Which I wouldn't be if Daphne hadn't set up our little meeting in the first place," Harry retorted, not liking what he took to be the reproachful tone in Andi's voice one bit. It had already been a rather long and emotional day and Harry was at his wits ends more or less. The fact that Andi seemed to be taking Daphne's side in this latest matter was a bit more than the young man could stand. Andi not siding with him left Harry feeling abit betrayed as it were.
"Well that is a rather childish way to look at it," Andi stated in a disapproving tone, not appreciating the anger directed at her for no apparent reason. "It's easy enough to push the blame off on Daphne but by using your logic you could just as easily say it is your fault for getting up that morning or offering to take her into your home."
"Bullocks!" Harry exclaimed, his temper getting the better of him and forcing him to his feet and away from the seated witch."If she hadn't placed herself there on the curb that morning none of this would have happened!" Harry declared moving several feet away from Andi before turning back and looking at the witch. "I might still be married to Luna but I most certainly wouldn't be in the situation I'm currently in!"
Andi stood and faced the angry wizard. "I thought you more mature than this," Andi stated, her words thick with disappointment."Yet here you stand trying to push all the blame off onto Daphne when it isn't her fault. Do I need to point out that she wasn't the one who proposed to Luna, you were."
"How is it not her fault?" Harry barked heatedly. Andi's words stung his pride. She calling me a child and making it sound as though the entire thing is all my fault! the angry side of Harry declared, pointedly ignoring the logic of Andi's words.
"Because she didn't know that her father would trick the two of you into a marriage," Andi explained, a bit exasperated with the thick-headed wizard while still trying to keep a hold of her own temper. Why is he being so pigheaded about this! If anything they have both been used by Daphne's father. Surely he can see that!
"She knew!" Harry countered with, his voice rising with each word. "She ran away from home because her father had a marriage contract ready for her," he stated triumphantly, as if proving his point.
"Which means she couldn't have known about his plans and it isn't her fault," Andi was quick to counter with. "If she was already under a marriage contract then how could she have known her father would change it to ensnare the two of you. I'm certain your marriage was as much a shock to her as it was to you."
The angry wizard stared at Andi for a long moment without blinking once. "So that's it? You're taking her side?" Harry finally spat out."So much for family!" he added in a derisive tone.
"I'm not taking anyone's side," Andi replied, the control over her Black temper slipping at last. "I'm just trying to keep you from making an arse out of yourself and-," she started to say.
"So now I'm an arse, am I?" Harry growled, cutting the witch off in mid-sentence. "Why is it that everyone feels they have to do things for me?" he asked angrily. All my life others have been trying to tell me what was best to do. Everyone controlling my life but me, he reasoned. Dumbledore, the professors and even Sirius. Now when I'm supposed to have control of my life finally I find that I don't have any control.
Bloody hell! It's just not fair! I'm married to two witches. Probably going to end up in Azkaban for that so I won't even be able to enjoy the fact that I'm married to two witches! What has following other's directions gotten me? Almost killed by a professor first year. Nearly eaten by a basilisk second year. Barely avoided being kissed by a Dementor third year. Don't even get me started on fourth year! Thoughts flew through the young man's mind at lightning speed as he stood there and fumed.
I killed a Dark Lord for Merlin's sake! That should mean something! The prophecy was complete and I should have had my life back, but no! Daphne had to park herself right there on the curb and just wait for me! Harry knew, someplace deep down inside, that it wasn't Daphne's fault but with everything that was happening in his life adding losing Anna to it was the straw that broke the hero's back.
You are being an arse, Andi thought, however with a supreme effort of will she bit back on those words. "I'm just trying to help you, Harry," she said instead.
"I never asked for your help did I?" Harry snapped in anger and frustration. "I never asked for any of this or for any of you to help me! You can all bloody well sod off and leave me be! None of you know what it is like to be me! You haven't a clue so how could you possibly hope to help me?" Harry cried, his voice cracking with emotions barely held in check. "Why would you even want to?" he ground out under his breath and between clenched teeth.
Andi took a step backwards as Harry's raw emotions were palpable in the stillness of the room and seemed to roll off him in perceptual waves. The room became charged with kinetic energy, much like during a thunderstorm, just prior to a lightning strike. The books began to vibrate and wobble upon their shelves as Harry's magic slipped his control. Books and others object began to swirl about the room in what quickly became a maelstrom of anything that wasn't nailed down.
In any other person, Harry's action would have been called a rather loud temper tantrum. Add in perhaps the world's strongest living wizard and it became much more than that. Pandemonium reigned within the confines of the library which had already been repaired once that day. Books and objects collided and broke apart adding to the swirl mass flying through the air with Harry at its center.
"Merlin's beard!" Andi breathed in disbelief at the display of raw power before her wide eyes. We've been so worried about how everyone else was feeling and would handle things that we never considered how Harry was managing it, Andi realized suddenly, ducking a book the flew past her head.
It was easy to forget that the rather subdued and mature appearing young man was still rather young and not very well equipped to handle everything life threw at him. How could I have been so blind? Just because he appeared to be alright doesn't mean that he is! Andi did the only thing she could, reaching down the witch grasped her skirt, hiked it up a bit and made a mad dash.
Harry stiffened upon feeling Andi embrace him. For a moment the world had gone a peculiar shade of gray and it had felt as though he was lost within a fog of shorts. Andi's arms encircling Harry and pulling him to her chest jolted the wizard back to awareness. Before the distraught wizard knew what was happening the dam he had fought so hard to maintain, broke and the tears spilled forth in rough ragged sobs.
"Ssh, it's okay. I've got you," Andi said soothingly as she placed soft gentle kisses on the crown of the wizard's head. Harry's arm snaked around her slim waist and crushed her to him almost painfully so. Andi leaned down and rested her head atop Harry's as she pulled him in as tight as she could. "I've got you, Sweetie. I'm not going anywhere," she whispered to him.
"Why?" Andi heard Harry ask in a ragged voice, raw with tears, after some time had passed. "Why do these things always happen to me? Whatever could I have done for my life to be so…," the wizards words trailed off.
"Fucked up?" Andi offered helpfully, receiving a mirthless snort from the man in her arms. "Oh, Sweetie, I wish I knew," Andi continued with as she shifted her head about and lay her other cheek again Harry's dark hair. "I wish I could take it all away from you and make it all better, truly I do!"
"I…I just feel so helpless sometimes," Harry told her with a sniffle. "People I care about, friends, family, the ones I love, are hurt or die because they are around me and there is nothing I can do about it." The sheer raw hopelessness in Harry's voice ripped at Andi's heart."Sirius, Remus, my folks, Tonks, Fred…," Harry tried to continue only to break down in tears once more.
"It hurts, Andi. I couldn't save them and it hurts more and more each day," Harry confessed as he clung to the witch as if she were his only lifeline. The only thing keeping him alive. "I…I don't think I can go on like this. I can't do it," he said with a small shake of his head. "I'm not strong enough."
Andi could only imagine the weight of guilt that Harry had been carrying around with him. It was not uncommon for those left behind after a war to experience survivor's guilt. "It's not your fault for what happened, Sweetie. They all knew the risks involved and they decided on their own to do the right thing rather than the easy thing like running and hiding. I miss Ted and my Dora each and every day but I don't blame you for what happened to them and you shouldn't blame yourself either."
"I can't begin to know what your life has been like, but if you ever want to talk about it I am always willing to listen. Despite the odds against you, Harry, you did managed to beat the one truly responsible for everything. I think you are far stronger than you give yourself credit for," Andi told Harry as she ran her fingers through his curls tenderly."You've managed to make it this far, haven't you?"
"Dreamless Slumber potions and fire whiskey," Harry replied.
"Sweetie, you do know that dreamless slumber potions are addictive?" the nurse in Andi pointed out. How long has he been taking them? she couldn't help but wonder. Why didn't I notice? I've been living there for months now! Just as quickly as she asked those questions she knew the answer. I've been so distracted by school and work that I didn't see the signs.
"I've been careful," Harry assured her with a soft sniffle. Feeling that the worst of it was past, Harry fell back to his usual façade. "I think I'm alright now, Andi. I'll be fine," and made to move away from the witch only to discover that the witch in question had no intentions of letting go of him that quickly.
"Do you have any idea how often in my line of work I hear those very same words, Harry?" Andi asked with an amused chuckle."You're anything but alright and I'm not letting you go till you talk to me about it," the medical witch in training added in a stern tone. Within her embrace she felt the wizard's shoulder sag.
Harry sighed, having been caught out by the older witch. "I can't," Harry told her.
"Can't or won't?" Andi asked, lifting her head and leaning back to have a look at Harry while her arms still encircled his neck.
"Can't," Harry reiterated as he lifted his head and regarded Andi. "At least not right now. I'm just not ready for that."
Andi couldn't miss the look of fear that had entered Harry's eyes at the prospect of confronting his demons. "But when you are you'll come find me?" Andi asked as her hands absently played with the hair at the nap of his neck. If I press him now he may never open up to me, she reasoned.
"I promise," Harry answered looking Andi straight in the eyes so she would know he meant it.
"Alright," Andi relented after a long pause of staring into Harry's emerald orbs to ascertain the truth of his promise. "Are you going to be alright for now?"
"I'll be fi…," Harry began only to stop upon seeing Andi arch a brow at him. "Probably not," the exhausted wizard admitted reluctantly. "I feel…like spun glass, fragile. One wrong move and I think I might shatter. I don't know what to do, Andi. Help me," Harry said in such a pleading tone that the witch's heart nearly broke.
Andi gave a curt nod, accepting his words for what they were. Reaching down she took Harry's hand in hers and led him over to the couch, making certain to step over the books and items that littered the floor. Seating herself on one end of the couch she pulled the confused wizard down beside her, shifting about till Harry was laying with his head cradled comfortable in her lap.
"Andi…," Harry began to object only to be shushed.
"Quiet you," Andi instructed. "Now close your eyes and relax," she told Harry as she began to run her fingers through his hair gently. It was something she had always done for Ted, who had suffered from severs migraine headaches. Within a few minutes she could feel Harry begin to relax under her ministrations. "We'll figure out what to do in the morning. For right now try and get some sleep."
"Andi, you'll…?" Harry tried to ask but wasn't certain how to phrase it.
"I'll be right here, Sweetie," Andi assured him, cottoning on to what he was trying to ask. "I'm not going anywhere." The medical witch knew that the day's events were about to catch up with Harry in the worst way. One did not toss around raw magic like that and not feel the effects of it. Given the rather emotional day she suspected Harry had had prior to what had just happened and she was certain the man was running on willpower alone.
Just when Andi thought Harry had actually dozed off, he spoke."I'm sorry for what I said, Andi. I may not have asked for your help or the help of the others but I think I truly need it. I was just too much of a sodding git to admit it at the time."
"It's alright, Sweetie," Andi replied in a soothing tone. "I know you were upset and hurting at the time. Still, I think it best we keep the whole sodding off thing strictly between us. I don't think the other will take that all to well."
Harry gave a small smile, finding he rather liked it when Andi called him Sweetie. With a contented sigh, the young wizard snuggled in a bit more. "Anything you say, Dear," was his sleepy reply.
"Hush you," Andi chided him softly as her hands continued to run themselves through Harry dark strands. Even after Harry's breathing deepened into true slumber the smile on the witch's face remained from being called Dear, even if only jokingly by the wizard in her lap.
Draco left his rooms just as he heard his father's voice call for his presence. The two were on their way to Gringotts to take care of some family business. Lucius had insisted that Draco accompany him, stating it was time he started to learn just how the family business was ran. As much as the Malfoy heir would have preferred to remain at home he needed to see if Potter had as yet canceled the betrothal contract between House Malfoy and House Greengrass. His father would be the first to know, being the head of the house and all.
Descending the stairs at a respectable pace Draco spotted his father waiting impatiently near the hearth. "Father," the younger wizard voiced with a slight nod of greeting. "Sorry to have kept you waiting. I was making certain I looked presentable."
"Sometimes I wonder if I don't have a daughter," Lucius stated dryly. "I seem to have forgotten my cane in my study. Be a good boy and go fetch it for me."
"Why not have one of the house elves get it," Draco asked, wanting to get this over with as quickly as possible. It was important to stay in his father's good graces for the time being but he didn't want to be around him any more than he needed to be.
"Because I asked you," Lucius snapped irritably.
"Yes, father," Draco quickly answered before hurrying off to fetch the missing cane. Entering the study, Draco spotted the item laying across his father's desk where the elder wizard much have forgotten it. It was only upon lifting the cane from the desk that he happened to notice a slip of paper, his eyes scanning over it and taking in its contents in an instant.
Harry James Potter married to Daphne Annabelle Greengrass 25/12/1998 20:37 House of Black
Harry James Potter married to Luna Constance Lovegood 26/12/1998 01:13 House of Lovegood
Draco's eyes widened. "Bloody hell, Potter! What have you been up to?"
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