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Fics begun in 2003 (post-OOTP)

Chapter Twenty-four

IF THERE BE MONSTERS, THEY BE US

August 20

Even closed, Harry’s eyes felt dry. How strange, he thought, with the sea so close… the glittering azure sea, and a fresh breeze that smelled of salt and olives and flowers and something else sweet and familiar but unnamed… what? Something baking?

He opened his eyes. They felt encrusted with sand. He half-expected to see a patio bounded by trees overlooking the ocean. Instead, the dining table in the Great Hall of the tower sat before him. He moved and he winced; the couch was soft but too short for sleeping. By the height of the sun, he judged that it was still early. Definitely something baking, he decided.

He stumbled down the stairs and into the kitchen. All six burners on the range top were going, something was indeed baking on the open hearth, both prep tables were covered with bowls and plates and food from the larder, and Shona was chopping like a madwoman. Her hair was in disarray, and it dawned on Harry that she was wearing one of his running suits – she had apparently spent the whole night in the bothy. She looked up furtively and returned her attention to the chopping. “Good mornin’, Harry,” she muttered.

“Uh… good morning,” he returned warily. “This is, erm, quite a feast you have going.”

“Least I could do after stirring up all yer guests last night,” she said briskly. “Least I could do.”

“Can I help?” he asked.

She stopped the chopping. “I admit I’m spoilt with a sous chef an’ a runner. Remus wasn’t sure about the numbers – would I be feedin’ twelve or fourteen?”

Harry shrugged. “That depends a bit on who’s around. It’s somewhere in there, I think.”

Shona said, “Och, close enough. We’ll see whether all that watchin’ in my kitchen did yeh any good.” She slipped into a commanding tone and he played along. She wasn’t terribly critical of him, so he presumed that he was managing more or less as she expected.

When the meal was nearly ready to be served and Harry had moved several dishes into the dumbwaiter, he asked Shona if she needed anything else, or if he should gather everyone to the dining table in the hall. She didn’t respond; her attention never shifted from the work.

“Shona?” he said quietly.

Her eyes welled up – something Harry absolutely didn’t expect. “This was the only normal thing ta be done,” she said hoarsely. “I needed ta do somethin’ normal.”

“I’m sure everyone will appreciate it,” he offered. “It’ll be the best meal anyone here’s had for a while.”

She chuckled for a moment, even as tears trickled down her cheeks. “It’s all I know to do,” she said. “Remus… he told me a lot last night. Not everythin’, I suppose, but enough. Madness, all of it.” She carved sausages loudly, banging the cleaver hard. “God, they’ve been tryin’ ta kill yeh for fifteen years! How do yeh stand it?”

“It’s all I know to do,” he said quietly.

“That’s not right,” she said.

It took Harry a while to decide what to say. “I’m sure whatever happened to you wasn’t right, either.”

The cleaver slipped out of Shona’s hand and clattered against the tabletop. She said, “I didn’t know if they were hunting me, so I ran. I didn’t know whether Heather was like me or like Remus, so I gave her up. I gave up my own child because I was afraid. Anything that came of that was my doin’, and mine alone.” She picked up the cleaver, and waved it in Harry’s general direction. “This thing tried ta kill yeh when yeh were a baby. There’s no choice in that. It’s – not – right.”

Harry immediately thought of several questions. He wasn’t about to ask them and he certainly wasn’t about to argue with her, especially with a chef’s cleaver in her hand. He changed the subject. “Where’s Remus?”

“Talkin’ to the old man,” she said dejectedly. “Tryin’ ta figure out how best ta explain the rest to her…” She set down the cleaver, and added, “…like it or not.”

Harry said, “You don’t like it, right?”

“Yeh don’t think I want ta drag her inta this mess, do yeh?” Shona asked.

“Erm… it might be a bit late for worries,” Harry suggested.

“Black told me that yeh have ways ta make people forget. She’d forget all of yeh, if it were up ta me,” Shona growled.

Harry said defensively, “In our world, you’re an adult at seventeen. If she’s Remus’ daughter, then it’s up to her.”

Shona glared at him. “I don’t give a damn about your world. Truth is, I gave up the right ta make her choices, a long time ago. I’ll tell her ta know Remus an’ stay away from the rest of yeh. She’ll know the cost, if I have anythin’ ta say about it. After that, it’s her cross ta bear.” She plated the sausages and snapped, “Breakfast is served.”

At the table, Shona was composed. The conversation drifted entirely around and past the late night events. Heather seemed too chipper and laughed a bit too loudly. She pointedly avoided Harry. Harry couldn’t bring himself to sit there and pretend that everything was somehow all right. Luna had remained in her room. Harry fixed a plate for her, excused himself, and climbed the spiralling stairs to the garret.

Luna was once again staring out the window. “Good morning, Harry,” she said without looking.

Harry held out the plate. “I brought you some food. How are you?”

“I am tired. I am tired of being tired,” said Luna. “How are you?”

“Hiding,” he said quickly.

Luna chuckled softly. “Ginny told me about last night’s events in vivid detail. I would have preferred that she simply quiet herself and go to sleep, but she was unstoppable. Your friend is the daughter of Professor Lupin, then?”

“It appears that way,” Harry said.

“A most interesting summer, indeed.” Luna remarked. “To discover friendship in the midst of horror is ironic. I certainly would not have expected Hermione Granger to become friendly with me. Hermione will have a difficult time upon returning, I fear. She shall need her friends.”

Harry felt a sudden sense of dread. “Why… why ‘upon returning’? Why will she have a difficult time then?”

“I am sure that Hermione will explain when she returns,” Luna said distantly, and she turned back to the window.

“Don’t turn away! What was that supposed to mean?” Harry demanded.

Ginny entered the room. “That was a smashing breakfast. Heather’s mum certainly can cook… what’s going on? Am I interrupting something?”

Luna said, “I was simply telling Harry that I fear Hermione will have a difficult time upon returning.”

Ginny quickly closed the door behind her. “Cast a silencing charm,” she said to Harry.

Harry crossed his arms. “Why should I? More secrets? You’re hiding something from me… she’s not going to come back, is she?” Ginny’s face was a blank mask.

“What causes you to think that, Harry?” Luna asked.

“Hermione’s reasonable, and so are her parents. Walking away would be the reasonable thing to do,” he said.

“I wouldn’t say she was reasonable when she left,” Ginny said sadly. “I wish I could just talk to her. I can’t even send an owl.”

Harry jumped inside at the word ‘owl’. “Why not? Where is she?” he asked.

“I can’t tell you,” Ginny answered. “Mum would have known, but she had a row with Hermione’s mum.”

“She would have known? And what do you mean, ‘a row’?” Harry asked.

“They had a row,” Ginny said evenly.

Harry saw that Ginny was measuring her words; she said that she couldn’t tell him where Hermione and her parents were, instead of saying that she didn’t know where they were. He wondered whether she could be trusted at all. He said curtly, “Excuse me; I start training again today,” and flung open the door.

Ginny said, “Harry… I am sorry.”

He sneered, “Goodness, I can’t imagine what you’d have to be sorry about!”

“I… hey! What’s that supposed to mean?” Ginny shot back.

“Forget it,” Harry grumbled as he stormed down the stairs. He brushed past Tonks, who called after him about something, but he didn’t care. He burst out of the tower, and nearly ran into Dumbledore and Remus, who were walking in the courtyard.

“Harry? What is wrong?” Dumbledore asked.

“Not now,” Harry snapped, and continued toward the black oaken door.

“Come here – that was uncalled for,” Remus demanded.

He threw open the black door, and ran toward the bothy. He didn’t stop until he reached his bedroom; the need to see her picture drove him there. “I wish you were here,” he sighed as if she could hear him. The next thing he heard was insistent pounding on the outer door. He stumbled to the living room, gathered up his wand, and flung open the door.

What?” he barked.

Heather looked at him in horror, and took an immediate step backward. “I’m… sorry,” she said quietly. “I’ll just…” She pointed toward the tower, and backed further away.

Harry said, “Heather! I didn’t mean to shout… I thought you were someone else.” He hesitated. “Heather? What’s wrong? What’s happened?”

Heather looked around. “I expected Shona would chase after me. After what she said… she’d have kittens if I came in.”

“You’ll be coming in, then?” Harry asked with a smirk.

Heather allowed herself a wry smile. “I don’t know whether I should trust you, but at least you do understand me,” she said as she passed through the door.

Her eyes searched the living area. She headed directly for the kitchen counter, and sifted through the pile of photographs. “Shona said she ran because she was afraid. She was afraid of more than just the… you know, of what you can do…”

“You can use the word ‘magic’, Heather. That’s what it’s called,” Harry said.

“Whatever. She was afraid of more than just… magic. Something happened,” Heather said. “They were both dancing around it, whatever it was, other than Remus admitting that he thought she was dead... the point being, she ran away. He said he would have been part of my life if he’d known about me. He said he wants to be part of my life now, if I’ll have him, and then he started in on having me evaluated or whatever. Anyway, I had to tell him to sod off again.”

“What, for wanting you evaluated?” Harry asked.

Heather groaned. “Isn’t it obvious? Remus is dangerous as well, or at least he was, but that didn’t prevent him from offering to hang about. After that, he has the nerve to steer me off of you?” She shook her head. “One-hundred-percent pure shite, all of it; I’m not about to listen to him.”

“Will you listen to me, then?” Harry said. “He’s right, and I meant what I said last night. You should stay as far from me as you can.” He added weakly, “You should probably go now.”

No,” said Heather, “and I’m not going to budge from this couch until you tell me why I should stay away – all of it.”

Harry didn’t want to say anything, but the words churned inside him. Once he let them loose, he couldn’t stop. “Everything I told you about me, about my parents and what happened to them, about me being a target, was all true… it just wasn’t the whole truth. You want to know why you should stay away? Fine – here’s the whole truth. The person trying to kill me is called Voldemort.”

“You said that name last night, like it was a joke,” Heather recalled.

“Well, he’s no joke. He’s a wizard, a very powerful and very evil one. He has followers called Death Eaters, and they’re as evil as he is. When Voldemort killed my parents, he killed them with a curse. It’s the only curse that can’t be blocked; if it strikes you, you’re dead. He used it on me, but I didn’t die, which is impossible. Somehow it bounced back at him. I ended up with this scar…” He flipped back his bangs and scowled.

“Voldemort disappeared, and everyone thought he was dead. He wasn’t.” His bangs fell back across his forehead. “In our world, people call me the Boy-Who-Lived; charming, isn’t it? I didn’t know any of this until I turned eleven and went to Hogwarts – that’s my school. Dumbledore packed me off to live with my mother’s sister and her horrid git of a husband. I slept in a cupboard under the stairs for ten years – let’s leave it at that. I spent my Christmases at Hogwarts, and as much of my summers with the Weasleys as I could. During my first year at Hogwarts, Voldemort came back. A year ago, I duelled with him. He… he killed a schoolmate of mine, and I barely escaped. He keeps getting stronger, and he’s set on killing me.”

He sighed. “In our world, I’m famous – all because a curse bounced off my head! I’m in the papers constantly. One day I’m the saviour of the universe; the next day I’m a demon. Almost no one believed that Voldemort was back, until this summer. People thought I was crazy, you know, that it was some kind of delayed madness or something. Deep down, no one wanted to believe it. I can’t really blame them for that.”

Part of Harry wanted to stop, but something possessed him to continue. “I have this connection with him. Maybe it has something to do with the scar – I don’t know. I can see what he sees sometimes, or hear what he hears. It was especially bad last year. It would happen at night, in my dreams. I could have blocked it out, but I didn’t… I wasn’t taught properly, but I think I knew how. Part of me didn’t care. I let him in and he tricked me, to try and bring him something he wanted, something only I could get. I managed to get Sirius Black killed because of it, because I didn’t learn… Tonks nearly died… Ron and Hermione were badly hurt… Ginny and Luna and Neville could have been… all because I was stupid!”

Harry closed his eyes to compose himself, but that left him in the darkness of the Department of Mysteries… the Veil was there, and his eyes snapped open. He pressed on. “Sirius had a will, and he was… gods, I wouldn’t know where to start. In the end, I ended up emancipated on my birthday. I turned up in the papers even more. In Teen Witch Weekly –”

Heather laughed nervously, which startled Harry. “I’m sorry,” she said. “It’s just… Teen Witch Weekly? What’s that about – all the hot magical boys?”

“More or less. I’m sure Ron would love to show you his clippings,” Harry grunted.

Heather’s eyes widened. “I was joking… sorry, it’s a lot to take in.” She fidgeted. “So… I take it you turned up in this Teen Witch Weekly.”

Harry took a deep breath. “They printed something about my supposed love life. It connected a few girls with me – Luna and Ginny, and Hermione, and some other schoolmates.” Heather closely scrutinized him, and he looked away. “Voldemort got inside my head again – I didn’t even know he was there this time,” he admitted. “He wanted to find out who was really important to me, and…” His fists balled. “…and he went after them… just to hurt me. Luna – I don’t know if you met Luna, but she’s here…”

Heather nodded. “Ginny introduced me to her. She seems like a very nice girl. Strange eyes, though.”

“She’s nice, all right. She’s one of the bravest people I know. One of Voldemort’s Death Eaters…” Harry squeezed his fists tightly, and hoped that he could hold himself together. “…the same one who killed Sirius…” He shook. “…cut Luna’s throat.” Heather recoiled.

Harry waited until his shaking stopped, and then continued, “Right after that, a group of Death Eaters attacked us at Hermione’s house –”

“And now it all comes together,” Heather whispered.

Harry nodded. “Voldemort came. He…” The anger rushed through him in waves; with each wave, he squeezed his hands again. “…he had her tortured, and he attacked her himself. He told me…” Harry’s throat tightened, and his voice became anguished. “…he told me that he was going to kill her, and that he’d spare everyone else in the room if I didn’t move.”

Heather covered her mouth with one hand and gripped the back of the couch with her other hand. Her eyes demanded that he finish.

Harry couldn’t meet her eyes any more. He looked at his hands in his lap, and decided that he couldn’t look at himself either. He steeled himself, and told it without emotion. “I couldn’t let him do it. Ron’s dad said they’d have just killed all of us anyway. He was probably right. I got loose, and I killed six of them.”

“How?” Heather asked quietly.

“Why do you have to know that?” Harry demanded.

Her voice could barely be heard. “You got loose, so they had you locked up or something. You didn’t have your stick, then.”

Harry couldn’t hold it in any longer. “I did it with my bare hands! Wizards who fight for a living were frightened of me! I tore apart six people with my bare hands!” He felt his eyes begin to moisten, and he was not about to cry in front of her. He turned away. “I don’t even know how I did it. I was completely out of control.” She didn’t say anything. They just sat there, for what seemed to Harry like hours.

He felt two hands rest on his back. “I’m not afraid of you,” she said.

His laugh was bitter. “Then you’re a nutter,” he said.

She rubbed his back gently. “You’re probably right,” she said. “Are you ready to listen to me now?”

“Probably not,” he said, but he turned back toward her.

Heather kept running one hand up and down his back. “When I came back here for holiday, I was looking for something that didn’t exist. I wanted a nice-looking fellow who had never heard of me and wanted nothing… well, some kissing would have been nice. This is St. Ebb, you know; all the boys worth having are taken or moved on. Then… here comes Harry. Definitely nice-looking – the black clothes, the motorbike… a bit flirty… obviously well-to-do… and decent to anyone and everyone.” She mussed his hair, and he smiled a pained smile. “Too good to be real – recently fallen to earth, for certain. Of course…I didn’t plan on you being heir to the Blacks, I didn’t plan on stumbling across Remus, and I sure as hell didn’t plan on falling through the looking-glass!”

Harry muttered, “Sorry to disappoint you.”

Heather pressed harder into his back. Harry was distracted by it, but didn’t mind. She said, “I’m not disappointed. I like you, Harry, and I’m not afraid of you.”

“You should be,” Harry said.

“You kept some people from being killed, people you obviously care about – you saved their lives. You killed the bad guys along the way, and you’re tearing yourself apart over that. Tell me, would the bad guys have lost any sleep over killing you or your friends?” she asked. Harry reluctantly shook his head.

Heather pulled him into a hug. “I won’t pretend that I’m comfortable with all of this going on about magic. I… I have a lot of questions. That doesn’t mean I think you’re some kind of monster. You’re not. You’re a good person; I know that.”

“I just don’t want to see you hurt because you’re close to me,” Harry said.

“Good. Neither do I,” said Heather. She pulled back from him, and smiled.

“Erm… I have to ask… what’s this about kissing, then?” Harry asked with a smirk.

Heather shook her head and gave a wry smile. “Two days ago, I would have left your lips numb if you’d just asked. Something’s come between us.”

Harry sat up straight. “What? It isn’t Remus, is it?”

“No, it’s not… although I do feel like we’re family in a strange way, with Remus being what he is to you. No… I’m talking about your friend on the wall… Hermione,” said Heather.

Harry didn’t care for the way Heather said Hermione’s name. “What about her?” he asked defensively.

“I saw the look in your eyes when I asked about that picture. I may as well have left the room. Listening to you just now… don’t be daft, Harry,” Heather said.

“It’s not like that,” he said.

“What’s it like, then?” she asked.

“I told you before – she’s been my best friend for five years,” he returned. “To see her like that… it ripped me in two; I won’t deny it. She deserves better.”

“I know you’re holding out on me. Do you want me to trust you, or not?” Heather asked.

Harry swallowed and licked his lips. He felt suddenly dry. “I’ve watched people get together, you know, at school. It doesn’t work out, and there are hard feelings, and… and I couldn’t chance that. She’s too important to me; I didn’t want to make a bigger mess of things.” He sighed deeply. “In the end, it wouldn’t have mattered. After I… you know… did what I did… she couldn’t even look at me. She was afraid of me – afraid. Now I find out that after I left to come here, she… well… she snapped.”

Heather’s eyebrows shot up. “Snapped? What do you mean, snapped?”

“You know… snapped, went spare. Ron’s told me the most. He said she was curled up in the corner, babbling or something like that. She and her parents left the country,” Harry said. “I just hope she’ll be my friend again, if she comes back at all.”

“Why are you sitting here?” Heather demanded.

Harry was puzzled. “What?”

Heather shook her head. “Do you even hear yourself when you talk? If she’s so important to you and she’s been hurt, then why are you sitting here?”

“I can’t,” Harry explained. “I don’t know where she is, and I wouldn’t know where to begin looking.” Although Ginny might be in on it, he thought.

There was an insistent rapping, and both Harry and Heather turned to the open door.

“May we come in?” Lupin asked.

Harry looked to Heather, who shrugged. “If you like,” he said without meaning it.

Shona followed Lupin inside. A few moments later, Dumbledore entered and closed the door. Shona and Lupin sat next to one another in the armchairs. Dumbledore conjured his own chair and Shona jumped in her seat at the sight. Heather tried not to appear intrigued but Harry knew better.

Shona tugged at the sleeve of the running suit she wore. “Er… borrowed this from yeh,” she said to Harry. “Return it tomorrow?”

“That’s fine,” Harry said.

Heather looked at Dumbledore suspiciously. “What are you doing here?”

“I asked Remus and Miss Malloch if I could join them. There is more that you must be told, and I thought that I might be of assistance,” he returned.

“Harry stays,” Heather said firmly.

“I had no intention of asking him to leave,” Dumbledore said. “In fact, I suspect that you may derive value from his support. Remus?”

Lupin stiffened. “Albus… I’ve seen your idea of supporting Harry, and I object.” He turned to Heather, and added firmly, “I thought that my feelings on this were quite clear.”

“And so were mine! Do I have to tell you again? Sod off!” Heather snapped.

“Heather, yeh’ll not talk to yer father like that,” Shona said.

Heather’s eyes narrowed. “He’s not my father, and you’re not – my – mother,” she snarled. “You gave birth to me, he’s responsible, and that’s the end of it. Anything else, you earn.”

Dumbledore arched an eyebrow. “A more respectful tone would be in order,” he said.

Heather didn’t shout but her voice commanded the room. “Everyone except Harry has been lying through their effin’ teeth at one time or another, and even he wasn’t telling the whole truth before. Show me something to respect.”

Lupin said, “Shona hasn’t lied to you and I haven’t lied to you. There’s more to tell, and we would have told it if you hadn’t run out on us. As for Harry, I’m sorry – I genuinely love Harry – but I’m right about this. You don’t understand what you’re doing.”

“Don’t I?” Heather said. She proceeded to recount Harry’s story. Lupin’s jaw dropped further with each detail, and even Dumbledore appeared surprised. “I know exactly what I’m doing,” she finished.

“You were rather forthcoming, Harry. I do hope that you were not too forthcoming,” Dumbledore said. “Miss Magruder seems to have made a strong impression upon you.”

Harry said to Lupin, “I agreed with you, you know.”

Shona lightly touched Lupin’s arm. “Let him stay,” she said. “I want ta be done with this.”

Lupin nodded reluctantly. “Albus… could you…?” he said nervously.

Dumbledore smiled. He reached into a small bag that he was carrying, and withdrew a nondescript wand. “Would you hold this, please?”

Heather eyed it suspiciously, and wrung her hands. “I’m not sure if I should. I don’t know what I’m doing.”

“There is nothing for you to do,” Dumbledore assured her. “Simply hold the wand, and it will do the rest.”

Heather apprehensively took the wand. For several seconds, it did nothing. Then it emitted a few tiny white sparks.

“Thank you,” Dumbledore said, extending his hand. Heather gave him back the wand. “You do not appear to be a witch as we ordinarily define such,” he declared. “That does not mean that you are without magic.”

Lupin said, “That makes no sense. One has magical ability, or one does not.”

“How is it that Arabella Figg performs household magic?” Dumbledore asked.

“I wasn’t aware that she did,” Lupin said. “I have no idea how she would perform any magic.”

Dumbledore inclined his head and looked at Lupin over the top of his small silver spectacles. “Have you heard of the Kwikspell course?”

“It's little better than fraud,” Lupin said. “It’s a terrible thing to seed people with false hope.”

“Algernon Croaker has studied squibs and wild talents, and he took a great interest in Kwikspell training. It seems to provide at least some enhancement for one-quarter to one-half of those who complete the programme,” Dumbledore said. Lupin's eyebrows rose at that.

Croaker – where have I heard that name? Harry wondered to himself. Dumbledore continued, “So many of us believe that magical ability is controlled as if by a simple switch – turned one way, ability is granted; turned the other way, ability is withheld. I spent time in a Muggle house whilst away from Hogwarts last year. It was there that I encountered an apt metaphor for magical ability – the garden hosepipe. With the valve fully released, the flow of water is a torrent. With the valve scarcely opened, the flow is a mere trickle. It is still a flow of water, just the same.”

“So Squibs can actually be trained?” Lupin asked.

“Not in all cases, and not to a standard that we would accept as true wizardry or witchcraft. Arabella is perfectly capable of a wandless cleaning charm, but cannot manage a broom or a wand. Argus Filch can see the same magical manifestations as any wizard – how else could he negotiate the stairs at Hogwarts? Despite that, he can only cast one charm.”

“I’m sorry… did you say ‘Squibs’?” Heather asked.

“Just as non-magical persons are referred to as ‘Muggles’, non-magical offspring of wizards and witches are referred to as ‘Squibs’,” Dumbledore explained.

“A dud firework, am I?” Heather grumbled. “Obviously, they’ve never met me.” Shona laughed, and Heather laughed with her.

“You represent a very complicated case, Miss Magruder. It would be wise to completely ascertain the boundaries of your abilities,” Dumbledore said. “Your fath…” He nearly scowled. “I am sorry. Remus is not an ordinary wizard. This brings us to a more difficult subject. Remus, would you care for me to continue?”

Lupin took a deep breath, and slowly let it out. “This should come from me,” he said. “Heather, we need to talk more about the disease that I have.”

Heather nodded. “You’re worried that I have it, aren’t you?”

“No! No!” Lupin insisted. “Goodness, there wouldn’t be any doubt about that! I can assure you that you don’t have this disease. It’s a miracle that Shona doesn’t have it, and I dearly hope that it hasn’t affected you in any way.”

“Remus’ disease may explain why you do not possess complete magical abilities,” Dumbledore interjected.

“Is that why you’re afraid of him?” Heather asked Shona.

Shona squirmed in her seat. “It’s not a simple thing,” she said. “What I felt for Remus, what I feel… I don’t know if it’s enough ta… och, it’s just not that simple.”

“I have lycanthropy,” Lupin blurted out. “I’ve had it since the age of six.”

Heather said, “Lycanthropy… I’ve heard that word before… you know, I have been rather well schooled; Madame Hartmann insisted on it. Lycanthropy… lycos… that’s Greek for… for what…? Wolf…?” Heather paled, but then began to laugh. “Oh, that’s brilliant; next you’ll be telling me you’re a vampyre, right?”

Lupin laughed nervously. He rattled off, “Oh, no! That’s the only thing I can think of that would be worse. Can you imagine? At least I have twenty-four or twenty-five good days between episodes. Vampirism is a daily nightmare! It can only be controlled if potions are commenced before a vampyre drinks human blood, and the potions are nearly as damning as the curse.” He looked at Harry, who thought Lupin looked almost manic. “If you think I look terrible around the full moon… even potion-managed vampyres are waxy pale things. They constantly smell of the potions – you’d think they lived in a cauldron. No, I’ll take my existence over that, thank you very much!”

Heather clutched at Harry’s arm as if she were drowning. “You’re serious!” she shouted.

Harry drew her to him. “It’s all right,” he said.

She pulled angrily away from him. “Like hell it’s all right!” She jabbed her index finger at Shona. “You knew! My God, you knew! That’s… that’s why you handed me off to Fiona, isn’t it?”

“I handed yeh off because I couldn’t take care of yeh. I damn near drank myself ta death – and not because of what yer thinkin’,” Shona said. Her voice quavered. “I found out what Remus is, all right. It was the last time I saw him 'til now; he wasn’t supposed ta be there. It was just me an’ Black, takin’ in one last climb afore the winter. God, I used ta love the mountains…” She paused and a small smile flickered across her face, the last gasp of a fleeting memory. “The bastards dragged Remus up there. They chained him up like an animal, an’ they beat him and kicked him, an’… an’ they called me a whore an’ a lot worse. He was goin’ mad with pain – I don’t know if it was the beating, or what was happenin’ ta him.” She reached out and squeezed Lupin’s hand. “They threw me at him. I figured they wanted him ta kill me. He caught me with… with his claws…” She stopped, and burst into tears.

Heather awkwardly reached out to comfort her, but Shona swatted away her hand and barked, “Yeh ever wonder where the scars on my leg came from?” She turned to Remus, with a gentler tone. “I screamed, and… yeh recognised me, I’m sure of it. Yeh stopped, and that just made ‘em angrier.”

Shona took a deep breath before she continued. “Eventually Remus got loose, and he went straight after ‘em. They had their wands, six or seven of ‘em, and they all hit him at once. He just let out this howl and went limp. I… well, I figured I was alone. I ran a ridge line an’ I came ta the end. One of ‘em shot his wand at me. I slipped an’ I fell.”

“Who were ‘they’?” Harry asked.

“Death Eaters,” Lupin said quietly. “They stunned me. I managed to follow and I saw her fall. That’s all I remembered the next day.”

“I don’t know how far I fell,” Shona said. “I don’t know how I made it ta the trail head. I figured Remus and Black were both dead, and they’d be lookin’ fer me. As soon as I could run, I ran.”

“All we found the next day were bits of her clothing, torn by me, and a pool of blood fifty or sixty feet below the ridge,” Lupin explained. “I guessed that the Death Eaters had taken her body. Sirius… Sirius assumed that she’d crawled off into the brush or fallen further. He was certain that I’d killed her. You see… Sirius took it upon himself to tell Shona that we were all wizards. Why he picked a full moon to do it… I was supposed to be in my safe place where I couldn’t harm anyone, not on some accursed mountainside. The Death Eaters ambushed me and brought me up.” Lupin took Shona’s hand with both of his. “He could have picked any weekend, the git. I’d have stayed behind; that was far too steep a slope for me.”

Shona said, “We should never a’ been on Ben Nevis that late in the season ta begin with. It was cold, yeh couldn’t see more than twenty feet the first night… shouldna been there. With what Black told me… well, it took a lot a’ single-malt ta swallow that story, let me tell yeh. He always was first ta the floor when drinkin’ was involved. If…” She struggled for composure. “…if we hadna been drinkin’, maybe Black might a’ been able ta do somethin’.”

Lupin gently stroked Shona’s hand. “It’s much more likely that Sirius would have gotten himself killed. Remember what I said last night, about regret?” He looked to Harry. “It was never the same with Sirius after we thought she had died. I think that started it all, in some ways – all the distrust and the anger. Wormtail simply took advantage. I had to escape, to bury myself in something, so I took an assignment in Eastern Europe for a few months. When I returned, even James was distant.”

Heather sat silent, and Lupin studied her face. At length, he asked her, “What are you thinking? Please say something… anything.”

“You can’t be a… a werewolf. This isn’t happening – it can’t be happening,” Heather said. “You seem so normal, but… what am I saying? Normal? There’s nothing normal about any of this! I can’t… I don’t know if I can handle this.” She stood up.

“Where are yeh goin’?” Shona asked. “We’re not done here.”

“I can’t take any more, not now,” Heather blurted. “I need to be alone.” She brushed past Harry’s outstretched hand and rushed toward the doorway.

“If I’d known he was alive, I would a’ come back,” Shona said. “I was afraid of what I saw, but I would ‘a come back. I… I loved him somethin’ awful.”

“I can’t handle this. I just can’t!” Heather cried.

“Heather! He’s not a monster,” Shona called after her, but Heather was already running toward the switchback that led to the beach.

Lupin sagged in his chair. “I’ve turned her life completely upside down. She must hate me,” he sighed.

“She requires time to process what she has heard, and she will need support and guidance after that,” Dumbledore said.

“She can handle it,” Shona snapped.

Lupin muttered, “Can she? I doubt I could, under the same conditions.”

Shona nodded. “She’s tough. Give her time. I’m more worried about this talent the two of yeh were talkin’ about this morning. So… is she one of yeh, or not?”

Dumbledore thoughtfully stroked his beard. “As I said, she is not a witch, not in the sense which we generally understand. Miss Malloch, your daughter was reading my thoughts last night, or more precisely, my intentions.” Harry’s mouth dropped open. “This is a form of a magic we call Legilimency,” Dumbledore went on. “She showed an ability to recognize and perhaps even prevent my own use of Legilimency, which is a defence that we term Occlumency. These are both rather advanced magics, and she wields them with no understanding or instruction. At the same time, the training wand barely responded to her. She may be a wild talent.”

Lupin appeared surprised. “Isn’t that really a myth?” he asked.

Harry was reeling – everything Heather had said about spotting lies suddenly took on different meaning. “You mentioned that before – what do you mean?” he managed to ask Dumbledore.

“Wild talents are Muggles or Squibs who possess one magical ability or skill in full measure,” Dumbledore explained. “Sometimes, they possess it in greater measure than most wizards or witches. There have been cases of Muggle healers who unwittingly cast wandless healing charms. Mr. Filch casts only one charm but he does so with his hands as effectively as I cast it with a wand. Algernon studied a case of a Muggle gambler who could divine the outcomes of future sporting contests with fair accuracy; the poor man barely avoided losing his life over it. There are more wild talents than anyone realises, Remus. For the most part, these people live their lives in a Muggle context. Many fail to fully recognise their ability; others intentionally hide or obscure it. Given the current climate, that may be for the best.”

“Heather has commitments, right? She has to deliver a record soon,” Shona said firmly. “She can’t be dragged off to some school for months at a stretch.”

“That should not be necessary,” Dumbledore said. “Together, we shall find a means to help your daughter address her ability in the context of her life.”

“About this record business… there’s something else you should know,” Lupin said to Shona. “The man who owns the recording company is a wizard.”

Shona gasped and began to cough. “I knew he was a rotten bastard, but… cor, he’s not one of them… is he?” she managed.

“We don’t think so,” Lupin told her, “but he’s not exactly a favourite of ours. Harry’s a sort of accidental business partner of his.”

Shona’s eyebrows rose. “You’re in business with Keith MacLeish? Don’t suppose yeh’ll tell me how ta get Heather out of business with him?” she asked Harry.

“Erm… I haven’t even met the man yet,” Harry admitted. “It’s been a problem?”

Shona scowled. “Heather was satisfied with what she had,” she said. “The deal with MacLeish was dear Fiona’s last hurrah; I set a solicitor on her after that. Thank God she’s cut out now; after expenses and an allowance, the money goes inta trust. I dinnae get her out of the contract, though, and she owes three records. I still cannae fathom why they took her on at all. They’re tryin’ ta make her inta somethin’ she’s not.”

Lupin began, “What do you mean by that…?”

Harry fidgeted in his seat. “Shouldn’t someone go after her?” he blurted.

Lupin started to stand, but Shona waved him off. “She’s not ready for yeh. She doesn’t want me ta be her mum but she’ll cry on my shoulder if yeh give her some time. That’s the thing now.”

“It is nearly one o’clock,” Dumbledore said to Harry. “You should make your way to the tower and await Kingsley’s arrival. You must not neglect your training.”

¨ ¨ ¨

“You’re particularly intense today, Potter,” Shacklebolt said. “I think we’ll stop for now, before one or both of us are injured.”

Harry leaned forward, his hands pressing against his knees, and struggled to catch his breath. “I’m sorry,” he panted. “It won’t happen again.”

Shacklebolt gave a derisive snort. “Of course it will; you’re intense by nature. Let’s turn to your assignment. Sit.” Harry summoned one of the chairs pushed against the side of the Great Hall and sat heavily.

“Yet another example, I see,” Shacklebolt said. “You really have no idea, do you?”

Harry was distracted, and still a bit short of breath. He looked at Shacklebolt strangely. “What are you going on about?”

Shacklebolt pointed at the chair. “You may have given your wand a bit of a wave, though I didn’t see it, but you didn’t speak the charm – did you?”

Harry shrugged. “I really don’t know. I wasn’t thinking about it.”

“I suspect that you’ve just identified a common thread,” Shacklebolt said; “No matter - it’s time to go over your assignment.” Harry frowned, and Shacklebolt paid him no mind. “I’m assuming you experienced the usual sorts of childhood incidents?” he went on. “Primary school seems to bring out the best and worst in the young.”

Harry nodded. “I ended up on a rooftop once, and I made a pane of glass disappear at the zoo.”

“What’s the first peculiar incidence of magic that you remember after your Hogwarts letter?” Shacklebolt asked.

Harry chuckled. “It’s all peculiar, when I stop to think on it. But especially peculiar… let me think…” He struggled to think of something. “Well… there was the bit with the Sorting Hat, at the end of my second year.”

Shacklebolt’s eyebrow rose slightly. “What were you doing with the Sorting Hat?”

“Fawkes brought it to me, in the Chamber of Secrets… I assume you know about that?” Harry said.

“That’s the chamber Salazar Slytherin supposedly built within Hogwarts. I know you were believed to be the Heir of Slytherin for a time – ridiculous, of course – but how are you connected to the Chamber?” Shacklebolt asked.

Harry gave him an abbreviated version of the events, and Shacklebolt’s eyes lit as he listened. He was particularly amused to discover that Ron was responsible for Gilderoy Lockhart’s memory loss.

At length, Shacklebolt said, “Arthur and Molly continue to surprise me. As far as I know, they’ve never told a soul – excepting Dumbledore, to be sure.” He stroked his chin thoughtfully, and added in a slow rumble, “Just as well: Ginny Weasley would be a pariah if people knew she’d been under the thrall of either Voldemort or Tom Riddle.” When Harry’s eyebrows rose, Shacklebolt smiled. “The Order has been briefed as to Voldemort’s identity. For the life of me, I don’t know why that’s held close. I think we should shout it from the rooftops.”

“So, does that qualify as ‘peculiar magic’?” Harry asked.

Shacklebolt laughed. “That incident was peculiar from beginning to end. I will, of course, keep it in strictest confidence. Perhaps we should limit the discussion to events since you left Hogwarts in June?”

“Well, I suppose it all started when I blew up Dudley’s punching bags…” Harry began. Event by event, they worked their way through the summer. It was a longer list than Harry had contemplated. He hadn’t thought about the telephone call to Hermione since Bill Weasley had told him on the steps to Gringotts that she was safe; as they mulled over what had happened, Harry realised that he was probably responsible. He might have knocked Aunt Petunia’s prize vase off the mantle, as he had been angry with Dudley. He still wondered about his response to Snape’s Legilimens attack; Harry noticed that Shacklebolt smiled faintly at the mention of Snape writhing in pain. There had been the screaming in the stairwell when Draco Malfoy had held his ears in pain.

He was surprised when Shacklebolt told him that he had summoned a chair for Tonks, in the shed at the Burrow; he thought he remembered reaching for a chair, but Lupin had told Shacklebolt otherwise. Of course, he had taken down Dumbledore’s barrier and silent space; later he was able to create his own silent space without clearly knowing how it was done. He disarmed Dumbledore without a wand as well, when he had thought Hermione might be Obliviated. Shacklebolt growled at the mention of his earring being summoned with a table leg. He had twice apparated without Apparating, once through a shield charm. He had summoned Ginny in mid-air, he had summoned Shacklebolt off the rocks and into the sea, and he had summoned Heather on the beach as well. Shacklebolt had the good grace not to mention what Harry had done to the Death Eaters; it was understood, and nothing needed to be said.

“There was a shared dream, as well, but that may have been Voldemort’s doing,” Harry said cautiously.

“Explain,” commanded Shacklebolt. Harry walked through a very flat, detached version of the dream, ending when Ginny, Luna and Daphne Greengrass were sent away.

Shacklebolt asked, “Have you discussed this with anyone?”

“Ginny and Luna were there,” Harry recounted. “Ron knows about it, in general. Tonks knows it happened. That’s it. Of course, I don’t know if Hermione spoke to anyone.”

“Many of us are rather superstitious when it comes to dreams. It’s best you keep that under wraps, although you should explore it further with Dumbledore, or… Lupin asked me… he wanted to know about other kinds of resources.” Shacklebolt’s hesitance surprised Harry. “Certain resources are available to Aurors when they experience, er, certain sorts of difficulties. Do you require… certain resources?”

“Madam Bones asked about that,” Harry said. “I think Hermione was the one in need of those.”

“I’m certain that she has them,” Shacklebolt said. “I’m also mildly surprised that you know of her needs. Have you received a message?”

“No… should I be expecting one?” Harry asked excitedly.

Shacklebolt shook his head. “I assumed that was why you knew,” he said. Harry glared at him, but he was too spent to argue.

“Back to the assignment, then,” Shacklebolt said. “I certainly heard some common threads amongst your descriptions. I wonder if you did, as well? Let’s begin with physical states during the various episodes.”

“Erm… heat? I remember being hot,” Harry said.

Shacklebolt waved his wand and muttered. He wrote the word ‘heat’ in mid-air. “Continue,” he said.

“Sweat? I wasn’t just hot – I was practically soaked a time or two,” Harry added. Shacklebolt wrote ‘sweat’ beneath ‘heat’. He motioned for Harry to go on.

Harry said, “A draft – I remember a draft. It was like a wind, when I blew up the punching bags, and when… well, you know.” Shacklebolt scribbled ‘draft / wind’.

“All of those states are associated with substantial discharges of magic. Very well - let’s follow on the five most significant episodes,” Shacklebolt directed. “In my mind, those would be the destruction of the punching bags; the long-distance conjuring of the flower and the book; the apparating that wasn’t Apparation; the bodily summonings; and the incident at the Grangers’ home. We’ll set aside the dream for now. What were your emotional states?”

“Anger, for some of them,” Harry said immediately. “A lot of anger.” ‘Anger’ joined the other words floating in the air.

“What else?”

“I don’t know,” Harry grumbled. “Rage? Well, I suppose that’s just anger.” Shacklebolt wrote nothing.

“Why were you angry when you destroyed the punching bags?” Shacklebolt probed.

“I’d just gotten the letter from Gringotts about Sirius’ will,” Harry said. “I went down to the cellar, and everything just came out… how I’d gotten Sirius killed, you know, and how everyone around me gets hurt. I was thinking about Voldemort killing people… the Dursleys, Dumbledore, Lupin, all of you in the Order, the Weasleys, and my schoolmates… Ron… Hermione…” He clenched his fists and squeezed; somehow that seemed to help. Shacklebolt wrote ‘worried about Granger, Ron Weasley’ beneath ‘anger’.

“Right, then. What were you feeling when you did the long-distance conjuring?” Shacklebolt asked.

“Hermione and I were having a row. She was angry with me for cutting myself off at the outset of the summer, and I made her cry. I felt like such an arse. I remember

wanting to apologise, you know – to make her feel better,” Harry recalled. Shacklebolt wrote ‘comforting Granger’.

“You scared us half to death, truth be told,” Shacklebolt said. “Of everything you’ve done, that is the most difficult for me to comprehend. What about the non-Apparations?”

“When we were training, I was panicked,” Harry said. “You were putting on your Voldemort act, and I was trying to figure a way to get behind you. You started in on what Voldemort does to Aurors…”

“…and to women, and what he would do to people close to you – I recall that,” Shacklebolt said. He scribbled ‘times two’ next to ‘worried about Granger, Ron Weasley’.

“I think you know enough about the second time,” Harry said quietly.

Shacklebolt looked sadly at Harry. “I do. I’m left with one question about that event. I hope you’ll have an answer, but I’ll understand if you don’t. When you crossed that room, who were you trying to save?”

“Wormtail was killing her,” Harry said softly. “I had to do something.”

“I assumed that you were trying to save everyone in the room. You played it as well as it could be played. I’ve never seen anything like that – never in my life,” Shacklebolt admitted.

“I’m glad it turned out that way,” Harry said.

Shacklebolt wrote ‘saving Granger’, and then went silent for a long time, long enough for Harry to become unnerved by the unbroken column of ‘Granger’ floating before him.

“The summoning is interesting,” Shacklebolt mused. “Summoning the Weasley girl isn’t so hard to understand.” He scratched out ‘Ron Weasley’ next to ‘Granger’ and instead wrote ‘friends’.

“I was trying to keep Heather from falling into the sea,” Harry offered. Shacklebolt nodded, and changed the ‘times two’ next to ‘worried about Granger, friends’ into ‘times four’.

“What about me?” Shacklebolt asked.

“Well… I just wanted to pull you into the water,” Harry smirked.

“Charming,” Shacklebolt said. “We’ll set that one aside, other than to note that the wandless work seems to be getting easier for you, perhaps more conscious and less instinctive… or at least it requires less provocation. Despite that, one thread seems more common than the rest – especially for the major events.” He waved his wand at the words drifting in the air. “You need to determine why she’s the common thread. If you don’t take this up with Dumbledore, I will.”

“I thought you said you would keep my confidences,” Harry fumed.

“I said I would keep the events relating to the Chamber of Secrets in confidence, and I shall. This, however, is too critical to leave to chance,” Shacklebolt said. “You need to clearly understand how she will help you or hinder you. Frankly, you need to engage in the same exercise with regard to all of us, including Lupin’s daughter. You start with Miss Granger, however. It’s not clear to me whether she is an asset or a liability. You need assets, because you have more than enough liabilities.”

“Leave Hermione out of this,” Harry snarled. “She’s off limits.”

“Voldemort didn’t think so,” Shacklebolt said. Harry drew his wand in a flash.

Shacklebolt crossed his arms. “If I seem cold to you, so be it. I look forward to your bitterness and resentment ten years from now – if you’re still around to berate me, then I will have successfully discharged my responsibility.”

“We’d better be finished,” Harry snapped.

We are,” Shacklebolt said. “Resume your reading. Be prepared to fight tomorrow – with your wits about you. One o’clock, this location.” He looked around the room with irritation. “Where is Tonks? She should have been here five minutes ago.”

“What for?” Harry asked.

“For your training – did you forget? Dumbledore wanted her to make quick progress with you, so I’m giving her two hours per day at the outset,” Shacklebolt said.

Harry was curious despite himself. “What can Tonks teach me that’s so important?”

“Underestimate her at your peril, Potter,” Shacklebolt chided him. “We want to take advantage of your physical assets. You’re young and you’re fast. Most of your opponents will be much older than you and much slower on their feet. You’re doing a fair job of working on strength and endurance, so we’ll leave you to your routines. We want to develop your agility, though, so we’ll be falling back on Auror training methods.” He smiled broadly, and explained, “Tonks is going to teach you to dance.”

Dance?” Harry spluttered. “With Tonks?” He buried his head in his hands; he could think of a thousand things he’d rather do than dance, and a hundred partners less likely to injure him than Tonks. How easily can you mend a broken foot? he wondered.

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