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He sat bolt upright as the dream clung to his thoughts, dripping off his skin in sweat and fear as he sat gasping into the silence of the room. He pushed his fingers into his eyes to try and push the images and tears from his brain.
His heart thundered in his ears as he sat close to sobbing, his breath catching raggedly in his throat. Slowly, so painfully, slowly he remembered that he was awake and that it hadn’t happened. Sluggishly his breathing and heartbeat returned to normal, he opened his eyes and looked around the room. Bit by agonising bit, he returned to himself.
“Just a dream,” He said into the still the room. “Just another messed up dream” He shivered as images flashed behind his eyelids. Glowing red eyes and fire, the sounds of crisping flesh. He felt his stomach give another twist before calming again. A shock of white hair and then fire. Harry shook his head as he swung his feet out of the bed, the cool floor beneath his feet seemed to ground him slightly, making the world around him seem more real and solid.
He ran a hand through his hair and rubbed at his face, he yawned and suddenly felt as if he hadn’t been to sleep at all. He shook his head in despair as he stood and headed to the bathroom to shower.
The hot water on his skin both soothed and disturbed him as his mind tried to make sense of the dream. His skin felt reminded of the scorching flames as the water rained down. He emerged as soon as he was clean, not wanting the images anymore. The dream seemed to niggle at him, like an itch at the base of his temple. He sighed as he dried off and pulled his clothes on. He needed to go home and pack and sort teddy out too, as both would be on the Hogwarts express tomorrow. He looked around the room before he grabbed a handful of floo powder and threw it into the fireplace.
“The Burrow” He announced as he felt the tugging sensation pull him from the room of requirement to his second home.
The burrow was a hive of activity as Harry stepped out of the hearth. Cheerful and excited calls greeted him.
“Harry!” They said in chorus and it was difficult not to smile in the face of so much love.
“Hey, everyone” He smiled. He saw Hermione and Ron sat at the dining room table with George and Angelina. They smiled and waved at him but soon their faces returned to serious and business-like as they continued to discuss what they needed to discuss.
Harry felt his brow furrow briefly before he was mobbed by the children. He remembered when he had stayed here all the times before when he had been one of the children, the house had always seemed cosy. With all the new additions to the family, the house felt downright crowded. He looked down at the smiling faces of the younger ones, Louis, Lucy, Roxanne and Hugo, He had expected George and Angelina’s children alongside Rose and Hugo but was surprised to see Louis and Lucy.
“Louis? Lucy? I didn’t realise your parents were here, where are they all?”
“Mom and Dad are upstairs with Nan and I think Uncle Percy and Aunty Audrey are out in the garden with Grandad,” Said Louis quietly. He smiled and it occurred that he looked just like Ron had when they were younger, just with paler hair. He could see fleurs delicate cheekbones.
“We heard you’re going to be teaching at Hogwarts next year?” Said Roxanne with a smile and Harry couldn’t help himself, except for the darker skin and curly hair, she was the spitting image of her dad. “That’s when we come up!” She said nudging Louis who smiled brightly too.
“Then I’ll be your defence against the dark arts professor and not Uncle Harry, don’t expect special treatment” He smiled and winked.
“It’s going to be so cool, I hope you’re still teaching when I get there” This came from Hugo, who still had his huge, innocent brown eyes under his mop of flaming hair.
“Is it true that the job is cursed?” Asked Lucy carefully. Harry smiled at Percy’s youngest. He winked cheerfully at them all.
“We’ll see when my first year comes around won’t we,”
“Be careful Uncle Harry!” Said Hugo nervously.
“Don’t worry kids, Uncle Harry is the greatest wizard in the world, if the job is cursed, he’ll be the one to break it.” Harry felt his smile freeze on his face. Of all the Weasley siblings, he had not been expecting to see Ginny. If he was brutally honest, in all the running around he had been doing, he hadn’t spared her a second thought. The thought must have crossed his face as she shrugged. “Now come on you lot, give Uncle Harry some room, I need him to speak to him before you start bullying him” She smiled as the children wandered off.
“Hi,” He said nervously. This was the first time they had spoken since signing the papers and the tension was thick.
“Hey you,” She said warmly.
“I’m sorry about the press crowding you on Tuesday,” He said quickly, rubbing his hands around his neck as he tried to ease the tension.
“It’s alright, Sorry about the howler, I was just having a really bad morning and the mobbing was just the last straw. Gwenog has been busting my broom at training recently” She sighed and suddenly leant forward and hugged him. Harry stood frozen for a moment before pulling her closer and breathing a sigh of relief. “I’m sorry Harry, for everything”
“Me too Gin, Sorry I was never there for you” Harry laughed as they pulled away “I guess we both now realise why” They both laughed and nodded.
“Hope you don’t mind talking about him, I’m interested”
“It’s a bit raw at the moment, to be honest,” He said feeling his stomach contract. “Ron and ‘Mione get you up to speed?” She nodded as she bit her lip.
“Did you find him” Harry nodded
“Yeah, it didn’t go well.” She was quiet for a moment and Harry watched her gentle, freckled face become hard and fierce.
“I hate that Merlin cursing tabloid” She growled “You should see some of the articles written about some of my teammates, and almost all of it false. I’m glad Ron’s got Hound in custody!”
“Yeah, looks like they’re battle planning now too,” Harry said as he nodded in Ron’s direction at the table.
“Yeah, they said to keep you distracted until they were finished” Ginny smiled sweetly as Harry pulled a face.
“Why?” Ginny laughed.
“I don’t know what the plan was, but apparently it all relies on you being your usual, stupid, noble self, and if they tell you, you’ll mess it up” Harry still pulled a face.
“I’m not that noble” He argued
“I like the fact that you’re not arguing the other points” Harry had to smile at that.
“So how have you been? How’s Orion?” Ginny smiled and it reminded him of the Ginny he used to know.
“Yeah, he’s good thanks. I know it’s super awkward at the moment, but I would like you two to meet each other at some point. You’re still my best friend Harry” Harry smiled and held her hand.
“Maybe when I’m back in the summer” It was Ginny’s turn to pull a face.
“You haven’t heard that then?”
“What?” She asked
“I’m going back to school with the kids tomorrow, I’m going to finish my N.E.W.T’s and then take on the role of defence against the dark arts teacher next year.” Her eyes widened and her eyebrows almost touched her hair as she squealed.
“That’s brilliant news, Merlin’s beard! You’ve been talking about doing that for years. Oh Harry, I’m so happy for you” she squealed as she wrapped her arms around him again.
“Now you just need to sort out that Slytherin git”
“Hey!” Harry said with a frown.
“No, Harry!” She said carefully “If he doesn’t know you after 6 years of mutual stalking to know that you wouldn’t cheat on someone, then he needs a good kick up the arse”
“His pride is hurt as well as the shock. I just came home to pack and to check on Teddy then I’m going to go back out to speak with him”
“Hermione said something about speaking to Luna?”
“Yeah, She’s meeting me in Hogsmeade later, I’m doing a bare all article for the Quibbler. Try and put some of the rumours to rest and convince the general populous that I’m not a magical Casanova”
“Who?” Ginny asked as she pulled a face. Harry had to laugh but just shook his head.
“Don’t worry, It’s a muggle thing”
“Harry!” came another cry from the door. Harry turned to see a flash of Purple hair.
“Ted, Sorry I left you yesterday,” Harry said awkwardly.
“I’ll leave you two to it,” Ginny said with a smile as she left them alone.
“Did you find him?” Ted asked and Harry could see the worry in his eyes.
“I did Ted, He’s ok” Harry assured
“What did he say?”
Harry sighed as he wondered what to say. As he looked down into Teddy’s amber eyes he knew it would always be the truth.
“It wasn’t good, Ted.” He said sadly. “He hates me,”
“No, Harry, you can’t let him do this, you need to go an-”
“Ted, I’m not giving up on him. I’m just trying to give him some time, I’m going to go and talk to him again later if I can.”
“Where did he go anyway?”
“He went to Scotland to track down a new breed of dragon”
“I don’t know, I think Hermione said it was a hybrid” Ted nodded slowly before speaking again.
“I’m going to write him a letter, then he’ll have to believe you.”
“Ted I don’t think-”
“That’s certainly true” Harry looked around and was greeted by the Weasley Patriarch.
“Arthur” He smiled and was swiftly patted on the back by the older man.
“Harry, are you well?” Harry nodded. He watched Teddy disappear out of the room with purpose and knew that he was going to go and start the letter now. He sighed and wondered whether it would make any difference.
“Congratulations on your job at Hogwarts, That’s a brilliant appointment. You’ll have to work hard though, make sure you get good N.E.W.T’s!” Harry nodded and smiled
“I’ll have the brightest witch of our age forcing me to study no doubt, so I should be fine” Arthur smiled too.
“Yes, and she’ll have some time on her hands soon” Arthur looked at him knowingly and Harry smiled back.
“So I’ve heard” They looked at each other cheerfully when Molly burst into the room.
“HARRY” She hollered as she rushed forward to give him a hug.
“Hi Molly,” He smiled as he was unceremoniously pulled into her embrace. For a woman who was getting on, she was still remarkably strong.
“Molly! Let him breathe,” Said Arthur with a snort of laughter.
“Sorry dear,” She held his face between her hands and looked at him. “You are not eating enough, come sit down and have breakfast”
Just at the mention, his stomach growled in delight. She smiled at him earnestly and pulled him over to the table. “Come on you lot, clear the table” Ron, George, Angelina and Hermione began moving but Molly put her hand on Hermione’s shoulder “Not you, you stay put!” She said firmly. Hermione laughed but rolled her eyes.
“Breakfast” Molly shouted and suddenly the cramped kitchen became overwhelmed as the older kids arrived from other parts of the house.
“Uncle Harry!” they greeted cheerfully as they sat at the overwhelmed table. Harry nodded to Bill and Fleur who appeared at the bottom of the stairs.
He heard Rose telling one of the others about how Harry was going to be taking their lessons when they returned to school. He smiled. All the children seemed happy with the replacement. Maybe it would be what he was looking for. The table began to fill with food and as usual, no one in the Weasley household waited on ceremony to dive in. Harry followed suit filling his plate with bacon and sausage.
He looked at the clock and sadly noted how Fred’s hand had been removed. It hung to the side of the clock as a shrine to their lost son. The clock was now so empty that it looks strange. Only Ginny’s, Arthurs and Molly’s hands remained.
“So Harry?” Molly started and everyone stopped eating. Harry heard it too, there was an edge to what she was about to say. Harry leant forward and looked at her, his eyebrows raised, waiting for the question. “How is Mr Malfoy?”
“Oh Mum, drop it will you!” Called Ron from the opposite end.
“I will not drop it, I don’t have a problem with you like men, Harry dear, But a Malfoy?”
Harry looked around at the children at the table. All eyes turned to him and he wanted nothing more than the world to open up beneath him.
“Molly, I don’t think this is the time-” Arthur began but was cut off.
“When is the time Arthur? He’s never here anymore, I don’t want the boy making a mistake.”
“Making a mistake? I guess you don’t want me hanging out with the wrong sort? That is something that Draco told me when we first met, If I had listened to him back then, I wouldn’t have given Weasleys the time of day, would I?” He asked pointedly. He took a deep breath and released it before standing up and removing himself from the table.
“Harry? Where are you going?” Molly called as he walked away from the table. He saw the children’s eyes following him. Words said in youth and ignorance were often words repeated from their friends and family. He didn’t want any of them to be hateful or distrusting of people because of their last names. One thing he had learned in his time at Hogwarts, it was that If you were put into Slytherin house, you were almost immediately distrusted. He had fallen into the trap, just as his friends had done. He had often wondered what would have happened if the Slytherin students they had gone to school with, had been their friends? If there hadn’t been such a gap between them. Would as many have turned to help the dark lord? Would as many people have died.
It was something that he had been thinking about along-side his new role at the school. About the unfairness of it all. He was sure that Draco wouldn’t have felt so alone had he been able to talk to others at school. He looked at each child at the table and knew that he wanted to make a change while he was teaching there, even if it was only a little crusade. He didn’t want assumptions and stereotypes being relied upon as truth anymore.
He looked up at Molly, and in an even tone, he replied.
“I am going home, Molly.” He turned and headed towards the floo. He heard a clattering a noise behind him as he filled his fist with powder.
“Now you wait one moment” Molly bristled walking quickly behind him.
“No Molly! I am not having this conversation with you, I love Draco” There was a hushed silence throughout the house. “That’s right, I said it, Love! If he had any other last name, you said it yourself that you would be happy for me. Well, he is a Malfoy and, guess what? I still love him. Now I am going home to pack so that I can go back and look for him. Slytherin or not, Malfoy or not, it makes no difference. You don’t have to be happy for me, or support the idea. As much as I love you, I am not a child anymore, My choices are my own and I don’t need people trying to make my decisions for me. If I make a mistake I will live with the consequences, happily knowing that I made the choice to do so.” Harry felt his anger rising and pushed it down. “Now go back to the table and enjoy your breakfast, I’ll probably see you at platform 9 ¾ tomorrow” Harry threw the powder into the fire.
“Harry!” Molly Shouted “Don’t you Dar-”
“12 Grimmauld Place,” Harry said clearly and felt pulled away before Molly could finish her sentence.
A few hours passed, and Harry found himself in the three broomsticks pub, waiting for Luna to arrive. He was relieved that the place was so quiet, he could only assume it was because school wasn’t in session yet. He felt slightly relieved that he had managed to pack everything he would need however he had felt more than slightly apprehensive when it was suggested that he could move into the DADA professor’s rooms. He declined politely saying until he was the professor, he had no right staying there. His belongings were currently sat in the middle of the room of requirement awaiting to be opened. Harry felt awful at how he had walked out on breakfast. He had never argued with Molly before, but he felt justified. He would need to fire call Teddy later to confirm meeting at platform 9 ¾.
He sighed as he waited, he had gotten there early and there was still no sign of her. He looked into his cloudy glass of butterbeer and watched as the bubbles popped at the surface. He tried to think of anything besides his interview.
“Harry?” He heard Luna call and he looked up. It took a moment to realise she was looking down at him from the stairs.
“Luna?” He asked, standing so he could see her better.
“Come on up, it’s all ready for you”
“What’s all ready?” Harry followed anyway without waiting for an answer.
“The studio, silly” She replied with a smile.
“I thought you were interviewing me?” He asked.
“I am” She tilted her head before she opened the door to the hired room behind. “People find an article more believable when they can see a picture, strange really,” she said in her singsong voice that Harry had come to find refreshing. She opened the door and led him in.
“Hi, Harry” Came a voice from inside.
“Hey, Harry” Came a second.
“Hi?” He said for a moment before realising who he was talking to. “Dean? Seamus? What in Merlin’s beard are you doing here?” He said with a smile as he clasped their hands and pulled them in for a hug.
“Luna asked us to come, She needed someone to take some photos”
“Photos?” Harry asked.
“And someone to dress you” Seamus laughed
“Photos as a wardrobe? What is going on?” Harry asked.
“Yeah, the Quibbler is going all out on this one,” Seamus commented, the Irish lilt in his voice still recognisable after all these years.
“How come you guys weren’t at the reunion last week? I expected to see you there”
Seamus looked embarrassed, but Dean answered.
“We got married,” Dean said simply. “Muggles in Northern Ireland legalised civil partnerships for same-sex couples, so we were the first couple to be wed.” Harry watched as Dean gazed at Seamus lovingly.
“Oh guys, congratulations,” Harry said, lacking anything else to say “Why aren’t you on your honeymoon?”
“Luna asked us for a favour, and when we knew it was for you, we thought we’d come and help out.”
Harry didn’t know what to say. He stood watching his friends going out of their way to help him. He swallowed loudly. “Thanks” Was all he could say. They nodded and carried on setting up the room. He had to admit that the room did look great. It had been decked out in neutral tones with soft browns and yellows. A large sofa covered in scatter cushions in pinks and blues made it feel much more like something Luna would pick out. He liked it, it felt homely but quirky.
“Wow, Luna! This place looks great. I wasn’t expecting all of this”
“Yes, it does. I was never happy with the article you did for Skeeter at school, I always thought it could have been better.”
“I can’t believe it.”
“Now Harry, do you mind if I use a Quick-Quotes Quill while we talk?” She asked. He shook his head. He knew that if he felt like he was having a conversation with Luna, he’d answer better and feel less nervous.
“Right Harry, pretend that we’re not here, We’re going to be taking some pictures while you talk,” Said Dean and he began snapping photo’s
“Alright” Harry nodded nervously.
Luna motioned to the sofa before taking a seat opposite him. She smiled as they began to talk. Harry felt relieved when a short time into the conversation it did actually feel like they were just having a conversation. The only time that the illusion was broken was when Seamus had to change the lighting, but as he knew Seamus, Dean and Luna, it took no time at all to fall back into the conversation. There were times that Harry would catch the two men looking at each other, and it haunted his heart knowing he might never have that again with Draco. He tried to be as heartfelt as he could be as if he could get a message to Draco directly. All too soon it was all over, and he had said everything that he thought he could say about himself.
“So Harry. I’ll need to edit it a bit and then we’ll need to go through the pictures, it should be ready in the next week or so.”
“A week?” Harry asked. He had quietly hoped that there would be a chance that it would be sooner, but he knew it couldn’t be helped.
“Our usual deadline is Monday for a Tuesday release. I’ll try and get everything done by then”
“Thanks, Luna” He turned to the two men “Thanks to you two too,” He said with a smile.
“It’s alright mate, Happy to help,” Dean said with a smile.
“Can’t believe you fell for Malfoy” Seamus laughed “After all this time?”
The thought of Professor Snape’s last memories of his mother crisscrossed his mind as he nodded.
“Yeah, Pretty unbelievable eh?” He said awkwardly as he pulled his hand through his hair. He heard the camera snap again and looked up at Dean who just smiled.
“I think, that may have been a winner” He smiled “You’re very photogenic Harry, I can see why the Prophet loves you” He laughed making Harry smile.
“Right guys, I’ve got to dash, I’ve got a busy day tomorrow and I still need to go and get supplies from Diagon Ally.”
“You stay in touch thought yeah?” Dean said pointing at him “If you and Draco get married, we want invites!” He smiled.
“Yeah, Like I was invited to yours” Harry raised his eyebrow in mock offence.
“Harry, you know that you would have taken to spotlight off Seamus being the bride and all” Luna smiled. The rest of them laughed as Harry opened the door.
“See you all later, and thanks again” They waved him off, leaving him standing in the corridor reliving his own thoughts. He swallowed as he tried to regain control. He descended the stairs and returned to the floo. He threw the powder in and called out clearly “Hogwarts, room of requirement” And then he was whipped away from the sickly sweet smell of butterbeer.