In the faint light from the sickle moon, Harry pulled the Elder Wand from his pocket and reapplied his disguise. He sat up, and by rocking himself forward, pushed to his feet. The dew had settled on him in earnest, making his robes weighty. Snape was a vague silhouette, slouched on the bench, head propped on his hand.
Harry put out his hand to help him up.
"I could not do it," Snape said, voice muffled by his speaking down at his sleeve. He must have raised his head because his speech became clear and direct.
"I knew it was a trick, but I could not do it."
Harry waved a Lumos out of his new wand. It glowed white, not blue as the spell usually did. He pointed at his own chest.
Snape squinted at this, then said, "It was your prophecy. Clearly enough." He shook his mussed head and sat back. "But either way he is well and finally gone now. A notion that will take some getting used to."
Snape closed his eyes, and Harry moved the glowing wand point to the side of his leg to dim it.
"Why are you still here?" Snape's voice held a bit of a sneer.
Harry considered his half numb limbs. Stepping into a war zone in the middle of the night did not seem very wise. He laid his hand aside his head and tipped his head to indicate sleep.
Snape stood up, ignoring Harry's re-extended hand.
"I suppose we must get this over with." He sounded empty.
At Grimmauld Place a low hum of conversation came from the dining room. They did not manage to sneak up the stairs unnoticed. Lavender came to the door and watched them, making a funny face.
Hermione caught up at the top of the next set of stairs. She grabbed Harry by the arm. Snape turned momentarily, then stalked away into the brewing room.
"Who are you?" she asked, voice low. When Harry did not answer, she huffed in frustration. "The locket believed you were Harry. I don't think it would be fooled by a disguise." She let go of him and put her hands on her hips. "Harry acted like he recognized you too but now he's mum on the subject."
Harry shrugged and turned to go to the room. He had no explanation that he could convey.
At the door, Harry's disguise vanished in a fluttering whoosh of beard and long hair, sucked clear by a spell from behind. Hermione slipped around him to face him down.
"See," she said, voice quietly insistent.
"Leave him be, Ms. Granger," Snape said.
She turned on him, instead. "I won't. He completed the prophecy; that's no small matter. And how do you know him so well?"
"It is an exceedingly long story." Snape's voice was clipped. "Leave it be. He will be gone in the morning. He will never return."
Hermione bit her bottom lip while Harry reapplied his disguise, then stroked his beard, a gesture that reassured him.
Snape said, "Do you know where Candide has gone?"
Hermione's face softened. "I don't know. You left her here to watch over Ginny and the others, so they should know." She turned, hand on the door. "I'll go ask."
"I will accompany you."
Harry turned to follow.
Snape turned to say, "I can handle this. I do not need a mute shadow resembling Dumbledore."
Hermione glanced uncomfortably between them as Snape pulled the door closed. Their footsteps creaked down the stairs beyond the door and then it was silent. Worn down by events here and exhausted emotionally from imagining Grindelwald tormenting his friends in the next place he must visit, Harry doused the lamps and crawled into bed.
Intruder Harry was woken by the sound of his own voice. His lips moved, drew in, tasted the sound, then he came fully awake and stared at the haphazard shelves two feet in front of his face. He could just make out the blurry rings of his glasses folded neatly before a row of Encyclopedia Magicka. His beard was still in place, a river of white flowing off the pillow.
"I just wanted to talk to you before you could go," Native Harry was saying. He sounded like he was following Snape around the room. "I wanted to say I was sorry."
There was a pause, then Snape's voice, "There, you have said it."
"I didn't understand," Harry went on, sounding pained. "I shouldn't have ever accused you of wanting to kill my parents. That's for certain."
Snape exhaled oddly, a warning sign. Intruder Harry could imagine his face and wondered if his counterpart was going to heed the warning.
There was a longer pause, then Harry said, "I don't know why you are being so difficult. Voldemort's gone and I'm just trying to tell you that if there is anything you need, you should ask me for it."
"Being left alone is not on the list of things on offer, I assume?"
Snape was more angry than Intruder Harry thought warranted. He sat up and reached for his glasses. The window's wan light indicated it was still very early.
"Didn't mean to wake you," Harry said.
Intruder Harry shrugged this off and stood up slowly. When he approached Harry, the young man said, "I wanted to thank you, too." He rubbed his chest. "I wasn't myself. And Hermione insists I'm better off without the wand, although I don't exactly agree. Yet."
Intruder Harry's lips quirked and he patted his counterpart on the arm consolingly, feeling like an old man.
Harry turned back to Snape. "Really, if you want me to do . . . anything. Ginny was out of line, but she was just being strategic to get free. I'm sure your lady friend will be back around. The wizarding world isn't exactly a big place."
Intruder Harry glanced sharply between the two of them as Snape stalked away to stare out the window.
Harry explained, "Ginny informed Candide that Snape was a Death Eater. Apparently she didn't know. No one's seen her since." Harry rubbed his shoulder with one hand and stretched his neck. "I'll track her down for you, if you want."
Snape remained staring out the window. "As per usual, you understand so very little, Potter. Just leave it be. For once in your life, leave it be."
Harry frowned at this, but ducked his head and went to the door. Before he closed it, he turned to say, "I'll leave it be for today. But you know, maybe you deserve better than to let it go forever." He hesitated, there, studying Snape. His face took on a wry smile. He turned to Intruder Harry and said, "You dealt with Voldemort twice for me now. But Snape insists you have to leave. We're really not going to see you again?"
Intruder Harry shook his head and Harry, eyes far away, closed the door. Once they were alone, Intruder Harry hunted around the room until he found a blank parchment and a quill. He had to combine four nearly empty ink wells to get one usable one.
After he set these things up on a spare area of the brewing counter, he steered Snape to stand before it, and put the quill in his hand.
Snape stood silently for a while, unmoving. Voice soft and defeated, he said, "You on the other hand, do understand."
Harry nodded. He'd write the letter for him and sign it Harry Potter but he could not. Harry fumbled for his slate and strained to write grab happyness. He held that up, right in Snape's way.
Snape shook his head and rolled his eyes.
After wiping the slate Harry wrote out real future.
Snape picked up the parchment and placed it on an oversized Potions workbook so he could sit on the end of the bed with it. But still he did not write. He glanced at Harry's message again and said, "For twenty years I could not bring myself to believe there was going to be one. That is why I took the enormous risk of trying to leave."
He fell thoughtful and Harry caught a glimpse of his own home, before Snape habitually Occluded his thoughts.
Harry wrote out scarred? started to hold that up, then considered it a long while. He swiped away one of the Rs with his finger to hold up scared?
"I am inordinately pleased that your departure is imminent, Potter."
Harry continued holding up his message, certain it was the right one.
Snape turned back to the parchment, crossing his legs to put it at a better angle. "She was going to find out eventually," he murmured at the blank sheet. "Her counterpart knew, I am certain."
Harry nodded and laid a hand on his shoulder and held it there.
"You were going. I am certain you were going."
Harry took a step back and waved his cloak over from the hook on the back of the door. He fastened it on and shrugged it straight. Daylight had gained on the lamp sitting in the window. It was time to leave.
"You have grand plans for that wand, I assume."
Harry locked their gazes and showed him a glimpse of his getting tossed helplessly during his battle with Grindelwald.
Snape's expression did not flicker, but he said, "Good luck, in that case." He bent back to the parchment, quill in hand, saying, "Not that I possess any to give. Perhaps you can eke some out somewhere."
Harry arrived in his vault at Gringotts and sat propped against a trunk while the warming potion took effect. With cold-clumsy fingers, he shook a streaming white light out of his wand and stared at it while the warmth spread to his bones, loosened his joints. In the glare he could not perceive his missing fingers on that hand.
Trunks crowded the vault, floor to ceiling, against three walls. Harry stood and considered them while rubbing heat into his arms. Fancifully painted dinnerware, silver candlesticks and a glass encased clock with delicate gold workings sat atop one especially large trunk. It looked like a household had been moved inside the vault for storage.
Harry methodically applied his disguise and slipped away for the upstairs corridor of the Leaky Cauldron.
The pub was loud with witches and wizards standing in groups, sharing gossip and conducting business. Harry moved unnoticed from table to table, reading stray newspapers. Pages of Muggle papers had slipped in as well. Even without the beer and soup-stains, the sheets would have been difficult for him to read.
Harry straightened out a full page map full of arrows and little lines of soldiers. It looked like the war had moved on to Central Europe.
A middle-aged wizard and witch bent in beside him to look closer as well.
"Ach, looks like a few more powerful wizards have joined 'im."
Harry noticed the pointed hats on some of the silhouetted figures beside rows of soldiers, some, oddly enough, on horseback.
"If only I were young enough to go," the wizard said.
The witch patted him on the arm. "I'm grateful you aren't, dear."
Harry traced the lines on the map around the drawing of a stout tower at the confluence of two rivers near the German border with Poland. He closed his eyes a moment as regret overwhelmed him and, in doing so, made sure he could picture the map in his mind.
He pushed that paper closer to the couple, and pulled over one with an article titled Interview with the Prophecy Girl. Beneath it was a photograph of Ginny, her mouth moving as if answering questions. Her brow was furrowed, her face grim and serious.
Harry slipped onto the bench and slid his fingers into his hair and grabbed hold. He sat hunched that way, trying to read the text below her picture. But he could only comprehend every fourth or fifth word of the interview and the harder he tried the more random the letters became. And he could not read her lips, except for the word prophecy, which came up frequently. Around him, smoke-scented robes shifted and gestured, the rumble of the words rising and falling.
Harry closed his eyes again and picked out a few voices.
"I said, Quincy, you'll just have to go without, coffee is more expensive than opium. And he says, well, we can brew up some of that then!"
"We moved in with the in-laws since they live in a cave."
"Nothing Muggle works within a hundred miles of that tower now. By next month it will be two hundred miles."
"Sun spots, they told 'em. Then they said it was the magnetic north turning over. Have you ever heard of such a thing?"
"But the Muggles know now. Ever imagine that?"
"When I can float my groceries home without the Ministry snapping my wand, I'll believe that."
The middle-aged witch leaned in to look at the page before Harry, so he moved it closer to her. She said, "That poor little girl is supposed to end all of this."
The wizard said, "She's darn lucky she's still free. They certainly couldn't protect the Potter boy. Can't protect anyone. In my day we could protect a Quidditch crowd . . . well, not from themselves . . ."
Harry felt for the wand in his pocket and let the voices flow around him again. He had envisioned standing before Grindelwald's tower and calling him out for a final battle, like last time. With the odds evened out, he expected his will to win would be enough.
Harry tilted his head to look at the map which had again been discarded on the table. He had not intended to free Grindelwald to ravage this place. Even Voldemort would not have wanted to do that, so Harry could not even blame him. Dumbledore must have barely had Grindelwald under his control. Harry remembered the sight of Dumbledore's body in the tower, left to decay among the fallen furniture and roofing. So much for the power of love, Harry thought wryly.
Harry pushed the useless papers away and lifted his legs over the bench to stand up, pulling his shoes free of the floor with a sticky sound. A young witch pushed in to take his place, speaking rapidly to a friend about her brother's deployment. Leaning over their shoulders, Harry listened in while she explained that she was not supposed to say anything, just in case she had overheard something important.
"I don't know where he's going exactly," she said, holding up the map page. "But I hope he'll be safe."
Get rid of Grindelwald, Harry thought, and maybe he will be. This thought raised Harry's spirits a bit. He could undo very little, Wand of Destiny or not. But he could change the future with the little power he had, but only if he did things just right.
The prophecy had preceded him into this world, had, in fact, warned this world of his approach.
The prophecy was about him, not for him.
With that thought firmly in mind, Harry Disapparated from the pub upward. From the upstairs corridor of the inn, he slipped away, and reappeared in the Burrow under his invisibility cloak. He peered up at the Weasley clock, which ticked loudly in the empty house. Ginny's and Molly's hands were moving from shopping to traveling.
While Harry waited, he reached up under the cloak to remove his disguise, then double-checked that the cloak was still covering his feet. With a rush of green flame, Mrs. Weasley arrived in the hearth. She set her battered shopping basket down. It contained just a few tins and a box with a Muggle label. Ginny appeared next and Mrs. Weasley turned and said, "I think I should just leave you home when I shop. What a circus!"
Ginny set a fuller basket on the floor and waved it to the kitchen. "I told you you could leave me home, mum. I'd rather."
"There wasn't anyone else here, dear," Mrs. Weasley said, sending the groceries to the cabinets with quick waves.
Ginny rolled her eyes and stood with her shoulders drooped, watching her mother move about.
Mrs. Weasley said, "I better get in that laundry. It's starting to rain and that dratted Weather Vain seems to be making it colder now. I wish Arthur would just give up on the thing and take it down."
Ginny sauntered to the coffee table where she picked up a shiny Witch Weekly that had her face on the cover. "I'm going to my room," she said to her mother's retreating back.
Under his cloak, Harry followed. He knew the third stair creaked loudly, so he stepped over it, but he must have been breathing loudly, or rustling, because Ginny jerked and pointed her wand backwards. Without thinking, Harry slipped away, fearful what the Elder Wand might do if she struck out. He slipped into her room to wait in the small open space beside the window.
Outside, a green hue was emerging between the tangled tufts of brown grass and the shrubs bordering the yard were exploding with leaves. Mrs. Weasley appeared on the lawn and began hitting each item of laundry with a Drying Charm before tugging it off the pins.
The door opened and Ginny stepped in. She tossed the magazine on the bed and rubbed her neck while staring at it. Harry minced around the bed and took a deep breath, steeling himself.
Jaw set, Harry leapt at her, hooking his cloaked left arm around her and grabbing the wrist of her wand hand with his right and Disapparating immediately for the fields outside London. To make it harder to trace, Harry had intended to Disapparate again, to somewhere more remote, but Ginny fought more fiercely than Harry imagined, or Harry was much weaker than he feared. Either way, she slipped loose and tore the invisibility cloak aside.
Harry stepped back, facing her, trying to look crazed. He must have succeeded because she brought her wand around in a hex Harry did not recognize. The Elder Wand pulled his arm up and Countered it with such ease it distracted Harry from his purpose.
"What are you doing?" Ginny demanded.
Harry grimaced and moved his arm as if to strike. He did not cast anything, but the Elder Wand did when Ginny, trained well enough to act on instinct, struck him with a Blasting Curse. The response from the wand swelled up and ejected like a mirror of her magical energy. Ginny was knocked back inside the Counter she had managed just in time.
"You didn't do anything in Felixstowe," Ginny said. "You said you would. Do you know how many friends we lost?"
She struck again, with another Blasting Curse, as if they were doing drills. Harry could feel the wand responding again, and tried to squelch it, but it battered outward against his will, and Ginny fell.
Ginny's stalwart expression broke into tearful as she pushed herself up. "I don't know what you are, but Mrs. Potter is wrong, you are evil. And Grindelwald has Harry prisoner because of you. And he has Fred prisoner too from trying to rescue Harry."
An unexpected spell came at Harry, a winding blue spiral. The wand jerked in his hand, rising to the challenge. Harry forcibly held the aim of it aside, with both hands. The spell exploded between them just from the residual Counter leaking to the side.
"Why don't you Summon the Death Eaters," Ginny taunted, throwing another Blasting Curse. "You're half Voldemort and there are still a few of them left."
Harry again forced down the wand's response, dampening it to something less than damaging. Holding the Elder Wand was like holding the mane of a bucking horse, but he managed better this time, and something odd happened; the wand felt like it slipped from his fingers, even though he still held it, could still feel the carved knobs on the wood.
The wood no longer hummed with life. It felt dead and the loss of its spirit plucked at Harry's unhealed scars. He stood, frozen by renewed pain, just long enough to get hit with the next hex, which knocked him off his feet.
The damp ground battered Harry's spine less than it could have. He opened his eyes and looked up at the clouds. Training made him jerk upward to get ready to Counter the next attack. A flying snake was already approaching him, aqua marine and metallic. The snake's tongue snapped out and the wand was gone from his fingers.
Harry pushed to his knees as Ginny glared at him, her wand fixed in steady aim. After a beat, Harry pointed at the wand she held clutched to her abdomen.
She hesitated, but held it up and glanced at it, then blinked rapidly. "It's the Wand of Destiny?" Her other wand drifted lower as she turned the Elder Wand to examine the carvings on the white wood. "You have the Wand of Destiny?" she asked, voice faint.
Harry held up two fingers. She squinted at this, brow puzzled. "Two?" Then she straightened and spoke with rising excitement. "You brought me another one. From where you come from." Her jaw fell open. "And you tricked me!"
Despite his complaining body, Harry let a grin spread on his face.
"You tricked me," she said again, marveling. Then her head came forward. "Are you okay?"
Harry got to his feet and swayed a bit. He nodded, despite how battered he felt.
Ginny scooped up his invisibility cloak and hurried over to him and took his arm. "Let's get you to the Burrow. Especially before mum figures out I'm gone." She gripped up his arm harder then let go again. "Wait, your disguise."
Harry tugged out his old wand and took care of that.
They arrived in the field beside the Burrow, hobbled under the empty clothes lines, and in the door. Ginny pushed him at the tattered bright green couch and Harry gratefully dropped into it. He felt quite unwell. From the kitchen came the sounds of cooking.
"Um, mum, Dumbledore's old friend Mr. Totten was outside. He's been in a fight . . . I think. I told him he could rest here a bit."
"What dear?" Mrs. Weasley came over, hands mittened with her wand tied with a row of bows onto the right mitten. "Oh, well. Get him some soup."
Ginny skipped off to the kitchen. Harry could hear Mrs. Weasley, voice low, say, "Isn't that the fellow Professor Snape warned us about?"
"Yeah, but Snape is paranoid, mum."
"Well, he is that. But usually for good reason. Perhaps we should message him anyway."
"Don't bother. I'll see him at my lesson this afternoon. I'll tell him then."
"That's a fine idea."
Ginny returned with a steaming bowl and a wooden spoon. Whispering, she said, "It's a recipe the twins made up. It's potion, actually, but mum doesn't like to think of us living on potion nearly every day, so she calls it soup."
Harry skipped the spoon and drank directly from the edge of the bowl. The liquid tasted like salty burnt hair and library paste, but breathing had become less of a chore when he gave the empty bowl back.
Ginny waved the bowl to the kitchen with the Elder Wand, then made a move as if to take the wand to her mother. Harry put up a restraining hand and put his finger to his lips.
"You don't want me to tell anyone I have it?" She sat down and held the Elder Wand beside her own to look them both over. The Elder Wand was significantly longer than her old hazel one. "It looks like a snake that's swallowed a bunch of rats. Is it really mine? Did I earn it? I heard that you had to earn it."
Harry nodded, certain he had lost the wand's loyalty and, therefore, that she had gained it.
Her face crinkled up as she looked at him. "Why aren't you talking? And did I knock your fingers off?"
Harry shook his head. He held out his hand and wiggled the stubs of his last two fingers. Then he pulled up his sleeve and showed her the network of glittering dirt-stained scars.
Her finger just barely grazed his arm. "What happened to you?"
Harry made his usual cut-throat motion, then he swayed where he sat from both exhaustion and memory.
Ginny stood. "The soup works better if you rest, and you look like you're about to fall over, so you should do that."
She went to the kitchen area and Harry gratefully stretched out, protecting his face from the rough fabric with the palm of his hand.
Harry woke to someone shaking his arm.
"Oy there," George was saying.
Harry immediately stroked his beard to check his disguise. He blinked in the evening light, confused about where he was. George sat on the coffee table, knees apart. "Mum wanted me to check that you were still alive. She's trying to count how many for dinner."
Harry let go of his beard and nodded. Other voices emanated from the eating area of the kitchen. Lupin and Mr. Weasley.
Voice lower, George said, "Ginny told me something about you. Said you weren't what you appeared to be." He turned his head and eyed Harry sideways. "Are you giving me the silent treatment?"
Harry tugged out his slate and wrote no. He then showed him his arms.
George nodded knowingly. "Everyone's hurt now." He stood and started away, but Harry grabbed his hand and clutched it between his own.
Harry could not hope to convey how terribly sorry he was, nor make up for what he had done. George seemed to understand and gave him a weak smile and Harry let him go. Harry tilted his head back to look up at the cracked decorative plaster ceiling. He had to accept that things were now out of his control, otherwise he may lose himself. He must finish what he could and let the rest of it go as it would. But letting go was like giving up and after all this time, he did not know how to do that.
The hearth flared green and Ginny stepped out of it.
"How was your lesson with the greasy git?" George asked, and Harry's heart rate soared in concern. Ginny could not have hidden the wand and could have lost it to Snape.
"Not bad. I convinced him to let me only practice attacks today so my bruises could heal." Her eyes met Harry's before she went to greet her mother.
At dinner, Harry sat across from Lupin, who as usual, felt distressingly cursed. Like most things here, he had to let that go too. The risk was too high that he might not complete anything else if he attempted to cure this Lupin.
Just then Lupin looked up at something Mr. Weasley said and grinned, which turned the lines around his eyes into an accent on his smile. He then turned to curiously challenge Harry's stare, so Harry returned his attention to his plate. As alien as it felt to his nature, he had to let go; this was not his world.
Harry was given the couch to sleep on and half an hour after everyone else had gone to bed, Ginny slipped back downstairs. She sat on the coffee table just as he brother had done.
"I lied to mum. I didn't mention you to Professor Snape, obviously. Which I might regret." She looked at her nails which were short but painted lemon yellow. "He's not been that bad to me lately, actually. As things have got madder, he starts to seem reasonable." She laughed sadly. "I almost trust him now." She shook her head. "His wife's very tolerant. Acts like his attitude is just an act. She doesn't know much, really. I understand now that you were blackmailing him with that to get him to train me in the first place."
She looked away and her shoulders rose and fall as if she were breathing faster. "I need you to help me. I can't get to Grindelwald by myself, and the Order refuses to let me do anything." She pulled out the Elder Wand and moved it through the air. "If I told them about the wand they would."
Harry pushed her hand down and shook his head. He fumbled for his slate and wrote suprise on it.
Ginny giggled. "You can't spell, can you?"
Harry flushed and wiped the slate off with a violent motion.
She touched him on the shoulder. "I'm sorry. Everything seems funny lately, even tragic things." After a beat she asked, "You'll help me?"
Her eyes moved around the darkened ground floor. "Mum acted like she was hiding organizing an Order meeting. If they have one here, maybe you can listen in."
Harry nodded. Or he could follow anyone who left to go to one.
Harry woke to voices muttering low, then arguing, then muttering low again. A single low lamp sent long shadows over the ceiling above him. The clock read a little after 5:00. Harry controlled his breathing and listened.
Bill was saying, "He has more help now. I don't know if our last attack made him offer better terms, but they say Aigumuck and Durgan of Sangrur have both joined him."
"Like he needs the help," came Ron's voice.
"Well, it will take us seven hours to get here . . . to be certain of staying clear of the International Portkey detection in Germany. Then we can't exactly fly top speed from there given the defenses. But we can rendezvous here . . ."
The sound of paper rustling was accompanied by a long debate about routes, Apparition tracing, broomstick mines, and the weather. Creaking on the stairs brought the rustling to a halt. Harry closed his eyes just in case and smelled Ginny, freshly showered, slip by him.
The voices fell still as she approached the kitchen table.
"I want to go."
"No, Pumpkin," Mr. Weasley said. "It's out of the question."
Harry imagined her biting her lip and wondered if she would remain silent about the wand.
"It's my prophecy. I know it's my time."
"You've said that before," Ron commented.
"I really know it this time. I want to help Fred and Harry. They matter to me too, you know. And you lost Mr. Potter—he can't go this time, I'm certain."
"He'll be a while in hospital, that's for certain," some unknown male commented. Papers rustled again.
"I saw the plans already," Ginny said, sounding disgusted. "You don't have to hide them."
"Mum would kill us," Ron said. "But I think you should be able to go," he added quietly.
"Professor Snape says you aren't ready," Mr. Weasley stated with a friendly calm.
"He's never going to say I'm ready. Why would he say that? He gets to beat me up every day. I think he lives for it now."
Someone snorted. Chairs pushed back. Mr. Weasley said, "We need to go if we are to get there before midnight."
"Dad . . ." Ginny complained.
"Next mission, maybe. But now is not the time for arguing, we have a schedule to keep. And if we don't come back with Harry this time, Lily is going to take action on her own and we can't let that happen. We've agreed to let her help escort us over the Channel. Even then we're going to have trouble with turning her back."
"If you're letting her go that far, why won't you let me go?" Ginny asked, voice unsteady.
"Because you aren't ready," Mr. Weasley repeated as more chairs shifted followed by the sound of things being gathered up. "Go to your lessons this week and do your best, and we'll see about the next mission."
"You willingly turn me over to a Death Eater every day for Defense lessons and then say I'm not ready?"
The motion in the room stopped. Ron squeaked, "Is he really? Blimey, that explains a lot."
Silence fell for a moment, then the unknown voice gamely said, "I bet your lessons will only improve once Professor Snape finds out you told everyone that."
The sounds of preparation resumed. Harry slipped the cloak over his head and peeked over the back of the couch. He recognized Tonks and Sirius and then with a rush, a bright-eyed Mr. Longbottom as the three of them packed their messenger bags. Tonks' expression indicated she was deep in her own thoughts but her hair stood up in bright orange spikes which meant she must be happy enough, in general.
Mr. Weasley steered Ginny aside by her shoulders. His voice grew kindly as he said, "Pumpkin, soon enough we will have no choice but to take you along. I can't bear to do that before I absolutely have to. Say goodbye to your mum for me, all right?" He glanced at the stairs. "She apparently can't bear to see us off."
"She thinks it's bad luck," Ginny said stiffly.
With a blur of motion, they were gone. Harry slipped the cloak off. Ginny took up the rocking chair in the corner and began rocking vigorously, face pinched and sour.
Harry pulled out his slate and wrote on it, Go get Grin?
The rocking stopped abruptly. "You know how to get there?"
Harry made a face as he thought about that. She rocked forward eagerly and waited. The sky outside grew lighter as he considered their options.
Ginny stood up and came to sit right beside him so as to whisper. "Maybe we can follow them? They almost got to Harry last time. Then they were cornered and Fred was taken. Mr. Potter was badly hurt and Bill barely got the two of them out of the tower." Her face grew hopeful and strained. "Do you think we can follow them?"
Harry shook his head, making her frown. He did not want to follow them, he wanted them coming up behind as backup. With motions, Harry insisted that Ginny remain where she was. He sat back and thought a bit. With Lily gone, James Potter would be alone at St. Mungo's.
Harry sat forward suddenly and motioned again that she should stay.
"I'll stay here," she said, sounding obedient and strained. She pulled the Elder Wand out and ran her fingers fitfully over it.
Harry nodded, then slipped away for St. Mungo's.
The waiting room was crowded, the seats were full of the injured, with families clustered around them. More were leaning against the wall who should be sitting. In addition to the usual maladies of magic gone awry, there was a lot more trauma than normal. Invisible, Harry carefully made his way through the crowd and slipped behind the Welcome Witch to look over her shoulder. Each time someone came up to ask about a current patient, she pried her way through a finger-stained stack of thick cards pinned to a board.
Finally, Harry was rewarded with a glimpse of James Potter's card which had 402 fancifully written in the room number box.
Four hundred and two turned out to be a semi-private room. Harry stood on tip toe to look in the window. Two beds sat against the right hand wall with a curtain pulled between. The first bed held a young boy with strawberry blond hair that lay damp and matted on his pillow.
Harry slipped inside to verify James Potter was in the far bed. Harry had intended to slip away again immediately, but instead he stood looking at his father in the light trickling in the one small window. Bandages criss-crossed his chest, covering a grey-green poultice that showed at the edges. His eyes were closed, but something about the way he held his head, the tension in his jaw, implied he was not sleeping. Despite being previously disappointed in this man, an ache spread through Harry's chest as he stared at his father's pale flesh, traced the lines of his face up to his mussed hair. The ache warmed as it spread, the way blood warmed as it spilled from a wound.
Before emotion could swamp him, Harry departed for the Headmistress' Tower. After much careful hunting around while McGonagall snored in the next room, Harry returned with her Pensieve, which he placed on the table beside the headboard. Harry pulled over a tall stool and sat close to James' hand where it lay, curling upward. Bracing himself, Harry touched James on the shoulder, unable to resist trailing his hand down his arm to his elbow before pulling back.
James groggily cracked his eyes open, then he squinted at Harry and lifted his head. His mouth moved to form his name, but no breath came behind it.
Harry took out his slate and very carefully wrote Im a dream and held it up. After his father squinted at this with a befuddled expression, Harry wiped it away and tediously wrote Grinewalld's Tower? He held this closer and gestured at the pensieve then touched his own temple with his wand point, then pointed at his father.
"Harry?" James asked, weakly, hopefully.
Harry nodded, then shook his head.
James seemed to be taking in Harry's eyes and looking doubtful, then suspicious. Lily must have told him what happened.
Harry squeezed ResQ on the top line of the slate and tried to look earnest while gesturing again at the Pensieve.
James let his head fall back. His eyes traced around the ceiling a long moment, then he nodded and closed his eyes. Harry touched his wand to James' temple and drew off the glowing memory and touched the edge of the stone bowl. He withdrew the wand and waited while the memory flowed out and pooled in the bottom of it.
Harry dipped his head into the Pensieve and found himself in a high corridor with sloped concrete walls. He followed behind James, Fred, and Bill as they walked, hunched, wands constantly moving, heads constantly turning. They rounded a corner after checking it was clear. They walked toe to heel, silent in the vast space.
Spells flew and Fred Weasley shouted a warning. A spell enveloped the corridor and Fred tumbled along the floor in one direction and James was tossed against the sloped wall in the other. James' torso was wrapped in orange staticky fire as he slid down to the floor, eyes wide and unmoving. Only Bill stood firm within a Barrier Spell he had erected.
Black clad figures emerged from a side corridor and, despite Bill's blast of attacks, Fred was dragged out of view, bound in magical chains. Under fire, Bill ran to James' side, crouching to check his pulse while keeping a steady protective Counter between him and the attackers. James was tugged around the corner by his arm and the scene warped and faded.
When Harry offered James the memory back, he shook his head and tried to raise his arm as if in defense. Harry drew the strand of memory into an empty potion bottle, corked it, and set it on the table. James' hand knocked against Harry's hip, clumsily twirled his fingers in his robe as he tried to speak, but Harry couldn't make out the words.
There was nothing to say. Harry could not promise anything. He patted James on the shoulder and departed with the Pensieve.
Back at the Burrow, Ginny was just finishing a note. Footsteps could be heard upstairs and Ginny kept glancing up worriedly.
Ginny left the note floating in the air and offered her arm to Harry.
Harry took her back to the field outside London to prepare her for the mission.
Standing in a furrowed field of stubble, Harry wrote out Get Grin?
"We have to get Harry," Ginny said.
Harry blinked at her, wiped the question mark and held his slate closer to her nose.
"I only care about Harry and Fred. Grindelwald can wait."
Jaw working, Harry considered her, wishing he had not given her the wand.
"It will be easy, we just have to get to him." Her voice dropped despite their being alone. "I have an emergency Portkey that Professor Snape arranged for me. So we just have to get in. Then we can go back and get Grindelwald."
Her face remained stubborn, and he really had no choice but to do what she wanted. He worked at the slate again and wrote demons, and added a few exclamation marks, upside down, but it did not matter. He then grabbed her arm and held tightly while shaking it.
Her eyes moved between the slate and his hold on her. The wind blew her hair into her face and she turned away to get it to blow aside.
Harry took her hand and wrapped it around his wrist too, so their arms were interlocked. He patted her hand to imply she should hold on.
"We're going to get Harry, right?" she asked, sounding methodical. "And Fred."
Harry deliberately nodded. This was her world.
"I don't care about Grindelwald. I've heard nothing but 'Grindelwald, what are you going to do about Grindelwald?' Even from people I've never even met before."
She appeared strained then, eyes vibrating as she tried to glance away from him, but could not do so for long.
Harry pulled his wand and held it at ready. She copied him, looking over the strange wand while she drew in her lips. He would have told her to close her eyes if he could have.
Harry slipped away, tugging her along behind.
In the underworld, she stumbled and fell against him.
"Where are we?"
Harry scanned the strangely short horizon to be certain everything was as it should be. Immediately, scuttling little limbs approached. Ginny looked all around, started to loosen her grip, then clamped down on Harry's arm hard enough to hurt.
Harry steadied himself and Disapparated for the place opposite Grindelwald's Tower. It felt like a very long distance, as if they had become a mere whisper in transit, just barely strong enough to reappear. Harry tapped his own torso with his wand hand to make sure he was still whole. Ginny's head nodded as if she had grown woozy.
Harry shook her arm and gave her a few breaths to recover. The creatures shuffled in again, invisible still, but rustling the stiff grass.
"What is that?"
Of course, Harry did not reply. She glanced around and squeaked, "Are those the demons?"
She jerked as a creature crept into view, belly low. It had bat wings coming out of the top of its head and slick black fur which dragged behind it. She leaned away from it and turned her head around one way then the other. The sound of crawling creatures grew to a low crescendo.
"Merlin, how many are there?"
Harry shook her arm to get her attention and she raised her wand, looking very ready to go. Harry inverted them and they appeared in the bright, airy corridor from James Potter's memory. Ginny caught her balance this time and Harry let go of her to get in a battle stance, heart pumping.
Harry stepped carefully in the direction James, Bill and Fred had been going, based on the tilt of the walls. The concrete was pristine, with no spell burn. Harry hoped they had the right floor.
He held up a hand as they approached the side corridor where the attackers had appeared from. That short corridor ended in a pair of oxidized copper doors, about twenty feet high and embossed with a crest of a dragon breathing fire upon a village.
Ginny followed in silence while Harry led the way around the square of long corridors and back to where they started. This level of the tower did not contain any other visible doors. The walls appeared to be solid concrete and, while Harry had been tempted to try one, he was certain a revealing spell would set off an alarm.
Together they crept toward the copper doors and Harry cupped his hands to peer through the keyhole. Guards sat in a stone room around a rough table, playing cards. A spiral staircase stuck directly out of the wall behind them. It was the only staircase they had seen.
Harry stepped back and motioned for Ginny to look as well. She did so then stood and waited for him to make a decision. Harry contemplated the wand she held. Any battle would be short, he knew, but he did not want to alert anyone to their presence until absolutely necessary.
Behind them, the smooth angled concrete stood in the bright air. Maybe they should look for a door here before moving on.
Harry led the way back to the large corridor and getting an idea, tapped the floor with an Intrusion Detection Spell, hoping that it would not be one the tower's designers felt worth defending against. The blue tracings were barely visible in the light where they stood, but as the spell crawled around the edge of the floor it grew brighter, and as it went, it outlined a rectangle in the smooth wall.
Ginny made the smallest noise of excitement. Harry urged her toward the door, and gestured that she should use the Elder Wand to open it.
Ginny waved out an Alohomora, but nothing happened. She tried a few more Hogwarts' level spells to no avail. Frequently checking behind them, Harry started to pull out his slate while Ginny pondered the door. Before Harry could scratch out a suggestion, she drew an outline in the air in the shape of the door and whispered, "Contracolloportis." A door-shaped rectangle of concrete vanished. Inside, a figure sat hunched in the corner of a large empty space, blond hair tangled over his face.
Lucius Malfoy raised his head, eyes wild. He bared his teeth at them and raised a hand formed into a claw.
Ginny backed up, pushing Harry back with her. With a quickly waved "Colloportis" the smooth wall reappeared.
Ginny patted her chest over her heart and walked briskly around the bend in the corridor. She made a circular gesture with her hand and Harry caught on that she wanted him to repeat the Intrusion Detection Spell. It revealed another single door in this long wall. Ginny stood right in front of it, face determined, and repeated the Counter-Sealing Spell.
This large, otherwise empty, cell contained a dark haired figure sitting cross-legged off to one side.
"Ginny?" Native Harry spoke breathily, as if through injury. His eyes moved fitfully between the two of them as Ginny rushed over.
She put a hand on his shoulder and tried to help him up, but he shook his head and flinched away.
His voice seemed to be swallowed by the room as he asked, "Is it really you? Not another trick?"
Intruder Harry had stopped in the middle of the room. The place felt wrong at every level. The ceiling seemed both too high, yet claustrophobic. The room felt vaguely abhorrent with curses emanating from all directions, and the way echoes were dampened, it made the walls seem unreal.
"Here, let me get you out—" Ginny began and out of the corner of his eye, Harry watched her fumbling with a coin purse from her pocket.
Native Harry grabbed Ginny's robes and clung to them."I'm sorry, Ginny," he said, voice thick. "I'm sorry. I couldn't save your brother."
Robe hems appeared at the edge of the floor and the wall scattered and dissolved around three figures that had stepped through, wands out. Harry stretched his wand out fully, changing his aim as he picked out the most threatening figure, which he decided was the short one with red cheeks, reminiscent of Pettigrew. The three of them aimed their wands back at him, but no spells were forthcoming.
Native Harry went on, crying in earnest now, his voice choked by saliva. "They wanted me to explain how to do magic I'd never heard of. And I couldn't, so they killed him." His voice faded as he buried his face in Ginny's robes.
Intruder Harry closed his eyes, and then snapped them open again, controlling himself fiercely to have a chance at survival, at completing this mission.
The rest of the wall's surface bowed and bounced and then vanished, revealing a hall with high windows on the far wall overlooking the green, patchwork river valley below.
"What do we have here?" A grating voice asked.
Grindelwald, wearing robes the radiant blond as his hair, turned to face them. He smiled as he took in Intruder Harry standing there, wand now aimed at the old wizard.
Grindelwald looked at each of the intruders in turn. "Ah," he chuckled. "So, this explains it. Here I was torturing this poor, spineless lad for no reason." He gestured vaguely in the direction of Harry and Ginny.
Intruder Harry stood taller, trying to project power with his pose so as to keep the attention off Ginny. She could engage the Portkey if he could create a distraction. But Intruder Harry could not taunt Grindelwald verbally, and distracting him with a spell would get him flattened.
Around Grindelwald, wizards and witches in a variety of dress and skin colors, some with colorful half-masks, lazily took out their wands or lowered their jeweled staffs. From their midst a familiar black bodice glittered beneath a Death Eater mask.
Harry counted thirteen at a glance. The world's most ill-tempered mages, all in one place. If nothing else this would be a heck of a battle. If only Ginny would get away with what she had come for, Harry could start firing.
Grindelwald drifted forward. His long, gold-embroidered robes floated behind him, weightless. His eyes were entirely on Intruder Harry. He lifted his wand with a blue veined hand. "I assume you have decided it is time to die."
More figures came through a doorway on the left, one of them with his familiar blue eyes rounded in surprise. Without actually glancing away from Grindelwald, Harry tried to track Draco as the other moved along the windowed wall.
Ginny shoved Native Harry behind her and struck out. Harry suspected she was aiming for Draco. Harry would have sworn colorfully if he could have. Draco ducked behind the others and spells flew at Ginny from Grindelwald's associates. The room lit up, the air crackled. Ginny's wand bent the attacks in great arcs and fired back.
Grindelwald did not flinch, but Intruder Harry, despite steeling himself, found he had to straighten his back again when silence returned. His nerves needed a long rest, he decided. Grindelwald held his wand on Harry, but stared at Ginny. Behind him, nine lay scattered on the floor, and Grindelwald angled his head as if to see behind him without taking his attention off the two of them. Bellatrix and remaining three wizards still standing were stepping backward and glancing at each other.
Ginny held her old wand aimed at Grindelwald, clutched awkwardly in her left hand. She held the Elder Wand in her right, behind her back. Her head stuck out forward; her arm shook. She looked to be pouring every ounce of herself into remaining as she was.
"Let me guess, this is Prophecy Girl." Grindelwald's voice fell contemptuous. "That was an interesting exchange of spells."
Again he tried to glance behind himself and said, "Draco, my pet, come here."
Draco visibly shuddered and almost lost his balance stepping over a fallen witch. He stepped up beside Grindelwald, leaving a gap between them. Grindelwald made a gesture in the air as if to touch Draco but he was out of reach.
Ginny snarled, "You little snake. You're lucky I missed."
Draco glanced at the pile behind him, then back at her, repeatedly glancing with narrowed eyes at the wand she held in her wrong hand. He did not reply and instead bit his lip.
"You and your stupid pure blood family," Ginny went on.
Grindelwald interrupted, "Do we have a little personal vendetta to work out here?"
Ginny nodded behind herself. "I have a bone to pick with all of you. For hurting Harry."
Draco said, "He's nothing but a simpering little mudblood."
"He is not!" Ginny shouted, and Harry saw her almost pull the Elder Wand around. Her arm jerked, but she kept it behind her. She awkwardly aimed with her left hand instead.
Grindelwald stepped over to Draco, who cringed away from him but could not escape the hand that stroked his shoulder. "Why don't you fight the Prophecy Girl for me, my pet?"
Bellatrix stepped up behind Draco and leaned close to his other ear. "Yes, Pet, why don't you do that?" she mocked.
Draco threw an elbow in her direction, but she stepped back and cackled.
"Why are there two Harrys?" Draco complained, aiming his wand at Ginny but squinting at Intruder Harry, who still held his wand fixed on Grindelwald.
"That is a very good question," Grindelwald said softly.
"If there are two Harrys—" Draco began, then his mouth snapped closed and he glanced again at the way Ginny held her wand and her hand behind her back. He stepped back. "I don't think I should be given the honor of fighting Prophecy Girl."
Bellatrix said something into Draco's ear that made him spin on her with his wand aimed.
"You can be a tiresome boy, Draco," Grindelwald complained. "There is no such thing as prophecy."
Harry barely saw him move, but his wrist flicked outward and the Elder Wand he held sang with dark energy. This time Harry did not feel dismayed about flinching. Ginny's right arm jerked out from behind her and her Elder Wand flew from her fingers to hover high above her, curving the attacking spell up to it, warping it around and ejecting it again. Grindelwald fell, robes fluttering, as he lost the grip on his Elder Wand and it too flew up, countering the returning energy and sending it back again.
The energy rolled and surged between the wands, faster and faster until the circuit closed and hummed. Intruder Harry ran to Ginny who stared up at the sideways figure eight of pulsing spell with her mouth hanging open. Intruder Harry shook her sleeve to get her attention.
Beyond the increasing glow of the looping spell, Draco was battling Bellatrix. A wizard with salt and pepper hair and tan robes stepped into the battle and Draco fell. Intruder Harry sent an attack at the wizard, knocking him against the windows where he bounced to the floor in a heap. Intruder Harry bit his lip, he had not meant to put that much behind the spell.
The other wizards ran for the door. Intruder Harry tangled them both in a Chain Binding and they fell. He wound the chains of the spell into a heavy pile and let it settle to the floor, slowing their escape.
Bellatrix stumbled from Draco's next attack. He rushed her, pushed her against the wall, and pressed his mouth over hers in a kiss. Her hands froze in the air a second before she tried to shove him off.
Above them, the figure eight emitted a sizzling roar now. The sound made Intruder Harry's eyes water and his fingertips ache. Tendrils of white light emanated from the rings, growing outward, branching and lengthening until they extended beyond the spell's halo where they solidified and snapped free to shower branches and twigs down upon them.
Grindelwald was crawling backwards, eyes heavenward, fingers catching in his beard. His skin glowed in the light, accenting his age-spotted face. Harry considered putting a Prisoner Box around him and taking him away. Shielding his eyes from the wands, Harry raised his wand at the same moment Bellatrix, who had elbowed her way free from Draco, tossed something nasty over her shoulder. Something that caused dark ripples to flicker through half the room. Harry put up a Counter, just in case. Draco also ducked behind a Counter and when the black tongues of the spell faded, gave chase. But at the doorway he stopped and, jaw set, stalked back.
Grindelwald pushed himself to his feet while keeping his gaze fixed on the wands, which glowed white hot, impossible to look at straight on. He stumbled over his now cumbersome robes and fell again.
Harry stepped forward, intending to intercept both of them.
As Grindelwald tried to rise, Draco shoved him over with his shiny boot and with his lip curled with hatred, shouted "Avada Kedavra!"
Harry grimaced and jerked back, instinctively wanting to suppress the curse, but not wanting to kill Draco. Green flashes competed with the metallic light throbbing overhead. The curse passed up through the membrane to this world and snuffed the life out of its target, just like that. Branches like long fingers tumbled down around them, bouncing and rolling, piling up.
Holding his wand uselessly aimed at the fallen old wizard, Draco shouted over the noise, "That was for my father, bitch!"
It was Ginny, this time, who grabbed Intruder Harry's arm and shook it. Draco's attention was now focused on them, but he held his wand pointed at the corpse at his feet.
Ginny shouted over the noise of the wands, "Your father is in the cell next door." She pointed.
Without hesitating, Draco kicked through the debris and ran out the door they had come through. Ginny shouted, "I'll assume he knows how to open it. Come on, put your finger on the Galleon. You too, Harry." She simply grabbed up Harry's hand and raised hers and his up to Intruder Harry.
The noise had become indescribable. Sand and ash were shedding from the cement walls, the pebbles of glass piled beneath the shattered windows shivered and dissolved into powder, the fallen limbs were smoldering, and the scent of sweet wood smoke was filling the hall.
Harry hesitated. The wands had lost their form and had merged into one long burning line. A chunk of concrete fell and the tower shook. Harry put his finger down and they were yanked away. The relief from leaving the locked wands faded as they continued to spin and drift through fog, tugged along by the Portkey.
By the time they landed, no one kept their feet. Ginny recovered first, kneeling over Harry and calling his name. Intruder Harry raised his eyes to the main hall of the Snape house.
Candide came into the hall. She had previously been plumper than the Candide he knew, but was less so now. Her face had taken on a drawn aspect.
"I best Floo Call Severus," she said, sailing out of the room.
From where he sat on his knees, unable to move more than was required for breathing, Intruder Harry watched her go to the dining room. He was a bit surprised that his ears worked. His ears and his entire body had a kind of numbness from the stark absence of vibration.
"Help me get him on the couch," Ginny grunted, tugging on Native Harry's arm.
Intruder Harry forced his limbs to move and picked Native Harry up by his other arm. Clutching at Ginny's robes, Native Harry said, "I'm sorry, Ginny. I couldn't do anything to save him. I would have if I could. I couldn't do anything."
He collapsed when they released him, tears leaving shiny trails on his face. "I'm sorry," he whispered.
The Floo flared in the other room. Harry rapidly backed up, fumbling for his invisibility cloak. He stood, hidden, near the door to the library. Snape was speaking with Candide in the library. He spun and charged into the main hall.
On the couch, Native Harry went stiff and watched him approach with alarm. Ginny put a hand on his shoulder and leaned close to say something to him.
"Weasley," Snape said in greeting. "Needed that Portkey, did you?" He bent over Native Harry and ran a Health Indificator. It flared the colors it usually did for Intruder Harry.
Ginny was glancing around the room, but she gave up and knelt beside Native Harry on the couch, petting his shoulder.
The Floo flared again and Candide said, "I contacted the Order as well. I hope that was all right. I never quite know."
Snape was in the middle of a second spell and did not respond.
"Harry!" Lily said, approaching rapidly.
Snape readily backed out of the way. Lily sat beside Harry on the couch and wrapped him up in her arms and rocked him. The dried streaks on his face grew shiny again, as if his mother were squeezing new tears out of him.
Snape had picked a random point on the far wall to stare at. Candide glanced at him and leaning on the couch arm, asked, "Can I get you anything? Does Harry want some water or some broth?"
Lily released Harry a bit to look him in the face. "Harry do you want something?" She petted his torn robes, touched the bruise on his jaw. "You need a Healer, I think. Let's take you to St. Mungo's."
As she tried to urge him up, Harry raised his arms and ducked under them, striking a piteous pose. "I don't want to go there. People will take pictures of me."
Snape spun away, rolling his eyes. He began to pace.
"Don't you hurt? A Healer would make everything all better?"
Native Harry wiped his eyes on the side of his hand. "I do, but I don't care about hurting. I just want to go home."
"There isn't a home to go to, I'm afraid," Lily gently explained. "Not right now. Soon it will be fixed up. You don't remember the battle at the house?"
Harry sobbed once, but as Ginny grabbed his hand, he bit his lip and fell quiet and looked around. "Where's dad?"
"He's at St. Mungo's," Lily said. "He's a bit hurt. You could see him if you went to the hospital. Doesn't that sound nice?" She hugged his head to her collarbone again. "I'm so glad you're back safely, Harry," she said, voice breaking. "We can do whatever you like. Maybe Severus has a Potion for your aches?"
Lily looked hopefully over at Snape, whose eyes were fixed on the hearth. Intruder Harry watched him take a breath before he turned.
"Severus?" Lily queried.
Snape approached slowly and looked Harry over from several feet away.
"Please, Severus," Lily said.
Snape appeared to wither. He crouched on one knee before the two of them and lifted Harry's hand to run a spell against his palm.
He turned his head to the empty air and said, "Tidgy, bring the tray of potions."
Ginny leapt up. "I can get them." She scanned the room back and forth as she walked and Snape caught this and raised his wand, also looking around. He released Harry's hand and looked around further.
Under his cloak, Intruder Harry applied his disguise and pulled the cloak free. Snape did not lower his wand. From where Intruder Harry stood, Snape appeared to be defending Lily from him.
Ginny returned, followed by the elf, both carrying trays of bottles. "Oh, there you are," she said. She set the tray on the end table while the elf left the other floating beside it.
"It's all right," Ginny said to Snape. "He helped me get into Grindelwald's Tower."
Snape appeared unconvinced and continued to stare at Harry as he reached for a bottle on the tray.
Lily put her hand on Harry's cheek and rocked him again. "Don't worry dear, we won't let Grindelwald hurt you anymore."
Harry mumbled, "I know he won't. He's dead."
The potion bottle clacked loudly as it hit on the tray again. Lily pushed Native Harry to arm's length, which made him cringe in pain. "What?"
Snape turned to Ginny. "You forgot to mention that, I believe."
Ginny's shoulders fell. "I got distracted."
"You are perpetually distracted." He picked up a bottle and looked at it in the light. "So, you did the deed, O Prophecy Girl?"
Ginny put up her hands as if to ward them all off. "I didn't kill him. Draco did." Sounding as if she wanted to minimize her actions, she added, "I just disarmed him."
Snape's head jerked back to her again. "And you did that, how, exactly?"
She tossed her hand in Intruder Harry's direction. "He brought me a second Elder Wand."
Everyone stared at Intruder Harry. Lily blinked rapidly, appearing to catch on to who he was. "Is that?" she asked.
"The other Harry. Yes," Ginny said. "But he can't talk anymore."
"Why not?" Lily asked.
"I don't know. He looks like he's trying to sometimes, but nothing comes out."
Snape turned to Candide. "Please go and inform the Ministry of Grindelwald's demise. I doubt they will believe you, but give it a try, nonetheless." He shook his head and returned his attention to his potions. He mixed something quickly and handed it to Native Harry, then stepped away to stand by the staircase.
"Tidgy, fetch some broth," he said to no one in particular.
Tidgy hurried off.
Candide returned, but stopped on the hearth rug and crossed her arms. "I think they believe me a nutter, but I made the attempt. I also sent an owl to Arthur."
Lily set the potion cup aside and turned Harry's face toward her. "Can't you do anything more for him, Severus? He's still in pain; I can tell."
"He should see a Healer," Snape said without turning.
"He doesn't want to, though," Lily said. "And he's been through so much already."
Snape spun but remained in place, which was a spot equidistant from Candide and her. "Perhaps his father should come take care of him," Snape said, articulating carefully, the way he did when he was getting angry with a student.
Candide's face hardened as she watched Snape. Lily frowned and patted her son's cheek again. Tidgy returned carrying a bowl of broth, which Lily began feeding to Native Harry.
Candide turned around and faced the hearth, which had begun to smolder, sending the heavy scent of smoke into the room. Intruder Harry shuffled over beside her. During the distraction with the broth, he pulled his slate and wrote He ♥ U.
Candide stared at him sharply. Intruder Harry in his old man disguise, gave her a wry smile. Her face went through several transitions, and she finally laughed faintly. "No," she said.
Intruder Harry elbowed her and held the slate up higher. Candide rolled her eyes. "We usually avoid going anywhere we might see them."
Intruder Harry wiped the slate because Snape was approaching. He had his wand out.
"Get back," he said to Intruder Harry, glancing once down in confusion at the slate.
Intruder Harry retreated.
"Really, Professor. He's okay now," Ginny said from across the room.
Intruder Harry tried to project his harmlessness out through his eyes and Snape lowered his wand. Snape started to spin away, but halted the move to look Candide over questioningly. Candide kept her gaze on the floor, shoulders hunched. It was fleeting, but Intruder Harry caught the flicker of pain in Snape's eyes before it vanished behind the hard veneer that reasserted itself.
Lily was again urging her son to St. Mungo's.
Native Harry turned to Ginny, who was leaning on the back of the couch. "What do you think I should do?"
Ginny straightened in surprise. "I think you should see a Healer," she blurted.
"All right, then," Native Harry said to his mother.
"I'll come along if that will help," Ginny said.
Snape halted her with a raised hand. "You will remain here until the Ministry arrives."
Lily helped Harry stand and wrapped an arm around him to help him along. As they approached, her eyes came up, loaded with worry, Intruder Harry was jolted to see, for him as well. Something rose up in Intruder Harry, a balloon of angry pain. He did not want sorrow from her. He was doing just fine, thank you. His body straightened, his shoulders slid back.
She seemed puzzled by his shift in demeanor. "Thank you for helping rescue Harry. And everything else."
"Yes, thanks," Native Harry added, voice weak, but eager. He looked to want to say more, but Lily urged him to hobble along toward the dining room. To Ginny, Native Harry turned and said, "Good luck with the Ministry."
"Thanks," Ginny said, blushing faintly.
Once they were gone in the Floo, Candide moved about, straightening things. Intruder Harry stepped up beside Snape and tapped him on the arm with his knuckles, wanting him to meet his eyes. Snape pulled his wand on him instead.
Harry reluctantly backed off.
Mr. Weasley arrived in the Floo, followed by Kingsley Shacklebolt. He rushed into the main hall, stopped and glared at Ginny. "You are grounded for a month, Pumpkin. Your mother is near apoplectic, you know. Nearly had to take her to a Healer, we did."
Ginny stood with her mouth open. Behind her, straightening cushions, Candide was grinning. She came up to their guests and said, "Shall I have the elf make tea?"
"What?" Mr. Weasley blurted, then calmed down. "I don't have time, I'm afraid. Bad business being reported from Hohensaaten. And spending time running around in search of my daughter has not helped my day."
"Let me guess," Snape interrupted. "Grindelwald's Tower blew up?"
Mr. Weasley looked him over with some suspicion, saying. "That's the report we received, yes."
Snape, tossed his hair and paced away. "Not surprising."
"Sit down, Arthur," Snape said. He picked up one of the potion bottles. "Have some tea. You may have a shot of Calming Draught in it, if you wish. You will need it when you hear the news of your son."
Mr. Weasley glanced around, staring at Intruder Harry a bit too long, reminding him it was time to go. Tidgy arrived with a tea tray, which created a good distraction.
"Well, I guess a hasty spot of tea, then" Mr. Weasley said, after Shacklebolt pushed him toward a chair. "And what of Fred?" he asked, sounding as if he knew and feared the answer already.
Harry strode over to Snape, patting Mr. Weasley on the shoulder as he passed. This time, Snape met his eyes. Harry piled too much into the thought he was trying to convey, he knew he did—but the way Snape's gaze shuttered and his jaw tightened, Harry assumed some of his insistence that he give up on his mother got through.
With a bow to Mr. Weasley, and a salute to Ginny, which made her face relax into a pained smile, Harry slipped away.