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         That same night, while Keilana was yet attempting to shut her thoughts down and go to sleep, Harry sneaked out of Gryffindor Tower. His mind was still whirling from how fast things had been moving the last few days, but he didn’t want to slow down long enough for the ramifications to catch up. He might get bogged down again, just as he had after discovering that Keilana was his half-sister.

         He would have to look into that sometime. But for now, he would cheer his aunt up with stories of seducing Ginny. She always liked stories about Ginny.

         “Hey, Jackie.”

         She looked up from the pillows and smiled weakly. “Are you allowed to be sneaking in here after hours?”

         “Like I’m actually gonna let you stay in here all alone,” Harry teased right back, dropping his book bag by the hospital bed and settling on the mattress next to her. “And I can’t come during the day. What choice do I have but to sneak in?”

         “You could let me suffer on my own,” Jackie offered, obviously not serious.

         “I suppose I could,” Harry said. “But then how could I live with myself if you died?”

         “Harrison James, I am nineteen years old. Don’t you go putting thoughts of death in my mind. Especially right now while I’m on Godric knows what.”

         “Yes, you’re suicidal,” Harry teased fondly. “But if that wasn’t your personality, you wouldn’t have gotten yourself stuck in the bottle in the first place.” He gently lowered himself onto the mattress beside her.

         Jackie closed her eyes and breathed in his scent. ”So what did you do today?”

         “I took Ginny to Diagon Alley.”

         Harry laughed aloud when he saw the interest fill Jackie’s eyes. He good-naturedly answered all her questions about the day, even admitting to the kiss. Jackie was ecstatic, but Harry warned her not to get ahead of herself. She just grunted, albeit softly.

         “Jackie? Did you know Sirius and Remus?”

         “Mm-hmm. James was always with them, and I was usually with James. I’ve actually dated both of them.”

         “Both of who?”

         “Sirius and Remus.”

         “Did you know Cassi too?”

         “Cassi Garner? Yeah, I know her. Remus had a crush on her for years.”

         Guess things haven’t changed much, Harry thought with a smile. “Would you like to see him again?”

         “Of course I would. I miss all my friends a lot.” A single tear slid down Jackie’s cheek. “But there’s no one left.”

         “Remus is still alive, and so is Cassi.”

         “What about Sirius?” Jackie asked cautiously.

         Harry turned his head away. “I’m sorry, Jackie. Sirius got killed almost a year before I found you.”

         Jackie remained silent, but she was crying hard now. Harry laid his head on her arm and concentrated on something Luna had learned from Ron. A peaceful hum filled their little corner of the Hospital Wing. Jackie choked and began laughing through her tears.

         “What?” Harry asked.

         “You’re turning into a dragon, and yet you can use a charmer’s hum to calm me down.”

         “Well, it worked, didn’t it?”

         “It cheered me up – that’s good enough.”

         Harry laughed with her, but his laughter died quickly as Jackie began to cough. He helped her sit up and handed her the bottle from the nightstand. She managed to drink the potion, but she kept coughing. Harry rubbed her back, earnestly worried now. Jackie covered her mouth, but blood seeped between her fingers and spattered the pristine sheets. She began to cough harder, and Harry took off for Madame Pomfrey’s office.


         She awoke quickly and squinted at him. “Mr. Potter, what are you doing here? I have a patient who needs—”

         “You have a patient who’s coughing her guts out!” Harry shouted. “I thought you said she was stable!”

         Madame Pomfrey grabbed a robe and ran into the ward. Jackie had passed out and was twitching violently. Madame Pomfrey very quickly made some assessments before casting another sedative spell and rushing out of the ward again. She returned a few minutes later with the headmistress.

         “What’s going on here?”

         “This is my aunt, Jackie—”

         “I know who she is, Mr. Potter,” McGonagall coldly cut him off. “How did she get here?”

         “Wizard Slughorn just cured her of being a genie,” Harry said quietly, gaze on the floor. “But being in there so long did something to her body, and Madame Pomfrey was trying to fix her.”

         “And none of you thought to mention this to me.”

         “No, headmistress,” Harry said even more quietly. “She only collapsed this morning.”

         McGonagall removed her glasses and pinched the bridge of her nose. “I’m glad to see she’s alive, Harry, but she won’t be for long at this rate. Would you agree, Poppy?’

         “Yes, mum,” Madame Pomfrey said over her shoulder. “She needs to go to St. Mungo’s immediately. I don’t have the resources to fix this here.”

         “Take her there, then. Harry, you have permission to be absent from Hogwarts until her life is out of danger.”

         Harry’s gaze snapped up, and he stared at her in amazement. “Can I hug you?”

         McGonagall actually laughed. “For your sake, Harry, I hope she gets better soon.”

         “Harry!” Aunt Poppy called after them as they left in the St. Mungo’s escort. “Get yourself checked while you’re there. No sense wasting the trip.”

         “Yes, mum!” Harry called back.

         And then the doors of the carriage closed.


         “Mr. Potter, you really must get some rest,” was the constant pronouncement of the healers within a few days. But Harry stubbornly remained in Jackie’s room and would not be provided a room in the nearby family quarters. After all, he insisted to the head healer, if Jackie woke up under such circumstances, there could be no way of predicting her reaction.

         But he had to admit boredom came quickly. And then his thoughts would shift invariably to Ginny. He hadn’t realized how much she lit up his world ...

         Healer Winthrop was driven to exasperation within a few days of him becoming a certifiable zombie. She finally knocked him out, dragged him outside St. Mungo’s, and left him in the back alley. When he awoke, his wand was gone, and he couldn’t get back into the hospital. Groaning, he went through his pockets for some money. He found a plain envelope with his name on it, containing a card with the name Angelina Winthrop printed on the front in a beautiful script.

         “ ‘Dear Harry, Sorry for the rough treatment. Enclosed are directions to my husband’s office at the Ministry. Come back once you’re rested, and I’ll return your wand. Happy hunting. Sincerely, Angie.’ That little—!”

         Harry kicked an innocent can, which went flying against the brick wall and crumpled into a mangled bit of tin. Harry consulted the directions and found his way to a Medic Carson Winthrop’s office. “Head of the National Animagus Registry” was etched below his name. Why did that sound familiar? The man was sitting behind a desk, studying a new registration, perhaps.

         “Um, hello?”

         Startled, the man took off his reading glasses and stared toward the door. “Harry Potter?” he said somewhat incredulously.

         “Yes, sir. Your wife kicked me out of St. Mungo’s. That is, if you’re Carson Winthrop?”

         “That’s me,” he said, crossing the room in a couple strides. He shook Harry’s hand energetically. “Wonderful to meet you, Mr. Potter. What can I do for you?”

         “She didn’t really say,” Harry replied awkwardly, handing him the card. “Although since I’m here, would you be the one to consult about discovering your transformation?”

         Carson handed the card back. “I would indeed. Why?”

         Harry glanced over his shoulder. “Well, if you have a few minutets, and a good sound guard on your office ...”

         “That can be arranged. Have a seat, Harry.”


         “Is she awake yet?” Harry asked eagerly, almost the exact second Angie let him back in three days later. After spending several hours with Carson, he had rented a room in the Leaky Cauldron and slept for almost thirty-six hours straight. If that didn’t qualify as getting rested, Harry didn’t know what did.

         “No, she isn’t awake yet,” Angie said with an amused smile, returning his wand. “But she is stable. It should be safe to remove the sedation, but we’re running a few more tests before we do.”

         Harry slumped. “I was hoping I could talk to her.”

         “Well, if you’d be willing to talk to someone a couple years younger, I do have a substitute.”

         “A couple years younger than what?”

         “Than nineteen. I know your aunt was born more than nineteen years ago, but that is her age.”

         Harry sighed. “That’s what she keeps telling me, but she still ought to be in her thirties.”

         Angie laughed, but now they had reached a door in Ward 49. Of all people, Tiffany McGonagall was walking out. And, of all the people to be walking hand in hand with, she was accompanying Neville Longbottom. She didn’t let go when she saw Harry, although she did blush under the healer’s probing gaze. Angie shook her head in amusement and walked off to attend to business in her own ward.

         “Here to see your parents?” Harry asked.

         “Yeah,” Neville said, averting his gaze.

         “How are they doing?”

         “I think they’re actually getting better,” Tiffany said when Neville didn’t respond. “At least, Alice is beginning to remember things. I mean, not things from before, but things that have happened, like when we visit her.”

         “She is,” Neville said. “But Dad ...”

         Harry grasped his friend’s shoulder tightly. “At least they’re alive, Neville. As long as they’re alive, there’s always a chance that someone will discover a way to bring them back.”

         A timid smile came across Neville’s face.

         “Hey!” Tiffany said suddenly, pointing at Harry with her free hand.

         “Now, Miss McGonagall, you know it’s not nice to point,” Harry scolded playfully.

         “You’re here!”

         “What’s she talking about?” Harry asked Neville.

         Realization was dawning on his roommate’s face. “You’re here,” Neville said more slowly. “You’re not missing at all.”

         “Did you think I was?”

         “Are you kidding?” Tiffany exclaimed. “Everyone thinks Voldemort kidnapped you. Hermione’s been worried sick, and Ginny.”

         Harry couldn’t help himself. The Americans had such interesting expressions.

         “Oh, crap.”

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