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Chapter 8: Walk With Me


If it hadn’t been obvious for the past seventeen years, Harry Potter led a very strange life.

But this year took the biscuit, in fact it took the whole blooming pack. It was his own life and he could hardly keep up with everything that was going on. How was anybody else meant to?

But in true Harry Potter fashion, he was trying desperately to get a grip of it.

Now, if any of us had our dead parents suddenly appear in our common room the same age as us, we might get sent to a mental home or something. It can’t be an easy thing to deal with, and that was only one of many difficulties surrounding Harry at the minute.

Next was Voldemort, who was never far from he top of Harry’s list of conundrums. Every day the problem was growing to reach colossal heights, yet Harry could find nothing to help. It was eating him inside.

Another factor gnawing away at him was, you guessed it, Ginny. Nothing had changed there either, which he hoped to keep that way because he knew right well that anything new that occurred there would not be in the best interests he had for Ginny.

How many seventeen year old boys can you name who’s thoughts are focused around a mental all-conquering stalker wizard, a one in a million girl he had to ignore for fear of killing her, and utterly strange parents of his own age waltzing around the castle? If you can name someone with even one of these matches, give me a call. I’ll send over the mental asylum helpers straight away.

“Harry, mate? Are you ok?” Ron’s voice broke through the gloom surrounding Harry to yank him back, somewhat ungracefully, to reality.

Harry looked up at his friends and blinked, as though he had been roused just as he was dozing off (a strong possibility since he hadn’t been sleeping great at night time…and it was hard to tell the difference between waking and sleeping anymore, as the same thoughts haunted both consciousnesses).

“Oh, yeah, it’s just a little stuffy in here,” Harry said, not wanting to reveal where his thoughts were lying once more, knowing they would start to talk about it again if he did. Though they probably had a fair idea as it was; you didn’t need a brain like Merlin’s to figure it out.

Ron and Hermione looked around the room in confusion at the blazing fire and students sitting in huddles still wrapped up in their jumpers. They obviously didn’t feel this stuffiness. Sure it wasn’t winter just yet, but it sure as hell wasn’t summer either.

“Ok, why don’t we go for a walk then?” Hermione suggested diplomatically.

“But I thought we had to finish our homework and then work on the…” Ron trailed off meaningfully, as Hermione shot him one of her Mrs. Weasley looks that said “Zip it, you”.

“We can leave homework for now, a walk will be good. It will do us all some good to get a bit of fresh air,” Hermione said, sounding more like a mother every minute, and stood up in the process to show she meant what she said.

“Leave homework unfinished? I bet this lasts five minutes before she has some sort of break-down,” Ron predicted to Harry as they both got to their feet anyway to join their female friend.

Harry smiled, already feeling good about getting out of the crowded common room. He should never have agreed to go there, he much preferred the quiet of the Head rooms. “I’d give it ten. She seems to be calming down lately. She only freaks about doing homework now a week before it’s due,” he added it.

Both boys laughed a little as they pictured Hermione’s many freak-outs over the years, and Hermione herself couldn’t even get properly annoyed because Harry was finally showing that he had some real human left in him.

“So where is everybody?” Ron asked as they left the castle doors behind them. By “everybody” he meant Lily and the Marauders.

“Well, Remus said he really wanted to talk to Professor Lupin, so the others probably went with him. And I’d guess Lily is either with Ginny or in the library,” Hermione informed.

“She sounds like you, Hermione,” Ron laughed. “She’s not even in her own time and she’s living in the library. How does it feel to have some competition?”

“Well I think it’s great that she wants to keep up with her N.E.W.T’s. It can’t be easy with everything that’s going on,” Hermione sympathised. Hell, she belonged in this time where all this stuff happened quite regularly and she found it nearly impossible to keep everything balanced and afloat.

“Do you reckon Lupin and McGonagall will find a way to send them back soon?” Ron asked.

Harry shrugged, not really wanting to dwell on this subject. He knew they’d have to leave some day, they couldn’t stay here forever, he just wasn’t sure how he’s react when that day came. “Probably. They can’t just let them stay here indefinitely. I’m fairly sure that would screw up my whole existing thing.”

“Yeah, beside I think McGonagall is going crazy with them around again. I always thought no one could cause as much hassle as Fred and George, but Merlin these guys are nuts!” Ron laughed, admiration not annoyance in his tone, and Harry and Hermione had to join in.

“It’ll definitely be a lot quieter when they’re gone,” Hermione said, but then her expression sobered a little. “I’m really going to miss them when they have to go.”

Harry only nodded his agreement. “Miss them” was an understatement in his view. Sure they were absolutely crazy at times, but they were his family. A family of which very little now remained with him. It just wasn’t fair. He didn’t want to say goodbye again, to lose them for a second time seemed unbearable.

“No, stop that,” he told himself. “There is no point dwelling on that. There are other things to think about.”

As if reading those other things from his mind, Ron asked; “Are you going to let them help in the You-Know-Who thing? You know, if they’re still here?”

The “You-Know-Who Thing”. Wow, Ron had a way of making the worst imaginable things sound like a piece of cake, didn’t he? Harry almost laughed.

“Might as well. It couldn’t hurt, could it?” he said and caught Hermione’s dubious expression almost instantly. “What’s wrong with that?”

“Nothing,” Hermione answered immediately. “It’s just…well…I was just wondering why the same thing couldn’t be applied to a different case.” There was no need to specify which case she was talking about, there was only one other.

But Hermione instantly wished she hadn’t said a thing because Harry’s features turned to stone on the spot. She wouldn’t be able to change his mind so easily she knew, but she felt it needed the odd try now and again. After all, he didn’t have to listen to Ginny beg for ways she could help.He didn’t have to hear how hurt the girl was by the ways he was treating her. He barely had to see any of it, except when he chose to.

He was seriously underestimating this girl and Hermione didn’t know how to make him see it.

“That’s different,” was all Harry said before falling silent. Hermione sighed in defeat, knowing she’d lost yet again.

She wondered if anyone would ever win and get through to him.

But she’d have to drop it for the time being, it was getting no where and neither was any of the other stuff they needed to get sorted.

“What are going to do, Harry?” Ron asked after the intensity of Harry’s anger began to dwindle. “I mean, I know what we have to do, but how are we going to manage it? It’s been three months since you and Dumbledore found the last…umm…thing, and well we haven’t come much further since then.”

Harry gave a sigh and pulled his mind away from Ginny Weasley so it could agree with her brother. He was right of course. They had to act, no more stalling.

And he knew now where the most logical place to start would be…it was just plucking up the courage to go that was holding him back.

How was he meant to have a face-off with the darkest wizard to ever set foot on the planet when the thoughts of a gentle old Headmaster scared the living daylights out of him? Some Chosen One he was turning out to be.

“I think we need to look in Dumbledore’s office,” Harry said slowly, not looking at either of his friends. But he knew by the dead silence that followed that he’d shook them.

“Are you sure you want to do that, Harry?” Hermione asked gently. It was a good idea, sure, better than anything they’d come up with so far, but what would be the cost of Harry opening up all those wounds again?

“There’s no choice, is there?” Harry said blandly, still not looking at his friends but out at the remarkably still lake. “Besides, it’s the best way. Dumbledore spent ages trying to track down the Horcruxes, he must have a method for it or something. We have to at least look.”

Both Ron and Hermione nodded their agreement, if a little wearily, but Harry was still watching the water, away in a little world of his own again.

“Do you think McGonagall would let us?” Ron asked, trying to drag Harry back to earth.

“Look, is that Lily over there?” Hermione said suddenly, pointing to a lone figure sitting beneath a large oak tree a little ways in front of them. “I wonder what she’s doing out here by herself.”

“I bet James had something to do with it,” Ron said, laughing to himself at the many memories of Harry’s parents. Having them around certainly brightened up the recently dreary castle. It was hard to focus on the impending doom when you were watching Lily chase James around the Head common room with a rubber chicken. Don’t ask, he wasn’t even sure what had happened himself. The pair were quite simply odd.

Harry looked up ahead where Hermione pointed and sure enough there was Lily Evans, pen poised in hand and racing across the page as she jotted down some unknown account. A diary maybe? It could be. Harry had never really pictured his Mum as the type to keep a diary before, but then again he never really had anything to base his assumptions on before now.

He was still having difficulty with the concept that that woman sitting there was his mother and he knew very well that Lily herself wasn’t having much better luck. In fact, the only one that seemed to be taking the whole thing in their stride, Harry mused, was James. The revelation that he actually succeeded in getting what he wanted hadn’t scared or confused him, but rather given him a new bigger (if you can imagine that) air of confidence. A frightening thought I can assure you.

“Hi, Lily,” Hermione greeted when they were close enough. “What are you doing out here?”

Lily looked up, surprise and horror written clearly across her face (fear of the greeting coming from the Marauders, Harry guessed) that only settled when her brain registered the faces of the new arrivals as Harry’s, Ron’s and Hermione’s.

“Oh, hey,” Lily greeted in return. “I thought maybe you were Potter and Black. They haven’t left me alone all day.”

“How did you manage to get out here without them?” Ron asked with a grin on his face that always appeared when the mischief making boys were mentioned.

Lily gave a shrug. “Haven’t a clue, actually. I think Remus might have distracted them. Probably showed them something shiny, that’s been known to keep them entertained for at least half an hour in the past.”

The trio laughed at the image.

“How long have you been out here?” Harry asked, feeling his mood lifting considerably compared to the dark pit it had been moments ago.

“About that long. I’m expecting them to jump out from a tree or appear from under that damn invisibility cloak any minute now. That’s why you guys startled me,” Lily explained, casting a dubious glance around her to make sure they couldn’t sneak up on her.

Ron laughed out loud and Hermione gave a giggle before saying; “Well, we’ll go and try keep them away for another while. I’m sure we can find loads of shiny things. C’mon, Ron. Coming, Harry?”

Harry shook his head at the offer. “No thanks. I think I’ll just walk around for another while.”

Hermione nodded in understanding, said goodbye to Lily and, catching a hold of Ron’s arm, started her march back towards the castle.

“Mind if I join you?” Lily asked. “It’s a little less dangerous if I’m not by myself.”

Harry looked down at his Mum as she got to her feet and laughed, knowing the “danger” she meant was James Potter. “No problem. You’re probably right, though he seems to enjoy catching you with me too. He likes the whole family thing, I think.”

Lily grimaced. “Am I seriously meant to put up with him for the rest of my life? It’s still not too late to tell me it’s a joke, you know.” She looked up hopefully.

Harry laughed again and gave a smile of apology. “’Fraid it’s no joke.”

Lily pouted, trying not to let her real horror show. She wanted to be nice to Harry, and showing how sick she felt at the thought of having him didn’t really give those sentiments. “That’s what I was afraid of.”

“You mentioned the Invisibility Cloak,” Harry said suddenly with curiosity. “How did you find out about that?” He couldn’t see the Marauders sharing one of their major secrets openly with anyone.

On the other hand, he wouldn’t put it past his father either to use it as a way to impress Lily.

His red haired mother scoffed loudly. “Those idiots didn’t make it very difficult to discover. For all his research into me, Potter seemed to miss how I usually stay up late to read…and the fact that I’m neither deaf nor blind,” she explained, breaking off to muter about how stupid the guys could be. Harry waited with amused patience for her rant to end.

“Anyway, one night they came barging into the common room after everyone but me was in bed, making enough bloody noise to wake the whole damn castle. They were probably celebrating being able to find their own way back to the common room all by themselves for the first time or something, I never really bothered to ask. So, I looked up to tell them to shut the hell up, my book as really good and they were ruining it, but they weren’t there. Then next second they were, just appeared out of nowhere in front of the fire. After that they had to tell me it was the cloak. Though, I did get some fun out of annoying Potter for a change,” she finished with a mischievously evil grin.

Harry wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry when she’d finished. There were times, usually at the parts where she was raving about the Marauders, that she’d been speaking so fast he’d barely understood, but in that one story he’d learned so much more about his Mum’s life that he felt a painful grip on his heart.

How could he keep doing this? Well the how he didn’t know, but he would definitely keep it up he knew for sure. He wanted to…no, more than that, he needed to. He felt a hunger inside him now that had been set loose at the first glimpse of his parents that was now ravished for every speck of information it could ear up in the time he had.

“I bet Dad was happy you were paying some attention to him thought,” Harry said.

“Well he did seem to be too happy about it at times, considering he was in danger of breaking the “Marauder Code of Honour” or whatever it is they keep talking about,” Lily said with a grimace as though talking about the Marauders caused a bad taste in her mouth.

Silence fell between the boy and his mother as they continued to circle the grounds.

“So tell me about me as a Mum. Am I a good one?” Lily asked eventually, reluctant and curious about the subject all in the one. She liked the idea of being a mother, and Harry was a great kid who she could find herself loving and being proud of. It was just the fact that he was so obviously James Potter’s son that as so off-putting.

Harry stared off into the distance, trying not to let his pain show as he answered; “You’re the best.”

“Really?” Lily seemed cheered. “I’m not one of those horribly narky mothers who doesn’t let you do anything?” she asked with a smile. She had an odd feeling she didn’t get much say in what Harry did at times, and not because he just didn’t listen to her or something. No, because he had no say in most of it himself.

Harry smiled, but he couldn’t keep himself from letting a sad slant slip into it. “No, you just don’t like me to get hurt.”

If only she knew the measures she’d go to to keep him alive, the things she did for him. He felt, not for the first time since she’d arrives, a blazing need to warn her of that Halloween night when her life would end pitifully early. But he curtailed it as he had before. He couldn’t tell her not to save him. Merlin only knew the consequences it would cause.

But the feeling of guilt wouldn’t be washed away so easily.

“Which probably happens a lot anyway, given some of the things you’ve done, right?” Lily said with a kind smile. She was quiet for a minute as a frown creased her brow. “I still don’t understand all that though.”

“What?” Harry asked puzzled as they walked on.

“Why Voldemort is so interested in you. Why you’re the one who has to fight him. I know you explained it a little, but it feels like you’re leaving something out,” she mused almost to herself. But then she looked up and held Harry’s gaze. “Something important.”

Harry had to force himself to breath as his seventeen year old mother stared at him. There were plenty of important things he was holding back on he wanted to say. But could she know what they were? Could he tell her?

Well, he knew the one thing he definitely couldn’t reveal to her, it was fairly obvious. But could he answer her question about why Voldemort was so keen to dispose of him? If he edited the tale about the prophecy to leave out the part were Voldemort killed her and his Dad, were would the harm be?

Nowhere, he hoped because he had a burning desire to talk to his mother about everything that was happening to him and why, to pour his heart out to the one woman who would understand. And he wasn’t sure it would stay blazing safely for much longer.

Why was it so complicated to do something as easy as talk to his own mother, no matter the odd state of circumstances that had brought her here? Couldn’t anything ever go simply for Harry Potter?

“There was a prophecy,” he began heavily. “The Divination teacher who works here now made it. It said that a child would be born at the end of July who would be the one with the power to kill Voldemort.”

“And he…Voldemort…he found out?” Lily asked unsteadily. She never put a whole lot of pass on Divination usually as a subject, but she knew the business of prophecies wasn’t to be taken quite so lightly.

Harry nodded and Lily listened absorbedly as he recounted the tale of Snape overhearing half the prophecy and passing it on to his master, herself and James hiding with Harry when they became targets, feeling a pang of sadness at the faith of her old friends Frank and Alice, and finally the attack.

“Your Secret Keeper gave you away to Voldemort and he found us. But when he tried to kill me so the prophecy wouldn’t come true his spell rebounded on him and he lost all his powers. He vanished until three years ago,” Harry finished, vastly editing the end of the tale.

“Do you know who our Secret Keeper was?” Lily asked after a few minutes. She wasn’t sure how to react to the story Harry had just told her, she’d have to do a lot of thinking about it later. Part of her wanted to cry at the sorrow of the tale and hug Harry tightly to her. But she also wanted to scream in fury and hunt down Snape, Voldemort and every other bastard who dared to hurt her son.

Her maternal instincts were developing rapidly.

Harry kept his eyes trained away from Lily, as they had been for the last while, and shook his head. “No, I was never told.”

He wanted so badly to tell her about Peter, more badly than ever now that he had finally let down some of the walls between them. But now that he had, he wanted them all to vanish. He wanted to save his Mum from her horribly early death and be able to be close to her without it constantly hanging over his head.

But he couldn’t, and so he wouldn’t.

Lily just nodded slowly. She was about to suggest they find out so when she went back o her time she would choose someone different, but she stopped herself just in time as she saw the tortured yet resolved look on Harry’s features. She couldn’t interfere she knew now. She couldn’t change anything that was to happen, or already had for her son. This was his path to follow now, and all she could do was stick by him as he went down it.

She was shocked to find tears pricking her eyes and struggled to hold them back. Was it just the water in her own eyes or did tears seem to be swimming in Harry’s also?

Maybe they’d had enough of this for now? She’d certainly been given enough to think on for a while, until there next “meeting”.

“Do me and your father really love each other?” Lily wasn’t stupid, she saw the way Harry looked at her and James longingly and with such tortured happiness. Was she hurting him so much by her apparent hatred of James? She didn’t wan to be the one to be causing Harry any more pain, but she couldn’t see how she could grow fond enough of James to take it away.

Harry smiled sadly again as he wiped his threatening tears away before Lily saw them and grew suspicious. Crying was stupid, it would change nothing he told himself. This was the way it had to be.

“Yes. You were the happiest couple in history. Everybody says so,” he said.

Lily missed or didn’t pay much notice to the reference to the past as she was deep in thought again. Happy? Really truly happy as Mrs. James Potter? Could it happen? How could it happen?

Maybe this wasn’t a good road to be taking either? She liked it better to be talking about Harry’s life instead of her questionable role in it.

“Are you really going to do it?” she asked instead, changing topic again as her brain reeled with all the new information. “I mean, are you going to go with what the prophecy says? Do you want to be the Chosen One and search for a way to kill him?”

Did he want to? Nobody had ever bothered to ask him that before.

But he couldn’t delude himself into thinking it was a question of want. He didn’t have that luxury. “I don’t have a choice. I’m the only one who can do it, I can’t just sit back and ignore it because it’s not the way I’d choose for things to be.”

Lily paused for a minute and said quietly; “That sounds like a lonely way to live.”

Not hard. Not heroic. Not brave. Lonely. How did this woman, this girl really, who had known him only a few short days manage to pick out the one word he would use to describe his life?

“If I’m alone no one can get hurt because of me,” he muttered defensibly. He wasn’t sure he liked having someone who could read him so easily.

Lily wanted to answer; “Or so you can’t be hurt by them”, but knew Harry would just shut down instantly if she did. She’d been here long enough to know that. So instead she took it a different ay and said; “Is that why you don’t want anyone to help you? Because you don’t want to feel responsible if me, or Ron, or Hermione…Or Ginny to get hurt?”

Harry was ready to argue in response as he usually did o those who brought this up with him, but he couldn’t bring himself to feel annoyed at Lily. He just nodded.

“Why? Because you love them?” she pressed softly.

“Because I don’t want to be responsible for anyone else’s death!” he quipped angrily almost without thought. His heart froze mid-beat. Had he just given himself away?

“Anyone else?” Lily whispered, pausing for a moment that made Harry unable to breath. What if she found out? What would happen if she knew about her and James? And Sirius?

He saw Lily’s eyes ignite in understanding, like a light had been turned on in her head to let her see all the pieces of the puzzle at long last.

Well, they were pieces of one puzzle, just not the one Harry feared most.

“That’s how he died, isn’t it?” Lily breathed. “Dumbledore died when you were out looking for a Horcrux.” She didn’t phrase it as a question, she knew she’d got it right. No wonder he was so closed off about it, Lily thought.

Harry was stunned when she spoke, almost wishing she had guessed what he’d been dreading. This wasn’t much better. Dumbledore’s death was still all too fresh in his mind. As was all the guilt of it.

But he guessed he had to tell the truth. She would find out, he knew that right well. If she could a big secret out of the Marauders, what hope did the Boy-Who-Lived have against her?

“Not exactly. We were out trying to get a Horcrux, but the castle was under attack by Death Eaters when we got back. Dumbledore was already weak from fighting the curse on the Horcrux and he…he used his last bit of strength to save me,” Harry chocked out, emotionless until the end. He could see again the spell connecting with that brilliant man and his body tumbling backwards to the ground. He couldn’t look at his mother as he explained how the Headmaster’s move to protect him had cost him his life.

Not the first to do so, Harry thought bitterly. He really doubted whether the world was better off with him at the expense of so many great witches and wizards.

Lily felt another wave of sympathy for the teenage boy. He had so much to deal with (some of the worst parts she didn’t even know) and he wasn’t making it any easier on himself.

“You can’t blame yourself for that, Harry. I know Dumbledore wouldn’t,” Lily began slowly. “And you can’t just lock yourself away from the world either. You need to have a life, with friends and family…and maybe someone to love.” Lily Evans wasn’t very subtle under pressure.

Harry sighed, for once not thrilled about having a motherly pep-talk. “You mean Ginny.” It hadn’t escaped his notice how much time his Mum and his ex-girlfriend spent together. Nothing about Ginny escaped him.

Lily shrugged. “She does love you, Harry. And you can’t tell me this arrangement the two of you have is working for you either. I know I can’t tell you what to do, but it wouldn’t kill you to let some happiness into your life. They won’t always end like Dumbledore, Harry. And whether they’re by your side or not, Ron, Hermione, Ginny and all the rest of them will be involved in this war one way or another. I’m sure you’d much rather have happy memories of them than just knowing you’d shut them out because you were afraid. Just give it some thought, please?”

Harry didn’t know what he could say so he just nodded. It was still dangerous, still stupid to think about…so why did it feel less so when Lily said it? Was it because she’d hit the nail on the head by how much he regretted never having time with his parents? Or because he was desperate for his mother to be in his life that he trusted her so completely?

“I’ll try,” he said so quietly Lily barely caught it. But she did, and she gave a little smile that the answer hadn’t been wholly negative. She also couldn’t help feeling a glow of pride that her first attempt at talking to Harry about this had been somewhat successful.

Maybe she could really grow up to be the mother of this astonishing boy?

Silence fell more thickly between the two this time, both given so much to think about by the other. Lily looked over at Harry intently. Despite everything he had revealed to her this evening, she couldn’t shake the suspicion that there was something more. A piece of the puzzle her instincts told her he was holding back, the thing to tie it all together.

But what?

Before she could break their growing silence to ask, it was done for her by a loud yell erupting behind them.

“Hey, Harry, Evans! Fancy meeting you two down here! What a coincidence!”

Lily groaned loudly and resisted the urge to bolt immediately to safety for fear of hurting Harry’s feelings. But she couldn’t suppress her annoyance. Nothing with the Marauders was ever a coincidence.

“Yeah right, Potter. Have you been following us?” she asked suspiciously. She wouldn’t put it past him and Black, she was fairly sure he’d done it before…and she did not like the look of those smug grins.

“My dear Flower Petal, you insult me! I would never do such a sneaking thing as that!” James proclaimed as though he was highly affronted. Lily gave a snort of disgust and Harry tried to hide a smile. “We just thought it would be a lovely evening for a little healthy stroll around the grounds before bed. Didn’t we, lads?”

Sirius and Remus, who were standing on either side of James, nodded firmly.

“Can we join you?” Sirius asked politely, but Lily knew that wouldn’t last long.

There was no way she was sticking around for this.

“Join all you want, I’m going to bed. See you later, Harry,” Lily said quickly, already feeling she’d been with them too long, and strode off towards the castle.

“Hey, don’t we get a goodbye, Evans?” Sirius called after her.

Lily didn’t turn or make a comment, just kept up her pace towards the massive double doors. She did feel guilty about leaving Harry so abruptly, even more so for leaving him in the company of the Marauders, but she was sure he’d forgive her.

Besides, his birth might have been put in serious jeopardy if she stayed any longer. Can’t be born if his father was killed by his mother when he was seventeen now could he?

“Merlin help me,” she prayed anyway as she reached the safety of Hogwarts Entrance Hall and went inside.

Back down at the lake, Harry Potter still stood with the three Marauders after his mother entered the castle.

“You know something, Harry,” James said. “If you weren’t my son, and she wasn’t your mother, I’d have to punch you for being out here with her.”

“he’s always been a little over-protective of her, even though he has no reason what so ever,” Remus said as Harry laughed.

“I have a reason! She’s my wife! She has no business going off gallivanting with strange young men. It’s my job to protect her,” James objected.

“She wasn’t your wife when you broke David Scott’s nose a year ago for smiling at her,” Sirius laughed.

“He wasn’t just smiling, he had other intentions. I was just informing him they were inappropriate before he had a chance to do anything,” James defended, muttering to himself about stupid big-nosed prats trying to hustle in on his territory.

Harry, Sirius and Remus all laughed. What else could they do? Plus, it was funny.

“What are you doing down here anyway? Are you really out for a “healthy walk”?” Harry asked, not fooled for a moment by his Dad’s pathetic attempt to hood-wink Lily.

Sirius laughed again. “What do you think, Harry? Prongs here saw Lily-Fair down here under the tree when we were heading back to the common room - how he actually spots hr is beyond me, his Lily-radar is quite freaky at times. Anyway, he tried to make a run for it down to er…surprise her, but Ron and Hermione held us up. Poor Prongs started to get very paranoid that his Lily princess was down here meeting some random knight-boy,” Sirius laughed evilly. Harry was fairly sure his godfather hadn’t been too good about helping to rid James of those fears.

“So what was she doing down here with you anyway? What were you two talking about?” James asked curiously of his son.

Harry, not wanting to do a double-take of the conversation about the darker points of his life right now, shrugged. “Nothing much. Just, you know, general things.”

But James Potter was not one to be so easily led astray and satisfies. “Ok, more to the point, did she mention me at all in these general discussions?”

Harry grinned. “Once or twice,” he said honestly, not thinking of the hours of torture he’s just subjected his mother to with one small statement.

James looked ecstatic, almost like he was hearing again for the first time about marrying her. “Oh yeah! I knew it!”

But Remus, who was grinning too, turned to Harry and asked; “What exactly was she saying about him?” He wasn’t deluded enough to imagine some of the things James was picturing. His friend faltered in his celebrations momentarily.

“Well, she was telling me how she found out about the Invisibility Cloak, and how she got her revenge trying to get you to tell her.” He didn’t think he needed to mention the other time Lily had brought James up in conversation, it would just cause an unnecessary headache for her later.

James grimaced at the memory. “She’s one determined woman when she sets her mind to it.” That week was the only time James didn’t want to be around Lily, and she had made it her job to be near him as much as possible. How someone could be so extraordinarily persistent was beyond him! (Needless to say, he never thought to think of himself).It was a nightmare.

Especially because, in the end, he’d lost and had to give in. And James Potter was not a good loser.

“Now you know how she feels every single day of her life when you’re following her around like a puppy,” Remus laughed.

“I do not follow her like a puppy. That makes me sound so…girly,” James protested, defending his manhood.

“Yeah, Moony, he’s not like a puppy…at least the dog would have more sense. Plus, we dogs are much cuter,” Sirius tittered.

“Hey! When did this become pick-on-James evening?” Harry’s dad objected. “I thought we were talking about Lily?”

“No, Prongs, you were talking about her. As usual. We, however, decided to move on to more important matters,” Sirius told him, his mocking smile still firmly set in his lips. It never seemed to leave them, Harry noticed.

“Like why Harry was out here in the first place,” Remus suggested, looking at Harry curiously to drag him back from his humorous musings.

“I was just out for a walk with Ron and Hermione,” he answered truthfully.

“To talk about something that couldn’t be risked being overheard?” Remus pressed. Harry sighed. The young Remus Lupin was just as observantly all-knowing as his older replica. It wasn’t such a good thing all the time when the power was used against him.

But Harry nodded in any case, having reached his quota for lying and half-truths for the night. “You could say that.”

“Is that what you were talking to Evans about too?” James questioned.

Again, all Harry could do was nod. “A little bit, yeah.”

Sirius looked outraged. “Oh what, do we’re the only ones not being filled in on this new super-secret information? Why are you keeping us in the dark now, mister? Are we not good enough for you? Huh?”

Harry wanted to laugh at Sirius calling him “mister” but the repeat of this dreaded conversation for the third time in one night was really killing his good mood vibes.

“I’m not keeping you in the dark about anything. There’s nothing new going on.”

“Nothing at all? You have no plans yet?” James asked after a pause, sounding surprisingly sympathetic.

Harry looked up at his father, or soon-to-be anyway, and paused only a moment before answering honestly; “Well, we’ve decided to start by looking in Dumbledore’s office for anything that might help.”

The three Marauders glanced at each other apprehensively as though seeking to remind themselves of the sensitive subject they were entering.

It was James who spoke first in the end. “Sounds good to me. Let us know when you’re going, we could help.”

“Yeah, Dumbledore is sure to have a hell of a lot of junk to go through. Besides, three extra heads are sure to be helpful,” Sirius said.

“Well, more like two extra heads,” Remus said with a grin, “since Padfoot really doesn’t count as having a fully functioning brain.”

Sirius gave a loud theatrical sob. “Why must you keep questioning my intelligence, Moony? It hurts me deep!” Sirius cried, sounding as though he had been emotionally and mentally crushed.

But the other Marauders, in their own true Maraudering fashion, didn’t buy a word of it. They both broke out in snorting laughter.

“I’m not questioning your intelligence, Padfoot,” Remus said, trying to keep a straight face. “I’m just pointing out you lack of it.”

James and Remus, now joined by Harry, broke into another gale of laughter as they walked on, Sirius pouting along beside them.

Harry just thought they’d been successfully put off track and he was safe when James turned to him again, his face serious.

“I mean it though, Harry. We’ll help you with this. Anything you find out, or anything we can do just tell us.”

Harry smiled at his Dad, more grateful for the offer than he could really show. He couldn’t tell them just how much he’d wished over the years that he could have his Dad by his side to get through this with. And now he had. He couldn’t convey this to James, however, without giving away the fact that he didn’t have a father in this time. All he could find to say was; “Thanks, James.”

As an after thought, he added; “You know, Lily might like you a bit more if you acted more like this around her.”

Harry was hoping his Dad would keep up his mature stance and agree with him, or say he wanted to make Lily see the best in him…or something relatively along those lines. What he actually got was nowhere near the mark.

“You mean she already likes me a little?!” James Potter exclaimed, grinning gleefully.

Sirius and Remus groaned as though a baby they had spent hours trying to get to sleep had just woken up again.

“That’s not what he’s saying, Prongs,” Sirius said, hanging his head like he was wondering what he’d ever done to deserve this torture.

“Yes it is. Harry said Lily might like me a bit more if I acted more seriously. So, if that would make her like me more, then she obviously likes me a little already!” James explained triumphantly.

Remus shook his head. “You really don’t get the point he’s trying to make, Prongs.”

But James’ spirits were not to be dampened by “real meanings”. He grinned on. “Of course I do, Moony. You seem to be the one missing the point. Can’t you see how wonderful this is? It’s such a massive break-through! She never liked me at all before, but now she’s admitted to Harry that she does! It’s all so perfect!”

He was like a dog with a bone; he’s seen the value of it and there was no way he was dropping it.

Harry cringed at the nightmare he had just made of his mother’s life. Any chance James wouldn’t mention it to her?

But Sirius, obviously not bothering to even try correct his friend, wasn’t following Harry’s wishes.

“Well then, why don’t we go up to the common room now and tell her how you know all about her love for you?” he suggested mischievously.

“You’re right, Padfoot” Let’s go,” James agreed instantly, grinning like a maniac. If Harry hadn’t been here the whole time he would have thought someone had put a spell on James to make him act like this. But no, this was just his regular reaction to Lily. Lucky for everyone else…

“Off we go!” Sirius encouraged as the two of them took off at a brisk walk towards the castle, Remus and Harry following on quickly behind them in an attempt to keep up.

“Why did Sirius do that? He knows Lily will kill him,” Harry said.

Remus smiled and gave a shrug. “Who knows why Sirius does anything? He gets a laugh out of watching James and Lily fight I guess…and it’s one of the few occasions he doesn’t have to listen to him talk about her for a while.”

Harry groaned, already picturing how his mother would react. “Any chance we can stop him?”

“Not a hope,” Remus answered promptly, grinning broadly now. “Should be interesting though.”

The smile was infectious and Harry couldn’t stop himself grinning as he followed his crazy Dad and godfather through the huge wooden doors and into the Entrance Hall.

But the face he encountered when he stepped inside made it slide from his lips.

It was Ginny.

Remus, glancing quickly at Harry to make sure he hadn’t done a runner or anything, turned to the red haired girl in their path. “Hey, Ginny.”

“Hey, Remus. Hi, Harry,” Ginny said, smiling politely.

Avoiding catching her eye, Harry said quietly; “Hi, Ginny.”

Sensing the tension, Remus decided to intervene. “Are you going to the common room, Ginny? You don’t want to miss the hassle those two are going to cause poor Lily.”

Ginny smiled again and shook her head. “Actually, I was just heading out for a walk before I went to bed. Maybe Lily sensed the trouble coming though and decided to get rid of all the witnesses. She’s the one who suggested I get some air.”

Remus nodded and cast a glance up the stairs at his friends’ retreating backs with a grin. He didn’t want to miss the fun. “Alright then, enjoy yourself. ‘Night, Ginny.”

“Goodnight, Remus. ‘Night, Harry.”

Harry then made a split second decision that he wasn’t sure he’d regret or not. He knew Ginny coming down here now for a walk was no coincidence - she had pretty much just hung his mother. But something twigged in him that maybe he should give his mother’s advice a shot.

Maybe it would pay off.

“Mind if I join you, Ginny?”

Ginny and Remus (obviously distracted from the drama unfolding upstairs by this new top-priority episode) turned to stare at him in surprise. At least he could still turn on the shock every now and then, he hadn’t lost it. Harry tried to remain calm as they looked at him in wonder and refrain from saying “Never mind, I’ll just head to bed”. It was Ginny who recovered first.

“I don’t mind,” she said, not entirely sure what else she could say. Surprised was not enough to describe how she felt right now. But on top of that there was something more. Was it fear or excitement? Good or bad?

Guess she’d just have to wait and see.

“Ok then, I’ll see you both later,” Remus said, before making his way up the staircase. He too was a little stunned by Harry’s unsuspected act of warmth towards Ginny, and it took all his non-Marauder will power to walk away and not follow them. He was happy for Harry, and a little proud that he was doing the right thing.

This was proving to be an interesting night.

Meanwhile, Harry caught up with Ginny as the two of them headed out towards the grounds. Neither of them said anything as they strolled towards the lake and Harry began to regret his rather hasty decision. What was the point of doing this, he wondered? Other than to torture himself by being so close to her, he couldn’t see where his fleeting logic had come from.

He chanced a glance at her, hoping she wouldn’t notice. She was staring at the grass under her feet, her long red hair blowing slightly in the night breeze, and a little frown creasing her forehead and pouting her lips. She didn’t look happy. And it was his fault.

He would say something, talk to her. Take Lily’s advice and not shut her out. Yes, he could do that. This “walk and talk” thing had worked pretty well over-all during the rest of the night, it would be the same now. Yes, he would do it.

But when he looked at her again his new resolve faded. What if Lily was wrong? What if letting Ginny back into his life wasn’t for the best? He couldn’t picture her getting hurt, or dying and never getting to see that beautiful face again. It was just too horrible. No, he couldn’t risk that.

“It wouldn’t kill you to let some happiness into your life…you’ve much rather have happy memories of them than just knowing you shut them off”. Lily’s pep-talk from earlier came back to him and he made his mind up. He wasn’t sure if he was right or wrong, but he didn’t want something to happen to Ginny (even if he took every measure to prevent it) and have nothing to remember her by, like what had happened with his parents. Especially because he had a choice this time.

What he was going to say stumped him though. Fortunately for him he didn’t have to worry over coming up with a neutral topic that would not lead to awkwardness. Ginny came to rescue a moment later, either by seeing the confusion on his face or her own determination not to waste this time.

“So what was the “drama” Remus was talking about?” she asked.

Harry permitted himself a smile - he’d almost forgotten about the chaos James was sure to be causing right about now. “Well, James kind of got the impression that Lily likes him into his head. He’s off to tell her about it.”

“How on earth did he get that idea?” Ginny asked, a tiny smile on her lips.

“He…He may have picked it up from something I said,” Harry admitted.

“What did you say?” Ginny’s smile was growing now, letting herself loosen the caution that had surrounded her at Harry’s request to go on the walk with her. Maybe it wouldn’t be as bad as she thought…

“I said that maybe Lily would like him a bit more if he was more serious around her. Unfortunately he focused on the “bit more” part instead of the serious part. After that he ran off claiming Lily was already in love with him,” Harry explained, grinning widely.

Ginny’s laugh echoed around the grounds, making Harry’s heart stop momentarily. It had been so long since he’d heard it.

“Sounds like James alright. Poor Lily!” she laughed, shaking her head.

“Yeah, she’ll probably curse him or something,” Harry said.

“Makes you wonder how they’re ever going to get married when they’re like this now.”

Harry nodded. He’d been wondering the same thing. This was the year James and Lily were meant to get together. But so far Lily was showing no signs of warming to her future boyfriend/husband. It was beginning to look like Sirius’s theory of Lily being put under a spell might just pan out.

“Has anyone found a way for them to go home yet?” Ginny asked attentively, not sure how much she could ask, if anything, before Harry told her to stop. But she was pleasantly surprised when he answered her.

“Not yet as far as I know. McGonagall and Professor Lupin are meant to be working on it but they haven’t come up with anything yet.”

Ginny nodded, then dared to push her luck enough to ask; “So what are they going to do while they’re here? Are they going to help you?”

Harry fought against a sigh, not wanting to make Ginny angry. He supposed now he had been reaching a bit too far to hope that this topic wouldn’t come up.

“I guess so.”

Ginny nodded her head again and looked down at the ground moving away under her feet. She wanted to scream and yell that it wasn’t fair she was the only one being left in the dark, but she didn’t. She wouldn’t let Harry see her like that anymore, she vowed. No matter how strongly she felt or how much she was hurt, she could be calm, in control. She’d let him see she was capable of dealing with anything by coping with this, by acting mature and not like a baby.

“Why can’t I then?” she asked quietly but firmly, glancing up at him. He wasn’t looking at her.

“It’s so dangerous, Ginny. I just don’t want you to be hurt,” Harry said, pleading with her to understand and let it go.

But Ginny’s new mature attack strategy didn’t involve letting go of anything.

“I know, Harry. I know how dangerous the war is, I’m not an idiot. But there’s still a chance I could get hurt even if you leave me here and ignore me,” she said calmly, unknowingly echoing Lily’s same sentiment from not too long before. “I just don’t want to be left in the dark all the time.”

Harry took a deep breath. “I don’t like doing this to you, Ginny,” he said sadly. “But there’s no other choice.”

Ginny couldn’t help it and mumbled; “There could be if you really wanted one.”

Harry sighed. “It’s not as easy as wanting to, Ginny, you know that. I’d have things different if I could, believe me. I don’t want to be the Chosen One, I don’t want to leave you or bring anyone with me. But that’s just the way it is.”

Ginny wanted to cry and yell at the same time. Why did he have to keep saying he was leaving her? The Harry she knew was already gone and had been since Dumbledore’s funeral…but this Harry was making it sound like her one was never coming back. Like she couldn’t have him back when this was all over. That couldn’t be though, Ginny was adamant. She wanted him back.

But as Harry had just pointed out; you didn’t always get what you wanted.

“So you’re really going to do it?” she asked to try distract herself. “You’re going to track Him down? Kill Him?”

That was twice in one night Ginny had sounded like Lily, and Harry wasn’t sure it was a good thing. He couldn’t compete with two of them battering with about it. If this kept up he might actually start agreeing with them, and he definitely couldn’t afford that.

He wasn’t too happy she kept asking about this but he guessed it was to be expected. Maybe Lily was right that completely shutting Ginny out wasn’t the way to go…But neither would be to suddenly start telling her everything. There had to be a safe road…but Ginny was making it shockingly difficult to find.

“Yes,” he said heavily. “I have to.”

Ginny paused for a moment, trying to judge how far she was pushing him, before she asked; “Can…Can you talk about what you’re going to do?”

Harry stalled, not wanting to give anything away or squash all hopes of talking to Ginny ever again. “I’m not sure what to do at the minute,” he said with hesitant truth. “But if I did, I don’t think it would be safe to talk about it.”

There was that word again; safe. Her safety, that was all that mattered. He didn’t seem to care how much he hurt her himself once no one else could. What sort of messed up twisted logic was that?!

Ginny took a deep breath, trying to calm herself before her emotional temper destroyed everything. Damn red hair, you couldn’t trust it!

“Why did you come out here with me, Harry?” she asked, pausing in her tracks to look up at his face.

Harry stopped too, looking confused. “What do you mean?”

“Why did you bother coming out here with me if you’re not going to talk to me? Is it jus another mind-game you’re playing or something? Because I think we’ve been doing enough of them lately.”

“No, it was nothing like that. I’m not playing games with you, Ginny.”

“Then why?”

Harry sighed, finally looking down at her face, her brown eyes immediately capturing him in their enchantment. Oh how much he’d give to just stay looking into them forever and forget everything else. But, of course, that was impossible.

“I just wanted to talk to you again. I don’t want to cut you completely out of my life anymore, Gin,” he told her.

“But then why won’t you-” she started but Harry cut her off.

“I can’ tell you about the Voldemort stuff for the same reason I always couldn’t; it’s too risky for you. But cutting you out all the time when we came back to Hogwarts was impossible. You were everything,” Harry said, blinking a small smile at her. “I thought maybe we could compromise.”

Ginny stared up at him, now towering a fair few inches over her. She didn’t know what to say. How exactly could she respond to that? In a way it was just what she wanted, but at the same time it was all wrong. She was fairly certain this compromise would be void of any romantic action and he’d already stated her involvement in his heroic war duties was non-existent. So where exactly did that leave her? Was she just going to be something he picked up and put down every now and then to keep his guilt at bay? She wasn’t sure she’d even be stretched to be called a friend because friends weren’t left out of such huge vital chapters of their lives.

“What made you change your mind?” she asked, trying to keep the vibration of her hammering heart out of her voice.

Harry glanced up at the windows that belonged to Gryffindor Tower and sighed. “I just had some sense knocked into me.”

Ginny followed his gaze and the meaning behind his words clicked into place. Lily. He’d talked to Lily, it was the only viable explanation. He hadn’t listened to Hermione, or Ron…or her. It made sense that the one to get him to see straight was his mother, and she was glad that he’d been given the opportunity for it to happen.

But she couldn’t help but feel a little gutted that he hadn’t discovered it himself out of his feelings for her. What were his feelings for her now anyway? She wasn’t sure anymore. He seemed to be changing them on a daily basis.

“Gin? Are you ok?” Harry asked worriedly, reaching out his hand cautiously to touch her shoulder. At the contact, his first with her in many months, it felt likes sparks had shot up his arm. He withdrew his hand swiftly. He couldn’t go that far, not now.

Ginny looked up again, drawing herself back to earth, realising she must have zoned out. Harry was looking at her with concern but his eyes were guarded.

Looks like that romance question was answered.

“So what’s going to happen, Harry? You’re going to say hello to me in the hall and sit at the same table for breakfast, is that it?” she asked, turning again towards the water.

“What are you talking about, Ginny?” Harry asked, genuinely confused.

“I’m talking about what I’m meant to do, Harry. What’s going to happen to me. I don’t want to be a tiny piece of your life that you’re just holding on to for an odd friendly chat. I don’t want to be with you one minute and shut out the next when something more important comes along. I definitely don’t want to be left to wonder about what’s happening, to be left by myself and know nothing. I don’t want to be used like that, Harry. I won’t be,” Ginny said. Her voice was steady but her whole body shook.

Harry was silenced by shock and confusion. He had finally admitted he couldn’t go on without Ginny in his life, and now she was saying…well, he wasn’t sure what she was saying.

“I can’t just flicker into your life, Harry. I can’t live like that. I’m not just going to sit on the sidelines while you go off, worry myself sick and then smile nicely whenever you look my way. I can’t do it.”

“I’m not asking you to do that, Ginny. I just…” Harry trailed off, not knowing himself anymore what he was trying to do. Whatever he did he couldn’t seem to get it right.

“You’re just what, Harry?” Ginny asked bitingly, turning her blazing eyes back to him. “Don’t say you’re trying to protect me because I’m really getting tired of that line.”

He had wanted to keep things civil between them tonight, to get through a conversation with her without it turning into a shouting match. But his efforts seemed to be in vain. His temper was bubbling.

“But I am trying to protect you! Merlin, Ginny, why can’t you see that? You have no idea how hard all this is for me, and you sure as hell aren’t making it any easier for me,” Harry burst.

Ginny glared up at him. “You’ve no idea how hard this is on me, Harry. None! And what’s worse is you don’t seem to care either. I know what you have to do, Harry, I get it, ok. But you’re the one who’s making everything harder for yourself. If you’d just let me in, let someone get inside that thick head of yours to help you, it would be a hell of a lot easier for everyone.”

“I’m not here to make things easy for anyone. I’m here to kill Voldemort and I won’t let anyone get killed in the process just because I wanted someone to talk to! Definitely not you!” Harry shouted in return.

Ginny glared into those emerald eyes she loved so much, her fury and devastation at having yet another argument with Harry flowing through her. “No one’s going to die, Harry. Not unless you drive them to do it themselves with your pig-headed stubbornness!”

Harry didn’t respond. The couple stood there, breathing heavily from their argument yet never breaking the eye contact between them. The amount of energy buzzing in the air was colossal. If it could be harnessed into a spell then Voldemort would be dead as a doornail in a flash, along with all his wishy-washy Death Eaters.

Needless to say however, it would not take a detective to figure out the cause of all the hassle was a little four letter word that could tear the world apart and put it back together all in the one.

These two were just at the tearing stage.

Ginny was the first to look away this time, unable to stay dry-eyed after looking at him for so long. “We should go back. It’s late,” she said simply before setting off in front of him, directly avoiding his gaze now.

Harry sighed and shook his head, trying to rid himself of the circus of frustration, love, fury and pure adoration that were causing havoc in his mind as he watched Ginny go ahead of him.

“Just walk it off, Harry,” he told himself. “Just walk it off.”

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Hey everyone! Long time no see I know, I hold my hand up for that one it’s all my fault. I’ve been drawing a complete blank on all my stories for the last while and it got me so annoyed that I just gave up trying to write them (really really sorry about that!). But I’m back now, hope you all won’t boycott me now or something ‘cause of how terrible I’ve been!

I’m on holidays in France at the minute (amazing place I tell you) and I’m writing with a vengeance. So I wrote this nice long chapter for you all as an apology…sorry it isn’t the best or most interesting in the world. This is a difficult story to write; it’s putting a world we know really well with a world we know a lot about and trying to get them to blend. Complicated stuff, which is why it will probably be full of chapters like this that just seem to waffle. Sorry about that, but there is a point behind all my ramblings I promise you!

Anyway, as I said, I’ve been writing a lot during my holidays so there will be plenty of updates coming on the old stories and even a few new ones emerging. Hope you’ll read them and tell me what you think! Thanks again if you’re reading this for sticking around!

See you again soon, guarantee it! Love Irish_Ginny = )

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