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Wishful Thinking
The Man Who Never Learns

By Kinsfire

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Author Notes:

Some didn't see the reference to Liz Harrison (The Golden Seraphim) giving me permission to take over the story.

I'm stating it again, just to be certain that people see it. I am not plagiarising the story - I have the permission of the author to take the story over.

As I stated in the description of the story:

Some of you may recognise this story as looking just like one that a writer named Liz Harrison wrote. Same name, even! The reason is that she has given me the story to see what I might do with it. She has dropped off the 'net for a while, and wanted to see this one finished.

In other words - I have her permission to be working with this story.

The first chapters are the ones written by Liz. From Chapter 8 on, you begin to see my work. (I picked up from where she left off in Chapter 8.)

Wishful Thinking

Chapter 1 — The Man Who Never Learns

It was with a shaking hand that Remus lifted the lid of the dusty old box.

He knelt gingerly on the floor of the old bedroom, tears prickling at his eyes.   The door was shut, but not locked, and all the rest were down in the kitchen.     He had been going through Sirius’s things for over an hour, but still, he had not found his friend’s will.   And even though Gringotts would have a copy, Dumbledore had insisted that the Order needed to see it first.

The headmaster had finally confronted Fudge the day before with the news of Sirius’s innocence — in front of Rita Skeeter.   Surprisingly, the malicious reporter who had made Remus yearn to draw blood in Harry’s fourth year was turning out to be quite useful in the long run.   Not ten minutes after Dumbledore had given evidence of Sirius’s innocence, Skeeter had been racing around the Daily Prophet offices to get her story onto the presses.   And only an hour earlier, the Daily Prophet had printed an official apology to Sirius Black from none other than Cornelius Fudge himself.

Too bad Sirius wasn’t around to see it.

Remus sighed tiredly, rubbing the back of his neck as he rocked back on his heels.     One more box emptied and still, no will.   He knew Sirius had written one — he’d seen Sirius write one, and seen him write letter after letter after…

"Remus?" A soft voice interrupted his thoughts, and he turned quickly to see Nymphadora Tonks leaning against the doorjam, a look of quiet concern on her face.   "Dumbledore’s here.   The meeting’s starting."

He nodded shortly, rising to his feet and followed her out of the room.     But at the doorway, he glanced back, wondering where Sirius had hidden the things Dumbledore so feared.


The gathering was their fourth after the Department of Mysteries fiasco the month before.     Remus settled himself into a chair next to Tonks, being careful not to meet Snape’s eyes as the bat-like man swept into the room.   Ever since their fight on the night of Sirius’s death, the man had been even more venomous than usual.   The man’s hateful, vindictive comments were even beginning to try the patience of easy-going, kind-hearted Arthur Weasley.

Dumbledore, of course, did nothing.   He’d never bothered to restrain the man while the Marauders were in school, after all…

The man in question walked quickly to the head of the table before lowering himself into his seat and looking gravely around at the rest of them.     "Good evening, friends," Dumbledore murmured, and the Order responded quietly.     "I have made a small amount of progress on the matter I have been researching on my own. Sadly, I have discovered that my fears were not unfounded."  

Pausing mournfully, Dumbledore leaned forward in his seat, linking his hands and gazing earnestly at each of them.   "Lord Voldemort’s possession of Harry in the Ministry atrium did, in fact, strengthen the link between them.   Unfortunately, this leaves Harry much more open to visions and even, I fear, a second possession attempt.   Severus," he began, and the sallow-faced man flicked cold, black eyes in the headmaster’s direction, "I will have to ask you to set aside your anger and resume tutoring Harry in Occlumency."

"A marvelous idea," Remus murmured, somehow unable to stop himself, "considering how well that worked the last time…"

"It was not my failing, werewolf, but the brat’s," Snape sneered.     "I cannot force the idiotic boy to learn that which is beyond him…   Of course, he might be more motivated now that he sees the consequences of his selfishness," the man hissed.

Remus glared at Snape, shifting very quickly, but Arthur, sitting across from him, placed a gentle hand on the younger man’s arm.   "Easy, Remus," the Weasley patriarch said quietly.   "Let him say whatever he wants.   Everyone here who cares about Harry knows that all he’s doing is spouting poison."

"At least I didn’t get that mutt killed!" Snape erupted, shooting to his feet, and Tonks’ eyes flashed.   "At least I face my mistakes and deal with them!   But no, Saint Potter, Gryffindor Golden Boy, can do no wrong!"

At this, Albus sighed tiredly.   Arthur drew in a sharp breath, the tips of his ears turning red.   Kingsley Shacklebolt, eyes steadily on Snape, leaned his chair back on two legs and slipped a hand into his pocket.   And Moody, his fake eye settled straight on Snape’s face, clenched his hand around his wand, a scowl on his face.

"Face your mistakes, Severus?" Remus replied, arching a brow.   "Since when?   Even when you came back to Dumbledore’s side, you told him that it had been all Sirius’s fault you went over to the Death Eaters.     You’ve never owned up to anything in your miserable little existence."

"How dare —"

"Now, now, Severus," Dumbledore cut in serenely, having regained his composure.   "Keep in mind that the man is grieving.   Do not take his words to heart.   And as for you, Remus," the old man peered sternly at Remus over his half-moon spectacles, "I had expected better of you."

McGonagall, to Dumbledore’s right, glanced sharply at the headmaster, her mouth set in a thin line.  

"Now, as I was saying," Dumbledore continued, even as Emmeline Vance glared over at Remus, "Harry is now much more open to visions and possession.   I fear that if one of us were to go see the child, Voldemort may influence his actions via their link, and perhaps even try to possess the boy again.   Therefore, I am asking that all contact with Harry be cut off for the duration of the summer."  

Kingsley’s chair fell on all fours with a dull thud.   "Excuse me?" he asked, gazing at Dumbledore in confusion.   "Did I hear you correctly, Headmaster?   I seem to recall that we had planned to train young Harry this summer."

"Yes," Dumbledore sighed, "I had hoped Harry would be able to benefit from your tutelage, but alas, it seems that such a thing would be too dangerous…"

"Owling him would be too dangerous?"   Tonks asked, staring at Dumbledore incredulously.   "I’d planned to take him, Ginny and Hermione out shopping for new clothes for the poor kid.   You have seen the rags those Dursleys make him wear, haven’t you?   And now you want to just abandon him there for the whole summer without any word from any of us?   Again?"

"Harry does not need new clothes," Dumbledore replied calmly.   "His will still fit him for quite some —"

"He looks like a street urchin!"   Tonks cut in, still staring at Dumbledore.  

"Albus, I think perhaps —" McGonagall cut in, fingering her cane nervously.

"No, Minerva," Dumbledore said sternly.   "Harry’s well-being comes first.   Are you willing to gamble his safety for some new clothes?"

The Transfiguration professor’s mouth, if possible, tightened into an even thinner line, but Arthur smiled grimly.  

"Exactly, Albus," the red-headed man put in.   "Harry’s well-being comes first.   Are you willing to gamble his well-being for his physical safety?"

"They are one and the same, Arthur," Dumbledore replied smoothly.

"No, Albus, they’re not," Kingsley said solemnly, and the Headmaster held up a hand to stop the flow of conversation.

"There will be no arguments," Dumbledore stated sternly.   "Harry must remain at Privet Drive for his own good," he stared at Remus, as if daring the man to argue.   "He will not be contacted.   Severus, you may go see Harry for Occlumency lessons — and no others.   The matter is closed."

"You know, Dumbledore," Remus said lazily, tipping his chair back and staring at the ceiling, "the last time I checked, we were your allies—"

Turning his head, Remus stared at the headmaster with a blank face, speaking in a calm, quiet voice, "Not your followers."  

A stunned silence followed Remus’s words, and as he watched, the headmaster blinked and drew back, startled.     Without waiting for anyone to reply, Remus dropped his chair back down to the floor and stood up, striding out of the room.       He returned to Sirius’s bedroom, rage growing within him, and went back to searching for his brother’s will.

And if he found something to prove that Sirius had had suspicions about Dumbledore, so much the better.


Eighty-nine.   Eighty-eight.   Eighty-seven.   Eighty-six…

Harry threw ball up into the air over and over again, catching it lazily every time.   He leaned his head back against the wall and sighed, stretching out on his bed with a frown.     Glancing absently at the parchment on his wall, he sighed, wondering how long he’d be left with the Dursleys this time…

"Wotcher, Harry," a cheerful voice cut into his thoughts, and Harry stood up quickly, wand in hand, and pointed it at the intruder.   Nymphadora Tonks, hands in the air in front of her, stepped carefully through his doorway.   "How’re you doing, kid?"

Choosing to ignore the nickname, Harry shrugged and absently tossed his ball into the air.     "It’s boring here," he replied honestly.   "I have nothing to do but…"

"Think about Sirius?" Tonks finished softly, her eyes tearing up.   When Harry swallowed convulsively and nodded, she took another step into the room and shut the door behind her.   "It’s okay to grieve for him, Harry," she said quietly.   "You have to.   But try not to dwell on it, all right?   Find things to do.   Somehow," she finished darkly.

"I’ll manage," Harry replied heavily, and Tonks smiled at him.   "What are you doing here, anyway?"

Immediately, the Auror’s expression darkened, and Harry blinked in surprise.   "What’s wrong?" he asked, his voice shaking slightly.   "Is anyone…?"

"No one’s hurt," Tonks reassured him.   "Yet," she added darkly.   "Harry… Dumbledore’s decided to cut you off again."

Startled, Harry sat down hard on his bed.   "What?" he asked, immediately going pale.   "For... for how long?"  

Tonks winced.   "All summer.   But Harry — we’ll figure something out.   Don’t worry."

He glanced up, baffled.   "But… I thought…" he began, and Tonks grinned.  

"I’m here, aren’t I?" she asked, her voice chipper again.   "Moody’s on guard duty, which is how I got in.   He, Remus, Kingsley, Arthur and I will work something out, don’t worry.   We’re not going to leave you here until September."

"Thank you," Harry breathed, a smile growing on his face, and Tonks cringed yet again.  

"Don’t thank me just yet, Harry," the metamorphmagus replied, her hair changing quickly from bright pink to a sky blue.   "You see, there’s more.   Dumbledore’s sending Snape to Privet Drive to restart your Occlumency lessons."

Tonks was slightly unsettled by the silence that followed that statement.   From all she’d seen and heard, Harry had one hell of a temper, and to hear that no one but Snape would be near him all summer — she watched him warily as he blinked, staring at her, and sure enough—


"Harry," she said quickly, grabbing his arm to pull him back down to the bed he’d jumped up from, "we’ll figure something out.   Moody will stand guard on the days Snape has to teach you, or Remus or I will come with him.   We won’t leave you alone with that… that… Death Eater."  

"I thought the Order all knew—"

"Yes, yes, he’s a spy for Dumbledore, he’s working for the greater good and he’s only a snarky bastard to "maintain his image".   I know the whole spiel," she replied impatiently.   "But I also know the truth, which is that Severus Sebastian Snape is a foul, vindictive and petty little man, and that’s not exactly the type of person I’d trust around you unsupervised.   Or supervised, as a matter of fact," she added thoughtfully.

Once again, a startled silence followed her words, but after a moment, Harry began to snicker.   "Sebastian?" he repeated.   "Severus Sebastian Snape?   Wait ’til I tell Ron…"  

Eyeing the young wizard warily, Tonks bit back a smile.   "I have to go now, Harry," she said quietly.   "I just wanted to make sure you knew… We’ll be in touch somehow.   We just need to figure out what to do first."

"All right," Harry agreed, and he stood up, walking the metamorphmagus to his bedroom door.   "Tonks?" he added, and the blue-haired witch turned, raising an eyebrow in question.   "Thanks."  

She smiled back at him and, pulling a Portkey from her pocket, disappeared.

Tiredly, Harry sighed, rubbing a hand across his forehead, and turned back to his room.   He shut the door and settled once more on his bed.

Eighty-five. Eighty-four.   Eighty-three. Eighty-two.   Eighty-one.


She moved quickly out of the house, her face set in a determined expression.   Walking past the large oak tree in the front yard, she murmured softly, "Contact Remus."   When the space beneath the tree rustled and a soft pop was heard, she turned and waved a pair of young men out from behind the dustbins down the street.

"All right, Weasleys," she said sternly.   "You watch this house until Moody and I come back, got it?   We shouldn’t be more than an hour or two, and if any other Order members show up, you’re to call me on this right away, got it?" Tonks passed the brothers a small hand mirror, waiting while they nodded their agreement.   "Good," she murmured, and apparated away without another word.

When she was gone, Fred and George took up their positions below Harry’s window and settled in.  

"George?" Fred whispered, holding up the mirror and striking a pose.   "How do I look?"

"Dashing, Gred."

As always."  


As soon as the front door shut behind her, she moved up the stairs as quickly and quietly as possible, pausing only to knock on the door to Sirius’s old bedroom.   When the door opened, she slipped through quickly, her eyes immediately finding Remus.

He stood by the desk with Kingsley, speaking quietly as they rifled through some papers.   A few feet away, Moody stood, his fake eyeball spinning every which way.   It paused on her and Moody nodded shortly before resuming his scan of the premises.   Bill, who had opened the door for Tonks, walked over to Remus and touched his shoulder, murmuring something to the older man.   As he did so, Charlie wandered over to an old armoire against the back wall and began going through it.

"How is he?" Remus asked worriedly, spinning to face her, and Tonks winced.

"He’s…" she began, brushing her hair from her face.   Absently, she frowned at it and screwed her face up in concentration, and immediately, her hair turned dark purple.   She crossed the room and threw herself down onto the bed, dropping her head down into her hands.   "He’s going crazy in there, Remus," she muttered.   "I found him just tossing a ball up into the air and counting… looked like he’d been at it for a while.   And when I said Dumbledore had cut him off…"   She looked up, her eyes sparkling with tears.   "His heart just broke, Remus.   It was horrible."

"Did you tell him about the Occlumency lessons?" Kingsley asked, his deep voice laced with concern.

She nodded.   "Yes, and he was furious.   It was almost better than… than…"

She broke off, gazing into the distance, and Remus moved to sit beside her, touching her arm comfortingly.  


"Minerva’s coming," Moody broke in, and Remus shot to his feet.   Immediately, he moved to the desk again, rifling through it, and Tonks moved to help Charlie go through the armoire as Bill checked a small hope chest at the base of the bed.  

A sharp rapping sounded against the door, and Remus absent-mindedly called, "Come in!"   Through the door stepped McGonagall, her eyes solemn and weary-looking.

"You may stop acting now," she told them all sharply.   "Moody, your shift ends in an hour.   Be sure to have the—" she paused, scanning the room, "—Weasley twins out of Privet Drive in half an hour at the latest.   Elphias Doge is on the next shift, and he’s always early."

Ignoring the stares of everyone in the room, save Moody, who was still checking their surroundings, McGonagall shut the door behind herself and frowned. "Do what you can for him," she said suddenly.   "Albus is a good man, but sometimes he forgets—" McGonagall broke off, swallowing.   "I told him they were the worst sort… the day we left Harry there.     He just doesn’t listen…"

Though Remus was beginning to question the validity of her first statement, he smiled sympathetically at the deputy headmistress and head of Gryffindor House.     "We’ll help him," he assured her.   "Don’t worry."

Swallowing slightly, the deputy headmistress nodded, turned and left the room, disappearing down the stairs.

"Wow," Tonks murmured, staring after McGonagall.   "Who would have guessed…?"

"It’s not much," Remus agreed, "but it’s a step in the right direction.   Bill, would you be willing to swing by Diagon Alley?"

The eldest Weasley son nodded, picking up his leather jacket from where it hung over the back of Sirius’s desk chair.   "I’ll check to see if the mirrors are in yet," he agreed, waving over his shoulder as he left the room.

The group waited for a moment before speaking.   Finally, after Moody had nodded to show there was no one else in the house, Remus turned to Kingsley.   "Well?"   he asked.

"I spoke to Ollivander yesterday," the Auror replied, settling in Sirius’s desk chair.   "He refused to say anything.   But I also stopped by Fortescue’s — you remember, he was an Unspeakable during the first war, retired and took over the parlor when his older brother died — he said he’ll pass on whatever he can without breaking the Secrecy Oath.   I’m not sure how much that is, exactly, but anything’s better than nothing at all."

Remus nodded, ignoring the incredulous look spreading across Charlie’s face.   "You’ve been at this for a while, haven’t you?" Charlie breathed, staring at them.

"We all thought something was… off about Dumbledore’s orders last year," Tonks replied absent-mindedly.   "Telling us to keep our distance from Harry, give him space… A classmate had died right before his eyes.   The last thing he needed was space."

"Sirius, especially, was right pissed about it," Remus added.   "He started keeping a record of Dumbledore’s orders regarding Harry.   I don’t know where he put them, but they’re probably with his will, which is why I volunteered so quickly to try to find it."

"And Fortescue?" Charlie asked curiously.

"An old friend of Lily’s," Remus replied.   "I contacted him the summer before Harry’s third year — you remember, the one when he ran away? — and asked him to keep an eye on Harry for me.   He took a liking to Harry, and he’s been listening very carefully whenever someone mentioned the name "Potter" near his parlor for years."

"Where’s Arthur?" Tonks asked suddenly, as if just realizing the man wasn’t there.

"He had an idea about Occlumency," Kingsley replied, grinning.     "Have to give the man credit… I wouldn’t do it…"

"Well, he is the only one of us besides Bill and Charlie who needs to learn it," Remus murmured.   "Lycanthropes are immune and you Aurors are all taught a rough version when you join the Auror Corps.   He has the right idea."

"Oh, no," Tonks breathed.   "He’s not…"

Remus nodded shortly.   "He is."


Arthur took a deep breath before knocking on the large wooden door.   It had been a long day and he knew he’d have to get home to Molly within three hours at most… if he was home after seven, she’d flay him alive.   He tapped his foot impatiently when he heard movement from behind the door, stilling immediately as it opened.

Severus Snape stared at him from his potion’s lab, an expression of utter shock on his face.

"What in the world are you doing here, Weasley?" he demanded, and Arthur merely smiled politely.  

"May I come in?"

Snape stared at him for a few seconds longer, incredulous, before shoving the door open a few more inches, turning and striding away.     Taking that as an invitation, Arthur stepped into the door, shutting the door behind himself.

"What do you want, Weasley?"   Snape muttered angrily, bending over a steaming cauldron.

"I won’t pretend to like you," Arthur replied shortly.   "I think you’re a spiteful, bitter and petty old man, for all that you’re less than forty years old.   I hate the way you treat my kids — yes, that does include Harry and Hermione — and I can’t stand the way you treat Remus and Tonks."

Setting a ladle down with a solid thunk, Snape turned to gaze hatefully at the older man.   "And I abhor every one of you as well, Weasley, is that what you came here for?"

"But I know," Arthur continued as if he hadn’t heard the man, "that you’re caught between two masters, neither of whom have much regard for your well-being.   Knowing that, I’m sure you can understand why I don’t understand the fact that you have no sympathy at all for Harry, who is caught in a very similar situation to yours."

Snape froze.  

"Of all of us, you are the only one in a position to truly understand what he’s been through, except for those who have been through it with him.   You’re the only adult he knows who can understand.   And yet you hate him because of what his father did, and because of who you’ve deluded yourself to think he is."


"And now," Arthur continued, sitting down on a stool by Snape’s workstation, "that I’ve gotten that off my chest, I have a proposition for you."

The potions professor blinked, startled by the man’s audacity.   Not fazed in the least, Arthur gazed back at the man, waiting patiently.  

"I’m listening," Snape finally replied.

Arthur smiled.   "Excellent."   He leaned forward slightly.   "I can spare you the necessity of teaching Harry Occlumency."

"How?" Snape spat.   "Dumbledore ordered that the brat be taught."

"Teach me."   Arthur said quietly, and Snape drew back once more, startled, and stared at the man.   "I’d have to learn Legilimency as well, but that shouldn’t be difficult for a man of your talents."   He waited a few minutes before raising an eyebrow.   "Well?"  

"You will have to come here for two hours before every one of Potter’s lessons for your own tutoring session," Snape said finally.   "And you will need to use Polyjuice Potion."

As Arthur winced, Snape raised his wand and locked the door.  

"Get comfortable, Weasley, you’ll be here for quite a while."


Five out of six of the Ministry kids lounged lazily around Ron’s room, staring at the ceiling and walls as evening set in.  

"What do you think he’s doing right now?" Ginny asked from where she lay sprawled across the camp bed, a pillow hugged to her chest.  

"Nothing productive, I’m sure," Hermione replied, perching on Ron’s windowsill and frowning out at the night sky.   "He’s likely bored out of his mind."

"Maybe if he gets bored enough, he’ll start revising," Ron snickered, "and give you a run for your money."

Hermione sent a dark look Ron’s way.   "It’s not funny," she said sharply.   "Sirius just died and they’re leaving him alone with people who hate him!   It’s been a month!     What are they thinking?"

"You know," Neville spoke up sadly, "I don’t think they are."

Everyone in the room paused at that statement.   Hermione blinked on the windowsill, staring at Neville.   Luna, lying on Ron’s bed, lowered the upside down copy of the Quibbler and gazed at Neville over it.   Ron, standing by Luna, sat down hard on the edge of his bed.  

"What do you mean?" Hermione demanded, and Neville shifted in his seat nervously before settling down cross-legged next to Ginny.

"Well," he said anxiously, "it doesn’t seem like they’re really thinking for themselves.   Just… they’re following Dumbledore’s orders, instead.   And Dumbledore… well, he’s a good man, but he’s been leading the Light side so long — I think he’s forgotten we’re all human, really, especially Harry."

"A scary thought, that," Ron mused aloud as Hermione stood in stunned silence.   "What wouldn’t he do, then?"

"Good question," Neville murmured, gazing out the window.  

"We should go see him," Hermione said suddenly.

"Who, Dumbledore?" Ron asked, his brow furrowed.

Hermione rolled her eyes, leaning back against the frog tank against Ron’s wall. "No, you prat," she replied, "Harry."

"How could we get there, though?" Neville asked, frowning.

"If we could get to headquarters," Ginny replied — they had told Neville and Luna of the Order earlier that day — "then we could probably floo to Arabella Figg’s house and walk to Harry’s."

"Have you ever seen anybody floo in headquarters?" Ron pointed out.   "It’s probably not even connected to the network."

"And," Hermione added sadly, "we can’t just show up unexpectedly… That would cause considerable difficulty for his guards."

"An astute observation, Miss Granger," a merry voice cut in, and all five students spun to see their headmaster standing in the doorway.     "But there are even more difficulties in visiting young Harry than those that you have listed.   As it so happens," he stepped through the doorway, shutting the door behind himself, "Harry’s recent possession by Lord Voldemort makes him more susceptible to future possessions."  

"What?" Hermione asked.   "But how?   Harry drove him out!"

"Yes," Dumbledore agreed, "but it took some time.   And this time, if Voldemort were to possess Harry, he would waste no time in making him act.   He could kill one of you."

"We’re his friends," Ron replied.   "We’ll risk it.   Besides, what are the odds?"

"You will risk it, Ronald," Dumbledore agreed. "I, however, will not.   You must not contact Harry — by owl, in person or by any other means."

"With all due respect, Headmaster," Neville spoke up, "you have no authority to order us to cut off contact with him, nor to keep us from visiting him."

"An excellent point, Neville," Luna murmured dreamily, picking up her copy of the Quibbler once more.    

"As head of the Order—" Dumbledore began.

"We’re not members of your Order, Professor," Ginny pointed out.   "Students can’t join, remember?"

"I am also the headmaster of your—"

"School is not in session, Professor," Hermione pointed out.   "We are not on school grounds, and this is not a subject related to our schooling in any way, shape or form.   You’re running out of reasons, Professor."

"Miss Granger," Dumbledore smiled at her in a kindly, grandfather-like way.   "I understand you are very worried about Harry.   The truth is that I am, as well.   I fell that he needs space after—"

"What he needs," Hermione cut in scathingly, "is us."

"‘No man is an island,’" Luna spoke up dreamily, turning another page in the Quibbler.

"Then I suppose I’ll just have to go to your parents about this," Dumbledore said tiredly.   "I had hoped I wouldn’t need to do that, but as they do have authority over you…"

"I’m seventeen in September, Professor," Hermione said shortly, "and my parents agreed to emancipate me by Muggle law to ensure that I had the same legal status in both the magical and Muggle worlds.   And furthermore, they allow me to do what I feel is best.   If you go to them asking them to ban me from seeing Harry, you will find yourself forcibly removed from my house."

"Would you really do that to him, Hermione?" Dumbledore asked mournfully, and Hermione raised an eyebrow at him.   "What if Voldemort were to possess Harry, and he killed you?   He could never live with that!"

"So I’m supposed to avoid him for an indeterminate amount of time just in case Voldemort tries to possess him again?   I think not, Professor."   Rising to her feet, she walked past him to go downstairs.   "Thank you for your advice, Headmaster Dumbledore.   I’ll show you out."  

But rather than follow Hermione from the room, the elderly headmaster sighed.   "I had hoped it would not come to this," he said, and Hermione turned to watch him with narrowed, frightened eyes.   "I will have to bind your magic.   I cannot have you going to see Harry — it’s too dangerous."

"You can’t do that!" Ginny spoke up, shocked.   "You have no right!   It could kill us!"

"Only if done improperly, Miss Weasley," Dumbledore smiled indulgently at her, his eyes flickering over to Neville.   "I know the correct way to do a binding spell—"

Hermione turned white.   "Oh, my God," she whispered.   "Oh, my God."

"Miss Granger?" Dumbledore asked, his brow furrowed with concern.   "Are you all right?"

"Oh, my God," she whispered again, before spinning to scream down the stairs.   "Mr. Weasley!   Mr. Weasley!"

"Hermione!" Ron exclaimed, jumping in shock.   "What—?"

"Miss Granger," Dumbledore began, "I assure you that no harm—"

"Mr. Weasley!" she screamed again, and footsteps thundered up the stairs.   Reaching up her sleeve, Hermione drew her wand and pointed it at Dumbledore with a shaking hand.   "Don’t you move," she warned him, her voice quavering.   "Don’t you dare move."  

Dumbledore stared at her, baffled.   "Miss Granger, what—?"

A moment later, Arthur Weasley burst through the door, Bill, Charlie, Fred, George and Molly right behind him.   "Hermione, what on earth—?"

"He was going to put binding spells on us!" she exclaimed shrilly, her hand still shaking.   "He was going to bind our magic!   He said he was afraid we’d try to go see Harry and get hurt — he said he’d done it before…   He looked at Neville when he said it!" she screamed.   "Take it off him, you foul old man, take it off him!"  

Bill paled.   "Oh, lord," he murmured, and stepped forward slowly.   "Hermione," he said gently, laying a hand on her shoulder, "lower your wand.   We’ll take care of this—"

"Did you put one on Harry, too?" she demanded, staring at Dumbledore — she didn’t seem to hear Bill at all.   "Did you?   Answer me!"

"Hermione," Bill said again.   "Sit down.   We’ll get to the bottom of this."  

Her hand shaking horribly, Hermione lowered her wand, staring at Dumbledore with a look of utter contempt.   "How could you do this to them?" she asked, her voice still shaking.   "How could you do this?"  

"I’m wondering that myself, Albus," Arthur spoke up, and he stepped forward, moving to stand between Dumbledore and the students.   "Surely you’ve heard of cases where children have died from the trauma — and of course, the physical trauma — of having their magic bound."

"But that was only—"

"And I happen to know," Arthur cut Dumbledore off, "that you yourself nearly died when you were nine years old, because your Aunt Matilda had chosen to bind your magic, feeling you were dangerous to yourself and others!"

"But that’s only when it’s done improperly!" Dumbledore exclaimed, looking quite desperate.   "I would never endanger these children, or any others!"  

"But you have," Ron said quietly, and Dumbledore gazed at him, taken aback.   "Come on, Professor, don’t tell me you think of the Dursleys house as a safe environment for Harry."

"He has never come to harm—"

"They starved him!" Hermione burst out.   "They locked him in that room of his for weeks, feeding him through a cat flap in the door!   Fred and George told us!   They broke his arm when he was younger — he never told us why or when, but he did tell Ron and me that the Dursleys did it!   "Harry Hunting" was Dudley Dursley’s favorite sport as a child!   And you’re saying he’s never come to harm there?"

"Hermione, I—"

The bushy-haired witch burst into tears.   Crying in sympathy, Molly Weasley moved forward and wrapped an arm around Hermione’s shoulders, guiding her gently from the room.   When the door closed behind the two women, Arthur spoke up again.  

"Please remove the binding spells from Neville," he said.   "All of them."

Dumbledore closed his eyes.   Taking a deep breath, he raised his wand.     "I’m afraid this will hurt a great deal," he warned Neville sorrowfully.

Neville bit his lip.   "Just do it," he said nervously.  

With a few murmured words and a wave of his wand, Dumbledore removed all of the binding spells he had cast fifteen years before.     Trying to remain quiet, Neville bit down hard on his lower lip, his teeth slicing right through the skin.   As blood ran down his chin, he whimpered, clenching his fists, and Ginny gasped.   Finally, the pain became too much, and he screamed and collapsed.

Neville thrashed on the floor, clutching his chest as he screamed.   Cursing under his breath, Ron raced forward and hauled Neville to his feet, who whimpered once more.

"Chest… coming apart..." Neville hissed between labored breaths.

Ginny let out a cry and ran to help her brother, supporting Neville on his other side, and the two of them lowered him gently onto Ron’s bed.   Behind them, Luna threw open the bedroom door, and Hermione barreled through it a moment later, Molly on her heels.   Spotting Neville, Hermione ran to the side of Ron’s bed and lowered her ear to his chest.  

"He’s had a heart attack!" she exclaimed.   "Ron, pump his chest!"

Nodding once, Ron moved forward to do just that, but Charlie quickly moved to Neville’s side.   "Let me," he said as he placed his hands over Neville’s chest.   "We all have to be trained in Muggle CPR at the dragon reservations."  

Several tense moments of silence followed as Charlie worked.   Abandoning the Muggle method within fifteen seconds, Charlie raised his wand and cast a light electrical charm on Neville.   The boy’s body jerked, and Ginny, wrapped up in her mother’s arms, sobbed.   Charlie cast once more and finally, he nodded, rocking back on his heels.   Breaking free of her mother’s grasp, Ginny ran forward and lowered her ear to Neville’s chest, letting out a delighted cry when she heard his heart beating.  

"We’ll move him into Percy’s old room," Bill said tersely, picking up the younger boy.   Silently, he carried Neville out of the room, Ginny hurrying alongside him, with his mother, Fred, George, Charlie and Luna in his wake.     Ron hesitated, glancing at his father and Hermione, before following.

Hermione gazed after them before turning her eyes to Dumbledore.   The man looked horrified, and he swallowed, staring at the bed where Neville had lain moments before, before meeting her gaze.   As he did so, Arthur stepped forward.   "Explain," he demanded quietly, and Dumbledore nodded.  

"In the months before the Potters died and the Longbottoms were tortured to insanity, both Harry and Neville began to have strong surges of accidental magic," he said slowly.   "Alice Longbottom came to me against the will of her husband, Frank.   She was afraid that Neville might hurt himself or someone else with his magic.   She asked me to bind it, and I agreed.   I offered to do the same for the Potters, but they flat-out refused.   James went so far as to threaten to —" He swallowed, his throat working nervously.   "— to threaten to kick me out of their house when I pressed the matter.   I never offered again, and I never — I never put any binding spells on Harry."

"Why didn’t you remove the spells before?" Arthur asked, and Dumbledore sighed.

"I was afraid," he replied.   "Neville’s a very powerful wizard you see, and after years of having to perform magic with the bind, his power has increased.   He’s nearly on par with Harry now, and that is no mean feat — a Patronus at thirteen years old!   But I was afraid that if his power was too great, he would attract Voldemort’s attention.   There were already four marvelous students in my school, you see, who were marked for death by Voldemort, and I did not want anyone else to join their ranks."  

His hands white, Dumbledore closed his eyes, awaiting their judgment.   After a moment, Arthur spoke, and he opened his eyes.   "Please send Madam Pomfrey to check on Neville," he requested.   "I must go check on my guest.   See yourself out."

Arthur turned to the door and left after Dumbledore nodded dumbly.   Swallowing convulsively once more, the elderly wizard raised his eyes to Hermione, who stood staring at him with a blank expression, tears still visible on her face.    

"You never meant to hurt Harry," she said slowly, "or Neville, or any of us.   I know that.   But you have."  

Flinching, Dumbledore closed his eyes once more, opening them as she continued.     "It almost would have been kinder to just leave him at Privet Drive forever, and never take him to Hogwarts.   Instead, you take him away from that Hell every year, only to send him back again, and every time, it gets harder and harder for him to go back.   Do you know how many times he’s wondered why you hate him so? Do you know how often he’s wished someone would save him from that place?   Please, Professor," she whispered, "let us save him from that place."

"I can’t," he said hoarsely.   "The protections, he’s only safe—"

He broke off when Hermione shook her head, a look of disgust on her face.   "You’ll never learn," she ground out, and she swept past him, slamming the door as she left.

The old man flinched once more, the sound echoing in his ears.   For several moments, he stood perfectly still, staring straight ahead in silence.   Then he reached out and carefully lowered himself onto Ron’s bed.

Head in his hands, he wept.

I did the right thing, he told himself.   I did the right thing.

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