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Old November 4th, 2006, 3:25 am
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Re: Harry Potter and the War Within - Rewrite

Chapter 7 - Celebration and Clouds

That evening, all the available kin who knew about magic gathered to celebrate Katherine’s rescue and Seamus’s new skill. Harry offered to go back to Surrey so as not to intrude on a family time, but they all insisted he stay, as he had been so central to the rescue.

All four of Seamus’s grandparents were there. Beyond the inevitable pangs Harry felt at not having living grandparents of his own, Harry was surprised at the apparent age differences. Only Mrs. Finnegan’s father was a wizard, and he was visibly much younger-looking than the others. When Harry had seen how much younger Mrs. Finnegan looked than Mr. Finnegan (she looked about 40, while he appeared to be mid-50s), he hadn’t thought much of it – maybe she had married an older man, maybe she just kept her youth well, or perhaps she was skilled at makeup. But there was no mistaking the trend on comparing the grandparents. Mr. Mahoney looked only a little older than Mrs. Finnegan, but his wife, who was muggle, showed all of her age of almost 70 years, as did the elder Finnegans. The difference did not seem to have dampened Mr. Mahoney’s ardor for Mrs. Mahoney, as he was every bit as affectionate toward her as the Weasleys were toward each other. Both generations of Finnegans were demonstratively affectionate as well, for that matter. Still, it seemed to Harry that the disparity called attention to Mr. Mahoney being ‘different’ in some fundamental way that tended to threaten the secrecy of wizards and witches; this must be a substantial consideration in muggle-wizard marriages.

Not just among the couples, the Finnegans and the Mahoneys were as affectionate and cheerful throughout the entire family as were the Weasleys. Several could play instruments and those that could play did, and the rest danced or sang. Harry would have liked to have just watched, but that was not to be. Although he knew nothing of Irish folk dance, nor any other beyond swaying to slow music, to the Finnegans and the Mahoneys Harry’s lack of skill was no reason for him not to join the dance. The enthusiasm was infectious and Harry found himself forgetting everything but the dancing and music and clapping. Harry was passed among all the sisters and grandmothers and Mrs. Finnegan, all of whom seemed to take a special interest in leading the novice dancer among them through the motions.

Sometime after 10, Mr. Finnegan decided the time was ripe for some Irish whiskey. All the adults had a small glass neat and talked of the virtues of various whiskeys. Mr. Finnegan invited Seamus and Harry to join them, as they had done a man’s work in saving Katherine, but Mrs. Finnegan would only let them have enough for a solid taste. Harry found it harsh and bitter and thought that it burned. He understood that people sometimes liked alcohol’s effects on them, and that sometimes it ended up making them act stupidly – which perhaps they enjoyed on occasion in itself, - but he did not understand how anyone could be drinking the stuff for taste.

Then Mr. Mahoney brought out a bottle of Ogden’s Old Firewhiskey and likewise gave everyone a small glass. This time Harry and Seamus were allowed to have a full portion. Now this was different, thought Harry. It played on his tongue and refreshed him. It made him feel stronger and clearer, but Harry found that he felt like just that much was enough. The muggles among them however, seemed to feel that it was bland or at best sour, and they complained, jokingly of course, as this was a routine they had developed long ago, that the Ogden’s had no kick like a whiskey should. Mr. Mahoney just smiled warmly, raised his glass and said, “To each his own and may long health be the fruits of our choices.”

Grandmother Finnegan, who had taken a rest near the telly, then called to her husband, “Bagnold, there’s those skull-things in the sky again.”

All crowded around the telly and sure enough, the Dark Mark had made the news again. This time the news reader announced that it was reported in four locations around Britain. He also noted that they had corresponded with unexplained deaths in each of the areas, as had been the pattern some fifteen years earlier.

“The dark days are indeed returning,” said Mrs. Finnegan. “Harry, I’m truly sorry I doubted you two years ago.”

“I understand, Mrs. Finnegan,” replied Harry. “When I escaped from him, I barely believed it all myself. But I’d be lying if I denied that it hurt.”

“Harry, your story was so bizarre, and Fudge was saying what we wanted to believe.”

Mr. Finnegan nodded sagely. “Every decent person wants to avoid war, sometimes to the point of blindness to their real threats, and too often politicians will curry favor with the voters by telling them that war can be avoided, that evil people aren’t really so bad, or that they will go away.”

“There’s a difference,” added Brian, “between practicing diplomacy to avoid a conflict, where that is possible, and practicing duplicity about a conflict which has already begun.”

“At least this time,” said Harry, “we’re in a better position to fight the Death Eaters and the other followers. Arthur Weasley is working with Dumbledore. From the moment of his return, we were aware of Lord Vo-“

“Don’t say it, Harry,” pled Mrs. Finnegan weakly.

“We give him more power over us if we fear even to say the name. It’s Voldemort,” said Harry.

Mrs. Finnegan shuddered. “It’s not like you’re speaking blasphemy, but I had hoped never to hear that name in my home.”

“Of course. But wishing it were not so does not make him go away. Look, we were able to save Katherine because students at the school have been training to do what it takes to survive. We are in much better shape than you were before.”

“Sure, Harry, and I truly believe the good magical folk could meet all of his followers if we had the chance – but even Dumbledore says he can’t seal the victory, so who’s going to step up to fight - HIM.”

Harry looked at her sadly, with a look that admitted that it was he who would be meeting Voldemort again someday, but that he neither looked forward to it nor knew how he would again survive it, much less win it.

“No, Harry,” said Mrs. Finnegan, with tears coming to her eyes. “You’re a sweet and brave lad to be sure – how can you be thinking of facing him?”

“It’s best I not say how I know. It’s certainly not something I ever wanted. But it must be, and I have accepted that.” Then he put a hand around Seamus’s shoulder and added, “But the way has been made easier and more pleasant by the many Hogwarts students who have helped me train.”

“Aw, gerrof, Harry,” said Seamus, grinning. “You know you’ve been the teacher, not the student.”

“You’d be surprised, Seamus,” said Harry earnestly. “I’m far sharper and faster than I would be if I didn’t have all of you to work with. And working with you reminds me of the things worth fighting for.”

“Well,” said Mr. Mahoney, “you must be some teacher is all I can say to have taught Seamus – and others I hear – to do the Patronus Charm. Not a fifth of the wizards around can do it – Seamus is the first one in the family.”

“Seamus is a good student,” said Harry. “He works hard. He’s ahead of where I was when I dueled Voldemort. It stood him in good stead a month ago.”

Under his breath, Seamus said. “Harry, shush.”

“What’s this!?” pressed Mrs. Finnegan.

“Oh, well, Mum, I guess I’ll have to tell you,” said Seamus reluctantly. “I told you about the Battle at Gringott’s last month, of course, and it was in the paper, too. I may have left out that I was among the students that trapped what was left of Fudge’s army.”

His father and grandfathers beamed at that and congratulated each other over this news, but Mrs. Finnegan just glared.

“It’s one thing to train and to spar, or for that matter to defend yourself. But you were not to be out looking for battles!” she snapped.

“But Mum, the Gringotts goblins could have been wiped out if not for getting help from Hogwarts – how could we let good folk die?”

“Well, I suppose the cause was good. I should have seen this coming when you were placed in Gryffindor, rather than being a solid hard-working Hufflepuff like the rest of the family. We’ll let it pass – but don’t you be searching out scrapes anymore, you hear?”

“So, son, what was it you did?” asked his father.

“Oh, well, the students who couldn’t apparate that far took the Floo to Weasley Wizard Wheezes. Once we all got there, Professor Weasley, Ron Weasley and Ernie McMillan had already scouted out the vicinity. They told us team leaders they needed someone to provide cover from a well-placed gargoyle they pointed out while we took positions. Before they could ask for volunteers, Marietta Edgecombe had …” he hesitated, realizing how painful this must be for Harry to hear, but Harry nodded at him to go on. He continued, “Uh, she apparated to the post and pinned down the rear of the army. We students all got into secure positions where we had cover and an escape route if need be – I was down a stairwell to the Flourish and Blotts basement with the team I train with.”

“That he trains!” interrupted Harry.

“Well, I might show ‘em a thing or two I learned from Harry,” said Seamus with a grin. “When the remnants of the army finally tried to make a break for it from the goblins, we hit them with a truly sweet crossfire of spells. They hadn’t a chance.”

“Well, you stood up for what was right and you didn’t back down from the fight. Nor did you take foolish risks. I’m proud of you, son,” said Mr. Finnegan, and the others all murmured their agreement.

“So Harry,” said Mr. Mahoney, “were you in with all the other students?”

“Oh, no, sir. I was down in the tunnels underneath Gringotts. I missed all that action. I didn’t even get a chance to use a spell against a wizard.”

Loudly, slowly and deliberately, Seamus scolded Harry, “You enormous git!” Then he explained to all the rest. “Harry only took out the two graphorns – eh, think of gigantic water buffalo - that had been modified into heliopaths to kill the goblins, by apparating with a house elf 7 times in less than two and a half seconds so that the two of them could send stunners converging on the graphorns from all corners of the tunnels.”

The sorcerers there gasped, and the rest nodded their approval, knowing from the tone of Seamus’s tale that this must be something special.

“That’s good, is it” asked grandfather Finnegan.

“That’s unheard of!” said Mrs. Finnegan.

“Not only that,” said Seamus, “he was knocked down by a Stunner, had his leg crushed by one of the graphorns, was held hostage by a double-crossing auror, was stabbed with a knife right through the shoulder, and had his hand sliced to the bone in two places when he grabbed the blade!”

All the family gasped at this. Mrs. Finnegan shook her head and said with a weak smile, “Harry, I’ll usually not tolerate a guest being abused in my house, but Seamus is right – I won’t call you a name, but it’s foolish of you not taking due credit.”

“Well, everyone did what they could. Apparating comes readily to me. Truth be told, I get more satisfaction out of knowing that my holding her helped keep a goblin healer alive until other goblin healers could arrive to help her out. It seems there’s never any shortage of ways to inflict damage, but always too few ways to help recover from it.”

“Hear, hear!” said the grandparents.

Then Mr. Finnegan spoke up, “So that’s well and good. Now I’ve heard about this Patronus thing, but I haven’t seen it. Is it something you could show us, Seamus?”

Seamus was very hesitant, but his mother encouraged him. Finally he relented. He was shaking as he prepared to do it. Harry spoke quietly to him, “Just remember the focus you had when you did it before. Great magic relies on great focus. You know you can do it: that’s over half the job. Just wind yourself up and do what you know you can do.”

Seamus breathed deeply and counted to three before thrusting his wand and shouting, “EXPECTO PATRONUM.”

The silvery wisp shot out and formed itself into a Scotty, which wagged its tail and ran around the room before bounding into Seamus’s hands, evaporating away as his hands reached it.

“That’s what saved me?” marveled Katherine. “That cute little white doggy? It fought that hideous Grim Reaper that was after me?”

“That was a Patronus alright,” said Mr. Mahoney,” and a fine one at that. Size makes no difference, just the quality of its form, and you could clearly make out what it was.”

“But Seamus,” said his father, with wry bemusement, “Did it have to be a Scots dog?”

“Dad,” pled Seamus, “I had no control over what it was. I was as shocked as you.”

“There’ll be no shame, whether it’s a wee dog or a caterpillar – it was well-formed and it saved Katherine’s life. That’s all that matters to me,” said Mrs. Finnegan.

“Hear, hear,” said the grandparents.

“Well, Harry,” said Mr. Finnegan, “if you’re the teacher, you must be able to do it too. Will you favor us?”

Harry looked to Seamus, who encouraged him to do it.

“Well, alright,” said Harry, “I suppose a little practice wouldn’t hurt. It’s been months since I last did it. We’d best move the coffee table and push the chairs back.”

They cleared enough room, and Harry pulled his wand, thrust it and said firmly but quietly “Expecto Patronum!” The jet of silver shot out and formed itself almost immediately. The form of the stag was five feet high at the shoulder. It tossed its head a few times before leaping toward the picture window, diffusing as it approached.

“That was magnificent, Harry.” said Mr. Mahoney, “I could make out the individual hairs of its fur. I’ve never seen one so well-formed. And you didn’t even have to shout.”

Harry smiled shyly, “Yeah, I reckon it gets better with practice.”

Seamus said proudly, “That’s what nailed a NEWT in Defense for Harry, two years early!”

“I can well imagine” said his mother, “and from what I’ve seen of the results of his teaching, it was not at all undeserved.”

“Harry,” said Mr. Mahoney, “something occurs to me from seeing the Dark Mark on the telly tonight – those have to be done by a witch or wizard with a wand.”

“Yes, sir?”

“Don’t you see – the wizard or witch that tried to stun you two can’t have disapparated far away. They still needed to be able to see whether they could send up the Dark Mark. The purpose of these attacks is as much to spread fear and panic as anything else, so the Dark Mark is the real point – they just need a killing to put some bite in that growl. I wonder why they didn’t make further attack on you two.”

“That’s a good point, Dad,” said Mrs. Finnegan. “Maybe after the boys used the shield charm, whoever it was saw he was against a couple of capable fighters.”

Harry added, “Or maybe he or she had orders not to take on other wizards in battle. Their forces are still not very numerous, so they probably are just trying to make safe kills and sneak away.”

“That would explain using a dementor,” said Seamus, “since the only Charm that works against them doesn’t kill them. Or does it, Harry?”

“No, it doesn’t.” Then Harry began to think aloud. “Hmm – if you can’t kill or confine a dementor, how do you eliminate them from the enemy forces?”

“What do you mean, Harry?” asked Seamus.

“Well, if you’re facing a mixed force of sorcerers and dementors, you can’t necessarily count on having a wizard available who can conjure a Patronus. And even if one is available, if he’s occupied controlling dementors, he’s out of the battle.”

“Sounds like a research project – where’s Granger when you need her?” said Seamus with a light laugh.

“I’ll put it to her, but I doubt there’s anything in the books that will solve this. We’ve never had to disable or destroy dementors before. We need someone to come up with something creative.”

Mr. Mahoney clapped his hands and grabbed his fiddle and bow again. “Well, while we wait for that seed to germinate, we’re here to celebrate. The night’s still young enough for more music and dance!”

Before going to bed that night, Harry called Remus on the mirror. Remus seemed a bit worn.

“Are you all right, Remus?” said Harry.

“I’ll be fine, Harry,” he replied, smiling weakly. “I’ve been involved in coordinating responses to the attacks all day. It’s been very busy, and I think I’d rather be out responding than being a dispatcher. But because of my relationship with you, I’m thought to be uniquely suited to this. Arthur Weasley even finagled putting me on the Ministry payroll. The downside for me is that I no longer will be participating in Order activities.”

“It hasn’t been that time-consuming that you can’t be in the Order, has it?” asked Harry.

“No – today was, though, and this may be a harbinger of things to come. But there’s a more critical reason.”

“What’s that?”

Remus smiled. “What am I doing right now, Harry?”

“Erm, smiling and, erm, talking with me, and … looking at me?”

“Right in three!” said Remus. “Dumbledore doesn’t want plans revealed to you inadvertently through your poorly controlled legilemency. With your link to Voldemort, he may be able to spy on us through you. There is much that we can tell you, because Voldemort will have his sources as well, but much we need to protect. Dumbledore is skilled at Occlumency, so he can shield plans from you, but I'm not. We really had four choices – not respond to the warnings your scar would give, let only Dumbledore be in contact with you, make this my fulltime and exclusive duty, or let Professor Snape be your contact person. The first two are unacceptable, and Snape is too busy – to say nothing of not being too keen about being at your beck and call – to do it. So that left it to me. We’re working out precautions so that I can inform people who need to know, and they can inform you of what you should know, but I won’t know the things which we don’t want you to know.”

“I hope you’re not going to feel restive and isolated, like Sirius did two years ago.”

“Thanks for your concern, Harry, but I am by no means isolated. I am in contact with plenty of people. I am also far more patient about not being in the thick of things than Sirius ever learned to be. That’s part of being a werewolf – knowing that you’re going to have to spend some time out of commission.”

“So how did the response go today?”

“We stopped all but four: two quick killings and two got the dementor’s kiss first. Most of the attacks were by dementors, so all we could do is chase them away. We figured there must be sorcerers nearby, but none were identified, much less caught. Congratulations are in order to you, I hear, on an excellent save.”

“Who, me? I didn’t do anything but apparate. Seamus conjured the Patronus.”

Remus shook his head. “Harry, Harry: when are you going to take credit for what you have accomplished? There are some dozen-odd students now with corporeal patronuses, and it’s all because you have taught them. Before you learned the Patronus charm, students would not even start learning it until 7th year NEWT Defense class. Half of the seventh years at Hogwarts are ready for their NEWT test in defense already, except for not mastering the patronus. And now one of your students has saved a life. You don't have to be a braggart, but puff up a bit – you deserve it.”

“I’m proud of what they've accomplished, of course. But I haven’t really done much – I was just working from the example of a very good teacher I had.”

Remus sighed. “Cameron and I have talked about this. Your head knows that a lot of good has been done by you and because of your assistance. But you just don’t seem able to truly see the good of you.”

“I guess the whole magic thing seems something apart from me.”

“But you’re a fine fellow independent of the magic. I’m glad to know Harry, the young man, as well as Harry, the wizard.”

“I’ve had friends now for six years and it still is hard for me to understand that people could care for me.”

“Believe it, Harry, we do. You can use your legilemency if you need to convince yourself of that.”

Harry smiled, “I’ll pass on that. I’m working too hard on not using legilemency inappropriately. I had a very disturbing experience earlier.”

“Such as?”

“Well, Seamus’s sister Katherine thanked us with kisses. Before she kissed me, she looked in my eyes and said something like ‘I can thank you proper, you’re not my brother,’ and then she gave me a real snog. She had surprised me, so that when she looked into my eyes, I was not suppressing the legilemency. I saw what kind of a thank-you was on her mind. Remus, it was a lot more than a kiss!”

Remus laughed. “Well, it wouldn’t have been an undeserved reward, but I think it was very decent and wise of you not to take advantage of the situation. People often have conflicting thoughts – I’m sure she had a notion to do those things, but she probably had other parts of her mind which pulled against them. After all, she barely knows you, you’re younger, her brother’s roommate, etcetera. And she may have conflicting feelings about doing those things anyway – our bodies scream to do them, but our minds know that they come with all sorts of entanglements, both physical and emotional. You did well, Harry. I hope you will come to me or Cameron to help sort out your feelings about attractions and desires.”

“Sure, Remus, I’ll try. Erm, Remus, there's something else on my mind. Can we talk?"

"Aren't we?"

"I mean - is Tonks there?"

"No, Harry," said Lupin more quietly. "Why do you ask?"

"Well, she was there last time I called kind of late, and, well, I know you have taken a bit of a fancy to her."

"I'm not sure that's any of your business, Harry."

"Maybe not, it's just that, well, you asked me to think of you as a friend, and I do, and a few days ago, she said how much she liked you, but she was getting frustrated with you keeping your distance so much."

"I see, and you have an opinion on that, do you?"

"Well, I like both of you, and you both seem to like each other - I'd like for both of you to be happy."

Lupin looked down sadly.

"I want her to be happy, too, Harry. That's why I've pulled back."

"But she likes you. A lot."

Lupin smiled weakly. "Harry, if I were to be involved with anyone, it would only be a matter of time before I made a mistake, forgot to take my potion, and hurt that person badly, maybe kill them - or worse."

"What could be worse?"

"Oftentimes, I think it's worse to be a werewolf than to be dead."

"Remus, please don't talk like that. I'd hate to lose another person I care about."

"Don't worry, Harry, I'm not that sort. But I couldn't forgive myself if I hurt others that way."

"You're hurting her now by being distant."

"She'll get over it. She'll find someone who can give her the life she deserves."

"You had close friends at school: you never made them werewolves."

"They were animagi - they could avoid it and help control me."

"She's a metamorphmagus - I'll bet she could become an animagus real easy."

"It's much more than changing appearance, Harry. You've got to be able to change yourself from within to make a proper transition."

"You could give her a chance," Harry said, then paused for a response. Getting none he went on. "Unless ... unless you're the one who can't bear the hurt. Remus, just because you lost your first friends doesn't mean it's going to happen again."

"Nice words, Potter, but we're in a war, and unless you weren't aware, Tonks has been sent out repeatedly to answer the attacks. She's facing dementors without a patronus!"

"Really? I would have thought that was an auror requirement."

"Officially it is, but for the longest time, it was considered just a technical thing, so any silvery mist would get you past the inspectors, especially with Tonks, since her other skills were so valuable."

"Still, I say a life without love is hardly worth living."

"Et tu, Harry? You haven't had a girlfriend in, what, three months?"

"Well, I hadn't given up on Marietta, and then she ... was killed. I'm not really over that yet."

"Of course, Harry, but I'll bet you've had a few thoughts along those lines by now."

Remus grinned slyly, and noted Harry's rising blush.

"Go ahead, Harry, you can tell me."

"Promise you won't say anything?"

"Harry, of course. Haven't I kept confidences before?"

"Okay. Well, I suppose I've been thinking of Ginny Weasley in those ways, the possibility of being more than just friends."

"Good! She's got a sharp sense of humor and playfulness to her. You could really use a bit of lightening up."

"Et tu, Remus?"

"Okay, you scored a point there. Let's both not slam the doors shut just because there's a war on."

"Okay, Remus. I know we'll talk more later. I’d better go now. The rest of the house is already in bed. I don’t want to disturb them.”

Harry went to bed, but he did not sleep well. At first he thought it was all the dancing, perhaps the whiskey, or just generally the excitement of the day. But then he realized that he could not stop thinking about the attacks. From one at a time, to two, and now many, the scope of the attacks was growing. The Ministry was still able to respond, but if they increased much more, they soon would exceed the Ministry’s capabilities.

Harry was being stretched by it too. The fierce recurrent pain, the panicked run to the mirror, the worrying about results and even as today participating in warding off attacks, were already taking their toll. He was tired and anxious – and angry.

Harry had to admit to himself that this was getting to him A few of the targets may have had some sort of strategic purpose, but most were just random. They were attempted executions for no other purpose than to foment discord, panic and division. A few had been blocked, but many were successful, and the numbers must soon climb.

As he lapsed into an agitated sleep, Harry began to dream. At first he simply could not get the image of the Dark Mark on the telly out of his mind. Then he had images of Voldemort sending out hundreds of followers to fan out first over Britain and then the world, exterminating all resistance. He pictured dementors spreading over the land, like the plagues of locusts he had seen in school films before Hogwarts. Harry twisted and writhed for hours until he fell out of bed. He felt his scar and knew that at that moment, Voldemort was sleeping soundly. Harry was determined to do so as well. He concentrated on the good times he had known at The Burrow. He allowed no other thoughts. Finally he was able to sleep well.

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__________________
Where are they now? (part 42)
(an occasional series following wizardry after the Second Voldemort War)
Rubeus Hagrid continued as groundskeeper and Professor of Magical Beasts.

Here he is on a summer vacation trip to the Canary Islands with Fluffy, his second favorite dog.
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