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Old November 10th, 2006, 11:00 pm
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Re: Harry Potter and the War Within - Rewrite

Chapter 10 - The McMillans

“Harry, how are you doing?” enthused Ernie, extending his hand.

Harry shook his hand. “Great, How ‘bout you, Ernie?”

“Just fine. Let me introduce my parents.”

He turned Harry around to where a witch and wizard, somewhat older than Remus, somewhat younger than Arthur and Molly Weasley, were smiling benignly toward him.

“Dad, Mum, Harry Potter. Harry, my mother and father.”

“Pleased to meet you again, Mr. Potter,” said Mr. McMillan, pumping his hand enthusiastically.

“Ah, yes,” said Harry. “I remember now. You were at the train station last year, enthusiastic about the Defense Association.”

“Exactly,” he replied. “Nothing like a mutual study group to really improve the learning.”

Then Mrs. McMillan extended her hand delicately. “Delighted to meet you, Mr. Potter.” Her eyes twinkled warmly, something akin to the way Harry’s mother’s eyes did in the photographs he had of her.

He stammered a second, before clumsily taking her hand. “Oh, erm, uh, oh nice to meet you, too, but please, both of you, call me Harry.”

“Alright, then, Harry, if you’ll call us Iphigenia and Porphyrio,” said Iphigenia McMillan.

Harry blinked. “Wow, being raised with muggles, those’ll take a little getting used to. Forgive me if I revert to ‘Mr.’ and ‘Mrs.’ alright, uh, Iphigenia?”

“Of course, Harry,” she said, smilingly warmly. “We were both only too aware of how odd our names were for muggles when we got around to naming Ernie.”

“Ernie’s told us all about that battle at the bank last month,” said Porphyrio. “Too bad you had to miss the real action – he says you’re a good fighter in a duel. But it sounds like Ernie did magnificently leading people to get the job done with minimum casualties – for our side that is.”

Porphyrio’s enthusiastic – even blind – pride in his only child reminded Harry of Amos Diggory talking about Cedric before the Quidditch World Cup, or of the Dursleys speaking of Dudley for that matter.

“Dad,” said Ernie, somewhat under his breath. “I wasn’t the only one organizing the students, and Harry’s part was indispensable.”

“Ah, well, so you say, Ernie, but it wasn’t a leadership role, was it? When they needed someone the others would follow, they turned to you, didn’t they, Ern?”

“I suppose, but Professor Weasley and Ron Weasley were up there too.”

“Well, there you go – the new acting Minister of Magic and his son. But you didn’t need political pull – they turned to you just for your leadership and skill.”

Ernie rolled his eyes, but Harry smiled. “Everything I heard about Ernie’s work was brilliant, Porphyrio, but that’s no surprise really. He’s been a shining comet in the DA. I’ve learned loads from him and we’re all so much stronger working together.”

Ernie looked sidelong at Harry but said nothing.

Iphigenia, who was no doubt used to her husband’s doting on their only child, listened to Harry’s response with appreciation and a bit of amusement. Then she smiled kindly toward him and said, “I’m sorry that you had to apparate, Harry, I know it’s still very new and frightening to those who have just taken their exams, but we felt we just had to detach from the Floo Network – all those killings and attempts you know. We had to cut off as many routes into the home as possible. We only listed the anti-apparition protections long enough to let you come here.” There was something about her manner that made Harry feel terribly protective.

“Oh, I don’t mind apparating at all; in fact I prefer it. The Floo Network makes me queasy. But is it really going to be helpful to withdraw from it?”

“We don’t know. We talked about it. More than half of wizards can’t apparate dependably, so we figure we’re cutting down the number who could attack here.”

“But we’re not all that far from Diagon Alley here. Surely they could get here by brooms or muggle transport or even walking.”

“What you say makes sense, Harry, but somehow we feel so much more vulnerable when someone can just step into a chimney, say our name and be right in our drawing room. And the dementors can’t get through now without someone letting them in – if a door has to be broken at least we have some warning.”

Porphyrio nodded as she said all this. “Harry, we’re just not fighters the way Ernie and you are. We have to try to use charms to protect ourselves until the aurors can come. The house is decently protected, and we try not to attract unpleasant attention.”

“You know that having me over attracts unwanted attention. Wouldn’t it be better, then, if I left?” asked Harry.

“We talked that over with Dumbledore when he suggested we invite you. He seemed to think that with Ernie’s participation in the Defense Association, we’re already targets, and that you wouldn’t be adding that much to the danger.”

Harry thought about that and said, “I’m not sure if that should be comforting or terrifying.”

“It’s time, though, that we put our anti-apparation charm back up – we removed it for you, but we feel better having it up,” said Porphyrio. “It’s been a real comfort having a wizard around who’s mastered the Patronus. We never saw the need to work on it before, and now that we need it – well, Ernie’s trying to teach it to us, but it’s not an easy spell, you know.”

“So I’ve heard,” said Harry.

“Dad, it was Harry that taught me. He learned it before any of us and he was the first to show us all in the lethifold pit.”

“Oh, yes, I remember you saying so now. He’s the one that had a cock-up with his. Yours came off without a hitch, then, didn’t it, Ern?”

“Well, yeah, but I didn’t have another wizard hexing me while I was in there.”

“Ernie, you’re just too modest,” beamed his father.

Harry just smiled. It was good to see such familial pride, and it took a lot of pressure off of him to be the champion.

The weekend went as smoothly as could be expected, given the repeated occasions Harry had to break off from whatever he was doing to call Remus about renewed attacks. Every one of them reinforced the McMillans’ intention to withdraw from most contacts with the wizarding world until the war blew over.

Saturday afternoon, they went to Kew Gardens and Mrs. McMillan explained about all the different plants there. On occasion she would whisper about magical properties, but mostly she talked about non-magical qualities. She was like a botanical encyclopedia, except that she appreciated the beauty of both the individual plants and their interactions with each other and other living things. It was a beautiful view of life, thought Harry, to appreciate all the living things for themselves and in their context.

“Oh, Harry, I’m sorry,” said Iphigenia. “How I prattle. I’m afraid I was well-placed as a Ravenclaw: we gather so much detail and tend to ramble on at length. I should be more merciful to you broad-brush Gryffindors.”

“On the contrary,” said Harry, “even though I doubt I’ll be able to retain even half of what you’re telling me, I find it all quite fascinating. So often in school we see things in isolation, but that’s not what lives are about, is it? Interconnection describes life far more than separation.”

“Exactly, Harry,” she enthused. “Have you ever really seen a forest? Not just individual trees, particular plants or rocks or animals, or the surface, but the whole forest – the whole system as it works together. In a healthy forest, every part has left its traces on all the other parts, and when something is added or taken away, it causes ripples of disruption you can see through the rest of the forest.”

“I’ve never had that chance, Iphigenia. On occasion, I hear Hagrid talking about the Forest at Hogwarts like that, but I’ve never had a chance to see it as an entity in itself. Next time I’m there, I’ll ask him to show me the connections between things.”

“You do that, Harry, or maybe Ernie could take you through. He understands the forests, too. We often get out to the countryside all together.”

“I didn’t know that,” said Harry, as much to himself as to anyone. Harry realized that although he had often had dealings with Ernie, he never really had gotten to know Ernie. It seemed a shame, he thought, as he watched Ernie examining insects on the bark of a tree. Ernie clearly had depths Harry had not had the chance to discover. He could be officious, but there was more to him than that.

Porphyrio spoke up proudly, “Ernie’s thorough, he is. It stood him in good stead in the OWLs – 12, you know, mostly outstanding. We figure he’s at the top of the class among the boys – good shot at Head Boy, he has.”

“Dad, sometimes they look for other qualities for Head Boy. They might not even go for a prefect.” Ernie glanced over at Harry and arched his eyebrows knowingly.

“Aah, but Ernie, you’re a leader, too, you’ve shown it,” said Porphyrio enthusiastically.

“Okay, Dad,” Ernie said indulgently.

On Sunday morning, Harry and Ernie went for a long run around the area, including running by The Leaky Cauldron to try to see it as muggles see it. But like looking at an optical illusion after you have already seen the trick, they just couldn’t force themselves to overlook it the muggle way. They cleaned up afterward and Iphigenia invited Harry to come to church services with them and Harry agreed. He apologized for not having a suit or other appropriate attire, as he had seen his relatives wear when they went to church on Easter.

“Ernie’ll loan you a shirt and some slacks,” said Porphyrio. “He’s just a little bigger than you. Not that anyone’d mind you coming in your jeans, mind you, the point is to be there; but somehow it focuses the mind to take a little time to get ready for church – you’re making it something special. And today’s a very special day – Iphigenia’s singing the anthem.”

“Are you?” asked Harry to Iphigenia. “Erm, I hate to admit such ignorance, but I’m not sure what an anthem is, other than the various national songs.”

Iphigenia smiled. “That’s fine, Harry, don’t be embarrassed. In fact, I’ve noticed your willingness to admit the things you don’t know and to ask. It’s a splendid trait. As for an anthem, most people have only vague notions of many things associated with church nowadays. An anthem is essentially a dramatic song, but when we use the word in church, we usually mean any song that’s sung during the communion or the collection.”

“Um, communion?” asked Harry.

“Oh, there’s a lot to explain there,” said Ernie. “It’s a sort of a ritual meal – just a wafer or bit of bread and a sip of wine really – where we affirm our belief in Jesus.”

“Oh, okay, I’ve been learning from Reverend MacBoon about Jesus’s teaching about love.”

“Well, there’s a lot of history and meaning that goes into it all, Harry,” said Ernie. “I’ll let you know what to do, and you can just listen and learn.”

“Sounds good,” said Harry.

Harry’s first church service was a very interesting experience. He loved the stained glass and the candles and lights. The choir was beautiful and the music inspiring. There were books in racks on the backs of the benches, which Ernie called pews. Harry looked in the books. He was fascinated to see how very many songs there were in the hymnal. Then he looked at the Bible and tried to read some of it, but found himself confused by the odd names and strange ways of saying things. Ernie showed him the Old and New Testaments and the various indexes and study aids. Harry looked and found the scripture about love that Cameron had read to him. He commented that it had sounded different before. Ernie explained it was probably a different translation. Then the service started and they all stood. Harry felt like they had to stand up and sit down quite a bit, and didn’t understand what the point of that was.

He loved the first song – “O Brother Man” – and memorized the first verse since he didn’t know how to follow the music:
“O Brother Man, hold to thy heart thy brother;
where mercy dwells, the Peace of God is there;
To worship rightly is to love each other:
Each smile a hymn, each kindly deed a prayer.”
Harry wanted to hang onto those thoughts – they were very comforting. Not so with the second song, which Ernie whispered was a communion preparation song; “Sons of God” - the title was fine, but then they all sang with zest, “Eat his Body, Drink his Blood, and we’ll sing a song of love;” it really freaked Harry out. He decided that he had better keep that reaction to himself and ask Cameron about it later.

Ernie told Harry to come with him during communion but not to take the bread or wine because Harry hadn’t actually joined a church. As they did so, Harry listened and watched as Iphigenia sang, “Let there be Peace on Earth and Let it Begin with Me.” He missed some of the words, but heard the plea for peace – so close, so immediate, so personal. Iphigenia sang it like it was just her personal private statement, and yet it was thrilling and powerful at the same time. Harry remembered Dumbledore saying what a powerful magic music had and started to understand – unlike phoenix song, which had strengthened him so many times when he had needed it, this music worked with the words to make them all the more powerful. When she was done, Ernie reached over and pushed Harry’s chin up and Harry realized that he had been standing there with his mouth open. Ernie grinned at him.

“That was brilliant,” whispered Harry.

“She’ll love knowing you said so,” whispered Ernie. “She always says that each person has his own ways to make the world a better place, and singing is one of hers. But then she worries that she’s not really adding much to happiness with her singing.”

“How could anyone think that? Doesn’t she appreciate how wonderful she sings?”

“Y’know, Harry, there’re a lot of people who never really appreciate that they are doing excellent things. And a lot of others who think they’re a lot better at things than they are.”

That afternoon, they went to an Indian restaurant and ordered several types of dishes: curries, tandoori, saffron rice and other things. Harry had never had such food before, at least not fresh. When he was growing up, sometimes the Dursleys would have leftovers for him when they had gone out, and they would give them to him all mashed together in a folded cardboard container. Being able to taste them separately and fresh made all the difference in the world. Harry told Iphigenia how beautifully she sang, and she smiled graciously and thanked him. Harry felt like he was seeing a dawning sun when she smiled; he even had to catch his breath.

They chattered away for quite some time but generally avoided talking about the war, even after Harry had to run and lock himself in the bathroom to call Remus about additional attacks. When he returned to the table, even though they all knew why he had run to the bathroom, Porphyrio said “Curry’ll do that to you if you’re not used to it.” Iphigenia scolded him lovingly, but laughed along with the men. Harry had a genuine touch of sadness when it came time to return to Privet Drive, but he was grateful for the opportunity to spend some time with such a happy family.

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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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